OccupyWallStreet: Respect yourself

Saw this site at Susie’s place this morning:

We are the 99%

This one hit especially close to home.  I have a degree in chemistry and there are zilch jobs in NJ for what I used to do.  This person should look into relocating to Massachusetts or California, although, without a MS or PhD, she won’t even have the privilege of doing grunt work in the lab, which is, quite frankly, ridiculous.  If you have a PhD, for most jobs, you’re overqualified.  But she looks young enough to emigrate.  I hear Canada is taking sciencey types in and tonisllectomies are covered by single payer health insurance.  Think about it, biochem major.

Hmmm, NYC is only an hour by train from my house and I haven’t been there in about 6 months…

Respect yourself.  This is an open thread.

White House vs Women: Joe Biden does it wrong

Gee, I hope the food was better than the conversation

Oooo, Joe Biden was on The View recently and discussed the allegations that surfaced in Ron Suskind’s book Confidence Men about the problems senior staff women were having in the White House.  Ahem.  From what I can tell, Joe is trying to make it sound trivial or he’s in denial:

Vice President Joe Biden today disputed the controversial characterizations of the Obama White House author Ron Suskind made in his new book,”Confidence Men,” as a bastion of sexism that was insulated from a diversity of opinions.

“I don’t know who they’re talking about,” Biden said of former White House aides who reportedly told Suskind that the administration fostered a hostile work environment for women. “Obviously, they didn’t talk to Michelle Obama or Jill Biden. Because if there’s sexism in the White House, the person engaging in it is in trouble.”

The vice president made the comments during an appearance on ABC’s “The View” to talk about his nearly two-decade campaign to end violence against women.

“I’m not suggesting there’s not some instance where a staffer thought they were not treated well,” Biden said. “But look at  the high-ranking staff on my staff, on the president’s staff — 70 percent of the high-ranking people on my staff … they’re all women. I literally, when this came out, I asked them, I asked them had they seen it. And nobody is aware.”

Before we get to the substance of Joe’s remarks, let’s get one thing straight: the women in question have made very serious, not trivial, allegations of discrimination.  Those allegations should be investigated thoroughly.  These days, it is possible to measure the degree to which women and men were treated differently in their roles.  It is possible to mine data that is already retained on email servers and on digital recordings of meetings.  A variety of metrics can be used to determine whether there is a correlation between position, location of office, direct reports and access.  In fact, just about any parameter you care to measure can be dumped into a statistical package and trends, principal components and, probably, the truth, should come spilling out.  We rely on data mining and statistics for a wide variety of legitimate reasons these days and this is a perfect opportunity to get to the bottom of this.

OK, back to what Joe said and why we should ignore it.

1.) Joe says that if there was any of that hostility going on, by golly, Jill Biden and Michelle Obama would know about it.  First, excuse me, but are Jill and Michelle the house mothers for the senior White House staff?  From what I can tell, Michelle Obama is not a working woman.  She has decided to sit this administration out and weed the garden.  It is unclear to me what line of authority she would have with the female staff in the White House, nor is is clear what she could do about it if someone complained to her.  In fact, I can’t think of why anyone would complain to her.  It makes no sense.  Jill Biden, if I recall correctly, is an English professor.  Again, how would Jill be aware of the working environment of the professional women working in the White House?  Secondly, regardless of how Michelle and Jill are treated in their casual interactions with Obama’s male staff, the nature of such interactions are not professional, they are social.  It is unlikely that Rahm Emannuel is going to tell them to shut the f^&* up or talk over them in the reception line or at dinner.  Nah-gah-happen.

The only reason I can see that Joe would bring up Jill and Michelle is that he was appearing on The View, a chatty news show tailor made for women in a more traditional lifestyle.  If they’re watching The View, they’re not working.  (Maybe working women watch the view on the DVR but I personally can’t stand The View.  It’s the worst of the stereotype of women’s programming.  It’s watered down news discussed in a gossipy, coffee clatsch setting.  Something about it makes me think back to my vaguest recollection of Virginia Graham.)  View afficianados stay-at-home moms or senior women like my mother.  So, Joe is out there doing a political stump speech so as not to lose the ladies.  It looks to me like the White House is trying to get ahead of this.  November 2012 is going to be very scary for Obama.

2.) Asking your female staff if there is an issue is NOT going to get you anywhere.  It takes a lot of courage to say you think there might be a problem that needs to be investigated.  No one wants to walk around with a target on their back.  And lately, I have been reading (in more than one place) that the White House environment may be “tough” on women.  Once again, it’s OK if a high pressure environment is “tough”.  Presumably, the women who accepted those jobs knew that it would be when they signed on.  The question is, was “toughness” from women reciprocally appreciated?  My guess is that it is not.  We can find out by looking at the way women and men are described by their peers and supervisors.  Are men “tough” but women “abrasive”?  Are men driven but women “not team players”?  How about we ask Brooksley Born who was routinely described in such unflattering terms by her peers like Arthur Levitt, Larry Summers and Robert Rubin.

So, Joe goes to his female staff and asks them to rat on the guys who already potentially have the means to make their lives inconsequential and they say they don’t know what he’s referring to.  Big surprise there.  What would have happened if Joe had said to his whole staff, men and women alike, “These are serious allegations.  If I didn’t look into them, I might not be getting the best performance from my staff.  I think we should start an investigation and see if there are any trends in the data.  If there are, we can put a plan in place to make sure we address each one of the issues. Who’s on board with that?”

I might actually have respect for the guy.  If I were a woman, I wouldn’t be put on the spot.  If I were a man, I’d be reviewing my past behavior.  I’d expect some resentment down the line when the truth comes out.  “It’s just the way we’ve always done it” or “You can’t stop people from hanging out or working differently with people like them”.  No, you probably can’t stop it.  But you can make sure it isn’t rewarded.  But the only way to make sure it isn’t rewarded is to become aware of it in the first place.

Joe really screwed up.  And the lefty blogosphere is strangely quiet.  I have read nary a word from the Ezra Klein and Matt Yglesias types out there.  Lefty blogosphere women are also quiet.  Are they afraid they’ll lose the access they already have?  How about it, Susie Madrak?  You think you’re not getting access because of your “dirty fucking hippy” remark?  More likely, they didn’t like your attitude.  You were too pushy, abrasive, aggressive.  I’ll betcha Josh Marshall could have gotten away with that.

The problem is real.  It’s not in your head.  The details are familiar to those of us who have had to put up with this crap in the corporate world.  Even Stieg Larsson, the author of the Millenium series wrote a subplot where one of his female characters runs into the same damn thing at her new job.  Same maddeningly familiar bad behavior with the email, meetings and phone calls.

It won’t get better unless you say something.  Women have very little real estate in the mainstream media opinion pages as it is and what women are there straddle the generational and gender divide uncomfortably.  Kathleen Parker at WaPo is a case in point.  In her post on the issue, the last few paragraphs couldn’t be less helpful:

Most of the complaints aimed at Obama’s house concerned Larry Summers and Rahm Emanuel. Both are now gone. And Obama has made efforts to create a more woman-friendly environment.

He knows how to listen to women, which probably explains his popularity with the gentler sex, but he’s still a guy and can’t be faulted for being more comfortable in his down time hanging with his male pals. Women like some girlfriend time, too.

But to the larger point of women feeling less engaged and appreciated at the elevated levels they’ve earned, there is a clear solution, as hinted above. More women. More women. More women. There are plenty to fill an equal number of slots — no more scrounging to find qualified candidates.

And the best part: Women no longer have to try to be like men. They can be women, which is, one humbly submits, even better.

Yes, let’s reinforce gender stereotypes.  Women are the purer, gentler sex.  Instead of encouraging them to get tough without penalty, women will civilize the White House.  And we’ll add more of them even if it doesn’t matter if 90% of them are female and the 10% that is male sets the agenda and has all of the access.  Women like Parker completely miss the point.  Women staffers don’t want more “girlfriend time”.  They want to be movers and shakers on the same professional footing as their male counterparts.  Please, don’t do us any more favors, Kathleen.

But I suspect that Kathleen and Joe Biden come from the same generational conditioning.  While we can ignore Kathleen as being insufficiently familiar with the aspirations and expertise of the White House female staff, Joe Biden should really know better.  If he doesn’t, then he shouldn’t hire any more women.  No, seriously.  Why frustrate them and allow their efforts to meet with obstructions?  You’re only costing the tax payers money.  Just hire only guys and then shit will get done.  They might not be the best solutions to the issues they are dealing with but at least there won’t be ideas that will sit on the shelf because they couldn’t get an audience.  Let’s just see the White House in all of its sexist glory.

And if the White House is arguing that the problem is solved now that Summers and Rahm are gone, they must really think we’re stupid.  I don’t believe it for a second.  The President himself set the tone.  He’s the one who had the exclusive basketball games and golf outings.  He’s the one who mocked Christina Romer in a meeting.  He knows what he’s doing and if he doesn’t, someone should tell him before 2012.  Why any woman would vote for him after the past three years of economic disaster and poor treatment of his female staff defies logic.

Poor Republicans and Obama women.  Perfectly stupid together.

Take my governor – PLEASE

In 2009, I voted for Chris Daggett for governor of NJ.  Jon Corzine lost that election.  Daggett was really the best guy for the job and had been endorsed by a couple of regional papers.  Didn’t matter.  As an independent, his position on the ballot changed from county to county.   But Corzine’s governing style reminded me a lot of Obama’s.  The property tax situation here in NJ never gets resolved and Corzine commissed a study on the problem, his number one issue, and then just threw up his hands as if to say, “It’s intractable.  What do you want ME to do about it? What do you think I am?”  He was initially a Hillary superdelegate but sometime early in 2008, someone must have told him the fix was in.  So, Corzine, the former CEO of Goldman-Sachs (where have we heard that name before?) switched his allegiance and gave ALL of the delegates from NJ to Barack Obama at the Convention in 2008.  For those of you who are new to this story, Hillary Clinton cleaned Obama’s clock by 10 points in this state.  Anyway, I really liked Daggett and I want to thank him for running because he made it easy for me to find somewhere else to go.  If he runs again, he can count on me.

But we ended up with Chris Christie.  I went to one of the candidates’ debates at Drew University and could not figure out what Republicans saw in the guy.  It was like he wasn’t even trying.  His answers seemed scripted, well, don’t they all?  But in Christie’s case, it was like he could say any S^*( up there.  It didn’t matter how shallow or simplistic it was, the Republicans cheered like he was delivering the “I have a dream” speech.  Daggett won that debate easily.  Corzine was being cagey, Christie a buffoon, Daggett was articulate, cheerful and well-prepared.

Christie won.

{{Sigh}}

Since his accession to the throne of NJ, he’s made a lot of enemies.  He’s been particularly hard on schools.  In his first year, our local school district slashed 70 jobs.  Maybe that doesn’t seem like a lot in a district this size but believe me, it is.  Our superintendent quit.  He said it was the commute.  But I think it was because the guy just wasn’t making enough money in this district where we’ve always managed to keep administration costs low.  I can remember one of my Republican former colleagues fuming with righteous indignation that the superintendents were making too much money.  It was something like $125,000/year.  But try to get some smartass MBA from the corporate office to take a position where he would have to manage the budget, facilities and personnel for a company that serves 40,000 people.  That salary is going to look laughable.

But the property tax situation?  As bad as it’s ever been.  Mine went up.  I look at mortgage amortization tables and try to figure out a way of bringing the numbers down.  But I can’t.  The taxes keep my mortgage stubbornly pegged at a ridiculous number even though the actual amount I owe on this townhouse is relatively little.  When I do finally get another job, I will be working to pay off my property taxes.  If I lose my house in the next year, it will be because of my property taxes.

Christie’s sturm and drang has signified nothing to those of us struggling with the property tax situation.  We’ve simply received fewer services and now have to deal with even more surly school receptionists.  I haven’t gone to one of Christie’s TownHalls but I’ve heard that he’s dropped the “I’m just an average jolly fat guy from New Jersey, nowhatImean?” and has adopted the demeanor of a pugnacious and rude bully.  If you don’t like it, he just shouts and screams and acts like he’s going to jump off the stage and tackle you.  Regular taxpayers are intimidated by his Mussolini routine and back down.

Note to Christie and other Republicans: $83,000 in NJ is barely middle class and most teachers do not make that kind of money.  It’s probably a small fortune in Mobile but in NJ?  There’s not a whole lot left at the end of the month after the mortgage, the property taxes and federal taxes (for which we receive back 60 cents on the dollar. Enjoy it while it lasts, Alabama)

I will give him this: he stuck up for a Muslim appointee and told his own crazies to STFU.  So, even if he works for the wealthy and well connected, he has a diversity program.

But if the Republicans are dissatisfied with their current crop of midgets, I would be more than happy to donate my governor to their cause.  With Christie, you get the hardass bully with absolutely no relief to the wallet.  Sounds like a Tea Partier’s dream.  Except for the ones on fixed incomes who live in high property tax states.  Christie will discipline you.  You’ll pay your taxes, put up with S^&tty schools and disgruntled state employees and you will LIKE IT.  It’s mean and unsympathetic.  He doesn’t have the milk of human kindness to those of us who have to live here on less than a couple of million dollars a year.  But happiness is not his goal.  His goal is to make you accept the way things are.  You don’t like it?  There’s the door.  Don’t let it hit you on the way out.  You’re poor if you don’t make more in bonus than salary.  Everything is going to cost you and the state’s taxes will continue to be regressive and high.  Get used to it.

The only reason I might consider him for president is his committment to diversity.  But that won’t go over well with the malignant Christians.  But hey, whaddayagunnado?  Sometimes, you have to touch the fire before you learn how hot it is.

Racism and Deadlines

So, the Obama whips are trying to get us back into line, supporting Obama for re-election next year.  Why else would we be treated to timely reminders of what racists we are?  It’s a strange phenomenon but I never think about Obama’s race until he or one of his lackeys brings it up and shoves it in my face again.  He is, according to them, as spotless and competent or incompetant as any other Democrat.  Like Clinton.  {{eyes rolling}}  (Joseph Cannon has a nice post on this as well).

Can I just dispel some myths and legends about Clinton because I witnessed it, having been old enough (and born) to vote for him in 1992?

When I voted for him, I thought he was a moderate liberal.  One thing was for damn sure, he was nowhere near as conservative as his Republican opponent.  Nosiree.  Plus, I really liked his wife.  She was smart and didn’t mind sticking up for working women even when the traditional women got on her case.

Anyway, what I remember about Clinton’s terms in office, more than any other thing that happened during those eight years, was the relentlessly negative coverage he got from the media and the endless investigations instigated by Republican troublemakers.  It started before he took office and it didn’t end even after his moving van was chased away from the White House by screeching hordes hellbent on denying the Clintons even one piece of personal china from their friends and supporters.  They were even accused of swiping the “W’s” off the keyboards.

Even the Supreme Court didn’t see the harm in letting him and his wife be subject to crazy, speculative lawsuits.  He’d just have to deal with them.  He did.  But that doesn’t mean his performance in office didn’t suffer.  I think it did.  He had to shelve a lot of things he wanted to do.  DADT was a compromise solution.  So was DOMA.  Without that middle ground, there was a good possibility that some very negative homophobic amendments would have been passed.  Lani Guinier didn’t have a chance.  His attorney general picks were harassed for having nanny problems (but Tim Geithner suffered no punishment for not paying his taxes.  *He* was confirmed anyway for an infraction that would have gotten him fired if he had been an IRS agent).  Even his military strategies were called into question.  Remember the accusations of “Wag the Dog” when he bombed bin Laden in Afghanistan in 1998?  His Republican detractors were convinced that he did it because he wanted to take everyone’s mind off Monica Lewinsky, not because bin Laden was a dangerous terrorist who had bombed two American embassies in Africa and a US Naval vessel.

Then there’s the stuff that progressives say they hate him for, like NAFTA.  If there was a free trade agreement that ever had a reason for being, it might be NAFTA.  We do a lot of business with Canada and Mexico.  NAFTA had the promise of eliminating a lot of bureaucracy, saving everyone a lot of time and money.  You know, smaller government is not such a bad thing when it’s done well.  The problem is that Republicans would not enforce labor standards.  Maybe Clinton should have abandoned it at that point.  But NAFTA is not the most significant thing plaguing the employment market right now.  I am not competing for a job against some dude in Guadalajara.  My competition is in Western Europe and Asia.  Europe because they actually protected their scientific infrastructure and Asia because there is a lot of cheap labor there.  Unions are key to both situations.  I will leave it to the political braintrusts to figure that out.

As for Welfare Reform?  I was all for it.  I think reducing generational poverty is a laudable endeavor and am genuinely surprised that other liberals aren’t in favor of it too.  It is much better to have a job than to have a measly government check that keeps you poor.  I supported programs that trained people, especially young mothers, to get decent jobs and education.  The more we educate women and get them to support themselves, the fewer children they will have and the better the quality of life for the children they do have.  (Well, that was the theory until Obama came along and bought into deficit reduction, but I digress) As I remember it, Clinton’s team wanted to support parents with child care subsidies and housing vouchers and additional Head Start while they were transitioning to a work environment.  And Republicans, as is their wont, were agin it.  I fail to see how asking people to pull themselves up by their bootstraps but denying them boots was actually going to work but our media punditry seem to remove the obligation to make sense from Republican proposals.  The Republicans passed a draconian welfare reform act which Clinton mitigated later.

The area where I think Clinton failed was in the regulation of derivatives and allowing the dismantling of the Glass-Steagal Act by Gramm-Bliley.  Brookesly Born was the legendary regulator who opposed Larry Summers about the regulation of derivatives.  She was right, they were wrong.  Some of the guys who were Clinton appointees who joined with Summers to gang up on Born, now regret that they didn’t take her advice because she was absolutely right.  But note which candidate appointed Summers to his economics team.  That’s right, Barack Obama.  Gramm-Bliley was another matter.  We can’t leave Clinton totally off the hook but I think that he counted on Gore to win in 2000 and keep an eye on how that was going.  So, yeah, Clinton had a hand in this, probably by appointing Robert Rubin and letting the finance industry have a little too much freedom.  That was regrettable.  But the bulk of the responsibility for what happened in 2008 is George Bush’s.  There were plenty of warning signs in 2006 that the markets were going seriously off the rails and his regulators were either complicit or incompetent.  And then Paulson and Geithner failed to prevent the collapse of Lehman Brothers.  That was the disaster that triggered all the rest.  And who does Obama appoint as his Treasury Secretary? Tim Geithner.

The biggest differences that I can see between the Clinton years and the Obama years is that when the Republicans amped up the crazy starting in 1992, no one had ever seen anything like it before.  It wasn’t like Watergate when Nixon really did something criminal and both parties took him out.  No, this was a political media Dresden that seemed determined to wipe Clinton off the map.  He and Hillary didn’t always navigate the firestorm very well.  They were the first that had to go through it.  No other president in my lifetime has had every crevice of their personal and political lives examined in such humiliating detail.  And what did the millions of dollars of investigations turn up?  A blow job.  That was it.  It wasn’t even “paradise by the dashboard light” homerun intercourse.  Other than that, they were clean.  I doubt that any other political family in Washington could have come out of that looking like the dedicated public servants they turned out to be.

But they learned while they were in office what the limits were to what they could accomplish of their agenda.  And, by golly, they got a lot done.  The Republicans were constantly thwarted in what they wanted to do.  Progressives call it “triangulation”; I call it “pol-i-tics”. Gingrich shut down government and got in big trouble for it.  Clinton raised taxes on the wealthy against the Republicans wishes.  They tried to impeach Clinton and the public supported him anyway.  They wanted to pass an amendment to the constitution defining marriage only between a man and a woman and all they got was DOMA.  With another, less experienced, less apt student in the Oval Office, the Republicans would have gotten away with murder.

When Hillary ran in 2008, she was an even quicker learner than Bill.  She took the media on and beat it.  It wasn’t Fox News that took Hillary down.  It was her own party.

And now we are asked to support the guy who “beat” her in the primary.  A guy who runs a sexist White House.  A guy who CEO’s on Wall Street say is even more right of center than they thought.  A guy who was a deficit hawk during a recession.  A guy who didn’t think there was anything he could or wanted to do about unemployment.  A guy who is disgracefully allowing the dismantling of the US R&D industry without lifting a finger to help.  A guy who gave Bankers a pass.  A guy who crafted one of the most inept forms of healthcare insurance reform imaginable that will do absolutely nothing to lower costs but passes almost all of them onto the backs of already stretched consumers.  A guy who hurt struggling homeowners with HAMP.  A guy who gave away the store to Republicans when they took the US and global economies hostage by vowing not to raise the debt ceiling until they got what they wanted.  A guy who wants to make a Grand Bargain with Social Security and Medicare, virtually all that anyone my age will have left after we’ve lost everything else due to prolonged bouts of unnecessary unemployment.  And it’s not like Barack Obama is facing an economic situation that the entire world’s economists and history had no prior knowledge of.  There’s plenty of examples out there that demonstrate exactly what needs to be done from The Great Depression to the bad example of the Japanese lost decade to the Swedish crisis.  He’s supposed to be brilliant.  All he needs to do to put the economy back on track is to support policies that are known to have helped in the past.  But he won’t do them.  Why???

In short, the Obama loyalists say we have nothing to complain about.  The only reason we don’t want Obama is because we are racists.  It’s all in the color of his skin.  If not for that, we would be content with our dwindling middle class lives and diminished expectations.  We would gladly endure the beatings if we could just get over the fact that he is a few shades too dark because the Democratic party says that it has no one else who is more representative of its values or more competent in execution than Barack Obama.

And what would be the point of making your base feel like they have some reason to feel guilty and that the Clintons were not all they were cracked up to be?

I have no idea but somewhere yesterday I read that the deadline for filing for the upcoming primaries is fast approaching.  It’s the end of October.  If I didn’t know better, I think we saw the Democrats blink.  After all, they have been telling us for months now that it is a fantasy and crazy for us to believe that there will be a primary challenge to Obama in 2012.  Even Hillary has sought to dispel the notion that she will take him on.  So, if that’s the case, why the over the top denialism of the Clinton years and the persistent accusations of racism?  I mean, if she has already said she’s not taking him on and there’s no one else to challenge him, what’s the problem?  It sounds like Obama lady doth protest too much, methinks.

Unless the base is getting restless and the deadline isn’t coming soon enough…

Tuesday: Finnish Baby Boxes

Finnish propaganda baby in state uniform

I was over at Apartmenttherapy yesterday and saw this link at their sister site Ohdeedoh.  What the heck is a Finnish Baby Box??  Is that like a BF Skinner box crossed with a cell phone?  So, I clicked on it.  It turns out that it has nothing to do with behavior modification (or *does* it?) but it is the kind of thing that would turn an ordinary Republican debate goer absolutely rabid.

A Finnish baby box is a devious device to turn parents into socialists.

Let’s say you’re about to become a first time parent.  Right about the third trimester, the post office tells you that you have to fetch a package.  You find that it’s for your precious unborn.  Up to now, the Republicans are on board.  We’re talking about innocent life here, not the bedirtied mother who might be a FORNICATOR.  So, you lug the box home.  It’s from Helsinki.  The government has sent you a box.  This should immediately arouse your suspicions because as Ronald Reagan once intimated, you should be on your guard any time the government says it’s here to help.  Without even opening the box, you should suspect a new, superlong tax form where you must account for every marrka.  Just let your imagination run wild.  You open the box…

…and find that the government has sent you a maternity package.

The contents of the Finnish Baby Box

It’s chock full of onesies and footed rompers and a snowsuit, baby sleeping bag, blankies, mattress, mattress cover, simple colorful chewing toys and a first book. (See complete contents broken down by item here)  The clothes colors and prints vary from year to year and are infinitely mixable.  Some of the items are made of recycled material.  One Finnish state welfare dad rationalizes his acceptance of the maternity package by noting that because the government buys in bulk, it saves a lot more money than if individual parents had had to buy all of those items themselves so he doesn’t even mind paying the extra taxes.  The box it all came in has handle cut outs on the side, it’s sturdy and just like those fiendishly clever Ikea design solutions from the next country over, the box converts to a basinet.  (hmmm, you could probably use the lid as a changing station.)

What kind of evil commie plot is this??  With everything the little bast, er, tot could ever need for a year in the box, what incentive will it have to start pulling its weight?  Not only does the government indoctrinate “cradle to grave socialism” before the preborn has gasped his or her first precious breath, it even provides the cradle.  Does it get more evil than that?  Yes, it does.  The box even includes 6 condoms (and a tube of lube.  How thoughtful.).  So, not only does it encourage its children to become deadbeats and parasites on the government dole, the government of Finland tells the parents that it is ok to indulge in sex for pleasure and helps them prevent God from blessing them with an additional preborn innocent life that they may selfishly consider inconvenient or untimely.  By God, you can be sure that some white male religious dude from Utah will have something to say about that!

And what do the put upon people of Finland get from the government handing over their hard earned tax dollars to these slacker parents who are both sitting it out on maternity leave?  Well, I’ll bet you won’t be surprised to find that the Finns overindulge their kids with public education too.  They consistently score at the top of the list on international tests.  Their educational system puts an emphasis on cooperation and sharing and disfavors competition while encouraging children to understand and develop their own abilities and interests.  They probably don’t even have a copy of Atlas Shrugged in the elementary school library.  And 98% of their teachers are unionized.

It’s enough to make a Perry Republican want to lethally inject some prisoner whining about his innocence.

I’m telling you, no good can come of it.  The next thing you know, those spoiled Finnish kids will grow up to do weird things with rusty old Volkswagons:

If those were American 20 somethings, they would be responsibly toiling away at some tedious job, provided they could find one, working to pay off a lifetime of student debt, not indulging in tongue-in-cheek works of creative musical humor in grassy meadows and saunas.  Clearly, Finland will be brought down by such decadence and ungodly disregard.  It goes against the laws of “dog eat dog” nature.

Pray, Conflucians.  Pray for a Finnish Baby Box.

Oh, no, no, no, no, no

Maybe I’m just suffering from a case of confirmation bias but Ron Suskind’s book, Confidence Men has confirmed everything I thought about Barack Obama and then some. Im about 2/3 through the book. Here’s a quick summary:

1.) This presidency is a study in missed opportunities. At one point, 13 bankers from Wall Street’s biggest offenders list were summoned to Washington for a face to face talk with Obama. They suspected it was just a ruse to get them all in one place before they were perp walked to face charges of financial mismanagement because that’s what *they* would have done. Nope. Obama wagged is finger at them, told them he was the only thing between them and the pitchforks and had them all practice the “we’re all in this together” team cheer before they stepped out to meet reporters. The bankers were surprised that they were never punished for anything. Tim Geithner had arranged their rescue and later, one banker said he deserved a big bonus for helping out. The next time they were summoned to Washington, they were previously engaged. They had lost their fear and Obama had lost his only hold over them.

2.) Obama was warned early on that taking on healthcare reform was a risky proposition because he wouldn’t get another shot at it. He didn’t listen. They told him to come out on the offense. He didn’t listen. They told him to have a rock solid plan before he tried it. He didn’t listen. It was a fiasco.

4.) He has no managerial skills. No, really, he just doesn’t know how to force the integration of ideas that he proclaims to want. People do what they want. Some advisors act like spoiled children. Others don’t do what he tells them to do. And he ignores his female staff. He doesn’t just act like a guy. He acts like they don’t exist. He doesn’t call on them at high profile meetings and treats them like they’re part of the furniture.

5.) About that “integration” thing? It’s like a concept a freshman undergrad gets after a philosophy class. It’s like a light bulb went off in his brain and for awhile, guys who really should have known better, were attracted to it like moths to a flame. But he has no idea how to implement it or even what it means exactly. I get the feeling that some former Obama staffers now treat his inspirations with contempt.

6.) He has an “Oh, wow, I’m president! Somebody pinch me.” attitude about his presidency. It must be heady stuff. He has reached his final goal. And he attributes it in large part to what he is, Barack Obama, the first African American president and son of a dude from Kenya. That right there will be his passport to success. Anything is possible because he is a vessel for the hopes and dreams of so many. Follow through? What about it? Isn’t that what staff are for?

7.). Somewhere in a penthouse in Manhattan, there is a Dabney Colemanesque character, a shriveled, white haired king maker who gave the go ahead when his lieutenant Robert Wolf told him that Obama was a good mark. Naive, pliable, in love with himself and ruthlessly ambitious.

In short, Obama reminds me of the worst of the CEOs who run big pharma. The company has big problems. It hires some guy with connections and a cool demeanor. The MBAs get to work rearranging the deck chairs. The rank and file learn to suck up. And research makes the sacrifices. When the whole scheme doesn’t work out, they do another deck chair rearrangement and research makes some more sacrifices. After four years, the board thanks the guy with the executive hair and hires a new one. The cycle repeats.

Real change takes courage and some sense of where you want to go. It also requires an ability to think 6 moves ahead. Obama fails in every respect. He has no clue. In a sense, I feel sorry for him. He’s so not cut out for this job at this time. But he’s in the oval office because guys like Suskind himself were dazzled by their own confirmation bias. His speeches must be inspiring because Obama was hired to be inspiring. He must be brilliant or what the f#%^ is he doing in the White House?

Give the guy a break and get him out of there.

Lord and Lady

The word “Lord”  is an “Old English word ‘hlāford’ which originated from ‘hlāfweard’ meaning ‘bread keeper’ or ‘loaf-ward’, reflecting the Germanic tribal custom of a chieftain providing food for his followers”.  Lady originated from a similar word for “bread kneader”.

As I was surfing youtube, I found a series of videos produced by Christian and Johannes Zinzendorf of The Hermitage in Pennsylvania.  I don’t know much about The Hermitage except it appears to be some kind of place where the residents live in harmony with nature.  The Hermitage produces a series of videos on how to make linen, starting with the flax plant, and Johannes is a baker who uses traditional methods and original bake ovens to bake breads, cakes and whoopie pies.  There’s a very Bob Ross quality about their videos.  The “bake day” videos are 38 parts long, which could be exhausting, except that the host is so thorough and knows his subject so well that it almost makes you want to hunt down your own dough trough.

So, I’m posting a few of his videos from the middle of bake day.  No baking has actually occurred yet.  Up to this point, Johannes has gone over the architecture and functions of the bake ovens, how to make sourdough starter (in large quanitities) and the basics of grinding whole wheat flour.  I’m going to be painting most of the day.  The kitchen came out great!  But I have a lot of rooms left.  In the meantime, enjoy these videos from The Hermitage and post your favorite recipes in the comments below.

Great job, guys!

 

What America needs now is …. Pirates??

Logo of the United States Pirate Party

This Pittsburgh hometown girl is already there.  My first complete sentence was “Beat’em Bucs!”

Many of us might have missed this little bit of hopeful news, what with our seasonal preparations for the next GOP presidential candidates’ debate already underway, but it appears there has been what is being called a rout in the political makeup of the German parliament.  The Pirate Party won enough seats in parliament in the elections a couple of days ago that now they have to be taken seriously.  Even the Pirates were surprised:

As Berlin election results came in on Sunday evening, sweaty members of the Pirate Party danced arm in arm beneath a disco ball at popular club in the city’s Kreuzberg district. The smell of marijuana spread through the informal party, where guests made their own sandwiches and drank bottled beer.

“I can’t believe it,” said newly elected parliamentarian Christopher Lauer as he fell onto a sofa, sending a message of thanks out via his Twitter account for the 8.9 percent of voter support. “It is breathtaking, a surreal feeling, because there is nothing that compares to this.”

Standing before the television screen, the leader of the Pirate Party, Sebastian Nerz, called the historic moment “cool.”

“It’s the first time since the 1980s that a new political power has come onto the stage,” he said.

Indeed, the support for the party — founded in 2006 on a civil liberties platform that focused on Internet freedoms — was sensational. Not only will the Pirate Party enter a regional government for the first time, but its results far surpassed the five percent hurdle needed for parliamentary representation. The success was so unexpected that the party had only put 15 candidates on its list of nominations. Had their support been just a little higher, some of their seats would have remained empty because post-election nominations of candidates isn’t allowed.

With the addition of the unexpected victory of the Pirate Party in Germany to the unexpected victory of the NDP in Canada, we have two points towards a correlation.   Is it too early to predict a break in the stranglehold that traditional party systems have in many countries?  We may also be seeing the demise of the Green Party.  It doesn’t seem to be able to break out and, let’s face it, when it comes to voting next year, do we really want to vote Green?  They pick candidates that no one has ever heard of and their platform is almost alien to many American voters.  I still consider myself a Democrat, albeit one that is in exile.  I’m quite proud of the Democrats that preceded the current bunch.  But this current bunch is scared of its own shadow and after years and years of choosing the least offensive, machine candidates to run, we have a very uninspiring and ineffective party.  The Pirate party could provide  that little bit of random craziness and energy that we need in the political landscape.

And think of the possibilities.  The Pirates are tech geeks.  They’re into net neutrality and expanding access to digital media.  Could we also expect an American Pirate party to put modernization and de-monopolization of broadband on the top of its agenda?  Who’s to say that’s not the right thing to focus our attention on?  We spend so much time on deficits and social spending but maybe what we really need is to protect our first amendment rights from the relentless creep of corporatization.  How many times have we gnashed our teeth in frustration that the media wasn’t covering something we felt was important or had the ability to slow our messages down or curtail them altogether?  If you want to change your country and create a movement, you have to first be able to spread your message.  So, maybe the Pirates are on to something.  Keep it simple, stupid.

The other cool thing about having an American Pirate party is that it might be easier to find it on a ballot where third parties can not land in a consistent position from county to county.  The name and concept are easy enough to grasp that a motivated voter wouldn’t have to spend a lot of time looking for it.  It could appeal to the very people the parties are trying to reach but who are now disaffected – those of us who were young enough to have spent much of our working lives in the high tech and internet age.  We’ve given up on the old fogeys who are running the Democratic party, along with their weird attitudes towards women, and have a hard time reconciling the Republican party with, um, reality as we know it.  It’s time to go marauding for big political booty.

There is a Pirate party in the US.  It’s in its infancy and is currently represented by the Florida Pirate Party.  It’s registered as a recognized party in Massachusetts and Florida but considering how low the bar is to getting on the ballot in many states (even if you’re relegated to an obscure location on it), starting a legitimate Pirate party movement here in the US isn’t as crazy as it sounds.  It just might work.  And 8.9% of 535 is, hang on, let me get my calculator… 47.6.  Round it up to 48 to include the arms and head of one representative.  48 is a number that should put fear into both parties.  Works for me!

 

GOP candidate’s debate: live blog

Alright, do we want to live blog this thing?  What is more fascinating?  The stupid things the candidates say or the audience reaction to the stupid things the candidates say?

GoodHair Perry is supposed to be the frontrunner.  Yeah, it doesn’t make sense to me either but then, their side of the aisle exists in a parallel universe.  Let’s listen in, shall we?

Have at it.

Obama and women: Two views

What’s up with the lefty blogosphere women?  They should be all over Ron Suskind’s book, Confidence Men, and yet, whooosh, it’s like a giant empty space where the commentary should be.  Are they uncomfortable?  Embarrassed?  Can’t quite believe it?  If they’re going to continue to prop up guy culture, they ought to ask themselves, what’s in it for them?

There are two new points of view about presidential politics and women in the news today.  One of them gets it, the other is puzzling in its apparent cluelessness.

First up, the Washington Post nails the problem.  Maybe it’s proximity or experience.  I have to say that this kind of behavior is not limited to politics where men are used to being aggressive.  It pops up wherever there is a surplus of guys in a workspace.  Here are the money quotes from White House remains a man’s world, some say (note the qualifier lest the ladies get in trouble for complaining):

To win with your idea, you need to make an argument, in front of the decision-maker. You need to be heard.

Also, you need to be seen.

And that is what matters in this flap over the White House being a “hostile work environment” for women in the first years of the Obama administration, as communications adviser and political pro Anita Dunn describes it in a new book about the president’s term.

[...]

But are we still having this conversation? About women struggling for a seat at the table?

Well, yes. “And having to articulate that you need a seat at the table!” says Jennifer Lawless, who directs the Women and Politics Institute at American University. It’s a numbers problem — 83 percent of the members of Congress are men, which puts the United States in 90th place among the world’s legislatures, for all you politics workers obsessed with scorekeeping.

“So you can play a pivotal role,” Lawless says, “but first you have to earn that role and then articulate that role, before you can raise your voice.”

You have to develop work-arounds, say women who have gone through the revolving door of government and academia and the private sector, to learn that there’s a fake meeting and a real meeting, and to make sure that you get to the real meeting, the one they might be having while you are dropping off your kid at school.

Elaine Kamarck recalls having to fight for inclusion as the vice presidential adviser for reinventing government in the Clinton White House, and “after about 10 times where my issues were discussed in the senior staff meeting, without me somehow being considered a necessary person to be present, I complained enough to [White House Chief of Staff Leon] Panetta until he let me in.”

Seating, meetings and e-mail loops are everything. Because power in Washington is proximity to the principal, “There can be an aspect of bullying to male-female relations,” Kamarck says.

Because? “White Houses tend to attract people with really, really strong wills, and they tend to attract men who think their ideas are right,” and the good manager, as Panetta was, she says, keeps them in line. “They get all tough and macho, and they can try to roll you.”

But if they don’t pinch your butt, you haven’t got a case.  In my humble opinion, women can definitely compete in this environment iff they aren’t penalized for adapting to it.  Unfortunately, a woman who tries to assert herself is labeled “abrasive”, “not a team player” or a “bitch”.  Then they have to be “coached” so they know what to say to whom so they don’t come off as too aggressive or too passive.  Somehow, the women are forced to navigate this field of eggshells without irritating men who have to work with them.  It never works.  If a group doesn’t have to accomodate you, it won’t.  If men find that they can exploit the working environment to take advantage of opportunities that women don’t have, they will.  It’s the same thing with corporate regulation.  If you let corporations get away with murder, they’ll murder.

That’s why it is so important that managers hold everyone accountable for their actions, collaboration and productivity.  Hey, it’s up to the managers if they want to get anything out of the women they hire.  If it starts looking like the females in your group aren’t as much in the know as the guys and their productivity isn’t as stellar so they continue to end up in the junior staff level year after year, maybe, you should look into the situation.  If you’re not going to take their expertise seriously and let them fend for themselves in a hostile, unchecked working environment, you might as well just hire all guys.  No, really.  Don’t waste your time with women if you don’t bother to find out if the environment they’re in is presenting obstacles to their productivity.

The second post comes from Rep. Carolyn Maloney in Huffington Post, who seems to have gotten all Emily Litella and is discussing another issue altogether.  I have to say that I’m disappointed in Maloney because she defends Obama’s record on women by citing examples that have nothing to do with the issues addressed in Suskind’s book.  Maloney says that Obama is committed to mothers breastfeeding and mothers’ concern for good nutrition and childhood obesity.  Huh?  Is this the same Carolyn who wrote about the 30% Solution in Rumors of Our Progress have been Greatly Exaggerated?  Curbing childhood obesity and getting a break to pump your breasts are pretty easy problems to solve compared to getting your share of recognition and responsibility at work.  And in that area, Obama has clearly shown himself to be decifient who seems to be insensitive to the way guys in his White House have muscled their female colleagues out of the way.  Come on, Carolyn, women are more than mothers.  Maybe it would help if you read the book first to know what the problems were.  Anita Dunn and Christina Romer are not commenting on their inability to meet their parental responsibilities at work.

I realize that a lot of Democrats are invested in Obama and don’t want to admit that he’s been less than a feminist so as not to scare off the womens’ vote in 2012.  But they’d be doing all women in all walks of life a huge favor if they confronted the issue head on and demanded a full investigation of the data.  Without that investigation and exposing the underlying hidden power structure for the country to see in all its ugly detail, we will continue to sweep the problem under the rug and perpetuate the problem in politics and throughout business.

Reading this book has convinced me that Obama is not a feminist.  Just because he appointed Hillary Clinton to State (hardly the first female in that position) and two women to the Supreme Court (we’re still underrepresented there.  After all, we are 51% of the population.  So, one or two more justices should do it.), doesn’t mean he is aware of the inequities of the workplace or is laying down the law there so that men are accountable for their behavior.  If anything, Suskind’s book reinforces the sense that Obama lives very much in a guy’s world and that world mentored and financed him for reasons that seem inexplicable to me.  Unless, that is, he is the physical and mental epitome of guyness that other guys instantly relate to.  And since guys usually have the power and the money, Hillary Clinton never had a chance once Obama came on the scene.  It’s hard to believe that the four years of a weak Obama administration may be attributed to the fact that Hillary was not a guy but, sadly, I think that’s the conclusion I’m coming to.  I thought it might be policy or intelligence or personality or something we just didn’t know about.  But no.  It might just be as simple as her inability to project a certain kind of cool masculinity to the wealthy, aggressive powerbrokers.  Obama’s comfortable with the guy thing and has no intention of rocking the boat, because it is working so well for him.  So, we shouldn’t be surprised that his White House is hostile to women who have to work there.  After all, they’re probably thinking they were hired because of their experience, intelligence and hard work.  And look where that got Hillary.  How could they know that they didn’t have that certain je ne sais quoi?

Suskind’s fawning prose that intends to illustrate how “brilliant” Obama is as a politician and speaker is probably the weakest part of the book.  Those sections go on at length and really needed an editor.  But I am giving him a chance to make his argument.  I keep waiting for the brilliance to illuminate me but, sadly, it just doesn’t. After Suskind quotes some passage of one of Obama’s speeches that I am supposed to find inspirational and stirring, I think, “That’s it?  That’s all there is?  Hang on a minute, let me rewind this thing.  Ok, {{listen, listen}}, no, I just don’t get it.”  Clearly, I am missing that gene (probably on the Y chromosome) that will allow me to appreciate Obama for the amazing orator that he is.  His campaign staff should take that into consideration.  His Obamaessence just doesn’t resonate with some of us. Some of us are unreasonable sticklers for results.

Or maybe we should re-evaluate our impressions of Obama based on the evidence, not on some intangible quality that can only be detected by people who want to be just like him.   Maybe he’s just a guy who got carried into the White House on the shoulders of other guys and is unaware of how he is inflicting guyness on his female staff to their detriment.  Maybe he’s not anything special and people like Suskind should stop trying so hard to convince us that he is.   And this guy is no feminist.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 413 other followers