Thoughts and finds of the day

Month: October, 2011

How OWS confuses and ignores Fox News and the pundit class. – Slate Magazine

I confess to being driven insane this past month by the spectacle of television pundits professing to be baffled by the meaning of Occupy Wall Street. Good grief. Isn’t the ability to read still a job requirement for a career in journalism? And as last week’s inane “What Do They Want?” meme morphs into this week’s craven “They Want Your Stuff meme, I feel it’s time to explain something: Occupy Wall Street may not have laid out all of its demands in a perfectly cogent one-sentence bumper sticker for you, Mr. Pundit, but it knows precisely what it doesn’t want. It doesn’t want you.

What the movement clearly doesn’t want is to have to explain itself through corporate television. To which I answer, Hallelujah. You can’t talk down to a movement that won’t talk back to you.


I don’t purport to speak for anyone but myself here, although I spent time this weekend at Occupy Wall Street and my husband spent much of last week adding his voice to the protesters there. I saw an incredible array of people that defy any simple demographic characterization and a broad range of signs that made—imagine!—more than a single point. But if I may hazard an opinion, it would be this: One of the most fatuous themes of mainstream OWS coverage is the endless loop of media bafflement at this movement that doesn’t have a message. Here’s CNN’s Erin Burnett in a classic put-down of the OWS’ refusal to tailor its message to her. It takes a walloping amount of willful cluelessness to look at a mass of people holding up signs and claim that they have no message.

Occupy Wall Street is not a movement without a message. It’s a movement that has wisely shunned the one-note, pre-chewed, simple-minded messaging required for cable television as it now exists. It’s a movement that feels no need to explain anything to the powers that be, although it is deftly changing the way we explain ourselves to one another.

Think, for just a moment, about the irony. We are the most media-saturated 24-hour-cable-soaked culture in the world, and yet around the country, on Facebook and at protests, people are holding up cardboard signs, the way protesters in ancient Sumeria might have done when demonstrating against a rise in the price of figs. And why is that? Because they very wisely don’t trust television cameras and microphones to get it right anymore. Because a media constructed around the illusion of false equivalencies, screaming pundits, and manufactured crises fails to capture who we are and what we value.

For the past several years, while the mainstream media was dutifully reporting on all things Kardashian or (more recently) a wholly manufactured debt-ceiling crisis, ordinary people were losing their health care, their homes, their jobs, and their savings. Those people have taken that narrative to Facebook and Twitter—just as citizens took to those alternative forms of media throughout the Middle East as part of the Arab Spring. And just to be clear: They aren’t holding up signs that say “I want Bill O’Reilly’s stuff.” They aren’t holding up signs that say “I am animated by toxic levels of envy and entitlement.” They are holding up signs that are perfectly and intrinsically clear: They want accountability for the banks that took their money, they want to end corporate control of government. They want their jobs back. They would like to feed their children. They want—wait, no, we want—to be heard by a media that has devoted four mind-numbing years to channeling and interpreting every word uttered by a member of the Palin family while ignoring the voices of everyone else.


Defense Whiz to Pentagon: Your Predictions Are Destined to Fail | Danger Room |

The Arab Spring. The Fall of the Soviet Union. India’s nukes. The U.S. government has a perfectly awful track record of predicting future events. And there’s a good reason why, says the chairman of an influential think tank: it’s friggin’ impossible.

Dr. Richard Danzig, the former Navy Secretary and current chair of the Center For a New American Security (CNAS), has published a comprehensive report on what he convincingly argues is a pretty huge problem for the Pentagon. After all, basing billion-dollar, life-or-death decisions on forecasts practically guaranteed to be wrong isn’t exactly an ideal management strategy.

“It’s good to consider the range of the possible; certainly, it’s better than not considering possible outcomes,” Danzig tells Danger Room. “But we’re never going to foresee everything, so we have to be planning for that failure as well.”

Twoface Window by Junkyung Kim & Yonggu Do » Yanko Design

Egyptians march from Tahrir Square to support Occupy Oakland protestors – Boing Boing

As they vowed earlier this week to do, Egyptian pro-democracy protesters marched from Tahrir square to the U.S. Embassy today to march in support of Occupy Oakland—and against the type of police brutality witnessed in Oakland on Tuesday night, and commonly experienced in Egypt.

In this post, photos from Egyptian blogger Mohammed Maree, who is there at the march live-tweeting these snapshots. He is a journalist with, a human rights activist, and a veterinarian; all photos are his.

Social Wars Part III: Return Of The Radicals – The BrainYard – InformationWeek

The IT approach to 2.0 decision-making is equally inappropriate. Looking at the costs and benefits of standardization and framing the decision in terms of some mix of “platform” versus “best in class” buying decisions is appropriate (to continue the “replicate New York” metaphor) if you’re planning something like the modernization of a large city’s sewage system. It’s completely irrelevant if the idea is to catalyze widespread cultural changes and revitalize dying cultures. Enterprise 2.0 isn’t about plugging new tools into old processes. It’s about using new tools as irritants around which a nascent effective culture can crystallize, eventually displacing old processes.

But the logical failure is understandable. Well-intentioned people look at the cores of aging corporations, full of disengaged employees, and notice the vitality and energy on the unruly edges, where employees have cobbled thriving new cultures for themselves. They ask the obvious question: How can we spread this culture of engagement, excitement, and vitality throughout the organization?

This leads them to the mistake: People assume that their problem is adapting the tools that are working at the edge to the core of the organization, when the actual problem is rebuilding the organization around the edges where the new culture is taking root.

In other words, the Mountain must go to Mohammed.

When revolutions start on the edge, the core must reorganize around the edge hotspots, making the old edge the new center.

Social Wars: The Enterprise Strikes Back – The BrainYard – InformationWeek

To understand why this happens, despite the best intentions of the people involved, recall Deep Thought, the fictional computer in Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy that computed the answer to Life, The Universe, and Everything (which turned out to be 42). Deep Thought couldn’t compute the actual question but had enough self-awareness to recognize its own limitations and ended up designing its successor, the computer that could figure out the question.

Today’s organizations are like large computers, except that unlike Deep Thought, they lack awareness of their own limitations and therefore don’t gracefully deal with their own obsolescence. They’re not aware of the larger processes of creative destruction that govern their ultimate fates. They’re blind and brittle, not self-aware and fluid.

Most business functions are designed around the premise that work processes are static, even if new tools sometimes replace old tools to drive them. Adaptation processes are designed to drive gradual evolution that hardens an organization rather than allow for creative destruction to revitalize it.

The reality, of course, is that a truly radical new tool, if unleashed effectively, re-engineers the very processes into which it is introduced. A process that can do this sort of effective unleashing must necessarily be aware of its own mortality and be willing to gracefully die.

A process that can’t do this ends up either rejecting radical change or rendering it impotent. The result is that the process buys itself a few more years of life, at the expense of the resilience and survivability of the company itself.

House in Leiria «

Despite Iraq Vet’s Cracked Skull, DoJ Sees No Evil in Occupy Crackdown | Threat Level |

    After Scott Olsen, a two-tour Iraq war veteran, suffered a skull fracture Tuesday when police shot Occupy Oakland protestors with rubber bullets and threw flash bang and tear gas grenades at them, you might think that the Justice Department would investigate.

    After all, the Justice Department has the power and responsibility to investigate state and local police violations of Americans’ constitutional rights.

    Sorry, Scott Olsen. Sorry, Occupy. No such luck.

    The Obama Justice Department has not opened an investigation, spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa told Wired.

    That’s despite Oakland having a long history of abusing protestors. Just last month, a federal judge hinted that he would take over the department for failing to rein in rogue policing practices identified in a consent decree from 2003 that the department has failed to obey. The National Lawyers Guild contends police violated that order again Tuesday.

    Oakland’s paramilitary response was no accident.

    Oakland assembled a small army of police decked out in paramilitary gear, comprised of officers from 18 California police units. Their task was to evict the protestors from what’s been one of the most organized Occupy events in the country, because the city said the protest site was dirty.

    Scott Olsen, Iraq veteran injured by police at Occupy Oakland: how you can help – Boing Boing

    In the photo above, Veterans For Peace member Scott Olsen, who is identified as a former U.S. Marine and Iraq war veteran, lies on the street after being struck in the head by a police projectile in Oakland, California, during eviction of the Occupy Oakland encampment.

    Simple Genius: A Lamp That Emulates The Cycle Of The Sun | Co. Design

    Used to be, our daily rhythms were determined by the sun: We arose at sunrise and went to bed at sunset. But now that we spend the vast majority of our days inside–by some estimates, as much of 90% of our time–we’re exposed to little sunlight, throwing our natural cycles off kilter. LivingLight tries to reintroduce a sense of balance by emulating the rise and fall of the sun.

    Designer Feija Klinkhamer tells Co.Design that the lamp is equipped with something called “dynamic lighting,” which ushers the look and feel of natural daylight indoors. This happens two ways. First, the lamp is able to compensate for a dearth of sun by using sensors to measure a room’s natural brightness. Then the lamp adjusts its lumens. Secondly: Lights inside the lamp are programmed to change color throughout the day and year to evoke the path of the real sun. In the morning, the lamp emits a cool bright light. Later on, the lamp glows warm and red, mimicking the qualities of a sunset.

    There are practical reasons for simulating the natural rhythms of the day. Researchers believe that bright white rays energize the human body, while fiery hues facilitate relaxation. So, the thinking goes, if you blast employees with crisp light in the morning, then warm things up as the work day draws to a close, you just might end up with a happier–and more productive–work force.

    LivingLight is on view at the graduation show of the Design Academy Eindhoven, in the Netherlands, through October 30. Details here.