Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Movin' on Up...

...and over to WordPress. I <3 Blogger, but WordPress has some really neat options in their blogging tools. So, check me out:



Monday, February 04, 2008


Seriously, people. It's time to do your thing.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Whatcha' Waiting For?

A recent NPR poll sites that 68% of Americans think this country is on the wrong track while only 23% say it’s headed in the right direction. Sixty-eight percent. That’s an awful lot of people unhappy with the way our country is headed. My question is this- if 68% of Americans are upset with the way things are going, why aren’t 68% of Americans doing something about it?

Yes, I know that we can all say, “Hey, I voted in 2006 for a change in Congress. Look what happened!” It is our country-given right to vote, and that is generally one of the best and easiest ways to make your voice heard. But, that takes about 10 minutes out of your day, once a year (if that). What happens the next day when you rip that “I Voted Today” sticker off of your coat?

If you’re upset with the way America is headed, do something about it. Write to those representatives that you helped get into office. Don’t forget- their sole responsibility is to represent the people who voted them in. If they’re not hearing from those people, they’re going to just assume that everything is ok. It takes about 3 minutes to write an email to your congressperson, and quite a few social change websites (HRC, Moveon.org, Amnesty International, etc.) even write the letter for you and just ask you to plug in your address so they know who to send it to. It’s that easy.

OR, make your voice heard in other ways- peaceful protests are always a good way to get public attention about an issue you hold near and dear. Get creative. Check out the Rainforest Action Network at the Chicago Board of Trade. Or these folks from Greenpeace. Now that’s creative, peaceful protest. These people are trying to make changes because they’re part of that huge 68% of Americans who are unhappy.

A poll isn’t going to scare anyone in Washington or (insert your state capital here). Look at how low Bush’s approval rating has been all year, yet he still continues to make decisions that anger the majority of Americans. If you’re part of that 68% of pissed of Americans, then do something about it. Please, stop complaining and saying how much you can’t wait until 2009, because that’s over a year away, and we all know how much things can change in a year. Stop complaining and get active. It’s your right and duty as a pissed off American to do so.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Women in the Media

Two steps forward:

Jezebel, a new blog run by Gawker Media (from what I can tell, a media organization that runs 14 blogs that follow a formula of "frequent postings, vibrant design, snarky attitude") is known for its "unvarnished excoriation of traditional female media, slicing through the superficiality to give you the straight scoop on trends in celebrity, fashion, and sex". Even cooler, the editor actually pays some of the writers! I happened upon it through the Chicago Foundation for Women Tuesday Action Alert (which everyone should subscribe to!) and thought I'd take a look at the site.

It sure is snarky, that's for sure, and they really don't hold anything back. What I found particularly fantastic was a contest they ran a few weeks ago. They offered $10,000 to the person who could capture the worst example of Photoshopping/airbrushing/crazy editing of a celebrity on a magazine cover. One brave soul who actually works for Redbook sent in their July issue with Faith Hill on the cover. This post that shows the before and after shots says it all.

Bravo to Jezebel for shedding a light on the fact that not even beautiful goddesses like Faith Hill can look that good, and those women who are desperately trying so hard to look like that won't be able to do it in real life. This should be a lesson to that little voice inside all of us that whispers insecurities about how we look.

Two steps back:

Really, Washington Post? You really find it necessary to publish an entire article on Hillary Clinton's cleavage?!? This is the kind of crap that is going to keep this presidential race on all of the wrong issues and none of the right ones. They might have well just said, "We're not too comfy with the idea of a woman running for president." Yes, I know that may be a little bit of a jump, but seriously. First of all, she was barely showing any cleavage. If she were wearing some tight, short mini-skirt, that'd be one thing. But she was wearing what seemed to me to be a perfectly acceptable outfit for your typical work day. The article continued to talk about her choices of close as First Lady and Senator. Is this really news-worthy? When is the last time we saw an article about Barrack's choice of ties or Bush's controversial choice of sport coat?

"Showing cleavage is a request to be engaged in a particular way. It doesn't necessarily mean that a woman is asking to be objectified, but it does suggest a certain confidence and physical ease. It means that a woman is content being perceived as a sexual person in addition to being seen as someone who is intelligent, authoritative, witty and whatever else might define her personality. It also means that she feels that all those other characteristics are so apparent and undeniable, that they will not be overshadowed."

So, basically, what I'm getting out of this is that Clinton is showing off confidence and physical ease and feels that her intelligence and wit are far more apparent than the shirt she wears. Ummm....isn't that the kind of person we want as a president? Confidence? Physical ease? Intelligence and wit?

Sometimes mainstream media makes me really angry. It's a shame that they're mainstream and considered the real source of information for the world. You'd think with that kind of responsibility, they'd spend a little more time on the important issues on this world and not something as trivial as what someone is wearing.

My favorite comment from NOW's website:

News break! News break! The Post now attests
that Hillary Clinton has cleavage and breasts!
But take a deep breath and try not to alarm;
she also has lips, and a nose and two arms,
and--news of all news!--they also weren't robed!
In fact, she hung jewelry in naked ear lobes!
And her chin--it was nude of all facial hair
and protruded in space so totally bare
it's entirely a scandal! Politicians and stars
can never be publicly just who they are.
Though "cover ups" might be the nation's disgrace,
it seems the "uncovered" get newspaper space.
So, Washington Post, I hope you will note:
Ms. Clinton has breasts, and has brains, and my vote.
sent in by Debbie W. Parvin

Thursday, July 19, 2007

12 Ways to Shop Fair Trade

Compliments of Co-op America, one of the rock star organizers of the Green Festival:

1. Tea — One of the fastest-growing segements of the Fair Trade market, US imports of Fair Trade tea increased an impressive 187 percent in 2005. Since then, herbal tea products like chamomile, hibiscus, peppermint, and spearmint have gained Fair Trade status. Tea lovers can find teas bagged, loose, and bottled.Look for black tea, oolong, chai, and more in the National Green Pages™

2. Chocolate — The average American eats 12 pounds of chocolate a year, supporting an industry that saw retail sales of more than $16 billion in 2007. If you're among the 46 percent of Amreicans who say they can't live without chocolate, you can avoid the well-documented problem of child slave labor in the cocoa industry, and direct your share of that $16 billion toward chocolate that helps communities and the environment.Look for candy bars, baking cocoa, and more in the National Green Pages™ »

3. Fresh Fruit — In Europe, where Fair Trade fruit has been available since the mid-1990s, Fair Trade bananas have reached a market share as high as 24 percent. In the US, Fair Trade tropical fruits like bananas, mangoes, and pineapples became available in 2004, and their availaibility is growing, especially in natural foods stores and food co-operatives. Find a store near you selling Fair Trade fruit by using TransFair USA's store locator.
Sign our letter to supermarkets asking them to stock Fair Trade bananas »

4. Sugar — Phosphorus run-offs from the conventional sugar industry in Florida have devastaed the ecosystem of the Everglades, and the sugar lobby has worked aggressively to avoid responsibility. Sustainabile alternatives to sugar like locally grown, organic maple syrup or honey can help you avoid the problems in the sugar industry, as can Fair Trade Certified™ sugar, introduced to the US in 2005. Look for Turbinado, cane sugar, and more in the National Green Pages™ »

5. Rice — While most of the white and brown rice consumed in the US was grown on US farms, most aromatic long-grain rice comes to our tables from small-scale farms in Asia where it was harvested by hand. Workers on these farms often find themselves squeezed by middle merchants and sickened by pesticides; Fair Trade rice—most of which is also organic—protects both workers and the environment. Look for Jasimine, coral, Basmati, and more in the National Green Pages™ »

6. Vanilla — Working with a labor-intensive crop that yields a relatively low harvest, vanilla farmers are hard-hit when their market fluctuates, as it has since environmental disasters at key procuction centers in 000. TransFair USA began certifying vanilla in 2006, and new Fair Trade Certified™ vanilla ice cream from Ben & Jerry's arrived in supermarkets in January 2007, joining their previous Fair Trade coffee and chocolate flavors. Look for whole beans and vanilla extracts in the National Green Pages™ »

7. Spices — The European Fair Trade certifying body (FLO) approved standards for Fair Trade spices in 2005. In Europe, products like ginger cookies and lemongrass soap have begun to appear with Fair Trade spices among their ingedients, as hopeful sign for the future of Fair Trade spices in the US. Look for ginger, nutmeg, pepper, and more in the National Green Pages™ »

8. Wine — Introduced to the US market in 2007, Fair Trade wine has been produced in South Africa since 2003, and in Chile and Argentina since 2004. The South African certification process requires vineyard workers to maintain a legally protected minimum 25 percent interest in the winery, in support of the South African government's policies romoting equal land ownerships following Apartheid. Look for Merlot, Grenache, and more in the National Green Pages™ »

9. Olive oil — The Canaan Fair Trade Association uses the fair trade concept to empower marginalized Palestinian rural communities caught in conflict so they can sustain their livelihoods and culture. Farmers are guaranteed a minimum price, and receivea 10 percent Fair Trade premium above market price, plus a 10 percent organic premium above market price. Look for olive oil in the National Green Pages™ »

10. Sports balls — When the European Fair Trade certification body (FLO) created standards for soccer ball production in 2002, it was the first time a non-agricultural commodity had received certification. Since then, four Pakistani and one Thai producer have achieived certification, ensuring that no child lavor is involved, and that workers receive a living wage in a healthy work environment. Look for soccer balls, volley balls, and more, in the National Green Pages™ »

11. Arts and crafts — Producers of unique, handmade, artisanal Fair Trade products like jewelry, baskets, textiles, and other handicrafts belong to trade associations that screen for internationally recognized Fair Trade standards. For example, our ally the Fair Trade Federation links low-income producers with consumer marketers that pledge to: pay fair wages in the local context, support participatory workplaces, ensure environmental sustainability and public accountability, and suppply financial and technical support. Look for Fair Trade craft products in the National Green Pages™ »

12. Coffee — Available since the late 1990s, Fair Trade coffee is the most widespread and recognizable Fair Trade commodity. Currently, it is the fastest growing segment of the $11 billion US specialty coffee maket, and about 85 percent of Fair Trade coffee is also organic. Look for Fair Trade coffee in the National Green Pages™ »

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Peace Mom Returns

And so soon! After announcing her intention to leave the activism scene in May, Cindy Sheehan has now announced that she intends to run against Nancy Pelosi for her House seat in the San Francisco district if Pelosi does not introduce articles of impeachment for Bush by July 23.

Does Sheehan actually stand a chance against Pelosi? Probably not. But what I really like about this whole thing is Sheehan's point about the "peoples' accountability movement." How many of us complain about those who are serving us in Congress? Rather than just complaining, Sheehan is taking that a step further and trying to do something about it. These people serve us. We elect them. We should expect them to represent us fairly.

``I'm doing it to encourage other people to run against Congress members who aren't doing their jobs, who are beholden to special interests,'' Sheehan said. ``She (Pelosi) let the people down who worked hard to put Democrats back in power, who we thought were our hope for change.''

I commend Sheehan for being active rather than passive, for thinking of a creative way to state her dissatisfaction in Congress, and most certainly for finding the strength to throw herself back into the spotlight.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Win-Win for Starbucks and Ethiopia?

Back in October of last year, I learned of how the Ethiopian coffee farmers who provide Starbucks with a good majority of their quality, $3 a cup coffee had applied for trademarks for three different types of their coffee beans (Sidamo, Harar and Yirgacheffe) in order to be able to earn more money for their product. After all, they are one of the top five poorest countries in the world with a GNP per capital of $110 and Starbucks made about $3.7 billion just last year. While Starbucks was selling some of these Ethiopian coffees for $26 a pound, the Ethiopian farmers weren't getting anymore than $1.10 of that (doing the math, that's about 4%). I think they could get a little more than that, don't you? Also, they had already successfully registered trademarks in the EU, Canada and Japan. Why does it always have to be so difficult in the US?!

When Starbucks learned of Ethiopia's application to the US Patent and Trademark Office for these coffees, they prompted the National Coffee Association of USA, Inc. to oppose the approval. And, as they say, money talks. The applications were denied, raising a huge red flag to Oxfam America, a non-profit and affiliate of Oxfam International that works to end global poverty through saving lives, strengthening communities and campaigning for change. They immediately alerted the public to this and implemented an international public awareness program that included a Day of Action where volunteers (including myself) went into their local Starbucks stores and politely informed the barista or manager there about what was happening and asked them to put pressure on headquarters to give the Ethiopians what is fairly theirs. They even made a short video of it and released it to YouTube (which, unfortunately, is private an not available for viewing anymore). These events also caused me and my nearest and dearest to boycott Starbucks and let everyone know just why we were doing it.

This prompted some response from Starbucks and the CEO met with the prime minister of Ethiopia to discuss some sort compromise, but Ethiopia stood strong in their stance for full trademarks. Thus, no agreement was reached. Oxfam continued with their campaign, and after months of pressure, progress was being made. It looked as if maybe Starbucks would agree to stop blocking the applications after all.

Finally, eight months after the campaign began, Starbucks announced that they have concluded an "agreement" with the Ethiopian farmers "regarding distribution, marketing and licensing that recognizes the importance and integrity of Ethiopia's specialty coffee designations." Oxfam celebrated this as a win-win situation for both Starbucks and Ethiopia. Now, what does this "agreement" exactly mean?

"It provides a framework for mutual cooperation to promote the recognition of the Harrar, Sidamo and Yirgacheffe designations and to strengthen the Ethiopian coffee sector, and includes the license of certain trademarks. The agreement allows Starbucks to use and promote these designations in markets both where trademarks exist for the coffee designations as well as where they may not, in accordance with agreed terms and conditions negotiated with Ethiopia."

"Certain trademarks"? I don't get it. I'm not economist, but to me, it seems like either Ethiopia gets the trademarks for their three coffees or they don't. I don't understand this "certain trademarks" thing. I really want to celebrate what seems to be a great victory for fair trade, but something just doesn't smell right to me. I wonder what sort of deals were made under the table, what the press releases are leaving out, and why they just don't say that the three trademark applications will no longer be blocked?

With Oxfam's approval, I can't see why this isn't a good thing. I really, really want to believe that the underdog won this round. But, maybe that's just it. Maybe this is just a round of a much larger match between corporate America and the countries they exploit. While I do celebrate what seems to be progressive steps forward, I can't help but hold my breath, waiting for the other shoe to drop...