Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Standing up for principle

Or not, as the case may be. More here. As Pam notes,

There is no dignity in viewing lesbian and gay couples as "less than," but that is their church and their belief.
Don't talk to me about how you're protecting my dignity while you're telling me to go to the back of the bus.

Reliability of science

Or, how do we know what we think we know, and is it true that up to 25% of published scientific studies turn out to be wrong?

Frolicking in the shadow of hell

Orac has some interesting commentary on the recently-discovered cache of photos of Auschwitz SS officers and their families in their casual moments--decorating Christmas trees, picnics, taking a smoke break, etc.

Truly disturbing.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Updated ratings

Incidentally, that last post put me over the line, what with all the references to sex and all....


This rating was determined based on the presence of the following words:

  • abortion (2x)
  • queer (2x)
  • pain (1x)

The word pain tags the blog as possibly "adult"? Who writes this stuff?

Misplaced priorities

Sullivan takes a cheap shot at the left regarding the email sent out by the Columbia Queer Alliance about Ahmadinejad's visit.

Ever since Michel Foucault's repulsive embrace of the Iranian revolution, the pomo gay left has had a soft spot for Islamo-fascists.
I'm hardly a fan of Foucault; for the most part, he gets his facts wrong, then reasons poorly from them. And queer studies is hardly the Foucault-worshipping monolith Sullivan implies. Especially since the email he cites begins by refuting his thesis:
"We condemn the human rights violations perpetrated by the Iranian government under the administration of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. We admonish the policies that make same-sex practices punishable by torture and death, as well as those that restrict the freedoms and self-determination of women.
But the point isn't Sullivan's cheap shots, or illogic, of which this is only one example.

What is it that really has the CQA up in arms?
We cannot possibly claim to understand the multiple and diverse experiences of living with same-sex desires in Iran....The construction of sexual orientation as a social and political identity and all of the vocabulary therein is a Western cultural idiom. As such, scholars of sexuality in the Middle East generally use the terms "same-sex practices" and "same-sex desire" in recognition of the inadequacy of Western terminology. President Ahmadinejad's presence on campus has provided an impetus for us all to examine a number of issues, but most relevant to our concerns are the complexities of how sexual identity is constructed and understood in different parts of the world."

That's right. What they're really upset about is that we're using the word "gay," when the current conception of gayness is pretty much a Western concept and so doesn't necessarily apply to people in Iran.

Which is fine, up to a point. The modern conception of "gay" as an identity, referring to a roughly peer-equal affectionate/sexual relationship with someone of the same gender to the exclusion of such relationships with the opposite gender, is a phenomenon of 19th/20th Century Europe. It's certainly not what the ancient Greeks believed; they had strict taboos regarding who could do what with whom, based mostly on class and relative social standing. Likewise with the Romans, who legitimized certain practices but in the context of establishing/demonstrating/enforcing power relationships. (Fone's Homophobia: A History is a useful source here.) Up until at least the 50's or so, men could identify as heterosexual and still carry out certain same-sex acts without threatening their heterosexual identity. As long as they 'acted male,' as it were, there wasn't an issue of being anything other than a heterosexual man.

After kicking this around with a friend of mine (Hi, Harry!) via some emails this afternoon, it finally fell into place what annoys me about the CQA's email. They're right that the term "gay" as we understand it may not be entirely accurate in describing those in Iran (though I'm not sure I'd go so far as to say we have no possible basis for saying anything at all).

But why are we having this conversation now? People are being executed, and we're worried about what adjectives we're using in the newspaper? When the killings stop, I'll be willing to discuss the terminology question.

The phrasing of the letter comes too close for my comfort to the sort of facile moral equivalencing resulting in "Well, Stalin also accomplished a lot of good for Russia." There's an implied moral equivalency that simply isn't there. When there's 2 sentences denouncing public executions (with those executions having the obvious purpose of keeping others terrorized & silenced), followed by a long (and rather condescending) paragraph on how we need to use the academically-correct term, I start thinking someone's priorities are messed up.

People being killed is a more important question, and more important fact, than that the people being killed are being described with the wrong adjective in the media. If believing that marks me as a reactionary old technocrat, then I'll wear that label with pride.

Why are we moving nukes?

Larry Johnson stays on the case, including a letter showing just how much had to go wrong for the "accidental transfer" of several nuclear warheads to have occurred.

The more things change....

The biggest IT/business trend of the last 20 years, of course, has been the outsourcing of work to India.

Of course, all that demand for programmers in India is driving up wages, and the influx of foreign investment is strengthening the Indian economy and therefore currency. What's an enterprising Indian company to do?

Outsource its outsourcing, of course.

Or, as Ashok Vemuri, an Infosys senior vice president, put it, the future of outsourcing is “to take the work from any part of the world and do it in any part of the world.”


Such is the new outsourcing: A company in the United States pays an Indian vendor 7,000 miles away to supply it with Mexican engineers working 150 miles south of the United States border.
And so it goes....

Why are we afraid of these people?

Why do we act like such nervous Nellies, as if we think American democracy is so weak it can't afford to live up to its own values? So Ahmadinejad was allowed to speak, and lo and behold, the ramblings of a religionist dictator didn't cause the collapse of the American republic.

Yes, he's trying to play it for all the propaganda value he can. True, he's not interested in a real dialogue. But putting him up on stage helps expose him for the fraud he is. Keeping him out of the country just makes him a martyr, which is exactly what he wants. Instead, give him a platform and let him explain that homosexuals don't exist in his country and that the Holocaust is a theory, not fact. Expose him for the weak-minded fraud he is.

As usual, President Doofus can be counted on to miss the point:

"...[A]nd yet an institution in our country gives him a chance to express his point of view, which really speaks to the freedoms of the country. I’m not sure I’d have offered the same invitation.”
Of course you wouldn't have. You'd have let him play you like a cheap fiddle.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Not What You Think

Guess the identity of the person who's being discussed:

“capable” of the intellectual rigor needed to win the presidency but instead relies too heavily on his easy charm.

“It's sort of like, 'that's all I need to get by,' which bespeaks sort of a condescending attitude towards the voters,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity. “And a laziness, an intellectual laziness.”
No, it's not President Doofus. It's a "senior White House official" describing Barack Obama. Who graduated cum laude from Harvard Law School, and was editor of the Harvard Law Review.

Hello, kettle? This is the pot calling. Do you know what color you are? No? Well, I'll tell you....