What if we instituted *maximum* ages for legislative office?


When we’re younger, we’re better at fresh thinking. When we’re older, we’re better at contextual thinking. So why don’t we operate our world like we know that?

A struggling economy-backed entrepreneurship craze and a fast-paced period of consumer technology advancement have conspired to create an age that celebrates youth. But while I find being in my 20s beneficial in fitting into this era, I still find many of my peers struggling to break through what amounts to intern syndrome — being passed over for leadership roles in existing organizations and institutions because they don’t look the part.

Similarly, the stories of people near retirement losing their jobs, sometimes simply because they seem the most expendable are heart-wrenching. It seems we could be a lot savvier about age.

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Photos, video and social media at events are our newest form of applause

A photo of the crowd at an All American Rejects concert at Xfinity Live in September 2012.
A photo of the crowd at an All American Rejects concert at Xfinity Live in September 2012.

Creating media continues to become easier and more varied every day. Humans are the only species to develop the practice of recording history.

So whenever we are in a moment we regard as a distinguished experience — travel, first-time moments, extraordinary circumstances — we are bound to have this motivation to record that history as best we can.

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Why 10 percent unemployment and worse is our future, unless we rethink our economy

People waiting in line for unemployment relief in Chicago in October 1960. Photo by Myron Davis for LIFE Magazine

Updated with more perspective on the job-crashing Internet here and more from Vox Media here. Also, though some think there is a mighty economic transition happening, many readers and friends have pointed that I didn’t properly address the ‘lump labor fallacy‘ here, in which I incorrectly assume there is a static number of jobs that are going away. I still think there is perspective worth sharing below. More comments welcome.

In the next 20 years, the United States and the broader global economy will either dramatically rethink its employment structure or a history-altering societal change will take place.

Of course, unemployment numbers are gamed by those who give up on looking for jobs, but the idea here is that it’s hard to understand why anyone seems to think that the overall unemployment numbers for our country will trend anywhere but upward.

Let me be clear, this is armchair commentary from someone with absolutely no background in economics or geopolitical, socioeconomic trends, so I am writing this hoping for outside insight because I can’t figure this out.

Below, I (a) outline the problem as I see it, (b) look at big economic drivers that seem to be chances for more problems, (c) list all the opportunities I understand that could reverse somewhat this trend and then (d) highlight some of the transformational changes that could lie in wait for the next generation, before offering some more reading and then waiting to get yelled at in the comments.

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There are no good U.S. presidents, just good times to be president

When one looks at the depths of U.S. presidential politics, there is a balance between who is perceived as having succeeded and who has failed.

We write thick biographies and create college courses on the considerable accomplishments of our favorites. In pragmatic contrast, there is an old saw that means to convey how much federal structure has been built up over time.

The only two decisions a president gets to make are when to drop the bomb and where to put the library.

It’s with that logic that I’ve found myself feeling a certain sense of predetermined indifference. I’ve long loved following local politics more than federal, on the whole, because it’s my belief that those actors impact my life in a far more tangible way than those federally.

There are no good U.S. presidents, just good times to be president.

Good times

  • When a new gamechanging technology is invented, like the Internet
  • When there is an enemy of state, like after 9/11
  • Right after a global recession, like perhaps next term

Bad times

  • When there is a global recession, like now
  • When there is a hostage situation, late in your second term.

Why politicians cheat: five reasons that should leave us unsurprised by campaign affairs

When the inevitable annual news story comes out about the latest politician having cheated on his wife, people question why leaders cheat.

There are some obvious reasons to me:

  1. Long campaign hours — Same as workaholics, being away from home offers a lot of opportunity for philandering.
  2. Lots of people interaction — When campaigning and legislating, you deal with a lot of people.
  3. Charismatic, passionate leaders — Elections attract people who often have the attractive qualities.
  4. Sense of entitlement — Those who do good, big work (like legislators) can easily convince themselves that they’re owed a little wrong.
  5. You’re the boss — In interviews and campaigning and voting and such, legislators are taught to make and stand by their decisions. Not all of them are the right ones.

Prediction: my children will care less about technology than I do

These are not my kids. I don't even have kids. This is a photo I found online of a bunch of kids using laptops. It's meant to be mildly representative of where we are today, in shoving digital technology in everyone's hands.

Two premises:

(a) Generations are cyclical.

(b) Technology is everything we were alive to see invented.

If my peers today are a part of an incredible age of change and innovation, when what is new is what matters most, I believe that my children’s generation in 20 years or so, will be characterized by rebelling against what is new — if that doesn’t happen sooner. (I don’t have kids yet, but I might have ’em someday and so I’m talking broadly)

What is considered technology today — things like web-based communication, geo location-centric discovery and adaptable information gathering — will not be abandoned necessarily (because those will be everyday tools 20 years from now) but I do believe consumer interest will go elsewhere from the newest and latest around technology in as obsessive a fashion. New ideas fuel consumer interest, but I suspect my kids won’t care about technology in the same way we do today.

What will replace technology, well, I’m not quite sure yet.

Choosing local impact or broader scale

Choosing between local impact or broader scale is a vital differentiation in our professional paths.

My buddy Daniel Victor was named the new social media editor of nonprofit public affairs news outfit Pro Publica, and so I reluctantly bade him farewell from his brief few months at Philly.com and with the local ONA chapter.

Having developed a good friendship with Victor, I’ve followed his exciting and deserved fast-paced climb up the journalism ladder: from Harrisburg, Pa. newspaper the Patriot-News to D.C. news startup TBD to regional powerhouse Philly.com to investigative, foundation-supported journo-brand giant Pro Publica. Knowing my personality, I took some time to think about whether spending the past few years building a very local, very niche outlet like Technically Philly was the right fit for me.

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Will jobs ever come back?: maybe there is an answer to the employment bomb

Is our recession another blip in centuries of economic rises and falls or is something darker happening?

Part of me agrees with the recent post from media critic Jeff Jarvis, who voiced a concern I’ve been working through myself: efficiency-creating technology has continued to speed and, well, there are a lot of old people coming.

There is a real conversation happening that a new normal rate of unemployment should be expected, though there is counter to that — we’re just too close to the economic collapse to have any sense of what is normal.

But here’s one additional thought I keep gnawing over.

Continue reading Will jobs ever come back?: maybe there is an answer to the employment bomb

Temple University’s neighborhood scholarships should go to kids, not undergrads

Chess player Garry Kasparov at an event from the Harlem Children's Zone, a nationally-celebrated program devoted to impacting kids at a young age. Photo by Mig Greengard.

Two hundred fifty students from the largely troubled neighborhoods of North Philadelphia will receive full, four-year scholarships to neighobring Temple University, my alma mater, during the next decade, as the Inquirer reported.

It’s a generous effort from a major urban research university often called on for more outreach in its surrounding communities. Good things, warm stories and, surely, great public relations will come as a result. Of a student population numbering nearly 30,000, 250 may seem small, but it’s always worth valuing.

All that said, a friend summed up my exact reaction to the situation. This is a kind, relatively easy, relatively small move. It ignores the reality that the biggest impact on the development of young people happens long before they are applying for college.

“[Temple] should have given full-day preschool from birth and full-day kindergarten to 250 neighboring kids and intensive parental training to 250 neighborhood new parents 18 years ago. That would have been more effective and ultimately cheaper.” – Dan Pohlig

Temple, of course, is a university, so offering those scholarships have precedence there. This is a fine act, but there are bigger issues and more interesting approaches to take on.

How 9/11 helped shape New York City for the better

The New York 9/11 terrorist attack site view on Sept. 12, 2001 from the Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus camera on NASA's Landsat 8. Click to see original. H/t Gizmodo

Nearly 3,000 people are said to have died 10 years ago in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, perhaps more if some first responder deaths are to be included.

That is brutal and sobering and tragic and heartbreaking.

TL;DR — Why I believe the pain of 9/11 helped shape NYC for the better.

  • A long history exists between pain and strength.
  • After 9/11, Americans embraced New York City as patriot territory.
  • After the attacks, an even stronger NYC identity has developed.
  • Following that day, NYC is now protected by more of a veil of patriotism than it perhaps has ever had.
  • Why I wrote this: To argue that a dramatic shift in our national perspectives on NYC changed after 9/11 and it has largely benefited the city.

I grew up in northwest New Jersey, a rural enclave in the New York City region. Like many others there, my parents were from the city and arrived an hour west chasing suburban sprawl. Much of my family still lives in and around that city. They worked in and around the Twin Towers. A couple times a year, my parents would take my sister and me to Manhattan for nice dinners with family; I always wanted to play sandlot baseball or get lost in the woods instead.

I was a sophomore in high school sitting in English class that September Tuesday, but I don’t want to rehash my story. Plenty are doing that and, quite frankly, they are doing a better job of it than I can. Moreover, many people with whom I was in class had parents or other close family working there or near to the buildings. I didn’t, after some confirmation, so my personal story isn’t compelling.

Instead, I want to suggest what might be considered a rather unsettling thought, but I think it’s an important one.

That the most costly, most visual portion of the Sept. 11 attacks in lower Manhattan have, looking back at the last 10 years, been good for New York City.

People died. Real people. At a different time, my uncles, or cousin or sister could have very likely been in that number. Philosophy isn’t developed enough for us to understand why not. Very little is ever worth death. But, I believe, these attacks have propelled New York City to first city status among the few generations of Americans alive for 9/11 in a way that nothing else ever could.

I am not a resident of New York City. Never have been. The city was around me — literally and by means of familial roots, but, no, I wasn’t there that morning and know little of that moment. My arguments here rely most heavily on outside perception, so having roots and family there, but being distant enough to evaluate that perception is a strength, I believe.

Now let me tell you why the idea that something so painful could be beneficial is not only plausible, it is clear.

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