My post last week on the debate around female circumcision is still on my mind, as well as the world's. Today, a NY Times piece on male circumcision, as well as my original post, has me thinking. OK. Circumcising baby boys is wrong, too. Happy now?
I gave little thought to my own son's future, let alone his rights, when I left that decision up to his father since I knew what he'd decide. Had I been on my own, I'm sure I would have had it done with little thought but at least, that way, I had plausible deniability going for me if Junior came after me in the future. That was 2001 and the backlash against the practice was in its infancy. Now, though, I don't see how you can support the practice for men but not for women. Of course, circumcising anesthetized babies in a hospital is a far cry from doing it to 12 year old in the village square. Still, adding an operating room in the latter instance might be painless but nonetheless wrong. If either a boy or a girl wants to be circumcised once adult, who's to complain (see: breast implants and 're-virgination' procedures)? But until the health claims made for male circumscision are proven (see the above article), it's hard to see how the practice can be justified on grounds of tradition alone.
Man, I hate having to carry my thoughts through to uncomfortable conclusions. I'd rather change a 1,000 mouse traps than my mind.
(Also, see the Huffington Post on a western woman's investigative foray behind the veil since there's a pretty straight line between it and FGM.)
This is a neat little video. John McCain, perhaps sensing he has nothing to lose, has put his strategy PowerPoint online. Rarely do you see such candor from a campaign.
If you're a political junkie, you might enjoy it. If not, here's the takeaway. No Republican will emerge from Iowa or New Hampshire with the nomination secured, the campaign theorizes. Even if one of the candidates does exceptionally well in both states, which is no sure thing, he will still have to contend with the fact that Rudy Giuliani has adopted a "late state" strategy and will by lying in wait for him in the February 5th states.
But if someone does well in both Iowa and New Hampshire and turns that momentum into wins in the middle states (i.e. the states that come between IA/NH and the 20+ states voting on February 5th), they will be so far ahead they'll be able to treat February 5th like a victory lap. That means Michigan, South Carolina, and Florida are more important than people realize. The McCain campaign seems to think whoever wins Florida, in particular, has the inside track on the nomination.
Anyway, this video obviously has a McCain slant, but it's valuable because it illustrates a campaign manager's thinking. Enjoy.
Iowa representative Steve King (R) has introduced a resolution (H.Res. 847) asserting—honest to God—that Christmas, Christians, and Christianity are important.The House will vote today.
Below is the text of the resolution. It reads like some sort of bizarre self-parody. Consider the paranoia necessary for a Christian, with members of his faith occupying the White House, most of the Supreme Court, and a huge percentage of Congress (there is currently one Muslim and one atheist in Congress), to introduce something like this.
Recognizing the importance of Christmas and the Christian faith.
Whereas Christmas, a holiday of great significance to Americans and many other cultures and nationalities, is celebrated annually by Christians throughout the United States and the world;
Whereas there are approximately 225,000,000 Christians in the United States, making Christianity the religion of over three-fourths of the American population;
Whereas there are approximately 2,000,000,000 Christians throughout the world, making Christianity the largest religion in the world and the religion of about one-third of the world population;
While we were digging out from 9/11 and the nation spent so long hysterically trying to account for everyone, a writer friend told me that after most mass accidents -- train wrecks, etc -- some people were found to have used the tragedy to decide to disappear. They'd turn up months or years later, usually by accident or the diligent work of family members who hadn't known they'd been abandoned, simply having decided to walk away from it all. I don't know whether to condemn or admire these...bastards? Maybe they're heartless schemers and maybe they're just more brave and honest than the rest of us.
Britain's "Canoe Man" is simply the latest, if not the smartest. He deserves nothing but condemnation. Had he, and his wife, foregone the insurance money and simply walked off into the sunset together, hand in hand, to start over again like Adam and Eve in the Canal Zone, you could see the poetry. But what they've done to their sons: inexcuseable. You can live without your children, your parents, a lifetime's worth of friends and your country but not without an unearned windfall?
Two congressional districts are holding special elections today.
Ohio's 5th district is a conservative district (Bush won 60% there in 2004) that, to the surprise of many, is being hotly contested by Democrat Robin Weirauch, whose only political experience thus far is losing the last two elections by wide margins. The seat came open when Rep. Paul Gillmor, a Republican, died in a fall at his apartment in September.
The Republican Party thought their candidate, Bob Latta, would win handily. A state representative, Latta has the right bloodline: his father represented this district for three decades. And the GOP has represented Ohio-5 since the 1930s, according to the AP. But Latta has run a poor campaign that has left Republican bewildered. "It's like the Latta campaign is trying to write a handbook on how to lose a Congressional campaign in 60 days or less," a D.C. Republican told Roll Call.
The already cash-strapped National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) has thrown $428,000 at the race. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has spent $244,000 in the district. (Those numbers are from the very good Swing State Project.) Though this race will likely be closer than anyone would have expected a year ago, and though Gov. Ted Strickland (D) and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) took the district in the 2006 midterm elections, Ohio-5 should stay red. A win for Weirauch would be a real coup.
The race in Virginia's 1st district is garnering less attention. The seat became vacant when Rep. Jo Ann Davis (R) died of breast cancer in October. The Republican candidate, state delegate Rob Wittman, is described as a moderate on the war and on the environment. He has a 4-to-1 fundraising advantage over the Democrat, a Navy reservist named Paul Forgit who won a Bronze Star in 2005 while serving in Iraq. Forgit has no prior political experience. He has the backing of Virginia's heavy hitters—Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D), Sen. Jim Webb (D), and former Gov. Mark R. Warner (D)—but the DCCC has thrown no money his way.
MSNBC's First Read quotes a political analyst as saying, "This may be the election where we see what happens when you have an election and no one comes."
So if you're from Ohio's 5th or Virginia's 1st, get out and vote! Turnout matters a ton in off-year elections. We'll do our best here at MoJoBlog to keep you updated on the results.
While my recent month-long jaunt of DJ gigs around Europe didn't allow me much time for sleeping or eating, let alone exploring the local music scenes, I was lucky enough to have a variety of musical items cross my path in one way or another. Whether it was my fellow-DJs' favorite bands, a CD I grabbed at a random record store, or just something I saw on TV, here's some of the most memorable music from my trip. It's heavy on the France cause that's where I spent the most time... sorry, Belgium.
10. Sasha* (Germany)
Okay, I get one of these. This came on TV when I was in Germany, and while the song is a rather dull piece of throwaway pop-rock, and the video isn't anything to write home about, holy crap is he cute. Look at his little beard and his little T-shirt and his adorable little hairdo!! Who cares about the song, Sasha speaks the international language of hot. (*Not to be confused with slightly-less-hot-but-far-more-talented Welsh DJ Sasha) Sasha "Hide & Seek" (from Greatest Hits--who knew he had any?)
9. DJ Moule (France) (check out his website here)
Not that the other artists on my list aren't attractive men and women in their own right. For instance, this Bordeaux-based DJ and musician accompanied me on the French leg of my little tour and was liable to lift up his shirt and show off his abs at climactic points in his sets. Well, he deserves whatever silly indulgences he wants, since his productions are flawless pieces of energetic mashuppery, seamlessly blending classic rock riffs with breakbeats from the Chemical Brothers or Fatboy Slim. MP3: DJ Moule "Dig It On" (Chemical Brothers vs. T-Rex vs. Anne Lee vs. Marvin Gaye)
8. Village Kollektiv (Poland) (check out their MySpace here)
Blending the indigenous music of Poland and Bulgaria with dubby beats and drum 'n' bass rhythms, Village Kollektiv avoid the usual clichés of "world music with a beat" through sheer musicianship and a kind of dark intensity. Based around the creative partnership of producer Rafal Kolacinski and his wife, singer Weronika Grozdew-Kolacinski, the combo also brings together a wide range of traditional local musicians on instruments like the gadulka, the dulcimer, and everyone's favorite, the hurdy-gurdy. MP3: Village Kollektiv "Wysoki Ganecek" ("High Porch")
7. DJ Mehdi (France) (check out his MySpace page here)
I've featured Mehdi's epic electro track "Signatune" in my Top Ten previously; the track's surging chords were an oddly perfect fit with the awesome accompanying video's tale of competing car stereo systems. His second full-length album, Lucky Boy at Night, fits in with hipster Ed Banger labelmates like Justice and Uffie, but Mehdi's roots in the French hip-hop scene (along with his Tunisian background and childhood in the rough northern suburbs of Paris) show through in the music's gritty intensity. DJ Mehdi "I Am Somebody"
6. Plastic People of the Universe (Czech Republic)
The day I left for the tour, the New York Times featured an article about the Plastics that proclaimed the psychedelic combo had "catalyzed democracy in Czechoslovakia." Well! So, um, how does it sound? I stumbled into a record store in Prague and cobbled together a half-Czech sentence or two to ask the clerk what CD I should buy from the band, and he pointed me towards Egon Bondy's Happy Hearts Club Banned, more of a collection of demos and live recordings than an album per se, and a little challenging of a listen on the iPod. More accessible is "Nikdo" ("No One") from a 1997 collection: its rolling rhythms evoke both Can and Frank Zappa. Stream: Plastic People of the Universe "Nikdo" (click here and scroll down to the music player)
Ever wondered about the real cost of that ridiculously cheap stuff we buy? I mean, how does it get it halfway around the world let alone designed, built, manufactured and then discarded for the pennies we pay? Well, the Story of Stuff tells us how, in a funny, fast, fact-filled film. Watch the YouTube teaser below, or check out the full 20-minute version.
Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent. You can read from her new book, The Fragile Edge, and other writings, here.
The answer, by region: the eastern US in North America; China, Bangladesh and Myanmar in Asia; western Sahel and southwestern nations in Africa; Brazil in South America; Russia, Scandinavia, and the Mediterranean nations, including France, Italy and Spain, in Europe. This according to a new study from Purdue University and the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Italy that goes beyond the physical aspects of climate change—changes in temperature, sea-level, and precipitation—to examine socioeconomic side-effects worldwide. The study forecasts that the merger of climatic and socioeconomic variables will trigger lopsided responses.
"Patterns emerge that you wouldn't recognize from just looking at either climatic or socioeconomic conditions," [said Noah Diffenbaugh, lead author]. "For example, China has a relatively moderate expected climate change. However, when you combine that with the fact that it has the second largest economy in the world, a substantial poverty rate and a large population, it creates one of the largest combined exposures on the planet. We see similar effects in other parts of the world, including India and the United States, which also have relatively moderate expected climate change. So it's where the socioeconomic and climatic variables intersect that is the key."