Sunday, November 16, 2008

Tact in the event of tragedy (or not)

By now it's probably been broadcast nationally about a local incident that happened Friday afternoon, when a disgruntled worker killed three of his former employers. A manhunt ensued, and the shooter was taken into custody yesterday.

At first, speculation and rumor was that the shooter had been laid off from his job at Silicon Valley start-up, SiPort. Layoffs were in the news, as many Valley firms had announced them in the previous few days, including such major local employers as Sun Microsystems and Applied Materials.

When the identities of the victims was released as the company's CEO, the Vice President of Operations, and the Human Resources Director, it seemed like a pretty good assumption that the shooter, an engineer, had been laid off.

But, the surviving folks at SiPort don't want anybody to think their company isn't doing well. Announcing layoffs is not good for business, and, apparently, the headlines about them laying off somebody were more distressing to them than the loss of three executives.

While I have yet to see or hear a statement from SiPort saying anything about "mourning the loss... senseless tragedy... our thoughts to the families..." (etc., etc., pretending to care), I have heard "company spokesman" making it clear that the shooter was not laid off, but rather fired for cause.

What I heard from "company spokesman" on the news last night is that SiPort has never had any layoffs. In fact, in 2008, they raised $20 million in venture capital and added more jobs, and they expect to add hire more in 2009!

Well, sure they'll be hiring. We know that they have at least four openings right now: CEO, VP of Operations, HR Director, and Crazy-Ass Engineer.

And, given the current climate here in Silicon Valley, you better believe that as soon as the company name and job titles of the victims were released, that the corporate email and fax machine were filling up with resumes for each one of those jobs. They'll have thousands of applicants by the time they show up Monday morning to clear away the yellow crime scene tape that police investigators left behind.

Now, there's really no reason why a well-funded tech start-up should listen to a lowly nonprofit consultant like me, but don't you think their spokesman could have used a little more tact in responding to the correct crisis?

I do understand their needing to privately reassure their venture capital backers that the company will go on, and that this will not deter them. But shouldn't their public statements in the first 48 hours be focused on the human tragedy, and not their business plan?

Or maybe it's just me who thinks that. But then, that's why my clients are nonprofit organizations, not tech start-ups.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

The fat lady has yet to sing on this one

Along with the hopeful euphoria of Obama's election came the sobering slap in the face of California's Proposition 8 passing. From an overwhelmingly "blue" state came the first ever amendment to a state constitution removing rights already granted. This is embarrassing to me as a Californian, far beyond the mere disappointment of losing an election, it's major step backwards in the civil rights battle that helped bring Obama to the White House.

But there are two things I'm focusing on the remain hopeful that, although we just lost a major battle, we will eventually win the war.

First: Prop 8 barely passed, with votes still being counted till late on Wednesday before an official result was announced. Compare this to the 2002 "defense of marriage" ballot proposition that passed with 61% of the vote. Despite the loss, many minds have been changed over a relatively short period of time.

A few years of "domestic partnerships" and a few months of same-sex marriage have managed to convince a large part of California's electorate that the world won't end, and their own marriages will not be damaged, by extending the marriage right to all law abiding, competent adult citizens.

This is a hopeful sign, because the real battle is just beginning. Which brings us to the second point:

Marriages that are recognized in some states, but not in others, are tainted anyway, and eventually this will need to be answered at the federal level. The lawsuits already filed as a result of Proposition 8 may be the key to that. And, if they are challenged all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, by the time they reach that level, President Obama may have appointed one or two new justices.

Our state Attorney General, Jerry Brown, has said that, once challenged, it will be his job to defend Proposition 8, and that he will do his job - even though he opposed its passing. But he also said that, since there's no language in Proposition 8 making it retroactive, he will defend the 18,000 same-sex couples who were legally married to retain their marriage.

This pretty much guarantees that there will be legal challenges from both sides: Gay and lesbian couples who are now not allowed to marry, and Prop 8 supporters who are upset that there are still 18,000 legal gay marriages among their neighbors.

The forces of progress may have lost this one proposition battle (due in large part to deceptive advertising and intervention by religious forces from outside California), but time and history are on the side of marriage equality.

I'm not giving up just yet. Like somebody else has been saying lately, "Yes we can." Fire it up! Ready to go!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Let the healing (and the hard work) begin...

I keep going back to and etc., to recheck those headlines. It wasn't a dream. It really happened; we've really changed the world! And that was the easy part.

Last night was great; the unbelievable wave of emotion that came over me when the election was officially called for Obama at 8 PM Pacific, the shots of the cheering crowds in Chicago, DC, and NYC across the TV screen, the gracious and conciliatory speech of Senator McCain, and the historic and inspirational speech of President Elect Obama. It was a moment that will always be remembered.

Now comes the hard part. For better or worse, the President Elect will have stronger Democratic majorities in the House and Senate than has existed in years. It will now be his job to keep them in check; to not overreach and to keep a few ideas from outside DNC headquarters on the radar.

I fear a Congress that's like a kid in the candy shop, thinking they've got a mandate to do whatever they want without consulting the people who sent them there. If they behave in that manner, these majorities will only hold for two years. If President Obama is unable to control them, he will only be in charge for four years.

If President Obama is able to show the type of leadership I believe him capable of, and keep Congress in check, he'll be able to enact a great deal of his programs, but carefully, slowly, and with cooperation and advice from all parties. And, if he does that, the next eight years could truly change our country far beyond the symbolism of his historic election.

I'll have more to say about this, and other election results (as of this writing, it looks like Prop 8 is passing, but so narrowly that they still haven't called it officially nearly 12 hours after polls closed) in the coming days and weeks.

For today, I simply offer my congratulations to the Democrats. I was with you during this election, but I'm still an independent, and there's no guarantee I'll be with you again.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Final Pre-Election Blog (part two)

Okay, I have a few minutes before hell week gets under way here, so one more "final thought" before election day in the form of a shocking revelation: John McCain is neither Satan nor a Nazi.

Yes, it would make this election a lot clearer if either candidate were a total idiot slime bag. But the fact is, John McCain has earned our respect both in his many years in the Senate and in his service in Vietnam. He's no fool, and he's ten times the man and leader that G.W. Bush ever was or ever could be.

Yes, I admitted it: McCain isn't Bush. But in many policy areas, and the economy in particular, they both worship at the same alter of failed Reaganomics. In the economic and domestic policy realm, McCain's battle cry and Bush's are each the continued death of regulation and reliance on "trickle-down" policies that have lead directly to the current crisis that is crushing America.

I trust Barack Obama (bolstered by the endorsement of Warren Buffet and others who should know) to not just plug the current holes, but to enact meaningful changes to keep this from happening again. In Obama I see the hope and the energy needed to inspire a nation to rebuild, and bring out the best of America and in Americans.

In Obama I see our best hope for solving our healthcare crisis, with one in seven Americans lacking access to anything but the emergency room. In Obama I see the leadership needed to get us out of our oil dependence within a decade. In Obama (bolstered by the endorsement of Colin Powell and others who should know) I see a new direction in our struggle against terrorism and extremism that could ease the tensions.

If McCain wins, it won't be the end of the world. But it won't be much different or better either. He's not Bush, but the direction we're headed will be the same. And, if McCain wins, you better believe I'll be praying for his good health every morning and night of his tenure. But wouldn't a fresh start be so much better?

Oh, and now that I've admitted that McCain is neither Satan nor a Nazi, can somebody on the right please admit that Obama is neither a terrorist nor a socialist?

As the great poet, Joey Ramone, once said, "Twenty- twenty- twenty-four hours to go. I wanna be sedated."

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Final Pre-Election Blog (maybe)

Driving around doing my Sunday errands today I was stopped at an intersection with a few people holding up signs in favor of Proposition 8, the California constitutional amendment that would deny same-sex couples the right to marry (see my No on 8 vlog here). The slogan on their signs was, "Prop 8 = Free Speech."

Having nothing else to do while waiting for a long signal, I rolled down the window and and asked, "How does Prop 8 have anything to do with free speech?"

"The people voted against gay marriage in 2002, and judges overturned it!" was his reply.

"Because it was found to be unconstitutional. It had nothing to do with free speech," I answered. "Obviously you still have the right to be as intolerant as you like," (maybe I shouldn't have said that?)

"They already have all the rights!" he said, thankfully changing the subject from my accusation of his intolerance.

"Let me ask you something," I attempted, "What would you do if somebody decided that your marriage could only be called a 'partnership'?"

He turned away. I guess I stumped him.

"Would you call that equal?" I tried again.

"Have a nice day," he told me between clenched teeth.

"Can you answer the question? Would you be satisfied if your marriage were reduced to a 'partnership'?"

A scowl was all I got from him.

"Of course not," I answered. "So you're a hypocrite as well as a liar," (I have a tendency for going too far), "Have a nice day!" The light changed and I drove off.

On the brighter side, I had a nice talk with a McCain supporter at Trader Joe's (I was wearing an Obama shirt, of course). We each agreed that it looked like an Obama victory, but that we didn't trust the polls either way. So, if you haven't voted yet, be sure to get out there on Tuesday and do what you've got to do!

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