Wonk’s Saturday Reads: Walk Like a Bahraini Youth Activist

Click Image to go to the NYT Lens.

Good morning, news junkies!

I’ve gotten quite hooked on the NYT’s new Lens blog, particularly the regular interview/photo essays compiled by Lens editor James Estrin. A couple months ago, Estrin zoomed the focus in on Eirini Vourloumis and her photographs of Spanish-speaking converts to Islam–you may remember my linking to the interview at the time. This week’s spotlight is on Hazel Thompson and her work documenting the roles of women in Bahrain. There’s also a video of Thompson discussing her experiences at the link. Fascinating stuff.

To the right… from Hazel Thompson’s “Measure of a Woman”… The Youth Activist: Enas Ahmed Al-Farden is the vice president of the Bahrain Youth Forum Society. She is also a radio announcer and a product marketing manager. She lives with her parents and is engaged to be married.

If you have some free time after you’re finished reading this roundup, both the spot on Bahraini women and the earlier one on Latino Muslims are well worth the investment. (I’ll link to them again at the end.) In the meantime, here are the rest of my Saturday picks… grab a cup of whatever gets you up and running in the morning and enjoy.


  1. As of November, men’s unemployment is down .04 percent over the previous 12 months, and women’s unemployment over the same period is up .04 percent. Between July 2009 and January 2011, women lost 366,000 jobs while men gained 438,000.
  2. The public sector has shed 426,000 jobs since August of 2008. 154,000 of those jobs were in education. Women comprise only a little over half of the public workforce but have lost 83.8% of the jobs during the recovery-in-name-only.
  3. And, just look at who is exempt from Walker’s proposal to strip collective bargaining: public officers, firefighters, and state troopers. It’s the public employee unions made up mostly of women that are facing threat of annihilation.

  • Wonk’s two cents: The Taxed Enough Already (TEA) crowd never shuts up about the “debt we’re creating for our children,” but they sure don’t seem to be looking in the right place if that’s what they’re really concerned about.

although borrowers who develop severe and lasting disabilities are legally entitled to get federal student loans forgiven, the process for deciding who is eligible is dysfunctional, opaque and duplicates similar reviews conducted by other federal agencies. Many borrowers have been denied for unclear reasons, and many others have simply given up.

  • On Thursday, Zaid Jilani from Think Progress posted the graph I’ve been looking for. This is what the workers in Wisconsin, Ohio, and Indiana are protesting:


Women’s Rights

  • The Center for Reproductive Rights’ Melissa Upreti, via RH Reality Check, reports that Nepal Advances As U.S. Backslides on Women’s Rights.” What takes the cake is that Nepal’s Supreme Court cites Roe in its groundbreaking affirmation of a woman’s autonomy, access to abortion, and well-being over that of a fetus. I almost want to laugh and tell Nepal’s Supremes that their ruling sounds better than Roe. Our dear Roe has, among other things, successfully kept women’s rights in perpetual limbo for almost 4 decades. As much as I believe in the privacy argument, I’m a much bigger believer in the autonomy and equity arguments.

  • Here’s a good companion essay to read after Clark’s piece. Margot Badran, via the SSRC’s Immanent Frame, writes of Egypt’s Revolution and the New Feminism.” From Badran’s pen to the goddess’s ear:

Will the youth now be willing to accept patriarchal authoritarianism sustained by the old family law, a law so out of sync with contemporary social realities—with their own realities? It is very hard to see by what logic they could do so. Freedom, equality, and justice cannot be reserved for some only. For the youth, female and male, who raised this revolution, freedom, equality, and justice are surely non-negotiable, and dignity, the order of the day. This is the essence of the new feminism, call it what you will.

  • I missed this one last week. William John Cox’s “Political Upheaval and Women’s Rights,” via Truthout. Excellent long view essay. Cox really lays it all out there. Fundamentalism is a threat to women everywhere, be it in the Mideast or in the US.

[There’s more, so if you need a coffee refill or anything, now would be a good time for an intermission before you click to continue. ]

Global Affairs

  • BAR’s Glen Ford: U.S. Prepares to Make Its Lunge at Libya’s Oil Fields.” I found Ford’s reporting about the deaths of hundreds of sub-Saharan Black migrant workers in Libya–of which there are 1.5 million–at the hands of anti-Khadafi forces most troubling. The US media’s virtual blackout of this story strikes me as a red flag.
  • I want to see the humanitarian crisis of genocide in Libya addressed, but I’m quite concerned about what it is exactly that the US war and empire machine is getting us into. So I was glad to catch this helpful read from the Washington Institute — Michael Knights’ Slippery Slope: Libya and the Lessons of Previous No-Fly Zones.” (H/T Taylor Marsh) Knights makes some recommendations on how the US can avoid inheriting an “open-ended protection of a new mini-state.” These recommendations sound pretty sensible. I wish we could have confidence that the Obama Administration would heed them.

The proposed changes shorten the presidential term and create a two-term limit, significantly expand the pool of eligible presidential candidates, restore judicial supervision of elections, pave the way for a new constitution after elections, and restrict the ability to declare and renew a state of emergency.

At the same time, some surprising amendments raise questions about whether the changes serve specific agendas within the military or other leadership circles. In particular, a change in the eligibility criteria for the presidency disqualifies any Egyptian who has dual nationality or is married to a non-Egyptian.


We’re the most technologically advanced country in the world. So slowly but surely we’ve been trying to take back the airwaves in Afghanistan against Taliban with the most primitive kind of communication equipment. Now, take that as one example where I don’t think we were very competitive–and we have worked like crazy to change that–and then go to the most extreme where you’ve got a set of global networks–that Al Jazeera has been the leader in–that are literally changing people’s minds and attitudes. And, like it or hate it, it is really effective. And, in fact, viewership of Al Jazeera is going up in the United States because it’s real news. You may not agree with it, but you feel like you’re getting real news around the clock instead of a million commercials and arguments between talking heads and the kind of stuff that we do on our news which you know is not particularly informative to us let alone foreigners.

US Politics/2012 Election Cycle

  • Gingrich blah blah blah. If you missed the much ado about nothing, you can read all about it at that politico link or at the NYT Caucus blog. Obama must be relieved that the most exciting thing the loyal opposition has going for it so far is the non-announcement of a presidential bid from a discredited, old, white guy synonymous with Nineties corruption and GOP hypocrisy. What a joke. Wake me when Jon Huntsman declares his candidacy.

  • Speaking of which… NH GOP powerbroker: “Huntsman’s too liberal, comes with the tarnish of having accepted the appointment from Obama […] He’s never said anything really conservative in his life. How’s he going to win in a conservative primary? He can’t. Huntsman is, in my opinion, a non-player.”

  • Donald Trump is going to Iowa. Not the kind of third party candidate I was hoping for, but at the very least Trump’s supposed testing of the waters has been more interesting than anything coming out of the Newt, Mitt, Huckabee, and Palin camps combined.

  • Romney and Huntsman are both Mormon, and the Washington Post is journalistically bankrupt, so voila: A five-page spread on How to Tell Hunstman and Romney Apart. I don’t think a Romney/Huntsman race is very likely, so I’ll sum up the background and direct quotes in all those pages for you: “Who goes to church more? Who follows the line of their religious heritage more? Romney.” Huntsman “used his relationship with the church to run from the church.”
  • Former Louisiana Gov. Charles “Buddy” Roemer launches 2012 bid for the GOP presidential nomination. More from Raw Story/Reuters which quotes Roemer as saying, “Listen to this: The nation is hurting and Washington, D.C., is a boom town. What does that tell you?” Roemer has been away from the political scene for two decades. He was also a Democrat until he switched parties in 1991–there goes his chances right there! Roemer is a longshot candidate who is entering the race to shape the debate. File this under…“Ron Paul, Dennis Kucinich, Ralph Nader, et al.”


  • Pauline W. Chen, MD, via NYT Doctor and Patient, When Optimism Is Unrealistic.” Chen discusses a recent study that challenges the assumption that patient optimism poses little ethical risk–at least when it comes to informed consent and early-phase cancer trials.

This Day in History (March 5th)

  • Jimmy Carter’s official papers call the program“Ask President Carter.” On a bit of a tangent here–I just got an e-mail the other day from the Clinton Foundation where the subject header started off with Ask President Clinton.” Contrast Big Dawg’s postpresidency (he’s still out there soliciting our opinions) to what Ruth Marcus dubbed Obama’s “Where’s Waldo” Presidency.

I’d like to end by returning for a moment to Hazel Thompson’sMeasure of a Woman” work. In her interview with the NYT’s James Estrin, Thompson stresses that what she learned from her experiences with Bahraini women, and what she wants other Westerners to see, is “she’s just like me.” (See also Vourloumis’ photographs of Latino Muslims.)

I wonder if, instead of “Ask President Obama,” there is any photo essay in the world we could send to him and his inner circle to get them to realize that beingtoo talented to do what ordinary people dois not something to be proud of. Probably there isn’t.

Okay, well that’s it for me. I’m going to turn over the Saturday reads to you in the comments.

What headlines and stories are you following today?

[originally posted at Let Them Listen; crossposted at Sky Dancing and Taylor Marsh]


2 Responses

  1. I hate to admit it, but I would rather have Donald Trump as President than any of the jokers (Mittens, Huck and Newt) on the Republican ballot or Obama. It is a sad state of things isn’t it?
    But I try to have hope against Hope(TM).
    Thanks for the Saturday reads, they’re always fantastic.

  2. Hey LI… yes, it is a sad state of affairs.

    The Donald vs. GOP dreck vs. Bunraku Obama 2012

    It’s like a really cheezy chainsaw horror movie.

    BTW that truthout link on “Political upheavals and Women’s rights” seems to be down… Don’t know if it will come back, but I found a crosspost here:


    I should note that Cox perhaps overstates the threat of “Islamists in Tunisia” but overall I appreciated the way he tied things together, e.g.:

    The U.S. has used images of the plight of women in the Middle East to justify illegal wars of aggression, while curtailing the rights of American women to determine the fate of their own bodies and by failing to protect them from sexual assaults.

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