Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Earthdance: Chapter 20 - Sustainable Society:

"In this light it is interesting to consider historian Arnold Toynbee's observation, after studying twenty-one collapsed civilizations, that what they had in common was inflexibility under stress and the concentration of wealth into few hands. We cannot deny the current stress. Will we remain inflexible in maintaining a system that concentrates wealth to the increasing detriment of most humans?"

But the logic of successful global business suggests that the requirement for sustainability might also be the requrement for global business success.

Monday, July 31, 2006

And from the Huffington Post

Hooman Majd: The End of Empire | The Huffington Post:

Hooman Majd is a writer based in New York. He is a contributing editor at Cargo magazine (Conde Nast), has written for GQ (Conde Nast), the New York Times, The New Yorker, and the New York Observer.

Hooman Majd has had a long career as an executive in the music and film businesses. He was Executive VP of Island Records, where he worked with a diverse group of artists including U2, The Cranberries, Tricky and Melissa Etheridge; and Head of Film and Music at Palm Pictures, where he executive-produced James Toback’s “Black and White” and Khyentse Norbu’s “The Cup” (Cannes 1999).
"September 2005: the end of Empire. It matters not who or what is to blame other than nature’s ugly daughter Katrina, one war of retribution, and another of pre-emption. What matters is that the United States of America, the richest and most powerful superpower of all time is no longer particularly super.
Not in the eyes of our enemies, not in the eyes of our friends. Is Sri Lanka mocking us with an offer of 25 grand in aid? Surely not. Or is Nigeria, with her offer of a cool mil? What about Iran, ready to airlift aid workers and ship five tanker-loads of oil; is she mocking the ‘Great Satan’? Fidel Castro wants to send doctors; maybe they can bring us some cigars. And Hugo Chavez? Good thing the CIA didn’t listen to Pat Robertson, for dead men can’t offer aid.

The Empire accepts the offer of aid from the U.N., yes, the U.N., where John Bolton was just rolling up his sleeves. Lop off how many stories of the U.N. Secretariat building and it wouldn’t matter? Perhaps not, Mr. Ambassador, the floors where aid is decided and dispatched.

Iran rejects the latest European demands they cease uranium conversion just as National Guard troops are flown from the Persians’ gulf to ours. Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf? We are in shock, the world watches in awe. There is no spectacle quite like the spectacle of an empire on her knees. And Caesar can do nothing but fiddle."
TomPaine.com - That End-Of-Empire Feeling:
"That End-Of-Empire Feeling
David Corn
December 07, 2005

David Corn writes The Loyal Opposition twice a month for TomPaine.com. Corn is also the Washington editor of The Nation and is the author of The Lies of George W. Bush: Mastering the Politics of Deception (Crown Publishers). Read his blog at http://www.davidcorn.com.

Is the United States in the last throes of empire? That sounds like an ideologically loaded, fatalistic and defeatist question. But it's what I've been wondering about at the start of this holiday season. Might future historians look back at the Bush II days and ask if this was the point when the country started slipping? Might the war in Iraq be regarded as a desperate act of a superpower that had already peaked? Will economists of the latter 21st century examine our economic decisions and say, 'What were they thinking?' Or has the Grinch gotten to me?"

Google-Mart and the End of Empire?

Kirkpatrick Sale
is the author of twelve books, including Human Scale, The Conquest of Paradise, Rebels Against the Future, and The Fire of His Genius: Robert Fulton and the American Dream.

All empires collapse eventually: Akkad, Sumeria, Babylonia, Ninevah, Assyria, Persia, Macedonia, Greece, Carthage, Rome, Mali, Songhai, Mongonl, Tokugawaw, Gupta, Khmer, Hapbsburg, Inca, Aztec, Spanish, Dutch, Ottoman, Austrian, French, British, Soviet, you name them, they all fell, and most within a few hundred years. The reasons are not really complex. An empire is a kind of state system that inevitably makes the same mistakes simply by the nature of its imperial structure and inevitably fails because of its size, complexity, territorial reach, stratification, heterogeneity, domination, hierarchy, and inequalities.....

In my reading of the history of empires, I have come up with four reasons that almost always explain their collapse. (Jared Diamond's new book Collapse also has a list of reasons for societal collapse, slightly overlapping, but he is talking about systems other than empires.) Let me set them out, largely in reference to the present American empire....

First, environmental degradation. Empires always end by destroying the lands and waters they depend upon for survival, largely because they build and farm and grow without limits, and ours is no exception, even if we have yet to experience the worst of our assault on nature....

Second, economic meltdown. Empires always depend on excessive resource exploitation, usually derived from colonies farther and farther away from the center, and eventually fall when the resources are exhausted or become too expensive for all but the elite....

Third, military overstretch. Empires, because they are by definition colonizers, are always forced to extend their military reach farther and farther, and enlarge it against unwilling colonies more and more, until coffers are exhausted, communication lines are overextended, troops are unreliable, and the periphery resists and ultimately revolts....

Finally, domestic dissent and upheaval. Traditional empires end up collapsing from within as well as often being attacked from without, and so far the level of dissent within the U.S. has not reached the point of rebellion or secession-thanks both to the increasing repression of dissent and escalation of fear in the name of "homeland security" and to the success of our modern version of bread and circuses, a unique combination of entertainment, sports, television, internet sex and games, consumption, drugs, liquor, and religion that effectively deadens the general public into stupor....

Jared Diamond's recent book detailing the ways societies collapse suggests that American society, or industrial civilization as a whole, once it is aware of the dangers of its current course, can learn from the failures of the past and avoid their fates. But it will never happen, and for a reason Diamond himself understands.

As he says, in his analysis of the doomed Norse society on Greenland that collapsed in the early 15th century: "The values to which people cling most stubbornly under inappropriate conditions are those values that were previously the source of their greatest triumphs over adversity." If this is so, and his examples would seem to prove it, then we can isolate the values of American society that have been responsible for its greatest triumphs and know that we will cling to them no matter what. They are, in one rough mixture, capitalism, individualism, nationalism, technophilia, and humanism (as the dominance of humans over nature). There is no chance whatever, no matter how grave and obvious the threat, that as a society that we will abandon those.

The experience of the UK is not mentioned. They seem to have made the transition form empire to non empire rather well. While no longer a world power supported by their military might, they continue to deliver a decent citizen experience to those lucky enough to be within their borders. Whether this is enabled by their reliance on the American military adventure or there are other more replicable reasons, it is a history worth understanding.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Google the Government in 2008

Tapscott's Copy Desk:
"U.S. Senators Tom Coburn, M.D., R-OK, Barack Obama, D-IL, John McCain, R-AZ, and Tom Carper, D-DE, today urged the full Senate to pass S. 2590, the 'Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act,' a bill that will create a Google-like search engine and database to track approximately $1 trillion in federal grants, contracts, earmarks and loans. The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs approved S. 2590 unanimously today. The House has already passed similar legislation that is limited to grant disclosure only.

'Passing this bill will help end the culture of secrecy in Washington and restore some measure of the public's confidence in government. Technology has made it possible, like never before, to fulfill our founders' vision of enabling all citizens to understand our nation's finances, investigate abuses and hold elected officials accountable,' Dr. Coburn said, adding that a hearing being held today in the House Government Reform Committee on abuses in homeland security contracting highlights the urgent need to include contracts in the database.

'All Americans deserve to know where their money is being spent. 'Googling' the government will not only help expose and eliminate waste, but dispel misconceptions about the scope of our commitments. Many Americans, for example, assume we are spending a large percentage of our budget on foreign assistance when we are not. Whether you're on the left or right, there is no worthy argument against transparency,' Obama said."

War in the GoogleMart Economy

Hezbollah - Lebanon - Israel - Middle East - New York Times:
"The United States and Israel have each fought conventional armies of nation-states and shadowy terror organizations. But Hezbollah, with the sophistication of a national army (it almost sank an Israeli warship with a cruise missile) and the lethal invisibility of a guerrilla army, is a hybrid. Old labels, and old planning, do not apply. Certainly its style of 21st-century combat is known — on paper. The style even has its own labels, including network warfare, or net war, and fourth-generation warfare, although many in the military don’t care for such titles. But the battlefields of south Lebanon prove that it is here, and sooner than expected. And the American national security establishment is struggling to adapt.

“We are now into the first great war between nations and networks,” said John Arquilla, a professor of defense analysis at the Naval Postgraduate School, and a leading analyst of net warfare. “This proves the growing strength of networks as a threat to American national security.”

In a talk that Mr. Arquilla calls Net Warfare 101, he describes how traditional militaries are organized in a strict hierarchy, from generals down to privates. In contrast, networks flatten the command structure. They are distributed, dispersed, agile, mobile, improvisational. This makes them effective, and hard to track and target.

A net war differs from all previous wars, which were about brute confrontation of forces, mass on mass — what Matthew Arnold called bloody contests of “ignorant armies” meeting on the “darkling plain.”

Net war is the battle of the many, organized in small units, against conventional militaries that organize their many into large units. These network forces are not ignorant. They are computer literate, propaganda and Internet savvy, and capable of firing complicated weapons to great effect.

“The pooling of information is certainly a characteristic of these kinds of insurgencies,” said Daniel Benjamin, who served on the National Security Council under President Bill Clinton before joining the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “In Iraq, for example, the lessons on how to build and place I.E.D.’s have spread and been assimilated in record time. There is certain to be the insurgent equivalent of a PowerPoint presentation on Hezbollah’s successes that will make the rounds of the insurgent and terrorist Web sites.”

and... at the end of the column, the most prescient quote:

“Most critically, we have to get better at — it’s such a cliché — winning hearts and minds,” said a military officer working on counterinsurgency issues. “That is influencing neutral populations toward supporting us and not supporting our terrorist and insurgent enemies.”

"Winning hearts and minds" is also the central business problem of customer facing business in the GME.

The Old is News

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