Best Of The Best

 

USA

We all know how important voting is so that our voices are heard in the democratic process and we can help shape the direction of this great nation. 

And this is especially the case when it comes to voting for the next President and Commander in Chief of this country. 

A couple of  concerning things though about this election cycle that I am noticing:

People Not Policy – While elections in general always have their share of rambunctious slogans and exaggerated/empty promises, this election seems to be shaping up with a distinct focus on the people running for President (are they trustworthy, do they have good judgement, how much experience do they have, are they decent people) as opposed to what policies and ideas they have for where they would take the country. Certainly, character and integrity are critical in voting for someone for such an important position, but it seems to have sidelined policy from off of the main agenda. Moreover, the inclination to vote for someone based on their race or gender or presumed sympathy towards those also has upended real discussion on where we are and should be headed. Maybe you really like your candidate of choice, but are you fully satisfied (or close to it) that they have a big picture vision for our future and that they telling it like it is or are they sugarcoating to what they think their audience simply wants to hear, or in some cases is it just limited to a single policy thread or maybe little or no cloth for the emperor at all. 

Questioning The Lineup – First it seemed with the election that people did what they always do, which is take sides and argue it out on the sidelines of the cacophony of all the electioneering. People would say, oh, I like this party and this candidate or that one or the other one–and people would debate who is the better choice. But now, this dialogue seems to have changed where many voters seem fed up with many (or even perhaps all) of the candidates. Some seem to be looking for new candidates to magically swoop in and “save the (election) day” or old candidates to show that they have different stripes. I have heard some question whether they will even bother to vote at all like this with all the negative campaigning or from whom they believe will be the ultimate candidates to chose from. Rather than people saying I like this one better for this reason, now I hear many asking which is “the lessor of the (presumed) evils.”

Considering the unbelievable power of the President of the U.S. and that we are talking about this for the next 4 or 8 years, it is scary for people to think they may have to somehow settle for less than the greatness that this position demands.

There are still many more months in this election season and things can take a lot of twists and turns, but hopefully the country will work its way to selecting the true best of the best that our candidates have to offer. 😉

(Note: This is not an endorsement for any candidate or political party.) 

(Source Photo: here with attribution to cgc76)

A 2-Year Campaign Cycle

Campaign 2016
So campaigning for the Presidential election, still some time off in November 2016, has already begun in earnest in Washington, D.C.



With roughly 600 days to the election, we are going to be spending a lot of time and money leading-up to this thing. 



Are you excited about all the lead up and electioneering?



The Chicago Tribune did an interesting comparison of the U.S. and U.K. in this regard.



In 2008, the U.S. spent $1.7 billion on the campaign (and you can be sure this number is continuing to go up, up, and away) versus roughly $33 million imposed on each major party in the U.K. and an election announced in April for May–one month! 



While you can argue that one month is too short for such a major decision for a country…do we really need 20+ months and billions in media advertising to communicate the candidates’ points of view and to coalesce around our next President?



Perhaps spending more time actually accomplishing things for the country and it’s people during a President’s tenure would be a far better focus of our national attention and efforts than an near endless cheer of ra ra ra sis boom ba yay candidate!  😉



(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Vote To Have A Say

Voting 2
People vote to get representation in political office for what they believe or want.



– Gun Rights

– Abortion Rights

– Civil Rights

– Social Entitlements

– International Engagement

– Strong Defense

– Low Taxes 

– Etc. Etc. Etc.



But now, cities like Los Angeles that are looking to boost voter turnout want to offer cash prizes



The cash prize “might include a prize as high as $50,000.”



Nice (not!)–head to the polls like you do to buy a Powerball ticket. 



Votes, like love, is not something that should be bought.



For those fortunate enough to live in a free country, voting is a special right where everyone can have a say and influence the world around them. 



Instead of focusing on handing out rides or money to go and vote, maybe instead we should create awareness of what a great opportunity it is to live in a  democracy and be able to chart our own course rather than live like so many around the globe under the rule of dictators and tyrants.



Voting is a great privilege for those who care to stand up and make a difference by going to the polls, voting is not an ATM machine. 😉



(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Targeting The Opposition

Targeting The Opposition

As I would imagine most of you felt this week, I was really surprised by news that individuals in the IRS targeted certain political opposition groups.

I thought to myself what country are we living in?

I couldn’t help wondering about disturbing stories from Russia, Iran, and others where political dissidents have been known to be jailed, shot, or otherwise disposed of.

Are we getting to the point (hopefully not) where our government institutions could likewise be used to unfair political advantage?

In the Watergate scandal in 1972, the Republicans broke into the National Democratic Headquarters to install microphones and copy documents unfairly and illegally.

Forty years later–is this an IRSgate 2012?

Both Democrats and Republicans have their political opinions–and everyone is entitled to believe what they do and feel an affinity to and vote for who they want–or if you don’t like either, vote for a 3rd party Independent–this is what makes America great.

We have freedom to believe what we will, to vote as we will, and to do so without interference or undue influence by either side or anyone.

If we cross the line into intimidation or oppression of those who peacefully choose a different position, then we have lost the best of our national identity and the human rights that we so justly uphold. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Voting Firsts

Gw_with_soda

With voting, this was the first time I’ve ever:

– Voted early–even though it was on the last early voting day.

– Had to wait on any sort of real line to vote–this one was about 30 minutes long!

– Waited outside in the cold on a line snaking around the building–until the election volunteers had a heart and let us all in and out of the cold. 

– Had electioneering occurring right outside at tables and people handing out “information” until maybe 25 feet before the doors of the polling center–in the past, this activity was always kept far away and and they didn’t have the nerve to approach you as you were literally going inside the polling stations. 

– Got to sit down at a voting machine–always had to stand up previously, but from the sitting position and the “ergonomics” of the voting machine, you could hardly see them properly. 

– Had virtually no voting privacy–the machine faced the walls with the touch screens facing inward towards everyone else in the auditorium.

Despite all these voting firsts and most of them disappointing, the one voting first that I would have liked to see and didn’t was Internet voting, where we would usher voting into the 21st century with ease of voting, convenience, and privacy.

For some reason we can bank, shop, and pay taxes online, but to vote, we’re still stuck in the dark ages and it seemed like overall it was getting darker. 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Voting, The 7-Eleven Way

Vote_7-11

Want to know who is going to win the Presidential election?

Just ask 7-Eleven!

With the rollout of 7-Election, they have accurately predicted the last 4 elections.

So get out and cast your…cup of coffee?

The red is for Romney and the blue is for Obama (and there are neutral cups for those still undecided voters).

So far, from what I can see here, this is literally neck and neck.

My best guess is that the donuts sell out first–especially the chocolate eclairs.

Disclaimer: This is not an endorsement of any candidate or coffee/donut.

Happy Friday folks!

(Source Photo: Dannielle Blumenthal)

Democracy Built On More Than Hoya

There is a funny joke that is timely for election season, and it goes something like this…

“It was election time and the politician decided to go out to the local reservation and try to get the Native American vote.

They were all assembled in the Council Hall to hear the speech.

The politician had worked up to his finale, and the crowd was getting more and more excited.

‘I promise better education opportunities for Native Americans!’ The crowd went wild, shouting ‘Hoya! Hoya!’.

The  politician was a bit puzzled by the native word, but was encouraged by their enthusiasm. ‘I promise gambling reforms to allow a Casino on the Reservation!’  ‘Hoya! Hoya!’ cried the crowd, stomping their feet.

‘I promise more social reforms and job opportunities for Native Americans!’ The crowd reached a frenzied pitch shouting ‘Hoya!  Hoya!  Hoya!’

After the speech, the Politician was touring the Reservation, and saw a tremendous herd of cattle. Since he was raised on a ranch, and knew a bit about cattle, he asked the Chief if he could get closer to take a look at the cattle.

‘Sure,’ the Chief said, ‘but be careful not to step in the hoya.'”  🙂

So when candidates get on their soapboxes and promises are being made on the left and on the right, you can only but wonder what is a promise that is sincere and will be kept and what is a promise that is for garnering votes and will be ignored.

When the mic is unknowingly on and you hear something you weren’t meant to hear, it is hard not to wonder about true intentions.

The New York Times calls these “moments of political candor,” while the Wall Street Journal (30 March 2012) calls it “moment[s] of political contempt.”

The Journal asks why we would not be told the truth about intentions with the implication that it is something that the candidates do not want us to know or that we would not approve of.

Who are these candidates really? Does anyone really know when words are but bargaining chips for winning elections, rather than true commitments of the heart.

It is scary, when the truth is obscured by empty words that change with the audience, and then votes end up based on false promises, vagaries, and disappointments.

When it comes to elections–Is the truth out there? Does it exist?

People deserve candor, sincerity, and to know where candidates really stand on the issues, so they can vote for what and whom they really believe in.

Democracy is built on more than rolling hills and valleys filled with hoya–the truth is it’s foundation.

(Source Joke: here and Source Photo: here)

 

Dilbert Shows The Way to User-Centric Government

Scott_adams_-_dilbert

Scott Adams the talent behind Dilbert comics and numerous books wrote a fascinating column in the Wall Street Journal (5-6 Oct. 2011) called “What if Government Were More Like an iPod.”

Adams has some great ideas and here’s a few:

1) Leverage Group Intelligence–“group intelligence is more important than individual genius…thanks to the Internet we can summon the collective intelligence of millions.” While certainly in government, we are using social media and crowd sourcing to leverage group intelligence by making information available to the public (e.g. Data.gov), engaging the public in innovating new applications (e.g. Apps for Democracy), getting feedback and comments on regulations (e.g. Regulations.gov), soliciting policy ideas and petitions from citizens (e.g. We The People) and more, this is only a start. We can continue to advance engagement with people on everyday issues to come up with solutions for our biggest and toughest challenges. One example for doing this is utilizing more tools like Quora to put out questions to subject matter experts, from every spectrum of our great nation, to come up with the best solutions, rather than just rely on the few, the loud, or the connected.
2) Voting With Understanding–“Voting [the way we currently do] is such a crude tool that half of the time, you can’t tell if you’re voting against your own interests. Change can take years…and elected officials routinely ignore their own campaign promises.” Adams proposes a website to see the “best arguments for and against every issue, with links to support or refute every factual claim. And imagine the professional arbiters would score each argument.” I can empathize with what Adams is saying. Think of the healthcare act in 2010 that was over 2,500 pages or the 72,000 page tax code–there is a reason people are overwhelmed, confused, and calling for plain language in government communications such as the Plain Language Act. There is obviously more to be done here using user-centric communications and citizen engagement, so that the average citizen with bills to pay and a family to care for, can still participate, contribute, and vote with understanding unmarred by gobbledygook, “the weight test”, and politicking.
3) Campaigning More Virtually–Make it “easy for voters to see video clips, interviews, debates, and useful comparisons of the candidates positions. In the modern era, it does’t make sense for a candidate to trek all over the country on a bus.” Too much of the political process is the shaking hands and kissing babies–the showmanship of who looks better and talks more sleekly versus focusing on the policy issues. While it is important to present favorably, lead and influence and bring people together, it is also critical to get the policy issues out there clearly and without flip-flopping (which should be reserved for burgers only). The media plays a role in keeping the political candidates on their toes and honest, but the process itself should vet the issues in written commitments by candidates and not reversible sound bites on TV.
4) Quicken The Innovation Cycle–“I’m fairly certain Ben Franklin wouldn’t be impressed by our pace of innovation. He invented the post office and showed us electricity and it still took us nearly 200 years to come up with email. We’re not good at connecting the dots.” This is an interesting point, but it sort of misses the mark. There are lots of good–even great–ideas out there, but from my perspective on organizations, execution is usually the stumbling block. In fact, according to Wikipedia, the Patent Office has a backlog of over 700,000 patent applications as of October 2010, so new ideas are plentiful, but how we work those ideas and make them come to fruition is a project management and human capital challenge. While email seems like just a dot or few dots away from the post office and electricity, there is obviously a lot of groundwork that needs to be laid to send an email from DC to Jerusalem in split seconds.
In short, Adams summarizes his convictions for government change in advocating a form of User-Centric Government (my term)Adams actually proposes a 4th branch of government (I think he really mean a new agency) to manage “user-interface” or what I understand him to mean as citizen engagement. Adams describes this new agency as “smallish and economical, operating independently, with a mission to build and maintain friendly user-interface for citizens to manage their government.” Adams would advance the achievement of his ideas and hopes for leveraging group intelligence, voting with understanding, campaigning virtually, and quickening innovation. I believe Adams idea builds on the concept of a Federal agency for innovation that has been proposed previously over the years by The Industry Advisory Council and others to be modeled after the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA).
While there are arguments for and against creating another government agency for driving user-centric government, creating more and better user engagement through understanding and participation is fundamental and aligns with our core principles of democracy and as a global competitive advantage.
While Government is not Apple, learning from some of the best and brightest like Steve Jobs on how to reach people intuitively and deeply is a great way to go!
(Source Photo: here)

Under “The Thicker Skin”

Thicker_skin

Yesterday, I heard Pastor Robert Jeffress of a mega church in Dallas get on national television and tell Christians not to vote for a presidential candidate–Mitt Romney–because he’s a Mormon and went on to describe Mormonism as a cult.

What was so shocking was that there was no basis for the decision to vote or not to vote for someone based on political issues driving the discussion, it was purely one of religious intolerance.
I imagined how candidate Mitt Romney (and the Mormon establishment) must feel like to be subjected to a form of discrimination and stereotypical name calling just because of their religious faith.
Unfortunately, religious and other forms of bigotry and hatred are not new, but they are invective and undermining.
I personally remember a situation at a organization, where I was treated religiously unfairly.
There was a planned offsite meeting at the agency, and the meeting was going to run through lunch, so lunch was being ordered.
Being Jewish, I asked if a salad or tuna sandwich or anything Kosher or vegetarian could be made available so that I could participate. 
I was told by email that if I wanted anything special, I could bring it from home. 
Not a problem–I didn’t want to be a “Jewish problem”–I can certainly bring my own food and I did. 
However, when I got to the meeting and saw the lunch spread, the agency had ordered a special meal for someone else who was vegan–not a religious preference, just a dietary one.
Try imagining just for a second how it felt to be told that you could not be accommodated for anything kosher, but someone else would be “just because.” 
I brought this to the attention of the “powers that be,” but was told that I should go “develop a thicker skin.”
Well if the thicker skin means to become part of a group that practices intolerance and bigotry, it’s time to peel away that callous!
How people vote and how we treat our fellow man should not depend on their religion, where they come from, or the color of the skin.  
In a year, when the memorial for Martin Luther King, Jr. was unveiled on the National Mall, the dream for tolerance and freedom still has considerable room to blossom.
Hopefully, society wil continue to develop not a thicker skin, but a gentler kinder heart that embraces each, for what they can bring to the table. 
(Source Photo: here)