Solar Storms are Coming

16 02 2011

After a lengthy minimum, solar activity is increasing again and in a few years time the Sun will once again be at the peak of its activity, according to the British Geological Survey.


US Democracy Perverted by Wealth

12 02 2011

The Egyptians inspire me to see through and act to change the unfairness of our system.

The Power of Story Telling: Non Profits Using Social Media

9 02 2011

I just read a short article from McKinsey where they profile a non profit’s use of social media. The bottom line: using social media to capture people’s attention is different from traditional advertising, and companies that measure the effectiveness of these new channels by simply counting Facebook fans should rethink their approach.

I’ve put the article in my Google Docs (since McKinsey you have to subscribe to get in). Check it out here:  McKinsey article on non profits use of social media.

Big US Banks Are So F___ing Outrageous!

4 02 2011

Ben Bernanke (Fed Chief) today lectures the Federal Government to get its budget in order. Yet most of the budget upheaval has come from US taxpayers bailing out the banks and the bank-induced recession’s hi unemployment bringing on a fall off in tax revenues. Jamie Diamond, head of JP Morgan Chase, says last week at Davos that his bank will move to another country if the US government regulates it anymore than it does.
Here, one of the most sane monetary economists who knows what is going on, Simon Johnson, former Chief Economist at the IMF and now teaching at MIT, lays out the utter insanity and hubris of the bankers who are ratting out our economy.

Where’s the Protest at Home?

31 01 2011

I agree with Mr. Kuttner. We American citizens are getting raped by banks, corporatio­ns, patsy politician­s like McConnell and Boehner and 1001 laws that favor the rich. I am so disgusted AND I am organizing with others to combat constructi­vely. The people of Egypt inspire me!

Thinking Outside of the Box to Fix the Money Function in the US Economy

16 01 2011

I’m involved in various grass-roots initiatives around complementary currencies, local-investment mechanisms, a national credit system, and a State Bank for Oregon. The common objective of all these is to allow economic exchange, including putting people to work and investing in new enterprises. These have been stopped recently because of a lack of US dollars (the credit freeze). A bigger theme to which I am also fully committed is to create institutions that prevent concentration of economic power in this country and in the world.

Consequently, I am listening to a lot analysis and solutions that economists and other thinkers have put forth on these issues. As those of you who are like me and following this focus, you know that there is a fervor of activity and suggestions happening right now.

The exciting thing today is that there is a widespread willingness among people to entertain major changes to the architecture of banking and the money-creation function (i.e. the Fed) in the US economy. The band-aids and bail-outs have taken place. Now, it is onto getting real about lasting reform. The willingness to re-design our money institutions is a very profound development, and one that promises to deliver a qualitatively different kind of economy in the future.

There are three developments that are exciting to me right now:

  1. First are the proposals that are actually making it to Congress. In December, Dennis Kucinich put forth a bill to abolish the Federal Reserve. The US Treasury Department, in his bill, would take on the money-creation function for the country. When money was created by the Treasury, there would be no interest charge on it as there is today when the Fed buys government bonds to create money and when banks simply lend out as loans with interest the newly created money. Debt money, as this particular design of money is often called, has a built-in requirement for the economy to continuously grow which is bad for the environment. Just like a Ponzi scheme, ever higher levels of GDP must be attained in order to meet the debt service on the money created at earlier periods. Also last year, Ron Paul introduced a bill that requires the Federal Reserve to be audited so that its balance sheet and income statement is fully transparent to the American people.
  2. Second area of interest to me are the assessments by more conventional economists of the financial reform that is taking place. Prominent here is Paul Volcker who advocates separating banks into two wholly separate types of companies: one that takes deposits and makes loans; another type that invests and speculates on its own account. Along with Volcker is Simon Johnson, at MIT and former IMF Chief Economist, who is loudly calling for size limits on banks. Banks should never become so large that should they fail, the whole economy fails. Volcker and Johnson are certainly right about these important architecture issues.
  3. The third and most exciting area to me is the work of Bernard Lietaer and Robert Ulanowicz. Lietaer is an economist, Ulanowicz is a theoretical ecologist. In the past two years, they have come out with papers that show how the design of the money-creation function in an economy contributes to the systemic performance of the economy. With a good design of money, the economy can be resilient to shocks. With a bad design, it will collapse.  Their main point is that an economy needs more than one currency. It needs multiple complementary currencies: a national currency, local currencies, currencies for education, for resource management, for international trade, and potentially many other sector-oriented currencies. Multiple currencies create the diversity that is needed to give a system resilience. While the efficiency of a single currency is sacrificed, the ability to bounce back from shocks and to act in a counter-cyclic fashion is what is gained from using multiple currencies.

What is most satisfying and “break thru” in Lietaer and Ulanowicz’ thought is their framework, primarily Ulanowicz’, on how to measure the sustainability of a system. They claim that it is a balance between the two poles of efficiency on one hand, and resiliency on the other. A system should not be completely one or the other. It needs to be a careful blend in order to operate in the optimal “window of viability.”

A really eye-opening and well written paper on this is here:

A system is composed of agents and connections between the agents. When the system is efficient, this means it moves energy, material and information through it quickly. But to do this, only a few agents and by only a few connections will be needed. Efficiency, therefore, necessitates a reduction in diversity and connectivity. On the other hand, with lots of agents and every agent connected to the other, there are a lot of behavioral options for the system to take in any circumstance. But too many options can be stagnative. In other words, too much diversity and interconnection will lead to stagnation.

Lietaer and Ulanowicz’ framework for evaluating systems sustainability is ideal for designing monetary systems. More importantly, however, it gives us a framework for understanding and dealing with concentration in the economy. If poorly designed money systems, such as a debt currency, fractional reserve banking, and a monopoly on the money-creation function (characteristics of the US dollar and all world currencies) are to blame for at least part of the inequality of incomes and wealth in our country, then fixing the money architecture will go a long way in making a better society to live in. And furthermore, by adding “resiliency” to the framework of evaluating an economic system, we will get away from the mono-centric value of “efficiency” as the sole measure of performance. This too will help produce a new quality in our standards of living.

Congresswoman Giffords and the Far Side of Individualism

9 01 2011

The shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson on Saturday by Jared Lee Loughner is a clear demonstration of the sickness of the “individualist” creed of American culture. There is such a disrespect and disavowel of the existence of a social fabric by some people, that murder is considered by many Americans as a personal right.

Killing each other is the end game of the right wingers. The ardent belief in only the “right” of the individual, with no recognition of the responsibilities of the individual, will lead to a battle of all against all. Then, the person with the most ammunition wins, but the loneliness that will follow extermination of society by one’s own hand will probably lead to suicide.

Already the conservative pundits are spinning the Giffords shooting as a “lone, unhinged madman.” Today on ABC’s This Week program, George Will said forget about searching the social fabric for an explanation. Dick Armey, also on the program and chairman of conservative PAC Freedomworks, said the answer to this shooting will come from psychology, not sociology.

They said that this is more like Columbine and Virginia Tech rather than the Oklahoma City bombing. The first two were acts of “crazies.” The last one was politically motivated.

George Will, Dick Armey, Sarah Palin, Timothy McVeigh, Ronald Reagan and the rest of the right wingers are wrong. They recognize only half the equation of individual freedom, rights. They forget about the responsibilities. They don’t believe in society. They don’t believe in government. They think that the individual has nothing but rights; there is no responsibility to others according to their ideology.

The right wingers are misguided. The rights of the individual REST UPON an agreement by the rest of us to respect those rights. If you don’t respect that other people respect your rights, if you don’t realize that your freedom comes about through an agreement by other people to respect your freedom, if you don’t realize that your private property is a social convention, then your only recourse is to use violence to claim your rights. But by then, you can’t speak of “rights” anymore. Rights assume a society. Rights come inextricably bound with responsibilities. When you don’t recognize society, your view of the world is just all about force and violence. Your force against my force.

It is this concept of ‘personal freedom as force’ that is the sickness of the conservative right wing.

Conservatives can’t handle true individualism. True individualism requires a balance of speaking and living one’s own unique truth WHILE SIMULTANEOUSLY respecting others’ to also speak and live their own unique truth. This is hard to do. This is the “far side” of individualism. This is the real meaning of E Pluribus Unum: from the great plurality of views, there is a magnificent unity. The far side of individualism is that, while I have a unique and very localized view of the world, this unique and local view is only a part of a much greater organic unity called society, called ecology, called universe. If you don’t recognize the larger field in which you exist, you are a sick, insane, sociopath. You are a murdering and dangerous person. Either get therapy, or, instead of pointing your rifles at others, point it at yourself and pull the trigger now, so that the rest of us, who believe in society, can live in peace.