Monday, November 28, 2011

More thoughts on the insanity of investing in nuclear power

Since the Japanese tsunami damaged the Fukushima nuclear plant earlier this year, I’ve posted several times at Katalusis on the dangers of nuclear power: here, here, and here.

And yes, I noted Germany’s wise decision to shut down its nuclear plants.

So it’s gratifying this morning to read Lester R. Brown and Yul Choi’s  “global viewpoint” at the Christian Science Monitor titled, “Fukushima fallout: time to quit nuclear power altogether.”

In a nutshell:

Experience in northern Japan illustrates that even incremental investment in nuclear power threatens human civilization. The Fukushima disaster should once and for all drive global society away from nuclear power, and toward renewable energy.

Brown and Choi effectively summon rational people around the globe to come together in an all out effort to ban any further proliferation of nuclear plants and close the existing monstrosities as soon as possible. Let’s heed their wise counsel:

In August, just months following the tsunami-induced crisis at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant, the 2011 World Conference Against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs gathered in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the two Japanese cities destroyed in 1945 by atom bombs, becoming forever linked to the birth of nuclear weapons and the nuclear age. The world conference was formed in 1995 to work toward a nuclear-weapon ban and foster solidarity and support for A-bomb survivors and victims of nuclear disasters.

A few of the 70,000 victims of the Fukushima disaster joined us at the August meeting, riveting the attendees with first-hand accounts of the devastating effects of radioactive contamination. According to the reports delivered by these eyewitnesses, nearly 300,000 Fukushima children continue to live in wretched conditions, continuously exposed to the dangers of radioactivity. The health hazards of radioactivity are far deadlier to children than the effects of radiation on adults. Annual blood tests are now a life-preserving necessity to track the potential onset of disease.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Marketers succeed in commercializing both Thanksgiving and Christmas

Photo courtesy of

It was a matter of principle for me not to go shopping this weekend. I’ve been appalled in recent years by how retailers have turned a day once set aside for giving thanks into a launch pad for the Christmas shopping season. 

Hence, marketers have succeeded in commercializing both Thanksgiving and Christmas.   

Take a look at this report posted Sunday, Nov. 27, by Bloomberg:

Black Friday sales increased 6.6 percent to the largest amount ever as U.S. consumers shrugged off 9 percent unemployment and went shopping. 

Consumers spent $11.4 billion, ShopperTrak said in a statement yesterday. Foot traffic rose 5.1 percent on Black Friday, according to the Chicago-based research firm.
“This is the largest year-over-year gain in ShopperTrak’s National Retail Sales Estimate for Black Friday since the 8.3 percent increase we saw between 2007 and 2006,” ShopperTrak founder Bill Martin said in the statement. “Still, it’s just one day. It remains to be seen whether consumers will sustain this behavior through the holiday shopping season.” 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving Katalusis readers

Dear Katalusis Readers,

It’s a sunny Thanksgiving morning here in St. Paul, and the last traces of this Saturday’s two-inch snowfall have melted away. The turkey is stuffed and roasting in the oven in anticipation of family dinner guests.

I’m thankful for all the usual blessings this morning of good health, family and friends, a pleasant home, and the freedoms I enjoy as an American. I’m also thankful for my work as a freelance writer; a memoirist; a blogger and most certainly Katalusis readers; other writing opportunities; and my faithful writers group that continues to encourage me to do my best work.

And I’m especially grateful this time around for my mindfulness meditation group and my practice that helps me stay centered and in touch with the present moment instead of spending too much time moping about the past or worrying about the future.

On this occasion as we pause to acknowledge our blessings, I’m reminded of the ancient Buddhist loving kindness meditation:

May we be filled with loving kindness,
May we be well,
May we be peaceful and at ease,
May we be happy.

Happy thanksgiving,


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The day before Thanksgiving: Feeling thankful the Super Committee failed

Super Committee members, photo courtesy of

Van Jones, President of and author of the NY Times bestseller, the Green-Collar Economy, offers several good reasons we might want to be thankful tomorrow on turkey day for the Super Committee’s failure:

The big buzz on cable news this week is that the Super Committee failed when it couldn't come to a compromise on how to cut the federal budget by $1.5 trillion.

But the truth is that the American people won.
And now, we must keep on winning.

We won when Democrats on the Super Committee held their ground on the expiring Bush tax cuts on the wealthy.

Instead of focusing like a laser on job creation, conservative Republicans in Congress held our nation's finances hostage in July. To appease the hostage-takers, Congress created a closed-door committee to force through major cuts this fall.

Thankfully, enough Democrats held together on the Super Committee to stop severe cuts from going through. Many proposed to seek revenue from small tax increases for the wealthy and a tiny "Wall Street Tax" on risky stock trades. But those cries from the 99% fell on the deaf ears of conservatives on the Super Committee.

Progressives don't often battle the concentrated forces of corporations and their armies of lobbyists to a stalemate. For that reason, we can stop, reflect on a job well done, and thank the congressmen and women who stopped the worst from getting through.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The troublesome response of the US to the recent violence in Tahrir Square

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, photo courtesy of the Daily Caller.

Any thinking person would have anticipated problems with the ascendancy of the Egyptian military to power in the aftermath of the takedown of Hosni Mubarak. 

Now that violence has erupted again in Tahrir Square, the generals appear to be reluctant to move toward a legitimate Egyptian government.

Correspondent Kristen Chick at the Christian Science Monitor reports from Cairo the troublesome response from the US to the worsening of the power struggle between the military and the protestors:

Security forces have killed at least 29 as Tahrir Square protests enter their fourth day. The US has come under attack for backing the military junta despite vows to support democracy and human rights.

The US attempt to reposition itself as a supporter of democracy and human rights in the Middle East is being undermined by a growing Egyptian perception that Washington will back Egypt's military junta unreservedly despite its increasing repressiveness.

That perception was reinforced yesterday, when a White House statement on the clashes between protesters and security forces appeared to place the blame equally on both sides for violence that has killed at least 29 protesters since Saturday.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said the US was "deeply concerned" about the violence and "tragic loss of life" and called for "restraint on all sides, so that Egyptians can move forward together to forge a strong and united Egypt.”

That call for restraint on “all sides,” in the face of days of excessive use of force by police and soldiers, was met with incredulity in Cairo. Security forces have shot not only tear gas and rubber bullets, but bird shot and live ammunition at protesters throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails.

Monday, November 21, 2011

It has come to this: the Hillary moment for 2012

Secretary Clinton attends the 2011 APEC Forum. Photo shows Clinton at the CEO Summit in Honolulu, Hawaii on Nov. 11. State Dept Image/Scott Chernis.  

Would anyone at the Mile High Stadium in Denver in ’08, where the Democratic Party nominated Barack Obama against a backdrop of Greek pillars, have dreamed that 2012 might be Hillary’s moment?

The recommendation by Patrick Caddell and Douglas Schoen in the Wall Street Journal that Democrats replace Barack Obama with Hillary Clinton on the ticket in 2012 is startling in its bluntness:

When Harry Truman and Lyndon Johnson accepted the reality that they could not effectively govern the nation if they sought re-election to the White House, both men took the moral high ground and decided against running for a new term as president. President Obama is facing a similar reality—and he must reach the same conclusion. 

He should abandon his candidacy for re-election in favor of a clear alternative, one capable not only of saving the Democratic Party, but more important, of governing effectively and in a way that preserves the most important of the president's accomplishments. He should step aside for the one candidate who would become, by acclamation, the nominee of the Democratic Party: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. 

Never before has there been such an obvious potential successor—one who has been a loyal and effective member of the president's administration, who has the stature to take on the office, and who is the only leader capable of uniting the country around a bipartisan economic and foreign policy. 

Note: recall that Democratic leaders dissed Hillary in 08 for being “too polarizing.”

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sen. Kerry boasts of the willingness of Supercommittee Democrats to cut “entitlements”

Photo from Kerry's website.
Speaking of entitlements, Sen. Kerry, why doesn’t the supercommittee follow Rep.  Giffords’ advice and cut the salaries of members of Congress?

That would likely be too hard to pass, unlike slashes to Medicare and Social Security that both Democrats and Republicans are so fond of debating these days.

Guess it makes our congressional leaders seem courageous and bipartisan to go after society’s most vulnerable.

In a post by Bryan Tau at Politico, Kerry boasts of the willingness of the Democratic members of the Supercommittee to cut “entitlements”- note how Kerry's use of this derogatory term avoids mentioning specific safety net programs that benefit seniors and other low income folks.

Tau’s post concludes:

Democrats made an unprecedented offer to cut entitlements, and Republicans refused, Kerry said.

"We are not a tax-cutting committee. We're a deficit-reduction committee," Kerry said. "Everybody out there has said to us 'Go big. Do $4 trillion.' We Democrats put a $4 trillion deal on the table and it included huge, hard, tough, horrible reductions on the sacred cows and things that we have been accused of not being willing to do. We put it out there."

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Gaddafi’s son captured and held - not abused or murdered

Photo courtesy of

It would seem that a sufficient outcry was raised by civilized people in response to the barbaric treatment and murder of Muammar Gaddafi to shame the captors of his son into pursuing justice the other day instead of revenge. 

Reuters has the story:

Muammar Gaddafi's son Saif al-Islam has been captured, scared and with just a few thousand dollars, in the Libyan desert by fighters who vowed to hold him in the mountain town of Zintan until there was a government to hand him over to.

The fighters claimed his capture as gunfire and car horns expressed jubilation across Libya at the seizure of the British-educated 39-year-old who a year ago was set for a dynastic succession to rule the oil-producing desert state.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Gabrielle Giffords’ novel cost-cutting idea for the supercommittee

While the supercommittee continues to debate slashing Social Security and Medicare programs to get the federal deficit under control, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords initiated legislation last January that would cut the salaries of lawmakers for the first time since the Great Depression.

Politico reports:

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ aides, backed by 25 House members, have asked the supercommittee to cut lawmakers’ pay as the 12-member panel works to reach a deficit-reduction deal before its Thanksgiving deadline.

Giffords, who is recovering from an assassination attempt, first introduced legislation to slash congressional salaries in January. The Arizona Democrat has been in the news lately because her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, wrote a book about her ordeal.

In a letter to the supercommittee, the bipartisan group of lawmakers write that the cut should be made “both as a commonsense way to cut government spending and to send a powerful message to the American people that Congress should not be exept from the sacrifices it will take to balance the budget.”

Thursday, November 17, 2011

"In the pantheon of billionaires without shame..."

Update: Minutes ago, Reuters reported the Occupiers are swarming through the financial district.

Robert Scheer, editor of and author of “The Great American Stickup,” speaks out on NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg's decision to repress the free speech rights of OWS:

In the pantheon of billionaires without shame, Michael Bloomberg, the Wall Street banker-turned-business-press-lord-turned-mayor, is now secure at the top. What is so offensive is that someone who abetted Wall Street greed, and benefited as much as anyone from it, has no compunction about ruthlessly repressing those who dare exercise their constitutional "right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances" that he helped to create.

You would think that a former partner at the investment bank Solomon Brothers, which originated mortgage-backed securities, a man who then partnered with Merrill Lynch in the high-speed computerized trading that has led to so much financial manipulation, would have some sense of his own culpability. Or at least that someone whose Wall Street career left him with a net worth of $19.5 billion would grasp the deep irony of his being the instrument for smashing Occupy Wall Street, the internationally acknowledged symbol of opposition to corporate avarice.

Monday, November 14, 2011

“Washington still channels Reaganomics”

A Tea Party sign: image courtesy of

Jeffrey D. Sachs, the director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and the author, most recently, of “The Price of Civilization: Reawakening American Virtue and Prosperity,” suggests in his op-ed at the NY Times that the Occupiers might be the nucleus for a new progressive movement. 

And we do need a new one. 

I’m not sure I share Sachs’ optimism, but I’m inclined to trust the judgment of someone who gets the reality that “Both parties have joined in crippling the government in response to the demands of their wealthy campaign contributors …”

Sachs begins on this note:

 OCCUPY WALL STREET and its allied movements around the country are more than a walk in the park. They are most likely the start of a new era in America. Historians have noted that American politics moves in long swings. We are at the end of the 30-year Reagan era, a period that has culminated in soaring income for the top 1 percent and crushing unemployment or income stagnation for much of the rest. The overarching challenge of the coming years is to restore prosperity and power for the 99 percent.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Preserving the Earth for our children and grandchildren

A gathering of grandchildren at a recent family reunion.

Reading Naomi Klein’s article on “Capitalism vs. the Climate” at the Nation reminded me of the many children and grandchildren present at a family reunion I attended a couple of years ago. With the welfare of our children, grandchildren, and all of life in mind, sensible people need to rise up and support the safety of this blue and green planet against the assault of anti-environmentalists.

You may not agree with everything Klein has to say in her critique of the views from both the left and the right on environmental concerns, but she deserves a hearing. Her thought-provoking article begins with a report from the Heartland Institute’s Sixth International Conference on Climate Change:

There is a question from a gentleman in the fourth row.

He introduces himself as Richard Rothschild. He tells the crowd that he ran for county commissioner in Maryland’s Carroll County because he had come to the conclusion that policies to combat global warming were actually “an attack on middle-class American capitalism.” His question for the panelists, gathered in a Washington, DC, Marriott Hotel in late June, is this: “To what extent is this entire movement simply a green Trojan horse, whose belly is full with red Marxist socioeconomic doctrine?”

Here at the Heartland Institute’s Sixth International Conference on Climate Change, the premier gathering for those dedicated to denying the overwhelming scientific consensus that human activity is warming the planet, this qualifies as a rhetorical question. Like asking a meeting of German central bankers if Greeks are untrustworthy. Still, the panelists aren’t going to pass up an opportunity to tell the questioner just how right he is.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

America’s role in returning civilization to the era of the ancient Hammurabi Code

Viktor Bout extradited to the United States aboard a Drug Enforcement Administration plane on Nov. 16, 2010. Photo by Drug Enforcement Administration (in the public domain).

The NY Times notes that Andrew Feinstein, a former member of the South African Parliament, is the author of “The Shadow World: Inside the Global Arms Trade.” The Times fittingly published Feinstein’s op-ed about corruption in the world arms trade on Veterans Day 2011.

As I read this piece, I wondered how long it would take before the likes of Victor Bout, the “Merchant of Death,” would be marketing worldwide the means for manufacturing Predator Drones, if not the actual missile-firing, unmanned air vehicles.

I’m speaking here of the same UAVs that destroyed the convoy in Libya mistakenly believed to be transporting Gaddafi, who was later found in a sewage pipe by rebels. According to videos, his captors brutally beat and humiliated their man before executing him.

Make no mistake, since 9/11 the U.S. has actively participated in returning world civilization to ca. 1780 B.C., the era of the Hammurabi Code, a Babylonian law code that defines justice as “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.”

Take a look at Feinstein’s op-ed and see if it doesn’t give you chills:

LAST week’s conviction of Viktor Bout, the so-called Merchant of Death, was a rare moment of triumph in the fight against the illicit arms trade.

But it points to the fundamental hypocrisy at the heart of the global trade in weapons: Governments protect corrupt and dangerous arms dealers as long as they need them and then throw them behind bars when they are no longer useful.

Arms deals stretch across a continuum of legality and ethics from the formal trade to the gray and black markets. In practice, the boundaries between the three markets are fuzzy.
With bribery and corruption de rigueur — a Transparency International study estimated that the arms trade accounted for almost 40 percent of corruption in all global trade — there are very few arms transactions that do not involve illegality, most often through middlemen, agents or dealers like Mr. Bout.

Mr. Bout made fortunes providing “transport and logistical” services — an oft-used euphemism favored by arms dealers — to conflict zones around the world on behalf of governments, the United Nations, large listed companies and myriad covert operators.
His clients included, among others, the Liberian dictator Charles Taylor, the Northern Alliance and then the Taliban in Afghanistan, a number of the protagonists in the Balkans, the Angolan government and its mortal enemy the Unita rebel movement, and all sides in the complex conflict that continues to rage in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Arianna Huffington’s views on women and power (video)

Photo courtesy of
Listening to Arianna Huffington’s views on women and power in her interview with Pat Mitchell below, one is reminded of the Huffington Post’s treatment of Hillary Clinton in 2008 as it zealously amplified the charges against her of being “ambitious,” “driven,” “ruthless,” etc. 

It would seem that Arianna’s consciousness has been raised since then?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Karl Rove vs. Elizabeth Warren


Well, friends, it appears that Elizabth Warren has frightened Karl Rove and his band into an all out attack.  It’s time for Democrats across the nation to get behind Elizabeth in return for her tireless efforts on our behalf. The Warren campaign has issued a call to action in the letter below:


I just watched the ridiculous Crossroads GPS attack ad I told you was coming last night, and it's classic Karl Rove -- full of distortions and inaccuracies.
And frankly, it really ticked me off.

Rove and his Wall Street billionaire buddies have joined together to attack Elizabeth because she stood up to them. She's spent years fighting for the middle class and trying to get accountability for those who broke our economy one lousy mortgage at a time, and they know what they'll be in for if she wins.

That's why they're pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into TV attack ads against Elizabeth all across Massachusetts. And we're not going to sit back and take it.
We want to hit the airwaves with our own positive message about Elizabeth, so that the people of Massachusetts know the truth. But we need your help to do it.

We must respond. We need thousands of people out there telling their friends and family how hard Elizabeth has fought against Wall Street and against people like Rove in the past.
And we also need to make sure the people of Massachusetts hear directly from Elizabeth -- not Karl Rove. And we need your help to do that, right away.

Thanks for standing with Elizabeth at this critical time,
Mindy Myers
Campaign Manager
Elizabeth for MA

Protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

An endangered species.

Dear Katalusis readers,

We must continue our efforts to protect our beautiful world by protesting human thoughtlessness and greed.

I just signed a letter asking the Obama administration to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The Arctic Refuge’s Coastal Plain, where polar bears den and raise their cubs, and the 100,000-member Porcupine caribou herd migrates and calves, is a truly unique, wild place. It’s also an area that has been in Big Oil’s sights for decades. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service could offer a recommendation for true wilderness-level protection to the Coastal Plain for the first time in history– we need to be sure they include that recommendation in their 15-year management plan’s final draft.

Will you join me and sign the letter to the Obama administration, asking them to protect the Arctic Refuge's Coastal Plain? You can sign here -- it only takes a minute:

Thank you,


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Gabrielle Giffords on the cover of People Magazine

Isn't the miraculous Gabrielle Giffords lovely as she stands encircled in the arms of her husband Mark Kelly?

Something to think about: "Obama as Roman emperor"

Shephard Fairey’s Obama poster.

As I’ve mentioned previously, I stayed home from my liberal church fellowship’s Sunday service the day the sermon title was “The Obama Era,” which brought to mind associations with kings, pharaohs, and emperors. 

My sense of the idolatry fostered in the campaign of the inexperienced Barack Obama is well captured in this opinion piece by Jack Carlson that I stumbled upon this morning while scanning online news coverage. Titled, Obama as Roman emperor -- the rise and fall of the propaganda master, the piece was published in October, 2010 (prior to the midterm rout of Democratic candidates) in the Christian Science Monitor, but it’s message has become increasingly relevant since then:

Two years ago, Democrats were clamoring to ride in on Barack Obama’s coat tails. Proximity to the Obama persona was a prized political asset.

Today, amid dim presidential polling numbers, anxious Democrats are keeping their distance. Some, like Rep. Chet Edwards of Texas, have even used campaign ads to tout their defiance of Mr. Obama’s agenda.

To understand Obama's fall, we must understand his rise; and to do that, we must look to ancient history. It was neither for his resume nor his policies that America fell in love with him. In fact, Obama's policy priorities have turned out to be quite unpopular.
It was instead by following the lead of Rome's greatest emperors that Obama won (temporarily) America's awe and devotion. This sort of ruler cult begins to crumble, of course, when the ruler is required to make decisions and take positions under unprecedented media scrutiny.

In the art of self-promotion through images, Obama's closest parallels lived long before the age of YouTube and the 24-hour news cycle. Rome's first emperor, Augustus (63 BC – AD 14), was a master of manipulating what “mass media” there was. Through the propagation of carefully crafted, semi-divine portrait types, vague but appealing buzzwords, and abstract association with heroes of the past, Augustus and his successors won the public's support.

Augustus' fixed “portrait-type” was disseminated and recreated for public consumption across the empire in the form of statues, coins, and other artworks. Archaeologist Paul Zanker's “Power of Images in the Age of Augustus” describes this contrived likeness as “a calm, elevated expression” marked by “a timeless and remote dignity” – not unlike the blue-and-red portrait type designed for Obama by guerrilla-marketer Shepard Fairey.
This latter icon is seared into the mind of every American. Like Augustus' portrait, the image's omnipresence seemed to translate naturally into prestige and authority. But this process is not automatic: The image's success was dependent on our own, Western tradition of ruler cult, which dates back at least as far as Alexander the Great.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Schooling Elizabeth Warren’s attackers on the meaning of hypocrisy

Elizabeth Warren faces down Tea Party heckler. Photo courtesy of

Jason Linkins takes on both media dullards who amplify the "stupid" attacks on Elizabeth Warren and the panic-stricken conservatives who make them. Linkins nails it with this one:

If you're trying to keep up with the themes that underpin the GOP attacks on Elizabeth Warren, well, good luck to you. Way back when, her affiliation with Harvard got her branded an elitist. More recently, her support for the Occupy Wall Street movement branded her a dyed-in-the-wool socialist and middle-class rabblerouser. But now, her opponents are back pursuing the elitist angle, trying to drive a wedge between her and the Occupying 99 percent by pointing out that she's too good at capitalism to represent the poor. Some of these people yammered this critique to Politico, and their words were scribbled down like so:

Elizabeth Warren may have embraced the Occupy Wall Street movement and the "99 percent" crowd, but public records reveal the liberal firebrand belongs to the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans. 

Her financial well-being will likely hand conservatives a new line of attack against the consumer advocate and Democratic Senate hopeful in Massachusetts who has fired up the left and was labeled by one columnist as "the first candidate of the Occupy Wall Street movement."

"I don't begrudge her own personal wealth. I begrudge her hypocrisy of trying to play the demagogue against those who have achieved and who have created wealth," said Rick Manning of the conservative group Americans for Limited Government.

Lots of people -- like Steve Benen, Greg Sargent, and Paul Krugman (who is also very well-off, and yet no one perceives him as a latter day robber baron) -- have pointed out that this is not what hypocrisy means. Warren would be a hypocrite if she pandered to the 99 percent while advocating policies that harmed their economic interests. But she doesn't do that. The policies she advocates involve creating a fairer environment for consumers who participate in the capitalist system. Her bread-and-butter issues involve things like making mortgage agreements more transparent, ridding credit card contracts of their "tricks and traps," and responding more forcefully to the fraud and abuse that's found throughout the banking industry. (Ordinary people would likely be all the more successful at accruing and maintaining wealth if Warren had her way, actually.)

It's not hypocritical for a rich person to seek to end income inequality. What I think Rick Manning is trying to say is that Warren is, in his estimation, a traitor to the moneyed class, and he'd rather that she shut up and went away.

Bill Moyers speaks out: "How Wall Street occupied America"

This article by the venerable Bill Moyers at the Nation is a must read for anyone concerned about our corporate-driven government and economic system. It’s enough to startle even the most cynical among us, and Moyers doesn’t back off from either the “hypocritical” Obama Administration or our bought and paid for congressional leaders:

Moyers begins:

During the prairie revolt that swept the Great Plains in 1890, populist orator Mary Elizabeth Lease exclaimed, “Wall Street owns the country…. Money rules…. Our laws are the output of a system which clothes rascals in robes and honesty in rags. The [political] parties lie to us and the political speakers mislead us.”

She should see us now. John Boehner calls on the bankers, holds out his cup and offers them total obeisance from the House majority if only they fill it. Barack Obama criticizes bankers as “fat cats,” then invites them to dine at a pricey New York restaurant where the tasting menu runs to $195 a person.

That’s now the norm, and they get away with it. The president has raised more money from employees of banks, hedge funds and private equity managers than any Republican candidate, including Mitt Romney. Inch by inch he has conceded ground to them while espousing populist rhetoric that his very actions betray.

The Penn State Scandal: What! A nice guy like that?!

Image courtesy of

Frank Bruni’s article at the NY Times offers a painful reminder of the vulnerability of young children to sexual predators.  Bruni zeroes in on the recent scandal at Penn State University, which he links to similar widespread and prolonged abuse of young boys in the church, Boy Scouts, and other supposedly safe venues. 

But if we simultaneously hold in our minds the fact that “1 out of 3 women around the world has been beaten, coerced into sex, or other otherwise abused during her lifetime,” we must face the reality that we can’t take for granted the safety of children of either gender – anywhere.

In the Molester Next Door, Bruni writes:

The longest, most exhaustively researched article I ever wrote for a newspaper or magazine was about a child molester who had sexually abused a little boy living down the street. The abuse went on for more than two years, beginning when the boy was 10.

The arrest on Saturday of a former Penn State University assistant football coach — who is accused of sexually abusing eight pre-adolescent, adolescent and teenage boys — brought this all back to me. I wonder if people who know the coach and saw him working with kids will comment on how genuinely nurturing he seemed and how this surely prevented or discouraged suspicions about him.

Monday, November 7, 2011

When the open road beckons

I’ve been a city dweller – mostly in the suburbs - for some 30 years, but I grew up in the country, and my two children were raised in a small town in southeastern Minn. Every so often, I feel a powerful need to see a distant horizon and a wide expanse of sky. Yesterday, I packed a light lunch, gassed up at Super  America where I bought a cup of coffee to go, and set out on Highway 95 south and then took 61 downriver for a while before connecting with Highway 60 and cutting west. Eventually, I angled back to Dodge County where we used to live.

There’s something relaxing about an open road, especially on a Sunday in early November when the riotous colors of fall leaves have faded, and cylindrical hay bales cast shadows on sunlit fields. It makes a difference, too, on the day when daylight savings time ends, and you set out in early afternoon and by the time you head back the sun is setting above that grove of trees on your left.

Minnesota classical radio was in tune with the season, and I enjoyed symphonic accompaniment on my day trip. How easily I forgot on my mini-vacation the travails of government and politics, the economic crisis, and the periodic outbursts of violence in our nation and around the world.

Sampling peace once in a while is good for the soul and helps prepare one to face everyday reality with a calm spirit and clarity of mind.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Giffords and Kelly book: touching, inspirational, with a touch of humor

The memoir co-authored by Astronaut Mark Kelly and Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is touching, inspirational, with a touch of humor, but it unavoidably reminds one of the increasing strain of violence in  American culture, visible both at home and abroad

Gifford’s memory of being “shocked” and “scared” after taking a bullet in the head in Arizona could describe any sane person’s response to the path Americans seem to be taking in the 21st century. The review of the Kelly-Giffords book at Politico mentions other losses the couple shared:

Kelly writes that he tried to tell Giffords what happened during the attack multiple times, but she did not understand the situation until several months later on March 12. At that time, the AP writes, Kelly asked Giffords if she recalled being shot, and she said she did.

Giffords said three words when he asked what she remembered about it: “Shot. Shocked. Scary.”

She found out about the six who died the same day, the AP reported. Kelly was reading an article about her recovery and skipped a paragraph that discussed those who died on Jan. 8. Giffords realized he left a part out, and Kelly told her about the deaths.

Giffords was overwhelmed and had trouble with her therapy, the AP wrote, and later that night cried in bed with Kelly as she told her husband how awful she felt about those who had been killed.

She did not learn who died until six months later, however, the memoir reveals. After Giffords was released from the Houston hospital where she was recovering, she asked her husband to tell her who had died.

When Kelly first told her that her staffer, Gabe Zimmerman, had died, she broke down crying and moaning, the AP reported. Then he shared that her friend Judge John Roll also had been killed, before telling her about the four others who suffered fatal shots in the shooting spree.

The book details other personal tragedies experienced by Giffords and her husband. Giffords has lost 50 percent of her vision in both eyes, the AP wrote. And the two were trying to have a baby at the time of the shooting — Giffords had several rounds of fertility treatments over the years and wanted to be pregnant in 2011.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Bill Clinton’s new book: “Back to Work”

Scanning the online reviews this morning of Bill Clinton’s new book, “Back to Work,” I’m reminded first of all that it’s na├»ve to expect objectivity in the mainstream media and second of all, one ought not to rely on the judgment of critics in determining the merits of a new publication. Nevertheless, we can gain a little background information and a few insights from such treatises as Jodi Cantor’s piece at the NY Times: With a Book, the Last Democrat in the White House Tries to Help the Current One:

Last summer, as Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton celebrated the former president’s 65th birthday with a party at their rented Hamptons home, talk among their guests turned to President Obama’s travails over the debt crisis and doubts about his re-election. “I’m really trying to help him,” the white-haired former president said, shaking his head, “but he seems to have lost his narrative.”

Starting Tuesday, that help will take its most public form yet, in the form of a new book by Mr. Clinton, titled “Back to Work,” that makes a case for confidence in government and Mr. Obama’s jobs bill. The book marks a new and somewhat warmer stage in the two men’s rivalry and relationship, one that could benefit Mr. Obama. The awkward twist: the former president has been so frustrated at what he sees as the current one’s failure to explain his economic policies that he has literally decided to write his own version of the story. “He both sells it and wants them to sell it more,” said John Podesta, a former Clinton chief of staff who also advises the current administration.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Just say “No” to an Obama-Clinton ticket

State Department photo of Secretary Clinton by Abigail Veronneau

In a NY Times Magazine article yesterday in which he handicaps the 2012 election, Nate Silver concludes (emphasis mine):

With Perry having slumped in the polls, however, and Romney the more likely nominee, the odds tilt slightly toward Obama joining the list of one-termers. It is early, and almost no matter what, the election will be a losable one for Republicans. But Obama’s position is tenuous enough that it might not be a winnable one for him.

So it’s no wonder that fantasies continue to surface about replacing Biden with Clinton on the Democratic ticket. After all, the polls continue to show that Hillary is the most popular politician in the country.

I’m with Anita Finlay at the New Agenda:

I am sick to the nth power of having a multitude of professional pontificators muse about how Hillary can shore up the ticket, rescuing Obama from his sagging poll numbers and increasingly unpopular policies.

“Ani” continues:

Why is that her job? 

What does this say about women: They are not fit to hold the top office but are to be “used” in service, as scullery maids to help the man look better. She is only there to help him. To fix him. To bolster him. We’ll “use” her as we see fit.

This article is also particularly hilarious in its sexism by stating that:

Clinton is especially popular among young and Hispanic voters, and would allow Obama to break new ground by electing the first female vice president, he said.

So Obama is breaking new ground? How about the country breaking new ground by electing a qualified woman chief executive? Not a ceremonial second in command.
President Obama is not electing anyone. That is the job of the American people. Isn’t it interesting that this missive attempts to make an equal into someone subservient to Obama once again. Also a favorite pastime of the Obama WH boyz club, apparently.

The only new ground I saw broken when Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were vying for the Democratic nomination in 2008 was that misogyny was once again made cool. In newsrooms. In social media. On the street. The more qualified and stronger candidate was excoriated in favor of a less experienced, less knowledgeable, younger male.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Protecting our beautiful world

Dr. Mary Lundeberg photographing the banding of young
swans in northern Wisconsin

My good friends Global Volunteers Manager Julie Costa and Dr. Mary Lundeberg, professor, writer, and wildlife photographer, who have never met each other in person, connected the other day at Mary’s website, Nature Connections. Mary’s wildlife photography led Julie to exclaim, “What a beautiful world we live in!”

Soon after hearing from Julie, a message from Jamie Rappaport Clark at Wildlife Defenders hit my inbox, and I realized that if we don’t do something to stop Congress from making its planned “devastating cuts to wildlife conservation,” our world might soon cease to be so beautiful.

Check out Mary’s stunning photos at Nature Connections and then take action: join Wildlife Defenders’ emergency campaign to preserve and protect this beautiful world.

Defenders of Wildlife is a national, nonprofit membership organization dedicated to the protection of all native wild animals and plants in their natural communities.

Defenders of Wildlife can be contacted at:
1130 17th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20036

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Hillary Clinton’s mother, Dorothy Rodham dies at 92

Chelsea Clinton,  Hillary Clinton, and Dorothy Rodham in 2008. Photo courtesy of

The Clinton family's statement on Dorothy Rodham's death shortly after midnight today at the age of 92:

"Her story was a quintessentially American one, largely because she wrote it herself." She overcame abandonment and hardship as a young girl to become the remarkable woman she was -- a warm, generous and strong woman; an intellectual; a woman who told a great joke and always got the joke; an extraordinary friend and, most of all, a loving wife, mother and grandmother."