Friday, October 19, 2012

Mitt Romney’s “Binders Full of Women”: Why This Intended Boast Was Just Offensive

As have many, I have also found myself thinking a lot about Presidential candidate Mitt Romney's "binders full of women" remark  made during the Presidential debate this Tuesday, October 16, 2012.  Besides the reportedly  inherent inaccuracies of his statement, not to mention its characteristically “inelegant” nature, Romney’s remark has been bothering me on a more fundamental level.
The remark was in response to a question from a woman who asked Romney how he would "rectify the inequalities in the workplace" between men and women, specifically the 72 percent that women make of what men make for equal work.  Not only was his answer non-responsive to her specific question, it appeared to show an opposite belief on Romney’s part that women are actually incapable of equal work to men in high level positions.  Apparently, according to Romney, concessions must be made.
Romney’s answer potentially reveals three inaccurate, and, frankly, archaic beliefs.  First:  All women qualified to hold high level positions either have children they must take care of, or they would rather be a caretaker/homemaker than hold a high level position.  Neither is an absolute:  A) not all women have children—some choose a career over having children; B) last time I checked a biology textbook, it takes a man to have a child, so there are a lot of men in high level positions that have children too, so the need or desire for a flexible work schedule is not uniquely a female issue; and C) some women qualified for high level positions who have children also have partners (husbands or wives) who take on the primary childrearing and homemaking responsibilities, thus obviating the need for or want of a flexible work schedule. 
Second:  No men qualified to hold high level positions would ever want or need a flexible work schedule because they either do not have children or they have wives.  See B and C above; and D) the assumption that between a father and mother that only the mother wants or needs a flexible work schedule to care for school-aged children is a tired assumption, and it is high time fathers are given the opportunities for a flexible work schedule in order to spend more time with their children and/or step up to the plate to take on more of that role. 
Third:  Women are simply not interested in holding high level positions, so it takes a man (like Romney) to coax them into the position by promising flexible work schedules.  See A - D above.
Romney’s nonresponsive answer gives rise to more questions than it does to answer the woman’s question.  For instance, did the women Romney hire take a salary cut for their flexible work schedule?  Was the flexible work schedule offered equally to men and women in Romney’s cabinet?  Did they have the same opportunities for advancement while on a flexible work schedule as the men? Were they given fewer chances for real responsibility just because they were on a flexible work schedule? Whenever there is a discussion of women doing equal work for equal pay, or the (very real) glass ceiling in the private sector, inevitably the conversation goes right to women’s childrearing/homemaking responsibilities.  Although both issues do overlap in some places, the two are not inextricably tied together. 
Receiving equal pay for equal work has nothing to do with whether a woman has children, because men have children too.  Pay should be based on ability, not one’s lack of a uterus.  And while a flexible work schedule is certainly a welcome alternative, it should not be something offered to, or utilized by, only women.  There are plenty of really smart, qualified men who also want an opportunity to play a larger role in their children’s lives (Mitt even advocated “the benefit of having two parents in the home” during the debate), just as there are plenty of really smart, qualified women who should not only be offered the high level job, but who should receive the same pay as their male counterparts.
Apparently, Mitt did not, as he boasted, learn “a great deal” when he staffed his gubernatorial cabinet

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Are Republicans Intentionally Disenfranchising Obama Supporters?

As election day approaches, the courts are tackling various challenges to voter laws.  Joining the recent decision by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court is the United States Supreme Court.

Yesterday,  Monday October 15, 2012, the United States Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal from the Ninth Circuit's April 12, 2012 decision to strike down Arizona's Proposition 200 requiring voters to provide proof of citizenship in order to register to vote. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal stated that under the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), the states must "accept and use" the federal form to register to vote, which requires prospective voters to swear or affirm by their signature that they are a citizen of the United States.  The Arizona law sought to require prosepective voters to produce proof of citizenship in order to register.  The Ninth Circuit upheld Proposition 200's provision requiring voters to provide identification at the poll, but stated that the NVRA supercedes the requirement to provide proof of citizenship with the use of the NVRA voter registration form.  The Court will not hear oral argument in this case until after the election, in early 2013.

In another voters' rights case, the Supreme Court today declined to stay a decision of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeal affirming an injunction by the lower court preventing the 2011 revisions to Ohio Rev. Code s. 3509.03 from taking effect to stop voters from casting early ballots during the three days before the November 2012 general election.  The Sixth Circuit held that the revisions to the statute were unconstitutional and blocked the revisions from taking effect.  The state of Ohio applied to the Supreme Court for a stay of the injunction "pending the filing and disposition of a petition for a writ of certiorari."  The Supreme Court stated simply in its order, "The application for stay presented to Justice Kagan, and by her referred to the Court is denied."  It remains to be seen if the Supreme Court will ultimately grant certiorari to the State of Ohio, but this will also be decided after the November election.

If anything, this flurry of appellate activity surrounding voters' rights is an indication of just how close this election is expected to be.  Every vote counts, and it appears the Republican strategy is to disenfranchise the citizens who are most likely to be a vote for Obama.  If this sounds harsh or overstated, take a look at the words of Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-PA), or better yet, listen to those of Penn. Republican House Speaker Mike Turzai.

UPDATE (Oct. 17, 2012): See also this reported incident..

Perhaps the Republican theme is a fear of foreigners.  In the 2008 election, it appeared to be the Birthers' fear that a foreign born President would be elected.  That red herring had to be dropped in light of the fact that Mitt Romney's father was born in Mexico.  In 2012, perhaps the fear is that foreigners are reelecting him.


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Everyone, and Now His Mother: The Latest of Zimmerman's Family & Friends to Speak to Media

I have previously opined on this blog that George Zimmerman's supporters talking to the media are not helping his chances of acquittal at trial.  Very few attempts at using the media by Zimmerman's family, friends and attorneysin defense of his actions have done anything but appeared to worsen public opinion against Zimmerman.  On September 11, 2012, Mark and Sondra Osterman appeared on the Dr. Phil Show to talk about their friend George Zimmerman.  The couple claimed that during Zimmerman's absence from public appearances following the shooting of Trayvon Martin, Zimmerman stayed in their home.  This past Monday, October 8, 2012, Zimmerman's mother, Gladys Zimmerman, joined his brother Robert Zimmerman, Jr., on Piers Morgan Tonight on CNN and became the latest on the growing list of Zimmerman's family of friends who just can't seem to stay out of the media spotlight.

On the Dr. Phil show the Ostermans were perhaps the first of Zimmerman's camp to be interviewed that actually appeared to help Zimmerman's image.  While Mark Osterman, a law enforcement officer, was very careful to never repeat what Zimmerman told him about the shooting incident (an extremely wise choice), Osterman stated, based on what Zimmerman told him and based on his knowledge of Zimmerman's character, that he believed Zimmerman did not break the law.  What makes Osterman's statements particularly credible is that, recognizing hindsight being 20/20, if he had the chance, Osterman would advise Zimmerman to act differently on that tragic night.  Perhaps more importantly, Osterman did not engage in the victim-blaming that so many others to have spoken to the media have done.  He appeared thoughtful and insightful in his comments rather than the cavalier way in which others (including Zimmerman himself) have defendend Zimmerman.
Yesterday on Piers Morgan Tonight, Zimmerman's mother emphatically denounced the notion that Zimmerman is a racist.  She stated she places her faith in the judicial system to find her son innocent.  Gladys's comments, though unwise, may not have been damaging to Zimmerman's image.  In contrast, Zimmerman's brother engaged in the same victim-blaming in which he has engaged from the beginning.    While the Ostermans may have helped Zimmerman's image, the latest interview may be enough to erase whatever goodwill the Ostermans were able to garner for Zimmerman.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Steve Jobs the Visionary

In 1983, Steve Jobs spoke at the International Design Conference in Aspen. His speech was about 20 minutes long with a question and answer session afterwards. Being that it was 1983, the only recording of the entire session is a cassette tape that recently surfaced. The entire recording was digitized and can be heard below.
Jobs was truly a visionary. The predictions he makes are spooky; not just because a lot of them are true, but because some of them have not yet come true and as fantastic as they may have sounded back in 1983, don't sound so far fetched to today's ear.
Following are three excerpts from his Aspen speech--taken word for ward--that struck me as particularly visionary.
On comparing the medium of communicating by telephone versus the new method of communicating by “electronic mail.

“ . . . [T]he most interesting thing that’s different Is the process of communication. When I talk on the telephone with any one we both have to be on the phone at the same time. When I am working or when I want to send something to somebody with a computer terminal--I want to do a drawing and zip it over, and put it in their mail box--they don’t need to be there. They can retrieve it at 12 a.m. in the morning, they can retrieve it three days later, they can be in New York and retrieve it. One of these days when we have portable computers with radio links they can be walking around Aspen and retrieve it.”
On the future (or better) uses for a randomly accessible optical video disc besides just movies.
“There’s a few experiments though that are starting to happen and you start to believe that five years, ten years from now it’s going to come into it’s own. A neat experiment happened right here in Aspen. Uh, MIT came out to Aspen about four five year--I think about four years ago--and they had this truck with this camera on it and they went down every single street, photographed every single intersection in every single street in Aspen. They photographed all the buildings. And they've got this computer and this video disc hooked up together and on the screen you see yourself looking down a street and you touch the screen and there are some arrows on the screen and you can touch walk forward and all of a sudden it's--it's just like you're walking forward in the street and you get to an intersection and you can stop and you can look right, and you can look straight, and you can look left, and you can decide which way you want to go--you can even go in some of the shops. It's an electronic map that gives you the feeling you're walking through Aspen. Then there s four little buttons in the corner because they came back and they did exactly the same thing all four seasons. So you can be looking down a street, hit winter all of a sudden get the same street with three feet of snow on it. It's really amazing, it's not incredibly useful, but it points--[laughter]--It points to some of the interactive nature of this new medium which is just starting to break out from movies and its going to take another five to ten years to evolve.”
Jobs wrapped up his speech by making the following prediction.

“When I was um, going to school . . . the thing that--that probably kept me out of jail was books. Because I could gp read what Aristotle wrote or what Plato wrote a--and uh, I didn't have to have an intermediary in the way. And a book was a phenomenal thing. It got right from the source to the destination without anything in the middle. The problem was you can't ask Aristotle a question. And I think as we look towards the next fifty to hundred years, if we really can come up with these machines that can capture an underlying spirit, or an underlying set of principles, or an underlying way of looking at the world, so when the next Aristotle comes around, maybe if he carries around one of these machines with him his whole life--his or her whole life--and types in all this stuff, then maybe someday after the person is dead and gone we can ask this machine, hey what--what would aristotle have said? What about this? And maybe we wouldn't get the right answer, but maybe we will. And that's really exciting to me and that's one of the reasons I am I doing what I am doing.”

Keep in mind, when he made this speech, Jobs was 28 years old. He was truly the renaissance man of the tech industry.

Steve Jobs, February 24, 1955 – October 5, 2011