Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Color Blind To Nudity

Recently, PZ Meyers did what I recently did regarding the movie, Avatar, and posted a movie review on his blog, Pharyngula, about it. I guess great minds think alike -- except I did it first. (Nyah-nyah!)

But he mentioned something interesting about the main characters being big, blue, and naked. Somehow, seems like we, as a society, don't seem to mind nudity all that much, provided that it's placed in some other hue besides fleshtone. Whether it's the big blue and virtually topless Na'vi aliens of Pandora, or the big blue and strangely half-circumcised penis of Dr. Manhattan, we seem to regard colorized nudity to be something which doesn't count -- almost as if paint acts as a kind of clothing.

This is nothing new. Back in the 1960's the Star Trek pilot episode, "The Cage" featured the green-skinned Orion women, who were said to be sexually irresistable. Susan oliver danced about in her barely clad costume and shook her generous hips (Oh, how I wish Hollywood would bring back real women who are shaped like that!) and made for a watershed event in terms of how much sexuality sci-fi could get away with on television and the silver screen. All hail the Starfleet Uniform miniskirt!

But there's more to it than that. We seem to regard CGI nudity in that same category. It's as if the fact that the nudity is generated by a computer somehow masks actual nudity even more effectively than paint. We again can point to Dr. Manhattan, or the deliberate nudity of the CGI film, Beowulf, which had plenty of computer-nudity and even dared to show Sir Anthony Hopkins nearly naked. But this really is a phenomenon that goes all the way back to the film Boogie Nights, which culminated with an obvious piece of special effects which added at least five inches to Marky-Mark Walhlberg's dick. No, you're not a star.

But if they can do that with computers, what's not possible? Hmmm, maybe they should re-do the Laura Croft Tomb Raider movies! Or maybe, by contrast, Playboy magazine should finally stop air-brushing? With such realism made possible with such technology, it's really only a matter of time before the best X-rated movies won't even need victimized women on cocaine doing it with old male thugs on Viagra anymore. (Good riddance!) Supersized boobs will merely be a mouse-click away. And we really won't be able to tell the difference between real boobs on a fat woman and fake boobs on a skinny one, because a computer can simply take one and superimpose it on the other. There may even be computer programmable porno movies where you can type in your preferences to make hours and hours of fun-filled screwing scenes with women who have exactly the proportions you prefer.

Oh, it's a great time to be male!

My point in talking about all that is simply this: How is it that in the midst of all this, we somehow developed enough anal-retentiveness as a society to go all ape-shit when Janet Jackson showed her non-painted, non-CGI generated, and merely B-cup sized boob for half a damned second on the halftime show of the 2004 Superbowl? And why, in the midst of all the scantily-clad female back-up dancers and shirtless male dancers in spandex, did this at all matter?

It's the 21st century going on one decade as of midnight tonight, and we'll have to all recognize that if we can't come to grips with our own skin, we'll never get by. This matters, not because we're a society of prudes who need to get over it -- although that's a compelling enough reason by itself. No, it matters because the advertizers who want to take advantage of us do so by titilating us sexually, and the prudes who fight agaisnt open sexuality unwittingly give them cover -- allowing them to snipe at us with sneak peeks at the forbidden. To free ourselves from this situation, we need to open our minds, and sometimes our buttons, to the reality that nudity isn't such a big deal. With that mindset, society forces advertizers to sell their products based on their merit - and that scares them!

But it matters also to achieving a more peaceful world. There are two simple ways entertainment can be spiced up: One is with more sex. The other is with more violence. And with one avenue closed, the other avenue becomes more attractive to producers. We've seen this with soap operas -- where the endless audience of As the World Turns has gotten bored with all the sex, and so episodes now frequently feature murder. But outside the world of soaps, the avenue of sex has only barely been used, and so we find that our children frequently see people being killed with guns, and seldom seeing the tenderness of human love and affection.

Pardon the double entendre, but fuck that!

Well, I say, more sex, less violence! 'Make love not war' is a mantra that is equally suitable for the silver screen as it once was for the war in Vietnam. And women can easily use their sexuality to persuade more men to be non-violent. O, Woman, thou has more power than thou knowest! Fucking USE it! You'll find that witholding sex from the violent shitheads of this world quickly eliminates their presence. And we NEED that!

And the first step towards that situation, is getting over the nudity. We shouldn't have to resort to CGI or pretty blue or green colors in order to allow us to see skin. Let's be adults about our bodies, for once!


Sunday, December 27, 2009

A Nice Christmas Poem...

Disclaimer: Every year at Christmas time, I make the case that parents should not lie to their children about anything--even Santa Claus. I feel strongly that telling kids Santa is real is teaching children that lying to those you love is okay. This year, as in many years past, many little hearts will be broken as they learn Santa isn't real. Yet every year, I'm never taken seriously by any parents I mention this to. True, not lying about Santa robs children of the magical element to the holidays, and it's a very important lesson for children to eventually learn that parents aren't infallable, but I still think that the Santa Claus ritual trains children from a very early age to be credulous, and we've got enough of that going around as it is. The following poem is designed to bring home this point. Enjoy!

An Account of No Visit by St. Nicholas
A poem by Eric Hildeman
(Borrowed from the work of Clement Clark Moore)

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house,
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
But that was to change before the night ended,
For none was asleep, every eyelid distended;
Our stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas might just soon be there;
But we three kids weren't quite so nestled in our beds,
For visions of espionage danced in our heads;
Tonight we would learn, for once and for all,
Whether Santa was real, or if there was none at all;
And see for ourselves if reindeer could fly,
In defiance of gravity across the night sky.
Brother and sister in their sleepers, and I in my cap,
Had convinced mom and pop we were taking our nap;
When out in the den there arose such a clatter,
We sprang up from our beds to see what was the matter.
Away to the stairwell we flew in a flash,
Sliding down the floorboards, and avoiding a crash.
Peering over the railing at the lit tree aglow,
Gave the lustre of mid-day to the objects below;
And what to our wondering sight should appear,
But a very distinct absence of eight tiny reindeer.
Our parents were wrapping presents so lively and quick,
That we knew in a moment there was no St. Nick.
More rapid than bullets the revelations they came:
All costumes and lies, and a legendary name.
And if all these lessons had come now to naught,
What other things were false that we'd been taught?
Those things which we'd thought so sure and so brazen,
Could they be lies too? Could God? Could Satan?
We spoke not a word, but stared straight at this work,
When mom and pop suddenly turned ‘round with a jerk;
My baby little sister, that jolly little elf,
Had laughed when she saw this, in spite of herself.
The glint in pop’s eye and the tilt of his head,
Soon let us kids know we had plenty to dread!
Pop clenched up his fist out in front of his nose,
And giving a nod, to the stairwell he rose.
He sprang up the stairs, to my team I gave a whistle,
And away we all flew like the down of a thistle.
Back down the hallway the courses we flew,
At our heels, the bogus St. Nicholas, too.
More rapid than eagles his courses they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called us by name;
"You doggone kids! You'd just better run!
You've spoiled our secret! You've ruined our fun!”
And hearing these words while running down the hall,
We dashed away, dashed away, dashed away all!
When back in the bedroom I spun back around,
Bro' and Sis' landed back into bed with a bound.
Our pursuer had stopped, leaving us dumbfounded,
’Till we all slowly realized we were certainly grounded.
Though no permanent scars did we receive that Christmas night,
We emerged more confused about what was wrong and what was right.
In the years that followed, in teenage vice,
We listened more to peers than to parents' advice.
And one more lesson that night we were taught:
It’s all right to lie, if you just don't get caught;
Or if certain situations will justify,
The certain variety or use of the lie.
'Tis a difficult problem, and a peculiar plight,

But still....

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Canadian Health Care - Five "Terrifying" Testimonials

Two blogs in one day? Well, the earlier one was a movie review. This one is a repeat from a woman named Valerie Tarico, who lives in Seattle. Her perspective on Canada's health care system is relevant to my recent posts.

One thing I've noticed: Conservatives say that Canada's system stinks, and liberals say it's reasonably good, but only liberals go up north of the border and actually interview people there. Michael Moore went up there, Air America regularly has canadian guests on, but the conservatives have no counterpoint to this. They don't seem to interview Canadians!

I wonder why?

I dare any conservative readers out there to cite something where a neocon news outlet has interviewed a Canadian. Come on, prove me wrong!

Meanwhile, here's Valerie's post. Enjoy!



I married a Canadian, which got me, among other things, some pretty awesome Canadian in-laws, a bunch of friends who think hockey is actually worth watching (not for the same reason I do, which is to nerd out on the fascinating phenomenon of mob psychosis), and two kids who are fiercely proud of their dual citizenship. It also got me a window into the Canadian health system, that bloated bureaucracy of ill-repute which for some bizarre reason provided my father-in-law with an implanted defibrillator and solid, timely medical care during his final years.

Canadians, in my experience, follow American politics more closely than Americans do, and some of them even sign themselves up for my mailing list. So when I sent out my latest lament, "Ode to Health Care Reform: An Absurd Poem about Absurdities," one of the things I got back was a testimonial from the Middle America of the Great White North:

"As a Canadian, I have comfort in the system being provided even with its imperfections. I lost a wife to breast cancer. All the treatments (diagnosis, surgery, chemotherapy and radiation) cost me NOTHING. I am willing to pay an extra tax so I and others can benefit from health care. May I sadly add that what the US has spent on recent wars (Iraq and Afghanistan) can build a nation? It is obvious that those who have less or no voice to voice are not on the 'to do list' of political leaders." – Ibrahim Sumrain (Edmonton, Alberta)

Reading Ibrahim’s note, it occurred to me that maybe we should expose our own Middle America more to the horrors of the socialized medical system under which our northern neighbors suffer out their shabby lives of quiet desperation. So, I solicited a few more comments from acquaintances and friends. They should terrify every blood sucking insurance lobbyist in D.C.

Dorthea Hangaard (Sointula, British Columbia)
"Ten years ago I required surgery to have fibroid tumours removed. Because I live in a remote community, I was concerned I would end up in a rural hospital under the care of a second-rate surgeon. The Canadian health care system allowed me to choose my surgeon (I found a top-rated surgeon), and the hospital (I chose a teaching hospital in Vancouver that I knew would be well-resourced). Not only that, but my compassionate surgeon allowed me to extend my stay in the hospital because I had to travel such a great distance to get home again. While in the hospital, I received the best care available, including radical new procedures not readily available elsewhere.
"All of this cost me nothing more than the small monthly premiums I have been paying in to the medical system since I began a career (those on a low income are exempt from paying premiums). To this day I feel overwhelmed with gratitude whenever I think of the experience. Canadians can't even grasp that people are refused medical treatment in the U.S. because they cannot afford it."

Bill Jamieson (Mayne Island, B.C.)
"At age 76, my dad had an abdominal aneurism, and, down the road, complications related to that aneurism ultimately killed him. If we were in the US and didn’t have health insurance the amount of care that my father received probably would have cost a million dollars. He had the provincial specialists working on him. It didn’t cost us anything. He was being fed through a TPN line through his neck, a liquid diet. It costs a thousand dollars/day, and he was on that for at least a month.
"Most of the interventions that were done on Dad were like rocket science. They were the same techniques that would be done in a top hospital anywhere in the world.
"He got timely care. His surgery was scheduled based on his ability to respond to the surgery and his strength at the time. We felt that his original surgical date, last spring,—if it was in the States it would have been done sooner, but it didn’t need to be done sooner. That is one of the differences between the US and Canada in my mind. You can get surgeries done faster in the States. But if you have a crisis there is no delay.
"This fall, on a hunting trip with my brother, it became apparent that Dad was very sick. In the last surgery my dad had, he had three vascular surgeons, two anesthesiologists, a bowel surgeon and a kidney surgeon working on him over a period of thirteen hours. They were incredible. The ICU team was incredible. I would like to stress how compassionate the care was all the way through. There was real caring that was part of the reason he survived as long as he did."

Gloria Lee Clark (Vancouver, B.C.)
Anna’s experience:
"My sister Anna was at a climbing gym and fell over 25 feet. She managed to break her left femur and hip, smash her left heel, ankle and wrist, and break her right ankle in 2 places. She was taken to the local hospital where she was promptly x-rayed and diagnosed. She was in the hospital for 4 weeks and had a total of 4 surgeries to repair all that was broken. After she was released from the hospital, there were nurses, physiotherapists, and doctors who made house-calls to care for her. When she was able to leave the house she went to the hospital’s out-patient physiotherapist twice a week for many months. A year later she had to have a 5th surgery to remove some pins that were bothering her. Except for the rental of some of the equipment she needed; hospital beds, wheelchairs, etc. her entire care was covered by our Canadian medical system. As horrible as the accident was, and no she will not fully regain all her strength and flexibility, she had the best care possible at the cost of her regular monthly MSP (Medical Services Plan)."

My experience:
"Nine years ago I was pregnant with twins. I was under the care of an Obstetrician and had monthly ultrasounds. At 30 weeks the ultrasound revealed that I was 1 cm dilated and was promptly hospitalized and placed on bed rest, apparently the best prescription for avoiding pre-mature birth. I spent 5 weeks in the hospital under the care of a team of nurses and doctors. At 35 weeks the doctor determined that the babies needed to come out as they were not growing at the expected rate. After their birth I spent 1 more week with them in the hospital, and they stayed for another week. Between me and the babies there was a total of 7 weeks of hospitalization. The total cost for me was zero. Was it absolutely necessary for me to have stayed in the hospital for 6 weeks I will never know. What I do know is that I have 2 beautiful healthy children and I would never have been able to afford the cost of the hospital care had I not had the Canadian medical system supporting me."

Kent James (Toronto, Ontario)
"My dad waited exactly 9 weeks after deciding that he wanted a knee replacement. My son has been treated for asthma since he was 18 months old. My mom is type 2 diabetic. None of them has ever had to wait for anything. None of them has ever had to worry about who would pay for anything. And none of them wants to pay a few less dollars in tax for the privilege of taking on those risks and responsibilities."

The Canadian system isn’t perfect. Do people die there from oversights or botched care? Of course!-- just like they do—to borrow Bill’s words—in top hospitals anywhere in the world. But what is more terrifying, apparently, to half of our senators, is that our northern neighbors’ government-managed semi-socialized system works. In fact, for most people most of the time, it works great. Oh, and did I mention the premiums? Dorthea’s costs her $54/month. ("[It] gets me EVERYTHING I need. The best care I can arrange for myself. I choose the doctor, the hospital, my treatment.") Anna’s is $114, for a family of four. That’s Canadian.

Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington. She is theauthor of TheDark Side: How Evangelical Teachings Corrupt Love and Truth, and thefounder of


I don't normally do movie reviews. But hell, it's my blog, and I'll write what I want.

I just saw the movie, Avatar. It was my gift to myself for finishing my last final exam. And yes, the movie is everything you've heard, and more. A film actually lived up to the hype. For once.

The one thing I'd heard about it was that it was similar to Dances With Wolves. And there are certainly obvious parallels with that story, as well as with the story of the holocaust of the American Indians. But what really struck me was how similar it was to lots of other movies we've seen before. Signourney Weaver plays a key role, except this time she's the alien who's invading a host body. Certainly her character is the same sort of hardass eco-friendly role she had when she starred in Gorillas in the Mist. And the mechanized robot machines which every Japanese Anime has used to make mere humans into supermen are eerily similar to the forklift robot that Ripley piloted in Alien 2, as well as those featured in The Matrix: Revolutions. The helicopter gunships are the twin-hooped, double-bladed VTOL variety that was seen in the movie The Incredibles on Syndrome's island, and the colorful jungle creatures that double as beasts to be ridden upon for recreation and war are a step up from the ones we saw in Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. But really this is the same sort of tree-hugging love-thy-nature sort of plot that pits the machines of industry versus the serenity of nature. We've seen this before in movies like The Emerald Forest, Medicine Man, or Ferngully, The Last Rainforest. (Rubbish, all that. The "noble savage" is as much a myth as the superiority of civilization.) Plus, the plot centers upon the mining of a precious mineral (which the natives naturally happen to live right on top of) which is unforgivably called unobtanium -- a name which has always been a joke, even before it was used as the incredibly heat-resistant metal necessary to the plot of The Core, one of the worst sci-fi films of all time. (Come on! If you're gonna literally steal a plot element, at least have it be something respectable, like dilithium!)

Oh yes, and the alien planet this takes place on is called Pandora. Guess which box gets opened?

That being the case, this movie also goes places no other movie has gone before. First, it's amazing eye-candy! Not since TRON has there been this much neon light-show during a film. The flowers and mosses glow in the dark, and even the mushrooms light up if you touch them. The natives are ten-foot-tall, blue-skinned, elf-like lupine creatures who have powers of agility, vision, hearing and smelling which make the human world pale by comparison. They are humanoid, and so are simultaneously sexy yet eerie. Their hair is not just hair, but fibrous neural tissue that works almost like a USB port, allowing them to "plug in" to things like plants and animals. And here lies the crux of the plot, and the source of the film's name. Humans have figured out a way to interface an alien host body with a human mind. A human can, if genetically compatible, essentially interface into the alien host body's mind through something almost akin to a WiFi/DSL link, like something combining The Matrix with Invasion of the Body Snatchers. In fact, if you unplug the human (as happens several times during the film), the alien body simply goes limp. These alien bodies with human minds are called Avatars, and the general idea is for humans to use these alien shapes to establish friendly relations with the natives, study their culture, bring them civilization, and teach them English. Add to this a paraplegic soldier who's scientist of a twin brother got killed before he could use his Avatar. As such, the soldier gets a second chance to have his legs again by using the Avatar which was once assigned to his brother, despite his lack of academic training.

Well, by now, you can see the plot coming a mile away, so there's no harm in my spoiling anything -- it's completely telescoped. The crippled soldier gets lost in the woods, encounters the natives, lucks out in winning their favor, and is taken in to learn their ways and their culture. His teacher is the tribal princess, so you just know she ends up falling for him in a classic Romeo and Juliet rip off, and that sets the stage for the hurt and betrayal of it being discovered that his mission was to be on the inside and help plan for a military op all along. Naturally, he has a change of heart and a pang of conscience, and ends up fighting for the natives.

But perhaps the oddest thing is that there is a spiritual aspect to the story. The roots of all the plants and trees are networked through the roots, and since animals can interface with them, the planet is essentially one gigantic world-wide-web. It's hub is a grove where a willow-like tree dangles its glowing branches down, allowing people to interface with it, hear their ancestors through it, or even talk to it. The name for this dendritic deity is Eywa, a short-name which immediately calls Gaia to mind. And at one point, the soldier-turned-hero even prays to Her for a miracle in the forthcoming battle, saying, "The Sky People [humans] have no green on their world. They killed their mother." (Preachy! Can anyone say Pocahontas?) Whether this counts as an actual deity or some sort of Theodessic, Terrestrial Pantheism, I'll leave to the interpretation of the viewer.

One thing that isn't subject to interpretation: It's a damn good movie! Go see it!


Thursday, December 17, 2009

What's with the Republicans?

I was listening to the talking heads on the news last night, sniping at each other over the proposed health care bill which is currently trying to overcome its last hurdle in the Senate. Gone is the public option, as good as gone is the Medicare buy-in for people who are old enough to worry that their retirement portfolio might not be big enough yet. In place is the government forcing us to buy into insurance that may or may not be more affordable. So while I was listening to this bit of news being debated, and mulling it over, a question cropped up in my mind, and kept nagging and nagging at me -- because the question makes so much sense, and I don't hear anybody else asking it. Could it be that, as usual, I'm the only one to have thought the whole damned thing through? Well, maybe not, but I'm starting to think I've thought it over far better than the folks in the Senate have.

Here's the question that's been bugging me, and you tell me if it makes sense: With this new version of the bill, why are Republicans not overwhelmingly in favor of it?

Seriously! Imagine, just for a moment, the Republicans were in charge, and drafted a health care reform bill. What would it look like? I think the answer you'd come up with is -- EXACTLY LIKE THE HEALTH CARE BILL WE HAVE NOW!!!

I mean, no public option, no expansion of any role for government, government mandated customers for insurance companies... Is this not exactly the way Rush Limbaugh would have drafted a bill? So why on earth are Republicans not for this? Why are they still universally opposed to what the Democrats are doing? What's gotten into this topsy-turvey, bass-ackward world we're living in?

The best answer I can come up with is that Republicans are doing this for the humor value. It must be all they can do to sit on the Senate floor and not bust out laughing their asses off at how they've got the Dems doing their dirty work for them like a bunch of goddamned marionettes! And, I've gotta admit, it's pretty funny. I'd laugh, except the whole thing makes me feel sick.

(Crap, I hope I don't need a doctor, or I'm fucked.)

It could also be that they realize that if they do a 180 degree turn-around, that Democrats would snap out of their zombie-like trance and realize that they've been following the pied piper right out of town like a pack of rats. Besides, as long as they stay firmly opposed to whatever Democrats do, the perception will always be that Democrats are socializing healthcare (because that's what Democrats DO, isn't it?). So tea-parties continue to protest the handing over of healthcare to a communist agenda, oblivious to the fact that it's being clearly sacrificed to Almighty Indemnity.

L'avante garde!

Or maybe they're opposed to it because they're afraid that any bill that gets past the Senate, even something that merely guarantees bananas for monkeys, is likely to get a public option re-introduced to it when it's reconciled with the House bill.

Do we dare hope for that kind of a last-second touchdown? Given how this has gone so far, I'm not counting on it.


Monday, December 14, 2009

Fuck the Filibuster!

The Filibuster used to be done as a last resort for stopping legislation. It used to be that a Senator who resorted to it did so because he really, passionately felt that there was no other choice.

Those days are long gone.

Today, a filibuster is used to block anything and everything that the opposing party does if it happens to be in the majority. And that is done, not out of any principle based on sensible disagreements of opinion, but merely to prevent the other party from doing anything. Then, inevitably, it gets claimed in the next election that the party in power really hasn't done much of anything, and that you, the taxpayer, would be better off with the other party.

So what's highlighted this lately more than the healthcare debate? We started out with a full-fledged public option. That missed because it only had a 58% majority. It got paired back, still having public option, but less of it. That only had a 59% majority. Then it got paired back again, and again, we fell short with a 59% majority. Then it got paired back to the point where there was no public option at all, and not even an expension of Medicare unless you were 5 years older than it takes to join AARP! And now?

We're short by a mere 59% fucking majority!

Is anybody else sick of this goddamned game, yet? Is anybody else frustrated that 1% of the vote, named Joe Lieberman, gets to fuck up everything?

Okay, I know. The filibuster is a necessary tool to keep legislation from being made too easily. It's easy to imagine all kinds of scenarios where we would very much like to have a filibuster to keep disastrous legislation from going through, not the least of which was during the previous administration, when Bush would have literally thrown away all our civil rights to catch terrorists. But damn, isn't a 59% majority enough to pass anything anymore?

Part of the problem is the evaporation of the sensible middle. It used to be that there was a whole army of moderate Democrats and moderate Republicans who would get together in a dimly lit alcove room somewhere and say to each other, "Okay, guys, let's come up with a reasonable compromise, here." But those days are gone. It seems like the Democrats have only a few moderates, and the Republicans have told moderation to go fuck itself. As such, Democratic majorities have a hard time getting anything done, while Republican majorities tend to move slightly more quickly, but also tend to get nothing done. But without any moderates, its pretty much guaranteed that a few fuckheads are going to be able to jam up the entire process. We are currently witnessing that travesty.

This is why I'm writing this. The time has come to revisit the filibuster idea. 60% is too high. If the Senate needs 60% to get anything done, then nothing ever gets done. And in this day and age, that's unacceptable. Things are moving faster and faster. Faster transportation, faster technology, faster pace of world and current events. Gridlock is therefore death. A filibuster must therefore be able to be broken, and broken quickly.

So here's my battle cry: Fuck the Filibuster! I think it should be a MAJOR issue in the midterm elections to lower the filibuster break-vote from 60% down to 55%. I think every Senatorial candidate should be questioned about that issue, and nobody should be elected who answers, "No, I think 60% is fine." Fuck the Filibuster! The american people have spoken quite loudly about wanting a public option. DNA technology makes public option inevitable (as I've repeatedly pointed out), and if we put it off, then medical calamity will crush our economy as a result. FUCK THE FILIBUSTER! Fuck it now! If a 55% majority isn't reasonable, I don't know what is. FUCK THE FILIBUSTER!!!

Although I'd temporarily settle for legislation impeaching Joe Lieberman.


P.S. I'm DEAD serious! FUCK the Filibuster! I'd BETTER hear this on the campaign circuit in 2010!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Tiger Woods: My Hero!

I never much liked golf. So I never really became much of a Tiger Woods fan.

Until now.

Seems like the entire media circus is drumming on about Tiger's marital infidelities, how big a scandal this is, and how this will cause his sponsors to drop him. Over and over it's played how big a negative impact this is upon his image, and his career.

Fucking why?!

Okay, so we all used to think he was a pretty clean-cut golfer, who was tops at his game (which he still is) and was ground-breaking as one of the only minorities to make it in a predominantly white sport. Turns out, with his father out of the way, he's become something of a playboy, flirting around and sometimes even sleeping around with supermodels.

I hate to always be the one to point out the obvious, but, GOOD! He's banging cover girls on the side! Bully for him! So would I if I had his money and his fame. (Notice I didn't say his good looks, since I think I have the edge there, especially for women who go for bald guys.)

And so what if he is, anyway? Do we naively think that Jack Nicklaus never had an affair? Do we really imagine that pro golfers don't screw around just as much as any other celebrity? I should hope that we're not that myopic, especially in this day and age. Arguably, since golfers hobknob around the country club circuit as professionals in a field where doctors and lawyers play the game for recreation, you would think that they would make it a regular habit of sleeping with the ugly rich men's trophy wives. Why the hell not?

This isn't the end of his career. Tiger's just a golfer, people. He's not a Republican politician.

Frankly, instead of hiding from it, or making statements to the press about how embarrassed and ashamed he is, and calling for privacy, I think Tiger should do exactly the opposite. He should set up an interview for Playboy magazine, and confess all. "Hell yeah, I slept with several supermodels!" he should tell them. "Aren't you jealous?" He should tell the magazine, how many, how often, and brag about it. His wife's as good as gone anyway, what's he got to lose? After that, he should be given the key to the Playboy Mansion, and told to have himself a good time. And in embracing his new playboy image, he'll find his career is as solid as ever, and his sponsors will want even more of him. Those sponsors that don't want him, well, they'll be replaced with other sponsors, won't they? Tiger's just too good a commodity to lose, unless some CEO is a damned fool.

So why is everyone so convinced this is a negative, especially Tiger? Well, it probably has something to do with the fact that he's seen by most people to be a ground-breaking figure for civil rights. He does for golf what Jackie Robinson did for baseball and Barack Obama did for politics. Right?

Well, almost. It's never been forgotten how Tiger appeared on the Oprah Winfrey show and openly stated that he didn't really think of himself as black. (Gasps from the crowd.) He explained that his father was black, and that he was one quarter white and one quarter Phillippino. As such, the African-American community has never really seen him as an ideal hero. But he had such a clean-cut image that they put up with this blatant declaration of common sense to see him as one of their own anyway. Now that he's no longer clean-cut, it seems that the perception is that the African-American market might just turn its back on him.

You know what? If they do, fuck them! That's right, you heard me. How many complete shitheads and scumbags have African-Americans stood by over the years? From O.J. Simpson, to Kobe Bryant, to Barry Bonds, to Michael Vick, to Darrell Strawberry... the list goes on and on. Cheats, thugs, hoodlums, criminals, in some cases outright murderers... each one given a pass just because they could play a sport. How hypocritical to turn their back on Tiger Woods for the relatively mild quirk of merely boinking beltway broads? Remember Magic Johnson, and how he contracted AIDS because he was screwing fifteen cheap hookers a night? Magic wasn't abandoned. Tiger shouldn't be, either.

So he doesn't see himself as black. And, Oprah, neither should you! Michael Vick, you're not black either! Neither are you, Ray Lewis! The whole black/white thing was a LIE, cooked up by evil bastards who wanted an excuse to exploit their fellow human beings for slave labor. How DARE you fuckheads keep that ridiculous falsehood alive! That goes for you clowns in the media, too! The scientific fact is that we are all ONE HUMAN RACE! Period! We aren't different colors. We're different shades of the SAME color! It's high time our use of language stopped pretending that we're separate. It's high time that we recognized ourselves as the like-kindred we are.

If we look up to Thomas Jefferson as a hero, even though he fucked black slaves, then we should also look to Tiger Woods as a hero, even though he fucked white women who are not only not slaves, but could have any man they want. They wanted Tiger. Get over it.

So yeah, he's my new hero. I think he is to a lot of other people, too. The question now is, will he ever come to realize it?


Saturday, December 12, 2009

Obama's Nobel Peace Prize

So our beloved trophy-president has been awarded, and now accepted, the Nobel Peace Prize. His speech, which as usual was enlightening and insightful, was oddly themed with numerous references to war, and the necessity of war to maintain the peace. This has been lampooned by those on the left, as well as hailed by those on the right, and left a whole shitload of people in the middle wondering just what sort of president we've gotten, here. But mostly, it's been flatly commented that Obama has done very little to deserve his Nobel Prize, and as such, doesn't really deserve it.

Now, I'll admit, it does seem like our President hasn't done much yet. In fact, at first glance, it doesn't seem like he's done anything, yet. He's named Sotomayor as a Supreme Court Justice, passed another economic stimulus bill, and is about to sign into law an absolute joke of a health care bill, but other than that, what is there? And to add to the irony, he's just recently added 30K worth of troops to Afghanistan. (See my previous blog post on that one.) Obama himself called his accomplishments "slight," and pointed out that he is "at the beginning of [his] presence on the world stage, rather than at the end."

However, I take issue with those who say that this is something akin to giving a new model of car an award for durability after its first year on the road. It's not like we're giving Sarah Palin a Pulitzer Prize for Literature, here! I would argue that he's accomplished quite a lot in his short time. Let me list what he's done so far:

Let's not forget what he did as an Illinois State Senator. All during Obama's presidential campaign, the so-called liberal media kept quiet about this, making it seem as though he were an empty suit. But during that early time, he brokered a bipartisan deal to prevent racial profiling by the police, rallied funding to keep daycare centers open for working mothers, and garnered support from Chicago police districts in winning reforms of death penalty regulations. Bear in mind, rallying police behind a black politician is difficult even on the Republican ticket. (It's a shame Barack didn't live in L.A.!) He was a pretty good candidate for president right there, if only the media would have bothered to mention it once in a while. (I had to learn it on fucking Wikipedia, for shit's sake!) It was almost as if it were mutually agreed among all national news sources that State legislation was something akin to minor-league ball, and didn't count. Bullshit to that, I say.

Let's also not forget his real estate deal with Tony Rezko. "What?" you say. "You count the land deal with Rezko among his accomplishments?!" You bet your ass I do! Here's why:

Yes, the Obamas wanted to buy a house, but it was beyond their price range. Rezko offered to buy some of the adjoining land, which lowered the overall price on the remaining real estate. Rezko probably wanted some later political kickback in return for doing this. But what this this dirty crook get? Nothing! That's right, absolutely nothing! Zip! Zilch! Nada! In short, people, our current president did a deal with a crook all right, and swindled him! Bully for Obama! Haven't we always wanted a president who could cheat the devil?

After that, he singlehandedly gave the DNC a much-needed kick in the ass (pardon the pun) with a rousing speech that nearly won John Kerry the election by itself. The whole nation watched that and said, "Damn! Now there's a presidential candidate!" They were already talking about him running in 2008.

Finally, he succeeded in winning the 2008 presidential election. By becoming the first black president, he's done more for African-descended Americans than anyone before or since -- including the oft-worshipped Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.! It shook the inner cities of the U.S. to their very core. No longer can black youth claim that they have no hope. No longer can they presume that there are only two ways out of the slums -- drugs or basketball. Now, with a black president, they can know that it is possible to live their dream. And on top of all this, Obama becomes the very symbol of what black youth need the most to be: educated! No more can they say that education is a "white thing." No longer can speaking proper english be seen by blacks as a betrayal of their heritage. No longer can hoodlums tell smart black kids who study hard that they're being an "oreo!" Because now we can look to a black president with a Juris-Doctorate and say, "That's a small taste of what you can be!"

If anybody can show how such an accomplishment ISN'T worth a Nobel Peace Prize, and THEN some, I'll buy him or her a new car!

And in ten years' time, when Barack has retired, and goes on to doing secular humanitarian work the way all former presidents do, some of the best home-grown American scientists, engineers, and medical doctors will be black, and will to point back to Barack's years of presidency and say, "He inspired me! He made me realize I could be more, do more, achieve more!"

Want more reasons? How about foreign relations. Overnight, Obama has taken America from being a despized evil empire, to something more like, "Well, I still hate America, but maybe it's not so bad after all." Now THAT'S quite an accomplishment!

So enjoy your award, Mr. President. I disagree strongly with your humble assertion that your accomplishments are "slight." No, they're great! Maybe you haven't saved the economy yet, and maybe you haven't cleaned up all Bush's international messes yet, but you are off to a fairly good start, all things considered. And you'll always be the symbol of what America can be, no matter how your four-to-eight years turns out. That's why you deserve the symbol of the Nobel Peace Prize.


Thursday, December 10, 2009

You call THIS healthcare reform?

As Jeff Goldblum said as Ian Malcolm in the movie Jurassic Park, "Boy, do I hate being right all the time."

I said it in my earlier posts & blogs: This is only going to end up being the first of many reforms for medical care, because somehow, someway, Congress will find a way to get a little bit done right, while getting most of it wrong. Sure enough, that's exactly what we're getting. I called it.

I also said that this basically was a choice between government and the insurance companies. The choice our buh-RILLIANT legislators have come up with, favors the insurance companies.

As Ian Malculm also said, "Now, that is one big pile of shit!"

That's two for two. But I also said that DNA technology would guarantee that the insurance companies would someday, very soon, have genetic profiles on all of us, and thus be able to deny us the very coverage we need, when we need it the most.

I'm about to go three for three, unfortunately.

We've taken one small step in the right direction, in that those who are 55 or older will be able to buy their way into Medicare. But we've stepped beneath the sword of Damocles in order to do it. The buy in option is good only if those over 55 are of a certain income level, and even then, it will cost them. The rest of us are saddled with being forced to buy from private insurers, and so the chances of our actually surviving to the age of 55 goes down considerably! Presumably, at least a couple of these private insurers will be not-for-profit, but I'll believe that when I see it. So we're giving insurance companies, who are guaranteed to screw us, even more control over healthcare?

Yeah. You can just see the tremors rippling in your coffee cup, announcing the arrival of something very old, and very monstrous.

Remember, the DNA technology obeys Moore's law. It gets half as expensive and twice as powerful every two years. That means that public option is not dead. It will be back again someday, and when it returns, we'll simply have no choice but to embrace it fully, because the private insurers will be unable to take on any genetically guaranteed losses.

Oh yes, I know what some neocons might say: We should try to pass laws preventing the insurance companies from using DNA profiling.

Quoth Ian Malcolm again, "The type of control you're attempting is.... not possible."

We can't even keep illegal drugs out of the hands of the poorest Americans. We certainly cannot keep illegal information out of the hands of the wealthiest! Make no mistake, public option is inevitable. It's a black hole, and we've passed the event horizon. There's death, taxes, and the public option. Get used to it now, people, and fuck off with your "tea-parties" already!

So, basically, this latest incarnation of healthcare is a mistake. A BIG mistake. The senate kept falling back, and compromising, and falling back, and compromising some more. Now, one last big compromise has been reached, and there's so little to fight over that it's barely even worth it. We've essentially given a starving multitude one, solitary grape, and said, "bon apetit!" But we'll end up passing it, and we'll end up calling it a victory in the media, mostly because at this point, even a Pyrrhic victory is still a victory of some sort. But then we'll have to wait two to three years before the issue can be revisited, and by then, it will be too late to avoid the medical mayhem.

I'll go four for four when DNA technology causes private insurance healthcare to finally all but destroy the medical industry. But that's going to cost our economy dearly. To save us all that headache, it would be far, far better to put in the public option now, seeing as how it is as guaranteed to happen as the disappearance of one's sex life after having children. But something tells me that we're going to need to literally have babies dying in front of hospitals before we finally get public option passed. Apparently, some of us are just that stupid.

What a shame. We were sooo close!

One thing's for certain: We've had any illusions about having a "super-majority" completely destroyed. We don't have a super-majority. We have 56 votes and a few milk-toasty dipshits who think they can hold the entire nation hostage. But let's not overly blame Joe Lieberman. He was only one of a whole clown-car full of assholes who fucked this up. The real culprits are the Republicans, who had what I can only call a "super-minority," where they held firmly together with complete solidarity, for the absolutely wrong thing. So the best thing we can do, is fire those goons in the midterm elections. The only way we can get it done, and done right, is to render the wrong side out of a job.

"Don't you mean, 'extinct?'" Dr. Malcolm would say.


I Predict: 2012

Okay, this one's just for fun. The year is closing out, and we're about to start up a new year on a nice, round number. So what do the 2010's hold for us? I thought that I would gaze into my crystal ball (which I am able to do by situating two mirrors slightly off-parallel and staring at my bald head) and let people know what I see for the upcoming future. A few of these predictions are serious, most aren't, but even the facetious ones are rooted in some truth and a little wish fulfillment. Here's what I see looming on the horizon at or around the year 2012:

Carrie Prejean moves to Alaska. Sometime afterward, she announces her intention to run for governor.

Sarah Palin takes a break from her book tour to go moose hunting with Dick Cheney. She shoots him in the face accidentally.

Richard Heene wife-swaps with Michelle Salashi. The two of them gate-crash the Emmy Awards Ceremony by flying over security inside a big, silvery balloon.

Hugh Hefner names Tiger Woods as the heir apparent to the throne of Playboy figurehead. He even bequeaths his famous smoking jacket.

Canadian eskimos jointly file an international lawsuit against the G-9 for despoiling their tundra lands with global warming. The suit is successful.

Actual inland soil landmass emerges from beneath the ice in Antarctica for the first time in tens of thousands of years.

Conservative talk show hosts, faced with no other choice as ice disappears and sea levels rise, finally reverse their position that global warming is a hoax, but it's too late to save their ratings. Other hosts lose their shows, or are restructured. Sean Hannity is moved to the 11:00 slot. Rush Limbaugh dies of spontaneous human combustion. Michael Savage stubbornly refuses, and is subsequently fired. Fortunately for everyone, Dennis Miller emerges as the leading conservative talking head.

Obama dumps Joe Biden as his Vice President before running for re-election. His replacement? Governor Christine Gregoire of Washington. Or Jennifer Granholm of Michigan.

Sarah Palin runs for president in 2012. She narrowly loses the nomination to Mitt Romney, so she goes rogue and runs independently on the "Tea Party" ticket. The conservative vote is fractured, and Obama wins by a ridiculous margin.

As a direct result, Democrats get a super-super majority with nearly 70 votes in the Senate. But still can't pass real health care reform!

And finally, Bill Clinton and Michelle Obama deny that they've been having a secret love affair.


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Stem Cell Research

Well, here I thought I could take a break from blogging for a little bit, maybe put up a couple more of my old blogs from the Milwaukee Evolution League about the Grand Canyon, and focus on my upcoming finals. But no. One of my classmates in my Cell Biology course just had to go and piss me off, and now I'm venting here.

Her name is Maria Fernandez, and I have no qualms whatsoever about dropping that name, both because she deserves the infamy, and because latino culture still hasn't realized that if your name is the same as that of a million other people, you should probably change it so that you actually HAVE an identity! She e-mailed everybody in my class today -- something that would be impolite enough under nearly any circumstance. But why did she breech this etiquette? Because our class today covered stem cell research, and she thought she'd take it upon herself to tell us all how only adult stem cells have been able to treat or cure anything, and that no embryonic stem cell cures have been produced just yet. She reminded us about how the embryo has to be killed in order to obtain embryonic stem cells, and listed a bunch of "cures" obtained by using adult stem cells. She then included a couple of links to websites which supported this view.

Now, the more I think about this, the more steamed I get. Dr. Zhao is our professor, and this fellow student has the hubris to step into his role, going over his head, and telling us all what's what. The nerve!

But what's worse is, she promotes an unscientific view: that conception is the point at which the life of an individual being begins. This nonsense view is trumped again and again by the facts, but like a Cheerio in milk, it just won't sink. As I've pointed out in past blogs, it's the BRAIN that defines the being! The brain, the brain, the brain! How can that concept be so difficult for people to grasp?

The answer is that it can quite difficult, especially when scientists don't bother to point it out. They're too scared of pissing off the wrong senator and jeopardizing their research funding. So they go out of their way to stay out of the fight. Like Dr. Zhao did. He responded to this student's e-mail by thanking her for her views, and the interesting links! Now, I understand that scientists want to remain neutral, but isn't remaining neutral taking the side of pseudoscience by allowing it to flourish?

I suppose I should make this case again, for the benefit of those who haven't read my past blog posts. We all know what happens when sperm meets egg -- you get a zygote. But well after that point, that zygote may split to become TWO zygotes, as in the case of twins. And because of this, an individual being cannot have begun at the point of conception, because it's logically ruled out! On the other hand, as the Tracy Marciniak case pointed out, birth is not the place to draw the line either, because if a 8.5-month pregnant woman is punched in the stomach, and her baby dies, the assailant ought to be prosecuted for manslaughter, as we all can agree. So the line must be drawn at some point between these two extremes. That line can only be the formation of the brain. After all, every organ in your body can be replaced with a donor organ or a mechanical device, and you would still be essentially you. However, if your brain were to be removed, the rest of your body is simply meat. The BRAIN defines the being. Always has, always will. If you're alive, it means brain-alive, and when you're dead, it means brain-dead. A person can be brought back from clinical death -- where heartbeat and respiration have ceased -- solely because the brain has not died yet. That means we should draw the line either at 20 weeks (the point at which the cerebral cortex forms and movement of the fetus begins), or at 4.5 months (the point at which the cerebellum forms and higher brain function becomes possible). Either way, early-term abortion is a woman's inalienable right.

Thus, the only reason people have to insist that conception is the point at which we must draw the line, is religious indoctrination. And the bizarre twist to that, is that for the majority of Christian history, theologians and religious scholars regarded the point at which life begins to be long after conception. They felt it was at the point of "quickening," when a woman first felt her baby move inside her. It wasn't until the late 1700's when that changed, and the doctrine of "simultaneous animation" (the belief that the soul entered the body at conception) became popular. The Bible says nothing about the subject, and so it must be recognized that this "conception" doctrine is the word of Man, not the word of God.

So here comes this naive little girl in my class, presuming to spam us all with her misguided defense of blastocysts with neither brain nor soul. What a bitch!

Now, somebody might reasonably ask me: "Eric, isn't this personal?" For those who aren't aware, my mother is currently stricken with some form of vascular dementia, which has been causing her to rather rapidly wither away over the last two years -- something which might give any of us a new perspective on the stem-cell research debate! So my answer to that is, you damn straight it's personal! Yeah, I hope some breakthrough in stem cell research can save my mother! No form of stem cell research gives more bang for the buck than that of embryonic stem cells. It's the cheapest and most effective way of harvesting and using them. Adult stem cells, for all their purported benefits, are still too expensive and cumbersome. Most of the breakthroughs that have been made using adult stem cells came because scientists had no choice but to use the adult versions because of the heinous policies of the Bush administration. We lost roughly eight years of quality research because the science was slowed from a sprint to a crawl! And this recklessly headstrong little twat in my class decides to be a squeaky wheel for exactly that kind of evil bullshit!

Okay, it's personal. That doesn't mean I'm not right!

I sent a scathing e-mail in reply to Maria. Serves her right for spamming with a returnable address! But I also sent a very polite reply to Dr. Zhao, telling him that this e-mail was inappropriate, and that I hoped that religion and politics can remain outside the classroom, especially at the college level. (After all, we know how much I don't want religion in science class!) He immediately replied, and told me he has no intention of telling anyone what position to take on this issue. (I'm still waiting on Maria's reply.)

I understand his reasons. As I pointed out earlier, scientists don't want to rock the boat when it comes to their funding, so they go out of their way to be conciliatory to conservative views, even when they contradict the science. But the Freethought movement does not suffer from such constraints. Skeptics and Humanists are science-minded citizens who are usually not professional scientists. They can, and should, raise the hue and cry over this! Maybe then, this myth about conception (or, myth-conception?) will finally die out.


Erosion in the Grand Canyon

Here is another repeat of a post I put out on the Milwaukee Evolution League blog years ago:

Creationists say that there's just no way such a little river as the Colorado River could have carved a canyon so very large. They insist that instead of a little water and a lot of time, the Canyon formed from a lot of water and a little time. But the fact is, neither of these polar opposites is the case. Rather, the Canyon formed with a LOT of water over a LOT of time.

One almost needs to have rafted the Grand Canyon to appreciate just how mighty the Colorado truly is. It's not just another waterway! It carries enough water through it to provide power to all of Las Vegas via Hoover Dam. It provides enough water to meet much of the potable water needs of Los Angeles, CA. This ain't no stream, folks! It's a fairly consistent gusher with a lot of power behind it.

But not only that, the river is rich in highly abrasive sediment. As one travels the river, the sediments can be so thick that you can't put your hand more than a couple of inches below the surface of the water before it can't be seen. When rafting the river, boatmen often put their canned beverages in a drop bag and throw it over the side in order to keep them cool. (In fact, the Colorado is deep enough to be quite frigid year-round, even in the hot Arizona sun!) But the sediments erode everything, including the beverage cans. If you leave your beverage in the river for too long, the abrasion of the river will strip the paint right off the can! If the paint is completely removed, rafters are left with the dilemma of trying to tell the difference between a can of Coca Cola and a can of beer! With erosion like that going on in the space of only several hours, imagine what millions of years could do! Perhaps the wonder of the Canyon is that it isn't significantly deeper. In fact, it probably would be much deeper, if a series of volcanoes along the North Rim hadn't dumped hot magma right into the middle of it about 15 million years ago.
That answers how the river cut such a deep canyon, but why is the canyon so wide? Could a river, no matter how mighty, have cut so wide a chasm when so comparatively narrow?

The answer is yes, for a number of reasons. First, canyons don't erode from the top-down. They erode from the bottom up. And when enough rock has eroded beneath, a rockfall from above ensues. This results in minor to major damming, forming new rapids or waterfalls, which erode very rapidly (thousands of years). Once level, the river cuts at a much slower rate. Also, occasional floods do occur with unusually large rainfalls on given years. During such periods, the river becomes much wider, erosion takes place much more rapidly, and more radical change takes place. It's wrong to look at the dry-season summertime Colorado River and say that such a "small" river couldn't have cut so wide a canyon.

Carrie Sager, daughter of Genie Scott, got to see this first hand on day three of the trip I took through the Canyon back on '05. During a heavy rainfall, a washed-off boulder fell and hit a side wall resulting in a large chunk of canyon getting knocked off into the river. It made a fantastic splash, and we all heard it, believe me! But Carrie was an actual eyewitness. What a story she got to tell!

It's very easy to accept that erosion made something so huge when you can actually see the rock widening right in front of your eyes.


Sunday, December 6, 2009

School Vouchers

My home city of Milwaukee is in the midst of a trailblazing experiment regarding school voucher programs. They've been in place for several years now, and it seems like the stronger charter schools are surviving, while the weaker ones are failing. This, according to a recent Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article covering the progress of school vouchers so far:

The verdict so far, as the article points out, is difficult to gauge, since voucher schools were not required to release standard test results until very recently. (Why, I wonder?) The first results are due to soon be released. When those results come in, we will have a very good argument, pro or con, regarding whether voucher programs should be continued.

My perspective on all this has not changed. I am in favor of school vouchers -- with one important condition: NO PUBLIC MONEY FOR RELIGIOUS SCHOOLS. Competition can be a very good thing, prompting organizations to cut waste, streamline efficiency, and improve quality -- traits we need in our schools more than anywhere else. But to use public money to indoctrinate children in a particular religoius doctrine is disastrous. Voucher children would become a captive audience to dogmatic and clerical interests on the taxpayer dime. Arguments that these religious institutions would allow voucher students to "opt out" of religious classes are ridiculous. The "Great Commission" means the gospel must be preached, else those who reject the Gospel will be in eternal hellfire. You simply CAN'T remove that kind of pressure to proselytize with a piece of paper and a signature! And that's before we even get to the inevitability of religiously motivated peer pressure.

Right now, we need quality science education more than ever. And it's bad enough that so many children are being taught pseudoscience in the forms of Intelligent Design, or outright creationism, or the denial of global warming, or even the opposition to vaccination, while leaving it to our colleges and universities to clean up the mess. To muck up science education further by giving phony science public funds simply dumps salt on the wounds, and sets inner city kids back even further -- as if they needed any more obstacles.

What's gotten me thinking about this lately, however, isn't just the recent JS article. Rather, it's what's happening on Capital Hill these days. So many people are up in arms about not using tax dollars to pay for abortions. They recognize that it's wrong to use public money for partisan interests. But that logic works both ways. If we cannot fund abortion with public money, than neither can we fund religious schools with public money.

If conservative interests want to fund religious private schools with vouchers, then they have to also allow public money to fund abortion. OR, forget about funding the religious institutions with public money, and continue to make the argument that public money shouldn't fund abortive procedures, either.

They can't have it both ways.


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Obama's Afghanistan Plan

Our trophy president has recently announced that he has determined that it is of vital national importance that we increase our troop levels in Afghanistan, at least for now. And, after a little more than a year after getting situated, the troop levels will begin to come down, with a complete withdrawal on the horizon after three years.

This has drawn both guarded praise and heavy criticism from both sides. After all, what could 30,000 more troops possibly do that the roughly 55,000 troops currently stationed in Afghanistan currently cannot? Why is Obama escalating the war when he should be ending it? Why are we spending more on a war in the middle of an economic recession? Why are we increasing efforts in Afghanistan when Osama Bin Laden is hiding in Pakistan? Why are we announcing when our troops will withdraw, thus allowing Al Quaeda to have a date to look forward to? I think I know the answers to these questions, and I'll share them with you.

Key to my hypothesis is the President's statement that this troop increase is of "vital national importance." That seems like a strange statement to make, since our presence in Afghanistan has already been steadily increasing. And if our intention is to control the territory, it might be better to continue to expand our use of drones and robotic warfare rather than put our sons and daughters at risk. He also said that it is crucial to deny Al Quaida a "safehaven." Yet it's quite clear that the REAL safehaven is not Afghanistan anymore, where American troops occupy every major population center, but Pakistan -- a nation where Bin Laden has overwhelming popular support by a 2 to 1 margin, at least. Were the current Prime Minister of Pakistan, Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani, to dare to take action against Bin Laden and turn him over to the U.S., he would face grave repurcussions, and I don't just mean losing the next election. He would likely be killed by an angry mob -- both he and his entire family. This is why Bin Laden is so damned difficult to catch, and why he's so smug about it. So what's our President thinking, here?

One thing he's trying to do is create jobs in a way which bypasses congress. Good ideas to build jobs by rebuilding infrastructure in the U.S. will have to face major battles on Capital Hill first, and we simply don't have the time. 30,000 more troops means 30,000 more jobs, no waiting. At the same time, he's trying to put more money into the pockets of the working class from the wealthiest of our citizens -- something which is tricky to do at any time. But tell any rich Republican that there's a war on, and some of the fight goes out of them in terms of paying their fair share. After all, we need to support our national defense, right?

Well, that's one good way to kill two birds with one stone, but there's more at work, here. The logistic situation in Afghanistan is this: You just can't get from one area to the other very well. Short of helicopter, the best way to travel across Afghanistan is still donkey. Also, there are only a few key ways to get into the country, which is landlocked and bordered on all sides by nations which are not on the friendliest terms with the U.S. Iran and Pakistan are the primary neighbors, and they flank Afghanistan on either side, meeting each other south of the country. Any airlift into Afghan territory from the Arabian Sea would have to go over miles of hostile territory where surface-to-air missiles could easily disrupt things. But there is the borderland to the north of Afghanistan, where the former Soviet Republics of Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikstan and Kazakhstan reside. Tajikstan has been our primary alternative to the Pakistan to gain entry to Afghan territory so far. That nation has agreed to funnel U.S. troops and supplies into Afghanistan, and beef up its borders to stem the heroin trade, in exchange for some well-needed cash. The infamous Khyber Pass is too narrow and prone to ambush to use for any real military purposes, even if it didn't originate in Pakistani territory. So, in the border village of Nizhny Panj, where Afghanistan borders Tajikstan, American forces have built a brand new bridge over the Panj river. This is one of only a few key routes into the territory, and those must be carefully controlled. This is where 30,000 troops can really help out, and robot warfare just won't do the job.

Another thing 30,000 troops can do is build up and more easily defend the air bases south of Kabul. In so doing, it enables the U.S. to have two powerful bases of projected force should Iran or Pakistan decide to interfere with any airlifts; any missile strike would be met with a two-pronged retaliation. (Of course, Pakistan has to worry about India should it take any action against the U.S. There's a delicate balance, there.)

Finally, the additional troops added to those key controlled areas make the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan our theatre. That's important, because just a little more control of that territory makes the border with Pakistan a lot more porous. Greater porosity with Pakistan's northern border means that our clandestine and special forces can sniff out Bin Laden from within Pakistan itself with greater success. That means that Osama's "safehaven" suddenly becomes not so safe. Should he be found hiding in a mountain cave, one bomb ends it. Should he be found hiding in an urban center, his throat may be slit in the night. Should all that fail, and a smart bomb or cruise missile be needed, we will need to have adequate preparation for Pakistan's outrage. Loosely held bases in Afghanistan would be vulnerable. But solidly held bases in Afghanistan would give Pakistan pause. Furthermore, if Bin Laden were to be captured, we would need to extracate him through Afghanistan. That means solid bases there -- not weak ones.

In short, these additional 30,000 troops are the nail, which keeps the shoe, which keeps the horse, which keeps the rider, which keeps the battle, which wins the war. This is what Obama meant by "vital national importance."

If I'm right, this move solves several problems all at once, and our President is an absolute genius. But of course, all this may hinge on the success of our special forces being able to use our stronger hold on Afghanistan to take out Bin Laden inside Pakistani territory, and then withstand Pakistan's retaliation afterward. We have about two years, maybe slightly longer, to make that plan succeed. If it fails, if we're forced to withdraw with that rat bastard still alive, Al Quaida will have one hell of a feather to stick in its cap.

Let's hope this plan works!


Monday, November 30, 2009

Banning Minarets in Switzerland?!

Well, the latest on the European angst over Islamic incursion has taken place. The normally tolerant, politically neutral Swiss have voted a referendum into place, banning the construction of Minarets anywhere within Switzerland. This doesn't prohibit the practice of Islam, nor does it require that the four existing Minarets which currently exist on Swiss soil to be torn down, but it does mean that no more can be put up.

This move has been decried by Muslim leaders as a violation of religious freedom. It has been called an act of religious intolerance by the Swiss populace. And (I shudder to say it) the Muslims are actually right for once! It IS religious intolerance. It's certainly a violation of religious freedom, to say nothing of free property rights.

That having been said, I understand completely why the Swiss, and before them the French, have begun taking measures that are rather blatent violations of the general principle of religious freedom. Why are Europeans banning the burqua? Or the hijab? Why are girls being told that they cannot wear headscarves in school, and men being told to pray more privately instead of on city street corners?

The answer is because of Islamic intolerance.

Yes, banning new Minarets is wrong. But don't be fooled that any private land owner who decided to take one down on property that had been rightfully sold or forclosed to a non-Muslim would be met with angry protests and threats of violence. In nations where the population is predominantly Muslim, tolerance for other religions is unheard of, and they would not hesitate (make no mistake about it!) to ban the wearing of the crucifix or the building of Churches. Do you really think that a worldview that nearly executed a teacher for naming a teddy bear Muhammed would think twice about outlawing Judeo-Christianity? Again and again, Islamist interests have repeatedly attempted to pass blasphemy laws outlawing the defaming of Allah. Yes, they want to be able to criticize other people's religion, but they want it made against the law for anyone to criticize theirs, essentially destroying free speech while simultaneously enjoying all its benefits. They combine the tactics of violence and hatred with silver-tongued spokespersons who remind people that Islam is presumably a religion of peace, and that most Muslims are decent, hardworking and law-abiding people.

Maybe so, say the Europeans, but why is it that those decent, hardworking, law-abiding Muslims never seem to lift a damned finger to stop the violent outbursts against those who disagree with them in a non-violent way? It's no wonder many in the Old Country are beginning to say that they've had enough. I can't say that I blame them.

On the other hand, as an atheist I've tasted religious intolerance of a different sort quite frequently in this country, and I know how it feels to be a persecuted minority. It's hard to be hated, believe me, I know. People wrongly blame you for all sorts of shit that you didn't do. So I can sympathize, to a limited extent. I know how it is.

The difference is, that atheists are called monsters, while Muslims, on occasion, actually are.

Yes, on the one hand, I defend freedom of speech and religion, but then I USE that freedom of speech and religion to criticize Islam right back. You guys who are protesting the banning of Minarets? You fucking ASKED for it, people! You've been asking for it for decades! How many riots and bombings, and angry demonstrations did you think it would take before Europeans finally decided that they would risk losing freedom of religion just to get rid of YOU? How long did you think it would take before they got sick and tired of you guys going on and on about how the majority of Muslims are decent folk, while watching those decent folk do nothing about the minority who aren't so damned decent? We know how it works. First you use Western tolerance to get in, and then you take away western tolerance to STAY in, and the next thing we know, Europe is finally Muslim, just as you guys have wanted since A.D. 700. I know, I know, first it was the Christians who stood in your way, meeting your intolerance with equal intolerance, and then it was the secularists, who keep telling you that you don't get undue favoritism just because you think your religion says you do. It's frustrating, isn't it? The way science tells you that your beliefs are full of shit? Yeah, so you're out to weasel your way in, and shut it down from the inside. Look, Muslims, you may have come up with a clever way to use our principles of tolerance and political correctness against us, but don't think we who are part of the Freethought movement aren't on to you. We are watching.

For the rest of you out there, who are neither atheist nor Muslim, there is an even more important lesson here. It's that if a majority want to take away the rights from a minority, a democracy tends to do that, even though it's wrong. If a majority of whites want to take away the rights of a minority of blacks, that can be done. But it's wrong. If a majority of Muslims want to take away the rights of a minority of Christians, that can be done. If a majority of Swiss want to take away the rights of a minority of people who want to built Minarets on their own property, that can also be done. Democracy's primary pitfall is that the minority can be, and often is, wrongfully stomped upon. We should bear this in mind here in America, where similar situations of injustice arise, so that we can act appropriately to NOT make the same mistake.

Such as when a majority of straights tell a minority of gays that they can't live free.


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Manhattan Declaration

So, Chuck Colson, James Dobson and his ilk have come out with something called the "Manhattan Declaration." Basically, it is a manifesto of intent for Christians to take a stand on various issues which they feel to be of special import, and calls for the faithful believers everywhere to sign on to it. The issues it outlines are really no surprise: Sanctity of life, sanctity of marriage, and freedom of religion. But its interpretation of them is what I have an issue with. These old men really do have it wrong.

Sanctity of life? We all know what that means to the likes of Colson and Dobson. They mean opposition to abortion. And this is built around the ridiculous and unscientific position that conception, and not the formation of a fetus' brain, defines the point at which an individual life begins. This, as determined by a ninteenth century declaration by Pope Leo XIII (1886) which reversed many earlier Church positions that "ensoulment" happened long after conception. You'd think we might take a more sensible approach than that.

Look, I'm not afraid to say it: Opposition to abortion is un-Christian. Science supports the spiritual view that the "soul" (for want of a better word) enters the body at a point long after conception takes place, and the cerebrum has fully formed in the fetus -- something which dosen't happen until 4.5 months in. Scripture supports the view of an Old Testament God which outright slaughtered post-born children, and says nothing blatant about abortion at all since abortion was simply unheard of in Biblical times. Anyone who says that God says life begins at conception is just plain wrong. Life-at-conception is a doctrine of HUMAN origin. Clergy and congregation alike therefore need to knock it the hell off about this one.

Sanctity of marriage? Again, we know what they mean by this: Opposition to homosexuality. I mean, really, gay marriage is simply a flashpoint. Given the means, they would find a legal excuse to ban homosexuality altogether and reinstate all sodomy laws. However, realistically, they cannot do this, so they entrench at the next best fallback line. But they've lost an entire generation of young people over this. Stubborn insistence over this one is guaranteed suicide for Christianity in America. Not that I'll cry crocodile tears over that, but in the meantime, the right of pursuit of happiness is denied a segment of our population, and that pisses me off. I'm not exactly willing to wait two or three decades for some stupid old men to die off before this is fixed.

As I pointed out in an earlier blog post, sanctity of marriage has basically already been shot with common divorce and even more common promiscuity. In that post, I think I forgot to mention Carrie Prejean, who became the most famous Miss Congeneality in the world when she took a stand against gay marriage in the Miss America Pageant. This artificially-boobed and butt-less stick figure then turned out to have made a sex video beforehand, as if this could have made her any more of a conservative hypocrite than willingly participating in a sexuality glorification contest in the first place. (I'm actually shocked this cliche fake-blond even came as close as second place. Will somebody please find someone other than J. Lo to have a REAL ass in Hollywood?) I'll give credit to the Manhattan Declaration for calling out popular culture on this point and saying that the media needs to stop glamorizing sexuality and extramarital affairs -- but come on. Let's be realistic, here. This effort is a lot like Mickey Mouse trying to bail out the overwhelming flood of his spell gone awry in "The Sourcerer's Apprentice" segment of the movie, 'Fantasia.' There's just no way that Christianity can stem out the tsunami flood of sexual freedom in America with its tiny bucket of "sexual purity." And "promise rings" just make the teenage girls who wear them a greater target. (Another five atheists come about for each one of them that gets pregnant, too. And they DO!) This fight was lost way back when Mae West first said on the silver screen, "Come up and see me sometime."

Let the gays have their nuclear family, seeing as how Christians are incapeable of sustaining one.

Lastly, the Manhattan Declaration champions freedom of religion. They rightly state that all citizens have a right to be free of religious coersion. I give them full credit for finally admitting what we secularists have been telling them since the dawn of America. But their interpretation of this idea gets a little twisted, as they say how private hospitals which receive tax subsidies should somehow be allowed to have employees, paid with those tax dollars, be able to deny other taxpaying citizens abortion referrals or "morning after" drugs. Their idea of a "private hospital" is also somewhat twisted, in that they feel that a Christian hospital is about proselytizing or promoting a religious agenda instead of caring for the sick! This, when those paying for said care, out of pocket or through private insurers, come from ALL faiths (including the lack thereof).

It's wrong to admit that citizens have a right to be free of religious coersion on the one hand, and then fight for the ability to religiously coerce on the other. Such hypocrisy has no place in any aspect of America, least of all in medical care. Religious freedom means that no creed gets favoritism. Recent developments have caused some favoritism which was previously given to Christianity to be taken away as government increasingly awakens to this fact. But this removal of undue and unearned privileges should not be construed as an attack upon the Christian faith. It is simply telling Christianity, which has been hogging the couch for generations, to finally stop it, move over, and make room for everybody.

The authors and signatories of the Manhattan Declaration would do well to remember that.


Global Warming Hoax?

Well, a couple of people have sent me the news stories about the hacker who broke into the computer files of the University of East Anglia's CRU (Climate Research Unit), making public lots of confidential e-mails that seem to show scientists being candid about the evidence for global warming not being there. They're calling this incident, "Climategate," and it's a story which, admittedly, has really grown legs.

So what do I think? Well, Darwin himself admitted rather candidly to some lack of fossil evidence for evolution. But that didn't prove evolution wrong, and the evidence later bore evolution out. Milton Friedman bluntly admitted to some shortcomings in his supply side economics model, but that didn't prove Hyak economics and free market strategies were wrong, either, and the evidence later bore him out. The disaster of the Columbine shootings did not prove the need for greater gun control. Piltdown Man being a hoax did not prove that evolution was made up. The fact that NASA did not follow proper quarantine procedures for the astronauts of Apollo 11 after they landed does not prove that the Moon landings were faked.

By the same token, these disclosed e-mails do not prove that global warming is a fraud.

There are other confirmations for global warming besides what the IPCC has shown. I visited with one of the scientists working on global warming at UWM just the other week to invite him to my students group and give a talk. He's been working for decades on the progression of plant cycles, noting that they've been blooming earlier in spring, and deciduating later in fall, as the years go by. I saw the data charts myself! His talk will be given sometime early next year. (For members of Freethinkers of UWM, I'll keep you posted.) And there are other more pragmatic indications. Last February and the February before that, we had extended periods where we had to go around wearing shorts. Meanwhile, it's Thanksgiving, and students at UWM are walking around campus wearing flip-flops! The glaciers are visibly disappearing as satellite photos clearly show. Glacier National Park is now virtually a misnomer. Just recently a man did a 2km swim across the very point of the north pole -- something that the permanent ice sheets would have been impossible only 10 years ago, even in summer. Ice sheets in Antarctica are disintegrating before our very eyes.

You know, we all say unguarded shit sometimes, and even scientists occasionally let their hair down, too. So what?

Look, I'm not saying that everyone who is skeptical of global warming needs to jump to the conclusion that global warming is real. But for heaven's sake, don't jump to the conclusion that global warming is false, either!

In only a couple of weeks, a global summit on climate change will be held in Copenhagen. Our President has recently announced that he will be there. It will be interesting to see how this story plays out at that meeting, if at all.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

New Jobs! And More...

Well, key signals in the economy indicate that there may be an upturn, but we all know that the most important indicator, jobs, is still lagging behind. Critics of the current administration are raising a pretty damned good question: Where are the new jobs going to come from? Well, I think I know some of the answers to that. And I'll reveal them to you! But first, a couple of quick hits regarding issues I've raised before...

Health care. Okay, you're sick of it too. But here's a thought: We like our military, right? Certainly every conservative does. We know a strong military is necessary to protect our country. Well, actually, these days our military is necessary to protect OTHER countries, but that's beside the point. Ostensibly, the purpose of the military is to prevent our nation from being invaded by foreign attackers. Well and good.

Hang on, though. Just what is the difference, fundamentally, between protecting our nation's borders from invasion and protecting our citizens' individual borders from invasion? In other words, if we can protect our national boundaries, why can't we protect the boundaries of every citizen as defined by his or her skin?

You see, viruses and bacteria are invaders! They are foreign influences that want to seize United States territory (that is, the cells of its citizens) for their own purposes which are contrary to national goals. These invading attackers differ from foreign armies only in terms of size, and the fact that they bear no national emblem of identity. But hell, we've been fighting terrorists who have no national identity for almost a decade, now. If we can protect our national borders from invasion, we can protect our individual citizens from invasion. National healthcare IS national defense! If the Pentagon is to justify its expenditures, then we must, to avoid being a nation of hypocrites, completely fund medical care.

Chew on that!

Next up, Sarah Palin.

You know, I was actually willing to let the beauty queen have one more bite at the apple with her book tour. Yes, I know she's probably part of the "Left Behind" crowd of Tim LaHaye whack-jobs, but I thought I'd give her one more listening-to, just to see if she sounded like a competent leader after all. But then, during a Barbara Walters interview, she was asked about the issue of Israeli settlements into Palestinian territory, and the Obama administration's opposition to it. She then laid this incredible, colored egg:

"I disagree with the Obama administration on that. I believe that the Jewish settlements should be allowed to be expanded upon, because that population of Israel is, is going to grow. More and more Jewish people will be flocking to Israel in the days and weeks and months ahead. And I don’t think that the Obama administration has any right to tell Israel that the Jewish settlements cannot expand."

In other words, she actually supports doing the one thing that is absolutely guaranteed to spark World War Three!

That does it! She's had her second bite of the apple, folks. This broad needs to put on her "sexist" jogging shorts and run straight back to Alaska. And STAY there!

Her followers see her as an instrument of God. But then, according to the Bible, so was Sampson. And like Sampson, Sarah Palin will pull the entire temple down upon our heads!

(Christ, how bad to you have to be to fail in front of Barbara Walters?)

Okay, that's off my chest. Now to the jobs issue. Where are all the jobs going to come from? How can we generate more jobs for people? Like, right NOW?

Let me start with a concession: The Republicans actually have a good suggestion about this. Built more nuclear power plants, they say. What a great idea! Sequester away more nuclear material under lock and key away from terrorists, and generate more power to free us from oil. Plus, it puts millions of people to work constructing, and creates millions of permanent high-paying jobs after the construction is done! It's a win-win-win-win situation! All we have to do to make it happen is stop being such pussies about nuclear energy. (Riiiight!) Still, way to go, Republicans! You came through for once!

The democrats also have a suggestion: Put people to work rebuilding our roads, bridges, and power grids. Not bad, not bad. Certainly they need rebuilding. But that's a temporary solution, and one that involves only government spending. I say let's do it, because it's a job that needs to be done, but we might first want to spend money on things that will create jobs first before we turn to bridges and roads. They'll hold up for another year or two.

So here's an idea: Build trans-continental bullet-trains! A bullet-train is as fast as an airplane, but uses only a tiny fraction of the fuel! Once built, it leaves behind permanent, self-sustaining jobs, and adds to the economic vitality of the cities it connects! Since America emerged as one of the first national powers to have transcontinental railroads, our trains have died a slow death. Every other major industrialized nation has a bullet train of some sort. And we? We have outdated Amtrak connections that barely exceed 80 MPH using systemics that haven't changed since the 1970's. How embarassing!

Boy, would this one help out Milwaukee with Midwest Airlines getting mergered in with another airline, and possibly getting snuffed out of our city as a result. But any bullet transit connecting the Pacific Northwest with New York would logically have to go through Milwaukee. Just imagine jumping on a train and being in Chicago in 15 minutes! Or going to Las Vegas and getting there in five hours! Or to D.C. in four! Or Los Angeles in six!

Plus, trains hardly ever lose your luggage! Hell, that'll sell any member of congress!

Okay, good. But what else can we do? Well, the government could certainly grow a pair and start strong-arming state governments to release brainless restrictions on green energy, or outright order the building of solar and wind farms. There's precedent. The Tennessee Valley Authority was a government initiative to get bureaucrats off their lazy asses to generate power. It's time for more of the same. How about some huge tax cuts or outright tax forgiveness programs for companies which build more wind turbines or solar panels, and in so doing create more home-grown jobs? These things are long overdue.

Here's one: How about the feds put pressure on the oil companies to release patents they've been hoarding regarding green energy? We know they've been buying up these patents for years in preparation for the day when oil dries up. But those technologies are needed right now. Solar shingles, for example. Various breakthroughs in battery technology have also been sequestered. Enough, already! The government can go to any oil companies holding U.S. patents on green technology and basically say, "Fork them over, or suffer some severe tax penalties." Better yet, the U.S. Patent Office is an arm of the government, so the President has the power to declare a national state of emergency (which we certainly have) and simply take the patents and feed them to any private U.S.-based companies who are willing to develop them and create jobs with the products. That's an instant jump-start! I think that's exactly what President Obama should do!

And I have to beat upon this drum once again: It's time to legalize cannabis and prostitution. Let America be America for a change! Repeal of prohibition created jobs for people by adding the liquor industry. Adding the cannabis market will also generate jobs overnight. People will have living-room hydroponic victory gardens! And as for prostitution, well, I'd rather have well-regulated and disease-free call girls rather than pimps and crack whores on our streets. Wouldn't you? We can tax both and easily pay for government-option health care, eliminate the deficit, and pay off the national debt all in one stroke.

Those are short-term and intermediate-term solutions. The long-term solution is, of course, a firm commitment to fund education, especially at the high school and college level. We need to emphasize the proper and correct teaching of science so that colleges and universities don't have to waste so much time undoing all the damage done from the teaching of creationist and intelligent-design crap. Plus, I think that economics should be a required high school course, so that citizens can stop voting for economic boneheads.


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Senate Health Care Bill, & Other Stuff

So, the Senate has finally brought their health care bill to the floor for a debate. They had the 60 votes needed to avoid filibuster. Damn good thing, too. I really don't like filibusters, even when they're on my side. Frankly, it bugs me when one dude can gum up the whole works indefinitely. Don't get me wrong, filibusters often represent minority opinions -- of which I sometimes happen to be -- and minority opinions need to be protected if America is to be at all free, but I don't think filibusters ought to be done by just anybody. If I were to wave my magic wand and revise the Senate rules, one of the things I would do is restrict the number of filibusters which could be done. Seriously, filibusters should be something like instant replays in football -- you only get three per alotted time period, and then that's it, you're out of filibusters. Maybe two or three per year, maximum. That way, Senators will think twice before launching a filibuster over unimportant shit.

The more I think about this, the more I like it. Yeah! Write your representatives!

Anyway, part of the funding for this new bill comes from what is essentially a luxury tax -- a tax levy upon elective plastic surgeries. Interesting.

I have to say that the more I think about THIS one, the more I like it too. Here, perhaps for the first time ever, is a tax which truly targets only the affluent, and in a way which they cannot dodge. It's not like a cigarette tax, where something really unhealthy is discouraged with an increased tax, but which is paid for by the poorest people whose nicotene addiction is one of their only creature comforts. It's also not like a tax on items like yachts, which only typically results in the rich not buying so many yachts anymore, thus depressing the marine vehicle industry and causing thousands of blue-collar boat-builders to get laid off. No, this is only for the botox, the boob jobs, and the laser treatments - stuff which the rich cannot truly get around if they want to stay pretty.

But is it sexist? That's an excellent question since over 90% of cosmetic surgery is undertaken by women. But I'm not so certain that this necessarily means its sexist. After all, even if over 90% of the procedures are done on women, who is paying for those procedures? Their husbands? Their boyfriends? No, it may be the corpus femme which is getting the cosmetic surgery, but the impact upon the pocketbook is quite gender neutral. Besides, women have been condemning artificial boobs for decades, now. Here, finally, is some vindication for that form of feminism. The underground movement of men who belong to the "home grown only" club of breast afficionatos has decried fake boobs as well -- making for a curious area where feminists and male chauvanists actually agree on something.

Can men get around this tax by not prettying up their wives? Perhaps. They could always divorce their wives and marry younger women. But then, they could always do that. And divorce usually costs a good deal more than any plastic surgery ever could. By that rationale, plastic surgery has done more to preserve the sanctity of marriage than opposition to gay marriage ever could! But it's really not much of an impact, there. Really, aren't the shopping trips to Macey's and Bloomingdales, and the ridiculous diamond jewelry purchases just a normal part of the wealthy lifestyle? Yesterday it was fur coats. Today, it's botox. And let's understand, men do get their cosmetic surgery too. Let's hear it for the laser removal of back hair! Let's hear it for the old farts looking a little less decrepit. The rich will always want to look good, and that means they'll pay just a tiny bit more so that the rest of us can pay a whole shitload less. There are no cosmetic surgeons whose livelihoods are threatened, here. Those doctors will do just fine. And so will the doctors who provide basic health care -- finally!

It's just a shame they couldn't have enacted this BEFORE Barry Manilow got his new face.

Speaking of plastic surgery protecting the sanctity of marriage, I have to chat briefly about something that's been coming up in the news again and again. Recently, Governor Don Carcioni of Rhode Island vetoed legislation that would have allowed same-sex couples to have the right to plan the funerals of their departed partners. Carcioni said that this legislation represents "a disturbing trend" of the erosion of heterosexual marriage.

So, after a lifetime of living with a beloved someone, this dick says that the surviving partner can't even have the simple right to plan the damned memorial?! It isn't bad enough to deny the rights of those who engage in the American pursuit of happiness in a way which harms no one their rights in life -- they must now also do so in DEATH? What an unbelievable asshole!

Let's take a good look at this "disturbing trend" of crumbling heterosexual marriage Carcioni is talking about. It begins with 30% of the very conservative Christians who decry gay marriage getting divorced! Hell! If you're going to preserve the sanctity of marriage, look to your own damned house first! With conservatives dropping their marriages all over the place like hot potatos, it's amazing that they dare to champion marriage at all. There's the Rev. Ted Haggard and his gay lover giving him crystal meth. There's Governor Mark Sanford of North Carolina, who took his prolonged vacation with his South American mistress. There's Senator John Ensign of Nevada, who refused initially to resign after his sexual affair came to light. There's Larry Craig, the Republican Senator from Idaho, who tried to solicit a plainclothes police officer in a Twin Cities airport bathroom stall. Conservative states and communities consistently show a higher unwed teenage birth rate than liberal states and communities. Sarah Palin's own family illustrates this disturbing trend as Bristol Palin had her child out of wedlock. And please, before anybody gets mad at me for attacking Bristol, please understand I'm not attacking her, I'm attacking Sarah. Because Sarah thinks she can run the Republican Party, and probably the nation as president, when she can't even manage her own family.

Let's be completely honest, here. The sanctity of hetersexual marriage has been -- well, fucked for many decades now. Even Ronald Reagan was divorced. Mixed families are now commonplace -- so much so that no public school child feels at all out of place for being in one (though there are still plenty of other reasons for teens to feel awkward). Married couples routinely take lovers, teenagers routinely screw around, and it is now considered the norm for a couple to have sex together or live together before they get married. Conservatives want to deny gays & lesbians the right to get married in order to preserve the sanctity of marriage. People, THAT SHIP ALREADY SAILED! Rome has already been sacked and burned by the vandals -- and the poor conservatives are lining up a defensive posture around what's left of the walls, completely oblivious to the smell of the smoke. The culture war is over on this one, folks. The religious right lost.

In the meantime, the fight against gay rights somehow goes on, waged by the very same people who have enjoyed the freedoms of extramarital heterosexual sex. But you know what? Sooner or later we've got to realize that this is fucking AMERICA! When our citizens have to flee to France in order to gain freedom, there's something severely wrong here. Freedom, people! It's what America stands for. Without it, there is no America. And YES, that sometimes means people choose to excercise their freedoms in a way which the rest of us find disgusting. They'll get nose piercings. They'll tatoo their genitals. They'll die their hair neon purple. They'll get married to Larry King. We need to at least put gay marriage into this same category: Bizarre, maybe a little gross to some of us, but PROTECTED.

Sort of like plastic surgery to give a woman with a 24" waistline a 64 EEE bra size.

Or maybe conservatives would feel better if we legalized gay marriage, but taxed it to help pay for healthcare?

I guess that completely busts that argument.