Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Horrified and Harried over Hannah

Miley Cyrus is a billion dollar Walt Disney franchise viewed and idolized by 164 million kids, aged 6 to 14, all over the world. Her show, Hannah Montana on the Disney Channel, is recognized as one of the last vestiges of home entertainment for kids that parents can be totally comfortable with and trust for its good values; represented by the program's main character. Over the past several days, Miley Cyrus racked up a surge in popular hits on the internet with photos revealing a lot more skin which could lead to pneumonia. And parents have raised a furor at being betrayed.

The once squeaky clean star had posed partially draped with a satin bed sheet for Vanity Fair, lighting up the internet and media outlets. Cyrus issued an apology for the inappropriate photos. Making matters worse is the accompanying story that suggests sexual undertones, citing a favorite show of hers on HBO, Sex and the City. Disney alleged that she was manipulated by the publication to sell magazines. The controversy was fueled further by photos of Cyrus pulling her shirt to reveal a green bra and another where she rests on the chest of a man with the man's hand on her hip.

For 2 years, Disney has reaped a gold mine from Cyrus' allure of innocence, and keeping her that way is their business model and decision. Parents have vested their trust in her, and violating this would be difficult to regain. Fuming parents who pay for expensive concert tickets and a variety of Hannah Montana merchandise are frustrated by the uphill battle they're fighting against values being presented to children. This public relations horror has threatening consequences for Disney that may end the gold standard for inoffensive child entertainment they had a claim to.

There is a constant stream of role models for children who have disappointed their fans and confused them further. This is no different. Cyrus may have been manipulated into believing this was artistic. But the suggestion of a partially clothed pose communicates being sexy is being undressed, and it's acceptable even for Hannah. How can the 6, 7, or 9 year old fans react to this? A statement claimed she was embarrassed during the shoot, but a behind the scene photo says otherwise. She does not need to undress to be popular nor to be a star, she already is. Neither does she need to undress to show her growing into adulthood, everyone knows she's 15. What drove her to agree to this racy shoot?

It's astonishing how how fast these young celebrities become adored role models of godliness, sound values, and wholesome personification of their show business characters. Nurturing such a position seems farthest from their minds once the hormones kick in. The want to be sexy, attract the opposite sex, and fantasize about it. It may be the pervasive culture of fun and freedom distorted by the predatory business practice of profit and greed. Anything and anyone can be sold, for the right price. And the once angelic role model switches to a new role, turns from her loyal fans, does what she wants with her life and her body, drops everything and removes her clothes. She expects to hear "Hooray for your daring! Cheers for your independence! Congratulations for coming of age!" She is now at the threshold of her worst nightmare.


Paris Pares its Pest Population

Paris, the fabled city of romance is ending its romantic liaison with one of its equally fabled inhabitants - the sewer rats. Since the film "Ratatouille" was released in France last August a sharp surge in rat sales swept the country. Not that the French were keen on eating rats nor attempting to discover a skilled cook, but that they started to view these creatures in a different light. The rats have been adorned with such adjectives as cute, intelligent and social, making them a hot item and somewhat... well, using French lingo...fashionable. Rat pets were in great demand, especially the Remy lookalikes (soft hair and rounded ears), and sales of rat accessories jumped by 40%.

But this love affair has come to an end. An estimated 8 million rats reside in Paris, outnumbering the human population by 4 to 1; aided in no small way by the city's canals, river, and restaurants that make it a rodent's paradise. The city has chosen the months of May and June to launch this genocidal attack because reproduction is at its peak during the spring. More importantly, it will prepare the city for the summer months when tourists flock to Paris whose romantic expectations could be trashed by seeing rats within 20 meters of their feet every so often.

After being loved as pets, these animals who recognize their names, play like a cat or dog, and grow very attached to their owner, are back on the disgusting tag. At the Boulangerie, people are appalled to see rats streaking on the floors, crawling near the food, and merrily exploring cabinets. There's just too many of them to be ignored or dismissed. The film has actually given the rats a new image and a new leash on life, but their indefatigable manner of reproduction has exceeded the space they were given, that they could well challenge all the Parisian cats to deadly combat and annihilate all cat breeds. They could launch a counter attack on Parisians themselves and come out the victor, but they know better. If they finish off the humans, theirs will be paradise lost.

At least the city is incapable of killing all of them, and paradise will remain for the rest. The city should at least ensure that none of those exterminated have chef potentials. Being so exposed to French cooking perhaps the next generation of rats will truly produce a "Jaimice Oliver", "Ratgang Puck", "Marodent Batali", and "Ratchael Ray".


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Pay for Play Punishment

Karma can indeed be swift and severe. Soccer Star Ronaldo's embarrassing predicament may be the subject of endless ridicule and a possible break-up with his girlfriend. The 3-time FIFA World footballer is being victimized by three male cross dressing prostitutes when one of them, Andrea Albertine, took his vehicle documents and demanded US$30,000 - all because the AC Milan striker threatened to hit him inside the hotel room upon discovering he was a transvestite. Ronaldo's "brokeback" moment may be the butt (pun intended) of jokes for his failure to determine the genders of his "acquired assets".

He dropped off his girlfriend beforehand and proceeded to pick up three prostitutes to"amuse himself", according to his own statement. There was indecent haste in dropping off his girlfriend, or in picking up the "women" or both; perhaps because of his immediate need to satisfy his amusement. The tendency of certain celebrities to demand immediate gratification leads to errors in judgment. The case of Hugh Grant comes to mind. But for one who has traveled the world and met so many people, how
he could mis-identify the transvestites shows poor judgment indeed.

Aside from the potential flood of jokes and cartoons from this transvestite caper, the fact that he patronizes prostitutes which could tarnish his image and lose endorsements, and the embarrassment he has inflicted on his girlfriend; Karmic retribution for his betrayal may not be over yet. Disease may lurk around the corner. Unfaithfulness does not pay, it is actually very costly.


Monday, April 28, 2008

Epitome of Evil

This is the face of evil. There is nothing remotely human about the demonic nature of what he has finally admitted to. The prolonged, deliberate, and unfathomable demolishing of the life of his own flesh and blood is so utterly revolting that it defies description. The unimaginable hell he subjected his own daughter to for 24 years to satisfy his convoluted lust, is difficult to even think about without being stunned in disbelief or seethe in tempestuous rage. To visualize the crushing of the spirit of a young woman at 18, whose terror at the hands of her biological father began when she was 11, tempts one to lose rational thinking and plunge into depths of murderous retribution.

Such impulses however, would reduce one to the same level as this evil incarnate. Evil has a name, and it's Josef Frtizl. He lured his daughter into the cellar of their home, imprisoned her without fresh air nor sunlight, and made her into his sex slave for 24 years. The horror of this incarceration and the repeated assaults by her own father is more than enough to cause insanity. This unspeakable inhumanity produced 7 children, reduced to 6 with the death of one at birth, which was thrown into an incinerator by the evil one. Joseph Fritzl is devoid of any human characteristic. He is a beast forged in the fires of hell.

Six children, the eldest at 19, have been deprived of a life, an education and social contact. The psychological and social damage alone is incomprehensible. The youngest at five may have a chance at a normal life. The claims of the evil one's wife of being unaware of what was transpiring beneath their home is unbelievable. The cellar has a cooking area, toilets and sleeping quarters with soundproof walls and electronic door locks. These could not have been constructed without arousing any form of suspicion. This is another lie being sold and perhaps used for her defense in a court of law.

Incest by itself is already an abomination. Incestuous rape is flagrantly wicked and vile. Enslavement and incarceration for incestuous rape and siring of several offspring all of whom buried alive deep in a soundproof cellar is beyond an act of mere evil. Only a demon is capable of this. Human rights may not be given to one who may no longer be human. Animal rights do not apply. Even while sick beasts are mercifully killed, this evil deserves no mercy. he may even be worse than a beast. Perhaps he cannot die... because he has no soul.


Sunday, April 27, 2008

Initiatives to Inhabit Ivy-League Institutions

Admission in America's Ivy League institutions is a dream come true for some hardworking students. For most, it remains an ardent wish. For South Koreans, it has become a national passion if not an obsession. High Schools have been set up aimed at getting its students in a"pedigree" college of their choice under very rigorous schedules, a multitude of subjects, and a heaping number of individual course requirements. There are also "cram schools" that provide intensive tutoring programs specializing in SAT courses, the mandatory entrance exam for US universities. Korean parents are also moving their families abroad so children can study in foreign schools to master English before reaching high school.

The importance of getting a good education is an intrinsic value among Asians, because of the recognition that empowerment is built from the pursuit of knowledge. The history of most Asian nations is replete with the conquest by western powers owing to their superior knowledge and technologically advanced applications of scientific studies. The rise of Asia's tiger economies have given an added boost to the value of education in sustaining growth, competitiveness, global economic influence, equality and respect in the community of nations. The Koreans however, have taken this value several notches higher.

There are currently 213 Korean applicants to Harvard this year, with 37 undergraduates presently enrolled - more than any other foreign country except Canada and Britain. Harvard,
Yale and Princeton have a combined total of 103 Korean undergraduates. Between March 2007 to February 2008, 73,000 Korean elementary and middle school children left to study in foreign countries. Adults taking academic language courses increased in 2007 to 217,959 from 190,364 the year before. It has risen to roughly 33% for 2008. These are presumed to be parents and siblings of the younger children of school age. The Philippines alone has a population of 673,000 Koreans in its main island of Luzon. English, coupled with the western influenced urban culture, make it attractive for the end goals of Korean students preparing to go to the US. The cram schools expect foreign based Korean students to enroll this summer vacation to reach 25,000, to gain skills for admission in non-Ivy League colleges and universities.

Two of the most expensive and intense high schools established that gears its graduates only for "branded" American universities are Daewon Foreign Language High School and Minjok Leadership Academy. Both have a sensational record of admission in Ivy League colleges. In both schools, the school season is 1 month longer than the US, they have a 15 hour daily schedule of classes where the lecture based Korean national curriculum is supplemented by western style discussion classes. English language classes are taught by highly paid American and foreign ivy league graduates emphasizing composition, crucial SAT skills, admission essays, and unceasing study. Students are unmindful of suppressing romantic attractions as these fade with hundreds of hours of close quarters study.

Koreans in US schools are outnumbered only by Chinese and Indian students, largely due to their respective country's population size. But in percentages of students to population, Korea is slightly ahead. The tenacity with which the students pursue their goals, together with institutionalized support from Korean authorities is exemplary. It won't be surprising to expect China and India to follow suit. The technological savvy of a huge segment of their young and educated population is a force to reckon with; and ensuring entry of more students in "pedigreed" US colleges to learn what they know - and return to their respective countries to compete against US companies and products - is a winning strategic initiative.

In contrast, the continuous decline in the quality of high schools in the US has placed its future at a disadvantage in terms of competitiveness and knowledge. Students are not motivated and a general lack of respect for teachers, authority, and ethnic differences pervade its schools. Too much freedom, or too much rights, or too much of the good life have overpowered the hunger for learning and achievement. The pursuit of fame and fast income through shortcuts produces problems in terms of social responsibility for those who "make" it, and frustrations for those who don't. A confrontational orientation and exposure to a culture of violence compounds the chaotic environment of those who struggle to get by.

Are these developments signaling the end of the era of the white man?
Could this be the seeds for the fall of the American empire? If it is, Americans have not awakened to its impact yet.


Saturday, April 26, 2008

Squabble over a Soccer Souvenir

A court dispute over a used sweaty soccer shirt sounds ridiculous and so inconsequential. But not so if it came from David Beckham. The initial squabble over the after game souvenir that was intended by Beckham as a promotional effort, is turning into a potential legal battle following a tug-of-war between two contesting parties. The Los Angeles Galaxy Soccer Team may witness the effort turning into a surrealist nightmare.

Galaxy had just lost the game to Japan's Gamba Osaka in the Pan Pacific Championship. David Beckham took off his shirt, approached the stands and reached on top of a sign to hand over his game used jersey to two boys; who, it turns out, are close friends and teammates on a soccer team. The boys started grabbing at the shirt when their parents joined in the fray. At this point, the situation became spiteful with both sets of parents screaming, clawing, and hurling threats of legal action against one another. This may end the friendship of two young boys who might start kicking each other during practice.

According to Wilfred and Yoshica Ho, their 9 year old son had first possession, such that a policeman approached to settle the scuffle, take the shirt and hand it over to their son. Mr. and Mrs. Eric Kerr, on the other hand said that their 10 year old son held a sign throughout the game that eventually lured Beckham over. They said Beckham even pointed to their son as the intended recipient. Lawyers of both families have exchanged legal letters and the jersey will be on its way to court - still unwashed.

Beckham wanted the fans to get a kick out of the gesture, now the entire team could get a figurative kick in the face because of it. Soccer is undoubtedly one of the most popular sports in the world, and David Beckham is its current undisputed superstar. A hair from his leg, or from some other part of his body could probably fetch a fortune; even more so with a jersey used in a game - despite failing to win. Sports inspire a competitive spirit under rules of fair competition. It bonds a team with discipline, honor, and commitment. It does not dissolve these virtues because of a souvenir. This is dragging the value of sports into its basest material level, a level young kids must not imbibe if the virtues of sportsmanship, not materialism, is to take root.

It is the adults, the parents, who consciously or unconsciously inject this materialism in their own kids and who would later wonder why their children are without the values and virtues of their culture. But they do. The child's keen sense of perception can spot the hypocrisy between the words and subtle communication that their parents express. The jersey itself has no value. It can be reproduced by the thousands in Asia's counterfeit factories with Beckham's still blotting signature on it. It is the symbol of being used by a superstar and the potential value that adults have attached to such material items, that elevates its importance as a potential fortune. This is what confuses the kids in the choice between idealism and materialism.

A Solomonic decision has been suggested by the Los Angeles Galaxy team to cut the jersey in half, but it will most likely fall on deaf ears. The court case will definitely sever all ties between the families, and the young boys' soccer team may never be the same after this sordid affair. Thanks to the adults and the bright legal minds that interfere in the affairs of children and impose their own distorted sense of values on the dispute. The breaking up of relationships and the trigger that caused it will return to haunt them at some point, it always does. All these for a used jersey that probably reeks of body odor, the judge would want it burned and done away with.


Friday, April 25, 2008

An Attachment to Analogs and Antiquities

The biggest banks in the world are reeling from losses brought on by the mortgage crisis. Many are struggling to maintain their stability in the face of the global impact on financial markets, where the erosion of share prices have wiped out investments and expected margins. But in the small town of Oakwood in east Texas, America's smallest bank goes about its day-to-day business the same way as it did more than 30 years ago. The Oakwood State Bank uses analog equipment, typewriters, manual posting of transactions, and employees that would have been retired more than a decade ago.

Oakwood used to grow cotton. Today, it is simply known as a town that used to be. All the businesses that thrived there decades before have disappeared. Its 84 year old President R R Wiley doesn't mind being an institution capsulized in time, in the 1970's to be exact; and he seems proud of the fact that the bank is an old world bank, "we're run by antiques" he proudly quips. George Solomen, a data processing salesman has tried selling computers to the bank for 20 years, but he concedes that his failure had caused him to root for this last holdout against modernization.

The bank has 600 Checking Account depositors, no Savings Accounts, and every statement is manually typed by 75 year old Lela Coates. Posting is done by her assistant, 71 year old trainee JoAnn Bing. Bank President Wiley says no automated voice system can match Lela's voice recognition abilities, and no computer has ever won the hearts of its customers; even if Lela tucks the old posting machine every night and practically prays for it to work again the next morning. The bank's customers are happy with the set up and many have repeatedly expressed that the bank takes good care of their needs.

The ages of the bank's officers and employees may be the single most important factor in retaining its customers because of their knowledge of the nuances of each depositor, besides being of the same age bracket or older. The difficulty of adjusting to and getting used to technology is eliminated, and it gives them the confidence to perform their own transactions without fear of looking silly or being duped. Also, the personal relationships established over many years had developed mutual trust and respect between the customers and the bank's personnel; strengthening the bonds beyond mere business transactions and impersonal interaction.

This ideal situation of antiquated equipment operated by old people for clients as old or older than they are may receive a sudden jolt. The old machines could be orphaned units - parts no longer manufactured nor serviced. Computers may be the only option if the existing machines conk out. The passing away of its "specialists" could impact on voice identification or posting and filing of statements. New employees would have difficulty adjusting to the manual mode while dealing with the customer base who might resent their lack of personal knowledge on each account. They could lose customers!

There is a sense of nostalgia about living in the past and a level of comfort in the stable order of people and surroundings, even if the only thing that's advancing are their ages. The danger lies in the shattering of this comfort level when people pass away or sudden change is resorted to by the circumstance of their conditions. To an outsider, the town's bank might be mistaken for members of a nursing home allowed to perform role playing games in a make believe bank to keep their brains functioning; but the bank is real, the personnel are salaried, and the customers are faithful. Regardless of how stagnant their growth is or how small their profits are, they are still better off than most of the biggest banks in the world. And their income is enough to sustain their simple needs, medication, and health requirements.

There's a lesson here for the "financial wizards" of Wall Street and the technology manufacturers of automated banking systems. This is Banking Anthropology 101, please take out your pencil and paper.


Thursday, April 24, 2008

Wince With the Wind

The audacity which propels anyone to tamper with a classic novel and movie masterpiece, and transform it into a musical version for the theater, is either a creative genius or a fugitive from the nut house. Why else would anyone reconstruct Margaret Mitchell's 1936 well loved novel Gone With the Wind, and the magnificently crafted David Selznick film of the same title in 1939 into song and dance, except to stun the audience in disbelief and suffocate them with unimaginable boredom. The sheer madness that brought this dreadful concept into actual production is perhaps surpassed only by the unembarrassed mediocrity of the music and lyrics performed on stage.

Audiences worldwide have watched the film more than once, for many, as much as a dozen times; and the visual images, characterizations, and story lines have been so profoundly engraved on the collective consciousness that seeing Rhett Butler break into a song just doesn't register well in the public imagination. And sweet and holy Melanie - weak and dying, but the tragedy of her death is trivialized when she bursts into a song on her deathbed! This is comical. It's as if the Joker came to life hypnotizing the crowd into a state of dumbness, then surrender their brains to make it into high cholesterol burgers.

Trevor Nunn's three and a half hour 4.5 million pounds Production has limitations that diminishes the majesty and intimacy that film can accomplish. The camera could depict the terror on Vivien Leigh's face when she sees the extent of wounded and dying soldiers in the streets; and as the camera pans out, the magnitude of the southern defeat is evident and irreversible. Or, depicting the awesome sight of the burning of Atlanta and close up on Scarlett's expression of determined selfishness and self-preservation. Theater has no means to project this realism. The pathetic stage scene of the burning of Atlanta resembled a backyard barbecue on New Year's Eve!

Critics have not been bowled over by the long winded yet distracting songs with forgettable melodies and hackneyed lyrics. The expected explosive chemistry between Scarlett and Rhett that could have saved the production didn't materialize. The towering drama, the physical presence, and the electrifying performances of Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh - so vividly ingrained in the minds of audiences - cannot be recaptured, much less exceeded, in a portrayal where the intensity is interrupted by the inane lyrics of a song that has to be performed just to look different from the film. This is comparable only to Guy Smiley, a character on Sesame Street belting out the song Gone With the Wind while literally being blown away.

Fans of the film and the novel would do well to avoid this musical version. It would corrupt the beautiful memories and romantic attachments that have been nurtured through many years, tucked safely and securely in the area of the mind reserved for the most wonderful experiences of their lives. Replacing it with a burlesque version that should even have difficulty being shown on Saturday Night Live is an abomination. Apparently the producers and investors don't give a damn about these memories. And tomorrow is another day for them... to be ridiculed and laughed out of business.


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Delays that may Damage and Divide Democrats

Barack Obama is ahead, but he cannot seal his victory. He has the funding and the momentum, but can't seem to spurt his way to a decisive triumph. Hillary Clinton is often on the edge of defeat but always manages to claw her way back in contention. After Pennsylvania, it is clear that neither of them will secure the nomination with 2025 delegates, and the Democrat selection process will drag on until August. This could be damaging for the Democrats in their attempt to retake the White House.

The enmity between these rival camps grow every day and with each approaching primary. Brickbats, accusations and negative portrayals of the other candidate are hurled by both sides, providing tremendous ammunition for the Republicans and dividing the party's voter base. Supporters of either candidate are developing deep seated bitterness that could take this rivalry to a condition that is beyond repair. At the end of the selection process, whoever is selected may alienate the supporters of the defeated candidate. The resulting bitterness may drive them not to support the Democratic candidate, not to vote at all, or worse, vote Republican. The healing and unification process may be more difficult than is normally believed.

The biggest factor that hinders an outright Obama nomination is obviously race. The Clinton's have raised this card early on and chances are the Republicans will do the same should he be the nominee. Conservative white America is just not too comfortable with a Black President. Surveys may show this to be minimal among whites but it could be deceptive since these respondents do not want to be seen as racists. Some may say they want a woman President, but the number of Black women voting for Hillary are in the minority, most are whites. This could indicate that the gender issue is a cover up for a race issue. Latinos and Hispanics opt for Hillary too supposedly on her close ties with this segment. But these voters may fear that Obama's concerns would skew towards blacks rather than Hispanics, advancing the issues of the African American race as against theirs. Again, this is a race issue.

The other major factor going against Obama is his inability to win over the blue collar workers. He projects the persona of an educated man that may be too elitist to grasp the needs of the non-college degree holding factory workers and employees. There is a disconnect in the attraction process that he has difficulty bridging. He has built his bandwagon on new, youthful, educated, voters made up of independents, young Democrats and former Republicans, but cannot win over the workers who are older than his yuppie followers. Same with the older voters 60 and above.

The younger voters are more open and accepting of ideas and are inclined to support the idealistic candidate that speaks their thirst for new politics, after being jaded by the Washington brand of power play. Factory workers are more skeptical, being at the receiving end of bad deals from lying educated lawyers, bureaucrats and politicians. They will not vote for a Black President because he doesn't
stand a chance. They'd rather go for the white, man or woman. People 60 and above,? They are conservative types and will go with the white woman too. Barack Obama's failure to connect with these segments may have something to do with race as well.

Hillary's game plan may be to drag the process until the convention with no clear winner, then barge into the nomination by collecting on past favors given to the super delegates. She may also expect Obama to get tired, make mistakes, or lose his cool and talk his way out of the nomination because he doesn't have the temperament of a stable leader; not tough enough to take the hard blows. But Hillary's credibility as a person is so badly damaged by her own embellishments that she has become uncomfortable to trust. The divisive tag given her by the GOP is proving to be true even among her party mates. Electability by virtue of experience or toughness by virtue of battles fought may no longer be the criteria for selecting a President come November. With all the lies that have been dumped on the American people in the last 7 years, trustworthiness may be the key element, as well as a new vision for approaching America's problems.

Obama is on the right track. All he has to do is maintain his composure and be unfazed by Hillary's repetitive rise from the depths of defeat. Hillary's predisposition to look at things in terms of conflict and confrontation, and her knack for doing better when in a crisis situation is chillingly dangerous. Anyone who is in confrontational mode and is good in handling crisis means America will always have a crisis, and will often be on the brink of a confrontation.


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Washington's Wailing Wall

Michael Chertoff's legacy is to build for America the 8th Wonder of the World, the Great Wall of Mexico. This monumental madness will certainly make people of the world wonder: "What insanity drove them to build that monstrosity?" China's more than 2,000 year old wall is now a tourist attraction, after it has outlived its usefulness as a deterrent for unwanted invaders. Chertoff's wall is a tourist and environmental repulsion, using 21st century technology for a 1st century concept that history has repeatedly proven to be incapable of stemming the tide of human intent.

Like his counterparts in China more than 2,000 years ago who erected a wall to fend off invaders, Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff's wall intends to substantially minimize, if not totally flatten out the illegal entry of Mexicans into US territory. Authorities say that the sea of illegal immigrants provide an ideal cover and venue by which terrorists can hide, which also offers a reliable means of entry. However, of the 735,000 illegals caught in 2004 and the 1.2 million intercepted in 2005, none were terrorists; just poor folks looking for a way to make a living by taking menial jobs Americans detest, where the pay cannot fill their belly with beer while watching their favorite weekend sport on TV.

Walls were never a deterrent for the intention to enter, legally or otherwise. Jericho's walls collapsed on the trumpets of Joshua; China's walls were penetrated time and again through bribery, fear, siege, threats, among others; the Berlin Wall could not prevent escapes and entries until its final collapse; the Gaza strip wall likewise collapsed. What makes Chertoff believe this wall will be different might be the fact that it's state-of-the-art. In truth, it only shows the state of America's inhospitable attitude and its dreadful art of expressing vulgar conceit.

Surveys show that the wall is supported by the populations affected at 56% against those who oppose at 31%. The surveys have naturally injected the word terrorist as a fear factor for voting in favor of the wall. This unsightly structure ignores the effects on the environment where numerous species endemic to area could be adversely affected, the water systems and resources that would be trashed by steel and concrete, the damage that the bulldozers and graders would generate, the partitioning of the lands of three nations of Native Americans - lands that were given for them to settle out of the goodness of the white man's heart - even if these were not arable and worthless, and the properties of ranchers that would be forcefully partitioned just so the wall is erected.

In financial terms, the initial cost of building the barrier was stated at around $2.5 billion, but the infrastructure alone can easily exceed that amount. Add to this the cost of maintaining and manning the walls, with all state-of-the art equipment and vehicles, the cost is expected to go up to $60 billion. On top of this, Homeland Security is locked in legal battles with landowners which could tie up completion and further escalate costs. All these for a disgraceful and senseless wall that illegals can overcome by going around, going over, or going under. Already, 40 tunnels have been discovered and the Mexicans can build a hundred more along the 2,000 kilometer stretch. Money that could have been used for productive purposes, or finding real solutions to the immigration problem will be wasted on a wall that will be scaled one way or the other by the determination of those who seek to improve their lives.

Americans who favor the wall must be feeling like the Native Americans felt when the white population came in droves into their lands seeking a better life, just like the Mexicans today. Perhaps there is fear that the Mexicans will retake Texas. Sitting Bull. Geronimo, and Crazy Horse must be chuckling in their graves. The costs of health care and crimes committed by illegals are also being bandied as a reason for the barring of illegals. These are peanuts compared to health costs to consumers of food and medicines with toxic substances and deadly chemical components sold by big US corporations. The crimes of many favored companies like Enron certainly dwarfs the cost of the crimes of the illegals. The fact is, if the surveys are accurate, 56% don't like poor Mexicans polluting the bloodline of the supreme white race, it will wipe out their purity and diminish their attractiveness to the world at large.

And Chertoff's obsession with erecting the wall may be due to a failure to erect something else. Compared to the wall, viagra would be a lot less cheaper.


Source: New York Times, Washington Post, Google Photos

Monday, April 21, 2008

A Surge in Soldier Suicides

The American heroes of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are being decimated, not by the enemy, but by their own hands through suicides. These soldiers are the veterans of both wars who returned to the country, were given military honors and presented as heroes; and after the photo ops and the fanfare, were left to rot by the wayside. In 2006, the rate was reported to be at its highest among soldiers in 26 years at 99 confirmed suicides. Today, it is running at an average of 18 suicides per day. Five of these are under the care of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The Veterans for Common Sense and Veterans United for Truth have filed a class action suit against the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) claiming inadequate care is leading to a surge in suicides, and would like to see that patients are actually treated with respect. According to Lawyer Gordon Erspamer, "failure to provide care is manifesting itself in an epidemic of suicides". There are about 300,00 US troops, roughly 20% of those currently deployed, who are suffering from depression or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), after their tour of service in Afghanistan and Iraq.

In July last year, a class action lawsuit was also filed against the US government by veterans of both wars on behalf of hundreds of thousands of veterans, claiming the DVA has deliberately cheated traumatized war veterans of benefits owed to them. These include disability pay and mental health treatment. This case comes 3 months after President George Bush apologized for the scandal that broke out in Walter Reed Medical Center where wounded veterans were housed in sub-standard facilities infested by rats and cockroaches on walls full of molds. The scandal caused the resignation of US Army Secretary Francis Harvey. President Bush promised to fix the problem at the time. While the walls have apparently been whitewashed, the problems remain and its effects have worsened.

Of the country's 744,313 homeless, about 194,254 or roughly 25% are veterans, even if they comprise only 11% of the adult population. Moreover, 44,000-64,000 are chronically homeless and some 500,000 are at a high risk of homelessness as of November 2007. And, many veterans find themselves at shelters so soon after their discharge from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The mental health problems arising from these wars are enormous, and fears of their numbers growing at a very fast rate have been raised.

The DVA has countered that 3,700 new mental health professionals have been added, bringing the total to just under 17,000; and that $3.8 billion has been earmarked for mental health. It is filing papers arguing that courts have no jurisdiction on the day-to-day management of a network that has 153 medical facilities nationwide. Here, the American bureaucrat's penchant for numbers and figures come into play. It is not the size of the budget nor the number of professionals that matter, but the quality of care and treatment received. Reference should be made to the thoroughness with which each patient is diagnosed, evaluated, and respected in the process of treatment. Also, the rightful provision of benefits paid to each soldier after the service duty should be judiciously and speedily forwarded. A disabled soldier has already been robbed of a number of opportunities in life, must he still be cheated out of the sacrifice he has rendered and endured?

Can the US sustain 100 years in Iraq as John McCain proposes if it treats its heroes this way? Will not these images weaken recruitment for US forces? Is America so financially bankrupt that it allows its heroes to waste away in demeaning conditions? What purpose do the medals serve? Has financial bankruptcy led to moral bankruptcy? Is this any way to fight a war, much less win it? Will these issues be singled out again as agitation by left wingers so it can be easily dismissed after labeling? The figures cited are from the DVA and US Census, and there is no way these can be denied. The number of suicides per day are actual deaths with the corresponding body count, it cannot be silenced by denial, but can be denied by silence.

Like Vietnam, the veterans are being released like damaged dogs left to struggle for their survival in the garbage dumps of the urban jungle. This is no longer surprising. After being used and rendered useless, the promises become memories of a surreal nightmare, which soldiers wake up to each day. Would they have been better off killed and buried? Apparently, that's what those who took their own lives believed. In World War II, the US created the USAFFE to help defend against the Japanese invasion in Asia. These were soldiers fighting for America who were promised veterans benefits and back pay after the war. They are now in their 80's and are dying in the streets of the US waiting for the promised benefits. Their Iraq and Afghanistan wars counterparts could well be their grandchildren in terms of the age gap, and they suffer the same fate.

It seems that being a soldier in the land of the free and the home of the brave, you are free to die by your own hands or those of the enemy, or you can brave surviving alone, like a wounded and unloved dog.