Saturday Morning Open Thread: A Woman’s Place

harriet tubman twenties pett

(Joel Pett via GoComics.com)
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Yeah, I know, it’s only a sop and a public relations ploy, but still: Having Andrew Jackson’s face on the largest bill most of us handle on a daily basis is an ongoing irritation to people who remember his role in the Trail of Tears, and it’s not as though the man approved of paper money in the first place. And I think Harriet Tubman (… and her revolver) is a great role model. Like Gail Collins, I think “A Woman’s Place Is on the $20“:

… The only woman who has ever shown up on American paper currency — not counting Lady Liberty — is Martha Washington, who starred on an 1886 silver certificate. The fact that it was Martha adds insult to injury. She was an excellent first lady, but her exceptional fame is tied to the ancient idea that the greatest women were simply the ones married to the greatest men. (An alternative theory was that the greatest women were the mothers of the greatest men, and George Washington’s mother was equally celebrated, even though her son found her extremely irritating.)

Now, a website called “Women on 20s” has posted biographies of 15 notable women in American history and invited visitors to vote for a female face to put in Jackson’s place. The goal is to get the job done by the anniversary of women’s suffrage in 2020…

Recently The Times’s Room for Debate let experts name their favorites. Gloria Steinem picked Sojourner Truth, the escaped slave turned abolitionist orator. “I’m not sure Sojourner Truth would want to be on the $20 bill, but I would like her to be better known — by any means necessary,” she said.

Actually, I’d sort of love to see Gloria Steinem on a $20 bill, but you aren’t eligible to star on American currency until you’re dead. Also, she has mixed feelings about how much of an honor it is to appear on money. “For a while I thought we should just put the Koch brothers on and be done with it,” she said over the phone Friday…

If you go to the Women on 20s website, you can vote for three out of fifteen candidates in the current first round. I picked Ms. Tubman, Alice Paul, and Shirley Chisholm. (I still have the battered copy of Unbought & Unbossed that I bought when the paperback first came out.)
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Here in the Boston area, we’re supposed to get more snow for the tenth weekend in a row. Oh, well, it won’t last — a week of higher temps has removed at least 60% of the existing local snowpiles. Apart from such indignities, what’s on the agenda for the weekend?








Open Thread: Still Combative, Our Harry

At the Atlantic, Molly Ball is elegiac:

Nobody ever thought Harry Reid would retire, and that includes Harry Reid. Not long ago, when a reporter for CQ Roll Call asked him what might happen when he left office, Reid retorted, “If I drop dead?” He added, “I mean, I will someday. It’s just a question of if I do it while I’m here.” To everyone who knew him, Reid seemed like one of those creatures of the Capitol who would only ever leave the Senate feet first…

Reid has always been a paradoxical figure. His public image, if he has one, is largely as a shambling bumbler, pallid and reed-voiced and prone to verbal gaffes, like the time he praised Barack Obama for his lack of “negro dialect” or called George W. Bush “a loser.” Reporters who cover Reid—I was the political writer for his hometown newspaper, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, for three years—are accustomed to the difficulty of turning his garbled utterances into something resembling sentences. “He’s been wildly successful in spite of it, but generally speaking, you never knew what might come out of his mouth on any given day,” one former Reid aide told me. Another former aide, Rebecca Kirszner Katz, who served as Reid’s communications director, recalls that Reid would turn to her after every press conference and say, “Okay, tell me everything I did wrong.” “And what a list that was!” she added.

But Reid’s image among political insiders is different: He is known as a canny behind-the-scenes mastermind, a political puppeteer whose micromanagement knows no bounds. In Nevada, a small state with a provincial political culture, Reid built the Democratic Party into his personal machine, recruiting and funding candidates years in advance to defeat up-and-coming Republican politicians who might someday oppose him. His political maneuvering has helped him survive despite being personally unpopular. In the Senate, Reid carries a list of his Democratic colleagues in his pocket, jotting in the margins the favors requested and owed. As a result, his caucus has been fanatically loyal to him. “Each and every member knew that the only thing he cared about was protecting the caucus as a whole,” former Reid aide Jim Manley told me…

Dave Weigel, at Bloomberg Politics, steps into the Wayback Machine to remind us “How Harry Reid Tapped Liberal Bloggers to Stop Bush’s Agenda“:

… In November 2004, the defeat of South Dakota Senator Tom Daschle opened up the Democratic leadership. Reid, the party’s whip, quickly secured the support he needed. Progressives were horrified that a senator who’d voted against abortion rights, for the Defense of Marriage Act, and in step with the NRA would take over their party…

Yet within twenty months, Reid was delivering a speech to the first annual convention of “netroots” activists, Yearly Kos. His announcement today sparked off encomia on progressive news sites, with recaps of the bills he pushed through—repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, Dodd-Frank, the Affordable Care Act. The argument on the left was about whether New York Senator Chuck Schumer would replace Reid and drive the leadership to the right…

Policy wonk Ezra Klein, at Vox, is understandably impressed by Harry Reid’s skills:

Many political commentators speak with awe at the job Mitch McConnell did in 2009 and 2010 uniting the Senate’s 40 (and, later, 41) Republicans in opposition to President Obama’s agenda. And it was an impressive show of party unity. But it was easier than the job Reid had: uniting 60 (and, after Scott Brown’s election, 59) senators in favor of difficult, often unpopular bills with distinct tradeoffs. And yet for all the GOP’s vaunted party discipline, Senate Democrats actually voted more in lockstep than Senate Republicans…

This chart comes from Congressional Quarterly, and it measures party unity, which is “the frequency with which [senators] vote with their party, on occasions when a majority of Republicans oppose a majority of Democrats.” The takeaway here is that in 2009 and 2010 — so, the period in which the vast bulk of Obama’s legislative accomplishments passed — Senate Democrats were actually more unified than Senate Republicans, despite the fact that there were more of them, and they were doing the divisive work of legislating rather than simply opposing… This was an extraordinary accomplishment by Reid, and it speaks to the fact that what we call Obama’s legacy is just as much Reid’s legacy. If Obama had pushed his health-care bill but five Senate Democrats had defected, there would be no Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — which is to say, there would be no Obamacare…

Senate Democrats’ 60-vote majority, for that matter, wasn’t something Reid just lucked into. He made some controversial, behind-the-scenes moves that made the Democrats’ temporary 60-vote majority possible…

And Weigel, in another article, points out that “Democrats May Find it Easier to Defend Reid’s Open Seat“:

… Reid’s decision, like the 2010 retirement of Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd, may create one of the rare cases in which an open seat is easier for a party to defend than the incumbent. Nevada has been swinging strongly Democratic in presidential years, as the party’s machinery turns out Hispanic votes and wins by landslide margins in Clark County, which includes Las Vegas. Barack Obama won the state twice; even John Kerry had strongly competed for it, losing by only 2.6 percentage points. The Democratic turnout in 2012 was strong enough to nearly defeat appointed Senator Dean Heller, even after his Democratic opponent was dogged by a congressional ethics probe. (Like most such probes, it made headlines then sputtered out.)…

Democrats entered the 2016 cycle planning to take back Nevada, with Hillary Clinton atop the ballot, far more likely to get out the vote than no-name gubernatorial nominee who came second in his primary to “None of These Candidates.”…

Keep giving them hell, Harry — set an example for your successors.








Open Thread: NASA, Still Awesome

It’s not quite Time for the Stars, but my inner sf geek is still thrilled. Per the Washington Post, the awesomeness as “Half a pair of twins leaves for a year in space“:

When Astronaut Scott Kelly volunteered to spend a year in space, he asked NASA scientists whether they’d take advantage of the near-perfect copy he’d be leaving behind: His twin brother Mark, who retired from spaceflight in 2011 after four shuttle flights.

On Friday, a Soyuz rocket brings Russian Mikhail Kornienko and American Scott Kelly to the International Space Station for its longest expedition ever. The first and last time astronauts spent such a stretch in space was decades ago on the now-defunct Russian Mir space station. This time NASA is going in with its science guns fully loaded…

The space-bound Kelly will take blood samples just before each time a shuttle returns to Earth during his tenure, allowing scientists to study fresh, unfrozen cells just hours after they’re drawn. Meanwhile, Mark will donate countless hours of the next year to providing samples of his own, as well as undergoing the same psychological and cognitive tests his brother completes in space.

The applications in space travel are obvious: Man has never traveled farther than the moon, and NASA wants to take astronauts much, much farther. To do that, scientists have to ensure that the isolation, radiation and zero-gravity environment won’t send astronauts off the deep end after a year or two. For an astronaut like Scott Kelly, whose three missions have brought him closer and closer to his long-term stay — eight-and 12-day shuttle missions followed by a 159-day stay on the space station — the hope is that things will go smoothly….

“NASA is working on this science project that’s the greatest in the history of civilization,” Feinberg said. “They’re turning humankind from an Earth-dwelling species into a space-exploring species. One day, humankind will be a species that can settle on other planets. It might be a hundred years before we have humans living on Mars, but this is a whole new kind of science. It’s a multi-generational effort.”








Long Read: “Michelle Obama, Race and the Ivy League”

Okay, it’s Politico, but it’s still an excellent read — and, I suspect, it’s going to be widely discussed. Peter Slevin, in an excerpt from his upcoming book, on “the education of a future First Lady“:

In 1988, a group of black students at Harvard Law School compiled a report designed to recognize the growing achievements of black students on campus and share their wisdom with newcomers. The longest essay in the 50-page newsletter was written by a 24-year-old third-year student named Michelle Robinson, who devoted more than 3,000 words to an appeal for greater faculty diversity. “The faculty’s decisions to distrust and ignore non-traditional qualities in choosing and tenuring law professors,” she wrote, “merely reinforce racist and sexist stereotypes.”

Harvard Law was a lofty perch, as privileged as it was competitive. It was no accident that the future Michelle Obama pressed ahead with her application after being waitlisted, or that she set out to make a difference. Raised in a working class Chicago family and educated at Princeton, she had lived the roiling discussions about inequality that were taking place at Harvard and around the country. At the law school by that year, “all the talk and the debates were shifting to race,” said Elena Kagan, a recent graduate and future Supreme Court justice.

During her three years on campus, Michelle represented indigent clients, worked on a law journal focused on African-American perspectives and sought to inspire a greater sense of purpose in her fellow students. Her friends were not surprised. “Michelle always, everything she wrote, the things that she was involved in, the things that she thought about, were in effect reflections on race and gender,” said Charles Ogletree, a Harvard professor and mentor to Michelle. “And how she had to keep the doors open for women and men going forward.”…

… Michelle contributed an essay headlined “Minority and Women Law Professors: A Comparison of Teaching Styles.” She argued that women and people of color connected with students in fresh and valuable ways…

When given the chance, she maintained, minority and women faculty were able to innovate and deliver new perspectives. “Now, unlike before, students are being made to see how issues of class, race and sex are relevant to questions of law. Not only do students find that these issues are relevant, they are finding them interesting,” Michelle wrote. She called for new approaches to the recruitment and assessment of law school faculty, emphasizing hands-on teaching and the human side of education, rather than intellectual heft for its own sake. Let others count angels on the head of a pin; she cared about outcomes, a trait that would long define her.

Michelle’s interests and, indeed, her orientation to the world, were close to the ground—and they would stay that way, all the way to the White House. An emerging professional skeptic, she wanted to know how the law connected to real lives, not least to African-American ones. Describing her approach, David Wilkins, who taught her in class, said she listened to others, but spoke up, “strong on what her opinions were. She was always the person who was asking the question, ‘What does this have to do with providing real access and real justice for real people? Is this fair? Is this right?’ She was always very clear on those questions.”…








President Obama on “The Wire” and the “War on Drugs”

President Obama talks TV and the human devastation caused by the misguided war on drugs with “The Wire” creator David Simon.

He really gets it. And he and AG for Life Eric Holder have actually done something about it, though much more remains to be done.

I know some of y’all will call me a fan girl (or worse) for saying this, but damn, I’m going to miss Barack Obama when his term is up. I don’t agree with every single thing he does, but he’s an intelligent man who sees the world from the perspective of an actual human being who has lived in it, a quality that is vanishingly rare in the upper ranks of national — or hell, even local and state — government in our creeping plutocracy.

I pine for many a progressive pony that the Obama administration failed to deliver to my satisfaction. But the discussion above reminds me of why I was so enthusiastic about Obama in 2008 and why I was proud to work my ass off to help elect him twice. I will miss that.

[H/T: Booman]