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Monday, January 24, 2011

Friday, April 11, 2008

Burma Container 54 Cheap Lives

Monday, February 11, 2008

How governments handle the news

Monday, January 28, 2008

America's Shame

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

A Different Recession By Harold Meyerson

A Different Recession
The Old Remedies Won't Work This Time

By Harold Meyerson
Wednesday, January 16, 2008; Page A15

In a normal recession, the to-do list is clear. Copies of Keynes are dusted off, the Fed lowers interest rates, the president and Congress cut taxes and hike spending. In time, purchasing, production and loans perk up, and Keynes is placed back on the shelf. No larger alterations to the economy are made, because our economy, but for the occasional bump in the road, is fundamentally sound.

This has been the drill in every recession since World War II.

Republicans and Democrats argue over whose taxes should be cut the most and which projects should be funded, but, under public pressure to do something, they usually find some mutually acceptable midpoint and enact a stimulus package. Even in today's hyperpartisan Washington, the odds still favor such a deal.

This time, though, don't expect that to be the end of the story -- because the coming recession will not be normal, and our economy is not fundamentally sound. This time around, the nation will have to craft new versions of some of the reforms that Franklin Roosevelt created to steer the nation out of the Great Depression -- not because anything like a major depression looms but because we face an economy that's been warped by two developments we've not seen since FDR's time.

The first of these is the stagnation of ordinary Americans' incomes, a phenomenon that began back in the 1970s and that American families have offset by having both spouses work and by drawing on the rising value of their homes. With housing values toppling, no more spouses to send into the workplace, and prices of gas, college and health care continuing to rise, consumers are played out. December was the cruelest month that American retailers have seen in many years, and, as Michael Barbaro and Louis Uchitelle reported in Monday's New York Times, delinquency rates on credit cards, auto loans and mortgages have all been rising steeply for the past year.

What's alarming is that this slump in purchasing power doesn't appear to be merely cyclical. Wages have been flat-lining for a long time now, the housing bubble isn't going to be reinflated anytime soon, and the upward pressure on oil prices is only going to mount. As in Roosevelt's time, we need a policy that boosts incomes and finds new solutions for our energy needs.

FDR's long-term income remedies included Social Security, the Wagner Act (which made it possible for many workers to join unions) and public works projects -- including a massive electrification of rural America. A comparable set of solutions today would include the passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, which would enable workers in nonexportable service-sector jobs to unionize without fear of being fired. It would include a massive, federally financed program to retrofit America, creating several million "green jobs" in the process.

On these issues, there's a clear difference between the two parties.

Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, John Edwards and the congressional Democrats favor these measures; the Republicans oppose them (though John McCain at least has begun speaking about creating green jobs).

What Republicans favor is simply more tax cuts, which will do nothing to address our deeper problems of income distribution and energy dependence.

The second way in which the current downturn echoes the Depression is the role played by our deregulated financial sector. Now, as then, the financial foundations of our leading banks and other lending institutions have turned out to be made of mush. Now, as then, this news has come as an appalling surprise not just to consumers but to many of the banks themselves. Now, as then, the banks created such complex and deliberately opaque financial vehicles -- all devised to make them a buck every time they swapped some paper -- that they long ago lost track of the paper's true value.

In his time, Roosevelt, through the Securities and Exchange Act and other legislation, compelled banks to be both more prudent and transparent. Over the past 30 years, however, Wall Street has created a host of new, unregulated institutions (such as private equity companies) and devices (such as the bundled, and bungled, resale of mortgages into ever-larger investment pools). Now it's time to enforce some transparency and prudence regarding financial institutions that have been gambling with other people's money and lives.

When it comes to reining in Wall Street, however, the Democrats have been AWOL almost as much as the Republicans have been -- not least because their presidential candidates get so much money from Wall Street. By refusing to take on the Street, however, they forfeit what could be a potent issue this fall and lay the groundwork for yet another recession.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Hill's Angels - how angry women of New Hampshire saved Clinton

Saturday, January 12, 2008


Once you've had your breasts enhanced, your thighs sucked thin, your skin stretched taught over your cheekbones, and your lips pumped full of cow's tissue, what better way to finish off that perfect Barbie doll look than to have your genitals surgically remodeled and your pubic area waxed smooth? And if you're worried that your partner might be tempted to stray because you've had a couple of kids and things have started to sag a bit, what better way to guarantee his fidelity than to transform yourself into a porn queen lookalike with the fanny of a pre-pubescent girl?

Hymenoplasty, vaginal tightening, revirgination, G-spot amplification and labial reduction are the latest craze in cosmetic surgeries for women with more money than sense. Surgeries that were originally designed to help overcome some of the more debilitating side effects of childbirth have now been appropriated by an industry whose sole purpose is to convince women that they're imperfect and to profit from the plummeting self-esteem they promote.

In last week's Observer, Cristina Odone lauded hymenoplasty as "brilliantly subversive" and as "good news" for women. "After all," she chortled, "nowadays you don't have to be a virgin -- you just pretend to be one."

Well, sorry to burst your bubble Cristina, but having your hymen repaired to meet with societal expectations of a new bride's virginity, or having your vagina tightened as a gift to your husband so he can re-live that first night experience, is not "good news for women," not by any stretch of the imagination. Something's surely gone amiss if we're now celebrating voluntary mutilation as some kind of benchmark for women's progress.

We rightly condemn female genital mutilation (FGM) when it's forced on women and girls in the name of culture and tradition, yet we're quick to embrace it when it's sold to us packaged in the language of choice. There's a glaring inconsistency in the western notion of female empowerment, when enshrined within that is the right of women to go under the surgeon's knife in pursuit of a socially imposed model of physical perfection. It's no wonder we face accusations of hypocrisy and cultural imperialism, when glossy magazines carry worthy articles about the horrors of FGM in the developing world on the one page, and advertisements offering the latest in designer vaginas in the classified section at the back.

Of course there's an enormous difference between a young girl being forced to undergo FGM without anaesthetic, where the purpose is to reduce the desire for sex, and a grown woman choosing surgery under the misapprehension that it's going to improve her sex life (doctors have now warned that the potential risks, which include infection, scarring, nerve damage and loss of sensation outweigh the potential benefits). While the procedures and motivations are different, both come firmly under the banner of harmful cultural practices.

In 1915 the Chinese government finally declared foot binding illegal; for centuries Chinese girls had been forced to endure agony for the sake of a pair of tiny feet. Ironically, podiatrists in America are now performing toe shortening surgery, to help women fit into the latest designer shoes. And while a quarter of young girls in Cameroon are being subjected to breast ironing, where their breasts are pounded and massaged with a variety of heated implements to try and stop them developing, in the west, teenage girls as young as 14 are being treated to breast implants.

From one generation to the next, and from one society to another, women's bodies are being continually sculpted to fit in with cultural norms and orthodoxies; but it's not just women who are falling prey to the myth that the body beautiful is within everyone's reach. While we might wince at the thought of the subincision practised by some Aboriginal Australian tribes, increasing numbers of men are seeking out penis enlargement surgeons, or inserting splints attached to weights into their members in a bid to make them longer. And while breast enhancement surgery has become an almost routine procedure for women, men too can now have their chests reshaped with pectoral implants.

There's a scene in the film adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk's Fight Club where the two main protagonists steal discarded bags of liposuctioned fat from waste bins; the fat is a vital ingredient for the designer soap out of which they make their living. As we watch the bags being dragged out of the bins, the narrator intones:

Tyler sold his soap to department stores at $20 a bar. Lord knows what they charged. It was beautiful. We were selling rich women their own fat asses back to them.

Cosmetic surgeons now offer injectable fillers, containing human fat harvested from the patient's own body to pack facial creases and build up shallow contours. Palahniuk got it right. We're selling rich women their own fat asses, and someone's laughing all the way to the bank.

Young Feminists Split

Katie Chanpong and Aubre Carreon Aguilar -- feminists and political activists -- arrived at contradictory conclusions."If you're a woman, you vote for Hillary because of what it means to women everywhere," said Chanpong, a sophomore.

Carreon Aguilar, a senior, said: "If I'm supposed to vote for Hillary just because I'm a woman, that's kind of sexist."

Do you vote for a woman to shatter the glass ceiling and further the cause? Or do you make an empowered, individual decision that is not confined by gender?

In Iowa, women -- particularly young women -- overwhelmingly supported Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) and helped him win the caucuses. Five days later in New Hampshire, Clinton won 45 percent of the female vote compared with 36 for Obama, forging her comeback.

An autographed photo of Clinton hangs on a door. A button attached to a nearby bulletin board reads "It used to be a man's world."

Hours after the Clinton meetings, a Students for Obama group occupies the same couches in Pendleton. Led by Carreon Aguilar and another Wellesley senior, the 10 members also shuttled back and forth to New Hampshire on weekends this fall. They visited dorm rooms and distributed Obama '08 brochures and signs, one of which now hangs on a door down the hall from Clinton's old room. "We tried to make sure it wasn't all Clinton, all the time," Carreon Aguilar said.

Ona Keller, the co-president of Wellesley College Democrats, spent time with both the Obama and Clinton groups for almost a year, but few classmates doubted her ultimate conviction. Keller often wears her mom's hand-me-down T-shirts from the women's rights movement in the 1960s, with the text of the Equal Rights Amendment printed across the chest. She calls younger classmates first-years instead of freshmen, because none of them are men.

Keller tells friends she is "hard-core Wellesley": proud to attend a school that has never had a male president; proud to walk through the same halls as former secretary of state Madeleine Albright and Madame Chiang Kai-shek, the former first lady of China.

"Everybody who knows me thinks of me as a feminist," Keller said. "Nobody imagined I wouldn't vote for Clinton."

Three weeks ago, Keller changed her online Facebook profile to announce her support for Obama. She likes his rhetoric and his stance on the war, she said, and she considers his effort to become the first black president as historic as Clinton's bid. Within a few days, a handful of Wellesley friends had called or e-mailed to teasingly call her a traitor.

"It's like I'm ruining this great opportunity for women by not voting for her, but honestly I'm not too worried about that," Keller said. "I don't think gender is a good enough reason on its own to vote for or against anybody. I'm sure there are going to be other women in my generation, soon, who are able to run for president. This isn't like our only chance."

Her stance is what some professors on campus refer to as an "inevitability attitude," and they say it marks a generational divide. Women who experienced Wellesley in the 1950s and '60s, such as Clinton, enrolled at a time when some Ivy League schools still refused to admit women. They believed, intrinsically, that they would have to scrap and claw for every opportunity in an unfair world. Wellesley functioned as their cocoon, a place for camaraderie and support before they were sent off as graduates to break barriers and challenge stereotypes. As feminists, they were linked by a cause.

The women of that generation now vote resoundingly for Clinton, poll numbers show, as if still bound by the urgency instilled 40 years ago. It's an urgency that their daughters, products of a less-sexist time, sometimes lack.

A woman for president ?

"I'm sure there are a lot of women my age who are kind of moving up the ranks, doing whatever they're doing politically and could maybe be president," Carreon Aguilar said. "The way I look at it with Obama is that both candidates are really minorities. Both would be huge firsts, so that sort of takes away the reason to vote just because of somebody being a woman or being black."

A woman for president ?

"That has an unbelievable 'Wow!' factor for those of us who have been around for a while and who have delved in the academics of this," said Linda Carli, a Wellesley psychology professor who co-wrote a book on gender and politics. "Some students believe all gender issues are already solved and this remarkable progress will just come, and that's overly optimistic. There's this sense that there's been a massive social change and everything is resolved. That's a very naive point of view."

Senior Kirstin Neff set a self-imposed deadline, the end of the 2007 spring semester, for aligning herself with a candidate. The co-president of Wellesley College Democrats, Neff badly wanted a summer internship with Clinton or Obama. But she felt torn between the two candidates . . . between two generations of feminists . . . between optimism that a woman will one day win and the feeling that it needs to happen now.

When Neff traveled home to Arizona for spring break, her deadline approaching, she confessed to her mother that she had started to lean toward supporting Obama. A five-minute conversation changed her mind.

"My mom didn't like hearing me talk about Obama much at all," Neff said. "She started telling me about how our generation takes for granted a lot of advances that women have made. She told me what it was like in the '70s and '80s and, you know, the general feeling that you were never as good or as important as your brothers or the men who you worked with. She talked about how women's stakes are so tied up in Hillary's candidacy, and how it could change what it means to be a woman and what all these little girls will think is possible in their own lives.

"So I just kind of started thinking about it like that, and it was like, 'Hmm. Okay. Do I really want to step in front of all of that?'

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Israel orders Bush to strike Iran

As Bush arrived in Israel today, Israeli security officials told him of their latest intelligence about Iran's nuclear program... and instructed him on how to destroy it.

Despite the fact that a US National Intelligence report last month hrevealing that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barah informed Bush, that unless he follows their orders, an Israeli military strike against uranium facilities in Iran will occur, because they have "rock solid" information that it has started up again.

The benefits of Israel bombing, are that this method will not be presented as a direct US military strike, but a proxy, with Israel as a US nuclear angel of death. Since ordinary Americans are more concerned about American troops dying than Iranian civilians, they are likely to accept an Israeli strike supported with American weaponry. As they did during the war against Lebanon in 2006, such a war would allow the Bush administration to pretend it's trying to end the conflict. In fact, Seymour Hersh reported that the war against Lebanon was just a prototype for a future war with Iran.

Israel has also ordered President Bush, to ignore the National Intelligence Estimate, following explicit instruction from the Israel, he issued the following statement "I read the intelligence report carefully," Bush said. "In essence, what the report said was that Iran had a secret plan to develop nuclear weapons." He continued, "I'm saying that a state which adopted a nontransparent policy and had a secret plan for developing nuclear weapons could easily develop an alternative plan for the same purpose. So to conclude from the intelligence report that there is no Iranian plan to develop nuclear weapons will be only a partial truth."

In addition to the war with Lebanon, the US recently gave Israel the green light to attack a Syrian target last September. Israeli security officials say that Iran should be bombed, the only way to do so, is to destroy Iran immediately. With Lebanon and Syria successfully bombed, Israelis have now ordered Bush to give them a third gift in Iran. Even with the likely probability of US support, it looks as though Israel may go ahead with its plans regardless, its the price of superficial talks with Palestine. Right-wing opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu remarked soon after the NIE came out, "We always prefer international action, led by the United States, but we have to ensure that we can protect our country with all means."

Despite the fact that US/Iranian relations have been contentious at best, US naval vessels have been performing threatening maneuvers off the shores of Iran for months. Now, with the Pentagon releasing footage from the USS Hopper of Iranian boats buzzing the vessels, just prior to the Bush visit, it does seem as though the US is following Israeli orders to ratchet up anti-Iranian sentiment once again. When asked whether he would support an Israeli attack, Bush said that "all options are on the table."

The price of Israel entering serious talks with Fatah, was its order to the US to enable the pre-emptive strike on Iran, before the conclusion of the Bush Presidency. Should talks break down thereafter, it will be the responsibility of Hamas and Fatah will be further armed to unseat the duly elected Government of Palestine. It is still not clear if the Israeli strike on Iran will be a nuclear one but unconfirmed sources suggest that the phosphate chemicals used to bomb Fallujah recently will be used, as Iran's military complexes are deep underground.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Galway Girl

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

New Media News

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Love-affair with a Prostitute

This is my faourite song, its by Patrick Kavanagh. His poetry is famous for the power, the Catholic Church had over every aspect of people's lives. This is a love song of a man who fell in love with a prostitute.

Raglan Road

On Raglan Road on an autumn day I met her first and knew
That her dark hair would weave a snare that I might one day rue;
I saw the danger, yet I walked along the enchanted way,
And I said, let grief be a fallen leaf at the dawning of the day.

On Grafton Street in November we tripped lightly along the ledge
Of the deep ravine where can be seen the worth of passion's pledge,
The Queen of Hearts still making tarts and I not making hay -
O I loved too much and by such and such is happiness thrown away.

I gave her gifts of the mind I gave her the secret sign that's known
To the artists who have known the true gods of sound and stone
And word and tint. I did not stint for I gave her poems to say.
With her own name there and her own dark hair like clouds over fields of May

On a quiet street where old ghosts meet I see her walking now
Away from me so hurriedly my reason must allow
That I had wooed not as I should a creature made of clay -
When the angel woos the clay he'd lose his wings at the dawn of day.

-- Patrick Kavanagh

Feet of Flames - Stolen Kiss

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Saturday, November 25, 2006


Brian Clarke NUJ-Vlog