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'I Used to Be in the Cool Business'

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Opinion: 'I Used to Be in the Cool Business'

AFP/Getty Images

Cast member Arnold Schwarzenegger arrives at the film premiere of "The Expendables 2" at Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood California on August 15, 2012. AFP PHOTO / ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/GettyImages)

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Unveiling USC's Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy

Political figures and Hollywood heavyweights will help kick-off the new Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy at USC. Nancy Staudt, the Academic Director, gives Conan Nolan a preview on the NBC4 NewsConference on Sept. 23, 2012.

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District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis discusses why a judge ruled Arnold Schwarzenegger did not break any laws when he commuted the 16 year sentence for one of his friend's sons.
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I just attended the opening of Gov. Schwarzenegger's new think tank at USC. The think tank is oriented toward the future and figuring out ways to harness local and regional governments, along with the private sector, non-profits and the academic world -- to address big global problems, from health care to climate change to political gridlock.

But the think tank launch was much more entertaining than all of that. Indeed, Schwarzenegger convened two panels of huge names -- one from politics, one from the entertainment industry -- to talk very broadly about change, and pose questions that the think tank might address.

The first panel consisted of four former governors -- Bill Richardson of New Mexico, Charlie Crist of Florida, Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania, and Schwarzenegger -- along with former U.S. Senator Tom Daschle and current U.S. Senator John McCain.

Their discussion could have been titled, "What the heck happened to politics?" They talked about how hard it has gotten to get things done -- and how much harder governance has become -- as a result of the media, partisanship, and the country's diversity.

The second panel consisted of big entertainment names -- Interscope Geffen A&M chairman Jimmy Iovine, movie producer Brian Grazer, Lionsgate co-chairman Rob Friedman, Universal Studios president and COO Ron Meyer, and Schwarzenegger -- talking about how much difficult it's gotten to make films and entertainments given economic pressures, and the pressures from new and social media.

Iovine lamented that people began to offer him pity and condolences on the problems of the music industry, which he hates. "I used to be in the cool business," he said. The discussion could have been titled, "What the heck happened to Hollywood?"

After a day of this, the two questions: "What the heck happened to Hollywood?" and "What the heck happened to politics?" began to sound like one:

How do we preserve institutions and the good work they do in a flatter, more democratic world?

No one had any answers. But it was a big question -- one well worth the attention of a think tank backed by a movie star and former governor.

Lead Prop Zero blogger Joe Mathews is California editor at Zocalo Public Square, a fellow at Arizona State University’s Center for Social Cohesion, and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (University of California, 2010).

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