Monday, August 31, 2009

You Wanna Talk Softball Questions???

This was a recent blurb at regarding the big Cheney interview on Sunday by Chris Wallace of Fox News: Andrew Sullivan / The Daily Dish: Chris Wallace, A Teenage Girl Interviewing The Jonas Brothers — Here are the tough and penetrating questions asked by Chris Wallace of a man whose critics accuse of war crimes, and whose administration presided over the death of over a hundred prisoners in interrogation …

Now, you know I can't abide Andrew Sullivan for a bunch of reasons. Hence my unwillingness to give him any traffic at all by even going to his site and re-posting his article here. But when I saw this blurb, and Sullivan's arrogant, and sexist, title, I just couldn't resist. I almost cracked up laughing that he, of all people, is getting his nose out of joint about the questions Cheney was asked in this interview. Apparently, he has forgotten just about every interview Obama has had since he began his campaign, and he was running for the highest office in the land! Cheney is not running for anything (and I hasten to add, I have absolutely NO love lost for Dick Cheney. I appreciate that he supports his daughter, her partner, and their child, but that's about it).

Perhaps Sullivan forgot this interview by Charlie Gibson of ABC News, an outlet that uses OUR airwaves for FREE, of Obama during the campaign:
How does it feel to break a glass ceiling?
How does it feel to "win"?
How does your family feel about your “winning” breaking a glass ceiling?
Who will be your VP?
Should you choose Hillary Clinton as VP?
Will you accept public finance?
What issues is your campaign about?
Will you visit Iraq?
Will you debate McCain at a town hall?
What did you think of your competitor’s [Clinton] speech?

Oooooohhhhh - how di Obama withstand those WITHERING questions?

Or more recently, how about Brian Williams and his day at the White House, one that culminated in THIS moment:

Seriously?? He really wants to go down this road of how political interviewees are handled? How about this clip with George Stephanapoulous:

Heck, George even supplies the correct verbiage to Obama! And may I just say one more time - HOW was this man portrayed as being ELOQUENT??? Holy smokes.

Okay, one more to prove the point, if you can stomach watching Keith Olberman:

Oh, yes - that is some HARD-HITTING "journalism" there for Mr. Sullivan. Get one of the two most biased for Obama show hosts (I refuse to call Olberman a "journalist") to lob softballs for Obama to trash the Republicans.

By the way, remember Obama's appearance with McCain at Ground Zero? Yeah, so dignified:

I digress. Back to the whole hard-hitting journalism thing: At least Steve Kroft pointed out Obama's inappropriate laughter here:

But he did so with a smile, and accepted that lame-ass excuse from Obama as to why he was laughing while indicating how he was going to use our money to bail out the UAW even though Americans were STRONGLY opposed to that idea.

Sullivan complains about the questions asked Cheney? Maybe he should have been so worried about the questions asked of Obama...

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Some Suggestions If You Are Traveling Into The USA

After seeing this article the other day, Bush's Search Policy For Travelers Is Kept; Obama Officials Say Oversight Will Grow, I felt compelled to share some helpful suggestions when you are traveling into the USA: carry some change to make phone calls, bring some paper and a pen to be able to write a letters/documents, kick it old school and carry a Walkman. When you see read this article, you will see why.

Here we are with yet another Bush-era policy adopted by Barack "Vote For Me Because I Am Not Bush" Obama:
The Obama administration will largely preserve Bush-era procedures allowing the government to search -- without suspicion of wrongdoing -- the contents of a traveler's laptop computer, cellphone or other electronic device, although officials said new policies would expand oversight of such inspections.

The policy, disclosed Thursday in a pair of Department of Homeland Security directives, describes more fully than did the Bush administration the procedures by which travelers' laptops, iPods, cameras and other digital devices can be searched and seized when they cross a U.S. border. And it sets time limits for completing searches.

But representatives of civil liberties and travelers groups say they see little substantive difference between the Bush-era policy, which prompted controversy, and this one.

"It's a disappointing ratification of the suspicionless search policy put in place by the Bush administration," said Catherine Crump, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union. "It provides a lot of procedural safeguards, but it doesn't deal with the fundamental problem, which is that under the policy, government officials are free to search people's laptops and cellphones for any reason whatsoever."

Why, yes - it is "disappointing." WTH with these groups who always use that word when Obama retains yet another egregious Bush program. "Disappointing." Uh, yeah. That's one (incredibly lame) word for it:
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano yesterday framed the new policy as an enhancement of oversight. "Keeping Americans safe in an increasingly digital world depends on our ability to lawfully screen materials entering the United States," she said in a statement. "The new directives announced today strike the balance between respecting the civil liberties and privacy of all travelers while ensuring DHS can take the lawful actions necessary to secure our borders."

For instance, searches conducted by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers should now generally take no more than 5 days, and no more than 30 days for searches by Immigration and Customs Enforcement special agents. The directives also require for the first time that automated tools be developed to ensure the reliable tracking of statistics relating to searches, and that audits be conducted periodically to ensure the guidelines are being followed, officials said.

Did I read that right? 5 days and 30 days?? That's supposed to be an IMPROVEMENT? Holy freakin' smokes!!

Some people are happy with it, though:
Such measures drew praise from House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), who called the new policy "a major step forward," and from Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.), who introduced legislation this year to strengthen protections for travelers whose devices are searched.

And these are our representatives. That's just jake.

Others, those who actually care about the Constitution, for example, aren't quite so upbeat about it:
But the civil liberties community was disappointed.

"Under the policy begun by Bush and now continued by Obama, the government can open your laptop and read your medical records, financial records, e-mails, work product and personal correspondence -- all without any suspicion of illegal activity," said Elizabeth Goitein, who leads the liberty and national security project at the nonprofit Brennan Center for Justice.

Goitein, formerly a counsel to Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.), said the Bush policy itself "broke sharply" with previous Customs directives, which required reasonable suspicion before agents could read the contents of documents. Feingold last year introduced legislation to restore the requirement.

Jack Riepe, spokesman for the Association of Corporate Travel Executives, said the guidelines "still have many of the inherent weaknesses" of the Bush-era policy.

Between October 2008 and Aug. 11, more than 221 million travelers passed through CBP checkpoints. About 1,000 laptop searches were performed, only 46 in-depth, the DHS said.

Once again, I am SO "disappointed" to have my civil liberties curtailed. Sheesh. Seriously, people, there are stronger terms for having our Constitution dismantled by The One over whom you ooh-ed! and ah-ed! as such a great Constitutional Scholar, and the Anti-Bush. All I can say is, perhaps you wouldn't have experienced this "disappointment" had you bothered to actually listen to what he man said (remember the return to Bush I's foreign policy? How about voting for the Bush/Cheney Energy Bill?) or what he did (remember that FISA vote? Yeah, you were "disappointed" then, too.). So many examples, so little time. The point is, had your eyes been open instead of closed as you swayed in rapture to the tones of The One and TOTUS, perhaps you wouldn't be oh-so-surprised by this.

The rest of us aren't.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Well, THIS Explains Everything!

When I saw this at The Onion, I thought this was mighty plausible. Make sure you read the crawl at the bottom - even as a die-hard Yankees fan, I thought the first one was funny:

White House Reveals Obama Is Bipolar, Has Entered Depressive Phase

See?? Doesn't that make everything make more sense? It sure does for me...

But what isn't a joke is this recent revelation: "Bill Would Give President Emergency Control Of Internet" (h/t to Mary Ellen, aka, Nunly for this). Yep, you read that right - Obama wants to be able to control the "internets" when he deems it necessary. Oh, I WISH this was an Onion piece too, but no:
Internet companies and civil liberties groups were alarmed this spring when a U.S. Senate bill proposed handing the White House the power to disconnect private-sector computers from the Internet.

They're not much happier about a revised version that aides to Sen. Jay Rockefeller, a West Virginia Democrat, have spent months drafting behind closed doors. CNET News has obtained a copy of the 55-page draft of S.773 (excerpt), which still appears to permit the president to seize temporary control of private-sector networks during a so-called cybersecurity emergency.

The new version would allow the president to "declare a cybersecurity emergency" relating to "non-governmental" computer networks and do what's necessary to respond to the threat. Other sections of the proposal include a federal certification program for "cybersecurity professionals," and a requirement that certain computer systems and networks in the private sector be managed by people who have been awarded that license.

"I think the redraft, while improved, remains troubling due to its vagueness," said Larry Clinton, president of the Internet Security Alliance, which counts representatives of Verizon, Verisign, Nortel, and Carnegie Mellon University on its board. "It is unclear what authority Sen. Rockefeller thinks is necessary over the private sector. Unless this is clarified, we cannot properly analyze, let alone support the bill."

Representatives of other large Internet and telecommunications companies expressed concerns about the bill in a teleconference with Rockefeller's aides this week, but were not immediately available for interviews on Thursday.

A spokesman for Rockefeller also declined to comment on the record Thursday, saying that many people were unavailable because of the summer recess. A Senate source familiar with the bill compared the president's power to take control of portions of the Internet to what President Bush did when grounding all aircraft on Sept. 11, 2001. The source said that one primary concern was the electrical grid, and what would happen if it were attacked from a broadband connection.

When Rockefeller, the chairman of the Senate Commerce committee, and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) introduced the original bill in April, they claimed it was vital to protect national cybersecurity. "We must protect our critical infrastructure at all costs--from our water to our electricity, to banking, traffic lights and electronic health records," Rockefeller said.

Isn't this just such a comfort to you? Yeah, me, too:
The Rockefeller proposal plays out against a broader concern in Washington, D.C., about the government's role in cybersecurity. In May, President Obama acknowledged that the government is "not as prepared" as it should be to respond to disruptions and announced that a new cybersecurity coordinator position would be created inside the White House staff. Three months later, that post remains empty, one top cybersecurity aide has quit, and some wags have begun to wonder why a government that receives failing marks on cybersecurity should be trusted to instruct the private sector what to do.

Rockefeller's revised legislation seeks to reshuffle the way the federal government addresses the topic. It requires a "cybersecurity workforce plan" from every federal agency, a "dashboard" pilot project, measurements of hiring effectiveness, and the implementation of a "comprehensive national cybersecurity strategy" in six months--even though its mandatory legal review will take a year to complete.

The privacy implications of sweeping changes implemented before the legal review is finished worry Lee Tien, a senior staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco. "As soon as you're saying that the federal government is going to be exercising this kind of power over private networks, it's going to be a really big issue," he says.

Probably the most controversial language begins in Section 201, which permits the president to "direct the national response to the cyber threat" if necessary for "the national defense and security." The White House is supposed to engage in "periodic mapping" of private networks deemed to be critical, and those companies "shall share" requested information with the federal government. ("Cyber" is defined as anything having to do with the Internet, telecommunications, computers, or computer networks.)

"The language has changed but it doesn't contain any real additional limits," EFF's Tien says. "It simply switches the more direct and obvious language they had originally to the more ambiguous (version)...The designation of what is a critical infrastructure system or network as far as I can tell has no specific process. There's no provision for any administrative process or review. That's where the problems seem to start. And then you have the amorphous powers that go along with it."

Translation: If your company is deemed "critical," a new set of regulations kick in involving who you can hire, what information you must disclose, and when the government would exercise control over your computers or network.

The Internet Security Alliance's Clinton adds that his group is "supportive of increased federal involvement to enhance cyber security, but we believe that the wrong approach, as embodied in this bill as introduced, will be counterproductive both from an national economic and national secuity (sic) perspective."

Uh huh. Um, does it bother anyone else - besides us, that is - that Obama is the biggest micromanager on the face of the planet, especially since he is the most inexperienced leader on the face of the planet? Hey, I'm just asking here...

One last thing:
Update at 3:14 p.m. PDT: I just talked to Jena Longo, deputy communications director for the Senate Commerce committee, on the phone. She sent me e-mail with this statement:

The president of the United States has always had the constitutional authority, and duty, to protect the American people and direct the national response to any emergency that threatens the security and safety of the United States. The Rockefeller-Snowe Cybersecurity bill makes it clear that the president's authority includes securing our national cyber infrastructure from attack. The section of the bill that addresses this issue, applies specifically to the national response to a severe attack or natural disaster. This particular legislative language is based on longstanding statutory authorities for wartime use of communications networks. To be very clear, the Rockefeller-Snowe bill will not empower a "government shutdown or takeover of the Internet" and any suggestion otherwise is misleading and false. The purpose of this language is to clarify how the president directs the public-private response to a crisis, secure our economy and safeguard our financial networks, protect the American people, their privacy and civil liberties, and coordinate the government's response.

Unfortunately, I'm still waiting for an on-the-record answer to these four questions that I asked her colleague on Wednesday. I'll let you know if and when I get a response.

Oh, yippee!! Doesn't the thought of Obama taking over the internet make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside?? I know it does me. I just hope it doesn't happen when he has one of his mood swings...

Friday, August 28, 2009

Privacy? Who Needs Privacy?

Not us, apparently, if Congress has its way. Believe it or not, some people are actually going through these proposed health care bills. Not many of our elected officials, mind you, but SOME people are. Thank heavens, since you won't believe some of the more egregious proposals contained in it (specifically, H.R. 3200).

The title of this CBS News article gives a good indication of just ONE of the issues about which we should be concerned, Democratic Health Care Bill Divulges IRS Tax Data. Yep. Sets the stage for what we can expect from this Congress, doesn't it?

Let's just see what our elected officials are trying to pull over on us, the ones who swore to uphold the Constitution, and to act as our representatives. There are some real doozies :
One of the problems with any proposed law that's over 1,000 pages long and constantly changing is that much deviltry can lie in the details. Take the Democrats' proposal to rewrite health care policy, better known as H.R. 3200 or by opponents as "Obamacare." (Here's our CBS News television coverage.)

Section 431(a) of the bill says that the IRS must divulge taxpayer identity information, including the filing status, the modified adjusted gross income, the number of dependents, and "other information as is prescribed by" regulation. That information will be provided to the new Health Choices Commissioner and state health programs and used to determine who qualifies for "affordability credits."

Section 245(b)(2)(A) says the IRS must divulge tax return details -- there's no specified limit on what's available or unavailable -- to the Health Choices Commissioner. The purpose, again, is to verify "affordability credits."

Section 1801(a) says that the Social Security Administration can obtain tax return data on anyone who may be eligible for a "low-income prescription drug subsidy" but has not applied for it.

Wow. I trust you see what the glaring issue is right off the bat with this, right? Consider this:
Over at the Institute for Policy Innovation (a free-market think tank and presumably no fan of Obamacare), Tom Giovanetti argues that: "How many thousands of federal employees will have access to your records? The privacy of your health records will be only as good as the most nosy, most dishonest and most malcontented federal employee.... So say good-bye to privacy from the federal government. It was fun while it lasted for 233 years."

I'm not as certain as Giovanetti that this represents privacy's Armageddon. (Though I do wonder where the usual suspects like the Electronic Privacy Information Center are. Presumably inserting limits on information that can be disclosed -- and adding strict penalties on misuse of the information kept on file about hundreds of millions of Americans -- is at least as important as fretting about Facebook's privacy policy in Canada.)

I, for one, have no problems seeing the wide scope of concerns, of privacy violations, that Giovanetti does, but then again, this past election has made me a bit cynical. I am willing to admit that, but a concern it very much is regardless of the scope.

Another way to look at the level of government intrusion is this:
A better candidate for a future privacy crisis is the so-called stimulus bill enacted with limited debate early this year. It mandated the "utilization of an electronic health record for each person in the United States by 2014," but included only limited privacy protections.

It's true that if the legislative branch chooses to create "affordability credits," it probably makes sense to ensure they're not abused. The goal of curbing fraud runs up against the goal of preserving individual privacy.

If we're going to have such significant additional government intrusion into our health care system, we will have to draw the privacy line somewhere. Maybe the House Democrats' current bill gets it right. Maybe it doesn't. But this vignette should be reason to be skeptical of claims that a massive and complex bill must be enacted as rapidly as its backers would have you believe.

Update August 27 11 a.m: Marc Rotenberg of the Electronic Privacy Information Center says in e-mail: "We would oppose section 431(a) of the bill because it violates the intent of the Privacy Act which generally requires agencies to obtain information directly from individuals and not from other agencies." EPIC still hasn't updated their Web site to reflect this sentiment, but it's good to know that other folks have concerns too. (Declan McCullagh is a correspondent for He can be reached at

Why, yes - it is good that other people are concerned that our privacy is ripe for violation by government employees! Most definitely, there should be a BIG, THICK line to protect our privacy from government intrusion.

And it begs the question: why, WHY, would our elected officials want to violate our privacy, going between agencies, looking at our health records and our financial records without our knowledge or PERMISSION? Who dreamed this one up? I'm not an attorney, but I do think a case could be made that this attempt by Congress to gain access to our private records is a violation of our Constitutional rights under the Bill of Rights. Yep, "the devil is in the details," and this bill is chock full of the little fellas.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

There Is No Such Thing As Failing

(photo by Sean Davis)

In Memphis Elementary Schools these days after a recent policy change affecting Kindergarten through Third Grade. Check out this change in policy (click HERE if you prefer to read the transcript):

I wonder if this is what Senator Kennedy was thinking when he stood behind the "No Child Left Behind" policy? I kinda doubt it. I don't think he thought THAT would be his legacy...

I am curious as to the research Superintendent Cash quoted. Especially given this research:
Educators have discovered that if a child can't read fluently by the end of third grade, he may not become a strong reader. And the road ahead will be much more difficult.

"In fourth grade, students start using their reading skills as a tool for learning other things," said Dr. Sandra Baxter, director of the National Institute for Literacy. "They have to read well because the subjects get harder. Teachers have less time to help kids catch up on reading skills they don't have."

That's why parents need to stay in constant touch with their children's day care providers and teachers from kindergarten through grade three. It's important to make sure that children's reading skills are developing "on schedule."

In fact, research has shown that children who aren't strong readers by the end of third grade are more likely to drop out of school later on. "We should all pay attention to that," said Dr. Baxter. "Fortunately, the research has also shown us the best ways to teach reading, and how parents can make a big difference in helping their children learn to read."

That seems to fly in the face of the new Memphis policy. If children have not learned reading fundamentals by Third Grade, they are more likely to drop out of school. That seems to completely contradict the logic behind the new Memphis policy.

I find this whole idea to be staggering - no grades, no holding back (though parents are allowed to hold their children back), and extra work for the teachers. And what are the potential effects on the children who are able to do the work? What does it means for them to have other kids in their classes who can't keep up in terms of their OWN education?

Naturally, I am particularly curious what educators and parents around the country think of this new policy in Memphis. So, what do you think?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Senator Ted Kennedy Is Taken By Brain Cancer

By now, no doubt, you have heard that Senator Ted Kennedy died from the brain cancer with which he had been suffering for over a year now. Below is part of an article from the Boston Globe on Senator Kennedy's life and legacy:
Senator Edward M. Kennedy, who carried aloft the torch of a Massachusetts dynasty and a liberal ideology to the citadel of Senate power, but whose personal and political failings may have prevented him from realizing the ultimate prize of the presidency, died at his home in Hyannis Port last night after a battle with brain cancer. He was 77.

“We’ve lost the irreplaceable center of our family and joyous light in our lives, but the inspiration of his faith, optimism, and perseverance will live on in our hearts forever,’’ his family said in a statement. “We thank everyone who gave him care and support over this last year, and everyone who stood with him for so many years in his tireless march for progress toward justice, fairness, and opportunity for all. He loved this country and devoted his life to serving it. He always believed that our best days were still ahead, but it’s hard to imagine any of them without him.’’

Overcoming a history of family tragedy, including the assassinations of a brother who was president and another who sought the presidency, Senator Kennedy seized the role of being a “Senate man.’’ He became a Democratic titan of Washington who fought for the less fortunate, who crafted unlikely deals with conservative Republicans, and who ceaselessly sought support for universal health coverage.

“Teddy,’’ as he was known to intimates, constituents, and even his fiercest enemies, was an unwavering symbol to the left and the right - the former for his unapologetic embrace of liberalism, and latter for his value as a political target. But with his fiery rhetoric, his distinctive Massachusetts accent, and his role as representative of one of the nation’s best-known political families, he was widely recognized as an American original. In the end, some of those who might have been his harshest political enemies, including former President George W. Bush, found ways to collaborate with the man who was called the “last lion’’ of the Senate.

Senator Kennedy’s White House aspirations may have been undercut by his actions on the night he drove off a bridge at Chappaquiddick Island in 1969 and failed to promptly report the accident in which Mary Jo Kopechne, who had worked for his brother Robert, died. When Kennedy nonetheless later sought to wrest the presidential nomination from an incumbent Democrat, Jimmy Carter, he failed. But that failure prompted him to reevaluate his place in history, and he dedicated himself to fulfilling his political agenda by other means, famously saying, “the dream shall never die.’’

He was the youngest child of a famous family, but his legacy derived from quiet subcommittee meetings, conference reports, and markup sessions. The result of his efforts meant hospital care for a grandmother, a federal loan for a working college student, or a better wage for a dishwasher.

“He died the way he lived,’’ said a longtime Kennedy staffer, who did not want to be named because of the sensitivity of the moment, breaking up with emotion during the interview. “Fully in the moment, with incredible courage. He knew exactly what was going on. He wasn’t afraid. And given everything that he had been through his entire life, was always optimistic and knew that this country’s best days always [were] ahead.’’

Plans have already been made for the funeral, which will take place in Massachusetts, the aide said, and President Obama would be expected to attend.

“Without question Senator Kennedy was the most accomplished and effective legislator for economic and social justice in the history of our country,’’ said Paul G. Kirk, Jr., a former Kennedy aide who is chairman of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. “He was the most thoughtful and genuinely considerate friend I have known.’’

“He taught us to persevere and carry on in the face of loss and adversity,’’ Kirk added. “And we owe it to him to do the same at this time.’’

There is much, much more to this article, along with a number of photographs, and links to other stories about Senator Kennedy. If you wish to read the rest of the article, please click HERE. For additional information, click HERE.

As someone who lived in MA for a while, I know how hard Kennedy worked for the Greater Good. Not all of the policies he championed were the best ("No Child Left Behind" comes to mind), but there were many that tried. He was not perfect, though, as we all know (and who is?). But he tried to do the right thing. Despite a massive disappointment with his decision in the 2008 Primary, out of respect for his passing and the good he accomplished, I will leave it for today.

My deepest sympathies to Ted Kennedy's family, who suffered another loss just last week with the passing of Eunice Kennedy Shriver. No matter how expected his death may have been, it is never easy. He will be missed.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Finally, Someone in Congress Is Talking Some Common Sense...

There has been lots of talk recently about the Health Care Bill, what it contains, how it will be run, and who it will cover. Many folks claim that since the government does such a bang-up job with Medicare, it should be no problem for them to pick up millions and millions more people with no problem. Uh huh. Sure. Here's the thing - Medicare/Social Security is fraught with problems of its own, and is, by no means, a perfect program. Ask any senior who has had to figure out just which Supplemental Program they should get, and how they are going to pay for it, if you don't believe me.

One other issue that has just arisen was detailed in my local paper recently,"Millions TO Face Shrinking Checks; Trustees: No Cost Of Living Adjustment For Two Years." It details how Social Security checks, for the first time since 1975, will get no "Cost of Living Adjustment." None. Here are some of the more salient points:
By law, Social Security benefits cannot go down. Nevertheless, monthly payments would drop for millions of people in the Medicare prescription drug program because the premiums, which often are deducted from Social Security payments, are scheduled to go up slightly.

"I will promise you, they count on that COLA," said Barbara Kennelly, a former Democratic congresswoman from Connecticut who now heads the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare. "To some people, it might not be a big deal. (Emphasis is mine.)

But to seniors, especially with their health care costs, it is a big deal."

Cost of living adjustments are pegged to inflation, which has been negative this year, largely because energy prices are below 2008 levels.

Advocates say older people still face higher prices because they spend a disproportionate amount of their income on health care, where costs rise faster than inflation. Many also have suffered from declining home values and shrinking stock portfolios just as they are relying on those assets for income.

"For many elderly, they don't feel that inflation is low because their expenses are still going up," said David Certner, legislative policy director for AARP. "Anyone who has savings and investments has seen some serious losses."

No kidding. But that sums it up nicely.

As does my fellow NQ writer, Bronwyn's Harbor, in this post, "I've Changed My Mind About 'Death Panels,'" in which Bronwyn's neighbor's travails of the effects of no COLA are laid out in stark relief. The neighbor is being forced to choose between medicine and food, a horrible choice for any person, but especially one who has no other source of income.

It makes my head just swirl. Representative Mike Rogers details some other choices Americans will have to make. Or rather, choices that will be made for us, in one of the most common sense statements I have heard yet about the health care policy the Obama Administration is trying to institute, along with some actual provisions of the bill:

I don't know to which party this man belongs, and I don't much care. What I DO care about is that he seems to care about US, the average U.S. citizen. And I appreciate his calling out the Congress for its desire to over-function. That is to say, when the functional people have to work extra hard to compensate for the dysfunctional (as in not fully functioning, not mentally unstable or physically disabled) people. It does not bring up the dysfunctional people. On the contrary. All it does is pull down the fully functioning people (Rabbi Dr. Friedman discussed this issue frequently in his practice). It sounds like that is exactly the same thing Abraham Lincoln was saying, as quoted by Rep. Rogers noted above.

Choosing between food, shelter, and medicine as a result of government run programs sounds to me like programs that are not run to the benefit of the people. And that will bring all of us down. There has got to be a better way...

Well, This Is A Nice Change...

I have thought what I would write about after my post on my beloved Sweetie (and I have been out of town helping to get my mom's new Assisted Living unit set up for her this weekend). Honestly, I didn't want to go off on anything or anyone today. Fortunately, thanks to NQ artist, Pat Racimora, I have something positive about which to write.

Naturally, it's about Secretary Hillary Clinton. For once, there was a GOOD article, calling out some of the sexism with which she has had to deal, while highlighting the incredible work she has been doing on behalf of the State4 Department, and our country. David Rothkopf had this article, "It's 3:00 a.m. Do you Know Where Hillary Clinton Is?" I admit, when I first saw the title, I thought he was being snarky, and it was going to be yet another hatchet job on this amazing woman, this bright star. Imagine my delight when I read it, and discovered, far from snark, this was a serious article, about a serious role, and a serious person. All I can say is, it's about damn time:
When it comes to Hillary Rodham Clinton, we're missing the forest for the pantsuits.

Clinton is not the first celebrity to become the nation's top diplomat -- that honor goes to her most distant predecessor, Thomas Jefferson, who by the time he took office was one of the most famous and gossiped-about men in America -- but she may be the biggest. And during her first seven months in office, the former first lady, erstwhile presidential candidate and eternal lightning rod has drawn more attention for her moods, looks, outtakes and (of course) relationship with her husband than for, well, her work revamping the nation's foreign policy.

Even venerable publications -- such as one to which I regularly contribute, Foreign Policy -- have woven into their all-Hillary-all-the-time coverage odd discussions of Clinton's handbag and scarf choices. Daily Beast editor Tina Brown, while depicting herself as a Clinton supporter, has been scathing and small-minded in discussing such things as Clinton's weight and hair, while her "defense" of Hillary in her essay "Obama's Other Wife" was as sexist as the title suggests.

Indeed, sexism has followed Clinton from the campaign trail to Foggy Bottom, as seen most recently in the posturing outrage surrounding the exchange in Congo when Clinton reacted with understandable frustration to the now-infamous question regarding her husband's views. Major media outlets have joined the gossipfest, whether the New York Times, which covered Clinton's first big policy speech by discussing whether she was in or out with the White House, or The Washington Post, where a couple of reporters mused about whether a brew called Mad Bitch would be the beer of choice for the secretary of state.

May I just pause here to say, THANK YOU for calling these "news" sources out for these sexist depictions/attacks on Clinton. Thank you.

As to the work of Secretary Clinton, the article continues:
Amid all the distractions, what is Clinton actually doing? Only overseeing what may be the most profound changes in U.S. foreign policy in two decades -- a transformation that may render the presidencies of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush mere side notes in a long transition to a meaningful post-Cold War worldview.

The secretary has quietly begun rethinking the very nature of diplomacy and translating that vision into a revitalized State Department, one that approaches U.S. allies and rivals in ways that challenge long-held traditions. And despite the pessimists who invoked the "team of rivals" cliche to predict that President Obama and Clinton would not get along, Hillary has defined a role for herself in the Obamaverse: often bad cop to his good cop, spine stiffener when it comes to tough adversaries and nurturer of new strategies. Recognizing that the 3 a.m. phone calls are going to the White House, she is instead tackling the tough questions that, since the end of the Cold War, have kept America's leaders awake all night.

In these early days of the new administration, it has been easy to focus on what Clinton has not achieved or on ways in which her power has been supposedly constrained. Indeed, some of her efforts have been frustrated by difficult personnel approvals or disputes with the White House about who should get what jobs. But this is the way of all administrations. More unusual has been the avidity with which the new president has seized the reins of foreign policy -- more assertively than either George W. Bush or Bill Clinton before him. Obama's centrality amplifies the importance of his closest White House staffers, while his penchant for appointing special envoys such as Richard Holbrooke (on Afghanistan and Pakistan) and George Mitchell (on the Middle East) has been interpreted by some as limiting Clinton's role.

Given the challenges involved, it was perhaps natural that the White House would have a bigger day-to-day hand in some of the nation's most urgent foreign policy issues. But with Obama, national security adviser Jim Jones, Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates absorbed by Iraq, Afghanistan and other inherited problems of the recent past, Clinton's State Department can take on a bigger role in tackling the problems of the future -- in particular, how America will lead the world in the century ahead. This approach is both necessary and canny: It recognizes that U.S. policy must change to fulfill Obama's vision and that many high-profile issues such as those of the Middle East have often swamped the careers and aspirations of secretaries of state past.

Which nations will be our key partners? What do you do when many vital partners -- China, for example, and Russia -- are rivals as well? How must America's alliances change as NATO is stretched to the limit? How do we engage with rogue states and old enemies in ways that do not strengthen them and preserve our prerogative to challenge threats? How do we move beyond the diplomacy of men in striped pants speaking only for governments and embrace potent nonstate players and once-disenfranchised peoples?

In searching for answers, Clinton is leaving behind old doctrines and labels. She outlined her new thinking in a recent speech at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, where she revealed stark differences between the new administration's worldview and those of its predecessors: The recurring themes include "partnership" and "engagement" and "common interests." Clearly, Madeleine Albright's "indispensable nation" has recognized the indispensability of collaborating with others.

Who those "others" are is the area in which change has been greatest and most rapid. "We will put," Clinton said, "special emphasis on encouraging major and emerging global powers -- China, India, Russia and Brazil, as well as Turkey, Indonesia and South Africa -- to be full partners in tackling the global agenda." This is the death knell for the G-8 as the head table of the global community; the administration has an effort underway to determine whether the successor to the G-8 will be the G-20, or perhaps some other grouping. Though the move away from the G-8 began in the waning days of the Bush era, that administration viewed the world through a different lens, a perception that evolved from a traditional great-power view to a pre-Galilean notion that everything revolved around the world's sole superpower.

Obama and Clinton have both made engaging with emerging powers a priority. Obama visited Russia earlier this year and will host Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in his first state dinner in November. Clinton has made trips to China and India, and she would have been with Obama in Russia had she not injured her elbow. Both have visited Africa and the Middle East, reaching out to women and the Islamic world.

To anyone who has been following Clinton throughout her career, the manner in which she has been pursuing her position should come as no surprise. You may recall a book she wrote some time ago, It Takes A Village, in which these kinds of concepts have been discussed. She works in a collegial manner, holding the bigger picture firmly in hand as she goes about her work. It isn't about her. It is about the world, the country, and the citizens here and abroad. It is about pulling women and children up out of poverty, having people be educated, allowing people to live their lives, and not just fight to survive. That's her deal, and it has been for a long, long time. And it is that commitment that leads to this:
On many critical agenda items -- from a rollback of nuclear weapons to the climate or trade talks -- such emerging powers will be essential to achieving U.S. goals. As a result, we've seen a new American willingness to play down old differences, whether with Russia on a missile shield or, as Clinton showed on her China trip, with Beijing on human rights.

At the center of Clinton's brain trust is Anne-Marie Slaughter, the former dean of Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. Now head of policy planning at the State Department, Slaughter elaborated on the ideas in Clinton's speech. "We envision getting not just a new group of states around a table, but also building networks, coalitions and partnerships of states and nonstate actors to tackle specific problems," she told me.

"To do that," Slaughter continued, "our diplomats are going to need to have skills that are closer to community organizing than traditional reporting and analysis. New connecting technologies will be vital tools in this kind of diplomacy."

A new team has been brought in to make these changes real. Clinton recruited Alec Ross, one of the leaders of Obama's technology policy team, to the seventh floor of the State Department as her senior adviser for innovation. His mission is to harness new information tools to advance U.S. interests -- a task made easier as the Internet and mobile networks have played starring roles in recent incidents, from Iran to the Uighur uprising in western China to Moldova. Whether through a telecommunications program in Congo to protect women from violence or text messaging to raise money for Pakistani refugees in the Swat Valley, technology has been deployed to reach new audiences.

Of course, you need more than new ideas to revitalize the State Department; you need resources, too. The secretary has brought in former Bill Clinton-era budget chief Jack Lew to help her claw back money for statecraft that many in Foggy Bottom feel has been sucked off toward the Pentagon. She has also created special positions to back new priorities, such as Melanne Verveer as ambassador at large for women's issues, Elizabeth Bagley to handle public-private outreach worldwide and Todd Stern as the chief negotiator on climate.

Even just a few months in, it's clear that these appointments are far from window dressing. Lew, Slaughter and the acting head of the U.S. Agency for International Development are leading an effort to rethink foreign aid with the new Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, an initiative modeled on the Pentagon's strategic assessments and designed to review State's priorities. Stern has conducted high-level discussions on climate change around the world, notably with China. Clinton made women's issues a centerpiece of her recent 11-day trip to Africa, where she stressed that "the social, political and economic marginalization of women across Africa has left a void in this continent that undermines progress and prosperity."

Unlike other politicians, I don't think Clinton appoints people to be "window dressing," but to get the job done. That is further evidenced with the following appointment:
Clinton has also signaled the importance of private-sector experience by naming former Goldman Sachs International vice chairman Robert Hormats, a respected veteran of four administrations, to handle economic issues at the State Department, as well as Judith McHale, former chief executive of Discovery Communications, to run public diplomacy. In the same vein, she has opened up Cuba to American telecommunications companies and reached out to India's private sector on energy cooperation -- showing that this administration will seek to advance national interests by tapping the self-interests of the business community. As with any new administration, there have been inevitable problems. The old campaign teams -- Clinton's and Obama's -- still eye each other warily, but this feeling is gradually fading. And by most accounts, the administration's national security team has come together successfully, with Clinton developing strong relationships with national security adviser Jones and Defense Secretary Gates. Her policy deputy, Jim Steinberg, has renewed an old collaboration with deputy national security adviser Tom Donilon; the two of them, working with Obama campaign foreign policy advisers Denis McDonough and Mark Lippert, have formed what one State Department seventh-floor dweller called "a powerful quartet at the heart of real interagency policymaking." Henry Kissinger may have overstated matters when he said this is the best White House-State relationship in recent memory, but it's not bad, while the State-Pentagon relationship is in its best shape in decades.

Huh. Well, I'll be. Who could have seen THAT coming? Oh, I know - the 18 million people who voted for her!

But Clinton is not looking back to what was. Rather, she is looking ahead to see how best she can fulfill her work, As such, again, she looks at the big picture, and how best to accomplish what needs doing, including:
At the heart of things, though, is the relationship between Clinton and Obama. For all the administration's talk of international partnerships, that may be the most critical partnership of all.

So far, according to multiple high-level officials at State and the White House, the two seem aligned in their views. In addition, they are gradually defining complementary roles. Obama has assumed the role of principal spokesperson on foreign policy, as international audiences welcome his new and improved American brand. Clinton thus far has echoed his points but has also delivered tougher ones. Whether on a missile shield against Iran or North Korean saber-rattling, the continued imprisonment of Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma or rape and corruption in Congo, the secretary of state has spoken bluntly on the world stage -- even if it triggered snide comments from North Korea.

It is still early, and a president's foreign policy legacy is often defined less by big principles than by how one reacts to the unexpected, whether missiles in Cuba or terrorism in New York. Promising ideas fail because of limited attention or reluctant bureaucracies, and some rhetoric eventually rings hollow, as the self-congratulatory "smart power" already does to me.

Nevertheless, there is evidence that, seven months into the job, Obama's unlikely secretary of state is supporting and augmenting his agenda effectively. Not as Obama's "other wife," not as Bill Clinton's wife, not even as a celebrity or as a former presidential candidate -- but in a new role of her own making. (

David Rothkopf is a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the author of "Superclass: The Global Power Elite and the World They Are Making" and "Running the World: The Inside Story of the NSC and the Architects of American Power." He will be online to chat with readers Monday at 11 a.m. Submit your questions and comments before or during the discussion.)

Indeed - she is embracing a "role of her own making." It is hard not to consider what could have been had she been President instead of Secretary of State. Don't get me wrong - as I have said a number of times, I am glad that Clinton is in such a crucial role for our country. Clearly, we need her. But the same intelligence; the ability, and vision, to hold the big picture in her grasp while determining the best course to achieve those goals, while finding the people who can affect those goals; the nation-building, yes, the community-building; are all the ingredients necessary for a good presidency. And I am pretty sure that a President Hillary Clinton would not have made any "wee-wee" remarks about the press corp, either. It's a matter of decorum, the ability to hold things, events, people, in tension. It's a matter of vision, and the ability to effect change in a real, meaningful way. That's our Hillary. Thank heavens she is finally starting to get the recognition she so richly deserves.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Last Night...

I had with my beloved dog, Sweetie, was Monday night. I haven't been able to write about it until now - if I can make it through it this time...As many of you know, Sweetie had been diagnosed with at least two kinds of cancer, both highly malignant and aggressive. After numerous conversations with our vet, and a specialist, we decided that the best course for Sweetie was to let her live out her days at home with us, and focus on the quality of her life, not the quantity.

Just to recap, the options were:

1. amputation of the cancerous leg, which would not CURE her since the cancer had already metastasized, but would be palliative. Since she has had bad hips for YEARS, this was not a good option for her;
2. not only would it have been hard on her hips, but she had developed immune-mediated thrombocytopenia a few years ago, a disease that almost killed her (her body turned on her own blood cells). She spent five days in ICU, and received two blood transfusions. We came very, very close to losing her then;
3. radiation. Again, this would only have been palliative, and the closest place she could have it done was several hours away. So, every week, we would have to drive to this city, have back to back treatments, then drive back home. The resulting time this would give her was not expected to be much longer than what we could already expect;
4. chemo. That would have required one and a half hour drive (each way) for treatment, and again, would not be curative, nor give her that much more time. Both would have had a LOT of nasty side effects as well.

So, we made the choice to not drag her all over creation for treatments that would not prolong her life that much longer, and would be very hard on her physically. It was an agonizing decision let her go, I have to say. We have had her for over ten years, and have been through so much with her. But her pain levels were increasing beyond the scope of the available pain meds, and the cancerous joint in her leg was becoming more enlarged. We feared a pathological fracture, which would have put her in excruciating pain until we could get to our vet's, an hour away. Even though she was still very alert, we knew the kinds of cancer she had were very painful to her. Sweetie had a pretty hard weekend last weekend. Hard as it was, still is, we knew it was time we let her go.

So on Tuesday, at noon, I took her into the vet's for the last time. My partner was out of town on business, so a dear friend, who had worked for my vet, came with me, even though she was supposed to be moving out of state that day. My favorite vet tech assisted my wonderful, loving, caring, and kind vet. My vet told me she would not have done anything differently than we had done had it been her dog. That meant more than I can say to hear from her. We spent quite some time with Sweetie before they administered the initial drugs used to calm them. My friend said that as I moved around Sweetie while the tech and vet worked with her, she would follow the sound of my voice. And then it was time. I stood in front of her, petting her, telling her how much I loved her and what a gift she has been to me. And then she was gone...

I still can't think, or write, apparently, about her without crying. She was a great dog, a faithful companion, utterly devoted to us, and I will miss her more than I can say.

Perhaps something to consider is that we never know when someone is suffering, from the loss of a loved one (human or pet), or has just lost their job, or ended a relationship, maybe just having a bad day, or not feeling well. Certainly it is hard to tell in this forum (i.e., the internet). It wouldn't hurt us to act with a little more kindness, maybe re-read that comment before submitting it, or taking a break from the computer altogether to appreciate what, and who, we have in our lives. Maybe we could just be a little gentler with each other. Just a thought...

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Young Turk Asks: Has Obama Sold Out?

Yes, yes he has. Here's the video of TYT pondering this question in light of the recent "revelations" of Obama's duplicity:

The question is asked, and answered. The answer is a resounding YES. Yes, Obama has sold out. Long before he ever ran for US Senate, too, I might add. But why quibble, right? At least it is finally starting to let a little light of truth filter through the Obama's followers Kool Aide induced haze. Though attacking Republicans and blaming them for ALL of our woes is still fair game for TYT, with only peripheral acknowledgment that the Democrats are right there with the Republicans. Never mind that the Democrats have been in power for over two years now. Pesky details - who needs them?

I was like that, too, about the Republicans not so long ago, so I reckon I shouldn't be too judgmental. Perhaps TYT will realize at some point in the near future that the Democrats are acting pretty much like everything many of us said we hated about the Republicans as we listened to Air America. For instance, remember how ballistic we all went when the Republicans threatened the "Nuclear Option"? We were livid that they would dare do something like that. And now look who, in just 6 short months of having a Super Majority, is threatening the very same thing, even if it means running over some of their own members with reckless abandon? Yep. That would be the Democrats. Oh, but only for the most expensive part of the health care plan - nothing to worry about there! Lalalalalala...

You know, it's a shame these blowhards out there didn't bother to do their JOBS and vet this guy, maybe taking a little look-see into who his donors were, for instance. Maybe if TYT had BOTHERED to do that, he would have seen that Obama got close to $1.5 MILLION dollars from the HMOs and Health Services. Surely TYT didn't expect they gave him all that money for nothing, did he?

Nothing, actually, worse than nothing, is what WE will be getting as a result of these faux journalists and commentators not bothering to actually look behind the curtain of Obama's rhetoric to see if there was any reason on this Green Earth to BELIEVE HIM!!!!!! For cryin' out loud, already! Sheesh!

Heck, even investigative journalist Greg Palast, whose article I reported on the other day regarding the whopping 2% the Big Pharma MIGHT give up, as TYT reported above, threw all of his training away for Obama. Glad he's regained some of it, but it is way too late for us/US now. We're stuck with Obama for 3 1/2 more years, thank you all so very much for that. (That is sarcasm, in case anyone missed it.)

By the way, did you notice that TYT guy above still cannot quite get out the words that HE has been had? That he didn't bother to look under the surface? Nope. Not one bit - he bought that stupid "Hope!" and "CHANGE!" crap all the way to Obama being in the White House. Thanks shitloads. Sure would have been nice if you had maybe asked some pertinent questions like, "Why does Obama have NO records available from his time in the IL Senate? How can that be?" Or, "Why DOES Obama have close ties to Tony Rezko/Bill Ayers/Jeremiah Wright/Khalid Rashidi (pick one)?" Or how about this one, "Why does everyone say he has made so much of himself from his "humble" beginnings when he went to the most prestigious school in all of Hawaii and his grandmother was the VP of the biggest bank in Hawaii?" Or maybe, "Isn't it pretty sexist of Obama to say that Hillary Clinton was only going to tea parties whenever she went abroad as First Lady? Especially since we know she helped to foster some amazing programs?" Obviously, I could go on and on and on. Feel free to add your own.

The problem is, people like TYT and Greg Palast and just about EVERYONE at Huffington Post (since TYT mentioned it) DIDN'T ask questions like that. No, their questions were more like, "Gosh, isn't it hard to tear yourself away from the mirror when you are SO good looking??" Blech. Or, "Just how much time do you spend practicing your three-pointer?" Or any number of insipid questions like the ones Charlie Gibson asked Obama (while hammering Sarah Palin, even using made-up concepts to try and make her look bad). Pathetic for alleged professionals to act that way, if you ask me.

As I mentioned to Kathleen (Wynne, of, who was kind enough to send me this video), most of our elected officials, by the time they are bought by special interests have been there a while. Obama was hardly in there for any time at all, which makes me think he CAME this way. Huh - maybe THAT was the "Change!" to which he was referring?

In any event, if TYT is right, and this is already a done deal, it doesn't just speak to how badly Obama screwed over his followers, and the rest of us, but how screwed DEMOCRACY is. And that is the biggest problem of all...So, yeah, I would be up for a revolution, TYT, since you mentioned it. Anyone else?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

WHAT "Cash For Clunkers"??

Oh, dear. This not very good advertising for the way the Feds run programs. It seems that while the so-called "Cash for Clunkers" program is a HUGE success, the automobile dealers are not getting reimbursed for all of the money they have shelled out. At least one, MAJOR, state has had it, as this headline indicates, NY Dealers Pull Out Of Clunkers Program. In my own state, dealers are waiting for payback, too. They aren't too thrilled about being out $225,000, in the case of one local dealer.

And again, the top cars being purchased are FOREIGN - Toyotas and Hondas are the ones being bought the most, with Ford Focus thrown in there. Just to be clear. (Toyota and Honda are non-unionized, just in case you are keeping score.)

NY state dealers have had it with the program:
Hundreds of auto dealers in the New York area have withdrawn from the government's Cash for Clunkers program, citing delays in getting reimbursed by the government, a dealership group said Wednesday.

The Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association, which represents dealerships in the New York metro area, said about half its 425 members have left the program because they cannot afford to offer more rebates. They're also worried about getting repaid.

"(The government) needs to move the system forward and they need to start paying these dealers," said Mark Schienberg, the group's president. "This is a cash-dependent business."

You betcha it is. Check out just how quickly the dealers are getting reimbursed for their cash outlay:
The program offers up to $4,500 to shoppers who trade in vehicles getting 18 mpg or less for a more fuel-efficient car or truck. Dealers pay the rebates out of pocket, then must wait to be reimbursed by the government. But administrative snags and heavy paperwork have created a backlog of unpaid claims.

Schienberg said the group's dealers have been repaid for only about 2 percent of the clunkers deals they've made so far.

Many dealers have said they are worried they won't get repaid at all, while others have waited so long to get reimbursed they don't have the cash to fund any more rebates, Schienberg said.

"The program is a great program in the sense that it's creating a lot of floor traffic that a lot of dealers haven't seen in a long time," he said.

"But it's in the hands of this enormous bureaucracy and regulatory agency," he added. "If they don't get out of their own way, this program is going to be a huge failure."

"If they don't get out of their own way..."Wow. That's a pretty telling comment right there, isn't it? And that sounds SO like the Federal Government, too, doesn't it Uh, yeah, sure:
The program is administered by the Department of Transportation. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Wednesday that dealers will be repaid for the clunkers deals they have completed.

"I know dealers are frustrated. They're going to get their money," LaHood told reporters. He said the Obama administration would soon announce how much longer the $3 billion car incentive program will last.

Through early Wednesday, auto dealers have made clunkers deals worth $1.81 billion, resulting in 435,102 new car sales, according to the DOT.

This begs the obvious question: if the Federal Government is incapable of reimbursing these automobile dealers for less than half a million cars, how in the HELL do they think they are going to be capable of running health care for millions and millions of people? That is to say, their track record just isn't great in this area.

And that is what makes the current threat by Harry Reid to use the "Nuclear Option" to push through what the Wall Street Journal says is "the most expensive part of the plan."

Oh - and the "Nuclear Option," in case you don't know, is a simple majority. Not a veto-proof one, a simple one of 51 - 49.

And they WONDER why so many people are hesitant to have the Feds control our health care? Really?? Wow - kinda makes you wonder about them making decisions for us about, well, EVERYTHING, doesn't it? Holy smokes...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A Different Take On Secretary Clinton's Africa Trip

Faithful NQ reader, CG, mentioned recently that the Washington Post actually did a very nice article on Secretary Clinton's recent trip to Africa. Well, you coulda knocked me over with a feather. This morning, in my daily "DipBlog" from the State Department, sure enough, there it was, along with a link to an interactive map of where Secretary Clinton went (also mentioned by CG). I had a pretty painful day on Tuesday, one about which I can't write just yet, so I appreciate CG's heads-up, and of course, love getting my DipBlog. You can sign up, too, if you wish. Here's the LINK to do so. It's a cool site, with articles, videos, and of course, travel alerts and such.

Now to the article in Washington Post, "Clinton Puts Spotlight On Women's Issues." May I just say, before I share the article with you, that she is doing EXACTLY what she said she would do. I'm just sayin' - she is remaining true to her principles and what she considers to be important. Unlike SOME people I could name. About time some in the MSM got the memo, but WaPo did:
She talked chickens with female farmers in Kenya. She listened to the excruciating stories of rape victims in war-torn eastern Congo. And in South Africa, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton visited a housing project built by poor women, where she danced with a choir singing "Heel-a-ree! Heel-a-ree!"

Clinton's just-concluded 11-day trip to Africa has sent the clearest signal yet that she intends to make women's rights one of her signature issues and a higher priority than ever before in American diplomacy.

She plans to press governments on abuses of women's rights and make women more central in U.S. aid programs.

But her efforts go beyond the marble halls of government and show how she is redefining the role of secretary of state. Her trips are packed with town hall meetings and visits to micro-credit projects and women's dinners. Ever the politician, she is using her star power to boost women who could be her allies.

"It's just a constant effort to elevate people who, in their societies, may not even be known by their own leaders," Clinton said in an interview. "My coming gives them a platform, which then gives us the chance to try and change the priorities of the governments."

Wow. That is quite a statement. I am glad she is doing this work abroad, for the marginalized and oppressed. Oh, how I wish she was doing it as the President (and we know she would have kept her word then, too).

But, things don't always run smoothly, as we know:
Clinton's agenda faces numerous obstacles. The U.S. aid system is a dysfunctional jumble of programs. Some critics may question why she is focusing on women's rights instead of terrorism or nuclear proliferation. And improving the lot of women in such places as Congo is complicated by deeply rooted social problems.

"It's great she's mentioning the issue," said Brett Schaefer, an Africa scholar at the Heritage Foundation. "As to whether her bringing it up will substantially improve the situation or treatment of women in Africa, frankly I doubt it."

Lawrence Wilkerson, who was chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, said that Clinton has to tread carefully in socially conservative regions, particularly those where the U.S. military is at war. "You might be right, in the narrow sense of women in that country or region need to be empowered, but you're saying something inimical to other U.S. interests," he said.

Despite Clinton's efforts to spotlight women's issues, it was her own angry response to what she perceived as a sexist question at a town hall meeting in Congo that dominated American television coverage of her Africa trip. A student had asked for former president Bill Clinton's opinion on a local political issue -- "through the mouth of Mrs. Clinton." Snapped Hillary Clinton: "My husband is not the secretary of state. I am."

Clinton is not the first female secretary of state, but neither of her predecessors had her impact abroad as a pop feminist icon. On nearly every foreign trip, she has met with women -- South Korean students, Israeli entrepreneurs, Iraqi war widows, Chinese civic activists. Clinton mentioned "women" or "woman" at least 450 times in public comments in her first five months in the position, twice as often as her predecessor, Condoleezza Rice.

And that is why it still shocks me that women who consider themselves feminists, and womens organizations, did not wholeheartedly throw their support behind Hillary Clinton, rather going for the young, inexperienced man. Clinton is not new to this issue, and doesn't just pay lip service to it, either:
Clinton's interest in global women's issues is deeply personal, a mission she adopted as first lady after the stinging defeat of her health-care reform effort in 1994. For months, she kept a low profile. Then, in September 1995, she addressed the U.N. women's conference in Beijing, strongly denouncing abuses of women's rights. Delegates jumped to their feet in applause.

"It was a transformational moment for her," said Melanne Verveer, who has worked closely with Clinton since her White House days.

Clinton began traveling the world, highlighting women's issues. She gradually built a network of female activists, politicians and entrepreneurs, especially through a group she helped found, Vital Voices, that has trained more than 7,000 emerging leaders worldwide. She developed a following among middle-class women in male-dominated countries who devoured her autobiography and eagerly watched her presidential run.

"She might not be having the same restrictions as we have, but she has had restrictions -- and she's moving on. That's a symbol to us," said Tara Fela-Durotoye, a businesswoman in Abuja, Nigeria.

Clinton's legacy is evident in such places as the Victoria Mxenge housing development outside Cape Town, South Africa, a dusty sprawl of small, pastel-colored homes she championed as first lady. When her bus rolled into the female-run project during her trip, a joyful commotion broke out. Women in purple and yellow gowns lined the streets, waving wildly.

Huh. How does this match with the rhetoric spewed by Obama about Hillary Clinton and her work abroad? Does the expression, "Liar, liar, pants on fire" mean anything to you? And yet, people bought his words, hook, line, and sinker. I wonder how they're feeling now, especially when they read what the effects of her work are, discernible, and quantifiable:
A youth choir swayed outside a community center decorated with photos of Clinton on her previous visits to the project, which has grown to 50,000 houses. Clinton vowed in a major policy address last month to make women the focus of U.S. assistance programs. The idea is applauded by development experts, who have found that investing in girls' education, maternal health and women's micro-finance provides a powerful boost to Third World families.

Ritu Sharma, president of the anti-poverty group Women Thrive Worldwide, said she already sees the results of Clinton's efforts in the bureaucracy. When Sharma's staff recently attended a meeting about a new agricultural aid program, she said, one State Department official joked, "We have to integrate women -- or we're going to be fired."

Still, Sharma questioned whether the program would succeed in reaching poor women, especially given the weaknesses in U.S. foreign assistance.

"There's a lot of healthy skepticism about 'Will it really happen?' " she said.

In a sign of the priority she gives to the issue, Clinton has appointed her close friend Verveer as the State Department's first global ambassador for women's affairs.

"She will permeate the State Department, as I want her to, with what we should be doing about empowering and focusing on women across the board," Clinton said.

This reminds me - do you remember that Obama has a school named after him in Kenya? You know, the one to which he has given not one thin dime? Uh, yeah. Who walks the walk here? Clearly, it's Hillary:
One issue Verveer has been concerned about is violence against women, particularly the stunningly high number of rapes in eastern Congo. Last week, Clinton, Verveer and the delegation boarded U.N. planes to visit the remote, impoverished region and meet with rape victims. Clinton pressed the Congolese president to prosecute offenders and offered $17 million in new assistance for victims.

"Raising issues like the ones I've been raising on this trip to get governments to focus on them, to see they're not sidelined or subsidiary issues, but that the U.S. government at the highest levels cares about them, is important," she said. "It changes the dynamic within governments."

Clinton's efforts are being reinforced by a White House women's council and a Congress with a growing number of powerful female members. One sign of that: Aid dedicated to programs for Afghan women and girls increased about threefold this year, to $250 million, because of lawmakers such as Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who was recently named head of the first Senate subcommittee on global women's issues, and Rep. Nita M. Lowey (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on foreign operations.

It is striking how much time Clinton dedicates to women's events on her trips, even ones that receive little public attention. In South Africa, a clearly delighted Clinton spent 90 minutes at the housing project, twice as long as she met with South Africa's president. "It feeds my heart," she explained. "Which is really critical to me personally since a lot of what I do as secretary of state is very formalistic. It's meetings with other officials."

"It is striking how much time Clinton dedicates to women's events on her trips, even ones that receive little public attention." Because she doesn't do it for the publicity, she does it because it is the RIGHT thing to do!! That is another big, huge, difference between Hillary Clinton and other politicians. She does a LOT of things about which people don't know (as in, not publicized in the media) because she actually, genuinely cares about people.
And that is why she will always be my hero - because she cares, because she SHOWS she cares, and because she brings action to her words. I think we could use a whole lot more of that from our elected officials, don't you?

If you wish to see where Secretary Clinton went, and what she did, click on this link: Secretary of State Clinton's Africa Travels - Interactive Map

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

What's Going On With The Economy, Obama??

I have some major things going on today, but I did want to touch on the Economy and what has been going on of late. As you may have heard, we have been adding $200 BILLION a MONTH to the Deficit. We are currently bumping up against the $12.1 TRILLION Debt Ceiling as established by Congress, and may do that as early as October. Needless to say, Timmy Geithner is scrambling to get that raised so we don't default on our loans. Once again, we are raking up $200 BILLION in debt a MONTH.

Well, Obama has figured out a way to deal with the massive debt under which we are staggering. And no, not another "czar," though that would not be a surprise at this point. Not this time, but this may be one of the best plans he has ever had. And it comes to you via The Onion:

U.S. Government Stages Fake Coup To Wipe Out National Debt

Can't you just see it now? I wonder what roll Pelosi, Reid, Boxer, et al, will play in that "coup"?? I welcome your suggestions.

Monday, August 17, 2009

"Swimmers Are Told To Wear Burkinis"

Let me say right up front that I have absolutely nothing against Islam or Muslims in general. I certainly do not agree with the more conservative Muslim views on women, though. Not only does this article focus on conservative Muslims, Swimmers Are Told To Wear Burkinis, but the impact they have on non-Muslim women especially, but men, too, in the UK.

You're not going to believe this:
Under the rules, swimmers – including non-Muslims – are barred from entering the pool in normal swimming attire.

Instead they are told that they must comply with the "modest" code of dress required by Islamic custom, with women covered from the neck to the ankles and men, who swim separately, covered from the navel to the knees.

Huh? What kind of coverings? Like this?

(Photo Credit)

That's from 1864. Yes, that's right - 145 years ago. That's what all the women were wearing then.

This is about what they are wearing in 2009:

(Photo credit)

Uh yeah. Pretty much. Even if they are NOT Muslims, women are supposed to wear this so as not to offend. I'm sorry, how is that again? They are going to allow one religion, not even the NATIONAL religion, mind you, to dominate what women and men (though the latter is FAR less restrictive) can and cannot wear while swimming?? In a PUBLIC pool? Well, that's simply stunning, isn't it?

Not everyone is onboard with the whole "burkini" thing, though, as you might have guessed:
The phenomenon runs counter to developments in France, where last week a woman was evicted from a public pool for wearing a burkini – the headscarf, tunic and trouser outfit which allows Muslim women to preserve their modesty in the water.

The 35-year-old, named only as Carole, is threatening legal action after she was told by pool officials in Emerainville, east of Paris, that she could not wear the outfit on hygiene grounds.

Not that I think she should have been tossed out of the pool or anything, but she was not trying to force everyone ELSE to wear one, either:
But across the UK municipal pools are holding swimming sessions specifically aimed at Muslims, in some case imposing strict dress codes.

Croydon council in south London runs separate one-and-a half-hour swimming sessions for Muslim men and women every Saturday and Sunday at Thornton Heath Leisure Centre.

Swimmers were told last week on the centre's website that "during special Muslim sessions male costumes must cover the body from the navel to the knee and females must be covered from the neck to the ankles and wrists".

There are similar rules at Scunthorpe Leisure Centre, in North Lincolnshire, where "users must follow the required dress code for this session (T-shirts and shorts/leggings that cover below the knee)".

In Glasgow, a men-only swimming session is organised by a local mosque group at North Woodside Leisure Centre, at which swimmers must be covered from navel to knee.

At a women-only class organised by a Muslim teacher at Blackbird Leys Swimming Pool, Oxford, to encourage Muslim women to learn to swim, most participants wear "modest" outfits although normal costumes are permitted.

Hmmm. Well, that's something at least - that regular dress is allowed at this one place. Though still, to impose their standard of "modest dress" on others is still, well, an imposition, is it not?

Here's the problem:
The dress codes have provoked an angry reaction among critics who say they encourage division and resentment between Muslims and non-Muslims, putting strain on social cohesion.

Ian Cawsey, the Labour MP for the North Lincolnshire constituency of Brigg and Goole, said: "Of course swimming pools have basic codes of dress but it should not go beyond that.

"I don't think that in a local authority pool I should have to wear a particular type of clothes for the benefit of someone else. That's not integration or cohesion."

Good point, isn't it? But how about a leader who does have a large Muslim populaiton:
Labour MP Anne Cryer, whose Keighley, West Yorkshire constituency has a large number of Muslims, said: "Unfortunately this kind of thing has a negative impact on community relations.

"It's seen as yet another demand for special treatment. I can't see why special clothing is needed for what is a single-sex session."

Muslim swimming sessions are also held at a number of state schools around the country. At Loxford School in Ilford, east London, a local Muslim group organises weekly sessions for Muslim men, with the warning that "it is compulsory for the body to be covered between the navel and the knees.

"Anyone not adhering to the dress code or rules within the pool will not be allowed to swim".

The practice of holding special Muslim swimming sessions has led to non-Muslims being turned away.

Well, that's a bit of a problem, isn't it, whent it is a public pool? I can see where people might get testy over not being allowed in if the don't adhere to the strict dress code of a religion not their own:
David Toube, 39 and his five year old son Harry were last year refused entry to Clissold Leisure Centre, in Hackney, east London, after being told the Sunday morning swimming session was for Muslim men only.

Council officials later said staff had made a mistake and both Mr Toube, a corporate lawyer, and his son should have been admitted.

After discovering the rules at Thornton Heath one Croydon resident, 34-year-old Alex Craig, said: "I think it is preposterous that a council should be encouraging this type of segregation over municipal facilities.

"Surely if Muslims want to swim then they should just turn up with their modest swimwear at the same time as everyone else."

That does not sound too outrageous to me, but I freely admit, I am not in the camp that women should have to hide their entire bodies to be able to go swimming. That's just me, though.

But it is just that kind of directive that brings this up:
Douglas Murray, director of the Centre for Social Cohesion, last night condemned the practice. He said: "This kind of thing is extremely divisive.

"Non-Muslims see these extremist demands as an example of Muslims wanting things to fit into their lifestyle, when there aren't similar things organised for Hindus, Buddhists or Jews.

"It also puts moderate Muslims in an awkward position as it suggests, wrongly, that they are not devout enough, simply because they choose not to cover themselves in a shroud in a pool."

A press officer at Croydon council, which introduced Muslim-only swimming in 2006, claimed that the wording on the website was a mistake and the dress code should be regarded as a suggestion rather than a requirement.

The website was late changed to remove the reference to the dress code.

However, an official at the leisure centre said the dress code remained compulsory.

Earlier, defending the segregation policy, a Croydon council spokesman said: "We appreciate that certain religious groups, such as Muslims, have strict rules on segregation for activities including sports, so in response to requests from the local community, we have been running these sessions at Thornton Heath Leisure Centre."

All in all, it sounds like quite a kerfluffle.

So, what do you think about this requirement? Should non-Muslim women be forced to wear "burkinis" while swimming in public pools? Let's, um, flesh this out, shall we?

Sunday, August 16, 2009

"Women Should Lose Themselves in Men"

I know, not the kind of headline one might expect from me, to put it mildly. This is a quote from the following article, What women's lib? 70 Percent Of Americans Think Women Should Take Spouse's Name After Marriage. Say whaaa??

The results of this article came out the other day, though one might think the results would more likely be from the 19th century:
Newly minted brides should do more than vow to love their hubbies for a lifetime, say the majority of Americans. Some 70 percent of the respondents in a new study feel they should also take their spouse’s surname - and 50 percent say that it should be a legal requirement for a woman to take her spouse’s last name.

The study, presented Tuesday at the American Sociological Association’s annual meeting, was done by the Center for Survey Research at Indiana University, as reported by USA Today.

Some 815 people were asked multiple choice and open-ended questions about a variety of family and gender issues. On the issue of marital name change, the majority of respondents weighed in with a fairly conservative answer, says Laura Hamilton, Indiana University associate professor and lead study author.

“The results were surprisingly conservative,” she says. “Even though there is a general movement toward neutral language, like saying chairperson instead of chairwoman, people seemed to feel it was better for a woman to change her last name to her husband’s.”

You gotta admit. This is pretty surprising. Well, I should say, it would have been MORE surprising back in 2007, if you get my drift. But wait, there's more:
She said that the fact that half of American thought this should be a legal requirement was also surprising.

“Americans don’t want much government intervention in family life, so for 50 percent of Americans to feel this way was interesting,” she said.

Only 5 to 10 percent of women keep the name they were born with when they marry, Hamilton says. She notes that some studies show that younger women are more likely or as likely to change their name as baby boom brides. “It’s not a straight age trend,” she said, according to USA Today.

When the respondents were asked why they felt women should change their name after the wedding, Hamilton says, “They told us that women should lose their own identity when they marry and become a part of the man and his family. This was a reason given by many.” (Emphasis mine.)

Other respondents said they felt the marital name change was essential for religious reasons or as a practical matter.

“They said the mailman would get confused and that society wouldn’t function as well if women did not change their name,” Hamilton says.

For cryin' out loud, really? That's some of the logic going on there? That the "mailMAN" will get confused if people with two last names at the same address get mail?? Well, our mailWOMAN doesn't get the least bit confused delivering mail to us. Hey, I'm just saying (and no, I am not putting down men - just the sexist implications all the way across the board with that one).

And yes, that so many think it should be a LAW is significant. So much for personal liberty and all that. Who needs to make decisions about something as personal as their name? Certainly not the little lady who just got married.

This is not as surprising, though:
Americans who feel that women should take their husband’s last name also tend to be conservative in other areas, according to Hamilton.

“Asked if they thought of a lesbian couple as a family, those who believe that women should take their husband’s name are less likely to say yes,” she says. “If you’re more liberal about the name change issue, you tend to include a larger population in the definition of family."

Oh, well. I feel better about that, don't you? It's a start, I suppose. Maybe we actually get to KEEP our own identity then?? Woohoo - being a lesbian in this culture is finally paying off! Yippee!!!

Ahem. Yes, according to the survey, "women should lose their identity..." LOSE THEIR IDENTITY. Forget about this sounding like the 19th century. It goes back WAY father than that. This is so disturbing on so many different levels, I can only shake my head in utter disbelief. Seriously - can you BELIEVE this? This "subjugate yourself to the man" thing is freakin' biblical - and two THOUSAND years later, women are still expected to eradicate themselves?

Wow. You know, it is only a matter of degrees between this survey, and this recent article, Afghanistan Passes 'Barbaric' Law Diminishing Women's Rights, Rehashed legislation allows husbands to deny wives food if they fail to obey sexual demands.

(Photo, Kabul, 2002, Sung Nam Hoon)

It is exactly the mindset above that gives SPACE to this kind of thinking, and allows laws like this to gain approval:
Afghanistan has quietly passed a law permitting Shia men to deny their wives food and sustenance if they refuse to obey their husbands' sexual demands, despite international outrage over an earlier version of the legislation which President Hamid Karzai had promised to review.

The new final draft of the legislation also grants guardianship of children exclusively to their fathers and grandfathers, and requires women to get permission from their husbands to work.

"It also effectively allows a rapist to avoid prosecution by paying 'blood money' to a girl who was injured when he raped her," the US charity Human Rights Watch said.

Holy freakin' shit. I feel like I have fallen through a wormhole and traveled way, WAY back in time.

But wait - didn't The One wave his magic wand, ride in on his Rainbow Unity Unicorn and say this wasn't such a peachy keen idea because women-folk around the globe might get a tad bit miffed, thus casting a pall on the reflection from his halo? Well, close enough:
In early April, Barack Obama and Gordon Brown joined an international chorus of condemnation when the Guardian revealed that the earlier version of the law legalised rape within marriage, according to the UN.

Although Karzai appeared to back down, activists say the revised version of the law still contains repressive measures and contradicts the Afghan constitution and international treaties signed by the country.

Islamic law experts and human rights activists say that although the language of the original law has been changed, many of the provisions that alarmed women's rights groups remain, including this one: "Tamkeen is the readiness of the wife to submit to her husband's reasonable sexual enjoyment, and her prohibition from going out of the house, except in extreme circumstances, without her husband's permission. If any of the above provisions are not followed by the wife she is considered disobedient."

Huh, well, I'll be damned. Evidently, SOME people don't give a damn what The One has to say. Ahem.

Clearly it didn't matter what Obama and Brown said, especially when you consider this:
The law has been backed by the hardline Shia cleric Ayatollah Mohseni, who is thought to have influence over the voting intentions of some of the country's Shias, which make up around 20% of the population. Karzai has assiduously courted such minority leaders in the run up to next Thursday's election, which is likely to be a close run thing, according to a poll released yesterday.

Human Rights Watch, which has obtained a copy of the final law, called on all candidates to pledge to repeal the law, which it says contradicts Afghanistan's own constitution.

The group said that Karzai had "made an unthinkable deal to sell Afghan women out in the support of fundamentalists in the August 20 election".

Brad Adams, the organisation's Asia director, said: "The rights of Afghan women are being ripped up by powerful men who are using women as pawns in manoeuvres to gain power.

"These kinds of barbaric laws were supposed to have been relegated to the past with the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001, yet Karzai has revived them and given them his official stamp of approval."

Indeed. Women are pawns, and property of men. Dare I say it, they are forced to give up their identities, and their own bodies, to every wish and whim of the men to whom they are married? And any violation of the woman is really a violation of the man to whom she is linked. That is, to whom she belongs.

As for Karzai:
The latest opinion poll by US democracy group the International Republican Institute showed that although Karzai was up 13 points to 44% since the last survey in May, his closest rival, Abdullah Abdullah, had soared from 7% to 26%.

If those numbers prove accurate, it would mean the contest would have to go to a second round run-off vote in early October. In that scenario, 50% of voters said they would vote for Karzai and 29% for Abdullah.

The survey was conducted in mid to late July, so it is not known whether Abdullah has made further gains on Karzai.

He could further increase his chance of victory by joining forces with Ashraf Ghani, the former finance minister who is also running on a platform fiercely critical of Karzai.

Fifty-eight per cent of the 2,400 people polled by IRI said they would like to see an alliance between Abdullah and Ghani, who is polling in fourth place.

In other words, at least from when this survey was taken, Karzai still seems to be the frontrunner. Gosh, that is SO good for the women in that country, isn't it? Yeah, right - not even close.

And speaking of women in Afghanistan, this article came out recently, too "Marines Try A Woman's Touch To Reach Afghan Hearts":
Put on body armor, check weapons, cover head and shoulders with a scarf.

That was the drill for female American Marines who set out on patrol this week with a mission to make friends with Afghan women in a war zone by showing respect for Muslim standards of modesty.

The all-female unit of 46 Marines is the military's latest innovation in its rivalry with the Taliban for the populace's loyalty. Afghan women are viewed as good intelligence sources, and more open to the basics of the military's hearts-and-minds effort — hygiene, education and an end to the violence.

"It's part of the effort to show we're sensitive to local culture," said Capt. Jennifer Gregoire, of East Strasburg, Pa. She leads the Female Engagement Team in the Now Zad Valley of Helmand province, the heartland of the Taliban insurgency.

"If you show your hair, its kind of like seeing a nude picture here, because women are very covered up," she said.

Uh, yeah, you can say that again. As another reminder:

(photo by worldwidewandering)

I think that qualifies as "very covered up" (click HERE to read the rest of the Women Marines story). What is more, there is absolutely NOTHING of the actual woman underneath the burqa. You don't know who she is, you can't see her eyes, her mouth, HER. You cannot SEE her.

That is the point of women "losing their identity in men," is it not? Of women being nothing more than the property of their husbands, or their fathers, because who they are doesn't count. It doesn't matter. They are NOTHING unless they are connected to a man, and he may do to her as he wishes, whenever he wishes, and she must, simply, take it.

Well, at least according to the majority of those who took the survey here in the US, and according to the lawmakers in Afghanistan. Yep - seems there are people here who seem to have the same high (cough, choke) opinion of women as they do in Afghanistan. "What Women's Lib," indeed.

I bet you didn't see THAT coming...