Why the Supreme Court decision on Voting Rights might be good for Minorities

“I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.” ~ Isoroku Yamamoto

On June 25, the Supreme Court made a controversial decision striking down a key portion of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, Section 4(b). The original act established extensive federal oversight of elections in states with a history of discriminatory voting practices. These states could not implement any change affecting voting without first obtaining the approval of the Department of Justice.

In a 5 to 4 vote, the court struck down the part of the 1965 Act widely considered the most important piece of civil rights legislation in American history. The map designating states, and portions of states, discriminatory was deemed to be out of date. In their ruling, the majority cited that current black voting registration numbers was equal to that of whites in the affected states, therefore making the law unnecessary.

Civil rights vote

These states and jurisdictions are now open to change voter rules has they wish. While, the portion of the 1965 Act still intact continued to prohibit obviously discriminatory measures, it opened the door for changes such as voter identification and the abolishment of same day registration and Sunday voting. These practices are seen to affect blacks and other minorities more than whites. And since these groups vote primarily Democrat, the decision was seen as a boon for Republicans.

As you would imagine, the black community and Democrats as a whole, have been up in arms with liberal sectors of the media right with them. Al Sharpton and Melissa Harris Perry of MSNBC have been screaming from any mountaintop they can find. And the iconic Congressman John Lewis, one of the original civil rights demonstrators in the ’60s emotionally decreed:

“I was disappointed, because I think what the court did today is stab the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in its very heart. It is a major setback. We may not have people being beaten today. Maybe they’re not being denied the right to participate or to register to vote. They’re not being chased by police dogs or trampled by horses. But in the 11 states of the Old Confederacy, and even in some of the states outside of the South, there’s been a systematic, deliberate attempt to take us back to another period. And these men that voted to strip the Voting Rights Act of its power, they never stood in unmovable lines. They never had to pass a so-called literacy test. It took us almost a hundred years to get where we are today. So will it take another hundred years to fix it, to change it?”

This decision is seen as roll back to the time of the Jim Crow Laws and doctrine of “separate but equal,” which was never really equal for blacks.

Since the decision we’ve seem states such as North Carolina and Virginia already taking full advantage by moving aggressively to enact voter ID laws amongst others measures. As one would assume, these states have Republican legislatures and Republican governors. Liberal politicians and  pundits are conjuring up images of … well you can just imagine. “These new voting laws will prove to be insurmountable barriers in the upcoming elections.” They’re calling for Congress to pass legislation reestablishing the previous safeguards. We all know that is just an exercise in futility.

I agree with the convention that these Republican controlled states have nothing but a partisan intent in mind. It’s obvious that they’ll do whatever they can to discourage a high Democratic turnout. That’s politics. And politics isn’t fair, it isn’t just … and it isn’t about the people. Politics is about politicians and their self-preservation.

But what actually will happen isn’t etched in stone though. There is always “unintended consequences” to virtually any action. This Supreme Court is no different. And for the effected groups, these consequences could be an opportunity.

The greatest opportunities seldom present themselves in plain view. It’s up to you to look behind the mask.

Why can’t the Democratic party and specifically its minority contingent look behind the mask. All they have to do is to look back to recent history for an example. Only six months ago we witnessed the tragedy of the Sandy Hook massacre. In its aftermath this looked the perfect time to rally gun control advocates and pass much-needed legislation. But under the guise of “unintended consequences,” that didn’t happen. In fact, the event may have been a set-back for gun control.

The NRA, facing what looked like a potential tsunami of support for new gun restrictions, put their formidable organization on alert. They rallied their membership with calls of the inevitable “slippery slope” of future restrictive legislation. And up to this point … have shut down any gun legislation, even non-gun control bills involving innocuous criminal background checks.

Why can’t Democrats and the black community do this? Use lessons learned from the conservatives, and turn a potentially negative situation into a positive one. Why can’t they spin these newly spawned attempts at ballot control and create a momentous firestorm amongst their brethren. “The Republicans are here to take away our vote and send us back a hundred years.” Whether it’s true or not doesn’t matter. It’s politics. Truth doesn’t fit into the equation.

Not only should they push for higher turnout, they should take this opportunity to push for more actual grassroots involvement. Politics is not just about the national races. On the contrary, as Tip O’Neil famously said: “All politics are local.” And local politics are where the decisions are made that affect us most.

And there’s more to politics than voting. There’s activism. There’s determining who’s going run and what their platform is. And there are ballot measures and referendums. Plus, there’s putting pressure on those that are in office already to pursue your agenda. Politicians need to held accountable … accountable to you, the ones who pay their “rent.”

This Supreme Court ruling doesn’t prohibit anything or anyone from voting or voicing their opinion. It may make it a little harder, or make it involve a little more effort … but it doesn’t stop anything.

This is one of those opportunities that isn’t showing its face and screaming at you,“I’m here, take advantage of me.” On first glance it looks like just another hurdle, another “punch in the gut.” But really what it should be, is that spark, that rallying call that will “wake the sleeping giant.” Starting this weekend the NAACP will hold its annual meeting in Orland, Florida. It’ll be interesting to see their response to their the recent events.

Will they use it as a “wake-up call.” Or will they just hit the snooze bottom … go back to sleep, and hope Congress does something about it.

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I can be found on Twitter at @clayforsberg and Google+

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“Unintended consequences” … gun control’s Pandora’s Box

Under Operation Cyclone from 1979 to 1989, the United States government provided financial aid and weapons to Osama bin Laden and the Pakistani mujahideen through Pakistan’s ISI, their intelligence service. This assistance was used to fight the Soviet Union in their invasion of Afghanistan. 

Bin Laden established camps inside Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in Pakistan and trained volunteers from across the Muslim world to fight against the Soviet puppet regime, the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan. It was during this time that he became idolized by many Arabs. These camps and volunteers, became the genesis of al-Qaeda – the dreaded enemy of the United States.

Could anyone in the Reagan administration foresee the “unintended consequences” of this support to bin Laden and the Afghanis. Of course not. Unfortunately this was just another example of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” thinking that has so often haunted countries and alliances for centuries. The world is not so “black and white” as this thinking would assume.

We may be witnessing another bout of “unintended consequences ~ only right here at home.

For advocates, it made perfect sense to pursue renewed gun control legislation, especially in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre. Twenty kids getting murdered, at school nonetheless, seemed the optimum backdrop for action.

As Congress began its pursuit though – things began to unravel. After four months, the only aspect of comprehensive gun reform that even made to a Democratic controlled Senate was a watered down bill for background checks.

When the dust settled, the bill was defeated, with five democratic senators voting against it. How can this be. Over 80% of the population was behind background checks, even a majority of gun owners.

2nd Amendment

But with the venom spewing NRA firmly entrenched in backside of virtually any senator or representative from the Midwest or South, it’s not surprising to understand the result.

One interesting number came out after the vote though. A number that’s was mainly overlooked by the mainstream media (what’s new). While 80% supported background checks, only 15% were truly upset that it didn’t pass. Support yes. Tepid support at best though. Contrast this with the NRA and it’s supporters. “The taking away of their guns” is paramount to them. No issue holds as much weight. I swear some would just as soon give up their kids then their guns. My next door neighbor here in Montana probably being one of them. I live around these people. There’s a fervor that’s religious.

I’m not passing judgement here. I’m just stating what I see and what I hear.

Last week the NRA held its annual meeting in Houston, Texas. Over 7,000 people attended, ready to get worked to words of Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, Ted Cruz, Rick Perry and of course, Wayne La Pierre, grand protector of the 2nd Amendment (at least their interpretation of it).

The conspiracy theories were flung high and wide. “The government was here to take our guns away and it’s Obama’s fault. If we give one inch … it’s the start down the slippery slope. After all, Hitler took the guns away. We need guns to protect ourselves from the tyranny of the government like we had to in two and half centuries ago.” That’s why we have a 2nd Amendment (or so they say).

This flaming rhetoric was to be expected, especially with the liberals’ recent attempts to reintroduce gun control. The new president of the NRA, James Porter, came out and said, “Revenge is what’s motivating the president’s unrelenting attacks on gun owners today.” Apparently this comes from the fact that Obama was elected largely because of urban and minority support. These are the people that were pretty much the opposite of those attending the conference in Houston.

Porter was preaching to the choir, and they heard the message.

But there was something else he said that stuck me. And again, it was something that while being reported, didn’t seem to warrant more than a cursory mention. Porter, declaring from his bully pulpit; “We are in a Culture War.” Culture War, what does that mean?

Traditionally, the NRA’s focus has been to thwart any advances in gun control, if not for the their membership of gun owners; then for their financial backers, the gun manufacturers. While this is definitely still their primary focus … could they be broadening their platform in pursuit of more backing and influence?

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Image by L. Sean Key

The “Culture War” comment seems to indicate this. But what part of culture is the NRA ready to go to war with. A natural ally in their pursuit of domination would be the religious right, the evangelicals. For some reason … guns and God seem to go together like, as Forest Gump so famously said – peas and carrot.

If there is to be an alliance between religion and the 2nd Amendment, culture would be a natural crossroads. And in the cross hairs (excuse the pun), are Hollywood, immigration, gay marriage, and abortion and birth control rights. After all, all four of these contingents voted heavily for the black man in the White House.

If  indeed this alliance formally comes to fruition, the war may very well be more than just culture.  Just last week the FBI said they intercepted a potential terrorist plot by a white supremacist in Minnesota. He wasn’t a Muslim. He was a down home white boy! And I doubt he’ll be the first. We can’t  assume religious and anti-political zealotry is limited to Islam. Take a look at the Westboro Baptist Church, or the Posse Comitatus. They use religion to justify their paranoid, racist, bigoted, anti-government actions. And these organizations are just two or many. The number of hate groups in the United States has increased over 60% since Obama became president. Whether it’s because of his race, the economy or something else – it doesn’t diminish the fact it’s happening. America is being more intolerant … intolerant of anyone not like us.

In fact, a recent national poll of registered voters by Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind found that 29 percent of Americans think that an armed revolution might be necessary in the next five years – in order to protect civil liberties.

And now we have the NRA and their obsession with the infamous “slippery slope,” throwing gas on the fire. It appears it didn’t take much for the Boston Marathon bombers to go sideways and cause a national “freak out.” There’s plenty homegrown terrorists who’s hate is just as strong, only much better armed … just waiting a for something to light the fuse.

Gun control advocates, especially the clowns in Washington looking for television time, can continue to go head long with blinders on ~ into the abyss. I only hope they realize they are only giving ammunition to the NRA and their brethren to further their cause.

Even if they do win, and some sort of marginally effective controls are ramrodded through Congress … their victory is only that of a battle. For the war, or as James Porter says, the “Culture War,” has yet to begin. And we have to question whether our resolve will be equal of that of our adversaries.

For every action has unintended consequences. And the question is whether we are prepared to deal with those consequences.

This post is not intended to say I’m anti-gun control. On the contrary, I’m for stringent controls. I believe the true intent of the 2nd Amendment has been trampled on by the NRA and its supports. The purpose of this piece is true bring a little pragmatism and thought into the debate. This debate is not “black or white” and whatever the actions … they will be far-reaching.

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I can be found on Titter at @clayforsberg and Google+ at Clay Forsberg

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Why Ted Turner might be the worst thing that’s happened to America in the last 50 years!

In 1876 Alfred Nobel, Swedish chemist and innovator, invented dynamite. At the time he was attempting to invent a substance to replace nitroglycerin, an unstable compound that killed his younger brother in a factory incident. While his intentions were good – or should I say noble, the unintended consequences were far-reaching, and not so good. To his credit, he attempted to redeem himself by creating and funding the Nobel Peace prizes.

While Ted Turner didn’t invent dynamite, nor cause the carnage that results from it … his actions may be every bit as detrimental to the American (and in some ways the world’s) societal and political landscape.

On Monday, April 15 – in the hours following what will forever be known as the  Marathon Bombing, the New York Post reported casualties from the terrorism to be at least fifteen and a Saudi nationalist was being held at a Boston hospital suspected of the crime. CNN also reported an arrest had been made. It turned out only three died and no suspect was being held anywhere.

On Wednesday, April 17 – the small town of West, Texas, twenty miles north of Waco, witnessed the devastation of a massive fertilizer plant explosion. Later in the day, CNN reported the death toll to be fifty, with possibilities of more as the rumble is removed. Five days later and the majority of recovery efforts completed; the actual number of fatalities stands at fourteen … not fifty.

In the weeks leading up to the Marathon Bombing, every major media outlet covered the impending doom to come from a nuclear attack by North Korea. Anyone, and everyone who had even a remote knowledge of the situation was trotted out in front of the cameras to pontificate. Then came Boston … and it was as if the North Korean threat had vanished in a puff of smoke, a non-nuclear one at that.

Ted Turner

Since the creation of CNN in Atlanta in 1980 by Ted Turner, twenty-four hour coverage has become ubiquitous, it’s everywhere … all the time. When Turner shared his idea of a twenty-four hour a day news network, he was scoffed by his peers; “What are you going fill twenty-fours a day with! There isn’t enough news.” Turner believed there was, and of course around the world there is. There’s things of importance, things that we should all be informed of happening all the time. In theory, the benefits of a network like CNN are enormous. The more the public is informed, the better off we all will be – especially concerning situations oversees in countries we know little if nothing about. In practice however, it turns out this is not the case.

In 1996, as a political counter balance to what was seen as the liberal leaning views of CNN, Rupert Murdoch launched the conservative Fox News with Roger Ailes at the helm – former media consultant for Republican presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George H. W. Bush. The same year NBC upped the anty with MSNBC. As conservative as Fox was, MSNBC was liberal and progressive.

While CNN lays claim to be “The Most Trusted Name In News,” the siblings it spawned claim only to ignite their bases with their endless rhetoric backing up their philosophical views. While this unbiased reporting is bad enough, it’s the endless repetition of the same stories “over and over and over” again that really does the damage. As the advertising icon David Ogilvy used say; “It doesn’t matter what you say … if you say enough times, they’ll believe it.” This repetition sets the agenda of we, the viewing public, is to deem important and a priority, no matter what the slant. It leaves little time or attention to be allocated to other worthy subjects and issues.

And this repetitive over simplification of our world does stop with CNN, Fox and MSNBC. Being no longer the only game in town; the traditional network news departments followed suit. It’s hard to believe that the only thing of importance in the world during the course of the last week is the Marathon Bombing. If you were an alien from Mars and just landed … you’d think so. And on top of it, facts seems to have little use in reporting anymore, as the above examples demonstrate. As long as there is a source, any source – the story is worthy of being published. After after, isn’t the first one out with “scoop” what matters, no matter the validity.

The networks’ rationalization of this policy is; “This is what our viewing public wants.” Well how can they want anything else if they don’t even know about it! Walter Cronkite is probably rolling over in his grave, digging at the roof of his coffin in attempt to get out and knock some sense into this current generation of so-called journalists.

So began the dumbing down and polarizing of America. And we have Ted Turner to thank for it.

Never in modern times has America been so polarized, with each side (but especially the conservatives) appearing incapable of achieving middle ground or compromising. The right reinforce their ideologies by falling in “lock step” with Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly and Ann Coulter of Fox. While the left won’t miss an episode of Rachel Maddow or Ed Schultz.

We see the result of this in Congress. Nothing gets accomplished. Nothing! The good of the country be damned. The only thing that matters is to further the ideology. I feel like we all jumped into a time machine a drifted back seven hundred years ago to the fifteenth century, the time before the advent of logical thought.

Not in decades have we had such an uninformed public. The majority fall for the unabated lies being spewed endlessly by Super Pacs and special interest groups. The media, both cable and network report what’s being said, with complete disregard on whether it’s the truth or not. This is especially the case when politicians are allowed airtime.

A few of the citizenry ignore this Tower of Babel babble and search the internet and beyond for news and opinions existing on both sides of the ideological fence to make up their own minds. But these people are few. And unfortunately, decisions in government are made for the benefit the special interests as they manipulate the “great uninformed” to follow the tune of their Pied Piper flute.

I’m not saying I endorse one ideological stance over another, even though I do. That’s not the purpose of this piece. Normally I try to propose a solution, a call to action. But today … I don’t have one. I believe I’m probably preaching to the choir. If you’re reading this than you’re probably one of the few I described in the previous paragraph. You’re already there.

All I can say is too keep striving for knowledge. The more informed we are, the better our defenses are to keep the agenda of myopic simplistic mass media at bay. 

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I can be found on Twitter at @clayforsberg and Google+

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A look at Dennis Rodman’s basketball diplomacy

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. ~ Albert Einstein

Last week was an interesting week in United States foreign policy. Dennis Rodman visited North Korea and met with its leader, Kim Jong-un … and the meeting wasn’t even planned. Rodman was over there with a group of Harlem Globetrotters doing a VICE Media sponsored filming for a newsmagazine show that will debut next month on HBO. But after finding out that Rodman was “in town,” Kim Jong-un invited him to his palace, spent two days and attended a basketball game with him. Upon arriving back in the states, Rodman announced he had a message for President Obama from the North Korean leader: ” 

He wants Obama to do one thing: “Call him,” Rodman said. “He said, ‘If you can Dennis, I don’t want to do war.’ He said that to me.”

Dennis Rodman

Needless to say neither Obama nor the State Department were impressed. Nor was the mainstream media, who seem to have been ridiculing him in unison. “The United States has direct channels of communications with the DPRK. And instead of spending money on celebrity sporting events to entertain the elites of that country, the North Korean regime should focus on the well-being of its own people who have been starved, imprisoned, and denied their human rights,” responded Jay Carney, Whitehouse spokesman.

However in reality, this direct channel of communication is nothing other than one minion talking to another minion, posturing. As Rodman also disclosed, Kim Jong-un is a man obsessed with power – obviously. To attempt a dialogue with him using someone other than a leader, someone other than Obama himself, someone he feels his equal … is nothing other than a slap in face and show of disrespect.

Obama indicated he has no desire or intention to pick up the phone and call the North Korean directly. And he also has no intention to talk to Rodman to gain possible insight into this illusive leader. In theory this is all good and well. But in reality, aside from Dennis Rodman, there hasn’t been a government official or any other United States citizen that’s even met Kim Jong-un during the two plus years he’s been in power. It’s kind of hard to establish a diplomatic relationship with someone when you don’t even sit down and talk face to face.

For the past seventy years since the days of MacArthur, the United States foreign policy has been governed from the perspective that America is exceptional and any objection to that should be dealt with the iron fist of force. American interests abroad, public or private, must be protected and American ideals must be propagated. Every administration, Democrat or Republican has continued this practice. It’s like we have a “moral authority” to impose.

Now I’m not a diplomat, but I am a marketer. And it seems to me that diplomatic negotiations are not a lot different from marketing or selling. The first step to marketing is understanding “the person on the other side of the table.” Only then can you determine if your product or solution is right for them or should be modified to fit their needs. The “kiss of death” in any sale or negotiation is coming in with a set agenda and try to ramrod that agenda down the throat of your counterpart. Yet this is exactly the modus operandi of our foreign policy. All in the name of “moral authority.” In most situations this intimidation works. But sometimes it doesn’t, as with North Korea. In fact even as recent as today they are threatening nuclear war over recently imposed sanctions.

Now I don’t condone the behavior of the North Korean government. Their civil rights record is probably the worst in the world. Their nuclear testing is alarming. And their threats towards the United States and most other countries of the world are worrisome at best. But we are now fifty years into this policy of imposition. And up to this point, we have no better relations with North Korea than we did in 1960. Or as Einstein so aptly put it: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Now I ask, what do we really want to accomplish? Do we want North Korea to curtail its nuclear program or improve its relationship with its people? Or do we just want them to be better citizens of the world? Regardless, shouldn’t we try an approach that might just work, rather than doing the same thing that has been proven not to?

Kim Jong-un

Regardless, before we do anything, shouldn’t we take a look at who we’re really dealing with. North Korea is not the United States or any other democracy. North Korea is essentially a dictatorship, run by twenty-nine year old Kim Jong-un. He is the third of his family to run the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. His grandfather, Kim Il-sung founded the country after the split from what is now South Korea.

To say that Kim Jong-un has lived a privileged and sheltered life is an understatement. Aside from going to college in Switzerland, he has spent his life living like a prince in the royal palace overseeing his serfs. One has to take his background and world perspective into account when dealing with him.

Also, even though Kim Jong-un may technically be a dictator, he does not govern in a vacuum. His government is by no means united behind him. In fact many power players were not happy with him being put in power in the first place. The military holds an incredible amount of power in North Korea. These generals are one if not two generations older than he is. To have someone who could be their son of even grandson dictating to them does not sit well. This cannot be an easy environment for Kim Jong-un to rule in. The old guard wants things as they’ve always been. Having United States foreign policy not taking this into account, is vastly erroneous.

But his sheltered life has not prevented him from being exposed to western culture and its influences. In fact, just the contrary. Both Kim Jong-un and father, Kim Jong-Il (since deceased) are and were avid basketball and movie fans. It’s an obsession that often overshadows their concern for the welfare of their country’s citizenry. For years Kim Jong-Il tried to get Michael Jordan to visit him in North Korea. In steps Dennis Rodman … the next best thing.

Does our State Department really look at foreign governments as people, people with lives – public and private. Or do they just believe they are negotiating with some nefarious psuedo-being incapable of human thought and activity. They act like it’s the latter. Wouldn’t they want, like any good marketer, to know as much as possible about the person they’re dealing with? Maybe not if they don’t believe they’re dealing with a person.

Not wanting to de-brief Dennis Rodman is bewildering to me. Here is someone who has obviously made a connection with Kim Jong-un. Wouldn’t they want to gather as much information as possible about the Korean leader? They don’t even know the extent of his command of English. They’ve never sat down with him to find out. Rodman has! Why is Obama and his team so reluctant. Are they scared the Korean leader might actually be a human being rather the reincarnation of the devil he’s been portrayed as? Or is it they’re prejudice against Rodman because of his bizarre looks and eccentric behavior. Would they have de-briefed Bill Richardson or Eric Schmidt from Google when they were over there if they had been able to meet with Kim Jong-un?

I don’t understand our government’s arrogant behavior. Do they believe only those that work inside the beltway are capable of being intelligent enough to converse with international leaders. I could make a case just the contrary. They haven’t really proven to be very adept at doing their job recently. In fact they’re the laughing-stock of the world. Not being from Washington might actually be an asset. Isn’t the goal here conducting a dialogue that produces results?

Or is it just this obsession with being right above all else, even if being right might not, well … be right.

I used tell my daughter when we’d crossed a street to not automatically step into the cross walk just because the light turned green. You may have the right-of-way, but a car making a right turn may still run you over. You’d be right … but you’d be dead.

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You can find me on Twitter at @clayforsberg

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Sequester: What Obama could have learned from the Hunger Games!

Well here we are and the notorious sequester along with its accompanying government dysfunction and nihilistic behavior has arrived. Just when the country is on the right path, on the road to economic recovery (maybe not as fast as most would like) – our beloved elected officials feel it necessary to take their idiotic behavior to new levels. I suppose if you’re going to do something, you might as well go all the way.

Now I could get into whose fault this mess is, but I won’t. It really doesn’t matter. That’s been done enough. But what I do want to discuss is Obama’s efforts to sway public opinion into putting pressure on the “clowns” to vote for a millionaire tax increase and put an end to the sequester. And we all know that the millionaire tax is his ultimately goal. It would be naive to think otherwise. Our president isn’t used to losing, so his inability to make this happen is interesting.

So let’s look at his “sequester ending” marketing effort.

The underlying theme behind Obama’s campaign was fear.

The-Sequester-Bee

He trotted out his cabinet spokesholes to lead the charge. First was Ray LaHood, Secretary of Transportation. LaHood’s spiel was founded in air travel discomfort. “You can expect flight delays of up to 90 minutes.” Kind of a weak opening act. To begin with LaHood is really hard to listen to. Sitting through a press conference with him would have to be torture. Second, air travel doesn’t really affect that many people. If you don’t fly or do so infrequently, this attack is a moot point. And third, for those that do travel, it’s hard imagine air travel being any worse experience. Hey, if you’re already getting three teeth pulled, it really doesn’t make any difference if they pull another one.

After LaHood, Obama pulled out his main act, Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Homeland Secretary. God forbid there would be any cuts to homeland security. The barbarians are at the gates and just salivating at the prospect of Big Sister not getting all the money she wants to put down the iron fist on all that don’t bow down at the sight of her. The threat –  release all these terrible “illegal aliens” she rounded up at our local car washes. Obviously unbeknownst to the administration, outside of the racist white supremacists in Arizona, most Americans aren’t really that scared of Latinos.

And finally, Obama played the always dependable education card. Letting the sequester cuts take place will mean teacher cutbacks as well everything else education related. According to Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education, this could mean irreparable damage to your children. But even this fear mongering point fell on deaf ears. It doesn’t help that the American public education is far from stellar to start with, and shows no signs of getting better … more money or not.

Well, Obama’s “sequester ending” marketing strategy was three for three … and not in the good way. The public pressure he anticipated didn’t happen. Maybe it’s because Americans have budget fatigue. There is always some catastrophe that’s going to happen if Washington doesn’t get their act together and do their job. In the classic “boy who cried wolf” fashion, we didn’t believe them or even care. Well, they didn’t do their job and we’ll just have wait and see.

Now let’s look at an alternative strategy.

When asked why he allows one contestant to be the victor and live during the Hunger Games, Donald Sutherland’s character, President Snow, responded: “We have to give the people hope. For if they have hope we can control them. Hope is the one emotion that is more powerful than fear.”

Imagine if the Obama administration had employed the strategy President Snow did in the Hunger Games. Instead of subjecting us to his minions’ weak attempts at fear mongering, Obama himself made the case for hope. He could have described how the economy, while not perfect, is a whole lot better than it was four years, or even two. He could have then planted “the seed of hope” that in the not so distant future it could be even be better than it was before the recession. And then he could have related to us the affects the sequester cuts would have on this “seed,” and how these cuts would starve the “recovery seed” of the water it so needs to grow.

I don’t know if it would have made any difference. But it sure wouldn’t have hurt. As they say, “you catch more bees with honey than you do with vinegar.”

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You can find me on Twitter at @clayforsberg

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Diversity … Obama are you listening?

Imagine the world with a week with no discussion of politics, no mention of Washington, or anything Congress. Well it isn’t going happen and last week was no exception. So let’s jump on the bandwagon of the twenty-four hour news cycle, and discuss the issue of Obama’s second term cabinet selections.

From liberals we hear outrage and from conservatives we hear mockery. “Where all the women at!” Or for that matter, the blacks, the gays and the Latinos. What’s happened to this president of hope and inclusion of all. “Where all the women at!” Instead we get the same old white men –  John Kerry, Chuck Hagel, John Brennan and most recently Jack Lew. “Where all the women at!”

Obama inner circle
New York Times

The New York Times even went so far to publish a picture of Obama’s inner circle, even if it was misrepresentative of actually who’s closest to him. It showed an Oval Office image of nine men and Valerie Jarrett’s leg. Well at least it wasn’t a clean sweep. All humor aside … we’re missing the point!

We all tell our children that beauty and brains are more than skin deep and “don’t judge a book by its cover.” A person’s race, gender, ethnicity or even sexual preference isn’t who they are and shouldn’t determine their abilities. Yet our political discourse focuses on exactly that. “Where all the women at!”

We’re all a bunch of  hypocrites.

Is this what we actually see as diversity? Are we to assume that all women think alike and only women can be heard on reproductive issues? Or can only Latinos can speak of immigration, or blacks on civil rights injustices? What makes this dialogue any different today than that of hundred years ago? On the outside it may seem like we’ve evolved, but on the inside … we still focus on appearance.

Imagine looking at diversity through a more enlightened lens. It seems we only look at a person’s developmental influences being genetic. Psychology has trumped all other social science, even though it’s probably the most imperfect. What happened to sociology. What happen to the effect the environment has on who we are and how we view the world.

What if we turned the discussion of diversity upside down and shook it. What if we lived by the words we teach our children: “A person is more than skin deep.” What if we include upbringing and geography in the discussion of diversity? Or what about age?

Obama’s finance team is almost exclusively Ivy League with its roots in Goldman Sachs. He couldn’t even find it in himself to nominate Elizabeth Warren to the consumer protection agency she created. Oh, I forgot … she’s from Texas and didn’t go to Harvard or Yale. The current Secretary of Commerce (acting), Rebecca Blank has nothing but academia and government in her background. The person who runs the Department of Commerce has no business experience. What’s up with that! “Where all the business people!”  Academia may be fine, but isn’t it supposed be a means to an end … not the end itself. It’s not a stretch to say we may have an “executive branch myopic group think” going on.

Aside from the holdovers from the old Clinton regime, such as Leon Panetta, I don’t think there’s anyone from California in Obama’s inner circle. I may be bias since I lived there for twenty years, but I still find it odd. California is not only the most populous state, it’s also the most diverse (in the real way). It’s the driver of the American economy today and probably will be tomorrow, the economy that makes and grows things. Not the economy that just shuffles money around like a glorified casino (you can guess what I’m talking about). Wouldn’t you want a little of that insight in the federal government? California is also a state that has balanced its budget, a budget only two years ago had a deficit of 23 billion.

Should we assume that my world view is the same as my neighbor’s. We’re both white and in our fifties? He’s lived in Montana his whole life, while mine has been growing up in North Dakota, and living in Minneapolis, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Our views couldn’t be further apart. Does a Latino from Cuba living in Miami think the same as one from Mexico living in East Los Angeles. Or is Barbara Feinstein even on the same planet as Michelle Bachmann? I think not! But we still want to group them together … for the sake of simplifying the diversity dialogue.

The discussion of diversity in this country has to change! We have to look past genetics. We need to make the impact of environment and the importance of  sociology part of the discussion. We are a country of diversity … diversity of the mind, not just of the body.

Until our public discussion acknowledges that, true social evolution will never happen … we we’ll just be a nation of hypocrites.

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You can find me on Twitter at @clayforsberg.

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Impatience … the definition of America’s investment strategy!

Here we are entering Day 2 of the post Facebook IPO; and we have a whole lot of Wall Street types in their ivory towers crying in their caviar and truffles. The millions they expected to pocket by doing nothing … well, didn’t happen. In fact, many lost millions. Let’s all pull out our violins and play a pity song for them.

Can Ron Johnson make it three in a row?

This event coincides with two posts I read in the Harvard Business Review over the weekend. The first was a commentary on Facebook and their disappointing IPO and the other was on J.C Penney and the lukewarm reception it’s gotten on it’s retailing strategy, specifically its new “fair and square” pricing. After reading these two pieces I thought  we were staring in the face of Wall Street Armageddon.

In fairness, the Facebook post by Rita McGath was well thought out. In summary, it questioned Facebook’s business model and the whether its focus on advertising revenue would justify the $100 billion valuation. And of course Rita had to bring up the high-tech of the 1990’s, and how we’re looking at a possibility of history repeating itself. I know she couldn’t help  herself – and I should cut her some slack. Consider it done.

I have a problem with this short-term focus in looking at the value of Facebook though. My comment on the post pretty much sums it up:

Good piece Rita. I share your concern about the possibility of a bubble. Investors, or should I say the often unenlightened heads of institutions – often just follow the lead of their mega-dealers (i.e. Goldman Sachs, etc.) in pursuit of quick rewards. I question how many of these institutional investors are even active users of Facebook.

I agree with you bringing up the “getting big for the sake of bigness” error that many social media companies often make. Groupon, as you stated – is a prime example. I believe they (along with their flawed business model) will gone sooner than later. Quality over quantity is a much better philosophy for numerous reasons.

I believe viewing social media platforms only from their potential to generate advertising is very short-sided. I hope we can see past this, especially considering the impact companies like Facebook and Twitter had in the Arab Spring and here with the Occupy Movement. 

A highly engaged customer (member) base can provide opportunities we can’t even image. Who would have imagined eighteen months the over-throw of Mubarak in Egypt? Nobody! An investor that has the mental acuity to look past the end of the week for a company’s performance may do very well investing in a company such as Facebook or in the future Twitter. 

Bubble or not, social media isn’t going away. The only thing that may, is the current basis for how we value them.

I didn’t look as favorably on the piece by Rafi Mohammed about J.C Penney. His views exemplify the American investment view, both professionally and personally – PERFECTLY! Below is my response in the Review:

Rafi, this is a good topic to bring up. It was inevitable there was going to be “armchair quarterbacking” once Ron Johnson took over the helm.

Any transformation of a retail icon, or should I say dinosaur, is going take patience … and lots of it. First, there’s going to be a shedding of customers (and employees). Some just won’t have the ability to accept change, no matter if it’s better or not. We’re in the shedding phase right now.

The next phase will be re-building. This will happen with new customers primarily – maybe from Kohls or even maybe some from higher end stores such as Macy’s or Nordstroms (for certain items). Johnson made it hip to shop at Target – so much so it adopted a French pronunciation. The boutiques, simplicity of pricing and up-graded ad campaign are part of the re-building and “re-imaging.”

This re-building process will take time, and as I said above patience. It hasn’t even been six months since the new J.C. Penney was born. Give it some time. I think Ron Johnson’s track record warrants at least that.

How in the world can any company, or a person for that matter, build a future when their only focus is as far as they see, with 20/150 vision. God forbid we don’t all become rich by the end of year, or even the end of the month. Arguably this country’s greatest investor of the last two decades, Warren Buffett – over and over professes patience. “Invest in good companies in industries that have long-term futures …. and wait it out.”
And it doesn’t just happen in stock market investing either. Look at one of the main premise of home buying. Most think buying a house is one of the best investments you can make …. supposedly, until the bubble hits and you’re and your family sit upside down in a mortgage that does nothing but strangle your future. A house is to live in, period! No one individual has control over the plethora of factors that dictate what that house will be worth in the future.
While I don’t condone the centuries long economic view the Japanese have. There has to be a happy medium.
Supposedly, patience is virtue. You wouldn’t know it these days.
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I can be found on Twitter at @clayforsberg
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