Saturday, June 28, 2008

Nice Spot to Eat After Golf, but Women Are Barred

By JENNIFER STEINHAUER - Phoenix Journal - New York Times - June 28, 2008
PHOENIX — When the men of the Phoenix Country Club saw their feeding ways in peril, they did not tarry. Some sent nasty e-mail messages, hectored players on the fairway and, for good measure, urinated on a fellow club member’s pecan tree.

The targets of their ire were the women, and some men, who have dared to speak up against the club’s policy of forbidding women in the men’s grill room, a center of power dining in Phoenix.

Barbara Van Sittert, one of those women, said her husband, Logan, 73, has been heckled while playing golf and once found his locker defaced.

“They hooted and hollered at him and called his wife a whore,” said Mrs. Van Sittert, 72, a petite, quiet woman with an elegant white bob. “It was not warm and fuzzy.”

Charges of sexism against private golf clubs are not uncommon; the Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia, where the Masters is held each year, does not permit women to be members.

But here in Arizona, where the governor, secretary of state, chief justice and Senate minority leader are women, it has rankled more than a few women that nonmember men have more rights than paying female members at the Phoenix Country Club, a century-old fixture in the city’s social and business life where it costs tens of thousands of dollars a year to belong.

Gov. Janet Napolitano, a Democrat, is not a member of the club, but Dennis Burke, her chief of staff, is. Mr. Burke has publicly opposed the separated dining rooms, and in an interview called them “indefensible.” Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, does not belong to the club but has spoken there. (The McCain presidential campaign declined to comment on the separate dining rooms.) According to a 2007 club directory, Mr. McCain’s son, Andrew, is a member, along with scores of other notable Phoenix residents, including the rocker Alice Cooper. Women at the club are not permitted to have lunch in the men’s grill room with their husbands after a round of golf; they have been barred from trophy ceremonies after tournaments, even ones they have sponsored, and may not participate in one of the most sacred rituals of the men’s grill room — sealing a deal over a beer with a client.

“If at three in the afternoon I wanted to have a business cocktail, there wasn’t any place to go,” said Vicki King, whose husband recently resigned from the club. Ms. King had privileges at the club as the spouse of a member

As teenage boys saunter into the sumptuously appointed men’s grill room, their mothers are relegated to the ladies’ grill, down the hall with a hot plate, some card tables and no bar. The club also has a formal dining room, where men and women are welcome, but it is closed between meals and is not a spot to get a drink.

“The ladies’ grill is a very small room where a bunch of little old ladies gather to play cards,” said Wanda Diethelm, a health care executive. “And if you make any noise, they shush you.”

Grumbling about the disparity has gone on for years. But the casus belli was when the Van Sitterts, club members for 30 years, decided two years ago that they wanted to partake in some eggs together in the morning. They appealed to the board of the club to change its policies so they could eat together in the men’s grill room, but were rebuffed.

The couple filed a complaint with the civil rights division of the Arizona attorney general’s office, arguing that although the club is private and not inherently subject to the state’s antidiscrimination laws, it is the equivalent of a public accommodation because it receives much of its revenue from nonmembers, in speeches, tournaments, Rotary Club meetings and the like.

Earlier this month, the attorney general’s office agreed with the couple, issuing an advisory legal opinion that the club needed to comply with the state’s antidiscrimination laws.

The office’s investigation, according to a copy of its findings, noted the inadequacy of the women’s facility, while listing the lopsided benefits of the men’s: three high-definition televisions, a buffet and a bar, and gorgeous views of the course. (The office would not comment; parties in a civil rights determination have 30 days to work out their differences privately.)

Lawyers for the country club did not return calls. A reporter stopped by the club, which is under renovation and partially closed, and found the general manager, Pasquale J. LaRocca, riding around the property on a golf cart.

Mr. LaRocca said that the attorney general’s findings were “not binding” and that he hoped “it would not come” to a lawsuit. The renovated club will have the same formal dining room now used by men and women, and separate male and female grill rooms but with “equivalent accommodations,” he added.

The club’s board has not found the attention or legal proceedings enchanting. First, it amended its bylaws to state that any member who makes “derogatory or otherwise injurious comments in the media” is subject to suspension and legal fees, and ditto for those who sue. It also warned that spouses of dead members would no longer automatically maintain their privileges.

“You get into very difficult family issues,” said one woman who wanted to speak about the policy, but feared expulsion. “It becomes, ‘Mommy got Daddy kicked out of the club.’ “

Russell Brown, a member, said in remarks at the Arizona Women Lawyers Association luncheon this past winter that he thought the men’s grill “disadvantaged women professionals.” Mr. Brown said in an interview that he was subsequently called before the club’s governing board to “explain my actions.”

Next came anonymous e-mail messages, sent to some female members of the club, deriding Mr. Brown and the Van Sitterts, and suggesting, among other things, “you and your type needs to go,” and a Web site was set up with some members’ names and phone numbers under the title “Femi Nazis here in Phoenix,” according to a complaint filed by Mr. Brown in the matter.

At one point, Ms. Diethelm, who lives with her husband near the 18th tee, was surprised by a rash of men whom she recognized from the club hopping off their carts to “urinate on my pecan tree,” she said. When her complaints to the club went unheeded, she bought a security camera. (Mr. LaRocca acknowledged the bathroom breaks, but said the culprits could not be identified.)

“Most men are indifferent to the policy or are against it,” Mr. Brown said. “But you become a leader of the club by being visible and you become visible by being seen in the men’s grill and the way the men’s grill is set up suits those men.”

Mrs. Van Sittert said she still treasured her country club.

“We welcome the attorney general’s decision,” she said, “and look at it as a wonderful opportunity for the club we love to move forward.”

Read more in the New York Times

Monday, June 23, 2008

On the Hill: Disturbing votes by 105 Democrats on Domestic Wiretapping Bill

By Faith Chatham - DFWRCC - June 23, 2008
Despite oaths of office which charge Congressmen and Congresswomen to uphold the Constitution of the United States of America, examination of this past week's Congressional Record of Roll Call votes shows that most fail to keep that pledge.

In consideration of renewal of the Domestic Wiretapping Bill and extending immunity to GWB and the telecoms who violated the law prior to 911, 293 members of Congress voted to protect GWB and the telecoms rather than the Constitutional rights of the American people. See who voted to "Shred the 4th Amendment" and give immunity to GWB and telecoms for domestic wiretapping.

105 House Democrats and 188 Republicans voted in favor of Domestic Wiretapping.
See how each Congress person voted on Roll Call 437 June 20, 2008.

On June 9, 2008, Dennis Kucinich read 35 Artlicles of Impeachment on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Read Dennis Kucinich's 35 Articles of Impeachment against President George W. Bush

Initially the first three co-sponsors were Robert Wexler (FL19), Lynn Woolsey (CA06), and Barbara Lee (CA09). Tammy Baldwin (WI02) and Maurice Hinchey (NY22) joined as co-sponsors.

By a vote of 251-166, the U.S. House of Representatives sent Dennis Kucinich's 35 Articles of Impeachment to the Judiciary Committee.

Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers has the power to decide whether to hold impeachment hearings - or not.

24 Republicans voted with 227 Democrats; 166 no votes came exclusively from Republicans.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Obama infuriates the Left - Obama Supports FISA Legislation, Angering Left

By Paul Kane - The Washington Post -
Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) today announced his support for a sweeping intelligence surveillance law that has been heavily denounced by the liberal activists who have fueled the financial engines of his presidential campaign.

In his most substantive break with the Democratic Party's base since becoming the presumptive nominee, Obama declared he will support the bill when it comes to a Senate vote, likely next week, despite misgivings about legal provisions for telecommunications corporations that cooperated with the Bush administration's warrantless surveillance program of suspected terrorists.

In so doing, Obama sought to walk the fine political line between GOP accusations that he is weak on foreign policy — Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) called passing the legislation a "vital national security matter" — and alienating his base.

"Given the legitimate threats we face, providing effective intelligence collection tools with appropriate safeguards is too important to delay. So I support the compromise, but do so with a firm pledge that as president, I will carefully monitor the program," Obama said in a statement hours after the House approved the legislation 293-129.

This marks something of a reversal of Obama's position from an earlier version of the bill, which was approved by the Senate Feb. 12, when Obama was locked in a fight for the Democratic nomination with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.).
Obama missed the February vote on that FISA bill as he campaigned in the "Potomac Primaries," but issued a statement that day declaring "I am proud to stand with Senator Dodd, Senator Feingold and a grassroots movement of Americans who are refusing to let President Bush put protections for special interests ahead of our security and our liberty."

Sens. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) and Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.) continue to oppose the new legislation, as does Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.). All Obama backers in the primary, those senior lawmakers contend that the new version of the FISA law — crafted after four months of intense negotiations between White House aides and congressional leaders — provides insufficient court review of the pending 40 lawsuits against the telecommunications companies alleging privacy invasion for their participation in a warrantless wiretapping program after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

"The immunity outcome is predetermined," Feingold wrote in a memo today.
Obama came down on the side of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who argued that a provision in the new law reaffirmed that FISA, and that act's courts, gives the final say over government spying. President Bush has argued that a war-time chief executive has powers that trump FISA.

"It restores FISA and existing criminal wiretap statutes as the exclusive means to conduct surveillance — making it clear that the President cannot circumvent the law," Obama said today.

Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.), the most prominent Republican opponent of the compromise bill, issued a statement today calling that exclusivity provision "meaningless because that specific provision is now in [the] 1978 act." Specter said Bush just ignored existing law in starting the warrantless surveillance program.
Read more in the Washington Post

Heal now, candidate tells CBC

By Mike Soraghan - The Hil - June 6, 2008
Sen. Barack Obama's (D-Ill.) conciliatory tone turned sharp on Thursday when Rep. Diane Watson (D-Calif.) pressed him on how there needs to be healing in the Democratic Party.

"Look, Diane," Obama said, according to a participant who attended the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) meeting. "John McCain, if he's elected, is going to pick a Supreme Court that will roll back every gain women have made in the last 50 years."

Seeming frustrated, Obama started talking more bluntly about why women should be supporting him over Sen. McCain (R-Ariz.), whatever their feelings about the divisive Democratic primary campaign.

"He can be pretty direct," said the CBC source. "It was a pretty lively meeting."

The direct approach has its risks. As a woman and a former supporter of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), Watson is one of the CBC members whom Obama needs to win over.

And her protests that the party still needs healing are a reminder of the lingering bitterness left over from a campaign that some say had sexist and racial overtones.

During the primary, Watson said she had received political threats for her support of the former first lady. And Watson had publicly criticized Obama for opposing the CBC's effort to cut off federal funds to the Cherokee Nation. The CBC is upset with the Cherokee for excluding Freedmen — descendants of slaves once owned by tribal members — from tribal membership.

Obama's meeting with the CBC represented an early test of his leadership as the Democratic nominee, especially because some in the Black Caucus were ardent backers of Clinton and want her to be Obama's running mate.

Obama started the meeting on an inclusive note, telling members who had supported Clinton "that was then, and this is now," according to House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.).

"He said he understands how those of us in politics get involved in supporting people, through friendships or geography or relationships," said Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), a former John Edwards supporter who campaigned for Obama in the North Carolina primary. "He said he'd been involved in that himself."

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), a Clinton supporter who predicted Obama's victory long before he claimed it, said he felt the olive branch was appreciated.

"Several members expressed appreciation to him for saying that," Cleaver said. "There's still emotions connected to that campaign. He took a major step in being a magnet to these people."

What impressed Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) was when Obama told them, "If Hillary had won, the first thing he would have told his supporters is that [they] should support her."

Some participants also reportedly pressed him on whether the campaign would provide "street money," or "walking-around money" — the campaign cash dispensed to people to drive voters to the polls on Election Day. Obama said the campaign wouldn't provide it, because he's relying on his large network of volunteers to handle Election Day turnout.

Fence-mending was the point of Obama's stops in and around Capitol Hill this week. His campaign scheduled meetings with members of the Hispanic, Black and women's caucuses. Each represents a community with longstanding ties to the Clintons. Hispanic members have pointedly said that Obama needs to reach out more to their community.

It didn't always work. Some female members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus reportedly stayed away from the photo opportunity after the event.

The women's caucus meeting was canceled Thursday because it conflicted with House votes.

More than one-third of the 42 members of the CBC supported Clinton for president, even though black voters overwhelmingly supported Obama in the primaries. A few members, including Reps. John Lewis (D-Ga.) and Donald Payne (D-N.J.), initially backed Clinton and then switched to Obama.

Some members have reportedly feared that they might face primary challenges or other political retribution for not having supported their only Senate member.

The Illinois senator will need the CBC's full support as he faces McCain in the fall. Black voters are a key element of Obama's voter base, and he enjoys strong support among them. But he needs them to turn out at the polls, and that's where black elected officials, whether they were for Clinton or Obama, can help.

Republicans have cited getting 16 percent of the black vote in Ohio as a key factor in President Bush winning his second term.
Read more on the hill

Clinton's Ghost: Tense Moment in Obama's Meeting With Black Caucus

Just What Was Said Between the Presumptive Democratic Nominee and Clinton-Supporting Congresswoman?
By JAKE TAPPER and KATE SNOW - - June 20, 2008
A Thursday afternoon meeting between Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and other members of the Congressional Black Caucus grew tense and emotional for a moment -- perhaps illustrating that weeks after Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., suspended her presidential campaign, some nerves remain frayed.

Most of the meeting was cordial, and after a presentation by Obama's pollster, many members of the CBC had nothing but pleasant exchanges with the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee.

But not everyone.
Sources at the meeting said that Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, a Clinton supporter, expressed the desire that Obama and his campaign would reach out the millions of women still aggrieved about what happened in the campaign and still disappointed that Clinton lost.

Obama agreed that a lot of work needs to be done to heal the Democratic Party, and that he hoped the Clinton supporters in the room would help as much as possible.
According to Rep. Yvette Clarke, D-N.Y., Obama then said, "However, I need to make a decision in the next few months as to how I manage that since I'm running against John McCain, which takes a lot of time. If women take a moment to realize that on every issue important to women, John McCain is not in their corner, that would help them get over it."

Rep. Diane Watson, D-Calif., a longtime Clinton supporter, did not like those last three words -- "Get over it." She found them dismissive, off-putting.

"Don't use that terminology," Watson told Obama.

Clarke did not react the same way.
"I, personally, as a Hillary supporter, did not take that as something distasteful," Clarke said. "Nothing like that."

But, Clarke said, Watson "latched on to those three words."

In Clarke's view, Watson thought Obama had just told her to "get over it." She didn't appreciate that, and she told him so and emphasized that it was a heated campaign and lot of healing remains to be done.

"I agree," Obama said. "There's healing on both sides."

Obama then said two sources at the meeting said that he'd held his tongue many times during the campaign against Clinton in the interest of party unity and sensitivity. Clinton and her allies had suggested he was a Muslim, had said he wasn't qualified to be president.

According to the sources, Obama suggested he bit his tongue every time. He could be asking for an apology, he could be asking for the Clintons to reconcile with him, but he chose to rise above it.

Everyone involved agreed that most of the meeting was cordial, and that there is unanimity on the need to work hard to elect Obama.

But clearly tensions remain.

Clinton and Obama are scheduled to put on a good public show for the cameras next week, regardless of any beneath-the-surface Sturm and Drang. The former competitors will campaign together and appear at a fundraiser in Washington at the end of next week.
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