Tag Archives: Congress

What You Need to Know About the State of the Union

State of the UnionTalking about politics is a touchy thing (and we don’t try to hide that we’re pretty liberal here at Intent – but we do promote listening to contrary opinions with an open ear and encourage healthy, respectful debate!). However, the annual State of the Union address isn’t really about which side of the aisle you vote for – it’s about civic responsibility to  be informed about the state of affairs of the country.

Last night the President covered several important topics from raging minimum wage, increasing America’s clean energy initiatives, creating greater access to higher education and ending the war in Afghanistan. He repeatedly called out Congress’ tendency to gridlock in debate rather than create legislation to help Americans move out of a recession and lead the way in the 21st century. He also re-iterated on several fronts, including minimum wage and infrastructure policy – that he will take whatever action he can without legislation to promote American progress, circumventing the roadblocks often created by tension in the House of Representatives.

The President’s most powerful moment however came at the end of the address when he called out  Sergeant First Class Cory Remsburg who was severely injured during his 10th deployment to Afghanistan. After being hit by a bomb while on duty, Cory was left unable to speak and barely move. After dozens of surgeries, hours of grueling physical therapy today, Cory has relearned to talk, stand and walk. He still has trouble with his left side but he and his father were both present for the State of the Union address. His presence garnered an extended applause and standing ovation from the entire assembly. “Cory reminds us what is best about America,” the President said.

If you missed the State of the Union, we’ve compiled some of President Obama’s most compelling quotes from last night:

On Congress’s responsibility to the American public: “If our business is shutting down the Government or ruining the good faith and credit in America then we are not doing right by the American people.”

On creating a bi-partisan Federal budget: ‘The budget compromise should leave us freer to focus on creating new jobs, not creating new crisis.”

On American wages: “But Americans overwhelmingly agree that no one who works full time should ever have to raise a family in poverty.”

On American troops and military involvement abroad: “I will not mire our sons and daughters in open ended war entanglements. We must fight battles that need to be fought, but not those that terrorists prefer for us. America must move off it’s permanent war footing.”

Closing statement: “If we work together, if we summon what is best in us, with our feet planted firmly in today but our eyes cast towards tomorrow, I know it is within our reach.”

To see these quotes in context and to hear the President’s point by point plans for energy initiatives, healthcare progress and the path to comprehensive immigration reform you can watch the full State of the Union Address below:

What do you think of the State of the Union? Leave your opinion in the comments below. Remember to be respectful of those that disagree!

*Picture credit to WhiteHouse.Gov

Congress is Acting Like Toddlers At Daycare

Washington DC Presidential InaugurationWashington lawmakers have been acting like little kids at daycare, wanting to play with the same action figure. They each grab a side and pull and pull. First, they are stuck in a stalemate – nothing happens other than both sides get angrier and more committed to having their way. So they get nastier. Then one side pulls harder and the legs or the head come off – the toy is destroyed. Now, neither side wins. When each tried to get their own way, more was damaged in the process. Congress is acting like toddlers at a daycare.

In a battle of egos instead of a commitment to results, we regress to childish behaviors. We become the center of our world and stake our claim – we refuse to relate, share or yield. I understand why 2, 3 or 4 year olds may have this response, what I don’t understand is why our elected public officials (committed to service) act like this. If we are so proud of our form of government and insist that other countries adopt it, what lesson does this behavior show them? If we are that committed to living our values of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, how does this response support this? The world sees us as acting like toddlers and justifying our childish behavior. Great lesson.

If we are truly committed to the same purpose – developing a country that lives its clearly stated core ideals – we are already all on the same side. We quickly unify when others threaten from the outside – we find our commonality and we unite. But when a challenge happens from within, we fall apart. We break into factions forgetting the value of every citizen. We see only our view. We want our way. We forget we are part of something larger. We forget that the goal of our society as created by our founding fathers is for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all of its citizens. Jacob Needleman shares in book, The American Soul – Rediscovering the Wisdom of the Founders, that the pursuit of happiness isn’t about the right to accumulate things, but rather for society to ensure the right of each of its citizens to be able to self-discover and live their intrinsic or God-given greatness – the ability to self-realize.

Religion, philosophy and science rarely agree. They do, however, agree in one specific area – that we are each created to be different, unique, amazing and great. Seeing each of us as great, valuable and important must be a critical understanding and belief of all public servants – to empower them to commit to the importance of the work of government to support a society that enables their people to be free to be all that they can be and one where everyone matters.

When we focus on our egos instead of on results, we inhibit our process of helping all of our citizens realize their greatness. We now think some are more great than others – more okay or more right than others. We create sides and insist on winners and losers. But in the analogy of the toy that gets destroyed by the fighting toddlers, we all lose when we can’t do something as fundamental as keep our government open to provide the services and functions it is responsible to do. The fact that either side could accept allowing it to shut down to get their way is akin to one of the toddlers destroying the toy just so the other toddler won’t be able to play with it – or anyone else for that matter. Congress – a day in daycare.

When we remove the ego – in life as well as in government – we allow for a focus on greatness – the greater purpose, good and view. We realize that to be a successful country, we have to work things out. We realize that collaboration and a commitment to a common purpose allows us to find solutions that evade those with an ego-driven mindset or agenda. By seeing each American as valuable, important and great, we can reframe our differences and focus on solutions that are not like Washington DC’s roads – gridlocked. In gridlock, nobody wins. No one gets their way. Nothing gets done. Instead, find the core commonality and build from there.

We own this mess because we voted these babies into office. With the vote to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling for a short time, we have been given another opportunity to show that when confronted with challenges, we don’t have to go to our Fox News and MSNBC corners and call each other names. Instead, we could look at the reason why we are here – to help everyone be all that they can be. That is what the pursuit of happiness really means – it is a call to step into our greatness. And our government has a hand in helping create a society that allows this to happen.

I can think of a perfect “time out” for this Congress – a permanent “time out” – a new Congress – one more committed to solutions, results and collaboration than egos, privilege and personal agendas.

Science reveals we are not all great at everything. That being said, we should therefore be more aware of electing to public office those whose natural abilities include negotiation, collaboration, empathy and innovation. Elect people whose passion is true service. Don’t let money elect, let ideas elect. Don’t let power elect, let solutions and effort elect.

Congress, grow up. Learn to share and you’ll still have a toy. Don’t learn to share and not only will you damage the toy, but you won’t be allowed back into daycare. The owners of the daycare have had enough of this behavior.

***

Jay Forte, a former financial executive, is now a business and motivational speaker, certified life and CEO coach, author, and nationally ranked Thought Leader. As President and Founder of TGZ Group, he and his team provide customized talent-based tools that power extraordinary living and exceptional organizational results.

 He is the author of Fire Up! Your Employees and Smoke Your Competition and The Greatness Zone – Know Yourself, Find Your Fit, Transform the World. He created the workplace Fire Up! Coaching model and the life Greatness Coaching model which he uses with national and international clients.

 An avid writer, gardener and chef, he lives in Ft Lauderdale, FL.

VOD: Congress Suspended Democracy So Only One Person Could Re-Open the Government

If you haven’t been following the news regularly about the government shutdown this is one story to which you should pay attention. Congressman Chris Van Hollen (D-Md) stood on the House Floor and attempted a motion to re-open the government. What followed was the revelation that on Oct. 1 House Republicans quietly passed a resolution that changed the standing House Rules so that only Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor can make a motion to re-open the government.

You read that correctly. Eric Cantor (or his designee) is the only person that can start the process of re-opening the government. That means that even if the every other Republican and Democratic representative is in favor of re-opening the government but Eric Cantor does not make the motion, the government stays shut down. Even the most powerful Republican in Congress – Speaker of the House John Boehner – can’t make the motion to re-open the government without Eric Cantor’s permission. The power to turn on the services paid for by our tax dollars and return hundreds of thousands of government workers back to their jobs is in the hands of one person.

Does that have your attention now?

Watch the video of Chris Van Hollen’s parliamentary inquiries to see for yourself.

What are your feelings on the video? How does this gel with your definition of democracy? Tell us in the comments below. 

3 Videos That Explain the Government Shutdown

Yesterday, after Congress failed to pass a new budget (or a continuing resolution to give them more time to work out a budget), the federal government was shutdown. But what does that mean? It means that government services deemed “non-eseential” were closed until Congress passes a bill to allow them to re-open and some 800,000 government employees are currently not working.

VlogBrother Hank Green (the other VlogBrother is NYT Bestelling author John Green) posted a video yesterday that more clearly explains what it means when your government shuts down, what services are effected, and the deeper root of this problem:

But why is the government shutting done? 

To answer that question we turn to Senator Elizabeth Warren (D)  from Massachusetts. On Monday, September 30, Senator Warren gave a speech on the Senate floor about her disbelief of the current situation. “[The shutdown] is a last gasp of hope for those that can’t deal with the reality of this democracy,” is a quote from Warren’s speech that you have probably seen plastered all over your Facebook pages. Senator Warren drops even more knowledge about the Tea Party contingent of the House of Representatives forcing this shut down as a way to gut the Affordable Care Act (better known as Obamacare) in the full version of the speech below:

Wait, this is about Obamacare? Didn’t the Supreme Court already say it was constitutional? 

They did. The Affordable Care Act has been through all the proper steps to become a law – passed by the House and Congress, singed by the President and declared constitutional by the Supreme Court. It has checked off all the verses in that infamous School of Rock video we all had to watch in Civics class. And Obamacare is exempt from the government shutdown so it still went into effect yesterday, October 1, making the entire situation even more infuriatingly pointless.

Sometimes the best thing to do is to make a joke when explaining the reality is too baffling. Jon Stewart may have made the best metaphor possible on Monday night’s “The Daily Show” with a new segment “Rockin’ Shutdown Eve.”

In essence, politicians are playing chicken with the paychecks of almost 1 million government workers at stake. They have suspended vital services to underprivileged children and the elderly to bargain for their ideological ideals rather than by their desire to do what is best for this country, and that is unacceptable.

Whether you are a Democrat or a Republican, supporter of the Affordable Care Act or not, we can all agree that politicians need to stop holding America hostage for their own agendas – and that goes for both sides. We the people elected Congress to represent and work for us, and they need to do better. That’s really what you need to know about the government shutdown.

What do you think of the shutdown? Share your thoughts in the comments below! 

Openly Gay Politician Uses Tea-Party Dad in Awesome Campaign Ad

Screen shot 2013-09-19 at 12.28.34 PM
There’s an adage that says, “parents just don’t understand” which openly gay Massachusetts lawmaker Carl M. Sciortino, Jr., who is running to replace now-Senator Ed Markey in next month’s state primary, is using to compel voters with is viral campaign ad.

“I’ll never forget that conversation with my dad when I had to come out and tell him…” Sciortino begins, and everyone thinks he’s going to say “that I was gay.” Instead, Sciortino throws a curveball and says, “that I was a Massachussetts liberal.” The rest of the ad cuts between the two recounting Sciortino’s increasingly liberal policies – from Wall Street and NRA regulation to equal rights initiatives.

It is touching though when Sciortino’s father begins lamenting over his son writing “The Buffer Zone” law – which protects women entering abortion clinics from harassment – but admits he’s proud his son got it all the way to the supreme court.

In the end it’s clear that neither will be giving in to the other’s political leanings, but the video ends with a Tea Party Republican saying he loves his openly gay liberal Democrat son. It just goes to show we can have different ideas and political ideals and still work together. Now if only Congress could make it work like these two.

What do you think of this campaign strategy? Share in your comments below! 

 

Peace Matters: A Mother Responds to the Call for Action Against Syria

War and PeaceAs I pull my truck up to the local harbor beach, loaded with sunscreened kids, oversized striped towels and inner tubes, John Kerry’s voice breaks in over my radio, tuned into NHPR. “This crime against conscience, this crime against humanity, this crime against the most fundamental principles of international community, against the norm of the international community, this matters to us, and it matters to who we are.”

“It Matters” is an eloquently written persuasive argument in favor of punitive action in Syria for their obvious use of chemical weapons against their own people. And as Kerry pontificates on the necessity of action, I’m mothering my way through the last bits of summer vacation.

Kids tumble out of the truck, doors slam, happy screams pierce, sun shines, and I grip the wheel. How does a peace-seeking person like me feel about this?

I hate war. I hate it. I hate that women who lovingly grow tiny seeds into human beings have to watch as their sons and daughters are sent overseas because the overwhelming majority of men on this planet value power, money and ego over life, love and collaboration.

While I hate war, I do not hate the men who declare it. In fact, the opposite. I love men as much as I love anyone, and I want to see men live long, healthy and productive lives. But as the world turns, I see what men do and what men make and I’m tired of dealing with the consequences of greed, power and competition.

For thousands of years we’ve been deserted by fathers, raped by prom dates, suppressed by regimes, penetrated by uncles, underestimated by brothers, underpaid by bosses, beaten by husbands and ignored by society. For thousands of years we’ve had to stand by while men make decisions about our fate and the fate of our planet. If during these thousands of years, men have not found a way to create a peaceful planet through leadership, it makes me wonder if men truly desire peace. Or are men addicted to conflict and combat? Are they afraid that the end of war will mean the end of their manly value?

Every one of us is hard wired with drive, with the desire to be the best at something, with the need to control our environment. It’s always been this way. But just because this is the way it’s always been doesn’t mean it’s right. History is doomed to repeat itself because we human beings aren’t brave enough to choose collaboration over competition – on a personal level, on a professional level, on a local level, on a global level, on a 1st grade recess level, on a college application level, on an I-got-the-job-now-what level. We’re all at war with one another. All of us. Heck, most of us are at war with ourselves.

We are never happy the way we are, which makes it impossible to accept others the way they are. This seems so mundane, so small. But this is life. This is people. War is people, too. War is one man with a severe sociopathic condition and a powerful following. But the problem of war isn’t THEM. The problem isn’t WHY. The problem is US. You and me. US.

There is so much work to do. And the work doesn’t start in Congress. It starts with you and me. It starts in bed at night when your mind is focused on office politics and peer manipulation. It starts in the kitchen when I stare down a bag of Newman’s Ginger O’s that will only add to my increasingly unmanageable lower belly. It starts on the playground when one sad, confused, pained little boy is labeled a bully because he hasn’t mastered impulse control or feels unlovable and unworthy of kindness. This is where war begins.  With the tiny seed of you and me.

This brings me back to the front seat of my parked Ford truck, simmering in the driver’s seat, white knuckling the wheel, “It matters,” Kerry asserts, “if the world speaks out in condemnation and then nothing happens.”

Yes, it does matter, Secretary Kerry. It matters. But peace matters, too. We belong to the most creative human society to tromp the earth. We send rocket ships to Mars, we Skype with our sisters living in Hong Kong, we collect energy from the sun and turn it into electricity. We are innovators. Let’s use this innovation and creativity to inspire peace. There is a way. There is always a way. Peace matters.

No boots on the ground, yes I know. Just a drone strike. But is it ever that simple? Strikes have consequences and I don’t believe for a minute that three-four-shut-the-door will be the result of Obama’s proposed swift and concise action.

More lives, more anger, more more more. How about a little less less less? Doesn’t that sound nice? A little less breaking news? A little less testosterone? A little less shrouded children? A little less worry? A little less tossing and turning? As unlikely as it may seem, peace matters. Peace now.

Deepak Chopra: A Different Answer — Let’s Occupy Ourselves

It’s hard to imagine someone, except on the far right, not sympathizing with the grievances of the Occupy movement. Women, young people, and minorities have been the hardest hit by the loss of millions of jobs. The fact that Wall Street’s recklessness brought down the entire economy led to a series of injustices: the malefactors were salvaged while ordinary citizens suffered, their excesses were not curbed by regulatory laws, and to rub salt into the wound, the same risk-takers are now enjoying huge profits, largely through the same reckless behavior.

With injustice rankling across society, it’s amazing that the Occupy movement isn’t more forceful and widespread. But I think there’s a reason why. People are tired of extreme divisiveness, even when there’s good reason to point out the bad guys and stand up to them. In last week’s failure of the super committee assigned the futile task of bringing Democrats and Republicans together on the deficit, there was a general, exhausted sense that we have been here before, over and over again.

Yet exhaustion – along with cynicism, disgust, and huge disappointment – isn’t a motivator for change. In a gloomy New York Times column, David Brooks points to ossified institutions that are not going to give up power, a public that continues to vote for divisive candidates, and the absence of viable leadership when both Democrats and Republicans are now minority parties, attracting a steady 30% of the electorate each. Brooks forecasts a bad decade ahead, seeing the only lever of change being financial catastrophe on the order of Greece.

Do we have to stagnate for a decade? There could be an opening for change at a level higher than politics. The American public is confused and conflicted right now. When individuals are in that state, the answer is self-awareness. A therapist asks simple, relevant questions. Why are you angry? How well has your anger worked for you? Do you have negative feelings toward those you love? What every American needs right now is to occupy himself or herself, which means honestly facing the conflicts roiling inside and finding a way to heal them. As long as voters complain about Washington’s inability to compromise while in the next breath supporting candidates who are rigidly tied to an ideology, conflict will continue because it exists inside the voter, first and foremost.

Presisdent Obama has been a beacon of reasonableness, and his call for a balanced approach to the deficit, along with almost all his other proposals, carries the same label: balanced. That’s the right answer, the one a therapist would give a troubled patient. Balance your anger with a sense of reasonable action. Love your partner but realize that negative feelings are permissible as long as you know how to handle them. Rise above conflict by letting go of extreme positions, for your own good. Obama has a healthy, adult sense of “for your own good.” The problem has been that a riled-up public hasn’t been in a place to listen and heed what he says.

America is far from teetering on the brink. Speaking strictly from statistics, the economy has recovered, because the gross national product is now higher than it was before the downturn in 2008. What has surprised economists, in the midst of such a robust GNP, is how badly the country reacted to the downturn. There has been a strong over-reaction on the part of timid consumers, frightened workers, cash-hoarding corporations, and overly cautious lenders. This only shows how psychological the economy is, and always has been. To alter the economy, our psychology has to change, which is why we need to occupy ourselves. Only self-awareness can lead to healing, which is the key to a real recovery and not just a list of numbing statistics.

www.deepakchopra.com

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PHOTO (cc): Flickr / GDVisuals

 

 

Why Healthcare Reform is depressing

WARNING: This is not your usual Chopra "we make our own reality" sort of thing. Read on at your own risk for realizing that all Chopras are not equally optimistic.

Ironically, I really wanted to celebrate healthcare reform today. While far short of perfect, to me it signals a real desire and actual shift in policy which is sorely needed in this country.

But, I’m not celebrating and here’s why.

First here’s my confession: I’m not totally up to speed on the details surrounding the apparent historic healthcare bill passed by Congress late last night.

My second confession: I drank the Obama cool aid during the 2008 campaign and I’m still buying all that change we can believe in, yes we can, and other aphorisms my generation was sold. (This despite my weariness that his administration has been incomprehensibly slow in bringing down some of the most insidious Bush monuments including Gitmo, the Patriot Act etc).

My optimism for the healthcare reform also stems from the fact that I’ve witnessed first hand the struggles good physicians (like my wife) endure just do their jobs and help people. Because of the sinister maneuvering of insurance companies, doctors often cannot help those who they know are in need (or do so knowing the enormous risk they are taking on personally and professionally). So to me, any form of reform that posits transformation of the incumbent system is most welcome.

That’s why flying back from NYC last night on JetBlue, I sat glued to my mini-tv set watching the otherwise catastrophically boring congressional vote to get to the magical 216 tipping point (okay, another confession: i was flipping between Bravo’s Real Housewives).

But then something happened to turn my half-glass optimism into half-glass empty gloom. Some idiot yelled out "baby-killer" in the midst of the congressional debate. Said idiot today revealed himself as Texas Republican law-maker Randy Neugebauer. 

Congressman Neuhebauer’s outburst was the culmination of Republican’s last ditch effort to derail the healthcare bill by pinning the exaggerated idea that somehow it would break the damn on a rush of federally funded abortions. Always a popular tactic by the far Right, Republican’s attempt to link the bill with the tangled abortion issue ultimately failed when Prez Obama came to the rescue with an executive order allaying moderate Democrats who showed signs of breaking rank.

But to me, that was just the issue. The whole rank thing. Congressman Neugebauer’s (who today released a statement apologizing, and offering a lame explanation for his words. At least own it you a$$hole) outburst was really a symbol of the continued leadership that is rotting America from the inside out. It’s not just the politicians (not a single Republican congress member supported the bill proving that each and every one of them is either incapable of independent thinking or gutless. And yes, even though I’m liberal I have distaste for many of the Dems who are spectacularly demonstrating how not to show real vision). It’s the media too, with their almost fascist-like categorization of Obama’s mission to transform an undeniable broken system as somehow totalitarian in its scope. We elected him to fix shit, but half this country boos his every move when he tries to.

The political dialectic in our country feels as if it has penetrated our every moment. Whatever fleeting unanimity there was around Obama’s historic election seems to have melted into politicized sludge and I find myself almost hopelessly saddened by it, even at a moment when I think I should be celebrating a historic achievement along the lines of one we see only once every generation or so.

I’ve never quite had much faith in politicians, an unfortunate attitude propelled by the likes of Negebauer, not to mention faux reformers come dumb saboteurs like Sarah Palin much in the same way I’ve never trusted many men of the cloth, one of whom urged his congregation today in Orange Country to pray that the 219 Dems who voted to pass healthcare reform debate be cursed.

Alas, the realization that our political and spiritual leaders are quite literally the embodiment of our own core beliefs is a far more depressing thought. And that being the case, I confess I hardly feel like celebrating today.

 

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