News & Politics

Ten Best Reader Comments of the Week!

The week's best reader comments, all in one handy round-up!
10 Best Readers' Comments

This week AlterNet readers waxed prolific on a number of issues, including the affliction of anorexia, the watchful eye of the NYPD, Evo Morales, sex toys, and the religious right. All in a week's comments!

Reader kww355 agreed with Naomi Hooke's analysis of anorexia as a disease in "Understanding Anorexia: A Thin Excuse," and shared a personal story:

I had a dear friend who struggled with anorexia for over 20 years and finally committed suicide. The author of this piece is completely correct when she says the fashion industry has very little to do with it.

There may be some girls who slide into eating disorders (anorexia and bulimia both) from dieting to emulate Kate Moss or one of the other stick figures currently popular. However, the main thrust of anorexia is control, both self-control and being controlled by others.

My friend grew up in a home where nothing she did was ever good enough for her parents and she was constantly teased and belittled. Add low self-esteem to her horror of her rapidly developing body and the unwanted attention she got from men, and the conditions were ripe for anorexia.

She'd panic anytime her weight approached 90 pounds and would constantly ask me if I thought she looked fat. I got to the point where I was telling her she looked like a concentration camp victim, but she couldn't see it. She got into the trap of denying herself food (AND water!) thinking the more self-control she had, the better a person she was…

Readers hotly debated 'consumer feminism' in response to "Has Artificial Beauty Become the New Feminism?." Hagwind wrote,

How to get this across? Alex Kuczynski and a few thousand mainstream writers to the contrary, feminism is not primarily about helping individual women get whatever they want. It's about identifying and dismantling the barriers that confront women as a class. The barriers can be laws, traditions, or attitudes, and they vary from place to place and across time. Some of the attitudes are gasp! in our own heads. As those barriers are identified and dismantled, more and more women will have more and more options -- but that doesn't mean that every choice we make is a feminist choice, even if feminism helped make the choosing possible.

Jennifer Cognard-Black writes: "Yet the cosmetic-surgery industry is doing exactly what the beauty industry has done for years: It's co-opting, repackaging and reselling the feminist call to empower women into what may be dubbed 'consumer feminism.'"

Exactly right (though I'd just as soon leave the F-word out of it). This is what our sell-sell-sell culture does to everything: repackage and sell it back to us. The advertising industry really is amazing. It can take "the best things in life" (i.e., the ones that are free) and sell 'em back to us for big bucks. Love, sex, fun, health, revolution, feminism -- even spirituality, which by definition isn't about Stuff, gets turned into products and services that you can buy in the marketplace. (The "free" market abhors the thought that anything could possibly be free.)

Liberation isn't something you can buy over the counter or off the rack. Anyone who says otherwise is probably trying to sell you something…

Speaking of liberation, there most obviously isn't any justice for women who are trafficked across the U.S.-Mexico border for sex work. Expanding on "No Fair Trade for Trafficked Women," logansafi tied prostitution to a larger system of trafficking humans:

Law and Order Now! Is alternet's current push? There is not a run away epidemic of trafficking in underage girls in the US, though it does exist in many other parts of the world to a greater or lesser degree. We are not awash in a tide of slavery of young women here.

The idea that this issue is BIG is being used to promote a regressive agenda. If you want to stop prostitution then stop all the wars that US society promotes worldwide. Out of war comes lawlessness and prostitution. Many of the American male population that travel worldwide to engage in paying for sex with younger women picked up the habit through the military.

Men are trafficked, too, Alternet. I have spent the last couple of weeks visiting an Immigration lockup. The traffic is in labor, not sex, and this traffic is in much greater numbers than the traffic in sex workers is. Power imbalances create traffic in human flesh. If you want to stop this traffic in humans, then push for a global minimum wage so that folk do not have to do desperate things to get their food, clothing, and living space paid for.

In response to "The Real Reason People Fear Evo Morales," ellie offered support to Morales in his quest to stand up for indigenous rights:

As we creep up on columbus day (Native American day) … reading this morning about Morales is a breath of fresh air … as Elizabeth Cook-Lynn once said; "… we (American Indian people) do not want reconciliation without righting the wrongs of the past, we do not accept your empty apology …", saying sorry to Indian people for genocide, theft and corruption, outright racism, educational limitations and hate crimes today in 2007, placing many of our relatives in absolute poverty and danger… the list goes on and on…

As Indian People of the Americas, when will the others realize we overall, do not want to assimilate into your culture, but want a parallel culture with the same voice as the assimilated, but not have to give up our history, culture and identity as the going price???

I wish Morales support and hopes he has a good security detail and top level Dragon Skin with Kevlar…

On another continent, the U.S. government continues to stir up trouble in the Middle East. Pgj1949 opined on the real reason why the Bush administration views Iran as a threat in response to "Our Most Important Mission: Prevent War with Iran."

Iran's real threat is economic, not nuclear. The Bush administration's claims that Iran's nuclear program is a real and present threat do not stand the test of reason. Even if they wanted a bomb, they are years away from being able to produce one.

There is, however, a way in which Iran does pose a very real and current 'threat' against the United States. Iran, the world's second largest oil producer, now sells 85% of its oil in currencies OTHER than the US dollar. This directly threatens the status of the dollar as the world's premier reserve currency.

Where once upon a time the dollar was given worth by being backed in gold, in more recent times its legitimacy has been backed by its use as the currency in which oil is traded.

As the dollar has fallen in value relative to other major currencies, the value of producers' dollar-denominated oil also falls. This leads the price of oil to rise in dollars, and creates an incentive for producers to exchange oil for a currency that is rising (instead of falling) in value relative to the dollar.

Since one of the main attractions of dollars as a reserve currency was its use in purchasing oil, trading oil in euros or yen diminishes the desirability of the dollar in international trade and capital markets.

Iran's gradual abandonment of the dollar in favor of other currencies lays down a course that Saudi Arabia and other oil states are sure to follow in the pursuit of their own self-interest.

As that happens, the economic hegemony of the United States will become severely threatened. We will no longer be easily able to export either our national or personal debt without greatly increasing the rate of interest that we offer. This will increase the cost of government and maintaining a personal high-consuming life style, and reduce our ability to afford the war machine that has been necessary to enable Western corporations to exploit the natural resources and markets of most of the rest of the world. Even were we to force Iran to reestabish their dollar-based oil market, the economic fundamentals that led to abandoning the dollar would remain. War with Iran would accelerate our national indebtedness and further weaken the dollar. Even if we maintain our ware machine, we cannot invade every oil producing state. The fundamental threat to the dollar is not Iran, but our and transnational corporations' greed.

Also alarming is the United States' dependence on fossil fuels and our pollution rate. In response to "Our Grandparents: The Real Environmentalists?," Basenjis shared his or her own experiences growing up in another era …

I, myself, am a child of the Great Depression. I grew up on a farm where every member of the household had his or her chores to do and woe to those who failed to remember.

My dad switched from raising tobacco to growing tomatoes during those years and from the age of seven until we lost the farm when I was fourteen, I helped plant and hoe and weed and pick tomatoes as well as keeping up with other chores such as hand pumping water for horses, cows, pigs, sheep and whatever sundry other farm animals we happened to have. I can tell you there were lots of them and they were very thirsty.

When my peers and I get together, we talk about those times and someone always says, "yes, but we lived in the best of times in America, the very best that America has ever had to offer." Then my sister launches into her routine keeping us in stitches when she describes her favorite depression garment, a red silk petticoat she wore at twelve with ribbons and ruffles and flounces made from something found in an attic trunk.

Those were difficult times. but I had a good childhood. I learned early how to cope on my own, a most useful thing that has benefited me all my adult life. I am a great problem solver.

Since a lot of history of the human race has been lost due to the burnings of libraries, distortion of facts and other acts of human ignorance, we don't really know what all we have been through down through the milleniums. The experts keep pushing back the time span of human life on this little planet. We've been around a very long time. I do not believe that this time we have trashed the earth beyond salvation and that we are about to blow every last one of us and the planet, too, into oblivion. Good people armed with all kinds of innovative new ideas and scientific knowledge, spiritual energy and practical insights as well as many ordinary but far-seeing, earth-loving, inventive, common-sense activists both here and in other parts of the world. Our part is to simplify, simplify, simplify, strip down to those genuine good essentials, educate ourselves, share, cooperate and become a part of the solution.

I am no scientist, but I wonder if it is true as biological geneticists are telling us that the overwhelming percentage of information contained in DNA-coding appears to be "garbage" or the stuff left over from previous failed adaptations to environmental changes or realities, if this, the worst of times, may not be just another human evolutionary blunder. Human beings are remarkably resilient. We've had to be to survive over and over our own self-destructive habits. Maybe--just maybe-- it's still not too late to change directions. We know the problems and we know the solutions. We can do it.

Switching topics, packofwolves lamented the bottom line philosophy that is an integral part of law enforcement after reading "What Makes Criminal Suspects Give a False Confession?"

Unfortunately, our country operates on the bottom-line philosophy for everything. As a society, we don't seem to care who gets hurt or how the bottom line is attained - the only important thing is reaching the bottom line whether the arrival is based on fact or fiction. How have we gotten ourselves into such a state? Our criminal justice system is the most barbaric within all of the industrialized countries of the world. We keep building bigger prisons and filling them up with the most vulnerable among us, the mentally ill or chemically dependent, the down-trodden and those who cannot afford fancy lawyers. And it doesn't matter if they are guilty or innocent as long as they are imprisoned for a crime that occurred. The real criminals (the health care industry, pharmaceutical companies, and those other corporations that rob us of our retirement and cheat us at every turn and beat us while we're down) walk away unscathed, with their fortunes, homes, cars, etc. in tact.

What a shameful country we have become, where the famous and super rich are immune to the realities the rest of us face. How long do you think a society can survive with a system like this? If you should ever get called in to a police station, keep your mouth shut and demand an attorney no matter what they tell you. How awful to be so afraid in a democratic society where we are presumed innocent until proven guilty. And we berate other countries for their practices! No wonder we are so hated throughout the world. Nothing is worse than a hypocrite.

Rjgwood continued on the theme in response to "New York City's Explosion in Police Repression and Surveillance Is a Threat to Us All."

Since Ronald Reagan was in office, the majority of the citizens of the United States have been asking their government to be more and more repressive, demanding a "get tough on crime stance" and they have been willing to turn a blind eye to injustice in a quest to be safe from the bogey man (read black/brown guy).

As a result, we have created behemoth correctional institutions and police departments where considerations of civil rights take a back seat to "get 'em" attitudes. We have created systems where Chicago's police can torture over a hundred black men in Guantanamo Style. We have created the system of police corruption that came to light during the trial of Mark Furman: an L.A. Police Department planting evidence and participating in panapoly of abusive and illegal activities. New York has bad company.

And these are just the abuses that have come to light nationally. Regionally, many police departments have rumors of abuse, allegations that go uninvestigated and review boards that have little to no authority.

Add to this incarceration nation attitude the spectre of international terrorism, and you have all the necessary conditions for unofficial Marshall Law.

On a completely different topic, Einherjar described male anxieties of female sexual empowerment in reference to "Sex Toys and the Technology of Orgasm.

I think that the general fear of female sexual empowerment is alive and well in the average American male mind. Speaking for all American males is pretty big, so I am going to stick to my country, but looking at pop culture, I feel that I can say the fear of women "turning off the spout" is real. It may manifest in different ways, but it is there…

American men of my generation or so, have been exposed to the idea from our earliest years that "Scoring" is all that is Man, that women who refuse us are "Bitches" and that women who give in as easily as we want them to are "Sluts". Let's call this the Ultra Man myth. The idea that women should be given equal thrift, that they should get off as much as we do, is blasphemy to the Ultra Man myth. A recipe for disaster in terms of female pleasure in our male dominated world, but hey, I didn't design it that way. With all the suppression and shame that permeates American sex, the last thing it seems many heterosexual men want to deal with is worrying about their female partner's sexual gratification. Which is to say that they worry about it constantly on a subconscious, "I'm not a Real Man" level.

It's my hypothesis that when men who have taken this to heart hear about how great the effects of vibrators are, it causes a massive hemorrhage. A giant hole blows open in the dam they have built up to hold back the flood of self-doubt that stress and culture has built up in them and all that self-hatred starts to flood their minds. Men who pass laws against vibrators want to kill that doubt. They want to put themselves back in a mindset of control. For, if women start controlling their own orgasms, what's next? Controlling their own leisure time? VOTING??!!

Finally, ssegallmd described how organized (and now, corporate) religion controls and infiltrates secular realms in "The Religious Right's New Tactics for Invading Public Schools."

As this article tends to confirm, organized Christianity, like all theistic religions, is intolerant of other religions and secularism, except where it is compelled to be tolerant by an enforceable contravening law, such as was the case in the U.S. until recently. Now that government is helping it, witness it stealth agenda, which is to grab control of the government and impose its values on the rest of us. Does anyone doubt that the church, given the power that it wielded over government in colonial Salem the last time it had complete control of the law and courts, would return to inquisitions and executions for heresy? If you do, I would say that you don't understand political Christianity in the United States. Christianity, like all acquisitive and power-concentrating entities, never has enough if there is more to be had…

While Jesus, like most pastors, may have preached love, nonviolence, cooperation, and charity, Big (institutionalized) Christianity is, in practice, about none of those things, as history has borne out repeatedly. It was invented (or co-opted) by the privileged classes to help them rule a large, exploited peasant class. Those are the people who want you to mimic Jesus of the beatitudes (be honest, meek, longsuffering, poor, etc.). Think about what Christianity teaches and how well it dovetails into this idea, and then ask yourself who benefits from such behavior:

1. What looks like injustice now will be squared later, after death. 2. Poverty and submission are to be extolled. So are honesty and industry. Abraham was a great man for his obedience to authority being willing to slay his son on command. 3. If somebody wrongs you, turn the other cheek. Love him. Forgive him. If you can't get over it, pray. 4. Remember Job. Don't try to understand God's goodness. God loves you and has a plan. 5. Have lots of children (for labor and soldiering). So, don't use birth control, be gay, single or have abortions. The rhythm method is OK (tee-hee!) 7. Give generously, at least 19%. Never expect an accounting of collections or expenditures…

Now, not every American Christian is aware of what kind of an entity it is that they support, what its actual purpose and methods are. Most, in fact, aren't. They see their religion as sweetness and light, and its critics as monsters. We're all used to that.

Here's the take home message: Big Christianity is a political enterprise that, when empowered (politically), is incompatible with freedom, tolerance, compromise, democracy and rights. It's not apparent how antithetical to liberal values it is in a liberal world where tolerant liberals protect it. In a conservative environment, as is true in America today, their true totalitarian nature emerges, unbeknownst to the rank and file.

Thanks for reading and tune in next week!