One woman’s must-see video

MJ Hegar is a self-described ass-kicking, motorcycle-riding, Texas Democrat. She was a combat rescue pilot in Afghanistan until she was shot down and wounded on a mission. Several adventures later, Hegar is now trying to unseat the Texas Tea Party Congressman John Carter who refused to see her because she wasn’t one of his donors.

She calls her campaign video “Doors.” Doors she’s opened, shut, walked through, and doors slammed in her face. I’m posting her video, not to boost her candidacy, but because it’s impressively made about an even more impressive woman.

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Republicans finally resist Trump

https://www.nytimes.com/video/players/offsite/index.html?videoId=100000005960348
Was my previous post too cynical, too dark? Perhaps. But it is difficult to be positive when each day brings news of a new scandal in the Cabinet, trade wars, Trump’s mendacious fulminations, and scrambled foreign policy with rebuffs of our allies and embrace of tyrants.

Yet with all of this week’s horrors, there was one bright spot. Trump finally had to yield to the relentless entreaties of Congressional members to halt the forcible splintering of families. That is certainly a step forward, despite the inadequacy of the executive order. The President apparently caved because of the optics, realizing that when leading Republicans join Democrats in denouncing his barbarous policy, it’s time to change tactics.

The public outrage at the plight of the migrant children, inflamed by photos and the audio of their cries, was snowballing, forcing Republicans to realize that their hold on Congress could be jeopardized by their callousness. The Republicans who don’t dare criticize the President for fear of losing their seats could no longer stomach the anguished wailing of the caged children. They could see that the winds of public opinion were blowing against them. Politics, not compassion, drove Trump’s reversal, as was evident when he called undocumented immigrants “murderers and thieves” who want to “infest our country.” Brown people are not welcome in Trump’s America. He considers them vermin that must be stomped out by any means.

The migrant crisis at the southern border did have one salutary effect. It was the first time Congress defied the President. Republicans may have been shocked into action by the public reaction, worrying that it could swell into a wave that would imperil their hold on Congress. Or, more generously, they may have given in to their humanity. I wonder what it felt like. Will they be emboldened to resist the President the next time? Probably too much to ask.

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“This is not who we are” Really?

Wailing toddlers ripped from their mothers’ arms, pre-adolescents caged in detention camps, children warehoused like so many sacks of flour— horrors never seen before in the U.S. are happening now at our southern border.

Really? Never before? There was a time when we whipped slaves, broke up their families and tortured them into submission so their hard labor could fill American coffers. Slavery really happened. Native Americans were killed or driven from their lands to make way for the white man’s expansion across the continent. The natives who survived were penned up in “reservations.”

We are a land of immigrants, but we never welcomed them. Lady Liberty lifts her lamp before the Golden Door, but the passage into her arms was never easy. To succeed and live the American dream immigrants had to claw their way up.

Not who we are? Sixty-two million Americans voted for a racist, xenophobic, pussy-grabbing tyrant. Millions of Americans approve of Trump as he snubs and slurs our allies while he clearly admires dictators whose hands are bloodied by the murders of their own people.

Trump’s numbers, even in the face of his latest outrage, are going up. Nearly 90 percent of Republicans approve of what he is doing. Recently, his approval rating among all Americans has climbed above 40 percent. There may be more Democrats than Republicans, yet when over 40 percent of Americans approve of Trump, despite his racism,  cruelty and corruption, we cannot say “This is not who we are.”

I don’t think it was always like this. When the U.S. sent its sons to die for a cause, to liberate the Europeans under Hitler’s boot— not to gather booty or expand its territory, we could say “This is not who we are.” And yet, while American boys were fighting for people who lived across the ocean, here at home other Americans were being taken from their homes and made to live in detention camps.

No one can impugn our ideals. Our founding document proclaims that all men are created equal. Though women and people of color are not mentioned or included, we have been working for over two centuries on the inclusivity of that ideal. Americans live in liberty and are free to pursue their happiness. Just not all Americans. Not all the time.

Joe Kennedy III (D-MA) implores his colleagues to end the inhuman brutality that the migrant children and their parents are suffering. These children need to be with their parents, just like all children. “Anything else,” he says, “is cruelty in its purest form.”

Fortunately, some Republicans are recognizing that this is not a political problem. It is a national emergency. Today, the protests and anguished cries finally made the President capitulate. He has ordered that families not be separated, but interned together. Only some of the more than 2,300 children in camps will be reunited with their parents. Homeland Security and the other agencies were not prepared to keep track of where the children were sent and with whom they belonged.

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The Notorious RBG

I had heard “RBG,” the movie that celebrates the life and accomplishments of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, was good. But I wasn’t prepared for how moving it would be for someone who lived through the times that RBG did so much to change.

If you remember when women’s minds were not valued and their voices barely heard, you’ll enjoy watching the amazing and Notorious “RBG.” If you’re too young to remember, then see it and learn. You’ll appreciate how different your life is from your mother’s (or grandmother’s) because of RBG’s legal triumphs.

“RBG” is a love story. The marriage of Ruth and Marty is lovingly told, as is her fierce belief in the Constitution and her crusade for equal rights.

The movie is fun to watch. The montage of old clips and photos interlaced with Ruth speaking her mind today is very well done. It’s also au courant— Ruth’s kids say she never watches TV, but we see her watching Kate McKinnon’s recent impersonation of her on SNL. She rocks with laughter, her usually sober demeanor dissolving.

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Women vault from the military to the ballot box

A SALUTE TO WOMEN VETERANS TRAILBLAZING A PATH FROM THE MILITARY TO PUBLIC OFFICE

By Diane Vacca

Reblogged from Women’s Voices for Change

Knowing she had to come down smoothly with a single engine and 149 people aboard, Captain Tammie Jo Shults deftly guided her crippled aircraft while reassuring her passengers that the plane was descending, not going down. She warned that they would come down hard, but instead, “she didn’t slam it down. She brought the bird down very carefully.” Passenger Alfred Tumlinson admired the pilot’s cool (“She has nerves of steel”) and the emergency landing that saved the lives of almost all aboard the Southwest Airlines plane whose engine exploded in April. The single fatality was the woman who had been blown halfway out a window broken by shrapnel from the explosion. Once safely on the ground, Shults modestly thanked the air traffic controllers for their help and walked through the plane, talking to each passenger and shaking every hand, according to Tumlinson.

Shults knew what she wanted at an early age. “Some people grow up around aviation. I grew up under it,” she said. Living near Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico, she was fascinated by the planes overhead and knew she “just had to fly.”

But it wasn’t easy.

Read More …

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The Blue Marble, our home

Blue-Marble-2015-640x640

Blue Marble 2015 NASA

 

Earthrise from Apollo 8, 1968

The iconic Earthrise and Apollo 8 haunt me. I watched  “Earthrise” at the Tribeca Film Festival a day ago, and I can still feel the awe inspired by the sight of the incredibly beautiful Earth rising over the moon.

The first men to see the Earth as a blue planet framed by the impenetrable midnight of space behind and the monotonous grey of the moon below recount their adventure. Fifty years ago they were astronauts setting off on the eighth Apollo mission to go where no man had gone before. Their young selves conveyed their excitement in television news interviews; their older selves spoke reverentially of the experience.

Astronaut Jim Lovell described the Earth as “a grand oasis in the vastness of space.”

“I don’t think we captured entirely the grandeur of what we had seen,” he said ruefully.

You don’t realize until you leave it, they said, how beautiful the Earth is “in the midst of all the darkness.”

They were struck by the realization that from their viewpoint, there were no boundaries, no countries, no cities. When director Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee was asked after the screening what effect he hoped his film would have, he only half-jokingly said, “world peace.”

The astronauts remember how keenly they had felt that the faraway “Earth is our home,” and “everything we had was out there on that blue planet.” Lovell in particular lived that truth as captain of the ill-fated Apollo 13.

Hours after watching “Earthrise,” I had an irresistible desire to watch the Hollywood version of the Apollo 13 disaster. I was fascinated by the parallel contrasts of the young astronauts and their much older selves 50 years later and the young Tom Hanks, Ed Harris and the other actors in the movie versus their current, aging selves.

When, two years after Apollo 8, Lovell had to abandon the Apollo 13 moon landing, he was heart-broken. He had been so close before, and now he had to accept that he would never take that moonwalk. But his craft was severely disabled, and all at once, the Earth, not the moon, became the all-consuming goal. The 3-man crew overcame almost unbeatable odds with the help of the scientists and mathematicians of NASA on the ground. They worked feverishly round the clock to devise work-arounds that would bring the crippled spaceship home.

When there was only a very slim chance that the men would return alive, one of the scientists told the head of the Houston ground crew that this was NASA’s darkest hour.

“No, it will be our finest hour,” the anxious chief replied. He was right.

Go to Blue Marble 2012 for a shot of the Blue Marble three years earlier than the one above.

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Five Shorts long in imagination

Treated to a screening of five short films at the Tribeca Film Festival and knowing nothing in advance about any of them, I marveled yet again at human diversity and creativity.

The first film was “Earthrise,” by Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee. The three astronauts of Apollo 8 tell the story of their otherworldly adventure from launch to splashdown. It was an experience that immeasurably enlarged and changed their perspectives. The first humans to orbit the moon, they were awestruck when they saw the Earth rising above the moon’s horizon. They recall the emotion they felt when they saw their distant home, a blue planet ascending in brilliant color from the moon’s unremitting gray into the blackness of space. Their mission was to photograph the moon’s surface, but the first pictures ever taken of the Earth from space eclipsed the novelty of the far side of the moon. Their iconic photo of earthrise is one of the most famous photos ever taken.

The Blue Line” examines what happens when someone paints a blue line down the main street of a small town in order to honor the police. The line exposes a previously well hidden division between conservative and liberal, white and black. Voices raised in anger on either side of the divide eventually come to a town meeting to hear each other out. When Samantha Knowles heard about the controversy from her dad, she immediately dropped everything and returned to her childhood home to document the affair. One of the tiny percentage of African-Americans in an overwhelmingly white community, she was amazed and gladdened by the willingness of all the townspeople to speak with her.

The third film, “My Dead Dad’s Porno Tapes,” is a son’s attempt to come to terms with destructive family relationships, and especially with his father. Charlie Tyrell pieces together an understanding of his distant, dead father with scraps of memorabilia. He draws on his own little bit of hard knowledge with very few existent photos, including the single one of him and his father together, the memories and impressions of his sister, random artifacts his father left behind and family stories he had heard to trace the origins of his father’s unwillingness to be known.

Sindha Agha tells her story of battling menstrual pain in “Birth Control Your Own Adventure.” She represents her period with raspberries floating in water, catsup among balloons and other unique metaphors. She made the film in two days to distract her when her pangs were particularly intense. Her experience, she discovered, is far from unique. Women called and wrote and shared their stories, stories that no men wanted to hear, stories that they kept undisclosed for most of their lives.


Lance Oppenheim is a junior at Harvard, fascinated by the man who calls himself “The Happiest Guy in the World.” He profiles Mario Salcedo, a man who boarded his first cruise 20 years ago and never returned. Mario lives his fantasy, shucking off the responsibilities of living on land. He doesn’t have to take out the garbage, for example. Someone else makes his bed and cooks and serves his food. Oppenheim gives Mario free rein  to explain why he is the happiest guy in the world, but he seems to be unaware of some glaring contradictions in his narrative. Strange.

All the filmmakers are under 40, three in their 20s and one not twenty yet, and all have made other films. I was struck by the originality of their work and the compelling stories they tell. Agha’s and Tyrell’s shorts are available in the New York Times Op-Docs section, and the others will soon be. Check them out. You won’t be sorry.

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