On the ends of eras.


‘Tis no more . . . Riding piggy-back to destinations all over the United States, the last shuttles have been retired from service.  All made it to final resting places, to be on display to the public from now on.

The first female astronaut, Sally Ride will be laid to rest soon also. She passed away at age 61, fallen by pancreatic cancer.  Doctor Ride inspired a generation of women to chose careers in Space, as well as careers in other formerly male-dominated fields.  Engineering is no longer just open to men

The NASA channel’s tribute to Sally Ride featured old footage of her first ride on the shuttle, Challenger.  That shuttle blew up shortly after launch many years ago on January 28, 1986.  After a lengthy investigation, NASA shuttles were once again riding piggy-back from California to Florida and other destinations on both coasts.

Now it is 2012 and we are in a new Space era.  One marked by NASA and other international space agencies operating the International Space Station.  People and cargo travel to and fro from the ISS by means other than space shuttles.  The next big arrival, on July 27, to the ISS will be HTV3, a Japanese cargo craft:

The 16.5-ton HTV3, also known as Kounotori3, or “white stork,” is carrying almost 4 tons of supplies, food and experiment hardware for the orbital outpost.

Eras end and new ones begin.  So often the ends of eras bring us deep senses of loss.  But we do our mourning eventually and then move on to the next phase.  Here’s to a safe berthing for JAXA’s “white stork,” next Friday.


Beautiful Republican women are grabbing lots of air time these days.

Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin was angered by a 'sexist' Newsweek cover#," according to Yahoo! News (11/17/09). And I agree that it was a sexist statement for News Week to make.  Any similar story about a male politician would not have received the same treatment.  Though, I daresay a feature about a male celebrity might have presented a similar treatment.  Do you suppose the Mag was saying  that all Palin has going for her is celebrity?  Could be. 

When asked  questions about her political ambitions during her current book tour, Palin was coy about a 2012 run, but said door is open#," according toYahoo! News (11/17/09). This was during a Barbara Walters interview.  During her recent Oprah Winfrey show television appearance, Palin said the presidency is "not on my radar screen"#."  Are we to take her at her word?  Perhaps, perhaps not.  If pressed, I think it is merely about selling books. . . . to Right Wing Republicans and members of the media studying the phenomenon,  Sarah Palin of the Crazy Base.  It may not be more complicated than that.

Liz Cheney — "How Far Right Must GOPers Lean to Please a Crazy Base?#," is a question asked by Steve Benen, a fine writer from The Washington Monthly, posting at AlterNet (11/17/09). In summary, "Far enough to completely contradict themselves, apparently," is the conclusion.  Speaking of the Crazy Base, The Raw Story (11/15/09) reported that Liz Cheney suggests a Cheney/Palin ticket in 2012#."  That makes me crazy; I get all kinds of hallucinations just at the thought.  Such a thought is ludicrous, of course.  And it does not make me fearful.

To give Palin credit, her biggest stock in trade is not fear mongering, though she is not above that.  The ex-governor seems to prefer insults and dismissiveness to threats of danger.

Michele Bachmann —
There is a third beautiful Republican woman who comes across as actually appears to be fearful herself, as this story from Think Progress (9/25/09) illustrates:  "Flashback: Bachman spreads fears of scary stalking census workers."  To quote:

Earlier this summer, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) waged a high-profile, wildly-dishonest campaign against the Census. The Minnesota congresswoman said she was so worried about the threat of the government asking “very intricate questions” and collecting information that she would illegally refuse to fill out the form. “They will be in charge of going door to door and collecting data from the American public,” she said. “This is very concerning.” She repeatedly used inflammatory and fear-mongering rhetoric against the Census.  

. . . Bachmann’s irrational diatribes about scary stalking Census workers quickly spawned a right-wing movement. During an interview with Bachmann, Fox News’ Glenn Beck said, “Ok, so let me talk about the Census because there’s a lot of people that are concerned with it because they don’t want to fill it out, they’re not comfortable with ACORN members coming to find out all this information, they don’t want to give the government all this kind of information.”

Conservative radio host Neal Boortz told a caller, “Most of the rest of the [Census] information is designed to help the government steal from you in order to pass off your property to the moochers. They’re looters.” Boortz urged his listeners to resist the Census workers. “If somebody comes to my — if a burglar came to your house, are you going to show him where the silverware is?” he asked. “Maybe you will if he pulls out a gun.”

In conclusion the 24-hour news cycle has a voracious appetite for news, or what passes for news.  Producers and talking heads regularly conflate the categories comprised of leaders, elected officials, candidates, celebrities, news makers, publicity hounds, shills, and perennial pundits.  Television is a visual medium and it certainly does not hurt to be good looking along with other attractive qualities such as intellect, good sense, and a capacity for fresh ideas.  But there needs to be both to hold my interest.  And, by the way, I am not a guy and I am not a jealous woman.  So I look at things a bit differently, perhaps.

Hat Tip Key: Regular contributor of Email links today is  Jon#.

Blogs: My general purpose/southwest focus blog is at Southwest Progressive. And Carol Gee – Online Universe is the all-in-one home page for my websites.

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Still investigating —


Colin Powell, Secretary of State.Image via Wikipedia

Former General Colin Powell appeared on MSNBC‘s Rachel Madow show Wednesday night. It was a good conversation and I was particularly fascinated with the interrogation segment on “torture.” To quote from the show’s transcript:

MADDOW: I guess have to ask that – a broader question about whether or not you have regrets not about what the Bush administration did broadly in the years that you were secretary of state but the decisions that you participated in about interrogation, about torture, about the other things.

POWELL: There was no meeting on torture. It is constantly said that the meetings – I had an issue with this – we had meetings on what torture to administer. What I recall, the meetings I was in, I was not in all the meetings and I was not an author of many of the memos that have been written and some have come out and some have not come out. The only meetings I recall were where we talked about what is it we can do with respect to trying to get information from individuals who were in our custody. And I will just have to wait until the full written record is available and has been examined.

MADDOW: I don’t mean to press you on this to the point of discomfort but there is an extent to which there is a legal discussion around this where everybody feels a little constrained by the legal terms whether or not they are a legal professional. There is also the policy implications that you’ve been so eloquent about in terms of what the implications are of these policies towards the U.S. abroad in a continuing way and you’ve been very optimistic in thinking that America still has a reservoir of good will around the world that we can call on regardless of these difficulties that we’ve had around these issues.

If specific interrogation techniques were being approved by people at the political level in the Cabinet. It doesn’t – almost the legal niceties of it almost become less important.

POWELL: I don’t know where these things were being approved at a political level.

MADDOW: Was there a principles meeting to discuss interrogation techniques?

POWELL: It does not mean it was approved, anything was approved at a meeting.


POWELL: It depends on did the meeting end up in a conclusion or was it just a briefing that then went to others to make a final decision on and to document. And so it is a legal issue and I think we have to be very careful and I have to be very careful because I don’t want to be seen as implicating anybody or accusing anybody because I don’t have the complete record on this. And that complete record I think in due course will come out.

The saga of the CIA and the torture tapes — Firedoglake’s “emptywheel,” one of my favorite investigative writers on national security, has also been focusing on this area. The ACLU has been trying to get the CIA to release tapes made at the times the interrogations took place. But the CIA Refused to Turn Over Torture Tape Library (3/20/09). The Judge in the case, Alvin Hellerstein, subsequently “ordered the CIA to start putting together an index of what they’ve got and why they refused to turn it over;” (The torture tape library – episode 51 – 3/28/09). The CIA admitted that it destroyed 92 torture tapes. Emptywheel wondered in a post, “who watched the tapes?” Jeff Stein, at SpyTalk, said that the CIA is unlikely to reveal much more about the missing interrogation tapes.

We can remain grateful for these women who are still asking questions, digging into things kept secret, and making others uncomfortable. It is a service to the nation.

See also Behind the Links, for further info on scandal and the Republicans.

Carol Gee – Online Universe is the all-in-one home page for all my websites.

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Focus on U.S. – Russian relations:


“What to look for?” In U.S. and Russian foreign relations small gains could make a difference. A small missed translation could have helped break the ice during Secretary of State Clinton’s visit to Geneva where she met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Russian media teased our Secretary because of her gift to Lavrov. According to the BBC News article,

Hillary Clinton gave Sergei Lavrov a mock “reset” button, symbolising US hopes to mend frayed ties with Moscow.

But he said the word the Americans chose, “peregruzka”, meant “overloaded” or “overcharged”, rather than “reset”. Daily newspaper Kommersant declared on its front page: “Sergei Lavrov and Hillary Clinton push the wrong button.”

. . . Despite the embarrassment, the two made light of the moment in front of the cameras and pushed the button together to signify a shared hope for better relations. At a joint news conference after two hours of talks, both joked about the error.

“We reached an agreement on how ‘reset’ is spelled in both Russian and English – we have no differences between us any more,” Mr Lavrov said through an interpreter.

Mrs Clinton put it this way: “The minister corrected our word choice. But in a way, the word that was on the button turns out to be also true. We are resetting, and because we are resetting, the minister and I have an ‘overload’ of work.”

Necessity pushed U.S. and Russia Closer,” is another BBC headline. The story is a good analysis of why it is in both countries’ interests to get along better. Reasons include the fact that the Obama administration wants things to be better. We need the railroad supply route through Russia to Afghanistan. Russia does not want a U.S. failure in Afghanistan. (Russia and Germany are discussing using the supply route, as well, according to RIA Novosti). And Russia wants the U.S. to scrap its planned missile defense system in Central Europe, and may be willing to apply pressure to Iran to scrap its long range missile program. In addition the economic recession had hit the Eurozone and Russia very hard, so they have a lot on their plate, just a we do.

The Russian paper, Pravda, reported on March 4 that “USA may keep its airbase in Kyrgyzstan after Obama’s letter to Russia’s Medvedev.” To quote:

Media outlets published numerous reports about the secret letter, which President Obama supposedly sent to his Russian counterpart. In the letter (if the reports are true, of course), Obama particularly set out a hope that Moscow would not encourage the exclusion of US servicemen from Kyrgyzstan. The US administration tends to believe that the former Soviet republic made the decision under the pressure of the Kremlin, although the latter repeatedly affirmed that it was a sovereign decision of Kyrgyzstan.

If Obama sent the secret letter to Medvedev indeed, it may mean that Russia (and Kyrgyzstan) took US hopes into consideration.

RIA Novosti (3/3/09) also reported that President Medvedev denied an Iran-Missile shield tradeoff with the U.S. And The Asia Times published a very interesting analysis of Russia’s rejuvenation of its sphere of influence in Central Asia, headlined, “Russia’s ‘virtual cold war’ in Central Asia.” It regards the Feb. 3 meeting in Moscow of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) forming a CSTO rapid reaction force the,

Russian President Dimitri Medvedev claimed will not be less capable than its NATO counterpart.

It seems clear that there is much to gain for both nations by cooperating. All it will take is toughness, intelligent strategy and being able to reach out. The Obama administration has shown the capacity to do that in other areas. Why not with Russia?

See also Behind the Links, for further info on this subject.

Carol Gee – Online Universe is the all-in-one home page for all my websites.

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When the opposition just says "NO"


“Grassroots for Obama” — The President wants his supporters to remain active on behalf of his administration’s budgeted program initiatives, though some moderate Democrats are uneasy with them. To quote David Plouffe from the Obama website (2/27/09) on the President’s budget, “Blueprint for our future:”

. . . This budget isn’t just a reflection of President Obama’s priorities. It’s a reflection of yours.

This is the change you worked for and Americans demanded. But to make sure it succeeds, the President will need your help.

In the coming weeks, we’ll be asking you to talk directly to people in your community, to build momentum and demonstrate the broad support President Obama has for this new direction.

Thank you for your continued commitment,


A few issues to think about — The International Herald Tribune (2/29/09) reports that “Newly poor swell the lines at our nation’s food banks.” President Obama’s top two science post nominees, John P. Holdren and Jane Lubchenco, are being blocked by multiple holds by anonymous (Republican?) senators, according to the Congressional Quarterly. There is very little I can do to influence my own Senator and U.S. Representative. They are die-hard Republicans, as you can see from their votes this month on the stimulus bill:

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 – Vote Agreed to (60-38, 1 Not Voting)

The Senate agreed to the conference report of this stimulus bill, sending it to the President.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison voted NO……; Sen. John Cornyn voted NO……

Blogosphere — Politico.com has an unusual story about US, well, not actually us, but similar to all of us who call ourselves activists. Headlined, “The call of the riled,” it is a neat feature by Daniel Libit (3/2/09). It profiles the categories of e-mails from some of us unknowns: The Malcontent, The Expert, The Sleuth, and The Victim. This tidbit is from blogasm:50% of links on Technorati Top 10 blogs lead to other blogs. Only 4% lead to newspapers” (2/22/09). A member of the Political Voices of Women Blog Community covered the Presidential Address on a Tuesday night. from FDL‘s Christy Smith “Bloggers as watchdogs: Liberal blogging in a Democratic administration” (2/21/09). And March is Womens History Month. To quote an e-mail I received:

In honor of Women’s History Month (March) I made a YouTube celebrating women leaders worldwide and some of the women who have run for president in the US. It’s particularly for all of the girls who may someday run for president and all of the boys who may someday vote for them, but I hope women and men will enjoy it as well. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AXAfeiyNN6A

Organizations — Democracy for America is seeing the return of its founder, Governor Howard Dean. Go to their website and leave a “thank you” to his for all he has done for us all over the years. The organization will celebrate its fifth birthday on March 25. Democrats.com has a way for citizens to “Tell Congress we want single payer health care” (2/16/09). The We Campaign reports that the Coen brothers’ latest ad, “Air Freshener” targeting the “clean” coal industry, is becoming a big hit. The ACLU of Texas supports the Fifth Circuit suit challenging the Texas legislature’s addition of the word “pray” to activities permitted during schools’ mandatory moment of silence, because it is already protected in the Constitution.

Actions to take — In another case (2/11/09) ACLU of Texas wanted help: Please contact the Office of the Inspector General at the U.S. Department of Justice and request that it conduct a full investigation of RCDC, the Reeves County Detention Center.

Tools to use —

  1. ProPublica introduced Change Tracker: Tracking Change in Washington (2/19/09). It “watches pages on whitehouse.gov [1], recovery.gov [2] and financialstability.gov [3] so you don’t have to. When the White House adds or deletes anything—say a blog post, or executive order—ChangeTracker will let you know, if you sign up for the alerts.
  2. Skewz offers regular roundups of articles said to be biased. This one, about activism, is said to have a liberal bias: “DISSENTING JUSTICE: Signs of Life: Human Rights Groups Contest Pentagon Report on Guantanamo Bay.”

See also Behind the Links, for further info on this subject.

Carol Gee – Online Universe is the all-in-one home page for all my websites.

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Staying Active

[2/4/09] “Staying active” can mean many things. For me as a senior citizen, class of 1955, it means blogging. For the Obama administration, one of the things it means is that “Grassroots for Obama” has been folded into the Democratic National Committee organization. Monday I got my first take-action e-mail from President Obama, “What recovery means for you.” To quote a bit of it:

The economic crisis is growing more serious every day, and the time for action has come. Last week, the House of Representatives passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which will jump start our economy and put more than 3 million people back to work.

I hope to sign the recovery plan into law in the next few weeks. But I need your help to spread the word and build support.

. . . Governor Tim Kaine has agreed to record a video outlining the recovery plan and answering questions about what it means for your community. You can submit your questions online and then invite your friends, family, and neighbors to watch the video with you at an Economic Recovery House Meeting.

Join thousands of people across the country by hosting or attending an Economic Recovery House Meeting this weekend.

You can help restore confidence in our economy by making sure your friends, family, and neighbors understand how the recovery plan will impact your community. . . Our ability to come together as a nation in difficult times has never been more important.

I know I can rely on your spirit and resolve as we lead our country to recovery.

Thank you,

President Barack Obama

Actions to take are there for all of us. By listening to our “activist” leaders, we have plenty of opportunities to be helpful and make a difference. For example, I also got an e-mail (1/28/09) from former vice President Al Gore via Repower America. To quote:

Today, I will be testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about repowering America and the need for us to resume global leadership on the climate crisis. As you know, it’s a critical time in our country and we all have a role to play.

. . . In Congress, our leaders are debating an economic recovery package . . . entrenched interests in Washington will be working hard to weaken the legislation — opposing funding for clean energy programs that support things like wind, solar, energy efficiency and a new national electric grid.

As members of Congress work out the details of a bill that can pass both the House and the Senate, it’s important that you let each of your elected representatives know that you want the recovery to be about repowering America.

. . . You and I know that continuing with the status quo will not revitalize the U.S. economy. Please make sure your elected officials know, too.

High energy and active, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif) and all the Democratic members of her Environment and Public Works Committee held a press conference Tuesday. It was very impressive. CQ Politics reported that Boxer wants to move a ‘straightforward’ climate bill this year.” Also in attendance were a large number of organizations upon which the committee can count for support when it comes up for votes, the Sierra Club and the National Wildlife Fund, to name just two of the many that were there. At the press conference Boxer announced that the committee is beginning with a set of principles that will guide the legislative agenda for combating global warming. Notice that we are no longer required to call it the “PC” phrase, “climate change.”

Finally, one of my very favorite activist/journalists, Molly Ivins died just two years ago on January 31, 2007. She was born August 30, 1944. Her willingness to stay active until just before she died was heroic. Ivins was a supporter of the ACLU and so am I. I recently got a lovely e-mail about Molly, “Remembering Molly Ivins,” written by Betsy Moon, a member of the Texas ACLU, who was formerly Ivins’ “Chief of Stuff.” I am quoting a good portion of the letter because Ivins has much to teach us about what staying active truly means. Moon begins:

The question I have been asked most often during the last two years is, “What would Molly think about this?” Molly Ivins would have loved this election. She would have loved the beautiful sight of “We the People” finally stepping up to become the real deciders. . .

. . . In many of her lectures, she would exhort her audience to believe in their power. She’d say: “I hear people whine: ‘I can’t do anything. I’m just one person.'” Then she’d lift her head high and quote from the Declaration of Independence in her Barbara Jordon voice and remind them, “as a U.S. citizen, you have more political power than most humans who’ve ever lived on this earth.”

. . . She’d be so happy that her beloved Constitution (she donated one speech a month to groups working to preserve and maintain the First Amendment) is in safer hands — that some of the worst things ever done in our name are over. She’d love that Barack Obama began his community organizing knowing that power lies in all of us united, and that he continues to remind us that we are the deciders.

. . . Molly is honored with awards, lectures and scholarships in her name. Many of her readers formed “Pots & Pans” Brigades, following the advice in her final two columns to take to the streets and demand an end to the Iraq war. She always signed her books and her letters with, “Raise more hell,” and you can make her live on by doing just that.

. . . The ACLU of Texas is proud to be the eighth largest ACLU affiliate in the United States, with more than 14,000 card-carrying members across our state. Sustained by a dedicated board of directors, a small staff and dozens of dedicated volunteers, the ACLU of Texas and its predecessor, the Texas Civil Liberties Union, have been at the forefront of the struggle for civil rights in Texas since 1938. Help us continue to defend the Bill of Rights – become a member of the ACLU today!

Staying active is something about which I try to make the theme of my Wednesday posts. In subsequent posts I will introduce you to other activists who make a difference, or bring you up to date on what my favorites are doing, as I did today.

(Cross-posted at The Reaction.)

My “creativity and dreaming” post today is at Making Good Mondays.

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Transition soon to end —

Obama transition time is now less than a week. There is considerable Inaugural hope, but America is still in shock#. But everyone is moving forward and looks to be mostly on track. For example, Bob Cesca’s Awesome Blog posts “The Official Photo*” (1/14/09), noting,

The official presidential photograph of Barack Obama has been released. It’s the first ever presidential portrait shot with a digital camera.

It’s the Economy, stupid — In his economic speech on January 8, President-elect Obama admits that there is so much work to be done. The nation is fearful that we are fighting off economic depression#. At the very least, as McClatchy headlines, Recession calls up sacrifice* (1/6/09). As the first part of the new strategy, the Senate voted Thursday, 52-42 to release the second $350 billion of the TARP funds.

Confirmation votes have already begun. To track those nominations and confirmation fights, see “References” below. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted positively Thursday for Secretary of State designate, Hillary Clinton, with only one Republican dissenting, Senator Vitter. There was an interesting related article in The New Republic – The Plank: They Are All Hillary’s Women Now*” (1/14/09). To quote Michelle Cottle’s conclusion:

Both the history and the temperament of the incoming Secretary of State suggest that she will prove a strong champion of women . . . in such straits. To be sure, Hil will have a lot on her plate. But she has always taken pains to remind us (not to mention an annoyed Chinese government) that women’s rights are human rights.

Confirmation hearings continue — La Vida Locavore headlined, regarding Governor Vilsack’s nomination to be Secretary of Agriculture and his ties to agriculture and biotechnology, “Department of odd omissions*” (1/12/09). Eric Holder’s nomination as Attorney General had much potential for fireworks until this news came through. We learned what Holder said from Yahoo! News: Holder: Waterboarding is torture#.” There was no equivocation, no mincing words, no shading of his important legal opinion. Pundits were of the opinion that that declaration will seal his successful nomination. CQ Politics says that, “Holder Signals New Era at Justice Department, Vows Independence as Attorney General” (1/15/09). To quote further:

Attorney General-designate Eric H. Holder Jr. outlined positions on detainee treatment and presidential authority that differ starkly from those of the Bush administration during his Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing Thursday.

. . . “I agree with you, Mr. Chairman, waterboarding is torture,” Holder said. The statement was an unequivocal departure from the stance of Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey , who refused to make such a statement at his own 2007 confirmation hearing.

The statement has potentially significant implications for government agents who waterboarded suspected terrorists since 2001. And it is symptomatic of the new approach Obama is expected to take to the detention and treatment of suspects in the war on terrorism.

How will the new President govern? McClatchy puts it this way (1/7/09): “Move over, boomer presidents: A new generation takes charge*”. Politico says that there will be “late nights, long hours in Obama White House” (1/14/09). There is also an interesting question posed by Secrecy News (11/6/08): “The Presidential Transition and Secrecy.” The Democratic Strategist takes “Two new looks at Obama” on (1/12/09). To quote:

One, by Mike Tomasky in The Guardian, coins an interesting new phrase for Obama’s approach to the stimulus package: “indirect direction:”

. . . Meanwhile, over at New York magazine, John Heilemann takes everything ever said about Obama’s unique political appeal and ramps it up many notches in a piece that suggests he’s the first “Independent” president.

Running three governments at the same time — is what Politico calls right now, “Obama’s speed and balancing act” (1/14/09). To quote:

First is Obama’s own administration, still being assembled and facing a few rough patches a week before his Inauguration. Next is his ambitious economic recovery bill, approaching $850 billion and fast becoming a second government in its own right. Third is the leftover business of the outgoing Bush White House: what to do with the last $350 billion in a financial markets rescue fund approved a month before Obama’s election.

Finally, maintaining a Democratic Congress could prove to be a big advantage in President-elect Obama’s first full term. If President-elect Obama maintains his bipartisan, pragmatic style of trying to fix problems and get things done, he should be able to avoid a mid-term defeat at the hands of the now mostly discredited Republicans.

Additional References:

Hat Tip Key
: Regular contributors of links to leads are “betmo*” and Jon#.

View my current slide show about the Bush years — “Millennium” — at the bottom of this column.

(Cross-posted at The Reaction.)

My “creativity and dreaming” post today is at Making Good Mondays.

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