Wednesday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

Will you be at Netroots Nation? If so, I hope to see you there! Here’s what I have going on:

Thursday, July 17, 10:30 am to 11:45 am, “Solidarity, The Original ‘Lean In’: Women Are Owning Power”, Rm 140AB

Friday, July 18, 11 am to 12:15 pm, “Hunger First: The Importance of Food Security in Detroit”, Rm 140D

Friday, July 18, 3 pm to 4:15 pm, “Parents Caucus”, Rm 356. Please note: I will be moderating, and snacks and drinks will be provided.

Saturday, July 19, 5 pm to 8 pm, Special Dinner Sponsored by MomsRising. This should be a lovely evening, please join us at Salt & Cedar Restaurant, 2448 Riopelle Street in Detroit!

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Monday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

Happy 4th of July all! We went to the Great America Water Park and Amusement Park in Santa Clara, California, on Saturday and caught the fireworks on our way out. Despite being up until almost 10 — God, Eli was cranky! — the kids begged us to stay until the bitter end. They caught the fireworks from the car, and then crashed hard. :)

We may brave the crowds tonight to see fireworks in Berkeley or Oakland, but at least during the day we are going to chill at home. What are you up to today?

In celebration of Independence Day, I am titling this diary “Let’s Keep America Beautiful.”

Good news all: next year’s Netroots Nation in Providence is gauging interest from parents to offer childcare. I will be there with both kids in tow. If you do plan on coming and bringing your kids, could you register and let the NN folks know? Thanks!

From our brother site Daily Kos: a diarist took on (false) claims by Gov. Chris Christie on the state of public schools in New Jersey. In related news: the Milwaukee public school district has announced that it will lay off 519 employees, including 354 teachers, according to Slate. How is this good for our kids or the economy?

In other education news: Sen. Carlos Uresti of Texas reminded voters that “cutting big government means failing education” in an editorial for the Houston Chronicle. Are we willing to sacrifice public education to cut the budget? I pray not!

A friend of mine, Ana Flores, over at the Spanglish Baby blog is hosting a contest to give away money to the winner’s favorite charity. To win, all you have to do is sign up at Moms Clean Air Force, and let Ana know that you did either at her blog or her e-mail: ana at spanglishbaby dot com. Then your name will be entered at random dot org for the chance to win money on behalf of your favorite charity. Thanks!

In related news, Dr. Oz — yes, that doctor on Oprah — had this to say about air pollution:

“It’s sobering news that one in five people still live in communities with lethal levels of smog and particulate pollution — the toxic soup of chemicals, metals, acids, ash and soot that triggers asthma attacks, heart attacks, strokes and early deaths. Makes you want to close the windows, bar the door and stay home.”

So glad to see a high-profile doctor make the connection between pollution and health.

If you have a child of Hispanic descent, here is a resource for scholarships.

Congratulations to Patrick Donohue, who heads the Sarah Jane Brain Project, for gaining bipartisan support for a bill that would promote a seamless, standardized and evidence-based system of care for children and young adults with brain injury. Donohue’s organization is named after his 5-year-old daughter who was shaken by a nanny when she was a baby.

Here is one of those amusing yuppy parenting New York Times story, this one about the theft of high-end strollers between $400 and $1,000. In this case, a mom with a $400 stroller left it outside in Brooklyn, and it was taken. This is my question: I know that strollers can be more useful in the city than a car — I walked everywhere with my babies. But it seems to me that it is more stressful to keep tabs on such an expensive piece of baby “furniture”, especially if you don’t want to lock it up. What do you think? Are these high-end strollers really worth the money?

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Netroots Nation Day 3 — “Coming Out Day”

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — I dedicate this post to the undocumented immigrants in this country and their advocates. At a time when having a Spanish surname is enough to draw vitriol in the comments of a blog, advocating for the people who actually don’t have the legal right to be here is courageous and hard work.

“This immigration debate is not only about policy, but about human beings,” said Taryn Higashi, a philanthropist whose Japanese parents were placed in internment camps during World War II.

Higashi was at Netroots Nation to present the Freedom of Fear Awards to both undocumented youth and those Americans who do the hard work of humanizing immigrants. The ending keynote at NN really pulled the heart strings.

Here are some of the undocumented youth recognized by Higashi. From left to right they are Tania Unzueta, Rigo Padilla and Reyna Wences:

Then there are those brave souls who stand up for immigrants, both those with and without papers. Take, for instance, Chokwe Lumumba, an African-American member of the City Council of Jackson, Mississippi, who wrote and helped pass a local anti-racial profiling ordinance:

I was on my feet throughout the award ceremony and speeches. It was the perfect ending to the conference.

In related news, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Jose Antonio Vargas, came out as undocumented. I am proud to know him, and am so thrilled he has added his voice to the chorus of public support for the DREAM Act that would grant conditional residency to undocumented immigrants brought here as young children. I can’t imagine a better voice in shattering the notion of who is “hiding in the shadows” and just how broken our immigration system is.

Please read Jose’s article and watch the video of his story. It is worth it!  


Netroots Nation Day 2 Continued…

As I mentioned in my previous post, this was the best-attended Netroots Nation — I previously estimated 2,400, but one of NN’s board members put that number at over 2,500! — and the most diverse. There were people of all races, ethnicities, sexual orientations, family set-up, disabled and able-bodied alike, and workers from different industries, including manufacturing.

On Friday, I was going to attend a panel on social media, and instead went to another that grabbed my attention: “Revitalizing Manufacturing: The Road to Renewed Job Growth.” Scott Paul, the executive director of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, moderated a panel that included Dave Johnson, a blogger for Campaign for America’s Future; Beri Fox, CEO of Marble King, one of the few manufacturers in the country; Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA); and Jared Bernstein, senior fellow of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Here they are pictured from left to right:

This panel drew me because I am the daughter and granddaughter of millworkers. My first job was at Malden Mills in Lawrence, Massachusetts, where we made fleece jackets. Like Beri Fox, who has a compelling story and is at the helm of a family-owned plant, I grew up in a large family during a time in which it was possible to obtain a middle class existence on ONE manufacturing job.

Now it feels like it is nearly impossible to make a living in the manufacturing industry as companies can easily relocate to China or Mexico or exploit workers here in the United States. As I learned in this panel, it doesn’t need to be this way. There are companies like Marble King trying to do right by their employees. There are ways for the government and consumers to keep good-paying manufacturing jobs in the country.

The easiest way is to sign a petition by the Alliance for American Manufacturing to support a bill addressing currency manipulation by China. I filled out one of the forms and mailed a whole bunch to my dad to distribute to workers at his plant.

Another way is to spend $64 a year in “Made in the USA” products, which would keep 200,000 jobs in the United States! At Netroots Nation, there was even a fashion show featuring some of these clothes like American Apparel.

The panelists were all in agreement that trade agreements needed to be renegotiated to include worker and environmental protections. “We can’t do this alone,” said Fox. “The manufacturers can’t do it alone. The workers can’t do it alone. The government can’t do it alone.”    

“I am not a protectionist, but we need fair trade,” said Rep. McGovern.

McGovern had other ideas like having manufacturing plants partner with community colleges to retrain employees. He also advocated for creating a market for wind and solar energy. “This is not going to be solved by tax breaks,” he said. “There needs to be an investment here.”

As for where the money should come from, he said, “End these damn wars.” That got him a lot of applause in the room.

“You worry about borrowing, but you are borrowing $8.2 bilion a month in Afghanistan,” McGovern said. “National security needs to include jobs here at home.”  

I was thrilled to learn that the guys from AAM plan to come to next year’s Netroots Nation in Providence. My dad and brother, who both work in a mill in New Hampshire, plan to attend.

And just to show you there was something at NN for everyone, I attended yet one more event on Friday evening. I was invited to the Minneapolis Foundation office to meet the honorees of the Freedom from Fear Awards, a new national award that honors 15 people who have committed acts of courage on behalf of immigrants. I was impressed by the awardees, who included a police chief in Arizona who spoke out against SB 1070; an African American legislator in Jackson, Mississippi who helped pass a local ordinance against racial profiling of immigrants; undocumented Latino youth who came out as undocumented and gay; and two Asian students who tackled immigrant bullying at their South Philadelphia high school.

I went up to the (now retired) Arizona Police Chief Jack Harris (pictured), who was vilified for calling SB 1070 for what it was: Arizona’s attempt to implement federal immigration policy, which would do nothing to make Arizonians safer in their communities.

He was warm and humble, and visibly touched to be recognized. He received an even bigger reception at the closing keynote of Netroots Nation, which I will cover tomorrow.  


Netroots Nation Day 2

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — As I mentioned on Friday, there are panels on top of panels. There are so many sessions and panels that I can’t go to all the ones that I want.

I did get out to six events on Friday. First stop: a one hour and 15 minute session titled “Tiger Moms vs. Mama Grizzlies: Engaging Moms.” The panelists were Joanne Bamberger, who was the panel moderator and publishes the PunditMom blog; Anita Jackson (pictured), the social media director for, who also blogs under the handle “Rolling” here at MotherTalkers; Krystal Ball, a television pundit who ran for Congress in 2010; and Cynthia Liu who publishes the K-12 News Network.

The biggest takeaway from the discussion was that women make up most of the electorate and online presence like flickr, Twitter and Facebook, yet we haven’t translated that to power in either the public or private sectors.

“There are 28 members of Congress who are under the age of 40, and only 3 are women,” said Krystal Ball. Ball ran for office in Virginia two years ago at the age of 27 with a baby in tow. She was actually told by some potential voters that they wouldn’t vote for her because they thought she should stay home with her baby.

“I was inspired by motherhood to take action,” she said. “I had always been an engaged poltical observer and…when I had my daughter, I thought of what kind of country I wanted to pass onto her.”

Ball, who is now a pundit everywhere from MSNBC to FOX News, said she learned a lot about how women, in particular mothers, engage in the political arena. Here were some interesting points:    

As a mom, she framed all issues as “family issues” and said it was about the world we were passing onto our children.

The vast majority of her volunteers were women, including many mothers. Her female volunteers were reluctant to phone constituents or meet them face-to-face. They preferred something behind the scenes like stuffing envelopes. “The reason that women don’t run for office, even though they are half the electorate, is that they don’t want to offer their opinions,” Ball said. “Twelve or 13 percent of op-ed writers are women.”

She built on that point saying that the political talk shows are “made for, made by and hosted by men.” Subliminally, women are receiving the message that “politics is a man’s sport.”

Cynthia Liu, who is a contributor to the Momocrats blog and publishes the K-12 News Network, said it’s mostly women who are volunteering in the schools, both in the classroom and in fundraising. She said that the PTA was a “farm system for future legislators.”

Anita Jackson from emphasized the importance of paid sick days and flexible workplaces for families. She started her talk with good news: Connecticut became the first state in the country to offer up to five paid sick days to all workers. For more information on family-friendly, flexible workplaces, she pointed the audience to the website Custom-Fit Workplace. (The book, by co-founder Joan Blades, is a must-read for all employers and their workers!)

Following the “Mama Grizzlies” panel discussion, I caught Congressman Luis Gutierrez at the end of a session he had with Markos regarding immigration. (Yet another session I missed due to a scheduling conflict!) Let me tell you, there is nothing but mad love for Rep. Gutierrez in the Latino community. I, too, was star-struck.

At the end of the session, he was surrounded by members of our community who thanked him for his service — he has been brave and outspoken on the immigration front — he had a good sense of humor and joked with us in “Spanglish.” He took the time to take pictures with us as well:

Speaking of rock stars, in the middle of the day I co-hosted a coffee roundtable discussion with Lily Eskelsen, Vice President of the National Education Association. Can I just say that Lily is one impressive woman? She is not only one of the top labor leaders in the country, but also one of the most influential Hispanic educators in the nation.

She started out as a lunch lady, worked her way up to a kindergarten aide, when a teacher encouraged her to go to school and become a teacher herself. After only 9 years on the job, she was named Utah’s Teacher of the Year.

She personally met with us parents to take questions and also hear from us on how teachers and parents can work together to support public education. I was grateful to have our Shenanigans there since she was able to speak about her experiences as a school board member of a small, rural school district.

This was surprising to me, but Lily favored local versus federal control of schools. She said that the federal government often passes unfunded mandates and “one-size-fits-all” solutions that don’t benefit rural schools. For example, a teacher in a rural school district often has to teach multiple subjects whereas a large urban district has the money and staff to have a teacher for every subject. Rural schools, by the way, make up 20 percent of all public schools.

She also dismissed the notion that teachers unions are dominated by raging liberals. One-third of NEA’s members identify themselves as Republicans. She did say though that NEA’s Republican members in Wisconsin are really regretting who they voted for last year. She is hearing a lot of, (paraphrased) “I voted for the Wisconsin governor because he was against gay marriage. I didn’t think he would go after my pension plan!”

Yes, elections matter.

Lily said this and more in an education session, in which for the first time at Netroots Nation, she shared the floor with the American Federation of Teachers Union President Randi Weingarten. If there is anything I took away from the session it was Weingarten’s suggestion to “follow the money” whenever anyone opposed the teachers unions. Among the billionaire families looking to break up the unions and dismantle public education are the Koch Brothers, the DeVoses and the Walton Family Foundation. I would add another billionaire for reform: Bill Gates.

Lily made a joke about how almost none of her members were billionaires.

Setting joking aside, Weingarten added: “When we and parents are together as one, that is an asset….No amount of money is going to pierce that trust.”

After the education session, I attended three more events. Yes, there are panels on top of panels and parties to boot, which is why I will continue this diary tomorrow…


Monday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

I am back from Netroots Nation and catching up at home. The conference was great, by the way. It was the largest with 2,400 people in attendance. It was the most diverse, and there were so many engaged young people that it made me optimistic about our country’s future. Next year’s NN will be in Providence, Rhode Island. I look forward to going and bringing my kids and family in New Hampshire with me.

In other news: I was excited to read in the San Jose Mercury News that non-stop direct charter flights to Cuba are coming to Oakland as early as December. I haven’t been to Cuba since 2002 so I take this as a hint that I MUST go. :)

The Thoughts of a Mommy blog ran tips on how to keep children safe around water this summer.

The Washington Post had a detailed list of all the union-busting activities Michelle Rhee is participating in. This, by the way, comes after a report showing that there was widespread cheating on standardized tests under her watch as DC Chancellor of Schools. “Students first,” eh?

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Netroots Nation Day 1

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — Unlike Hawaii, I have not gotten out much in Minneapolis except for the hotel, convention center and the immediate vicinity. But I will say this: the food is delicious here!

I have tried three restaurants outside of the Netroots Nation Convention, and all three were divine and could compete with any restaurant in the largest and most cosmopolitan city like New York or Chicago. The restaurants were Masa (Mexican), Solera (Spanish), and Brit’s Pub (isn’t it obvious?).

As for the Netroots Nation Convention, it has become an established, professional conference. Unlike the earlier years, it feels bigger. I see people milling about that I don’t know. The exhibit hall with sponsors like the labor unions and Sierra Club is the largest I have seen. There are so many sessions that scheduling conflicts are going to keep me from attending the Latino and Environmental Caucuses — two issues that are important to me.

That said, I had a jam-packed day yesterday, and not only did I have fun, I learned a lot. First stop? The Parents Caucus, which I co-hosted with Markos.

We had about 20 people — I am so bad at crowd estimates! — and a good mix of people with and without children. From MotherTalkers were myself, Cynmill, Christina, and Rolling (not pictured):

The people without children were interested in seeking ways to partner with parents on especially education, although sometimes we veered to other topics like paid family leave and abortion.

After going around the room for general introductions, we discussed the state of public education in the country, and how we as progressives could preserve public education. “Teacherken” from Daily Kos made sure to let us know that he helped put together a rally in DC called the Save Our Schools March.

This is why it is so important for activists to meet. We not only looked for ways to work together through our respective organizations, but we also brainstormed for an overall theme or talking point we could use in describing our movement. The buzz word is “pro-family.” Pass it on!

At the end of the caucus I had a trivia contest to give away four books by our very own Beth Bader, or “Expat Chef”: The Cleaner Plate Club: Recipes and Advice for Getting Real Kids to Love Real Food. I am happy to report that our Cynmill won a copy!


In the afternoon, I attended a Q&A between Markos and National Education Association Vice President Lily Eskelsen about the Dream Act. It was standing-room only and incredible. I wish I could find footage from the event, but here is a live twitter feed of what was said.

In the evening, I had dinner at Brit’s Pub with Cynmill, Shenanigans and Minnmom. I love MotherTalkers meet-ups!

Finally, I attended a book party celebrating the release of Joanne “PunditMom” Bamberger’s first book, Mothers of Intention. Besides being a good read about the rise of political moms like Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin and online punditry by us moms, it is also my first book blurb. I made sure to buy myself a book and an extra copy for my mom. :)

Unfortunately, I had no more stamina for the parties that proceeded that book party. (Yes, there were more.) But as you can see, I had my fill of fun. Are any of you at Netroots Nation? What do you think?


Wednesday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

I have been playing catch up with work that I have not had time to upload the pictures from our trip to Hawaii, which was fabulous, by the way. I promise, pictures are coming!

In the meantime, I am in Minneapolis and preparing for my sessions at the Netroots Nation Convention. Here are some important reminders: DH and I will be co-hosting the parents caucus tomorrow in room L100E. The session is from 10:30 a.m. to 11:45 a.m..

Also that day, MotherTalkers is having a meet-up at Brit’s Pub in Minneapolis. Here is the address: 1110 Nicollet Mall. We plan to meet at 5 p.m..

Finally, I am co-hosting a roundtable discussion on education at 1 p.m. on Friday. This is an invitation-only event that will include food, coffee and a candid discussion about education with the National Education Association’s Lily Eskelsen. Please let me know if you would like to attend.

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Monday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

Here is a discussion we have never had: how do you feel about swearing? I tend not to curse on my blog or around my children, but I also don’t give anyone the stink eye for dropping the f-bomb around my kids. To me, there are much worse offenses, which is why I thought these high school track judges in L.A. were a little over the top. They not only disqualified a pole vaulter for uttering the word “shit” — I believe that’s what he said on the video — but docked his entire team points, causing them to lose the title.

I could see the judges taking action if the pole vaulter had uttered something racist, sexist or homophobic. That’s just hate and harassment. But the “s” word? Come. On. What do you all think?

Unfortunately, I am going to miss this discussion as I will be flying to Netroots Nation in Minneapolis this morning. I arrived last night from Hawaii. I will definitely fill you in later this week!

In the meantime, what else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Monday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

First, mark your schedules. DH and I will be co-hosting the parents caucus at Netroots Nation in Minneapolis this year on Thursday, June 16. The session is from 10:30 a.m. to 11:45 a.m..

Also that day, MotherTalkers is having a meet-up at Brit’s Pub in Minneapolis. Here is the address: 1110 Nicollet Mall. We plan to meet at 5 p.m.. Please let me know here, or at Facebook, or via e-mail — elisa at mothertalkers dot com — whether you plan on coming so that one of our moms can make reservations.

Also that day, June 16, fellow progressive mom blogger, Joanne “PunditMom” Bamberger, will be having a book party at the nearby News Room at 990 Nicollet Avenue. The party is at 7 p.m., conveniently after our meet-up. If you would allow me a few minutes to brag on Joanne, the Mothers of Intention is her first book and a compelling read on political moms from Sarah Palin to Hillary Clinton. This is the first book I was asked to blurb, and this is what I said about it:

“The next time anyone complains about the lack of political participation by mothers, please give them a copy of the Mothers of Intention. As Joanne Bamberger brilliantly points out, mothers of all political persuasions are running for office and as engaged as ever, even as they take a business call on one hand and diaper a baby on the other. The traditional media ignores these hungry and accomplished women at their peril.” – Elisa Batista, co-founder of MotherTalkers, a Daily Kos community

Joanne, along with MomsRising’s Anita Jackson — aka “Rolling” here at MotherTalkers — are sitting on a panel discussion on Friday morning at 10:30 a.m. Their panel at Netroots Nation includes “mama grizzlies” and “tiger moms” in the title, and is not to be missed. Let’s support our fellow mothers!

Finally, I am co-hosting a roundtable discussion on education at 1 p.m. on Friday. This is an invitation-only event that will include food, coffee and a candid discussion about education with the National Education Association’s Lily Eskelsen. Please let me know if you would like to attend.

Oh, and I just finished running my first half marathon! I will fill you in later this week. But right now Netroots Nation is on my mind. What else is in the news? What’s up with you?