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Ms. Wright Goes to Washington

By Sheryl Wright

Despite their pledge during the 2010 mid-term election campaign to focus on jobs,Republicans have used their majority in the House to push abortion to the front of the Congressional agenda. On January 7, 2011, Congressman Mike Pence introduced H.R. 217(the Pence Amendment).


Bachmann Spiking the Tea

By Karima E. Rustin

One of the many things I look forward to on a Saturday morning  is reading The New York Times. And who do I see prominently figuring at the beginning of the column but Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann (R-MN)...damn, not Bachmann again!


The Politics of Union Envy 

By Sheryl Wright

Neither of my parents went to college, but both were union members—my father in the private sector and my mother in the public. In addition to their salaries, which allowed them to provide a comfortable life for our family, the benefits won by their respective unions


Roundtable: Delegitimizing Obama–The Intersection of Gender, Power & Politics  

Sheryl: Almost 800 days in office and it seems every day is seen as an opportunity for renewed criticism of the President. The latest kerfuffle is around the claim that President Obama’s decision to involve the U.S. in the action in Libya





Entries by Karima (4)


Hypocrisy, Disparities and Double Standards

By Karima E. Rustin

Living in a 24-hour media news cycle, I feel constantly bombarded by sound bites, commentaries, breaking news updates, and updates on the last updates about what is happening in our country. All the dizzying coverage on the weak economy, the stock market taking a nosedive, and the divisive rhetoric being hawked by all the current contenders for the Republican primary can be quite maddening. During the past couple of weeks, however, there were a few news items warranting my commentary.

Rep. Allen West (R-FL) appeared on Fox News’ “The O’Reilly Factor”discussing the high unemployment  rate for black people, which is holding steady at 15.9 percent. He decided to play the blame game by criticizing black Democrats for not coming up with any concrete solutions to this unemployment dilemma. Mr. West then claimed, provocatively, that black people are still on a “plantation,” black Democrats are now the “new overseers” on that plantation, and he is the 21st century version of Harriet Tubman who wants to lead black people off the plantation to “a sense of sensibility.” Interesting, I wondered what that “sense of sensibility” would look like and what solutions he, “the 21st century Harriet Tubman” might have for getting black people back to work.

So, not only did Mr. West criticize black Congressional Democrats, he also insulted all black Democratic voters in the same breathe. Lucky for us, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) responded to Mr. West’s comments on MSNBC’s "Hardball with Chris Matthews;" she found his criticism of black Democrats odd considering he urged his unemployed brother to attend a job fair held in Atlanta, sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus, and to seek out Ms. Waters!

A recent New York Times/CBS New Poll showed that 63% of Americans support raising taxes on individuals earning $250,000 a year to help deal with our overwhelming deficit. Republicans want no part of that; during the debt ceiling talks, they fought, kicked, and held their collective breath against ending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. Warren Buffett, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, wrote an op-ed article in The New York Times, stating enough already with the coddling of wealthy people who can pay more taxes. Mr. Buffett points to the various tax breaks the super rich enjoy while the  people who work for him pay a higher percentage of their income in taxes than he does. He suggests raising taxes on incomes exceeding $1 million and $10 million, and increasing the tax rate on dividends and capital gains. Mr. Buffet is willing to pay more in taxes and states there are other investors just like him who want to contribute more to the country they love. Thank you Mr. Buffett, you are the best!

There also seems to be some outrage over President Obama's decision to take a ten day vacation with his family to Martha’s Vineyard, MA. How could he? Doesn’t he understand the economy is in the toilet and unemployment is over 9%? He needs to stay home at the White House and work on his jobs plan and suffer like everyone else who can’t afford to take ten day excursions. The nerve of him! Wait…didn’t former President George W. Bush take vacations during his presidency? Rachel Maddow compared the number of vacation days taken by the last four presidents at this same point in their presidency. George W. Bush entered into the first of two wars by this time in his presidency; that decision was so exhausting he needed a whopping 180 vacation days to recover. I don’t think there is anything wrong with our president wanting to spend quality time with his wife and daughters. He didn’t rent out a villa in Lake Como, he picked a low-key, popular vacation spot in the United States

I am interested in hearing real solutions from our elected officials, not criticism of other colleagues using baseless and demeaning speech. If the majority of Americans want to see a fairer appropriation of tax rates among the middle-class and wealthier people, the Republican Party needs to stop fighting with the Democrats, and pull up a chair to listen to some new ideas. Finally, this high level of criticism over the Obama trip needs to be dialed down—President Barack Obama doesn’t need to justify spending time with his family.


The Minnesota Shutdown Showdown

Minnesota State Capital Building courtesy of The Associated PressAs we enter day 13 of the Minnesota government shutdown, the 200 members of the State House and Senate can’t seem to agree to buckle down and do what is best for the state's residents. It is my understanding that part of the job of both chambers of the legislature is to balance the state budget every two years, and since the deficit is around $5 billion, I would assume they (the legislators) would try to fix this sticky situation sooner rather than later. But no, they would rather dig their heels in the ground than negotiate. Actually there seems to be very little motivation for Democratic Governor Mark Dayton and the Republican leaders to make any progress in ending this standoff; they have barely come together since the shutdown began.

Fact: Governor Mark Dayton proposed to temporarily increase income taxes for the top 2 percent earners in the state to generate revenue, and when that didn’t go over well with the Republican members of the State Senate, Governor Dayton abandoned that idea and instead suggested an increase in the state cigarette tax (the GOP leaders rebuffed the offer).

Fact: Approximately 22,000 (non-essential) state employees were laid off because of the shutdown and have to make do with unemployment checks; the state also halted work on 100 important road projects. Meanwhile, 138 of the 200 state House and Senate lawmakers are still happy to accept their paychecks for a job not well done.

Fact: As each day passes, the state is losing millions in revenue as a result of the shutdown of the lottery, the closing of racetracks, and the shuttering of 66 state parks. Let’s not forget the lost revenue from the closure of 84 rest stops. Truck drivers now have to travel to the Wisconsin border to use the rest stops and fuel up;  it is federally mandated that truck drivers rest after driving over eleven hours.

Fact: Fitch Ratings lowered the state’s bond rating because of the budget shutdown, making it more costly for Minnesota to borrow money.

By allowing the shutdown to happen with very little negotiation, Governor Dayton and the state lawmakers  are being disrespectful and showing no consideration for their fellow Minnesotans. If she were alive, my grandmother would have a few choice words for the lawmakers. Growing up I would accompany her when she went shopping at the neighborhood supermarket. She had very little patience for  the young surly female cashiers with their eye-rolling, gum-smacking, and bad attitudes. When one of the cashiers would throw my grandmother’s change and receipt back at her she would respond with "Young lady, I work hard for my money. You might not like your job, but you did choose this job. So you better show some respect when you are handling my money!"

In the spirit of my grandmother, I would like to say to the Minnesota Democrats and Republicans, along with Governor Mark Dayton, show a little respect for the people who elected you to office, and get the damn budget done.


Bachmann Spiking the Tea

By Karima E. Rustin

One of the many things I look forward to on a Saturday morning is reading The New York Times. I like to browse through the Real Estate section and look at the featured residences slide-shows. Then I move over to the Style section to chuckle at the Vows feature story. I finally settle in to enjoy Gail Collins’s twice weekly op-ed column. Collins is so smart and witty; I love how she exposes the follies of the old boys’ club. A recent column, “Let There Be Light Bulbs,” examined the political theater on display when Congress debated whether government should regulate light bulb efficiency. And who do I see prominently figuring at the beginning of the column but Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann (R-MN)...damn, not Bachmann again! It’s too early, and I haven’t finished my first cup of coffee yet.

I’m sure you have heard of Michelle Bachmann; it has been Bachmann Theater ever since she was elected to Congress in 2006 and then founded the Tea Party Caucus in the summer of 2010. She was on Hardball with Chris Matthews back in 2008 to express her concern that Barack Obama might have anti-American views. She certainly has a way of fueling the fires of socialist hysteria with her campaign to repeal ObamaCare, blatantly accusing President Obama of running a “gangster government.” I don’t know about you, but I was oddly frightened during her rebuttal to President Obama’s 2011 State of the Union address; what was she staring at? Had she caught a glimpse into the psychedelic ether of Victoria Jackson?

People might think she is as zany as, if  not  more than, her Arctic sister, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. They are both brunettes, have each raised five children, and are devoutly religious with strongly conservative views on abortion and same-sex marriages. But no one should dismiss Bachmann as many political pundits have done with Palin. I too believe that Palin is more in love with the pageantry of being a political commentator and performing at speaking engagements across the country for her base, the Tea Party movement, than seriously running for the presidency. And if by chance Palin would ever be elected, those turn of events would seriously put a cramp into her personal bank account.

Bachmann on the other hand is quite cunning. She has been testing the waters for a place on the GOP ballot. Unlike Palin, who bowed out of her governorship in Alaska, Bachmann has served three terms in Congress; her political capital is so strong that even after an unsuccessful bid for the House Republican Conference Chair, she was selected by Speaker John Boehner for a position on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. This committee oversees the CIA, the National Security Agency, Department of Defense and the U.S. military. To me, this shows Bachmann’s real political pull, in contrast to Palin, who might be the poster girl for the Tea Party movement but, nevertheless, doesn’t have the reputation or the relationships in Washington D.C. to tilt the scales.

This Tea Party movement has really baffled me. Apparently after the government bailed out Wall Street with TARP money, like-minded conservatives (let’s throw in some libertarians to spice it up) banded together to protest against increased taxation, to call for a reduction in government spending, and to demand that we finally get around to doing something about the national debt. Tea Party members will tell you they are grassroots political activists inspired by the acts of colonists over 230 years ago to do away with British imperialism and to make sure that in no way shape or form will that kind of crap happen on American soil again.

Listen, I understand how thousands of frustrated, angry Americans who are unemployed, saddled with credit card debt and mounting medical bills, and underwater on their homes, can identify with this movement. But I also suspect hiding amongst them is a more Machiavellian subgroup of elitists who quite frankly are not comfortable having a brown-skinned president with an African name who is the product of progressive idealism. 

Some voters who supported John McCain in the 2008 election belong to an affluent sector of society who want to maintain the status quo of the Bush administration by keeping the Bush tax cuts and continuing the deregulation of financial institutions. These voters reaped the rewards of the largest tax cuts in U.S history. Their disregard for the effect those tax cuts would have on the national debt has resulted in a debt that has increased by 100 percent in 2007, causing the U.S. to experience the longest recession since WWII.

So I think we need to ask Michelle Bachmann about which “average American” she truly represents? Is it the embittered libertarian or the frightened blue-collar worker? Or those in the one percent who have been enriched by Bush economic policy? I believe every single American desperately wants a more fiscally sound government; no one wants to pay unreasonably high taxes. And who really wants a country that is bankrupt? I sure don’t.

I do want us to take a deep breath, have the courage to look into the mirror, and embrace our situation. I am willing to meet you halfway in finding some real tangible solutions to our fiscal predicament. Cutting federal funding from Planned Parenthood is not going to balance the budget. Stripping a union’s collective bargaining rights is not going to make a dent either. Proposing to abolish Medicare is not the way to go.

Aside from establishing a domestic policy, a president must lead in foreign policy; she must also possess a temperament  willing to engage with the many multicultural nations who are a part of this global community we all inhabit. If Michelle Bachmann is the face for the conservative collective, should she be the face for our country? Only time will tell; but frankly, I have no desire to drink any of her tea.




By Karima E. Rustin
For the past few weeks, I’ve found it truly amazing to see the people of other nations take a stand for their civil rights, overthrowing tyrannical regimes, and coming together with one voice to establish a movement for change. But I also start every day with an ache in my heart—and a little indigestion—after reading or hearing news reports about certain acts being done right here in my own backyard.
So I decided to establish a movement—yes, my very own revolt. I too must speak out against the outlandish measures certain elected officials are trying to impose on us. These special individuals (don’t worry I will name them)  seem hell bent on pissing me off in regards to women’s reproductive rights.
I revolt against stupidity!!!!!
Right now as I type this there are people in the  United States who are trying to drown out, subvert and sabotage well-meaning discussions about reproductive rights...wait let me make this clear, women’s reproductive rights. Now I would like to call out a few candidates for this week’s gallery.

The Prime Suspects:
South Dakota State Senator Phil Jensen (R) introduced a bill (HB1171) a few weeks ago (which fortunately was shelved) that would have allowed the use of the “justifiable homicide” defense for people accused of killing with the intent to prevent harm to a fetus.  This “justifiable homicide” defense requires there only be  a pregnant woman. I don’t understand—can you also kill  her husband, her parents, or her children to commit "justifiable homicide" in defense of her fetus?  Now…..is it just me or does this sound like chicken shit? Senator Jensen stated he did not intend for “anti-abortion vigilantes” (his words) to use such a defense when drafting this bill but only to protect the life of the fetus. So if an 18-year-old girl (let’s call her Sandra) comes home and tells her father she is with child, and Sandra’s father decides he has every right to beat his daughter, then I guess she is fully within her right to defend herself and her unborn child by blowing her father’s head off. Gee, thanks, Senator Jensen!!
Then we have Nebraska State Senator Mark Christensen (R) who wrote a nearly identical bill to the one in South Dakota.  However, the difference is that the bill expands the defense to a third party. Why the hell not? Let’s have everyone join in on the fun of a potential killing spree! Senator Christensen is another pro-lifer who doesn’t believe abortions should be legal in the event of rape and can’t wait for Roe v. Wade to be overturned. Now here are some things Mr. Christensen really believes in: the right to carry concealed unregistered guns and… the death penalty. So Mr. Christensen will not be there for you when you get pregnant, are sexually assaulted, need affordable health care for your child or when you get gunned down by that irate public school teacher (who just lost his or her pension) on your way to drop off your child at school. But if by chance that teacher gets convicted of murder, you can count on Christensen to be there to strap his or her ass to the electric chair!

Georgia State Senator Bobby Franklin (R) is a real prize fighter. Senator Franklin introduced a bill, HB 1, that would distinguish an abortion as “pre-natal murder” and punishable under the law. He believes that abortions have had a negative impact on the people of Georgia in many ways: including economically, psychologically, emotionally, and in terms of overall health and  medical well-being (that was a mouthful). At no point should an abortion be legal in the state of Georgia, according to Mr. Franklin. Okay. I also found something very interesting about Senator Franklin. He believes that if a woman was raped, stalked, or abused by a family member (which usually results in rape or murder), this woman is deemed just an “accuser” and not a “victim” during court procedures. Rape and sexual assault are the most underreported crimes in America. Georgia is ranked 11th in the nation for incidences of “forcible rape” (also see The Daily Show’s take); this suggests there is a fundamental issue in how crimes against women are perceived in Georgia. So Senator Franklin, are you saying that sexual assault does not have a negative impact on rape victims, their families, and their livelihood? What message are you trying to send Mr. Franklin to women who are sexually assaulted when you want to accuse them of murder if they want to terminate pregnancies that result from such acts?

You would think women were the sexual predators; the majority of the birth control that is produced is aimed at controlling women’s fertility. All that is asked of a man is to place a protective barrier on his sexual organ while women are asked to insert, ingest and implant various items and devices into their person. Why is there this belief that the sperm is more important than the egg?
Why are men entitled to explore their sexuality and promote their fertility while women’s reproductive rights need to be so strictly governed?

A century ago a registered nurse started a column for the New York Call titled “What Every Girl Should Know.” She wanted to educate women, especially impoverished women about birth control after seeing countless women suffer from self-induced abortions and health issues resulting from frequent childbirths. She believed a woman should be “the absolute mistress of her body.” She opened up the first family planning and birth control clinic in Brooklyn, NY. Her name was Margaret Sanger and now her hard work and the work of thousands of women (and men) for the past century is unraveling because of the folly of people who come to us with distorted intentions to balance the budget.

We cannot let this happen. We must be the mistresses of our bodies. We must be warriors for our girls and educators to our boys. Women make up 51 percent of the population in the United States so why are there elected officials who don’t represent our voice?

Senator Jensen, Christensen and Franklin and other like-minded congressmen must understand they do not have sovereignty over our bodies and they  need to keep their hands out of our uteruses!