Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Why Corporate Executives Are Stupid

For all of Stanley Bing's executive expertise, he can't see the forest for the trees:
What do you think the boys at the Big Three auto companies were thinking about when each took his own private jet to Washington to ask for help?..Are they stupid?
The answer to this question has been obvious to Pretty Lady, since about three weeks into her first temporary corporate secretarial job. The answer is that 'stupidity' is an entirely irrelevant concept, in the context of Corporate America. The behavior of corporate executives, managers, and employees cannot be analyzed with reference to intelligence, or lack thereof; it is simply more or less well-adapted to an entire structure which is rooted in the mechanics of animal dominance.

As Pretty Lady learned, partly from personal experience, and partly from the book 'Games Mother Never Taught You: Corporate Gamesmanship for Women,' the corporate universe is not based upon the laws of physics as we have come to understand them. It is entirely controlled by the laws of testosterone, which give rise to absurd displays of posturing, buffoonery, showmanship, aggression, control, spin, mendacity, and irrelevance.

When viewed in the light of these laws, taking three corporate jets to Washington in order to ask for a large sum of money makes perfect sense. One does not obtain things in corporate America by being competent, sensible, generous and humble; one obtains things by flashy displays of power. This system is sustained and abetted by the meek acquiescence of the non-powerful, who put their heads down and go along with it in order to survive.

(Whether or not this sheeplike complicity in institutional narcissism is voluntary or fully determined by circumstance is an open question; Pretty Lady is not qualified to state an opinion. She herself, being both non-belligerent and non-acquiescent by nature, opted to flee the system as much as possible. This has not spared her from the collective economic doom approaching us, but at least she's familiar with the exigencies of poverty.)

What seems clear to her is that our collective American persona of belligerence, entitlement, self-righteousness, exploitation, and herd mentality is finally reaping its consequences, and that there is no way we can escape it. As Peter Schiff so correctly points out, we have been living beyond our means for decades, feeding off the labor of others while providing little of value ourselves. There is no recourse. We're going to suffer.

Monday, November 24, 2008


Oh, yes. Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.
Hey, just so you know, it is already too late.

it is. trust me on this. she just went to the bathroom, she's waiting in line for it, she's like second in line, so we have a few minutes, maybe more, but at least a few, so time's kinda of the essence here.

you've ruined the date, your first date, it's over. cause you ruined it.
Read the whole thing. Read it twice. Rarely is truth expressed so economically, and in such a deeply satisfying way.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Nadler Resolution to Stop Pre-Emptive Bush Pardons

Representative Jerrold Nadler has created a resolution to stop the Bush administration from pre-emptively pardoning members of its own administration for possible war crimes, including torture:

(1) it is the sense of the House of Representatives that the granting of preemptive pardons by the President to senior officials of his administration for acts they may have taken in the course of their official duties is a dangerous abuse of the pardon power;

(2) it is the sense of the House of Representatives that the President should not grant preemptive pardons to senior officials in his administration for acts they may have taken in the course of their official duties;

(3) it is the sense of the House of Representatives that James Madison was correct in his observation that "[i]f the President be connected, in any suspicious manner, with any person, and there be grounds [to] believe he will shelter him, the House of Representatives can impeach him; they can remove him if found guilty";

(4) it is the sense of the House of Representatives that a special investigative commission, or a Select Committee be tasked with investigating possible illegal activities by senior officials of the administration of President George W. Bush, including, if necessary, any abuse of the President's pardon power; and

(5) the next Attorney General of the United States appoint an independent counsel to investigate, and, where appropriate, prosecute illegal acts by senior officials of the administration of President George W. Bush.

Please go here and urge your representative to support it. Thank you.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Well, isn't that just like a man

Pretty Lady is amused to note that the gay-marriage debate has not obviated that grand old patriarchal tradition--of the idealistic gentleman who eagerly sacrifices his loved ones on the altar of his ideals, whether they concur or no:
I am a 26 year old heterosexual, white male who is in the best relationship of my life. She is a 26 year old Egyptian woman. We're very happy and recently she met most of my family and extended family. They loved her as well. We even hope to marry someday. I am so grateful that I live in a country that would honor that bond. As you know, it wasn't too long ago that our relationship would not be recognized in many states. That being said, I've taken the stand that I do not want to join the institution of marriage until it is one that allows ALL loving couples to join.

As much as Pretty Lady honors this gentleman's sentiments, and agrees with him in principle, she has a few questions for his would-be fianceƩ. That is: does she want children? Anytime soon? Where is she living? Would she like to live in the United States? Would she like to work here? What does her family think about all this?

In other words, how long is her life going to remain in limbo, for the sake of an abstract principle that her actions have no influence over, one way or another?

Pretty Lady, as a recovering co-dependent, learned firsthand the hard way that forcing oneself to suffer until the entire world is happy only accomplishes one thing: it increases the aggregate suffering on the planet. It does not bring healing to the other sufferers; it does not create civil equality, liberty, or justice for all. It is merely extremely annoying.

Moreover, Pretty Lady is intimately familiar with the sort of unthinking chauvinism that induces idealistic, infatuated young men to address their favored ladies with that time-honored, romantic phrase, "You wait here while I take care of it."

Memo to all young ladies and gentleman: Any young lady who hangs around for more than five or ten minutes for this kind of twaddle is a fool. As free, equal, enlightened, capable women, we are no longer required to cool our heels while you fellows make everything perfect. Which is an excellent thing, because global perfection was never in your grasp to begin with. The best we can hope for is equal, enlightened, mutual pragmatism, on a small scale, wherever we can create it.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

No Confidence in Mr. Paulson

If Henry Paulson's intention is to reassure the American people by publishing an editorial in the NYTimes today, he is not doing a very good job of it:

I have always said that the decline in the housing market is at the root of the economic downturn and our financial market stress. And the economy, as it slows further, threatens to prolong this decline, as well as the stress on our financial institutions and financial markets.

A troubled-asset purchase program, to be effective, would require a huge commitment of money. In mid-September, before economic conditions worsened, $700 billion in troubled asset purchases would have had a significant impact. But half of that sum, in a worse economy, simply isn’t enough firepower.
Pretty Lady is, of course, not an economist. But even she can see clearly that if the American economy is based solely upon real estate prices, the American economy is very ill indeed.

She once heard that the Rule of Thumb for housing is that a financially responsible person spends between ten and twenty-five percent of her income on rent or mortgage payments. This formula, she understands, ensures that a person has enough left over for groceries, transportation, health insurance, savings, clothing, education, entertainment, vacations, and other incidental expenses of life.

She thinks of this formula every now and then, and a thin, bitter smile flits across her face.

For the only time that Pretty Lady's income/housing expense ratio met this standard was...well, Pretty Lady's income/housing expense ratio has never met this standard, even when she was living in Mexico, because when she lived in Mexico she had virtually no income at all. The fact is, if Pretty Lady told you her average lifetime income/housing expense ratio, you would all stone her. You would cease to take her admonishments seriously ever again, because obviously such a fiscally irresponsible human being is not fit to be living indoors at all, let alone dispensing advice.

But the fact is, in the metropolitan areas where Pretty Lady has lived for the last twenty years, it is virtually impossible for a person who is not an investment banker to adhere to this formula, for the simple reason that wage/real estate price ratios are overwhelmingly real-estate heavy. Real estate, in short, is overinflated as though it were the basis of an economy wherein people are making far more money from real estate speculation than from actual work.

This is not, and never has been, a healthy or sustainable state of affairs.

In Pretty Lady's non-economist view, it is about time that real estate prices came down. Real estate prices are killing her, as well as nearly every other person she knows who works an actual, physical, productive job. If someone's gambling income collapses because he bet that real estate prices would continue to skyrocket forever and ever amen, and leveraged those bets at a ratio of thirty to one, that person should by rights be stripped of all his assets and given a job repairing pot holes, by hand, with a shovel and a wheelbarrow full of concrete. He may start either on Canal Street, or that section of the FDR which nearly took out her suspension yesterday evening.

Injecting hundreds of billions of dollars into the financial system with the goal of keeping real-estate prices inflated, however, strikes her as the worst sort of stupidity, if not downright malignant robbery. Provide credit to productive businesses, certainly. Extend unemployment insurance for honest workers who are out of a job; provide healthcare, education, and investment in green energy. Fertilize the roots of our economy wherever there is something actually growing. But for God's sake, quit pumping the real estate balloon. Are you mad, Mr. Paulson? Are you a fool? Or are you simply evil???

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Why Pretty Lady Is Not A Computer Scientist

Pretty Lady cannot answer for Women in General, of course. But her personal answer to the question posed by today's NYTimes is very simple: Because she does not wish to be a computer scientist.

She established this lack of interest in computer science at the age of fifteen, when Daddy brought home a state-of-the-art Apple and allowed her to Roam Free. She fearlessly approached the machine and wrote a simple program which made a small green ball bounce back and forth across the screen; then she altered this program to make the ball bounce around and around the screen. Then she was done.

Her primary objection to the science of computer programming was its literal, inane, tedious linearity. Computers are not intuitive. They are not holistic. They require everything to be Spelled Out in a most tiresomely redundant manner. Programming is rather like teaching autistic children, except without any of the poetry, pathos, variety, or endearing personality quirks. One takes a Step in a certain direction; then one is required to enumerate every single infinitesimal obvious point from origin to conclusion, before embarking upon another linear, obvious Step. It is boring beyond belief.

Simply, Pretty Lady found that the exercise of programming only required the services of roughly two percent of her brain capacity; the rest of her mind, meanwhile, nearly exploded with restlessness and understimulation. Activities which adequately engage her particular mind tend to be multi-textured, multi-leveled, multi-sensory, multi-functional, and varied. Computer programming, in contrast, reminds her of Spalding Gray's description of a day without cocktail hour: "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA, AAAAAAAAAAAAAA, AAAAAAAAAAAA__Bed."

It should be made exceptionally clear that Pretty Lady was not in any way discouraged from becoming a computer scientist, either by Family, Academia, Society, or overwhelming fear of becoming a psychosexual leper. She was not plagued by Insecurity or Self-Doubt. She had no lingering suspicions that she was not intellectually up to the task. The sole reason that she eliminated computer science from her roster of potential careers was her strong personal disinclination to pursue it.

Pretty Lady does not wish to beat a dead horse, but after several decades of living on the planet as an intelligent woman, and from intimate acquaintance with many hundreds of other intelligent women, she more than suspects that there are more intelligent women who share her aversion to the dictates of computer science than those who embrace it. She knows far, far greater numbers of men who do not mind being cloistered in a tiny cubicle for twelve to sixteen hours per day, pursuing a single arcane logical trajectory, than women who would choose to endure this type of intellectual, aesthetic and relational constriction.

Thus, the implications of the title of the above-linked NYTimes article rather offend her. Women are not necessarily being driven from computer science, like so many cattle. There is an even chance that we are voluntarily choosing to avoid it, for the very good reason that we would much rather do just about anything else.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Moved by God

Pretty Lady wishes to offer her sincere thanks and congratulations to the leaders of the Mormon church, as well as to all the others who have made this day possible. They have listened to the urgings of a wise and benevolent God, and in doing so they have sparked a peaceful nationwide movement to uphold love, decency, commitment, and equal rights for all Americans.

For freedom can never be bestowed; it can only be claimed. And the surest path to claiming one's freedom lies in recognizing, resisting and overcoming the obstacles placed in the way.


Courage Campaign on-line petition

Petition to strip the Mormon church of tax-exempt status

Box Turtle Bulletin

Ed Winkleman: Backlash Whiplash
"This country will improve enormously when we impress upon its self-appointed moral agents that the burdens of belief fall to the believers, not upon the unbelievers. Do you see the Jews trying to criminalize pork? Then what business do the Mormons, Catholics, or anyone else have regarding gay marriage? If your credo damns homosexuality, have the decency to let everybody who doesn't arrange their lives according to literal readings of third-hand translations of Bronze Age literature make their own contractual arrangements."


Friday, November 14, 2008

Even More Genuinely Shocked

Pretty Lady is sorry to say that her respect for Conor Friedersdorf has just plummeted:

Larison writes:

Most Americans cannot conceive of executive branch officials, much less the President himself, having to answer for their crimes, which is one of the reasons why so many members of different administrations, but particularly the current one, have held the law in such contempt–because they know they will not have to answer, much less pay, for what they have done.
I find it hard to conceive of throwing Dick Cheney in jail for breaking the law. But I think there is a high-likelihood that a fair investigation would find him guilty of illegal acts, and if that happens I’ll be the first to advocate his prosecution and imprisonment, fully understanding that it’ll be a dark day for the United States...
Why, Conor? Why is this so hard? Pretty Lady finds it immensely easy to conceive of throwing Dick Cheney in jail. She confesses that she has repeatedly visualized the sight of Dick Cheney in handcuffs--doing the perp walk in front of the media, his humorless lizard face etched in its permanent scowl--with great satisfaction, if not a great deal of hope that this will ever come to pass.

What is it about 'all men are created equal' that Americans, after having more than two centuries to get used to the phrase, still fail to apprehend? That if an individual knowingly and willingly breaks the law, shattering many thousands of lives, spreading misery and desolation far and wide, that individual deserves to be held accountable for his actions? No matter what titular label has been temporarily attached to his corporeal person?

It will not, in any way, be a dark day for the United States if Dick Cheney is arrested, tried, and thrown in jail for life. It will be the dawning of a day when the United States actually attempts to live up to its founding precepts. Hmph.

Shocked, shocked, I'm sure

Hello darlings! Pretty Lady has not fallen off the earth; she has not been celebrating, she has not been mourning, she has merely been Silent. Silence may, indeed, be one of the most underrated luxuries of human existence.

But Pretty Lady was veritably shocked yesterday, when she heard on NPR that a group of International Economics Experts had concluded that the global economy is, in fact, in a recession. Really? How can they tell? What a daring pronouncement!

(This is the sound of Pretty Lady being ponderously sarcastic.)

Because the fact is, Pretty Lady and her Gentleman Friend have been well and personally aware of the global economic situation, for lo these many months. Pretty Lady is in a couple of Luxury Industries, and her GF runs hardware systems for the Corporate Financial World. At least, both of them used to do these things, back when there were people and corporations who could afford to pay for them.

Now, Pretty Lady and her GF do whatever they can do, whenever they can do it, to cover each bill before the interest rate goes up, the service gets disconnected, the policy is cancelled, the late fee kicks in, the car dies, or they are evicted for non-payment of rent. She is pleased to report that the lights are still on.

This is due, in no small part, to the fact that Pretty Lady and her GF are not living in a stoic, individualistic vacuum. What is currently keeping them afloat is their immersion in Community. Not as parasites of the Welfare State--as contributing members in a network of human beings with diverse skills, assets and liabilities.

Pretty Lady, being enciente, avails herself of the services of a doula, a Life Coach, an acupuncturist, a prenatal massage therapist, and a network chiropractor, by virtue of the Barter System. (See her Wellness Review for details.) Her hip new pair of glasses comes courtesy of the Blogher Network. Prenatal nutrition is ensured at reasonable cost by membership in the Park Slope Food Co-op, plus a lot of cooking. She has just finished setting up a darling Infant Bedroom, three months in advance, courtesy of generous friends with toddlers who have outgrown their Pack N Play, their Baby Bjorn, their high chair and their catchall bibs. And she is forever grateful to those friends and relatives who hit her Rent Fund button, unsolicited.

Her Gentleman Friend, meanwhile, runs around town fixing people's computers, installing their electrical systems, assembling their furniture, managing their events, and generally being a godsend. Week by week, task by task, bankruptcy is kept at bay.

This, friends, is what Pretty Lady means when she thinks of the Fundamentals of an Economy. Healthy economies involve human beings at work on physical things. They do not necessarily involve manipulation of abstract derivative on top of abstract derivative, clever bet on top of clever bet, or making up imaginary numbers and adding them to one's government balance sheet. 'We are all in this together' does not mean Socialism. It means that we look out for ourselves by looking out for one another.

So although Pretty Lady is deeply pleased by the fact that the American electorate has finally appointed a sensible leader who listens to people besides his ideological cronies, values competence over ideology, organizes from the grassroots up rather than the top down, and who enlists the services of experts when addressing problems, she is not waiting for a Messiah to solve anything. She is living the change she wants to see in the world, and hoping for the best.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

A Conservative Christian Case for Civil Same-Sex Marriage

Pretty Lady could not possibly say it better. Please read the entire thing, then if you live in California, please vote No on Proposition 8.

It is high time that we grow up and learn to play fair. Freedom for us means freedom for someone else too, even our fellow Americans in the gay and lesbian community. Is that too high a price to pay? Of course not. Civil liberties is what gives Christians the freedom to pursue our moral convictions in this country in the first place. It is what guarantees a future for ourselves and our children in which we will be able to practice our religious beliefs free of harassment and fear. It is what paves the way for us to make a true moral impact on our culture, not by trying to legislate the Bible as if that will change people's hearts, but through leading by example as Jesus commanded us: "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 5:16).

How will this help forward the gospel of Jesus Christ? A wise Christian minister once said, "It is quite useless to approach a man with both a club and an argument. He will very naturally be in no mood to appreciate our argument until we lay aside our club."

It is no wonder that nobody listens to us anymore. For too long we have been trying to persuade people with the gospel while wielding the club of political authoritarianism. What a contradictory message this presents to the world. Does not our gospel say that God is love, and that he has come down to earth, stretched out his hands, and allowed himself to be nailed to a cross for our sins, so that the gates of paradise might be freely opened to anyone who believes? When will we lay aside our club so that this message may be heard more clearly, and felt more poignantly?

We often think being a witness for Christ means doing some extraordinary thing. But sometimes the best witness to the gospel is as simple as being civil enough to respect people's legitimate freedoms, and being decent enough to put aside the name-calling and treat people like human beings. Supporting the civil liberties of homosexual American citizens is decent, civil and, yes, loving. Loving at least in a way that gays and lesbians are more likely to understand.

Cinderella Myths

Darlings, Pretty Lady never thought this day would come; hell has, in fact, frozen over. Pretty Lady feels sorry for Sarah Palin.

In Governor Palin's defense, it is nearly impossible for an individual who is unfamiliar with French accents to accurately decipher the phrase "Hustler's Nailin' Palin" on the first go-round, particularly when one is anxious to make a good impression.

But the fact is, this sort of thing is terribly cruel. It is cruel because the Cinderella Myth is still endemic in our culture, fostered by such travesties as 'American Idol,' 'People Magazine,' and irresponsible Republican identity politics. Huge swaths of our population implicitly believe that It Can Happen To You, if you are swept up by a sufficiently powerful media machine; YOU may become a celebrity overnight, magically acquiring the talent and expertise to accompany your exalted position, merely because The Powers That Be say so.

It isn't true, and it never was. Media machines sweep up the physically attractive and psychologically dependent, who are then crushed, sucked dry, and spit out. It is time we confronted the evil of this--the pervasive, cynical, inexcusable evil--and repudiated it.

This recording makes it clear, if it weren't so already, that Ms. Palin is still, psychologically speaking, a child--a credulous, hopeful, struggling child. And child abuse is dreadful. Please, let us stop.