Jack Welch, Julia and the fallacy of working women ‘having it al l’ — Provocative Stuff

Posted at 12:05 PM ET, 05/04/2012

Jack Welch, Julia and the fallacy of working women ‘having it all’

By Jennifer Rubin, Washington Post

I have some advice for Julia, the Obama campaign’s mythical gal who is guided through life by the nanny state: Never work for Jack Welch.

Welch, the former head of General Electric, stirred the pot this week at a gathering of women executives with tidbits of wisdom such as: “There’s no such thing as work-life balance. . . . [Instead] there are work-life choices, and you make them, and they have consequences.”

He wasn’t done. He told the flabbergasted attendees they should eschew special programs for women in the workplace: “The best of the women would come to me and say, ‘I don’t want to be in a special group. I’m not in the victim’s unit. I’m a star. I want to be compared with the best of your best.’ . . . Stop lying about it. It’s true. Great women get upset about getting into the victim’s unit.”

What does he recommend? More tough love, ladies: “Without a rigorous appraisal system, without you knowing where you stand . . . and how you can improve, none of these ‘help’ programs that were up there are going to be worth much to you.”

Judging from the comments of attendees, quoted by the Wall Street Journal, you would have thought Welch was for banning women from the workplace, dooming them to a life of domestic misery.

There was much hand-wringing and denial.(“ ‘This meritocracy fiction may be the single biggest obstacle to women’s advancement,’ added Lisa Levey, a consultant who heard Mr. Welch speak.”)

Let’s focus on what Welch was saying. He wasn’t saying workplaces should not accommodate women. He wasn’t saying women shouldn’t be allowed choices. He was saying that if you want to get to the tippy-top of the corporate ladder, which few can attain, you’ll have to devote yourself entirely (or nearly so) to your job.

But isn’t that the same for a man who might want weekends free, time with his kids, hobbies and non-work friends? But, but . . . women have children, the women retort. Yes, but deciding to personally raise them is time-consuming, and if you want to do it yourself, you can’t be in two places at once. If anything, I think, we’ve learned “quality time” is a crock.

This is very disturbing for the “have it all” set that expects life and the workplace to come made-to-order, not off the rack. Unlike Julia, whose every step is paved with governmental aid and every need is anticipated by a gigantic welfare state, we know that life doesn’t really work that way.

It’s not because businesses are cruel or discriminatory. To the contrary, the workforce is now made up of almost 50 percent women. And women are well represented in high-paying professions. No, the reason life in a competitive workplace doesn’t allow you to get to the top by devoting 50 or even 75 percent of your life to work is because there are men and women who will give 80 or 90 percent.

You can kid yourself and say “quality matters more than time,” but in fact the two are related.

Welch upset these women (a lot) because he was asking them to own their life choices. You want to be CEO? Fine. You want to work, but not all the time? Fine. You want to work for yourself with more flexibility? Fine. But you can’t, at least outside “The Life of Julia,” escape the consequences of choices.

I know, mom and dad and an army of self-help authors, teachers, consultants, counselors and the like told you that you could have everything, whenever you wanted it. Sorry, they lied.

By Jennifer Rubin | 12:05 PM ET, 05/04/2012


Christie the Prophet

Christie the Prophet

by Michael D. Tanner

This article appeared in National Review (Online) on April 18, 2012.

New Jersey governor Chris Christie recently warned that America is in danger of becoming a country of “people sitting on the couch waiting for their next government check.” Predictably, the Left was outraged, but Governor Christie wasn’t far off the mark.

During the 2011 debate over raising the debt ceiling, President Obama reminded Americans that the federal government sends out 70 million checks every month. That is probably an underestimate. According to the Washington Post, the president’s number included Social Security, veterans’ benefits, and spending on non-defense contractors and vendors, but not reimbursements to Medicare providers and vendors or electronic transfers to the 21 million households receiving food stamps. (Nor did he include most spending by the Defense Department, which has a payroll of 6.4 million active and retired employees and, on average, cuts checks for nearly 1 million invoices and 660,000 travel-expense claims per month.) The actual number might be closer to 200 million checks every month.

Of course it would be unfair to lump everyone who receives a check from the government in with the people Governor Christie was talking about (though it does say something about the size of government) but, nonetheless, we are becoming a society that relies on government to care for us.

[T]oday, every problem in society prompts calls for government action, response, or funding.

In 1965, just 22 percent of all federal spending was transfer payments. Today it has doubled to 44 percent. That means that nearly half of all federal spending is simply government taking money from one person and giving it to another.

Or look at it another way: In 1965, transfer payments from the federal government made up less than 10 percent of wages and salaries. As recently as 2000, that percentage was just 21 percent. Today, transfer payments are more than a third of salary and wages. Worse, if one includes salaries from government employment, more than half of Americans receive a substantial portion of their income from the government.

Conservatives often criticize transfer payments to the poor, and for good reason. At the federal and state levels combined, we spend nearly $1 trillion per year on anti-poverty or means-tested programs that do more to promote a permanent underclass than to eliminate poverty. But the modern welfare state is much more than programs for the poor. It includes middle-class welfare, such as Social Security and Medicare, which are the real drivers of our future national insolvency. We think of Medicaid as health care for the poor, but as much as two-thirds of Medicaid spending goes to pay for long-term care such as nursing homes for the elderly, much of it for middle-class people sheltering assets. And the modern welfare state also includes corporate welfare, the military-industrial complex, and others living off the taxpayer’s dime. The Export-Import Bank is as much welfare as TANF.

This is the road we are now on. The welfare state started with small programs targeted toward a small number of genuinely needy people. But as politicians figured out the electoral benefits of expanding programs and people realized they could let others work on their behalf, those programs grew until the point at which, today, every problem in society prompts calls for government action, response, or funding.

At the same time, as Governor Christie also noted, this implicitly tells people, “stop dreaming, stop striving.” We demonize those who do succeed, damning them as part of the evil “1 percent.”

This is the real danger of the welfare state. It’s not that it will bankrupt us — though it will. It is that it slowly and insidiously destroys our national character, saps our will to be great, and makes us content with the way things are rather than how they could be. We have seen where this road ends. As Governor Christie warns, it “will not just bankrupt us financially, it will bankrupt us morally.”

Biblical exegesis tells us that the Israelites needed to wander for 40 years in the desert after being released from bondage in Egypt because they couldn’t begin to build a new nation until a new generation grew up that hadn’t been raised in bondage. Those raised in slavery were not trained to think for themselves; they had become dependent on their masters to provide for them. Indeed, when they encountered hardships, many cried for a return to bondage.

Just look to Europe today. The welfare states of Europe are imploding, collapsing under the weight of promises that can no longer be met. Their citizens riot in the streets at the prospect that their government benefits might be reduced.

If anyone wants to know what this next election is really about, Governor Christie just told us.

Michael Tanner is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and author of Leviathan on the Right: How Big-Government Conservatism Brought Down the Republican Revolution.

Gisele’s Super-Sized Super Gaffe

Regardless of who you were rooting for in Super Bowl XLVI, this is a very funny and very poignant piece…

Gisele’s Super-Sized Super Gaffe


For this column, I will defend Gisele Bündchen.

I know: how brave! Tomorrow I will stick up for four-day weekends, vintage Scorsese movies and sun. I will endorse melted cheese over tomato sauce over flattened dough. I will champion Mustang convertibles and cold beer at the end of a 12-hour day.

Associated Press

Here’s a question: What kind of person would heckle this woman in the first place?

But Gisele is under a blustery siege, and somebody’s got to stand by the world’s most famous supermodel.

Here’s the "controversy": Moments after the New York Giants won Super Bowl XLVI, defeating the New England Patriots—an outfit that includes Gisele’s husband, quarterback Tom Brady—a camera caught Bündchen in a corridor leaving Indianapolis’s Lucas Oil Stadium. As Bündchen passes, Giants fans call her by name, and a man off-camera bellows: "Eli owns your husband!" As Bündchen waits for an elevator, she says something, not clearly at the heckler, perhaps to friends, but loud enough to hear:

"My husband cannot (nonfamily newspaper word) throw the ball and catch the ball at the same time. I can’t believe they dropped the ball so many times."

Oof. The video aired on "The Insider" TV show and off it went. Now a couple of things:

1. The first thing I want to know is: What adult on the face of this wondrous planet sees Gisele Bündchen—the Brazilian Venus, the protector of all Victoria’s Secrets, a style icon and entrepreneur who has been on the covers of nearly every magazine in every language—walking several feet away, an ethereal fantasy come to life, and the greeting that comes to mind is: "ELI OWNS YOUR HUSBAND!" I am 100% for New Yorkers being New Yorkers, unimpressed by fame, but this was an odd, abrasive choice. It’s like seeing Angelina Jolie on the street and yelping "CLOONEY OWNS YOUR LIVE-IN BOYFRIEND!" There was an opportunity to take the high road of courtesy, of saying something classy. Don Draper never would have yelled "Eli owns your husband!" Don Draper would have reached out and firmly clasped Gisele’s hand, looked her square in the eye, paused 40 seconds, and then whispered softly, "You’ll be back in this game soon." This guy could have done that. It would have been a great moment—a story that would have melted hearts, that he could have told his grandkids. Instead, he’s That Guy.

2. The other thing is, it’s not actually true. Eli doesn’t "own" Gisele’s husband. Not even Eli thinks this. Eli Manning and Tom Brady are never on a field together, not assigned to stop each other, never in a position to compete one-on-one. It’s like fabricating a duel between a salad spinner and a leaf blower. Now, the Giants may "own" Brady, and the Giants defense certainly does, and Justin Tuck has a compelling case. I know that "Quarterback Versus Quarterback" is a common sports media gimmick, but it’s basically nonsense, and if you’re going to zing a supermodel, you need raise the zinger bar.

3. Now of course what Gisele said is impolite. It’s 10 out of 10 on the cringe index. She reacted to a regrettable taunt with a regrettable comment. It sounds petty and ill-considered and yet…exactly like the kind of petty and ill-considered thing that about 80 million people were saying at the exact same time. Brady did not play his best in the closing moments of XLVI but his receivers did drop passes. At that very moment Wes Welker was downstairs in the stadium, moist-eyed, putting the blame on himself. That was magnanimous of Welker but unnecessary. Brady’s pass was also off. It’s a team game, and a team loss. There are a zillion ways to assign fault.

By now Gisele surely knows that blaming the teammates is not what you’re supposed to do. It’s terrible form. But there’s been a lot of easy sanctimony this week about how "public figures" like Bündchen—as if she’s running in the Arizona primary—need to watch what they say. She’s no novice, but there’s a long road of difference between getting snagged in an unguarded moment and standing at a podium or sitting for an interview. Celebrities like Bündchen and Brady live in a bizarre universe where every public interaction is now fair play, and while the spoils are many, it’s a standard few can live up to every second of every day. I’m not saying it excuses the language, and I sure wish she hadn’t put it like that, but if you think it’s unforgivable and never should happen, you ought to walk a mile in those UGGs.

4. The last thing I thought was this: Wow, Gisele Bündchen really loves Tom Brady. She loves him in the irrational way that people who are in love love each other. She loves him blind.

This is a comforting, uncynical thing. Maybe you’re married, maybe not—maybe you were married once—but one of the things you want in a union is that kind of unconditional, unrestrained, forget-everyone-else support. Everybody should be lucky to have a fierce advocate in their corner, and you should be a fierce advocate in their corner too. Leave the measured consideration and the caveats to the friends and the shrinks. You want your spouse to tell you it’s going to be OK. To defend you when nobody else will.

Even when it’s wrong. Even when it sounds like lashing out. Even when it’s the absolute incorrect thing to say. Because they’ve got your back. Because you’ve got theirs. Because that’s love.

I’m not saying she was right, I’m not saying she shouldn’t regret it. But the supermodel loves the quarterback.

The fairy tale is actually a fairy tale. It’s so unfair, but it’s also pretty sweet.

Tim Tebow and Leadership

Interesting front page Washington Post piece…

Tim Tebow shows that in sports, there’s no faking leadership (and Bruce Boudreau and Randy Edsall could take note)

By Sally Jenkins, Published: December 1

In a real crisis, like say if an asteroid threatens to strike the planet, I want Tim Tebow as my leader. I don’t want University of Maryland football coach Randy Edsall, with his faux-militaristic carping, or recently fired Washington Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau, with his abrupt shifts from friendly buddy talk to deafening profanity.

“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another,” Tebow, the NFL quarterback, told his Denver Broncos teammates solemnly last week, quoting Proverbs. If anyone else said that, the room would have erupted into hooting laughter. When Tebow said it, people believed in him.

People didn’t believe in Boudreau and Edsall, for all of their shouting. Yet they believe in a scripture-spouting kid with a hitch in his arm. Why? Possibly because Tebow grasps something about leadership that Boudreau and Edsall have yet to learn: It’s not about domination but about persuasion. Someone who tries to force others to do his bidding isn’t a leader; he’s a warlord. Leadership only works when other people find you credible and grant you their cooperation.

In the past few weeks, area coaches have given clinics in failed leadership. The Washington Capitals staged a virtual work stoppage on the ice under Boudreau. The Maryland football team quit so badly on Edsall, they lost seven consecutive games by double digits. And the Washington Redskins lost six in a row thanks in part to Mike Shanahan’s misjudgment that the happy-talk of quarterback John Beck was leadership, only it turns out they trust Beck’s fellow signal-caller Rex Grossman more, even when he throws interceptions.

Meantime, Tebow has given us a starkly powerful display of the real thing, and so has the underrated leader who had the guts to hand the team over to him, Broncos Coach John Fox.The Broncos are 5-1 over their last six games, and Fox was smart enough last Sunday to ask Tebow to give the pregame talk that led to a crucial overtime victory over the San Diego Chargers and put them in the playoff hunt.

“I’ve never seen a human who can will himself to win like that,” Broncos linebacker Von Miller told the Denver Post afterward. “He gave us a great speech. We came out fired up. And that was a wrap.”

So what exactly is that mysterious quality called leadership? It’s not exactly charisma; it doesn’t hurt that Tebow gleams like a superhero, but the worst despots are charismatic too. It’s not exactly talent, either. According to experts, one reason we struggle to define it is because we look at it from the wrong side up.

“The academic study of leadership has failed, and the reason is that it focuses on the leader, when the appropriate focus is on the followers,” suggests research psychologist Robert Hogan, who profiles executives for Fortune 500 companies. When we flip the examination of leadership on its head and look at what followers will follow, we get a better idea of what quality we’re talking about.

“What is it the followers are looking for?” he asks. “The focus should be on the work force or the team, and what they perceive. Because if they don’t perceive the right thing in a leader, you’re through.”

Okay, so let’s talk about followership. The truth is, it’s not in our human nature to “follow” anyone very willingly, from an evolutionary standpoint. Anthropologist Christopher Boehm asserts that for 2.5 million years hunter-gatherer societies were so egalitarian they wouldn’t tolerate such a thing as formal “leadership.” Bands awarded temporary authority only for coordination: Someone had to plan the hunt. As soon as the group doubted his competence, or regretted awarding him control, they had clever ways of ridding themselves of him, which anthropologists coolly call “leveling mechanisms.” They ranged from ignoring orders, to casting out of the tribe, to killing.

Seem familiar? Sounds like Boudreau got leveled by a mechanism. Edsall, too.

According to Hogan’s research, followers want four things: integrity, confidence, decision-making and clarity. But just as important is what followers don’t want: irritability, moodiness, untrustworthiness, indec­i­sive­­­ness, needless micro-management and excessive authority. They perceive these things as incompetent, and pretty soon the leveling mechanism kicks in and there is a subtle rebellion. (Incidentally, I would be a terrible leader, according to Hogan’s personality test. Too irritable. “Volcanic,” he announced.)

With that in mind, let’s reconsider our local teams, and ask why the followers refused to follow.

Boudreau is an extremely likable man and expert coach; the Capitals followed him cheerfully until this season, and he was hired by Anaheim less than three days after getting fired. But after winning just two playoff rounds in four years, Boudreau decided he needed to get tougher, especially on star Alex Ovechkin. This from a guy who already had a nasal intensity, and who before his first-ever practice with the Capitals in 2007 decided to chastise Ovechkin solely for the purpose of making an impression. And who in 2010 was captured on tape giving an intermission diatribe that consisted of 17 obscenities in 90 seconds. Deafening profanity can be useful — until it’s numbingly repetitive. At a certain point it didn’t motivate anymore and became tiresome. “If people say, ‘He’s just manipulating us,’ at that point you’re done,” Hogan says.

Edsall’s act with the Terps was just sort of low and snarling and alienating. He treated the nine-win squad he inherited from the far more accomplished Ralph Friedgen as if it was in need of discipline and not up to his standards. But there’s a difference between rigor, which builds confidence, and petty puppeteering, which destroys enthusiasm. Fact is, Edsall’s never won anything bigger than a PapaJohns.com Bowl. Some of the Terps responded by nicknaming him the “warden” and by playing with stunning lassitude and apathy, losing 10 games.

Edsall has shown zero recognition he is the problem; instead he had the temerity to compare himself to the New England Patriots. Edsall might want to look at a study on airline crew performance that Hogan cites. It found that the number of flight errors significantly correlated to the personality of the captain. Crews led by captains perceived as agreeable, self-confident and emotionally reliable made the fewest errors. Crews with captains considered arrogant, hostile, passive-aggressive or dictatorial made the most errors.

Leaders lose their teams, Hogan says, for the simple reason that followers withdraw their consent to be led. The late Red Auerbach, the legendary coach and executive with the Boston Celtics, always said that you don’t motivate teams, you motivate players, one by one, by building relationships.

“The key to the relationship is trust, and if they don’t trust you, you’re done,” Hogan says.

A leader is worth nothing without voluntary commitment, because the followers are actually more in charge of the outcome. Every aspiring leader should ask, “Would people choose to follow me?” and understand who the boss really is.

Kevin Wrege, Esq.

Founder & President

Pulse Issues & Advocacy LLC

Office: 202-625-1787

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