Friday, December 10, 2004

Politics: gays and lesbians to eat matzo, drink Guinness, and lick maple syrup off of each other (and an overdue rant on Andrew Sullivan)

If you can wade through all of Andrew Sullivan's bullshit pseudoscience as to why steroids are perfectly fine for athletes, you might be pleased to know that New Zealand, Israel, and Ireland, three countries of vastly differently prevailing ideologies, are doing pretty good on the issue of civil unions. And Canada's Supreme Court thinks that changing the definition of marriage to permit gays and lesbians to be human beings too is an okay thing to do. That's happy.

As a side note, check out Sullivan's site on the steroids issue, and you'll be treated to inanity like this (posted from a reader response, with his response following):

"At a most simplistic level much of the opposition to steroid use is based on the ingestion of artificial 'substances' that boost performance without there being a relationship to the amount of work or level of talent that an individual athlete has. This has the perceived effect of decoupling the characteristics of the individual from that individual’s performance. This line of arguing says that performance should be based on intrinsic rather than extrinsic factors. Well, how do you classify this one? Nike puts athletes in a house with reduced oxygen levels so that the body builds up its oxygen use/carrying capacity as a response. This allows them to 'live' in a house at a virtual high altitude and train at low altitude. In this case, the athlete’s performance is being boosted by a substance that is extrinsic to their individual characteristics (and in fact is 'ingested' in manner analogous to steroids) yet this approach is praised rather than pilloried. Is the ingestion of chemicals (yes CO2 is a chemical, albeit an abundant one) to boost performance desirable or not? You can't have it both ways so to be consistent the anti-steroid crowd should be calling for the expulsion of most of the US long distance running team."

(Sullivan:) I tend to agree. The distinctions between what is intrinsic to performance and what is extrinsic are somewhat arbitrary. Take even nutrition. If someone who had poor childhood nutrition competes against someone who had a healthy upbringing, isn't the contest unfair in the same way as a contest affected by unlilateral use of steroids? No, not exactly the same. But not completely different either.
No, Andy. Those are COMPLETELY different. What the hell are you guys talking about?

Sullivan poses one of the greatest conundrums for liberal bloggers, as I'm pretty much convinced or that he plays three voices on his blog.

The first is the gay rights and AIDS activist, clear thinking, progressive, and (mostly) honest. I put the (mostly) in there because of a certain controversy from years ago that led him to speak out against the 're-infection' theory of HIV that runs something like this: the HIV virus is one of the most mutable and evolving viruses mankind has ever seen, such that two people who have been infected from two sources likely have remarkably different viruses. So, if two people infected with HIV expose themselves to other forms of the virus, they stand at great risk to worsen their disease prognosis. This wikipedia article has a reasonable laymen's summary under its 'myths' section, if my explanation didn't cut it.

This controvery was sparked because Sullivan was somewhat skewered in the media (wrongly, I think) when sources revealed he had been soliciting unprotected sexual encounters with other knowingly HIV positive gay males (much more controversy stemmed from the accuracy of that last clause, but see most of that controversy as malicious and unsubstantiated). His public dismissals of superinfection that have followed are, like his steroid comments above, based in wreckless pseudoscience. Which isn't to say that if two unique strain HIV positive individuals wish to engage in unprotected sex, I believe they absolutely shouldn't. That is certainly their own decision, even if its one I can't endorse, given the relatively minor nuisance of a condom compared to the risk of a worse disease prognosis. But I do believe such individuals should have the honest benefit of the best science we have available and should understand, in as objective a sense as possible, what the risks of their behavior might be when they make their decisions.

Sullivan's other personalities seem to range from objective conservative commentator (which, sadly, is probably the least utilized of his personalities) to out-and-out right-wing noise machine manipulator. I don't find most of his commentary outside the realm of gay rights to be much more sophisticated than my own or even of the average non-Hannityesque conservative blogger (of which I only frequent a few, but I believe they're representative of what a liberal blogger could call the Rational Right--can I copyright that phrase?--you know, the guys that, you don't always agree with them, but you at least can appreciate their ability to form a logical, obviously intelligent position). Some of his recent endorsements of flat tax reform have been shallow at best, and his foreign policy observations seem to vary from magically astute to absurdly Foxnewsworthy.

For Sullivan's randomness, he was by and large shunned by the liberal blogging community when he endorsed John Kerry for president based on his slightly more favorable positions on gay rights. I personally found this shunning stupid. A disaffected gay guy wants to join our team for a bit, and we tell him to take his ball and go home? Absurd! Sullivan has sowed his own seed, but despite his faults, he still shows flashes of one of the most brilliant conservative minds of our generation.

And I could stomach certain aspects of conservatism much easier if it weren't so linked to the sort of bigotry and anti-intellectualism against which Sullivan himself speaks out and of which he has been too much a victim himself.

1 comment:

michael said...

barry bonds is an asshole. i wish he'd deprive himself of even more oxygen.