S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Struggles of Women and Blacks have mixed results

International Women's Day was celebrated on March 8, 2007.
The road to empowerment has been marked by uneven progress for those with a history of struggles for equality. Today's post spotlights stories about women and blacks featured in the recent news items from around the U.S and Europe.
Our current Secretary of State is an African-American woman - Condoleezza Rice began her proud career as expert on Russia. But her tenure as a member of the Bush administration's foreign policy team has been marred by the consequences of having all her attention consumed by the Middle East. She should have been able to predict and warn her staff early that the U.S. proposal to put up missiles in Eastern Europe would be upsetting to Russia. A story in RIA Novosti, dated Feb. 20, 2007, was headlined "U.S. Puzzled by Russia's Missile Shield Concerns." I quote,

An American diplomat said Tuesday his country was puzzled by Russia's anxiety about the deployment of U.S. missile defenses in central Europe while a senior Russian military official reiterated national security concerns.
The United States has announced plans to build a radar installation in the Czech Republic and a missile base in Poland in the next five years. The cost of the five-year project, which envisions a further addition of sea-based missile defense and satellite surveillance support elements, is estimated at $1.6 billion.
U.S. insists that the European missile shield is meant to counter possible attacks from Iran or North Korea but Russia says the deployment of missile bases close to its borders could only mean it is the real target.

Secretary Rice catching up, however - It is my belief that the departure of former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and the scandal associated with Vice President Cheney have markedly increased the power and influence of Ms. Rice. It must be satisfying for Rice to be called upon to use her range of skills and expertise more fully. For example, the International Herald Tribune carried a (3/5/07) story that "The Bush team begins new diplomatic initiative with Russia."

The Bush administration has decided to reach out more often and more intensively to Russia at a time when the leadership in Moscow is harshly criticizing American policy, and some scholars say the United States has not aggresively tended to an important relationship.
American plans to base elements of a missile defense system in Eastern Europe, as well as Washington's support for expanding NATO, have compounded a sense of resentment within a Russian leadership that now feels emboldened by a flood of petrodollars.
. . . Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's stop in Berlin late last month to confer with her Russian counterpart on Iran was the first step of the new initiative; that was followed by a visit to Moscow later the same week by Stephen Hadley, the national security adviser, whose agenda included detailed descriptions of American policy, administration officials said.

Women and blacks lead in poll - Condoleezza Rice is not alone in her increased stature with the American public. Presidental politics for 2008 is in a mini revolution. Yahoo! News carried an article stating that, "Women, blacks beat smokers, Mormons in U.S. race: poll" (2/27/07). To quote,
Being female or black is less of a liability for U.S. presidential candidates than being over 72, Mormon, twice-divorced or a cigarette smoker, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll issued on Tuesday.
With the 2008 presidential race featuring perhaps the most diverse field of White House contenders ever, the poll showed being a woman or an African American carries the least amount of negative baggage.

Race more positive in politics - The International Herald Tribune published this insightful analysis shedding additional light on the progress of Blacks in American politics. It is titled, "Letter From Washington: A new role for race in U.S. politics," written by Albert R. Hunt and published March 4, 2007. I quote,
Race has played an insidious role through much of American political history. In the current presidential contest, it may play a more inspiring one.
The battle for the Democratic nomination features Barack Obama, the first African-American with a serious chance to win the presidency; Hillary Clinton, whose husband the author Toni Morrison once dubbed the "first black president"; and John Edwards, a white Southern progressive, the type who has appealed to African-American voters during the last 40 years.
. . . "If someone had told me 42 years ago that two United States senators, leading presidential candidates, and a former president would be walking across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, I would have said that's not possible," says Representative John Lewis of Georgia, one of the true heroes of the civil rights movement, who was bloodily beaten at Selma.

Limited progress for the world's women in the workplace, however - Women in the United States still make only 70 cents of salary for every man's dollar. And the percentage of women in Congress is just under 17%, the world wide average. Financial Times headline, "Limited progress toward gender equality." (3/8/07)
Although more women than ever before are in work or looking for work, the past decade has seen only limited progress towards gender equality in wages and status, the International Labour Organisation said on Thursday.
. . . Moving to wage and salaried employment is a major step toward freedom and self-determination for many women, the report notes. However, in all regions women are more likely than men to be unpaid contributing family members or working on their own account for poverty wages.
. . . Women made up a record 17 per cent of the world’s parliamentarians last year, up from 11 per cent in 1995, according to the Geneva-based Inter-Parliamentary Union which groups 148 national parliaments, . . . By last December, 19 parliaments had reached the target level of 30 per cent women established by the United Nations conference on women held in Beijing in 1995.

UK black Commonwealth soldiers needed to unionize - To conclude this post I link to a surprising story about charges of racism in the British military. BBC News headlined "Commonwealth soldiers form union" (3/7/07). Ten percent of the UK armed forces are from abroad.
Some 6,000 soldiers are from Commonwealth countries. Soldiers from the Commonwealth serving in the British army are so dissatisfied with their treatment they are to form a union, the BBC has learned.
. . . Belize-born Marlon Clancy, who is setting up the British Commonwealth Soldiers' Union, joined the Army in 1999 and said on one occasion he had been attacked in his barracks by other soldiers dressed as members of the Ku Klux Klan.
"They were saying they were going to take the 'nigger' to burn. That black people never used to have rights, they shouldn't have rights now," he said. Mr Clancy, still a serving soldier, said his complaints were not acted on. "Nothing was done. Because I made the complaint I was further victimised. "As a serving soldier myself, personally, I have gone through the chain of command time and time again within the seven-and-a-half years I have been in the Army and time and time again the chain of command have failed me."
Forty years ago - In the second half of the 1960's I witnessed and participated in the movement by women and African-Americans towards empowerment. We have come a long way since then in the U.S. and in Europe. But there is still a way to go.
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