Friday, October 24, 2008

Glowbama Pumpkin Carving Contest

Win a free ipod and Change the World!
That's right folks, it's time for the first annual Barack Obama Pumpkin Carving Contest!

Anyone can enter. Just carve your Punkin, take a snap shot and send it in. Winners will be announced the night before the big election. (One rule: No attack Punkins allowed, cause yanno, it's a fun family kind of thing.)

Check out the contenders:

-Pretty creative... but come on bloggerites, I know you can win this thing! Pull out those kitchen knives and show us what you've got.

(It's by far a much healthier outlet than what a certain misguided McCain supporter did. )

Have some fun and Change the World!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Family Friendly Workplace

A mother holds up her child.Image via Wikipedia Joe asks to take off work early on Friday to play a round of golf with the boys. No problem (He’s networking.) Jill asks to take of work early on Friday to volunteer in her child’s classroom, and eyebrows are raised and suggestions made that maybe Jill does not really care about her job. Jill gets the message that if her family is her first priority, maybe she should just leave the workforce and stay at home…where “good” mothers belong.

But the reality is most families need duel incomes to survive. Jill must work. For that matter, Jill WANTS to work. She wants to take care of her family too.

This old “between a rock and a hard place” scenario is the basis of The MOMMY WARS. One side says women are traditional caregivers, and should fulfill that role in the home. The other side says women who want careers should have ample opportunity to compete with men on a level playing field. They want all day every day kindergarten, and state funded daycare, and passage of The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.

Now, I am all for the Ledbetter Act, and Early Childhood Development, but it seems to me there is a middle ground we are missing in this debate:

Women have worked along side their men since the beginning of time. Go back to the Hunter Gatherer societies, and you will see, women providing the majority of the food.
Seventy percent of the food consumed by prehistoric peoples consisted of plant material, and only thirty percent came from the hunt.

Some scientists believe the tendency for right handedness -- which is passed on the maternal side -- comes from these gathering gals. They say women would hold their babies with their left arm because the children were comforted by the sound of the heartbeat, while working with the right arm. In other words, the girls were doing twice as much “providing” as their male counterparts, with one hand tied behind their back!

I wonder why we never see anything about that in those cave man documentaries on The History Channel.

In agricultural societies, women also worked along side their men. Women milked cows, gathered eggs, fed livestock, and harvested food. The difference between then and now is simply that children are no longer allowed in the workplace, because the workplace is no longer part of the home or community. The industrial revolution changed everything.

So we have a new standard of work ethics in the modern world; 9 to 5 Monday thru Friday, with a little overtime thrown in for good measure. This is a problem for primary caregivers. They simply can not compete for promotions and raises under the current system. I have always said I can put in a sixty hour week, and still be a good mom; I just need control of my schedule to do it. As the primary caregiver for my family, my schedule must fluctuate with the needs of my children, my husband, my pets, and sometimes my aging parents. I am in charge of doctors’ appointments, dentist appointments, visits from Joe the plumber, and Jill the electrician. It is my responsibility to make sure the kids get on the bus at 8:30, and are home safe at 3:30. I am the one in charge on snow days, teacher work days, late start days and holidays. I attend the PTO meetings and go to school events and conferences. I bring food for classroom parties, and chaperone for field trips. It’s expected, and I don’t mind doing it one bit. I just need the ability to do some of my other work early in the morning or late at night to manage it all.

Have you ever taken a good look at a school calendar? Almost every third week of the year includes either a late start day or a non school day. How many employers will put up with that?

To paraphrase the famous line from the Paul Newman movie “Cool Hand Luke” What we have here is a lack of communication.

I believe we need a new model in the work place. With today’s technology there is no reason why flex time, telecommuting, and job sharing programs can not become the norm. The industrial age is over. This is the information age, and yet we still can not seem to come to grips with the basic advantages of the technology we have harnessed.

Flex time works. There are plenty of studies to prove it. Employee satisfaction goes up when people are in charge of their own schedules. Employee turn-over goes down. Companies who use these family friendly models attract the best and the brightest. A better worker pool means higher production and bigger profits.

Families with duel incomes and low daycare costs have higher net worth and more disposable income. That extra money fuels spending and boosts the economy.

Flex time and work from home also decreases rush hour traffic, and reduces our carbon footprint. It’s good for the environment.

Kids who have a parent at home, acting as a responsible hard working role model engage in lower rates of vandalism and get better grades in school.

If we really value the family as the core of society, why is Joe rewarded for golfing while Jill is considered “below par” for volunteering in the schools? I don’t get it.

I suggest we could jump start our economy and solve a great many social problems by creating tax incentives for eco friendly, family friendly businesses, willing to employ some of these proven strategies in the workplace.

The bottom line is; IT WORKS!

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Welfare Queens of Wall Street

Gustave Doré's illustration to the European fa...Image via Wikipedia Here's my latest column for The Huffington Post, titled: The Welfare Queens of Wall Street.


Gather round kiddies, its story time:

Once upon a time, Ronald Reagan rallied Republicans with his tale of the big bad “welfare queen” who cruised around the kingdom in her pumpkin colored Cadillac stealing all the peoples gold. His story was a fabrication of course, but did much to solidify the convictions of the “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps” crowd. Now we have welfare queens on Wall Street begging for a bail out while spending all our money at the spa. Oh how the tables do turn.

The plight of these poor little rich men started when the wicked witch of Deregulation came to town. George Bush was a believer in the fairy tale of the “ownership society.” The premise; capitalism is king, free markets are the Holy Grail, and the big bad monster of government must be completely crushed like a little bug under the cowboy boot of consumerism. Wealth and prosperity will trickle down to those who deserve it, and away from those who don’t. (Excuse me for saying so, but I am not overly fond of being “trickled on” by a bunch of Monopoly men.)

What we are talking about here is supply side economics. (I know, I know, economics is a tough subject, and not much fun, but bear with me, and I shall try to provide a little stimulus in the package.)

Here’s a quick background: Regan believed spending creates wealth. So the idea is, spend more than you have, and riches will abound. It’s kind of like saying instead of saving your money in the bank, just max out your credit cards to say, a trillion dollars or so while waving your magic wand saying “there’s no place like home.”

But to put it in folksy Sarah Palin slang, “By-golly, that sure didn’t work worth a diddly now did it.” (Wink)

Bill Clinton did not believe in such magic, and refused to drink the kool-aid, so when he took office, he created a plan called “Pay as You Go.” Bill balanced his budget, and left us with a nice fat national savings account. (Thanks Bill!) But George Bush did not like Bill. He liked Ron’s idea better. So George and his pals in the GOP decided to spend every last dime in that ol’ savings account, and then spend more and more and more!

The problem is, George and his buddies did not read the entire memo on Keynesian economics, which basically says deficit spending is O.K. in the short term. In other words; be fiscally responsible, but if your car breaks down, go ahead and use the credit card to fix it, cause keeping the ol’ engine running in order to get to work is better than losing your job. They just sort of skipped over that “in the short term” part, and just ran with the shop till you drop plan like Brittany Spears on a bender.

The politicians of the GOP were living high on the hog in this fairy tale world and bringing home the bacon big time. Yes sir’ee Jim Bob, it was a grand old party. They could campaign to the home crowd on the ever popular “no new taxes” mantra while lining their districts with endless payouts of pork pulled from your pockets. (Just ask The Welfare Queen of Wasilla: Alaska got the biggest helping of all.) But even that was not enough. These supply-siders, or “voo-doo economists” as Bush Senior once called them, wanted to deregulate everything. No Rules! No oversight! No government! Let the free market take care of itself! Which is exactly what they did. The busy little beavers of the GOP worked their noses to the ground making new laws to unmake old laws, and set the wild markets free.

Once the markets were deregulated, lots and lots of bad (subprime) loans were made, with No Bank Left behind. It pretty much burst everybody’s bubble.

Now, the GOP will tell you the poor are to blame, (because everybody knows they don’t know how to handle money.) They will say these “irresponsible” borrowers messed up their whole plan and caused the housing bubble to burst. (“Bad poor people!”, “Bad!”)

It’s convenient for the GOP to blame the poor, because this is the one group that is least able to fight back, and the group least likely to vote for them anyway. But the numbers don’t lie folks. While the poor did in fact get caught in this web, and did default on a number of loans, the total percentage of those loans is nowhere near big enough to cause a world market collapse. Look around. This mortgage crisis is not restricted to urban low income neighborhoods here at home. (If this was just a problem in the projects, I guarantee it would never have made the front page.) No, we are talking about world market collapse. We are talking about the foreclosure of McMansions, ocean front estates, and banking failures on a global scale. (As if the poor could pull that off.) This crisis did not occur because the poor abused the free market principle of deregulation to rip off Wall Street, this crisis occurred because the greedy ghost of Gordon Gecko is the acting grand wizard behind the curtain of deregulation policies.

The time has come where conservatives can no longer laugh at progressives with snide remarks of seething fiscal and moral superiority. Their “guy” was wrong. Their plan did not work, and their addiction to the fear mongering politics of imperialistic saber rattling for oil has torn their precious little family values plank into a million little pieces.

There is a price to pay for this folly, of that you can be sure. Judgment is coming, and it commeth right soon. We are facing job losses, business failures, a freeze up in the financial markets, and a very long, severe recession. Change is on the way my friends. Ya, you betcha.

No matter what Congress does now, it’s too late to stop that. The best they can do is minimize the damage, and I would not put too much hope on that because as anyone in Washington will tell you, if you ask two economists their opinion, you will get six different answers. The good news is, in this case, for the first time in world history, all the economists are in agreement on one thing: we are in some really deep doo-doo.

Here is what the American people need to understand, and what they are never, ever going to hear from a politician: You are going to have to pay for this mess, and it is going to cost each and every one of us dearly. We are in a very, very deep debt. We have two wars going on that we can no longer pay for. Our infrastructure is crumbling. Our jobs are going overseas, and our addiction to oil is killing us. It is time to tighten our belts and circle the wagons. As Nancy Pelosi said in a press conference yesterday, “We have a huge budget deficit which we could get relief from if we end the war in Iraq. We have a huge trade deficit which has an impact on the fiscal budget health of our country which would be greatly relieved if we reduced our dependence on foreign oil and did so soon.”

Pelosi took the stage, surrounded by a dozen economists including Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stieglitz, who added, we need a “comprehensive plan, not just based on trickle down economics, not just going to financial markets, but at least some of the money going directly to households and to meet infrastructure needs.” He also focused on the development of green technologies as a major component of the solution.

So climb aboard the magic school bus kiddies. We are about to embark on a wild ride, and learn a whole new way of living in the grand ol’ U.S. of A.

I know The American People are strong enough to overcome this crisis. But I worry the voters will not be smart enough to remember how it all began. I fear, as we experience the hard hitting blows of inflation, voters will retaliate against whoever is in power at the time, which means that even if we vote for Democrats this year, and bring in a fresh new group of leaders, ready and willing to turn this mess around, the Republicans will have a sweeping victory in 2012. They will approach hungry, hurting voters with that tempting poison apple of trickle down policy, dressed up in the costume of tax relief, and rule the kingdom once again.
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Thursday, October 09, 2008

Remembering Billy Jack

Does anyone remember the 1970's counter culture film Billy Jack?

Last night I took my kids to visit my old high school, an alternative learning environment much like The Freedom School depicted in the movie. We called it The A.P. (short for Worthington High School Alternative Program) but most of the people around town just called it "The Zoo."

My munchkins were flipping out. A school where kids make the rules? Where you can paint on the walls or break out into song on the stage of "The Big Room" whenever you like? Where you call the teachers by their first names? Where every teacher and every student each have an equal say and equal vote on how the school is run? Where nobody locks their lockers, (as that would be an insult to the integrity of your fellow students.) Where kids can teach their own classes, or write up a contract with a teacher, to go anywhere in the world to learn anything they would like?

Yeah babies, that is where mommy went to high school: in a totally non-institutionalized institution, where peace, learning, responsibility and respect all went hand in hand.

Does anyone else still value that?

With politics as it is right now, I drew a number of parallels during my visit to the old stomping grounds. The A.P. is a great example of thinking outside of the box, to create something new and different, and infinitely better.

People fear change, just like the people in town who called us "zooies." way back then. But the old school is still going strong, and has produced some amazing citizens, who have done some pretty cool things over the years.

I don't know about you, but I don't fear change at all. I'm actually really looking forward to it.

You Tube would not allow permission to embed the video from the film here, but if you remember the movie, you will get a real blast of nostalgia by clicking this link. It will take you to the Billy Jack trailer and theme song "One Tin Soldier by Coven. Excellent tune, and a great old independent film with a message that still resonates today.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Tina Fey is on Fire!

Tina Fey is a dead ringer for Sarah Palin. Ya gotta love her!