Saturday, May 31, 2003

Chocolate: The Gendered Candy

In one of the episodes of Farscape (from the first season) that we watched last night, Aeryn and John were discussing diseases. After John tells Aeryn about all the horrors of disease and death on Earth, Aeryn asks why he wants to go back there. He says, "you don't have chocolate."

Of course, everyone laughed -- this is a chocolate-loving household (well, for the most part -- I'm only a mild fan of the stuff). But I found it interesting that a guy on TV would say something like that. Now, I know a lot of men who like chocolate (as I said, this is a chocolate-loving household), but it's pretty rare to hear a man talk about chocolate in the media. It's usually women who are portrayed as loving chocolate -- often even "needing" and "obsessing" over chocolate.

This gendering of food couldn't be more evident than in two ad campaigns for different brands of chocolate bars that appeared in the UK about a year ago.

In an article for The F-Word: Young UK Feminism, Catherine Redfern compares these two advertising campaigns.

In an ad for Fox's Echo chocolate bars:
Two, slightly nervous, middle-aged men with a look of desperation or weary resignation (presumably gained through years of nagging), sit outside what seems to be a pub, facing the camera. "Can you imagine a world without chocolate?" One of them says, in slow, serious, incredulous tones. "Can you imagine what our lives would be like?" There then follows a montage of images of women rampaging through the streets with riot police holding them back, and women screaming at cowed, silent men, in their homes. "Society as we know it would break down." comments the bloke, in awed, hushed tones. The last but one shot shows a large crowd of serious, grateful men raising their glasses to the camera. "That's why the men of the world thank you, Fox's, for putting extra chocolate in Echo" (or words to that effect). "...thank you for keeping our world sane." Just as the ad ends, there is a shot of a bloke sitting in an armchair at home with a screaming woman swinging a vacuum cleaner, about to bring it crashing down on his unsupecting head. The image cuts off before it smashes down, of course.

Redfern goes on to question how this line of thought came to pass (and it's certainly not the first time we've seen this sort of thinking on TV):
Where did this idea come from that without chocolate, women would literally break down and riot in the streets? It's like some kind of addictive drug! Is it referring to the supposed chocolate-PMT connection? Do women have some deep biological need for chocolate that men just don't have? Why is chocolate being portrayed as some opiate of the misses, keeping us sweet, keeping us docile, keeping us 'sane'? Women literally cannot survive without chocolate, the ad is saying. Chocolate keeps us docile and uncomplaining enough to do domestic chores. Women will put up with more crap if we have chocolate to take away the pain. After all, the woman in the final scene is in the middle of vacuuming while the bloke sits down in front of the tv. No wonder she's mad.

In contrast to the idea that chocolate is "feminine," Nestle's Yorkie candy bar launched a campaign April 1, 2002 trying to turn chocolate (at least, their chocolate) "masculine."

The tv ads show women attempting to purchase the chunky chocolate bar - but the only way they can do this is by glueing on fake beards, dressing up as builders with hard hats, and swaggering into corner shops asking (in deep, gruff, fake-male voice) for a "Yorkie please." In one ad, the large, bearded, super-gruff male shopkeeper 'tests' the woman to prove she is a man, by quizzing her on stereotypically male questions, thrusting a fake spider in her face to see if she screams, and so on. He finally hands the bar over, but when he tells her [that] it really highlights the blue in her eyes, she gasps "really?" and he snatches the Yorkie out of her hands and bites off a huge, masculine chunk in one go.


chocolate isn't a pseudo-orgasmic experience for the men who eat Yorkie, of course. It's a re-affirmation of their manhood. The Yorkie ads, on tv and posters, used the slogans "It's not for girls", "don't feed the birds", "not available in pink" and "King size, not Queen size." Interestingly, the campaign even affected the design of the bar itself, seemingly intended to literally stop women buying the bar in the real world. The "O" in Yorkie has been altered into a "no go" road sign, with a line cutting through a woman symbol. The bar also has the phrase "not for girls" on it.

You can see a sample of the ad campaign (if you have Adobe Acrobat) here.

The "top ten" lists aren't very clear, but apparently they say:

Top Ten Things Women Can't Do:
-Make a Decision.
-Watch Football Without Talking.
-Drive in a Straight Line.
-Use Ten Words When a Hundred Will Do.
-Open a Can Unaided.
-Use a Urinal.
-Own a Pet Spider.
-Speak on the Phone for Less than 15 Minutes.
-Understand Cricket.
-Buy a Yorkie.

Top Ten Reasons to be a Bloke
-One Mood- All the Time.
-You Can Goto the Bathroom by Yourself.
-You Get to Buy Gadgets.
-You Don't Have to Clean Your Flat Before the
Cleaner Comes.
-Mechanics Don't Lie to You.
-You Can Change a Plug.
-Grey Hair Adds to Your Sex Appeal.
-The First Thing You Try On in a Shop Fits You.
-You Can Read Maps.
-You Get to Eat a Yorkie.

A year later, Nestle released a new temporary campaign, the "very limited edition" Yorkie bar -- in a pink wrapper, for "those sacred girls who, against their female instinct, can be 'BLOKEY' enough to indulge in the UK's chunkiest chocolate bar!" If you didn't get yours already, though, you're too late -- they were only available in February and March.

As Redfern says,
What a weird world we live in, when a simple foodstuff can have such far-reaching implications. The choice is yours - buy Yorkie, and you are not buying chocolate, you're buying a cliched concept of 'masculinity.' Or buy Echo, and by the looks of the ad, you're buying some kind of numbing, depressant, class B drug.

Friday, May 30, 2003

Forget the children...Leave no BUSINESS behind

From the New York Times
The White House today defended the decision of Congressional negotiators to deny millions of minimum-wage families the increased child tax credit, saying the new tax law was intended to help people who pay taxes, not those who are too poor to pay.

Democrats, however, seized on the decision as an illustration of what they called the essential unfairness of legislation that provides most of its benefits to the wealthy. They promised to propose a bill that would extend the increased credit to those denied it: most families earning from $10,500 to $26,625. The $3.5 billion measure could embarrass Republicans if they chose to vote against it.

"While the Republican tax break leaves no business behind, it leaves behind millions of children from working-poor families," said Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the House Democratic leader. "Faced with a choice between giving a tax break to an elite few or helping millions of working families, the Republicans once again chose to help their wealthy friends."


[Ari Fleisher] said the bill would wipe out all tax liability for three million taxpayers. Bob McIntyre, director of the liberal research group Citizens for Tax Justice, agreed with that calculation, mainly because the increase in the child tax credit, to $1,000 a child from $600, will help families who earn $26,625 to about $40,000. But most of those earning less do not qualify for the $400-a-child checks that are being mailed this summer to many other families, because Republican negotiators, seeking to fit other tax cuts into the $350 billion bill, dropped a Senate provision.

That provision would have changed the child credit formula to allow families earning just above the minimum wage to get refunds of all or part of the $400.


Democrats and some moderate Republicans, however, argued that it was essentially unfair to give the child tax credit to most middle-income families but not to those lower on the scale. (The wealthiest taxpayers do not benefit from the child credit, which phases out at higher incomes.) Senator Olympia J. Snowe, Republican of Maine, said the lack of a benefit to minimum-wage families was one of the reasons she voted against the bill.

"This ill-founded decision creates a two-tier system under the child tax credit, penalizing low-income working families who need the help most," Ms. Snowe said. "Not only is this unfair, but it further undermines the stimulus portion of the child credit," since it is low- income people who would be most likely to spend the refund.

In another article on the subject, from Common Dreams:
"I don't know why they would cut that out of the bill," said Senator Blanche Lincoln, the Arkansas Democrat who persuaded the full Senate to send the credit to many more low income families before the provision was dropped in conference. "These are the people who need it the most and who will spend it the most. These are the people who buy the blue jeans and the detergent and who will stimulate the economy with their spending."

Ms. Lincoln noted that nearly half of all taxpayers in her state had adjusted gross incomes that were less than $20,000.

Families with incomes lower than $10,500 will also not receive the refund checks. But under the 2001 tax revision, they would not have been eligible for either the $600 or the $1,000 credits because they do not pay federal taxes. Proposals to give them the credits failed on the House and Senate floors on party-line votes.


Several centrist senators worked hard to make the child credit fully refundable for all low income families, and the full Senate voted this month to include a provision that would have included the minimum-wage families. But the provision was dropped in the House- Senate conference, where tax writers spent days trying to cram many tax cuts - most prominently, cuts in the taxes on stock dividends and capital gains - into a bill that the Senate said could not be larger than $350 billion.


But Democrats and children's advocacy groups said the Republican demand for large cuts in the dividend tax, which they said benefits primarily wealthy taxpayers, pushed away the credit from low income families.

"If we were going to have a tax cut to give $1,000 to all these other kids, there's no reason not to include these kids, too," said David Harris, president of the Children's Research and Education Institute. "Their families are working and playing by the rules and are left out, though it would not have cost too much to include them."


The gap in the number of families who receive the child credit occurs because of how the formula was arranged in 2001. Congress decided then to give refunds of the credit to low income families, but just to a maximum of 10 percent of the amount they made over $10,000, or a refund of $600, whichever was lower. The $10,000 amount was indexed to inflation and is now $10,500.

When the credit was raised to $1,000, many families could not qualify for the extra amount, because the 10 percent maximum still limited them. Ms. Lincoln proposed raising the formula to 15 percent, which would have covered the increase in the credit for most of those families. Her proposal made it through the Senate Finance Committee, but later she voted against the full cut.

Because her vote and those of other supporters were not necessary for final passage, Republicans knew they could drop the provision without hurting the bill's chances in the Senate.

"I guess this shows us what our priorities are," Ms. Lincoln said. "I think this tax bill is very irresponsible in the way it treats families."

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Alas, Buffy

Before the final Buffy airs (well, "before" for us west coasters -- and we're the ones that count, right? :-p ), I wanted to post this commentary comparing the criticisms of Buffy to criticisms of women. I first read it over on the Empowering Women discussion board, but the original appeared on a Buffy board (I'm not sure which one).

Criticisms of Buffy/Criticisms of Women

by Miranda aka Catte

I've been noticing that a lot of the things that have been most criticisized about Buffy can be extrapolated to areas that society, and especially patriarchy, criticisizes about women as a whole.

Buffy is seen as controlling, bitchy, bossy, etc. while Spike's strength is enjoyed if not reveled in. I don't know of anyone who was unhappy when he reclaimed his duster...even if we all wondered how the heck it got in the basement.

The consensus is that it's ok for women to be strong as long as they have the proper attitude about it. If that doesn't happen, the strength doesn't count. Men, otoh, who are nurturing/caring, are seen as weak. Most prefer Angelus to Angel and would rather Spike was strong than vulnerable.

This carries over into the area of sexual aggression. Buffy is seen as too pushy, sexually, but while everyone raves over the kitchen door scene in Gone, what was that if not aggression from Spike? Everyone liked that he reclaimed his manhood and stood up to Buffy, the 'bad' woman and put her in her place.

The response that we're turned off because Buffy doesn't have the correct feelings for Spike doesn't really hold water because quite a few people enjoyed his picking up that college girl in Sleeper. I'd also argue that there were a boatload of wrong feelings in the DT balcony scene, but almost everyone except me, really, really liked it. Bottom line, sexual aggression is ok in men, not women.

I see a lot of criticism over Buffy's neglect of Dawn last year. This extrapolates to criticism of women we hear about who have children and who work full time. They are seen as bad mothers, even if the work is necessary to put food on the table. God help them if they just WANT to work. They're obviously evil. If something happens to the children, even if it's something done to them by someone else -- babysitter, day care worker, etc. -- the mother is blamed for not being there.

I didn't see the same criticism of Angel for working and Connor was an infant as opposed to Dawn's teenager. Connor is left with Lorne and sent off with Wesley as Dawn was left under Willow's supervision. Everyone was horrified when Buffy wanted Giles to talk to Dawn, but nobody worried about it when Cordelia was able to semi-calm Connor. Of course, by doing that, Cordelia stepped into her proper role of mother and nurturer instead of stepping out as Buffy did.

Faith and Lilah also don't fill their proper roles, but they get around that because they fill the stereotype of the 'bad' girl. She's the sexy one who breaks the taboos, the one you don't take home to mother. No one EXPECTS her to look after the children.

Still, Faith gets around all that by having a bad childhood. Bad things happened to her and made her a bad person. She's only waiting to be saved by the right man. And she is. Angel sweeps her on to his white horse and sets her soul on the road to redemption. There is the general idea that Faith will step into her proper role any time now. This also happens with Gwen and Kate on AtS.

Lilah on the other hand, refuses to be saved. She walked into her situation eyes wide open, enjoys every minute of it, and takes the consequences without whining. Wes, despite his best efforts, doesn't change her. Wes, and and the rest of us, kept thinking there had to be some kind of reason for Lilah to have made the choices she did, but if there is, we aren't privy to it.

No one really saves Buffy either. There's the occasional punch or strength-giving mind-meld, but in the end, she rescues herself. She makes the decision to choose the world of Sunnydale over the world of the clinic. She hauls herself out of her own grave -- twice. She faces Caleb.

Of course, Buffy tries to make up for saving herself by feeling guilty about not fulfilling her proper role. She worries that there's something wrong with her because she doesn't connect. All the good she does, all the lives she's saved don't count, because she doesn't have the right kind of feelings. She tries to blame it on being the Slayer, but she'd be much happier if she faced that maybe she's just not that kind of person and that it's ok.

BtVS was always supposed to be about breaking stereotypes. The fragile blond girl, normally the victim, is the hero. It seems some stereotypes are harder to break than others, and those who break them aren't as easily forgiven.

Not only does Buffy get to be blamed for her own character flaws - aggression and being a loner, although those traits seem to be ok when it's Angel who has them - she gets the blame for everyone else's actions as well.

Riley cheats because Buffy is a bad girlfriend. They used every cliche in the book with this one except 'she doesn't understand me,' and I kept waiting for it.

Spike initially develops an obsessive crush because Buffy 'led him on'. Their later relationship problems are all her fault, although Spike is free to leave at any time, and Buffy never lies about what they are doing. It culminates in the rape attempt, which is also made to be her fault. Here, the only line left out on the show was 'the bitch asked for it,' and it's a line I heard on some boards.

She's also faulted for Willow and Dawn's problems, although Willow, at least, is an adult, and there were other people on the scene at the time.

The main problem with all this is that Buffy accepts it as her due. She feels that what happened to Riley, Spike, Willow, and Dawn, is indeed her fault. Her guilt over wishing herself free of a burden or two sends her into catatonia not once, but twice.

Xander reaches a point where he refuses to take any more blame for Anya's actions. It would be nice if Buffy could do the same. I'd like to ship Lilah over to Sunnydale to run a few conscious-ness raising sessions.

Thank you to Catte for writing this brilliant analysis of women's role in society and how that is portrayed in Buffy (and thanks for letting me post it here).

Saturday, May 17, 2003

Where are the feminists?

Seems to me that this question is asked nearly as much as the question "Is Feminism Dead?". In the vast majority of cases, these questions are asked not out of sincerity, but as a way to bash feminists. In addition, these questions are usually asked out of ignorance, not out of some special knowledge of what feminists are and are not focusing on. Amp, himself, recently exposed the ignorance of one person asking this sort of question.

Thanks to an e-mail from Stefanie Murray, I found yet another egregious example of this.

In a New York Times editorial, Nicholas D. Kristof described the tragedy of "a condition almost unknown in the West but indescribably hideous for millions of sufferers in the poorest countries in the world" known as obstetric fistulas. Indeed, this is a widespread tragedy which most of the Western world knows very little about, and it's admirable that he would take the time to write about it, as well as acknowledge the work of Dr. Catherine Hamlin, an Australian gynecologist who has helped tens of thousands of women with this condition.

Unfortunately, he goes on to add:
I know why most African governments have done nothing to help fistula sufferers: those women are the poorest, most stigmatized, voiceless people on the continent. But since it is difficult to imagine a more important women's issue in the third world than maternal health, I don't understand why most feminist organizations in the West have never shown interest in these women either.

Perhaps it's because Westerners can't conceive of the horror of obstetric fistulas (Americans haven't commonly suffered fistulas since the 19th century, when a fistula hospital stood on the site of today's Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in Manhattan). Or perhaps the issue doesn't galvanize women's groups because fistulas relate to a traditional child-bearing role.

One has to wonder if the author is deliberately manipulating the facts, or really is that ignorant of what American feminists are and are not doing.

I mean, in his own article, he points out the efforts of not only UNFPA (the United Nations Population Fund), but also of the American women attempting to help raise the $34 million in U.S. funds for UNFPA that Bush cut in a temper tantrum over abortions in China. But he ignored other organizations, like the Feminist Majority Foundation or any of the thousands of other organizations and individual women working to prevent not only this particular tragedy, but similar tragedies -- not to mention the causes of this and similar tragedies.

Ironically, it wasn't feminists, but rather conservatives, who were arguing against the issue of maternal mortality and the underlying causes of such a thing. And here's the thing -- the underlying causes of and solutions for maternal mortality are the exact same underlying causes of obstetric fistula: poverty, lack of education, childbearing at too early an age, early or closely spaced childbearing, and lack of medical care.

Now, I will admit that not nearly enough people -- feminists and non-feminists alike -- are paying attention to all of these issues. But, when one looks at who is trying to work on the issues, one will see that the vast majority of these people are feminists, while the ones working against it are conservatives. Similarly, the lack of information cannot be blamed on feminists (as they are the ones, more often, trying to spread the word), but rather the conservative media who ignore the voices of feminists and spend far too much playing PR agents for the US military and government.

Update: Trish Wilson and Body and Soul have also written comments on Kristof.

Friday, May 16, 2003

Bride-to-be becomes feminist icon after jilting fiance

From The Scotsman

INDIA has a new feminist icon: a young bride who cancelled her wedding just hours before the ceremony after rejecting her fiance's demands for a dowry.

Nisha Sharma was supposed to marry last weekend. The Hindu priest and 2,000 guests had already assembled for the lavish festivities when she called police and demanded they arrest the groom, who then spent what should have been his wedding night in jail.

"He wanted material things - not me," Ms Sharma, a 21-year-old software- engineering student, said, her hands and feet still painted with intricate henna designs, the traditional hallmark of an Indian bride.

Police arrested the groom under the country's anti-dowry act - passed more than four decades ago to combat the ancient practice in which a groom's family demands cash, consumer goods and gold as part of a marriage settlement - but which is still widely flouted.


"My message to all girls is if they ask for dowry, don't give it and don't marry the man," Ms Sharma said in her living room surrounded by air conditioners, TV sets and other goods her family said had been demanded by her future in- laws.

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Women campaign for changes in DV investigations ...

...when the men being investigated are police officers.

From Seattle Times

Women start campaign to change investigations

If a group of Tacoma women and their supporters have their way, police departments throughout Washington and the nation will improve the way they address domestic violence by their officers.

"We do not want any more Crystals ever," said Judy Hellstrom, the godmother of Crystal Brame, killed April 26 by her husband, Tacoma Police Chief David Brame, after her allegations of abuse became public.

Women for Justice, with the support of Crystal Brame's family, has launched a campaign to ensure that an independent agency investigates domestic- violence claims against police and city officials.

"She will be very proud that she made a difference. Unfortunately, she had to die for it," Hellstrom said.

Other women have died at the hands of officers across the country, and some of those deaths have led to changes.


The Chicago Police Department is often cited as a national model for its approach to domestic violence on the force. Until the mid-1990s, policy required officers to call in supervisors when they responded to crimes involving other officers. They didn't do so for domestic disputes, however, because they didn't think of them as crimes, said Jan Russell, the department's victim advocate.

After several officer homicide-suicides, the city created a civilian unit to investigate domestic-abuse charges. After its creation, domestic-violence complaints about cops more than doubled. One woman came to Russell's office, afraid to report her husband. Russell gave her the paper outlining new policy.

"She clutched it in her hands and wouldn't put it down," Russell said.

"Are you telling me that the police will help me when I call?" she asked Russell. "That I can get away from this man?"

I can't tell you how glad I am to see that this is already happening in Chicago, and will hopefully happen in Seattle. Hopefully it will become even more wide spread. I can't even count the number of women who have come to me (as a DV counselor) who simply couldn't call the police on their abusers -- because their abusers were the police. Either because they feared what would happen, or because they knew what would happen (based on past experiences), calling the cops is simply not an option.

Now, there are some great cops out there. I know, I've worked with them. They are truly committed to their profession and upholding the law to the best of their ability. And they are more than willing to do their job in protecting the people who need it.

But studies have shown that rates of domestic violence among police officers are significantly higher than they are among the general population. The "code of silence" among many police officers, as well as a lack of specific policies to deal with domestic violence make it that much harder to report.

Solutions such as those suggested in the above article will, hopefully, lead the way to remedying some of these problems.

Monday, May 12, 2003

British Study Reveals: Children Do Equally Well With Working and Stay-at-Home Moms

The BBC News reports a study that found that in terms of psychological well-being and behaviour, young children of working mums do just as well as those with mothers who stay at home.

A study of children in their first three years of life found that those who were looked after in nurseries suffered "no measurable psychological or behavioural ill effects because of their mothers' absence".

The result of the ongoing battle between mothers who work outside and those who are at home is officially a draw, they concluded.

The researchers looked at the development of children up to the age of three in terms of how active they were and in terms of their emotionality - how likely they were to be moody or fussy for example.

They found no difference between the development of children of working mums and of those who stayed at home - an active baby would develop into an active child, for example.

They measured the stimulation babies received and found that this was the same whether they were in day care or were looked after by their mothers at home.

Professor Dieter Wolke, from the research project, said women who went out to work still spent 50% of their time playing with their children or talking or singing to them.

Although fathers generally spent less time with their children, this increased the more hours a mother worked, Professor Wolke said.

The article also goes on to make an interesting comment about "quality time" (and, I have to say, one I agree with):

He said he did not agree with advocates of the concept of "quality time," - the idea of setting aside time to fully devote to a child - because young children were not predictable.

"You can't switch them on and off. If they are in the mood they will engage with you but if they are not, they won't," he said.

Thursday, May 08, 2003

Listen to the Children

Just last night, Jake Squid and I were talking about our loss of hope and faith in humanity. When self-proclaimed liberals and progressives begin spouting libertarian views, it can make someone feel that way.

But, just when I'm about to give up complete hope, something will catch my eye and make me think that maybe, just maybe, there is still some hope in this world. I wonder, though, if it's a good thing or a sad thing that this hope has to come from a 12-year old.

Back in February, Charlotte Aldebron, a 6th grader from Presque Isle, Maine wrote the following for an essay competition at her middle school:

The American flag stands for the fact that cloth can be very important. It is against the law to let the flag touch the ground or to leave the flag flying when the weather is bad. The flag has to be treated with respect. You can tell just how important this cloth is because when you compare it to people, it gets much better treatment. Nobody cares if a homeless person touches the ground. A homeless person can lie all over the ground all night long without anyone picking him up, folding him neatly and sheltering him from the rain.

School children have to pledge loyalty to this piece of cloth every morning. No one has to pledge loyalty to justice and equality and human decency. No one has to promise that people will get a fair wage, or enough food to eat, or affordable medicine, or clean water, or air free of harmful chemicals. But we all have to promise to love a rectangle of red, white, and blue cloth.

Betsy Ross would be quite surprised to see how successful her creation has become. But Thomas Jefferson would be disappointed to see how little of the flag's real meaning remains.

Since then, Charlotte Aldebron has been making the rounds -- speaking to Sentors and Representatives, speaking at peace rallies and even a Green Party Convention, and never pulling any punches when she does so:

On March 22, I told Senator Snowe’s staff in Presque Isle that you grown ups were hypocrites because you tell kids to solve problems with words, while you kill people in Afghanistan. On March 28, I said the same thing to Senator Collins in person. She told me that because we invaded Afghanistan, little girls can go to school and learn to read. Some choice: learn to read, or have a mom and a dad.

She has gone on to tell the stories of children around the world whose voices otherwise go ignored. The children of Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, and Israel:

President Bush asked each American child to give a dollar to help Afghani children. Here is my dollar’s worth: it is the voice of 6-year-old Paliko who was carried to the hospital still wearing her party dress from the wedding that we bombed for two hours, killing her whole family—by mistake. And 2-year-old Alia, who was dug out of the rubble where her family was crushed when we blew up their village—again, by mistake. Afterward, our soldiers said they were sorry. Among themselves, they called the Afghans "rag heads." Like I said in my flag essay, we are better at caring about symbols than real people.

How many more children must suffer or die before you hear us? No offense, but I really don’t want to have to make another peace speech ever again!

To read the entirety of her latest speech, go to Common Dreams.

Friday, May 02, 2003

Please Attack Appalachia

From Voice For Change, by Mike Bryan (Read the full article HERE)

Mr. President, please attack Appalachia.

You have promised the Iraqis that they will share in the wealth of their oil. We could use some of that same sharing here. We have coal and timber that is being extracted, yet very little of the profits remain in our area. If the Iraqis are to share in the profits from their natural resources, we would like to share in the profits from ours.

You have promised healthcare for all Iraqis. We could use the same thing here. Far too many of us are without health insurance and adequate access to good healthcare facilities. You have also promised to rebuild the schools in Iraq. We too have schools that need rebuilt and that need more funding.

Certainly you can find a justification for attacking us. We have weapons of mass destruction. Just go inspect the former uranium enrichment plant near Piketon, Ohio. You will still find all sorts of radioactive waste on and around that site. Test our waters. Test our ground. Test our air. You will find an abundance of chemical and biological agents that could be used as weapons. We literally live among them.

After all, Appalachia is America's third world. Terrorists are breeding everywhere. Where there is poverty there is unrest. Where there is poor education there is suspicion. Where there is neglect there is anger. As far as potential dangers go, Appalachia should be near the top of your list. Stomp out the bad before it turns thoroughly evil. Pre-emptively strike us now before it becomes too late. Do it before we make something else out of our fertilizer ingredients. . .

Can America afford to wait until a crisis is at hand before attacking Appalachia? The decision is yours. You do not even have to involve the United Nations since we are within US borders. You can go it alone. . .

The rest of the country will be fairly easy to convince about the need to attack us. The national news media will surely rise to your side. Prejudice against hillbillies already devalues our lives in comparison to those in the rest of the country, so our devastation and casualties would have to be nearly as high as in Iraq before anyone from outside Appalachia complains too loudly. Besides, people here have lived as second-class citizens for so long we now thoroughly expect to be treated as second-class citizens - and the rest of the nation expects to treat us that way. How else could you explain the relatively small outcry currently raised by our exceedingly high unemployment rates, poor education, high pollution, poor healthcare, high poverty, and poor leadership?. . .

So Mr. President, you have all the elements you need: weapons of mass destruction, a nearly third world enemy, potential terrorists, someone to call evil, and an easy path to victory. Now all you have to do is attack. And please, do it soon. We need the reparations, better schools, better infrastructure, universal healthcare, and a fair share in the wealth of our own resources.

You also promised Iraq democracy. We could use that here as well.