30 November 2006

Political Instability Task Force

The [Political Instablility Task Force] repeated this analysis for global and regional data sets and produced fairly consistent findings. The three statistically significant variables most often associated with political upheavals were:

- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_Instability_Task_Force

29 November 2006

Quote of the Day

"Better to be hated for who you are than loved for who you are not."

- Phlogiston Verdigris

27 November 2006

Having Children Makes You Wiser

"Elizabeth Gould of Princeton University and her colleagues compared the brains of marmoset fathers with those of males that lived in mated pairs, but lacked offspring. They found substantial differences. The nerve cells in the prefrontal cortex of fathers had more tiny projections, known as dendritic spines, than those of non-fathers. Because dendritic spines are the sites of connection between neighbouring nerve cells, the increased number may mean more activity in the fathers' brains than in those of the non-fathers. The nerve cells in the prefrontal cortex of the fathers also contained more receptors for vasopressin, a small peptide that influences social behaviour and pair-bonding.


Craig Kinsley of the University of Richmond, Virginia, who did the work with rat mothers, speculates that Dr Gould's new findings may reflect human behaviour quite closely. “There is a lot of interest in the idea that having children forces responsibility on males in many respects. If you consider that the prefrontal cortex plays a major role in planning, judgment and the anticipation of the consequences of behaviour, you could make a clear argument that the changes in that part of the brain would be involved with judicious attention toward offspring.”"


PNG Papuans rally for Aussie citizenship

"We want Australia to come back and govern us, we want them to give our grandchildren a better opportunity. We don't care about neocolonialism."

- Australian Papuan Community coordinator Jonathan Baure


22 November 2006

SCG International Risk

Now this is the University I would have liked to have attended.


Check out their info service while you're at it.

21 November 2006


The Übermensch — English: "overman" or "superman" ["transhuman" in my opinion is the best translation - PH] — is the philosophical concept expounded by philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche in the 1883 book Thus Spoke Zarathustra, whose eponymous protagonist contends that a man can become an Übermensch (homo superior; equivalent English: 'super-human'; see below) through the following steps:

  1. By using his will to power destructively, in the rejection of, and rebellion against, societal ideals and moral codes.
  2. By using his will to power creatively, in overcoming nihilism and re-evaluating old ideals or creating new ones.
  3. By a continual process of self-overcoming.


The above may sound like onanistic philosophical bovine excrement or, if you have actually read Thus Spake Zarathustra, obscure mock-Biblical bovine excrement, so let me re-phrase it for you.

You reach 17 and you reject Christianity (or whatever).

You have overcome Christianity, the beliefs and values that society has foisted upon you.

There is then a void in your life. There is no philosophical foundation beneath your feet. What do you replace Christianity with? Nothing is worth anything, life is meaningless and not worth living, confusion, despair: in short, nihilism.

Eventually, if you don't kill yourself, you reach 22 and your feet begin to sense some solid ground again beneath them again. You overcome nihilism. You begin to construct your own philosophy, your own values, your own ethics. You begin to bestow meaning upon things, rather like Adam giving things names in the first week.

You have overcome nihilism.

Finally (and I am still going through this stage so forgive me if I have misinterpreted this part) there is still something to overcome: yourself. I'm not sure what this is. Probably your self-doubts, your uncertainties, the deformities of Christianity and your upbringing that you thought you'd straightened out but keep sneaking back, your forgetting of your goals, most of all your lazinesses. In short, this part of the process means becoming the master of yourself.

The Vietnamese

The Vietnamese would be a far more pleasant race if they acted in a way that was self-interested, rather than nihilistically nasty.

Egg Donors

Donors are usually in their fertile 20s. After passing medical and psychological tests, they inject themselves with hormone stimulants for about one month. They are then anesthetized while a physician removes the eggs with a needle. Most clinics in the Washington region pay donors about $6,000.

Also interesting is:

Because infertility is seen as failure in some cultures, and because adoption is uncommon among Asians and Muslims, some observers speculate that despairing infertile couples opt for egg donation without telling anyone -- which also prevents them from asking relatives or friends to be donors. That secrecy makes a donor of the same ethnicity even more crucial, doctors say.


War Made New

NB: As I have not read this book, this is not a recommendation.

War Made New: Technology, Warfare, and the Course of History, 1500 to Today

Author: Max Boot, Senior Fellow for National Security Studies
A CFR Book. Gotham Books - October 2006
640 pages - ISBN 1-59240-222-4 - $35.00

From the blurb:

Acclaimed author Max Boot explores how innovations in weaponry and tactics have not only transformed how wars are fought and won but also have guided the course of human events, from the formation of the first modern states, to the collapse of the Soviet Union, to the coming of al-Qaeda.

Boot argues that the past five centuries of history have been marked not by gradual change in how we fight but instead by four revolutions in military technology—and that the nations who have successfully mastered these revolutions have gained the power to redraw the map of the world. Boot brings these moments of transformation to vivid life through gripping combat scenes.

The Doctrine of Asymmetrical War

Yet another great article from the War Nerd on the nature of contemporary war:

"It goes by a lot of names, from "terrorism" to "asymmetrical warfare" to "fourth-generation warfare," depending on whether you're for it, against it, or just trying to sound cool."

Here are its basic features:

1. Most wars are asymmetrical / irregular.
2. In these wars, the guerrillas / irregulars / insurgents do NOT aim for military victory.
3. You can NOT defeat these groups by killing lots of their members. In fact, they want you to do that.
4. Hi-tech weaponry is mostly useless in these wars.
5. "Hearts and Minds," meaning propaganda and morale, are more important than military superiority.
6. Most people are not rational, they are TRIBAL: "my gang yay, your gang boo!" It really is that simple. The rest is cosmetics.


20 November 2006

One Man, Many Wives, Big Problems

Great article on monogamy and polygamy by Jennifer Percy in the Atlantic Monthly.


"On meeting a polygamous family for the first time, Ludlow’s reaction was shocked and bewildered: “I stared,—I believed I blushed a little,—I tried to stutter a reply; ‘How can these young women sit looking at each other’s babies without flying into each other’s faces with their fingernails, and tearing out each other’s hair?’”"

"Because divorce rates had increased six hundred percent since the Civil War, Cohn speculated as to whether polygamy might be what Americans were looking for."

"[Cohn] suggested that it was monogamy and not polygamy that bred instability—leading to divorce and leaving broken families in its wake."

"...when one man married four women, three other men would be left spouseless. This inequality would create a subclass of poor, unskilled, and uneducated men:

In a polygamous world, boys could no longer grow up taking marriage for granted. Many would instead see marriage as a trophy in a sometimes brutal competition for wives. Losers would understandably burn with resentment, and most young men, even those who eventually won, would fear losing. Although much has been said about polygamy’s inegalitarian implications for women who share a husband, the greater victims of inequality would be men who never become husbands."

"...historically speaking, monogamy is an aberration—polygamy has been the most common form of marriage since biblical times."