America 3.0

Here is a speech I gave last month to the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce. It is as close to my “philosophy of everything” as you will get.

 

Posted in Economics, Futurism | Tagged , | 26 Comments

America’s Paranoia Problem

A year ago I wrote a post called American Crack-up, in which I argued that a good bit of the country had become completely divorced from Reality. It began with these lines.

When did it start?

When did America’s mass consensual hallucination begin? When did the boundaries between truth and fiction dissolve?

In these Post Newtown days, I am even more convinced that the American Crack up is like a continuing set of mass paranoid delusions. Here is the Mayo Clinic definition of the delusions associated with Paranoid Schizophrenia.

In paranoid schizophrenia, a common delusion is that you’re being singled out for harm. For instance, you may believe that the government is monitoring every move you make or that a co-worker is poisoning your lunch. You may also have delusions of grandeur — the belief that you can fly, that you’re famous or that you have a relationship with a famous person, for example. You hold on to these false beliefs despite evidence to the contrary. Delusions can result in aggression or violence if you believe you must act in self-defense against those who want to harm you.

Sound familiar?

Now it’s fairly clear that many of the Mass Gun Murderers were suffering from Paranoid Schizophrenia and even Adam Lanza’s mother seemed to be somewhat paranoid. But what concerns me equally is the number of seriously delusional people who are in positions of power or influence. Take for instance Larry Pratt, President of Gun Owners of America.

During the interview on Hardball, Pratt argued that guns are necessary to “control the government.” When Matthews asked for an example, Pratt pointed to 1946, in Athens, Tenn., when townsmen took up arms against corrupt government officials.

Why is this guy walking into the TV studios of Washington rather than being treated for his paranoid delusions that he needs assault rifles to defend himself from the government? The problem is that since the FCC banned the Fairness Doctrine, paranoid loons like Glenn Beck can fill our airwaves with delusional crap that is accepted by imbeciles like Larry Pratt. People can live their whole lives with an alternative set of facts as if they were in a Twilight Zone episode. Climate Change is a Hoax, the Government has already been taken over by Communists who will enslave God Fearing, Gun Toting Americans, Women’s bodies reject the sperm of a rape.

I really feel like 30% of Americans are living in an alternative universe where they slowly get dumber every day. It is truly scary.

Posted in Corruption, Education | Tagged , , , , | 55 Comments

Time for a Change

“Then someone came and told us to run down the hallway. There were police at every door. There were lots of people crying and screaming.The officers led children past the carnage. “They said ‘Close your eyes, hold hands.’”

How many times do we have to repeat this scene before we tell the ideologues who run the NRA that they no longer have a veto on gun legislation? Even the rank and file of the NRA believe in background checks to keep criminals and the mentally ill from getting access to firearms. But Wayne LaPierre and his minions want to protect the right of gun show dealers to sell to anyone with no background checks needed. This has to stop. Congress needs to pass a bill with the following pieces, now.

  • No gun show loopholes for background checks
  • Ban assault rifles
  • Ban large magazines for semi automatics

This is at least a start. Continue reading

Posted in Justice, Politics | Tagged , , , , | 44 Comments

Big Shift

It has been the continuing obsession of this writer that we are living in an Interregnum, where the “old is dying, but the new cannot be borne”. The new National Intelligence Council report, Global Trends 2030, seems to be further evidence that others share my assumptions.“The ’unipolar’ moment is over and Pax Americana — the era of American ascendancy in international politics that began in 1945 — is fast winding down,”the report says.

The 140-page report released today by the National Intelligence Council lays out dangers and opportunities for nations, economies, investors, political systems and leaders due to four “megatrends” that government intelligence analysts say are transforming the world.

Those major trends are the end of U.S. global dominance, the rising power of individuals against states, a rising middle class whose demands challenge governments, and a Gordian knot of water, food and energy shortages, according to the analysts.

“We are at a critical juncture in human history, which could lead to widely contrasting futures,” Council Chairman Christopher Kojm writes in the report. Continue reading

Posted in Futurism | Tagged , , , | 14 Comments

Subsidies and Collective Action Problems

The New York Times is running an amazing series of articles about how corporate America has played city and state governments like a fiddle to extract generous subsidies for locating plants in their areas.

A Times investigation has examined and tallied thousands of local incentives granted nationwide and has found that states, counties and cities are giving up more than $80 billion each year to companies. The beneficiaries come from virtually every corner of the corporate world, encompassing oil and coal conglomerates, technology and entertainment companies, banks and big-box retail chains.

Game theory names this a collective action problem. Continue reading

Posted in Business, Economics | Tagged , , , , | 19 Comments

Fiscal Cliff Follies

The phony Republican outrage after Tim Geithner’s visit to Congress yesterday shows what a pickle they are in. Geithner carried to the Hill the same proposal Obama made to Boehner and Co. last Friday, but this time the Speaker went public with his outrage as if he had never heard the proposal before. According to insiders, that’s because Boehner didn’t think Obama was serious last week and only now realizes the President is serious as a heart attack.

Time is on Obama’s side. If the Republican leadership won’t yield before December 31, the Bush Tax Cuts go away and Republican’s get blamed for raising taxes on the middle class. You can bet a bill changing that gets passed within days and so all this talk of fiscal Armageddon is pure nonsense. The bigger question for progressives is how to hold on to the big cuts in the Military budget that were part of the sequester. As Christopher Drew has pointed out, there is so much waste and incompetence in Pentagon weapons budgets, that cutting the billions from their budget is desperately needed to force them to get their house in order. This is where the Liberal-Libertarian coalition against the Military Industrial Complex has got to step up to the plate.

Posted in Economics, Politics | Tagged , , | 17 Comments

Growth Delusion

Last summer I went to the Aspen Institute, home of establishment wisdom, and found myself both bemused and bored by the narrow “managing chaos” focus of the pundits. What I long for is a conversation that questions some of the basic assumptions of the conventional wisdom. I find that in the writing of Jeremy Grantham, an extremely successful investor who is willing to question some of the basic assumptions of contemporary capitalism. Grantham’s new quarterly letter is titled “On the Road to Zero Growth” and it starts with a shocker to the conventional wisdom and then takes you on an amazing ride.

The U.S. GDP growth rate that we have become accustomed to for over a hundred years – in excess of 3% a year – is not just hiding behind temporary setbacks. It is gone forever. Yet most business people (and the Fed) assume that economic growth will recover to its old rates.

Grantham puts up this chart that shows that 3% growth is a strange outlier that occurred for about 50 years in the last 1000 years, and may never return.

For the US, the limits to growth are part demographics and part “other stuff”, including productivity, inequality, reduced capital spending, resource restraints and ecological crisis. Continue reading

Posted in Futurism | Tagged , , | 26 Comments

Conventional Idiocy

David Sanger has been writing the conventional wisdom for as long as I can remember, but this morning he has really become John McCain’s talking puppet. In trying to justify why we should be sending troops to Syria and Libya, he quotes Romney Neo Con Eliot Cohen.

To Mr. Obama’s critics, the root of the seeming absence of American leverage in the Middle East today is a light footprint that was simply too light.

“I think the way to understand Obama’s approach — I wouldn’t call it a strategy — is that he has a uniform preference to keep most problems at a distance,” said Eliot A. Cohen, a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies who worked for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign and helped develop Mr. Romney’s critique of Mr. Obama’s approach. “That is what the light footprint has been all about. And it’s run out of gas.”

I have no patience for Sanger or any of the Beltway buffoons who managed to convince us for 60 years that the United States needs to be the unpaid policeman of the world. How much blood and treasure in useless wars that will never solve Sunni-Shia conflict, is enough for these chicken hawks? Obama’s did exactly the right thing in Libya,and he is right to stay out of the Syrian Civil War. I will say what no one seems to acknowledge. Ambassador Chris Stevens had no business being in Benghazi with a two person security detail. It was only his own self inflated sense of invulnerability that brought him there and there is no reason to change Obama’s new “light touch” foreign policy, just because Stevens made a mistake.

Posted in Foreign Policy | Tagged , | 42 Comments

Civil Conversation on IP

T-Bone Burnett and I ventured into the academic lion’s den at MIT on Saturday and had a remarkably civil conversation about piracy, IP, fair use and other touchy subjects. Much of the thanks have to go to my colleague Henry Jenkins the founder of the Futures of Entertainment Conference, who both guided the conversation and provided a constant reminder that in a participatory culture notions of fair use are critical to enhancing creativity. Bone and I made the argument that the main problem that can be solved without legislation is for brands and advertising networks to stop sending millions of dollars of advertising to pirate sites run by organized criminals like Kim Dotcom. This of course put both the Google folks in the audience at FOE 6 as well as some of the branding agencies, in a defensive crouch, accusing us of whining. Questions were posed as to why Google would be interested in helping the music or movie industry at the sacrifice of profits to their own bottom line.

Henry Jenkins’ notion is that there is no reason for technology, content and academia to be in conflict over these issues. We were able to talk both passionately about the right of artists to get paid for their work and the right of the participatory culture to take sections of an artistic work and remix it for non-commercial use. This is real progress and my hope is that the bombast surrounding this issue is slowly surrendering to a more civil conversation that can resolve this important issue. I also want to thank our correspondent Len Bullard for his contribution to the conversation. He played the role of our trainer before the debate brilliantly.

Posted in Entertainment | Tagged , , , , | 58 Comments

Twilight of the Oligarghs

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This image of Sheldon Adelson wheeling his way out of a busted Romney Victory Celebration seems so telling to me. This sad old man, with his badly dyed hair, who thought he could buy the election, unable to even walk away with dignity. In the end, he did not really understand our country. His own personal piqué at having to pay more taxes is a kind of Madame LaFarge gesture, but the Sans Culottes are right outside the walls of his Venetian Palace and some of them are even inside, cleaning the drunk gamblers barf off the bathroom floor. If there is any justice, he will be in jail at this time next year for bribery under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

Can you imagine what Karl Rove’s life has been like for the last 36 hours? All those billionaires ringing him up asking, “what the fuck happened?”, knowing full well that they had bet the house on a loser, not because of any great principle, but simply to keep their tax cuts and get rid of the EPA and Dodd Frank. In the last minutes of his expiring bet on Tuesday Night, when Rove tried to get Fox News to reverse their call that Obama had won, it revealed the smallness of the man and the deep failure of the whole exercise the Rove and Murdoch tried to foist on the American public.

And then there are the true bastards of this game, the Koch Brothers. Almost singlehandedly responsible for the climate change denial industry, they threatened their employees who didn’t vote for Romney. They spent their millions trying to keep from having to clean up all the dirty plants they run that poison our air and water.Good luck with that, boys.

The question must be asked. Do we have to go through this again in two years? Have these assholes learned their lesson? I doubt it. Hopefully some investigative reporter will really uncover the dark corruption of the Super Pac system. How much did Karl Rove make off Crossroads? Who were the secret donors who tried to stop California’s Prop 30 at the last moment? How is the Koch’s Super PAC a Social Welfare organization under the IRS code?

Donald Trump tweeted we need a revolution after his losing bet on Romney failed. If he and his billionaire buddies try to steal an election one more time, there will be a revolution, but it won’t be one the Donald is happy about, because the pitchfork brigades will be outside Trump Tower looking for his comb over scalp.

Posted in Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 36 Comments