Tough Questions: On Banning Circumcision

Iceland is currently discussing a bill that would ban infant male circumcision and, if it succeeds, it will become the first country in the European Union to do so. I always knew that I would eventually comment on this most touchy of subjects, and in light of this current news I guess now is as good a time as any.

I am aware that for many people, this is not a “tough question” at all. Many have very strong opinions on the subject one way or another, whereas I find myself quite torn on the topic. I am also aware that, as someone who does not own a penis my opinions on the subject are somewhat less valid than someone who has more skin in the game, so to speak, but my current dilemma is mostly based on the science and the fact that both sides often exaggerate or twist it to fit their own notion.

Before we continue yes, I made a circumcision pun. I totally meant it. I apologize… kind of. Now let’s move on.

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What A Mess

I was on a rollercoaster ride these past two weeks, and not just because I was monstrously sick.

The weekend before the elections, it came to my attention that there were massive anti-fascism protests all across Italy. In a period of time in which all I heard coming out of my country is hateful and racist rhetoric, I was overjoyed to hear that all was not lost, and that these protests attracted thousands of progressive people who still live in Italy, and who believe that racism and fascism is incompatible with our Constitution and democracy.

Then, the elections happened.

You might remember the dire predictions that I made in the run up of these elections, where I predicted the triumphant return of the Bunga-Bunga in chief. What actually happened was both better and much worse than I thought. On the better side, it looks like the country has a better memory for who was responsible for this mess than I thought they would, and Berlusconi’s party actually did quite poorly. Also on the better side Liberi e Uguali (Free and Equal), the progressive party that I supported managed to break the 3% barrier, and thus will have a spot (albeit a small one) in Parliament, and good for them.

On the worse side, the Five Star Movement is the party that got the most votes, which shows me that Italians either did not get the message of their gross incompetence, or they simply don’t care and want to burn the whole country to the ground in the hopes of stirring the pot.

On the much, much worse side, Matteo Salvini’s Lega Nord had a very good showing, actually getting more votes than Berlusconi. That is worse, because Matteo Salvini is so horrifically racist that up until this recent election he was seen as a national joke rather than a serious candidate (remind you of anyone?). He also believes that the euro is a “crime against humanity”, and that douchey little neckbeards are the way to go in modern day politics. Unfortunately, the racism is still embarassingly strong in my homeland.

Of course, given the fact that there are now three major parties in Italy with one of them whose claim to fame is not forming coalitions with anyone, there is still no consensus nor acting goverment in Italy at this time. Apart from this update, I do not plan on bringing this up again. So, if you want to ask me about how it’s going, or my thoughts on the matter, or make fun of me for the shambles that my country is in, the comments section of this post is where to do that. Other than that, I plan on thinking and writing about other things, because this is just too depressing for me right now.

Hear Me Now, Mock Me Later

On the 4th of March, there are going to be general elections in Italy. I am making my prediction now, so that you don’t think that I will be shocked when the results come back. Despite all that has happened politically since the election of Donald Trump, I am afraid that Italy is going to bring back the original Trump for another term.

That’s right guys. I fear that Berlusconi is going to be elected again.

If you care about this at all, here’s why.

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Two Of My Favorite Things

Despite the fact that I had never heard of Rep. Mike Quigley before a month ago, he quickly became one of my new favorite American politicians when I came across this little gem of a story in the Hill.

As you are all painfully aware by now, there are fewer and fewer US politicians who are worthy of respect these days. However, Mike Quigley stole my heart, if only for a few minutes, when I read that he had decided to introduce the The Communications Over Various Feeds Electronically for Engagement Act.

Well, that sounds a little clunky, doesn’t it? That’s because it is, meant to spell out COVFEFE Act.

You all remember the whole Covfefe bananza, right? When Trump posted an obvious typo in his tweet, it went viral, and then the Administration in it’s infinite inability to ever admit to a simple error, tried to pass it off as a secret code word meant for Trump’s inner circle?

Despite the fact that I love me a good smart ass, the naming of this Act went further than a mere jab at the POTUS.

Presidential records must be preserved, according to the Presidential Records Act, which would make it potentially illegal for the president to delete tweets.

“President Trump’s frequent, unfiltered use of his personal Twitter account as a means of official communication is unprecedented. If the President is going to take to social media to make sudden public policy proclamations, we must ensure that these statements are documented and preserved for future reference. Tweets are powerful, and the President must be held accountable for every post,”

At the end of the day, Trump cannot have it both ways. His Administration has repeatedly stated that Trump’s use of his personal twitter account should be considered as official statements. If that is so, you can’t then turn around when it is convenient and shrug it off as unimportant when Trump uses twitter to stick his foot in his mouth. Far beyond making silly typos, Trump has also used his personal twitter account to undermine his own staff’s credibility, contradict himself and, of course, stoop to petty insults and sniping. So, if we are supposed to take him and his twitter feed seriously, then let’s make this official. Let’s get some accountability.

Politics and snark with a valid point? Two of my favorite things in the world. Without knowing anything else about Mike Quigley, I knew I’d at least respect him for his sass. More of this.

COVFEFE marks Quigley’s second use of an acronym to jab at President Trump. His Making Access Records Available to Lead American Government Openness (MAR-A-LAGO) Act would force the president to make the White House visitor logs, as well as the visitor logs at Trump’s resorts, public.

Yup, it’s official. Mike Quigley, I like you.

Third Time’s A Charm

I would like to take a moment to congratulate France on their election results. After a run-off between the decisevely fascist Marine Le Pen and the pro-EU, pro-immigration independent Emmanuel Macron, Macron is the new President of France after a crushing victory.

Many of us were worried for the future of France given Le Pen’s frightening popularity. The isolationist, ultra-right wing populism streak infecting the western world was ominous for France. However, very fortunately, France did not follow in Britain and the US’s footsteps.

Most of the credit, of course, goes to the French people. However, I think that they were also fortunate when it came to their timing. Had their elections not happened after Brexit and the US’s Presidential campaign, there might have been even more apathy directed towards this run-off, and Le Pen might have had a better shot at winning. Another contributing factor, I think, was the presence of another establishment outsider, another option to vote against the status quo who was not a foaming-at-the-mouth racist.

I think that, more than a streak of racism and bigotry, we are in the midst of a streak of deep frustration with the current ruling parties, the establishment, and the embedded circle-jerk corruption. This anger and resentment is what propelled Brexit and the rise of Donald Trump. For this reason, I think that a US Presidential election between Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders would have ended very differently indeed. Sadly, we will never know what would have happened in that case.

Either way, I am glad that France went in a different direction. While Emmanuel Macron is young, inexperienced and had little track record for one to judge him against, his inclusive rhetoric at least makes me confident that he was a better choice compared to Le Pen. I wish him the best of luck, and let’s hope that France will bring forth the positive change that is so desperately needed right now.

This Might Work

I had myself a little pity party over the weekend. Someone vandalized my brand new scooter that I was so very proud of, after exactly one week of being in my possession, I lost my key to work, and a bunch of other minor First World Problems ganged up on me and got me stressing out. In response, let’s have a little political satire, shall we?


Has anyone actually thought to try it? It might actually work.

And I Know It Worries You

The recent comments of a Polish politician on women’s rights has been spread far and wide on the internet today. My favorite format, however, is this video which includes a direct response from a Spanish MEP.


I like this video because her response is the thing that you have to keep in mind when confronting someone who is so brazenly, unabashedly misogynistic. It is very similar to those who are brazenly, unabashedly xenophobic. They are the ones that feel small, weak and inadequate. They are the ones that, deep down inside, know that they will not make the cut if they are subjected to fair and open competition with women or immigrants. People who are confident in their abilities and their strengths do not bother arguing against opening up the workplace and giving others opportunities to compete, because they do not fear being out-competed. But people, especially men, who deep down know that they don’t match up reject this feeling, lash out, and reassure themselves that at least the virtue of their body parts from birth puts them above other people, and that they will always be superior to someone.

I say especially men not because I think that men are more likely to be assholes, but because men are also victims of a patriarchal society in this case. There is a lot more pressure put on boys to be strong, to show no fear, to become breadwinners. It is for this reason that I think that men are more likely to lash out in the face of their inner feelings of inadequacy. Luckily fewer and fewer boys are being raised in this antiquated mentality, and hopefully people like this will become an old relic of the past. I simply bring it up because it needs to be repeated: men are hurt by patriarchal societies too, just in different ways. Let’s do away with it then, shall we? And those who bleat be damned.

Cultural Differences: Carnival Celebrations

Yesterday was the last day of Carnival, and so Christians around the world are getting over their celebrations and starting their fast for Ash Wednesday. I have lived in 3 different Christian-majority countries in my life, and one thing I noticed is how very differently Carnival is celebrated across the world.

Generally speaking, the purpose of Carnival is twofold: First it’s to get the partying and gluttony out of your system before embarking on the restrictive and pious period of Lent, and the second is to have a period of time in which societal norms are challenged and broken, if only for a short period of time. However, the way that different cultures do this varies dramatically.

In Italy, Carnival is mostly a children’s holiday. Kids dress up, throw colored paper confetti all over the place, and their parents accompany them though they hardly ever dress up themselves. There is also the saying a Carnevale ogni scherzo vale, which means at Carnival any joke goes, making Carnival a time for childish pranks similar to Halloween in the States. Carnival is so much a kid’s holiday that if you are an adult, dressed up and unaccompanied by children, people will look at you like the weird childless man lurking around the jungle gym.

The exception to this is Venice, where Carnival is very much an adult holiday. Originally, Carnival was the day that social stations were voided, as people were not recognized as a person but as a mask. They would address each other as Mister or Lady Mask, and once this suspension of societal norms was acknowledged by the other by responding in the same way, they could proceed to speak to each other in whichever direct or lewd way that they pleased. These days, on the Tuesday before Lent you will see some truly spectacular masks and breathtakingly elegant costumes, though the real parties are the ones that go on behind closed doors. While I have never been invited to a private Venetian Carnival party, the rumors of what goes on in one abound. Rules of prim societal conduct are suspended, children are not around, and everything from bawdy jokes to excessive drinking to cheating on spouses is supposedly tolerated and expected.

In Brazil, Carnival is also an openly sexual holiday. The skimpy Carnival costumes are famous across the world, but many people don’t know that it is also very common for complete strangers to kiss each other in the street. If you walk around Salvador during Carnival, for example, be prepared for people to come up to you and plant a nice smack on the lips. This is not considered cheating or an invitation to come to bed (though many might still take you up on it if you propose it), but rather an open celebration of joy. The sexual connotations of Carnival are also mirrored in Louisiana for Mardi Gras, which is famous for young people getting quite drunk and quite naked.

In Ireland there is no such thing as Carnival, but rather they refer to Mardi Gras as “Pancake Tuesday”, where everyone eats a whole lot of pancakes. The idea is that you use up all of the sweet things in your house by using them as pancake fillers, thus removing temptation from you home during Lent. This was by far the tamest kind of Carnival celebration that I have ever experienced.

In Germany, the situation is different still. While not all areas of Germany really celebrate Carnival, it is certainly a very big deal in Nordrhein Westfalen, and most famously in Cologne. Here, both adults and children dress up and celebrate Carnival, and adults will often even show up to their office jobs dressed as everything and anything, from giant pink bunnies and Disney characters to dictators. I was surprised to find that, when in Cologne for the Carnival Monday, the parade threw candy into the almost exclusively adult crowd, which fought ferociously over the candy scattered amongst them. I discovered that, if you want to keep a single piece of that candy for yourself, be prepared to use your elbows.

The breaking down of societal norms in this part of Germany has much less to do with open sexuality, and far more to do with political commentary. If you are a man in Cologne on the Thursday of Carnival, make sure that you are not wearing a tie, unless you appreciate groups of angry German women brandishing scissors to chase you down and cut it off. Thursday is the Women’s day, as a rebellion against a male-dominated society. On this Thursday many women will take the day off work, hold women-only parades, storm and take over offices of the city hall and yes, cut off men’s ties as a symbol of rebelling against male oppression.

The political tone of German Carnival celebrations is also evident in the floats that are used during the parades. Two such floats in Düsseldorf made headlines around the world, as it was quite a harsh take on the current American political climate.

I would say NSFW… but then again it was shown on the news. Let’s say, NSFW in the States, perhaps.

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I Agree With… Franklin Graham?!

There has been a lot of chatter about the current Trump Administration, the sweeping executive orders that he has signed, including what is or is not considered by many to be a “Muslim ban”. So far I have steered clear of this conversation, partially because I think that no one on this network disagrees that Trump is a loathsome human being, and partially because my recent crazy schedule has made me unable to properly update myself on current events from sources more reliable than facebook statuses.

However, some of the shared articles on the subject cannot help but catch my eye, and one such heavily commented article popped up on my feed yesterday, entitled “Franklin Graham said immigration is not a Bible issue. Here’s what the Bible says“.

I groaned.

The article is an opinion piece from the Washington Post. Despite the right wing leanings that the WP has been taking so far, I still allowed myself a little glimmer of hope that this piece would go on to explain how this argument has no place in politics. So, I clicked on the link, and read on.

Attempting to defend the ban from a religious point of view, evangelist Franklin Graham declared, “That’s not a Bible issue.”

He could not be more wrong.

Both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament are clear and consistent when it comes to how we are to treat the stranger. Across the books of both testaments, in narrative, law, prophecy, poetry and parable, the Bible consistently spells out that it is the responsibility of the citizen to ensure that the immigrant, the stranger, the refugee, is respected, welcomed and cared for. It is what God wants us to do, but it also recognizes that we too were immigrants — and immigrants we remain. “Like my forebears, I am an alien, resident with you,” says Psalm 39.

The piece gets no better, and I’m going to stop you right there.

This argument is completely moot. I don’t give a flying rat’s fart what the Bible says about this issue. Even if the Bible only contained a whole lot of love and peace, and none of the sticky bits about conquering and enslaving different tribes, I still wouldn’t give a rat’s fart.

Whether or not the immigration ban is consistent with the Bible has no bearing on whether or not it is consistent with the United States Constitution, founding principles, or common human decency. How many times do we have to repeat that the United States Constitution is great because it establishes a secular nation. Religious people can debate amongst themselves about whether or not they like the immigration ban because of what they think the Bible says, but that conversation is appropriate to a religious forum, not the Washington Post. I would also not begrudge nerds worldwide debating whether or not they favor the immigration ban based on the principles of Star Trek, but I would likewise raise an eyebrow if such a discussion was brought up in the New York Times, rather than at a Star Trek convention.

It is precisely this special privilege that the Bible holds that makes this discussion not only moot, but counterproductive. Giving this debate a platform on one of the most established newspapers in the United States simply reinforces the idea that conflating religion and government is perfectly legitimate in the United States. We’re now arguing over whether or not the Bible condones Trump’s immigration ban, instead of focusing on whether or not the immigration ban is consistent with what the United States is and should be about, regardless of what the Bible says about the issue. If the Bible said “There will come a Trump and the faithful should oppose every executive order he ever signs” I still wouldn’t care, because the US is not Vatican City, or Saudi Arabia, no matter how much the religious right want it to be.

So thank you Washington Post. In a bizarre and extremely ironic twist, you’ve made me agree with the loathsome Franklin Graham. The immigration ban is not “a Bible issue”. It is an issue of politics, legality, human rights, and Constitutional principles. Now, please, let’s bring the argument back to a place of common sense, and let’s stop allowing the Christian right to normalize the conflation of religion and government by allowing this nonsense debate to continue any further.

Italy Just Threw Its Hat In The Ring

2016, you’re just all-round sucking. First, we had Brexit. Then, we had Trump being elected. Now, Italy has just voted No for a constitutional referendum, causing Matteo Renzi to step down.

While I am not surprised, I am incredibly pissed.

Usually, the Italian people are quite politically savvy. When I say that, I don’t mean that they make the right choices (never forget our own brand of Trump: Silvio Berlusconi), but rather I mean that many more people are politically informed, and vote, than you will find in many countries. While, for instance, you will find many more Americans being somewhat informed and/or invested in the stock market than you would find in other countries, you will also find the average Italian engaged in political debates not just about their own country, but having a rudimentary knowledge about the political processes of others as well.

Not this time. This time, the misinformation reeked.

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