Saturday, November 25, 2017

Fourth Turning Analogy

On September 20, 2017, Hurricane Maria plowed through Puerto Rico with a deadly destruction that left island residents scraping for survival or forced to flee to the U.S. mainland.  The hurricane destroyed the infrastructure of Puerto Rico, however the old electrical grid design will not be used to rebuild.  The new design includes solar power, batteries, and micro-grids.

This is an example of a crisis becoming an opportunity to rebuild using design thinking.  Hurricane Maria has made Puerto Rico the land of opportunity for solar power and micro-grids.

In the same way, on November 8, 2016, the election of Donald Trump as President destroyed the political and social norms of America, however the old political design will not be used to rebuild.  The political and social norms will be redesigned for a different future as described in the book “The Fourth Turning” (1).

The election hurricane plowed through America’s political and social norms with deadly destruction.  The winds of change will continue through 2020 when a new President will be elected.  Hurricane Trump continues to destroy the political and social infrastructure of America.  However the old design will not be used to rebuild.  A new design for political and social infrastructure will emerge over time through 2030.

The current crisis causes a reaction by citizens and non-citizens in America.  The polarization of Democrats and Republicans, by race, ethnicity, gender, wealth, income and many other self-identity measures will continue through 2020.

A perfect storm of Generations influencing events and events influencing Generations accelerates toward 2020. The older cohorts from the GI Generation and the Silent Generation are passing out of society and the Millennials come of age as Young Adults over 18. GenX moves into Midlife and Baby Boomers replace the Seniors by becoming Elders. 
As these Generations move through time, we can see for example, the increasing influencing of the Millennial Generation in the 2008, 2012 and 2016 Presidential elections, and yet less than 50% voted in 2012. What happens when the majority register to vote and they actually vote? What happens when Millennials organize to support social movements like climate change and partner with Baby Boomers?
(1) Strauss, William, and Neil Howe. The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy. New York: Broadway, 1997. 

President Trump

Trump has low self esteem.  When he receives positive affirmations, he gets a short-lived boost in self esteem that quickly decreases without a constant flow of positive affirmations.

In order to boost Trump’s self esteem, a constant inflow of positive affirmations are required to maintain a higher level of self esteem.  Trump seeks out ways to find people who give him a constant flow of positive affirmations.  With Trump’s wealth and position, and using Twitter, he is buying a constant flow of positive affirmations from the people around them.

A President with low self esteem, is like “The Emperor’s New Clothes” story about two weavers who promise an emperor a new suit of clothes that they say is invisible to those who are unfit for their positions, stupid, or incompetent.

The clothes represent an inflow of positive affirmations from the weavers.  The people around Trump are the weavers he is paying to give him a constant flow of positive affirmations.  If an adult or a child cries out, "But he isn't wearing anything at all!”, then they are fired or removed from access to Trump.


Any criticism of Trump, or facts that don’t agree with his world view, are quickly suppressed or discredited or not heard by Trump.  He learned to tell stories in public that are positive affirmations that boost his own self esteem when his audience agrees. For Trump, false information, conspiracy theories and blatant lies become a constant flow of positive affirmations believed by Trump and his audience.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Beach Buddha

The man standing close to me on the sand was wrapped in burgundy cloth gathered over his left shoulder. If he was real, I could have reached out and touched him.  But before I could do anything, we were startled by that one wave that flows higher on the beach. With his back to the ocean, the wave washed over the tops of his ankle-high shoes and he started high stepping beside me as I backpedaled, watching him go past me. 

His friends were laughing so loud, for what seemed like a long time - two couples and a little boy.  There was nothing remarkable about their clothes or behavior.  They weren’t speaking English, but maybe one would speak to me.  I didn’t know what to say to him, so I didn’t speak.

“Are you the Buddha?” I wondered.

Not his skin color, but the color of his cloth robe told me his country of origin.  Only Theravada monks wrap themselves in burgundy cloth.  Theravada Buddhism is strongest in Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos and Burma (Myanmar). What was a Theravada Buddhist monk doing on an Oregon beach?

I doubt that he knew the rule about never turning your back on the Pacific Ocean.  We were complacent, standing in the sun on a warm October day with little or no wind.  What a strange situation and coincidence that brought us together here at this place, at this time. 

On the right beach, on the right day, at the right time, under the right conditions, you may find — just for a while — that the seventh wave washes up higher on the beach.  Or you might stand there counting waves, you lose track of time and who is near you.  In that moment, your mind wanders, you stop counting, then realize you have stopped counting and have to start over again.

If this man was not the Buddha, then maybe we were there to share that moment without talking. Each breath we took had a moist ocean smell. I turned and glanced behind me to see him reach down and pull up his wet socks.  Looking along the beach the people appeared to be stationary ghosts in a translucent fog.  Sunlight and ocean mist painted watercolor ghosts standing on the sand. 

If the ghosts standing on the beach, in the warm October sunlight, didn’t appear to move, then they might not be real.  As the tide was going out, waves broke farther out, exposing more sand on the beach.  Sea gulls stood with certainty in the shallow water waiting for the next wave to bring food.

Remember what the moment felt like when that one wave, unannounced, pushing a front edge of foam across the sand, washed over the top of his ankle high boots? Watching him and the foam edge, engaging my motor skills to run backwards; that all happened in a second.  Now, I am uncertain that not talking to him was the best way to react.  Maybe I should have taken a stand, to stand absolutely firm in my intention to engage with him.

Standing Man

The man standing alone on June 17, 2013 was Erdem Gunduz, Turkey's "Standing Man," who became a symbol of peaceful protest in Taksim Square, inspiring a movement.  All he did to earn this status was to stand completely still.

Hope means believing that society and laypeople have the ability to undertake actions to make a difference.  Gunduz stood from 6pm until about 2am.  Police searched his clothes and bag while he was standing still.  They tried to talk to him.  Then slowly other people came and stood nearby, not moving.  There were live broadcasts and videos shared over the internet of Gunduz and the others standing still.

We remain forever in doubt of where we come from before we are born and where we go after we die.  Between those two events, we choose hope.  We choose to stand for something: for principles, values, ethics, insight, mindfulness and many other positive experiences.

I used the “Standing Man” technique once at a public event with someone who’s behavior I had finally determined was not going to change no matter what I said or did.  I tried many times to understand why they behaved the way they did.  Finally, at a scheduled event, instead of engaging with them or confronting them, I decided ahead of time I was going to simply stand there and not react or engage but simply look them in the eye.

I gave them nothing to criticize. They were totally flustered and walked away.  That person has never spoken to me since, except via email communication that remains cold and calculating. I doubt that I will ever get over the lies, misinformation, manipulation and criticism that they flung my way without any justification.  All for the purpose of putting me down to temporarily inflate their own ego.

When my mind wanders into the past, the uncertainty of relationships informs the ghosts in my mind. They remind me of the watercolor ghosts standing on the sand that day I saw the Theravada monk at Cannon Beach.  

In Theravada Buddhism, a very strong relationship exists between monks and lay people.  In the present, that bond would not exist without interaction by way of mutual support - lay people supply food, medicine, and cloth for robes, and monks give spiritual support, blessings, and teachings.  But this is not a tit for tat situation. Monks are not allowed to request anything from lay people; and lay people cannot demand anything from the monks.  The way of Theravada, in the spirit of open-hearted giving, stands for values that support community.

The spirit of the Theravada tradition emerges from their scripture, first passed on verbally and then written down based on the original teachings of Buddha.  Unlike Zen, that is based on verbal teaching from a Zen Master, Theravada requires reading the scriptures and verbal instruction.

Maybe someday I could adopt a Theravada monk and ask him if he is the Buddha. Or simply live with my watercolor ghosts, my wandering mind, my relationships.  Maybe there is a way for me to join a community.

Impossible Dilemmas

The Beach Buddha and the Standing Man create in our mind impossible dilemmas.  They engage our emotions so that we feel doubt.  The greater the doubt, the greater the insight.  But insight into what?  And just how do we do this?  And why subject myself to this emotional disorientation?

Zen Koans are an ancient example of verbal dilemmas that encourage uncertainty and doubt. Encouraging fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) also became a common tactic in negative marketing campaigns in the 1980s and 1990s in the software industry.

FUD might be a personal strength.  The poet John Keats (1795-1821) argued that the secret to being an artist was to cultivate a mindset he called Negative Capability: “capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.”  As an artistic practice, Negative Capability becomes learning all sides of a question as a critical thinker. Maybe an artist and intellectual’s ability increases when they hold in their mind, at the same time, negative capability and personal beliefs.  


When you really stop believing your thoughts, insight happens.  In psychology, positive thinking reigns supreme and an infinite number of self-help books describe how to stop negative thinking.  If I practice holding duality in my mind, then negative capability and positive personal beliefs, life and death, the sound of one hand clapping, and many other impossible dilemmas remain peacefully unresolved in my mind.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Do You Believe In Air?

One human said to another: “This thing called air; do you believe in it?”  Immersed in air from our first breath to our last; we’re oblivious to air like a fish swims in water.

Still here, the Greek gods of the sea, underground and sky were wakened by humans in the 20th Century.  The god of oceans and rising sea levels, Poseidon fuels hurricanes, cyclones and typhoons.  The god of the dark underground world of geology, marshes and methane hydrates, Hades fuels methane burping and throws a major tantrum when awakened.  The god of sky, cloud and thunder, Zeus has a fever and seems increasingly pissed off.

The gods have exaggerated personalities and are plagued with personal flaws and negative emotions despite their immortality and superhero-like powers.  However, humans interfered with the air by increasing the CO2 in the atmosphere.  This awakened the sleeping giant gods from below and above, and they started acting wildly and uncontrollably. The home of the gods has a temperature hotter than at any time for three million years.

American Christians have no power over the gods of sea, underground and sky. Americans believe that we are the dominant nation on the planet, that we wield the power and that we are entitled to exploit other humans and species.  This arrogance, presumed rational control, and technology give us the illusion of mastery over the earth.

Living on the earth with each other for hundreds of thousands of years, the recent deaths of forests, animals and humans progressed until the gods were awakened to the ecocide.  WWII caused the genocide of over 6 million humans.  Ecocide will reduce the global population by one billion humans and risk generations of harm to billions more in the future.

This thing called air; do you believe in it?


Tuesday, July 4, 2017

External Costs of Fossil Fuels


The production of goods and services, that use energy from burning fossil fuels, does not include the costs of the increased risk of premature deaths and ongoing healthcare for pollution related illnesses.  Economists refer to these costs as external costs.(1)

The cost to consumers for goods and services with external costs are effectively being subsidized by society-at-large.  For example, fossil fuel companies receive subsidies through tax breaks. External costs also include polluted water, land and air both locally and on a global scale. The external costs in burning fossil fuels (negative externality) mean the social cost will be greater than the private cost. The existence of external costs defines a market failure. This is because the American economic market ignores the existence of external costs.(2)

The benefits to consumers from decreased pollution are not included in the cost of renewable energy from wind and solar that decreases the risk of premature deaths and decreases healthcare costs for everyone.  These external benefits are being received by society-at-large.  The cost of renewable energy to consumers would be lower if the benefits to the overall economy were included.

The benefits to consumers from decreased pollution are not included in the cost of electric vehicle ownership.  The external benefits are being received by the global society.  The cost to consumers of electric transportation would be lower if the benefits to society-at-large were included.

The gap between the subsidized cost of fossil fuels and the high cost (due to externalized benefits) of renewables and electric transportation does not account for the economic impact of external costs and benefits.  Government policy to narrow the gap has Republicans focused on their ideology that requires individual rights to override any collective rights or social benefits.

Politics balances individual rights and collective rights.  Prior to 2017, individual rights to profit, wealth, choice and private property contributed to the low cost of fossil fuels by externalizing the costs to society.  America’s Constitution enshrines individual rights as the primary ideal.  Being an American requires believing in individual financial independence and individual rights defined in laws.  Republicans have embraced this ideology and their supporters identify with these ideals.

In the future, the collective rights to clean water, land and air will contribute to lowering the costs of renewable energy and electric transportation.  The cost of fossil fuels will increase to account for the pollution of water, land and air.  As of 2017, the market has failed for decades to account for either because of the focus on individual rights instead of valuing collective rights.

America needs a policy that internalizes the current external costs of fossil fuels and monetizes the benefits of renewables and electric transportation for consumers.

How do we solve the problem? In economics, there is a principle that applies generally to situations of market failure called the principle of the second best.  The best solution is to eliminate the externality.  However, that is not possible in this case.

The principle of the second best says that when you have a market failure, the best policy is the one that most precisely corrects for the original problem. Whatever policy the principle of the second best recommends will be the policy that most precisely offsets the original distortion. In this case, what’s the original problem?

The original problem is an externality that allows producers to pass costs on to someone else, who doesn’t have a say in the matter. To correct that problem, decision makers must internalize the externality through laws and changing the tax code.

Politicians will enact changes in laws, increase taxes and eliminate subsidizes. With changes will come a change in behavior.  Why would Republicans agree to this change?  They won’t.  Democrats, representing a majority of Americans, will need to pass legislation to enshrine into law (and maybe one or more Amendments to the Constitution) the ideology of collective rights as a balance to individual rights.

 Conclusion

The recommended action is simple. The actual implementation is not because Republicans will fight against increasing collective rights. To balance individual rights and collective rights, governments must use the tax code to stop subsidizing fossil fuels and increase subsidizes for renewable energy and EV transportation.


2.  Block, Fred L., and Margaret R. Somers. The Power of Market Fundamentalism: Karl Polanyi's Critique. Harvard University Press, April 2014.


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Four big reasons why deniers started believing in climate change

A recent article summarized "Four big reasons why deniers started believing in climate change”

The biggest reason was a slow acceptance of clear scientific evidence.

People tend to reject the validity of scientific evidence when it conflicts with their deeply held world-views. 

For conservative individuals, who doubted climate change, one example article was far more effective at convincing them that humans caused global warming because the science was presented in an existing pro-industry narrative.

The solutions proposed for climate change are pro-business, pro-military, pro-national security, pro-economy, and pro-jobs.

There are now more people working (over 100,000 & growing) in renewable energy jobs than in all the oil industry that is continuing to cut jobs and had a $67 Billion loss in 2015.


Friday, March 17, 2017

Draft Article 1 Impeachment

DRAFT:
By the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives, March 17, 2017

Article 1

RESOLVED, That Donald J. Trump, President of the United States, is impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors, and that the following articles of impeachment be exhibited to the Senate:

ARTICLES OF IMPEACHMENT EXHIBITED BY THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA IN THE NAME OF ITSELF AND OF ALL OF THE PEOPLE OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, AGAINST DONALD J. TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, IN MAINTENANCE AND SUPPORT OF ITS IMPEACHMENT AGAINST HIM FOR HIGH CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS.

ARTICLE 1

In his conduct of the office of President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, in violation of his constitutional oath to faithfully execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, has prevented, obstructed, and impeded the administration of justice, in that:

In 2016, and prior thereto, agents of the Donald J. Trump for President, Inc (campaign organization) conspired and colluded with agents of a foreign country to pay computer hackers to infiltrate the Democratic National Committee (DNC) computer network, leading to a data breach at the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee in Washington, District of Columbia, for the purpose of securing political intelligence.  The content of the stolen emails themselves was not nearly as important as how the 2016 election was disrupted by the Russian espionage.

Subsequent thereto, Donald J. Trump, using the powers of the Office of the President, engaged personally and through his close subordinates and agents, in a course of conduct or plan designed to delay, impede, and obstruct the investigation of such illegal data breach; to cover up, conceal and protect those responsible; and to conceal the existence and scope of other unlawful covert activities.

The means used to implement this course of conduct or plan included one or more of the following:
  1. making false or misleading statements to lawfully authorized investigative officers and employees of the United States about communications by his campaign staff with Russian citizens;
  2. withholding relevant and material evidence or information from lawfully authorized investigative officers and employees of the United States about communications by his campaign staff with Russian citizens;
  3. making or causing to be made false or misleading public statements for the purpose of deceiving the people of the United States into believing that a thorough and complete investigation had been conducted with respect to allegations of misconduct on the part of personnel of the executive branch of the United States and personnel of the Donald J. Trump for President, Inc (campaign organization), and that there was no involvement of such personnel in such misconduct;
  4. when President Trump accused Obama in March 2017 of an act in 2016 that would have been impeachable and possibly criminal, and the FBI in 2017 states that is not true and there’s no evidence of this criminal act, that accusation is misconduct by the President.
In all of this, Donald J. Trump has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as President and subversive of constitutional government, to the great prejudice of the cause of law and justice and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States.

Wherefore Donald J. Trump, by such conduct, warrants impeachment and trial, and removal from office.

DRAFT:

By the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives, March 17, 2017