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Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Lean In

I’m coming out of retirement for a short review of Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In.

As a newly working mom (a couple years now), I was looking forward to reading this book. I had read an article about Sandberg in the New Yorker, and I liked the fact that she championed finding your career first before having children.

The career advice in this book is beneficial to both men and woman. Make sure your voice is heard. Don’t be afraid to speak up. Make sure you have a seat at the table. Be an advocate for yourself. Don’t be your worst critic. According to Sandberg these things are essential for a woman to advance their career. The short answer is of course this is sound advice.

On the other hand, there are huge things to consider before embarking on this approach. I myself have struggled from making $12 an hour to a good job as a Senior Software Engineer. I can’t stress enough that this was not an easy trajectory. And here is what I think needs to be emphasized. You can do everything that Sandberg recommends, and you can be an extremely talented person, but if you are in the wrong place it will fail spectacularly.

I have worked at least two places where being frank, bold, talented, smart, and outspoken worked against me rather than for me. At least one of these places was like this due to sexism. There are some work places that will resent you more for your talent. It seems bizarre. You would think most work places would want talented good employees, but some dysfunctional places would prefer a subservient employee who knows their place than a bold super performer.  Odd, but true. So here’s my advice. When you discover yourself to be in one of these places, get out. Don’t try to change them. Find a new place and hope to find one that is more amenable to your success. There are a lot of bad places out there. Don’t burn bridges but keep moving until you find a place that appreciates your talents. That is the best place to grow.

It’s been written already, but Sandberg focuses a bit too much on what women are doing wrong rather than the deficiencies of the system. I have known timid men who don’t get ahead. It’s not about characteristics of women that prevent them from getting ahead. I have known both men and women who have failed to get ahead due to being too afraid to lean in. So failure to “lean in” can’t be the only problem. I think Sandberg gives men an easy way to say, see we don’t need to change. It’s women who need to be bolder. That fails to take into account women who are bold but still experience the glass ceiling.

Not everyone can be a leader. Note to readers I am not a leader. This book is no secret formula. Some people just don’t have it in them to push ahead (lean in). They expect their talents to be noticed but don’t go out of their way to get themselves noticed. I think this usually happens due to some people being raised to be humble. Humility does little in the workplace.

I always use the Keanu Reeves example. I read somewhere that he dissed Kenneth Branaugh’s Hamlet to Branaugh’s face. Think about the character of Reeves. He’s one of the worst actors ever but he sincerely doesn’t know it. Think of all the people along the way that have noticed his extreme lack of talent. High school counselors, agents, directors, fellow actors, parents, friends. Many helpful people probably told him that he should pursue another interest. He didn’t listen. He became a successful actor. With no talent. Humility will prevent a good actor from getting ahead. Lack of humility can create a Keanu Reeves.

Sandberg’s chapters on men sharing more of the household work are spot on. Many of the couples I know now including myself are pretty equitable, so the good news is that this is a realizable goal for women.

A lot has been written about Sheryl Sandberg’s privileged and why this book fails to acknowledge that her experience is hardly transferable. True. She doesn’t exactly help herself by telling us Larry Summers approached her about being her adviser at Harvard. Then there was the treasury job with Summers. Then there was the job at Google and then an offer from LinkedIn. It’s a little tone-deaf because how many of us are going to even get in for an interview at Google or LinkedIn the startups with no experience. She had no experience.

And yet that is not the most tone-deaf part of the book. It comes when she talks about how important it was for her and her husband to stay in the same city so that they could raise their children and how her husband was struggling with flying from L.A. to the Bay Area on the weekends to be with the kids. Well readers when such a thing happens, don’t despair. All you need do is find a job at a new company and move that company’s headquarters to the Bay Area. Hear that? Work for Boeing and live in Bakersfield? Have Boeing move their company headquarters. Problem solved.

But wait there’s more. Sandberg’s husband’s company was SurveyMonkey in Portland. They are now based in Northern California. I live in Seattle. I like the Pacific Northwest. I don’t want to live in California. Maybe some SurveyMonkey employees felt the same way. So moving to NoCal might have helped Sandberg’s family, but possibly at the cost of some pretty decent Portland families. Yeah, life sucks sometimes.

Finally, Sandberg says you can continue the discussion by finding the Facebook Lean In page. Well guys, guess what? I’m not on Facebook and I’m not going on Facebook. So there you go. My review stays here.

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Awesome

This cartoon is found many places, but I found it on Huffingtonpost.

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An anti-abortion rights organization is withdrawing an award it planned to present Rep. Bart Stupak, after the Michigan Democrat announced Sunday he would support health care reform legislation.

The Susan B. Anthony List had chosen Stupak to receive the “Defender of Life” award at the “Campaign for Life Gala” Wednesday here in the nation’s capital.

Because we all know Susan B. Anthony was pro-life.

From Yglesias. Emphasis mine.

We should also, however, spare a thought for the unsung hero of comprehensive reform, McConnell and his GOP colleagues, who pushed their “no compromise” strategy to the breaking point and beyond. The theory was that non-cooperation would stress the Democratic coalition and cause the public to begin to question the enterprise. And it largely worked. But at crucial times when wavering Democrats were eager for a lifeline, the Republicans absolutely refused to throw one. White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and other key players at various points wanted to scale aspirations down to a few regulatory tweaks and some expansion of health care for children. This idea had a lot of appeal to many in the party. But it always suffered from a fatal flaw—the Republicans’ attitude made it seem that a smaller bill was no more feasible than a big bill. Consequently, even though Scott Brown’s victory blew the Democrats off track, the basic logic of the situation pushed them back on course to universal health care.

Today, conservative anger at the Democrats is running higher than ever, and for the first time in years the GOP leadership’s blanket opposition has won them the esteem of their fanatics. But in more sober moments in the weeks and months to come, my guess is that the brighter minds on the right will recognize that their determination to turn health reform into Obama’s Waterloo sowed the seeds of their own destruction. Universal health care has been attempted many times in the past and always failed. The prospects for success were never all that bright. Many of us, myself included, at one point or another wanted to try something more moderate. But the right wing, by invariably indicating that it would settle for nothing less than total victory, inspired progressive forces to march on and win their greatest legislative victory in decades.

Paul Krugman

Instead, I want you to consider the contrast: on one side, the closing argument was an appeal to our better angels, urging politicians to do what is right, even if it hurts their careers; on the other side, callous cynicism. Think about what it means to condemn health reform by comparing it to the Civil Rights Act. Who in modern America would say that L.B.J. did the wrong thing by pushing for racial equality? (Actually, we know who: the people at the Tea Party protest who hurled racial epithets at Democratic members of Congress on the eve of the vote.)

And a word of my own on “death panels.” Now that healthcare reform has passed (barring something catastrophic in the Senate), I predict the same people who whipped their followers into a froth over the government using death panels to put granny down, I predict that these same people will start to talk about the burden of keeping the poor and illegal immigrants alive. They are costing us money in insurance. Why should they get a life-saving transplant, they will say. I’ve done everything right all my life so why should I be punished.

Predators. I predict they’ll say child predators can get health insurance and it will cost insurance money to keep them alive. Those costs will be  passed on to us. In short, that they very people who fear mongered are now going to be the ones who want to go back to the old system where they can choose who is worthy of life-saving treatment.

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Sorry for not posting in a while. Work has been busy. Extremely so.

Just got back from the Olympics on Sunday. I’ll try posting some pictures later on.

This image I got from the Slog. My friend witnessed similar behavior in Vancouver. She told me she saw a Canadian heckling Joe Biden about health care. This seems odd. No doubt a fan getting a little too enthusiastic about the US/Canada hockey game, which by the way was fabulous, we won.

But again this sign is in very poor taste. Would I point a cardboard sign at a television camera for a station in Saudi Arabia that says “At least I can drive.” Very poor sportsmanship displayed here, but I suppose tempers can get flared in these sorts of situations. Especially when you LOSE. Not that I care about WINNING. No, not at all.

Update: Okay, here’s some funny links I found via Ron Judd’s Olympic blog in the Seattle Times.

Piss off America. Oh and you lost the war of 1812.

Canada should just cheat.

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The answer is sadly: not much. I think having a cat makes me more of a homebody. Danton seems to be so excited when we come home and so upset when we leave that we seem to be staying in a lot more. On the other hand, it’s really nice to get a proper weekend break from work. Work has been very exciting and very busy. I’m really enjoying programming full time.

Some random thoughts on recent news pieces.

10 Americans Arrested in Haiti for Child Abduction

This story fascinates me probably because I used to be a member of the Southern Baptist church and my dad still is. If you’ve been following the story, a group of Christians with no experience in child adoption, and most remarkably with no agency or legal mechanism to handle adoption — a process that is known to be fraught with difficulty, well, this group went to Haiti and tried to take 33 children out of the country with no papers.

I guess what fascinates me is how stupid this was. Did they really think that they could get away with it? I guess it shows what experience they had with the world at large.

If your religion encourages you to trust in God and not to worry about worldly complications like passports and adoption papers, then all of this seems to make sense.

It makes me think back to a great This American Life episode about a Baptist Minister who raised a baby who was switched at birth. Even though his wife alerted him to the switch, he said nothing until 20 years later. When he was talking to the biological mother of the girl he raised, he told her that this was a test that God gave them and to not question it. The woman who happened to be Methodist told him no. It may have been a test that God put you in that position to make the choice to do right or wrong, but it was not part of God’s plan that you said nothing.

Well anyway if you’re going to be religious for heaven’s sake have a little common sense. I suppose if you believe that thought then there isn’t really any point in having faith.

The “Retard” Debate

When I took a cross-cultural communications class years ago, we were advised to not say things that were known to be offensive people. Whether or not your intentions are good, you shouldn’t be saying something that another person will find hurtful. Basically, even if Quentin Tarantino doesn’t mean the n-word in a bad way, and even if he is surrounded by black people who don’t seem to mind, he should still know that to a lot of people the n-word means terrible things and he therefore shouldn’t say it.

So about the word retarded. Upon reflection, whenever I use that word I’m never actually referring to people who have a disability. Does that mean I should be able to continue to say it since I’m really referring to people I think are dumb and not to people who have a problem? According to my class, no.

Furries

Saw the below picture on Fail Blog.

epic fail pictures
see more Epic Fails

I thought it was funny without even knowing what a furry was, but some co-workers tipped me off. Read about the fascinating cultural phenomenom that is furries. I noticed a Superbowl advert with furries by the way.

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Matt Taibbi gets it. How many times in the last few weeks have you heard the word populism used by the mainstream media to describe the desire to reform our financial system? It takes a completely valid argument and uses that word to make it trite.

I also like how Taibbi calls bullshit — and actually uses the word bullshit. Favorite quote:

That’s basically Brooks’s entire argument here. Yes, the rich and powerful do rig the game in their own favor, and yes, they are guilty of “excesses” — but fucking deal with it, if you want to eat.

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The Party of Assholes

I am loath to blog about the worst of the worst wingnuts like Pat Robertson, Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, Lynn Cheney and Glenn Beck. I mean what’s the point? Their assholeishness is hardly something so subtle that it needs a blogger (let alone thousands of them) to point out.

Nonetheless what is truly disgusting lately is the glee with which these assholes seem to treat human tragedy. Can there be any doubt after the attempted bombing of an airliner on Christmas Day how much these jerks want a terrorist attack to happen? They treated the attempt as a Christmas Day present to themselves and their ideology. They jumped right away with how Obama couldn’t keep us safe and launched a coordinated effort of historical revision regarding attacks during the Bush presidency. One wonders how much more excited they would be if this guy succeeded?

And now we have a human tragedy of catestrophic proportions. A poor country that has suffered for so many years gets kicked while it is already down with a natural disaster. And how do these guys react? What compassion do these “saviors of family values” give us? You have to know that Pat Robertson woke up to the news excited that God had finally put the nail in the coffin of this heretic country. And how about Limbaugh? Don’t give any money in aid to Haiti because we already do that through income tax. It’s not enough that you are an asshole Limbaugh, you have to try to influence others to behave like you.

What is there to say to all this? I apologize for this rant but these guys are truly evil. How else to explain their utter joy at so much tragedy around us.

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