Archive for December, 2017

Most every international, national, or community issue has a very strong local component. Be it political polarization, terrorism, or neighborhood school effectiveness, every solution begins with thoroughly understanding the audience.

Politicians must understand their voters’ needs, and those of their donors. Each is a separate audience. Education officials must understand the neighborhoods and families that shape each student. And understanding terrorists begins by understanding the neighborhoods that provide them psychological safety and time.

You will therefore find political polarization in districts that have been designed to embrace it. You will find school success stories in schools that understand their neighborhoods and families. And you will find various stages of homegrown terrorism in neighborhoods that provide them shelter.

It simply follows that if you want to bring broader choice back to elections you must work locally to change how political districts are designed. For example, you might try launching an organization something like “Citizens for Fair Elections,” raising awareness for the problem while focusing on changing those districts. Or if you want to improve the public schools you might try launching a project to better understand the neighborhoods and cultures that surround each school. And if you want to end home-grown terrorism you might try learning more about the neighborhoods and local cultures that end up sheltering it.

First, thoroughly understand the audience. It’s always the point of departure for finding real solutions. And most big issue solutions are very local.



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Have you ever worked in an organization where expert researchers were doing important scientific work and their bosses banned their use of words customarily used in their field when reporting findings? What could be the point of this, unless it is to muddy their conclusions?

The Washington Post recently reported that the Trump administration informed the Center for Disease Control (one of the world’s foremost public health research organizations) that its researchers could not use certain words in their reports. These words are: diversity, entitlement, evidence-based, fetus, science-based, transgender, and vulnerable.

Can you imagine researchers investigating the impact of the West Nile or Zika Virus on fetuses not able to use word fetus in a report?  Or a researcher investigating the impact of pest control chemicals on humans and animals not able to use the terms science-based or evidence-based? Certainly smart people can find their way around such censorship, but can they do so and keep their jobs in such a political environment?

Is this an attempt to discredit important scientific investigators?  Or is it actually the beginning of an attack on the integrity of science itself? Put another way, why should scientists ever have their report vocabulary freedom taken away?

When increasing numbers of highly qualified professionals depart government service out of frustration only plutocrats and politicos will be there to oversee diplomacy, education, health, housing, energy, clean air, disaster recovery, and many other critical programs? And if gutting institutions and programs continues in this way, soon there will be no experienced experts or talented new graduates willing to consider government service as a career?

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Imagine a bold and inspiring political entrepreneur rising up in reaction to the current mess and expanding political swamp in Washington. Imagine a whole new breed of leader with visionary ideas for bringing the best talent in the country to the task of solving domestic problems. Imagine an articulate leader fully committed to restoring global leadership by championing the traditional American values of individual freedom, justice, and human rights.

I write from the perspective of a communicator, not a political ideologue. I am a pragmatic, problem-solving oriented centrist. Sadly, both parties have become hopelessly polarized. One is desperate for legislative success at any cost. The other can’t seem to find a unified set of policies and vision for the future. And the administration is well on its way to building an autocracy by ending past global commitments and dismantling core government and social institutions.

Consider this: Can an American version of what happened in France happen here? Can a smart, visionary, nonpartisan, and articulate new leader with a forward-thinking and pragmatic set of fresh ideas find the support of enough disillusioned citizens and forward thinking donors to win the presidency?

My suggested talking points?

  1. I imagine a federal government with a bottom-up approach to problem-solving. I want to bring a core of proven and experienced experts into communities to research and find real solutions to real problems,
  2. By doing this we will bring back as many businesses and lost jobs as possible. But we will also study what “start-ups” are feasible and find the right people to develop them. These could be sustainable energy groups, modern thinking retailers, infrastructure construction projects, and other new ventures that can grow out of local human resources and talent.
  3. We will also help fund nearby schools and colleges to provide the necessary training for all these ventures.
  4. We will also use this same experienced expert consultant model to help public schools understand local neighborhood needs and design customized curricula that lead to realistic student successes.
  5. This change in approach to problem-solving will also gradually enable reducing the size of the federal government without hurting the delivery of essential public services or gutting vital institutions.
  6. That said, we simply must restore American global leadership by rebuilding the state department, bringing back highly experienced diplomats, and re-energizing citizen diplomacy initiatives.

The bottom line: A pathway to an effective smaller and leaner federal government, as well as the restoration of a values and equal justice based approach to world leadership, just might be possible with a whole new breed of nonpartisan and fresh thinking American leadership. Write your own suggested talking points, and let’s get started.

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Trying to understand all the parts and implications of the evolving House and Senate tax bills has been an exercise in futility. Reporters and legislators alike have been guilty of selective communication. Some by intent. Others because of deadline pressures and confusion. Making matters worse, what is emphasized and what is blurred or omitted varies with communicators and audiences.

  1. Citizen voters. It seems elementary that ordinary citizens whose lives will be changed by such sweeping pieces of legislation should have an opportunity to fully understand the content and make comments. In fact, one might even assume that every legislator would feel personally obliged to hold hearings to explain all of what is being considered, and then to eagerly listen for good ideas. Some ideas might even lead to useful changes. Listening before deciding always goes a long way toward gaining acceptance for later decisions… especially when its anticipated that the final product will not please everyone. But could all this just end up a total waste of time? After all, politics today has become little more than a high stakes money game.
  2. Donors. It’s clear that donors are at the top of the important audience list. And taking care of  the high stakes ones has become a matter of political job security. Those with the deepest pockets will certainly be intensely interested in anything to do with taxes. What helps businesses, large and small, will determine their expectations. As a result, statements that may reach average voters back home will be extremely content selective, while direct channels to significant donors will remain open 24 hours a day.
  3. Lobbyists. Special interest lobbyists constitute another audience with job security implications. Their daily work amounts to researching and supplying a constant stream of information and data that supports clients’ interests. But also the volumes of detailed background information they gather along the way saves legislative staffs huge amounts of time. In fact, lobby firms sometimes will even write early drafts of bills, and may even be allowed to comment on or edit later drafts. The bottom line is that lobbyists have become much too interconnected with daily operations to be denied significant final influence. So much for draining the swamp.
  4. Legislative colleagues. All this said, would it not also be politically wise to give colleagues from both parties an opportunity to read drafts and discuss them in committees and hearings. After all, if anything backfires or crashes later on, a few timely compromises now might save the day. Yes, but the fear today is that this kind of open discussion will release too much information too soon, and then those poor citizen’s back home might actually find out exactly who and what money interests are actually restructuring their lives.

The truth today is that in this instant news, polarized, and money dominated society, meeting the endless needs of big donors and ever-present lobby firms has become the name of the entire political game. As for selective  communication about tax cuts and its consequences, those whose lives will be most changed may have to wait a long time to know and feel the full impact of what really happened to them.


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