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“A Bold Vision Of Women’s Emancipation”: Champions For Modern Womanhood; A Thank-You Note, Margaret

Q: Quick, who was Margaret Sanger?

A: A champion for modern womanhood, one we don’t hear about in history textbooks. Yes, she was an avant-garde figure who lived in Greenwich Village. Yes, she opened the first birth control clinic in a Brooklyn storefront. Yes, she was banned in Boston.

Thank you, Margaret Sanger. How little has changed since you founded Planned Parenthood — the major women’s health care provider Republican lawmakers threaten to “defund.” That kind of sore talk was nothing new to you.

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) speaking Thursday at the Washington Ideas Forum hosted by The Atlantic and the Aspen Institute, defended Planned Parenthood from critics in Congress. She noted, “Not one federal dollar goes to pay for abortions.” She added, “All I can say is we’ve been in that world before. … I’m talking about a world where women committed suicide rather than go forward with a pregnancy.”

Speaking of the threat to cut off access to cancer screenings, Warren said, “They’re going to have a real fight on their hands. Let them do it.”

A century ago, Sanger sat before a House committee, fielding the “sometimes hostile questions of congressmen,” as biographer Jean H. Baker described the scene.

Used to fire, Sanger deftly handled her congressional squad. So did Hillary Clinton on the civilian deaths at Benghazi. (She has to face the same committee on her email server.) But it’s not pretty to see a woman get harassed by a gaggle of ganders.

Apparently, that’s still the treatment you get if you are president of the organization Sanger founded. Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards gamely answered questions from a House panel this week. Yet chairman Jason Chaffetz of Utah, treated his witness so rudely that he left people gobsmacked.

Sanger, a nurse galvanized by immigrant women’s plight, started a movement that traveled the world. She invented the term, “birth control,” and publicized contraception as a way for women, to control their destiny. She saw too many women die in childbirth on the job.

Also advancing American women’s status at the same time, in the same spirit, was suffrage leader Alice Paul in Washington. Both were early 20th-century women, only six years apart. The leaders were also jailed for their actions — roughly 100 years ago. Birth control was seen as “pernicious” and to this day is frowned upon by Rome and the pope.

Sanger and Paul departed from the old ways of being “good girls” as they defied authority. Paul was not one to obey President Woodrow Wilson, the main target of her Votes for Women movement. In their eyes, they were not there in the public square to compromise, but to realize their bold vision of women’s emancipation. They were not friends, but allies on different fronts of a shared struggle.

As Sanger put it, she followed her own compass:

“I never asked advice. I just kept going, night and day, visualizing every act, every step, believing, knowing that I was working in accord with … a moral evolution.”

They were each improvising, since they were pioneers leading into the unknown. Neither felt their work was ever finished.

There’s much to learn right now from Sanger’s fiery civil disobedience in these times when women feel under siege in Congress. In my favorite Sanger story, she is gagged onstage in Boston, to protest the mayor’s ban on her speaking on birth control in the 1920s. In a dramatic scene, the Harvard historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Sr. read her speech while she was gagged. This took place in 1929.

Sanger led a full life of passion, to borrow Baker’s phrase. Men found her captivating. Her family life was streaked with the loss of a young daughter, Peggy. An intense presence, she went door to door on her crusade. She soon launched a magazine, The Birth Control Review, and organized international conferences.

Sanger’s early turning point was on the Lower East Side, where she saw Sadie Sachs, 28, beg a doctor to tell her how to prevent another pregnancy, saying it would kill her. “Tell Jake to sleep on the roof,” he said. The next time Sanger went to the Sachs apartment, Sadie was gone from a botched abortion.

“It was the dawn of a new day,” Sanger wrote. She was so right.


By: Jamie Steihm, The National Memo, October 2, 2015

October 3, 2015 Posted by | Margaret Sanger, Planned Parenthood, Women's Health | , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

“Why Kevin McCarthy Will Be Worse Than Boehner”: Boehner Isn’t Going To Be Holding The Worst Speaker Title For Very Long

John Boehner has been far and away the worst speaker of the House of Representatives in many decades, presiding over the two least productive Congresses in modern American history, overseeing those endless and ridiculous Obamacare repeal votes, and most of all not having the stones to bring the immigration bill to the floor. It would have passed any day he chose to let that happen, which at least would have given the newspapers one positive item to include in the lead paragraph of his obituary when the time comes.

But from the looks of things, Boehner isn’t going to be holding the worst speaker title for very long.

There was a time in this country when the speaker of the House thought of himself more as a servant of the entire country. He’s called speaker of the House, after all, not speaker of a certain party in the House. He was third in line for the presidency, which meant he needed to hold the idea in the back of his mind that someday, he might be called upon to run the country under circumstances that would inevitably be tragic, thus requiring that he not be seen as too partisan a figure.

It was norms and traditions like these that led Democratic Speaker John McCormack, who ran the House in the 1960s, to say after Richard Nixon’s election that “direct confrontation between Congress and the president is going to be harmful to the country and should be avoided if possible.”

Boehner hardly had a single McCormack cell in his body. But compared to Kevin McCarthy, he’s a virtual David Broder. You know of course by now what McCarthy said about the true nature of the Benghazi committee. But what you may not know, if you’re just relying on news accounts that snipped the quote, is the full context in which he said it. Usually, the full context of comments reproduced in news snippets has a way of making them not as bad as they first seemed. But here, the context makes McCarthy’s words far worse. See for yourself:

HANNITY: But in February didn’t you guys end up funding it, you passed the “crum-nibus,” you gave up your leverage.

MCCARTHY: No, no. Sean, no, because the courts had put a stay on that. So there was no funding going towards that. The question I think you really want to ask me is, how am I going to be different?

HANNITY: I love how you asked my questions. But go ahead, that is one of my questions. Go right ahead.

MCCARTHY: I knew you’d want to ask it. What you’re going to see is a conservative speaker that takes a conservative Congress that puts a strategy to fight and win.

And let me give you one example. Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she’s un-trustable. But no one would have known any of that had happened—

In other words, he and Hannity were having an exchange about substance—about how Republicans had failed, from Hannity’s point of view, to control spending, defund Obamacare, defund the president’s executive orders on immigration. Then McCarthy volunteers that he will be different. And how will he be different? Not by controlling spending or defunding Obamacare or Obama’s immigration initiatives. By being more political and more partisan!

And anyway, why is the Benghazi committee a relevant example of how McCarthy is going to be different from Boehner? Has he been some secret power behind the whole thing from the start, like Akim Tamiroff in The Great McGinty, calling the shots, telling Trey Gowdy whom to depose and badger with nine hours’ worth of questions that have nothing to do with the deaths of Chris Stevens and other three Americans? It would be very interesting, I think, for America’s taxpayers, on the hook here for $4.6 million so far, to know whether the next speaker has been the Rasputin behind Gowdy’s little throne.

That McCarthy would say this reveals to us that he doesn’t remotely think that the American people are a constituency with which he need concern himself. The constituencies that concern him are Hannity, Fox viewers, and conservatives. Not even all Republicans, some of whom are reasonable human beings who do not wish for perpetual political war. Only all highly partisan conservatives. This is the man who’ll be presiding over the people’s chamber. People think Donald Trump is a farce, and he is, but he’s no worse a farce than this.

Meanwhile, what can Hillary Clinton and the Democrats do with this egregious statement? Probably not as much as they’d like, alas. Wednesday, in the wake of McCarthy’s comments (uttered Tuesday night), there was some discussion among Benghazi committee Democrats about whether they shouldn’t just end the whole charade, or at least their part in it, by boycotting any remaining proceedings.

That sounds great on the surface, but remember that Clinton is testifying on Oct. 22. The committee’s ranking Democrat, Elijah Cummings, is apparently of the view that leaving Clinton to fend for herself in a committee room full of Republicans is a really bad idea, so he’s going to make sure the Democrats are there that day to pull the reins on Republicans when they start galloping off into fantasy land. A boycott would be emotionally satisfying, but Cummings is right. Clinton has to be broadly seen as winning that showdown to start putting this mess behind her, and she probably can’t do that without Democrats in the room.

So my guess is that McCarthy’s statement may not do the damage to him or his party that it so richly deserves to. But if you’ve read this deeply into this column, I hope that you, at least, care. This is not just about Clinton and the next election. This is about customs and norms that once kept this government functioning (admittedly sometimes better than other times, but functioning).

But those customs and norms have been under assault for two decades. Newt Gingrich wounded them. Tom DeLay and Denny Hastert, that great American now desperately negotiating a plea bargain so that Americans never learn the details about his career as a “wrestling coach,” killed them. John Boehner pissed on their corpse. And Kevin McCarthy looks like the guy who’s going to set the corpse on fire.


By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, October 2, 2015

October 3, 2015 Posted by | House Republicans, John Boehner, Kevin McCarthy | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Carly Fiorina’s Puffed Up Putin Showdown”: Hailed Putin As A Harbinger Of Change In Russia

When presidential candidate Carly Fiorina warns about Vladimir Putin’s charm, and wit, she’s speaking from experience. In the early days of the Russian leader’s presidency, Fiorina hailed him as an agent of positive change after meeting with him briefly at a conference of global business leaders—a far departure from the tough-on-Putin image she has presented on the campaign trail.

The businesswoman is soaring in the polls, in no small part because she spoke firmly on complex foreign policy issues during last week’s presidential debate. Fiorina has repeatedly boasted of meeting Putin—using their meeting to bolster her foreign policy bona fides and to provide a contrast between herself and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

“I have sat across a table from Vladimir Putin, just he and I, and I can tell you having met this man, it is pretty clear to me that a gimmicky red reset button will not thwart his ambition,” Fiorina said in a recent stump speech, at the South Carolina Freedom Summit.

But her encounter with Putin is an odd credential for her to burnish, when all indications are that Fiorina was initially misled about the Russian leader’s ultimate intentions.

Fiorina met Putin for 45 minutes in a green room-type setting, during the 2001 APEC CEO Summit in Beijing, where they were both scheduled to deliver speeches. Fiorina, at the time the CEO of Hewlett-Packard, was slated to speak before Putin—and when addressing the audience she was effusive about how Putin had led a change more dramatic than anything her own company had accomplished.

“I keep wondering how it is that I got positioned to speak in the slot before the president of the Russian Federation—on the subject of change, no less,” Fiorina told the crowd. “Hewlett-Packard has been at the center of a lot of change in our 62-year history. But President Putin was elected president in the first democratic transition in Russia in 1,000 years.”

“Talk about giving new meaning to the word ‘invent,’” she added, a nod to HP’s slogan.

The Fiorina campaign pushed back against this interpretation of her 2001 speech. A spokeswoman said that Fiorina was merely making a “fairly banal statement of fact” and that it was “a stretch to see much more there.”

Far from ushering in a democratic Russia, Putin has in intervening years circumvented presidential term limits, jailed dissidents, and engaged in election fraud.

But Fiorina was far from the only corporate leader to hail Putin as a harbinger of change in Russia. At the time, many felt that the Russian leader would bring in a new era of reform.

Bill Browder, the founder of Hermitage Capital Management, specialized in Russian markets, also was impressed by Putin. He is now one of the Russian leader’s foremost critics.

“We all got Putin wrong in his first term. One of the main factors was that he’s always had a completely emotionless face and everyone always projects onto him their hopes and dreams of how he is, as opposed to who he really is,” Browder told The Daily Beast. “He didn’t correct anybody when they made these assumptions that he was a liberal, and a democrat, and an honest man… I’ve seen CEO after CEO go there and make a bunch of bland supportive statements to improve their business prospects in Russia.”

Fiorina has made confronting Putin and Russia a major plank in her campaign for the White House. She spoke at a conservative conference panel on Putin, describing him as “very intelligent. Very charming… a disarming sense of humor.”

And when she speaks about foreign policy, it is virtually certain that her meeting with Putin—and her plans to counter him—is bound to come up. Fiorina has said that she would expand the number of American naval assets, rebuild the missile defense program in Poland, increase the number of U.S. troops in Germany, and conduct military exercises in the Baltic states.

“Vladimir Putin is someone we should not talk to, because the only way he will stop is to sense strength and resolve on the other side, and we have all of that within our control,” Fiorina said at the most recent Republican presidential debate.

It set up a stark contrast with GOP frontrunner Donald Trump’s vision for U.S.-Russia relations. “I will get along, I think, with Putin, and I will get along with others, and we will have a much more stable world,” he said.

But between the two of them, Fiorina is apparently the only one who has gotten along with Putin the past.


By: Tim Mak, The Daily Beast, September 24, 2015

September 25, 2015 Posted by | Carly Fiorina, Foreign Policy, Vladimir Putin | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Obamacare After Obama”: The Next President Should Be Grateful To Have A Universal Health Care Program On Which To Build

The morning of the recent Republican debate, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that the number of uninsured Americans in 2014 had dropped by about 9 million from the year before. This was thanks, of course, to the Affordable Care Act.

So it did cross one’s mind that at least one of the Republican presidential candidates might lend a kind word to Obamacare. After all, some of the largest gains in health coverage were among moderate-income families, a group including much of the Republican base.

A futile hope. Not even Govs. John Kasich of Ohio and Chris Christie of New Jersey — who, to their credit, had accepted the law’s expansion of Medicaid coverage in their states — offered a shred of praise. Instead we heard vows to basically blow it up, the main difference being the number of dynamite sticks to use.

Grudging appreciation for Obamacare has also extended to significant parts of the Democratic base. In the 2012 election, many Democratic candidates actually avoided discussing it. You see, a flood of anti-Obamacare propaganda — which Democrats had neglected to counter — caused support for the program to swoon in the polls.The new Census Bureau numbers show that African-Americans and Latinos have enjoyed an especially sharp rise in health coverage under Obamacare. And that makes it painful to contemplate these groups’ dismal turnout in the 2014 midterm elections.

Back then, the newly won guaranteed health coverage was under grave threat. Republicans had tried to repeal Obamacare dozens of times. Had a case before the U.S. Supreme Court gone badly, the program could well have been destroyed.

You’d think that low-income Americans would have marched to the polls waving Obamacare flags. Problem was their so-called advocates had moved on to immigration and income inequality and saw the elections as an occasion to blame Democrats for what they held was inadequate progress. They forgot there was something precious to defend — and that Obamacare was a huge advance against said inequality.

Nowadays, Hillary Clinton not only is waving the flag but has hired a brass brand to march behind it. We await the details of her proposals for improving the program. Same goes for Joe Biden, should he choose to run.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent seeking the Democratic nomination, gives Obamacare two cheers but not enough credit. In a recent CNN interview, he said he wants a “Medicare-for-all single-payer health care system.”

Expanding Medicare to everyone happens to be a super idea. But we must note that Medicare is not single payer. It is a multi-payer program combining government and private coverage. As such, Medicare is more like the top-ranked French and German health care systems than it is the good, but not-as-good, Canadian single-payer program.

Because Medicare has strong public support, Medicare for all can be imagined. It would be a very hard political sell, however. Recall that Democrats couldn’t even get the “public option” past Congress. That was to be a government-run health plan to compete on the new insurance exchanges with the private ones.

Sanders’ own Vermont tried but failed to put together a modified single-payer health plan. If Vermont can’t do single payer…

Suffice it to say, it would take a master politician to get a greatly expanded Medicare passed in this country. A master politician Sanders is not. But may his vision live on.

Happily, Obamacare now seems safe. Its imperfections well-documented, it remains a work in progress. But whoever is the next president should be grateful to have a universal health care program on which to build.


By: Froma Harrop, The National Memo, September 22, 2015

September 23, 2015 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, GOP Primary Debates, Obamacare | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Ornery People R Us”: Anxiety Is Pervasive On Both Sides Of Political Spectrum

In achieving their improbable surges in presidential polling, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump have profited from the same wellspring of anxiety, a deep-seated fear about the future that is rising across the land. Their answers to that anxiety are very different — as their followers are very different — but they have both tapped into an undercurrent of unease that affects a broad swath of American voters.

And that unease is well-founded. In mid-September, the U.S. Census Bureau issued its annual report on wages, poverty, and health insurance. Its findings come as no surprise: Though the official unemployment rate is down to its lowest level in seven years, the percentage of people living in poverty — around 14 percent — hasn’t budged in four years.

Equally worrisome is the stagnation in wages, which haven’t risen significantly for more than a decade. “Anyone wondering why people in this country are feeling so ornery need look no further than this report. Wages have been broadly stagnant for a dozen years, and median household income peaked in 1999,” Lawrence Mishel, president of the Economic Policy Institute, a research group, told The Associated Press.

And ornery people are. That’s the only thing that explains Trump, who for weeks has enjoyed the top spot in GOP presidential primary polls. Full of bombast, narcissism, and blame, the real estate titan has pinned Mexican immigrants as the purveyors of all that is destructive to the American way of life. It’s astonishing how much support he’s received for his proposal to deport the estimated 11 million who are here illegally.

There’s no doubt a good portion of racism and xenophobia among the Trump crowd; they are largely voters uncomfortable with the country’s increasing diversity. But they are also anxious about a future in which the American dream is out of reach for their children and grandchildren.

On the other side of the political spectrum, Sanders, Vermont’s self-described socialist in the U.S. Senate, is giving Hillary Clinton a run for her money, attracting large crowds, and leading in New Hampshire, which holds the first presidential primary vote. His answers, at least, are not xenophobic: Among other things, he would increase taxes on the wealthy and end some longstanding trade agreements.

Sanders has long warned about income inequality, which has been growing for decades but was exacerbated by the Great Recession. Suddenly, ordinary workers saw their jobs disappear, their savings evaporate, their homes taken by the bank. Many of them have not recovered the ground they lost, and their traumas have invited fear bordering on panic.

Meanwhile, the rich have only gotten richer. The top 1 percent own 40 percent of the nation’s wealth, and they hold a larger share of income than at any time since the 1920s and the Great Depression.

These trends are evident throughout the industrialized world; they’re not the fault of any single politician or ideological philosophy. According to economists, they’ve grown from a convergence of factors, including the technological revolution and the globalization of labor.

Still, the wealth gap is quite worrisome. It’s a recipe for revolution, the sort of gulf between the haves and have-nots that is characteristic of developing countries, where the ties of the civic and social fabric do not bind. It’s hard to overstate the potential for upheaval in a country such as this, where a diverse population is not held together by a single language or race or religion, but rather by the belief that opportunity is available to all. What happens when a majority of the people no longer believes that?

You’d think, then, that income inequality would dominate the campaign trail. But the subject was hardly mentioned during Wednesday’s marathon GOP presidential primary debate, where such pressing priorities as possible Secret Service code names were discussed.

That’s not good. While it’s hard to see either Trump (his bubble may already be bursting) or Sanders as a presidential nominee, the voters they represent aren’t going away. Neither is their anxiety, which could prove a disruptive force in American political and civic life.


By: Cynthia Tucker Haynes, Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 2007; The National Memo, September 19, 2015

September 21, 2015 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, Economic Inequality | , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments


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