Risk Rap

Rapping About a World at Risk

Convergence and Innovation Inhibitors: 011110

As we start the second decade of the new millennium, innovation is understood as a critical driver to overcome the economic malaise plaguing the global economy. Economic stasis and political factionalism has made it increasingly evident that faltering economic and social institutions cry out for sweeping reform. These reforms can only be achieved with innovative approaches in policy and practice. Innovation is realized by giving flight to uninhibited thought and the clear application of ideas with decisive action. Though most agree that we badly need reform, we remain at painful odds as to what those reforms should be and how to implement them. The destructive legislative debates on health care and the ugly political theater of town meetings that occurred in the United States over the summer accomplished little in regards to meaningful reform. The exercises  only served to drive a deepening wedge into the ability of a democratic culture to form a transformative consensus.

Our society is a complex ecosystem comprised of many competing interests. The classic definition of politics, “the means to decide how limited resources are allocated to disparate interests” is clearly a truism that must be applied if we are to realize the reform that we desperately need. In a post scarcity society that definition may seem a bit crude or antiquated. America’s history is marked by a culture of innovation and the incubation of industry. Innovation and its commercial expression in entrepreneurialism is a national asset that tempers the hard edges of stringent allocation or resources and has been the source of our great social wealth. Democracies continually require citizens to arbitrate how competing interests are reconciled and converge. As a self professed democracy the United States must break down the barriers that inhibit innovation by confronting the challenges posed by convergence.

Convergence has been the watch word in the tech industry for the past few years. Convergence aggregates, joins and aligns discreet trends, competencies, technologies and missions to spawn innovation and progress. Masters of business innovation understand that a precondition of convergence is the ability to collaborate. Collaboration requires extended conversations and dialog to understand how competing interests can be reconciled and brought together so that innovation and progress can be achieved. Marketeers invent neologisms like coopetition to brand the idea and lend heft to its thrust. We believe that innovation borne from convergence is the path to rebuild our economy, heal cultural wounds and take a step toward political maturity the United States needs to sustain the great experiment of our democratic republic.

With that in mind we offer a list that outlines the inhibitors to innovation. It is hoped that our nations leaders and people can begin an earnest conversation to address these barriers to growth. Maybe I’m wrong with offering this modest list but I remain willing to discuss it, hopeful that people of good will with a different viewpoint will be open to correct my thinking and contribute to my enlightenment.

1. War: War is inherently wasteful. The current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are grievous examples of waste and national distraction that hampers the United States economic recovery. At an  Ecumenical Memorial Service held at Yankee Stadium following the 9/11 terror attacks  a Buddhist Monk stated that  he believed “it was wiser to drop refrigerators on Afghanistan then bombs”.  Almost a decade later and two wars on I can’t help but to think what a meager $100 billion investment in Afghanistan would have returned to the United States tax payers.  More importantly it would have shown the world that above all else America values the sanctity and preservation of life.  It would have also minimized the rising toll of casualties of both citizens and soldiers.   We developed some great bunker buster bombs but we can’t figure out a way to stop a suicide bomber with exploding underpants.  We succeeded in stirring up a hornets nest of angry insurgents and failed to build innovative pathways to peace with steadfast bridges to secure allies and pacify combatants.

2. Politics: To be sure politics is omnipresent  but the politicization of faith institutions and government functions is a great separator of people. When politics infects faith institutions their ability to breach the social divide and  join people together is seriously compromised or downright destructive. The Catholic Church’s practice of denying the Eucharist to parishioners based on political biases of the communicant places politics at the center of the Lords alter.  The recent occurrences of  radical Islamists burning down Christian Churches in Malaysia  is tragically ironic.  The violence, a response to the Christians appropriation of the word Allah as a name for God; is  a violent rejection of  language convergence of two great faith traditions.  It would seem that unity is a  threat that God cannot abide and is a growing threat that must be abolished.  In the secular world government agencies  were instructed to withhold scientific climate change research of the National Science Foundation because it did not conform with the politics of the party in power.  The extent of the politicization of the judicial branch of government under the Bush Administration was a seditious move worthy of dictatorships.  Innovative application of constitutional law in defense of civil liberties is one of the greatest challenges the war on terror poses to this country.  The creation of kangaroo courts to support the politics of the ruling party would undermine our system of justice.  It would  transform our judiciary  into a repressive apparatus of the state, our laws into  stale dogmas ill suited to meet the legal challenges  of our time and a  justice system that is indistinguishable from the justice offered by our opponents.

3. Ideology: Only good ideas need apply. Deng Xiaoping said it best “does it matter if its a communist or capitalist mouse trap. The question is, does it catch mice?” Seeing this as a threat, Mao Zedong unleashed the cultural revolution and routed the capitalist roaders as a threat to the Great Proletarian Revolution. After the death of Mao, Deng would be rehabilitated and play a key role in China’s adoption of a market economy and its current ascendancy as a world economic power.  In my mind there is a striking resemblance to the debate about heath care.  Socialized medicine is bad.  Do you want to turn into France?  Canadian health care is too expensive.  UK heath care system is overloaded and can’t cope with demand.   These problems would be solved however after the death panels had a chance to meet  and decide who shall live and who must walk the plank.

4. Entrenched Commercial Interests: Though we are ardent believers in capitalism as an engine of innovation the dictatorship of ROI, entrenched concentrations of capital and an unwillingness or inability to adopt longer term investment horizons hamper innovation. The failure of the United States automobile industry to develop fuel efficient vehicles is a good example of market intransigence. The development of junk bonds by Michael Milken and Drexel Burnham Lambert dismantled the manufacturing base of the US economy accelerated the countries decline as a net exporter of products creating the foundation of a debtor nation. During the presidency of Jimmy Carter solar panels were installed on the roof of the White House. The succeeding administration had them removed. Imagine where the alternative energy industry would be today had it developed this leading edge idea and capitalized on this first mover advantage.

5. Unbridled free markets: The economic carnage of the banking meltdown is a startling example of the excesses the pursuit of profit will create. The boom in commercial and residential real estate construction created massive stocks of unused inventories that misdirected and wasted enormous resource. The energy and capital expended on these wasteful endeavors misdirected funds and created huge social hazards that requires massive amounts of capital to mitigate. Also worth mention is the development of video gaming. Lots of energy and creativity is being expended on the best techno music to use while your Mafia Avatar bashes open the head of your opponent with a baseball bat. We are not suggesting censorship or a prohibition of video games nor centralized economic planning. Its a compensation and social value issue.  Perhaps a communicants denial of participation at the Lord’s Table lead them to leave the church and miss the message about social values.

6. Technology: It may seem odd to include technology as an inhibitor to innovation but technology for technology sake may inhibit the development of innovative applications solutions that are not technological in nature. The technorati of the world is transforming technology into a religion. Deprived of its human dimension it can become a dogma that grows in an antagonistic relationship with its human masters. The United States continues to trumpet its technological prowess as the deciding factors in its war in Afghanistan. But that paradigm was explored during the war in Viet Nam where pungi sticks ultimately trumped napalm bombs. The power of an idea and how it connects and motivates people is force that is mightier then the sword.

7. Fundamentalism: The Pharisees once asked Jesus, “is it lawful to heal on the sabbath?” Jesus answered that it was always the right time to heal those who are sick. The world recoils in horror at the capacity for destruction fundamentalism regularly visits upon the world. The denial of equal civil rights to LGBT people creates a  bifurcated system of citizenship.  It is an ugly stain on our democratic heritage.  The gravest peril to democracy is the abridgment and denial of civil rights to any group of citizens. Democracy necessitates that all republicans enjoy equal access and rights in order for it to function. The denial of that right based on a fundamentalist reading of religious scriptures makes it particularly abhorrent because civil rights of citizens in a secular democracy is not an issue that is decided by theologians or the adherents to a particular theology.

Tolerance and consensus are both antithetical to the precepts of fundamentalism. Fundamentalism is not the sole province of religion. It has its secular and ideological adherents as well. Fundamentalism is a pillar of dictatorship; either of a political or theocratic nature both are enemies of secular democracy. Secular democracies require tolerance to respect the diverse ideas and competing viewpoints require in the democratic process. Secular democracies require the trust to converse and hash out the best ideas that serve the greatest good. This is only possible if consensus can be achieved. It is how “out of many becomes one”. It is the true genius of America. It is a worthy innovation of governance that every freedom loving citizen should jealously guard and consciously pursue.

8.  Public Education:  The public education system that the United States built is the true arsenal of democracy and the nations source of wealth and its many contributions it has made to the world.  Without the vast network of learning institutions built and supported by successive generations of Americans the worlds great experiment in representative democracy would have long ago perished.   The public schools sole charter is to create an enlightened citizenship with the skills to discuss, discern and decide in a civil and constructive manner the ever evolving dialectic of a democratic consensus placed at the service of the republic.  It is one of the true geniuses of America and remains her enduring strength.

Today public schools are under attack by forces whose agendas are the pursuit of parochial goals that first and foremost seek their enrichment and interests at the expense of the greatest good of the republic.  The charter school movement is a trend that threatens the public school system by privatizing some of the systems assets and draining away much needed resource and financial support.  It forces public schools to dispense with curriculum offerings like music and arts, sports programs and civic excursions that will convey an understanding of how institutions  interact and support the greater social good. This aspect of the educational experience is supplanted by an exacting examination regime that destroys the love of learning.  Secular learning is also being threatened through the introduction of theological precepts like creationism into the science curriculum of public schools.  Religion and faith are important precepts to offer in a public educational curriculum;  however theology that masquerades  as   science  is an ideological stricture that has no place in public schools.    These  trends are pose great challenges to the  public  schools mission to form enlightened citizens free to think and free to act in the sole service of liberty and participatory democracy.  Innovation and progress is in danger of becoming a secular sin a disease of the soul that needs to be eradicated from the public schools as its threatens to infect the greater body politic.

You Tube Music Video:  Louis Armstrong, I Get Ideas

Risk: innovation, convergence, progress, tolerance

January 11, 2010 Posted by | 9/11, business, Carter, China, Christianity, culture, democracy, economics, faith, history, institutional, manufacturing, Muslim, politics, real estate, recession, regulatory, sustainability, terrorism, war | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Il Duce’s Ghost

duceIl Duce’s ghost is restless. Summoned by the phantasmagorical fear of a people suffering from the multiple illnesses of a very sick nation, Il Duce’s ghost stalks the land. Raised from the grave by the craven babble of Talk Radio shills, pernicious corporate interests and a ruthless ruling oligarchy aided and abetted by complicit politicians bought on the cheap to act as their bagmen, Il Duce’s corpse twitters back to life.

As we count down to Harold Camping’s rapture date of 5/21/11, the frenetic fear of a collapsing world increasingly terrifies the masses. Religious fundamentalists of all stripes cry that modernity’s embrace of science and a culture of relativism is an abomination to the sight of God. The “Children of God” pine away about the erosion of the old values of the Old Time Religions; while the “Children of Enlightenment” fear that reason is quickly disappearing into a broken Hadron supercollider’s black hole of ignorance. One side is busy arming themselves in preparation for the coming battle of Armageddon while the other side lays up assets in their bank accounts to ride out the coming Day of Judgment. Il Duce is truly one of God’s favored. Anointed by fundamentalist TV preachers, he honors their creed and receives funding by Bible thumping wealth gospel believing businessmen because he promises to protects their God given fatted coffers. Only Il Duce can bring both sides together to sing praises in a divinely inspired choir.

The Federal Treasury paid a rich ransom to bankers to free our imaginations from the dread of the collapse of free market capitalism. Lately we hear murmurs that the nuke button still remains painfully close to the twitching fingers of fidgeting bankers. They threaten to shut down our tired and poor ATM networks and revoke our credit limits yearning for more debt. A strong dose of TARP II is the only known medicinal cure. Frenzied Tea Baggers scream their anger at a government intent on taxing the life blood out of its citizens so fat cat bankers can cash stupid money bonus checks. This insures that the syncopated beats of our capitalist heart continues to rock on. Il Duce is a skilled and gifted physician. He knows how to conduct the delicate procedures necessary to prevent coronary arrest. Il Duce alone knows the recipe to concoct a special brew of herbal teas. Its a powerful elixir that alleviates the caffeine induced head aches of Tea Bagger’s while keeping the circulation of our cholesterol challenged free markets flowing.

At town meetings, people in junk food fueled schizophrenic rants rave at impotent senators going through the motions of participatory democracy. The constituents insistent diatribes profess a love of country while they eagerly profane and condemn its democratic institutions. They say they are concerned about all the money being spent by the Feds. As deficit spending spirals into the trillions they shout “Who will pay for this?” and “Its unconscionable to saddle my kids and my grandchildren with this burden.” Perhaps. But we should also ask what are we doing to increase peace in a world rife with conflicts. Its just as unfair to ask our grandchildren to fight wars for which they had no grievance. Its also equally unjust to ask them to breathe air we polluted with chemicals or to drink water we spat in. I believe it is just to ask them to pay for our country’s infrastructure that all future generations will benefit from. They’ll need roads, water, hospitals and schools. I still cross bridges and traverse high ways and attend schools that were built by earlier generations. I drink water from aquifers and water systems that were built 100 years ago. New Yorkers ride in subways that were built by our great great grand parents.

Birthers are eager to de-legitimize the institutions of a democratic republic. They scream at congressmen that their actions are UnAmerican. They advise their representatives that they should read the constitution. Undoubtedly the culture of corruption consuming our politicians is a systemic disease badly in need of eradication. But emotional outbursts of Birthers shouting down representatives as they wave facsimiles of birth certificates, crying out “I want my country back” weakens the legitimacy of our government. The vehemence seems driven more by the fear of a person of color as president and the cultural transformation radically altering the ethnic landscape of America. Il Duce understands this anguish. It grieves him to see real Americans in such pain. He knows an ethnicity other then his own is unworthy to hold supreme office. The image of Il Duce is a venerated prism that must reflect the complexion of true Americans.

Federalism is not based on a two party system. It is based on a constitution complete with a Bill of Rights. It includes three independent branches of government that serve to check and balance the power of each branch. It is a system in dire need of reform but it has through our country’s history demonstrated its resilience and value as the best model to assure the semblance of a participatory democracy. It is the worthy expression of a free democratic peoples and it is certainly worthy of preservation. Federalism is not the problem. The problem lies in a compromised political process that elects entrapped representatives to office. Il Duce prefers obfuscation. Tyrants need to hold all the cards of power to smooth over the messy and uncomfortable edges of democratic republics. Its better and more expedient for a benevolent philosopher King to make the hard decisions that need to made.

The wisdom of Il Duce would be immediately put to use to make the hard choices to solve the health care problem vexing our country. The debate has stoked the howling yodelers of Talk Radio to turn up the volume of their vitriol. They have energized a nation of Valium saturated minds. They have woken millions from the torpor of ambivalence induced by the pharmaceutical industrial complex. This industry suspected of playing a role in the pharmacide of such cultural icons like Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson buys spots that run in continuous loop on the grim reality TV shows. The ads hammer home the lesson that instant relief from the nausea of daily life is just a shot away. Mothers little helper dispensed en masse is as close and quick as the drive-in window at Walmart.  All for a small deductible of $5.00.

There is something in the water. America’s rivers are polluted with bio active elements people discharge from their bodies due to the use of products from the pharmaceutical industrial complex. It pollutes our aquifers. Il Duce takes a long cool drink, as he marvels at the wonder of our industry and invites more to freely imbibe.

The twittering nonsense and bold Facebook lies Sarahcuda’s minions are willing to swallow so as not to be out of goose stepping rhythm with other Dittoheads clearly comforts Il Duce. The Confederacy is rising again. This confederacy transcends the easy boundaries of geographic definition. This confederacy consists of state militiamen, libertarians and ad hoc communities springing up and thriving along the fracture lines of the urban and rural divide. They are seeking an ideology that is palatable enough to coexist with armed militias, Tea Baggers, Christian Falangists, nationalists and other malcontents. Throw in an assortment of skinheads, Nazis, White Supremacists and other national socialists and you have the semblance of a profile of the new confederacy for a new millennium. They worship force and the right of the stronger, believing that militarism is the supreme arbiter of all things. They are eager to project that power.

Il Duce’s ghost is awake and walking across the land like Goya’s Colossus. Summoned by the sycophants of right wing Talk Radio, encouraged by the Bush administrations use of the constitution as toilet paper, risen by the growing militarism and nationalist sentiment and fed by the militant anger of a people that can no longer suffer the abuse of power by the ruling oligarchs, Il Duce’s ghost has awakened, complete with freshly pressed Blackshirt.   It is ever listening, waiting for the right moment to fully materialize amidst the savagery of a savage nation.

You Tube Video: Benito Mussolini

Risk: fascism, Federalism, democracy

August 17, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments