Archive for April, 2012

Stupid Things People Do: Naming Beyonce “World’s Most Beautiful Woman”

Every year, publicists for celebrities put in a bid with People Magazine agreeing to supply them with the most exclusive stories and photo spreads in exchange for the title of World’s Most Beautiful Woman. This year’s winning bid apparently came from Beyonce and her hard working publishing team because last week, People Magazine crowned her the most beautiful human being among 6 billions out there.

After doing what cockroaches, stink beetles, whales, and all other life forms do on this Earth – birthing – Beyonce attempted to make herself, her gold gilded vagina and cashmere laced uterus stand out from the rest of humanity and all life forms for that matter by citing that she felt more beautiful than ever after having given birth and that doing what every cockroach is capable of doing finally gave her purpose in life.

I don’t know. Try giving birth in a mud shack or a village with no running water instead of occupying an entire wing of a hospital at a whopping $1.3 million with all the doctors and nurses and staff ready to cater to your every whim and fancy, and then we can talk about your “accomplishment” of having given birth.

And no matter, it is insulting to be picking an individual among six billion out there and calling them the most beautiful person on Earth, thus indirectly declaring others average or even ugly. No wonder so many women have image and self esteem issues with eating disorders and getting plastic surgery to “fit” in. They all want to adhere to some “standard’ of beauty that is not even a standard and the methods by which one arrives at that conclusion questionable.

To even think that among the six billion on this planet some rich bitch with a million dollar wig collection, a $10,000 a day stylist and a $3000 hair cut has truly deserved that title is ridiculous. I mean yeah, who wouldn’t look good after all this work. Try looking glowing and gorgeous without rubbing your face, literally, in dollar bills and all the beauty they can buy and then we can talk how truly beautiful you are.

In a world obsessed with youth and beauty but plagued with serious issues, I must wonder if it is an accomplishment to win a contest that is based on how you look like as opposed to what you actually do.

And is it an accomplishment to win a beauty contest when you basically cheated? Winning a beauty contest when you are wealthy and have nothing better to do than looking good is like winning the marathon after you did steroids. It doesn’t count.

I really detest how people with unlimited resources stand there insulting our intelligence by saying “Hey, look at me, I am so accomplished“, pretending that their “accomplishment” – such as being pretty or getting pregnant despite cancer etc. – had nothing to do with their wealth, but was something from within. Like Beyonce would still be nominated most beautiful woman if she was cleaning toilets at Grand Central station instead of sitting on 500 million dollars.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and Beyonce is pretty, but most beautiful? Especially given the unlimited resources she had to get there? I don’t think so.

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White House Correspondents’ Dinner: an Event of the Rich, by the Rich, for the Rich

Just another wealthy guy

This is a world of rich people, by rich people and for rich people and anyone who tells you otherwise is either seriously bullshitting you or majorly delusional.

Case in point: The White House Correspondents’ Dinner. The swanky celebration is supposed to honor journalists and those who covered Washington’s politics but in recent years it has turned into yet another Hollywood red carpet event. Some of the “distinguished” guests of this prestigious event this year were the epitomes of class: Lindsay Blohan and Kim Kuntrashian.

President Obama and Comedian Jimmy Kimmel

Democrat or Republican, money is the universal language both understand only too intimately and The White House Correspondents’ Dinner is the love child of both as it symbolizes wealth. After all, the only criteria for being included in it were that you are indeed rich and famous. As long as money is involved, everyone approves. That is something both parties agree on. Even most Americans agree on that.

While Republicans have rich hedge fund and corporate donors, Democrats – the party of the people – have wealthy Hollywood money and hot celebrities on their side.

Honoring journalists and the field of journalism, and thus actually hard working wage earners,  my ass.

The only thing being honored here is cold hard cash. I mean really, what has a pissed on whore like Kardashian or the cast of Glee contributed to the world of journalism or politics anyway? Why are they even there? Who cares? What about the scientists, activists, historians, philosophers and researchers? Where are they?

Oh yes, the latter are not rich and famous – apparently the only criteria for success in this country and in life – while the former are.

Lindsay Lohan looks like a retired porn star going to the AVN awards

It is ironic that on the one hand we’ve got the Occupy Wall Street movement with demands for equity and relief for the middle class, the 99%, while on the other hand any event of any significance in this country, including this Dinner, is hosted and populated by the wealthy and privileged, the 1% only.

The 99% only seem to matter in as much as they make for great talking point or otherwise help score political points and not because anyone really actually cares about changing the current paradigm, the current dysfunction with respect to structural exploitation and institutionalized greed in this country that have allowed the 1% to accumulate more wealth than the rest of us combined.

Like daughter, like whore. Pimp mama Kris Jenner and her cash cow Kim K

There are thousands of people who dedicate every day of their lives to public service in one way or another, thus championing the very causes this Dinner is to honor and uphold – yet the only ones who once again get to benefit from all this, even if just in a celebratory manner, are rich people; the 1% – literally – as everyone at that dinner is a millionaire – without exception.

Not that I don’t love the outrage when it’s politically expedient and all but it’d be nice if the actual American people – you know, the 99%  – such as the journalists meant to be holding the US government to account, the non-profit workers, the public servants, the researchers, activists and just the people on the ground who work everyday on these issues for Americans without anyone paying much attention to them –  were invited to the table and celebrated, instead of actors, reality TV stars and models – who neither represent the American people, nor have contributed in any meaningful way to the political and social world. Speak of being out of touch. Romney is not the only one.

Money begets money and at the end of the day, when all the political talking points and phony strategizing to supposedly empower the 99% have been made, rich people still only take care of and intermingle with their own. All this talk about empowering the 99% and leveling the playing field are just that: rhetoric. No one really means it and The White House Correspondent’s Dinner is the best example to the point.

The United States would be a very different place if everyone cared about inequity when there wasn’t a presidential election in which appearing to care about inequity could score a political point.

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Isolation, Poverty, Disease and Destitution: Native Americans and First Nations in the United States

It is really sad how Native Americans and First Nations are treated in this country. They had a conquering power take away their lands, ravage and decimate their race with disease and sickness, wash their mouths when they spoke their own language through government assimilation programs, forced adoptions, driven off to secluded Reservations in arid lands and now they have become invisible. Course: oblivion.

Pine Ridge Reservation. Family bathing an infant

The Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota – “home” to the Lakota Sioux – displays the kinds of statistics that make you think you are in a nightmare of an impoverished developing country, and not right in the middle of the United States, one of the world’s richest and most developed countries.

The numbers speak for themselves. Pine Ridge Reservation is the poorest county in the United States with an average family income of just $ 3,700 a year. The unemployment rate is at a mind-boggling 80%, alcoholism is at a four time higher rate than the national average; it has also the highest rates of cancer and heart disease as well as diabetes, with almost half the population over the age of forty suffeing from diabetes; infant mortality rate is five time higher than the national average and the average life expectancy for males is 48 and for women 52 years, lowest in the Western Hemisphere other than Haiti.

A staggering forty-nine percent of the residents live below the Federal poverty level according to US census data. Here are some of the truly scary facts about the Pine Ridge Reservation:

• Tuberculosis rate on the Pine Ridge Reservation is approximately 800% higher than the U.S. national average Cervical • Cervical cancer is 500% higher than the U.S. national average
• At least 60% of the homes on the Pine Ridge Reservation are infested with Black Mold Stachybotrys.
•The school drop-out rate is over 70%
• “There is an estimated average of 17 people living in each family home( a home which may have two to three rooms).”
• 39% of homes on the Reservation have no electricity
• There are no public libraries except one at the Oglala Lakota College (in an area the size of Connecticut)
• Alcoholism affects eight out of ten families on the Reservation

Life on the Pine Ridge Reservation

These people have nothing: no hope, no prospects, no future. It is like they were thrown away and forgotten.

Everyone is focusing on the genocide committed against Jews or enslavement of Blacks – which are quite valid things to pay attention to – but no one talks about the continued genocide and atrocities, in the form of structural violence, committed against the Lakota in particular and all Native American tribes in general.

The Huffington Post reported that the Navajo have to drive 30 miles to just get internet connection. In fact, less than 10 percent of homes on tribal lands have broadband Internet service — a rate that is lower than in some developing countries. By contrast, more than half of African Americans and Hispanics and about three-fourths of whites have high-speed access at home, according to the Department of Commerce.

Without reliable access to the Internet, many Native Americans find themselves increasingly isolated, missing out on opportunities to secure jobs, gain degrees through online classes, reach health care practitioners, and even preserve native languages and rituals with new applications that exploit the advantages of the web.

On the Navajo Reservation

Sonny Clark, 59, who lives in the remote Navajo town of Crystal, N.M., must drive five miles up the Chuska Mountains to get a cellphone connection, and 30 miles to Window Rock — where he works for the tribal government — to get online. He goes to these lengths just to stay in touch with his children, who live out of state, trading emails and text messages.

In the case of the Lakota, the government took away the sacred Black Hills from them and carved the faces of a bunch of men in there, honorable men, who nearly annihilated them but in the same breath wrote the Declaration of Independence claiming that “all men are created equal.” Well all, except for the Natives of course and blacks and any other race deemed unworthy.

And now this. Isolation, poverty, disease and destitution.  I can see how history has rewarded them.

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Dehumanizing the Opponent: US Soldiers Pose with Body of Suicide Bombers in Afghanistan

When you want to sell a war that is going to cost people the lives of their sons and daughters, then obviously you cannot show the true face of war. You cloak it and shroud it in a romantic veil – like a hero movie, like something with honor. You turn it into an honorable and desirable act: fighting for one’s country, fighting for freedom.  But war is none of that. War is killing and destruction, leaving people emotional, physical and most importantly spiritual wrecks and there is no honor to be had in that.

When I see people in this country cheer for war, as if they were cheering for their favorite football team, I seriously doubt most truly comprehend what is involved here. I mean this is war; it means killing, it means ending lives and often it is for reasons most of us don’t understand, nor are likely to benefit from.

Last month, Staff Sargent Robert Bales massacred 17 innocent civilians in two small villages in Afghanistan, nine of which were children. He killed them in cold blood and then torched them. Today, pictures of  US troops have surfaced showing them posing with bodies of suicide bombers – as if they had gone hunting and are now posing for pictures with their kill to be placed in the country club trophy section. That is contemptuous and unacceptable behavior – war or not and it says a lot more about us than about the ones we are at war with.

One could argue that those suicide bombers are worthless human beings who don’t deserve any better. After all, they blow others to pieces.

But the point really is that it is not about them, it is about us. When we start acting like the terrorists and wrongdoers we condemn, we lose credibility and the moral high ground and thus the ability to judge. Killing is killing. Ending a human life, is ending a human life. Having no respect for life, is having no respect for life, regardless of who does it. It is not better or more acceptable when an American does it.

A soldier from the Army's 82nd Airborne Division with a dead insurgent's hand on his shoulder. It's one of 18 photos given to The Times of troops posing with corpse

Killing in war time should be seen and handled as a necessary evil, not as an enjoyable act to be memorexed. Such actions strip those committing them off their humanity. The suicide bombers was not born a suicide bomber, he was made into one. For whatever reason, circumstances in that person’s life lead him to take this path. But he is still a human being and no one should pose with a picture of their dead, charred bodies as if it were a sport. It is dehumanizing.

Dehumanizing the Opponent

In order to acquire such a mindset as we have seen in Bales and now with the above mentioned soldiers, you have to think of your enemy as unhuman, you have to view them as something much less than you, so that you can go out there and treat them accordingly without remorse. This, in turn, requires dishonoring and devaluing life itself.

The army and the propaganda machine they run, understand that; they need to in order to create efficient soldiers. They cannot have people on the field feeling remorse or questioning why they have to kill others. This is a wise strategic policy for warfare but such a mentality also backfires, resulting in the kinds of actions we have seen with Bales and various other similar incidences over the years in that regard.

Dehumanizing and disrespecting life is what Robert Bales did; that is what the soldiers above did and that is how most Americans view the people in the Middle East.  That is also precisely the reason why people continue cheering for war and why Robert Bales’ atrocities did not receive much outrage and public outpouring of condemnation. Even Anderson Cooper did not talk about the issue much and when it was talked about it was more in the context of trying to understand (read: find an excuse for)  Bales, rather than to truly condemn his behavior.

They did not even post pictures and biographies of his victims.  They remained face and nameless because posting pictures and telling us about who those children were would place a human face on those victims, which is the last thing the war department (DOD) in this nation needs.

Bales’ victims remain faceless for the same reason body bags containing the remains of US troops killed in combat are not allowed to be filmed, photographed or else broadcast. The moment people realize that these are human beings there whose lives have been extinguished, they will not freely embrace war and treat it like a team sport.

Cooperation and Diplomacy as the Paths to Peace

The use of force for self defense is justified. If you are being attacked, you have to defend yourself. Standing by and watching being killed is stupid and futile. However, that is where it should end.

Our problems as a society in particular, and human kind in general, cannot be solved through warfare and killing. They can be solved through cooperation and diplomacy and war, while sometimes a necessary evil, should be used sparsely and as the last resort. Something the United States and its people are yet to truly comprehend.

We have been in Afghanistan for ten years now –  we were in Iraq for almost the same amount. Thousands of people, mostly innocent, have lost their lives on both sides; US mothers and fathers and children who will never see their loved ones again. Innocent Iraqi and Afghan families that are just as much the victims of their society as those killed during the 9/11 attacks, have lost people in the most gruesome and atrocious ways.

There is nothing romantic in this; nothing heroic

The sad thing is that while we see these kinds of stories,  there are those who still cheer for another preemptive, baseless war.  This time against Iran. An act which will require dehumanizing your opponent as well as your own soul to be able to go in and pull the trigger and justify creating havoc and blood-shed once again – not to defend yourself, but to preemptively go against people whom you suspect, but have no evidence, are up to no good.

Fighting a war for a decade is insane and requiring young Americans to die and fight in a cause that was always unwinable, is without honor by our elected leaders.

The Public is to Blame

Unfortunately, the public is to blame for this as much as our elected leaders. Remember that they cannot do anything without our consent and unfortunately, the public has been supporting such wars.

A Pew Research Survey found voters strongly in favor of aggression towards Iran. “Of those following the Iran situation,” Pew finds, “54% say the U.S. should take a firm stand against Iran’s actions, while 39% say it is more important to avoid a military conflict with Iran.” Trevor Thrall at The National Interest picked up on this at the time, noting that “support for military action against Iran today is almost exactly the same as support for the invasion of Iraq right before the war began.” And that was after one of the most coordinated and aggressive propaganda efforts in American history.

These people were voted in, they didn’t just take over.

So if you are reading this and you are one of those people who voted for an official that signed off on the war but think that you are absolved of carrying any responsibility towards this since you did not personally pull the trigger, you are sorely mistaken and in high denial. There is as much blood on your hands as on the hands of those soldiers that have been rendered soulless.

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Michael Fassbender

On the Cover of Interview Magazine – February 2012.

Michael Fassbender is gifted with the rare quality of possessing rawness and intensity coupled with warmth and a certain kind of ardor. There is a fire in him. He is a master of his craft which I believe is more a function of who he is as a person and human being rather than as a function of a skill learned – which acting can be.

They say a great artist is one who has experienced pain and grief deeply; intimately.  Fassbender is that good; he has a wide range.  He is a chameleon. He could play a tea pot infusing it with so much passion and fervor that at the end of the 90 minutes you’ll end up drawn to the tea pot on some level. He infuses life into his characters and his insanely attractive, deviant personality shines through in all of his roles. A rare combination in Hollywood. Let’s enjoy him and his individualism before he is burned out and becomes just another pretty face in the Hollywood crowd…

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