Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The State Dept. Honors Women of Courage

Here's the First Lady with Hadizatou Mani, one of the eight women being honored by the State Department's Women of Courage Award this year.

Hadizatou was born into slavery in Niger, a country which only outlawed slavery in 2003. Her master bought her for $500 when she was only 12 years old. He beat her, forced her to work in the fields, and raped her, making her bear him three children. When slavery was outlawed, he tried to tell the government that she was not a slave, but one of his wives. Hadizatou fought for and won a "Certificate of Liberation" and married a man of her own choosing, but her former master sued her for bigamy and she was forced to spend six months in jail.

She worked with the Niger NGO Timidria and fought her sentence, despite huge pressure not to do anything. She brought a case to the Economic Council of West African States (ECOWAS), which finally found that Niger had failed to protect her rights under the anti-slavery laws and awarded her 10 million CFA (roughly $20,000 USD), as well as her freedom. Thanks to Hadizatou's courage, there is hope for the many citizens of Niger who remain enslaved.

It's just one small reminder of the injustices women and men face all over the world, and our responsibility to be always be aware and active, fighting for better human rights in whatever way we can.

Read the rest of the profiles of the Women of Courage Award Recipients by clicking on their names below:
Norma Cruz, Guatemala

Mutabar Tadjibayeva, Uzbekistan

Suaad Abbas Salman Allami, Iraq

Veronika Marchenko, Russia

Ambiga Sreenevasan, Malayasia

Wazma Frogh, Afghanistan

The President's Council On Women and Girls

(Valerie Jarrett, Head of the new White House Council on Women and Girls, long-time Obama friend and big campaign fundraiser, Photo:AP)

When you were a kid, you probably took those physical fitness tests that were administered in the name of the President's Council on Physical Fitness. Sometimes if you did the V-Sit really well or you ran a quick mile, they would give you a t-shirt or maybe some candy (the irony of giving candy as a reward for physical fitness never ceased to amaze me).

Today the President created a new council, and you get more than t-shirts from it (hopefully). Its an interagency panel, which means it acts as sort of a liasion between all the different cabinet and cabinet-level agencies (State, Defense, Interior, etc.), making sure that the policies they are planning to enact will help or at least not harm women and girls.

Women's groups are somewhat pleased, though there had been talk of pushing for a cabinet-level "Office of Women" which would have more weight and power than a Presidential Council, but would be infinitely harder to get approved and set up.

Susan Scanlan of the National Council on Women's organizations told Politico: "At one time, we were going to ask for a Cabinet-level office. We decided to hold back . . I’m going to withhold judgment. It’s certainly more than we have I had in the last eight years. We’re pretty happy with this administration.”

Generally, we agree. This is a positive step, but it's up to us women to keep pressuring the administration to respect our rights and our needs. We're excited about the council but let's make sure it has teeth. And maybe t-shirts.

For more on the Council, click here.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Mid-Term Fun

Since our bloggers are a bit busy with mid-terms right now (and prepping for some Spring Break sun-tanning, er....serious campaign work in Florida), we're going to just post these awesome pics of the Obamas right now.

We'll have some serious stuff later, we promise. More on the education agenda, prop 8's court fight, Michael Steele's problems, and much more. But after mid-terms. Please. (Thanks to, AP, Getty, NYT for these photos)
How much do the Dems love the First Lady? Imagine a human chain of Smithies from the Quad to Mendenhall. We love her that much.

*Sigh* after spending hours campaigning for you, Mr. President, why do you not take the Dems to Camp David? We'll be good guests, we promise. We won't eat that much, and we'll play nicely with the Secret Service, and we'll only ask you ten, well maybe twenty, annoying questions a day.
I love Swing sets. So does the President. We are kindred spirits.

Um, this is pretty much my White House fantasy moment. There's still space for a Smith Dem or two on the tire swing.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

So, You Want an INTERNSHIP?

We had to postpone, but nothing can stop the Smith Dems internship panel for very long!

Come and listen to interns from the Center for American Progress, The Middle East Institute, Coop Farms in Argentina, Congressional Offices, Political Campaigns, The State Department and much, much, more.

We'll share tips, tricks, experiences, answer questions, and steer you towards that dream internship. In this job market, it's the experienced candidates that win, and deadlines are already passing quickly, so don't wait to get involved!

MONDAY, MARCH 9 at 7 PM in CC 103/104

My Boyfriend releases New Senate Rankings, and it's all good news

Nate Silver (my boy friend) has released the latest Senate rankings this weekend. Dear Nate keeps tabs on which Senate races are most likely to be in play in the upcoming mid-term elections. What's that? Elections again? Yes, in the United States it's always an election season, and this one is warming up.

The last mid-terms foretold the Democrat's coming rise to power as we soundly beat the Republicans in most of the races. Will the next mid-term elections herald a re-election for President Obama?

As things stand now, it's looking very, very good. Of the Senate seats considered most likely to switch parties in the mid-terms, the top six are currently held by Republicans, including Arlen Specter's very influential seat. Republicans are pissed that the moderate Specter is helping out the Dems, so they may replace him and currently their top candidate looks like a serious dud. And then there's always the possibility that Specter will switch parties......

As for the seats currently held by Dems that are at risk in the next cycle, Harry Reid's Nevada race could get ugly. Also Chris Dodd's Conneticut seat may flip, and then there's the Roland Burris problem.

Still, with the chance to upset 6 Republicans, Dems have to be salivating. Get pumped Smith Dems, Mid Terms are coming.

Read the full details on my boy friend's senate rankings here.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Another Day, Another Bad Bush Policy Falls

In yet another of his awesome executive orders to reverse all the bad policies we've had to deal with for the past eight years, the President is going to overturn the ban on embryonic stem cell research on Monday.

Currently, unused frozen embryos and their stem cells are simply discarded, since it is against the law for them to be used for federally funded stem cell research. Only a few lines of stem cells escaped the ban, about a dozen usable lines were grandfathered in.

Which means not only have we missed out on many scientific discoveries, but also that U.S. researchers were either leaving the U.S. for countries where they could be funded for their research. Let's hope this can reverse the brain drain!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

No TV Doctors for Surgeon General

This isn't really news, but since it's on CNN tonight, we're going to act like it is.

CNN's own chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, has withdrawn his name from consideration for the post of Surgeon General. Dr. Gupta was never formally nominated, but he had spoken with members of the Obama administration and was apparently their top choice.

Still, he'd have to give up practicing medecine in order to become the top doctor in the nation, and I'm guessing that Dr. Gupta's clients pay a lot more than Uncle Sam. That's often what "I'm doing it for my family" means (assuming that it doesn't mean he has some kind of shady past....)

You can read all about it here if you want the full details.

Personally, if we're nominating television stars to be our Surgeon Generals, I want this guy. Mmm, sexy......maybe they would put his face on those ciggarette warnings.

White House Health Care Summit Gets Going

(Image courtesy NYT)

More than 150 people have gathered at the White House for the President's Summit on Health Care. They include politicians (naturally), industry professionals, doctors, hospitals, insurance agencies, and consumer advocates. The President has vowed to stop the stalemate created by lobbyists and special interest groups that has prevented the U.S. from having a functioning health care system, and that starts with getting everyone in a room together and figuring out what our ideas are.

DID YOU KNOW: You can watch Live Feed of the Summit sessions on the White House Website. Click Here if you love open government

Seems pretty sound to me. Healthcare is expensive, and it's going to get a lot more expensive unless the government can do something to reign in the costs. Industry sure as hell isn't doing it on their own. Did you know that Americans spend $2.3 trillion on health care and that it accounts for 17.6% of our national economic output? By 2018, if no changes are implemented, it's expected to be 20% of our economic output and half of that cost will be born by public programs.

Working with the industry and with the laborers involved (doctors, nurses, pharmacists, etc.) we can control costs much better and help people get well. Sick people can't work, they can't turn the economy around, they can't pay down their mortgages, they can't help their children succeed. We need healthy Americans and healthy American health care.

So let's see what the summit can do.

Rush Limbaugh Leads Republican Party? Politicians Deny it....sort of

You've probably heard recently that Rush Limbaugh is now the King of the Republican Party. After calling his comments "ugly" and saying that he is an "entertainer", even the Chairman of the RNC had to call and apologize to His Majesty.
Here's what Steele Said First:

Well that didn't stand for very long because Rush Limbaugh went out and excoriated Steele on his show:

And then Steele quickly issued an apology, which you can read all about here. Bobby Jindal/Kenneth the Page's response? He's "glad" that Steele apologized.

My "boy friend" Nate Silver over at fivethirtyeight has a good run-down of this controversy and also how it's not really that big of a controversy. Really, it's being perpetrated by the cable news anchors because I mean, who doesn't like to watch powerful people fight? BUT while it may not be a big deal nationally, it is indicative of a greater problem within the party. That is, the RNC does not have a leader right now, whether it's Rush Limbaugh or anyone else. And until they get a leader, these kinds of squabbles are going to be prime targets for the news media.

Which is great for Democrats, who can and are exploiting this situation ruthlessly, but in the long run it's damaging for the country. Without responsible political leadership, talking heads like Limbaugh, with no accountability to anyone regarding what they say but with apparently great sway over public opinion, get to run amok.

Read the great fivethirtyeight post here.

Court Weighs Prop 8 Overturn, Californians Wait Anxiously

One of the sad things about last November was that, while we were celebrating the election of Barack Obama, many of us were also mourning the passage of Proposition 8, an amendment to the California State Constitution to ban gay marriage. This comes after gay marriage had been legalized in California. Today, the California Supreme Court is weighing whether or not the new law is constitutional, and many people are anxiously waiting the decision on both sides.

I don't know for certain, but I beleive that a ruling is expected to be delivered today, so keep your eyes on the news and good luck to our GLBTQ friends and allies in California.
(Image Courtesy of the NYT)

Monday, March 2, 2009

Family Planning is Back in the Budget! And the Budget is on it's way!

(The President Loves Kids, but He Thinks Even Poor Women Should Get to Plan How Many Kids They Want and When They Want Them)

During the debate over the stimulus bill, the Republicans succeeded in getting a provision stripped from the house version that would have made it easier for states to expand coverage contraceptives through Medicare. Basically, it makes it easier for poor Americans to access things like birth control pills. It was stripped because the GOP didn't think it was stimulus, even though preventing unwanted pregnancies saves Medicare money in the long run, and we needed their votes on the Recovery Act.

BUT, they're back! The President has put the measure back into the budget bill and it will be much harder to get out this time.

Why will it be easier to keep in the budget? Because the budget is going to be a lot easier to pass. That's the fun part about being the majority. You see, normally, to get a bill through the Senate you need a 60-vote majority to force the members to stop filibustering and agree to have the Senate vote (yes, you need a vote in order to have a vote. It's Congress.).

BUT, for budgets, the 60-vote rule is suspended. You only need a simple majority to pass budgets. And the Dem's have that. So it's going to be impossible to stop the budget in the House and very, very, difficult to stop it in the Senate.

Which is great, if you support the budget measures for things like inexpensive and accessible contraception for poor women and girls.

Good work, Mr. President. Thanks for keeping your promises.

Read all about it here

(The Latest) Madame Secretary

It's Health and Human Services, take two (with a twist!): Katherine Sebelius, Governor of Kansas, has been formally nominated to fill one of the remaining vacant cabinet posts. Her first order of business? Getting Congress to agree to pass the President's ambitious health care plan.

When the President said he was gearing up for a fight, health care is primarily what he was referring to. This is an issue near and dear to most Democrats' hearts, and lately even insurance industry officials are saying we need some form of national health care coverage (paying out on those claims to the few people that manage to get through the insurance system gets costly, after all). Still, it hasn't ever been an easy fight for Dems (see Clinton, William Jefferson).

Governor Sebelius has some experience dealing with ornery lawmakers on health care however. She's been frustrated by the Republican majorities in the Kansas state houses to get even minor health reform passed, but hopefully she'll do better with a Democratic executive and Democratically controlled congresses. Read more about her here.

Best of Luck, Madam Secretary!

(photo credit: AP/NYT)

Internship Panel Postponed

Due to the snow day, the Internship Panel will be postponed until next Monday!!

See you there!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Internship Panel Tomorrow!

It may seem hard to believe what with the forecast that snow is going to hit us again next week, but pretty soon it will be SUMMER TIME!

Since you're probably a Smith student, that crushing feeling you're getting is the all-consuming pressure to find a summer internship.

But don't worry, there's still time to land the internship of your dreams, and you might even be able to skip the soul-crushing, heart-wrenching, Darwinian struggle that is internship searching because....


That's right, the Smith Dems will be hosting their legendary (or at least semi-epic) summer internship panel this Monday, March 2 at 7 PM in CC 103/104. This is your chance to hear about opportunities and get the low-down on intern experiences from Real Smith Democrats Who Have Lived Them.

Don't miss out: Smith Dems Internship Panel, Monday, March 2, 7 PM, CC 103/104

The Gloves Are Comin' Off

Remember radio, that thing that you listened to before you found out that "This American Life" did Podcasts/discovered how to stream WOZQ off the web? Well, apparently the President remembers it too.

Every week in fact, the President gets on the radio and chats with folks out in the rest of the country. And last week's was a doozy.

Most notably, Number 44 called out all the opponents of his new budget, from student loan lenders, to banks, to insurance industry officials, oil and gas companies. Some say that he's even taking a covert swipe/passing a friendly hint to the Republican Opposition.

In his own words: "I know they’re gearing up for a fight as we speak. My message to them is this: So am I."

I like this new Mr. President, the tough, firm, not afraid to call people out on their shit Mr. President. He does it without a smirk, without a hint of schadenfraude, but with the resolve that he's going to get it done because it needs to be done. It's refreshing, it's fresh, and it's kinda fun.

For those of you freaked out by antique technology like radios, who may have missed this address, below you can find the full video version. Enjoy!