Quick Roundup 548

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Admin Note

Starting tomorrow, I'll have have an early, very full schedule until the weekend. Posting may be light until next week.

Globovision under Siege

Guillermo Zuloaga, the majority owner of Venezuela's last opposition television station, fled Venezuela after Hugo Chavez posed the following question on the air and reopened an "investigation" about him: "How is it possible that he can accuse me of such things and walk free?" Zuloaga may seek asylum in the United States.

The attack on Globovision betrays Chavez's desperation. Alone in Latin America, Venezuela's economy continues to plunge sharply downward; inflation is at 30 percent; violent crime is soaring. Zuloaga's journalists have devoted much of their attention in recent weeks to a scandal concerning the spoilage of tens of thousands of tons of food imported by the regime -- at a time when shortages of basic goods are widespread.

Worst of all for Chavez, an election -- for the National Assembly -- is scheduled for Sept. 26. Five years ago a foolish opposition boycott turned the congress into a rubber stamp for Chavez. This year, having hammered together a unity list, the anti-Chavez forces think they could win a majority of the seats. That's certainly what polls show. The outstanding question is what the government will do -- beyond a district gerrymander that has already been imposed -- to skew or steal the election.
Jackson Diehl of the Washington Post draws the obvious conclusion -- that silencing dissent is a big part of how Chavez intends to remain in power.

The Invention of Lying

Some time ago, I saw this movie recommended on HBL, and finally saw it with my wife last week. I was almost put off at first, because I was afraid that the film's premise, that nobody had yet imagined how to lie, was going to be way overdone. But the film quickly settles down after that into a pleasant romantic comedy that lampoons Christianity as a lie.

On the negative side of the ledger, this film unfortunately has a bad premise of its own -- that lying can be beneficial. I think this arises from altruism, which the film never questions, and which blinds its makers to the damage one does to one's relationship with reality when lying.

I'll give it a B.

One final note... My wife and I had to rewind at one point when we'd stopped laughing from a pleasant surprise: An old friend who is trying to make it in show business had a couple of lines.

An All-Male Species?

Via a New Scientist article titled, "Curious liaisons: Nature's weirdest sex lives," I learned about a tropical ant for which there is reason to speculate that the males and females are, in fact, separate species:
That men and women sometimes seem like different species is the stock in trade of pop psychologists and relationship gurus. Some go even farther: men are from Mars and women are from Venus. But in reality, human sexual differences are rather small. Even a naturalist freshly arrived from Mars or Venus would have little trouble binning specimens of men with women, and not with female chimpanzees or gorillas. There are species where males and females are different enough to have fooled real earthly naturalists. But no population geneticist would be misled -- males and females mix their genes in their progeny, and as a result male and female genes comprise a common, well-mixed pool. A fascinating exception to this rule is described [in this issue of Nature.] Males and females each reproduce clonally and, like independent species, follow separate evolutionary branches.
Biologist David Queller ends his article by suggesting that if further work indeed supports reclassification of the males, the species name Wasmannia mars would do nicely for the first all-male species ever identified.

One for Urban Dictionary

In the process of attempting to buy some beer for some wedding-related festivities over the weekend, I unexpectedly ran up against blue laws. (Why are they always worse in the supposedly secular North?) The store worker explained why we could not make our purchase and apologized for being a "buzz kill."

"Nope," I replied. "That's not a buzz kill. That's a buzz abortion." Apt term, given who typically supports the state telling people what they can and can not buy on Sunday.

-- CAV


Katrina said...

I haven't seen The Invention of Lying, so you may be right that the film has a bad premise, but lying certainly can be beneficial, and not just beneficial, but morally required in certain situations. Lying about the funds in your bank account the way the hero did isn't one of them, but I would expect that to be the first instance of lying in the world. If there had never been any lying before, how would you know if it's wrong?

If you can't lie, you can't really be honest anyway. One could just as well title this "The Invention of Honesty." That would be more accurate since lying is portrayed as some genetic ability, whereas the choice about when to lie is a true moral discovery. Where would James Bond be without the honest lie?

As the film shows, if you can't lie, you can't have art. You also can't have privacy. You have to tell people about things that are none of their business when they ask, whether it's your boss asking who you had sex with or storm troopers asking if there are Jews in the attic.

Based on the summary, the film seems to have the right idea in general. After experimenting with his new found ability, the hero doesn't become a thief or a religious leader, he becomes an artist and a caring, honest father and husband. He uses his ability to further legitimate values and lives honestly.

Sounds like a sweet film. Maybe I will check it out one of these days.

Gus Van Horn said...


Thanks for catching that!

Lying is indeed not intrinsically bad, and can be beneficial.

That said, the film isn't clear on that point, and makes certain kinds of lies that would be objectively wrong seem acceptable on some levels.

And, yes, your deeper epistemological point on lying is quite good, too.

Thanks for speaking up on a couple of points this post left to be desired.