Social Media: Possibilities & Perils on Telemundo's Enfoque Show

Social_Media_Possibilities_and_Perils_on_Telemundo’_Enfoque_Show I used to be more idealistic about social media. After all, social media has been instrumental to magnifying my message once I became an independent professional. No longer having a megawatt national media company behind me, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and now Instagram have become the vehicles that allow the point of view I represent to compete with that of the Usual Suspects. This is crucial because of the lack of diversity at the very top of organizations. One look at the mainstream media, Fortune 500 companies, corporate boards, and politics and you would think it's still 1950--white and male. While dominant, this point of view is not representational of contemporary America. Yet social media's significant possibilities are weighed down by its equally powerful perils. This is what I discussed on a panel discussion on Telemundo's national Sunday public affairs show Enfoque con José Díaz-Balart.

Our news peg is the Elonis v. the United States case before the Supreme Court which the justices are examining concerning a man who posted threats on his Facebook page. At issue are the limits of free expression and what constitutes a credible threat plus the real impact of those perceived threats. This last point is significant because of the acceleration at which a message and its consequences travel--literally at the speed of technology for example of tweet. In a worst case scenario such as cyberbullying, the consequences of a Facebook post or tweet can quickly devolve and result in a suicide or death.

To answer the question: what is private? My answer is nothing which is why my personal practice and my professional advice is:

  • The best photograph is the one not taken or taken by you because you're behind the lens and not in pic (same goes for social posts)
  • I also ask and encourage other to ask: does this post or picture represent me in 1, 5, or 10 years in a social and professional setting? Answering this question slows down the instantaneous reaction to post as things as they happen when emotions may prevail or reason and good judgement

Click here to view the full interview in Spanish.

How do you view social media? What's your social media protocol?

Share below in comments and don't forget to share this post using the social share buttons below.




VIDEO: My Latino Midterm Election: At the National Press Club

My_Latino_Midterm_National_Press_Club_Viviana_Hurtado-TheWiseLatinaClub I had the opportunity to speak at the prestigious National Press Club on the "Races to Watch" panel about the Latino vote and candidates' impact on Election 2014. Hosted by the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO), I joined Daniel Garza from the right of center and Koch brothers funded the LIBRE Initiative and Cristóbal Alex, from the Latino Victory Project which was co-founded by Democratic National Committee finance chief Henry Muñoz and actor Eva Longoria. Click here to read our Q & A with Eva Longoria when she was in Washington, D.C. for her organization's launch.

Whether as a journalist or now as a so-called Latina influencer, I have for more than a decade reported and observed the political process. I've learned to not trust candidates, politicians, or political parties--not because they're bad, but because special interests and power often times preclude doing the right thing or standing up for the little guy. From judicial appointments to legislation such as gun control, getting anything done in Washington, D.C. (note that in state houses and towns across the nation, agendas are moving forward) is an act of God. And when something is achieved, no one is happy because everyone gave too much and gained so little. Always the overachieving scholarship student, it's been hard for me to accept a government that seems to strive to earn a perennial C-.

Democracy is messy. But it's the one we've got. And it belongs not to the Koch Brothers or Barack Obama, but us. A mistaken belief is that my vote can change the system. Not quite and those who peddle in the currency of change need to watch it because the opposite of hope is desencanto or disillusionment. That's a powerful force. But stronger is the agency that derives from our consistent, collective action which over time can shape and influence the politics and policy of our day.

Yet Latinos, despite their mammoth demographic and economic might are yet to translate this into political and social power. Why? That's a question I've attempted to answer in the original series “My Latino Midterm Election” which examines federal data and local interpretations of it (for example, nonpartisan research centers or universities) to quantify voter engagement. Countless nonprofit community organizations and millions of foundation dollars later, Hispanic voting patterns quantify a disappointing return on investment. While the vote has increased and shattered records, about half eligible Latinos don't cast ballots or register. This was the case during Election 2012 when 12 million voted but 11 million did not. And if we drill down at the increases, are the numbers more a reflection of demographic destiny or civic participation born from the realization that I have skin, bruises, sweat, and tears in the game called American democracy and society?

The #fail is epic with blame to go around: political parties and candidates don't grasp a new America that is young and diverse, requiring an outreach and engagement strategy of these "new voters" at the heart of a campaign's DNA and media budget (and not an "add on" in the weeks leading up to the election). It's shameful that before Election 2014, in many races, a large portion of Latinos haven't been micro-targeted and contacted by candidates from both parties. It's a disgrace that more Hispanics aren't registering and participating at the local level such as school boards and town councils. School budgets and public safety are just some of the issues that affect people's lives decided at the local level.

Back to the briefing, the last question was what would be the "story" the day after the election. My answer: the same as the day after Election 2012:

Wow! The Latino Vote!

Forever optimistic, I hope the current round-the-clock last minute efforts to mobilize voters will include more Hispanics than what political pundits and the media predict. And with many races close, a win may come down to a relatively small number of votes. Just a few thousand Latinos votes could change the balance of power in Washington and have big repercussions going into the Presidential election of 2016.

Indeed, our vote is our voice. For Latinos, many come from mixed-status families and neighborhoods which magnifies the power and significance of our ballot because our vote contains the hopes, frustrations, and desencanto of our collective familia.

Vote for yourself.

But remember, you're also voting for them.

Click below to watch the video of the press briefing at the National Press Club:

To learn more about how the Hispanic demographic growth and voter registration are playing out in close 2014 midterm races, click here to read the original series “My Latino Midterm Election.”

Like (or didn't) what you read? Leave me a comment and don't forget to share using the easy peasy social share buttons below.

VIDEO: Deferred (Immigration Executive) Action. On MSNBC

The distrust in President Obama among Latino voters has roots in a broken promise made when Candidate Obama was first running in 2008. This distrust has been magnified by Mr. Obama's announcement that he would delay executive action on immigration until after the November midterm elections. The repercussions that will be felt by the President and Democrats was my main argument when I appeared this weekend on MSNBC's Alex Witt Show. Mr. Obama promised to make immigration reform a top priority within his first year as I write in Latina Magazine: Election 2012: President Obama’s Stance on Immigration. For a few months after he was first elected, Mr. Obama had a Democratic House and Senate. But he didn't stay true to his word, rightfully focusing his efforts on stabilizing the post-financial crisis economy and choosing to use his political capital to pass his signature landmark Affordable Care Act (ACA) legislation.

The President did make an element of immigration a top priority. On his watch, deportations of illegal immigrants hit record highs. Another priority is Deferred Action (DACA)--an executive action that temporarily legalizes DREAMers or young immigrants in school or the military who were brought to the country illegally as children. But let's be clear about one thing: DACA happened because DREAMer advocates broke from the mainstream Latino advocacy community and turned on this President as I witnessed and write about in “Anatomy of an Immigration Debate: Presidential Carne Asada at NCLR.” With chants of  yes, YOU can, they challenged the President to grant some relief and reprieve to a mixed immigration status community, where families are being torn apart by the increased deportations. More grassroots than their urban, specifically Washington, D.C. leaders, the DREAMers gave a face and voice to frustrations in a community where Mr. Obama has been known as El Deportador long before Janet Murguía of the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) christened him the Deporter-in-Chief.


Today, the anger towards this President is partially misguided. Indeed, he had no business in June swaggering to the podium in the Rose Garden, declaring impatience with an obstructionist Republican House and promising to go at it alone in the form of executive action by summer's end. But President Obama is the messenger. Democratic party operatives pressured him (and he caved)--warning that immigration executive action would hurt vulnerable Democrats locked in tight Senate races including Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana, and North Carolina. Their main argument is that a move by the President would enrage conservative, white, older voters who are more reliable, especially during the midterms, than Latinos. Democrats could kiss the Senate goodbye as well as any progressive agenda on education, the economy, and immigration.

Can Hispanic and Asian American voters (for whom immigration matters a great deal) turn to Congressional Republicans?  Let's examine their track record: a bipartisan Senate proposal squeaked by but died in their House. GOP leaders reacted to the executive action delay by accusing the President of engaging in "raw politics." Of course, they made no mention of their own party's politics in the form of obstruction, failure to reign in the xenophobic extreme wing, or refusal to negotiate, compromise, and govern.

Alex Witt asked me when the President would act, which along with when will comprehensive immigration reform happen, is a question I've been asked countless times. After covering immigration for the better part of a decade, after witnessing promises made only to be broken, my answer is always the same: I'll believe it when I see it.

But any person who believes that immigration is not a Latino issue but an American one with repercussions on our economy, global competitiveness, public safety, and national security should mark Wednesday, November 5, 2014. That's the day after the midterm election and the opportunity to hold the President, the Democratic and Republic party accountable. These powerful people hold the fate of millions in their hands. They will act--only if they have to.

Which leads us back to how I began this post--the Latino rank and file, as well as the leadership. If you take the political calculus of operatives, policy wonks, and pollsters, executive action and certainly comprehensive immigration reform will likely not happen until after the 2016 election, despite the growth of the Latino population and the electorate, as well as an extraordinary broad coalition that includes Evangelical Christians, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and labor unions. A legislative solution is more permanent than executive action, especially if the Republicans take the House.

This will require civic and political participation to have a say and help shape virtually every public policy issue that affects families. Unfortunately, the Latino advocacy community isn't singularly focused on voter registration and turnout similar to the massive mobilization during the Presidential Election of 2012. Now is also ripe for Hispanics to break open the immigration reform coalition even more--to convince, for example, senior white voters that immigration is as crucial to them as their Social Security checks (and according to some economists, Social Security's survival will be ensured by the Latino workforce).

There's a cynical saying in politics: you must pay to play. Even accounting for the numbers of undocumented, legal residents, and children under the voting age of 18, Latinos, if not money, have numbers on their side.

But in order to be a player, you must participate.

Click below to watch my appearance with fellow panelists Raúl Reyes and host Alex Witt on MSNBC which aired on September 7, 2014.

Click to read more of my posts on politics and immigration.

What's on your mind after reading this post? Please let me know here in comments or on social media by sharing using the social buttons below.

xo ~ Viviana

VIDEO: Immigration Manufactured Drama. On MSNBC


Spare me the manufactured drama over immigration.


Today, it's 2014 midterm elections and the GOP calculation to hold the House and perhaps narrowly capture the Senate (despite a few "rogue" Republicans such as Colorado Congressman Mike Coffman). The strategy relies on voter turnout which for midterms, hinges on reliables--older, white voters. Some are against immigration reform because they believe immigration is actually amnesty--a reward for lawbreakers. A few believe today's immigrants are inferior and will bring down America as I write in Heritage Immigration Report: Latino Small Brains and Long Political Memory.

Our 24/7 media culture covers immigration--if it does--like a horse race. The problem is the simplification that comes from the binaries:




Good guy/Bad guy which was the role played by President Obama and House majority leader Eric Cantor around the Passover and Easter holidays over some shared words, apparently in the spirit of the Resurrection of Christ and the Liberation of the Exodus story. Until the Prez and the Jefe of the House got all Mean Girls with Obama's Felices pascuas, actually a criticism about Republicans stalling immigration reform, according to Cantor's office.

The manufactured drama between these two powerful men--or the daily media horse race--is distasteful and childish when you consider the true victims of a stalled immigration reform: the millions of families, many with U.S. citizen spouses or children--separated by current laws being arbitrarily enforced as documented in the scathing report Detention, Deportation, and Devastation: The Disproportionate Effect of Deportation on the Latino Community (The title should dispel any doubts of the report authors' position on this issue).

This fact can not be forgotten while the spin doctors for, on one hand, the President and Democrats and on the other, Republicans, jockey for advantage in the court of public opinion populated by voters, constituents, and the media. It is true that since 2009, new deportation cases have been declining steadily and that judges have ruled against removals, resulting in a 43% drop in the number of deportations through the court systems, according to the Department of Justice.

However, overall, deportations are at historic highs because this President early in his first term made a faulty calculation that beefing up enforcement and border security (which had already been "10 x'ed" after 9/11) would eliminate conservative opposition to immigration reform. No "We Are the World" was sung. Rather, Republicans outmaneuvered him, allowing the extreme fringe--and not the U.S. Chamber of Commerce or Evangelical Christians who form a key part of today's immigration reform coalition--to hijack the debate, ultimately stalling the Senate version in the House. The only ones happy with the Immigration Business As Usual are the private contractors who build and run the detention centers and the federal agencies such as Customs and Border Protection (CPB) and Immigration, Customs, and Enforcement (ICE) whose taxpayer funded budgets have surged, together nearing $18 billion dollars.

Every time the President says his hands are tied, I chafe. Indeed, he is not a king and Congress makes laws (something that hasn't happened since he was elected and Republicans vowed to focus more on defeating him in 2012 than doing their job). Remember executive authority, which the President invoked at the beginning of this year, prompting me to recommend he use this power to grant more deportation relief as I write in State of the Union: Immigration Executive Authority. The precedent exists in the form of DACA which pressed the deportation pause button for the so-called DREAMers and was brought about by the extreme pressure of advocates in the summer of  2012 as I write in The Latino Vote: Checkmate President Obama.

The effect is eroding confidence in the President which has contributed to a 22 point drop in his approval ratings since he handily won the Latino vote with a 3 to 1 margin in 2012. Although Democrats, especially those in midterm races, should be worried, what's the alternative for Latino voters? Republicans' civil war over the party's direction and future has turned immigrants--especially Hispanics--into scapegoats for this country's ills? The answer lies with Paul Ryan's comments at the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce speech. The former VP candidate with future presidential ambitions reminded the audience that politics is a full contact sport. He is correct and this requires consistent civic and voter participation. Politicians are equally terrified by well-funded special interests groups as they are by angry voters.

Still, midterms are tricky because of historic across the board low voter turnout. Add to this the reality of the electoral map. Representative Steve King represents an Iowa district characterized by demographics that aren't exactly East L.A. or Union City, New Jersey. But even King's district has "Hispanic pockets." It's not just Latinos coming out in support of immigration reform. It's also mobilizing an even broader, rock solid immigration coalition. Our greatest civil rights laws passed because whites--and others--felt and became invested.

Really want to move immigration reform forward? Get DREAMers to volunteer at retirement communities in key Republican districts as I write in To Save Comprehensive Immigration Reform, Advocates Must Volunteer at Old Folks' Homes, converting those "reliables" to this cause. Make every race competitive through participation. Politicians like Steve King, John Boehner, and Barack Obama love one thing more than principle--winning a race and the ensuing power. With our vote, let's show them how we want them to lead.

Click below to watch my  first participation on MSNBC's The Reid Report with host Joy Reid and Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank. This segment aired on April 17, 2014.

Click to read more of my posts on politics and immigration.
Will immigration reform happen before the 2016 Presidential election?

VIDEO: a (wise) latina on THE WISE LATINA: Sotomayor Supreme Court Dissent on MSNBC

“I respectfully dissent.” Three simple words at the end of a fifty-eight page treatise, part constitutional history lesson, part rousing defense of our American values of equal access and opportunity to our political and civic process. Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in reaction to the majority rule upholding Schuette, Attorney General of Michigan v.  Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action. The decision does not touch affirmative action laws. Rather it upholds the right for voters to make affirmative action laws in their states. Justice Sotomayor’s argument focuses on the importance of checks and balances, a basic tenet of our democratic process that acknowledges human propensity to overreach and the moral obligation to attain equilibrium. Specifically, she cites concern with majority rule squashing minorities, not a fabrication of her imagination but an historic condition confirmed by a quick trip to the Declaration of Independence exhibit at the National Archives. The push/pull of protecting states rights from federal abuse is contained in this document, in effect a foundational majority/minority tension that pulses through virtually every American social and political struggle.


Little public discourse occurs in 21st century. Instead, posturing, offense, cheap shots, and attacks have created an environment where we talk past each other. Most times liberals preach to liberals, conservatives to conservatives. Our 24/7 multimedia culture (of which I form a part) douses the hashtag flames with kerosene but does very little to shun ideology to question, challenge, hold the people in power accountable, and stand up for the little guy. In the case of Justice Sotomayor’s decision, the conservative media mill immediately spun out of control. Demeaning her intellect, her arguments were described as "intellectual hogwash" and "legally illiterate." Furthermore, the critiques reek of sexism—the editors of the National Review identify “emotion” and describes her dissent as “overheated.”

As I expressed on MSNBC’s Politics Nation when the Reverend Al Sharpton invited me to be his guest and asked for my reaction:

I’m not surprised.

I covered Sotomayor’s 2009 nomination and confirmation hearings and observed the conservatives attacks—from the media and lawmakers—this last egregious because the duty to “advise and consent” quickly spiraled into sexist and prejudiced attacks as I write in "A (wise) Latina Meet THE Wise Latina." The double standard reigns in these critiques which overlook the judicial activism and “emotion” of their own:

Samuel Alito...

...who shook his head and mouthed "not true” during the 2010 State of the Union in reaction to President Obama's assertion of the flood of corporate spending in political campaigns after a Supreme Court decision.

In speeches and his writings, Justice Antonin Scalia has forcefully made clear his political views.

‘Nuf said.

Where is the Right's criticism of his intellectual position—originalism—which mistakenly assumes that law exists stripped of cultural context? The law is nothing more than a narrow reading of legal texts. As someone who is highly trained in literary theory, a text—a novel, a folktale, or the Magna Carta—is an expression of a culture and a moment. What transcends are the values. But a reading—its significance to a people and an era—needs to be updated every generation. This is why every few years, new editions of Macbeth or Don Quixote are released and why our laws needs to be revisited such as the three-fifths compromise counting slaves partially for population counts.

Back to this decision, credible arguments against affirmative action--namely, this policy doesn't help the neediest of minorities--exist. However the latent resentment lacing these ideological attacks doesn't offer smart prescriptions such as ending legacy, athletic, and donor preferences in admissions, encouraging colleges to subsidize expensive and difficult standardized test preparation, or giving all poor kids an advantage when applying to college as detailed in The Atlantic.

Under the guise of states' rights, citizens' opportunity to participate in society is increasingly dependent on where they live. The parts affect the whole. States without an educated and prepared workforce will be unable to compete not just with each other or Americans from other states but with citizens from China and India. The significant drag on our economy and our global competitiveness is why Fortune 500 and military leaders--neither bastions of liberal--support this policy.

The ideologues will never see this which is why our vigilance and participation in our civic and political system is crucial. Whether it's affirmative action or voting rights, they don't have the lockdown on our country's future. Our actions--or inaction--does.

Click to watch my participation in a panel discussion on the conservative reaction to Justice Sotomayor's dissent on MSNBC's Politics Nation with Al Sharpton and MSNBC contributor Dr. James Peterson. This broadcast aired on April 23, 2014.

Where do you stand on affirmative action?

VIDEO: Politics and Policies of Sex: Equal Pay and Sex Education on MSNBC

MSNBC host Karen Finney roared out of the gate of her show Disrupt, asking me if Equal Pay is good politics or good politics. Both, I answered, a lover of living trapped between the hyphens, nuance, and teasing out the countless shades of gray before it became a pulp fiction blockbuster bestseller.

What women and men make varies depending on the agenda. Even before Equal Pay Day, the White House stated that for full-time workers, women make .77 on the dollar of a white man although figuring in part-time workers bumps it up to .84. Drilling down even further, the data reveal that women in their 20s have significantly narrowed the gap to .93 although yet another powerful variable to figure is the state where you live. On the opposite end are Latina working women who on average make .60 to the dollar, just 1 penny more than women overall were making when President Kennedy signed Equal Pay into law, which I previously stated on MSNBC.


In America, we may differ on the methods to ensure every one of us has equal access to opportunity to live a better life and build a brighter future. But fairness is something that gets all our goats whether you are a Tea Party Republican who believes: it's unfair freeloading poor, lazy people are being supported by my tax dollars. Then there's that person struggling to make ends meet who sees that the only ones who didn't see wages stagnate during the Great Recession are highfalutin CEOs.

This basic American value of fairness--even more for me than the fact that it's 2014 and not 1964--is why the income discrepancy is appallingly wrong. If job candidates have the same education, experience level, and technical competency needed to perform a series of work-related tasks, then why pay someone more or less because of her gender, race, or ethnicity? This is bad politics and worse policy with real life consequences that have little to do with the fear of frivolous lawsuits against employers who paid women less than men for no other reason than gender. The bazillion dollar boost to the GDP has been quantified so let's focus on kitchen table economics. How does paying women equally--not more or less--trickle down to local businesses in the form of more money spent at local restaurants, savings to buy a house, and weaning off of assistance programs to pay for housing, heating bills, and groceries?

Still, while a step in the right direction, Equal Pay measures do not address the socio-cultural factors with a huge economic impact. More women than ever are graduating from college and working, yet only 17% sit on powerful corporate boards, lead from the C-suite, or are successful negotiating higher pay. We know STEM fields are the lucrative careers of the future as The Wise Latina Club's Aundrea Gregg argues virtually every week in her education columns. Yet the culture in Silicon Valley, specifically in startups is one of the biggest Bro Fests that many times can be antagonistic to women. The question then becomes not how to reduce the gap in pay but how establish educational and economic policies and practices--including flex work schedules, affordable child care, pipelines tied to performance results and not billable hours--that will make Sheryl Sandberg and Marissa Meyer not exceptions but the rule. This is not about affirmative action. Rather, it's about creating best business practices that boost the bottom line.

Which leads me to another hot topic we discussed: Mississippi's Teen Sex Education law. At issue is not what to teach, for example, sex education, abstinence only, or the so-called abstinence plus. Rather, one Oxford teacher used a Peppermint Pattie chocolate to teach what happens to a young woman when she has sex before marriage--she is soiled and dirty. This is not an isolated incident. In Texas, some teachers have compared teenage girls to toothbrushes--clean and unwrapped. More than offensive, I find this hypocritical because the underlying religious agenda criticizes our permissive, liberal society for allowing a hyper-sexualized pop and media culture objectify our young women (Selena Gomez, anyone?). Yet ,comparing them to a toothbrush or chocolate is no different since both reduce young women to static objects, doing little to strengthen values or self-esteem.

Which is what education does. Despite rummaging on search for hours, I couldn't find a link between teaching sex education and teen promiscuity. Rather, the data show that teaching sex education has reduced the rate of teen pregnancy, although a recent Center for Disease Control (CDC) report states that younger teens 15-17 are getting pregnant, with 1,700 a week delivering babies. The recommendation is to reach teens younger to prevent teen pregnancy and the accompanying negative outcomes including high school drop out, lower payer jobs, and dependence of assistance programs to make ends meet. Where are the teachers, superintendents, and the religious agenda to help these teens raise a child, not just for 18 years but for life? Interestingly, the alarm bells in Mississippi weren't sounded by liberals but by the business community that see how these negative outcomes are bad for business and Mississippi's future.

You can click on the links to watch our discussion on teen sex education in Mississippi, the continuing Republican investigation into the IRS scandal that targeted conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status for extra scrutiny, and Democrats' focus on voting rights to increase 2014 and 2016 election odds with panelists Slate's Joan Walsh, LeHigh University's Dr. James Petersen, The New York Times Josh Barro, host Karen Finney and I. Click on the video below to watch our Equal Pay conversation which aired on April 13, 2014.

If it were up to me, I would lock my nieces in a closet until they are 25. How have you/are you broaching sex education with your teens?

VIDEO: Putin Pressure on Obama and the GOP. On MSNBC

The Ukrainian Prime Minister is scheduled to meet with President Obama on Wednesday to discuss the escalating situation that, if not plunging us back into a Cold War, has certainly broken the so-called reset button between the U.S. and Russia.

What happens there has big repercussions here: the debilitating situation has ratcheted up the pressure on the President, specifically on his foreign policy which favors diplomacy, particularly talking first to military intervention. Calling him naive, many conservatives are up in arms, knee-jerk reacting with claims of Obama's and by extension America's weakness to the world which I touch on in What does the Ukraine and Venezuela Say about Putin and Obama?


In order to prepare for my panel discussion on MSNBC's Disrupt with Karen Finney, I burned down my remote control channel surfing between the Sunday public affairs shows on network, cable, and Spanish-language TV. The GOP All Stars including Congressman Paul Ryan, Senator Ted Cruz, and former Secretary of State James Baker made the rounds promoting a hawkish approach with former Vice President Dick Cheney criticizing the President for taking the military option off the table. The Bush version of the missile defense program partly in Poland and the Czech Republic, which was paused by President Obama as part of the ineffective re-set, was also resuscitated to reign Vladimir Putin in while protecting American interests and asserting its military might (note the program and funding continues but with an eye toward a North Korean missile strike).

I agree with the former Vice President that when engaging in any high stakes negotiation, the more options you have the stronger your hand. That's how my papis raised us, instilling the fear of the chancla which kept us on the straight and narrow (although it was rarely, if ever used).

President Obama isn't much for saber-rattling. Pragmatic and cool-headed, he looks at this combustible situation through the lens of the American public, an anemic economic recovery, and a frayed military and their families--each not supporting an intervention such as boots on the ground. The President may also be gun shy to draw a red line, given how Syria's sinister Bashar al-Assad crossed it by using chemical weapons against civilians, cornering Obama who chose not to retaliate.

Adding fuel to the flame is the political climate in the U.S. The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) wrapped while the situation in Ukraine deteriorated. While participants attempted to expose the President's many weaknesses, what was revealed was the continuing dissonance within the Republican party: on one hand, 2016 Presidential Hopefuls, including CPAC straw poll winner Rand Paul who like younger Republicans favors a  foreign policy of non intervention. On the other, the hawkish old guard on the Sunday shows and their chicks such as other 2016 GOP Wannabes Ryan and Cruz.

Jim Baker said it best on Face the Nation when he sounded the alarms of the danger of rhetoric getting "out in front of reality." The old guard is out. The 2016 Wannabes aren't in. President Obama sits in the Oval Office and does not exclusively have as an audience primary voters, CPAC goers, or our 24/7 media culture. His audience is the American people and the world. He favors a measured, cautious, gather-evidence approach to swashbuckle diplomacy. Additionally, he likely understands that economic sanctions are among the most effective weapon in his arsenal. Adopting capitalism has been brutal to Russia. Their economy is characterized by weak markets and oligarchs who have gotten richer by taking advantage of a corrupt regime. Squeezing Russia economically will be strengthened in coalition with other nations such as Great Britain, France, and jittery Germany. Don't forget the vital importance of buy-in from multinationals with billions in investment at stake. There is also the role of our energy consumption, policy, and future which has propped up yet has the power to disarm petro bullies.

To say the President is walking a geopolitical tightrope is an underestimate. Let's hope he's burning down the phones as he builds a coalition. Rebuking Russia sends a clear message to other hotspots such as Venezuela that America stands up for its allies, interests, and values  not because we say so but because the world demands it and has our back.

I discussed Putin and the Ukraine, as well as the significance of a Democratic move in Congress to push immigration reform forward on MSNBC's Disrupt with host Karen Finney and Perry Bacon, Jr., political editor of on March 9, 2014. To watch, click below:

What is the best way forward in Ukraine and other hotspots?

VIDEO: Federal Minimum Wage Hike--Solution or Problem on MSNBC

How best to preserve our eroding middle class and grow it in the near future so more Americans can have opportunities to succeed? This question is at the heart of a decades long Washington political battle between Republicans and Democrats. At least since the 2012 Democratic National Convention, Barack Obama has been referring to growing the middle class "from the middle out." In the State of the Union, the President elaborated the policies he believes will do just that, including the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 which polls say the public supports.

You can imagine how these ideas are blowing over with Republicans. To be fair, the GOP is expressing legitimate concerns on the impact of a wage hike to the economy. Similar to "Obamacare," countless personal anecdotes, news stories, and studies document how a federal minimum wage increase hurts the middle class by hitting them in the pocketbook by eliminating jobs. Specifically, the proposed higher minimum wage would cut approximately 500,000 jobs because companies could not afford to keep higher wage employees on the payroll, according to a report by the credible and nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. The Hispanic-focused, center-right group LIBRE Initiative argues this increase will hurt workers of color more since African-Americans and Latino, who generally hold lower wage jobs, will see their hours or positions go poof!-bah-bye-you're fired.

This same report also claims that the nearly $3.00/hour more would help lift 900,000 people of out poverty. Who are "those people?" Two-thirds are women, single moms, and not surprisingly, of color, according to the National Women's Law Center. Remember that these women are struggling to keep a roof over their family's head and food on the table with federal assistance programs such as food stamps the difference between being fed or going to bed hungry. A Washington Post blog correctly notes that businesses not paying higher wages sticks taxpayers with the bill in the form of more demand for government assistance by people not able to make ends meet.

What hasn't been talked about are the benefits nearly $3/hour more brings to local economies. Remember that our economy is majority fueled by consumer spending.  Thus it follows that more money in people's paycheck will go to local business such as grocery stores, car dealers, and mechanics. And if these economic perks aren't discussed, neither are the "soft benefits" of freeing up parents who are working two, three jobs to spend more time reading to their kids or checking homework. Think this is all We-Are-The-World-Kumbaya? Study after study document the vital role of parental involvement in student success and life outcomes.


I brought this up on my first appearance on MSNBC's Disrupt with Karen Finney which I shared with economist Jared Bernstein.

Going back to the larger picture of rebuilding the middle class, the federal minimum wage increase proposal comes months before the 2014 midterm elections. Take the President's decision to not support a less generous Social Security formula (oh hi Senior voters, aka reliable voters) or the reported $56 billion "investments" in his 2015 budget proposal he will unveil in early March which focus on job training and early education. The President, who as I note at the beginning has been beating this drum since the 2012 election, is making a forceful case that upon comparison, the Democratic party is sticking up for the middle class.

Always a reporter, I checked out the web pages and Twitter of the GOP party and leadership, including Speaker Boehner and House majority leader Eric Cantor. #AnAmericaThatWorks is a whole lotta hashtag bluster:


What are the specifics?

A firm believer that a strengthened Republican party is in our country's best interest, I would like to see GOP input, for example, on how to support small businesses through tax credits. Personally, I would like to leave it up to companies and states. But they're run by people who don't always exercise common sense for the common good. Case in point: the 2008 global financial meltdown brought to you by Wall Street masters of the universe. Additionally, not every company is The Gap which voluntarily raises its minimum wage. America shouldn't be The Hunger Games where if you are born into the wrong "district" or despite going to school and professional experience but don't work at a generous company, then tough.

The President's proposals are not doctrine rather a starting point. That will require participation: will Republicans articulate specific policies to help the middle class that aren't betrayed by ideology and politics? Barring significant set back such as another healthcare website blunder, will Democrats stay united? Will voters show up?

Click below to watch this discussion which aired on February 23, 2014.

What are some programs working to strengthen the middle class that need to get a shout out?

VIDEO: What does the Ukraine & Venezuela Violence Say About Putin and Obama? On MSNBC

Polls confirm what media executive's assertions that Americans don't have an appetite for foreign news. This justifies closing international bureaus in favor of "parachute reporting" during a crisis as well as and scaled back international coverage in favor of, for example, increased weather coverage. Measured by the remote, this may be true. But another measure is social media. A glance at my Twitter and Facebook this week and the uprising in the Ukraine and the student protests in Venezuela are dominating my feeds.

The power struggle there, and in countless other hotspots throughout the world, is fast-changing. It's messy making good/bad guys hard to differentiate. Government censorship reigns with reporting difficult if not outright impossible and dangerous. This is the context in which social media is filling a gaping void. Information in the form of pictures, video, and tweets is being communicated to organize the opposition, to raise awareness, and critically, influence public opinion, captured in one Venezuela hashtag: #SOSVenezuela.

However, social media can be manipulated. The excruciating pictures of police beating protestors to a pulp are reportedly from Egypt. Events and movements must not be romanticized. Rather, their agendas must be recognized. With public support of concerned citizens and powerful leaders at stake, a trained journalist with the capacity to edit information in real time is crucial to coverage, understanding, and ensuing international action.


These were the thoughts in my mind as I headed to MSNBC Live's Agenda Panel to discuss Vladimir Putin's success or failure during the Sotchi Olympics. With a virtual split screen on our mobile devices transmitting Russian repression of dissent in the form of LGBT rights, punk rock band Pussy Riot, and the uprising in the Ukraine, Putin's well-documented authoritarianism was on display for all to see, mainstreaming what foreign policy wonks have been decrying for years.

Putin's spotlight not only shines on him but on the President. Always ready ready to strike, conservatives criticize Barack Obama, describing his response weak to a question on the escalating violence in Ukraine. During last week's press conference at the North American Leaders Summit, the President said:

"...we continue to stress to President Yanukovych and the Ukrainian government that they have the primary responsibility to prevent the kind of terrible violence that we’ve seen, to withdraw riot police, to work with the opposition to restore security and human dignity and move the country forward...And our approach as the United States is not to see these as some Cold War chessboard in which we’re in competition with Russia. Our goal is to make sure that the people of Ukraine are able to make decisions for themselves about their future, that the people of Syria are able to make decisions without having bombs going off and killing women and children, or chemical weapons, or towns being starved because a despot wants to cling to power."

Conservatives believe this is yet one more example of America "leading from behind." They also accuse the President of not sending a clear signal of our leadership and the universal human rights we stand for. Peggy Noonan writing in the Wall Street:

"The Higher Reticence is, I suppose, intended to show how sophisticated and peaceable we are. But it doesn't look peaceable, it looks weak. It is one thing to be militarily prudent, it is another to be, in expressing our sentiments, timorous and detached."

If you read the full statement, the President does not come off as timorous or detached. But he also does not strike the swashbuckling cowboy pose of the George W. "either with us or against us" Bush era. Rather, Mr. Obama is analytical, prudent, what we call in Spanish cabeza fría. This drives the DC media crazy, as does the fact that they don't receive real time read outs of the high stakes diplomacy phone calls to foreign leaders, intel gathering, and military strategy that is likely going on but a sotto voce.

Personally, I'm glad this President is cautious, a signal of his read of an American people and an economy that can't support a plunge into a foreign conflict where the country divisions and way out are blurry. There's also the messy nature of geopolitics: because of the horror in Syria which Russia is partially bankrolling and Iran's nuclear enrichment, it's essential to keep our friends close and our frenemies closer.

But where Noonan is correct is the need to send a clear message to the people who are fighting for universal human rights of self-determination:

While you stand up, we stand with you.

And nothing says this more powerfully than numbers. I hope President Obama is calling Angela Merkel, David Cameron, Dilma Rousseff, and Enrique Peña Nieto. The dynamic quickly changes from a repressive government versus the U.S. (which feeds autocrat's jingoistic rhetoric) to oppression versus a people and the coalition that backs them.

Click here to watch this February 21, 2014 appearance on MSNBC Live with Liberal Oasis Executive Editor Bill Scher and The Huffington Post's politics reporter Sabrina Siddiqui who recorded and provides this segment.

How do you judge our reaction to the crises in the Ukraine and Venezuela?

VIDEO: Guv Chris Christie and Prez Obama: Liability or Asset? On MSNBC

Distance. It's happened to everyone: you've imposed it to keep someone at bay or someone has done it to you. Whether it's in your personal or professional life, this practice has its roots in the grammar schoolyard. The powerful corridors of politics is no different, especially as the fundraising/campaigning cycle grows closer.

Chris Christie is embroiled in Bridgegate--a Sopranos-esque intrigue characterized by bullying that verges on abuse of power. The New Jersey governor is also the chairman of the Republican Governors Association and is tasked with traveling around the country, giving a fundraising boost to fellow state executives. This travel also gives him national exposure and face to face contact with voters all over--advancing any presidential ambitions. Yet as the drumbeat of scandal and subpoenas beats louder, some of leaders he is charged with supporting are keeping him at arm's length.

Politics is transactional leading commentators to read the shade thrown (or perceived to be thrown) as a loss to Christie loss but a gain to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. In fact this could be true. But the situation for the New Jersey governor, while damaging, is not conclusive. If the subpoenas and investigations do not yield criminal wrongdoing, if his crisis communications strategy stays on track, and Christie continues doing his job, he can emerge stronger than ever.

One more factor: the Wisconsin governor or any other person crazy enough to throw her hat in the presidential rink may have his own escándalo dash presidential ambitions. Like anyone in politics, Governor Walker has accumulated many enemies, including the public workers who can no longer organize and were unable to recall him. In short, with more than two years until the 2016 election, which scandals will emerge, which wild card candidate may be up in the polls and political chatter today, poof!--gone tomorrow.

Yet one more factor are the 2014 midterm elections with both Republicans and Democrats vulnerable. Some Dems are slow to accept President Obama's fundraising and offers to campaign. Depending on the map, the bungled rollout of the Affordable Care Act is a campaign liability. For example, Mary Landrieu faces a tight race in Louisiana, making the President appearing with her doing more harm than good.

Evaluating President Obama and Governor Christie as a liability or an asset was the main topic on MSNBC's Live with guest host Betty Ngygen and MSNBC digital managing editor Dafna Lizner. This aired on February 6, 2014.

 President Obama and Governor Christie (or Hillary Clinton): liability or asset?