Archive | Current Events

Obama As Father Figure

As we careen towards the finish line in this tumultuous electoral season, President Obama is asking voters to renew his contract as a father figure. And with his new, 11th-hour message that this election is all about “trust,”I think the father-thing is going to resonate.

Without going all Carl Jung on you, presidential campaigns are often about archetypes. John McCain as warrior.  Paul Ryan as super-hero. Joe Biden as the loyal friend.

In 2008, with the whole “hope and change” narrative – not to mention his youthful good looks and energy – Obama was situated somewhere between Jesus Christ and Rock Star in our collective unconscious. But now look at him. After four sobering years of economic crisis and an Arab Spring that just won’t quit, that increasingly-visible graying of the hair above his ears is symbolic. The President has aged, matured, and  – like the rest of us parents – seems both wiser and wearier as a result.

It’s evident in the way that he speaks to us. As I’ve watch the presidential debates with my own kids, I’ve been struck by how parental he sounds. Particularly in the third and final debate, where the president could barely mask his disdain for Mitt Romney’s less-than-up-to-date grasp of our military, many pundits – including my colleague, Melinda Henneberger – saw his tone as patronizing, and wondered whether it wouldn’t alienate undecided women voters in particular.

Read the rest of this post at The Washington Post’s She The People blog



Image: Obama 2008 Presidential Campaign by namakota das via Flickr under a Creative Commons license

Pro-Choice and Pro-Conscience in Grand Rapids

The first and only time I went to Grand Rapids, Mich., I was accosted in the zoo while walking with my then two year-old daughter by a grown woman dressed as a princess.  Assuming that I lived close by, the princess lady asked me if I would like to sign my daughter up for etiquette lessons.

That was six years ago and etiquette lessons were about as foreign to my M.O. as training to be a mechanic. And yet, the fact that some little girls in this city were clearly expected to grow up to be polite, pretty and perhaps not much else did make me wonder at the time whether there were other scripts available for females in Grand Rapids.

I’m pleased to say that there are. In an election year in which woman power may well decide the presidential election, an inter-generational group of 12 women has launched its own chapter of Stop the War On Women Grand Rapids. They range in age from 30 to 75. They are nurses, lawyers, artists, and social workers. Some are married. Some are not. Some are parents. Some are not. Some are gay. Some are straight.

They aren’t protesting etiquette training. Instead, as my longtime friend Kathleen Ley put it to me, they were initially motivated by the “stunning avalanche of disdain and distrust for women in Michigan and in the United States and the legislation at the state and federal levels intruding on women’s health care choices.”

Read the rest of this post on The Washington Post’s She The People blog…


Image: Got Women? by billb1961 via Flickr under a Creative Commons license

Should Fareed Zakaria Be Forgiven For Plagiarizing?

I’ve always thought that Fareed Zakaria was a bit too slick.

It’s not that I don’t like him. I share the pundit’s broadly liberal internationalist view towards world affairs. And unlike many wonks (the big exception here being the University of Chicago’s Austan Goolsbee), Zakaria’s actually got a sense of humor, which is always a plus.

But there was always something a bit too cute by half about this good-looking, well-spoken darling of the Center-Left with his million dollar smile.

So it didn’t come as a huge surprise when I learned that Zakaria had become embroiled in a plagiarism scandal that has – temporarily, at least – cost him two of his plum platforms: Time and CNN. On Friday, both news outlets suspended Zakaria while they investigated charges that he had lifted passages from an article by New Yorker writer Jill Lepore on gun control. He has since apologized to Lepore and taken full responsibility for the incident, which he described as a “serious lapse.”

Read the rest of this post on The Washington Post’s She The People website…


Image: Fareed Zakaria at the Newsweek Offices by barthjg via Flickr under a Creative Commons license

My First Google Plus Hangout

Hello, all.

I’ve got something a bit different in store for you today.

Yesterday, I participated in a new feature on The Washington Post’s She The People blog: our weekly Google Plus Hangout, where a subset of the women who blog for STP get together and chew over the stories of the week.

Confession: I hadn’t joined Google Plus until yesterday, and am now secretly obsessed with the concept of circles…)

Be that as it may, I think the whole thing came off very well.

Here we are, talking about Sarah Palin, the Veepstakes in the U.S. Presidential race and – natch – the London 2012 Olympics.

(Secret tip: stay tuned until the end where you’ll hear Patricia Murphy‘s surprising pic for top female athlete of the Olympics…)



Image: Olympic 2012 by id513128 via Flickr under a Creative Commons license


Huma Abedin At Home

Was Michele Bachmann worried that Sarah Palin was stealing the GOP convention side-show? Bachmann wandered way off the reservation when she improbably accused Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin of trying to infiltrate the American government on behalf of the Muslim brotherhood.

Sen. John McCain and – oh, about half the country – have now leapt to Abedin’s defense.

But a tiny sliver of this publicity is Abedin’s own doing. ln a much-anticipated article that hits newsstands Friday, Abedin and her husband, former Rep. Anthony Weiner, invited People Magazine into their home to do a profile of their family life.

You remember Rep. Weiner. He’s the guy who sent money shots of himself in his tightie-whities to a selection of ladies who were not his wife, prematurely ending his congressional career last summer.

The article isn’t out yet but from the many leaked tidbits I’ve read so far, the one that really has me shaking my head is Abedin’s assertion that “We’re just a normal family.”

Huma, with all due respect, I beg to differ. You and your husband are many things but I’m afraid that  “normal” ain’t one of them.

Read the rest of this post at The Washington Post’s She The People blog


Image: wednesday-metro by azipaybarah via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

Tymoshenko Case May Disrupt Euro Cup

I’ve long admired former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko for her fiery rhetoric and steely nerve. But even as she languishes in prison, Tymoshenko might be about to engineer her most significant political coup yet: a boycott of the upcoming Euro 2012 soccer tournament by European governments.

With the signature blond braid that sits – crown-like – above her head and her glamorous, almost regal bearing, one could easily mistake Tymoshenko for pure political window dressing. But that would seriously underestimate this woman’s power and influence. Tymoshenko played a major role – alongside her onetime ally Viktor Yushchenko – in spearheading Ukraine’s 2004 pro-Western Orange Revolution. Subsequently, she served as prime minister of the country from 2007 to 2010, when she narrowly lost an election to current president Viktor Yanukovich.

Tymoshenko’s fortunes changed last year when she was jailed for seven years over a controversial natural gas deal with Russia during her tenure as prime minister. Many – including Tymoshenko herself – viewed her arrest and imprisonment as a crackdown on political opposition in the Ukraine as well as retribution by Yanukovich against his main political rival.

Since April of this year, however, her situation has deteriorated significantly. She is now on a hunger strike following what she claims was a brutal beating April 20 by prison guards, who she maintains punched her and twisted her arms and legs while forcibly taking her to a hospital to be treated for chronic back pain. She has refused any medical treatment beyond pain killers to date, insisting that she must have her medical treatment abroad. German doctors who have examined her say that she is in “urgent need of specialized care” and German Chancellor Angela Merkel has publicly requested that the Ukrainian authorities send her to Germany for “proper treatment” of her ailments.

Read the rest of this post at The Washington Post’s She The People blog

Image: Ukraine Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko by European Parliament via Flickr under a Creative Commons license

Sex, Maids and Videotape: L’Affaire DSK

Sex scandals rarely die and disappear. They’re usually far too salacious, improbable and/or disturbing for that. Which is perhaps why I find myself secretly delighted to see the sexual escapades of former IMF Chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn back in the news.

Remember Strauss-Kahn? He was that very distinguished international statesman whose career came to a screeching halt last May when he was accused of raping a maid  – Nafissatou Diallo – at an upscale hotel in New York City. While the criminal case against DSK (as he’s known in his native France) was dismissed last summer due to questions about Ms. Diallo’s veracity, she subsequently brought a civil suit against Mr. Strauss-Kahn for sexual assault.

DSK tried to prevent this civil suit from going forward – pleading diplomatic immunity . But on Tuesday a Bronx Judge ruled against this “Hail Mary” pass on DSK’s part, and will allow the suit to proceed. Among other things, an entirely new set of legal proceedings will require the Frenchman to return to New York for a series of depositions on the initial alleged crime.

In short: Game on.

Read the rest of this post at The Washington Post’s She The People blog


Image: IMG_6810-Edit by Christian, un marito via Flickr under a Creative Commons license

War On Women 2.0: Jobs

Slate political columnist Dave Weigel boldly declared last week that “the War on Women is over.”

He was referring to the political firestorm that erupted when Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen suggested that Ann Romney couldn’t possibly speak for women in this country because she’d “never worked a day in her life.” Weigel’s point was that the WoW talking point – which had served the Democrats so well through the personhood and contraception and slutgate wars  – was now dead in the water, as everyone (and their mothers), left, right and center, jumped in to defend the noble work that stay-at-home moms do.

But in the war over women voters, there wasn’t even a brief lull.

In a series of appearances on the Sunday talk shows, Geithner repeatedly refuted the claims made by GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney’s camp that women have been the biggest losers under President Obama in terms of jobs. Specifically, Romney had argued earlier in the week that 92.3 percent of job losses since Obama took office were suffered by women, something one of his advisers characterized as “setting us back 20 years.”

Geithner called the GOP claim “ridiculous and very misleading,” arguing that Republicans were selectively reporting job losses for part of the recession in order to attack the president. Specifically, he noted that when the recession began back in 2008 under President Bush, it was men in industries such as construction and manufacturing who took the biggest hit. Subsequently, after Obama entered office and the government was forced to cut spending, women in fields such as teaching were also squeezed.

Read the rest of this post at The Washington Post’s She The People blog


Women on Assembly Line Stamping Hams by Wisconsin Historical Images via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

Sex And The Secret Service

Unfortunately, Hillary Clinton wasn’t the only person caught partying in Colombia. On Saturday, 11 Secret Service agents were placed on administrative leave amid allegations that the men brought prostitutes  into their rooms while on detail for the president’s summit in Cartagena.

The idea of American law enforcement officials paying for sex with prostitutes is hardly new. Just ask former New York governor Elliot Spitzer, who resigned from office in 2008 when he was caught on a federal wiretap arranging to meet with a highly paid prostitute. (Spitzer was recently awarded with an anchor slot on Current TV. Hey, we’re a forgiving country…)

But with Spitzer – self-righteous as he was when he was fighting prostitution rings as State Attorney General – we always knew that he was a person underneath – fiery and passionate, if not a tad hypocritical. With the Secret Service, in contrast, these men are trained – indeed, required – to be almost invisible. There’s something almost asexual about the tight-lipped, black-suited guardians who pledge to give their life, if need be, to protect the president.

Read the rest of this post at The Washington Post’s She The People blog


Image: Bad-Ass Secret Service by djwhelan via Flickr under a Creative Commons license

Marrying Your Rapist: A New Low For Women’s Rights In Morocco

The timing couldn’t have been more tragically ironic. As women the world over gathered last week to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of International Women’s Day, women in Morocco gathered to protest the deathof a 16 year-old girl who took her life after being forced to marry her rapist.

The women’s rights activists were there on behalf of Amina al-Filali, a teenager from the small town of Larache, near Tangiers, who died the previous Saturday after drinking a lethal amount of rat poison. Amina committed suicide following what her father described as a series of brutal beatings by her husband, whom local authorities had pressured her to marry after he allegedly raped her. Witnesses say her husband became so outraged when she drank the poison he dragged her down the street by her hair. She died shortly afterwards.

The Moroccan penal code was updated in 2004 to give women greater rights. But in the case of rape, the burden of proof is often on the victim to prove that she was attacked or risk prosecution for debauchery. While rape is punishable by five to 10 years in prison under Moroccan law, it rises to between 10 and 20 years if the victim is a minor. But a rapist can marry an underage victim in order to preserve the honor of the woman’s family.

According to the victim’s mother, who claims that she found her daughter lying in the forest following the initial sexual assault at knifepoint: “”I had to marry her to him, because I couldn’t allow my daughter to have no future and stay unmarried.” Apparently, the local court concurred, and pressured the victim’s father to consent to the marriage despite his own misgivings.

Read the rest of this post at The Washington Post’s She The People blog


Image: Clear legal basis needed to combat violence against women by European Parliament via Flickr under a Creative Commons license