Posts Tagged environment

Tale of two Americas influencing #Election2016 & Open Letter to Hillary Campaign


Here’s something to think about… the country is soooo divided that Americans are living two distinctively different realities; it is almost like they are living in two different nations.

America 1

Imagine that you live in the Appalachian mountains off of Virginia or Ohio.  Jobs in mining and manufacturing that were once plentiful are gone and no one has offered you re-training to operate in a different reality that has been emerging.  Opioids & alcohol are easily available to dull your pain (in fact, in parts of Ohio, first time more people are dying from opioid addiction than natural causes).  You see yourself as having no future; the best is behind you. You are enormously proud of your heritage, hard work ethic, and your religious values.

Church used to be your anchor but now church attendance has fallen; you have no anchor. You just want someone new at helm in this country, to shake things up – you don’t care how or who it is as long as the person talks to you in a language you understand and holds someone; an outsider responsible for your plight. Your current reality is so painful that you believe you once lived in a phenomenal nation, and you are losing it to outsiders who steal your jobs. Perhaps you don’t see many immigrants where you live, but you hear statistics of jobs being offshored, terrorists rarely target your geographical areas and you don’t often see women in hijabs but you hear about terror attacks when they happen and it scares the s*&^ out of you. Lowering or raising federal minimum wage has no impact here because there is no economy, no jobs. If someone tells you they will build a wall to keep immigrants out then it resonates with you.  If someone promises to bring back outdated mining jobs back, you are filled with hope.

America 2

Now imagine  you are living in a place like Silicon Valley in California, a place on the cutting edge of innovation.  There is a different social and economic reality.  You work with Muslim engineer, Chinese American scientist, Mexican American patent attorney, Iranian American realtor and your child’s teacher is lesbian.  These people are not aliens but your next door neighbors and share similar interests and values, as you.  Price for 2 BR condo in newly built (and fraught with problems), millennium towers in San Francisco costs around $2M and when economy tanked in 2009 (right after George Bush left office), California was hit harder than Ohio and Indiana.  The number of people filing for bankruptcy protection in the first quarter of 2010 ranked California at number one for bankruptcy protection. Right after Florida and Nevada, California also had one of the highest foreclosure rates with 1 in every 192 houses being foreclosed.

I can personally vouch to the impact of extremely high unemployment, while living in a state where everything is more expensive.  Both my businesses died.  I offered recruitment and soft skills training, but no one was hiring and no one had budget for soft skills training.  In 2009, I made less than $10,000.  I sold my house and while my business continued to remain in a nearly dead mode, in 2010 and 2011, I pounded the pavement for hourly jobs at Starbucks etc. for which I was always considered overqualified.  But California is back in business and so am I; better than ever before.

How did California do it?  I think California did it by leveraging the global trends and with a unique blend of cutthroat captialistic competition and compassionate socialism.  Corporations may not be people but both companies and people in CA exhibit this blend of competition and compassion.  I have some more thoughts on this and if I am not distracted by other things, I may study this more and write another blog.  But for this post, I want to focus on what is required of a political leader to bring the two Americas together. 

Open letter to Clinton Campaign

Henceforth, Ms. Clinton must maintain a laser sharp focus on issues that matter in the swing states.  All focus should be solely on large percentage of undecided voters who swing back and forth between Trump and Hillary.  Stop talking about how racist Trump is or that he is adhering to Alt-Right.   More people learn how racist he is, more votes it is getting him. Trump’s entire candidacy is based on inciting hate and division and taking his message to the masses is only enabling him.  Besides, he has so much air time, everything he does and says is covered.

While American women would largely care for issues like equal pay for equal work, do not focus on sexism in Trump campaign.  In California, I saw ads targeting women, with mention of Trump’s abominable remarks denigrating women.  But California is tuned in already,  In the swing states, there are likely to be more women in committed relationships and more than right to choose and equal pay, they care more for jobs for their husbands.  Still for many, it is a man’s serious and primary responsibility to earn a living.

Do not mention immigration.  Trump has made entire immigration dialog in the country about sound bites (big wall, beautiful wall, Mexico will pay for it, deporting etc.) and more confident and more racist his sound bites, more they are striking a chord.  He effectively created an environment of fear where soundbite solutions are very appealing.  I don’t believe Ms. Clinton can give any effective soundbites on immigration.  That is simply not her style and people are not in the mood to listen to logic on this issue.

Do not mention environmental issues.  While this has been President Obama’s crowning achievement, it does not figure in top 10 priorities when you put it on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.  Americans are generally more present oriented but are certainly focusing squarely on short term and immediate benefits during this election season.  The more Trump talks about how things will change on November 8, less concerned people are about benefits to future generations.  

Also, do not focus in the debate on Trump’s lack of foreign policy experience.  Americans often care little about foreign relations.  President GHW Bush made great strides in foreign relations and he got little credit for it.  Besides Trump scored a victory looking Presidential in Mexico.  More than that, no one cares.

Image result for maslow's hierarchy of needsThink of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs that goes from fulfillment of basic needs and only after they are satisfied, it progresses to focus on social needs.  When people’s basic needs of healthy food, clean water, and safety are not satisfied, focusing on social issues like women’s rights, race relations, immigration, pay equality, and equal rights for LGBTQ, are a luxury they can’t afford.  While Trump may be trigger happy to get access to the nuke button, for America 1, it does not feel like a looming disaster; instead, it enhances their feeling of safety.

Here are the issues that Clinton campaign should singularly focus on.  

Focus on JOBS

Image result for jobsForget all incredible and horrific things said and done by Trump that make him unfit to be the President. Stay singularly focused on jobs and the economy and his lack of concrete plan to create jobs.  In his post convention interview with George Stephanopoulos, Trump was questioned about jobs.  See clip below at 11 minutes, where Trump when asked why he brings in people from overseas to work at Mara Lago resort in Florida, he tried to duck the question by taking talking about other companies offshoring jobs and Stephanopoulos keeps bringing the discussion back to his issuing almost 500 offshore visas since 2010 and Trump deflects it again saying everyone does it because they can’t find American workers.  Hummm, they can’t be re-trained for low level jobs then how is he going to pressure Samsung and Apple to bring skilled jobs outsourced to Indian and Chinese engineers at fraction of the cost, back to America?  Use this clip with Clinton’s concrete plan to continue to create job growth in America.  This is not a sensational piece of news that elite media (largely favored by America 2) will play over and over but you must capitalize on.

http://abcnews.go.com/ThisWeek/video/donald-trump-41028199

Respect & concrete benefits to America’s Veterans

Image result for war veteransAmerica owes to our veterans.  But that sincerity must be expressed with something more tangible than “America loves you and is deeply grateful to you for your service”.  If one vet feels strongly enough to give away his purple heart to Trump then that is one too many vets disillusioned, and whom we must re-engage with.  Our vets must have certain level of job security, access to constant retraining, access to healthcare, including easy access to mental healthcare.  There must be early intervention before PTSD takes an enormous toll on their lives and the lives of their loved ones.  Talk about how Obamacare has enabled easier access to healthcare for so many people.

Access to mental healthcare and PTSD treatment

Image result for PTSDTrauma has become a significant part of modern life.  It is not only our vets who need access to treatment for PTSD, but also foster care children who are often shuttled around from family to family, from one location to another.  Children who witness domestic violence, often suffer from PTSD, while their needs may be completely ignored at home and outside.

Concrete plan to deal with opioids and other drugs

 Image result for opioid addictionAs mentioned above, in parts of Ohio, first time more people are dying from opioid addiction than natural causes.  Obama administration and FDA has been deeply concerned about escalating use of opioids and other drugs but how frequently do we hear from Hillary campaign about the plan that is in process?  For instance, the Obama administration is making it easier for doctors and law enforcement to use anti-addiction drugs.  FDA is putting in place steps so that companies seeking approval of any new opioids, must include abuse-deterrent properties and appropriate labeling. But more importantly, there are concrete steps in place to deal with current trends of opioid abuse, including additional training to prescribers on pain management and safe prescribing, encouragement for abuse deterrent formulations, make naloxone more easily available to treat opioid overdose, and encouraging new class of pain medicines without the same risks as opioids.  Ms. Clinton must relentlessly address opioid abuse and significant strides being made under Obama administration to counter that.  

Finally, I humbly suggest that Hillary campaign and the media stop playing over and over and over Trump soundbites that show his racial, gender and other biases – contrary to people being turned off by such bigotry, in the climate of fear he has created and the foundation of hate he has laid, his bigotry gives people a feeling of safety and hope. Considered dialog detailing the history of events and people as done by Rachel Maddow and others and late night shows (Colbert, Noah, Bee, Oliver and others) that point out ridiculous aspects of Trump messages with humor, are however excellent.

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Post – US 2012 Elections – a mandate to create true inclusion


Post – US 2012 Elections – a mandate to create true inclusion

As a corporate trainer in “diversity and inclusion to effectively achieve global business objectives”, I was heartened to see the results of the current presidential elections, in the US, which seemed to be a clear mandate for the belief in the slogan, “diversity pays”. However, many challenges are obvious, not only for the President but for us as a nation. Diversity from afar is mysterious and attractive, but up close, it is challenging and mystifying. Let us prepare to meet the challenges.

We must put our own house in order

That means, we must have clarity of vision and values and make informed choices, in alignment with these values. While his opponent flip-flopped on issues, President Obama remained true to the issues he holds dear. In an interview with Diane Sawyer, four years ago, he said, “The only thing you carry into this office is a moral compass. If you start making decisions based on what’s convenient at the time, then you would be lost”. Moral compass of values of diversity and inclusion must continue to be our guide as we put our house in order.

We must recognize the need to be broadly inclusive and find common ground and communication platform that is not narrow and limiting. We cannot choose diversity and inclusion, when it is convenient. For instance, we must reach out to older while men, understand issues of concern to them, and recognize the diversity within this group, even as we oppose the singularly older while male vision for our future. How do we do this? Even as we tout the “diversity pays” mantra, we must not be derisive of the many contributions of this group on whose hard work and broad shoulders the country was built. President Obama must reach across the aisle and make more determined bipartisan efforts to understand the concerns, fears, and issues important to those who are not socially very far to the right.

Maine and Maryland passed landmark legislation that enables gay and lesbian people to marry. But this same proposition was defeated in the last election, in California. How hypocritical it would be for our decidedly blue state to celebrate victory on the platform of diversity and on more enlightened view of immigration, while continue to discriminate against gay/ lesbian population? Attitudes are shifting, however, and it is imperative that we continue this trend and California jumps on board. A similar ballot measure in Washington state is pending, and in Minnesota, voters rejected a measure that would have banned same-sex marriage. Additionally, Wisconsin elected America’s first openly lesbian senator, Democrat Tammy Baldwin, and President Obama became the first president to openly support same-sex marriage, and get re-elected. As a resident of California, I will say once again, we must continue on this path and ensure absolutely the same rights for gay and lesbian couples, everywhere, as straight couples.

The Latino community is steadily growing and it is amply clear that the politicians may neglect this fact, at their own peril. Businesses have long recognized the contributions of immigrants from various backgrounds. But in politics, we have been slower to accept this new perspective, holding on to the antiquated notion that America is for white people, even as the face of America has become more and more a blend of red, yellow, black, brown, and white. This nation of immigrants must continue to embrace people of various ethnicities and backgrounds, even as we focus on making the nation secure from terrorism. We can and must achieve both those objectives and recognize that immigrants want to be as safe and secure here as non——— well, aren’t most of us immigrants or the descendents of immigrants? Additionally, we must recognize the many issues sadly still stacked against African-Americans. I was glad that we had Mitt Romney, a Mormon, running for the highest office, in the nation. We must continue to respect and welcome all faiths and move away from theTea Party conservative agenda that frequently promotes issues, under the umbrella of faith, which pit one faith against another.

Once and for all, it has become clear that women are a force to be reckoned with. They showed it in the ballots, jumping out of the “binders”. Why would we entertain a discussion regarding whether insurance may or may not pay for contraception, when in fact, insurance has been paying for years for Viagra? Obviously this was an issue in the minds of men. But 1.5M women in the US take birth control pills for reasons other than preventing pregnancy and over half a million women who take these pills have never had sex. Additionally, it is estimated that 47 million women will now be able to get preventative services that they previously could not. This is excellent. We need more widespread education on the health impact, away from ideology based battles over contraception coverage and abortion choice.

What was not mentioned by either candidate, in any of the discussions, was the issue of poverty and increasing class divide. Most of the data below is taken from the Atlantic magazine, September, 2011 issue. According to one poll, the richest 1 percent households in America earn as much as the bottom 60% put together and the rich 1% possess as much wealth as the bottom 90%. Recovery has increased the divide. According to Gallup, while the daily consumer spending was completely flat for majority of Americans, between May 2009 to May 2010, among those Americans earning more than $90,000 a year, the spending rose by 16%. This is a country built on an ability to pursue the dream, work hard, and be rewarded for it. We should not begrudge those who do just that. However, when the playing field is not leveled then it becomes a whole another story. Many millionaires and billionaires including Gates and Buffett are now speaking out against the outrageousness of the system where the odds are increasingly favoring money’s ability to attract money. Buffett, famously appeared with his secretary who reportedly paid higher taxes, while Buffett was able to use tax loop holes. We have to bridge this divide and level the playing field so that hard work can once again be valued and people find the incentive to pursue their dreams. The looming tax cliff, at the end of the year, when Bush era tax cuts expire, will test us on our readiness to understand and confront this class divide, while trying to reach a bipartisan agreement on the issue.

It would be morally repugnant if we send some of our citizens in harm’s way, to guard our interests and when they return from wars, they find themselves left behind in the daily struggles of life, including jobs, shelter, and medical care. We have to ensure that our vetetans get the care and all the help they so rightly deserve. Even as we ensure care and comfort of our vets, we must also not adopt a cavalier attitude towards infants and other innocent civilians killed by our drones. These are contradictions we must balance.

Globally, we cannot continue to be singularly Israel focused. Middle East is a big region. There are other nations with other agendas and issues. For instance, (if we peek into history), on account of thoughtless actions of powerful nations, Palestinian people have endured immense suffering. As a powerful nation, we cannot continue to be partially blind and one-sided. Similarly, we cannot be bashing China or India, which are powerful forces, simply given the sheer size of the population. But if we consider their determination, the motivation to strive and do better, their global recognition and increasing clout than we will have to learn to work with these nations as well as other emerging economies and even guide them to become better world citizens, even as we focus on growing jobs at home, keeping them from being outsourced, and protecting our interests. Similarly, we must pass legislation to protect the environment and join the good world citizens club.

Does this mean that we become more partisan?
No. Having clarity around values means that we do not embrace inclusion only when it is convenient but truly become inclusive and broaden the base. The results have indicated that changing face of the nation is closely tied to changing perceptions around gay issues, around environment, around women’s issues and so on. Embracing diversity will be an assurance to all that their issues will be heard.

Managing waste and running an efficient Government
Conservatives who are extremely far to the right, may never find anything to their liking in this dialog of diversity and inclusion. Their agenda per se, may be perhaps exclusive and derogatory towards women, discriminatory towards gays and lesbians and demeaning towards immigrants. But such extreme conservatives are diminishing steadily in numbers. However, we have a whole base of fiscal conservatives, whose issues need to be heard. Many of them have concerns over inefficiency of the Government and concerns over managing waste. We can do a better job here. We have seen two different faces of FEMA. During Katrina, FEMA was arrogant, primarily operating as a cop to control looting and lawlessness, rather than a disaster relief organization. During Sandy, we saw a different face of FEMA, an efficient, speedy disaster relief organization, reaching in real time to the help of the people. Now that the campaigning is over, we can acknowledge that no one would endorse the FEMA of Katrina but we could barely do without the FEMA during Sandy. The change in FEMA was partly on account of the lessons learned, during Katrina. It has become evident that during disaster, people come to each other’s help, rather than focus on looting, for instance. However additionally, FEMA was different, during Sandy, because of the clear mandate under the expert leadership of Governor Christie. Further, Governor Christie was able to operate at full capacity and better efficiency because of clear channels of communication with the President.

What prompted me to write this article

President Obama’s clarity of vision won us this extremely viciously fought election. But many challenges lie ahead. I implore the party that fought on the platform of diversity, to not be selectively inclusive, but truly broaden the base and the platform. If we will be selectively inclusive than we will erode the base in another cleverly fought campaign or be caught in a gridlock where our victory will ring hollow. We can meet the same fate as the Republican Party, leaving people disillusioned. Simon Schama, a British Historian, analyzed the reasons behind the defeat of the Republican party. And he says, “What bit the dust on Tuesday was the world of denial in which Republicans have immured themselves ever since the rise of the Tea Party in 2009. This is a universe in which the financial crash was caused by over-regulation; one in which, despite years of brutal drought and violent weather patterns, climate change is a liberal hoax; a country that can correct a vast structural deficit without ever raising additional revenue, while expanding the military budget beyond anything sought by the Pentagon; a belief system in which Mr Obama was the source of all economic ills rather than the steward of the most intractable crisis since the Depression. The mantra was that a business executive would, simply by virtue of that fact, effect a magical rejuvenation of the staggering American economy.” The denial of changing reality caught them unawares. Let it not surprise and shock us. Let us capture this vision of the changing future and ride the wave to a better tomorrow.

And by a better tomorrow, we mean not just a diverse landscape of tomorrow but rather through an emergence of shared prosperous diversity. For a better, more prosperous tomorrow, we must buy elements of the Republican vision. We cannot speak of a better tomorrow and not worry about the enormous debt we will be leaving our children. Mr. President, so popularly elected, will need to make some hard choices and we will have to support him. Mr. Obama will have to reach out to more reasonable and fiscally knowledgeable people across the aisle. We will have to start talking and listening. He will need to build a strong narrative outlining his concerns for the rising debt and how he will contain it as he assures us that prosperity will be created and it will be a spread out prosperity. The only way he will be able to get everyone to listen is if he is able to give solid assurances of how waste will be tracked and managed and how his Government will run more efficiently. We are a diverse nation and he will have to speak to us often and get the message to us in diverse ways, to reach us.

We have achieved something truly phenomenal by proving the pandits wrong, the pollsters wrong, and defying the money power. Now it is time to not be arrogant but be humble in our approach, for diversity itself will bring many challenges and opportunities to truly broaden our own perspectives and learn and grow and prosper together. Let us make this diverse landscape, a truly inclusive one.

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