Saturday, June 28, 2008

Breadline Tour - Week 1

Well, it's been a week since I lost my job ... and it's been a week of full-time job searching since.
As I've told some of my friends, I need to get myself a job so I can relax.
A lot of really great people have stepped up for me, offering to pass along copies of my resume to people they know. Between their generosity and my own networks I've established over the past couple of years around here, my cover letter, resume and writing samples may have passed before the eyes of more than a hundred people. That's not counting targeted submissions for specific job postings.
As a formerly out-of-work friend of mine told me, when you're doing it right and actually putting in the work to find a job, it IS a full-time job.

I realize, too, that this presents a unique opportunity for me to allot time to some pursuits I'd always only kicked around previously. Whether it's putting myself out there as a freelancer, putting together a Web-based business, or even writing a book, I'm going to try to maximize the time I now have available.

I'm very grateful for my friends who've called and checked in with me all week. I wish I had more to tell them. Those calls will taper off, as will my flurry of resume-sending, and it will be then that I'll find out what kind of person I really am.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

McCain's women

Interesting Yahoo story about potential women John McCain could add to the GOP ticket as VP. Could be an interesting chess match between McCain and Obama on this one, as to who will name a veep first. I'm still rooting for Mitt Romney, but these ladies are interesting.
As for the Dems, I'm still predicting Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, who as a white woman would bring all of Hillary Clinton's favorables without the Clinton baggage.

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin

Palin, 44, would add youth to the GOP ticket. As governor she has shown a willingness to veto some of the state’s large capital projects, no small plus for fiscal conservatives. But it’s her personal biography, which excites social conservatives, and reformist background that might most appeal to McCain.
She’s stridently anti-abortion, and recently brought to term her fifth child — who she knew would have Down syndrome. A hunter, fisher and family woman with a rapid professional rise, Palin is a natural for Republican framing.
In 1982, Palin led her underdog high school basketball team to the state championship, earning the nickname “Sarah Barracuda.” Two years later she won the beauty pageant in her hometown of Wasilla, Alaska — and was also named “Miss Congeniality.” By her early thirties, she was the mayor of Wasilla.
In 2003, as ethics commissioner on the state's Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, she risked her rising political star by resigning her position in protest of ethical misconduct within the state’s Republican leadership as well as then-Gov. Frank Murkowski’s acceptance of that impropriety. Though this briefly made her an outcast within the party, within a year several state Republican heavyweights were reprimanded for the conduct she’d decried.
Her reputation with the party thus redeemed, Palin defeated Murkowski in the 2006 Republican primary on the way to being elected governor.
As governor, she’s continued challenging the state’s powers that be, even winning tax increases on oil companies’ profits. Her approval rating has soared as high as 90 percent, making her one of America’s most popular governors.
“Palin is becoming a star in the conservative movement, a fiscal conservative in a state that is looking like a boondoggle for pork barrel spending,” said Kellyanne Conway, a Republican pollster who specializes in women’s politics.
“She’s young, vibrant, fresh and now, and a new mother of five. She should be in the top tier,” Conway continued. “If the Republican Party wants to wrestle itself free from the perception that it is royalist and not open to putting new talent on the bench, this would be the real opportunity.” But several top Republican Party leaders, who asked that their names be withheld so they could speak frankly about vice presidential options, said that Palin remains out of the top tier for now. “Too unknown and inexperienced,” said one GOP insider. Others pointed out that she is not only based far from the continental 48 — and in a state with just three electoral votes that should already be in the bag for the GOP — but also has no foreign policy credentials or experience.

Carly Fiorina, former Hewlett-Packard CEO

Carly Fiorina has an up-by-her-own-bootstraps success story, having worked her way from a start as a young secretary straight through the glass ceiling to become Hewlett-Packard’s chief executive from 1999 to 2005. She presently serves as the chair of the organization tasked by the Republican National Committee with preparing the party’s crucial get-out-the-vote operation. It’s no symbolic post, but a crucial position for a party facing an uphill presidential contest.
Along with CEO Meg Whitman — who has also been brought up occasionally as a long-shot GOP vice presidential prospect — Fiorina is one of the most prominent female executives of the last decade.
Fiorina is also already close to McCain. The two of them recently sat down at his Arlington headquarters with frustrated Clinton supporters and urged them to shift their political allegiance to him. On the campaign trail and on shows like CBS News “Face the Nation,” she’s served as a ubiquitous advocate of the candidate. Privately, she has also become one of McCain’s most trusted economic advisers.
Grover Norquist, a fiscal conservative leader and longtime party organizer, touts Fiorina’s economic and executive bonafides but labeled her a “dark horse” vice presidential prospect. One Republican state party chairman said, “everybody would be very pleasantly surprised with her” before adding that “the danger is that she hasn’t been vetted” — a concern echoed by several GOP insiders.
These insiders also expressed concern that adding her to the ticket would do little to galvanize social conservatives, some of whom still view McCain with suspicion and antipathy. They also brought up her lack of foreign policy experience, and expressed concern that her reputation as “the most powerful woman in business” — as she was once called by Forbes magazine — could prove a dubious distinction at a time when economic anxiety is reaching levels unseen since the late 1970s.
While McCain has criticized excessive executive salaries, Obama spokesman Bill Burton has already issued a statement pointing out that she “presided over thousands of layoffs at Hewlett-Packard while receiving a $21 million severance package” when she was fired by the company’s board of directors in 2005.

Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison

Last week Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, the longest-tenured female Republican senator, joined McCain for a fundraising sprint in the Lone Star state. Hutchison, who until recently headed the Senate Republican Conference, now serves as chairwoman of the Republican Policy Committee, two top Beltway party posts.
Hutchison had already engaged on McCain’s behalf, defending his embrace of the controversial conservative Pastor John Hagee earlier this year and making the rounds as a surrogate on the Sunday political shows (including an appearance Sunday on ABC’s “This Week”), though, like McCain, it’s a medium that does not suit her. And also like McCain, she is not a gifted campaigner.
In Texas, where she has been comfortably reelected, one Republican strategist notes that she’s “proven she can get scores of Hispanics in a huge state surrogate.”
“She’s underused as a surrogate to the party,” the strategist added.
But despite her popularity in the state and in the party and her years of experience, insiders are skeptical she’ll be selected. Like Alaska, Texas is already a solidly Republican state in presidential races. And adding Hutchison — who supports embryonic stem cell research and is relatively moderate on abortion (she is against outlawing the procedure, though she also opposes federal funding for it) — to the ticket would also alienate some social conservatives.
And then there’s the energy problem. Hutchison has long been a defender of Big Oil, which may make political sense locally but could prove a liability in a national race at a time when oil companies are enjoying record profits even as Americans pay record amounts at the pump.
Insofar as Hutchison, Palin or Fiorina are seriously considered, the question McCain's team may first have to answer is how much of a premium to place on gender.
Then there is the media factor. McCain himself aches for the favorable attention of a press corps he feels prefers his rival. The vice presidential pick is one of the few remaining set pieces that will ensure him the spotlight, and could build excitement about his candidacy. And as even Republicans are noting, they could use a bit of excitement.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

New beginnings

I got fired today.
They can dress it up however they want; "downsizing," "economic downturns," "sacrificing," etc. But it all adds up to the same number ... 86'ed.
I feel like I should be angrier than I am; like I should feel betrayed and backstabbed. But the fact is, I almost feel a sense of relief.
The job didn't provide the challenge I wanted. In fact, I knew from the day I started I wouldn't advance any higher, so I relinquished my right to bitch about that aspect of it.
But after years making contacts with the media, and training through Toastmasters, I tried in vain to convince my boss to let me take on a greater share of responsibility in publicly representing the company.
Meanwhile, I'd kicked around ideas for a variety of capitalistic ventures, which I'll now spend some time sorting out in order to determine how I should proceed. If ever I were going to research and write a book, now would be as good a time as any. If I'd ever thought about going live with that innovative new Web site, I gots the time to tinker.
These are advantages, windows that would've remained painted shut had I remained with my now-former employer.
And I realize I've been truly blessed, both with a wonderful, supportive spouse and with some really great friends (and even acquaintances) who've lent that all-important sympathetic ear through these first 24 hours. More hours will be asked of them, to be sure. But I do think the numbness will fade, hopefully to give way to an anger that will drive me to a level I may not have attained if not for this one vital fact ...
I got fired today.

RIP Tim Russert (1950-2008)

Journalism lost a legend last Friday. On June 13, just two days before Father's Day, Tim Russert of NBC News collapsed and died of a heart attack.
Fittingly, he was working on the set of "Meet the Press," a show he'd anchored since 1991. Russert loved the show and suffered no fools lightly in that realm. Big-league politicians always went on and had to know each time what they were going to get. To a person, each has described Russert as "tough but fair."
It was just a couple of months ago that even the left-wingers were complaining about how hard Russert was on the Democratic candidates in one of their debates. Considering that Russert was born and raised a Democrat, and that he'd worked for Democrats Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Mario Cuomo, this bulldogging was to his credit.
The big Buffalo native also was an avid Bills fan. I have him on an NFL video lending some comments about his beloved Bills. "We just wanted one; just one," he seemed to implore.
I wish I'd been more deeply invested in Russert. I've always respected him but wish I'd watched 'Meet the Press' more and maybe even read his book, 'Big Russ and Me,' which is a tribute to his hardworking father.
Come to think of it, maybe reading that book - written by a man known for lifting up others, and in praise of a father who dutifully worked two full-time jobs to put his kids through college - would be the finest tribute a person could pay him ...

Video tributes
Meet the Press, Father's Day, 6-15-08 (Part I, II, III, IV, V, VI)
Jay Leno clip: Tim talks about his book, 'Big Russ and Me.'
Conan O'Brien clips: On meeting Pope John Paul II, and Tim's son.

Print tributes
Obit, Harper's magazine.
The New Yorker
Peggy Noonan, Wall Street Journal
Robert Novak
'1,500 gather at Russert's memorial,' Washington Post

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Olbermann fumbles again

I'm not sure what possessed me to sit through the latest edition of Keith Olbermann's "Spastic Commentary" on Thursday, but there I was, morbidly curious as to what evils Republicans hath wrought upon the world this hallowed eve.

Tonight's target was presumptive GOP nominee John McCain, particularly the Arizona Senator's statement to Matt Lauer on "Today" that a timetable for bringing troops home from Iraq is "not too important." Missing from this seemingly ghastly statement is the context, which McCain followed with emphasis that what's important in our presence there is that our level of casualties decreases to the point where American soldiers stationed in Iraq will be in no more immediate danger than those stationed in South Korea, Japan and Germany.
Olbermann started his segment by feigning to establish a "context" for McCain's comment by stringing together McCain's statements from January 2002, March 2003, May 2008 and others where he variously stated that troops would win an easy victory, that they would be greeted as liberators, that they could stay for "a hundred" years, that they would come home victorious (by the end of his first term), and finally that their presence doesn't matter so much as their safety.
But of course, Olbermann confuses the issue by contradicting himself, and McCain's statement, by emphasizing the very thing that McCain said IS important; the casualties.
McCain has stated repeatedly that America has had troops stationed in South Korea, Japan and Germany for more than 50 years, virtually without incident, and that he hopes to see a similar scenario in Iraq; namely that we would reach a point where, if troops must be stationed in Iraq, that they can be stationed there SAFELY.
Yet Olbermann dredges up the names of soldiers who've recently died in Iraq, and others who have committed suicide. Tragedies all, but each example is one you DON'T hear emanating from South Korea, Japan and Germany. Presumably this is because those soldiers have not been involved in the hellish firefights that too often engulf our troops in Iraq. So ensuring a safer situation on the ground there would seem to be in everyone's best interest.

Yet Olbermann attempts to back his point - not in his Comment but earlier in his show - by bringing in John Kerry and doing everything possible to make McCain look and sound like a doddering old fool.
Calling into question McCain's age - calling the man "confused" - is a veiled slam at his senility.
If McCain's mind fails him in any capacity, it's that he's forgotten more about warfare than Keith Olbermann will ever know.

So once again, Olbermann misses the mark and an opportunity to drive home a salient point. His blind hatred for all things Bush - and inability to think of an original sign-off - ranks him no higher than Michael Moore and Bill Clinton on the list of liberals who have mastered the art of Opportunity Lost.