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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

I'm too pissed off to do a full analysis.

Short observations - WAY too much on Iraq. Not nearly enough on any solid direction regarding health care, job security, outsourcing, immigration, the middle-class squeeze. Plus he didn't even mention New Orleans except to reference Katrina very early on.

What a waste of time.

You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 10:05 PM 3 comments
Monday, January 30, 2006

(Cross-posted at Daily Kos)

Although a diary I did over the weekend slid by over at Daily Kos without much notice (current events have been dominating the attention at dKos, as they should), the subject was well-received here.  I believe it might grow to be a series for me.

Go back and read it if you like - this one will make more sense if you have an idea of the first one.

After all the blustering, pontificating and hand-wringing, it appears the Alito cloture vote has come to a literal close without even what I would consider token resistance by the Democrats.

It's time to plan.  Make the jump.

I referenced the Alito nomination in my inaugural American Grief diary.  To wit, I said:

American grief rises to the fore of my consciousness as I watch Sam Alito bob and weave during his SCOTUS confirmation hearings while a majority of Senators from either party posture and pontificate and bluster.  Very few were the real expressions of impact on American lives.  Content to make a political statement that would solidify Senatorial electoral power, the message of Sam Alito's America was lost - an America that steps on the little guy.  An America that believes women should be forced back into some bizarre second-class citenzenry.  An America that believes in rewarding the powerful with more power.

It was one of many examples of my singular American grief.

I have, for the past two weeks, considered the filibuster a an outside chance.  Way outside.  But I've participated - made the calls to vote "no" on cloture.  I've burned a lot of phone time and, over the weekend (when the offices were largely empty), a lot of fax time registering my deman for a "no" vote on cloture.  One by one they came to the Senate floor and here's the Yes and No votes as I have them so far (I will update as more are clarified):

Yes to Cloture:
Nelson - FL
Nelson - NE


No to Cloture:
Reed - RI


Not.  Even. nbsp;Close.

But I'm not surprised.  Nor did this especially enrage me, the Demorats who voted "yes" to cloture.  I'm so worn down and my expectations of my Democratic leaders are so low, I suppose.

But something did enrage me.  The Senators, as they vote, come to the well of the floor of the Senate.  On this day, a day that surely spelled the death of any hope for the little guy, a day that spelled the death of women's rights, a day that spelled a blank check on executive power, the Senators stood there and talked.  And laughed.  And slapped each other on the back.  And they milled around and talked some more.  And laughed some more.  And slapped a few more backs.  Republicans to Republicans, Democrats to Democrats, Republicans to Democrats, and Democrats to Republicans.

As if nothing was the matter.

These guys must party at funerals - because if it were me and I was a Democratic senator, not only would I vote "no" to cloture and to confirmation, but I would stand, DEFIANT AND ENRAGED on the floor of that Senate apart from all the back-slapping and busines-as-usual-ing.  I would adopt the body language and facial expression of one upon whom news of a great tragedy had just descended and would not carry on in my collegial-Senatorial good humor.

There is nothing to smile about, Senators.  Certainly those who voted "no" to cloture shouldn't be smiling.  And out of respect for the untimely death of our rights and all we hold dear, those Democrats who inexplicably voted for clotures should wip the smile off their faces and keep their hands in their pockets.

More and more each day I believe only one thing will bring about an appropriate air of gravity in our Democratic leaders:

Revolution.  Rebellion.  Resistance.

On this day, my American Grief overflows.

You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 5:52 PM 0 comments
Sunday, January 29, 2006

Please welcome Mystickal Insense & More as this week's featured blog.

The layout and graphics on this blog are awesome and made me jealous. Run by Stephanie Davies, Mystickal Insense & More has a great approach. She covers specific topics on each day of the week (think of it like it's a "specials" menu with Meatloaf on Monday, Fried Chicken on Tuesdays, etc.) and interspersed personal observations and anecdotes with product information on products she manufacturs and markets. I thought the posts I read were hilarious - so stop on over. It's great site!!

You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 1:44 PM 0 comments
Saturday, January 28, 2006

(Cross-posted at Daily Kos, My Left Wing and Booman Tribune)

I am not a person prone to a depressed personality.  Like most people, I have good days and bad days.  The former outweigh the latter by a large proportion, I'm glad to say.

I'd have to characterize today as a bad day.  I am, today, overwhelmed by American grief.

More on the flip.

It's difficult to articulate what I have to say in this diary.  Compelled to write, I am struggling for the words that give life and meaning to a tension wire of emotions that are running beneath my outward exterior.  I woke this morning to stories of the anniversary of the Challenger disaster.  Like many people, I remember being an 18-year old on hiatus from my first year in college, working my first job as a waitress in a popular restaurant in Alexandria, VA.  It was before opening hours and we had the TV on in the bar area as we set up and prepared to meet the day's customers.  Challenger had received a lot of attention - prior flagging interest in NASA's space program had sparked efforts to re-engage Americans in the wonders of space exploration and Challenger's flight was to showcase the first "teacher in space".  She had captured America's imagination - she was the sole winner of a contest that began with 10,000 qualified applicants.  I watched the launch with interest.  Challenger's explosion 76 seconds into its launch on that January day in 1986 is a defining moment of my young adulthood.

Seeing the coverage on television led me to look for coverage of Challenger.  I went to the trusty Goggle home page and searched and came across this site.  I don't know anything about its owner - but what he had on his page was some very fine video that I downloaded on both the Challenger and Columbia disasters (juxtaposed - link here) and a Katrina retrospective (link here).  If you download either of these, beware - they are large files.

It's the Katrina video that sent me into a tailspin.  Perhaps it was because I had just finished reading this article on the post-Katrina failures in today's Washington Post.  Regardless, grief poured in.

The devastation wrought by Katrina is certainly another defining event in my lifetime.  I see the faces of people who have lost everything - I bear witness to the devastation of their lives - but that doesn't drive American grief.  Disasters happen.  Lives are lost, families are shattered.  What brings American grief is the apathy of official America towards the victims of Katrina and towards the region it deccimated.  I really can't understand how any genuine human being could stop, even for a few minutes, and try to put themselves in the shoes of a Katrina survivor and fail to move heaven, earth and any and all resources at their disposal to ameliorate the suffering.  All discussion of what people should have known in advance of Katrina aside - there is no excuse for failing to be moved on a visceral human level by the plight of these survivors.  I simply can't make sense of leadership in our country that feels a necessity to squabble over who and how much and when where Katrina is concerned.  It's not a negotiable issue - it must be fixed.  These people must be helped.  There are no options where this is concerned - it's so obvious.

Challenger - 9/11 - Katrina - all are singular events that drive my grief.

But that, in itself, is not my American grief.  American grief is different.

American grief is watching the desperate and abandoned faces of New Orleans residents day after day without seeing any attempt on the part of government to intervene.

American grief rises to the fore of my consciousness as I watch Sam Alito bob and weave during his SCOTUS confirmation hearings while a majority of Senators from either party posture and pontificate and bluster.  Very few were the real expressions of impact on American lives.  Content to make a political statement that would solidify Senatorial electoral power, the message of Sam Alito's America was lost - an America that steps on the little guy.  An America that believes women should be forced back into some bizarre second-class citenzenry.  An America that believes in rewarding the powerful with more power.

American grief swells when I see leaders who are willing to compromise in action all the principles and tenets which spawned past greatness to bestow, in word only, the same principles and tenets in a "do as I say, not as I do" alternate reality that has become our daily lives.  It swells even further when the very thing this leadership has said over and over and over again - Democratic elections in the middle east are good - yields one of two likely "improper" political asendants in the stunning victory by Hamas in the Palestinian elections (the second, to me, would be the rise of a fundamentalist Shiia in Iraq).  We pushed.  We insisted.  We cried from the rooftops that Democracy would take hold in the middle east.  And, seemingly, it has - just not a Democracy of which our leadership approves.  Therefore, in the ultimate expression of hypocrisy, our government is publicly declaring its refusal to deal with the new Palestinian-elected leadership.  Unbelievable.

American grief becomes overwhelming when I learn that the Constitution and particularly the 4th amendment are being sacrified on the altar of "safety" with very little outrage on the part of average Americans.  I wonder, in the extreme, if this mentality is not similar to those who consider it appropriate and necessary to bomb abortion clinics to "protect life".  The logic is alarmingly similar to me.

American grief is accentuated and exacerbated every time an American soldier or Iraqi or innocent Palestinian dies in our zeal to "bring Democracy" to the middle east.  

American grief crests when I see the faces of the Ford Corporation's workers who have just discovered that the company in which they made a life-long career investment is not able to make the investment in kind.  It breaks the dam of reasonability when our American President demonstrates such an appalling lack of connection with the average, working-class American that he talks vaguely of retraining the now-jobless Ford workers.  What?  When?  How?  At what future income level?  How will he pay for it?  How will he ensure it is successful?  It is grievous that this is how our government responds to the plight of its dwindling middle-class citizenry.  It becomes too much to bear when I let myself think about the stockholders banking money on higher Ford stock values - driven higher on the news that Ford will devastate the lives of at least 25,000 of its employees.  I struggle to believe that employees were also stockholders but can't quite accept that that's true.

I am surrounded on all levels, in some way, by American grief.  I have my life - there are many, many days when the living of it pushes that grief to the back-reaches of my consciousness.  But it is never absent... It waits to rise up and it asks me one question:

What is this America in which I live?  Is this what our founders envisioned?  Is this the culmination of the promise of the American dream?  A dumbed-down electorate, a continuous sapping of our rights, an inexorable march towards tyranny and oppression, an inevitable apathy towards the plight of the average American?  How did this happen?

It makes me question the adage that "the truth shall set you free".  It's not setting us free of this system and these decisions that strip our rights and dignity piece by piece by piece.  It's not stopping the disgusting move towards compromising everything for which we have always stood in the name of power and supremacy.

There are three options as I see it:

  1. Give up.  Join the disengaged.
  2. Complain a lot and try to enact change within the construct of the system as it exists.
  3. Revolt, rebel, resist.

I'm going with #3.

You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 3:34 PM 0 comments
Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Sorry all - I've been travelling and my blogging time has been restricted by work demands but I'm back at it with a new post.

I turn on Hardball while I work out every night.  For some reason, the fact that Matthews has representatives from each side and the sheer absurdity of what the Republican representative usually says makes me push myself and exercise even harder.  ;-)  Anger is a powerful motivator I suppose.

Last night Matthews had Democratic strategist Hillary Rosen and Republican advisor Ben Ginsberg.  They talked about a variety of subjects beginning with the Alito nomination and then moving to the subject of NSA wiretaps.

Make the jump to see the question Matthews asks which caused me to write him.


MATTHEWS:  We`re back with Republican strategist and former counselor to President Bush, Ben Ginsberg; and Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen.

I want to talk about something that most Americans argue about all the time, which is what kind of a country we want to live in?  A country where security is very good, almost perfect and a country in which we have more freedom but the security is not so good?

According to the latest CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll, 46 percent of Americans think the Bush administration is right to wiretap without a court order.  That`s a 4 percent drop from two weeks ago.  So if look at--hold up that number for a while there--it`s clear that over the last several weeks, last two weeks, that the president`s losing this argument, Hilary,  about whether he should be allowed to do surveillance electronically without a court order.

Ok, fine.  An interesting question to pose to both of these people on opposite sides of the political spectrum.  Their responses were what you would expect and I'm not going to highlight them - you can find the whole transcript here if you're interested.  What both interests and bothers me is the question.  So I wrote a letter to Matthews:

Dear Mr. Matthews,

I had the pleasure of meeting you and hearing you speak at a conference of government and industry IT executives a few weeks before the 2004 Presidential election.  I have always held you in high regard, even when I don't specifically agree with the point-of-view you are taking.

I'm baffled, however, at your line of questioning on the subject of NSA wiretaps.  It seems that the conversation has boiled down to whether or not the wiretapping is legal.  That is an important question, to be sure, and one which a careful study of the history and emergence of FISA would answer.

It comes down to a simple question, though, when asking about the Presidential order for secret NSA wiretapping.  Why?  Why was it necessary to go around FISA?  Why do the NSA's activities require a broad and risky (and tenuous) legal interpretation rather than utilizing the facilities already provided by FISA?  If FISA is insufficient, why were changes not proposed by the administration to Congress?


That is the ONLY question that really matters.  It's more important than the legality, it's more important than granular assessments of the Constitution.  The answer to whether or not we should trust the President's judgment and trust that he is NOT trampling on our Constitutionally protected rights lies in the answer to the question of "why".  An answer the administration has been unwilling to provide.

Will you not stand up and ask it and ask it and ask it until you get a satisfactory answer??

Best Regards,

Don't flame me for the "high regard" comment.  I decided to take the tack of catching more flies with honey as opposed to vinegar.  And I will say for the record that the speech he gave at the conference I attended was outstanding and extremely thought provoking and he was kind enough to stay behind and speak to each one of us who desired a word after.

I don't understand the gnat-like attention span of the TV media on this subject.  They're like infants with shiny things waved in front of their face.  The conversation has been shifted to the legality of the wiretapping and away from the crux of the issue - why pull a "new" method out of your ass when a fully vetted, clear and legal method already exists?

I don't know if it will have any affect, but it was worth writing.  You can click here if you want to write his show on this subject as well as on the subject of Rep. Slaughter's diary, which is currently on the recommended list.

You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 1:04 PM 0 comments
Monday, January 16, 2006

(Cross-posted at Daily Kos and My Left Wing)

Growing up, I remember how my mother talked about the assassination of JFK.  The moment that she heard of his death is forever seared in her memory - what she wearing - where she was when she heard - what she was doing.  Time stands still for her around that event.  It is a defining event of her life.

I made it all the way to 2001 without a defining event like that.  Then 9/11 happened.  Being a DC resident, I saw the Pentagon first-hand within seven minutes of the impact.  First the confusion and then the fear were palpable.  I'll remember the events of that morning, where I was, where I was going, what I was wearing, for the rest of my life.

Fortunately or unfortunately, I have a second defining event in my life, one that I share with many of you.  Hurricane Katrina.

Make the jump.

The realization of the unfolding tragedy in New Orleans in particular will stay with me as long as I have the use of my mind and I walk this earth.  I can take you through the first realization, who was reporting on it on the news, what it sounded like, and then follow it with a series of other moments in the coverage that stand out in stark relief because of their clarity and the indelible effect of my reaction.

As time has passed, as with all events (defining or not), coverage of Katrina has slipped to occasional mentions.  I suppose it's natural.  But it hasn't slipped for me.  As I write this, I can see a framed, whimsical plaque that I bought from a vendor in the French Market - I need only to turn my head to see it in its place, where it's been for seven years or more.  If I turn to the left, I can see the Mardis Gras masks and beads I've acquired through the years at various celebrations.  Directly in front of me is a little voo doo doll I bought at some kitschy store on Royal.  I don't live in New Orleans and never have - but it's a part of me and always has been.  It's just a place to which my soul connected.

I found something the other day completely by accident.  I can't even tell you where I found it originally because I was just surfing around, checking out the blogs of people who had visited my blog.  One of the blogs I stumbled across had a video on it - if the owner of that blog is a Kossack, my apologies for not having it together enough to give you proper credit.  I clicked through to the site (YouTube.com) where the video could be found.  It completely commanded my attention.

It's a video set to music called George Bush Don't Like Black People.  It's set to hip-hop music (I'm not a fan of hip-hop and rap, but I thought it was totally effective) and it integrates a variety of video clips, both from the Katrina debacle and other George W. Bush events.  It's totally powerful and I wanted to pass it along.  I also thought it had the potential to be morphed into some kind of a political advertisement (minus all the cursing, of course).  You'll have to let me know what you think.

It appears I'm not the only one who can't forget Katrina, its victims, and the total failure on the part of our government to care for our fellow Americans.

I'd like to put a little plug in for The Louisiana Music Factory's Katrina benefit album, Our New Orleans  Randy Newman, backed by an orchestra, does a gripping version of Louisiana 1927.  It makes me cry every time I hear it.

You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 4:33 PM 7 comments
Friday, January 13, 2006

I always feel so guilty when I don't get to my blog for a few days. Here's what I have posted at Daily Kos, if'n you're interested.


Ok.  Earlier this week (Monday) I posted a quickly-written rant called Kate O'Beirne Can Drop Dead.  If you missed it, you may want to skim about the first 1/4 of the diary to get the gist of what pissed me off so badly.

361 comments later I was gratified to see that I was joined in my outrage.  Now, along with Firedoglake, I'm having fun with the Amazon.com version of "Freep This Poll".

Make the jump if you want to have a little bit of weekend fun.

First, if you haven't read Jame Hamsher and contributors at Firedoglake, give yourself a treat and do so.  I can see why Kos himself links back to FDL and has it on the blogroll.

Jane and I have been emailing.  She linked to my original diary and then just took my rant and ran with the ball.  She has asked me to post this diary to get you over to Kate O'Beirne's Book Page on Amazon.com and write a review.

Here are a few of of the favorable reviews:

Not For Women Only

One reviewer said this is a 'must-read' for every woman. She's wrong. It's a must read for every woman AND every man.
The book clearly demonstrates that the "feminism' of men - starting with young boys in day care, and continuing through all of our schools - including college - should be of particular concern to all of us. The Feminist Movement wants not only to blur the line between men and women but to eliminate it entirely.
This Feminist assault exists in every facet of our lives and is a serious problem that we need to understand and address.
As the father of three daughters, I am very much a proponent of Women's Rights. This assault has nothing to do with Women's Rights. It has to do with the destruction of the Male role in our society.
This is an important book that exposes the problem.


Tiny Minded Liberals are writing bad reviews to keep you from reading this book
If you read the bad reviews of this book you will notice a trend. None of them offer any reasonable or intelligent criticism. They all amount to one thing; CHILDISH NAME CALLING!


Stupid feminists!
Stop all your bitchin'
Get back in the kitchen!

Okay, yes.  Perhaps they were a tad inflamed by the fact that O'Beirne's book has 168 reviews and about 150 of them give only one out of five stars... But seriously.  Even when you read some of the serious positive reviews it's frightening.

Go on over there.  Get yourself an Amazon account if you don't have one and write yourself a review of Ms. O'Beirne's book.  You can sign your review with an Amazon "pen name" if you don't want to be spammed with conservative hate-dreck.  The goal is to ensure that Ms. O'Beirne's book has a one star rating so no one will go out and buy it who would not have already done so.  

Oh and another thing... For some reason, a handful of fives, a few threes, and a bazillion ones equals two stars according to Amazon. Moreover, Amazon is magically "promoting" several five-star reviews to appear before /any/ of the other reviews. No matter - write your review and let Kate and Amazon and the /world/ know what you think about hate-books of /any/ variety.

You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 11:55 PM 4 comments
Monday, January 09, 2006

(Cross-posted at Daily Kos and My Left Wing)

I realize that the comments Kate O'Beirne has been making have been diaried.  I'm going to address the issues and refute her absurd and insulting assertion that "those women" (from what I gather, notorious feminists) "make the world worse".

Make the jump (and if you're Kate O'Beirne, I hope it's off a cliff).

First disclaimer.  I haven't read her book.  I wouldn't read her book.  I've just seen her interviewed on Hardball.  Thusly inflamed, I did a little bit of googling on O'Beirne's comments and the facts about gender pay disparity.

A few select quotes, taken from an interview O'Beirne did in her own den of rats, National Review Online.

"They talk "freedom of choice," but feminists are too contemptuous of dissenting women to allow them to choose freely how to live their lives without ridicule and disdain," Kate O'Beirne writes in her new book, Women Who Make the World Worse: and How Their Radical Feminist Assault Is Ruining Our Schools, Families, Military, and Sports.


I have long thought that if high-school boys had invited homely girls to the prom we might have been spared the feminist movement. We live with the destructive feminist agenda because the fathers or husbands of so many of them, including Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem, Germaine Greer, and Jane Fonda, never failed to fail them. The views of these angry, abandoned women inform the modern women's movement.


The persistent fable that women are denied equal pay for equal work has been a never-empty tank of gas that fuels feminism. A sympathetic public is largely unaware that the claim that women face widespread wage discrimination is a myth aggressively advanced by feminists. Disparities in wages exist between women with children and men and single women. This is not sex discrimination, but if that were better understood feminists would have to get real jobs.


Oh boy. Hillary Clinton is a committed feminist. She's a true believer in the grievance agenda and promotes the myth of stunted progress for women's equality. She would reliably be one of the women who make the world worse by endorsing all of feminism's pet causes -- strict sex quotas for college sports, "girl power" in our schools, the "epidemic" of domestic violence, abortion on demand (despite her phony rhetoric), universal, federally funded day care, enforced "equal pay for equal work" and women in combat. I have to lie down now.

Pissed off yet?  I'm just getting started.

First.  I'm not sure what O'Beirne thinks of as a "feminist".  I am a feminist if for no other reason than the fact that my mother suffered through a misama of SHIT to ensure that I didn't have to.  I owe that to her.  My mother was a clerk typist for the Federal government with no college education - only a high school degree.  She was not ugly - she got asked to the prom (and who is Kate O'Beirne to go making judgments on attractiveness for crying out loud??!).  She did not and does not find marriage offensive.  She is not contemptuous of women who have made different choices, for whatever reason, in their lives.

Making crappy money, divorced and with a three-year old at home (me), my mother answered an advertisement in the employment section seeking applicants for sales positions.  At the end of the ad, women were strongly encouraged to apply.  This was in the early 1970s, during the rise of equal employment opportunities and the subsequent rush of employers to hire more women.  She responded to the ad, interviewed, and was hired.

She worked for 30 years in technology sales and sales management.  At that first job, in her nine-year tenure, she rose the level of Vice President reporting directly to the CEO.  She was a consistent top performer.  She did not have one job where she failed to exceed expectations.  She went on to be a founder of a Fortune 500 company.  As everyone was submitting their curriculum vitae for the incorporation documents, my mother simply listed her education as "degree from the school of hard knocks".  Truer words were never spoken.

She is and was a bad-ass.  And let's not be fooled - she succeeded in spite of the fact that she was a woman.  She didn't have the protections from harrassment that I enjoy today.  She suffered through many an improper comment, uncomfortable meeting and blatant propositions with her ethics and dignity fully engaged.  She couldn't get pissed off and file a lawsuit.  She had no recourse for losing business because she refused to take someone's shit.  She had to find diplomatic ways to handle situations that few people can imagine to simply do her job.

All so that I wouldn't have to go through the same things.  All so that no woman would have to go through the same things.

Kate O'Beirne is making the argument that there is no gender-based pay disparity.  I'm sure she's basing part of her argument on the fact that women leave the employment market to have children and that this affects their pay levels vis-a-vis a man of the same age and educational background.  For example, if you're a 25 year old woman making $40,000 a year and you leave the job market until you're 30 to have a child and stay home until that child is in Kindergarten, you can't expect to come back in at the same pay level as a man who remained in the industry and employed for those five years.  That woman is, effectively, less experienced than her male counterpart despite their similarity in education and their sameness of age.  That's a totally plausible argument and the research on gender pay disparity today factors out those types of disparity issues.  They compare men and women on experience.

A few representative figures, from WomenOf.com:  (Tables aren't working for me so sorry for the klunky representation)

Accountants - Female $85,375 - Male $119,314
Accountants (1-5 years experience) - Female $72,534 - Male $94,314
Advertising Account Executive - Female $49,000 - Male $56,000
Allergists or Immunologists - Female $190,983 - Male $254,289
CEO, Health Care - Female $152,673 - Male $195,783
Lawyer - Female $73,476 - Male $84,188
Government/Lobbying, Nonprofit - Female $73,907 - Male $96,655
Managing Editor - Female $55,983 - Male $62,574
Neurological Surgeons - Female $337,031 - Male $487,000
Reference Librarian, 0-5 years experience - Female $38,399 - Male $39,958
Retail Store Sales - Female $19,864 - Male $31,148
Teachers - Female $42,848 - Male $46,956
Web infrastructure - Female $69,850 - Male $87,750
Average Full Time Employee - Female $97,071 - Male $127,379

I wonder if Kate noticed the "managing editor" figures.  Seems to me stupid is as stupid does, and if she looked at her salary vice those of men of equal and lesser experience she'd change her tune.  But I'm just speculating.

There's more, in this article from SFGate.com:

Women, on average, earned 76 cents for every dollar that men brought home, down from a record-high 77 cents on the dollar in 2002, according to the latest annual report from the nonpartisan U.S. General Accounting Office.

Last year's penny shift marked the first increase in the gender wage gap this decade, government income figures show. Some observers blame the economy in part for the recent slippage among women, saying that a downturn tends to punish them disproportionately because they hold more of the nation's lower- rung jobs.

(Diarist's note: Gee... Who has been President for just about all of "this decade"?)

But the economy is just a piece of the picture. Some prominent researchers have been surprised to learn that even though women are attaining higher-than-ever levels of education -- and also reaching higher rungs on the corporate ladder -- that progress has not narrowed the wage gap as expected, according to the National Association for Female Executives (NAFE), a New York-based women's professional organization.

But I'm sure all of those executives are raging man-hating, armpit-hair-growing baby-badmouthing marriage-loathing academics who can't get a "real" job.

Listen.  As with all things in life, there is a spectrum of opinion on the issue of womens rights and inequality ranging from far on one side to far on the other.  I don't know because I won't read her vomitous book, but judging by the cover, she isn't referring to the extreme end of feminism.  If the charictures on the front of her book are any judge, she's talking about Hillary Clinton, Jane Fonda (let it GO already), Ruth Bader Ginsberg and "Carrie" from HBO's Sex and the City.  

Although I'm no Hillary lover, I wouldn't characterize her as a radical feminist by any stretch.  In fact, the most "feminist" person on that book cover is Jane Fonda and tell me - what influence is she having today that is "making the world worse"?

It offends me beyond words to hear myself characterized as "making the world worse" because I feel that equal pay for equal experience is something upon which I should have to insist.  It just should be.  And when women like Kate O'Beirne come out and say that the gender pay gap is a "myth" she spits in the face of my mother and myself who have worked hard (you'd think being a Bush mouthpiece she could at least appreciate "hard work") for the advances we have made without ever reaching the finish line (in the aggregate) of equal pay for equal work.

Kate O'Beirne can drop dead as far as I'm concerned.  I have written MSNBC and have asked them to apologize for putting such dreck on the air.  I won't hold my breath for their reply or public apology, though.

You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 10:09 PM 10 comments
Sunday, January 08, 2006

Please welcome Discuss It as my new renter. Discuss it is an excellent forum where writers select and write about a current event and take a stand on that event. They will then defend their point of view as individuals comment or challenge the writer. It's a great way to learn a lot and it's an excellently presented and well-maintained blog. So click the box to the left and Discuss It!!

I would also like to thank Neurotic Closet Bitch, AMCP Tech Blog, One Man Bandwidth, Mystickal Insense & More Blog, and Independent Christian Voice for submitting bids as well. It was Scott over at Discuss-It who alerted me to the fact that I didn't have my space listed for rent so he gets first dibs. ;-) I'd love for the rest of you to come back, though, as I've checked out your blogs and would welcome any of you as renters. ;-)

You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 10:33 PM 0 comments
Saturday, January 07, 2006

I've been tagged by Moondancer!!! I have to share five little known facts about myself and I have to tag five others. My five will be lefty, Martian, Miz BoheMiaM, Bill, and NYBri!!

Ok. Here are my five things:

  1. I can trace my American lineage all the way back to the Mayflower. My grandmother was desperate for me to become a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution but I suspect they aren't ready for me yet. The other half of my lineage goes directly to central Mexico and I don't speak a word of Spanish.
  2. I am a trained classical vocalist who didn't pursue a career in music due to extreme and paralyzing stage fright. I still suffer from it and therefore can't speak (presenting is a part of my job) in front of large groups. Oddly, however, I sing in a band and while the nerves twang, I settle down and get through it.
  3. I would have liked a political appointment under an Al Gore presidency and I actually had a shot at getting one (nothing fancy - one of the more obscure, lower on the totem pole types of appointments but an appointment nonetheless).
  4. For three years I wore unrelieved black and played the part of Janet in a running weekend midnight product of The Rocky Horror Picture Show - you know the kind - where random crowd people act out the parts while the movie plays.
  5. I have had chicken pox four times. I have no immunity. If I get it again, now that I am in my thirties, it could be very dangerous.

And no, I didn't include the fact that I'm a shoe-addict because everyone already knows that!!

You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 4:24 PM 6 comments
Friday, January 06, 2006

(Cross-posted at Daily Kos)

And no, the answer is not because you're blogging here, though I'm sure all of us have wondered as much recently.

An official disclaimer, before I begin.  I do not hold a security clearance.  I have never held a security clearance.  To my knowledge, no one has ever disclosed classified information at any level to me.  Having said that, I have been around the technological side of the law enforcement and intelligence communities long enough to have a picture of the technology behind intelligence and investigative analysis and the laws that back it up.

A Sidenote and an Additional Dislaimer.  First, the sidenote.  This diary grew out a stream-of-consciousness comment in Soj's JPEN diary, currently on the Daily Kos recommended list.  The additional disclaimer is that I am going to explain this by use of a scenario.  The scenario has evolved over years of technology companies working with investigative and intelligence agencies.  In short, a technology company will proffer a "likely application" of their technology that fits the mission of the agency or entity on whome they are calling.  It is not a case of a government entity coming to a technology company and saying "What if I wanted to do [insert scary thing here]?"  I do not know for a fact that this technology is being used, but I know that the capability is being sold.

Now to the scenario.

Let's say that a large wire transfer is made from a bank in Saudia Arabia to four separate banks in the US.  The US banks are in San Francisco, New York, Miami and Washington, DC.  The foreign bank is being surveilled electronically and it is that surveillance which captures the transaction.  At this point the intelligence unit knows only that a foreign bank it considers suspect has made a wire transfer of a sufficiently large sum of money to domestic financial institutions.  They don't know who made the transfer and they don't know who owns the US accounts where the monies were deposited.

They go and get a warrant to compel the bank to disclose information on the account holders.  This may be very basic information - for our purposes, let's say that it's the name and address listed for each of the four accounts and that each recipient is a different person with a different name and address.  The intelligence unit then sends the names and addresses gleaned from the warrant to another intelligence unit who maintains a central terrorist screening database.  The individuals at the terrorist screening database who receive the request to run the names are not told why they are running the names.  They are only to report whether or not the names (normalized to allow for common misspellings and differences in linguistics) occur in their database.  In essence, they are returning a "true" or "false" answer to the original intelligence unit - "true" if the name occurs, "false" if it doesn't.  For the sake of this scenario, the results of all four names are "false".

But it doesn't end there.

The original intelligence unit has reason to believe that the foreign bank has initiated transactions that are suspect in nature in the past and that the current transactions are so sizeable that they necessitate additional investigation.  Having the names and addresses of the US account holders, they use a visualization application to perform link analysis.  Link analysis is exactly that - it is a visual software toolset that depicts relationships between persons, known and unknown.  Stepping away from our scenario, here's a sample screenshot of such a link analysis tool:

(You can link to a larger picture here)

Note the different representations and icons for persons and links.  This is a powerful investigative and analytical tool for enforcement and intelligence analysts.  It allows them to "see" a network of persons, companies, countries, accounts, etc.

Now back to the scenario.  Right now, the links in the software are between the four individuals, their domestic financial institutions, and the original foreign bank.  In short, it's a pretty elaborate depiction of the wire transfer without any specific information as to nature of the recipients.  On its own, it doesn't give the analyst much information that wasn't already known.

Enter, then, what I will refer to as the information repositories.  Let's say that I wanted to take the name and address of one of the US funds recipients and determine who their "known associates" are.  Let's say further that there is a company out there that specializes in collecting information about people.  Some of that information is public, some of it isn't.

Stepping outside of the scenario, think of this capability in a very personal way.  If I were to take your name and street address and plug it into an application that quickly spidered publicly available data sources, what information would I get back?  Well, first, I would get all the information about your home, what you paid for it, when you bought it, where it is, who the neighbors are, what they paid for it, who (if anyone) is listed as a director of your homeowner's association, whether or not you have any records in the criminal, civil and/or appellate court systems, whether or not you have judgments against you and liens against your property, etc. and so forth.  In short, I could find out a lot about you simply by bringing together in one place a way to index and search these publicly available data sources.

Now back to the scenario.  I want to know more about each of these four funds recipients.  I can spider not only public data sources but also government-held data sources.  I can get a picture of their income, employment, what they own, what charities they donate to, what they owe, who their neighbors are, who their co-workers are, who their children and spouse are, who they associate with, etc.  I'm starting to fill in the blanks.

Let's say that one of the individuals I'm investigating is a male named John Doe.  Through use of the information repositories and the application technology they offer, I know that John Doe gives money regularly to a mosque where he worship.  I also learn that YOU, the reader, are a neighbor of John Doe.  Not only that - John Doe, in trying to give the appearance of being an upstanding citizen, sits as the Treasurer of your homeowner's association, of which you are President.  John Doe is a local business owner - he owns a home improvement contracting company - and you, the reader, being a good neighbor, have used John Doe and have paid him to do work on your home.  The investigating agency knows this because John Doe has declared what you paid him as income and a check from you has been deposited, at some point in the past, in John Doe's account.

The same account to which John Doe received the wire transfer of funds from the foreign bank, the very transaction which started the whole process.

YOU are now added as a link to John Doe in the analyst's link analysis software tool.  All of this information as well as information from other strong known associates of John Doe is used to apply to FISA to put you under surveillance.

Seem far-fetched?  It isn't.  Let me say for the record that many of these technologies and tools are invaluable in doing legitimate investigative work.  Their existence pre-dates by far the 9/11 attacks.  Picture a crime syndicate and the power of such a tool in unravelling all of the tendrils - hell - picture the value of such a tool in mapping the Abramoff investigation.  So I'm saying that the tools themselves are not bad.  

What is bad is the existance of these tools in today's intelligence climate.  As far as I know, nothing that I laid out in my scenario involved an instance of illegal surveillance.  I can't even envision the scenario that would develop when I consider illegal wiretapping.

The only thing that protects you from being involved in a scenario like this is some degree of transparency in the law enforcement and intelligence arenas and a DEMAND that governmental entities follow the letter of the law when it comes to surveillance of private citizens.

Big brother is a series of 0's and 1's and is, for all intents and purposes, the very means by which I am communicating with you today.

How's that for alarming?

You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 5:03 PM 2 comments
Wednesday, January 04, 2006

(Cross-posted at Daily Kos)

Like many, I have been following the tragedy at the Sago mine in West Virginia for the past two days.  Last night's events were the devastating culmination of events in Tallmansville, WV and I'm profoundly saddened, on a very human level, with the loss of life and the pain the families must be feeling today.  I did a rare non-political post on my blog this morning, simply to get out in words what I was feeling.

While we've watched the human drama of our working American bretheren, however, things have been escalating to deadly consequences in Iraq.

Make the jump.

Yesterday, US air strikes killed six Iraqis.  From CNN.com:

U.S. air strikes in Bayji north of Baghdad killed six members of a single family, Wamir abd el-Wahab, a spokesman for the Salah ad-Din provincial governor's office, said Tuesday.

El-Wahab said three other family members were seriously wounded in the attack Monday and the father and a daughter survived relatively unharmed.

The house, the spokesman said, was flattened. "Why are they hitting civilians?" el-Wahab asked.

A spokesman for the U.S. military said air operations had taken place in the area overnight but had no further details. He said the incident was under investigation.

I'm guessing, here, that this incident has put a dent in plans to win hearts and minds.

Today, January 4th, has been the deadliest day in Iraq since the December 15 election.  From BBC News:

In the worst attack, at least 36 people were killed in a suicide bombing at a Shia funeral north of Baghdad. Across Iraq, more than 50 people died.

In Washington, President George Bush said the plan in Iraq was going well.

My emphasis added, for sheer irony value alone.  Said the President:

Mr Bush said wide participation in Iraq's election showed the people were buying into the new democracy, and had more confidence in their security.

"The election results served as a real defeat for the rejectionists," he said.

However, after a drop in insurgent attacks around the time of the elections, car bombings and suicide attacks have intensified.

I wonder, if asked today, if those same people would indicate that things are "going well" and would continue to express "confidence in their security"?

The BBC goes on to detail other incidents occurring just today:

  • At least seven people are killed and 13 injured in an attack on the busy commercial market in Baghdad's southern al-Dawra suburb;
  • Five die and 13 are injured when a car bomb explodes outside a police station in the capital's mainly Shia Kadhimiya district;
  • An official at the oil ministry and his son are shot dead in their car in western Baghdad;
  • Roadblocks are set up in Baghdad as police search for the sister of Interior Minister Bayan Jabr who was kidnapped on Tuesday;
  • At least two civilians are killed in Kirkuk as their car is hit by a roadside bomb intended for a US patrol.

Yep.  Going well.  I figure we're about due for loud remonstrations from the administration that the MSM hasn't reported on some school re-opening somewhere in Iraq.  If things go much better, there won't be any Iraqis left to whom bad things can happen.

Finally, also occurring today, Militants in Iraq attacked a fuel convoy.  The convoy, consisting of 60 tanker trucks, lost four vehicles entirely.  An additional 15 were damaged.  The Islamic Army in Iraq is claiming responsibility.

Let's compare this news to public statements by both the President and Vice President, both occurring today.  From the President:

"We also spent time [after a Pentagon briefing] talking about the two major fronts in this war on terror, and that would be Iraq and Afghanistan. In Iraq, 2005 was a year of progress toward meeting our goal of victory."


"Now, you've got to understand that just because the elections went forward that doesn't mean these Saddamists, Zarqawi types are going to lay down their arms. They're not. There will still be violence. And there will still be some who believe that they can affect the political outcome of Iraq through violent means. We understand that. And we're going to stay on the offense against these - "we" being coalition forces, as well as the Iraqi forces. But the recent elections have served as a real defeat for the rejectionists, and the Saddamists and al Qaeda types. Sunni Arabs who had boycotted the process, joined the process. And as they did so, those who want to stop the progress of freedom are becoming more and more marginalized inside of Iraq."

Tell that to the dead people.  And I have to include this remark, near the end of Bush's comments:

"There's a lot of work to be done in this war on terror, but the American people can be rest assured this administration understands the task, and understands the challenges, and understands our obligation to protect you, to protect the American people."


Conflation, anyone?  Now to the Vice President, from a speech he gave less than an hour ago to the Heritage Foundation:

"Our coalition is helping them to build a secure, hopeful and self-governing nation which will stand as an example of freedom to all the Middle East. We are rebuilding more than a thousand schools, supplying and reopening hospitals, rehabilitating power plants, water and sanitation facilities, bridges and airports. We are training Iraqi police, border guards and a new army, so that the Iraqi people can assume full responsibility for their own security. Iraq now has its own Governing Council, has appointed interim government ministers, and is moving toward the drafting of a new constitution and free elections."


I'll let the shameful use of the word "coalition" pass.

Lest we forget, let these figures from Antiwar.com serve as a reminder of our "success":

American Deaths

  • Since war began, 3/19/03:  2,181
  • Since "Mission Accomplished", (5/1/03):  2044
  • Since Capture of Saddam, 12/13/03:  1714
  • Since Handover, 6/29/04:  1315
  • Since Election of 1/31/05:  743

Antiwar.com points out also that 9,651 American Soldiers have been treated for injuries suffered in Iraq and that estimates for the Iraqi dead range from 27,736 to 31,263.

You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 3:54 PM 0 comments

This is a political blog and, specifically, one that embraces progressive politics. Many who visit would characterize me as "liberal". I consider myself more of a moderate. Either way, this is going to be a quick post that isn't political.

I'm not a heavy sleeper. When sleep comes at all, it can be easily interrupted by the smallest audible disturbance. I think my brain never really quite goes fully into sleep unless I am full-on exhausted. At any rate, I fell asleep last night with Anderson Cooper's 360 on in the background. I woke at about midnight EST, disturbed by the TV. There were bells ringing, sounds of excited voices. I had gone to bed knowing that one of the thirteen trapped West Virginia miners had not survived. The body had been recovered close to the site of the explosion. The whereabouts of the remaining twelve was unknown. As I peeled back the fog of sleep and focused on the sounds coming from the TV, the message came to me clearly that all twelve of the remaining miners had been found and had been found alive. I smiled - I was so relieved for the families of the miners even as I grasped the tragedy of even one life lost. I went back to sleep somehow more at peace in the knowledge that a bigger tragedy had been averted in the safe location of the surviving miners.

This morning was a whole different story. I woke, as usual, at about 6:30am. The news was still on (I hadn't shut it off as I drifted back to sleep) and my brain rang with discord. CNN commentator Miles O'Brien was talking about the sole surviving miner, 27-year old Randal McCloy. Sole surviving miner? What had happened to the other eleven in the hours since my sleep had been interrupted? I couldn't grasp how they had survived 41 hours deep in the bowels of the Sago mine only to let loose their grip on life after help had arrived. I watched some more and discovered the terrible truth. The news that all twelve had been found alive had been a miscommunication. Someone coordinating at the command center had either misinterpreted or wishfully interpreted the message coming out of the mine from the rescue team. Only one had survived.

I watched further as they retold the story of having to go back to the church, in full celebration mode by this time, and inform the families that only one had survived. I watched the interviews with townspeople and watched the breathless clip of a resident running up to Anderson Cooper to relay the news that only one had survived. It was awful. I don't come from a coal mining family. I've never seen a coal mine. I struggled with the idea that the three hours of jubilation from the families made the knowledge of the loss of a family member that much harder. It really upset me and continues to do so. I can't imagine how it feels to have lost someone in this tragedy.

What bothers me also is the fact that, with the exception of the one miner killed in the initial blast, the remaining twelve were alive and employed every ounce of their collective knowledge and experience to do all the right things to help in their survival - to no avail. I'll restate - I don't know a thing about mines. I'm sure that there are methods and ways to deal with disasters and things progressed as quickly as they could under the circumstances. but I can't help but wonder - how long did they live? How short did they fall? An hour? A day? It's just heartbreaking.

My thoughts are with those who perished, the families they have left behind, and the town in West Virginia now permanently scarred. Godspeed.

You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 7:15 AM 0 comments
Tuesday, January 03, 2006

This is big. I won't even begin to tell you that I fully understand that shell game that Jack Abramoff was running to funnel money, favors and trips to members of Congress in exchange for votes on behalf of Abramoff's clients. There has been some great reporting on it over at Daily Kos - I recommend visiting a few of the recent stories posted on the subject:

Another note - CNN reported early this morning that Abramoff has been cooperating with the Feds for a year without any guarantee of an agreement. Heads are going to roll. After the break, a summary of the charges against ole Jack.

Vis The Washington Post:

Conspiracy: Abramoff and partner Michael Scanlon conspired to defraud Indian tribes in Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi and Texas of millions of dollars. Abramoff made roughly $20 million in hidden profits from the scheme. Scanlon pleaded guilty to related charges in November.

Abramoff also gave money, trips, meals and entertainment to public officials and their relatives in return for favorable treatment of his clients. The government says one member of the House of Representatives, identified elsewhere as Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, received a "lavish trip to Scotland to play golf on world-famous courses" and other benefits in exchange for the congressman's support on various issues.

You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 4:19 PM 5 comments