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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

“Media’s Email Hysteria: Why Are Republicans Exempt?”: In All Their Malignant Effrontery, The Clinton Rules Are Back

It is almost eerie how closely Hillary Clinton’s current “email scandal” parallels the beginnings of the Whitewater fiasco that ensnared her and her husband almost 20 years ago. Both began with tendentious, somewhat misleading stories published by The New York Times; both stoked highly exaggerated suspicions of wrongdoing; both were exploited by Republican partisans, whose own records were altogether worse; and both resulted in shrill, sustained explosions of outrage from reporters and commentators who could never be bothered to learn actual facts.

Fortunately for Secretary Clinton and the nation, she won’t be subjected to another fruitless $70 million investigation by a less-than-independent counsel like Kenneth Starr. The chances that the innocuous email flap will damage her nascent presidential campaign seems very small, according to the latest polling data.

Yet the reaction of the Washington media to these allegations renews the same old questions about fairness. In this instance, the behavior of Republican officials whose use of private email accounts closely resembles what Secretary Clinton did at the State Department has been largely ignored – even though some of those officials might also seek the presidency.

Recently Jeb Bush released a large volume of emails from the personal – i.e., non-governmental – email account that he routinely used as Florida governor, and then praised his own transparency with self-serving extravagance. The only problem is that those released emails represent only 10 percent of the total. The rest he has simply withheld, without any public review.

When Scott Walker served as Milwaukee county executive, before he was elected Wisconsin governor, he and his staff used a secret email system for unlawful campaign work on public time; that system emerged as part of an investigation that ultimately sent one of his aides to prison (another was immunized by prosecutors). Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal has used a personal email account for government business, as has former Texas governor Rick Perry. So have Florida senator Marco Rubio, and various congressmembers who have been heard to spout off about Clinton’s emails, such as Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz.

Those examples epitomize hypocrisy, of course — yet none compares with the truly monumental email scandal of the Bush years, when millions of emails went missing from White House servers – and many more were never archived, as required since 1978 by the Presidential Records Act. Dozens of Bush White House staff used a series of private email accounts provided by the Republican National Committee (whose loud-talking chairman Reince Priebus now mocks Clinton as the “Secretary of Secrecy”). The RNC’s White House email clients most notably included scandal-ridden Bush advisor Karl Rove, who used the party accounts for an estimated 95 percent of his electronic messaging, and by Rove’s staff.

Among many other dubious activities, Rove aide Susan Ralston used her private RNC email to discuss Interior Department appointments with the office of crooked lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who wanted to influence the department on behalf of gambling interests. According to Abramoff associate Kevin Ring, another White House official explained to him that “it is better not to put this stuff in their email system because it might actually limit what they can do to help us, especially since there could be lawsuits, etc…” While Rove was forced to surrender some emails involving his notorious exposure of CIA agent Valerie Plame, he retained the capacity to delete thousands of emails.

Various investigations and lawsuits uncovered the astonishing breadth of the Bush White House email fiasco, such as the “recycling” of backup tapes for all of its emails between Inauguration Day 2001 and sometime in 2003. This evidently meant that vast troves of messages pertaining to the 9/11 terrorist attack went missing, of course – along with whatever Rove and his aides might have communicated on that topic, or weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, or countless other topics of public concern.

And former Secretary of State Colin Powell, whose office was also involved in both the Plame and WMD scandals, admitted recently that he used private emails in office – but that he turned over and retained none of them – zero. (Powell’s successor Condoleezza Rice claims she didn’t use email at all.) By contrast, Clinton has turned over tens of thousands of her emails to the State Department.

Thanks to a federal lawsuit filed by two nonprofit watchdog groups, the National Security Archive at George Washington University and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a small proportion of the missing Bush White House emails were eventually restored – but only when the Obama administration finally settled the case in 2009. Those strict Obama rules for preserving emails (which Clinton stands accused of ignoring) resulted directly from the new administration’s determination to avoid the mess engendered by the deceptive and unlawful preservation practices of the Bush White House.

Now if Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email account is so shocking to the Beltway media, why did they barely notice (and care even less) when millions of emails disappeared during the Bush years?

The current hysteria may reflect the intense press prejudice against Clinton that several well-placed Washington journalists confessed during a brief moment of introspection following the disgraceful coverage of her 2008 campaign. And it should serve to warn voters that what Arkansas columnist and author Gene Lyons famously calls “the Clinton rules” – which encouraged inaccuracy, bias, and other forms of journalistic failure in the 1990s – are back in all their malignant effrontery.

 

By: Joe Conason, Editor in Chief, The National Memo, March 13, 2015

March 15, 2015 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Hillary Clinton, Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Same Old Stink Of Insinuation”: Hillary Clinton’s Emails; Is This A Scandal? Or A ‘Scandal’?

To someone who has watched many “scandals” that were expected to ruin Hillary Rodham Clinton evaporate into the Washington mist — even after a Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times columnist predicted she would end up in prison! – the current furor over her email habits hardly seems earth shaking.

Now it isn’t unreasonable to ask public officials to conduct public business on government email accounts, but there was no such ironclad rule when Clinton became Secretary of State. In hindsight, it might have been better for her and the public if she had done so. Yet many prominent people, both in and out of government, have preferred private email, in the belief that those accounts provide stronger encryption and safeguards against hacking.

So far, the former Secretary of State doesn’t appear to have breached security or violated any federal recordkeeping statutes, although those laws were tightened both before and after she left office. She didn’t use her personal email for classified materials, according to the State Department. The Government Executive magazine website nextgov.com offers an admirably concise review of the legal and security issues here.

Certainly Clinton wasn’t the first federal official or cabinet officer to use a personal email account for both personal and official business, as most news outlets have acknowledged by now – indeed, every Secretary of State who sent emails had used a personal account until John Kerry succeeded Clinton in 2013.

As for the issue of archiving Clinton’s emails, which is required by federal regulations and law, the Washington Post suggests that she violated an Obama administration edict by using her own account. But that was still “permissible,” according to the Post, “if all emails relating to government business were turned over and archived by the State Department.”

Did Clinton – or more to the point, someone with line responsibility for such bureaucratic housekeeping – observe that rule? Last year, the State Department requested that all of the living former Secretaries of State turn over relevant emails for its archives. To date, only one of them has complied: Hillary Clinton. Her aides provided more than 50,000 emails to the government – and sent about 300 to the House Select Committee that is still investigating Benghazi.

Angry Republicans on that committee, plainly frustrated by years of failure to find any evidence that incriminates Clinton or President Obama in the loony conspiracy theories cherished by Tea Party Republicans, are behind the email stories first published by the Times. In fact, Clinton’s use of a private account has been publicly known for nearly two years — but that fact didn’t seem to trouble the Republicans until now, as she prepares to run for president. And today the House Government Operations Committee, chaired by Rep. Jason Chaffetz — a right-wing extremist whose own business card lists his Gmail address – is poised to take up the “investigation.”

This unappetizing scenario is most reminiscent of the bad old days, when a House committee chair “investigated” the tragic suicide of White House aide Vince Foster by pumping several pistol rounds into a watermelon in his back yard. Back then, various Senate and House committees chaired by Republicans endlessly “investigated” Whitewater, the FBI files, and other putatively scandalous matters, at a cost of tens of millions of dollars, with no purpose beyond selective, salacious leaks to reporters at the top newspapers and networks. Then everybody would feign outrage for a day or a week or a month, until the latest whatever passed into oblivion.

Someone might ask the congressional Republicans (and their media enablers) what they expect to find now. Is there any evidence of actual wrongdoing by Clinton and her staff – or merely the same old stink of insinuation? Will they seek testimony from former Secretary Powell, former White House aide Karl Rove — whose RNC.com emails mysteriously disappeared before a prosecutor could obtain them – or any of the thousands of other ex-officials who have used private email addresses to conduct government business? Or will they simply continue a political hunting expedition with taxpayer millions, which is what they seem to believe they were elected to do instead of governing?

 

By: Joe Conason, Editor in Chief, Editor’s Blog, The National Memo, March 4, 2015

March 5, 2015 Posted by | Hillary Clinton, Public Officials, State Department | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Peddling Even More Influence”: Blackwater Lobbyist Will Manage The House Intelligence Committee

After lobbyist-run SuperPACs and big money efforts dominated the last election, legislators are now appointing lobbyists to literally manage the day-to-day affairs of Congress. For the House Intelligence Committee, which oversees government intelligence operations and agencies, the changing of the guard means a lobbyist for Academi, the defense contractor formerly known as Blackwater, is now in charge.

Congressman Devin Nunes (R-CA), the incoming chairman of the Intelligence Committee when the House reconvenes in January, announced that Jeff Shockey will be the new Staff Director of the committee. As a paid representative of Academi, Shockey and his firm have earned $80,000 this year peddling influence on behalf of Academi.

In previous years, the House Intelligence Committee has investigated Blackwater over secret contracts with the Central Intelligence Agency. Now, the shoe is on the other foot. As Staff Director, the highest position on a committee for a staff member, Shockey will oversee the agencies that do business with his former employer.

Shockey also represents a number of other companies with business before defense agencies: General Dynamics, Koch Industries, Northrop Grumman, United Launch Alliance, Innovative Defense Technologies and Boeing.

The role reversal, for lobbyists to take brief stints in Congress after an election, has become normalized. In a previous investigation for The Nation, we found that some corporate firms offer employment contracts with special bonuses for their staff to return to government jobs, ensuring the paycut they receive for passing through the revolving door to become public servants doesn’t have to alter their K Street lifestyle.

Other committees are also hiring lobbyists. Congessman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), Darrell Issa’s (R-CA) replacement as chair of the Oversight Committee, just hired Podesta Group lobbyist Sean McLaughlin as his new Staff Director. McLaughlin’s client list includes the Business Roundtable, a trade association for corporate CEOs of large firms. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) also hired a new chief of staff, Mark Isakowitz, who represents BP.

 

By: Lee Fang, Public Report, December 19, 2014

December 20, 2014 Posted by | Congress, Influence Peddling, Lobbyists | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Conspiracy So Vast, It Now Involves Republicans”: Republicans Turn On Each Other Over Benghazi Conspiracy Theories

Once the Republican-led House Intelligence Committee issued its report on the deadly 2012 attack in Benghazi, there was a sense of finality to the process. GOP lawmakers on the panel themselves described the findings as “definitive.”

Every possible question has been answered. Every conspiracy theory has been discredited. Every wild-eyed allegation has been proven false. Every House committee, every Senate committee, every State Department investigator, and every inquiry launched by independent news organizations have reached the exact same conclusion. There’s a general feeling, even among many Republicans, that it’s time to just move on.

But that’s not going to happen. Not only is the House on track to spend at last another $1.5 million – of our money – on yet another committee, but many GOP lawmakers have decided to reject the findings of other GOP lawmakers.

Some of the loudest torch-and-pitchfork wielding Benghazi investigation enthusiasts weren’t satisfied. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said on CNN he thought the report “is full of crap” and that the House Intelligence Committee had done a “lousy job of policing their own.”

“I’m saying that anybody who has followed Benghazi at all knows that the CIA deputy director did not come forward to tell Congress what role he played in changing the talking points,” Graham said. “And the only way we knew he was involved is when he told a representative at the White House, I’m going to do a hard review of this, a hard rewrite.” Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) agreed, telling the Salt Lake Tribune that Graham “is probably right.”

He’s really not.

And while it’s certainly interesting to see Graham and Chaffetz reject the exhaustive findings prepared by their colleagues from their own party, no one seems quite as hostile to the evidence as Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), arguably Congress’ most zealous conspiracy theorist.

The Kentucky Republican wrote an op-ed for a right-wing website this week, and I hope readers will take a moment to appreciate Rand Paul’s approach to logic in all its glory.

The Associated Press claims the report debunks, “A series of persistent allegations hinting at dark conspiracies, the investigation of the politically charged incident determined that there was no intelligence failure, no delay in sending a CIA rescue team, no missed opportunity for a military rescue, and no evidence the CIA was covertly shipping arms from Libya to Syria.”

None of these accusations contain even a modicum of truth?

It’s important to appreciate Paul’s intellectual rigor: there are lots of allegations, and even though the evidence proves the allegations false, maybe, since there are so many of them, one of them is a little true?

As Simon Maloy noted, the Republican senator proceeded to suggest his own GOP allies may be “helping the Obama administration cover-up the truth about Benghazi.”

That’s right, it’s come to this: Republicans have uncovered a conspiracy so vast, it involves Republicans who went looking for evidence of a conspiracy.

I get the feeling that the Beltway media considers Rand Paul so “interesting” that his antics, no matter how ridiculous, simply cannot be disqualifying. But that’s a shame – his approach to Benghazi is itself a cringe-worthy embarrassment.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, December 5, 2014

December 7, 2014 Posted by | Benghazi, Conspiracy Theories, Republicans | , , , , , | Leave a comment

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