Friday, December 30, 2011

55 or better seniors keep fit with Jane Fonda (video)

Courtesy of
Well, here’s an encouraging clip from Jane Fonda’s new workout for those of us who are age 55 or better – working out is a great way to start the new year!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Name It Change It: media sexism in 2011

Image courtesy of Name It Change
I feel compelled to post this email from Name It Change It as 2011 comes to a close, and we face another presidential election year in which politicians and the media will no doubt continue their habitual sexist, misogynist ways. 

We can only hope that little by little we’ll be able to raise the consciousness of the few who may one day lead the nation toward equality for all.

Dear Virginia,

“Bit of a heifer,” “Dumb twat,” “Great masturbation material.”

These were just some of outrageous terms thrown at women in politics in 2011. Every year Name It. Change It. takes a step back to examine the full year of the media coverage of women candidates and elected officials. Sadly, in 2011 we found no limit to how demeaning or insulting some media outlets and personalities felt they could be towards women candidates. The Name It. Change It. project is about pointing out sheer misogyny disguised as mere criticism.

This year, like last, contained some real doozies. Newsweek, Bill Maher, Tracey Morgan, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, and of course Huffington Post.

We invite you to read our Year in Political Media Sexism coverage and also to get angry. This sexism is wrong and needs to stop. That’s why we need your help in calling it out.

    Sign up for our Action Alerts to stay informed when sexist attacks and remarks are made.

    See something sexist? Report it to Name It. Change It.

    Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

2012 unfortunately will bring a whole host of sexist attacks against women candidates as the election season heats up. And we need your help. Will you join us in fighting sexism?

--The Name It. Change It. Team

Name It. Change It. is a collaborative campaign between She Should Run, Women's Media Center, and Political Parity, Name It. Change It. works to end sexist and misogynistic coverage of women candidates by all members of the press

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Using women as the spoils of war

Photo of displaced Somali women courtesy of

It’s happened throughout history and Islamic extremists are not alone in their assumption that women are the spoils of war. 

American soldiers of various faith traditions have also been guilty of such crimes. But this front-page story at the NY Times on the plight of Somali women and girls now facing an “alarming increase in rape and sexual abuse” is painfully difficult to read. 

But read it we must and face the reality that being born female is still a nightmarish handicap throughout much of the world.

Jeffrey Gettleman reports:

MOGADISHU, Somalia — The girl’s voice dropped to a hush as she remembered the bright, sunny afternoon when she stepped out of her hut and saw her best friend buried in the sand, up to her neck.

“You’re next,” the Shabab warned the girl, a frail 17-year-old who was living with her brother in a squalid refugee camp. 

Several months later, the men came back. Five militants burst into her hut, pinned her down and gang-raped her, she said. They claimed to be on a jihad, or holy war, and any resistance was considered a crime against Islam, punishable by death. 

“I’ve had some very bad dreams about these men,” she said, having recently escaped the area they control. “I don’t know what religion they are.” 

Somalia has been steadily worn down by decades of conflict and chaos, its cities in ruins and its people starving. Just this year, tens of thousands have died from famine, with countless others cut down in relentless combat. Now Somalis face yet another widespread terror: an alarming increase in rapes and sexual abuse of women and girls. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

In 2016, Toward a Calmer, More Peaceful New Year

The venerable Thich Nhat Hanh. Photo courtesy of

Hi friends, I wish you a blessed New Year in 2016, and so it will be if Thich Nhah Hanh touches your life.

I just now enjoyed reviewing previous New Years posts here at Katalusis.  The photo and mention of Thich Nhat Hanh touched my heart today as he recovers from a serious stroke. Plum Village, Thay's retreat center, posted this update on his health recently:

Thay continues to enjoy peaceful and happy moments gazing at the Golden Gate Bridge and making outings to the botanical gardens and other beautiful scenic spots in San Francisco. With the support of a brace on his right leg, Thay has begun to put more weight through the right side of his body and is training to become gradually more independent in terms of balance and standing. He continues to practice walking every day, for several hours per day, with the support of his physiotherapist and monastic attendants, who are receiving expert guidance and training.

Read more at Plum Village:

Please find below my earlier post quoting Thay:

Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, has long been a powerful advocate for self-compassion. 

TNH advises us to embrace powerful emotions such as anger, jealousy, and addictive cravings instead of igniting a war within ourselves between what we perceive as our positive and negative feelings. 

Through this integrative process, we are better able to center ourselves and respond calmly to whatever arises in our daily lives.

As facilitator of my mindfulness meditation group today, I selected for our reading excerpts from TNH’s article in the Shambala Sun: “Thich Nhat Hanh on Loosening the Knots of Anger:”

To be happy, to me, is to suffer less. If we were not capable of transforming the pain within ourselves, happiness would not be possible.

Many people look for happiness outside themselves, but true happiness must come from inside of us. Our culture tells us that happiness comes from having a lot of money, a lot of power and a high position in society. But if you observe carefully, you will see that many rich and famous people are not happy. Many of them commit suicide.

The Buddha and the monks and nuns of his time did not own anything except their three robes and one bowl. But they were very happy, because they had something extremely precious: freedom.

According to the Buddha's teachings, the most basic condition for happiness is freedom. Here we do not mean political freedom, but freedom from the mental formations of anger, despair, jealousy and delusion. These mental formations are described by the Buddha as poisons. As long as these poisons are still in our heart, happiness can not be possible.

In order to be free from anger, we have to practice, whether we are Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu or Jewish. We cannot ask the Buddha, Jesus, God or Mohammed to take anger out of our hearts for us. There are concrete instructions on how to transform the craving, anger and confusion within us. If we follow these instructions and learn to take good care of our suffering, we can help others do the same.

The Knots of Anger

In our consciousness there are blocks of pain, anger and frustration called internal formations. They are also called knots because they tie us up and obstruct our freedom.

When someone insults us or does something unkind to us, an internal formation is created in our consciousness. If you don't know how to undo the internal knot and transform it, the knot will stay there for a long time. And the next time someone says something or does something to you of the same nature, that internal formation will grow stronger. As knots or blocks of pain in us, our internal formations have the power to push us, to dictate our behavior.

After a while, it becomes very difficult for us to transform, to undo the knots, and we cannot ease the constriction of this crystallized formation. The Sanskrit word for internal formation is samyojana. It means "to crystallize." Every one of us has internal formations that we need to take care of. With the practice of meditation we can undo these knots and experience transformation and healing.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

An interfaith holiday celebration



Dear Katalusis readers,

All is well in my household as I look forward to an interfaith celebration of Christmas and Hanakkah with family members this afternoon.

Last Christmas, reminding readers that my name is Virginia, I posted eight-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon’s letter to the editor of the NY Sun and that gentleman’s response in 1897 to her query about the existence of Santa Claus, reprinted below.

On Christmas day, 2011, I will add that although Santa Claus is normally associated with the celebration of Christmas, the spirit of giving is universal. It abounds among all faith traditions, including both Christians and Jews whose celebration of Hannakkah this year concludes the evening of Wednesday, Dec. 28th.

Dear Editor,

I am 8 years old.

Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, "If you see it in The Sun, it's so." Please tell me the truth: Is there a Santa Claus?

Virginia O'Hanlon
115 W. 95th St.

Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except (what) they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You may tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

 Merry Christmas and Happy Hanakkah, friends of Katalusis!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Introducing political leaders and their rabid supporters to basic communication skills

Secretary Clinton Meets With Daw Aung San Suu Kyi on Dec. 2, 2011, State Department photo, public domain. Although Hillary's job approval as secretary of state is 66%, she continues to be targeted online by rabid anonymous attackers.

In Feb. 2008, Dr. Stanley Fish, Davidson-Kahn Distinguished University Professor and a professor of law at Florida International University, in Miami, and dean emeritus of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago, addressed Hillary-hating in his NY Times column, “Think Again.” In his next column, he replied to the responses he received from readers:

The responses to my column on Hillary Clinton-hating have been both voluminous (the largest number in the brief history of “Think Again”) and fascinating. The majority of posters agreed with the characterization of the attacks on Senator Clinton as vicious and irrational, but in not a few posts the repudiation of Hillary-hatred is followed by more of the same. Lisa (No. 17) nicely exemplifies the pattern. She begins by saying “I agree that there is a rabid nature in the manner in which numerous conservative groups attack Hillary Clinton,”, but in the very next sentence she declares that “most of Hillary’s reputation is well earned” and then she spends nine paragraphs being rabid. A significant minority of posters skipped the ritual disavowal of hatred and went straight to the task of adding to it.

It seems that Hillary’s recent successes as America’s most admired woman, the most popular politician in the nation, and a 66% job approval as secretary of state – compared to Obama’s declining poll numbers - have incited more of the “vicious, irrational attacks,” noted by Dr. Fish in 08.

Hillary’s attackers at the Huffington Post, for example, stalk every mention of her on that huge website and even go to the Style page to spew their hateful sexist comments. When called to account, the haters defend their right to free speech, apparently having never realized that our constitution does not guarantee the right to slander those with whom one disagrees.

If there’s any hope for a more civil society, it lies with the efforts of today’s parents to teach their children mutually respectful communication skills, which are not to be discarded when posting anonymously at an online message board at websites like the Huffington Post.  

Julie Costa, volunteer manager for Global Volunteers, is wisely training her two young sons in the art of communication by giving each of them a green card and a blue card:

The Green Card

There's something I need to talk to you about. It’s super hard for me to bring this up to you, but I feel it’s important. While you’re holding this card, I’m asking you to really listen. When I take the card back from you, I’m ready for you to respond.

The Blue Card

I’m handing you this blue card because our conversation has turned ugly. When this card is presented, we are to take a break for five minutes to cool off. We may postpone this conversation for another time, but we agree the conversation will continue when we can speak more calmly about this topic. This card may be presented more than one time in a conversation.

Based on the steady decline of civil communication in our culture since 9/11 and the behavior of our dysfunctional congress the past year, it might be a good idea to give each of our elected officials the Costa family’s green card and blue card and provide them an introductory seminar on mutually respectful communication skills. Perhaps they could, in turn, serve as role models for their crazed supporters on both the left and the right?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Merry Christmas to middleclass tax payers and the unemployed

Photo courtesy of

It’s two days before Christmas and baking and decorating cookies to have on hand when the kids come for dinner on Sunday is more on my mind than the latest skirmish of our dysfunctional congress. I’m also concerned with finding time to prepare to lead my meditation group on Tuesday.

Still, I’m glad that those affected will continue to receive the payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance for the next two months – they can breathe a little easier this holiday weekend.

The NY Times editorial this Dec. 22 gives the win (with qualifications) to the Dems:

For a full year, House Republicans have replaced governing with confrontations that they allow to reach the brink of crisis, only then making extreme demands in exchange for a resolution. On Thursday, that strategy crumbled. Battered by public opinion and undermined by more reasonable Senate Republicans, the House’s leaders backed down and signed off on a deal to continue the payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance for two months.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Balancing the media’s worshipful coverage of the passing of Christopher Hitchens

Courtesy of

In the midst of the tidal wave of worshipful prose from around the web eulogizing the late Christopher Hitchens, I find myself recalling the man’s crude sexist attacks on world-renowned female leaders such as Mother Teresa and Hillary Clinton, not to mention his earlier slanderous assault on the entire Clinton family

Just to balance the media's glorified coverage of the drunken atheist’s death, I’m re-publishing my post of Nov. 25, 2008 titled Rebutting Christopher Hitchens’ Latest Vilification of Hillary and Bill Clinton:

Responding to Christopher Hitchens’ attack in his post at Slate on Hillary Clinton is an unwelcome distraction this morning from preparations for Thanksgiving dinner.

I’ve managed to ignore Hitchens over the years and actually had to review his background to remind myself where such a depraved distortion of Sen. Clinton’s character and qualifications for the position of secretary of state was coming from. A quick glance at his Wiki entry was all it took.

At Slate, Hitchens writes:

In matters of foreign policy, it has been proved time and again, the Clintons are devoted to no interest other than their own. A president absolutely has to know of his chief foreign-policy executive that he or she has no other agenda than the one he has set. Who can say with a straight face that this is true of a woman whose personal ambition is without limit; whose second loyalty is to an impeached and disbarred and discredited former president; and who is ready at any moment, and on government time, to take a wheedling call from either of her bulbous brothers? This is also the unscrupulous female who until recently was willing to play the race card on President-elect Obama and (in spite of her own complete want of any foreign-policy qualifications) to ridicule him for lacking what she only knew about by way of sordid backstairs dealing. What may look like wound-healing and magnanimity to some looks like foolhardiness and masochism to me.

Where to begin?

1. “The Clintons are devoted to no interest other than their own.”

Both Bill and Hillary Clinton are known throughout the world for their lifetime efforts on behalf of human rights.

Over the past eight years as a U.S. senator, Hillary Clinton has earned a reputation for her in-depth knowledge of the important issues facing our government, her dedication, her compassion for those in need, and for her ability to work across the aisle.

As for Bill, today the William Jefferson Clinton Foundation addresses climate change, HIV/Aids and Malaria, childhood obesity, sustainable development in Africa, and economic opportunity for all.

2. “A president absolutely has to know of his chief foreign-policy executive that he or she has no other agenda than the one he has set.”

Here again, we have a male chauvinist commentator assuming from the get-go that as secretary of state, Hillary Clinton will be assuming the role of a subservient, dutiful wife constrained from expressing her honest opinions and best judgment in fulfilling the responsibilities of her position.

3. “a woman whose personal ambition is without limit”

Why must we repeatedly remind chauvinists like Hitchens that only women continue to be criticized for being ambitious.

4. “This is also the unscrupulous female who until recently was willing to play the race card on President-elect Obama and (in spite of her own complete want of any foreign-policy qualifications) to ridicule him for lacking what she only knew about by way of sordid backstairs dealing.

Note how perniciously, Hitchens uses the word “female” to describe Sen. Clinton. Would he have pointed out the gender of a man he was attacking, as in “this is also the unscrupulous male?” I think not.

And just who was playing the race card, Mr. Hitchens? I recommend that Mr. Hitchens view the video of Obama’s national co-chair Jesse Jackson, Jr.’ s tirade against Sen. Clinton the day after she won the New Hampshire primary.

Time after time Princeton historian Sean Wilentz debunked the Obama camp’s egregious attempts to smear both Bill and Hillary Clinton as racists. In an op-ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Wilentz wrote:

‘“Obama's backers, including members of his official campaign staff, then played what might be called ‘the race-baiter card.’ Hillary Clinton, in crediting both Lyndon Johnson as well as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for the Civil Rights Act in 1964, had supposedly denigrated King, and by extension Obama. Allegedly, Bill Clinton had dismissed Obama's victory in South Carolina by comparing it to those of the Rev. Jesse Jackson in the 1980s. (In fact, their electoral totals were comparable — and in the interview at issue, Clinton complimented Obama on his performance ‘everywhere’ — a line the media usually omitted.)”’

When pinned down during the Las Vegas debate, Obama made clear – after most of the damage had been done – that along with the rest of the world, he was well aware the Clintons were not racists.

5. “What may look like wound-healing and magnanimity to some looks like foolhardiness and masochism to me.”

That could be due to your jaundiced, bigoted view of reality, Mr. Hitchens. As one who essentially hates women from the misogynous depths of your soulless being, you could not be expected to be aware of the fact that Hillary Clinton is already widely respected among the majority of world leaders.

Incidentally, it occurred to me the other day to imagine the roles were reversed and President-elect Clinton were attempting to find an appropriate slot in her administration for Barack Obama. With Obama’s thin resume, we have to immediately rule out the vice-presidency; an apprenticeship in the Chicago Daley machine and experience as a community organizer just doesn’t cut it. He has no background whatsoever in health care, economics, or any other domestic policy area. And as far as foreign policy goes, he went on a road trip abroad last summer to meet world leaders for the first time.

In response to Obama’s repeated attempts to justify his dearth of experience by identifying with Abraham Lincoln, a little reminder might be appropriate: the world is a lot more complex than when Honest Abe was president.

Neophyte Obama will indeed be fortunate to have the experienced Hillary Clinton on board as secretary of state.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Bill Clinton deserves the title of "first black American president" more than Obama does

L. Douglas Wilder, governor of Virginia from 1990 to 1994, was the nation’s first elected African-American governor. His piece at Politico yesterday compares Bill Clinton’s presidency to Obama’s in terms of benefits for blacks and concludes that under Clinton, blacks fared much better.

That conclusion unavoidably reminds us of the Obama campaign’s wildly false accusations of racism against Bill and Hillary Clinton in the 08 primary.  Despite the painful irony Wilder’s piece evokes, however, it’s well worth the read.

Referencing Toni Morrison’s comment that Clinton was "America’s first black president," Wilder writes:

Obama was elected in a flourish of promise that many in the African-American community believed would help not only to symbolize African-American progress since the Civil War and Civil Rights Acts but that his presidency would result in doors opening in the halls of power as had never been seen before by black America.

Has that happened? I am forced to say, “No” — especially when comparing Morrison’s metaphorical first black president to the actual first black president.

Think back on a small slice of merely the upper levels of the Clinton administration, and remember how many Cabinet agencies the Arkansan had named African-Americans to lead: Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy, Labor Secretary Alexis Herman, Commerce Secretary Ron Brown, Energy Secretary Hazel O’Leary, Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater, Veterans Affairs Secretary Jesse Brown, Army Secretary Togo West, who succeeded Brown at Veteran Affairs, Office and Management and Budget Director Franklin Raines and Director of National Drug Control Policy Lee Brown. Clinton also regularly cited Vernon Jordan as a respected adviser and strategist.

Clinton may not have been the nation’s first black president — but he did make appointments like he was. Obama would do well to look a little closer at the Clinton template.

Wilder continues:

By birth and life experience, Clinton cannot lay claim to the title of first black president — as Morrison knighted him. But Obama needs to work harder to make it less obvious that Clinton, in governing deed, actually deserves it more that the 44th president does.

Read the entire article here:

Sunday, December 11, 2011

What’s happening in the church these days?

Although a seminary graduate who left ordained ministry to pursue other work, I continue to be interested in matters affecting seminaries, churches, and the clergy, as well as broader theological issues.

I’ve been aware for some time of declining church membership, so this article titled Perspectives on the Young Clergy Crisis posted by Carol Howard Merritt in the Christian Century on Dec. 10 immediately caught my eye.

Merritt raises some good questions for all those who care about the life of the church in the postmodern era:

Since I’ve been chairing a national Presbyterian Church (USA) committee on the Nature of the Church for the 21st century, I’ve been gaining a different perspective on many of the larger trends of our denomination. One thing that has been difficult to realize (and equally difficult to communicate to the larger church) is the young clergy crisis.

Why would I call it a crisis? We’ve known for a long time about the startling decline of young clergy. The drop-out rates don't help (I can't find hard and fast stats on this... but some claim that about 70% of young clergy drop out within the first five years of ministry, usually because of lack of support or financial reasons). The average age of a pastor in the PCUSA is 53. And I’ve realized that the age of our leadership might be much higher. 

Over half of our congregations cannot afford a full-time pastor and many associate pastor positions were cut during the recent economic downturn. These are churches where seminary graduates would normally be heading, so what are the congregations doing instead? Many of them are hiring retired ministers or retired laypeople to serve these churches while our younger pastors remain unemployed.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Rove gang attacks Elizabeth Warren – again!

In her race for the senate in Mass., Elizabeth Warren isn’t wasting time responding to attacks from Karl Rove backed ads. She fires back immediately.

Watch Elizabeth take on her Wall Street-funded adversaries in the video below and go here to support her campaign:

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Elizabeth Warren surges past Scott Brown in latest poll

Joe Battenfeld at the Boston Herald reports on the latest Warren vs. Brown poll numbers:

Warren leads Brown by a 49-42 percent margin, outside the poll’s margin of error of plus or minus 5.3 percentage points. That number includes voters who say they are "leaning" for either candidate. But even without the "leaners," Warren still leads by a 46-41 percent margin, barely within the margin of error.

In the meantime, Warren is once again battling Republican attempts to dismantle the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Here’s your opportunity to stand with Elizabeth in holding Wall Street accountable (letter from Elizabeth excerpted below):

It has been more than three years since the greatest financial crisis since the Great Depression. It's long past time we stop just talking about accountability from Wall Street and the big banks that broke the system -- and start demanding it.

Washington must hold the big banks accountable for irresponsible and illegal actions, the point of an op-ed I published today in Politico. Real accountability won't be easy, but the first steps toward overcoming Wall Street's armies of lobbyists and making sure everyone follows the law are simple:

1. The Senate must confirm Richard Cordray as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

2. Our state Attorneys General and federal enforcement officials must investigate the illegal actions that broke the economy and, when evidence warrants, prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law.

3. Congress must stop the late-night budget tricks designed to weaken agencies responsible for enforcing the laws.

Will you join with me in signing on to these key ideas to ensure real Wall Street Accountability?

Thank you for joining me in this critical fight.
Elizabeth Warren

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Hillary defines leadership in her recent game-changing speech on International Human Rights Day (video)

In her recent speech in Geneva on the recognition of International Human Rights Day, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton not only defines leadership, she demonstrates it.  Reminding listeners of the immutable truth that "All persons are created free and equal in dignity and rights," she focuses on the rights of gay, lesbian, and transgender persons. Read the transcript here or watch the video below:

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Surprise: Wall Street backs Scott Brown; opposes Elizabeth Warren

Greg Sargent at the Plum Line (Washington Post) on Wall Street's support of Scott Brown:

Wall Street executives have been quite open about the fact that they really, really don’t want to see Elizabeth Warren get anywhere near the Senate. And it looks like they’re about to ratchet up their efforts to help Scott Brown prevent it from happening — including the influential U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The Center for Public Integrity reports today that Wall Street and K Street lobbyists are firing up the fundraising on behalf of Brown in a big way. The report quoted multiple big finance types saying Brown’s reelection campaign is crucial, and it noted — without sourcing — that the U.S. Chamber “will be engaged early and heavily in Massachusetts with ads.”

Well, it’s no wonder the 1 percent is up and arms. Watch this video from the Warren campaign:

If you want to help Elizabeth Warren keep the momentum going, go here.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Chelsea: “She’s smart, she’s charming, and she’s got the last name Clinton”

File:US Navy 110401-N-KD852-385 Chelsea Clinton, left, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and former U.S. President William Jefferson Clinton att.jpg. U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist John Lill/Released. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons,

In Amy Chozick’s article about Chelsea Clinton in the NY Times Fashion and Style section, Chelsea is referred to in passing as Bill and Hillary’s greatest achievement. I followed the Times’ front-page link to the article without noticing it was in the Fashion and Style section, and I’m glad I did because it turned out to be a substantive and interesting profile of Chelsea, who by the way, the accompanying photos reveal as a very stylish and attractive young woman.

Chozick writes:

OVER a series of casual dinners at neighborhood restaurants near her Flatiron District apartment in the spring, Chelsea Clinton began talking to a couple of longtime friends about something she’d been mulling for a while.

It was quite an assertion from someone who — despite the very public profile of her parents, one a former president and the other the current secretary of state — had lived most of her 31 years at a far remove from the spotlight. 

Yes, there had been sightings of Chelsea over the years, as she grew from a gangly, curly-haired teenager into the confident, stylishly dressed woman making the social scene in her adopted home, New York. And, yes, her marriage to Marc Mezvinsky landed the happy couple on the cover of People magazine — and then later on Page Six when rumors circulated that there might be marital problems. 

But for the most part, Ms. Clinton seemed determined to keep her private life strictly private, refusing to speak to the news media and requesting the same from her loyal inner circle. Now, however, talk turned to the notion that if she was going to face the downside of being the daughter of Bill and Hillary Clinton, under the constant scrutiny of the news media, why not also take advantage of the upside? 

Saturday, December 3, 2011

A Chicagoland friend’s scary evening

Cesar Sanchez
My friend, M., was on her way home in suburban southwest Chicago late yesterday afternoon when she returned my call on her cell phone. As we were speaking, a fleet of five police cars screamed past her vehicle. 

Only slightly rattled, M. assumed a traffic accident had occurred on the highway ahead of her, and we continued our conversation. She arrived home without passing any pileups, and we signed off.

A follow-up email message last night from my Chicagoland friend reported that a convict had escaped in her area; hence, all the police cars. M. heard on the news the escapee, Cesar Sanchez, was considered dangerous, and she went to bed concerned about her own safety as well as that of family members who live nearby.

Another email from M. this morning shared the news that Sanchez was caught hiding in a port-a-potty about a mile - far too close for comfort - from the home of her family.

The Chicago Sun Times (updated this morning) reported:

A convict being returned to prison escaped by jumping from a moving van Friday afternoon in southwest suburban Lockport — but he was caught late Friday, hiding in a port-a-potty near Joliet.

Cesar Sanchez, 37, was in a transport van being returned from the Cook County Courthouse in Bridgeview to the Stateville Correctional Center in Crest Hill. 

Illinois Department of Corrections spokeswoman Sharyn Elman said Sanchez was able to jump out of the van about 2:15 p.m. while it was near 159th Street and Farrell Road.
Police radio alerts indicate Sanchez injured his leg in the jump but was able to limp away.

Numerous police agencies were alerted to the escape, Elman said.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Hillary Clinton bonds with Myanmar’s Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meets Aung San Suu Kyi for dinner in Rangoon during her historic visit to Burma.  State Department photo by William Ng / Dec 01, 2011 .  

A wonderful story has come out of Myanmar, of all places.  Matthew Lee and Bradley Klapper report:

YANGON, Myanmar — Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was presented during a historic three-day visit to Myanmar with two distinct sides to life in the isolationist and authoritarian country: the planned city of monstrous government offices and palaces built by a brutal military regime, and the Southeast Asian metropolis famed for temples and monks, where Clinton met a soul mate in opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
Bidding for a dramatic advance of American influence in Asia, Clinton finished the visit Friday with a call for greater reform from a government long accustomed to iron-fisted rule. She invoked the promise of a new era of relations with the United States if the country also known as Burma delivered democratic change.

"The United States wants to be a partner with Burma," Clinton said Friday at Suu Kyi's home. "We want to work with you as you further democratization, as you release all political prisoners, as you begin the difficult but necessary process of ending the ethnic conflicts that have gone on far too long, as you hold elections that are free, fair, and credible."

If the immense but largely empty capital of Naypyidaw represented the harshness of the southeast Asian country's present, bustling Yangon offered glimpses of a brighter past – and possibly its future.

Lee and Klapper continue:

Finishing the first trip by a secretary of state to the nation in more than 50 years, Clinton and Suu Kyi held hands on the porch of the lakeside home where the Nobel peace laureate spent much of the past two decades under house arrest. Clinton thanked her for her "steadfast and very clear leadership."

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Warren pulls ahead of Brown in MA Senate race

Massachusetts is just one state, still there’s hope for the nation’s electorate when a centered, intelligent, gutsy woman like Elizabeth Warren can challenge an incumbent senator and on a platform of fighting for the middle class pull ahead this early in the race.

Warren is lighting up the 2012 election year with mega-wattage from the Bay State, and she’s doing it with support drawn primarily from women and people earning below $100,000 per year. Here’s the scoop:

Democrats' bet that former consumer finance watchdog Elizabeth Warren could take down Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) appears to be paying off, as a new poll suggests she is pulling ahead.

The survey by the University of Massachusetts at Amherst finds Warren leading Brown 43 percent to 39 percent -- just within the poll's 4.4 percent margin of error.

A plea for help from the Alaska Wilderness League

The Deepwater Horizon offshore oil drilling rig is engulfed in flames before eventually sinking. US  Coast Guard photo taken on Wed. April 21. Public domain.
The biggest threat to the global environment has to be the proliferation of nuclear power plants, think Fukushima, and the continued expansion of offshore drilling – remember the Gulf oil spill? In the meantime corporate greed delays development of readily available solar and wind power.

The Obama Administration is waffling again on offshore drilling. Read this letter I just received from the Alaska Wilderness League and take a minute to join me in voicing your protest:

Dear Virginia,

After last year’s BP Deepwater Horizon disaster, President Obama stood before the American people and promised safer, cleaner offshore drilling. But just a couple weeks ago, a draft plan for offshore oil and gas drilling in U.S. waters over the next five years was released by the Obama administration that includes potential drilling in America’s pristine and fragile Arctic Ocean - despite the fact that there’s no proven way to clean up a spill in the Arctic’s extreme, remote conditions. This rush to drill in America’s Arctic Ocean fails to meet President Obama’s promises. Instead, it looks a lot like the fast and loose decision making of the past.

Now, President Obama has asked for your input on his first offshore drilling program before it becomes final. When it comes to the Arctic, the president’s proposed draft plan can be only be characterized as business as usual – but there’s still time to make our voices heard. Speak out now and tell President Obama to keep Arctic drilling out of the final version.

Will you sign our letter asking President Obama to leave the Arctic out of the final offshore drilling program?

Drilling in the Arctic is extremely risky because of pervasive sea ice, 20-foot swells, hurricane-force winds, months-long darkness and more. The truth is that no technology exists to clean up a spill in these “Mission Impossible” conditions – and Coast Guard officials have described their response capability in the Arctic as “starting from zero.” A spill would devastate the many species that rely on the Arctic Ocean to survive - including polar bears, birds and whales, as well as the Inupiat people of Alaska’s Arctic coast

If President Obama rubber stamps this risky offshore Arctic drilling scheme, he could have the next major oil spill disaster, and the devastation of a marine ecosystem that is vital to health of our planet, on his hands. But if we all speak out together, we can make sure he hears our call for offshore drilling plan that meets his promises of safer, cleaner offshore drilling and doesn’t include risky Arctic drilling. The American people expect real change – not business as usual.

Will you speak out for polar bears and ask President Obama to leave the Arctic out of the final offshore drilling program?

Thanks for all you do.

Cindy Shogan
Executive Director
Alaska Wilderness League