Monday, August 10, 2009

Who They Are

Over at Hot Air Doctor Zero lays out with admirable clarity who those who oppose what the current administration is attempting to do are. He's perhaps a bit more ascerbic than he needs to be, but given the shameless calumnies levelled against those who've shown up at the town halls to protest the direction in which the Democrats are taking us, that may be understandable. Here's the first half of the piece:

There seems to be a bit of confusion among Democrats about the nature of the opposition to their plans. Maybe I can help clear things up by telling them a few things about us.

We're not paid minions of any corporate interest or lobby. Most bloggers working to stop the Obama health-care disaster are like me, writing when they can find the time, because we care about the future of our country. The same is true of the people showing up at town hall meetings, and organizing rallies. Some of us are well-dressed in tailored suits. Others wear jeans and T-shirts. Most of us are dressed in what we wore to work.

Our support for a massive government program does not increase when you tell us we're not allowed to ask questions about it.

We're not racists. We're also not racialists. We don't think a wise Latina is inherently more qualified to do anything than a wise Asian woman, a wise white woman, or a wise white man. We're tired of being fed excuses for high government offices staffed by anything but the best people for the job. There are too many high government offices, so we'd like some of Obama's absurdly incompetent appointees to take their titles with them when they leave. We remember what it was like when we got rid of the Clinton mob, so we'll be conducting inventories on the contents of those vacated offices, before we turn out the lights and pour cement in the locks.

We don't like having to fight desperate battles to save our freedom and future from socialist politicians every ten or twenty years. We don't like having our time wasted with trillion-dollar statist fantasies, when our government is already trillions of dollars in the red. We're tired of checking the papers each day, to see which group of us has been targeted as enemies of the State. We're growing impatient waiting for the Democrats to come up with ideas that don't require their supporters to hate someone. We've had our fill of "progressives" who act as if we're living in 1909, and none of their diseased policies have ever been tried before.

Read the rest at the link. It's as punchy as it is testy, and there's much truth in what he writes.


Ten Mysteries About Us

The fascinating thing about this story is not that there are still mysteries about human behavior but rather that some people are not embarrassed by the possible explanations that they offer for them. Anyway, when you assume that everything about us somehow enhances our sex appeal or our survival I guess you're bound to come up with theories like some of the ones below.

If we're looking for an evolutionary explanation for human behaviors it seems to me that many of these are much more likely to be behaviors that supervene upon other genetic adaptations. There's no reason to think that they have any survival value in themselves.

But if we're not looking for evolutionary explanations it could be that the Creator simply gave us laughter, altruism, and art because they make life richer, more human, and less brutish.

Here are some of the "mysteries" discussed in the article:

Blushing: Charles Darwin struggled to explain why evolution made us turn red when we lie, which alerts others. However, some think it may help diffuse confrontation or foster intimacy by revealing weakness.

Laughter: mood-improving endorphins are released when we laugh, which seems an obvious reason to do it...

Kissing: the explanation for kissing is unlikely to be genetic as not all human societies do it. There are theories that it is associated with memories of breastfeeding and that ancient humans weaned their children by feeding them from their mouths, which reinforced the link between sharing saliva and pleasure.

Picking your nose: the unappealing but common habit of ingesting 'nasal detritus' offers almost no nutritional benefit, so why do a quarter of teenagers do it, on average four times a day? Some think it boosts the immune system.

Altruism: giving things away with no certain return is odd behaviour in evolutionary terms. It may help with group bonding or simply give pleasure.

Art: painting, dance, sculpture and music could all be the human equivalent of a peacock's tail in showing what a good potential mate someone is. However, it could also be a tool for spreading knowledge or sharing experience.

Body hair: fine hair on the body and thick hair on the genitals is the opposite of what occurs in primates, our close animal relatives. Suggested reasons for pubic hair include a role in radiating scent, providing warmth or even protecting from chafing.

Superstition: unusual but reassuring habits make no evolutionary sense; however, ancient humans would have benefited from not dismissing a lion's rustle in the grass as a gust of wind. Religion seems to tap into this impulse.

Perhaps, but if superstition is believing in causes which are totally inadequate to the effect then what would we call the belief that all of these behaviors must be produced by genetic mutation? Unguided mutations over time degrade the specificity of information, they don't enhance it. The belief that mutations actually increase the information content of the genotype is, well, a superstition that biologists certainly tap into.


Credible Military Option

With everything that's going on with the economy, there hasn't been much focus lately on what we'll do if Iran doesn't relent in its pursuit of nuclear weapons. Much of the discussion there has been has emphasized reasons why military measures would be inadequate and ineffective. Retired four-star Air Force General Chuck Wald, however, disagrees with these assessments. General Wald was the air commander for the initial stages of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and deputy commander of the U.S. European Command. He has an article in the Wall Street Journal that outlines how the military could be used to supplement diplomatic pressure on Tehran and, if diplomacy fails, how it could be credibly employed to spare the world the specter of nuclear arms in the hands of a terrorist state that sees it as their religious duty to precipitate the end of the world. Here's some of what he writes:

There has been a lack of serious public discussion of the military tools available to us. Any mention of them is either met with accusations of warmongering or hushed with concerns over sharing sensitive information. It is important to discuss, within legal limits, such a serious issue as openly as possible. Discussion strengthens our democracy and dispels misinformation.

The military can play an important role in solving this complex problem without firing a single shot. Publicly signaling serious preparation for a military strike might obviate the need for one if deployments force Tehran to recognize the costs of its nuclear defiance. Mr. Obama might consider, for example, the deployment of additional carrier battle groups and minesweepers to the waters off Iran, and the conduct of military exercises with allies.

If such pressure fails to impress Iranian leadership, the U.S. Navy could move to blockade Iranian ports. A blockade-which is an act of war-would effectively cut off Iran's gasoline imports, which constitute about one-third of its consumption. Especially in the aftermath of post-election protests, the Iranian leadership must worry about the economic dislocations and political impact of such action.

Should these measures not compel Tehran to reverse course on its nuclear program, and only after all other diplomatic avenues and economic pressures have been exhausted, the U.S. military is capable of launching a devastating attack on Iranian nuclear and military facilities.

Many policy makers and journalists dismiss the military option on the basis of a false sense of futility. They assume that the U.S. military is already overstretched, that we lack adequate intelligence about the location of covert nuclear sites, and that known sites are too heavily fortified.

Such assumptions are false.

General Wald then goes on to discuss the pros and cons of a series of military strikes on Iranian facilities. It's quite interesting.

I wonder: Given that President Obama's political base is the progressive left, and given that this base is strongly opposed to military interventions, what are the chances that Tehran will make a calculation that Mr. Obama would not do more than use the military as a bluff? If he did set up a blockade or bomb the Iranian weapons facilities would the progressives abandon their principles and find some excuse to justify acquiesing to war or would they oppose Obama the way they opposed President Bush?

We'll see.