Amex Cuts 7,000 Jobs. What Would You Do?

American Express is cutting 7,000 jobs. Jobs are being slashed everywhere and that has me thinking…

What would you do if you lost your job tomorrow? Do you have a savings? Do you have enough to cover six to ninth months worth of all your expenses? Would you be OK for a while? Would you have a place to go? I am anxious to hear how stable people are. (If you leave a comment, feel free to do so anonymously.)

Designated Driver.

Many people have suggested that the turnout for this year’s election among college aged students will be huge. I am not trying to dispute that. That’s not the point of this post. But I do think that what some of the skeptics are saying is indeed very possible. The best way to illustrate this is to share a personal story.

In 1996 I was a graphic design student at Penn State University. It was November of an election year. Bill Clinton and Al Gore were running against Bob Dole and Jack Kemp. I arrived at the studio on Monday morning. Monday came and went and then election day arrived and I was still working. I hadn’t showered or slept since Sunday night. I ate whatever my classmates were having delivered. Lanny was beating us up again with tight deadlines and impossible projects. I did not plan for days ahead. I definitely didn’t plan for weeks. And in theory I cared about my future, and the future of my country, but when it actually came down to voting, I was willing to put that aside. I had a project due Wednesday morning and as the hours slipped by, it became clear to me that I might not meet the deadline. I was tired, scared and most of all exhausted.

I was in the computer lab when the phone rang. It evening. A classmate opened the door, “Michele, phone’s for you. I think it’s your mother.”

I am one in a family of five. I have one younger brother and one older brother and two parents. We all get along amazingly well—all of us. I adore each and every one of them. I could write wonderful things all of them, but to most it will just come off as some biased and affectionate attribution. Just know that they’re incredible people.

They’re also Republican. (With the exception of my younger brother who is a registered Independent but he generally leans toward the Republican side of the ticket come election time.)

I am the lone Democrat in my family. I always have been.

“Did you vote?” She asked.

“No.” I grunted back. “Been too busy. Haven’t seen outside since yesterday morning.”

“You have to vote. It’s no excuse.”

“I don’t have time. I just don’t.” I was fighting back tears. I was so tired. The LAST thing I wanted to do was go and waste precious minutes—minutes I needed to finish the project—voting.

“You make time. This is important.”

“I can’t walk all the way down there. I have a project due in the morning. I am going to be up all night. Walking down there and then waiting in line and then walking back will take too long. And someone told me that it’s raining.” I whined.

“I am going to come pick you and drive you there and wait and you will vote and then I will drop you back off. No excuses. You have to vote.”

My Republican mother was insisting that her Democrat of a daughter vote.

“FINE!” I grunted.

“I’ll be outside in 20 minutes.” She hung up the phone.

My mother drove fives miles in the rain to pick me up and take me to vote. And I simply must illustrate to you how simply absurd this was.

Exhibit A:

The Visual Arts Building is represented by the blue square. The voting station I was to report to is in red.

Yes, you’re assuming right. It’s a very short distance. It’s a quick walk. I do that each and every day now toting a baby and sometimes five bags of groceries. But then I found it impossible to justify taking a few precious minutes out of my busy class schedule to get my ass down there and vote.

My laziness to this day astounds me. What on earth was I thinking? Or not thinking? Is any project that important? Any professor? How could anything be more important than voting? And I feel so silly that my mother came to pick me up. Believe me, I am well aware of how irresponsible I was. But I was in college and my days were filled with small and immediate deadlines. And at the time my president was my design professor.

While I think every college student has every intention of voting this Tuesday, I also think it’s naive to think that they will do so. College students may have their heads and hearts in the right place most of the time, but I think it’s easy to say one thing and then lose track of that time or decide it’s not as important as the immediate project at hand. I am not suggesting that all college students do this, but I can’t imagine that I am alone with my experience, as shameful as it may be.

In my case, I was lucky to be living near my parents when I was in college. Because if it hadn’t been for my mother, I never would have made it down there to vote. I had EVERY intention on doing so, I really did, but I just know I never would have made it happen. I know it to be true but I am not proud of that truth.

My mother waited in the car and I cast my vote. The rain continued to fall as I walked back to the car. It felt really great to be outside. I cleared my head for the long night I had ahead of me.

“Thanks.” I mumbled. I really meant it.

“You’re welcome.”

We sat in silence for a minute, listening to the sound of the wipers push water to and from.

“You do realize I voted for Clinton, right?”

“Yup. I kind of guessed.”

“Had you not done this, he would have had one less vote.”

“Yup.” She answered.

“That’s kind of funny, mom.”

“I know.”

Whether you’re a Republican (like every other member of my family) or a liberal leaning freak like myself, please get out and vote this year. Don’t say you don’t have time or that you don’t care. Don’t be a loser like me. And since my mother did such a smashing job at getting Clinton elected by insisting that I vote for him in 1996, I think I owe a ride to my fellow Americans, particularly those who are in college.

Do you need a ride this Tuesday? I will come pick you up—Republican or Democrat—I don’t care who you’re voting for. But you have to vote.

Invest In Happy Memories.

Greg Mankiw breaks down tax on investments.

In a nutshell, unless you’re the type of person who makes it now and spends it now, both candidates’ tax plans suck for you. That’s not to say that this is entirely their fault or that it’s something they have control over. This is a fault of how our system is set up.

If you have a second, read this.

(Thanks to Missy for the link.)

Open Discussion Thread About Toddlers

I have about a dozen half-written posts to push live. I never seem to find the time to finish them, however. I only now just realized they are stories about Em and our day-to-day lives and they usually end in a question. So, because I’m not sure I’ll ever get around to making them public given my day’s seem to be getting shorter and shorter, I figured it might be worth a shot to just list them here and see if folks want to talk/discuss/commiserate, whatever.

Feel free to answer or discuss any of the questions below. I’m not necessarily asking for me solely, but I think that other parents who read this site may benefit from it as well.

1). How long does it take for your little guy to eat? (I’m talking finger-food eaters, young enough for a highchair.) Is there a record where this is concerned?

2). Do you give him or her dessert? How often?

3). At what age did you introduce McDonald’s? If you haven’t, do you ever plan to? (This is something I’ve been curious about. I wonder how kids discover it. We don’t eat McDonald’s in this house unless we’re pregnant and we see a commercial featuring a breakfast sandwich and our husbands are out of town.)

4). Do you plan on teaching your child about sex at an early age? I hear that many people are suggesting it begin as young as pre-school. (I am all for teaching Em about sex at a young age so he doesn’t ever potentially suffer at the hands of an adult. I am unsure of how to go about doing so. Although, TJ seems to have a secure grasp on how do to this. So I will most likely learn from him.)

5). What snacks do you give your child? (We have done pretzels, goldfish, Mum-Mums, Graduates’ Stars, Cheerios, String Cheese, and grapes and other fruits but we’re always looking for more ideas.)

6). What sources of protein do you give your little one?

7). If you’re not a religious person, and your son or daughter one day says, “What (or who’s) God?” What will you say?

8). Do you watch TV around your child? Do you let him or her watch TV? (We do. My kid loves BoohBah as freaky as that show is. He also loves Sesame Street as do I.)

It’s a free for all today, my friends. Ask whatever you want. Answer what you will. And as always thanks for stopping by!

What is Feminism? Is it Dead?

I’m not sure if you’ve had the unfortunate experience of reading about the ugly display that took place on Thinking and Drinking with Lizz Winstead last week. I’m guessing that if I heard about it, everyone has.

To put it bluntly: It was a train wreck.

Nutshell: Lizz Winstead (host of “Thinking and Drinking”, previous writer for “The Daily Show”) asked Tracie Egan and Moe Tkacik to be guests on the show because “Their work on Jezebel has made them role models for young women everywhere.” (One 20-year-old blogger who was in the studio audience stated that Moe is her “Feminist Superhero.”)

Moe and Tracie are said to have arrived drunk and they proceeded to get drunker. The conversation started off with jokes about abortion and how many they’ve had. They talked about how the pull out method is the most fun way not to get pregnant. The conversation then moved on to rape. Some of the things these women said about rape had me opened-mouthed and speechless. I was in bewildered awe over the seemingly blatant ignorance.

I am not a reader of Jezebel. I am by no means someone who can speak about their writing history or their background. I do not know their audience. After having watched the video, however, I am happy I never got to know these two women—as writers, role models, bloggers, whatever. They came off as arrogant, childish, and worst of all, irresponsible. As someone unfamiliar with Jezebel, I have been turned away entirely.

But! The whole situation has left a horrible taste in my mouth. And I am not sure why. Perhaps it’s because these two are seen as role models.

I am left asking one giant question:

When did feminism become about sexually explicit vulgarity, sleeping with a different guy every night, or boasting about the number of abortions you’ve had?

(I bet Lydia Lunch and Lung Leg are pissed off—two generations too late. Sorry, ladies! Who knew fisting might one day become a symbol of feminism?)

I fail to see how getting blasted drunk and having a lot of sex is feministic. The way they acted bugged me, sure. But I think what bugs me the most is that they are looked up to and respected. Plus, they’re probably making close to a hundred grand a year doing this, acting this way.

But my husband said, “You CAN’T change the world. There are going to be idiots. I don’t know why this bothers you so much. Let them go. But if you really want to make a difference, contact the editors and producers. If they think advertisers are going to back out, they will reprimand the writers.”

OK, so I’m not going to try and change the world or contact anyone involved because it won’t do any good. He’s right about that. That’s why I chose to avoid linking to either of the women’s sites because I’d rather not add fuel the fire. (If you want to find all the “good” stuff, they can do so by clicking the above link to Lizz Winstead’s article.) My words will mean nothing—just take up some more virtual space. I can’t ask these women how they’re feminists. I’m a teeny tiny voice in a sea of millions. (Plus, I am sort of a pussy when it comes to online fighting.) But I do want to ask one parting question:

What is Feminism? Is it Dead?

Because I think it’s dead. And I think a hideous intruder has risen in its place.

Dog Park Politics

It’s probably pretty obvious by now that I’m what some may call a “cat person”. I love cats. I love all animals. But I love cats. They hold a special place in my heart, even the troubled ones. And so I am biased. I’ll admit that straight up.

Every day (weather permitting) Emory and I take a walk through Mcgolrick Park. There’s a dog park right by the Driggs street entrance. We usually enter there, loop around, hit the playground for a bit and then loop back around and exit through the Driggs street entrance. We always walk by the dog park and I’ll stop for a couple of minutes to show Em the dogs. He’s so used to being around cats, I figured it’s best to introduce him to a couple of the other 5,000 plus species of mammals. I’ve introduced him to Penn State bunnies, Mcgolrick Park squirrels, and several Brooklyn dogs. He’s also met a few birds, which he speaks to by grunting.

Yesterday was not unlike every other day except that the sky threatened us with dark clouds. The ground was wet as were the swings so we were unable to hang out in the playground. I spent a few extra minutes watching the dogs instead.

I don’t know a lot about dogs or dog parks because I haven’t ever owned a dog. I do spectate, however. When I worked in the city and Tobyjoe and I rode our bikes to work, we’d meet every single day at the Union Square dog park where I’d watch the dogs interact with one another. I can’t tell you what breed of dog believes in which law of butt-sniffing, or whom agrees with whom, but I get the feeling that a dog park holds more political heat than all the goings on on Capitol Hill.

There are the big dogs, the little dogs, the older dogs, the dogs that hump, the dogs that run from humping dogs. There are the dogs that avoid all other dogs. There are the dogs that want to hang out with all other dogs. There are friendly dogs, mean-looking dogs, dumb looking dogs and there are smelly dogs. There are dogs that cower, dogs that bark a lot, dogs that do nothing but run. There are dogs that want to just go home already! And there always seems to be one or two dogs that make all other dogs (and me) nervous, like, you just never know what they’ll do if you look at them the wrong way.

And so yesterday whenever the medium-sized white dog attacked the brown dog by going right for its throat, I very nearly threw up from the stomach acid that bubbled up from my belly. And Emory had no idea what was going on. Suddenly, angry barks filled the playground and all hell broke lose. Little dogs ran in the opposite direction from the fight. The owners (two hipster couples) tried desperately to pry their dogs apart with very little luck. It took an uncomfortably long time for the man from one couple to pull his white dog from the brown dog. And all the while the male owner of the brown dog screamed, “NO!!! NOO!!!! NOOO!!!!” at the top of his lungs. And they weren’t commands, he was pleading with whomever would listen. He was begging into thin air, trying to reason with angry dogs.

With humans, unless there’s a weapon involved, a fight doesn’t usually end in death. The way these dogs instantly went for the jugular, meant business and their business was with death.

I was stuck there, in space, watching. I couldn’t close my mouth, look away; I couldn’t move. It was terrifying, a truly horrific experience, one that brought tears to my eyes, one that will continue to haunt me for days.

Does this happen often at dog parks? Do owners constantly have to look out for the potentially troubled animal? Does the owner of the potentially troubled dog know that they’re dog could very well freak out at any given moment? Do owners of small dogs worry whenever a larger dog comes around? Are there people who avoid the dog park altogether because they worry about fighting? Are these things dog owners know instinctively or do they learn over time?

Yesterday’s incident was the second dog park dogfight I have seen in two weeks. The first one was less horrific because the owner of the dog being attacked was able to scoop his pup up before the other dog got a firm hold. That owner then promptly turned to the other couple and said, “Get your dog out of this park right now!”

Three weeks ago, I was out for a jog and I saw a dog suddenly stand up from a blanket and tackle a toddler who was running around with his mother in the park. The toddler was knocked down hard enough to warrant one of those silent screams. And the couple just yelled for the dog to return to their blanket. I would never hurt any animal, but if that had been my son, I am not sure what I would have done to that couple.

Either way, Em and I are going to have to find some other way to learn about dogs. Their unpredictable nature scares me too much.

And I’m reminded of why I don’t think I want one right now.

Edited to add: I am not anti-dog. I don’t have a huge amount of time to reread and edit my thoughts today sadly. I realize that’s irresponsible of me. Sorry, folks! I have tried to clear up any possible miscommunication in the comments section.

Clearing the Air.

Someone left a comment (anonymously, of course) on the last post I wrote calling me a racist. It bummed me out enough that I haven’t wanted to approach this Web site all weekend. At first I thought, who cares what this coward anonymously wrote on my Web site, but then I realized that others may feel the same way.

If my last post came off as racist, it wasn’t intentional. Of course it wasn’t intentional. There were several races and nationalities present on the playground that day. There were several different classes present as well. At no point did I suggest that the fight was between a certain race, at least I don’t think so.

I live in between Greenpoint and Williamsburg, Brooklyn. This area is made up of every single race, religion, and nationality you can think of. It’s also home to several different classes, there are a lot of lower income people and then there are a lot of people who have moved in over the last couple of years that are (for lack of a better term) filthy stinking rich. Even more recently, there have been a lot more Western Europeans moving into the neighborhood. (Eastern Europeans make up a large group and have since long before I arrived back in 2000.) I liken the influx of Western Europeans to the solid Euro. But this is admittedly not my ground of familiarity.

Because of the huge and constant influx of people heading to Greenpoint and Williamsburg, the high schools become more and more diverse. At least that’s the way it appears from an outsider’s point of view. (And by outsider, I mean one without kids of high school going age.)

When I compared us moms to guppies, I meant we’re breeders. (Aren’t guppies breeders? Don’t they tend to take over fish tanks whether you like it or not?) When I compared the high school kids to attack fish, I meant that sometimes (especially when they’re in large groups, which is usually the case whenever school lets out around here) then can become really nasty and sometimes violent. There was one occasion where another driver and I had our cars surrounded by kids who had just gotten out of the Automative high school (the group was made up of several different races, mind you).

It was really scary, to be honest. And if Emory had been the car, I probably would have called 911. Instead, I looked straight ahead, as did the driver in front of me, and waited for them to get bored. (Thankfully, there are usually cops around that area because of the amount of fights and problems that break out whenever school lets out.)

The whole experience, the way they surrounded our cars, reminded me of piranha. Perhaps I irresponsibly failed to bring that up. Perhaps it came off as racist. If it did, it was unconscious to me.

So, I’m sorry if any of you thought my last post was racist. Perhaps it was a little classist. The groups represented on the playground last week may hold animosity toward one another because of classism, but I don’t think anyone could stay in this neighborhood for too long if they were in fact racists. They would go completely insane with hate. There are just too many different walks of life. Maybe my naivety is showing. But I have seen more acts of hatred due to class differences while living here than I have acts of racism. (Not that racism doesn’t exist.)

We live in a culture that promises its people that the harder you work the richer and more prosperous you’ll be, which is a load of crap. We’re not all given equal opportunities. Life is highly unfair for a lot of people living in the U.S. I see it here each and every day. Sometimes the folks who work the absolute hardest make the smallest fortune. I fall into the bitterness from time to time—hating on the really rich people buying up the waterfront real estate without a care in the world, without a care about the history of this place. Yet, I am that person to people who have lived here for decades. I took over at one point as well. Perhaps we need to redefine fortune to mean more than just money. Maybe then people will be less resentful toward others.

I’m not sure why I’m writing about this today. Perhaps the comment bugged me more than it should have. And perhaps that is exactly what the person was going for. (You win, anonymous coward.) But it always does. Every time I get a hateful email or comment it bugs me more than you can possibly know.

I’m also not really 100% today. I seem to have come down with one killer of a sickness. I woke up covered in hives this morning, big white welts. I feel worse than I have in a long, long time.

So, if you want to discuss race and class and how insensitive my previous post was to you, I invite you to do so. I would have left the anonymous comment had it held any redeeming points. Instead, the person insulted me and then walked away. I really do learn from the people who visit and post on here. I cherish each and every voice I have read. Feel free to say whatever you want, just be kind in making your points, and make valid ones.

And maybe today you could put one kid glove on, I really feel very ill.

Race Appeal Vs. Sex Appeal

My heart goes out to the people living in Tennessee and Arkansas. I can’t even begin to imagine the horror some have had to endure over the last 24 hours. What was supposed to be a great day where politics was concerned ended up being a worse nightmare for many living down south.

TobyJoe and I have been watching the results come in since last night. We’ve been glued to a muted CNN. (Modest Mouse plays in the background. I have this idea that TV-watching only “counts” if it’s audible. Dumb? Entirely.) Of course, watching the numbers come in has me ignorantly hypothesizing.

Here are some of my fleeting, (stream of conscious) thoughts:

I can’t believe only about 500 registered Democrats voted in Alaska. Wait, how many people actually live in Alaska? The nation is split on who they want as their Democratic frontrunner. Wow, wouldn’t it be awesome if Clinton and Obama ran together? I know that won’t ever happen. Hillary can’t use “Clinton” on her signage. Is it that there are more people living in the Northeast and therefore there are more people voting? Or do the folks in the middle just not care to get out and vote? If Obama gets the nomination, I think many Hillary supporters will happily change their votes. If Hillary does, however, I am not sure Obama supporters will change theirs. Perhaps Obama is more electable. I prefer Hillary’s healthcare plan to Obama’s. Obama’s speeches are something to be savored. I wonder why Edwards hasn’t come out in support of anyone yet. I wonder who’s more likely to ask Edwards to be VP? I like Edwards. Why do the Latinos like Hillary so much? Which Dem can deal with all the swiftboating better? What is that smell? Oh, baby vomit!

(Edited to add: A LOT more than 500 people voted in Alaska. The stats on CNN that day were incorrect or the percentage of votes counted wasn’t actually at 98%. Sorry!)

Here is a more refined thought:

I want to mention a few things about the whole race/female thing as it’s impossible to ignore, especially when our newscasters and talking heads seem to want to differentiate between the two every chance they get. I was visiting another Web site yesterday and witnessed several people attack a woman who voted for Hillary Clinton. She had several reasons for backing Hillary Clinton and mentioned those reasons. At the very end, however, she mentioned something about her being female. That set several people off. “I think it’s SO wrong to vote for someone just because she’s female!” The comments kept coming, verbal attacks against the voter’s character just because she mentioned liking the fact that a female was contending for president of the United States.

I watched a lot of news yesterday. I think it was CNN (there’s a small chance it could have been MSNBC or CBS) who stood outside and interviewed people as they exited their polling stations. There was one black gentleman who, when asked, said that he voted for Obama. He was then asked why he supports Obama and his reasoning was (and I’m paraphrasing), “He represents hope. He stands for change. And, yes, his being a black man had something to do with it.” The guy didn’t seem to know anything about Obama’s stance, beliefs, etc.

I’m not sure what question I want to ask here and I’m admittedly wading into very unfamiliar and dangerous waters. But here goes nothing. Why has there been such a backlash for women voters mentioning voting for another woman? What’s the difference between the two decisions? Is it only racist if a person were to vote for the white guy solely to vote against a black guy? Is it not racist to vote for the black guy just because he is indeed black?

Here’s how Webster defines the word Racist:

1 : a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race

2 : racial prejudice or discrimination

We all know that racism is more complex and varied than the cartoon version people always reference. The type of racism evident in this gentleman’s vote is interesting, to say the least. Thus far, the pundits and mainstream media have limited the discussion of racism in this election cycle to the act of avoiding particular candidates. There’s another site to racism in the discussion of electability, and it equally trivializes the important aspects of a potential President: voting record, views on the Constitution, respect for our FOUR-branch system of government, and general trajectory on issues major and minor.

I am happy with both of the Democrats running. I would cast my vote for either one of them in a heartbeat. But, I don’t know everything they stand for. So, my goal over the next several months is to learn as much as humanly possible about both Democratic contenders. I hope to move beyond getting information from bulleted lists, or deciding to vote for him because Oprah told me to or her because I liked Bill so much. (Not that either one of those are reasons I voted for whom I voted.) I want to feel like I made a very solid, informed decision and not just a good one.

Now all I have to do is find the time.

Help Us All

Huckabee won in Iowa last night. Obama won as well.

Huckabee? Are you kidding me? Come on, America!

Huckabee’s win is more than surprising to me, shocking even. If he does become the Republican candidate in the general election, we’re going to see more and more of his past come to light. Of course, it may be too late by then (for Republican voters).

Here is how Huckabee feels about a woman’s role in marriage.

“I affirm the statement on the family issued by the 1998 Southern Baptist Convention.” The family statement from the SBC was: “A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ.”

Huckabee carried Republican women voters last night, picking up about 40 percent of women Caucus goers. Romney got 24 percent.

Huckabee doesn’t believe in evolution and instead believes God set things in motion, that there was a “creative process”.

“If you want to believe that you and your family came from apes, I’ll accept that… I believe there was a creative process.”

When asked about the evolution question he said, “I’m not sure what in the world that has to do with being president of the United States.”

I’d say a clear misunderstanding about science has much to do with being president. Considering he has very little grasp on what evolution even is, and he and his administration would become responsible for the education of our children, I shudder to think what he’ll do to and in our public schools.

Evolution is not about developing from apes, Huck! That simplified, stupid cartoon is nothing more than a lazy rhetorical device.

I’m flabbergasted that such a man made it this far. And the fact that he did so on the female vote, scares me even more.

Fellow Democrats (and Dem-leaning indys): we need Edwards to be our Democratic candidate.

Kerry wasn’t electable. A lot of Democrats felt someone let the air out of their tires 4 years ago after Bush won for a second term. It wasn’t that everyone loved Bush, it was that nobody liked Kerry.

I really believe that if it comes down to a white guy like Huckabee and a white woman or a black man, the knee jerk reaction, Democrat, Independent or Republican, will be to vote for the white guy. I agree with many that Obama is great, I may even vote for him. But is he electable? Put your personal feelings aside and really ask yourself that.

Sure, he won the Democratic majority in Iowa but will he win a general election? I say the same thing about Hillary. As much as I like her (I read her book many years ago and from that point on I have a soft spot in my heart for Hillary, in spite of her many flaws) I fear her electability.

While I’d probably enjoy seeing Hillary or Obama go head-to-head with the Republican I really think Edwards is our most electable candidate. No matter what happens, please, please, please don’t tell me that Huckabee is going to be the next President of the United States.

I just had a son. This idea makes me very uneasy.

Edited to add: My thoughts have changed over the course of the day. Perhaps Obama is electable. I hope that he is. I look forward to what he has to say and am excited to see where his campaign goes. Also, if he does get it, I suggested getting Kucinich for VP. heh