I went to Washington DC this week to pick up an award for my work on Advertising and Piracy from the Global Intellectual Property Center, which is a part of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The irony will not escape many long time readers of this blog, as I have been critical of the Chamber, especially around the issues of transparency in corporate campaign finance. But I believe strongly that our country is committing financial and cultural suicide when it comes to protecting the rights of artists, so you take your allies where you can get them. I couldn’t resist in my acceptance speech noting the irony.
I want to finish with one thought. As I said this is primarily an issue of transparency and I’m glad the Chamber is for transparency in the advertising business. At the risk of biting the hand that has fed me well today, I would ask that the Chamber also support transparency in corporate donations to politicians. Once again, thank you very much for your support.
When it was all over a man who works for Homeland Security on IP issues thanked me for my work and then we got into a discussion about his job. It turns out he hasn’t had a permanent boss in four years, because the Senate held up the appointment of Obama’s first nominee and now the vetting process for a second nominee is taking months because of an excess of caution. The story seemed so indicative of the mood in Washington I felt in the two days I was there. Everyone seems resigned to paralysis being the new normal. The Republican minority sees it’s task as just gumming up the works to make sure Obama can’t accomplish anything. And the Democrats sometimes display a kind of Stockholm Syndrome: knowing they are being held hostage, they display cordiality towards their captors.
Meanwhile the news media continues to hunt for disaster stories that will increase the citizens sense of fear and dependency. This little item from the Wall Street Journal, showing a dramatic improvement in the deficit went unnoticed and uncommented on Capitol Hill or other organs of the MSM. It is almost impossible to create an optimistic narrative in Washington, so the best option for me is to return my focus to the Golden State. In California, progressives control both the legislature and the executive branch. Remarkable changes are beginning to happen. The state’s finances are coming into balance after the recent tax rise and money is being spent improving our infrastructure and supporting education. The very idea that Los Angeles could be come a walkable community with a great public transportation system seemed impossible five years ago and yet in a year I will be able to ride the light rail from Santa Monica to USC.
I figure if California can once again assume its role as the architect of America’s future, then many states will follow. If we work on the pillars of the new strategy that Patrick Doherty and Mark Mykleby have been advocating: affordable college, walkable cities, low carbon transportation, regenerative agriculture and resource productivity, we will forge an example for both the nation and the world. Let’s ignore Washington and get on with our own optimistic future.
I must admit that I am increasingly confident that Barak Obama will have a second term. The new poll from CBS/New York Times indicates as I have suggested before that Obama is in good shape.
Showing steady improvement since early December, Mr. Obama’s approval rating has reached the 50 percent mark in The Times/CBS News poll — an important baseline in presidential politics and his highest approval rating since May 2010 (excepting the brief bump he received after Navy Seals killed Osama bin Laden in May 2011).
It is clear that Axelrod and Co. have suckered the Republicans into a battle over birth control! How 1950′s. This may actually lead to Rick Santorum grabbing the nomination on platform that even Barry Goldwater would have thought too right wing.
So then my mind turns to the battles of a second term. I think they will revolve around defense, disruption and devolution.
The overall spending was dictated by the budget agreement that Obama and congressional Republicans reached last August that calls for defense cuts of $487 billion over a decade. More troubling to Panetta and lawmakers is the likelihood that automatic, across-the-board cuts will kick in in January unless Congress can come up with at least $1.2 trillion in savings.
The additional $500 billion of cuts would still leave the U.S. Military far larger than any potential rival. Of course the new focus on the Pacific is designed to start another mindless arms race with the Chinese, just like the criminal waste of money from 1950-1989 on the Soviet Arms Race. This needs to be stopped. Continue reading →
I had dinner last night with one of the most important conservative media voices in America and some of his friends. I had gone to the dinner expecting some fireworks, but was totally caught off guard by his charm and what he had to say.
First, he was disgusted by “the pygmies” in the Republican Presidential Race. As much as he dislikes Obama, there was not a one of the current Republican candidates that he could be enthusiastic about.
Second, we found ourselves in agreement that the issue of Crony Capitalism is perhaps the most pernicious threat to our Republic. Crony Capitalism distorts everything from Crop subsidies flowing to agribusiness to our inability to cancel useless Pentagon weapon systems. And the disease effects both political parties.
As the evening progressed I kept trying to move us beyond the Left-Right dialectic we are trapped in and to suggest that we might find some common ground in the liberal principles that are the basis for our Republic:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Now the word “liberal” is seen as poisonous to conservatives, but it’s origins in John Locke’s Natural Rights theory were the basis for our revolution. Continue reading →
The best moment for me in Obama’s Thursday night jobs speech was his description of the basic choice that will be put to the electorate in 14 months. On the one hand there is the Tea Party view.
In fact, this larger notion that the only thing we can do to restore prosperity is just dismantle government, refund everybody’s money, and let everyone write their own rules, and tell everyone they’re on their own — that’s not who we are. That’s not the story of America.
And then there is Obama’s view.
Yes, we are rugged individualists. Yes, we are strong and self-reliant. And it has been the drive and initiative of our workers and entrepreneurs that has made this economy the engine and the envy of the world.
But there’s always been another thread running throughout our history — a belief that we’re all connected, and that there are some things we can only do together, as a nation.
We all remember Abraham Lincoln as the leader who saved our Union. Founder of the Republican Party. But in the middle of a civil war, he was also a leader who looked to the future — a Republican President who mobilized government to build the Transcontinental Railroad — (applause) — launch the National Academy of Sciences, set up the first land grant colleges. (Applause.) And leaders of both parties have followed the example he set.
I’m lucky in that I get to work pretty closely with Apple at the USC Annenberg innovation Lab. So if I have anything to add to the reams of copy written this morning about Steve Jobs’ decision to step down as CEO of Apple it is this: “Culture eats strategy for lunch, everyday.” That’s a saying you hear around Apple a lot and it is one that needs to be understood in the halls of Congress, in other executive suites and in the society in general. Apple is the most innovative organization in the world, not because it has a strategy of innovation, but because it has a culture of innovation.
From my vantage point that culture has two elements: reward risk and marry science to art. In the long succession of hit products in the last decade, it’s hard to remember that Steve Jobs had some epic failures early in his career. Anyone remember the Lisa or the Newton? Both were total flops, but the Lisa morphed into the Mac and one could argue that the dream of the Newton ultimately was realized in the I Pad. So the culture rewards both risk, failure and the lessons learned from both. And then there is the marriage of science and art, at which Steve Jobs and his team excelled beyond his competitors. There is a bad tendency in this country to think our “innovation deficit” lies in what policy makers call STEM (science,technology, engineering and math). But Jobs understands that the magic formula is STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math). It is the basis of what we teach at The innovation Lab and it is the core of the Apple brand. Steve’s obsessive belief in the role of the artist goes way beyond his early fascination with typography. What makes each of his products so thrilling is that they are aesthetically pleasing just to look at, never mind how cool they are to operate.
So here are my take aways from Steve’s departure. We better start building a culture of innovation all over this country. That means we have to let lots of experiments happen at the state and city level in order to start putting people back to work. Some of them will fail, but hopefully we will all find the best practices quickly. In congress, they better stop thinking about strategy every morning and start thinking about culture. And in our schools we better keep teaching the arts and not just concentrate on math and science. As to the continuing success of Apple, I have no doubt. Because innovation was never a top down strategy, but rather a bottom-up culture, Apple will thrive. Steve’s vision will be missed, but he embedded the culture throughout the organization.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way.-opening sentences of Dickens’ “Tale of Two Cities”
When I first started talking about the notion that we were in an Interregnum–Gramsci’s notion that “The old is dying and the new cannot be born. In this interregnum there arises a great diversity of morbid symptoms”–I didn’t really suspect that it would get quite so morbid. A couple of days ago, a reporter, having read my Brave New World Redux post, called me up to ask about the reference to “Flash Robs” in the context of the London Riots. I made what I thought was a fairly uncontroversial remark about two facts. First, that in a world of increasing inequality, there is a group of unemployed young people who are totally untethered to the social norms. Second, those young people use social media for everything, including organizing vandalism and looting. Even though the reporter took a long discussion and boiled it down to one line, I still feel my comment was true. What I have seen since then is an onslaught of hate mail, much of it overtly racist, probably brought on by this blog post revealing me to be “an undisclosed new media leftist”. And here I thought I could return to my community and have a decent, civil conversation. Jeesh! Here’s an example of the kind of shit I read every morning. This one from one Dan Anthony.
Let’s tell it how it is.. These Mobs are Black Ghetto Welfare Slaves. Their parents and grandparents were also Welfare Slaves. A bunch of people caught in a cycle of no education, no ambition, and no morals. Stupid People breed Stupid People. If this was the best Economy in the history of the country , these people would still be doing this. The Economy up and downs do not effect Welfare Slaves. Maybe if people in this country told the truth without worrying about who’s feelings get hurt, we can move on and become a better society. Stay out in Cali with the rest of the elitest, leftwing nuts. You assholes out there are phooney, full of shit, Limo Liberals GO FUCK YOURSELF AND FUCK YOU JERK OFF.
I’m trying to figure out why my comments about the haves and the have nots has struck such a cord. Continue reading →
The Libertarian Wing of the Conservative coalition has started to peel off from the Limbaugh-Beck-Fox News-Tea Party wing. Here’s Julian Sanchez(Cato Institute) last week. Sanchez accused the Red meat wing of “epistemic closure”. Here’s how Sanchez now defines what he meant.
One of the more striking features of the contemporary conservative movement is the extent to which it has been moving toward epistemic closure. Reality is defined by a multimedia array of interconnected and cross promoting conservative blogs, radio programs, magazines, and of course, Fox News. Whatever conflicts with that reality can be dismissed out of hand because it comes from the liberal media, and is therefore ipso facto not to be trusted. (How do you know they’re liberal? Well, they disagree with the conservative media!) This epistemic closure can be a source of solidarity and energy, but it also renders the conservative media ecosystem fragile. Continue reading →
Net private investment, which includes spending on everything from machine tools to new houses, minus depreciation, fell to 0.1% of gross domestic product in the second quarter of 2009, according to the latest government data. That’s the lowest level since at least 1947.
Capitalism’s most vulnerable point is the death spiral of overcapacity. In the easy credit boom times we built too many malls, too many car factories, too may fast food joints, too many houses. Now the only way for businesses and consumers to survive is too cut back drastically.
That creates a chicken-and-egg problem at a time when the unemployment rate is already nearly 10%: Without more jobs, U.S. consumers will have a hard time increasing their spending; but without that spending, businesses might see little reason to start hiring Continue reading →
USC/Annenberg School has put a new version of my America 3.0:Rebooting After the Crash up on their You Tube Site. Watch it in the High Quality Setting. It will be up on I Tunes U next week as a free download.
Now that I’ve got your attention, here’s what I’m thinking about. The Chinese government has just announced it’s going to spend about 7% of its GDP on infrastructure investment in the next two years. Obama has mentioned numbers like $100 billion on infrastructure investment. If we spent 7% of our GDP in two years, it would come to $910 billion! As Paul Krugman reminds us this morning, FDR’s original New Deal fiscal stimulus was too timid and it wasn’t until the massive stimulus of war production that the economy really recovered.
Now I’m not saying all of this investment would come from the taxpayers, but rather that it’s going to take close to a trillion dollars to rebuild our broken infrastructure which has been starved for investment since the start of the Reagan administration. Continue reading →