Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Young, drunk and proud

Congratulations are due to disgraced Republican congressman Mark Foley of Florida, who in 'coming out of the closet' (accidentally) has cemented in the minds of the unthinking masses that homosexual = pedophile. I was particularly struck by the news that Foley is gay due to his alcoholism (today's Washington Post: 'Foley Lawyer Cites Alcohol, Childhood Abuse'), which reminded me of U.K. Liberal Democrat politician Mark Oaten, who when outed in the press last spring, attributed his being gay to the onset of hair-loss: yes, that's right, he had sex with a male prostitute because he was going bald.

It is worth warning everyone that any kind of vague personal trauma can trigger homosexuality. Just last week a man in County Cavan came out of the closet because his tractor wouldn't start. And in April, two men in Belfast admitted being gay when they both woke up one morning to discover that they'd left the TV on all night.

I jest... In a society more at ease with itself (such as in some European countries) being gay should not be a bar to holding public office, as it is in the U.S. Here, not only is homosexuality still a taboo subject outside of large metropolitan areas, but in recent years the Republican Party has rallied its religious base with a deliberate policy of hating and vilifying gays. So when one of the faithful takes a fall, we should reach for the Schadenfreude.

People say there's not much difference between the two political parties in this country. The Republicans charge right-wards and the Democrats follow, or mewl in impotent self-pity. But there are still some differences. Compare Mark Foley's downfall with that of Democrat Governor of New Jersey Jim McGreevey, who came out and resigned at a press conference in 2004. McGreevey resigned, but generally people have been sympathetic, because he seems to have had a core of honesty in him (and his sexual orientation invled another man, not teenage boys, as with Foley). Foley is busted and ... right-wingers blame liberals, Democrats, the Internet, society's obsession with sex, but most of all they blame gays! Here's a sample of response to the Foley scandal:

The Wall Street Journal --— "Some of those liberals now shouting ... are the same voices who tell us that the larger society must be tolerant of private lifestyle choices, and certainly must never leap to conclusions about gay men and young boys."

Headline from the The Family Research Council web site --— "Pro-Homosexual Political Correctness Sowed Seeds for Foley Scandal"

James Dobson, Focus on the Family --— "This is yet another sad example of our society's oversexualization, especially as it affects the Internet, and the damage it does to all who get caught in its grasp."

Ben Stein -- "I hope it won't come as a surprise to anyone that a big part of male homosexual behavior is interest in young boys."

Meanwhile, on Fox News yesterday afternoon, Foley (see image above) was given the inaccurate abbreviation 'D-Fl' -- Democrat of Florida. Probably a mistake, but...

Taking a very wide view, Foley simply confirms my growing opinion that any and all who enter politics, especially at a national level, in any country, are creepy weirdos, and in this prejudice I include politicians whose opinions and policies I would support. I mean, democracy is supposed to be about winnowing and whittling the demands and needs of large diverse societies down into smaller, more manageable chunks of representatives so that (ideally) everyone feels like their point of view is somehow given fair representation in some sort of national assembly. But I've never understood how anyone can take themselves so seriously as to think they're important enough, talented enough, to stand/run for election.

I called the matter the 'Foley scandal' above, and for those not following this story, it is a scandal, because now it appears that the gay-bashing Republican leadership in Congress knew not just that Foley was a closeted gay man, but also knew that he was recklessly engaging in explicit correspondence with teenage boys, for as long as two years. It's crap, eighth-rate politics-as-usual in the U.S. of A., no rules for the Republicans and Old Testament wrath for anyone else.

Happiness is your own Bomb

So it seems that North Korea may finally be about to test a nuclear bomb. You know what's funny about acquiring these diabolical weapons? Everyone goes nuts trying to prevent another country getting the bomb, but once a state has joined the nuclear club, no one really mentions it again. Having the bomb, even just one bomb in today's world, is the equivalent of running up a banner that says: "Don't fuck with me." Certainly, in the case of Iran, being able to demonstrate nuclear capability stops any possibility of that country winding up like its neighbor, Iraq.

In his excellent first book, "The Time of Illusion," ostensibly about the Nixon Presidency, Jonathan Schell spends some time dwelling on the fascinating paradox of nuclear weapons. Our world has in many ways not yet adjusted to this paradox, even though nukes have been around since 1945. It is that the ultimate exercise of a state's power -- using nuclear weapons against an enemy or enemies -- is still too horrible an act to be worth exercising, given the ruinous outcome of even a limited nuclear exchange between two warring states. (The paradox was not yet in place when the U.S. dropped two bombs on Japan in 1945, because the U.S. was then the world's only nuclear power). So if a state is about the of ultimate concentration of power and the exercise of that power, what's the point of of using the ultimate weapon, if, as during the Cold War, to do so would almost certainly result in the destruction of the planet.

Consequently, great powers are rendered impotent, unable to use their ultimate weapons, therefore the necessity for grand-standing and posturing is even more acute. Powerful states are forced to look and act tough in other ways, usually in pointless side-show conventional wars: America in Vietnam, the USSR in Afghanistan, for, to not fight such conflicts would run the risk of losing credibility and face on the world stage.

Schell argues that by the late stage of the Vietnam War, the logic underpinning that war for Nixon and advisors had become: even if we are fighting a pointless unwinnable war, the rest of the world is going to take note of our sheer bloody-mindedness; see, we know we are fighting a pointless, debilitating, unwinnable war, but we are so hard, we can take it on the chin. Face-saving isn't an option. Schell draws out the argument that because of the nuclear weapons paradox, Nixon and other U.S. presidents before and after him, saw themselves in the strange situation of being unable to exercise the ultimate power at their disposal, and therefore fearing that the enemies of the U.S. would think them weak.

During the Bikini Atoll nuclear tests, the U.S. navy employed a range of artists to record the tests in oil and watercolor. The above image is titled The First Bomb at Bikini, painted in oils on canvas by Charles Bettinger, in 1946. More delightful renderings here. I wonder, has the North Korean government remembered to line up an artist, with their easel set up at a safe distance?

Sunday, October 01, 2006

A whimsical thought on a cynical Sunday

Luke's Gospel, chapter 8, verse 52: "And all wept, and bewailed her: but He said, 'Weep not; she is not dead, but sleepeth.'"