a july 4th lookback

Wednesday 4 July 2012

It’s funny to realize that I’ve had this blog now for over 5 years. And it’s funny to think, when I come across some news story or event, “I think I wrote about that on my blog once…” Such was the case this year in realizing it was, once again, time for the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest. If you want to know the results I’ll leave them to you, but I thought it a good opportunity to “go to the archives” and point you to my blog post from a year ago: American American. A few things show the movement of the past year, but the sentiment still rings true.

Also, I thought I’d add a few more topics to the mix I didn’t cover last year, including this infographic about education vs. incarceration and another blog post about obesity (and it’s obvious connection to our country’s excess), fat (and getting fatter).

Enjoy yourself, and remember your connection to everyone, not just in your own country but with everyone around the world.

Update: Let me add here also a nice opinion piece in the NY Times called The Downside of Liberty,connecting the expansion of individualism to the wealth disparity currently evident all over the place.


American American

Monday 4 July 2011

It’s July 4, y’all, the day we celebrate the creation of these (wonderful) United States of American in 1776 with the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, and I’m back blogging with a vengeance!

I’m not going to pretend the U.S. doesn’t have some pretty great things going for it; if you check out the kind of overt oppression happening the last few months in Libya, Syria, and Yemen, I think all of us citizens of the U S of A can all be thankful to live where we do.

But, if you know me or have read my blog in the past, you know I like to get critical.  And I figure what better day than this one, a day we think with inflated egos just how great and awesome we are, to look a little deeper at some of the ways I think we’re getting it wrong:

Economic Disparity: If you ask me, this is from where all the problems stem. We’re a country where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, and with a system where those with money are in power or paying to get their friends into power (see below), the cycle will continue. A few infographics (Inequality, Stupid; 15 Facts) and this amazing article, “Who Rules America,” tell the story pretty well, but the basic idea is that the top 1% of Americans has as much money and wealth as the bottom 90%, a group that itself is fairly stratified. Thus, the $1 you and I might spend on a meal means Oprah gets to spend $90. Does that seem right to you?

“Free” Speech: In the past few years, the Supreme Court has basically determined that the right to free speech means the right to as much speech as you’re willing and able to pay for. This means that should I run for office, I can choose to forgo getting in bed with corporations and wealthy individuals and stay true to my ideals, but if someone else is well-financed, they can pretty much drown out me and my voice. Basically, free speech doesn’t mean equal amounts of speech, and in this game, if you have money, you win and get to make the rules that help you get more money, though this has been true for awhile, it’s just become even moreso as of late.

Health Care: I’m guessing I don’t have to inform you that we still don’t have universal health care.  Yes, there was a bill passed that requires everyone to purchase health care, I’m aware, but universal health care this is not.  Instead, what this does is create an even a larger pool of participants for private insurance companies to reap more money and profits from the estimated 50+ million without insurance.  And with Medicare and Medicaid on the ropes, those who would lose such benefits would now also be required to “buy” insurance, again putting money in the hands of private companies.  Why is health care not something we feel is a human right, afforded to everyone, like a high school education?

Education: While we’re on the topic of universal rights, can we discuss the horrific state of the education system of this country?  In Chicago, the high school graduation rate in 2010 was only 56% (an improvement from 1999’s 47%, but still a travesty).  Big cities across the country have similar stories.  A lot of this, again, comes back to money.  With all the states of which I’m aware using property taxes to fund education, this means more money is spent on education in wealthy areas than poor areas.  And if you have money and don’t like your school system, you either move or simply send your kids to a private school.  If we truly valued education the way we give it lip service, we’d fund it as such.

Competitive Eating: If anything is representative of the excess that has become this country, it’s the event held on Coney Island each July 4: Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest.  This year’s winner, Joey Chestnut, ate 62 hot dogs in 10 minutes (and of course the 20 or so other contestants ate a lot, too).  Yet there are still families heading to soup kitchens and food pantries because they have nothing to eat.  What drives something like this?  Well, this year’s event was (again) broadcast live on ESPN, with Pepto-Bismol as a top sponsor.  I’m going to guess advertising money.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. I don’t have time today to write about issues of housing, transportation, Social Security, unemployment, prisons and criminal (in)justice, war and foreign policy, and many others — I want to enjoy my day off, too!

But as we celebrate today and in days to come, let’s not be complacent with the current ways of our country. We still live in a democracy, which means power to the people if we choose to claim it.

I leave you with a great op-art piece with a humorous look at our nation’s not-always-so-pleasant-looking history: Like It or Unfriend It

(The title of this blog post is meant to be read as an adjective followed by a noun.  The second “American,” the noun, is meant to signify that I, being someone living in the U.S., would colloquially be called an American.  In the first word, the adjective, I am affirming my belief that to act in an American way is to challenge the status quo and to work to make  a better country for everyone — EVERYONE — and that’s what I believe I try to do, and hopefully this blog is just one such example.)

(Oh, and why not a throwback to a post I wrote in September 2007, too: economic oppression)


preventative medicine: what a thought!

Tuesday 13 April 2010

UnitedHealth Tries New Approach to Fighting Diabetes (type 2, that is)


another health care post

Sunday 11 April 2010

I started reading T.R. Reid’s book “The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care” this week, which I picked up at the library after talking about it in a past post, so I hope to write more on that later.  So far, it’s a pretty easy read, not too dense or technical but contains a lot of readable information (which should be true for a good journalist’s writing), so I still recommend it.

What starting that book has helped me realize is that what I care most about is health care being universal for all people.  There are many countries doing it in many different ways, but they cover everyone with some kind of basic care that allows people not to have to worry about general health care costs ruining their life.  You would think people could get behind that much and then it just be the “devil in the details,” but I still wonder if everyone believes health care coverage is a right and not a privilege.  Perhaps that’s the debate we need to be having now that a bill has been passed — winning the hearts and minds of people regarding the issue about universal health care so we can be better able to make more changes that will (almost assuredly) need to happen.

I read two articles this week that I wanted to share in relation to health care.  The first article is simply Governor Mitt Romney on Health Care, regarding his take on the health care bill and how it relates to what was passed in his state of Massachusetts, a bill he backed.  His big beef, at least how he wants to portray it, is that he thinks health care is a state issue and should be treated that way as opposed to a national mandate to carry coverage.  However, because there is so much mobility of people within the U.S., and because you’re a citizen not of a state (only a resident there), I have to disagree and say this is rather a national issue.  If the U.S. were more akin to the E.U., then maybe I could get behind that argument, but from what I can tell, all I needed was transportation to move from Ohio to Illinois to Wisconsin (and on and on, like I have), whereas  trying this from Germany to Italy to Spain, etc., would take visa upon visa upon visa, and simply living in Germany wouldn’t get me free health care any more than me showing up in Boston tomorrow would get me free health care there.  The U.S. is one country (for the foreseeable future), and health care needs to be looked at in that way.

The second article that sparked my interest was another in the NY Times “Room for Debate” series, titled “Stupak’s Abortion Deal and His Exit.”  It gives an interesting debate on how abortion policy and positions affect politics.  I’ve always been the kind of person who felt like not much would change in the political spectrum because of the views of whatever politician I was electing, so I never really even take their views on the topic into consideration.  However, many people do, and many people will not vote for someone who does not hold convictions regarding abortion they can support.  If you believe that laws banning abortion will end abortions, you need to watch Vera Drake or 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days (or both), movies about those who have and carry out illegal abortions in various societies and time periods (1950s Britain and 1980s Romania, in particular).

Having never been a situation where I had to think about whether or not to have an abortion, I  find it very hard to think about what I might do if put in a situation where abortion might be seen by some as the best option.  And because I’m not really one to tell others what to do, I don’t want to say what is or isn’t the right decision in such situations.  I think if it came right down to it, I don’t think I could go through with an abortion, but instead of forcing others to do that themselves by law, I think we need to discuss the issue in a way that helps people first avoid as much as possible putting oneself in a situation to make that decision, and also to help people realize there are other options beyond abortion.  Perhaps that puts me in the middle ground that the article notes may be fading, but I think that instead of moving toward the edges, we all really need to be finding ways to grow closer together.


globally, women anything but equal

Tuesday 6 April 2010

Sunday night, I posted about the wealth inequality for women of color here in the U.S.  Another report I was turned on to is from October 2009, and it tells the tale of women in general, in the U.S. and around the world.  The 2009 Global Gender Gap report of the World Economic Forum provides a ranking of countries around the world.  According to the report itself:

“The Index benchmarks national gender gaps on economic, political, education- and health based criteria, and provides country rankings that allow for effective comparisons across regions and income groups…

“There are three basic concepts underlying the Global Gender Gap Index. First, it focuses on measuring gaps rather than levels. Second, it captures gaps in outcome variables rather than gaps in means or input variables. Third, it ranks countries according to gender equality rather than women’s empowerment.”

Using their methodology, they created rankings for 134 countries around the globe.  The top five in their list were Iceland, Finland, Norway, Sweden, and New Zealand.  Before you get to the U.S. at #31, you pass by South Africa (#6), Lesotho (#10), Sri Lanka (#16), Mongolia (#22), and Cuba (#29), to name a few.  (Remember — it measures gaps, not levels, so this doesn’t mean a woman’s life in Cuba is necessarily better than that of a woman in the U.S., but the gap is greater.)

According to the U.S. country profile, education and health are strong points, with equality more or less being established (ranking #1 overall for educational attainment). However, economic and political equality leave something to be desired (the U.S. ranked #61 in political empowerment, with 1 female for every 5 males in “parliament,” as they denote it).

So what does all this mean for us here in the States?  Well, for starters, it shows that while we may say men and women are equal, the end results don’t point that out.  We may educate women equally, and they may even live longer (on average) than men, but women here do not possess the same economic resources  and wealth as men and are not represented in government even close to equally.  We must again recognize the systematic structures in place creating these disparities and work to truly make women and men equal, in this country and around the world.

(As a side note, I found out about this report though an article that appeared in The Nation.  As readers wrote in response to that article, there are some areas for critique of that article and the report itself, but regardless of comparing the U.S. to other countries, the fact of continued inequality in certain areas of society here in the U.S. still needs to be noted and addressed.)