Week in Review 11/11/10

obamania in Bollywood, FDA scare tactics, and cross-dressing kindergarteners

by by Simon van Zuylen-Wood, Eli Schmitt & George A. Warner

Obama Goes to India

On the heels of an election season defined by national mood and presidential inability to connect, Obama’s 10-day trip to Asia has received a few grievances regarding “timing.” Instead of humbly picking up the pieces of his own broken economy, especially after last Tuesday’s “shellacking,” the president picked up and left town. The common association of India with cheap labor further intensified the outcry: outsourcing certainly won’t address unemployment. The White House announced the trip would net private sector business deals worth 50,000 jobs and $10 billion. New York Times columnist Frank Rich speculated that the junket was “hastily rebranded” as a jobs mission to save face.

But in Mumbai, the timing issues of Obama’s weekend arrival raised a whole different set of questions regarding appropriateness. The President arrived on November 6, the fourth day of Deepavali or Diwali, the nation’s most important holiday. The annual five-day festival celebrates spiritual enlightenment over evil with ritual lighting of lamps and gleeful fusillades of firecrackers. Diwali falls after the monsoon rains and the harvest period. The holiday marks the start of the new business year and usually signals a weekend of big sales for city merchants. But police barricades for Obama’s visit rendered Mumbai’s central arteries either clogged or inaccessible, and many tourist attractions were cordoned off. The Diwali patron saint Laksha is the Goddess of Wealth, but the consumer was unable to play his part.

A photographer who makes 200 rupees (5 dollars) a day photographing tourists at the blocked-off Gateway of India monument said, “my Diwali is ruined. My meagre savings will be just enough for my family” to Daily News and Analysis, an news site based in Mumbai.

A shopkeeper in South Mumbai, where Obama’s inner circle of 3,000 booked the entire Taj Hotel, closed his business for the weekend. He told Time Magazine, “the last time these roads were so deserted and there were barricades all around was during the 11/26 attacks. The attacks caused us big losses, and this Diwali too there is no business.”

The decision to land first in Mumbai, then to stay in the Taj—which was bombed in the November 2008 terrorist attacks by Pakistan-based radical Islamist group Lashkar-e-Taiba—was meant to “send a message,” according to the President, presumably about having India’s back, as with his resolve to address systemic border violence in Kashmir and vouch for a permanent seat for India on the UN security council.

Mumbai’s own paranoiac security concerns over a 11/26 attack repeat spoiled Diwali not only for business owners but for children. In a show of unprecedented Grinchdom, the city’s police spent a good part of their nighttimes running around confiscating firecrackers from children and banned any loud noise after ten PM, which Time journalist Madhur Singh compared to “banning Christmas trees on Christmas.”



One big problem with smokers, according to the FDA, is that they aren’t scared of smoking; dumb smokers. If they could see their own rotting internal organs, maybe they would cut it out! Filthy smokers; anyways, cool new FDA plan: NOW THERE WILL BE PICTURES OF SPOOKY THINGS LIKE YOUR ROTTING INTERNAL ORGANS ON CIGARETTE BOXES. REALLY BIG (probably not actual size, unless you have wee little lungs). But bigger than the warning labels now. There might also be pictures of kids with inhalers, and actually maybe just straight up corpses. The FDA is currently deciding between an array of different SPOOKY SCARY labels (you can see them on the internet). The new spooky labels will be mandated just in time for Halloween next year, on October 22. BOO! 


Gay Vaccines, Going Viral

When Boo, a five-year old boy from Kansas, decided to dress as Daphne from Scooby-Doo this Halloween, he learned an important lesson: freedom is not free. His mother paid the price for his might-as-well-come-out-now-because-we-all-already-know outfit. When he arrived at school, the other kids loved the outfit. Unfortunately, three other mothers did not, and let Sarah, Boo’s mother, know about it.

But Sarah made lemonade out of her lemons, blogging about the story. The blog post—titled “My Son is Gay” but then continuing “or he’s not. I don’t care. He is still my son. And he is five.”—went viral, receiving over a million hits and over 30,000 mostly-positive comments. Sarah, who has kept the family’s last name and Boo’s real name private, was soon featured on both The Today Show and CNN.

It can almost be expected that an errant mom or internet commenter will say something nasty, but Dr. Jeff Gardere, a clinical psychologist and frequent media commentator, took the prize for bone-headed comments when he appeared on CNN with Sarah. After defending the mothers who bashed Sarah, calling the response a “natural reaction” to seeing a five-year-old boy in a Halloween costume, Gardere explained exactly what ‘nature’ the reaction was coming from: “I have to tell you, I work with many heterosexual—as well as gay couples—and it is the worst nightmare of both the heterosexual and the gay couples to have to fathom that their child may be gay,” Gardere explained. By the end of the day, the big gay blogosphere picked up Gardere’s comments, demanded an apology from the Doctor, and then quickly received one, proving the incredible power gays have to control the media.

The biggest success of the story, though, might be that a Google search of “my son is gay” now brings up the blog post as the first listing. But, just in case Sarah changes her mind about loving her child regardless of his (ambiguous/non-)sexuality, another website Google listed,, shares with parents the “vaccine to prevent Homosexuality!” Unfortunately for Sarah and mothers around the world, homosexuality is mainly a father’s problem; the site explains: “The vaccination for homosexuality is in fact this: Fathers, spend time with your children and hug and kiss and cuddle them and show them love and affection!”

Careful to provide a nuanced perspective, does say that some mothers, “dominant mothers,” can be part of the problem. “One of the sociological phenomena of our times is the enormous increase in the dominant role of the mother and the renunciation by the father of his responsibility to lead,” the site elucidates. “Nothing ruins the sexual adjustment of children more surely than an oppressive wife and mother. Such children build up an intense hostility toward the opposite sex that either makes it difficult for them to show love and affection in marriage or creates a predisposition toward homosexuality.”

In other news, the Great Falls Tribune, of the great state of Montana, broke an important story this Monday. “Coming Out to Family is a Difficult Decision,” read the headline.