Plutocrats, Here Come the Pitchforks! (Says a Plutocrat)

Billionaire entrepreneur Nick Hanauer has a message for his fellow plutocrats: Wake up before the pitchforks are at our gates.

In this stimulating TED talk, Hanauer urges his fellow 0.01 percenters to get behind a national $15 minimum wage because doing so is good for business and because if they don’t, a popular uprising is inevitable. The fundamental operating principle of capitalism, he argues, is that when the middle class has money, businesses have customers, which means demand, which means profits, which means more workers. It is not, he argues, capitalism’s raison d’etre to make sure a handful of people become excruciatingly wealthy.

This brief talk is filled with pithy observations and quotable quotes but, beyond that, it is powerful medicine that needs to be heeded if this country is to survive in anything resembling its present form. Early in the talk, Hanauer says, “If wealth, power, and income continue to concentrate at the very tippy top, our society will change from a capitalist democracy to a neo-feudalist rentier society like 18th-century France. That was France before the revolution and the mobs with the pitchforks.”

I encourage you to take 20 minutes to listen to Mr. Hanauer. He’s right. And the time he forecasts is fast approaching.

It’s Not Her Chronological Age That’s a Problem, It’s the Antiquity of Her Thinking

Maureen Dowd puts her finger on the “why-are-you-so-opposed-to-HRC?” question that bounces into my inbox multiple times a day from well-meaning Democratic friends of mine.

“It’s not that she’s too old,” Ms. Dowd writes in her column today, “It’s that she’s too old-think, thrusting herself forward as a hawk at a time when hawks — in the season of Elizabeth Warren and Rand Paul — aren’t so cool.”

And it’s not just when it comes to foreign policy that HRC is too old-think. Her political strategies, her positions on social issues, her understanding of the New Social Fabric of social media and a dozen other aspects of her “thought” are all too old.

hillary_clintonJust about the only thing she has going for her candidacy is her gender. American women are a force to be dealt with and they have a strong sense that their turn has come, that it the country can support and twice elect a man of color, then it is time a woman gained the highest office in the land. Just because she’s a woman.

But, as a feminist, I’d a lot rather see a truly progressive man at the head of the party’s ballot in 2016 than a stuck woman. Come to that, I could enthusiastically and easily support a truly progressive woman candidate (can you say Elizabeth Warren?), but I doubt that will happen. For a woman to oppose HRC in 2016 would be political suicide. It might well be for a man as well but anyone gutsy enough to force a split in the ranks of the females of the Party would find herself on the outside looking in if Ms. Clinton were to win the Presidency.

So I’ll say it again. If Hillary Clinton is the party’s nominee, she’ll get my vote. But not one stitch of additional support of any kind. Not my time. Not my enthusiasm. Not my money. And I’ll hope she wins because any Democrat — no matter how old his or her thinking — will be infinitely better than any Republican candidate on the current political horizon.


Best Shot in Years for a Progressive Agenda?

The perennial idea that America may have its best chance of moving strongly in a progressive direction arises again this political season.

Here’s a somewhat plausible scenario under which we could end up with our first Progressive President since Kennedy-Johnson.

  1. Hilary Clinton either decides not to run for the nomination in 2016 or is defeated from the Left.
  2. The Republican Party, held in thrall by the Tea Party contingent, nominates a candidate for the White House who is widely as repugnant as many Senatorial candidates were in 2012 elections.
  3. The nation, faced with what it sees as a choice between two extremes, opts for the Leftist principally because the GOP nominee is just too far right.

I don’t see the odds of these events all occurring in 2016 as being very good, frankly.

But I do see 2016 as our last great hope of salvaging a nation of compassion, cooperation and, ultimately, internal peace. If the nation continues its disastrous trend to the Right — and this will happen whether the Republicans or the Corporate Democrats win the White House — then the pendulum may well have swung too far. The only real hope for our great nation then will be for a populist awakening with deeply spiritual roots that begins the transformation from “me” to “we”. Because without that shift, without that miracle, America is destined to become a far different country in the next 10-15 years than it has been for most of its first 200+.


Matt Asay Misses the Boat Entirely on HTML5

Matt Asay just added himself to my List of Tech Columnists Who Shouldn’t Be Allowed to Have Their Own Columns.

HTML5 LogoIn a ridiculous piece on TechRepublic, Asay gets it so totally wrong about HTML5 that I had to shake my head a couple of times and wonder if he was actually conscious. Maybe he’s just a Click Baiter (the headline, after all, was almost as stupid as the piece itself: “HTML5: Doomed to Fail or Just Getting Started?”

Neither, you moron! It is well established, in increasing use every day and the fact that you can’t see that suggests that you are a cave dweller.

Now, maybe – maybe — Asay means to confine his remarks only to the mobile development space. Which begs the question why his piece is slugged “Web Development” and he never once specifically says he’s focused only on mobile. But in the context of the overall theme of his piece, one could conclude that he’s only considering mobile. Even there, his conclusions are outlandishly uninformed.

In two minutes of searching, I found a blog post that lists no fewer than 16 major media, publishing and related sites and services who have jumped on the HTML5 bandwagon:

  • Hearst Publishing
  • New York Times
  • Wall Street Journal
  • Popular Mechanics
  • YouTube
  • Vimeo
  • Viacom
  • Pandora
  • Slideshare
  • Disney
  • HBO
  • Nickolodeon
  • Progressive Insurance
  • Salesforce
  • Amazon
  • W3C

In addition, the auto industry has been adopting HTML5 broadly and deeply, and all of those apps are mobile in nature. So much for Asay’s stance on mobile.

Do a Google search for “HTML5 adoption” and check out the dozens and dozens of articles that have appeared in the past year alone about the subject. All you can conclude is that this is one tech columnist who is just dead wrong on a very important issue. The problem is that by being published by TechRepublic, he gets a big audience to listen to him regardless of his being right or wrong.

LiveCode + APIs = Easy-Bake Apps & Mashups

As I return to the LiveCode fold after a somewhat long absence, I am preparing to speak at the upcoming RunRev Live 2014 conference in San Diego. I’m going to be speaking about using LiveCode to create Web-based applications in advance of the HTML5 delivery platform for LiveCode which has recently been fully funded in a community financial effort.

livecodelogoLiveCode excels at a lot of things. One that occurred to me recently is that between its ability to access the Internet and its extremely powerful content-parsing capabilities, it is an absolutely ideal platform for building apps based on any of the tens of thousands of publicly accessible programming APIs.

With one line of code, a LiveCode app can access through an API any arbitrarily complex data structured as text or XML and stuff it into a parseable variable. Then using the chunking expressions that are so amazingly powerful in xTalk vocabularies like LiveCode, parsing out the data from those return data structures that you want to use in the app is really pretty trivial.

Find a couple of related APIs, retrieve the appropriate data from both sources, manipulate and combine the data and add a solid user experience (using LC’s drag-and-drop UX builder) and, voila!, mashup City.

I’m looking forward to exploring this functionality, as well as some other cool Web things in recent LC releases that have shifted the internal Web object from homegrown to WebKit, at the San Diego gathering.

Let me know if you’re going to be there! And watch this blog for more details and code in coming weeks.

Why Don’t We Leave Cuba the Hell Alone?

cubaembargoI was blissfully unaware until this morning that the United States’ foreign policy with respect to Cuba was still stuck in the mid-20th Century.

Oh, I was aware, thanks to a family member of Cuban origin, that travel is still restricted, that we still have an embargo of sorts in place, and that, generally, we think Cuba isn’t a very nice country. But I was decidedly not aware that we are actively attempting to sabotage their nation.

Seriously? More than 50 years after the Cuban Missile Crisis? Which, I might point out, we won!!

President Obama, who apparently loves tinkering with the toys and gears of the Intelligence Apparatchik, has apparently put a number of young Latin Americans in harm’s way in an attempt to disrupt Cuban society on some vague way. According to this AP dispatch, the program in question dates back to at least 2009. Using a guise of health and civic support and help, these U.S.-paid spies and terrorists (what else would you call people paid to attempt to disrupt a government?) have been working to somehow damage Cuba.

Why don’t we just leave Cuba alone?

With our modern intelligence, they are not likely to pose a serious threat to our nation. With a population of just over 11 million, very little industry and a basically peaceful socialist government that features outstanding medical care for its citizens, just how much a threat are they? Is American foreign policy being held hostage by the tiny but screechingly vocal Cuban immigrant minority in the South Florida area, who seem to be the only ones in the country who give a shit what’s going on 90 miles south of them?

Come on, Mr. President. Your image tarnishes more every day because you can’t put down the damn toys. Millions of your former supporters are being turned off by your belligerence and your lies. If you have any hope of salvaging the last two years of your Presidency and leaving a legacy of hope and peace, you need to start yesterday. Cuba would be a good place to begin.

Normalize relations with them now.

The Period of Unbridled Growth is Over, PG, So Get Over It

As many people far more expert than I have noted, the fundamental flaw in the capitalist economic system is its absolute reliance on growth. And, in case you haven’t yet gotten the memo, the era of unbridled growth is over. It is no longer sustainable, which means it never was. We do reach places where people have enough stuff, enough of given commodities. We also reach the point where the finite natural resources are at or near exhaustion, where any product or process that requires more non-renewable resources is simply too expensive. We reached that point with fossil fuels some time ago, as some early prognosticators suggested.

Yesterday, Proctor & Gamble, the world’s largest brand, announced it would sell off half of its product lines in an effort to induce growth in those that remain. I don’t pretend to understand the underlying economic principles at work here. I presume that, using classic capitalist analysis, their decision makes sense. But it fails to take into account the fact that capitalism as we know it is dead. In many ways, PG’s decision — which is certain to exacerbate the unemployment rate and thus increase the number of people who can’t buy any of PG’s brands — resembles the dying gasps of species of animals going rapidly extinct.

This cannibalistic behavior on the part of megacorporations is one of the symptoms of the death of capitalism. The greed that is built into the system causes companies to become numb to the reality that as they contribute to the overall poverty of the nation, they eat their market. Only companies that provide necessities will survive and they will have to find new efficiencies and market approaches that will be able to sustain themselves in increasingly competitive and difficult times.

sacred_economicsWe are in for economic transformation. This transformation will result in our finding a new level of economy in which the key word is not “abundance” but “enough”, in which the rewarded driving force is not greed but sharing, in which the true Unity of all of humanity — indeed all of Life — is a core value. Like all transformation, those who resist will experience pain and suffering. But at the other end of the process, when the transformation is complete, we will have adapted once again to changing environmental conditions to ensure the survival of the human race, albeit in a new form. (For a thoughtful insight into what this is going to look like, I highly recommend Charles Eisenstein’s Sacred Economics: Money, Gift and Society in the Age of Transition.)

10 Reasons for Some Optimism on Climate Change

The Guaradian has published a helpful article providing 10 reasons we should perhaps be a bit more hopeful than we might otherwise seem advised to be about climate change. The 10 reasons cited in the article are:

  1. Barack Obama has made it one of his defining issues.
  2. China has ordered coal power plants to close.
  3. The cost of solar has fallen by two thirds.
  4. People are taking their money out of fossil fuels.
  5. Bangladeshi women are being retrained as solar technicians.
  6. Renewable energy will soon take the lion’s share of new power.
  7. European homes are using 15% less energy than they were in 2000.
  8. Cutting emissions has become a business imperative.
  9. Oil is becoming much more expensive to find.
  10. Electric car sales are doubling each year.

Of these, the ones that I find most promising and hopeful are items 3, 4, 5 and 8.

Chart showing decline in price of solar panels from 1977 to 2013 from $75 to 74 centsWith the cost of solar falling rapidly, the potential for widespread adoption of this best-of-breed technology grows greater and greater. Sun power is clearly and unequivocally the best renewable energy source by any measure. Are there problems to be resolved? Sure. But they can’t be resolved from a position of stasis. In building out the solutions and encountering the problems and dealing with them in place, we will overcome them or find ways around them.

The rapidly growing divestment movement is most promising. As universities, retirement funds and other large institutional investors begin to show the way toward carbon-free portfolios, it will become increasingly difficult for the world’s richest companies to continue to convince a dwindling shareholder base of the economic soundness of their underlying strategy. (About which, see items 8 and 9.)

As the world’s poorest workers are being retrained to install solar power, two related things are happening. First, they and their culture are being made acutely aware of the impact of the climate on their lives. Second, the cost of solar continues to decline (see item 3, above). This puts upward pressure on the economy in some powerful and as-yet-little-understood ways.

As for item 8, when it becomes economically advantageous to reduce carbon emissions and to rely less and less on more and more expensive and socially sanctioned sources of energy, businesses are being forced to realize that it is good business and politics to reduce their carbon footprint.

The combined effect of all of this won’t mean a lot without a great deal of public policy shift, but taken together these indicators are indeed reasons for increased optimism.


Christian Church Leaders Backing Obama on Climate Change Policy

Contrary to popular belief, it appears that not all conservative Christians are also conservative on all public policy. That observation demonstrates the primary reason that attempting to lump everyone in a given category together for unrelated purposes is seldom good, critical thinking.

The latest example: a group of conservative religious leaders are poised to testify before the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in favor of some tough new regulations proposed by the Obama Administration aimed at putting a small dent in the global climate change crisis.

evangelical_environmentalistsMany progressive Christians tend to see conservative Christians as being essentially the base of the conservative wing of the Republican Party. And while this notion is not entirely false, it is also not entirely true. For example, the Evangelical Environmental Network is a growing organization of conservative Christians concerned about the environment and global climate change issues in the context of their perceived duty as Christians to protect the planet and honor all forms of life. (To be sure, not all conservative Christians agree with that movement.)

According to New York Times reporter Theodore Schleifer, “This week’s hearings on the new E.P.A. rule gives them [evangelical church leaders] an opportunity to make their argument that climate change hurts the world’s poor through natural disasters, droughts and rising sea levels, and that it is part of their faith to protect the planet.” The UN says global warming will impact more women than men because they make up the majority of the world’s poor and the poor will be disproportionately affected by global climate change because they lack the resources to stave off its most severe impacts.