Public Purpose: Kelo v. New London and Neoliberal Paternalism

23 05 2011

In 2005, an eminent domain case became the unlikely focus of a fiery national debate on the seemingly ever-increasing power of the government to interfere with private citizens. What was interesting about the Supreme Court’s Kelo decision was that it exposed an uncomfortable reality that America’s petit liberals and statist conservatives try hard to deny: that ultimately, they differ mostly rhetorically, and substantively only on details rather than fundamental principles. At the same time, the libertarian right decried the decision in direct confrontation to the John Galts of the world–the economy’s most powerful actors.

Now, six years later, the facts have shaken out, and the Kelo decision is even more starkly and profoundly wrong. How the situation has actually played out in New London reveals just how deeply the neoliberal consensus has undermined basic principles of economic and personal freedom and perverted even jurisprudence.
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A New, Older y-Chromosomal Adam

23 05 2011

Image via Wikipedia. Though it couldn't be more obvious, am I right?

Researchers believe they have identified an earlier “y-chromosomal Adam,” the earliest human male from whom we are all descended. This isn’t a literal individual they’ve identified, but a genetic fingerprint of one. Where once this “chromosomal Adam” was believed to have lived about 60,000 years ago in some part of southern or southeastern Africa, a new paper published in the Journal of Human Genetics puts his life at about 140,000 years ago. The research also suggests that the male seems to be from northwest Africa, not the eastern or southern portion as has long been suspected:

“The number of deep branchings leading to African-specific clades has doubled, further strengthening the MSY-based evidence for a modern human origin in the African continent. An analysis of 2204 African DNA samples showed that the deepest clades of the revised MSY phylogeny are currently found in central and northwest Africa, opening new perspectives on early human presence in the continent.”

(That’s how scientists express excitement).

This discovery can alter a number of things about our understanding of human evolution and development: if the chromosomal Adam had lived only 60,000 years, it would compress significantly the time period human had to migrate from Africa and populate the rest of the world, and begin the phenotypic variations we see in people today. Given that the agricultural revolution started about 15,000 years ago, that’s not a lot of time. The current time frame was also a point of dispute between physical anthropologists and their molecular counterparts, as the former believed they had evidence of modern humans as far as Australia as long ago as 100,000 years.

More than doubling the distance between ourselves and Adam also puts chromosomal him closer in time to the mother of humanity, Mitochondrial Eve, who lived about 200,000 or so years ago, making her the earliest recorded instance of a cougar.

To keep my jokes from confusing you further, may I suggest actually going to the article itself?

For the research itself, check here. For a better explanation, go here.

The Meaning of Life, Part V

15 05 2011

Reasonable/Reasonable, Kill or Try?

14 05 2011

There is nuance in Glenn Greenwald’s objection to the rejoicing over Osama Bin Laden’s killing, though you wouldn’t necessarily know it by reading some of the debate around it. My understanding of Greenwald’s position is that it isn’t crazy to ask whether there was illegality or whether Bin Laden’s capture and trial wouldn’t have been preferable to his assassination. It was the pushback against this that seems to have provoked Greenwald’s stronger reactions since–essentially, insisting that wanting investigation of the circumstances is not indicative of unreasonable opposition to American actions in the war on terror. His concerns are eminently reasonable, I think. As happens on the internet, though, provocation and back-and-forth leads to needless hardening of positions. Greenwald’s reserving the right to criticize the act, and the impulse of others to defend the killing in its context become somehow an ocean apart.

Because I find myself in general agreement with Greenwald–that while Bin Laden was a loathsome international criminal with innocent blood on his hands, this alone is not sufficient to justify a killing where a prosecution may have been more appropriate–I think it’s useful to delve into the disagreement.
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More Fun With Google! Human Anxiety Edition

13 05 2011

Just Don’t Get Married, Asshole

10 05 2011

If it takes a Herculean effort to talk to your wife for five goddamn seconds, why the hell are you married?

Maybe its heartbreak–something causes us to treat male-female relationships as inherent contradictions, impossible, necessary evils, insufferable and fraught with disappointment and latent hatred.

But there’s nothing to this. In fact, I have to believe the contrary is the case. There’s no relationship more obviously necessary than sexual and intimate relationships between men and women. Certainly, people make bad choices about whom they choose to couple up with. But where there are failures, frustrations, or insufferable assholes like the guy in the Klondike commercial who can’t stand to talk to his wife for five goddamn seconds, the problem is almost always with one’s self, not with the other person.

Choosing to be with someone you can’t really stand is because of some defect one sees in oneself–a sense of insecurity that creates a terror of being alone, a feeling of unworthiness, suspicion that somebody else’s love or attention is unwarranted and so counterfeit–or really, what we could call a Groucho Pathology, that you wouldn’t want to join any relationship that would have you as a member.

It’s hard not to be scared of trusting that someone wholly independent of you really does have your best interests at heart; that they truly love you and want to see you happy. It takes bravery to accept that condition and to just sink into the warmth of it. So we invent narratives that justify our fear and cowardice.

This manifests in men in the asinine impulse that there is more pleasure in “the hunt” than the catch; and in women with equally asinine impulse that only men for whom they have to compete are worth their time. Whatever evolutionary sources there are for these impulses are not determinative–they can’t be, because the impulse to devote one’s self to, and even sacrifice one’s self for, a mate responsible for child rearing could be equally so attributable–and is indeed found in all types of species. Besides, there’s little in our evolutionary hard-wiring that can’t be tempered or even over-ridden by the capacity for social conditioning that is just as much a result of human evolution.

Perhaps this is a view enriched by rose colored glasses. My parents are still married after thirty four years and are very evidently best friends. This has created in me, and I assume my sister, too, an intense desire to make sure that whoever we decide to settle down with forever be our best friend. And I don’t doubt that if I moved in with my best friend, shared finances with my best friend, and had to make important life decisions with my best friend, we’d often get annoyed with one another, and have a need for privacy now and then.

But these superficial “problems” pale in comparison to the happiness and comfort that would attend getting to share my joy and my most troubling fears with somebody who understands me better than anybody else, and who has sworn to stick with me no matter what.

Not that friendship is enough. It helps if you look at the person you’re with and want to eat them like a meal–and vice versa. You need both, I think. Sometimes having one allows the other to bloom. Sometimes both arise simultaneously. But if there one’s thing pop culture has taught us, it is that women will settle for a slob who can’t stand them if he’ll just stick around, and men are happy to have a suspiciously hot wife even if listening to her talk for five seconds is akin to getting a urinary catheter inserted.

"Tell me about your day."

Perhaps a sign of the growing equality of women is that “take my wife, please” is no longer the sole joke construction that all marriage-based “comedy” is built on. There’s also, “my husband is a mildly retarded ape.” See, for example, every family sitcom this century.
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