Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Disturbing article of the day... and others.

In last week's Observer (the Guardian's Sunday paper), there was an article on the new brand of female conservative 'firebrands' in the US. I only happened upon because in the most recent Observer a letter from a Texas woman said thats these women (Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann, Ann Coulter etc), represented a 'new type of American feminism' which values God, family, faith etc. Basically when I read the letter to the Observer, I cringed and thought, oh how embarrassing. Which is basically how I feel every time conservative American views like this are 'out there' for (what I presume to be) intelligent (as they are reading the observer) British people to read.

So after seeing the embarrassing letter, I went back and read the actual article by Paul Harris. He basically discusses how figures like Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann are using their roles as religious female conservative politicians and mothers (who hold vicious views of liberals) to win over chunks of America's conservative population. Not as disturbing as when you read further and see what (for instance) Bachmann's actual political views are. 1. She doesn't 'believe' in global warming, so she disagrees with the US signing climate legislation (what??). 2. She's completely against health care reform. (just because she's been covered through her life, is she completely blind to the fact that others can't afford coverage and must suffer and sometimes die because of this?) 3. She thinks Obama is a socialist. (does she know what a socialist is? and btw, what's wrong with that?). ETC.

Anyways, on the flip side, I will say, I am impressed that these women can attract a following (albeit a bunch of ignorant people who don't want to hear the other side of the issue(s), and I do like the fact that they are not 'Washington-ized', my word for politicians who have been in Washington too long and have tailored their views and politics to follow a straight diplomatic line. Palin and Bachmann (though I think they are idiots) attract attention and admiration because they are not 'Washington-ized'. And I guess I have to respect that.

In any case, I just wish the same type of politician would emerge on the liberal side- one who has little Washington experience, but a lot of political and life experience (but who is smart, with worthwhile intelligent views). And if its a woman, all the better. Hillary, you say? I'm sorry but there are almost no people AS Washington-ized as Hillary. Moving on....


Another article in this past weekend's Observer discussed human trafficking of Mexicans into- you guessed it OHIO! and Michigan. What a red-letter day for my neck of the woods! lol. Basically this one was on how Mexican migrants are being forced into human slavery- work, sex, etc. And many/ most have no escape because they are afraid to (or can't because they are illegal) go to the police to tell them they are being trafficked. I think basically what this article reminded me of once again is how f***ed up our world is and how immigration rules/ restrictions that keep the world functioning as it is are a huge part of the blame. I really am thinking more and more about writing a research paper on the state of immigration and reforms and how they will all fail. Nothing besides a complete overhaul of our world system as we know it will allow people of all countries to be free and equal. Until a Mexican worker in the US is treated with equality and respect to an American worker or until an American student can stay in the UK and find work (hint hint) without restrictions, our world will continue to be f***ed up.


On the veg front, I have been a vegetarian now for 10 days. Though I did have a dream I ate meat last night.... weird.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Disturbing article of the day...

So yes, to many young women out there dreading their first pap test, this article may come as a relief, but to a person who, in the past, had pap tests that revealed abnormalities which could have led to cervical cancer, I don't see why the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is making this big announcement now- which- as they even admit to, may cause the women that should still go frequently- young women who are sexually active- to think that pap tests are not a big deal and make them think that avoiding the test is okay. Also, this announcement comes on the heels of the announcement that women don't need to get mammograms as young or as frequently as previously thought. The NT Times article alludes to the ACOG insisting that its just a coincidence, but it just seems way too coincidental for this girl. So will I have less frequent pap tests than before? I think not, I will probably continue to go once a year as I have done since my first one. I think that an announcement like this should not be one that is given to all women in the US at once, but rather something personal than a woman's doctor could say to her in the privacy of his or her office. How many girls are being put at risk by the ACOG's big announcement?? I guess time will tell.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A book review and a life change...

So! As I mentioned last time, I have become quite the addict to healthy food blogs, which went as far a to tempt me to purchase the book Skinny Bitch last weekend. It definitely was not was I was expecting.

Far from the generic and typical advice I expected to read, this book actually was very informative and well-referenced. The flaky title definitely tricked me. Within a few pages I was intrigued to learn all about how bad certain things were that I ingest on an almost daily basis. First they discuss sugar and aspartame and how both are bad (i.e. don't drink don't soda or diest soda). A bit later they discuss meat and dairy, which were the chapters that hit home for me.
I have been thinking for a while now of trying to go veg (just meatless for now) and I think this book pushed me to finally do it. They basically give many reasons and excellent resources which explain the many benefits of a veg diet, including 1. health 2. cruelty to animals in the agri/ dairy business in the US (at least) 3. enviroment 4. feeding the hungry. I won't give the long-winded version. Let's just say their book (and the other veg resources, such as were very convincing). Alas I have started a thirty day trial of a meat-free diet. I'm on day 5.
I'm not going to say its easy (although I am still eating some dairy, so it isn't as hard as going vegan yet (although one day I might)), but as a person who has never really felt an overwhelming need to eat meat (and has purely eaten it out of convenience), it hasn't been extrmely hard. But I'm only on Day 5 and Thanksgiving is next week. A Turkey I can't eat staring me in the face has never happened to me before.

I hope if there's anyone out there who actually reads this, you don't think it's flaky of me to discuss my personal health or eating habits in a blog mostly dedicated to intenational/ UK/ US social and political issues because for me (as I've said before) the personal is political.

Health, feeding the hungry, cruelty to animals and the environment are all issues that should be front and center in every politically aware person's mind on the planet. So vegetarianism is definitely a relevent topic of discussion for this blog (my continuing education) I feel.


Health care for one, may be changing in the US fairly soon, with Harry Reid (Senate Majority Leader) coming up with a new bill, which will insure many of the uninsured and will (supposedly) protect people from vulcherous insurance companies. The bill will soon be up for debate and a vote... which needs all democrats and two independents in Senate to get passed.... let's keep our fingers crossed, because at this point even an inch forward is still better than being stagnant or going backwards (as happened when Bush was in office).
Anyways that's it for today, I will update as to how the veg diet is going:)

Friday, November 13, 2009

Murdoch, welfare systems, healthy food blogs, and 'the personal is political'

So a big article in last night's evening standard was about how Gordan Brown is indirectly punishing Rupert Murdoch for saying derogatory things about him in The Sun (UK paper that Murdoch owns) by not giving exclusive rights to Sky (UK TV network Murdoch owns) to show The Ashes (which is apparently World cricket tournaments?). I found the extensive nature of the article pretty amusing- ES went as far as to show pictures of the two men and give descriptions of both (age, politics, where they are from etc) as if they were about to have a dual with swords or something. Clearly, there is no battle here. In the world we live in, Murdoch has won and will continue to win if nothing changes. As much as I would try to keep from making conclusions and painting the world in black and white, to me- Rupert Murdoch is Mr Potter from It's a Wonderful Life. He owns everything and anything he wants and is not concerned about the welfare of indiviual humans. Surely his monopolization of the communications industry has cost numerous people their jobs and numerous businesses their existence. I read an article last year about how he wanted to start charging people to read the news online. And the author of the article basically concluded that paying to read the news online would be the way of the future, just because of Murdoch saying it. And in saying all this about why I am against any person/ business having this much power (Murdoch in this case)- it makes me not even want to trust anything I read because if one person controlled all communication, how would anyone know what they were reading was the truth? Surely we can't. (Re: US government propganda etc etc). I simply know, every time I see or read something about Rupert Murdoch, chills run up and down my spine.


Just a general comment about one difference I've noticed between US and UK papers. It seems that in the UK papers, a lot more attention is given to social problems in the UK than similiar problems in the US in US papers. It seems that every day I read about 'broken Britain' and how this party will make these reforms, or this went wrong on this housing estate etc. And last night, there was an article on how some households on benefits are making 20,000 a year. Another the other night, David Cameron talked about his plans to channel government funds for poverty through charities that work on social improvement and tackling poverty. As sad as it sounds, I feel that the US papers don't gve very much coverage to social issues and you never hear about 'broken America'- though it most definitely exists. I saw people every day who were jobless, homeless, living in government housing etc. But I never read about them. Their existence always seemed ignored in the US. If anyone talked about welfare in the US it would simply be to complain about how those on benefits 'mooched off the system' etc. My attitude on this has fluctuated a lot over the years. And I do believe that people should be taken care of by a govenment/ some other body rather than being left to fend for themselves on the street somewhere. I think the issue will only become bigger as the world grows- it's completely interlinked with immigration issues as well. The current solutions to poverty, joblessness, and immigration make so little sense- and it seems like groups with power- national governments and big businesses don't give two ****s. Sorry to go off on a tangent, but my point being is that the US papers SHOULD discuss social issues like UK papers seem to, but both countries (as well as everywhere else in the world) need to work towards new solutions for problems that will NEVER go away if not addressed properly.


I've been very into reading healthy food blogs lately. My friend A just started her own and it's great- as are the similiar blogs to be found out there in cyberspace. I love the food pictures, descriptions of weight loss, etc. I just wonder, where are the blogs like mine? Maybe I'm not looking hard enough. But surely there must exist other blogs where people discuss politics/ social issues without making themselves sound smart (which I hate). In the meantime, I shall admire the healthy food blogs for everything mine is not- entertaining on a wide scale.
I have been thinking about re-naming this blog, to 'the personal is political' as the recent blogs have been purely about political and social issues and my opinions about them. However, I may venture back into the pure book/ movie review format so we shall see. Ta ta for now.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

'Wall Fall'

Another day, another ... day of hating on Gordan Brown by the British people. As if the man wasn't despised enough already for various reasons already (war, economics etc), now a woman named Jacqui Janes, whose son died in Afghanistan, has given the British public a new reason to dislike the PM. According to Mrs. Janes, the letter the PM wrote to her saying how sorry he was for her son's death was full of spelling errors which Janes called "disrespectful." So because she made a big deal about this he called to apologize to her. And she refused to accept his apology. I'm sorry but I'm afraid I'm on the side of the PM here. She is blaming him for the death of her son clearly. She seems to be taking out her frustration out on him and involving him in her grieving process. I'm not a psychiatrist or anything, its just what it seems like to me. But in the British papers, it seems like Brown can't catch a break. So though I feel terribly sorry for Mrs. Janes' loss, I also think she should stop with the media war against Brown because-sadly- it won't bring her son back.


The Fort Hood shootings have been in the news a bit here, more in US news sources obviously, and I'm still a bit confused as to the logistics of the situation, just that at a US army base an army major declared he was anti-American etc and killed 13 military personnel. I'll have to find out more details on everything to give you my opinion on this other than it seems like a terrible tragedy.


I watched an interview with economist Niall Ferguson who claims the US's most important economic relationship is with China. When asked if he thought there would be a switch to China's currency as the reserve foreign currency he seems doubtful however. He predicts that the dollar's vallue will drop in the future (unfortunately for yours truly). I guess this would be along the same lines as what I've been reading elsewhere- that the US is not/ will not recover from the recession as quickly as UK and EU. Which does not bode well for this girl- as I am headed back to live Stateside in December.


The recent issue of the Ecnomist gives a brief overiew of the fall of the Berlin Wall (on the 20th anniversary of the event). It's kind of funny, I haven't really read the Economist for about a year (mostly for my global political economics class anyways) and it realy struck me how much the article on the fall of the Wall was a glorification for capitalism in disguise. One section talked about how the Eastern European countries had to struggle at first with competing with Western Europe but concluded basically that the countries are so much better off now w capitalism than they would have been under communism. Also there is an article on Gorbachov and perestroika (sp?) saying that Mr. G was influenced from an early age from grandfathers who described to him some of Stalin's regime 'necessary evils' of his communism and it stayed with him his whole life. Well obviously telling a little kid about Stalin's evils will scare them out of their wits lol. But basically that section also praised the goodness of capitalism. I'm not going out on a limb and saying capitalism is evil, but this article on the 'Wall Fall' made it seem that capitalism is perfect in all its glory- which many enlightened people today know is not true. (However there are many many still in the dark). Anyways, bad job Economist on giving out a nice overview of the events surrounding the Wall Fall but 'good job' on telling me (in other words) why I should love capitalism.


The end... for now.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Disturbing article of the day...

'"Men's Rights Groups" Have Become Surprisingly Effective'

While browsing one of my fav websites- - I came across this article on men's rights groups and their activism. The article described how men's rights groups such as "RADAR" have been successful recently in gaining attention in congress and courts etc for men's rights regarding custody rights, rights in divorce and recognition of domestic violence against men by women.

Most of these groups are completely anti-feminist, and openly oppose any gains made by feminists. They also argue that half of all domestic violence is committed by females against males (even though stats show that the figure is around 5-10% female violence against males).

The article brought to mind a book I read for my thesis, Does Feminism Discriminate Against Men? by James Sterba and Warren Farrell. In this 'enlightening' book, Farrell makes a long winded argument on how rape is charged unfairly against men, because women are not held accountable for (in short) 'making men believe they wanted to have sex with them.' Farrell argues that such things as kissing, going on a date w/, saying encouraging things (about how much they like the guy etc) all make men think that the girl wants to have sex, therefore she should be held accountable if the guy (in short) 'can't help himself.' Because apparently, according to Farrell, if the woman gives that much encouragement she is saying 'yes' even if she says 'no' to having sex. I'm sorry, I don't know about you, but at this point I was cussing and fuming- in the middle of the library- as to who the h this Farrell guy thought he was!!??! It still pisses me off to think that anyone could think such things.

I guess that some men's behaviour is so bad that to accept all of the responsibility themselves would be too much to handle (thus they push responsibility on the woman). Even when I try to get myself to see the other side of the picture, it is difficult when it comes to a subject like rape. However, I do acknowledge that men are raped also- which is an equally tragic occurrence. But for Farrell to go on and on as to why rape is the female's fault just blows my mind. And represents a similar argument to the men's rights groups.

On parental custody, however, I would argue that it should not necessarily be the mother who gets priority in custody all the time. I feel as long as the father has been a provider, and a good father to the children and has not shown any abusive tendencies in the past, that he should be entitled to equal time with his children as the mother does.

Back to men's rights groups- the article also talked about men that went on shooting rampages against women because they 'had been rejected by so many desirable women in the past.' And apparently on one 'Angry Harry's blog, he canonized these killers saying that basically it should be a warning to all women. WTF???!!!! So you shouldn't reject a guy because he may go kill a bunch of people, and if he does, it was your fault (women) because you rejected him? If that is not the most insane thing I've ever heard, I don't know what is. I just have an overall feeling about men's rights groups that they don't want women any where near to an equal status with men, so they will try any silly argument to make themselves seem like the victims. Playing devil's advocate- I'm sure some women's rights activists have done this too but not to this ridiculous extent.

To all men's rights groups out there- we will never be in a place again where women accept complacency. Please leave the 1950's behind and enter the modern era.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

In the news... 5th November 2009

In the news....

I liked Nicholas Kristoff's op-ed in the NY Times this morning on health care in the US and why our system isn't the greatest: Unhealthy America . I am always a fan of reading/ seeing how the US's ridiculous health care system does not work. I guess it may work for about half the population who have jobs and those who care afford expensive premiums, but for the other half, the answer is usually going without insurance, meaning without treatment usually- is it right that the US government willingly allows its own citizens to be sick and even die in some cases? I have always thought that the system was ridiculous and needed reform way back from my college days, I think its just interesting now because its become such a big news item that people are finally paying attention to it. It really amazes me how many small minded people there are in my own country, arguing that reforming health care is going to destroy its good aspects. Do you think that all the people in the US struggling to find work- esp. new college grads (of which I was one, uninsured and looking for work)- deserve to be without healthcare? To me it makes no sense. And after living in England for over a year I would most definitely say I prefer the NHS to our privatised b.s. healthcare system.


Ny Times article today describing protests occurring in Tehran on Wednesday- the 30th anniversary of the takeover of the US Embassy in Iran. Yesterday the government sponsored Anti- American protests, but at the same time, the strong Iranian opposition movement- which saw a huge defeat in the last election- held their own protests against the government ones. It's obvious to see why they protest- even taking religion culture etc out of the picture, the Iranian government is working towards nuclear deals with the US and West, yet at the same time still holds Anti- American protests? Not making much sense to this small-town Americano.


Also, in both the Evening Standard and NY Times I read articles on the 'Rogue' Afghan police officer who shot and killed five British military officials the other day, while they were having their tea within a military compound in the Helmland province in Afghanistan. The E.S. said authorities have said that the officer was probably high on heroin and went on a shooting rampage or he may have been an undercover Taliban. Hmm. Moving on, but the bigger issue here is that the British are now properly freaking out about more of their troops being killed- this year sees the highest UK death toll in Afghanistan since the first year of fighting. But unfort for the Brits, they don't exactly have the option of pulling out and leaving the war to the Americans because the Afghan/ Pakistan area issues are as much of their problems as it is the US's problem, if not more. I would go on a limb and say that much of Pakistan's political structural problems began with England's map-drawing of India and Pakistan (former Muslim League) back in the first half of the twentieth century. Since then, Pakistan has been a volatile place- whose volatility has infected its neighbors quite a bit- namely Afghanistan (and India). Anyways, I may be wrong and on a limb but just my opinion. I just don't see the British as pulling out troops before Americans do.


The end for now....

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Take off in Latin American Spanish..

So as part of my continuing education, I am attempting to learn Spanish. I've made attempts at starting various Spanish language courses (cds, books etc) several times, but have always fallen behind and given up. This time I'm hoping to stick with it. I downloaded tracks onto my i-pod and am listening while on the Tube. My reason for learning Spanish is two-fold, I would like to have a bit more foreign language knowledge than high school French and in many job vacancies I've been looking at in DC, Spanish is a required/ desired skill. Therefore hopefully I will (in time) gain this skill... we shall see:)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

In the news... 3rd November, 2009

So, Afghan elections. After the IEC showed that the presidential elections wee fraudulent and a second round of elections could be held, Karzai's main rival Abdullah Abdullah has decided to step down from the second round. He gives his reason as basically knowing the elections will still be far from fair the second time around- with corruption abounding. So basically the international community and UN are screwed, as they all thought that this election would show Afghanistan as being democratic- with fair and free elections. Obvi not.

So looks like Karzai will continue on as president. Most likely continuing as nothing more than a figurehead as mass corruption, poverty, and injustices swell around him. Hilary Clinton said that even though Abdullah Abdullah has left the race, that the second round of elections will still show Afghan democracy in action. (Or should we say inaction.)


In other news, Venice has a new trouble that doesn't have to do with sinking. Apparently, the Venitians- people of Venice are moving out of this expensive touist trap of a city. There was even a 'funeral' held for the city as the population of Venice falls below 60,000. According to the article, the cost of living is too high and tourism does not bring in the money that one would think it does (i.e. people only come for a day trip- half don't spend the night in Venice). I guess we shall see what happens there.

Five days of formal negotiations in Barcelona among the countries of the world are the precursor to the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference in December. The conference is supposed to bring about a treaty in which all the world's countries will work together to combat climate change. The Guardian calls this the 'most complex international agreement in UN history.' To read more about the conference, see the website. More to come on this one I'm guessing.