Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Al Franken wants you to stand with Sen. Wendy Davis

Al Franken's invitation to help him stand with Texas Sen. Wendy Davis:

Help me stand with Wendy
1 message

Al Franken Wed, Jul 24, 2013 at 9:42 AM
To: Virginia Bergman
Al Franken - U.S. Senator, Minnesota
Dear Virginia,

Watching Texas State Senator Wendy Davis stand up -- literally -- to right-wing politicians who wanted to take health care decisions out of women’s hands was incredibly inspiring.

She spent nearly 13 straight hours standing in her now famous sneakers, telling the truth about what that bill would do to women and families in Texas.

That’s why we were all proud to #standwithwendy online -- and it’s why I’m going to be proud to stand with Wendy in real life when a bunch of my colleagues and I get together to thank her in person later this week.

Will you join us? You don’t even need pink shoes to stand with Wendy Davis. You just need to click here to help say “THANK YOU!”

Even before her famous stand, Wendy was a hero. A single mother who worked hard to put herself through college -- becoming the first in her family to graduate (and doing so first in her class!) -- before going on to earn a law degree from Harvard, she brings real-life experience to her job fighting for Texas families.

And even with the fight over that one bill behind us, Wendy’s exactly the kind of person we need in elected office, especially in states like Texas where all too often we only hear about radical conservative politicians.

That’s why I’m so excited to stand with Wendy -- although, with all the other Senators joining me to thank her for her work, it could get crowded.

But there’s still room for you. Join me in thanking Wendy Davis by clicking here to sign our card.

Thanks for helping me stand with Wendy.


P.S.: A bunch of us Senators are saying “thank you” to Wendy by helping her continue her great work for Texas families. We’d love if you’d join us: Click here to thank Wendy Davis!

Paid for and authorized by Al Franken for Senate 2014
P.O. Box 583144  |  Minneapolis, MN 55458-3144

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Sen. Warren: “This whole system stinks”

Warren and Reed
Just got this email from Sen. Warren, and she’s mad!

Virginia --

I’ve spent years fighting back against credit card companies that put out zero-interest teaser rate cards, planning to jack up the price later and make all their profits in the fine print.

I also fought back against teaser rate mortgages that promised low payments in the first few years, but then shot up to rates that pushed millions of families into foreclosure.

So it’s shocking to me that the United States Senate would offer its own teaser rate for our student loan system -- a system that is scheduled to make more than $184 billion in profits over the next ten years. That's not the business the United States government should be in.

Speak out right now to make sure the Senate doesn't pass a deal that would let federal student loans go even higher than their current 6.8% rate.

We had a majority in the Senate to keep student interest rates low, but because of Republican filibusters, the interest rate on federally subsidized student loans jumped from 3.4% to 6.8% on July 1st. Instead of restoring that 3.4% rate, a new so-called "compromise" plan on the table raises the interest rate on those loans this year to 3.86% for undergraduate students, and 5.41% for graduate students in 2013.

And then it gets worse. The plan is set up to collect higher interest rates in future years. After just 24 months, the rate jumps above 6.8% for graduate students. Within a few years, rates for all loans will be higher than if Congress does nothing -- and some could climb as high as 10.5%. Even worse, with the federal government already making billions in profits off these programs, the "compromise" plan is set up to actually increase those profits by hundreds of millions of dollars more.

I can't support a proposal that squeezes even more profits out of our kids, while millionaires and billionaires still don't pay their fair share. This is a bad deal.

Senator Jack Reed has offered an amendment that is a true compromise: let rates move with the market, but set a cap on student loan interest rates at their current rates. I am proud to cosponsor that amendment. It's the only way to ensure that students don't end up paying more than they would if Congress does nothing.

In the end, this is a simple math problem.

If Republicans insist that we continue to make the same $184 billion in profit off of the student loan program, that just means that students in future years will have to pay higher rates to make up the difference.

I don't believe in pitting our kids against each other. In fact, I think this whole system stinks.

We should not go along with any plan that demands that our students continue to produce huge profits for our government. Making billions and billions in profits off the backs of students is obscene.

Senator Jack Reed's amendment is the only plan on the table right now that guarantees student loan interest rates won't skyrocket above their current levels. We need to pass this amendment for our kids and grandkids.

I appreciate the hard work that my colleagues have done to try to defeat the Republican filibuster so that we can keep student loan rates low.

But our students are drowning under a trillion dollars in student loan debt. We need to start now with one basic principle: cut government profits on student loans. I can't support a deal that actually increases those profits.

Thank you for being a part of this,


P.S. No matter what happens with this proposal, I'm going to keep fighting to eliminate government profits on new student loan programs, let people refinance existing student loans, and reduce college costs so that American families can pay for college without burying themselves in debt. But first, we need to stop interest rates from jumping even higher. Sign the petition now:

Paid for by Elizabeth for MA

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Republicans to filibuster Cordray's nomination to head Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

President Obama flanked by Sen. Warren and Richard Cordray. (wikipedia)

Just got this email from Elizabeth Warren. Let’s help her get Rich Cordray nominated to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that she founded.


We fought to create the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to keep credit card issuers, mortgage lenders, and student loan marketers from cheating people.

We fought the big banks and their army of lobbyists. We fought hard, and we won.

But some Republicans and lobbyists are still fighting this agency. They have thrown up a filibuster to stop Rich Cordray's nomination to head the consumer agency. They think a filibuster can shut down the agency and protect the big banks from any meaningful consumer protection rules.

Rich Cordray is up for a vote this week, and I need you to fight harder than you've ever fought before if we're going to defeat this filibuster.

Outside the halls of this Congress and the fancy lobbyist offices across Washington, no one wants more fine print and more tricks and traps.

No one thinks it's ok to cheat regular people and cut special deals for giant banks.

And no one wants to take the cops off the beat so big banks can break the rules without being held accountable.

I'm new to the Senate, but I don't understand why we accept a system where this kind of political stalemate won't end in more government or less government, but just in bad government.

And I don't understand why we would let an honorable public servant like Rich Cordray get stuck in this nonsense. I don't understand why, when everyone says Rich has been a fair and effective leader, that he can't get a vote on his appointment.

By speaking out and working together, we got a strong consumer agency. Now with your help, we'll do the same to finally give that agency a director.  Sign up now to say enough is enough.

Let me be clear to those who think this filibuster will shut down the work of the new agency: The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is the law and it is here to stay.

Do your dirtiest with obstructing the confirmation of the director, but the agency will keep on doing what it does best -- fighting for people.

Thank you for being a part of this,



All content © 2013 Elizabeth for MA, All Rights Reserved

PO Box 290568

Boston, MA 02129


Paid for by Elizabeth for MA

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Kiddie literature in the waiting room

Thanks to the good influence of my friend Mary Lundeberg, wildlife photographer and author of children's books that teach about nature and the environment, I wound up reviewing the reading materials for kids in the beauty salon and in my dentist's office this week. In the beauty salon, I found Zen Ties by Jon J. Muth a fascinating, charming work of fiction; at the dentist, Dangerous Animals, a non-fiction work by Rebecca Gilpin, so distorts the featured animals in both the text and the illustrations that I’m planning to ask my dentist to remove it from her office.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Cleveland kidnapping victims speak out publicly (video)

It’s a miracle they survived at all, but the above YouTube post assures us the three young Ohio women who recently escaped from their brutal kidnapper will be able to rebuild their lives.

The Chicago Tribune reports:

CLEVELAND -- Three young Ohio women freed two months ago from a decade of captivity spoke publicly for the first time since their ordeal in a video released early on Tuesday thanking supporters and loved ones.

The video was filmed last week in the offices of the law firm managing a trust fund established for the three women, who took turns in separate appearances before the camera to express gratitude for donations to the fund and for a chance to rebuild their lives.

Organizers said the Cleveland Courage Fund has grown to more than $1 million as of July 2, with over 9,200 individuals making contributions.

The 3½-minute long video marked the first sustained glimpse of all three women - Amanda Berry, 27, Gina DeJesus, 23, and Michelle Knight, 32 - since they were rescued on May 6.
Ariel Castro, fired last fall from his job as a Cleveland school bus driver, has been charged with kidnapping the three victims between 2002 and 2004 and brutalizing them while holding them captive in his house over the next 10 years.

Officials said the three women were kept bound for periods of time in chains or rope and that they endured starvation, beatings and sexual assaults. One of them, Knight, was said to have suffered several miscarriages deliberately induced by her captor, for which Castro has been charged with murder.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Private citizen Hillary has nothing better to do than respond to pressures from the Left and the Right

AP photo courtesy of Real Clear Politics.

Reading about the pressure for Hillary Clinton to run in 2016, I’m thinking she and I have something in common. A recurring annoyance from being self-employed and working from home is that others often assume I have nothing to do. Never mind that I’m working on a book-length memoir, maintain a blog, and complete freelance writing assignments periodically. 

Obviously, simply managing my life takes time with bills to pay, chores to do, and maintaining ties with friends and family.

And here we have Hillary Clinton seeking some downtime after years of public service to enjoy being a private citizen for awhile. In the meantime, she’s writing a book, making paid speeches, and contributing time and energy to the Clinton Global Initiative – the family foundation.

Are all those pressuring Hillary to run for president in 2016 oblivious to the fact that she has other things to do at the moment?

Plus, there are the Republicans and a few pseudo progressives at the Huffington Post doing their best to destroy her potential candidacy before she even has time to take a deep breath and compose an announcement.

I deal with pressure in my own life by practicing mindfulness meditation and for all I know, Hillary does the same. If not, I’m wishing she would explore this wonderful means for maintaining sanity in the midst of life’s many conflicting demands. 

Here's a thought: Wouldn't it be wonderful if our next president practiced mindfulness meditation?

The AP's Ken Thomas explores Hillary’s efforts to seek the right balance:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Hillary Rodham Clinton is trying to strike the right balance between staying out of the daily political maelstrom and setting herself up for a possible second presidential run. But her fans and foes are making that difficult.

Nearly six months after departing the State Department, Clinton finds herself in the middle of an early effort by both parties to prepare for her return to politics even as she keeps to a schedule of highly paid private speeches, work on her book and her family's global foundation.

Clinton has not said whether she'll seek the White House in 2016 but grassroots activists are already at work on a super political action committee called Ready for Hillary, which has rallied local supporters, started a fundraising campaign and rolled out prominent endorsements.

Republicans, meanwhile, vow to dissect her work during the Obama administration - including last year's deadly assault on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi - and use the former first lady as a fundraising tool.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Launching Mindfulness East in St. Paul

Where Mindfulness East meets.

My friend Ann Carlson Emery and I are using social media to launch Mindfulness East, a mindfulness meditation group. We’ve created a Facebook event and sent out invitations to FB friends. With a little research, I found good mindfulness insights and instructions for starting a group at where else, 

The author of the piece, Betty Nelson, mentions Thich Nhat Hanh in her opening paragraphs. Nhat Hanh happens to be my favorite mindfulness teacher, so Nelson won me over right off.  Her commitment to starting a mindfulness group and her passion for practicing mindfulness have much in common with what motivates my friend Ann and me to launch Mindfulness East here in St. Paul. And our new members can expect a very similar agenda at our meetings to what Nelson facilitates at hers.

Nelson writes:

We often have newcomers to our twice weekly meditation groups.  If they are over age 50, their introductions often start with some version of “I’ve meditated on and off for 30 years...”

That was my story, too, until about two years ago. Now I meditate daily, almost every day in some form of “formal” meditation, and every day in “aware of this moment” mindfulness. I’m able to sustain my practice with the help of some people, now friends, who join me regularly in meditation.

After a five-day silent retreat in Vermont, year 2000, with Thich Nhat Hanh and his monks and nuns, I returned to Sarasota with the plan to start a meditation group. There were two others at the retreat who I had identified from my area—the group lasted for two to three meetings. We weren’t able to sustain the group, and I felt I had no business “leading” the group, since I had no training in the dharma and I was certainly unqualified to do any dharma instruction.

What Changed? 

In 2008, I attended a five-day conference for psychotherapists that dealt with mindfulness and the neurophysiology of human relationships. One of the keynote speakers, Dr. Dan Siegel, had referenced a panel he’d been on in Seattle, with the Dalai Lama, at Seeds of Compassion. At the end of the conference, I went home and watched this conversation on the Internet, and at the end I heard His Holiness charge these brain scientists with spreading mindfulness as a secular practice.

When I heard these words, I felt a huge sense of mission and possibility. I knew that mindfulness was an important practice for me. And I also knew that to sustain my practice I needed a community of other mindfulness practitioners. What I was not looking for was a dharma teacher. My passion for mindfulness comes from knowing that it has profound effects that can be demonstrated scientifically and from the changes I’ve experienced in my own life as a result of regular practice.


Thursday, July 4, 2013

A repeat performance: horrific sexual violence against women in Tahrir Square

Lara Logan (2013), courtesy of Wikipedia.
I had to stop what I was doing this 4th of July morning when I glimpsed Taylor Marsh's headline today that reminded me of the ordeal experienced by CBS correspondent Lara Logan during the previous uprising in Egypt: Egypt Revolution Brings Epic Sexual Assaults. TM quotes Human Rights Watch:
Egyptian officials and political leaders across the spectrum should condemn and take immediate steps to address the horrific levels of sexual violence against women in Tahrir Square. Egyptian anti-sexual harassment groups confirmed that mobs sexually assaulted and in some cases raped at least 91 women in Tahrir Square, over four days of protests beginning on June 30, 2013, amid a climate of impunity.

Read more:

Hold the fireworks until the matter of Obama’s snooping is resolved

The 4th of July is a good time for Americans to consider the Obama Administration’s snooping practices. Anyone who has read Orwell’s 1984 has to be queasy abou the surveillance of our phone calls and emails by our Big Brother, the NSA, and the recently breaking news of America’s spying on European friends.

Scott Lehigh at the Boston Globe refers to Obama’s “ham-handling of snooping,” but as Lehigh’s op-ed immediately reveals, the matter is much more serious than our president’s inadequate communication skills:

If ever there were a matter where the Obama administration needs to get its act together, it’s the National Security Agency’s extensive surveillance activities.
Friendly European capitals are up in arms over allegations that the United Stated bugged European Union offices in New York and Washington and employed an assortment of electronic eavesdropping techniques to spy on — um, monitor the communications of — the embassies of France, Italy, Greece, and other allies.

The American public, meanwhile, remains sharply divided about the NSA’s domestic snooping. Or what they know of it, anyway; we still haven’t had a clear, credible explanation of exactly what the agency is doing. 

Meanwhile, the administration has sent a number of contradictory and counterproductive signals about NSA-contractor-turned-leaker-extraordinaire Edward Snowden.
As former CIA and NSA chief Michael Hayden observed on Sunday on “Face the Nation,” the NSA controversy raises a crucial question: How does a free society conduct a necessary dialogue about its government’s secret activities?