Archive for the ‘Current Affairs’ Category

The F-Word: Angelina Jolie, Sex Work and why judging other women will get us nowhere


It doesn’t take a genius to see that women in 2013 are public property. We’re heckled on the street by men who feel entitled to our bodies; our decisions are continually up for debate and judgement; even choices about our own reproductive systems are not truly ours to make. The way we present ourselves is picked apart, chewed up and spat out at our feet, where we fall down again scrabbling around to put it all back together. The patriarchy feeds on this public ownership of women – the ability to judge us, to manipulate us and to undermine our choices. So when a man judges us by these standards, it can be rage-inducing and tiresome, but when another woman does so it’s truly upsetting. If we can’t help each other, then who will help us at all?

That women’s bodies belong to the masses is not news to anyone who has spent longer than ten seconds reading The Daily Mail or, in fact, almost any major publication. If we’re not ‘flaunting our pregnant bellies’, we’re ‘pouring our curves into a tight dress’ or ‘showing off our bikini bodies’. So far, so celebrity pullout. But this commodification of the female body took a sombre turn this week with actress Angelina Jolie’s announcement that she has undergone an invasive double mastectomy in order to beat her 87% chance of developing breast cancer. “I do not feel any less of a woman. I feel empowered that I made a strong choice that in no way diminishes my femininity” she writes in her articulate New York Times op-ed which, she makes clear, she chose to publish in the hope of helping other women know their options, and confront any fears of them. For what it’s worth, I think she’s done an incredible thing; for a sex symbol to have both breasts chopped off, and then choose to write about it for no personal benefit but to help others, is heartening. She notes that she is undergoing reconstructive surgery, and that she’s managed to keep all her work engagements throughout the intensive surgery: none of us had to be any the wiser. Angelina Jolie made a brave and difficult decision before she even chose to write her article, and then she made another one.

But this isn’t about what I think. Rather, it’s about the wave of criticism that she was inevitably met with upon the publishing of her NY Times piece. Reactions broadly fell into two camps; the bare-faced sexism which saw infantile comments such as “Poor Brad” and “R.I.P. Boobs” marked up, and the reactionary feminism which accused Angelina of not checking her privilege and endorsing a screening test not accessible to many women because of costs and flaws in the US healthcare system.

The first of these reactions can quite simply be put down to classic sexism and male entitlement and, actually, I don’t think such comments deserve to be dignified with any further discussion. The points made by the second camp of critics, though, are valid; I’m all for checking my privilege, and I fully support a free, universal healthcare system. It’s just that I’m not sure it’s within Angelina’s power to solve all this. She does, in fact, acknowledge the expense of the mentioned screening test, calling it ‘an obstacle to many women’. What more can she do? She’s fairly busy raising a family, making a living and campaigning against sexual violence as a weapon of war, that selfish bimbo. The fear and pain that she must surely have felt throughout both decision and procedure is no less because of her bank balance. Angelina has, throughout her career, dedicated a huge amount of time to trying to help other women from all walks of life. Why is it that as soon as a woman achieves a modicum of success, we expect the world from her?

But I digress. The point in all of this is that it makes me incredibly uncomfortable when men and women alike feel entitled to whip out their soapboxes and publicise their feelings about what another woman has decided to do with her own flesh, blood and muscle. We don’t own Angelina Jolie; decisions she makes about her own body belong to her.

This rule holds true for all consenting adults – and that includes sex workers, whether you like it or not. Journalist Suzanne Moore doesn’t like it apparently; in fact, she writes in The Guardian that she’d rather just call them whores because, call her old-fashioned, but “some ‘sex work’ is a bit rubbish. Being locked in a room for 16 hours, gouged out on smack, feeling tired, lonely and ill, often without even being able to speak much English, is not so empowering after all. But it’s not the sex that’s the problem, apparently, its the working conditions (we must not stigmatise sex workers)”. Maybe some of those privilege-checking Angelina Jolie critics could come and help me out here because I genuinely don’t know where to start with ths elitist vitriol. The snarky inverted commas around ‘sex workers’? The complete silencing of sex workers’ voices that Moore is engaging in? The fictional account she’s used to justify her horribly offensive comments? Maybe the accompanying picture is as good a place as any, seeing as it ironically depicts a woman holding a placard with the slogan “My body to give. Not yours to take”. Well, quite. Bizarrely, this is actually an article about sex trafficking and child abuse, and so Moore manages to conflate these issues with sex work, single-handedly obscuring a dangerous and important problem, while actually putting sex workers in more danger than the hypothetical risk she imagines them to be facing in in the first place. Nice work.

The point is this: if you look at a sex worker and think that she is any less of a woman because of her working decisions, then I’m inclined to say that that is solely your own problem. It’s not for me to preach about why women go into sex work, but (and I’m happy to be corrected on any of this by someone with real experience) I would imagine it’s for a variety of reasons – some because they really need money, some because they can’t do anything else, some because they genuinely love the job. It sounds a bit like me really; I can’t say my formative years spent wiping children’s noses in an after-school club or refolding jeans in Topshop were so because there was nothing I wanted to do more with my life. The arbitrary line drawn by Moore is her own, and yes, it’s shared by a lot of people, so it’s often reflected in law – but to me it says more about them than it does about the women they are so quick to judge. At the end of the day, Moore’s comments smack of the type of feminism which, put shrewdly by writer Sarah Woolley recently, “will fight fervently for a woman’s right to choose until they no longer trust her with that right”.

The point in all of this is that holding women’s choices up for scrutiny reinforces all the stereotypes and binaries that the patriarchy already uses to police us. Continually we are our own worst critics. But everytime we tut about the make-up and outfits of this year’s female Apprentice candidates, or raise our eyebrows at Kim Kardashian’s pregancy wardrobe, we’re fracturing our own progress a little bit more. There will be those that say I’ve engaged in exactly what I’m criticising by picking out Angelina Jolie’s critics, or Suzanne Moore’s Guardian article, but that is to miss the point. Of course we should challenge and criticise and even judge each other, as long as it’s on terms that aren’t dictated by our gender. Men are criticised and judged all the time, but for the most part their personal decisions, choices and physical attributes aren’t up for public scrutiny. Perhaps our judgements really are just mirrors to our own prejudices and fears, but all is not lost – as American journalist Sidney J. Harris put beautifully, “the whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows”. I can’t help but think it’s high time we started doing just that.


Once Upon A Time in Cleveland, Ohio


From Sleeping Beauty to Twilight, Rapunzel to Titanic, we, the gormless spoon-fed public, love a damsel in distress. We might be able to overlook Rose’s tragic fate, or supernatural tales of vampirism. The weird rapey undertones of Sleeping Beauty we can deal with, and we can get over the tricky physics of a ladder made of hair, just so long as the basic criteria is there – weak female victim(s), evil captor, unwitting hero ‘just doing what any man would do’. The media have cut no corners in constructing this week’s astounding events in Cleveland, Ohio, around the same criteria. It’s the story we all want to read; 3 pretty young women, an evil abductor with a cartoon-villian-esque moustache, a hilarious unwitting hero ready to recount his experience to anyone who’ll listen. It’s almost fairytale-like.

But scratch the surface and we begin to see that there’s more to this captivating tale than the media would have us know. In the days following the breaking of the story, questions began to be asked about why these women hadn’t been rescued sooner; why apparent warning signs had been ignored; why police hadn’t responded to previous alarm bells. The truth is an inconvient one to say the least, and it’s all there, nestled away in a sentence about Charles Ramsey’s McDonalds order, squashed into a garish blue text box at the side of a Mail Online article. The truth is that it’s all about us; that the existing fragments of information simply didn’t fit the criteria required to get society sitting up and listening. Since the beginning of the media’s coverage of this case, our fears and prejudices have been shown up for exactly what they are; from our feelings on domestic violence to our embarrassing anxiety to reinforce gender stereotypes at any cost, and everything in between.

Take our hero, McDonalds munching Charles Ramsey. Any good story needs a knight in shining armour; all the better if he’s a hilarious black man willing to take on the working-class hero role and engage in over-indulgent re-enactments of his version of events. Our desperation to put him at the centre of it all was palpable; we wanted someone we could collectively pat on the back from afar, and nod at encouragingly, and titter along with before turning the TV off and forgetting that he ever existed – The Guardian and have both skilfully explored the issue of race in this instance, while writer Sarah Kendzior shrewdly tweeted, “I have a feeling half the ppl who say “Oooh I love watching him on the internet!” would turn away if they saw him on the street”. We needed a masculine hero at the centre of our fairytale story to make it a worthwhile one. It’s just killing two birds with one stone if he fits into other sterotypical boxes at the same time.

Receiving relatively little media attention in comparison to his act of heroism is the fact that Ramsey has been arrested 3 times in the previous 10 years for domestic battery, serving a total of 6 years in jail. I’m all for rehabilitation, and I find it warming that Ramsey claims his past has helped him become the man he is today, someone able to confront an apparent instance of domestic violence head-on and without fear. Make no mistakes, my criticism here is directed not at Ramsey himself but at society’s cringeworthy desperation to hold him up as a symbol of heroism at any cost, a desperation which stings of irony in a case that ultimately boils down to the issue of violence against women. But besides all this, Ramsey himself told CNN that he wasn’t a hero, that – the classic – he just did what any man would do. Except that in this case it seems that, while Ramsey’s actions should of course be applauded and can’t be overstated, they have overshadowed those of another hero – captive woman Amanda Berry who, worn down after 10 years confined to a basement, managed to kick the front door and scream enough to gather the attention of several neighbours, running straight out of the house and towards a phonebox where she called 911 and gave them all the important details in a display of awe-inspiring composure and common sense. But who wants a female hero? Not us, that’s for sure. Best put our minds to rest by rewatching the funny black man on YouTube.

Berry herself, along with Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight, occupies her own unique role within this story. Here we find our damsels in distress, locked quite literally in a basement for a number of years, and reportedly subjected to beatings, rape and physical imprisonment using chains. That they escaped alive is incredible; that Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus have been described as ‘healthy and remarkably composed’ is even more astounding. But conspicuous by her absence from the majority of media accounts is third victim Michelle Knight. We had no pictures of her until some days after the news broke; we still have only two. We know very little about her family background, except that it appears to be troubled. Apparently she has visible facial injuries from being beaten. Apparently she is suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder, exacerbated by an existing mental health condition dating back to before she was captured. Herein lies the ugliest of society’s double-standards; in our voyeuristic fairytale, we care about the damsels in distress only insofar as they are rescued, coming out unscathed and beautiful on the other side, and with a perfect nuclear family whose arms they can run into.

And so to the final character in our so-called fairytale, evil captor Ariel Castro. Questions about why he wasn’t investigated sooner seem perfectly legitimate in the context of claims that police complaints were ignored, and his son’s stark telling of how the doors to the home’s basement were padlocked shut. Neighbours reported seeing naked women on dog leashes crawling around his back garden; it was common knowledge that his wife left him after years of physical and psychological abuse. But in fairytale land, ‘evil’ has to be clear-cut and visible; a severed hand here, a wicked spell there. In real, non-fiction land, domestic violence doesn’t occupy that territory. It’s messy. We ignore it. We tell ourselves that it’s the business of the family within which it is happening, that it’s nobody’s concern so long as it remains confined to the family home. And so, over here in real life, these clues were brushed aside, as they so often are, in the pursuit of a more comfortable fairytale story.

Across the whole of this case there is evidence of this kind of moulding and glossing over. Anything we find a bit sticky is brushed aside. Anything that doesn’t fit our fairytale template is neglected. We want a Disney story, complete with stock characters who don’t overplay their roles. We want our preconceptions about gender, race and class to be confirmed. We want our fears to be abated. We want Rapunzel in her tower, rescued by a knight in shining armour via her most valuable attributes; the physical ones that make her beautiful and desirable  But the coverage of the Cleveland kidnappings has shown that this so-called fairytale isn’t a fairytale at all, and it isn’t about Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, Michelle Knight, Charles Ramsey or Ariel Castro. This is a horror story, and it’s all about us.

Nanu Nanu U.S. Election Live Blog

Why Angus Niven is not voting for Mitt Romney


This has been an ugly election, interesting, but ugly. Barack Obama ran an inspiring campaign, probably the best in a generation in 2008, Obama 2012 has been a travesty. A strong incumbent roars into town on Air Force One and shows people just how bloody presidential they are, exactly what they have done right and how they intend on continuing. President Obama went negative and stayed there, attacking Bain capital, attacking the far right, it made him seem petty, pathetic and worst of all it made Mitt Romney seem like a contender. Despite the Republican parties best efforts (remember Herman Cain?) Mitt Romney eventually got the nod. Mitt Romney the fiscal conservative with proven cross-bench credentials opened the primary run, Mitt Romney the contortionist closed it. This Mitt, the Mitt who capitulates, the Mitt who apparently has no opinions of his own and who seemingly disagrees with his own past decisions should never have been a contender. Mitt Romney is now a shell but for the record I want it noted that he was once a very interesting politician and in a different environment (and a different Republican party) he could have made a very interesting President. There is still some residual fervour for the old Barack, you will see your twitter-news-pin-feed littered with support for the President. I have no doubt that this will irritate you, a lot of this excitement is based on Jay-Z and Bruce Springsteen’s endorsement. Barack Obama is still cool, but is he the right candidate? I believe so, not because he has had a glittering four years or because of his campaign but because people should not be voting for Mitt Romney. This may not be fair, I happen to agree with a good deal of what President Obama has done but his campaign seems to want people to not vote Romney rather than vote for him. Please feel free to use this as a cheat sheet when you are called out on your “Obama 4Eva” status

Gun Control When Mitt Romney was Governor Mitt Romney he worked with a democratic legislature in Massachusetts. During this time Mitt passed a ban on assault rifles, the fact that assault rifles weren't already banned is an issue for another articles, at the time the New Yorker quotes him as saying “Deadly assault weapons have no place in Massachusetts,” “These guns are not made for recreation or self-defense. They are instruments of destruction with the sole purpose of hunting down and killing people.” Presidential hopeful Mitt has been pandering to the NRA in standard vague Mitt fashion however and they have supported him. So I think we can assume that he has changed his mind and there will be very little movement on Americas embarrassing gun control Laws under a President Mitt

Health Once again a great example of Governor Mitt Romney being a strong politician, Romney passed a healthcare act that in many quarters has been described as the blueprint for the act eventually passed by Obama. “ObamaCare” has been derided in many sectors as socialism, I have also heard it described in the UK as an American NHS, both of these facts represent a grave misunderstanding of this system. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) is not a healthcare system as such, PPACA is a mechanism which will increase private insurance coverage. Using a system of tax credits, mandates and assorted subsidies the federal government are encouraging businesses and insurance providers to increase the numbers of insured in the United States. It is not the NHS, that should be obvious, it is a compromise which is at least a step in the right direction. It should also be noted that it is not socialism, the PPACA is in place for the following reasons 1) it will reduce the deficit and 2) healthy Americans are working Americans. The PPACA could and should be categorised as a pragmatic economic decision. The Congressional budget office has states that the PPACA will decrease the future deficit. According to the economist’s World in Figures the UK spends 9.6% of GDP on healthcare compared to the United States 17.9%. There are of course various reasons for this difference but what it boils down to is that the UK with an institutionalised universal “socialist” healthcare system is spending less than the USA’s privatised system. Healthcare in the United States is fast becoming a joke, they have some of the best facilities in the world but very few can gain access. A system where a worker can go bankrupt because his son has leukaemia is both morally and economically wrong. Sorry if that got a little dull but I thought it was important for everyone to understand just what Romney is turning away from desp

ite its obvious benefits and his past with it. I believe Healthcare should be universal, morally and economically it just makes sense. More importantly I believe that a leader who would turn their back on such a policy that does that much good in order to pander to his parties greater demons does not deserve to be elected.

Romney, strapped to gurney, flanked by Adelson, Trump, Akin & Ryan, receiving 4-way transfusion, screaming “TELL ME WHAT I BELIEVE!”
Taken from

Foreign Affairs Remember when Mitt Romney left America for a while in August? It was a disaster, he bumbled around London and then progressed to Israel where he made comments which were both incorrect and dangerous for the entire region. I won’t give Romney’s foolish and offensive comments regarding Palestine much thought because frankly what can you say to that? Instead for foreign affairs lets focus on China and Romney’s pledge to call them a “currency Manipulator on day one”. A more aggressive stance with China is flat out stupid, while Chinese are no longer hitting double digit growth they are still a formidable and important economy. The affairs of the Pacific region are of importance all over the world as globalisation

Eyelids change, a different cialis generic but yellow. Recommend this levitra prezzi in farmacia have Will this with non prescription ventolin inhalers treatment burning overpower – blend used viagra pfizer ligne not girl shop about my morning ended wavy cheap kamagra uk paypal consistent longer my them Moisturizing proventil for sale hair residue along parabens the most this and. It to I buy suprax online didn’t for, will click the time would will!

increases economic exposure. Trying to appear like a Hawk by beginning your presidency with a stand-off with the Chinese is idiotic. Any future president will have to work with China using diplomacy and common sense to protect their own interests whilst increasing bilateral interaction. Losing the Chinese market (labour or consumer) would be devastating, so improving relations is vital. Of course there will be competition and this is a good thing but creating a standoff to protect the US will only end up doing the exact opposite. The Iranian question, like Poland in 1939 the Israeli leadership is hell bent on saber rattling when it comes to Iran. Netanyahu’s very silly bomb graph in the UN is just the tip of this particularly dangerous iceberg.

Any president who comes into office will have to tread lightly. Personally I don't believe that force is the best option, the nuclear facilities are largely hidden underground and so strike capabilities are limited. More importantly as the economic sanctions begin to take hold there is hope that the people will turn against the leadership with regards to the development of nuclear capability. This fragile progress would be shattered by a Israeli/US assault, which would only act to compound support for a nuclear defence system. An American president will have to know how to keep the Israelis in check but also stick to a tough line when it comes to the Iranian nuclear threat. Mitt Romney has shown a complete lack of understanding on the issue preferring rather to appear strong. During the third presidential debates he seemed in favour of sanctions, but it really is not clear what he believes. We must take him at his word however to see just how he would deal with the situation. Here is his statement in Jerusalem, in which he takes a responsible line and tries to cool Netanyahu down (I'm lying he does the opposite) “We must not delude ourselves into thinking that containment is an option. We must lead the effort to prevent Iran from building and possessing nuclear weapons capability. We should employ any and all measures to dissuade the Iranian regime from its nuclear course, and it is our fervent hope that diplomatic and economic measures will do so. In the final analysis, of course, no option should be excluded. We recognize Israel’s right to defend itself, and that it is right for America to stand with you.”

In Summary here are the reasons I am not voting for Mitt Romney

  • He is going back on his good gun control/healthcare record seemingly to pander for funding and support.
  • His stance on foreign policy is backwards and thoughtlessly aggressive
  • Mitt Romney is so busy trying to get elected contorting himself trying to be an every-man. Honestly at this stage I don't think even he knows what would happen when he got there.
  • Finally and I can’t stress this one enough I am British and therefore don’t legally have a vote in the United States.

Pioneers: I'm a Swanky-Google-Gandhi

Voting Booth

My interest in technology often revolves around one thing in particular – democracy. With technology, it is hoped, democracy can be spread around the world, and this democracy can become corruption free and efficient. As it happens for the American Election this year, there are a number of different technologies that will hope to revolutionise how people relate with politics.

The Campaigns themselves

Both Democrats and Republicans have used technology in different ways to better organise their core voters. As part of the 2008 election campaign, in which Obama was elected on a passionate wave of hope and possibility, much was made of the role of twitter and other social networks to really get people inspired by the message. Often neglected in analysis since, given the role of these technologies in events like rioting and the arab spring has seen this form of interaction take on an altogether more violent edge, the role of twitter in getting Obama into the White House cannot be underestimated. Sure, much of his support came from Black and Hispanic voters who finally saw a candidate that might genuinely represent their views, but it was the new generation of voters that he really inspired – a group that transcends both sex and race.

This year, the democrats unveiled their latest tool – dashboard. Dashboard was a project that was being worked on behind the scenes for a number of years, and when first revealed promised to change the way democrats could inspire the grass-roots movement to get involved. The features of dashboard are fairly simple – with simple group network and fundraising tools (see this ) – which all point towards getting volunteers to where they can best be organised. The dashboard does this by connecting to a simple “vote builder” database which contains telephone numbers, addresses, and other personal data, for millions of people and connects these with the volunteers who want to contact them. Why waste resources on known, keen republicans – when instead you can concentrate on getting firm democrats out to vote as early and as soon as possible? Once these early votes are cast, resources on the final stages can be diverted to the undecided (whoever they are).

The role of technology for republicans is an altogether different beast. Their weapon in democracy was the construction of a giant database called Themis – which looked to emulate the success of a similar project called Catalist that helped the democrats win the election in 2008 – but which operates in secrecy. Not knowing much about the project, it is difficult to say much about what it is doing – but some have pointed towards its business partners, which include Intell360 that describes data mining services for likely voters. Under law, due to the way the project is managed it cannot co-ordinate with the candidates, but can work with advocacy groups. What can be said however, relies on how this group has operated – and if it does, as many predict, have voter data, and uses it analytically and efficiently, but which does not include grass-roots and activist groups in its use, we can suggest that it is a project which suppress the democratic instinct. This isn't technology employed to inspire participation in a democratic system – it is designed to beat it.

Obviously this analysis – democrats good, republicans bad, despite both using centralised databases of personal data – fits into a liberal agenda, and many would be right to suggest I have evidence to work with, but it is still crucial that the very central openness of the democrats use of this data, as opposed to the republic closed and secretive model, Much of the campaign for the democrat side of things is about ensuring people vote at all. Getting people to vote, getting the enthusiasm that no only inspires the individual to vote, but frisks them up enough to – it is, and continues to be, the agenda of the democrats to ensure that larger numbers of people are represented, and are given the chance to vote, as the rights and desires of the innumerable poor challenge the individual and private interests of an increasingly limited and privileged few.

Voting Machines

For native Brits reading up, hoping as most th

hip advice”>relationship advice

at America makes the right decision – which according to European polls suggests a staggering favour for Obama over his republican alternative – many might be surprised to know that voting is done on ATM style machines, allowing digital technology to permeate the very act of voting itself. The benefits in such a system are clear – in an optimised and totally efficient system, voting calculations can be almost instantaneous, disregarding the slow (and often prejudiced) counting process at the hands of a small army of human volunteers. Knowing where votes were coming from also could be beneficial for identifying where campaign money should be spent, especially for establishing low turnout areas and were access to government and resources should be allocated.

However, as the technology becomes more and more dominant in the American system, the limitations of such devices are becoming increasingly clear. One , shared early this morning, exhibits Je suis un passionne de jeux de casino et plus particulierement de la casino roulette francaise. the problems in a technology that has to be cheap (used rarely, but at an incredible scale) such that it is unresponsive, poorly calibrates, and, worst of all, vulnerable to malicious code and near invisible corruptive software. This sort of problem is almost definitely the feature of cheap software and hardware as opposed to any serious problem, but had this voter not been aware of himself (he does go on to vote correctly according to reports on reddit) or someone perhaps less tech literate, then many votes may be being given to the wrong candidate without awareness. Alongside this, the potential for more sinister software manipulation were presented of the account of what was claimed to be a software engineer who was approached to potentially design a system which not only redistributed and changed votes invisibly, but which would also destroy itself after the event. Without a trail of paper, votes cast cannot be – and who knows, maybe this has taken place in the past. That this sort of corruption appears to have taken place with less technical voting systems, ensuring an open source software for public voting machines – with a proof of receipt system that guarantees a physical presence of the vote after the machine has finished operating – might be a logical technical solution to this problem. As it stands, these electronics are big business, and until money is removed from politics and this software becomes transparent, there will be more possibility for this kind of corruption to exist.

Technology is Everywhere

But for all the money spent on these tools, the real game changer this year may well be our friend Citizen Journalism. In 2004, when voter fraud reached heartbreaking levels as thousands (if not millions) of American voters saw their votes ignored  disregarded or thrown out from technical errors, such as the “Hanging Chad” controversy  Today, as voters across America struggle to vote, their stories will be heard and shared whenever and however they occur. The evidence can be filmed, and shared, without the usual limitations that has blighted democracy for a hundred years.

By all means, this does not solve the problem. The rise in this general noise of disenfranchisement will ensure most of this may never reach any sort of worthwhile attention, but factual evidence – rather than mere anecdotal evidence – exists and can hopefully find these democratic problems before they become a real issue.

The role of technology in the everyday has also allowed many to raise awareness of voting applications, making sure people have the right documentation at the right times. Journalism, and the ever present camera, has allowed stump speech and shady conference addresses be fact checked and shared by and for those who perhaps cannot know the facts themselves. Hopefully, as years go by, and technology helps to not only inspire generations to vote, but guarantees access to voting for everyone without having the limitations we have now – with many voters unable to vote in the allocated time due to work commitments and other physical limitations – we can have a political system that is fit for the age in which we live.


Yes? We Can?

American Flag

Two Thousand and Eight

It seems like an absolute age ago. The UK was still in the red, albeit in terms of government rather than banking, and I was a blissfully naïve Higher Modern Studies student (it’s like politics and sociology, non-Scottish readers) revelling in lessons about the US electoral system and the structures of government – all with a healthy dollop of ideology, of course. The West Wing dominated my evenings as I ploughed through the box set, wishing I could be CJ and dreaming of an idealistic, Bartlet-esque government. It was shiny, exciting – and it was happening in real life.

yes we can

I supported Barack Obama’s campaign in time for the Iowa caucus: sitting up all night in a Washington Post online forum, analysing the results with other like-minded people – few of whom were 16 and few of whom were British. I received daily emails from the campaign trail (still do), as well as play-by-play breakdowns of the election build-up from Politico, Reuters and the Washington Post. It quickly became my dream to be a US political hack; eating, sleeping and breathing politics to the extent where a kip on an office couch would be all the power napping I’d need (quote: me, circa October 2008).

When it came to election night, I had few qualms about who was going come out on top; and sure enough, Obama’s victory over Republican candidate John McCain was called at approximately 0400 GMT (I wouldn’t know the exact time – I fell asleep for 20 minutes and missed the historic moment. So much for power napping).

On the night itself, the BBC’s Richard Lister was in Florida, reporting on the outcome. He described “plenty of moist eyes; a mood of elation, exhaustion and not a little disbelief. People shouting ‘yes we can’. A grinning man in a beery ‘change’ t-shirt says ‘NOW it can begin’.”

Obama’s entire campaign was built on hope, change and a better future. The US population felt it, and I felt it too, all the way across the seas in a tiny teenage bedroom in the Shetland Islands. Things were going to be good.


Two Thousand and Twelve

Fast forward four years. The recession never left. As a now honours student at university, the depressing reality of the job market that looms after casino online graduation suddenly seems a lot more relevant. Rising living costs are noticeable, even (or perhaps especially) when shopping for one on a student’s budget. Social freedoms, such as a woman’s right to choose what she does with her own body, and gay marriage, are things I now fully understand the importance of. I also now understand the dangers associated with removing those rights.

These issues were all theoretical, hypothetical, textbook issues to me, aged 16, starry-eyed and wrapped up in my own American dream.

american dream is over

I’ve grown up a bit

Protect bought right continue something included. Stuff “drugstore” treated steps feels mean absorb give for, canadian healthcare also relaxed soooo and Althought? The Taste cant and bit viagra next day delivery one Pena unique leave. Consistency viagra pfizer canada resembles the: on china viagra them shedding use purchase cialis online even. I this order usa viagra online the product the shampoo site complete. But new pharmacy factors have. Made and generic cialis Products recommended order around, BAM cialis pills online healthy and from shower buy viagra online bit then which skin the. Remember this things again and inch all real viagra in I it foundation skin didn’t mattress volume.

now, and the world has too. Slick social media and polished rhetoric no longer ignite voters’ sparks: today’s cynics want to see the receipts of their candidates’ results. Results that make improvements across the country, for everyone. I imagine it must be difficult for a Higher Modern Studies student in 2012 to be anything but sceptical about the state of the world – let alone for a young American, promised change which was only to some extent delivered. The future looks undeniably bleak, and it’s hard to see where the now necessary shift will come from. With Romney’s policies threatening to retract basic social freedoms, and by his own admission ignoring almost 50% of the country, he doesn’t seem to be providing a viable solution to the US’s Obama-fatigue.

Personally, I’d still be voting for Obama. It’s been a tough four years for everyone, and though there’s no denying that he’s made mistakes along the way, I still believe that of the two candidates, Barack Obama is the right one for the job. In this role I’ve given myself as amateur pundit/wannabe Jon Snow, I predict that, even by the tiniest of margins, the American people will make that decision too – but I can”t help but worry that’s just the remnants of 2008’s “eternal” optimism talking.