Thursday, December 31, 2009

WPI's 111th Congress, First Session At-A-Glance: Legislative Action Affecting Women and Families

Women’s Policy, Inc. has produced an excellent summary of legislative action affecting women and their families in the first session of the 111th Congress (2009).

Read this wonderful recap for the latest substantive legislation action on the following issues:

Breast Cancer
Federal budget
Child Support
Children’s Health Insurance
Domestic violence
Early childhood education
Equal Pay
Family and Medical Leave
Hate crimes
Health Care Reform
Indian Health
Infant Mortality
International Women’s Day
Juvenile Justice
Microloans made to women-owned small businesses
Military families
Missing children
National Domestic Violence Awareness Month
National Women’s History Month
Nutrition programs
Ovarian cancer
Paid sick days
Postpartum Depression
Science, Techonolgy, Engineering and mathematics education
Sexual Assault
Small Business
Teen Dating Violence
Violence against women
Women and business

Copyright 2009 (text only). The Zaftig Redhead. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, December 28, 2009

If You Can Text Your Grandma on New Year's Eve, What Else Can Go Wrong?

Hilarious video reminds everyone to back your birth control! Why? Because New Year's is the biggest night of the year for birth control accidents, and you shouldn't drop the ball! Thanks to our friends at the Back Up Your Birth Control Campaign. Oh, and don't forget to send your girlfrieds a funny after-eve message, reminding them that emergency contraception is available if they became a statistic the night before! Have fun, but be safe!

Copyright 2009 (text only). The Zaftig Redhead. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Cloture Votes, Filibusters, Obstruction -- Oh My!

From the wonderful folks at People for the American Way. Visit their site and see nifty charts illustrating the alarming trend below.

If it has seemed that Republican Senators have been expending tremendous amounts of energy for the sole purpose of slowing down the work of the Senate and the President’s reform agenda, that’s because they have.

A review of cloture attempts in past sessions of Congress reveals that Republican senators have gone to record lengths to use Senate rules with the goal of slowing down the work of Congress, often when they have no expectation of stopping legislation or even winning concessions.

So far, GOP foot dragging has forced the Senate leadership to file 67 cloture petitions and forced cloture votes on 38 occasions[1]. Those numbers, while high, aren’t yet on pace to break the record set by the GOP in the last Congress of 139 motions filed and 112 forced votes. But what is remarkable is that, of those 38 votes forced this year, cloture was invoked 34 times.

That means a full 89% of the time, the cloture vote did nothing but delay the inevitable—a huge increase from the previous high of 56%.

Moreover many of these votes didn’t just fail: they failed by such significant margins that no one, especially not an experienced vote counter like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, could possibly have expected they could actually pass. In fact, in a majority of cases, 65 or more Senators voted to cut off debate. In several cases the number reached into the seventies and eighties, and in one case 97 Senators voted in favor of cloture, but not before the maneuver chewed up valuable time.

Far from being a meaningless exercise, this effort to force unnecessary cloture votes has wasted an enormous amount of time. After cloture is filed it takes up to two days before Senate rules allow a vote on the petition. Then, Senate rules permit the Republicans to insist on an additional 30 hours of post-cloture debate. That means even when only a small minority of Senators actually oppose cloture, they have the ability to chew up days of the Senate’s time.

In 2010, the Senate will likely consider legislation addressing health care, global warming, the economy, immigration, and workers’ rights in addition to its obligation to confirm Supreme Court Justices, members of the federal bench and crucial administration officials. There’s plenty of work to be done, and time is already tight without needless intentional delay.

The Republican Senators should stop trying to grind the Senate to a halt and start working on the issues that Americans elected them to address.


[1] - In 29 instances, cloture motions were withdrawn or otherwise not voted on. Even in these cases, cloture filings represent intransigence on the part of GOP leaders who could otherwise consent to end debate at a mutually agreed upon time.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Great Health Care Statements from Two Freshman Democratic Senators

Click here to watch Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-VT) tour de force on health care.

You can also read the statement of Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO).

Copyright 2009 (text only). The Zaftig Redhead. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

It's All About Joe

Copyright 2009 (text only). The Zaftig Redhead. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

First Peeps & Company Store Opens New DC

Are you a fan of the multi-colored marshmallow Peeps? Well, if you are, you'll love the latest store to hit DC's National Harbor -- the first ever brick and mortar Peeps and Company store. There are more than 850 incarnations of the sticky candy in the new venture, from the standard yellow to chocolate covered, as well as novelties based on the Peeps such as spun glass Peeps. My favorite, though, is the company car: a yellow VW Bug with a huge yellow Peep on top. Watch this video for the full scope.

For more info, read this article:

Copyright 2009 (text only). The Zaftig Redhead. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Preliminary Target List to Stop Stupak Amendment in Senate

It's my understanding that Sens. Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Bob Casey (D-PA) are considering proposing an amendment to the Senate's healthcare reform bill that would resemble the disastrous anti-choice Stupak-Pitts Amendment that passed in the House bill. The strategy to defeat this middle class abortion ban must have several prongs.

First, we must convince Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), an anti-choice member in the re-election race of his life, to NOT put any Stupak-like provision into the Senate bill. He is currently working to combine the HELP committee bill and the Finance committee bill, neither of which has a Stupak-like provision. If Reid is truly just the "mixer" as he says, then adding Stupak should not even be a question -- he can only combine the bills, not add new elements. In fact, the Finance bill has already addressed this question by including the House's Capps abortion-neutral language, so if Reid were to add Stupak-like language it would be a radical change to the combined bill. You can call the Majority Leader's office at 202-224-5556, and ask that he not add a Stupak-like language to the combined Senate bill.

Second, at this point it looks like there are roughly 31 senators who would likely agree to a Stupak-like amendment. That means, for an amendment strategy (assuming Reid does not add Stupak to the underlying reform bill), the anti-choicers would need to find at least 29 more votes to clear the Senate's 60 vote cloture hurdle. So, calls need to be made to senators to firm up their support against the addition of any Stupak-like provision in the Senate healthcare reform bill. Given the confusion many of the House members have expressed post-Stupak vote, its critical senators understand that Stupak IS NOT HYDE codified. It is a monumental overreach, and results in not only a middle class abortion ban but leaves poor women out in the cold as well. Further, the Stupak amendment would make abortion the only legal medical procedure expressly forbidden in the healthcare reform bill, leaving women worse off before reform when it comes to reproductive health than they are now.

See the list below:

Senate Target List
Evan Bayh (D-IN)
Mark Begich (D-AK)
Bob Casey (D-PA)
Susan Collins (R-ME)
Kent Conrad (D-ND)
Byron Dorgan (D-ND)
Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX)
Tim Johnson (D-SD)
Blanche Lambert Lincoln (D-AR)
Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
Ben Nelson (D-NE)
Mark Pryor (D-AR)
Harry Reid (D-NV)
Arlen Specter (D-PA)
Mark Warner (D-VA)
Jim Webb (D-VA)

Call the Capitol Hill Switchboard at 202-224-3121, and ask for your senator's office. Tell them you opposed the anti-choice Stupak-Pitts amendment in the House, and are calling to urge the senator to NOT support the inclusion of any such provision in the Senate healthcare reform bill.

Copyright 2009 (text only). The Zaftig Redhead. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

There's Something Rotten on C Street: The Family Goes Bipartisan

Don't look now, but embattled Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) has moved out of the Family's C Street, DC enclave. Apparently he did not want to bring more attention on the Family and the C Street frat house while his ethics investigation on the horizon -- you know, where they look into whether he and his parents paid off his staffer mistress, her staffer husband, and their son. Yeah, that ethics investigation.

But there is so much more to this C Street nonsense. Actually, I wish it was nonsense, but actually its an evangelical gathering of right wing Republicans and conserva-Dems that plot legislation together. For example, Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) and Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA), authors of the lately lamented middle class abortion ban known as the Stupak amendment to the House Democrats health care reform bill.

Check out this latest piece on the The Family by the Rachel Maddow Show. WARNING: It might make you throw up a little in your mouth.

Copyright 2009 (text only). The Zaftig Redhead. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Stop the Stupak Anti-Choice Amendment to Health Care Reform!

House Democrats bowed to pressure from anti-abortion rights Democrats and the Council of Catholic Bishops early this morning and agreed to let the Stupak amendment be offered to their healthcare bill. This anti-choice amendment will ban the public plan from covering abortions and prohibit insurance companies who participate in the new exchanges from offering abortion coverage.

Here is the target list for the Stupak Amendment, which would actually leave women worse off under health care reform -- when it comes to abortion care -- than we are now!! Call 202-2234-3121, and ask for the office of your representative and tell them VOTE NO on Stupak!

Target List
Arcuri (D, NY-24)
Bean (D, IL-08)
Bishop, S. (D, GA-02)
Boswell (D, IA-03)
Butterfield (D, NC-01)
Cardoza (D, CA-18)
Chandler (D, KY-06)
Cooper (D, TN-05)
Costa (D, CA-20)
Doyle (D, PA-14)
Edwards, C. (D, TX-17)
Etheridge (D, NC-02)
Gordon (D, TN-06)
Kratovil (D, MD-01)
Langevin (D, RI-02)
McMahon (D, NY-13)
Michaud (D, ME-02)
Minnick (D, ID-01)
Neal (D, MA-02)
Nye (D, VA-02)
Obey (D, WI-07)
Owens (D, NY-23)
Ruppersberger (D, MD-02)
Ryan, T. (D, OH-17)
Salazar (D, CO-03)
Space (D, OH-18)


Biggert (R, IL-13)
Carney (D, PA-10)
Castle (R, DE-AL)
Cuellar (D, TX-28)
Davis, A. (D, AL-07)
Dent (R, PA-15)
Ellsworth (D, IN-08)
Frelinghuysen (R, NJ-11)
Kirk (R, IL-10)
Lynch (D, MA-09)
Pomeroy (D, ND-AL)
Snyder (D, AR-02)
Tanner (D, TN-08)
Visclosky (D, IN-01)

Leaning anti-choice

Altmire (D, PA-04)
Barrow (D, GA-12)
Berry (D, AR-01)
Boccieri (D, OH-16)
Bright (D, AL-02)
Capito (R, WV-02)
Donnelly (D, IN-02)
Hill (D, IN-09)
Jenkins (R, KS-02)
Kildee (D, MI-05)
Lance (R, NJ-07)
Lee, C. (R, NY-26)
Matheson (D, UT-02)
Mollohan (D, WV-01)
Ortiz (D, TX-27)
Paulsen (R, MN-03)
Perriello (D, VA-05)
Rahall (D, WV-03)
Ross (D, AR-04)
Spratt (D, SC-05)
Wilson, C. (D, OH-06)

I hope EMILYs List recruits a primary opponent for Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI). Also, you can give Rep. Stupak a great wake up call by calling Stupak for Congress at 906-863-2800 and telling them you're digusted and plan to give generously to a prochoice opponent!

Copyright 2009 (text only). The Zaftig Redhead. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, November 6, 2009

How Would House Health Care Reform Bill Affect YOU?

Click on the image below to walk through an interactive "choose-your-own-adventure" style program to learn how H.R.3962, the Affordable Health Care for America Act, will affect you and your family. The House will be voting this weekend, so it's not too late to call and make your voice heard. Simply call the Capitol Hill switchboard at 202/224-3121 and ask for your representative's office. If your representative is a member of the Blue Dog Caucus, you especially need to call. Speak now or forever hold your peace -- at least until the Senate takes up the bill.

Copyright 2009. The Zaftig Redhead. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Strike One Against the Military-Industrial Complex: F-22 Raptor Finally Eliminated

The F-22 Raptor is a virtually useless paperweight of a fighter jet that can't communicate with any other American aircraft and melts in the rain. Oh yeah, they also cost $356 million EACH, and are made in 44 different states in an effort to make it program too big to fail to politicians worried about losing jobs in their districts.

Well, it took a fight, but the Raptor is no more. The program is defunded, and the Pentagon will buy no more of these useless aircraft. The story of the Raptor is an excellent example of the Military-Industrial Complex gone horribly awry. Take a look at this marvelous Rachel Maddow Show segment that highlights this scary taxpayer ripoff that has finally been ended -- sort of.

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Maddow Show Does Great Riff Against Lieberman -- the Wanker

Sen. Joe Lieberman (Whatever-CT) has announced his plans to join Republicans in filibustering a public option -- and a weak ass one at that -- in the Senate Democratic health insurance reform bill. Way to go, Joe, for showing everyone what a wanker you really are. Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) let Lieberman keep his chairmanship and caucus with the Democrats because he "trusted Joe." Just another mistake in a series of whoppers by the Majority Wuss, um, Leader. Why didn't you get a commitment from Lieberman that he would stick with the party on procedural votes? You know, the party that provides the chairmanship he so adores -- and is now using to undermine a Democratic president? Hello??

Lieberman makes me crazy. He really does. This is the first time in history that a member of one party is crossing party lines to break a 60 vote majority. And Lieberman's move just gives cover to other conservative Senate Democrats -- and Blue Dog House members where we are now hearing that there are not enough votes for the public option -- to wuss out despite the public's wish for a public option. You know, 34 Senate Democrats signed a letter saying that a health care reform bill without the public option is not acceptable. That number, 34, is more than enough to take away Joe's chairmanship. If it were me, I'd throw him out of the caucus too. Next he'll be campaigning against Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT).

As a devotee of The Rachel Maddow Show, I was delighted to see her do this fabulous riff on Joe. You said it, Sister.

Copyright 2009 (text only). The Zaftig Redhead. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Chubby Infant Denied Healthcare Insurance: His 'Obesity' is a Pre-existing Condition

By all accounts, little Alex Lange is a healthy and happy 4-month-old baby boy. He's in the 99th percentile for height and weight for infants his age, and growing faster than a weed. This last bit is a key point because, you see, health insurers won't cover babies above the 95th percentile -- no matter how healthy they might seem. The sad truth is that in the impersonal actuarial tables of profit-driven health insurance companies, little Alex is fat. That's why he's been turned down for health insurance by Rocky Mountain Health Plans -- for the preexisting condition of 'obesity.'

"I could understand if we could control what he's eating. But he's 4 months old. He's breast-feeding. We can't put him on the Atkins diet or on a treadmill," joked his frustrated father, Bernie Lange, a part-time news anchor in Grand Junction, CO. "There is just something absurd about denying an infant."

The Langes tried to get new family health insurance when their current plan raised their rates 40 percent. They figured it wouldn't be a problem because their family is young and healthy. But health insurance is not rational or compassionate. Instead of the acceptance they'd anticipated, the Langes received news that shocked them -- and pretty much everyone else whose heard it since.

Little Alex was too fat, and this pre-existing condition -- at four months old -- makes him too much of a financial risk for Rocky Mountain Health Plans. That's the cold, harsh reality of today's health insurance market: companies can turn down people with pre-existing conditions who aren't already covered in a group plan. Thankfully, some health insurance reform bills currently pending before Congress would prohibit such denials -- but not in time for little Alex.

Alex's doctor had never expressed any concerns about the baby the Lange's call their "happy little chunky monkey." Alex weighed a normal 8 pounds when he was born. Eating only breast milk, he has more than doubled his birth weight to 17 pounds and grown to 25 inches long.

"I'm not going to withhold food to get him down below that number of 95," Kelli Lange said. "I'm not going to have him screaming because he's hungry." Alex's 2-year-old brother had been a colicky baby who had trouble gaining weight, so the Lange's were reassured by Alex's appetite and are now understandably puzzled and confused by the health insurance company's policy. They plan to appeal Rocky Mountain's decision to deny Alex health insurance and if that doesn't work, they'll take their case to the Colorado Division of Insurance. Good for them -- and may the sheer absurdity of their situation make some politicians sit up and take notice. Are you listening, Mr. Baucus? Ms. Snowe?

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Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Newest Progressive Superstar in Congress: Rep. Alan Grayson Tells it Like It Is on Healthcare

Freshman Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) made waves a week or so ago by characterizing the Republicans health care plan as the "hope you die quickly" plan. House Republicans demanded that he apologize, and not only did he not cave in, Rep. Grayson has picked up the gauntlet and smacked the Republicans upside the head. Just Thursday, Rep. Grayson, now also an Internet sensation, made another floor statement and put forward some hard truths to both Democrats and Republicans. Bravo to the distinguished gentleman from Florida. Take a look.

Copyright 2009 (text only). The Zaftig Redhead. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, October 9, 2009

A Call to Action from the Newest Nobel Peace Prize Winner

A message from President Barack Obama:

Friend --

This morning, Michelle and I awoke to some surprising and humbling news. At 6 a.m., we received word that I'd been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009.

To be honest, I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who've been honored by this prize -- men and women who've inspired me and inspired the entire world through their courageous pursuit of peace.

But I also know that throughout history the Nobel Peace Prize has not just been used to honor specific achievement; it's also been used as a means to give momentum to a set of causes.

That is why I've said that I will accept this award as a call to action, a call for all nations and all peoples to confront the common challenges of the 21st century. These challenges won't all be met during my presidency, or even my lifetime. But I know these challenges can be met so long as it's recognized that they will not be met by one person or one nation alone.

This award -- and the call to action that comes with it -- does not belong simply to me or my administration; it belongs to all people around the world who have fought for justice and for peace. And most of all, it belongs to you, the men and women of America, who have dared to hope and have worked so hard to make our world a little better.

So today we humbly recommit to the important work that we've begun together. I'm grateful that you've stood with me thus far, and I'm honored to continue our vital work in the years to come.

Thank you,

President Barack Obama

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Senate Republicans Block Extension of Unemployment Benefits

On Thursday, on the Senate floor, Republicans blocked millions of Americans from continuing to receive unemployment benefits. With states experiencing record unemployment numbers, slowing down unemployment benefits when Americans need it most is inexcusable.

Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), on behalf of Republicans, objected to Extending Unemployment Benefits. Kyl said, “I have no doubt that at the appropriate time we’ll be able to work out some kind of agreement. But our side is going to need some time to look at it. We’ll need some republican ideas or amendments as well and need a CBO score. So at this time I’ll have to – on behalf of members on our side – impose an objection.” [Senate Floor, 10/8/09]

Bill Extends Unemployment Assistance Up to 14 Weeks. By the end of this year, nearly 2 million Americans will see their unemployment benefits expire. The comprehensive legislation to extend unemployment insurance would give those jobless Americans up to fourteen more weeks of unemployment benefits. [Senate Finance Committee, 10/8/09]

Unemployment Extension is “Fully Paid For.” The proposal is fully paid for by extending the Federal Unemployment Tax through June 30, 2011. [Senate Finance Committee, 10/8/09]

Unemployment is at Record Highs. Currently, US unemployment is at a “26-year high of 9.8 percent.” [AFP, 10/8/09]

In the Past Two Years, Number of Unemployed Americans Has Nearly Doubled.
“Since the start of the recession nearly two years ago, the number of unemployed has increased by 7.6 million to 15.1 million.” [AFP, 10/8/09]

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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The US Senate: Where All Good Bills Go To Die

Much attention has been paid to the House and its accomplishments, and its historic first-ever woman Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). But to my mind, the House is in generally good shape -- except for some pesky Blue Dogs,of course. For those of you looking for more progressive changes -- health insurance reform, energy bills, immigration reform, improving No Child Left Behind, pay equity advances -- keep your eyes on the real legislative prize: the Senate. And, more specifically -- the number 60.

Here's the scoop. Right now, the Senate is split -- 58 Democrats, 40 Republicans, and 2 Independents (Sens. Bernie Sanders [VT] and Joe Lieberman [CT]) who caucus with the Democrats. Now, on the surface that might seem golden -- for all intents and purposes, there are 60 votes in the Democratic column. But, remember, this is Washington, DC -- where alternate realities often rule. Just ask Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) how easy its been trying to herd these 60 cats. Getting a simple majority of 51 votes is a minor miracle!

But in the Senate, it's typically not about a simple majority -- if only that were the case! It's all about cloture -- it's all about 60. That's because the Senate is a body of continuous debate -- and made up of 100 very, very important people who like to talk. A lot. Constantly. Even if the room is empty. Even better if there are balloons, cameras and small children.

In order to move to a final vote, the Senate literally must agree to shut up -- to stop talking. This is called a cloture vote, and to be successful it must win a super majority of 60 votes -- it's such a big deal to get senators to agree to stop talking, a simple majority won't do. That means anytime the Democrats want to do anything, they all need to agree. With Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) in poor health, Sen. Joe Lieberman being his usual pain-in-the-ass self, and conservative Blue-Dog-ish Sens. Ben Nelson (D-NE), Evan Bayh (D-IN), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Blanche Lambert Lincoln (D-AR), Mark Pryor (D-AR), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Kent Conrad (D-ND), and Kay Hagan (D-NC) -- to name a few -- getting to 60 is not only not guaranteed, it's damn near impossible. As a result, the Democratic "Majority" tend to need a few Republicans. It's why Maine Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Susan Collins (R-ME) are now the homecoming queens at everyone's football game. The Republicans are busy keeping them in line -- when before they kinda ignored and ostracized them, calling them RINOs (Republicans in name only). Meanwhile, the Democrats are busy courting them -- and often giving in to their sometimes ridiculous demands (witness the extraordinary power Collins had over the ARRA/recovery bill, and the sway Snowe has had over healthcare reform).

The Senate has not been able to get to 60 on a lot of things that matter. Cloture is a longstanding part of procedure, and not likely to go anywhere. Oh, and technically, when a cloture vote fails, that issue is now being filibustered -- they might not roll in cots and read from the Betty Crocker Cookbook on the Senate floor, it won't look like Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, but in function it's a filibuster -- the issue is blocked. This is why the Senate has become obstruction central -- the great black hole where all good bills go to die.

Copyright 2009 (text only). The Zaftig Redhead. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Attorney General Holder: My Goals for The Department of Justice

Attorney General Eric Holder, Deputy Attorney General David W. Ogden and Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli discuss the mission and history of The Department of Justice. They have a tough task ahead of them to clean up the mess the Bush Administration left behind, and restore the nation's faith in the Department of Justice.

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Friday, October 2, 2009

Why There's Still A Wage Gap (With Apologies To Peggy Olson)

Blog reposted in part, with permission from author Doree Shafrir. Originally posted on Jezebel.

A couple weeks ago on Mad Men, Peggy got recruited to go to another, much larger ad agency. Instead of saying yes right away, she went into Don Draper's office to see if she could get a raise.

She's a copywriter, but she gets paid much less than the other copywriters, all of whom happen to be male. And so she invokes the recently passed Equal Pay Act. "It's a law now," she says. "Equal pay for equal work." Don looks at her as though she's speaking another language. "Peggy, it's not a good time," he tells her. Then he asks her if she wants a drink.

When Peggy confronts Don, it's 1963, and the median annual income for women was around 60 percent of men's. Today, it's around 77 percent—a gain, to be sure, but hardly anything to be thrilled about. While some of the so-called gender gap can be explained by the fact that women tend to work in lower-paying fields—such as education and child care (I'm going to bracket the debate about whether these deserve to be lower-paying fields at all)—there's still a five percent wage gap for male and female college graduates, even after controlling for things like age, race and ethnicity, region, marital status, children, occupation, industry, and hours worked, according to testimony given in April to the United States Joint Economic Committee. The conclusion? "It is reasonable to assume that this difference is the product of discrimination."

But it's slightly more complicated, I think, and it raises uncomfortable questions about the differences between men and women—whether they're socially determined or not. A couple years ago, there was another study that focused on men vs. women in negotiations; men, it showed, will take the initiative and ask for things like more money or a promotion, while women will wait to be asked.

It's hard not to look at these studies and think about anecdotal evidence from my own life. At my first job out of college, I was offered just that salary: $25,000 a year. I didn't even think about negotiating. Sure, you could argue that I wasn't exactly coming from a position of strength, as a 22-year-old college graduate with little experience who was desperate for a job. But over the years, I saw how certain people—and nearly all of them were men—were able to ask for things that I wouldn't even have thought of to ask for: Extra vacation days. Bonuses. When I was in graduate school, better teaching schedules (and better professor assignments). A few years later, I was offered another job at what I now considered a laughable salary, $35,000 a year. I countered at $65,000. We settled on $57,000, with a guaranteed raise to $60,000 after three months. And I came up with a new motto: "You don't ask, you don't get."

Read the full blog and comments here.

It's time to update the Equal Pay Act, untouched since its passage in 1963. Go here for more information and to write a letter to your Senator -- The Paycheck Fairness Act has passed the House, but is stuck in the Senate and needs your voice.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

From Asbury Park to the Promised Land: The Life and Music of Bruce Springsteen

The Boss is 60. Can you believe it? And to celebrate there is a fab new exhibit at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. That's cool. More jarring is the AARP cover featuring Springsteen, but hey -- he's a baby boomer too.

Anyway, Happy Birthday, Mr. Springsteen. Long may you rock.

Copyright 2009 (text only). The Zaftig Redhead. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Obama Health Insurance Reform Plan in Four Minutes

Copyright 2009 (text only). The Zaftig Redhead. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Latest 'Funny or Die' PSA: Save the Health Insurance Executives!!

From the folks who brought you 'Prop 8: The Musical' comes this fabulously snarky public service announcement. Watching this will change more minds than any politican every could.

Copyright 2009 (text only). The Zaftig Redhead. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

DC Briefs: ACORN, Joe Wilson and the Chamber of Commerce Met in a Bar...

Ivan Marte, ex-chairman of the Rhode Island Republican Hispanic Assembly, announced he is quitting the Republican Party because he was embarrassed by Rep. Joe Wilson’s (R-SC) “you lie” outburst.

Watch how SNL tackles the anatomy of Joe Wilson's "You Lie!" comment.

The rest of the story from the Washington Post: How the ACORN 'pimp and hooker' videos came about.

Pacific Gas & Electric quits the U.S. Chamber of Commerce because it disagrees with the Chamber's aggressive opposition to the climate change bill.

The latest consequence of this recession: the tough job market is splitting up couples and families as they hunt for work.

A new report from the Bureau on Labor Statistics shows that the wage gap between men and women working full time is persistent. In 2007, the average woman made almost 78 cents for each dollar earned by her male counterpart. According to newly released 2008 figures, that number now stands at just over 77 cents for each dollar earned by a man. This drop is statistically significant, according to the Department of Labor.

Copyright 2009 (text only). The Zaftig Redhead. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

FLOTUS Wows with Speech on Women and Health Care Reform

Finally, the health insurance reform debate turned its focus -- albeit briefly -- on women and girls. About time. Women make most of the health care decisions in American families, and because of our longevity we tend to use more health care services as well. Further, because a persistent wage gap deprives many women of fair pay, women also have a harder time paying for health care and health insurance. And, to add insult to injury, insurance is typically more expensive for women. Without commonsense reform, insurance companies could continue the discriminatory practice of gender rating, and women could continue to pay monthly premiums ranging from four percent to 48 percent higher for individually-purchased health care plans than men. FLOTUS Michelle Obama's first foray into the health care debate was quite welcome, and could not have come at a better time.

Enjoy a clip, and read the full text below.


September 18, 2009
Eisenhower Executive Office Building
Room 450

11:33 A.M. EDT

MRS. OBAMA: Thank you. Thank you all. Please, sit. Rest. (Laughter.) First of all, good morning. I am so thrilled to see so many of you here this morning at the White House. Welcome. And that’s including my good friend, Dr. Dorothy Height. (Applause.) You know, she is always there, for the past eight months and before. If there was a big event, an important event, she finds a way to be here. She is my inspiration, and it is wonderful to see you again today. Thank you so much. (Applause.)

Thank you all for joining us today for the outstanding work you’re doing every day on behalf of women and families all across this country. I have to thank our extraordinary Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, for taking the time to be here. (Applause.) And for her tireless efforts to keep our nation healthy. And that includes not just pushing for health insurance reform but preparing us for H1N1, pursuing cutting-edge research to find treatments and cures for tomorrow. Clearly this is not the easiest portfolio she could have, but she is doing a terrific job, and we are grateful for her leadership.

And I also want to thank Tina Tchen, who you all know, for emceeing today. (Applause.) She, too, is doing a fabulous job as Director of our Office of Public Engagement, and she played a critical role in pulling together today’s event — not just as an emcee but as a key figurehead, making sure that we’re all aware of what’s going on.

And finally, I want to thank the three women behind me — to Debi, Easter, and Roxi. (Applause.) It is not easy to come here and tell your story. And these stories aren’t new. You know, these stories are happening all over this country, not just for thousands of women — for millions of them. For two years on the campaign trail, this was what I heard from women, that they were being crushed, crushed by the current structure of our health care. Crushed. But these stories that we’ve heard today, and all of us — if we’re not experiencing it, we know someone who is. These are the stories that remind us about what’s at stake in this debate. This is really all that matters. This is why we are fighting so hard for health insurance reform. This is it. This is the face of the fight.

And that’s why I’d like to talk to you today. That’s why I’m here. That’s why reform is so critical in this country — not tomorrow, not in a few years, but right now. People are hurting in this country right now.

But there is also a reason why I invited this particular group to talk today. There’s a reason why we’ve invited the leaders not only from family advocacy groups and health care advocacy groups, but for so many organizations that have been fighting for decades for empowerment for women. And that’s because when it comes to health care, as the Secretary said, as we all know, women play a unique and increasingly significant role in our families. We know the pain, because we are usually the ones dealing with it.

Eight in 10 women, mothers, report that they’re the ones responsible for choosing their children’s doctor, for getting them to their checkups, for managing that follow-up care. Women are the ones to do it. Mothers are the ones that do it. And many women find themselves doing the same thing for their spouses. (Laughter.) And more than 10 percent of women in this country are currently caring for a sick or elderly relative. It’s often a parent, but it could a grandparent, or a mother — or a relative of some sort — but it’s often a parent. So they’re making critical health care decisions for those family members as well.

In other words, being part of the sandwich generation, is what we are now finding, raising kids while caring for a sick or elderly parent, that’s not just a work/family balance issue anymore. It’s not just an economic issue anymore. More and more it is a health care issue. It’s something that I have thought a great deal about as a mother.

I will never forget the time eight years ago when Sasha was four months that she would not stop crying. And she was not a crier, so we knew something was wrong. So we fortunately were able to take her to our pediatrician that next morning. He examined her and same something’s wrong. We didn’t know what. But he told us that she could have meningitis. So we were terrified. He said, get to the emergency room right away.

And fortunately for us, things worked out, because she is now the Sasha that we all know and love today — (laughter) — who is causing me great — excitement. (Laughter.)

But it is that moment in our lives that flashes through my head every time we engage in this health insurance conversation. It’s that moment in my life. Because I think about what on earth would we have done if we had not had insurance. What would have happened to that beautiful little girl if we hadn’t been able to get to a pediatrician who was able to get us to an emergency room? The consequences I can’t even imagine. She could have lost her hearing. She could have lost her life if we had had to wait because of insurance.

And it was also fortunate that we happened to have good insurance, right? Because if we hadn’t had good insurance, like many of the panelists up here, we would have been saddled with costs for covering that emergency room visit for her two days in the hospital. We would have still been paying off those bills.

And this issue isn’t something that I’ve thought about as a mother. I think about it as a daughter. As many of you know, my father had multiple sclerosis. He contracted it in his twenties. And as you all know, my father was a rock. He was able to get up and go to work every day, even though it got harder for him as he got sicker and more debilitated. And I find myself thinking, what would we have done as a family on the South Side of Chicago if my father hadn’t had insurance, if he hadn’t been able to cover his treatments? What would it have done to him to think that his illness could have put his entire family into bankruptcy? And what if he had lost his job, which fortunately he never did? What if his company had changed insurance, which fortunately never happened, and we became one of the millions of Americans, families, who can’t get insurance because of a preexisting condition?

So these are the thoughts that run through my mind as I watch this debate and hope that we get it right.

But let’s be clear: Women aren’t just disproportionately affected by this issue because of the roles that we play in families. As Tina and Kathleen mentioned, women are affected because of the jobs that we do in this economy. We all know that women are more likely to work part-time, or to work in small companies or businesses that don’t provide any insurance at all.

Women are affected because, as we heard, in many states, insurance companies can still discriminate because of gender. And this is still shocking to me. These are the kind of facts that still wake me up at night; that women in this country have been denied coverage because of preexisting conditions like having a C-section or having had a baby. In some states, it is still legal to deny a woman coverage because she’s been the victim of domestic violence.

And a recent study showed that 25-year-old women are charged up to 45 percent more for insurance than 25-year-old men for the exact same coverage. And as the age goes up, you get to 40, that disparity increases to 48 percent — 48 percent difference for women for the exact same coverage in this country.

But it’s not just women without insurance, as we’ve heard, as we know who are affected. Plenty of women have insurance. But it doesn’t cover basic women’s health services like maternity care or preventative care like mammograms or pap smears, which we all know we have to have. We can’t go without these basic services. But many insurance policies don’t even cover it.

Or policies cap the amount of coverage that you can receive, as you’ve heard, or it drops coverage when people get sick and they really need the care. Or maybe people have coverage but they’re worried about losing it if they lose their jobs or if they change jobs or if the company changes insurance carriers. Out-of-pocket costs get higher and higher. It’s hard to be able to plan your monthly bills when you don’t know what your premiums are going to be. So a lot of people find they have to drop their insurance because they can no longer afford it.

Just think about it. Many women are being charged more in health care coverage, but as we all know, women are earning less. We all know that women earn 78 cents on the dollar to every men — to a man. So it’s not exactly surprising when we hear statistics that more than half of women report putting off needed medical care simply because they can’t afford it.

Now, we have trouble putting ourselves first when we have the resources — just making the appointment when you have insurance to get your regular screenings, to take care of those illnesses, those bumps and lumps and pains that we tend to ignore. But then not to be able to do it because you can’t have insurance, you don’t have insurance — it’s not surprising that so many millions of women around this country are simply going without insurance at all.

See, and the thing that we all know is that the current state — this current situation is unacceptable. It is unacceptable. (Applause.) No one in this country should be treated that way. It’s not fair. It’s not right. And these are hard-working people we’re talking about, right? People who care about their kids, care about their lives. And these circumstances could happen to any of us. This is one of those, “There but for the grace of God go I” kind of situations. None of us are exempt — ever.

So I think it’s clear that health insurance reform and what it means for our families is very much a women’s issue. It is very much a women’s issue.

And if we want to achieve true equality for women, if that is our goal; if we want to ensure that women have opportunities that they deserve, if that is our goal; if we want women to be able to care for their families and pursue things that they could never imagine, then we have to reform the system. We have to reform the system. The status quo is unacceptable. It is holding women and families back, and we know it.

Fortunately, that is exactly what my husband’s plan proposes to do, and it’s important for us to understand some of the basic principles of that plan. Under his plan, if you don’t have insurance now, or you lose your insurance at some point in the future, you’ll be able to purchase affordable coverage through an insurance exchange — a marketplace with a variety of options that will let you compare prices and benefits. This is exactly the approach that is used to provide members of Congress with insurance. So the thought is that if it’s good enough for members of Congress, it should be good enough for the people who vote them in. (Applause.)

And this is also an important part of the plan. If you already have insurance — and it seems that there are a lot of people who are worried that they’ll lose what they have under this plan — but under this plan, if you already have insurance, you’re set. Nothing changes. You keep your insurance, you keep your doctors — and you’re blessed. (Laughter.) This plan just puts in place some basic rules of the road to protect you from the kinds of abuses and unfair practices that we’ve heard.

Under this plan, insurance companies will never again be allowed to deny people like Debi and her son coverage for preexisting conditions. Sounds like a good thing. So whether you have breast cancer, diabetes, asthma, or hypertension — or even just had a C-section, or some mental health treatment that you had in your past — none of that will be a reason to refuse you coverage under the plan that my husband is proposing. Because when you’re fighting an illness, he believes that you shouldn’t also have to be in the process of fighting the insurance companies at the same time. (Applause.) It’s a basic idea.

Under this plan, insurance companies will no longer be able to drop your coverage when you get too sick, or refuse to pay for the care that you need, or to set a cap on the amount of coverage that you can get. And it will limit how much they can charge you for out-of-pocket expenses, because getting sick in this country shouldn’t mean that you go bankrupt. That’s a basic principle of this plan.

And finally, this plan will require insurance companies to cover basic preventative care. Seems simple. (Applause.) From routine checkups, to mammograms, to pap smears — and this would come at no extra charge to the patient, so folks like Roxi can get the chance to get the kind of screenings that she needs to save her life, because we already know that if we catch diseases like cancer early — we know this — it’s much less costly to treat, and we might just be able to save some lives. We know this.

So, under this plan, we can save lives and we can save money. It’s not just good medicine but it’s good economics as well.

So I think this is a pretty reasonable plan. I don’t know about you. (Applause.) But I know many of you believe it’s a good plan as well. And I know that many of the groups that you represent believe that what we’re doing here, this fight, is important. It’s important to this country, it’s important to women, it’s important to families that we succeed.

And now more than ever, as Tina said, as Secretary Sebelius said, we need to act. No longer can we sit by and watch the debate take on a life of its own. It is up to us to get involved, because what we have to remember is that now more than ever, we have to channel our passions into change.

That’s nothing that you all haven’t done before, right? (Laughter.) You all have been the driving force behind so many of our greatest health care achievements, whether it’s been children’s health insurance; to funding breast cancer research, stem cell research; to passing the Family Medical Leave Act. The folks in this room, you’re the ones that made those phone calls, right? That you wrote those letters, you knocked on those doors. You’re the ones that helped make that happen.

And that’s exactly what we need you to do today for health insurance reform. We are going to need you over the next few weeks to mobilize like you’ve never mobilized before. We need you to educate your members about what the plan really is and what it isn’t, because education is the key to understanding, and it’s going to take phone calls to explain, to talk things through, to make sure that people understand not just what’s at stake but what this all means.

And we know there will be all sorts of myths and misconceptions about what the plan is and isn’t, so it’s so important that you make sure that people know the facts, and at least they make their decisions based on the truth of what this plan is and isn’t. We need you to make your voices heard right here in Washington. And you all know how to do that. (Laughter.)

And no, it won’t be easy, because there are always folks who are a little afraid of change. We all understand that. We talked about this all during the campaign. Change is hard. Sometimes the status quo, even if it isn’t right, feels comfortable because it’s what we know. So it is understandable that people are cautious about moving into a new place in this society. There will always be folks who will want things to stay just the way they are, to settle for the world as it is. We talked about that so much. This is one of those times.

But look, I am here today, standing before you as the First Lady of the United States of America, because you all didn’t settle for the world as it is, right? (Applause.) You refused to settle. And as a result of many of your efforts, as a young girl, I was able to dream in ways that I could have never imagined, that my mother could never have imagined, that my grandmother could never have imagined. And thanks to so many of you, I am raising these beautiful young women, you know — (applause) — who are going to be able to think so differently about their place in the world because of the work that you’ve done.

Health care reform is part of that movement. Health insurance reform is the next step. So we’re going to need you all, focused and clear, picking up the phones, talking, calling, writing your congressmen and women, making this something that is the highest priority for all of us, so that we can make sure that every single family in this country can move forward as we hope that they can; that they don’t have to worry about whether they can insure themselves. They don’t have to worry about whether their kids are going to break an arm. That’s what kids do, they break stuff. (Laughter.)

So I am grateful for all of you, for the work that you’ve done, and for what I know that we can do together over the next several weeks. But we have to be, what, fired up and what?

AUDIENCE: Ready to go!

MRS. OBAMA: And ready to go. A little fired up and ready to go. So thank you so much. God bless you all, and God bless America. (Applause.)

Copyright 2009. The Zaftig Redhead. All Rights Reserved.

Why We Need More Women in Congress: Watch This Kyl-Stabenow Exchange

Copyright 2009 (text only). The Zaftig Redhead. All Rights Reserved.

Sand Animation is Ukraine's Got Talent Winner: Amazing to Watch (Україна має талант)

Kseniya Simonova won the inaugural Ukraine's Got Talent competition by demonstrating a rather curious skill: the 24-year-old artist is a sand animator who creates dynamic narratives by manipulating tiny grains of silicon into vivid tableaux. Simonova's victory happened back in April, but a video clip of her winning performance, which made judges and audience members weep, recently became a viral sensation.
Things That Go Pop, 9/23/09

Copyright 2009. The Zaftig Redhead. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Tom Delay on DWTS: It Burns, My Eyes, It Burns!

Former Republican Majority Whip Tom Delay, so famous for his strong-arm floor management that he was nicknamed 'The Hammer,' made his debut on Dancing with the Stars this week. It is an uncomfortable viewing experience to say the least. Worse, the indicted former congressman from Texas' song choice was 'Wild Thing.' The dance was supposed to be a cha cha, but really -- especially when he shakes his ass and plays air guitar -- it's more of an ugh ugh. While I guess I have to give him props for the effort and the guts, my eyes still watered when I watched Delays 'moves.' Warning, young children should not be exposed. Two-time champ Cheryl Burke got screwed when she got stuck with 'The Hammer.'

Copyright 2009 (text only). The Zaftig Redhead. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Fox News' Beck Boils Live Frog on National Television

Okay, this is one for the books. Fox News' Glenn Beck has truly jumped the shark -- that's if anyone had any doubts. In an effort to underscore how ginned up the right-wingnut base has become over Obama's policies, Beck decided to literally demonstrate the old biology class example of adaptation -- with tragic consequences for a rather cute little frog. This is worse than former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's turkey pardon massacre last Thanksgiving. Where's PETA when we need them?

Copyright 2009 (text only). The Zaftig Redhead. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Democrats Face Referendums in Govenors' Races

While health insurance reform is the talk of the town when it comes to policy, it's the off-year gubernatorial races that have the politicos buzzing. Why? Well, they help the parties and pundits and the wonks read the tea leaves for the 2010 midterms elections. At the moment, the tea is something of a bitter brew for the Democrats.

In New Jersey, Gov. Jon Corzine (D) is in serious trouble against Republican Chris Christie. Corruption and an a recession have dogged Corzine, previously a senator and former CEO of Goldman Sacks. He has traditionally self funded his races -- but not this time around. Christie may have more money that Corzine does. And, while Jersey is known for its rough and tumble politics, it's getting uglier than usual in the Garden State. Take a look at this Corzine ad.

Meanwhile, in the land for lovers, the Virgina governor's race is also making headlines. This purple state, won by Barack Obama in 2008 and led by popular Democratic governors for the past 8 years, is seen as a bellwether for 2010. The race is a rematch of the state attorney general race four years ago, when Republican Bob McDonnell beat out state senator Creigh Deeds. Deeds won the Democratic primary against party mover and shaker Terry McAullife, but has been less than sparkling. While polls are close, Deeds has a GOTV problem. His voter mobilization network is not as strong as it should be, and he finds himself having to distance himself from a President whose 2008 coattails were golden.

Deeds has made up some ground thanks to a 20-year-old thesis written by McDonnell while at Regent University. According to the Washington Post,

in his thesis: "The Republican Party's Vision for the Family: The Compelling Issue of The Decade," McDonnell described working women as "detrimental" to the traditional family. He criticized a U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing contraception for unmarried couples and decried the "purging" of religion from schools. He advocated character education programs in public schools to teach "traditional Judeo-Christian values," and he criticized federal tax credits for child care expenditures because they encouraged women to enter the workforce.
See some of the news coverage of the thesis:

Both parties are pouring dollars and people into the two states, knowing that pundits and the public will see the outcomes as a first test of of the efficacy of Obama's presidency -- fair or not.

Copyright 2009 (text only). The Zaftig Redhead. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Obama Joint Session Speech: Resources for Analysis

While this wasn't truly a State of the Union, President Barack Obama's speech to a Joint Session of Congress tonight was still the political equivalent of the Super Bowl. The pressure was on, the rivalries were clear, the nation was tuned in -- and the newly-minted president delivered in spades. Below are some great pieces to help you analyze the speech's impact and import.

Quotable Quotes: Speech Transcript

Winners and Losers: Which federal programs and agencies got verbal real estate, and which didn't?

Shades of Grey: Fact Checking the Speech

He Said What? Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA) and The Republican Response

Copyright 2008. The Zaftig Redhead. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

It's the First Anniversary of The Zaftig Redhead!

Take a look at this verbal pictorial of the past year, using the most commonly used words in my blog, courtesy of Wordle. For folks like me, who can't read the find print, here's a link to the larger version of this word art. I also have to thank my friend Genghis for giving me the idea in the first place.

A sincere thank you to everyone for the adventure of the past year -- for the guest bloggers, the supportive e-mails, the many comments, the compliments and constructive criticism, and most of all -- for reading this humble blog whenever it fits into your busy lives. Cheers!

Copyright 2008. The Zaftig Redhead. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Guest Blog: A View from Detroit on the Eve of the Unveiling of the Big-3's Restructuring Plans

Editor's Note: The automakers will be handing over their restructuring plans this week, at the same time the Obama Administration has just made it clear there will be no "Car Czar." Instead, several senior administration officials will oversee the restructuring of the Big Three of the American car manufacturing industry.

This seems like a good time for a Guest Blog from someone who knows the American auto industry -- the good the bad and the ugly. Read on for an Insider's View of Detroit from hard-working friend, Grumpy Bear. I think you'll find it illuminating. And, in the interests of full disclosure, I drive a cute little 1999 Ford ZX2 Escort. Yep, it's 10 years old and going strong -- it's a great car, and never broke down until a few months ago, at the ripe out age of nine -- which it was polite enough to do in my own driveway. When I buy again, I'll be looking at Fords.

It has been with more than casual interest that I have tracked the process which Detroit’s Big-3 automakers have followed in their attempts to secure the financial means to a more stable future. Rest assured, if you were an engineer located in Detroit who worked for an organization whose balance sheet is roughly 70 percent dependent on the success or failure of these organizations, you would too. While it may seem preordained that my chosen vocation and geography would lend itself towards a bias in favor of Detroit I tend to think that I see a picture bigger than most, and most assuredly from a different perspective. The whole process of obtaining the bridge-loans brought forth a number of interesting points that, taken as a whole, seem to paint a picture within this country that from my vantage point is not very pretty.

The hearings themselves did seem a little bit like grand theater, with a DC twist. You had good-guy politicians (is that possible?) jockeying for the spotlight and in this era of "sound-bite" journalism, attempting to come across as more outraged than the next guy that anyone would dare to ask for help from the government. The scene also featured the bad guys –- the CEO’s of the Big-3. It almost appeared that they were prejudged by everyone outside of the Midwest as the source of all that is wrong with this country and emblematic of corporate America gone bad (private jets anyone?). So what did we learn from these hearings. In my case a great deal, and like many issues what you took away from these hearings sure seems to be a combination of your perspective mixed with any preconceptions that are brought to the table.

One big lesson I have taken from this entire affair is that many folks view the concept of good pay and manufacturing as an unworkable, almost undesirable, combination. I got the impression that the politicians sitting up on that bench during the hearings think you should expect low pay when you work in manufacturing. It was as if they felt that if you worked in manufacturing you must not be qualified for anything better. My best guess is that they think the preferred occupations folks in this country should aspire to are lawyers, bankers, and economists, and based on the amount of questioning the banking and financial industry received from congress prior to checks being sent in their direction, my guess may be closer than we all think.

But what is it about manufacturing in general, and it would seem the manufacturing of cars in particular (or at least American cars), that seems to bring this out in folks? Having been involved in the assembly of products for my entire professional career (I’m 44) I seem to have not gotten the word that having the skill, desire and ability to think on your feet, solve problems on a continual basis, and end the day knowing you had produced something tangible for your efforts wasn’t honorable and worthy of compensation. But I digress…

The automotive sector in this country has a long and colorful history to say the least. From innovators and inventors (think Henry ford and Thomas Edison) to the flamboyant and charismatic (think Lee Iacocca and John DeLorean) there is no shortage of characters or scoundrels. Also, the business has never been for the faint of heart what -- with the inherent long-lead times to bring product to market mixed in with the fickle nature of the buying public and overlaying government polices. For a more up close and personal feel, talk with anyone who has dealt with any of the Big-3’s purchasing agents (I don’t know how Original Equipment Manufacturer's [OEM] buyers sleep at night -- but that's another blog).

Of course, intertwined in this entire hodge-podge are the folks that actually do the heavy lifting and produce the cars that the majority of Americans still drive. Since about 1935, these folks have been represented by a union we now know as the UAW, or United Auto Workers. To say that it has been an historically love/hate relationship between the automakers and the UAW would be putting it mildly, but other industries (steel and rubber come to mind) have had their own rocky roads as the American labor movement progressed. And like these other industries, the Big-3 would often buy labor peace with lucrative agreements that made these union workers the envy of the world. Some would argue that they helped to create and then expand the middle-class. This model of ever expanding benefits worked as long as folks bought cars. However, as the only constant in this world appears to be change, even this model eventually failed.

So the world changed, and like many companies, the Big-3 tried to change with it. It did not help that their management teams were more than a little slow on the uptake. An oil embargo in the 70’s drove customers initially to smaller foreign cars; the same small foreign cars that had been languishing on dealer lots six months prior. This is a good example of the buying public voting with their wallet and asking an organization to move faster than they were capable. It was not as if the Big-3 did not have smaller cars to choose from during the embargo (think the Chevy Vega or the, in my opinion, exonerated Ford Pinto). But as can be read about in great depth from other sources, this period started a multi-year game of catch-up for the Big-3, as market share slowly fell and build quality and product design came into question. Depending on whom you ask, the Big-3 may still be playing catch-up.

So did this sudden shift towards smaller cars -- combined with other corporate faux pas, poor build quality, and a growing perception that the UAW and corporate America were out of touch -- lead to a backlash against the Big-3? Or did we have a generational event occur where folks would buy anything as long as it was not the same choice as their parents'? Perhaps the 1980’s brought on buying habits that changed as folks sought out new and different ideas, and discovered that your personal wealth might grow at a faster rate if you did not work with your hands -- other than to shuffle paper. Or perhaps since a car often represents the second-largest consumer purchase most folks make, they wanted the most perceived value for their money.

But the world kept changing and the UAW and Big-3 slowly changed with it. One must give credit where credit is due: the UAW and Big-3 have worked together, improved product design and productivity, avoided a major strike for many years (longer than some teachers' unions), and recently hammered out contracts that nearly put them on par with other non-unionized auto workers in this country (I have to wonder, though -- is it a crime to earn just a bit more than the other guy?). Today, the Big3's build quality and productivity is on par, if not better, than many overseas companies. In short the Big-3 are really back, and have gone through very painful changes in the process. But, of course, it is never enough -- and none of their detractors want to believe it or give them credit for it.

This brings us back to the hearings in DC and the almost venomous thoughts many folks seemed to have for the automotive industry. I’m not questioning folks' patriotism, or the fact that they might actually prefer to "Buy American" products when it's possible. It just seems that folks' do not want to buy American cars, come hell or high water -- to the point that people would refuse a family member’s offer to use a domestic discount plan in favor of paying sticker (or higher) for a foreign car. Some actually wished the entire industry would just go away.

From my perspective I find this whole turn of events rather disheartening. Of course, I don't have the answer. But knowing folks' perceptions about those of us in the automotive industry, even if I did have the answer I doubt it would be believed. I’m even willing to bet that folks believe and support the nuclear power industry more than the Big-3 auto and its executives -- and after Three Mile Island that is saying something.

Perhaps I do feel a bit of nostalgia for the home team; my family growing up drove American cars for as long as I can remember, and I eventually spent six years working for an OEM before I switched to working in support of them. I will be the first to say that the Big-3 have made mistakes and are more than a little difficult to work with. However I thought Americans traditionally liked to root for an underdog. Unfortunately in the case of the American auto industry, that does not appear to be the case -- and that makes me more than a little sad.

This blog has been nominated for the Bloggers' Choice '09 awards. Vote for The Zaftig Redhead!

Copyright 2008. The Zaftig Redhead. All Rights Reserved.

Impressions of the Obama Administration -- So Far

Well, it's been a month since I've last blogged... life gets in the way sometimes, you know? Nothing horrible -- in fact, some good things politically -- but that's a topic for a future blog. In the meantime, I wanted to pass along a few tidbits of information as well as my impressions of President Obama's first few weeks in office. They have been eventful, to say the least.

The Stimulus/Recovery bill: The media is calling this a great victory for the new administration. Maybe, but at what cost? Yes, we needed both a stimulus and recovery package, that would create and save jobs and pour needed funds into our frozen economy. But the Obama Administration sold a lot of progressive ideals down the river in the name of bipartisanship -- a pipe dream at best given the tenor of congressional Republicans -- and the bill was hugely weakened as a result. It's too heavy on tax cuts and not enough pure spending -- which pretty much all economists say we need to make this plan work. They even agreed to cut some of the food stamps to try to lure Republicans -- food stamps that not only feed the increasingly hungry masses but also, dollar for dollar, are the most stimulative program you can fund. On the plus side, Obama went on the road and sold the plan campaign-style -- very smart, very well done, and just want the country needed to hear. My greatest fear about Obama all along was that he'd pull a Jimmy Carter and be too nice by half in the name of bipartisanship. I am hoping that after this experience, he will begin the uncomfortable realization that it takes two to tango, and while Obama has been extending his hand in friendship the Republicans have been sharpening their knives to cut the new president off at the knees.

Ledbetter: President Obama made the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act the first bill he signed -- mostly because the Recovery Plan and S-CHIP weren't ready. But it still sent a powerful message that pay equity was an issue the new president took to heart -- he speaks about it quite eloquently, recalling his grandmother's experience. Indeed, Ledbetter campaigned for Obama -- making several well received commercials and speaking at the Democratic National Convention in Denver. She also rode the inaugural train, and was the second woman to dance with the president -- second only to his wife -- at the inaugural balls. The Obama's treated Lilly Ledbetter wonderfully well -- and like the shero she is. But Obama could have pushed the recalcitrant Senate to also pass the Paycheck Fairness Act -- a Clinton bill the then-Senator from New York wanted to finish before she changed addresses, and that had been passed in a good bipartisan vote in the House just a week before the Senate took up Ledbetter. Granted, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is a wuss of the first order, and Ledbetter lead sponsor Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) was a huge roadblock -- she only wanted her bill, the sure thing -- but the president could have pushed more. I will do an entire blog on this issue when I have more time -- I am that disappointed in both the Senate Democrats and the president on this one. It was a change for true economic justice -- and a stimulus hit, too.

Cabinet Nominations: Well, gotta cut the guy a break here. No president gets them all through without some stumbles. It makes the leader of the free world more human, I think -- and shows early on how they will deal with such problems. Obama stepped up and owned mistakes -- good for him. So, generally a good cabinet. LOVE Hilda Solis. Her husband's minor tax issues are his alone -- they file separately, she has nothing to do with his business. Of course, the Republicans hate her because she is pro-labor. Well, tough shit. You lost the election -- what did you expect? The Senate needs to get off their ass and confirm her pronto, and the Republicans need to remember they aren't in charge any more (well, only Snowe, Collins and Specter are in charge, but I digress. Ha!). They already roughed up Attorney General Eric Holder -- they got their pound of flesh -- time to move on. As for Tom Daschle's withdraw -- I was not unhappy. I didn't think he was a great choice anyway -- all he cared about was health care and HHS is sooo much more and needs so much repair after the Bush years. I was not all that happy with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner's confirmation. Granted, unlike Larry Summers he seems to think girls can do math, but his excuses about his taxes -- like Daschle's -- were disingenuous at best, flat out lies at worst. Truthfully, if Daschle has gone first he would have been confirmed, and Geithner would have gotten the brunt of things and might still be at the New York Fed. Timing, as they say, is everything. Last but not least, I was glad to see Obamanites throw Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) under the bus after his unexpected withdrawal. Gregg never should have been nominated, so this worked out for the best -- and showed Gregg for the climber he is. The bad news is, well, Gregg is still awfully smart and awfully conservative and now a hero in the Senate -- ugh -- which means we still have to deal with his smarmy ass. Give it two years and New Hampshire will send him the way of John Sununu.

White House Staff: Obama's White House Team is generally quite good and accessible. I see a lot of energy and commitment in these folks, and that's refreshing. I am especially partial to Melody Barnes, the Chief Domestic Policy Advisor. Not only is she good people, but she's smart as well and a progressive at heart. You can read more about his West Wing team, and get a layout of the offices, in this great interactive feature from the Washington Post called
Inside Obama's West Wing. The First Lady has also put together a good team, a clear indication she will be doing more than Book Festivals -- not that there's anything wrong with that. In fact, her first official act as First Lady was attending the signing and speaking at the reception for the Ledbetter bill. You can see some of her staff and the president's as well in this great spread from Vanity Fair.

VP Joe Biden: I love Joe, I really do. It's only been a few weeks and he's already spouted off with some zingers that have made the boss uncomfortable. Everything from poking at the Chief Justice for screwing up the oath of office to welcoming Big Labor back to the White House to jesting about how the openness and transparency of his office will be a big change from the last VEEP. He was a busy man working is home away from home, the Senate, on the recovery package. He has also been very involved in foreign policy matters -- no surprise there, and good for all of us. Lastly, he has been named the chair of the Middle Class Task Force, a new White House entity to look at pressing issues facing the middle class -- from jobs to balancing to work and family to pay equity and retirement -- and the executive and legislative measures needed to address these issues. He's a good choice for the job.

Well, I think that's enough for now. No doubt there will be more later. :)

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Copyright 2008. The Zaftig Redhead. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Top 15 Barack Obama Quotes

I found this on the Blog for Change, a blog devoted to Obama news. Not sure how the top 15 quotes were decided, but it's fun to read regardless -- on this eve of the Inauguration of the 44th President of the United States. Though, after the new President's speech tomorrow, I expect we'll have some new words of wisdom and inspiration to add. Can you feel it? Change is in the air. It won't be easy, it won't be quick, but it truly is a new day.

Top 15 Obama Quotes

1. “My first job is to say thank you to those who voted me. Those who didn’t, I’m going to get your vote next time.”

2. “My job is not to represent Washington to you, but to represent you to Washington.”

3. “We’re not going to baby sit a civil war.”

4. “There’s not a liberal America and a conservative America - there’s the United States of America.”

5. “In the end, that’s what this election is about. Do we participate in a politics of cynicism or a politics of hope?”

6. “I’m so overexposed, I’m making Paris Hilton look like a recluse.”

7. “If you’re walking down the right path and you’re willing to keep walking, eventually you’ll make progress.”

8. “My parents shared not only an improbable love, they shared an abiding faith in the possibilities of this nation. They would give me an African name, Barack, or blessed, believing that in a tolerant America your name is no barrier to success.”

9. “No one is pro-abortion.”

10. “The Bush Administration’s failure to be consistently involved in helping Israel achieve peace with the Palestinians has been both wrong for our friendship with Israel, as well as badly damaging to our standing in the Arab world.”

11. “Tonight, we gather to affirm the greatness of our nation - not because of the height of our skyscrapers, or the power of our military, or the size of our economy. Our pride is based on a very simple premise, summed up in a declaration made over two hundred years ago.”

12. “Because hope is not blind optimism.”

13. “Because nothing worthwhile in this country has ever happened unless somebody, somewhere stood up when it was hard; stood up when they were told – no you can’t, and said yes we can.”

14. “We have an obligation and a responsibility to be investing in our students and our schools. We must make sure that people who have the grades, the desire and the will, but not the money, can still get the best education possible.”

15. ”It’s been a great ride. But I know how quickly these fads can pass. You all remember the pet rock, the mood ring, Howard Dean.”

This blog has been nominated for the Bloggers' Choice '09 awards. Vote for The Zaftig Redhead!

Copyright 2008. The Zaftig Redhead. All Rights Reserved.