My flight from LA to Singapore (via Tokyo) arrived at 1 AM. The new Terminal 3 is both pristine and beautiful, with high arching celings and amazing signage in many languages. As we pulled out of the airport on to the East Coast Parkway, the driver noted that the first three miles of the parkway could double as a 747 runway if “ever there was a terrorist incident”. I looked down the flat straight parkway and he noted that all the planting in the median was in movable boxes. Take them away and you have a world class runway.
While I waited to check in, I went on the screamingly fast wi-fi system that is available free to all in every part of the city. My host said it was to encourage people to get out of their cubicles and see their work more creatively. I am here talking about the nature of the creative process and it is something this country is determined to foster in its citizens. They already have a pretty robust Computer Animation business that services most of Southeast Asia, but they want to be a global outsourcing player, and I’m convinced they will.
It’s at times like this that I think the U.S. is living in a fools paradise. Last month Singapore was able to deploy $11 billion in cash to take a huge stake in the Swiss Bank, UBS. Singapore is spending its considerable savings both on building a world class digital infrastructure available to all citizens but it is also able to opportunistically bail out some of the West’s desperately over-leveraged banks at very good terms for Singapore.
I guess what has depressed me so much in the last few weeks is that from a global perspective, America is slipping behind, and yet we are contesting an election over American flag pins, egotistical preachers and assorted nonsense that has nothing to do with our massive failures both in Iraq and in every town in our great country. While the rest of the world is moving ahead we are cutting back. At USC, the National Science Foundation grants are harder to come by. Corporate chieftains like Jeff Immelt of GE get criticized for making long term bets on Green Tech. And everywhere we look our bridges, schools, pipelines and digital infrastructure are second class. If the American people are so short-sighted as to fall for the Clinton-McCain “Gas tax Holiday” to encourage consumption, when in fact we should be doing everything we can to reduce consumption–then they will get the panderer they deserve for a President.
Two months ago, I had hoped that a young man named Barack Obama could run a campaign telling people not what they wanted to hear, but what they needed to hear. Clinton and McCain call that “elitist”. I call it courageous, but whether we still think of our leaders in terms of Profiles In Courage, is debatable.