Paul Abrams: Tom Cotton Wants To Make Medicare Doubly Dead... Attacks From Two Fronts 2014-04-19
It is not on his website; it is not in his campaign platform. But, do not let this stealth candidate fool anyone: Republican Senate candidate Tom Cotton (R-AR) really wants to kill Medicare. So much so, that he attacks it on two different fronts.
First, by repeatedly voting to repeal Obamacare, he votes to make Medicare become insolvent in 2016, as it was destined to do.Solvency is greatly improved from the insolvency date that was projected before enactment of the Affordable Care Act . This legislation improved Medicare's financing by reducing the rate of increase in provider payments, phasing out overpayments to Medicare Advantage plans, and increasing Medicare payroll taxes for high-income individuals and couples. Repealing the Affordable Care Act, would move up the insolvency date to 2016. [Emphasis Added].
By contrast, Obamacare extends Medicare's solvency to at least 2026, an additional decade.
But, that was not enough for this anti-Medicare warrior. Cotton also voted for the Ryan budget that scraps Medicare's guaranteed benefits and replaces them with vouchers for seniors to purchase health insurance on exchanges. (Vouchers... exchanges... hmmm, sound like anything you know that Cotton voted to repeal?)
Of course, killing Medicare would only partially satisfy Cotton. He would like to see the demise of Medicaid, and he has a two-pronged attack against that as well. Repealing Obamacare would throw more than 100,000 Arkansans off of Medicaid for which they are now qualified. This is an vicious attack on the working poor.
Then, for his double-whammy against Medicaid, Cotton votes to "block grant" Medicaid to the states. Sounds benign, doesn't it? Who would object to getting a "grant" in a big "block"?
The "block grants" he voted for are cleverly designed to decrease in value over time -- just like the Ryan vouchers he voted to replace Medicare.
Think of that. Of the ~74 million children in the United States, ~43 million are covered by Medicaid.
That is not all. About 60 percent of nursing home costs for the elderly are covered by Medicaid. Yes, Medicaid, not Medicare.
So Tom Cotton not only wants to reduce seniors' health care coverage when they are ill but not infirm, and then follows that up with a "sorry, too damned bad" when they need nursing home attention.
Of course, he will never, ever, say that that is what he wants to do. Heavens, no.
But, if it were up to Tom Cotton, Medicare would be doubly dead.
All his sweet words are not going to provide a single medication, a single doctor's visit, a single surgical procedure or a single night in a nursing home for our nation's senior citizens.
Chris Weigant: Friday Talking Points - Our 4/20 Acronym Contest Challenge 2014-04-19
Three hundred of these columns? To coin a phrase... far out, man.
We'll get to patting ourselves on the back in a bit, but first we'd like to propose a party game for this weekend's big 4/20 festivities across the land. So put this in your (metaphorical) pipe and smoke it.
The rules for this contest are pretty simple. First, you've got to picture a day in the future when the Weed Wars are completely over, with marijuana reform having won the biggest victory of all: a complete change in the federal government's viewpoint. Not just rescheduling, but descheduling, in other words. The feds throw in the towel and decide to treat marijuana not as a dangerous and illegal drug, but as a regulated vice like tobacco and alcohol. In other words, total victory for the reformers.
OK, got that image in your mind? Here's where you need to get creative. If marijuana is descheduled, what would happen to it, in terms of the federal government? Well, they would take it away from the Drug Enforcement Agency and the Office of National Drug Control Policy, and hand it off to the official "vice control" agency. But (and here's where the contest comes in) then they'd have to rename this agency.
The obvious choice would be to add it to what used to just be called "ATF" or sometimes "BATF" -- the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. This name was expanded a while back to include explosives, making "BATFE." Now, the easiest way to change the name gives us a rather strange acronym for the new Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, Explosives, and Marijuana: "BATFEM." Um... we're not sure that's an improvement over "Batgirl," really.
So our challenge is to come up with a better acronym. The rules: you can use either "marijuana" or "cannabis," and you can change "bureau" to "agency" or "commission" or any other governmental collective noun. This means you can add an M or C to the core letters A, T, F, and E; and then use a B or A or C (or whatever) at either end. Got that? So who has a better acronym than BATFEM for the real end to marijuana reform: what to call the bureau or agency that would federally regulate marijuana? This once seemed like pie in the sky -- too much to even hope for -- but is now within the bounds of possibility. So scramble those letters, and post your entries in the comments! Get creative!
As we've noted in these pages for the past few months, 2014 is shaping up to be a pivotal year for marijuana reform. The Colorado and Washington experiments are proceeding apace, the Attorney General is now actually "cautiously optimistic" about the success of these experiments, and the only real question people are asking is "which state will be next?" Alaska may move first, as full legalization is on the ballot there in August.
However, not everyone is on board (just to get serious for a moment). The head of the Drug Enforcement Agency tried his hand at a little scaremongering in front of Congress, warning that with legal marijuana edibles lying around, there was an increased risk of dogs eating it with harmful consequences. The prompted one of the most brutal takedowns of such propaganda we've ever read (from the Washington Post), which provides a long list of dogs mercilessly killed by drug raids gone horribly wrong. It's not for the faint of heart, and neither is this equally-brutal takedown which lists 13 human victims killed by Drug War hysteria.
In non-marijuana news, Vladimir Putin has finally responded to my April Fool's Day column (well, not really...) by insisting that Alaska is too cold for Russia to want to annex: "Is Alaska really in the Southern Hemisphere? It's cold there, too. Let's not get hot-headed." No word yet on any response (hot-headed or not) from Sarah Palin.
What else? The Pulitzer awards were handed out to the reporters which covered the Edward Snowden story, surprising exactly nobody. The federal government decided -- after getting some justifiably bad press -- they would no longer attempt to collect questionable "debts" that were over 10 years old. Here's just one of the stories of the folks caught up in this effort:
Mary Grice, a federal worker who lives in Takoma Park, Md., never got the refunds she was expecting to see in her mailbox this year. The government seized her checks because of a $2,996 debt that was supposedly incurred under her father's Social Security number. Her father died in 1960, when she was 4, and her mother received survivors' benefits thereafter.
But 37 years passed between when the Social Security agency says it overpaid someone in the Grice family and when Mary Grice's refund was taken. She was unable to find out from the agency exactly who received the overpayment -- her mother or perhaps her father's first wife, both of whom are no longer living.
There's a word for this sort of thing: Biblical. "Visiting the sins of the fathers on the sons," to be blunt, should not be the policy of the federal government, and we're glad someone woke up and realized this.
We've got some idiocy from Republicans to highlight in the talking points, but here is one item up front, just because. Scott Brown, former senator from Massachusetts, would now like to become the future senator from New Hampshire (after getting beaten by Elizabeth Warren in the Bay State). Speaking at a rally for Brown was former New Hampshire governor John Sununu, who made a rather bizarre pitch that tried to tie Senator Jeanne Shaheen (the Democrat Brown is challenging in New Hampshire) to other Democratic senators, saying: "She votes with Elizabeth Warren. She votes with [Ed] Markey. She is the third senator from Massachusetts." Um, really? You really think that line's going to work to promote an actual former senator from Massachusetts? I guess John Sununu thinks New Hampshire voters are pretty dumb.
And, finally, some non-idiocy from the Republican Party of Nevada. At their party convention last weekend, they decided to jettison the planks of their party platform which opposed same-sex marriage and abortion. This is an attempt to move the party away from these hot-button social issues, and it bears watching to see if the GOP in other states decides to follow Nevada's lead or not. We're guessing "not," but we could always be wrong...
Obamacare had another very good week, but we're going to get to that in the talking points as well, so we'll just mention it here in passing.
John Kerry had a pretty good week as well, pulling together a fragile agreement to de-escalate tensions in Ukraine. It remains to be seen whether it'll work or not, but the surprise was that anything was agreed to at all -- expectations that Kerry could deliver were pretty low, before the announcement.
And while it's not exactly award-worthy, we have to at least mention the fact that Chelsea Clinton is pregnant. This is going to be a photo-op goldmine for Hillary, for the next few years. "This is my family" images with Baby Clinton should be seen as both inevitable and soon-to-be-adorable, at this point. Like I said, the news that Hillary will be a grandmother isn't exactly award-worthy, but it will indeed positively influence her upcoming campaign.
Instead, this week (and in advance of the 4/20 celebrations), we're giving out the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week more for a long-term effort than for any news made this past week (although he did have some good new quotes, as previously pointed out).
Attorney General Eric Holder is, quite obviously, a man who is "evolving" on the subject of marijuana laws. His evolution is far from complete, one hopes. But it is worth pointing out the changes he has made in both attitude and in federal law enforcement priorities over the past year. Holder was painted into a corner by the new Colorado and Washington laws, and he dithered and stalled for just about as long as he could get away with. But then he announced that the state-level "laboratories of democracy" experiments which legalized recreational marijuana would go forward without heavy interference from federal agencies. He made a list of rules that would have to be followed to avoid a federal crackdown, giving some clear guidance on the issue. He could have chosen a far different route, but -- to his credit -- he didn't.
Holder has since begun to address some of the other problems in federal law which surround the marijuana issue. He told banks it would be OK with him for marijuana businesses to open bank accounts (lessening the fear of federal prosecution for "money laundering for drug dealers"). He is actually showing quite a bit of flexibility on marijuana -- more flexibility than America has seen since the 1970s, in fact (what archaeologists call the "pre-Nancy Reagan era").
Eric Holder still has far to go. He has balked at rescheduling marijuana, which would end the ridiculousness of federal laws treating marijuana as more dangerous than methamphetamine. Holder could accomplish this with a stroke of his pen, but he is punting the decision to do so to Congress. Holder knows full well that medical research is almost impossible to now do on marijuana, and rescheduling could take a big step towards solving this problem, but he refuses to do so for purely political reasons.
Nonetheless, Holder still deserves the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award, this 4/20 week. The steps he has taken on his evolutionary road are important ones, and he could easily have taken a much harsher position on each of them. Nobody could mistake Eric Holder for a pro-marijuana reformer at this point, but he is also neither a rabidly anti-marijuana absolutist. He is trying to accommodate a changing situation by slowly revamping the federal government's attitude on marijuana. For now, this is enough to earn him some praise. He's got many more steps to take along this path, but for the decision on Colorado and Washington alone, Holder wins our "looking back at the past year" 4/20 edition of the MIDOTW.
[Since he doesn't provide direct contact information, you'll have to congratulate Attorney General Eric Holder via the White House contact page, to let his boss know you appreciate his efforts.]
In keeping with this theme, we're going to award Patrick Kennedy this week's Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award. Kennedy used to be a House member from Rhode Island. After leaving office, he founded a group which calls itself "Smart Approaches to Marijuana," which aims to strike a sort of "centrist" pose on the issue, along the lines of: "the Drug War has gone too far, but legalization is still wrong." The reason they're in the news is that they're fighting against the Alaska ballot measure which would legalize and tax recreational marijuana.
The pro-reform folks held an amusing bit of political theater to point out Kennedy's hypocrisy, with a giant check for $9,015 -- the amount Kennedy had accepted from the alcohol lobby in his short stay in office. The purpose of this check, the political director of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol said, was to offer it as a contribution to the anti-reform effort, if they could disprove these three statements: "a person is much more likely to overdose on alcohol than marijuana, long-term alcohol consumption causes more deaths than chronic marijuana use and violent crimes are committed by drunken people far more often than by people who are high." The chair of the pro-reform campaign tossed down the gauntlet: "We decided to present them with a challenge that really strikes at the heart of the issue. They are going to spend the next four months trying to scare people into thinking marijuana is so dangerous it simply cannot be legal for adults. Yet the fact is marijuana is far less harmful than alcohol to the consumer and to society."
So, if anyone can prove that marijuana is more harmful than alcohol, the pro-marijuana group will contribute the same exact amount that Patrick Kennedy got from the alcohol lobby to their opponents. That's some pretty admirable political theater, we have to say. In fact, the Alaska Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol deserves their own Honorable Mention, as they point out why former Representative Patrick Kennedy is worthy of this week's Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week.
[We were going to provide contact information for Kennedy's group, but we decided it could be misinterpreted as a measure of support for them, and we certainly don't want to give that impression, so you'll have to look Patrick Kennedy's group up yourselves, to let him know what you think of his actions.]
Volume 300 (4/18/14)
Three hundred! Woo hoo!
I certainly never thought, when I wrote the first one of these columns, that I'd still be doing so seven years in the future. But here we are, for the 300th time. These columns began (and continue) with a simple idea: "talking points" are not in and of themselves a bad thing. The reason why a lot of Democrats don't like them is that Republicans are much better at them than Democrats ever seem to be able to manage.
Republicans all get their talking points before the weekend, and they then appear on the political talk shows and -- almost word-for-word -- repeat the same points, over and over again. You barely even need to pay attention to which Republican is using them, in fact, because they are all singing from the same songbook, in unison.
Democrats, to be charitable, just aren't that disciplined. But the idea of talking points (or "soundbites" or "bumpersticker slogans" or whatever else you want to call them) is nothing more than a neutral tool in the political toolbox. Talking points, to put it another way, are not Republican or conservative, or inherently evil. They are a way to communicate -- and what you communicate is up to you.
Democrats have gotten somewhat better at this sort of thing, in our humble opinion, than they were in 2007 when this column began. We take no credit for this, because our egos are simply not that large. But choosing words wisely and getting in a zinger to make your point indelibly in the public mind are skills which always need honing. Hence the 300 columns.
This week's offerings deal mainly with Obamacare and the Republican War On Women. In preface to the Obamacare segment, here is a great ad now running up in Alaska which does an excellent job of defending the Obamacare program. Other Democrats campaigning this fall, take note, because this is a great example of how to make the issue work for you. For the rest of you, sit back and enjoy, as always.
We confidently predicted this two weeks ago in this space. And always remember those crucial last two words, Democrats.
"President Obama announced today -- once again -- that the number of signups on the Obamacare exchanges has risen dramatically. Two weeks ago, the number was at 7.1 million, even though most were expecting roughly a million less than that. Last week, the number was up to 7.5 million. This week, it topped 8 million. President Obama is right. The law is working. It is now impossible to deny. Eight million people have signed up on the Obamacare exchanges -- and counting."
No other reason than political spite
We're going to let President Obama have this talking point. He's right in pushing this -- the denial of Medicaid expansion could become a very potent argument for Democrats this year, as is already happening in Virginia. This Obama quote comes from his announcement about hitting the 8 million figure:
This does frustrate me. States that have chosen not to expand Medicaid for no other reason than political spite. You've got 5 million people who could be having health insurance right now at no cost to these states -- zero cost to these states -- other than ideological reasons they have chosen not to provide health insurance for their citizens. That's wrong. It should stop. Those folks should be able to get health insurance like everybody else.
All kinds of good news
I wrote about this earlier this week, in more detail. This has been the best week for Obamacare stats yet. In fact, it's been the best week overall for Obamacare since the law passed. So point it out!
"The statistics on Obamacare just keep getting better and better, no matter how much Republicans would like you to ignore them. The big news was that 8 million people -- and counting -- have signed up on the Obamacare exchanges, which is a full million more people than the original estimate. The Congressional Budget Office now estimates that 12 million Americans will have insurance this year alone -- people who would not have been insured if Obamacare didn't exist. The C.B.O. also pointed out the program is covering more people, but the costs are coming down -- their new estimate is that Obamacare will save another $100 billion in the first decade than previously thought. Major insurers are now signaling that they are going to expand their offerings in the Obamacare exchanges next year -- which is a big vote of confidence from the industry. And finally, Gallup announced that in the states which accepted the Medicaid expansion with their own exchanges, the uninsured rate dropped three times faster than it did in the states which didn't. States which joined in Obamacare fully dropped their rate to 13.6 percent uninsured, while states which didn't were still at 17.9 percent uninsured. The numbers are starting to come in, folks, and so far every single one of them proves Obamacare is working as it was designed to do. Obamacare got all kinds of good news this week, in fact."
And the Republicans still have... nothing
This is almost too funny for words.
"House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy just announced that the House Republicans -- who had planned to unveil their magic proposal to replace Obamacare this April -- will be indefinitely delaying this announced rollout of the GOP plan. As Bloomberg reports, 'the Republicans had said they would release the outlines of their proposal to replace President Barack Obama's 2010 health-care law over the two-week congressional break later this month at town-hall meetings with constituents. Instead, a Republican leadership aide said the rollout will occur at an unspecified time later this year.' Later in the article, aides are quoted saying 'April wasn't intended to be a formal rollout of a bill, rather a discussion about ideas,' and 'lawmakers are still working toward a policy consensus.' So let's just review the record, shall we? Four years ago, Obamacare passed. Since that time, the Republicans have offered up nothing -- no replacement bill at all -- to replace it with. They have had all the time in the world, but they cannot agree on anything even among themselves. So let's be blunt. Obamacare is working. There is no Republican replacement bill. After four years -- two full House terms -- the Republicans in the House have precisely nothing to offer the American people as a replacement. That is the choice America will have this fall: continue with the 'Can't-Do' Congress, or throw these slackers out of office."
Fighting for low wages
This one is pretty unbelievable, folks.
"The governor of Oklahoma just signed a law which actually bans raising the minimum wage across the state. It also bans any effort to provide employees vacation days and sick leave, just for good measure. This is truly shocking, especially since it goes against what is supposed to be a bedrock belief of the Republican Party: local governmental control is always better than bigger government. This new law will block any city in the state from raising their own minimum wage, and -- even worse -- will block a citizens' initiative that was heading for the ballot this year. Republicans are scared to put this on the ballot -- they are scared of what the voters actually think about it. So much for letting the people decide, eh? That's an interesting political slogan to run on, isn't it? Republicans: fighting to keep your wages low!"
And finally, an update on the ongoing War On Women. Because it won't fit into either of these talking points, here is a funny Jeff Danziger cartoon on the issue, as well.
"Phyllis Schlafly of the Eagle Forum wrote an extraordinary opinion piece this week, which could provide a glimpse into what Republicans mean about all that 'traditional family' stuff. Schlafly's answer to the pay gap between men and women is that it's a good thing, and that maybe the best thing for women, quote, is to improve job prospects for the men in their lives, even if that means increasing the so-called pay gap, unquote. The reason Schlafly wants a bigger pay gap? So that women can all get married to men who make more money than they do. No, seriously. That's what she's saying: women need to marry men who make more, and that can't happen if the pay gap disappears. So that's the Republican answer to all of modern women's problems: marry a rich guy, and be happy. This is pretty laughably outdated thinking, especially when you consider that the Republicans are trying to 'reach out' to women voters this year."
More War On Women hijinks
This quite obviously falls into the "you just can't make this stuff up, folks" category.
"Republican outreach to women, or War On Women? You decide. In Alaska, a state Republican legislator had to apologize after editing the title of a press release to read -- and I am not making this up -- 'Smart and Sexy: Legislature Encourages Hospitals to Promote Breastfeeding.' Sexy? Really? That's your message to promote breastfeeding? Wow. Down in Texas, meanwhile, someone in a prominent Republican consulting firm registered a political action committee with the charmingly frat-boyish name: 'Boats 'N Hoes PAC.' This is apparently the name of a song from a Will Ferrell movie. The PAC was swiftly dissolved -- after the press noticed it -- but not before Texas Democrats got the final word: 'There's no defending the use of a derogatory and offensive term like 'hoes.' How can women possibly take the GOP rebranding effort seriously? Their consistent contempt towards women is simply unforgivable.' Just another few stories from the frontlines of the War On Women, I guess -- each more jaw-dropping than the last."
Chris Weigant blogs at:
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Anthony W. Orlando: The Best Monetary Policy Is Strict Financial Regulation 2014-04-19
On Wednesday, in her first speech on monetary policy, Janet Yellen, the new chairwoman of the Federal Reserve, pointed out a discouraging paradox: In recent years, private-sector forecasters have been surprisingly accurate at forecasting changes in the unemployment rate, but they have been equally inaccurate when forecasting changes in the federal funds rate, the baseline interest rate controlled by the Fed.
Since interest rates supposedly have a strong effect on unemployment, how can forecasters be so right about unemployment if they're so wrong about interest rates?
Three economists at the Bank of International Settlements -- Morten L. Bech, Leonardo Gambacorta, and Enisse Kharroubi -- have been studying this question, and coincidentally their results were published this week in the journal International Finance.
Bech and his colleagues amassed a dataset of interest rates and economic output for 24 industrialized countries from 1960 to today. Over that time period, these countries experienced 78 recessions, of which 34 were the result of financial crises like the one we experienced a few years ago. In each recession, the BIS economists measured how much the central bank lowered interest rates to stimulate recovery -- and then how long it took for the economy to recover its lost output.
Unsurprisingly, they found that "normal" recessions -- the ones without a financial crisis -- were much less severe. On average, they resulted in an output loss of 1.9 percent, which it took the country 3.8 years to recover. Financial crises, on the other hand, resulted in an output loss of 8.2 percent, which it took 5.1 years to recover.
What was perhaps more surprising was the fact that "accommodative" monetary policy -- i.e. lowering interest rates -- had no effect on the economy after a financial crisis. This wasn't the case with normal recessions. Typically, the more the central bank lowered the interest rate, the faster the economy recovered its lost output. But not so with financial crises.
In times like these, interest rates simply don't matter as much as they normally do.
That doesn't sound like good news for Janet Yellen. What's a central banker to do?
Fortunately, the BIS economists did find one thing that accelerated recovery from financial crises: private-sector deleveraging. After a normal recession, it doesn't seem to matter whether households and firms pay down their debt, but after a financial crisis, it significantly speeds up economic growth.
As luck would have it, the Federal Reserve has a tool at its disposal that can reduce the economy's reliance on debt. It's called the "capital requirement," and it refers to the difference between what a bank owns and what it owes.
When a recession strikes, asset prices fall, and since banks own a lot of assets, their value goes down. If they go down too much, they can fall below what the bank owes to its lenders and depositors, meaning it's basically bankrupt. It doesn't own enough to pay what it owes.
So the Fed sets a minimum capital requirement. The more capital a bank is required to have, the more it has to own relative to what it owes. It's a buffer. The bigger the buffer, the more room asset prices have to fall before the bank becomes bankrupt.
Unfortunately, banks don't like high capital requirements. They want to rely on debt. Why use your own cash when you can use somebody else's cash? Lower capital requirements are cheaper -- but they're also more dangerous because it's easier to go bankrupt when you owe so much relative to what you own.
Banks argue that high capital requirements restrain lending because they can't borrow as much debt to fund their loans, but another paper published in the latest issue of International Finance debunks this myth. In it, the German economists Claudia M. Buch and Esteban Prieto study the behavior of German bank lending for the past 44 years, and they find that banks with higher capital actually issue more business loans.
This doesn't come as a surprise to those of us who understand how banks actually operate. They don't lend based on how much debt they can borrow. They lend based on how many loans they can sell. The more, the better. The only question is, will they fund the loans with cash or debt?
Janet Yellen may have her work cut out for her in this post-financial-crisis economy, but there is a way to stimulate the economy and prevent future crises. It all starts with financial regulation.
This op-ed was published in Friday's South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
Huff Tv: Arianna On Hillary Clinton In 2016: 'she Could Be An Amazing Role Model' 2014-04-18
Arianna discussed her new book Thrive: The Third Metric To Redefining Success And Creating A Life Of Well-Being, Wisdom, And Wonder with CNN's Jake Tapper on Friday, reflecting on how its tenets might benefit Hillary Clinton.
Addressing her efforts to maintain a well-balanced life in a world that is increasingly competitive and consumed by the pursuit of money, Arianna told Tapper, "We need to realize that we're living under a collective delusion that equates burn out with success." She added, "When we take care of ourselves, get enough sleep, meditate, do yoga, whatever it is that recharges us, and learn to unplug from our ever-present devices, we are going to be more effective."
Arianna offered guidance to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who also has a new book and is a potential 2016 presidential election candidate.
"She could be an amazing role model of someone -- if she decides to run even -- who'd run a presidential campaign without completely burning out as most of them do, and show there are other ways to do it."
Watch the full video from CNN above.
Marian Wright Edelman: Making Strides For Preschool 2014-04-18
New York City received a lot of attention recently with a bold promise made to some of its youngest residents: Mayor Bill de Blasio ran on a campaign to fund full-day public preschool for all New York City children through a modest increased income tax on residents making more than $500,000 a year. Although Mayor de Blasio’s tax proposal was not approved by the state legislature or supported by New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo, the legislature did approve statewide funding for pre-K that included a $300 million increase for New York City’s preschool program. This means that for the first time fully funded full-day quality preschool will be available for all four-year-olds in the city. New York City is moving forward for children -- and it isn’t the only major city and school district making strides towards providing high-quality public preschool programs to as many children as possible. Several large districts that have been doing this for a while are already seeing strong results.
In Massachusetts, the Boston Public Schools system (BPS) offers a full day of prekindergarten to any four-year-old in the district regardless of income, although funding limitations prevent the district from serving all eligible children. BPS ensures the quality of its prekindergarten program through high-quality teachers, professional development delivered through individualized coaching sessions, and evidence-based curricula for early language and literacy and mathematics. Prekindergarten teachers have the same requirements as K-12 teachers in BPS and are paid accordingly. And it’s working. A study conducted by researchers at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education examined the impact of one year of attendance in the BPS preschool program on children’s school readiness and found substantial positive effects on children’s literacy, language, mathematics, emotional development, and executive functioning.
Tulsa is another city making great strides. Oklahoma has offered universal preschool to four-year-olds since 1998, and in the 2011-2012 school year three-quarters of all four-year-olds in the state were enrolled in the preschool program. High-quality year-round programs are also available to some at-risk Tulsa children from birth through age three through the Community Action Project (CAP) of Tulsa County, which combines public and private funds to provide comprehensive services for the youngest and most vulnerable children. Oklahoma’s preschool teachers are required to have a bachelor’s degree with a certificate in early childhood and are also paid equally to K-12 teachers. Preschool is funded through the state’s school finance formula, although districts can subcontract with other providers of early care and education by putting public school teachers in community-based settings and Head Start programs. Researchers from Georgetown University have conducted multiple evaluations of the four-year-old preschool program in Tulsa over the last decade and found evidence of both short and long term gains, with the most persistent gains in math for the neediest children who are eligible for free and reduced price lunch. A long term economic projection of the future adult earnings effects of Tulsa’s program estimates benefit-to-cost ratios of 3- or 4-to-1.
New Jersey has offered high-quality state-funded preschool to three- and four-year-old children in 31 high poverty communities since 1999 in response to a series of state Supreme Court rulings starting with Abbott v. Burke that found poorer New Jersey public school students were receiving “inadequate” education funding. In the 2011-2012 school year more than 43,000 children were served through these preschools, and a partnership between the Department of Education and the Department of Human Services has established a wrap-around program of daily before and after school and summer programs to complement the full school-day year-round preschool program. These programs, often called Abbott preschools after the original court decision, are delivered through a mixed public-private delivery system overseen by public schools. Head Start programs and other community providers serve roughly two-thirds of the children. Researchers at Rutgers University’s National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) have conducted a longitudinal analysis of the impacts of the Abbott preschool program on the cohort of children served in 2004-2005, and the fifth grade follow up shows participation has had a sustained significant effect on students’ achievement in language arts and literacy, math, and science and reduced grade retention and special education placement rates.
Other cities also are finding new ways to move forward. In 2011 San Antonio, Texas Mayor Julian Castro convened a task force of education and private sector leaders to identify the best way to improve the quality of education in the city. The task force concluded the most effective solution would be a high-quality, full-day four-year-old prekindergarten targeted at low-income and at-risk children. The San Antonio program was launched after city residents voted for a small one-eighth of a cent sales tax increase in November 2012 to fund it. It will serve 3,700 four-year-olds annually when fully implemented. The majority of these children will be served by model Education Centers, which include master teachers, professional development and training for teachers, aides, and community providers, and parent support, including training and education.
We know high-quality early childhood development and learning interventions can buffer the negative effects of poverty and provide a foundation for future success with lifelong benefits, particularly for the poorest and most vulnerable children. Studies have shown children enrolled in high-quality early childhood programs are more likely to graduate from high school, hold a job, and make more money and are less likely to commit a crime than their peers who do not participate. High-quality preschool is a critical piece of the early childhood continuum — and we need to celebrate and support the cities, states, and political leaders who are successfully providing this experience for all children. Congress needs to follow their good example now by enacting the Strong Start for American’s Children Act to enable millions of the nation’s children — not just thousands or tens or hundreds of thousands — to get quality early childhood education including home visiting through kindergarten and be better prepared for school and for life. This should be a litmus test for our vote this November. If leaders don’t stand up for children, they don’t stand for anything and they don’t stand for a strong American future which requires educated children.
Robert L. Cavnar: Four Years After The Blowout... Has Anything Changed? 2014-04-18
Four years ago this Sunday night, BP's Mississippi Canyon Block 252 well blew out, killing 11 workers, destroying the Deepwater Horizon semi-submersible rig, and putting an estimated 5 million barrels of oil into the water. The Gulf continues to suffer the effects of oil that remains, and many shore-based businesses are still struggling to get back on their feet. At the same time, our rig count in the Gulf has returned to its pre-blowout level.
Beyond the obvious effects of this massive oil spill, and the ongoing court battle between the government, plaintiffs, and BP, the question needs to be asked: After the worst offshore blowout in US history, did we learn anything? Have we changed the way we work in the offshore, and have we changed national policy to make it safer and to make ourselves less dependent on deepwater oil production? The answers to these questions, as you would expect, are not easy, and not necessarily very comforting.
There is no short answer to safety improvements, even though the industry is paying much closer attention, we really haven't changed the fundamentals of drilling in 5,000 feet of water. We use the same rigs, the same blowout preventers, the same control systems, and the same safety systems. The industry has yet to undertake an effort to change the way we operate in the deepwater, short of improving maintenance, testing, and documentation. Progress is being made by manufacturers to improve the performance of shear rams, that can cut pipe and seal the well bore, and some companies (including BP) have introduced a double-blind ram configuration for redundancy. Is deepwater drilling safer than four years ago? Only if the industry continues its vigilance.
Also, 2 well containment consortiums have been organized; the Marine Well Containment Company, with membership made up of larger integrated and independent companies, and the Helix Well Containment Group (now called the HWCG), whose members are primarily smaller independent operators. Both consortiums keep deepwater well containment equipment on 24 hour standby should a well control problem occur in the Gulf. This development is clearly an improvement since the BP blowout.
Having said that, though, there has been little, if any progress made in cleanup technology. We still use the same old boom and the same old skimmers, neither of which actually work in anything but flat water. Remember, too, that in deepwater spills, over 80 percent of the oil never comes to the surface. If you don't collect it at the wellhead, it will get into the deepwater column, affecting the marine food chain with still as yet unknown consequences. After a blowout, rapid containment is key.
Sadly, what hasn't changed in offshore policy and safety is the politics. Because of the gridlock in Washington, in addition to the huge influence of special interest money, no progress has been (or can be) made towards comprehensive energy policy and regulation of drilling in deeper and deeper water. Not that regulations are the panacea for safety, but certainly raising the bar for safety and accountability is necessary.
One glaring example of the disconnect between policy and reality is the statutory cap on liability for oil spills. The Oil Pollution Act, passed in 1990 after the Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska, established a limit of $75 million for the fines levied against companies unless negligence or gross negligence is proved. After the BP blowout, Congress failed to raise the limit, so the Obama administration is attempting to do so through new rule making, opposed by the industry. Keep in mind that if the government's oil volume number stands in the BP litigation, and gross negligence is proven, the bill will exceed $18 billion. That doesn't count the $20 billion already committed to cleanup and remediation. There are only a few companies which could survive such a financial blow, meaning that, if this disaster had happened to a smaller deepwater operator, they would have easily gone toes-up, and the cleanup would have fallen to us, the taxpayers.
Most frustrating, though, is that our leaders in Washington and in the states continue to stick their heads in the sand, failing to address any comprehensive energy policies. In fact, some states, like Oklahoma, are actually going backwards by punishing homeowners who install their own solar panels or wind turbines, charging them a fee for any power they generate above what they use. Charging customers for power they deliver. Now that's constructive. The reason politicians pass these kinds of laws and abdicate their responsibility to establish sane policy? Money and ideology. Special interest money floods into cooperative politicians' coffers to symie progress. Ideology also plays a huge part with some still chanting "drill, baby, drill" as if energy policy is some kind of cheap partisan issue that lends itself to bumper sticker messaging.
The problem with energy is that it's invisible for the most part. You go to the gas station, pump gasoline that you don't see into your car, then drive around, converting that gasoline to energy and exhaust. The exhaust you can't see. You flip a switch in your house and the light comes on. Few people ever think about where that comes from, breeding complacency, the true enemy. As long as the people are complacent (and/or ignorant) politicians are happy to go from re-election cycle to re-election cycle, doing little in the way of actual governing along the way.
The problem with our lack of energy policy is us. We are taxpayers, members of a society, who, for the most part, are happy to watch The Voice or Entertainment Tonight, driving our SUVs to the store and to soccer games, not taking responsibility or actively participating in that society. As long as we do that, nothing will change; that is, at least until the next catastrophe that causes massive damage and costs lives. The politicians will take action only if we, as a society, demand it.
Annette Insdorf: New Movies For Foodies 2014-04-18
Popcorn is the perfect crunchy, salty accompaniment to film viewing, but it might be insufficient while watching two new mouth-watering movies -- Tasting Menu, opening today at Manhattan's Quad Cinema, and Chef, a Tribeca Film Festival selection scheduled for May 9 release. In both contemporary stories, when the camera captures the sensuous preparation of dishes, our taste buds are aroused.
Tasting Menu, an English-language Spanish-Irish co-production directed by Roger Gual, focuses on one particular Catalan meal. Jon Favreau's Chef is by contrast a culinary road movie that begins in a tony LA eatery and makes its way to Miami, where Cuban sandwiches are the delicacy.
A small group of diners gather in Tasting Menu at an exclusive Costa Brava restaurant for its last supper, as super-chef Mar (Vicenta N'Dongo) has decided to close at the peak of its success. They include a widowed, impoverished countess (Fionnula Flannagan); a curmudgeon (Stephen Rea) who makes secretive phone calls; a separated couple who booked the dinner reservation at an earlier, happier time, and two Japanese men competing to buy the restaurant. Misunderstandings, confrontations and touching connections play out while they taste delicacies like snail caviar, or sip a margarita inside an aloe vera plant.
When Tasting Menu premiered as the opening-night selection of the Galway (Ireland) Film Festival in July, Gual lamented that -- despite the enticing dishes onscreen -- he and the crew got to eat only sandwiches. But at an intimate dinner created in Manhattan by chef Mario Batali on Wednesday night -- inspired by the film -- the director acknowledged that the cast was luckier: "It's the only film I've directed whose actors were delighted when I asked for another take," he said over a scrumptious first course of Root Vegetable Salad with Foglie di Noce, Bee Pollen Cironette and Tomato Marmellata. A scene from TASTING MENU. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.
At the Galway Film Festival, Flannagan recalled the shoot as the happiest of her career: "Eating in films is always a horror," she added. "But because each of the little dishes was divinely small, it was intoxicating food. Most of Catalan cooking is magical anyway. And Roger has a sense of humor as well as of the human condition."
Comedy is more central to Chef, an enjoyable ode to food, freedom and Twitter. Favreau plays Carl, a chef whose boss (Dustin Hoffman) forces him to cook old standards, especially when a famed food blogger is about to dine. Carl reluctantly complies and receives a nasty review that throws him into a deep and angry funk.
His 10-year-old son Percy (Emjay Anthony) teaches him to use Twitter, but can't prepare him for the fallout of Carl's vitriolic response to the critic Ramsey (Oliver Platt): what he thought was a personal message goes viral, as does a subsequent video of his verbally attacking Miller.
His ex-wife Inez (Sofia Vergara) encourages him to join her and Percy on a trip home to Miami, where Carl had honed his craft as a chef. In a delightful cameo Robert Downey, Jr. plays Inez's former husband, who gives him a used food truck to start his own business.
Carl gets his mojo back, creating a traveling mobile eatery. (Warning: the mere sight of the increasingly popular Cuban sandwiches that he prepares so lovingly with his son and loyal buddy John Leguizamo may increase your cholesterol, given the generous helpings of ham, cheese and butter on display. Ditto for the deep-fried beignets in New Orleans.)Emjay Anthony, John Leguizamo, Jon Favreau, and Sofia Vergara in CHEF. Photo Credit: Merrick Morton.
It's no surprise that a filmmaker who has been directing such mainstream crowd-pleasers as Iron Man would make an independent film about a chef chafing at his restaurant boss and wanting to cook with originality and autonomy. Maybe preparing a movie and a meal are not worlds apart: both require skill, passion, the ability to galvanize a staff, and "proof in the pudding"--seeing the recipients of the concoction appreciating it.
The tension is similar too, between 'give them what they want' (which Carl calls being in a creative rut), and invent something unique that might not be embraced by the majority. Both Tasting Menu and Chef succeed in navigating between personal vision and audience expectation, as the characters create dishes that reflect their own juicy emotions._____________ Annette Insdorf, Director of Undergraduate Film Studies at Columbia University, is the author of PHILIP KAUFMAN.
Andrew Deyoung: Dc On The Tv: Why We Love Shows About The Nation's Capital 2014-04-18
This post originally appeared at The Stake.
On Scandal, Olivia Pope's merry band of DC fixers call themselves "gladiators." GLADIATORS. Think about that for a second.
This is what a cultural theorist might call slippage, a rupture, the intrusion of the Real -- that rare place where the pervasive irreality of our postmodern copy-of-a-copy-of-a-copy culture begins to tear and What's Really Going On comes crashing through. That's not how it's intended, of course -- mostly, Shonda Rhimes and the characters she's created seem to regard the "gladiator" thing as a point of pride, a label signifying unassailable professionalism and badassery. Still, every time a character on Scandal pauses to call themselves or someone else a gladiator (and they do it constantly, "I'm a gladiator," "Don't forget, you're a gladiator," "Gladiators in suits, remember?") I sit up where I'm planted on my couch as if Kerry Washington just looked at the camera, breaking character and the fourth wall, and said to me, and me alone:
"None of this is real. All of this -- the melodrama, the sex, the intrigue, the power, the OMG plot twists and the silly scenery-chewing speeches -- it's a distraction. We're gladiators, and you're the mob, your thumbs held out, preparing to decide whether we live or die. Bread and circuses, get it? Rome is burning."
Rome is burning.
Now that's a scandal.
There are no less than seven shows set in Washington, DC on the air right now. ABC's got Scandal, HBO's got Veep, Netflix has House of Cards, FX has The Americans -- and that's just the shows I watch; there's also Homeland, Alpha House, and The Blacklist.
Did I miss any?
Regardless of the exact count, the DC show is clearly experiencing something of a moment right now, occupying the same position of cultural prominence as, say, the lawyer show did in the late '90s. But what does the DC-based show's dominance mean? What is it about the current cultural consciousness that has allowed these shows to park so squarely in the center of the American zeitgeist?
The most obvious answer to that question is that Washington has captured our collective imagination because Washington is widely held to be broken. Americans may disagree on the source of the brokenness -- some trace it to ideological intransigence on the right, other to federal overreach in Obama's ACA -- but the sense that Something Is Deeply Wrong exists on both sides of the ideological divide. No one knows where the apocalypse is coming from. Will it be the national debt? An NSA surveillance state? A terrorist attack? Economic decline? Corporate oligarchy? But everyone agrees on one thing: there's a storm coming, and Washington is to blame.
In this analysis, TV shows about Washington are so popular because Americans are looking to diagnose the world's current malaise by looking for signs of sickness in the nation's -- and the world's -- capitol. The current crop of DC TV offers plenty of symptoms (spoiler alert, kind of, I guess): lobbyists, big money, interest groups, cynical politicians, backdoor deals, rigid ideology, 24-hour media, election rigging, electronic surveillance, torture, murder, terrorism. It's a sobering list.
How odd, then, that these shows aren't perceived as being sobering. On the contrary -- their portrayals of Washington DC as cesspools of corruption and human degradation are lauded as juicy, twisty, fun and entertaining in a guilty-pleasure sort of way.
What's going on here?
Karl Marx once said that history repeats itself, "first as tragedy, then as farce." Something like that appears to be happening with the DC shows currently on offer, in which the specter of our recent history comes back to haunt us -- but in its second iteration, it's no longer scary. Instead, it makes us laugh. It makes us thrill. It entertains us.
This is perhaps most true of Scandal, ABC's blatantly ridiculous DC show in which presidents have affairs, staffers arrange murders, spies torture each other with drills and pliers and pruning shears, and Olivia Pope and Associates rush around town making sure that none of this mess is visible to the American people, that the facade of DC respectability is intact regardless of what fresh insanity is taking place underneath. It's not farce, exactly, but it certainly is outlandish, and in three short seasons the show has enacted the following American tragedies: the Lewinsky scandal, the Florida recount, the Global War on Terror, NSA wiretapping.
House of Cards seems less farcical than Scandal from the outside, but that's mostly Hollywood trickery -- behind the stellar production values, behind big names like Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright, behind the veneer of respectability that the association of David Fincher brings, lies a show that is just as preposterous as any soap opera. The show is, perhaps, slightly more perceptive about what's wrong with Washington -- to the horrors evoked by Scandal, House of Cards adds lobbyists, government shutdowns, and obscure fears about China. But these things mostly exist to foreground the juicy stuff: the killing, the scheming, the sex.
Veep is the most farcical of the bunch -- literally, since it's actually funny. (Scandal and House of Cards can be unintentionally funny sometimes; it doesn't really count.) It's also the most ruthless in its portrayal of the capitol, though it's hard to see that at first. Scandal and House of Cards show us a Washington in which everyone's cynical and evil -- Veep gives us a capitol where those things are true but everyone's incompetent to boot. If the people in Washington were half as good at governing the nation as Selina Meyer and her crew are at firing off foulmouthed insults, this would be the most well-run country in the world. If Veep's right about Washington, what's wrong with the town is cynicism, venality -- but above all, pervasive stupidity.
That paints a depressing picture of the reality -- and, of course, the reality may well be exactly that depressing. But what's odd about these shows is that they aren't depressing. They're kind of fun. That's what distinguishes this crop of DC shows. Unlike The West Wing -- a show that ran from the Clinton era to Bush's second term but which sometimes seems to be much older than that -- these shows don't package politics inside entertainment. They package entertainment inside politics. When something undeniably real does break through -- when Huck from Scandal gets waterboarded, for instance, or when Selina Meyer honestly wrestles with how to express her stance on abortion -- it's a surprise. Often, it comes as a punch to the gut. Something entirely foreign to the experience of the show.
But maybe that's what we need. More punches to the gut.
So, which of these shows gives us the best vision of what Washington is really like?
I don't know. I'm not a Washington insider. I'm told that President Obama loves Homeland, for whatever that's worth; that Joe Biden is a fan of Veep; that, perhaps protesting too much, many in the House and Senate object to House of Cards' cynical portrayal of what they do. No one seems to think Scandal has much to do with what's real. Which is perhaps as it should be.
But maybe it's the wrong question.
Maybe none of them are real. Maybe all of them are.
And maybe that's the point.
At some point, we all tend to ask our favorite fictional worlds to reflect reality, but verisimilitude -- literally, similarity to the real -- is the one thing TV can't give us. Art, however much we might want it to, doesn't reflect reality. It creates its own reality. Veep, Scandal, House of Cards, even The West Wing -- they all create an alternate reality for us to live in. In some ways, the realities they create correspond with actual reality. In other ways, they don't. And which is which and who's to say, nobody really knows. Washington wonks may well spend their time crafting brutal, obscene insults, as they do in Veep. The town may be overrun with torturers, murderers, and spies, as it is in Scandal. And powerful politicians may be motivated more by pride and personal vendettas than they are to their constituents, as they are in House of Cards.
Or maybe not.
But who's to say that the portrayals of Washington that we see on ABC, HBO, Netflix, and the rest are any more or less real than what we see on CNN or Fox News? Who can blame us for choosing an unreal Washington when even the portrayals of the "real" capitol are becoming more and more fake? When we're losing hope that the portrayals we see of what's going on in the halls of power in our nation's capital, of the people who hold such power over the shape of our lives, will ever come close to meeting the reality of What's Really Going On?
And so, faced with a choice between falsehoods, we pick the irreality that appeals most to us. We watch. We tweet. We recap. We dish. We wait for the next OMG plot twist as the gladiators battle it out on our TV screens.
Are we not entertained?
Susan P. Joyce: Staying Employed: The Best Defense Is A Good Offense 2014-04-18
Don't assume that your job is safe. In the 21st century, every job is temporary (even CEO). The reality is that layoffs can happen anywhere and any time. Even highly profitable companies like Google have had layoffs. So it's best to be prepared, particularly if your employer feels a little shaky or the work situation has gotten unpleasant.
Even being a "top performer" may not protect your job.
An HR executive once described to me that most layoffs are done with an ax rather than a scalpel. In my experience, that is definitely true -- who goes and who stays is more a matter of right-place-right-time than competence (unfortunately for everyone).
The Best Defense Is a GREAT Offense
You are much more interesting to a potential employer when you are still employed. The prevailing theory is that you must be a good -- or, at least, an acceptable -- employee because you have a job. So job hunting while you are still employed is the best defense. If you see the signs that a layoff is coming, ramp up your job search so you can leave before the ax falls on you.
1. Go into "stealth job search mode."
Look for a job without making your search visible to anyone you work with, particularly management. Don't announce your availability on LinkedIn, even in a group for job seekers (your discussions and comments may be shared in your updates!). And, don't make announcements anywhere else in social media or at work.
2. Do NOT job hunt from work.
A big mistake often made is job hunting while at work. Very bad idea! This ban definitely includes not using your work computer or smart phone to browse job postings, update your resume, send email about your job search to anyone, or do any other obvious job-hunting activities.
Using work computers and networks for your job search may result in your web browsing and email usage becoming visible to anyone who might be watching. This caution applies even if the email you are using is your personal Gmail account (why is this employee spending so much time on Gmail?). And, being discovered in a job search usually results in a quick job loss or a very uncomfortable discussion with your boss.
3. Establish non-work electronic contact information.
Purchase your own smart phone, so you have a personal number to put on your resume or give out to your network. Don't call people from, or have people call you, on your current work numbers (see #1 above), and don't send or receive your job search email using your work email address (see #2 above).
A Gmail account is a good alternative. Or, check to see if perhaps your college or university offers free email accounts for alumni. Many do, and those can be very impressive email addresses for your job search.
Set up a computer or tablet at home for your job search so you aren't stuck using your employer's networks, computers, and printers for your job search (quick way to blow your cover and lose your job).
4. Carefully increase your LinkedIn visibility.
Your LinkedIn profile is a "live" resume that is very important to recruiters and potential employers. They will use it to verify the contents of your resume. Don't go "from zero to 100 MPH" on LinkedIn in one day, but do become more active and visible.
Be sure that your LinkedIn profile is complete. Expand your summary to include quantified accomplishments, but be careful not to compromise your employer's confidential information, like plans, product or service specifications, the names of customers or clients, financial information. Only share information that a good employee would, promoting your employer's products and/or services.
Grow your network of contacts with a focus on recruiters and other employees of your target future employers (see #5 and 6 below).
You can belong to up to fifty LinkedIn Groups. Since those groups offer both the opportunity for visibility (to recruiters and potential employers) as well as a method to communicate (people in groups can send each other InMail even if they are not connected). You can manage the visibility of those groups on your LinkedIn Profile (via the privacy settings) -- highly recommended!
5. Figure out which job you want next.
Hopefully, unless layoffs have already begun where you work, you have some time to figure out what it is that you really want to do next. Continue on this career path, move to a new one, or go back to an old one from your past?
So, get started! If you can afford it, go to a career counselor -- perhaps your college or grad school, as appropriate for you, provides assistance to alumni (even if you graduated 5, 10, or 20 years ago). If career counseling is not readily available, grab a copy of the classic book, "What Color Is Your Parachute?" Read it completely, doing all of the exercises along the way. It is a tremendously useful book, updated every year -- look for the year on the cover. You'll find this book in every bookstore and library.
Set up a few informational interviews (no resumes allowed!) with people who have the job you want. See how they got started, what their work is like, and how their career path has unfolded. Ask who are the best employers for this new field. Then, set up informational interviews with employees who work for those employers (STILL no resumes allowed!) to see if the work and the employer sound good to you.
Through informational interviews, you collect good information and expand your network. A great two-fer!
6. Choose a few target employers.
Since you still have a paycheck, take time to look around to see where you might like to work next. That company down the road or in the next town. Perhaps a supplier or client company. Maybe a competitor (careful!). Or, an employer recommended by someone in an informational interview (see #5, above).
Research those employers. Use Google, LinkedIn, and your other networks. Follow those employers on LinkedIn, if they have "company profiles." Sign up for their job tweets (using your personal Twitter account and personal, non-work computer, of course).
7. Expand your face-to-face personal networking activities.
Networking doesn't require you to spend hours in large rooms filled with strangers (although they can be useful). Reach out to people you have worked with in the past, particularly those who have left your current employer for better opportunities.
Those informational interviews also help you learn more about the employers on your target list -- maybe some on the list should be removed and others should be added.
Give as much -- or more -- help as you receive. Build your "karma balance" by helping others.
After You Find That GREAT New Job...
Don't assume that you'll never been in a job search again, even if you are in your 60s and planning to stay in your new job until your retirement in one or two years. You have no guarantees how long the new job will last! So, keep up with LinkedIn, build Google Plus (carefully, as with LinkedIn), and maintain your other professional/job-search connections. You never know when you'll need them for that next job search. Unfortunately, that next job search could be just around the corner... Follow me on Google Plus for more job search tips!
Susan P. Joyce is president of NETability, Inc. and the editor and chief technology writer for Job-Hunt.org and WorkCoachCafe.com. This article was first published on WorkCoachCafe.com.
Peter M. J. Hess, Ph.d.: The Sun Revolves Around You? Narcissism On A Cosmic Scale 2014-04-18
The center of the universe might be closer than you think -- in fact, it might be right under your feet. A conservative Catholic crank, Robert Sungenis, is now resurrecting the long-discredited geocentric model in a bizarre movie called The Principle.
Geocentrism is the idea that the Earth is at the center of a sphere of stars and galaxies and that everything in the universe revolves around us every twenty-four hours. It's a toddler's perspective, the kind of self-centered conclusion you might draw if you didn't know anything about how the world works. But even a smidgeon of exposure to science shows this naïve observation to be incorrect. Indeed, it's been centuries since scientific and religious institutions accepted the falseness of the geocentric model.
But even hundreds of years after the career and trial of Galileo -- and long after the gradual acceptance of heliocentrism even by the Catholic Church -- Sungenis argues that Galileo was fundamentally wrong. He is also a holocaust denier, but I'll leave a discussion about Sungenis' anti-Semitism for another day.
It boggles my mind that the anthropocentric narcissism of geocentrism exists anywhere but in books on the history of science. Astronomer Phil Plait roguishly echoes my thoughts in noting thatOf all the wrongiest wrongs that ever wronged wrongness, Geocentrism is way up on the list. The idea that the Earth is the center of the Universe makes creationism look positively scientific in comparison. It might be edged out by people who think the Earth is flat, but just barely.
On the other hand, garden-variety geocentrists might be much more common than you realize. At this moment a geocentrist might be changing your tire, or steaming your latte, or cleaning your teeth, or teaching your children. Polls shows that one in four Americans clearly falls into Robert Sungenis' camp. On the 2012 edition of the National Science Foundation's "Factual Knowledge Quiz," only 74 percent of adults correctly answered this question: "Does the Earth go around the Sun, or does the Sun go around the Earth?" Now I wonder, are these 60 million Americans really geocentrists, or are they just profoundly ignorant of how the world is actually structured?
Sungenis proclaims on his website that his 90-minute documentary The Principle challenges the foundation of modernity: the view that "neither are we on Earth special nor do we occupy a special place in the universe." This is revealing. Much as some creationists reject evolution because they reject the concept that humans are animals, Sungenis seems to think astronomy has taken away the "specialness" of our place in the universe. It's the same kind of juvenile complaint an older child might make when a new baby sibling joins the family.
Sungenis also proudly tells us that the film is narrated by Kate Mulgrew, who played Captain Janeway on Star Trek: Voyager. (The idea that narration by an imaginary spaceship captain on a fictional show lends scientific credibility to his movie makes about as much sense as does anything in geocentrism.) But last week Mulgrew vigorously denounced any implication that she endorses the film:I understand there has been some controversy about my participation in a documentary called THE PRINCIPLE. Let me assure everyone that I completely agree with the eminent physicist Lawrence Krauss, who was himself misrepresented in the film, and who has written a succinct rebuttal in SLATE. I am not a geocentrist, nor am I in any way a proponent of geocentrism. More importantly, I do not subscribe to anything Robert Sungenis has written regarding science and history and, had I known of his involvement, would most certainly have avoided this documentary. I was a voice for hire, and a misinformed one, at that. I apologize for any confusion that my voice on this trailer may have caused. Kate Mulgrew
Lawrence Krauss, a cosmologist at Arizona State university who directs the "Origins" project, discovered that some public-domain video clips of himself had been co-opted for the film. He was less tactful in describing Sungenis' geocentrism and holocaust denial: "It is tempting to say that both claims are obscene nonsense, but I believe that does a disservice to the word 'nonsense'." Krauss's approach to Sungenis' fraudulent film is consonant with NCSE's response to science denial for the past three decades:It is, after all, impossible in the modern world to shield everyone from nonsense and stupidity. What we can do is provide the tools, through our educational system, for people to be able to tell sense from nonsense. These tools include the scientific method, skeptical questioning, empirical evidence, verifying sources, etc.
For most of us, the very premise of the movie The Principle is so incoherent that it isn't even wrong; dealing with it is simply a waste of valuable time. Watching an interview with Sungenis and Bennett is like trying to make sense of a Stockhausen symphony in an amusement park while tripping out with Timothy Leary. After watching it I was tempted to respond as Alvie Singer did to Dwayne in Annie Hall: "Right. Well, I have to - I have to go now, Duane, because I, I'm due back on the planet Earth."
For those with a taste for the bizarre world of reality denial, the captain of Geocentric Airlines has turned off the seatbelt sign; in fact, you may abandon your seatbelts altogether because the captain has discovered that we were never in motion at all. Here is the blurb from the website "Galileo was Wrong and the Church was Right."Your world will be rocked, literally and figuratively...modern science has documented for us in bold fashion that the Earth is motionless in space and occupies the center of the universe (yet has done an equally remarkable job in keeping these important facts out of our educational system).
Sungenis' denial of astronomical truth will appeal to only a narrow segment of the most fundamentalist Protestant or Catholic population. And don't be surprised if even Young Earthers quickly try to put as much real estate as possible between themselves and Robert Sungenis. One hopes that a geocentrist might one day wake up to the fact that if even YECs are giving you the cold shoulder, your world view must really be lost in space!
Reflective Bride: Why I'm Not Changing My Last Name For Marriage 2014-04-18
Some of the most common questions I was asked as a newlywed were, "Does it feel any different to be married?" "Have you got used to calling him 'husband' yet?" and, of course, "So are you taking his last name?" When I answered in the negative (for all three questions, actually), the latter query was followed up with further questions. "Oh, are you keeping your name for professional reasons? Is it because of all the paperwork hassles with getting new ID? Are there no boys in your family to carry on the name?" And then, in a conspiratorial whisper, "Do you not like your husband's last name?
That's not it, I would reply. I just don't believe in changing one's identity for marriage.
I decided at the ripe old age of 15, almost 10 years before I met the man who would become my husband, that I would not change my name for marriage. At that age, the decision mostly sprung from the fact that I just plain liked my name. I have an unusual first name and last name. Several times I've introduced myself to someone on email and received a message back signed off with "P.S. cool name!" In my brooding teenage years I gave a lot of thought to my name; if asked right now how many letters and syllables are in my first and last names, or in my full name, I could answer without blinking.
To me, as it would be for many other people, my name is my identity. If someone asks you "who are you?" the answer that you give is your first and last name. For me, my name is who I am.
As I grew older, learning more about gender politics and the inequalities that women still face in society cemented that teenage decision to keep my name. The expectation that women should change their last name for marriage, swapping their own identity for their husband's, is -- inarguably -- sexist. And I say "inarguably" because no one could claim there is an expectation of the same name-change in men. I remember a class in college about gender and the media, where a male student asked in our discussion group, "Would you change your name for marriage?"
"No. Would you change your name?" I answered coolly.
"What?" he sputtered. "No! Why would I change my name?"
"Exactly," I replied.
To put it bluntly -- as I sometimes do when people really grill me about my decision -- it's not 1950 and I'm not cattle that needs to be branded with my owner's name.
So identity and equality are the two most important factors for me in keeping my name. However, other reasons reinforced my decision, after receiving the following reactions to my matrimonial surname plans...
• "It's tradition": So was slavery. So was women not being able to vote. Tradition doesn't make any of them a good thing.
• "You could still keep your name, but add his with a hyphen": That would still be changing my name and identity, and would not be much of a move for equality unless my groom were doing the same.
• "Well, what if your husband did hyphenate his name, too?": Great for equality, but then it would be two people changing their identity for marriage.
• "What will your children have as a last name?": They could have both our last names hyphenated, mine as a middle name, or just take their father's surname -- none of which I have a problem with. I do think it's unequal that children automatically take their father's name, but other approaches are not yet as widely accepted as women keeping their surnames -- though I think this is will change with time.
• "Won't you not feel like a family if you have a different last name from your children?": I'm quite sure that if I birth and/or raise a child, that's plenty to qualify me for feeling like their family. Whether or not I have the same last name as my child won't stop me loving them or feeling attached to them. Also, with this logic, would I no longer feel like I'm part of my parents' family if I take a different surname from theirs? In these days of blended families, the idea that everyone in a family would have the same last name is a touch old-fashioned.
• "Keeping your maiden name is keeping your father's name; isn't that also sexist?": Yes, it is. However, that's the name I had for the first 29 years of my life before my wedding, and that's who I see myself as.
• "People will refer to you as 'Mrs Reflective Groom' anyway": Yes, they will. A few decades ago it was common to assume any married woman you met was a housewife; that's not a good reason for women to stay out of the workplace. People more familiar with my husband indeed call me 'Mrs. Reflective Groom' on meeting me for the first time -- just as people familiar with me greet him as. 'Mr Reflective Bride.' I'm not going to give them a lecture, just as my groom has not made a big show about correcting people.
• "Ah, you're just afraid of divorce": That's not a reason for my decision, but it is something to consider. I love my husband dearly, and hope we are together until we die in each other's arms at the exact same moment at age 100, but it would be naive not to realize that something like a third of western marriages end in divorce. Would I then change back to my birth name? And if I re-marry, do I change it again to the new husband's name? What am I, a baseball card?
Then there is the reaction I get from brides who have taken their husband's name, who often look a little hurt by my decision: "It's just nice." If you think this way, I applaud you. After all, the same thing could be said about weddings: they're stressful, expensive and time consuming... but, you know what, they're just nice. But the things that make weddings nice are that they bring together family and friends, celebrate your love, and are an excuse for an awesome party. Really consider what you find so nice about changing names. And if it is so nice to have the same last name as your spouse, perhaps it shouldn't only be women stepping up to make the change.
These are my own, personal reasons for maintaining my birth name. If you, however, are not as fond of your name or do not see it as part of your identity -- perhaps because it's from a parent you don't have a good relationship with, the name is something you got teased for, or you just feel it's not particularly you -- then I think marriage is a great opportunity to take a new name. But I believe this should be the case for men as well, and that neither gender should feel obligated to switch names.
If you are debating whether to change your surname for marriage, don't listen to the people who question your decision -- don't even listen to this article -- but take time to ponder for yourself your thoughts on name and identity, and what's important to you. If you, too, do think "it's just nice", ask yourself what you find nice about it before committing to a decision. It's your name, and only you should decide what to do with.
S.r. Hewitt: 10 Fascinating Facts About The Ten Commandments (the Movie) 2014-04-18
Watching Paramount's The Ten Commandments is, for many, an annual part of the spring holidays. While there have been other film versions of the story of the exodus, none have the epic staying power of the 1956 classic. Indeed, many have now grown up with the image of Charlton Heston irreparably set as the image of Moses.
Bringing a bible story to the big screen often warrants certain liberties. In the case of The Ten Commandments, this meant the introduction of a love story between Moses and Nefretiri, a power struggle between Moses and the young Ramses and the creation of Lilia, the love interest of Joshua.
Surprisingly, many of the places Cecil B. DeMille appears to have gotten creative are actually based on extra-Biblical Jewish sources:
1 ) Moses, Conquerer of Ethiopia The grown-up Moses is introduced in The Ten Commandments when he returns to Pharoah after bringing Ethiopia into alliance with Egypt. There is no record of Moses conquering Ethiopia on behalf of Pharaoh. However, there is a Midrash (narrative from the Oral Torah) that details how, after fleeing Egypt, Moses went to Ethiopia and was named king. This occurred before he came to the tent of Jethro, where he married and became a shepherd.
2) The Day of Moses In trying to instigate trouble for Moses, Prince Ramses tells his father (Pharaoh Sethi) that Moses not only gave the Hebrew slaves extra grain, but one day in seven to rest, a day that the Hebrews now called "the Day of Moses." While the reference to the "Day of Moses" is a little over the top on drama, it is true, according to the Midrash (Exodus Rabbah 1:28), that Moses convinced Pharoah to give the Jews a day of rest each week. He did so by noting that Pharoah gave his horses time to rest, so why not his slaves.
3) The Evil Dathan The vile Dathan, played by Edward G. Robinson, is one of the most memorable and unlikable characters in the movie. Dathan and his brother Aviram, who is mostly a silent presence in the movie, appear repeatedly in the Torah as troublemakers. In Egypt, Dathan was an Israelite overseer. Rather than Joshua being the Israelite whose life Moses saves by killing the Egyptian taskmaster, as presented in the movie, there is a Midrash that implies that this was Dathan's story (in the Midrash he is referred to only as the Hebrew). One night, Dathan's Egyptian boss sent him out on assignment and went into his home. In the dark, the Egyptian pretended to be the man and had relations with his beautiful wife (Shelomit). When the man let the taskmaster know that he knew what had happened, the Egyptian began to strike him.
The next day, Moses tried to intercede when Dathan and Aviram are fighting. Dathan is the one whom the Torah quotes as saying: "Will you kill me as you killed the Egyptian?" (Exodus 1:29).
4) The Known Redeemer In the movie, Prince Ramses is set on finding the foretold redeemer of the Hebrew slaves. With information from Dathan, he is led to Moses, whom he presents to Pharoah Sethi as the one whom they have sought. Unable to kill Moses, who is like a son to him, Pharoah Sethi commands that Moses' name be stricken from all records and that he be sent into exile. In fact, Exodus 2:15 clearly states that "When Pharaoh heard this thing [Moses killed an Egyptian], he sought to slay Moses. But Moses fled..."
5) Muslims in Midian Jethro and his seven daughters are subtly presented as followers of an Islam-like faith. They claim Ishmael as their forefather and state that Ishmael was the son brought to the mountain as a sacrifice to God. While Jethro is portrayed in the Midrash as a man who tried a wide variety of religions and who was serving as a priest in Midian when Moses met him, he is never associated with Islam -- perhaps because Islam developed hundreds of years later. Even if one were to assume that he was part of a pre-Islamic tribe descended from Ishmael, this would be false because the Midianites were descendants of Abraham and Keturah (his wife after Sarah) and not from Ishmael.
6) Joshua Makes Moses Move Throughout the movie, Joshua is a bigger-than-life, hunky hero. He's a stonecutter in Egypt who stands up to Dathan, a protector of the elderly Joshabel (meant to be Jochebed) and, most significantly, the man who spurs Moses forward on his search to understand who he is. Alas, none of these instances have any foundation. There is no record of Joshua suddenly appearing in Midian and pushing Moses to go seek God on the mountain. Perhaps this was meant to reflect the biblical account of Aharon coming from Egypt to meet Moses in the wilderness. However, this took place only after Moses had agreed to go and lead the Israelites out of slavery.
7) Hey, That Bush is on Fire Speaking of the mountain, it appears that everyone in the region can see something special about it. A dark cloud hovers over it at all times, and it is referred to as God's mountain. Additionally, Tzipporah and Joshua tell Moses about the bush that is on fire but does not burn. According to Jewish tradition, Moses did not deliberately go to find God on a known holy mountain with a burning bush visible to others. The biblical text states "Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian: and he led the flock to the backside of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb" (Exodus 3:1). According to the Midrash, he found the burning bush when he was following one stray sheep to make certain it was returned to its flock.
8) Korach the High Priest By the end of the movie it appears that the film-makers just wanted to include as many Bible stories as possible. Once the golden calf is made, Dathan takes charge. He declares Korach the high-priest and debauchery and chaos ensue. It is true that Korach was a Levite who wished to be the High Priest and led a rebellion against Moses and Aharon. It is also true that Dathan was one of Korach's prime supporters in the rebellion. However, the events of Korach's rebellion are recorded in the Book of Numbers and took place elsewhere. The story of Korach is additionally misapproprated when the ground opens up and swallows the unrepentant worshippers of the golden calf. This is actually another piece of the story of Korach. The Torah clearly relates that those who chose the calf over God were slain by the swords of the Levites.
9) One Man Struck Down In a small but fascinatingly accurate incident in the movie, one man cries out against the licentious worship of the golden calf. Another man comes from behind and strikes him down, presumably killing him. This was not added as random violence but is a reference to the death of Hur, the son of Miriam and Caleb, that is presented in Talmud Sanhedrin 7a: "Rabbi Benjamin ben Japhet says, reporting Rabbi Eleazar: He [Aharon] saw Hur lying slain before him and said [to himself]: If I do not obey them, they will now do unto me as they did unto Hur... Better let them worship the golden calf, for which offence they may yet find forgiveness through repentance."
10) Moses Final Words The final scene of The Ten Commandments has Moses saying goodbye to a small group of significant characters. After commanding Joshua to be strong leader and to have faith, he presents a copy of the Torah to Eleazar to place in the ark and than tells all those gathered (and perhaps the crowd far below) "Go, proclaim liberty throughout all the lands, unto all the inhabitants thereof!" Beautiful as this verse is, it is actually a reference to the celebration of the jubilee year and comes from the 25th chapter of Leviticus. If it is a quote that you recognize, it is also inscribed on the Liberty Bell.
Guillermo Rodríguez: The Day Charlie Chaplin Won Over Disney Channel 2014-04-18
I suppose that, when it comes down to it, I'm an average dad.
In moments of paternal exaltation, my wife and I follow the manual down to the letter: we think that our 5-year-old and 10-year-old daughters are the prettiest, kindest, and smartest that the world has ever seen. But when lucidity returns, we arrive at the conclusion that, yes, they're great, but they also have multiple defects.
Of course, I'm responsible in large part for any deficiencies my girls suffer. Most of the time, as a father, I know I'm just not doing as well as I could: I don't spend enough time with them, I sometimes try to shirk my responsibilities. For example, I don't keep them from using video consoles or tablets, or watching TV. Some nights, looking back on the day, I realize they've spent hours and hours with their Nintendo. The next day may be the same.
I allow it, even though I know it's not the best for them.
My daughters are normal. They read, they think, they do their homework... and like good girls, they're unpredictable. One night -- sick of them watching American TV series in which the characters, handsome boys and attractive girls, live in luxury apartments in Manhattan, drive Porsches, and have parents who, luckily enough for the kids, are never home -- I took an initiative that was wholly successful.
I turned off the show they were watching and put on Charlie Chaplin's The Kid. As I recall, that evening I had been listening to a radio show celebrating the 125th anniversary of the birth of Chaplin, without any doubt one of film history's great geniuses.
I must admit that when the movie started, I was convinced that my experiment was going to end up shipwrecked in a sea of mistakes. The movie was in black and white, silent, starring a mustachioed man in a bowling hat. It did not exactly feature the stuff that based on what I've seen, seem to interest kids these days.
Despite that, I triumphed. Few times have I seen my kids laugh so hard as that night. They asked me to replay the scene in which the kid flees from the police running as fast as he can at least five times.
And, with tears in their eyes, they turned away when the same kid was separated forcefully from his vagabond father. During the 52 minutes that the movie lasts, I explained everything that they didn't understand, jumped ahead a few scenes to pique their interest ("Just wait and see what happens next!"), and overacted, laughing in big guffaws at scenes that I already knew by heart. Five days later, they'd seen The Kid many more times.
Weeks later, I did the same thing with another Chaplin film, Modern Times. In various moments, I had to stop the movie because my eldest daughter, who's 10, was actually crying to the point of tears (during the celebrated screws scene) or screaming from all the suspense (at the end of the movie, when Chaplin almost roller skates off a cliff). My 5-year-old laughed, screamed, and enjoyed everything just the way a little girl would.
At this point they've seen The Kid, Modern Times, and The Gold Rush -- well, with the last few minutes of that one muted. It's not a revolution, I know. But it's a small victory, at least for me. They haven't and won't stopped watching Disney Channel series that I hate, like Jessie, My Dog Has a Blog, or Shake It Up. But they know who The Tramp is. They have seen top-notch cinema and have worried about how it's humanly possible for a worker to have to spend eight hours a day screwing in screws on an assembly line.
In short, I've been witness to the fact that with a little effort, any kid can have their attention captured, can be asked a little more than normal -- and will respond well to the challenge.
You only need the will to do it. And the genius of Charlie Chaplin.
The Daily Meal: How To Make Beautiful 'dyed' Easter Eggs At Home 2014-04-18
Finding Easter eggs during a hunt is only half of the fun. Dyeing, painting, decorating, and beautifying the delicate shells are an adventure of their own. Whether hand painted, tye-dyed, or colored with other food (or drink) products, just like snowflakes and their different shapes and various designs, no two are alike!
Click Here to see the Complete Slideshow for 9 Recipes for Naturally "Dyeing" Easter Eggs
The tradition of painting Paschal eggs (aka Easter eggs) dates back to when households would give up eating eggs in observance of Lent. Fat Tuesday was known to be the last day people were able to enjoy dairy and eggs before the celebration of Easter. Sometimes Easter eggs were dyed red to represent the blood of Jesus Christ.
With all of those egregious color tablets and strange kit contents, you may be less than thrilled about getting crafty. The answer to gorgeously colored eggs could be right in your refrigerator. We've compiled advice from egg-cellent experts to assist in giving us great recipes for dying Easter egg naturally! They're more natural and, in many cases, less messy and safe for kids. Safeway executive chef Jeff Anderson suggests keeping things lighthearted.
"Have fun with this!" Anderson exclaimed. "Pick your favorite produce and experiment with formulas to create different colored eggs. Make sure to pick the freshest fruits and vegetables for better color."
You can make everyone green with envy by using spinach for a grassy hue. With the help of beets you can tickle your Easter eggs pink! Break out the ingredients (not the eggs), roll up your sleeves, and maybe put on an apron for good measure.
-- Hilary Sheinbaum, The Daily Meal
More Content from The Daily Meal:
11 Ways to Decorate Easter Eggs Without Dye
10 Pimped Out Easter Eggs
25 Easter Eggs That Look Like Celebrities
The World's Tallest Chocolate Easter Egg
10 Highest Calorie American Holidays
Kiri Westby: What Happened Next? The Good, The Weird And The Ugly Of Coming Out Of The Pot Closet 2014-04-18
As far as I know, no one had done it before -- declared to the world that they smoke pot, practically daily, that they're also in charge of raising children and that they're not going to be ashamed anymore.
But I did.
Naturally, there have been a lot of questions along the lines of "Sooo? What Happened Next? We're dying to know! Does your mother-in-law still love you?"
I'd like to think that these come from folks who genuinely want to avoid the land mines and labels that may accompany coming out of their own "pot closets."* So, with the hope that more of us begin to speak up about the role that marijuana plays in our lives, I share the story of what happened after I wrote this blog and hundreds of thousands of people around the world read it.
THE GOOD: 90% of the feedback I saw in the comments was positive. Folks who do, and folks who do not smoke marijuana chimed in to agree that despite their personal choices around pot, given the changing legal landscape, we need to have open conversations with our kids about it. This was, first and foremost, a parenting blog.
Some folks, conversely, called me a drug addict and predicted that I will have a drug-addicted kid one day... but then again, some parents believe that not talking to their kids about sex is an effective way to prevent teen pregnancy (despite alarming new statistics proving the opposite), so that didn't surprise me much.
My mom, who has been put through the paces during my work in war zones, plus a short stint in Chinese prison, had a predictable response: "What's all the fuss?"
My dad was concerned that I felt shame from the terrible choice parents in his time had to make: Either hide their occasional pot use or make their children complicit in illegal activity (a choice many parents must still face today).
My extended family is still speaking to me, though weeks of uncomfortable silence can be expected. Change is rarely comfy, and it can be painful to adjust the sails on one's thinking. Also, I experienced a layer of judgment for smoking pot and a layer for "airing dirty laundry" in public, so I suppose it depends how you come out. I expect some family felt tainted by public association... there's that stigma again.
It affected a lot of my close friends as well, and my personal message boxes were flooded with notes supporting me privately while wishing they could do so publicly (but they work with kids, they practice law, they enforce the law, they've already had trouble with the law or they still face very real consequences where they live).
I like to think that the days after prohibition were a little similar, as the wine bottles slowly made their way onto the dinner table. It takes time to change culture...
...Or cultures? After my blog went viral in the U.S., The Huffington Post sent my blog to HuffPost Germany and El HuffPost, the Spanish version. Suddenly, the conversation was global and I was having Twitter convos with parents in Andalucía, Berlin and Chile. It seems my suspicions about there being a lot more of us were right and I've made some fun new e-friends in the process.
I've also received dozens of requests to smoke and while I'm flattered, for the record, if I don't know you, I'm not gonna get stoned with you. In fact, I usually smoke alone at the end of my day, between the time my daughter sleeps and my husband gets home from work, and most of the time I fall asleep from exhaustion shortly after. I mainly use pot to help me sleep and to work through some serious PTSD (and if I have to wake up at 3 a.m. to a crying child, I am stone cold sober, which wasn't the case when I tried over-the-counter sleeping pills).
And lastly, a teenager made a YouTube video about my blog, commending me for having the courage to start the conversation, and admitting that when her dad switched from alcohol to pot, "it was like night and day." This was the cherry on top for me and I hope that one day, my daughter is just as smart and brave.
THE WEIRD: I have been blogging on HuffPost for more than five years. Most of my pieces have been well-received, shared around a few hundred times and then faded away into the white noise of the Internet. In my naiveté, I didn't realize that there is an entire world of mainstream media that picks up on popular blogs to take the topics further onto TV.
Imagine my surprise when my husband's cell phone rings at 9 a.m. the next morning with Muriel, a producer at ABC's "20/20" asking for "an exclusive" (An exclusive to what? I wonder, it's all pretty much in the blog). This is particularly shocking to hubby, considering he doesn't even have an email address and thinks Facebook is the world's biggest waste of time (we are still not sure how they got the number). In addition, we haven't watched mainstream TV in a decade and we both think Barbara Walters is still anchoring "20/20." I happily grant them an exclusive (I love Barbara Walters!) though I'm still wondering what more they're looking for? Luckily for me, I get to hide behind this "exclusive" when FOX News gets in touch and my Twitter feed blows up with media requests.
Muriel didn't care much about my doing Canadian press, and I love Canada, so I then went on a live call-in radio show out of Vancouver. They sent producers to the streets asking folks to read my blog and provide comments, as a way of setting the stage for the overall debate (all I could think was wow, you sent people to the streets of Vancouver and asked them to read my writing? That's incredible!). One caller couldn't help but compare me to a crack addict, smoking crack in front of a child... an image out of her sheer imagination that provided the perfect opportunity to discuss all of the fear that still exists around weed, the extent of the stigma and the entire reason I very consciously used the word "pothead" in my title.
Several folks disagreed with the use of that word. It struck a chord down to the very shame and stigma I wrote about. For many regular marijuana users, the term "pothead" is a pejorative that speaks more to one's character than to one's use, and it's a label they've worked hard to transcend.
My experience tells me, however, that the only way to dismantle harmful stereotypes is to own them and redefine them by exposing how baseless they are. The moment we admit we toke up, there are a whole slew of assumptions and images based on stereotypes and scare campaigns. If we call ourselves potheads, then the term loses power and legitimacy. In fact, the week after my blog got attention, an anonymous piece popped up full of lawyers, doctors, youth pastors and police officers admitting to regular marijuana use.
This is the stigma we must begin to erase. We are all sober when we are sober and we can make safe choices around Cannabis use, just as we have learned to do around alcohol, without our entire character being called in to question night and day.
THE UGLY: I set a Google alert for the title of my blog and took my own voyeuristic journey through the land of the Internet. This was fun at first, as I watched the debate unfold and deepen on every major parenting website (which was the entire point). More blogs on the topic emerged, saying much of what I didn't have the space to say. But then the commentary took a dark turn and my stomach lurched as the misogyny emerged, (out came the words B*tch and C*nt and calls for violence). I suddenly felt like a target and started watching my back, my PTSD from being kidnapped in Sri Lanka flaring up like a bad rash. How does admitting to smoking pot warrant a call for rape? It's a leap that can only come from a place of hatred for "uppity" women who create change. It's antiquated and abhorrent and instead of responding to you trolls individually, I'll just take this chance to say GROW UP and GET A LIFE OFFLINE.
In the end, I decided not to go on "20/20" either. I set three restrictions with Muriel:
1. My daughter is too young to be on national TV around this issue.
2. Given the violent comments, please don't show my home or my neighborhood.
3. I'm not going to smoke pot on camera (because I do not believe we can simultaneously break down stereotypes while upholding them, and strong images have a way of being edited and reprinted in nefarious ways).
Apparently, that was enough to make my story less compelling. I was hoping they wanted to have a serious conversation or debate on the issue and they were hoping to film "a day in the life of pothead mom" (which I can tell you would make for some pretty boring TV... there's that stigma again).
I began to wonder if any media producers actually read my blog or if NPR is right? One thing was certain: I didn't write this for 15 minutes of TV fame and I'm nobody's dancing monkey.
So, I decided to limit further public commentary to this keyboard and to control the follow-up story myself. Instead of being framed and edited into "The Pothead Mom," I like to picture myself as a brave woman who is delicately navigating the line between motherhood and a career, all while modeling honesty and self-acceptance. I am pretty sure that wouldn't have been the headline on "20/20."
To echo the sentiments of the latest pot-smoking mom blogger to come forward, smoking weed is only one thing about me in a pool of a million talents. And in that vein, for those who read my writing on more serious topics, I promise this will be my last blog about marijuana... because my mom is right, "what's all the fuss?"
*I want to add something here about my use of the closet metaphor. If it weren't for the queer rights movement and the sacrifice of millions of gays and lesbians to live honestly, we wouldn't have this term. It has become colloquial, and is being used more and more to describe the process of living one's truth... and I agree with my fellow Boulderite Ash Beckham that "coming out of any closet is hard... and we need to stop comparing our hards." But I also believe that if we don't know where we've come from, we won't know where we're going. My choice to come clean about how I choose to relax is fundamentally different than someone's choice to be honest about who they were born to be; I may face social or professional rejection, but LGBTQ folks often face violence or death for being honest about their sexuality. By no means do I mean to make light of that.