Friday, September 28, 2007

Judith Warner Responds

And I think she still just doesn't get it.

The "S" Word

Very interesting piece in the NY Times today about Republicans bandying around the "S" word - socialist, socialism, socialized - to discredit Democrats' plans to reform healthcare.

My favourite part in the piece is the revelation that indeed there is socialised healthcare - for military veterans. No problem there - you put your life on the line, you deserve some kind of protection and treatment afterwards. However, how does draft-dodging Dubya get treatment there? Ah yes, the whole Commander-in-Chief thing. Still, leaves a nasty taste in one's mouth. As Mr. Boffey states,
a parade of Washington’s political dignitaries, including President Bush, has turned to the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., for checkups and treatment, without ideological complaint. Politicians who deplore government-run health care for average Americans are only too happy to use it themselves.

Also, yet more proof that Mitt Romney is a nasty piece of work - he basically did exactly the same thing in Massachusetts and yet now is yelling about Clinton's plans to socialize healthcare. Strange how what it takes to win in Massachusetts suddenly becomes something that he has rejected based on experience and wisdom, as he has discovered now he wants to be Republican President - like abortion rights, like stem-cell research, as with healthcare that actually delivers. I hate that guy.

Friday, September 21, 2007


I always find it strangely odd when I don't agree with a mainstream view or interpretation of movies. I remember being shocked when a film critic I normally like (I can't remember who, or I'd link to him - I just remember it's a him) talked about the power of the Shawshank Redemption being in Andy's innocence and the brutality wreaked upon him by injustice. No, I thought, that's not the point at all - or, at least, not what I took from it. I took it to be that no one deserves brutality like he suffered, regardless of innocence or guilt; I thought the movie left it ambiguous as to whether his story was true or not. In fact, the elevating, elegance of the movie was that in the end, it didn't matter whether he killed his wife or not; that's what made it powerful and different from other prison movies.

Today I was pointed to an article in the NY Times about Thelma and Louise, which got me thinking about this all over again. In my mind, there was nothing "triumphant" about that movie. They died; and they died because their lives were so filled with violence and misery and subjugation that it was better to be dead than go back. It wasn't the police they were escaping, but the misogyny and abuse. Even when Thelma finally gets her kicks with a man, he steals from her and treats her like crap. It was certainly "dystopian," as Judith Warner points out.

However, I'm not convinced by Warner's point that things are so much better for women today than in 1990; her comment about the appointment of Justice Thomas and Roe v. Wade's perilous position seems particularly . . . well, ignorant - did she miss Gonzales v. Carhart, its utter misogyny and Thomas' position in the ascendant there? Today we found out that Illinois is perfectly happy to let isolated women do without reproductive health services. Even if rape figures are down, as she claims - and she assumes fewer women are being raped rather than fewer women reporting rape - we have a case where a rape victim was not allowed to use the word "rape" in the case against her attacker. How is this progress, exactly?

Here's what my extremely eloquent and passionate friend Xopo had to say on the matter - note that there was no collusion here, but we both saw and raged about it separately!


Yesterday the NYCLU released its report on abstinence-only funding, to which I contributed some small support and research. It's excellent, because the people writing it are extremely bright, capable and wonderful.

So many people have written so many things about abstinence-only, brilliantly (see Feministing's section, and RH's sexuality education section, and SIECUS, of course, which is a ROCKING organisation), that I really don't think I have too much to add. It was extremely interesting thinking about this in Malawi, where many many activists, those with HIV themselves, were advocating abstinence-only as the only way to cure the epidemic. I do not want to deny the authenticity or the challenges of those facing the problems on the ground there, but the reasoning disturbed me. Basically, the idea was that learning about condoms made children want to use them. Does anyone know a young person who really needed that excuse to try out their bodies? Really? And it's hard to know how activists would be talking if it weren't for President Bush's insistence on AB - abstinence, be faithful - and if all else fails, use a condom - just make sure that the condoms are twice as expensive as they need to be, if they get mentioned at all.

Bush - and his supporters, as we found out at a debate at school last semester - claim this came from African nations themselves; read this wonderful article by Helen Epstein* to realise that, as per usual, he's full of it. He just MAKES THIS UP as he goes along. In case you doubted it.

* Which reminds me, I need to buy her book. And you should read the article anyway. She's saying incredibly important things which, of course, health officials completely ignore because it doesn't suit them.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Frittering Away

I have recently, traumatically, decided to give up my old, beloved email address, for a spanking new gmail. I had my own domain; it spawned the name of this blog, and then others (well, one).

Alas, I have had to let it go for the simple reason that every hour I am getting something like a hundred delivery failure notices, all responding to accounts along the lines of It has utterly paralysed my old account. Which makes me very sad indeed. It seems like a watershed; I am still going abroad, yet somehow I have to relinquish my symbolic statement. Now, I'm just like everyone else, not obviously linked to Blighty, with my metropolitan and ubiquitous gmail.

Apparently this sort of problem is due to email spoofing, whereby someone latches onto your domain and writes a programme that sends out hundreds of emails "appearing" to be from your account. According to my ever helpful host company, that's just something every internet user must bear, because the hackers are so much cleverer than the good guys and no one knows how to combat it.

What I honestly don't want to understand is why someone would write a programme that would annihilate someone's system like this; I can't see how it's for monetary gain which - have I been in the cradle of capitalism too long? - I would understand. It's the sheer maliciousness behind it that takes my breath away, because all it does is attempts to make your life difficult and miserable, which it has done.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Role Model Behaviour

Last week I heard a radio interview with a copper from Manchester, I think, or Liverpool, who said that ASBOs [anti-social behaviour orders, for those not au fait with the term] were not working - one of the reasons being is that when they are broken to the police's knowledge, people are going to prison, which hardens them and makes them far more likely to commit crimes later on.

This is interesting anyway, but particularly in relation to the calls for the drinking age to be raised to 21 in the UK, as it is in the US, due to such "anti-social behaviour." I honestly do not see the point. I have not met anyone here who did not drink due to the age, in fact, it just meant that they played Beirut, did keg stands and flip cup in sororities and fraternities. Which may be considered a safer place, but given the state of the kids, I'm not convinced. Essentially, youth will get its hands on alcohol somehow, no matter what age it is supposed to be.

Apparently, however, the youth is not the problem, not in the US. There have been calls, due to changes in mental health, to get the drinking & voting age raised to 25. Today, there is an editorial in the NY Times that exposes the fact that it is actually the parents of the youth, the baby boomers, that are the real troublemakers. Among the pertinent facts:

Our most reliable measures show Americans ages 35 to 54 are suffering ballooning crises:

  • 18,249 deaths from overdoses of illicit drugs in 2004, up 550 percent per capita since 1975, according to data from the National Center for Health Statistics.
  • 46,925 fatal accidents and suicides in 2004, leaving today’s middle-agers 30 percent more at risk for such deaths than people aged 15 to 19, according to the national center
  • More than four million arrests in 2005, including one million for violent crimes, 500,000 for drugs and 650,000 for drinking-related offenses, according to the F.B.I. All told, this represented a 200 percent leap per capita in major index felonies since 1975.
  • 630,000 middle-agers in prison in 2005, up 600 percent since 1977, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
  • 21 million binge drinkers (those downing five or more drinks on one occasion in the previous month), double the number among teenagers and college students combined, according to the government’s National Household Survey on Drug Use and Health.
  • 370,000 people treated in hospital emergency rooms for abusing illegal drugs in 2005, with overdose rates for heroin, cocaine, pharmaceuticals and drugs mixed with alcohol far higher than among teenagers
  • More than half of all new H.I.V./AIDS diagnoses in 2005 were given to middle-aged Americans, up from less than one-third a decade ago, according to the Centers for Disease Control
So there you go. I have been trying to think why. I'm pretty sure the wingnuts going to blame feminists and abortions, though; that's a given. Nonetheless, the question is not "It's ten o'clock; Do you know where your children are?" but "Do you have any idea of the stuff your parents are up to while you're out at the Dairy Queen sniffing speed?"

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Random Generator

1) Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues - Bob Dylan. While I am not a complete Dylan devotee, it is remarkable how much more of one I am than about ten years ago. I used to find him difficult to listen to, and just utterly failed to appreciate how extraordinary he is. Not that I put him on that often, other than Blood on the Tracks, but No Direction Home is really rather wonderful.

2) Creature of Doom - The Only Ones. I have literally never heard this before in my life. Ignoramus as I may be, I have never heard of this band before. I have no idea how it got on my ipod. It's perfectly pleasant but I suspect that I will not be trying this out again any time soon.

3) Everybody Hurts - R.E.M. I am a huge fan of this album but, interestingly, this is one of my least favourite songs on the album. I remember once telling off TOH while we were doing our tortured transatlantic relationship because I was so depressed and missed him so much that I cried when this song came on. I was NOT happy about that. Still, I love Find the River more than I can say.

4) Las Vecinas - Alberto Iglesias. This is off the Volver soundtrack, which is pretty good, given that I really don't go for soundtracks, much. A friend of a friend recommended it, and there is some extremely beautiful Spanish music on it...

5) Kingdom Come - David Bowie. David Bowie for me is a lot like Bob Dylan - I know they're both excellent songwriters, more than capable of genius, but I don't really actively choose to listen to him that much. Although I did obsessively play Young Americans after seeing Dogville, despite its traumatising aftereffects.

6) Untouchable Face - Ani Difranco. Aaaaaargh why doesn't it put on something I listen to vaguely regularly? It keeps throwing up all these people I like but don't actively listen to. Perhaps I should actually listen to them more. Hmm. Maybe that's the point.

7) Out of Control - The Chemical Brothers. I always seem to get at least one of their tunes - or, more accurately, two. Fine - I'd throw some shapes if it came on while I was out, but I find the Chemical Brothers quite dated... just associate it with Big Beat and electronica at the time, and it does seem to be more about the big names they can get for collaboration. The new album is just not on my "need to purchase anytime soon" list.

8) Makeda - Les Nubians. Unsurprisingly, as this is "world music" (i.e. non-English, non-Spanish) this comes from KTB. I wish I spoke French. Then I could tell you what it's about. I think they just said croissant, but I realise that is probably fairly unlikely.

9) Wolves - Dead Prez. This is so, so different from the Dead Prez tune that I know well - Hip Hop - and it's fricking brilliant. It's a rallying speech by Chairman Omali from INPDUM (International Peoples Democratic Uhuru Movement), about power and race relations. It's extremely powerful for someone who's ignorant enough to have only just heard about what happened in Jena. And if you haven't, you should go here (Ps, Mayor McMillan, you are talking out of your ARSE). And watch the Mos Def thing.

On a non-political note, however, I find it really irritating that I don't listen to much hip hop these days but the majority of the time I'm listening to music I'm reading or writing, and I find that, other than MC Solaar, hip hop is not the easiest thing for me to listen to; nor is Blur, or Pulp, or a host of other things. I like bleepy noises. That's easier.

10) Celia Cruz - Yembe Laroco. Pretty sweet - a good friend of mine sent me a lot of Cuban music because she finds it easy to work to, so that's a nice segue. However, I don't find it that easy - too jangly and attention-commanding. It's not background.

YouTube Without Pity

Today I am too lazy to properly blog, so we're going with some YouTube links - for they are genius - and then some random rules, I expect.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

No Way Out

A number of somewhat unrelated things, on the surface, have come together this week to get me thinking about women in sport - yet again.

First, it's the women's world cup. England are on the verge of victory in their first match; we may make it through the group stages, having qualified for the first time in twelve years. Yet, despite this almost unprecedented success, and being the sport most women play now in the UK, and being the fastest growing sport etc. etc., women's club football is on the verge of collapse due to the complete lack of financial support (as written convincingly and excellently by someone with whom I went to college and share an allegiance to Spurs). I harp on and on about women playing sport; do we need people to watch? I think we ought to, to provide the love and dedication that leads to fans paying out, which leads to higher profile female football stars, which leads to inspiration which leads to eight-year-olds wanting to play. Yet, I am as guilty as the next person - probably worse - because I don't really watch women's football. At all. Why not? I don't know. My allegiance is to Spurs (and minorly Carlisle & Sheffield Wednesday), and the English national team, but it's not like I don't watch other matches & leagues - or I would, if stupid ESPN didn't require a subscription for me to watch La Liga. It's just not an ingrained thing for me to do - yet. I hope this world cup will change that. Ah crap, Japan just equalised. But maybe that's a positive difference: When I was a kid, women were unusual for playing football, let alone being watched for it; maybe for younger women, that will change.

Why it's important is that sport is not a career option for women in the same way as it is for men. You can make it perhaps as a golfer, or tennis player (both of which, Williams sisters aside, are predominantly middle-class sports, which is relevant to my point below about making one's way out of poverty); but to make a living as a footballer is generally the province of US-based players only, and sometimes not even for them. Basketball players earn around $50k a year; Kevin Garnett, on his contract, could pay each and every woman in the WNBA twice their currently salary from his yearly wages. No wonder each woman stays to their senior year to try and win March Madness. And NFL... there is no equivalent to that monster, college football, which earns scholarships, adoration and the big bucks. Softball doesn't lead to professional careers for very many, unlike baseball.

What's my point? I was talking to a friend from Kansas, who grew up in a sufficiently remote place that high-school football was big because they were so far from any pro team. So all that pressure is put on 17 year old boys, which honestly makes me sad for them. But then I realised that they have a way out; a shot at escaping their towns, if academic success is unlikely. It's often their way out of poverty, parochialism, and a job in McDonald's, just as football is in Britain, or boxing, bizarrely.

What do women have? Cheerleading? That is, in advance of any protestations to the contrary, NOT a sport. They are athletic, incredible dancers, in great shape, and it's acrobatic and impressive; that does not a sport make. And, essentially, they are there to worship the football players. It's a way of using your body, but I would argue it is inherently different due to its derivative nature; it's a sideshow, titillation maybe, but nothing more, despite how difficult it is and how hard they work. It would be great if women could have options in the same way. Yes, there are other sports, and there is Title IX, but how many have the glamour, the prestige and the devotion that men's college football and men's college basketball have? I'd say none. Maybe that's not fair, but I'm yet to be convinced otherwise... I think there's also a difference for women to make their ways out of towns using their body to adulate men's while titillating an audience, and men to do it for sport.

Sunday, September 09, 2007


I am not a tidy woman. It has been noted by many people. I don't desperately care about tidying, I can be highly disorganised, but I get everything done fine in the end. It may take me a while to find the stuff, obviously, but that's not the point.

But I am really truly beginning to despair at the amount of hair that my cats produce. Rock on the cold weather and their desperate need to retain it. Please, pretty please.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Highly Civilised

As I have mentioned, TOH and I could not but help divert ourselves by heading into the centre of Mexico City to pass the eight hours between flights.

It was so very quiet, and we managed to eat a lovely breakfast overlooking the Z������calo, the huge plaza near the cathedral, department of justice and, fortunately for us, the Templo Mayor. This was the centre of the Aztec civilisation, and was the high temple in Tenochtitl������n, its capital. It was the most sacred place in all of the Aztec empire.

What really struck me was that, comparatively, it wasn't that old. The White Tower, in the Tower of London, is nearly 1000 years old, so a good four hundred years older than the original templo. It survived the Blitz, the Great Fire of London, everything that could be thrown at it. It just sits there, white and "crumbly" (as a friend's daughter once memorably said). But what that has that the Templo Mayor doesn't is a sense of continuity. My friend Xopo comments regularly on the inability of Anglos - US and otherwise - to comprehend that the Mexican identity is NOT that of the Spanish conquistadores, not a Spanish-speaking monolith, but is a wonderful, polyglot mixture of indigenous and colonial peoples. I don't therefore want to offend or simplify matters with my lack of understanding. Nonetheless, it felt strange to be walking around the remainder of a civilisation that, it seemed to me, had been crushed; that was disconnected to the modern Mexican culture. It seemed incredibly symbolic that the Cathedral had just lain over the top of this most sacred place in the previous culture. The juxtaposition between the excavated site and being surrounded by a Christian Cathedral, the colonial architecture, was striking.

On the other hand, the White Tower was built by our own "conquistadores," the Normans. So it was really a symbol, like the Cathedral, of victory and destruction of a previous way of life.

What was genuinely fantastic, aside from all this, was seeing the artefacts from the Aztec exhibition that I saw at both the Royal Academy and the Guggenheim in the place whence they came. Unexpected pleasure and extremely wonderful one, at that.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

The Wuss and the Hero

Today I had one of those moments that wouldn't be out of place on Oprah, yet again. It really quite irks me to be able to compare it to that, but there you go. It's my frame of reference, albeit grudgingly so on my part. I was fully prepared to spend the next few blogs talking about my time in the Cod, where I was this weekend for a wedding. Musing on the unfriendliness of the locals, moaning on my tiredness, talking about the beauty of the region and the "loss" of another friend to domesticity, forever, but the great joy in it.

So, I've mentioned those, but will not expound further just yet because, due to the listening to fivelive this morning, I found out that one of the few people I really, truly and wholeheartedly admire, for their pure courage and guts, died yesterday.

Jane Tomlinson was an extraordinarily brave woman. She was diagnosed with terminal cancer seven years ago, given six months to live, and since then somehow managed to complete ironman triathlons, marathons, cycled across the States, cycled across Europe... she was physically incredibly strong, and dedicated to showing people what you could still do despite being in intense pain and, theoretically, weakened by the horrible thing spreading through her body.

It's pathetic, but whenever I was struggling to finish my training for my first Race for Life about six years ago, which are the breast cancer 5km races that take place in the UK throughout the summer, I would think about her. My legs may be hurting, I may be unfit, but think about Jane. How could I be such a wuss when she is going through much worse? Since then I have tailed off with my running; I am suffering from severe knee knack, but the problem is, at least in part, my failure to do my knee stretches & exercises. I think that's even worse than just stopping due to pain; I could do something about this, and I'm not.

So here we go, resolution time: a 10k race this autumn, to raise money for Jane's charity, and just to seize upon how wonderful it is to have a strong body and fitness. And knee exercises. Every day. Oh yes. I think it's a fitting tribute to her memory.