Iran and the Core

February 28, 2007 § Leave a comment

If the choice is betwen globalizationa and fundamentalism, fundamentalism will win. Not because it is so terrific, but because “globaization” is such a destructive process for so many. The sane way forward, I believe,  is to soften the binary choice.

Good book review at

Western Imperialism in the Middle East, 1914–1958
David K. Fieldhouse
Jesus College, University of Cambridge


Things on my mind

February 21, 2007 § Leave a comment

The books, Nemesis by Chalmers Johnson (after his Blowback and Sorrows of Empire) is a real challenge, suggesting that the US is well on the path to empire and militarism, loss of the republic and the constitution. the prognosis is that the US becomes a sadder, poorer and more military dominated marginalized society.

Jarred Diamonds’s last year’s book, Collapse, lays out the environmental and cultural issues.

The two taken together are monstrous in their demands on us. Can we respond?

Iraq debate – fresh scenarios

February 14, 2007 § Leave a comment

The Bush supportes say that leaving will encourage the fundamentalists

The anti this war folks say that staying creates more fundeamentalists.

But what if the internal Islamic and ME dynamics are larger than these options? For example, when will Iraq secular, shiite and sunni leaership agree to settle down and divide or cooperate with what’s there, towards a reasonably successful ME society? Could it be on ur leaving

Seems to me there are many scenarios we are not considering.

1. Whaat could emerge to take the world’s attention off of Iraq?

2. what sea change in Islamic perception could shift the Gestalt?

3. Will Putin’s initiative to isolate the US show we have got ourselves in a deeper fix, and force us to deal and cope and wiggle out of Iraq unseen?

4. If the US stopped paying attetion to iraq and redeployed, what might happen?

Corporations and the complexity of the social environment

February 11, 2007 § Leave a comment

The narrowing at the top of the US government to a hermetically sealed small group of people whom we cannot get at needs to be explained.

Sovereignty (not subject to rule from above)has narrowed at the political top because real power has moved from politicians to corporations. That is, corporation are gaining in sovereign power. Politics becomes less attractive and those who are willing to carry out the corporate agenda move to positions of political power, but they don’t need most of the bureaucracy to carry out the corporate agenda.. The lack of impact of Bush on most issues of governance is obvious. He and the few people around him are just not interested in most of the important issues. Interest narrows.

Who supports this?

I’d divide them into five groups

1. Those who benefit from what Chalmers Johnson calls “Military Keynesianism” – the use of tax dollars to stimulate military related business in exchange for cash and lobbying. The narrowing the productive capacity of the US to military related products is shocking.

2. The major, oil, banking, agribusiness- companies that operate just fine in a tax world where regulations allow for great concentrations of wealth and power. This group is more hands off than the military manufacturers, but still lobbies t maintain the old institutions. The leaders seem aware of the decline of the US and move assets and life styles over seas.

3. The tech companies of silicon valley or its extensions to a few other parts of the country. They are seen as more independent and entrepreneurial, though typically half or more of their direct sales are into the first two groups.

4. The brokers who live on selling change – arbitrage, new offerings, percentage of a sale in land, or organizations.

These groups are willing to trash the society in order to keep the economy going with its cash flow toward those who currently benefit (I mean benefit at the level of several hundred million a year up. One calculation suggests that 10% of all personal income in the US is in salaries above 200 million per year.

5. There is a fifth group – those who earn much less but are convinced of TINA, “there is no alternative”. Given that congress is elected with money from the same flow, they are making a correct judgment.

Corporations are striking in their behavioral properties. They have inputs from the whole society – skills, careers, money, raw materials, land and buildings, transportation and communications infrastructure – but the output is vastly narrowed to product and profit. The result is, as society is more dominated by large corporations, the society is feeding the monsters rich inputs, and getting back out narrowly defining product. The result is corporations, when seen in comparing inputs to outputs, are decreasing the complexity and richness of the societal environment. The profit which is the other output is fully discretionary in the hands of owners and top managers, who use it, for further concentration, or life style choices like buying Islands in the San Juans, or buying congressional candidates.

Corporations were created by the state to carry out difficult or unsavory operations. (see John Phar Davis’s excellent 1900 book The Corporation for an early history). As we know, the owning of stock became an upper middle class must do. When the “freedom” of corporations was challenged, through a murky political process (the case has never been strongly argued), corporations used the 14th amendment in courts, where all judges were stock holders to gain the status of free citizens unboundable by contractual obligations imposed. This freed the corporations to act in self interest without restraint from state charters. The corporations use the charter for self protection, but deny the chartering entity – the states – the right to impose conditions of social or environmental responsibility.

Dealing with the shift of sovereignty from nations to corporations means reduced complexity of output into an increasingly impoverished social world. One would think that groups like IF, or Aspen, the Conference Board, would see these shifts and consequences. The corporations digest the societies of which they are a part.

I’ve just read three books that bear on this question of perception of the corporations.

1. Jarred Diamond’s Collapse, which if accurate is scary.

2. De Landa’s Thousand Years of non-linear history, showing how simple self organization builds the world that Diamond Describes.

3. Nick Robins The Corporation that changed the World: how the East India company shaped the modern multinational.

The balance between corporations and governments will be rethought as cisies intensify. The outcome could be technocratic militaristic hardball social management, or decentralized more democratic and experimental. I prefer the second.

The Eighty Percent Solution: Garden world

November 9, 2006 § Leave a comment


Full title

American Politics and American Values. The 80% solution: Toward a new politics of inclusion In the context of Garden World

Douglass Carmichael

I’ve posted new drafts of the the first two chapters

Chapter 1. The eighty percent solution: the hope and its frustrations

Chapter 2. Garden world

Working with a tablet

October 22, 2006 § Leave a comment

I was asked to write up sme thoughts on the use of a tablet pc. May be useful.


My job is making sense of the world for myself so I can make it make sense for my consulting clients. I need to deliver paper, conversations, and presentations . A small slate is really a different experience from a laptop. A laptop is self contained and awkward. A tablet is intimate and sleek and breathes with me as my day changes.

First thing I noticed with the tablet is how much friendlier it is in meetings. Not only does it not put up a barrier the way a laptop does but it is even less intrusive and quieter than flipping pages in a notebook or pad. And I don’t feel like I may be wasting paper!

The second thing I noticed was the delight in awkward places were the laptop was always dangerous or a nuisance. Working lying down from one, which includes being sprawled in a chair, suddenly is a delight. I never have to worry about the lighting, either being bright enough, or disturbing others, because the lighting on the screen is just perfect for reading in shadows or the dark. A laptop teeters. A tablet snuggles.

And standing up. I find I more often slip my tablet out of its case (where I keep it in standby, with audio sounds turned off so as not to put up that audio nerd tag as the tablet powers up), and I can make notes with the pen, like yesterday standing around waiting for my car to be serviced. Having learned the pen, the next was dictation. I now use a USB stereo noise cancelling headphone/mike and can dictate while walking. Editing a manuscript with dictation is very effective.

It took me awhile to have the courage to use the recording feature in meetings where clicking on my hand written note later, when looking for the high points, takes me immediately to what was being said at the time.

I use OneNote, which really is the killer app for the tablet, which means every keystroke is saved, and coordinated with my home machine (a feature in OneNote 2007), which these days is really just an automatic backup. I’ve found that a couple of really good monitors – I’m currently using the dell 24 inchers which are $700.00 – making an incredible enhancement. I have one at home and another at my main office. When I need to sit and work over multiple files, the extra real estate is fabulous. When traveling to clients I carry along a small two pound. projector and, with a friendly wall or flip chart, we have a shared work space. I sometimes carry a wireless keyboard so we can pass it around and make entries on the shared screen.

But the use and usefulness is what is important. I am constantly scanning the Internet for articles where one click puts it in an editable form in OneNote where I keep a file for each month. Basically everything I read goes in there. And I am constantly scanning for relevant ideas and facts which I then pull out into a daily log of those things that I think probably need to go into documents or conversations by the end of the day. Using Skype is a natural extension of these files.

What is important is that the tablet is a constant companion to all these activities, which was never true with a laptop, which tended to stay in the briefcase or out of reach on the table.

I have a wide range of interests so I keep on my tablet with a folio of paintings I like, my own and others’. And also music. Kind of obvious. But what is not obvious is the use of sheet music. I play classical guitar and was always caught, say a friend’s house, where there was a guitar but no music I knew. I’ve even discovered I can read music on the tablet on a subway, which I never would have done with a laptop, and to my surprise, “hear it”.

I also have about 600books, mostly free classics from Gutenberg, which are so easy to bring up in the table and return to where I was reading. I especially like the portrait mode which gives me a nice page on which I can also scribble or dictate notes. The ability to go into the Internet and find a painting, or a map of a place mentioned in a book, is a great enhancement to reading. It is only because the tablet is so convenient for reading, and comfortable, that I have explored these possibilities. A search in Google for “” Takes me immediately to that page in the Wiki. That makes creating background for the reading much richer than ever before. It’s not that one can’t do these things with the desktop or a laptop. If the extended range in which I will do them that is the big change with a tablet..

For the first time I feel like I always have what I might need and it is well organized and available. The intimacy of the tablet and its ability to reach out of the larger screens on the projector without interfering with the social process has redefined a refined my workspace and my effectiveness and morale. A tablet has extended the range of mine output and by using the pen and the headset has increased the range of my input. By getting the tech right with the tablet my struggles with tech have been minimalized. The tabet, comfortable in the hand and on the eye, lets me feel always connectable without looking like an erector set of gadgets and a spaghetti plateful of unfortunately interwoven wires. Struggles are over and productivity is way up.

On George Lakoff’s Thinking Points

October 18, 2006 § Leave a comment

    Further thoughts on Lakoff. and his new book (with the Rockland Institute), Thinking Points. I am fairly negative because I think the misconception is so undermining of the real political choices the voters feel. My comments follow each “dc:”

    dc: the first sentence is

    America today is in danger. It faces the threat of domination by a radical, authoritarian right wing that refers to itself as “conservative,” as if it were preserving and promoting American values.

    In fact, it has been trampling on them.

    dc: not a way to appeal to people beyond the progressive edge. It also makes the right wing into really bad guys, but my perspective is that those voting republican are in reaction to a system, which we can call modernism, which is the same system creating the increasingly distorted distribution of wealth, threatening the environment, and handing power to corporations. Why create an “us-them” division when we all have a similar diagnosis?

    American values are inherently progressive, but progressives have lost their way. As traditional Americans, that is, as progressive  Americans, we are beginning to lose our identity, the very values that have made America a great and free country—a country where tolerance has led us to unity, where diversity has given us strength, where acting for the common good has brought our dreams to fruition, and where respect for human dignity has increased opportunity, released creativity, and generated wealth.

    dc: The Founding Fathers were progressive in some ways but not others. It is a mixed story of private property, elite leaderships, and slavery. ” Progressive” now is also mixed, is also aligned with, and often equated, in the minds of voters, to modernism, which is also technocratic.

    We have lost hold of the terms of political debate, and even ceded the language of progressive ideals—like “freedom” and “liberty”—to redefinition by an extremist right wing.

    dc: Freedom and liberty have not been taken over by the right wing, but by free market capitalism.

    We perceived a need among grassroots progressives for a short, easy-to-read, systematic account of the progressive vision, for the principles that apply across issue areas, and for all the essentials of framing—a handbook that can be carried around in pocket or purse and accessed over the Internet. Here it is.

    dc: this sounds good. But we are not off to a good start with the quotes above. The following lays out their method.

    Along the way, we have introduced some new concepts. For instance, we present up-to-date research on deep framing—the moral values and political principles that cut across issues and that are required before any slogans or clever phrases can resonate with the public. We look at argument frames—the general overall structure of argument forms used by both liberals and conservatives. And we inquire as to why conservatives focus on direct causation while liberals see systemic, or complex, causation.

    Most important, we examine and reject the idea of an ideological “center.” It is not made up of “moderates,” nor is it defined by issues spread across a left-to-right spectrum. Instead, the “center” is made up of biconceptuals. The idea of biconceptualism is essential to understanding—and changing—American politics. We explain why progressives can and should talk to biconceptuals in the same way they talk to their base.

    dc: I certainly agree that the center is not the average of left and right, I do not agree that “the center” lacks in its own integrity to this degree. What they call bi-conceptual, a kind of political schizophrenia, may actually be a more coherent reaction to a system that makes things seem worse both for progressives and conservatives.

    We now shift to the introduction

    Our greatest patriots have been those who articulated and acted on these principles. They gave life to our Constitution through their courage and their convictions. Their legacy is our proudest common heritage. It humbles us. We write so we, too, may act on our deepest convictions.

    dc: the problem is the founding fathers have a Lockian view of the dominance of private property, and wanted to prevent a tyranny of the majority, what we call a democracy. The book’s full list of good guys is an interesting one.

    George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Frederick Douglass, Harriett Tubman, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Stanton, Martin Luther King jr, ,Rosa Parks, Mother Jones, Ceazar Chavez, and Sojurner Truth, John Muir, Rachel Carson, and Daniel Ellsberg.

    This is a very narrow reading of American history, even of progressive history, and hardly defines a system.

    Lincoln and the two Roosevelt’s are then added but Lincoln gave us what Edmund Wilson called “patriotic gore”, and the first Roosevelt was quite conservative, an extreme nationalist, and very much in favor of war and empire. His attack on the corporations was handed over by him to Taft, who sided with the corporations. These details help explain complex currents of American political life and pasting them over to define good guys and bad guys is not a good model for dealing with the complexity of our future.

    But the book’s real identification of progressive is with a second Roosevelt.

    Franklin Delano Roosevelt went a step further and permanently established government’s central role in using the common wealth for the common good by launching the New Deal. It was more than a set of programs—it was a movement imbued with the core progressive values of empathy and responsibility, with the idea that government should not only care about people but also act on that caring.

    dc: yes, but Roosevelt also created an advanced example of the administrative state and solidified the power of large institutions, government, corporations, and unions. This might be all to the Good but it is worth remembering that many people would be opposed to those tendencies today, including many on the progressive side.

    They ( I say “they”, because the pamphlet is an creation of the Rockland institute is not just written by George Lakoff) then give us a list of issues, children, environment, income inequality, but include also ethnic and sexual orientations. These issues were made a divisive by the republican leadership, building on the anxieties of some of their constituency. But I don’t think that calling attention to them has made their life particularly more comfortable, free or livable. To me that is an open question but I don’t think it helps the politically progressive side to mix these identity questions the with economic, military and environmental ones. That would be a good discussion.

    We now go to chapter one

    Reagan talked about values rather than issues. Communicating values mattered more than specific policy positions. Reagan connected with people; he communicated well. Reagan also appeared authentic—he seemed to believe what he said. And because he talked about his values, connected with people, and appeared authentic, they felt they could trust him.

    For these four reasons—values, connection, authenticity, andtrust—voters identified with Reagan; they felt he was one of them. It was not because all of his values matched theirs exactly.

    It was not because he was from their socioeconomic class or subculture. It was because they believed in the integrity of his connection with them as well as the connection between his worldview and his actions.

    dc: What this ignores is the voters’ judgment in the context of whom Reagan was running against, the wonderful but weak Jimmy Carter, and then Michael Dukakis. The voters were not choosing between Ronald Reagan and the founding fathers. (There follows a description of the twelve issues traps that I’ve discussed before and are available at their site).

    dc:Next Comes chapter two on biconceptualism.

    They start with the Joe Lieberman.

    His progressive worldview appears in his staunch support of environmental protection, abortion rights, and workers’ rights.2 His conservative worldview emerges in areas like his support of faith-based initiatives, school vouchers, and most notably, the current policy on Iraq.

    dc: their analysis of this as biconceptual, gets it in the way of the possibility that Lieberman’s view is coherent, not my favorite coherence, but coherent nevertheless and needing to be understood as such.

    They then go on to describe five “partial progressives” in a quite helpful way

    • Lovers of the land
    • Communitarians
    • people of faith
    • Socially conscious employers
    • civil libertarians

    dc: then comes an analysis of the myth of the middle with which I largely agree. The whole analysis assumes that ” progressive” is good and “conservative” is bad, but avoids any analysis of the tendency of the US system towards technocratic quasi fascist bureaucratism and it is that system creating wealth inequality, rapacious globalization, dependence on the oil industry, and a preference for militarization. It just might be that this “system” is what both progressives and conservatives are frustrated with.

    The rest of the book is not online so that is as far as I can go

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