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The elephant in the room is self-interest

“I think we need political courage and will right now. We need big bold ideas. We’re not going to solve these problems incrementally by putting bandaids on things. If this was a business the business would be bankrupt… We need transformation and that transformation comes from leadership. We’re in a crisis, we need decisiveness… I don’t think this is that hard. What’s hard is when you get people in a room who have ideology and re-election and polling. The elephant in the room is not the problem, it’s self-interest.” –Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz on CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS on Sunday. (Photo credit: Cody Simms)

Howard Schultz: “A stunning lack of leadership & courage throughout Washington”

This morning Starbucks has announced some interesting community partnerships that will profit-share in neighborhoods like Harlem and the Bronx. We just mentioned Starbucks yesterday with news that its CEO Howard Schultz was recommending that companies consider sitting out this election cycle until the kids in Washington start behaving like grownups. What an interesting turn of events this would be: Our elected leaders stop leading and our companies stop funding their expensive campaigns to keep the jobs they aren’t doing; take the money and lead themselves… Check out the initiative at www.starbucks.com

Tim Pawlenty: Fusion… good for yogurt, bad for civics?

“There’s a fusion of news and politics and entertainment now in a way where just experience, just knowledge, just policy grasp and presentation isn’t enough. There has to be an entertainment or schtick or novelty component to it to capture and sustain the public’s interest, and to lead it, and that’s part of leadership, to have that dynamic quality. As I like to say jokingly, it’s the Kardashian’s world… We’re just living in it.” — Former Minnesota Governor and presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty (R) on Morning Joe

(Photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

Even Starbucks is annoyed

September 2011

Dear Starbucks Friend and Fellow Citizen:

I love our country. And I am a beneficiary of the promise of America. But today, I am very concerned that at times I do not recognize the America that I love.

Like so many of you, I am deeply disappointed by the pervasive failure of leadership in Washington. And also like you, I am frustrated by our political leaders’ steadfast refusal to recognize that, for every day they perpetuate partisan conflict and put ideology over country, America and Americans suffer from the combined effects of paralysis and uncertainty. Americans can’t find jobs. Small businesses can’t get credit. And the fracturing of consumer confidence continues.

We are better than this.

Three weeks ago, I asked fellow business leaders to join me in urging the President and the Congress to put an end to partisan gridlock and, in its place, to set in motion an upward spiral of confidence. More than 100 business leaders representing American companies – large and small – joined me in signing a two-part pledge:

First, to withhold political campaign contributions until a transparent, comprehensive, bipartisan debt-and-deficit package is reached that honestly, and fairly, sets America on a path to long-term financial health and security. Second, to do all we can to break the cycle of economic uncertainty that grips our country by committing to accelerate investment in jobs and hiring.

In the weeks since then, I have been overwhelmed by the heartfelt stories of Americans from across the country, sharing their anguish over losing hope in the strongest and most galvanizing force of all – the American Dream. Some feel they have no voice. Others feel they no longer matter. And many feel they have been left behind.

We cannot let this stand.

Please join other concerned Americans and me on a national call-in conversation on Tuesday September 6th hosted by “No Labels,” a nonpartisan organization dedicated to fostering cooperative and more effective government. To learn more about the forum and the pledges, visit www.upwardspiral2011.org

America is at a fragile and critical moment in its history. We must restore hope in the American Dream. We must celebrate all that America stands for around the world. And while our Founding Fathers recognized the constructive value of political debate, we must send the message to today’s elected officials in a civil, respectful voice they hear and understand, that the time to put citizenship ahead of partisanship is now.

Yours is the voice that can help ignite the contagious upward spiral of confidence that our country desperately needs.

With great respect,

Howard Shultz

chief executive officer, Starbucks Coffee Company


(Thanks to – who else but – Lea Marshall)

Differences in liberal vs. conservative brain stucture found

A British study released Thursday in Current Biology further supports theories that there far more to political difference than just who we vote for. It’s already been shown that there are differing levels of brain activity in the amygdala and upper brain cortex in liberals and conservatives, but apparently there is also a difference in the size of each part of the brain. Conservatives have more brain mass in their amygdala, the region of the brain associated with fear. Liberals have a larger anterior cingulate cortex which is associated with managing uncertainty and conflict. It’s anybody’s guess as to whether the political bent affected the size of the brain region or if the brain differences started the whole shebang. It continues to be our assertion that it’s understanding where people are coming from – differences in brain and all – that makes all the difference in having a constructive civic dialogue with them. Read all »

“F” is for FAIL

Lately TV reports have been abuzz with Speaker John Boehner’s recent comment that budget cuts being recommended by the Republicans in Congress might result in job losses.

Those inclined to dislike Boehner are paraphrasing his comment this way: “If we lose jobs, so be it.” And they imply that he actually likes the idea that you might get fired, mean guy that he is.

This isn’t fair and here’s what Boehner actually said: “In the last two years, under President Obama, the federal government has added 200,000 new federal jobs. If some of those jobs are lost, so be it. We’re broke.”

Granted, some disagree with Speaker Boehner that there is any relevant distinction between whether a job lost is a private or public sector one, but it’s certainly consistent with his philosophy that he thinks there is one. Read all »

John McCain on civil discourse.

“It probably asks too much of human nature to expect any of us to be restrained at all times by persistent modesty and empathy from committing rhetorical excesses that exaggerate our differences and ignore our similarities. But I do not think it is beyond our ability and virtue to refrain from substituting character assassination for spirited and respectful debate.” — Senator John McCain, excerpted from an op-ed in today’s Washington Post

Clinton + Bush

Larry King interviewed George H.W. and Barbara Bush last night – an interview I’d highly recommend you catch if you can see it in its entirety (I think they replay over the weekend). Most Americans will hear the sound byte of Mrs. Bush zinging Sarah Palin that managed to make our daily media do-loop, but here’s what we thought was the relevant news:

President George H.W. Bush: “I have a very good personal relationship with [Bill Clinton].

Larry King: (to Barbara Bush) “What do you think of his relationship with Bill?” Read all »

Chivalry (and civility): Possibly not dead yet?

Kudos to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R) for putting it to a heckler at a Meg Whitman campaign event:

“We’re here talking about the future of the state of California and the future of our country. It’s people who raise their voices and yell and scream like you that are dividing this country. We’re here to bring this country together, not divide it.”

Republican Senator Tom Coburn does Village Square

Senator Tom Coburn (R- OK) made comments in a town hall last week with a little bit of something for everyone. For The Village Square, Republican Coburn stuck up for rival Democrat Nancy Pelosi, calling her “a nice lady” to a crowd that didn’t want to hear that.

But what was most interesting was to watch the coverage of different aspects of Coburn’s town hall depending on which network covered it.

At The Village Square we have observed an attendance pattern at events: People tend to come to the forum that interests them, therefore we get more conservatives when we talk taxes and and more liberals when we talk environment. We’d like to reverse the trend, for the sake of improving the civic dialogue. So… in that spirit, please note the reading instructions for this blog post:

For Republicans, please read this:

“What we have to have is make sure we have a debate in this country so that you can see what’s going on and make a determination yourself,” the Oklahoma senator said in remarks to a home-state town hall meeting… “So don’t catch yourself being biased by FOX News that somebody is no good. The people in Washington are good. They just don’t know what they don’t know.”

“I want to tell you, I do a lot of reading every day and I’m disturbed that we get things… that are so disconnected from what I know to be the facts. And that comes from somebody that has an agenda that’s other than the best interest of our country. And so please balance and be careful.”

And here is the reading assignment for Democrats:

“The motivation is not to fix health care,” Coburn told about 40 people at the Miami Civic Center. “The motivation is to put the federal government in charge of health care.

“This sounds somewhat paranoid, but I think they know this is going to fail,” he said. “Then they can say, ‘See, the government needs to be in charge of all prices doctors (charge) at all levels.’ ”

Rigging the system to fail will pave the way for “single-payer, government-run, rationed health care,” he said.

(Photo credit.)

Senator Lindsay Graham: “We should probably start with plastic forks and knives at this first one”

Two Senators have finally caught on to what The Village Square knew all along: They’d better start eating together if they want to get along. Retiring Senator Evan Bayh (D-Indiana) and Senator Lindsay Graham (R-South Carolina) wrote a joint letter requesting that the Senate convene a once a month bipartisan lunch. On today’s Face the Nation:

SENATOR EVAN BAYH (D-Indiana): Well, first, Lindsey Graham is my friend and we need more friendships across the aisle because that’s ultimately how you get principled compromise enacted. And part of this, Bob, was informed by my father’s experience where back in the day he might have philosophical or political differences but you still reach out and try to do the people’s business. So little of that takes place because there’s so little action– interactionamong senators. We have the caucus systems. So the Democrats are over here. The Republicans are over here. They hardly ever meet to listen to one another…

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: …But he’s dead right. You know we share a locker by the– by the gym. I get to– I’ve got to know Evan when– when he announced he was going to leave the Senate. A lot of Republicans said, oh, boy, we can pick up Indiana. The first thing I thought of was, oh, no. Because at the end of the day Evan has shown a willingness to reflect Indiana values which is to find middle ground because it’s in the middle of the country. I hope people respond to the lunch and I hope it will over time mean something. I know it’s silly for most Americans to think this is newsworthy but it is.

BOB SCHIEFFER: But it does sort of emphasize how bad the situation has gotten that you would propose this.

SENATOR EVAN BAYH: It’s almost tribal, Bob. And I think Lindsey is right most. Americans probably listen to this and go, well, that’s so basic it’s silly. But the caucus system really is used as an instrument of control, party control. The information that’s provided very often is designed to lead to a particular result. You spend a lot of time talking about. Well, my first day in the Senate, literally, my first day, first caucus meeting, we were already talking about the next election.

The Governator on partisanship

“The horrible thing about politics is the more they attack each other, the more they try to derail each other, the worse it is for the people.” –California Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on This Week with George Stephanopoulos

“There’s no Republican way to collect garbage”


On tonight’s Hardball, Chris Matthews, when discussing Judd Gregg bowing out of consideration for Commerce Secretary, referred to former New York Mayor John Lindsay (R), who according to Matthews said “there’s no Republican way to collect garbage.”

A wise man clearly ahead of his time.

(To my dear friend Anne: 1. Fact check, just like old times 2. More wise John Lindsay quotes 3. I remembered I always got the Ann vs. Anne wrong so I worked hard to get it right)