Category Archives: Personal/Political

One Month In – Are We Great Yet?

Bright Shiny Things

So many absurdities. White House officials making up massacres and hawking costume jewelry out of the West Wing. Picking fights with Australia, a department store and Sweden  – who picks a fight with Sweden? The gilded life style and the silly necktie. And then there are the really scary events.  A national security situation playing out at a dinner party. The director of the National Security Council lying about meeting with Russian officials to people inside the White House. The rescinding of an administrative order that protects very vulnerable young people – right? because transgender kids don’t have enough to deal with – let’s make going to the bathroom at school a hassle again. The report of the White House plan to mobilize the National Guard troops to deport the undocumented. Was that real news, or fake?

Be Real – Shatter the Spectacle

trump-watercolor

In a Spectacle Society, the Marxist theorist Guy Debord wrote in the 1960s, authentic social life is replaced it’s representation. So,

“Whether we love Trump or hate him, is it possible we are all equally addicted consumers of spectacular images he continues to generate? Have we been complicit in the rise of Trump, if only by consuming the images generated by his person and politics? Do the critical counter-images that protesters create constitute true resistance, or are they instead collaborating with our fascination with spectacle? We may insist that this consumption is the basic work of concerned citizenship and moral vigilance. But Debord would counter that such consumption reflects little more than a deepening addiction. We may follow the fact checkers and cite the critics to our hearts’ delight, but these activities, absorbed by the spectacle, have no impact on it.”
–Robert Zaretsky, New York Times, 2/20/17

So be real. Read real news. Learn real things. Work with real people to make real and lasting change. Turn away from the Spectacle, go local with politics and organizing. Because we are snowflakes and a lot of us moving in the same direction makes an avalanche.

The Mar-A-Lago Situation Room…

…also happens to be a dining room. Maybe it’s me, but doesn’t its seem a bit odd to remain at dinner while dealing with a crisis? The phone call comes – Aunt Elizabeth has died; there’s been an accident; North Korea launches a missile…and the guy taking the call stays seated at the dinner table?  Who does that? Like, “Yeah, I’m listening, I just don’t want my soup to get cold…” #WhataShitStorm.

maralago_sit_room

Current Events

The sound of Trump Trump Trump

Reminds me of the tramp tramp tramp

Of their boots boots boots

Oh Happy Day!

“Chris Christie Becomes Powerful Figure in Donald Trump Campaign” and, according to the New York Times, has been tasked with designing a government on Trump’s behalf. As part of this work, Governor Traffic Jam is soliciting views on the Trump administration should look like. I don’t know what it should look like, but I do know what it will look something like this…

hieronymus_bosch_hal-hefner_gates_heavy-metal-1

…should this ever come to pass.

#DonaldTrump #ChrisChristie #HieronymusBosch

 

Long term unemployment and older women: a theory

A recent article in the New York Times reported that women over 50 have found it nearly impossible to re-enter the job market, even as the economy recovers from the Great Recession.  Theories abound – older women lack a rich pool of professional contacts to network; their job skills are rusty; they need flexible work schedules; they may not be able to relocate. But perhaps the real reason can be found in the picture that accompanied the Time’s article…

This is Chettie McAfee, 58. She lives in Seattle and was laid off from a job that she had 30 years. I do not know Ms. McAfee, but she looks like majestic – a force to be reckoned with. This is not the look of someone who suffers fools gladly. By hiring her – or someone like her – there is the very really risk that, some meeting, when a half baked proposal is made and everyone starts to run with it, she will speak up. She will want to understand the context. She’ll want to talk about long term consequences. She may do this in the nicest possible way. She may offer up alternatives and workarounds. She might, in the end, play along. But what she will not do, what she can not do, is play the part of the ingenue, and jump enthusiastically on a bandwagon just because everyone else is. In theory, this may be exactly what you want your employees to do, but isn’t it is just so much easier to hire younger people, people you can train?

The problem with hiring older women is that it’s like hiring your mom. Moms knows all about “multitasking in a fast paced, dynamic workplace.” Moms are self-starters, team players and individual contributors.  Moms know how wonderful, and foolish people can be. Moms know how to nurture. And Moms know how to get things done. But, it takes real courage to have your mom around.

A study published in the Harvard Business Review examined leadership effectiveness of men and women at all organizational levels across 16 core competencies. The authors of the study found that “at all levels, women are rated higher in fully 12 of the 16 competencies that go into outstanding leadership.” They recommended  “As leaders in organizations look hard to find the talent they need to achieve exceptional results, they ought to be aware that many women have impressive leadership skills…[that] are strongly correlated to organizational success factors such as retaining talent, customer satisfaction, employee engagement and profitability.”  In today’s economic climate, they concluded,  business leaders “would do well to avoid becoming complacent.” In other words, hire your mom.

On the Death of Fred Phelps

May he come to know the peace that passes all understanding. 

Mass GOP Tack to the Right Hurts Us All

With its overwhelming  approval of a red meat values plank in the party’s  platform last night, the Massachusetts Republican State Committee moved us closer to one party rule here in the Bay State.  Our civil life requires robust, honest and thoughtful discourse.  Having two legitimate political parties allows us to have a conversation across ideologies.  Without that tension, it becomes  harder for thoughtful Democrats to test our assumptions.  Instead of dialog, this platform leads us deeper into the echo chamber.

 

A Guy Walks into a Bar…

Let’s say that the bill passed by the Arizona legislature that allows businesses to refuse serve based on the owner’s religious is signed into law; how, exactly would it work?  A guy walks onto a bar – is he gay? straight? somewhere in between? Two women sit down in a coffee shop – are they lovers? friends? Who decides?  What if they’re wrong?

Words That Don’t Belong in the Same Sentence….

Body count, elementary school.

Much Madness

This morning I drove a friend to her doctor’s appointment at McLean Hospital, the nation’s first and finest mental hospital.  Robert Lowell spent time here.  So did Sexton and Plath, Ray Charles and James Taylor.  Some of the original buildings –  big red brick Victorian heaps, still stand.  With landscaping by Olmstead, madness seems elegant and refined. Once home, I looked up the poem by Dickinson –

Much Madness is divinest Sense –
To a discerning Eye –
Much Sense – the starkest Madness –
– Tis the Majority
In this, as all, prevail –
Assent – and you are sane –
Demur – you’re straightaway dangerous –
And handled with a Chain
(620)