I first read this piece about France’s newest bill regarding prostitution.

In shifting much of the legal onus from sex workers to their clients, France plunged into the heart of a debate that has sharply split Europe for years. The debate has been between those, most notably Sweden, who argue that prostitution is a form of predatory violence against women and must be punished, and those, like Germany and Denmark, who maintain that criminalizing prostitution only drives it underground and exposes sex workers to greater dangers.

And then went further to find this infographic regarding the issue:

prostitution stats statistics

From my research for this post, as well as sources I have been exposed to over the past year, I have learned that prostitution is very often the result of an individual being abducted or lured into sex trafficking. However, sex trafficking is rarely talked about, and certainly undermentioned in regards to its occurrence in America. It is a form of slavery that is on the rise and something you should consider becoming more aware of.

If you’d like to learn more, check out this piece by the FBI explaining the issue with an emphasis on the United States.


Congress’ To Do List

Read about Congress’s extra long to-do list for the considerably short December session here

Farm bill, and therefore SNAP; budget negotiations; and unemployment benefits are just three of the topics that particularly strike me. Boehner, however, has low expectations for what is able to be done, further pushing for legislation to be addressed over a longer period of time. He particularly makes the point that the house will be leaving Washington on the set date of the 13th, regardless of what matters are being faced at that point. How do you feel about this stance? Do you feel this is conducive to a functioning America?

I know I am personally anxious about the idea of another shutdown, which will occur in January if budget negotiations are not constructive. There seems to be hope regarding such negotiations, however. Read here about the deal that is emerging from the budget conference between the House and the Senate. The following measures are just some of what may have been agreed upon so far:

  • Discretionary spending (which includes most spending aside from interest and entitlement programs) in the budget accord will likely be capped somewhere between $990 billion and $1 trillion — higher than the $967 billion level that many Republicans currently support, but lower than the $1.058 trillion in the Democratic budget plan.
  • The higher spending levels — from a slight rollback of the cuts in sequestration — would be offset by other spending cuts and non-tax revenue increases, which include a number of different possibilities. Some of those include airline passenger fees and changes to the federal retirement program.
  • Aides said that the deal does not include an extension of long-term unemployment benefits, the expiration of which threatens to affect 1.3 million people at the end of the year.
  • It also does not include any extension of the debt ceiling, the suspension of which ends on Feb. 7. The Treasury can use so-called “extraordinary measures” to extend the “drop-dead” date to March or April.

Obama & Economic Inequality

Read here about Obama’s latest address on economic equality.

The President made a speech on Wednesday that focused on this issue, laying out seeming impossible aspirations in the current political climate that include “higher minimum wage, more spending on early-childhood education, an overhaul of immigration laws and other measures aimed at boosting the economy.” Spectators comment on how the President did not speak of the way in which such victories could be achieved, instead many see this as yet another way in which the two parties are in battle with one another. To support this, Republicans have pledged to continually resist such efforts by the President, though the President counters by saying Republicans offer no alternative. Furthermore, it is proposed that this speech served as support to a greater legacy, as opposed to a call for legislation that Obama in particular is unlikely to see get passed. Regardless, I think one point made by the President and pulled out by the article is particularly worth some thought.

Obama acknowledged that his administration has not arrested two stubborn trends: widening income inequality and declining mobility, where lower-income people have a harder time finding a path to the middle class.

These are serious issues that no one in power is legitimately doing anything to address, and in my opinion that is a terrible thing to witness. The exact reason for my reaction to that being described as terrible is articulated well in a quote made by Obama himself,

“Government can’t stand on the sidelines in our efforts, because government is us. It can and should reflect our deepest values and commitments.”

I know many people are frustrated with the government in recent times and consequently desire for it to diminish but I see the government as being an instrument of the people that we must take back for ourselves. In its true form the government is meant to serve us and our interests as citizens. I do not think that a widening gap in income and lack of mobility serves the greater interests of America’s citizens, instead it limits the potential achievements of many, and consequently I believe that it is our duty to fight this issue and push forward in creating a more level playing ground.

Green Tea Party?

Read this interesting article regarding the unsuspected partnerships being made in the name of the environment.


In Appalachia, greens are banding together with the Tennessee Conservative Union to oppose mountaintop mining. In Georgia, the Sierra Club and Atlanta’s tea party have formed a Green Tea Coalition that is demanding a bigger role for solar power in the state’s energy market. Elsewhere, veterans of the George W. Bush administration are working with the Environmental Defense Fund on market-based ideas for protecting endangered species.

It’s not yet a broad national trend, and may not be enough to begin dampening Washington’s bitter left-right split over President Barack Obama’s environmental policies. But some activists — particularly outside the Beltway — see potential for the kinds of coalitions that used to get big things done, back in the days when Theodore Roosevelt was creating national parks and George H.W. Bush’s administration was taking on acid rain.

Finally a source of hope found in coalitions created around the environment. What better reason to come together than the well-being of our planet. The Earth is a gift given to all of us that is deserving of care able to transcend bitterness between parties. I seriously hope that this becomes a larger trend, and that consequently the masses may come to believe that there are some issues that honestly deserve attention beyond useless rhetoric and strategic battles between parties that doesn’t truly achieve anything. I guess what I’m really trying to say is that America needs this, and more of it too.

Change in China’s One Child Policy

I’ve been interested for some time in learning more about the Chinese “one child policy,” and it seems that now is a good time, as the government is taking incremental steps towards changing it. Most recently the government has began allowing couples to have two children if only one of the individuals was an only child, previously both individuals had to have been only children in order to do so. Read more about this here.

Pope’s Latest Shake-Up

In a document that officially sets the platform for his papacy, the Pope had some very interesting things to say about poverty and capitalism. You can find the document here, but I’ve included some excerpts:

Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.

Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded. We have created a “disposable” culture which is now spreading. It is no longer simply about exploitation and oppression, but something new. Exclusion ultimately has to do with what it means to be a part of the society in which we live; those excluded are no longer society’s underside or its fringes or its disenfranchised – they are no longer even a part of it. The excluded are not the “exploited” but the outcast, the “leftovers”.

In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting. To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others, or to sustain enthusiasm for that selfish ideal, a globalization of indifference has developed. Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own. The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase; and in the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us.

Vatican Pope

I’m very passionate about my views on these issues, and consequently I think it is great that the current Pope is explicitly addressing them as world problems requiring attention and solution. The position of Pope has held power for an incredible number of years, but the current Pope is really shaking things up. Whether or not they are religious, I believe people are interested by this man and the entire wold seems to be watching as he takes unprecedented actions that challenge traditions reaching back centuries.  My opinion is that he should keep up the good work and use the power of his position to provoke serious discussion, and quite possibly action, about issues such as these.

Also, considering Thanksgiving is only days away, and therefore Black Friday is as well, it might be worth your time to stop for a moment and think critically about the values that form the foundations for these celebrations. The points the Pope makes are especially relevant to this time of year.

I know that I am personally so grateful for the fact that I do not currently experience marginalization or exclusion on the scale that he is speaking about here, and furthermore I am grateful for the opportunity to help those that do while I am in Washington next semester.

Same Sex Partners Receive Honors


The same sex partners of Sally Ride and Bayard Rustin received the Presidential Medal of Freedom on behalf of their deceased partners on Wednesday from President Obama. The ceremony also honored Oprah Winfrey, Bill Clinton, and Gloria Steinem (a prominent feminist figure) among others. Read the Buzzfeed article here.

Rustin’s partner, Walter Naegle, was quoted saying:

“It’s certainly a very emotional day, a tremendous honor… It’s the highest honor that somebody can get, and to have Bayard at that level affirms all of the values that he was committed to, making America better for everybody, not just the select few.”

Ride’s partner, Tam O’Shaughnessy, was quoted saying:

“I’m honored to represent Sally, and just honored to be here, and I also think having Walter and me on stage for our partners sends a huge message to the world, so I think — that feels good.”

Walter and Tam were the first same sex partners to ever receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and so this represents another step forward in achieving equal recognition for same sex relationships.