Thursday, October 20, 2011

Occupy Wall Street...

The news has been flooded with the Occupy Wall Street protest.  I would like to call it a movement but a movement should have an agenda and as much as I have tried to listen, read and understand what the group's final one and even what their actual demands are I cannot seem to find it.  There is understandable anger among this group as well as among many people.  The statistics and history of the last 20 years have been unkind to the worker across the world.  The least represented of these groups actually is the middle class. Yeah remember the middle class??? 


They were the class that poor knew there was a possibility to get to, the class that could vault a little higher with each generation.  They were the working families who were proud to be able to buy a house, or a car, or go on vacation because they had built this lifestyle themselves.  The middle class that wonder of America ...where it was not dependant on what you were born to but only what you could dream of becoming.  I do not see this discussed in any protest.  I see a lot of young people, many who rightly are wondering what jobs they will have, wondering if they could maintain being middle class or even hope to become that.  We should stop demonizing the rich as if we know every single one of them (I know I do not know them all personally and I do not judge based on stereotypes).  I wish that ridiculously bigoted attitude would stop.  It is doing nothing but stagnating the discussions that need to actually start to happen NOW.  There are crappy rich people just like there are crappy poor people, oh of course there are crappy middle class people too.  There is nothing wrong with working and achieving wealth and being proud of that achievement.  This is not the debt achievement theory - hell rich, poor, in the middle anyone could do that - it is the pride in building a little more than what you need, getting something once in a while just because you want it ...I do not want to live just for what I need I am too complex a thinker for that. 


The middle class --- to me this shrinkage may be the scariest, saddest component of this whole economic crisis.  The poor will always have government subsidies, the rich do not need them but the middle they are taxed (literally and figuratively) with somehow supporting not only the government programs for the poor but also somehow paying a higher percentage of their wages than the rich.  They have no money to lose to write-off, to invest in tax free havens, they have not enough deductions so instead they have to pay.  This is moving many from the middle to the lower middle with the prospect of becoming the working poor, that is wrong no matter who you support in this battle.  The working poor are becoming the working poverty stricken that is even more wrong.  The goal of any parent is that their child should live slightly more comfortably than they did...this descent we are witnessing is unprecedented and if not stopped immediately will become the catalyst for catastrophe. 


There is no shame in poverty, there is no shame in wealth as long as both of those populations have equal opportunities.  I am not sure what the Wall Street protesters want but I do know that there are some pretty obvious fixes that no one seems to be mentioning; the highest tax bracket should be paid at that percentage by those at the top of the bracket just like it is by the folks at the bottom of that bracket, corporations should pay at least 20% in taxes (going by what they pay in countries like Sweden where yes they do pay less than the average person), that CEOs should not get bonuses when they causes losses, that politicians should not gladly accept lifetime positions as even the best among them will build debt to powers they have no respect for, that people should vote, that we should reward those who help build the job market in the US as much if not more than those who outsource, and most of all that it does not mean the wealthy have to give up all they have today but that they need to be part of helping everyone financially underneath them have the opportunities to get there too.  If every multi-millionaire/billionaire in the US gave up 10% of their wealth tomorrow we could wipe out most of the debt, if they gave up more and still kept most of it we could all remember that there is wealth in helping out your country men that cannot be measured by bank balance books.  If we pulled out of wars without meaning we could save lives and oh yeah money.  If I could think of these where are the folks in DC?? Not partisan, not brilliant..not heard yet from anyone in public office.  Communism failed, capitalism is wobbling so let's try something that is more balanced than these 2 extremes ..and no sorry I do not want to be any of the Nordic countries (they too have their share of problems) but something new that is built from knowledge of diverse systems.


So to all those who have the time around the world go and protest, without violence particularly since the police are union workers who represent the very class you are determined to get better financial impact for, to remind everyone that right now the economy is skewed and that we need to re-energize that middle class. That middle class is our salvation, it is what moved America forward, it is what every other country will only succeed with by implementing...without it we will all occupy a very scary place.  


How many times must a man look up,
before he sees the sky?
And how many ears must one man have,
before he can hear people cry ?
And how many deaths will it take till we know,
that too many people have died?

The answer my friend is blowing in the wind,
the answer is blowing in the wind. BOB DYLAN

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Bullies!!!

Bullying ....big topic, all over the news, tragic headlines showing suicides all linked to kids who just did not want to deal with the bullying.   I have to say as a Mom bullying is one of the bigger fears I have.  My sons are nice kids, the older one is friendly, social and yet he is a child who is different.  He may have his "quirks" contained but it is because he knows that other children may not understand that he flaps, walks on his toes, talks to himself...that is reserved for the safety of his house.  The outside world need not know he has these....he knows and he is only 7.  My younger son has the personality that says "I do what I want and if you don't like I really do not care"...he is the kid who will continue to play with an activity regardless of the peer activity around him.  He likes friends but really is mostly interested in being validated by his own needs.  


Bullying...I swear bullies were just not this cruel when I was kid, or is that the beauty of memory helping me block out the bad and remember it through a better lens?  I can never be sure but I do know that bullying did not follow kids home via social network and mobile devices..no respite from it in the sanctity of your own home.  I do know that having something written about you on a bathroom wall could be erased or unknown to you but it was contained.  I do know that there were kids who somehow attracted the negative attention...was it a hair do, clothes, demeanor?  I do not remember bullying anyone and I am sure that I never tormented anyone but I was not so noble as not to have laughed when a girl in my HS known as Penny Pencil was made fun of, not so noble as to befriend her when she may have needed a friend, was not so innocent in adding to the gossip about her (behind her back) and for this I am ashamed.  I am sure someone made fun of me but I was always lucky I had a very social personality that usually did not lend itself to making fun of me, I was too self deprecating and let's face it nothing you were going to say to me was not something I may not have thought of already about myself.  I was always funny and friendly and saved from being an outcast by these traits.  I always was able to make a lot of friends, and they were and are wonderful and somehow think more of me than I ever will.   I did suffer for about a year when I transferred to private school in 6th grade, my tormentor teased me about being poor (am pretty sure we all were blue collar kids so bit ironic in retrospect) since I had not been in private schools my whole life, seems so ludicrous now but was so terrible then.  She was tall and blonde and had the perfect flipped hair.  I learned that being pretty outside and ugly inside could live in the same person. In that one year I learned to cry at home and shrug off Ms. Perfect at school. I found my own friends there and have since learned to feel bad for her ignorance. Funny I tried to be "adult" about it when she friended me on FB...but then thought nope do not need you and no ill feelings about it.  


I am really uncomfortable with compliments, I am insecure about my appearance, my worth to people...I know my closest friends love me and do not judge me...I haven't often or with ease told men if I loved them madly for fear of rejection...yet without fail I get a lot of comments about how I probably was not bullied because I am so self-confident (ha...guess the Oscar goes to me).  I am more confident today then I ever was and less vulnerable because of it.  We need to teach our children to embrace the fact that people are different and not to delight in making those differences into outcasts.  The old adage is "children are cruel"...probably due to their lack of editing but we can help them grow into the adults who will want to learn that cruelty and fear of differences will stagnate them, that from those differences they can learn together to make the world a slightly less scary place.   I cannot protect my children from bullies and that frightens me but I can arm them with self-confidence. I cannot stop someone from hurting them with words or actions but you better believe I will contact those parents and tell them about their kids' behavior as often as needed until they know it is not "over reacting".  I cannot change the pathetic people who can only gain happiness and validation at the expense of other people's pain but I can help my children know they always have a place to come and talk about this.  I will not allow my children to be bigots, bullies, not embrace differences or in any way think I will show them any tolerance for friends who want to be like that.  In the end I can do all that and hope for the best for my boys.  If you as a parent think your child is a bully step in...it is not OK, it is not cool and it can be deadly.  If you as a child are being bullied tell your parents and make them understand how this hurts...they will listen.  If you are a bully ask yourself why ?  I cannot change the world but I can tell you that I for all my fears of being rejected, being afraid that others will think I am not the person worthy of their affections, will be the toughest adversary you ever meet to protect my sons....bullying ..NOT COOL


“Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life, but define yourself.” ~ Harvey S. Firestone

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Goodbye Steve Jobs....Welcome Kids to the 21st Century

I am very saddened by the death of Steve Jobs which is really surprising to me.  I am not one to usually mourn famous people, I feel badly for their passing but mourning is reserved for people I actually know and have feelings for.  I also am surprised by how much this has affected me because I, while I love my iPad and  various other "i" things, am not the Mac (there I go dating myself) aka Apple cultish follower.  Yes, you know who you are...can't say a bad thing about the product even when it is true.  I find their products good but I find many PC products good also.  So why am I sad about the loss of Steve Jobs other than on a human level?  I think it is because I so admire his innovation, his leadership, his ability to be Willie Wonka of the tech world,  willing to never think "No" is an the final answer.  His management style has now made the lexicon of many a consultant charging high fees to make others as devoted as Apple employees seem to be to Jobs....with little or no success.  His style is called "guru" management (am sure there may be other terms) and it is the idea that the people who you manage follow you because they believe in your vision...yeah good luck trying to teach that.  By many accounts he, like Willie Wonka, was not necessarily the nicest, warmest, fuzzy type of boss.  He could be hurtful, abrupt, harsh on any ideas that did not meet his genius level of accomplishment and quite the bully.  Yet his employees were loyal and continued not to only work for him but to want to work for him.  You cannot buy that from a consultant because it is the antithesis of what consulting is...it is saying "I believe in me not what others tell me".


I am sad by his passing because he was my real Willie Wonka ....the man who could dream it and somehow it got made.  I loved his innovation, his ability to see a 3D cube where we all saw a 2D square, to make technology that was people friendly....he is the reason I carry my music in my phone and buy it on the go, the reason I read electronically (and we all know I was not a convert...still not 100% one), the reason for so much enthusiasm before he would speak and share with us those many hours spent in secret which were sure to thrill us, make us line up and feel like the tooth fairy/Santa Claus colluded to give us the best present ever to wake up to just for being asleep when we were supposed to be .  He, and yes Gates and the Google guys and even Zuckerberg, made super smart super cool. He was the child with the power to make a world, that the adults who are doing such a good job screwing up,  rally together and embrace his vision.  Someone pointed out to me that he was the man who was admired and mourned by both the rasta haired Wall Street Occupiers as much as the white collared Wall Street occupants.  I mourn his loss because at first I thought we had no one who could or would replace him, that we in some way had come to a standstill in the people driven technology development area.  However, in speaking about it today with a friend who said these same things to me I realized that no one thought there would be another Edison, Einstein, Ford and there weren't because there should not be, that would be stagnant and repetitive....we need their next generation which will bring it's own greatness and developments to the world.  Jobs was the quintessential blue jean wearing American...slightly brazen, unwilling to follow rules, not married to old world traditions, eternal optimist..he showed us that though kids here do not score as high as they do on standardized tests in other countries...a fact that makes me smile...you need to understand the why,  not memorization, to say "why not?".


The day after Jobs died I went to a program at my 2nd grader's school called "Teaching in the 21st Century". It was about the new curriculum that the 48 internal state governors agreed to starting next year.  We heard how education has not changed in it's core since 19th century, designed for many jobs that are now obsolete,  and this new curriculum is about getting them college and career ready.  It was so exciting to hear about it and how the education system finally is changing from "we have always done it this way" to understanding that the kids know what they need and how they need it.  They mentioned that this generation is made of "digital natives", which is so true, so we need to have a school system and teachers who are comfortable moving in this direction.  I am excited because they are embracing the Steve Jobs, Google, Gates personality ...welcome kids to the generation of endless possibilities,  the generation of innovation, the generation that maybe just maybe can find common ground and a place to fix the world using this new curriculum which is all about Community, Creative Thinking, Collaboration, Communication...These are the kids in that famous 1984 Mac commercial who will not continue to accept black and grey as the colors of their vision but create a rainbow colored apple.


Rest in Peace Steve Jobs.  I am going to miss you, I am thrilled to have been part of the generation that first met you and your wondrous ideas and I wish to extend a warm welcome to your successors whoever they may be...I cannot wait to see what he or she unveils!!!!!!!

‎"Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes ... the ones who see things differently -- they're not fond of rules, and they have no respect for the status quo. ... You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change things. ... They push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the people who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do." Steve Jobs upon his return to Apple in 1997

Monday, October 3, 2011

Fall..Autumn...here it comes

Autumn in New York
Why does it seem so exciting (inviting)
Autumn in New York
It spells the thrill of first-nighting....Billie Holiday
Considering how much I love summer I must admit that I actually like Fall a lot.  Probably after summer it is my favorite season for a host of very silly reasons as well as some that are not.  It is the time that it gets chilly enough to break out some nice toasty outfits without having to be so cold that I dread going outside.  The food can start to be cooked slowly and it is the kind meant to be eaten warm so it can heat you through and through as you eat it.  Comfort food...I mean really enough said based on that description.  The magazines have my favorite issues, big fat, fashions that for the most part cannot be worn by the average person but can be admired for their creative intent.  I love Fall clothes, they lend themselves to my more classic side while allowing me to add some racy tights or boots  so that I do not feel too lady who lunches.   My favorite holiday, Thanksgiving, is during this season. Every year I get a little thrill when we occasionally have those days of pure warmth (they used to be called Indian summer but am sure some politically correct annoying person will correct me on that one).   I missed the changing of the seasons when I lived in San Francisco, felt like one long same season out there.  I love drives up around the Hudson Valley and warm fireplace inns where we could stop after apple picking, have a cider donut (or more if my boys have their say), and even drink a nice red wine to warm us through before we head back.  


One year the boys asked me why the leaves changed while we were driving on one of our Sunday food shopping morning runs.  Since in our house I usually make up stories to tell them, either about adventures including themselves or to explain something, I made one up for this too. Now every year they ask me to retell it and here it is;


Mother Nature knowing that winter was coming and the fragile leaves would not make it went to the trees and said "We need the leaves to fall and stay away for the winter, this way we will have room for the new leaves to come out when the spring comes" and the leaves on the trees swayed in the wind and said "No".  Mother Nature thinks about their response and comes back the next day and says "In the fall I will make you the most beautiful colors of yellow, gold, orange and red. More beautiful than you have ever been. To make sure I do this I will leave the pine trees as green guardians. However, after you have turned into these colors you must fall off ". The leaves think about it and realize that people will always remember them this way so they agree and that is why the leaves change.  


I hope for a prolonged Fall as I do not like winter...the cold just really drains me though am a big sucker for buying Christmas presents for everyone and getting the house ready for that holiday so for now I will enjoy the crisp nights and the beauty that Fall brings.