Sunday, March 26, 2017

A peek beyond the precipice of impending battle

Previously published in the Terre Haute Tribune-Star, 26 March 2017

There are forces of good and evil in the world. Today, we are fortunate to eavesdrop on the forces of evil as a senior demon, Authoritarian, provides advice to his nephew, Pootie Poot, on battling the good, Democracy.
“My dear Pootie Poot, we are on the precipice of achieving our goal, the dismantling of the practice of Democracy, an evil that blocks us from our destiny! I know you are anxious, but be patient.”
“Uncle Authoritarian, why not just manipulate vote totals and elect our collaborators and sympathizers?”
“Pootie Poot, be patient. I know you could change vote totals but don’t do that! It is important that the people believe it is their will and decision to vote for Total Authority.” Our prize is the beacon of personal freedom and democracy, the United States. Our efforts must be nuanced and exploit their weaknesses and turn their strength against them. The U.S. press is ‘free’ but lazy. The ‘journalists’ work for people who want to make money and thus they scramble after the sensational, to be first, rather than right. The more sensational the claim, you can trust they will report it. They will report sensation over the real, so spreading those emails from ‘staffers’ will work even better than attacking the leaders themselves.”
“Uncle, that seems to only serve as a distraction a ‘he said, she said’ argument. Nothing seems resolved and the next sensational headline, some entertainer having a baby, distracts them.”
“Pootie, that is all right. As long as the political leaders disagree on even what events are important, it doesn’t matter. What we want is the two political parties to look at the same thing, for example a leak of classified material that exposes us and our collaborators, and have the political parties divide over it. For example, one party focuses on the content of the leaked material and the other on the crime of leaking and seek to identify the leaker. This is perfect for us!”
“Uncle, there are patriots. Americans are a patriotic people, are they not?”
“Many Americans are patriots, but few American political leaders are patriots. See how few of them even serve in the military or any of their children. Do not be confused by the nationalists. Remember, nationalism is a path to isolation and division and thus is good for us. The nationalists will put party above all else and we can paralyze them politically. Oh how stupid they are not to realize this. They beg for Total Authority and do not realize it!”
“Uncle Authoritarian, is this why we do not try to foment a military coup in the United States, because the military is full of patriots?”
“My dear Pootie Poot, Americans are a complicated people. You might think that all military people are patriotic, but many are political and some are just out for themselves. A couple of places you can be sure there are patriots and the one’s we need to be careful of are in the Intelligence community and in law enforcement. They will put country first and already we have seen some of this at work. We thought that Patriot Comey had compromised himself during the 2016 election, but listen to what he just said:  ‘They’ll be back in 2020, … They may be back in 2018 and one of the lessons they may draw from this is that they were successful, because they introduced chaos and division and discord and sowed doubt about the nature of this amazing country of ours and our democratic process.’ ‘One of the lessons’, Patriot Comey says, hahaha, we are already ahead of you!”
“But Uncle, Patriot Comey just revealed our plan!!!”
“Yes, my dear Pootie Poot, he did and what did I say earlier? Rely on the party divisions to call light dark and dark light, just as is happening now with one side focused on identifying the leaker instead of our actions and our collaborators. Relax Pootie and let the Americans do the heavy work of undermining 250 years of constitutional democracy and make way for Total Authority!”

Monday, March 20, 2017

Stress, poor health contributing to less sex

Previously published, Terre Haute Tribune-Star, 19 March 2017

“About how often did you have sex during the last 12 months?” The General Social Survey, a respected annual survey since 1972, heavily used by social scientists, has asked this question regularly since 1989. A recent publication, “Declines in Sexual Frequency among American Adults, 1989-2014” analyzes changes in responses to that question . Overall, the trends are down, which explains probably why general happiness among Americans is down as well.
“American adults reported having sex about nine times a year less often in the early 2010s than in the late 1990s” the authors find. After considerable statistical analysis, the decline in sexual frequency reflects a generational change. The average Millenial (born in the 1980s) had sex about six times a year less than the average Silent generation member (born in the 1930s). Declines are similar across sex, race, region and the presence of minor children in the household. Contrary to popular culture presentation, married couples have more sex than others, but that too has declined and accounts for much of the overall reduction. Thus, the decrease overall in the number of married people and the decline in frequency of sex among marrieds explains much of the observed decline. These conclusions take into account the overall aging population (older folks have less sex than younger ones and the increase in the consumption of pornography (which is associated with more sex).
The rest of the article attempts to suggest why this is the case including possibly the Clintonian “what does it, ‘sex’, mean?”
One trend that the authors do not explicitly discuss is America’s increasing weight and obesity problem. According to the National Institute of Health since 1962 obesity has more than doubled among adults 20 and older. Adding in the overweight, today about 70 percent of adult Americans are overweight or obese compared to a bit more than half in 1990. While the authors suggest that some drugs that are related to diabetes, cholesterol, and blood pressure may affect sexual performance and desire, they also report that drugs for erectile dysfunction should enhance sexual activity, they do not address directly what all that extra weight might do to American sexual frequency.
Sex, regardless of how one might define it, narrowly as involving heterosexual intercourse (likely how the Silent Generation did) or more expansively to include, …, well you know, and if you don’t then ask a thirty-something, requires some physical activity, a certain amount of agility, and let’s not discount the physical appearances of those engaged. And while those who watched a pornographic movie in the last week have more sex, today’s pornography is different than yesterday’s. The images in the Victoria’s Secret catalog today were pretty much limited to the pages of soft core pornography in the ‘80s. And mass media imagery impacts what people think is sexy, attractive and desirable.
Another change since the late ‘80s is abstinence-only sex education. According to the Guttmacher Institute, in 1988 abstinence-only sex education accounted for only 2 percent of all sex education, but by the 2010s, nearly 23 percent. What kind of message does abstinence only sex education send about sex aside from it should be confined to marriage? If sex is portrayed as a threat to one’s self, as a corrupting or staining outcome except inside the confines of marriage conducted for procreative purposes, such a view of sex would likely diminish overall sexual activity as well. And with fertility rates at near historic lows, even procreative sex within marriage appears to be ebbing.
Lastly, for those who distrust government or academic research, what does research from commercial interests say about sex? Durex, the condom manufacturer, studies sexual satisfaction internationally and they conclude the following: the physical drivers of sexual satisfaction are being free from stress and good mental and physical health, being free from stress to achieve orgasm, being free from sexual dysfunction, and the frequency of sex and foreplay. The emotional drivers of sexual satisfaction are feeling close to your partner, having an exciting sex life, being free from sexual dysfunction, and having a good first sexual experience. 
In short, being healthy and free of stress is key. As a nation, we seem unhealthier and more stressed. No wonder sexual frequency may be at an all-time low.
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