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George Bush — Decency on Display

by Greg Krehbiel on 14 November 2014

I haven’t always liked Bush politics, but I have always considered both Bushes to be good men. Here’s yet another example.

GEORGE W. BUSH: This Is Why I Refuse To Criticize Obama

-- 20 comments  ::  What do you think?  ::  2014-11-14  ::  Greg Krehbiel

6’2″ and 200 pounds

by Greg Krehbiel on 13 November 2014

This morning I was up early and heard a rather silly conversation on the radio about the event in Turkey. If you haven’t heard, some rapscallions in Turkey treated three U.S. sailors rather harshly. The sailors showed commendable restraint and nothing serious came of it.

The hosts on the show wanted to use this as evidence that Obama is a wimp. Those idiots in Turkey wouldn’t do this, they said, if we had a strong president.

I don’t think that’s the issue here. There are always protests against the military.

An army guy called the show and said this sort of thing happens all the time, all over the world — even in countries that are friendly to us. So as much as I dislike Obama, I don’t think it’s fair to blame him for this.

Later in the show they played a clip of a military spokesman responding to the event. It was wimpy. The spokesman was a woman and sounded like she was trying to be diplomatic and channel John Kerry.

I want our military personnel to show restraint towards idiots abroad. We don’t need to get in a scrape every time some clown decides to mouth off. The sailors did the right thing.

However, I also want the military to project an image of strength, bordering on brutality. Military spokesmen should be scary. They should be big and have deep voices. The press should be nervous when they ask questions.

I’m exaggerating, but only a little.

The military doesn’t exist to be polite. We have a military to do bad stuff — to kill people and break their toys. We don’t want to have to do that. We want our overwhelming strength to deter bad actors. (I don’t mean the clownish street protesters, but the serious bad actors.) And today, after hearing that wimpy spokesperson, I’m wondering if that should apply to who we use as military spokesmen.

IOW, the sailors should have done what they did, but then a military spokesperson should have make some sort of “you better not mess with us” statement, and perhaps demand an apology from Turkey.

-- 10 comments  ::  What do you think?  ::  2014-11-13  ::  Greg Krehbiel

Half decent “debate” on global warming

by Greg Krehbiel on 12 November 2014

This relatively short piece from Piers Morgan’s show is surprisingly decent.

Sorry about the lack of posts recently. I was at a conference.

-- 1 comment  ::  What do you think?  ::  2014-11-12  ::  Greg Krehbiel

“In All Worlds” follows John and Jillian across the multiverse

by Greg Krehbiel on 9 November 2014

In All Worlds is an urban fiction / fantasy set in and around Washington, D.C., that follows the lives of two star-crossed lovers across multiple worlds. John and Jillian always get tangled up no matter where they find themselves, but things don’t always work out between them.

In All Worlds tracks their lives in three different settings. It includes The Witch’s Promise, Pipe Dreams, and A Collision of Worlds, which ties the first two stories together.

From reader feedback it was getting clear that The Witch’s Promise didn’t work well as a stand-alone story. People wanted a better resolution. This collection examines their lives in a new way and sets up the whole story for a far more satisfying conclusion.

It will be free on the kindle tomorrow through Wednesday, and a paperback edition will be available soon.

--  ::  What do you think?  ::  2014-11-09  ::  Greg Krehbiel

A review of The Red Queen

by Greg Krehbiel on 8 November 2014

A friend read my Eggs are Expensive, Sperm is Cheap and recommended that I read The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature, which I just finished.

I can see why he recommended the book. It makes many of the same points that I make about men’s and women’s different mating strategies, although Ridley covers it in way more depth, with tons of examples and interesting arguments.

The first third of the book is mostly microbiology that is over my head and not, in my opinion, very interesting. But it does set the stage for the later parts.

The message of the book is that men and women are different — not only in their bodies but also in their brains — and that they developed very different mating strategies given their unique situations. He puts a lot of it in the context of microbiological warfare (the boring part in the first part of the book), but also explains things by reference to easily understandable, real-world issues.

I’ll summarize a few key points later, but one thing that always amuses me about books in this genre is how easily biologists jump around from one creature to another. They’re talking about human mating patterns and then they try to explain it by reference to a vole in Alaska, or a bat in South America, or an Ibis in Africa. It makes me wonder about the information theory that lies behind it all.

I can understand why people compare human behavior to the apes, since we are closely related to them. If there is some heritable behavior that is common to apes, you might expect to find it in humans.

That’s not the case when it comes to mating practices. Apes are very different from humans and from one another, which is why Ridley runs off to find analogies to birds and other critters.

That leaves me wondering what his general approach implies about genetics. I don’t know much about genetics so I can only wonder, but the way Ridley talks about it makes me imagine that some collection of pre-built mating options exists in the genes and that they can get turned on and off based on circumstances. As if they’re ready in the back room to be used when needed.

Since he keeps jumping back and forth between voles and birds and things, this library of options would have to be very old — i.e., going back to our common ancestor with all these critters. (The other possibility, that these mating option spontaneously develop independently, seems unlikely to me.)

The variety of mating practices in the world is pretty doggone impressive. You have birds that collect into leks, where one or two males basically impregnate most of the females. You have monogamous creatures and polygamous creatures. You have animals where the females do almost everything in raising the child, and some where the males do almost everything, and lots of options in between. And I’m only barely scratching the surface. There is lots of variety.

The variety doesn’t seem to follow other categories. As I said, apes have different mating patterns, and it’s not as if all birds are one way and all mammals another. It really does seem (after reading Ridley’s account) as if there is a whole range of pre-built options that work for different animals in different circumstances.

I say “pre-built” because it’s not a simple switch. You can’t just all of a sudden change from “males display for the females” to “females display for the males.” Any change like that has to have accompanying behavioral changes for any of it to make sense.

I’m not trying to make an argument for intelligent design. What I’m saying is that Ridley’s account makes me wonder if some basic set of building blocks is available to all (or just about all) life. Something had to be going on during the billions of years of earth history before the Cambrian explosion. Maybe that’s where the menu was prepared. That makes a whole lot more sense to me than the idea that all these complicated mating strategies appeared, over and over again. By chance. From scratch.

Anyway, all of that is somewhat beside the point. Once we get to the topic at hand, Ridley laments the fact that …

Even now, most anthropologists and social scientists are firmly committed to the view that evolution has nothing to tell them. Human bodies are products of natural selection, but human minds and human behavior are products of “culture,” and human culture does not reflect human nature, but the reverse.

Throughout the book you get the message of a constant battle between the male’s interest in passing on his genes versus the female’s interest in passing on hers. Not just with humans, but with all the creatures he discusses. It’s a constant throughout the animal kingdom. Why should humans be exempt?

I found this passage very interesting.

[It seems that] … a highly polygamous human society represents a victory for men, whereas a monogamous one suggests a victory for women. But this is misleading. A polygamous society primarily represents a victory for one or a few men over all other men. Most men in highly polygamous societies are condemned to celibacy.

As I mentioned in a previous post, he argues that polygamy (or at least extreme polygamy) was only briefly a part of human history, and that for most of human history we’ve been basically monogamous. (With some rather ugly exceptions / features, by the way.)

What’s interesting to me about this is how a benevolent king might deal with this information.

Let’s say a king wants to maximize the productivity of all his subjects. He wants every man engaged in the program. If so, he wants a monogamous culture. He wants to use the chance of getting a mate as a bribe to get the man to fall in line and do what he’s expected to do.

The essential bargain in human mating is “male power and resources [in exchange] for female reproductive potential.” Unfortunately, there are lots of side interests going on and the exchange gets very ugly. He gives some very compelling biological reasons why both men and women would cheat, and under what circumstances, and the picture he paints explains a lot of details about sexual behavior. For example, it explains why we care more about female infidelity than male, and why husbands are more jealous of their wives than vice versa.

That theme (with some saltier language) could be pulled straight off any “manosphere” blog.

[T]he principle — marry a nice guy but have an affair with your boss or marry a rich but ugly man and take a handsome lover — is not unknown among female human beings.

The manosphere would tend to change “is not unknown …” to “is the way women behave.”

The bottom line is that if you’re interested in human mating practices, read this book.

There’s another side track I have to make. Towards the end of the book he says …

The principal reason for the hostility to sociobiology was that it seemed to justify prejudice.

Not that it “seemed to contradict the evidence.” Not that “the arguments were poor.” No. It’s more important to resist things that “justify prejudice” than it is to be right.

This kind of thing is incredibly obvious to anyone looking in from the outside. Scientists are no more objective and “let’s follow the evidence wherever it leads” people than anybody else. They have their prejudices and their philosophies, their things you can’t say and their things you must say, just like everybody else.

--  ::  What do you think?  ::  2014-11-08  ::  Greg Krehbiel

Noonan: Obama is a petulant little baby

by Greg Krehbiel on 7 November 2014

That’s how I interpret her column.

The president is … doubling down on hostility, antagonism and distance. … He took no personal responsibility …. It is confounding — not surprising but stunning, unhelpful and ill-judged — that the president is … going for antagonism, combat and fruitless friction. This is not just poor strategy, it seems to me to be mildly delusional. … It’s as if he doesn’t think he has to work with others ….

The guy is not a very good politician.

-- 7 comments  ::  What do you think?  ::  2014-11-07  ::  Greg Krehbiel

The Bircher Left

by Greg Krehbiel on 7 November 2014

This is a good description of how many conservatives view modern liberals.

… just as the Bircher right began to see communists everywhere, the new Bircher left sees racism, sexism, homophobia, and Koch Brothers everywhere. (Source)

And it seems just as silly to us as the John Birch Society’s obsession with communism seemed to the left.

--  ::  What do you think?  ::  2014-11-07  ::  Greg Krehbiel

Is this the missing matter?

by Greg Krehbiel on 6 November 2014

Calling DSM.

I just saw this article — A Universe of Stars May Exist Outside Galaxies — and I can’t understand why it doesn’t even mention the question of the allegedly missing matter.

96% of the matter of the universe is unaccounted for, they say, and one possible explanation is this thing called “dark matter.”

Or another possible explanation is that there’s regular old ordinary matter that astronomers haven’t found yet.

Maybe these rogue stars can’t possibly add up to enough to make a big difference, or maybe there’s some other reason why it’s not relevant to the “missing matter” question.

-- 3 comments  ::  What do you think?  ::  2014-11-06  ::  Greg Krehbiel

The internal contradiction of feminism

by Greg Krehbiel on 5 November 2014

I read this from The Red Queen this morning.

There is a contradiction at the heart of feminism, one that few feminists have acknowledged. You cannot say, first, that men and women are equally capable of all jobs and, second, that if jobs were done by women, they would be done differently.

Yes, that is one of the contradictions at the heart of feminism.

-- 40 comments  ::  What do you think?  ::  2014-11-05  ::  Greg Krehbiel

Competence, not partisan politics

by Greg Krehbiel on 5 November 2014

Obama and Reid pushed a radical agenda way too far and the country has pushed back. We don’t want our country “fundamentally transformed,” and we don’t want to be led by extreme partisans.

I hope the Republicans get the message. It would be a huge mistake to take their new power and start pushing the wish list of the extreme right. The country wants work to get done. Not extreme, crazy, “transformative” work. Just regular old, day to day work.

The Republicans should restore normal order to the Senate. They should get back to budgeting. They should focus on passing laws that are fairly non-controversial, which means they’ll have to work with the president and with some Democrats. And most of all they should make sure that government agencies are doing what they’re supposed to be doing and not running off on partisan witch hunts (IRS) or drowning in incompetence (VA).

-- 6 comments  ::  What do you think?  ::  2014-11-05  ::  Greg Krehbiel

2014-11-04 :: Greg Krehbiel // General
Would Spock be a good father?
2014-11-04 :: Greg Krehbiel // General
As long as Harry Reid is gone
2014-11-03 :: Greg Krehbiel // General
Voter fraud
2014-11-03 :: Greg Krehbiel // General
Do monogamy and democracy go together?
2014-11-01 :: Greg Krehbiel // General
Could we win a space race today?
2014-10-31 :: Greg Krehbiel // General
Colbert, jumping the shark
2014-10-31 :: Greg Krehbiel // General
How to send documents to your kindle
2014-10-31 :: Greg Krehbiel // General
Affirmative action for social psychology?