JJ Spending This Week With Economist Jeffrey Sachs

22 02 2011

Free! — no admission, registration, tuition. Materials not included and I may need to buy a book or two, maybe not. We’ll see.

It only took a cup of coffee, some battery power and less than ten minutes to get started with a world class professor (see his vita at end of post):

“Both [parties] are completely unrealistic . . . what’s happening in this country? . . .Both parties are financed by wealthy people . . . everyone caters to the top. . .
American influence is waning, American infrastructure is crumbling . . .except if you’re rich and you have a lot of money to invest, you’re investing in China. . . our politics is SO ODD right now, because it’s driven just by the very top. . .pure propaganda [of] Big Oil . . . food prices are at all-time highs, there’s instability all over the world. . .energy crises, food crises, do we talk about any of that in our country? Absolutely not.”

‎Next I found a short profession of his thoughts on education. Real education, not schooling: education to help our kids learn about the real world IN the real world, to “Think Big”, to experience and understand what’s being systematically twisted and lied about for the basest motives, in our textbooks and classrooms and broadcasts, even in the hallowed halls of the capitol buildings and courthouses we built to express and effect our American Dreams. So what does the Doctor order? Unschool them in the real world and encourage every opportunity for them to get out in it and unschool themselves:

“The irony is not that we are at an abyss that is unavoidable . . .it’s almost the opposite. We’ve unlocked the ability to promote economic development in all parts of the world. We have at our hand, the ability to end extreme poverty. We have before us either already existing or within reach, technologies . . .the question is whether we can BRING KNOWLEDGE TO BEAR on these solutions and then Read the rest of this entry »

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What’s in the Label “No Labels” for America?

13 12 2010

Americans want political leaders to reach across the political aisle to get things done. Forty-seven percent said it is more important to compromise to get things done than to stick to their beliefs . . .
In several states the number of people registered as independents tops those affiliated with either political party. . .

No question that moving forward beyond pitched partisan warfare would be a good thing:

We have a dangerous dearth of credibility in the United States these days, and when no one has the confidence of a majority of Americans, there is fertile ground for con artists and demagogues.
And now, arguably the most serious challenge facing our country is figuring out how to have those discussions.

Yes, many scholarly calls to rise above partisan poisoning of the civic well have come to naught, and yes, JJ herself loved and lost with Sam Waterston’s post-partisan Unity08:

Who really believes either political aristocracy would run the government well for OUR benefit, rather than their own, then? If government runs the mechanisms that help US run IT — from voting machinery to schooling machinery — who’s the servant, who’s getting served, and who’s just getting served UP?

And yes, she has a great cautionary tale to tell, remind her later, about the recent unpleasantness between rival parties that destroyed the self-governing union of Real-Bearded Santas!

Nevertheless she won’t AUTOMATICALLY assume this new similar-sounding effort launching today will similarly fail: Read the rest of this entry »





What I Heard From Sanity and/or Fear Rally

31 10 2010

An echo.

“When we amplify everything, we hear nothing.” Llike an echo of my own refrain as a new blogger at Culture Kitchen five years ago, urging (in a quite civil indoor voice!) some well-modulated post-partisan Sam Waterston Unity ’08 thinking and talking: Amplifying Our Differences

Amplified sound, in effect, may diminish rather than amplify our individualism, our audience, even our own ability to pay attention or care about all we’ve lost. . .

Should we care, if the heavy bass and deafening levels of powerful modern difference-amplifiers blow out everybody’s eardrums along with our will to live, and thus our chances for ever building any majority audience able to appreciate artistic, nuanced and truly innovative political theatre?

. . .Does it matter if we the people learn to prefer politics to problem-solving, screaming to singing, mass media to personal passion?

I wish the ralliers more luck with being heard now than I had then. America’s appetite and audience seem bigger now for subtle, intelligently designed sounds of sanity, so that’s something.

Maybe as usual I just peaked too soon? I’ve been straining to hear and understand for many years while guns were blazing and sirens shrieking, tuning in earnestly to years of FOX and right-rant radio, trying to figure it out.

It’s insidious. Amplification deafens you to the wrong thing! — by trying so hard to be intellectually curious, fair-minded, engaged and reasoning, I’ve been systematically deafened BY the loudest and craziest, FOR the loudest and craziest, TO all but the loudest and craziest! It feels like a lifetime ago that I could comfortably hear (or speak) real hope about America’s chances of restoring sanity.

So could my personal power of story be that I’ve paid a hubris price for going it alone without publisher or party, hoping I could individually trade off small damage to myself in return for contributing to the common good but failing miserably, like Dr. Jekyll experimenting on himself for good cause but becoming Mr. Hyde?

Halloween two days before a momentous election, is a better time than most, I guess, for ghostly fears to echo. I won’t scream it, but please. Vote.





Power of Story Isn’t In Red v Blue Anymore?

11 07 2010

“The sell-by date on ‘right vs. left’ has definitely expired.”





Smaller Government Isn’t “Smart”, “Better” or Even Republican

1 05 2010

Today President Obama gave a graduation speech about how we’re fighting over government and how it should change, and whether we should be fighting each other or figuring things out together:

It was the first Republican President, Abraham Lincoln, who said that the role of government is to do for the people what they cannot do better for themselves. He would go on to begin that first intercontinental railroad and set up the first land-grant colleges. It was another Republican, Teddy Roosevelt, who said that “the object of government is the welfare of the people.” He is remembered for using the power of government to break up monopolies, and establishing our National Park system. . .

One of my favorite signs from the health care debate was one that read “Keep Government Out Of My Medicare,” which is essentially like saying “Keep Government Out Of My Government-Run Health Care.”

For when our government is spoken of as some menacing, threatening foreign entity, it conveniently ignores the fact in our democracy, government is us. We, the people, hold in our hands the power to choose our leaders, change our laws, and shape our own destiny.

Government is the police officers who are here protecting us and the service men and women who are defending us abroad. Government is the roads you drove in on and the speed limits that kept you safe. Government is what ensures that mines adhere to safety standards and that oil spills are cleaned up by the companies that caused them. Government is this extraordinary public university – a place that is doing life-saving research, catalyzing economic growth, and graduating students who will change the world around them in ways big and small.

The truth is, the debate we’ve had for decades between more government and less government doesn’t really fit the times in which we live.

We know that too much government can stifle competition, deprive us of choice, and burden us with debt. But we’ve also seen clearly the dangers of too little government – like when a lack of accountability on Wall Street nearly led to the collapse of our entire economy.

So what we should be asking is not whether we need a “big government” or a “small government,” but how we can create a smarter, better government.





Nobody Does It Better: Unpacking Political Corruption

28 01 2010

Before she knew Barack Obama much less Sarah “Pallin’ around with Terrorists” Palin and Joe “You Lie” the Plumber — um, Wilson — JJ once wrote:

I feel like we’ve been fighting each other so long that it’s not about fighting for competing goals or visions any more, as much as it is the fight itself. . .

I’m not in the hole alone, and dirt is flying all around me.

IF it’s really completely hopeless, and we always must be at war among ourselves just because we’re human, then progressive thinkers can at least admit it to ourselves and figure out how to integrate THAT into our world view. It would be more honest.

She concluded much later by asking, “So — now what?”  None of us could answer that then, beyond another shift in party power.  Can we (any of us) do any better now?

In October 2006, Culture Kitchen was hosting serious, honest good-government talk among Thinking Citizens.  Remember way back then? The GOP was in authoritarian command and control (government as god and guns for private profits) but an election was on the horizon and Scientist-Democrat-blogger Mole wrote a post making the case that

“Democrats Stand for Honest Government
The Republican Party is imploding because of corruption. Their corruption has already sent Randy Cunningham to jail and forced the resignation of Tom DeLay and Mark Foley. In Ohio and Missouri and Kentucky their corruption is shocking. And voters are tired of it.

The Republicans try to cover up their corruption, lying for each other. They even protected a sexual predator for six years! When faced with corruption in their ranks, Republicans lie and cover their tracks. Their final defense is to whine pitifully, “but the Democrats do it too!”

Well, Democrats have indeed been known to be corrupt. But there are differences.  .  . We attack Republican corruption and on the rare occasions it comes up we attack Democratic corruption as well. I see no comparable reform movement within the Republican Party. All I see are more lies, more sleaze and more greed. All I see are Republicans and companies like Halliburton and Exxon and Enron in an orgy of greed and profit, looting America and sacrificing American troops for profit.

. . .Republicans wallow in corruption. Democrats are fighting corruption.

So Nance (longtime Democrat) and JJ (longtime independent non-partisan) engaged this argument, in ways disconcertingly relevant this morning in January 2010, knowing what we know now and having just watched the State of the Union last night — President Barack Obama (longtime Democrat) appealing to GOP power brokers and especially to us longtime independent non-partisans.

I recommend you go to Culture Kitchen and read the whole conversation because we weren’t the only ones thinking and talking, but here are some excerpts just from JJ and Nance:

Just Can’t Buy It

Submitted by JJ Ross on 11 October 2006 –

That ship has sailed, hopefully for the last time with a majority of American voters innocently at the pier waving goodbye and welcoming in the new.

However earnest and sincere individual candidates and operatives may be, polls and personal observations persuade me neither Rs nor Ds will be able to dump a load of “purity and honesty” cargo on us to just buy on faith and pay for later, and maybe that’s a good thing.

Some new third party for the same old system isn’t my idea of change, either. The system is corrupt, nobody does it better, and we’re just not in the media mass market for any more cheap and peeling tricks with a fresh coat of paint slapped on,peddled as progressive government.

I suffer from chronic liar,liar, pants on fire exhaustion, like nearly everyone I know in ordinary family life. Say we ARE collectively in the mood for real change, toward something that really is more honest and productive than we’ve constituted as government in our lifetime. What would we suggest, without the union (or any other) label I mean? There ought to be ideas other than soundbite-slogan partisan ones we can at least start imagining and working toward, building new frames, having new conversations . . .

Unpacking Corruption

I’d unpack the sins and slogans a little differently is all (I am not R or Green or any other festive party color.)
😉

Yes, of course, honesty is the right direction, so great for us all if some Dems are heading that way or at least acknowledging it’s the right direction. But it’s not just because they ARE Dems though, is it, really? And they aren’t all alike, nor are all R pols or us independents.

And are they really the only ones you see moving that way? That’s all I’m saying, not throwing out rhetoric, honest!
The poll says I’m not alone in seeing dishonesty in too many places and all the wrong faces . . .

I think your case can be made reasonably to the public but ironically, Read the rest of this entry »





Unity Emerging: All Political Divides Boil Down to One Common Purpose

6 01 2010

Call it a pure syrup of 100% political sap?

No, hmmm, today’s power of story fits the “flying” analogy better than the “food” analogy.

Leonard Pitts Jr’s version of this fear-of-flying story:

So polarized has our leadership become that it is incapable of seeing in any dimension beyond the political. When attempted mass murder is seen as an “opportunity” on the one side and a signal to circle the wagons on the other, one can only conclude that for some, partisanship literally matters more than life itself.

I know what you’re thinking and for the record, yes: I did indeed make this same argument — repeatedly — when Democrats tried to use 9/11 to damage George W. Bush.

I renew it now with an urgency. Too often, our leaders cannot work for the greater good because they acknowledge no good greater than politics. But if that’s truly our prime directive and highest imperative, God help us all.

I’ve written analytically about the Logic of Failure in complex institutions and systems including air travel, after 9/11 but before the Christmas Day Underwear Terrorist:

This morning I see a right answer in the news, real analysis and insight for all those of us who puzzle over public school policy (and party politics, religious wars, et cetera) and just can’t understand why we keep doing all the wrong things wronger, regressing rather than progressing:

Schooling is like flying.

The whole story is about how aggressive and insulated data analysts crunch endless numbers to create operational models that are statistically attractive but unfit for human consumption, thereby infuriating regular, responsible people just trying to participate in the system in good faith.

I’ve also written to jolly folks into a little flexibility and imagination and resilience in public policy, including dress codes and even airplane underwear! — you know, the Daniel Pink whole new mind with drive but not driven kind, power of story from which unregulated, unlegislated true human progress can spring, the kind that demands partisan politics must loosen up, wise up and grow up all at the same time:

My practical proposal doesn’t force anyone to do anything nor deprive anyone of anything, nor does it discriminate in illegitimate fashion. (Fashion – that word keeps coming up!) It doesn’t depend on demonizing either common objects or innocent people, nor must it wait to develop new science and technology. In other words, no metal detectors; lie detectors; curbside inspections; civil liberty intrusions like body cavity searches, racial profiling and personal data mining; explosive-sniffing dogs, financial or spectrum analysis.

It is at once spontaneous, light-hearted and scientifically proven as a simple and effective way to separate Islamic terrorists from the tourists and business travelers of the free world. . . let those cheerfully wearing a pair of panties on their heads pass through without even slowing down.

But our nation’s leadership has taken the Logic of Failure so far in its own systems and institutions of governance, that they now seem unable to help themselves, much less any of us. So we the people have accommodated ourselves to mindless miseries as everything just gets worse and worse:

“In other words, we’re stuck with the current system, because it isn’t really in any[one’s] interest to try to change it.”

Happy New Year? Harumph!