Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Time for a Change

If you think about the future like I do, there are a few things that are very worrisome.  This is regardless of your politics.

First is the pending movement of all baby boomers to medicare and social security with an upside down pyramid of support that won't work.

Second is the diminishing quality of education in this country and the patchwork solutions we have in place.  Not only do we fail those at the lower end, but lately we have put processes and systems in place that make it difficult to be brilliant.  We really only support mediocrity.

Third is our complete and utter failure as a country to be "open for business".  We don't promote the engine of small business; we allow big business to operate multi-nationally to exploit our US markets with little price for the tremendous dislocation they cause by such strategies; we have allowed a once perfect system of capital formation to fail due to unfettered greed and lack of ability of regulators to understand, much less manage the big casino on Wall Street that has become the heart of an American return to feudalism; worse we have totally flipped the paradigm of free markets- when they got into trouble due to ridiculous gambles, we supported them with Trillions of $ of direct investment that might better have been allocated to the millions of ordinary people who were victims of their gambles.

Last is the growing underclass of uneducated, unemployable, unfit people who have no hope or reason to participate in our system.  This group is continually supplemented by failing education and business systems.  These people need programs to bring up levels of education, fitness, employment and happiness.

You'll note I don't address many issues such as defense and terrorism, all the social issues, the environment and more.  I submit that if we don't address the top four issues I lay out here, our positions on all the others won't matter because we will be irrelevant.  Better countries will focus on the big important issues.

Is there a role for government in solving the problems we know we have?

There should be, but our system cannot meet that obligation.  It is hopelessly broken.  We had Obama with lots of hope and he got mired in our imperfect 220yr old Congress.  Yesterday's election removed what little power Obama's has and put in place a Congress that will argue up a storm, and get nothing done.

So what do we do if we really want to solve these problems?  We need to get creative and use the tools and systems we have in place (yes, web stuff) to bypass Washington with Government 2.0.

I am not certain how, but I know it is time to turn our backs on Washington as a place where problems get solved.  There is too much ignorance, greed and self interest for anything good to happen.  The bright side is that we problem solvers can get moving on things while Washington entertains us.

So, let's get moving.

More to come.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Paraprosdodian sentences

Paraprosdodian sentences

These are called paraprosdokian sentences. The first half has
one meaning and the second sentence gives the phrase a whole new

I asked God for a bike, but I know God doesn't work that way. So
I stole a bike and asked for forgiveness.

Do not argue with an idiot. He will drag you down to his level and
beat you with experience.

I want to die peacefully in my sleep, like my grandfather.. Not
screaming and yelling like the passengers in his car.

Going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than standing
in a garage makes you a car.

The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it's still on the list.

Light travels faster than sound. This is why some people appear
bright until you hear them speak.

If I agreed with you we'd both be wrong.

We never really grow up, we only learn how to act in public.

Men have two emotions: Hungry and Horny. If you see him without an
erection, make him a sandwich.

Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is not putting it
in a fruit salad.

Politicians and diapers have one thing in common. They should both
be changed regularly, and for the same reason.

My mother never saw the irony in calling me a son-of-a-bitch.
early bird might get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.

Evening news is where they begin with 'Good evening', and then
proceed to tell you why it isn't.

To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism. To steal from many
is research.

If God is watching us, the least we can do is be entertaining.

A bus station is where a bus stops. A train station is where a
train stops. On my desk, I have a work station.

If 4 out of 5 people SUFFER from diarrhea... does that mean that
one enjoys it?

If you think nobody cares if you're alive, try missing a couple
of payments.

How is it one careless match can start a forest fire, but it takes
a whole box to start a campfire?

Some people are like Slinkies ... not really good for anything,
but you can't help smiling when you see one tumble down the stairs.

Dolphins are so smart that within a few weeks of captivity, they
can train people to stand on the very edge of the pool and throw
them fish?

I thought I wanted a career, turns out I just wanted pay checks.

A bank is a place that will lend you money, if you can prove that
you don't need it.

Whenever I fill out an application, in the part that says "If an
emergency, notify:" I put "DOCTOR". What's my mother going to do?

I didn't fight my way to the top of the food chain to be a

I didn't say it was your fault, I said I was blaming you.

Why does someone believe you when you say there are four billion
stars, but check when you say the paint is wet?

Women will never be equal to men until they can walk down the street
with a bald head and a beer gut, and still think they are sexy.

Why do Americans choose from just two people to run for president
and 50 for Miss America ?

Behind every successful man is his woman. Behind the fall of a
successful man is usually another woman.

A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.

You do not need a parachute to skydive. You only need a parachute
to skydive twice.

The voices in my head may not be real, but they have some good ideas!

Always borrow money from a pessimist. He won't expect it back.
diplomat is someone who can tell you to go to hell in such a way
that you will look forward to the trip.

Hospitality: making your guests feel like they're at home, even if
you wish they were.

Money can't buy happiness, but it sure makes misery easier to
live with.

I discovered I scream the same way whether I'm about to be devoured
by a great white shark or if a piece of seaweed touches my foot.

My psychiatrist told me I was crazy and I said I want a second
opinion. He said okay, you're ugly too.

Some cause happiness wherever they go. Others whenever they go.

There's a fine line between cuddling and holding someone down so
they can't get away.

I used to be indecisive. Now I'm not sure.

I always take life with a grain of salt, a slice of lemon,
...and a shot of tequila.

When tempted to fight fire with fire, remember that the Fire
Department usually uses water.

You're never too old to learn something stupid.

Knowledge is power, and power corrupts. So study hard and be evil.

You are such a good friend that if we were on a sinking ship together
and there was only one life jacket... I'd miss you heaps and think
of you often.

To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first and call whatever
you hit the target.

Nostalgia isn't what it used to be.  Some people hear voices.
Some see invisible people. Others have no imagination whatsoever.

Hallmark Card: "I'm so miserable without you, it's almost like
you're still here."

A bus is a vehicle that runs twice as fast when you are after it
as when you are in it.

If you are supposed to learn from your mistakes, why do some people
have more than one child.

Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.

"When buying and selling are controlled by legislation, the first things
bought and sold are legislators."

Friday, August 27, 2010

Swindling the Children!

Interesting that almost daily we find ourselves apologizing to our children for our failure to maintain the American Dream.  No matter your politics or perspective, the fact is that RIGHT NOW, things look bleak for the future.  It is time to stop blaming and stop making self centered decisions but, instead start thinking about our children when we make decisions.

This from UC Berkeley (berkeleyside):

Michael O'Hare, a professor at UC's Goldman School of Public Policy, will formally welcome new students to the classroom on Wednesday.

But in advance of starting his first-day lecture, O'Hare has written a lengthy welcome note that tells students how they have been "swindled."

The once gold-plated education offered by UC Berkeley is now a tarnished version of its former self, ruined by the state's self-interests and narrow viewpoints, according to O'Hare.

"Welcome to Berkeley, probably still the best public university in the world," O'Hare wrote on his blog. "Meet your classmates, the best group of partners you can find anywhere.  The percentages for grades on exams, papers, etc. in my courses always add up to 110% because that's what I've learned to expect from you, over twenty years in the best job in the world."

"That's the good news.  The bad news is that you have been the victims of a terrible swindle, denied an inheritance you deserve by contract and by your merits.  And you aren't the only ones; victims of this rip-off include the students who were on your left and on your right in high school but didn't get into Cal, a whole generation stiffed by mine.  This letter is an apology, and more usefully, perhaps a signal to start demanding what's been taken from you so you can pass it on with interest."

Read the rest and a link to Prof. O'Hare's full piece here.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Gates Support of Monsanto Devastating to Small African Farmers

I have often admired Bill Gates for his audacity, forward thinking and ability to show the way forward.  Unfortunately, he tends to get mired in hi own opinions after they have been proven wrong.  The Gates Foundation support for Monsanto's genetically modified crops is disturbing in the face of so much evidence that it is wrong headed and harmful.  This latest information is a setback if you are a small farmer in places like Kenya or South Africa. I encourage those who know him to contact and educate Gates to this serious misstep. The following comes from AGRA Watch, a program of Seattle-based Community Alliance for Global Justice:

Both will profit at expense of small-scale African farmers

Seattle, WA – Farmers and civil society organizations around the world are outraged by the recent discovery of further connections between the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and agribusiness titan Monsanto. Last week, a financial website published the Gates Foundation’s investment portfolio, including 500,000 shares of Monsanto stock with an estimated worth of $23.1 million purchased in the second quarter of 2010 (see the filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission). This marks a substantial increase from its previous holdings, valued at just over $360,000 (see the Foundation’s 2008 990 Form).

“The Foundation’s direct investment in Monsanto is problematic on two primary levels,” said Dr. Phil Bereano, University of Washington Professor Emeritus and recognized expert on genetic engineering. “First, Monsanto has a history of blatant disregard for the interests and well-being of small farmers around the world, as well as an appalling environmental track record. The strong connections to Monsanto cast serious doubt on the Foundation’s heavy funding of agricultural development in Africa and purported goal of alleviating poverty and hunger among small-scale farmers. Second, this investment represents an enormous conflict of interests.”

Monsanto has already negatively impacted agriculture in African countries. For example, in South Africa in 2009, Monsanto’s genetically modified maize failed to produce kernels and hundreds of farmers were devastated. According to Mariam Mayet, environmental attorney and director of the Africa Centre for Biosafety in Johannesburg, some farmers suffered up to an 80% crop failure. While Monsanto compensated the large-scale farmers to whom it directly sold the faulty product, it gave nothing to the small-scale farmers to whom it had handed out free sachets of seeds. “When the economic power of Gates is coupled with the irresponsibility of Monsanto, the outlook for African smallholders is not very promising,” said Mayet. Monsanto’s aggressive patenting practices have also monopolized control over seed in ways that deny farmers control over their own harvest, going so far as to sue—and bankrupt—farmers for “patent infringement.”

News of the Foundation’s recent Monsanto investment has confirmed the misgivings of many farmers and sustainable agriculture advocates in Africa, among them the Kenya Biodiversity Coalition, who commented, “We have long suspected that the founders of AGRA—the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation—had a long and more intimate affair with Monsanto.” Indeed, according to Travis English, researcher with AGRA Watch, “The Foundation’s ownership of Monsanto stock is emblematic of a deeper, more long-standing involvement with the corporation, particularly in Africa.” In 2008, AGRA Watch, a project of the Seattle-based organization Community Alliance for Global Justice, uncovered many linkages between the Foundation’s grantees and Monsanto. For example, some grantees (in particular about 70% of grantees in Kenya) of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA)—considered by the Foundation to be its “African face”—work directly with Monsanto on agricultural development projects. Other prominent links include high-level Foundation staff members who were once senior officials for Monsanto, such as Rob Horsch, formerly Monsanto Vice President of International Development Partnerships and current Senior Program Officer of the Gates Agricultural Development Program.

Transnational corporations like Monsanto have been key collaborators with the Foundation and AGRA’s grantees in promoting the spread of industrial agriculture on the continent. This model of production relies on expensive inputs such as chemical fertilizers, genetically modified seeds, and herbicides. Though this package represents enticing market development opportunities for the private sector, many civil society organizations contend it will lead to further displacement of farmers from the land, an actual increase in hunger, and migration to already swollen cities unable to provide employment opportunities. In the words of a representative from the Kenya Biodiversity Coalition, “AGRA is poison for our farming systems and livelihoods. Under the philanthropic banner of greening agriculture, AGRA will eventually eat away what little is left of sustainable small-scale farming in Africa.”

A 2008 report initiated by the World Bank and the UN, the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD), promotes alternative solutions to the problems of hunger and poverty that emphasize their social and economic roots. The IAASTD concluded that small-scale agroecological farming is more suitable for the third world than the industrial agricultural model favored by Gates and Monsanto. In a summary of the key findings of IAASTD, the Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA) emphasizes the report’s warning that “continued reliance on simplistic technological fixes—including transgenic crops—will not reduce persistent hunger and poverty and could exacerbate environmental problems and worsen social inequity.” Furthermore, PANNA explains, “The Assessment’s 21 key findings suggest that small-scale agroecological farming may offer one of the best means to feed the hungry while protecting the planet.”

The Gates Foundation has been challenged in the past for its questionable investments; in 2007, the L.A. Times exposed the Foundation for investing in its own grantees and for its “holdings in many companies that have failed tests of social responsibility because of environmental lapses, employment discrimination, disregard for worker rights, or unethical practices.” The Times chastised the Foundation for what it called “blind-eye investing,” with at least 41% of its assets invested in “companies that countered the foundation’s charitable goals or socially-concerned philosophy.”

Although the Foundation announced it would reassess its practices, it decided to retain them. As reported by the L.A. Times, chief executive of the Foundation Patty Stonesifer defended their investments, stating, “It would be na├»ve…to think that changing the foundation’s investment policy could stop the human suffering blamed on the practices of companies in which it invests billions of dollars.” This decision is in direct contradiction to the Foundation’s official “Investment Philosophy”, which, according to its website, “defined areas in which the endowment will not invest, such as companies whose profit model is centrally tied to corporate activity that [Bill and Melinda] find egregious. This is why the endowment does not invest in tobacco stocks.”

More recently, the Foundation has come under fire in its own hometown. This week, 250 Seattle residents sent postcards expressing their concern that the Foundation’s approach to agricultural development, rather than reducing hunger as pledged, would instead “increase farmer debt, enrich agribusiness corporations like Monsanto and Syngenta, degrade the environment, and dispossess small farmers.” In addition to demanding that the Foundation instead fund “socially and ecologically appropriate practices determined locally by African farmers and scientists” and support African food sovereignty, they urged the Foundation to cut all ties to Monsanto and the biotechnology industry.

AGRA Watch, a program of Seattle-based Community Alliance for Global Justice, supports African initiatives and programs that foster farmers’ self-determination and food sovereignty. AGRA Watch also supports public engagement in fighting genetic engineering and exploitative agricultural policies, and demands transparency and accountability on the part of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and AGRA.

# # #
Heather Day, Director
Community Alliance for Global Justice
Kenya Travel Blog
Masters Thesis Blog - Hemispheric Social Alliance

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Will Consumers Save us from Deflation or Revolt by Nonparticipation?

Lots of talk these days about consumers starting to save and invest.  Funny, most consumers I know can't yet save or invest because of mountains of debt.

Step 1 in the Savings and Investment process is the elimination of debt.

Interesting comparisons have been made to the massive corporate deleveraging that led to deflation in Japan but our situation is very different, consumer debt is the problem, not corporate.

When Bush II was faced with the 2002 inflection point in the labor market brought on by technology (misalignment due to the shift to information technology as the center of the economy), he and his advisors avoided addressing the issue by creating the massive consumer real estate and credit card overleveraging of 2002-2008, funding a period of 'adjustment' for middle class workers. Unfortunately, the adjustment did not happen and the misalignment of the labor force continues (amazing talk of middle class 99ers today- people who have been unemployed for 99 weeks).

Now we have the unavoidable consequence of those bad decisions (and the reliance of a massive system on consumers not only funding the rescue of the banks- the ridiculous TARP, but sucking it up big time to pay the underlying debt they incurred themselves). It is unclear how fast consumers will be capable of ridding themselves of debt, if at all.  In fact, it may not be advisable for them to pay it back given the obvious- if they do, they may never again participate in American prosperity. Better choice for consumers may be to force change by not paying it back and forcing systemic adjustments.

What was the middle class may opt for forced frugality and not participate in the economy going forward.  Adam Werbach makes a great case that this will be the beginning of a path that actually solves problems such as Global Warming through choices based on frugality.

Non-participation in the Banker's economy may be the hidden bullet that eventually takes them down!

Ironic that the real revolution may come from non-violent non-participation!

Friday, June 4, 2010

BP Death Penalty

BP behavior merits extraordinary measures by Obama. He should follow Harry Truman's lead in the Steel seizure cases and revoke BP's franchise to operate oil & gas licenses on federal territory and resell them to deserving oil operations in compliance with US law (antitrust and environmental). Though Truman was eventually overruled, it was a case of losing a battle after the war was won.

In advance of the coming significant civil and criminal liability against BP, the attorney general should move to preserve BP assets for creditors including the USA by seizing any BP property in the US; similar to actions against Iran in 1979-80.

We need to take possession of current assets (convertible to cash) and sell BP leases, real estate and franchises to the other oil companies based on a combination of best price and their environmental, OSHA, antitrust and securities records.

Cash earned from sale of assets should be held and distributed as determined by the Courts with due consideration for BP rights after payment of all BP responsibilities under the law.

BP Ops in US should be shut down for as long as it takes to clean up the Gulf. Then, if they want back, they should have to post a bond with US government for an amount equal to the total clean costs for this mess.

In short- BP should get the corporate "death penalty" for this series of horrific actions, not unlike Enron and Arthur Anderson.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Message from Joe Ehrmann, Pro Football Great, Community Leader

A clear and articulate message from Joe Ehrmann on sex based violence on the heels of a tragic death:

"I went to Yeardley Love's funeral with my twenty two year old son.  The University of Virginia lacrosse player was appearently murdered at the hands of a former boyfriend.

My son, a college lacrosse player, was friends with Yeardley, her accused murderer, and many of the men and women on the UVA lacrosse teams.   Sitting next to him, I could feel and see him trying to process the conflicted emotions surrounding the enormity of this tragedy, compounded by knowing both the victim and the victimizer.

The young men sitting around me sobbed and sniffled. At one point in the ceremony I turned to an emotionally distraught young man and asked him if I could give him a hug. I was surprised at the strength and endurance of his hug as he held onto me seeking comfort and, I suspect, affirmation of his emotions and manhood. As he let go he said "thank you" without ever looking at me.

Here lies part of the problem and a solution to the epidemic of violence women experience every day in Maryland and America. At an early age, boys are fitted with emotional straightjackets tailored by a restricted code of behavior that falsely defines masculinity. In the context of "stop crying," "stop those emotions," and "don't be a sissy," we define what it means to "Be a Man!" Adherence to this "boy code" leaves many men dissociated from their feelings and incapable of accessing, naming, sharing, or accepting many of their emotions.

When men don't understand their own emotions it becomes impossible to understand the feelings of another.This creates an "empathy-deficit disorder" that is foundational to America's epidemic of bullying, dating abuse and gender violence.  Boys are taught to be tough, independent, distrusting of other males, and at all cost to avoid anything considered feminine for fear of being associated with women. This leads many men to renounce their common humanity with women so as to experience an emotional disconnect from them.

Women often become objects, used to either validate masculine insecurity or satisfy physical needs. When the validation and satisfaction ends, or is infused with anger, control or alcohol, gender violence is often the result.

Violence against women is often thought of as a women's issue; but it is a mistake to call men's violence a women's issue. Since men are overwhelmingly the perpetrators of this violence, this men's issue calls to question the cultural values that produce men who hurt women.

Sadly, Yeardley Love was only one of four women murdered by intimate partners that day. Who knows how many others were raped, battered, sexually abused, harassed or exploited by men that day and every day in America?  Since Yeardley's funeral was packed with athletes, coaches, parents of athletes and sports fans, we need to look at the role sports could play in preventing future tragedies.

Athletic Directors, coaches and educators have an almost unparalleled platform to bring together youth, families, and community partners to break the silence of gender violence and then design, implement and create preventive programs and activities. Educating boys and men in prevention programs is critical to reducing all forms of violence.  Coaches can and should teach their players to challenge the attitudes and assumptions that dehumanize women. Players need to be taught how to confront abusive peers and how stand up and speak out on behalf of their mothers, sisters, daughters, grandmothers, aunts and female friends. Since so many boys no longer have a mentoring network of fathers, uncles, elders, and other males to initiate, train and guide them into manhood, coaches should and must assume part of this responsibility.

I'd like to think Athletic Directors and coaches all over  America brought their male and female teams together to help process Yeardley's death and to implement prevention strategies within their schools and communities. Yet as someone involved nationally in the sports world, I know that did not happen. A teachable moment was overlooked in the name of business, schedules, tournaments and the reality that men often choose apathy and indifference when confronting the conditions that foster abusive male behavior.

Two weeks after Yeardley's death I watched the UVA male and female teams take field under the banner of ONE TEAM-ONE HEART-ONE LOVE.  In the name of the world I want my sons and daughters to live in; I can only hope Yeardley Love's murder sparks ONE MOVEMENT to eradicate gender violence.  

Robert Kennedy said, "Let no one be discouraged by the belief there is nothing one man or one woman can do against the enormous array of the world's ills, against misery and ignorance, injustice and violence....Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of our generation."  

Each man and every coach must start challenging the social norms that define manhood and hold other men and players accountable for their behavior toward women.


Joe Ehrmann
President, Coach for America"