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

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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

Prognostications and Expostulations

We’re going out on a limb with this one or given thats its winter we’ll say we’re walking on thin ice. We’ll gaze into the crystal ball and pontificate on eleven subject areas for 2010. With some we hope we will be wrong. With some we hope we will be right.

1. Stock Market: Buoyed by well managed earnings by the large multinational companies in the DOW, principally as a result of cost reduction initiatives and exposure to global markets the Index will finish up 6% and close at 11, 011 on the last trading day of 2010. Given an inflation rate of 4% investors will realize a 2% gain on equity investments in DOW constituents. S&P 500 and NASDAQ will be flat gaining 2% for the year.

2. Iraq War: The war in Iraq will continue to wind down. America will scale down its military presence in the country. Troop levels in the country will approximate 85,000 by the close of 2010. Though direct American military involvement in conflicts will decline, Iraq will experience civil unrest as Kurd nationalists, Shiite and Sunni Muslims seek to protect their political and economic interests.

3. Afghanistan War: The escalation of America’s military presence in Afghanistan will move the theater of war further into Pakistan. The Taliban will be satisfied to harass US forces by engaging in a guerrilla war. Taliban and Al-Qaeda supporters will use the opportunity to increase the level of urban terrorist attacks in the large cities of Pakistan. Al-Qaeda confederates will seek to reestablish base of support in Somalia, Yemen and ties will begin to emerge in Latin American narco-terror states.

4. Iran: The political situation in Iran will continue to deteriorate. This is a positive development for regional stability because it will force the ruling regime to cede its nuclear program development initiatives. Iran will not be able to capitalize on the US draw down in Iraq. It will become increasingly isolated as Hezbollah and Hamas pursue actions that are less confrontational to Israel in Palestine and Lebanon. The ruling Caliphate position will weaken due to internal political dissent and external economic pressures.

5. China: It will be a year of ultra-nationalism in China. Its stimulus program that is targeted to internal development will sustain a GDP growth rate of 8%. China will use this opportunity to strengthen the ideological support of its citizens to fall in line with the national development initiative. Globally China will continue to expand its interests in Africa and will cull deeper relationships with its Pacific Rim club member Latin America. China will continue to use US preoccupation with its wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and skirmishes in Yemen and Somalia as an opportunity to expand its global presence with a message of peace and cooperation.

5. US Mid Term Elections: Republicans will gain a number of seats in Congress. The continued soft economic conditions, state and local government fiscal crisis, war weariness and cut back in services and rising expenses will make this a bad year for incumbents and the party in power, namely the democrats. Sarah Palin will play a large role in supporting anti-government candidates drooling over the prospect of winning a seat in government.

6. Recession: Though the recession may be officially over, high unemployment, home foreclosures and spiking interest rates will hamper a robust recovery. The end of large government stimulus programs and the continued decrease in real estate values also present strong headwinds to recovery. We predict a GDP growth rate of 2% for the US economy. Outsourcing will abate and a move to reintroduce SME manufacturing will commence.

7. Technology: The new green technology will focus on the development of nuclear power plants.  The clash of the titan’s between Google’s Droid and Apple’s I Phone will dominate tech news during the year.  Lesser skirmishes  between Smart Phones makers or the war of the clones will continue to explode altering the home PC market and continue to change the market paradigm for old line firms like DELL, Microsoft and HP.   SaaS or cloud computing will gain on the back of lean business process initiatives and smart phone application development and processing infrastructure will encourage cottage industries fueling the cloud and making for some new millionaires. The tension between the creators of content and search and delivery will begin to tilt back toward the content providers. Litigation involving social networking sites will be filed to create safeguards against its use as a tool to control and manipulate behaviors thus threatening civil liberties and privacy rights.

8. Culture: The Googlization of civilization will allow individuals to embrace more corporatism as a pillar to add efficiency and order to their lives. Multiculturalism will continue to grow in the US. However a growing political backlash against it will become more of a prominent theme as Teabaggers agitate for a return to the true values of America. Electronic arts will make major leaps and bounds as commodification continues to be a driving force in the world of art. Printed words like books and newspapers will continue to dramatically decline. Writing, drawing and playing musical instruments skills will ebb as people prefer to develop digital skill sets. Texting and Tweeting make for poor practice for extended compositions.

9. Latin America: Instability will grow in Latin America as narcodollars continue to undermine political stability in Columbia, Venezuela, Mexico and Panama. The US will increasingly become involved in the conflicts between petro and narcodollars. Mexico’s stability will be increasingly undermined by the power and corruptible influence of the drug trade. China’s influence on the continent will grow.

10. European Union: The EU will continue to manage itself for stability. It will yearn to return to its aristocratic roots and will become increasingly conservative. It will continue to have a complex relationship with the expanding Muslim community. A call to deeper nationalism will arise out of a growing influence of Islam and the inefficiencies of EC bureaucrats in Belgium. The EU will continue its union of expediency to counterbalance their distrust of Russia and their distaste for America.

11. Environmental Justice: Though awareness continues to grow concerning the need to mount and implement large scale solutions to halt the problem of global climate change; the political will and resources required to drastically alter the planets current trajectory in growth of carbon emissions from the burning of fossil fuels remains unaltered. Social responsible enterprises, small businesses and individuals continue to make a difference. Eco friendly small businesses, urban farming, capital formation initiatives around renewable energy businesses are hopeful signs of a market response to the pressing problem. China is investing heavily in becoming a market leader out of business savvy and environmental necessity. Until the great powers of the world can come to some collective agreement on how to limit , cap or trade carbon credits we’ll have to be content to separate the trash and recycle, reuse and reduce.

You Tube Music Video: Donald Byrd, Stepping Into Tomorrow

Risk: unfulfilled predictions will make me look bad

January 5, 2010 Posted by | business, China, commerce, corporate social responsibility, culture, ecological, government, inflation, unemployment, war | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment