It seems that every day my inbox is filled with yet another email of the form “candidate x is being attacked by Koch brother money – please send money.” Am I the only one who sees this as a road to ruin? The big guys can always outspend us – after all, every time we blow our noses, or wipe our rears, we’re putting money in the Koch brothers’ pockets (just try to find a paper product that they don’t own). As far as I can tell, political campaigns have become an arms race – benefiting primarily the arms merchants (political consultants, ad agencies, tv networks, etc.).
When you’re fighting a well-funded army, one doesn’t go at them head-on – you go at them with guerrilla tactics, and save your big guns for when they can make a difference. Save the dollars for after the primaries, for example.
Politics used to be retail – knocking on doors, ward healers, and all that. Now it’s all about running ads and raising money to pay for them.
The Internet, and particularly social media should have changed the game – but that would mean politicians actually engaging with their constituents, instead of simply treating social media as another fund-raising vehicle.
Or am I all wet here?
As friend DH points out, the NSA appears to be close to having created “The Machine” described in the television show “Person of Interest”. Combine this database and data capture technology with IBM’s Watson technology and presto, you have “The Machine”, the ultimate tool for leveraging fear, hatred as well as blackmail.
See: “Person of Interest”: The TV Show That Predicted Edward Snowden
By Joshua Rothman
Jan 14 2014
No Place to Hide: We’re All Suspects In Barack Obama’s America
By Robert Scheer
Jan 21 2014
And for more on the political use of fear, see:
Fifty States of Fear
By PETER LUDLOW
Jan 19 2014
The British philosopher Bertrand Russell, writing as World War II was drawing to a close in Europe, observed that “neither a man nor a crowd nor a nation can be trusted to act humanely or to think sanely under the influence of a great fear.” Russell’s point was that irrational fear can propel us into counterproductive activities, ranging from unjust wars and the inhumane treatment of others to more mundane cases like our failure to seize opportunities to improve our everyday lives.
Ludlow, however, does not make the connection to the combination of fear and hate, which was made by Goebbels and Stalin. The combination is greater than the sum of its parts and creates a very powerful propaganda tool for influencing behavior.
In the end, it is all about political and economic power. Who has it, who is gaining it, and who is afraid of losing it. In recent times, to see fear in operation it is essential to go back to at least the Russian revolution and the deep fear it created for those whose power and wealth depends on tight centralized control.”The Machine” created by the NSA et al is designed primarily to preserve centralized control and the advantages it gives those who operate it.
Tom Atlee has a great blog post on the challenges we need to overcome to address the changes required to honestly address our changing environment.
“Climate change is so big and pervasive we can hardly see it. There’s almost nothing in our collective lives that is bigger in its implications. The changes it demands of us are the most profound we have ever faced and they are growing increasingly urgent. Among our most radical challenges is building the capacity for whole societies to be smarter and wiser collectively than we are individually…”
Well worth reading.
- Promoting innovation for productive uses of carbon resources in the atmosphere. -
The current climate change narrative, whether gloom and doom or denial, is not effectively motivating change in either the demand or supply side of our energy regime. This suggests the need for a new narrative: One that is both positive and constructive. Developing such a new narrative is the goal of the Carbon Challenge.
A Carbon Challenge that implies an economic benefit associated with success in dealing with atmospheric CO2 may well be more persuasive. I suggest, for example, that a Carbon Challenge is a better way to inject the words pyrolysis and “biochar”, or pyrolytic carbon, into the national conversation.
I see this as a cross cutting, multi-disciplinary collaborative effort involving at least gardening, energy, engineering, environment, cooking, policy, soil science, etc. Of course this concept needs to be fleshed out; I’d love to have the chance to talk with you about the potential of a Carbon Challenge.
Examples of companies already inventing a new narrative are:
As a side note, Cool Planet has expressed interest in participating. They have already supplied the Harvard student garden with a super sack of inoculated biochar. They may also supply biochar to Shelburne Farms for some experiments there involving run off from composting as well as several applications at the Farm’s dairy operations. Dartmouth’s student garden may well be in the mix too. Would your team be interested in exploring the possibility of getting a super sack of inoculated Cool Planet biochar to experiment with? As you may know, Cool Planet is best known for successfully converting grass into gasoline. Their conversion process also yields grass biochar, now certified by the IBI.
Here are two early examples of Educational Carbon Challenges.
If we can develop enough interest from college gardeners, the hope is that we can organize a meeting that brings everyone together in 2014. This would build on the previous three Campus Cultivation Conferences. Tufts, of course, hosted the third conference in 2013. It might be worth considering the possibility of a Campus Cultivation track at the NOFA VT conference in Feb. 2014, or at some more convenient, latter date.
What do you think – is this something your team might be interested in??
Your thoughts, comments, suggestions are welcome. Please post them as comments.
- Cooking Over Real Wood Gas Flames -
Making Charcoal as you Grill
Five benefits of Pyro ⦿ Grilling
1. Tastes better: cooking over real wood gas flames;
2. Clean burning: No smoke, no soot on food, little soot on pots or pans.
3. Less expensive than store bought charcoal;
4. Great for your garden: when mixed with compost, charcoal makes a great soil amendment – numerous other applications;
5. Good for the environment: ~ 35% – 40% of carbon in the wood pellet fuel is diverted from the atmosphere to valuable uses on land.
H.E. Professor DR. FAROOQ HASSAN, Barrister at Law, Attorney at Law,
Senior Advocate Supreme Court of Pakistan.*
I am honored to present in these pages the introduction to the twin crises facing the international community presently. The 11th Annual Session of the Rhodes Forum will take place on October 2-6, 2013. Among other issues special attention ought to be paid to the ongoing civil strife in Syria and destabilization of the situation in the Korean Peninsula. In this survey I shall, however, restrict myself to the disability being caused to the world by the crises in Syria and leave the terrible situation in Korea for another suitable occasion.
Deepening crisis caused by the destabilization to start dialogical process is common for otherwise to two different Korean and Syrian cases. Multiple terrorist acts and kidnapping of two orthodox bishops as well as acts of brinkmanship in Korea by the relevant people would be expecting a responsible public reaction. To trigger such a reaction would be the goal of the upcoming Rhodes Forum. I was really honored when called upon by the organizers of this great forum dialogues to present my views on this crucial subject now facing mankind. 11th Annual Session of the Rhodes Forum will take place on October 2-6, 2013 as activities of the Forum will be dedicated to the analysis of globalization’s transition to a poly-centric and multi-civilizational reality. I considered this matter and have decided to give to the most learned audience an account of this entire topic, admittedly from current perspectives, because of the following three reasons this a compendium of causation.
First it is a matter of utmost simplicity that religion has a vital role to play in most international events and these two impending tragedies are really not different in respect of this issue from the vast majority of similar matters. Since the locality in which Syria is located is Muslim, it would be axiomatic that Islam plays an important role in what follows. The present author is also initially from such a background and is thus more than familiar with various norms of this crisis than would normally be the case.
Secondly, the controversy surrounds the politics of a region in which there is an age old conflict between the different players of this territory in which the present author has a connection of sorts. As such, I feel that my own familiarity with such actors is important to mention; accordingly in passing, I may mention that although I teach at Harvard in two graduate schools since 1989, twice in the decade of the nineties, I remained as a constitutional advisor on international affairs to the then Prime Minister of Pakistan Mr. Nawaz Sharif, who is again leading the country amidst heavy opposition elements. So I can speak with some authority on the perspective matters on which I may address the audience.
Thirdly, I am tempted to write on this larger issue so that we may be able to collect a perspective analysis on the significant subject involving a large enough spectrum of views so as to assist others in relevant places to come to the “right” decisions.
It must be admitted at the outset that most of the learned thinkers now running the World Public Forum have already through various important papers published the debate concerning this crucial topic in various publications going back several months. It is my earnest desire not to repeat what has been stated in these columns except for briefly mentioning the broad themes that have been thus covered. It is hoped by doing so I would help in focusing upon the current developments with a view to have a candid discussion of the underlying issues.
The broad range of subjects concerning this particular topic which have been treated as such are: Public Institutions – Civil Society Relations, Post-Secularization and the New Pope, Dialogue as an Alternative to Globalization, Realities of the Present Day Challenging the World’s Sustainable Future, Religious Minorities under Pressure, Need for Fair Economy and Transnational Crime as Challenges of Globalization and Global Need to Engage in Dialogue.
On 11 April 2013, the World Public forum published in a general discussion of Public Institutions – Civil Society Relations, Post-Secularization and New Pope. It is plainly visible that the thinkers of this impressive gathering did consider the election of the new Pope as a fundamental matter deserving apparent transnational importance. Why this is so? It is so as it remains as manifest to non-Christians as to the Catholics. But it would help the overall theme being presented here were I to quote briefly from the above paper cited by me. It is said:
“In March 2013 the world witnessed the death of Hugo Chávez and the beginning of the Post-Chávez epoch in Latin America, the election of new Pope Francis and reflected on 10 years since the beginning of the Iraq War. We suggest to your attention analysis of these substantial changes and put forward a range of other dialogue-related issues from different perspectives.”
These important references to these twin events signify the fundamental importance of these facts for a proper understanding of this complex field. Accordingly, we begin our analysis of this debate by this observation that internationally we are witnessing a refocused attention of the world’s leading powers and people towards an item o greatest public interest that many of them look differently from each other and even from the perspective of the four main world class actors identified in this analysis.
Quite clearly the four powers that really matter in any meaningful discussion are the following four: China, Russia, E.U. and the US. It is equally clear that while the motivations of each of the four major actors would be different, their ultimate impact on the relevant international community has to be closely watched.
However, there seems to be the obvious truth: that the Iraq war, the predecessor of the current Syrian crises, was actually begun by the US on grounds on which no one really believes; it was alleged by Washington and actively supported by the UK that Saddam Hussein had means of vast destruction but most regrettably such weapons were never found. No wonder Pope Francis went on to assert in his Easter address that countries should refrain from showing “patent greed to obtain easy international gains.” Howsoever this phrase is interpreted it is clear that the Pope appears to put uncaring capitalism at a par with the armed conflicts; traditionally deplored in the annual Urbi et Orbi address, Pope Francis gave an unexpected twist to the annual pontifical appeal for peace on this Easter Sunday of 2013 when he used it by observing in a picturesque style by denouncing it with “greed looking for easy gain”.
So the conceptual point that has to be kept uppermost in our mind is this: who wants to gain what from this terrible human tragedy? One more allied point needs some emphasis to which we now turn. 
It must be clearly understood that there has come about a strange kind of relationship between the major actors in this human tragedy and the plethora of non-government actors presently in the field professing an end which may or may not represent the ultimate truth. The relations between public institutions and civil society organizations have grown resolutely in the last decades. On the overall, however, such interaction has not been sufficiently considered in public discussion, and its outcomes have often been underestimated if not altogether overlooked, causing a dangerous misperception.
Seeking different goals, political representatives and activists increasingly manage to find a compromise which is unstable and yet with significant outcomes. This intensified relation is yielding consequences on the foundations of the political system in which we have lived in the last century.
A profound transformation of the very nature of the (especially international) political system is, arguably, ongoing. These radical transformations may bring about socio-political benefits, but may also entail serious political costs. An examination is therefore very much due. A decade after the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq a number of analysts have come to the tragic conclusion that the most immoral and unjust war in recent years has generated nothing but a series of catastrophes. These human failings seem to transfer in all fields of activity: from political to social, from economic to educational and from just plain financial to the field of law and society in general that is utterly bewildering.
In a fundamental political sense I think it is undeniable that the biggest gainer in this struggle has been Iran which must haunt those that had the power to do so in Washington at the relevant time. 
We could no better than to cite Richard Falk on this point when he accurately observed:
“After a decade of combat, casualties, massive displacement, persisting violence, enhanced sectarian tension and violence between Shias and Sunnis, periodic suicide bombings and autocratic governance, a negative assessment of the Iraq War as a strategic move by the United States, the United Kingdom and a few of their secondary allies, including Japan, seems unavoidable. Not only the regionally destabilizing outcome – including the blowback effect of perversely adding weight to Iran’s overall diplomatic influence – but the reputational costs in the Middle East associated with an imprudent, destructive and failed military intervention make the Iraq War the worst American foreign policy disaster since its defeat in Vietnam in the 1970s.”
This being the case, it seems axiomatic to suggest that by being a part of this terrible fight the US has brought about really far reaching alterations in the ground realties that exist in the Middle East and perhaps in the Muslim World that surrounds this particular region. I think those of who really know the region well, will not find much to disagree with what has been just echoed.
Now with these thoughts in mind let us turn our attention to the most recent facts to emerge from Syrian crises in recent weeks. To begin with we have had fugitive US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden who was granted asylum in Russia last week. This is the latest act of a “hostile” nature to take place in this background. The particular episode to which reference is made is epitomized in these next few paragraphs.
The war “in Syria poses the greatest threat to US security because of the risk of the government falling and the country becoming a weapons-rich haven for Al-Qaeda,” a high ranking CIA official said. CIA second-in-command Michael Morell gave the assessment in an interview published this week by the Wall Street Journal as he prepared to retire after 33 years with the agency. Morell said there are now more foreign fighters flowing into Syria each month to take up arms with al Qaeda-affiliated groups than there were going to Iraq to fight with al Qaeda at the height of the war there. The Syrian government’s weapons “are going to be up for grabs and up for sale” as they were in Libya when Moamer Kadhafi fell, he added.
“It’s probably the most important issue in the world today,” he said of the war in Syria, “because of where it is currently heading” — toward the fall of the government of President Bashar al-Assad, according to Morell.
Morell also opined and said the violence in “Syria has the potential to spill across borders into Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq.” Morell told the press that second on his list was Iran, followed by the global al Qaeda threat, North Korea, and cyber warfare. About al Qaeda, he said the United States had “significantly degraded” the group’s capabilities in Pakistan and Afghanistan but added that the terror network “has also scored victories, such as its dispersal, which he said has spread its ideology and global reach.”
Even a moment’s reflection will tell us that were this all true, it sounds terrible for Washington who single handedly was instrumental in creating the situation from which these scenarios have emerged. But the truth of the matter is far from here; particularly in the perspective being advanced on Pakistan & Afghanistan, I feel the retiring American official is just wrong. The same seems to be case regarding Iran, which has emerged much stronger since this crisis unfolded.
Simultaneous with this CIA official’s statement came the other major news about the cancelation of a proposed one to one meeting of the Russian President with president Obama. Russia is “disappointed” by US President Barack Obama’s decision to cancel a planned visit to Moscow in early September for a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Russians announced.
“We are disappointed,” Putin’s top foreign policy aide Yury Ushakov told reporters, adding it was clear to Moscow that the decision was linked to the fugitive US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden who was granted asylum in Russia last week. “It is clear that the decision is linked to the situation over the employee of the American special services Snowden which was absolutely not created by us,” he said.
Ushakov further said the situation showed that the “United States was still not ready” for relations “on an equal basis” with Russia; however he said the invitation for Obama to visit still stood. 
“This problem emphasizes that the United States, as before, is not ready to build relations on an equal basis,” said Ushakov, accusing the United States of thwarting the signing of a bilateral extradition agreement. “We are ready to work further with the American partners on all key questions on the bilateral and multilateral agenda,” he added. Obama is still set to visit Russia for the G20 Summit in Saint Petersburg but he had been scheduled to hold a meeting with Putin in Moscow ahead of that event.
Relations between Washington and Moscow were not good, with divisions over a range of issues – not least Syria – even before the fugitive US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden pitched up at Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow. They certainly have not gotten any better since the Russian authorities granted him temporary asylum in the country.
A number of US leaders felt that if Mr. Snowden had gone swiftly on his way, then this might have remained just another irritant in US-Russia relations. But now the Americans through their president Obama have felt compelled to respond. It is going to make the G20 gathering itself, it seems clear enough in St Petersburg, a potentially embarrassing affair.
The fallout over the Snowden affair is a symptom of a much more fundamental crisis in US-Russia relations that has continued despite the effort during Mr. Obama’s first term to “reset” relations with Moscow. There are many indicators that this kind of effort was made by Obama in these initial years of his presidency. These are, however, no longer equivalent powers and they have so far not found a way to co-operate on terms that benefit both.
“For many years, the Americans have avoided signing an extradition agreement,” Mr. Ushakov said, “And they have invariably responded negatively to our requests for extradition of people who committed crimes on the territory of Russia, pointing at the absence of such agreement.” But he added, nevertheless significantly, that the invitation for the bilateral summit was still open.
“Russian representatives are ready to continue working together with American partners on all key issues on the bilateral and multilateral agenda,” Mr. Ushakov said.
The decision to cancel the talks, announced during a trip by the US president to Los Angeles, comes the morning after Mr. Obama said he was “disappointed” with Russia’s decision to offer Mr. Snowden asylum for a year. “We have reached the conclusion that there is not enough recent progress in our bilateral agenda with Russia to hold a US-Russia Summit,” the White House said in a statement.
In addition to Russia’s “disappointing decision” to grant Mr. Snowden temporary asylum, the White House cited a lack of progress on issues ranging from missile defense to human rights. “We believe it would be more constructive to postpone the summit until we have more results from our shared agenda,” the White House said.
The decision to cancel the US-Russia summit comes the day after Mr. Obama appeared on an evening chat show, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, in which he, most interestingly, condemned a newly enacted anti-gay law in Russia. “I have no patience for countries that try to treat gays or lesbians or transgender persons in ways that intimidate them or are harmful to them,” Mr. Obama said.
But the White House reaffirmed Mr. Obama’s commitment to attending an upcoming round of G20 economic talks, which take place on 5-6 September in the Russian city of St Petersburg.
Mr. Obama and Mr. Putin last met in June, on the sidelines of the G8 summit in Northern Ireland.
Mr. Snowden, an American former National Security Agency (NSA) technical contractor and CIA worker, in June leaked to the Guardian and Washington Post newspapers documents and details relating to NSA programs that gather data on telephone calls and emails.
Mr. Snowden, 30, fled his home in Hawaii, where he worked at a small NSA installation, to Hong Kong, and subsequently to Russia. He faces espionage charges in the US. He spent about a month in a transit area of the Moscow airport as the US pressured other countries, it is widely reported in the international press to deny him asylum. On 1 August, 2013, however, he left the airport after the Russian government said it would give him asylum there for a year.
Again almost at the same time, August 8 it was reported from Burbank, California – President Barack Obama said he was ”disappointed” that Russia had granted temporary asylum to National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, defying administration demands that the former government contractor be sent back to the US to face espionage charges.
In his first comments about Snowden since Russia’s decision in the previous week, Obama said the move reflected the ”underlying challenges” he faces in dealing with Moscow.
”There have been times where they slip back into Cold War thinking and a Cold War mentality,” Obama said on NBC’s ”The Tonight Show” broadcast on the night of the 7th of August.
Snowden, an ex-NSA systems analyst, is accused of leaking details about highly secretive government surveillance programs. He spent several weeks in the transit zone of a Moscow airport before being granted asylum for a year.
Russia’s decision has pushed the White House to reconsider Obama’s plans to travel to Russia in September. He said he would attend an international summit in St. Petersburg, saying it was important for the US to be represented at talks among global economic powers. But he did not say whether he planned to attend separate meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow. 
The White House has said it was evaluating the ”utility” of the Putin meetings. In this interview the tricky question of the gay issue also came up. Obama also criticized a new Russian law cracking down on gay rights activism, saying he has ”no patience for countries that try to treat gays and lesbians and transgendered persons in ways that intimidate them or are harmful to them.” Russia has said it will enforce the law when it hosts the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Asked whether the law would impact the games, Obama said he believes Putin and Russia have ”a big stake in making sure the Olympics work.”
Obama also added that:
”I think they understand that for most of the countries that participate in the Olympics, we wouldn’t tolerate gays and lesbians being treated differently.”
It is thus abundantly manifest the Syrian crisis has started to travel beyond the historically classified field of diplomacy to social and societal differences that may exist transnationally in the contemporary world. It is not a good sign that the actual steps being taken by countries such as the U S are likely to be used against Washington in domains’ that have nothing to do with those initial actions.
The climax of this internationalization of this state of affairs came at the end of that week when UN SEC. GEN. was asked for a ROLE OF DRONES under International Law and the laws of the UN. His unambiguous reply became the single most memorable victory for Pakistan which had claimed the unconstitutional role being given to these unmanned planes by the US government.
The UN Sec. General Mr. Bank Ki-moon had clearly said that limited ROLE OF DRONES under International law was mandatory. The United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has stated in clear terms that drones should be used only for collection of information in accordance with the international laws. He made these remarks after inaugurating International Center for Peace and Stability at National University of Science and Technology in Islamabad.
The UN Sec. General said every effort should be made to avoid civilian casualties in the use of armed drones contributor with contribution of 8, 000 Pakistani troops. “One out of every 10 troops is from Pakistan,” he said. “Pakistan’s engagement has been very crucial in peacekeeping missions.” The UN chief said that progress and prosperity of people sans peace is not possible. UN chief said that betterment of the organization’s peace missions working will be made by using modern technology. He said one hundred and thirty six Pakistani soldiers were martyred while wearing blue helmets of the UN.
So it is not by any stretch of imagination that those who started this Syrian affair wanted such clear international consequences to emerge in such a short time over such a wide field!
I have intentionally not touched or written about various other allied matters such as the acute turmoil in North Africa Muslim Countries with the lead coming from now Egypt where hundreds have been killed since recent attacks by the military against the Morsi regime, the political upheavals going on in the remaining Middle Eastern nations, and the questions being raised by right- wing Muslims in several other nations of Asia and Africa against the Western countries interests, particularly of Washington.
Before concluding todays presentation there is also the nagging question of the general Islamic support at the UN in many cases involving some specific countries and their policies regarding the gay people. I personally know how it was possible with the help of just a handful of other nations the bulk of Islamic States in the former erstwhile Geneva based Human Rights committee and the sub-committee of Experts when we defeated in fact the resolution then moved on behalf of the gay people by European and South American states to eliminate the offensive language according to them from various UN based texts.
This was realized by me on being professionally hired by two Anglo-American human rights oriented NGOs, Care of UK and by the Colorado based leading American NGO dealing with the same subject. So that was then, now that may not be possible for various well known technical reasons. But I feel strongly that it is no reason not to raise this formidable point based on religious and legal principles by Muslim states; to meet the threat from essentially the Western states when the question of treating such people differently from the rest is likely to be take up soon in many international forums on behalf of nations led now by Mr. Putin and the Russians. I do not think that Muslims will support this measure as being anything apart from a general antipathy towards the nations now supporting this gay initiative. So I suggest this course of possible action for Madame Natalya Yakunina, (President of Sanctity of Motherhood, pan-Russian pro-life program) who is likely to lead our Russian colleagues in Moscow next year for stressing the sound legal and religious features of the local pro-life laws that have been created by President Putin.
* D.Phil.; B A Juris, MA. M.Litt, (Oxon), DCL (Columbia), DIA (Harvard), Of Lincoln’s Inn, Barrister at Law, UK, Attorney at Law, US, Senior Advocate Supreme Court (QC) of Pakistan; President Pakistan Ecology Council; President, Pakistan Family Forum; Chairman, Pakistan League for Human Rights ranks amongst the most highly educated authors and thinkers in the fields of human rights, family matters and the strategic understanding of several most complicated transnational diplomatic issues. Amongst his major international recognitions includes the top international acknowledged transnational recognition from the prestigious IISS (International Institute for Strategic Studies, LONDON) the elected membership of that institution in 1981 making him the first elected member from the sub-continent to have such an honor; also included in his long list of international recognitions are the Massachusetts Senate Honor of Recognition1994 and in 1995 for his work in international human rights and education, the grant of highly prestigious King Faisal Memorial Award for 2002 by Saudi Arabia and in 2003 he received the International Professor of the Year of Human Rights Award in Riyadh, the 2006 London International Islamic Award for his work in Women’s needed legal reforms in Muslim countries; In 2003 he was made the David M. Kennedy Visiting Scholar & Professor of International Studies, Kennedy Center & in 1989 he became Visiting fellow & professor of International Affairs at, Center for International Affairs, Harvard University, and in 1990 was made a professor and visiting Fellow of Human Rights Program of Harvard Law School. The author has been Advisor to four Pakistani Prime Ministers on Foreign Affairs & Law, Member & Delegate to the UN Human Rights Commission, and the UN Sub Commission on Human Rights, Geneva. He has also represented Pakistan delegations to the UN GA and was the leader of Pakistan Delegation to the International Criminal Court (ICC); He is currently the UN Special Ambassador for Family, the President of the American Institute of South Asian Strategic Studies, Boston; In 2004 he became the first international scholar to be given a distinguished Visiting Professorship in India at the JNU in Delhi, & to give Memorial Lecture at Benaras Hindu University, Universities of Mumbai, Goa and at Ambedkar Center at Aurangabad University. As an expert in strategic studies, he has been invited by numerous think tanks: in India, by e.g. SAPRA Foundation, Institute of Strategic and Policy Studies, Bombay, Nehru Foundation, Y.B. Chuvan and the Gandhi Foundations; in US he has been invited, for instance by the Carnegie & Brookings Institutions, in London, by the International Institute of Strategic Studies, and in France by International Human Rights, Strasbourg. He is member of the International Planning and Selection Committees of the World Congress of Families. He has been a plenary speaker in each of the last six World Congresses of Families as well as in most leading international conferences on Family, environment and international strategic affairs. In 2010 he was specially invited to become the Special UN Ambassador for the Aged by the World Foundation for the Aged in Turkey.
 See generally, Jennifer Butler: Born Again: The Christian Right Globalized. Rev. Jennifer Butler is Executive Director of Faith in Public Life. An ordained Presbyterian minister, Rev. Butler most recently served as the Presbyterian Church (USA) Representative to the United Nations. During her nine years at the U.N., she represented the denomination on issues ranging from women’s rights to the Iraq war. She also taught courses at New York University’s graduate program in Global Studies. Rev. Butler served in the Peace Corps from 1989 to 1991 in Belize, Central America. She earned a Master of Divinity degree from Princeton Theological Seminary.
 See generally: http://www.greaterdemocracy.org/archives/000421.html; Islam & Extremism, Synopsis of Address presented by Professor Dr. Farooq Hassan at the Center for Society & Secularism, Mumbai, India, 2005.
 See my address and presentation in Warsaw WCF, WORLDCONGRESS IV: 2007: http://www.twigbender.com/WCF4/wcf4.plan2.htm
 See article: Kathryn Joyce: Missing: The “RIGHT” Babies. Christian-right activists look at falling birthrates among whites and rising Muslim immigration in Europe and warn of a looming ‘demographic winter’, who cites an interview of Steve Mosher. http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=24346
 See op cit: the comments of Kathryn Joyce on this topic: “Despite the lip service the pro-family movement gives to uniting all the ‘children of Abraham’ against common enemies, the sense of a more tangible foe — Muslim immigration — bleeds through their cooperative rhetoric. Farooq Hassan, a Harvard law professor and one of the few Muslim representatives in this pro-family movement, chastised his colleagues for their transparent appeals to nationalism: ‘The rest of the world doesn’t have the same problems as Europe. The Western world wants more people in Europe, but you don’t care if there are more families in the Third World. You want less families here’.”
 See http://www.worldcongress.org/wcf5.spkrs/wcf5.hassan.htm, UN Regional Conference , 4 May 2005 Islamabad ,on Muslim Ulama & Implementing Restrictive Family and Population Policies, Rapporteur, FAROOQ HASSAN: International Ulama Conference on Population and Development ( Women’s Reproductive Rights) Link: http://www.readingislam.com/servlet/Satellite?c=Article_C&cid=1153698300026&pagename=Zone-English-Discover_Islam%2FDIELayout, 18 May 2005, see also UN Regional UN Conference Islamabad, Rights of the Child, Islamic Perspectives, May 2005, Farooq Hassan, Report on Islamic Perspectives of the Rights of Child at Link: www.defendmarriage.com/Hassan_Children.cfm
Moreover, to be fair, we have to mention the formidable research work undertaken in this connection by, inter alia, Center for Global Development (CGD). CDG’s Rachel Nugent, for instance has co-chaired in 2010 working group on this very subject with my esteemed colleague, Professor David Bloom from Harvard University’s School of Public Health;
 Indeed one notable NGO that is very active in many such activates, just backed off from even nominal support of this effort of mine and another, perhaps better known than the former, quite happily circulated my report as its own without any acknowledgement of its source. When I pointed this out, they simply said that it was a worthwhile work and they did so to urgently get my message across.
 See any reputable Pakistani or Indian paper, e.g. Dawn for the first three weeks of this debate; see further STAFF REPORT of Center for Global Development (CGD), 2010, 5-6
 See Dawn, op cit. Further source material: World Development Indicators, 2009.
 ECOSOC of the UN is the top international institution to oversee this work at the international level. Members are elected by ECOSOC on a regional basis: eight from Africa; seven from Asia and the Pacific, including the Middle East; four from Eastern Europe; five from Latin America and the Caribbean, and 12 from the bloc known as “Western Europe and others,” which includes the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. The present author has on occasions, sat on this body.
Professor Dr. Farooq Hassan, Harvard University
It may be graciously noticed that in the main thematic paper on this crisis, which regrettably continues to deteriorate on a daily basis, I have already pointed out the strange policies. In a strictly legal sense, of some countries towards this crisis tense announcements are quite unprecedented. It remains to be seen, therefore, whether legally some sort of case can be made out by mainly the Western nations against the current Syrian regime for the commission of the crime of using chemical weapons against its own citizens?
Legal Basis of international reaction against the Syrian action?
What we have to respond to in the response to annalysis is to answer briefly the fundamental legal question which is chiefly raised in the Western countries regarding the justification, if any, in law for any such action.
The Kosovo intervention in 1999 was justified by humanitarian concerns. It is trite knowledge to those who study this field that the words “international law” conveys the sense of a set of established international rules and authorities agreed by all nations, and easily understood and applied by them.
However, regrettably that is far from the case, and in practice, it is difficult, if not impossible, to get definitive rulings in international law involving military intervention. There is no international court on hand to give the legal go-ahead to intervene. There did exist the leading case of such intervention dealing with the matter of the Ugandan and Tanzanian crisis but that too seems to have been conveniently forgotten by those whose task it is to remind others of the actual realities of a matter. In the early eighties I had written the definitive piece on this matter but since then there has been introduced new aspect of this perspective by the developments at the UN.
The closest that comes to mind is the one available about “humanitarian intervention”. Let us therefore, see if there is a developing legal framework for military intervention on humanitarian grounds. Leaving aside the historical basis of the use of this doctrine, there does exist what is generally known as the Responsibility to Protect, or usually referred to as R2P, it was born out of the humanitarian disasters of the 1990s in Kosovo and Rwanda.
This theory is widely, but not universally, accepted and has three principal elements:
States must protect their own populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity, while, simultaneously, the international community has an obligation to help states prevent such crimes. Where there is strong evidence of these crimes and a state cannot or will not stop them, the international community should exhaust all peaceful means in seeking to bring the atrocity to an end.
If all that is done, and fails, the international community can use military force. In the theory of laws in order to have maximum legitimacy, military intervention should be authorized by the UN Security Council. It holds a unique position as the primary arbiter on the use of force in international law. But if that is not possible, as seems certain to be in the Syrian case, it may be prevented by a lack of consensus, with one or more Council members opposed to action, what can happen?
‘Coalition of the willing’
In these situations, according to one view, R2P provides a legal framework for the international community to use military force as a last resort – either by way of a regional coalition or a so-called “coalition of the willing”.
There are at least three safeguards in R2P:
1. There needs to be powerful evidence of an ongoing atrocity held to constitute a violation of international law;
2. Peaceful measures, such as diplomacy and sanctions, must have been exhausted;
3. Any force used must be specifically targeted at stopping the atrocity and protecting the civilian population.
In other words, it is a limited power to act. However, if all of the criteria are met, then the limited and targeted use of military force may, some lawyers and commentators believe, be legal in international law under R2P. Ultimately though, military interventions in these circumstances are up to governments rather than lawyers. It is for them to make the case for military intervention by showing that the legal requirements have been met. As in the case of Syria, such protagonists may argue that there is an ongoing atrocity, all peaceful means of stopping it have been exhausted, and that targeted military action could achieve the twin goals of ending the atrocity and protecting the civilian population.
UK Prime Minister David Cameron was forced into backing off on his choice to join U.S. and French plans to punish Syria for a chemical weapon attack. Only two days ago, on 28th August, 2013, Prime Minister David Cameron’s plans for an imminent military strike on Syria were in disarray, after a revolt by lawmakers warning him to heed the “lessons of Iraq.”
After imploring the world not to stand idly by over Syria’s suspected use of chemical weapons, Cameron was forced into an awkward backing down position on the next day, on 29th August, when the opposition Labour party and lawmakers in his own party said they wanted more evidence before voting for military action. As such on Thursday, 30th August, Cameron’s government published legal advice it had been given which it said showed it was legally entitled to take military action against Syria even if the United Nations Security Council blocked such action.
To support its declared military action it also published intelligence material on last week’s chemical weapons attack in Syria, saying there was no doubt that such:
(1) An attack had taken place and that
(2) It was “highly likely” that the Syrian government had been behind the apparent poison gas attack that had killed hundreds. But it must be kept in mind that the prime difficulty before the British Premier’s action is the presence in Cameron’s steps is the memory of events a decade ago, when Britain helped the United States to invade Iraq after asserting — wrongly, as it later turned out — that President Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction.
Britain, already embroiled in Afghanistan, was involved into a second quagmire and lost 179 troops in eight years of war after Iraq descended into savage sectarian conflict. It was the defining moment of Tony Blair’s 1997-2007 Premiership, provoking huge protests, divisions within his Labour Party and accusations that his government misled the public by manufacturing the case for war.
“We have got to learn the lessons of Iraq because people remember the mistakes that were made in Iraq and I am not willing to make those mistakes again,” said Labour’s current leader Ed Miliband.
It was unclear how Cameron’s failure to master domestic British politics could affect U.S. and French plans for a swift cruise missile strike against Syria, which denies using chemical weapons against its citizens, or what the impact would be on Cameron’s standing in Washington.
President Barack Obama has made the case for a limited military strike on Syria, but some U.S. lawmakers say they have not been properly consulted. Conservative officials were furious at the delay, accusing Miliband of opportunism. “Ed Miliband is playing politics when he should be thinking about the national interest and global security,” a Conservative source told Reuters. “He keeps changing his position, not out of principle but to achieve political advantage,” the source added, saying Cameron wanted to “do the right thing” in the right way.
The potent legacy of Iraq is reflected not only in party politics, but in public opinion surveys.
In the U.K. the political poll by You.Gov published on Thursday showed opposition to action hardening, with 51 percent of the British public opposing a missile strike on Syria, and just 22 percent in favor of it. Opponents say Britain has neither the money nor the evidence to justify further military action in the Middle East. “We do not have a great track record of intervention. There is no appetite for it in the country or really in the House of Commons,” said Andrew Bridgen, a lawmaker from Cameron’s Conservative party who opposes immediate military action.
Domestically, Cameron’s authority looks dented. Part of his problem is that he governs as part of a two-party coalition because his Conservatives lack an absolute majority in parliament, exposing him to such impromptu revolts. When the Prime Minister recalled Parliament on 29th August, a Tuesday and cut short his own summer break to deal with the Syrian crisis, his rhetoric indicated he was confident of securing parliamentary support for a vote on military action. But as parliamentarians returned, the tone suddenly changed late Wednesday: dozens of lawmakers from his own party questioned the evidence of chemical weapons use and warned Cameron he could face defeat unless he toned down his plans.
After hours of negotiations between Cameron’s political managers and the opposition, his office agreed that the United Nations Security Council should see findings from chemical weapons inspectors before it responded militarily and that parliament should hold two votes on military action. That means that parliament will vote on 30 the August 30, 2013 on a government motion cautioning President Bashar Assad and authorizing military action in principle only. It will need to vote again to authorize any direct military action, and Labour has tabled an amendment and said it will vote against the government. Syria wrote letters to British lawmakers urging them to avoid reckless action.
Under the applicable rules of British Constitutional laws, Cameron, who has the powers of a commander-in-chief, does not technically need Parliament’s support to order military action. But after tabling a debate and facing such a revolt, it would be politically impossible for him to go against lawmakers’ wishes. “The motion that we’re putting forward … reflects the Prime Minister’s recognition of the deep concerns in this country about what happened over Iraq,” said Foreign Secretary William Hague.
Britain is to send six RAF Typhoon air-to-air interceptor jets to its Akrotiri base in Cyprus Thursday, the Ministry of Defense said. Cyprus is just 62 miles from the Syrian coast. Britain also has warships in the Mediterranean.
But the question still needs a considered response: what good will come out of a limited war against Syria? I have yet to see a single competent analysis that all this will change anything in drastic manner on the ground realities that currently exist there.
Perhaps realizing all this the U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has sought more time for inspectors to complete their work, a step that could delay any strike as allies would be unlikely to attack with U.N. weapons inspectors on the ground. More or less similarly, Labour’s Miliband said. “One of the most important lessons of Iraq is to give the United Nations the proper chance to do its work and I believe if we had tried to make that decision today on military action we wouldn’t have been giving the United Nations the proper time to do that work,”
I therefore do not think that there exists a genuine case of war in Syria on this account alone.
Notes on making grass tablet biochar
A Demonstration of Carbon Negative Energy
Distributed carbon negative energy sources will be important for Climate Security.
The goal of this experiment is to show how CO2, naturally removed from the atmosphere by photosynthesis to build biomass, can be harvested as a stable form of carbon by the pyrolysis of the biomass. Pyrolysis of biomass will also yield combustible gases for carbon negative energy. The resulting charcoal (biochar) can be put to a myriad of useful applications, such as: animal feed, filtration, soil amendment etc.
The last section covers slow cooking with carbon negative grilling in a modified Weber grill: Make charcoal, don’t burn it.
Grass Tablet Biochar
Find the full document here: Grass Tablet Biochar w: FAQ.pdf
Switchgrass could soon be powering Navy jet fighters, and eventually commercial airliners. A new pilot project from NREL promises to produce jet fuel from switchgrass, emitting 95% less greenhouse gas than traditional jet fuel. If the project proves successful, the USDA and DoD are poised to help private firms build the huge biorefineries that would be needed.
According to the Dept of Veterans Affairs, as of mid-March, there were 866,000 veterans’ disability claims, 606,000 of which were more than 125 days old. http://www.vba.va.gov/REPORTS/mmwr/index.asp
Let’s assume that most of our vets ARE honorable and ARE trustworthy!
For my first time, I’ve created a formal petition to the Obama administration, using the White House’s “We the People” system. It says:
We petition the Obama administration to:
pursue “TRUST OUR VETS” legislation, for the VA to IMMEDIATELY accept ALL vets’ claims; begin coverage; verify later.
As a BIpartisan effort, Congress should immediately TRUST our veterans: It should IMMEDIATELY enact legislation – including adequate funding – that mandates and authorizes the Dept of Veterans Affairs to IMMEDIATELY grant ALL veterans’ disability claims; IMMEDIATELY initiate their coverage, and only thereafter, process their paperwork, confirm legitimacy and make any modifications whenever they can.
This should be done with the same bipartisan support, speed and “simplicity” that Congress used when it enacted the Bush administration’s much more costly, much less demanding, $700-billion bailout for the tiny-few Big Banks in 2008.
Created: May 26, 2013
Issues: Defense, Disabilities, Veterans and Military Families Signatures
needed by June 25, 2013 to reach goal of 100,000
Until this petition reaches 150 signatures, it will not be publicly viewable on the Open Petitions section of We the People, so please sign it AND share its web-page address (its “URL”) – SOON (it needs 100,000 sigs by 6/25!):
The short URL for the petition is: http://wh.gov/hewd
The insanely long URL for exactly the same thing is: https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/pursue-trust-our-vets-legislation-va-immediately-accept-all-vets-claims-begin-coverage-verify-later/kgykbJN0
Please pass this along to everyone you know, AND to ALL of your elected federal representatives!
BOTH political parties should TRUST our vets! NOW! Verify their claims and make any justified changes or corrections later! As a BIpartiasan effort, Congress should ram-thru a “Trust Our Vets” bill – WITH funding.
And do so with the same speed that they protected the Big Banks. (Bush’s 2008 Big Banks $700-billion bailout was rammed thru Congress in less than a week.
Even better – do it as quickly as they changed FAA funding rules to avoid any weekend flight inconveniences for themselves and their flying friends.
Pass it along!
–jim; Jim Warren, open-govt and tech-civlib advocate, sometime columnist
[Note: I'm not a vet, and have never even attempted to make any VA claims.]
I just received yet another “send a happy birthday message to
I recently received this sad “humor” forwarded by a very old friend from our high school and young-adult days. (In spite of it, she’s actually a very nice lady – a retired nurse – normally caring, gentle, compassionate. But she lives in Florida, and I can’t help but think she’s just fallen-in with a bad crowd. )
Once in a while we have to stand back in awe of our government . . .
The Food Stamp Program, administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is distributing this year the greatest amount of free Meals and Food Stamps ever to 46 million people.
Meanwhile, the National Park Service, administered by the U.S. Department of the Interior, asks us “Please Do Not Feed the Animals.” Their stated reason for the policy is because “The animals will grow dependent on handouts and will not learn to take care of themselves.”
Thus ends today’s lesson in irony.
Response – To Everyone
So I sent the following to her. And to the originator of the message. And to everyone to whom my friend had forwarded it. (One really should place one’s email lists in the “bcc” [blind-cc] field; not in the “To” field! ):
Okay – let’s risk introducing some FACTS into this much-hyped issue …
Take a look at what IS required of those loafers who use food-stamp, who “grow dependent on handouts and will not learn to take care of themselves”.
Quotes are from the government’s http://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/applicant_recipients/eligibility.htm
First of all – Woppps – there are WORK requirements!
Employment Requirements for Food Stamps
“Generally ABAWDS [able-bodied adults without dependents] between 18 and 50 who do not have any dependent children can get SNAP benefits only for 3 months in a 36-month period if they do not work or participate in a workfare or employment and training program other than job search. This requirement is waived in some locations.
“With some exceptions, able-bodied adults between 16 and 60 must register for work, accept suitable employment, and take part in an employment and training program to which they are referred by the local office. Failure to comply with these requirements can result in disqualification from the Program. ”
I.e., most folks CAN’T GET food stamps unless they ACTIVELY SEEK employment, and accept it when available. AND participate in retraining!
And there’s LOTS of competition for ANY jobs when they DO become available” (from http://www.tradingeconomics.com/united-states/unemployment-rate – “The number of unemployed persons, at 12.2 million” ).
Please remember – the only people who are counted in those official “unemployment” statistics are people who ARE ACTIVELY SEEKING employment.
Ahhh, but there MORE – still OTHER requirements for all those loafers seeking food stamps:
Limitations on Resources
“Households may have $2,000 in countable resources, such as a bank account, or $3250 in countable resources if at least one person is age 60 or older, or is disabled.”
I.e., an entire HOUSEHOLD can’t have more than $2,000 (or $3,250 if one member is elderly or disabled) in the bank or in the value of other “countable” resources.
And even if they are earning SOME income, it can’t be much:
Limitations on Income
“Households … that have income over the amounts listed below cannot get SNAP [food stamps] benefits. [for instance]
“Household size 1 – Net monthly income $931.
“Household size 2 – Net monthly income $1,261.”
I donno ’bout you, but I don’t think there are very many people who VOLUNTARILY choose to live within those requirements and limits. And if they do, what kind of a “life” can anyone have if they ARE “living” that way?
Food Stamps for Wealthy Capitalists
Oh … and here’s an interesting footnote about how perhaps the best-known LEADER of our Glorious Capitalist System’s uses food-stamps (and Medicaid): Walmart management actively counsels their employees about how to get food-stamps and Medicaid. (Watch the recent documentary, accurately titled, “Walmart – The High Cost of Low Price”!)
The Richest Nation? A Christian Nation?
We’re constantly told that we are “the richest nation in the world”. A compassionate nation. A Christian nation.
Sooo … do compassionate Christians in the richest nation in the world REALLY want the 12.2-million people who ARE actively seeking work – plus all the others who DO have jobs (maybe at Walmart) but make less than $931/month and have less than $2,000 in total resources (for their entire household!) – to “make do” when it comes to being able to eat? AND feed their kids and elderly relatives?
But … hey! … dog food’s cheap!
Is it REALLY appropriate to be casually trashing the millions of American citizens (and their children) who “choose” to try to avoid starving themselves and their kids by using food stamps? (IF they can qualify for them.)
Maybe it’d be worthwhile – especially for anyone who claims to be a Christian – to try LIVING on food stamps for, say, an entire week … before so casually trashing those who do so. http://foodstampchallenge.typepad.com/
–jim; Jim Warren, open-govt & tech-civlib advocate & sometime columnist
justjim36 on twitter | Jim Warren on Facebook
No matter whether you are a citizen activist, or an elected official – if you want to increase chances of getting your message or comments accurately quoted in the media, then using Twitter can be good practice! Here’s why:
Its 140-character limit trains you [us!] to be CONCISE and BRIEF. That GREATLY increases the possibility that any reporter covering an event where you speak might quote you directly.
It trains you [us] to NOT do what almost all [of us] activists are inclined to do – certainly mirrored by politicians who [like us] adore the unending sound of their [our] own voices – to be so lengthy, detailed and byzantine in our comments that NO reporter in their right mind would EVER quote us. And if they did, their editor would amputate most of it!
Instead, IF they cover our comments at all, reporters will summarize and paraphrase our too-lengthy blather. Sometimes, the really good ones even get it mo’less right – although invariably denting the Pristine Perfection and Completeness of our comments.
Background: For many years, I had a great housemate who was a journalist – spending most of his life as a reporter, usually covering local govt and politics, and later as the editor of a well-reputed community newspaper (on the San Francisco Peninsula, where it’s often said that the #1 avocation is politics).
He told me the story of one particular city council member, who seemed to ALWAYS get his quotes into the articles and reports of city council meetings; FAR in excess of quotes from any of the other council members.
Journalistic favoritism? Not at all!
During meetings, that [astute] council member would start scribbling on a note pad in front of him … scratch something out and write more … doing that several times BEFORE finally speaking. Then – when he DID finally say something – his comment was concise, to the point and short enough to be easily QUOTED! Which it was. Often!
On the eve of the election, I can’t help but think that we’ve been here before.
In 1929, years of greed and excess culminated in “Black Thursday” – ushering in the Great Depression, magnified by years of drought that led to the “Dust Bowl.”
Yet, out of those darkest days, FDR’s New Deal put people to work – mostly building public works and infrastructure that serve us to this day. We went on to fight and win WWII, rebuild Germany and Japan under the Marshall Plan, and usher in decades of prosperity during which we went to the moon, and wired the world.
All of this sounds familiar – years of Wall Street excess leading to global financial collapse, drought, and did I forget to mention prohibition (alcohol then, other things today)?
And the choices facing us are starkly similar – go backwards with the policies of greed that put us in a ditch, and with a party that would repeal the New Deal; or go forward with those who would build for the future. Do we want a party of no, that has avowedly created gridlock for political purposes; or the party that brought us out of the last Great Depression and is beginning to get us out of the current one. The party that would “let the US Auto Industry Die” or the one that rescued it? A party that wants to let financiers and aging industries continue to rape and pillage, or one that wants to rebuild our own technology and industrial base? A party that has become demented, or one that has its eye on the ball?
This election should be about making America great again, building new energy infrastructure for a sustainable 21st century, curbing the excesses of Wall Street, and a NEW New Deal to secure our medical and financial security.
So vote, vote Democrat across the line, re-elect President Obama, and give him a super-majority in the Senate and a majority in the House.
Normally, one can use a candidate’s position and policy statements to predict – at least somewhat – their probable performance if they win their election. However, on almost every significant position and policy he had taken, Willard [Mitt] Romney and his official spokespeople have issued totally contradictory statements. (Except about his ignoring his father’s well-justified policy of disclosing many years of tax returns, rather than keeping their secrets hidden from the voters he asks to trust him.)
Sometimes his contradicting positions were even stated only hours apart. Numerous experienced political observers have said they have never-before seen a presidential candidate who has blithely done anything like it, especially not with such consistency.
Since we are thus unable to have any idea of what he would really do or where he stands, we must look at the portion of his track record about which we do have any useful information.
He constantly claims that he knows how to fix our economy and produce jobs. What of his experience could make those claims believable?
Unquestionably, his greatest success and longest experience was as the co-founder and CEO (Chief Executive Officer) of Bain Capital, a so-called private equity corporation. So how did he run it?
“Private equity” is money wealthy private investors provide to a company not listed on any stock exchange and thus not required to publicly disclose much about its activities. Romney’s Bain Capital, in particular, apparently specialized in LBO’s – leveraged buyouts. (LBO’s didn’t even exist prior to the mid-1950’s, and didn’t become widespread until the 1980’s.)
The general LBO process is to find some corporation that is momentarily undervalued compared to its assets – preferably one that has, as part of those assets, large reserves of cash. It might be undervalued because it is out of vogue in the notoriously fickled stock market. Or perhaps it had a momentary setback in its market area or productivity. Sometimes, especially with older companies, some or much of their cash reserves are in their pension fund, originally intended to provide financial security to the corporation’s loyal, long-time employees, when they finally retire.
It is not unusual for LBO operations to use just enough of their investors’ money to buy a controlling interest in such a corporation; then promptly hire themselves – as a separate “management” company – to run the company, typically charging handsomely for the management services that they are providing to the company they have captured. This allows the investors to quickly reap a return, irregardless of how the “managers” run the company.
An easy way to pay those handsome “management” fees and other returns to investors, is to borrow as much as possible against all of the captive company’s assets. One of the easiest sources for such borrowing is the company’s own pension fund! LBO “managers” of the captive company can “borrow” all of what had been “secure” funds intended to become retirement benefits for its employees – borrowing every penny, irregardless of whether they can ever be repaid.
(Think of it as a private-sector variation on the federal government borrowing from the Social Security Trust Fund. Except that companies don’t have the taxation power needed to raise the money necessary to repay such federal debts.)
Another alternative is to break-up the company and sell its parts– when they are worth more separately than the company is currently worth as an integrated whole. Since the only goal of the private-equity investors is to maximize their own profits, they can do this without hesitancy. It satisfies the investors’ goal, regardless of its impact on the company and its employees (much less its retirees).
The key point here is that it is NOT the well-being of the company that is of concern, and certainly not of its employees (and retirees). The ONLY goal is maximizing the profits of the wealthy private-equity investors, preferably as soon as possible!
Okay – so what might Romney’s longest experience and greatest success predict as to how he would run the USA as its CEO?
Note that, once again, Romney has an elite cadre of investors – including but certainly limited to Adelson, the Koch brothers and numerous similarly wealthy individuals with whom he spends so much of his time. And with whom he has been so much more candid about his views than he has been with the voters.
(Note that even now – the final week before the election – rather than sending his partner, Paul Ryan, to speak to large groups of would-be voters, instead, Romney has Ryan holding most of his meetings hidden away with small groups of potential investors.)
So – based on Romney’s greatest success and most extensive experience, we should thus assume that the following would be features of his management of the USA:
• First and foremost, he will have the “company” he now “manages” deliver the maximum possible return on investment to his investors. This will be done by various means:
- tax-funded (that is, debt-funded) contracts to their companies (like the Cheney-Bush operation’s billion-dollar no-bid contracts to Cheney’s Haliburton and its subsidiaries; high-profit contracts to Blackwater which was owned by a major Bush contributor, etc.);
- tax/debt-funded subsidies to the corporations and conglomerates in which his investors have major holdings;
- below-value leases and outright sales of the “company’s” land and underground assets;
- granting of monopoly licenses (e.g. FCC licenses), etc.
• Second, he will channel hefty chunks of his “company’s” tax/debt-based funds to his fellow “managers”, whom he will hire and place in the highest-paying positions possible. (Think of Bush’s FEMA director, Michael Brown – hurricane Katrina’s “helluva job, Brownie” – a major Bush fund-raiser, whose most notable previous management experience that “qualified” him for that position had been as the Judges and Stewards Commissioner for the International Arabian Horse Association.)
• Third – noting his extensive experience in hiding his income from taxation – Romney and Ryan and their congressional Republicans will do as much as they can to make it even easier for them and their investors, to hide even more of their wealth from being taxed to support the nation from which they have so magnificently benefited.
• He can also use his management experience in exporting Americans’ jobs to send government jobs offshore. Especially when those offshore service-providers are owned by his investors. Note that investor Adelson already has significant foreign holdings.
Why … just think of the many other ways that Romney can use his position as CEO of the USA, to further-benefit and pay-off his investors! No matter what long-term damage it might do to that asset and to the rank-and-file citizens who depend on it (where he would only be CEO for 4-8 years, anyway).
– Jim Warren
Do we really need yet another collaboration tool? I certainly think so – sharing documents across the net is simply painful, time-consuming, and confusing. When we use email, we find ourselves trying to distribute changes and track down the latest copy of a document. When we use a central service – be it Google Docs, BaseCamp, or whatever – we find ourselves tethered to a cloud service — not really helpful if we’re sitting on an airplane or working in a remote area with poor connectivity (say during a crisis response).
I’ve started work on a better tool for sharing documents – based on work previously sponsored by the Air Force and the Army to develop “smarter” operations orders to streamline mission planning and coordination.
Smart Notebooks are shared documents that stay synchronized across the net. Each person has their own copy of a document – which “talk to each other” using a peer-to-peer protocol. Edit your copy, everyone else sees the change on their copy. Unlike email attachments, there’s no need to search for the most recent copy of document. Unlike a Google Doc, everyone has their own copy – allowing for private notes and working offline. All of this using standard web browsers, email, and RSS – no new software to install, no accounts to configure on services running in the cloud.
The motivation for the system comes from observations in venues as small as a church board of directors and as large as an Air Force operations center. When people come together they bring copies of documents – agendas, minutes, presentation slides, and receive more documents. They exchange information, discuss issues, make decisions – recording them as edits to their copies of the documents they carry away with them. “Smart Notebooks” will mimic this process across the Internet (and avoid a lot of manual copying in the process).
We draw models from several sources, including one of my favorite tools, HyperCard (I think of the project as “HyperCard, for groups, running in a browser”). I look to TiddlyWiki (a personal wiki implemented as a single local file, opened and edited in a browser) as a model for smart notebooks – coupled with a peer-to-peer, replicated messaging model inspired by USENET News’ NNTP protocol. The latest HTML5 standards and the newest generation of web browsers make the project possible, now.
Our goal is a system that can let people collaborate in peer-to-peer fashion with minimal reliance on a central system hosted by a company. Users will simply create a document in their browser (like editing a wiki page), then send copies via email – everyone stores their own copy locally (as a file or in their browser’s HTML5 Web Storage). Changes will be pushed across the net – notifications will show up as an RSS feed, opening one’s local copy will automatically pull in changes.
For more details, and to support the project, take a look at the project’s Kickstarter page, at http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1947703258/smart-notebooks-keeping-on-the-same-page-across-th
We are particularly looking for a couple of larger sponsors – folks who are organizing a conference, an event, a mapping project, an emergency response exercise, or some other large collaborative effort – who are looking for a better coordination tool and can serve as test cases.
And I encourage you to Like, Tweet, +1, Slash, blog, and otherwise help us get the word out!
The Phi hopes to do for radio what Apple I did for computing—spark innovation.
In 1976, two shaggy-haired college dropouts founded a company called Apple to manufacture personal computers. The company’s prospects looked so poor that the third co-founder relinquished his 10 percent stake in the company for $800 that same year. It simply wasn’t clear why anyone would want the firm’s Apple I computer. It was so under-powered that it couldn’t perform many of the functions of mainframes and minicomputers that were already on the market. And most consumers had no interest in having a computer in their homes.
Today, of course, Apple is the world’s largest company by market capitalization. What was important about the Apple I wasn’t the meager capabilities of the original version, but the promise it held for rapid innovation in the coming decades.
Now, a company called Per Vices hopes to do for wireless communication what Apple did for computing. It is selling software-defined radio gear called the Phi that, like the Apple I, is likely to be of little interest to the average consumer (it was even briefly priced at the same point as the Apple I, $666.66, but has since been placed at $750). But the device, and others like it, has the potential to transform the wireless industry. This time, the revolution will depend on hackers enabled to manipulate radio signals in software.
Thanks to friend Dewayne Hendricks for brining this to my attention.
The following photos will show the basics of converting a conventional Weber
charcoal grill to carbon negative cooking. The resulting Biochar might well be
added to your compost and thus link cooking with growing.
This is an open source project.
First published by the Pittsburg Post Gazette
April 8, 2012 5:47 pm
By Michael Cudahy and Jock Gill
If ever there was a moment for Americans to pay attention to the state of their democracy — or what is left of it — that time is now. As this country staggers out of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, the pathetic response from many political leaders has been coarse and irrational partisan attacks, and legislative gridlock.
Dysfunctional behavior is undermining America’s role as a global leader and is laying the groundwork for crippling institutional failures.
In their new book, “Why Nations Fail,” economists James Robinson from Harvard and Daron Acemoglu from MIT, answer the question with a one-word answer, “Politics.”
What they mean is that prosperous, successful countries succeed because of their ability to develop “inclusive” systems designed to protect and strengthen their entire populations. Nations fail when their institutions become “extractive,” designed to loot wealth for just a few.
Forget peak oil. The population of the finite earth has now passed peak natural resources of ALL kinds. The destructive negative feedback loop powered by fear, greed, and power grabs, that is currently bedeviling much of the planet, is strong evidence that this condition is well known, even if none dare speak of it. As a thought experiment, subtract from current politics and economics all elements dependent upon the exploitation of natural resource. What is left? What do we need to invent to fill the voids?
For starters, Krugman and Friedman illuminate a basic conflict over education. Krugman posits that the current attack on education is a defensive strategy, required by the rapid rates of change facing us, based on the hope that what you don’t know won’t hurt the oligarchs in the 1%. Friedman, citing the example of Taiwan, writes in his article “Pass the Books, Hold the Oil”:
You’re the luckiest people in the world. How did you get so lucky? You have no oil, no iron ore, no forests, no diamonds, no gold, just a few small deposits of coal and natural gas — and because of that you developed the habits and culture of honing your people’s skills, which turns out to be the most valuable and only truly renewable resource in the world today.
Friedman goes on:
“Add it all up and the numbers say that if you really want to know how a country is going to do in the 21st century, don’t count its oil reserves or gold mines, count its highly effective teachers, involved parents and committed students. “Today’s learning outcomes at school,” says Schleicher, “are a powerful predictor for the wealth and social outcomes that countries will reap in the long run.”
“In sum, says Schleicher, “knowledge and skills have become the global currency of 21st-century economies, but there is no central bank that prints this currency. Everyone has to decide on their own how much they will print.” Sure, it’s great to have oil, gas and diamonds; they can buy jobs. But they’ll weaken your society in the long run unless they’re used to build schools and a culture of lifelong learning. “The thing that will keep you moving forward,” says Schleicher, is always “what you bring to the table yourself.”
Note the emphasis on personal responsibility for what you bring to the table. This is a fundamentally ‘conservative’ stance. Will it help make the transition to the new economics and new politics required for a vibrant, regenerative and dynamic future possible? This question is suggested by the work of Jonathan Haidt, as reported in an interview by Johua Rothham in the article “Why Republicans and Democrats will never agree“.
Haidt posits that our politics and opinions are rooted in intuition, are irrational at their core, and clearly influenced by genetics. How, then, do we get Conservatives and Liberals to both intuit the appropriate responses to a finite world that is now past peak all natural resources? How do we “intuit” and incorporate into our irrational belief systems the possible “fact” that the old politics and economics, based on the exploitation of natural resources, are no longer appropriate? What do we have to do to achieve the best possible outcome for humanity’s future? For starters, the best outcome requires that, in the United States at least, Republicans and Democrats learn to agree more than they disagree. It is only then that we will be able to return to a positive feedback loop that brings out the best in all of us. The question is simply is there time enough to accomplish this turn around before the consequences of over-shooting the natural resource base of our planet make the question mute.
So which course will America choose? Switching from an economy and politics based on natural resource exploitation to one based on education and life long learning will be a wrenching change. It will challenge many irrational belief systems. It is the only path to a vibrant, regenerative and dynamic future.