Journal: Chuck Spinney Sends–Katrina & Fear

03 Environmental Degradation, 08 Wild Cards, 12 Water, Earth Intelligence, Ethics, Government, Military
Chuck Spinney
Chuck Spinney

The Detritus of Katrina and the Paralysis of Fear:
A Metaphor for Contemporary Politics

The vast Mississippi Delta in Louisiana is sinking as sea water from the Gulf of Mexico seeps in to destroy its fresh water marshlands.  The Army's Corps of Engineers says it can not protect New Orleans from the inevitable storm surges caused by hurricanes (see the Guardian report attached below).

Some may dismiss this warning as alarmist hype, and the Army's Corps of Engineers certainly does not have an enviable track record in this regard.  That said, the Corps' warning does make evident the political-economic  detritus left over from Hurricane Katrina.  Inferentially, the warning also highlights the hollowness in the scare tactics used by global warming advocates to raise money for their far more costly ambitions, not to mention the paralyzing political-economic consequences posed by the politics of fear practiced by the Pentagon.

The reality of the Delta thus becomes a metaphor for the larger emptiness that now pervades American politics.

Below the Fold: Balance of Spinney Comment, Full Article with Highlight, Books
Continue reading “Journal: Chuck Spinney Sends–Katrina & Fear”

Journal: Tech ‘has changed foreign policy’

Best Practices in Management, Civil Society, Decision-Making & Decision-Support, Democracy, Diplomacy, Government, Information Society, Methods & Process, Peace Intelligence, Policy, Technologies
Full Story Online
Full Story Online

Tech's inroads to a “global society” will influence its governance, Mr Brown said

By Jonathan Fildes

Technology reporter, BBC News, Oxford

Technology means that foreign policy will never be the same again, the prime minister said at a meeting of leading thinkers in Oxford.

The power of technology – such as blogs – meant that the world could no longer be run by “elites”, Mr Brown said.

Policies must instead be formed by listening to the opinions of people “who are blogging and communicating with people around the world”, he said.

Mr Brown's comments came during a surprise appearance at TED Global.

“That in my view gives us the first opportunity as a community to fundamentally change the world,” he told the TED Global (Technology, Entertainment and Design) conference.

“Foreign policy can never be the same again.”

Global change

The prime minister talked about the power of technology to unite the world and offer ways to solve some of its most pressing problems.

He said that issues such as climate change could not be solved alone, adding that digital technology offered a way to create a “global society”.

You can't deal with environmental problems through the existing institutions
Gordon Brown

“Massive changes in technology have allowed the possibility of people linking up around the world,” he said.

In particular, he said, digital communications offered the possibility of finding common ground “with people we will never meet”.

“We have the means to take collective action and take collective action together.”

He talked about recent events in Iran and Burma and how the global community – using blogs and technologies such as Twitter – was able to bring events to widespread attention.

He also highlighted the role of technology in recent elections in Zimbabwe.

“Because people were able to take mobile phone photographs of what was happening at polling stations, it was impossible for [Robert Mugabe] to fix that election in the way that he wanted to do.”

But Mr Brown also stressed the need to create new organisations to tackle environmental, financial, development and security problems.

“We are the first generation to be able to do this,” he told the conference. “We shouldn't lose the chance.”

He said that older institutions founded after the Second World War, such as the United Nations or the International Monetary Fund, were now “out of date”.

“You can't deal with environmental problems through the existing institutions,” he told the conference.

Review: The Social Life of Information

6 Star Top 10%, Information Operations, Information Society, Information Technology, Misinformation & Propaganda, Values, Ethics, Sustainable Evolution

Social LifeSuperb Primer for Any Age

January 19, 2008

John Seely Brown

I come to this book eight years after it was first published, and with all the accolades and superb reviews that it has already accummulated, my primary focus here, apart from flagging the book for those that follow my reviews, is to suggest that it is one of the finest overviews available and easily exploited as a primer for undergraduates, graduates, or adults pursuing their own continuing education via Amazon, which is now the hub of the World Brain.

As is my custom, I provide here a few highlights from my flyleaf notes, and then link to ten books that can be used to study discrete aspects of the digital age as I have come to understand it.

This is one of the best books I have found that makes the case that “fiber to the forehead” is next to worthless, it is not about acquiring more information, but rather about the nuanced networking and social interpretations of information in context.

Indeed, they say that with all the technologies now pushing and creating digital information, consumption of this information is only increasing among individuals by 1.7 percent a year.

I value this book, in part because I have seen the U.S. secret intelligence community lose its mind, today spending $60 billion a year of the taxpayer's hard-earned money, to create monstrous and often counter-productive technical program that access the 4% of the information we can steal, while ignoring the 94% that is in 183 languages we do not speak, and more often than not, NOT online.

The authors write well, and gifted turns of phrase about, such as “the radical instability of infopunditry.”

They do a superb job of addressing the ills of technology-centered tunnel vision, a point that Peter Drucker made in Forbes ASAP 28 Aug 98, and I repeated in my keynote in Vegas to the National Security Agency (NSA) IT conference, in the early 2000 timeframe. We've spent the past 50 years on the T in IT, we need to start focusing on the I now.

The authors are eloquent in saying that more of the same is not the answer, and I totally agree. Returning to the secret world, I paraphrase an Australian journalist commenting on the pathologies of secret programs, who said that giving more money to dysfunctional secret agencies is like pouring gasoline on a fire. Right on. I want to reduce the secret budget to $12 billion a year, and redirect everything else to US education, global access to open sources in all languages, and free on demand education to the five billion poor via a network of 100 million volunteers with skype and internet access who can answer a cell phone question in any of 183 languages: education “one cell call at a time.”

The authors point out that at its best, technology augments and enhances human capabilities, it does not replace them (less the truly repetitive mechanical aspects).

They observe (in 2000) that 1-2 exabytes of information per year are created, but that much of this is not useful, and there is a major short-fall in sense-making and precision access.

They discuss, most usefully, the reality that designers underestimate what people do (and I would add, what they want or need).

“Information fetishism” is defined as the belief that information and information technology can replaced nuanced relations among people and their individual and shared insights. In Body of Secrets, link below, Jim Bamford ends his second book on NSA by saying that with all the trillions they have spent, they have still not built the ultimate computer, one that runs on a tiny amount of energy, weighs less than a few pounds, and can make petabyte calculations per second: “the human brain.”

The authors respond to earlier criticism about not addressing LINUX, and point out that LINUX is social innovation, not technical innovation. See Wealth of Networks below.

They note that the primary advantage of IT is that it enhances both local and global access. On the downside, it neglects periphery and context.

The authors reassert, compellingly, the value of intermediation, and I am reminded of our earlier criticisms of the Internet, still valid, in that most information is unedited, unformatted, unpaginated, undated, and lacking in source bias insight. This is still true, and Google is making it worse.

By the authors own account, this book addresses:
1) Limits of infopunditry
2) Challenges of software agents
3) Social character of work and learning
4) Limits of management theory
5) Resources for innovation
6) Unnoticed aspects of the document
7) Implications for design
8) Future of information, especially for university

I have a couple of nits, but not enough to warrant removal of one star. This is clearly a seminal work of lasting value.

Nit #1: Organizational Intelligence (Wilensky, 1967) is not to be found in this book. The authors do not go past Quadrant III (see loaded images).

Nit #2: While they have a superb bibliography and include works by Barlow, Kelly, Strassmann, Toffler, and Turkle, they do NOT include the seminal works directly relevant to this book, specifically, Barlow's seminal manifesto, and the following:

Out of Control: The New Biology of Machines, Social Systems, & the Economic World
Information Payoff
Powershift: Knowledge, Wealth, and Power at the Edge of the 21st Century
The Second Self: Computers and the Human Spirit , Twentieth Anniversary Edition

Amazon limits us to ten links. See my earlier lists (the first ten) for 300+ books covering information and intelligence. Here are six more:
The Landscape of History: How Historians Map the Past
Body of Secrets: Anatomy of the Ultra-Secret National Security Agency
Fog Facts: Searching for Truth in the Land of Spin
The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom

I regret the limitation on links. See also such gems as Forbidden Knowledge; Voltaire's Bastards; Age of Missing Information; etc etc.

Review: Plan B 3.0–Mobilizing to Save Civilization, Third Edition

5 Star, Complexity & Catastrophe, Complexity & Resilience, Environment (Problems), Environment (Solutions), Future, Intelligence (Public), Nature, Diet, Memetics, Design, Peace, Poverty, & Middle Class, Priorities, Security (Including Immigration), Stabilization & Reconstruction, Survival & Sustainment, Values, Ethics, Sustainable Evolution

Plan 3.0The Best and Most Essential Guide, Not the Whole Picture, January 11, 2008

Lester R. Brown

I have followed Lester Brown's dedication to evaluating the state of our planet for over a decade, and wrote to the Nobel Committee urging them to recognize him, Herman Daly, and Paul Kawkins and the two Lovins instead of Al Gore. They have all done a great deal more of the heavy lifting.

I decided to purchase this book when Medard Gabel, creator of the analog World Game with Buchminster Fuller, gave me a budget for saving the planet that totals no more than $230 billion a year (at a time when we spend $1.3 trillion waging war).

I've gone through the book and consider it to be a best in class effort, a seminal work no one else on the planet could have produced. In the author's chosen area of focus, there is no other book like this one. However, some other books are easier to read and understand, such as High Noon 20 Global Problems, 20 Years to Solve Them, and others do a better job of addressing all ten high-level threats to Humanity and Earth, such as A More Secure World: Our Shared Responsibility–Report of the Secretary-General's High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change.

Here are a few highlights:

+ Book is offered free online (but the hard copy is much better deal, easier to work with, mark up and return to as a reference….use the online version to search for specifics.

+ The Introduction is clear and inspiring. This book is loaded with carefully collected facts ably presented.

+ $12 per gallon of fuel in “true costs” externalized and not billed

+ One 25 gallon ethanol tank takes enough grain to feed a person for a year. This means that those in hunger going to double from 600 million to 1.2 billion, as cars compete for grain (which is nuts).

+ Food-oil axis is developing into a triple crisis: oil, food, water. As 50% live in cities, the fuel intensity of food in the face of Peak Oil is becoming a major issue.

+ Stopping the ethanol program dead in its tracks is the single best thing US Government could do, followed my more wind farms and an end to coal plants.

+ Amazon reaching a tipping point, mega-fires are foreseen (as with New York City if its 1920's water system fails and a firestorm emerges)

+ Western model will not work for China or India (or Brazil, Indonesia, Iran, Russia, Venezuela, and other Wild Cards)

+ Ice cap is melting fast, gfalciers are melting fast and causing small earthquakes.

+ 600 million refugees expected if sea level rises ten meters (33 feet)

+ Mortality has been reduced, but fertility has not, leaving persistent population issues.

+ 15 of 24 primary ecosystems degraded or pushed beyond their limits.

+ Climate has become more destructive, with 55 weather events costing $1.5 billion or more each since the 1980's.

+ Great discussion of the ecology of cities, Bioneers would resonate with all the author recommends.

+ Scarcity crossing national boundaries.

+ Excellent notes, heavy reliance on UN and other primary sources.

+ He proposes a budget of $190 billion a year to achieve our social goals and restore the Earth.

+ The only thing missing from this book are some of the positives, for example bacteria as an energy source, healing bacteria, eletrified water as a cleanser needed no other ingredients, the recovery of the Dead Sea with furrows that retain every drop of water.

I am so surprised to find only one review that I wanted to quickly add my praise for this author, while also pointing out three things that a handful of wealthy philanthropists could do tomorrow to execute this vision.

#1 We should all support the World Index of Social and Environmental Responsibility (WISER) as created by the Natural Capital Institute, and encourage colleges and universities around the world to begin loading the “true cost” information for all products and services (e.g. 4000 gallons of water in a designer T-shirt). Delivered to end-users via cell phone query at the point sale, this will dramatically affect markets.

#2 We should ask the 90 major foundations in the USA to host a summit to which all governments, non-governmental organizations, prominent wealthy individuals, and the United Nations are invited. The objective should be to create an online “Range of Gifts” Table that identifies specific contributions that can be made at every cost level, to eradicate the ten high level threats within fifteen years, by harmonizing the twelve policies such that ALL organizations and ALL individuals can opt in on a master budget that is strategically sound, operationally executable, and tactically open to all.

#3 We must absorb the wisdom of C. K. Prahalad, Alvin and Heidi Toffler, and others listed below, and recognize that the only enduring sustainable solutioin lies in educating the five billion poor, who do not have the time or the money to sit in a classroom for 18-22 years. We can create today, using, an immediate registry of 100 million volunteers with Internet access, speaking 183 languages among them, who can educate the poor–who are not stupid, just illiterate–one cell call at a time.

I believe that Reuniting America, True Majority, and WISER are reaching critical mass. All we lack now is one well endowed champion who sees that it is our collective intelligence that will solve the world's problems, and there is no need to run for President. Here are the handful of books I would recommend to Michael Bloomberg if he were to ask me today how to fulfil his vision of political, educational, and philanthropic reform.

Visit Earth Intelligence Network for free public intelligence on the ten threats, twelve policies, and eight challengers. The weekly report “GLOBAL CHALLENGES: The Week in Review,” will appeal to anyone interested in this book and its topic.

The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom
The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty Through Profits (Wharton School Publishing Paperbacks)
Revolutionary Wealth: How it will be created and how it will change our lives
Infinite Wealth: A New World of Collaboration and Abundance in the Knowledge Era
THE SMART NATION ACT: Public Intelligence in the Public Interest
The Future of Life

Review: Digital Fortress–A Thriller

3 Star, Asymmetric, Cyber, Hacking, Odd War, Intelligence (Government/Secret)
Digital Fortress
Amazon Page

3.0 out of 5 stars Marginal Mish-Mash, Annoying to the Intelligence or Digital Professional

October 7, 2007

Dan Brown

This could have been a great book, but the author chose to mix up a kludge of capabilities, fabrications, and red herrings that in the end do nothing other than irritate the intelligence or digital professional looking for a good read.

The “chapters” are 3-6 page vignettes. The book is totally out of touch with reality and I seriously question whether the author actually had help from two “anonymous” NSA employees.

NSA is cash poor–it does not pay well, all of the money goes to beltway bandits that over-charge for single-point technology solutions and outsourced butts in seats.

There is no 5 story crypto vault. Crypto is the LEAST important aspect of what NSA does–pattern analysis and finding links between specific communications devices is 80% of what they do.

NSA does not run clandestine human agents (at least not legally) and it does not do break & entry, that is done by a special CIA unit that is has been my privilege to help on multiple occasions when I was in the clandestine service.

The NSA translation capabilities are largely software, not hardware.

Navy Commanders are in their 30's and 40's, not “56” and certainly not also Deputy Directors of NSA, a flag officer position generally held by a civilian while the Director is a three-star flag officer.

Bottom line: this book is flawed on so many levels I explicitly do not recommend it to anyone, professional or casual.

A *much* better story was told by Winn Schartau in the late 1980's, see his excellent novel (more truth than fiction), Terminal Compromise. Buy it used, it is still on the mark. Other books by Winn Schwartau that are much better than this low-rent pulp are Pearl Harbor Dot Com; Cybershock: Surviving Hackers, Phreakers, Identity Thieves, Internet Terrorists and Weapons of Mass Disruption; and Information Warfare: Second Edition.

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Review: Sun, Wind & Light–Architectural Design Strategies, 2nd Edition

5 Star, Nature, Diet, Memetics, Design, Values, Ethics, Sustainable Evolution
Amazon Page
Amazon Page

Mark DeKay and G. Z. Brown

5.0 out of 5 stars Integrated Review of Two Top Books That Mesh Well,

July 10, 2007

UPDATE 24 March 2014: This update applies only to Sun, Wind & Light: Architectural Design Strategies 3rd Edition

HUGE update. Focus is on zero-net energy and carbon neutral design, augmented by energy-plus building design. New material takes it up to over 800 pages. Nine new “bundles” of design strategies are added including topcis such as “neighborhood of light,” “passively cooled buildings” and “responsive envelope.” The book is now in PDF and also in print as a flat spiral bound volume for desktop ease of use. Navigation within this book — which was already superb in the original editions — has been augmented, to include graphic “Navigation by Design Strategy Maps” showing relationships among design strategies in six nexted levels of complexity. HUGH SQUARED: The book is now accompanied by a 62-page spreadsheet and separately, on the publisher's companion web site, 1400 pages of climate data and analytics on each US climate zone including five in Alaska, all downloadable [this is part of the purchase, download needs access card printed on inside of back cover of the book]. I continue to regard this book as one of the most exciting around and would not be at all surprised if the next edition includes urban farming that also cleans water and removes waste (sort of kidding, but not really).

Although I normally read books in twos and threes on the same topic to gain varied perspectives, this is the first time I am writing a single review encompassing two books. They mesh together so well that I cannot imagine studying this subject without having BOTH in hand.

The two books are Sun, Wind & Light: Architectural Design Strategies, 2nd Edition and The HOK Guidebook to Sustainable Design.

Start with the introduction in the Guidebook, which is blessed with a Foreword from Paul Hawken and see especially page 13 where the cost benefits are shown, with 48% energy savings for Gold, 30% for Silver, and 28% for Certified. See also the illustration on page 15 that I have reproduced in the image I am loading for both books: the old decision model was Cost at the top, with Schedule and Quality anchoring the triangle. the new decision model still has cost at the top, but Schedule and Human Health, Safety, & Comfort are on corners of this new pentagon, and the bottom is achored by Quality and Ecology, or what Paul Hawken would call in his books, “true cost” to the Earth and Humanitas.

NOW shift to the Contents and the Detailed Contents of Sun, Wind, & Light. As one reviewer notes, this is a course book. I did not recognize it as such, I saw it as one of the most gifted complete collection of factors to learn and apply that I have ever seen for ANY topic of study. The content and organization of this book is nothing short of Nobel-level “wow.” Finish going through this book.

NOW go back to the first 218 pages of the Handbook, and study the checklists and varied helpful boxes and explanations. The rest of the book (217-459) is case studies of specific buildings, each a few pages, that can be left for last.

At this point, I went into the Glossaries and Bibliographies of both books. Each is distinct, neither supplants the other. They must be taken together. I read Glossaries, and Indices, as content, and use them as a form of “second look” (in extremely complex books, this is actually where I start).

NOW go back to the Case Studies in the Handbook, and read each from the point of view of what “take away” lessons are there for your own building.

Reading these two books was a real treat. Outside my office kitchen is a deck with an 11 point system for attracting birds from bluebirds and bluejays to cardinals, gold finches, two kinds of woodpecker, and a flicker as well as the more common birds. I believe in diversity, and I believe that if we don't get our act together and start living up to the ideals of Natural Capitalism (see other recommended books below), our world will go sterile and dark before out great-grandchilden can share in the beauty of this planet. These two books are part of the solution, and I am in serious awe of those who made them available to all of us, and at reasonable prices to boot. Well done!!!

Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming
Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution
The Ecology of Commerce
Ecological Economics: Principles And Applications
For the Common Good: Redirecting the Economy toward Community, the Environment, and a Sustainable Future
The Soul of Capitalism: Opening Paths to a Moral Economy
Capitalism 3.0: A Guide to Reclaiming the Commons (Bk Currents)
The Philosophy of Sustainable Design

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Review: Plan B 2.0–Rescuing a Planet Under Stress and a Civilization in Trouble

5 Star, Environment (Problems), Environment (Solutions)

Plan B 2.0Best Single Book for Both General Public and Broadly Read Specialists,

January 25, 2007
Lester R. Brown
It's a real shame that the publisher did not take the trouble to load the table of contents into the product information section provided by Amazon, because that alone should persuade anyone that gets to this page that the book is a MUST BUY MUST READ MUST SHARE.

Each of the following section titles has six sub-titles that I will not repeat here:
1. Entering a New World
2. Beyond the Oil Peak
3. Emerging Water Shortages
4. Rising Temperatures & Rising Seas
5. Natural Systems Under Stress
6. Early Signs of Decline
7. Eradicating Poverty, Stabilizing Populations
8. Restoring the Earth
9. Feeding Seven Billion Well
10. Stabilizing Climate
11. Designing Sustainable Cities
12. Building a New Economy
13. Plan B: Building a New Future.

Although an updated version of the first edition published in 2003, this version can be said to be both completely new, and finally ready for public consumption now that Al Gore has put Global Warming on the public mind.

I still prefer J. F. Rischard's High Noon 20 Global Problems, 20 Years to Solve Them for the general reader, and I still think E. O. Wilson's The Future of Life is one of the top three in this area, but this book by Lester Brown has the merit of consolidating and structuring detail in a manner I have not seen elsewhere.

I recommend the book be ready in conjunction with books by Herman Daly's Valuing the Earth: Economics, Ecology, Ethics and Paul Hawken's Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution, in part because everyone is now starting to realize that green sustainability is in fact the non-negotiable first step for any business to survive into the next decade–natural capitalism.

Most intriguing to me, and the heart of the book on page 257, is the consolidated Plan B budget totallying $161 billion a year needed to meet all of the goals the author postulates.
12B Universal primary education
04B Adult literacy
06B School lunch in 44 poorest countries
04B Assistant to pregnant women and preschool childen in 44 poorest
07B Reproductive health and family planning
33B Universal health care
02B Closing the condom gap (Bill & Melinda Gates can have this one)

06B Reforesting the earth
24B Protecting topsoil on cropland
09B Restoring rangelands
10B Stabilizing water tables
13B Restoring fisheries
31B Protecting biological diversity

As the author points out on the next page, world military expenditures total $975B a year, with the US alone responsible for $492B (this was published before we all knew of the half trillion dollar cost of the Iraq invasion and occupation). Hence, the $161B a year total is a fraction of the total spent on out-dated military systems, and could be funded by the US alone if we had the right leadership and public consensus.

Personally, and based on other readings, I believe that the author is under-estimating the costs, and avoiding a focus on many other factors including the urgent need to eradicate transnational crime and end inter-state and civil war. This is, however, a superb start and ideally suited as a primer for any level of learning.

Readers interested in seeing a broader perspective that places the ten high-level threats (poverty, infectuous disease, environmental degradation, inter-state conflict, civil war, genocide, other atrocities, proliferation, terrorism and transnational crime) in the context of the twelve policies that must be managed as a whole by all nations (agriculture, debt, diplomacy, economy, education, energy, family, immigration, justice, security, society, and water), and that in turn oriented toward the urgency of keeping the eight challengers (Brazil, China, Indonesia, India, Iran, Russia, Venezuela, Wild Cards) from repeating our mistakes, can check in at Earth Intelligence Network.

Rescuing are planet and our civilization is going to be a great deal harder than the author suggests, and is going to need a massive awakening by the public as to the “true cost” of all that we are doing wrong. I expect that we will succeed, in part from top down efforts by Al Gore and this author among others, and in part by bottom up efforts where individuals can get from the Internet the “true cost” of any good or service in terms of water content, fuel content, sweatshop labor content, and tax avoidance status. Noami Klein's books, No Logo: No Space, No Choice, No Jobs and The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism are recommended in this regard.

Over-all an absolutely superb piece of work that caps the author's decades of advocacy on behalf of the planet. There is no other person that has been focused on this topic with due diligence year after year.

I believe this author should be recognized, along with Herman Daly and Paul Hawken and Anthony Lovins and others, for their total commitment over decades.

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