Bernie and Brand Integrity

Top of a special Bernie Sanders fundraising offer involving a very special custom pint of ice cream

Top of a Bernie Sanders fundraising offer involving a very special custom pint of ice cream

Farther down the page, showing the whole container

Farther down the page, showing the whole container

If you’re friends with me on Facebook, you already know I’m supporting Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primaries. And if you read this blog regularly, you know I’m both a long-time student of marketing and a long-time advocate of marketing with honesty and integrity.

In light of this, I received a mailing from one of the groups allied with the Sanders campaign, and immediately noticed some things I wanted to share.

  • The product is totally in keeping with Bernie’s message, talking about the “1%” chocolate layer on top of the ice cream
  • The video featuring Ben Cohen explaining the flavor to Jerry Greenfield, is hilarious, especially where he talks about breaking through the one percent barrier to spread the wealth (the chocolate) throughout the pint
  • Most marketers, when faced with the opportunity to offer a single unique item, set a stratospheric price—but even with a total production run of just fifty, and only one being given to this organization, the price is only $50 (once again reinforcing the brand messaging)
  • However, it’s something of a lottery; only one person gets the prize, but anyone who contributes $50 or more by the deadline gets to play
  • There are also a number of less exclusive rewards—democratizing the lottery somewhat.

If you’d like to see the other prizes, or make a donation and enter the raffle (deadline is tomorrow), visit https://secure.actblue.com/contribute/page/wewantbernie

Disclaimer and disclosures: I am not involved in any way with organizing this promotion and don’t benefit financially. I have given money to the Sanders campaign and I’ve probably also given money to Progressive Democrats of America, the sponsoring organization.

Posted in Activism, Branding, Democracy, language, Marketing Techniques and Philosophies, Marketing Trends/News, Politics, propaganda, Psychology, Social and Economic Justice Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,

We Cannot Afford “Indifference” to Trump

A friend of mine, a very successful author and marketer, a deep student of the human psyche, asked on Facebook, “Why do you love/hate Trump? (Disclaimer: I’m indifferent.)”

It was the disclaimer that got me worried. This is part of my response to him:

I have enormous respect for your analytical skills, M.______, but I question deeply your indifference…

M.______, I hope you’re pulling our legs. You of all people understand human motivations and psychology. Trump is a master marketer and manipulator. I don’t know if he’s studied NLP [Neurolinguistic Programming] (or maybe you) or if he’s actually a natural.

I do know that if he wins, I will be looking seriously at what other country I might live in for the next 4 to 8 years. I have family who died in Nazi concentration camps. I don’t want to be part of an America where ordinary citizens are rounded up because they’re Muslim or Mexican, just as my parents’ cousins were for being Jewish.

I don’t say this lightly. I consider him extremely dangerous, and it scares me that enough people in the US take him seriously enough that he’s doing well in the polls (we’ll see if this translates to actual votes).

 Some things I didn’t say to my friend:
In the courtyard of the new Reich Chancellery, the Fuhrer partakes of the "one-pot" communal stew meal in the company of invited fellow citizens. Photo by Heinrich Hoffman, courtesy New York Public Library

In the courtyard of the new Reich Chancellery, the Fuhrer partakes of the “one-pot” communal stew meal in the company of invited fellow citizens. Photo by Heinrich Hoffman, courtesy New York Public Library

 But my deep message to my friend is that we cannot afford indifference. Let’s remember that Hitler was democratically elected, and that Berlin in the 20s was a liberal, arts-centered city. We must not get complacent. We must not think “it can’t happen here.” And we must not be swallowed by indifference.
Posted in Branding, Business Ethics, Diversity, Ethics in Government, language, Marketing Trends/News, media-general, Politics, propaganda, Psychology Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,

To Achieve Goals—Measure Progress

Shel reading at the exercise bike. Photo by D. Dina Friedman

In the fall of 2011, my doctor told me, “you’re on the border for diabetes.” That scared me into action. I’d been aiming for an hour of exercise per day and requiring myself a minimum of 30 minutes (travel days and the very rare sick days excepted). I immediately doubled that. (I also looked at my diet.)

For the next three+ years, I dutifully tracked the number of minutes of exercise I did each day—but I didn’t track the results cumulatively. My pound-shedding had plateaued, and I decided that starting on January 1, 2015, I’d log the minutes each day on that month’s calendar page.

At the end of January, I totaled it up—and was shocked to discover that far too great a percentage were much too close to the one-hour mark. Although I did have 9 days where I exceeded 120 (including two days of 160 minutes) and four days at exactly 120, that meant I failed to make two hours 22 out of 31 days. I had too many with numbers like 63, 65, 75, and even one total bust with only 30 minutes. Tracking over the course of the month made me realize how I was letting myself cheat. My total exercise for January 2015 was only 2277 minutes, with a paltry daily average of 73.45.

But here’s the thing: because I was tracking, I was able to adjust. For the remaining 11 months, I never got less than 3290 minutes (February). Many of them were in the 3600 to 3900 range, and in October, I actually went past 4000. The difference even between 2277 and 3290 is an extra 16.88 hours of exercise between January and February—not too shabby. I ended the year with 42,178 minutes of exercise, or an average of 115.55 minutes a day. If I drop January off the average, it goes to 119.46, or just a whisker under my goal of 120 minutes. Because I was tracking, I ended the year averaging an hour and fifty-five minutes, versus an hour and thirteen in January. That’s a significant increase.

Shel reading at the exercise bike. Photo by D. Dina Friedman

Shel reading at the exercise bike. Photo by D. Dina Friedman

Since I do a lot of my reading (and a lot of my exercise, especially in the winter) on the exercise bike, I decided to also track how many books I read. In 2015, I read 89 books. Some of these were monsters in the 500 or 600-page range. Others were quick and easy Young Adult novels of 100-150 pages. Many were business/environmental/social change books, including at least one a month for my review column. But I read more fiction and memoir, by far. This is an outgrowth of a resolution I made several years ago to do at least five minutes of pleasure reading per day. Once I started using the exercise bike regularly, this was a resolution that was easy to exceed.
The proof? I went back to the doctor this summer, and my blood work was all in the normal range (yay!).

Posted in Shel's Personal Life Tagged with: , , , ,

Donald Trump Unmasked…In 1979!

Caricature of Donald Trump by DonkeyHotey, Creative Commons License: https://www.flickr.com/photos/donkeyhotey/5471912349/sizes/m/in/photostream/

Caricature of Donald Trump by DonkeyHotey, Creative Commons License: https://www.flickr.com/photos/donkeyhotey/5471912349/sizes/m/in/photostream/

This 1979 profile of Donald Trump in the Village Voice should be mandatory reading–in the Know Your Enemy department. The corruption, refusal to acknowledge responsibility, self-aggrandizement, and use of other people’s money are not at all surprising. Only two things surprised me: 1) the racism goes back so far in time. I’d always thought that was a “party dress” he put on in order to run a demagogue campaign for president–but he was apparently the enforcer keeping blacks out of his father’s apartments.

2) The notorious McCarthy henchman Roy Cohn, one of the sleaziest figures in 20th-century US politics, was one of the family’s lawyers.

If Donald Trump becomes the nominee (or runs 3rd-party), we need to distill some of the central points into a highly readable one-page flier and get it absolutely everywhere. If Trump is the nominee, I will personally do that flier. And I want a legion of volunteers to distribute it.

Side note: I’m proud to say my mom was one of those white Urban League volunteers mentioned in the article, who determined if an apartment was *really* “already rented” after a family of color was refused. I have no idea if she was involved in the Trump Village investigation–probably not, since she lived far away in the Bronx.

I do find it deeply ironic that he has managed to build a meme that as a “self-made man,” he has so much money, he can’t be bought. He and his father got their money in the first place by leveraging political connections and doing deals with little or no skin in the game, if the article is accurate (and I have high confidence that it is).  What is self-made is not his wealth, but his image.

Posted in Business Ethics, Ethics in Government, Politics Tagged with: , , , , ,

If You Hire Stupid People, Customers Will Think You’re Stupid

The brain of a call center clerk ("Call Center Dave," by Ray Smithers)-graphic
The brain of a call center clerk ("Call Center Dave," by Ray Smithers)-graphic

The brain of a call center clerk (“Call Center Dave,” by Ray Smithers)

Dear business owners and bureaucrats: If you fill your customer positions with stupid people, or if you don’t empower them to address issues that come up, you damage your own brand.

All customer service people are by definition part of your marketing team. If they perform badly, they drive customers away.

I’ve just had one-too-many encounters with a stupid person in a customer service position, and I realize I won’t get any real work done until I can blow off some steam. So I may as well blow that steam as a blog post. I’m overdue for a good rant in this space.

I’m helping an 85-year-old, not-very-computer-savvy Japanese citizen renew his passport. The Japanese Consulate Boston website says their online renewal form only works with PCs; my friend has a 12-year-old Mac. So I called them to get an application form mailed to him.

The idiot I spoke to was amazingly UNhelpful. First she said we had to send a self-addressed 9×12 envelope to Boston with $1.20 in postage just to get the forms. And then she refused to give me the consulate’s address and told me to get it off the website (which is in Japanese, which I don’t read). I actually had to yell at her before I could pry the street address out of her.

You would think they could simply mail out the packet, and tack an extra $5 onto the renewal fee if using postal mail.

This has the effect of pushing Japan farther down on the list of countries I’d like to visit.

It also got me thinking about the hundreds of times I’ve encountered an employee charged with “customer service” who either didn’t have a clue about what customer service actually means, or haven’t been empowered to actually deal with situations that come up.

I’m remembering in particular the time (about ten years before they went out of business) that I was in a Blockbuster Video and I saw a sign with great language about how they empowered every one of their employees to do right by their customers. I was writing a book on marketing (as usual 😉 ) at that time, and I asked the counter clerk for permission to photograph the sign so I could quote it in my book. And this disempowered employee in this supposedly enlightened store said he didn’t have authority and I’d need to ask headquarters!

It wasn’t so much his inability to let me do what I asked. It was the disconnect between what the sign said and the 180-degree-opposite reality that completely wrecked my perception of Blockbuster’s brand. I never set foot in a Blockbuster again. They lost a decade of my business for being stupid.

Then there was the chief mechanic at my local Toyota dealer, who called me after several days of non-response to my status queries and told me I had 24 hours to get my car off his lot, and by the way, the engine is in pieces in the trunk. I was so appalled I wrote a long letter to the VP of customer service for the United States, and I never went back to that dealer for anything else, ever, not even a tube of touch-up paint. I drove 40 extra miles round trip when I needed something from a Toyota dealer. And the next time I bought a new car, it wasn’t a Toyota. That mechanic threw away 20 years of brand loyalty and a lifetime customer value in the hundreds of thousands.

Let me say it differently: front-line customer service reps are either your marketing ambassadors (think Southwest Airlines, Nordstrom, Ritz-Carlton) or your marketing saboteurs. Which do you choose to represent you?

Posted in Business-general, Customer Service as Marketing, Marketing Techniques and Philosophies, Psychology, Shel's Personal Life Tagged with: , ,

My Three “Brogan Words” to Inspire During 2016

Dean Cycon, CEO, Dean's Beans, jamming with musicians in Rwanda

Dean Cycon, CEO of Dean’s Beans, making music in Rwanda

This may be the most personal and vulnerable post I’ve ever written, particularly when I talk about the second word.

Every year, Chris Brogan challenges his huge reader base to come up with three words to provide focus for the coming year. This year, I decided to take the challenge. My three words are:

  1. Transform
  2. Win
  3. Love

Here’s what they mean to me, and why I picked them:

Transform

First, there’s the social transformation I want to bring about by transforming the business world. I want to end the biggest crises of our time, and I see the business community as the best lever. Appealing to enlightened self-interest—the profit motive—I want to make the bottom-line business case that just as going green saved costs and increased revenue, so too can addressing big picture issues like how to turn hunger and poverty into sufficiency, war into peace, and catastrophic climate change into planetary balance. When I first started talking a great deal about going green as a profit booster, around 2002, people looked at me funny. Now, it’s common business wisdom. I think the same will be true eventually for creating profitable products, services, and a company DNA that address these issues at their roots.

Second, the transformation in my own business. I see consulting, speaking, and writing on how business can bring about that transformation (and how any particular business can develop and market the right social change products and services for its own culture and markets) as a major part of my business in the coming year, and for the rest of my working life. While I’ve been thinking about these things for many years, have written books and given talks about it, I still have to find the markets that are willing to pay for what I know I can do for them. I go into the year with two possible markets that are quite different: small entrepreneurial and startup companies, and large, established corporations. I’ve developed two different websites for these audiences, because the agenda, methodology, timetable, and price structure will be very different.

All of this is a natural outgrowth of the green business profitability work I’ve done the past several years—but while it builds on the past work, it is different. I’m confident that I can make it work, but am still a bit fuzzy on the how. Which brings us to the second word:

Win

My original choice was “succeed,” but then I went to Chris’s post. He chose “win” as one of his words, and I think it’s like success, but stronger. It can also work as both a noun and a verb, as can my third word.

Also, I feel that on many levels other than the material, my life IS a success. I made a conscious decision about 30 years ago to have a happy life, and I’ve made good on that: I love the marriage I’m in, the house and community where I live, the places I visit, the local organic fresh food I eat, the books I read, the performances I watch, and so on. That decision rippled through all areas of my life. As early as 1985, it was the difference between feeling angry and frustrated and cheated when I had to spend an entire day of precious vacation mailing packages back to myself, as the old me would have—and thinking, even before I was married, about the wonderful story I’d have to tell my grandchildren.

But there are two areas where I need to replace that general feeling of success with a clear, strong victory: the economic underpinning of my business (which has now had two low-producing years in a row while I retooled for the transformation)…and the deeper impact of my work on the world.

The problem with having many interests and multiple skill areas is that it’s really hard to focus. When everything is fascinating, how do you choose? Yet, to succeed—to win—you have to close some doors so you can pass through the doors that remain open.

This is the lens: I’m using to help me choose what to focus on:

Over the past few years, I’ve worked hard to overcome a case of what my friend Noah St. John calls “success anorexia.” I’ve looked at my money/success blocks, and overcome a number of them. But, watching my own failures doing things that have worked really well for others, I realize there’s still some hidden piece, deep in my subconscious, that courts failure. I need to find that piece, hold it up to the light, make an alliance with—and redirect—the parts of it that act out of love, excise the parts that are rooted in self-hatred, and have a clear win. This will be difficult, because I don’t even know what it is that’s holding me back. But it’s essential.

Once that hurdle is overcome, I want to look at how to broaden my impact. I have a great message and great examples of how we can solve these big problems. But for that to really change the world, I need to find tens of thousands, maybe millions of people who are open to that transformational message. None of my books have ever sold more than a few thousand copies. My blog and social media audiences are limited. The number of people who hear me speak in a year is much too small. The second big win I need is to get myself in front of a far larger number of people. That this will help with selling more books, doing more paid speaking to larger audiences, and getting more consulting gigs—in other words, contributing to the win I’m looking for in my own blocks—is an extra benefit. At age 59, I have a limited time to make a big impact on the world. I want to leave a legacy of creating deep transformational change, because I love this planet. And that’s a nice transition to the third word.

Love

Love of others and of self, love of the ecosystem and the planet. In my youth, I was a very angry, loud activist who felt utterly betrayed by governments and corporations and wasn’t good at finding common ground or seeking alliances with those who thought or felt differently from me. Over the years, I’ve learned how mistaken I was—starting all the way back in the 1970s. Some might say I’ve softened but I don’t see that way. I’ve learned to approach with love, respect, and an understanding that almost all of us want a better world; we just have different ways of understanding how to bring it about.

Love is often about deep listening. It’s also about seeking a higher good for a greater number of people, without sacrificing the needs and desires of others. It’s about building the communication skills to allow environmentalists and Tea Partiers to discover their common ground (something I talk about very specifically in my 10th book, Guerrilla Marketing to Heal the World).

Going deeper, this is what allows even the most hate-filled opponents to go past the hurt and build a better world for everyone. Nelson Mandela was a master of this. So were the people who formed the various Arab-Israeli joint projects such as the magnificent Wahat al-Salam/Neve Shalom community in Israel, where Jews and Arabs study and work together—the name, in both languages, translates as “Oasis of Peace”—or Combatants for Peace, which pairs Arab and Israeli former combatants to travel around and speak about cooperation.

It’s easy to love those who agree with you. It’s much harder to love those you might blame for the death of a loved one or the loss of your land. I have tremendous admiration for those involved in these sorts of cooperative efforts and I want to be more like them.

What are your three words?

Posted in Corporate Social Responsibility, Eco-friendly, Energy & Sustainability, Entrepreneurship, Environment, Green Business, Innovation, Marketing Techniques and Philosophies, Networking, Peace and War, People Helping People, poverty, Psychology, Shel's Personal Life, Social and Economic Justice Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

2016: A GREAT Year for Green—My New Year’s Prediction

Earth Lightning, by Stephanie Hofschlaeger

Photo by Stephanie Hofschlaeger

2016 is going to be a GREAT year for the green world, and the green business world in particular. I thought so even before two developments this past week that make me even more optimistic:

  1. COP21, the historic climate change agreement signed by 197 countries at the Paris summit, will cause pressure from governments and their citizens
  2. The US has extended the tax credit package on solar and wind (slated to expire at the end of 2016) for five years—adding as much as 39 gigawatts of clean energy

Add in the widely spreading understanding in the  business world that going green the right way slashes costs, boosts revenues, and generates profit, and it’s not surprising that 2016 will be a year of great progress. (If you don’t yet see the connection, order a copy of my new book, Guerrilla Marketing to Heal the World. It’s got hundreds of examples ranging from Fortune 100 to solopreneurs.)

Expect to see lots more high-level research, looking for holistic steps that create big jumps in energy efficiency and big reductions in waste. Already, we’ve made amazing technological leaps within just the past couple of years. I’ll name two among hundreds:

  1. Approaches like biomimicry—modeling how nature solves complex problems—will let sustainability ripple through the whole culture, relatively rapidly.
  2. Electrical storage (a major restraint on renewable energy growth) has made huge strides, including the vaunted Tesla battery systems.

All is not sunshine and roses, of course. The Act of Congress that extended the clean-energy tax credits also opened up the door for some of the worst kind of carbon-intensive development: exporting the dirtiest types of fossil fuel energy. Public pressure—activism in the streets, in the boardrooms, and in the halls of legislative power—must hound every proposal to put in fracking, use or transport tar-sands oil, build unnecessary pipelines, etc.

One key meme has to be “honor the commitments we made at COP21.”

If the business community, especially, makes it clear that it expects the US to do its part in meeting the targets, and that exporting fossil fuels across oceans will work against this, that open door may stay largely unused. But it will take vigilance.

One not-so obvious trend

The above predictions are relatively mainstream in the green world, even if they appear startling to those outside of it. Let me conclude with a much more “out-there” proposition:

Businesses will go beyond merely going green. Sustainability will be seen as a first step. More and more companies will be going beyond sustainability to create a world where hunger and poverty turn into sufficiency, war into peace, and catastrophic climate change into planetary balance.

Why? Because they will see enormous profit opportunities, and because it feels so much better to oneself, employees, neighbors, suppliers and other stakeholders to see making the world better as a key success metric. How? I wrote a whole book to answer that question.

Posted in Activism, Business-general, Democracy, Energy & Sustainability, Environment, Green Business, Innovation, Politics, Protests and Crackdowns, Social and Economic Justice Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,

When the Right Thing ISN’T the Right Thing—And How to Do it Better

Offshore oil platform. Photo by Freddie Hinajosa

Offshore oil platform. Photo by Freddie Hinajosa

A petition crossed my desk this morning that called for President Obama to unilaterally ban oil exports. Here’s the text:

With the crude oil export ban lifted, oil companies will be pushing to speed the export of fracked crude oil and ramp up production, and we’ll be fighting every step of the way to prevent it. The budget deal preserves a straightforward way to do so: President Obama can declare a national emergency and prohibit exports.

In rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline, Obama acknowledged the need to keep fossil fuels in the ground. In his final year in office, he can still build a positive climate legacy if he prohibits oil exports under the new law and ends new auctions of publicly owned oil, gas, and coal on federal lands as hundreds of environmental organizations and community leaders have petitioned him to do.

I totally agree that oil exports will be a big step backward in the struggle to stave off catastrophic climate change. But not with this method! I not only won’t sign, I’ll work against it, as I’m dong by writing this blog.

I don’t think they’ve thought through the implications here.

This budget deal was a hard-fought compromise where both sides had to give a lot to get anything through. To stab that agreement in the back while the ink is barely dry would be to put a stake through the heart of bipartisan government. It would be, quite frankly, a betrayal. And I would call it unethical.

And the Republicans would not forget, and not let anybody else forget. If you think they beat the drums on Benghazi or Hillary’s email issue, you “ain’t heard nothing yet.” NOTHING that would require Republican cooperation would be passed again, for decades. As we enter into the 2016 campaign, the mantra would be “you can’t trust the Democrats; they betrayed us and they will betray us again.” And this time, they’d be correct.

I’m guessing the consequences would include 12 to 20 years of Republican presidents with veto-proof Congressional majorities. No, thank you! I don’t want to hand them the ability to wreck everything we’ve worked for during the 250 years of our country’s history.

So what can we do instead? So glad you asked. Here are a three ideas (among many other possibilities):

  • Start a massive lobbying campaign aimed at Republicans in Congress. Let them feel big pressure from their own constituents, telling them that climate change is a deal-breaker issue for you at election time, reminding them that the US pledged to make serious climate change progress at COP21 (the Paris climate accord signed earlier this month) and that fossil fuel exports—incompatible with that commitment—are not acceptable. Use the argument that the US needs to be seen internationally as a government that keeps its promises and honors its commitments if we want other countries to work with us. Add a national pressure campaign at the top GOP legislators, those in positions of great power within their own party. Push the Republicans to introduce a ban on fossil fuel exports as if it were their idea. If the Democrats can run with Obamacare, which was based on Republican proposals in the 1990s, why can’t the Republicans steal Democrats’ issues?
  • Turn to the business community for binding pledges NOT to participate in fossil fuel exports. If necessary, pick one company at a time to threaten with boycotts and shareholder resolutions. Organize stock divestment campaigns and large public demonstrations in front of the corporate offices, not just of the targeted company but of any of the “players” if they move forward.  Get a few smaller players to move before going after ExxonMobil.

    Use the stick of negative pressure, but also the carrot of what they could do with that investment money that would build their reputation and their profits while avoiding all this unpleasant controversy. Have meetings with their executives to strategize better ideas.

    Big corporations hate to be seen as enemies of the people and don’t like being in the center of controversy; they’re also risk-averse.

  • (This is probably the hardest one.) Create an international pressure campaign on many fronts: Get foreign governments pledging they won’t accept US oil, gas, and coal. Get the United Nations to pass legislation making fossil fuel exports a crime against humanity. Start international boycotts and pressure campaigns against participating companies. This would not be easy to organize and might also have unintended consequences. The US is an importer of fossil fuels, so this would apply what Naomi Klein calls “the shock doctrine” to the US, forcing a mad and potentially destabilizing scramble to convert a much greater share of the US economy to renewables, and fast. So let’s start with the first two ;-).
Posted in Corporate Social Responsibility, Democracy, Energy & Sustainability, Ethics in Government, Politics, propaganda, Psychology, Socially Responsible Investing Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Despite Racism, US is Still a Beacon

So much of the news is bad right now. Both my local papers had the same depressing Associated Press article this morning. In the years since Sandy Hook, apparently, many states have made it EASIER to carry guns and basically nothing has been done to bring gun violence back to levels typical of most civilized countries.

Another article talks about the attacks by Republicans in Congress on our democratic society, on the environment and the new #COP21 climate agreement just hashed out, and even on medical benefits for 9/11/01 first responders, among the other bad stuff they have in store.

“What does he mean by ‘attacks on our democratic society?'”  you ask. I’ll answer with a couple of excerpts from the article:

The trucking industry wants to allow longer tandem trucks and block rules requiring added rest for drivers.

If you don’t think that’s an attack on our democracy, consider the consequences if the driver of a supersize truck falls asleep at the wheel and crashes into a school bus. There’s the human cost of an avoidable tragedy, of course, but also the financial burden on cities and counties already squeezed to the bone. It will be the safety net that gets shredded.

Financial companies want to ease tighter regulations imposed by the 2010 Dodd-Frank law.

Have we learned nothing from the debacle of 2007-08?

And there are efforts to repeal a law requiring that meat be labeled with its country of origin…and to block mandatory labels for genetically modified foods

Whatever happened to consumers’ right to know?

And then, of course, there’s the usual run of Islamophobic racism in our land built by immigrants, many of them refugees:

Republicans want to include a House-passed bill restricting Syrian refugees trying to enter the U.S. Faced with an Obama veto threat, that may be replaced by a measure, approved with bipartisan support by the House, restricting visa-free entry into the U.S. by many foreigners.

These Republican politicians forget that they are also descended from people who came here seeking a better life.

It happens that I sent a birthday greeting on Facebook to a Muslim (Pakistani immigrant) friend yesterday (I happened to sit next to him at a Bruce Springsteen concert several years ago, and we’ve stayed in touch). His response and the dialog we’ve had is relevant to the conversation. I reprint with his permission:

Him:
Thank you Shell….. It’s been an awesome few weeks. Finally became an American citizen and celebrated my birthday the same week.
Me:
Wow, congrats. We’ll have to change that Springsteen song (did he sing it the night we met? I don’t remember) to “CHOSE the USA!” It’s a powerful time to make that choice, with anti-Islamic crazies running high-poling campaigns for president.
Him:
Lol…. The same day I received my naturalization, Trump opened his mouth …. Lol…. It was funny…. However, the support has been wonderful from friends and coworkers.
Me:
All I can do is shake my head in wonder. He is sounding more like a Nazi. It shakes my faith in America that he has measurable support. My best hope is that he doesn’t get the nomination but gets close enough that he runs as an independent. And Hillary (more likely) or Bernie (my preferred choice) leads a Dem sweep that gets not just the WH but both houses of Congress and we can actually get some stuff done around here. Of course, US media has been playing up anti-Arab and anti-Islamic bigotry since at least the 1970s oil crisis–even though other than 9/11, Fort Hood, and this recent tragedy in California, most of the gun violence is at the hands of people who self-identify as Christian (I don’t think Christ would agree with their claim).
It just occurred to me as I hit send that this might make a good blog post. May I have your permission to reprint your comments–you can be an anonymous “Muslim friend” or I can name you.
Him:
Sure. Trump is just an attention seeking idiot. Amazing that a reality star, upstart millionaire can received so much attention …. Lol.
I’m glad he’s not deterred by recent xenophobia. Like my ancestors and yours, he will help us build a better country in the US.
Posted in Democracy, Demographics/Psychographics, Diversity, General Commentary, language, Politics, propaganda, Psychology, Shel's Personal Life, Social and Economic Justice Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

Cautiously Optimistic about #COP21

Delegates at an international meeting

A similar international meeting (in Bonn, Germany)

After the failure at Copenhagen a few years back, I didn’t have big hopes for this year’s event. Yet, I’m beginning to think the big Paris climate change conference known as #COP21 may actually accomplish some real change.

Oddly enough, my optimism is rooted in something I would have seen a few years ago as a fatal flaw: that the results will be based in voluntary, not mandatory, compliance.

Why? Because:

  1. We can’t GET mandatory compliance. In the US, that would require a yes vote in each house of Congress, or even worse, the 2/3 Senate support required to adopt a treaty. But even as far back as Kyoto, US electoral politics had become a toxic swamp of attack-dog partisanship. No climate change bill with teeth is going to pass Congress any time soon. And without US (or China’s) participation, any agreement would be useless.
  2. The US and China have already agreed to take climate seriously, and have negotiated their own agreement. Weaker than I’d like, but a heck of a good start, and one that seems to have helped apply the brakes on China’s mad rush to coal (the worst scenario for averting climate disaster).
  3. The business community has woken up. Often a force for conservatism, the business world now understands the catastrophic consequences of failure to make meaningful progress on climate change—and the profits to be made in doing the right thing. If the government won’t act, they will force action through other channels. The emergence of environmental activism among evangelical Christians and even a subset of Tea Party activists who care deeply about the environment is also very encouraging.
  4. The growing use of carbon markets provides additional financial incentives for cutting carbon.
  5. New technology makes it easier to do more with less, use. our resources far more effectively, and solve engineering problems with biological thinking (for example, letting bridge engineers study spiderwebs). We understand now, for instance, just how much energy and carbon we can save by going for deep conservation.
  6. Early discussions about whether the world should agree on a 1.5 degree Celsius vs. 2 degree C cap in global temperatures compared to what existed before the Industrial Revolution means we’ve finally gotten past the question that’s been holding us back for so long: why do we need to contain rising temperatures in the first place? For the first time, the world is pretty much in agreement that it has to be done. Not just scientists, this time, but governments, too. Climate deniers (other than in the US Republican Party leadership, apparently) are now as marginalized as environmental activists were 20 or 30 years ago.

I could keep going, but you get the message—we can do this!

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