Msnowe's Blog

More on Mormonism?

Posted in Uncategorized by m.snowe on November 30, 2007

Usually, when the general population thinks of Mormonism, they think of polygamy, and possibly the semi-flop HBO series “Big Love.” In completely objective terms, let’s look at exactly what’s going on with this religion, and more importantly, if you’re voting Republican – should this factor at all in terms of your decision for Romney, yea or nay? (Instinct says the topic shouldn’t even be broached- we have separation of church and state for a reason – but that’s on a federal level, not a personal one, and depending on the fervency of Mitt’s religion, just like any bible thumping candidate, it deserves a thought bubble of contemplation.)

So yes, there has been polygamy. The US has outlawed it, and the doctrine was revoked by the Mormon church in the 1890s. There still have been your random cases of some extreme fundamentalist Mormons still engaging in the whole “plural marriage” idea, but we can’t really blame the current Mormon church entirely — every religion has fervent sects that break off, and decide that the older version was better. I mean, we still have people toting around Leviticus with only certain lines highlighted. (Note: A.J. Jacobs, in his book “The Year of Living Biblically,” attempts to live for one year, adhering as strictly as possible to all Bible tenants. He of course admits that it is altogether impossible, and everyone on the planet would warrant a stoning, probably many times over).
If you’re into women’s rights (which you should be), this doctrine of polygamy is grating, but it’s not anything new when it comes to religion. While not defending Mormons in the least, we’ve still got burkas, and the barring of women from the priesthood, and the regulation of conception and the double-standard of chastisement for the “un-chaste” woman, cycling through our societies, ruminating like a fowl stench.

But many people look at Mormonism and stop at the polygamy issue, as if that was their sticking point against it – and valid as that may be to some, there are other issues to address that have been strict doctrine of the Church of Latter Day Saints all the way until the 1970s. Now, no church has been especially friendly to those groups it views as outsiders, or people physically different than themselves. But the Mormon’s had a special doctrine that claimed, quite specifically, that people of dark skin where the decendants of Cain, and given their darker skin as a punishment by god, because they had acted in tandem with Satan. So while black members were accepted occasionally, this is the beliefs they stood up against. Only in the 1970s, was the doctrines barring blacks and other races a greater role in the church rescinded. Before 1978, blacks, Native Americans, women of all races, etc., were not allowed to become priests, or even participate in temple ceremonies. Women, while allowed to participate in ceremonies, can be given “priesthood power”, but they are still barred from being ordained as full clergy, even though they can perform most of the same duties. So basically, the Mormons operate like most businesses still do today – women do the same work, for less pay and recognition.

As hard as this is to hear for some, Mormonism isn’t all that different from other protestant religions in the US, who like to sit up on a high horse in comparison, because their man took (and take) mistresses, not excess wives. Romney should be asked, if not about his faith, about how he feels about his church’s sluggish response to racial and sexual issues — he was not exactly a baby when they finally rescinded the racial discrimination doctrines, so how did he continue to tithe with a religion that openly pontificated against blacks and minorities? But it’s important to remember that for every question we have for a person like Romney, and his unfamiliar religion, we should be thinking of parallel questions for other candidates, like Giuliani, and perhaps just how he was officially billing his travel expenses to go visit his girlfriend (while married) on Long Island.

Although important to discuss, when we reach for that apple of religious knowledge in terms of the candidates, we better know what we’re getting into, — because it’s certainly no paradise.


Immigration: Not just your forefather’s issue

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

Not in the same dimensions, but nonetheless, a volatile topic in France. The French, though I’m sure they don’t appreciate illegal immigrants, have a much bigger issue to deal with in the guise of immigrants that have already been allowed to live in France. The “immigrant problem” for France is a matter of what happens to those people who come to France in completely legal capacities. The French, and certain Parisians in particular, are perhaps not as welcoming to immigrants and minority groups as they could be. This is not a merely francophone phenomenon – prejudices abound in the US, the UK, and all the countries placing from the first to the third world.

France, however, is an interesting case study — here, we have immigrants who have not been allowed to integrate into the greater population, and given little incentive from the government to try and “make it” in French society. Sarkozy, at one ill-advised, pre-Presidential moment that now haunts him, said the rioting immigrants in a French suburb in 2005 were “scum.” In an eerily mimeic way, the deaths of two youths recently mirrors the two deaths in 2005 — both times police were implicated, both times violence has erupted out of the poor and undervalued communities from which the young immigrants lived.

Usually, it is hard to come down on the side of disengaged and emotionally charged youths who go about burning libraries (and all the knowledge therein) and cars, and destroying innocent people’s property. And the youth immigrant/minority population is absolutely in the wrong in these actions. But despite the outright disapproval – we cannot be so black and white about it. The saddest and most disheartening aspect of these riots, and the French government and law enforcement’s role, is the widespread acknowledgement that nothing, or at the most trance amounts of aid and acceptance are reaching immigrant and minority populations inside France. And although this is nothing new, it is definitely something to toss and turn about. The French as notorious (whether completely justified or not) for their ill-treatment of foreigners, whether those on holiday or those seeking permanent residence. Their disregard in trying to make France a better place for the people who come is a sad aspect of their national situation.

If anything should be learned from the French situation, it should be that countries must take care of all their population – because if you give a certain sector no future, or no reason to make their country a better place, no future is exactly where the whole country is heading. When we alienate non-aliens, no good can come of it, and France is just an example – it is by no means isolated. The “cycle” of violence is aptly named. This isn’t just an issue of creating hotbeds for future terror suspects, it is absolutely linked to the important values of tolerance, understanding, and peace.

A while back, Barack Obama made a rather astute point regarding prejudice in America, and I think it could probably be applied to the environments of many other first world countries, too. To paraphrase, Obama narrated a fictional situation, where a middle aged white couple are walking down a street, and they tense up as a hooded person of a minority race walks towards them — but then, as they approach each other the couple recognizes that this person is their son’s or daughter’s good friend, and they invite him over to dinner. The story is both urgently sad and terribly honest for a large percentage of the American population. It might sound like the story has a happy ending, but it ultimately realizes what continues to linger in our society – and the split second of “tensing up” is what proves that all our efforts at equality and the eradication of prejudice have come up incredibly and embarrassingly short.

the things we wait for

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

It is simple to understand history and trends in society from a textbook, or from old newspapers, or even economic data. But our lives are not measured in units of pages, or tabloids (unless you’re a debutante), or bell curves. Real human life is measured in units of time, or perhaps how we fill what Kipling so eloquently dubbed “the unforgiving minute.”

Unforgiving because it knows no retractions or redactions, it thankfully relies on no machinations or computer software. But it also makes it irreversibly final and scarily accurate – it tells us unabashedly about ourselves. If some books and articles are called primary source, time is pre-primary source material. So one of the best ways to understand what we value as a whole, is what we dedicate time to. And let’s not examine perceived necessary time-takers, such as work, chores, etc., but isolate the time in which we have to freely choose what it is we can do.

Nothing is more disturbing than what many newscasters and newspapers observed over this past week, in terms of how we as Americans choose to spend our free time. As a holiday, Thanksgiving is usually a time set aside for family and friends — and luckily that was the trend this year, for the most part. But here’s a question: How many people at your house spent at least a fraction of Thanksgiving with their eyes glued to the sales ads in the paper as if they were children who had discovered the ecstasy of kindergarten paste? There were ads larger than the rest of the paper’s content leading up to Black Friday, as expected. We can’t entirely blame stores and marketers – after all it is their livelihood, and as free people, we have the choice whether or not to pay attention. But increasingly, attention is all we can seem to give them. Across the country there were reports of families lining up at midnight, and in many cases, before noontime on Thanksgiving Day, in anticipation of black Friday sales. Traditionally, black Friday was a clever adjunct – and a relatively benign idea, because bored families naturally gravitated out of the house on that free Friday off after the holiday. (You can only spend so much time indoors with family before the systematic emotional implosions commence). Although marketers took advantage, it was buyers who really dictated where they would go, and what they would purchase. Somewhere, somehow, in the shift of pronoun importance marked by caring more about “what” than “whom,” that power swapped hands, and the stores seem to be pulling Americans in by the millions and encroaching on the time usually reserved for Thanksgiving. People have now placed a higher priority on material things at a bargain price above priceless immaterial things – and the clock is ever ticking away as our compulsion to buy spins out of control quicker than the ticking second hand.

One could argue that the shopping, and waiting in line, in itself is a bonding experience – it’s like a new ritual, as sought after as splitting the wishbone. But the inescapable fact of black Friday is that you must acknowledge it is not engineered to be fun. The only people who get joy out the experience are severe masochists, and the kinds of people who watch shows like CSI and Law and Order purely for glimpses of carnage. Everything about black Friday is in direct opposition to Thanksgiving the day before = you wait in the cold, you get up super early (or stay up all night), you’re huddled with a bunch of strangers probably more cranky than you, you get trampled on the way in, and chaos ensues. And after all that effort, you may not even leave with what you wanted in the first place. Maybe our tribal instincts are at play here, but there’s a reason we no longer live in caves and club our women (at least most people understand the reasons).

Doing a rather informal poll, and some research, here’s a list of what people have waited in line for: Bread (Depression Era), Soda Fountain Bars (mid-1900’s), tickets to shows and movies (all century), and now, store sales. Our reasons for queuing up, (though some have stayed constant when necessities like food or water are involved), have taken a turn from Experiences that ultimately give us enjoyment and fulfill us, to actual Items that we perceive will give us or someone we care about some future enjoyment. No longer is the wait about getting to the end and fulfilling some inner need for culture, or time with friends while sipping a fountain drink – the most fulfilling aspect of the wait, whether people admit it or not, is the wait itself. Those hardcore black Friday shoppers are quick to give you their stats with the gusto of an Olympic athlete: “I woke up at three AM to travel to Allentown, where the good store is, and waited in line for hours,” or “I snatched up the last guitar hero game from the clutches of a quadriplegic, while balancing on a trolley and simultaneously pushing back a few small children by their hair.” Yes, the gadgets themselves are the ultimate goal of the black Friday festivities, but they are festivities nonetheless, and despite our engorged tummies on Thursday night, black Friday as a legitimate holiday is spreading over into the real holiday the day before it, and sucking everything into its vindictive and time-consuming path. And like a true black hole, there is no end to its devouring nature. Only we can stop it — but honestly, the prospects, and the unforgiving minutes, don’t stand much of a chance.

the skinny on those skin cells

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

Why do politics even have to play a part in this scientific debate? Sometimes, politics, though beloved to some, seeps into our livelihoods with the nonsecular vigor of a religious fanatic. But, perhaps that’s just the nature of the political juggernaut.

The news about two different groups of scientists reporting initial breakthroughs in stem cell research should be a purely positive event, but alas. Before the contributing scientists could put down their beakers and pipettes, Washington, evangelists, and you name it have fashioned unwarranted arguments to their studies, all for rhetorical and approval rating gain.

But first, and more importantly, let’s look at the science: The “old” method of stem cell creation, still in trials in human cells, is to take an unfertilized egg, and merge it with a donor cell, create a embryo, and then harvest the embryonic stem cells that begin to form with the development to create any kind of cell desired, and destroying the embryo itself. The new breakthroughs are with skin cells, and involve mixing a skin cell with a virus that carries a person’s genes. The virus then gives the skin cells these genes, creating an “embryo-like” stem cell, which also serves as a cell that can be harvested to create other cells.

The new skin cell method seems like a good way to circumvent the whole ethical pothole created by some who disapprove of destroying cloned embryos, but it is also cause for concern — whenever genes are manipulated, especially when they are carried by a virus and then extracted, there is a high if not eminent chance of cancer and other genetic diseases and deformities. It’s surprising that all the hype for this new method of “non-embryonic” research neglects to mention the potentially life-threatening side effects. We do enough in this world to unintentionally give ourselves cancer – we should think twice before introducing more known causes. That said, more research should continue to see it this process is a viable option. BUT NOT at the expense of the original stem-cell research methods. And here’s where the politics enters our scientific debate.

The White House, and evangelicals, and anyone else opposed to stem cell research because of its”unethical” considerations (i.e. the destruction of a cloned embryo) is lauding these new skin cell developments, many without even reading the full reports. They believe it is proof-positive that other methods can and should be explored and will, [no pun to anti-abortionists intended], “bare fruit.” Bush’s spokespeople have already pointed to this research to further validate Bush’s two vetoes on stem cell research spending bills. They are itching to make this a debating point when it comes to platforms for the 2008 elections, because it was a fairly volatile issue, with many voters on both sides more apt to see an increase in funding for stem cell research, given its potential for saving the lives of millions with Parkinson’s, nerve damage, etc. The Republicans would like to use these findings as a snide comeback, a kind of “i told you so” in light of their long held stance, that basically values a practically inanimate petri-dish life form over and above those multi-celled organisms we informally call our neighbors, siblings, parents, and friends. But it makes sense for Republicans to rally against stem cells — they cost much much more to harvest right now in comparison to the money harvested from the average tax payer.

Both forms of research should be funded — this is essentially a scientific debate, and here’s why politics should just stay out. Even if (and that’s a big “if”) skin cells prove to be the best method,and they can discover more science to benefit people, both skin cells and embryonic cells should continue to be tested. From a purely scientific standpoint, when different theories are pitted up against each other, and there is a kind of “race” to the finish, to the end results, and hopefully a cure, the research in competition not only speeds it, it breeds better science. From a economical framework, most agree that in free economies, competition is a good thing- it keeps business sharp, and seeks to get ahead. The same can be applied to this scientific situation – no method should get complacent, or think they’ve cornered the market. And hopefully the benefits will come pouring in for those with spinal injuries and damaged organs. Because no matter how “unethical” you want to make stem cells to further your political standpoint and channel your almighty dollar, what we’re essentially funding is people, not the destruction of them. Please, inform how you can comfort yourself with the thought of saving a handful of cells that WILL BE destroyed anyways, over the possibly of saving thousands of whole, suffering people NOW, and millions via prevention in the future. Perhaps this debate doesn’t interest you, because you have no spines to begin with.


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

Breakthrough news:
comments to come.

Asystolic AMT needs Fiscally Responsible EMTs

Posted in Uncategorized by m.snowe on November 18, 2007

Patient: Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT)
Time of Death: 1970… give or take.

Why do we keep a dead and rotting system of taxation? The Alternative Minimum Tax was founded on a wonderful and amazingly ethical premise: keep the nation’s wealthy and uber-wealthy from using deductions, etc., to completely eliminate their federal taxes (i.e. a few donations here, a few adopted children there – Presto!: You make millions and never worry about taxes, in a lovely legal loophole sort of way, so you can sleep at night free of ethical bogey men, dressed as IRS agents).

Originally, the AMT was a lovely and worthwhile sentiment, but you have to wonder just what the dunderheads in 1969 were playing at, when they decided to forgo a measure to index the AMT for inflation – so as the times change, and the weight of the dollar deceases, and people’s money goes up (along with cost of living to even it out), more people fit in the AMT’s bracket, yet they really aren’t more than middle class. The AMT should be compared side-by-side with the Y2K phenomena – and people would understand the detriment of this tax – because unlike Y2K, this isn’t hyped in the media and a topic of worry and potential fiscal calamity the world over — but it definitely should be, because the AMT will affect a growing number of people who are by no means independently wealthy as the years tick on.

Now Congress is dragging their feet (of course) and it’s always a touchy subject when taxation is on the operating table. Republicans and pro-business Democrats are decrying the loss of tax revenue if the AMT is fixed or done away with, but they don’t seem to understand the essentials here: the tax is malfunctioning, and that extra revenue they’ve already spent on funding all their pet projects is not really legit – it is fruit of a poisonous tree, and should be thrown into the pulper (along with their earmarks). The ways and means committee has introduced a bill, that would essentially take the burden off anyone earning under $200,000 – and tighten up many loopholes that let venture capitalists, real estate investors and hedge fund managers (who usually earn in the millions) write off taxes in unfair ways.

The GOP and a few Democrats call this paramount to a tax increase, and Bush has vowed to veto any fix to the AMT that would increase taxes in any way. Okay. So lets analyze, shall we? Essentially, once the AMT was created, the wealthy, and large corporations have discovered other ways to forgo taxes legally, yet slightly unethically and shadily – usually having to do with overseas operations, etc… And what this new system would do is prevent these tremendously wealthy people from evading the taxes created for them to pay in the first place – so essentially, the taxes are not being raised – they are being made more enforceable, and legitimate. And even if this wasn’t the case, and congress just decided to raise taxes for the wealthiest people, doesn’t that make sense? The wealthiest people should be paying the most taxes, that is what our system is based upon – we have a scaled/gradient-based taxation system, that works to ensure that. If Bush wants to fix the AMT, so that more and more middle class people aren’t subject to it, how can anyone do that without raising somebody’s taxes? Of course, Bush is notorious for only vetoing bills that make perfect sense – this is like Bush saying “I must veto this bill, because it sets a timeline for withdrawal,” while knowing perfectly well that troops will have to come home on a certain schedule, because of the sheer fact that tours of duty will expire on certain dates (short of stoploss, that is).

It’s puzzling how Bush and his veto threat can claim to be defending the middle class, when the only people this bill will effect negatively is huge corporations and fat cats – who would barely feel the suggestion of a pinch, given their bankrolls. And the idea that this tax will somehow hurt certain sections of the economy and therefore the entire US economy, starting with real estate investors, is ludicrous, if not entirely laughable – it’s real estate investors in the past decades who have acted completely fiscally irresponsible, and caused a housing mess with sub prime loans that’s making our economy sag – if anything, this would be nothing but a justifiable payback, a finding in the court of public opinion for pain and suffering damages – yet the tax fixes of this bill would be nowhere near enough. If pinching the big guns helps out, or relieves the burden of anyone who is now facing foreclosure, then it is a job well done.

Riding the fence? more like the clothes hanger.

Posted in Uncategorized by m.snowe on November 17, 2007

Guiliani. That anomaly of anomalies. Or is he? At first glance, his positions on some issues are a bit spotty – and the press has, for the most part, gone out of it’s way to make sure people continue to be confused by exaclty what Rudy is trying to sell. And actually, it’s probably doing his campaign more good than harm — at least in a national sense. In terms of primary votes, it remains to be seen whether or not the warbly quality of Guilani’s campaign platform turns out to his favor. One thing is agreed so far – that Guiliani’s approach is not a platform of solid bedrock, but one of shifting tectonic plates – who knows what seismic turns it might take.
But as of right now, Guiliani is confusing people on a few key issues – abortion, religion, and gun control – the holy trinity of Republican pundits. Normally, to be a viable candidate your answers to the trinity must be: “Never, Always, and ‘Ready, Aim, Fire’, Amen.” But Guiliani has adopted the tact of pandering slightly to the left with abortion, yet winking knowing at those stubborn donkeys to his right.

What his strategy entails is thus: he proclaims himself a pro-women’s rights politican, saying that he should not dictate choices for a woman. This serves the purpose of allowing some on both sides to see his bipartison attempts. However, anyone – and pro-choice people especially, would be extremely naive in assuming that Rudy is actually FOR them. Because on the other side (yet at the same time), Guiliani says he would support the confirmation of supreme court judges in the vein of Scalia and Thomas. If that isn’t scary, this blogger doesn’t know what is – and it certainly trumps Rudy’s attempts to appease the middle-left. Because Guilani can’t exactly outlaw abortion himself, the most likely way we’d see the outlawing of abortion in the near future is through the courts – and that is where Guilani is fiercely pro-life — so he isn’t even close to riding the fence, only perhaps the clothes hanger. We’d be better off having a right wing candidate being strictly pro-life, yet open to supporting the nomination of judges who themselve sit on the abortion fence (i.e. they actually want to hear the evidence and decide independent of their own moral/religious belief – an idea we don’t see too often nowadays).

Guilani is portrayed as a “different” candidate, one that is more centrist, and yet his facade is very thinly spackled, and it crumbles into a heap of GOP rhetoric upon any good analysis, (and that heap’s as toxic as the lead paint chips we get from China). So I’d urge anyone on the fence, leaning toward voting for Guilani because of his high marks for National Security (can you say 9/11 in huge numerals?) and his supposed liberal bent to be weary – you might just end up with exactly what you always knew you never wanted but didn’t think you’d get.

* and lets not forget that Guiliani’s pro-women (and pro-family for that matter) standings are lame at best – the man’s children, and certainly his ex wives, don’t even back him.

More Mudwrestling, please.

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

Finally, some good ol‘ fashioned, impassioned debate. The Democratic debates are finally coming to a rolling boil, after simmering on low with months and months ahead of the candidates before the primaries. As the time is finally starting to run out, the democratic candidates (the top three especially), are beginning to recognize that beating up on Bush just isn’t going to get them elected — even the Republicans are doing that. It’s time to take a new aim, one decidedly closer to home, and much more lucrative (yet dangerous).

The latest debate on Thursday had most of the candidates, and especially Obama and Edwards, dumping on Hilary Clinton. It seems that despite their differences, candidates in red and blue alike are trying to bruise Clinton’s record into a deep shade of purple. And for good reason – she’s leading in the polls (though in some select primary states, like Iowa, she is neck and neck with Obama and Edwards, and her actual popularity as a person is always a question). But many have recognized her as a threat, and since Bush is a lame duck, why try to shoot him down anymore? Luckily undecided, this blogger isn’t exactly pulling for any one candidate as of yet, but the attacks on Clinton aren’t necessarily so advantageous as her opponents might have the “audacity” to hope for. Clinton may get bashed, but she’s been attacked ever since her husband took office — she’s been fodder for comedic skits and pundits alike, circa the early 90’s. Yet somehow, she’s been able to eke out a political career, and a campaign that many saw coming, but never realized the vigor with which it would appear. In other words, sticks and stones…

The other issue with trying to attack Clinton via mudslingin‘ debate is that, counter intuitively, it gives her a chance to be better heard on the issues. Because in even the fiercest of debates, the attackees get a chance to defend themselves. Like Obama and Edwards, Clinton is no slouch, and she can match rhetorical wits with any candidate out there. She will volley back. She may not have the philosophical charisma of Barack, or the boyish charm of Johnny, but she brings something that is hard to define – some quality that while we cringe, we simultaneously admit sound judgment (Guiliani, unfortunately and admittedly, also shares some of this… je ne se quois). Whether Clinton’s ability to keep her campaign running at full speed ahead will continue – that’s anyone’s guess, but right now its on track. But be assured of one thing, despite her accusations of unfair play, Clinton has more too fear if the mudslinging stops. When no one cares to criticize your mistakes, they usually aren’t very interested in hearing your remedies, either.

Is blackwater all that different?

Posted in Uncategorized by m.snowe on November 14, 2007

Hired hands. Mercenaries. Private Contractors. Many people, and most Democrats would agree that the hiring of outside contractors to fight our battles is ill-advised, as evinced by the current situations and controversies we’ve seen (yet don’t know the full extent of) in Iraq and Afghanistan. But you have to wonder, with all the accusations of cowboyism, and independent mismanagement with separate agendas, how different is the management of current official military and intelligence agencies? Other than being government affiliated, how do their methods of incentives, inducements, and outright bullying differ? A great analysis of newly imposed incentives for the military can be found here:

Most people laugh at the military’s juvenile attempts to advertise and recruit via television ads and college campus visits (though these are not met without opposition by co-eds the nation over). But where sheer marketing gusto falls short, the military has made made up with the almighty dollar – so almighty, that the phrase might soon become: “God, Country, Corps, Stock Options and Matching Funds.” As the age of financial savvy lowers, the military has a wider net to cast when recruiting. If you told a junior or senior that they could potentially finish high school with around 28 G’s in their bank accounts, it would be hard to fill the space between their ears with anything but dollar signs — not too much room left for considerations of IEDs and training camps. And these bright kids, the ones fresh out of high school might earn a military education that they didn’t exactly bargain for – even if they understood the perils of warfare. What they will undoubtedly encounter is the military’s new initiative that will ultimately aid America’s jammed to capacity prison system: “moral waivers.” This little jem of a loop hole allows the military to grant enlistment to those with prior convictions. So essentially, if we send them over to Iraq, etc., they wouldn’t be able to repeat offend (at least in this country) and be able to take out their aggressions in “healthy” ways, like killing terrorists. None of these “moral” soldiers have ever acted out in immoral ways, none have ever raped or murdered innocent civilians in war zones…. wait….

So correct this logic if wrong, but we would rather enlist known felons (probably the same people who blackwater, although a shady organization, would probably not hire) than those who bring absolutely capable, invaluable, and vital assets (Read: we discharge those found to be gay — and they are usually the translators, or those in respected and extremely useful positions who are good at their jobs).

And when recruiters look for those next few, brave, etc., do they ever utter the words “stoploss“? No other huge employer can systematically change a contract, and make a binding, indisputable restriction on your leave. And what can soldiers do really?… you can’t exactly charter a southwest airlines flight out of Baghdad. And if you go AWOL, chances are you won’t be seeing those promised bonuses.

A lot of young people see the distinct advantage of joining the military in order to pay their college bills once they return to the states. And as lofty as that is for the people who enlist with this as a goal, you have to wonder how a country that claims to be as enlightened as the US can only afford to send people to college if they’ve killed a few foreigners first, and then once they do go off to college after this experience, only then do they learn of the history behind warfare, read a few treatises and literary interpretations, and learn the different philosophies that might inspire them to have a better understanding of the world, and therein have them question their past choices to go to war in the first place- all to no avail.

All this said, we do need a military — it’s a vital aspect of any major world power. But the mismanagement and utter disregard for morality, as well as the schemes to induce and hoodwink disaffected youths corrupts the whole organization – including those soldiers who join for genuine conviction’s sake. No one is blaming the soldiers, and that’s the argument that constantly gets tossed around in the war of rhetoric on capital hill, (and in most of the red areas). Well, instead of contesting the jobs of the soldiers, let’s isolate the discussion to those in high military executive positions – and start a not so little debate about top-down management, open to discussion with the military, the government, and American citizens.

finding your better-third.

Posted in Uncategorized by m.snowe on November 13, 2007

Some of the mysteries of dating, and choice of partner, aren’t really mysteries at all. (read: slate story: Fishman shares his observations and research from a years-long study, and most of the information is generally observable to the untrained, non-economist retinas. In fact, the first obvious fact has everything to do with the retinas, and the way we all see others, and potential sexual partners. Across both sexes, and probably all orientations (only heterosexuals were studied in Fishman’s project), attractiveness was an overwhelming factor. And as unfortunate as that is, it makes sense – people want to be attracted to the person they eventually choose to pursue. Men and women, (though men tend to place more emphasis on physical beauty) both expressed a need to like the way their partners look. And this explains the pairings that we would generally see, if this rule of dating was tested in a “vacuum” so to speak – in other words, all other factors ignored, men and women would essentially pair up accounting to physical attractiveness, and couples would be equally identified as attractive at a certain point on some imaginary sliding scale.

But luckilyy, and in some ways unluckily, we don’t live in a physical and visual vacuum when it comes to dating. Age,”personality,” intelligence, race, background, living situation, etc. — they all matter. And Fishman’s study of these aspects and how they play a role when pursuing a mate is what really sheds light on issues not only between couples, but between the world as a whole.
Let’s start with race. And this is the part where females should cringe. Apparently, according to his study, Fishman found that while men tend not to discriminate in terms of race when choosing a partner, women tend to date within their own race. And this really shouldn’t be too shocking – America’s founding fathers, most notably Thomas Jefferson, had no problem being attracted to a different race. Of course, this finding begs the question of how exactly men dating women of different races can actually be in the majority – but that is a quandary for another day. Before people go berating women through the ages for their racist dating preferences, it must be noted that women have been pressured to follow familial rules that men, with more past freedom, were tied less tightly too. Take for example, Mr. Jefferson. He didn’t do too bad for himself. Sally Hemings, on the other hand….

The next topic, while not entirely shocking, but extremely revealing, has to do with intelligence, ambition, and choice of a partner. Women sought out men who were as intelligent or more so than the women thought themselves to be. They didn’t necessarily want a man who was smarter or less smart than themselves, and they didn’t discriminate in terms of this factor. Men, on the other hand, purposely looked for women who they viewed as maybe just as smart, or less smart than they envisioned themselves to be. For men, intelligence is a turn-on only to the point were it eclipses their own, and at that point, the attractiveness of the woman slopes quickly down. So, it’s not really shocking, I suppose, that men would discriminate against brilliant women, but it goes to show how they have dominated the history books – they purposely choose, in Darwin-inspired fashion, to systematically mate with women they perceived as intellectually inferior, and thereforecontrollable.” Well, happily, some men overestimate their smarts in comparison with their mates, and women have managed to escape the un-natural male selection process. I guess while women are looking for their better half, men are perhaps looking for a static, slightly prettier third of themselves.

This observation by Fishman explains a lot, and can be perhaps applied to non-sexual areas of culture (or at least the areas that pretend to be non-sexually discriminating), like politics. Regardless of your political preferences, if you are male, you might be a bit threatened by a smart woman who has managed to get to the top, or say managed to run a strong campaign. Or, let me rephrase – not threatened exactly, but “turned-off.” And who could blame you — if you would never share your bed with them, why would you even consider committing your tax return to their initiatives and programs?

This study doesn’t tell us too much about human nature that we couldn’t guess, but it does show us some areas for reform. Women need to expand their horizons when thinking about race and dating, and men need to overcome their fears of intelligence, or predilections for women with a higher ratio of air to solid mass in their craniums. And then, what begins in the homes will expand out to the world, making it a friendlier, more equalized existence. As lovely as that sentiment sounds, I don’t know if it will ever happen. But hope springs, and awareness is a start.