feeding the human ego

We want to fit in, we want people to like us, we want more stuff.

Are we sustainable?

“Sustainability is a word without a clearcut meaning. It means different things to different people. It can’t be reduced to one single meaning.

“And I think that is exactly why the word is so powerful. It inspires us to imagine better ways of living our lives, organizing our societies, and relating to the environment. To me, sustainability means living within your local ecosystem, coevolving with the other plants, animals, insects, fungi, and bacteria, in a way that perpetuates the functioning of the whole biotic system.


7 powerful ideas

Chris Anderson is the curator of TED.

“Here are seven ideas that can make powerful, positive and measurable differences in how we create the future.”

Here’s a slideshow published at Forbes.

  1. We’re measuring the wrong success goals. Is the GDP really the best…?
  2. If you’re offered money as a reward, you’ll work better and faster, right? No!
  3. Kahn Academy’s education online.
  4. Cities are not bad things.
  5. Entrepreneurs want to do good and be successful.
  6. Healthcare, education and government have been strangled.\
  7. Our brains are buggier than we realize.

we should have known

George Mondbiot:

The 1% are the very best destroyers of wealth the world has ever seen.

Our common treasury in the last 30 years has been captured by industrial psychopaths.

That’s why we’re nearly bankrupt.

“The results resembled what you would expect from a dice-rolling contest, not a game of skill.”

Those who received the biggest bonuses had simply got lucky. Such results have been widely replicated. They show that traders and fund managers throughout Wall Street receive their massive remuneration for doing no better than would a chimpanzee flipping a coin.

fragile human systems

consequence of our own inventiveness:

In ‘less-civilized’, healthy societies the culture of the people rarely interferes to compel its members to act against their cells’ and organs’ interests. Individuals in such societies are trusted to make their own decisions, without coercion; the purpose of the culture is to provide objective knowledge through stories, not to advise.

So what’s wrong with our ‘civilized’ culture, that it has so overstepped its bounds of helpfulness, and now tries to control ‘us’ to the point we are mostly ill, disconnected, imprisoned, and dysfunctional?

doing goodly arrrgh

“He who despairs of the human condition is a coward, but he who has hope for it is a fool.” ~Camus

via The Blue Lantern“The arms, held tightly to his sides,
are as expressive of emotion as the sound
we imagine we hear coming from his mouth.”

owning votes

Tom Ferguson, professor at UMass-Boston, spells out the damaging effects of big money.

“Uniquely among legislatures in the developed world, our Congressional parties now post prices for key slots on committees.

“You want it — you buy it… !

“They even sell on the installment plan: You want to chair an important committee? That’ll be $200,000 down….”

I’m as worried that this matter is not, has not been, in every newspaper every day. That’s corruption too.

facing swans

Crisis has a feature I enjoy. More speak their mind.

Simon Johnson, the former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund:

We Are Looking Straight Into The Face Of A Great Depression

“We have built a dangerous financial system in the United States and Europe. We must step back and reform the system.”

David Frum, another example.

Libertarians For Oligarchy?

How long can an economic oligarchy remain a political democracy? Why would it? Wouldn’t the oligarchs be reckless to permit it?

I’m not suggesting here that anyone will overthrow the Constitution or anything like that. … We’ll still have elections, just as the British have royal weddings.

…the distribution of power tends to follow the distribution of wealth. If only a comparative few own, then only a comparative few will rule.

What will Bill Moyers be saying?

Wall Street Occupied America.

not content with their wealth just to buy more homes, more cars, more planes, more vacations and more gizmos than anyone else. They were determined to buy more democracy than anyone else.

Money rules…. Our laws are the output of a system which clothes rascals in robes and honesty in rags.

The political parties lie to us and the political speakers mislead us.

Our politicians are little more than money launderers in the trafficking of power and policy—fewer than six degrees of separation from the spirit and tactics of Tony Soprano.

Why New York’s Zuccotti Park is filled with people is no mystery. Reporters keep scratching their heads and asking, “Why are you here?” But it’s clear they are occupying Wall Street because Wall Street has occupied the country.

Barry Ritholtz clearly, clearly spells out what caused the financial crisis.

The Big Lie goes viral.

Our economy is a complex and intricate system. What caused the crisis?

Why are people trying to rewrite the history of the crisis? Some are simply trying to save face. Interest groups who advocate for deregulation of the finance sector would prefer that deregulation not receive any blame for the crisis.

Some stand to profit from the status quo: Banks present a systemic risk to the economy, and reducing that risk by lowering their leverage and increasing capital requirements also lowers profitability. Others are hired guns, doing the bidding of bosses on Wall Street.

Mike Mayo told the Senate Banking Committee in 2002 that financial analysts “are on the front lines of holding corporations accountable.” However…

Wall Street Can’t Handle the Truth

Analysts are supposed to be a check on the financial system—people who can wade through a company’s financials and tell investors what’s really going on. There are about 5,000 so-called sell-side analysts, about 5% of whom track the financial sector, serving as watchdogs over U.S. companies with combined market value of more than $15 trillion.

Unfortunately, some are little more than cheerleaders—afraid of rocking the boat at their firms, afraid of alienating the companies they cover and drawing the wrath of their superiors.

The approval rate for Congress is just 9%, with 84% disapproving. [link]

“There still are plenty of corrupt lobbying practices that are perfectly legal”, warns Jack Abramoff. out of jail, earning restitution with a book: “Capitol Punishment: The Hard Truth About Washington Corruption from America’s Most Notorious Lobbyist”

nutso nation

To abate;
To add water;
To become relaxed;
To become less decided.

I no longer want to tell you stories. You’ll do that. You survive on stories. Few your own. You won’t be helped with mine because you won’t be helped with more. Trading stories and suffering stories is the era you are. And. You are not good at it.

Damn you.

There’s easy things we can do. Waking things. Slaking things. You do not use the word slake. You do not try to satisfy. Lost what the word means. You don’t know still. You don’t know safe.

Calm is not important. Sweet singing is forgotten. Civility is cheap. Abrasion is your story. We cannot raise this barn.

Damn you.

You pilfer pageant. Trammel honor. Waste tears. Elevate trite. That’s an insult. Check things over. Look back a few years. Tell me when wisdom is what you’re looking for. Cite sacrifice.

Damn you.

Tell me when tenderness, tolerance, shelter, warmth, love and celebration is on your mind. Make these news.

I’ll tell you this. Sinking is a story you enjoy. Your politics proves it.

Candidates will tell you a story.

Damn you.

disorder no excuse to clamp down

Let’s be as disobedient as protest is required and as civil as progress is necessary !

Ornery is important and calm is crucial. Ben Franklin used people skills and social powers. All else denied.  A talker, a schemer. Guile. Cunning. Persuasion.

But in England. So in England let’s look:

After riots spread across England in August, Cameron briefly raised the idea of giving British authorities greater power to disrupt the use of cell phone services or social networking tools during civil unrest.

The prime minister frets.

After the riots, Cameron summoned executives from Facebook, Twitter and BlackBerry for crisis talks to disrupt cell phone services and social networks during disorder.

Police accuse young criminals of using Facebook, Twitter and Blackberry.

Governments “cannot leave cyberspace open to the criminals and the terrorists that threaten our security and our prosperity but at the same time we cannot just go down the heavy-handed route. The balance we have got to strike is between freedom and a free-for-all.”

The debate continues.

Foreign Secretary William Hague said the fact that criminals and terrorists can exploit digital networks is not “justification for states to censor their citizens.”

He asserts Britain must reject “the view that government suppression of the Internet, phone networks and social media at times of unrest is acceptable.”

The Internet. Let’s look at the Internet:

Russia and China are asking for tighter regulation of the Internet through binding international treaties.


Yes. Let’s know what America is doing:

“What citizens do online should not, as some have suggested, be decreed solely by groups of governments making decisions for them somewhere on high,” said U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden.

Will government seek new powers to shut down the web in times of crisis?

history is our mother

So many of us want to say OWS is behaving poorly. Of course they are.

Frustration isn’t organized, it’s marched.

I was criticizing our America one night and I remember my mother scolding me.

“Oh Brian. Don’t say that. Think a little bit. America isn’t a bad country unless you say every country is a bad country. If you want to say that. But look back. Every time the world is in trouble, Americans go right there and try to fix it. What other country does that?

“Clumsy. Wrong sometimes. But when you count how many times these people put themselves on the line for everybody, you have to see you’re living in a great country.

“Why shouldn’t Americans worry about themselves if they want to make a few repairs?”

Geesh. Years go by. I can’t get away w’ nuthin’.


seats for sale

There’s more than 60 members of the House Finance Committee.

Why so many? Because Wall Street lobbyists make their votes pay !

It’s time to erect a wall. A wall we really need.

Why? Because our Representatives aren’t !

  • Few Americans want Washington to adopt a laissez faire approach to energy issues.   Only about one in four Americans (27 percent) – including 47 percent of Republicans, 27  percent of Independents, 11 percent of Democrats and a surprisingly small 57 percent of Tea Party supporters  — say “Congress and the President should stay out of the energy markets and let private enterprise have a free hand in picking energy sources and setting prices.”
  • Excessive corporate influence may explain the gap between where some in Washington are on energy policy … and where mainstream America is.   More than seven in 10 Americans (72 percent) – including 62 percent of Republicans, 74 percent of Independents, 83 percent of Democrats, and over half of Tea Party supporters (54 percent) — think that “America’s oil, coal and natural gas companies have a disproportionate influence on Congress and the White House when it comes to making national energy policy.”
  • Americans do not see more clean energy as a roadblock to economic recovery.  More than two thirds of Americans (69 percent) – including 59 percent of Republicans, 73  percent of Independents, 78 percent of Democrats and a plurality of Tea Party supporters (48 percent) – think it would be a “bad idea” for the U.S. ” to ‘put on hold’ progress towards cleaner energy sources during the current economic difficulty.”
  • Most Americans want continued movement away from fossil fuels.   About three in four Americans (76 percent) – including 62 percent of Republicans, 76 percent of Independents, 90 percent of Democrats and half of Tea Party supporters – agree strongly or somewhat with the following statement:  “Smarter energy choices are the key to creating a future that is healthy and safe because fossil fuels create toxic wastes that are a threat to our health and safety.”
  • Most Americans would favor a moratorium on coal-fired power plants.  Nearly two thirds of Americans (65 percent) – including 55 percent of Republicans, 68 percent of Independents, 72 percent of Democrats, and about half (49 percent) of Tea Party backers — would support a phase-out of coal fired power plants in the United States” if “increased energy efficiency and off the shelf renewable technologies such as wind and solar could meet our energy demands.”
  • Concerns about water are present in America on a strongly bipartisan basis.  More than three in four Americans (78 percent) – including 68 percent of Republicans, 80 percent of Independents, 85 percent of Democrats and 61 percent of Tea Party backers — agree with the following statement:  “Water shortages and clean drinking water are real concerns.  America should put the emphasis on first developing new energy sources that require the least water and cause minimal water pollution.”
  • Few Americans dismiss a connection between extreme weather events and climate change.   Fewer than one in five Americans (17 percent) think that “climate change is not a factor” in “at least 10 weather related disasters caused by so called extreme weather – (that) have occurred so far in 2011 involving $1 billion or more each in damages – now totaling about $45 billion.”   Fewer than half (45 percent) of Tea Party members fall into the climate change denial camp on this question.

Other findings include the following:

  • Nearly three in five (58 percent) of Americans are now aware of “the natural gas drilling process sometimes referred to as ‘fracking.'”   About four in five Americans (79 percent) – including 66 percent of Republicans, 78 percent of Independents, 91 percent of Democrats, and 55 percent of Tea Party supporters — say they are very or somewhat concerned “about this issue (fracking) as it relates to water quality.”
  • Roughly three out of four Americans (74 percent) – including 68 percent of Republicans, 72 percent of Independents, 81 percent of Democrats, and 58 percent of Tea Party backers – agree with the following statement:  “The cost of electricity paid by consumers is only part of the price of energy. We have to look at the whole picture — including water quality, environmental damages and human health problems — when we talk about what a particular source of energy costs America.”

Full survey findings are available on online at http://www.CivilSocietyInstitute.org.

slog payroll

Catherine Rampell catches a report from the Resolution Foundation [pdf], a British research organization that focuses on workers with low income. The report covers 10 rich countries, and looks at the growth rate of median pay versus economic growth per capita from 2000 to the start of the Great Recession [GWBush, remember him?].

Of the 10 countries analyzed, Finland showed the closest relationship between the living standards of the typical worker and improvements in the overall economy. The United States is on the lower end.

occupy thinking

“We’re a small team trying our best to improve the way the world learns.”

Are you interested in turning this into a business? Maybe with some VC funding?

“I’ve been approached several times, but it just didn’t feel right.

“When I’m 80, I want to feel that I helped give access to a world-class education to billions of students around the world.

“Sounds a lot better than starting a business that educates some subset of the developed world that can pay $19.95/month and eventually selling it to some text book company or something. I already have a beautiful wife, a hilarious son, two hondas and a decent house. What else does a man need?

“With that said, if you are a social venture capitalist and are looking to deploy capital with the highest possible social return per dollar invested, we should talk. I think you’ll find that there is no more measurable, scalable and high impact way to educate the world.”

age of greed

“We’ve allowed finance to dominate the American economy and the world economy as a consequence.

When finance dominates an economy, it begins, I think it’s become quite clear, to play games among themselves to make money…It becomes paper shuffling.”

Republicans in a picture:

  • top 1%: 8% in 1979 to 17% in 2007, more than doubling
  • next 19%: 35% in 1979, 36% in 2007, barely changed
  • middle 60%: 50% in 1979, 43% in 2007, down 7 points
  • poorest 20%: down 2 points, from 7% to 5%

Former economics editor at the New York Times, Jeff Madrick is easy to listen to, easy to read:

The top 1 percent pay federal income taxes at a rate of 23 percent.

If we raised it to their rate only ten years ago, we’d collect about $100 billion a year. If we reversed the Bush tax cuts on those who make $250,000 a year, we’d raise about $830 billion over ten years. If we reversed all the tax cuts, including on the middle class, which I’d favor, we’d raise about $3.5 trillion over ten years.

We have plenty of taxing capacity to take care of our needs.

We simply refuse to act as a modern nation, driven by myths that we can somehow return to the simplicity of colonial America.

We are still being told that greed is good.

“…contrary to the claims of some analysts, the federally regulated mortgage agencies, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, were not central causes of the crisis. Rather, private financial firms on Wall Street and around the country unambiguously and overwhelmingly created the conditions that led to catastrophe.

“Yet thus far, federal agencies have launched few serious lawsuits against the major financial firms that participated in the collapse, and not a single criminal charge has been filed against anyone at a major bank. The federal government has been far more active in rescuing bankers than prosecuting them.”

Age of Greed …the single-minded pursuit of huge personal wealth has been on the rise in the United States since the 1970s, led by a few individuals who have argued that self-interest guides society more effectively than community concerns.

These stewards of American capitalism have insisted on the central and essential place of accumulated wealth through the booms, busts, and recessions of the last half century, giving rise to our current woes.

…these politicians, economists, and financiers who declared a moral battle for freedom but instead gave rise to an age of greed, Madrick traces the lineage of some of our nation’s most pressing economic problems.

The men whose ideas were responsible for our current economic problems.
C-Span Video Library.

More than day-to-day media will tell you.

Which do you trust more: democracy or financial markets?

Americans weren’t really consulted. It was an inside job.

As a result, Wall Street has prospered but the rest of the nation hasn’t. One out of four homeowners is underwater, owing more on their homes than the homes are worth.

And with the worst economy since the Great Depression, we’re now embarking on fiscal austerity. Either Congress’s super-committee comes up with $1.2 trillion of federal budget cuts that Congress agrees to – going into effect a little over thirteen months from now – or $1.5 trillion of cuts are made across the board. Meanwhile, states and cities have been slashing public services for the past three years.

So which is it? Rule by democracy or by financial markets?