All posts filed under: Top Stories

The Evolutionary History of Man’s Best Friend Revealed

Man and dog share a long history. In much of the world, a history as old as humanity. The latest genetic evidence now tells us that the emergence of the domestic dog lineage occurred soon after the human expansion out of Africa 50,000 years ago, in the depths of the last Ice Age. We came. We saw. And we befriended. This we knew, but now we can closely examine how. A paper out today in Science uses 27 ancient dog genomes from the past 11,000 years to construct an evolutionary history nearly as rich as that produced by human population geneticists over the last decade. The authors found five lineages of ancient dogs that were present at the end of the last Ice Age. These were the dogs that interacted with human migrations during the rise of agriculture and the fall of civilizations to produce the riotous dog diversity that we know today. Familiar breeds like the Pekingese and the St. Bernard, as well as stray Asian village mutts, they’re all the products of a …

What We Owe to ‘The Boys in the Band’—and Other Classics of Gay Film

Ryan’s Murphy’s new Netflix production of The Boys in the Band is a time capsule of gay life in New York City, 1968. A group of friends, all but one closeted, get together for a birthday party that makes Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf look like a strawberry social. Shame, guilt, fear, and self-loathing rip through a night of pills, alcohol, and panic attacks, ending with the lines, “Show me a happy homosexual and I’ll show you a gay corpse,” and “If we could just not hate ourselves so much… If we could just learn not to hate ourselves quite so very much.”  I was 18 when I saw the original production, alone, and 19 when I saw the 1970 film adaptation, also alone. I furtively entered and exited the theatre both times, terrified that someone I knew might see me at a show about gays. Would they wonder if I was gay, too? If they guessed, then what? I could end up like those characters, cast off by friends and family, no hope, …

China’s Stateless Nations

I am from a city owned by a country that I don’t belong to. ~Frances Hui Maps of the global nation-state system show us a simplified picture of the world: “a totalizing classificatory grid,” as the political scientist Benedict Anderson famously put it.1 We need this grid for convenience, but we should always remember that it began as the colonial equivalent of an accountant’s ledger books. National maps provided reassurance to imperial powers that their territory was “bounded, determinate… countable.”2 The real world is much messier, and sometimes it changes in ways that no traditional map can show. China’s borders, for example, will soon bear no resemblance to reality. The Communist Party has begun expanding the concept of the nation, attempting to create a new type of global entity. But back home, large numbers of people within the country’s borders no longer see themselves as Chinese at all. From Kashgar to Causeway Bay, millions of citizens are beginning to define themselves in direct opposition to the status that appears on their passports. Today we find …

Australia’s Population Ponzi Scheme

The current economic system in Australia is a Ponzi scheme based on maintaining positive GDP through migration. Populations of native species are plummeting and people are faced with increased job insecurity and housing costs, all of which are side effects of the Australian government’s ongoing drive for an ever increasing population. In the 35 years prior to 2005, Australia’s net overseas migration averaged around 70,000 per annum. But from 2005 this number was trebled, and ever since then Australia’s population has been increasing at the rate of an extra million people every three years. As a result, Australia has been a part of the on-average 68 percent fall in global wildlife populations between 1970 and 2016. Some Australian species’ numbers have plummeted by up to 97 percent, primarily due to habitat loss. The environmental havoc is justified as needed for the economy, but the evidence does not support this claim. In the 1950s and 1960s Australia had strong industry protection policies and a strong manufacturing industry, and therefore both migrant and non-migrant workers had good …

From “Who Gets What?” to “Who Are We?”

American politics can be conceptualized through two questions. The first is “Who gets what?” and the second is “Who are we?” Before and during the Cold War, the specter of fascism and then communism kept Americans aligned on fundamental questions of who we are. From the New Deal to the peak of the Cold War in the 1970s, questions of who we are were far less prominent than questions of who gets what. As Lee Drutman shows, the dividing line of politics was principally over economic issues. An unsteady class peace that took shape as “democratic pluralism”—the representation of workers throughout many realms of society—reigned. During this period unions were widely subscribed (35 percent in 1954) and served as a civic and associational pillar in American life. However, once the Cold War peaked, the dividing line in contemporary America became increasingly cultural, and the primary question in America shifted to “Who are we?” As the fear of foreign and existential threats retreated, so too did a sense of common identity and purpose. Without something to …

Racial Justice: Don’t Abandon the Incrementalist Approach

Incremental policies to ameliorate racial disparities are facing declining support for a number of reasons: changing liberal attitudes, perceptions of unchanging racist barriers to black advancement, and an unwillingness to delay black success for another generation. This essay will document these three factors and explain why they do not negate the benefits of the incrementalist approach. Shifting liberal attitudes During the 1990s, Bill Clinton and Tony Blair won national elections twice by generally governing as centrist third-way candidates. A decade later, Barack Obama took the same path to victory. Recall his 2004 Democratic Convention speech that catapulted him to national prominence. Obama stated: Now even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us, the spin masters and negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything goes. Well, I say to them tonight, there’s not a liberal America and a conservative America; there’s the United States of America. There’s not a black America and a white America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America. In the last …

How Availability Cascades are Shaping our Politics

“When people are free to do as they please, they usually imitate each other.” – Eric Hoffer, 1955 We are the company we keep. Although our beliefs and actions are personal, they are often heavily affected by the people around us. When everyone else seems to be thinking the same way, we may succumb to crowd pressure rather than thinking for ourselves. When all available information seems to indicate that everyone is falling in line with a certain belief, we may be under the influence of an “availability cascade.” Today, our politics and public discourse are being poisoned by availability cascades. Thanks partly to partisan domination of the media and academia, many people are being pressured into publicly espousing beliefs that are not their own. Two components make up an availability cascade: an informational cascade and a reputational cascade. An informational cascade creates genuine changes in people’s beliefs by providing plentiful but misleading information. A reputational cascade is a vicious cycle in which individuals feign expressions of conviction to retain social approval. In the 2007 …

Antiracism, Anti-Semitism, and the False Problem of Jewish Success

On October 17th, the New York Times published an op-ed celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Million Man March that neglected to mention the anti-Semitic history of its organizer, Louis Farrakhan. In response, former Times editorial board member Bari Weiss tweeted that the institution had adopted “a worldview in which Jew hate does not count.” The author of the Times op-ed, Howard University professor Natalie Hopkinson, replied that “ppl who have become white”—that is, Jews like Weiss—“should not be lecturing Black ppl about oppression.” Apropos of nothing in particular…I’m almost done w/ “Caste”. Ppl who have become white should not be lecturing Black ppl about oppression. Need to focus on the man w/actual power caging children and rigging elections. Hitler never had more than 38% of popular vote. — Just wash your hands. (@NatHopkinson) October 18, 2020 Exposing and objecting to racial disparities became the purpose of the New York Times around August 2019, when executive editor Dean Baquet called a town hall meeting attended by the paper’s staff. He announced that, with the Mueller probe winding …

What Happened to America’s Soft Power?

For most Americans, the majority of whom will never leave North America, the issue of the US’s image abroad is an issue of tenuous concern at best. The notion that the US’s image abroad has a palpable effect on the efforts of the Central Intelligence Agency to penetrate the inner circles of our foreign adversaries is not something they take into consideration. Perhaps they should. As a former CIA case officer, I was truly alarmed to see a recent Pew poll headlined US Image Plummets Internationally. As the poll notes, “the share of the public with a favorable view of the U.S. is as low as it has been at any point since the Center began polling on this topic nearly two decades ago.” Some of the low standing can be attributed to the perception that the US has handled the COVID crisis poorly. But as much or more is that President Donald Trump is widely despised by our putative allies. The US Department of Defense has a concept, “Preparing the battlefield.” Before the first …

Reflections on Solzhenitsyn’s Harvard Address

In his 1978 Harvard commencement address, A World Split Apart, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, a fierce enemy of the Soviet system, delivered a forceful and insightful critique of the West, a society which he characterized as spiritually weakened by rampant materialism. The man who, when forced to leave his own country four years earlier, encouraged his countrymen to “live not by lies”, gave us a magnificent lesson in how to not be blinded by our own sense of superiority, and urged us to ask hard questions about who we are and where we are going. When I first heard this speech in 1978 as a young refugee from communist Romania, I was able to appreciate Solzhenitsyn’s address in terms of the competition raging then between the West and the East, but did not comprehend its larger meaning. Rereading it today, in the fall of the horrible year 2020, I find it truly prophetic. It is now painfully clear that, as Solzhenitsyn was able to discern 42 years ago, the West has been gradually losing the will and intellectual …