Trump Doesn’t Matter

Trump doesn’t matter.

What you do matters. What we do together in our neighborhoods matters.

All this focus on Mr. Trump gives him just what he wants. Attention. Eye-balls. If you think he’s evil, you’re missing the point. If you think he’s stupid, you are dangerously underestimating him. He doesn’t care what you think of him personally. And he’s not threatened by impotent politicians, insipid pundits, and hand-wringing intellectuals tweeting hate.

Even if a president becomes a threat to your liberty, to your well-being, to your family, you can’t do a thing unless you come from a place of strength. Staying desperate and disconnected – but righteously indignant and up on all the latest social media churn – that won’t make your life better.

Making our lives better means being useful in our neighborhoods, in our towns and cities. But instead we are afraid. We are stressed. We are addicted to the morphine drip of fear. We constantly look for someone to blame. I do this just as much as you.

To escape fear, to break the addiction, take action on these basics (baby steps matter):

* physical safety – make it safer where we live, where we work, where our kids and grandmothers walk every day.

* financial peace – stabilize our finances, create breathing room for our family and friends. Escape debt-slavery. Then thrive!

* resolve conflicts – clean things up, purge the festering wounds, embrace the discomfort of street-level restorative justice. Our families and neighborhoods need truth and reconciliation.

Trump doesn’t matter.
Not yet.

#WalkSafe #RestoreJustice #ThriveNow

Best Government in the Galaxy

Government sucks.

The citizen UX sucks most of the time in most places… for billions of people. [UX = user experience]

It doesn’t make sense. And it isn’t a law of nature. There are many reasons why most government services suck. None of those reasons reflect un-fixable problems, but fixing them requires totally new approaches. Meanwhile, most people can’t imagine anything better. Some people hope for some marginal, incremental improvement. Few people can imagine a citizen experience with government that is dramatically terrific, on par with the best customer service experiences in the private sector.

I’m working on AtlantisUnderground because I want to be part of creating the best government in the galaxy, and the best user experience for citizens. Please join me.

Serious Stuff vs. Creative Near-Fiction

Struggling with how to post my ongoing projects I’ve come up with two basic categories: Serious Stuff and Creative Near-Fiction

Serious Stuff includes (among other things) my clippings and analysis about good governance, security, and legal system engineering approached in a manner that won’t embarrass my colleagues in government. (Of course, the content may be embarrassing, but that’s a different problem relating to taboos and orthodoxy. I’m most interested in perspectives that may seem heterodox.)

Creative Near-Fiction imagines various near-future implications of people in networked tribes using technology and creative disruption to  survive and thrive in a world of inter-connected cities.

Where are the SpaceX-style innovators in governance?

I had thought that I would maintain some sort of academic detachment with AtlantisUnderground, documenting best practices and identifying thought leaders in government innovation. Now that approach seems unfruitful given the urgent need for massive, practical innovation in governance and legal systems for the billions of people in a rapidly urbanizing world where even the most fundamental obligation of government – to keep people safe – is an open joke. Plus it’s boring!

Instead, we need a series of SpaceX-style players to catalyze innovation in engineering governance delivery systems. What SpaceX has done for the aerospace industry (once the exclusive domain of a few major governments and terminally sclerotic) must be done for the delivery of good governance. If we think fundamentally of governance in functional terms, then we can sidestep the debate-swamp of which form of government is best.  It will help to think of governance as a service (or GaaS, to tweak a term borrowed from the software realm). If we embrace a results-driven and data-driven pursuit of clearly (and inspirationally) defined governance functions, then the form of governance will follow the functional target. This frees us to be sufficiently flexible on the front end in exploring how to solve the opportunities of existing dysfunction presented by legacy governance systems.

Shadow Governments & ‘Undergrounds’

I’m not sure how to package my odd mix of whimsy, military-security geekiness, entrepreneurial legal-system insight, wild imagination, public service, and real politik… so I won’t try. Instead, here’s what’s blowing my mind from last week:

This is too perfect. It’s like I commissioned this article on “undergrounds” & “shadow government”.

[G]overnment and governance are not synonymous… governance can exist without a government and governments can exist without truly performing governance, as we see in weak states or under-governed spaces.

Holy shizen, am I reading this?@!:

the US… [can] advise and enable the efforts of the Shadow Government [in] preparing and shaping the environment… [with] civil initiatives to “gain and maintain access to denied areas,” assessing the efficacy of governance activities in areas that the Resistance can reach, empowering the Shadow Government to… deliver a higher standard of living to the civilian populace than the targeted regime…[while US] advisors can act as the connective tissue of the network of governance cadres and therefore serve as a conduit of information and influence.

Does this guy know he is capturing essential strategic insights that AtlantisUnderground operatives have already embraced on a freelance basis?

Is he secretly part of the movement? If so, why reveal this? If not, does he believe this can really be done, this advising/shaping of a Shadow Government, in a way that doesn’t ultimately backfire? I suspect that the U.S. (or other Great Power) risks catalyzing a result that is opposite to the original objective.

Maybe the meta-message is directed at a select internal mil/security audience already primed to recognize the system disruption, including domestic implications?

Is the author even serious or is he being deeply ironic or satirical?

I’m skeptical that this approach has become ‘doctrine’ even in the US Unconventional Warfare community. And if so, can it be implemented top-down? Or even bottom-up?

It is fascinating and exhilarating but I wouldn’t believe it if I hadn’t already stumbled across people actively developing ways to operationalize the key insights highlighted in this article. Rather than speculative fantasy, ‘undergrounds’ and shadow governments are a near-reality creative [non]fiction.

Creative non-fiction

So far, two broad avenues are emerging for the positive transformation of cities in the developing world:

1) Development related to better legal systems and economic policy that more effectively align incentives, usually implemented in a top-down manner by elites. These initiatives are much more visible and more likely to reach mainstream notice, more likely to be discussed and applauded by the establishment in developed nations.

2) Grass-roots activism that goes far beyond street protests, along with the broadest sweep of civil society organizing, associations, and commercial activity that are underground in some sense. (Much of this ‘subversive’ activity is in sector D or grey zones, the unofficial economy widely condemned by oppressive states, DAESH/ISIS among them!)

Arab Spring 5 years later

Five years ago the Arab Spring uprisings began in Tunisia when street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi was harassed to death by city officials. Tunisia has intrigued me in the past few months: it is arguably the best example of a democratic success to grow out of the Arab Spring, but its economy is faltering (its tourism industry devastated by high-profile terrorism) and DAESH/ISIS seems to have a deadly foothold in the failed-state vacuum of neighboring Libya. The national government has responded to security threats with the predictable restrictions on civil liberty and human rights.

As one tweet puts it, “Tunisia:  The birthplace of the Arab Spring. But could derail its fight for democracy?”

What can the people of Tunisia do? How can they defend their cities without sacrificing their newly-won freedoms, without allowing their elected rulers to reimpose police-state conditions through democratic means? Are there opensource distributed solutions so individual tunisiens can participate in securing their own communities? What can citizens do to protect their families and their city – especially when police and military seem unlikely to defeat Daesh without a totally new approach?

World Bank on Competitive Cities

A top-shelf establishment looking at what makes specific cities globally competitive and faster-growing than their host nation:  Competitive Cities by the World Bank from 2014.

Here’s the interesting summary of their recent report Competitive cities for jobs and growth : what, who, and how (Dec. 2015).

How to Run Your City (or Best-practices in Urban Governance & Administration)

Atlantis Underground is a personal notebook of my observations and analysis of best-practices in urban governance, legal system entrepreneurship, and city-scale energy management, food, communications, and security infrastructure. I’m also interested in alternate/innovative approaches that may not have hit the academic literature or public policy circuit.

I’m curious about how peer-to-peer and distributed technologies can enhance the urban experience that people crave – a thriving, safe, and prosperous community  (at least that’s what I want) – especially in cities where the state apparatus lacks capacity to reliably provide public services, justice, or security.

I’m also seeking examples of excellent urban management. I want to connect with the people responsible, and discover what makes the difference and why. I focus on structural and systemic incentives, looking for ways to effectively align interests to deliver real quality of life.