2016 election

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

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The NFL's awful message to women


Janay Palmer and Ray Rice. Rice knocked Palmer unconscious earlier this year.
Hi friends of Katalusis,

I just got this email message, and I urge you to join me in signing the petition below that holds the NFL accountable for its "awful message to women."


Awful message from the NFL to women
1 message

Heidi Hess, CREDO Action Wed, Jul 30, 2014 at 8:36 AM

Reply-To: "Heidi Hess, CREDO Action"
To: Virginia Bergman
CREDO action
The NFL's violence against women problem
Tell NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell:
"The shamefully insufficient two-game suspension of Ray Rice for his documented assault of Janay Palmer sends a terrible message about how the NFL views violence against women. You need to take a strong stand and implement guidance--including appropriate discipline--for how the league will handle domestic violence, sexual assault, and any other violence against women in the future."
Add your name:
Sign the petition ►
Dear Virginia,

NFL must stand up for women
Earlier this year, Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice was arrested for the aggravated assault of Janay Palmer, his fiancee. The assault was especially newsworthy because video of Rice dragging an unconscious Palmer off an elevator went viral, but it’s hardly the only incident of violence against women involving NFL players.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has complete discretion in punishing players who violate the league’s personal conduct policy. Last week, he gave Rice a two-game suspension and a $58,000 fine. His decision to dole out such a weak punishment, which is lighter than what players who smoke marijuana receive, has sent shockwaves through the league and the media. On Monday, the NFL doubled down when NFL senior vice president of labor policy Adolpho Birch went on the radio and defended Goodell's decision as "appropriate."

The NFL’s leadership is sending a clear but terrible message that violence against women doesn’t matter to the league.

Enough’s enough: Join over 50,000 CREDO activists to tell NFL Commissioner Goodell to take violence against women seriously. Click here to sign the petition.

Violence against women is an obvious, long-term problem facing the NFL.1 But as high-profile arrests of players for domestic violence and sexual assault continue, the league has done little or nothing. Most players involved in domestic violence incidents have received suspensions of one to three games. Commissioner Roger Goodell has issued longer suspensions for pot smoking, taking Adderall, DUI’s, illegal tattoos, and dogfighting.2

The commissioner has unilateral authority to punish people whose behavior is viewed as "detrimental to the welfare" of the league. But while players who are caught using marijuana or performance enhancing drugs are routinely issued serious punishments of four or more games, the NFL has consistently shied away from meaningful punishments for domestic abuse, sexual assault, and violence against women in general.
 
What does it tell young men and women about women's value when players receive harsher punishment for smoking pot than for violence against women? The “boys will be boys” culture that spawned the Steubenville tragedy and many a rape and abuse case in football programs around the country is reinforced by a ruling like this.

When the NFL fails to deal seriously with incidents of violence against women, it sends a message to every league employee and fan that violence against women is OK. Tell Commissioner Goodell it’s time for a change. Click the link below to sign the petition.
http://act.credoaction.com/sign/NFL_women?t=5&akid=11311.4080287.50h8dk

Thanks for standing up for women.
Heidi Hess, Campaign Manager
CREDO Action from Working Assets
Add your name:
Sign the petition ►
  1. Here’s What Happens When an NFL Player Beats His Fiancée Unconscious, Dave Zirin, The Nation, 07/24/2014.
  2. The NFL's Domestic Violence Problem,”Jane McManus, ESPNW, 07/24/2014.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Israel is at war with Hamas

Map showing the territory under Palestinian control and Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza. Source: Public Domain.



David Ignatius is an associate editor and columnist for the Washington Post. He also co-hosts PostGlobal, an online discussion of international issues at Washingtonpost.com, with Fareed Zakaria. Capping several major awards in his field, Ignatius is the recipient of a lifetime achievement award from the International Committee for Foreign Journalism.

Unlike some of his colleagues in the media, Ignatius can be counted on to acknowledge at least two sides in every international conflict. In the current flare up of violence between Israel and Palestine, the press has most often portrayed Israel as the bad guy with little or no indication that Hamas, given to terrorist attacks on Israel, has played a role. Ignatius comes closer to an objective review of the ongoing crisis in the Middle East than any other media rep that I’ve come across since the conflict began.

In his analysis, Ignatius zeroes in on John Kerry’s handling of the hot-button situation:

WASHINGTON -- Secretary of State John Kerry has made a significant mistake in how he's pursuing a Gaza cease-fire -- and it's not surprising that he has upset both the Israelis and some moderate Palestinians.

Kerry's error has been to put so much emphasis on achieving a quick halt to the bloodshed that he has solidified the role of Hamas, the intractable, unpopular Islamist group that leads Gaza, along with the two hard-line Islamist nations that are its key supporters, Qatar and Turkey. In the process, he has undercut not simply the Israelis but also the Egyptians and the Fatah movement that runs the Palestinian Authority, all of which want to see an end to Hamas rule in Gaza.

A wiser course, which Kerry rejected in his hunt for a quick diplomatic solution, would have been to negotiate the cease-fire through the Palestinian Authority, as part of its future role as the government of Gaza. Hamas agreed last April to bring the PA back to Gaza as part of a unity agreement with Fatah that was brokered by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Kerry has been motivated by two understandable short-term needs: First, he wants to stop the horrific slaughter in Gaza, with its heavy loss of life among Palestinian civilians, including children. Second, he seeks to fulfil the instructions of President Obama, who wants an immediate cease-fire and has become skeptical about solving the knotted Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Kerry's approach has ignited a firestorm in Israel, with commentators left and right accusing him of taking Hamas' side and betraying Israel. That criticism is unfair, and it prompted a complaint Sunday from Obama in a phone call to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Kerry's mistake isn't any bias against Israel, but a bias in favor of an executable, short-term deal. A case can be made for this "kick the can down the road" approach, as I did last week in discussing Kerry's recent diplomatic negotiations over Iran's nuclear program and with rival political leaders in Afghanistan.

But Gaza has suffered from a generation of brutal expediency. Any deal that reinforces Hamas' stranglehold -- rather than building a path toward change of government, elections and eventual disarmament -- is misconceived. In the name of stopping bloodshed this week, it all but guarantees it in the future. That's why public opinion polls show a strong majority of Gazans back the idea of returning to Palestinian Authority control -- because they want an end to the cycle of intermittent warfare.

Israel has undermined its own cause with statements that appear to be insensitive to Palestinian loss of life. One example is Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer's claim that "the Israeli Defense Forces should be given the Nobel Peace Prize" for showing "unimaginable restraint," at a time when photos and videos provide wrenching evidence of civilian casualties in the densely packed cities of Gaza.




Monday, July 28, 2014

The Obama years: a politics of cynicism or a politics of hope?

Obama points to the Kansas delegation while giving his address at the
Democratic National Convention in 2004. Via Wikipedia.
  

In 2008, Barack Obama preached hope, not cynicism, but anyone who knows me is aware that I was cynical from day one about the young, inexperienced senator’s qualifications for the presidency – and besides I was a staunch Hillary Clinton supporter in the primary. Now I feel something akin to pity for our graying second-term president as he’s since learned the magic of his personality on display in Boston 10 years ago has not been sufficient to cure the world’s ills.

But here’s the thing, all things considered, I believe Obama has done a credible job so far in the Oval Office. Politico goes into depth, however, highlighting Obama’s “hits and blunders” on the tenth anniversary this Sunday, July 27, 2014 of his keynote speech at the Democratic Convention.

Dovere and Nather write:

Barack Obama’s Democratic National Convention keynote delivered 10 years ago Sunday evening started his journey to the White House.

Those 18 minutes in Boston reshaped American politics. Obama spent a long passage of his speech extolling Democratic nominee John Kerry, but he wasn’t the one whose presidential prospects most people left the Fleet Center buzzing about. Caught by surprise by a convention keynote that was actually worth watching, the crowd went wild. Even Hillary Clinton and Jesse Jackson were spotted clapping for him.

A decade later, the speech remains a road map to the Obama agenda — and the many places where he’s fallen short in his term and a half so far.

The parts that hold up well: transitioning from a manufacturing base, the pursuit of enemies (like Osama bin Laden), a cooperative economy, voting rights, solving the “health care crisis,” “a road to opportunity” for the middle class.

But parts come across as the oratorical equivalent of an embarrassing hairdo in a high school yearbook.
The line most associated with the speech — “there’s not a liberal America and a conservative America, there’s the United States of America” — is the part that’s probably held up the least well over time.
 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

A confounding reality: both the stories of the Palestinians and the Israelis are true

Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Secretary General Nabil Elaraby in Cairo to discuss the Israel-Palestine conflict. Photo courtesy of the State Department.

The headline in the Minneapolis StarTribune blares its devastating message: “UN school sheltering Palestinians in Gaza caught in cross-fire; 15 killed.” And so it goes. The Israelis and the Palestinians are at it again.

The AP reports:

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Israeli tank shells hit a compound housing a U.N. school in the Gaza Strip on Thursday, killing at least 15 people and wounding dozens who were seeking shelter from fierce clashes on the streets outside, Palestinian officials said, as Israel pressed forward with its 17-day war against the territory's Hamas rulers.

Hold on a bit, though, especially if you live in my neighborhood:

We have our privileges up here in the metropolitan Twin Cities area. Where else would you have the opportunity to gather on a university campus with a bunch of Christians, Muslims, and Jews and listen to first a couple of Palestinian-Americans, Hussein Khatib and Ziad Amra, describe what it was like for them to grow up in Palestine and a week later, hear Israeli-Americans, Mira Reinberg and Oren Gross, tell their stories?

The above presentations were followed up by Ron Young of The National Interreligious Leadership Initiative For Peace In The Middle East. Young gave an address titled Roads to Resolution: What is Our Role as Americans?

Thanks to the St. Paul Interfaith Network, it all happened in October 2010 at Hamline University. I left the event, which I covered for the St. Paul Examiner, with the deep down realization that the people of Palestine and Israel both yearn for peace. Even with the recent outbreak of war between those two countries, we need to remember it’s the people in power commanding the rockets, not those who are desperately trying to protect their loved ones.

Four years before the current raging flareup between Israel and Palestine, I wrote:

Although I brought a sketchy background on the perennial Middle East conflict to the conversation in Fall 2010, I could only feel compassion for both the Palestinian and Israeli presenters as it quickly became obvious that each had grown up in what must be described as a war zone in which violence might erupt at any moment.

Nevertheless, with the shadow of the holocaust in the background, Israeli speaker Mira Reinberg offered a profound word of wisdom. She advised against being imprisoned by history. Without suggesting that either Palestinians or Israelis dismiss the trauma they’ve experienced, she encouraged them to focus instead on the present and “build a life around or beside the trauma.”

In his address, Ron Young was determinedly optimistic about the prospects for peace in the Middle East. He cited a survey he’d done in 1985-6 in which he asked American Jewish, Christian, and Muslim religious leaders if they would join in an interreligious effort for peace between Palestine and Israel. He said they were almost unanimous in the affirmative without asking any questions about the politics in the region.

Young mentioned three parts to a message in resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.  He said,  “The first part of our message is ‘peace is possible’ and frankly, cynicism is one of the main enemies of that message.”

He said the second part is that the U.S. role is essential even though, the U.S. is closer to Israel than it is to Palestine. He explained, “Many Palestinians understand that because the U.S. is closer to Israel, it is the only country in the world that can help Israel overcome its own reluctance and fears to make the compromises necessary.”

The third part, Young said, is that talks are going on now between Palestinians and Israelis.
Young mentioned “resources on the ground” available to those engaged in the peace process, including the Parents Circle, Seeds of Peace, and religious institutions in the Holy Land. He also mentioned groups in Washington now working together to promote resolution of the Middle East conflict.
Young reminded his listeners that both the stories by the Palestinian speakers and the Israeli speakers were true. He said, “That’s part of the confounding reality of this conflict – both stories are true.”

Monday, July 21, 2014

Hillary has a good time at her book signing in St. Paul yesterday

Hillary Clinton was at Common Good Books in St. Paul on Sunday, promoting her new memoir, "Hard Choices." (Pioneer Press: Ginger Pinson), via twincities.com.
 
I regret that I was unable to attend Hillary Clinton’s book signing in St. Paul yesterday. But it was heartwarming to see photos showing the line of Hillary's supporters stretched out for blocks – I mean, the woman signed 1,100 copies of her book “Hard Choices.”

In the meantime, a handful of protestors (it's not clear what they were protesting) were kept across the street. And according to the Pioneer Press article cited below, “Protesters couldn't be heard in the store, where events manager David Enyeart was happy everything was going smoothly and Clinton was having a good time..”

Mary Ann Grossman reports:

Hillary Rodham Clinton drew waves of cheers Sunday afternoon when she entered Common Good Books, where she signed copies of her book "Hard Choices," a memoir of her four years as secretary of state.
Clinton acknowledged the love with a wave. Then she deftly organized a photo of the first people to move up to the signing table -- Autumn Paulson of Bloomington, who uses a wheelchair, and her mom, Catherine Kane. "Did you get us all," Clinton asked the photographer as she leaned into the shot.
Admirers of the former first lady and U.S. senator snapped up 1,100 tickets to see the woman they hope will be the Democrats' 2016 nominee for president. She had a smile, handshake and brief comment for each person who was ushered to the table where she signed books.
Clinton was greeted privately by Gov. Mark Dayton, Sen. Al Franken and St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman. The governor escorted Clinton to the signing table. Holding up her book he promised with a smile, "I'll read it after the election," presumably referring to his bid for re-election.




Saturday, July 19, 2014

Facebook friend’s life affected by Oregon/Washington wildfires

Note:  In my original post, I mistakenly said my Facebook friend, Marsha Rumbarger, moved to Oregon; she actually moved to Omak, Washington.


Washington State wildfires, photo public domain.
My Facebook friend Marsha Rumbarger recently moved to Omak, Washington. Her status update a few hours ago brought home the ferocity of fires raging in her area. Marsha wrote:

“No Internet, cable tv or landline due to damage to cables from nearby wildfires. Glad i have my Smart phone. Craig Moen and i also just purchased an antennae so we can get the news. Maybe this will be the end of our cable.”

Marsha’s dilemma prompted me to check out the online news coverage of the Washington, Oregon wildfires. The LA Times reports:

A wildfire in north-central Washington, which has already destroyed 83 homes and threatens at least 150 more, continued to burn unchecked Friday, fire officials said.

The Carlton complex fire, located near the town of Twisp, has burned nearly 170,000 acres and forced the evacuation of between 300 and 500 homes, according to the Okanogan County Sheriff's Office. It is one of the two largest fires among at least 20 raging across Washington and Oregon.

The Buzzard complex fire outside Burns, Ore., is the largest, having grown to more than 270,000 acres. Carol Connolly, a spokeswoman for the Northwest Coordination Center, which oversees emergency response to large fires in both states, said the Buzzard fire had destroyed two homes so far.

Fifteen wildfires in Oregon and five in Washington, nearly all of which started as a result of a lightning storm that moved through the region last weekend, have burned roughly 540,000 acres, forcing evacuations and drawing thousands of rescue personnel to the area.

More than 360,000 acres have burned in central and eastern Oregon while about 180,000 acres have burned in northern and central Washington, Connolly said. All 20 fires have been fed by recent wind gusts of up to30 mph and hot, dry weather, she said.

No fatalities or major injuries have been reported, but several firefighters have suffered minor injuries and hundreds of homes have been threatened, Connolly said.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Michele Bachman and the National Review just wrong on child immigration

Immigrant children, Ellis Island, 1908, via Wiki.

Lies and exaggerations have long been commonplace in American politics and too often in the media. And we shouldn’t be surprised at some of the stuff Michelle Bachman or the National Review comes up with. Still…

An unaccompanied child migrant was the first person in line on opening day of the new immigration station at Ellis Island. 
Her name was Annie Moore, and that day, January 1, 1892, happened to be her 15th birthday. She had traveled with her two little brothers from Cork County, Ireland, and when they walked off the gangplank, she was awarded a certificate and a $10 gold coin for being the first to register. Today, a statue of Annie stands on the island, a testament to the courage of millions of children who passed through those same doors, often traveling without an older family member to help them along.


Of course, not everyone was lining up to give Annie and her fellow passengers a warm welcome. Alarmists painted immigrants—children included—as disease-ridden job stealers bent on destroying the American way of life. And they're still at it. On a CNN segment about the current crisis of child migrants from Central and South America, Michele Bachmann used the word "invaders" and warned of rape and other dangers posed to Americans by the influx. And last week, National Review scoffed at appeals to American ideals of compassion and charity, claiming Ellis Island officials had a strict send-'em-back policy when it came to children showing up alone.

That's not true, according to Barry Moreno, a librarian at the Ellis Island Immigration Museum and author of the book Children of Ellis Island. The Immigration Act of 1907 did indeed declare that unaccompanied children under 16 were not permitted to enter in the normal fashion. But it didn't send them packing, either. Instead, the act set up a system in which unaccompanied children—many of whom were orphans—were kept in detention awaiting a special inquiry with immigration inspectors to determine their fate. At these hearings, local missionaries, synagogues, immigrant aid societies, and private citizens would often step in and offer to take guardianship of the child, says Moreno.


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Hillary Clinton, “the experienced adult in the room”

Bill and Hillary during the 2008 campaign.

Good morning, Katalusis readers, I’ve got another busy day ahead of me tweaking major writing projects in between preparing for dinner guests this evening.

However, while scanning the online news coverage this morning, this piece at Politico titled “A Clinton approach for angrier times” caught my eye, and I wanted to call your attention to it.

Politico's White and Haberman write:

Hillary Clinton has a unique asset if she runs for president — Bill Clinton, who presided over a booming economy and an era of sunny Democratic centrism.

But she also faces a singular challenge: convincing voters who are skeptical of some Wall Street-friendly policies during his tenure that she can connect with their concerns at a time when the wealth gap is massive between the very rich and everyone else.

After a decade and a half of being tethered to her husband’s record, Hillary Clinton established her own political identity as senator and as secretary of state. But a string of questions from interviewers during her book tour about her husband’s tenure as president underscores the ongoing issue she will face reconciling their past with her future.

(Also on POLITICO: Hillary Clinton to 'The Daily Show')

On a broad range of issues from tax policy and Wall Street reform to religious rights, more than a dozen senior Democratic strategists and people who have worked with the former first family told POLITICO that Hillary Clinton will have to craft a platform that reflects the party’s shift left and populist sentiment across the political spectrum that distrusts entrenched interests and worries about growing wage inequality. Some described this balancing act as one of the most significant issues for the potential presidential candidate.

“This is the most important set of conversations going on right now. We are in a different economic era that requires a different kind of response,” said Simon Rosenberg, founder of the New Democrat Network who shaped the economic message for Bill Clinton in the 1992 campaign. “Apple isn’t making the same products they were 20 years ago, so you should not expect any Democrat to obey policies that are over 20 years old.” Rosenberg added that no one in the Hillary Clinton orbit underestimates the task she faces.

“Their eyes are wide open. No one thinks it’s going to be an easy election in the primary or in the general,” he said. “Things are very unsettled in American politics right now and no one close to her thinks this would be anything but a very tough race.”

The former first lady has embraced her husband’s overall record, which includes the fastest jobs and economic growth of the past half-century.


Monday, July 14, 2014

Malala speaks out on behalf of abducted Nigerian schoolgirls

Malala in Strasbourg, 11/20/2013; via Wikipedia.
Malala’s name means grief-stricken, and grief undoubtedly played a role in motivating her to speak out for those 200 Nigerian schoolgirls abducted last April. The waning interest in our always fickle media also played a role.

On Malala’s 17th birthday, the young survivor of a brutal assassination attempt, is on a mission.

Tim Cocks and Abraham Terngu report:

ABUJA, July 14 (Reuters) - Pakistani rights activist Malala Yousafzai, who survived being shot in the head by the Taliban for campaigning for girls' education, pledged while on a trip to Nigeria to help free a group of schoolgirls abducted by Islamist militants.

On Sunday, Malala met parents of the more than 200 girls who were kidnapped by the militant group Boko Haram from a school in the northeastern village of Chibok in April.

Boko Haram, inspired by the Taliban, say they are fighting to establish an Islamic state in religiously mixed Nigeria. The group, whose name means "Western education is sinful", has killed thousands and abducted hundreds since launching an uprising in 2009.

Some of the parents broke down in tears as Malala spoke at a hotel in the capital Abuja on Sunday.

"I can see those girls as my sisters ... and I'm going to speak up for them until they are released," said Malala, who was due to meet President Goodluck Jonathan on Monday. Her 17th birthday was on Saturday.



Sunday, July 13, 2014

Sunday morning reflections on overcoming evil with good



Sandy Hook Memorial.
It’s Sunday morning, and my home office is flooded with sunlight. What better time to link to Marian Wright Edelman’s post, “Overcoming evil.” And yes, Edelman’s post is about overcoming evil with good.

I don’t know about you, but even though I practice mindfulness meditation and other spiritual disciplines daily, I’m still tempted all too often to retaliate in kind when others offend me. So, multiply my difficulties with trying to overcome evil with good by the multitudes in Israel and Palestine, where the fighting continues to escalate; multiply my difficulties as well with the zealots contributing to the chaos in Iraq. And on and on.

If, like me, you need inspiration from time to time to personally ally yourself with the forces of good, read Edelman’s post and marvel at Nelba Márquez-Greene’s response to the devastating losses she and her family continue to suffer from the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut:

Nelba Márquez-Greene is a licensed marriage and family therapist who has spent her life helping others. In December 2012 she was the coordinator of a youth and adolescent outpatient psychiatric clinic and a university instructor supervising six clinical interns. But nothing in her professional training could have prepared her for what she, her family, and community would experience after her beautiful six-year-old daughter Ana Grace and twenty-five other children and teachers were murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. 

“I imagine our home was not that much different than many others . . . I was married to my high school sweetheart and the mother of two beautiful children. My husband, Jimmy, was working fifteen minutes from our house as a professor at a local university. We were both happy to be back in Connecticut and so close to New York City. On December 13th we went out to dinner to the Cheesecake Factory, which we never, ever, ever did during the week. After dinner, Jimmy took the kids home and I stayed at the mall to buy their Christmas gifts.

“And then everything changed. 

“The next morning, Ana, our daughter and Isaiah’s sister, was executed while hiding in the tiny bathroom of her first grade classroom. Her teachers along with four other educators and 19 of her schoolmates were also murdered. My son physically survived the massacre. But he was in the building at the time of the shooting. He heard the shots that took his sister’s life. He remembers the screaming, the crying. He remembers his teacher’s survival instructions: Please be quiet and please be still.

“A reverse 911 call that Friday morning led to the beginning of a never ending nightmare. We waited for hours in that firehouse. First believing she was missing. Then understanding that she was probably hurt. And then to accept the probability that she was dead . . . We’d both come from large families and dreamed of having one of our own someday. And on that 14th of December of 2012, after hours of waiting in a firehouse, those dreams were shattered in one sentence: The shooter killed twenty children.

Nelba and her family are now the founders of the Ana Grace Project of Klingberg Family Centers, whose mission is to promote love, connection, and community for every child and family. They aim to use research, practical tools, professional development, and public policy to identify the best ways to build those connections and then use them to prevent violence and promote recovery. She and her husband Jimmy say they believe love and community are the antidotes for violence and are dedicated to creating real solutions to the kind of violence that took their daughter’s life—spurred on by their faith and belief that it is always best to ‘Overcome Evil with Good.’

Saturday, July 12, 2014

The complementarity of social justice and mindfulness meditation


Chaos in Iraq, June 11, 2014.
Amanda Mills: public domain.
Say, friends, you may have noticed the variety of posts at Katalusis that rank as the 10 most popular - current topics include housekeeping mindfully, animal rights (see Raju the elephant), sex trafficking, racism, the Dalai Lama, and the Charter for Compassion.
The diversity in my subject matter at Katalusis notwithstanding, I’ve been following the daily news since childhood when an older brother was pulling combat duty during the Korean War. My father listened to the news on the hour whenever he was home from work, and I picked up the habit. Meanwhile, I developed a strong commitment to social justice.


Lately, listening to Diane Sawyer’s World News (ABC) program at 5:30 p.m. weekdays and scanning emails from politicos begging for money while trashing their opponents in 2014 might be depressing if I lacked the resources to stay centered most days and thereby respond more effectively- hey, Iraq is falling apart, and the Israelis and Palestinians continue to kill one another off.

Which is why I practice mindfulness meditation, keep a literary type novel on hand for downtime instead of TV, work out regularly, journal daily, and hangout with upbeat people whenever possible – I especially enjoy keeping company with my meditation group.

A little reminder here: the daily practice of spiritual disciplines is not antithetical to taking a stand for social justice on behalf of marginalized people, which includes women, who represent 51 percent of America’s population.

Don’t take my word for it – search the database here at Katalusis. You might start with the topic of drones.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Household chores can be fun!


Hi friends, after some intense writing lately, I resumed my regular routine this morning, and it felt great to meditate, work out, journal, and well, yes, read the online comics, I especially enjoy Sally Forth:)

Got back to work then and using free-writing I drafted an intro and an epilogue for my memoir. In the process, I got excited about the possibilities for these two additions to my manuscript. Before re-writing, though, I need a time out for essential household chores, e.g., paying bills and grocery shopping. Peanut butter and jelly toast is only okay for a couple of days.

Speaking of household chores, Lori Deschene at Tiny Buddha, recently posted "Mindfulness in Everyday Tasks: 5 Ways Chores Can Make You Happier." It's a fun read while encouraging us to approach even the most humble chores mindfully. Enjoy!

(Heads up to members of my mindfulness group, this could be our reading for July 19th.)


“Smile, breathe and go slowly.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh

Last night I did something I rarely do. Drum roll please……last night I cooked.

Okay, to be fair, I more prepped than cooked. But my willingness to participate in this domestic ritual with my boyfriend at the helm was certainly not the norm. Neurotic as I may be with organizing and cleaning, cooking has never been my thing.

For starters, I’m cheap with food. I’d rather spend money on books and pedicures than saffron and truffles. I realize I could channel my inner Rachael Ray and learn to make budget-friendly meals, but an even easier approach is to make full use of my Subway rewards card.

It’s not just my aversion to spending on consumables that attracts me to cheap take-out and cereal. It’s also a matter of priorities.

I look at the day as blocks of time—much like Hugh Grant in About a Boy. Left to my own devices, I fill those blocks with tried-and-tested activities, like writing, reading, watching movies, and practicing yoga. Suffice it to say, cooking isn’t on my list.

I know I enjoy my world better when I make little changes to my routine—when I take alternative routes to familiar places or make spontaneous plans with old friends, for example. But sometimes I need reminders to do things differently.

Tonight’s reminder brought me to the cutting board, and I must admit I enjoyed it far more than I would have imagined.



Read more:

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Raju, the elephant's story gains momentum

Raju in chains, photo courtesy of the Huffington Post.
Dear friends of Katalusis,

Thank you so much for helping promote Raju, the elephant's story of his rescue after 50 years of horrific abuse. Raju's story is now #3 in my list of most popular posts! Keep up the momentum.

In the meantime, I'm going to be preoccupied with another writing project for the rest of the week, but I'll check in with you whenever I can.

Keep the faith,

Virginia

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

An elephant cries after rescue from 50 years of horrific abuse

Dear Katalusis friends,

Raju held captive in chains, courtesy of Huffington Post.
I don't have time to post today as I'm on deadline with another writing project. But this item about Raju the elephant who cried after his rescue from 50 years of the most horrific abuse caught my eye, and I shed a few tears myself. This story deserves as wide an audience as possible. I hope it goes viral and then some.


Read about Raju here.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Hillary tried, but abuse of women and girls continues around the world


U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton shakes hands with South African Foreign Minister Maite Nkoane-Mashabane at the United Nations Office at Geneva, Switzerland, on February 28, 2011. In the background on the right is Esther Brimmer, Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs. [Eric Bridiers photo/ State Department/ Public Domain]
America unavoidably sets an example for the rest of the world. Whether it's our hyper-competitive economic system, our abuse of the environment, or, yes, our continued demeaning treatment of 51 percent of our population, that is women, who still are not guaranteed equal rights, see here. Despite Hillary Clinton's unflagging efforts as the former Secretary of State to support women around the world, the nightmares continue.

We applaud the 60 Nigerian women and girls who recently escaped from Boko Haram, a radical Islamic group determined to create an Islamic state. Boko Haram abducted more than 200 schoolgirls in April 2014, and it's imperative that we continue to pressure world governments to secure the release of the remaining female captives.

The BBC reports:


More than 60 women and girls are reported to have escaped from the Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram, security sources say.

They were among 68 abducted last month near the town of Damboa in north-eastern Borno state.
Reports say the women escaped when the militants went to attack a military base near Damboa on Friday.

The Nigerian military said it killed more than 50 rebels in a clash that night.

Boko Haram is still holding more than 200 schoolgirls abducted in April.

Local vigilante Abbas Gava told journalists he had "received an alert from my colleagues... that about 63 of the abducted women and girls had made it back home".

"They took the bold step when their abductors moved out to carry out an operation," he said.
A high-level security source in the state capital Maiduguri confirmed the escape, AFP news agency reported.

Read more:


Friday, July 4, 2014

Remembering " Fireworks on Lake Pepin and a Playground Bully"


Two ducks near the shore of Lake Pepin. 
Since my retirement in '03, these holiday weekends haven't been nearly as gratifying as they were when I worked full time. Now I can take a long weekend any time I choose, but it's still fun to celebrate traditional holidays. 

In 2009, I celebrated the 4th of July by taking a road trip down the Mississippi and wound up watching a drama unfold on Lake Pepin. The main characters were three ducks, two were companions and the other was a bully determined to harass them.

I posted about my adventure a couple of days later - it's copied and pasted below. Enjoy!

Meandering south along the Mississippi this 4th of July was a great way to celebrate our nation’s independence. The traffic was light throughout most of the day, and I was in no rush to get anywhere. Just before I reached Winona I saw the Highway 14 sign and couldn’t resist the temptation to take a side trip west to Rochester and beyond to the small village of West Concord where my children grew up. I performed the ritual of circling the house where we used to live, driving down Main Street and back up State Street past the old elementary school and a few blocks further to the high school.

I headed south on Highway 56 and on an impulse turned left on the Wasioja Road to Mantorville where I once sat for hours in the Dodge County Courthouse to report the doings of the County Commissioners for my community newspaper. I’m here to tell you, the corn growing in southeastern Minnesota was past knee high this 4th of July; it was more like shoulder high. The skies were still cloudy with occasional raindrops hitting my windshield as I backtracked through Rochester to my endpoint in Winona, a small picturesque city on the river that boasts two universities.

I’d planned to return to St. Paul after dark so as to watch the fireworks from various locations along the way, but it was still daylight on my trek north on Highway 61. About a mile past Lake City, I pulled in at a rest stop, which to my surprise occupied choice real estate on the shore of Lake Pepin, a wide spot in the Mississippi. Only a few others were taking advantage of this lovely site when I sat down to read at a picnic table close enough to the lake to hear the waves lap against the shore.

I was distracted for a time by a pair of peaceful ducks and a belligerent third duck who kept harassing them. The bully would take flight, dive toward the pair, and skim the water at top speed to charge right into them. I thought he’d be content when a fourth duck came along and joined him. The peace lasted for only a few minutes. He looked across the water to see the other pair coasting along companionably and went after them yet again. Bullies will be bullies, I guess, even on a liquid playground.

The skies cleared just before dusk when a family that lived nearby joined me. They said they come to the rest stop every year where they can avoid the crowds and watch multiple displays from along the lakeshore. The full moon had risen before it was finally dark enough for the fireworks to start. I lasted until the first few bursts, but became chilled from the night air and decided to head home.

Traffic had picked up by then, and I had to keep my eyes on the road, but as I passed through first Red Wing and then Hastings, I heard the boom-ka-boom and caught glimpses of occasional rockets exploding against the night sky. It was a satisfying conclusion to my journey with its side trip to the old home place in West Concord, a small village that still holds many fond memories for me; why I even remembered to bow to that spectacular black maple tree in the back yard!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

July 4, 2014: sex trafficking, enslaving young girls in America

Photo via LarryKingLive.com.

The 4th of July commemorates the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. You recall that’s when America declared its independence from Great Britain. 

It’s also customary on the 4th of July to celebrate our constitutionally guaranteed freedoms, supposedly applicable to all Americans of whatever race, religion, ethnic background, or gender.

In light of the above, why then, on July 4, 2014, are hundreds of young girls in our country enslaved by sex traffickers?  

One underlying reason for the existence of sex trafficking today in America is that our nation has yet to pass the Equal Rights Amendment, first submitted to Congress in 1923, which guarantees equal rights for women. It’s not surprising that injustices against women in the areas of equal pay for equal work and atrocities like sex trafficking continue in 2014.

Before setting off those fireworks tomorrow, pause for a few minutes, and read below how cruelly young women in this country continue to be enslaved by greedy, misogynist pimps. After the festivities this weekend, you might send off an email to your Congressperson urging a further crackdown on sex traffickers and supporting the long delayed passage of the Equal Rights Amendment.

From the Women’s Funding Network:

The following essay is one of our most-referenced resources from a past initiative of the Women’s Funding Network. We partnered with women’s funds and foundations across the United States as part of a national campaign to research, prevent and end domestic minor sex trafficking. Women’s funds and foundations are often the first to create, support, and promote the latest solutions to major social problems, and our members’ response to this issue was no exception. The Atlanta Women’s Foundation, Minnesota Foundation for Women and New York Women’s Foundation, for example, were key partners and conveners of coalitions advancing public policy change and a system of care for sexually exploited girls in their communities.

While the original campaign involving Women’s Funding Network is now complete, the work on this issue continues among our member funds and foundations around the country.

Take Action on Sex Trafficking

To learn more about how you can stop sex trafficking, visit A Future. Not A Past.

If you know someone that needs help, call the Dream Catchers Hotline 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-229-3339.


Essay: Enslaved in America


By Tina Frundt

The pimps who are trafficking young women and girls on the street in the U.S. have a great marketing tool: the media.

When we hear the words “sex trafficking,” as Americans we immediately think of women and children overseas who are being forced into the sex trade or who are brought into the United States for the purpose of sexual exploitation. We don’t usually think closer to home — Americans trafficked by Americans. But I want you to think about young women and even girls that you have seen late at night when you come home from work or a social event. Maybe you have seen them in the streets in short dresses and spike heels. You turn your heads to look away. We do not look at the faces of these young women and girls who are forced to be out in the street. Maybe we think this is what they want to do or they wouldn’t be out there. Maybe it is easier to believe that it is an empowering choice they have than face the harsh reality of child sexual abuse, physical and mental abuse, and the pimps that prey on the young women and girls.

To understand all aspects of sex trafficking in the United States, you have to open your mind and let go of what you have seen or heard on television. You need to let go of the media’s portrayal of the “joys” of street prostitution, and open your eyes to the violence and control the pimps and sex traffickers exercise over their victims, who are mostly girls and young women.

ECPAT USA (End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes)’, an Anti-Trafficking agency, states that the average age of entry into street prostitution is between 12 and 14 years old, though there have been cases of girls as young as 9 years old.

I was 14 years old when I was forced into prostitution. Like many teens at that age, finding my own identity and defying my parents were top on my list. So when a man came into my life and showered me with attention and listened to me when I complained about my parents, I did not think twice that he was ten years my senior. After all, he said I was mature for my age and told me I understood him better than anyone his own age. Little did I know, he was laying down the seeds of manipulation. It did not matter what my parents said, to me they did not understand me and he was the only one that “got me”. After six months, I thought I loved him, at least that is what he told me, so I did what I thought my heart was telling me and ran away to be with him. We ended up in Cleveland, Ohio. He told me we were going to meet the rest of the family.

I had no idea the “family” meant myself and three other girls. After I was introduced to the “family,” I was told what my role would be. I would go out to “work” that night and bring him back the money. How else would we build our dream home? He assured me he would always love me no matter what, but he needed to know how much I loved him by making sure I would do anything for him.

Later that evening, his friends came by the motel. At first, he told me to have sex with someone. I did not want to so his friends raped me. Afterwards, he said “that wouldn’t have happened if I would have just listened to him at first.” I blamed myself instead of being angry at him for being raped. I was angry at myself for not listening to him in the first place. After that, he picked my clothes out, told me what to wear, what to say, how to walk, what to say to “Johns” and how much money I was to bring back to him. He then forced me to go out into the streets.


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Proof we’re not post post-racial

Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Among the guests behind him is Martin Luther King, Jr.


On July 2, 2014, the day after I posted Racism is alive and well in “liberal” Minnesota 2014, Alissa Scheller backed me up with 15 Charts That Prove We're Far From Post-Racial.

Scheller writes:

On July 2, 1964, the Civil Rights Act was signed into law, officially banning discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. It also ended racial segregation in schools, at the workplace and in general public facilities. 

Fifty years removed from that milestone, it's apparently easy to think that we're over racism.

Here are 15 facts that prove that's not the case.

Read more:

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Racism is alive and well in 2014

Sometimes the book I’m reading coincides with my everyday experiences. Synchronistic, right? Recently I’ve been engrossed in Michele Norris’s memoir, The Grace of Silence, in which Norris explores the history of her African-American family. A Minnesotan, Norris is co-host of NPR’s All Things Considered, and the winner of several major awards in journalism.

In researching The Grace of Silence, Norris uncovers painful family secrets, and I shudder at the revelations of racial injustice she brings to light. Norris concludes the epilogue of her memoir by recommending to readers “the grace of silence” when listening to an elderly relative recount experiences from the past.

I wasn’t listening to an elderly relative recently when I interrupted a disturbing conversation. The speaker, caucasian, laid back in her chair and speaking authoritatively, first mentioned that following the Emancipation Proclamation, many blacks chose to stay with kindly plantation owners as they were unable to survive as free persons out in the cruel world; she didn’t mention that years of slavery in which they were deprived of educational opportunities, job training, etc. did not necessarily prepare former slaves for competing in a capitalistic society.

She went on to inform her listeners that some Africans voluntarily boarded slave ships because they wanted to come to America.

Shocked by what I was hearing, I blurted out, “Are you supporting slave owners?”

The woman in question shot up out of her chair and accusing me of being “small minded” went on her way.

Clearly, racism is alive and well, even here in liberal Minnesota in 2014.

A couple days later, I went out to dinner with my son and his wife. When I repeated the above experience, my son said, “Well, she obviously missed the point about freed slaves choosing to stay on the plantation.  We know I’m not rich, Mom, but the next time you talk to that woman, tell her this: “My son is very wealthy, and he owns a big, fine house. You’re welcome to go live there if you agree to be his slave.”

 Of course, I won't follow my son's facetious suggestion, but we do need to remind ourselves frequently that slavery in and of itself is an act of violence.

And by the way, those Africans, forcibly torn from their families, their culture, and their homelands, did not voluntarily board those slave ships.