Friday, October 31, 2008

Friday Cat Blogging: Election Al

It's been a long time since I posted a Friday Cat Blogging pic and being both Halloween and close to Election Day I should have been more inspired. I tried taking a certifiable "Cats For Obama" picture but Al wasn't helping. (Neither was my flash). I think Al might be undecided or maybe unregistered. Lena is harder to poll.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Dear Prudie Goes For Slut-Shaming

I guess I can't act too surprised if your advice column is named "Dear Prudence." A recent column had a letter-writer concerned about her niece and a pit bull.

Dear Prudence,

My sister is 20 years old, has an 18-month-old daughter, and is a great mother. She doesn't have much money, so she recently moved in with a new roommate. The roommate has a pet pit bull. I met the dog a couple of days ago, and while she is very sweet, she also seems to be pretty nervous. I know I was a new person to this dog, but overall what I saw was potentially a very dangerous situation for my niece. I told my sister that, and she told me that she trusts the dog and thinks she's well-mannered. She said that the dog and her daughter get along well, the dog doesn't mind if the child pokes her, and that the dog lets the child sleep in her dog bed sometimes! Is this one of those situations where I can't tell her what to do, so I should leave it alone? Or should I call child protective services?
So what followed could have been a pretty standard answer. Or should have been.

Dear Uneasy,

No wonder the dog is nervous. Suddenly a small human is sticking fingers in her eyes and sleeping in her bed. You're probably sweet and well-mannered yourself, but surely you would lash out at someone who invaded your home and poked your orifices all day. That a pit bull is involved adds to the potential damage if the dog strikes back, but even a placid basset hound could be provoked to take a hunk out of a toddler's face under these circumstances. When a dog uncharacteristically attacks a child, often the aggressor was the child who simply didn't understand that you can't pull on a real dog's tail the way you can your favorite stuffed animal. Your sister is a 20-year-old single mother; that alone indicates she still lacks the ability to understand how acting on her impulses can lead to life-changing events.

Why is being 20 and having a kid shows you lack impulse-control? Oh it's because clearly you are a slut who can't keep her legs crossed. There is no other way in interpret that sentence. Prudie (which, again, what did I expect when prudence is so close "prude.") is tsk, tsking her for being 20 and having S-E-X.

Did she stop and think that maybe the condom broke. Maybe her birth control just failed. Heck in some parts of this country they would think that baring and raising the child is proof that she's not impulsive. Does Prudie really feel like she needed to get into the circumstances of the child's existence to offer advice?

UPDATE: Prudie responded to my email. She writes:
I didn't call her a s--t, I said she clearly lacks judgment, which she clearly does. I think our out-of-wedlock birthrate is a tragedy and I wish more people spoke out about it to make young women consider the consequences of their behavior.
Which I responded what is this "their behavior" you are speaking of? Having sex out of wedlock? Or getting pregnant?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Thought For the Day: Job Applications

My organization just advertised for a part-time, contract postion (meaning no benefits). It's $13/hr, although we did say "hours are flexible" we're looking for someone who can work 2-3 days a week. In my head the kind of person who would want this job would be a college student or a grad student.

I put up one ad, in one spot, on Craiglist. For this job, which didn't have a whole lot of description about us, I got 40 applicants in the first day. There's another 20 that came in today. By three days I bet I have at least 75 applicants. By the end of the week I'll probably get another 25 applicants.

Something to think about when applying for even "crappy" jobs on CL.

UPDATE: It's Friday and the response rate slowed down tremendously. But so far I have about 84 applicants. However of that 84, only about 5-6 are really top candidates. Some over-qualified, many under-qualified, many are applying for everything on craiglist. Some clearly are searching for a full-time permenant job and I'm not sure how this job would work for them. But the biggest hurdle is that people who have no experience in this type of work. It's possible they could do the work and even be great at it. But you can understand why its easier to look for candidates with experience doing a similar type of work. A few I'm putting aside for another position we might hire for.

Another thing I realized, interviewing people is harder than it looks.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Right Way to Write a Sarah Palin Op-Ed

Sometimes I just want to point out the correct way to write an op-ed. Ever since she got nominated, my office has been flooded by authors who want to write about Sarah Palin. Some were okay, but many were way too strident. No one reading the op-ed was going to be convinced of anything other than that the author really didn’t like Palin’s policies or how they thought she would govern.

I’ve written before about how op-ed writers need to make themselves be an “expert” on the subject they are writing about. Just because you have an opinion about Sarah Palin doesn’t mean anyone should listen to you -- unless you can tie yourself into the subject. You have to find the logic that give you the “in” to subject matter.

This Washington Post column by Catherine Iino is nearly perfect example in tying a non-national name to a national subject.

I serve on the Board of Selectmen of Killingworth, Conn., a town that has about the same population as Wasilla, Alaska, and I share Sarah Palin's affection for small-town life.
Notice there isn’t much of a preamble. She goes right into who she is and what she’s going to talk about. Then she uses her background in serving on the board of a small town to explain why that experience is relevant to talking about Sarah Palin.
It's been widely reported that Sarah Palin hired her friends for high offices and turned to her family for advice. You do that in a small town. The talent pool is limited. You know who is sensible, who gets things done, who is willing to donate time and energy. In my town, few positions -- appointed or elected -- are paid. Even the opportunities for graft and corruption are small potatoes. (Killingworth hasn't received any earmarks.) You call your friends and cajole them into serving on one more board or committee.
There’s nothing horribly partisan or accusatory. Sarah Palin did hire her friends for office and turned to her husband for advice. The author isn’t saying that’s wrong. But she manages to turn the fact to the point she wants to make.
This is not the way you want the federal government to be administered. Everyone knows everyone in Wasilla and Killingworth, but obviously, you can't know everyone in the United States. We need the people heading federal departments and agencies to have knowledge, competence and track records that inspire public confidence. And we need a chief executive who knows how to seek advice from independent experts, not just her friends and family.
And that’s the key. Catherine Iino is just a a boardmember in the small-town of Killingworth, Connecticut. Why is her opinion important? Because she can illuminate why running a small-town (even as “executive experience”) is entirely different than running a country.

Her ending is a bullseye.
Of course, small towns have distinctive vices as well as virtues. Because we don't have many professional administrators, we reinvent a lot of wheels. Decades-long feuds often color political debates. Sometimes we cut the wrong people too much slack. We muddle through, and I wouldn't want to see Killingworth tie itself in red tape trying to prevent these problems. But you couldn't run Safeway Inc., much less the federal government, the way you run a farm stand.

There is an aspect of small-town life that we should do our best to send to the national level: the attitude toward our neighbors. We need to believe that we are a community, that we all must contribute to the common good. Small-town executive experience, however, would be a risky thing to send to Washington.
Could Iino have tacked on more about Palin’s experience as governor? Sure, but the op-ed didn’t need it. Palin and the McCain campaign have made a virtue out of “small-townness.” Iino’s op-ed, without being harshly partisan or strident, simply points out the errors in the line of logic.

It’s a great op-ed written by an outside voice who knows what she's talking about.

--crossposted at Feminist Underground

Friday, October 03, 2008

LA Times Opinion Editor Is Fooled

Since I spend a lot of time talking to people who want to write op-ed columns, one of the first things I tell them is they have to figure out how they have a connection to the subject they want to write about. Basically, why should anyone want to read what you write? What makes you an “expert” on the subject?

Now when I say “expert” I don’t necessarily mean that you work at a think tank and write policy papers all day on the subject (although that would be great). But if you are writing about immigration, the economy, the presidential election, whatever, you have to somehow find a way to tie yourself to the subject matter. For example, in this piece, a New York woman is writing that like Sarah Palin, she’s also a “hockey mom.” She writes that she shares a lot of the same background as Gov. Palin. But she splits with her on position on reproductive rights. Her “expertise” is that she is also a hockey mom commenting on another hockey mom.

But Salon pointed to a great example of the Los Angeles Times picking up an op-ed by David Blankenhorn whose only buy-in is that the author is a “liberal” against gay marriage. Except that, as Salon points out. He’s probably not really a liberal.

The vehicle Blankenhorn uses for espousing his opinions on marriage and family values is a think tank he calls the Institute for American Values, of which he is president. In accordance with its status as an untaxed entity, IAV must file a Form 990 financial report annually with the IRS. These filings are available to the public, and you can learn a lot from them. Here is what public records tell us about IAV:

During the 15 years preceding 2006, IAV received nearly $4.5 million in funding from a coterie of ultra-conservative Republican foundations, including the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, the Scaife Family Foundation, and the Randolph Foundation. These foundations supply funds for a network of right-wing Republican think tanks that promote a variety of causes such as the elimination of gay marriage, abortion rights and embryonic stem-cell research; prayer in public schools; creationism and deregulatory free-market economics.

The thing about political leanings is it’s a lot like faith. You can’t prove someone isn’t a “Christian” if they claim they are, even if you point out all the unchristian things they do.

It makes perfect sense that the opinion editor of the LA Times took Blankenhorn at face-value when he sends in an op-ed saying “I’m a liberal.” But in a case like this, and read the op-ed yourself, it doesn’t make much of a point if it’s not backed by someone who has a solid-background in proven liberal beliefs. The argument doesn’t exist really if its not presented as coming from someone who normally agrees with liberal positions.

I think this is a case of “fool me once.” I’d like to think the LA Times isn’t going to get fooled again just by someone who claims to be an outlier. But I suspect they are more susceptible to this type of ruse because they want to think of themselves as “not liberal media.”