Thursday, January 27, 2011

Mass Protests spread to Yemen

On the heels of the uprising started in Tunisia and the continuing ones in Egypt, comes a new one in Yemen.  This is huge - the current Yemeni government is a significant ally to the US in the "War on Terror" even as it serves as a training ground for Al-Qaeda and is subject to terror attacks.  These protests could serve as a turning point for autocratic governments in the Arab world.  Just imagine if our foreign policy, instead of supporting the status quo, supported the building of new representative governments in these countries, and helped to provide the opportunities that so many of these people are desperate for.  What if instead of letting the people get further entrenched into hopeless poverty under repressive regimes, the United States took a stand and helped bring opportunities to people.  A 20-something with opportunity in this world, will generally not sign up for a life of militant jihad. This is how we should be fighting the "War on Terror".

Instead it seems as if we will only watch and wait to see what happens.  And watch as oil companies flow money into the autocratic regimes to provide stability to region and quash the protests so that they will be able to drill for more oil and post more billions of profit, that end up being larger than the GDP of the countries that they export oil from.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Turmoil in North Africa

Thomas Hobbes was a seventeenth century political philosopher who wrote the seminal treatise, Leviathan.  The most famous principle from this work, the social contract, sets the foundation for man to leave a "state of nature" and enter into "civil society", consenting to be governed.  If man rejects the social contract, his choice is to remain living in a "state of nature", which means "...each person would have a right, or license, to everything in the world".  This ends up leading to a "war of all against all" and "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short" lives.
What does a seventeenth century English political philosopher have to do with North Africa?  Several things.

Today marked the twentieth anniversary of the fall of government in Somalia.  In that 20 years, as the linked article from the Post relates, a whole generation has grown up in anarchy.  Children wake up to the sound of gunfire every morning.  The young man in the article lost his mother after a gang invaded a neighbor's home and she ran out to help her neighbor.  There is rampant poverty.  Survival is each child's only form of education.  Warlords and gangs fight each other in the streets and roadblocks are set up everywhere, controlled by bribes and intimidation.  Foreign Al-Qaeda fighters stream into the country, becoming the new training ground for foreign terrorists (which attacked Russia this week).  It is the definition of man in a state of nature.  The lives of the people are "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short", and there are few signs for any kind of hope of order being restored.

And as Somalia marked the downfall of its government, two other countries have erupted in mass protests against the autocratic regimes that rule their countries.  The people of Tunisia and Egypt have taken the world by surprise and are protesting the regimes that have ruled their countries for 30+ years with the hopes of overthrowing them and establishing more representative governments.  Tunisia actually has already ousted its leader, Ben-Ali who has fled to Saudi Arabia.

Mubarak, the current leader of Egypt is essentially a dictator.  More than 60 percent of the Egyptian population is unemployed under his regime.  It is a level that is put into perspective when you remember that the United States is currently experiencing a 10 percent unemployment rate, thereby making the Egyptian unemployment session 6 times as worse as it is currently in our own country.  And along with unemployment, the Egyptian people have suffered under political oppression for over 30 years.  Yet the government of Mubarak, that has been in power since the assassination of Anwar Al-Sadat, has been unprecedentedly supported by the United States government.  Along with Israel, Egypt has received more than a third of all foreign aid provided by the United States.  It is an amount that totals to around $1billion a year.  A billion of our tax dollars has gone into the pockets of Mubarak and his allies.

The protesters in the streets of Egypt are calling for an end to the oppression and poverty that they have lived with under Mubarak.  Emboldened by their counterpart in Tunisia, they have risen up, demanding a new democratic form of government that clearly represents the population - both Muslim and Christian.

And this presents the United States with a conundrum.  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did issue a statement today calling upon the Mubarak government to let the protests happen peacefully, but that is all.  In my opinion, the Obama administration faces one of its most important foreign policy tests in how it handles this development in this region.  Will it continue to give billions of dollars of aid to a country when it cannot guarantee stability and a strategic alliance?  I think it will depend upon whether or not a transition of government occurs and how it occurs - whether these popular protests succeed or not.  At the most, there is the chance that these developments in Tunisia and Egypt have the potential to prove another political theory, the democratic peace theory - and that would be a worthy investment of any foreign aid.

Perhaps this is where the people of Somalia could find a reason to hope.  That when a population rises up together, forgoing religious and ethnic differences, they can establish a social contract with each other for a reasonable government.  I hope that some day in my lifetime there will be improvements in that country that will afford the citizens a chance for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  That no more generations will grow up in a state of perpetual anarchy.

(Footnote - Even though I make no mention of Lebanon in this post, there has been a huge development in that country as well with Iranian-backed Hezbollah taking control of the government.  Afghanistan is suffering its own woes with a deadlocked parliament.  And Palestinians are taking to the streets in Gaza in response to leaked documents from Mohammed Abbas on his negotiating positions with the Israelis, further derailing any kind of talks between the two nations. I wish that the 24hr news networks would report on these issues and give them the kind of attention and detailed analysis that they give to a remark by Sarah Palin or on a book about a method of parenting.

Also, to get more insight into the plight and situation of the Somalians from a Somali, I suggest that you listen to the raps of K'Naan, a Somali-Canadian hip-hop artist who doesn't hold back from describing the living situation that he came from.)

Monday, January 24, 2011

Hitting Like a Ton of Bricks...

Emotional ones that is.  Yes, this week was all about the emotional walls we keep with each other.  I confess, I have lots of emotional walls.  Watching Loveline with Dr. Drew made me realize this.  And I don't believe that my walls have come down yet, but I can guarantee you all that I am here for the right reasons - to bask in the awesomeness of the Bachelor and people making fools of themselves on national TV!!  And if you're not here for the right reasons, well, I suggest that you just not accept the rose offered at the post tonight.  Without further ado, let's "dive" into ten thoughts.

1 - Chantal really made an impression on Brad last week because lookey here, she gets the first one-on-one date of the night.  And, what is that?  Dost my eyes deceive me?? Why No, it is the first appearance of the ABC helicopter arriving to whisk our Bachelor and his erstwhile date away to some random California seaside town (Catalina I think they said? Looked pretty whatever seaside California town it was).  And for their date, what do they get to do? Walk some murky underwater "wonderland"? It really didn't look like Ariel's cove to me - no Sebastian singing "Under the Sea".  In fact, I think all it did was show the polluted water, which is really attractive to look at on national TV.

2 - Aww, I like Chantal with Brad.  I have a feeling that their connection could go far.  She keeps him on his toes.  But wait, what's that? She was with her high school sweetheart for 6 years and then married to him for 4 years?  That's kind of a long time.  OH well - keep keeping our Bachelor on his toes Chantal.

3 - Group Date Time!  And we are whisked off in the limo with mimosas!! Sign me up!  I really like how the producers have gotten these things down to a science - liquor these girls up and watch the crazy come out.  Sounds like a winning formula to me!

4 - Wait, is that Dr. Drew?!  Loveline?!  Ummm, can we say AWESOME?  Oh, and what is that in the girls' hands?  Could that be some more alcohol?  Right before going on a pyschotherapy radio talk show?  Ummm, AWESOME.

5 - Oh wait a second.  How did I get all the way to #5 without mentioning Michelle's fake black eye?  And was it just me, or did her "black eye" change sides?  Probably not, but I swear I thought it was on the other side.  I swear to you guys, this girl is not here for the "right reasons".  All of her interviews this week just seemed too scripted - she had me fooled for the past three weeks with the craziness, but this week it just seemed to cross the line of fake-ness.  Probably because via my new fav Bachelor blog, The Possessionista I learned that this "hair stylist" is going to be in a movie that comes out this April.

6 - YES!!! THANK You Chantal for totally calling out Michelle on her hypocrisy.  That was a brilliant reality TV moment.  And ohmygosh Ashley H., get a grip!  Or go find Frank in Chicago where you can both bemoan the hardness of being the first date on the Bachelor/ette and all the emotional roller coasters that you ride as a result.

7 - Forget the repelling down a building in LA...what about the fake conversation that Michelle had about "her daughter" Brielle?  When you compare her reaction to Brad's question to Emily's reaction last week, I think we get a clear picture of this "woman's" connection to her daughter.  Yet it is so typical that Brad is into her.  It is a rule of all Bachelor/ette seasons that the completely crazy person somehow convinces the Bachelor/ette that they are completely into them.

8 - Poor Meghan and her walls.  Smart girl for having them.  Not smart girl for admitting it to the Bachelor - especially when she didn't have any real chemistry with him in the first place.  Sorry girlie - time to take the hideous hot pink wedges and go home.

9 - That was really sweet how Brad pulled Scarlett/Melanie/Emily aside and "recreated" their winery date outside in the front of the mansion.  What is not sweet is the promos for next week in which they show Emily on the group date on a NASCAR RACE TRACK!!! Seriously, Producers, have you no heart or compassion for a poor woman's grief???

10 - I LOVED how Brad waited until the last rose to give a rose to Ashley H.  That was priceless.

Oh this show.  How I love thee.  I'm putting bets on Lisa, Marissa, and smiley Alli are the next goners.  How about you?  Who's next to go?  Who do you think will make it to the final two?  And most importantly, when will Chris Harrison resume his role as the Bachelor therapist??  Plleeeasseee more screen time for OHCH!!

Friday, January 21, 2011

What I'm Listening To...

One of my passions in life (besides The Bachelor and all of its spinoffs) is music.  And my ear doesn't really discriminate when it comes to good music.  So I wanted to share with you all some of the music that I've been listening to this week.

First up is a duo that I recently discovered through some kind of Web 2.0 convoluted way and I've fallen in love with them. Be sure to have a listen to The Civil Wars.

The second piece that I've been listening to non-stop is from Beethoven's Seventh Symphony, Movement Two.  I got fixated on it after hearing it in an integral part of the movie, "The King's Speech", which I highly, highly recommend everyone to see.  It is a fantastic film - a quiet movie but with a beautiful message and some really superb acting.

One of my favorite hip-hop artists, Talib Kweli, drops his new album next week, "Gutter Rainbows".  From what I've heard so far, it sounds like it is going to be awesome!

And finally I have been loving Kayne's latest album (the edited version - I'm not that hardcore).  And this song is just auditory awesomeness.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Love is a Hollywood Studio Lot

I'm not sure that I will be able to properly recap this week's episode because I was in the midst of experiencing some kind of 24hr stomach bug while watching this week's episode.  Most of the episode was watched in some kind of stupor - which, in hindsight, was probably the best way to view it.  So, with all that warning, here are my ten thoughts on this week's episode...

1 - Seal singing "Kiss From a Rose" acoustically was everything that my eighth grade self hoped that it would be.  I now need to dig through my dusty CD collection and find a CD player somewhere in the museums to play it on.  Can you just imagine being Heidi Klum? If I was her, I would have Seal sing that to me all the time.

2 - Ashley S. is just cute. I can't help it - she reminds me of my cousin who lives in Mississippi - who is in the eighth grade - which is the same age I feel like Ashley S. is.  But whatev - she is a cute NYC nanny and I am sorry that she lost her daddy.

3 - An action movie group date? Say what?  Really Bachelor producers, getting Steve Ho, the stunt actor double for Donatello in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, to "film" an action movie.  Because clearly the best way to find a wife is to see how she high-kicks her way through a bunch of manufactured stunts.

4 - Again with the fireworks Michelle? Please, can't you find some other kind of analogy for your first kiss with Brad?

5 - Hey Alli, when you are going to highlight your boobs on national television by wearing a half-top bra thing, why oh why, do you follow it up with some kind of awful blue slip non-dress thing with a black pattern thingie on it? You my dear win worst-dressed of the week for me.

6 - What kind of crazy pills do you think Michelle is on?  Do you think she is always this calculating in real life or is this some kind of gamble for 15 seconds of fame on the Bachelor for being the crazy-of-all-crazies?  I mean, not only does she proclaim her and Brad in a fight because he's kissing other girls (umm, hello, are we not on the show The Bachelor?), she also creepily intrudes on other people's one-on-one times and proclaims feeling confident in front of everyone else. She is reality TV gold.

7- Chantal's dad passed away too?? Really? How many other girls are going to have sad sob stories that will be revealed? Oh well, tough girl has a heart of gold. I think she and Brad are going to go far.

8 - Oh look, there goes Ashley the dentist off the deep end because Brad is getting close to other girls.  Like we didn't see that one coming...

9 - I usually love the Bachelor producers for the endless hours of entertainment that they give me. However, putting poor Melanie - whoops, I mean, Emily - on a tiny private plane to go on her date with Brad was a really poor-in-taste move.  Having had her fiancee pass away via plane crash wasn't enough for you guys to pause for a second and advise Brad to choose another fantasy date for their one-on-one?  That was just a low blow.

10 - The fangs weren't real!!! They were clip-ons??

Thursday, January 13, 2011

I Can't Promise That I Won't Suck Your Energy

To all two of you that read this blog, I apologize for the delay in posting my semi-put together thoughts on this week's episode.  My DVR failed me on Monday night and tragedy of tragedies, the episode failed to record, so I was forced to watch it online, which I finally got around to doing last night.  So, Kat - here are my top ten moments of this week's awesomeness.

1 - Thanks to Melissa I have a brand new favorite term - "Energy Suck".  I intend to try to use this term in my everyday life as eloquently as Melissa was able to cobble in between the 5000 words-per-minute she was spewing during her one-on-one times with Brad.  Part of me actually felt a little bit bad for her - but then that part started laughing and shaking its head with the other part of me.  I mean, seriously, I can't even capture the multiple personalities and rollercoaster of emotions that she covered in one episode.  And don't you think that if you were on the Bachelor, you would stay away from all onions and garlic like the plague?  Or at least refrain from revealing that detail to the Bachelor and a national TV viewing audience? Moving on...

2 - I think I was scared more for Ashley the dentist (is she really a dentist or is she a dental hygientist?? I need to do some investigating) when the light switched on and revealed a carnival date than when they were driving in the dark down a dirt road.  I don't know about you all, but when the carnival comes to town I think "death trap".  My sister almost flew out of a Scrammbler ride one time at a church carnival!

3 - My college roommates are saints.  Because when I turned 20, I freaked out.  I wasn't turning 19, and I wasn't turning 21, I was turning 2-0. Two decades old!! Moving officially out of my teens was a huge deal for me for some reason. And my lovely friends had to listen to me freak out for at least a month.  Girls, I can't promise you that I won't freak out about turning 30 next year, but I will promise that I won't do it on national television.  Thank you for loving me, birthday freak-outs and all!

4 - Jackie got to go to the Hollywood Bowl, wear a REALLY pretty dress, GORGEOUS jewels, receive a rose, and have dinner with a pretty hot guy.  The only thing that can ruin a dream date like that? Train performing live for you.  Sorry all you Train fans - after the second time I heard "Hey Soul Sister" an undying hatred of all Train music sprung up in my heart.  And the only thing worse is watching two very white people dance very awkwardly to non-danceable music.

5 - Chris Harrison + Bright Blue Shirt = me swooning on the couch.

6 - I guess since Ali actually picked a guy at the end of her season, she and Roberto qualify as being able to read people and determine who is here for the "right reasons".  Clearly, they will be able to determine this from two-on-one conversations that last about 30 seconds.  And clearly, Ali still has not gotten over her penchant for all things sparkly, off-shouldered, badly proportioned garments.  Her hair looked slightly better. I'll give her that.

7 - Besides Michelle's 5000 reminders that it was her birthday, she had many, many, many other moments.  Her weird rose-in-the-mouth dance after Brad gave her the birthday rose was pretty tasteless.  And then her stealing Brad away in mid-sentence to ask really important questions like "Starbucks or Coffee Bean?" and "What's in your fridge" was jaw-dropping psycho-manipulative.  She is a master at playing the game, you can tell.

8 - Getting to see Brad's abs.  Thanks ABC.

9 - Getting to see the terrible American Red Cross promotional ad that they filmed - I can't believe that they actually aired that during national TV.  Really American Red Cross? Really??

10 - Seeing in the promos for next week that my dream of Seal singing "Kiss on a Rose" acoustically to me will come true so soon!! Can't wait!

There were many other moments - too many to properly capture in writing. Let me know yours!  And while you're at it, be sure to check out these other amazing, more talented recappers:

Chris Harrison
Kristen Baldwin for

Till next week (or next post :))

Thursday, January 6, 2011

A New Year, A New(ish) Bachelor

While there are so many other great Bachelor blogger recaps out there, and while all of my fabulous friends are so hilarious with their commentaries and observations, I just have a few thoughts on this new season...

Highlight #1 - First five minutes of this season equaled every girl and woman's dream - Brad Womack - who is pretty easy on the eyes - not only shirtless, but also admitting his commitment issues, the neglect of his father, his own desire to be a dad, his admission of being in therapy for three years, and finally being ready to fall in love - and all in an easy Southern drawl.  I mean, come on - seriously??  The Bachelor just doesn't get any better than this!

Highlight #2 - DeAnna Pappas clearly hasn't gotten over being dumped on national TV.  She looked like she was ready to strangle Brad - despite her having "moved on" and being engaged to one of the Stagliano twins AND a previous 20/20 special in which she and Brad already had a "reunion".  Oh the joys of staged reality TV, how I love thee and your made-up drama!

Highlight #3 - Ashley the dentist making a fool of herself by dancing around in her underwear and oversized shirt for her 10-second spot in the "Get to know random facts about these poor bachelorettes" segment.

Highlight #4 - Madison the model who ends up having - FANGS!!! I mean seriously!? (And a kudos to Kristen Baldwin for making the Hot Topic reference in her recap - that was genius!)

Highlight #5 - It's a tie between the pillow that went over my face when the girl gets out of the limo and said "catch me!" and then proceeded to run and jump into Brad's arms, or the girl who rolled down the limo window, held out her hand, and insisted that Brad come get her out of the limo.

Highlight #6 - The fashion "marketer" 's hot pink wedges with her strapless black dress.  I don't know if it was highlight or an identity crisis, because in theory, I, out of all the people on this planet, should be the most supportive of a girl wearing bright pink wedges. But, ohmygosh, I don't think I've ever seen more hideous shoes on primetime television, except for maybe some shoes on "What Not to Wear".  I just don't see how someone in fashion could choose those shoes - with that dress!  Am I alone in this??

Highlight #7 - Scarlett O'Hara - oh, whoops, I mean Emily from Charlotte, NC - sad story was tragic.  But the highlight of it for me was figuring out that the "Ricky" that she was "engaged" or in a full-time relationship with and had his kid after he died in a plane crash, was none other than Ricky Hendricks, the up and coming NASCAR driver in 2004, son of Rick Hendricks, who operates one of the bigger racing teams in NASCAR.  Now, how did I figure that out?  I wish I could relate the way that random facts interact and coagulate in my brain - I really do, because then I would have a greater understanding of myself.  But if you google it, you will see that I am right. 

Highlight #8 - Not really a highlight, but more of an annoyance.  I cannot STAND the rockette, Keltie!!  There is just something about her that rubs me the wrong way.  Maybe it was the way that she was trying to drum up drama when that poor girl in the blue prom dress kept getting pushed away from her one-on-one time with Brad.  But either way, there's just something about her that I found really annoying.  I hope she is gone soon (with my luck, that won't be the case).

Highlight #9 - The highlights from the upcoming season revealing to me the lifelong dream I never knew that I had - Seal, singing live and acoustically, to me, "A Kiss On a Rose", through my television screen.  I can only hope that Heidi Klum will be somewhere in the wings to tell the hapless bachelorette on that date (because you know it will be one of those do or die bachelorette dates where they get sent home) to say "Auf Wiedersehen".

Highlight #10 - Chris Harrison's presence once again gracing my television screen.  Four months is just too long Chris - it's just too long!!

How about you - what were some of your favorite highlights from the 21st season of The Bachelor/ette franchise??!! PLEASE let me know :)