Dream Songs

Who am I worthless that You spent such pains and take may pains again? I do not understand; but I believe. Jonquils respond with wit to the teasing breeze. Induct me down my secrets. Stiffen this heart to stand their horrifying cries, O cushion the first the second shocks, will to a halt in mid-air there demons who would be at me. May fade before, sweet morning on sweet morning, I wake my dreams, my fan-mail go astray, and do me little goods I have not thought of, ingenious & beneficial Father. Ease in their passing my beloved friends, all others too I have cared for in a travelling life, anyone anywhere indeed. Lift up sober toward truth a scared self-estimate. – John Berryman (1914-1972) Berryman won a Pulitzer Prize for his collection of poems Dream Songs (1964), of which he said, “…these songs are not meant to be understood. They are meant only to terrify and comfort.” A professor at Harvard and Princeton, Berryman never recovered from the shock of his father’s suicide. He himself took his own life in 1972. (HT)  

The Magnificent

I was born I was born to sing for you I didn’t have a choice but to lift you up And sing whatever song you wanted me to I give you back my voice From the womb my first cry, it was a joyful noise Only love, only love can leave such a mark But only love, only love can heal such a scar Justified till we die, you and I will magnify The Magnificent Lyrics from U2’s new but as-yet unreleased album No Line on the Horizon. Goes on sale next month.  

El Sistema

The Venezuelan National Orchestra (La Orquesta Sinfonica de Venezuela) recently built a world-class national symphony hall and installed Millennia audio path throughout the entire building. So I was gratified to learn that the 2009 TED Prize was being given to maestro Jose Antonio Abreu , architect of El Sistema – Venezuela’s remarakable program that molds at-risk kids into symphony orchestra musicians. And what musicians they are! Watch this breathtaking video of the premier youth orchestra of Venezuela, recorded live from TED2009. This is the 2nd movement of Shostakovich’s 10th  

B-Corporation Update

Readers of this blog may know that one of our companies is a charter B-Corporation. You can read more about B-Corporations here. B-Corp’s are companies that desire a broader mandate than simply “maximizing shareholder wealth.” In many states, if a corporate board or officer strays from the task of maximizing shareholder wealth, they could be tried for violating the law. B-Corporations view their responsibility to all stakeholders, not just shareholders. These stakeholders include employees, vendors, and their local community and environment. The B-Corp concept is sometimes referred to as the Triple Bottom Line: people, planet, profits. Some of us also refer to this business model as missional. Not long ago, a number of us were active in the first steps towards changing California corporate law to legalize B-Corp-type entities, via Assembly Bill AB2944. The bill passed both the California Senate and Assembly, but due to a technicality was veto’ed by Governor Schwarzenegger. The Governor himself has requested specific changes to the legislation and 2009 should be the year California approves B-Corp-style corporations. B-Corp leaders recently had two meetings with the Obama-Biden transition team. A report on those meetings can be found here. This morning I received an update from Chrissy at B-Corp (whose dad started this whole idea) and I wanted to pass along some of the latest news. Ben Cohen (Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream) calls on Investors Circle community to ‘Implement B Corp’ At the last IC meeting, in his plenary panel presentation on ‘Responding to the Financial Crisis’, Cohen called for investors and the companies they support to implement the B Corporation legal framework to protect their ability to consider the impact of their decisions not only on short term financial value, but long term social value. Cohen also noted importance of transparent, comparable, and comprehensive standards and ratings to drive and reward social and environmental performance. Canadian Supreme Court Clears the Way for B Corps In an overruling of Revlon, according to the Canadian Supreme Court, the obligation of a company to act with a view to “the best interests of the corporation” requires directors to consider the interests of all stakeholders, and not to equate the interests of the corporation with the interests of shareholders alone. In the Court’s words: “[T]he duty of the directors to act in the best interests of the corporation comprehends a duty to treat individual stakeholders affected by corporate actions equitably and fairly. There are no absolute rules. In each case, the question is whether, in all the circumstances, the directors acted in the best interests of the corporation, having regard to all relevant considerations, including, but not confined to, the need to treat affected stakeholders in a fair manner, commensurate with the corporation’s duties as a responsible corporate citizen.” Notes from Investors Circle Conference In addition to Ben Cohen’s remarks, in her keynote address, Majora Carter fromSustainable South Bronx said that when SSB creates its for-profit subsidiary, it will be a B Corporation. Mission Markets may also use B Ratings System as listing requirement for new private equity social stock exchange.  Click on link for  

Made in China

We learned this week that a product I designed is being counterfeited in China. This product is a fairly complex piece of industrial engineering. We estimate nearly 1000 tech-hours would be needed to reverse engineer this device in proper detail – custom plastic injection molds, custom aluminum extrusion molds, NC and hand-machined aluminum parts, multiple PCB designs, custom transformer design, etc.. This reminds me of a bottom-feeder German audio electronics company called Behringer that got their start by simply photo-copying another company’s PCB design and putting it in their own chassis. They were successfully sued by the company from which they stole intellectual property. Yet, today, Behringer has grown to be one of the industry leaders in throw-away (short-life-cycle) audio products, while the company whose property they copied has remained small, choosing to make products of far higher quality. Perhaps this is an example, a metaphor, of today’s social condition – propping up greed and consumption at the expense of long-term sustainability. And as hard as the Chinese tried to make an accurate copy of our product, it remains an obvious fake in virtually all respects. Economics, like any complex design, cannot be forced or faked without consequences. Any imbalance in an organic system will seek to re-balance itself. It’s how the universe was designed. And the universe will find balance, at any  

Uncanny predictive accuracy

Reagan economic adviser Art Laffer, commentator Ben Stein and a half-dozen other talking financial heads publicly ridiculing Peter Schiff in 2007 for predicting -exactly- the mess we’re in today. Peter is a wise soul who properly understood the data and held his ground in the face of overwhelming “peer  

Overextension

Since 2001, a growing group of international representatives (politicos, scientists, philosophers, religious leaders, etc.) have been gathering at something they call the World Public Forum. The WPF seeks “vivid dialogue among the representatives of civil society from different countries” in order to “seek peaceful, non-violent and orderly solutions which will fire the imagination of the vast society of people worldwide to direct a trend towards a humane future for all.” The group includes N. American delegates, but does not promote anyone’s particular political ideology beyond the normal UN human rights declarations, which is evidenced by the inclusion of delegates from Iran, Cuba, and Palestine. I deeply appreciate the WPF’s call to global religious conversation and tolerance, given at last week’s Rhodes Declaration, released Friday: 4.1. The world religions constitute a unique pool of wisdom and desire for a better co-existence of mankind in friendship and peace. But no one possesses the “ultimate truth”. Dialogue and cooperation between the world religions, their believers as well as their leaders, is therefore essential to achieve their common goals, which are better relations among people and enhanced respect for the divine creation. 4.2. To achieve greater unity among mankind, dialogue, cooperation and common actions of the world religions should be promoted at all levels, not only among leaders, but also among believers, in particular where they share the same neighbourhood. 4.3. A prerequisite for mutual respect is knowledge about each other. We therefore suggest that the world religions work together for the elaboration of a common curriculum for teaching about the other religions. This will ensure respectful information on the one hand and avoid misunderstandings, while wrongful stereotyping and hatred will be avoided. One U.S. delegate to last week’s WPF world summit in Greece (who descibes himself as “cursed with a grim awareness of the tremendous human suffering in the world, and deeply committed to doing something about it”) characterized the gathering as quite gloomy in light of the global economic meltdown. He shares three conclusions from the summit: Social Stability & Political Structures – A striking conclusion from this group was that “no dialogue between civilizations is possible until asymmetries of socioeconomic conditions [between North and South] are corrected.” To me, this seems like both a tall order and an intransigent position, but I’m sure it’s important for us in the developed world to recognize how condescending we often may appear to those who are not so fortunate. Economic Crisis – Conclusions from this group (which included a number of leading economists from all over the world) comprised a gloomy set of best and worst case scenarios. Best case is that we will sink into the worst recession since the 1930s, with an average of 8-12% unemployment in developed countries and -3% annual GDPs.  Worst case is a second great depression with unemployment approaching 20% in developed countries and -10% GDPs. Gulp. Energy – Among the conclusions and recommendations were these: a) future conflict prevention requires a world structure for non-fossil-fuel energy generation; b) greatly expanded research and development for sustainable alternative energy is needed under the auspices of the United Nations; and c) a cooperative international agreement for development of advanced nanotechnology should be pursued to avoid dangerous competition (read “arms race”) and to identify and satisfy new market opportunities. California is already at 7.7% unemployment, so the 8-12% unemployment forecast doesn’t surprise me. U.S. “real” GDP growth is currently less than 1%, so predictions of negative GDP growth doesn’t surprise me. And while I’m a card-carrying optimist, though the WPF’s worst-case prediction would be terribly world-altering, I would not be surprised. I would not be surprised because we are so miserably extended into debt and yet we are creating massive amounts of new debt to solve the problem – like a gambler who just can’t stop throwing the dice. The WPF’s worst-case prediction is rational because we are dramatically overextended – in far more ways than just financial debt. Printing presses can “create” more money, but we can’t: 1. Create more fossil energy than currently exists 2. Create unlimited amounts of farmland and fertilizers 3. Create more fish once we’ve fished out an ocean 4. Create a clean climate once we’ve trashed it 5. etc… As Chris Clugston notes in last week’s Energy Bulletin, “an overextended society and its lifestyle paradigm are unsustainable, and will inevitably collapse.” I encourage you to read’s Chris’ well-researched report HERE. And after that, please see the editorial comment in last week’s New Scientist, along with the related feature articles HERE. We live on a planet with finite resources – that’s no surprise to anyone – so why do we have an economic system in which all that matters is growth? When the human population was counted in millions and resources were sparse, people could simply move to pastures new. But with 9 billion people expected around 2050, moving on is not an option. As politicians reconstruct the global economy, they should take heed. If we are to leave any kind of planet to our children we need an economic system that lets us live within our  

Empire & Debt

From Wikipedia Most economic models have shown that military spending by the United States Government has diverted resources from productive uses such as consumption and investment, which has ultimately slown growth and reduced employment.[49] Conservative estimates project that by 2017 the Iraq and Afghan wars will have cost the U.S. budget between $1.7 trillion and $2.7 trillion. Interest on money borrowed to pay those costs could alone add a further $816 billion to that bottom line. Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz even says that estimating all economic and social costs might push the U.S. war bill up toward $5 trillion by 2017. This figure includes the cost to the U.S. economy of global oil prices that have quadrupled since 2003, an increase blamed partly on the Iraq  

Government Takeover

Not happy about this news. On the advice of a small group of powerful financial managers, the American taxpayer will bail out the biggest failed lending institutions (with CEO’s drawing salaries in the $5-10 million range). The bailout of FreddieMac and FannieMae is expected within hours. There are reasons moves like this are made on weekends, and none of those reasons are savory. Granted, the alternatives are worse. What’s bothering me most is that massive personal income tax dollars have been quietly approved for bailout by the same Congress who made the laws that created the criminally absurd lending practices that precipitated these damages. This morning, I am deeply ashamed at our government on many levels.  The lack of public accountability here is stunning. According to the Washington Post, Congress has granted Henry Paulson – former CEO of Goldman Sachs, net worth >$200M –  an “unlimited sum” ($800B to start) of taxpayer dollars to bailout failed lending institutions.  I wonder how many Congressional leaders actually read the 700 page bailout? By Monday, the U.S. governement will be the “conservator” of nearly HALF of all U.S. home loans – over $6 trillion in mortgage debt. According to Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Fed and proponent of this bailout, the American taxpayer will now be held responsible for paying back these failed home loans (with the expected worst yet to come). And who holds a lions share of these loans? Asia – predominantly China. How did Obama and McCain vote on this bill? Both skipped town and avoided the vote. This bailout raises the government debt ceiling to $10.6 trillion. The “savings & loan” bailout of the late 1980’s pales in