Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Why do we debate what we believe?

During the course of this election season (which has been more of a year than a season, let’s be honest), I’ve exchanged a lot of emails and had a lot of conversations with people about politics. Some people agree with me, some do not. Some conversations were civil, intellectually stimulating, and engrossing (yes, even some of those with people on the other side of the issues) and others were just plain frustrating. Some people have a grasp on the facts and make it their business to be well-informed whilst others form opinions from sound-bites and rumors. Whether in agreement, disagreement, or even apathy, the one thing I can say for sure is that everyone has been passionate.

A couple of more recent emails, however, have made me think more philosophically about politics and people.

Last week I shared some emails with a friend who is tired of the 24/7 political news cycle and the seemingly non-stop social discourse that accompanies it. In this I’m sure she’s not alone, but in one of her emails to me, that same friend talked about winning or losing arguments between friends of opposing political philosophies.

Hold onto that thought…

Today I received a completely unsolicited political email from an agent from the real estate company I used to work for. The agent wasn’t a friend of mine – in fact she had gone out of her way to be as much of a pain in the ass as she could possibly be to me during my tenure – and so I was a little startled to get any sort of email from her, let alone an email bashing Barack Obama. The email was a conservative take on the principle of “sharing wealth” (a term I have an issue with but I’m using it here for easy identification), taking the concept completely out of context, taking it to a ridiculous extreme and mocking it in that way that people tend to on both sides when they’re trying to rally their ‘base’. (I’m not going to debate what Obama did or did not say here because I doubt I’ll change anyone’s mind at this point in the process, or at all, ever, if they (you?) are right-leaning.)

Email #1 with my friend made me think about winning and losing political debates. I have never, in all the years I have been politically aware, had an argument, debate or whatever you want to call it, that I felt I had walked away from “winning”. In fact, I venture to say that, through no lack of knowledge or persuasive techniques of my own (at least not in my humble opinion), I have never once changed a mind or converted a soul. Unless we are one of the rare few people in this world that can truly inspire people to change their minds (whomever you might personally choose to assign that power to – religious, political, or otherwise), I’m sure most of you can say the same thing of your political conversations. People who agree with you walk away leaving you feeling vindicated and validated, people who disagree walk away leaving you frustrated and misunderstood.

Email #2 made me mad. Aside from the “who the hell is she to send me an email like this after 2 years?” reaction, I was mad because the email took something I do believe in passionately and purposefully mischaracterized it in such a way that was patronizing, demeaning, and offensive. It portrayed my belief as stupid and, by proxy, me as stupid also.

So, today, to borrow the words of SJP herself, I couldn’t help but wonder…why do we debate what we believe, especially when those debates often leave us feeling offended?

I think that it’s because we want to be understood, not because we want to win. Yes, we all, to some extent, kind of harbor the hope that we can somehow outsmart or out-knowledge someone from time-to-time, claiming a victory of sorts. Yet, I defy any one of you to tell me, truly, that you engage in political debates with people who you know don’t and won’t agree with you, because you think you’ll actually change their mind.

But we do it! Even those of us who claim to be apathetic end up debating apathy vs. involvement. Deep down, I think that we debate not because we want to change the other person’s mind about the issues, it’s because we want to change the other person’s mind about US. We want to be understood. We want our thoughts, feelings, beliefs, intellect, opinions, and thereby ourselves, to be validated by the other person. We don’t want to turn a democrat into a republican or a republican into a democrat (although that sure would be a great by-product) but we do want the other person to say “I get it. I get you. I may not agree, but I understand why you feel the way you do.”

So, in this context, what is so maddening about presidential elections – especially ones as charged as this – is when all of those thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and opinions are continually called into question on the tv and the radio, in newspapers and magazines, on signs and bumper stickers, in emails, postcards, and conversations. It’s like a 24-hour, nowhere-to-hide assault for Democrats and Republicans alike on all that we believe to be true and right.

And it’s not as if the other side’s opinion is often framed in such a way that we can just take it onboard and agree to disagree. What made me so mad about that stupid email I got this morning was the fact that it took one thing out of context and took it to such an extreme as to be ridiculous by all accounts. It’s like stereotypes: “Tax and Spend Liberals”. “Bible Belt Conservatives”… they all take a certain belief or set of beliefs and mischaracterize them to such an extent that they no longer truly represent the people they were created to label. It’s all an attempt to oversimplify often complicated, nuanced belief systems and policies, in order to fit into a CNN news-cycle sound-bite and to easily facilitate off-base criticisms that build upon fear, ignorance and prejudice.

This happens on both sides to varying extents in each election and in each case the other side feels unfairly represented, falsely critiqued, and calls “foul” on the opposing candidate(s) and/or the media.

All of THIS is what makes me mad. It’s this kind of uncompassionate, dehumanizing, polarizing rhetoric that gets people all riled up for no reason, shouting things like “Terrorist!” and “Kill Him!” (Note, I tried to find some similarly charged, anti-McCain cries online but could not find them. Not to say they don’t exist, only I don’t have the time to go into full research mode to find them.)

No matter what you think of the opposing candidate, you have to admit that all this gets us nowhere. McCain calls Obama a Tax and Spend Liberal who wants to redistribute your hard earned cash. Obama’s camp says McCain was erratic and impulsive during the financial crisis and wants to rob from the middle-class to give to the CEO of Chevron. None of this tells us anything, quite honestly. Again, it plays on and to existing fears and stereotypes, often taking out of context one line in many, many pages of carefully thought-out positions and policies that have been developed based upon a deeply held set of beliefs. Yes, it riles up the candidate’s base, it gets the other side mad, but all it fuels is tit-for-tat attacks that make us all frustrated and feeling disenfranchised to some extent.

The underlying point I’m trying to make here is that, as much as we want to believe it, as much as we try to stretch and parse words to make it so, the other side is not stupid or ill-advised. (Some people are indeed both those things but I’m not talking about them – they’re beyond my help here). We do ourselves and our ‘opponents’ no favors by exaggerating and patronizing their opinions. I know extremely intelligent and compassionate people who I call friends and who are Republicans/conservatives or at least share in the majority of right-wing policies and values. It would be so much easier to dismiss them as stupid, uncaring, or uninformed but I find that I can’t. I disagree with them PASSIONATELY about so many things and just can’t understand why people I love and respect don’t feel the same way about things that are so evidently ‘true’ and ‘commonsensical’ to me. They often say things that flabberghast me because I just don’t understand how they can be all those good things and yet be so far on the other side of what I believe to be logic in so many ways. I’m sure they feel the same way about me.

So, at the end of the day, I just think we want to be understood and maybe even to understand. To understand how it can be that we can live, love, laugh, and work with people every day, sharing the same everyday topography, heading essentially toward the same goal (a better country to live in) and yet our internal maps lead us to completely different philosophical destinations.

This is already a long post but I had planned on also talking a little bit about what I believe in a personal way and why – what experiences I’ve had in my life or values I’ve had instilled in me that have made me think a certain approach to government and society is ‘right’. But maybe I’ll leave that to a Part Deux.

In the meantime, I welcome your thoughts…

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Seriously... that's all they've got? BASEBALL PANDERING!?

Well, that's it for me. I was going to vote for Obama but then I realized that he claims to be a supporter of BOTH the Phillies and the Tampa Bay Rays. Now, I just can't handle someone who's undecided about something as basic as which baseball team to support. So, I'm switching my vote to the McFailin' team.

But wait...

Something that illustrates the difference between where I came from and where I live now...

Can you IMAGINE this level of regulation/government involvement being accepted in the U.S.? Although many of you probably are pretty opposed to the level of involvement already and are probably going to say we're already inches away from a similar policy... seriously, here's a wake-up call. The U.S. is NOT slipping into socialism.

(p.s. I don't consider Britain to be "socialist" either and don't think there is anything inherrantly wrong with government intervention, although I'm a bit split on this particular issue. Anyway, that's' for another post.)


Repossessions must be a 'last resort'
Grainne Gilmore, James Charles
THE TIMES - October 22nd, 2008

UK mortgage lenders will be forced to prove that they are repossessing Britons' homes only as a last resort under new rules announced today by the Prime Minister.

Gordon Brown has introduced new rules to clamp down on lenders that rush to repossess homes in a bid to recoup as much money as possible when homeowners are unable to meet their mortgage repayments.

Repossessions are expected to rise by 50 per cent to 45,000 this year, and are tipped to increase even further next year as rising unemployment, coupled with higher mortgage rates, push more homeowners into financial difficulties.

Northern Rock was recently accused of "aggressively" pursuing homeowners who are struggling to meet their mortgage bills. Credit Action, the debt charity, said Northern Rock has an "inflexible" approach to borrowers who fall into arrears and is seeking to repossess homes too quickly.

The Civil Justice Council has drawn up rules, which require lenders to examine all other alternatives with homeowners before they start repossession action.

Lenders will be encouraged to allow borrowers to take a repayment holiday of two or three months. Monthly repayments could also be lowered by extending the mortgage term or switching to an interest-only deal. The court also suggests struggling homeowners should be allowed to add mortgage arrears to their total loan. When a case reaches court, lenders will be forced to explain what other avenues they have tried to resolve the problem.

Yvette Cooper, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, said: "We need to make sure we help those who might be hardest hit in the tougher times ahead, ensuring repossession is the last resort, not the first."

Lenders are governed by statutory regulations from the Financial Services Authority (FSA) regarding how customers are treated during the repossessions process. It insists that lenders treat customers fairly and co-operate with borrowers who are struggling to make their monthly payments.

However, the FSA recently acknowledged that it was concerned with the practices of banks and building societies, particularly those who focused on sub-prime lending. Around 9 per cent of the mortgage market is taken up by sub-prime lending, according to the FSA.

Robin Day, of the FSA, said: “Specialist lenders in particular are focusing too much on arrears and were too ready to take court action.”

Housing charities have welcomed the new rules from the Civil Justice Council.

Adam Sampson, chief executive of Shelter, said: "Most lenders have aspired to act in this way but not all lenders have lived up to these standards in the past. The new rules will enshrine good practice and will have the effect of keeping more families in their homes, avoiding the misery of repossession."

In the past year, debt charities have been pushing the Government to introduce new rules to assist judges in repossession cases.

Sue Edwards, head of consumer policy at Citizen's Advice, said: "This timely introduction of a pre-action protocol for mortgage arrears will send a clear and welcome message to lenders outlining how to treat people in arrears fairly and ensure that court action is only taken as a last resort where all other options have failed and no agreement can be reached. It is an important and positive step to ensure best practice and we will be monitoring how it is implemented.”
The Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML), the industry trade body, has also announced guidance for banks and building societies in response to public concern about the growing numbers of repossessions, underlining the rules already in place

Michael Coogan, director general of CML, said: "The new guidance should help to reassure consumers that lenders are genuinely committed to seeing repossession as a last resort, and that the checks and balances that protect consumers are in place."

The Government has also moved to bring companies running sale and rent-back schemes under regulation by the FSA. These schemes have come under fire for not offering homeowners the full value of their homes and evicting tenants after a short time.

The Office of Fair Trading published a critical report on the sector last week and recommended regulation.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Putting old demons to rest

As many of you know, I recently succumbed to the phenomenon that is Facebook. I had been resisting it for some time because (a) I already have two blogs to write on (b) already belong to LinkedIn and Plaxo, and (c) spend more than enough hours in front of a computer screen during the course of a week - I didn't need another excuse not to get the laundry done. My friends had encouraged me to join, my family encouraged me to join, but I just didn't see the point. No compelling argument other than "everyone is on there" had been given. I wasn't sold.

However, I made the mistake of clicking on my cousin's Facebook profile late last week. Instantly, I was hooked. I missed the point when people said "everyone is on there". That IS the point. Everyone is really on there. New friends, old friends, family, colleagues, classmates... It's unbelievable how everyone seems to have flocked to one spot. I had to join, if for no other reason than to get in on the party. I started to feel like the unpopular girl who couldn't find a date and heard about all the fun everyone was having, 2nd hand.

Which is a great segue to the point of this post.

The people I was most astonished to find in such a large contingent, were my class 'mates' from Secondary School in England (High School for Americans - ages 11-12 through 16). Almost without exception, everyone I could remember was on there from my year (we have 'years' not 'classes'). There were names I hadn't thought about or heard of for more than 18 years, and some names I am ashamed to say I didn't recognize at all.

And there, in the long stream of faces, was one I hadn't forgotten for 16 years. The girl at the center of the worst 2-3 years of my entire life. The friend-turned-enemy who made years 13 through 16 a living nightmare, through her gang of 'friends' who mentally and physically found pleasure in torturing me almost every moment of every day I spent at school. The girl who (coupled with her 'friends') threatened my other class mates with a similar fate if they so much as looked at or talked to me (I am not exaggerating when I say that nobody spoke to me for a 6 month stint, at one point), who threw rocks at my Grandfather's car when he picked me up from school, pummeled my back with punches when the science teacher turned the other way, pried-open and climbed through the windows of locked classrooms to get at me, and who called my Grandmother (who at the time, they knew, was recovering from cancer surgery) in the middle of the night to make prank phone-calls.

It's not unfair to say that, more than any one event or period in my life, this period of time, these events and these people, shaped the TravelVixen you know today. The stubbornness, the "I don't care what anyone else thinks", the feelings often tucked away, the bucking of rules, the reticence to take advice, the need to stand firmly on my own two-feet without anyone's help, the take-me-as-I-am or not at all, the self-affirming need to voice my opinion even if I know people won't agree... all of these qualities (and many more - some of which are actually quite good) have come from, or at least been accentuated by, that period of my life. A time where I swore I would never let anyone ever control my happiness or my life again and would never, ever, ever, be a victim.

While I can certainly not say that this was a time where I could always been proud of my actions or reactions, I can say that I am proud of the fact that I never crumbled. This was a time where I learned what I was made of and what I could tolerate alone. I learned that I didn't need other people to get through the day or to succeed, that I could take punches and kicks and insults and they could (after time) bounce right off me, that my family was my rock and safe-haven, that it was more important to stand up for what was right than to run away from a painful situation, and that true friends are the ones that are there even when it's inconvenient for them. It seems a lot to say about being 13, and may be difficult to understand if you weren't there or have never experienced anything similar, but that period of my life taught me a lot about my own strength and what chcracter traits and values were/are important to me. If you can understand this period of my life, it's not an exaggeration to say that you can probably gain an insight into my soul.

So, all of this said, there she still was, and I was faced with a decision: do I contact her or do I ignore her? I knew she could see me, I knew she knew I could see her. If I contacted her, I stood the chance of being ignored and rejected - perhaps further affirmation that she still hated me after all these years. If I didn't contact her, it looked like I held a 20 year grudge and, more importantly to me, that it would appear that she was still important enough that I couldn't bring myself to contact her.

Now, you're saying "TV, obviously she's still important to you because of how important you said that period of time was and all these feelings you're still able to express so vividly." But it's important for me to try and separate that period of time from the people. That may sound weird, given that one wouldn't have happened without the other. But after 20 years, what I had to decide was whether I could still be sad/mad at what happened and, at the same time, let go of my bitterness for, maybe even forgive, the people who were responsible. People who, after all, are now 33 years old, not 13 any more.

I looked hard at her smiling face and dithered over the keyboard for some time and tried to measure my reaction. She's a pretty girl, she's obviously married (last name changed), obviously happy (if her photo is anything to go by)... and, quite frankly, completely unthreatening. I'm no longer frightened of her or what she might have to say, haven't been for some time, and while that time has shaped me, it no longer has power over me - and neither does she. So, there really was no reason to hold back. I clicked the "Invite as Friend" button, and wrote something along the lines of "Facebook is crazy - I can't believe all the people I've seen on here after 16 years. It's weird to see all those names. Perhaps, of all people, it's weird to hear from me. I guess we'll see..."

The result? She accepted my friend request and responded (again I paraphrase): "That was a long time ago and we're all different people now. How are you?"

That's when it hit me. My life-changing, life-shaping, 3-year nightmare was nothing more than a moment in time for her.

When I say "it hit me", I don't mean in a, smack-in-the-face, emotional "Oh My God!" kind of way. I mean in a completely rational, logical, detatched way. Of course, what I had been agonizing over was ridiculous. This was a 33 year old woman who, like me, had been busy having a life for the last 20 years, who probably hadn't given a second-thought to the things she did to me, who had probably forgotten half the things she did or said, and who probably saw my name on FaceBook and thought something along the lines of, "Huh, there's somebody I haven't thought of in a long time." It makes sense. I'm not bitter about it, I find. To think that those 3 years had as large of an impact on her as they did on me, or that she somehow spent the last 20 years agonizing over how horrible she was to me, was/is completely ludicrous.

Somehow, this just took the sting out of the whole thing and I found that I didn't harbor any ill-will towards her, as I had always thought I would if I ever came across her again. It was if, in that moment, I let it go. She was right. Those were two 13 year-old girls, in a different place, a different time, another life. And we are two 33 year old women.

So, what became of her? Well, she married at 18 and she's still with the same guy. They had a kid pretty early, 9 years ago, and she became a stay-at-home mom. Then, just as she was ready to pursue a career in the police force (oh irony of ironies, huh?), she found out she was pregnant again and now she has a 9 month old. That same life-summary message ended with this:

"... and keep in touch, its nice to catch up, to be honest I did see you on here and thought shall I, but wasnt sure on the reception, but so glad all is good."

Just the recognition that there may be a reason why she would not be well received was enough to help me lay my demons to rest for good.

"It sounds like you're happy and, at the end of the day, that's all that matters," I replied, since she seemed to have apologized for not having a "career". "You look great, by the way.I'm glad we reconnected. Those were some tough years for me but they're 18 more away now and, as you said, we're all different people now. It's good to see the different directions people's lives have taken and I am genuinely glad you are well and happy."

And, more importantly, I meant it.

What I learned was that, if I was strong enough to get through it then, I am strong enough (stronger) to let it go now.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Great job, Simon!

A quick shout-out to my cousin, Simon, who recently completed the Berlin marathon in around 3.5 hours - which I think is a pretty great time, especially since I think this was his first marathon.

Running isn't my thing, so I shan't be joining him for any marathons any time soon. However, I am thinking about training for Eppie's Great Race ( in 2010 - some motivation to move that post-pregnancy weight!
Hey, if Jennifer Lopez can do it after twins, so can I!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Random troubling facts

Despite everything we know, have achieved, and can do in our modern society, these are the problems we continue to face...

WEALTH DISTRIBUTION: "2% of the world's richest people own more than 50% of the world's wealth, while the poorest 50% of people own 1%. The income of the 225 richest people in the world is equal to that of the poorest 2.7 billion, 40% of the world."

(Seriously, if this isn't a good case for letting a little more socialism into our lives, what is?)

SLAVERY: "There are more slaves in the world now than at the highest point of the African slave trade. Estimates vary from 12.3 million to 27 million, with the majority being women in Asia."

VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN: "Violence against women by men continues to cause more casualties than wars do today."

MASS MIGRATION:"When humans used up natural resources in the past, they just migrated to new areas with more resources. This strategy will not work as well for the 40% of humanity who live in India and China, as their water and soil resources are depleted. By 2025, 1.8 billion people could be living in water-scarce areas desperate enough for mass migrations."

Source: The Institute for Global Ethics

Random Wednesday Rants

Oral sex linked to oral cancer.

Thus begins the skirting of an "R" rating for this blog.

GMA reported this morning on a new study that shows that oral sex can transmit the human papillomavirus, the same virus that causes cervical cancer.

Since 1976, the instance of oral cancer has doubled and researchers are, in part, associating it with the increased 'popularity' of oral sex, especially amongst teenagers who see it as a 'safer' alternative to dangers of vaginal sex. (Now, I don't know about you, but I always saw oral sex as more intimate in some ways... there's no way I could do... that... without being very comfortable with someone doing the... 'other'. Ahem.)

The report claims that your risk increases with the number of sexual partners you've had (well, duh) but doesn't really address whether you're still at risk if you're in a monogamous relationship. Meaning, if you've been with someone for years without issue, could they suddenly develop the virus and infect you, and/or how long does it take to incubate? These are the questions I have, as yet, unanswered.

Thanks for putting the fear of God in me, GMA, and then failing to explain anything beyond the surface level facts.

And if this gave you a little TMI about me - tough. My blog, my determination of TMI.

The McCain campaign is officially the anti-Obama campaign

And, as far as I can see, that's just about all they're about.

The level of inflammatory speech coming out of Palin's mouth and McCain's ads, is coming back to bite the McSame and Failin' campaign. Not only are they 15 points behind in the polls, attributed to the negative nature of their campaign by those surveyed, but their supporters are increasingly looking like a bunch of raving, conspiracy-theory, lunatics.

Now, note, I don't believe that all Republicans are conspiracy-theory lunatics, I'm just saying that the McCain campaign is attracting and encouraging this scary trend.

See here...

Getting my boxing gloves ready now

Those of you who know me well know that I went through several years of fairly severe and life-changing bullying by the "popular" girls in school, so these stories always get to me.

The story is horrific, no matter what your point of view, but what was most disturbing was the live report on GMA. The reporter took the video of the victim's mother crying and showed it to two of the accused varsity cheerleaders. And you know what they did? They laughed. That's right, they laughed. They said their victims "enjoyed" it.

Ummm... this sounds scarily like what a serial rapist would say.

I swear to God, if I could have reached through that tv set and given both of those girls a good verbal and physical beating, I would have done. Just the pleasure of wiping the smug little smiles from their precious little cheerleader faces would have been worth a night in the clinker.

What are their parents thinking watching this? Aren't these girls getting a good talking to by their mom and dad? In my experience, the answer is usually no. Parents of kids like this usually believe that their kids can do no wrong. I'm sorry but if my kid is accused of attempting to drown another kid, I don't care of they tell me "everyone does it" or "the girls thought it was fun", I am not going to be supportive. Yet, it's clear from these girls' lack of remorse and blase attitude to their crime, that this dialogue is not going on with their parents.

And yes, any unborn potential bully, fixing to pick on my kid, girl or boy, had better start thinking twice NOW, while in the womb. They'll wish they had never been born.

Here's the story...

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Even Mrs. McCain can't believe it any more

Just look at that look on her face as Sarah Palin speaks... Is that an expression of disbelief, I see???

Friday, October 10, 2008

Bush should keep his moosh shut

I woke up this morning to hear that the stock markets were on another record dive into the gutter... down 300+ points on top of the hundreds of points we've lost in the last few weeks. By the time I'd poured the creamer into my coffee, a correspondent on the floor of the NYSE excitedly reported that the markets were rallying. Before I'd managed to sit down, we were only down 45 points.

Then, our President, decided to "calm our nerves".

The stock market immediately dived down 250 points.

According to ABC news, Bush has made 5 speeches on the economy this year, and each time the market has gone down right after.

He really should quite trying to "help". We've had quite enough of his help over the last 8 years and I think it's quite plain to everyone at this point that the only thing he can do to help at this point is to disappear back to his ranch in Texas.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Requesting feedback from McCain supporters/undecideds

Every time I turn on the television lately, I'm barraged by negative ads about Barack Obama by the McCain camp. Ads full of inflammatory terms, personal accusations, and little about McCain's policies. I sure know what McCain thinks of Obama and what he plans to do but very little about what McCain plans to do himself.

(Those who were intrugued by the title of this post, stay with me here - it's not a red herring...)

While the economy is in the pooper and people are losing their jobs and their homes, what I'm seeing very little of is anything from McCain about what he plans to do - not just about that but about almost anything. Yes, I've seen a ton of ads prior to the polls changing in Obama's favor that talk about what McCain has done - I think we can all talk about the last 20 odd years as if it was just yesterday - but aside from his health-care plan, I don't know much about what he plans to do in the future, if President. At least not from the ads - of course, I can go to his website and wade through that - which, yes, I have done. I wonder how many others will or have, however? So, for the remainder, Mr. Joe Six-Pack and your Alaskan pitbulls with lipstick, the tv is most likely their primary source of information on the candidates.

So, it is in this context that I'm asking my friends who are either undecided or decided for McCain, what you think of these ads. Do they really help McCain's cause or do you think it's a case of "those who sling mud, lose ground?" Are you really proud of the way that McCain is running his campaign? Wouldn't you much rather McCain come out with a series of ads about his plans for the future? Aparently he does have them, whether I agree with them or not because they are, indeed, right there, hiding 2 levels in on his website.

You see, I believe that those of you who disagree with my political views hold, just a deeply, a set of your own. We may disagree on the issues but ultimately we debate for the same reason - because we care. So, aren't you frustrated that McCain's not out there pushing the policies you believe in and instead is running around slinging personal insults at his opponents? Or... not?

Maybe, at the end of the day the ads don't matter to you? Maybe your issue is just taxes or abortion and you're going to vote for the Republican ticket no matter what. I get that - it would take one heck of an interesting Republican candidate for me to vote for him/her - but you're down in the polls and I'm sure you do want McCain to win, so aren't you frustrated he doesn't change tactics? I'm honestly curious.

Here's an example of the ads I'm talking about, by the way, if you have not seen them. And, if you're worried that commenting will result in a long rebuttal from yours truly, I pledge that I will not respond on this one. I truly am very interested to hear some unfettered opinions about what you think of the ads and the way McCain has run his campaign.

Have at it!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Booooo Hoooooo

Volleyball comes back to bite me in the ass again. You remember my Olympic rants about seeing Misty-May Traynor half-naked on my screen every time I tuned into the games? Well now, the woman has got on my wrong side again. Maks from Dancing With The Stars is history because little Misty severed her achilles tendon. I mean, seriously, how inconsiderate.

After pining for Maks' pecs, choreography, and great partners (Layla Ali, Mel B) last season when he was noticably absent, here I am again without my weekly dose. It's just wrong.

So, in tribute (or, more specifically so I can come back and get my fix whenever I want), I'm posting Maks' Paso Doble with Mel B from 2 seasons ago. They were the best couple I've ever seen on DWTS; I haven't seen anything to match this before or since. Sniff.

You can't make this stuff up

Russian President, Vladimir Putin, is aparently a black-belt in Judo. He has just released an instructional video called "Let's Learn Judo with Vladimir Putin. " You can see a clip from this astounding piece of narcissitic propaganda on the BBC website by clicking here.

As I said, you just can't make this up.

What's next? Bush Whacking with Dubya? Hunting with Cheney?

Monday, October 06, 2008

If McSame and Failin' are elected, America, this may be the best solution..

To the citizens of the United States of America from Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

In light of your failure in recent years to nominate competent candidates for President of the USA and thus to govern yourselves, we hereby give warning that, should you vote-in Mr. McCain and Mrs. Palin this November 4th, we will be revoking your independence, effective November 5th, 2008.

Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will resume monarchical duties over all states, commonwealths, and territories (except Kansas and Texas, which she does not fancy).

Your new Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, will appoint a Governor for America without the need for further elections.

Congress and the Senate will be disbanded. A questionnaire may be circulated next year to determine whether any of you noticed.

To aid in the transition to a British Crown dependency, the following rules are introduced with immediate effect:
1. The letter 'U' will be reinstated in words such as 'colour,''favour,' 'labour' and 'neighbour.' Likewise, you will learn to spell 'doughnut' without skipping half the letters, and the suffix '-ize' will be replaced by the suffix '-ise.' Generally, you will be expected to raise your vocabulary to acceptable levels. (Look up 'vocabulary').
2. Using the same twenty-seven words interspersed with filler noises such as '' like' and 'you know' is an unacceptable and inefficient form of communication. There is no such thing as U.S.English. We will let Microsoft know on your behalf. The Microsoft spell-checker will be adjusted to take into account the reinstated letter 'u'' and the elimination of '-ize.'
3. July 4th will no longer be celebrated as a holiday.
4. You will learn to resolve personal issues without using guns, lawyers, or therapists. The fact that you need so many lawyers and therapists shows that you're not quite ready to be independent. Guns should only be used for shooting grouse. If you can't sort things out without suing someone or speaking to a therapist, then you're not ready to shoot grouse.

(TV'S PERSONAL NOTE: Hear bloody hear!)
5. Therefore, you will no longer be allowed to own or carry anything more dangerous than a vegetable peeler. Although a permit will be required if you wish to carry a vegetable peeler in public.
6. All intersections will be replaced with roundabouts, and you will start driving on the left side with immediate effect. At the same time, you will go metric with immediate effect and without the benefit of conversion tables. Both roundabouts and metrication will help you understand the British sense of humour.
7. The former USA will adopt UK prices on petrol (which you have been calling gasoline) of roughly $10/US gallon. Get used to it. We had to.
8. You will learn to make real chips. Those things you call French Fries are not real chips, and those things you insist on calling potato chips are properly called crisps. Real chips are thick cut, fried in animal fat, and dressed not with catsup but with salt and vinegar. In addition, you will no longer be able to serve tartar sauce and lemons with Fish & Chips and call it "English Style". Your "English Style" Fish & Chips will be served only with salt and malt vinegar and, if you are so inclined, a guerkin or "wally", something which you currently call a "pickle". Note: Pickle is now a jar of dressing similar to what you currently call relish, only better.
9. The cold, tasteless stuff you insist on calling beer is not actually beer at all. Henceforth, only proper British Bitter will be referred to as beer, and European brews of known and accepted provenance will be referred to as Lager. South African beer is also acceptable, as they are pound for pound the greatest sporting nation on earth and it can only be due to the beer. They are also part of the British Commonwealth - see what it did for them. American brands will be referred to as Near-Frozen Gnat's Urine, so that all can be sold without risk of further confusion.
10 . Hollywood will be required occasionally to cast English actors as good guys. Hollywood will also be required to cast English actors to play English characters. Watching Andie Macdowell attempt English dialogue in Four Weddings and a Funeral was an experience akin to having one's ears removed with a cheese grater.
11 . You will cease playing American football. There is only one kind of proper football; you call it soccer. Those of you brave enough will, in time, be allowed to play rugby (which has some similarities to American football, but does not involve stopping for a rest every twenty seconds or wearing full kevlar body armour like a bunch of nancies).
12 . Further, you will stop playing baseball. It is not reasonable to host an event called the World Series for a game which is not played outside of America. Since only 2.1% of you are aware there is a world beyond your borders, your error is understandable. You will learn cricket, and we will let you face the South Africans first to take the sting out of their deliveries.
13 . You must tell us who killed JFK. It's been driving us mad.
14 . An internal revenue agent (i.e. tax collector) from Her Majesty's Government will be with you shortly to ensure the acquisition of all monies due (backdated to 1776).
15 . Daily Tea Time begins promptly at 4 p.m. with proper cups, with saucers, and never mugs, with high quality biscuits (cookies) and cakes; plus strawberries (with cream)when in season.

God Save the Queen!


I had a chat with HM herself and she also promised we would get free health care and proper British Pubs. Sounds like a deal to me!

Getting your priorities straight

Often, when I'm working from home, I'll have the Travel Channel on in the background. Most of the time it's background noise but sometimes it provides a nugget of information that just makes you think; things that make you go "hmmmm...."

Today's background trip was Passport to Europe with Samantha Brown (the person I would switch bodies with, "Freaky Friday" style). Samantha was in the capital of Finland, Helsinki and here's something that will blow your Western, consumerist mind: the stores in Helsinki close on Saturday at 2pm. Yes, on Saturday, the shopper's sabbath, the day where it's next-to impossible to find a parking spot within 10 blocks of Macys, when countless high-school students pick-up some extra cash manning the registers for the hoards of us overspenders, convinced we can't live without that red sweater.... On this day in the capital of Finland, stores lock their doors at 2pm. And why, you ask, would they deny their retail establishments, their economy, the ultimate capitalist driver?

So they can go to the spa/sauna.

Yes, the Fins, aparently, have a huge obsession with the purifying benefits of the hot, hot, sauna - some up to 120 degrees.... CELSIUS! So, on Saturday afternoon, instead of shopping 'till their credit cards are maxed-out, they take off work and head-out to do something good for their bodies.

How cool is that? And what does it say about the priorities of a nation? Here we are in the U.S., fretting about our economy, drying our tears because we lost homes we couldn't afford in the first place, getting hot under the collar because it takes $100 to fill-up our gas guzzlers, and paying the minimum balances on our over-used credit cards... and there the Fins are on a Saturday afternoon, relaxing in a hot sauna.

The Fins also drink more cups of coffee per capita than any other country in the world. And their average life expectancy? 39th in the world or 78.66 years. In the U.S. it's 78.06 years, 45th in the world.

Maybe they've got something here: Drink more coffee and devote your Saturday afternoons to more rejuvenating pursuits.

I can do that.


p.s. I should add that Andora and South Korea both beat the USA in life expectancy. To see the full list, go here:

Saturday, October 04, 2008

What goes around eventually comes around

On the (spooky!) 13th anniversary of his acquital in his double-murder trial, OJ Simpson was yesterday found guilty on all 12 counts relating to his armed robbery shenanigans in Las Vegas last year.

Sentencing is not until December, so we don't know how long he will be put away for but clearly, the gloves fit this time.

I remember the exact day 13 years ago when OJ was acquitted of murdering his wife and Ron Goldman. It was the 1995, the first year I came to the U.S. and, having just spent 6 months living in Orange County where I watched the non-stop tv-coverage of the trial, I had just returned home to England and was at my parent's launderette in East London. My ex-husband (who at the time was not my husband yet) called me on my mother's cell phone to give me the news and I had the 'proud' honor of breaking it (at least in my vicinity) before the radio or TV. I was missing OC at the time, feeling very sorry for myself having to come back to Blighty, and I remember a moment of feeling at-once re-connected and disconnected to L.A. and everything that was going on back there.

What a different time that was for me. Aged just 20, pining with love, dying to get out of dodge, and so done with being a student. How little I knew back then. How little I weighed back then (109lbs!). I feel at once proud of how far I've come but a little disillusioned by where I'm at, as compared to where I hoped I would be. I still harbor the same dreams and ambitions, I just don't have the same sense of certainty and unwavering optimism that I can achieve them, no matter what. Life kind of gets in the way, you know.

Anyway, on a positive note, it does mean that I have known e of The Gurly Life for more than 13 years now. In 1995, e and I worked for a talent agency called "The Partos Company", enduring the random ramblings of the man who claimed to have discovered Quentin Tarantino.

Yes, different times...

Friday, October 03, 2008

I think I should apply for a job on the Huffington Post

The below article was published on the Huffington Post's website by Arianna Huffington herself. Her critique of Sarah Palin's debate performance is strikingly similar to mine - even in so far as she also called her a wind-up doll and likened her performance to a high-school debate.

I swear, I didn't read this before my post this morning...

I'm awaiting from my job offer from them any time now.

VP Debate: McCain's Big Gamble Comes Up Snake Eyes

I watched the vice presidential debate in a ballroom at the Four Seasons hotel in Aviara, just north of San Diego, along with a couple of hundred women attending Fortune's Most Powerful Women Summit -- a receptive audience, you would think, for a debate featuring a woman who might become the most powerful in the land. It was an ideologically mixed crowd, including representatives of ExxonMobil, a major sponsor of the conference.

If the reaction of the Republican women in the room is any indication, it was not a very good night for Sarah Palin. The only noises heard during the debate were groans when Palin turned her folksiness meter up to 11 (which was often), and applause when Joe Biden delivered his best moments of the night: making personal his understanding of the plight of single parents sitting around their kitchen tables, looking for help; and his impassioned pushback on Palin's endless description of John McCain as "a maverick."

The loudest ovation of the night -- at least in that ballroom (granted, not the most representative-of-America crowd) -- came when Biden said that Dick Cheney was the most dangerous VP in history.

After watching this debate, I am convinced that if the country somehow has a collective mental meltdown and elects Sarah Palin, she will be even more dangerous than Cheney. Not only does she want more power for herself than the Constitution grants -- or than Cheney took for himself -- but she is so obviously not equipped to be a heartbeat away from the presidency, it takes your breath away that McCain picked her. He claims to be putting his country first, but the debate proved beyond any doubt that he has actually chosen to put his country on the betting line and roll the dice. And they've come up snake eyes.

Friday morning, Meg Whitman, the co-chair of McCain's campaign, will be on a panel with Penny Pritzker, Obama's national finance chair, discussing the campaign. After the debate, I asked Whitman what she thought of Palin's performance. "Good enough," she said.

But good enough for what, exactly? After Thursday night, the only thing Palin proved herself good enough for is starring in her own reality show.

Watching Biden and Palin on the same stage was like watching a tennis champion walk onto Centre Court at Wimbledon only to find himself facing an over-eager amateur from the local high school. Or as Pat Mitchell told me, "Biden was taking part in a vice presidential debate; Palin was taking part in a junior high debate."

Here's how Esther Dyson put it: "It's pretty clear that Biden spent decades getting ready for this debate, learning from experience; Palin spent a couple of weeks, learning from handlers and speech coaches."

The only subject on which Palin displayed superior knowledge was when she corrected Biden on the proper delivery of "Drill, baby, drill!" Christie Hefner thought Palin's sex-tinged twist on the chant should be appropriated for a commercial. Perhaps for Viagra.

Other than that, Palin's grasp fluctuated between wafer thin and skin deep. The moment that most drove me to want to send her a book on Greek gods and heroes was her head-scratching response to the question about her Achilles heel. She apparently didn't know what that meant since she spent her allotted time listing all of her attributes as opposed to her most glaring weakness.

Ann Wojcicki, co-founder of 23andme, told me: "I was dying to hear something -- anything! -- from Palin that wasn't pre-rehearsed."

Throughout the entire 90-minute debate, Palin came across as an over-wound windup doll, sporting a pasted-on-smile expression that never varied, except when she winked. Which she did repeatedly -- and pathetically. It was the folksiest appearance since Hee-Haw went off the air.

"The home-spun homilies have to go," Martha Stewart told me. "And, oh my god, words do have ending consonants."

In the greatest disconnect of the evening, Palin repeatedly went to the Reagan well, offering up such Gipper classics as "there you go again" and that "shining city on the hill." But, really, during a week in which John McCain hopped on board Bush's $700 billion bailout, did Palin not see how incongruous it was to insist that government isn't the solution, it's the problem? And declare that all we need to get this country back on track is for the government to get out of our way? Isn't that what got us where we are today? Or had she been so busy cramming for the debate she didn't have time to read one of the so-many-she-can't-name-one newspapers she reads?
Joe Biden's only insincere moment was when he told her: "Governor, it was a pleasure to meet you."

A better exit line would have been: "Governor, it's a pleasure to think that, God willing, in 33 days, you'll be back where you belong -- shootin' moose and takin' on those big oil companies in Alaska."

My patience with Palin is waving the white flag of surrender.

I think I was watching the wrong debate

Ok, it's 7:34am in the morning, I'm watching analysis of the debate, and I CANNOT STAND IT ANY LONGER. My fingers are literally itching to blog. Correction, my entire body is itching with irritation and disbelief.


All I'm hearing is that Sarah Palin did a "great job", sounded "articulate", "charismatic", and that she made a "compelling case".

I have to tell you, me, Hubby, and my Dad, spent the entire, excrutiating 90 minutes at turns laughing at her complete ineptitude, yelling at the tv because of her inaccuracies and lies (wrong name of the commander in Iraq, saying Obama voted for tax increases 94 times), and cringing at her dumbed-down, down-home style.

We were absolutely astonished when the media came on for "analysis" thereafter and told us that she did a good job. Well yeah, if your expectation going in was that she was going to have the chops of the leader of the high school debate team. Even then, I'm not sure my expectations would have been exceeded; I've heard 17 year olds express themselves more eloquently.

Yes, she had some actual information on her side this time. She didn't freeze and say "I'll have to get back to you on that" (although at least then she could have taken the time to find some facts vs. spitting out mistruths). Yet the reality was she sounded like a wind-up doll who had been programmed for several weeks with "data", who let loose at warp-speed with a litany of somewhat related data in an inarticulate, disconnected set of sentences, that demonstrated she wasn't thinking only repeating parrot-fashion, and that she really didn't understand anything beyond the surface-level of what she was saying.

Unfortunately, in this country, 'debates' don't include any actual follow-up by the moderater to the candidates responses, which explains how Palin managed to get away with not answering the question she was asked (by ABC New's count) an astounding 12 times. (BTW, the same analysis of Biden's performance came up with 6x for him). Worse, if the question wasn't something she was 'programmed' for, she simply picked a question she was programmed for and answered that instead - in most cases a completely different topic!

Now, I know that politicians by nature have a tendency to re-frame the question in such a way that enables them to stay "on message" but again, I need to repeat this: in those 12 times she didn't answer the question, almost every time her answer had nothing to do with the topic!

She still couldn't defend the completely true charges by Biden that McCain had voted for wall-street de-regulation consistently, that his health plan would actually be a net tax-increase and level-of-care decrease for the majority of Americans, and that his tax plan includes billions of dollars for oil companies who have already made $600 billion in profits over the last 6 years.

Meanwhile, all she could manage to scratch back was the usual, tired-old Republican lines: Obama will raise taxes (untrue) and that Obama will lead us to defeat in Iraq (no, he has an actual plan not a blank check book).

I am beyond astonished, beyond incredulous, just beyond understanding how anyone in their right mind could even consider this person qualified to be second-in-line to the presidency. I wouldn't put her 2nd-in-line to make my eggs at Dennys.

There have been many instances of my life here in the U.S. where I have had to just accept that mind-sets out here are just different to those in my home country, where I have had to dig down to understand why people feel or believe the way they do even if I can't "get there" myself. It hasn't always been easy but I have been willing to do it. But this time, if McCain/Palin get into the White House, I have to say that I'll officially give up trying to understand this country because it's quite clear that it's beyond understanding.

I'm sorry if this sounds harsh. I used to like McCain - I really did. I didn't agree with him on most things but I thought he was straight up, someone who did what he thought was right, and played an honest game. But since he won the Republican nomination and picked Palin, I've lost all respect for him. Palin's pick was political maneuvering at it's worst: an attempt to win back the press with a controversial pick, an insulting wink at women who voted for Clinton, and back to the old, failed philosphy that people should (as they did with Bush) pick someone who voters felt they could have 'a beer with' (or in this case, hang-out at the hockey game with) vs. someone who may just be a tad more intelligent than us, to lead the most powerful nation in the world.

It has nothing to do with "Country First" and everything to do with "politics first". I'll be embarassed for America if this ticket gets to the White House. Not because of their politics but because of her ineptitude and what it says about how McCain has run his campaign.

Yes, I'm angry and bitter. I think this country, at it's heart, really is better than this.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

This is excellent - you must do it!

Quite possibly the best idea to come out of this year's election antics.

An email campaign has been going around the net, encouraging people to donate to Planned Parenthood on behalf of Sarah Palin. Aparently PP has been getting quite a financial boost from the unofficial campaign and the very best part is that, if you donote the right way (see below), Palin will get a Thank You card from PP.

I mean - THAT IS INSPIRED. And, of course, I am doing it.

Here's how...

  1. Use this link.
  2. You’ll need to fill in the address to let Planned Parenthood knowwhere to send the “in Sarah Palin’s honor” card. I suggest you use theaddress for the McCain campaign headquarters, which is:
    McCain for President, 1235 S. Clark Street, 1st Floor, Arlington , VA 22202
  3. Ensure you use that link above or choose "Donate–Honorary or Memorial Donations" on the regular Planned Parenthood website, not the regular “DonateOnline”

Talk about killing two birds with one stone.

Following on from yesterday's post, yesterday's installment of the Sarah Palin Sitcom vis a vie Jon Stewart, was great. The first clip of her 'trying' to answer one of Katie Couric's questions is priceless, as is the clip about "any and all media".

I just have NO IDEA why they keep putting Palin in front of Couric - presumably to try and resurrect herself from the embarassment of the previous interview(s). The reality is that she just creates another 10 gaffs she needs to recover from.

Yet, I say, bring it on. The more this woman reveals herself to be an utter moron, the higher Obama's poll numbers go.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Buckle down!

Between The Gurly Life and me, we should just turn our blogs into a feed for The Daily Show, with Jon Stewart. Honestly, this man is a comedic genius. I can't NOT post this clip.

We should all be so direct and forthright with our representatives. This whole situation is just ridiculous on so many levels I don't have enough time to blog all my problems with it. So, again, as The Gurly Life said, I'll let Jon do some of it for me.

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