Archive for September, 2013

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FEDERAL RESERVE and OBAMA: Muck Up or Genius?

September 18, 2013

Tuesday, Lee Shafer’s column declared Obama “mishandled” the appointment of a successor to Bernanke as Chairman of the Federal Reserve.

The Fed is coming up on 100 years old, and nothing quite like this has happened before.  For those who care abut sound economic policymaking and stability of the Federal Reserve, this is nothing short of depressing.”  Or at least – so sayeth Lee Shafer.

I read that this morning; then worried about it all day.

Another confession is required here.  I’m no expert on the Federal Reserve; I’m no expert on the history of the Federal Reserve.  I am merely a person who raises a red flag WHENEVER I hear “this is how we’ve always done it.”  And I raise that red flag because over a long career in the business world, I generally suspect that is simply a mark of someone who does not like change – no matter whether it is a little change for the better, or a BIG change that could shake up their safe little world.

So I won’t try to advance a financial argument here; I will just say “what if” Shafer’s assessment that President Obama simply mishandled this appointment is what is wrong?

I normally give Obama the benefit of doubt…simply because he represents a new generation who think differently than I do but is much more in tune with the world of today then most of us.  He can be a risk taker which is also appealing to me. And he makes mistakes.  But as far as I know, in over 225 years, we’ve yet to find that President that hasn’t made mistakes – at least in the eye of the opposing party.  And with the constant Press focus on “gotcha” to create a headline, it is sometimes hard to figure out if some of this is manufactured hype for ratings…or real.

All that aside, IMAGINE if you will, he wanted Yellen (key word here is consensus builder) but feared he’d be in trouble because appointing a woman has never been done “in almost 100 years”.

Or, IMAGINE he really wanted to appoint Donald Kohn and needed to float the relatively unknown name first to get a reading on whether it would be acceptable?

Who knows?  I’m just sayin…Not ever done before is not all bad.  Especially when we live in a world that has not ever been seen before.

 

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TUESDAY’S FOOD FOR THOUGHT

September 18, 2013

NSA Noise But No Changes

Isn’t it telling that despite the clamor when NSA practices were “uncovered”…our Congressional leaders most likely will take little or no action?

That says to me, one more time, the Press was looking for something to fill “airtime”.  Or – although it seemed like a good Obama “gotcha” as it surfaced, when  they dug for the dirt, they finally figured out Obama inherited this mess from George W and the neo-cons.

Perhaps they also found that Obama himself has been uncomfortable with the practice – just like he said; but his advisors (mixed Repo/Demo) had not been able to offer acceptable alternatives that balance safety and privacy in a better way.

So it looks to me like the Press and Snowden created a lot of “noise”, but those responsible in our Congress have not yet been able to find their way out of a mess they allowed to happen.

This may just become the story to trump another uncomfortable one in our past when as we went to war with Japan in WW11, we rounded up the Japanese – Americans on the west coast and sent them to US concentration camps – at the same time we were going off to fight Hitler justified partly by German concentration camps for the Jews.

When will we learn as a country not to be quite so self-righteous?  Often gray is the right solution; not black or white.

 Laying Down the Conservative Law

In the midst of the debate on economic recovery, has the legislature once again been maneuvered into a “gotcha” by that darn Obama?

Think about it.  The House has done little but plot against this administration. But fractious divisions within the Republican Party may have just gone one step too far.

Trying to overturn Healthcare which was passed into law by Congress and the Administration, the House is now backed into a corner.  So they’ve laid down the Conservative Law.

  • Unless Healthcare is repealed (not gonna happen) they will deny support for financing the government beginning October 1.
  • They will not increase borrowing limit in mid-October.
  • This means Government Shutdown.

We shall see what happens, but I am betting on Obama.  Monday, while the world watched the tragedy at the Navel Yard unfold, Obama did what he is so good at doing…he quietly made his case.

Oh yes, you can argue that he should have postponed the speech in view of the crisis unfolding at the Naval Yard and I admit, it seemed a bit incongruous ; but as the audience waited for him to appear, cameras continued to pan the briefing room and it was full of waiting reporters…so I guess they were part of the” problem”, weren’t they?  If Obama is being criticized for  bad judgment, what about the waiting audience- pencils poised to capture the “scoop”?

First, he reminded the American Public that this “crew” tried this in 2011; the result was a slow down in economic recovery…just as the predicted.

He then quickly outlined what his administration has done since 2008…it’s an impressive list for a man who some continue to call a do-nothing president.

Next, he pointed out that the 2011 threats from these folks included the rationale that they had to be listened to because of our deficits (conveniently, as usual, overlooking George W and the Neo –con actions that created that crisis).  Unfortunately for the Conservatives, deficits did not increase as they predicted, but instead, they declined, as the Democrats knew they would….thus, leaving “egg on their conservative faces” so to speak.         

Fast forward to 2013.  The naysayers needed a switch in tactics to cover up how wrong they were.  But as they looked around for a new hook, what did they pick?  Healthcare!

  • Yes, the bill that was sponsored by the Obama Administration
  • Yes, the bill that was passed in the House
  • Yes, the bill that was passed in the Senate
  • Yes, the law the conservative Supreme Court ruled Constitutional.
  • Yes, the same law these folks have tried to repeal over 40 times.

Three branches of government just like outlined in our Constitution have disagreed with the conservative nutcases; attempts to repeal the law have failed over 40 times.

We all know the bluster of these folks won’t work but I bet this quote from the President will be found for generations in our history book:

“I cannot remember a time when one faction of one party promises economic chaos if it can’t get 100 percent of what it wants.”

Sets them up pretty well for the idiots they are, “dontcha think”?!!

 

Fracking Update

“Industry” study indicated gas leaks from fracking sites fewer than thought.

As I read the headline, I thought- great; we are learning more; maybe I am wrong to take such as firm anti-fracking stance.

Not so fast, Cheryl!  The study was done by the University of Texas (they certainly were picked because they are a “neutral” party, aren’t they?) along with nine GAS PRODUCERS!  The group responding to the study with doubt was a Washington-based environmental group. (Lobbyists, perhaps?)

So with opposite parties most likely representing extremes on either side of the issue…who should concerned citizens believe?

How do we get a NEUTRAL assessment instead of this craziness?

 

 

 

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MISS AMERICA

September 17, 2013

How sad for America that social media users were upset that Miss America, Nina Davuluri, was of Indian heritage.

Our own Native peoples were not white; the first “immigrants” to this country were not white but Spanish/natives; and many African Americans can trace their “Roots” almost to the arrival of the Mayflower – long before the American “family trees” of most of us began.

Although I am a white (mostly) I often dream that science will soon isolate the defective gene within us that  signals “white equals superior”.

What in the world will these social media folk do when twenty-five years from now  whites become the minority population in the US ….and faces that represent the majority of the earth outnumber all of us? 

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OPINIONS, EMOTIONS, and FACTS

September 16, 2013

My take on Obama’s actions re Syria seem to be supported by what Obama himself said in an interview with George Stephanopoulos for “This Week”.

Had we rolled out something that was very smooth and disciplined and linear they would have graded it well, even if it was a disastrous policy…we know that because that’s exactly how they graded the Iraq War.”

AMEN to that.  War and diplomacy are not a marketing campaign and should not be judged as such.

I did not get sucked in by the smooth sell of Bush and the neo-cons; I am trying not to get sucked in this time around either. I am concerned; I am a worried citizen; I have spent hours and hours reading and listening and researching the internet.  I recognize despite that, as a citizen, I am not privy to all the facts nor all the discussions nor all the variables and plans that have surfaced in respect to Syria.

I am okay with that; ready to give diplomacy on a specific issue a chance.  And yes, I’ll keep watching, reading, evaluating, and testing my own theories and those of our government.

But for now, Obama’s doing what he said he’d do…and it is messy.  I am used to that.  Collaboration is messy; but it yields results.

Actually, my worries focus on the American people.  Most were suckers for the smooth sell of the neo-cons and their use of 9-11 to justify an Iraqi War that was being planned before 9-11 happened.  I did not like that, but certainly one can understand it even if you disagree.

What I do not understand is why after the truth was known, the American people have set that same slick pitch as the standard for what is needed before they will support anything that may come from Obama.  Have we really all become the “Stepford Wives” of the American Press?

What about killing hundreds of thousands of people, the destruction of the 20th century Iraqi culture [and the destruction of antiquities protected for centuries until the Americans invaded], and a war fought on a credit card are they trying to emulate again?  It makes NO SENSE to me.

And what about Obama’s ability in the political scene do they not understand?  He became President of the USA the first time around because he understood times had changed and he was part of a smooth campaign with a good message that resonated with 21st century thinkers.  He won a second time for the same reasons. But we know the Syria situation is not a political campaign…it is real; it is messy; there are no right answers.  There are only possible solutions that lead to solving specific problems.

As Syria continued to grow to a crescendo, I would have been very frightened if I had witnesses a smooth rollout of an advertising campaign from Obama. That’s when I would have known I had been fooled the Republican way – with an advertising campaign to go to war.  So I am quite relieved there have been questions and stumbles and restarts-I know it is real and sincere.

 

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MAKING WAY FOR NEW JOBS

September 16, 2013

The second in the series “Growing Minneapolis” arrived with the STRIB this morning – this week’s topic was “Making Way for New Jobs.”

The first editorial “How to create space for job growth” featured several opportunities for job-creating redevelopment. Its first site was the remake of the Upper Harbor Terminal as barge traffic ends in late 2014 and the terminal finally can be cleaned up and made available for future growth beginning in 2015.  The article put the pressure on the city as it stated “whether the potential is realized will be an important indicator of the city’s capacity to grow in prosperity as well as population in coming years.”

My immediate thought was:  Yes, that’s true but it also could become a booby trap for the whole plan. That’s harsh perhaps, because of my own second attempt to help those folks “Above the Falls” that has so recently failed.  Nevertheless, perhaps if the Upper Terminal could be looked at in conjunction with the “Grow North” initiative, it may have a chance.  This is already in the works, is well-received, and well-thought through…and seems to have pushed aside a lot of the baggage that comes when one hears “north Minneapolis”.  It was a part of the Charles Landry Residency in 2012 and I took part in several sessions pertaining to its redevelopment.

To tie the Upper Terminal to NE and Shoreham Yards in my mind would doom it to the bad “karma” that surrounds that group on the east side of the river.  I personally have tried twice now to overcome the issues there and it will take a better person than me to break-through on that one! Fortunately, there certainly are those that meet that criteria!  But, they start with a deck stacked against them. 

This is a group that has little relationship with CPED or MRPB, although they do seem to be ok with the Park Foundation.   They tout the mantra-“public/private investments” that steered the central riverfront development, but as a practical lesson of how to move forward?  They are still back on the “you owe us” message  Based on a recent discussion when picking a photo of the Lowry Bridge as the image for their event invitation, the discussion centered on why did the bridge  view have to have Minneapolis in the background-they preferred to look up-river.

So that said, the other spots of growth featured including Downtown East, Nicollet Ave-Lake Street, the industrial area near U of MN, and the proposed streetcar/light rail lines are on target and exciting to contemplate.

Along with locations ripe for development came advice of how to accomplish turning these areas into space that will create new jobs:  Mind the Municipal Basics; Use Incentives Sparingly; Project a Pro-Job Vision; and Think Regionally.

The first three are certainly important city-making principles, but the fourth is the one that resonates with me.

As leaders of its largest municipal component part, Mpls. officials bear particular obligation to think regionally, not parochially.”

AMEN to that.  R.T. Rybak working with Chris Coleman have done much to further that idea.  I have personally benefitted from that as I participated the last two years in city-making residencies with national and international experts –sponsored by these two cities.

So if the mayoral candidate you are leaning towards is not well-versed in this, and ready and able to pick RTs banner, please go back to the list and chose another!

More on this topic tomorrow when we take a look at the second and third editorials pertaining to this overall goal.

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MEET THE PRESS REACTIONS to “Unprecedented Actions” about Syria:

September 15, 2013

I have watched this unfold from a different perspective than most…I watched with a brain full of ideas and thoughts I’ve gathered in the last ten years as I noticed a new way of thinking emerge in 2004-6.  I have experimented with that way of thinking  in my business with unbelievable good results, even though it was a “messy” way of doing things. And so, I don’t think of myself as that borderline traditionalist/boomer – I think of myself as an older person who sees a bright future ahead and tested that in the business world.  That continues to impact my business; it swayed how I voted in the last two elections, and has allowed me to watch Obama as the first president experimenting with a philosophy that will rule the 21st century.  And it keeps me re-evaluating over and over and still thinking our BEST option going forward is with Obama and other 21st century thinkers leading us carefully through the mine fields.

Indeed, it may cloud my thinking on Syria  so I am not feeling the same gloom and doom as I watch Obama maneuver through this latest crisis in Syria.  No, we are not the world fixers; and Syria is definitely not a clean right vs. wrong situation…so I was okay with cautiously remaining on the sidelines as the civil war progressed.  And I was okay with the use of chemical weapons creating a new crisis because it did cross a “RED LINE” – which was set almost 100 years ago-despite the spin politically to make it an “Obama Red Line”.  I have been okay with the behind the scenes negotiating attempts one last time; even as Obama went from saying “I am undecided” to “yes, we have to demonstrate consequences” and then went off to G20 for one last attempt to get the Russians to help control their stepchild.  As that all played out last week, I did not see that as weak; I saw it the continuation of testing consensus and collaboration as a governing style.  I was proud and hopeful.  Of course there are risks; of course there is Putin playing games; of course this will not bring ever-lasting peace to the Middle East.  Excuse me, but the middle east was at war throughout most of the history captured in the Christian Bible.  Do we really think we go from an ever-lasting mess to ever-lasting peace all in one week?

The only thing good I can say for sure about my thinking as I sat down this morning to watch Meet the Press is that I admit I am conflicted, and do not see this as BLACK or WHITE, and I still had hope to learn more as I listened to experts discuss their views.

9:00AM brought me into my miniature den to learn more.  I listened to the pros and cons (mostly negative comments) and I continued to come to the same conclusion I have reached in the past.

Judgment and advice are all wrapped in a myth – that myth that the US can continue with 20th century thinking and actions; it is as if we can reset, do it again and get it right.  We could have been discussing any number of world “crises” that have come before.  Each commentator (with the exception of 1-2) had a position- staked out over 50 years and that was the RIGHT way – no matter what.  A telling comment slipped out at one point – “the last victory we had in the Mideast was under Jimmy Carter.”

NO one challenged that, so if that’s the case, perhaps we need to RETHINK  what our expectations should BE about the mideast. It has been the cause of most skirmishes and political discussions my entire adult life.  If we have not figured it out in 50 years and “put them on the correct” path, perhaps it’s time we pause and ask why are we doing this.  Are there other options?

We don’t because we know the answer- we do it for OIL; that gets tangled in RELIGION; and then we wrap it all up in PRIDE…Pride that tells us that only the Americans know the right way to do anything… and we have been charged somehow with bringing democracy to the world – so all peoples can share the good life of the Americans…even if that Good LIfe is mostly concentrated in the top 1% of our citizens, and some think at least 47% cannot be helped. 

Really, folks?  One of these days, I would like to see Meet the Press take a little risk.  Instead of asking the  old men and women who are so tightly trying to hold on to influence and power, perhaps we should have a panel of 21st century commentators – perhaps we should acknowledge the US is not all aging “angry old birds” .  Those young commentators? They are not all Obama fans; they are not all wanting to go off to war; but they THINK DIFFERENTLY.  And that is the important thing.  Give the world a chance to hear how Americans coming INTO leadership positions think and why.  This old bird thinks we would be a better country for doing so.

 

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SATURDAY’S GOOD NEWS

September 14, 2013

FIRST FROM GENEVA…

It appears US-Russian may have reached an agreement this morning on how to proceed in terms of Syria’s chemical weapons…can’t wait to hear the nay-saying Andrea Mitchell’s report from Geneva; I am sure she will be shooting holes and doubt…but nevertheless, I believe “it’s working”.

Kerry’s address from Geneva is now available on NBC News.

ALL’S WELL AT UM…but WHAT ABOUT THE PRESS?

The recent study on Administrative costs at the University of Minnesota refutes the Wall Street Journal’s claim that it was tops in spending in 72 public research universities they reviewed.

Not only nice to know they were wrong, but it did indeed start the conversation; and a responsible plan from Governor Dayton then tied the U’s funding to doing an evaluation.    While the study was taking place, the University proceeded with its own financial review and determined that there were things that could be changed; mostly through attrition and some re-org and as a result, they will save $90 million over the next six years – despite the fact the independent study of the U put it at the BOTTOM end of the spectrum – not the top.

So why the bad press?  Hmmmm.  Today it was reported that misleading data and reporting errors in the Wall Street Journal evaluation were the culprit.

So once again, I’ll pose my theory.  Once upon a time in the 20th century; we had BELIEVABLE NEWS and News reporters.  Today we have NEWS for ratings-not necessarily truthful news.

Of course we cannot go back and capture that time, but how do we either hold the press accountable for the truth OR educate the citizens not to believe everything they hear without doing a little fact checking  themselves?

As I think about it, I sadly agree we can no longer hold our Press accountable so instead, we need to shift our thinking.  How do we educate our citizens to understand that, and then teach them how to dig for the truth themselves instead of believing their favorite newscaster walks on water?  Yes, we have always had strongly disagreeing politicians, and we have always had scandal sheets, but where are Edward R Morrow and Huntly-Brinkly when we most need them?

TED TALKS TODAY…

TED featured eight views of mental illness this morning.  I was so pleased I took the time to watch some of them or I would have missed Temple Grandin.  Her talk this morning on autism was fabulous.  It was totally in keeping with recent things I have been reading.  Autism is not a mental illness; not something to hide, but indeed, we need to determine where each brain is on the continuum and direct development efforts to that strength, instead of “special ed” because they do not fit in.  I’ve shared stories in past blogs on this; I become more and more convinced that there is a good part of our education system over past 50 years that reflected suburban design and continues to remind me of that old song  “Little Boxes” …and they all looked just the same…or they were rejected.

Grandin made a passionate case for the continuum of strengths of a brain, and identifying where each of us are on that continuum so that we can direct development to that strength; then match that to careers and jobs. AMEN to that!

AND SOME PRESONAL GOOD NEWS….

For some time now, I have noticed a particular ghosty image has appeared on my computer screen in the morning.  Every so often, I would see a transparent circle with a distinctive rim superimposed on whatever I was looking at on my laptop.  Sometimes it was one circle- sometimes it was two.

And each time, the image reminded me of a contact lens.  So every time it appeared, I got distracted trying to make sense of how I could all of a sudden “see” my lenses…and occasionally I would stray off into “what if” and start worrying that it was not my contact, but perhaps it was something wrong with my eye. 

But it would disappear and quickly I would forget all about it – until the next time.

LOL!  It happened again this morning, but since it was Saturday, I was cleaning my contacts and that meant I was wearing my glasses.  Even I could figure out that that meant it was NOT a reflection of contact lens. J    But as I looked more closely, I saw FOUR circles reflected on the screen and I finally figured it out.

It was sunny; the sun was streaming through the side balcony window; it was hitting the wall beside me  which contains a display of plates…with gold rims.  The reflection was then bouncing onto the computer screen  – and if that screen image included a dark background, I could see the rims of the plates superimposed on the screen.

Good thing I didn’t call the optometrist asking for an emergency appointment.   How embarrassing would that have been?  Instead of a new set of contacts, I may have just been locked up!