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“The isolation tables are just one small example of the impulse that has taken hold in Oregon schools to publicly shame children.”
This commentary was first published in the OregonPEN newspaper on 6/20/15.
The public was up in arms last winter when a grandparent took an iphone picture of the isolation table at a Grants Pass (Oregon) Elementary School. There is also an isolation table at my First Grader’s school, Morningside Elementary in Salem. I tried to take a picture of it and Salam Noor, then-Deputy Superintendent of the Salem-Keizer School District, sent a policeman to my door at 7:00 the next morning threatening to have me arrested.
Now Governor Brown has nominated Mr. Noor to be Superintendent of all of the public schools in Oregon. Is this what we want for Oregon schools? The isolation tables are just one small example of the impulse that has taken hold in Oregon schools to publicly shame children. And since Oregon routinely ranks near the bottom in the nation for the quality of its education, the shaming doesn’t appear to achieve any goal other than to harm the children involved.
The isolation table in Grants Pass was intended to shame the child for repeatedly being tardy. If an elementary school kid is tardy, that’s the parents’ problem – who would think to punish the child? At Morningside Elementary in Salem, as I leave the school after dropping off my son, I see the same ragtag groups of kids come in late every day; I see their parents screeching their cars up to the door, shoving the kids out of the car, making them go in alone to face the music when it's the parents' fault when little kids are late.
One day I brought my son in late and as I walked past the office, I heard a snarl that stopped me. The head of the office staff barked out the office into the hallway, "I see you [name!] Don't think you can hide from me! GET IN HERE and get your tardy slip!" One by one she shamed those kids whose parents always bring them late, and yelled at them in a tone that made me want to call Child Protective Services.
At Morningside Elementary in Salem, another hostile woman polices the lunchroom and threatens to send any kid who looks at her the wrong way to the isolation table. She has no teaching license, no education experience – yet she is allowed to patrol the lunchroom like a police warden – looking for trouble.
One Dad told me the way they run the school reminds him of the army. Another Dad told me that our grade school reminded him of being in jail (I assumed he was in a position to know.)
My son, a First Grader who his teacher says is a “leader in the class” and well-liked among students, tried to help a disabled girl in his class one day at lunch. She is an adorable girl who happens to be a "little person" and has trouble walking. My son got up to get this girl a spoon, without permission from the warden, and the warden ordered him to the isolation table. My son told me, “She yelled at me and told me to get my things, go sit at the isolation table, and not to speak or look at anyone for the rest of lunch.”
While the kids line up for lunch, they are forbidden to talk to each other. I have gone to have lunch with my son and watched first graders made to stand five minutes in line and scolded at for even whispering to another student. Try standing for five full minutes some time next to two other people without looking or talking to them -- and then imagine a six year-old being expected to do that every day.
The students in my son's first grade class were forbidden from talking to or even greeting each other in the morning before the bell rang; the teacher scolded them if they didn't remain mute and start their work if they came into the classroom before the bell rang. I am one of the few parents to know this happens because I ignored the letter the principal, Bonney Dietrich, sent to all parents asking them not to come into the school anymore with their children.
The 'recess police' punish six year-olds who don't stay mute and form perfectly straight lines
The children are told they cannot talk to other children until recess, which is 15 minutes long. And yet, recess is routinely withheld -- the chance for six year-olds to play is constantly dangled over their head as punishment. In my son's Kindergarten class, recess was routinely withheld from the whole class if even even one student didn't finish his work. So the children who do finish their work are punished right along with the children who don't.
Then there is what my son calls the "recess police" who blow the whistle at the end of recess and scold children who don't stand perfectly quiet in perfectly straight lines before they can walk back into the building. The class with the most perfect and most quiet line gets to re-enter the building first. This shameful drill is imposed on our six year-olds every day. My son stepped out of line one day and the recess police, yet another hostile woman, sent him to stand against the wall and then told hm he would lose half of his recess the next day, which meant he had to sit on the "shame steps" in front of all the students in the cafeteria, next to the isolation table, after he was done eating.
If they treat six year-olds this way, is it any wonder they feel comfortable sending police officers to parents' doors?
I tried to call the school district's attention to the many abusive actions going on in my son’s school. There was the orchestra teacher who shoved an eight year-old – in front of other staff; he grabbed her from behind by her shoulders and shoved her. The girl had run crying from his room, scared of him and ran to the office; this grown man ran down the hall chasing after her, and shoved her in front of many other adults. After this, the principal refused to do anything about it. The principal told the family the girl was “fine.” One of the adult witnesses to the shoving contacted the parents and told them the girl wasn’t fine and told the parents they had a right to demand something be done. Only when the parents went over the principal’s head did the incident get reported, after which the orchestra teacher was suspended and then fired. If the principal had had her way, that teacher would still be at the school, in control of our children.
After this incident, the principal retaliated against the reporting family by sending the same police officer they sent to my door, to their older son’s class in middle school. The principal -- of the grade school - sent an email directing the police officer to take this family's older son out of his class at middle school, and tell him the principal was banning him from the grounds of the grade school because some older kids told the principal he was causing trouble. The principal did not talk to the family or attempt to investigate the incident at all; based on a story told to her by a few middle school kids, she sent a police officer to scare this 7th grader in front of all of his friends. I can't prove she did this to retaliate against the family that went over her head about the orchestra teacher shoving their younger daughter, but common sense struggles to find any other motivation.
I grew up in the 1970s in a progressive lower-middle class family; I imagined that the days of women coddling powerful men had been eradicated, like small pox.
By Lisa Nuss
Written July 2011 -- The spring headlines veered from news of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s harem, to John Edwards’ cover-up of his affair and lovechild, to Anthony Weiner exposing his private parts to girls and women around the country. In all three cases, early public opinion was swayed by the fact that each man had secured a strong and smart woman by his side.
Midway through Congressman Weiner’s scandal, even as more tawdry photos leaked, Barbara Walters suggested that because his accomplished wife, Huma Abedin, was sticking by Weiner, so should voters. On "The View," Walters suggested that if his impressive wife didn’t think it was a big deal, then neither should we. On what basis should we let her bad choices affect our good judgment? Most of us smelled a rat from the start, and if Huma, however beautiful and smart, chose to plug her nose – it’s less a statement about his character than hers.
Let’s not forget that on the eve of Schwarzenegger’s 2003 gubernatorial election, Maria Shriver publicly vouched for her husband’s integrity. After dozens of women from Arnold’s past came forward alleging his sexual groping habits, Maria helped him win by staking her credibility against Arnold’s accusers. Then Maria went back to the cozy home she shared with her husband and children, and the mother of his secret love child.
Being successful does not mean women necessarily make smart choices about men – in these three cases, it seems that the super smart are even more capable of self-delusion. It’s worth asking, in this day and age, why do smart women put up with cads?
A curious bargain
Plenty of successful women choose to remain independent, such as the bachelorly Edie Falco and Diane Keaton. Many alpha women who choose to marry, like Ann Curry and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, select easy-going beta males who seem fine letting their wives have the limelight. Women today have a lot of choices – whether to marry, when to marry, whom to marry. I grew up in the 1970s in a progressive family, in a lower-middle class neighborhood of egalitarian state workers and teachers. I thought the days of women coddling powerful men had been eradicated, like small pox.
Yet Maria Shriver, Elizabeth Edwards and Huma Abedin each made the deliberate choice to lend their good name and loyalty to ambitious men who wore their arrogance on their sleeves.
Written for Women’s eNews website
During Barbara Walters' interview with Michelle Obama last month, I never heard Walters say why she chose the first lady as the most fascinating person of the year.
I dug up the transcript, watched the video and confirmed that Walters never said why.
Michelle Obama did a lot that was fascinating before 2009. After bootstrapping her way to an elite college and law school where she was outspoken about racism, she left corporate law for high-profile policy work in politics and health care and won a powerful corporate board position. All the while she battled her husband to pick up his slack on the parenting and insisted on her own demanding career after his election to the U.S. Senate.
She told Vogue in 2007, "The days I stay home with my kids without going out, I start to get ill." She said she loved her work challenges "that have nothing to do with my husband and children."
Am I the only one who misses that formidable woman? She began slipping from public view during the primary when her negative ratings--spurred by media portrayals of her as angry and vehement--threatened Barack's campaign. She has yet to re-emerge.
She was nowhere to be seen during her national interview with Walters. It was as if the opinionated Michelle has been packed away somewhere in the China Room, a la "Invasion of the Body Snatchers."
The woman in her place now insists that mothering is her only priority and her career was never a big part of her identity. She told Time Magazine in June, "I don't want to have a say" in national issues. Her standard stump speech now includes a line that she's lucky her husband handles all the "hard" stuff.
Why is such a powerful woman now mimicking Jackie O, who dumbed herself down for the media and trained her voice into a whisper? It could be a defensive ploy against a media and public ready to jump on any opinion she utters. My guess is it's more likely an offensive power play of her own, one I've seen many of my peers execute--retreating into the safety of female stereotypes for public consumption while finding outlets for their ambitions behind the scenes.
Happy New Year from the Columbia River Gorge. Looking at etchings from ancient Indian petroglyphs that line the gorge walls, it struck me how universal the need to communicate is. Thousands of years ago someone carved these images to tell a story. My favorite has long been She Who Watches, pictured below.
Like the fabled she in the carving, I have been watching and have much to say. Parenting an exuberant one-year old and doing work that I value makes me grateful every day, yet left little free time for 2009. But I feel the need to start etching on those walls again. I dug through my pile of clippings from the past year and pitched a piece on Michelle Obama that I hope will spur discussion. It's set to be published in the next few weeks and once it is, I can also post it here.
Put a cigar in his mouth and he'd fit right in with a group of fat, old Republicans. Only - wait a minute. He's a slim, young, Democrat.
Last year, a cabbie in Manhattan with a thick accent told me, "This country isn't ready to elect a woman." I was taken aback. Sen. Hillary Clinton was riding high on her well-earned reputation as a 2-term US Senator who reached across the partisan divide for real progress. She had a double digit lead in the national polls and was raising enough money to compete as a frontrunner - things no woman has accomplished before. I thought that was all proof things had changed. She never raised the issue of her being a woman on the campaign trail - she focused on the issues so much that she was criticized as a policy wonk. That all changed when Barack won Iowa. Here was a man to put her in her place.
News analysts I previously respected - like Chris Matthews on MSNBC, editorial writers I devoured, like Bob Scheer and EJ Dionne, starting writing the most base, disrespectful language about Sen. Clinton. Words that had vanished from the media since the 1990s when the right wing talk radio nuts called her a femi-nazi.
Something about Barack's campaign has fueled this toxic stream of sexist slurs that spew from so many corners, I feel singed from their heat. It's not garden variety sexism -- it's highly emotional, reactionary attempts to cut down a strong woman. So many otherwise rational people have been swept into it. The nasty vulgarity on the internet, sent under cover of anonymity, is probably the most revealing. Young, liberal, college educated white men - some of Barack's key supporters - filled with such pent up rage which can only be seen as fear.
Supporting Barack allows bigoted men to halt the demise of old-boy male privilege
Anger, psychologists say, is just a symptom of other underlying feelings. I see fear in these young men - fear of losing the power they know they still get as men in this country. This may be the younger generation's way of protesting the demise of old male privilege, which still lingers. It's more subtle now, but they're still promoted past lesser qualified women, paid more than equally qualified women... the statistics are all there.
Some men object to my conflating the rest of the country's sexism with Obama's personal bigotry. I say - have you ever heard him denounce the damaging sexism put forth in his name? It's all part and parcel of the primary fuel behind his campaign.
Our foremothers fought long and hard so women could be taken seriously. So why, when I opened my New York Times this morning, did I see the image of an attorney on the front page, whose hair was dyed blonde to make her look like what we used to call "blonde bimbos." I wrote an essay some years back on this topic for Skirt Magazine.
I first noticed this trend among women lawyers back in 1992 when I arrived late to Torts class and sat up in the back. My eyes scanned down over my classmates and I was struck by all the dark roots. And all the dyed blonde heads. This was before the rest of the country went blonde. Back when women professionals used to arrive at work fully clothed. Now, 15 years later, it's hard to find a woman in a law firm that doesn't have a see-through blouse unbuttoned to her bra-line, short skirts, bare legs and brightly painted toes stuffed into stiletto heels. Watching women walk around law firms these days is like watching re-runs of the Loveboat. What happened?
Please don't start me on the whole, "Women should stop trying to be like men," nonsense. For the last time, pants are not male and neither are shoulder pads. Shoulder pads are placed in men's jackets to make their shoulders look broader and to make them look more powerful. Why are we afraid of women looking powerful is the question we should be asking.
Meanwhile, these women show up, half-naked and dressed like prostitutes, and insist on being treated exactly the same as the men and paid the same as the men. I don't blame men for being confused because I sure am. If I needed a lawyer and one showed up with chemicals all over her head and couldn't be bothered to wear some kind of stockings or socks or put a jacket on, and a man showed up well-groomed with his normal hair color and a buttoned up shirt - and socks! - I'd hire him in a heartbeat, because clearly he shows better judgment.
If I learned anything during the two years I lived in a college sorority (yes, it's true), it's that women dress like their mothers and date men like their fathers. Thank you, Mom, for setting a standard for dressing professionally, stylishly and with some dignity. And I'll thank you again, silently, next time I get in the elevator with one of the young women in my building carrying a briefcase and trying to tug down the shirt that doesn't fully cover her stomach, exposing her red thong underwear to the world.
Our society relieves men of many obligations. Having the proper credentials to be US president shouldn't be one of them.
Who does he think he is? We must ask this question, because it's the kind of question that would be asked if a 45-year-old female political neophyte declared, as Barack Obama did Saturday, that she was a candidate for the U.S. presidency. In fact, the public wouldn't get the chance to ask it of a 45-year-old woman with barely two years of national political experience, because, unlike Obama, the media would never take her seriously and we would rarely, if ever, hear her name.
Some say we should celebrate the candidacy of a minority. Yes, we should. But we weren't interested in doing that when former Senator Carol Moseley Braun ran in 2004. Like Obama, Braun was launched onto the national scene with a stirring and powerful speech - in her case, to the 1992 Democratic party convention. In fact, the parallels are astonishing: she is also African-American, also graduated from an elite law school and in 1992 won election to hold the very same Senate seat that Obama now occupies. But that's where the similarities end. Braun served as a federal prosecutor before entering politics and, after a full six-year term in the Senate, she went on to serve as an ambassador. Yet, the media and political pundits never took her seriously. I recall being excited about her candidacy, only to find in every article that mentioned her an undercurrent of "who does she think she is?" At the age of 57, her campaign never caught fire.
We must ask this question, "who does he think he is?," because we asked it of an Ivy Leaguer with far greater experience and stature, Elizabeth Dole. Like Obama, Dole graduated from Harvard law school. Her confidence and presidential aspirations in the 2000 campaign were backed by cabinet-level service under two presidents: secretary of labor under President Reagan and secretary of transportation under the first President Bush. Despite her national political leadership and experience as the president of the American Red Cross, where she controlled a budget that rivals most large American corporations, we didn't think she had the stature to be president.
I am using "we" loosely: It is a combination of the public, media and political pundits. But a study by the White House Project, a non-profit organisation that promotes women's leadership, placed the refusal to take Dole seriously squarely on the media. Marie Wilson, a founder of the White House Project, documented how the media undercut Dole's authority with coverage that was less frequent and less substantial, even though Dole was number two in the polls behind George Bush. Although I'm a Democrat, I found Dole's candidacy and energy were electrifying. But, sadly, the news articles focused on her hair, her clothes and how tightly she controlled her public appearances. The tone of those articles was unmistakably belittling. You didn't have to read between the lines to know the reporter's opinion ("I mean really, who does she think she is?") After working on an incumbent's Senate campaign, I know how tightly and carefully national politicians control their image. Yet the media singled Elizabeth Dole out - and it worked. Six months later she couldn't raise enough money to be a serious contender.
We must ask this question, "who does he think he is?," because there are 14 female US senators with more demonstrated leadership and experience, one of whom is currently millions ahead in fundraising and continues to enjoy a substantial lead in the polls. If Hillary Clinton were a man, her gravitas, formidable fundraising ability and giant presence in the party would dwarf his bid. Yet the media rushes - no, tramples - to fawn over a young man with far less life experience, less national political experience and less business experience. We know very little about Obama, and yet we're ready to hand him the keys to the free world.
Self-annointed progressives rush to project all manner of leadership onto Obama's clean slate. Yes, he has a gift for communicating and has good ideas -- but that's never been enough before. I don't believe someone so utterly inexperienced in high-pressure politics and naive to the national stage would be given such attention if a woman wasn't the frontrunner. This wishful thinking is consistent with the findings of the Barbara Lee Family Foundation that voters project more experience and knowledge onto men who have the same background as women. In Obama's case, we're seeing this willingness to project in the extreme. We've had women more experienced than Obama considered unqualified to run for governor in many states. Double standards for candidate qualifications is not progress; it's very, very retro.
Finally, we must ask this question because no one in the media is concerned with who is going to represent Illinois in the Senate while Obama is out gallivanting around the country trying to be president. Remember when there were whispers that 2004 could be Sen. Clinton's "time" - her shot at the presidency? The media and pundits howled at the thought of Sen. Clinton shirking her senatorial duties: who does she think she is, winning such an important election and then tossing it aside for bigger fish? And Clinton was four years into her senate term. Obama's only two years ino his term yet no one questions the forsaking of his position for his own vainglory.
In our social system of double standards, we relieve men of stunning obligations. Having the proper credentials to serve as President of the United States shouldn't be one of them.
An earlier version of this column ran on the UK Guardian website on 1.16.07.
By Lisa Nuss
(Cross-posted at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lisa-nuss/)
The Italians are all atwitter over a sex scandal involving former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. The headline in today’s New York Times reads: “Berlusconi Flirts. Wife’s Fed Up.”
The article starts out with the old “men are scoundrels” theme, with the poor put-upon wife finally saying “enough.” Berlusconi’s wife of 20 years, Veronica Lario, said “enough” in the form of a public letter to an Italian newspaper demanding an apology for his flirting, which she said is “damaging to my dignity.”
The article touts Ms. Lario’s public outcry as a victory for the long-suffering Italian women who “endure” infidelity and sexual remarks. I don’t see how choosing to “endure” boorish behavior is any kind of victory. I say those Italians should take off their stylish high heels and run to their nearest attorney. No one is making them stay with philandering husbands, so why should we treat them as victims?
But, there’s more to the story. Buried deep in the second page, comes the fact that when said put-upon wife met said scoundrel man, he was married! Married with two children. I wonder if Ms. Lario ever apologized to the first wife for breaking up the marriage and taking the childrens’ father away from them?
Lario was a 23 year-old B actress when she met the 43 year-old Berlusconi in 1980. It’s one of the oldest moves in the book -- one that should engender an acting award, but not our sympathy. Career stalling? No problem. Pretend to be sexually attracted to an old, balding rich man. Three women have bagged Donald Trump’s money with similar acting.
Twenty years after choosing to marry a man who cheated on his first wife – with her – she wants apologies and sympathy for his unfaithful behaviors. Her “dignity” is damaged.
This tired and stale “wife as victim of bad old men” persists here in America. There’s a band of young women writers, led by Ayelet Waldman among others, who’ve chosen men who need mommying and make big money trumpeting what great martyrs they all are. (She recently wrote that her husband was a feminist’s dream, except he won’t change diapers. Since when is declaring poop clean-up to be women’s work a “feminist’s dream”?)
I love it when one of these martyr women goes on the Dr. Phil show and whines and whines “He won’t do anything and I have to do everything.” She affects a very pouty and put-upon face, waiting for Dr. Phil to rip into her husband. But, her eyes bulge open when instead of blaming the man, Dr. Phil looks her straight in the eye and says, “What are you getting out of it?”
Berlusconi’s wife was quoted in a biography as saying she was “the perfect kind of wife for the kind of man Silvio is. He can concentrate on himself and his work knowing his wife won’t create a fuss if he’s away from his family.”
That’s an odd bargain to strike – to choose a man to make a family with and them absolve him of his family obligations, but she chose it. She can undo the bargain anytime. I understand wealthy Italians often live abroad for a matter of months to obtain divorces that are recognized in Italy. If she chooses to stay, she needs to answer Dr. Phil’s question, what is she getting out of it?
By Lisa Nuss
(Cross-posted at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lisa-nuss/)
Two fascinating things happened over the weekend. Sen. Clinton offered a stirring gambit at an Iowan Town Hall proving herself to be a gifted communicator. And Rudy Giuliani gave an incoherent and rambling speech in New Hampshire that was harder to watch than Warren Beatty’s aimless Golden Globes delivery and as disjointed as Paula Abdul’s recent TV interviews.
Speaking at the state Republican party’s annual meeting, Giuliani tried so hard to avoid any talk of his liberal positions that he jumped from platitude to unconnected platitude. He began by praising New Hampshire’s “live free or die” slogan and ended with his big finish “the future is where we’re going.” In between were a lot of incoherent “we and they,” “us and them” with little connection to reality.
For example, “’We [the Republican Party] bring more freedom to the people, private responsibility, fiscal responsibility and low taxes. … They [the Democratic Party] are down, depressed, pessimistic, while our eyes are focused on the future. We have a better perspective on America.”
Where has he been for the last six years? Then he said that all the polls showing Americans think we’re headed in the wrong direction are “wrong.” Here’s why:
“America is strong! We’re militarily strong, we have a strong foreign policy, we’re economically strong, we have more freedom than humans have ever had and we’re stronger spiritually because we believe in ourselves.”
Then he mentioned Ronald Reagan was a personal hero and announced that “we [the Republicans] are the ones who will bring peace and decency to the world.”
It just kept getting weirder. He claimed that some nebulous and unnamed “they” are coming after our children.
After declaring that “we” [Republicans] will “make government work again,” he listed five major national problems that have “been on hold recently” (he didn’t mention by whom): Energy, Social Security, Immigration, Tort reform, Tax reform. And his single specific statement of the evening was “If Brazil can develop ethanol, we should be able to.”
This led up to his Paula Abdul moment. In a complete non sequitur, he said “Don’t be pessimistic. You’ll have a lot more fun as an optimist.” After the big applause that line drew, he giggled and added, “You really do!” Reminiscent of Abdul’s loopy TV interviews that have led some to suggest she’s under the influence, Giuliani completely lost his train of thought.
Yes, the man cleaned up New York City and showed remarkable leadership after 9/11. But he kept coming back to 9/11, and back to 9/11, and back to 9/11. The only qualification he gave for electing him was his proven “vision and leadership.” I’ll agree with the proven leadership, but he displayed no vision here. Some speculate he doesn’t thirst for national office. Based on that performance, I would agree. He showed a startling lack of interest or awareness of national issues.
Giuliani’s empty cheerleading about how everyone should just be optimistic contrasted sharply with Sen. Clinton’s pledge in Des Moines, right out of the gate, to “renew the promise of America.” Yes, she said, America has much to be proud of, but we’re “going backwards.” She noted that corporate profits are up and workers’ productivity is up, but “wages are not up, and income isn’t up.” Maybe that’s why Americans are all frowny and down in the dumps to Giuliani’s dismay.
Clinton talked about preparing America for the realities of the global economy. In a greater awareness of our recent history and economic realities, Clinton said, “We had a great run in the 20th Century but it’s a new world now, and we haven’t adjusted to the competition.”
While Giuliani nattered on about America’s freedom and unnamed strangers coming after our children, Clinton dared the nation to face up to our health care crisis and detailed her legislation to ensure health insurance for every child in America.
On energy, rather than the puzzling “if Brazil can do it “ argument, Clinton called for an immediate halt to oil subsidies and a diversion of those monies to invest in alternative energy sources.
Ever the savvy politician, Clinton disproved two of her perceived weakness, showing she can be an effective communicator and articulate a strong platform. With performances like that, she’s likely stay in the front of the pack
Meanwhile Giuliani, ahead in the Republican polls on the deserved strength of his 9/ll leadership, hasn’t offered any idea of his vision for the presidency, other than the nonsensical, “The future is where we’re going.” He has yet to declare, but so far it appears there’s wide latitude for a moderate Republican candidate to enter the fray.
(Both speeches are available on C-Span’s website: http://www.c-span.org/podcast/index.asp)
2/21 Update: For more on Giuliani's failure to take the race seriously, see the New York Times, "Giuliani is seeing only softballs"
By Lisa Nuss
I’m detecting an undercurrent in the media of fear. It’s a fear of Sen. Hillary Clinton’s formidable fundraising capabilities. Last week, the senator declined to opt into public financing, which leaves her campaign free to spend the kind of money it takes to win.
Money is power and people get nervous when a woman wields power. The New York Times ran an article after the general election criticizing Sen. Clinton for spending too much money to win her Senate race. This is part of the undercurrent -- we’re seeing a new discourse, now that we have a woman with the prowess to raise money with the big boys. In typical media coverage, a politician’s campaign finance chest is a measure of that person’s strength. The media gives a conscientious nod to the need for campaign finance reform, while revering candidates who can raise the most money. When I worked for U.S. Senator Bob Packwood in 1986 (R-OR) he raised $6 million which was unheard of in the Northwest states back then. Some did note it was an excessive sum, but the undercurrent was an acknowledgement of his power: “man, nobody can touch this guy!” Money was a measure of power until a woman started leading the pack.
When Elizabeth Dole ran in 2000 she was number two in the polls behind Bush early on in the primary but she couldn’t raise any money, so she faded away. Sen. Clinton is number one in the polls and a fundraising powerhouse; she won’t be fading away. That makes people nervous. When the young white male bloggers wring their hands at Sen. Clinton's rejection of public financing, they expose either their naivete or some kind of Freudian resentment of their mothers, or both.
I support the concept of campaign finance reform. I even started and then abandoned a fledgling career as a campaign finance attorney after watching the peak of the 527 manipulations to avoid new limits in the 2004 elections. So long as we have Buckley v Valeo (holding that political contributions are protected free speech) and crafty lawyers finding loopholes, campaign finance laws can't be meaningful. Money finds a way.
1.26.07See 1/30 WSJ article "How Mitt Romney Avoided Campaign Finance Rules" for more information on maneuverings around campaign finance laws
After a rare conciliatory move of taking four of his most controversial judicial nominees off the table, President Bush re-nominated 32 other judges that the previous Senate did not confirm. The White House statement read: " The President remains focused on appointing highly qualified nominees who clearly understand that the role of a judge is to interpret the law, not to legislate from the bench."
There is never one "right answer" when interpreting the law, and it's dangerous for the right to continue fomenting the myth that any judge who doesn't agree with their position is "activist" or "legislating from the bench."
Throughout the history of the U.S. Constitution, federal judges have frequently overstepped the bounds of interpreting law versus making the law. It can sometimes be a fine line and the willingness to cross it depends entirely on a judge's background and experiences. There is no such thing as purely objective legal reasoning. During three long years of law school, our reading consists entirely and exclusively of reading historical judicial opinions. I don't recall reading one opinion that read as purely objective.
The truth is there has been plenty of "activism" on both sides. One of the most activist periods in US Supreme Court history is the court's invention of the substantive due process doctrine at the turn of the 20th Century. The court, comprised of lawyers from corporate firms that represented big business, "found" avenues in the Constitution to protect property and corporate interests over the rights of states to legislate wage and hour laws for the safety and welfare of their workers. These doctrines were in no way intended by the original framers to protect corporate interests. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes issued many of his famous and fiery dissents in response to these decisions.
In many areas, the law is not clear and judges inevitably exercise discretion - this is what interpreting the law means. Chicago Law Professor Cass Sunstein provides empirical proof that ideology plays a role, on all sides of the spectrum. In his new book "Are judges political? An Empirical Analysis of the Federal Judiciary" (2006: Brookings Institution Press), Sunstein and his co-authors tracked decisions by the federal judiciary according to the political party of their appointing president. Acknowledging that political party has some limitations as a proxy, the authors found ideology does matter. It made the largest difference in affirmative action cases, where judges appointed by conservative presidents voted for plaintiffs 47% of the time while judges appointed by democrats voted with the plaintiff 75% of the time. Other top ideology issues were environmental protection and sex discrimination.
We saw ideology at play in two recent high profile Supreme Court split decisions. The Guantanamo
The good news from the Sunstein study is that ideology doesn't dominate a judge's decisions 100% of the time, and there were several areas of the law where ideology showed no effect.
The takeaway point is: opposing ideologies appear to keep judges in check. Diversity of ideologies provides a check on extremism, as the authors found that individual judges sitting on panels comprised only of one appointing party voted more extreme than when they sat with judges appointed by the opposing party. This moderating effect lead Sunstein to conclude that because ideology matters, "reasonable diversity on the federal judiciary is desirable."
My friend Daniel Curran, who was born and raised in Queens, called me early the morning Senator Clinton announced:
Daniel: "Lisa - get out of bed dear, Hillary's in! She's "in to win" and you've gotta' start writing about it!"
Me: (still waking up) "Terrific - what should I write?"
Daniel: "Let me tell you something," he says in that NYC-Queens gangster tone that commands attention. "Those people who tell you she has no appeal are full of shit. New Yorkers elected her their Senator - twice! She didn't just win, she won in a landslide - twice!
Me: (starting to wake up) "That's a great point."
Daniel: "And people don't realize, New York isn't just liberal New York City, we're talkin' upstate New York and don't forget rural New York. And let me tell you, you can't fool New Yorkers. She must've done somethin' good in the Senate or New Yorkers would've kicked her to the curb faster than fast."
Me: (taking notes madly) "I think you just wrote my blog for me."
Daniel: "And tell those people out there who say she voted for Iraq-- well so what? So did everybody! It was the fervor of the time! And here's somethin' else, I get these women telling me they can't relate to her. What's that about? I mean, first of all, she's a woman! And second, she's going to be lookin' out for women's issues!
Me: Another great point. I mean, could you relate to Bill Clinton when he was in office?
Daniel: (seductive chuckle) Well, that's another story baby. But seriously - this is something people are overlooking. Sure, he had his foibles, but the man was a great leader. And if Hillary's president, we'll have him back in the White House. That's a win-win situation, if you ask me.
And that's the Daniel Report.
By Lisa Nuss
One day when my nephew Jackson was four, I piled him into my brother’s Chevy truck and walked around to the driver’s seat. As I started the engine, Jackson looked over at me with alarm. "That's Daddy's seat! You're sitting in Daddy's seat!" It dawned on me he had never seen anyone else drive his Dad’s truck. "It's okay,” I said, “we're just going to the store." He folded his little arms and tiny elbows, and frowned as we backed out of the driveway.
When I later saw the Annie Leibovitz photograph of Carly Fiorina sitting in the Hewlett Packard corporate jet, I flashbacked to my nephew’s alarm. And I immediately understood the "controversy" over Fiorina’s use of the corporate jet. Not long after Fiorina was named CEO of HP in 1999, the media criticized her for using the corporate jet, wearing Italian suits (“too flashy”) and “trotting all over the world” making speeches: all behaviors expected from CEOs of lesser companies. I venture that my nephew’s tantrum is comparable to those media criticisms, precisely because we aren’t used to seeing a woman sitting in the CEO position.
Fiorina famously declined to discuss the “women in power” double standards during the six years she ran HP. She explains in her new memoir, “Tough Choices,” that leading a Fortune 500 company was proof that women could make it through the glass ceiling. But in her book, Fiorina doesn’t shy away from detailing encounters with men who tried to “pigeonhole” her along her climb up the management ladder at AT&T. She finds ways of making sure higher-ups don’t exclude her from important meetings. She interrupts a man who is ranting at her. She navigates the sexual activities that businessmen have accustomed themselves to by either going along where she can (by enjoying the company of the female dinner companion a Korean client provided for her) or challenging those “customs” when the need arises.
When Fiorina assumed her position at HP, she said, "I didn't want to talk about being a woman in business. I wanted to talk about business." I don’t blame her. For six years Forbes Magazine named her the Most Powerful Woman in Business. But the inevitable questions about “how does it feel to be a woman CEO” suggest there’s something out of place about that. Men don’t get asked what it’s like to be a male CEO.
Fiorina was running with the big boys, and she had the chops to be there. She earned her way up AT&T by being very smart, courageous and decisive, hard-working and developing a flair for leadership. She graduated from the elite MIT Sloan School of Management in addition to her M.B.A. But why do I feel compelled to list her credentials?
In the Leibovitz photo, Fiorina is seated at the back of the corporate jet. You see the fine leather seats and the phone on the wall; you see Fiorina as CEO dressed in a dark suit, with a classy leather portfolio and fountain pen on the seat next to her. And she looks like she belongs there. I suspect that’s what ultimately unnerves her critics. Her expression is not apologetic; she doesn’t look like she feels out of place. She doesn’t look like a woman in a man’s world. She looks at ease – capable and very comfortable in this ultimate seat of corporate power.
As for my nephew, he pouted all the way to the store. Since I love the little guy, I gave it one more shot, "Jackson, you know I'm your Dad's sister and he trusts me very much and that's why he lets me take care of you, and drive his truck." The frown vanished - he either bought my explanation or was distracted by the candy aisle. Would that adults were swayed so easily.
(Published May 19, 2002, in the Montana Missoulian)
When Massachusetts' acting Gov. Jane Swift withdrew from the race for re-election earlier this year, she became part of a disturbing trend. Swift joins four other women governors who were so low in the polls by the end of their first term that they were losing in the primary against men from their own party.
There are only five states with women governors - the most ever at one time. The Center for American Women in Politics tracks data about women governors and a few trends have surfaced. Women tend to win in open seats, meaning they have little success in races against incumbents. Once in office, women governors tend not to get re-elected. Ironically, the power of incumbency does not attach to women.
Certain sectors flat out won't vote for a woman governor. A poll conducted by the Barbara Lee Family Foundation found that seniors, blue-collar men and women who are homemakers admit a bias against women in executive positions like governor. What's odd is that those of us willing to vote for a woman governor set about picking her apart the minute she's inaugurated. The governor's office bestows a stature on men that women have to earn. Few do.
It starts with nagging doubts about whether she's qualified. Montana Gov. Judy Martz's political and business experience is often belittled. In fact, her four years as lieutenant governor add up to more political experience than Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush had combined when they were elected governors.
Joan Finney was the state treasurer of Kansas for 16 years before she was elected governor in 1990. In the Wichita Eagle, her critics claimed that her "fuzzy grasp of the issues and lack of leadership threatened to damage the state." These attitudes are consistent with the Lee Foundation's finding that voters project more experience and knowledge onto men who have the same background as women.
Remember the prediction that once women gained the same experience as men, they would rise to positions of power? Gov. Swift sprinted through the political pipeline: Elected to the state Senate in her 20s, she rose to a leadership position in the legislature, then ran a state agency and a division of the port authority before being elected lieutenant governor and finally succeeding to the governor's office. Here's how the Wall Street Journal disparaged her credentials: "(Swift is) a political neophyte widely seen as not ready for the top job." One wonders what type of experience would make a woman ready for the top job.
Being governor is a difficult and demanding job; every governor has successes and failures. But once we convince ourselves that a woman is in over her head, every problem - no matter how small - can be seen as further proof she's not executive material.
Gov. Martz's missteps and impolitic statements have caused her approval ratings to plunge. George W. Bush's tenure as governor of Texas was marked by wrong moves and blunders, yet people still liked him and his approval ratings were high.
Some theorize that women haven't caught up with men in knowing how to cover-up and spin away their problems. Think Bill Clinton dispatching Vernon Jordan to clean up his messes.
The national media lavished attention on Gov. Swift's gaffes and miscues. One insider described the scandal mongering around Swift as reaching "a lunatic level." She faced numerous ethics charges and even a legal action claiming she was unfit to do the job. London's business and political magazine, the Economist, saw this "string of scandals" for what it was: "Some of these things, done by a man, might have been more easily forgiven. ... But Massachusetts, despite its liberal reputation, has trouble with women in high office."
The constant undermining fed on itself to the point where Swift was taunted as "Jane Err" and "Not so Swift." After a parallel chain of events in Montana, letters-to-the-editor now deride Gov. Martz as a "national joke" and an "incompetent know-nothing."
Our treatment of women governors is eerily similar. The scholarly explanation for this behavior, provided by academics Sue Freeman and Susan Bourque in Women on Power, is that women who "occupy male-dominated leadership positions are apt to be evaluated negatively in light of the gender role incongruency."
I prefer James Carville's typically candid explanation. When asked to explain the resistance to Hillary Clinton's U.S. Senate race in Susan Estrich's book Sex & Power, Carville replied, "There are some people who don't like ambitious women and they ain't going to vote for her."
(Originally published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
By LISA NUSS
My first job in San Francisco after college and before law school was as a temporary receptionist for a large law firm. On my first day, I got a call from a demanding man who grew impatient as I looked for the extension of the attorney he was calling. After several seconds, he screamed into the phone, "Do you know who you're talking to?" He insisted that I read him the fourth name down from the top of the letterhead. Of course, it was his.
Headlines across the country have proclaimed shock that Martha Stewart was apparently rude to, yelled at and hung up on Douglas Faneuil, a broker's assistant at Merrill Lynch at least four times! To Mr. Faneuil - who complained, "I have never, ever been treated more rudely" - I say, welcome to my world.
The trivial incidents he recounted pale in comparison to what I've encountered from powerful men after 20 years of working in politics and law. In Washington, D.C., and on the West Coast from Seattle to San Francisco, I have seen men who are pillars of their community throw chairs, scream, belittle and demean people, including me, on a regular basis.
I don't defend this behavior. I'm just saying it happens. And I'm asking why what is common behavior by (some) powerful men merits salacious news stories when it comes from a woman? So what if Stewart was demanding? She has to be one of Merrill Lynch's premier clients; they also manage her corporation's pension fund. I've put up with all manner of callous rudeness from powerful male clients because higher-ups expect us to treat plum clients with kid gloves.
Could you imagine a newspaper article criticizing Donald Trump because one young woman was offended that Trump was curt and demanding to her? Sounds trivial, doesn't it?
Feminists disagree about the solution to this double standard. Some argue that it's not progress to sink to the level of men. I tend to be guided by the principle of "What's good for the goose is good for the gander."
I worry about the undercurrent of vengeance in the attacks on Stewart. Sure, as a public figure, Stewart's stilted persona is fair fodder for NBC's "Saturday Night Live" skits, and her perfection-oriented household designs make for good parody. But the public flogging of Stewart has become so base, it's as if we can't wait to kick her to the curb.
A feature about Stewart on the Salon Web site justified its harsh tone with examples of bad her behavior that still pale in comparison to powerful men. In his book "Martha, Inc.," Christopher Byron declares Stewart shockingly ruthless, because when her husband became ill on a trip to South America she did some sightseeing instead of sitting next to his bed the entire time.
I would be violating some confidences if I detailed the way I've seen some powerful men treat their wives, but I can tell you none would ever be expected to chain themselves to their wives' sickbeds.
A profile in Vanity Fair described Stewart as a polarizing figure, ". . . (a) reassuring and maternal presence to some, a disturbing and negative force to others." Those are the only choices? That statement actually says more about the limited roles we expect women to stick to and our reaction when they don't.
The day that Stewart's company went public, she rang the opening bell for trading at the New York Stock Exchange. It was a powerful image and confirmed her status as a brilliant entrepreneur who had reached the pinnacle of money and power in this country.
Stewart never would have been so successful if she had confined herself to behaviors approved by society for women. I wonder if that's why we're now punishing her.
Lisa Nuss is a lawyer and freelance writer living in Mill Valley, Calif.
Leslie Bennetts: Feminine Mistake, The: Are We Giving Up Too Much?
Bennetts addresses the economic perils of "choosing dependency" for married women who never develop or prioritize their own careers, or plan for their own financial future. She also highlights the rewards of income-producing work. Her worldview, which I share, is that we should all “become our most complete and authentic selves" and for many of us, developing our families alone is only half a life. A great half, in my experience, but made all the more fulfilling when balanced with a half that engages with the outside world.