This is my favorite season, by far. We have both college football, and the NFL filling the stadia. The World Series and league championship games are on tap. The weather cools, but not so much as to drive my heating bill nuts. Early storms have the energy to knock the power out for days, adding excitement to my life. Tilly, my little funny dog, is almost done with her Summer skin allergies, and can re-grow the fuzz on her haunches. The lawn is dying a death it has deserved for months after devouring hours of my life-span in its service. I hate my lawn. Die lawn, die! The wretched heat killing our poor troops in Iraq is becoming just moderately insufferable. Fall depletes the tourist crush in Seattle, and drives skinny people into bulky togs that don't show off their annoying ability to eschew the tasty treats available as the birthright of us wide assed natives. Without the short, gloomy hours of slate gray overcast Winter days sprinkled with deadly dull NBA games or the annoying cloying promise (threat?) of Spring, Fall has it all.
What a bunch of wusses we have become. Like any schoolyard bully, we picked out someone we could beat up after the 9/11 attacks because getting the real perps would be too hard, and offend the Saudi friends of the Bush family. We spend enormous amounts of national treasure to upgrade our hardware and build the new Great Wall of Bush because it makes us feel better and allows politicos to line the pockets of their contractor friends. Five percent of the price of a stealth bomber would finance the education of a dozen arabic speaking agents and pay their salaries for life. Which do you think will really catch more nihilist Islamist? Which brings more work into states producing bombers?
Here's a list of people and things you fear, but shouldn't:
1. Mexicans. There were American Indians and Spaniards here, especially in the Western US, long before any Northern Europeans showed up. Don't have un vaca, hombre. The Irish, Japanese, Chinese, Italians, Germans, Jews and African Americans have had their turn as the Great Alien Menace. All have blended into the tasty mix that makes for 21st century America.
2. Socialists. All of our Western allies are socialist states by our standards. You wish you had the family benefits and vacation opportunities of a Frenchman.
3. The Gays. Man! What would our cities look like without this important minority? Some are upset that it is no longer socially acceptable to "roll queers", and some feel threatened by the social acceptance of homosexuality. Get over it. I've known a lot of gay guys, and none of them were recruiting. Some lesbians are very male hostile, but that is generally rooted in extreme abuse by males. Gays drive up property values better than any other ethnic group.
4. Arabs. Problematic. As a culture these desert loving folk are a good millennium behind the West, but people don't live their lives as a culture, especially in the USA. We are painting a big bull's eye on the back of thousands of Iraqis and their families by hiring them to work for us. When we leave they are going to have to come out with us. Look at all the little Pho and Thai joints that make our lives better. All the result of our war in Southeast Asia. We need more Arabs in the USA, and our unfortunate adventure in Iraq will bring them in.
5. Da Bomb. Yup, nukes. Al Qaeda isn't getting an A Bomb. Not even a cheesy little Hiroshima nuke. If you don't think we have the location of every former Soviet weapon and Pakistani weapon you don't understand what a lot of those hundreds of billions we spend on intelligence goes for. Anything less would be dereliction of duty.
6. Crime. Crime, as we fear it, is a function of drug abuse. Crime victimhood is sort of like being hit by lightening. Don't stand on a hilltop during a storm, and you'll be OK. Keep things locked up and your personal information behind some sort of firewall you'll probably be OK.
7. Republicans. These are yesterday's villains. In the greater scheme of things, I'm surprised they have held together as long as they have. The incompatible ideologies that call themselves Republican cannot hold together just as the anti Democrats. They are out of gas, obsolete and irrelevant.
8. Drugs. If we really wanted to destroy drugs, we would take all the dope we seize, and give it away to the users. The federal government knows how to screw up markets, and the drug market is no exception. Authorities as luminary as The Economist Magazine have endorsed this idea of legalization. Marijuana should cost no more than alfalfa hay; $9.00 per sixty pound bale.
9. Genetic modification. "Natural" life is genuinely a compromise of adaptations of dead ends. Rice didn't evolve with the purpose of being human food. It probably came about in the wild state as an answer to procreation and domination of an unoccupied slot in the environment. As a grass, it colonized shallow waters, and produced a starchy head tempting enough to wildlife to have its seed spread. Now we have modified rice to add vitamin D to the crop, and save the sight of hundreds of thousands of third world subsistence farmers. With the economic model we chose, designs become property, at least in the short run. Now we sit on the edge of developing truly artificial life. Turkey meat bearing trees are in your future.
10. The iMob. The decline of authority is inevitable in the age of the Wiki. The great unwashed have a line input into the base of human knowledge, This has so far led to the notorious unreliability of internet available information. It will not be so forever. Already an editorship class is arising from the ashes. As traditional libraries fade, the need for the abilities of librarians is becoming acute. We just have to develop a certification system that will assure users with the reliability of content.
I'm a person who fears the dizzying array of pancake syrups available at the IHop, but there is no cure for that.
Sometime in the last couple of posts I said that science has a history of telling people things they don't want to hear. I have a couple for today that fit that uncomfortable category.
Firstly Wired Magazine reports that police in Louisiana have recently identified the race of an unknown rapist/murderer using DNA. This sort of thing has been attempted before, with mixed results, but combining larger numbers of genetic markers with massive databases now gives the police the capacity not only to identify the race of the donor of any unknown sample, but this unknown's ethnic background. In the New Orleans example, the eye witnesses identified the suspect as "white", and, given the limited nature of police resources, law enforcement eliminated all African Americans from their suspect list. The DNA racial ID allowed the cops to quickly find the true criminal. The problem is our social history of racial identification, coupled with a dodgy racial theory of inferiority and superiority. The whole concept of race has little or no basis in scientific taxonomy. We are all Africans, related to waves of H. Sapiens nomads that left Africa about fifty thousand years ago. Without jet travel to mix the gene pool population groups concentrated genetic markers along geographic lines ethnic groups via mutation and selection for survivable characteristics. Racial politics of the 19th and 20th century made skin color a big deal in sorting out who would pick the cotton and chop the sugar cane, and who would sit on the veranda and sip mint juleps in white linen suits.
Not covered in the article, there is the definite probability that in the near future anyone can be traced by genetic markers, even if the person in question has never had a genetic test. If you have an uncle, brother, or any other blood relative with their markers in the data base, that person can be identified. Since there is a larger number of Americans of African decent in the prison system, the data base will over-represent those individuals. At some point the legal system will require that everyone be genetically mapped. Nothing else would be fair.
Secondly Scientific American sums up the recent research on spirituality and the god sense in the human brain. In the article several researchers have located the specific area of the brain that emits the sense of "presence" of the spiritual matrix to which the subjects held. Be it Buddhist, Christian, Moslem, or whatever excitement of that area gives the subject a truly spiritual experience. What is this going to mean to the religion business? I would like to think that everyone would try the spiritual exciter and shrug, saying, "Oh. That's what all that presence of god thing was." Actually I suspect churches and mosques will have God-O-Meter headset in every pew. Times of great spirituality have coincided with times of great social unrest.
Cut and paste for a better explanation: http://www.sciam.com/print_version.cfm?articleID=434D7C62-E7F2-99DF-37CC9814533B90D7