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Friday, February 24, 2012

Heartland, gay marriage and "Sherlock"

Heartland: In our previous post, we discussed the documents "liberated" from the libertarian Heartland Institute, the group which has done so much to promote global warming denialism. Jay Lehr, a former convict who now styles himself the "Science Director" of the Heartland Institute (even though it does no actual science), has told audiences that the majority of the world's climate specialists are pawns of a socialist conspiracy operating on behalf of "the forces of evil."

The Heartland Institute's lawyers have claimed that the instantly infamous "Climate Strategy" memo, which outlines a plan to teach denialism in schools, is a fake. The DeSmog Blog thinks otherwise. You can see their analysis of the memo here.

The memo includes this statement...
Increased climate project fundraising

Our climate work is attractive to funders, especially our key Anonymous Donor (whose contribution dropped from $1,664,150 in 2010 to $979,000 in 2011 - about 20% of our total 2011 revenue).
Here's where matters get interesting: Other documents sent to Peter Gleick -- after the release of the "Climate Strategy" memo -- also speak of a key Anonymous Donor. As the DeSmog blog notes...
The contribution figures in brackets are confirmed in the Heartland Budget document and corroborated in Table 5 at page 21 of the 2012 Fundraising Plan document. Table 5 shows that in 2010, $964.150 received from the Anonymous Donor was allocated to “Global Warming Projects.” In 2009, the sum of $1,732,180 was allocated to Global Warming Projects and in 2008, the sum of $3,300,000.
The numbers aren't exactly the same, but close enough. If the memo was phonied up, the job was done by someone who had access to Heartland's internal workings. (As noted in our previous post, the group has been very secretive about its funding in recent years.)

Which brings us to our question of the day: Just who is this Anonymous Donor? Let the guessing game begin!

On a related note: A more recent post on the DeSmog Blog reveals that Heartland's law firm, Levenfeld Pearlstein, has previously published material indicating a belief that global warming is real.

Gay marriage: Maryland took a big step toward legalizing gay marriage. To repeat my oft-stated position: I do not favor gay marriage, but only because I do not favor heterosexual marriage. Monogamy is fine, but marriage is the first sign of failure in a relationship.

Arguably, gay people should have the right to make the same blunders that straight people make -- just as, arguably, you should have the right to rip off your fingernails with pliers if you want to. It's not a practice I would encourage. Still, if you really want to employ your pliers in that fashion, the law has no right to tell you how to use your tool.

And on that note, let us now consider a remarkable pop culture artifact...

Sherlock. The BBC's incredibly popular Sherlock series has induced many Americans to learn about proxy servers and even naughtier methods of acquiring forbidden British videos. These are terrific productions, much better than the hyperkinetic theatrical films starring Robert Downey. Nobody cares how Downey survived his Reichenbach encounter, yet theories about the Great Cumberbatch Swan Dive are piling up on YouTube.

(See here and here -- but only if you've already seen the final episode. Come to think of it, you may not want to read what follows unless you've already seen the six episodes produced so far.)

I'm a Sherlockian from way back, having gone through the entire canon at least twice, except for the Mormon parts of A Study in Scarlet and the India parts of The Sign of Four, which nobody reads more than once. Although I'm done with Doyle, a good pastiche is always welcome. The BBC series offers the wittiest, most three-dimensional, most riveting take on the great detective ever to appear on either the large or small screen.

But there's one problem. The shows feature too many gay characters to be credible.

Before you scream your accusations of bigotry, please note the qualifier: The gay characters are too numerous to be credible. (For what it's worth, my previous favorite filmic Holmes portrayed him as homosexual.)

Nobody really knows what percentage of the population is gay, but Kinsey's estimate of ten percent was probably too high. A 2010 study of the British population puts the number at one percent; a 2005 study said six percent. Many studies in other countries have come up with numbers in the three-to-five percent range.

In Sherlock, by contrast, nearly everyone of any interest is gay.

Journalists and waiters on the show always presume Holmes and Watson to be a couple; it's a running gag which many fans take seriously. Mycroft also appears to be gay: In "A Scandal in Belgravia," Sherlock makes several cruel jokes about his brother's alleged effeminacy. Irene Adler self-identifies as gay. Her aide is gay. Moriarity is almost certainly gay -- at least, he feels comfortable addressing men as "sexy" and "honey." Watson's sister is gay. Mycroft's gorgeous female aide is gay. (We know this because she is involved with Irene Adler.) The owners of the "real" Baskerville Hound are gay. A surprising number of fans think that Lestrade is gay. The only major characters of unquestioned heterosexuality are Mrs. Hudson and Molly. (I hope Molly is straight; I find her adorable.)

Nobody is arguing that television writers should keep the gay character quotient of their scripts to five percent or six percent or any other number. But in the real world, most people are heterosexual. That's a fact. I'm not saying it's a happy fact or an unhappy fact; I'm just saying it's a fact.

Is it too much to ask television scenarists to give the occasional thought to plausibility? And are we finally sufficiently mature, as a society, to discuss this plausibility problem without having to deal with inane accusations of homophobia?

Speaking of plausibility: Can anyone explain the ending of the "Belgravia" episode? I guy with a sword against three men with machine guns? Are we seriously supposed to buy that? (And I still think Mycroft should have just tossed the damn phone in the Thames.)

It's best not to think very hard about "The Great Game," entertaining as that offering was. Why would a modern Vermeer forger make that particular mistake? In the finale, why didn't our heroes flee the danger room immediately? And why do Evil Masterminds always explain their schemes at ridiculous length instead of just shooting the good guys?

Finally: I came across this terrific piece two week after publication. A link should have appeared at that time. Well, better late than never...
Listening to these Republican candidates talk about Obama, I often wish we actually had the kind of president they’re attacking. The paint him as some kind of progressive lion, zealously going after the super-rich on behalf of the working class, steadfastly holding to an ideology of civil liberties even if it compromises America’s safety, and systematically dismantling our empire abroad, all the while apologizing to the world for our previous transgressions. I don’t know who this person is that they keep railing against, but it’s not the Obama I know.
1) Kochs

2) Plausibility is very much in the eye of the beholder. I havnt watched the series, but one should remember that British public school boys and graduates of the great universities would have been brought up in an environment which was almost exclusively single sex, in Holmes' day. One might argue that this would encourage a relaxed attitude to single sex "horse-play".

And of course its fiction, so you can do what you want with it. Plausibility is a matter of the suspension of disbelief. If its entertaining then it works.

On the subject of plausibility, you have reminded me of a friends great aunt in Newcastle. He was brought up in a formerly well to do family, and his great aunt had been very well off, but had never left the North East of England. She would complain bitterly about the Television depicting an England which was full of black people when it quite clearly was a massive exaggeration. It just so happens that the North East was subject to hardly any ethnic immigration.

Please dont think I am comparing you to my friends great aunt. I just note that plausibility is not objective reality. From where I sit in New York, everyone is gay and its hard to find a straight male.

Like hetero marriage it's more to do with inheritance, child custody, and power of attorney than anything to do with commitment.

I listen to AM Hate radio on my commute to and from work (know your enemas) and that Salon writer is right about republican descriptions of Obama. The scary part is people who believe that clap trap vote.
Good to have you back!
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