Friday, May 29, 2015

Outlier candidate Walker and mainstream candidate Sanders

Gov. Walker, photoCourtesy of
Photo of Sanders courtesy of
I had the disconcerting experience this afternoon of first reading yet another offensive quote by the not so mainstream Wisc. Gov. Scott Walker and then renewing my faith in humanity by reading  Juan Cole’s Informed Comment advising us on How Mainstream is Bernie Sanders. Turns out Walker is the outlier and Sanders is mainstream. And gosh, it would seem that the American people know the difference.

Back to Gov. Walker's quote: yes, Wisconsin's pride and joy outdid himself once again:

In an interview with conservative talk show host Dana Loesch, when asked about legislation he signed in Wisconsin in 2013 requiring women to submit to a mandatory ultrasound -- in some cases, meaning an invasive transvaginal ultrasound -- before getting an abortion, Walker said women should be forced to have ultrasounds because he thinks they are "just a cool thing."

After reading Walker's quote, I returned to Cole’s How Mainstream is Bernie Sanders with a huge sense of relief. Now you may have been under the impression, as the media would have it, that Sanders is kind of an odd ball, one of those kinky politicians who got elected by a weird twist of fate or whatever. Cole has news for you:

Sen. Bernie Sanders, the presidential candidate for the Democratic nomination, has trouble being taken seriously by the corporate media, what with him being a democratic socialist and all.

If you go to Google News and put in his name, you get headlines about him being nothing more than a protest candidate, or having “odd views,” or promoting “dark age economics.”

But Sanders’s positions are quite mainstream from the point of view of the stances of the American public in general. Of course, the 1%, for whom and by whom most mainstream media report, are appalled and would like to depict him as an outlier.

Sanders is scathing on the increasing wealth gap, whereby the rich have scooped up most of the increase in our national wealth in the past twenty years. The average wage of the average worker in real terms is only a little better than in 1970; the poor are actually poorer; but the wealth of the top earners has increased several times over.

Some 63% of Americans agree that the current distribution of wealth is unfair. And in a Gallup poll done earlier this month, a majority, 52%, think that government taxation on the rich should be used to reduce the wealth gap. This percentage is historically high, having been only 45% in 1998. But there seems to be a shift going on, because Gallup got the 52% proportion in answer to the question on taxing the rich both in April and again in May of this year.

Bernie Sanders’ position is that of a majority of Americans in the most recent polling!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

On Memorial Day weekend, a female veteran reflects on high heels

Women's footwear designed by a misogynist. .
How can I blend the topic of high heels for women with an appropriate tribute to Memorial Day? As a member of the Women in the Air Force (WAF) back in 1958, my Class A uniform included black leather high heels – fortunately WAF were not expected to march in them. We had granny shoes for that purpose, a style of footwear that lent itself to everyday activities. Our fatigue uniforms came with lace up ankle high shoes. WAF uniforms with appropriate shoes were a testament to the reality that high heels were not intended for practical purposes.

When I returned to civilian life, I experimented from time to time with the pointy-toed shoes with narrow high heels that were the fashion back then. I and otherwise intelligent women actually wore them to work. Needless to say, they hurt my feet. And I wondered about the obvious misogyny behind such torturous footwear for women. Luckily, I didn't have to wait until I was an old lady before I favored tennis shoes for trips to the supermarket. More often than not, I chose to wear flats to the office.

Obviously, this female military veteran had given some thought to high heels before coming across an opinion piece on that topic in the NY Times on Memorial Day weekend 2015: Shoes that put women in their place:

TORONTO — YOU can’t even really see the shoes.

In many of the photos of women on the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival, the elegant gowns fall all the way to the ground, obscuring a view of their special-occasion footwear.

So why on earth would it matter if women entering the prestigious celebration of cinema chose not to confine themselves in difficult-to-walk-in heels, opting for something more manageable — or even fashion-forward, in a flat?

It did seem to matter to someone, though. It was reported last week that some women were turned away from the festival for the sartorial sin of wearing flats. High heels, it turns out, appeared to be part of the unwritten red-carpet dress code. Wearing heels changes how you stand, how you walk and how you are perceived. Even if they are visible only in small flashes, when a hem moves to one side, they are, in essence, a foundation garment: shoes that keep women in their place.

The heel has come to be the icon of feminine allure and even female power. But what, exactly, is this power and why do only women have the privilege of using heels to convey it?

Heeled footwear that gave the wearer a bit of a lift, or an advantage while on horseback, were not the original domain of women. They were first introduced into Western fashion around the turn of the 17th century from Western Asia. Privileged men, followed by women, eagerly wore them for more than 130 years as expressions of power and prestige.

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Combat veterans with a mission

In the wake of Hurricane Iselle, Team Rubicon members conducted damage assessments, chainsaw operations, and debris removal in concert with civil defense agencies and fellow NGOs in the Puna District of Hawaii to support affected residents. Courtesy of

A veteran of the United States Air Force (WAF), I served in peace time in the late 1950s, and I've been known to joke now and then about the usefulness of the skills I mastered in the military once I returned to civilian life: marching, saluting, cleaning the fixtures in my bathroom until they gleamed, polishing my shoes, etc.

Combat veterans have a different story to tell, and they're less likely to joke about their military service – far from it. This Memorial Day weekend, Americans would do well to read Ken Harbaugh's article in the Atlantic titled: Taking Off the Uniform, but Retaining the Drive to Serve.

Harbaugh is the chief operations officer for Team Rubicon, a non-profit organization that redeploys vets as disaster-relief volunteers and helps former troops find meaningful uses for their skills. He writes:

It is four o’clock in the morning. The cot on my office floor beckons. But this place is bustling. In the ready room next door, the medical team will soon be assembling. Cal Verdin, a former Army paratrooper, checks gear and reviews the latest damage reports from Kathmandu. The recon team is already en route to Nepal, and will touch down in a few hours. Another will follow tomorrow, led by Bob Obernier, a former Navy corpsman turned firefighter. Since Saturday’s massive quake, there have been dozens of aftershocks. Over the coming days, waves of military vets and first responders will touch down near the epicenter. My job, here in Los Angeles, is to get them there safely, with medications, satellite phones, and water purifiers. 

When I was a Navy pilot, sleepless nights and pre-dawn briefings were part of the deal. I led a combat-reconnaissance crew and deployed around the globe. Now, the wars I helped wage have wound down. Americans are eager to move on. Most already have. Yet for the two million veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, another battle looms. Some struggle to re-enter society, to build a life among civilians who cannot fathom what they have seen and experienced. They are viewed not as assets, but as damaged goods. However, the vast majority of returning vets are highly trained public servants determined to continue serving their communities and their country.

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Friday, May 22, 2015

Patriarchal Eve and the real Hillary Clinton

Via DailyKos
Since the patriarchal legend of Eve was first circulated in ancient times, women have been widely stereotyped as the source of all evil, labeled from time to time as untrustworthy, inauthentic, overly ambitious, etc.  If all the above sounds familiar, it should - that's pretty much how the media has portrayed Hillary Clinton since she first set foot on the national stage.

Lately, though, I've been struck by the media's pronouncements of changes in how Hillary presents herself as well as her perceived policy shifts. Even though it's to be expected from our still male-dominated sexist media, I'm still taken aback by the repeated failures of the punditry to realize that in most instances Hillary hasn't changed, the media has just begun to perceive her through a non-stereotypical lens.

So this morning, I paused in scanning the online news coverage to reflect on Harry Enten's piece at 538 titled: Hillary Clinton was Liberal. Hillary Clinton is Liberal. And it's fascinating to see how Hillary has ranked in comparison to Barack Obama:

A bunch of reporters have recently discovered a shocking truth: Hillary Clinton is liberal! (I heard a rumor that Columbo has been helping with the investigation.)

We’ve gotten this raft of “Clinton is liberal” exposés as Clinton has revved up her 2016 campaign, speaking out in support of gay marriage, a pathway to citizenship for immigrants in the U.S. illegally, and criminal justice reform. But what many of these articles miss is that Clinton has always been, by most measures, pretty far to the left. When she’s shifted positions, it has been in concert with the entire Democratic Party.

To see how these different issues fit together to form an overall political ideology, we usually use three metrics: one based on congressional voting record, one based on public statements and one based on fundraising.

Clinton was one of the most liberal members during her time in the Senate. According to an analysis of roll call votes by Voteview, Clinton’s record was more liberal than 70 percent of Democrats in her final term in the Senate. She was more liberal than 85 percent of all members. Her 2008 rival in the Democratic presidential primary, Barack Obama, was nearby with a record more liberal than 82 percent of all members — he was not more liberal than Clinton.

Clinton also has a history of very liberal public statements. Clinton rates as a “hard core liberal” per the scale. She is as liberal as Elizabeth Warren and barely more moderate than Bernie Sanders. And while Obama is also a “hard core liberal,” Clinton again was rated as more liberal than Obama.

Sometimes I wonder whether people are confusing Clinton with her husband. Bill Clinton’s statements have been far more moderate. He has also had a more moderate donor base, according to Adam Bonica’s fundraising scores.

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Thursday, May 21, 2015

Here come the Clintons

Bill and Hillary, courtesy of ABC News.
It's so refreshing to read an article that highlights the many gifts and talents of Bill and Hillary Clinton, plus the broad expanse of their combined experience in public service. Brent Budowsky's piece at the Hill reminds voters of what Bill and Hillary brought to the Oval Office during Bill's Administration and the potential benefits the nation will receive with Hillary at the helm and Bill at her side in 2016:

My theory about how Democrats can win a big victory in the 2016 presidential campaign has long been based on the following.

The most popular American president in many decades is John F. Kennedy. The most popular living former president is Bill Clinton. The most popular public figure in America and the world is Pope Francis. The probability and magnitude of a Democratic victory in 2016 is in direct proportion to the degree that the Democratic nominee, who may well be the first woman president, as Kennedy was the first Catholic president, embodies the spirit of these three historic men.

Far beyond what is reported in heavy-breathing commentaries of the latest news cycle, the most popular living former president is Hillary Clinton’s secret weapon in Campaign 2016.

The magic of Bill Clinton, the vast public appeal he continues to enjoy from the American people — which will not be affected a whit by hyperpartisan hearings of the Republican House Benghazi Committee of inquisition — is an incalculable and indescribable asset to the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton.

I often refer to the highly successful and fondly remembered Bill Clinton presidency because it is true and important to understanding the dynamics of the 2016 campaign.

What is historically accurate, and what voters understand, is that the role of Hillary Clinton during the Bill Clinton presidency was integral to the very qualities that made it so successful.

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Tuning in to the cries of the nation's wolf population

Hi Katalusis friends,

I had hip replacement surgery on May 7, 2015 and since then I've been recovering in a transitional care unit at a local nursing home. I've got wi-fi here and cranked up my laptop the other day to maintain this blog and get back in touch with my online community, which includes a number of supporters of our wildlife. By the way, my occupational therapist interrupted my posting here this morning, and I learned that she, too, is a wildlife supporter - a nice coincidence.

So now that I've worked out with dowels and other OT stuff, let's welcome Jamie Rappaport Clark and tune into to the cries of the nation's wolf population:

Donate Now

America’s Wolves
Need You!
Gray Wolf, (c) Larry Travis DPC
Congress has introduced a series of bills that would force wolves in seven states off the Endangered Species List!
Donate Now Button

Dear Virginia,
A war is raging. And the future of America’s wolves could depend on you.
They are dying by the hundreds – shot, trapped, gunned down from helicopters, left to die in snares.
And now – in an effort to pander to anti-government ideologues and wolf-hating extremists – Congress has introduced a series of bills that would force wolves in seven states off the Endangered Species List.
If these bills pass, nearly every wolf in the nation will be at the mercy of the states.
More than 3,300 wolves, including mothers and helpless pups, have been killed since Congress stripped wolves in the Northern Rockies of federal Endangered Species Act protections.
I know you care. And we need you now more than ever.
As a special thank you, with any gift of $20 or more, we’ll send you a wolf beach towel FREE that features the Defenders of Wildlife logo along with a beautiful color image of a wolf.
There have always been wolf-haters. Driven by fear, greed and superstition, they exterminated wolves by the thousands. By the 1950s, wolves in the Lower 48 were all but extinct.
Twenty years ago, Defenders helped reintroduce wolves to the Northern Rockies. New packs were born. As the 21st century dawned, wolves were making an historic comeback.
But now the wolf-haters are fighting back harder than ever – and they’re using Congress to get their way. They’ve declared war on the very wolves we worked so hard to restore.
Donate today, and with your gift of only $20, you’ll receive our wolf beach towel FREE!
Defenders of Wildlife is America’s leading voice for wolves, panthers, manatees and other imperiled wildlife. We are a dedicated team of field scientists, policy experts, wildlife lawyers, lobbyists and advocates with a remarkable track record of success.
But we are only as strong as our base of supporters. People just like you.
A war is raging. Won't you stand up to defend the defenseless?
Jaime Rappaport Clark
Jamie Rappaport Clark
President, Defenders of Wildlife

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

News media plays victim in its coverage of Hillary Clinton

A pleasant surprise: almost objective coverage of Hillary Clinton at the NY Times. Amy Chozick reports on Clinton's visit to Cedar Falls, Iowa where she engaged with a news media that in the past has focused more on her hair style, clothes, and yes, the size and shape of her ankles than on her qualifications for the presidency. 

The same news media continuously whines about receiving a cold shoulder from Clinton, the most admired woman in the world for 17 years.

 I'm getting a little off topic here, but I wish our educational institutions would require journalism majors to master the art of critical thinking and shed whatever forms of bigotry colors their perspective, in addition to mastering basic journalism skills like the difference between the Times New Roman and Impact fonts. Hey, I took several journalism courses in college while earning my BA degree in English, concentration in writing.

But back to Cedar Falls, Iowa:

Hillary Rodham Clinton addressed reporters Tuesday, fielding questions on topics ranging from her personal wealth and her family’s foundation to the deteriorating situation in Iraq, saying at one point that she had “made a mistake” as a United States senator in voting to authorize the war in Iraq.
Mrs. Clinton, who has been criticized for weeks by Republicans and members of the national news media for her unwillingness to engage with the political press corps, approached journalists and answered five questions after a round-table discussion in Cedar Falls focusing on small business creation.

“I am so proud of the foundation,” Mrs. Clinton said in response to a question about the controversy surrounding foreign donations to the Clinton Foundation. “I’ll let the American people make their own judgments.”

Mrs. Clinton also defended her relationship with Sidney Blumenthal, a longtime friend and confidant who was paid by the Clinton Foundation and offered her advice about the situation in Libya while she served as secretary of state.

“I have many, many old friends and I always think that it’s important when you get into politics to have friends you had before you were in politics and to understand what’s on their mind,” she said. (Mr. Blumenthal served as an adviser to President Bill Clinton in the White House and has been close to the Clintons since.

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Sunday, May 3, 2015

Mindfulness and the art of knitting

I'm not a knitter and at this point in my life, I'm not likely to take lessons and master the art. But I can tell you this: after reading Barbara Hannah Grufferman's post, Why Knitting Is the Must-Have Life Skill, I wish I'd picked up a pair of knitting needles decades ago.  Grufferman's comment that knitting enforces mindfulness meditation jumped out at me, as I've been practicing mindfulness meditation for several years. However, I'm also intrigued by her several other reasons for claiming that knitting is a "must have life skill."

Grufferman writes:

Growing up in Brooklyn, my no-nonsense German grandmother tried to teach me how to knit -- a life skill she believed was the key to happiness. 

Like any adolescent, I rebelled and made excuses. "Tomorrow, Grandma, okay? Studying for a math test now, but I promise we'll sit down and you can teach me. Can't wait . . . "

Of course I regret it. That goes without saying. For sure, I spent lots of quality time with my grandparents, loving people who embraced the job of raising two more kids (my sister and me) in midlife after having raised five of their own, including my mother. When my father left my mother with two daughters under four, her only choice-- and a very good one, indeed-- was to move back home so she could work full time to support us. 

My grandmother showered us with things my mother was too young and inexperienced to give: unconditional love; patience during a rocky time in our lives; structure (dinner on the table every night at 6pm); and essential life lessons like how to make the perfect roast chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, apple strudel and Christmas cookies. 

We learned a great deal from her, but my sister and I drew the line at knitting. 

It wasn't until I turned 50, many years after my beloved grandmother had passed on from Alzheimer's, that I decided to step into my local knitting store and finally get that lesson. To say that I am hooked is an understatement.

 Here's why I knit:

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