"To discover to the world something which deeply concerns it, and of which it was previously ignorant; to prove to it that it had been mistaken on some vital point of temporal or spiritual interest, is as important a service as a human being can render to his fellow creatures..."
John Stuart Mill, "On Liberty"
When we talk about the homeless, especially in our major cities, we imagine those that are visible on the streets and sidewalks. We don’t see the two million plus children who are homeless. The children and families living in cars, or motel rooms, or emergency shelters. They constitute an Invisible Nation: Homeless Families in America
How did this happen in a country and in cities as rich as San Francisco, or New York or Washington? Journalist Richard Schweid takes us deep into the bottom of a homeless economy that should shame us all.
When Sally Ride blasted off as the first American woman into space back in 1983, she may not have know it at the time, but she stood on the shoulders of dozens of woman who, beginning in the 1940's, helped America compete in the space race and the Cold War.
Based at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, these woman essentially provided the computational power that made rocketry viable. They shattered not only glass ceilings, but helped free us from what poet John Magee call the “surly bonds of earth.”
Nathalia Holt, trained at Massachusetts General Hospital, MIT and Harvard, takes us back to a seminal time for woman and America in space.
Parenting has gone from something natural to something that has become a job with many specific rules, fears and requirements. In fact it’s both more than than and less than sum total of all those rules.
Perhaps no modern campaigns has generated as much coverage as the 2016 Presidential election. Wall to Wall and 24/7. Everything has been covered and analyzed..or has it.
Even with the occasional hat tip to the Christian Right of the Republican Party, it seems that religion has certainly not been a tool to add further analyses to this sui generis election. And few would argue that among all the other crisis engendered by the election, that a religious crisis is part of the mix.
However that is exactly one of the conclusions reached by Georgetown University Professor Joshua Mitchell.
In these troubled and uncertain times, it seems that the only thing we can take comfort from is history. Civilizations, empires and nations come and go. But how it happens and why is where we find lessons that may comfort us and maybe save us.
Few periods are as instructive as Pax Romana (Latin for "Roman peace.") It was the long period of relative peacefulness and minimal expansion by the Roman military force after the end of the Final War of the Roman Republic and before the beginning of the Crisis of the Third Century.
Just as the existential question of why individuals succeed and fail, vexes every aspect of both public policy and personal debate, so to with nations. History tells us of the rise and fall of nations. In so doing it gives us clues about economics, demographics, planning and even how the individual drive for success scales up to impact whole nations.
But of course, like everything else, we seek clear and precise metrics to try and make business decisions, geopolitical policy decisions, and simply anticipate the future in order to make a better world.
If you listen to John F. Kennedy campaigning in the West Virginia primary in 1960, it’s amazing how so many of the same issues still haunt us. Then it was the Republicans who didn't seem to understand the plight of Appalachia and of working America.
Democrats, in the person of JFK and later Johnson and Bobby Kennedy, made the personal and policy connection. So what happened? How did their party lose touch with that part of America?
The broad answers are complicated and best left for historians. However, how the Democratic party reconnects is a very contemporary political issues.
Books are flying off the shelf trying to explain flyover country to Democrats. Books like Arlie Hochschild's Strangers in Their Own Land and most notably J.D. Vance's Hillbilly Elegy.
But it’s possible that some of these books, particularly Vance's, teach the wrong lesson. Just like the 1960's, the lesson is not one of promulgating conservative culture and Horatio Alger stories, but of the failure of government to do the right thing.
It seems as if creative destruction and technology are changing everything...even sex.
This may be problematic given the degree to which sex is connected to everything else; marketing, relationships, essentially all forms of human interaction. As Emily Witt says, “we organize our society around the way we define our sexual relationships.”
The inflection point at which all these forces are coming together, is in part what Emily Witt writes about in her new book Future Sex: A New Kind of Free Love. Yet even in that future, as Woody Allen so aptly said..."we all need the eggs."
“Children's playthings are not sports and should be deemed their most serious actions," Montaigne wrote.
Freud regarded play as the means by which the child accomplishes his first great cultural and psychological achievements; through play he expresses himself. This is true, Freud thought, even for an infant whose play consists of nothing more than smiling at his mother, as she smiles at him. He noted how much and how well children express their thoughts and feelings through play.
Why then should we assume that we outgrow the value of play? The wonder of seeing the world through joy, rather than fear. Think about all that you’ve read about the creativity of silicon valley...the atmosphere of fun that entrepreneurs try to create.
Today even education is being built around the idea of projects, of teams, of fun and of wonder.
I talked to a Democratic member of Congress recently who told me how both Democrats and Republicans were still surprised by the outcome of the recent election. Really? It seems as if Republicans shouldn’t have been that surprised. The predicate of the election, the drawing of congressional districts, the resulting increase in polarization, the control of state houses, state legislatures, and secretaries of state that control the election process and conduct are all areas the GOP has been trying to control and manipulate for years.
They’ve taken the practice of gerrymandering to levels never before seen. As a result, the insular nature of certain districts not only makes for a secure GOP majority in Congress, but it also closes off some of those districts from any kind of real transparency or scrutiny.
Every aspect of our media landscape is changing. As newspapers are having to move online, they have to find new ways to engage an audience. Television is now on demand and personal and has lost its immediacy and its mandate for news and information. The long tail of blogs and specialty news sites reinforces confirmation bias.
All of this creates new problems and challenges not just for content providers, but also for the advertisers that have been the traditional supporters of traditional media.
Not a day goes by that you don’t pick up your smartphone to access a piece of information. Every dinner party or get together has the scene where everyone races to their phones to look up a fact or prove a point.
It’s so easy….so easy in fact that we often think, certainly our kids think, that they don’t need a large basic body of knowledge. Why memorize anything when you can just look it up..it’s all there in the cloud...right?
Well it is. But fundamental knowledge does matter. What we know, not what Siri knows, can truly impact and shape the lives we lead, the work we do, the friends we have and really defines our place in the world. We have just witnessed what happens when large groups of people don’t have that basic
A not terribly successful American President was right when he said that “the business of America is business.” In fact, today it would be safer to say that the business of the world is business.
Whether through globalization, or just through the individual entrepreneurship of citizen in the developing world, business is the one force that seems to counter unrest, instability, joblessness, and even extremism.
Wisdom and experience tells us we will not stop extremism in the Middle East, or other violent region, with just guns, drones and military force. But it just may be that fostering entrepreneurship and job creation may be one answer.
Fifty four years ago JFK, at the height of the Cold War, set us on a path to the moon.
Today, absent the Cold War and in a world where a new photo or dating app becomes a billion dollar effort, it’s hard to think in terms of such massive, global and societal undertaking.
Yet one man does. Be it electric cars, solar powering the nation, or going to Mars, Elon Musk thinks differently than everyone else...but he does want all of us to join him in that effort. The Washington Post's Joel Achenbach has written the cover story for National Geographic's special Mars Issue
Back in 1992 the mantra of the Bill Clinton campaign was that “it's the economy stupid.” Surprising, since the majority of American campaigns for President have always been about the economy.
However since the 1970’s that economy has been changing dramatically and rapidly. It was only as far back as the Nixon administration that we were still on the gold standard. Things like derivatives didn’t exist. Subprime lending, globalization of money and creative destruction in the economy had not yet set up a paradigm for collapse.
Presiding over so much of this change, watching all of it and dire
cting some of it, was Alan Greenspan. Towering over the Federal Reserve for 18 years and serving five Presidents, no one knew more about the inner and outer working of the American economy than Greenspan.
Look around your home or office, or even your car. Everything there was designed. Albeit not always well. Sometimes with an eye towards function, sometimes looking at form and sometimes with thought into the human interface. Wouldn't it be great if everything was designed with equal parts engineering, aesthetics and a real understand of how human beings will interface with whatever it is?
That methodology, that combination of humanity and art and engineering is what’s now called Design Thinking. It’s an important part of Silicon Valley’s disruption and progress
But imagine if the same concepts could apply not just to computers or to a mouse or a phone, but to your entire life?
In many schools today these idea of Design Thinking are combining with project based curriculum and human centered collaborating and producing the future leaders of the 21st Century.
Herbert Hoover said that “the business of America is business.” If he were around today, in the age of globalization, he might have referred to the business of the world.
Yet as our current election shows, as the recent Brexit votes showed, the connection between people and business has never been more tattered and frayed.
Globalization itself, disruption, dislocation, the obsession with short term profits and shareholder value, coupled with the free flow of goods and money and jobs around the world, has created a chasm between the world’s businesses and ordinary citizens.
At a time when technology has made it easier for citizens to actually come together and be engaged, business has too often retreated to its C Suites in the hopes that the storm would pass.
But the clouds are getting darker. With more automation and AI, now reaching virtually every sector of work.
With worker and public anger reaching toxic levels, business can no longer hide, it must be, in the words of former BP Chief Executive John Browne, more willing to Connect.
Think about those things that are usually the most personal, the most intimate and complex.
A few of them are what goes on inside a marriage, why and how people give away money (there is a reason many do it anonymously) and the degree to which the business of America is business. These are the elements that make up the story of Ray and Joan Kroc.
A story that is part Edward Albee, part Fortune magazine and part political, in the sense that the personal is indeed political.
Ray Kroc was the driving and force that made McDonald's bloom throughout the world and Joan Kroc was one of our most liberal and generous philanthropists of our times.
It’s always so interesting all the assumptions we make about history. They tell us something about the assumptions we might be making about our divide today.
When we think about the Civil War era, for example, we think in clear lines...the North vs. the South. Yet in families, in communities and in the states themselves, many were conflicted. Then as now, there were personal and economic interests that crossed over both sides.
Nowhere was this more the case than in the city of New York. While seemingly a part of the North, its economic interests in cotton, shipping and even the slave trade made New York what it has always been. A capital of commerce, whose interests in the context of the war were conflicted. A cautionary tale about our divide today.
Watching post-Election Day events has been like watching a car wreck. We know we shouldn’t look, but we can’t help but be curious. The key difference here is that the wreck affects us, the clown car or transition planning gives us some idea of how we will all be impacted over the next four years.
The President said that this is simply one of the zig zags of history; that often things have gotten worse before they get better. Certainly from a historical perspective, that’s true, but what does it mean for America and the world of the 21st century?
Every day, we hear political pundits talking about what happened and why, and some of it is good and insightful, but most of it comes from the same people that didn’t see it all coming.
Sarah Kendzior lives among it, in the heartland of America. She’s written extensively on the subjects of race and class and America’s role in the world and recently published a book of her essays entitled: The View from Flyover Country.
It's hard to imagine today, but the East, what we refer to now as the Middle East, was once a pinnacle of civilization. Like all great civilizations, it struggled with conflict between personal values and its laws, about succession and tribalism and security. It evolved a form of rule in the Islamic world that lasted for almost 1300 years..by any account a pretty good run.
Today that rule, what was once called the Caliphate, has been morphed into something far removed from it’s original meaning. As such, it has become a word that embodies the worst, not the best of civilization. Esteemed historian Hugh Kennedy puts all of this in perspective in Caliphate: The History of an Idea.
We are a nation of immigrants. For 240 years we have opened our arms to those seeking to come to America and for many of those years New York has been ground zero. But the immigrant story, even in, or especially in New York, has not been one of ease. The process and pain of assimilation, the fear of the other, the competition for resources have always created wedges between immigrant groups and so called nativists.
So why is it that these issues seem to repeat themselves over and over, like a kind of Groundhog Day. The issues are the same, only the ethnic roots change...yet we never seem to learn the lessons.
Medicare has often been referred to as the third rail of American politics. Because it has become so woven into the fabric of American life, so necessary and vital for seniors, , both politicians and those that have legitimate interest in improving public policy, are afraid to touch it. It’s as if the admonition to "do no harm" is first and foremost about medicare.
Yet it is a program that at fifty-one, is showing signs of old age. It’s solvency in question, its operational model, post ACA, is in question and its relevance within the context of 21st century medicine and medical practice is in need of reassessment.
How many times have we heard that this election is like no other? That this is an extinction level event, threatening the very fabric of the republic. And yet history tells us that we’ve survived far worse. Be it the civil war, McCarthyism, violent labor strife at the turn of the last century, political assassination and of course, the chaos of the 1960’s