13 January 2011

Men's Reproductive Health

We have a real lack of information about and open environments for the discussion of men's reproductive health. Well - let's say there's a lack of resources for heterosexual men. That's not to say that things are perfect for women or homosexual men, but there are quite a lot of non-profit and governmental efforts to reach out to, say, women. That's where babies come from, right? So, that must be important. And, homosexual men are supposedly engaging in such unsafe behavior, right? So, there's a lot of outreach to that community.

But, what about heterosexual men in low-income communities? All I've ever really seen is safe-sex campaigns, all of which are geared entirely toward the prevention of pregnancy and the spread of HIV/AIDS. To me that seems more like self-interest on the part of those doing the outreach more than genuine concern for the well-being of the target population. The message could be interpreted as, "Don't have more kids that you aren't going to take care of, and don't get sick so that we don't have to take care of you."

How about talking to people just so they can have a high quality of life? Herpes and genital warts are common no matter what your ethnic/socioeconomic background is, and they aren't going to kill very many people. But, they can certainly ruin one's sex life, or if the carrier is blissfully ignorant, they can ruin the sex life of their partners. Other more minor infections, such as trichomoniasis (trich), are fairly common, but rarely discussed anywhere. It's moderately inconvenient, but most men and women won't recognize the symptoms.

What about the inclusion of a healthy amount of masturbation and regular checks for testicular cancer?

Just like mental health issues, when people actually suspect that there is something wrong, they are terrified to go to the doctor or talk to friends about it. While if you have a sore throat, you tell everyone. You know not to kiss your partner or they might get it. The average person knows whether or not to go to the doctor for a sore throat or cold, and you can ask the pharmacist without whispering, what you should take.

Beyond any potential social stigmas, having a sore throat isn't great, but having a non-terminal sexually transmitted infection can have unnecessary negative repercussions on your mental health and your future physical health - to the point of affecting your ability to reproduce. Of course, that sounds like a reason why stigmas are attached, but if most infections are handled appropriately they only have to be as much of a speed bump in one's life as getting the flu.

So, why aren't we talking about this more?

21 June 2010


Finally, someone is talking about this. And when I say talking, I mean made into a movie, because no one listens unless it's been made into a movie.

31 May 2010

LAPD at it again...

The first big group bike ride I ever went on was a Midnight Ridazz ride in Los Angeles in 2006. There were about 1,300 riders (or so I was told), and it was one of the most amazing, exciting things I've ever done. It wasn't a protest per se. It was more about getting out on your bike with like minded people and having a good time. And, a good time is what we had - despite the LAPD helicopters flying overhead and patrol cars trying to herd us.

Since then, I have participated in more big group rides than I can easily count. They've been in more than a half-dozen cities and they have had varying contact with police and sheriff's deputies. Often, police are fairly chill, and when they are harassing us, they're quick to calm down when you stop and talk to them rationally for a moment.

But with more and more frequency, people are catching police officers, on video, violently and needlessly lashing out against cyclist who individually aren't doing anything out of the ordinary. Viewers of the rides see a cohesive group of people acting together in defiance, but the reality is that most of the riders hear nothing more than a meet-up time and location through a friend or on the internet. They show up to have fun on their bikes. Even less involved people join the ride as it snakes through city streets. There is so little cohesion that targeting random participants makes practically no sense.

This only happens because someone in power is threatened by bicyclist. If the police are the "arm of the law," who is the body, and what do they have to lose if you get out of your car and on to your bike?

25 May 2010

Driving it home... or to one of your favorite cities.

The Gulf of Mexico is a random name of a random place most people will never care much about. Of the few people that have paid attention to it, even fewer have a good idea of how big it is. That is why this website is amazing.

Check it out. It will force you to realize just how big the Deepwater Horizon oil spill is. You can overlay an outline of the spill right on top of some of the worlds biggest cities to see how small they are by comparison.

04 May 2010

Everybody Loves Oil

So, currently there is 5,000 barrels of crude oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico a day. I hate to sound like every idiot in the media, but it's fair to call that calamitous. It realistically is a disaster of epic proportions. To give you a point of reference, the Exxon Valdez oil spill off the coast of Alaska in 1989 was approximately 250,000 barrels. This killed 100,000 seabirds, thousands of otters, hundreds of seals, and 22 orcas. It devastated the fishing economy of Cordova, Alaska so severely that many people in the town committed suicide, including the Mayor.
Since British Petroleum (BP) is estimating approximately three months to stop the leak, we are looking at around 500,000 barrels leaked into the Gulf before all this is over and done. Does that seem like a lot to anyone else?

As if all that weren't bad enough, BP and the U.S. Coast Guard are dumping thousands of gallons of toxic chemicals, called dispersants, into the Gulf to prevent the oil from reaching shore. I'd like this to be really clear. What they are dumping into the water is not cleaning it up. It is only making it sink to the ocean floor (where it can completely destroy all sea life there).
And, I hate to have to mention this, but sea food is barely edible as it is with all the mercury and PCBs already in the oceans without the powers that be dumping a third of the world's supply of dispersants into the Gulf of Mexico.

When do you draw the line here? What's more important - food or oil?

A lot of politicians are already starting to say, "Hey, this is terrible, but you don't stop doing something because you had an accident." That's true but illogical. They are trying to appeal to your sensibilities. Of course, I'm not going to stop riding my bicycle because I had an accident, but when I fall off of my bike, I don't devastate thousands of animals and negatively impact millions of human beings.

Why are politicians so concerned about your continued consumption of oil?

Oil extraction is dirty in every way possible - even when it's working properly. I spent a few years living in Southern California. When you go for a walk on the beach in some places, you go home with oil stuck to the bottom of your foot. When I say that it seems as though you'll never get it off, I'm not exaggerating. It's funny how that sort of thing gets left out of all the TV shows and movies glorifying California. When you see a sunset in a film, you never see the oil rigs just off the coast that the people of Santa Barbara or Ventura have to look at everyday.

Even most conservatives will admit the war in Iraq is over control of the oil reserves. It's not the first oil war, and I don't understand why politicians were so afraid to tell you what it was. You love oil. Through your actions, you prove that you love oil more than you love god and country.

Our dependency on oil is so ingrained that even the people who decide they are going to cut down on their personal consumption of it have no idea how to successfully do so. What good does a hybrid car do if you still buy a dozen different plastic bottles/wrappers/toys/electronics/household items a day? Plastic is made from oil. By buying that bottle of water instead of using the tap, you are enabling the system to continue to function. At least the guy driving the SUV is honest about his oil dependency.

Are you eating blueberries out of season? How much oil was burned to ship those berries from Chile for you to buy? You make decisions everyday that lead to oil spills and wars, but no one wants to take responsibility. You think that you'll just wait for someone else to make the changes for you and then you'll just buy into it. Look at the title of this blog, and think about what you think the world should look like. We've had it easy for a long time. It's time to role up our sleeves and make it happen.

02 March 2010


OKay, I realize that this is almost three years old, but it's so absurd and borderline inhuman that I have to repost it.

"Activist Charged With Violating Orlando's Ban On Feeding Homeless

POSTED: Thursday, April 5, 2007

ORLANDO, Fla. -- An activist was arrested while he was feeding homeless people in a public park.
Eric Montanez, 21, a member of Orlando's Food Not Bombs, violated a city ordinance against feedings in the park Wednesday evening, police said.
Each group is allowed to feed only 25 people, but undercover officers saw Montanez feed 30, police spokeswoman Barbara Jones said.
Food Not Bombs and Montanez are plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit against the city, claiming that the ordinance is unconstitutional, the Orlando Sentinel reported.
Montanez was charged with a misdemeanor count of prohibited activity in a park and was released from jail on a $250 bond.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed [oops]."

22 February 2010

The Business of Being Born

So, I've posted about health issues in the past. I think that it's a real shame that so many of us aren't given the opportunity to choose to be healthy. Their are so many people in the United States that can increase their profits by taking that choice away from us. There is a very distinct image of the world one hundred, two hundred, and five hundred years ago to which we have been exposed. Disease and misery, pain and death - if you stop and think about the way we've been taught life in relation to disease was in the past, it's hard to believe that humankind even survived.
"Thank God for the discovery of penicillin," some people say.
The reality of the world is that people one hundred years ago and five hundred years ago lived, most of them quite healthy, the exact same way that people one thousand years ago and ten thousand years ago did. That is to say that there is nothing inherently diseased about the human condition. We would not have survived for as long as we have if that were true, but a lot of pharmaceutical companies, insurance companies, and lobbyist groups for physicians wouldn't tell you that - well, maybe they would as individuals, but the official position of their organizations stand in contrast to that.
What's prompted this fresh train of thought is that I just watched a pretty great movie. It's called, as you may have deduced from the title of this blog entry, "The Business of Being Born." In it, the history of childbirth in the 20th century is explained, and the United States is contrasted against other countries of similar economic and cultural structures. For example, we have one of the highest infant mortality rates in the developed world. More babies per year survive in Slovenia or that "evil," "third-world" nation of Cuba than in the United States. That's a sad outcome considering the U.S. spends twice as much as any other country in the world on childbirth.

The producer of the film wanted very much to empower women by helping them understand that they have choices when it comes to giving birth. An empowered mother frightens some doctors and some men. The doctor might be afraid because he's got vacation plans in the Caribbean this spring, and let me tell you those Mojitos aren't free! Men might be afraid because they don't understand where they fit into a world with empowered women.
If one were so inclined to look at the world purely from an androcentric (male-centered) point of view, I want a happy, healthy, empowered woman as a partner because I want a happy, healthy, empowered home and happy, healthy, empowered children. How can my future partner help me create those things if she is a shrinking violet? I don't want to have to do it all myself. That's too much for one person to carry.

We've got a long path ahead of us. It's taken a century of pain and struggle to implement the unhealthy system that today we accept as normal. It's going to take just as much to get our health back.

26 April 2009

The Loss of Action

In 1969, the Community Studies department was founded at the University of California, Santa Cruz. This program was a pioneer for experiential/service learning. Students are sent out into the world to participate in "field studies" at non-profit organizations or government programs. They are primed before leaving to look at the organization in which they will work through an intensely critical lens. How does the organization work? What is its mission? Is it effective? Why or why not? Is the way in which the organization approaches the problem appropriate?

This is a way of teaching students to be potent, versatile, critical thinkers, and it connects them with the larger word in a way that traditional education is incapable.

Several weeks ago, Sheldon Kamieniecki, the Dean of Social Sciences at the University of California, Santa Cruz, announce that he would be cutting the Community Studies undergraduate program. The excuse is the same excuse that corporate executives are using across the country to rid themselves of what they deem troublesome or unnecessary - the economic crisis. The reality of the situation is that most corporate entities (I'm forced to include public universities in that category due to the failure of state governments to support them) are willing to shift funds in whatever way necessary to preserve what is valuable to them.

What is incredible to me is that now, months after our new president announced a call to service for all Americans, bureaucrats are going to cut a program that teaches young men and women to do for others rather than to do for themselves.

Are we that far gone? Are our values that misplaced? You'll continue to fund research so that you can have a better shampoo, but you won't fund programs that teach college kids how to run a Boys & Girls Club or how to reach out to people living with HIV/AIDS?