On the road to great democracy

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Doughnuts or Froot Loops? – our health is at stake!

September 5th, 2009 · No Comments

smart-choices_logo_04-1Immoral, unethical, dishonest academic institutional soul-selling needs to be part of the national health care discussion.

Dr. Eileen Kennedy, Dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University and president of a new industry, self “regulating,” food-labeling campaign called Smart Choices defends her support for giving a Smart Choice check to Froot Loops and other sugary cereals in the NYT 9/4/09:

“You’re rushing around, you’re trying to think about healthy eating for your kids and you have a choice between a doughnut and a cereal,” Dr. Kennedy said, evoking a hypothetical parent in the supermarket. “So Froot Loops is a better choice.”

Yikes! What an embarrassment for Tufts.  They charge over $40,000 a year for teaching about nutrition and the Dean of the School cannot imagine parents having a choice for breakfast food beyond, “doughnuts or Froot Loops.”   It is difficult to imagine someone who has reached that level of academic success being quite that stupid, so it is reasonable to assume that for one reason or another she is willing to compromise her integrity and shill for industry and against the well being of her fellow Americans.  Shame!

She evidently does not receive any direct compensation for her role as president of the sugar-pusher “Smart” Choices team, which makes it likely that if one looks into Tuft’s benefactors, one will find the big industrial food manufacturers buying off the University’s Nutritional Science program.  I will forever look on anyone with a Tuft’s degree with skepticism.  Who knows what they were taught?  Clearly the curriculum can be purchased.

The Smart Choice’s program website says, “The Smart Choices Program was motivated by the need for a single, trusted and reliable front-of-pack nutrition labeling program that U.S. food manufacturers and retailers could voluntarily adopt to help guide consumers in making smarter food and beverage choices.”  Hmmm…trusted like the Big Bad Wolf…

“Dr. Kennedy, who is not paid for her work on the program, defended the products endorsed by the program, including sweet cereals. She said Froot Loops was better than other things parents could choose for their children. …Froot Loops qualifies for the label because it meets standards set by the Smart Choices Program for fiber and Vitamins A and C, and because it does not exceed limits on fat, sodium and sugar. It contains the maximum amount of sugar allowed under the program for cereals, 12 grams per serving, which in the case of Froot Loops is 41 percent of the product, measured by weight. That is more sugar than in many popular brands of cookies.

“Froot Loops is an excellent source of many essential vitamins and minerals and it is also a good source of fiber with only 12 grams of sugar,” said Celeste A. Clark, senior vice president of global nutrition for Kellogg’s, which makes Froot Loops. “You cannot judge the nutritional merits of a food product based on one ingredient.”  (Neuman, NYT 9/4/09)

Even if that one ingredient makes up 41% of the product !  I guess you could grind up cardboard (good fiber), throw in some synthetic vitamin A and C, add enough sugar to reach 41% or 12 grams per serving, and the Smart Choices group will give you a big, “buy this it’s good for you” Check Mark.  I’m disgusted.

Corporations fight public standards and regulations, insisting that they do well monitoring themselves.   There couldn’t be a better example of why they simply will not serve the public interest when easy profits are at stake.

Many parents are led to trust nutritional advice from such sources, and we end up with an unhealthy population and excess health costs.  We cannot fix one without addressing the other.

→ No CommentsTags: prevention

“Don’t pitch to the bitch!”

August 12th, 2009 · 1 Comment

Photo by Pete Souza/ White House

Too many men, men, men, men…

Today the Wall Street Journal ran a story about President Obama’s micromanagement style, illustrated with a picture by Pete Souza of President Obama at a briefing before a health-care meeting with Senate Democrats in June.  It’s a photo of six men and Obama, with various looks of consternation, fatigue, frustration, skepticism on their faces.  No women.

On another page, the WSJ ran a story, “Fraud Doesn’t Always Happen to Someone Else” by Karen Blumenthal.  This article noted that “The typical investment scam victim is an optimistic married man in his later 50s who has a higher-than-average knowledge of financial matters and deep confidence in his own judgment, [essentially, a description of the Obama team, and the BushII/Cheney team, and the Clinton team, et.al.]…according to research funded by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s Finra Investor Education Foundation.”

The article went on to say, “Women were more cautious and asked too many questions, he [a conman] said, prompting an office maxim, “Don’t pitch to the b–.” Keep reading →

→ 1 CommentTags: Blogroll · conflict resolution · gender · human development · international relations · issue-based · prevention · problem-solving · violence

CIA -a breath of intelligence @ central

August 12th, 2009 · No Comments

peopletalking

At last! Signs of intelligence at the Central Intelligence Agency.

A recent article explained that the CIA was ramping up efforts to enroll more foreign language speakers to increase the 13% of all employees who speak a foreign language today.”

CIA Director Leon Panetta said after his confirmation earlier this year that expanding foreign language proficiency among new and existing staff is a top priority. “I’d like to … get to a point where every analyst and operations officer is trained in a foreign language,” he said. “Foreign languages are extremely important … to understanding that part of the world that we have to gather intelligence from.” usatoday

This article goes on to say that, today, more than 7 out of 10 members of our covert operatives speak ONLY English.  On the backup analyst teams, more than 8 out of 10 speak ONLY English.  How dumb can we get?

Previously I wrote about the $48 Billion our budget allocates for “intelligence gathering” and recommended that it would be far simpler and cheaper to just ask.  Of course, we cannot do that if we cannot communicate.  I find it very hard to understand how we’ve had administration after administration with a level of arrogant, shameful, self-centeredness, that thought we could gather any level of quality intelligence without speaking other languages and understanding other cultures. Our failure to have 100% of frontline intelligence gathering employees speak the language and understand the culture of the country about which we seek ‘intelligence’ is inexcusably stupid and ineffective.

I’m grateful and would like to believe that we may have turned a corner with some common sense adults in positions of leadership.

…then I read today in the Nation (subscription required), that 60% of President Obama’s ambassadorial appointments are payoffs to big contributors…Our new ambassador to Japan does not speak Japanese, and is representative of the appointments.

My high hopes, dashed.  How hard would it be to say thank you to big contributors with a nice autographed picture, and then appoint someone who is familiar with the culture, speaks the language and has professional training as a negotiator /mediator/ facilitator appointed to the positions of Ambassor.  Doesn’t that sound like the grown up thing to do?

→ No CommentsTags: conflict resolution · international relations · prevention · problem-solving

Why is creativity so rare in our best and brightest?

April 12th, 2009 · No Comments

256colorcomp

Is it a problem of handing kids calculators and failing to teach them the math concepts behind their magic?  Are we teaching shallow tool use, without building an understanding of how things work?

Our education system is in deep, fundamental, trouble, when a simple thinking skill is so rare that we must bring in fresh talent from overseas. Keep reading →

→ No CommentsTags: Education · human development · problem-solving

Way high men and the Wall Street debacle

April 6th, 2009 · No Comments

testosteroneThe bad boys on Wall Street and in the shadow financial markets were high on testosterone: manic euphoria led to more aggressive, high risk taking behavior– it’s all about me, win-at-all-costs, no ethical principles apply. And, now we are all paying the price.

Women have been hammered for many years about the impact of hormonal cycles on behavior and women are much more likely to consciously make adjustments to accommodate the impact. Men, it is your turn now.

Men are vulnerable to hormonal highs.
It is not an issue of whether or not testosterone is good or bad. The issue is too much or too little, without awareness of the consequences to others. And, yes, women have testosterone, too - just not enough, often enough, or in enough power positions to be a significant issue when we look at the impact of high testosterone behavior on our politics and markets.

When testosterone is up, so are aggression, sensation seeking, risk-taking and impulsivity; men are more inclined to see things in fight or flight, win-lose, invade-appease, you or me terms; their adrenalin is pumping oxygenated blood into their extremities and away from the frontal lobes of their brains (the seat of altruistic, rational behavior). Keep reading →

→ No CommentsTags: conflict resolution · financial system · human development

The Fuzzy F#@* Formula -how we’ve been had

March 20th, 2009 · 1 Comment

fuzzyfuck1

The Mathematical Risk Assessment Formula at the Root of Current Financial Mess, Literally Translates to “Fuzzy Fucking Formula”

Wall Street has been using a mathematical formula to theoretically avoid any investment risk.  The formula’s name, “Gaussian Copula Function’ has me thinking it was aptly named.  Using the formula made some Wall Street players enormous sums of money in a very short time (in part because, coincidentally, the world’s credit market was flooded with cash that needed somewhere to go, and that could readily be leveraged exponentially).  This  fueled a manic geometrical expansion of the derivatives market.  It sure looks like a big pyramid scheme.  I’d love to have someone tell me how I’m wrong, because a collapsed pyramid scheme cannot be fixed.  If we’re just trying to reinflate the pyramid, we’re doomed to failure–if not sooner, then later.

Do you believe in magic?

You’re feeling it now: the effects of the ‘Gaussian Copula Function’ – a Gaussian blur of ethical and sound financial practice generated on the basis of this mathematical formula.  Securities traders used this formula to assure themselves that bad bets were really good bets. Keep reading →

→ 1 CommentTags: financial system

Dear Mr. President,

February 11th, 2009 · No Comments

During college I went on an overseas study program to Iran. I went back a few years later and lived in Iran from 1972-1978 and hold the country dear.  As a trained and experienced mediator, I humbly make the following suggestions:

Please accept the invitation to go on Iranian TV.

Know that Persians are deeply philosophical, love poetry as we love entertainment TV, and value hospitality above all.  Their religious practice is radically democratic; it creates hierarchy based on acclamation rather than top down appointments and encourages everyone to interpret the Koran for themselves– a solid foundation for democracy. They value civic and civil discourse. Iran modeled effective governance of multi-ethnic populations for much of its 2500-year history. They justifiably do not take kindly to patronizing dictates about what they should or should not do.  President Ahmadinajad has repeatedly stated the desire to be addressed with respect as a partner.

I know from mediating that apologies for mistakes and honoring other people’s strengths go a long way to creating a conducive atmosphere for moving forward. Keep reading →

→ No CommentsTags: Blogroll · international relations · issue-based · prevention · problem-solving

Elite-elitism in a president?

April 16th, 2008 · No Comments

The media coverage of this issue assumes that voters have a valid concern if the presidential candidates appear to be elite and reflect that in their worldviews.

We have had nearly eight years of a president who is a member of our hereditary and wealthy elite in America. Before G.W. Bush became president it was apparent that his lifetime successes were a product of his position as the “boss’s son” and family connections, not hard work and excellent performance.  He has spoken proudly of his academic “C” average and his failure to complete his military service commitment.  All the behavioral evidence of this man’s lifetime points to a low emotional IQ (loyalty over principle any day, cronyism over competence).

Yet the media (owned by that same hereditary wealth elite) continuously have hailed G.W. Bush for his ability to “relate” as a good ‘ol boy, hailed him for his ability to speak at the lowest common denominator in our culture with endless sound bite loops and fear-mongering.

I’d like to hear Obama say, “Yes, I am a proud member of America’s merit-based elite.  I grew up in poverty and through hard work made it into the best schools in our nation, where I worked hard to excel.  By virtue of my hard work, excellent education and life experience, yes, I am now part of the merit-based elite of this nation.  I earned my position; I did not inherit it or buy it with family wealth.  I am now a member of an American elite because I have the wisdom and judgment that come from a lifetime of working hard to learn, to grow, and to fulfill all my responsibilities at the highest levels of excellence.

Who do you want in the White House?  Do you want someone who has demonstrated that they can excel in difficult and challenging circumstances? Do you want someone who has uncommon wisdom and maturity?

I may not know how to bowl very well.  I may not share a passion for hunting.  I may not know what it is like to walk in everyone’s shoes.  But, what sets me apart is my willingness to listen to the concerns and issues of everyone.  What sets me apart is my ability to understand many cultures.  What sets me apart is my ability to bring people together to problem-solve and resolve conflicts.  I excel in these areas, which makes me part of an elite in this country–few of whom are now in Washington.”

It is time to expect excellence, expect presidential candidates to demonstrate that they have exceptional training and abilities.  I’m all for a member of the merit-based elite in the White House.

→ No CommentsTags: Uncategorized

If you don’t speak their language, speak louder!

June 6th, 2007 · 4 Comments

The Bush administration does not understand diplomacy and issue-based negotiation, so they drop more bombs.

With reference to:

U.S. dropping more bombs on Iraq by Charles Hanley (AP) 06 June, 2007. Commander in Chief Bush II has doubled the rate of bomb dropping on Iraq from 229 bombs in 2006 to 239 year to date. This count does not include air attacks using guns; this is just the bomb count. Civilian casualties (that make the news…otherwise they are not counted) are up to at least 50 per month. This is the equivalent of having 836 bombs PER MONTH drop on U.S. cities, with 500 civilian casualites. Imagine. It’s good exercise for our brains.

Mercy Corps envoy chides Bush on N. Korea aid by Richard Read, 06 June 2007. President Bush II cut off food aid to Korea in 2005 to get their government to comply with an agreement. Today children are scrounging for weeds in N.Korea.. (Portland Oregonian..not available online)

I’m reminded of an experience with a parent when I was heading a small private school. We had a 4-year old boy that was terrorizing his class. He could be sitting happily working beside another child one minute, and the next he’d be hitting the other child and grabbing their work.

The teachers tried all the strategies they knew and finally called me in to speak with the mother to disenroll the child; he was too hazardous in the classroom without special staffing to keep an eye on him. The mother explained to me that she had been a good Mom; she had always done her best to control his behavior. When he was a baby she yelled at him about bad behavior and began slapping his hand to make him compliant. This did not work, so she began spanking his bottom with her hand while she admonished him. When this, too, failed she began using a belt. This did not work either, so she was making him stand with his hands up in the air in front of a wall for 15 minutes. If his hands touched the wall, he was belted. What could she do? Nothing worked! Sounds like our policy toward Iraq, beginning with sanctions in 1990 and continuing with $10 billion a month in full force military action.

Here’s another anecdote that comes to mind. I do not remember where I read it. When you train a dog to jump over a stile, it can take 2-3 jumps and a reward for success. You now have a trained dog. If after training the dog, you give it an electric shock while it is performing correctly, it will take several HUNDRED more attempts with rewards to retrain the dog.

President Bush’s foreign policy resembles the mother’s attempts to parent and we are in the same situation as the dog trainer with traumatized dog. We could probably have met all of our national security goals concerning Iraq by offering some treats while Saddam Hussein jumped over a few stiles toward a more democratic society. Now we have a mess. So what do we do in Iraq, now? Keep reading →

→ 4 CommentsTags: conflict resolution · human development · issue-based · problem-solving · violence

Cheney visits Baghdad to urge, to pressure, to push Iraqis…

May 10th, 2007 · No Comments

I’m reminded of the children’s books, Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel. In one of them about growing plants, Frog decides he’s going to force his seeds to grow faster. The story leads him to the realization that he needs to be sure they have sun and water and good soil, and they will grow on their own. Bush II, Vice President Cheney, and Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice could all use this lesson; they seem to think that will, force and determination are all you need in the garden.

This administration keeps saying that the Iraqis must “want success” and have the “resolve to get the job done.” Iraqis “must be willing,” “must step up to the plate and be willing to advance a nationalistic agenda.” “If they are not willing to take these steps (the ones we define and order), we can’t do it for them.” This administration continues to assume that you just have to have the will to do something, the will to use force to get your way, and the resolve to keep at it, and success will follow. So they pressure, push, and lecture the Iraqis. It will not work. A good gardner has to know and pay attention to the soil, amending it as necessary. A good gardner has to plant seeds, and feed and water the seedlings. A good gardener keeps the weeds out without calling in a bulldozer. A good gardner does not pull on the seedlings to help them grow. Iraq is a problem. The Bush II administration’s approach to the problem is itself a problem. There are solutions… Keep reading →

→ No CommentsTags: Blogroll · conflict resolution · human development · issue-based · problem-solving · violence