By Jerry Mooney
In America, we hold a moral high ground on the issue of democracy. We espouse that it is important. There are efforts to Rock the Vote and if you ever talk to a senior citizen about politics, their first question will be, “Did you vote?” And if you didn’t, don’t expect them to let you complain. The United States has gone to war to over ostensible threats to democracy. Because of this, it is not only disillusioning but heartbreaking to see what is happening in the United States of America during this primary season.
We have witnessed in the last month political shenanigans that are at best embarrassing incompetence, but more likely are criminal and subversive actions. And the most disheartening component of these ruthless activities is that they are not limited to the Republicans. In fact, they have been largely perpetrated on the Democratic side. Donald Trump has a legitimate complaint that his campaign is subject to foul play, but I expect such things from the party of the elites. They don’t want their establishment politics disrupted. On the left, however, things might even be worse.
First of all let’s just say it: there are a lot of practices that are designed to suppress the vote, from elections held on Tuesdays to registration requirements. These things have been in place for so long we don’t even recognize their implicit impact on voting. But these types of practices have gone farther recently and by the party that usually wants greater turnout: the Democrats.
Part of the trickery comes in the form of labeling. Democrats have long been the liberal option for voters. But there are many in the country who are more left than the main Democrats, and that’s particularly true now, as the Republicans have pulled the center of the Democratic party to the right. Now there is a legitimate liberal option in Bernie Sanders, and the Democratic party seems insistent on keeping his supporters from exercising their choice.
In Arizona, a not-so-surprising state of corruption against liberals and in the surprisingly left leaning New York, voter suppression tactics were employed, giving disproportionate weight to early voters and voters in particular precincts. These tactics skewed the results and left hundreds of thousands, if not millions of voters in just those two states without a voice.
This is particularly relevant when the spirit of this election one of antiestablishment. This has also meant that these practices are underreported by the establishment media. In fact, the result of Nevada caucus was changed, but the media continues to report the old results. This weakens enthusiasm because there is a sense that either the result is already determined or there are forces in play that make our voices irrelevant. Either way, they suppress democracy.
What’s even worse is the fact that this, according to Portland State University, is tantamount to white collar crime:
- Governmental /state-corporate: activities committed on behalf of governments or by government officials, as well as white collar crimes committed in collusion with a corporate or organizational entity
Back in August, before a single delegate was won or lost, the Peoria Report at George Washington School of Political Management was reporting that Hillary Clinton had the nomination locked up. This narrative has created shade for the corruption and shenanigans that have followed during the primaries. Many pundits go as far as to say with a straight face that Bernie only does well in caucuses, never pointing out that caucuses require that the voters are seen. When this happens, overwhelming numbers can’t be ignored, because the visuals make it obvious. Because of this narrative, when voter suppression tactics are employed and work, the media can ignore them and complaints that they happened sound like sour grapes.
Ultimately, people are beginning to feel the process has been compromised. Our values as a democracy have been one person, one vote. This shouldn’t matter if you are an extreme liberal or conservative. Your voice should count. The current system is estranging not only huge swaths of voters, but perhaps whole generations and that could have long lasting impacts.
Feature photo courtesy of Flickr, under Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license
By Jerry Mooney
Money As A Digital Medium
Twenty five years ago if you wanted to send someone information from far away you had to put that information in an envelope, and send it with a stamp to prove postage was paid. A few days later the envelope would arrive in the mail of the recipient and if you wanted a response, you would include a return address and probably a stamped envelope. Perhaps a few weeks later you’d receive a reply.
This is the information analog to Bitcoin as a currency. Currently, we are monetarily where we were 25 years ago with regards to information. If you want to send a dollar to someone in China, it is almost impossible. If you want to send them $50 it can be done, but with expense and will take weeks to verify. That is unless you use digital currency, like Bitcoin. What Bitcoin does is bypass normal intermediaries like banks, governments and accountants and allows money to be transferred without friction.
Even though Bitcoin is much more than money, in order to understand Bitcoin we must first look at it as money and examine what money is. I know most of us think we know what money is, but if you ask people to define it, most will give you examples, anecdotes accompanied with a series of stammers but no real definition.
Money is simply an agreement of value which facilitates trade. It was always designed as a way of keeping track of exchanges. When parties want to exchange goods and services, they must agree on the value of their exchange and money provides this agreement and allows for the accounting of the transaction. Money has been many things throughout history, from beets, to broken sticks to gold and recently EMV card technology. It’s not the medium that matters. What matters is how it facilitates commerce.
It’s also necessary to dispel some myths that hinder our understanding of money. Myth: money is backed. Money is not backed and hasn’t ever been. It’s a ledger. Even the gold standard doesn’t count because the gold backed the dollar, but what backed the gold? It’s a shiny rock and back then it didn’t even have value in technology.
Gold does possess the qualities of money, but beyond that, it is money because we all agree it is. Additionally, Gold cost billions of dollars to dig out of the ground and then we lock it in vaults underground after it is mined. So it’s value is in perception.
Throughout history money has existed in the form of sea shells, broken sticks, paper, beats and other systems of keeping track. Recently, gold was used because it meets the 5 requirements of money really well.
Bitcoin As Currency
Bitcoin rivals gold as a form of currency with regards to the above qualities in that the issuance is scarce, it will only ever have 21 million Bitcoin issues. And those Bitcoin are distributed incrementally as the network is developed instead of all at once. The total amount of Bitcoin will be mined by about 2040. Bitcoin is divisible to 1 Satoshi or 0.00000001 of a Bitcoin.
It is superior as a portable currency, in that you can hold Bitcoin in a digital wallet and carry them in your phone, whereas any significant amount of gold would be heavy and unsecure. They are recognizable by being accepted more and more widely while the networks conducts millions of transactions. And it is fungible in that it can be exchanged for other currencies like dollars or pounds.
The technology behind Bitcoin is the real transformative component. This is called the blockchain. The blockchain is a network of miners who verify transactions and for that they are rewarded by receiving potential Bitcoin. The miners maintain an open ledger of all transactions between anonymous participants that can be seen by anyone. It works by is allowing anonymous parties to who don’t trust each other to transact with confidence.
Normally when two anonymous parties transact a trusted third party acts as intermediary for the transaction, facilitating trust. This often comes in the form of a bank or a government. When you make that online purchase, the bank that backs your credit cards also insures the validity of your purchase. Through the blockchain, millions of miners verify the transaction by consensus. It’s as if millions of notaries verified each transaction. When no consensus is reached, the transaction is nullified.
In order for the blockchain to work, the identities of those on the network are encrypted. This is done through very complex mathematics that create encryption keys for buyers, sellers and miners on the network. A Bitcoin is basically a private key that is half of a digital signature. The other half is a public key. A record of the public key is stored on the blockchain. When you want to purchase something with Bitcoin, you broadcast a request. The request is received by all of the computers on the peer to peer network. The request gets sent by the miners through a set of calculations called hash functions.
This sets off a competition among all of the miners to solve a complex cryptographic math function. Once solved the miner who solved it tacks it onto the blockchain then broadcast it to their peers, check the work which all changes the block chain. Then they begin using the new version of the blockchain. Because the blockchain is always changing, this also makes it impossible to hack.
Advantages And Disadvantages
When I first heard of Bitcoin I was under the impression that it was a black market currency. Ultimately I realized that just meant it was a digital form of cash and that Bitcoin had no particular nefarious association. Northeastern University has listed some pros and cons of cryptocurrency. Most of the cons surround a lack of trust because it is a new idea. But the advantages are numerous and substantial, indicating it will continue to catch on. The most obvious advantages are how it removes friction and its cost from transactions. Like email made correspondence frictionless, Bitcoin removes the cumbersome middlemen who slow down and add cost to commerce. The fact that it is an anonymous form of currency falls into the pros and cons for many people. The fact that is anonymous reduces the spiraling expense of cybercrime and its prevention. The fact that it is anonymous makes it a perfect currency for illegal activity as well. Most significantly, it is decentralized and distributed, so it isn’t susceptible to corruption or manipulation. This allows the marketplace to determine its value and stabilize its value.
Bitcoin is a revolutionary technology that will show the value of blockchains and transform the way we exchange money. The blockchain behind the Bitcoin is revolutionizing the way we interact and it’s impossible to see all of the implications, but it’s not hard to see that this will have a major impact on our world.
By Jerry Mooney
There is a secret within us that typically takes a great deal of unraveling to discover. I’ll just blurt it out though, not that anybody will listen, but here it is. Happiness is the only achievement. Money, fame and power are attempts to acquire happiness, but their ironic result is generally the opposite: misery. Why is this? Because we confuse desire with happiness and expect that fulfilling our desires will make us happy. But, there is no path to happiness, happiness is the path.
This idea can be upsetting, because we operate as if happiness is the result of achievement. When we accomplish something awesome, we feel great. But this feeling is fleeting. Simultaneously, accomplishing nothing in a world rewarding achievement can trigger depression and low self esteem.
So happiness is tricky. It is found internally, but there are many reasons to not look inward. To start with, it is too abstract if you are suffering physically. We need food, water and shelter before we can begin to grapple with ideas beyond survival. This is not a commentary on implications of raising the minimum wage or whether or not a rich man can enter heaven. This is merely an understanding that feeling hungry, thirsty and physically at risk because you don’t have the basics removes your focus from a path of happiness to a path of survival.
Typically, however, once our basic survival has been secured, there is still a lot of stress and struggle to free our minds to happiness until, at least in our western culture, we achieve some success. Studies, data and observations have indexed all of the variables and come up with these few things. There is a sweet spot with income. It is $75,000 a year in the US. Reported levels of happiness trends up the fastest with income to that point. After that, happiness and income start to drift apart. While happiness still goes up with income for a while, it doesn’t go up nearly as fast as before that $75,000 mark.
$75,000 a year also correlates with the happiness and health of your children. Lower than $75,000 can indicate struggle and a reduced focus on them while over $75,000 can lead to spoiled children, also with a reduced focus on them while the parents focus on careers and earnings. Poor families spend so much time trying to survive that children suffer from a lack of attention and incorporate philosophies founded on scarcity and being alone. Children of wealthy families also commonly feel neglected by the fact that so much attention is placed on maintaining wealth, while the parent’s attempts to assuage their guilt with gifts leads to spoiled and dysfunctional children.
Now when we look at our society and recognize that wages have remained stagnant over that several years, and that there is a diminishing return as far as what more money can do for us, we must ask the question, why are we operating this way? It is true that our pursuit of happiness is personal and it is true that money can’t buy happiness. But it is also true that we must create the conditions where happiness has the chance to develop. And as a society it is difficult to witness others suffer when our personal goal is happiness.
Photo courtesy of Flickr, under Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license
By Brian McKay
You’re growing or have grown. Now you are formed as an S-Corp or a C-Corp and have a board of directors that are tasked with oversight of major corporate decisions and looking out for the shareholders of the company. The board of directors can fire the CEO, invalidate executive decisions and impact executive hires. Yes, these people are important to your company’s success.
Some advice out there will say that the CEO should stack the board as much as possible to be friendly to her agenda and accepting of her vision. This is horrible advice. Stacking the board is only beneficial for a CEO that wants to protect her position and doesn’t really care about the future of the company.
A well comprised board of directors is diverse. Finding members of varying backgrounds and competencies will ensure a multitude of approaches to corporate initiatives and problems. The goal isn’t a constant fight, but a board that respects each other member’s approach and background as a way to look at issues in different lights. Basically, the approach to your board is to achieve creative tension, just as zenruption’s prior business articles have argued for creative tension in the organization’s employee makeup.
AS always, it is important to stress the value of creative tension to each person on the board. Even at the level of accomplished executive, it is easy to forget that always getting your way isn’t good business. Remember that even the best board makeup that strives for creative tension can also see it stifled by a few board members that dominate the conversation, or new members that are uncertain about presenting opposing views. Ideas might be missed in board conversations when presented by dominant CEO who also chairs the board.
There will always be situations that can stymie creative tension and it is best to find out what they are and press for a re-think. Annual evaluations of the board members should include their opinions, ideas that have been missed, areas where they feel pressured in dissenting opinions, etc. These evaluations are not a check the box Q&A, but are best administered anonymously by an independent third party that gets to the heart of attitudes and challenges facing the board of directors.
There is only one area that should be untouched by any board. That is the core beliefs and goals of the organization. A board is brought in to further those beliefs and goals, not challenge or change them. The heart of the company is not up for debate.
A board should never be one voice, but a multitude of them working to find the courses of action that are best for the health and future of the company. There is never a good reason to stack a board. If someone feels inclined to do so in order to maintain their position or agenda, they don’t deserve the position and their agenda is highly suspect.
A board with creative tension is necessary for a disruptor.
By Brian McKay
Something else was being written earlier until the need to write about baseball struck. Forget everything else. Baseball season has started and that matters. It is America’s romance sport and probably the most important sport season most American’s now dismiss. Stop that shit. This is the sport that needs to be re-discovered, if anything for the sake of your relationship.
So it has started. Baseball season is back and a hundred and sixty-two games will be played by each team before the post season comes about. Yeah, it’s a lot of games. Compared to football season it is a literal shitload of games. But please don’t get bored of it. I know that you think that watching it on TV isn’t nearly as exciting as football, where every game matters in absolutely dramatic fashion, but I assure you the romanticism of baseball still exists and trumps every other sport.
Baseball has suffered over the years. It is aging. The average viewer of the World Series is 52. That sucks. Maybe those that are younger like football because of less games and far more fast paced brutality. It certainly isn’t basketball that is usurping baseball. Recent surveys show that the NBA is the favorite sports league of only about 5% of the country. A recent Harris poll found that football has ruled for 33 years with 33% of respondents calling it their favorite sport. Baseball was far behind at 15%. In between, baseball and the NBA were college football and auto racing.
Ok, so it is understandable that egos and massive child support payments have the U.S. having a basketball crisis, but baseball? Where did we lose the faith? Baseball is amazing, classic, statistical and your absolute best chance at getting laid after a game.
Did you know that the absolute best sporting event to attend to foster your relationship is a baseball game? Years of study have shown that baseball absolutely rules for creating closeness among couples. The time between plays creates time to talk and truly communicate in a happy and involved environment. Who doesn’t see love coming about between innings with beer, a hotdog and singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”? If you don’t get it, you are certainly not getting it on later.
Baseball has the greatest statistics ever. Yeah the NFL has statistics going back to the late 60’s. So what? They are amateurs. Every baseball play is compared to over 100 years of play. Everything is measured and every play matters. Pros analyze this stuff constantly and the concept of Moneyball entered the sport under Billy Beane with the Oakland A’s and created a dynamic team with the lowest payroll in Baseball. The A’s took stats to a new level.
The Saint Louis Cardinals let go of Albert Pujols in 2011 as they didn’t wish to spend the premium that the Angels were willing to pay and still remained a dominate force in MLB due to excellent management.
The point is that management and coaching truly matter in baseball. A couple stars can make a football or basketball team, but baseball is truly dependent on good management. A baseball team that is lackluster in the standouts department can make the playoffs. Good luck seeing an NFL team in the same situation.
Baseball is still the American sport. Sure football is all American. Yes, it is awesome and college football is especially cool, as it shows kids willing to put everything on the line for their passion. That’s fabulous. Baseball was still first. Baseball has an amazing history of scandals, racial strife, heroes and nostalgia. If Marilyn Monroe married a famous baseball player, as she did with DiMaggio, you know that shit is cool. There are amazing stories in Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, the Black Sox scandal and Jackie Robinson’s integration into the segregated world of baseball. No other sport has the statement, “As American as apple pie and baseball”.
How many great movies have been made about other sports? Very few. Bull Durham, The Natural, Field of Dreams, 42, The Sandlot, The Bad News Bears, the baseball list goes on and on. Try to find any other sport that has inspired so many major movies. You can’t. Nothing typifies the amount of romance inherent in the sport than the amount of films that have inspired and told incredible stories. Can you think of one NFL film that truly inspired you? Maybe one or two. Remember the Titans was really good and Rudy drew a few tears, but I can think of at least 10 baseball films that easily surpass those benchmarks.
There is an elegance to the simplicity of the game. Despite all of the statistics and management, it still comes down to hitting and catching a ball. There is no greater elegance than simplicity and the only thing that touches baseball is soccer. Football is awesome for strategy and basketball is great for endurance and quick points. Baseball is just simple, slower and amazing.
And have you ever watched the Little League World Series? It’s nuts. Those kids are intense, come from across the world and put on a show that is world class. It is a serious sport with kids. Soccer is fun and great at team building for kids, but baseball is amazing and brings them together from countries across the world. You will never see a soccer or football championship that rivals the Little League World Series.
In short, baseball is historical, romantic, statistical, builds relationships and even has a song everyone sings right in the middle of the game. That it is aging is a true shame. It is one of the most amazing sports that has ever existed and deserves a new look.
Go watch a game with your significant other. Laugh. Have a beer, eat a hot dog, catch a foul ball and rediscover the incredible beauty that is baseball.