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    History May Define These Days But How Will We Shape Tomorrow

    Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

    Ten years from today, historians will likely still be debating how exactly did the nation elect Donald Trump as president.  By then—if there has not been an even greater catastrophe—a plethora of books will be written about the factors that made it possible to elect someone so unqualified for the presidency.  I can imagine a bookstore full of aa range of books on the Russian interference, voter suppression, a poor campaign strategy by Democrats and the unintended consequences of globalization antagonizing workers in rust belt states will fill a book store. 

    The book we should be writing now is what Democrats got wrong in 2015.  What opportunity did we miss to position the progressive agenda in the US?    

    Based on an NPR story by Ron Elving the events surrounding President Barack Obama’s nominee for Supreme Court Justice, Merrick Garland.   When Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel proudly rebuked the President’s choice there weren’t any massive street protests.   Let’s face it: we all thought that person was going to be Hilary Clinton and that Garland would be named during her presidency.  If that seat on the Supreme Court had been filled as it should have been—the safe guards on a balance of power would be in place and frankly I'd sleep better at night.

    The essential question now is what are we missing today that poses the same existential threat to our nation’s progress for civil rights and social justice? What are we not doing today that will make the nation fall short of its highest ideals?  Let’s not allow the daily distraction of the outrageous statements coming from the White House distract us from doing the work that needs to be done to get back on track.   


    Is there an App for Business Ethics? 

    Surprisingly yes.
    Climate change. Access to healthcare for all.  Pay equity.  Protection of natural resources. Safe drinking water. Access to education   It's a long list of issues that will soon no longer rest in the hands of our federal government.  As long standing regulations that protected lives, allowed equal access to education, and protected the environment continue to be eliminated or diminished, these issues are now in the hands of people you and I did not elect.  Welcome in the new stewards of America's future:  The C-suite, corporate board members and industry thought leaders now control our destiny.  These men (and some women) are now in the position to make decisions that ignore the regulations they had followed for the past 8 years or simply abandon them.  
    This past week the Environmental Protection Agency was directed to shelve the gas mileage efficiency requirement of cars produced in the US.  It's just one of many policy changes that will be discussed in corporate board rooms in the months ahead.  Picture anywhere from 7 to 15 powerful and experienced business leaders discussing this reality:  Should we stay the course and follow these EPA requirements or not?  It's that simple.  It's that complex.  Corporate governance is fraught with compelling conflicts---if we keep shareholder value as our highest priority, holding to more rigorous standards may hurt profitability.  If we abandon the goals set forth by past legislators eager to reduce climate change, our brand may suffer--especially among key segments of our customer base.  The discussion will be flooded with data to review on costs of production, market share, consumer activism  and yes, the politics of going against the political climate in Washington, DC.  
    We are entering an era when corporate social responsibility, business ethics and conscious capitalism may be all we have as a nation to keep the American Dream a true reality.  The Fortune 500 CEOs and their roughly 6,000 board of directors have our future in their hands.  Santa Clara University's Markkula Center for Applied Ethics publishes a wealth of papers on the complex factors that weigh on business ethics.  And yes, they've published a free app for ethics available on Google Play and the App Store.  Unfortunately only 1,000 downloads have taken place among Android users.  It asks the user key questions about the utility of a decision, the rights of those impacted, the justice of actions to be taken, the furtherance of the common good, and yes the virtue of an action.  These are not the normal conversations of boards but they should be now more than ever.  America's future is riding on the leaders who can still "do the right thing".  There is a business case to be made that the US may indeed be under a populist leader but activist shareholders and consumers can and do yield their power.  Combine that with speed of social media and consumers have yet another way to cast their vote. Uber's recent debacle on crossing the strike leveraged by taxi's at JFK Airport during the ban on Muslim immigrants is one useful lesson that others may need to heed.  Ethics in governance takes time to develop. Consumers activism is swift.  



    My 2016 Election Bucket List

    There are some 68 days left before the November election and despite our ability to communicate 24/7/365 through traditional and social media, I still don't hear a lot of dialog on the issues that matter to me in this election.  Coverage of the candidate's personalities, personal choices in spouses, their personal health, their tax returns, and their choice of campaign managers is a complete distraction from what impacts me and most people daily.  The media circus on the scandals is such a distraction.  Let's think about this:  Does our health improve because of the candidates' health status.  Does our financial security change because of how much they each paid in taxes.  Do our lives get better because of the emails sent or not sent?  No.  I get the optics of all the hours spent discussing this.  It makes us feel good perhaps just obsessing on all those issues and all those favorability polls that speak to the candidate's popularity.  
    But if you had the ability to summarize the list of issues that impact you and your family the most---could you name those?  Would you be able to then ask the candidates to lay out a true plan of action?  Here's my top 3 in my bucket list for Election 2016: 
    1. How is our education system preparing today's children for the big issues they will face in the future like water and food safety, climate change, or sustainable energy development.  We seem not to have enough STEM majors and yet the demand for scientists to solve more problems grows more than ever.  How are we building the foundation for future scientists that we need now and in the future?  My take: let's end the utterly ridiculous practice of linking per student spending in school districts across the nation using a community's tax base. If that isn't the biggest contributor to inequity in the nation, I don't know what else is. 
    2. What are we going to do about an ever increasing aging population that needs more health care, more financial help, and more support services?  As one of those sandwiched between offspring and aging parents, it is overwhelming to address the needs of elders who want to live independently longer and at the same time support millennials who need more financial help to launch? My take: let's see communities create affordable housing that provides assisted living to growing millions of elders or multi-generational housing so that adult children or elders can live at home longer.  
    3. Is there any possibility of a national strategy on addressing the needs of the mentally ill? Let's recognize that the stress of war, traumatic injury or physical illness, or living in poverty makes some more vulnerable to psychosocial dysfunction.  We gave up on mental hospitals in the 1980's because there was a promise of community mental health centers.  And then we gave up on those because of the exorbitant price tag for the Cold War.  The net impact is that we have a patchwork system of care for the mentally ill.  This means we will continue to see horrific suicide rates among veterans, and others who succumb to mass shootings, terrorism, and violent xenophobia.  My take: we need to create a layman's guide to a mental health check list that helps identify those suffering from mental illness sooner and make care less fragmented.  
    There you have it. My top 3 items for someone--anyone--to discuss in some meaningful way.  Tell me your top 3.  Maybe we can get some of these to be actually discussed! 

    It's Time to Recognize Extreme Bias is a Mental Illness

    Last night's massacre is about to be examined for the next news cycle from all sides: gun lobbyists, the LGBT community, and those who want a ban on Muslims entering the US.  Its shameful however that the American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association issued no position statements on this horrific act by a person who is almost certainly mentally ill.  While acknowledging support for the victims is standard course for any professional organization, the events of the last few years that highlight the degree to which bigotry can motivate an individual to horrific actions---killing African Americans in bible study in Charleston, killing fellow employees at a staff holiday party in San Bernardino, and killing gays in Orlando.
    The condolences and the statements of support are not enough.  A clear statement that points to the fundamental danger of extreme racism would clarify for policy makers that extreme racism is as dangerous to the health of an individual as is depression, psychosis, or addiction.
    The two largest organizations representing mental health professions may want to listen to one of their most noted member.  In 1999 Harvard professor and psychiatrist Alvin Poussaint wrote in the New York Times "Like all others who experience delusions, extreme racists do not think rationally. Instead, they create fantastical theories about who is responsible for their problems."  More recently he wrote about the Charleston shooting,   "Racist attitudes that interfere with an individual’s ability to work with people from a particular group should not in itself be considered mental illness. However, if that person believes he has to kill black people, such ideation must be examined as an expression of a mental disorder. Acting out extermination fantasies is readily classifiable as a delusional and a psychotic disorder. To continue perceiving extreme racism as normative and not pathologic is to lend it legitimacy."

    While its not enough to label a problem, it does create a different set of reactions.  Poussaint raises a vital part of the debate on extreme prejudice and bias.  Both Associations have a responsibility to engage the full extent of their resources in addressing one of the nation's greatest challenges with conviction.  Extreme bias is extreme delusion. 



    Taking Down a Known Gunman vs Men of Color

    This weeks "shooting of the hour" (doesn't it seem like that now?) at the Planned Parenthood offices in Colorado will be portrayed as a reminder of conditions that elevate the chances anyone of us will be killed because of a cause we may or may not care to understand or at the hands of a lunatic with a gun. Given the assailant's remarks at the time of his arrest--its clear Robert  Lewis Dear believed the rhetoric about Planned Parenthood that gets spewed by politicians determined not to speak the facts.  The fact is just 3% of their services are abortion related. Ninety-seven percent of Planned Parenthood's services are basic health care services for families. 
    But this story a bigger opportunity and major network news outlets need to do more than cover the shootings. 
    I have yet to hear mainstream media ask this question:  How did this assailant get captured without a scratch?  How did this killer escape without being hit by a single bullet? What kind of coordinated law enforcement was used here versus in the streets of Chicago, Boston, St. Louis, Minneapolis or Baltimore?  What do the best police officers do to handle such a terrifying situation and bring it to an end without adding to the carnage?
    The #BlackLivesMatter movement has made the case in the past that white assailants or suspects in similar situations are not killed. So let's find a few brave police officers who can cross the "blue wall of silence"---(which by the way can someone tell us how this is different than the assailed "no snitching" practice among gangs)-- to speak openly on what makes it possible to take a suspect down-alive? How should the cases of the past six months been handled? Is a traffic violations, shoplifting, jay-walking or being stoned or defiant a new justification for the use of force?  And, is that just for Blacks or Latinos? 
    ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN---we need to have a town hall and include police officers, police chiefs, district attorneys and community members to address the facts:
    Let's use an hour (or two) to hold the conversation on the new standards in policing--our communities are long over due for answers on what's placing our young men at risk.