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new curiosity

17 May

I’ve used this platform to write about various topics, but mostly politics and the tangled topics therein, for over 2 years now. I am prouder of some posts than others…and quite ashamed of a handful (I wrote that?). But overall, this space has let me write it all out, vent a bit, and think through keyboard taps. To be honest, it’s even been therapeutic.

 
That’s why I’ll keep writing, on a more consistent basis, and keep this space alive. But…

 

I’ve come to find a new curiosity/passion/obsession. You know something else is spinning your pistons when your reading selection is to brim about it. Over the last few months, I’ve become engrossed by this question:

 

How can we like work?

 

The corollary question would be: why is job satisfaction so important, yet so elusive?

 

It’s become a sort of unquestioned truth. Because work sucks, that’s why. Not true. Some people have jobs that make them happy. Research shows that most of us are happiest when AT work. Most moments of “bliss” happen during work hours. Our job satisfaction rate is the lowest ever since we began recording these numbers. Technology and innovation have given us a plethora of job/career choices, yet our misery at work continues to rise.

 

Why?

 

What is this reality leading us to?

 

What can we do to like our professional lives?

 

I’ve begun digging into the topic, and have essentially honed in my energy on this crucial, yet often overlooked question mark. This is not just about work, but about our psyches, society, communication, motivation, self-improvement, legacies, families, wealth, happiness, and history.

 

  • There are 8,700 hours in a year; if fully-employed, we spend at least a fourth of that time at work.
  • The people we spend the most time with a week are our co-workers.
  • Our bliss or lack thereof at work follows us to our families and friends.
  • Growing old also means looking back at our professional legacies.
  • Our dreams and talents grow or fade with the work we dive into.
  • Great work is done by great people, but sometimes great people never know what work will reach greatness.

 

So from today on, this blog will change focus. I may still write about politics here and there (and believe me, my passion for that will never fade), but this space will be dedicated to starting a discussion on being happy in your professional life.

 

I hope you will still tag along and contribute. Unless you are Jim Gaffigan or Ricky Gervais, monologues suck, so please stir the pot/add your two cents/any other cliche that’s in style

 

Here we go…

 

 

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Lessons from Japan

14 Mar

Every minute that passes by intensifies the dire circumstances engulfing Japan. The earthquake, the tsunami, the nuclear reactors…it’s enough to make one wonder how much humanity can do to prevent havoc from erupting after a natural disaster.

This NYTimes article gives us some hope. It outlines the investments the Japanese government has made over the past decades to minimize the effect of an earthquake or tsunami.

The country that gave the world the word tsunami, especially in the 1980s and 1990s, built concrete seawalls in many communities, some as high as 40 feet, which amounted to its first line of defense against the water.

From enacting strict building codes, to building levees tall and strong enough to push back some (but unfortunately not all) of the Pacific tide, these measures will not get much coverage but deserve it. The government’s money was put to good use, and the insurance coverage it proffered its people is invaluable.

The next lesson that will come out of Japan is to assess how safe nuclear power truly is, and whether the American people are willing to eat the remote risk of eruption post-Sendai.

Is Obama a One Hit Wonder?

4 Feb

Obama was voted into office because he was different than the average candidate. He had the ability to enthuse the American people with his charming rhetoric and inspirational message of change.  In a time when the economy was sinking, job loss was skyrocketing and the country was at war Obama was able to offer hope for the future.  Voters ate it up, they believed in him. Here was a younger, fresher politician. A Washington outsider who would change the way the presidency was run.  A messiah, if you will, that would solve all of the country’s problems and make big changes.

In his State of the Union speech, Obama tried to recapture the mood of his campaign.  He reminded voters that he is on their side, not Washington’s side, and that he sympathizes with their concerns.  Only this time around, it was a hard sell.  A year of slow-moving decisions and failed health care reform has turned supporters into skeptics.  People just aren’t seeing the change that was the focus of his campaign.  The euphoria that the Democrats experienced after a successful, driven campaign has faded.

That being said, Obama is in danger of losing the support of a key demographic that could make or break an election: young voters.  Voters ages 18-29 turned out in record numbers for the 2008 election.  If the Democrats fail to come up with and pass a solid health care reform bill that people can actually support, these voters (who are the most likely to be affected by the bill) may pass on 2012 elections.

The state of the economy will without a doubt still be a major factor in the 2012. Even if the job market is improved, the country will still be far from recovered.  People lack patience; they want the economy fixed now.  If they don’t feel that there has been enough “change” they may wish to hedge their bets with the next Republican candidate that comes around (providing that it’s not someone with the name Palin.)  America is a nation that likes to place blame. Fingers were pointed at the Bush Administration and in 2012 they could very well be pointed at Obama.

Obama’s major downfall is his unwillingness to veer away from his extreme statist policies, even when they clearly aren’t working.   He’s attempting to push through a healthcare reform bill that just isn’t popular.  In 1996, Clinton stopped pushing HillaryCare and focused on bipartisan solutions.  Clinton realized that in order to accomplish anything, he needed to lean more towards the center and away from big government.

Scott Brown’s election win in Massachusetts is a prime example of America’s centrists view. Republicans have acknowledged that Brown appeals to independents and moderate democrats because he does not represent traditional republicanism.  Brown’s victory should be a wakeup call to Obama that at this point, the country is more moderate than left-leaning.

According to Polifact.com, Obama has broken 15 promises so far.  For a president who is dealing with a “deficit of trust” these broken promises are significant.  His new budget projection shows an increase from last year, a contradiction to his many statements that he would reduce spending.  Domestic discretionary spending was increased by 84 percent, a fact that Republicans are making noise about.  They are calling out his credibility and ability to lead, serious allegations when he’s already on a slippery slope.

If Obama doesn’t quickly re-evaluate his strategy and accept blame for failed policies, he could be opening the door for a Republican in 2012.  Because voters so passionately believed in him, they will easily be disappointed if he doesn’t do what is expected of him.  His campaign of change won’t be enough to carry him to another term if he can’t produce results.

The Blame Game

28 Jan

President Obama ‘s first State of the Union was a mixture of contradictions, exaggerations and pointed fingers.  His attempt to bring revive the spirit he generated during his campaign fell flat and at times his speech seemed contrived, lacking the usual intellectual rhetoric that we’ve become so used to.

It was obvious that the goal of this State of the Union was to reassure cynical voters and independents that Obama can do his job, that is, if the Republicans would stop being so obstructive.   While he often spoke of bipartisanship, ironically Obama did not hold back his attacks on the Republicans.  This speech was possibly the boldest we have seen the President, as he challenged the Republicans when he said, “just saying no to everything may be good short-term politics, but it’s not leadership.”

Blaming the Republicans for lack of success during the past year seems like a cop-out.  If Obama fails, it will be his fault, not the fault of the GOP.  The Democrats have the majority in the House and the Senate.  Lack of support from his own party to pass the healthcare reform bill is what is holding it back.  Perhaps instead of blaming Republicans for being obstructionists he should revisit why members of his own party refuse to support the bill.  Or why the majority of constituents are fervently against it.

There were many points that Obama made throughout the speech that were overstated and inaccurate.  He claimed that the stimulus plan saved 2 million jobs, failing to note that this is just a projected number pulled from reports put together by his own advisors.  In addition to the exaggerated numbers, the jobs he mentioned were mostly government jobs, (cops, firefighters, clean energy) a contradiction of his earlier statement that “the true engine of job creation in this country will always be America’s businesses.”

During one surprising moment, Obama criticized the Supreme Court ruling on campaign advertising, causing Alito to shake his head and mouth, “That is not true.”  Obama claimed the Supreme Court ruling would allow foreign corporations to spend without limit in elections. While this could be a possibility in the future, it is dependent on future rulings, not the one which the Supreme Court just passed.   The calling out of the Supreme Court was desperate and inappropriate. Given that the justices are to remain impartial, Obama essentially taunted them.

He spoke briefly of healthcare reform, encouraged Congress to push forward but failed to communicate a plan for doing so, placing the blame on the Senate for falling to push it through.  This statement incited criticism, even from Democrats.  Sen. Landrieu said, “Moderate Senate Democrats, who give the Senate the 60 votes, come from states that have to appreciate a broad range of ideas and since the president ran on a bipartisan, change, working with Republicans, [he] doesn’t do a great service to then say everything the House passes without any Republican votes is something the Senate should just take.”

Obama did finally call to end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” but didn’t say much beyond what he had previously promised in his campaign.  At best, gay rights activists can put the pressure on and hope that Obama gets around to dealing with the issue this year.

Overall, a major problem with the speech was Obama’s failure to take responsibility.  Yes, he apologized for the lack of trust constituents have in the government, but quickly turned it around to blame lobbyists and Republicans. He attempted to separate himself from Washington by aligning himself with the American people, using words like, “we” and “them” and called out politicians for being in permanent campaign” mode.  A laughable statement, considering this week he brought his own campaign manager to the White House.

It is doubtful that the American people will feel satisfied with Obama’s half truths and poor follow-throughs.  He was voted into office based on his promise of change, and while he was right when he said “I never suggested change would be easy,” he has to accept that until he starts showing real leadership, he will face harsh criticisms from disappointed voters.

Immigration Reform: Battle Royale 2010

27 Jan

Immigration plays a key role in making the United States a vibrant, prosperous nation.  The blending of different cultures and ethnicities creates a unique dynamic in many areas of the country.  Despite the current state of the economy, the U.S. is a bright light in the eyes of many immigrants.  They come here hopeful, looking for jobs that pay more than the ones offered in their home countries so that they can build a better future.  

While open borders would be an ideal situation, resources and materials have their limits. Overpopulating any country comes with extreme consequences and measures must be taken to prevent the United States from becoming overburdened.  The catch-22 is that in order to keep our country from becoming poverty-stricken (in a third world sense) limits must be placed on the number of people allowed to flee the same situation our country fears.   

Restriction of legal immigration leads to the inevitable issue that the United States has been struggling with for years: illegal immigration.  With over 12 million illegal immigrants in the U.S., there are many legitimate concerns that must be dealt with, including its effect on crime rates and the economy. The Center for Immigration Studies states on its website:

“Even though illegal aliens make little use of welfare, from which they are generally barred, the costs of illegal immigration in terms of government expenditures for education, criminal justice, and emergency medical care are significant. California has estimated that the net cost to the state of providing government services to illegal immigrants approached $3 billion during a single fiscal year. The fact that states must bear the cost of federal failure turns illegal immigration, in effect, into one of the largest unfunded federal mandates.”

While many statistics can be skewed in favor or against immigration, allowing people to illegally enter the country puts us at an enormous security risk. The government has been attempting to fix immigration policies for many years, the last being the failed attempt by George W. Bush and Ted Kennedy in 2007. 

Recent events have brought to light the urgency in which immigration reform must be dealt with.  Not only is a comprehensive plan that protects our borders and determines the fate of 12 million or so illegal immigrants essential, but the law must also protect the rights of those immigrants.  The New York Times recently obtained documents that exposed the cover up of abuse that led to the deaths of 107 immigrant detainees in government custody since 2003.  

The Obama Administration has pledged to address immigration reform in 2010 after it spent the past year on the back-burner because of a little issue called health care reform.  But alas, a new year brings room for a new hot topic and immigration policy is moving up in the ranks.  

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano recently discussed a strategy that would focus on improved border security with stronger fences, motion detectors and “real ID’s” being implemented.  Speaking to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee she said, “You have [to] deal with what is drawing people across the border, and that is a job.”

As the former governor of Arizona, Napolitano certainly has the experience and knowledge to tackle immigration policy.  The trick will be to implement new ideas instead of trying to beef up the same tired ideas that have been tried in the past, while offering both parties something they can chew on.  While Republicans and Democrats can both agree on enhancing border security (thought maybe not agree on how) Napolitano’s proposed strategy of offering a path to citizenship for current illegal immigrants will be a tough sell to Republicans.  

The most action immigration reform has seen since Obama took office is when Rep. Luis Gutierrez briefly introduced the Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America’s Security and Prosperity Act of 2009 (CIRASAP) in December.  Gutierrez’s bill appears to be a slightly longer version of the failed Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007, which both Democrats and Republicans vehemently rejected. 

The CIRASAP would allow illegal immigrants to become legal citizens after satisfying certain requirements (learning English, background check, etc) as well as increased border security and efforts to crack down on drug smuggling and other crimes.  Nothing new there.

Where the CIRASAP differs from the 2007 attempt is the plan that allows immigrant workers into the United States in the future based on the recommendations of a federal agency.  This agency would use research to determine the need of U.S. employment and place workers where they are needed.  A modern day bracero program, if you will. 

While Gutierrez’s bill proposes some new strategies, it will hardly be the end all to the immigration reform debate. If this last year is any indicator, the Republicans and Democrats will once again be at each other’s throats, echoing the current health care reform debacle.  With the Democrats wanting a free for all with a slap on the wrist and many Republicans willing to send illegal immigrants back to their country to wait in line for a visa, a compromise at this point seems far-fetched.   

It is important for both parties to remember that just like health care; there will never be perfect groundwork for a successful immigration system.  Immigration is not clear cut; it is a complicated, emotional issue that affects people’s lives. Exploring options and bringing new ideas to the table while leaving xenophobic nonsense behind will bring our country much closer to finding an adequate solution than tossing insults back and forth.  

Back in a jiff.

17 Apr

I apologize for the lapse in blog activity here. I am currently in Mexico and not spending that much time in front of a computer (Do you blame me?).

I will post a report this weekend on the changing scenery in Mexico. In particular, I will write about a border town I called home for 17 years that is now suffering the onslaught of drug cartel violence.

Stay tuned.

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