For the Week of December 19, 2005
NOTE: This is our annual year in review issue. Next week we take a look at trends for 2006.
There are many forms of depression.
There's the economic kind.
There's the personal kind.
There's also the political kind. It's this last America is suffering from right now. Left and right are reacting to one another with anger and hatred, while the rest shake their heads and mutter curses on both.
When this era is over, and we're able to get all the facts on it, we may conclude that George W. Bush and his minions were truly alien to the American culture. We may find that he stole both his elections (and others), that he corrupted our entire system -- economic, tax, spending, judicial, media - that he worked systematically all his life to destroy America and replace it with his own warped Theocratic Fascism.
That view will be wrong.
It will be wrong because George W. Bush is quintessentially American. He is a direct expression of some of our character, that part which we have sometimes preferred hiding or denying. He reflects our lust for power, our desire to dominate, our aggression, our religiosity, our desire for redemption, and our belief in its certainty despite all evidence to the contrary.
This part of our character has done great evil in the world. It committed genocide against North America's native population, while the hated Spanish merely converted them, then intermarried. It enslaved millions of black Africans for generations, destroyed their families, treated their descendents like dirt and, after finally getting its feet off, dismissed them as lacking gumption. It fought wars of outright aggression against Mexico and Spain, calling it "Manifest Destiny." It destroyed the forests and the rivers and the air in the name of industrialism, and called it growth. In this century that drive has given us Jim Crow, Richard Nixon, the Japanese internment, Vietnam, and two wars for oil.
But this next bit is important. This next bit is the point. This same aspect of our character is also responsible for most of the good America has done in the world.
This part of our character won the Civil War. It built this economy. It won two World Wars, and it made us the most faithful, hardest working, most abundant people in the history of Man. Without this side of our nature we would be a smaller, poorer, and relatively unimportant nation, prematurely old, mostly of northern European stock. Think Argentina.
The Founders were wise beyond the powers of history to describe. Their Constitution was a system of checks and balances that let this side of us push and grow, yet always offered hope that "the better angels of our nature" might retain influence. Judges were given power, above politics, to do what was right. Voters were given power, through politics, to demand change, whenever they felt the need. Nothing in the American system is perfect or permanent. Hope is always alive.
The year 2005 has seen the aggressive side of our nature indulge in the greatest Lust toward Absolutism we have seen since the 19th century. (Bill Clinton's bridge had a secret off-ramp.) Ideas we had kept bottled up for a century - intolerance, absolutism, unchecked capitalism - were let loose upon the land.
The results are obvious. An intractable war. Rapid productivity growth yet falling wages. An internal Civil War whose temporary victors demand permanent subjugation, something the American system was designed to prevent. The first excuses the rest. Meanwhile the President, increasingly detached, preaches an Armageddon his policies seem determined to bring into being.
See where the depression comes from? You don't just see it in the polls. You see it in the anger I find online every day, where every demagogue can be replaced by an even fiercer one, Glenn Reynolds giving way to Michelle Malkin, and their audience follows as though mesmerized. Drug addicts and fruitcakes scream hate on the airwaves, they call the loyal opposition traitors, and we know as night follows day that bullets will fly, that people will die. We look around and ask, who? Maybe you. Maybe me.
Our technology is beset by the same forces. Is it any wonder that innovation has moved these last few years to India and China, away from a land where education is corrupted by religion, where research is attacked because its results are inconvenient, and where innovations are kept down by law. We value the past over the future, but the future demands its day, and simply moves elsewhere.
Yet there are great reasons for hope as the year ends. Open source, real Always On applications, WiFi and WiMax, Gigabit Ethernet, and Web 2.0 databases. All these things accelerate our ability to learn new things, to spread that knowledge, to deploy agents of change that help us live longer, live healthier, and turn things around.
The question, as we end the year, is whether those Better Angels of Our Nature will be able to get their hands on these tools, and how long America will remain the enemy of the world, of nature, and of itself. God will accept whichever choice we make. Maybe, as in Animal Farm, the pigs really will inherit the Earth.
Maybe they can do a better job with it.
I've got a new job. I'm now editor of Atlanta voic.us, a Web start-up aimed at building a community Web platform with a real business model. I'm also all alone in writing the Open Source Blog for ZDNet. (When this started there were three of us.)
My last non-fiction book, "The Blankenhorn Effect" won the Computer/Internet category in the 2003 Independent Publisher (IPPY) awards. Write me for a PDF copy of my latest novel, "Baptists are for Dunking."
On my Mooreslore blog I've written a new novel, "The Chinese Century." It's a story told in real-time, with real characters, but entirely fictional, dealing with the consequences of the falling dollar. I'm beginning a sequal, "American Diaspora," exploring the themes of the first book but with more fictional characters. It's a true alternate history, but set in the present day.
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Best of the Week
The market understands Moore's Law. It sees through the Bells' rhetoric.
The IEEE has finally approved a mobile version of the WiMax standard, 802.16.
The Always On medical market won a big endorsement today from a San Francisco research house, FocalPoint Group, which advised hospitals that the technology is ready to lower costs and improve care.
After the U.S. clinched its place in the final 32, the World Cup tournament in Germany next year, with a thumping win over arch-rivals Mexico, Coach Arena basically pulled his starters.
America's biggest tech companies are focused today on the problem of creating, not technologies, but platforms.
Companies that arose in the 1990s in such niches as e-commerce have never really recovered from the dot-bomb of 2000. I
Fujitsu has learned to use carbon nanotubes in a "heat sink" for mobile base station amplifiers.
It's the Democratic Party. Democrats belong to the Democratic Party.
Wired phone assets are plunging in value. It's that simple.
The technology and tools for all this have been around for years now, but the business has not gone anywhere because no country on the face of the Earth has yet accepted the fact that it must give up absolute rights to its citizens' data before people can trust the technology enough to use it.
New Orleans has become the first U.S. city to escape the Bell Gulag.
WiSpry has perfected final elements of the chip design, and will work with Jazz Semiconductor to produce the necessary chips using CMOS technology.
ZDNet Open Source
Clued-in was Wikipedia which caught the person who slandered John Seigenthaler. The idiot, Brian Chase, lost his job after being chased down by the manager of an anti-Wikipedia Web site.
Clueless (in a way) is Wikipedia Watch founder Daniel Brandt, whose sleuthing helped make Wikipedia's point that it can be self-policing, something Brandt's site denies is true.
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