Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Update, again.

Apparently someone reads my blog.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Saturday, March 27, 2010

A battle against time.

I generally like Charles Blow's op-eds in the NY Times, particularly his most recent which had this gem (about the frustration of the tea-partiers):
"Even the optics must be irritating. A woman (Nancy Pelosi) pushed the health care bill through the House. The bill’s most visible and vocal proponents included a gay man (Barney Frank) and a Jew (Anthony Weiner). And the black man in the White House signed the bill into law. It’s enough to make a good old boy go crazy."
His point is that more-or-less the tea partiers don't represent the direction the country is headed in. Politics aside, this group, still does represent a number of individuals and their opinions have a right to be heard. However, they should be doing it in a civil manner. The same can be said for the far-left groups, though their popularity has waned in recent decades as the demographic shift of the boomers shifted America's politics more towards the right (the older we get, the more conservative, etc.).

It reminds me of some of the exercises we used to do at Deloitte with generational issues. A topic would be posed (e.g. remote working) and invariably the older workers would say it should never happen and the younger workers would say they should be allowed whenever they wanted to. Clearly (as with most solutions) the answer was in the middle, but the important thing was making sure that the older workers didn't feel marginalized. Even if a company is shifting, it is important to give some token points to the older generations. Bottom line, the younger people will be there to change policies when they get in power, while the older generations feel completely powerless if they do not get a bit of deference. This is, I think, how many of the tea partiers feel right now. They feel like their voice is not being listened to at all, so their only option is to become louder and more virulent. Strategically, not brilliant, but one can understand where they're coming from. It's the politics of frustration. Yell and scream until someone does something you like (or you fall apart).

It would seem that the best strategy Obama, as "CEO," could take right now is to divide and conquer, similar to how you would in an company setting. Figure out which workers (voters) have issues that can be addressed and those that you will never get back. I would bet that if someone were to look at the various blogs, conferences, and rallies out there, they could find a few token policies that could be given into to siphon off some of the more marginal tea partiers. Bottom line, it's not a coherent group (organizationally or ideologically) , it shouldn't be that hard.

Quite frankly, I'm not sure what this type of policy would be. But, it would ideally be something that says, look, we value your opinions, but you also have to work within the context of the what's going on right now. The thing the tea partiers fail to understand (and which I have yet to see pointed out by the MSM) is that voting Republicans into power isn't going to make America some magical tea party state. People in power want to stay in power. A representative swept in on a tea party platform still probably only garnered about 50-60% of the vote. There are a lot of other people that they have to serve, otherwise they face a one-term-and-your-done legacy.

Bottom line, America is changing a lot--demographically, economically, and socially. Those who feel marginalized by those changes are going to be upset, frustrated, and start to yell. But, the real problem they feel is not the political stances, it's the loss of a voice. By giving them back a (civilized) voice within a different context, we can, and will, begin to move forward again. It all reminds me of one of my favorite movies, Pleasantville. The people start turning from black and white into color and the response of those who haven't changed yet and feel their power is being usurped is to turn to violence and persecution. In the end, the world keeps on changing, because it has to change. Trying to preserve the status quo is a losing battle with time and history.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Choir Nerd In Me Loves This So Much

I totally want to participate in one of these next time around:

Friday, March 19, 2010

New Conservatism?

Really interesting article from David Brooks about Conservatism in Britain (or more correctly, "radical conservatism"). I particularly found this line interesting:
Essentially, Blond would take a political culture that has been oriented around individual choice and replace it with one oriented around relationships and associations.
It seems more and more of what we do is dominated by relationships, exemplified by the boom in social networking. It's difficult to imagine what this looks like policy-wise in the U.S., but it's not uncommon for socio-cultural trends to make their way into politics. There seems to be more and more discontent, but as others have pointed out, it's disjointed. This may indicate that we're on the verge of a massive shift in governance philosophy.

In many ways it goes back to something that we discussed in my climate change mitigation class. People are having difficulty relating to complex problems with linear solutions. Our dominant paradigm has been to look for cause and effect, but as we're discovering (especially with climate change), that linear relationship does not always hold true (e.g. multiple causes and multiple effects). I tend to think that the shift will occur once we begin to think of issues/problems/policies as interconnected ecosystems. Healthcare is much more easily viewed as an ecosystem than a linear cause-effect relationship. The same with finance, climate change...the list goes on.

The current frustration seen in Tea Parties and other movements is that we're realizing we cannot operate on the old model any longer. There is no 'cause' for many of these issues, it's a complex series of events happening within a network of related issues. The frustration, then, is that we want to still be able to identify the 'cause' even though there isn't one. We don't have the conceptual and policy models to be able to deal with this, and it's a big problem, because it makes it impossible to improve the situation. We don't need different policy, what we need is a new way of thinking about our relationship to issues.

Now the question is what those new models look like...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Smurfette Principle

I greatly enjoy this video (via Clusterflock)

Sunday, March 7, 2010

I was thinking today

Wouldn't it be fantastic if there were an agency/department of government that was tasked with looking at new academic ideas in all kinds of areas, then determining ways to scale them to government and run pilot programs. It could be a great cross-functional entity that would work to develop new solutions to problems. I can imagine such a type of organization looking for new ways to spur job growth, deal with social security, even combat obesity. Before you say, "but agencies already have that capacity." The problem is, the organizational capacity of many agencies can tamp down efforts to reform, as they run into politics, entrenched opinions, and resistance to change. But, if taken out of that context, and allowed a pilot program, it could be a wonderful way to demonstrate what works and what doesn't, outside of the confines of the traditional government bureaucracy. Think of it as a government trial of 20% time.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


You might have seen the OK GO marching band video, but this one is about 10,000 times cooler.

Dam, I'm Back

Lame puns aside, I got back from Amsterdam on Sunday after a much appreciated vacation. School continues to be crazy, with the administration attempting to cram 11 weeks of work into 8 weeks. It's not pretty. But, work must be done, so it will be done.

It was a bit of a tight fit getting in a paper on the topic "Copenhagen: Success or Failure. Discuss" in before I had to jump on my plane (oh, irony). Being sick with a cold the weekend before meant that I was hopped up on meds, and as a consequence in no state to press my case for the fact that Copenhagen was a success, even in spite (or because) of its failure to be legally binding. If you're interested, there are a couple of blog posts that make the case far better than I do. Luckily, a friend of mine offered to print out my paper and hand it in for me so that I could get on my merry way Thursday morning.

All in all, the trip there was relatively uneventful. Aside from an hour delay due to extremely thick fog, I got in with no complications in the early afternoon and headed to meet my friend Steve at the hotel. After tooling around a bit on the streets and canals and picking away at sandwiches and espresso, we headed back to the hotel to meet up with his coworkers for dinner and general merriment, including getting lost on the canals. Once we found the signs for the Centraal Station, we were home, though.

The next day was filled by trips to the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum, both of which were very impressive. I especially enjoyed the Rembrants at the Rijksmuseum. Later on, we walked around the Red Light District (natch), though I declined to purchase any of the, um, goods. It's a weird thing walking around there. On one hand, you can't help feel that a lot of these women are being degraded by dancing around in a window like a tea kettle or something. On the other hand, they are making decent money, and I suppose it reflects more on my values that I find it somewhat "icky" to be a prostitute, than it does on the actual act. After all, people sell their best assets all the time, whether it's the delicate hands of a seamstress, the brawn of a builder, or the abstract brain of a designer, we are all selling ourselves, physically and mentally.

The rest of the crew shipped out Saturday morning, but I soldiered on to see the Anne Frank House, the Niet Normaal exhibit at the Beurs van Berlage, as well as just generally walking through the city and getting a feel for the canals and streets. Honestly, there really are that many bicycles. It's fantastic to see people going around in other ways than cars.

Later on, after checking into my new Hotel in the Museumplein, I headed over to the Bols 'experience,' more or less to get a decent cocktail. While the exhibit was rather boring, the cocktail was excellent. I had a Holland House with Bols Genevere, which is one of the best cocktails I've ever had. It reminded me, in some ways of the tartness of a Pegu Club, combined with the smoothness of a Vesper (both favorites of mine, anyway). I'm not sure if you can get it in the states, but it's worth tracking down. I never knew the history of it, but it was more or less the forerunner of gin, and was used in many cocktail books at the turn of the century where gin features now. Another reason I probably liked it a lot.

I'm still not sure what's going on here, but I managed to look like a homeless emo kid.

After the museum, I decided to walk around the back streets of the museum quarter, to get away from some of the more touristy attractions. I was not disappointed. Beautiful houses and small boutiques lined the streets, and after happening in on a tea shop to warm up a bit, I was offered a free loaf of bread because the woman was closing and need to get rid of it. Dutch hospitality, score!

The night concluded with a long meal solo, at, fittingly, a place called Solo. It was a very well presented and solidly constructed meal--the duck pate was excellent. The next morning it was off to the Foam photography museum and then back to the train station to get back to the airport for my flight home. All in all, a very relaxing weekend. Unfortunately, now it's back to work.