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Auto executives plan to carpool to D.C.

November 24, 2008 | Airlines,D.C.,Dignitary visits,Economics,Iraq,Politics,Traveling

You know what that means.

Road trip!

Think they’ll blog about it? And take pictures of the Kum & Go? And pick up other execs along the way?

Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., was the one who asked the executives if they flew commercial to Washington, D.C. None had.

I suppose Sherman had a decent question. So when will he get his D.C. colleagues to start road-trippin’ in and out of the city? Or maybe he’ll convince them to hitchhike when they go on their PR junkets to Iraq.

Posted by Becky @ 7:23 pm | 2 Comments  

It’s like buttah

November 6, 2008 | 2008 campaign,Afghanistan,Apples,Barack Obama,Economics,Iraq,Politics,PR,U.S. government

Well, not exactly buttah. I cheated and didn’t use a strainer or food grinder, so my apple butter is lumpy. But, hey, it’s apple butter. I got fancy yesterday and used the food grinder on the applesauce. It’s more like buttah than the apple butter. Oh well.

I heard someone on election night say that everyone will remember exactly where they were when Barack Obama was elected president. Yep. I was at home. Making apple butter.

Congratulations, President-elect Obama, on your victory.

You said you need my help.

Yes, you do.

You said you will be my president too.

Yes, you will.

You said you hear my voice.

I’d love to agree with that, but you have shown me that you hear only what you want to hear. So, while I have a whole lot of other things I could say, I’ll leave it at this for now:

Well done. And good luck.

Posted by Becky @ 9:16 pm | 2 Comments  

‘Becky, I don’t need your vote’

October 29, 2008 | 2008 campaign,Advertising,Barack Obama,Economics,Media,Politics,PR,Television

Ding, ding, ding, ding!

Oh, wait. That didn’t happen, did it?

Posted by Becky @ 8:35 pm | 2 Comments  

It’s a miracle … a true blue spectacle

October 15, 2008 | Customer service,Economics

I just got the final bill (that I was supposed to get in August) for the security system/service we had in Florida. I was told in July that the final bill would be $30. This one was $80. So I called, and they reduced it to $30. Then I started thinking about it … why did I have a balance due anyway since I canceled it before the next quarterly payment would have been due? I called again. Apparently, I was supposed to give 30 days’ notice, and the final bill was the difference. But then Dan in the billing department said this,

“You know what? You’ve been a loyal customer for many years. I’ll just zero that out for you, and you won’t owe us a thing. Thank you so much for being our customer, and have a great day.”

Blink, blink, blink.

Wow.

Thanks, Dan with ADT in Jacksonville, Fla. Thank you!

Two telephone calls and $80 down, 248 more calls to go …

Posted by Becky @ 6:18 pm | Comments  

Free falling

2008 campaign,Economics

I baked 96 muffins and lost more than $20,000 in retirement savings yesterday.

And how was your day?

Posted by Becky @ 12:24 pm | 3 Comments  

Books: Rumors of our Progress have been Greatly Exaggerated by Carolyn B. Maloney

August 7, 2008 | Advertising,Books,Breast cancer,Colbert Report,Colin Powell,Economics,Ethics,Family,Health,Media,Movies,MSM,Music,Parenting,Pink,Politics,PR,Race,Research,SLBTM,Statistics,Television,U.S. government,Verizon,Work,Working Mother

I just finished reading Rumors of our Progress have been Greatly Exaggerated: Why Women’s Lives Aren’t Getting any Easier and How We Can Make Real Progress for Ourselves and Our Daughters by Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, D-N.Y. I received a review copy from the publisher, Modern Times, an imprint of Rodale, Inc.

As I was getting ready to write something about the book, I ran across Maloney’s July 29, 2008, appearance on Comedy Central’s Colbert Report. At first, I thought I would just include it with other links, but the more I thought about it, the more it bothered me.

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Better Know a District – New York’s 14th – Carolyn Maloney
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full Episodes 2010 Election Fox News

Is it really funny that women get fired for lactating?

Here’s a quote from Maloney’s book.

I also heard numerous stories about difficulties in the workplace, including one woman whose male colleagues mooed outside the door as she expressed milk to take home and another woman being banished to do so in her car across the street from her office.

I didn’t laugh once while reading her book, but maybe I missed something. Exactly which issue that she wrote about was funny? Rape? Domestic violence? Burkas? Breast cancer? Or maybe prostitution? That link goes to a 2007 feature in Prism magazine, which Maloney reprinted on page 246 of her book and said it made the strongest case against sex trafficking she had ever seen.

Depictions of prostitution in the media and popular culture (including the movie Pretty Woman) can be grossly misleading, even glamorous. In fact, street prostitutes are typically trafficked, exploited, battered, and often force-fed drugs by slavemaster pimps. This series of mugshots of street prostitutes, which documents their first arrest to their eighth, illustrates the reality of life on the street, which more closely resembles a descent into hell than a Hollywood movie.

Is that funny? If not, I’m confused about why one of the first places she went to discuss her book was Comedy Central.

The blurbs on the back of her book are written by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, Gloria Steinem, Pat Schroeder, Ellie Smeal and Arianna Huffington. (Geraldine Ferraro was also included in the online “praise” section for the book.) Were they slapping their knees and giggling at the sight of Colbert using a breast pump while Maloney smiled and kept her cool? If not, does that mean they just can’t take a joke?

I’ve written about the blurred lines between celebrity and politics. It’s as if something has shifted. Instead of looking back as former government officials (elected or not), they now have to prove they don’t take themselves too seriously while they’re in office, no matter how “serious” the positions they hold. They have to prove that they get the joke. Hey, they’re even in on the joke because so many things that happen in Washington are, well, a joke. Is that it?

Maybe I just don’t get the whole Inside the Beltway atmosphere. Is it really just a non-stop college kegger where everyone has to hit the beer bong and slam shots until they puke their guts out to prove they can keep up?

Sigh.

Maloney’s book is a fairly comprehensive list of women’s issues — what’s been done, what’s been undone and what still needs to be done. For those who regularly keep up on these issues, not much of the information is new, but it’s interesting to read about the issues from Maloney’s perspective as a policymaker.

She put a “take-action guide” at the end of each chapter, providing contact information for some of the groups and organizations working on specific issues. Her goal is to convince readers to do something, anything: “I hope to persuade you that any action in support of your beliefs matters, whether it is large or small, brief or time-consuming, successful or unsuccessful.”

She included women’s personal stories as well as her own story and a wealth of information from other sources.

She draws upon the work of Martha Burk (Cult of Power: Sex Discrimination in Corporate America and What Can Be Done About It), Ann Crittenden (The Price of Motherhood: Why the Most Important Job in the World is Still the Least Valued), Jody Heymann (The Work, Family, and Equity Index: Where Does the United States Stand Globally?), MomsRising (The Motherhood Manifesto: What America’s Moms Want – and What To Do About It), Evelyn Murphy and E.J. Graff (Getting Even: Why Women Don’t Get Paid Like Men–And What to Do About It), Joan Williams (Unbending Gender: Why Family and Work Conflict and What to Do About It), Marie Wilson (Closing the Leadership Gap: Add Women, Change Everything), among many others.

She also included some of her own research and highlighted inconsistencies between cultural myth and everyday reality.

Maloney mentioned Morgan Stanley, which settled a class-action sex-discrimination case for $54 million and then another one for $46 million, yet it consistently appears on Working Mother magazine’s 100 Best Companies for Working Mothers list, a topic I have written about many times.

You might think that Morgan Stanley would work especially hard to eradicate sex discrimination after so costly [$54 million] an episode. But the firm settled another class action sex discrimination suit in 2007 for $46 million — bringing its overall sex discrimination price tag to an even $100 million. That sounds like a lot, but it only amounts to a few good days of trading.

Despite these incidents, Morgan Stanley has been cited numerous times by Working Mother magazine as one of the 100 Best Companies for Working Mothers. That makes me wonder how bad things are at other companies.

While she pointed out the inconsistency of the companies that appear in Working Mother with their employment track record, she listed in the take-action guide the National Association for Female Executives, which might be a perfectly fine organization. But it falls under the umbrella of Working Mother Media, which publishes Working Mother magazine, whose 100 Best list is — well, let’s just say I’m highly skeptical of the whole thing.

She also gave this example.

If you drive your Mitsubishi to the airport after filling its tank at Sunoco, board a Boeing-built plane for a United Airlines flight, use your Verizon cell phone service to call your spouse before you take off, and then bite into a Krispy Kreme doughnut, you’ve just enriched six household-name companies that have settled or lost sex discrimination cases and lawsuits in recent years.

Right. At least one of those companies — Verizon — makes Working Mother magazine’s 100 Best Companies for Working Mothers list year after year.

In the take-action guide at the end of the “Health Care That’s Always There” chapter, she recommended (among others) Dove’s Campain for Real Beauty as a way to “start health education early by teaching our young and teenaged girls about issues that affect them.” If you scratch the surface of Dove, you’ll find a wee bit of image manipulation of its own.

Unilever is the maker of Dove products (and major “research” funder), which are the basis for the Campaign for Real Beauty and its self-esteem education for young girls. Unilever also makes and markets Axe products, which exist in a parallel universe where the V.I.X.E.N.S. (Very Interactive Xtremely Entertaining Naughty Supermodels) and Bom Chicka Wah Wahs don’t have “real beauty” or self-esteem issues.

In “The Pretty Woman Myth” chapter, Maloney wrote about misleading portrayals of prostitution in popular culture and mentioned that the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 2006 went to ‘It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp,'” whose lyrics include:

Wait I got a snow bunny, and a black girl too
You pay the right price and they’ll both do you
That’s the way the game goes, gotta keep it strictly pimpin
Gotta have my hustle tight, makin change off these women, yeah

I remember when that happened, thinking, what?!? There was George Clooney, smugly patting himself on the back for Hollywood being “out of touch” for “giving Hattie McDaniel an Oscar when blacks were still sitting in the backs of theaters.” That was in 1939. Just how long was it, dear George, until the next black person was so honored? That would be 1948, then 1964, then 1982, then 2002. And just how far has Hollywood come, George, by glorifying “the black man” … as a pimp, not to mention portraying women of all colors as simply a venue for making money? Hollywood’s out of touch, George. Ya think?

Which brings me back around to the Comedy Central appearance.

If it’s a matter of reaching a younger audience? C’mon, they deserve more credit than that. It’s not only “the kids” watching Comedy Central, and “the younger audience” is watching much more than just Comedy Central. And there are tons of young, vibrant, intelligent voices on the Internet. Dust off the mouse and start clicking.

Besides, there’s not a damn thing that’s funny about this book. Just like the issues Maloney discusses in the book — the media and popular-culture myths that harm the efforts to improve the lives of real people — Maloney’s Comedy Central appearance did nothing but belittle and mock some very serious societal issues. The people behind the stories about sex discrimination, prostitution and unacceptably high infant-mortality rates (to name just a few) deserve much more than to become the butt of a comedian’s joke.

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Posted by Becky @ 4:10 pm | 18 Comments  

Why ‘American Idol Gives Back’ is creepy

April 10, 2008 | American Idol,Economics,Fundraising,Health,Heart,Matt Damon,Music,PR,Television

1) Why can’t viewers just call in and vote to end the war?

2) Oh, wait. Major Sponsor Exxon Mobil wouldn’t be thrilled. It also wouldn’t be able to “give back” so generously if not for the googillions it’s made on the war. Maybe that’s where Ben Stiller got the term — from checking EM’s financials.

3) By sponsoring images of African and American babies, it can say, “War? What war? I don’t know nothin’ about no war.”

4) So can Major Sponsor News Corp.

5) And Ford Motor Co.

6) Don’t forget Coca-Cola. “I’d like to buy the world a Coke.” And a bunch of peace and stuff.

Right. (Got $45?)

7) And AT&T.

8) Robin Williams. What … is it 1985?

9) Toothless grandmothers and dilapidated shacks juxtaposed with painted, airbrushed celebs, who packed their camera crews and left. Because they could.

10) Those painful fake smiles on the Appalachian children’s faces.

11) The politician who appeared on American Idol? British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

12) Paula Abdul, who’s had an eating disorder, stood next to Randy Jackson, who’s had stomach-stapling surgery, and talked about obesity in American children.

13) How many others — besides Miley Cyrus — had stuff to plug?

14) Did anyone else who saw Jimmy Kimmel and Sarah Silverman keep thinking, “Where is Matt Damon?”

Just me, then?

Updated: Deus Ex Malcontent posted random comments from watching the show.

Posted by Becky @ 3:12 pm | 9 Comments  

But the emporer has nothing on at all!

January 23, 2008 | Advertising,Airlines,Customer service,Economics,Ethics,No clothes!,Norway,PR

emperor.jpg

I was discussing the Gates of Hell chapter of the Nightmare in Norway with someone the other night.

“I would have said, ‘I want to speak to your boss, and your boss’s boss and your boss’s boss’s boss, NOW’ … you know … go up the chain of command,” he said.

Chain of command. Yeah, the military does that to a person, I guess. Maybe that works in that world.

But, really, how much latitude does a customer-bot (we’re not human beings anymore) have in an airport before going from concerned about service to a security threat? I mean, how many times could I have told Haris, “I want to speak to your boss,” before he felt “threatened” by me and sent me spiraling into the Circles of Hell to, you know … stun guns, shackles, detention, jail … that sorta thing? I mean … really?

Besides, who’s to say Haris the employee-bot (they’re not human beings anymore either) wouldn’t have just said, “No.”

Then what?

It’s happened before. I called a “customer service” line to ask for, well, customer service. (Oh, silly me.) When I got nowhere with the employee-bot, I asked to speak to his supervisor. He put me on hold. He came back and told me his supervisor refused to speak to me.

Refused to speak to me.

I asked for the name of the president of the company. He said he didn’t know. “Well, could you check?” I asked. He put me on hold again. He came back and said, “It’s against company policy to give you that information.”

It was against company policy to tell me who runs the company.

He was right. I couldn’t find the president’s name anywhere on the company Web site. In fact, three companies were involved, and none of their contact information was available through any of the companies. I had to look them up by other means. But, hey, I found them. (I need to write a love letter to the Internet.) I sent an e-mail to all of them and the customer-service department. To their credit, they actually resolved my problem. Very satisfactorily, even.

Apparently, though, it’s become standard operating procedure that employee-bots (and their CEOs) do not work for customer-bots — even if they are in the service industry. Hell, employee-bots don’t even work for their CEOs anymore. They work for the computer screens in front of them. They can only do what their computers tell them to do, which — when it comes to customer-bots — usually isn’t much.

I suppose PR bullshit goes way back, and none of this is new. Am I the only one who can remember things like “the customer is always right” … or was that just PR bullshit too? I couldn’t help thinking about The Emporer’s New Clothes, which I recently grabbed off the shelf for my son. (I got the Virginia Lee Burton pictures from a 1968 version of the book by Scholastic Book Services.)

You call your employees co-workers and expect them (and us) to believe it?

No clothes!

emperor3.jpg

You say you “work hard to earn my business every time I fly”?

No clothes!

emperor3.jpg

You say, “They’ll hold the plane for you”?

No clothes!

emperor3.jpg

You say, “I’m sorry, there’s nothing I can do”?

No clothes!

emperor3.jpg

It’s not like I’ve never gotten good customer service. I got incredible service yesterday, in fact. More than once. (I’ll write about it one of these days.) But when I get excellent or good or, heck, even fair-to-middling customer service, isn’t it a shame that it makes me want to weep with joy? Why should it be the exception and not the rule?

I ran across a few examples of suckass non-service just skimming through my feeder this morning. Matthew at Childs Play x2 warns his readers not to shop at Home Decorators. Planet Nomad writes about inexplicable weirdness at Starbucks. CrankMama has a few choice words to say about Verizon. Updated: I just found this priceless exchange on Hotfessional. Updated2: Wow. They just keep coming. Karen at A Deaf Mom Shares Her World was denied service at Steak ‘n Shake.

What’s your suckiest non-service experience? Who deserves the “No clothes!” seal of disapproval?

Posted by Becky @ 7:54 pm | 3 Comments  

What Working Mother magazine won’t tell you: Global gender gap

November 10, 2007 | Advertising,Economics,Ethics,Family,Health,Journalism,Politics,PR,Work,Working Mother

100-2.jpg

If things are going so well for American working mothers, why did the United States fall from 23rd place to 31st place on the Global Gender Report?

Posted by Becky @ 10:26 am | 2 Comments  


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