Wednesday, December 30, 2009

All That Glitters Is Not Good




So, Pacific Rim (a large Canadian mining company), is aggressively proposing a gold mine in El Salvador, where opposition to this mine has been mounting over the last few years. In the last few weeks, a number of outspoken community leaders opposed to the mine have been murdered. Just last Saturday, Dora "Alicia" Recinos Sorto, eight months pregnant, was shot dead while walking with her two year old son. Uhhhh, I'm appalled. How about you? So, we have a big, powerful mining company that really, really wants to mine and mounting opposition standing in their way, so...why not hire some hit men to take some of this opposition out? Pretty sick. What's also pretty sick is that this crap happens all the time.

A friend of mine sent me the transcript of a
Democracy Now interview
with Alexis Stoumbelis, Executive Director of CISPES, the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador. It's short, but informative. Why should you care? (Besides the fact that, y'know, being an formed citizen of the world isn't a bad thing and all...) First off, this is silver mining and chances are, you are wearing or have worn gold and silver and knowing where and under what circumstances the items we adorn ourselves with is a good thing to know. Also, the United States has El Salvador (along with pretty much all of Latin America) in its pocket and El Salvador is pretty dependent on the US thanks to the fact that for the last twenty years the country has been run by the right-wing ARENA party, one of the United States' closest allies. So, El Salvador needs our support more than anything.

Unlike so many stories of injustice out there now, there is the potential of some real support behind this movement. Stoumbelis says,

This is a really incredibly important moment in El Salvador. After twenty years of a very hard-right government, they have—the Salvadoran people have elected their first progressive government. The FMLN is now in charge of the presidency and in the majority—well, not the majority, but having the most seats in the legislative assembly. And so, there is really a role like we’ve never had before to hear the voices of people be reflected at the top levels of the government. And Mauricio Funes spoke out last week, specifically around the assassination of Ramiro Rivera, and vowed to investigate fully and not to allow this case to continue in impunity, which was very exciting...

...The FMLN, as a political party, made a very strong denouncement yesterday against the violence and a commitment to investigating, and they have also made a public commitment against mining and have actually introduced a bill in the legislative assembly, which is going to take a huge push, to actually ban all forms of metallic mining, which would be the first in the world.


All of this is important to know because there is REAL injustice happening here and it's the result (as it almost always is...) of big, corporate bullying. People are taking a stand and lives are being lost, BUT there is a real courageous movement going and the push is being felt. The FMLN commitment and bill introduction are proof of voices being heard...but how many lives need to be lost in the process?



Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas, Insurance Companies!




It seems as though the insurance companies will be having the merriest Christmas this year (in lieu of the coal that many of us hoped they'd find in their stockings). Santa Obama and his senatelves really delivered the goods...to corporate America. They can boast that we got what was on our list (REFORM!!!!!!), but that's like asking for a new pair of shoes and getting an empty shoe box. What will keep our feet warm?
Americans awake to find empty shoe boxes, while the insurance companies sneak out the back door, adorned with new kicks.

I, like many, am heartbroken with this turn of events and can't help but feel that the joke is on us. Our representative democracy has failed us yet again. Do you feel you had a say in this? I don't. We went from public option to medicare buy-in to complete CRAP. Suddenly the insurance companies power has expanded; individuals will be forced to buy insurance with NO cost control. Jigga wha?!?!

Last Thursday, Howard Dean took to the Washington Post:



And on Monday, the National Nurses Union cited "10 fundamental flaws" in the bill:

1. The individual mandate forcing all those without coverage to buy private insurance, with insufficient cost controls on skyrocketing premiums and other insurance costs.

2. No challenge to insurance company monopolies, especially in the top 94 metropolitan areas where one or two companies dominate, severely limiting choice and competition.

3. An affordability mirage. Congressional Budget Office estimates say a family of four with a household income of $54,000 would be expected to pay 17 percent of their income, $9,000, on healthcare exposing too many families to grave financial risk.

4. The excise tax on comprehensive insurance plans which will encourage employers to reduce benefits, shift more costs to employees, promote proliferation of high-deductible plans, and lead to more self-rationing of care and medical bankruptcies, especially as more plans are subject to the tax every year due to the lack of adequate price controls. A Towers-Perrin survey in September found 30 percent of employers said they would reduce employment if their health costs go up, 86 percent said they'd pass the higher costs to their employees.

5. Major loopholes in the insurance reforms that promise bans on exclusion for pre-existing conditions, and no cancellations for sickness. The loopholes include:

· Provisions permitting insurers and companies to more than double charges to employees who fail "wellness" programs because they have diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol readings, or other medical conditions.

· Insurers are permitted to sell policies "across state lines", exempting patient protections passed in other states. Insurers will thus set up in the least regulated states in a race to the bottom threatening public protections won by consumers in various states.

· Insurers can charge four times more based on age plus more for certain conditions, and continue to use marketing techniques to cherry-pick healthier, less costly enrollees.

· Insurers may continue to rescind policies for "fraud or intentional misrepresentation" – the main pretext insurance companies now use to cancel coverage.

6. Minimal oversight on insurance denials of care; a report by the California Nurses Association/NNOC in September found that six of California's largest insurers have rejected more than one-fifth of all claims since 2002.

7. Inadequate limits on drug prices, especially after Senate rejection of an amendment, to protect a White House deal with pharmaceutical giants, allowing pharmacies and wholesalers to import lower-cost drugs.

8. New burdens for our public safety net. With a shortage of primary care physicians and a continuing fiscal crisis at the state and local level, public hospitals and clinics will be a dumping ground for those the private system doesn't want.

9. Reduced reproductive rights for women.

10. No single standard of care. Our multi-tiered system remains with access to care still determined by ability to pay. Nothing changes in basic structure of the system; healthcare remains a privilege, not a right.

I have a "right" to post this blog but I don't have a right to get good, sufficient health care if my arm gets ripped off tomorrow. That's...W-R-O-N-G.

The bill gets pushed through and the hoity toities in Washington make it home in plenty of time to sip egg nog near the roaring fire. Honestly, what's it to them? About 2/3 of the US Senate are millionaires anyway.

Oh! We musn't forget Ben Nelson, the "democrat" with a pivotal vote in all this. The Nebraskan senator who "made is name and money in INSURANCE". Did you catch that? INSURANCE. Also, according to the Examiner...

Under the agreement struck between Harry Reid and Ben Nelson, Nebraska’s expanded Medicaid program will now be fully funded by the federal government. Nebraska is the only state to receive this sweetheart deal.

This should be a WAKE-UP CALL to not only Americans, but the whole wold. This is our HEALTHCARE. What is healthy about this? Who REALLY cares? This is not "reform". This is continued imperialistic greed in reform's clothing.




Thursday, December 17, 2009

Curiosity Killed the Tiger


I don't really care about this Tiger Woods drama. I'm not surprised; isn't this kind of the quietly accepted norm among professional athletes? However, when I came across Michael Bader's, "Everything You Think You Know About Tiger Woods is Wrong, So Shut the F**** Up!", I couldn't help but agree.

Okay, I admit it-I indulge in celebrity gossip. It's a guilty pleasure and when I say guilty, I mean it- I feel a little petty as I read about how Jennifer Aniston is "DONE with immature boys!" I know there are better things to be filling my head with and the more I learn, the more I see what a negative effect its focus has on society as a whole. SO, that being said, I've been limiting my indulgences.

Bader says,

But the main (and I think most accurate) point he makes is:


Pretty spot on, huh?



Monday, December 14, 2009

Bubble-vicious

This isn't relevant news, but it did haunt my dreams last night:


RIA Novosti
computerUkrainian student killed by exploding chewing gum

21:57 08/12/2009 A chemistry student from the northern Ukrainian city of Konotop was killed when a stick of chewing gum exploded in his mouth, Ukrainian media reported on Tuesday.>>


I just...can't...imagine that. That is SO messed up!

Monday, December 7, 2009

New Music Monday








Happy Monday! I come bearing the gift of new music! I haven't been discovering or really even looking for new tunes as much as I used to; I'm just not that cool anymore, but these recent discoveries have me re-inspired. Drum roll please...

1) Explosions in the Sky (friend recommendation)- Yes, they're instrumental, but don't let that put you off; they're amazing, emotional and captivating. They're so freaking good that they don't need all those silly words. I find they're best for times when I'm writing, reading or y'know, just in the mood for some Explosions in the Sky.
Download- "Your Hand in Mine"

2) Patrick Watson (I heard him on NPR on Saturday night)- After hearing Patrick and his band interviewed and then perform, I immediately downloaded their Wooden Arms album. Now, this is more for the indie/folk crowd and is SO good. I was impressed to learn that the band often uses unconventional items like buckets, bottles and bicycles in their songs.
Download- "Big Bird in a Small Cage"

3) Kate Nash (friend recommendation)- Ladies, gay boys, straight men in touch with their feminine side- this one's for you. Kate Nash is a British singer/songwriter who just gets it, y'know? She's been there. Her accent is prevalent and her songs are conversational, yet moving. As I listened to her I thought, "I like this girl".
Download- "Nicest Thing" & "Foundations"

Friday, November 20, 2009

Grand Old Pest

Ugh, what is this annoying itch? Ahh, it won't go away! I can't stand it! It must be a bad rash. Oh, wait...it's... SARAH PALIN.

Her book is being dismissed as nonsense and scoffed at, even by Republicans. I caught part of her Oprah interview, but had to turn it off because I was so uncomfortable. I almost felt bad for her...almost. She's dense, deluded, and deceptive.

Alright, I'm sick of talking about this goon. This post was written for the sole purpose of posting this hilarious clip:

Friday, November 13, 2009

It's The Little Things...



Hey, I just found something even more entertaining than Mormons to come out of Utah- University of Utah's zoomable window that allows you to zoom and compare the size of a coffee bean to things like sperm, mitochondria, and a carbon atom.

I think it's pretty neat-o.

Puts things in perspective, doesn't it?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Viva La RevoluciĆ³n

I just read The Nation's Reflections on a Decade of Civic Revolutions in Latin America and found it to be an informative summation of the recent political happenings in Latin America. It has become apparent to me in the last few months how imperative it is for us North Americans to know what is REALLY going on just to the south of us. We have had and still do have a HUGE presence there, and unfortunately, we have not used our powers for much good at all.

Here are some blurbs:


----


----

Get THIS-



I remember hearing about how Obama and Chavez briefly met a few months back, and how the media reported that Obama was "cordial" and exchanged a few words with Chavez. It's not that the West sees Chavez as a mean, scary man, but rather as a threat to their self-serving capitalistic approach to Latin America...and it IS unfortunate that Obama seems to be coloring within the same old lines.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

40 Years of Sunny Days



Happy 40th birthday, Sesame Street!

This morning, as I got ready for work, I listened to a segment on the radio all about the history of Sesame Street and they, of course, played the theme song. I hadn't realized that it's been ages since I heard that song and when I did, a wave of happy nostalgic feelings hit me.

Most of the very familiar things I grew up with (Disney, Coca-Cola, McDonald's, Oprah, etc.) have soured over the years; the reality of their big, corporate, hypocritical actions have tainted my pre-conceived notions of what I thought I knew so well...but not Sesame Street. Sesame Street is still its quirky, lovable self in my mind.

I'm sure my mother was unendingly thankful for the PBS line-up back in the late 80's; I remember her ironing in the basement before she had to leave for work, while I played and was happily entertained by my favorite monsters and their human friends. What I didn't know then is that I was learning- not just about numbers, letters, colors and grouchy creatures living in garbage cans, but about diversity and acceptance. (Yes, I realize that sounds cheesy, but it's true.) I was a little white girl in the Northwest suburbs of Chicago, so seeing a variety of different looking people from different backgrounds everyday on TV was a good thing.

I was talking about this with a friend of mine this morning, and we both noted what a unique show it was- the almost gritty, urban set seemed real (it has since cleaned up a bit, apparently to coincide with the "clean up" of New York) and the monsters were unlike anything else we'd seen before. It was innovative and it was ours. They spoke to kids in a language we understood, never condescending, but almost with respect; they knew how smart and capable we really were.

While searching for Sesame Street related articles, I came across How Sesame Street Changed The World, a Newsweek article from earlier this year, about (obviously) the show's influence, where it's been, where it is and its future. Here's a blurb:

It is, arguably, the most important children's program in the history of television. No show has affected the way we think about education, parenting, childhood development and cultural diversity, both in the United States and abroad, more than Big Bird and friends. You might even say that Sesame Street changed the world, one letter at a time.

When I was four, I could have cared less about the show's cultural influence (I didn't even know the what the words cultural and influence meant) and I certainly was unaware about how much I was actually learning. I just knew I loved it and that it was a very special show about a bunch of silly monsters and their friendly neighbors, inviting us to "come and play where everything's A-okay..."
I was more than happy to oblige...and chances are, you were too ;)


Here's one of my all-time favorite clips of Smokey Robinson and the letter U, putting a new spin on "You've Really Got a Hold On Me":


Monday, November 9, 2009

Noah's Christmas

A friend sent me this info. this morning. If this doesn't give your heartstrings a tug, you are a heartless demon.

Take a few minutes to check out the video...

Diana Harrison Biorkman has a 5-year-old son in his last stages of a 2 1/2 year battle with Neuroblastoma Cancer. They are celebrating Christmas next weekend because doctors are predicting that he won't make it to December. Noah loves Christmas cards- http://www.clickondetroit.com/video/21525126/index.html

Please take a minute to send a card to:

Noah Biorkman
1141 Fountain View Circle
South Lyon, MI 48178

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

You May All Go To Hell, But I Went To Texas*



This is at The Oasis in Austin, TX- by far the coolest place I've ever had a cocktail.

Just last weekend, my sister and I went out to visit my Uncle and his fam just outside of Austin. How lovely it was to wear shorts and SEE the sun! I was surprised at how beautiful it was! Hills, greenery, etc. And although we only spent a few hours actually IN Austin itself, I loved the city and really want to get back there. Maybe there's an Austin City Limits in my future...

Oh, and I came to the realization that Texas is the most American place in America- I'm being general here, of course, but I mean the whole patriotism thing. In many parts of the world, it's rare to have a flag hanging on every other house like here in the states. We are notoriously SUPER patriotic and Texans are SUPER into Texas. Most cars I saw in the greater Austin area either had a long horn or state shape decal on their car. Go big or go home, I guess! Anyway, I couldn't help but chuckle at the thought of having the shape of good ole Illinois on the back of my car or slapping my chest and saying, "You wanna mess with me?! I'm from ILLINOIS! Don't mess with ILLINOIS!" Okay, you get the joke.

Oh, one more thing- did you know there is a Laura Bush Elementary School? Well, there is. I have no real beef with Laura as person, so I'm not trying to be a hater when I wonder why she has a school at all, let alone ALREADY. There's no Hillary Clinton Elementary School in her home state of ILLINOIS. Then again, we're not Texas.



*My subject line is a take off of the quote, "You may all go to hell, but I will go to Texas", allegedly said by Davy Crockett (y'know, King of the Wild Frontier?) when declaring if he lost his run for congress in Tennessee, he'd move to Texas. He did lose and he did move to Texas- only to die at the Alamo a year later. You BETTER believe that quote is ALL over mugs and
t-shirts down in TX!



Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Soviet WWII-era Paintings

Boingboing.net posted a link to these Soviet WWII era paintings. I found them to be soulful and absorbing.

The Boingboing description-

These are amazing paintings. I can't think of anything in the west in the same time period that is as moving, as emotionally evocative, except Norman Rockwell. It surprises me that more people don't like them.

There's a book called The Cultural Cold War: The CIA and the World of Arts and Letters by Frances Stonor Saunders. Part of it deals with the CIA's efforts to destroy social realism, to make acceptable only art devoid of political or emotional content. I thought they had just succeeded in keeping it out of corporate media, out of the museums, but that they couldn't change how people reacted to it. But it may be that they won and that most of us can't react to such art anymore.

These pictures, to me, represent where art should have gone after the impressionists and the post-impressionists, that they are the heirs to Gauguin and Cezanne and of Van Gogh's "Potato Eaters", to Goya's "The Third of May, 1808, or The Executions on Principe Pio Hill." Instead, what do we have today? Sometimes art is pretty. Sometimes it is clever, but it is usually without any deeper significance, without any emotional or political content.

I find that very sad.

What an interesting tidbit, no? I just looked up The Cultural Cold War and I'm definitely intrigued. Looks like I'll be adding that to my Shelfari...

Friday, October 23, 2009

Gleeful


Well, color me "normal", but I (along with probably you, your mom and everyone else) am just tickled pink about Glee. Yes, it's campy. Yes, it's over the top. YES, they break out into perfect song at a moment's notice...precisely why I'm so smitten. I mean, I think this is just what we need these days (y'know with the recession, mass genocides, the implosion of capitalism and the impending ice age...)- something that POPS off the screen, grabs us by the hand and dances us around our living rooms for an hour a week.

It's been awhile since I've been this committed to a show on network television; I rarely find something I actually want to commit to. I just can't be tied down, y'know? My TV viewing usually involves re-runs on cable, like Real Housewives on Bravo because, well, they're ALWAYS on and I just...can't...turn...away. So, yeah, it's been awhile since a television show sent my heart a flutter, wondering what's around the next brightly colored, harmonious corner.

Wednesday's episode was so delightful, I had to watch it twice. With a line like, "I'm going to go to the animal shelter, get you a kitty cat, and then when you've fallen in love with that kitty cat, I'm going to steal into your house in the middle of the night, and punch you in the face." pointedly delivered by Jane Lynch's Sue Sylvester, how could I not? Oh and this Puckerman character is getting hotter by the second.

The joy that Glee fills me with is not unlike the excitement in the beginning of a new romance- right now it is sweet, fresh, and exhilarating. I can't wait to see it again. I have yet to know what's around the corner for us- will Glee jump the shark soon? Will the storyline grow tired? Will the Rachel/Finn & Emma/Will anticipation drag on for far too long (i.e. Ross & Rachel)? Who's to know?

I will say this, Glee has my Wednesday night attention for the foreseeable future. I don't want to say the "L" word just yet, but I guess you could say we're kind of going steady.






Wednesday, October 21, 2009


I came across this informative little summation of the events that have taken place and are taking place in Honduras (courtesy of alternet.org). It's in comic-strip form, so it's a quick and easy way to get the gist of what's going on- and it's also nice for those of you who like to read dem picture books. It helps see what a major rule the US plays in all this.

I also found a link to the blog, Honduras Coup 2009, which gives regular updates on what's going on...y'know because most major media coverage of the coup is biased b/c the coup leaders have suspended alternative media and blown up the towers for the alternative media sources in Honduras.

Monday, October 12, 2009




This is the kind of weather that makes me want to put on my brown puffy vest, a cozy sweater, and head off into the foliage filled wilderness in a Wagoneer.

Is wood paneling going to make a comeback anytime soon? How about an electric powered reissued Wagoneer? Sounds good to me :)


((Shannon and I happened across one in Manhattan back in August. Only one of my very best friends would be a nostalgic DORK about wood paneling like me.))