Politics & Social Justice Archive


Why Families Can’t “Have it All”

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

by Madeleine Kunin

Anne-Marie Slaughter, the first woman director of Policy Planning in the State Department, sent Internet sparks flying when her recent Atlantic cover story told women that, yes, she’d tried to have it all—an elite career and a happy family—but, she couldn’t do it. And, she told readers, neither can any other woman. In the midst of the ensuing firestorm, a simple reality emerged: men can’t have it all, either. The solution to work-life balance lies not in the battle of the sexes, but in the policy fixes that have stalled for decades in the United States while we have watched the rest of the world, including developing countries, pass us in the race to make life better for working families.

That’s a race that Americans seem to be largely unaware of, despite its importance. The personal story Slaughter conveyed was unusual. Not every woman works in Washington while her family lives in Princeton, or has to pull all-nighters on her office couch while worrying about her teenage son. Yet the tug of war between work and family—that never-ending balancing act that all families attempt to perfect—is far from unusual. Instead of concluding that we have to reject the women’s movement’s promise that women could “have it all,” it’s time to acknowledge that many of the same limitations hold true for men. Getting home in time to read a bedtime story and kissing the kids goodnight is becoming important for fathers, as well as mothers.

It is not women’s fault that the acrobatic feat of balance is rarely achieved. Neither can we entirely blame men, even if they have set the standard for how the workplace functions, from the lowest rung to the top. The real culprit is embedded in the policies of the American workplace. Men and women have to march in the same parade for change, joined by the elderly, the sick and the disabled; all would benefit from more sensible policies that are the norm in almost all other countries.

Those policies include Paid Family and Medical Leave, Workplace Flexibility and high quality affordable child care and early education. We got a start when President Bill Clinton signed the Unpaid Family and Medical Leave law, on his first day in office, the similar bill which had been vetoed twice by President George Bush. It was thought to be a good first step. Nineteen years later, we are still waiting for the second step: Paid Family and Medical leave.

Paid leave sounds like an expensive idea to many American businesses. Why then, is some form of paid maternity leave the law in every country except Papua New Guinea, Swaziland, Liberia and the United States? The rest of the world recognizes that the first few months (in England paid leave was extended from six months to a year) of an infant’s life is critical for its development. According to Save the Children, paid maternity leave is the best predictor of both mothers’ and babies’ health. The United States ranks twenty-five on the list of best countries for mothers. The Scandinavian countries, wishing to engage fathers as well as mothers in child care have carved out special “use it or lose it” father time.

Women, Men, children, and the elderly … all would benefit from more sensible policies that are the norm in almost all other countries.

Unpaid leave is an impractical option for most new parents. The birth of a baby puts new stress on family budgets; not a good time for a family to give up a badly needed paycheck. Slaughter writes that the ability to control her own schedule is what prompted her to leave the State Department and return to her (more than) full-time job at Princeton University. Workplace flexibility is precisely what every working father and mother would love to have; to be there when Emily is sick, to leave a half hour early from work to pick up David from child care, to be in the stands cheering for Johnny’s team, or to take an elderly parent to the doctor in an emergency. Women and men in top management positions often can negotiate flexibility, either in the number of hours worked, where they work, or how many days they work. Mid-level and low-level earners rarely have that opportunity because they have little power, and fear that by asking for flexibility they might be fired.

England and Australia have come up with a compromise that works for most employers and employees. It’s called the Right to Request Flexibility. An employee may ask her or his boss for flexibility without risking dismissal. The employer does not have to grant the request, but they are required to negotiate a compromise. If it is not achieved, the case goes to a tribunal. Employers have grown to like the law because it enables them to attract and retain talent, which saves them much more money in the long term than the cost of flexibility. James Wall, former vice president at Deloitte, calculates that it costs two to five times an annual salary to retrain a new employee, women and men alike.

Often the cost and quality of childcare is the biggest barrier for two-wage-earner working families. Childcare can cost the equivalent of paying off a mortgage. Care can be hard to find, especially for moderate to low-income families. Once again, the United States is a poor cousin compared to our global partners who are much more aware of studies that have shown that the availability of good child care is directly related to the ability of women and men to be in the workforce. One sector of our government understands the link—the United States Department of Defense. The Secretary of Defense manages the best child care system in America. All programs are nationally certified and parents pay on an affordable sliding scale.

It is not difficult to figure out why the Defense Department makes this investment. It would be impossible to recruit and retain men and women in the military if they could not obtain good care for their families while serving their country. Moreover, they saw a correlation between the lack of good childcare and the lack of suitable future recruits.

If only American businesses could make the same connection. The lack of affordable quality childcare has a major impact on economic security. A parent who can’t afford childcare can’t afford to work, and raises children in poverty. In America, we have the highest childhood poverty rate of all developed countries. Hovering between 20 and 22 percent, it has increased by 41percent since 2000. This means mean that we will have a generation of young people who are more likely to drop out of school, be unemployed, be incarcerated, and have lives interrupted with tragedy. The impact of a declining skilled workforce will be felt by everyone, particularly when we ask this same generation to pay for our Medicare and Social Security without having the ability to pay taxes.

There are success stories. We have succeeded in reducing poverty for the elderly to 9 percent. The consensus is that two government programs achieved these results—Social Security and Medicare. Government intervention, while never the total answer, did in this case, produce dramatic results.

Female leaders have traditionally been in the forefront on family/work issues, changing policies in the private sector, and promoting legislation in State Houses and in the Congress. It is time for men to promote these issues with equal fervor, drawing on their experiences as fathers and sons, just as women have done as mothers and daughters.

To succeed in a time of severe budget cuts in domestic spending and increasing hostility to the role of government, women and men have to join forces both at the grassroots, and in the top echelons of power. The case has to be made that work/life balance is no longer a women’s issue, nor is it a question of reducing stress or increasing comfort, it is a question of providing this generation of women and men and the next generation with the capacity to achieve what all families desire and the nation desperately needs: to enable parents to be both good caregivers and good providers. That conversation has begun. Now we have to continue the dialogue between employers and employees, between the old and the young, and between women and men.

Madeleine M. Kunin was Vermont’s first and only woman governor, and US ambassador to Switzerland during the Clinton administration. She is the author of The New Feminist Agenda: Defining the Next Revolution for Women, Work, and Family

Kunin recently appeared on C-SPAN’s BookTV. Watch the talk on YouTube.

“Optimists Change the World” — The Life of Madeleine Kunin

Thursday, July 5th, 2012

Award-winning journalist Joyce Marcel recently sat down to talk to Madeleine Kunin,Vermont’s first woman governor and author of The New Feminist Agenda: Defining the Next Revolution for Women, Work, and Family, which has garnered rave reviews for its blend of pragmatism and passion.

In her cultured, polite and graceful way, Madeleine M. Kunin is angry.

And when Kunin is angry, it pays to pay attention. After all, she’s got  impressive social change credentials.

Kunin was the first female governor of Vermont (1985-1991). And she was an activist governor, at that. She was the first Jewish governor of Vermont, for that matter. The first Jewish woman ever elected governor of a U.S. state. The first woman in U.S. history to be elected governor three times. The fourth woman to be elected governor in her own right (instead of inheriting the position from a deceased husband.)

After she left office, she founded the Institute for Sustainable Communities, which for more than 20 years has done successful community-building projects in 24 countries, including the U.S.

She also joined the Clinton administration, first to research vice-presidential candidates, then as Deputy Secretary of Education. Later, Clinton appointed her ambassador to Switzerland, where she prodded the Swiss banking establishment into confronting its financial actions during and after World War II.

She is the author of three books — a new one, “The New Feminist Agenda: Defining the Next Revolution for Women, Work and Family,” comes out this month. She is the mother of four children; the grandmother of five. Many talented women look to her as a mentor. She is currently the Marsh Scholar and Professor at Large at the University of Vermont.

Although Kunin is an accomplished politician, author, teacher, mentor and public speaker — and a master of controlled emotion — when she entered public life she wasn’t even certain that she would like it — or be any good at it.

“But I found it a fascinating world,” Kunin told me. “All different points of view; it was stimulating. You have to be a quick study about a whole bunch of new issues. And I found the interaction with constituents interesting and fun. You may skim the surface, but the surface is huge. Instead of living a life in your own little bubble, you break out of it and see this enormous landscape of life.”

Kunin has won elections and lost elections.

“Losing isn’t easy, and sometimes I took it personally,” she said. “But you have to move on. Politics has its ups and downs. When I lost my first campaign for governor, I was devastated, even though I knew it was a tough race. You get caught by the fever. It’s an adrenaline rush in politics that can be both wonderful and miserable, depending on where you are. But I have no regrets. The risk was worth taking.”

“She is a gutsy, visionary politician,” said Jonathan Lash, who served as Kunin’s secretary of natural resources and is now president of  Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass. “I loved working for her. It was a blast. She’s somebody who makes ‘politician’ not a dirty word.”

To many people around the world, Kunin has become an icon of leadership.

“Madeleine is a remarkably compassionate and visionary leader,” said George Hamilton, the president of ISC. “She has had amazing accomplishments, from writing books to founding ISC to being a role model to women around the world. Most compelling is the way she’s inspired women by example and by writing honestly about what it means to be a leader. I travel with her a lot. I see the response she gets. It’s really very moving.”

One of the young women Kunin has mentored is Vermont Representative Kesha Ram (D-Chittenden 3-4), who was the student body president of the University of Vermont and, at 21, ran for state office and won.

“Madeleine Kunin was very inspirational,” Ram said. “When I first met her, she gave me an hour of her time, and I left feeling ‘Wow! I would love to be involved in politics in a state where a former governor is so warm and accessible.’ She was a reminder that you don’t have to leave who you are when you enter the halls of power. Since then she’s been an incredible mentor and inspiration. What also means a lot to me is that she’s able to inspire women of all ages and backgrounds. She’s someone I would like to be. She embodies strength and courage. She speaks her mind and is eloquent, but she is also humble.”

At 78, I found Kunin to be both feminine and fragile.

When we met to talk at the Burlington home she shares with her second husband, retired Dartmouth professor John W. Hennessey, Jr. she was charming and lovely and, as always, elegantly dressed and coiffed. (Kunin  dedicated her new book to Hennessey: “For John, my first reader, editor, constant support and also — a feminist.”)

The couple’s living room has floor-to-ceiling glass walls overlooking Lake Champlain. A bright red abstract by Vermont artist Emily Mason graces one wall opposite a purple forest painted by Mason’s husband, Wolf Kahn. The two paintings strike a nice ironic balance.

The house is filled with photos of Kunin’s four children, her five grandchildren, her husband’s children and grandchildren, and portraits of her with Bill and Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama, Geraldine Ferraro and other notables.

When talking about herself, Kunin was thoughtful, patient, honest about herself and diplomatic about others. She has a good sense of humor and isn’t afraid to giggle when something strikes her as funny. She is deeply intelligent. Her focus is laser sharp. She gives a great interview.

“She’s the complete role model,” said Jan Blittersdorf, the president and CEO of NRG Systems. “She always looks fabulous and its never conservative or like ‘a woman of a certain age.’ She’s regal. I think she’s a fine example of a successful woman. I guess I wonder who’s going to follow her footsteps, politically. What’s going to happen coming up? And is anybody going to follow her lead of supporting women in political positions? A man or a woman?”

Kunin is far from ready to retire to a rocking chair. What is making her angry now is the fact that decades after the second wave of the women’s movement in the Sixties and Seventies —the first wave gave women the vote — gender equality has still not been achieved in the United States. And even worse, gains made by women in multiple areas of civic society are being threatened or taken away vote by vote, state by state.
It’s 2012, Kunin said. Things should be different.

“I’m angry that a golf course in Georgia doesn’t allow women,” Kunin told me. “How can that be? I thought we would have settled these issues.”
In the introduction to her new book she writes that by this time:

“I did not expect that women would still make 77 cents for every dollar that men earn. I expected that one-third to one-half of our Congress, governors, state legislatures and mayors would be female. I did not expect that in 2010 that number would be 17 percent in the Congress, and the United States would be tied at 69th place in the percentage of women in parliaments, out of 178 countries. I expected that one-third to one-half of corporate board members would be women. I did not expect to see that proportion stuck at 17 percent. I expected that a high percentage of the Fortune 500 companies would be led by women. I did not expect that figure to be 3 percent.  I expected that misogyny, rape and other acts of violence against women would be widely condemned and sharply reduced…I expected that by 2011 grandmothers like myself would be able to tell their grandchildren of how life used to be ‘long ago.’”

Does she think the Republican right wing has declared war on women?

“It sure sounds that way,” she told me. “It’s contraception, it’s choice, it’s violence against women, it’s cutting social programs, cutting Pell Grants. But I’m sure they don’t see it that way. There’s a real disconnect — they just look at issues from the male perspective. We have a huge divide.”

Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney can have many children because they can support them, she pointed out. What about single mothers who can’t support even their smaller families?

“Take the whole issue of contraception,” Kunin said. “I don’t know if I want to say it, but they should remember that Jesus was an only child. Almost every woman and family throughout history has practiced contraception. It didn’t start yesterday. The ability to control when and whether you want to bear children is the most essential thing for family life, not just for women. And making it possible for lower-income women have insurance coverage for that is just common sense, because it also dramatically reduces the number of abortions.”

Kunin is anything but shrill about a current political climate she characterizes as “nasty.”

“I guess I’m still polite in my anger,” she said. “That’s just my nature.”

Keep reading…

From Women’s E-news, Madeleine Kunin Reflects on Mom-Career ‘Muddling’

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012

Originally published by Women’s E-News.

The first female governor of Vermont reflects on how she wound up running for office with children aged 3, 6, 8 and 10. In this excerpt from her book The New Feminist Agenda she credits, among other things, coming of age in a transitional time.

(WOMENSENEWS) — The 1950s portrait of the ideal family has almost become a museum piece: Mom standing by the kitchen counter wearing an apron; Dad sitting in an easy chair, wearing a shirt and tie; their two children–the boy always somewhat older and taller than the girl–playing quietly on the rug in front of the fireplace. Why, I wonder, is Dad always reading the newspaper and Mom incessantly stirring batter in a bowl?

That’s the way it was, and that’s the way it is for 21 percent of American families today, only Mom is more likely to be dressed for yoga than for the kitchen and Dad is no longer wearing a tie. However, in 79 percent of American families, both Mom and Dad are getting the children off to school before each rushes off to work.

Surprisingly, working families today– despite their guilt about not spending enough time with their children–actually spend more time with them than their parents did. Two economists from the University of California, San Diego, reported that child care time by parents was about 12 hours a week before 1995. “By 2007, that number had risen to 21.2 hours a week for college-educated women and 15.9 hours for those with less education.”

All parents, regardless of income, want the best for their children. Most parents question, from time to time, whether they are good parents and both Mom and Dad are likely to be stressed, depressed or both. Many families swing back and forth between the two models, depending on the time in their lives, whether they have an opportunity to work full- or part-time, their financial resources, their personal preferences and cultural expectations.When I am asked how I managed to have a political career and raise four children with my then-husband, I don’t have a clear answer. The most accurate reply is that I muddled my way through, but since I tell women not to berate themselves, I will answer that I did it in stages.

Marriage and Ambition

When I got married at the age of 25, considered “old” in 1959, I believed I could easily have a career in journalism and have a family. Marriage would be no substitute for my ambition.

I knew from the start what I did not want, and that was to be like a typical 1960s doctor’s wife I had met at teas for the Woman’s Auxiliary to the American Medical Association, who had sacrificed her career to “put her husband through medical school” and then, for her reward, settled into full-time motherhood. A woman’s identity was closely tied to her husband’s in those days. Protocol demanded that every envelope be properly addressed to Dr. and Mrs. Arthur Kunin. I, like most of the women of my generation, had no first name.

But when my daughter Julia was born in 1961 I dropped all ambivalence about family and work and reveled in the miracle of motherhood. I saw myself as the original earth mother when she nursed at my breast; I was now part of the Great Chain of Being. I was happy and determined to take total responsibility for her care.

When did my attention wander off from motherhood and back to thoughts of a career? On my 30th birthday, my friend Terry and I were sitting at an outdoor café in Cambridge, Mass., rocking our navy blue English baby carriages back and forth in rhythm. We lived in Cambridge, where my husband was pursuing post-doctoral research at Harvard and I had recently given birth to our second child, Peter. I said to Terry, “My God, I’m 30. What’s going to become of my life?” (This was the hippy era, when the mantra was “Don’t trust anyone over 30.”)

I came of age as a mother and a politician in a transitional time, when the women’s movement was beginning to illuminate a new world in front of our eyes. Some women my age looked the other way. I was transfixed. The women’s movement gave me permission to change my timetable for reentry into the adult world. The usual schedule for mothers was that they would wait until their children were fully grown and safely ensconced in college.

Not Waiting

The environmental movement and the women’s movement had both drawn me in with a passion and given me a cause. Instead of waiting, I ran for a seat in the Vermont legislature when my children were 3, 6, 8 and 10 years old and served for three terms, before being elected lieutenant governor and then governor.

But in the early 1990s, when I was writing my first book, “Living a Political Life,“a memoir, the first draft had so many passages about guilt that my editor took large chunks out. Most distressing to me is that my children have almost no memory of the chocolate chip cookies I baked, the macaroni and cheese I cooked or the hours on the playground I spent shoveling sand–for 11 years between 1961 and 1972.

The answer to the question of “How did you do it?” is that there is no simple single answer. Each person walks through the labyrinth at a different pace, and even in a different direction, before she or he comes out the other side. I know that if my husband had not been the primary wage earner and supported my ambitions I would not have had the flexibility or finances to launch and sustain a 16-year political career.

I had one other advantage not often discussed: a high-quality nursery school (what would now be called a preschool), called Jill’s School, that my youngest son Daniel loved to attend. Then there was Mabel Fisher who babysat and later Shirley Labelle whose specialties were apple pie and baked potatoes. Her real talent was that she greeted my children when they came home from school. Without the help of these women, I would have been still standing by the stove stirring batter.

Madeleine M. Kunin was the first female governor of Vermont and the first woman in the U.S. to serve three terms as governor. She served as deputy secretary of education and ambassador to Switzerland in the Clinton administration. She lives in Burlington, Vt.

For more information:

Buy the book, “The New Feminist Agenda: Defining the Next Revolution for Women, Work, and Family”:
http://www.powells.com/partner/34289/biblio/9781603582919?p_ti

Madeleine M. Kunin on The Huffington Post:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/madeleine-m-kunin/

Madeleine M. Kunin on Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/MadeleineMKunin

Why We Need to Invest in Family Care – Madeleine Kunin on AARP Radio

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

Last week, Madeleine M. Kunin was featured on AARP radio.

From AARP.org:

More American women are attending medical and law schools now than ever before. The two-income family is the standard for the modern American family. And the role of women in society has changed drastically for the better. With all of these changes, however, the social support system for working women and their families has improved very little.

Madeleine Kunin, the former governor of Vermont, examines how America has — and has not — progressed in gender equality at home and in the workplace. She also advocates major changes for how we invest in family care, as well as women increasing their role in politics, in her book, The New Feminist Agenda.

 Listen to the show.

Be sure to follow Madeleine on Facebook and Twitter to hear about her upcoming events.

“The End of the American Dream” – Anya Kamenetz on Thom Hartmann

Monday, May 28th, 2012

Anya Kamenetz talks to Thom Hartmann about the problems of rapidly rising college tuition costs and student loan debt.

Anya is the author of Generation Debt and, most recently, DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education. She is also a staff writer for Fast Company magazine.

Thom asks Anya to delve into the subject of DIY U with the question: as the costs of higher education continue to soar, what innovative and alternative ways are there for Americans to obtain a quality education at an affordable price?

Watch the show, and find out why Thom thinks the situation in higher education represents “the end of the American Dream.”

The New York Times: Madeleine Kunin “is almost unimpeachably right”

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

The New York Times Sunday Book Review features — on its cover no less — a glowing review of Madeleine M. Kunin’s forthcoming title The New Feminist Agenda: Defining the Next Revolution for Women, Work, and Family.

Judith Warner’s review of Kunin’s book is juxtaposed against the new book by Elisabeth Badinter, The Conflict: How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women. One book is “right” and the other is “wrong,” and we’re pleased to report that Kunin’s book is the right one.

“[W]hereas Badin­ter’s argument is beautiful and essentially wrong, Kunin — Pollyanna-ish faith in the family-friendly nature of female politicians aside — is almost unimpeachably right, as she diagnoses what we in Ameri­ca need, why we’ve never gotten it, and how we may have some hope of achieving change in the future,” writes  Warner, the author of We’ve Got Issues: Children and Parents in the Age of Medication.

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

Warner lauds Kunin’s use of ample details and examples of what states — or countries — are enacting family-friendly policies that empower parents and support children.

But, as Warner observes, while there may be public support for much of what Kunin proposes as solutions to the work-family balance that is out of whack, how to get there?

“[T]here has to be a way to turn public opinion — which according to Kunin is overwhelmingly favorable to paid sick days and family and medical leave — into something like a movement. A movement as motivating, gut-­compelling and passionate as the forces now arrayed for and against abortion rights. She acknowledges this is a tall order. ‘Could we hold a march for family­/work policies in Washington? Would anybody come?’ she asks shrewdly. ‘Or would they be too tired, too busy, too scared of losing their jobs to attend?’

“It’s a good question,” Warner posits. “How do you get today’s moms, and all their equally overtaxed potential allies, to show up for a revolution? Perhaps we need a 21st-century Gloria Steinem, a multi­tasking, minivan-driving, media-savvy soccer mom (or dad) with just enough of a hint of glamour to make protest as appealing a prospect as Girls’ Night Out.”

Indeed. Any takers?

If so, chime in on Madeleine Kunin’s Facebook page. Or, send her a note on Twitter.

The New Feminist Agenda is available in stores now and officially launches Sunday, which is, appropriately, Mother’s Day.

Speaking of Sunday, Madeleine Kunin will be the featured author on the Firedoglake Book Salon, with a discussion led by author Amanda Marcotte. Be sure to log in and join the chat.

Provocative Book Presents Stark Reality for the Next 40 Years

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

Forty years ago Limits to Growth addressed the grand question of how humans would adapt to the physical limitations of planet Earth while in pursuit of limitless growth.

Next month, Chelsea Green will publish 2052, a provocative new book that examines what our future will look like in the next forty years. Written by Jorgen Randers, one of the original authors of Limits, as well as its subsequent updates (Beyond the Limits and Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update), the book probes what the world will actually be like in forty years.

Guess what? It’s not looking good for humanity. That’s what happens when you ignore the warnings first issued in Limits. As in, you can’t push an economic model fueled by limitless profits and resources when, in fact, we live on a finite planet. Mix that in with dysfunctional democracies — such as ours in the United States — that are bought and sold by corporations who profit from our addiction to fossil fuels and the conflicts that erupt as a result (war, etc.)

Earlier this week, the Club of Rome — which commissioned the original report that culminated in Limits to Growth as well as the report that has culminated in 2052 – presented the book’s key findings at the annual conference of the World Wildlife Fund.

In his introduction (video linked here and embedded below) to delivering some of the book’s key findings, Randers  related the current work, and warnings, to those issued four decades ago.

“The big question at the outset, was: ‘Will the world overshoot and collapse?’ This was the warning that my friends and I made in 1972 in the Limits to Growth book where we basically said because of the decision delays in international governance systems, the world will be allowed to expand beyond its sustainable capacity, and then sooner or later it will be forced back down to sustainable territory and this will an unpleasant development. We are now forty years down the line and it is perfectly obvious that world has already overshot. At the time, in 1972, our critics said that human society is not going to be so stupid as to let the world move into non-sustainable territory. Well, we now are in unsustainable territory.”

A key example is global greenhouse gas emissions, and the rising temperature of the planet.

Reaction to the report’s findings and the media event has been swift, and rightly so, including this nice synopsis from New Zealand.

The book challenges the US-dominated belief that we can continue to tap the planet’s limited resources to fuel unlimited growth. In fact, the ecological footprint created by this type of economic activity is likely to do just the opposite.

In short, the US will see a general stagnation of growth for decades to come because our dysfunctional democracy — which bends to the needs of the private market rather than the social good — hinders us from focusing on solutions. I mean, let’s face it — members of Congress,  media pundits, and even the current administration continue to talk  up the need to increase our dependence on fossil fuels by drilling in the Arctic, boosting domestic oil production, or allowing tar sands to be imported from Canada.

Already critics are crying foul — this is some grand socialist, environmental whacko experiment to enslave us all to some UN colony. For some critics, Randers isn’t alarmist enough and they believe he is underestimating how quickly the planet will heat up, and the consequences of it — including poverty, famine and increasingly low birth rates as more families are forced to choose between survival and bringing new lives into the world.
Below is a video from Randers’ presentation at the WWF forum. Watch and determine for yourself whether you believe Randers is over, or under, estimating what could happen in the future.

Keep in mind as you listen: One of the original schematics laid out in Limits to Growth — rapid growth followed by what is called “overshoot” of resources and then a decline — has largely played out as predicted as this Smithsonian article demonstrates.

With such potentially depressing news, it’s nice to see the younger generation taking up the call to arms and suing their elders for screwing up things to badly. Maybe there is hope that change can be forced more rapidly than our failing democratic systems allow.

Eleven Things Progressives Can Do, from Don’t Think of an Elephant!

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

George Lakoff, is a cognitive linguist and author of Don’t Think of an Elephant; Know Your Values and Frame the Debate.

This excerpt from the book offers concise advice to progressives about how to win debates in the public realm. In it, Lakoff explains the notion of “framing”, and points out that even when you negate a frame you reinforce it by implicitly accepting the worldview behind it.

One example is the typical debate about abortion. The conservative frame is “pro-life”, not “anti-abortion”. Arguably, the latter is more descriptive, but the former is far more evocative, and the liberal reply of “pro-choice” is not nearly as attractive—linguistically that is.

Read up and get ready progressives! We’ve got a Presidential election year battle ahead and we need to be prepared!

Eleven Things Progressives Can Do, An Excerpt from Don’t Think of an Elephant!

“Having a pair of ovaries should not be a pre-existing condition.” – Madeleine M. Kunin

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

From the Burlington Free Press.

MONTPELIER — Madeleine Kunin said she never dreamed that in the year 2012 she would find herself speaking out in defense of contraception and giving credit to Rush Limbaugh.

But there she was on the Statehouse steps Saturday, exhorting a crowd of about two hundred people to stand up for hard-won women’s rights that are suddenly under assault around the country.

“Progress is not a straight line,” said Kunin, former governor and author of The New Feminist Agenda, published this month. Rather, she said, it’s “like a Vermont dirt road,” filled with bumps and troughs.

The occasion was a rally under the theme, “United against the war on women,” one of more than 50 marches and demonstrations staged across the country by members of UniteWomen.org. The aim was to counter an array of legislative and political initiatives — from invasive ultrasound mandates to “personhood” bills and pay-equity repeals — that women’s-rights advocates regard as regressive.

There was the Republican effort in Congress to allow employers to deny insurance coverage for contraceptives. And of course, there was Limbaugh’s incendiary comment on his talk show (he called a student advocate of contraceptive coverage “a slut,”) that angered many people and helped mobilize the opposition, Kunin acknowledged.

“We are not going backward,” insisted Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., another speaker. “We are not returning to the day of backroom abortions.”

“We have all got to stand together.”

Erin Narey of Peacham decided to organize the event about a month ago when she realized, after going to UniteWomen.org’s Facebook page, that no one else was doing so in Vermont. She didn’t want her state to be the only state without a rally April 28.

“I’ve never done anything like this before,” she said, but with the help of other volunteers she managed to pull together 15 speakers, including singers Neko Case, Anais Mitchell and Tammy Fletcher, who warmed the crowd up with both song and chant (“Not on our watch!”)

Narey noted that while variants of “scary legislation” — such as the decriminalization of domestic violence in Topeka, Kan. — have not been introduced here, Vermont still has a ways to go.

“Women still make less money than men,” she said, “and we still don’t have paid maternity leave, and we still don’t have statewide standards for child care.”

Lydia Lulkin, a senior at the University of Vermont and a member of the Voices for Planned Parenthood student club, showed up with fellow students to register voters and “to stand up for women across the country.”

“I’m here because I follow Neko Case on Twitter,” said Quincy Campbell of Montpelier. “I think this is a wonderful cause. I have great admiration for everyone” on the list of speakers.

“It really does feel like a war on women,” said Lorna Edmundson of New York City, who was in Vermont to attend a meeting of the Norwich University Board of Trustees but who heard about the rally and made a point of attending. A woman’s child-bearing decision “is not something the government should be controlling,” she said. “It’s very distressing.”

Gov. Peter Shumlin, who did not attend, issued a statement for the rally that read in part: “We must all stand up for women when we find that their most basic rights are under attack.”

Kunin said repeal of the federal health-reform law would have an adverse effect on women, because they would wind up paying differentially more for health insurance.

“Having a pair of ovaries should not be a pre-existing condition,” she said, drawing laughter.

“One of the most important things we can do is be at the table when decisions are made,” she said, observing that the political power structure is dominated by a male majority. “If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.”

“Our voices have to be raised,” she said. “Be ready to fight the fight that we began and can’t afford to lose.”

Studen Loan Debt, Not Loan Rates, Is the Bigger Issue

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

As politicians stumble over themselves to agree on a legislative no-brainer — keeping student loan rates low — they are missing a bigger issue for many students and recent graduates: Student loan debt.

In a compelling new opinion piece posted on CNN.com, DIY U author Anya Kamenetz (Chelsea Green, 2010) argues that politicians should be focusing on debt forgiveness, not just keeping loan rates low.

She notes:

Some recent polls have shown that support for Obama among young voters, once Obama’s enthusiastic fans, may be waning in this election compared with four years ago. Student loans are seen by some as the president’s chosen key to regaining their hearts. But really, the issue has been raised for him by the Occupy movement, gearing up this May 1 with a new set of actions focusing on the cost of college and the depredations of the student loan industry.

Additionally, almost 700,000 people have signed a petition sponsored by MoveOn.org for student loan forgiveness, started by lawyer and student-loan debtor Robert Applebaum. And the Student Loan Forgiveness Act of 2012, introduced by U.S. Rep. Hansen Clarke, D-Michigan, last month, is aimed at offering relief.

What’s at stake here is the basic equation of the American dream: Hard work plus merit equals opportunity. As usually happens, hard times have led to cuts in support to public education and attendant tuition hikes. Young people are graduating into a dismal job market with an average of more than $25,000 in debt. Loan default rates were up sharply last year, and many graduates are questioning the value of their education. In eight years of covering and advocating for student debtors, I’ve never seen such a level of public outcry.

In lieu of this renewed, election year interest in young folks (ahem) we here at Chelsea Green are offering a free download of a particularly salient chapter from Kamenetz’s 2010 book that leads off with – ironically enough – candidate Barack Obama at a Hofstra University forum on the rising cost of higher education.

Kamenetz then walks readers through just how this generation of students is facing some of the most crushing debtloads in order to attend post-secondary institutions. She also expertly lays out a three-part plan to reduce the overall cost of higher ed in the United States, including a call to restore free college tuition. Colleges didn’t always cost so much, and there are even some out there today where students graduate debt-free. What a concept.

Chapter 3 – Economics, An Excerpt from DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Highe…


Follow us
Get every new post delivered to your inbox
Join millions of other followers
Powered By WPFruits.com