Monday, August 31, 2015

The Latest Assault on Planned Parenthood

Margaret Sanger

The most recent attempt by the Republicans to defund Planned Parenthood, on the grounds that it is trafficking in aborted fetus tissue for profit is so outrageous, that I don't know whether to laugh or cry. It is now clear that this latest round is based on a series of doctored video tapes that will not hold up in a court of law.

But why do Republicans want Planned Parenthood wiped off the face of the earth? What is the motivation behind their vicious attacks on what the United Nations has declared to be a basic human right? Under international law, countries have an obligation to provide women with access to a full range of contraceptives and contraceptive information.

Defunding Planned Parenthood on the grounds that it kills unborn babies, is like defunding Mass General's Weight Center because they perform gastric bypass surgery, as a means of last resort. Never mind that they also provide other life-saving services in the form of obesity medication, nutrition counseling, exercise programs and are at the forefront of current research in weight disorders. Without these services, diabetis would become more rampant than it already is. Read more...

Sunday, August 23, 2015

America in the Age of Trump

 Here is an imaginary interview with a typical Trump supporter. I approach one of those older white guys in the parking lot outside the stadium where Trump held his rally. The guy is standing next to his Dodge Ram pickup truck, wearing a fishing cap, portly, his wife next to him. I start out by asking:

“So you like Trump? What is it about him that you like so much?”

“He is honest. He tells it like it is! He’ll clean house when he goes to Washington! He doesn’t beat around the bush. He takes on those damn politicians; all those damn liars. I am fed up with all this politically correct bs!”

Americans (from Sacramento) Do the Job, and: What to Do with Bad People?

On August 21, a terrorist tried to kill many people on the Thalys bullet train from Amsterdam to Paris. (See: Thalys Attack).

Amazingly, I relate to this event in two ways:

1. As it so happens, I have taken this train many times, It’s always a marvelous experience.

2. The terrorist’s attempt was foiled by three Americans (assisted by some other passengers, including Chris Norman, a British businessman). The Americans were Spencer Stone, an American Air Force serviceman, Alek Skarlatos, an Oregon National Guardsman, and Anthony Sadler. Both Stone and Sadler are from Sacramento. Sadler is a Sac State kinesiology student. So in this ever smaller world, this makes me proud about one of our students.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Freedom: The Right to be Left Alone

Freedom. Ah, that word! Sometimes overused. Often used as a slogan, especially by politicians. But the thing which it represents is essential and simple. It is also controversial, because it goes against values which some people hold dearer than freedom.

We still pay lip service to freedom. We still recite the patriotic clich├ęs about the “land of the free and the home of the brave,” because that is what America represents. But let’s face it, freedom is no longer a politically correct value. The word is mostly used on the right of the political spectrum. 

Today, the correct thing is to praise the “social” - social responsibility, social consciousness, “community.” Some years ago, the sociologist Amitai Etzioni launched a new political movement, “communitarianism.” Indeed, the problems of your neighborhood, your city, your country and ultimately the planet can only be solved if we all band together, or as Hillary Clinton said, “it takes a village.”

Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Lives of Animals: A commentary on J.M. Coetzee's Novella

In October of 1997, the South African novelist J.M. Coetzee was invited to give a lecture at Princeton on the subject of human values. Rather than give a lecture, Coetzee began to read from his novella 'The Lives of Animals'. In his short story, Elizabeth Costello, an ageing novelist, is invited to give a lecture at a fictional college in Waltham, Massachusetts, to speak to the need for a change in consciousness in human attitudes and practices regarding animals.

So here I am, writing about a writer who writes about a writer trying to make her case. His is a brilliant approach to discuss a subject which is loaded with moral and ethical dynamite. Coetzee, who is a vegetarian, has become a vocal critic of animal cruelty and advocate for the animal rights movement. He wanted to be a candidate in the 2014 European Parliament election for the Dutch Party for Animals, the only party of its kind in the world, but he was rejected on a technicality.

In the story, Elizabeth's son John, is the one who has invited her to give a speech, which he regrets the moment he sees her at the airport. John's wife Norma dislikes Elizabeth thoroughly, both for herself and her opinions on animals, which she finds sentimental.

Of course, I immediately identified with Elizabeth, being an ageing woman myself, who lives in Eastern Massachusetts and who has been struggling with the issue of my relationship to animals for quite some time. Read more...

Friday, August 14, 2015

The Optimism Illusion

Some psychologists say that having an optimistic attitude can make you live longer and achieve higher rates of success, fight disease and even change the outcome of future events, but if you ask me, people who are always cheerful and optimistic make me suspicious and my first reaction is to question their mental capacity. You must really be blind if you can remain cheerful in the face of so much suffering in the world.

My husband calls me negative, a sour puss, always looking at the glass half empty, but I much prefer to look adversity squarely in the face, acknowledge it and then give it a good whack with a strong dose of humor. He, on the other hand, always has something good to say about bad things. If the house were on fire, he would find the silver lining in the smoke clouds rising from the burnt rubble. Read more...

Thursday, August 13, 2015

The Criteria for Killing or not Killing Life

To say “killing life” is a redundancy: After all, to kill means to cause death. Only life can die. All other usage of the word “kill” is metaphorical. To kill a story or to kill a project simply means to destroy it.
Today, I want to write about true killing, i.e. the killing of LIFE, the taking of ANIMAL life. I was prompted by the recent killing of Cecil the lion by Walter Palmer, a trophy hunter from Minnesota. He lured Cecil out of his sanctuary, wounded him with an arrow, tracked him for forty hours and then killed him with a rifle. Some might argue that it would it be better to have Palmer’s taxidermied head on display than Cecil’s.

Why has the story of Cecil touched so many of us? It also generated many subsequent articles pointing out that on the same day that Cecil was killed, one hundred elephants were also killed in Africa, as happens day after day non-stop. Our assault on the animal kingdom is relentless, but we treat different species very differently. So here are a couple of questions: Why is it (more) okay to kill some species than others? And: What CRITERIA do people use to either condone or condemn the killing of life?

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Your Guide to the GOP Candidates: Who should you Not Vote for the Most?

There were two debates on August 6 - a preliminary one between seven “second-tier” candidates, and then the main event between the ten candidates who are currently enjoying the greatest amount of support. 

The preliminary debate was between Rick Perry, Carly Fiorina, Lindsey Graham, Bobby Jindal, Rick Santorum, George Pataki and Jim Gilmore. Pundits and viewers declared that Carly Fiorina - scandalously the only female among seventeen (!) contestants - was the overwhelming winner of the preliminary debate. Wouldn’t it be a blast if both contenders next year were women, assuring that our next president will be a woman! (Dream on)

The piece de resistance was the debate between the following ten contestants:
1. Donald Trump - Real Estate Tycoon; New York; Florida.
2. Jeb Bush - former Governor, Florida.
3. Scott Walker - Governor, Wisconsin.
4. Mike Huckabee - former Governor, Arkansas; former Baptist Minister.
5. Ben Carson - retired neurosurgeon; Michigan.
6. Ted Cruz - Senator, Texas; foreign-born. (What’s up with that? How can he run?)
7. Marco Rubio - Senator, Florida.
8. Rand Paul - former senator, Kentucky; Ophthalmologist.
9. Chris Christie - Governor, New Jersey.
10. John Kasich - Governor, Ohio.