Saturday, 31 January 2009

Where are the women - in American politics?

I've read lots of enthusiasm and warmth and excitedness about the inauguration of Barack Obama as the new president of America. (Some) People are genuinely relieved to see the end of the Bush regime, and hope that this new Democrat government will herald a new start. I hope so too. But on the down side.... Firstly. I remember similar - almost euphoric - feelings when Tony Blair and the Labour Party won the election in the UK in 1997. I remember the results because I was on holiday in Portugal - and we saw coverage on a television in a bar in Estoi in the Algarve. (Very nice place by the way, some fine Roman ruins there, and a palace that we couldn't visit). When I got back to work, I discussed the election with colleagues, many of whom were excited in the same way much of America is right now. Some years later, that excitement and enthusiasm had turned into such disillusionment. I hope that America, a few years down the road, doesn't share that same sense of disappointment. And secondly. I first read about Barack Obama a few years ago, and the article was touting him as a potential candidate for the presidency, and I thought it would be interesting to see if he eventually went for it. He did. Just at the time that Hillary Clinton went for it too. The truth is that I don't follow American politics closely enough to have analysed their different approaches, views, values and opinions. I did notice though that Clinton's campaign was accompanied by not just sexist comments but blatant misogyny. Something that she has had to endure since being First Lady, (a ghastly title that irritates the hell out of me) but that doesn't make it any better. And I'm sorry that she didn't get the nomination. I'm equally sorry to see that she is still attracting vitriol because she has been offered a decent position in Obama's government. When do men ever have to suffer endless criticism about their hair, their make-up, their clothes, the way they talk and laugh? Oh, silly me, they are not decorative objects are they? They are intelligent thinking beings. They don't have to make sure they are coming across as a loving parent, endlessly espousing family values, and looking pretty, instead of concentrating on affairs of national and international importance. And what about Michelle Obama? Another intelligent woman who has already had to start toning down her ironic sense of humour and concentrate more on family stuff, and all the 'softer' issues that befit a woman. I can't read anything about the inauguration without reading about what she wore. Who the hell cares? Well, America, I hope you get a female president soon. And preferably a democrat. I'm sorry you didn't give yourselves the opportunity to vote for one this time round. Maybe democrats just aren't as open-minded as they like to think. In spite of nominating an Afro-American - that sends a message of 'Look how progressive we are, there is no discrimination in America.' Because of course, discrimination is always about race, or maybe disability - but never men v women. It may yet be the republicans who nominate a woman for president. Just like the UK, where the Conservatives were the first to elect a woman leader who carried on to become the first British woman prime minister. Maybe too many Americans have the same view as my sexist father had many years ago. "Better to have a bad male prime minister than a good woman prime minister." Funny how he grudgingly ended up admiring Margaret Thatcher and considered her to be one of the best prime ministers in the UK in his lifetime. Hey America! Maybe you should give women a chance. They may surprise you. They may have brains, intelligence, diplomacy, and gosh - they may be able to leave alone their lipstick for at least five minutes and concentrate on Significant Issues. Oh, and another thing. Just had a looky at your cabinet Obama. It doesn't look too representative of women. Are you aware of how many of your population are women? You aren't reflecting it. Arse. Elitist arse, in fact. Shame you didn't follow the example of Zapatero in Spain. Who insisted on half his cabinet being women when he was first elected. What are you doing Obama? Five out of fifteen? Just keep reinforcing the patriarchy sweetheart. You're doing well.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Take it or leave it

One of the best parts of my MBA was a module called Creative Management. There was a nice introspective self-indulgent section that looked at your personal style, your management style, your role within teams, and where you fit in the Kirton Adaptor Innovator Theory (which I highly recommend). But one of the simplest things that has always stayed with me was a section on problem solving. I would listen to the cassette (this was some years ago) in the car, with the soothing voice telling me there were four ways to deal with a situation: Accept the situation Change the situation Change yourself Leave the situation I thought this was a neat way to look at lots of situations - not just work. In essence though, choices invariably boiled down to the first one and the last one. Take it or leave it really. One of my former internet friends used to say if he left a forum he would just go without any fanfare. We laughed at the number of people we saw who gave a valedictory speech, citing their grievances - never to come back - yet who returned a couple of weeks later. I've left a fair few forums - or rather, I've stopped reading/commenting when there is no longer any added value from visiting them. I've always found it - relatively - easy to leave a situation. And for me, it's really been my only choice. I'm not very good at accepting something I'm not happy with. To be able to change a situation, we need to be in a position of some power and influence, which in a lot of cases simply doesn't apply. And as for changing ourselves? Not easy. Last year however, as part of the admin team on an internet site, some of us actually did try and change the way it was working. Or rather, it didn't seem to be following the aims and principles that had been set out initially. For our pains we were all sacked by the site owner. Today I wrote a carefully worded letter of resignation to another internet site where I am part of the team. I've enjoyed my time on the site, there's been no grief, and I've always been thanked for my time and my effort. But when you don't agree with the way things are going - whether at work, in your personal life, or on the internet - it's time to get out. I guess I've always been lucky enough to have the option of walking. Either literally or virtually. And maybe I've been determined to leave. Time to move on. I like to think there's no going back.

Friday, 16 January 2009

Online gaming - and those all-American values

Well, I knew stuff all about gaming companies as I'm not the world's biggest gambler.

My experience of gambling/gaming has been:

  1. Paying £1 a week into a lottery syndicate at work - it was more of an insurance policy than anything else - I would have hated to have missed out on the win, and see my colleagues resign and leave me glued to my desk for ever and a day....
  2. Playing poker or gin/seven card rummy or dominoes with Partner for money - we sit down with a bag of silver threepences, share them out, and when we have finished playing, they all go back in the bag.
  3. I did play dominoes for a wager a few years ago. Me, Partner and his at-the-time arsey Spanish mate. We agreed the loser would buy the next round. I won. He (ie ASP) bought the drinks. Ha!

Anyway onto some comments about gaming after I wrote last month about a favourable court decision for Gibraltar regarding autonomous tax laws.

This was basically where Gibraltar and the UK successfully fought an EU decision saying that Gib could not set its own tax regime, and would have significantly affected investment in Gibraltar had the decision been upheld. We enjoyed an extra bank holiday on Monday to celebrate this.

So, I decided to look up some stuff about gaming. Let's start with PartyGaming. According to Wiki, it is best known for its online poker room - And prior to the passage of anti-online gambling legislation by the US Congress, PartyGaming was the world's biggest online poker brand.

Ooops - almost forgot to add, it is headquartered in Gibraltar. Founded in 1997, PartyGaming went public on the London Stock Exchange in 2005. In that year it made it into the FTSE 100 and profits before tax were $325 million. A success story. Nice. The fly in the ointment?

On September 29, 2006, the US Congress passed the Safe Port Act. Passed incidentally, at midnight, the day Congress adjourned for the 2006 elections. What, might anyone with half a brain ask, has online gambling got to do with anti-terrorist legislation? Well according to Wiki - there is no relationship. "Unrelated anti-gambling language" was added to the act, and it is called the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act.

After that, PartyGaming (and others) then suspended offering real-money games to US players. Free games and non-US players were not affected. PartyGaming's publicly traded stock dropped almost 60% in 24 hours. The company was moved from the FTSE 100 to the FTSE 250 Index. Back to the Safe Port Act. What does the US web site say about it? "To improve maritime and cargo security through enhanced layered defenses, and for other purposes."

Really? That is just so relevant to online gambling. Full text of the gambling amendment here. And here is some more insight into this bizarre legislation. Apparently I can't reproduce from that site so I can't quote the par that says the Safe Port Act is an absurdity that attempted to placate the religious right element of the Republican Party....etc etc. It's short though and worth a read to get a bit more insight into this odd situation..

Basically the act is not an online gambling ban. But it does ban the transfer of funds by US banks, credit card companies and payment processors between gamblers and online operators. (With, for some reason, the exception of fantasy sports, online lotteries, and horse racing).

This story of gaming + poker + Gib + America is not complete without mentioning Anurag Dikshit, an Indian-born billionaire who lives in Gibraltar. Mr Dikshit was one of the founding members of PartyGaming, with Ruth Parasol, although he stepped down from the board in 2006.

Before Christmas 2008, he pleaded guilty in a US court to offering illegal gambling services in the United States and agreed to pay $300 million (£192 million) under the terms of his plea bargain. He is due to be sentenced in two years time, December 2010. Source TimesOnline. And from the same source: "Online gambling firms have run into trouble in the US after America made it illegal to gamble on the internet.

In 2006, Washington passed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act and since then the DoJ under the Bush Administration has taken a hard line with foreign gambling firms. Washington has been accused of caving in to pressure from Las Vegas and of trying to protect America’s substantial horse racing betting businesses." Now why did I think there might be a little tiny bit of self-interest in this legislation? It seems I am not the only one.

So is this act about family values and helping gambling addicts? Haha. Is it fuck. It is about money, American money, and anyone who thinks otherwise probably believed in WMD too. The classic quote to sum it all up comes from Senator Robert Goodlatte, a long-term proponent for banning - foreign - internet gambling. "Virtual betting parlors have attempted to avoid the application of the United States law by locating themselves offshore and out of jurisdictional reach. "These offshore, fly-by-night Internet gambling operators are unlicensed, untaxed, un-regulatable and are sucking billions of dollars out of the United States." That says it all doesn't it? If it ain't taxed, licensed and regulated by the good old US of A, it's illegal. Such arrogance.

But - the ones based in Gibraltar may be offshore - but they are neither unlicensed, untaxed, and un-regulatable. From the Gibraltar government website: Internet Gaming REMOTE GAMBLING FROM GIBRALTAR All gaming operations in Gibraltar require licensing under the Gambling Act 2005. The Licensing Authority will only consider licensing blue chip companies with a proven track record in gaming, licensed in a reputable jurisdiction, of good financial standing and with a realistic business plan. Licences are generally difficult to obtain. As at 1st September 2008 there were twenty licensed operators... But offshore companies may well be - or rather have been - sucking billions of dollars out of the US.

And do I care? No. And clearly neither did US online gamblers. Ah America. The land of the free. Probition. Protectionism. Advocate of entrepreneurial success, the free market economy, and globalisation until it comes down to other countries sucking up your bucks. Still, no doubt when you have raked in the dollars by prosecuting the likes of Mr Dikshit and others, I am sure you will be putting the money into your sparkling health service to help gambling addicts and their families.

Because rather than messing around prosecuting offshore companies that are running legal, regulated, and taxable businesses, I suggest you look to your health service. The stories I have read on the internet about American health care are beyond belief. In fact, they would drive one to gamble just to fund the insurance premiums. And if anyone is naive enough to believe that Barack Obama will reverse the legislation, you are making the wrong bet. What government ever reverses legislation when it has been of financial benefit to the country? To end - here is a link to a great YouTube vid looking at online gambling, morals, and .... money.

Sources - among others - Times Online, Washington Post, Gibraltar Government, various gaming sites, various right-wing family values hypocritical American sites. See, I don't have to be neutral on my blog, but at least I do read the stuff I disagree with before I say what hypocritical garbage it is.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

What I like...

...or maybe don't like - about men - is their complete lack of sensitivity and total inability to get the plot. I think that is sufficient. If this means nothing to you, then quite possibly, you are a man.

Saturday, 3 January 2009


......I had a good internet friend. We 'met' a couple of years ago, and exchanged the odd pm, email, had a few laughs and invariably fell out. But last Christmas/New Year (2007) we were on relatively sociable terms, and exchanged polite and friendly seasonal greetings. For one reason and another, a few months later, we started emailing each other more regularly. He was funny, with a sharp sense of humour, and he made me laugh. He was thoughtful, and honest. Over the weeks, we grew to trust each other, or at least, I trusted him. He was there for me when I wanted to moan, or confide in someone. He had a sensible pragmatic answer if I was fed up. We played internet scrabble, we competed at Sploofus, and we linked on Facebook. But if I was to look for someone who was the total opposite of me, I would never have been as successful in finding someone as this chance internet encounter. Our lives are - and have been - very different. And so are our views, opinions and values. Maybe that was our downfall. We fell out about Sploofus, we fell out over scrabulous, and I've lost count of the number of times he removed me as a friend from Facebook. Plus blocking me so it looked like he no longer existed on there. Sounds childish. It was, but maybe arguing over the silly stuff was instead of arguing over the important differences. I don't know. I'm surprised we stuck it out so long. He was incredibly patient with my temperamental tantrums, and so easy-going. But I didn't like being told 'You're too focused on the whole thing' about some of my views. Perhaps I felt judged, and criticised. Perhaps there wasn't really any common ground at all. Maybe a few laughs wasn't enough. I didn't mind the fact that I wrote more than him (I write lots anyway), but eventually I got sick of him not answering my questions. Or not telling me anything about himself. It began to feel too one-sided. Maybe the downturn started a couple of months ago. I realised I no longer wanted to share anything with him. I could no longer write what I thought to him. My fingers froze over the keyboard and I started erasing countless draft emails. I still don't know what had changed it for me. Was it when he refused to play internet scrab with me any more? Haha! Or just an accumulation of disgreements? We stuck it out for another couple of months, although we hardly wrote much in retrospect. So a new year, and and a new start. I'll miss him. I doubt he'll miss me. He'll shrug his shoulders in a macho sort of way and clear off shooting or geocaching or something. Friends huh??

Friday, 2 January 2009

On friends......

I read this post on Flowerpot's blog. It's friends who are there. When you've been holding it all together and the smallest thing – like stubbing your toe – can release an outpouring of frustration, guilt, loneliness or fear. Or all of those. It's then that I value my friends most. To be able to pick up the phone and say, in wobbly voice, “can I come round?” or “how about meeting for a drink? In five minutes?” And hearing that soothing voice the other end of the phone saying, “Yes of course, I'll be there in five minutes.” And oh, the relief of letting it all spill out. Tears of joy or worry; actually voicing those fears that kept you awake all night and now, when exposed to the open air and a kindly friend, suddenly lose their terror. You find you can accept them; laugh over them perhaps. And you part, later, awash with tea or wine and the best feeling of all. That warm, glowing feeling (no, not the one after sex!) but a quieter, more solid sensation that has its feet on the ground. It is steadying and precious and available to us all to be shared. Years ago,when I moved to Falmouth and bemoaned leaving all my friends behind, my dear friend Av said, “When you share a problem with someone, that's when they become a friend.” It hadn't occurred to me until she said it, and of course how right she is. So in honour of all our friends, and to those especially in need, please pass this post on. Wow. Because I can't think of anyone who I would choose to share any of my problems with. I really don't want to bore them to bits when they probably have their own very different problems and issues to deal with. And that applies to my friends going back years, and my more recent internet friends. So my take on friends is very different. But someone really made my day today. An internet friend who once told me that she didn't distinguish between friends she had met and friends on the internet - to her, we are all her friends. So I duly went to the post office to collect the Christmas present she had sent. It was exactly what I wanted. Something I had mentioned a couple of months ago, and then, it never came up again. What a sweetheart. When there is disappointment and disillusionment in life, to receive such a thoughtful gift - from someone I haven't met - was so lovely. Thanks.