Two questions we should ask Mitt Romney

Last night, Mitt Romney conducted some hastily-organized interviews with the major networks in part to respond to the deluge of attacks by Barack Obama about his role at Bain Capital. He did not do very well because I think he was confused by the lack of understanding of corporate governance the reporters exhibited in their questions.

Ironically, as the GOP pushes to slash education budgets, more and more Americans are learning less and less about how business works. Most kids are now being trained to go to work, punch a clock and expect money for work. They don’t understand the difference between passive and active income, an executive vs a shareholder position in a corporation or the relationship of a board member to a CEO. All they know now is you are either the boss or you isn’t.

Oops. I’ll bet Mitt did not see that coming. If he had, his explanations would make as much sense to the nails ladies and the dogs walkers as they do to the 1%-ers. In short, he would not be in this pickle.

As someone who holds annual shareholder meetings with the shareholders (me) and my board (me) and my CEO (me) I understand the nuance. Is it silly? Absolutely. I should not have to generate meeting minutes where the Secretary (me) takes role call of all the directors (me) and also calls for a vote on mundane things and seconds them (me and me.) But, the letter of the law and my corporate charter is very specific so we (me) do it.

But we should really move on and away from all this legal crap and into some questions everyone understands.

Question One:
If you resigned as CEO, who specifically was then in charge? What was the organizational chart? Please name the names of who reported to whom. Will you release the Board of Directors meeting minutes that show these votes?

Question Two:
We will accept at face value that you resigned from Bain Captial in 1999. Since then, you have led the Olympics — a non profit — and were governor of Massachusetts, a public-sector job. Since being governor, you have been running for President of the United States. That is a thirteen year gap in your private-sector, for-profit business experience résumé. Please explain how this is not like a typical stay-at-home mom who may have left an executive career to raise her kids and is now trying to re-enter the workforce?

That should do it. Just two questions.

Which news organization is going to take me up on this?

.

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What Barack Obama is teaching brands and media about young consumers’ brand loyalty

barack

The news media is all abuzz about explanations as to why Barack Obama voters did not come out to elect Jon Corzine in New Jersey and Creigh Deeds in Virginia. It must be the Obama effect or a referendum on the Obama administration spending, health care, etc. And they seem genuinely surprised!

It’s just not that complicated.

The voters are loyal to Barack Obama, not the DNC brand. Nor are viewers loyal to NBC, ABC, CBS, Fox etc. In fact, the generation of voters is almost brand-blind within categories of products, services and yes, even political candidates. It doesn’t matter to them that someone has an (R) or a (D) after their name. That is so pre-Obama.

They care what the message is. They care if the candidate is speaking to them about issues they are passionate about.

And brands can no longer count on a generation of consumer to buy new products based on their brand reputation. This generation easily mixes iPods and Dell computers, Adidas shirts and Nike shoes, McDonald’s fries with Wendy’s frosties, Big Bang Theory (CBS) with The Hills (MTV).

But, the media continues to roll out the pundits who keep talking until they start believing their own spin. The scarier part is I think Sarah Palin and the GOP understand the issue. Sarah Palin is spinning herself as a product without a big brand label. Watch this for 2012 and see how right I am.

Brand loyalty is dead. Function and style is it.

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It is not about the weather, people

President Obama walked about DC without a coat.. or hat or mittens.
President Obama walked about DC without a coat.. or hat or mittens.
Barack Obama made one comment about schools closing because of a little bit of snow. According to the Washington Post, he said:

My children’s school was canceled today… Because of what? Some ice? . . . We’re going to have to apply some flinty Chicago toughness to this town.

And he wasn’t really talking about the weather. What he meant to say was.

We’ve got an economic and cultural storm brewing and you all just better tougher up, quit your whining and work together to get this country back on track.

At least that is what I heard with my super-sharp canine ears. Schools may have been closed here in Ohio as well, but we still did our three walks that day. If dogs can do it…

I’m just saying.

People need hard times and oppression to develop psychic muscles. – Emily Dickinson

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What would you do if you had $1 million dollars?

Dear President-elect Barack Obama;

I am a small business owner. I do quite well for myself as I am in a knowledge-based business servicing the youth sporting market and the retail services industries. I also dabble a bit in coffee and Web 2.0 consulting.

I was running some numbers this afternoon on the bail-out plans that have been proposed to date. As I look back on my college days some 20 plus years ago and my classes in English Literature — specifically with regard to American literature of the mid to late 1800s (Hawthorne, Dreiser, Meliville, etc) — I was struck with what is to me a strangely obvious fact. Modern capitalism has run its course and the current financial crisis is the front wave of a new economy.

At its basics, capitalism is providing money to build infrastructure for making goods and to a certain degree, providing services with the promise of a return on its sale or sale of the goods produced. Having been in a service industry all my life, I am not unaccustomed to “cramming” a product economic model (“making widgets”) into a service model. It really doesn’t work but we lied to ourselves just the same.

This country no longer makes things. We provide services; we assemble components. The old capitalist model where we invest in machinery, buildings, factories, etc for making goods is dead. It has been dying for a very long time. As such, funding the economy from the top down is not a viable option. There will be no trickle-down benefit as the economy will only swell and move if the bottom tiers start spending and buying goods and services. Yet, they can’t because they have no ready cash.

Capitalists talk in billions of dollars. Ordinary citizens talk about hundreds each week. Investment banks talk millions in transaction per day. Small business talks about hundred of thousands in revenue. When you pour $700 billion into Wall Street, it is like dumping a gallon of water into the Pacific Ocean. When you pour $1 million into a small business, it is like filling a bathtub with a fire hose.

Here is my proposal:
– Establish a fund of $400 Billion dollars.
– Give $1 Million dollar grants to 400,000 business that are ready, able and willing to provide services to a service-based economy.
– Each business can then afford to hire 6 people at a salary of $40,000. With health care, taxes, equipment, etc. that should equal about $60,000 investment for each employee.
– That leaves about $640,000 left for materials, computers, advertising, marketing, etc.
– Encourage a strong multi-generation team, such as Gen Y, Xers, Boomers and beyond. Working together, we make a difference we all want to experience.

That puts about 2.4 Million people to work, building knowledge centers for teachers, creating software to better manage health care systems, providing new event marketing systems for brands, creating better time balance management systems for new parents, perhaps even finding a cure for some diseases. The infrastructure of services you will jump-start will sustain itself well past the year the US Government will fund.

Your campaign proved the model. Small amounts of money spread across millions of people who are motivated to creating a better world than was left them works. We are ready, willing and able to make the change.

Lead us and help us say, “Yes, we can” one small voice at a time until it becomes a thunderous, mighty roar.

Warm regards,

G.

PS I look forward to seeing the new puppy Malia and Sasha pick out!

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No party for old men

It is sad what the Democrats are doing to Joe Lieberman. The only “sin” Sen. Lieberman committed was having opinions that did not quite align themselves with the new leadership. 

I looked up the Senator Oath of Office. It reads:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.

There is no mention of party loyalty, no mention of suspending personal beliefs and opinions when taking the oath, no mention of “with us or against us.”  To paraphrase from several Obama speeches, there is no Democratic Senate or Republican Senate, there is the Senate of the United States of America.

I want my senators to think for themselves. I want my senators to take risks. I want my senators to have the freedom to have liberal opinions on social reform, but conservative views on national defense. I want a healthy, authentic discussion of ideas in the US Senate. That was the mandate we gave Barack Obama, not a mandate to further divide the country with the “victor” handing out spoils of war. 

Joe Lieberman knew the risks he was taking, but I think at some level — perhaps naively, perhaps with more hope than was pragmatic — that this election cycle held two candidates, each had the ability, political capital and personal stones to rise above partisan government and lead a country. That he chose to back John McCain who eventually did not prevail is incidental to the academic argument.

President-elect Obama needs to show strong leadership with Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi. He need to put a face of cooperation, but firm leadership, on the “New Democratic Party.” All three are at a crossroads at this very moment, with Joe Lieberman being the turtle in the road.

If you have not yet read The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, read it now. Focus on the turtle. The question remains; will the Democratic Party be the truck driver that swerves to try to hit the turtle for sport or Tom Joad who shelters the turtle in his jacket. (Spoiler: the turtle prevails, despite setbacks…)

These are the tests that determine the character of a man. I hope Obama passes.

Posted by email from rufus’s posterous

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Obama planning ahead

I was watching the news yesterday and a journalist said something odd. Paraphrased, it goes like “Obama is running ads in South Carolina, a state so red that it is impossible that he win it for the election.” The implication is that he should not waste his money on ads for people who are not going to vote for him.

But, the HUGE point was missed entirely. Barack Obama is not winning the election; he is winning the presidency. He is not after their vote; he need their hearts and minds.

Barack Obama has learned from the 2000, 2004 elections and the Irag War and probably his own marriage. Winning the war, getting married and winning the election is the easy part. Winning the peace, building a relationship, leading a country made up of people with almost polar viewpoints requires leadership beyond getting elected. Americans in red states may not agree with Obama, but he needs their respect as their president to lead.

Wow. If that doesn’t get you thinking Barack Obama is very much ready to lead, I’m not sure what will convince you.

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Appeasing the under-educated white guy


Since Hillary’s win in North Carolina last Tuesday, the “news cycle” has been all about how Barack Obama is going to get the “under-educated, white man” vote. After watching news story after news story on this, a very large question suddenly dawned on me:

When did this country get to the point where the under-educated, white working class decides who gets to be the president of The United States of America in an information-based world-market economy, where the competitive advantage is determined by who has the smartest and most clever on board?

Wow! But the REAL question us dogs are barking about is:

How did we get to the point where the richest country in the world — with the greatest opportunity for individual achievement — produce such a large majority of under-educated people?

Could it be that the public education system is failing us? Could it be the we have become so arrogant and confident in our “place” in the world that we simply quit trying to become better? Could it be that our parents, in their quest to “give us a better life than they had” simply handed us what we needed for two generations instead of making us work for it? Could it be that we value economic contribution more than we value human contribution like art, creativity, knowledge, wisdom, music, love, etc as an end rather than a means? Could be a lot of things. Could be a lot of a lot of things.

I watched an episode of 30 Days by Morgan Spurlock last night where he and his wife tried to live on minimum wage for 30 days. In the richest country in the world, what did them in was a “medical emergency” that cost them $1,200.00 and change. They worked hard, they saved.. but they worked minimum wage jobs. Only their time and labor was valued; their health was something that they could have, if they could afford it. In the richest country in the world. That should anger people everywhere, educated or not. But, it doesn’t seem to. We’re all just living each day, hoping to not get sick or injured.

I suspect that for a lot of under-educated folk in this country, that is their fate. While there are probably many reasons that “white guys in North Carolina” may be under-educated, the argument I’ve been getting around the block is that there is nothing wrong with not having a college degree. There is nothing wrong with wanting to work a blue-collar job.

Except there is EVERYTHING wrong with having a MAJORITY of a population NOT being educated in the richest country in the world, in the middle of a world economy that is fueled by a knowledge workforce. If you want to become a plumber, that is fine, but don’t do it without an education. And don’t allow the media to define “under-educated” as “stupid and provincial”, but that is a whole other argument. Please forgive me if I don’t address that; I can only sniff one topic at a time. I’m a dog.

So, I think we are witnessing the first step in the decline of a great nation, whether we want to or not. There is still time to reverse this trend and make education a top priority; not just for those who can afford it, but by anyone who wants it. Because, if we don’t do that soon, we will soon have a majority of under-educated citizens falling prey to short-term solutions that eventually resolve nothing except our own demise.

We must resolve to become competitive and invest in our human infrastructure. Education for those who want it, regardless of the ability to pay and health care just because we are human beings. That is not socialism as uber-conservatives would like you to believe; that is just plain ol’ common-sense capitalism. Invest in what will make you more. And smart people are now the new machinery and factories.

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Party? What party?

I was settling in and almost asleep when some idiot on CNN was railing on and on about how this Clinton/Obama race is tearing the party apart, that it is bad for the Democrats, that they need to heal together to win the election in November. And, then as I hit that level of rage between annoyance at being kept awake and the dread of some human idiot won’t ever shut up, I got an epiphany!

Here is what CNN, MSNBC, Fox and all the other media is missing that the American people know:

The job of President of the United States of America is held by one PERSON, not by a PARTY. Nobody cares about the Democratic Party any more. Americans want the best PERSON to win the election, even if the two people running against each other for the job are members of the same party!

If anything comes of this, I hope it is the death of the two-party system. Against any of the two Hillary or Barack, McCain looks like a really, really old guy who can’t remember his name. But, Barack vs Hillary, that is a clash of Titans! THAT is a race to watch and people just don’t really want this one to end.

I sure hope the loser of the Democratic primary runs as an independent. Either way, Hillary or Barack would win this thing, whether as an independent or a Democrat. Choke on that, Howard Dean!

Ok, Colbert is on now… that’s a much quieter (boring) show and I’m curling up and taking a snooze.

Now you can listen to the podcast in Rufus’ own voice.. really!!

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