Thursday, October 30, 2014

#304 / KISS

The Wall Street Journal has the greatest weekday circulation of any newspaper in the United States. Even I subscribe! 

Because of its wide readership, I am inclined to believe that advertising in The Wall Street Journal is expensive. I was amazed to see, in a recent edition, that SAP ran an advertisement that was three full pages in length, in the first section of the newspaper. I can't even imagine how much that cost. SAP is a corporation headquartered in Walldorf, Germany, with locations in more than 130 countries. SAP bills itself as "the world leader in enterprise software and software-related services."

What message did SAP convey, in its costly, three full page advertisement? According to SAP, "What The World Needs Now Is Simple."

"Simple" as in "less complex." You can read the SAP "Simplicity Manifesto" by clicking the link. This Manifesto is essentially the text that ran in The Journal advertisement.

The SAP Manifesto focuses on how "technology" is adding complexity to our lives, claiming that "Technology Can Save Us All. Provided It Doesn't Kill Us First," which is what the first page of SAP's three-page advertisement proclaimed. 

I have my doubts that "technology" is going to "save us all." Of course, I have my doubts about the benefic influence of massive international corporations, too.

What I do agree with SAP about, however, is that from politics to economics, to how we organize our lives, the KISS principle remains an appropriate guide


That's my Quaker background talking!

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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

#303 / Krugman's Point

Economist Paul Krugman writes a column for The New York Times that is widely syndicated. I saw his October 26, 2014 column in my local newspaper, the Santa Cruz Sentinel, on Tuesday, October 28th. His column was titled "Ideology and Investment."

Krugman's point is that social investment is what can and must drive our economy, and that it we want to achieve a healthy economy, we need to be willing, through our government, to borrow money and then to use that money to make collective (governmental) investments - for instance in infrastructure. 

Krugman's right. We are "all in this together." Individual hoarding leads to social collapse.

I mean, even our bridges are collapsing! Want economic growth? Rebuild our failing bridges. The Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco says that!

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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

#302 / Citizenfour

Citizenfour (the movie) will be in theaters soon. You can read about it in a recent New Yorker article, authored by George Packer, or you can get a flavor of the film in this LA Times movie review. Here is where you can watch the trailer. You can also read a short synopsis of the Packer article, which contains a critique of the movie, by tracking down the October 26, 2014 entry in the Amor Mundi website.

The Packer critique is, essentially, that the film presents itself as revealing the truth about Snowden, but suppresses things that the filmmaker knows, but that she doesn't show us.

I am most interested not in how fully revelatory the film is about how and why Snowden made his disclosures, but in the disclosures themselves.

In a society based on citizen self-government, the citizens must know the facts (ALL the facts), or they can't properly provide the direction to their government that democracy demands.

According to Packer, Snowden began with a preoccupation about personal privacy, but ended up with efforts to destroy governmental secrecy.

No "privacy" rights for government, in other words.

That's what I think.

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Monday, October 27, 2014

#301 / A Different Box

This Stephan Pastis cartoon appeared in my newspaper yesterday, Sunday October 26th. 

Just about as good as a sermon in church!

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Sunday, October 26, 2014

#300 / Ken Gray

Friends, family, and community said farewell to Ken Gray on Saturday, at a memorial service and tribute to Ken held at the Marina United Methodist Church. The culmination of the service was an incredibly affecting rendition of Ashokan Farewell, played by Sara Arnett and Al Friedrich. Click the link to listen to another, but also affecting, version of this wonderful music. 

Ken was a State Park employee for 36 years, serving as Senior Park and Recreation Specialist in Monterey County until his retirement in 2009. He was instrumental in efforts to establish the Fort Ord Dunes State Park. He was devoted to his family, and was a Boy Scout leader, and served on the Board of the Thomas Carman Food Pantry. Deeply embedded in his community, Ken was greatly loved, and will be greatly missed. 

I knew Ken Gray because starting in 1998 he spearheaded an initiative effort in the City of Marina to establish an Urban Growth Boundary, the first ever in Monterey County. Ken is pictured above in front of the land that would now be a sprawling subdivision, had Ken and others not stepped up to propose a different vision. As the Executive Director of LandWatch Monterey County, I worked with Ken and a small band of community activists on this important effort to enact a land use measure that has prevented urban sprawl onto the open space and agricultural lands surrounding Marina. 

An environmental planner by training, Ken well understood that it is important for local communities to decide when (and where) to say "no" to the development proposals that always promise money, jobs, and new community opportunities. Our human intrusions into the World of Nature face no built in limits. We need to limit ourselves. We need to be able to abstain, and let Nature alone. After all, in the end, it is the World of Nature that sustains us. 

Ken also knew the word "yes." Measure E, that enacted the Marina Urban Growth Boundary, was not an easy "sale" in the political climate of the year 2000. Many community leaders in Marina opined that establishing such a growth limit was "impossible." Ken called together activists in a local group called Marina 20/20 vision," and they crafted a measure that established a boundary, in the year 2000, that will last until 2020, and that can be extended thereafter.

Ken knew, and the the others who worked with him knew, that there is no built in limit to what we can achieve, but that if we want to create something new, and to do something new, we must say "yes" to possibility. We need to "try." 

Ken Gray's willingness to "try" to establish the Urban Growth Boundary that was enacted fundamentally changed the community life of Marina, because the success of Measure E, in the year 2000, let everyone in Marina see that community-based politics could literally change the world. 

How and when to say "yes" and "no": these are two great lessons from Ken Gray. He is, already, greatly missed.

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Saturday, October 25, 2014

#299 / Nature Is Speaking

Conservation International has prepared a suite of short films, each one narrated by a recognizable public figure:

The message of all these films is the same: Nature doesn't need people. People need nature.

The human world we create is dependent, ultimately, on the World of Nature.

Let's not forget that.

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Friday, October 24, 2014

#298 / The Human Condition

The earth is the very quintessence of the human condition, and earthly nature, for all we know, may be unique in the universe in providing human beings with a habitat in which they can move and breathe without effort and without artifice. The human artifice of the world separates human existence from all mere animal environment, but life itself is outside this artificial world, and through life man remains related to all other living organisms. For some time now, a great many scientific endeavors have been directed toward making life also "artificial," toward cutting the last tie through which even man belongs among the children of nature. 
        - Hannah Arendt - The Human Condition (1958) 

So, there is Hannah Arendt speaking about my "Two Worlds" theory. If you were a member of the Hannah Arendt Center for Politics And Humanities at Bard College ($50 per year or more), you could take part in a "Virtual Reading Group" that will be studying The Human Condition, starting on November 7th. 

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