Wednesday, August 29, 2007

stupid is as us americans

America is an incredibly ethnocentric, selfish, narcissistic nation. Other countries, continents, and peoples don't seem to phase us much. The value of Life is apparently a shifting scale measured by our own prejudices. It's a sad state of affairs when we hold the deaths of some people in a war more shocking than the deaths and injuries of others. But it happens every second of every day. But what happens when the narcissism itself dissolves in a puddle of stupidity? If American don't even take the time to learn about even their own country, and certainly don't bother to learn about other ones, what are they left with? The Miss Teen USA pageant is a perfect model for our society, like it or not (hopefully you don't like it). Miss South Carolina, when asked why she thinks 1/5 of Americans can't even locate the US on a world map, replied with a completely incoherent, grammar-less answer that encompassed the topics of South Africa, Iraq, Asian countries and "US Americans." It seems that South Carolina was unable to answer the question, mostly likely because she was one of the one-fifth.

But really, we live in a miss teen pageant. And this isn't just an accusation of our country's obsession with, and over-estimation of the value of youth. Americans who don't know where the US is on a world map don't see the problem with it, as long as America itself is polished, primped, and ready to strut her stuff. As long as consumerism prevails, and the ease of access to all possible amenities continues, people won't find it necessary to change. America has been given a gigantic dot to stand on within the world stage, and is content to pivot there indefinitely, with a large fake smile stiffening in the harsh spotlight (which is getting harsher due to our polution and the subsequent global warming).

America doesn't value people who can adequately or intelligently answer the questions that those like South Carolina train-wrecked on. After all, this contestant was still able to come in fourth place. And if she is encouraged to be a certain way, and given benefits with cash and prizes, of course she will continue to perform the way she is expected. Politicians are the same way - put enough lobbyists in their paths, and soon all logic goes out the window in exchange for an apartment in NYC, a year's supply of cosmetics, or perhaps a tiara. South Carolina, tactless and ignorant as she undoubtedly is, is not the true problem. We should pity her. Her bleached hair, peel-away face, and strategically tight clothing (or lack their of) is not the problem, but the final product of a corrupt system. South Carolina is not to blame, just as every state in our nation is a helpless victim- the regime of the overall pageant is the resident evil. It scores the girls/states on their appearance, and scant else. {It is important to point out, and make a distinction here: there of course is a problem with a sweeping accusal, because it is not a prerequisite for attractive people to be dumb, or not-so-attractive people to be bookish or intelligent. It is also true that sometimes attractive people use their looks, just as people who carry an erudite air use that to their advantage as well. And of course the beautiful, intelligent people are fearsome creatures to behold.} But these are all evaluations that have no chance against the large pageant machine of America. Look at our political elections. Luckily, the candidates haven't strutted out in their bikinis or speedos quite yet, but look how we evaluate them - by their gender, race, age, grooming habits, etc. And we wonder why our government is slothful and ineffective, especially in the areas of education and health care, among many things. Don't forget, our president can't even pronounce the nuclear weaphons he vaguely threatens upon Middle Eastern leaders, whose names he also doesn't know. We should be worried about those important final questions pulled out of the golden cage of world politics, not the poise and ability of a politcal contestant to flash a giant smile, or their amazing ability to shut off sweat glands during a debate. Instead of plastic parts (including their charge cards), we should be concerned with their brains and decision-making abilities. If we can't agree where the US is, let's at least agree to begin to map out a smarter future, based on concrete knowledge and tact, not the ephemeral.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Fat Feat

It's an odd country we live in. One-fourth of the population has read a book in the past year. You wonder what they must be doing - perhaps outside, enjoying life? Not if they're the same nearly 0ne-fourth of the American population who are obese (roughly 22% in toto). They must be like the renaissance oligarchs, sitting at their feasting tables, rich, and listless, correct? No, they are the poor, the underprivileged - living in tough areas where even the inanimate fruits and vegetables are hard pressed to roam the streets in carts, and the cheapest available resources are provided by the local chicken fry or McDonald's, which apparently are impervious to gang violence or drug dealers (they need to get their food fixes somehow).

The government laments this growing trend of growing waistlines, and yet their words are ghostly letters that seem to curl away in the smoke signals of public interest. If they were so concerned with public health and nutrition, why don't they regulate school lunches better? Children are not free in school to do anything they want, and in fact the Roberts court has restricted their rights even more while students are on school grounds in the past year. Why not simply restriction their food choices? If they want a cafeteria lunch - provide only healthy options. But unfortunately, as the nation's well-marketed fast foods and highly preservative-laden and saturated fat-engorged foods have increased in popularity, it seems school cafeterias don't want to be "left behind." (unfortunately this is the only, and completely incorrect area in which schools are forging ahead as leaders). Many applaud the banning of sodas in school, but let's face it- soft drink companies were ready with an equally sugary line of fruit juices and energy drinks to help supplement their colas and root beers.

America as a whole is one of the fattest nations - but it's also one of the richest, which doesn't make much sense given the notion that the poorest have the worst rates of obesity. People complain about welfare, paying for the poorest people's care, etc. Well, the larger people get, the more health problems they have a tendency to develop. We live in a strange country, were the richest starve on purpose, and the poorest swell to unwieldy proportions.

Not to get too political, but the states themselves show their inherent differences through this study. Studied side by side, the states with the highest obesity rates tended to be southern, (ten out of the fifteen highest rates in general, eight out of ten highest states for childhood obesity were also in the south). And they also tended to be republican, and with a higher population of poor Americans, and have lower educational standards compared to the bulk of the nation. States like Colorado and Massachusetts, better known for an active lifestyle and better educational systems, tended to have lower obesity rates, and this should be no surprise. If we want to save lives, and not to mention money and taxes, (does that peak your interest, republicans?) then we need to come up with a plan of action to lower obesity rates. Because the fat that lodges itself in the visceral area of the nation is also clogging up the political arteries that lead to a healthy country, and sooner or later, we're going to be looking at cardiac trouble. Let's have a change of heart now, before it's too late, and the donor list looks less than promising.

Study/State by State Reports:

Monday, August 27, 2007

Speedy Gonzales is high-tailing it out... finally

See current development here:

He may be resigning- and the joy feels like as if the cartoon character mouse were to be caught... Highly gratitfying, yet also unnerving... because who knows what cartoonish monstrousity will be created in his place to fill the time slot?

Leaden Politics

Not surprising at all. The Bush appointees in the CDC and all other health-related offices seem to be interested in pushing legislation (or lack thereof) for every possible advantage - except the health of the general population. Women's reproductive rights have been restricted due to "moral" thinking, and the rate of death in childbirth has actually risen in the past few years for American women due to a decrease in prenatal care. And now, another segment of the US population has something to fear from the regulations of this administration and it's controversial appointees: children.

We like to think the government is looking out for us. When we find out that Chinese toys might have lead in them, we gasp at the possible affects. Yet, its understandable to many given China's reputation in exporting dangerous goods every now and then, and complete crisis is averted by a recall. But Mattel recently saw a large recall of its toys due to lead as well.

Most agree that lead is highly toxic, and not a substance you would want lying around, or especially a part of your young children's playthings. The phrase "did you eat paint chips as a kid?" didn't earn it's place in our list of insults for nothing. As funny as it is- it is also true. Many reputable and accepted studies show that lead concentrations in children can lead to lower IQ, seizures, and in extreme cases of exposure - comas. This isn't a theory, it is an accepted scientific fact. Lead is unhealthy in the smallest of doses, and like cigarrette smoke, the best level of exposure is nill. In 1991, acceptable lead levels in the US were legislated down to 10 mcg/dl. This level, though lower than ever before, has shown to still lower IQs in exposed children in scientific studies. Many scientists, and people who have seen the numbers have been lobbying for a zero-tolerance policy for lead exposure fro years, especially for products that will inevitably come into contact with children.

And here comes the surprising response from the Bush administration. In 1982, Bush the First wanted the government to remove limits on gasoline which contained lead. Luckily, that bill did not pass. Economics was at the heart of this legislation, and especially the economics of big oil. But obviously, all the smaller industries that relied on lead use jumped on the bandwagon, and have been lobbying for lead-use rights ever since, regardless of the health cost to American children, who's IQs points, once lost, are irrecoverable.

Thompson, Bush's Secretary of Health and Human Services, wanted to appoint Joyce Tsuji and William Banner to the Center for Disease Control's lead advisory committee. Tsuji had worked for lead companies in the past, and Banner scarily claimed that levels of lead in children seven times the legal limit today would not produce any adverse affects. This is overwhelmingly untrue, and no respectable scientist would ever accept such numbers as safe. The scary part is that parents still aren't getting the correct message - and those whose children had the lead-contaminated Mattel toys are being told that if their children have lead levels around 10 mcg/dl have nothing to worry about. And why should Mattel, or the government worry, really? If these children end up losing brain cells, and having lower IQs, how would the parents really know? Perhaps their children are just naturally less bright than others in their class. And what right do they have to sue, with the government saying the levels of lead in their blood are safe?

But you know, perhaps Bush Senior didn't realize that allowing his son to play with lead-enriched gasoline, and snack on paint chips as a child would have such an adverse affect on the entire nation, years later.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Fighting for "freedom" means no free speech.

National security is obviously a top priority, among other things, for the military. Divulging key strategy is obviously something that needs to be prevented. No one claims that state secrets should become anything else than what they are- secret, especially if their concealment is vital to the safety of troops on the ground. You'd be hard-pressed to find people who disagree with these notions.

But if we claim, as a democratic republic, that the right to free speech is one of our vital freedoms, something worth fighting for, why do we deny the very people on the front lines fighting, the right to express their own opinions? Rather, why do we make them jump through multiple bureaucratic hoops, some set aflame?

For a member of the military to express her or his personal views, their is a multi-tiered process before they can mail away a letter to a journalist or post their thoughts on a blog. First, they must go through a security review, which consists of consultation with a supervisor, and the operations security officer. These people will examine the articles, checking for security leaks. The soldiers must also take a training course in order to be allowed to write, and the general lesson topics are undefined for the public. Once soldiers take this mysterious course and are cleared to begin actually writing, they need to post a "disclaimer" prominently along with their writing, establishing the views as solely their own, and not in any way a part of the Department of Defense. Interesting how the Dept. monitors them, trains them up on what is acceptable and continues checking up, yet they claim no responsibility for the way in which these soldiers write. They try to control information's dissemination, but simultaneoulsy, fiercely ensure that no one thinks that they have any control over it. It seems the Defense Department has somehow taken major league baseball as an example, and starts every sentence, "only with the expressed, written consent..."

Anybody intelligent enough to cull value from a soldier's words would also be smart enough to realize one soldier, or even a group of soldiers, cannot sum up the experience of the entire military, and therefore withhold judgment on the entire operation in question. But perhaps the Defense Department is smarter than they seem while fearing the words of these individual soldiers. One soldier writing is just as dangerous, if not more so, than a whole battalion scribbling in unison. One soldier personalizes a war - brings a voice, and even a face to the anonymous thousands risking their necks everyday. If readers don't know someone fighting for us, they can adopt someone who's words they read everyday. And the more risky the words, the better, because a single soldier putting her or his reputation, and the possibly of court martial on the line in order to speak out is incredibly appealing to readers. And in today's climate, where information, whether actually stiffled or not, seems to be increasingly withheld by the current administration, all people really want are a few straight talkers. And soldiers, not politicians, are an obvious choice.

It's sad that what we're fighting for is denied most feverishly to the people on the front lines. They can't just speak their minds, whether in print, online, etc. - regarding the war, politics, or even sexual orientation. If our country really values their contributions, then we should honor them with the same rights we carelessly fiddle with everyday.

After World War II, many poets believed there was nothing relevant left to say after the horrors of that war were revealed. They claimed "poetic silence," as a silent statement showing their inability to use words to express their thoughts and feelings. What soldiers have to deal with nowadays is a kind of imposed poetic silence. And that is the worst kind of all - the inability not only to be heard, but to be able to express their thoughts and feelings in unique, and intrinsically beautiful ways. It is a tragedy not just to these men and women, but to the nation at large. We will not have the papers and opinions of those on the ground to support the history future generations read about in text books in years to come. And without written records, mistakes are much, much easier to repeat.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Sex, Drugs, and Rockin' Debate

Although the name of the drug is less than desirable, the "Plan B" option is a vital one. It's time to show the might of approval that most of the country shows for this drug and women's legislative rights. Let's drown out the undulating tides of minority conservatives who make it their vendetta to deny women the basic right of making their own informed and independant decisions.

Read this report and get active:

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Bookarexia and Belletristic Decay

They say that often man-made disasters are due to a lack of imagination on the part of those who are supposed to be doing the protecting. At least, that's what we like to tell ourselves - that it's not our fault, it's the fault of that winged fancy we like to call make-believe. But in the greatest sense, we are failures if we fail to use our imaginations to the utmost, especially if people or even innanimate objects who want to do us harm are more imaginative. That is why the new Associated Press/IPSOs poll that says one in four adults read no books whatsoever in the last year is so disturbing. Books allow us to imagine, and expand our faculties of conjecture. And in a world where more reading would be so advantageous, the people who are actually reading are reading religious texts (which are the biggest sellers overall). No wonder the world is going Topsy-turvy - the majority of new notions people are getting through the books they read are fundamental ones from books written over 2000 years ago. Everybody loves a good classic religious or no, but it's no wonder violence in the name of religious belief, and a scary social conservatism is taking shape, one reader at a time.

More apt than "you are what you eat," is the phrase "you are what you read." If you're reading nothing, that doesn't bode well. People have to eat to survive, and yet people foolishly believe that if they don't devour any books all year, their brains will be sustained and nourished in other ways. We are intellectually and imaginatively starving ourselves... we are a nation of bookarexics.

Another set of proofs "you are what you read:" topics of books, and the sheer amount read by certain identified groups of people is extremely telling and definitive. In the AP/IPSOs study, Democrats and liberals read slightly more books, and Republicans and conservatives slightly less. Funnily enough, Southerners, who could be predicted to read the most religious texts (they don't call it the bible belt for nothing), were also found to read more romance novels than in any other sections in the country. (Apparently they like to mix their reading business with pleasure). Those who said they rarely if ever attended religious services read almost two times the amount of books as those who attended masses, temple, or what-have-you, more frequently. The argument could be that those attending services had less time to read, but the better argument would be that those who don't attend tend to be slightly better educated, or perhaps because of the knowledge from what they've read, they choose not to attend. Hmm.

The interesting thing about this new disease/psychosis of bookarexia sweeping the nation is that it mainly affects middle aged men, not a group commonly identified as depriving themselves of much of anything. Women and older people were the most avid readers, and are often repulsed by any notions of such a disease, with women choosing the most diverse set of titles, from fiction to nonfiction and back again.

You can't force-feed a bookarexic. You need to carefully encourage, and show that you genuinely care about their welfare. As they helplessly plunder through their lives with this disease, we have to recognize that the entire world is quickly becoming intellectually malnourished. The US is a third-world country when it comes to reading, and those who have a healthy appetite for books need to help encourage that trait in our sad, intellectually balding brothers.

An article on the Associated Press/IPSOs poll can be found here:

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Speak Up or Die

A new study came out recently, and it stifles the mind to think of what some scientists are interested in analyzing, or even think we need to analyze. A report on the study can be found here: (

What this evaluation basically says is that women who stay quiet and submissive during martial tiffs are more likely to keel over quicker than those women who hold their ground in an argument. What makes this blogger want to shout out loud is the fact that this wasn't an assumed fact in the first place. Its like saying, "people with air bags in their cars survive more accidents," or "those who sleep around are more likely to get STDs." Well, Gee.

The study lays out the information culled from a little under 4,000 people over 10 years, and the health of the women, who either had a tendency to "self-silence," or speak their minds freely. And surprise, surprise, the women who held their tongues lost their lives within ten years four times more often than those with free rein of their oral organ. Conversely, men in marriages, compared to men who stayed single, had better health and longer lifespans on average. No study was done to test whether men were speaking up or not, however - because it's assumed men will always speak up?

Without any evidence, here's a theory that should easily be applied to this study's findings. Every time a woman holds her tongue, a little part of her independence, nature, and true ability to be a woman, dies. All those little deaths add up, and consume her eventually. And they seep out into everyday life - with fewer rights for women as the voices dwindle. The study says that this "tactic" of silence is most pronounced in women who exist in abusive relationships - it's a form of self-preservation that actually ends up killing them. Here's the test of a healthy relationship: If you find yourself holding your tongue too often, it's time to hit the road.

If this is an evolutionary trait, like they say it might be, than their findings just don't make sense. Because if it is a matter of survival, it would be most advantageous for women to speak their minds, and live longer. And hopefully (although this sounds brutal), the trait will weed itself out, and those women who do keep silent will kick the proverbial bucket before they can pass this less than desirable practice onto too many others. Harsh, I know, but necessary. But the one positive thing about this affliction is that it is in many ways self-imposed, and therefore reversible - it is a process of self-assertion that can allow you to receive help, and ultimately the decision to speak up rests in your own heart, mind, and mouth. Violets are shrinking because they droop with under-exposure. Wall-flowers have a pasted, lonely look because they refuse to spread out. It's time to realize that standing in the shadows will only take people farther into them - regardless of their sex.

It's not about being a revolutionary or a fighter, it's about the simple act of acknowledging a person's right to be. If that's something you can't talk about, perhaps it would be better to be quiet.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Blindfold and Whack

Politics is like psychoanalysis - you can analyze and analyze, but no matter how far you delve into the deepest reaches of a patient's cortex, you might be completely off the mark. And also, there's usually a cigar involved. A patient could just be insane, simple as that - not suffering from some acute disorder wired into his or her brain by a unique, intricate web of neurons. And this is what is so similar and equally frustrating about politics. No matter what kind of "strategy" we try to eke out from any given side/campaign, the true motives may never become clear - or there may not be any motives at all. And like that intertwining, mysterious cranial landscape, the answers to all our political questions are never truly answered, because usually, they can't be. They are not so black and white - more than anything, they exist in gray matter.

So its hard to understand the motives when Rove gets up and criticizes Clinton, and proclaims that she will probably be the nominated Democratic candidate, but that she is also "fatally flawed." People sit up and take notice, and try to understand the interworkings behind Rove's statement. And make no mistake, unlike some psychological disorders with no explanation - you can be sure Rove has planned out every word that escapes his mouth when it comes to the positions of candidates. He's been cleverly engineering Republican policy and turnout for as many years as he can remember, probably since diapers, but definitely since his basement campaign days for Nixon.

Some say that Rove is using his notoriety to help launch Clinton as the one of choice - the one everyone will verify as a threat, strangely making her more popular, and possibly helping her gain the nomination. Some think that the Republicans believe that they can beat Clinton easier than they could an Obama, and therefore they are trying to mark her as the candidate in order to have an easier go of it in the general election. Others say that Rove is just trying to discredit Clinton, and see her numbers plummet, because as of right now she is the biggest threat. So what is it? Or is it something completely different than the options offered? Rove won't be telling us, that's for sure. But ultimately, his words shouldn't mean too much. The fact that we're analyzing them, sadly, says something about us and the dangerous climate where we are essentially trying to understand the words of a brilliant madman. The best way to combat this political insanity is to completely ignore it - the madness within is only greater reflected when people project it into the world. Let it sit there, unbidden in Rove's head. Hopefully, someday it might swell and explode, and like pinata, out will tumble a messy tangle of gerrymandering, pork barrels, and leaks. This is the man who reportedly riffled through garbage cans to dig up Democratic dirt during the Nixon years. He's not averse to getting his hands dirty, but he's certainly crafty when it comes to hiding the evidence of his tactics. But sometimes garbage is just garbage.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

now there's one less justifiable scare tactic

We need to end it.

According to the new military report, suicide deaths in the military are at one of the highest rates in decades, and it comes with little surprise. The rate is now hovering around 17.3 suicides per 100,000 people. The national average for US suicides overall is around 12 per 100,000. That means roughly five more people, per 100,000, feel it is necessary to prematurely end their lives. And these are just the confirmed cases, which also exclusive failed suicide attempts.

It's to be expected in such high stress environments that numbers for suicide would go up. No one is claiming that a soldier's life isn't hard in Iraq or Afghanistan. But what bothers many is the whole recruiting process involved in military service. Because of the higher risk, there should also be better screening in place; better methods to analyze psychological status, and the realization that sheer numbers on the ground should never trump mental quality.

It was estimated that at least 25% of those who committed suicide in the military in the past year were suffering from some type of psychiatric disorder, among them being: Post Traumatic Stress, bipolar disorder, depression, and anxiety disorders. Surely, the perils of active duty brought out these conditions in many, and allowed them to swell to their dangerous proportions. But the military is not one to be completely open, for good reasons - but also complicated ones that don't always benefit (if ever) the conditions of their soldiers.

The military may only use "don't ask don't tell" in terms of sexual orientation, but the rules are strikingly similar when exposed to issues of psychological health. The stigma placed around people with mental issues is perhaps second only to homosexuality (which frankly, some military scatterbrained and ignorant people consider a mental issue anyways). Soldiers will not openly talk about their problems, and are encouraged to keep clammed up. Also, recruiters don't discount people on the hunch that they may because a bit unhinged down the road. I've seen recruiters in my schools, recruiters in subways with young boys in tow, and coming to a preschool near you: recruiters delivering US Army provided milk cartons and cookies. This isn't to say people who serve are country were hoodwinked into it - the utmost respect should be given to them all, and the best way to do that is fight for their rights - most physically and mentally. The military therefore needs to put into place a series of programs and a national atmosphere of openness and honesty, not fear of potential retaliation or punishment for something beyond a person's control. But this is a lofty goal. Let's start with better screening, and better psychological care of those soldiers both on the battlefields, and newly discharged. If the Walter Reed situation has taught us anything, its that the system in place to aid our county's bravest is in desperate need of an overhaul, and now.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Devil Ex Machina

It's hard to understand just what this country is getting at. We claim to be politically correct, to value justice, freedom, and all things ethical, yet we also praise the exact opposite of everything we hold dear. Our mouths say one thing, and our credit card statements and search engines say another. It's good to have principals. But it's also good to act on them. It's hard to see just where we are acting when the popularity and revenues of some of the seediest, under-belly-type companies and products continue to flourish. We're all human, and it's understandable that not everything we say translates into action, otherwise we would never have come up with the meaning of "hypocrite." But a frightening trend is emerging, and it's not altogether sustainable if we'd like to view ourselves as morally superior, or at least on the track towards it. As a nation, we seem to think that outright action and forceful language automatically clears any problems or controversies. And then, after what is viewed as a considerable time-period of dormancy, the problems can creep back in, unabated. Because we've already covered the given issue to death, and quickly, people (and to some extent the media), are unwilling to repeat the ethical outcry.

Two examples that currently exemplify this are O.J. Simpson's book, which is reportedly going to be published by an as of yet undisclosed New York company, and Don Imus' possible return to radio. Both these items are similar in that they were covered to death and highly controversial a few months ago. The outcry to stop Simpson's "If I Did It" was perhaps a lot more consolidated and forceful, whereas Imus' dismissal from CBS was more of a gradual ascent of realization in terms of just how serious and provoking his comments were. At the height of both controversies, it became clear that people would not stand for these two men to continue to gain financial prizes and notoriety from what they wrote or said. While Imus' dismissal was debated with vigor, people realized that to defend him blindly was a dangerous move, and sponsors eventually pulled out.

But enough parsing the issue - everyone remembers, it was only four months ago. And THAT is the very problem.

How does four months after Imus' dismissal change anything? The only things that have ticked away are the minutes, hours, days, and months since the controversy. And what about his apology? If he was genuinely sorry, why would he be suing CBS, and earning an "undisclosed" amount for his own pain and suffering at the lost contract? The sad thing to realize is his opportunity costs have probably skyrocketed- Imus' story (Like Simpson's), although controversial and grotesque, has gotten a lot more interesting. The offers will come rolling in from the nether world like satan ex machina, saving the career of a man who deserves a punishment he will never really get. And that notion of the lack of punishment brings me back to Simpson. The book's profits have changed hands, and it is no longer Simpson who holds exclusive rights to his work of biographical "fiction." The public has decided that the controversy is nullified by that fact, and it's perfectly acceptable to voraciously devour this publication because Simpson won't be making money from it (we hope). But wasn't the despicable nature of the book enough to put people off? Isn't that part of the reason people were up in arms in the first place? As a writer who feels like any publication is far game and would never suggest banning a book as a viable option, the publication can't be completely condemned here. But its the approach, and the public's obsession with the murder that make anybody with an ethical sense of right cringe.

What Imus said was absolutely unforgivable, even if said in "jest." What Simpson wrote about was unforgivable many times over, obviously. And yet their popularity, which tinkered to life just after the dust of the public outcry has settled, tells us less about these characters and more about ourselves. Like the operas composed with the last minute, unbelievable salvation of the hero, this salvation is added to their stories by the mere fact that the audience wants to see it happen. Despicable people like Imus and Simpson will always be looking for an extra buck and a little bit of press (good or bad). Its how we (both collectively and within the different establishments such as the press and the overall business world) react that gives these kinds of men and women power. We'd like to think its the machinations of some uncontrollable force; but it is some part of us which allows for this unnatural salvation of the most objectionable kind.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Pander Bears

So as a candidate, it's normal to have a base. Everyone needs someone to pander to, and on the whole, people liked to be pandered around. Often, panderers choose a crowd they could easily loose themselves in if things got rough. A polar bear lives in the Arctic, because he/she finds it much easier to blend in, and brown bears life in the forest, so its hard to see them through the trees. Sure, they can roar, make themselves heard, and quickly steal your food from under you, but they can also scamper away in the flash. Politicians are similar, and it only makes sense. Why would you bother too much in the early stages of your campaign in a thicket full of hostile predators? You go to the habitat that serves you best - it reflects all your choices, your party, your platforms, etc. Even if you don't necessary believe your platforms, (and maybe like to flip-flop) you at least have the courtesy to zip up a new furry intellectual coat over your old one, hoping people don't spot the lumps that signify a change in appearance.

Lucky for politicians, it is relatively easy to "change your spots." And these phenomena are all well and good. But what happens when the atmosphere surrounding the political heavyweights changes fundamentally? Increasingly, and surprisingly, as if in sync with the environment, the political landscape has been a victim of deforestation. Because of the processes engineered within the Bush administration, and somehow through the mumbles and shifts in policy and the national political climate, parties have tilted on their axis, and changes have taken place. Pundits are scampering to new grounds, and the voters and politicians alike are trying manuever into a habitats that can sustain them.

The strange erosion taking place all over the country complicates just who these campaigners have as an audience. All has gone pear-shaped, Topsy-turvy; a well-placed Shakespearean reference in the vein of how so quickly bright things come to confusion would not miss the mark by much here. Case in point is the presidential candidates and their popularity - the groups we see supporting certain figures isn't altogether unexpected, but it raises some interesting instinctual questions that will no doubt have bearing on the election.

Political observers will tell you quite clearly that Clinton is doing well with many, but maybe enjoys the largestpopular majority with a lower and middle class liberal base, including single mothers and African American mothers. Obama has found himself in the midst of a captivated audience of college-educated liberals white and black, yet surprisingly less black voters on the whole, and less lower class and minority voters than expected. Guiliani is polling well in South Carolina, and Romney came in first in the Iowa straw poll. Some of these results make sense, but they also speak volumes about what the public is willing to except in order to live in this new political landscape. Clinton is not nonintellectual, yet she seems to be most popular with a working class that is more interested in direct policy and less in philosophical debate. Obama should have the strong support of a more diverse base, but yet he finds himself loosing many supporters to Clinton. Guiliani, a supporter of women's rights (and yet hypocritically a serial-divorcer/cheater a few times over), should not be doing so well in the bible-bitten state of South Carolina, and Romney should not be polling unnaturally high in Iowa when his national numbers are lower than many other candidates. It doesn't make any sense, and yet perhaps the organized chaos is to be expected - the life cycle of political campaigns has been skewed to the extreme for this election, and all the species of candidates are feeling the strain. I guess all we can do is wait out the slow degradation, and see which candidates become extinct, choked by the fragmentation of their habitats, and which evolve, and flourish within a new, biodiverse hotspot.

Monday, August 13, 2007


Finally, an end to a long illustrious career. The cliche and quite enviable "more time with his family excuse" has never sounded so dulcet. Karl Rove, the pay-no-attention-to-the-man-behind-the-curtain, is finally turning in his scales, measuring tapes, and political t-bars and resigning his post of resident "architect" in the White House.

Rove's official title is Deputy White House Chief of Staff, and he has been described as the brains behind the campaign operations. Despite what you think of him, credit is due; the man did get Bush into the White House twice, once without the popular vote. Rove is in many ways a doppelganger to Cheney - a powerful man who is rarely heard at the forefront, but felt in the waves of political policy and under dealings. He's no nebbish pushover. Case in point, we still aren't one-hundred percent clear on just what kind of information he leaked to the press, although it's not too hard to imagine he had Novak on speed-dial.

With all the shouts of triumph, I ask everyone happy to see him go to give this maneuver a bit more thought. He is not leaving because of any scandal - he is simply moving on, unwilling to complete the last year or so of Bush's leadership. And this is a shrewd move on Rove's part. He doesn't have much left on his agenda in this administration, as he can't help Bush seek another term. Also, his opportunity cost would take a hit - he can earn much more money selling a book, touring the country, or even joining another campaign as an advisor. And this brings up the main fear: Red Rover is not done playing.

Friends are a lot more open and able to give advice when they're not on the payroll. Throughout history, friends without title or responsibility are often at the most advantageous location when the one in power wants a helpful vantage. For anyone who thinks Rove's influence in the White House ends with his signed letter of resignation, they overestimate the power of a well-timed John Hancock. Rove will still be helping out, and in fact, Rove's prediction that Bush will regain popularity is most likely accurate, because with Rove resigned, Bush's approval rating will probably nudge up a point or two.

The point of the matter is this - Rove tinkered in the shadows. He liked it there, and his resignation cements his ability to stay there. In fact, he will not be required to answer for the advice he gives, and the dealings he makes as an unemployed American citizen. Let's just all pray he doesn't claim wellfare.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Misguided Authority

Most of us do not enjoy deconstructionist discussions. Some understand what Saussure was saying about the signified and signifier. Many have contemplated Derrida's differance more than they'd like to admit. No matter what you take away from their arguments, and whether you agree, or defer to another theory, they make compelling arguments about the incalculable properties of language and it's power - and especially it's power over us, it's bidding minions.

Language is the "cornerstone." Most have this notion drilled into us. Language is what connects us right now, as you read these words on this screen. It is what allows us consciousness. If you're religious, you might reference "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God," or some such quote. If you're an atheist, well, language is possibly even more important. Despite what you think of Derrida, or deMan, or Barthes, they understood language as a placeholder for the things we cannot create, but only refer to. Naming is not truly naming- it is done by degrees of separation. We cannot be ourselves outside of language - and for that reason we are under it's control, despite what we think as we type and scribble away. The only way we could be masters of language is if, by naming an object or an experience, it suddenly would appear as if called. Heavy stuff, admittedly, and not the true topic of this post.

It is where fiction and the power of language in the hands of a good author cross, that people tend to get confused about the power we can assert over language, and what language can do to how we approach certain authors.

In a way, fiction is a momentary loophole in the notion that language cannot create objects, or naming cannot bring forth an idea, etc. Because when fiction is written, especially good fiction, the reader is transported into the worlds they read about, and the perfect images, not unlike the ancient philosophical "forms" that are supposedly born in our imaginations. We may not physically be transported to the windswept moors of Wuthering Heights, or the mead hall of Beowulf, but we can see it, although it was never there in the first place.

So it's understandable that people are easily confused, and think that their imaginative abilities to understand a fiction can spill over into the author's own true lives. But that sin is what truly riles this blogger. And there are many examples to prove the validity of this anger.

Take Jane Austen as exhibit A. We know a scant few details about her actual life. What was given in later biographies (or hagiographies, more like) by her family can't be wholly trusted, and her sister Cassandra carefully dispatched most of her sister Jane's letters to the fire before anyone could lay eyes on them. But since her death, and even today, people have been projecting her fiction onto her life, and vice-versa. This isn't all a mistake in imagination, some of it has to do with the fact that Jane was a woman, and most societies have/had some half-baked notion that women can only write about what they have experienced, as if their limited options in life translated into limited forms of fiction. No one would claim Stevenson became or met a Mr. Hyde. But somehow, Austen must have been jilted, or heart-broken, or in love to a devastating degree, because her fiction conveys such life-like experiences. The most recent assault on Austen is the movie Becoming Jane, which makes short work of discrediting her creativity by suggesting that Austen's genius lay not in the stroke of her pen, but in her wild experience as a woman in love.

Henry James, in "The Art of Fiction," a brilliant essay with the title that defines it, mentions that experience is not a precursor for the kernel of a story or that experience engenders the ability to create believable, complete fiction. For James, scenes in a novel rely on literary talent, and although experience can serve as inspiration, it can also be an impediment, and it is by no means necessary to write believably. The words work by themselves, and do not work backwards.

Jane Austen may have had an exciting life fraught with the kind of stories she told. But that is unlikely, and anything more than shaky conjecture on her true experience is worthy of the highest contempt. People label her as a love-story writer, and denigrate her unimpeachable ability for creating a solid narrative structure. They ignore the fact that she truly is the mother of the modern novel, with her first person narrative voice slowly dripping, trickling down into the stream of consciousness that was in vogue with heavyweights such as Woolf and Joyce. In fact, the idea that Austen is viewed as a "lightweight" in comparison is more comical than her best placed fictional one-liners. This woman, writing near the beginning of the Victorian era, created six heavy tomes that have been read with an unabated vigor since publication. Jane Austen doesn't seem to go out of style, although everyone has their own interpretation of what her fiction means, and who she was as a person.

What surprises me is that Jane Austen "must have been an unhappy spinster" according to some who read into her life through her books, because of her lack of a veriable personal love story. Or she must have been witty and charming like Elizabeth Bennett, or pining away in secret like Anne Eliot, or stunningly contemplative and obedient like Fanny Price. She was not her characters, although they came from inside her. She birthed them out her brain like a fiction-writing Zeus producing Athena. Contradiction abounds, and we must reside in the state of limbo, excepting that the artist cannot be seen through her fiction, and anyone claiming otherwise is a myth-maker.

But let us also not forget that Austen's comedies are dark as well as light, and although all her heroines end up married, the other marriages in her books, with very few exceptions, are all in a dire state of disrepair. Think if you can of more than a handful of happy couples. I can come up with two, possibly three, and they are questionable at the best of times. Austen understood audience needs and wrote to them, but it is too easy to end her musings with the weddings that inevitability close the books. There are ominous clouds, despite the happy endings, encroaching the fringes of the page like mistaken blotches from the pen, swelling ever so slowly. Austen knew her domain, and what she had the ability to explore and write well. She might have seemed like a tame "little" author, but her stories have become immortal, and tricked the readers into a lull of complacent frivolity. And perhaps her spell, with the aid of language, is the most conclusive evidence of her ability to deviate from the truth. It is our own folly as readers that hides the true Austen, and so we must spin stories. And perhaps that is what Austen would have wanted. But we won't ever know.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

China's Build Up

China is gearing up for the Beijing Olympics, and rushing to improve the infrastructure already present and construct all the rest of the necessary buildings and facilities to support the huge event. Financial experts believe that China's overall GDP will grow around 11% in the coming years, and that's no percentage to scoff at.

McDollars are rolling in, with new restaurants sprouting up in addition to the over 800 restaurants there already. New hotels and transportation venues are popping up as well. A story on China's new developments can be read here: (

So expansion and new development, making travel and conveniences easier to obtain is a good thing, right? For one of the world's largest populations, any investment might seem like a wonderful positive. The attention that is momentarily bestowed upon the host country of the games is always an excellent incentive for the leaders and investors. Despite its sometimes backwards approach to things, the PRC (People's Republic of China) is doing pretty well - they are not receiving the same detrimental coverage that Greece received a few years ago because of their planning, or lack of it, and the concerns that Athens would not be ready. But there should be concerns. China, like its rapidly developing infrastructure, is rapidly showing signs of the same problems usually associated with Western countries.

Don't misunderstand, it's a good thing that China is opening up to foreign markets, and the globalization will benefit many if things go well, and it will hopefully loosen the "communist" notions that China still barely clings to - because despite labels, we can all see that China is not a true communist state, it is more like a oligarchy/one party state pretending to be something else in order to distract the opposition. The Chinese leaders understand the importance of financial well being. But what about the well-being of the everyday citizen?

BBC news reported recently that an estimated 5% of the entire Chinese population is depressed, and these numbers are probably underestimated, because depression is extremely stigmatized, and therefore under-reported in China. HIV/AIDS is also rampant in the population - and receives less attention in comparison to other nations outside of Asia.

While it is a generally good thing for China to expand and develop in a business sense, the population should not be left in the tailwinds, struggling for a firm hold. As the Olympics hurtle closer, it's time to bring attention to the other aspects of Chinese society: human rights, mental and physical health, and overall quality of life issues that need to be addressed. Surely there is money to be made in China, but that can only be sustained by an enriched and happy population.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Vacant Adventure

The post is late, and if you were commuting in NYC this morning, you would understand why. The trains were blocked, the subways flooded, the buses out of service, the taxis forever filled with other lucky commuters who you never actually see getting in or out.

Hating to conform to the cliché, this blog tries to avoid topics covered extensively by a million others. But when you get a new angle on a squandered topic, you give it a go.

The train was diverted and suddenly it was scooting by the makeshift World Trade Center station, actually passing side-by-side the gashed foundation, and the blue-lit iron structures peeking out of the wreckage. It was as if the wall between the train and the empty implosion spot had been blasted away, pell-mell, to fashion a unique viewing window for the passengers. There was business afoot in the trapezoid void, and dirt mounds rolling in spots, sharp and jutting in others.

The train gives no fair warning - you are suddenly thrust into the din, and though you see the cranes and the construction workers, you can only hear the sounds of the train as you sweep by. It's unnatural, but it isn't quite eerie. You feel small, like a hobbit in the hole in the ground, waiting to disembark and seek your adventure elsewhere, -- something tells you, this place is not for you. The innards of the train are artificially quiet, some unspoken pact of unspokenness is agreed upon by most. But the hush is completely unnatural because it is a stale reverence, one peppered with annoyed, soggy people looking to get where they truly want to go: anywhere but here.

Diversions have a way of diverting truth. There are auras around cursed places, and they pale people like a thick fog. But the fogginess is a euphemism for the gunk that clouds our minds and judgments when it comes to sense of place. Unexplained mechanisms tinker to life when we are exposed to a forced, yet necessary solemnity. It is unfair. Unfair to pretend, unfair to commit to a few groping moments in the dark to justify our quick summit out and up the stairs, and into a city who's structures should say nothing, but whisper a million nothings into the overcast skies. But it is also improbable to go about our lives denying an absence. So where do we place ourselves upon the scales of proper conduct in the face of a tragedy that is ours, but not ours, that is present, but well over? I have no shrewd ideas.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Britain's Brown Blare

The U.K. has asked for five Guantanamo Bay prisoners to be released back to Britain, by order of the newly minted Prime Minister, Gordon Brown. This is not an altogether shocking move for a man who wants to distance himself from Tony Blair's almost comical commitment to keeping in step with the U.S. president's policy, which blatantly flouts the notion of habeas corpus. Brown, while much less likable in demeanor than his predecessor, is making a statement, and the response, while perhaps not causing many waves in the international news community, will serve as a kind of litmus test for how the US government will approach this new British regime.

It is easy for the U.S. in many respects to ignore the demands of other countries hoping to receive incarcerated nationals from the U.S. detention facility, mainly because they have little influence or power on American policies, and they are viewed as no real threat if denied access to their citizens. But the U.K., an ally worth preserving, is another story. The U.S. has to be smart about this, and must realize that it is treading on more brackish waters when it comes to mutual acceptance of international policy with the U.K. What was once barely passable during a Blair rule might receive failing marks with Brown. And further expulsion from government ties are not far off, when looking at the U.K.'s unsteady support of U.S. policy from the general population.

Not only does this diplomatic maneuver highlight what the future relationship with Britain might look like, but it also says something about how the U.S. views its place on the global stage. If the U.S. chooses not to trust in allies, they automatically claim dominance over them by default - and that is a dangerous place to sit. If the U.S. government claims to truly be for democracy, they have to trust in the tradition, and allow allies to handle their prisoners. The U.K. is not in such a different situation as we are, and should be allowed the benefit of enforcing their own rules and rights. If the U.S. refuses to hand these prisoners over, it will be a sad day indeed. But if the prisoners are given over, this does not solve the problem entirely. It is sad already, to consider the fact that one nation trumps many others when it comes to asserting their rights and their own democratic systems of national security. The U.S. uses a steep gradient when it comes to judging the abilities of other countries, and that kind of attitude is what contributed to much of this mess in the first place. As any good children's story or fable will teach you, once you place yourself higher than all the rest, the only place left to go is down, and that is truly disheartening. The best way to stay ahead is through cooperation with those seeking similar goals, and compromising in vital areas that assist in a unified notion of peace and well being. Peace must be agreed upon and accepted, not enforced, or artificially manufactured.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Breaks in Record Breaking

Breaking Records. This country feeds on numbers, and it's slightly startling that a nation obsessed with numbers sees such low math scores in its national education estimates. But that's a story better "left behind" for another day. We are obsessed not with the way numbers work- but with what they symbolize, and how we can metamorphose them. And once we figure out how to play with numbers, they no longer fit into the perfect right angles of Pythagorean theorems.

A certain San Francisco Giants player knows all about the instability of numbers that have been fiddled with. After tying Hank Aaron's record 755 home runs the other day, the conversations have varied in air from respectful awe to downright accusations of malfeasance. The question of steroid use is at the engorged, pumping heart of the issue. Whether or not Bonds took steroids earlier in his career, (and most have a pretty shrewd notion that he did) most also believe that steroids or no, Bonds is a powerful hitter and would have high home run digits regardless.But numbers are important, and they make people face, in concrete ways, evanescent issues.

Politics are obsessed with numbers in similar ways to baseball (and many other sports for that matter). And the numbers are as controversial and contested as in the great American pastime. Many subscribe to the idea that numbers "never lie." And that's a heartening notion in a world where politicans, and increasingly, sports stars often do. But unfortunately that saying is losing validity as the seconds tick by.Sportscasters the world over have always noted, when looking at the "hard" numbers, that in every era, the numbers are skewed in comparison to another era, because no player competes in a vaccuum. It's impossible to aptly compare one generation's greatest player to an other's. How do you compare the Babe with the Bonds? You can't, really. But numbers seem like the only logical way, because the players played in such different times. The rules have changed, the dynamics, the training, and especially the salaries. Numbers are all you have left. Candidates for president feel the same pinch - how do you compare campaigns? But numbers are a deception. They ignore the personal quirks, the social conditions, the national temperaments. Can you really compare an FDR to any of the candidates out there now? Only by the numbers. And the rules have changed here too - the dynamics, the training, and especially the salaries and campaign funding.People will argue, and they will continue to compare. And really all we can do is look to historical records, and compare them with the current national feeling. And both sides will have their say. Some will discount numbers on the basis of a "juiced" complication - both sporting events and political campaigns have been taking steroids - they're enhanced beyond recognition, with lobbyists, cork bats, hush money, and greased fingertips.

But it would be unfair to discount our own numbers completely, and turn to the past as a competitive utopia. Ever since the beginning of sports and politics - it has always been viewed as a game. And no matter what tint of rose colored glasses we wish to wear, there has always, and will always be someone who wants to fiddle with the statistics. We always have a Pete Rose or a Richard Nixon thrown in the mix, and perhaps that's a good thing. Because once we realize that numbers are by definition not the precise Aristotleian forms we wish them to be, then we can understand that every number, statistic, poll, or equation that deals with human records will be a bit distorted - across the (score) board.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Why are we still debating?

This past week a new study conducted at Oxford University in the UK came out, showing the link between abstinence only sex education and no positive prevention of HIV infection in first world countries. Surprise…surprise. (The British Medical Journal study is linked here:

As most people understand, abstinence is the best possible method to prevent HIV, STDs, teen pregnancy, and a slew of other problems that pop up when young, immature people decide to get down. But it stymies the senses why some in the wealthiest nations, which breed on options and the availability of multiple choices in every aspect of their lives, don’t understand the reasons why this form of Sex Ed is not effective. If everyone always made the most responsible, informed choices, then there would be no need for any other Sex Ed than abstinence only. And if the best possible choices were always made, there would also be no need for the army, Howard Stern on satellite radio, crispy crème donuts, or tattoo parlors. But alas, we all harbor our own little mischievous fetishes - and they're usually what make us unique and stunningly quirky, even if a bit risqué.

When health experts dole out advice to people about nutrition, they are usually realistic. Not everyone is going to abstain from junk food, and exercise for at least thirty minutes six times a week. So when faced with lazy people, the experts compromise, they don't throw up their hands and see it as a lost cause, usually. They give alternatives, options to make people focus on some healthy practices. At least that way, people will be better equipped to make smart decisions when it matters.

If adults can't always stick to regimens, how can we expect young, impressionable people to? So why not acknowledge that fact, and at least give them the respect of recognizing they deserve the knowledge and the tools that will set them on the right course, and not allow them to stray too far off it? If they're going to have the occasional slip in judgment, at least give them the option to walk away from it without lasting physical affects.

The study concludes the best option is abstinence "plus" programs, which tout abstinence as best, but also provides vital information on preventing sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy. We are a nation of option-seekers, and to deny these options would be chaos. If we deny options, teens will inevitably go out and find their own. And that kind of self-education is truly daunting.

Thursday, August 02, 2007


Many issues get this blogger riled, but there's one that constantly blips on the radar screen, perhaps a little too faintly for general liking.

Yesterday, there was a story reporting on an American Sociological Review study done by Ohio State University scientists regarding inmates on death row, and the race implications of actual executions ( I was fearfully reminded of something out of To Kill A Mockingbird, only this time the fictional account was less disturbing by comparison, as their was no Atticus Finch as a hard-nosed advocate of equal rights. It's hard to be a proponent of a death penalty system that is not colorblind, and like the skin tones of the inmates, our justice system seems to be coded in "shades" of guilt, as if the same exact crime is a hue more violent, directly proportional to the tincture of the victim - the lighter the skin, the deeper the crime. Justice wears a blindfold, and yet the scales are invariably tipped before she even dons the cloth. Also, another interesting, but not entirely surprising aspect of the study: Republican saturated areas tend to see many more executions and death sentences than others. But that's a hole this blogger would prefer not to dig into right now.

This morning, there was a story that is much more disturbing than the one above, by the mere fact that the people in this story are completely innocent, and yet the government powers that be refuse to acquit them. The story concenrs Hurricane Katrina, and the awarding of contracts/funding to large companies, and the disregard of small local business owners. Just another blow on the already piled-to-the-sky list of derisive government impediments to rebuilding the infrastructure and livelihoods of the people who most need help. Again, skin tone as well as financial status seems to be the measure of judicial review.
(Story here:

One story is about the guilty, one about the utterly innocent; both about race, money, and the general lack of concern, or even concentrated disregard or infliction of harm on people of different races or low financial status. It's easy to complicate studies with mitigating factors, but when you've seen and heard the kind of prejudicial treatment people receive, there is no way to let your mind retreat into solipsistic contemplations. We need to change our minds and hearts, and engender an environment where studies like the one above would be thought of as ridiculous pursuits that would yield absolutely no conclusive evidence of prejudicial treatment, or they would not even be thought of at all. We need to see everyone as Americans, free of hyphenation, hue, and stigma. We need blind sight- the suggestion of Lady Justice, but with scales in unyielding equilibrium.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

It's Not Just Happening "There."

The unbroken children splash and shout,
rough as the surf, gay as their nesting towels.
But she plays soberly with the sea's
small change and hums back to its slow vowels.
- Snyder

If you've never heard of the story pasted below, please take the time to look at it. Disturbing though it is, "female circumcision" is an absolute misnomer in the most frightening of manners. Using this rhetoric, and putting it on parallel footing with male circumcision suggests that the practice is somehow hygienic, or even good for the girls it is practiced on, because male circumcision, by and large, is accepted as a way to prevent STDs and other ailments. But this is a sinister and completely false notion- it is female genital Mutilation, and serves no hygenic or ethical purpose whatsoever.

Today, many things are explained with religious salvos, and no one would be too tightly pressed to give examples of some. But this is not a religious practice. Well, at least not in the normal, doctrinal way that many arcane practices are allowed to continue. Female mutilation (which is truly what it should be referred to, always) knows no sect; it is a sweeping practice that affects Christians and Muslims alike. Not only does it cross religious boundaries, but it crosses borders as well- and very unlikely ones. Even England has seen its fair share of this practice, and the numbers are fuzzy. In countries like Egypt, where the practice is widespread (performed on an estimated 97% of married women), it is easier to see the large numbers, whereas in England, it is a quiet affair that will not be discussed, skewing estimated numbers.

Why does this practice know no specific boundaries, or no religion? What does it say about general, non-specific attitudes? It says to some that a false, perceived notion of purity and cleanliness for women is worth an enormous, calculated risk.

When looking at differences between the "highest" and the "lowest" of civilized cultures, it is easy to feel morally superior, upstanding, and ethically triumphant when looking down from the "high" side. But the best way to improve has nothing to do with praising what we do differently and believe better - it is about what we have in common. The fact that women are having their clitoris' ripped out all over the world shows that the "us" and "them" dichotomy cannot hold. We may abhor the practice for obvious good reason, but how can we not see the danger in embedding the same attitudes that lead to this extreme of practice in the first place? Shouldn't we have a second thought every time we tell our daughters to be perceived as virginal goddesses, and condemn those women who use birth control or do not "wait until marriage?" When we make women wear promise rings, and must maintain a perception of "cleanliness," aren't we ripping out their sexual natures in a pernicious, emotional operation?

Things are often taken to the extremes, as with this practice. It must be stopped. And like any evil in the world, it does not help to stare at it condemningly. It must be evaluated, and understood, and then combated. And no true hero counts themselves blameless; they must take responsibility for the ideas or beliefs that contribute to the indoctrination of a practice. Because no method of violence like this one, can occur without misguided and mismanged forethought.

Read the story here: