Friday, October 31, 2008

Fighting for Muslim women's rights

Some of the world's leading Islamic feminists have been gathered in Barcelona for the third International Congress on Islamic Feminism, to discuss the issues women face in the Muslim world.

Some of the women taking part in the conference explained the problems in their home countries, and where they hoped to make progress.

ASMA BARLAS, Author, Pakistan

Religions always come into cultures, they don't come into abstract and pure spaces. Islam came into a very patriarchal, tribal and misogynistic culture. One of the deepest damages to Islam has been its reduction to "Arabisation".

Pakistani women protest
Islam is influenced by the culture of the country it enters

I'm not going to say that the Arabs are particularly misogynistic in a way that nobody else is, but I do think there are very particular traits and attitudes towards women that have crept into Islam.

I have a friend who has been studying the interface between what he calls the Persian models and the Arabist models of Islam in the subcontinent and surprise, surprise: the Arabist models are misogynistic, authoritarian, unitarian and the Persian models are much more plural and tolerant.

This is a fight on two fronts - on the one hand we are struggling against the kinds of oppression dominant in Muslim patriarch societies and, on the other, Western perceptions of Islam as necessarily monolithic, and confusing the ideals of Islam with the reality of Muslim lives.

If we read the Koran as a totality rather than pulling out random verses or half a line, that opens all kinds of possibilities for sexual equality.

RAFIAH AL-TALEI, journalist, Oman

Oman is relatively liberal, women are free to choose what to wear, and can choose their jobs and education. And the law does not require us to wear any particular form of clothing. But there are strong social and cultural factors - coming from the fact that we are in Arabia - that limit women.

Sharia is fair, but it is the wrong interpretations that are the problem. Male judges often don't understand the principal goals of sharia

As a journalist, it has not been hard for me to work among men, but it has been hard for some of my colleagues whose families told them this was not "appropriate" work for them.

The biggest difficulties are the social and cultural factors, and some aspects of law. For example, women who marry a foreigner cannot pass on their nationality to their children, whereas men in that situation can.

Religion is not an issue in our struggle, although there are problems with family law about divorce and marriage status. Omani laws are based on sharia law. Sharia is fair, but it is the wrong interpretations that are the problem. Male judges often don't understand the principal goals of sharia. We feel the law is fair, but ends up being unfair for women because of how judges interpret it.

Cultural and social factors often get mixed up with religion. Educated women can be more empowered and separate the two, but many don't dare challenge the conventions.

NORANI OTHMAN, Scholar-activist, Malaysia
I don't think it is any more difficult to be an Islamic feminist than a non-Muslim, or secular feminist.
A Muslim woman in Malaysia in a textiles shop
Asian Muslim states have very different traditions to Middle Eastern countries

Feminists in general have to face up to political and cultural obstacles, to achieve our objectives of women's rights. Even Western feminists have had a similar history - having to engage with certain religious beliefs not conducive to gender equality.

Perhaps the only distinctive difference peculiar to Muslim feminists is that we are caught in the cross-currents of modernisation and a changing society, due to a modern economy on the one hand and the global resurgence of political Islam on the other.

Political Islam wants to impose a world view about the gender order that is not consistent with the realities and the lived experiences of Muslim men and women in contemporary society.

Our detractors would hurl empty accusations at us - calling us Western, secular or anti-Islamic

There is a difference between South East Asian Muslim countries and the ones in the Middle East - culturally we are less patriarchal, we can always respond to our detractors by pointing out we don't have the cultural practices that they do.

Our detractors would hurl empty accusations at us - calling us Western, secular or anti-Islamic.

Our arguments are rooted within Islam - we want renewal and transformation within the Islamic framework. They don't like that.

We have a holistic approach, seeking gender equality within the Islamic framework, supported by constitutional guarantees. We see that these are not inconsistent with the message of the Koran, particularly during its formative stages. We have to understand the history and cultural context and extract the principle that will be applicable in modern times.

SITI MUSDAH MULIA, Academic, Indonesia

In my experience, I find that it is very difficult to make Indonesian Muslim women aware that politics is their right.

In Indonesian society, politics is always conceived as cruel and dirty, so not many women want to get involved, they think it is just for men.

According to the [radicalist] Islamic understanding, women should be confined to the home, and the domestic sphere alone
We try to make women understand that politics is one of our duties and rights and they can become involved without losing their femininity.

Personally, I'm non-partisan, I'm not linked to one political party because, in Indonesia, the political parties often discriminate against women.

I struggle from outside the political sphere to make it women-friendly, to reform political parties and the political system.

One day, I hope to be involved more directly, if the system becomes more women-friendly. We have passed a law about affirmative action and achieving 30% female representation, but we won't see if it is implemented until after 2009 elections. We are waiting.

In Indonesia, some groups support us, but some radical groups oppose what we are trying to achieve. They accuse me, accuse feminist Muslims, of being infidels, of wanting to damage Islamic affairs.

According to their Islamic understanding, women should be confined to the home, and the domestic sphere alone.

AMINA WADUD, Academic, United States

There are many more conversations going on today between different interpretations of Islam. Some interpretations are very narrow, some are more broad, principled, ethically-based.

Unless we have sufficient knowledge about Islam, we cannot bring about reform of Islam. I am not talking about re-interpretation, I am talking more about gender-inclusive interpretation.

Turkish woman protesting for headscarf
Islam and feminism are not mutually exclusive

We have a lot of information about men's interpretations of Islam, and of what it means to be a woman in Islam. We don't have equal amounts of information about what women say it means to be a good woman in Islam.

Now it's time for men to be active listeners, and after listening, to be active participants in bringing about reform.

There is a tendency to say that it is Islam that prohibits women from driving a car, for example, when women drive cars all over the world except in one country. So then you know it is not Islam. Islam has much more flexibility, but patriarchy tends to have the same objective, and that is to limit our ability to understand ourselves as Muslims.

I have always defined myself as pro-faith and pro-feminism.

I do not wish to sacrifice my faith for anybody's conception of feminism, nor do I sacrifice the struggle and actions for full equality of women, Muslim and non-Muslim women, for any religion. Islamic feminism is not an either/or, you can be Muslim and feminist and strive for women's rights and not call yourself a feminist.

FATIMA KHAFAJI, Consultant, Egypt

In Egypt, Islamic feminism is a way for women activists to reach a large number of ordinary women in the villages and in urban low-income areas, using a framework of Islam. So there would be a reference to Islam when talking about women's rights. Experience has shown that that is an easy way to get women to accept what you're saying.

Not many women get information about women's rights easily, so you have to counter what has been fed to them, to both men and women, from the strict, conventional, religious people who have more access to women.

They have their own idea of women's rights in Islam - that is, patriarchal, still limiting opportunities for women. But women have been receiving this concept for ages, through the radio, TV, mosques, so the challenge is how to give them another view, of enlightened Islam, that talks about changing gender roles. It's not an easy job.

Sexual harassment is happening because men think the control of women's bodies is a matter for them

Historically, in Egypt in the feminist movement, there have been both Muslim and Christian women. It has never been a problem. Unfortunately nowadays, it has become a problem. Religious discrimination has been dividing people very much. We have to think carefully about how to supersede the differences.

With family law, we're aiming to change the philosophy of the law itself. Traditional family law puts women down. I can see this whole notion of "women do not have control over their bodies" in so many laws, in the penal code and family law. For example, sexual harassment is happening because men think the control of women's bodies is a matter for them. Even the decision whether to have children is the decision of men. This whole notion has to be changed in a dramatic way if we are really going to talk about women's rights in Egypt.

Go to original article

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Running Against Both Parties
Ann Wright, Truthout: "I am in San Francisco this week before the election, campaigning for Cindy Sheehan. She is running against both the Republican and Democratic establishments, but more specifically against Democratic Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi."

"Don't Speak for Me Sarah Palin"

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Michelle Obama - New to campaigning but no longer a novice

Published: October 28, 2008
Once thought unpredictable, Michelle Obama is now seen by advisers as an effective advocate for her husband.

AKRON, Ohio — On a visit to her husband’s campaign office here the other day, Michelle Obama was handed a phone and a script of talking points and made calls to a few undecided voters. Mrs. Obama mixed policy on taxes and health care with chitchat about Ohio, laughter about her life in politics and tidbits about her family.

After a couple of calls, she realized that she had not been following the typewritten notes. “I didn’t look at the script,” she said, speaking more to herself than to the volunteers on the phones next to her.

But no matter. While some of Senator Barack Obama’s advisers once viewed Mrs. Obama as an unpredictable force who sometimes spoke her mind a little too much, she is now regarded within the campaign as a disciplined and effective advocate for her husband. She has also, advisers believe, gone a long way toward addressing her greatest unstated challenge: making more voters comfortable with the idea of a black first lady.

Go to article

Monday, October 27, 2008

No Ordinary Woman

Published: October 26, 2008
Sarah Palin is a woman who is able to be promoted on the kinds of attributes that were once the exclusive province of unremarkable white men.

Go to article

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

No comment

Palin Clothes Spending Has Dems Salivating, Republicans Disgusted
Huffington Post - October 22, 2008

Since her selection as John McCain's running mate, the Republican National Committee spent more than $150,000 on clothing and make-up for Gov. Sarah Palin, her husband, and even her infant son, it was reported on Tuesday evening.

That entertaining scoop -- which came by way of Politico -- sent almost immediate reverberations through the presidential race. A statement from McCain headquarters released hours after the article bemoaned the triviality of the whole affair.

"With all of the important issues facing the country right now, it's remarkable that we're spending time talking about pantsuits and blouses," said spokesperson Tracey Schmitt. "It was always the intent that the clothing go to a charitable purpose after the campaign."

But even the most timid of Democrats are unlikely to heed this call for civility. For starters, the story has the potential to dampen enthusiasm among GOP activists and donors at a critical point in the presidential race. It also creates a huge PR headache for the McCain ticket as it seeks to make inroads among voters worried about the current economic crisis.

Mainly, however, Democrats (in this scenario) are not prone to forgiveness. After all, it was during this same campaign cycle that Republicans belittled the $400 haircut that former Sen. John Edwards had paid for with his own campaign money (the funds were later reimbursed). And yet, the comparison to that once-dominant news story is hardly close: if Edwards had gotten one of his legendary haircuts every singe week, it would still take him 7.2 years to spend what Palin has spent. Palin has received the equivalent of $2,500 in clothes per day from places such as Saks Fifth Avenue (where RNC expenditures totaled nearly $50,000) and Neiman Marcus (where the governor had a $75,000 spree).

Beyond the political tit-for-tat, however, the revelation of the clothing expenditures offers what some Democrats see as a chance not just to win several news cycles during the campaign's waning days but to severely damage Palin's image as a small-town, 'Joe Six-Pack' American.

"It shows that Palin ain't like the rest of us," Tom Matzzie, a Democratic strategist told the Huffington Post, when asked how the party would or could use the issue. "It can help deflate her cultural populism with the Republican base. The plumber's wife doesn't go to Nieman's or Saks."

Indeed, the story could not come at a more inopportune time for the McCain campaign. During a week in which the Republican ticket is trying to highlight its connection to the working class -- and, by extension, promoting its newest campaign tool, Joe the Plumber -- it was revealed that Palin's fashion budget for several weeks was more than four times the median salary of an American plumber ($37,514). To put it another way: Palin received more valuable clothes in one month than the average American household spends on clothes in 80 years. A Democrat put it in even blunter terms: her clothes were the cost of health care for 15 or so people.

There are, in these cases, legal questions surrounding campaign expenditures. Though, on this front, Palin and the RNC seem to be in the clear.

"I don't think it's taxed," said David Donnelly of Campaign Money Watch. "I don't think she can keep it. It's owned by the RNC. They had to use coordinated funds to pay for the clothes."

And certainly the possibility exists that this issue can be effectively swept under the rug. Palin is not known for taking impromptu questions from the press. Moreover, the media, at this juncture, has other major story lines (see: upcoming election) to grapple with, thus denying the piece the relative vacuum that accompanied the Edwards story. Finally, there is little desire among conservative writers or pundits to litigate the matter, even if they were more than happy to jump on board when a Democrat was in the spotlight.

Several hours after Politico posted its findings, the topic remained nearly untouched by the major right-wing outlets. Though as Marc Ambinder at the Atlantic opined:

"Republicans, RNC donors and at least one RNC staff member have e-mailed me tonight to share their utter (and not-for-attribution) disgust at the expenditures. ... The heat for this story will come from Republicans who cannot understand how their party would do something this stupid ... particularly (and, it must be said, viewed retroactively) during the collapse of the financial system and the probable beginning of a recession."

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Heroine: Noha Ostadh

Noha Ostadh
Ms Ostadh fought back and then went public about her ordeal

An Egyptian man has been jailed for three years with hard labour for sexual harassment of a woman in the street.

Sharif Gommaa was also ordered to pay 5,001 Egyptian pounds ($895) damages to Noha Rushdi Saleh for the attack in Cairo's Heliopolis district.

Women's rights activists welcomed the ruling saying it was the first known case of prison for such an offence.

The defendant was accused of repeatedly groping Noha Rushdi Saleh as he drove slowly alongside her in his car.

Although many Egyptian women and visiting foreigners complain of unwanted sexual advances in Egyptian streets, the subject is rarely addressed by the authorities or mainstream media.

After an hour-long tussle she dragged her attacker to a police station

However, this attack in June became the focus of media coverage after the 27-year-old filmmaker, also known as Noha Ostadh, went public about her ordeal.

She told the BBC how shocked she had been at her attacker's behaviour, and also at the attitude of passers-by who told her not to go to the police - while others blamed her for provoking the attack.

After an hour-long tussle in which she dragged Gomaa to a police station, she says the police officers initially refused to open an investigation.

Cairo street scene
Women regularly face harassment on the streets of Egyptian cities
The case was taken up by the Badeel opposition daily, which blamed Egypt's oppressive government, and "the majority of citizens who identified with the oppressor", and "decades of incitement against women" in some mosques.


Egyptian women's rights campaigners have praised the judge for handing down what is being seen as a harsh, exemplary sentence.

Engy Ghozlan, of the Egyptian Centre for Women's Rights, told AFP news agency: "This is the first case we know of where someone was jailed for groping.

"The judge was obviously setting an example."

The organisation released a survey this year that showed 98% of foreign women and 83% of Egyptian women had experienced sexual harassment. Nearly two-thirds of men admitted harassing women in public.

But very few reported cases because of a "total lack of confidence in the police and judicial systems", Engy Ghozlan said.

In an unusual development earlier in October, eight men were arrested in Cairo for allegedly taking part in a mob-style sexual attack on women pedestrians.

The attack, during the Eid holiday, was reminiscent of an incident in 2006 during the same holiday which marks the end of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan.

On both occasions, witnesses reported that police officers were present but did nothing to protect women who were violently groped and had some of their clothing torn off.

Monday, October 20, 2008

How Can More Than 30 Million Women Be Invisible?
Mable F. Yee, The Women's Media Center: "This election cycle, media pundits and analysts have blanketed the coverage ad nausea with discussions of the black versus the white vote. They occasionally address the brown vote. But the conversation remains largely superficial: What happened to the women? How come no one ever hears about the Asian American women and other women of color who happen to number over 30 million registered voters in the United States today?"

At least Rushdie and Kazantzakis wrote works worth fighting for...

BBC: When Islam meets Bridget Jones

The Jewel of Medina - Would you read this book?

By Shelina Zahra Janmohamed
Even if you feel that it is your duty to read it in the defence of freedom of speech, don't do it, I beg you - go out and enjoy the last sunny days of autumn, play with your children, watch paint dry - you'll thank me for it.

A romantic telling of the life of one of the wives of Islam's prophet has caused controversy among some Muslims - and its publication has been indefinitely postponed in the UK amid fears of a violent reaction. But is The Jewel of Medina actually any good? Blogger Shelina Zahra Janmohamed is one of the few people in Britain to have read it.

The Jewel of Medina is a chest-heaving, brassiere-busting book of outrageously tacky historical romantic fiction.

Some parts of the media are suggesting that this book is at the forefront of defending free speech. The author wants it to reach out to solve our global problems of intercultural dialogue. Between them they had me rolling around on the floor laughing.

Prophet Muhammad novel scrapped

The book claims to tell the story of Aisha, the wife of the Prophet Muhammad, through her own eyes, from the age of six, through adolescence and into adulthood. But although she lives through one of the most dramatic periods of history, the narrative conveys little of the enormity of the changes of the era, and of which Aisha was a huge part.

Sherry Jones, the author, says she wanted her book to be "at once a love story, a history lesson and a coming-of-age tale".

In order to do so, she fabricates a storyline about a lover, Safwan, whom Aisha runs away with - but then decides to leave and return to Muhammad.

But this invented plot dominates, leaving barely any room for the real history and importance of her story.

Whether you believe her to be fact, fiction or fantasy, and Muslims believe her to be very real, Aisha is of great significance in global history. The one fifth of the world population who are Muslim regards her as the wife of the Prophet Muhammad and a "mother of the believers".

She is said to have been a leading scholar and teacher and recounted many of the traditions about the personality of Muhammad.

Muslims hold Muhammad, Aisha and other religious figures very close to their hearts, dearer to them than their own parents, and just as much to be respected, protected and defended.

Muslims believe they went through enormous hardship in order to keep the spiritual message of faith intact, and in return wish to honour their contribution.

This is to be carried out in a measured and peaceful manner, in keeping with the spirit of Islam that advises returning harsh words with good ones, and malice with mercy.

With this in mind, I would have ignored this book and let it fade into obscurity. Allowing the book to be remembered only for the lack of interest it generated would have been the ultimate poetic justice.

The original publisher pulled out - and those parts of the media who wanted to stir things up said Muslims wanted it banned.

So, in order to find out what the (manufactured) fuss was about, I found myself spending 12 dreary hours reading this cringe-worthy melodramatic prose.

Even if you feel that it is your duty to read it in the defence of freedom of speech, don't do it, I beg you. Go out and enjoy the last sunny days of autumn, play with your children, watch paint dry. You'll thank me for it.


So let's deal with its literary merits. If you're a man, you'll probably hate this bodice-ripper. If you like well-written prose, then you should steer clear too.

What it does have going for it is pace and saucy pre-TV-watershed romance.

Open it randomly and you read churning phrases such as: "His eyes like honey flowed sweet glances over my face and body," or "Is your young bride ripe at last?" Grab a crumbling Flake and a pot of ice-cream.

The author claims she wants to humanise Aisha, to reach out to the Muslim world and to create debate.

I found the opposite of this spirit in the book. Muslims will not recognise the characters and stories here because they vary so wildly with recorded history. As the copyright note makes clear, this is a work of fiction.

Take, for example, the night of "Hijrah". This was the moment when the first band of Muslims left the hostile city of Mecca to move to Medina where Islam flourished - a turning point in Islamic history. But the book changes events to place Aisha at the house of Muhammad.

Jones changes the very essence of these individuals, so their characters are at odds with historical traditions.

Ali, the cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet, as well as one of the great leaders of early Islam, is portrayed as conniving, hot-tempered and lascivious. The Islamic texts document him as a consistently staunch defender of truth and justice, an upstanding character.

So, if you drive a wedge between Muslims and others by fictionalising core characters, how can the book be a platform for debate?

Jones admits that she has introduced concepts that were absent from the period and place to help to create her story.

For example, Aisha is put into purdah, seclusion, as a child, but this is an Indian sub-continental idea then unknown to Arabia.

A huge focus of Aisha's energies is to become the hatun, the lead wife, and make all the other wives bow to her. But hatun is a Turkish concept - and bowing is contrary to all Islamic teachings.

What we end up with is an outdated Orientalist reading of an exoticised woman.

Aisha's angst is the angst of 19th Century western writers who couldn't understand the culture they were observing. And when they couldn't understand, they maligned the ideas they found unfamiliar, such as veiling of women like Aisha.

The result is an awkward unconvincing story, created to fit a pre-existing pre-determined idea of what life for Muslim women ought to be like. The cover art is The Queen of the Harem, a 19th Century Orientalist painting of a European-looking woman.

Sex, sex and more sex

The most irritating thing is its constant obsession with sex. The author sees it everywhere and in everything, and makes Aisha do the same. Her life is reduced to a parody of a smutty Bridget Jones diary.

I lost count of the references to "child bride". Even till relatively modern times, marriage for women in their early teens was completely natural and common in parts of the world, including Europe.

Many Muslims will indeed be offended by this book, and they should make clear why they feel hurt. If our society upholds the right to offend, then the right to be offended goes with it. But it is respect and empathy for their feelings that Muslims want, not fear.

What we need for debate and discussion are accessible histories of all the key figures in Islamic history. As Muslims, instead of honouring these individuals blindly, we will accord them much more respect by opening our eyes to their achievements through critical re-examination of their lives. This cannot be done in an atmosphere of fear and intimidation.

Some Muslims oppose a style of writing and analysis that offers insights into the very human lives these individuals led.

I believe this opposition is misplaced, because that is what we already do with the words and deeds of the Prophet, known as the hadith: we read, empathise and re-apply the essence of those day-to-day experiences.

The crucial issue in creating positive understanding and dialogue through such writings is that they must be historically sound, and see the world through the experiences, morality and realities of the protagonists themselves.

Shelina Zahra Janmohamed's is the author of the Spirit 21 blog. Her book, Love in a Headscarf, will be published in February 2009. Jewel of Medina, by Sherry Jones, is available from international book-sellers - but not currently on sale in the UK.

Second wife of the prophet
Betrothed as a child
Arrangement described as a typical political union of the times
Aisha recorded his life and teachings
Regarded as a scholar
Dubbed 'Mother of the Believers'
Accused of role in splits after prophet's death
Buried alongside prophet's companions

Friday, October 17, 2008

Rape Victims’ Words Help Jolt Congo Into Change

NY Times International / Africa

Published: October 18, 2008
Congo, it seems, is finally facing its horrific rape problem, which United Nations officials have called the worst sexual violence in the world.

Read the article here

Murder of Military Women
Ann Wright, Truthout: "The October 14, 2008, editorial, 'Our View: Military Domestic Violence Needs More Aggressive Prevention,' by The Fayetteville Observer, focused on the murders of four military women in North Carolina and contained a startling comment: 'In a way, it's surprising that there aren't more bodies piling up at military bases all over this nation.' The Observer is the newspaper that serves Fort Bragg, one of the military's largest bases."

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The woman is a 'silly girl' who lost her job, but the man is 'Vince Charming'

Beach sex sentence 'sets example'

By Christian Fraser
BBC News

Michelle Palmer and Vince Acors montage picture
Vince Acors and Michelle Palmer have been given a three-month jail term

It was the summer tabloid sensation. A British couple arrested for having sex, on a public beach, in a country of strict Islamic values.

For three months 36-year-old Michelle Palmer and her one night stand Vince Acors were barred from leaving Dubai.

Now they have been sentenced to three months in prison and ordered to leave the country once that sentence has been served. The humiliation is complete.

There had been speculation, given the importance of tourism to the Dubai economy, that the judges sitting on this case would be lenient.

But three months will serve as a warning to others that while the Dubai authorities might turn a blind eye to some things that go on behind closed doors, they won't tolerate this type of drunken behaviour.

Not that Dubai is on its own in considering such behaviour offensive and punishable by law.

'Silly girl'

The couple were arrested in July on the popular Jumeirah beach. They had been drinking all day after meeting at a champagne brunch party.

The policemen who arrested them said, despite an earlier warning about their inappropriate behaviour, he had later returned to find them having sex on a sunlounger.

As the pair were dragged away the policeman said he was assaulted by Ms Palmer who waved a shoe in his face.

There have been so many different versions of the story - tests had proved they did have sex, her lawyer insisted they hadn't, it was even reported they had got married in secret to avoid a harsher sentence.

But even before a verdict had been delivered, Ms Palmer's indiscretion had cost her a tax free executive job and her reputation.

Burj Al Arab hotel in Dubai
The Burj Al Arab hotel is symbolic of Dubai's glamorous reputation

Her friends say she is so upset by what happened - and how it has been covered - that she has been admitted to hospital suffering panic attacks.

Not that the British expat community have much sympathy.

"She is a silly girl," said Samantha Wright, 26, from Bristol. "Before I came here I read up on the dos and don'ts. I wouldn't dream of kissing my friend out on the street.

"This is an Islamic country. We have to respect their traditions. We expect the same in our country. You should dress and behave appropriately when you are somebody's guest."

The focus of the story has - as it often does - fallen on the role of the woman. Vince Acors, a father of one and company director, has been spared any of the same humiliation.

He was dubbed "Vince Charming" for his success with women.

But is it just the two Britons that were on trial here?

Dubai is a city so full of contradiction.

When you get given a brochure that sells Dubai as some glamorous party city that is not the cultural or legal reality that is found here
Wael Al Sayegh,
Alghaf HRC [cultural consultancy]
It's a strict conservative society, where it's illegal to be gay or to kiss your wife in public - but also a city that caters for almost every Western taste.

They have attracted so many expats over the years Emiratis are now the minority, barely 20% of the population.

In one sense the Emiratis should be congratulated for their tolerance, and other Middle Eastern countries look on enviously as the economy expands at a staggering rate.

But at what cost to their culture?

Some blame the cheap package holidays which travel companies are now selling. For Britons, Dubai is now the second most popular, long-haul destination after Florida - last year attracting over one million British tourists.


"It's the pace of change," said Wael Al Sayegh, of Alghaf HRC, a cultural consultancy.

"There are businesses outside the region that are now selling Dubai in a manner that might be financially viable for their business but not in any shape or form a cultural reality."

"When you get given a brochure that sells Dubai as some glamorous party city that is not the cultural or legal reality that is found here.

"We have always been an open-minded and tolerant nation and obviously different lifestyles are accommodated for, but not at the expense of our culture and the very elements that made us tolerant in the first place."

Opinions differed on what to do with this couple. Some wanted the judges to set an example with a heavier sentence. Others said a guilty verdict would be damaging to the image the ruling Al Makhtoum family has created.

In the end the judges - and probably the majority of Emiratis - felt the behaviour was so appalling that a three month custodial sentence was the bare minimum they deserved.

Read original article here

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Blog: Women speak out on Sarah Palin

This blog consists of real women's reactions to the selection of Governor Palin as the Republican VP & gender issues inherent in the campaign. Please feel free to contribute to this open forum by e-mailing your thoughts & opinions, commenting on gender issues in the campaign as a whole, and/or sending us your concerns related to your needs from our future government. Simply e-mail your thoughts by text or better yet by a video link to an online video (e.g., YouTube, Yahoo Video, Google, etc.) to: If you'd like to make a video but are not sure how to upload it to the 'net, please e-mail us with any questions.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

"Black woman walking"

By Tracey Rose –Restricted Freedom of Movement of Black Women

"My Daughter's Dream Became a Nightmare"

The Murder of Military Women Continues

by: Ann Wright, t r u t h o u t | Perspective

US Army Specialist Megan Lynn Touma was killed in June 2008 in a motel room in North Carolina. (Photo: AP)

"My daughter's dream became a nightmare," sadly said Gloria Barrios, seven months after her daughter, US Air Force Senior Airman Blanca Luna, was murdered on Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas.

On March 7, 2008, Senior Airman Luna, 27, was found dead in her room at the Sheppard Air Force Base Inn, an on-base lodging facility. She had been stabbed in the back of the neck with a short knife. Luna, an Air Force Reservist with four years of prior military service in the Marine Corps including a tour in Japan, was killed three days before she was to graduate from an Air Conditioning, Ventilation and Heating training course.

When she was notified of her daughter's death, she was handed a letter from Major General K.C. McClain, commander of the Air Force Personnel Center, which stated that her daughter "was found dead on 7 March 2008 at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, as the result of an apparent homicide." When her body was returned to her family for burial, Barrios and other family members saw bruises on Blanca's face and wounds on her fingers as if she were defending herself. One of the investigators later told Mrs. Barrios that Blanca had been killed in an "assassin-like" manner. Friends say that she told them some in her unit "had given her problems."

Seven months later, Luna's mother made her first visit to the base where her daughter was killed, to pry more information from the Air Force about her daughter's death. Although the Air Force sent investigators to her home in Chicago several times to brief her on the case, she was concerned that the Air Force would not provide a copy of the autopsy report and other documents, seven months after Luna was killed. The Air Force says it cannot provide Mrs. Barrios with a copy of the autopsy as the investigation is "ongoing." Mrs. Barrios plans to have an independent autopsy conducted.

She was accompanied by her sister and six persons from a support group in Chicago and by several concerned Texans from Dallas, Fort Worth and Denton. The Chicago support group, composed of long-time, experienced social justice activists in the Hispanic community, also included Juan Torres, whose son John, an Army soldier, was found dead under very suspicious circumstances in 2004 at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. Because of his battle to get documents from the Army bureaucracy on the death of his son four years ago, Torres has been helping the Barrios family in their effort to gain information about the death of Luna.

When Mrs. Barrios and friends arrived on the Air Base they were greeted by five Air Force officials. Mrs. Barrios requested that her support group be allowed to join her in an Air Force-conducted bus tour of the facilities where her daughter went to school and the lodging facility where she was found dead, but the request was denied. Mrs. Barrios then asked that her friend and translator, Magda Castaneda, and I be allowed to go on the bus and attend the meeting with the base commander and investigators.

After consultation with the base public affairs officer, Deputy Wing Commander Colonel Norsworthy decreed that only Mrs. Barrios' sister and Mr. Torres could accompany her. Mrs. Barrios, her sister and Mr. Torres are not fluent in English. Mrs. Barrios told the Air Force officers she did not feel comfortable with having translators provided by the Air Force and again asked that Mrs. Castaneda be allowed to translate for her as Mrs. Castaneda had done numerous times during Air Force briefings at her home. She asked that I be allowed to go, as I knew the military bureaucracy.

In front of the support group, the Air Force public affairs officer, George Woodward, advised Colonel Norsworthy not to allow Mrs. Casteneda and me to come on the base and attend the meetings as both of us were "outspoken in the media and their presence would jeopardize the integrity of the meeting with the family."

Mrs. Castaneda countered that during a previous meeting with the Air Force investigators in Chicago, she had been told by one investigator that she asked too many questions. Could that be the reason that she was unable to accompany Mrs. Barrios, she asked? Mrs. Barrios also reminded the officers that after she was interviewed for an article about her daughter that was published in July in the Chicago Reader, "Murder on the Base", she was warned by an Air Force official not to speak to the media again.

Mrs. Castaneda demanded that Woodward provide her a copy of the article on which he based his decision to recommend to the deputy base commander that she not be allowed on the base to translate for the family. Several hours later, Woodward gave Castaneda an article from Indy media in which she was quoted as the translator for Mrs. Barrios, and in which she had translated Barrios' statement: "Luna a four year Marine veteran."

While Colonel Wright (the author of this article) has written numerous articles concerning the rape and murder of women in the military, she reminded the officers that she holds a valid military ID card as a retired colonel, that she had not violated any laws or military regulations by writing and speaking about issues of violence against women in the military and that most families of military members who have been killed are at a disadvantage in dealing with the military bureaucracy in finding answers to the questions they have about the deaths of their loved ones. She reminded the officials that the parents of NFL football player Pat Tillman, who after three Congressional hearings on the death of their son in Afghanistan in 2002, still don't have answers to the questions of who killed their son and why the perpetrator of the crime hasn't been brought to justice. Families of "ordinary" service members, and particularly families with limited knowledge of the military and with limited financial means find themselves at the mercy of the military for information.

The base Catholic chaplain and the staff Judge Advocate, both colonels, were silent during the exchange. One would have thought that perhaps a chaplain who watched as Mrs. Barrios, a single mother whose only daughter had been killed and whose English was minimal, broke down in tears and sat sobbing on the curb as the public affairs officer described her friends as "outspoken and a threat to the integrity of the meetings" would have been sensitive to a grieving mother's need for a family friend who had translated in all the previous meetings with the Air Force investigators - but he was silent. Likewise, the senior lawyer on the base, who no doubt had handled many criminal cases, would have recognized that a distraught mother would need someone who could take notes and understand the nuances of the discussion in English during the very stressful discussions with the investigators - but he was silent. Instead, the colonels bowed to the civilian public affairs officer's advice that "outspoken" women were a threat to the "integrity of the meeting."

Eventually, Mrs. Barrios, her sister Algeria and Juan Torres met with Brigadier General Mannon, commander of the 82nd Training Wing, and with three members of the Office of Special Investigations. Mrs. Barrios said they were given no new information about the investigation and questioned again why her friends, who over the past seven months have been a part of the briefings from the Air Force, had been kept out of meetings where the Air Force officials knew they were not going to provide any new information.

Since 2003, there have been 34 homicides and 218 "self-inflicted" deaths (suicides) in the Air Force, and in 2007-2008 alone, five homicides and 35 "self-inflicted" deaths according to the Public Affairs Office of the 82nd Training Wing at Sheppard Air Force base.

On the same day that Mrs. Barrios went to Sheppard Air Force Base, October 3, 2008, the US Army announced that a US Army woman sergeant had been killed near Fort Bragg, North Carolina, by a stab wound in the neck. Sergeant Christina Smith, 29, was stabbed on September 30, 2008, allegedly by her US Army husband Sergeant Richard Smith, who was accompanied by Private First Class Matthew Kvapil.

Smith was the fourth military woman murdered in North Carolina in the past nine months.

On June 21, 2008, US Army Specialist Megan Touma, 23, was killed inside a Fayetteville, North Carolina, hotel, less than two weeks after she arrived at Fort Bragg from an assignment in Germany. She was seven months pregnant. Sergeant Edgar Patino, a married male soldier assigned to Fort Bragg, whom Touma knew from Germany and who reportedly was the father of the unborn child, has been arrested for her murder.

On July 10, 2008, Army 2nd Lt. Holley Wimunc, an Army nurse at Fort Bragg, was killed. Her estranged husband, Marine Corporal John Wimunc of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, has been arrested in her death and the burning of her body and Lance Corporal Kyle Alden was arrested for destroying evidence and providing a false alibi.

Marine Lance Cpl. Maria Lauterbach had been raped in May 2007 and protective orders had been issued against the alleged perpetrator, fellow Marine Cpl. Cesar Laurean. The burned body of Lauterbach and her unborn baby were found in a shallow grave in the backyard of Laurean's home in January 2008. Laurean fled to Mexico, where he was captured by Mexican authorities. He is currently awaiting extradition to the United States to stand trial. Lauterbach's mother testified before Congress on July 31, 2008, that the Marine Corps ignored warning signs that Laurean was a danger to her daughter.

On Wednesday, October 8, at 11:30 a.m., a vigil for the four military women and all victims of violence will be held at the Main Gate at Fort Bragg, followed by a discussion on violence against women at the Quaker Peace Center in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and by a wreath laying at Lafayette Memorial Park. The events are sponsored by the Coalition to End Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault in the Military, Veterans for Peace and the Quaker Peace Center.


Ann Wright is a retired Army Reserve colonel and a 29-year veteran of the Army and Army Reserves. She was a diplomat in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia, Afghanistan and Mongolia. She resigned from the Department of State on March 19, 2003, in opposition to the Iraq war. She has written several articles on violence against women in the military, including "Sexual Assault in the Military: A DoD Cover-Up?", "U.S. Military Keeping Secrets About Female Soldiers' 'Suicides'?" and "Is There an Army Cover Up of Rape and Murder of Women Soldiers?". She is also the co-author of the book, "Dissent: Voices of Conscience."

Sunday, October 05, 2008


Clint Eastwood directs Angelina Jolie and John Malkovich in a provocative thriller based on actual events: Changeling. In the film, Christine Collins' (Jolie) prayers are met when her kidnapped son is returned. But amidst the frenzy of the photo-op reunion, she realizes this child is not hers. Facing corrupt police and a skeptical public, she desperately hunts for answers, only to be confronted by a truth that will change her forever.

Los Angeles, 1928: On a Saturday morning in a working-class suburb, Christine said goodbye to her son, Walter, and left for work. When she came home, she discovered he had vanished. A fruitless search ensues, and months later, a boy claiming to be the nine-year-old is returned. Dazed by the swirl of cops, reporters and her conflicted emotions, Christine allows him to stay overnight. But in her heart, she knows he is not Walter.

As she pushes authorities to keep looking, she learns that in Prohibition-era L.A. women don't challenge the system and live to tell their story. Slandered as delusional and unfit, Christine finds an ally in activist Reverend Briegleb (Malkovich), who helps her fight the city to look for her missing boy. Based on the actual incident that rocked California's legal system, Changeling tells the shocking tale of a mother's quest to find her son, and those who won't stop until they silence her.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Campbell Brown: "Stop treating Palin like a delicate flower"

Arts / Television
Weighing In: An Anchor Tacks Toward Commentary
Published: October 4, 2008
Campbell Brown has found resonance with CNN viewers by taking a more opinionated approach on her show, “Election Center.”

Assessing Palin

There have, of course, been many assessments, pro and con, of Palin's performance since Thursday's VP debate. She seems to have benefited from the low expectations created by her interviews with Katie Couric, but having seen clips of her previous debates, I was sure she would do well.
From the standpoint of women's issues, this is the most incisive - and sobering - assessment so far.
Talking in Points
Published: October 4, 2008
This entire election season has been a long-running saga about the rise of women in American politics. On Thursday, it all went sour.

The Republicans were euphoric over Sarah Palin’s debate performance, particularly the part in which she stood tall and refrained from falling off the stage. “There are conservatives and Republicans across America who are ... breathing a sigh of relief,” said Pat Buchanan on MSNBC, adding that “of the four debaters we’ve seen, she was the most interesting, attractive of them all.”

Palin did indeed answer each question with poise and self-confidence, reeling off a bunch of talking points that were sometimes totally unrelated to the matter at hand. When she was asked to respond to Joe Biden’s critique of the McCain health care plan, she announced: “I would like to respond about the tax increases,” cheerfully ignoring the fact that tax increases had never been mentioned.

After the recent Katie Couric unpleasantness, Palin told the viewers that this time they were getting a chance to hear her “answer these tough questions without the filter.” And, indeed, her answers were murky in the extreme. She railed repeatedly about government regulations getting in the way of the private sector, then announced that the financial rescue plan “has got to include that massive oversight that Americans are expecting and deserving.” She said that she didn’t want to discuss what caused global warming, only how to ease its impact.

She appeared to agree with Dick Cheney’s manic theory that the vice president is a member of both the executive and legislative branches, although it’s hard to tell since she began her answer this way: “Well, our founding fathers were very wise there in allowing through the Constitution much flexibility there in the office of the vice president. And we will do what is best for the American people in tapping into that position and ushering in an agenda that is supportive and cooperative with the president’s agenda in that position.”

When the moderator, Gwen Ifill, asked under what circumstances the candidates would consider bringing America’s nuclear weapons into play, Palin said: “Nuclear weaponry, of course, would be the be-all, end-all of just too many people in too many parts of our planet, so those dangerous regimes, again, cannot be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons, period.”

It’s hard to remember that a month ago, very few people had ever heard of Sarah Palin. McCain sprung his vice-presidential selection on us at the last minute, possibly under the impression that the country felt things had gotten too boring lately, and would appreciate the excitement of having a minimally experienced political unknown serving as backup to a 72-year-old cancer survivor.

Since then, she has spent most of her time going from one Republican rally to the next, repeating chunks of her convention speech, which have grown more disjointed with every stop. (In an airplane hangar in Ohio recently, she told the people of Youngstown she was happy to be there because Alaska has, per capita, the nation’s most “small planes and small pilots.”)

For reporters hoping to question her, she has been determinedly unfindable, a Judge Crater from Juneau. And after the Couric debacle, you can bet your boots that the campaign is going to take Palin’s debate performance, declare victory and wrap her up until after the election.

This is all a terrible shame. For us, mainly. But also for Palin, whose intelligence and toughness may wind up buried under the legend of her verb-deprived ramblings.

Palin is, in many ways, a genuine heir to the women’s liberation movement of the 1970s, which tried to make sure that future generations of American women would grow up feeling they had every right to compete with men for all the best rewards and adventures the world had to offer. She never seems to have had a single doubt that she could accomplish whatever she set her mind to. When she got involved in politics, she used the time-honored male route of cultivating powerful mentors, then pushing them out of the way at the first possible opportunity. When she was governor, she did what very few female politicians do, and ignored all the subsidiary issues in order to put all her bets on one big policy payoff in the form of a new state energy policy.

Then, somehow, she concluded that her success in clawing her way to the top of Alaska’s modest political heap meant she was capable of running the United States.

This entire election season has been a long-running saga about the rise of women in American politics. On Thursday, it all went sour. The people boosting Palin’s triumph were not celebrating because she demonstrated that she is qualified to be president if something ever happened to John McCain. They were cheering her success in covering up her lack of knowledge about the things she would have to deal with if she wound up running the country.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Saudi cleric favours one-eye veil

Saudi woman in full face veil, or niqab
The two-eyed look remains too seductive for Sheikh Habadan

A Muslim cleric in Saudi Arabia has called on women to wear a full veil, or niqab, that reveals only one eye.

Sheikh Muhammad al-Habadan said showing both eyes encouraged women to use eye make-up to look seductive.

The question of how much of her face a woman should cover is a controversial topic in many Muslim societies.

The niqab is more common in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf, but women in much of the Muslim Middle East wear a headscarf which covers only their hair.

Sheikh Habadan, an ultra-conservative cleric who is said to have wide influence among religious Saudis, was answering questions on the Muslim satellite channel al-Majd.

See original BBC article here

Related article: Why Muslim Women Wear the Veil

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Children of Women


by: Michelle Goldberg, The Guardian UK

News of abortion rates declining could mean stricter laws are preventing the procedure. (Photo: CNN )

The abortion rate in the US has fallen to a 30-year low, but the reasons for the decline are not cause for celebration.

The news that the abortion rate in the US has fallen to its lowest level since Roe v Wade seems, at first, unambiguously heartening. After all, despite what some on the right may think, no one, not even the most zealous pro-choice activist, likes abortion. Even if you don't think there's anything immoral about terminating an unwanted pregnancy, it is always painful for the woman involved, both physically and, in many cases, emotionally. So it seems like great news that, according to a new study by the Guttmacher Institute, America's premier sexual and reproductive health thinktank, abortion rates, declining since 1990, reached a three-decade low in 2004, the last year for which data is available.

Before we start celebrating, though, it's worth noting that while abortion has declined, accidental pregnancy has not. It would be fantastic if American abortion rates had gotten so low because, thanks to better access to family planning, fewer women were finding themselves pregnant when they didn't want to be. But according to a previous Guttmacher study, about 49% of pregnancies in the US are unintended, a number that's been pretty consistent since the mid-1990s. Certainly, not all of those pregnancies were regarded as calamities. For some women, they were probably happy surprises. But there is no reason to believe that unintentional fecundity is any more welcome now than it was in the past. Yet more women are carrying their unplanned pregnancies to term. Is that a good thing?

If it's really a result of women's choices, it's certainly not a bad thing. Perhaps American women are becoming more anti-abortion, and are acting on that conviction, which no one can argue with. Yet there's evidence that part of the reason abortion rates are falling is because, due to increased restrictions and a shrinking number of providers, women are finding it harder to terminate their pregnancies. "Based on the knowledge that we have, we think [the decline] is kind of a mixture of decreased access, at least for some women in some parts of the country, and, for some populations of women, better use of contraceptive methods," said Rachel Jones, a senior research associate at Guttmacher who served as the abortion study's project manager.

Wyoming, for example, measured one of the steepest declines in its abortion rate - a decrease of more than 73% since 1996. At the same time, it's become much harder to get an abortion in that state. Since 1996, there's been a 21% increase in the number of Wyoming women who live in counties without an abortion provider. The state once had eight doctors performing abortions. Now it has two.

For the anti-abortion movement, no doubt, this is good news. And it cuts against evidence from other countries showing that there is very little connection between abortion's legal availability and its incidence. Worldwide, some of the highest abortion rates are in South America and East Africa, both regions that also have some of the world's strictest abortion laws. (In 2004, America's abortion rate - the number of abortions per 1,000 women, was 19.7. Compare that to World Health Organisation figures which show that there are 29 unsafe abortions per 1,000 women in Latin America and the Caribbean, and a startling 39 per 1,000 women in East Africa). The Guttmacher study, then, offers some evidence that anti-abortion legislation can do what it sets out to do, which is to prevent women with unwanted pregnancies from ending them.

For those who care about reproductive rights, though, the news from Guttmacher is far more mixed. Recently, there's been lots of talk about abortion reduction as a bipartisan approach to an issue that perennially inflames American politics. This approach has much to recommend it, as long as it focuses the underlying problem, which is unwanted pregnancy. So far, the US record on that front is spotty. America has been pretty successful in tackling the teen pregnancy rate, which has gone down overall, but less successful in getting contraceptives to adult women who need them. We still have insurance plans that cover Viagra but refuse to pay for birth control, and far too many women who don't have any reproductive healthcare at all.

Anti-abortion campaigners sometimes say that women deserve better than abortion, and they're right. They deserve help in protecting themselves, as much as possible, from unwanted pregnancy. Until there's a healthcare system that does that, it's hard to see much progress.

Have fun during the debate

Moment of Zen: Pathetic piece of tape

Thanks to Jon Stewart and my grumpy old doppelganger and soulmate, Jack Cafferty.

See the full Oct 1st, 2008 episode here


While suturing a cut on the hand of a 75 year old rancher, whose hand was
caught in the gate while working cattle, the doctor struck up a conversation
with the old man. Eventually the topic got around to Sarah Palin and her
political bid.

The old rancher said, "Well, ya know, Palin is a 'Post Turtle'". Not being
familiar with the term, the doctor asked him what a 'post turtle' was. The
old rancher said, "When you're driving down a country road you come across a
fence post with a turtle balanced on top, that's a 'post turtle".

The old rancher saw the puzzled look on the doctor's face so he continued
to explain. "You know she didn't get up there by herself, she doesn't belong
up there, and she doesn't know what to do while she's up there, and you just
wonder what kind of dummy put her up there to begin with".

(I've also seen this on the Web in relation to Obama, so I suppose one can insert the name of one's choice)


by James Ebb Huggins, Jr.

There once was a turtle found sitting on a post.
Why it was there is a secret unknown to most.
How did it get there, and why? Who did this devious deed?
The issue will be settled with deliberately little speed.

Did it climb there? Was it placed there? What mystery will it share?
What story from an unknown source will be released with much care?
Will the doer of the deed be prepared to repent?
For the Angel of Truth and Justice will surely be sent.

The farmer who found the turtle on that fateful day,
Says, "The evil one who put it there will surely have to pay".
For with his own hands he planted the mighty post so strong.
And with his own will, he shall find the doer of the wrong.

The moral of the story is, if you put a turtle on a post,
Be prepared for the final penalty from the Master Host.
Be prepared to justify your actions, no untruths shall you send,
For the Angel of Truth and Justice will triumph in the end.

But the farmer could not discover who put the turtle on the post,
Even though he searched the land from sea to shining coast.
For falsehoods and untruths abound, and all were very tall,
And denial and contradictions were soon to overcome all.

So when the children saw the turtle sitting on the post.
They ask, "Who put it there, and why? Will truth ever boast?"
The leaders of our Country the answers they would not share,
For either it was politically incorrect, or perhaps they did not care.

So as the children grew and got a little older,
They became accustomed to the turtle on the post's shoulder.
In fact by the time they were grown,
All posts without a turtle were completely gone.

To them a post with no turtle looked so out of place.
Could it be that they were taught a clean post was a disgrace?
So to them, the thought of a clean post did not have a good ring.
Please sing dear Angel of Truth and Justice, please sing!

Compare and Contrast - a foretaste of tonight's debate?

Watch CBS Videos Online

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Taking a punt on Palin?

NY Times Op-Ed Columnist
Nixon, Bush, Palin
Published: October 2, 2008
The lesson of the last eight years is this: When power is a a passport to gamble, people can end up seriously broke or seriously dead. Does America want to roll the dice again?

"I know one thing: this is no time for further gambling. John McCain rolled the dice on Sarah Palin. I’m grateful to Bob Rice of Tangent Capital for pointing out that the actuarial risk, based on mortality tables, of Palin becoming president if the Republican ticket wins the election is about 1 in 6 or 7.

"That’s the same odds as your birthday falling on a Wednesday, or being delayed on two consecutive flights into Newark airport. Is America ready for that?"

Is the world?

Kansas Governor Says Obama Better for Women Than McCain
Steven K. Paulson, The Associated Press: "Sebelius, a Democrat, campaigned for presidential candidate Barack Obama in Pueblo, Colorado Springs and Denver on Tuesday. She said women are more likely than men to earn the minimum wage and go without health insurance and pension benefits. 'Women are at the forefront of the economic crisis,' she said during a panel discussion in Denver. Sebelius said she is promoting policies that Obama says will provide economic relief to small business owners, including many women."

Heroine: Maureen Dowd

Source: Mike Allen's Politico Playbook Daily Update, Sept 30, 2008

It was probably because of this column, which means it's worth reprinting:

Published: September 24, 2008
Gov. Sarah Palin and Henry Kissinger made an odd couple on Tuesday: the last impure Rockefeller Republican and the first pure Rovian Republican.

I don’t agree with those muttering darkly that the picture of Gov. Sarah Palin with a perky smile and shapely gams posing with a pleased Henry Kissinger, famous for calling power the ultimate aphrodisiac, is a sign of the apocalypse.

It isn’t even a sign of the apocalipstick.

How the mighty 85-year-old Henry the K has fallen from his days chasing Jill St. John and running the world to his hour briefing of a 44-year-old Wasilla hockey mom who may end up running the world.

Governor Palin knows a lot about the End of Days from her years at the Pentecostal Wasilla Assembly of God, which had preached (after a war in the Middle East about light vanquishing darkness) that Alaska would be a shelter for Rapturous “saved” Christians at the end of times when they ascend to heaven.

Sarah was motorcading around Manhattan even as a “greed is good” Wall Street experienced an End of Days vibe while a world gone sour on America descended on the United Nations.

After losing its moral superiority abroad with phony evidence for attacking Iraq, the U.S. has now lost its moral superiority in the financial arena. Once more, W. took the ball, carried it off the cliff and went biking.

It’s hard to imagine that John McCain and Sarah Palin still want advice from the Unwise Man Kissinger. It’s sort of like villagers in those old movies who bring in the wizened witch doctor to shake a stick over them.

Doctor K prolonged the war in Vietnam to help Nixon get re-elected and then advised W. on Iraq that the only way to beat an insurgency and save face is to stick it out, no matter how many American kids and foreign civilians die.

Sarah speed-dated diplomacy on Tuesday. She had her very first national security briefing from the director of national intelligence and then went to a meeting with the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai. He thanked her for the help of the Alaskan National Guard in Afghanistan and told her about his young son, Mirwais, which means “the Light of the House.” Then she met with President Álvaro Uribe of Colombia.

Finally, Sarah huddled with Henry in his Park Avenue office, next to pictures of Ford and Reagan. The two made an odd couple: the last impure Rockefeller Republican and the first pure Rovian Republican, grown totally in the petri dish of cultural crusaderism.

Summoning his old Harvard teaching days, Kissinger surely looked for a common didactic starting point: She has seen Russia. “Goot. I haff seen it, too.”

(A senior Palin campaign aide told CBS News’s Scott Conroy that the governor’s foreign-policy experience was atmospheric, akin to the way someone from Miami might obtain a feel for Latin America. “It is very much being able to look off the tip of Alaska,” the aide said. “Metaphorically, I’m talking about.”)

Kissinger probably explained détente and Metternich to Palin, while she explained the Iditarod and moose carving to him.

They talked Russia, which is relevant.

Republicans, who have won so many elections painting Democrats as socialists and pinkos, have now done so much irresponsible deregulating and deficit spending that they have to avoid fiscal Armageddon by turning America into a socialist, pinko society with nationalized financial institutions and a financial czar accountable to no one and no law.

And Governor Palin spends so much time ostracizing reporters who might quiz her on NATO or the liquidity crunch that her press strategy is beginning to smack of Putin’s — but less lethal.

Even if she blows off the First Amendment — and lets McCain’s Rove, Steve Schmidt, demonize the press even though she disdains women politicians who whine — Bill Clinton is still a fan.

Besides talking about what a great man John McCain is on “The View” and “David Letterman,” Bill praised Palin at his Clinton Global Initiative meeting in New York and will receive her there on Thursday.

“I come from Arkansas. I get why she is hot out there,” he said authoritatively, adding: “People look at her, and they say, ‘All those kids. Something that happens in everybody’s family. I’m glad she loves her daughter and she’s not ashamed of her. Glad that girl’s going around with her boyfriend. Glad they’re going to get married.’ ” He said voters would think: “I like that little Down syndrome kid. One of them lives down the street. They’re wonderful. ... And I like the idea that this guy does those long-distance races. Stayed in the race for 500 miles with a broken arm. My kind of guy.”

On “The View,” he said he understood that some women might vote for Palin on the basis of gender, even if it was against their economic interest.

“You can’t tell someone else that the ground on which they make their voting decision is irrational,” he said primly.

Well, actually you could, if you weren’t still sulking and plotting for 2012.