Thursday, August 19, 2010

Sexism, Minnesota Style...

We’ve written before about the Republican Party and Sarah Palin trying to co-opt the women’s movement.  I remain certain that when Republican strategists saw the statistics from the 2008 election and realized that over 50% of the Democratic Party (or as the Republicans say “the Democrat Party”) were female, they knew that they had to erode those numbers.  The popularity of Hillary and then Sarah Palin must have convinced them even further and they got busy.  
We began to see Republican women being put forward for more and more high profile, state-wide and federal offices--governorships, attorneys-general, representatives and senators.  (Look at California, for example.)  Suddenly, new blogs and websites popped up, such as the New Agenda folks, led by Amy Siskind, who claim to be completely non-partisan feminists and who refuse to take a stand on abortion.  They leap at any opportunity to applaud women who are running for office, although it does seem as if Sarah Palin and the Republican women she endorses get the lion's share of their attention and enthusiasm.
If you’ve had any doubts about my theory, take a look at this incredible video [Here] that the Minnesota Republican Party put together.  The bad taste and the blatant sexism is chilling.  Actually, I find it difficult to understand how a serious political party could put this out and think that it’s “funny.”   Here is a statement from its creator, Minnesota’s GOP webmaster, Randy Brown, about his ad: [Here]
I do realize that there are groups of people who lack such capability [for humor], but fortunately that is their problem...Again its only intention was to bring a smile to a few peoples faces, and possibly irritate a few others.  Is it fair? Does that matter? It wasn’t intended to be fair. It was intended to be funny.
Is it fair?  Does that matter?  Wow!!!  Well, maybe we should give him some points for admitting his rotten values.   I guess we can conclude that the Minnesota Republican Party is a wholly-owned subsidary of some sex-obsessed frat house.
I actually feel sorry for the few serious, intelligent Republican women who must exist in Minnesota.  There’s got to be at least a handful.  They not only have to contend with dim-witted Michele Bachman and her buddy, Sarah Palin, but also with this blatant, unrepentant sexist. 
By the way, when will the boyz stop thinking that laughing at intelligent, but unglamorous, older women is acceptable?  As Digby put it: [Here]
But hey, when a conservative can insult women, liberals and older people all in one short video, they've hit the trifecta.
Digby certainly nails it, doesn’t she?...

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

“A Union of Equals”...

So wrote Judge Vaughn Walker in his opinion in Perry v. Schwarzenegger, referring to the present institution of marriage in the United States.  The wonderful Linda Greenhouse, ex-NYTimes Supreme Court reporter and current Yale Law professor, pointed us to this phrase in her recent column in the NYTimes, titled Hiding in Plain Sight.  
Greenhouse wrote that the extraordinary attention that the press has given to the Walker decision in California led her to look up what the press’s  initial reaction was to the Dallas District Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade.  It seems that it was reported by the A.P. in a 251-word article that the NYTimes buried on p. 37 on June 17, 1970.  The Texas law that was overturned had been passed in 1857 and prohibited all abortions except those to save a woman’s life.  Greenhouse points out that the AP story contained this wild inaccuracy that no AP or Times editor had picked up.: [Here]
The ruling was that the fundamental right of a single woman or a married couple to choose whether to have children was protected by the Ninth through 14th Amendments.” (Had a federal court actually ruled that enforced motherhood amounts to the kind of slavery that the 13th Amendment prohibits, presumably a few more people, even journalists, might have noticed.)
No one picked up the error and the story has been asleep in the Times archives until hawk-eyed Linda Greenhouse found it.  The fact is that state legislatures at the time were slowly liberalizing their abortion laws.  Greenhouse pointed out that the NYState legislature had just enacted a more sane abortion rights law a few months before by a one-vote margin. Perhaps, Greenhouse pointed out, editors and journalists didn’t pay attention to the Texas case because they didn’t see the role that the courts would eventually play in the issue, even though abortion legality was slowly being redefined right before everyone’s eyes.  As Greenhouse said: [Here]
How often do we fail to recognize something, or someone, we don’t expect to see?
As for same-sex marriage, she points out that gay partners had applied for and been denied marriage licenses by courts throughout the second quarter of the twentieth century.  Most folks, even those within the gay and lesbian community, were unaware of these moves.  [Here]   
 The notion of legally sanctioned same-sex marriage seemed too far-fetched to ponder, until it didn’t.
Greenhouse believes that the smartest bit of reasoning among many smart thoughts in Judge Walker’s decision was his noting the change in society’s definition of gender roles in marriage.   Greenhouse quoted this from Judge Walker’s decision:
Marriage between a man and a woman was traditionally organized based on presumptions of the division of labor along gender lines...Men were seen as suited for certain types of work and women for others.  Women were seen as suited to raise children and men were seen as suited to provide for the family.
Greenhouse added that in his decision Walker also pointed to the reasoning in recent no fault divorce laws that “gender no longer forms an essential part of marriage; marriage under law is a union of equals.” 
She concludes her brilliant essay by writing: [Here]
Judge Walker is saying basically that he is not “redefining marriage...We, collectively, in California and elsewhere in today’s United States, have done the job ourselves.
Once again, we thank Linda Greenhouse for pointing us to a story that was "Hiding in Plain Sight."

Friday, August 13, 2010

Final thoughts on L'Affaire Gibbs

Some final thoughts on the Gibbs affair from Paul Krugman and Mother.
First, Paul Krugman nails Robert Gibbs in Krugman’s NY TimesThe Conscience of a Liberal” blog: 
There he goes again.  What gets me is how unprofessional the whole thing is.
Look, if you’re a public figure of any kind, you’re going to face a lot of criticism. Much of it will seem unfair to you; some of the unfair criticism will come from people you expected to take your side; you’ll be angry, you’ll feel that people are putting their egos or their personal aggrandizement above the cause.
Welcome to reality. It’s my reality — and I’m just a professor/columnist. Someone actually in the White House has to be prepared for much more of this kind of thing — and if you don’t have a thick enough skin to take it, find another form of employment.
I’m not saying to turn the other cheek and always say something polite as a general principle; by all means lash out at your critics, if you have something to gain by doing so. Rudeness at the proper moment can serve a purpose — as I hope I’ve demonstrated over the years. But if you vent for the sake of venting; if you alienate people you’re going to need; then you’re just being stupid.
And that, I’m afraid, is what’s going on here. Rachel Maddow isn’t going to go away, or turn all meek, because the White House Press Secretary implicitly denounced her. Even more to the point, liberal critics have an audience because they’re reflecting real concerns of real people. Those concerns need addressing, if necessary in the form of explanations of why their expectations can’t be met. Denouncing the people giving voice to those real concerns as the “professional left” is both unfair and, as I’ve said, stupid.
And both the president and, more important, the country deserve better.”
Amen, Paul.
Let’s end this boring exercise by quoting MOTHER.  Unfortunately, I guess only girl children hear this so we better repeat it often and loudly for Robert:
Dance with the one who brought you...

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Wake up, America...

American citizens are hurting out there, even though most of Congress and the msm seem to wish to ignore the fact.  Only when the stock market does a dipsy-doodle do we wake up and pay attention, but we look at the wrong things, such as stock prices and the bond markets, not at the lives of ordinary folks.  We don’t look at the agony and fear that ordinary people might be experiencing. 
Here is an example: Digby quoted the following from the Atlanta Journal Constitution (dateline: August 11): [Here]
Thirty thousand people showed up to receive Section 8 housing applications in East Point Wednesday, suffering through hours in the hot sun, angry flare-ups in the crowd and lots of frustration and confusion for a chance to receive a government-subsidized apartment.
The massive event sometimes descended into a chaotic mob scene filled with anger and impatience. Some 62 people needed medical attention and 20 of them were transported to a hospital, authorities said. A baby went into a seizure in the heat and was stabilized at a hospital. People were removed on stretchers and when a throng of people who had been waiting hours in a line were told to move to another line, people started pushing, shoving and cursing, witnesses said.
Still, officials of East Point declared the day a success. Nobody was arrested and nobody was seriously injured, they said. It was an assessment roundly challenged by many of the people who had to go through it.
This story was also carried by Huffpost, [Here] another one of those “professional liberal” websites that is irking White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. 
This happened in Atlanta, Georgia in our United States, not some third world country.  But have you heard that any Southern Senator or Representative is worried about this or even talking about it?  Bear in mind: what the folks in that blisteringly hot, southern sun were waiting for were applications for section 8, government-subsidized housing, not free food or money or clothing.   
On Monday, another one of those “professional liberals” spoke out.  Bob Herbert in his NYTimes column warned of the unemployment situation in this country that politicians are largely ignoring.
Herbert confronts us with these alarming facts that we ignore at our peril.: [Here] [The emphasis is mine.]
With 14.6 million people officially jobless, and 5.9 million who have stopped looking but say they want a job, and 8.5 million who are working part time but would like to work full time, you end up with nearly 30 million Americans who cannot find the work they want and desperately need.
Thank you for doing the math, Bob Herbert.
And bless “professional liberals” for reminding us to keep our focus on what is important.   

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Gibbs has a hissy fit...

Before we focus on our topic du jour, we must take a moment for a non-political reflection.

We were saddened to hear of the death of former Senator Ted Stevens and we extend our condolences to his children and wife, Catherine.  As you have probably heard, Ted Stevens was killed when a small plane crashed en route to a fishing lodge, killing half of its passengers.  We read that his first wife, Ann, had been killed in 1978 in a crash of a Lear jet at the Anchorage International Airport.  Stevens survived that crash.  The statistical chances of a person being in two deadly plane crashes must be astronomical, but probably lower if one lives in Alaska and depends on small planes for transportation.
Stevens was the longest serving Republican Senator and, although his career ended amid ethics charges, he had retained the widespread affectionate regard by the citizens of Alaska for whom he had worked devotedly and successfully for 40 years.  As one news account said, Ted Stevens was known throughout his state simply as “Uncle Ted.”  
Rest in peace, Senator Stevens.
Now to President Obama’s Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.   For some reason, Gibbs took it upon himself (or maybe this was the brainchild of high-level White House strategy (Axelrod, Jarrett, Emanuel, et al.) to send an angry shot into cyberspace, blasting liberals.  Instead, Gibbs and company should be using that energy to blast conservatives for their recent wingnut ideas that they have been circulating, such as the one about “revisiting” the Fourteenth Amendment.  I’m one of those “Damn” liberals and I can tell you that to my ears Gibbs’s remarks are just another example of the political ineptitude that we’ve been worried and writing about.
Recently, Gibbs sat down in the West Wing with folks from The Hill, a popular, widely read website and let loose his little boy rage at the big, bad Liberals who don’t appreciate all that Obama has done for the country.  Here is a sample of what The Hill reported:
"I hear these people saying he’s like George Bush. Those people ought to be drug tested,” Gibbs said. “I mean, it’s crazy."
The press secretary dismissed the “professional left” in terms very similar to those used by their opponents on the ideological right, saying, “They will be satisfied when we have Canadian healthcare and we’ve eliminated the Pentagon. That’s not reality.”
Wouldn’t you call that a tantrum?
That’s not all The Hill’s author, Sam Youngman, threw at “liberals.”  We’re accused of blaming Obama for many things, such as abandoning the public option, tepid support and weak leadership of the health reform, pushing an anemic stimulus package, not closing Guantánamo, and dragging his feet about DADT.  
How much of this list was from Youngman himself, stirring up trouble, and how much was actually part of Gibbs’s tantrum is a question.  It sounds to me as if Youngman took the opportunity to throw a brick into a hornet’s next.  The only trouble with doing that is that you can never really predict who will get stung.
In any case, it is just plain stupid to be complaining about one’s liberal base, particularly when a difficult mid-term election is less than three months away.  As Glenn Greenwald reminds us: “GOP pols fear the GOP base and Dem pols hate the Dem base.”
Enough said...

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Ross Douthat on Gay Marriage...

The lack of any substantial screaming from the right wing in response to Judge Vaughn Walker’s ruling that tossed out Prop 8  has been disquieting.  Rachel Maddow was one of the first to point out that there was nary a peep from anyone, even from loud-mouth wingnuts.  But now the opposition is building.  We knew it would happen, so it’s not a surprise.  Even so, it is disappointing.  And, by the way, is there a special rock that these folks run to, nestle under and snuggle up, to whisper to each other?
The first action from the right, after the first flurry of excitement about the ruling itself had died down, was a smattering of mud thrown at the Judge himself with accusations that Vaughn Walker was gay and that, as such, he should have recused himself.  None of this was screamed before and during the trial, mind you, just after the judgement against Prop 8 was announced.  I suspect that the pro-Prop 8 folks thought that this conservative judge who, we are told, has “libertarian tendencies” (whatever that means), would rule in their favor.  
(By the way, if gay judges have to recuse themselves, would heterosexual judges be expected to count themselves out, too?  In that case, should we be looking for asexual folks or castrati to make rulings on the subject?)
The personal attack against Judge Walker hasn’t had much heft and now the attack against the reasoning in the ruling itself is beginning.  The New York Times op-ed columnist Ross Douthat put in his two cents on Monday, August 9th.  [Here]  (And that’s exactly what it is worth.)  Remember Ross Douthat?  We wrote about him six weeks ago in two pieces titled “Feminism Revisited” [Here] and “Another Wake-up Call.” [Here]  Douthat and fellow conservative, Ramesh Ponnuru, had rushed to write that feminists no longer exclusively belonged to the Democratic Party because a few Republican women had won important primary races.  And besides there is also Sarah Palin... 
One of the points that Judge Walker made among his 80 Findings of Fact was that there is no evidence that same-sex marriages had done or will do any damage to heterosexual marriages. [Here]
Permitting same-sex couples to marry will not affect the number of opposite-sex couples who marry, divorce, cohabit, have children outside of marriage or otherwise affect the stability of opposite sex-marriage.
Nevertheless, Ross Douthat used his column to worry about the general state of traditional Western-style marriages which Western Civilization has developed instead of evolving other traditions, such as polygamy.  He concludes with some interesting thoughts: [Here]
The lifelong commitment of a gay couple is more impressive than the serial monogamy of straights. And a culture in which weddings are optional celebrations of romantic love, only tangentially connected to procreation, has no business discriminating against the love of homosexuals.
He ends the column, almost sadly, saying that traditional marriage--”one of the great ideas of Western civilization”--is worth saving.  He doesn’t tell us exactly why, but we certainly feel his sadness.  And he concludes with this: [Here]
But based on Judge Walker’s logic — which suggests that any such distinction [between traditional and same-sex marriage] is bigoted and un-American — I don’t think a society that declares gay marriage to be a fundamental right will be capable of even entertaining this idea.
I’m not going to try to parse what this conclusion means.  its very vagueness suggests that even Ross Douthat can’t spell it out without it sounding like a dictum from the Holy See.  
If this is the best the conservative religious right can do, I feel better already...  

Monday, August 9, 2010

Wrong White House signals...

There are many things that are happening within the White House these days that puzzle me and none more than the activities of the First Family this past week.  It was the President’s 49th Birthday last Wednedsay and what did his wife and younger daughter do to celebrate?  They hopped on Air Force Two with 40 “close friends” and jetted off to the Costa del Sol in southern Spain for a sight-seeing vacation.  Twelve-year old daughter Malia is in a sleepover camp so the President was left alone to celebrate by himself in his own way--off to Chicago to have dinner with friends (and Oprah?) and a basketball game with NBA stars.  (No comment.)
We hear that Michelle’s party took over at least a third of a luxury hotel, the Hotel Villa Padiema, in Marbella with rooms apparently going for about $2500 per night.  The party was reportedly taking about 60 rooms in the posh hotel, but I read somewhere that her “close friends” were expected to pay for their own rooms.  You and I will foot the bill for Air Force Two and also the costs of the 70-plus Secret Service personnel that protect her and Michelle's personal staff.
The publicity and news about this Vacation Away has not been kind nor should it have been.  Andrea Tantaros in the Daily News blog titled her reporting of the story, “Material girl Michelle Obama is a modern-day Marie Antoinette on a  glitzy Spanish vacation.”  Ouch.  “Let them eat cake” comes to mind.
The beginning of her article says it all:  [Here
Sacrifice is something that many Americans are becoming all too familiar with during this economic downturn. It was a key theme in President Obama's inaugural address to the nation, and he's referenced it numerous times when lecturing the country on how to get back on its feet.
But while most of the country is pinching pennies and downsizing  summer sojourns - or forgoing them altogether - the Obamas don't seem to be heeding their own advice. While many of us are struggling, the First Lady is spending the next few days in a five-star hotel on the chic Costa del Sol in southern Spain with 40 of her "closest friends." 
The Daily News blog was picked up in papers around the country.  The LATimes quoted it [here] and even Maureen Dowd, who has given Michelle a free pass for most of the time she has been First Lady, mentioned Tantaros by name and waded into the story in her Sunday NYTimes column
One liberal blogger (Roger Simon of PajamasMedia.) called the scale of the trip with her 40 “close friends” renting a third of a posh hotel and causing a public beach to be closed off  “...  beyond tone deaf, perhaps to the level of subconscious (or even deliberate) self-sabotage.”  [Here]
This is an example of that curious streak of Obama’s political ineptitude that we have discussed before.  I really have no opinion about a couple not celebrating a birthday together.  Folks do all sorts of strange things in marriages, even the loving ones with caring relationships.  What I do mind is this ostentatious glitz when people back home--some who are paying a chunk of the tab--are hurting.  Roger Simon is right to say that this is “beyond tone deaf.”  Callousness and self-involvement are bitter herbs for any political stew and they make a deadly poison for a politician.  
Michele should learn to think before she plans these junkets.  Maybe asking herself, “what would Eleanor have done?” might help.  
It certainly worked for Hillary...  

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Christina Romer resigns...

You no doubt have heard or read that Christina Romer, Obama’s Chair of the Council of Economic Advisors, has resigned and will leave her post in early September.  She will probably return to her tenured, full professorship at the University of California, Berkeley where she has an adjoining office with her husband, fellow economist David Romer.  
We first wrote about Christy Romer when President-elect Obama was about to be inaugurated. [Here]  We were particularly excited then because we were noting and counting the number of women that Obama was choosing to include in his administration.  What impact she has had is is hard to evaluate.  She and other advisors were immediately tasked to put together a stimulus package which they did.  It has been widely reported that Romer, whose particular expertise is the economics of the Great Depression, wanted a much larger package--over a trillion dollars.  She didn’t get it.  (So did other scholars of the Great Depression, such as Paul Krugman.  They were all disappointed.)
Guess who argued for a smaller package?  Larry Summers.  Guess who won?  Larry Summers.  Guess who isn’t resigning?  Larry Summers.  Guess who have already resigned from Obama’s economic team?  Not Larry Summers, but Christy Romer and Peter Orszag, head of the WH Office of Management and Budget.   And guess who Orszag had problems with?  Yep, Larry Summers.
The Opinionator blog in the NYTimes by Tobin Harshaw dug up in Time Magazine an interesting peek into an aggressive male culture within Obama’s White House’s: [Here]
At a March 29 symposium on women in finance at the Treasury Department, Romer expanded on some of the frustrations she has had on the job.  “I think the other thing that I have definitely noticed in the White House and elsewhere is just difference in how people communicate, right?” she said.  “I’ve never had to interrupt people before in my life, right?  This is, sort of, just simply the aggressiveness or the taking turns. . . . You just — sometimes, you’ve got to speak up even when there isn’t a gap in the conversation. 
It’s sad to read that Obama allows the who-has-the-sharpest-elbows game to be played in policy discussions.  Thoughtful folks never win that game and that is what we need right now--thoughtful folks. 
We are also getting the picture that Larry Summers and Treasury Secretary Geithner have the inside track on the formation of White House economic policy.  As we all know, both are well connected with Wall Street.   I wonder if anyone is counting the number of females who remain to formulate our national fiscal policy.
Mr. President, wouldn’t it be a good time to appoint Elizabeth Warren so she could protect the little guys?
We say goodbye to Christina Romer and wish her well back in California with her family.  All she will have to worry about is her class schedules and an academic calendar.  She doesn’t even have to attend every faculty meeting.
Why not write a book, Christy...

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Odds and Ends (2)...

Isn’t it splendid that the Senate finally confirmed Elena Kagan?  The final vote was 63 to 37 with only one Democrat, Ben Nelson (D, NE) voting against her, but with 5 Republicans, Snowe and Collins from Maine, Lindsey Graham from South Carolina, Richard Lugar from Indiana and Judd Gregg from New Hampshire, voting for her.  Those 4 states that those 5 represent are lucky, but poor, poor Nebraska represented by both Nelson and Chuck Hagel.  
We are still trying to clear our desk tops of accumulated odds and ends.  One of the best items that we couldn’t throw out was a tiny note in a New York Times piece about political corruption, titled “Running Government as a Cash Business.”   [Here]  The article is a fascinating account of cash found stuffed in curious places, such as shoe boxes and safety deposit boxes, by big city mayors, a state’s Attorney General and even a Vice President.  (I didn’t know that Spiro Agnew went on to become a successful business consultant after his $10,000 fine and a 3-year unsupervised probation.  I thought he went to jail.  It sure is important to have friends in high places.)  
But the item that really caught my eye was about the corruption trial of the ex-governor of Illinois Rod R. Blagojevich whose attorney mounted an extraordinary defense by saying that his client was simply too stupid to carry out the schemes of which he was accused.  (I’m not making this up!)  The Times quoted his lawyer who said in the trial’s closing arguments that no one could say that his client is “the sharpest knife in the drawer.” [Here]  
Extraordinary defense, wasn’t it, but hard to argue with.
And now to another trial and one that we have already written about, viz. Charles Rangel.  With the msm’s rush to judgment and the arched eyebrows and furrowed brows of the reporters (overwhelmingly white), what has been little mentioned are the people of Harlem whom Congressman Rangel has represented, helped, advocated for and championed for 40 years.  Before that, he fought for them and for his country in the Korean War, earning a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star.  Truthout ran an article by activist Dr. Wilmer J. Leon, who reminded us of those 40 years: [Here]
Congressman Rangel has represented the people of the 15th District of New York for 20 terms - 40 years. It's the people of Harlem that have been the direct beneficiaries of his leadership and it's those same people who will be put on trial along side the Congressman, if in fact he does stand trial. At the end of the day, it is the people of Harlem that really matter, and no matter how this works out for Rangel, it's a sad day in Harlem for them. 
It’s good to be reminded of what is most important and most tragic in this whole business.
We close noting the passing of a wonderful man whose ninety years of life were filled with all good things and accomplishments.  His name was Morrie Yohai and he invented---Cheez Doodles, although his obit tells us that he always insisted that “we” had “developed” those seductive snacks, not invented them.  Whether it was invented, developed or sent straight from heaven, we salute Morrie Yohai with gratitude--

...and orange fingers...

Friday, August 6, 2010

Odds and Ends...

While everyone is still agog over the throwing out of Prop 8 in California on Wednesday and the Senate’s confirmation of Elena Kagan as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court on Thursday, we should take a deep breath and take the time to tidy up all those tidbits that have been piling up on our desktop.  But before we leave the Prop 8 issue, we must note one Big Voice not heard from, viz. the President’s.  He let David Axelrod speak for him.  In The Caucus, the NYTimes’s political blog, reporter Sarah Wheaton quoted Obama advisor David Axelrod’s “on-the-one-hand-this-and-the-other-hand-that” comments when he appeared on WNBC on Thursday morning.  [Here]
The president opposed Proposition 8 at the time [that it was passed]...He felt that it was divisive. He felt that it was mean-spirited.   [However] The president does oppose same-sex marriage, but he supports equality for gay and lesbian couples in benefits and other issues.  Mr. Axelrod noted that Mr. Obama backs civil unions.
Wow.  Can someone explain to me how a person can oppose same-sex marriage but supporst gay/lesbian couples “in benefits and other issues?”  What exactly does this mean and what exactly is it that the President objects to?  Is it the actual ceremony with two same-sex folks holding hands?  Is this what offends him?  Or is he speaking for God?
Taylor Marsh titled her Thursday’s post about Obama’s position on the subject “How to Make a Presidential Statement Without Doing Anything.”  Yes, indeed.  The gay and progressive/liberal community deserve better.  With Obama’s favorable opinion poll ratings below 50%, he needs all the support he can get.  He shouldn’t take his base and its enthusiasm for granted.  He’ll need all the help he can get in 2012.
Now, to my desktop:  On Wednesday the President awarded the Citizen’s Medal to 13 honorees.  In his remarks the President noted that women outnumbered the men this year.  Indeed!  In the Washington Post’s coverage of the story, only two men and one woman were profiled in the story.  When I looked at the list of those honored this year, I found there were 13 in all, 2 men and 11 women.  Both of the men were profiled at length but only one of the woman.  Sigh.  Some things never change, do they?
In our last item today we should note that there is another young woman setting out to circumnavigate the world.  [Here]  This time it is a 14-year-old Dutch youngster, Laura Dekker.  She set out from the Dutch harbor of Den Osse in her red 38-foot two-masted ketch named Guppy with her father aboard, bound for Portugal.  From there she plans to leave her father and to circumnavigate the globe--alone.  She and her family first had to win a legal battle with Dutch officials who were concerned that she was too young.  The legal battles delayed the start of her journey.  She now has a sturdier boat.  During her legal battles she proved her prowess to Dutch officials by sailing to England alone.
Remember Abby Sunderland?  She is that marvelous American 16-year-old who was sailing around the world until her boat was battered by a violent storm in the Indian Ocean and a rogue wave demasted her sloop.  I found Abby’s blog and her new blog entry about fellow skipper, Laura Dekker,  [Here]
I admire Laura's spirit - it would be hard not to for anyone who has followed her story.  I'd just like to wish Laura the best of luck and a word of advice from a sixteen year old sailor (though I doubt she needs it) have fun! Live life the best you can. There's no time like now so take all the opportunities you get.
On that wonderful message from one courageous young woman to another, we’ll close and pick up more desktop bits tomorrow.
Bon Voyage, Laura...

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Huzzah and Hooray...

Of course the top story that is buzzing around the internet, starting at about 5:00 p.m. Wedsnesday evening (EDT), was Chief District Judge Vaughn Walker’s eagerly awaited ruling that threw out Proposition 8, the amendment that had banned same-sex marriage in California.   Judge Walker’s language is strong and unequivocal.  We shall let Judge Walker’s words say it all.  (Quoted from David Dayen--Digby’s dday--in Firedoglake: [Here

Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license. Indeed, the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that opposite-sex couples are superior to same-sex couples. Because California has no interest in discriminating against gay men and lesbians, and because Proposition 8 prevents California from fulfilling its constitutional obligation to provide marriages on an equal basis,the court concludes that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional.


Plaintiffs have demonstrated by overwhelming evidence that Proposition 8 violates their due process and equal protection rights and that they will continue to suffer these constitutional violations until state officials cease enforcement of Proposition 8. California is able to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, as it has already issued 18,000 marriage licenses to same-sex couples and has not suffered any demonstrated harm as a result, see FF 64-66; moreover, California officials have chosen not to defend Proposition 8 in these proceedings.

Because Proposition 8 is unconstitutional under both the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses, the court orders entry of judgment permanently enjoining its enforcement; prohibiting the official defendants from applying or enforcing Proposition 8 and directing the official defendants that all persons under their control or supervision shall not apply or enforce Proposition 8. The clerk is DIRECTED to enter judgment without bond in favor of plaintiffs and plaintiff-intervenors and against defendants and defendant-intervenors pursuant to FRCP 58.
The decision was immediately appealed and the judge ordered a stay of the decision until the appeal process is carried out.  Thus there will not be a festival of gay marriages in San Francisco tomorrow, but there will be continued jubilation throughout the country over this court’s decision.
It was interesting to note that the judge mentioned the 18,000 same-sex marriages that have already taken place in California.  I wonder how many more couples are eagerly waiting for the stay to be lifted.
And another interesting note: Governor Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Jerry Brown chose not to defend Prop 8.  Whether Meg Whitman, if she wins the governorship, and whoever wins the Attorney General race in November wish to put in their oars with another suit to defend Prop 8, we do not know.  Let us hope not and let us hope that other states such as New York will soon join the five states which now allow same sex marriage,  Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire and Iowa.
Wouldn’t it be grand if the White House showed some real leadership on this issue?  But that certainly is expecting much too much from folks who so easily and quickly threw Shirley Sherrod under the bus.
In the meantime, let us thank Judge Vaughn Walker.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Christiane Amanpour, Continued...

We wrote yesterday about Christiane Amanpour’s debut on This Week, ABC’s Sunday morning talk show.  Unfortunately, she was treated to a petty and downright stupid review by the Washington Post’s tv reviewer, Tom Shales.  We promised in that blog that we would focus on Christiane today.  It’s certainly feels good to get the taste of Tom Shales’s column out of our system.
Christiane Amanpour was born in Iran in 1958 (January 12, for those of you interested in astrology.)  According to Wikipedia [here], her father was an Iranian airline executive and her mother was English.  The family lived well under the Shah.  Christiane finished her primary school education in Iran and was then sent to England to boarding school.  She graduated from New Hall School, which at the time was an all-girls Roman Catholic boarding school.  (It has since admitted boys to the upper grades and has an interesting way of combining single-sex eduction in some grades and co-education in others.)  When Christiane graduated, the Islamic Revolution erupted in Iran, followed by Iraq’s invasion of the country.  The family and Christiane elected to remain in England, rather than return to her native country.
She moved to the United States to complete her education at the University of Rhode Island, where she studied journalism.  During her university days she worked in the news department of WBRU-FM gaining practical experience in her chosen field.  Amanpour graduated summa cum laude in 1983 with a degree in journalism. 
When she graduated from college, she immediately went to work for CNN in Atlanta in what has been described as an entry-level “desk assistant.”  Her first major assignment was covering the Persian Gulf War.  In 1989 she was transferred to Frankfort, Germany to cover the disintegration of the Soviet domination of eastern Europe.   By 1990 she was a correspondent for CNN’s New York bureau.
In that year, Iraq invaded Kuwait and her reports about the invasion brought CNN new prominence in the world of television journalism.   She also reported from Bosnia and the Gulf, on occasion parachuting in to troubled spots, arousing a mixture of amazed adulation and envious putdowns about “parachute” journalism.
From 1992-2010 Amanpour was CNN’s chief international correspondent.  In March Amanpour announced that she was leaving CNN to host ABC’s Sunday morning This Week, the show which first aired last Sunday.   In her announcement of the move to ABC, she added this touching statement: [Here]
I leave CNN with the UTMOST respect, love and admiration for the company and everyone who works here.  This has been my family and shared endeavor for the past 27 years and I am forever grateful and proud of all that we have accomplished.
As we wrote yesterday, Christiane and ABC have broken the Sunday morning male-only host mold and what a wonderful breakthrough for all female journalists and for ABC.  And what a fine career step for this journalist.  She has received all manner of awards and honors, including a CBE (Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) from Queen Elizabeth II, but I suspect that this is the career move that will please her the most.  
It must be splendid to know that you no longer have to jump out of a plane to tell your story.
Congrats, Christiane...

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Welcome, Christiane Amanpour...

I guess all those addicted to viewing the Sunday morning talk shows know that Christiane Amanpour has taken over ABC’s  This Week that Jake Tapper had temporarily hosted after George Stephanopoulos was shifted (promoted?) to Good Morning America.  I did not see Amanpour’s debut that aired last Sunday but I have seen many clips of different segments of that show.  What an interesting and intelligent person she is.  This will be a fine addition to the Sunday a.m. roundup.  I might add that it is a relief to finally have a female host who is also such an experienced journalist.
Of course, the rightwing is having a hissy fit, led by the Washington Post’s t.v. critic Tom Shales.  We shouldn’t have been surprised at his reaction to Sunday’s program.  He already had his say back in March when her appointment was first announced by ABC.  Here’s what Shales had to say back then. 
In a way, Amanpour, scheduled to leave CNN after 18 years of international coverage and take over the program in August, could be seen as the opposite of the perfect candidate. "This Week" deals mainly in domestic politics and inside-the-Beltway palaver, an area where Amanpour is widely considered to be deficient....And even though Amanpour has often been touted for her expertise on foreign affairs, she has vocal and passionate critics in that arena as well.
...From many angles, it was a bad choice -- one which could create so much consternation that Westin [ABC’s News President] will be forced to withdraw Amanpour's name and come up with another "nominee" for the job. That would hardly be a tragedy -- considering how many others deserve it more than she does. 

Well, Shales was wrong.  Instead of a huge hue and cry against her selection, there was much welcoming anticipation, particularly among women.  
Of course, Shales had to justify his March criticism with an off-the-wall critique of Amanpour’s first program last Sunday.  [Here] Amanpour had previously taped interviews with both Nancy Pelosi and Defense Secretary Gates in which Amanpour’s piercing questions, ranging from the future of the war in Afghanistan to the November Congressional elections, elicited interesting comments from her guests.  In fact, CNN on Monday night [Here] picked up Pelosi’s comments about not necessarily listening to what “White House employees” said about those elections.” [Here]  Pelosi’s slapdown was referring, of course, to Press Secretary Gibbs’s statement about the possibility of Democrats losing control of the House.
Shales even criticized the shape of the table used in the program’s “round” table discussion.  He wrote that the replacement resembled “a lumpy old lima bean.”  (I didn’t know that Shales was interested in such details.  Perhaps next week we’ll have a critique of Christiane’s wardrobe.)   
Shales saved his most astonishing comment for a short segment in the program called “In Memoriam” in which Amanpour honored three people who had died during the previous week and ended with a statement remembering “all those who died in war this week.” [Here]  On the screen were shown the names of the American service personnel who had died during the week in Afghanistan.
What did Shales do with that?  This is his astonishing comment:
Did she mean to suggest that our mourning extend to members of the Taliban?
Oh, dear.  That’s a line that only Glenn Beck would understand and Sarah Palin would repeat.  If that is the level of commentary that the Washington Post thinks is fit to print, I know why they are in financial difficulty.
Isn’t it a shame that when a major news network finally makes an important appointment that begins to close the gender gap, an ignorant critic feels compelled to nit pick?
So much for Critic Shales.  Maybe he’ll spend more of his time focusing on daytime soaps.  That’s more up his alley.  He should leave the serious stuff for grownups.  
Tomorrow we’ll focus on Christiane...