Commentary


Ok, here’s a party trick I’d like to learn to do before I die. Interestingly enough, the process of learning how to do it and remembering it over time, could be one of those mind extenders that will contribute to the quality of my mental abilities over the long term! (not that my mental abilities have ever been that enviable.)

Is it Al Franken or is it Jon Lebkowsky (aka @jonl)?

And what are they thinking about?

Central Texas Futurist and all-round interesting guy, Oliver Markley forwarded this e-mail to me from the World Futures Studies Federation Discussion list.

Hi Folks,

I attended the Barack Obama 47th Birthday Party Fundraiser yesterday, August 4th. This was in the “Great Room” on the 33rd floor of 60 State Street in Boston. Harry Connick Junior was there to sing Happy Birthday.

What is the sound of one hand clapping (and the other hand holding a cellphone camera)?

My social / technical observation of the day is that everyone, myself included, had all their cellphone cameras in full gear so no one had a free hand to clap with. When Obama came out there was a curiously mild applause, almost like a gulf clap. Seeing as this was such an enthusiastic group of supporters that seemed strange, until I realized why. No one had their hands free! It was a sea of cellphone cameras held high like periscopes from a mass of heads. I was reminded of Vonnegut’s classic eyeball-hands of the Trafalmadorians. Feeling somewhat ashamed at contributing to this unintended awkward artifact of the modern era, I quickly stashed my cellphone and started clapping gregariously.

Who could of anticipated that? Welcome to the future.

To view pictures from the event, click here.

Seth Itzkan

Just another interesting way that technology has impacted the way that we interact with each other!

On this day (March 15, 1965), President Johnson went before Congress and called for legislation that would guarantee every American’s right to vote

NYTimes

On this day (March 15, 2008) President Bush pretended like all of the problems with the economy will be solved by a pittance of a tax rebate that will barely pay down a week’s worth of debt most Americans are facing and ridding the federal budget of Congressional earmarks, another pittance in the economic quagmire (never mind that he’s been one of the largest offenders of the loopholed earmark system). He even managed to put the blame back on the American people who are not responding to the offers of assistance for mortgage counseling.

Forty-three years ago our president stood up for what was right and fought for the rights of those who had no voice. Today our (or someone’s) president pretended like there was no problem, refused to take a stand (much less responsibility) and deflected the blame onto those who are hurting.

You may not care for President Johnson, but he had the balls to stand up for people who were hurting and to take responsibility when things were going miserably. He at least showed up prepared, combative, sympathetic, and repentant  – even sorrowful – when  he was unable to navigate the country out of  a desperate situation.

When I was in St. Paul, MN September 9-11, I had a conversation with Remi Douah, the Academic Progress Coordinator for the University of MN Multicultural Center for Academic Excellence and Anne Carroll, St. Paul School Board Member and Partner in Caroll, Franck & Associates. Remi said something that was so beautiful I had to write it down and want to save here:

Power is the ability to be so fulfilled and blessed by the spirit that you’re not afraid to give it away or to make room of others to share.

Which makes me wonder, “What does power look like in a democratic principled society?”

I get The Note, a daily digest of what’s happening in Washington, along with political alerts throughout the day from the ABC News Political Unit. Today’s story is about Clinton’s new healthcare plan and how it has at least given Dems and Reps something to agree on — they don’t like it.

But that isn’t what struck me.

It was the box at the bottom of the page where the Audience Favorites (the popular stories of the day) are listed. The top story is about whether or not Britney will lose custody of her sons, two stories about the O.J. ‘Sting’, a story about a mother dousing her girls in gasoline, and a story about a student being tasered at a pol event.

Everyone wants change in the health care system. People who have it are worried they’ll lose it. I’ve got several very smart, capable friends who are out of work.Yesterday I spoke with a friend who has a Ph.D. and has just accepted a 30 hour/week job driving a school bus just to get health care. I’ve got several other friends who choose to work for themselves. Few of them have adequate coverage. Last week my own health insurance costs went up – again! Even colleagues who have coverage through their employer know that it is a tenuous compact. This is an issue that is uniting unusual characters because our deteriorating system has had such an adverse affect on us all.

As the NY Times week in review article noted last Sunday, “while this is clearly a moment of political opportunity” we’ve been here before. It was inconceivable that health care reform would collapse in 1993 when nearly three-fourths of Americans said they supported the Clinton plan. The Times proposes that we can’t have health care reform until “those who have theirs” are assured that coverage for everyone will not require them to make sacrifices. Allaying these fears seems to be the priority for our current slate of candidates. And perhaps the fact that we can no longer sing the mantra about the virtues of the American health system- that we might cost too much, have a lot of people uninsured, but “by golly it’s the best health care in the world” – will inspire us to make changes.

That assumes, of course that people are paying attention to what matters. Which brings me back to my “audience favorites”. In the overall scheme of things, who raises Britney’s kids will have less impact on the American people than what Congress and the future President do about our health care crisis. But it is hard to imagine policy-makers feeling any pressure to do the hard work necessary to solve this mess when we aren’t even paying attention. They can make pronouncements about their intent knowing they’ll never have to deliver because we are so easily distracted. I’d love to believe that we will finally get some relief from the burden of our bloated, inefficient, inequitable health care system, but the skeptic in me worries that policy-makers will still be promising reform while the American people are riveted on the exploits of Britney’s grown sons.

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In the movie Powder, there’s a beautiful exchange between the popular and sensitive girl and the albino teenager when she notices the neighbors’ stares and says, “you must feel like you have two heads, the way everybody looks at you around here, huh?”

His initial response describes a strategy I try to use when I’m moderating. “Have you ever listened to people from the inside?”

But in the next two lines he describes a deeper form of listening:

“Listen so close you can hear their thoughts, and all their memories? Hear them think from places they don’t even know they think from?”

The movie may be a sci-fi, fantasy and Jeremy Reed (Powder) may have paranormal abilities, but think what would happen if we listened to each other’s thoughts and memories, sensitive to the how those memories affect the places others think from, even places they don’t know themselves. Am I crazy to think this could be a huge step toward understanding and perhaps even peace?

I’m still in the middle of the film, but I don’t that peace is not one of its big themes and I’ll be bawling before it’s over. Still, I’m ever hopeful!

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