Admirable Women – The Long Walk to Freedom Taken Many Times Over

4 03 2011

The name Harriet Tubman usually only comes up during Black History Month. Children to reports on her and one of the educational programing channels might run a 1-hour biography on her and then she’s pretty much forgotten about for the next eleven months. I think that is very unfortunate because her story is fascinating. I, therefore, waited until March to write about her.

Ms. Tubman is well-known as a ‘conductor” on the Underground Railroad, but she was a spy for the union army for a time and also a suffragist in her later years among other things. As a girl she sustained a head injury at the hands of an overseer. As a result, she suffered from seizures in which she seemed to fall asleep and vivid dreams for the remainder of her life. As a devote Christian, she viewed these as visions from god. In addition to this disability, Harriet Tubman was illiterate. Can you imagine finding your way to a specific location in a hostile environment without being able to understand any road signs or written markers of any kind? She did it over and over again, bringing dozens of people to a life of freedom. The courage remained with her throughout her life. When she passed away at an approximate age of 93, her last words were said to have been, “I go now to prepare a place for you.” I realized that I have barely scratched the surface with this post, but it’s more recognition than is usually accorded Harriet Tubman in March.





Because Glenn Beck Makes Me Think of Impending Doom

1 03 2011

I really don’t like Glenn Beck. That probably comes as no surprise seeing as the things he says are destroying the country – namely secularism, cosmopolitanism, liberalism, not feeling bad – even feeling proud – about being smarter than a jar of mayonnaise, and a healthy wariness of unbridled, unregulated corporate power – are things which I tend to support. My issue is not that he thinks that people who think the way I do hate their country (not true) and desperately what to turn the country communist (I do not), fascist (nope), or simply reduce it to a lawless, fiery hub of despair (Not even close) or the fact that he spouts this stuff on TV every day while simultaneously insisting that all other news sources are in on the plot and are therefore not to be trusted. My issue is that he’s mainstreaming ideas that, five years ago, would have been considered tinfoil-hat-level crazy. It reached its zenith for me when he started insisting that these popular uprisings for democracy and freedom – ideas I thought the US supported – was actually a signal that the end of the world as described in the Bible is near because those asking for freedom and greater say in the government pray facing Mecca. Yes, ready your survival rations, convert all your money to gold, build a bunker, and pray (in an all-American, judeo-christian way, of course) like your afterlife depends on it because the end of the world is coming! That used to get TV people fired, now it’s all good. A little doomsday theory with your dinner, Ma’am?

So I started to think about what I would need to sustain myself in case of a tea-people revolt, or a ninja attack, or the coming of judeo-christian God into my happy secular world with the intention of kicking my heathen hiney. (Because obviously the thing to do when dealing with something this “out there” is to make a list.) It’s sort of the whole “what would you take with you to a deserted island’ thing on steroids. I’m assuming I have to be alone. Stranger still are the answers I came up with:

  • Astronaut ice cream. Remember that? The stuff you used to get at the Science Museum? Seems like good survival food.
  • Cheese curls.
  • Chocolate. Specifically Cadbury Dairy Milk and Flake bars and Ghirardelli dark chocolate – the darker the better.
  • A wide variety of fruits.
  • The ability to get tri-state area, “good” pizza, and other food delivered.
  • Dunkin’ Donuts coffee on tap.
  • Peach Ramune.
  • Apple cider.
  • Patrón. 😀 (Olé!)
  • As for non-edibles, I’d need a well equipped iPad 2. That’s my books, video games, music, and just about everything else. I’ll assume there’s internet access wherever I’m hiding – hiding while getting pizza and wings delivered and drinking tequila. Sounds like college.

So, in the event the four horsemen of the apocalypse show up, I’m apparently going to spend that last scraps of my life getting in touch with my geekdom. Yes, it’s completely random and makes little sense. That is how I process this nonsense that is taken as granite hard fact by many in this country. A dozen years ago when people started squawking about the world ending in the year 2000, everyone recognized that as a bit nutty and moved on. This guy says it now and people store food reserves. And if you say “Hmm, I think I smell some bullfunky here, then you’re one of ‘them’ – one of those country-destroyers.” The mainstreaming of fear and ideas that used to be the fringiest of the fringe and making people frightened not only of the future, but of a significant portion of the country’s population day in and day out is why I don’t like Glenn Beck.

And the moral of this story? Don’t over-analyze things which every brain cell you have is telling you are bat shit crazy. You’ll come up with something annoying and asinine.

Oh, come on, this post was begging for a picture of someone in a tinfoil hat.





Admirable Women – The Marble Ceiling

1 03 2011

Yeah, I’ll say it – I admire Nancy Pelosi. Yes, the same Nancy Pelosi about 90% of the county despises. Why? Because she has gotten farther than any other female politician has and that takes skill, discipline, and self-confidence – qualities that are good and that I could use more of. She’s the most accomplished woman in US political history and, hated or not, is one of the most effective House Speakers this country has ever had. Granted, she’s not a very good public speaker and when she freezes up in front of microphones, she says some monumentally silly things, but politics isn’t all poetry and the bottom line is that you don’t get to be House Speaker if you’re an idiot. It’s that simple. She might not be a great orator, but she can get the work done and the votes to get things passed. Truthfully, I hadn’t realized just how good she was at her job until John Boehner took over as Speaker of the House and the well-oiled, resolution-passing machine that had been running like clockwork for the past four years turned into a giant clusterschtup factory turning out one contested, rather random piece of legislation after another while completely ignoring the “all jobs, all the time” platform that swept the Republicans into office.

I’m not going to bash Boehner just yet – he’s still new at this – but he certainly didn’t hit the ground running like his predecessor did. She went ages – without having a bill die on her. Whether or not you like her politics isn’t the issue here. It’s organizational skill, leadership ability, and a bit of shrewd political sense. Case in point  – her not pursuing an impeachment of Dubya once she became Speaker. A lot of liberals thought it was a great idea, but she saw the serious flaws in that plan and took it off the table and once it was off the table, it stayed off.  She can keep her caucus organized and can get the votes out which is important to keep things moving. If you strip away all the layers of demagoguery, you find a strong and skilled politician. It may be my recent mad-dash-to-the-left attitude of recent months, but I find myself being one of the two dozen or so people who don’t hate Nancy Pelosi.





Admirable Women – Going Old School

27 02 2011

The life of Catherine the Great (Catherine II), the eighteenth century Russian empress, reads like an opera libretto. Lots of violence and lust, at least one illegitimate child, and grasping for power. That was what politics was in the days of yore. Modern day sex scandals look kind of pathetic in comparison to the lives of the imperial court. Catherine acknowledges having hidden away a child fathered by one of her lovers and puts the paternity of her first son in question as well in her autobiography. Political rivalries were an issue unsurprisingly, but whereas now your political rival will scour the internet until they find a picture of you in college looking drunk and stupid with a really dated hair style or hunt around for a sex tape just in case you didn’t realize that sex + video camera = your career, no matter what it is, being DOA, in imperial Russia the preferred method of killing a rival’s career was to kill the rival and perhaps start a rumor that they died of something really embarrassing. After some of Catherine’s allies killed her husband, her supporters started a rumor that he died of a sever case of hemorrhoids, thus adding insult to forced expiration.

Theatrics aside, the reason I admire Catherine the Great is actually her skills as a politician. Far from being the heir apparent, she was born a German princess named Sophie whose marriage to the prospective tsar, Peter III, was arranged by her family. Once the plans were made she essentially crafted a Russian identity, changing her name, her, religion,and her language while developing a taste for all things Russian not only to ease her assimilation and enable her to make some friends in her new home, but because she knew that, without allies, as soon as she birthed a male heir, she could become expendable and expendable people didn’t live too long. Once she arrived at the Imperial Court, she started to learn the politics of the court. By the time things with her husband had broken down to the point that her life was in danger, she had made enough connections and maintained enough popularity that there was a bloodless coup which installed her into power. Eight days later, her husband was killed by a close friend of hers. It is not known whether or not she was aware of the murder plot, but she certainly gained safety and peace of mind from his death because he couldn’t attempt to seize power from beyond the grave. Her astute political sense and aptitude as a leader allowed her to do what few famous monarchs of the day got the chance to do – die of natural causes. She died of a stroke at the age of 67 after a reign of more than 34 years. She was smart, brutal, effective, ambitious. I wouldn’t have wanted to live in eighteenth century Russia, but as a historical figure, I’m impressed by her story and how she made herself into a world leader in a time when women were viewed by everyone as the “weaker sex”.





Admirable Women – The Real Trailblazers

25 02 2011

2008 brought a lot of attention to the role of women in the highest levels of elected office. That’s great – I’m all for furthering gender equity – but we got a bit caught up in how historic a moment it was for women. “Oh. My. God. A woman senator is running for President. A woman governor might be Vice President. Oh, we’re soooooo enlightened.” Yeah, not quite. We’d forgotten that we’ve seen women as governors and senators for a while now and we’d seen them running for President and be nominated as vice presidential candidates before too. Time to take a serious look at all the ’08 hype before we get buried in BS of 2012. I’m not trying to diminish the accomplishments of either of these women, but there are a few things that need clearing up.

Hillary Clinton was sworn in as the junior Senator from New York in 2001 and served in the Senate for 7 seven years until 2009 when she was asked to become Secretary of State by President Obama. So, she served a full term, was re-elected, and was then picked to fill a position within the incoming administration. Yes, that’s impressive. What it isn’t is unheard of – at least the different pieces of it aren’t. Let me explain.

  • Hattie Wyatt Caraway (D-AR), after serving in the Senate for a year to fill the seat left open by her husband’s death, won a special election in 1932 and became the first woman elected to the United States Senate. She won re-election in 1938, but lost the 1944 primary.
  • Victoria Woodhull was the first woman to run for the office of President of the United States… in 1872. Some say the she doesn’t count because her name was never on the ballot.
  • Ok, if you want to be one of those picky people, fine. Belva Ann Lockwood ran in 1884 and 1888. Her running mate in her first attempt also happened to be a woman.
  • Frances Perkins was the first woman to be appointed to a position in the US Cabinet. In 1933, Franklin Delano Roosevelt named her Secretary of Labor, a position she held until 1945.
  • *In 1972, Shirley Chisholm (D-NY) became the first woman to get delegate votes at national convention for a major party. To date, six women have had that honor – Shirley  Chisholm in 1972, Barbara Jordan (D-TX) in 1976, Koryne Kaneski Horbal (D-MN) and Alice Tripp (D-MN?) in 1980, Martha Kirkland (D-AL?) in 1984, and Hillary Clinton (D-NY) in 2008. * (Updated as promised.)

Hillary Clinton is admirable – she’s done a lot and I’ll get into that in another post – but not for being the first woman to run for president, or becoming a famous senator, or being asked to be a high-ranking official in a presidential administration because she wasn’t first. She’s the one that got the farthest along thus far, but there were many who came before her. She took the individual achievements others had attained and strung them all together in one ten-year period – a feat that in itself is admirable.

Sarah Palin has become not only a celebrity, but something close to a deity in the eyes of many of her supporters. I think any sort of rabid political fandom is a little misplaced – they write laws, not pop songs – but the Palin worshipers really take it to the next level not only in their devotion to the former Governor, but also in the level of their disdain for those who aren’t moved to support her no matter how rational or genuine their reasons for not doing so are. To fail to support Sarah Palin is, to many of her diehard fans, to reveal yourself as everything anti-American. Yeah, that’s crazy. So, what has she done. Well, in addition to being chosen by AZ senator John McCain to be his running mate in the 2008 presidential election – the event which propelled her into the national spotlight – she served as governor of Alaska from December of 2006 until her resignation in July of 2009. With the fuss that was made over her governorship and vice presidential nomination, you’d think it had never happened before. Well, it had.

  • Nellie Tayloe Ross (D-WY) and Miriam A. Ferguson (D-TX) both became governors in January, 1925. Mrs. Ross, sworn in of January 5th, succeeded her late husband.
  • Miriam A. Ferguson, sworn in on January 25th, succeeded her impeached husband. Her first term was plagued with allegations of corruption and she was defeated twice before winning a second two-year term in 1933. That term was also tainted by alleged corruption. (Might it have run in the family?)
  • The first woman to win a governor’s race without being previously connected to the office by marriage was Ella Grasso (D-CT) who was elected in 1975 and won re-election in 1978. She resigned in December of 1980 due to a worsening battle with ovarian cancer which she succumbed to several weeks later in February 1981.
  • At the time of the 2008 presidential race, Mrs. Palin was one of eight women serving as state governors.
  • The first woman to be chosen as a vice presidential running mate was Marietta Stow, the running mate of Belva Ann Lockwood in 1884.
  • The first woman to be nominated as a vice presidential candidate for one of the country’s major political parties was Geraldine Ferraro (D-NY)in 1984 when she was chosen by Walter Mondale to be his running mate.

Dismiss this all as “Palin Derangement Syndrome” if you will, but while there are some things about her life that are admirable, after comparing her to the other women who actually broke down barriers in politics, I’m not singing Mrs. Palin’s praises. She is also still rather young as far as politicians go, so she may yet accomplish something of merit, but for right now I remain highly unimpressed with the political career of the woman people are comparing to everyone from Washington, to Lincoln, to Jesus. Sorry!

There are many women who have done a lot with their lives before what they did was common or even accepted. Being politically involved and female is a combination that just came about four, or ten, or twenty years ago. We’ve just gotten better at it.

These are a couple other links.

A list of women presidential and vice presidential candidates , a list of women state governors, and a fact sheet about women in government as of 2011 from the Center for Women in Politics.





Admirable Women – Fount of Wisdom

24 02 2011

The first time I ever heard of Dr. Maya Angelou I was in second grade. I was sitting in front of a TV along with the rest of my classmates watching Bill Clinton being sworn in as the 42nd President of the United States. I didn’t know what I liked about the poem she’d written called On the Pulse of Morning which she was reciting for the nation that day. To this day I have no clue what drew my seven-year old self to it enough for me to remember it now, but that was the best part of the whole, long thing for me. (Second-grade-me wasn’t very impressed by the new President himself, by the way. I thought he was goofy and had a funny voice.)

Now that I’m grown enough to fully appreciate her poetry and the life experiences with which she has filled several autobiographies, Dr. Angelou is, in my opinion, one of the most accomplished individuals in this country. It isn’t merely how far she’s come in her life, her fame, or  her wealth, but the way she uses her experiences to inspire others to try to rise above whatever obstacles they face. Some of us are lucky enough to have had exceptional people cross our path who have helped us along life’s way. Dr. Angelou attempts to do that for us all – or at least those who feel like picking up her books. Sort of a wise grandmother to the world. It is a mission summed up in the introduction to her latest book, Letter to My Daughter, and, since it’s always nice to have some storytime, here is that introduction read by one of this country’s most inspiring and admirable women.





Admirable Women – The Roses of Reform

22 02 2011

We have watched transfixed for over a month as autocratic, in some cases outright totalitarian, regimes quake in the face of popular uprisings for democracy and freedom. First Tunisia’s Ben Ali and then Egypt’s Mubarak were forced from power by the people they had long oppressed and, as I type this, the Libya’s Gaddafi seems like he too will be joining the list of ex-dictators. As we watch the protests, we see among them many women. This is no small thing. In many of these places, rape and other forms of sexual abuse are used as a disciplinary tool by the pro-regime mobs and even in some cases law enforcement and military officials. These women risk beatings and shaming as well. While it doesn’t sound like much here in the US, being dubbed “a shame to your family” has major consequences. It could mean that your family has to pack up and move as quickly as possible. You might not be able to marry the person you love – or anyone, for that matter. Your family could disown you and, in countries where inequality is not only accepted but in some cases institutionally sanctioned, it could be very difficult to provide for yourself without the support of you relatives. The risks are significant and far-reaching, yet they keep returning to the squares and rallying points because they have voices and they want the right to be heard. All of these women should be admired for risking so much for the chance at a better future.

Tunisia

Egypt

Libya

Bahrain

Yemen

Jordan

Iran has been in some level of turmoil since the highly contested June 2009 elections. Women have been at the forefront from the beginning of these waves of protest.

The message on her hands reads “Women=Men”





Admirable Women – Hidden Leaders

21 02 2011

From elementary school through to about my sophomore year in college the only books I touched were manga, sheet music, and those scholarly tomes foisted upon me by the demands of my education. Then something changed and I developed a deep love of reading practically overnight. One of the first books I picked up after going through this metamorphosis was one that I had heard about a couple years before and had just never got around to picking up – Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi. That book immediately became a favorite of mine and remains one to this day. It is the story of how Dr. Nafisi taught forbidden western literature to a handful of young women in Iran in the 90’s, a bit of her biography, an analysis of a handful of popular pieces of classic literature, a discussion of the poisonous effects of religious fervor and anti-intellectualism run amok, a reminder to never take simple things for granted, and a look at the contemporary history of Iran from the 1979 Revolution and the optimism that followed to its current repressive, backward state all at the same time. I had encountered much of the literature she referenced in various classes and the personal perspective she brought to what Iran was about 35 years ago versus what it is (or was as of the mid 1990’s) was enlightening. I loved the book for all of its exotic as well as familiar elements, but that is not why I admire its author.

Teaching the material she was teaching in Iran was an incredibly risky undertaking and that in and of itself is worthy of a hat tip, but the fact that the whole endeavor was borne from a deep dedication to education and to this particular group of students is equally commendable. I have had the good fortune of being taught by some exceptional teachers and the thing they all had in common was that kind of dedication and love of what they were doing with their lives. I had said that the women I admire are leaders and I think that Dr. Nafisi is one. While she didn’t lead a nation or a national movement of any kind, she was a leader to this small group of women in a Tehran living room. Leaders aren’t always in the places you’re used to looking for them. Sometimes these hidden leaders have a greater effect on us than an auditorium full of dignitaries.

Incidentally, Azar Nafisi, now residing in the US, still teaches. How cool is that? She has also written another book, Things I’ve Been Silent About , which I have yet to read though I am very anxious to do so.





Admirable Women – A Random Survey and an Idea

20 02 2011

According to this article, a recent survey of professional women found that 45% of the participants named Hillary Rodham Clinton Most Admired Elected Woman Leader. Sarah Palin was a distant second with 12% followed by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice with 8% and, rounding out the top five, Barbara Boxer and Nancy Pelosi tied with 4% each. 27% of those asked chose someone else. A lot of things bug me about this survey. First off, Most Admired Elected Woman Leader is a rather awkward title and that’s easy to fix. Yes, I know, nothing on this blog is what you might call Pulitzer Prize-winning material – my spelling is not the best and the prose sort of bumbles along – but I’m not getting paid for this either. If their was a paycheck associated with this, let me assure you the Discourse in C# Minor would be a good deal crisper and typo-free. Secondly, The position of Secretary of State is acquired through appointment, not election. Also, more than a quarter of the participants gave other names. listing those may or may not provide greater insight into the kinds of things that women admire in one another. If Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and Arizona Governor Jan Brewer placed sixth and seventh, that indicates something different than if Benazir Bhutto and Dr. Hanan Ashwari came in sixth and seventh. Only 222 women took part in the survey to begin with. It would’ve been interesting to see the whole list.

The thing with me is, particularly post-job loss, the next thought that pops into my head after I’ve figured out what I don’t like about the way something has been done is how I would’ve done it better. Don’t worry, I’m not going to make anyone take a poll, but I was inspired. I decided to highlight the work of women – not necessarily political women, but definitely powerful women – leading up to International Women’s Day which is March 8th. There are many that I think are admirable and this way I won’t forget Women’s Day all together this year. Women’s Day is a thing for me because we made a big deal out of it at my college and I believe very strongly that all women deserve to be honored whether or not they’ve birthed children. This is the first in that series of posts.

California Representative Jackie Speier took standing up for a woman’s right to choose to a whole other level Thursday night when she told all of  her colleagues is the House of Representatives and the country as a whole that she herself had an abortion due to major complications with a pregnancy. This happened during a debate on the House floor regarding whether the government should continue to fund Planned Parenthood. As restrictions tighten is states across the country and as South Dakota was, until Wednesday, pondering whether the killing of an abortion doctor should be considered a justifiable homicide, this woman stands up in front of the nation and tells her very personal story  in an attempt to stem the GOP’s march back to Gilded Age-style family planning. She has opened herself up to actual danger by doing so. The überwingnut elements of the anti-choice movement don’t play around. Remember the abortion clinic bombings in the 90’s? More recently, in 2009, Dr. George Tiller, a Kansas abortion provider, was killed in his church at the end of Sunday services. To stand up in the face of all that takes a special blend of courage and a conviction to do what she believes is right that not many of us can stand up and say we have, and to do so frankly and strongly. That’s why I admire this woman. If you missed her speech, this is it.





What Do House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and the iPad Have In Common?

24 01 2011

 

 

 

Both are small and partially made of plastic? No. Both are viewed as smug symbols of elitism by some Tea Party-ers? Maybe. It sort of depends on who you’re asking. The answer is that the public will be receiving both the iPad 2 and Pelosi 2.0 this year. If you’re wondering if this post is going to be both a bit of political theorizing and some nerd-girl swooning over a yet-to-be-released, shiny, new tech toy, the answer is yes. Why? Because I’m just that geeky.

Yes, technophiles are waiting with bated breath for the announcement of the iPad 2’s release date and many, myself among them, will head out to reserve one as soon as they are able to and then, once the happy day arrives, they will wait in insanely long lines for hours to, at long last, hold in their hands the second generation iPad. The clouds will part, beams of sunlight will pour warmly down from the heavens, celestial choirs will sing, and it will be Christmas in … whenever… for thousands of Apple lovers. The announcement has been expected for months and there are various theories about when it will come, many stemming from people with too much time on their hands analyzing every one of the few details they can get ahold of.  Those details are very few indeed and speculation is rampant, so take it all with several grains of salt. I’ve been casually following the iPostulating at Beatweek and I’ve also looked at Mac Rumors, where I pulled this picture from, and while there is a lot that’s just talk, these are some features that are generally accepted due to the surfacing of the photos of what are supposed to be iPad 2 cases made in China. Apparently, somebody doesn’t know how to keep a secret.

No doubt some of the silence surrounding the release date has to do with Apple’s co-founder and CEO, Steve Jobs, taking another medical leave of absence – this time without setting a date when he’ll be back. Jobs took a medical leave in 2006 in order to undergo treatment for pancreatic cancer and another in 2009 to undergo a liver transplant. With a medical history like that, the level of concern expressed by everyone from stock market analysts to run of the mill Apple fans is understandable. I join the chorus of those wishing Mr. Jobs a speedy return to health.

So nobody who’s able to confirm anything to the rest of us knows when the iPad 2 is coming or what fabulous things it’s going to be able to do when it gets here, yet many people are anxiously waiting, blogging, and talking about a device that Apple won’t acknowledge even exists yet. The question then becomes why. Why are so many people so excited by the sequel to the iPad? History. Apple functions on a very predictable schedule and has for several years now. They come up with a great product and then, within a year or two, the second generation is released and they have:

* Fixed all of the inevitable bugs that go along with anything 1.0.

* Created a buzz which results from their 1.0 being so good – a device that has become the gold standard in its category or damn close. For example, nobody says mp3 player. We all talk about iPods.

* Figured out what “it would be awesome if this thing had/could do ____” and added that feature to the second gen. product if it’s at all possible.

A bit of patience tends to be rewarded if the newest Apple gadget is your heart’s desire. As a bonus, most of the 3rd, 4th, 5th, etc generations don’t change a whole lot from the second gen. device – maybe they’ll have more memory or look a little cooler – until

there’s a major innovation (think classic to iPod touch) that really warrants an upgrade, so your second generation product stays current for a few years and you get your money’s worth which always feels rewarding when you’re dealing with techno toys. Since the iPad’s debut I have been waiting for all of the reasons I have described. As I recall, the iPad didn’t have much in the way of new device bugs. There were, however, things people wanted to see added or improved. The speakers could’ve been stronger. Many people want to see a camera added. I’m not among their number, but nobody called to ask my opinion. More

memory is a plus. The biggest thing I heard about was the screen’s glare issue, so that might be dealt with. The newest iPhone has a super high-resolution Retina Display screen. While this article says the iPad 2 won’t have it, an improvement in resolution and less glare is all but a given, especially given that an ad for Amazon’s Kindle e reader took a swipe at the iPad over the glare-prone screen. Throwing my own hat into the release date guessing game, I’ll say that we’ll have an announcement before June and I’ll have my iPad 2 in hand by December 1st.

On the political front, the House Minority Leader’s public image upgrade is looking to be on about the same time-table as my future iPad2. Starting well before the mid-term elections Nancy Pelosi had become the arch-villain in the Republican’s fairy tale of why everything that’s wrong with DC and perhaps even the world is the fault of the evil, no good, country-destroying, monolithic left. Even though sensible people on either side can take a look around and see that laying the blame for problems that were quietly growing in complexity for decades – even reaching back to the Reagan years in some cases – at the feet of Nancy Pelosi, Barack Obama, and Harry Reid, or even the Democrats as a group as the foolishness it is, Nancy Pelosi has become the personification of every one of our nation’s ill and all that’s hated about the nature of bureaucracy in general for many on the right. Her name was invoked to great effectiveness in campaigns by conservatives against then-incumbent Democrats during the mid-terms and conservative commentators on TV and in radio take every opportunity to skewer her for whatever’s making them unhappy at that particular moment. Glenn Beck was already joking about poisoning her in 2009. Some might say the character assassinations have worked a little too well. Last April, a man was arrested for threatening the then-Speaker of the House and I’m sure that not the first or the last threat she’s received. Unfortunately, it seems death threats are par for the political course. That’s nothing new of course – Abraham Lincoln kept a file of his in his desk at the White House – but just because it’s an old idea doesn’t make it acceptable. In short, whether you like Minority Leader Pelosi or not, you have to admit that she’s become politically radioactive – a pariah even among some members of her own party.

Despite her notoriously gaffe prone, generally nervous performances in press conferences and such which I attribute to a touch of stage fright (You can actually see her freeze up before she starts to trip over her words.), she is, contrary to popular belief, not a dumb woman. You don’t work you way up through the congressional leadership and become the most powerful woman in American political history by being an idiot. While the American public at large might decide to vote a likable doofus into the presidency, our Representatives take voting for their majority leaders, minority leaders, and speakers of the House very seriously. They vote for the one among them who can get things done and, whether you like the results or not, Nancy Pelosi got a lot done and she was able to keep most of the House Democrats in rank even after the Republicans took control at the beginning of the month. The fact that only three broke ranks to vote for a repeal of Healthcare Reform is a testament to her abilities. Still, she can’t do much when her public image is this toxic. She has to do some damage control… and it looks like she is. She has, for the most part, been able to avoid a lot of media attention with the exception of a few interviews. There are not many pictures of her coming out, so she’s generally under the radar. She wasn’t front and center at the memorial for the victims of the shoot in Tucson. She was the only member of the congressional leadership to attend the state dinner that was held for China’s President Hu Jintao, but I challenge you to find a picture of her there. Even the fact that she stuck around after losing the Speakership reflects well on her and casts a new light on someone reportedly only in it for the power and the parties and such. By just lying low and keeping as quite as the House Minority Leader can be expected to be, she’s keeping herself from become the story. That doesn’t sound like much but in six months, when the 2012 election cycle really gets underway, it will be much harder for Republicans to use her as the poster woman for why all liberals should be despised if she hasn’t said or done anything overly controversial in the last several months. If she can stay in the background while Speaker Boehner and the Republicans try to get their agenda legislated and take the political flak that comes with doing so, she’ll begin to look more like a person and less like the demon she’s been cast as. In fact, the Republicans might come to regret posting that “Hire Pelosi” sign over the RNC. They underestimate her at their own peril.