Once a Reporter, Always a Reporter

Once I was a straight reporter. Then my husband became a politician. That made me a political spouse with bad habits, some of which are exposed here. Others are located at www.VIKIVOLK.com

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Location: St. George Island, Maryland

Visit www.VIKIVOLK.com for all you could ever want to know about me.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Pre-Election Consumption

It's getting harder to to de-personalize enough to blog for pre-election consumption. Former colleagues suggested this would happen.

Let's be clear here. My husband is the president of the local governing board -- a five-member county commission in St. Mary's County, Maryland. His first term wraps up the end of this year. He's running for re-election.

My former employer, The Enterprise newspaper, made clear a few years ago that his elected office is intimately connected to my health insurance coverage -- coverage that for nearly 20 years I carried via The Enterprise newspaper. Let that stand as my conflict of interest disclosure.

The point is, I want him re-elected, so I refrain. Still, I keep watching state and local politics play out, I'd like to make a couple suggestions that federal office holder are welcome to take as well.

If office holders could just take votes I think government might move a bit more efficiently. Just vote. Stop delaying. And while you're at it, talk less. Quite a bit less. Actually I'm not all that terribly interested in why you decided to vote a particular way. I'm just interested in the vote.

And quit blaming other people and other governments or agencies for what's going wrong. Figure out how to fix what you can on your watch. Even just make some suggestions. Or go asking for fixes. Just quit talking about it or worse waste your time fixing blame on someone else.

Here's the thing: You have all been elected as conduits, not as the brain trust of the civilization. Your job, which you clearly wanted -- you ran for it, begged for it, grovel for it every day you're in it -- is to vote on how specific things are to run. You're the deciders.

I vote based on your votes. All of your talking isn't likely to alter that fundamental. It may be that I vote as a bloc but even so, the rhetoric I adhere to is based upon your vote.

All of this talking, this vitriol, this backstabbing and finger pointing -- such a stall. Office holders perhaps believe that if they take no votes, voters will never cast one against them. Or maybe they believe they are the brain trust of the civilization. Power, even the tiniest crumbs of it, can warp reality. Even the best of you, you're the conduit. The system will roll on without you in large part just as it rolled on before you and while you were in place.

It's the system. And that is what you've been elected -- as a conduit -- to keep rolling. So vote, that's the required activity. Vote as soon as you're informed on each piece of each decision just as soon as the opportunity presents itself.

Stalling the vote is just pissing me off. All of the talking is really annoying me too. And by and large you're all starting to look silly.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

I Wanted To Like Jim Schroeder

I had lost interest in Jim Schroeder as the Political Spouse I wanted to sit by well before he started in on how Pat helped him get a job through Hillary Clinton's staff which was different than helping him get the job. That would be Pat, as in the former congresswoman from Denver that gave James Schroeder the credentials to publish Confessions of a Political Spouse.

Early on in the book I suspected Jim and I shared few if any confessions. He served at higher rank. He was national. The way that works is, the farther away the elected office is from its constituents, the higher the rank of the politician. I'm married local.

His feminist credentials were a bit cloying as well. I regret that about myself. It's sexist, right? To distrust a male spouting feminism. I struggle with guilt about this. Jim Schroeder did confess to male chauvinistic behavior in high school when he "dated his fair share of bimbos." He itemized a couple. He used the word "bimbo." That made him seem a bit more local to me, actually.

Then came this tender confession "that I never seemed to solve: cleaning up and dressing up the kids when Pat was unavailable." He clucks on about a photo of the Schroeders at Christmas with President and Mrs. Carter with the children looking "like urchins from a Dickens's novel."

Come on. This is an international lawyer who, presumably, is capable of dressing himself. He can't figure out how to locate appropriate clothing for his children to meet the president --- and he gets a pass on this?

Dang. It's not rank at all. It's right back to gender. No politicial wife would get a pass on urchin-looking children at a presidential greet and flash. Michelle Obama would not get a pass for that.

Then just when I'd about given up and turned the Kindle back to The Tipping Point Jim does come up with a teeny bit of tattling. (Why did he think I downloaded?) Jim dropped the dime on Bob Dole's failure to actively support Elizabeth Dole's stab at the Republican nomination. That would have been fun to flesh out at one of those long-winded affairs where the spouses are otherwise disposed and there's too long of a line at the bar to get another unobtrusively.  That's the kind of story I want during those dinners where I usually can only say "Oh," a lot and, "My."

But then Pat's husband went and ruined it by praising Bill Clinton as "a terrific asset in [Hillary Clinton's] historic campaign." Puke. I love Hillary Clinton. I loved her as a political spouse. I loved Bill Clinton. Would have voted for him a third time if given a chance. But who are these husbands kidding? Bill was a millstone around his wife's neck from start to go.

So I was already puking before the (spoiler alert) Follow the Golden Rule ending. Turns out this memoir is a cautionary tale of dual career families when the wife holds the primary career. A small market you would think, but in a funny little chapter near this golden rule ending, Schroeder finally slips in a little bit of tongue. He introduces Charles Horner.

Horner founded the nebulous Dennis Thatcher Society for husbands who remain obscure behind their wives success. Charles Horner knighted Jim Schroeder into the society when called by a Washington Post reporter who had heard of what may or may not have been pure whimsy at that point in time -- this is never made explicit by Schroeder.

Ultimately Horner and Schroeder met and even a few times convened with appropriate members who could meet their rules which included always meeting at a club where they could sign the bill off to one of their wives. Their slogan was, "yes, dear."

And, "The element of obscurity was crucial," Schroeder wrote, "As Horner once observed, 'Bob Dole couldn't possibly be a member.'"

Now that's the kind of stuff I'm talking about. You come on over to my table, Mr. Horner, sit down right here by me.

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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Mandatory Unemployment Workshop

Unemployment insurance recipients in Maryland must attend a workshop (put on by another branch of state government) regarding job seeking skills and coping with the stress of unemployment.
It used to be a two-day workshop but was halved as the numbers of unemployed grew, Maryland instituted a hiring free and then began furloughs of the remaining employees.

I hope the workshops aren’t phased out entirely. Call me a Baby Boomer but I love workshops. They appeal to me as a quick fix like magazine quizzes: What type of man wants the real you? Can you wear black? Are you a Paul girl or a John girl?

Set before our dozen seats were the ubiquitous folders and blank name badges. The first page in the folder was a scrambled set of encouraging aphorisms titled, “101 Stress Relievers.” The page was blanketed with these hundred sayings spewed about in dozens of fonts and sizes, some reading across and others up and down. The workshop leader had been told the inanity of the layout was stress producing.

“Talk to yourself,” extolled one piece of advice further suggesting two phrases, “I can do a great job.” and “I can stay calm under pressure.” Another prodded, “Write down your fears. Write down your dreams. Write your congressman.”

And that was that for the stress management portion of the day. It seemed sufficient. Short of passing out Valium, how much stress reduction is actually going to be accomplished in six hours minus one hour for lunch and two fifteen minute breaks?

The rest of the time was spent shaping us into attractive new hires. We needed different things. All we had in common was that we’d worked on-the-books (meaning we’d paid into our unemployment insurance funds) and had job histories. No small feat as it turns out.

Nine of us were young – I’m saying nobody closing in on 40 any time soon. Three of the young men – one black, two white – were laid off from the construction industry. Six more young people – two white women, two black men and one white man – came from the service sector from jobs in food service, educational services, retail and automobile repair. And three older workers (let’s say 45- to 60 years old) consisted of a white man out of work after two decades in menial non-union retail labor and two white women – one with top notch administrative and para-medic skills and me, refugee from a dinosaur industry.

The workshop leader was among us oldsters and was spot-on with her assessments of each of us. She rallied with the spirit of a wise if slightly tired scout mother. But it's got to be a tough job, trying to arm a disparate people with the tools to battle increasingly bad odds. There's the economy, of course. But that allows for everything else to escalate, she tells us. And she has touched at a piece of each of us by now, so we believe her. Discrimination is alive and well, prepare for it, she says. There are hundreds and in many cases thousands of applicants for a single job, be the best candidate and know someone on the inside. You will take an income cut, the older you are, the bigger the cut.

And that specific information that gets through, it is just damn terrifying, such as: Cut 25 years off your resume.

That's a quarter-century.

But she gave good workshop. Here's some of  my specialized good news: Desktop Publishing is one of the projected “future careers.”  Old white women are, as always, encouraged to return to school to update their skills or open a small business.

I think I see a future career in this interplay. All I need now is to get one of my daughters to pose for my honed, on-line resume photo.

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