Msnowe's Blog

stupid is as us americans

Posted in Uncategorized by m.snowe on August 29, 2007

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

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

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

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Fat Feat

Posted in Uncategorized by m.snowe on August 28, 2007

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

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

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

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

Study/State by State Reports:
http://healthyamericans.org/reports/obesity2007/

Speedy Gonzales is high-tailing it out… finally

Posted in Uncategorized by m.snowe on August 27, 2007

See current development here:
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/20459457/

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

Leaden Politics

Posted in Uncategorized by m.snowe on August 27, 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fighting for "freedom" means no free speech.

Posted in Uncategorized by m.snowe on August 24, 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sex, Drugs, and Rockin’ Debate

Posted in Uncategorized by m.snowe on August 23, 2007

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

Read this report and get active:
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/20394494/

Bookarexia and Belletristic Decay

Posted in Uncategorized by m.snowe on August 22, 2007

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

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

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

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

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

An article on the Associated Press/IPSOs poll can be found here: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/20381678/

Speak Up or Die

Posted in Uncategorized by m.snowe on August 21, 2007

A new study came out recently, and it stifles the mind to think of what some scientists are interested in analyzing, or even think we need to analyze. A report on the study can be found here: (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/20361092/)

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

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

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

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

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

Blindfold and Whack

Posted in Uncategorized by m.snowe on August 20, 2007

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

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

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

now there’s one less justifiable scare tactic

Posted in Uncategorized by m.snowe on August 16, 2007