2016 election

I, Virginia Bergman, pledge not to vote for a male presidential candidate in 2016 just because he's male.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Mindfulness and the art of knitting

I'm not a knitter and at this point in my life, I'm not likely to take lessons and master the art. But I can tell you this: after reading Barbara Hannah Grufferman's post, Why Knitting Is the Must-Have Life Skill, I wish I'd picked up a pair of knitting needles decades ago.  Grufferman's comment that knitting enforces mindfulness meditation jumped out at me, as I've been practicing mindfulness meditation for several years. However, I'm also intrigued by her several other reasons for claiming that knitting is a "must have life skill."

Grufferman writes:

Growing up in Brooklyn, my no-nonsense German grandmother tried to teach me how to knit -- a life skill she believed was the key to happiness. 

Like any adolescent, I rebelled and made excuses. "Tomorrow, Grandma, okay? Studying for a math test now, but I promise we'll sit down and you can teach me. Can't wait . . . "

Of course I regret it. That goes without saying. For sure, I spent lots of quality time with my grandparents, loving people who embraced the job of raising two more kids (my sister and me) in midlife after having raised five of their own, including my mother. When my father left my mother with two daughters under four, her only choice-- and a very good one, indeed-- was to move back home so she could work full time to support us. 

My grandmother showered us with things my mother was too young and inexperienced to give: unconditional love; patience during a rocky time in our lives; structure (dinner on the table every night at 6pm); and essential life lessons like how to make the perfect roast chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, apple strudel and Christmas cookies. 

We learned a great deal from her, but my sister and I drew the line at knitting. 

It wasn't until I turned 50, many years after my beloved grandmother had passed on from Alzheimer's, that I decided to step into my local knitting store and finally get that lesson. To say that I am hooked is an understatement.

 Here's why I knit:

Read more:

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Hillary Clinton's impassioned speech on securing equal opportunity and justice for all (video)

Please watch this video of Hillary Clinton's inspiring speech given at Columbia University. Our country needs this woman as president in 2016. Watch and let Katalusis know if you agree:

Friday, April 24, 2015

The use of drones and after many other civilian deaths, the killing of two hostages

And Malala told the President to stop using drones.

It’s the stuff of nightmares that President Barack Obama, honored early on with a Nobel Peace Prize for good intentions, developed a personal kill list and authorized drone weaponry in the U.S. arsenal. I was as shocked by Obama’s decision to use drones as I was by Dubya’s approval of the CIA’s use of torture under his regime.

In A Brief History of Drones, John Sifton concludes that the “unique technology” of drones “allows the mundane and regular violence of military force to be separated further from human emotion. Drones foreshadow the idea that brutality could become detached from humanity—and yield violence that is, as it were, unconscious.”

Unconscious violence? I guess Sifton was referring to the possibility that a U.S. drone might miss its mark and take out a couple of Western hostages in northern Pakistan; I watched President Obama, our drone master, offer a personal apology for the deaths this morning, and I hope his words ease the pain of the grieving families of Warren Weinstein and Giovanni Lo Porto. Obama said:

“As president and as commander in chief, I take full responsibility for all our counterterrorism operations,” the grim-faced president told reporters as television cameras broadcast his words. “I profoundly regret what happened,” he added. “On behalf of the United States government, I offer our deepest apologies to the families.”

Lest we forget – lest we forget – Juan Cole at Informed Comment reminds us:

Contrary to assurances given by President Obama a couple of years ago, the US government admits that it had no idea who it was targeting when it hit that building. Indiscriminate fire is a recognized war crime, and it seems to characterize the US drone program.

These are the figures for the US drone assassination program in Pakistan, according to The Bureau of Investigative Journalism:

Total strikes: 415
Obama strikes: 364
Total killed: 2,449-3,949
Civilians killed: 423-962
Children killed: 172-207
Injured: 1,144-1,722

That is, as many as a fourth of those killed by US drone assassinations are non-combatants.

Cole continues:

Death by drone is inherently lawless. There is no constitutional or legal framework within which the US government can blow people away at will. For a while in the 1970s through 1990s, assassination was outlawed.

Now it is back, but has taken this freakish form where bureaucrats thousands of miles away fire missiles from large toy airplanes. The US is not at war with Pakistan, so this action is not part of a war effort. You can’t be at war with an organization– a state of war has a technical legal definition.

It took Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan, a teenager and also the youngest Nobel Prize winner, to stand up to President Obama about his use of drones. The young social activist said:

"I thanked President Obama for the United States' work in supporting education in Pakistan and Afghanistan and for Syrian refugees," she said in the statement. "I also expressed my concerns that drone attacks are fueling terrorism. Innocent victims are killed in these acts, and they lead to resentment among the Pakistani people. If we refocus efforts on education it will make a big impact."

It would seem, however, that President Obama continues to use drones to pursue those terrorists unfortunate enough to make his secret kill list, plus any civilians who get in the way. What was it that historian John Sifton said about drones – “Drones foreshadow the idea that brutality could become detached from humanity—and yield violence that is, as it were, unconscious.”

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The GOP - "The Party of the Rich" - attacks the Clintons for being well off

Is the GOP jealous of the Clintons? Is that why “the Party of the Rich” in the US of A keeps trying to shame Bill and Hillary Clinton for being well off and for having established a successful charitable foundation over the years that has benefited thousands around the globe? (See Peter Schweitzer.)

I mean, what else could be the motive? Oh, I get it. The Repubs haven't been able to seriously damage the Clintons with any of their previously contrived scandals. What's a scandalmonger to do, especially since Hillary is the frontrunner for the Dems in 2016?

And now the word is out, and we all know what an outstanding secretary of state Hillary Clinton was: 1) Following W's administration, she patched up the nation's tattered relationships with most other nations; 2) She laid the foundation for the Iran Nuclear Treaty, which until the truth surfaced, Obama was given credit for finally earning his Nobel prize; 3) She spoke out for women and girls wherever she traveled during her tenure; 4) and more.

Darn! What's the Party of the Rich to do with a candidate like Hillary? Here's a suggestion: smarten up and start working on behalf of the people who elected you instead of the one percent - like the Koch Brothers - whose feet you kiss every morning, noon, and night.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Earth Day 2015: more wildlife habitat or more shopping malls?

Wild Lands for Sale?
As I recall, I took a walk on the first Earth Day, April 22, 1970. As I passed the local high school, I paused to pick up a pop can and after I got home, I deposited it in the trash. Forty-five years later, I'm pleased that we continue to celebrate Earth Day, even though much remains to be done to preserve and protect this small planet, including our wildlife and the environment.

So it is this morning that Jamie Rappaport Clark, Defenders of Wildlife, emailed me and posed a critical question.

Dear Virginia,
What would you rather have: More wildlife habitat and wilderness or more shopping malls and clear-cut forests?
Hmm, I thought, I don't need more shopping malls or clear-cut forests.
Then Jamie informed me:

A move is afoot to potentially give away massive chunks of our national public lands (parks, wildlife refuges, national forests, etc.) to the states. The states will then be free to sell off these lands to the highest bidders.
Special interest lobbyists are currently using the annual budget process as a cover to open up our most precious places to the frackers, drillers, clear cutters, developers and other profiteers.
In late March, Senator Murkowski pressed through an Amendment to the annual budget resolution that specifically authorizes the sale, transfer or exchange of federal public lands to state and local governments, potentially for resale to private interests.
If this Amendment is adopted in the final budget resolution, it could set the stage for future land disposal legislation, resulting in widespread destruction of some of our most beloved and most fragile landscapes. Wildlife will lose critical habitat. Future generations will never experience the wide-open spaces and unspoiled places that you and I cherish so much.

Most Americans wholeheartedly want to keep our public lands in public hands.

Thanks for all you do.

Jaime Rappaport Clark
Jamie Rappaport Clark President, Defenders of Wildlife

I say friends, we're fortunate on Earth Day 2015 to have Jamie Rappaport Clark and the organization she represents, Defenders of Wildlife, continue the battle to preserve and protect the environment and life on this small planet. In turn, let's thank Jamie and Defenders of Wildlife for all they do!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

N. H.: Hillary takes the high ground in response to Republican attacks

Hillary obviously has her opponents' number as reported in the NY Times First Draft:

KEENE, N.H. — Questions about her personal use of email at the State Department? Controversy about foreign donors to the Clinton Foundation? Accusations that her campaign events are overly staged?

Hillary Rodham Clinton says they’re all just partisan distractions. 

“We’re back into the political season, and therefore we get subjected to all kinds of distractions and attacks, and I’m ready for that,” she told reporters on Monday in response to a question about a coming book that scrutinizes donations made to her family’s philanthropy.

“It is worth noting, I think, that Republicans seem to be talking only about me,” Mrs. Clinton added. “I don’t know what they’d talk about if I weren’t in the race, but I am in the race and hopefully we’ll get onto the issues, and I look forward to that.”


Monday, April 20, 2015

Most of the effective members of Congress wear skirts

Image via Cosmopolitan.

Cosmopolitan article asks: "Why Aren't the Extra-Effective Women of the U.S. Senate Getting the Credit They Deserve?"

"About that do-nothing Congress: There are actually some members who are doing something, and most of them wear skirts to work."


Elizabeth Warren is a big name in the U.S. Senate today, but she almost didn't run at all.
Before her election in 2012, Warren was one of the legal world's most-cited scholars, an expert in bankruptcy, and a law professor at Harvard. After the economic crash of 2008, she came to Washington, D.C., to champion the creation of a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Warren was a leading candidate to run the agency until Congressional Republicans objected. So Warren packed up to leave Capitol Hill and return to Harvard.

Warren, a Democrat, raised $39 million for her campaign, more than any other Senate candidate that year, and became Massachusetts's first female senator. Her career, she says, was made by "one woman helping another."

What's it like to be a woman in the Senate in 2015? Cosmopolitan invited the 20 sitting female senators to talk about that, and 16 of them took us up on the offer. In a series of interviews in Washington, D.C., they told us stories similar to Warren's. But they didn't describe a soft-focus sisterhood that propels them to work together. Instead, many of them said they've tapped into a style of collaborative leadership for one simple reason: It works.

 Although they're a minority on Capitol Hill, the women of the Senate are among the country's most effective elected officials, working across the aisle more often than the Senate's men and keeping an increasingly fractured Congress creaking along ... even when, as they admit themselves, they don't always get the credit.

Read more: