So my blog title may make you think of our 44th president’s boyish good looks or understated, classic wardrobe, but what I’m talking about is his ability to turn silly arguments on their heads.  I adore that he is such a master of this tricky art!

Consider his Philly race speech.  The Rev. Wright firestorm would have taken any other candidate out, but not BO! Instead, he transformed this potential debacle into a racial divide/harmony teaching moment.

Now there’s the ASU speech. Instead of ignoring the flap about his ‘lack of a significant body of work,’ he made this supposed weakness/insult the crux of a commencement speech and captured the students’ imaginations with suggestions for creating a body of work that positively impacts their world.  Wow! I ain’t even graduatin’ and I’m inspired!

I’m anxious to see what other game changers BO has in store for us.  For all you haters, keep the barbs coming, cuz My President’s got a way of turning them into golden moments. Thanks for providing him the platform to make us all the best that we can be, in his role as Educator/Facilitator-in-chief.

Any guesses on his next turn-the-argument-on-its-head scenario? More False Choice 101 lessons, anyone? My money’s on Notre Dame Commencement-Pro-choice flap, but then there’s the  Transparency vs. Nat’l Security Torture pix/memos flip-flop. What do you tthink?  Let me know your thoughts!


Transforming The Great Dole

I am alternatively amazed, amused and troubled by our political leadership’s approach to solving the economic meltdown. I was NOT in favor of the bailout bill, put together in non-deliberate, fever-pitched panicky haste, pork-ladened and misguided as it was. I had the sense it was like a quickly concocted, poorly planned meal with way too many cooks in the kitchen and no idea about which meal of the day, who , how many or what nutritional needs the starving diners had. It’s been weeks and not only have the intended credit loosening outcomes been thwarted, we’ve had 2 major stories about failed judgment by AIG corporate executives in taking ‘training/conference’ junkets at ritzy resorts. And even now, I see reports of a record 280,000 foreclosure filings, and then there’s the automakers and others starting to line up for their piece of The Great Dole.
So when will we JUST SAY NO to financial terrorism? Figure out that painting the leaves on the tree might make it look better temporarily, but won’t cure its root disease? Decide to teach fishing instead of handing out fish?
I said it before (http://jewelscharmedlife.blogspot.com/2008/10/more-balanced-approach-to-our-economic.html), I’ll say it again, the most sensible way to dig our way out of this mess is to put people back to work, 1st & foremost, not after all the large corporate cash infusions. A 90-day moratorium on foreclosures won’t really help families whose breadwinners have been laid off with no prospects of gainful employment. We have major UNFUNDED infrastructure programs, e.g., those on hold at the GA Dept. of Transportation, that could provide for better roads AND produce income for GA families. Next most sensible investment: green projects. These alternatives may not seem easy in the chronic Chicken Little environment, but they are quite simple. I’m confident that there are hundreds if not tens of thousands of such local programs around the country that could put us solidly on the road to recovery.
Let’s take a page from the Obama Grassroots Playbook, fund state & local initiatives, both public & private, and be delighted by the incredible results from BOTTOMS UP economics. Whaddya say we transform The Great Dole into The Great Investment Fund (TGIF)? I’m hoping Sarah Silverman of http://www.thegreatschlep.com/ fame will create a video about it!

A More Balanced Approach to Our Economic Crisis?

OK, so how can it be that, as far as I can tell, very little attention has been paid to the inaccuracy of McCain’s claim, during the town hall debate, of a ‘new’ proposal for refinancing homeowners’ mortgages at reduced home values? I think I hear a giant echo in the room. This plan is actually already in the recently passed Bailout Bill (H.R. 1424 Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008). Even the Obama campaign has apparently come out against McMastercharger’s (taking credit for other people’s work) estimated $300B proposal. Well guess what, guys? YOU ALREADY VOTED FOR THIS, DONE DEAL!! Goes to show how panicking yourself into something without sufficient deliberation will have you dazed & confused.
It’s there, plain as day, in section 110 of H.R.1424. Even this section refers to pre-existing legislation, the HOPE for Homeowners Program 21 under section 257 of the National Housing Act. I suppose if a section-by-section analysis had been done, and well-publicized, we’d all know which part of this law we’d want to push our government to start moving on.

So if the price tag is $300B for this provision, that’s almost half of the Bill’s estimated total $700B cost. Put more simply: Main Street gets $300B, Wall Street, $400B. Couldn’t publicizing this fact calm many among the American public who are railing against greedy Wall Street CEOs? Another indicator that what we really need is to do is PAUSE & TAKE A BREATH.

Personally, I’d prefer a plan that invests one-third each in Main Street, Wall Street and bottom-up job creation, the last being primarily in the form of infrastructure programs (highway, bridge & road repair & construction), Small Business Administration Loans & Green Industry investment incentives. Although EESA2008 doesn’t appear to allow for these last two put-people-to-work initiatives, I suspect it could be amended. I believe this strategy would produce good results both long & short-term, a reasonable mix of rescue and stimulus. What do you think?

Emergency Economy Recovery: Crack or Methadone?

I’ve heard politicians compare the bailout situation to a heart attack, house fire, and any number of other urgent, critical analogies. We can all agree on these characteristics of the problem, though I don’t think these comparisons fit well. We know the consequences of our current economic dilemma are serious, we all agree something has to be done quickly…I know Uncle Sam has a drug, I mean debt problem that we need to address ASAP; the question is are we gonna go get more crack, I mean debt for him or take him to drug treatment? If drug treatment, which program best meets his needs? A 12-step like Betty Ford or something a bit less traditional?
We’re talking stabilization, right? Uncle Sam’s ‘fiending’ for the crack, I mean debt, now! Where can we get some methadone? How can we satisfy this desperate need most immediately with the least amount of damage? Relief for elders living on their retirement investments, folks behind on their mortgage or already in foreclosure, banks who can’t meet their Fed Reserve requirements, companies who can’t meet their payroll? What is the economic methadone we seek, and how can we find/make it?
Let’s take some representative examples of these types of situations and work them through the recently passed Senate bill, each separately, and then consider the combined/cumulative effect. Is that such a ridiculous request? We have non-partisan organizations, e.g. Rand Corp., that do nothing but this type of work; we’ve gotten it for the nominees’ tax plan, what’s so difficult about it?

Forget Chicken Little & Father Knows Best, TRANSPARENCY, PLEASE!!

I’ve watched CNN & C-SPAN coverage of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act (EESA) debate. I appreciate the efforts involved parties have put into the EESA negotiations, but unfortunately, I am one of the majority of Americans who just says NO to the “Trust Me on This” way in which this administration has hood-winked and bamboozled the Legislatures, and these bodies have in turn, unwittingly, done the same to their constituencies, e.g., rushing into the IRAQ War.

I believe the legislators’ obligation is to the people who elected them, no matter the timing, election year of not, to represent, not 2nd guess voters’ will. If a legislator believes supporting this bill is ‘the right thing,’ a more appropriate action is to convince his/her constituency of this position, not vote for HR3997 despite what his/her electorate says. Instead each legislator should vote for or against whatever bill based on what we indicate we want. We don’t trust this administration, and are not interested in having another fathom WMD-type experience.

The FDIC and private sector seem to have done an adequate job with the Wachovia failure (no branch closings, no run on the bank, barely any media coverage) WITHOUT the HR3997 provisions, so I see no reason to rush a half-baked solution into law. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, Democrat, Ohio, is the most reasonable voice I’ve heard so far.

During Congress’ 1-day recess for Rosh Hanana, my request has been that my legislator, John Lewis, 5th District GA, do whatever is in his power to have the House Financial Services Committee meetings be open to the public, perhaps with hearings being broadcast online and on CNN & C-SPAN. The American public is not too dumb or angry to understand, we just seriously lack confidence in our administration and legislature, so I for one, want to see for myself the proposals themselves, and analyses of proposals. Secrecy breeds bondage, transparency generates freedom. Key questions that need to be answered:

1) How was the $700B figure derived? How are any dollar estimates for other proposals being calculated?
2) What are the fundamental principles underlying the recommendations of the VARIOUS PROPOSALS (not just HR3997) on WHO gets bailed out: weak firms, strong firms, or consumers via investment, loan or insurance. What are the fundamental problems and how do these proposals seek to address them?

3) What test scenarios have been completed to better understand the potential impact of these various proposals which occur for me as collections of inadequately examined and perhaps contradictory ideas? How can this level of examination (much like the reports on the impact of the presidential nominees’ tax plans) be included in the legislative process?

Let’s stop with all the party squabbling, Chicken Little performances, and Father Knows Best attitudes (you can read more about my explanation and disdain for this last one here -http://jewelscharmedlife.blogspot.com/2008/02/father-knows-best.html). These ill-fated approaches would best be replaced with transparency, rational root cause analysis and creative, responsible problem-solving. As a constituent, please write to your Congress person and ask how you can support his/her ability to properly inform and represent you. I am open to any suggestions and feedback what I consider to be this more respectful and truly democratic representation-based approach.

‘Neocon’ Sarah Palin: You Go, Girl! Gone Wild

Ok, so I’ve been oh-so-fascinated by the Republicans’ latest & most brilliant diversion: Sarah Palin as Johnny Mac’s (I heard Whoopi bestow this nickname on him on The View) running mate. In 2004, it was gay marriage that threw the country off-track, contributed to Bush’s re-election and resulted in the worst economy Greenspan has ever seen (www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/09/14/greenspan-this-is-the-wor_n_126274.html). I was willing to give the GOP props for at least being a bit more positive and uplifting with this particular distraction: a young, attractive, articulate woman, though a ‘neocon,’ leaning even further right than the top of the ticket. At least we’re witnessing another woman making history, and that’s a lot better in my book than fear-mongering by preventing gay couples from making a legal matrimonial commitment to each other.

I’ve spoken to fellow political junkies about the media’s inability to vet ‘Phenom’ Sarah, mostly stifled by the tight-lipped/scripted McCain campaign. Since I see her positioning as a Republican diversionary tactic, the point is moot. From her Pro Life, to Pro Gun to military action before diplomacy stances, I respectfully & vehemently disagree with her on issues, not withstanding her feisty attitude and perky personality. She could be the proverbial 2nd coming of Christ and I wouldn’t consider voting for her.

To be fair, I was initially willing to give Sarah the benefit of the doubt, and assume that she could run an administration; even in this scenario, I’m sure I wouldn’t like the results because they’re Bush-esque, only worse. I’d suggested that to better understand her ability to administer, I’d need to know how she’d run the city of Wasilla & state of Alaska.
Well, I ran across some articles (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/p/sarah_palin/index.html?scp=1-spot&sq=palin&st=cse) posted on the New York Times website that have caused me to NOT give Sarah Palin the benefit of the doubt anymore. Specifically, one (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/14/us/politics/14palin.html?_r=1&oref=slogin) characterizing her administrations as having arguably misplaced loyalty shrouded in secrecy. Hmmmm, this sounds more & more Bush-like by the minute, even more so than McCain himself. Why, Arianna Huffington comically refers to Palin as Dick Cheney with lipstick (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/arianna-huffington/the-palin-doctrine-why-th_b_126511.html)!

So, you can get an idea about my perspective on Loyalty over Logic from my previous blog (http://jewelscharmedlife.blogspot.com/2008/02/logic-vs-loyalty.html); but secrecy & deception on top of misplaced loyalty add insult to injury. I trust that undecided voters won’t be taken in by this Sarah Palin Red Herring. If we can focus on issues, the choice is clear: Trickle-down economics + pre-emptive invasions vs. Bottom-up, grassroots reform + diplomacy. We see what havoc the former has wreaked over the last 8 years. Might be time to try a little something new, wouldn’t you say?

Confessions of a Recovered Obama Volunteer

So in the last couple of weeks, I’ve been experiencing what I’d labeled ‘campaign fatigue.’ You know what I mean, that almost bloated feeling from gorging on Jeremiah Wright, Super Delegates or culture of fear nation conversations, a sense of politico overwhelm in my everyday (now not-so-charmed) life. Via media outlets old & new: MSNBC, CNN, online blogs, YouTube, seemingly inescapable. I’d gotten the feeling that this barrage of stuff, even with its promise of power to the people and transformational possibility, had taken me over and worn me out.
In this overloaded space I occupied, I stopped wearing my Obama paraphernalia, stopped blogging, stopped listening to the political shows, even considered not fulfilling on campaign-related commitments like running for a DNC delegate position, meeting with Super Delegates to shore up support for Obama and serving as a Democratic Party of GA Neighborhood Leader. How could this be happening to me?
Had my contrarian nature decided that this campaign’s success was no longer a long shot, but almost a foregone conclusion, and been repelled by the idea of becoming the status quo? Had my adult ADD-like tendencies kicked in after over a year of very visible, vocal Obama support, gotten bored with this ‘initiative,’ as had periodically been the case in my A.T. Kearney 60 to 90-day project consultant days?
As I lay awake before dawn, noticing the sometimes sharp pain that mysteriously appeared in my right shoulder yesterday, I wondered how my physical discomfort might be connected to my negative mental state. How could re-energize myself, fulfill on existing campaign commitments and reverse this trend before it REALLY got outta hand?
After journaling this AM, I am grateful that my self-awareness gifted me with a possible solution. You see, as I wrote my usual affirmations, then turned my attention to what had historically inspired & motivated me, I discovered a pattern I never really noticed before. I suppose I’d refer to it as IMPACTFUL LEARNING. It involves having to quickly become proficient in a particular context so as to make a significant, long-term difference. This type of learning requires curiosity, resourcefulness, collaboration and boldness. Add water, instant sage and guide.
For me, there’s nothing more exhilarating than a 0-to-60-in-milliseconds experience: microwave-like, from vague familiarity to expert in the mix, facilitating major positive sustainable change in seemingly no time. Like the amazing infrastructure of the Obama Movement reconstituting politically detached and/or cynical people into avid campaign volunteers. Hillary’s still trying to figure that one out.
This is what floats my boat. So now I see what I could do to flip my campaign fatigue script: look for the new yet impactful learning opportunities in the activist commitments that I’d made, with the goal of creating a lasting difference for myself and others . Because we all know, this leg of the journey ain’t over until the Senator from IL’s officially sworn in.

Transcending Extremes: We Are the Ones & Yes We Can

Since yesterday, I’ve been mulling over what sometimes seems to be polarizing approaches even the most well-intentioned of us take. I’m participating in Oprah’s Book Club skype-enabled class with Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose. Every Monday night for 10 weeks from 9-10PM Eastern Time, a huge audience (the 1st week’s was about 700,000 people from over 130 countries) tunes in to hear Oprah and Eckhart discuss the book chapter by the chapter.

Their common objective is to transform the world by facilitating others’ awareness of their true selves & higher callings. This is a very laudable goal, and if anyone has great odds at inspiring this revolutionary shift, it would be Oprah, Consummate Media Mogul-ista of the New Millennium. But yesterday as I prepped for class by reading Chapter 2 Ego: The Current State of Humanity, I had a nagging sense of something being slightly out of synch, like the absence of resonance. What I interpreted from my reading was that the mind, in general, is an enemy of sorts, represented by this negative, misguided Ego thing, as if mostly thought is bad. Perhaps I’m not far enough along in the book to get the real gist, but this interpretation gives me great pause. Hmmm…

And I’d been thinking about the Garden of Eden, wondering why one of the major lessons of that story appears to be that the acquisition of knowledge is evil or bad…don’t touch that tree! At the core of some religions and even our US ‘democratic’ system is the notion that someone else, God, his Surrogates or party Luminaries (this term from an interview I recently saw on BookTV of former San Francisco mayor Willie Brown explaining why the Super Delegates should be able to vote however they want), knows better, and will protect us from ourselves. I am so then flashing back to my ‘Father Knows Best’ and ‘Logic vs. Loyalty’ blogs. Aren’t we all individual expression of God anyway, at least according to the New Thought Movement to which I subscribe?

I should note that I suspect this cognitive dissonance fundamentally results from us compartmentalizing ourselves: requiring a choice between inseparable parts (head & heart) instead of seeking holistic, consistently aligned decisions. No wonder we’re always in a quandary!
Interestingly, I’m also now reading JohnRandolph Price’s The Abundance Book and today’s principle states ‘I lift up my mind AND (my emphasis) heart to be aware, to understand, to know that the Divine Presence I AM is the Source & Substance of all my good.” I would interpret this statement to mean that living a divinely abundant life involves a delicate balancing act that weighs information (head) & judgment (heart). If we are successful, we divine true KNOWLEDGE and get the requisite rewards. In Landmark Education terms, I suppose we’d refer to this as a DISTINCTION, or that additional level of detail which brings necessarily greater clarity, the ‘ah ha’ moment, a.k.a., the small distinction that makes a huge difference.

So I’d say breaking ourselves down for analysis sake is fine, but at some point, we must reconstitute the whole, or we’ll end of far a field of our best life. I believe as our better and best selves, we transcend the perceived extremes, incorporating them into a vibrant and innovative solution. Let’s do what some believe is unfathomable because as our soon-to-be-President Obama has said, “WE ARE THE ONES WE’VE BEEN WAITING FOR” & “YES WE CAN!”