"Undermining my electoral viability since 2001."

Things are wired up wrong

Started as a tweet, but I can't fit it into 140 characters.

What makes an idea good, or "compelling"? What makes a person expressing an idea worth listening to?

I've been thinking about "Suck On This", the infamous Tom Friedman statement after "the war was over" in Iraq:

(it gets really great towards the end)

Friedman is a bit of a piñata because he makes all kinds of generally innocuous but-still-ridiculous statements, and has a really ridiculous bio photo. He's an architypical gasbag with a perch on some of the most influential forums for "ideas" that the english-speaking world convenes, which is a shame, but I think what he represented in the video above deserves special attention. It's above and beyond simple buffoonery.

As a nation, we have a dysfunctional political culture, and it's in part due to terrible information inputs. Like we say in my game, "garbage in, garbage out": if your inputs are bad, you can't have quality output. The fact that most congressional offices have a TV in the main area playing 24-hour cable news (or, also, that financial institutions play CNBC) is an enormous problem.

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On the Challenge of Becoming Relevant

At the core of my ambition is a hunger to be relevant. This isn't anything special; you can sub out "relevant" for "important" and "important" for "powerful" and everybody wants to rule the world, but I've been thinking about what sort of longer-term career arc I'd like to have, and while I don't ever see myself beating the workahol or ceasing to be an entrepreneur I think it's important to have some notion of what I really want, and to see a way to get that while working at less of a breakneck pace than how I normally roll.

Sustainability is a key for the long haul. Sustainability and fulfillment. In the long run, I'd like to be able to move the world with my words, and have that be more than a hobby.

Specifically, I'd like to develop an independent platform as a pundit to promote and promulgate my own views and Just What Should Be Done in this here 21st Century. That's right, it's simple megalomania.

But seriously, I have had enough exposure to the world of politics to know that opinions matter, and enough experience working with up-and-comers to know that there are millions of hungry minds out there who are looking for something more than what they're currently getting from either the establishment of independent press. I want an audience that's big enough to matter. If at all possible, I'd like it if that were part of how I support myself and my putative family.

Figuring out how to get there from here is no small task. Traditionally if you wanted to be an opinionator of repute, you usually scrapped that together after a successful career in journalism, and/or because some publisher somewhere took a shine to you. In the internet age, the rules are quite a bit different. Here's what I see out there:

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Cultural Trends

I'm generally sensing a positive shift in the zeitgeist. There are three movies out this year about the Beat Generation, one of those clusters of hindsight or nostalgia that can catch impressionable minds. That's a good thing in my book — phalocentric as they may have been, the original hipsters (angel-headed) still have a thing or six to teach young minds about freedom. Not sure what the corresponding equivalent would be lending itself to the liberation of young women, but hopefully it too is on the rise.

Also, there's the Obama inauguration, and somewhat more importantly the fact that his administration successfully won a couple negotiations, which I admit was a surprise. It appears that the slow roll of generational demographics that underpinned his electoral victory may coalesce into some kind of new national consensus. It's still a long shot, and I think anyone putting much hope or trust in this administration from the Left is likely to be disappointed, but at the same time it's hard not to notice momentum.

The "Big Mo" is there culturally, no doubt about it. I think we're going to look back at 2004 as a kind of last hurrah for the hugely successful cultural politics that a generation of conservative activists executed in reaction to civil rights, feminism, Lyndon Johnson and hippies. Call it the Buckley brigade. They were able to push a not-very-popular GW Bush over the top with patriotic rhetoric and an intelligent strategy of linking "traditional marriage" constitutional amendments to drive base turnout.

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Public Interest at the Planetary Scale

I'm always surprised when I meet someone who shares my fuzzy vision of globally networked democracy as the plausibly positive planetary prospectus.

This idea is out there, in the air. People sense kind of intuitively that easy/instant global communication will probably change the way we govern ourselves, but even in the thought bubble of San Francisco it's not something that seems to get a lot of direct attention.

I recently had a couple of run-ins, one with a future-focused magazine curator in SF and another with a Berkeley PhD turned Goldman Sachs wizard in New York. It got me thinking about why it's so surprising to find these types of connections.

Tech people tend to be lower-level in their interests — debating the bits and bytes of different languages, products, techniques and companies — and the business-end of the change we're living tends to get a lot more media attention than the broader social implications. Not surprising given the cultural context we inhabit, but still kind of a shame.

To the extent that "big picture" ideas get much play on the nerd scene, people seemed more taken by the Singularity, the computation-driven quasi-apocalypse. It's a neat sci-fi diversion — an interesting enough Dark Future, good for a pulpy novel or two — but doesn't strike me as imminently practical model for anticipating or piloting the future. Other big-think doomsayers fixate on Peak Oil, or the collapse of the global economy, etc.

While I'm as big a fan as anyone of Red Dawn disaster fantasies, I don't really believe preparation for total societal collapse is a wise use of resources. Human beings always believe the end of the world is coming, and we tend to be wrong. The future will bring change, no doubt, but the operative question (to me) is not "how can we ride this out in a compound?" but rather "how do we get ourselves to a new Golden Age?"

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On The Bubble

One of my beats is inequality. If you read this old blog or you get my tweets, you know I frequently highlight news or analysis about the disparity in wealth and income in the US and elsewhere.

Recently I had cause to look at it from a different perspective than I'd before, from someone worried about all they had slipping away; the "I'm going to leave less to my kids than I had" worry. Led to some halfway interesting thoughts.

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In Which I Contemplate Capital Gains, Aristocracy, and Romney

The other day I tweeted a paraphrase from one of my favorite bloggers Atrios regarding Mitt Romney's tax returns that went something like "the tax rate on any money the pile of cash earns is much lower than it is on the money earned by people who actually work." A couple people asked me to explain this a little more so I thought it would make a good bloggy topic.

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The Search for Political Economy

I haven't written much at all about electoral politics because frankly they're not very interesting. The GOP nomination process has had its moments of entertainment, but that's largely a matter of theater, not substance. The Occupy movement got me excited for a hot minute, but outdoor protest tends to ebb in the winter. In today's edition of "doing the pages" I'll write a little ditty about a contemporary political debate within the left that's interesting in it's own right, and explains some of my lassitude.

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Life and Times

It's been a while. I haven't just been neglecting this old blog, but really almost all my social interfaces. So a bit of a catch-up is probably in order. In this edition:

  1. Personal life and romance report quarterly update.
  2. How's business?
  3. And what about all that ranting...

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The Zeitgeist On Wall St

Following on my last post, I wanted to collect some thoughts on the ongoing Occupy Wall Street protest, which has rapidly grown more interesting. Today, for instance, instead of biking to Golden Gate Park and seeing some of the great free music, I watched mass arrests of hundreds of marchers who made their way onto the south (bklyn-bound) lane of the Brooklyn bridge where they were kettled by the NYPD. Live on the internet. Pretty high drama, but it's possibly quite a lot bigger than that.

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Another World is Possible

I have a long bet on the internet, but let's be clear: it's not a world-saving wager. I have faith that we'll (eventually) muddle our way out of the Great Recession, but into what kind of future? Seriously, how does a world of seven billion work?

My macro-level spider-sense is tingling, and it's hard to see where global change can come from, what deus ex machina could conceivably save us. Time to do a little digging.

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