I’m too nervous about the 2006 Election and the end of the fall season of LOST to think properly, so read about The Hydra over at Lostpedia.


And, while you’re at it, learn about The Arrow, The Staff, The Swan, The Flame, and The Pearl.

If you’re too busy for wiki reading, check out some of the great vidcasts over at The Lost Podcast with Jay and Jack.

Or for that matter watch old orientation films, watch LOST itself online, or look at old maps of LOST island. But whatever you do: don’t read Bad Twin.

Death and Betrayal in Iraq

Where Plan A Left Ahmad Chalabi,” by Dexter Filkins, New York Times Magazine, 5 November 2006, http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/05/magazine/05CHALABI.html.

Iraq War supporters who are disenchanted with an incompetent American occupation are popping out of the wordwork — David Frum, Ralph Peters, Richard Perle, and of course myself. Now the magainze of the Times reports that Ahmad Chalabi, the Iraqi most responsible for that country’s democracy, isn’t happy either:

“The real culprit in all this is Wolfowitz,” Chalabi says, referring to his erstwhile backer, the former deputy secretary of defense, Paul Wolfowitz. “They chickened out. The Pentagon guys chickened out.”

Chalabi still considers Wolfowitz a friend, so he proceeds carefully. America’s big mistake, Chalabi maintains, was in failing to step out of the way after Hussein’s downfall and let the Iraqis take charge. The Iraqis, not the Americans, should have been allowed to take over immediately — the people who knew the country, who spoke the language and, most important, who could take responsibility for the chaos that was unfolding in the streets. An Iraqi government could have acted harshly, even brutally, to regain control of the place, and the Iraqis would have been without a foreigner to blame. They would have appreciated the firm hand. There would have been no guerrilla insurgency or, if there was, a small one that the new Iraqi government could have ferreted out and crushed on its own. An Iraqi leadership would have brought Moktada al-Sadr, the populist cleric, into the government and house-trained him. The Americans, in all likelihood, could have gone home. They certainly would have been home by now.

“It was a puppet show!” Chalabi exclaims again, shifting on the couch. “The worst of all worlds. We were in charge, and we had no power. We were blamed for everything the Americans did, but we couldn’t change any of it.”

It’s three and a half years later now. More than 2,800 Americans are dead; more than 3,000 Iraqis die each month. The anarchy seems limitless. In May 2004, American and Iraqi agents even raided Chalabi’s home in Baghdad. He has been denounced by Bremer and by Bush and accused of passing secrets to America’s enemy, Iran. At the heart of the American decision to take over and run Iraq, Chalabi now concludes, lay a basic contempt for Iraqis, himself included.

Just as we delayed sentencing Saddam Hussein to years, but it happened anyway, so the independence and safety of the free people of Iraq is coming on.

Sexual Predator Sally Henderson To Serve Only 365 Days

Woman Accused of Crying Rape is Jailed, This Is London, 3 November 2006, http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/news/article-23373184-details/Woman+accused+of+crying+rape+is+jailed/article.do.

Back in September I reported that Sally Henderson faced a “lengthy” prison term for falsely accusing a man of rape. Sally Henderson is a sexual predator who men and their families must be protected from. Sadly, a sentencing judge seemed to disagree:

A woman was jailed today for making false rape allegations against her ex-husband.

Sally Henderson, 40, from Woodmancote, near Cirencester, Gloucestershire, was jailed for one year after claiming she had been the subject of a string of sex attacks.

Mature student Henderson was found guilty of perverting the course of justice following a week-long trial at Gloucester Crown Court in September.

Additionally, it is my understanding that Sally Henderson will not have to register in an sex offender or sexual predator database.

Still, 365 days is considerably longer than fugitive-from-justice Elisabet Sunde spent behind bars.

More Blog Reactions to Genetics and Politics

The research is freely available

“We test the possibility that political attitudes and behaviors are the result of both environmental and genetic factors. Employing standard methodological approaches in behavioral genetics—–specifically, comparisons of the differential correlations of the attitudes of monozygotic twins and dizygotic twins—–we analyze data drawn from a large sample of twins in the United States, supplemented with findings from twins in Australia. The results indicate that genetics plays an important role in shaping political attitudes and ideologies but a more modest role in forming party identification; as such, they call for finer distinctions in theorizing about the sources of political attitudes. We conclude by urging political scientists to incorporate genetic influences, specifically interactions between genetic heritability and social environment, into models of political attitude formation.”

And has been blogged before


But netizens are still discussing the recent reportings on the Nebraska Lecture on genetics, behavior, and politics.

What’s new today: Free Republic is all over the place (from amazingly good to amazingly bad), InstructorScribe notes that while genetics probably isn’t the end-all it does play a role. Rational Fool confuses genetic influence with genetic determinism. Rusted Sky notes that “Well – if true that’d open up a whole can of worms..” Technocrat makes a good point about partisanship and orientation.

One particular Free Republic comment, by “Question_Assumptions,” struck me:

I don’t think it’s a matter of intelligence. I think Thomas Sowell puts his finger on it in his book A Conflict of Visions. It has to do with how people view fairness and human nature. If you think an equal playing field but unequal results are fair, you’ll be a conservative. If you think that an equal playing field is unfair if it yields unequal results, you’ll be a liberal. Conservatives are interested in equality of process. Liberals are interested in equality of results. See Thomas Sowell’s book The Quest for Cosmic Justice for a good analysis of why attempts to ensure equality of results lead to disaster.

Fortunately, this question is empirically testable. Using the ultimatum game, one should be able to proceduralize conceptions of fairness concerns and see if they correlate with attitudes. I do not know if this has been done. It’s a fascinating factual question.

Further, one of the lead researchers in genetic factors earlier made a name for himself looking at something similar: the preference of Americans for procedural justice over democratic norms. Fairness is a basic drive and it influences how we think politically. “Question_Assumptions” is asking the questions. Maybe soon we’ll know the answers.

Update: All Evolve looks toward personality. Diecast Aircraft Forum is unimpressed. Julia40 wonders about crossbreeding. Reyner thinks about it because he’s bored. And Skyman corrects me.

Indirect Genetic Effects on Politics

Indirection is the way.

Hatemi & Martin found this. Their study of Australian twins attempted to expand on earlier work that found strong genetic influence on political ideology but only a weak genetic influence on party choice. That finding, which Fowler’s paper reinforced, implied that genes influence political orientation directly but party choice, and presumably vote, only indirectly through ideology. However, that was ambiguous and the possibility remained that there was a separate genetic influence on party-identification and vote-choice than on ideology. Hatemi & Martin’s findings confirmed that vote-choice was an effect of genetic influence on orientation, and that there was not a directly genetic influence on vote choice.

McDermott et al.’s theory was more promising. Zak found that cortisol directly influenced trust. Could a similar direct influence by found for testosterone when applied to political organizations? The answer was no, implying yet again that politics is indirectly influenced by genetic factors. Testosterone was only correlated to political aggression was both sexes were treated as one population, which amounts to saying that men are more politically aggressive than women.

Similarly, in his presentation Hibbing echoed a point made by Carmen. The distribution among political beliefs by those who are politically active appears to be bimodal, which implies a “gene for” political persuasion. (As Hibbing discussed in his lecture, bimodal distributions are common for features controlled by a single factor, such as eye color, but rare for features controlled by man, such as height.) However, this same distribution might be the result of a modal distribution where the tails are disproportionately represented. That is, political beliefs may be normally distributed by an interaction with a separate factor that causes intensity may make it appear bimodal through self-selection. In his paper, Carmen noted “Dopamine overload correlates with highly risky behavior: too much gambling, too much sex, too much drinking. What about too much politics? How would one define “too much politics”” Perhaps here again is an indirect link, with people who feel strongly for the status quo not going into politics, and an interaction leading to the apparent divisiveness.

To me, this ties in with Hibbing & Theiss-Morse’s previous research on Congress. In books and articles, those authors have argued that public distrust of Congress comes from perceived procedural injustice. It’s as if the legislature really is the sausage factory, and it’s being judged by OSHA (how the sausage is made) and not Consumer Reports (what the sausage is made of). Laboratory experiments have appeared to confirm people’s self-reports, in that perceived injustice matters about as much as outcome. Yet in his speech, Hibbing outlined how he believe genetic influences fall into only weekly correlated psychological, social, and political spheres. If this is the case the lab experiments implying that people dislike unfairness simply may not apply to political situations.

Still, research can be done. The “political” influences on human behavior may not so much be “how should society be run” as “how should a society be run” — that is, how should groups larger than fifteen members be organized. The Era of Evolutionary Adaption (EEA) for small-band life and the EEA for large-group life appear to be from different eras. “Political” genetic orientation may merely be a large-n case of “social” orientation. This can be tested in a laboratory experiment. Find an issue where social and political influences converge. The run a laboratory experiments with groups of varying sizes (5, 10, 20, 30, etc) you should expect to see a transition from “social” to “political attitudes” as the group size increases. Thus political attitudes are not “how society should be organized” so much as “how should our large-n group be organized”?

Another method, perhaps more indirect, can be used as well. The Hibbing lecture implies that there are two “types’ of political people – absolutists and contextualists. Earlier research on economic games implies three types – wary cooperators, altruists, and egoists. It seems clear that there is no easy mapping of one set of types to another. If there really is a transition from social to political orientation as group size increases, it should be possible to observe these three social types becoming two political types. In other words, it should be possible to create a game where wary/altruist/egoist strategies are available but absolutist/contextualist ones also exist for deliberative decision making. As the n increases, a phase change should occur that transitions the players from the social strategies to the political beliefs.

A story that I am reading as I write this gives another, perhaps easier, method to test the hypothesis. A 1993 articles by Stanley Coren noted that student’s misperceive political biases based based on the presentation of factual information. If the social-political split is actually a factor of group size, then this should be significantly more apparent in large lecture classes (30+ students) than small classes (15- students).

Genetic-Politics Papers Among UNL’s Most Downloaded

The October 2006 list of top downloads from UNL’s Digital Commons is out. Among them are many articles from the recent Hendricks Symposium on Genetics and Political Behavior, which preceded the recent Nerabska Lecture on Genes, Behavior, and Politics. While the list is distorted because many people picked up paper copies instead of downloading digital ones, the most downloaded ones include:

26 Genetic Configurations of Political Phenomena: New Theories, New Methods
43 The Neuroeconomics of Trust
54 The Neural Basis of Representative Democracy
55 Balancing Ambition and Gender Among Decision Makers
59 When Can Politicians Scare Citizens Into Supporting Bad Policies? A Theory of Incentives With Fear Based Content
60 Effects of “In-Your-Face” Television Discourse on Perceptions of a Legitimate Opposition
63 ‘Heroism’ in Warfare
67 The Genetic Basics of Political Cooperation
69 Personality and Emotional Response: Strategic and Tactical Responses to Changing Political Circumstances
76 Testosterone, Cortisol, and Aggression in a Simulated Crisis Game
90 Evolutionary Model of Racial Attitude Formation Socially Shared and Idiosyncratic Racial Attitudes
93 Empathy and Collective Action in the Prisoner’s Dilemma
104 Audience Effects on Moralistic Punishment
109 The Political Consequences of Perceived Threat and Felt Insecurity
127 Ecological Analysis of a System of Organized Interests
132 Judgments about cooperators and freeriders on a Shuar work team: An evolutionary psychological perspective

Read them. They’re good. The rest are online, too.

Blog Reaction to Genetic Influences on Political Behavior

Scientists study political-genetic link,” by Anna Jo Bratton, Associated Press, 2 November 2006, http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20061103/ap_on_sc/politics_genetics (hat-tip to Mark Safranski).

John Alford’s, Carolyn Funk’s, and John Hibbing’s research on genetic factors in political ideology, “Are Political Orientations Genetically Transmitted?” was recently presented at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. Happily it also made the Associated Press:

Politics may not be in the blood, but it could be in the genes.

That’s the theory a team of political scientists and geneticists is trying to prove with extensive studies of twins, genes and brain scans.

“I perfectly understand that some people are skeptical,” said John R. Hibbing, a political science professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln who is involved in the research.

Some criticisms of online criticisms:

“Maxedoutmama” argues that this is an example of a hideous alliance of nazis, Leftists, and ecowhackos. However, in between rants she makes an important mistake:

You might, if you are one of those skeptical-gened people, be wondering why the population of Minnesota is reported to be so much more religious and has so much more conservative social beliefs than the current population of northern Europe, given the commonality in the gene pool. Undoubtedly the answer will turn out to be some sort of Reagan-era gene manipulation program spread by ADM, in cooperation with the CIA. Because everyone at DU knows that science is never, ever wrong, unless they have genetic defects that prevent them from achieving enlightenment. They are, after all, the reality-based party. (But even DU is becoming concerned about the “human garbage” theory of political life.)

An answer might me that white Americans are not genetically identical to white Europeans. White Americans are generally descended from those white Europeans who got fed-up and left.

“Cktung” ponders “Honestly I doubt there is one. It’s like, is there a gene to decide nice-looking or not? Seriously doubt it. It’s probably gene related, but I just don’t see how to identify it at molecular level. .” I think Cktung’s confusion here is actually reasonable. Just because something is “genetic” doesn’t necessarily mean it’s part of the DNA that makes proteins. It could be part of the “junk DNA” that seems to gear up genetic processes, or even epigenetic items such as the non-DNA proteins that are passed from parent to child.

“Technologyfilter” notes “They’re trying to show that genetics can actually determine our personalities and even social talents–like an adroitness for politics, for example. ” He’s generally right, but I would be careful about the term “determine.” Genes interact with the environment. Ask yourself if your genes “determine” your height: they have a lot to do with it, but grow up eating ramen and I bet you’d be shorter than you are now! (Just ask the North Koreans…)

“John Adam” thinks “I totally believe this to be true. Except that it probably has more to do with intelligence rather than some other trait. Liberals generally have stupid ideas, therefore it doesn’t surprise me that more stupid people are liberals..” This is a genetic claim, and it’s false. Except for the well noted fact that longer formal education correlates with liberalism, intelligence and political orientation do not seem to correlate with each other.

“Karen Spencer”‘s interpretation, Politics can be inherited. That’s the headline on the MSNBC website right now. They are saying that researchers are testing if being conservative or liberal is in the genes..” I think this is accurate

“Florida Gaters,” in big red leters, screams “Oh, I get it! We can’t seem to decide for ourselves the difference between right and wrong.” More quietly, Sir Humphrey claims something similar. Nothing like that was said in the article or the lecture, so this post is hard to respond to.

“Amethyst” thinks like a scientist by noting an apparent outlier: I highly doubt it. Both my mother’s side and my dad’s side of the family are very conservative. I am the only liberal member of my family AFAIK, with the possible exception of my cousin who moved out to California for college… If politics were inherited genetically, then logically, I should be conservative. But I am not, and will probably never be unless the Republicans make a great many changes. Again, genes interact with the environment to determine political orientation. However, the genetic affect apperas to start around age 20 and increase from there. If Amethyst is young, which seems probable, she may just be too young to experience a genetic effect yet.

An online pagan quips that this research is weird. It wouldn’t be fun if it was not. :-p

While MSNBC chooses to put science to a public vote, I previously blogged this research. This story is also available on digg.

A personal note, and a disclaimer. It has been my pleasure to have met two of the three original authors. I respect them tremendously. Their writings have expanded my horizons and allowed me to understand our world better. I am grateful for all their help and kindness to me.

Update: katieallisongranju whacks out, hazellouise asks for money to be diverted from my department to border security, Pajamas Media disgraces itself, Simonesmith hosts a threaded discussion, and TheChurchMilitant attacks science, and towelroad is curious.

Making a Science of the Generations of War

A few days back I used Curtis’ Dreaming 5th Generation War blog to call for the scientific analysis of the so-called “generations” of war:

We need to safeguard 5GW Theory against these twin evils of academic theosophy and marketing buzzwordspeak. This can be accomplished by defining “generation,” or even better its symbol “G,” as a scale. It seems to be that “G” measures the kinetic intensity of conflict, which every new G being approximately 20 times less intense than the one below it.

This holds up under a first analysis. Pre-Modern Warfare (the Zeroth Generation of Modern Warfare, “0GW,” about 0Gs) is unremittingly genocidal. If the AD 1900s had the same fatality-from-war rate as the 6000s BC, we should have seen something like two billion war deaths. We might say that form the dawn of man to the dawn of agriculture war meant from measuring around 0.1 Gs on the kinetic intensity scale to .9 Gs.

Or think of it another way: 0G Warfare focuses on ending an enemy’s ability to fight by killing their men. By the time we get to 4G Warfare almost none of the battle is in the field, but in the mind’s of men who will live regardless. This 5GW we talk of seems to be even more mental and less physical, seeking to leave the men, material, and even will of the enemy essentially unchanged. If kinetic intensity is seen as morally bad, then every new G is a moral improvement. 5GW may truly be “moral war,” compared to everything that has come before.

In response…

Iraq is al Qaeda’s Vietnam

Last Gasps in Iraq,” by Ralph Peters, USA Today, 2 November 2006, http://blogs.usatoday.com/oped/2006/11/post_6.html (from The Corner).

I don’t agree with all of Peters’ analysis, but he sure gets this part right:

And contrary to the prophets of doom, the United States wouldn’t be weakened by our withdrawal, should it come to that. Iraq was never our Vietnam. It’s al-Qaeda’s Vietnam. They’re the ones who can’t leave and who can’t win.

Islamist terrorists have chosen Iraq as their battleground and, even after our departure, it will continue to consume them. We’ll still be the greatest power on earth, indispensable to other regional states — such as the Persian Gulf states and Saudi Arabia — that are terrified of Iran’s growing might. If the Arab world and Iran embark on an orgy of bloodshed, the harsh truth is that we may be the beneficiaries.

In spite of the Bush administrations’ incompetence in Iraq — in spite of their attempted appeasement of terrorists and subversion of democracy in order to play games with Iran — the Iraq War continues to be one of the Bush Administrations’ best moves. Not only did we remove Saddam Hussein — that Milosevic of Arabia — from power, we chose the battlefield where al Qaeda would confront us. We chose to fight them in a country where they could not win, where a majority of the population is implacably hostile to al Qaeda, where Iraqi people power would mechanically crush the Qaedists, the Baathists, and all of their allies.

We will not obtain Bush’s maximal objectives for Iraq. It will ally in this Global War against Terrorism. And it will bring military defeat to Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, and all the other terrorist dogs. And all we have to do is leave.

Zakaria against the Iraqi People

Rethinking Iraq: The War Forward,” by Fareed Zakaria, Newsweek, 6 November 2006, http://www.thomaspmbarnett.com/weblog/archives2/003912.html (from Thomas P.M. Barnett).

Bad advice, of the type usually reserved for Cole’s netroots and Robb’s guerrillas, from Fareed Zakaria:

With all the troops in the world, America could not forge a new national compact for Iraq. That is a task for the Iraqi leadership. The outlines of the deal that needs to be made are by now obvious. Iraq would end up a loose confederation, but would divide its oil revenue so that all three regions were invested in the new nation. A broad amnesty would be granted to all those who have waged war, which means mainly the Sunni insurgents, but also members of Shia death squads. Government and state-sector jobs, the largest share of employment in Iraq, would be distributed to all three communities, which would entail a reversal of the postinvasion purges that swept up, for example, schoolteachers who happened to be members of the Baath Party. Finally, and perhaps most urgently, the Shia militias must be disbanded or, if that becomes impossible, incorporated and tamed into national institutions.

The reason we have the insurgency we have today is because of Sunni Arab terrorists. Whether Baathi, Qaedi, or just plain tribalist, since the fall of Saddam Hussein the Iraqi people have been terrorized by cells hosted by the Sunni Arab population. Sunni Arabs are a small minority in Iraq…


… yet that population’s enthusiastic support for murderous tyranny has sparked the Citizen’s Watch organizations we see today. Because these vigilence organizations are actually effective at ending terror — in a way that appeasement is not — the chattering classes of course come out against them:

What is equally obvious is that such a deal does not seem to be at hand. The Shia leadership remains extremely resistant to any concessions to its former Sunni overlords. The Shia politicians I met when in Baghdad, even the most urbane and educated, seemed dead set against sharing power in any real sense. In an interview with Reuters last week, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki also said he believed that if Iraqi troops were left to their own devices, they could establish order in six months in Iraq. It is not difficult to imagine what he means: Shia would crush Sunni, and that would be that. This notion—that military force, rather than political accommodation, could defeat the insurgency—is widely shared among senior Shia leaders. Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the head of the single largest political party in Parliament, has made similar statements in the past. While they will occasionally say the right things, as Maliki did in his first week in office, their reluctance to fund projects in Sunni areas, or to investigate death squads, suggests they have little appetite for broader national reconciliation

I’m glad Prime Minister Maliki stated what I said earlier this year: al Qaeda in Iraq loses as soon as the Americans leave. al Qaeda in Iraq survives only as long as we stay in Iraq.

To repeat:
1. The Sunni Arab population, a small minority, hosts cells which terrorist the 85% of the population that suffered under Saddam Hussein
2. Western appeasement of terrorists has only increased the misery of Iraqis
3. Everyday Iraqis have formed vigilance committees to protect themselves, their families, and their property — something America has been unwilling to do
4. Western pundits conclude the best policy going forward is appeasement

Zakaria’s “strategy” is as morally bankrupt as America’s current strategy in Iraq: appease, appease, appease.

Fortunately, it is doubtful that American chamberlains will be able to do their evil much longer: the future is coming on.