Take it like a man!

One of my pet peeves, particularly in the summer, is that female attorneys seem to try to get away with dressing so casually as compared to the men.  The male attorneys that I see are universally in coats and ties, and usually in suits.  (Makes it a lot easier to spot the pro ses and clients.)  But the women often show up, even when they are arguing motions, in sleeveless tops, slacks, unstructured skirts, skimpy sandals, etc.   They don’t look lawyerly; they look like they’re heading to the mall or a casual dining restaurant. 

The way I see it, if you want to be treated like a man, and I’m sure that these female attorneys do, you should ensure that you are presenting yourself as professionally as the men are.  I know it’s hot, but, for crying out loud, be thankful that you aren’t expected to wear a tie! 

Anyway, on that note, one of my new favorite blogs is Corporette, which bills itself as “a fashion and lifestyle blog for over-acheiving chicks.”  They generally discuss things to wear to work, and also foray into work-related dilemmas, often with an emphasis on the female perspective (for example, a guest blogger did a post on breast pumping at work, and a recent discussion went into how to control your tears if you feel the urge to cry at work).  I think it usually strikes a good balance between recognizing the uniqueness qualities of being a woman but not expecting special treatment or worship because of sex. 

The Corporette comments very often mention the book “Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office,” recommending it as a warning against things that professional women tend to do to hurt their chances at workplace success.  Since I’m going to be out in the “real world” of law pretty soon, I thought that might be a good read.  After all, I’m always told that I am nice.  (For example, recently, on Althouse, I told a commenter who was going on about Sarah Palin’s “big tits” to stfu with the misogyny, and commenters chimed in that if I was telling him to stfu, he must really be out of line.  If I’m known as “the nice one” when using an assumed name on an internet political blog, I must be an absolute peach in real life.)

Anyway, I was looking at buying the book, but then I thought, would a man read a book called “Nice Boys Don’t Get the Corner Office”?  That sounds kind of lame; men, particularly successful men, don’t usually navel gaze like that.  Or, if they do, they don’t let on.  So, maybe girls that get the corner office don’t read books like Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office?  Now I’m torn.

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“We don’t leave our First Amendment rights in the hands of FCC bureaucrats”

Although I support Elena Kagan’s confirmation on the grounds that it is certainly the best that we could hope for from an Obama presidency, stuff like this really concerns me.  Please listen to the audio at the link.  The quote comes from Justice Alito.  When General Kagan was questioned about infringements on speech and banning books, her response is that the government’s never actually applied it to books, as if that somehow makes the ability to ban them OK.  If the framers of the Constitution had thought “just trust the government” were a good strategy, I don’t think they would have bothered with the First Amendment at all. 

In today’s hearing, she attempted to make the argument that books were somehow different from movies, something about traditional electioneering methods.  It still doesn’t work.  How about we just don’t ban any speech at all?

What part of “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech” doesn’t work for her?

The People Don’t Know What They Want: A Review of John Samples’ The Struggle to Limit Government

The folks who oppose the TEA Party movement love to bring up some of its less logical members’ ill conceived demands to “keep government out of Medicare.” However, these demands perfectly sum up the will of the American populace as a whole, which tends towards a fickle ambivalence on what form it wants government to take.  John Samples’ book The Struggle to Limit Government: A Modern Political History, tracks the history of that ambivalence.

The Struggle to Limit Government begins with a brief overview of progressivism leading up to Franklin Roosevelt. He and other progressives cloaked that ultimate big government program, Social Security, which currently accounts for about 20 percent of our national budget, behind an aura of personal responsibility. He argued, correctly as future would show, that once the wage earners were forced to buy into the system, benefits could never be cut, lest those who paid in would lose their investment. We continue to struggle with this problem today. Social Security was politically designed to persist, and it was designed well. As time went on, the program continued to increase through an ever-growing feedback loop; the benefits would increase shortly before elections, then taxes would necessarily increase once power was comfortably entrenched.

The next major wave of government growth came with Lyndon Johnson and his great society programs. LBJ saw government as a way to remake society, and the people went along. Republicans at the time saw little to gain from opposing governmental growth policies, as the growth benefited them as well, so they did not object to LBJ’s intentions to use government to achieve his goals. LBJ’s programs were bolstered by the enormous support that they provided to higher education, leading universities to be stacked with liberals supportive of his goals. Samples points out that the war in Vietnam served the same goals as the war on poverty at home- to remake society. Government continued to grow unabated.

Reagan’s policies represented a radical new kind of Republican; inspired by Goldwater, he ran on a platform of reforming the old system and actually shrinking government. He argued for cutting taxes first, on the theory that by starving the beast, reduced revenues would force government to contract. He was largely wrong, and his policies led to unprecedented borrowing, still a problem today.

However, Reagan was not a complete failure. His theories changed the public’s perception of government growth. Some of Samples’ most interesting anecdotes are the statements that pre-Reagan politicians made about government’s goals. LBJ, for example, openly called for equality “in fact,” that is, equality of both opportunity and outcome, something no modern politician could call for. Had it not been for Reagan, Obama’s famous answer to Joe the Plumber about “spreading the wealth around” would not have been likely to even raise eyebrows. Although government never actually shrank under Reagan, he did herald in an era of illegitimacy of government that even the most liberal candidates still attempt to give the appearance of embracing today, by claiming that their policies will lower taxes and shrink government. By offering reforms, though, Reagan was ultimately an upholder of the old system; his policies allowed big, centralized government to perpetuate.

Samples is not kind to the Republicans who followed Reagan. While the Gingrich revolution brought about significant change by forcing Clinton to moderate, it delegitimatized the movement as well. When Gingrich and Clinton forced showdowns that led to temporary government shutdowns, the people, comfortable in the booming ‘90’s, favored Clinton and abandoned Gingrich’s attempts to reduce spending. Bush, with his compassionate conservatism, failed to focus on spending much at all and grew government to unprecedented levels. Samples derides the Republicans for focusing on moral issues, rather than fiscal, and losing sight of the need to shrink government. Led by the moral majority, Republicans forced their own kind of progressivism; even the Iraq war, in its intent to remake Iraqi society, was paternalistic and progressive in nature.

This book provides a wealth of interesting, relevant information. While most political junkies will be familiar with the broad history, Samples breaks down the goals, incentives, and public reaction in great detail, allowing the reader to fully understand how government was made into the looming, centralized power that it is today. However, if I have one complaint about it, it is that this is not the sort of book that you can curl up and get lost in. It reads very much like a textbook, with a broad amount of information, but very little narrative flow to keep the reader engaged. The wealth of information makes it well worth the read, but slogging through it is likely to be difficult for the casual reader.

The book’s conclusion appears to break down to the fact that Americans, in their voting habits, simply cannot make up their minds about whether they want larger or smaller government. The common cliché of the citizen wanting government spending cut on everything but what is important to him is a true one. Neither party helps this issue, as both tend to offer their own takes on progressivism in efforts (sometimes misguided) to stay in power. It is our ambivalence, and give and take back, that keeps us on the path that we are on, and that ambivalence will have to change in order to end the struggle and truly limit government.

Maybe a Woman Can’t Handle It

A review of What Sex is a Republican? Stories from the Front Lines in American Politics and How You Can Change the Way Things Are Terri McCormick, M.A., former Wisconsin state congresswoman.  Published by The Capital Press. 

Everybody knows that politics is broken and filled with corruption.  Everybody wants to change the way things are.  Terri McCormick entered the world of politics with the intent to do just that. 

Ms. McCormick started her political career by working to get a charter school law passed in Wisconsin, working against a great deal of opposition from teachers’ unions and other groups dedicated to the status quo.  She tells several harrowing tales about the resistance she faced from those who wanted to retain the status quo.  Particularly disturbing is a tale about her daughter, apparently because of her mother’s activism, had her desk moved to the back corner of the classroom and filled with boxes, presumably at the hands of a teacher who wanted to single her out.  On another occasion, an anonymous phone call warned her to check under her car before strapping the kids in.

Although these incidents are striking and legitimately disturbing, most of the rest of Ms. McCormick’s war stories fall flat.  Ms. McCormick presents virtually every case of opposition against her candidacy or her propositions as if it as well were a personal and unfair attack against her.  One incident, for example, involves her publically disagreeing with the Joint Finance Chair’s criticism of the governor.  Although she presents this issue as if she faced some sort of harsh and unfair retribution for daring to speak out, the story culminates with nothing more than a couple of her party members being critical of her.  Similarly, when describing her visit to Washington in an attempt to run for a national seat, Ms. McCormick spends a great deal of time decrying one sitting senator’s unethical behavior, which turns out to amount to nothing more than him telling her that he would be supporting her opponent.  Her outrage at the party and its treatment of her simply does not ring true, and is difficult to sympathize with, leaving me to wonder whether her lack of success was the result of her own weaknesses and thin skin, rather than any unfair outside forces. 

Throughout the book, Ms. McCormick presents herself as a populist, and asserts the values of grassroots-based populism.  However, in stark contrast to her expressed love of “the people,” Ms. McCormick makes numerous attacks on the credibility of bloggers, always speaking in broad generalities with no specific examples.  She ignores the extraordinary number of times that the “elite” media has mislead its viewers, and makes a case for us to trust the media based only on its alleged credibility.  In my mind, this reads as if Ms. McCormick has a chip on her shoulder about bloggers and is somewhat disingenuous about her love of populism. This, when combined with the stories above, lead the reader to question whether her biases are only based around those that have supported her verses those who have not. 

Indeed, the title of this book is perhaps most misleading.  Although she occasionally pays lip service to ideas involving sex and gender, and sometimes, when describing so failure of support, she throws out the question (without an answer) “Was it about sex?”, she never once gives a credible reason to believe that any of the actions against her were based on her gender.  In this way, her assertions appear no different from Obama supporters asserting that opposition to his policies are founded in racism.  From a description of the book provided by the publisher, some opponents of the GOP may hope that this book will reveal some hidden sexism that pervades its ranks.  They will be sorely disappointed. 

Approximately the first three quarters of the book are largely devoted to Ms. McCormick’s stories from the front lines of politics.  The remainder, however, is devoted to explanations and guidelines devoted to the second promise, how we can change the way things are.  Although many of the examples given are generalized and somewhat uninspired (“get involved!” “vote!”), she also provides a great deal of explanation as to how a political campaign is actually run. She encourages all who are interested to get involved and run for office at the local level.  She encourages people who want to make changes and solve problems to run for local office based on grassroots efforts.  Where all of that encouragement would be nice but somewhat banal, she separates this book by actually providing an action plan that describes, from start to finish, how such a campaign can be run and won.  Additionally, she provides examples and instructions involving how bills can be written and passed in order to allow her readers to take action.  These instructions and examples, things that I have always been curious about but do not believe to be widely available, could make this book unusually valuable to those who are interested in making a difference.  This may make up for the book’s other weaknesses.