On the basis of sex

My wife, sister and I got a chance to watch the movie “On the basis of sex” about the early career of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. It is well worth the watch and has several poignant scenes that paint a beautiful portrait of the Justice.

Trying not to spoil the movie, it focuses on her law school experiences through her tenure at Rutgers University as a law professor. Yet, the movie culminates in a tax court case against a male caregiver who is denied a deduction for helping his mother. Ginsburg’s husband Martin is a tax attorney who saw this case as an ideal way to break through the bias in the law toward women using discrimination against a man as the foundation. In fact, in 1970 there were 178 instances in the law that codified discrimination against women. This is amazing in and of itself.

Ginsburg is the ideal person to try this case in appeal, even though she had not practiced law as a professor. Her nervousness showed, but I will stop there and encourage you to go see how she overcame that inexperience. I will also mention the current environment of the burgeoning women’s rights movement which her teen daughter has embraced. Ginsburg tells her we must change the law to make a bigger difference.

A favorite actress of mine, Felicity Jones, plays Ginsburg. Armie Hammer plays her husband Martin and Cailee Spaeny plays her daughter who eventually becomes a law professor at Columbia University. Kathy Bates is excellent as the civil rights attorney Dorothy Kenyon and Justin Theroux plays a supportive and antagonistic role as the head of the New York based ACLU.

The movie is directed by Mimi Feder and the screenplay was written by Daniel Stephenson. Other key roles are played by Chris Mulky as the caregiver and Sam Waterston as the dean at Harvard Law and later a senior US Department of Justice figure.

I encourage you to go see it and/ or let me know what you think. Later in a comment, I will touch on the two scenes that touched me most.

Let’s rise up

A terrific singer named Andra Day provided an anthem for women, but also forward thinking men as well. It is called “I’ll rise up.” Here is the final chorus which says let’s all rise up.

“Rise like the day
I’ll rise up
In spite of the ache
I will rise a thousands times again
And we’ll rise up
Rise like the waves
We’ll rise up
In spite of the ache
We’ll rise up.”

There has been a building crescendo worldwide, but especially here in the US, to say women matter. Women are tired of being taken advantage of by sexual predators, violent and controlling partners and men in power telling them what they can do with their bodies. Women are tired of people ignoring or demeaning them when they complain or accuse a violator. Women are tired of kitchen table issues like equal pay and healthcare gettimg ignored. Women are tired of nothing being done about gun governance which takes to many of their children and themselves.

Women are tired of being kidnapped and trafficked as sex slaves or servants. And, more globally, women need to be supported for saying we are not a possession to be sold, beaten or killed and we need not go through genital mutilation to satisfy an archaic religious practice written by a men.

Now, is the time to rise up. Women are running for political office in tremendous numbers in the US. They are reacting to a misogynist bully who shows what leadership does not look like. Their global sisters are using the opportunity to make a stand.

Rise up and vote. Rise up and take a friend to vote with you. Rise up and make sure your family votes. Rise up and vote for equal rights for all, for our environment which is being destroyed and for our future which is threatened by existential crises like climate change, poverty and inequality. Rise up. It is time to make a huge statement. I am with you.

I believe the women

There is nothing more that can be done about Brett Kavanaugh. He will be sworn in as an Associate Justice to the US Supreme Court. I think it is a sad day in America, especially for women.

We now have two out of nine Supreme Court justices that have been accused of sexual misconduct by multiple women. Many may not know that Anita Hill was one of two accusers of Clarence Thomas. The second woman waited in a hotel room to testify, but never was called.

Kavanaugh will join the court with three accusers, but only one was asked to testify with the second being interviewed by the FBI. But, not finding corroborating witnesses should not be construed that Kavanaugh is innocent. I believe the women, especially Dr. Ford. He was less than credible as he attacked. She was calm and pained. She also passed a lie detector test.

Yet, we should not forget the man who nominated Kavanaugh has a roster of twenty accusers of sexual assault or harassment. The accusations range from inappropriate groping of private parts in public to be being pinned against a wall in his daughter’s bedroom to walking in on unclothed teenage beauty pageant contestants. The girls knew they had to tolerate the creepy old man. This does not consider his two accusers of marital infidelity whom he paid off. Those were consensual, but his denials are telling.

The President’s strong denials now don’t hold water as he has admitted to doing the sexual misconduct in three separate interviews, two with Howard Stern and one the infamous Access Hollywood tape. Like with the above, I believe the women, some of whom accused him before the interviews were made public. That is more than interesting – it is indicting.

The only remaining actions should be of concern to the GOP leaders. First, a Judge has permitted a case to move forward accusing Trump of defamation as he lied about his sexual misconduct with her. The other will be more problematic as news reporters continue to do the job the FBI was prevented from doing. As I asked Senators Collins and Flake, are you sure this is the horse you want to ride? More will come out, but it is too late.

With all due respect to a large bunch of white men who do not care to know the truth, I believe the women. I have listened to Messers. Trump, Thomas, Kavanaugh, Cosby, Weinstein, Clinton – I believe the women. One final thought to those who have rationalized all of this with a tribal mindset. If Dr. Ford was your daughter, you would want Kavanaugh’s head.

Senators – give Dr. Ford a fair hearing

FYI. Below is a sample note I posted in six Senators websites. Please feel free to adapt and use.

As an independent and former Republican voter, I believe we need to take the time to review the accusation by Dr. Ford. Sexual assault is a heinous act and traumatizes the victim. It is not uncommon for a victim to not press charges fearing the kind of backlash Dr. Ford is getting now.

Judge Kavanaugh is being nominated for one of the nine highest judicial seats in our country. We need to get this right. Because Clarence Thomas’ hearing was handled so poorly, foregoing testimony of a second accuser and treating Anita Hill with disdain, we may have a sexual harasser on the Court.

Ford is a learned women who passed a lie detector test. If her claims lacked credibility, why is she asking for a FBI investigation? We must get to the bottom of this, and if Kavanaugh is lying, then that would be a major concern. He was a teen when this heinous act may have been done, but he is an adult now who may not be telling the truth.

To be frank, we already have a man in the White House who has admitted in three separate interviews to sexual assault and harassment of which he has been accused. We do not need this in a Supreme Court justice.

Tuesday afternoon

As I think of the fabulous Moody Blues’ song, let me share a few random musings on this cloudy Tuesday. Technically, it is morning here, but since Greenwich time is five hours ahead, the title has merit.

If we look at the US presidential election, what are the signals telling us? The Democrat candidate is being supported by major party leadership, some of whom are on the campaign trail. Senator Elizabeth Warren, who scares Republicans because of her history of fighting for those who have been screwed over, has joined with Hillary Clinton to advocate the message of helping the middle class and those in need with actual programs. There is no better advocate for the disenfranchised than Warren.

On the flip side, the Republican candidate has leaders bailing on him and hiding when he says his latest inane thing. Conservative columnist Michael Gerson has been against Donald Trump and what he represents from the outset and George Will just left the party because of Trump’s presumptive nomination. And, no living president supports his candidacy with the only foreign leaders who have advocated for him are Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un.

In Scotland, Trump noted what a good thing Brexit is, yet the financial markets, debt downgrading, and the lowest pound in over 30 years are giving many pause. Plus, he said this in Scotland who voted to remain and have started plans for another referendum to leave the UK and stay in the EU. This is supposed to be the candidate with the best business acumen, but yet again he shows little grasp of the issues, even financial ones. What the Remain camp failed to explain is the number of jobs created in the UK by being in the EU, with companies who have placed their European headquarters and plants there to have duty-free access to Europe.

The US Supreme Court handed down several important verdicts this week. The first one was a tie, but left standing a lower court ruling that President Obama went a bridge too far on his immigration executive orders after Congress failed to act for so long. Next, Affirmative Action was upheld in a Texas lawsuit that argued college admissions could no longer use race to determine acceptances of applicants. The Supreme Court said the colleges could continue to use race as a factor. A lesser publicized ruling noted that people who had been convicted of domestic violence crimes could be denied access to gun purchases in a state that said it was illegal. The court upheld Maine’s right to deny gun access.

But, the biggest ruling was against Texas 5 to 3 that overturned a lower court ruling on abortion clinic access. The Supreme Court ruled that what Texas did, which was use arguments for women’s health as a ruse to close down too many clinics. The data and examples of other less safe procedures that were allowed to go on in clinics revealed a purposeful attempt to severely limit women access. This was a huge win for women’s rights on allowing what to do with her body. Experts have noted this is the most important ruling on women’s right to abortion since 1992.

That is all for now. Have a great Tuesday.

 

 

Imperfections

I think one of the reasons I treasure the eclectic and eccentric, is I appreciate imperfection. Let’s face it, we are an imperfect lot with a wide of array of likes and dislikes. But, we should be less concerned with perfection.

Without getting too risqué, I love imperfections in women. I prefer women to be more true to their look and less inclined to modify their imperfections. I also recognize fully there is psychic value in looking one’s best, but I am speaking to major changes to fix a perceived or actual flaw.

To me, these imperfections add character and beauty. We need not have identically looking women to find beauty. A crooked nose, a beauty mark, differently shaped eyebrows, curly hair, straight hair, full lips, thin lips, small breasts, large breasts, too thin, too heavy, lithe legs, athletic legs, rounded bottom , flat bottom, etc. makes the female varied and beautiful to me.

Yet, women are bombarded by magazines and ads to look a certain way. It adds to a neurosis of appearance that need not exist as much as it does. Of course, we prefer a healthy version of ourselves and would like to remain as youthful as possible, yet these efforts need not be over-engineered. Granted, we men contribute to this with our wandering eyes and sometimes wandering hands. And, I know we men are no day at the beach with our imperfections.

But, the beauty I find most appealing is the ability to laugh, to feel, to converse, to love. There is an old saying that is true to me – the woman picks the man. He just better be aware that she is picking him. What I did not understand until I watched the documentary called “I Am,” is the heart gives off a magnetic signal that can be sensed many feet away. If that heart is a flutter, it can be sensed by the person who made it flutter. There is nothing more attractive to a man than a woman interested in him.

So, if your imperfect self makes an equally imperfect man’s heart flutter, it could be as close as we get to nirvana. Being an imperfect man, we appreciate your imperfections. We certainly have our share. And, together, we can be more perfect than separately.

 

We need to protect the children of the world (to protect ourselves)

There is one constant across all people, religions, and cultures. We love our children and want to protect them, nurture them and give them opportunity. Yet, we need to do a better job of protecting not just our children, but all children of the world. There are too many strident and zealous people who provide challenges to this goal. And, there is too much corruption among greedy leaders who stand in the way of helping.

Our missionary friend in Nigeria notes in his view the three greatest challenges we have are climate change, global poverty and global corruption. The latter seems out of place, but it is a major cause of disenfranchisement everywhere in the world, even in western countries. It stands in the way of getting resources and help to those in need and lays the groundwork for terrorist groups to find a way in to help. It is only too late, when the people realize the terrorists are far worse than the leaders.

Terrorists are very good at brainwashing adults and children leading them to extreme beliefs. Just as bigotry has to be carefully taught, so does hatred and zeal. It has to be nurtured and the terrorists are good at recruiting innocents and creating new generations of haters and using them as their army. It should not be lost on anyone, that the young impressionable person is strapping a suicide vest on, not the teacher.

Outside of the extreme example above, we tend to avoid thinking about helping our children. We have far too much short-sighted thinking that stands in the way of doing a greater good long term. We have too much corruption in politics that our profit makers get their way at the expense of others. And, the messages can easily be manipulated, so that blame can be assessed. We are too good at blaming others than looking at the real problem.

Here are few real truths that need to be addressed by leaders:

  • The World Economic Forum in their Global Risks report note the two greatest risks over the next ten years are the global water crisis and climate change inaction. Please ask your leader and want-to-be leaders what they intend to do about it. If they deny these issues are a problem, then do not vote for them.
  • The global maltreatment of women, including in western worlds, is an issue as it affects women and girls. Women must be viewed as partners not chattel, as to do otherwise is not only unjust, it is unwise, as women hold up half the sky. If a region does not value women, then it is competing in a world with half of its resources and intellectual capital.
  • To the first point, a major concern is overpopulation, which will heighten the impact of climate change and water. Our earth cannot support its people if we grow like expected and people consume more like western cultures. Plus, increased family size is highly correlated with poverty, so family planning is essential. The religions of the world need to get their arms around this issue and not prevent holistic family planning.
  • The refugee crisis must be addressed by all, including the US and Russia. Xenophobic fear mongering that is espoused by a few politicians does not serve the purpose. It is a resource issue and one country cannot bear the burden. Our Canadian partners are showing the US how to help, but we have decided to let politicians fear monger rather than help more. Russia needs to be part of the solution, instead of looking to gain influence at others’ expense which is Putin’s goal on most anything. Europe cannot do this alone and we need to get Syria more settled or the problem will continue.
  • When regions are in a state of disruption, little education is occurring. Our children are not getting the education they need if they are too consumed with just surviving. The refugee children are an extreme example of this, but when adults are disenfranchised, education suffers everywhere.

I have noted before that treating women better around the world will have an echo effect. It is not only the right thing to do, but economies will grow, we will be tapping more intellectual capital to solve problems and women do not compete like men do in politics, avoiding zero-sum games and seeking collaborations. I remind folks it took ten female senators to avoid the US from defaulting on its debts in October 2013, when Senator Ted Cruz single-handedly shut down the government.

Treating women better will enhance how we look to help our children. Girls are maltreated just like women, sometimes worse as they are sold as property or stolen. So, this echo effect will greatly help our children, through more stable economies and a greater focus on education. People should not lose sight that some of history’s greatest advancements came out of the Middle East. If we leave entire populations in disarray without education, that hurts us all.

 

 

Three Senate Votes Tell You a Great Deal

Last Thursday, the US Senate took three votes that tell you a great deal about where people stand on issues. One of these votes combined two issues into one that the majority of Americans do not want and will be vetoed. The other two address a major concern that would helpful and are long overdue, but they did not pass.

The first one that passed is a bill that combines defunding significant parts of the Affordable Care Act and Planned Parenthood. The former when mentioned by its nickname, Obamacare, drums up political ire from our Republican friends. They fail to tell their constituents it is working pretty well, but could use some targeted improvements. They also hide from the fact Obamacare is based largely off a Republican idea that was advocated by Tea Party leadership until Obamacare was passed and Mitt Romney ran for office.

Adding to the seemingly recurring vote to repeal Obamacare, which Americans said they do not want per a Kaiser Family Foundation survey – they want it improved – is defunding Planned Parenthood. The latter has been the target of a smear campaigns and an unedited video that misled viewers. The Congressional Committee that questioned the CEO looked small and, at times, incompetent when they erroneously cited data that was unverified off another entity’s website and not Planned Parenthood’s. It should be noted that at least two presidential candidates have cited this faulty evidence as fact in debates.

Planned Parenthood does a huge amount of good for women’s health, especially those who cannot afford a doctor. They perform mammograms, pap smears, and provide education on self exam and wellness. And, even though they perform abortions with no federal funding, their group actually reduces the number of abortions through family planning. But, something needs to be said to those who only want to use the rhythm method of birth control and abstinence – those measures do not take into account that people are going to have sex and they fail to achieve the objective of effective birth control. And, neither speak to educating young people about sex, esteem issues and STDs. It should be noted that there is a high correlation between increased family size and poverty.

This combined vote is merely a political stunt as it will be vetoed, a fate known before the vote was taken. The other two votes that did not pass can be viewed together. One was to extend background checks on all gun purchases. The other was for suspected terrorists or people under scrutiny and suggested the use of the No Fly Zone list to deny purchases of weapons in America. It is far easier to get guns here than anywhere, so once the terrorists (many of whom are citizens) decide to purchase weapons, they can easily do that.

Americans have wanted the background check expansion by a large majority per several surveys. The Elon University survey from 2014 noted over 70% of Republicans want background checks on all weapon transactions with the all voter sentiment around 90%. The second vote is both sad and comical. Here is where the rubber meets the road. The GOP has been very adamant over the concerns of the American people over terrorists harming Americans on our own soil. Yet, when a definitive measure that actually would help with a very difficult task of monitoring or denying purchases, the unholy alliance with the NRA rears its ugly heads.

To me, as an independent voter who is frustrated by our failure to act, this vote shows clearly that the money the NRA spends on their campaigns is more important than trying to combat terrorists on our own soil. I was watching the news after the vote and a terrorism expert said governing gun sales to would be terrorists is a critical step. We failed to take this step last Thursday. The NRA would not let us. It should be noted that legislators who want to restrict 1st amendment rights on freedom of religion to millions of Muslim Americans and further restrict entry to Syrian refugees, say it is very important to protect the 2nd amendment rights to No Fly Zone people under scrutiny. This is a shameful hypocrisy in my mind.

Words are cheap. Actions speak volumes. We had three votes – all three that go against what Americans want. One of which was a waste of time as it will be vetoed. In the next few weeks, when Congress complains of time to pass the budget, please remind them that they should not waste it. They should also focus on doing something that might help America. Not dealing with our gun death (see the link below) and terrorist concerns do not suffice.

http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/guns-killed-more-americans-in-the-past-50-years-than-every-us-war-ever/ar-AAfZ3Bt?li=BBnb4R7&ocid=DELLDHP

A Path Appears – Women and Children need our help

Our friend Debra (see link below) has written a review of the much-needed book by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn called “Half the Sky.” This is one of the toughest reads you will ever take on as it discusses how women are maltreated around the globe. In addition to how awful it is to the women and children who are subject to this maltreatment including rape, sex slavery, genital mutilation, fistula due to births before the body is able, and domestic violence, it discusses the economic detriment to those communities. The book is based on the Chinese proverb that women hold up half the sky, so if you treat them poorly, you are devaluing your economy, competing with one arm tied behind your back in a world that will leave you behind.

https://debrabooks.wordpress.com/2015/02/16/who-cares-about-poor-women/

Kristof and WuDunn have followed up their first book with one called “A Path Appears,” which expands on these issues, but discusses how we can make a difference. We can find a path forward to help women, children and communities in need and how it will do the giver as much good as the receiver. Attached is a New York Times review which provides a review and summary of the book. I have yet to read this book, but have seen the two authors interviewed on PBS Newshour as they discuss how each of us can play a role in helping others.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/19/books/review/a-path-appears-by-nicholas-kristof-and-sheryl-wudunn.html?_r=0

An additional book worth reading on this subject is penned by former President Jimmy Carter called “A Call to Action.” It leverages further the work of Kristof and WuDunn, but brings the arguments home to America as well as speaking to the global problem. While we are only beginning to give notoriety to sexual abuse in the US military and on our college campuses after long ignoring the problems, while we are finally highlighting the impact and prevalence of domestic violence toward women that occurs in our society, we are still largely unaware that we have a non-inconsequential sex trafficking industry within America. We have sex slaves being brought in from other countries in addition to the women stolen from within our own communities.

I have read Carter’s book as well and find his arguments and anecdotes compelling. It is also a difficult, but must read. Carter has been one of the best ex-Presidents we have ever had. He has done more good for humanitarian causes and his voice is a powerful one and full of substance. We should heed his, Kristof and WuDunn’s messages and begin to better address the maltreatment of women.

Our world needs stronger positioning of women. We see the wonderful examples with Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany, Christine LaGarde, Director of the International Monetary Fund, and Helle Thorning-Schmidt, the Prime Minister of Denmark, to name only a few, but need more. When Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State, while not the first female, she was the most widely known ambassador of the US and made a huge difference to the issue of helping women.

But, we cannot wait on more women to get in power. We all need to see the wisdom of treating women and children fairly and as we would want to be treated. We all need to see that if we devalue women, we are limiting idea creation, market opportunities and good governance in our country and communities. We all need to see that treating a human being like property is not in keeping with the overarching messages of religious texts or answering well the Christian question of WWJD? What would Jesus do? He would treat women like he would want to be treated.

Only women bleed

If you were around in the 1970s, the name Alice Cooper conjures up a mental image of a hard rock star, who was one of the first performance artists. Yet, he also wrote and performed numerous hit songs. One of his more out of character songs is a poignant and troubling tribute to women who live a life they did not envision called “Only Women Bleed” which he wrote with Dick Wagner. Below are most of the lyrics, being shortened where he repeats the chorus.

Man’s got his woman to take his seed
He’s got the power – oh
She’s got the need
She spends her life through pleasing up her man
She feeds him dinner or anything she can

She cries alone at night too often
He smokes and drinks and don’t come home at all
Only women bleed
Only women bleed
Only women bleed

Man makes your hair gray
He’s your life’s mistake
All you’re really lookin’ for is an even break

He lies right at you
You know you hate this game
He slaps you once in a while and you live and love in pain

She cries alone at night too often
He smokes and drinks and don’t come home at all
Only women bleed
Only women bleed
Only women bleed (repeat)

Black eyes all of the time
Don’t spend a dime
Clean up this grime
And you there down on your knees begging me please come
Watch me bleed

Only women bleed
Only women bleed
Only women bleed (repeat)

I write this song today as the suspension of Ray Rice, the football player who decked his then fiancé and now wife, was overturned yesterday. I have written before that domestic violence happens far too often in our country (and world) and we look the other way. It starts as a control issue, where the man (almost always) exerts undue power and influence over his significant other. Eventually, it can lead to violence. And, it is not unusual for the woman to hide it from others, as she is ashamed. There is also an esteem issue, where victimized women feel they deserve this maltreatment.

The song’s lyrics speak to the lack of self-esteem. Women will continue in such a relationship, even when they end up bleeding or beaten black and blue. If you are in such a relationship, please get out now, especially if you have children. If you know or sense a friend or family member is in such a relationship, provide a voice and suggest where she can get help. He will not change. He will say he will, but he will not. He will eventually put you or your children in the hospital and could kill you. Please get out now, as that is the only antidote.

The agency I volunteer with for homeless families gets about 30% of its single female parent families as a result of domestic violence. They are referred to us from a domestic violence shelter for families. There are places that can help. I have shared the story of a friend who along with his siblings had no idea their brother-in-law was beating their sister until he killed her. He also beat the children. I have not shared that I had a neighbor who knocked on our door one night with her daughter, getting away from her husband who had beaten her for the last time.

Women, you deserve better than to be maltreated like this. Your children deserve better than to be maltreated like this. Get out. Get some help. And, if I have not convinced you, re-read Cooper and Wagner’s lyrics above. Only women bleed.