Richardson to withdraw as Commerce Secretary!

NBC is reporting that:

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, tapped in December by President-elect Barack Obama to serve as secretary of Commerce, has withdrawn his name for the position, citing a pending investigation into a company that has done business with his state.

"Let me say unequivocally that I and my Administration have acted properly in all matters and that this investigation will bear out that fact," he said Sunday in a report by NBC News. "But I have concluded that the ongoing investigation also would have forced an untenable delay in the confirmation process."

He said he plans to continue in his role as governor. "I appreciate the confidence President-elect Obama has shown in me, and value our friendship and working partnership. I told him that I am eager to serve in the future in any way he deems useful. And like all Americans, I pray for his success and the success of our beloved country."

Have I missed something????  Or is this out-of-left field?

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"And I would expect Israelis to do the same thing."

When President-Elect Obama visited the southern Israeli city of Sderot in July, he was visibly shaken by what he saw: "The Qassam rockets fired by Hamas deliberately and indiscriminately target civilians," Obama said. "This terror is intolerable. Israelis should not have to live in terror in their own homes and schools."

After visiting the hospital bed of two brothers injured by such an attack -- one of whom an 8-year-old, who lost his leg as a result -- Obama added: "If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I would do anything to stop that. And I would expect Israelis to do the same thing."

Obama is absolutely correct. Israel has the right and the duty, to put a stop to the threat posed by Hamas -- an Iranian-backed Jihadist militia -- to its citizens. A just and proportionate Israeli response is one that strives to eliminate Hamas' ability to carry out attacks against Israel. No more, but also no less.  

Israel is portrayed as the big bully using an inappropriate level of force against a vastly inferior foe. This is how it is reported and is therefore the way that it is perceived. Little coverage goes to the 10 or 15 missiles or more a day fired at Israel, only the response.  But since April 2001, Israelis have been the target of nearly 8,000 rockets and mortar shells.

Usually people living within a 15-mile radius of Gaza have under 20 seconds to find shelter once a "code red" alarm is sounded. Sometimes a missile slips through Israel's warning system, depriving civilians of the opportunity to scramble for safety.  The latest missiles launched into Israel have a range of around 25 miles and have been used to attack Beersheba. It should be noted that over half a million Israelis (10% of its population) live within range of these new, more powerful BM-21 Grad missiles.

Which brings us to today:

A Timeline of the Current Crisis-War as per Reuters.

June 19 - A truce begins between Hamas and Israel. It calls for Hamas to stop cross-border rocket fire and for Israel to gradually ease its embargo on Gaza.

Aug 2 - Factional fighting kills three Hamas policemen and six pro-Fatah gunmen in the Gaza Strip in the worst fighting since June 2007.

Nov. 5 - Hamas fires dozens of rockets at Israel after Israeli forces kill six Palestinian militants in an eruption of violence that has disrupted the four-month-old truce.

Dec. 14 - Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal is quoted as saying the group will not renew the six-month-old truce with Israel.

December 18 - Hamas Islamists declare the end of the Egyptian-brokered ceasefire with Israel which expires the next day with a surge of cross-border fighting.

December 24 - Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip ratchet up rocket fire toward Israel.

December 27 - Israel launches air strikes on Gaza in response to almost daily rocket and mortar fire that intensified after Hamas ended the six-month ceasefire.

December 28 - Hamas says an Israeli air strike destroys a laboratory building at the Islamic University, a significant cultural symbol of Hamas.

-- Israeli aircraft bomb some 40 smuggling tunnels in the Gaza Strip that provide a lifeline to the outside world.

December 29 - Israel steps up its air strikes and bombs the Hamas-run Interior Ministry, the first air strike targeting a government building in the offensive.

-- Israel declares areas around the Gaza Strip a "closed military zone."

-- Palestinian militants fire rockets deeper into southern Israel.

December 30 - Israeli warplanes press on for the fourth day with attacks on Hamas targets.

-- Palestinian casualties since December 27 are 348 dead and more than 800 wounded. A U.N. agency says at least 62 of the dead are civilians.

-- Three Israeli civilians and a soldier have been killed by Palestinian rockets since the air strikes began.

-- Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum urges Palestinian groups to respond using "all available means" against Israel.

-- Israel says its attacks herald "long weeks of military action."

December 31 - Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh tells Palestinians that "victory is near."

-- Emergency session of U.N. Security Council to consider resolution drafted by Arab countries calling for immediate cease-fire adjourns without a vote.

January 1 - Israel kills Nizar Rayyan, a hardline Hamas leader, in an air attack on his Gaza Strip home.

-- Palestinian casualties since December 27 are 412 dead and about 1,850 wounded. A U.N. agency says about a quarter of the dead are civilians.

-- Three Israeli civilians and a soldier have been killed by Palestinian rockets since the air strikes began.

January 2 - No sign of a cease-fire on the seventh day of the conflict, with at least 429 Palestinians killed and 2,000 wounded, but a Palestinian official says that Egypt had begun exploratory talks with Hamas to halt the bloodshed.

January 3 - An air strike on a mosque kills 11 Palestinian civilians and wounds dozens, as Israeli tanks and troops wait on the border for a possible ground offensive. Palestinian death toll rises to at least 446.

Israel evacuated Gaza in 2005, removing not only its soldiers but all Israeli settlements, despite bitter resistance from the settlers and their political allies. At great political, financial and security cost to itself, Israel removed every soldier and every single civilian from Gaza, hoping that disengagement would reduce friction, spur economic development and provide a model for peace that could be extended to the West Bank. Israel was not alone in this hope. The United States, United Nations, European Union, World Bank, the Arab League and a thousand nongovernmental organizations were poised to help Gazans build prosperity, freedom and peace. What was the response?   Delivering a Hamas victory in the 2006 Palestinian parliamentary elections.  Hamas - the organization that is listed as a terrorist organization by Canada, the European Union, Israel, Japan, the United States and is banned in Jordan, Australia and the United Kingdom.

If Hamas, with total power in Gaza, had been willing to concentrate its energies on the economic development of the region and cease cross-border attacks, the Israeli government and public would have been much more willing to make a similar withdrawal from the West Bank where the majority of Palestinians live. We could have been seeing, by now, the birth of a new Palestinian state.  But I digress...

Despite the tragic deaths of civilians, Israeli's airstrikes have been precisely aimed at Hamas fighters, installations and rocket launchers. Inevitably, the use of force causes injury and death to innocents, but from initial figures announced by U.N. personnel, it appears that more than 80% of those killed were Hamas security personnel or other militants -- a ratio that might compare favourably with the use of force by NATO troops in Afghanistan.  Israel has chosen its targets carefully, pursuing terrorist training camps and rocket storage facilities, and has used precision missiles to minimize civilian casualties.

Hamas has even admitted, most of the dead are terrorists.

This stands in stark contrast to Hamas' own conduct. By using heavily populated Gaza as a launching pad for its attacks and deliberately placed weapons factories and training centers in and around such civilian areas, Hamas is guilty of a double war crime. Not only does it target Israeli schools and hospitals, it also uses Palestinian women and children as human shields.  

The cumulative effect on those who have had to endure such assaults is devastating, but seldom reported in the American -- let alone Arab -- press. Unlike Al-Jazeera, Israeli media shy away from inflammatory journalism, and the Israeli public tends to deal with the consequences of Hamas' attacks with introverted dignity, not photogenic rage. Israel is unfairly condemned for defending itself because the court of public opinion tends to be presented only with evidence of Israel's retaliation, not with its cause -- Hamas' aggression.

As well - it must be understood that the timing of this conflict is fundamentally linked to three elections. Israel faces a general election in February; Iran will choose its next president in June; and Obama becomes president in about two weeks.  As has been noted:

But the Israeli government's objectives are not just to influence Hamas. They are equally anxious to influence Israeli public opinion. Israel is a genuine democracy. It is due to have a general election on February 10. If that election results in Tzipi Livni as prime minister with Ehud Barak, the Labour leader and former prime minister, as her deputy, the peace process has a serious prospect of getting somewhere. The attacks on Hamas are already helping Livni and Barak in the opinion polls. The international community might not approve, but if we wish to see a Palestinian state in the foreseeable future this is likely to be the best route.

An Israeli government re-elected just 21 days after President Obama takes office would create an unprecedented opportunity to relaunch the peace process. George W. Bush only seriously engaged in the issue in his last year in the presidency, when his authority was disintegrating. Obama is likely to have eight years of power ahead of him and will carry more weight with both Israelis and Arabs than any previous president for many years.

Having Hilary Clinton as his Secretary of State is an additional asset. She is a powerful figure in her own right, well thought of in Jerusalem, and respected by the Palestinians. If the new US administration is willing to engage and help guarantee any successful negotiations, the Middle East could at last turn a vital corner.

Finally, there is the Iranian dimension. Iran may not be a proper democracy but no one can predict whether Ahmadinejad will get a second term in June or be ousted by a moderate opponent. If he goes, much of his rhetoric on liquidating Israel will go with him. A peaceful resolution of Iran's nuclear aspirations would also be more likely, especially as Obama has promised a serious dialogue with Iran to try to meet its security concerns. If the United States, under Bush, has been able to do a deal with Gadaffi's Libya then a new relationship with Iran, brokered by Obama, is not inconceivable.

So the stakes are high. An Israeli-Palestinian peace will not ensure, as is sometimes asserted, that Iran will become peace-loving, that al-Qaeda will disband or that terrorism will be a thing of the past. But no one can doubt that Israel-Palestine, Iran and terrorism are linked both in the political psychology of the Middle East and in the strategy of many Western governments.

Stopping Hamas launching missiles at Israeli civilian communities will not ensure peace nor an independent Palestine. But Israel will never concede a Palestinian state unless the Palestinians provide an absolute guarantee of an end to hostilities by all Palestinian parties.

As for the rest of us who watch by the sidelines, we can only hope for peace, understanding and that people don't play hard and loose with the facts.

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Doing Well By Doing Good.

Global stocks fell sharply last week on news of increasing inflation which will limit the Federal Reserves ability to continue cutting interest rates. On Tuesday the Dow Jones Industrials tumbled 294 points following the Fed's announcement of a quarter point cut to the Fed Funds rate. The financial industry is going through a major retrenchment, losing more than 25% in aggregate capitalization since July. The real estate market is collapsing.  You get the picture.

Take the case of Citigroup - a once- great bank brought near to ruin by a grossly negligent board of directors. The cost? A mere $351 billion - that is, only $1,000 for every man, woman and child in America. Blame abounds, but most of it must can be directed to the Citigroup directors - the men and women paid well to make corporate policy, and to oversee its proper execution. But that got me thinking about blame...  

Let's look at former Chairman of the Federal Reserve of the United States Alan Greenspan.

In his trademark opaque language; Greenspan tiptoes through the well-documented facts of his tenure as Fed chief to absolve himself of any personal responsibility for the ensuing disaster. Greenspan's apologia is a masterpiece of circuitous logic, deliberate evasion and utter denial of reality. He says: I do not doubt that a low U.S. federal-funds rate in response to the dot-com crash, and especially the 1 per cent rate set in mid-2003 to counter potential deflation, lowered interest rates on adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) and may have contributed to the rise in U.S. home prices. In my judgment, however, the impact on demand for homes financed with ARMs was not major. "Not major"? 3.5 million potential foreclosures, 11-month inventory backlog, plummeting home prices, an entire industry in terminal distress pulling down the global economy is not major? But Greenspan is partially correct. The troubles in housing cannot be entirely attributed to the Fed's "cheap credit" monetary policies. They were also nursed along by a Doctrine of Deregulation which has permeated US capital markets since the Reagan era. Greenspan's views on how markets should function were -to great extent -- shaped by this non-interventionist/non-supervisory ideology which has created enormous equity bubbles and imbalances. The former-Fed chief's support for adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) and subprime lending shows that Greenspan thought of himself as more as a cheerleader for the big market-players than an impartial referee whose job was to monitor reckless or unethical behavior...

Sheesh - shady crooks, ethical lapses that cost people there retirements and homes - its enough to get you all warm and cozy in time to enjoy the holidays.  Right?

Well... Instead let's look at Nobel Prize winner Muhammad Yunus.

Yunus founded the Grameen Bank in 1983 in Bangladesh on the theory that giving no-collateral loans to the poor would help them out of poverty by providing loans on terms suitable to them and by teaching them a few sound financial principles so they could help themselves. Because hardly any women in Bangladesh could qualify for a loan 32 years ago, Yunus saw to it that 50% of Grameen's borrowers were women.

Once he realized women were investing more of their loans into improving the lives of their families, the bank started lending to them almost exclusively.  Of Grameen's 7.5 million borrowers, 97% are women.  The bank lends about $1 billion a year, lending out individual amounts averaging less than $200. At first, the typical loan is for about $30.

Yunus' personal loan of small amounts of money to destitute basketweavers in Bangladesh in the mid-70s, the Grameen Bank has advanced to the forefront of a burgeoning world movement toward eradicating poverty through microlending.

"The majority of people on this planet do not have the opportunity to do banking at conventional banks," Yunus said. "They say all the time that the poor are not creditworthy. And we showed how creditworthy they are."

The bank has provided $4.7 billion dollars to 4.4 million families in rural Bangladesh. With 1,417 branches, Grameen provides services in 51,000 villages, covering three quarters of all the villages in Bangladesh. Yet its system is largely based on mutual trust and the enterprise and accountability of millions of women villagers.

Today, more than 250 institutions in nearly 100 countries operate micro-credit programs based on the Grameen Bank model, while thousands of other micro-credit programs have emulated, adapted or been inspired by the Grameen Bank. According to one expert in innovative government, the program established by Yunus at the Grameen Bank "is the single most important development in the third world in the last 100 years, and I don't think any two people will disagree."

So if you believe in Santa -- or if you just believe we all need to spread kindness around a bit -- consider the Yunis' in the world whilst remembering the Greenspan's.

Then go. Do something good. And make this a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah, Festive Kwanzaa and Killer New Year.

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Iranian Blogfather Arrested.

(cross posted at kickin it with cg and motley moose)

Hossein Derakhshan, an Iranian-Canadian blogger known as Hoder was arrested in Tehran on charges of spying for Israel and could face the death penalty, according to a number of media reports.  

Derakhshan, lived in Toronto for seven years and moved to the U.K. in 2007. Widely considered the most prominent Iranian blogger, Derakhshan has been writing on his blog since 2001 and it has been censored numerous times by Iranian authorities. His pioneering work has earned him the nickname of "Godfather of the Iranian Blogosphere." Hoder is also considered a controversial figure for his support of the Iranian regime.

In 2006, he visited Israel and at the time was quoted as saying that this could make returning to his birth country difficult.

"This might mean that I won't be able to go back to Iran for a long time, since Iran doesn't recognize Israel, has no diplomatic relations with it, and apparently considers traveling there illegal. Too bad, but I don't care. Fortunately, I'm a citizen of Canada and I have the right to visit any country I want."

The reason for his visit to Iran is unknown.

It has been speculated that Derakhshan was likely arrested sometime in the last two weeks. A number of journalism activist groups have begun campaigns calling for his release.

Hoder's had his writing published in the Washington Post, the Guardian and other publications.

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Lessons for a Facebook Generation.

Today several publications are reporting on this:

While another diary histrionically reported this, a very negative and flame-war discussion emerged.  Several commenters suggested that someone else diary this so that the MyDD community could discuss this in a more positive way - so here goes.

Question No. 58 in the transition team vetting document for the Obama White House asks that applicants: "Please provide the URL address of any websites that feature you in either a personal or professional capacity (e.g. Facebook, My Space, etc.)"

Question No. 63 asks that applicants "please provide any other information ... that could ... be a possible source of embarrassment to you, your family, or the President-Elect."

For a while there this afternoon, President-elect Barack Obama's immensely talented chief speechwriter, 27-year-old Jon Favreau, might have been pondering how to address that question.

That's when some interesting photos of a recent party he attended -- including one where he's dancing with a life-sized cardboard cut-out of secretary of state-designate Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, and another where he's placed his hand on the cardboard former first lady's chest while a friend is offering her lips a beer -- popped up on Facebook for about two hours. The photos were quickly taken down -- along with every other photo Favreau had of himself on the popular social networking site, save for one profile headshot.

Asked about the photos, Favreau, who was recently appointed director of speechwriting for the White House, declined comment. A transition official said that Favreau had "reached out to Senator Clinton to offer an apology."

Favreau is not the first campaign aide whose online presence has proved awkward. Last March, John McCain aide Soren Dayton forwarded an anti-Obama YouTube video to his private Twitter feed linking Obama with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, leading to his suspension from the campaign. And in 2007, two bloggers hired by former North Carolina senator John Edwards stepped down after blog posts they had written before he hired them became a subject of controversy.

Favreau's case seems unlikely to be so dire; Clinton senior adviser Philippe Reines cast the photos as evidence of increased bonhomie between the formerly rival camps.

"Senator Clinton is pleased to learn of Jon's obvious interest in the State Department, and is currently reviewing his application," he said in an e-mail.

To me this story is really kinda gross but also touches on an important issue.  

Namely that technology has changed everything.  I recently had a discussion about this phenomena with a colleague, whereby he explained that some of his staff had no problem posting lewd and unprofessional photos, etc on their Facebook pages even though they know that their boss could see/read them and are on their Friend list.  We debated whether or not this was a result of technology and if not caring about the implications of their actions was a generational thing.  

We went on to talk about how people born in 1990 and after do not know a world without the internet.  Which then changes how everything is done, from education to work.  For example - imagine a world never having to step in a library????

Anyway - this topic merits a fair discussion both in terms of the photo and the circumstances of its discovery.

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Canada is Burning.

(cross posted at kickin it with cg and motley moose)

Well at least until Jan. 26 that is.

For those of you not in the loop, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper suspended the country's legislature for more than 7 weeks in a bid to stave off a challenge from opposition parties seeking to bring down his government.

Harper, re-elected in October to a minority government, said Governor General Michaelle Jean, who acts as the country's head of state, agreed to his request to close Parliament until Jan. 26. The government's first order of business will be a budget scheduled for Jan. 27, Harper said, calling on the opposition to work with his administration on a "stimulus" package for the ailing economy.  

The political crisis was sparked Nov. 27 when Finance Minister Jim Flaherty presented a fiscal update that included cuts to funding for political parties, limited civil servants' right to strike and failed to offer a stimulus package to spur economic growth. The three opposition parties said they would oppose the plan and banded together.

The main opposition Liberals agreed to Dec. 1 was to form a coalition with the New Democratic Party and the Parti Quebecois in a bid to accelerate a stimulus package for the economy and oust the Harper government. The turmoil centers on how to manage Canada's response to the global economic crisis.

So in a bid to buy time, Harper refused to grant the opposition a vote in Parliament that would have brought down his government, instead asking Jean to let him suspend the legislature. The three opposition blocs combined hold a majority of seats in the House of Commons, Parliament's lower house.

Harper admitted no errors in judgment today. Nor did he seek absolution during a nationally televised address on Wednesday.

The procedural move is unprecedented, marking the first time a prime minister has requested the suspension of the legislature to avoid a so-called confidence vote. Parliament's suspension comes less than three weeks after the session began.

"For the first time in the history of Canada, the prime minister of Canada is running away from the Parliament of Canada," Stephane Dion, the Liberal leader who would head the coalition government, adding he will "respect" the governor general's decision.

Harper's Conservatives went into the Oct. 14 election with 127 seats in Parliament and increased their total to 143, still short of the 155 needed to control the legislative agenda. The government needs support of at least one other party to pass legislation.

Harper, prime minister for almost three years, has since backtracked on the political funding and labor rights. He and Jean met for about two hours this morning. Jean didn't speak to reporters after the meeting.  The role of Jean, Queen Elizabeth II's representative in Canada, is mostly ceremonial.

In the Commons yesterday, Liberal MP Ken Dryden (my MP!) said the Prime Minister broke faith with Parliament in the economic update. "How do we repair the irreparable?" Mr. Dryden asked. "To the Prime Minister to help him with his answer: Sorry, it is over; we cannot trust him any more. We need a new prime minister."

Liberal MP Derrick Lee, meanwhile, compared Harper's move to suspend Parliament to the burning of the Reichstag in Germany by the Nazis.  Hyperbole much?  But kinda true too.

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Are Lawyers The Best Way To Save The Earth?

(cross posted at kickin it with cg and motley moose)

Back in August Stephen Hockman QC proposed an interesting idea. Namely proposing that a body similar to the International Court of Justice in The Hague be the supreme legal authority on issues regarding the environment. Hockman argues that for the lack of solutions at hand for addressing climate change, "only an impartial adjudicating body is capable of providing the catalyst for a global consensus as to the fairest way to distribute the burdens that accompany solutions to the climate change problem."

The understandable reluctance of developing countries to sign up to carbon commitments - unless the developed world is prepared to make an equitable contribution - calls for more radical options. Those options must be realised at state, regional and international levels, and they will require political, economic and legal solutions.

In this mix, international legal instruments are crucial. The existing tools lack the necessary jurisdiction, clout and transparency. The time is ripe for a serious consideration of an international court for the environment. Such a court was mooted in Washington in 1999, but sank without trace. Today, however, we cannot afford to drop the ball.

Hockman, who is also a trustee of Client Earth, a nonprofit environmental law group, argued that such an institution would also offer a centralized system, "an enhanced body of law regarding environmental issues, and consistency in the resolution of environmental disputes". He wrote that such a court should be compulsory and have its own scientific body to assess technical issues.

However some are skeptical as to whether this concept would work, as Environmental Capital notes:

But what about the two giants in that global economy? The U.S. and China together account for about half the world's greenhouse-gas emissions. Any meaningful climate-change pact begins and ends with what Washington and Beijing decide. And while both presidential candidates are less hostile to the ICC, ceding control to supra-national jurisdictions generally gives the U.S. pause. Chinese leaders, meanwhile, have not traditionally embraced global law or institutions with open arms.

Concluded Environmental Capital: "Are lawyers really the best way to save the earth?"

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BREAKING: Multiple Terror Attacks In Mumbai.

Teams of heavily armed gunmen stormed luxury hotels, a popular tourist attraction and a crowded train station in at least seven attacks in India's financial capital, killing at least 78 people and wounding at least 200, officials said Thursday. The gunmen were specifically targeting Britons and Americans and a top police official said the gunmen are holding hostages at two luxury hotels, the Taj Mahal and Oberoi hotels.

The gunmen also attacked police headquarters in south Mumbai, the area where most of the attacks, which began late Wednesday and continued into Thursday morning, took place.

The AP reports:

Gunmen opened fire on two of the city's best known luxury hotels, the Taj Mahal and the Oberoi. They also attacked the crowded Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus station in southern Mumbai and Leopold's restaurant, a Mumbai landmark.

A British restaurant-goer at the Oberoi told Sky News television that the attackers were singling out Britons and Americans.

Alex Chamberlain said a gunman, a young man of 22 or 23, ushered 30 or 40 people from the restaurant into a stairway and ordered everyone to put up their hands.

"They were talking about British and Americans specifically. There was an Italian guy, who, you know, they said: 'Where are you from?" and he said he's from Italy and they said 'fine' and they left him alone. And I thought: 'Fine, they're going to shoot me if they ask me anything -- and thank God they didn't," he said.

What a messed up world we live in.

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Seeking Parity. [UPDATED]

(cross posted at kickin it with cg and motley moose)

Well elections have come and gone both in Canada and the US, and some are asking -- but what of the goal of advancing women in political leadership?

How long will it take us? We already are well into the fourth decade since the contemporary women's movement of the 1970s spawned a generation that sought to claim an equal place in the halls of power.

Women make up 52% of Canada's population, yet we represent roughly 20% of elected politicians on municipal, provincial and federal levels.  Currently Canada sits in 44th place in the world on the Inter-Parlimentary Unions ranking of countries by representation of women in government.  The breakdown is as follows:

Seats in the House of Commons - 308
Number of Seats held by Women: 65
Percentage - 21.1%

Seats in the Senate - 105 (90 currently sitting)
Number of Seats held by Women - 32
Percentage - 35.6%

Total - 24.4%

[update] The table above includes a selection of first-world countries and their rankings. For example, Rwanada sits at number 1 in the world for female representation at 49

In Still Counting, authors Linda Trimble and Jane Arscott argue that:

an "electoral glass ceiling" is keeping women at or below the 25 per cent mark, restricting women to less than half of the seats that would be theirs in a democracy committed to balanced, equitable and fair representation. Moreover, little is being done to address this ongoing democratic deficit. Despite drawbacks, such as the "revolving door" for female party leaders and continued sexism in legislatures, women can, and do, make a difference in politics. That's why it's important to elect many more, and more diverse, women to Canada's parliament and legislatures.

In our most recent election, Prime Minister Stephen Harper increased the amount of women his cabinet up from seven in the last session. Women now make up 29% of the cabinet, comparable to the ratio from Paul Martin's Liberal cabinet in 2003-04 (30%) and up from 22% in the last cabinet.

In the US, prior to 2008, the only female candidate to ever to run for national office on a major-party ticket, and was selected, not elected, as a vice presidential candidate was 1984 Geraldine Ferraro 24 years ago.  

Both in the primary and the general election much has been debated about both the progress and regression this election cycle has created for women. But even as the highest glass ceiling in American politics came the closest it ever has to being shattered, in Congress it was business as usual: Women made a net gain of one seat in the Senate, bringing the total to 17 out of 100, and three seats in the House, moving up from 71 to 74 out of 435 seats, or 17%.

Not everyone thinks this is good enough news though:

But what this means is that as the class of 2008 enters the Capitol's marble halls, it will include less than half the number of women who first won office in 1992 -- the so-called "year of the woman."

Currently the US sits in 71st place in the world with the follow breakdown:

United States
Seats in the House of Representatives - 435
Number of Seats held by women - 74
Percentage - 16.8%

Seats in the Senate - 100
Number of Seats held by women - 17
Percentage - 17%

Total - 16.9%

While these numbers are disappointing, there is some progress being made:

At the state level, the pipeline into federal office, there were some bright spots in 2008: A record number of women, 2,328, ran for state legislatures in a presidential election year, surpassing the previous presidential-year record of 2,302 set in 1992. (The overall record was set in 2006, when 2,429 women ran. More state legislative seats are up for election in non-presidential election years.)

"So 2008 was a record, and it managed to get us from 23.7 percent of women serving in state legislatures to 24.2 percent," says Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

Another bright spot emerged in New Hampshire, where women now hold a majority in the state Senate, 13 out of 24 seats - the first state legislative body in US history to be majority female. New Hampshire, and New England in general, has a history of electing women to office, owing to a tradition of citizen part-time legislators. In New Hampshire, the annual pay for legislators is $100, plus travel reimbursement.

Overall, when the totals of each state's legislative bodies are combined, Colorado ranks No. 1 for female representation, with 38 percent. Vermont has 37.8 percent, and New Hampshire, 37.7 percent.

"Once we drop the decimal points, we know that women will have arrived," writes former Vermont Gov. Madeleine Kunin in a blog. In an interview, she notes that the citizen-legislator model of her state is what allowed her to get into politics when her four children were young.

In contrast, South Carolina now has no women in its state senate.

On the higher end of the Inter-Parlimentary Unions list, Germany sits at 32% and Sweden at 47% - however no country in the world represents the female populace at 52% where it sits around the globe. So where does that leave us?  

In Canada, we set a record of success this election.  And the US?  According to Marie Wilson, president of the White House Project, an organization working to advance women in leadership.

"At this rate, it will take us till 2063 to reach parity.  I mean, come on! We have to speed things up."

For more information on the advancement of women in politics, please visit Equal Voice and The Center for American Women in Politics.

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Netroots: Do they Matter?

(cross posted at kickin it with cg and motley moose)

As a marketer I have noticed some interesting trends in recent months.  Namely that traditional media (print, radio, TV) has started to decline in both consumption and advertising revenue.  Here in Canada, budgets are being slashed by international accounts and belts are being tightened.

What is interesting is that not 5 years ago, media outlets were 'throwing in' internet advertising as a bonus with a traditional media buy.  Well those days are long over. As a medium, the internet has exploded bringing with it much good and bad - especially in the political scene.  

Which naturally leads us to the effect of the Netroots, which is described as follows:

Netroots is a recent term coined to describe political activism organized through blogs and other online media, including wikis and social network services. The word is a portmanteau of Internet and grassroots, reflecting the technological innovations that set netroots techniques apart from other forms of political participation. In the United States, the term is used mainly in left-leaning circles.

Further - the origin of the term is suggested to be traced to:

In a December 2005 interview with Newsweek magazine [4], Markos Moulitsas Zúniga, founder of Daily Kos, described the netroots as "the crazy political junkies that hang out in blogs." He is also the co-author (with Jerome Armstrong) of the book Crashing the Gate: Netroots, Grassroots and the Rise of People-Powered Politics (ISBN 1-931498-99-7).

William Safire explained the term's origin in the New York Times Magazine on November 19, 2006:
"    ... the Nation's Web site [5] cited the unabashedly liberal Jerome Armstrong's praise of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee "for reading blogs and being ready to work with the netroots." From these citations and a few of the million and a half others in a Google search, the word netroots has a left-of-center connotation. The earliest use I can find is in a Jan. 15, 1993, message on an e-mail list of the Electronic Frontier Foundation from an "rmcdon[ell]" at the University of California at San Diego, apparently complaining about an internal shake-up: "Too bad there's no netroots organization that can demand more than keyboard accountability from those who claim to be acting on behalf of the 'greater good.'" ... Popularizer of the term -- unaware of the obscure, earlier citation when he used it -- was the aforementioned (great old word) Armstrong on his blog, MyDD, on Dec. 18, 2002, as he went to work on the presidential campaign of Gov. Howard Dean of Vermont.... headlined his entry "Netroots for Dean in 2004" and told Internet readers where to get the first inkling of a groundswell: "O.K., so Dean is still polling 1 to 4 percent nationally, so what. Look at the netroots."[1]

Whatever its origin, the Netroots most certainly has had an effect on the media.

Clearly, bloggers aren't a monolithic group. But it's fair to say that liberal bloggers -- and the more activist-oriented members of the Netroots within that group -- have been calling out the media's campaign coverage with far more regularity than just four years ago. And it's not simply because there are more activists who know how Moveable Type works.

Pushback against the media has been aided by the growth of more sophisticated liberal news sites, such as Talking Points Memo and The Huffington Post. In 2004, TPM founder Josh Marshall didn't have any paid staffers; this year he has nine. And Arianna Huffington's arsenal of nearly 2,000 bloggers didn't exist until President Bush was already six months into his second term. Not to mention, liberal watchdog group Media Matters -- which provides ammo to many bloggers -- has grown in that time from about 20 staffers to near 100, according to a source familiar with the organization.

This effect can be seen in driving MSM stories.  Be that as it may, a particularly inflammatory article by James Kirchick entitled Barack Obama doesn't fear the enraged, impotent Netroots contends that:

Indeed, the only people who seemed to give a fig about Lieberman were the "Netroots." Along with abandoning Iraq to Iran and Al Qaeda, punishing the "traitor" Joe Lieberman was their paramount concern (know that in the minds of Netroots, Lieberman hasn't only committed treason against the Democratic Party; a quick perusal of the more popular liberal blogs will also find the words "Zionist" and "Likudnik" attached to his name). Most Americans probably recognize Lieberman as the guy who ran with Al Gore in 2000. But to the Netroots, Lieberman is an obsession, an individual who inspires mania. He is the worst thing possible: not only someone who disagrees with them about foreign policy, but a liberal who disagrees with them on foreign policy.

"No matter what Joe Lieberman does," wrote Jane Hamsher, proprietor of the popular liberal blog Firedoglake, "the people who are protecting him hate you much more than they hate him." The Netroots are all about hate; its denizens are incapable of seeing shades of gray. (And Ms. Hamsher knows a thing or two about hate, having doctored a photo of Joe Lieberman in blackface during his primary battle against Netroots favorite Ned Lamont two years ago.)

Good for the Democrats for ignoring these people. Allowed to exercise more influence over the party than they already do, the Netroots would have the same disastrous effect that the presidential nomination of George McGovern did in 1972.

While the article reeks of disdain for 'liberal bloggers' Kirchick does raise a point worth examining...

The Netroots:  Do they Matter?

There's more...


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