Blargh Blog

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Bisexuality, Or all or none?

How common is bisexuality? Is everyone "a little bit gay", as I contend in the sidebar on Kantian authority? Or are there no true bisexuals, as a new study on arousal patterns suggests? Instead of reaching an informed conclusion on this issue, I feel obligated to grasp at any available argument to defend the reckless claim that I made in my crooked timber joke.

Chris at Mixing Memory performs the kind of balanced, serious, studious analysis that he feels that the study (like all scientific research) deserves, but he unwittingly supplies me with all the ammo I need to convince me that everything I've said is right on the money, and so obvious that there is something wrong with anyone who doesn't see it. As Chris writes of the study, "all males (gay, straight, or bisexual) showed physical arousal to all types of video", male-male, male-female, and female-female. Bisexuality for all! Anyone who disagrees with me must be some sort of repressed homophobe (or heterophobe).



London may have been a strategic error for the terrorists.

Think about it. You can't spread terror to London. Londoners don’t panic. They have that British humour and the stiff upper lip (some are tired of that description, but I can’t get enough of these).

What's more, England is the bridge between the Europe and the US. Everyone sympathizes with them.

The timing makes it even worse. The attack happened when the world was united around London – newly announced home of the 2012 Olympics, host of the G-8 summit that is increasing aid to Africa.

Attacking on the seventh of July was their biggest mistake. There will be no jokes from Europeans about “what happened on the ninth of October?”, no 11-M in the home nation while Americans stick to 3/11. This attack was 7/7 for everybody.


Monday, July 04, 2005

My Country

"My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; if wrong, to be set right."

This twist on a famous phrase turns it from something odious (I will support wrong if my country is the one doing it) to something noble, the maxim of a true patriot who works to make sure that his country is on the side of right. In fact, it's not a novel twist on an old phrase - it's the original quotation from Senator Carl Schurz's 1872 speech. Robert Koons at Right Reason provides this Independence Day tidbit, along with a defense of patriotism properly understood. Waxing Aristotelian, he defines patriotism as a virtue that is the mean between the deficiency of neutrality and the excess of jingoism. With a defense of patriotism that even a utilitarian could love, he acknowledges that our duty to humanity is a higher aim, but argues that patriotism is consistent with, and even an aid to, the virtue of humanity: "It is not easy for us to feel strong bonds of concern for people who live far from us, with whom we share little in the way of history or culture. ... If we stifle patriotism, love of country will be replaced, not by an equally fervent love for all of humanity, but rather by a host of narrower and still more fractious loyalties." Like Peter Singer, he speaks to broadening the set of people we care about by working through intermediate steps (though he uses the metaphor of climbing a ladder rather than expanding a circle).

Matthew Yglesias makes a related point about the importance of affinity towards those with a shared history or culture, as he takes a tangent from a July 4th musing to consider the history of international relations. A sphere of peace serves modern advanced democracies well because of "hard-headed economic fact", he argues, but "the actual historical processes through which this peaceful zone has come to exist show ... that though cultural and political affinities play no formal role in the demonstration of peace's value, they seem to be integral to its realization in process."

Matt Weiner at Opiniatrety takes up the task set forth by the Senator, arguing that people should face up to the wrongs that our country has been committing in military prisons so that our policies can be righted. Attempts to hold America up to the standards of right and wrong embodied in its own ideals so that it may continue to be a force for good in the world should not be dismissed as "Anti-American screeds," though Matt and The Poor Man before him realize that some hopelessly partisan people who fail to properly understand patriotism will do just that.

Brad DeLong greets our Independence Day with a 229-year-old document that sets some limits on the true patriot's maxim "My country, right or wrong." The document's authors provide a list of wrongs that their country has committed against the some of its own citizens, and argue that when the wrongs reach this high of a level and there seems to be no way to set them right, then the proper thing to do is to leave your country and join or form a new one.

The argument is clearer in a translation of the document, linked by Jim Henley (via Semiquark) and written by H. L. Mencken, who was translating English into plain English before it was cool:
All we got to say on this proposition is this: first, you and me is as good as anybody else, and maybe a damn sight better; second, nobody ain’t got no right to take away none of our rights; third, every man has got a right to live, to come and go as he pleases, and to have a good time however he likes, so long as he don’t interfere with nobody else. That any government that don’t give a man these rights ain’t worth a damn; also, people ought to choose the kind of goverment they want themselves, and nobody else ought to have no say in the matter. That whenever any goverment don’t do this, then the people have got a right to can it and put in one that will take care of their interests. Of course, that don’t mean having a revolution every day like them South American coons and yellow-bellies and Bolsheviki, or every time some job-holder does something he ain’t got no business to do. It is better to stand a little graft, etc., than to have revolutions all the time, like them coons and Bolsheviki, and any man that wasn’t a anarchist or one of them I. W. W.’s would say the same. But when things get so bad that a man ain’t hardly got no rights at all no more, but you might almost call him a slave, then everybody ought to get together and throw the grafters out, and put in new ones who won’t carry on so high and steal so much, and then watch them. This is the proposition the people of these Colonies is up against, and they have got tired of it, and won’t stand it no more. The administration of the present King, George III, has been rotten from the start, and when anybody kicked about it he always tried to get away with it by strong-arm work.
That is my 4th of July roundup. I hope that you and America got along well on this holiday.


Sunday, July 03, 2005

Batman Begins

Batman Begins is better than most superhero movies - darker and more realistic - which is probably why so many people are bothering to explain what parts of the movie they found to be implausible, incoherent, or otherwise flawed.

[Mild Spoilers below, and Severe Spoilers at the other end of the link.]

A discussion at Agoraphilia includes comments on:

- the economics of intentionally causing a depression
- the economics of saving a city from a depression through philanthropy
- the coherence of the League of Shadows' efforts to save the city by destroying it
- the biochemistry of the fear-inducing toxin
- the feasibility of a microwave ray that vaporizes water without killing people directly

My view is that the movie manages to retain sufficient plausibility when dealing with the first three of these issues, while the last two fall under the "suspension of disbelief" exemption that is generally granted to technology in movies. My main concern, which you can read at Agoraphilia, is with strategic decisions by Batman and by the League of Shadows that seem designed to create drama rather than to achieve their goals.