Archive for August, 2012

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Another Republican Convention; Another Reagan Canonization

August 31, 2012

I admit, it was comforting, that there was honor paid to something other than the Tea Party, and it almost made me yearn for those days to return.  Ah yes, the 1980s….

I know time distorts facts, especially as one ages, and these are quick thoughts, not fact-checked, but I think I remember them fairly accurately:

  • We were ecstactic if unemployment fell below 7.5%
  • I paid an interest rate of over 10% (feels like I remember heading towards 13% – but maybe not) when I purchased my home.
  • I paid more for my new 1985 Pontiac (with no adjustment for inflation over more than 25 years) than I paid for the 2010 Mini-Cooper Clubman.
  • As a Vice President of a start-up division at Carlson Companies, my salary was in the low $40,000s. (yes, I KNOW all other Vice Presidents made significantly more – but I was the first Woman VP in CMG- in those days, you took what you could get.  Only because I out-smarted the boys when I wrote the marketing plan to create the division, and got unanimous consensus that the position I eventually filled had to be equal to the VP of Marketing for traditional services was I able to hold out for the title. (Shame on me for not getting salary consensus ahead of time!). 
  • I don’t remember the price of gas, and do not want to risk the distortion falling off lips of today’s Republicans as they shout that gas prices have DOUBLED from Bush to Obama.  Again, I admit, details are starting to evade my brain, but I sure do remember every week in 2005 filling up my tank for $75 as I drove to Rochester to spend time with my mom – in a time when I was only working part-time, recovering from a devastating fall, and surviving only because of assistance from my family.  Maybe Minnesota is just different – I have not found the  $6+/gallon gas prices  Republicans swear we now  have anyplace this year.  But, unfortunately, what I paid for gas in the 1980s escapes me.
  • I read the daily Jeanne Dixon horoscope so I would know ahead of time if Mrs. Reagan would allow President Reagan to venture forth and make some news – now that whole thing was most likely a Democratic myth, but it made for good humor, and was a great diversion from my own worries as I started each day!
  • I respected President Reagan although I did not necessarily agree with all his views.  No one called me a traitor if I did not bash him.  Yes, in those days, respect for one another was allowed!  We tried to debate on issues not necessarily personalities; of course, it did not always work, but we did try and we did respect one another.  That change in America did not occur until Gingrich arrived on the scene during the Clinton Administration…and the rest is history as it’s been a downhill spiral ever since.
  • I was then, like now, an engaged citizen with a strong personal interest in European affairs, so I remember carefully following news on both the USSR and East Germany and their pending crumble. So, I understood and applauded the Great Theatrics and (low risk) of Reagan’s symbolic stance in Berlin as he demanded “Tear Down This Wall.” Like all Americans of the day, I think, I was proud of his ability to pull it off.    I was also bright enough to understand the gesture as taking advantage of a great PR moment while signaling “we’ll stand with you” to those taking the risk to apply the pressure to our “Cold War’ enemy. 
  • I did not buy-in to “Trickle Down” economics and felt exonerated when Reagan indeed, had to raise taxes to stall off the rising debt and make our country work.
  • And near the end of his administration, I gave him the benefit of the doubt, when on occasion, he did not seem to be tracking with what was immediately happening around him…I innocently thought the shooting and the pressures of the Office were simply starting to take its toll on a man of his age.  Taken in perspective now that I have some experience with dementia in parents and siblings, I wonder if the fun we had with the horoscope stories were simply Nancy Reagan trying to protect the country and the man she loved from publically acknowledging the beginnings of a dreadful disease.

Every party has its heroes so if the Republicans feel they have to reach back to Reagan to find successes they are proud of, so be it.   But from my perspective, those days were not Nirvana nor have subsequent Republican administrations achieved that status, and we should not be deceived into thinking they were or will be again.

And in this upcoming struggle, after six years, I now know WHO Romney is – a nice guy who somehow must have been “tricked” into using his money to conduct the most destructive and negative primary campaign I have ever witnessed…but I STILL do not know what he thinks about the issues, what his plan is to fix the problem, or how he expects to accomplish it.  I’ve lived in the corporate world, too.  I know a lofty plan is nothing unless it is backed up with facts and a detailed budget…so that a simple test I learned in business in the Seventies can be applied:

Is it REAL?  Can we WIN?  What’s It WORTH?  What’s the RISK?

Romney is begging us to TRUST his 20th century business acumen and let him apply the same to the issues we are facing in the future as we move forward on a NEW playing field, in the 21st century. 

Unfortunately, I am still a player in the business world; recognizing the changes; trying to learn how I can do a better job of collaboratively managing that business, trying to absorb the last 20 years of brain research that throws most of what we knew about learning, motivation, commitment and leadership out the window. Even when I am committed to it, I find it hard to deliver, without occasionally defaulting to a style that is old-fashioned and ineffective.

Go for it buddy, but if you win the election, you will still have to learn the world that lays before you. And you will be surprised when you learn that 1980s employees trained to do as they are told by the boss are not the same as “We the People” in the United States today.   And even you do not have sufficient funds and support for all the negative campaign ads you may want to wage against the “people” to get them to reluctantly fall in line. 

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THE FORGOTTEN YEARS

August 30, 2012

As Bill Clinton is resurrected by the Democrats, George W. Bush is being erased by the GOP-as if an entire eight years of American history hadn’t happened.

                              Robert Reich, former US Secretary of Labor      

 

This caught my eye this morning, and I thought to myself…how sad is that-I did not even notice the absence. 

But sure enough, as I read through the article, I learned that for the first time in history, a national party will not be giving the stage at its convention to its most recent occupant of the Oval Office who successfully ran for reelection.   

And of course, as the author stated, the GOP is intent on allowing America’s short–term memory to block out what happened when the Republicans were last in office.    I am sorry to confess, they are making a wise gamble, as I have simply forgotten some of the pain of those years.  And, I admit, I had never made the connection between the two Bushes and the two Romneys as being similar father-son  issues.  Whether that is actually the case, I will leave to the reader, but if you missed the article, I have included key paragraphs below to start you thinking!

Republicans want to obliterate any trace of the administration that told America there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and led us into a devastating war; ignored New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina; turned a $5 trillion projected budget surplus into a $6 trillion deficit; [Ed. Comment: Note that is an $11 trillion negative swing that today has morphed into something OBAMA is being blamed for] gave the largest tax cut in a generation to the richest Americans in history, handed out a mountain of corporate welfare to oil and gas industry, pharmaceutical companies and military contractors like Halliburton (uniquely benefitting the then-vice president); whose officials turned a blind eye to Wall Street shenanigans that led to the worst financial calamity since the Great Crash of 1929 and then persuaded Congress to bail out Wall Street with the largest taxpayer-funded giveaway of all time.    

As I read the article, I was reminded that humans surviving a great tragedy tend to block out the pain and the details, and surely, I have done just that.  I know all this; my mind just would not let me put it all together as it is much too painful.   So I am glad that Reich reminded me so that I have a quick retort to Romney’s claim that Obama’s policies were bad for the economy and exploded the government.

And then the author continues with a twist that I had not considered:

Besides, the resemblances between Bush and Romney are too close for comfort.  Both were born into wealth, sons of prominent politicians who themselves ran for president; both are closely tied to the nation’s corporate and financial elites, and eager to do their bidding; both are socially awkward and, as candidates, tightly scripted for fear of saying something they shouldn’t; and both presented themselves to the nation devoid of any consistent policies or principles that might give some clue as to what they actually believe.

They are both men who ran or are running for the presidency for no clear reason other than to surpass their fathers or achieve the aims and ambitions of their wealthy patrons.

That made me sit up and take notice.  I will have to give that some processing and fact-checking time, but it is a very interesting proposition!

Missing from the article was the one additional concern I have…the neo-cons that took possession of Bush and were those giving the advice that created every single misstep of George W. are the very same people – not just philosophy- that are counseling Mr. Romney.   This is their third chance to destroy us…they could not do it on their own; they could not do it through the puppet of George W. Bush; and now they are attempting to do it again.  Three strikes and we can only hope the OUT is on them and not on the United States!

As I sit here trying to digest this and what it means, I am clinging to the good news that in general, “last heard is last remembered” and for those still undecided in this election decision, I can only hope that the statement holds true and the Democrats carefully and relentlessly tackle the Bush mistakes for what they were as they share the message of what has been accomplished so far in 3.5 years of moving towards recovery…and then quietly end with a thoughtful and factual comparison that shows one nice man controlled by the neo-cons and another nice man  now lined up their sights who also will be used, abused and thrown aside by the neo-cons if he elected as President of the United States.

 And from my perspective, it would not hurt to throw in a few twists that communicate that  a 1980s business leader no longer has the appropriate skills to lead a country into a winning position in this new very different century.  We tried it for 8 years and suffered; we may not recover if we are forced backwards for another 4 years. It is time to turn this country over to the next generation as we are trying to do with Obama!

This has been a painful (and in some instances humorous) week; I am so glad the Democrats will have the last word on the national stage before the debates begin.  Now if only we could find some press that were innovative enough to ask some questions that will not be anticipated by either candidate or their “trainers”….as I have no doubt, of the two, Obama can think on his feet.  Romney?  Not so much.

 

 

 

 

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THE LOST GENERATION

August 30, 2012

No matter our political leanings or how difficult it has become to engage with either side in this terribly negative battle, there is one truth being told and Obama reiterated it yesterday in Ames. The Republicans are dead wrong on this.  The kids in high school and college today are not “A Lost Generation”.  They are the future-the key to making the 21st century the second “American Century”.

We boomers had our chances; in a very different playing field, we proved we could measure up to the “Greatest Generation” and make a difference…we thought we were right and knew best.  And in fact, for the times, we did—for the most part.  But we certainly also created some messes along the way.  And we did not learn how to conquer the really tough times because we did not have to face a great depression or a world war.…but now that it’s tough, we are the ones that are lost and can’t find our way forward into the world of today.

We may not always relate to these kids; we may have chosen not to transition fully to a new digital, collaborative, and global world; and, driven by the press and a very vocal political discourse, we may continue to make judgments based on mid-twentieth century guidelines and platitudes. But we are wrong.

The world has moved on in the last twenty years at a pace that is almost inconceivable. That Lost Generation of Romney’s is growing up in the new world; they are ready and willing to step up to the plate.  They think differently than we do; they approach life and the world differently than we do.

Take a minute.  LISTEN to them; HEAR what they are saying.  Yes, they communicate differently – with different words and different tools…but if you listen carefully, you will recognize the thoughts and dreams of our own youth.

The biggest difference?  Unlike most of us who thought we knew best, and unlike the GenXers who expected the best without expending the effort and THINK they are the best, these kids are hungry for input.  They want to hear what worked for us and why; what did not work for us and why not.  They absorb the input like sponges and out of that grows a unique new perspective. It’s time we begin the move to the sidelines, and if we are smart, we will make ourselves available to council and coach when asked, but not to harshly judge.  They will make good use of the input.  They will surprise us as they take on the significant flaws we created in our world– flaws they are willing to fix.

 

 

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KATRINA, ISAAC, and MOM

August 28, 2012

Today, we are waiting for Hurricane Isaac to reach the southern coast and New Orleans; and while we  wait, memories are flooding my head.

Seven years ago today, Hurricane Katrina hit and destroyed New Orleans.  Seven years ago this coming weekend, I went to Rochester to visit my 92-year old mom.

My sister and her husband joined us for the traditional Sunday dinner on the porch of the house Mom had lived in for over 70 years.  I don’t remember WHAT we ate, but I am sure that most of it had been harvested from her garden, cleaned, and prepared by Mom just that day.

As we finished dinner, she looked at us and said she was glad we were there that day, as she had been watching the destruction in the Gulf and she had a question for us….considering the damage to the oil rigs down there, did we think that perhaps we should reconsider our position on drilling for oil inAlaska?  I also don’t remember the ensuing conversation, but I do know I at least said that I didn’t know that was going to be the question of the day, and I had not done my homework.  I expect my brother-in-law gave her a respectable answer.

That was the last time I saw my mom in her house.  By the next week, she called my siblings to tell them she was too sick to cook; by Sunday, she wanted to head to the doctor, and by Monday, I think, she was in St. Mary’s Hospital while they searched and searched to no avail, for what was causing her pain.

And almost before we knew it…she was headed to Bethany Samaritan for physical therapy to regain her strength so she could return home…..she refused the therapy; she did not come home; and we started the ten month journey of saying goodbye.  

Fortunately, I was still in physical therapy recovering from my fall three years before, and working only part time at MSP Resources, so I had the flexibility to be in Rochester Friday-Monday; I will always be grateful to my friend JJ for that help and understanding, and to my sister Nancy for a place to stay every week in Rochester.    

Slowly my siblings and I came together; created a schedule that worked for each of us so that among four of us and a dedicated sister-in-law, my mom had one of us there every day.   A fifth sibling came when she could. And interspersed were visits from grandchildren and great grandchildren and even singing performances from the great-great grandchildren – that according to my mom’s way of thinking, made her “Queen of the Nursing Home”.   And in between, we managed to “finish some business” for her: the Rochester team helped her with her own last act of independence, as she changed her will to reflect what she wanted rather than what my father had thought best oh-so many years before; and, since “houses don’t do well when they are not lived in”, most of us pitched in to do what we could to sort and clean and distribute her lifetime of possessions and memories…and what was left was  disposed of in a garage sale handled by my brother and his wife.

The house went up for sale, and was sold; and for my mom, she could cross that last task off her to-do list of life.  It was finished; and now she was ready to move on. 

Mostly for our own benefit, we kept a journal at Bethany-asking each sibling to record their visit, how she was doing that day and any significant incidents.  Sometime along the way, my mom started writing her own entries in that journal, starting first with just a shaky “BK” to tell us SHE was there, too, and slowly she added her own thoughts.  It was a precious thing to all of us; little did we know that as she was declaring “her purpose here was done” and dealing with her own loose ends, that one night she would destroy the journal because she had written “crazy” things in it.

In her own way, I think she said individual goodbyes and gave us our final marching orders; to me she said “I’m not worried about you; you were born independent and have been that way all your life, but there are two that I am worried about…take care of them.” 

And when, after a couple last few weeks, the goodbyes were said, she simply got up one morning, got dressed in one of her “nicer” outfits, laid down on the bed and quietly passed on from her life here on earth.  I am sure she is disappointed in me for not being able to fulfill her wish to take care of her two needy babies, but at the same time I hope she understands, they rejected my attempts when I tried.

So here we are, seven years later.  And on the very day seven years ago that Katrina unleashed its wrath, we are now watching another monster storm head once again to New Orleans.  Again,  I am struggling with repercussions from my fall ten years ago, have been through five months of physical therapy, and know the diagnosis is not good.  I’ve not worked for a year, and have determined the event career is most likely ended-at least as I now know it…and am contemplating whether I can muster the energy to reinvent myself one more time for one last career, or simply give in.

So where is my mom when I need her to help me find my way?   Maybe I am just not listening hard enough…or perhaps the return of the storm threat to New Orleans is meant to remind me that I should not give up, that I can do it and somehow I will create a new path into the future.

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WHY WE LIKE IT HERE

August 26, 2012

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UdBbmCHF2-Y

Thanks to Mill City News for sharing this video…in a fun way, it captures from residents and visitors alike, why we live and work where we do.

While you enjoy a small portion of my backyard, I plan to spend the day “editing” the CRV story for the  MPI Research Meeting Design case study.  It is a worthy cause, as MPI is trying to reposition the planner role away from logisitics finally, and towards designing to achieve measurable outcomes,…a long time coming. I support the effort, as well as the effort to focus on collaboration as the means for success in the 21st century.  But that does not make the task ahead any more inviting or fun!   I am really weary of being the “mother” of this project and just want it to go away.

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CONNECTING LIGHT

August 23, 2012

Today, I am envious!  New York digital arts collective YesYesNo will be part of Britain’s summer arts festival as they transform Hadrian’s Wall into the world’s largest work of art.

Seventy-three miles of wall will be topped by 450 networked balloons containing light-emitting diodes  that allow viewers to submit short messages to be transformed into pulses of colored light that will pass along the wall.

The stated purpose is “to create the inverse of a border…to imagine the [northern] border [of the Roman Empire-Hadrian’s Wall] as a means of connection” rather than separation.

A worthy objective, I think.  It is on my calendar to watch via internet August 31-September 1.

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MINNESOTA: CROSSROADS OF THE CONTINENT

August 16, 2012

Yesterday, I attended a program entitled “Native American Settlements in the Minneapolis Area” at Mill City Museum.

As we gathered before the session, I chatted with the facilitator of our “Telling Native River Stories” group and was glad to hear that he, too, felt our efforts beginning in 2008 planted a seed that helped move us all to this wonderful week of coming together and re-telling of the US-Dakota Conflict of 1862.   

As we took our seats, the photos and sites included were familiar ones…St. Anthony Falls, Cold Spring, Pilot Knob, the strawberry fields and burial grounds of Lake Calhoun, Nicollet Island, Spirit Island, Loring Park and the gathering spot of the gods on the river bluff-today known as Fort Snelling. 

But two concepts introduced by the speaker, Richard La Fortune, definitely gave me food for thought.

His over-arching theme of the Crossroads of the Continent expanded my viewpoint significantly.  Of course, I know the role of the river for both native peoples and white immigrants, but La Fortune compared the north-south and east-west routes traveled for thousands of years by native peoples to today’s I-35 and I-94 intersecting right here in the city, and it all clicked together in my brain. 

I certainly know that the very first bridge ever built across the Mississippi River was “First Bridge” the original precursor to our Hennepin Avenue Bridge; but that was built here has always been marvel to me.  Yesterday, as I heard Lake Street described as a street built over part of the trail from the Mississippi River to the Tetons combined with legends of the falls known to native peoples from the headwaters to the Gulf of Mexico, it brought it all into perspective.   Major North American migration routes have criss-crossed our state and city for thousands of years; and indeed, looking at North America in its totality from northern Canada to southern Mexico/Atlantic Ocean to Pacific Ocean, we are located right there in the middle!

But more intriguing than that, was the current activity and findings reported at the archeological site currently under study at Prairie Island near Red Wing.  This large village, existing in 900-1250 AD, consists of square “apartments” positioned around a central plaza.  Each corner of the plaza- aligned north, east, south, and west- contains cultural artifacts from each corner of North America – dating back 10,000 years!  It was interesting to hear that the presumption is that apartments near each corner of the plaza were inhabited by immigrants from that same area of North America-each clustered around artifacts of their past.  

Rather than an outpost of Cahokia as once thought, La Fortune speculated that the Red Wing site was an outgrowth of sites here in Minneapolis, with 10,000 year old artifacts supporting the theory that indeed, this was the gathering place for all native nations on the continent to come together to trade and to forge peace agreements among the nations of the native world we know so little about.

Think about it.  A 10,000 year history of native “United Nations of America”; a 400 year history of immigrant whites that formed the 200+ year-old “United States of America”…it’s hard to understand the  justification of cries to “build a wall and shoot” in reference to keeping out the Mexican immigrants, isn’t it?  Many of them may likely have ancient ties to this land stronger than ours.  More food for thought!

I walked back from the museum thinking that the nickname “North Star State” does us a disservice in today’s world.  Becoming once again the “Crossroads of North America” has more world-class appeal!