Thursday, November 25, 2004

Tearful Pride 

Despite being anti-english, I'm really proud of Britain...

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Blogging quotes 

Up to my eyeballs in work and bureaucracy at the moment, but just enough time to spread bits and pieces I come across. This is a quote from Eduard Bernstein, discussing the 'unnaturalness' of homosexuality in relation to the Oscar Wilde trial in 1895:

"The customary expression is well known, it is “unnatural”. But this itself leads to error. For what is not unnatural? Our entire cultural existence, our mode of life from morning to night is a constant offence against nature, against the original preconditions of our existence. If it was only a question of what was natural, then the worst sexual excess would be no more objectionable than, say, writing a letter – for conducting social intercourse through the medium of the written word is far further removed from nature than any way as yet known of satisfying the sexual urge."

And e-mail writing is simply depraved...

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Vehement responses to price fixing 

A post on Michael Brooke's blog developed into a discussion of interesting translations into English. Which tied in nicely to an East Asian supermarket advert which includes the slogan: FUCK THE CERTAIN PRICE OF GOODS!

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Referral stats 

I know most people aren't interested in referral statistics (what people have been looking for when they've found my site), but to all the people who've been here looking for the following, I apologise:

Sexy Iranian girls showing sex
dogs copulating pictures
Ohio false votes
Sarah Kozar playboy pictures
"borderline personality" eminem
states with false alarm laws
Hegel and Marx on violence
nature law on paedophiles

What worries me is that I'm a top 10 Google result for all of these things...

Time to blame someone else 

Recently I suggested, mainly as a result of pessimistic CNN-watching fatigue, that I was with those who think that the anti-gay vote raised Republican turn-out figures, and essentially that that lost Kerry the election.

Well, I'm more than happy to admit I was probably wrong. Polling data now available suggests that:

Another article points out, also, that many of those who voted for gay marriage amendments didn't realise that they were also banning civil unions, for which support has actually risen in the past four years. National exit poll data now indicates that 64% of Americans support civil unions (though not anywhere near this proportion of Republicans, which could still suggest that there is some, if only a weak, correlation between higher turnouts, anti-gay amendments and Bush voting).

None of this is decisive against the original inference, but it all suggests that it's very unlikely that it was gay issues that determined the vote in any significant way.

More depressing now is the statistic that 21% of gays and lesbians voted Bush, despite that fact that even the Republican gay lobby withdrew its support from him (as I pointed out sometime back now).

Monday, November 08, 2004

Joining the union 

Daniel over at Crooked Timber has a great idea. Why settle for being only the 51st state? Of course, the best part of it is the proposal that Birmingham be a state capital. Bostin'.

Slavery and social consent 

There's an interesting article here about BDSM (bondage and discipline, domination and submission, sadism and masochism) and feminism. The feminism question itself isn't that interesting, because failing to see that those involved in BDSM could be feminists just misconstrues what BDSM is. I'm suspicious of female sex slaves who say they're feminists, but then I've never been persuaded out of a belief in false consciousness theories (i.e. in this case mentioned in the article I don't believe that 'Bailey' submitted to her master in full rationality, since he'd had some element of power over her since her teens).

What's interesting, though, is the distinction made by the dominatrix in the article between sexual submissives, who submit themselves habitually, and slaves, who submit themselves in advance, forever. There must be something wrong with this. Whatever the slave says, they cannot always escape this sort of relationship if their consent is withdrawn, because the whole apparatus of their lives has been established to enforce their submission. Similarly, if the simulated rape involved in some communities becomes real, what distinction can be made other than in the head of the victim?

If we were to accept that such relationships can be valid, then we could all too easily reach regressive arguments which, rejecting false consciousness, say that slaves more generally can willingly give themselves up in advance. If we reject that, as has been done admirably by many theorists for a long time, then we should probably reject the sexual case too. However, in rejecting that, we jeopardise relationships of ongoing but repeated, not permanent, consent - where the sexual submissive says in each instance that they wish to continue - which at least some of us might be less willing to do. We jeopardise them because this further distinction between repeated consent and general consent is just as hard to make as the others, particularly when simulated non-consensual acts are involved.

Should the whole idea of a BDSM relationship then be rejected, allowing only for ad hoc or occasional acts between strangers and acquaintances? Saying this involves entering into whole sorts of problematic areas regarding the rights of the majority to say that, though we accept others' right to engage in such acts, we reserves for ourselves the right to regulate them how we want. Liberals might baulk at this, but then we've entered into a very interesting area indeed.

Is the whole concept of liberal egalitarianism incoherent? In refusing to allow sexual or any other sort of slavery, we in a sense force someone to be equal, just as much as we 'force them to be free'. We are saying to them that we cannot accept them as people who've subjugated their will to others, who've allowed themselves to be placed on a lower rung of society. And there's a whole area of supposedly liberal concern of this sort which actually involves coercive acts of equality-enforcement. The really liberal concerns, to allow people to enter into the sorts of lives they want as individuals, regularly leads us to problematic areas such as this, and it's very tempting to say that this is because equality necessarily involves some act of coercion, and that if we decide in favour of equality we should bite the bullet and say so.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

More bigotry 

Don't worry, I'm not crying for Arafat. But I'm slightly concerned by the manner in which the rumour that he has AIDS is being spread; that is, mainly by websites with a specific agenda to (further) discredit him.

If he does have AIDS, that's one thing, and whether or not you feel sorry for him depends on whether you find him in general objectionable or not and, if you do, whether you're able to separate those objections from pitying those who are in pain (I'm neutral on this, because I haven't taken the time to inform myself enough). But a big issue is that every single website I've seen 'leak' this story so far has used the opportunity to reverse many years of AIDS activism in order to link Arafat's possible illness to his supposed bisexuality/homosexuality/paedophilia. Newsflash (of the late 1980s, but people seem to have missed it) - You don't have to be gay to get AIDS...

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Making the case against pragmatism 

There's an interesting article up at the Voice of the Turtle website at the moment, which is an appeal for intellectual honesty from those on the left who, every election season, hope for the Democrats - the least worst evil - and pine away about what might have been when a Republican president is in power. "Has the left been body-snatched by the pod people from planet Democrat?", Dan Peyser asks, and goes on to say

"It is sickening to watch the left behave as though it actually had something at stake in this race. The Democratic and Republican parties do not represent different class interests, merely the different interests of the same class."

Now, I know a lot of people criticise the sort of position Peyser puts forward as being ridiculously idealistic. Many argue, and I've been among them in the past, that what we need is pragmatism in our ideals. Seek out what benefits we can while we wait for the right time for real changes. But that right time will never come if we do this. I've recently been arguing quite a lot with people I know in the gay rights movement who think that gay marriage is a really good thing as an end, who don't realise that getting bourgeois marriage rights will simply lose us a large number of relatively un-revolutionary queers who'd otherwise have to put their lot in with the radical camp. We actually gain strength from people being pissed on for longer.

Similarly, if we had Kerry in power at Christmas we'd lose a lot of the impetus that protest movements have gained in the past four years. I don't think any of these protest movements are unqualifiedly good, and many of them (mostly of the ilk that link Iraq to Palestine at every possible opportunity) are downright harmful, but at least people are angry now. That anger just might bring something really good with it sometime in the next few years.

I do think that Kerry would have made a difference in some areas, and I get very annoyed with the vaguely apathetic resignation which was around everywhere yesterday, which said 'oh, he wouldn't have changed anything'. Well, actually, he would. Maybe not in the environment, or economically, and I don't think the differences in foreign policy would have done much other than salvage relations with those Western states who'd have come crawling back as lackeys to America at some point anyway. I really don't think the threat of terrorism would have greatly changed. But I was arguing with those that said it diddn't matter at all, that if you care about medical research, a woman's right to choose or the basic principle of homosexual equality, then it matters quite a lot that Kerry lost.

Now I'm not so sure. Yes, these things are real differences between Kerry and Bush. But they don't really matter, when Kerry's commitment to abortion rights and a state's right to determine its policy on gay marriage is solely based on backwards ideas of negative freedom. What we need are people who put forward the right views actively; what we need is real, fundamental change.

Conveniently, Jerry Cohen (of History, Labour and Freedom fame) was criticising in a lecture today those on the left who worry that the rich are, say, 7.5 times richer than the poor now instead of 5 times, as if reducing the numbers should be our primary concern. And it really is the case that far too many of us buy into this marginalism, this gradualism, in discussing the things we care about. Because after all we're not in favour of Kerry, we don't really want gay marriage in itself and having the rich man buying salmon instead of caviar compared to the poor person's hamburger really won't make much difference in the end. What we need is to embrace that intellectual honesty Peyser demands, and to make always and everywhere the case for real radical change.

Bentham has a nice line here to finish. In a book on 'fallacies' conservatives have used to protest progressive reforms he makes arguments against many things, including gradualism, and envisions a future in which anyone uttering these fallacies will be greeted not with acceptance "but with voices in scores, crying aloud 'Stale! Stale! Fallacy of Authority! Fallacy of Distrust!"

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Judge by reason alone (then kick anyone in the head who disagrees) 

I'm pretty sure most people have done this before, but I haven't and there's always value for others in repeating it and seeing if they get a different result. It's the ethical philosophy selector - you answer questions, and it determines your ethical outlook. I am:

1. Jean-Paul Sartre (100%)
2. Kant (79%)
3. Stoics (78%)
4. Spinoza (74%)
5. John Stuart Mill (70%)
6. Ayn Rand (68%)
7. David Hume (64%)
8. Nietzsche (57%)
9. Prescriptivism (57%)
10. Aquinas (54%)
11. Jeremy Bentham (54%)
12. Thomas Hobbes (52%)
13. Epicureans (42%)
14. Aristotle (40%)
15. Plato (40%)
16. St. Augustine (38%)
17. Cynics (36%)
18. Ockham (31%)
19. Nel Noddings (18%)

This is a little odd, since the only person in the top 10 of whom I've read any substantial amount is John Stuart Mill. This may simply be because I tend to reject the views of those I've read and can easily spot them in a quiz like this. Going from the site's own description, I'm not that much like Sartre anyway, since I don't at all believe that when we choose something for ourselves we should choose it for all people, though I do think that "making conscious moral choices is more significant than consistently following moral guidelines", and that it's quite likely that "the conflict between the interests of two people is in the end, irresolvable".

Anyway, it's quite fun, and a bit of light relief.

How we lost an election... 

A relatively typical conversation I saw online:

A: Here is the secret reason GW wins. 10 States have DOMA on the ballot. NOBODY is talking about this in public, but every REAL Christian Church is mobilized. Is yours?

B: Yes! It is very exciting around here, and even more so for me because as a petition-circulator I helped get this on the ballot in Ohio!
Our church has been registering voters and educating people thru preaching as well as classes and satellite broadcasts of other Christian leaders. Same things are happening at other conservative Bible-teaching churches in this area. All the believers I talk to are really pumped to go out and vote Nov. 2.
Don't you just love a nice big groundswell from the Right!?! :)

The groundswell of fundamentalist voters will have been huge across the country because of this, not just in the DOMA states. So even the uncounted votes left in Ohio might not be to help Kerry win, assuming a correlation between how voters vote on this issue and the candidates' positions on it (Bush pro-amendments, Kerry anti).

These are the states which had votes on marriage amendment bills included in their presidential polling last night:

Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Utah.

Early results show all eleven have passed the bill, defining marriage as between a man and a woman. This hasn't been key in the presidential election in Michigan and Oregon, which remain Democrat, but it could be key in Ohio.

In general, I think feeling on this issue, as well as the abortion issue, could be a major, if not the determining, factor in why the large turn-out did not favour Kerry. You don't turn out in such high numbers to keep the status quo unless there's something really scary about the newcomer. And since Kerry's differences on Iraq and the economy probably aren't scary enough to get out that many extra, I'd say the inclusion of these 'social problems' in the mix was more important.

And why is that depressing (apart from the suggestion that America hates us)? Well, there could be a 'moderate' backlash against supporting gay rights movements in the future, particularly around election times. The boom time for us (hate crimes laws, marriage laws etc. all over the world) may be about to slump.

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