03 March 2011

America Plus?! Class Warfare in the US

Excerpt from The Daily Kos, 2 March 2011

Screenshot from the segment above

‘…the top 1% wealthiest Americans gobble up more than 1/3 of America's net worth, and the top 10% chow down on almost 3/4 of the money, leaving the bottom 90% with whatever's left. That's why it's called "trickle down".

…a recent article in The Atlantic magazine points out that the wealthiest Americans are now part of a new international elite, "a transglobal community of peers who have more in common with each other than with their countrymen back home".

You see, a really rich American and a really rich Saudi have more to talk about than a really rich American and the 99% of other Americans…

The red line represents the top 1% of Americans. And the flaccid rainbow at the bottom is all you people! What can I say? Sometimes income brackets just drift apart. Over the years, we've just developed different interests. We're into fine wines and racing Bugattis, and you're into different things, like shelter and warmth…

So, if there really is a rich America, and a poor America, I say why not make it official?Let the rich start their own country. Call it America Plus! (Or Golfistan) I mean, we already live in gated communities, I say we just connect them all with really long driveways. To visit, you just need a green card.

Best of all, when we've got America Plus in place, the economy of your country will finally get moving. Because to us, you'll now be cheap foreign labor, and we might just start hiring you again…’

Public Uprisings and Public Spaces

The last sentence is brilliant!

xcerpt from YES! Magazine, 22 February 2011

'The influence of the new digital commons in democratic uprisings from Tunisia to Egypt to Bahrain has been chronicled at length in news reports from the Middle East, with Facebook, Twitter and other social media winning praise as dictator-busters.

But the importance of a much older form of commons in these revolts has earned scant attention—the public spaces where citizens rally to voice their discontent, show their power and ultimately articulate a new vision for their homelands. To celebrate their victory over the Mubarak regime, for example, protesters in Cairo jubilantly returned to Tahrir Square, where the revolution was born, to pick up trash.

It’s the same story all over the Middle East. In Libya’s capital city of Tripoli, people express their aspirations and face bloody reprisals in Tripoli’s Green Square and Martyr’s Square. In Bahrain, they boldly march in Pearl Square in the capital city of Manama. In Yemen, protests have taken place in public spaces near the university in Sanaa, which students renamed Tahrir Square. Kept out of the central Revolution Square in Tehran by the repressive government, Iranian dissidents gather in Valiasr Square and Vanak Square.

Last week in Tunisia, the name of the main square in Tunis was changed to honor Mohammad Bouazizi, an unlicensed street vendor whose suicide in December in response to government harassment sparked the revolution that toppled the regime of Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali.

The course of recent history was rewritten by events happening in Prague’s Wenceslas Square as dissidents ousted an oppressive regime in December 1989. Those protests were inspired in part by events in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square that seized the world’s imagination earlier that year when democracy activists unsuccessfully challenged the power of China’s dictatorship.

The state capitol in Madison, Wisconsin, where thousands of workers now protest the governor’s fierce attacks on collective bargaining rights, represents another case of a public commons becoming a staging ground for political resistance. The capitol, which sits right in the heart of downtown Madison, was named by Project for Public Spaces as one of the great public spaces of the world. “This is truly the town square that early Americans imagined as the crux of democracy,” the PPS website explains...

This all shows that the exercise of democracy depends upon having a literal commons where people can gather as citizens—a square, Main Street, park, or other public space that is open to all. An alarming trend in American life is the privatization of our public realm. As corporate-run shopping malls replaced downtowns and main streets as the center of action, we lost some of our public voice. You can’t organize a rally, hand out flyers, or circulate a petition in a shopping mall without the permission of the management, which will almost certainly say no because they don’t want to distract shoppers’ attention from the merchandise. That’s why you see few benches or other gathering spots inside malls. The result is that our ability to even discuss the issues of the day (or any other subject) with our fellow citizens is limited.

Of course, public spaces enrich our lives in many ways beyond protests. Local commons become the sites of celebrations, festivals, art events, memorial services, and other expressions of community...

I’ve often wondered if this lack of a central commons in Minneapolis and most other American communities somehow inhibits our civic expression. With no place to voice our views as citizens, do we become more passive about what happens to our country and our future? I don’t know the answer, but I imagine Hosni Mubarak wishes he had built a shopping mall in Tahrir Square.'

28 February 2011

Conservatives Dig into Michelle Obama's Anti-Obesity Campaign

Are they serious? Americans are killing themselves with obesity at a much higher rate! Maybe Americans do need a nanny state - individual diet choices have social health cost consequences. Tip: get rid of the car culture, less dead pedestrians, more people walking, with the extra added bonus of less oil dependency! This sounds like pure and simple opposition politics for the sake of being narky - any politician worth his or her salt would offer bipartisan support for this initiative.

‎"...some conservatives even suggested that Obama was endangering people, blaming an increase in pedestrian deaths on the first lady's campaign by saying that Americans were putting themselves at risk by walking more."

Reposted in full from the LA Times, 26 February 2011

'Like many other first ladies, Michelle Obama has a cause — healthier meals and more exercise for U.S. children. Unlike many others, her push has riled critics.

Former First Ladies Barbara and Laura Bush worked to end illiteracy. Nancy Reagan famously took on teenage drug use. Lady Bird Johnson planted flowers. But none of them have been seared for something as seemingly benign as calling for kids to eat more vegetables, as Michelle Obama has.

Just about everyone will agree that the nation's children are getting fatter and that obesity is a serious health problem. But the first lady's push for healthier meals and more exercise, which marked its first anniversary this month, has provoked a backlash from the right, who complain that the only thing here that's supersized is Big Brother.

Radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh last week suggested Obama is a hypocrite for dining on ribs, and remarked on her waistline in the process. That was just the latest offering in what has been a steady diet of criticisms.

"Leaders are supposed to be leaders," Limbaugh said. "If we are supposed to eat roots, berries and tree bark, show us how."

Critics have carped about Obama's spread at her Super Bowl party — and have suggested that the child-nutrition legislation she backed in Congress would bring about the end of school bake sales. Her work with the National Restaurant Assn. to develop healthier menu items has been decried in some circles as a government takeover of business.

And in January, some conservatives even suggested that Obama was endangering people, blaming an increase in pedestrian deaths on the first lady's campaign by saying that Americans were putting themselves at risk by walking more.

The criticism is fueled by a rising conservative chorus against the Obamas and comes as Republicans embark on a contest to pick a nominee to challenge the president next year.

Earlier this month, Mitt Romney, addressing the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, peppered his remarks with digs at the first lady and her husband.

Ridiculing President Obama's purported move toward the political center, Romney joked that the president's rhetoric had shifted so radically that "he sounded like he was going to dig up the first lady's organic garden to put in a Bob's Big Boy," Romney said.

Later, while equating Obama's economic policies to Marie Antoinette's purported line about the French peasantry — "Let them eat cake" — Romney corrected himself.

"I'm sorry," he crowed. "Organic cake."

Michelle Obama's defenders say her campaign is producing results. "Over this past year, we've seen the first signs of a fundamental shift in how we live and eat," White House chef Sam Kass told a recent meeting of culinary professionals. "We've seen changes at every level of our society — from classrooms to boardrooms to the halls of Congress."

That didn't stop Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann from accusing Obama last week of trying to implement a "nanny state."

Appearing on a conservative radio show, the Republican congresswoman found fault with Obama's latest focus: encouraging mothers to breast-feed their newborn babies. Obama has said children who breast-feed are less likely to become obese.

The first lady's view is "very consistent with where the hard left is coming from," Bachmann said. "For them, government is the answer to every problem."

Bachmann was following the lead of Sarah Palin, who has complained Obama is imparting her worldview on Americans by telling them what to eat.

Conservative blogger Jenny Erikson, a Southern California mother of two, wrote this month that Obama's efforts were "incredibly insulting to parents."

"Newsflash to the government: Changing menus is not going to slenderize America," Erikson wrote. "People who eat 5,000 calories a day and feed their kids three scoops of ice cream nightly are going to keep doing that."

One Republican, however, defended Obama this week. Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor whose own waistline has vacillated during his career, said Obama had been "criticized unfairly."

"I think it's out of a reflex. We don't have to believe that everything she says is bad," said Huckabee, who may mount another run for president. "I do not think that she is out there advocating that the government take over our dinner plates. In fact, she has not."

Myra Gutin, an expert on first ladies and politics at Rider University in New Jersey, said the only other first lady to be as consistently criticized as Obama was Hillary Rodham Clinton, for tackling healthcare reform in the early years of the Clinton administration.

Clinton, however, "was running a bureaucracy of her own," Gutin said. "It's quite different."

In contrast, Gutin said, Nancy Reagan's "Just Say No" campaign was knocked as a less-than-aggressive response by the White House to mounting drug use.

"Some of the criticism [of Obama], quite frankly, has really shocked me," Gutin said. "There is a certain line with first ladies. You can take a shot, but I don't think people like it a lot. We're not talking about the war; we're not talking about the economy. At some level it begins to sound peevish and almost inappropriate."

Gutin said attacking Obama could backfire. "While potential first ladies are not a reason for choosing a presidential candidate, this may come home to roost in a year and a half," she said. "Voters may remember it."'

Speed Camera Lottery

Sourced from Social Creatives, 11 December 2010

'Can we solve social problems more easily if we inject an element of fun? That’s the question behind The Fun Theory competition.

The finalists and winner in this global competition seem to suggest: Yes!

The overall winner of the competition is The Speed Camera Lottery, which got drivers to obey the speed limit by entering those who obey the limit in a lottery. At the same time, those who exceed the limit pay into a fund that goes to law abiding drivers.'

Triggering Behaviour Change with Game Dynamics

In Seth Priebatsch's talk at TEDxBoston he makes a mind-blowing observation about Farmville - which has more users than Twitter! - in relation to 'appointment dynamics', or the need to return to water virtual crops; if the makers wanted to grind world productivity to a halt, they could change the cycle from 24 hours or 8 hours to 30 minutes!!

He also makes the amusing observation:

'School is a game - it's just not a very well designed one; if we called Valedictorian 'White Knight Level 20', people would probably work a lot harder...'

Sourced from Social Creatives, 18 January 2011

"Human beings are not rational actors. We rarely make decisions based on logic alone. That’s why social change can be so frustratingly complex. People won’t act even if their own well-being is at stake.

That’s why social innovators have learned to look to neuroscience and psychology for pointers. Some key insights into human behavior have shown up in games people play – online and offline.

To learn how to effect change, we need to learn “game dynamics” and how to use them.'