Mukhtaran Mai Weds…breaking all taboos

It was nice to see a follow up and update on Mukhtaran Mai’s life in this NYT article on March 17, 2009.  I just recently wrote about her in the Nicolas Kristof post here.

mukhtarwedding

So it seems that she has married a younger police constable (she is his second wife) after he has been pursuing her hand in marriage for the past few years.  Her will and resolve as a strong woman, rooted in her belief that she will lead her life on her own terms continues to resonate as she takes this new step in her life.  Read on….

There are several news stories on her:

Here’s the full report from the New York Times:

Rape Victims’ Advocate Marries

By SALMAN MASOOD
Published: March 17, 2009

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Mukhtar Mai, the resilient Pakistani who was
gang raped in 2002 on the orders of a village council but became a
symbol of hope for voiceless and oppressed women, has married.

In a telephone interview on Tuesday, Ms. Mukhtar, 37, said her new
husband is a police constable who was assigned to guard her in the
wake of the attack and who has been asking for her hand for several
years. She is his second wife.
She said the constable, Nasir Abbas Gabol, 30, and she married Sunday
in a simple ceremony in her dusty farming village, Meerwala, in the
southern part of Punjab Province.
“He says he madly fell in love with me,” Ms. Mukhtar said with a big
laugh when asked what finally persuaded her to say yes.
Pakistani rape victims often commit suicide, but Ms. Mukhtar, who is
also know as Mukhtaran Bibi, instead successfully challenged her
attackers in court, winning international renown for her bravery. She
runs several schools, an ambulance service and a women’s aid group in
her village and has written an autobiography. By marrying, she has
defeated another stigma against rape victims in conservative Pakistani
society.
The village council ordered her rape as a punishment for actions
attributed to her younger brother. He was accused of having illicit
relations with a woman from a rival clan, but later investigations
revealed that the boy had himself been molested by three of those
clan’s tribesmen, and the accusation against him had been a cover-up.
Mr. Gabol was one of a group of police officers deployed to protect
her after she was threatened by the rapists’ relatives to try to stop
her from pressing charges.
Mr. Gabol had a hard time persuading Ms. Mukhtar to marry. He had been
calling her off and on since 2003 but formally proposed a year and a
half ago, she said. “But I told my parents I don’t want to get
married.”
Finally, four months ago, he tried to kill himself by taking sleeping
pills. “The morning after he attempted suicide, his wife and parents
met my parents but I still refused,” Ms. Mukhtar said.
Mr. Gabol then threatened to divorce his first wife, Shumaila.
Ms. Shumaila, along with Mr. Gabol’s parents and sisters, joined
forces to try to talk Ms. Mukhtar into marrying him, taking on the
status of second wife. In Pakistan, which follows Islamic law, a man
can legally have up to four wives.
It was her concern about Ms. Shumaila, Ms. Mukhtar said, that moved
her to relent.
“I am a woman and can understand the pain and difficulties faced by
another woman,” Ms. Mukhtar said. “She is a good woman.”
In the end, Ms. Mukhtar put a few conditions on Mr. Gabol. He had to
transfer the ownership of his ancestral house to his first wife, agree
to give her a plot of land and a monthly stipend of roughly $125.
Asked if she had plans to leave her village to live with her husband
in his village, Ms. Mukhtar said no. “I have seen pain and happiness
in Meerwala. I cannot think of leaving this place.”
Her husband, she said, “can come here whenever he wants and finds it
convenient.”

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Let the people speak today…

[Updated note to this post: Amid the jubilence, it seems suicide attackers have struck again in Rawalpindi, killing at least 10 and injuring over 20.  Let Pakistanis not loose the momentum to demand en masse, their right to be safeguarded against this grave threat which looms, to demand that the powers that be, stop pandering to the religious extremists and begin to take strong action with urgency to protect Pakistan’s sovereignty and its people.  I hope we are not left waiting in vain (or worse) for the people, the masses, the ruling educated elite to speak up and march (now!) against the terror and atrocities being committed by Muslims upon Muslims as the country celebrates the dawn of this new day… ]

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A historic, emotional and proud day in the history of Pakistan- March 16, 2009.

cj-marchcelebration21

Hundreds of thousands marched the “Long March” towards the capital to demand the restoration of Paksitan’s legitimate Judiciary – for two years the lawyers movement forged tirelessly, beaten down on, but they have prevailed.  Never in the history of Pakistan, have PCO Judges been reinstated.  Never did the masses feel their voice and presence would matter.   Technology, media and the will to fight for a country mired in political dysfunction have given birth to a new hope and a voice to the people.

Skeptics who felt powerless in the face of the corrupt and ruling elite, feel they may have a chance after this historic day.  The task now is for more long marches to come – to demand the rulers to stop pandering to the Islamic extremists and protect them from this abhorrent homegrown violence; to demand justice for equal access to education, health, civil services, employment and the bare necessities of life needed to sustain the poorest of the poor, as well as the vast,  middle class – many of whom comprised the lawyers movement from the start.  The long march has only just begun.

I think it is best for those voices to speak for themselves.  The following are quotes from today’s (March 16, 2009) NYT’s article on this historic event:

Javed Ali Khan: “We’re watching history,” said Javed Ali Khan, a 45-year-old who had traveled for days with his wife and six children to participate in a national march of lawyers and opposition political parties.

…….

Hassan Akhtar, a lawyer who grew up in England, gushed: “It’s really wonderful. It’s a once in a lifetime experience. I couldn’t even dream of this.”

…….

“Justice,” said Mr. Khan’s wife, Rubina Javed, smiling broadly. “We came for justice.” “Justice is the solution to the common man’s problems,” Ms. Javed said, seated on a blue scarf on the grass with two daughters and four sons, ages 6 to 18, around her. “I want justice in schools, on roads, in transportation. Now the common man is speaking.”

Ms. Javed’s daughters both wore stickers of Mr. Chaudhry stuck to the fronts of their brightly colored dresses, with the words, “My Hero,” in English, in bold script. The family earns about $250 a month, too little to send the children to private school. Most Pakistanis consider their country’s public school system to be broken.

…….

“The ruling elite can get away with anything,” said Muhammad Ali, a software engineer. “They are like kings here.”

…….

“This movement has given an awareness to the common people in Pakistan of their rights,” said Shamoon Azhar, 26, a doctoral student at the International Islamic University in Islamabad, sitting on the lawn with a large group of his friends. “This is about awareness. It’s given people confidence. It’s shown people it can happen.”

…….

“The feudal system, it was in the past,” said Mazhar Iqbal, a private school manager. “There was no media then. No education. The poor were poor forever. Now is the time to wake up. It’s been 60 years and we’ve been wasting our time.”

…….

Saif Abbas, a consultant who used to work for the Asian Development Bank in Islamabad, was more clear-eyed about the meaning of the march. Pakistan is still a poor country with a vast illiterate population, and a corrupt, unresponsive ruling class, he said.

“This country has to take control of its own future, and that’s education,” he said, holding a flag. “Unfortunately, we’re just not there yet.”  He continued:  “The next government is going to fear the people who pushed this one against the wall,” […] A revolution it is not, he said. “But it’s a good beginning.”

…….

Indeed it finally is.

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Celebrating the Power of One

Wishing all a celebratory International Women’s Day.

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Nicholas Kristof is an Op-Ed Columnist for the New York Times.  To many, he is just a man who speaks his peace via the news media – but to millions of others, he may as well be their hero and savior.

Nicholas Kristof: Courtesy NYT

Nicholas Kristof: Courtesy NYT

I first took notice of Mr. Kristof when my husband would read me his columns on occasion and comment on his keen ability to find incredible stories to report and comment on.  But he did not only just report – he changed lives.

One such life was that of a Pakistani village woman by the name of Mukhtaran Mai.  In short, she became the victim of gang rape as a form of honor revenge by the ruling tribesmen – the revenge was issued by the tribal council.  While the perpetrators, thought she would succumb to the shame and horror and commit suicide, Mukhtaran Mai instead spoke up, and took her case to court where her rapists were arrested and charged. She took settlement money provided to her by the government following the court case, and opened a center for refuge and education, the Mukhtar Mai Women’s Welfare Organization.

Nicholas Kristof became involved in reporting this story in September 2004 (the incident itself occured in June 2002).   He has since reported on Mukhtaran Mai’s case, its setbacks, and the fact that President Musharraf (Pakistan’s President during that time) had ordered that she not be able to leave the country to share her story in the US and the West, so as not to malign Pakistan’s image abroad.  Kristof has written over 30 op-ed and blog pieces relating to Mukhtaran Mai.  He continues to write of her progress and plight in the ongoing legal case which changed her life and many other women’s lives Mukhtaran Mai has touched – all because this one person shared her painful yet inspirational story with the world.

Here is a link to a comprehensive list: NYT Articles on Mukhtaran Mai by N. Kristof.

Kristof also was able to raise close to $133,000 from his readers for her endeavors of running a school for girls and women in her village. Mukhtar Mai began to work to educate girls, and to promote education with a view towards raising awareness to prevent future honor crimes. Out of this work grew the organization Mukhtar Mai Women’s Welfare Organization. The main focus of her work is to educate young girls, and to educate the community about women’s rights and gender issues. Her organization teaches young girls, and tries to make sure they stay in school, rather than work or get married. In Fall 2007, a high school was to be started by her group. The Organization also provides shelter and legal help for people, often women, who are victims of violence or injustice. [ref: Wikipedia]

His most recent piece appeared just days ago on March 2, 2009 – from his “On the Ground” Blog entry, asking us, the readers to call upon the highest of Pakistani officials to inquire if there indeed is any political interference occurring in her continuing case, and to request the government’s assurance that the judiciary will maintain their independence in the face of alleged political pressure.  [Do go to the article and act upon this request, I’m sure it will only help put some sort of pressure].

On Darfur.  Again, for years, Kristof has been the almost only resounding, continuous and unrelenting voice on the genocide in Sudan in the news media at large.  Just the other day, at a panel discussion after the showing of a documentary celebrating International Woman’s Day (entitled, “A Powerful Noise” – which also celebrate the power of 3 different women, each making their mark and voices heard) in NYC, panelist Madeleine Albright told fellow panelist Nicholas Kristof how in debt the world is to him for keeping the topic of Darfur alive and in the news media for all these years.  In fact, he has visited this war torn region over 8 times at much risk to himself.  His recent tactic has involved taking Hollywood heartthrob, George Clooney with him on the current reporting cycle, in the hopes that it will attract media attention and possibly entice the paparazzi to follow Clooney to Darfur.  Here is an excerpt from the February 19, 2009 NYT Op Ed piece: Read the rest of this entry »

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Starting from behind zero. Is there a reset button?

We may need a quick fix to rid Pakistan of the rise of the new brand of Talibanization, but perhaps we will have to step back much further and start from scratch, in the hopes of attempting to rebuild a breaking  nation.  Many say it is too late, but we cannot know if we do not try.

education_pakistan_1

EDUCATION.           As obvious as it may seem, but seemingly never hailed as a priority in many underdeveloped countries – including Pakistan.  Countries at war, in economic turmoil and on the cusp of religious implosion do not see investment in any human capital as necessary or a priority.  Perhaps the fear is that too much knowledge and awareness can backfire?

Everyone knows about the multiplier effect of educating a child, a girl and how in turn that child goes on to bring pride, knowledge, vocation and income to the family and its greater community.  It being International Women’s Day today and having just viewed the live broadcast of the documentary (“A Powerful Noise”) shown across 450 US movie theatres this week in its honor, I was reminded about how important the investment in people was.  but this was certainly not the first time I realized this…Having grown up with a father whose main mission was to promote education and health of women and children (he devoted his entire adult career at UNICEF in many parts of Asia for over 35years), and having seen the immediate benefits of those efforts, this led me in my studies to pursue the root causes of underdevelopment in emerging countries.  My senior thesis in college simply argued that NGOs and grassroots educational programs which were either initiated by local non-governmental organizations or local populations themselves, would be the most effective way out of poverty and access to income generation, national economic growth and eventually a decline in social strife and civil unrest alike.   Change from within, is when true change can occur.  People have to want to help themselves – and many populations do.  But that is only half the battle.  Lack of adequate fiscal investment in infrastructure and education programs by the government in Pakistan, have essentially destroyed the chances of attaining access to education for children, and has resulted in one of the highest rates of illiteracy in the world.

I am constantly reminded of how important it is for countries, especially emerging countries, to enable access to schooling at the most basic level: Universal Primary Education.  Many wonderful NGOs – not the government – in Pakistan champion this cause, including DIL (Developments in Literacy), TCF (The Citizens Foundation), AKRSP (Agha Khan Rural Support Programs), Behbud Association, among several others.  But naturally, these organizations cannot meet the immense need to fill the deep canyons.  The void left by the failure of lack of government spending on human capital investment, has been rapidly filled by the extremist elements and their brand of ‘madrassas’ or schools which teach in this case, Islamic studies and the Qur’an.  As Mr. Dalrymple aptly states in his March 8, 2009 piece in the UK Guardian, “Wahhabi fundamentalism has advanced so quickly in Pakistan partly because the Saudis have financed the building of so many madrasas, which have filled the vacuum left by the collapse of state education.”  He continues in his article to get at the essence of why this nation has gone so far astray: “The Pakistani government could finance schools that taught Pakistanis to respect their own religious traditions, rather than buying fleets of American F-16 fighters and handing over education to the Saudis.”

It is clear to us, that State education has no sense of urgency to improve or allow the greater population of Pakistanis access to at minimum, universal primary education.  The small droplets provided by international and local NGOs cannot meet the vast and ever growing demand and needs of the people –  We are keenly aware at the same time, that their needs go beyond educational access, but are basic human needs like food, shelter and medicine. According to UNESCO, the current literacy rate in Pakistan is about 49%. Statistics from over 10 years ago show the following trends in literacy according to UNESCO : “In 1951, there were nearly 22 million who couldn’t read in Pakistan, while the 1998 census results showed that the illiterate population has risen to 48 million.”  Today’s population is estimated to be about 172 million – about 50% of them are illiterate.  Do the math and therein lies the problem.

Without the commitment and investment in universal primary education, girls education, adult literacy, and income generating adult vocational training, there is little hope for Pakistan.  While this is the very long and tedious path, it could end up being the most long lasting solution.  We need a reset button and this could be it.

Then again, I confess that I am uncertain if Pakistan has any time left to even begin to contemplate, let alone implement this philosophy, given how fast the time bomb is ticking…but try, we must, as the will of the people will be required to overcome so many of these hurdles facing Pakistan.

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Will Cricket be the last straw to wake up Pakistanis?

With the recent attack on the Sri Lankan Cricket team in my birth city of Lahore, it begs the question: When will Pakistan wake up and realize that we have a problem – and actually act on it?

grief_by_firesign24_7

In response to a friend’s blog post, (Sportz Insight), I penned my thoughts here:

To the blogger:  …written from the heart – a lovely piece. Sadly, it may be too late perhaps, that we are all finally waking up to what has been building up for years and years. The madrassas sprouting everywhere in Islamabad’s backyards, and the general re-Islamization of moderate Pakistanis has been percolating for the past several years…the more violent and blatant infiltration is evident in the more recent past with hundreds of suicide bombings, kidnappings (of many ‘wealthy’ folks kids – whose ransoms fund the militants, no doubt), blowing up of hotels and the like. But it has not seemed to put any sense of trepidation or impending doom in the minds of the average (well, let me correct myself, the wealthy, educated, governing elite) until now, when it has hit home: CRICKET. Is this the wake up call, or will it be shoved behind us in our short term memories again like all the other incidents of late? Apathy is the norm. 200 schools demolished in Swat didn’t wake any of us up – none of us were up in arms about it (just a ‘sigh, this is horrible’ at most). No one protested when 500 music shops were closed and burnt down in Mingora. No mass street protests or condemnation of our politicians was made when those 5 unfortunate women were buried alive (with the Baluchi minister, Zehri, approving of it!) or when the dancer, Shabana was dragged and killed in the city square in Swat recently. Are we human? It seems like we as Pakistanis are immune to anything violent or that which does not directly inflict harm on us. There are not cries of mass protest or indignation -anywhere. (“hum kiya kar laengay?” is the mantra).  Why is this? Why do our people feel that their voice en masse cannot make a difference? Is it in our DNA? There are countless examples throughout the history of man where people’s movement, even beginning with the voice of one person have led to change, reform and restitution. I know in my heart, that ultimately Pakistanis have the will – I for the first time saw this in my lifetime when the whole nation seemed to come together in October 2005 after the massive earthquake. Where are those hearts and minds now?? We need to put forth a movement and voices – March to the President’s House/Parliament/ISI with 100,000 people like you and me, shopkeepers, teachers, CEOs, industrialists, university professors, jamadars, doctors, company presidents, drivers, and children and demand to be protected and tell them to take action and no longer feed the beast with appeasement. We may snicker and be cynical – but ultimately, that is exactly what we’re best at doing as Pakistanis. So, I agree with you – it is up to “us”. If we let the media report on how bad the situation has become (tsk, tsk), how India may be to blame and just sit sit sit, then my friend, we need to be ready to right off Pakistan as we know it.

05 March 2009 18:32

[with some minor edits]

A parting thought from our recent history:

If a skinny, black kid from the South Side of Chicago was able to organize his communities and ultimately an entire nation, why can’t we?  The whole world, including all the cynics and naysayers out there were all grandstanding and patting each other on their backs as they watched in amazement on Election night, what one person and his organized followers managed to do for the United States.  People who had never voted, never volunteered, never phone-banked, never stood up for anything in their lives – the old, young children, blind, once racists – all pitched in.  This is the message we should be sending to our children – not one which says, ‘me, what can I do??!’.

Post Script:

On Bravery: Actually, I do want to say that there are times when we CAN acutally take a lesson from a child.  Fear is another factor which most likely what keeps people from banning together to demand and protest.  But then we can gain strength from this fearless young 11 year old girl in Pakistan who has taken on the Taliban with her poetry.

On Activism (the counterproductive kind) : While there have been ‘protests’ in Pakistan, mainly ‘activists’ coming out and burning Indian flags in Lahore there have been no mass protests against the rise of the growing local terrorism – other than peaceful candlelight vigils.  The psyche of Paksitanis and an unresponsive, disfunctional government, unfortunately continue to stand in the way.

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A Must Read: Israel 1948 to Gaza 2009

Israeli Oxford Professor of International Relations, Avi Shlaim, wrote this detailed chronical of what makes Israel tick, why they are opting for land vs. peace and insight into the underlying objectives for each and every one of the wars.

Source: AP. A child injured in the Israeli bombardment of a UN school yesterday is taken to Shifa hospital in Gaza City

From UK’s January 7, 2009 Guardian

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/jan/07/gaza-israel-palestine

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Another good piece in today’s UK’s Independent by Robert Fisk trying to answer “Why they hate the West so much”

http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/fisk/robert-fisk-why-do-they-hate-the-west-so-much-we-will-ask-1230046.html

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Mumbai Bombings – Some perspective

What happened in Mumbai at the tail end of November was a horrifying tale of terror for the people of Mumbai and the Indian nation. Sadly, these kinds of attacks have plagued India and Pakistan in recent history, and continues to even as recently as this September, when the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad, Pakistan was bombed, then burnt down to ashes within hours. Rather than pointing fingers, we need to come to understand the underpinnings of why this violence is claiming the lives of the innocent – and where this venomous and deep seeded anger culminates from. We must look back to the historical context, to even begin to understand the ‘why’ in all this madness.

Ms. Arundhati Roy (author and Booker Prize winner of “God of Small Things”) provides some of this in context.

From UK’s Guardian (December 13, 2008) : THE MONSTER IN THE MIRROR

The monster in the mirror

The Mumbai attacks have been dubbed ‘India’s 9/11’, and there are calls for a 9/11-style response, including an attack on Pakistan. Instead, the country must fight terrorism with justice, or face civil war

Azam Amir Kasab filmed on CCTV inside the Chhatrapati Shivaji train station in Mumbai

Azam Amir Kasab, the face of the Mumbai attacks. Photograph: Reuters

We’ve forfeited the rights to our own tragedies. As the carnage in Mumbai raged on, day after horrible day, our 24-hour news channels informed us that we were watching “India’s 9/11”. Like actors in a Bollywood rip-off of an old Hollywood film, we’re expected to play our parts and say our lines, even though we know it’s all been said and done before.

As tension in the region builds, US Senator John McCain has warned Pakistan that if it didn’t act fast to arrest the “Bad Guys” he had personal information that India would launch air strikes on “terrorist camps” in Pakistan and that Washington could do nothing because Mumbai was India’s 9/11.

But November isn’t September, 2008 isn’t 2001, Pakistan isn’t Afghanistan and India isn’t America. So perhaps we should reclaim our tragedy and pick through the debris with our own brains and our own broken hearts so that we can arrive at our own conclusions.

It’s odd how in the last week of November thousands of people in Kashmir supervised by thousands of Indian troops lined up to cast their vote, while the richest quarters of India’s richest city ended up looking like war-torn Kupwara – one of Kashmir’s most ravaged districts.

The Mumbai attacks are only the most recent of a spate of terrorist attacks on Indian towns and cities this year. Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Delhi, Guwahati, Jaipur and Malegaon have all seen serial bomb blasts in which hundreds of ordinary people have been killed and wounded. If the police are right about the people they have arrested as suspects, both Hindu and Muslim, all Indian nationals, it obviously indicates that something’s going very badly wrong in this country.

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America’s 44th President!

Barack Obama: November 4th, 2008 – Grant Park, CHICAGO, IL:

“….And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of our world – our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand. To those who would tear this world down – we will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security – we support you. And to all those who have wondered if Americas beacon still burns as bright – tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from our the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity, and unyielding hope.”

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/us_and_americas/us_elections/article5086178.ece

obamavictoryphoto

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Defining moments of the campaigns?

Could the fact that the Obamas shop at the Gap and H&M for Michelle’s under $40 sundresses

[http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/10/22/the-obamas-discuss-dressi_n_137009.html]

 

VS.

 

Palin’s $150,000 wardrobe shopping spree at Neiman Marcus, Saks, etc….

[http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/10/22/palin-clothes-spending-ha_n_136740.html]

…Ultimately define the presidential election? 

 

 

Piper carrying a Louis Vuitton bag.

 

How would Joe Sixpack or Joe the Plumber’s wife view this?  Here’s how the numbers have been put:

it was revealed that Palin’s fashion budget for several weeks was more than four times the median salary of an American plumber ($37,514). To put it another way: Palin received more valuable clothes in one month than the average American household spends on clothes in 80 years.

Huffington Post,  October 22, 2008.

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Women and the 2008 Vote

Now this is the kind of news analysis we here in the US could use from our press.  A well traced and comprehensive analysis of what impact women are and will have in this year’s presidential election – It’s not just about the electorate-at-large, but the intelligent, courageous and esteemed surrogates in the news media, entertainment and political circles who are making the strides…

From The Independent (UK):

The high heel vote: How women are winning the US election

 

Rachel Maddow, Samantha Bee and Tina Fey aren’t household names in Britain, but they’re at the vanguard of the feminisation of American politics. Sarah Hughes celebrates an election year in which women have finally moved centre stage – and asks: what next?

Monday, 22 September 2008

Every US election has a series of defining images, a collection of moments where, after the chads have stopped hanging, the votes have been counted, and the President-elect has been named, you can look back and say: “Yes, that was it, this was what that election was really about.”

 

In 1960, it came down to television versus reality. Richard Nixon’s fate was sealed under the unforgiving studio lights as John F Kennedy ushered in a new media age. In 1988, one snapshot of Michael Dukakis looking uncomfortable in a tank was enough to seal his fate as a peace-loving refusenik who would have no idea what to do in a Cold War crisis. And, in 2004, Fox News repeatedly told Americans that John Kerry “looked French”, sealing the Massachusetts senator’s image as an out-of-touch elitist with fancy ways and a foreign wife.

Yet, so far, this election has had no such clear moment. Yes, the John McCain camp have tried to brand Barack Obama as Kerry redux, just another country-club elitist making promises he can’t keep – and yes, the Obama camp have hit back hard at McCain, tying his name to that of President George W Bush in an increasingly tighter series of knots. But neither claim has really struck a resonant chord with the electorate.

Instead, it increasingly looks as though the 2008 presidential campaign is not about the candidates, the gaffes they might or might not make, or even about the issues. This election is really all about women.

And not only in the sense that the Alaska Governor, Sarah Palin, is the Republican Party’s vice-presidential candidate, or that New York senator Hillary Clinton narrowly lost the Democrat presidential nomination to Obama. Rather, it is in the growing realisation that the most interesting punditry on both the left and the right is female; that the best political commentary and comedy is female; and so too are those much-fought-over “defining images”, from Palin herself, surrounded by her family on the convention stage, to the Alaskan women who lined the streets to protest at her nomination.

Nowhere are these changes more apparent than on the US cable news channels. Traditionally the home of a type of chest-beating masculinity in which anchors compete to see who can be the most indignantly self-righteous, cable news might seem an unlikely place for a feminist revolution. Yet that’s exactly what’s taking place. The good ol’ boys – Fox’s Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer – are still there, hollering their views, but the most interesting reporting is coming from women.

Leading from the front is MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, who was recently handed the coveted 9pm slot. Maddow, who also has a radio show on the progressive station Air America, is an avowed liberal with a background in prison reform and HIV/Aids activism. But it is her style of reporting, rather than her viewpoint, which makes her stand out from the pack.

Maddow doesn’t hide her political opinion – “I’m a liberal, I’m not a partisan, not a Democratic Party hack,” she has said more than once – but nor does she feel the need to berate her audience or her contributors, as Matthews does, or to dress them down in the manner of her mentor Olbermann. Instead, her show, which is climbing up the ratings (recently beating even CNN’s Larry King Live), prefers to gently mock its targets, sending them up with a sarcastic turn of phrase and relying on its host’s congeniality to ensure that there are no hard feelings when she agrees to disagree.

“Everyone always says that Americans vote for the candidate they’d like to have a drink with, and I think the same thing remains true of news anchors,” says Megan Carpentier, who writes for Glamocracy, a political blog aimed at women, in addition to covering politics for the influential feminist website jezebel.com. “It’s not that I wouldn’t like to have a drink with Keith Olbermann or Jon Stewart; I would. But I’d really like to have a drink with Rachel Maddow.”

There’s something about Maddow that inspires otherwise level-headed women to, as Carpentier puts it, “extreme fangirldom”. It’s partly that she comes across as being very down-to-earth – her website proclaims both her hatred of Coldplay and her love of her red pick-up truck, while admitting that she “loves arguing with conservatives and shakes a mean cocktail” – and partly that she is obviously smart, yet so very unshowy with it.

For many female fans, there’s a sense that she could be your sister, if your sister was a former Rhodes scholar with a mean line in wit and a doctorate in political science.

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Bush Doctrine applied to Healthcare…By-passing Roe V. Wade and more?

Just read this Op-Ed burried deep in the New York Times written by Hillary Clinton and Cecile Richards (President, Planned Parenthood of America), [update: it is now #2 in the ‘Most Emailed’ List…!] published on September 18, 2008 – Those of us perusing the paper daily are the lucky ones to find this content or even know what goes on behind governments’ closed doors.  For the rest of America (not just women) being duped by the likes of ‘women for women’, aka Sarah Palin, they may not be so lucky to have access to this kind of news.

It is astonishing to me that these Regulations which have been proposed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on August 21, 2008 have slipped the public commentary’s radar and the completely uninterested MSM who are driven to satify their viewership, and take cues from the shrewd & savvy politicians’ press releases with topic meta tags like “pigs, lipstick, pitbulls and hockey moms’.  While the circus perfoms in town, the most important issues facing Americans during this election and their futures either go completely unreported, never even highlighted in the 24-hour news cycles or considered ‘un-juicy’ for the average American’s taste.  It seems ludicrous to hope that we’d want to ask our American nation to set its standards…higher?

With this new rule, the latest ideology push by the Bush Administration seeks to undermine your right as a patient, woman, family – and put the medical provider’s conscience and personal beliefs BEFORE yours.  The same medical physicians and providers whom we the people look to for an unbiased and best source of medical advice and information will be able to either deny you particular medical treatment or not fully disclose any option you possibly could have.

When someday ‘down home mama’s’ 16 year old daughter who had just been raped by some ‘ethnic’ man, is raced to the hospital and as she is being treated, is told that the physician tending to her daughter cannot in his ‘conscience’ administer emergency contraceptive medication to her, what could she do?

Six weeks down the road if she took her daughter to another clinic and wanted to now have her daughter get an abortion, and this doctor now said, “I’m sorry, my beliefs and conscience do not permit me to perform this procedure”, then what could she do?

A 27 year old man goes to his physician, visibly sick and asks for an HIV test.  His physician tells him, “I’m sorry, but I cannot test you for AIDs or HIV because I cannot see myself treating a homosexual patient”.  What can he do?

Your 3 year old son has a rare form of leukemia.  Your doctor cannot bear to see this child be put through rigorus trial medical treatment which she feels may not cure your child, so she says there is nothing medically she can do (it goes against her conscience).  What about you, the parent?  Wouldn’t you want to give your child every bit of hope and chance to live??  If you were told there was no chance, but medically there could be, would you not be up in arms and demanding your child’s right to live be met???  What could you do?

Get up and make your voice be heard.  Call your Congressperson.  Call the U.S Department of Health and Human Services.  Write to the President.  Write to your local Representatives. 

People, this is a glimpse of the America we are already becoming part of and headed if this political circus does not leave town.  Most Americans and those ‘at large’ not living near the metropoles, coasts and larger cities, haven’t a clue.  At the risk of sounding blunt, those of us who can read, think, write, speak, blog, opinionate and care about the U.S. Constitution, better get up and start doing more of it. 

And this plea applies to not only issues of health care or womens rights –  just look at our current state of the economy, international relations and energy challenges we’re facing as a nation.  Our Presidential elections should not be about the personas and who puts up a better performance – as some columnist recently put it aptly, “We’re not voting for the American Idol”…well, for most Americans, sadly it does seem that way.

This election means too much for all of us – not just ‘working America’. If you want to do something, call your local Office of the Registrar of Voting or go to ‘Rock the Vote’s Site and register to vote and find 10 others who haven’t registered – your colleagues, fellow moms, your child’s teacher, custodians, your local deli counter guy, the mechanic, your landscaper, the cleaning lady, your parents, aunts, friends, old college friends….Good Luck!

[NOTE: The public’s comment period ends September 25th, 2008 – so you’d have to act fast.  Here is a link to the Regulation:

The display at the Federal Register today triggers a 30-day public comment period. Administration officials will review the comments as they work to implement a final regulation. The proposed regulation is available at http://www.hhs.gov/news/press/2008pres/08/20080821reg.pdf]

[For those who don’t access the NYT Online, here is the Op-Ed piece in its entirety]:

Op-Ed Contributor

Blocking Care for Women

 

Published: September 18, 2008

LAST month, the Bush administration launched the latest salvo in its eight-year campaign to undermine women’s rights and women’s health by placing ideology ahead of science: a proposed rule from the Department of Health and Human Services that would govern family planning. It would require that any health care entity that receives federal financing — whether it’s a physician in private practice, a hospital or a state government — certify in writing that none of its employees are required to assist in any way with medical services they find objectionable.

Laws that have been on the books for some 30 years already allow doctors to refuse to perform abortions. The new rule would go further, ensuring that all employees and volunteers for health care entities can refuse to aid in providing any treatment they object to, which could include not only abortion and sterilization but also contraception.

Health and Human Services estimates that the rule, which would affect nearly 600,000 hospitals, clinics and other health care providers, would cost $44.5 million a year to administer. Astonishingly, the department does not even address the real cost to patients who might be refused access to these critical services. Women patients, who look to their health care providers as an unbiased source of medical information, might not even know they were being deprived of advice about their options or denied access to care.

The definition of abortion in the proposed rule is left open to interpretation. An earlier draft included a medically inaccurate definition that included commonly prescribed forms of contraception like birth control pills, IUD’s and emergency contraception. That language has been removed, but because the current version includes no definition at all, individual health care providers could decide on their own that birth control is the same as abortion.

The rule would also allow providers to refuse to participate in unspecified “other medical procedures” that contradict their religious beliefs or moral convictions. This, too, could be interpreted as a free pass to deny access to contraception.

Many circumstances unrelated to reproductive health could also fall under the umbrella of “other medical procedures.” Could physicians object to helping patients whose sexual orientation they find objectionable? Could a receptionist refuse to book an appointment for an H.I.V. test? What about an emergency room doctor who wishes to deny emergency contraception to a rape victim? Or a pharmacist who prefers not to refill a birth control prescription?

The Bush administration argues that the rule is designed to protect a provider’s conscience. But where are the protections for patients?

The 30-day comment period on the proposed rule runs until Sept. 25. Everyone who believes that women should have full access to medical care should make their voices heard. Basic, quality care for millions of women is at stake.

Hillary Rodham Clinton is a Democratic senator from New York. Cecile Richards is the president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

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“Alaska…a Microcosim of the rest of the US”: Sarah Palin

These vignettes which Op-Ed Columnist, Maureen Dowd chronicles in Tuesday’s New York Times, give you a real glimpse into the hearts and minds of Americans.  Yes, they are local Alaskans, and as Palin recently declared, “you know Alaska seems to be such a microcosm of the rest of the US…” she may actually be correct on this one, as far as pinning down what ‘real’ (the polled ones) Americans have on their, umm, ‘minds’.

This one sums it up, I think:

(from the NYT)

I talked to a Wal-Mart mom, Betty Necas, 39, wearing sweatpants and tattoos on her wrists.

She said she’s never voted, and was a teenage mom “like Bristol.” She likes Sarah because she’s “down home” but said Obama “gives me the creeps. Nothing to do with the fact that he’s black. He just seems snotty, and he looks weaselly.”

 

Here is the column in its entirety for those who are not registered with the NYT:

Op-Ed Columnist

‘Barbies for War!

 

Published: September 16, 2008

 

WASHINGTON

Carly Fiorina, the woman John McCain sent out to defend Sarah Palin and rip anyone who calls her a tabula rasa on foreign policy and the economy, admitted Tuesday that Palin was not capable of running Hewlett-Packard.

That’s pretty damning coming from Fiorina, who also was not capable of running Hewlett-Packard.

Carly helpfully added that McCain (not to mention Obama and Biden) couldn’t run a major corporation. He couldn’t get his immigration bill passed either, but now he’s promising to eliminate centuries of greed on Wall Street.

The Wall Street Journal reported that McCain was thinking about taking Palin to the U.N. General Assembly next week so she can shake hands with some heads of state. You can’t contract foreign policy experience like a rhinovirus. To paraphrase the sniffly Adelaide in “Guys and Dolls,” a poy-son could develop a cold war.

The latest news from Alaska is that the governor keeps a tanning bed in the Juneau mansion. As The Los Angeles Times pointed out, when Palin declared May 2007 Skin Cancer Awareness Month in Alaska, the press release explained that skin cancer was caused by “the sun and from tanning beds.”

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Great Essay from the ‘Red Room’

Interesting title analogy?…”this is your brain…this is your brain on drugs…”

THIS IS YOUR NATION ON WHITE PRIVILEGE

[warning: some explicit language in this quoted article]

from Red Room (www.redroom.com)

September 13, 2008, 2:01 pm

This is Your Nation on White Privilege 

By Tim Wise

For those who still can’t grasp the concept of white privilege, or who are constantly looking for some easy-to-understand examples of it, perhaps this list will help.

White privilege is when you can get pregnant at seventeen like Bristol Palin and everyone is quick to insist that your life and that of your family is a personal matter, and that no one has a right to judge you or your parents, because “every family has challenges,” even as black and Latino families with similar “challenges” are regularly typified as irresponsible, pathological and arbiters of social decay. 

White privilege is when you can call yourself a “fuckin’ redneck,” like Bristol Palin’s boyfriend does, and talk about how if anyone messes with you, you’ll “kick their fuckin’ ass,” and talk about how you like to “shoot shit” for fun, and still be viewed as a responsible, all-American boy (and a great son-in-law to be) rather than a thug.

White privilege is when you can attend four different colleges in six years like Sarah Palin did (one of which you basically failed out of, then returned to after making up some coursework at a community college), and no one questions your intelligence or commitment to achievement, whereas a person of color who did this would be viewed as unfit for college, and probably someone who only got in in the first place because of affirmative action.

White privilege is when you can claim that being mayor of a town smaller than most medium-sized colleges, and then Governor of a state with about the same number of people as the lower fifth of the island of Manhattan, makes you ready to potentially be president, and people don’t all piss on themselves with laughter, while being a black U.S. Senator, two-term state Senator, and constitutional law scholar, means you’re “untested.”


White privilege is being able to say that you support the words “under God” in the pledge of allegiance because “if it was good enough for the founding fathers, it’s good enough for me,” and not be immediately disqualified from holding office–since, after all, the pledge was written in the late 1800s and the “under God” part wasn’t added until the 1950s–while believing that reading accused criminals and terrorists their rights (because, ya know, the Constitution, which you used to teach at a prestigious law school requires it), is a dangerous and silly idea only supported by mushy liberals.


White privilege is being able to be a gun enthusiast and not make people immediately scared of you.


White privilege is being able to have a husband who was a member of an extremist political party that wants your state to secede from the Union, and whose motto was “Alaska first,” and no one questions your patriotism or that of your family, while if you’re black and your spouse merely fails to come to a 9/11 memorial so she can be home with her kids on the first day of school, people immediately think she’s being disrespectful.


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Republicans Will ‘Fight’ for our Freedoms…

With the selection of Sarah Palin by McCain as his running mate, many questions of why and how he came to his decision remain.  More vexing is what Palin touts as her All-American values, in support of ‘Country First’ and her boss who intends to fight for our rights and freedoms…

It would be best for all Americans to ask themselves what we consider to be freedoms which make America great and the envy of the world.  Is it everything the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights grant us? …freedom of expression, freedom to speak freely without censorship, freedom of choice, freedom of religion…

Perhaps asking Sarah Palin her thoughts on these topics would help Americans determine if the Palin-McCain team will be fighting for their country first or not.  There is talk that Palin plans to give her first interview to ABC News in the coming days – But lets see if she gets the questions ahead of time and if the most pressing questions are indeed directly asked of her.  In the meantime, the following article/post by Michael Seitzman in the Huffington Post can hopefully get Charlie Gibson started on some questions for his upcoming broadcast with Palin – if he chooses to not go soft on her:

8 Questions for Palin — If You Really “Work For Me,” Then Interview for the Job

By: Michael Seitzman (September 6, 2008: The Huffinton Post)

The McCain campaign has now said publicly that they don’t think Sarah Palin should have to answer any questions from the media. Since a free press is the only way the People can ask the questions we have a right to know, maybe the media should stop granting access to McCain “spokesmen” until their candidate for Vice President of The United States answers some questions. There are legitimate questions to be asked and, as one of The People, I’d like to start with the following:

1 – Did you really ban books from that library up there? Did you fire a librarian over it? Can you tell us your feelings about censorship in a democracy?

2 – Did you really tell the secessionist group in Alaska that they were doing great work? This same group whose leader said in an interview that, “The fires of hell are frozen glaciers compared to my hatred for the American government?”

3 – Did you abuse the governor’s office by trying to get your brother-in-law fired from the state police?

4 – Exactly what is it about Alaska’s “proximity to Russia” that qualifies as “foreign policy experience?”

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Hope… for the future? (yikes)

This is a funny little nugget. 

If the McCain team can’t do their basic ‘Google’ homework, how can they say they have properly vetted and investigated the viability of their VP selection? 

From Daily Kos:

Green Screen Mystery Solved

Fri Sep 05, 2008 at 09:15:38 AM PDT

A lot of RNCC viewers were perplexed last night when McCain appeared from the light of the Obama logo, strolled to the podium, and began his lackluster speech before an enormous green screen.  We’d seen that lime green screen before and thought McGrinch had learned his lesson — it was not a good look for McCain and was widely panned by pundits and the public alike.  So, why would he choose that hideous background for the biggest speech of his very long political career?

It turns out the green screen was only part of the story.  The close-up at the podium made it appear to be a giant green screen, but the arena audience was treated to a much different image. Hat tip to Talking Points Memo for the image:

Aaahhhhhh….much different.  McCain standing in front of a grand building, not a green screen. And what building could possibly deserve such a prominent role as the main backdrop of McCain’s nomination speech? According to TPM readers, it is Walter Reed.  As in Walter Reed Middle School in North Hollywood, California.  

Wait, what?  Did they mean to have an image of Walter Reed Medical Center? Ouch. If only they were a little better at “the google”, they might have recognized their mistake. Here is the Walter Reed Medical Center:

ABC News says the McCain camp isn’t commenting. If they meant for the image to be Walter Reed Middle School in North Hollywood, I’m sure we’d all love to hear why that fine school was selected for such an honor.

Between the lack of vetting on Sarah Palin and the botched presentation this decade week to the American people, the McCain camp would be well-advised to “do the google” a little more often. Let’s hope they have plenty of time to explore the world wide web in November and beyond.

Update:  TPM has been in contact with the school.

TPM’s Kate Klonick just got off the phone with an official at the school who confirmed this. “We didn’t know anything about it until it showed up last night,” Cathy McLaughlin, the school’s office technician, told Klonick. She confirmed that multiple media outlets have been calling and that a statement would be forthcoming from the school.

There was nothing particular in that stretch of McCain’s speech that would explain why this particular image was used.

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So, what do the ‘feminists’ think of Sarah Palin?

Alas, the summer hiatus ends and I write once again.

I was feeling euphoric about witnessing and sharing with my young daughter and son, the historic moment at the close of the Democratic Convention. (For my husband, he was priviledged to actually be there and share in that moment.)  I had to impress upon their young and inquisitive minds, how momentus this evening was – that the first African-American had been nominated for President by a leading political party in the United Stated of America, for the very first time in history!  What this would mean to them in the context of a tumultous history from slavery, to civil rights and then to a general election with an African-American on the top of the ticket – will only be realized once they have lived a little in this world.

It was an interesting discussion explaining to my children about the defeat of a woman, for instance; ‘that while Hillary Clinton was a strong and able candidate, who lost the nomination to Barack Obama,  it was equally historic that an African-American became the Democrat’s candidate’, is how I think I phrased it.  I knew my daughter would still be inspired – by both Clinton AND Obama – telling her that anyone who has worked hard, cares about people, is smart and can stand up and speak intelligently about issues which affect our country and the world around us, can someday aspire to becoming president. 

Then came the Friday announcement of McCain’s running-mate: Sarah Palin.  My son asked me who she was as we watched the announcement/rally.  Telling him she was McCain’s Vice President, he said, “But she’s not Hillary Clinton, how can she become a Vice President”.  The same thought ran through my mind, but naturally on an entirely different level.  That McCain felt he could dupe the women out there by propping up an unknown female politician, from a sparsely populated state, who sounded aggressive, and seems to be a most anti-woman, woman candidate- was frankly, insulting.  My hope is that the disgruntled Hillary supporters are smarter than what McCain is making them out to be!  Just because she has the anatomy of the female gender, does not make her some symbolic replacement.  Women need to see through this blatant transparency.  Most people would acknowledge that were many more compelling women in the Republican party with much more broad based experience, ‘vetted-ness’ and gravitas.   This is obvious pandering to a very specific segment of Republican conservatives.  My wish is for the many articulate, media savvy, vocal and active ‘feminists’ to come out aggressively to voice their disgust at McCain and this insult to women. While I respect that there are many women who may agree with Palin’s conservative bent with regards to abortion, I’m sure they would come to reject McCain’s policies on women’s concerns. I invite the alums from women’s colleges, prominent feminists and women’s rights activitists to heed this call and flood the media with a clear message from women who know McCain is not a champion for women’s rights, is against equal pay for equal work, and even against the right to choose – and dissuade those women who are leaning towards voting for this ticket.  Let us not re-seal those 18 million cracks which have been made in that glass ceiling! In the blogosphere, I am hearing women rally behind Palin, saying, “she’s so pretty and would make a great VP”, or “she’s the mother of 5 kids, what an inspiration”.  Our young women need to be inspired by more than just a beauty pageant winner or an honorable mother – even while she may have made personal strides in achieving her political aspirations.  The creditials required to be next in line as the leader of the free world, I would hope, would be a slightly more demanding reach for higher expectations, no?  In all fairness, it would be wiser to critique Palin’s work and policies she’s set in her short gubernatorial career.  Very quickly it will be realized that most Democratic women would not agree with her platform.

 

ADDENDUM:  Thank goodness fellow Alum, Gloria Steinem said her peace: “To vote in protest for McCain/Palin would be like saying, “Somebody stole my shoes, so I’ll amputate my legs!” You can read the post here.

So, here I have dug up a few voices of prominent ‘feminists’ and hope for more…

McCain Tries To Grab the History Flag From Obama:  by Tanya Melich

August 29, 2008

www.WomensMediaCenter.com

The first time I hear a woman has achieved something special, my automatic reaction is to cheer, to think  “good, another of us has won.”  

Then reality sets in and the questions start.

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Smith Grad Building Bridges

Farah Pandith is working to build bridges with Muslims overseas and to help spread the word of integration and tolerance to young people…

From the Boston Globe (Saturday, May 17, 2008)

This recent article in the Boston Globe was just shared with me.  In times of mounting misunderstandings, misperceptions and judgement, Smith Alum, Farah Pandith shares her personal and professional journey from an opportunity on one given day at Smith – to the White House and beyond.  

Article in it’s entirety:

The Messenger

Farah Pandith is working to build bridges with Muslims overseas and to help spread the word of integration and tolerance to young people

By Irene Sege

Globe Staff / May 17, 2008

NORTHAMPTON – Eighteen years after she graduated from Smith College, Farah Pandith, her hair neatly coifed in a flip, her tailored pink jacket and dark skirt accented with a string of pearls, her White House folder in hand, visits her alma mater. A flyer advertising a talk by former Vermont governor Madeleine Kunin catches her attention, and, with a nod of approval, she reads aloud the title of Kunin’s book: “Pearls, Politics, and Power.”
“I’m glad to see that Smith is still bringing in good people to inspire their students,” Pandith says. “I remember when Betty Friedan came in. Gloria Steinem.”On this sunny spring Friday, it’s Pandith who’s bringing pearls, politics, and power to Smith women. Here to meet with students a day in advance of addressing a model United Nations, Pandith is senior adviser to the assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, charged with working to counteract the radicalization percolating in some segments of Europe’s Muslim communities.

Pandith, 40, brings to the task a resume that includes stints as director for Middle East regional initiatives for the National Security Council, chief of staff for the Bureau for Asia and the Near East at the US Agency for International Development, and vice president for international business at ML Strategies in Boston. Born in Kashmir, in India, and bred since infancy in Braintree and Milton, she also draws on her personal experiences as a Muslim American.

“When you have a population in Western Europe that is 20 million strong in Muslims, how are we Americans thinking about what’s taking place in Europe?” Pandith asks. “How are we Americans thinking about what’s taking place in Europe in terms of demographics and how are we getting to know that next generation and the generation after it? Are we building bridges of dialogue?”

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Help Victims in Burma (Cyclone) and China (Earthquake)

The devastation of the now two (2) natural disasters: Cyclone in Burma and Earthquake in China are putting international aid agencies and relief organizations on call.  Not since the Asian Tsunami and the Earthquake in Pakistan (& Kashmir) has the urgency of massive aid and relief been called upon in recent years.

I urge you to help in whatever way you are able to.  You can get the latest news on your media outlets.  Below are a list of bonafide and vetted organizations which are working diligently to get the needed supplies and relief workers to their sources. 

 

Cylone in Burma (Myanmar) – May 2, 2008

As many as 1.9 million people in Myanmar are struggling to survive after the most devastating cyclone to hit Asia since 1991, according to the latest UN assessment.  With the military junta slowly and reluctantly allowing aid agencies to deliver relief supplies and provide medical care, the need for funds to continue this relief effort are sorely needed.

On Monday (May 12) the official toll rose to 31,938 dead and 29,770 missing, while the UN’s humanitarian agency reported that up to 100,000 people are dead or missing.

 

Earthquake in Western China – May 12, 2008

According to Government sources, the latest death toll from the quake stands at 8,600 after a series of large earthquakes struck the Wenchuan district of Sichuan at approximately 14:30 hrs (Beijing Time) on May 12.

It is reported that cell phone networks have been substantially affected by the earthquakes. There are additional reports that approximately 5,000 have died in Beichan county alone in Sichuan, with another 10,000 wounded. Reports of additional casualties have also been received from Gansu and Yunnan provinces.

Some ‘on the ground’ agencies which are getting aid to the survivors and injured in both Burma and China:

 

Here are some good news trackers on the disasters:

Burma (Myanmar):

BBC Burma Coverage

 

China:

BBC China Coverage

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Spin and Facts…Who has more ‘popular votes’?

In today’s Daily Kos, there is a post on the current popular vote count. The Hillary supporters are jamming the airwaves with news that she is ahead in the popular vote count. However, their stats don’t seem to include the Caucus states. They ARE including the Florida and Michigan results to their tally total, where Obama was not even on the ballot in Michigan, thus negating their claims to being ahead! If these words are repeated often enough on the MSM outlets and the lead anchors and reporters don’t either know the stats or are not challenging them, they become a reality and truth by day’s end. Please urge your media pundits to analyze the facts – or at least stop by worthy blog posts like Daily Kos, for example, for some needed perspective. 

You can go to Real Clear Politics to get the complete stats first hand yourselves.  Here is a sampling:

Popular Vote Count
State Date   Obama Clinton       Spread
Popular Vote Total     14,417,134 49.2% 13,916,781 47.5%       Obama +500,353 +1.7%

 

Here’s the post from Daily Kos:

My good friend Jerome has done just that, picking up on the most ridiculous of Clinton spins today:

After last night’s decisive victory in Pennsylvania, more people have voted for Hillary than any other candidate, including Sen. Obama.

Estimates vary slightly, but according to Real Clear Politics, Hillary has received 15,095,663 votes to Sen. Obama’s 14,973,720, a margin of more than 120,000 votes. ABC News reported this morning that “Clinton has pulled ahead of Obama” in the popular vote.

Actually, that’s simply ridiculous. Go to Real Clear Politics and look at their popular vote estimates (pre-Pennsylvania):

Popular vote total: Obama +717,086
Estimate w/IA, NV, ME, WA: Obama +827,308

Popular Vote (w/FL): Obama +422,314
Estimate w/IA, NV, ME, WA: Obama +532,536

Popular Vote (w/FL *MI): Obama +94,005
Estimate w/IA, NV, ME, WA: Obama +204,227

So see what they have done — the Clinton campaign and Jerome have taken the roughly 215,000 net votes Clinton gained in Pennsylvania, and added them to the popular vote count that includes the unsanctioned contests in Michigan and Florida, and excludes caucuses in four states. How’s that for inclusiveness?

It gets worse. That Michigan vote estimate? Obama wasn’t on the ballot. If you count the “uncommitted” votes for Obama — all of them anti-Hillary votes, remember — that would add 237,762 votes to Obama’s total.

Which means that in Clinton and Jerome’s world, Clinton is ahead in the popular vote only IF you exclude four caucus states, IF you include two unsanctioned states, and IF you “disenfranchise” every voter in Michigan who voted against Hillary Clinton.

That takes a new and particularly audacious level of chutzpah.

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World Food Crisis, Rising Prices, Rationing in the US?

The impact of the world food shortages and price crisis are slowly beginning to hit home here in the US it seems.  After consistent reporting in the NYT Editorials (and here) news features in other papers, recent periodical features like the one in TIME Magazine and in the past few days, actual reporting of this crisis on local US news channels, seems to be bringing the reality closer to home.  Just today it was reported that the large warehouse, bulk shopping stores: Sam’s Club and Costco have put limits by rationing the number of bags of rice (imported) each customer can purchase.  Just last week where I usually bought ‘Buy one 10lb. bag of Basmati Rice, Get One Free’, no longer was giving the 2nd bag away for free.  Ouch. 

Ears of wheat growing in a field

Photograph: Steve Satushek/Getty Images

I never think of rice or grain shortage as a reality anyone in the US would ever have to face.  Food doesn’t run out or get rationed here.  We’ve had our fuel shortages of course, but nothing like this.  Many of us are noticing how much more food is costing these days.  Just do a survey of your weekly grocery bill and observe. At least a 10-20% increase in certain food purchases.  Add the near $4/gallon of gas price to that and even the upper middle class is feeling the pinch.

What is happening around the world is far more brutal.  Hundreds of millions are going to bed hungry.  And millions are unable to afford to buy the scarce staples of rice or wheat priced beyond their means.  Riots and killings are widespread in countries which never had to deal with severe food shortages and exponential price increases.  In many countries like Vietnam, Nigeria, Ukraine, and Haiti, food accounts for half if not more of a family’s income spending. The lack of purchasing power coupled with food shortage related price hikes is wreaking havoc in dozens of countries around the world currently.

Why this crisis?  There are many reasons and also some very sound arguments for this question.  The high cost of oil is fueling higher production costs for farmers in grain exporting countries to produce their crops, thus raising the price of the commodities.  Due to droughts in large exporting countries like Austrailia, they have had a wheat shortage which has hiked up prices and reduced their wheat exports.  Another promoter of the current shortages and pricing crisis of wheat, rice and other staple commodities is the fact that subsidies have been given to farmers who convert their crops into biofuels like ethanol made from corn and other grains, outplacing land for grain and rice crops. 

Here is another good analysis of the current food crisis and the reasons why the world is in such a vulnerable state.

 

Tomorrow I think I may need to go and buy a couple of bags of rice…

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Redux?

President Bill Clinton on the politics of Fear vs. Hope…

 

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Soundbites and Context…Obama’s Words

Here’s a report from an actual attendee of the now infamous San Francisco Fundraiser for Obama.  Unfortunately, the soundbites and his impromptu response have droned on and on on the MSM outlets, and as the case usually goes, the context is not provided. 

I was hoping someone would come forward and tell a more complete and contextual account of the response Obama gave to a question from the audience at the April 6 Fundraiser in San Francisco.  I was fortunate to have attended an earlier event where Obama spoke – his ability to listen to and acutely understand your question and then provide a well thought out answer, full of detail, passion, compassion and pragmatism was remarkable [plus he’s a really witty guy, and very comfortable with who he is].  So, thank you to Mr. David Coleman for stepping forward and providing some needed perspective to this out of control spin on Obama’s latest ‘gaffe’.

I Was There: What Obama Really Said About Pennsylvania

By:David Coleman

Posted April 14, 2008 | 11:54 AM (EST) [From The Huffington Post]

Last Sunday evening I attended the San Francisco fundraiser that has been the center of recent political jousting. The next day, when asked about the talk Obama delivered, I too commented about his answer to a question he was asked about Pennsylvania. Over the past week, though, I have had a Rashomon-like experience concerning those remarks.

Clinton, McCain, and media pundits have parsed a blogger’s audio tape of Obama’s remarks and criticized a sentence or two characterizing some parts of Pennsylvania and the attitudes of some Pennsylvanians. In context and in person, Senator Obama‘s remarks about Pennsylvania voters left an impression diametrically opposed to that being trumpeted by his competitor’s campaigns.

At the end of Obama’s remarks standing between two rooms of guests — the fourth appearance in California after traveling earlier in the day from Montana — a questioner asked, “some of us are going to Pennsylvania to campaign for you. What should we be telling the voters we encounter?”

Obama’s response to the questioner was that there are many, many different sections in Pennsylvania comprised of a range of racial, geographic, class, and economic groupings from Appalachia to Philadelphia. So there was not one thing to say to such diverse constituencies in Pennsylvania. But having said that, Obama went on say that his campaign staff in Pennsylvania could provide the questioner (an imminent Pennsylvania volunteer) with all the talking points he needed. But Obama cautioned that such talking points were really not what should be stressed with Pennsylvania voters.

Instead he urged the volunteer to tell Pennsylvania voters he encountered that Obama’s campaign is about something more than programs and talking points. It was at this point that Obama began to talk about addressing the bitter feelings that many in some rural communities in Pennsylvania have about being brushed aside in the wake of the global economy. Senator Obama appeared to theorize, perhaps improvidently given the coverage this week, that some of the people in those communities take refuge in political concerns about guns, religion and immigration. But what has not so far been reported is that those statements preceded and were joined with additional observations that black youth in urban areas are told they are no longer “relevant” in the global economy and, feeling marginalized, they engage in destructive behavior. Unlike the week’s commentators who have seized upon the remarks about “bitter feelings” in some depressed communities in Pennsylvania, I gleaned a different meaning from the entire answer.

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Psst, Pass this on to Candidate Obama (…and Hillary): A Foreign Policy Road Map

If these candidates want to score some Bush-bashing points on the foreign policy front, there is excellent fodder coming out of Pakistani politics these days.  How better to make the case stronger that Bush’s foreign policy agenda: supporting a dictator, not actual democratic institutions, has continued to fail, as has been illustrated in the more recent aftermath of the post-dictatorship under the freshly minted (and freely elected) new leadership.  A new day has dawned in Pakistan, with some hope for the future (again).

As the new leadership, primarily comprised of a coalition between two political parties – the PPP (Benazir Bhutto’s Party, now led by Asif Zardari) and PML-N (Nawaz Sharif’s Party) has quickly and deftly shown, that they are working hard to promote the idea of what a ‘democratically’ elected parliament can do.  The new PM and this parliament have released the judges, foremost among them, the chairman of the Bar Association (Aitzaz Ahsan) and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (Iftikhar Chaudhury) from the house arrest they had been illegally put under: by Bush’s foremost ally, Pervez Musharraf.  The new Speaker of the House is the nation’s first female speaker, Dr. Fehmida Mirza. Fahmida MirzaFahmida MirzaFahmida MirzaFahmida Mirza

 The new coalition government, headed by Prime Minister Yusaf Raza Gilani, with the legal community and members of parliament sent a clear message to the US through their envoy’s (Negroponte’s) ill-timed arrival in Pakistan: “It is no longer a one-man-show”.  If the US wants to subvert terrorism and extremism, then the institutions of democracy: an independant judiciary, constitutional order, a free media, rule of law, equal opportunity and access to medical care, education, social services and economic mobility – must be supported and nurtured.  Without these basic musts in a society (which Pakistanis are working harder than ever to develop, maintain and build), the extremist elements will continue to be fueled in their absence.  Essentially, this is the argument which Senator Joseph Biden (US, Democrat, Delaware) has been vociferously making.  He has been, as they say, ‘spot on’, from the start. He gets the political nuances and also understands what is at stake for the United States.  A possible cabinet post, Secretary of State?  Here is a brief glimpse of his ‘new approach for Pakistan’:

BIDEN:  “With this election, the moderate majority has regained its voice.  The United States should seize the moment to move from a policy focused on a personality – Mr. Musharraf – to one based on an entire country – Pakistan.”
BIDEN:  “We must:  1) Triple non-military assistance and sustain it for a decade; 2) Give the new government – if it is formed consistent with democratic principles – a democracy dividend of $1 billion above this annual assistance to jump start progress; 3) Demand transparency and accountability in the military aid we continue to provide; and 4) Engage with Pakistanis on issues important to them, rather than just on those topics of interest to us.”

The war against terror must be fought significantly differently than how it has been so badly mishandled by the Bush Administration.  Surprisingly, the western and US press is finally getting it.  We need our current Presidential Candidates to jump onto this bandwagon.  It can only help them!

Two articles on the topic appeared in two publications (Huffington Post, and a Canadian source MWC).  Do read.

  1. U.S. Must Quit Bush’s Chicken Little Politics in Pakistan, Cold Turkey
  2. Pakistan Demonstrates the Wisdom of America’s Founding Fathers

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Obama – Electable?

There is not one America as we all know.  The America which ‘elected’ George W. Bush, seemingly was the America who felt they could sit and have a beer with this guy – he was likeable.  Was he capable, intelligent, world wise?  I think we can safely say that we now know the answer to that, after almost 8 years of his reign.

Whether Obama is electable or not is a matter of much of the current sentiment towards his candidacy.  Both he and Hillary have more or less similar platforms and policy programs, with some divergent, yet not significant differences.  With both having recently been on the hotplate, and seem to have somehow moved on, the question of electability and what that really means becomes the central question.

Do you have to be able to not only trust your choice of candidate, but also like and be able to relate to them?  For many voting Americans, I think they feel they may be able to connect with the Obamas more so than with the Clintons.  With a grandiose political history shared by both Clintons, I’m sure a large number of the general public sees them in their own world surrounded by all that is Washington.  While Obama has been in office as a State, and now US Senator, his past seems to resonate more so with a particular subset of society – not only with the higher educated,  professional 20-somethings to 50-somethings, but also ‘working’ families, as they say.  The fact that his wife works, they are raising young children in today’s society and that they both came out with college and graduate school debts larger than their mortgage, seems to me at least, strike a chord amongst a vast group of Americans.  They have lived and are living a similar experience to which many of us can vividly relate.  He may have his flaws (dealing with the Rev. Wright issue), but he comes across as earnest, honest and really wanting to work for the best and good of the people – as his past work in organizing local communities illustrated.  His charisma, oratory talent and openness to the world around him, enables this sense of trust which exudes from his words, beliefs and work.  Again, his judgement calls (Iraq), even in the midst of his recent crisis moment, indicates to me that the man is smart, speaks his mind and doesn’t waffle or change his tune, or abandon what he believes in, just to be on the ‘right side of the fence’.   His peers are starting to realize this, as many heavy hitters continue to endorse Obama vs. Hillary.

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In case you’re still on the fence…

Some interesting recent news items…

Hillary Rodham Clinton

Cash-strapped Clinton fails to pay bills

Politico (March 30, 2008): By Kenneth P. Vogel

http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0308/9259.html

Getting Mrs. Clinton

Wall Street Journal (March 28, 2008): By Peggy Noonan

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120663639483768965.html?mod=todays_columnists

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A View from the Religious Right on Reverend Wright

Some needed reflections on the current controversy.

Obama’s Minister Committed “Treason” But When My Father Said the Same Thing He Was a Republican Hero

Frank Schaeffer         Frank Schaeffer: Huffington Post (March 16, 2008).

When Senator Obama’s preacher thundered about racism and injustice Obama suffered smear-by-association. But when my late father — Religious Right leader Francis Schaeffer — denounced America and even called for the violent overthrow of the US government, he was invited to lunch with presidents Ford, Reagan and Bush, Sr.

Every Sunday thousands of right wing white preachers (following in my father’s footsteps) rail against America’s sins from tens of thousands of pulpits. They tell us that America is complicit in the “murder of the unborn,” has become “Sodom” by coddling gays, and that our public schools are sinful places full of evolutionists and sex educators hell-bent on corrupting children. They say, as my dad often did, that we are, “under the judgment of God.” They call America evil and warn of immanent destruction. By comparison Obama’s minister’s shouted “controversial” comments were mild. All he said was that God should damn America for our racism and violence and that no one had ever used the N-word about Hillary Clinton.

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NYT Op-Ed on the Obama – Hillary Face-Off

Well written Op-Ed piece by Frank Rich of the New York Times (February 24, 2008) weighing in on the Obama – Hillary face-off.   Puts both races in comparitive perspective.

Op-Ed Columnist

The Audacity of Hopelessness  

Published: February 24, 2008
WHEN people one day look back at the remarkable implosion of the Hillary Clinton campaign, they may notice that it both began and ended in the long dark shadow of Iraq.  

It’s not just that her candidacy’s central premise — the priceless value of “experience” — was fatally poisoned from the start by her still ill-explained vote to authorize the fiasco. Senator Clinton then compounded that 2002 misjudgment by pursuing a 2008 campaign strategy that uncannily mimicked the disastrous Bush Iraq war plan. After promising a cakewalk to the nomination — “It will be me,” Mrs. Clinton told Katie Couric in November — she was routed by an insurgency.

The Clinton camp was certain that its moneyed arsenal of political shock-and-awe would take out Barack Hussein Obama in a flash. The race would “be over by Feb. 5,” Mrs. Clinton assured George Stephanopoulos just before New Year’s. But once the Obama forces outwitted her, leaving her mission unaccomplished on Super Tuesday, there was no contingency plan. She had neither the boots on the ground nor the money to recoup.

That’s why she has been losing battle after battle by double digits in every corner of the country ever since. And no matter how much bad stuff happened, she kept to the Bush playbook, stubbornly clinging to her own Rumsfeld, her chief strategist, Mark Penn. Like his prototype, Mr. Penn is bigger on loyalty and arrogance than strategic brilliance. But he’s actually not even all that loyal. Mr. Penn, whose operation has billed several million dollars in fees to the Clinton campaign so far, has never given up his day job as chief executive of the public relations behemoth Burson-Marsteller. His top client there, Microsoft, is simultaneously engaged in a demanding campaign of its own to acquire Yahoo.

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To Play, or not Play?

At first glace of the article’s title in this week’s New York Times Magazine (Taking Play Seriously), and a quick read through of the first page, I really became excited about the prospect of some real scientific ‘findings’ and hard fact research about the high correlation between childhood play and developmental success as a direct result. Though the (long) article does to some extent conclude how important imaginative and creative play is for a child’s cognitive, behavioral, social and physical development, some sources of research for this piece argue differently – Read for yourself and you’ll find some interesting observations made by a variety of scientists on this subject.

As a parent living in this 21st century, knowingly wary that the overscheduling of ‘enrichment’ activities we convince ourselves (and by extension, our peers) is good for our children – I stop myself each time it’s ‘sign-up’ season and wonder if  I really AM doing the right thing for my children.  I want them to avail of the myriad of classes and opportunities to develop their skills and interests with all that is around us in the metro-regions and affluent towns our overacheiving families live in.  Piano will help her with her mathematics.  Art allows for his creative side to emerge (and help with handwriting skills!).  Softball is great for instilling teambuilding skills.  Yes, of course all this is wonderful. I boastfully tell my friends sometimes that this time I’m cutting back on ‘x’ or ‘y’ activity – and luckily, I have to admit, I have rolled back – a bit.  I mean, what are you supposed to do when your kid says, “Mama, I’m tired of all these activities – I just want to play”.  So we cut back- a bit – and now we try to make more time for impromptu playdates with friends from school and the neighborhood.  I think it has made them happier?  But even arranging and scheduling these playtimes is a chore in itself!  We have to book out 1, 2 or even 3 weeks sometimes, to find a time to play with a friend.  So, while they wait for their scheduled playdates (kids just don’t really go out into the streets and play with the kid across the street anymore – too many child predators, speeding teens in cars, or worse out there – so we are inhibiting our kids further, from being truly in ‘free play’) what do we do?  Encourage them to play by themselves or with siblings – kids find doing things independently almost too difficult these days too…why? We did?  Perhaps again, because we’ve structured their activity time too much and they cannot play endlessly on their own as they await direction from their adults on how to proceed with play and activities?  Many kids then fall into the TV trap – while many of us responsible parents limit TV watching strictly, (some parents admit unwillingly that their kids do watch a bit too much TV….) it still ends up being a ‘filler’ for down time, post school stress de-tox or as a treat after completing homework.  So, where does that leave us?  Just read the article – it’s as detailed and comprehensive as you’d want to get!

 

From the New York Times Magazine – February 17, 2008)

Why Do We Play: Taking Play Seriously

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Managing Risk via Blogging? TSA’s Evolution of Security Blog Launched

We all travel – some are traveling now.  Others just got off a plane.  And then there are many who are up right now, packing their carry on luggage, wondering what viscous items to place in the 3 oz containers and how many ziplock bags to pack up!

Well, the new Transportation Authority Association is now officially ‘blogging‘ about the ups and downs of being the checker and checked, the NYT reported on this news item today.

While many are ranting and raving about their individual tussles, encounters and sheer frustration of the disparity of checks at airports across the country – the TSA is tackling the issues head on by rebutting but also trying to listen to the ‘complaints’ and try to make the process more seamless and consistent – Are they actually espousing the concept of customer service?  We’ll see….  I think we all have at least one good TSA security line story to recount! 

Enjoy their new blog!  Evolution of Security (http://www.tsa.gov/blog).

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Yes We Can!

Black Eyed Peas’ will.i.am’s music video inspired by Barack Obama’s message of hope:  Yes We Can!

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