Madeleine M. Kunin, former Vermont Governor and Ambassador to Switzerland, on her new book, The Feminist Agenda; attorney Matt Zimmerman of Electronic Frontier Foundation on an unusual challenge to the Patriot Act from a phone company.Gov. Kunin makes a strong case that today’s feminist issues relate to balancing work and family. In a lively exchange that covers many of the policies and attitudes that affect working families, she points out that only 17% of members of Congress are female, and acknowledges that she is disappointed and angry that feminist goals from the 1970’s are being slowly achieved. We talk about Sally Ride, the astronaut (who we now know was a lesbian) and others who have inspired girls and women to break barriers, and how Sarah Palin–who wouldn’t have been a governor, even for half a term, without the struggles of trailblazers like Kunin–feels free to attack feminists in pursuit of a “family values” agenda. Kunin wants progressives to take back that phrase, and is appalled that the attacks on Planned Parenthood, birth control and abortion rights have gained so much traction this year. And, while most democrats don’t talk about poverty, Kunin reflects on the new figures that show we have returned to poverty levels of 1965.
At 37:30 we are joined by attorney Zimmerman from EFF. He explains the case of the unnamed phone company that is resisting a National Security Letter (NSL) from the FBI, demanding phone records of an unnamed target. Under the Patriot Act and other NSL-enabling laws, a gag order generally prevents any disclosures of the NSL or its targets. EFF is challenging the gag order and the NSL itself. We talk about the FISA judge in Texas who is criticizing the large number of wiretaps and the secrecy around the whole process–he says that 99% of the cases remain sealed even after disposition. And we talk about Sen. Ron Wyden (-D-OR) who is trying to remove a gag so he can tell us about an even more sinister interpretation of the Patriot Act, and got a letter from the Director of National Intelligence with bland, approved language that tells us nothing. (Coverage of this last point also in today’s News & Comment)