15 April 2010

On tax day, we grouse about what we give our government but not about what it gives us - only what it gives others.

Show some grace today by remembering we live in a society in which every person is for more than him or herself.

06 November 2009

Transformative Leadership

Many of us would agree that our world is fast approaching tipping points relating to the environment, energy, and public health. Most political leaders, both within their own nations and in their dialogues with their counterparts around the world, are limited in the approaches they can take and solutions they can offer by short-term electoral concerns, opinion polls, the deliberate and fractious nature of the legislative process, and the inevitable politicization of any ideas they may propose. This is a simplistic way of saying that political leadership and the legislative process - in our country and others - cannot be the only tools we use to try to address the crises of our time. The problem is this: if, say, a democrat proposes a good idea, a republican feels compelled to attack that idea just because a democrat proposed it, and vice versa. The ensuing debate is not about ideology - or whether the solution to the problem is practical and appropriate - but is instead about political power and the need to maintain it.

In the absence of effective political problem-solving, the world needs to give birth to a group of truly transformative non-political thinkers and leaders. These are intelligent people - and gifted communicators - who can propose ideas, outside of the political process, that can ultimately be embraced, adopted, and implemented by the people without the need for legislation (which amounts to making things happen by force of law).

Government can and will remain a tool for addressing many of our most important concerns and for ensuring the continuation of a just, fair, and free society. But real change can only come from the public itself, and the public can only effect this change with the guidance of non-political leaders. This is the real "public option."

There is a reason we don't trust government to solve all our problems. It can't.

Our new transformative non-political leaders must come from business, academia, nonprofits, and post-government (where career experience can be of value). They have to stand up and speak. And the public has to acknowledge their standing by listening, learning, and ultimately doing.

15 August 2009

Why We Need Health Care Reform

I've been getting all worked up about the lies the naysayers have been spreading, and I was going to write something here, but I cannot say it any better than our President.

Read President Obama's op-ed at: http://bit.ly/health-reform. Just read it. And share it with anyone you know who doesn't believe we must do this and do it now.

11 June 2009


For those of you checking out Tom Politics, please note that I have not abandoned this blog. I'm just happier with the political scene now than I was before the election and more focused on the personal. A number of my earlier posts on Tom Aplomb focused on candidates, campaigns, and last year's presidential election. You can find them by searching for terms such as "Barack Obama" or "John McCain" using the Tom Aplomb search box.

I will post here from time to time and continue to post daily on Tom Aplomb.

23 March 2009

Children, Children

For years, the right-wing succeeded in politics by infantilizing the public and using distractions to take our eyes off what was really happening in our nation: erosion of the constitution, discrediting of science, rape of the environment, prosecution of unnecessary and costly war, promotion - even celebration - of incompetence, legitimization of unbridled greed, and the largest redistribution of wealth upward in nearly a century. They, and by they I mean people like Dick Cheney and Rush Limbaugh, treated us like ungrateful children and told us we were unpatriotic if we did not listen to Daddy and do what he said.

Now it is time for the real President Obama, the adult we elected, to stand up and address the childish people around us - members of Congress, financial executives, talk show hosts, and others, who are acting like spoiled brats.

Imagine the speech, in front of both houses of Congress and the American people.

"Children, children." Put down your toys, your Nintendos and X-Boxes, and Wiis, your gas guzzling race cars, your soldier sets, your sticks and stones and slings and arrows, and yes, your twittering blackberries and text-messaging phones, and LISTEN! We are in a goddamn crisis, and we need to start acting like adults. That means you don't put more food on your plate (read debt), than you can eat. That means you use good table manners (read, say please when you ask the government for money and thank you when you receive it). That means you wait until everyone's been served until you take seconds (read bonuses). And it means you keep quiet and stop bickering while I say grace. Or I'm going to send you all to your rooms with no dessert. Understand that I'll be there for you if you fall (read AIG), but I'm not going to teach you that you'll be saved every time (read Lehman Brothers).  You're going to learn to stand on your own two feet. Do your homework (read, learn about the issues we face instead of spouting off about them). Pass the potatoes (read that's about all we have to eat right now). And help your mother and me clear the table (read we're all going to have to work together to clean up this awful mess).

18 March 2009

A I G (A little Integrity Goes a long way)

Everyone is commenting about the millions in bonuses that AIG (Assholes in Gaga-land?) just paid out to hundreds of executives, many of whom work or worked (making their "retention bonuses" absurd) in the division responsible for the firm's near-implosion. Maureen Dowd of The New York Times is outraged and thinks the government should just breach the contracts and take back the money. Barney Frank is beyond apopleptic. Chuck Grassley thinks (then thought better of saying) that the bonus recipients should resign and commit hari kari, like the shamed samurai of old and the shamed Japanese executives of recent years. Lawrence Cunningham, a GWU law professor, laid out, in true lawlerly form, the various legal avenues through which the government might seek to abrogate the contracts on which the bonus payments were based.

The only sensible commentary has come from my sage, Tom Friedman, who has opined that if we start the business of breaking our contracts, we sacrifice the rule of law on which our democratic system is based, and suggested that the AIG people should just give back the money. Friedman noted, in his Times Op-Ed piece today, that the teachers in his town's school district voluntarily gave up their 5% pay increases this year to prevent layoffs and service cuts for students (to the tune of $89 million). That, not senseless suicide (sorry, Chuck) is honorable sacrifice. President Obama has been telling us that we all need to pull together and do what it takes to get the nation back on its feet again. And we, the taxpayers, are doing our part. The President should now use his moral authority to silence Dowd, Frank, Grassley, Cunningham, and the rest of the blowhards, critics, pundits, and know-nothings, and speak directly to the Absolute Idiotic Greedheads who got the money. He should say, you are wrong to keep it. You need to give it back. The American people are sacrificing while you are awash in ill-gotten gains.

The bonuses represent a moral, not a legal issue, and should be approached purely from that perspective. The law is not always moral, but the President is not a legislator. He is our chief executive and the leader of the free world. Beyond saying what needs to be said, Mr. Obama should put the names of all the AIG employees receiving bonuses on a government website, with an indication next to each name of how much the person has received (in total compensation, not just bonuses) and whether he or she has given the bonus money back to the company. The bonus recipients have the right to act immorally, but they do not have the right to do it in secret, when the money they are receiving is coming from public funds. If they do not feel guilt after hearing the President's words, they will surely feel shame. And we can all be proud that we are doing the right thing.
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