Tuesday, February 26, 2013

PBS film honors women who led the march for equal rights

Courtesy of PBS.org.
Yep. I met several of "the Makers" in person on Mother's Day, 1980, when I marched in Chicago in support of the Equal Rights Amendment, which, by the way, still has not been passed. Leading the march that day in Grant Park were Marlo Thomas, Gloria Steinem, Jean Stapleton, and several other major contributors to the "second wave of the women's movement."

So for sure I'll be following Marlo's advice to watch the PBS film this evening (7 p.m.- 10 p.m.) "Makers: Women who make America."

Here's Marlo:

Billie Jean King. Condoleezza Rice. Ellen DeGeneres. Hillary Clinton. Barbara Walters. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. 

We see their names and instantly picture their faces. We know their achievements and have grown to admire them. We think of them as "doers."

But they're more than that, actually. They are "Makers" -- those who, early in their careers, had the determination and intuition to survey the cultural landscape and recognize not only what was there, but what wasn't. And then they helped provide that missing piece.

This evening (7:00 to 10:00 PM), PBS will premiere "MAKERS: Women Who Make America," a television special that tells the compelling saga of the American women who led the march to equality over the past half-century. It is inspiring to watch their stories on the special -- and on the Makers website -- and discover how their wildly different trajectories would eventually converge in the crucible of the women's movement -- whether they were reporting from a battlefield overseas, like Christiane Amanpour, or waging a different kind of war here on the home front, like Gloria Steinem.

Read more:

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Obama's former press secretary told to lie about the drone policy

Robert Gibbs, via luckybogey.wordpress.com.
It gets worse all the time: the lengths the ObamaWorld takes to protect its right to violate the boundaries of other nations with unmanned vehicles programmed to kill suspected enemies and any innocent civilians -even American citizens- who get in the way. Never mind the U.S. Constitution.  Former White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs now reveals that he was forbidden to acknowledge the existence of the drone program.

Here's the story:

Former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Sunday that he was told not to "acknowledge" or "discuss" the secret drone program when becoming the government's top spokesman. 

Chris Hayes, host of MSNBC's "Up," played a video clip of Gibbs and current press secretary Jay Carney dodging questions about drones in the White House briefing room before asking if the Obama administration has been sufficiently forthcoming about the controversial targeted killing program. Gibbs, who recently became an MSNBC contributor, recalled the instructions he was given upon taking the job. 

“When I went through the process of becoming press secretary," Gibbs said, "one of the things, one of the first things they told me was, ‘You’re not even to acknowledge the drone program. You’re not even to discuss that it exists.'”

The national media was slow covering the secret drone war in Pakistan and Yemen during Obama's first term, which has been difficult to track given both the government's secrecy and that strikes often take place in remote areas. But the drone media debate has gained steam early in Obama's second term, alongside questions for top counter-terror official John Brennan upon his nomination to become CIA director. 

Gibbs said that once he figured out a reporter's question was about the drone program, "I realized I'm not supposed to talk about it."

Read more:

Friday, February 22, 2013

How the non-politician Obama plays politics with his addiction to drones

John Brennan, official portrait.
How could someone who got elected president in the first place with a holier than thou campaign declaring himself above politics now be maneuvering so skillfully to avoid transparency on his addiction to using drones for targeted killing abroad in order to secure John Brennan's appointment as CIA Director?

The NY Times article below points out: "At issue is the critical question of how Congress conducts oversight of a shadow war against people suspected of being terrorists."

Here's the story:

 WASHINGTON — The White House is refusing to share fully with Congress the legal opinions that justify targeted killings, while maneuvering to make sure its stance does not do anything to endanger the confirmation of John O. Brennan as C.I.A. director.

Rather than agreeing to some Democratic senators’ demands for full access to the classified legal memos on the targeted killing program, Obama administration officials are negotiating with Republicans to provide more information on the lethal attack last year on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, according to three Congressional staff members. 

The strategy is intended to produce a bipartisan majority vote for Mr. Brennan in the Senate Intelligence Committee without giving its members seven additional legal opinions on targeted killing sought by senators and while protecting what the White House views as the confidentiality of the Justice Department’s legal advice to the president. It would allow Mr. Brennan’s nomination to go to the Senate floor even if one or two Democrats vote no to protest the refusal to share more legal memos. 

At issue is the critical question of how Congress conducts oversight of a shadow war against people suspected of being terrorists. The administration routinely reports on its lethal drone strikes to both the Senate and the House Intelligence and Armed Services Committees, but it has long rebuffed Congressional attempts to see the legal opinions that authorize the strikes — let alone requests to make them public. 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Mary Lundeberg's photos of endangered animals

Dr. Lundeberg holding a swan.
This collection of wild life photographer Mary Lundeberg's photos of endangered animals will motivate you to do what you can on their behalf.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The frightening decline in journalism ethics

Courtesy of strokesofcandor.com.
I shuddered the other day when I learned that NBC was hiring the unctuous David Axelrod as a senior political analyst. My misgivings were confirmed when I read the Washington Post's column just now addressing the same issue:

Ignatius writes:

Reading NBC News’s announcement Tuesday that it was hiring David Axelrod, a top adviser to Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns, as a “senior political analyst,” I had a sinking feeling in my stomach: No wonder the American public increasingly mistrusts the news media. We are obliterating the line between the political players and the people who are supposed to act as commentators and referees.

NBC boasted in its news release about how “for nearly three decades Axelrod guided successful campaigns at every level on the ballot.” Once upon a time, that would have been a disqualification for a news organization. But now, NBC brags that Axelrod “will contribute frequently across all broadcasts and platforms.” And he won’t just be a “senior political analyst” for MSNBC, the broadcaster’s more ideological affiliate, but also for the NBC mothership.

Just a week ago, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow introduced Robert Gibbs, the former Obama White House spokesman and campaign operative, as a new contributor. Politico reported that Gibbs would also appear on NBC News.

This trend is hardly new. It’s commonplace these days for television news operations to hire former political advisers or campaign operatives as analysts. Fox has a stable of them, including former George W. Bush aides Karl Rove and Dana Perino, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee and, until recently, that modern-day Edward R. Murrow, Sarah Palin. ABC News’s budding superstar is George Stephanopoulos, who has adapted so well to journalism that people forget he was once a top White House aide to President Bill Clinton.

Read More:


Sunday, February 17, 2013

On the 50th anniversary of Betty Friedan's "The Feminine Mystique"

1971 Betty Friedan leads the march for gender equality.
I was in my early 30s and the mother of two children in elementary school when I first read Betty Friedan's book, the Feminine Mystique. Friedan's insights motivated me to take advantage of the GI bill - I'm an Air Force veteran - and pursue a long deferred dream by enrolling in college. Family responsibilities slowed me down a little, but I graduated five years later with a BA in English, concentration in writing.

In her article in the NY Times on gender equality, Stephanie Coontz notes:

THIS week is the 50th anniversary of the publication of Betty Friedan’s international best seller, “The Feminine Mystique,” which has been widely credited with igniting the women’s movement of the 1960s. Readers who return to this feminist classic today are often puzzled by the absence of concrete political proposals to change the status of women. But “The Feminine Mystique” had the impact it did because it focused on transforming women’s personal consciousness. 

In 1963, most Americans did not yet believe that gender equality was possible or even desirable. Conventional wisdom held that a woman could not pursue a career and still be a fulfilled wife or successful mother. Normal women, psychiatrists proclaimed, renounced all aspirations outside the home to meet their feminine need for dependence. In 1962, more than two-thirds of the women surveyed by University of Michigan researchers agreed that most important family decisions “should be made by the man of the house.” 

It was in this context that Friedan set out to transform the attitudes of women. Arguing that “the personal is political,” feminists urged women to challenge the assumption, at work and at home, that women should always be the ones who make the coffee, watch over the children, pick up after men and serve the meals.

Read more:


Saturday, February 16, 2013

Jesse Jackson, Jr., national co-chair of Obama's campaign in 08, facing criminal charges

Following Hillary Clinton's win in the New Hampshire primary in 08, Jesse Jackson, Jr., national co-chair of the Obama campaign, was obviously out of sorts, accusing Hillary of using tears to gain sympathy from the voters. Recall that in 08 racism was taboo, but sexist comments like Jackson's were perfectly acceptable.

Today, the once high-flying young man has been forced to step down from the House of Reps., and he and his wife are both facing criminal charges:

Jesse Jackson Jr. and his wife Sandi intend to plead guilty to federal charges alleging the former congressman misused $750,000 in campaign funds while she understated their income on  tax returns for six years, their lawyers say.

Jackson Jr., 47, a Democrat from Chicago, was charged in a criminal information Friday with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, mail fraud and false statements. He faces up to five years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000 and other penalties.

Sandi Jackson was charged with one count of filing false tax returns. She faces up to three years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000 and other penalties

Thursday, February 14, 2013

From the heart on Valentine's Day

Elizabeth Warren's Valentine's Day message is especially heartwarming; her depth and compassion shine through:

Elizabeth Warren for Massachusetts


I'm going to have to put off baking my Valentine's Day cake until I can get back home on Friday. I have my heart-shaped pans, but the oven is broken in my new Washington apartment. Even so, I'm not letting the day pass without asking everyone for a favor.

My mother was born on Valentine's Day. From the time she turned fifteen, my father gave her a heart-shaped box of chocolates, and from the time I was nine and bought some heart-shaped pans at the dime store, I baked her a cake. Mother loved the heart connection to her birthday.

Several years ago, the heart connection took on a new meaning. My mother was in good health. She went to the doctor regularly, and, except for some concern about high cholesterol and a few complaints about gas pains and arthritis, she always got a good report. When she had some minor surgery, all the kids and grandkids came to visit. She was doing great, ready to check out of the hospital the next morning. So after a few more turns racing her up and down the hallway in wheelchairs, we all headed home.

In the middle of the night, one of my brothers called. He said Mama was dead. I couldn't believe it. I thought he had made some kind of terrible mistake. He said Daddy had been sitting with her when she leaned forward and said, "Don, there's that gas pain again." Then she died.

The autopsy showed that she had advanced heart disease. No one had any inkling.

This year more women than men will die from heart disease. In fact, every minute, a woman dies from heart disease. And the symptoms for women aren't always the same as for men. As I learned when the doctor called to explain how she died, heart disease can easily be overlooked for women.
So enjoy Valentine's Day and all the hearts, but here's my ask: Today please ask a woman you love to learn more about heart disease. Learn the symptoms. Learn the risks. Learn prevention. Please don't wait.

Tomorrow I'll bake a cake. I'll open up the box that has some of the old valentines my daddy gave to my mother. And I'll ask the women I love to take better care of themselves.
Happy Valentine's Day!


P.S. I'm wearing red for heart awareness to my first Senate Banking Committee hearing this morning. I'm excited to get to work leveling the playing field for working families. Thank you for being a part of this.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The men opposing the Violence Against Women Act

If you think that domestic violence is history, think again.

A few days ago, a young acquaintance, age 20, in the early stages of pregnancy, reported to me that in the midst of an argument with her partner, he kicked her in the stomach and caused her to miscarry.  At the time I spoke to her, he was already in jail. She had pressed charges and was prepared to go to court to see justice done. Her experience motivated me to sign Credo's petition below in support of the Violence Against Women Act, and I'm hoping that hundreds of you will do the same

Right now, the Senate is poised to pass the Violence Against Women Act with bipartisan support. But the overwhelmingly male House Republicans caucus, led by Eric Cantor and John Boehner, stand in the way of protecting victims of domestic violence. We need you to act now to ensure that the Senate bill is passed quickly by the Republican-controlled House.
Momentum is on our side. Last year, ten Republicans in the House broke rank with their party and joined Democrats in support of reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. Eight of those Republicans remain in Congress. On the Senate side, Republican women Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins and Kelly Ayotte are all co-sponsoring the bill. It's time to increase the public pressure on the 212 male Republicans in the House to get with their Republican women colleagues and pass the strong Senate version of the VAWA reauthorization bill.
Women's lives are at risk, and there is no more time for partisan delay.
The Senate version of the bill is expected to handily pass a floor vote this week with the help of new women Senators from both parties who were elected amidst a national backlash against Tea Party extremists like rape-apologists Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock.
VAWA is an incredibly popular and successful program that has reduced domestic violence rates by 58% since it was first passed in 1994. And it was approved in bipartisan votes every year since it was originally passed — until the radical takeover of the House by extremist, anti-women Republicans in 2010.
We know that we can't count on Republican men to vote in the interest of their constituents without enormous public pressure from us. House Republican men have voted for shameful bills to redefine rape, defund Planned Parenthood, and to let women die. Despite their appalling record on women's issues, there is hope that men in the Republican caucus in the House will join with their Republican women colleagues in the senate and show concern for domestic violence survivors.
Tell Republican men in the House: Stop blocking the Violence Against Women Act. Click below to automatically sign the petition:
Thank you for standing up for women.
Becky Bond, Political Director
CREDO Action from Working Assets
Automatically add your name:
Sign the petition ►
Learn more about this campaign

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Congress finally concerned about the Obama Administration's lethal use of drones

So Congress is waking up to the Obama Administration's human rights violations in continuation of the Bush Administration's love affair with the use of drones for targeted killing in other lands?

2005 Naval Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Air Demo held at the Naval Air Station Patuxent River (public domain).
WASHINGTON -- Uncomfortable with the Obama administration's use of deadly drones, a growing number in Congress are looking to limit America's authority to kill suspected terrorists, even U.S. citizens. The Democratic-led outcry was emboldened by the revelation in a newly surfaced Justice Department memo that shows drones can strike against a wider range of threats, with less evidence, than previously believed.

The drone program, which has been used from Pakistan across the Middle East and into North Africa to find and kill an unknown number of suspected terrorists, is expected to be a top topic of debate when the Senate Intelligence Committee grills John Brennan, the White House's pick for CIA chief, at a hearing Thursday.

White House on the defensive:

The White House on Tuesday defended its lethal drone program by citing the very laws that some in Congress once believed were appropriate in the years immediately after the Sept. 11 attacks but now think may be too broad.

"It has to be in the agenda of this Congress to reconsider the scope of action of drones and use of deadly force by the United States around the world because the original authorization of use of force, I think, is being strained to its limits," Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., said in a recent interview.

Read More:


Saturday, February 2, 2013

Hillary's legacy: diplomacy should refocus our attention on the powerless


I ought to have known better than to check in at the PBS NewsHour last night. The point made by Ray Suarez and guests as well as in the analysis of Shields and Brooks about Hillary Clinton's legacy was essentially that she leaves no signature foreign policy achievement. It was a lukewarm acknowledgement of Hillary's tenure as secretary of state.

Compare the NewsHour drivel about Hillary to CNN contributor Donna Brazile's remarks on Hillary's departure from State (keep in mind that Brazile was not noted for her support of Hillary in 08):

Hillary has transformed our understanding -- no, our definition -- of foreign affairs. Diplomacy is no longer just the skill of managing relations with other countries. The big issues -- war and peace, terror, economic stability, etc. -- remain, and she has handled them with firmness and authority, with poise and confidence, and with good will, when appropriate.

But it is not the praise of diplomats or dictators that will be her legacy. She dealt with plenipotentiaries, but her focus was on people. Foreign affairs isn't just about treaties, she taught us, it's about the suffering and aspirations of those affected by the treaties, made or unmade.

Most of all, diplomacy should refocus attention on the powerless.