Thursday, May 31, 2012

Elizabeth Warren: “Who I am”

With a big assist from the media – always eager to make something out of nothing – Sen. Scott Brown (R) and company have been doing their best to sabotage Elizabeth Warren’s campaign in the Mass. Senate race. The race is close, so apparently anything goes from the Republican side. 

The letter from Warren pasted below should put an end to the nonsense regarding her Native American heritage, but then she’s instilled a lot of fear in the 1 percent, so we can only hope. Clearly, Warren needs our help to overcome the Rovian tactics and monetary support that she’s up against. Let’s give her a hand:


When I was a little girl, I learned about my family's heritage the same way everyone else does -- from my parents and grandparents.
My mother, grandmother, and aunts were open about my family's Native American heritage, and I never had any reason to doubt them. 

What kid asks their grandparents for legal documentation to go along with their family stories? What kid asks their mother for proof in how she describes herself?

My heritage is a part of who I am -- and I am proud of it.

But that's not good enough for Scott Brown and the Republican Party. For several weeks now, they have orchestrated an attack against my family, my job qualifications, and my character. Earlier today, Scott Brown even questioned the honesty of my parents -- even though they are not fair game and are not here to defend themselves.

Scott Brown wants me to give up my family and forget where I came from. I'm not doing that -- not for politics and not for anything else. I'll hold on to every memory I can. My family is part of who I am, and they will be part of who I am until I die.

Despite evidence to the contrary, Scott Brown also claims I got special breaks because of my background. That's not true, and I need your help to fight back:
  • The people involved in recruiting and hiring me for my teaching jobs, including Harvard professor Charles Fried -- the solicitor-general under Ronald Reagan and a Scott Brown voter in 2010 -- have said unequivocally they were not aware of my heritage and that it played no role in my hiring.
  • I did not benefit from my heritage when applying to college or law school, and documents reporters have examined prove it.
  • I let people know about my Native American heritage in a national directory of law school personnel. At some point after they hired me, I also provided that information to the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard.
I decided to run for the U.S. Senate because the middle class in this country has been hacked at and hammered at and because Washington doesn't get it.

Scott Brown has a very different vision about who we are as a people, and he votes to make sure the levers of power in Washington continue to work for the big, the powerful and the wealthy.

If everyone in Massachusetts knew where Scott Brown stands on the important issues, voters wouldn't give him a second term in the U.S. Senate. You know that, I know that, and he knows that, too.

That's why he has worked so hard to make this campaign about anything else -- even my heritage. It's why his campaign spends so little time on what Massachusetts voters are really concerned about.

On Election Day, we will prevail because our vision is clearer and our ideas are stronger. We are focused on the issues important to middle class families, and our grassroots team will make sure everyone knows about those issues. I need your help to keep fighting the smears, spread the truth, and help us organize to win.

Thank you for being a part of this,


Help protect Alaska’s Western Arctic Reserve

Even in urban areas, a glimpse of wildlife enriches our oftentimes over-scheduled lives. While doing errands several days ago, I caught sight of a full-grown male mallard strolling around in a busy shopping center. I paused to marvel at his unexpected appearance and took a few pictures of him before he wisely flapped his wings and soared aloft.

That mallard reminded me of the importance of protecting wildlife wherever we can in our shrinking world. Alaska’s Western Arctic Reserve needs all the help we can muster, so please read and heed the message below:

Dear Virginia,

Alaska's Western Arctic Reserve is home to the nation's largest caribou herd, millions of migratory birds and America's remaining polar bears.

It's an amazing place with vast complexes of lakes, rivers and streams that empty into the Arctic Ocean -- and we need your help to protect the magnificent wildlife found there.

Take action now. Urge the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to provide maximum protection for the homes of polar bears, migratory birds and other wildlife living in the Western Arctic Reserve.

In 1923, the Western Arctic Reserve was set aside as an oil and gas reserve. Since that time, however, no oil development has occurred in the reserve and only sporadic exploration activity has affected the region.

Since the 1970s, the reserve -- the largest single unit of public lands in the U.S. -- has also been managed to protect the exceptional wildlife and habitat it contains.

The special areas within the reserve are key habitat for our struggling polar bears, important calving grounds for Alaska's largest herd of caribou and home to the largest concentration of brown bears in the Arctic.

Thousands of beluga whales feed and give birth off the shores of the Western Arctic Reserve. And its productive coastal wetlands provide millions of migrating birds with the habitat they need to survive.

The BLM is working on a new management plan for the entire reserve -- and we can help ensure that these amazing places are protected.

Urge federal officials to safeguard Alaska’s Western Arctic Reserve’s special places from harmful oil and gas exploration.

Unique areas like the fragile Teshekpuk Lake, the Utukok River Uplands and the Coleville River -- and the diverse wildlife that depends on them -- are especially sensitive to harmful development and cannot be replaced.

Please take action today -- the deadline for comments is Friday, June 15th.

Together, we can ensure a lasting future for our wildlife and our most special wild places.

Theresa Fiorino
Alaska Representative
Defenders of Wildlife

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A chilling commentary on Obama’s secret ‘kill list’

President Obama with National Security Adviser Donilon, (L) and top counterterrorism adviser Brennan. Pete Souza,  White House.

This thoughtful, objective NY Times article describes President Obama’s ruthless, take no prisoners approach to fighting terrorism; whereas, Hillary Clinton emerges several times as the voice of reason. Authors Jo Becker and Scott Shane write:

WASHINGTON — This was the enemy, served up in the latest chart from the intelligence agencies: 15 Qaeda suspects in Yemen with Western ties. The mug shots and brief biographies resembled a high school yearbook layout. Several were Americans. Two were teenagers, including a girl who looked even younger than her 17 years.  

President Obama, overseeing the regular Tuesday counterterrorism meeting of two dozen security officials in the White House Situation Room, took a moment to study the faces. It was Jan. 19, 2010, the end of a first year in office punctuated by terrorist plots and culminating in a brush with catastrophe over Detroit on Christmas Day, a reminder that a successful attack could derail his presidency. Yet he faced adversaries without uniforms, often indistinguishable from the civilians around them.

Becker and Shane continue:

They describe a paradoxical leader who shunned the legislative deal-making required to close the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba, but approves lethal action without hand-wringing. While he was adamant about narrowing the fight and improving relations with the Muslim world, he has followed the metastasizing enemy into new and dangerous lands. When he applies his lawyering skills to counterterrorism, it is usually to enable, not constrain, his ferocious campaign against Al Qaeda — even when it comes to killing an American cleric in Yemen, a decision that Mr. Obama told colleagues was “an easy one.”

Monday, May 28, 2012

Why don’t male veterans support President Obama?

Gallup’s headline for its recent poll of military veterans is misleading. Not all veterans - only male veterans - support Romney 58% to 34%. 

As a veteran of the U.S. Air Force (WAF), I was annoyed at having to read down a couple of paragraphs in Gallup’s report to find that women veterans support Obama 47 to 42.

Full disclosure: I served in the military for primarily one reason: I came from a poor family and hoped to attend college on the GI bill. 

Perhaps we should remind ourselves on Memorial Day that it is usually the poor who fight our wars. 

It was peacetime when I served, and I tuned out the “kill or be killed” indoctrination in basic. And I later took advantage of the education benefits to earn a BA degree.

Conventional wisdom has it that military personnel and veterans of the armed forces typically cultivate a macho culture. In that light, it’s puzzling that such a large percentage of the guys pick Romney over Obama, neither of whom has served in the armed forces. 

Surely, the Obama Administration has been more ruthless than the Bush Administration in its prosecution of war, incessant drone attacks - irregardless of civilian deaths - and take no prisoners strategy in dealing with terrorists.

On the other hand, although Obama’s attitude toward women can be condescending at times, he is more progressive on matters affecting women’s rights than Romney and company. Even so, women vets in this poll don’t give him much of a lead.

Read Gallup’s full report here:

Saturday, May 26, 2012

What you desperately need to know about Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren??!!

Yesterday I posted about the media’s classism and sexism in its coverage of the exalted Kennedy men while discounting lesser mortals like Bill Clinton and Mary Richardson Kennedy.

Today, Michael Tomasky at the Daily Beast notes the media’s magnification of supposed sins of public figures like Bill Clinton and Elizabeth Warren as readers of esteemed journals, e.g., the Boston Globe, yawn while pitching their papers into recycling bins.

Tomasky writes:

So now Elizabeth Warren has to prove that she’s 1/32nd Cherokee? The temperature on the story is rising. There was a huge article in the Boston Globe on Friday written to raise a number of questions and suggest that Warren used the minority designation to get her job, or get ahead—exactly at the same time that a poll was released (PDF) showing that 69 percent of Bay State voters don’t consider her heritage to be a “significant” story. It reminds me of nothing so much as Monica Lewinsky, and of the media’s need sometimes to get a grip.

Why Lewinsky? The situations are in fact almost precisely the same. You had then a press pack that had decided that whether Bill Clinton was telling the truth about Monica was a question on which the fate of the republic hinged. The press became self-righteously consumed with its search for The Truth. Meanwhile, outside the Beltway, and outside of Wingnuttia (it existed then, just at about half of its current GDP), nobody cared what the truth was. The media kept producing revelations; surely, now, swore Maureen Dowd and Michael Kelly, America will see this man for the reprobate he is! America looked, yawned, told the press to start acting like grownups, and continued to approve of the job Clinton was doing as president at rates near 70 percent and to oppose impeachment at similar levels.

The appearance Thursday morning of this Suffolk University poll (linked to above) made me think: Well, this story line is about to wrap up. If more than two-thirds of voters don’t care, then that’s that. But no—still going strong! And now it’s not the loopy, right-wing, and pro-Brown Herald, which pushed the story first, but the Globe trying to play catch up. Yes, yes, it’s all in the public interest. What, you say, the public says it isn’t interested? Well, we’ll teach them what’s in their interest!

Friday, May 25, 2012

The media’s cruel distortion of the life of Mary Richardson Kennedy

Mary Richardson Kennedy.

In its coverage of the Kennedy clan over the years, the mainstream media has been guilty of both classism and sexism.

One has to marvel at the free pass consistently awarded the philandering Kennedy men; whereas, lesser mortals, e.g., Bill Clinton, not blessed with the pseudo royal heritage of the Kennedys, are continuously vilified.

In the aftermath of Mary Richardson Kennedy’s death, Edee Lemonier discusses at the New Agenda the sexism in the media’s coverage of the women so unfortunate as to have been a part of the Kennedy clan at one time or another.

 Lemonier writes:

Mary Richardson Kennedy, environmentalist, architect, and mother, has passed away at age 52. Mary was a pioneer in the green architecture movement, was a co-founder of the Food Allergy Initiative, and was active with the Boys & Girls Club. She was also a highly intelligent, funny, fiercely loyal friend, and was naturally gifted at fundraising for good causes. She is survived by her estranged husband, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., their four children, ages eleven to seventeen, and six siblings. She was loved by many, and will be greatly missed.

What if that had been the announcement of Mary Kennedy’s death, instead of all the articles detailing some of the darker moments of her life? A lot has been written about her recently, and the information being disseminated immediately following her death seems intended to invite speculation both about how she lived and how she died. She has been painted as a drug-addled drunk who abused drugs and alcohol to cope first with being a Kennedy, then to cope with no longer being one. In true tabloid-style journalism, the writers are juxtaposing her depression with details of RFK, Jr.’s relationship with an actress, as if to fuel rumors that Mary Kennedy was unable realize her marriage was over, further causing the kind of mental instability that would lead to suicide.

Why did media outlets choose to highlight the sadness, instead of her accomplishments? And why did it take her siblings and her attorney coming forward to see a shift – albeit a very slight one – in what is being written about her?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Barnard College colludes with Obama in his condescension toward women

CNN's Campbell Brown moderated an Obama-Clinton debate in 08.

Anita Finlay at the New Agenda offers a thoughtful response to Campbell Brown’s recent NY Times editorial on Barack Obama’s condescension toward women:

A surprising NY Times editorial from former CNN news anchor Campbell Brown entitled Obama: Stop Condescending to Women appeared on Sunday lamenting President Obama’s “paternalistic” demeanor while addressing Barnard’s all female graduating class. Ms. Brown is correct that in offering effusive and, she says, “fake praise,” it is no more than a cliché to state that ‘women are smarter than men’:

“[T]o suggest to women that they deserve dominance instead of equality is at best a cheap applause line.”

Later on, Finlay rightfully calls out Barnard College for its collusion with Obama in his attitude toward women:

It is both ironic and insulting that while the President tells women to “fight for a seat at the table,” he simultaneously nixed and replaced Barnard’s original female commencement speaker, Jill Abramson, the first female Executive Editor of the NY Times. He did so without so much as a backward glance. A woman who fought for and won a seat at the table, was at the last minute told to step aside so that the President could generate a photo op in front of a female audience in an attempt to firm up poll numbers that have somewhat sagged of late. We are not expected to dwell on this mixed message, but if we do not, we are merely abetting the problem.

Read Finlay’s entire piece here.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Nation endorses Tom Barrett for governor of Wisconsin

Tom Barrett
Got this note from Peter Rothberg at The Nation the other day regarding the upcoming Wisconsin recall election pitting Gov. Scott Walker against Milwaukee mayor Tom Barret:

Dear Nation reader,

      If Scott Walker and his allies are recalled from office in Wisconsin on June 5, the results will be seen across the country as a rejection of the idea that cutting taxes for the rich while attacking unions and slashing services will somehow spur job growth.

That's why The Nation is endorsing Tom Barrett for Governor of Wisconsin.

A candidate whom Russell Feingold hails as “a lifelong progressive [who] stood with me in voting against the deregulation that led to the Wall Street crash, opposing the Patriot Act and reforming our system of campaign finance,” Barrett is well-known for getting people to work together, keeping lines of communication open and uniting disparate interests.

Find out how to support and join Barrett's campaign today.

All best,
Peter Rothberg, The Nation

Monday, May 14, 2012

Superhero Elizabeth Warren rises up against Jamie Dimon

Superhero Elizabeth Warren.
I enjoyed seeing Marvel’s Avengers with my son and daughter-in-law yesterday afternoon. I was unfamiliar with all the superheroes in the film, but soon caught on to the plot and appreciated the pervasive humor. My favorite scene showed the Hulk taking out the “puny God” Loki, who was behind all of the evil doings.

Scanning the online news coverage this Monday morning, it occurred to me that America has a superhero in real life – her name is Elizabeth Warren. Warren has been effectively challenging Wall Street – the villain behind the Great Recession - and she just rose up against JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon:

Elizabeth Warren called on JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon to resign from his post on the Federal Reserve Bank of New York's board, citing the need for "responsibility and accountability" in the financial industry. 

Dimon, who disclosed a $2 billion loss by the banking giant last week, should "send a signal to the American people that Wall Street bankers get it and to show that they understand the need for responsibility and accountability," Warren said in a statement following Dimon's Sunday appearance on "Meet the Press."

Sunday, May 13, 2012

From Elizabeth Warren’s daughter on Mother’s Day

Mother, daughter, and grandson.
Just got this very moving email from Elizabeth Warren’s daughter:


You know those long family reunions, where people you barely know trap you with endless stories and bear hugs? Well, my mom loves them. Really.

She's always hatching the next plan to assemble the whole clan. Brothers, grandkids, cousins -- even the second cousins and cousins once removed (and she's the only person I know who can tell the difference). Grilling hamburgers, sipping a beer and swapping story after story after story.

She's never missed a Halloween, or a soccer game, or a birthday. My mom is a family woman, down to her cake-battered sneakers.
Not just in the good times. When her mother died, Mom called her Daddy every single day, often two or three times a day, no matter how busy she was. She called to share a funny little story, or just to check in. She thought it would be just a few weeks to see him through the worst of the grief. But then weeks turned into months, and still she called, 7 days a week. In the end it was more than 2 years, until the grief -- and the cancer -- finally took him.

She talks a lot about her 3 grandkids, but she doesn't talk much about the days when it looked like Grandbaby #3 wasn't going to make it. I was just 20 weeks pregnant when I went into labor, and the doctor thought it was the end. I was put on strict bed rest, and then we started counting the days.

Back at home, I had two older daughters, and they needed a mother who wasn't lying around all day. My Mom came right away to help, and she never missed a beat. She cooked mac n' cheese, drove to swim lessons, and read the bedtime story.

During that time President Obama asked her to launch the new Consumer Protection Bureau. I'm not sure if the White House ever knew what was going on in our home -- I kind of doubt it -- but there was many a phone conversation that went something like, "Just a moment, Mr. Axelrod, I need to take a hot dog out of the toaster."

In the end, Grandbaby #3 held on. Atticus made it to full term, chubby, with a full head of black hair. And his Gammy came to town to cheer him into the world.

When Mom decided to run for Senate, her only real fear was what it would do to her family. Would we get hurt somehow? Would she miss out on too much?

So this is my chance to say: We're behind you all the way. Happy Mother's Day! I love you, Mom!


Barack Obama’s mother

Stanley Ann Dunham, holding her son, Barack Obama.

On this Mother’s Day, I’m looking forward to a movie and dinner with my son and daughter-in-law. In the meantime, I came across this insightful article by David Maraniss in the Washington Post about Barack Obama’s mother, Stanley Ann Dunham.


Barack Obama’s mother died on Nov. 7, 1995, a few weeks before her 53rd birthday. She was less than two years older than the president is now. Her death from uterine cancer came between two key events in her son’s life. Four months earlier “Dreams From My Father” had been published; it seemed destined to drown unnoticed in the deep ocean of books. One year later Obama won his first election, to the Illinois state Senate, the initial stop on his swift journey to the White House that, along the way, brought a mass audience to that forgotten memoir, which in its best-selling revival defined his political image and provided him with lifelong financial security.

The title of the book was at once understandable and misleading. Obama barely knew his father except in dreams, or nightmares. He spent time with the old man only once, when he was 10, for an unsatisfying month. It is harsh to say but nonetheless likely that Barack Obama II was lucky never to have lived with Barack Obama Sr., an abusive alcoholic. By far the most influential figures in Obama’s early life were his mother and grandmother. He has some of the demeanor of his grandmother and the will and much of the outlook of his mother. “Dreams From My Mother” better evokes his life’s story.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

"Election 2012 media tactics," for thinking people only

Bill Moyers and Kathleen Hall Jamieson courtesy of Bill

At one point in his discussion with Kathleen Hall Jamieson on election 2012 media tactics, Bill Moyers says:

I'm going to get a lot of emails from my viewers saying, "Please don't have that woman again."


BILL MOYERS: "She's making me think too much. She makes my head hurt," because these are tough choices.

Well, perhaps our heads ought to hurt now and then, especially in an election year. And you have the opportunity to hear or read the entire discussion thanks to Bill

Our nation is moving through a dangerous period in our history and who we choose to lead us for the next four years actually does matter. So be brave and watch the video below or read the transcript. Afterward, annoy your family, friends, co-workers, etc. with all the tough questions raised.


BILL MOYERS: Welcome. The presidential campaign is off and running; off and running from one fundraiser to another. President Obama has already set a record: the "Financial Times" reports almost 200 events at which he’s rattled the tin cup, more than his four predecessors combined. He’s ahead overall – with $104 million the last time papers were filed with the Federal Election Commission. That’s ten times more than what Mitt Romney’s campaign had in the bank.

But Romney is the darling of the super PACs: Pro-Romney PACs have collected ten times as much from the friendly rich who prefer to give anonymously. And even when he’s the draw, you don’t see much of the candidate: At a New Jersey fundraiser the other day, Mitt Romney vacuumed up $400,000 in one hour at a private home while the press was safely cordoned off by police. No peeking allowed.
But while only a few people will actually see the candidates up close between now and November, we will be seeing the commercials that all that money is buying. They’re coming at us now fast and furious:

Read more:

Thursday, May 10, 2012

With a push from his VP, President Obama affirms gay marriage

Photo credits: Public Domain.

As one who has frequently criticized President Obama’s timidity in supporting causes that might anger the extreme Right, I applaud his publicly stated affirmation of gay marriage – even though Joe Biden likely forced his hand.

Adam Nagourney at the NY Times analyzes the potential impact of Obama’s evolved position on a still controversial issue:

President Obama’s endorsement of gay marriage on Wednesday was by any measure a watershed. A sitting United States president took sides in what many people consider the last civil rights movement, providing the most powerful evidence to date of how rapidly views are moving on an issue that was politically toxic just five years ago. 

Mr. Obama faces considerable risk in jumping into this debate, reluctantly or not, in the heat of what is expected to be a close election. The day before he announced his position, voters in North Carolina — a critical state for Mr. Obama and the site of the Democratic convention this summer — approved by a 20-point margin a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. It was the 31st state to pass such an amendment. 

As George W. Bush demonstrated in 2004, when his campaign engineered initiatives against gay marriage in a series of swing states, opponents are far more likely to vote on these issues than supporters. Mitt Romney, the probable Republican presidential candidate, was quick to proclaim his opposition to gay marriage after Mr. Obama spoke. And however much national attitudes may be shifting, the issue remains highly contentious among black and Latino voters, two groups central to Mr. Obama’s success. 

Yet as Mr. Obama has clearly come to recognize, the forces of history appear to be changing. The president was at risk of seeming politically timid and calculating, standing at the sidelines while a large number of Americans — including members of both parties — embraced gay marriage. That is a particularly discordant image, many Democrats said, for the man who was the nation’s first black president. 

Mr. Obama’s declaration may have been belated and unplanned, forced out after his vice president, Joseph R. Biden Jr., during a television interview on Sunday declared his support for same-sex marriage. Still, it is a huge voice added to a chorus that has become increasingly robust, a reminder that a view that had once been relegated to the dark sidelines of political debate has become mainstream. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Secretary Clinton stars in resolving Chen Guangcheng crisis in China

Dissident Chen Guangcheng in State Dept. photo.

I am pleased that we were able to facilitate Chen Guangcheng’s stay and departure from the U.S. Embassy in a way that reflected his choices and our values. I was glad to have the chance to speak with him today and to congratulate him on being reunited with his wife and children.

Mr. Chen has a number of understandings with the Chinese government about his future, including the opportunity to pursue higher education in a safe environment. Making these commitments a reality is the next crucial task. The United States Government and the American people are committed to remaining engaged with Mr. Chen and his family in the days, weeks, and years ahead. ---Secretary Clinton’s statement on the crisis on May 2, 2012.

According to an article in the NY Times, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton emerged as the star negotiator in the successful resolution of the crisis involving dissident Chen Guancheng. Clinton guided the negotiations in a manner that preserved the ties between the United States and China.

Writing for the Times, Steven Lee Meyers and Mark Landler report:

WASHINGTON — Over two days of meetings with China’s leaders in Beijing last week, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had not uttered a word about Chen Guangcheng as her aides arranged to transfer the blind Chinese dissident from the United States Embassy to a hospital, only to have the plan unexpectedly blow up. Then, last Friday, she finally broached the subject with China’s senior foreign policy official, Dai Bingguo.

The Chinese were furious. They considered Mrs. Clinton’s request a betrayal of American assurances made during 30 hours of talks. China had insisted on absolute secrecy, demanding no public confirmation that Mr. Chen was in the embassy by any Americans, even members of Congress, whom the Obama administration kept in the dark.

“I don’t want to talk to him anymore,” Cui Tiankai, the vice foreign minister, erupted after Mrs. Clinton intervened, gesturing toward Kurt M. Campbell, an assistant secretary of state and a crucial negotiator. 

The confrontation was a pivotal moment in a diplomatic drama replete with unanticipated twists, threats and counterthreats, and at times comical intrigue. Mr. Campbell, for example, took to sneaking out of his hotel in Beijing through an entrance by the garbage bins to avoid public attention. 

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Elizabeth Warren: a natural on the campaign trail (photos and videos)

With six months to go in the Mass. senate race, Elizabeth Warren is a natural on the campaign trail. Check out these photos and videos at her website.