John Oliver, HBO’s version of Jon Stewart, decided to celebrate Mother’s Day by using his late night platform to argue for federal paid family leave in America. It was a compelling, heavy-handed report loaded with half-truths meant to support an ideologically beautiful, yet economically unfeasible concept. Based on my years administering FMLA in New Jersey, here is the list of Oliver’s myths that need to be debunked if we’re going to take the argument for paid family leave seriously.
1. Selena Allen, whose baby was born 6 weeks premature. Oliver presents her as only being able to take a total of 4 weeks off of work, which indicates that Oliver is oblivious to the disability period associated with giving birth. According to the Department of Labor, pregnancy is viewed as a temporary disability the 30 days prior and 30 days after birth. That post-birth time frame automatically increases for women who deliver via C-section. The disability period can always be extended in either direction with a doctor’s note. While this may be considered an unpaid leave by your employer, you are entitled to run your sick time concurrent to the leave, and you may also pursue temporary disability payments from your state or private disability insurer. Allen should never have returned to work the week following giving birth. Whether or not she was correctly informed of the law is not included in Oliver’s story.
2. Oliver argues for paternity leave by pointing out that Major League Baseball fans didn’t appreciate one player taking off 3 games to attend the birth of his child. What Oliver doesn’t mention is that fathers are just as eligible to take advantage of FMLA to bond with their newly born, foster or adoptive children. You do not need to physically give birth to be entitled to FMLA.
Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg
The average wedding in America costs roughly $30,000. Egged on by countless wedding TV shows, magazines, and websites, people throw what appear to be pseudo star-studded events that aim to rival the kind of blow-out parties you only see in movies. In the end you wind up with one night of clouded memories, a ton of photos, and a group of hungover people hovering over breakfast in the hotel lobby the next day. The bills may last you months, even upwards of a year. And for what? To make your grandmother happy? Because you really liked that episode of My Fair Wedding? You can have a great, regret-free wedding without sacrificing yourself to the Wedding Idol. Here’s how.
“The August 1991 coup in Moscow collapsed three days after it had started, providing the ultimate, ironic proof that nothing, not even a coup, could succeed any more in a society whose vital arteries had been calcified by 70 years of disinformation and dismal feudalism. The main loser was the Communist Party.”
– Lt. Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa
Both the Democrat and Republican parties have been disinformed by Marxism. The Liberal wing of the Democrat Party has been duped into putting their faith in Marxism’s many forms (socialism, economic determinism, progressivism), while the Republican Party has legitimized Marxism as a form of party politics instead of a murderous, atheistic religion that empowers despots. The Conservative movement, by and large, is slow to recognize Marxism’s true nature, because we are a nation that has been drugged by Disinformation. Pacepa continues:
At the end of the 2001 summit meeting held in Slovenia, President George W. Bush said: “I looked the man [Putin] in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy.” Unfortunately, even President Bush was deceived by disinformation. Putin consolidated Russia into an intelligence dictatorship, not a democracy. During the Cold War, the KGB was a state within a state. Under Putin, the KGB, rechristened the FSB, is the state. Three years after Putin enthroned himself in the Kremlin, some 6,000 former officers of the KGB—that organization responsible for having slaughtered at least 20 million people in the Soviet Union alone—were running Russia’s federal and local governments.
…Is it too far-fetched to suggest that this new Russia calls up the hypothetical image of a postwar Germany being run by former Gestapo officers, who reinstate Hitler’s “Deutschland Über Alles” as national anthem, call the demise of Nazi Germany a “national tragedy on an enormous scale,” and invade a neighboring country, perhaps Poland, the way Hitler set off World War II?
That is the secret power of disinformation.
Pacepa share these thoughts with me mere weeks before the Ukranian revolution and secession of the Crimea to Putin’s Russia. Disinformation is wielding its power on the American homefront as well. In his critique of Thomas Piketty’s new book Capital in the Twenty-First Century, David Brooks embraces Piketty’s idea of a tax on the wealthy’s investment capital in order to create intellectual equality among the classes:
Think of how much more affordable fine art would be. Think of how much more equal the upper class would be.
His musings aren’t that far off from those of Russian intellectuals, who are “making do” with their government’s clampdown on free media and the right to protest. In exchange for their rights, these Russians whose intellectual arteries have been “calcified by disinformation” are being doted upon by their increasingly despotic government:
All sorts of entertainment is being lavished on Russia’s hipsters. Their favorite public parks have splashy, beautifully designed restaurants and clubs, comfortable biking areas and luxurious places to chill. Sanctions or not, Fedoseyev’s friends can still dine out at restaurants full of expats, take shopping trips to Milan, or buy their electronic gadgets online. Fashion Week this weekend was another party blooming with charming models and celebrities; the usual hipsters clubs, Solianka, Simachev, Oldich Dress and Drink or Strelka, felt as cuddly and crowded as ever.
To paraphrase Brooks, it would seem that the fine art is quite affordable in Russia these days. Like junkies seeking a quick fix, Russian intellectuals pursue disinformation at the expense of their freedom. Is Brooks suggesting we do the same, or have we already succumbed to the addiction? In either case, what we need to know now is: What is the antidote to disinformation?
Back to the Future actor Crispin Glover sat down with IGN recently to talk about his experience filming the classic time-travel adventure. Glover only worked on the first film in the franchise, though his likeness and select footage from the first film was used in the second.
In his interview with IGN, posted above, Glover explained some of the creative differences which contributed to his leaving the franchise. He objected to what he called “propaganda” in the film promoting “corporate interests.” Specifically, Glover felt that the ending of the first film, portraying the McFly family as happier and notably wealthier than when it began, sent the wrong message.
The happier was fine to me. And the idea of the characters being in love, I thought was excellent. But I thought – I saw that if there was a kind of a financial reward, where the son character cheers because he has a truck in the garage – I thought that the moral aspect ends up being that money equals happiness. And I questioned that, and that was met with a lot of hostility and upset.
Glover recalls watching old movies in revival houses as a teenager in Los Angeles, films which he felt “were questioning things.” He apparently did not want to be complicit in a film which takes for granted that “money equals happiness,” a message he felt deceived moviegoers into sacrificing their interests to that of corporations.
Propaganda is essentially fooling people into believing that there’s something good for them, but it’s actually in the interests of the corporations. I mean, you can call anything propaganda. You can say what I’m saying right now is propaganda. I mean, you’re saying – it’s propagating an idea. But the kind of propaganda that I’m speaking of, that I think is very damaging, is the propaganda that is making people at large feel that what’s being put forth to them is good for their own interests. But in fact, it’s actually best for the corporate interests and it ends up hurting the people at large.
And unfortunately, I think – even though there are very positive things about Back to the Future – there’s very good story structure. There was good writing within it. My argument was, if we just take out the element of wealth as a reward – and it was only that the characters were in love, I would like the film altogether wholly.
The philosophical notion fueling Glover’s objection was that money should not matter if you pursue those things which you love.
In other words, the publisher of the magazine that prints articles informing readers they should advocate for:
“Job guarantees” through the non-profit (i.e. taxpayer funded) sector
A “universal basic income” funded through (taxpayer-based) Social Security
The creation of a “simple land-value tax”
A taxpayer-funded “sovereign wealth fund”
Taxpayer-funded state-owned public banks
doesn’t need to tell you one darn thing about the amount of taxes they do (or don’t) pay. Who knows? Wenner Media might just qualify as one of Meyerson’s despised “megacorporations”. The fact that the company’s co-founder, Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner, is worth a cool $700 million makes you think twice, unless you’re some twentysomething hack who has a proclivity for overusing the word “blow.” Did the editors have to cut out his Beavis and Butthead-like chuckles from the text? No wonder the guy is advocating for a government-funded job watering that fern in his Williamsburg apartment (or, as he prefers to call it, “urban farming”); the only reason he managed to swing a writing gig is because he’s a glorified mouthpiece for the same yuppie political hucksters he claims to be fighting against. That’s right, Meyerson’s a Tool for the Machine. Huh-huh-huh, I said tool.
Forget the fact that the guy who thinks we have an unemployment problem because available jobs are “menial” and “boring” is also the same guy who believes putting every adult on an auto-pay system will actually improve individual well-being, stimulate the economy, and spark a cultural renaissance in “painting murals.” You can’t reason with stupid. You can only laugh at the irony of a Marxist hippie ideology being parroted in a magazine created by a Marxist hippie that has become a pathetic homage to ideas so dense and ridiculous that their owners, like Jann Wenner, long ago left them in the dustbin to pursue successful truths, like capitalism, the free market, and the ability to own private corporations.
Congratulations, kid, you’ve been duped. But at least Mr. Wenner and the 30% of Rolling Stone readers whose income exceeds $100,000 a year were kind enough to redistribute some of their money your way.
Tuesday, December 10th, 2013 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg
This past Sunday a group of Ukranian activists knocked down a statue of Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin and smashed it to pieces in Kiev’s Bessarabska Square. While no one can be sure who started the protest, CNN reports:
Ukraine’s government news agency said a lawmaker with the nationalist Svoboda party claimed responsibility for the incident.
“This is the end of Soviet occupation,” the party’s Twitter account said. “End of (the) regime of shame and humiliation.”
…”Destroying the Lenin monument in Kiev is not just an act of vandalism,” [Communist] party leader Petro Symonenko said, according to a post on the party’s official website. “It is a sign that organizers of the protests are not for the European values, but rather for hate, fear and destruction of the state of Ukraine.”
Ironically, “European values” are exactly what drove the protesters to destroy the statue and encamp in Kiev’s Independence Square. In the face of rising debt and sinking bond prices, Ukranian President Viktor Yanukovych turned down a trade agreement with the E.U. that “would have opened borders to trade and set the stage for modernization and inclusion” in favor of cultivating a deeper relationship with Moscow.
One hundred thousand protesters lined the streets of the nation’s capital over the weekend. Two thousand are there now, huddled around fires in a makeshift tent city in Independence Square, holding firm in their demand that failed Ukranian President Viktor Yanukovych dissolve the government and answer their demand for immediate elections.
Now that the fourth season premiere of A&E’s Duck Dynasty has shattered the record for the highest-rated show of its kind in history, even bicoastal liberals are starting to check it out. Good for them, because the story of the Louisiana boys made good is a rousing parable about what it means to be sons and daughters of this country. As Phil Robertson, the inventor of the family duck call that made a fortune, once put it, “It’s America, let it rip.” Here are five reasons Duck Dynasty is the great All-American show of the moment.
1. The Robertsons are good ol’ boys.
Nothing turns up the nose of the elites and the Eurosnobs as much as the notion of a good ol’ boy, a redneck, a country bumpkin. Sensitive San Franciscans and multicultural Brooklynites alike revel in jokes about white trash, the only ethnic group it’s acceptable to look down on.
Television shows and movies generally avoid mention of places like Louisiana unless it’s to make fun of the inhabitants or to portray the Deep South as a hotbed of racism, extremism and hatred in general. But the family behind the Duck Commander fortune is an easygoing clan of honest, simple, unpretentious folk who love one another, play practical jokes, and stick to country values. The good ol’ boy is an almost uniquely American personality type. You’d be hard pressed to find a good ol’ boy in China or Germany.
Roy and Walt’s father Elias had an entrepreneurial streak but he was either unlucky or a terrible businessman. Yet he professed socialist views. Elias tried to impress these ideals on his sons. As I wrote about him recently:
Elias…was a Socialist — in particular, he followed the philosophy of J. A. Wayland. Wayland created a unique strain of Prairie Socialism in the late-19th and early-20th centuries.
Wayland’s newspaper, Appeal to Reason, “was folksy” and “reached the common man’s ears but irritated the intellectual’s.” Elias Disney subscribed to Appeal to Reason, and Walt remembered cutting his teeth as an artist by copying the cartoons. Walt said he “could draw cartoons of ‘Capital’ and ‘Labor’ pretty good, the big fat capitalist with the money with his foot on the neck of the laboring man with the little cap on his head.”
Elias Disney voted for Progressive William Jennings Bryan and Socialist Eugene Debs in presidential elections, despite being an entrepreneur and employer.
Clem Flickinger, a boyhood friend of Walt’s, recalled in 1987 what may have been Roy’s first venture into capitalism. He planted an acre of popcorn. When the ears ripened, he shucked them, dried them in the sun, and shelled the kernels. He packed the popcorn into candy sacks and sold them in Marceline.
When Walt headed to California to pursue his dream of running his own studio, he sought out Roy for advice, partnership, and a little seed money. Walt provided the creative spark, and it was up to Roy to conjure up the funds to fulfill the ideas.
It was like that moment in The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy emerges from the grey remains of her dislocated home into an exotic world of color. That was how I felt at twelve years of age upon my arrival in Minnesota.
Home up to that point had been the dank flat malaise of inner-ring suburban Detroit. In many ways, the Motor City evoked Dorothy’s Kansas. Everything was built on the grid system, many right angles, old houses of stone and brick. It was tangibly dull, colors muted by wear and grime. Winters were especially bleak. An amalgam of overcast, endless concrete and dirt-ridden snow drowned the world in grey. By comparison, the big skies and rolling hills of the Mississippi valley seemed a storybook paradise.
That first trip to Minnesota was made in order to spend time with my father. He had been maintaining an apartment in the Twin Cities while starting a new position with Northwest Airlines. We were to scout out potential homes in anticipation of transplanting the rest of the family, my mother and two sisters. It was perhaps the most visceral manifestation of upward mobility in our family’s history, chasing opportunity across the country.
It was the culmination of my father’s economic journey, which had its beginnings in poverty. Unfortunately, I don’t know much about my father’s childhood aside from the scraps I’ve managed to glean from remarks thrown here and there. I know enough, however, to understand that my father’s rise to the middle class beat the odds — which were stacked against him from the start.
Many years later, I continue to benefit from the choices Dad made. Now the father of my own young family, I stand atop his shoulders looking to grab the next rung. From that position, I realize that some of the essential concepts my father applied are still relevant to me today. As I seek to renew the momentum my father achieved, I reflect upon where he began and how he got to where he did. There are valuable lessons there.
First, it’s important to understand the goal. When we consider the quest for upward mobility, what is our measure of success? In a 2011 piece for Time magazine, assistant managing editor Rana Foroohar makes a crucial distinction:
You can argue about what kind of mobility really matters. Many conservatives, for example, would be inclined to focus on absolute mobility, which means the extent to which people are better off than their parents were at the same age. That’s a measure that focuses mostly on how much economic growth has occurred, and by that measure, the U.S. does fine. Two-thirds of 40-year-old Americans live in households with larger incomes, adjusted for inflation, than their parents had at the same age (though the gains are smaller than they were in the previous generation).
But just as we don’t feel grateful to have indoor plumbing or multichannel digital cable television, we don’t necessarily feel grateful that we earn more than our parents did. That’s because we don’t peg ourselves to our parents; we peg ourselves to the Joneses. Behavioral economics tells us that our sense of well-being is tied not to the past but to how we are doing compared with our peers. Relative mobility matters. By that standard, we aren’t doing very well at all. Having the right parents increases your chances of ending up middle to upper middle class by a factor of three or four.
It’s a mistake to take for granted the notion that “relative mobility matters” without asking why. As we consider some ideas for rising from poverty to the middle class, it will become apparent that improving our individual quality of life is a superior consideration to how our wealth compares with that of others.
What can your smartphone teach you about gratitude? A great deal.
Not many years ago, I despised the idea of a cell phone. I value my autonomy, which to my mind includes the ability to remain deliberately unavailable. The notion of carrying around a phone in my pocket sounded a lot like putting a leash around my neck.
The issue was forced one Christmas when my in-laws purchased phones for my wife and me, even paying the subsequent bill for a year. Later came the advent of smartphones. I stood unimpressed. Phones make calls. They don’t need to sing and dance. Nevertheless, a new device caught my wife’s eye during an opportunity to upgrade our cellular contract. The price seemed reasonable and I reluctantly traded up.
It was my exploration of that device which prompted a dramatic change in my attitude toward mobile technology. As I pilfered apps and discovered capabilities, I quickly realized that this tiny gadget was becoming the most used and essential tool in my navigation of life. It came to serve as my administrative assistant, my calendar, my GPS, my library, and my gateway to news, information, and entertainment. It grew into an extension of my civilized being. Like my wallet or keys, it stays with me at all times and remains jealously guarded.
No longer pulled reluctantly into the future, I recently became the puller, convincing my wife that it was time to switch providers and upgrade to the Samsung Galaxy S III. Our old phones barely qualified as “smart” and were woefully inadequate to fulfill our new demands.
Consider that transformation in attitude. How could I go from not knowing I had a need to eagerly fulfilling it? Behold the magic of the market!
The critic of consumer culture might suggest that I was right to perceive no need for something like a smartphone. After all, people got by fine without them for millennia, and much of the world still does. Then again, people got by without electricity and automobiles too. If you regard the function of the market as meeting only known demand and current needs, then it becomes easy to dismiss an innovation like the smartphone as somehow decadent.
However, the magic of the market is that it does not stop at known demand or current needs. It anticipates demand for products which do not yet exist. Specifically, individuals apply their minds to dream up new ways to deliver value. Strangely, more individuals seem to dream up new products and methods when they are politically free with their rights protected. Something called profit motive, they say.
Izhar Gafni, 50, is an expert in designing automated mass-production lines. He is an amateur cycling enthusiast who for years toyed with an idea of making a bicycle from cardboard.
He told Reuters during a recent demonstration that after much trial and error, his latest prototype has now proven itself and mass production will begin in a few months.
“I was always fascinated by applying unconventional technologies to materials and I did this on several occasions. But this was the culmination of a few things that came together. I worked for four years to cancel out the corrugated cardboard’s weak structural points,” Gafni said.
“Making a cardboard box is easy and it can be very strong and durable, but to make a bicycle was extremely difficult and I had to find the right way to fold the cardboard in several different directions. It took a year and a half, with lots of testing and failure until I got it right,” he said.
Cardboard, made of wood pulp, was invented in the 19th century as sturdy packaging for carrying other more valuable objects, it has rarely been considered as raw material for things usually made of much stronger materials, such as metal.
Ann Romney is a valuable asset for the Romney campaign. Not only is she an inspirational wife and mother and apparently a talented speaker, but she’s also a woman who effortlessly draws errors from the Democrats. Last night, Juan Williams felt lukewarm about Ann’s performance and called her a “corporate wife” because her husband has always taken care of her.
To the extent he meant that someone wealthy enough to not have to worry about the price of gas isn’t the most believable person on the plight of the middle class, Williams isn’t way out of line. But after decades of being groomed by feminists not to dismiss women’s opinions, his comment smacks of dismissing the experiences of an entire group of women based on career choice. She hasn’t had to take care of herself financially so her opinion isn’t valuable.
One might think that feminists would come to Ann Romney’s defense, but they beat Williams to the attack months ago. Remember the Ann Romney “hasn’t worked a day in her life” comment from Hilary Rosen back in April? Both comments suggest that unless a woman works for money and accolades outside the home, then she has nothing of value to say.
Not only is the notion insulting, it’s also wrong.
There’s a striking disconnect with today’s Millennials that can be best described through Steve Jobs’ infamous reality distortion field: Millennial lifestyles and spending habits do not reflect their financial realities.
The majority of the 79 million U.S. Millennials are either unemployed, underpaid, or weighed down with student loans. One in four Millennials, for instance, has more debt than savings, according to Bankrate.com. Some 94% of college students currently graduate with debt. The current unemployment rate among workers ages 20-24 is 13%, compared to 8% for older workers, according to the most recent economic data.
At the same time, Millennial college students (without full-time jobs) spend $784 a month on discretionary expenses, especially food and entertainment, according to the Mooslyvania marketing agency. Millennials are the largest demographic purchasing new technological gadgets and fashion apparel. And their spending on jewelry increased 27% in 2011, according to American Express Business Insights. They even start riots at outside retail malls over $200 limited-edition Air Jordan sneakers.
In my generation’s defense: it’s not like our predecessors did any better.
In order to avoid throwing his money into the maw of an increasingly oppressive and spendthrift government, Facebook co-founder and about-to-be gazillionaire Eduardo Saverin has renounced his U.S. citizenship in favor of Singapore. To put an end to such sensible behavior, Democratic Senators Chuck Schumer and Bob Casey have proposed a punitive tax on any wealthy Americans who try to escape the clutches of Democratic Senators Chuck Schumer and Bob Casey by leaving the country.
But I have a much better idea, a much simpler and more effective idea. Why not just build a wall? Come on, this is a great, creative approach! How could it not work? We build a wall around the country and anyone trying to escape with his money or his brain power or his hard work, we capture him and bring him back. Or shoot him, if we have to.
U2 frontman Bono will become the richest musician in the world tomorrow (May 18), overtaking Paul McCartney.
Facebook is set to float on the stock exchange tomorrow and all its early investors are set to earn huge amounts of money from the flotation, with the Irish singer among them.
The U2 singer owns 2.3 per cent of the shares in Facebook through his private equity firm, Elevation Partners, which they bought for $90 million (£57 million) in 2009 and now stands to make a handsome return.
Given the social media company is currently valued at over $100billion (£63 billion), this makes Bono’s share worth over $1.5 billion (£940 million) and puts him well above Paul McCartney, who is currently the world’s richest rock star with a fortune of £665 million.