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Monthly Archives: April 2014

Well, I started writing a post that was supposed to be a follow-up to the one about nudity and art. I wanted to deal with the question of when nudity was sexual, when it was not. The difference between erotica and pornography and other subjects. Then I went to hit save, and I got a message on a blank screen saying “Do you really want to do this?” My gut said, “If you’re asking, probably not,” but it was already too late. I’m more than a bit bummed out because it was quite difficult to organize my thoughts and I thought I was being so prudent in saving before I got especially far. Now, it’s late and I’m tired and can’t remember where I was. When am I going to learn to not trust the WordPress system and remember to type my posts in a text editor and then cut and paste them into WordPress? I do that with most of my longer posts and why I didn’t do that with this one, I don’t know.

Torso

For the record, this was supposed to be an example of a nude that is not sexual.

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Before I say anything, I need to apologize for having such petty problems. I feel like an asshole for having the degree of internal angst that I have over problems that are so small. I’m entirely aware that there are people who are hungry, people who are homeless, people who are sick with physically painful illnesses, and I feel that I have no right to be so miserable over things in my life that are so comparatively small. But still, it’s there. I am miserable, miserable enough to start my morning swallowing an Ativan with my coffee. I don’t like taking the Ativan because it makes me feel sluggish and taking one in the morning is especially bad. However, it keeps me from having a full-blown anxiety attack, the kind where I start acting out and do weird things that I regret when I calm down.

One of my problems is that I’m lonely. Now lonely isn’t dying, but sometimes if feels like it is. The other problems, well they’re the petty sort of problems that don’t deserve a blog post, but I have no one to tell, so I guess I’ll put it on the internet and tell anyone who’s listening.

First of all, I’m a slob, not so much the dirty kind, but the disorganized kind. When things get disorganized enough, then my place may start getting dirty too, but my principal problem is disorganization.

Several years ago, I had to leave New York City because my income had stagnated and my rent and my health insurance kept rising. Eventually, I was priced out of the place in which I’d been living. I needed to make a change. My career, if my life’s hodgepodge of unrelated jobs can be dignified with that word, had stalled. I enrolled in a Master’s Degree program in Computer Science in the hope of straightening it out and moved in with my sister, which definitely relieved my rent problems.

My sister has been living in Baltimore for the past thirty years. She came here to go to college and never left. She’s married and she and her husband own a large house with a spare room and they did their best to make me feel welcome and comfortable. So I put most of my possessions in boxes. I was coming from a small Manhattan apartment, so there wasn’t too much. Years earlier, I learned that my disorganization meant that it was better if I owned less rather than more. Still, there was stuff and that stuff went into boxes. Occasionally, while I was at my sister’s I would need an item that was in a box. The box would dutifully be hauled out, actually, several boxes. I would rummage through the boxes looking for the item, and then the box would go in the corner.

Finally, we agreed that although it was economical to live at my sister’s place, it was awkward for me. As a temporary move it was good, but after a year and a half, I wanted to have what felt like a life again. There was something so contingent and unsettled about living in her spare room and having most of my possessions in cardboard boxes. I was living in Baltimore, but it felt so temporary. She lives in a suburban section on the edge of town and without a car I felt trapped in the house.

So I got a condo closer to the center of town. Baltimore is a city full of row houses. As a single woman living alone, I didn’t want a whole house, just an apartment. That meant there weren’t many choices about where to live. There are some nice condos down near the harbor, but they’re comparatively pricey, well, pricey for Baltimore. So I moved into a condo just north of Johns Hopkins University, right at the point where the urban density of the city changes to a suburban environment. Although I thought it was an urban area when I moved here, I’m more car dependent than I hoped. For the first few months here, I didn’t have a car and I felt trapped. I now have a cute little economy car which I happen to like, although I still don’t like driving. That was the reason I moved to New York City in the first place, because you can have a full life there without a car. Most of the rest of the country is not like that, Baltimore included.

The place wasn’t quite a “fixer-upper”, but it definitely needed repairs. Had it been a house rather than I condo, I’m sure that it would have been a fixer-upper. I shouldn’t complain about the condition too much because I had a tight budget. It’s an inherently nice apartment in a frankly elegant building that is noted for its architecture in a nice, if stuffy, neighborhood. Had it been in good shape, I could have never afforded it. A few repairs and I could easily sell it for more than I paid, so there’s the nice assurance of not being “under water.”

But those repairs. Throughout the period I was describing I began falling into a depression. There were several stages to the decline and if things had gone right rather than wrong at several junctures, I think I could have avoided a full-blown depressive episode of the sort that wound me up in the hospital.

There were several things I knew I had to do. One was taking up the worn, ugly vinyl sheet flooring in the kitchen which I replaced with linoleum tile. Next was refinishing the hardwood floors. This turned out to be a disaster. The concrete slab floors are covered with hard wood parquet tiles. These are very common in buildings in Manhattan built in the 50s and 60s and I’ve spent much of my adult life in apartments with floors like this and visiting friends with similar floors. I refinished a floor once and it was a big job. My thought here was that before I moved in, I would hire a professional to refinish the floors while the apartment was empty.

First, however, we discovered a problem we didn’t know we had when we bought it. The heating/cooling units did not work. They had to be replaced for quite a lot of money, thousands of dollars. It was now summertime and the large windows resulted in a lot of solar gain. The architectural masterpiece was built in 1959. If you know a little about architecture history of the period, this was the era in which Le Corbusier said that the world should be eighteen degrees. This was long before the oil crisis, long before Chernobyl, people were optimistic about the possibilities enabled by modern technology and they built buildings that were heavily dependent on it. Without air-conditioning and elevators this building is simply unlivable. The apartment was broiling hot and no work could be done until the hvac units were fixed.

It took some time, but after a few weeks that was done. It wasn’t cheap, but I do have to say that the company was competent, perhaps the only competent people I’ve met in Baltimore.

There were two things I wanted to get done before moving my possessions into the apartment. One was painting the walls and the other was refinishing the floors, two things that are infinitely easier to do in an empty space. I used to work as a decorative painter and normally would do any painting myself. However, my sister said that I should just make life easy for myself and hire some people to do it for me so I could get going on other things. It sounded reasonable. One upside of the apartment having been owned by an elderly woman who didn’t really take care of it is that there wasn’t a lot of thick, bad paint jobs. This had to be the world’s easiest paint assignment. A modern apartment without a lot of nooks and crannies, smooth flat walls and not much in the line of woodwork or moldings. The job also required some wallpaper removal in the bathroom and the removal of a wallpaper border along the ceiling in the bedroom.

First of all, they didn’t remove the wall paper. They painted right over it. The paint hasn’t adhered properly and in the bathroom it is literally sliding off the paper. The painting itself is among the sloppiest I’ve ever seen in my life. Even though most of the hardware hadn’t been painted in the past, they didn’t take it off before painting as I had asked. Nor did they tape it, or even make an attempt to paint around it neatly. On one knob on a cabinet, they slopped paint on it at one point, yet failed to cover all of the previous paint at another point on the other side of the knob. They clearly just swirled around it quickly with a brush like they didn’t give a damn. Same around switch plates, towel racks, etc. Considering that the modern apartment had so few features like this… well why go on, it’s clear they were incompetent and didn’t give a shit. The painters had come recommended by a contractor friend of a friend. It’s not as if I had tried to hire the cheapest people out there. Fixing the paint job will take more effort than simply painting it myself would, far more effort. Taking off wallpaper is enough of a pain. Taking off wallpaper that someone has painted over strikes me as a nightmare. I’m not even sure how to do that. Plus, I now have to scrape off all the drips. Even worse, they must have used a 3/4 inch nap roller cover. The previously smooth walls are now covered with those thick bumps and there’s those ridges someone gets when the paint spreads out along the edge of the roller and the person painting is a total incompetent who’s not paying attention and doesn’t go back over it to smooth it out. These ridges are all over the place and they make me angry every time I see them, which is several times a day. I don’t know what to do with this awful paint job. I feel at a total loss. Can a bad paint job drive someone into a depression? There are days that I think about how much I hate my life and I want to get out of this crummy little city. I think to myself, I’ll just sell the fucking condo and go somewhere else, anywhere. Then I think that I have to finish fixing up the things I started. Then I think of the paint job and I feel trapped. I hate this city, I hate this apartment and I hate the fucking painters who ruined it.

Next, the floor. Even more so than painting, refinishing the floor before moving in makes so much sense. Refinishing the floor was not a choice. It was a necessity, one that I was aware of before buying the place. Some idiot, in the great Baltimore tradition of total incompetence, put down a coat of polyurethane without wondering what might already be on the floor. It was probably a Swedish finish. In any case, the polyurethane didn’t adhere and it has been coming up in spots over time. It looks like there are pieces of old cellophane tape scattered all over the floor. They stick to my feet and I have to brush them off my clothes. I’ve even picked some out of my food on several occasions. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Once, when I was twenty-three or twenty-four and I found a reasonably priced apartment in Manhattan in “as is” condition, I refinished a floor, but I’m going on fifty and this just seemed like a job for a professional. So we call the company in town that everyone recommended, whose website advertises how they repair and refinish floors in historic houses, etc., etc. Certainly, my nineteen fifties parquet tile should be nothing for them. After all, I’d seen floors like this my whole life. It’s not particularly unique. Well, never underestimate the ability for someone from Baltimore to be totally incompetent.

So they came in with great big sanding machines and they noticed that some of the floor tiles were loose. They decided to try it anyway. When the turned on the sander, the tiles started flying up. They said they couldn’t do it. They recommended that we replace the floor with new hardwood flooring. Oh, and by the way, they no longer make the parquet flooring that’s in the apartment, so I’d have to choose something else. That would be a little over a thousand square feet because the floor covers the entire apartment, there is no saddle or other divisions between the rooms and it even goes into the closets. I said, “No thank you. I can’t afford that and I want to keep the current look of the apartment.” Damn, I chose the fucking place because it’s beautiful. In fact, I’d been resisting the urge to do a complete period restoration, but I really don’t want to change anything that’s already here. I just need something to fix this crummy peeling top coat of polyurethane. Ironically, the floors wouldn’t even be that bad if it wasn’t for that, which unfortunately can’t be ignored, although I’ve been ignoring it for nearly three years now, or trying to anyway.

So, Lady Baltimore, the incompetent floor refinishing company, left with one big bald blond mark in the middle of the dark floor of one of the rooms. So we couldn’t just fucking leave it. My sister and I got down on our hands and our knees and sanded and finished the floor. It took about a week and it was only the bedroom, perhaps one fifth or one sixth of the total surface are that would have to be refinished.

a parquet tiled wood floor

I’m actually pretty happy with the result in this one room, but it took two of us working full-time for a full week and my sister has a demanding full-time job. There was no professional we could hire to do anything like what we did, and we called a few others, and we couldn’t take the time to do it. Professionals have sanders that can be operated standing up. Doing it with a little hand sander on our knees was murder. I was not about to do the rest of the apartment. So, the bedroom floor no longer matches the floor in the rest of the apartment which as the crummy, peeling polyurethane on it.

an empty room

The big pale spot in the center of the picture is the test area the professionals did before deciding that I needed an entire new floor.

I mentioned resisting the urge to restore the place back to 1959, but one thing I did attempt to do was to find old Uniline bakelite switch plates and outlet covers. I tried buying some on Ebay, but they never arrived. Just one more little thing. Not a big one really, but there are days that is seems that this entire project is just cursed.

So, that was three years ago. Moving day came and the walls were still a mess and the floor was still not finished. I moved my stuff in, but somehow I never got settled. I began sliding into a depression. I did do a few more things. I found someone to put a linoleum floor in the kitchen and the same person built cabinets for the bathroom because that was broken. For what it’s worth, I love the kitchen cabinets which are original to the building. I see many of my neighbors have been ripping them out, which I think is a shame. Sometimes I think people should have to take an architecture quiz before being allowed to renovate.

Is there something wrong with me? I think these cabinets look great.

Is there something wrong with me? I think these cabinets look great.

So, at some point, I just gave up. That was two or three years ago. Then the other day, my mother gave me a little pep talk. She joined the gym to which I’d been going and we went there together. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve really let myself go since moving here. It’s hard to explain. I didn’t suddenly become obese, but I’m terribly out of shape, so I’m happy to have someone come to the gym with me and keep me company. Her little pep talk went something along the lines of, “Before you can help anyone else, you need to take care of yourself. Just take care of yourself. Eat the diet you want to eat and everyone else can mind their own business. Do want you need to do to feel happy.”

Then I started explaining how I felt that I couldn’t get out of my own way, how as soon as I fixed one thing, something else started falling apart around me, that there were so many things to be fixed that I didn’t know where to start and I was overwhelmed, that I was still, nearly three years after moving in to my current apartment, living out of boxes. I said that I knew it was a fantasy, but I just wanted to wipe the slate clean and start over again in an apartment that was clean and where nothing was broken and with the body I had three years ago.

I tried to give her an example of how I get overwhelmed. In the sitting room, there is a built-in cabinet with bookshelves. It’s not original to the building and it’s ugly. However, I thought I could paint it and make it acceptable because it is handy. The interior was obviously meant to house a television back when they were bulkier items than they are today and it had a little sliding platform. Three years ago, I thought that I could rearrange the shelves and put my old stereo equipment that I bought back in the late eighties in it. The little sliding platform would be convenient for the turntable. When I first moved in, I put it in there to get it out of the way, however although there was an electrical outlet inside the cabinet, I couldn’t use the equipment because I needed to drill a hole in one of the shelves to run the wires through to hook up the equipment. No big deal. So, one day, shortly after moving in, I decide to tackle drilling some holes in the shelf. Well, damn, I don’t know what on earth that shelf was made from, but it was the hardest material I ever tried to drill and I could not do it. My sister said that she had friends with more serious power tools than we have, so she took the shelf and put it in the trunk of her car with the intention of asking someone for help. That was two and a half years ago. In the meantime, I got the urge to listen to some music, and I cleared some books off of the shelves and put the stereo equipment on top of the cabinet, half sticking out of the book shelf. Now the books are all over the floor – and have been for two and a half years. Several times, I’ve suggest just cutting a new board out of plywood since that old one is so impossible to cut. However, I live in an apartment and I don’t drive on highways, so I’m dependent on someone else to help me with this. All I wanted was a 26 inch by 19 inch board of a suitable thickness for a shelf. At the same time, I didn’t know how much effort I wanted to expend on this because, after all, who the hell listens to cassette tapes and vinyl records anymore. However, I have them. In fact, this is a puzzle to me. How do people listen to music these days? What kind of equipment do I need? I have stuff on vinyl, cassettes, cds, mp3s. I want to some how rationalize all this. To make it functional and not so awkward and inconvenient to use. I have no way of listening to mp3s, so I stopped purchasing any. At some point, I’m going to need to figure this out.

So, my mother said, “Why don’t you make that a project.”

But then, I mentioned to my mother, that I’ve been hesitant to make any moves because what’s been happening is that I try to do something and then I can’t finish it immediately for some reason, and it never gets finished and it never gets put away and my place just gets more disorganized and messier. In the mean time, I’m drowning in disorganization. I just want to put my stereo inside the cabinet and pick the books up off the floor and be able to listen to music and worry about upgrading to a more contemporary system at my leisure.

She asked, “What do you need to do that?”

I said, “I need to drill a hole in the shelf that’s in the back of Sissy’s car, or I need to get a piece of plywood that’s the same width and an inch or two shorter in depth.”

She said, “Would you like me to drive you to Home Depot and you can get some plywood cut to size.”

Of course, I said yes. “This is good,” I said. “We can get this done today and I won’t be making a bigger mess.”

So, we go to Home Depot, buy a piece of plywood and get it cut to size. We get a bite to eat and my mother drops me off at my place with the plywood. Yippee! Almost.

I get home and start measuring the height of the turntable with the dust cover open and try to figure out at what height to put the shelf. It had previously simply been resting on some screws and I figured I’d just move the screws to the appropriate height. Then I realize, the board is too short. I measure it. It’s twenty-five inches. Later I confer with my mother and she agrees that I said twenty-six. It seems that the guy at Home Depot cut it to the wrong size. That’s too much of a gap to have it resting on screws. I’m going to have to go back to the hardware store and I wasn’t able to achieve my absurdly simple goal of moving the shelf and putting the stereo equipment in the cabinet and putting the books back on the shelves.

So, I woke up this morning and it was as I predicted. My attempt to make my apartment more organized and neater has made it messier. The board is on the floor, as is the turntable. There are screws and a screwdriver on the coffee table. The toolbox is sitting in the hallway, and of course the books are still on the floor where they’ve been for over two years. And I just started hyperventilating and having the urge to run away, just pack a suitcase and get on a train and go anywhere. I took an Ativan instead.

And I feel like an asshole and a jerk for making such a big deal out of a minor thing.

During my preteen and early teenage years I was constantly in search of art classes that had some rigor, ones that were more serious than simply “expressing one’s self.”  Starting from the age of eight, I took painting classes with a wonderful woman who had us painting one still life after another broken up by the occasional landscape in the good weather. I learned good basic habits. She allowed us a limited palette, so we would learn how to mix colors. Eventually, however, I felt that her influence in my style had to be balanced out by other instructors. One year, I signed up for drawing classes at an art center in a town about a half an hour away. Fortunately, I had an indulgent father who was willing to drive me there. One thing that was very exciting for me was the promise of several life drawing sessions with a real, live, nude model. I didn’t wonder if the model would be male or female, young or old, handsome or ugly. I just wanted to be able to draw a figure from life. There was a catch, however. We had to have signed permission from out parents. If any child’s parents objected, there would be no nude model. The parents of one child refused to give permission and, consequently, none of us could draw from a nude model. We drew portraits and still-lifes and clothed figures, but for me it was a great disappointment. Whatever I do, I tend to do in a very serious fashion. I had been painting in oils for several years because that was what I believed serious artists used. I was trying to get, in a piecemeal way, what I imagined a traditional art education might be. Life drawing was an essential item that I still had not had a chance to try.

Around this same time, I enrolled in a summer session at Parson’s School of Design in New York City. There we would have nude models. One of my suitemates  was slightly older, perhaps sixteen. While I was enrolled in their Foundation class, she was taking some photography classes. She asked me to pose for her. I did. That was the first, but far from the last time I posed nude. I would eventually go on to pose for several photographer friends as well as for art classes.

Eventually, I would get my life drawing classes. Not only that, but a great deal of my work has revolved around the human figure. Once day, I happened to glance at myself in the bathroom mirror. The window was to one side and I found myself fascinated by the play of light across my torso, especially across my collar-bone. I painted it. It was an important moment for me because it was the beginning of the development of my own style. At the time, I was purely interested in formal aspects of painting, the color, the composition. The subject, my torso, was at the time beside the point. Eventually, however, the subject matter of my work would become more important. Beyond simply rendering the human figure, I began to explore questions of human experience with a particular interest in sexuality.

A drawing of a woman's torso.

Self-portrait that I did for this post.

Over the years, I got used to the fact that there are many places where I can’t show my work. I often find myself warning people who ask to see it that my work contains graphic imagery, including genitalia. Many people brush off my warnings, seeming slightly offended, saying that they know that nudity isn’t always sexual. Of course, some of the nudity in my paintings is sexual, and then again some is not. Yet plenty of art shows have a straightforward no nudity rule. Needless to say, I think that’s ridiculous.

There was an even that prompted this post, but I’m getting tired and perhaps I’ll address it in the future.

It might be inadvisable to put up unfinished work. I don’t know. Anyway, I spent a large part of yesterday working a few comics panels. I’ve been experimenting with different ways of working using the computer instead of working at a drafting table. I haven’t added the word balloons or anything yet. I’m not really sure how the panels will be integrated into pages. The question of the medium in which it will be viewed is problematic.

hallway

A digital painting of two women talking.

I’m still trying to get out a serious post. In the meantime, I took quite a few pictures yesterday, not only of the birds. Many were of flowers. Here’s several photos of a lovely flower that I look forward to seeing every year. It’s called Spring Beauty or Claytonia virginica. They truly are spring ephemerals in that they bloom for a very short time and then die back to nothing. Later in the season it becomes impossible to tell where they were. They’re easy to overlook even when they’re blooming since the flowers are only about two or three centimeters in diameter. The leaves are long and narrow and blend in with the grass. Mainly the flowers are pale pink, almost white. It’s always the more brightly colored specimens which first catch my eye and then I suddenly look down and realize that they’re all over and I’ve just over looked them. They grow from a tuber. I have never eaten them myself, but they are supposed to be edible. (Never eat anything you can’t positively identify and you are certain it’s edible.)

claytonia-virginica-1

claytonia-virginica-2

claytonia-virginica-3

claytonia-virginica-4

Today I saw a charming sight. Two wrens were at the bird feeder and one was feeding the other. Previously, I’ve only seen one wren alone.two carolina wrens on a bird feeder

Later that day, one of the wrens flew up into a tree and was singing his little heart out.

singing-wren

 

Twice, on consecutive days, I've seen a squirrel come out of this hole. I'm  wondering if there's babies in there.

Twice, on consecutive days, I’ve seen a squirrel come out of this hole. I’m wondering if there are babies in there.

Once squirrel chased another down a tree and across this path. I missed the first squirrel, but here's his pursuer.

One squirrel chased another down a tree and across this path. I missed the first squirrel, but here’s his pursuer.

An American Robin.

Two Robbins foraging on a slope.

Two Robins foraging on a slope.

This is one of the previous two Robbins a few minutes later. He'd (or she) been doing a lot of eating.

This is one of the previous two Robbins a few minutes later. He’d (or she) been doing a lot of eating.

A face-off between two squirrels.

Then one chased the other.

Perhaps he was defending his hoard of nuts. Squirrels are scatters hoarders. The deposit nuts all over the place and it's quite a feat of memory that they can remember where.

Perhaps he was defending his hoard of nuts. Squirrels are scatter hoarders. They deposit nuts all over the place and it’s quite a feat of memory that they can remember where.

The moon.

The moon.

A neighbor's cat. He was crying at a door, but I've seen him go into another house in the past. Then the moment he saw me, he came to get pet.

A neighbor’s cat. He was crying at a door, but I’ve seen him go into another house in the past. Then the moment he saw me, he came to get pet.

I nearly forgot, a saw this bee in a Magnolia.

I nearly forgot, a saw this bee in a Magnolia.

 

In the U.S. people can be fired from jobs for political views. In 2002, Goodwill Industries fired Michael Italie, a sewing machine operative, for being a member of the Socialist Workers Party. He was not fired for anything he had done at work.

Goodwill makes no bones about the fact that it fired Italie not for any on-the-job conduct but for holding views it does not wish to be associated with. “We cannot have anyone who is attempting to subvert the United States of America,” Dennis Pastrana, chief executive of Goodwill in South Florida, told the Miami Herald on Oct. 30. “His political beliefs are those of a communist who would like to destroy private ownership of American enterprises and install a communist regime in the United States.”

According to Lida Rodriguez-Taseff of the ACLU commenting on the case “The law is pretty clear that a private employer can fire someone based on their political speech even when that political speech does not affect the terms and conditions of employment.”

Bryan Keefer, a research assistant who blogged about political rhetoric online, quit his job after being told that criticism of left leaning politicians could get him fired.

According to Missouri Lawyers Weekly

Most people are familiar with the standard protected classes: race, sex, age, religion, etc. But beyond that, many people feel that if something is unfair, then it must somehow be illegal.

Yet that is often not the case, at least in employment law.

You can be fired for a host of reasons in at-will employment, such as for being a Cubs fan (an option I’m thankful my employers have decided to forego) or for not inviting someone to your happy hour (something you would never do, of course, because you like everyone you work with). And, perhaps most pertinently these days, you can usually be fired for being of the “wrong” political affiliation (not your political affiliation – the other one).

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) is legislation that has been proposed that would make sexual orientation and gender identity protected classes under federal law. However, currently, you can be fired for being gay in 29 states.

A school administrator at a Catholic school in Ohio was fired last year for a Facebook post supporting marriage equality.

Meanwhile, the Cincinnati Archdiocese has a new contract for the teachers in its schools that clamps down on their personal lives, including their ability to voice political beliefs that run counter to those endorsed by the Catholic Church. Teachers are prevented from expressing support for “living together outside of marriage,” “sexual activity out of wedlock,” “homosexual lifestyle,” “abortion,” “a surrogate mother,” “in vitro fertilization or artificial insemination.”

When I first heard that Mozilla’s new CEO had taken a stance about gay marriage, it was in a comment thread. There were some intimations that perhaps people should not use Firefox, but I hesitated to jump to any immediate conclusions in large part because the information was so vague and I didn’t know whether or not it was even correct.

In the past, I’ve struggled in the past over the question of whether or not I should boycott a product because of the political beliefs the a company owners. Frequently, my decision turns on how intimately the company is tied up with the beliefs of its owners. To take Hobby Lobby as an example, I wouldn’t boycott the company simply because the owners privately hold beliefs that are counter to my own, but because they have made their corporation an instrument of their beliefs.

Although the above cases regarding people who were terminated for their political views were legal, I can’t help feeling that employers in many of these cases have overstepped their bounds and when I first heard that people were calling for Brendan Eich to resign, I felt conflicted. Then I made an analogy.

Eich, was the CEO, a very different role than that of a lower level employee. My sister, as it happens, is a C-suite executive. There has been the occasional speculation as to whether or not she will be made CEO when, and if, her boss retires. Now, I’m not saying that anyone has said that she will be, but who might succeed the current CEO has been brought up and my sister’s name has, at times, been among them. Now, we live in Baltimore, which has a majority black population. My sister is white, but many of the people with whom she works are black, as are many of the other people with whom her company must cooperate in government or at other companies. Were my sister, or any of the other people who have been talked about as possible CEOs, to give a large amount of money to an organization actively fighting to end affirmative action would this disqualify them from consideration? In all likelihood it would, because it would make it very difficult for her to lead the organization. (For the record, this is not my sister’s view. It’s purely hypothetical.)

Of course, it was unfortunate that Eich was elevated to this position to begin with. He was one of the co-founders of Mozilla and had been the Chief Technology Officer. In 2008, while holding his previous position, he donated money to support Proposition 8, the California ballot initiative to ban same-sex weddings in that state. The company would have been well within its rights to fire him for that since firing people for their political positions is perfectly legal. However, I would have felt that the company was overstepping its bounds much as I feel that Goodwill Industries was wrong when it fired Michael Italie for being a socialist, unless the company felt that it directly affected his ability to do his job. In the case of his role as CEO, it is clear that it did hamper his ability to do his job. In fact, his views directly threatened the company. According to The New Yorker

The real mystery here, then, is not why Eich stepped down but why he ever got hired in the first place. His unquestioned technical ability notwithstanding, this was a candidate who divided the board, who had already been controversial, and whose promotion was guaranteed to generate reams of bad publicity.

What has puzzled me is the hand-wringing that has accompanied Eich’s departure. Conor Friedersdorf, writing in The Atlantic, says

Calls for his ouster were premised on the notion that all support for Proposition 8 was hateful, and that a CEO should be judged not just by his or her conduct in the professional realm, but also by political causes he or she supports as a private citizen.If that attitude spreads, it will damage our society.

Conor Friedersdorf is wrong to wonder what will happen “if this attitude spreads.” This “attitude”, the notion that an employee can be fired for political views, already exists. The only thing surprising here is that an CEO has been held to the same standard as other employees. I hope that conservatives mount an enthusiastic defense the next time a seamster in a factory is fired. Somehow, I doubt they will.

Update: Since posting this, I came across another post pointing out that Brendan Eich resigned, he was not fired and that he was not forced out by employees. I was aware of that and it is why I wrote that the company would have been able to fire him for his political views. However, in retrospect, it could be misleading to someone who wasn’t already informed about the situation.

My sister injured her back, so yesterday I went to visit. I brought my camera with me because, as I said to my sister, “If I don’t bring it the animals are sure to do something cute.” So, I sat outside for a time taking photos. I got one picture that made me think about all those pictures you see showing “nature’s wonderful camouflage.” So, go below the fold and see if you can find the bird…

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