Somebody said we were allowed to think out loud. Pardon the mess.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Return of the UnderDogFerret

Interesting week so far. Begins with a new client looking to turn the post-9-11 Security Industry on its head. An underdog, with heart and talent and energy. Our kind of people. And it ends this weekend with yet another test of wits for our always-favorite underdogs--Fisher Model School.

Different group of kids, different competition from last April's come-from-nowhere Richmond City Mind Games® Champs. This time, it's the regionals of the national First LEGO® League. It's a robotics- and research-oriented competition themed "No Limits" for this year, focusing on the physically challenged. The kids had to design, build and program a robotic vehicle to tackle seemingly simple tasks such as opening doors, picking up a CD and finding your way without sight in a visual-centric world. 2 minutes 30 seconds for their programmed robot to perform as many tasks as possible, for points. Then, a presentation and Judges Q & A to compete for the remaining 75 points. Their presentation rocks.

It's been a very cool and very fun 8 weeks. These kids have learned about sequencing and movement by assembling the frames of their own silent movie and by personally interviewing Special Needs teachers and a variety of disabled people. They get the idea of systems thinking and the power of small adjustments. They know rudimentary sign language and are using it on each other in the hallways (the first txt msgs?). Best of all, they've reduced the perceptive difference between themselves and people they once couldn't understand or hadn't really thought about. Oh, and yeah, that freedom isn't an abstract concept. In their words, their robot "'fuzzy' is about ability, the thing everbody wants and deserves." Wow. Fourth Grade and they already understand that leadership isn't inspiring others to achieve, but helping them to self-inspire. You didn't hear it from me, but who cares if they win... Mission Accomplished.

[UPDATE: Forgot to mention the all-important interviews and "ethnography" above.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

How 'Dungeons' changed the world

Boston Globe
How 'Dungeons' changed the world

FOR A WHILE, it seemed, I was part of a generation with no discernable qualities, no great contribution to American culture. Too young to be boomers, too old to be "Gen X," this generation was a product of the burned out excess of the seventies married to the surface glow of the eighties. But here in 2004, I realize I belong to the luckiest generation, and not only that, I am part of the luckiest sub-culture within. Maybe we didn't give the world the Beatles or John Updike, but we gave the world Dungeons and Dragons....
A nice piece from the Globe. We spent our time reading Vonnegut and Heinlein when we weren't pretending to be Elvis Costello or watching Kurosawa and Roger Corman flicks, so I never really got the bug, although one friend disappeared seemingly for weeks at a time. But the mythology? Still makes perfect sense.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Paranoia will destroi-ya. We become that which we claim to hate

Zbigniew Brzezinski, October 28, 2003
Since the tragedy of 9/11... we have increasingly embraced ... a phrase repeatedly used at the highest level, "he who is not with us is against us." I say repeatedly because actually some months ago I did a computer check to see how often it's been used at the very highest level in public statements.

The count then quite literally was 99. So it's a phrase which obviously reflects a deeply felt perception. I strongly suspect the person who uses that phrase doesn't know its historical or intellectual origins. It is a phrase popularized by Lenin when he attacked the social democrats on the grounds that they were anti-Bolshevik and therefore he who is not with us is against us and can be handled accordingly.
Paranoia will destroi-ya. Sure it will. And the vortex created spindles and mutilates everything you once believed, and your children's legacy is the wreckage of a future you create, but will not recognize and will be ashamed to admit to in public places. You will do violence to your self and friends to avoid that ownership of a hope gone hideously awry. You will have "become Death, the destroyer of worlds"

Too dramatic? Nah, "worlds" are not just physical things but also spaces in your heart and your head. Death by loneliness or rage or confusion as easily as by bullet, bomb or bludgeon. The vortex whirls... Talk radio is eviscerating Colin Powell as I type this. My Republican friends are oddly mute about this election. The birds ain't singin'. The Purges begin... Dallas Morning News
The elephant in the room: GOP schism

Many moderates say they no longer feel invited to the party

A win doesn't mean that all is well in the Republican Party.

Though their candidate came out ahead on Nov. 2, some moderate Republicans are as despondent as Democrats. While Christian conservatives have been credited with turning out like-minded voters in crucial swing states, many moderates say they have been marginalized.

"There is no future for moderate and progressive Republicans in the Republican Party," said Jim Scarantino, president of the centrist GOP group Mainstream 2004. "The far right wing and the fanatics have seized control."

Mr. Scarantino isn't sure where his brand of Republican politics fits into the GOP. Some Christian conservatives say it doesn't.

"If they can't agree and support the president and the platform, then they ought to go over to the Democrats," said Jan LaRue, chief counsel for the conservative group Concerned Women for America.

After President Bush's re-election, evangelicals were quickly branded the "it" political group. They have taken a two-week victory lap, appearing around the clock on cable news networks while touting a conservative social agenda.

Out of the spotlight and largely overlooked, some moderates said they feel like politicians without a party....

After laboring behind the scenes for years, [devout] conservatives are front and center. And they want the president to move quickly to address their agenda.

The to-do list includes defending traditional marriage, banning human cloning, reforming Social Security, passing more-restrictive abortion laws and stepping up enforcement of obscenity laws, said Ms. LaRue of Concerned Women for America.

And if moderates don't agree with those objectives, perhaps they don't belong in the GOP, she said.

Ms. LaRue calls Mr. Specter a RINO – Republican In Name Only – and questions why politicians such as Sen. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island remain in the Republican Party when they didn't even vote for Mr. Bush.

"Get real," she said. "These are Democrats in Republican clothing."More
The Customer is always right. The Customer isn't always American. Ooops.

Business would b so much easier if it weren't for people and their damned feelings and opinions.

James Wolcott
...Coca-Cola, McDonald's, Marlboro, and GM were all revealing problems echoing those "already faced by Disney, Wal-Mart and Gap."

Corporate chiefs dismissed the connection between falling sales and rising anti-Americanism.

"But the timing of the decline lends credence to warnings by a marketing and advertising group after the Abu Ghraib prison scandal that US brands could face trouble. 'My sense is we are seeing a transfer of anger and resentment from foreign polices to things American,' said Keith Reinhard, chairman of DDB Worldwide, an advertisting agency owned by Omnicon."

Flash-forward to this morning's FT, and its front page story "Coke chief promises 'dramatic' changes."

Coke's chairman Neville Isdell acknowledged deep problems besetting Coke, including "continued weakness" in Germany and France, attributable in part to consumers shifting from sugary carbonated drinks to bottled water, etc.

But only in part.

"Kevin Roberts, chief executive of the Saatchi & Saatchi advertising agency, expects US brands such as Coca-Cola to face 'growing resistance from Europe and Asia' because of opposition to US political policies. [Seymour Hersh, as far from an ad exec as you can get, makes the same point in a recent campus talk.]

"He said: 'Consumers are going to be pissed off at having Brand America rammed down their throats.'" He said that US multinationals would have do develop a advertising camouflage campaign, tailoring their marketing to local markets and deemphasizing the American connection.

In a related story in this morning's NY Times, Coke's chief marketing officer indicated the opposite, saying that Coke would do less "tactical" local advertising and devote more attention to Coke's broad appeal.

"We want to promote the bigger global ideas that are based on universal human insights."

Aye, but here's the rub... More
Surprised? Vous? Moi? Non.

Bailing Sideways: Colin "What Doctrine?" Powell
Failing Upwards: Condoleeza "two lines" Rice

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell has submitted his resignation to President Bush, the White House said on Monday.

National security adviser Condoleezza Rice is the "likely" choice to succeed Powell, a senior U.S. official told CNN.

Rice is "the president's choice," and an announcement is likely this week, another senior U.S. official said.
Hey, It's "The CEO Administration.™" The parody wouldn't be complete without the requisite "failing upwards." Condi's a Peter Principal®!

RICE: Dick Clarke had told me, I think in a memorandum -- I remember it as being only a line or two -- that there were Al Qaeda cells in the United States.

Fineman, MSNBC:
Does Rice really know her role?
How national security adviser's testimony hurt Bush

...A self-proclaimed expert at understanding "structural" change in large institutions, Rice wasn't aware — may still not be aware — that the nature of her job had changed by the time she took over as national security adviser in January 2001. Reared in the Cold War era, she saw herself following in the footsteps of Henry Kissinger. "National security" was largely a matter of global state-to-state diplomacy.

In fact, as her predecessor in effect warned her when he was turning over the keys, the model was no longer so much Kissinger as it was, say, Elliott Ness or J. Edgar Hoover...

Asked at the hearing why she hadn't pressed the FBI more closely about what it knew, or didn't know, about domestic terrorist threats, she acted as though the question was an odd one: It wasn't her job. Well, in retrospect, it was and now certainly is.
Colin Powell in four-letter neo-con 'crazies' row

A furious row has broken out over claims in a new book by BBC broadcaster James Naughtie that US Secretary of State Colin Powell described neo-conservatives in the Bush administration as 'fucking crazies' during the build-up to war in Iraq.

Powell's extraordinary outburst is alleged to have taken place during a telephone conversation with Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. The two became close friends during the intense negotiations in the summer of 2002 to build an international coalition for intervention via the United Nations. The 'crazies' are said to be Vice-President Dick Cheney, Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz....
Oh yeah, The grown-ups are in charge.

Worse than a crime, it was a blunder. - Talleyrand

Sunday, November 14, 2004

From Arianna's Blog
My friend Adam Werbach, the former President of the Sierra Club and co-founder of the Apollo Alliance, will be posting the "November 3 Theses" on the door of the Democratic National Committee Headquarters on Monday, November 15 at 7:30 AM.

November 3rd Theses
"Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results."
- Benjamin Franklin
I. The 2004 presidential election was lost not by John Kerry over the last several months but by the Democratic Party over the last several decades. Democrats have lost control of all three branches of government for the foreseeable future. We are now a minority party.

II. When the Senate Democratic leader is defeated while spending $16 million attempting to get the majority of 500,000 votes, the problem is not a lack of funding or effort.

III. The failure of the Democratic Party to connect with America's desire for fulfillment is political death.

IV. Democrats are now history's spectators, Republicans its actors.

V. The obsession with denouncing the radical conservative project as a "lie" has become a useful substitute for vision.

VI. Renovating Democratic politics is not a question of moving to the right or talking more about religion. It is about creating a framework that once again communicates to the core needs of the American people.

VII. America is not now, and never was, simply "the economy, stupid." What the American people want is a deeper sense of personal meaning, a national mission, and passion in times of fear.

VIII. Returning the Democratic Party to majority status will require a political realignment no less sweeping than that which was accomplished by conservatives over the last 40 years.

IX. Only the breath of a serious and new moral-intellectual vision will be sufficient to resuscitate the Democratic Party.

X. Democratic candidates will continue to lose as long as they treat Americans as rational actors who vote their "self-interest" after weighing competing offers for health care, jobs, and security.

XI. Conservatives have spent the last 40 years getting clear about the values they represent. They have even developed a "family values" brand to represent a framework that coheres traditional prejudices around prayer in school, gun rights, restricting abortion, and restricting gay rights.

XII. By contrast, liberal or 'progressive' groups and Democrats have spent the same period of time defining themselves against conservative values, even 'morality' in general.

XIII. If resources continue to flow to the same leaders who have failed to construct a new vision and have thus left the Democratic Party in ruins then we can expect more of the same. And worse.

XIV. Those who resist the process to create a new vision will be left behind.

XV. Candidates who intend to win should no longer hire consultants who repeatedly lose. Those who counsel caution when dealing with the indifferent, the disaffected, and the undecided do not understand American history. Consultants who advise their clients against offering a clear and compelling vision in fear that it will be attacked should find themselves without a home in the Democratic Party. The sooner they retire, the better.

XVI. Unconnected at a values level, the Democratic Party∂s laundry list of policy proposals is a confusing and alienating hodgepodge of special interests bound together by a vague sense that 'we're all on the same side.' Such a conflation demands no critical self-examination of the interest groups whose turf, and very identities, are treated as inviolable by Party chieftains.

XVII. The progressive vision must be a direct challenge to fundamentalism in all of its forms: political, religious and economic. It must match fundamentalism's power without replicating its authoritarianism. It must appeal to the values of liberty, equality, community, justice, unconditional love, shared prosperity, and ecological restoration, among many others.

XVIII. Democrats serious about returning to majority status must:
· Retire any leader who believes that we are currently on a winning path that simply needs more money and effort.
· Define and articulate a coherent set of values of our base, and be willing to lose those allies who do not share these values.
· Fight battles, win or lose, that define and advance our values and expand our political base.
XIX. In despair and defeat lie the seeds of triumph and victory. In that loss lies the opportunity to define a new progressive politics for the new century.

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