Fighting for America

Wait to discover what the new Democratic members in the House have in common. There are three unelected leaders working 24/7/365 to get more Democrats and Independents in the House and Senate. They are Nina Turner, the new president of Our Revolution, Maurice Mitchell, the new national director of the Working Families Party and Yvette Simpson, the new chief officer of Democracy for America. They share concerns for the dignity of the American worker and family, and they represent a unique political triumvirate. If they can protect one another, build an agenda for 2020 and start winning the future for the people left behind or pushed away it will be about more than politics. Whether conservative or progressive, that is all that should matter.

The depth of their shared experience as dynamic African-American leaders will be measured by how well they inject the people’s intellect into movements for change, but one other thing they have in common is a little scary. They seem woefully inadequate to the task and appear slightly ineffectual in the scraps of video available. Perhaps, it is the lack the money essential for digging into the demography and mysteries of votes and power. This kind of analysis can be replaced by the analytical skills of a grassroots organizational structure but, do they have it? Some of the poor impression is theirs to own, but the main problem is with us. What do they need to prove? They can lift their organizations into positions of great power, but when will we know? Winning elections is no longer sufficient.  What will be? What must we do?

Most of the poor and struggling families around the world are in the outlying urban areas both near and far from the dense core of economic forces that push and pull people from the land.  Homelessness is a production function cities. The vast ability of dense urban areas cities to create demand also cause a maze of economic disruptions that displace and break families. In much of the world, the human byproduct of this displacement is evident in large informal settlements. The housing market is failing to provide housing to one-third of the world’s urban population. Why do they get pushed? Do they know? No, and no one is telling them, even in America.

“There is a cultural movement in the white working class to blame problems on society or the government, and that movement gains adherents by the day.”
J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis

One person knows a lot about the economics of this is Bruce Katz, Director of the Center on Urban Metropolitan Policy at Brookings, a century old, centrist purveyor of fact. There are five short presentations and one long video by Katz (HERE). It will take about 30 minutes to watch this selection. He may sound libertarian, but he is just the messenger. I recommend listening to him before reading further. If you’d rather not, here is the super short version and why a triumvirate, such as the three imagined here is essential.

Our metropolitan centers are by far, the vital economic engines of America, and as such will continue to produce unrelenting displacement pressure on low-and-moderate-income households. They are the engines of learning, full of universities, colleges, advocacy organizations and training centers fully capable of creating a next-generation citizen fully capable of breaking down and eliminating gender, racial and ethnic barriers.  Details are here.

Skilled civic engagement in regional growth is a cultural phenomenon with specific strategies. First, retain the residence of threatened populations in the core. Second, draw down every opportunity to inject the reality of displacement pressure into the political heart of leaders. Third, this is a “no news is good” issue. Capable leadership will flee, equity holders will cash out, take their young and move far too soon into lower-cost environments (south and southwest). You need them. Encourage them to stay and fight.

Lastly, the 535 people at the federal level of representative leadership are ignorant of this fact, or at least behave that way by deferring to state powers. The triumvirate(s) suggested here is a stateless organization, they are capable of creating policies, projects, and priorities that strengthen multi-state regions and agencies. The U.S. more than its 50 states; it’s a network of 363 economically integrated metropolitan areas (click map above). Regional development policies are thousands of times more relevant to the future economic and social health of working-class America than the set of lines drawn by cartographers to establish the Republic a couple of centuries ago.

The boundaries of the states were formed using an imaginary grid that stretches across the earth. The intent of this coordinate scheme is to locate or identify precise geographic positions. The idea dates to 190–120 BC, it was used to draw uniform boundaries of the American states, and today your phone knows where you are to within a meter. The states are arbitrary constructs of uniformity and similar size, the metro-regions are synonymous with the health of the nation and in a metaphorical sense they are “circles.”  The circle looks inward. It is an object that shows its boundary to the world, the grid does not.  This is the organizing principle upon which triumvirates will develop their power. The voters of these regions are majority blue, Democrats and Independents. The organizational realignment toward multi-state economic regions will take a while, in the meantime, several strategic components require special attention.

Multi-Cultural/Racial Politics

Is a “rainbow coalition” possible? The presumption that it exists is wrong; it does not exist. All the appetizers, entrees and fixings are laid out in the kitchen, but supper has yet to find the dining table, even the one that is in the kitchen. The foundation for celebrating this high quality of change within the American diversity spectrum is barely recognized or touched let alone stirred with any fondness. We have no language, no string of words for it and it dates to 1984.

Building a foundation for American diversity is developing in two places, universities with civic engagement policies for incorporation across their curriculum from STEM programs to the more traditional centers.  The leaders are in law and political science who carry the strongest interest in a sustained discourse on democracy and its institutions. The second place occurs in the city where the language of diversity is improving followed by state and federal elections that exhibit serious divisions and therein lies the dark side of the social justice coin.

Counting over several years and multiple election cycles, the U.S ranks 27th out of 35 economically developed countries in voter turnout. Volunteerism in community service ranks low at 20 to 25% of households, and it is top heavy in the higher income ranges. More recently, threats to the well-being of working families have increased civic engagement activities, especially in urban areas. These facts were so widely apparent that it led to the creation of the American Democracy Project (ADP). It started with colleges and universities in 2003 and remains a nonpartisan initiative of AASCU in partnership with The New York Times. The knowledge resources on this subject are online and free for digital distribution (HERE). An author’s presentation on the 2017 edition is (HERE). As these efforts are failing, a viewpoint on why is outlined (HERE) for comment. American civic engagement practices for dealing with problems is the problem. The plug has yet to slip into the outlet, the power is there but the switch is missing and there appears to be no endurance limit on our knowledge of this fact of self-oppression.

Problems: Ships in the Night & The Lost Soul of the 60s

We have the radar for the existence of other ships in the Democracy, thousands of them but that is about all. Here is one example. To Kill a Mocking Bird (1960) is one of the most read books in America and widely assigned in schools. White people think the attorney Atticus Finch was a hero but to the African-American, he is a stone looser, yet Aaron Sorkin is willing to use his exquisite use of language and force that point into the debate of how we must “all rise,” the last two words in the play.  The demand is to get to a better American place (read a PBS interview (here). Where is the language that makes it possible to call out or openly condemn people that tacitly support a culture of hate and malice? The American psyche is far too easily driven into little camps and throwing a “big tent” over it remains as unpalatable as always.

When thousands of people like the Mayor of Jackson Mississippi (first 5 min. only – on video here – 170K pop. 80%Black and a third Asian) enter your world the tent can get more interesting.  Getting past platitudes and on to education and housing in Jackson will be his issue. New leadership like this will be watched and if possible assisted to see through the clouds that new leaders attract. After the 2016 election, many groups pulled big national lists together for study but they not useful. As the digital revolution began in the 1970s, the ability to study, think, act, and respond together became the more useful MOOC. The isolation remains and groups still struggle to form beyond encouraging references to Margaret Mead and her opinion on the subject.

Americans need an intervention regarding addictions to racial ignorance. Where is the tough-love slap in the face that makes everything right and gives us back our senses? This intervention is possible. It will be done with superb care on the ground yet to be found for a foundation unlaid and a building we can barely envision. It will be done as if all the oppressed, unlucky or struggling rainbow of people in this nation could stand all at once and scream NO to pandering leaders, and yell in one sweet sound, “we are the change we seek, we are the change we seek!”

Brokenhearted Fatalism

Nina Turner (Our Revolution) puts it this way.  When “the hunter,” writes the story, there is no story of the lion. Political movements are similar. It can use filters that leave people out who think they are in. Like the term “hunter,” labels such as “neoliberal” or “self-reliant” simultaneously attracts people to power they cannot acquire. In tracking the lion, the hunter knows what the lion is willing to submit to and uses it to the exact amount needed to achieve the injustice of its death. The hunter’s brand is visible, control the narrative of bravery and therefore secure its benefits and power. The lion’s story is direct; death is food. Death is the gift of her pride’s survival.

If we are the lion, our revolution is underway but barely notice unless there are videos of a shooting. Being African-American and politically progressive should be a natural fit, “if” there is a family history of engagement in fights against social and economic systems that insist on a second-class citizenry defined by gender, income, color in the rainbow, one at a time or all at once. We do not forget the people who died in resistance to this condition. They are the builders; they own the long history of this change in the nation. We hold them as gifts and if we can, we will add chapters.

We do not speak of the blood horror, hopelessness and fear it took to get those moments that made the change. A great joy rests with its victories, each of them rings triumphantly in our nation’s history. Today we watch scrapings from historic speeches, we read books, listen to songs and examine pictures about the cost of resisting oppression. Today, over a half-century later it appears to many that there are those who take a black life are becoming unpunishable and at worst made legal actors in a much broader attack on all people facing the pain of a soft oppression, a sense that something was taken, an addiction and the threats of despair that each cause.  of us have had “the talk” with the young about protests, lawful police orders, and standing ground. The hunter would have you fear the lion and drain you of compassion for her pride, yet all the while to the lion; death is a gift.

America’s history of death and pain rings painfully for each loss and because each bell we ring for them, tolls for us all and it is here and now. The bell rings if we resist the “lawful orders” of a cop, it rings loudest in friendly fire, and it rings until we cannot hear at all. Following difficult times, it is in our nature to bring out the good in ourselves and find reasons to celebrate our sacrifice but the movement today is very different. There are more ways to assure the story of the lion than I can count, and there are now thousands who can damn the old hunter’s lies. Is this not enough, what needs to be new, what needs to be different?  Skip the ad and listen here for it from a collection called “Outskirts of the Deep City.”

Change Politics

The average, everyday person will talk about issues and events but often lack the will to act. Modern political analysts understand the events leading to changes that improve lives. Actions do not come easily without the experience of working for the prospects that succeed. Change politics can fool you. it will ask you to stare at the beak of the Eagle on America’s Seal and love your country. The new politics of change will put you in the grasp of her talons; make you the builder of her nest of arrows and hold you in her branches of peace and victory. What needs to be in the new politics?

A voice of unification for the working family that restates American values of fairness with justice.  Better education for your kid? A wage scale that keeps up with costs? How about better protection from ill health, big pharma, and corporate greed? When we face threats to our well-being, who will be there? Look left, look right and say I will be there for you, I will be there. What needs to be different? We are the change we seek.

At this time in history, most Democrats and Republicans (save a few) can only equivocate and obstruct. If 2020 is going to be an opportunity, the “be there” time is now. Maurice Mitchel is now the National Director of the Working Families Party. (WFP). He is one of those “go” leaders with extensive experience in movements beyond, in front of and behind elections. He will continue to expand our understanding of what a democracy can do. He can see the irony when both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump say, “the system is rigged,” and it says one thing to him and me. We need very new politics.

What is exposed here? If we are to remain a democracy, we are challenged to do big things. First, increase the number of voters by 1,000%, crush all forms of voter suppression and stop playing short can-kicking games. There needs to be an ass where there is a can. Watch his mildly nervous presentation at NetRootsNation.org is here. All the right words are all in a row, but he needs the kind of heart that beats in Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to get the sound we need. He has the words, now give him the sound. Words are important, but how they sound is even more so.

There is a better sound in Maurice here as he defends the Working Family Party (WFP) from an attack by the three-term Governor of New York State because of WFP support for Cynthia Nixon in a primary. Challenging the governor happened for one important reason, it is time to say “No” to the oligarchs and those who say yes to them. At the heart of it, Maurice defines what has gone wrong with the Democratic Party in the nation as it is in NYS. Maurice would not be taking anything away from Alexandria if he repeated her reminder that New York leaders of the past had led the progressive movement with great courage. The entire WFP requires voices that do not speak of defenses against attacks to define injustice. The math is easy, the foolishness of the peacemakers exposes their failure as change makers. If you hear, “Five-hundred or so American billionaires are not the cause of America’s problems.” It is time to share everything, every strategy, and tactic. It is time to offend with relish and know all the actors who are firm in their purpose and who might face death in the anarchy we all detest.

After Yvette Simpson lost her bid for Mayor of Cincinnati, she acquired a new position as Chief Executive of Democracy Now (January 2019) as described in a news story interview (Here). Yvette Simpson’s membership of the Democratic establishment represents the party’s better self because individuals from diverse backgrounds who seek public service expect to be Democrats. The record is improving slowly, but the proof is the problem. The majority of every Congressmember’s senior staff is not diverse. This was not widely circulated news until the membership became more diverse.

Can a Democracy care for all people and meet unique needs without sowing division and discord? What I learned from Yvette was the calculus of a representative government requires a variety of navigation skills throughout a campaign without end. She knows no one on the progressive side of the equation is better at grassroots engagement. She notes that if you run you cannot knock on doors, you must walk the race. Winning is face to face, not face to the screen. She believes in the power of “we.” Her experience proved to her that the road made by walking is formed best with a bold and unapologetic agenda aimed at making changes that people want in their lives. It was once summed up as rights, first to the pursuit of life, second to liberty and third happiness. Winning a primary but losing a run for Mayor gave her insight into the challenges of 2020 hopefully aimed at the Senate as a priority.  Will the triumvirate be up to speed and ready to respond?

Infrastructure

The growing economic success of central Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan is also the story of large, diverse cities in multi-state regions that hold with a significant share of the state population. For decades disinvestment in the infrastructure of dense urban regions presents hidden dangers. Not spending where spending is needed exposes failures of transit services to and from these centers. Auto congestion where and when it is hated the most. A rising cost of housing, including deteriorating conditions in the suburbs, the displacement of low- and moderate income people into suburban neighborhoods, and sporadic increases in urban homelessness. The more significant sources of stress are evident in the protests of working poor teachers in decaying schools alongside troubled police and fire services and other first responders racing into a long list of preventable social and environmental problems of life-threatening severity. Pick-up a copy  International Journal of Critical Infrastructure Protection and all of this is documented.

Death, Taxes and Social Justice

Putting added reduced tax cash flow into the hands of wealthy people and corporations are not coming to the resolution of any of these problems. They are without accountability; the board members of the super large foundations are out of touch with the broad national dialogue needed to keep our democracy responsive, instead of their wallets. Yes, new partnerships are there, but the old lines of privilege remain unchallenged and taxing them is failing because loop-hole land will never go away without reinventing America. If the horrible truth is super high tax revenues collected by the government don’t work, what needs to change?

We live in a society where the most important things go unsaid. For example, the question on the table in a substantial foundation’s boardroom is “Are we failing in our quest for social stability?”. What is known but never said aloud is, “Well, if large groups of the society get upset and start causing trouble with disruptions of the economy and endangering their own lives and the lives of others, we have fully equipped our police forces with enough riot gear and other tools that could conquer a country.” Can you hear that lungful exhalation flow across that confident conference table? Look again out of the conference room’s vast windows overlooking a landscape of terror that could be unleashed, then turn to the doorway as it opens. Meet your new master, the authoritarian who can only keep this crowd at bay with your foundation’s loyalty. Impossible you say? Not according to world history.

It’s Their Fault

If you hear, “Several hundred multi-billionaires are not America’s problem.” An economist in a rabbit hole is baiting you. Don’t go there. Of course, high taxes don’t work, government (city, state, federal) have never been able to get much above 20% of America’s GDP from the very beginning of this measure. Using the 20% rubric, the GDP in 2018 will top $21 trillion to yield on average $6 trillion in annual revenue. The interest paid on the national debt is $364 billion. (10/1/18, through 9/30/19). The total public debt is around $17 trillion. Individuals, businesses, and foreign central banks are its owners with 90 percent of it in Treasury bills, notes, and bonds. (Details here.)

America’s “good faith and credit” is highly respected, 30-year “treasuries” sell with ease. Credit is another word for trust so, the bottom line, the money is there to do what we want. Therefore. We must ask, what does work instead of taxes? The answer, spending on the right stuff, followed by the right questions that get asked but never answered. What is the right stuff? Where you put your political brain requires you to find out.

In 2012, Jim Sorenson put $13 million into a business school in Utah and created the Sorenson Impact Foundation where they quietly work on a long list of projects that would make every candidate for sainthood happy. Other things like program-related investments (PRIs) vetted by the business school, “select and develop business models for high-impact, early-stage social enterprises capable of reaching underserved populations.” I love mouthfuls like that, but what is wrong with it, what is missing in philanthropy? According to Forbes, not a thing (Here).

If you read that Forbes article, then you know the objective of all foundations is to “go to scale,” and that means two things, the more obvious is to spread money all over the globe with a goodwill website to prove it. The other is to make wise social impact business investments and get universities to establish a methodology for measurements and publish the results. Highly respected multi-billionaires like Jim Sorenson and all the other billionaires in his moral class think they know what the right stuff is or needs to be, so he like many others create these hopeful puppy dog foundations. I can look up all the billionaires and foundation staff; I can know where they live, play and work nationally and internationally. They are the wealthy residents of a tiny planet.

Bottom line, what is wrong, what is missing? The hundreds of multi-billionaires are missing in the vapor of their wealth. A wrong-headed street-intellect assumption is they have formed an oligarchy and now vie to rule the world, distracting us with their wonderfulness. The truth is far dire; they have tucked themselves away in their boardrooms happily overlooking their private empires of goodness, adapting and maneuvering to sustain themselves among one another, while all the while the world is burning, slowly almost imperceptibly into ash and dust.  So, bottom line, yes, it is their fault, and this is important, except for a few they didn’t mean it.

What is missing, I want you to join in this practice. Below is what I have so far. You can give advice or list wrongs, make rights, just click here.

  • Pay close attention to the big picture, I hear a staffer saying “It’s just so impolite to be alarmist,” They are wrong, rude is important right now.
  • Step on another charity’s toes, stop being so nice. One word, “Unjust.”
  • Spending fortunes on accountants, tax attorneys, and lobbyist only assure private capital will sustain the line that reads “goodwill,” on income statements and balance sheets. Think again, good will is insufficient.
  • Contributing to all 535 members of the legislative government (retirees and agency staff) enough to keep their campaigns afloat (or not) or to point them in other directions is thr nest way to control citizens, not unite them.
  • Not paying any damn attention to the small picture. Take a long walk through your community, and then to a place designated as underserved and in need of charity. Ask why? Get back to me.
  • Realize that despite amassing of billions of dollars in a personal fortune, no one person on this fragile earth could be that productive in any sense other than god-like.

I have no interest in tracking them down, although there is a project aimed at doing so. (here). Our charity must believe they will find the “right stuff,” otherwise they face incurable insanity. Our job is to be persuasive regarding the need to make course corrections essential to the survival of next generations. I know about the hideaways in the mountains and the means to get there. I do not know who is worse off, those without sanctuary or those forced to say, “Mine is full, you are not selected?” Want to add to the list? Click here.

Eponymous Politicians

The USA is not the America Tonight Show. The adjective (above) describes giving your name to something. It is also called identity politics, so you get people who are Trump Republicans. Identity is much bigger than a person, a color, religion, political philosophy or favorite late-nite TV show host. A claim of leadership in the name of dignity for all life produces a replaceable leader. Arguments are won (or should be) on the facts of the day, week, year and decade, not charismatic leadership, bullies or the learned helplessness of their constituents. For example, we win the war of words when we describe the death of young minds and the heart lost in persons beaten low by hate. We win when we force all to hear the frightened whispers from the mouth of hunger. We win when we describe the violence embedded in climate change or assault rifles and how randomly either can take anyone’s home or life at any time or place, one of them used to be in God’s hands, today, both in are ours. We win if all these voices are unified not by fear but in a single call to defend the dignity of the human person. Stand on this path and you will know methods that move all of us forward and away from the confusion that divides us.

The Triumvirate

The three organizations and leaders briefly mentioned here know these methods. In listening to them I know this is Our Revolution, we are the Working Families of this nation, and the demand for Democracy for America is now. We win when our unity is theirs and theirs ours. Calling for an accord does not create unity. The phrase, “the people united will never be defeated” begs the question. What is causing our downfall, our defeat? To keep our democracy, we must be the change we seek and to begin, form triads.  Triangles form the strongest structures, tripartite coalitions are a step forward.  So if our revolution is to be composed of working families working to assure our democracy remains useful nationally, these three among many others need to find and build local triads.

The voting record from any combination of election districts for offices in cities, states, and Congress by voter and candidate reveal a set of cultural signifiers useful to the practice of removing identity politics toward a healthier method of governance. If the triumvirate’s network is true, if the depth is there, it can conduct this analysis across state lines and recognize the issues of working people step across all the other lines used to divide Americans.

The traditional roots of the old identity way are made sustainable by the quiet assurance of a 98% retention rate among incumbent candidates all the way up and down the political spectrum. So, I am not talking about politics.  This is about change. Being conservative or progressive comes naturally to people from low to high income for two reasons. Households are “conservative” because every change tends to be loudest when it is for the worse, and progressive because it is a way to seek out useful and if not, virtuous change that will protect the family. One of the more complex examples of change follows:

The retention of wealth by the wealthy began in 2016, it was legislated in 2017 and became law on January 1, 2018. The expectation of tax reductions for corporations an increase in wages, they have not. The bet is that a few extra dollars in the working families tax return suffice. That it is billions among the super wealthy remains an abstraction. The national revenue is increasing, but the federal budget is still ripping holes in the safety net that helps a growing number of households protect family health, old age, and their financial security. Why? Uncontrolled congressional spending.

The subtle implementations of the attack on so-called entitlements is unclear, but the lion’s strategy, in this case, is easy to spot, go for the slow and weak ones in the herd. The human problem with this kind of attack is the lack of fairness in compliance and the complicity of the herd.  In these transactions, this failure should not be lost. Nevertheless, do not allow the debate to move away from the cap held by the hunter regarding issues. Taxes are not paid for social security from incomes over $138,000.  Where is the security in that equation? If the answer remains, the revenue is still insufficient.  What is missing?

Roots, Roots and More Roots

In my small part of the world, I have organized a tool to implement one of our best methods. I have one or more persons in every election district able to build or join a canvas team and be on the ground for a candidate. You can see an early version here. Security is a growing issue. Sign up here if you are in the district. Instructions follow.

This canvas method is easy to implement, more so in a blue majority city and state and it grows exponentially through a natural network of friends and family. It reveals the enormous power of democracy with personal decisions to work for a specific candidate (city, state or federal) on a routine basis for a limited period every two, four and six years. If tools like these are deployed in the metro-regions, with a clear understanding of the unique economies of each, the ability to produce change people need and want. If not, the answer is clear, try again, and again, and again because we are the change we seek.

The deep concerns of people are not articulated well by most current leaders, especially those who are dependent on identity politics and tenure in office. We should ask why but do not.  Leaders acknowledge our concerns but we still allow them to remain fuzzy about accountability to benchmarks or criteria from year to year. There are no triggers or penalties in exclusive political alliances based on religion, race or social background. This tendency allows leaders who see a lack of basic employment with a living wage only pushing a few into desperation. The lack of health insurance protection bankrupts “only a few” families. Our safety in the community, the affordability of our housing, and the failure to educate our young, only hurts “a few families.”

Benchmarks

The promise to sustain the two largest safety nets American’s ever fought to acquire serves everyone even but even the vast “we” of Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid is under attack. The subtlety of the attack, even the logic of it will read to divide not unite. I want to be able to say it all began in 2018. This is when just enough people realized the rise of opposition politics and the resistance found ways to diagnose all the reasons for a lack of movement on working family concerns and the honest needs of ordinary people. The first pronouncement is to put a number on “only a few.”  We are now that few, there of millions of us and we vote. The second is to learn how not turn against “the other” in this movement, fight for scraps or fail to fight for the few. Those of us who can create moments and events, year after year will rip the mantle off the shoulders of the tenured leaders if needed. It all began in 2018. As it goes for the few, so it goes for us all.

At a political rally, I overheard a leader say, “We need more facts to make that decision.” It was the response that got my attention. “You’re a damn fool, we don’t need any more damn facts, just walk out that door and look around. There are your damn facts. We have got to get to work and it starts now. Do you hear me? If you walk out that door you can smell it. Tsunami’s don’t come with a warning until it’s too late.” The third benchmark for the growth of a progressive movement is swift decision making. Do not wait another day, rush to the defense of neighbors and all those struck down, stand in the light of MLK and seek his justice.

Reflections on Success and Failure

Some professionals study organizational development in such depth they have become almost impossible to understand. But I did come across one article in the reasonably accessible Harvard Business Review that gives me hope. Jack Zenger and  Joseph Folkman use of massive amounts of business data. On the question of diversity, they compared leaders’ self-ratings with their ratings by bosses, peers, and subordinates. These ratings reveal leaders assume they are better at valuing diversity than they are. Take that to heart, the social change movement is never doing as good a job as its leaders want, and there are good reasons to be aware. Defending the movement demands your failures.

To understand the cause of poor decision making, Zinger and Folkman used data on leaders and compared the behavior of those who were perceived as making poor decisions with those perceived as making very good decisions. Whether leading a major international corporation or a scrappy nonprofit organizing committee, pressing for these traits tend to hold true. Here is a description of the common paths that led to poor decision making from the most to least significant. Laziness tops the list, some of the signs are not checking facts or confirming assumptions. Next, not anticipating negative events reduces the ability to defend. When a leader is indecisive it tends to be costly to an organization due to missed opportunities. Leaders that remain locked in the past will make decisions with assumptions that are no longer true. Lesson: Always look forward.

Among the lesser causes of poor decisions are in failures to align “dots” in an organization’s membership. The overall strategy of the organization often referred to as a lack of strategic alignment deals with the leader’s isolation breaking down important interpersonal relationships and dependencies. Similarly, over-dependence on one person who is waiting for another, who in turn is waiting for someone else leads to poor decisions. A leader’s lack of technical depth will reduce the use of high-level expertise within an organization, and if it is there, people need to know. It’s always the coverup. Statistically, the least named cause of poor decisions was found to be a failure to communicate the what, where, when, and how associated with their decisions. I wish Nina, Maurice, and Yvette all the success in the world as they head into 2020 with the capacity to produce swift and effective decisions for their organizations.

Next, I think it will be fun to have a good look at those that have shattered glass ceilings in their hometowns. They are inside the beltway for the next two years. Ordinary observers can find out what they have in common other than the obvious and if they can lay the ground and build the foundation for a significant change in the culture by the means necessary.

Social Impact Measures

The following three paragraphs are lecture-like. Nevertheless, they represent the standard by which I believe our glass breaking, culture changing, the newest members of Congress should be evaluated. I’m open to other ways, but I will fight for the following as I share in the spirit by which you now hold office.

  1. The purpose of leadership is assurance that change is manageable.

You have entered Congress with a personal theory of change. We all use it to adapt to our environment according to need and want, as well as, evaluation of performance. Results are measures to indicate the quality of adaptation in one of three ways, positive, neutral or negative. Change through experiments reinforce the positive and reduce the negative. We are cognizant of the trial and error world in which we and our family, friends and coworkers’ function. From child play to professional practice we learn that we control what we can make recur. I can get Sally to laugh and Bill to chase me every time, and that’s as a grown up. I also know the reverse of that is impossible. The information gathered through experience is routine and enough. You can work through personal skill sets on this question by recalling past actions in getting (or not) a date with a person of interest back in your school days or a “contract” more recently. Knowing how to lead yourself is the prerequisite for leadership of others.

  1. A business or a government agency must measure complex social impacts

The number of people and dollars involved in business and government require confidence to take action. There are consequences at every step. Seeking to alter a in negative society or to improve a positive one requires careful thought and experimentation. In this setting, dialogue gets to the capacity of individuals in business or government to collect reliable information, review methods of data acquisition, analyze and predict results. Confirmation of concrete benefits from people with these skill sets leads to investment decisions as mere possibilities. At this point, choice and timeliness come into play involving the number of options made available.

  1. Confidence in research and planning allows trials and testing to proceed

The changes sought are thereby proven to the satisfaction of the decision makers and it becomes their legacy all the way through implementation. Comparison with alternative trials within or in opposition will minimize risk or advance the position of competitors. Given the period of work, in weeks or decades, the institutional response is to claim an impact and advocate for its continuation with confidence.

To reduce the abstractions of these three components, two recent events will illustrate the human problem inherent to the science of this practice. Science obscures additional motives by building silos. As 2018 ended, the incarceration practices of the federal government were reformed. In practical street intellect, this meant the 30+ year enforcement of harsh drug laws that achieved the re-enslavement (imprisonment) of African-Americans (mostly men) for nonviolent crimes would end (Watch 13th again).

The public investment in a huge federal prison system has consequences, however, accountability for this practice as a racial strategy is practically nil. Creating a big door through which cops and prosecutors could quietly push young men into federal prison (and still do in city/states) was easy to ignore due to a tacit agreement on both sides of the issue. Here it is in one sentence over the procession of two ounces of Marijuana. “We have 15 to 25 mandatory years on you that can go to seven maybe five with the name/location of your boss.” A generation of lives lost and for what, “El Chapo?”

The second event involves the language code that embeds a similar level of bigotry and racism. As the close of 2018, the word was “wall.” Create a wall to protect our borders from the demons to the south. Street-intellect reads that as keep out the Spanish speakers, the Mexicans, Hondurans and everyone else. The super short-term political trend exhibited here reveals consequences without the accountability to reason and practical solutions. An orderly process for dealing with immigration is consumed by the rhetoric of violence and a symbol upon which the 45th president can lean.

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrant’s scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

“Let America Be America” Langston Hughes

Writers List Project

Persuasion is a responsibility of its producers. The writer’s list project asks what can writers do with a list of billionaires and an interest in shifting narrative strategies  in ways that will improve the density of all media on questions of democracy and great wealth.

Wanted: Writers on the Future of Democracy

Hundreds of writers focus on American democracy and the challenges of self-governance, yet the ability to conference meaningfully toward a collective capacity for persuasion has yet to be successful. Examples of how this practice might improve are sought, here are a few that interested me. Many more are needed.

The Economist’s chief editor (Zanny Beddoes) maintains the anonymity of many writers, so they may “speak with a collective voice.” Kathrine Viner’s leadership of The Guardian seeks the participation of many readers using “be digital first” and “free to the edge” strategies. Small groups snatch-up specific issues such as those organized by the Open Markets Institute. Mission: to “expose and reverse the stranglehold that corporate monopolies have on our country.” The Volokh Conspiracy, (out of the Washington Post into Reason) is forming a conference of writers on exposing the absurdities of journalism and irrationalities of law in a Democracy. The new first family son at the New York Times (A.G. Sulzberger) will find new ways to speak truth to power about lies.

The talent is not missing; there are many others.  Something is needed to pull them together.  I like the idea very much, but except for a shout at the mountaintop what can a blogger from Brooklyn do? The members of institutions in a democracy understand how governance weakens without the fearlessness of writers. They explore uncertainty with the creativity needed to fund that work. Reinventing journalism in news organizations is an opportunity to build a list of highly cooperative persuasion leaders. Starting with online publications is the short, natural step. However, the leaps needed to create an exchange between the investigative journalism and longitudinal analysis of scholars remain. Here are four examples.

One: The Confidence Trap: David Runciman says Democracy favors complacency especially if accompanied by trust. A crisis tests trust by producing an opportunity for leaders to muddle through just enough to make measurable improvements.

Two: In Nation of Devils, Stein Ringen describes “democratic government” as a contradiction defined by the rollout of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). At best, the law displays a cloudy vision of an opportunity to develop policies for a healthier nation. The mysterious elements in the details of the ACA did not stop other capitalist democracies such as Germany, Japan, UK, and Switzerland in building national health care systems worthy of imitating. The U.S. “repeal and replace” quagmire spans a decade only to reveal the mediocrity of American democratic governance.

Three: In The Last Vote, Philip Coggan describes how the social contract commitments made after WWII became bankrupt at conception. Nevertheless, the prospect of continued global chaos coupled neatly with interest in building a stable central bank system to sustain a permanent global borrowing cycle.

Four: David Post, like many writers on “the law” has a different interest. His In Search of Jefferson’s Moose ties the importance of Democracy to that of the Internet with an effect on the practices of democracy through a slow combination of new legal constructions. Without national boundaries, cyberspace domains change the world every day. Fine, but when super wealth drives the first steps, “bad” gets first dibs and it is usually authoritarian and in the name of order.

Facebook’s free network recognizes the capacity to use customer data. That its misuse (to some) led to a violation of privacy norms did not surprise anyone. In similar cases, the classic elements of a crisis in trust emerge, in the traditional way: shock, denial, depression, anger and a final stage, acceptance. During credibility or financial crises, the last two stages are most worrying as each occurs quickly. The anger and acceptance stages connect to the decline of the median household income as it rips the sparkle off the per capita metric and the product moving forward appears to be the general acceptance of a long list of appalling disasters.  The duality is difficult to understand The heartwarming creativity of a homeless family being creative with a $10K stake in a food truck and heartbreaking to realize this family’s productivity was more useful than all of the account executives at Wells Fargo or Goldman Sachs.

Steve Brill’s or Eric Posner’s observations over a lifetime cannot change the world, or get agreements on steps. The ideas are good, yet in a word, the results are weak.  Self-governing societies spawn large successful businesses. Applications that extend the capacity of democratic republics through internet communications will strengthen them if protections from intrusions posed by authoritarian regimes are established. Brill’s many books and the personal experience of each of us prove good facts are no longer enough. Today, the narrative rests on corporate balance sheets and income statements that display glorious productivity for the United States, with jump up and down and per capita GDP.  What is missing, the blue planet isn’t blue.  (Website of 2018 map is here.)

Aside from very few countries that are democracies, the “sides” modeled by Democrat and Republican political parties also tend to ignore or get very attracted to sophisticated levels of communication fraud.  The problem stretches from the local to the global.  Negative behavior toward the fact finders and news providers threatens democracies. The Democracy Index (producer of the world map above) is worthy of a detailed look at motives using the filter provided by three issues, 1) energy by type of use, 2) concentrations of wealth by micro-location and 3) careful attention to the internal and external discourse of nations in which events are arranged in strategic time, also known as “wagging the dog.”  Authoritarian behaviors in democratic nations begin when its leaders openly distrust the practice of their institutions in representing the facts.

Conflicting economic remedies from the political left and the right are abstractions of “globalization” aimed at social conflicts. Conflict is natural to diversity but worsens when associated with the corruption inherent to high concentrations of wealth and poverty. The gap complaint is worrisome. It is more than “have vs. have not” economics, it includes separating the “knowing” from the “unknowing”. The opposite of wealth is not poverty it is the injustice.

The ineffective reach of knowledge into the upper levels of the global economy becomes symbolic and ranges in other dualities such as mysterious offshore accounts and the helplessness of refugees. A different way of life is upon us and it will occur in one of two ways, creatively by the thoughtful or forcefully by the thoughtless. Both are embedded in the human heart and the sheer force of Nature’s DNA. Again the question, what will persuade the world to act less harshly?

What is Persuasive?

The worldviews formed by individual writers, small academic teams, and think tanks serving billion-dollar clients lack persuasive power. Demands to “lop off their heads” lack merit for most and only a few seem able to rise above the purposeful din of their making. The result is a failure to communicate followed by an inability to implement remedies to a range of well-defined problems.

What are the questions that lead to improved decision making? We know writers such as Tom Friedman gets his questions by extracting detailed accounts of global conditions. Wealthy Lexus drivers in aging cultures live alongside regions and nation-states that cherish olive trees because they are poor and young. Writers can take the market abstractions of global warming and climate change and make them concrete for the average person, not with facts, but with hope using two words.  The promise of doing no harm in the word “sustainable” is a goal worthy of reaching by building the courage and capacity for resilience against our darker nature.

Whiters can convince thousands of people in Houston that floods will be routine in their neighborhoods. They can lead them to organize and join millions of other households in hundreds of other regions subject to firestorms, drought, and addiction. Who are the writers that will lead people away from actions contrary to their well-being in the caveat emptor world of American Democracy? The Writers Project will look at where people live, examine the failures of their politics, highlight the solutions by design and persuade with the proof held in the heart of ordinary people.

  • Density is the Answer.
    • Density will end unplanned planetary disruptions and the problems they present to life and all of life itself.
  • The Obstacles in Politics.
    • The rise of planet governing bodies will redefine the role of human life on it, and sustain life itself.  Is there time?
  • The Answers are in the Design.
    • Design in all of its meanings and purposes will produce positive urban recurrences.  We control what we make recur.  Wilderness is self-renewing.
  • Proof is the Problem
    • Data has no meaning until found in people standing face to face in a place.

What Can You Do? Name Writers and Find Themes

I want you to pursue one idea as a member of a writers’ group (here). The people on the writer’s list will focus on one group of people in America loosely defined by the phrase “political elite.” Why is this important?

We know the terms; one percent of American households control more wealth than a ninety-plus percent of all other households and 38% of the nation’s total wealth. Statistically, the one percent represents 1.3 million households, but homing in on 12% (160,000 households) gets to the top of the elite pyramid. These are households with $25 million or more in annual wealth accumulation (2010). As nearly half of all billionaires are Americans and the rest can be found visiting in just a few of its cities, the “roost principle” will connect people to place with a bit of due diligence. The following ten counties will yield a significant number of opportunities.

Highest Average Income Counties

  1. Teton, Wyoming $28,163,786
  2. New York, New York  $8,143,415
  3. Fairfield, Connecticut  $6,061,230
  4. La Salle, Texas $6,021,357
  5. Pitkin, Colorado  $5,289,153
  6. McKenzie, North Dakota  $4,709,883
  7. Shackelford, Texas $4,585,725
  8. Westchester, New York  $4,326,049
  9. Collier, Florida $4,191,055

 

In the Northeast, the five wealthiest counties based on median income surround Washington, D.C. Four of them are in VA (Loudoun, Fairfax, Falls Church, Arlington) and one is in MD (Howard).  For more, see the U.S. Census press release, 12.6.18  (CB-18-18).  Why?

To find the top one percent, go to where the average or median household income is highest and wait. Questions that cause the askance look, a hitch in the step, even the widening pupils of people in service to wealth work well. Well chosen “birds of a feather” communities must be completely understood, getting close requires hooks, levers, and some demographic imagination. The elite households in the $25 million and way above Paradise Papers group are definable (with exceptions) as people capable of promoting a high office candidate (president, governor, senator). The “elites” shoulder tap is heavy – a military deployment in corporate interest areas, the management of armament/gun control emotions, even the disruption (or development) of the public interest in a sustainable and affordable system of healthcare could be a subject of interest. Do they control the framing of every issue?  I do not know.

Digging into the lives of people who own wealth feels personal. It isn’t. If the 1% is to be more than an economic abstraction, the work, purpose, and privileges of these super-rich members of our society require analysis beyond the “who and wow lists” available now. (See source: How Much.) For example, the wealthiest zip code is Fisher Island, located just off Miami. The island is accessible only by ferry or water taxi for its 500 households, and many of the units are investment properties with guest rents averaging $800 to $1,200/day. The island is just 193 acres, its tidy apartment buildings house at peak occupancy about 1,400 people putting the population density at 46,000 per square mile. Nearby Miami Beach is only 5,000 people.

Who understands these contradictions well? More importantly, who are the best persuaders? Who or what injects actors onto the playing fields of social change. I want names that force local debate. A successful dialogue often concludes with goals, objectives, and strategies. Local self-interest problems stimulate debate, and solutions will produce dialogue. For example: Of the wealthiest 100 people in the world, there are 32 Americans ($12B to $100B) in the column on the left (1-32) that follows.  On the right column (1 – 31), there is a list of the poorest of the rich ($4B and $5B).

The names on the list include a link to a Bloomberg.com profile. The task of writing thoughtful insights concerning the behavior of the elite holders of wealth is an impossible one. Where is the starting point that discovers message controls? The third name on the list below is Buffet. He offers one starting point idea on how to make some progress in understanding the 1% question. Facts are essential to him in the way that Senator Patrick Moynihan (NY-D) talked about them. The Senator often observed that we are entitled to our opinion, but we are not entitled to our own facts.

Warren Buffet’s factual logic makes him confident about the future. Despite challenges that link the concentration of wealth to the lack of engagement in reversing intolerable poverty, he and the companies of Berkshire Hathaway remain billion-dollar beneficiaries that prefer GDP growth over all other indicators. His argument for a positive future is how he connects the rising tide of the annual GDP per capita. The optimism of “averages” draws from population growth of 0.5% (births minus deaths) and 0.3% through immigration for a total of 0.8%. Given a modest increase of 2% in real GDP without nominal gains produced by inflation would allow for 1.2% growth in GDP per capita. Amortized over 25 years $59,000 GDP per capita in 2017 becomes $79,000. Buffet says, adding $20,000 is good news.

The forces that continue to force wealth to the top in ways that prioritize global wealth outside of a regulatory framework tends to discount the leading producer, a healthy and productive population. One can hear Buffet saying, ‘being blind to that is how you shoot yourself in the foot,’ but the following quote from his article in Time Magazine (1.15.18) are the facts he presents on why the nation could end up with a severe limp.

“…the Forbes 400 paints a far different picture. Between the first computation in 1982 and today, the wealth of the 400 increased 29-fold–from $93 billion to $2.7 trillion–while many millions of hardworking citizens remained stuck on an economic treadmill. During this period, the tsunami of wealth didn’t trickle down. It surged upward.”

The compensation of the writer is absolute freedom with no master other than the fellowship of those who seek a fragment of truth worth exploring. For example, Bloomberg reported in December that 500 of the wealthiest people on earth became $1 trillion richer in 2017, the louder point was that it was “more than four times” the 2016 increase. The chart below shows an average of $2.7 billion per day was added.

Critics pointed to it as “shrugging off” growing economic, social and political divisions. The U.S. has a significant presence on the index, with 159 billionaires who added $315 billion, an 18 percent gain that gives them a collective net worth of $2 trillion. The total amounts to a 23 percent increase on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index of the world’s 500 wealthiest people, this compares neatly with 20 percent increase for both the MSCI World Index and Standard & Poor’s 500 Index. One in every 20 Americans is a millionaire.

The highest density of people who would consider a million a small amount live in a city-state known as Monaco where almost 20 percent of households have assets totaling at least $30 million. The wealth tracking firm, Wealth-X is a business that focuses on where the super wealthy enjoy the privileges and benefits of tax havens along with the risk-taking of casino gambling.

List of Billionaires

  1. Ronda Stryker
  2. Dennis Washington
  3. Kelcy Warren
  4. Rocco Commisso
  5. Sam Zell
  6. Whitney MacMillan
  7. Gwendolyn Sontheim Meyer
  8. Pauline MacMillan Keinath
  9. Izzy Englander
  10. Walter Scott
  11. B Wayne Hughes
  12. Ann Walton Kroenke
  13. Ken Fisher
  14. Woody Johnson
  15. Jim Leprino
  16. Anthoni Salim
  17. Dagmar Dolby
  18. Ted Lerner
  19. Isaac Perlmutter
  20. Mikhail Gutseriev
  21. Alfonso Fanjul
  22. Jose Fanjul
  23. Steve Bechtel
  24. Mark Cuban
  25. Traudl Engelhorn-Vechiatto
  26. Ben Ashkenazy
  27. Haim Saban
  28. Edwin Leong
  29. Jeremy Jacobs
  30. Vera Michalski-Hoffmann
  31. Maja Hoffmann

The list holds 500 – pick anyone – study, think, research and write

Shift Strategies

American’s are familiar with the process of collective action. Franklyn Roosevelt mandated a 35mph auto speed knowing it would save energy and tires. Ronald Reagan mandated 55mph to stave off high prices. When asked, New Yorkers put a brick in their toilet cisterns to reduce the demand for water during a 1970s drought. Today, data on the national use of everything from water to energy and from apples to oranges provides data daily and hourly to manage one thing: responsiveness to consumption.

The residents of the world are becoming the product of computational methodologies built to manage metadata on all forms of consumption. The global aggregators of surveillance capitalism provide data loops that require something in trade. With mouthful sentences like that you need a box. The concealment of those on the list above is nearly total, but the wealth these individuals acquired in 2017 was enabled by invading your privacy. I have a box – it sits between me, my family, business, community, and network and the rest of the world as I determine.  In this box, I place my total data stream as I decide. Nothing leaves or enters that box without my permission. It was expensive but worth every penny.

A refined example of positive responsiveness is Browder’s DoNotPay. It offers a “deep learning” artificial intelligence capacity to help people in the U.S. and Great Britain prepare and file legal documents such as small claims suit against a credit report agency such as Equifax. The AI will also write formal complaints to an insurance company, and other related proceedings managed by law. Providing communal service platforms meeting a specific self-interest helps to put consumers in charge.  The development of the GoodGuide and many other applications for that handheld computer called “phone” have a similar interest in connecting the content of products to environmental impact and consumer preference.

These two forces – the data aggregators and consumption guides will continue to mature. As a nation of laws, American social and economic history illustrates the tension between two regulatory structures these forces represent. The first regulatory response focuses on the concentration of wealth with antitrust laws that expanded from the New Deal through WWII and conclude with the formation of public agencies such as the Environmental Protection Administration. Managing the growth and excesses of large corporate monopolies led to a need for a significant government response to assure the public welfare. The environment and the economy improved.

The second regulatory structure sustains productivity with systems for economic fairness. Public resources such as Patent Law enforce monopolies on a product-by-product basis to support a wealth concentration process. Since the mid-20th century, the global integration of trade and communications is fast, and the regulatory framework is slow.

The exposure of absurdities in protected wealth as an indicator of productivity is sharply evident for the lack of results. For example, is it possible to believe an individual can be as productive as an annual increase of $2 billion in earnings suggests? Is it absurd to think a small board of directors managing $20 billion in annual charitable giving can do so with a few studies? They might usefully address a human need with effectiveness, but other than gaining a somewhat narcissistic sense of satisfaction, the processes are designed by tax law to support hundreds of small boardrooms that are incapable of concerted and coordinated implementation. Thus, they may feel “democratic” yet debate the regarding the future of millions of people from these little hideaways of probable caring remain slaves to a sophisticated national system for establishing equilibrium.

National policies support local efforts to prevent the percentage of households who are dirt poor from getting above 15% in the nation but not by region. Those who find themselves on the short and foul end of the inequality stick are part of a continuous computational analysis under the Poverty Rate heading. The public policy concern focuses on containing and in some cases ‘hiding’ concentrations of poverty. The reasons given such as global competitiveness at the start of the 21st century assure those on the long, pointed end of that stick will behave in the common interest. The no longer feel trustworthy as wealth and self-interest are without inhibitors. Here is a chilling example. If the earth had 100 people – One person has 50% of all the money, 56 people have no internet access, 14 people cannot read, 13 people have no clean water (via Vala Afshar). There are a lot of these of “100 people” percentages to review (here), such as 86 can read and write, 14 cannot, or of 100 people, 5 speak English as a first language.

Overwhelming inequality is the breaking point of every society whether it is a few thousand or a billion people. A half-century has passed since the University of Chicago’s thinkers of the 1960s and 1970s argued for economies of scale through (Milton Friedman, Alan Greenspan, and Richard Posner). As highly persuasive economists, they proved this practice would yield cheaper goods and services to consumers. The winning methodology altered antitrust policy by placing measures of economic efficiency above all else. The counter-argument warned that top levels would produce large corporations and inhibit the decentralized development of a democratized society and impetus of reform movements in the overall economy.

The U.S./China rapprochement of 1972 and aftermath neatly symbolizes the result of this pathway. The Yale Law Journal examines the issue in a detailed analysis of Amazon’ business model as an antitrust paradox. The resulting excessive concentration of private power in nearly every category has continued since then. (See American Antitrust Institute).

Examples are:

  1. Walmart gets 25% of all dollars spent on groceries in the U.S. In 2015 they began their online version of Amazon, knowing the problems of Sears.
  2. Jeff Bezos (richest on the planet) started Amazon with investors in 1998. Low-profit margins ruled until 2017 when $60 billion in sales revenue yielded $1 billion in profit.
  3. CVS, Walgreens, and Rite-Aid have 99 percent of the pharmacy market, and two of them want to merge, one is attempting to purchase Aetna, a large insurance corporation.
  4. Each year Amazon’s online business model captures a growing percentage of online spending (40% – 2015). It is leading a spending revolution from “brick to click.” More are on the way.
  5. Google and Facebook claim 64 percent of online ad revenue
  6. Google claims 64 percent of all search engine traffic.
  7. Bloomberg reported the top 500 billionaires added over a trillion dollars in 2017.

The extraordinary possibilities of capitalism exhibited in a democracy are evident in the list above. Strong contradictions form in the way one-person/one-vote struggles with dollars per vote, pay-to-play and so on. The former is a central principle of democracy, the others of capitalism. The contradictions are deemed acceptable with one proviso, a free and unfettered press. Frightening.

Media Density

Writers have a media consumption preference that bundles neatly into silos. Some like finding that dark Toffler-laden tea laced with culture-war confrontations, misleading data, others like the opposite. Media trends build on event coverage. From top-tier media to social media posts, data platforms “reason” by an algorithm with print, sound and voice information. The meaning of it eventually emerges in people but plucking concrete data from the digital realm reveals a person’s name, named places, dates, times, as well as all other numbers linked to them hidden in a meta-group. Ideas are inherently abstract, but when directly associated with one or more people they become authentic. With it, I can pick your favorite car, including the one you can afford, and the GPS coordinates of both.

Industry’s use of media is specific to the needs of its users in the digital revolution. Journalists prepare news with feeds; businesses prepare annual reports with technology and both pull concrete data from a wide range of outlets to measure changes in the world. Each provides strategic opportunities to maintain accuracy, cross-referenced by time, date, place and sources. In all fields, but especially in advertising, public relations, and corporate Wall Street, the actions are taken are proof of persuasive communications down to the micro-second.

Time is everyone’s money. My analysis of media companies and their compilers focus on the tiers of persuasion that want the public to trust government leadership. For example, the practical economics of political media services build on tracking press-mentions and analyzing them for impact and a message process that produces trust. Confidence, on the other hand, requires a relationship with journalists in specific industry areas. The resulting “lists” cross-referenced with legislation not only provides opportunities for exposure, but it also produces alternatives in a vastly expanded media environment.  Above all, insight to “messages” will require a thorough understanding of “framing” practices.

Building insight into the strategies of competitors and partners is the essential component of understanding the distinctions in the style of messaging. Building collaborative media relations occurs best by connecting resources such as experts in a series of industries to establish themes, niche components, and trending topics. Ways to stay on top of the television, radio, newspaper or blog news cycles on politics occur by increasing interactions with journalists that purvey issues specific or parallel to their areas of interest. Vehicles such as e-alarms will demand responses as part of an item coverage process quantifiable for impact successes. The abstractions described above are the shrill whispers of many (list), so here are some concrete examples.

More Concrete Examples

Multimillion-dollar fund-raising and candidate-support operations with political party affiliations such as the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Republican National Committee (RNC) are looking more closely at the selection of local candidates based on benefits predicted by regression to the mean formulas. The average family does not exist, but from a data-only point of view, that non-existing family is doing far better in 2018 than in 2009. In the maturation of the Media Era & Digital Information Age (MEDIA), the ability to design formulas that provide a picture of events that move toward an exact middle point in the future verify the consistency of regular human experience.

On the other hand, the confidence provided by this capacity for prediction includes a form of arrogance that fails to recognize the enormous power of the outlier within the overall data framework. Viewing a young man shot down in the street sustains substantial influence because it was repeated over and over. Documented improvements between the behavior of law enforcement officials and the conduct of people in confrontation with the norms of society have occurred. The dynamics of our age requires trust derived from the balanced exposure of wins and losses, but always toward better ways to confirm human dignity during its failures. Trust remains a reasonable objective, and there are people such as Eric Liu fighting to provide it as a product.

Thanks to media platforms such as TED, we can encounter Eric Liu and get to know him without ever meeting. His mission (see him here) as the founder of Citizen’s University, is to train people in the art of urban living as, “pro-social, problem-solving contributors of a self-governing community.” He says we must ‘find ways to “show up” as vital citizens of a community for one reason – the constant examination of our democracy creates the change essential to sustaining our freedoms to do so. Continuing this vitality in the city from suburb to dense core provides opportunities to explore change and power. Liu defines power as change and describes it unapologetically as the capacity to make others do what you would have them do.

Dr. Margaret Mead’s observation of how small groups change the world offers no guarantees on how well, thus the need to pay attention. The evidence is in one aspect of the need to build new kinds of political awareness. The congressional elite represents one of those small groups. Some of the evidence is the use of rules and legislation that are contradictory to a constitutional promise of public well-being in trade for private security. The congressional median income is well over $1 million, but the annual salaries are under $200,000 for all 534 members apart from the Speaker of the House.

Moving toward a more perfect union is confronted hostage and quid pro quo tactics as the source of power. That they appear directed by those who cannot cope with the realities of our democracy is of great concern. Such dispensation will not bring peace to their society or ours. The ordinary citizen senses this as a kind of in their bones evidence. The raw competition for capital supplants the more useful search for agreements and compromises that lay at the core of peace and security politics. The loss of democracy is at stake in The rise of authoritarian practices hints strongly at a loss of democracy and its principles of fairness

More Hot Button Examples

An ordinary citizen can get updates when legislation is introduced and scheduled for debate or votes, even when it gets new cosponsors or hearings because outfits such as GovTrack that will send them to you by email. With your “sign up” to a proposed law, notification of the entire process as it starts toward the POTUS desk is provided in hour inbox. A good example is the quality of questions available when this is done by a small group of writers interested in a topic.  For example, a few seconds will produce a map such as the one below.

 

Questions: Where are nuclear reactors in the Northeast? Why do you ask?

On Jan 29, 2018, Rep. Eliot Engel [D-NY16] introduced H.R. 4891: Dry Cask Storage Act of 2018 with co-sponsors from New York. The bill was referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, which will consider it before sending it to the House for consideration.  With this, information a citizen can be ready to ask about Dry Cask Storage, what they are, how are they produced, where will they be placed over the next century, and most importantly, why this legislation now? Casks are for spent nuclear fuel that has been “burned” in a nuclear reactor. They remain “hot” for centuries. Since Yucca Mt., NV closed in 2009; all those red dots are still producing “burned” fuel rods. Local storage appears to be the necessary result. Citizens can seek out those who have made the determination that the development of nuclear electric power is a public dollar priority and decide what it means to include local storage. When it is referred out of committee, will anyone know?

Disjointed energy policies create expensive highway repairs and inefficient mass transit. The fossilized power grids, roads, and rail in the United States symbolize the nation’s growing income inequality and support hostile polarization. The time for a strong pull from the heart of people as Americans is now. It may stop them from pushing themselves into the falsehoods of “taking a side” on every aspect of energy policy.  First, it will be necessary to examine this “taking sides” problem.

For example, litigators for wealthy clients use “due process” to stall reform, and they are winning. The guarantee of due process grinds down reform efforts through a maze of courts. Arguments for improving worker safety or regulating the discharge of chemical waste can last decades. Clever due process litigiousness in energy policy turns to high stakes trading and away from long-term community prosperity. Legislative and financial engineering results in two societies, a small well-protected class and the hopeful. As the list of threats to human health and well-being grows, the nation’s trust in a better future is a factor held well past its due date. Wealth streams to the top echelons at an astounding rate.  It may be the rate itself that encourages bankers and brokers to put the welfare of homebuyers and small businesses at risk simply to sustain trade. The darkest example is the exposure of the NINJA home mortgage scheme to bundle loan securities despite a “no income no job application”. Is there “a side” regarding this behavior, other than right and wrong?

Get a Start Button

The global overshoot problem is due to human consumption. Kate Raworth offers methods and arguments for a more beneficial economy. She sees it built on regenerative and distributive systems designed to meet individual and community essentials. The step toward essential from food and water to the production and shedding of complex materials, the patterns of human use extend beyond the earth’s ability to provide. The solutions to these problems have two expectations. The first is the apocalyptic solution. Individuals, communities, and nations build on fear of destruction and deploy a disturbing “fitness” for survival policy. The second is a hopeful focus on scientific and technological interventions occurring throughout history. A variety of direct actions and mitigations can leverage the overshoot problem into an opportunity for human advancements in global asset management.

Raworth’s Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist points to symbols used throughout human history exhibiting habitat as a prime dependency.

A few minutes of her talk (here) leaves you with agreement on nine ecological crises facing human settlements. Climate change is an “easy one” with known solutions. Getting to effective implementation is the challenge. Even if it is incremental, it is crucial for it to recur and thereby exhibit control over a process.

Leadership organizations represented by the Bipartisan Policy Center and the Partnership for Public Service dedicate resources for performance-measured actions. Their politics deal with big issues such as ozone depletion (global) and deadly air pollution (local), while climate change, ocean acidification, chemical pollution, nitrogen and phosphorous loading continue. They evaluate global threats such as freshwater withdrawal, land conversions, and the loss of biodiversity. All of this without a measure for political change capable of demanding prevention as the alternative to repairs after the fact. Known ecological ceilings prove prevention works, but it also links to taxation and the cost of living that leads to local bets on quality housing, health, education, public safety, as well as, important protections from fraud, violence, and lies.

Comprehensive well-being remains a local power through specific actions. The lack of compromise, consensus, and political resolve for the well-being of others who are in trouble stands as a central problem nationally, but not in your neighborhood. However, other actors are taking a global gamble on the low odds of an active resistance capable of lopping off heads yet retain a capacity to sustain the morality of the commons.

A thought experiments. List all the things as regenerative components from the following priorities: water, food, health, energy, education, income and work, peace and justice, political voice, social equity, gender equality, and networks. Each has a social foundation defined by its participants with the power to design requirements that meet the demands of their unique local locations. Apply a set of decision tree questions (Yes/No) that provide for a direct link between a local or regional regenerative need and global concern. I like the idea of starting with the decisions produced by the public powers of large corporations and the private behavior of the super wealthy.

Motivation and Instruction

The wealth of the “one percent” is a problem because their instructions to money managers are boring. Examples might be hey, “don’t lose my money,” or “assure my estate’s growth rate is ahead of inflation with minimized levels of risk.”  There are exceptions of course, but not enough of them to resolve the risk, gender, and the racial wealth gap. The problems in the experience of ordinary working people are reminders that access to reasonably level playing fields are requirements. It used to be your favorite “Anchorman” could be trusted, leading to everyone wanting to be an anchor.

The inequality of wealth and opportunity among different regions of the United States are like those across neighborhoods of the nation’s large cities or the earth. In the city, big problems solve in thousands of small ways. Aggressive efforts in the production and preservation of affordable housing, effective deployment of resources for immigrant families, an extensive re-investment in public education, and a diversity of people capable of standing shoulder to shoulder against forces that would divide are urban tools against intolerance and hatred. Subsequently, the security of future generations is possible unless they are asleep or put there.

I request the names of independent writers on American democracy and the names of the elite among the one percent of interest to them. Each writer will have an interest in a specific set of these elite actors (via political position, corporate employment or investment behavior). One or a combination of no more than two of the following subject areas will drive content: Human Health, Social Welfare, Banking, Finance, Insurance, Real Estate, Foreign Policy, International Relationships, Global Climate, Energy and Defense.

Businesses understand goal attainment for ideas like sustainably. The elite are those who set out to acquire the enormous wealth held by the Post WWII American people. The idea of compelling the formation of that wealth to benefit the rest of the world follows an established, model – destroy, build, repeat. William Simon’s A Time for Action (1980) presents the financial details tested against long-term political experience and his core belief that governments that give businesses everything they want can also take it away. Regulatory relief and the aftermath of the 2008 recession proved that the government had to put back a ton of cash. Its many actors slipped into the financial fog of litigant confrontation. Insert expressions of freedom into this give-to-take problem of governance, and you have Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, and Independent dialogue. The Simon-vein of political give and take compromise is reason enough to implement a sustained “what’s next” analysis of the current situation but this alone is not persuasive.

An elite household recently produced a candidacy and a presidency on an apparent disrespect for the politically elite and therein lays the new opportunity. The relationship that the elite has to the issues of the day will give writers a clear opening for a strategic narrative capable of turning the suppositions of the conservatives regarding political power into a set of unique American propositions based on an appreciation for reason and argument.

The political confusion summarized in Tom Sowell’s Economic Facts and Fallacies adds a lot of fuel to the idea that nothing matters more than winning the argument now. Creating this condition is the sole criterion for success. The ability to persuade in the moment or a few weeks or days before an election, or a board meeting, or a declaration of war aims at the immediate release of resources. Such activities are the enemy of creative imagination; they feed thirst and hunger with no thought of drought, they satisfy in increments with a poor view of the fragmented structures that lay in the wake of every act of selfishness.

If American Democracy is no more than a flash in the history of human freedom, it will be a bright one. Alternatives to “he-said, she said” culture-war banter will reduce disdain and distortion, and contentiousness. One source of this problem is the grouping of “people like us” in communities. Cultural segregation has been ongoing since WWII and encouraged through national urbanization policies, the practice of “steering” in real estate, and widespread support for belief systems that sustain the isolation of people. These highly selective forms of seclusion reduce the desire for tolerance and interest in moderation.

Determine Persuasive Capacity

Writers should not avoid using a tabloid-like approach regarding news of the elite and their link to the pocketbook experience of the 99%. Therefore, the use of dates, times and numbers in ways that make sense. One example: the billionaire’s list shows wealth as a multiple of the national household median income to elites. Multiply 1.7 million times $60,000, and you have a wealth of Amazon’s Jeff Bezos around 2015. This forces one question.  How is it possible for one person to be that productive? It will be difficult to unite writers as a highly trained paparazzi aimed at billionaires, but it will happen for two reasons.

In my Literary Criticism (Class 457), Prof. James demanded the thoughtful and thorough examination of written work.  From the first sentence to the last, he asked his students to tease out themes. If we saw symbolism or meaning, our expressions had to come through each character’s experience as reflected in comparison to our time and place in Room 342 every Tuesday in 1972. In non-fiction work, the same principle applied. I learned to reduce a three-thousand-word policy paper to 200 words or less with dates, numbers, named places, and people. An idea is concrete if linked to a person(s) by name otherwise it remains an abstraction. In concrete terms, you know that I took a class in 1972 where Prof. James taught lessons on the uses of concrete data in literary criticism. Writers know how to be concrete, the enemy of this effort in persuasive writing will be too many words.

The second reason is more complex and subject to the contest of assumptions. Over the last three decades, we have become accustomed to the world described best in Deborah Tannen’s 1999 book, The Argument Culture. Since then, hostility combined with the discipline of 140 characters and the power to broadcast them globally leaves one remaining issue – getting as many people as possible to pay attention for a few minutes. In a cross-disciplinary sense, the theme of her bestseller, You Just Don’t Understand catches sight of the debate on the future of American democracy. Add Patricia Turner’s worldview (I Heard It Through the Grapevine) and Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things to Me and the reasoned and well-channeled description of sex and race in America provides the footing for moving writers forward like a force of history fully capable of persuading their readers to resist authoritarian “divide and rule” solutions to governance.

A note with questions to writers with the hope that a few will be persuaded to act.

The challenge to truth is not “the lie,” but algorithms that can target the people to act on a specific issue for best effect in a short time. A revolution in the revenue stream is how the bulk (99%) of new paid advertising in media is alongside user-selected content. No one is non-targetable or immune from a story whether true or false. Producing stories out of “news farms” based in like Macedonia will look the same as value-driven news agencies such as The Guardian, The Economist, The Washington Post or the New York Times. Paywall or not, these and some 120 newspapers in the nation have begun a ready, fire, aim and re-aim process to secure their financial and editorial independence and to safeguard the journalistic freedom and the liberal or conservative values that free them of commercial interference or political control.  Access to an expanding list of recommended writers is (HERE). To suggest names, use this address: writers@communitydesign.net. As the file acquires thematic consensus (12-18 mo.) and an internal sense of balance, a process that looks to the quality of change described below might begin with persuasive skills.

“For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act not only to create new jobs but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place and wield technology’s wonders to raise health care’s quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun, the winds, and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And, we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. All this we will do.”  President Barack Obama – Inaugural Address (1.20.2009)

 

250 on Electoral College

The purple, red and blue election districts, counties, regions, and states of the Republic are reflections of the people who create these colors by voting. The election district image reveals a purple country, it reflects the diverse views and opinions at the neighborhood level. The overall appearance is of a non-decisive experience. It is not until the districts of representatives become state icons are people encouraged to take a “with us or against us” experience in red or blue silos. The left and right model is therefore bankrupt.

Political leadership will always be a force capable of producing extreme attitudes. It can also generate moderate views, rightful independence, and outright nonconformance. A new up, down, from the top down or bottom up image is needed, it also needs to be as sideways, and as wiggle-waggle as possible to help us think and perhaps laugh at the absurdity in much of our discourse. An active localism result and its new and innovative approach will not eliminate the violent polarization represented by the depressed who find themselves lost, perhaps criminally insane in the malaise of disagreement. Animosity does not acquire toward political conformity or year to year compromise. Negotiation, tolerance, and kindness on the other hand work. Where do you find it? I know where because of one truth and one goal, the big cities yield a solid shoulder to shoulder acceptance of the work before us, and when they of if cities ever get their power back, the nation will be healed.

 

Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us. The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a President and senators and congressmen and government officials, but the voters of this country.” FDR

CE and Ho-Hum

Civic Engagement and Ho-Hum

I’m a lifelong learning type of person, and every so often I find opportunities online that help me to think things through. Recently, I have been exploring the expansion of political engagement in the United States and discovered an easily audited MOOC (a massive online open course), or for $50 I could draw down a proof of purchase with an academic compliance certificate after taking an odd little quiz. The young Dr. Nicholas Carnes, the author of The Cash Ceiling and White Collar Government, offers Civic Engagement in American Democracy along with Dr. Bruce Jentleson, a seasoned historian and author of The Peace Makers. With several others on the Duke University faculty serving the Stanford School of Political Science, the course via the Coursera platform examines political structures and leadership.

If you don’t give these mostly white male academic actors their $50 you are not allowed to finish the audit and get answers to a crafty “think independently” styled quiz. These disappointments are instructive of the racket that is American higher education, but that said there are worthwhile things to share in this Duke-MOOC.

The course starts with civic engagement as a top-down prerogative found in the U.S. Constitution,  a document designed by our privileged founders in such a way that it became inclusive of all people. For that, we give them a lot of credit. The course briefly breaks down government structures while implying one central question. Do we have political leaders that become interesting or powerful due to their response to the demands of leadership in their time, and therefore yield lessons of success and failure for serious study? I am forced to ask if there is such a thing as profiles in courage real or is it more likely the practice of covering-up creatively altered sources of power? The assumption here is how America has become a nation where the most important things cannot be discussed or debated.

The Duke-MOOC’s questions about leadership reveal distinctions between the style of presidential leadership vs. the presidency as an institution. The course design implies the need for the renewed focus of political scientists on system dysfunctions, but that is not relevant here lest the core message of this MOOC goes unrecognized as follows

Political leadership does not have a beating heart worthy of a stethoscope unless it helps the ordinary citizen discover the conditions conducive to opportunities for successful change. It must have enough force to demystify and redesign failing institutions. The institution of the presidency in this context as recognized in the laws of Congress is limited but shapeable, even flexible when it remains outside of individual leadership styles, especially those that are suggestive but not dispositive of any question such as the concepts for change made by the President of the United States, experienced in 2018.

Background

Following the debate initiated in the Federalist Papers (Jefferson, Hamilton, and Jay) the Articles of Confederation matured. One question was whether the national leadership should be “a President” or an “Executive Council”. The newspaper format not only established a set of values for high quality of governance, but it also did so with transparency. The result became the separation of powers, checks, and balances. A President (Article II), a Congress (Article I) and a Judicial Branch (Article III) will rule “a Republic if we can keep it” as Ben Franklyn is described as saying. The Federalist Papers are revered because they brought to its participants a clear, well thought out settlement of the issues.

In this design, power and influence could shift between the Presidency and Congress (examples) however, the central governing authority gave Congress the capacity to remove a President, but not the reverse. Another is the President is the Commander-in-Chief, but only Congress can declare war. Treaties with other countries are signed and negotiated by the President, but the Senate must approve (2/3 vote). Top officials are appointed, but the Senate must confirm by a majority. Finally, the Constitution gives more power to Congress on trade with other nations and among the states. All these capacities for leadership were developed as powers vested in the Constitution and specifically designed to prevent the emergence of an autocratic and monocratic presidency.

Perhaps the most beautiful concept of the design is how it provided for a network of federal courts that could be easily replicated by the States. The Republic continued to build, first in the ratification of the Constitution and to each new State the rights to supreme power lawfully held by the people and their elected representatives. The prospect of a renewable union through elections and local, state and presidential nominations expressed balance in its concern for the people. It holds an essential concept for change as reasonably manageable and a promise of a process for justice through law.

Enter the Great Ho-hum

In 2018, the ordinary citizen’s understanding of presidential powers is very different on issues such as war, treaties, top officials, commerce and global trade. It appears the President is in charge. The question turns away from the institution of the Presidency and toward individual Presidents as powerful actors. The 116th Congress will begin in January 2019. The issues surrounding this Congress are whether an investigation will replace legislation. Will there be an insight into the creation of law as this is their mandate? Will both houses of Congress slide into an oversight malaise? Will it provide evidence of honor or obstruct the evidence of dishonor?

Connecting the lessons of 2018 with the future (2020 and beyond) is how the force of civic engagement in a democracy drew from America’s vision, dreams, and tragedies. Just as these events were experienced by our Founders, they extend from every first-year student to graduating class and from elementary schools to colleges, and how this easily translates into leadership by representatives, staff or volunteers in helping to identify, define and solve problems.

The American political system works the through a set of crucial actors with varying power during specific periods of the election cycle. These components are not well known, yet they continue to build toward an “election day” and engage organized “club” voters who make decisions that will influence the electorate based on participants and issues. For good or ill this is where the heart of a democracy beats, so why is it considered boring, monotonous, dull, even deadly? One answer is the people they inject into politics don’t do what “I’m Just a Bill” says they do or what School House Rock missed. (Here).  The House website has all the details for bill making (Here). Spend a few minutes with these processes and the disconnect with local concerns is apparent, along with the tendency to make bad laws that trigger poor use of our Article III powers.

The ordinary citizen’s engagement with political leadership is rarely exposed as viable unless your subscription to Netflix is considered equivalent to your representatives Twitter feed. The addition of participants with the capacity to organize large sums of money and talent notwithstanding, the “up-from-the-grassroots” process is what makes the top-down behavior of congress members, senators, and judges come alive as constitutional actors. Local political clubs of ordinary people determine who runs and how. An analysis continues by district and office from local to federal that allows participants to compare incumbents who are 98% successful in defeating challengers. These clubs decide what issues candidates can speak to with credibility. They will examine records of accomplishment and coach them on the hot buttons of the day (i.e., health care costs, immigration, DACA). It is condensed to one of my favorite street phrases about modern day political representatives – “They can talk the walk, but they can’t walk the talk.”

Once the choice of candidates is complete and aimed at the next election cycle, the value of local issues in the form of cash and vote capture is exposed. A candidate does not have to be rich to lead but improving the grassroots knowledge of the problems of wealth and government is a starting point of high value on every question related to the quality of public life and the capacity of civic engagement to get results. Comparing the percentage of contribution from ordinary citizens and public matching with the cash from PACs and other significant funding sources also compare neatly with decisions to suppress or build-up voting. In the nexus of these forces determine vote capture is where the fulcrum for change in the quality of civic engagement requires placement.

There are rules.  I cannot give my Congressional Representative that extra half million in mattress cash, but I can run adds on TV against her opponent, which is more fun and more effective than talking up her accomplishments and general wonderfulness. Because this is a power that can only be accomplished because I am rich makes it seem unfair. The idea of constitutional power extends from “natural persons” to corporations and similar entities and that they make everyone else listen to them using TV time and campaigning more than any single person also tilts the field.

Within this board spectrum of power and latitude lies the creative point of law, from which corporate personhood as we know it has emerged. Despite beautiful legal minds, why does the creation of this new force in society feel so haphazardly developed, contentious, antagonistic and from which it will no doubt proceed indiscriminately? Two sources are offered for review. The first is a leader in opposing the principles presented in the Citizen’s United case by the Center for Economic Policy and Research (Here), However, going straight to the Supreme Courts Blog will offer a more direct route into the business of Constitutional Law as it is practiced today before the people (Here).

The Politics of Value
Mass Media as Sensationalist and Lazy

The information age provides a variety of translators regarding the meaning of events due to the actions of a specific interest group, a political party, a community, or a private activity in business. All these actors, including those who are violent, exhibit in an environment of multiple perceptions, persuasions that communicate with documented actions. The coexistence of these views as pluralism has become corrupt due to our new world, the one that contains a proliferation of media platforms. The MOOC upon which this essay builds describes this condition with dog metaphors. It goes something like this: A media outlet can have a “watchdog” approach, always looking for an intruder or investigating one. The stories are appreciated, but their watchfulness can also be described as “lapdog” in a social or economic climate of good times and news. To attract more readers Seeing Eye Dog media envisions pathways of change to the futures. Reader boredom will lead a hungry media outlet into an “attack dog” frame of mind. It will search for “man bites dog” stories. Finally, you will find Puppy dog journalism presenting cuteness as its source of attention.

A dog is an enjoyable companion, as a metaphor for media, it puts a news outlet into the retail entertainment environment. As such it will struggle to survive in a digital market that humanly speaking is a ruthless sovereign more easily than any other autonomous form. Multiplatform media is a problem if the value of political thought is to remain sustainable, in the sense that it does not cause harm in the search for our better selves in the way William Wordsworth spoke of it:

When from our better selves we have too long
Been parted by the hurrying world, and droop,
Sick of its business, of its pleasures tired,
How gracious, how benign, is Solitude.

 The Rise of Dog-Media

The value of metaphors such as doglike digital media is transparent. It provides for an analysis of categories of news activities such as politics, sports, entertainment, food, real estate, even pets. There is exchange value in the trade for knowledge in each of them. Instead of looking for attention or getting a trick or two with some treats, this digital dog media wants a complete recording of your online existence as an expression of your life. From a civic engagement point of view, the question for debate is whether it is a fair trade. The history of political accountability builds on the separation of government from the press to assure free expression, but it also leads to tough choices concerning responsibility, and rightly so.

The Federalist Papers encouraged its readers to recognize a variety of viewpoints, but in the framing of our Constitution the public demand for a system of solutions had a priority, the best decision is the one that holds and controls the high ground of consensus. The proof that a process can maintain and control events toward goal accomplishment is because they can be made to recur. Here are two examples:

In Federalist No. 70 (1788), “The Executive Department Further Considered,” The idea of a council was proposed as an alternative to a President. Hamilton argued for a single executive. He believed it would be less dangerous to democracy because one corrupt person would be more straightforward to remove from power than bad actors in an Executive Council. Hamilton’s position prevailed on this point of recurrence, and it built on other conditions such as the speed needed for many decisions coupled with the capacity for secrecy when required. Here, the full admission of the positive and negative aspects allows a process where decisions were made final and ratified. The legacy of the papers remains well known, as challenging debate articles reprinted in news and magazine formats for distribution. That world is now a vast digital network where essential priorities can be lost. Here is as an illustration of this complexity.

As the CEO of Public Radio International, Alisa Miller’s insight regarding changes in the human knowledge condition has focused on the exponential change in reporting the news in broadcast media’s super-connected world. She points to the revenue issue by comparing the number of seconds used to report events in February 2017 (Nuclear North Korea, United Nation’s dark report on global warming, flooding in Indonesia) and then points out why the death of Anna Nicole Smith received ten times the coverage of the UN report. First, it was cheaper to recycle AP and Reuters. Second, the 50% reduction of foreign news bureaus by American media outlets, and third, most people get their news from local TV stations that who spend only 12% of their time on world events, while according to a Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found over 50% of Americans have a severe interest in global issues. A clip of chart (below) from her TED talk illustrates this contradiction.

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA)

To help illustrate the rate of change since the observations made by Alisa Miller’s in 2008, all the above and more are available for viewing and reading across “all of your devices.” In partial recognition of this new exponent in media, the TCPA charges the FCC with making it unlawful to use automatic dialing equipment and prerecorded messages to contact consumers on their mobile devices without prior consent. Parallel businesses such as Neustar have formed to help telemarketers assure (or evade) compliance.

Other companies such as Granicus are digital communication services designed to provide sources of public data (e.g., legislation, policy changes, meetings, minutes, voting, lawsuits) for political representatives and government agency clients. The business model of both use digital platforms that integrate information and communicate content conveniently to their client’s constituents. Telemarketing restrictions on messages distributed on rapidly changing platforms inject ambiguity into the making of public policy. For example, federal government officials and agencies are not subject to the TCPA rule, but the FCC has yet to address whether the TCPA federal exemption applies to state and local governments. Since the passage of this law (2005), it remains unclear what the FCC will do.

States and local government’s interest in citizen and community engagement is an investment in content management. Granicus is designed to serve individual households with a citizenship experience. Public agencies seek the use of digital services for meetings, data delivery, general access, and record keeping. People can sign up and get alerts straight to their inbox when minutes are digitally published or laws drafted. Digital services can help neighborhoods and communities within define and solve problems with government agencies and staff.

Location-aware, internet-connected devices in the pocket of nearly every adult and child have an enormous capacity for the provision of information from changes in transit schedules to Amber Alerts. Often touted as an integral part of the smart city or government, the public charge is to assure accountability in the provision of accurate and reliable information. While the jury is out on “smartness,” laws such as the TPCA, suggest principles that encourage transparent management of public documents. In the screaming birth stages of digital devices, growing pains are inevitable. Like an eye-to-eye handshake, paying close attention to the public’s digital face and grip has been added to the watchfulness requirement. Public website portals provide a foundation of necessary access to information, including routine evaluations of the agency’s outcomes in regular reports. Performance-based management of every public act will be known whether it is the never-ending work of street repairs to managing the legislative process, each is an act of leadership in the public interest that can be recorded.

Human Resources and the Fifth Element

On the question of human nature, Milla Jovovich, playing the role of Leeloo in The Fifth Element says, “Everything you create, you use to destroy.” Her message is one that requires millenniums of drum beats. More than the existence of earth, air, fire, and water is the reality of love in resistance to hate.

Reading the Constitution via the National Archives may be an excellent pastime on how legislative bodies can make laws but offers little insight into the processes changing a life today. In contrast, reading the debate framework of The Federalist Papers reveals reverence drawn from historical relevance, experience, and reflection. We see how the ratification of the Constitution became possible, June 21, 1788. That it took twelve years to accomplish also captures attention. The details of the entire process are available from the National Constitution Center (here).

Over a two and a half century period, the formation of a two-party system became central to the process of American self-governance. During that period, we have watched large-scale corporations and institutions grow too complicated to comprehend fully. Imagine yourself in the expansive boardrooms of a global corporation; its glass curtain wall exposes a vast urban landscape. The ocean glistens toward sunset. The agenda in this boardroom is to review the methods underway to sustain the expansion of global market contracts for the members around the table according to earnings reports confirming another quarter of extraordinarily continuous growth. All following conversations address mitigations by staff to meet that end. These two parts – sustaining market power and mitigating threats are one in both business and politics and represent a “third party” with a global scale.

Replacing concern for two-party politics, with interest in global organizations will improve the governance of democracies.

 

The power and mitigations process of the two-party system is unlikely to weaken, even though 43% of the electorate prefer a focus on issues as independent thinkers, thereby expressing significant disdain for the “them vs. us” condition we live with today. In a segment of the Duke MOOC, Phillip Bennett presents a kind of hopelessness on this point. He suggests the review of many sources confirming gloom and doom and starts by calling out David Broder’s book The Party’s Over. He also recommends The Pew Research Center and Gallup tracking of this condition in reports such as “Americans Less Interested in Two Major Political Parties,” at Gallup (2015).

In contrast, Tana Johnson seems hopeful, in her book, Organizational Progeny. She presents “bureaucracy” as a tainted entity, but more importantly, she sees progress in the growth of global governance structures as bureaus. Her book draws up an index of non-state actors around the world for analysis and points to a new depth of social networks, multinational businesses and the thousands of independent agencies working on global markets and environmental concerns. These agents are achieving steps toward parity with state actors. The consensus is on one point. National political and business self-interest practices are harmful to the well-being of the earth. The proof is forthcoming slowly on specific dangers, involving death from large groups of people to coral reefs. The framework for building this knowledge does not come from state actors, but by paying attention and understanding the expanding role of International Intergovernmental Organizations (IGO). The central idea is the so-called “international community” does not exist today, but once (or if) a common set of values are found, it could. The European Union’s efforts to improve the market conditions for trade are based on shared interest. The EU is summarized here.

Successful organizational development design includes structures that support decisions made by those closest to the source of information on an issue, in how they address problems on the ground, evaluate causes and recommend next steps. A good example is represented by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Instead of concern for the fate of national politics and their parties, the interest of the IPCC in global, intergovernmental organization offers insight into ways to improve governance in a Democracy as a civic engagement issue.

The earliest lessons in the creation of democracy begin with the struggle for independence found in the growing respect for law as an alternative to obstruction or war. Rules that prevent the design of an IGO as a creature of a nation-state assures decision-making methods are built on majority opinion or voting among groups within their bureaus. Internal respect for mission grows by not allowing low-level hindrances such as control of individual project funding or vetoes aimed at preventing the implementation of research, or demonstration programs. Designs with co-equal parts also provide a laterally broad (vs. vertical), an organizational structure with interconnected and autonomous. The injection of financial resources from related IGOs further insulates their activities from the control of an individual country, state or powerful actor.

The experience of the IPCC in developing policies and support for initiatives to increase independence and implementation capacity is in the design of the IPCC by the Reagan Administration. It was their decision not to install mechanisms that could obstruct and this led to a variety of “unorthodox methods to intervene in the IPCC’s work” by the George W. Bush Administration many years later. It was too late to inject state control mechanisms. Why? Tana Johnson selects one word — progeny. The formation of new global interest organizations as of 2000 represent 80% of all IGO formations, and they are the progeny of existing IGO agents, not nation states. The increase is up from 40% of new post-war IGO starts 1940-1949. The crucial element is how the organizational design is developed in contrast to a nation state’s typical imputation of controls that could be used to put a local interest ahead of global concern. IGOs with a worldwide mission framework thereby include the support of many small states. In effect, Republics are forming based on common ground issues and self-interests in global networks designed to obtain a majority vote capacity.

Funding diplomacy as a problem solver is far less costly than weapons.
Human relationships are repairable and renewable, armament is nothing more than lethal waste.

In 1971, Bretton Woods (IMF & World Bank) renewed its charge on global currency objectives amidst extensive criticism. A half-century later the subject is how the IMF and World Bank function with greater independence than imagined yet fail. War, famine, under-employment, and other deteriorating global conditions exhibit the inability to resolve past wrongs more effectively. Correcting bad decisions and weak behaviors are not functions of the fiscal discipline demanded in loan agreements. Infrastructure projects financed by the World Bank Group also draw criticisms on the ethical issues associated with funding projects that cause the displacement of indigenous people only to reflect the dominance and priority of the industrialized nations. National economic policies are predetermined under IMF G7 styled packages (20 in 2018) lead to the loss of authority to govern the economy, especially among the small states. The G7 was formed to sustain a steady flow of fossil fuels and function today without the consultation of developing countries or those that are changing rapidly due to climate change. The lack of a useful organizational design built on controls over capital alone exposes the central principle of global stewardship that one nation can never be as smart as all of them and an organizational mechanism for one has become apparent.

Given the subject, Organizational Progeny has sustained readability. In the first 20 pages the lessons for improving the U.S. democracy tell me not to look at political representatives by a party in any nation-state, but by how many political representatives understand their bureaucracy. The proof is in the following eight chapters. Improvements in global well-being through an expansion of IGO capacity to produce a self-improving progeny is possible, but one look at the index of U.S. Bureaucracy (HERE) gives one no such hope.  Nevertheless, establishing greater international relationships through these agencies is a route well worth exploring.

The most prevalent form of presentation of over 430 American government agencies is a list organized alphabetically. (but) Perhaps, organizational design is possible in the sense that defining “a system” can only be accomplished by using an even larger and more complex one. There is no authoritative list of the vast American bureaucracy; perhaps the Federal Register index/add year is a better source. The Register allegedly updates it at the end of each month. The legislation that created the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA.gov) is maintained by the Department of Justice]. Here, about 80 independent executive agencies with 175 executive departments are on their list.  The criteria for the selection of this number is they comply with FOIA requirements, although they are imposed on every federal agency.

Perhaps more than all the other agencies representing government largess, instrumentality, mission, or management, the people in the FOIA offices represent the rise of a specific status group. Standing in public service remains central to officeholder credibility. If the mechanisms for access to public information begin to fail, think “house of cards,” think of yourself as impressionable and incapable of independent thought because you cannot prove your sources as reliable.

Michael Lewis reports on the Trump administration’s approach to staffing the federal government in his 2018 book, The Fifth Risk. There are examples such as 1) WMDs at home going off, an attack from 2) North Korea or 3) Iran or fundamental infrastructure failure, especially 4) our fragile electric grid. Lewis sees the fifth risk 5) as “the thing you’re not thinking about when you’re worried about whatever you’re worried about.”

He sums up that fifth thing under the heading of “project management,” and despite the public hostility toward the services of government, the battle to reduce and destroy them from the top down has accelerated under conservative leaders in Congress since Obama’s mid-second term. Conservatives project individual strength (wealth, deal-making, and skepticism with press critics who among others are openly demonized. The management practice is to weaken or eliminate service institutions, especially if not statutorily protected. These are the ingredients of authoritarian business.

One quick story that Lewis tells that sums up his main concerns with the government. Catherine Woteki is a world-class authority on agricultural science. Her responsibility at the Department of Agriculture was to manage and review research grants approaching $3 billion, much of it on examining the impact on food production in the U.S. due to extended periods of drought, heavy rain, high winds, and substantial flooding. In January 2017, Trump replaced her with Sam Clovis, a right-wing talk show radio host from Iowa. He is without a science background, but he supported Trump in 2016. I hear Trump’s voice as he says, “Call my friend Sam if you need research money.” He’s a great guy.” Clovis withdrew his nomination in November 2018 following his connection to Russian interference in the election and substantial opposition in Iowa. Lewis points out that resistance to “old boy” politics is one reason for the structure and success of the Civil Service. Have you ever heard of the Sammie Award? Have a look (Here). It is about loyalty to the United States and its people.

Given the broad historical sweep of Congressional power, the rise public cynicism and policy, the strongest tend to occur during periods of prosperity.  The power of the president strengthens if there is economic trouble or threats. The strength of this power is diminished as Congress responds to discontent over the Vietnam War. When the Watergate scandal erupted, it was Congress that forced people to tell the truth and that led President Nixon’s resignation. Nevertheless, Congress’s role requires the regular citing of relevant provisions of the Constitution to sustain its power and there stand nominations to the Supreme Court. There should be a copy in the pocket of every member of Congress. Here are some reasons.

The work of executive branch staff works hard to put Congress, as a coequal branch, in a subordinate position. Congress will often fail to take the power the Constitution gives it when difficult questions are posed. It avoided a vote on the war in Iraq, and when that happened it became known as Congresses, “use-it-or-lose-it” power, therefore yielding to the emergence of an “imperial presidency” since it the first attempt in the Gulf of Tonquin, Vietnam.

The 1994 midterm elections reduced Bill Clinton’s power when Republicans captured control of the House and the Senate for the first time in 40 years. In that year, Speaker Newt Gingrich’s (R-GA) “Contract with America” sought to make Congress the center of the federal government and implement significant tax cuts. Then Congress was eclipsed by President Bush due to the 9/11/2001 that allowed him to draw on the President’s role as commander-in-chief.

Since 2001, the Supreme Court has found federal laws unconstitutional 14 times. The justifications for doing so generally fall into three distinct categories described (Here)  Putting Congress on the curb allows the executive branch to stonewall its party representatives on all issues from energy to the replacement of the Senate Majority Leader (First R-TN replaces Lott (R-MS).

Executive power might wane with the rise of congressional “oversight” power, but the word tends to mean lack of sight and routine mistakes. It is a congressional oxymoron. When Congress finds itself boxed in by Presidential powers, it is time to sit in the Senate and listen. If there are great debates taking place with respect for facts, the country’s leadership can strengthen, if not it is every citizen’s responsibility to find out why they are not talking openly.

Finally, in the spirit of MOOCs around the world, look for the work of our youngest professionals n screaming out of the academy in search of something that stands firmly in the world, does not equivocate or sidestep the reasons we love our country and earth. All people are different yet inspired by a straightforward opportunity – to live a good life, to be unharmed yet fearless in the search for a more perfect union. Here is just one more idea of precedent among millions of other insights worthy of the few thousand others that seeking the simple truth of human existence. It will come down to what humans must have to grow and change, and that is a threat to their survival. We see something on the horizon that appears to be the collapse of our civilizations and the extinction of vast swaths of the Natural world.

Science as Agitator

In the five year run of the TV series Third Rock from the Sun, John Lithgow playing Dick Solomon, Alien gave us the opportunity to laugh at these challenges when he ummed up how big problems should be tackled with this observation.  “Where would we be without the agitators of the world attaching the electrodes of knowledge to the nipple of ignorance?”

The Union of Concerned Scientists is an international group aimed the planet’s most pressing problems and backed by sound scientific analysis. This organization has responded well to growing resistance to decisions based on political calculation and corporate hype.  Evidence came soundly in when results of the 2018 mid-term election added ten new scientists to Congress and all seven scientists endorsed by 314 Action who were up for reelection won their races as did seven other, other incumbent scientists.  (More on the Union and 314 is in Media & Measurement)

The concrete structures of a problem become known through a set of expressions. For example, climate change expressed as extreme weather events can have a metric such as the moisture in the air, that in turn can be sourced to warming ocean temperatures and that to the increasing presence of heat-trapping gasses in the atmosphere. In this case, the big heading is global warming. It has just one number, the “too late year” or the tipping point after which the science suggests the changes predicted cannot be reversed. As big problems are groups of small ones, it is especially tricky when they represent a change framework involving centuries. Global warming is not fast enough to be experienced by people, and an extreme weather event or fire cannot be linked to it as a cause. Big problems also live in the middle ground between fear of the unknown and confusion about the science. They combine to produce apathy in the ordinary person and a career for a climate scientist.

Technological systems are available to “drawdown” gases that heat the atmosphere. However, the global production of these gases is increasing at a rate higher than Nature’s service, or that technology offers to lead to a zero-sum conclusion. Furthermore, political solutions to reduce emissions require an enormous reduction of apathy regarding the issue, and greater trust in science, its disciplines, and practices. Reshaping the world or just the United States requires technology. However, the major contributor to atmospheric gases is without a technical solution.  The waste in energy use created by modern land use patterns is the primary cause followed by way food is produced and delivered. There is no drawdown technology for these practices; it is a consumer choice problem for policymakers that is almost impossible to explain. Here too, the set of expressions are many.  Isolated housing, auto dependency, high per capita infrastructure costs, fragmented uses and environmental damage are all traced to a failure of urban planning, architecture, and engineering, not because what they did was wrong, it is just no longer right.

The chart below illustrates all the major sources of energy as used by all the major sectors of the economy. Transportation, residential, commercial life and industrial production are the major sectors that require electricity to function. All but the producers of electrical power (who have an efficiency of distribution problem) have a major impact on land use and food production. The current uses of land and the food energy people need are expressions of problems. Each is a clue to the concrete structure of the larger one. Energy in the use and management of land and food will require a much better vehicle for its use and best described today in one word “city,” the function and purpose of which is the most significant problem humanity has yet to face.

Source: https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/

 

Media & Measurement

Getting more scientists into Congress has become a necessity of our time.  Too many of our lawmakers are not making any sense. We need people who make evidence-based decisions that are outcome driven and measured by performance from day-to-day and century-to-century.

There are many origins of human progress. Sharpened stones and sticks, fire, and the wheel are on the early list, but the primary source human advancement today comes from the ability of scientists to explain phenomena in ways difficult to vary. With both excellent and poor result, improvement in the world is due to a verb, science. When Richard Dawkins author of The Selfish Gene (1976) criticized, Lovelock’s Gaia principle as a failure because it suggests the earth has a cause or a purpose he got a lot of supportive attention from the non-theist community. Scientists such as Dawkins will accept ideas of God or Gaia as metaphors for profound mysteries, but only in the same way, they would admit to thirst or hunger. The aggressive acquisition of knowledge requires a far higher footing than metaphors for the unknown.

As a measure, the law has done what it can to expose its deficiencies from local magistrate to Supreme Court Justice.  A vacuum is forming, but the ground is remaining firm, but only for the short-term. A half-century view of events is the maximum. The necessity of scientists to become political leaders, act in defense of science and on behalf of society is consequently apparent. The need for a more extended view of things to be done now for use a century or more from today is crucial. Here is why.

Modern legislation not only requires science to solve problems but to be politically persuasive in doing so. Organizations such as the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) examine a long list of modern social concerns from nuclear weapons to food and energy. However, exposing inappropriate political interference is needed to get science out the crisis news cycle. UCS’s Michale Halpren is director of their Center for Science and Democracy. The analysis of this center provides fuel for the new kind of talent Shaughnessy Naughton of 314.Org is hoping to find.  Naughton and her team have excellent methods for putting the principles of science to work in politics. With the help of people from STEM backgrounds, its mission is to find and elect scientists to political offices in preference to lawyers. 314 Action’s national networks of pro-science advocates are organizing to combat notorious attacks on fundamental scientific understanding. The need for leaders that will advocate for evidence-based reasoning is a priority for one reason.

Extended problems such as pollution are subject to clinical analysis, and those associated with climate change require continuous outcome driven policies designed to meet performance measures. To achieve this end, the central subject of dialogue will shift from the visionless debate over limited resources. That argument is driven by the unethical behavior of those with limited intellect or who prefer political or corporate hype.  Leaders in the U.S. Senate, House, State Executive, and Legislative offices who express unwillingness to recognize science as a concluding arbiter require exposure. The name 314.org elicits a well-known scientific formula for determining the area of a circle – Pi. The  “Under the Scope” project of 314.org aims explicitly at the anti-science members of Congress by analyzing votes that go against the facts and data to promote anti-science policies.

The open-ended discovery of knowledge is a counterinsurgency aimed at the non-scientific community. The rise in the ability to question authority and usefully distrust empirical evidence with accuracy has never been more critical. Giant flows of new evidence prove our leaders and human sensing are highly unreliable sources of knowledge. The explosion of new instruments for the measurement of phenomena in every field makes the availability of an ever-lengthening chain of cold digital reasoning a matter of record. The capacity of science to test and disprove conjectures continues, but all of this remains in a world filled to the meniscus with adjustable explanations and versions of fact. Is there time to solve problems in the fact-sloppy world when the need for firm, high-impact daily action in one-hundred-year cycles is imminent?

In Last Chance to See, Douglas Adams (writer/artist) and Mark Carwardine (zoologist) describe the journey to see wildlife before conceivable extinction. Richard Dawkins in an introduction to their book noted that all living things are genetic cousins; some are just more distant than others, so if one unique part of the global biomass slips into nothingness, so does a part of all of us. In this view, the journeys of Doug and Mark are not about species extinction; they are about the problem of not knowing that the species ever existed. We acquire knowledge of all life on earth and the physical universe through the testing of hypotheses that are vulnerable to disproof. Demanding improved flows of information establishes a balance between valid data and theories. Here we come to the central problem of science, what do we do, when what we think we know, needs to be disproved continuously?

The exponential nature of knowledge in the world is concerning. One of those expansions draws from Darwin’s initial findings to the completion of the first Genome Project. The ability to communicate this knowledge widely adds complications as it spreads the demand for evidence. Defining the genetic structure of evolution has been ongoing for a half-century, and the findings continue to be astounding throughout the debate on Dawkins.

For example, sight and the relationship of HspB5  to it are in the code for alpha-crystallin and reveals the full spectrum of sunlight as a force in species diversity.  The evolution of sight is complicated, so for the curious, it is described here. The evolutionary advantage derived from the ability to respond to light energy is evident in a vast array of species and from unicellular eyespots to vertebrates with image forming eyes. A change in one cell can also produce disadvantages such as HIV. Understanding every variation of the DNA code in cells adds depth to the design of instruments for storing data for knowledge. The diversity of life builds in the infinity of these genetic pathways, and the storehouse is a human plus machine.

Ways the Wind Blows

Normal atmospheric pressure at sea level translates to about 14.7 pounds per square inch. In the big January 2018 storm hitting the northeast, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) explained a new metric named bombogenesis. With the growing interest in connecting climate change with evidence provided by big storms, a key element will be to understand the rate of change in atmospheric pressure. Typically, big winter storms are nor’easters or winter hurricanes. The “bomb” metric puts the rate of change in the spotlight when the barometric pressure drops 24 millibars or more in 24 hours. On January 3, 2018, at 9:51 AM, the pressure was 1027.0 and at the same time on January 4 the pressure was 996.2, a 30.8 drop.   A January morning can begin as cold and fair and by the next freezing snow and fog. (Table)

Viable routes to these discoveries share a common theme. In the explanation of phenomena, all of them tease out the elements that are easy to vary. The variability of these mathematical and observational components provides the proof of insufficient data, ineffective thinking and the lack of a testable hypothesis. In The Fabric of Reality, the quantum physicist, David Deutsch promotes the “above all” practice of using two principles: problems can be solved because problems are inevitable. He offers one reason useful for every inquiry. Precautionary principles or practices that cannot avoid the unseen and the challenges they cause are hypothetical and therefore rare, if not impossible to implement.

The questions and procedures that might lead to solutions remain unknown until it is too late. and evidence of impact on the Earth led to questions such as, are asteroid materials of value? On the other hand, and for decades, measurements of a slowly rising global sea, melting ice sheets at the poles linked to the human conveyed gases into the atmosphere remains an annoying controversy in the scientific community due to non-scientific reasons. Although losses of both Antarctic and northern ice sheets across Canada and Greenland, and from the Russian tundra to the North Pole are fact and directly connected continued anthropogenic warming, the sciences involve approaches to these facts linked to temperature as a question of analytical rigor.  As sea level rise continues, the science suggests it is unlikely to become critical before 2100 (defined as 6.6 to 16.4 feet). The probability is set toward the unstoppable motion of ice into liquid in the coming decades remains, but in scientific analysis, there is only a slight chance that it may have already become unalterable. Unknowns are just that, unknown.

What do you do when the stakes involve the displacement of over a billion people. The argument for increasing urban density and resilience defines the problem of temperature first and less so the issue of global warming gases. Rising temperature is the “ugly fact,” it is the asteroid, in the otherwise beautiful theories of climate change. While science may argue methods for managing “atmospheric gases” for decades, it could also peer review the fabric of our reality into neatly defined tipping points of chaos. Applying Deutsch’s and his colleagues’ extraordinary scientific discipline requires redirecting. Theories of parallel worlds may be fascinating but unhelpful. It would be far more supportive for the community of scientists to develop full knowledge of the one we share now with ways that will persuade the whole world to change.

Button Pushing

The button string of agency logos above represents multiple agencies attempting to connect “the dots”. The U.S. National Academy of Sciences, often referred to as the Supreme Court of Science described Climate Change and its dangers as a “settled fact” in 2010. In the 2014 report, specific impacts on a region such as a significant increase in precipitation connect more dots. The Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA4) is anticipated in late 2018 will connect even more. Climate impacts quantified by region and season will drive direct hands-on action, therefore the subtlety in the added detail will not (or should not) be lost on city and state climate analysis organizations or first response agencies. Directly or indirectly, the additional data will enhance localized reactions to and preemptions of specific events. The range of detail now available marks ranges, from the upward trend of “heavy downpours” by counties in Iowa to the dots connecting the impact of drought, followed by big fires, heavy participation, and mudslides in the canyons of California.

The discovery of sustainable human settlement ecosystem relationships in the Anthropocene era is well underway. Encouraging climate scientists to engage the practice of testable theory engineering will be more difficult but advances made by the more practical stepchildren of Climate Change in the name of resilience. A diverse and adaptive set of urban settlements around the globe already demonstrate the practice of urban resilience and their trial and error relationship to a rapidly changing global ecosystem. Farsighted investments in urban places are well underway to make them “climate-proof,” and like temperature, they are available as measures of effectiveness accompanied by several instructive cautions.

The exact location of these places and the population protected have begun to exhibit the political structure of a “them and us” crisis. The central non-scientific problem is distinguishing between the unseen hazards of survival by location. As physical entities, these places can be socially and economically diverse, they can be resilient and unique laboratories of the sustainable ideal, vast BTU storehouses, exemplary centers of learning, and without a huge change in political outlook, little more than a few caves sheltered from the misery of the humans left behind.

When problems are just questions to which we want or need answers, but when the answers are known and a pathway forward is clear, yet impossible to implement the questions tend to get labeled as evil or wicked.  Examples of the “not enough” type of problems would concern public education, safety, food and water security, and general assurance of well-being through governance, accountability, and transparency. Examples regarding the “too much” type of problem are corruption, poverty, religious conflict, and large/small-scale warfare. Complex phrases such as Global Climate Change describe combinations of “too much, not enough” questions. The destruction of natural resources, viral pandemics and extreme weather, thermonuclear war are anxieties without containment; they are sloppy expressions wrapped in cloaks that encourage nervous intolerance, claims of injustice, and many proofs of inequality. The solution is simple but impossible to implement without an intensified global awareness. Put every combination of the human condition into one boat, or one well-contained set of urban places and the choice is evident – fix it or sink.

From the pale echo of light from the big bang to the stuff of stars that we are now, the capacity for measurement has only managed to imagine a tiny part of what creates the space that allows “matter” to exist. The enormity of cosmological physics aside, the ordinary observer can walk away from the theories of dark matter and energy with one useful fact. If only 10 percent of the physical universe is available for measurement, why is just a tiny part of it known well? Science begins with the unseen and grows with the unknown, but given the promise that the revelations of science will continue indefinitely has one flaw, an unlikely continuation of intellect in the absence of habitable earth where the necessities of survival redefine the luxury of inquiry.

A New America

America has not seen an argument for affordable housing, and infrastructure since the post-WWII 1950s.  At that time the incentive was in the service of veterans and a national defense strategy to spread out the population.  The approach today would be to build on American capacity for diversity and building America’s energy future. The civil rights movement provides the Constitutional bedrock for a fair and successful investment in housing. However, the fossil fuel industries political purchase of the “fracking states,” has federal government’s lawmakers legislatively groveling before the demands of this giant industry.

More than a half-century later, the House of Representatives has an opportunity to assist (if not force) a Senate debate on these issues (housing, energy, and infrastructure) as they continue to gain national significance as local priorities.  An opportunity to create a New America awaits. Each state delegation understands their constituent’s desire to keep or acquire affordable homes, clean water, and reliable sources of renewable energy. House and Senate members also gain public support when they seek common ground and reach out to strengthen the body of America as a whole. No matter where people are or how well they live in their districts, they are sensitive to bad news. They also know their character, and that of their community echoes in the least among them. It is time to close in on new policies that support investment in the future of energy, housing, and infrastructure.

When violent change hits a community, the question turns to first responder’s capacity, then speed, followed by when (or if) the full weight of federal support occurs. If the change is massive but slow, as if following the logic of a cancer cell, a long-term sense of resilience is essential. Leverage for needed change will be found in these fast and slow forms of damage. The “small fires” response to sudden catastrophes in the national context continues to produce quality emergency management skills. Service providers and communication systems reach deeply from federal to local levels. The service of a national post-trauma framework is building strength because it is vital, but first-response systems are quickly overwhelmed without front-end steps in mitigation that can pull its people out of trouble at a steady and reliable pace along with outright prevention.

There are a few people in the House and Senate that have a growing sense of urgency because they see more “small-fires” and the evidence of cancer in housing and infrastructure. The National Low Income Housing Coalition has found a shortage of 7.4 million affordable rental units for America’s 11.4 million extremely low-income families. (report here). The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has a series of reports on America’s infrastructure needs. One of them is on the current “bait and switch” mirage plan.

False choices emerge during stress. One option is to go against your neighbor as a solution, and the other is to find ways that build a stronger, more perfect union among neighbors and nations. Senator Elizabeth Warren’s American Housing and Economic Mobility Act is a stronger union idea with two parts worth study; we will build 3.2 million affordable homes and provide $10 billion for a competitive infrastructure program. Senator Kamala Harris Rent Relief Act, (tax credit) identifies millions of households in need of help, and Senator Cory Booker wants more state and local governments to adopt inclusive zoning policies. Warren sees the big picture, Harris aims at families facing displacement because rents are moving well past wages (see Pew Research Study) and Booker wants 20% of the housing in market-rate development made affordable to moderate-income families. All work to avert a crisis with supply and demand side incentives and subsidies.

The increase in proposed House legislation on housing since 2016 is built on facts demanding a fair and equal investment in people, health, transportation, and education. (See Lincoln Institute analysis on inclusion (here) and dozens of other publications (here). Behind these initiatives prowls the lessons of the 2008 Recession. Fannie, Freddie, and the Federal Housing Administration guaranteed 90% of new home loans in the United States at a time when banking regulation and trading in mortgage securities blended to produce fraud and put at risk the loss of billions in taxpayer’s money. For a decade, 2008 to 2018, the Treasury has yet to figure out how to sustain Dodd-Frank (see weakened status here) in order to get more private capital into the market so taxpayer money is not as much on the line despite the caveat emptor hook.

One number above all other metrics suggests a housing affordability and infrastructure emergency is pending. It is around 40,000 people living in NYC shelters with a growing percentage of emotionally distressed and mentally ill people in the population. The number alone is less telling than realizing how and why it is staying and lasting at this number for decades. Homelessness has become a production function of cities. In NYC, an additional 35,000 people by official estimates are homeless as transient or invisible. There are no rules to stop these numbers from exponential growth.  Homelessness in the United States goes up slightly for a few years and declines. Rising rents and natural disasters contribute to the increase.

The lack of “job access through reverse commutes” to regional opportunities known as JARC was discontinued in 2016. Some funding programs remain, but the focus on balance is lost. Losing the battle for affordable access to jobs through pre-emption services also produces an unknown number of homeless entering suburban and rural areas. These communities have affordability concerns too and the presence of invisible homelessness is repealing laws that prohibit the co-habitation of unrelated individuals. The lack of a federal role in recognizing urban economic stress also involves sole dependence on cars for mobility and the affordability of suburban and rural housing.

The Housing and Transportation Affordability Index (H+T) looks closely at neighborhoods by combining the cost of housing with the cost of transportation. H+T analysis reveals an urgent need for innovative investments in transit-based housing and infrastructure. The Center for Neighborhood Technology’s index finds the annual cost for the use of one car ranges from $7,500 to over $10,000 based on vehicle type and miles traveled. The cost of public transit is also included. The cost to households per mile per capita will increase in sensitivity and alter development patterns. More than any other structural component of a region, the quality of transportation is central to the management and maintenance of all other structural services such as water, power, and energy. The nation needs better policy basis on the cost of providing infrastructure services by using per person and per mile metrics.

Improving the Government of the People 

We are the change we seek. When the 31-year-old Adem Bunkeddeko, son of refugees from Uganda decided to mount a primary challenge to Congresswoman Yvette Clarke, (NY D-9th CD), he discovered affordable housing had major traction as both a right and a federal responsibility. He got the attention of Brooklyn voters but fell just 1,852 votes (pdf) short of a primary win and a seat in Congress. His run for office highlighted the national demand for balance instead of power.  You see, there is no federal housing responsibility.

The political voice on “rights” 2018 mid-terms expanded when 29-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, toppled Joseph Crowley’s (NY D 14th CD) ten terms in office (2004). The world paid attention to that win. Not only did she seize the issue of housing as a right, but she also took firm hold of a broader mission — build a path to all human rights as a national representative with a seat in Congress. She proved Joe was not building that path and in 2020 it may not be Yvette Clarke or several others, Democrat or Republican if candidates such as Adem and Alexandria keep showing up with the simple desire to rebuild a government of the people. The “blue wave” was different this time. The sense of impending crisis stirs in the blood of ordinary people base on two events. First, the traditional political powers steadily abandoned labor’s demand for something more than a living wage. The second is the grave error of believing in and trusting an authoritarian leader’s promises.

In either blue or red districts, incumbents have a 98% retention rate. When challenged in a primary both Democrat, and Republican candidates speak to “rights,” one suggests you have inalienable “rights” and government will take them away, the other believes that government will help to get “rights” taken or never gained. Why is such a tragic choice given to the American people by its political leaders? It is a false choice, and it will remain so until the key indicators such the plight of catastrophic illness, starving wages and the threat of homelessness stops pushing a growing number of people into the “one event” threshold. That one event is when the cost of a car accident, a fire, or illness and hospitalization is a trauma that puts people sleeping rough in streets, cars, and tents. The question is easy. How big does a national catastrophe need to be? How many families facing this condition or the threat of it does the federal government need to act in service to localities in need? Is an emergency band-aid enough when the cause is cancer?

The Kindness of Strangers

From New York City to Seattle, the median price of a home is going up and over $1 million. They are not outliers, urban homelessness in America’s cities is recognized, if not well understood, but it is not spoken of in the heartland of America. The big cities have the skills to manage homelessness, but without a national focus, the ongoing production of unaffordable housing will continue to displace people from the city as rapidly as the market will bear. Today, 50% of American households are paying more than half their income for housing. The 2017 homeless number went up for the first time since 2010 to 554,000 people as an official accounting, but critics of the crisis put the number of homeless at 1.5 million, to include the invisible people. The increase comes from cities. However, the seven to ten percent of the homeless that have come to live in rural/suburban areas are less understood. Janet Fitchen describes the increase in families who are on the edge of homelessness and housing insecurity in rural America (See research study (here). Like the invisible 40,000 homeless in NYC, the nation is full of people who are “doubled up” with family or friends, live in vans and other transient accommodations. Homelessness is a quiet, sneaky cancer, but unlike a disease that presents too late to cure, Americans have access to a huge immune system of wealth, the solution will not come from the kindness of strangers or emergency responders. The call to the people is clear, “we are the change we seek” and if gets called progressive social democracy, so be it.

The House is a group of strangers blended by the U.S. Constitution into an institution designed to build the means for consensus on the rights of Americans. Concerns such as health, housing, and a living wage continue to grow. The financial mechanisms are important to determine, but less so than meeting goals that assure healthy, well housed, and economically resilient communities. The House’s reflection on constituent concerns also involves the business community as a key local and national player. Here is one example of how a view toward balanced interests outperforms narrow special interests. A company called Apartment List, is actively engaged in the nationalization of the rental housing market. Having acquired $50 million (2018) in Series C funding, this company is well on its way to a successful IPO. The affordability of rental housing and home acquisition affects the economy of every State. When it also threatens a national listings business model seeking 50% of the national market, they become strong advocates for a federal role across the aisle.

It is also in the business interest to see public efforts on the employment uptake side such as support systems that encourage business responsibility in this area. A model worthy of study in the UK called Business in the Community is designed to connect disadvantaged groups and businesses to help both entities gain and sustain employment. A summary of American initiatives largely at the state level with some federal funding is available for research and review at End Homelessness.org.

The incidence of housing distress using the homelessness as a single indicator in a national “base test” show how reductions in the cost of 1) affordable housing, 2) transportation, 3) child care, and 4) education, are causal factors that reduce the incidence of incarceration, mental health and substance abuse problems that contribute to homelessness (Burt & Anderson, 2005; Burt, Aron, & Lee, 1999; Taylor, 2001). Homelessness is reduced substantially if the first four are readily available for individuals or families in response to a distress event, but face it, those four things are good for everyone. If these elements are not available the next three become part of the problem. Incarceration, mental health, and substance abuse are far costlier and more difficult to resolve. From a policy point of view, the winning argument is clear. Assuring affordable housing and mobility through access to education, training, and transportation is financially sound, and good for every household all the time in every community. What is missing? Health, if doctors could prescribe a safe, healthy home for people, wow.  Hey, it’s not impossible (see this Article).

Economic rationalizations such as “cost/benefit analysis” ignore variables if they lack metrics and infringe on the two indispensable experiences of democracy; the use of individual rights and with the use of these rights, the potential to develop equity and the capacity to manage change. The people of Flint, MI were not engaged in a public process regarding changes in the source of their water supply. The decision was made to save money. When high concentrations of lead, known to cause brain damage, was discovered it revealed a lack of metrics for a variable that could have put a number on the rights violated and a value on lost potential. In this process, a value is not be assigned until after damage occurred and sadly this too is part of the cost/benefit fallacy. When the social framework for change is overrun by economic reasons the opportunity for continuous damage to people and whole communities increases. Lead in water, toxins in the air, land and sea and homelessness are economically rationalized as an individual or corporate failure when the actual cause is the erosion of basic moral understandings and a commitment to specific values and principles.

One of the specious economic arguments on housing in America is that we have plenty of affordable housing, but it is in the wrong place. The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, the National Low Income Housing Coalition, the National Alliance to End Homelessness and many others have set their moral compass on placed-based housing rights and opposes such hollow statistical abstractions. Nevertheless, a missing component appears to be a pre-emptive demand from the business community for federal solutions that can continuously produce affordable housing where needed and include support for affordable transportation to places of work. If that can be made to recur, the Senate might get its top-down act together on housing and infrastructure. The creative opportunity for renewable energy, affordability, and economic mobility is staring the American public in the face. The missing element appears to be a legion of people ready step into the future of democracy and the promise of the pursuits outlined in the laws framed and disseminated in the U.S. Constitution.

Follow-up Interview Sources

Maria Foscarinis, Executive Director National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty
Diane Yentel, President, National Low Income Housing Coalition
Nan Roman, President, National Alliance to End Homelessness.
Chris M.F. Figueredo, Executive Director, Ballot Initiative Strategy Center
John Kobs, CEO Apartment List

 

 

Guns, guns, guns

Open Letter to MAA

Re: Mathematics Competition

At this writing, there are some 330 million people in the United States (see pop clock) of which 75 million are younger than 18, to yield 255 million adults that could own a firearm.  Among this group estimate, 55 million of these adults wouldn’t touch a gun or be too infirm to handle one or physically unable do so because of imprisonment or other factors restricting civilian gun ownership. The 200 million remaining would be among 393 million civilian weapons in the United States. The control ratio of adult-to-weapon is 1.965.  This number is significant enough to evaluate the U.S. as a probability space.

A word of caution and challenge.  The call to mathematize death by a weapon as a personal experience within the framework of odds is the wrong approach. Death by civilian gun ownership should not be compared with lightning strikes, a fall down the stairs or a trip in front of a bus. Regardless of the weapon control measures from national to local, applying the law of probability to the data sources available for analysis is tempting, but sends the wrong message because we live in a world of dull messages.

The almost daily occurrence of a mass shooting by firearms provides the hot button that gets our attention. Death by a weapon is now a national experience of human tragedy and represents an unparalleled threat to our culture as a society of caring people. The existence of this condition allows us to envision a world of armed guards standing before every place of assembly like pawns in a lifelong chess game of potential violence.

There are alternatives to cognitive dissonance, and throughout the remaining days of this decade, the possibility of a far better vision for life in America is possible.  I fear for all those who would enclose a weapon into their hearts and hands to achieve an end. A far better vision is possible. Please call upon mathematicians to identify the United States as a sample space and use a set of events in which each involves zero or more outcomes of gun violence.  Here is the hard part, the assignment of probabilities to events will ignore the individual experience from events to probabilities.

I want you to produce a new expression re-focused by the massive volume of weapons and the likelihood of general use in the form of interpersonal violence as a message.  Create a number from the national experience and call it the cultural endangerment factor, or the national pain index.  Above all other goals, the analysis of your membership to contribute to a language of hope for us all.


More detail and discussion (HERE) in Washington Post and from the BBC on American gun culture (HERE)

 

Truth in a Hurricane


Wealth above all other social factors can push the door closed on people, especially when they are men without means or women, but only if they don’t push back. The righteousness of wealth will spin the story, wag the dog, and fake the news without fact or journalistic integrity. The “maleness” premise regarding errors of judgment, leading to lies, cover-ups, war for profit, and so on can be questioned for facts covering centuries of action. Yet, throughout human history, it has been, without doubt, the male force that sustains these errors of power with the equanimity of profound blindness. The challenges to power in the new age of data are new and different in the demand for balance.  It might make an important difference.

The Truth in a Hurricane and Other Takings

Based on centuries of case law the last two SCOTUS appointments (2017 and 2018) challenge America’s ability to provide health care to all, it supports an imperial presidency and returns the claim on the bodies of women (See Rebecca Solnit). Given that legal precedent is now available in terabytes, exemplary change can come from an unseen hand to remove a regulation unfamiliar to many for an unknown entity. Other typical disturbances involve the role of state legislators and jurists in the service of wealthy individuals. The majority of these actions can be considered “for the good,” however, the question now posed is why the actions of those private actors that might be dangerous remain unknown until lethality is exposed.  The law may be unable to mitigate or prevent the actions of an individual with a deadly assault rifle, but if this inability is extended to a corporation handling toxic chemicals the regulatory breakdown is complete and no one is safe in the era of many guns and chemicals.

Congress members need at least $300,000 every two years (and more for Senators) to communicate to their district or state if challenged in a primary and general election. A member’s salary is under $200K per year yet the average income is just over $1 million. Sadly, alternatives include saving money by suppressing the vote down to twenty-percent of their registered electorate. The nature of this numerical playground includes the pay to play problem and it occurs unscathed due to one presumption. Those who do not make profits (or win) are unfit. While the prerequisites of profit have merit over reasonable periods, instant profits on demand do not. The practice turns natural functions into risky behaviors such as breathing air into your lungs or altering the performance of the earth’s atmosphere. As these become recognized as a “long train of abuses.” the right, duty and the consent of the governed includes “throwing off” that government

The following examples are worthy of the careful and devoted attention of writers. Understanding poverty for its cause on a broader footing focuses on the number of households of all kinds who are physically displaced. For example, recent climate change events intensify the separation of land ownership/control from the indices of poverty. Like equity, the use and power over land skew toward the top. The income only definition neglects land, not for its value but its location. Hurricanes and their floods contain truth in their wake. Land regulation, even in public ownership, serves unevenly. Historically, the land is the equity of all people, yet access to it is made to be patchy, unfair. Hopefully, this leads to knowing the mean of all climate change events by household location. With that, the question is about land. Where is it owned (or rented) and how so? (Penn State Paper and World Bank)

The U.S. Supreme Court has consistently deferred to the right of states to make their determinations of “public use.” In the aftermath of September 11, 2001, terrorist attack, federal agencies acquired land for offices lost in the World Trade Towers. Today, the Land Acquisition Section projects managed by the U.S. Department of Justice includes obtaining land along hundreds of miles of the United States-Mexico border, ostensibly for the public purpose of curtailing illegal drug trafficking and smuggling. The public purpose of these acquisitions is to mitigate terrorism customs facilities. A similar practice on the displacement impacts of climate change is possible. However, this is where politicizing the law reveals a subtle, if not adverse effect.

In 2012, while serving on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Judge Kavanaugh struck down the Clean Air Act’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule. In combination with the Acid Rain Program created in 1995, the Cross-State rule has brought steep reductions in the air pollution that causes acid rain and smog.  The people of the Adirondacks will tell you these efforts are the reason Bear Pond and the entire Saint Regis Canoe Area in New of York State is healthy again. In 2014, six Supreme Court Justices overruled Kavanaugh’s opinion, and the Cross-State rule was reinstated. It was the clarity of thinking by Justice Kennedy that sustains EPA’s authority to safeguard the nation’s air quality. In Kavanaugh’s opinions, it appears victims must show they are harmed or dead. Ruling against pre-emptive efforts not only reduces lawsuits against power companies and other sources of pollution it also reveals how the law may not be what rules the court.

View from Long Pond Mountain of the Saint Regis Canoe Area, NY 8/2006. Photo by: Mwanner

Models representing extreme heat days, extreme cold days, days with extreme precipitation, and extreme weather events (e.g., tornado watches) can be used to predict patterns of migration and displacement. The hedonic wealth categories used to challenge these extremes become food, housing, energy, and “other” as expenditures.

Aggregated data on these four elements define a set of “marginal willingness to pay” factors from region to region. Each can be refined further by changes in median income per decade. Populations remaining in high extreme incident areas expose a percentage of households with the capacity to leave yet stay and those that are without a migration choice. Empirical examples are available for confirmation of these predictive models such as the household displacement from nine hurricanes that hit category five before landfall from 2005 to 2018 — Katrina, Rita, Wilma, Dean, Felix, Matthew, Irma, Maria, and Florence. Also, migration preferences are well known, such as the number of older households that migrate to warmer climates to avoid extreme cold days.

Two categories for national regions and the communities in them emerge in these models, those who can develop the strength to do bold things, in comparison to many others that build their strength only sustain their suffering and eventual displacement. The planning required to identify and act on this second category will not occur on predictive weather models or empirical fact. It will require central governance coupled with a market response to be effective.

Planning has begun to assess the national capacity for the absorption of household migration due to extreme events as well as households displaced directly. It is equally important to recognize that the investments in establishing safety criteria by region are not occurring in the name of national security or “health, safety and welfare” concerns but left to market forces and the private sector on a post-trauma basis. Few events more terrifying than a California wildfire can give you the feeling that we have become the consumers of an illusion. The social, environmental and financial practices that separate the “haves” from the “have-nots” are well known. With the advent of extreme events, the separation of the “knowing” from the “unknowing” is the fuel injection problem of the information age.

In “The Fifth Risk” Michael Lewis criticism of government agencies since the inauguration of POTUS45 is about gutting the protection of the health, safety, and welfare of people. The management function of our government’s 15 major agencies responds to legislation with the responsibility to anticipate problems and offers creative solutions. Research on best practices in health would not occur,  innovative investments in cybersecurity for elections would not occur and individualized support for local communities seeking to assure basics such as clean water, affordable housing, and education would not occur.

Managing Change

We the People Series: The following paragraph summarizes history’s “maleness” through the lens represented by Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment to SCOTUS.  So here goes.

Prehistory social relations served human needs. Safety was on top of the list, but since then it has matured into a desire to live free from fear. The demand for physically strong leaders was followed by male dominance. Tribes form and trade or war between them became national security through conquest and this may mature to become interdependence through trade. Little has changed in this give and take between men and “their” families, tribe and nation for 5,000 years. One problem though, supremacy is still considered the final prize. It is not.  The variations of supreme powers are many. However, the connective tissue composed of dominant men throughout this history is failing. It must. Kavanaugh, the man is now a symbol of the triple bottom line (TBL).

Two out of three TBL arguments (seeking social, ecological and financial safety) are failing.  John Elkington’s introduction of TBL brings this point home in the last sentence of the first chapter.

“Developing this comprehensive approach to sustainable development and environmental protection will be a central governance challenge – and, even more critically, a market challenge – in the 21st century.”
Cannibals with Forks: The Triple Bottom Line of 21st Century Business,” Capstone, 1997

The expression and fulfillment of need, once represented by trade as a social and economic activity has become the abstraction of “stock” as an economic act. Elkington asks, “Is it progress if a cannibal uses a fork?” The annual value of trading derives from bets on labor. Today, the dividend value of this bet is thousands of times higher than the total paid in wage income in the same period. From the viewpoint of observers, this path leads to catastrophic social events, the most recent being the Great Recession of 2008.

In the following decade, the “central governance challenge” has yet to be accepted. The Senators are talking.   There are warnings by Elizabeth Warren (D-CT) on the weakening of Dodd-Frank’s demand for accountability continues, the market challenge is failing as well,  see and here Bernie (I-VT) or Robert Reich on the subject.  Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), is the Senate’s most active advocate on climate change says we are failing.

How Did We Get Here?

One of the sources of this failure comes from an attempt to establish a basis for congressional independence and power.  There was Bruce Babbitt, Bill Bradley, James Fallows, Mike Kinsley, and Chuck Peters of course.  There was Nicholas Lemann, Gary Hart, and Paul Tsongas and some other privileged white males who were encouraged to develop a workable across the aisle relationship with the minority party and the Executive Branch. Upon implementation, that became Bill Clinton in 1992 and that is when the Congress of the United States lost its ability to govern. A new, very wealthy group of equity owners arrived to forecast the shift from manufacturing to the information age. Support for the working family and their unions slipped into a wink and a nod in favor of the technical professional class. Laborers lived in other countries. Economists called it the “death of distance.” The influence smelled like big packs of crisp hundred dollar bills in every urban electoral district. Government’s national leadership fell into vats of cash because they needed it. The tragedy of the George Bush wars and the obstruction of the Barach Obama presidency exposed every raw nerve of America leading to POTUS45. If this sounds a little off, read about the Atari Democrats.  The Atari video game is gone, but not the rise of the neo-liberal compromise. Make your case for when and how we got into this mess (Comment Below) (NY Times Story).

The Red Tail Plane

Toward the end of 2018 in New York City during blue sky days, several planes with red tails would catch my attention. Was this more than coincidental? I did what any curious person would do in this situation; I Googled it. The universe answered. People photograph, collect and share tail images. The phrase, “red-tail plane” yielded a loyal constituency sharing photos of the tails and planes of the entire airline industry. Each tail is captured and graphically consolidated into the wonderfully thematic digital world. As a good hint to such a strange query, this kept me going.

The desire to share observations, coupled with the capacity to do so on millions of free to the edge platforms yields a subset of individuals that have leaped from that edge to ask and answer one question. What do I want and need to know? As any economist will tell you, descriptions of the differences and links between want and need fill volumes of hard textbooks and soft, entertaining paperbacks. It is the “what to know problem” that remains at the core of the debate in a world where there is nothing you can’t add. I smiled at my little laptop.

The business of discovering how people, communities, even whole nations choose what they want and need to know begins with a curious smile.  Having a helpful relationship with the world is one experience. The ability of the world to establish other relationships based on force is another, and that is where the red tail plane exists. What do you want from me? Why are you constantly in my line of sight? I solved my planes with red tails problem as we all do with an odor, I went nose blind. I don’t see red tail planes anymore. I know they are there, and I don’t see them except when they are pressed into my vision because of their failure.  That is when it hit me like a slap in the face.

What if I asked a question like: How can I assure human well-being? I got ahold of Chris Anderson, author of The Long Tail to hear about his experience since his work at Wired and his book.  I know, it is weird to jump from “red” to “long” but I just went with the smile embedded in the switch. Chris uses the power law to focus on modern life. I learned how his real-time number driven vision of the world became future driven by playing robotics with his kids and online. He met another young person online and ended up building a drone factory with him in Tijuana. (Details). The insult and injustice of those planes invading my consciousness faded.

I discovered injustice is the opposite of poverty, not wealth. When it threatens well-being, people flee, often in high numbers. The volume of raw product drawn from the earth creates similar collisions in freeness, price, mass, and displacement. They become distortions of the culture. Chris’s experience straightened me out.  He sees the importance of a north-south vision of the American continents and in his way foretold of the futility of Xenophobia slapped in our face like a wall. Then I saw it, the long tail of a 4,000 km march that began in San Pedro Sula in northern Honduras and ended along the Mexico border.

I know the why red-tail plane brought me to a 4,000 km walk through Mexico and because people like Chris Anderson already figured out a way to prevent bloodshed and make those numbers work. Sí, se puede my brothers and sisters, Sí, se puede.

Truth or Dare

  You can get something from new representatives about the truth, even a Republican from Nebraska.  On the first day of the Judge Kavanaugh hearing, Sen. Ben Sasse made a strong almost non-partisan point.  He says Congress must stop pushing its power to the executive branch to avoid taking responsibility and promote reelection. He stopped short of calling it cowardice, just saying that was no way to live your life.  He warned that this practice is leading to a politicized Supreme Court.  He sees this as a failure of the duty of congressional representatives and begged his colleagues to keep politics in Congress and to leave the Supreme Court alone.  Watch Fox clip here or the longer PBS clip here: Germane to what Ben said here is I”m Just a Bill and The Constitution from School House Rock

“The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.” — George Orwell

Authoritarian control is a pattern that repeats, from the bread and circus of Rome to the popcorn and Netflix of today. Across the spectrum, the interest in lowering education, limiting cultural exchange and individual expression is that pattern.

“Just remember what you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.” — Donald Trump POTUS45 The next addition in the series is entitled – Managing Change.  Our failures have roots and we must all take a serious look at the kind of future we want and compare that with what we are likely to get.

Indivisible Brooklyn

This outfit has remained keenly interested in Federal, State, and City races using the following resources serving Brooklyn voters. They will put people on the street,  get them out organizing and into the voting booths of election districts throughout Brooklyn.

 

Peace in Truth or War?

On the question of truth, the advice I give to colleagues is to use the best source I know of for knowing what is true.  It begins by taking a walk of about a square mile around your home or work.  Tune your senses to a reflective mode to include where you would not or could not go.  This localism has power, but as in any endeavor used to define an abstraction it has its dangers.

Your state election officials need to be watched about a modest but persistent movement in American electoral politics determined to change the Constitution of the United States as “originalists,” meaning going back to the time of the framers.  The argument is to reduce “federal overreach.” Here are some of the ideas. Read them as if landmines on a street where you live.  When you cross the path of your state legislators ask questions drawn from the following ideas that organizations such as the Freedom Caucus, composed of House Conservatives, ALEC, (ALEC Exposed)which writes legislation for political representatives and others such as the incongruously named Center for Public Integrity that promote workshops for state legislators.  Where are the alternatives to these organizations?

Read the Constitution along the following line of thinking

Two leading ideas are the implementation of “term limits” on all members and rules that the deficit will not increase without a two-thirds vote of both houses of Congress. Two interesting ideas that are popular, yet in the 21st century it directly leads to people sent to Congress by sizeable private interest groups bent on the destruction of what they believe are impediments to their wealth such as the Commerce Clause as it has developed to meet 21st century needs.

If the regulating commerce between the states was eliminated or curtailed, national regulations governing human safety today and, in the future, could be made subject to congressional self-interest interventions. Rules could exist in a few states would allow a toxic metal such as lead in the water and would be “OK”  in comparison to other States that would consider the idea dangerous.  Putting communities in this kind of safety lottery would be for the lack of a central source of accountability.

You will also find an interest by Constitutional originalists in repealing the 16th Amendment and yielding this power to the states in ways that would include the ability to rescind any federal law, executive order or regulation.

Do not focus on elected feds alone, a national convention of states is partially underway to revise the U.S. Constitution that would take Americans back to a time when slavery was lawful and when guns were not super lethal, or corporations did not have global scope and power.  As frightening and potentially authoritarian as this could be, remember it will also be in your backyard in where you accept a member of a local paramilitary group or you do not.

One More Thing

When small groups create and control social structures, the authority is diverse, flexible, open, and temporary, but in a consensual participation model, a group may also define “a cell” carries a different connotation. The actions of an actualized interest group (or cell) can be good or bad. Margaret Mead experienced the subtleties of sexism from her profession and in her work but settled the question about small groups by telling us not to doubt their ability to change the world because of this how it happens. Finding ways to assure a more significant number of the former over the latter is the central challenge. The kids who learn the most are the ones who learn to share.

I  ask one thing of you, read and then share, copy and paste, reveal and get a “steal this book” attitude, all 10,000 of you.  Do this to share ideas with your 10,000 and their thousands about things that must be done by all in the hope that common ground and consensus on actions to which agreement is possible (at least somewhat) will form the bond that prevents violence as part of the social order.