Six Degrees of Speculation: May 2008: Archives

May 29, 2008

The Vatican Monologues: No Vagina's Allowed genre: Hip-Gnosis & Six Degrees of Speculation

NoWomenAllowed.jpg

If you're ever seeking to understand the monolithic nature of misogyny, look no further than the Catholic Church. With classic institutional gobbledygook, the Vatican has made it clear that the ordination of female priests is unacceptable and grounds for immediate excommunication.

Pardon my disgust, but the utter idiocy of the Church's rationale is enough to make one hope for an afterlife...if for nothing more than the singular opportunity to kick the Grand Poobah in the keister for his part in enabling the wholly fallible interpretations of his head honcho's here on earth.

The decree was written by the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and published in the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, giving it immediate effect.

A Vatican spokesman said the decree made the church's existing ban on female priests more explicit by clarifying that excommunication would follow all such ordinations.

Rev. Tom Reese, a senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University, said he thought the decree was meant to send a warning to the growing number of Catholics who favor admitting women to the priesthood.

The church said it cannot change the rules banning women from the priesthood because Christ chose only men as his apostles. Church law states that only a baptized male can be made a priest.

Let's have some fun with the above logic. On the one hand, it seems that the Church is suggesting that God has decreed that woman have a lesser status in his holy hierarchy. In other words, when God elected to send Jesus to live amongst us...in order to redeem our sins and show us the path to salvation...he had no problem with women being relegated to subservient status.

That would have to mean that God believed that we humans had that piece of the life equation right all along. In fact, the inference is that Jesus wasn't conforming to the existing norms when he excluded women from being apostles...he was merely upholding God's belief that women were to be the equivalent of chattel.

I'm sorry, but that's a crock of crap and the fact that the Vatican is willing to cling to such an archaic argument is a testament to their intransigent ideology. It's also a demonstration of an unflinching arrogance to adapt God's intentions accordingly. Honestly, isn't this the same church that spent four decades concealing the serial molestation of underage children by the very men they seek to elevate to privileged status?

Crass as this may sound, I'm of the opinion that had there been a few vagina's in the monastery, there may have been a call for accountability and a demand for a demonstration of conscience - instead of a rallying around the rapists in order to retain an unearned reign of recalcitrant righteousness.

Then again, my experience tells me that the nuns have always done the lion's share of the heavy lifting while the priests have paraded about in their pretty gowns. Why would I expect the Vatican's vituperate monologue to change now?

Tagged as: Catholic Church, Equality, God, Infallibility, Jesus, Misogyny, Pope Benedict XVI, Priesthood, Vatican, Women

Daniel DiRito | May 29, 2008 | 4:57 PM | link | Comments (5)
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May 18, 2008

Gas Prices, Gas Bags, & The Gas Chamber genre: Econ-Recon & Six Degrees of Speculation

GasChamber.jpg

No doubt the current energy crunch is a complex equation. A number of factors likely contribute to the rising price of gasoline in the United States. As I understand it, they include the rapidly expanding consumer demand (including China and India), the fact that the U.S. hasn't built a new refinery in three decades and couldn't process more oil even if it were made available, regulation on emissions and an awareness of environmental concerns that have made it more difficult to maintain existing refineries (let alone construct new ones), and the prohibition on exploration in oil rich areas in the interest of preserving pristine national treasures.

While these and other factors contribute to the rising prices at the pump and expand our dependency upon foreign oil, understanding the more obscure factors and motivations may be an equally essential component in achieving a comprehensive awareness of where we're at and what we can do to move closer to energy independence.

I want to focus on the motivations and manipulations that contribute to the crisis. Capitalism is premised upon the willingness of free market participants to exhibit ingenuity in the hopes that it will result in prosperity (profits). Hence the risk reward construct is a fundamental aspect of our economic system. At the same time, supply and demand can impact the price one is able to charge for a product as well as the profit margin one can make on the sale of that product. As such, businesses can be motivated to limit production if it enhances demand and therefore improves profitability. The less competition that exists, the more likely a company is able to manipulate supply and demand without concerns for a loss of market shares.

So how does this apply to the oil industry in the United States? Let me count the ways. First, it is far easier to manipulate supply and demand of a limited resource than the provision of a service. There is no doubt that oil is a limited resource that cannot keep apace with the demand and that means it is a finite product. Those who trade in oil realize that profitability can be manipulated by controlling the supply. Granted, there are provisions that penalize or criminalize some of the manipulations that could take place. At the same time, there are environmental restrictions that afford the cover needed to effect the manipulation of supply.

So how is this achieved? One obvious excuse is OPEC and the willingness of those nations with the lion's share of oil production to keep supply low enough to insure sufficient demand and therefore maximum profit. Since the United States is limited in the action it can take against OPEC, U.S. oil producers can cruise along in OPEC's cash rich wake without reproach.

Another method involves the high costs of exploration and extraction as well as the subsequent cost of refinement. Hence, the oil companies can cite the billions of dollars they sink into finding and removing more oil and it would be very difficult for the government to quantify the levels that would equate with intentional and measurable manipulation. The fact that all of the elements associated with the industry trigger environmental oversight provides additional cover for companies to limit supply.

That brings us to the limited refining capacity. Time and again we hear that the complications and the costs of building and bringing a new refinery on board have been prohibitive...or at the very least...difficult to overcome and a clear disincentive to attempt. Therefore, the expansion of refining capacity has been primarily limited to the expansion of existing facilities.

Oil companies can cite the environmental restrictions, the resistance of communities to allow a refinery in their back yards, and the ever changing environmental requirements that require them to spend huge sums of money updating existing facilities as reasons for failing to expand refining capacities commensurate with demand. Clearly, this provides them with the argument to defend the reduced supply and the rising costs that accompany the growing demand.

Lastly, oil companies can also argue that without the ability to tap into known sources of additional oil as a result of limitations on exploration, it doesn't make economic sense for them to sink billions into refining capacity. They simply have to assert that expanding refining capacity to eclipse exploration potential is a self-defeating endeavor. In so arguing, they hamstring the government's ability to prod them into further refining capacity or to assert malicious manipulation.

Where does this leave us? Well, to a large degree it leaves the consumer between a rock and a hard place. To a lesser degree, it leaves the government with little recourse, under the existing laws, to force oil companies to expand supply. Lastly, it leaves the oil companies in the enviable position of watching OPEC limit supply and therefore elevate the price of oil and the profit that can be made on each barrel. It also enables them to limit their own refining capacities and to contend that it is not only harder and harder to find new sources of oil - they are often off limits.

Looking at the possible motivations and manipulations in chronological context, I think it is reasonable to speculate the following. The oil industry has sought the ability to retrieve huge quantities of oil from protected regions for decades. To date, they have been relatively unsuccessful in achieving that objective. Realizing as much, they elected the fallback position to limit their production capacity, wait until such time as world demand eclipsed supply, rake in the profits that result from the constrained supply in the meantime, and then watch as the American public is squeezed so badly that they will call for the government to ease environmental restrictions and allow oil companies to remove huge quantities of oil from previously restricted areas. I can't prove it but I think it's certainly a plausible explanation.

To a large extent, all of the above requires some level of government complicity. While where we've ended up may not have been strictly the result of informed consent, it is a testament to all that is wrong with naively supporting "free market" capitalism...especially when the players are actually engaged in nothing more than an attempt to corner the market so they can insure that they are free to hose the American consumer without recourse or recompense. Anyone seeking a better understand of the degree to which the political process may have allowed corporate interests to overtake the public's welfare need look no further.

Then again, speaking of naivete, so much for believing that we're moving beyond the use of the "gas chamber" in the United States. I could be wrong, but I'm sure that the subliminal suggestion we're hearing from off in the distance is telling us, "Don't forget folks...the next time you fill up...deep breaths, deep breaths."

Tagged as: Capitalism, China, Corporate Profits, Energy Shortage, Environment, Environmental Regulation, Free Market, Gas Chamber, Gas Prices, Global Warming, India, Lobbying, Oil Exploration, OPEC, Refineries

Daniel DiRito | May 18, 2008 | 1:55 PM | link | Comments (2)
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May 14, 2008

Keith Olbermann Special Comment - 05/14/07 genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation & Video-Philes

On the one hand, I can't wait for George Bush to be out of office...and on the other, I'll miss watching Keith Olbermann literally eviscerate the president on a regular basis with eagerly anticipated Special Comments. Lest there be any doubt, this iteration may well be one of Olbermann's best. Never let it be said that Olbermann pulled any of his punches in tonight's tongue lashing.

Olbermann's inspiration for tonight's tirade was an interview the president gave yesterday. In that interview, the president waded into the ill-conceived war in Iraq and all the justifications we've come to expect, his never ending effort to portray the Democrats as weak on terror and therefore likely to invite another terrorist attack should they win in November. As if that weren't enough, the president had the temerity to suggest that he has given up playing golf in deference to the families who have lost sons and daughters in his never ending wars.

This evening's Special Comment video is divided into two parts Consider this first part a warm up...because Keith certainly saves the best for last.

Special Comment - Part One

Special Comment - Part Two

Tagged as: Civil Liberties, George W. Bush, Golf, Iraq, Keith Olbermann, Special Comment, Terrorism, WMD's

Daniel DiRito | May 14, 2008 | 7:27 PM | link | Comments (0)
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May 9, 2008

Having More Babies Makes You A Better Mommy? genre: Hip-Gnosis & Six Degrees of Speculation & Uncivil Unions

OK, forgive my disdain for the content of the video below, but how does the story of a 41 year old woman whose pregnant with her eighteenth child merit being a Mother's Day story on The Today Show? When did we reduce motherhood to a quantitative measurement? I'm sorry, but I just don't equate the number of children one births with the determination that a woman is a super mom. In fact, on virtually every imaginable metric, I find the choice to have eighteen children to be an example of short-sighted and self-centered aggrandizement.

The fact that this family believes that God is deciding how many children they will have only makes recognizing them on Mother's Day all the more misguided. Yes, they're entitled to their faith and to have all the children they want, but presenting that election as evidence of selfless devotion seems to ignore the obvious. Perhaps being the poster family for Christian values is a noble pursuit, but I fail to see how it is in the best interest of the mother's health, the children's well-being, or the world's already limited resources.

Having eighteen children also strikes me as a demonstration of faith that Jesus would have viewed with skepticism. In my estimation, he would have chosen the obscure single mother...who is raising a disabled child and struggling each day to make ends meet...as representative of maternal sincerity and sacrifice.

I never understood Jesus to be interested in those who sought the center stage to announce the fact that they were engaged in empathic endeavors. In fact, I think Jesus instructed that acts of sacrifice would, by their nature, provide all the reward one would ever need. Further, I believe Jesus thought that those who imagine the rewards before commencing to act weren't actually making a sacrifice and didn't deserve any of the recognition.

Look, the Duggar's may well be wonderful people, but in the end, I suspect this family's choice isn't properly motivated nor is it representative of the sacrifice that we should associate with motherhood. In our me first, top of the heap, number one or nothing chain letter society, this looks to be another example of the thinking that underlies our pyramid scheme psychosis...a pathetic pathology that values victory and despises defeat while routinely diminishing and discarding our humanity. It is the one characteristic we should cherish...the one thing we all share equally...and the first thing we set aside in our race to capture and claim the perceived pinnacle.

I don't know how many children the Duggar's will end up with...but I'm willing to concede that they win the award for churning out more children than most would ever consider. I'll also stipulate that their God is aware of their willingness to bear as many children as Mrs. Duggar's body can endure.

Beyond that, I'm not willing to conclude that having eighteen children makes Mr. & Mrs. Duggar exemplary parents, conscientious Christians, or honorable humans. The skeptic in me says their actions betray their intentions. If I'm right, they may have won the battle but lost the war. At least they have enough children to build their own perfect pyramid.

Tagged as: Chain Letter Society, Children, God, Jesus, Mother's Day, Motherhood, Parenting, Religion, Sacrifice, The Today Show

Daniel DiRito | May 9, 2008 | 2:49 PM | link | Comments (0)
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May 2, 2008

Musings On Prudes, Perverts, Photographs, & Polygamists genre: Hip-Gnosis & Six Degrees of Speculation & Tongue-In-Cheek & Video-Philes

Two recent news items led me to today's musing. The first is the Texas polygamists and the second is the Vanity Fair photo of Miley Cyrus. Both serve to demonstrate the fact that numerous American's have yet to resolve the unhealthy dissonance that seems to accompany any event that can be seen as remotely sexual. That inability provides the backdrop for countless conflicts that surface with virtually every event that remotely triggers the trepidation.

With the Texas polygamists, we have a group of men who seem to be obsessed with having numerous females available for their sexual gratification...couched of course as part and parcel of their religious beliefs. Unfortunately, that obsession apparently leads to a virtual paranoia with regards to insuring that the appearance of their women won't display the slightest hint of sensuality.

Perhaps I'm wrong, but wouldn't you think that if you were going to have multiple wives, you'd want each of them to have a look and an identity of their own? Crass as this may sound, can this preoccupation simply be about having access to numerous vagina's? At the same time, are these individuals so driven by the fear that other males might covet their women that they embark to dress them alike...in garments designed to make them sexually unappealing? No, I don't claim to understand polygamists, but if you look at the pictures of these women, it seems to me that they have been transformed into the equivalent of low budget Stepford wives.

As I look at their prairie day's dresses and their caricature coifs, I can't help but feel for these women and their seeming inability to break free from their oppressive overlords. I'm even more disturbed by their willingness to indoctrinate their daughters into a life that has to be viewed as little more than a patriarchal prison. The structure and the system exude an array of pathologies. It also speaks to an imbalance that seems to be ingrained in many aspects of our society at large.

An example of that manifestation can be found in the recent events surrounding Disney sweetheart Miley Cyrus and the Vanity Fair image taken by renowned photographer Annie Leibovitz. The photo drew tremendous attention and elicited a level of outrage that struck me as rather odd...and abundantly indicative of America's inability to distinguish between puritanical prudery and limitless licentiousness.

In my estimation, the Leibovitz image was harmless...especially when juxtaposed with many of the images, inferences, and adult themes found in the Disney movie that propelled Cyrus to stardom. Frankly, I suspect that this battle between priggery and perversion is a permanent resident in the minds of many adults. As such, they are intent on attaching sexual connotations to each and every event.

The perpetual conflict this creates simply results in irrationality and an inability to strike a reasoned moral balance. It also facilitates calls for the erection (no pun intended) of barriers designed to keep the individual from acting on impulses they feel remiss to control voluntarily. I see religion as an adjunct in this effort to deter desires...one that often exacerbates the inclinations to act out in ways that are apt to sabotage the self and subjugate the actual identity.

Freud compared this to placing the lid on a tube of toothpaste without alleviating the pressure that is being applied to force it's expulsion from the inner layers of it's dark domicile. In this unnatural state, the toothpaste...or in the case of the individual, the often subconscious psyche...seeks out alternate outlets. Rarely are those outlets advisable or compatible with the process of self-awareness.

Returning to the tumult created by the Vanity Fair photo - truth be told, the image of Cyrus has been depicted in classical art forms for centuries and it needn't be viewed as sexually provocative. In fact, it is far less sexual than much of the clothing parents purchase for their children as well as the endless commercials that dad watches during any televised sporting event.

I see the outrage as evidence of an alternate outlet...one that fails to address the underlying discomfort or serves to diminish the dissonance that drives the demands for deterrents and/ or the squelching of subtle triggering events. Like the pendulum in a clock, this approach necessitates extremity as the individual (and therefore often the society) careens from one side to the other until such time as it can be pulled back towards the center.

In the end, the clothes worn by the Texas polygamist women or the lack of clothing worn by Miley Cyrus are simply outward evidence of an internal upheaval that requires recognition. Only then can the individual and the society begin the process of resolution. In the meantime, we're just a Janet Jackson breast away from our next moment of misguided moralizing.

In the following video, Mo Rocca and Tim Gunn take a tongue-in-cheek look at polygamist fashion. I get the impression that both men think the look is more akin to recidivism than with a retro revival.

Following the video are two graphics that seek to capture the intertwining, and the essence, of these two events. Hopefully they will also trigger a few moments of reflection as well as an honest assessment of the hypocrisy that has come to typify our convoluted culture.

TexasPolygamists.jpg

MileyCyrusVanityFair.jpg

Tagged as: Annie Leibvitz, Culture, Disney, Fashion, Hannah Montana, Humor, Miley Cyrus, Mo Rocca, Morals, Polygamist Sect, Polygamy, Psychology, Religion, Sexuality, Texas, Tim Gunn, Values, Vanity Fair

Daniel DiRito | May 2, 2008 | 1:22 PM | link | Comments (0)
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