2016 election

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

Friday, February 27, 2015

Saving America's forgotten wolves

Over time, I've begun to consider Defenders of Wildlife CEO Jamie Rappaport Clark a Katalusis writer. She emails me about her latest wildlife concerns, and I'm pleased to post them here. This just in from Jamie:

Dear Virginia,
You and I are almost out of time to avoid a heartbreaking tragedy.

Two different American wolves could become extinct in the wild within the next decade – unless we act now.

Wild populations of red wolves and Mexican gray wolves live 2,000 miles apart but could share a similar tragic fate.

Help us save America’s forgotten wolves, and other imperiled species, with an urgent contribution to Defenders of Wildlife.

Mexican Gray Wolves – Native to the U.S.

Despite their name, Mexican gray wolves are native to both the U.S. and Mexico!

Their fur a mix of gray, rust, black and cream colors, these smaller gray wolves once roamed throughout the southwestern United States. Slaughtered as vermin, they were wiped out in the wild by the 1980s.
   
In 1998, I personally oversaw the release of eleven Mexican gray wolves from captivity – the first of their kind in the wild for many generations. At last count, there were only 109 in the wildlands of Arizona and New Mexico these beautiful animals are hanging on by a thread.

With your help, the Defenders team has led the fight for Mexican gray wolf survival. We have helped ranchers coexist with wolves, gone to court to make sure the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) does the right thing, and showed up and spoken up wherever we were needed. Now, the lobos are facing grave new challenges. 

Your urgent support will help us keep the pressure on FWS to finally save the lobos!

Red Wolves: A Fatal Resemblance to Coyotes

Even smaller than Mexican gray wolves, red wolves once roamed from Pennsylvania to Florida. Today, fewer than 100 animals survive in a small section of eastern North Carolina.

These slender, rusty gray wolves look a lot like coyotes which share the wolves’ habitat. Cases of mistaken identity may explain why at least 50 of these critically endangered wolves have been gunned down in recent years.

In November, Defenders won a temporary reprieve for red wolves, halting night hunts for coyotes in red wolf territory. But now, FWS is considering giving up on red wolf recovery altogether!

Your contribution will help our all-out mobilization to breathe new life into red wolf recovery efforts.
I know you simply cannot imagine a world without these wolves. It’s a future we can avoid, if we all do our part.

Thanks for all you do!

For the wolves,
Jamie Rappaport Clark, Defenders of Wildlife
Jamie Rappaport Clark
President
Defenders of Wildlife

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Net neutrality: "A victory for free speech, plain and simple"

Courtesy of the Huffington Post.
I'm a writer. The Internet has been my right arm ever since a few decades ago when my very savvy son insisted that I buy a computer and get online. There was a time, folks, when I had to dash to the nearest library and wade through the stacks to discover tidbits of information I needed for an article I was writing. Imagine what that was like compared to today when all I have to do is type my question into a search box. So I'm among those applauding the FCC's approval of net neutrality rules of "open internet."

NPR has the story:

The Federal Communications Commission approved the policy known as net neutrality by a 3-2 vote at its Thursday meeting, with FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler saying the policy will ensure "that no one — whether government or corporate — should control free open access to the Internet."
The Open Internet Order helps to decide an essential question about how the Internet works, requiring service providers to be a neutral gateway instead of handling different types of Internet traffic in different ways — and at different costs.

"Today is a red-letter day," Wheeler said Thursday.

The dissenting votes came from Michael O'Rielly and Ajut Pai, Republicans who warned that the FCC was overstepping its authority and interfering in commerce to solve a problem that doesn't exist. They also complained that the measure's 300-plus pages weren't publicly released or openly debated.

The new policy would replace a prior version adopted in 2010 — but that was put on hold following a legal challenge by Verizon. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled last year that the FCC did not have sufficient regulatory power over broadband.

After that ruling, the FCC looked at ways to reclassify broadband to gain broader regulatory powers. It will now treat Internet service providers as carriers under Title II of the Telecommunications Act, which regulates services as public utilities.

Update at 2:20 p.m. ET: Reactions — For And Against

Welcoming today's news, the ACLU's legislative counsel Gabe Rottman says:
"This is a victory for free speech, plain and simple. Americans use the internet not just to work and play, but to discuss politics and learn about the world around them. The FCC has a critical role to play in protecting citizens' ability to see what they want and say what they want online, without interference. Title II provides the firmest possible foundation for such protections. We are still sifting through the full details of the new rules, but the main point is that the Internet, the primary place where Americans exercise their right to free expression, remains open to all voices and points of view."

Read more:

 

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Speaking out for social justice at the Academy Awards Ceremony

Patricia Arquette standing up for women's equality. (The New Agenda)
In yesterday's post, I mentioned the possibility that the movies are catching up to the likes of the edgy Penumbra Theatre in St. Paul, MN where drama and storytelling support social justice. I was referring to the "political statements" made during the Academy Awards Ceremony. The New Agenda's Anita Finlay applauds best supporting actress Patricia Arquette for standing up for women's equality in her acceptance speech.

Finlay reports:

Patricia Arquette brought excitement to an otherwise lackluster Oscar telecast with her impassioned speech on behalf of women’s equality.  Upon accepting the award for Best Supporting Actress, she stood before a worldwide audience of 1 billion and declared: “To every woman who gave birth to every taxpayer and every citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America.”

She got a sustained standing ovation and enthusiastic whoops from none other than Meryl Streep, not to mention worldwide twitter love for her statements.  And whether or not you like politics mixed in with your awards telecast, Arquette is right.

It was widely assumed in the press that in asking for women’s equality, Ms. Arquette was referring to the under-representation of women in Hollywood, both in front of and behind the camera. Women helm only 6% of film projects and are outnumbered 4 to 1 in on screen representation.  SONY also got a black eye last year when it was revealed that its female execs made far lower salaries than their male counterparts and Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence was paid less in America Hustle than her lesser known and less celebrated male co-stars.

Arquette would not be the first to speak out on women’s behalf.  Upon winning the Best Actress Oscar last year, Cate Blanchett noted that stories about women do sell tickets.  Women do fascinate beyond “Bond girls.”  Was Arquette addressing this as part of the issue …yes.  Was that her main point?  I think not.

While I’m sure Patricia Arquette was addressing women’s inequality in all its forms, her Oscar speech made a passionate plea for the recognition of women of all social strata – 73% of us are in the work force and 40% are sole breadwinners or head of household, yet 2/3 of minimum wage jobs are held by women.  So to those in Congress, like Rep. Marsha Blackburn, who say that getting and enforcing equal pay laws for women don’t matter – think again.

Read more:

Monday, February 23, 2015

2015 Oscars: Movies catching up to the theatre


Drawing on insights from Augusto Boal's The Theatre of the Oppressed, The Penumbra Theatre in St. Paul, MN has historically tapped into the power of drama and storytelling to promote social justice. Evidently, the movies are catching up. The Caucus at the NY Times, reports this morning that "political statements were the order of the evening" at the 2015 Academy Awards Ceremony yesterday:
 
Good Monday morning from Washington, where Congress is back in session but is still stalemated over the Department of Homeland Security financing bill, Republicans with presidential aspirations are polishing up their speeches for the Conservative Political Action Conference, and Kentucky’s governor is optimistic that Hillary Rodham Clinton can win the state next year. Have the post-Oscar parties ended in Hollywood yet? At the ceremony itself, political statements were the order of the evening. 

One speech ended in an impassioned call for women’s rights, another lamented the future of voting rights, and the final words of the night were about immigration. Oh, and Edward J. Snowden took home an Oscar. (In spirit, anyway.)

The Academy Awards ceremony took a political left turn on Sunday night.

Read more:


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Big bad people attacking innocent wolves


A 130 pound wolf watches biologists in Yellowstone National Park after being captured and fitted with a radio collar on 1-9-03. Credit: William Campbell, USFWS

Once again I'm not posting about big bad wolves desiring to harm people; instead, I'm posting about big bad people attempting to kill off innocent wolves. Yep. Just got another plea for help from Jamie Rappaport Clark, President of Defenders of Wildlife, on behalf of this particular endangered species.

Jamie writes:



defenders_logo.jpg

Dear
Virginia,
If you love wolves like I think you do, you need to know the truth.

Wolves are in mortal danger and under constant attack in states like Idaho. Twenty years of painstaking progress in reintroducing wolves to the Lower 48 and promoting wolf recovery could come to a tragic end, unless you and I protect them.

Wolves need you, and so do we! Your support for Defenders of Wildlife is the best investment you can make to protect wolves and other vulnerable wildlife!

I’ve never seen such a relentless attack on wolves and wolf conservation as we’re seeing today.

Just last week, members of Congress introduced bills to strip wolves in Wyoming and the Great Lakes region of Endangered Species Act (ESA) protection.

I fear they are just getting started – it could be only a matter of time before legislation is introduced to delist nearly all gray wolves in the Lower 48 and bar protections for other critically imperiled species.

But with your help, we will weather this storm of hatred, ignorance and bloodshed.

Your generous support will give us the critical resources to carry on in this fight.

Thanks to you and other supporters, Defenders led the successful campaign to reintroduce wolves to the Northern Rockies. With your support we’ve gone to court repeatedly, and won, to make sure wolves get the legal defense they deserve. We’re pioneering new, non-lethal strategies for managing wolves and livestock to co-exist in order to protect wolves from being needlessly killed.

And with you at our side, we’ll turn away this latest barrage of hatred and anti-wolf persecution. The future of wolf recovery hangs in the balance.

We can’t do it without you.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you for your compassion and generosity.
Sincerely,

Jamie's Signature
Jamie Rappaport Clark
President
Defenders of Wildlife
 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

AUMF: Where have all the flowers gone? When will they ever learn…

Peter, Paul, and Mary: Where have all the flowers gone


As usual, billmoyers.com jars its viewers and readers into a more realistic take on world affairs than that of our government or for that matter, the US electorate. This time, Bill’s guest is Andrew Bacevich, professor of history and international relations at Boston University. And just so you know, Professor Bacevich is a graduate of the US Military Academy, and he has taught at West Point and Johns Hopkins. He’s wise to the strategies of leaders to drag their nation’s into prolonged wars.

Bacevich wants us to reflect on the eerie similarities between President Richard Nixon’s 1970 request to Congress for expansion of his war powers that became the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) and President Barack Obama’s recent request for AUMF.

Now that’s not too much to ask of an informed citizen, right? Kind of reminds you of some words from that old Peter, Paul, and Mary song from the sixties, Where Have All the Flowers Gone:

Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn?

Bacevich writes:

Try this thought experiment. Pretend that it’s the spring of 1970. President Richard Nixon has just sent US troops into Cambodia. He thereby expands the Vietnam War, a costly undertaking already ongoing for years with no sign of victory in sight.

Now imagine further that Nixon sends a message to Congress asking that it authorize him to do what he has already done (while simultaneously insisting that even without legislative approval he already has the necessary authority).

The president emphasizes that the Cambodian operation is not really a big deal. He has no intention of US troops maintaining an “enduring” presence there. Even so, he’d like Congress to approve a three-year grant of authority, not only to attack North Vietnamese sanctuaries in Cambodia, but also “associated persons or forces” aiding the North Vietnamese or “any closely-related successor entity” posing a threat to the United States.

Bacevich continues:

This essentially describes the present-day position of the Obama administration, requesting ex post facto congressional approval of the military campaign against the Islamic State that it launched several months ago.

Monday, February 16, 2015

For vulnerable women, a wake up call regarding Fifty Shades of Grey

James in May 2012, courtesy of Wikipedia.

I consider myself an independent, self respecting woman with fairly intellectual literary tastes, and that's my excuse for having paid little or no attention to Fifty Shades of Grey, by E.L. James. On the other hand, I respect The New Agenda, and its headline, Unraveling the Troubling Themes Behind Fifty Shades of Grey, belatedly caught my eye. In response to Molly's astute interpretation of Fifty Shades of Grey, posted at TNA prior to Valentine's Day weekend, I feel utter disgust toward James' novel and the potential damage it might wreak on the lives of young women; incidentally, James' real name is Erica Mitchell.
 
Molly writes:

In the heart of college, otherwise known as the “sexual experimentation years”, there is no doubt that the popular novel-turned movie Fifty Shades of Grey will be on the menu for discussion this Valentines Day weekend. While this infamous pop culture reference might present itself as just another playful Hollywood movie that “pushes the limits”, its underlying themes are anything but playful. Fifty Shades of Grey is not a story about romance, or even sex, it’s a story of the loss of power and control of an innocent women, the story we know all too well.

For people who haven’t read the book the plot has a basic “romantic” story-line, an older established man charms himself into mind and body of Anastasia Steele, a modest and insecure 21 year old. The twist, however, is what gave this novel its claim to fame. Once the man, Christian Grey, hence the title Fifty Shades of Grey, coaxes himself into Steele’s otherwise average college life, he manipulates her into joining his world of sexual bondage.

While I am all for some healthy discussion about new trends, sexual liberation, and fulfilling ones needs, there is nothing healthy or normal about this movie. In light of the recent sexual offense cases on college campuses around the country, the media has been beating the public over the head with information about sexual assault awareness. Yet the media is simultaneously releasing a film illustrating taboo details that romanticize the acts of sexual abuse. These mixed messages can be confusing to the public and it is an issue where light should be shed.

Read more:




Sunday, February 15, 2015

Let’s all sing “the Worried Man Blues” on President’s Day 2015



Carter Family: "It takes a worried man to sing a worried song,"
With the Twin Cities (my neighborhood) awash in ads for celebratory sales, I’m thinking about President’s Day to be celebrated across the US tomorrow, the third Monday of February, and I only vaguely recall the origin of this holiday. Never fear. I refreshed my memory by reading an article by Lauren Himlak at USParks.about.com. Lauren reminds us the holiday originally commemorated the birthdays of Lincoln, Feb. 12, and Washington, Feb. 22, and was only later designated as President’s Day, which falls on Feb. 16 this year.

Himlak explains:

Today, President’s Day is well accepted and celebrated. Some communities still observe the original holidays of Washington and Lincoln, and many parks actually stage reenactments and pageants in their honor. The National Park Service also features a number of historic sites and memorials to honor the lives of these two presidents, as well as other important leaders.

Continuing to follow up my Google search regarding President's Day, I came across a recently updated essay by Bill Moyers that movingly connects us with Abraham Lincoln:

I had a history professor at the University of Texas - Robert Cotter - who believed the most remarkable quality of Abraham Lincoln was his empathy for people he didn't personally know. The working man. The soldier in battle. His widow and orphans.

Ordinary folks caught in the undertow of events. We could use that kind of empathy today. As Washington obsessed all week over the fate of one nominee to the cabinet, and as we watched hearings about the failure of watchdog agencies going to sleep on the job, we heard almost nothing of the people across the country suffocating in the wreckage of their lives. Some of us born in the Depression still remember the song made famous by the Carter Family singers, called the "Worried Man Blues".

"I went across that river and I lay down to sleep. When I woke up there were shackles on my feet."

Read more:

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Saying "no" to the 08 peace candidate's request for war powers

 
Well, maybe not yet...
I'd glimpsed the acronym AUMF a couple times lately as I scanned the news, pronouncing it OAF or something similar and not quite grasping its current significance in the Obama Administration. Think about it. Barack Obama won the 08 primary and arguably the presidency on the basis of his opposition to the Iraq War and his pledge to eliminate OAF,  I mean AUMF, which stands for the 2001 Authorization for the use of Military Force. So don't blame me for not quite getting it that President Obama has just asked Congress to authorize the U.S. military campaign against the Islamic State on the basis of AUMF.

So let's all give a shout out to Democratic senators this morning for their proposed legislation to repeal that dangerous authorization that never expired.

The Huffington Post's Jennifer Bendery reports:

Sens. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, introduced the bill. It would terminate the 2001 AUMF in three years and clarify that Congress "never intended and did not authorize a perpetual war" by passing that authorization.

Their legislation comes days after Obama sent Congress a new AUMF tailored to the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, also known as ISIL or ISIS. While his proposal calls for limits on duration and ground troops, it does nothing to rein in the 2001 AUMF -- the same authority Obama has been using for the past six months to fight ISIS. That means, regardless of whether Congress passes his new AUMF, the old authorization's broad war authority remains available to Obama and future presidents.

Read more:

Sunday, February 8, 2015

When the anchor becomes too much a part of the news


Brian Williams_2012_Shankbone.JPG
There's no denying it:  NBC anchorman Brian Williams is making the news today wherever you look.  Online  news sources across the Web this morning feature a Brian Williams story. And that's the reason Williams gives in a recently released memo for "temporarily" taking himself off the broadcast. AP writer Lynn Elber has the story:

LOS ANGELES — Brian Williams said he is temporarily stepping away from the "NBC Nightly News" amid questions about his memories of war coverage in Iraq, calling it "painfully apparent" that he has become a distracting news story.

In a memo Saturday to NBC News staff that was released by the network, the anchorman said that as managing editor of "NBC Nightly News" he is taking himself off the broadcast for several days. Weekend anchor Lester Holt will fill in, Williams said.

NBC News refused to comment Saturday on when or whether Williams would return and who would decide his future.

Williams, however, said he would be back.

"In the midst of a career spent covering and consuming news, it has become painfully apparent to me that I am presently too much a part of the news, due to my actions," Williams said in his memo.
"Upon my return, I will continue my career-long effort to be worthy of the trust of those who place their trust in us," he wrote.

NBC News President Deborah Turness said Friday that an internal investigation had been launched after questions arose over Williams' false on-air statements that he was in a helicopter hit by a rocket-propelled grenade while in Iraq in 2003. Williams apologized for those statements Wednesday.

There was no indication by Williams, who has anchored "NBC Nightly News" since 2004, that an absence was forthcoming during his newscast Friday. He signed off as he usually does, saying he hoped people would be back to see him Monday.

Holt did mention Williams' leave in Saturday's newscast.

"A word tonight about our colleague Brian Williams, who you may know has been under scrutiny this past week over his recollection of certain stories he's covered," Holt said before reading Williams' memo to viewers.

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Thursday, February 5, 2015

Burning alive an innocent victim not ISIL's best PR move

Image courtesy of NY Daily News.
Juan Cole's comments are typically well informed (see Informed Comment). But you're required to actually think as you read his posts and to see issues from several perspectives. For example, in his February 4, 2015 post on the aftermath of ISIL's burning alive a captured Jordanian pilot, Cole reports that Jordan's citizens were not united in their response. Nevertheless, it's safe to say that setting fire to an innocent victim was not one of ISIL's best PR moves.

Jordanian protesters came out in the thousands on Tuesday to protest the gruesome murder by Daesh (ISIL, ISIL) of a captured Jordanian pilot, Muath al-Kasasbeh. He was from the central Jordanian town of Karak (pop. 70,000), 87 miles south of the capital of Amman, and crowds came out in its center last night. Protests were also mounted by the Kasasbeh clan, to which the victim belonged, demanding that Jordan leave the US-led coalition. Crowds also rallied in Amman. the capital.

While the masses were protesting Daesh’s cruelty to a fellow Jordanian, then, some of them also chanted against the Coalition that is bombing eastern Syria and even against the Jordanian regime for joining them in bombing Daesh positions in Syria and Iraq.

The Jordanian government responded to the news by abruptly executing Iraqi terrorist Sajida Rishawi and Ziad Karbouli, aid to the late al-Qaeda leader Abu Musaab al-Zarqawi. The two had been considered for a swap for the unlucky pilot.

Read more: