First is important; “can’t count” is better

Nine is enough

Margaret Chase Smith 1950I’ve long had this rule of thumb about progress for groups who have been traditionally underrepresented in an area. The person who is first is important, of course, indeed vital. But real equality takes place when one can’t count the number without looking it up.

So it’s excellent that Sarah Thomas is the first woman to referee a Super Bowl game. And there are plenty of other firsts in sports in recent years.

But “‘What is really going to excite me is when this is no longer aberrational or when this is no longer something that’s noteworthy,’ said Amy Trask, who in 1997 became the Oakland Raiders’ chief executive and the first woman of that rank in the N.F.L. Few have followed in similar roles.”

Once I knew all of the female spacefarers. Now that there have been more than five dozen, I look at the list and not recognize some of the names. And THAT is a GOOD thing. Too many to keep track of is the point of the exercise.

US Govt

There are currently 24 women in the US Senate and 58 all-time. That’s not nearly enough. Still, I can no longer name all of the current female Senators, which I could do as recently as the early 1990s. (Margaret Chase Smith, R-ME, was the ONLY woman in the Senate the year I was born.)

I’m looking forward to the point when I can’t name all of the women who have been on the US Supreme Court. (Hint: there have been five of them, and three are on the court presently.)

The late, great Ruth Bader Ginsburg had a great quote about this. “When I’m sometimes asked ‘When will there be enough [women on the Supreme Court]?’ and I say ‘When there are nine,’ people are shocked. But there’d been nine men, and nobody’s ever raised a question about that.” Amen.

Of course, I needed to get my calculator to count all of the women who have been elected President or Vice-President of the United States. I can’t count that high. Lessee, there’s one…

United Nations

UN Women announces the theme for International Women’s Day, 8 March 2021, as “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world.” It calls for “women’s full and effective participation and decision-making in public life, as well as the elimination of violence, for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls…

“The majority of the countries that have been more successful in stemming the tide of the COVID-19 pandemic and responding to its health and broader socio-economic impacts, are headed by women.

“For instance, Heads of Government in Denmark, Ethiopia, Finland, Germany, Iceland, New Zealand, and Slovakia have been widely recognized for the rapidity, decisiveness, and effectiveness of their national response to COVID-19, as well as the compassionate communication of fact-based public health information.

“Yet, women are Heads of State and Government in only 20 countries worldwide.”

Kübler-Ross and IMPOTUS defeat

 Remembering RBG

My daughter keeps track of GOP tropes. This design is available on sweatshirts.

You know, this political season has made me exhausted. I hoped the election would settle things, though I had my doubts.

Sure enough, Attorney General Barr is acting like IMPOTUS’ personal attorney. The future ex-President removes the scientist from overseeing a key climate assessment report. The grift continues. He seems to be engaged in a scorched earth policy. If he doesn’t concede, the GSA head won’t release the mechanism for Joe Biden to be a part of an orderly transition.

But it’s more than that. The vitriol is still strong. And, as people saw on my Facebook feed that Saturday, some guy came around to attack me personally for being pleased that Biden had won. It wasn’t some random guy either, but a fellow who had been my next-door neighbor when I was growing up in Binghamton, NY. Let’s call him Greg because that’s his name.

Greg had been around trolling me in the past. But I had found him useful. It’s important, I think, to understand how others think. This time, he was hyper-critical and fairly nasty at that. He said that I didn’t vote for the man because IMPOTUS had hurt my feelings?

Well, no, I objected to him trying to wreck the very fabric of the country: the postal service, the Census, the CDC, the Justice Department (see above), the EPA, etc, etc, etc.

Greg also seemed to be offended because I was a fool not to recognize that I’m financially better off under the regime. He never used the term directly. But I sensed that he was suggesting that since black people’s unemployment was down, pre-pandemic, I was oblivious to the regime’s “greatness.”

cf RBG’s death

Here’s the thing. I don’t agree with the premise. The tax cut helped the rich far more than regular folks. But even if I had concurred, I still thought his policies, toward COVID, immigration, the environment, and so much more, plus his constant lying, were disqualifying attributes. But why pick on me? There were plenty of people who are happy that the reign of error was over.

Then I saw Remembering RBG: A Nation Ugly Cries with Desi Lydic. It was a special program from The Daily Show folks. Desi was going through the five stages of grief as described by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross after Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death. Although, instead of acceptance, the fifth stage is action. Not incidentally, Elizabeth Warren, as usual, offered wise counsel.

So Greg, I recognize, was grieving. He dumped on me because he sort of knew me, though I haven’t seen him in a half-century. I get it.

In my recollection, when Hillary lost in 2016, the reaction was mostly utter shock and depression, not rage. As my teenage daughter noted, in 2016, we were saying, “That can’t be true!” even as we grudgingly knew, unfortunately, it was. The losing side in 2020 has been fed the notion “It IS NOT TRUE!” (See John Oliver.) That’s a harder bridge to cross.

BTW, I remain infuriated by the continued voter suppression, particularly in Florida. The GOP won the state by about 340,000. More than twice as many released felons were disenfranchised. Maybe the Sunshine State COULD have gone the other way…

Notorious: Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Women have the right to open a bank account without a man’s signature

Ruth Bader Ginsburg quoteWhen I heard that the “notorious” Ruth Bader Ginsburg had died, I uttered one of those Anglo-Saxon four-letter words aloud, to no one. Soon my email was inundated with tributes and commentaries. I read about how her “voice from the bench sealed her legacy as a women’s rights crusader. [She] knew that federal laws and constitutional principles were the very tools she and other judges could employ to fight against gender discrimination.”

Yet, she “never saw her focus on women’s rights as contrary to her oath to ‘faithfully and impartially’ administer justice according to the Constitution and federal law.” And she regularly pointed out “injustices facing women and members of other marginalized groups. And the dissents drew the attention they demanded,… even spurring lines of ‘dissent collars’ sold by retailers in honor of the neckwear she’d choose for the occasions.”

Her whole life was a mirror of the discrimination women faced. “Despite finishing first in her law school class at Columbia University, no law firm made her an offer.” She was famously rejected by dozens of New York City law firms based on her gender, but also because she was a mother and Jewish.

So she began “teaching at Rutgers Law School and co-founded the Women’s Rights Law Reporter… She was even part of a class-action lawsuit against Rutgers after she discovered that her salary was lower than those of her male colleagues.”

They used to DO that?

As the Skimm noted: “She founded the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project, where she won several landmark cases before the Supreme Court on gender equality. Her work helped make changes like giving women the right to open a bank account, have credit cards, and a mortgage without a man’s signature.” These are rights people now take for granted.

“On the Supreme Court, she authored key decisions… including the 1996 ruling requiring Virginia Military Institute to accept women or lose its funding. She issued scathing dissents on issues such as abortion rights and unequal pay for women— the latter dissent spurred Congress to pass the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.”

She championed women’s rights against discrimination on the basis of sex (United States v. Virginia and Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co). She pushed for everyone’s right to vote (Shelby County v. Holder). She supported the rights of those with disabilities (Olmstead v. LC), the right to access health care, including birth control (Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores).

Has any associate justice left such a mark that she should be parodied on Saturday Live Live and turned into a doll an action figure? She was known for her inspiring workout videos, her passion for opera, and her relentless fights against the cancer that claimed her life.

Notorious, indeed

Here are articles from the ACLU and NPR. And watch Ruth Bader Ginsburg enchant a crowd of thousands in Little Rock, September 2019. One senator recalled a Hebrew phrase, “May her memory be a revolution.

Much of the news I was aware of from the great documentary RBG and the OK movie On the Basis of Sex. RBG said: “Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”

The rule, except when it’s not

When Barack Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland to fill Justice Antonin Scalia’s seat, it was 269 days before the 2016 election. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to allow the nomination to move forward. “The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.”

Fast forward to less than 50 days before the 2020 election Day in 2020. His own precedent seems to have flown out of the window.

The conservative rationale appears to be this. The rule to wait only applies when the White House and Senate are held by different parties, thereby potentially causing deadlock. With Republicans in the White House and controlling Republican Senate, none of those concerns presumably exist. I don’t buy the argument. Political parties were not mentioned in the Constitution nor anticipated by the Founders.

Confronted by his hypocrisy, Ted Cruz, who was on a SCOTUS list recently, just makes something new up. Lindsay Graham, as recently as 2018, defended the 2016 action and said he’d feel the same way if a similar circumstance took place this year.

In other words, is it hypocrisy or just lying? The National Memo lays out three steps to stop McConnell from replacing Justice Ginsburg now. So far, a couple Republicans will oppose the noxious GOP effort.

I was so mad

Speaking of Mitch, I sent Amy McGrath money for her Senate campaign against him in Kentucky. She “served 20 years in the Marines, flew 89 combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, and overcame the odds to become the first woman Marine to fly a combat mission in an F/A-18 fighter jet.” There was a more progressive candidate running in the Democratic primary, but he lost, barely.

I may contribute to the campaigns of more folks running against these hypocrites. Graham in South Carolina is probably next. And maybe some others.

Movie review: RBG [Ruth Bader Ginsburg]

An unlikely recent obsession in our culture: an octogenarian Supreme Court justice

Watching RBG, a documentary about the Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, the parallels among her being an aspiring law student at Harvard and Columbia, the cases she took on as attorney, and her role on SCOTUS are quite striking.

She tended to be dismissed out of hand at Harvard, with her and the handful of other students being asked directly why they were taking spots that could have gone to a man. Decades later, Virginia Military Institute was essentially making the same case, but the argument was met with withering criticism by RBG.

This is a wonderful film, helped by some amazing archival video showing the development of the great love story between Ruth and Marty Ginsberg, who were married from 1954 until his death in 2010. He was gregarious, while he was quiet, goofy when she was serious. Ruth is a notoriously awful cook, while Marty had kitchen talent.

Moreover, he recognized her great legal skills. Arthur Miller, their great friend, said that Marty was the greatest tax attorney in New York City, yet he left his job to follow his wife when she was appointed to the federal bench by Jimmy Carter.

During her confirmation hearing for the Supreme Court in 1993, she felt that many of the men on the Senate Judiciary Committee didn’t “get” it, didn’t understand the effect of being dismissed out of hand. Yet she was confirmed 96-3 after Bill Clinton recommended her, recognizing her stellar mind.

As she became more the liberal voice of dissent, social media dubbed her The Notorious RBG with a Tumblr page, pictures on Pinterest, T-shirts and a book describing the an unlikely recent obsession in our culture: an octogenarian Supreme Court justice.

Ruth has learned to embrace the phenomenon. She laughs at Kate McKinnon’s portrayal of her on Saturday Night Live while acknowledging that it is nothing like her.

Meanwhile, she is passing down wisdom to her grandchildren, including one granddaughter who was in a class of lawyers that’s about 50% female.

The film, which my wife and I saw at the Spectrum Theatre in Albany, is touching, and educational, and, based on my laughter at the latter sections, occasionally quite funny.

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