“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Defense Minister - No military experience, 37 years old, Socialist, Pregnant

Spain absorbing shock over new, pregnant defense minister

Spain's defense minister Carme Chacon reviews troops in Madrid, Monday April 14, 2008. Cha...
Wed Apr 16, 2:07 PM EDT

Here's an image Spaniards will not soon forget: their new defense minister, reviewing trim, crisply uniformed soldiers, with her baby bump on display.

The surprise appointment of Carme Chacon, age 37 and with no military experience, is the boldest statement yet from a Socialist government that has made gender equality one of its top priorities.

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who won re-election in March, unveiled a Cabinet Monday that not only gives Spain its first female defense minister but also features nine women to eight men. That compares to a 50-50 split in his first term, when there were 16 ministers.

Photos of Chacon — who is seven months pregnant — reviewing the soldiers ran on the front page of seven national newspapers on Tuesday, and footage of the appearance dominated Spanish television. Her photo was also on the front page of the International Herald Tribune.

Although women's rights advocates have Chacon's appointment, some conservatives have raised objections. A group of retired officers criticized her lack of military background while insisting her pregnancy was not a problem.

Chacon is now one of the most visible members of a government that has enacted sweeping social legislation designed to rid traditionally male-dominated Spain of gender discrimination.

It legalized gay marriage, streamlined divorce procedures, forced political parties to field more female candidates and passed a law designed to promote women in the workplace and pressure companies to put more of them in their boardrooms.

This time Zapatero even created a new department, the Equality Ministry, to press these goals. The portfolio went to a 31-year-old woman, Bibiana Aido.

Women's advocacy groups are delighted with the prime minister's choice of Chacon to oversee a military force that was not even open to women a generation ago. Now 15 percent of its 130,000 troops are women.

Feminists see a twin statement from the prime minister: Not only can a woman hold a senior position in government or business, but she can do it while expecting a baby.

"Perhaps the message is that even the highest responsibilities have to be compatible with the issue of individual and personal responsibility. That is the real political message behind this," said Marisa Soleto, vice president of a Madrid-based advocacy group called the Women's Foundation.

Chacon, who was housing minister in the last government, wore heels, a black pant suit and white maternity blouse as she reviewed troops Monday at a ceremony in which she officially took over her post. Her husband is Miguel Barroso, who in the past has worked in Zapatero's press office.

She called the troops to attention, ordered them to join her in saying "Long live Spain, long live the King," and gave a brief speech in which she said her appointment was a sign of progress.

"The fact that a woman is taking over responsibility for the Defense Ministry is proof of integration between Spanish society and its armed forces," Chacon said.

Spaniards are now wondering how the military will digest having a female boss.

A senior military official told the newspaper El Pais anonymously that "we receive her with the same respect as her predecessors, and with even more politeness."

The Association of the Spanish Military, made up of retirees, called Zapatero's decision a mistake — not because of her pregnancy but because it feels she is too inexperienced.

The conservative newspaper El Mundo said it has no problem with seeing a female defense minister, but a pregnant one raises all kinds of concerns, such as whether she will take all of the 16 weeks of leave she is entitled to when the baby is born in June.

The combination of a crisis situation among Spanish peacekeepers in Afghanistan or Lebanon and a defense minister on maternity leave would leave Spain in an "absurd" situation, it said an editorial. Plus, Chacon has no knowledge of military affairs.

"All signs are that Zapatero is using the armed forces as a guinea pig for a provocative experiment," it said. "Time will tell if this is major progress or nonsense."


  1. Dick Cheney became Sec of Def for the USA, never had a minute of military experience.

    As Mr Cheney is oft quoted to have said"
    "I had other priorities in the '60s than military service."

    Ms Carme Chacon may well be an able administrator, as able as Mr Cheney anyway, or not.
    But her baby bump is just one of the sidebars of gender equality

  2. If Richard Pryor can play at surgery, Farmer Bob can pilot an F-16, and a pregnant woman can be defense minister. And Obama can be President.

    If I had a shot at the Spanish cabinet, I'd choose that new Office of Equality. Not to be confused with the Office of Quality.

    What's Spain need an army for anyway? This was all inevitable after women broke into bull-fighting. Some of them are pretty good in there too, I've read.

    Best of luck to her.

  3. Benedict will travel to New York on Friday and address the U.N. General Assembly, linking the visit to the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. He'll celebrate Mass on Sunday morning at Yankee Stadium.

    One of the stated goals of the pope's visit is to energize the U.S. Catholic community with its estimated 70 million members.

    Three years after succeeding Pope John Paul II, Benedict is likely to address the sex scandal within the Catholic Church, the church's relationship with other faiths, the U.S.-led war in Iraq and the upcoming U.S. presidential election, said John Allen, a CNN Vatican analyst.

    Prayer Service

  4. "Motivated reasoning" as Megan McCardle rightly pegged it in this last month's Atlantic."

    Funny, cause I'd consider her a poster child for it this election cycle.

  5. It was a desire to help - combined with strong political values - that spurred Jules Paivio to decide to fight in an often-overlooked war more than 70 years ago.

    "I wanted to do something worthwhile," said Paivio. "Here were people under attack and really, it was something I felt was worthwhile."

    Paivio, who will be 91 this month, is a rare living veteran of the Spanish Civil War, which took place from 1936-1939.

    Fought in Spain

  6. DR: As Mr Cheney is oft quoted to have said "I had other priorities in the '60s than military service."

    So did more than 50,000 Americans who died in Vietnam. At least when their number came up they went to basic training. Dick Cheney applied for, and received, five draft deferments. Then, incredibly, he went on to call critics of the Iraq War "spineless".

  7. Prior to the summit with Bush, Lee, accompanied by first lady Kim Yoon-ok and an entourage of about 120 people, plans to meet separately with U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab, a group of U.S. lawmakers and Korea experts. An interview with the Washington Post is also slated for Thursday.

    Lee will be the first South Korean president to go to Camp David, a U.S. presidential retreat.

    The Lee-Bush summit is expected to address a long list of bilateral and international issues, including North Korea's nuclear weapons program, burden-sharing for the realignment of U.S. Forces Korea, the U.S. proposal for the redeployment of South Korean forces to Afghanistan, ratification of a bilateral free trade agreement by the countries' respective legislative bodies and environmental, climate and energy problems.

    Summit with Bush

  8. While I agree with him on some things, Cheney's a shit.

  9. “People don’t cling to their traditions on hunting and guns” out of frustration with their government, Clinton said. She added that Obama had a fundamental misunderstanding on the role of religion and faith.

    A few minutes later, it was Clinton’s turn to explain a mistake when she was asked about her erroneous statement that she had braved sniper fire during a landing in Bosnia as first lady in 1996.

    “I may be a lot of things but I am not dumb,” she said, adding that she had written in her book that there had been no fire during the event. She apologized for the mistake, saying that she had “said some things that weren’t in keeping with what I knew to be the case.”

    Philadelphia Debate

  10. “said some things that weren’t in keeping with what I knew to be the case.”

    That sure is a mouthful for 'I lied'.

  11. "an imaginative, creative, self serving use of the truth"

    Coast To Coast tonite

    Starting at 10pm PT: Retired professor of Climatology, Dr. Tim Ball will discuss how issues like climate change, North American water resources, and bio-diesel are being politicized and exploited.

    This fellow is from Canada I think. Has some credentials.
    If that Spanish gal can be ministeress of defense, Al Gore can be secretary of the environment.

  12. Today, President Bush announced a new national goal to stop the growth in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 2025. This new goal marks a major step forward in America's ongoing efforts to address climate change.


    The President's announcement:

    * Comes as this week's Major Economies Meeting in Paris begins to lay the groundwork for the world leaders' climate meeting to be held in conjunction with the G-8 summit in July.
    * Informs the debate Congress will soon be having on legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.


    The Administration is urging each country to develop its own national goals and plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Like many other countries, America's national plan will be a comprehensive blend of market incentives and regulations to reduce emissions by encouraging clean and efficient energy technologies.

    Climate Change

  13. Sam, Here's an article about your drought down under, sounds like it's getting worse.

  14. In the debate--

    Obama said it was important to figure out 'what was working" and that he "never favored an all-out ban on handguns".

    "I believe that the Constitution confers an individual right to bear arms. But just because you have an individual right does not mean that the state or local government can't constrain the exercise of that right," he said.

    Some right.

  15. The wine of this world is destructive, but not the wine of the world to come.

    The wine of the world to come---that's real poetic.

    The wine and women of the world to come--is even more so.

    "Saudi Cleric Omar Al-Sweilem Extols the Breasts and Thighs of the Black-Eyed Virgins of Paradise," from MEMRITV (thanks to Sr. Soph):

    Following are excerpts of a video-clip featuring Saudi cleric Omar Al-Sweilem, which was posted on the Internet. The video quality is low in the original.
    Omar Al-Sweilem: Harith Ibn Al-Muhasibi told us what would happen when we meet the black-eyed virgin with her black hair and white face – praised be He who created night and day. What hair! What a chest! What a mouth! What cheeks! What a figure! What breasts! What thighs! What legs! What whiteness! What softness! Without any creams – no Nivea, no vaseline. No nothing! He said that faces would be soft that day. Even your own face will be soft without any powder or makeup. You yourself will be soflt, so how soft will a black-eyed virgin be, when she comes to you so tall and with her beautiful face, her black hair and white face - praised be He who created night and day. Just feel her palm, Sheik! He said: How soft will a fingertip be, after being softened in paradise for thousands of years! There is no god but Allah. He told us that if you entered one of the palaces, you would find ten black-eyed virgins sprawled on musk cushions. Where is Abu Khaled? Here, he has arrived! When they see you, they will get up and run to you. Lucky is the one who gets to put her thumb in your hand. When they get hold of you, they will push you onto your back, on the musk cushions. They will push you onto your back, Jamal! Allah Akbar! I wish this on all people present here. He said that one of them would place her mouth on yours. Do whatever you want. Another one would press her cheek against yours, yet another would press her chest against yours, and the others would await their turn. There is no god but Allah. He told us that one black-eyed virgin would give you a glass of wine. Wine in Paradise is a reward for your good deeds. The wine of this world is destructive, but not the wine of the world to come.

  16. The Breasts of Paradise is poetic.

  17. Bobal:
    "I believe that the Constitution confers an individual right to bear arms. But just because you have an individual right does not mean that the state or local government can't constrain the exercise of that right," he said.

    Some right.

    Obama is correct. You can't put a silencer on a pistol, or saw off your 20 gage, or carry a fully-auto AK-47, or get a handgun without a background check, or carry concealed on campus.

  18. Bobal: What hair! What a chest! What a mouth! What cheeks! What a figure! What breasts! What thighs! What legs! What whiteness! What softness! Without any creams – no Nivea, no vaseline.

    Gosh, that's a little different from the homilies Father Bryan gives at St. Philomena's.

  19. black-eyed virgin with her black hair and white face

    Sounds like a demon.

  20. The drought.

    The Murray River where I live here empties into a lake which in turn empties into the Southern Ocean. The farmers up and down the river irrigate from the river. They've got a lock on it where it empties into the lake and they closed it for the first time in forever last year because it's drying up. So the Murray is basically one long thin lake now. No water movement at all.

    There was a headline in the paper last December with a picture of a guy and his girlfriend standing next to their jet ski on the shore of that lake with a sign in the background. Sign said 'Closed to water and jet skiing due to low water level for the first time since 1972.'

    My boss has a friend who has a place on the Murray. He has a boatshed on the river and keeps track of the water level. Last spring it was down 10 ft. from the same time the year before.

    The mighty Murray is in bad shape.

  21. black-eyed virgin with her black hair and white face

    Sounds like a demon.

    Sounds like a stimulating demon.
    constrain the exercise of that right," he said.


  22. Besides, he's lying like hell, as usual, he's said before he thought the 2nd Amendment had to do with a militia.

    But we're in Pennslyvania tonight.

  23. She's the nicest looking defense minister I've ever seen.

  24. TPM Reader GB sent me in the video of a 2004 appearance by Barack Obama on the Charlie Rose show in which he talks about the same issue of rural and working class Americans and the Democratic party. It's from November 23rd, 2004, so just after Obama was first elected to the senate but a couple months before he was sworn in.

    It's interesting to watch since it's in a very non-campaign setting and almost four years ago. He makes exactly the same point, but explains it differently.

    Some of it is likely equally demagoguable, but it does show up some of the tendentious misconstruals of what he said. I clipped out the three minutes or so of the hour segment where he addresses this issue ...

    Obama in '04

  25. carry concealed on campus.

    if your a cop you should be able to...

    if your a licensed private detective you should be able to...

    if your an off duty fbi, nsa or cia agent you should be able to...

    if your a qualified, employee of the university has gone thru the training and security clearance you should

    look to the israeli model to see what really works...

    it's the same as the Texas model about 80 years ago, except in texas they wore them out and in holsters...

  26. SCCC now has over 25,000 members. In less than a year, 25,000 college students, faculty members, parents of college students, and concerned citizens (approximately 90% college students and 10% faculty, parents, and concerned citizens) have joined the fight to legalize concealed carry on college campuses.

    Approximately one out of every 755 college students in the United States of America is now a member of Students for Concealed Carry on Campus.

    Due to SCCC's rapid rate of growth, future membership updates will only be made every 5,000 members.

    Students for Concealed Carry on Campus

  27. Ah, I was going to ask you about the crocodiles. What about the crocodiles? Any around that Murray? In the lake? I've heard some places they have big sea going crocs, go out in the ocean, swim around for awhile...have you ever seen a croc?

    If one reincarnates, being a sea going croc might not be so bad for awhile, long as you aren't stuck that way.

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