Risk Rap

Rapping About a World at Risk

Leaking Visions of a New World Order

Every once a while an event happens that shifts the prevailing scheme of things. Julian Assange’s dump and release of US State Department cables (CableGate) for global distribution on WikiLeaks is such an event. It radically alters existing convention and the public’s general perception of normalcy, acceptability and protocol.  It brings into question the motives and interests of nations and their leaders. It squarely plops an 800 pound gorilla on the sofa in everyone’s living room and provokes questions that naggingly insist answers.   Asking leaders about duplicity, conflicts of interest, distortions, fabrications, fibs and outright lies all done in the national interest.  It is how a new Weltanschauung is cast and forged to conform to the needs a new world order.  The sun has set on the American Century.  Blessedly, America’s days as a self righteous post Cold War marauding superpower are coming to a close.  The WikiLeaks disclosures gives us some insights into the thinking and banter world leaders engage as they move the Chess pieces across the board on the great global game  of new world order.

There are moral considerations and ethical arguments to be made on each side of Mr. Assange’s incendiary action.  CableGate raises complex multidimensional issues of national security, informed citizenry, the protection of information, its public disclosure and citizens right to know.  The natural tension between  the simultaneous need for confidentiality and transparency is a reality of our complex and interconnected world.  The management of these issues have escalated to become a preeminent dilemma of our time.  This raises significant  challenges to democratic societies and the governance structures of both public and private institutions.  It threatens institutional sustainability and undermines institutional capability to function in highly interdependent stakeholder ecosystems.  The risk of seeking pathways to safely navigate the virtual minefields of a digitized global world is great and continues to grow.

The most impassioned issue raised by CableGate is the ethical violation of stolen property.  The cables were not Mr. Assange’s property and what gives him the right to publish and violate diplomats right to confidentiality and privacy? His actions could endanger diplomatic relationships, compromise government initiatives or derail delicate negotiations.  Do governments have a right to privacy?  If so, what information needs to be classified as secret and confidential?  If all documents are secret then the designation is meaningless and government nothing more then a ruthless leviathan lording over a clueless citizenry.

Another critical question CableGate raises is who is served by the publication of these cables? Certainly American citizens in whose interest the State Department purportedly acts benefits from the added transparency.  US citizens must admit there is a certain level of comfort in being able to track the satchel of an Afghanistan Vice President stuffed $52 million of taxpayers money through the U.A.E. Customs.

Detractors of CableGate assert that the leaks are a danger to America and its citizens.  If so why is the public aggrieved and who exactly is the “aggrieved public”?  Soldiers and servicemen fighting in Afghanistan?  Does State Department Cables provide tactical and strategic information on troop deployments?  Highly doubtful.  More likely it is the special interests enriching themselves at the public troughs by cutting deals to shamelessly engorge themselves as insidious war profiteers.  Better to ask why our country has placed our young servicemen and woman at risk in wars that makes little sense and accomplishes nothing.

Another set of critical questions CableGate raises are “Do citizens have a right to truth?  Is access to information meaningful?  Does the information help citizens of democratic societies understand the actions and motivations of their government?  Why do diplomats pursue certain course of action and who is profiting from the course of action pursued?  These are critical tenants citizens require to make informed decisions in a democratic society and CableGate certainly supports the notion of information empowerment for citizens.

Arguing the contrary one must ask “is it better to be mislead and be lied too in the name of propriety and protocol then to be victimized by the truth?  I’ll take conviction in a court of truth and pray for a life sentence every time.

If you believe that the public can’t handle the truth or needs protection from it; imagine yourself living near a nuclear power plant and it was leaking radiation into your drinking water.  Would you like to know about it?  What if disclosure led to wide spread panic?  I believe that truth and transparency always serves to discover and determine the best course of action to pursue.

CableGate has also shed damaging light on the power exercised by private corporations and the commercial control and open access and free availability of information.  Amazon’s cloud computing service had no silver lining for WikiLeaks.  After the WikiLeak dump it shut down access to the cables due to the unacceptable risk posed by denial of service attacks mounted by computer hackers.   This was followed by PayPal’s closure of WikiLeaks donation solicitation account.  Was PayPal’s motive purely patriotic?  Where they just pissed at WikiLeaks or were they at risk of  aiding and abetting a subversive organization that risked prosecution under certain provisions of  THE USA PATRIOT ACT?

Academic freedom also seems to have taken a blow due to CableGate.  This weekend, Columbia University warned its students not to download or distribute WikiLeak cables because it may affect future employment opportunities with the State Department. Government employees were also warned not to read or access the cables because they had no security clearance to do so.  If they were caught accessing the leaked cables it could cost them their jobs.  Even though the cables are published in great detail everyday by newspapers throughout the world, government employees must be careful not to notice for risk of losing their employment.  This is truly a Kafkaesque dilemma for some, a divine comedy for others and a growing political drama for everyone.

I’m still not sure that Cablegate is what it purports to be.  As the old saying goes and the cables affirm nothing is ever as it seems.  I find it  most improbable that a Private First Class sitting at a PC in Baghdad could download the Iraq War Logs and throw a great superpower into a first class crisis of the new world order.  I liken the leaks  to the past practice  of “special unnamed high placed sources” leaking inside information to the liberal mainstream media outlets.  Its done to float trial balloons about new government directions.  They do it to test the waters of public sentiment to new ideas, or change in policy course or  potentially damaging information to see how the public reacts.  Not one to be of a conspiratorial mindset, I perceive CableGate in this light.  As expected the public reaction thus far  has elevated our collective sense of outrage to a heightened level of ambivalence.

In many respects Iraq War Logs supports the construction of a new narrative about an exit strategy from Iraq and Afghanistan.  The revelations of wastefulness, corruption and back room deal making with a full caste of sordid characters reinforces  the public perception about the uselessness of these wasteful and expensive misadventures.  The cables may prove to be the documentary evidence  of  America’s Waterloo and CableGate  may be seen by future generations as the  historical high watermark of an expired global empire.

As the Iraq and Afghanistan War Logs helped to prepare the public psyche for an exit strategy in Afghanistan and Iraq; CableGate helps construct a narrative surrounding the need to “cut off the head of the snake in Iran”.  These cables implicate Arab States in a desire to undermine the apostate Persians and abrogates Israeli culpability as the driving force behind an attack on Iran.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called the cables psychological warfare.  I don’t doubt for a second that atomic weapons in the hands of Iran is a dangerous development that needs to be mitigated.  That does not mean that we should employ bombers to destroy Iranian nuclear processing facilities.  This would only create an environmental disaster and political crisis  that further destabilizes the region.  It would secure the enmity of new generations of Muslims and no doubt stoke the escalation of the Crusade against Islam.

In the Far East,China’s growth as a world super power and ascending rival to US dominance makes for compelling reading.  Here its no surprise that cables assess a strengthening China, its growing nationalism and military readiness.  Reading these cables against the backdrop of rising tensions on the Korean peninsula, China’s complicity in helping North Korea ship nuclear materials to Iran and the changing sentiment in the US concerning the largest note holder of government bonds may prove to  carry grave consequences for harmonious US/China relations.   The cable revealing China’s ambivalence toward its North Korean surrogate state is laid bare as long as it can secure preferred trade agreements with a unified Korea.

The revelations offered by Pakistan’s leaders about support for the Taliban and a growing concern about the safety of their nuclear arsenals raised the possibility of a US military move to quarantine or neutralize Pakistani weapon systems.  Though so far India seems to come off unscathed by the cables it must be heartening for India’s leaders to know that its budding friendship with the US may encourage a move to disarm the nuclear capability of its northern antagonist and the worlds sole Islamic atomic state.

These WikiLeaks offer up a brand new narrative for an emerging new world order.  The damaging realization of the spillage of confidential proprietary discussions and dialogs between world governments and the mishandling of those documents diminishes the stature of US federalism.  The undermining of federalism and its suitability as a governance structure for the new millennium foreshadows the growing antagonism of global corporate entities like Google and the nationalistic government of the People’s Republic of China augers an era of  conflict between statism and corporatism.

CableGate is a deliberate attempt to have institutions open up with greater transparency and construct a democratic narrative that force governments to change.  Mr. Assange’s  avowed goal is to, “allow governments and institutions to become more transparent or force them to become more opaque”  Depending on the what side of the fence your sitting on, openness and transparency benefits the public interest.  The struggle for democracy requires the open access and the free flow of information.

In the digital age denial of free, open and equal access to information is tantamount to fascism.  Withheld, it will encourage people to rise up demanding the means to pursue conscious enlightenment.  This may spur political activism that demands institutional accountability,  and the practice of democratic governance based on constitutional principles.  Failing that once free citizens will be forced to accept the meager lies and obfuscations of leaders and power elites whose self interest is the sole interest of government.

So as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tries to plug the leaks in a failing dike system, we cannot content ourselves to live with our heads buried in the sand,  filling our minds with reality TV reruns of Jack Ass Three and Bristol Palin bustin a move on Dance Fever.  I’ve heard it said that the best way to influence the future is to invent it.  Mr. Assange has given us a world of insights and a basic tool set to start constructing a foundation for a new world order.

You Tube Music Video: REM, End of the World As We Know It

Risk: diplomacy, international relations, governance

December 6, 2010 Posted by | Cablegate, corporate governance, corruption, culture, democracy, ethics, government, institutional, Iraq War Logs, legal, nuclear, peace, politics, psychology, reputational risk, terrorism, values, war, WikiLeaks | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Black Monday

Americans are waking up this morning to one hell of a Thanksgiving hangover.  As the USS George Washington plies the waters of the Yellow Sea daring North Korea to “make our day”;  we are barraged with the news that the King of Bahrain and the House of Saud is urging us to take out Iran’s nuclear reactors.  Wikileaks is spilling the beans about America’s hypocrisy and disingenuousness of empire while the plutocracy is concerned that Black Friday wasn’t black enough to keep their fat dividend checks flowing.  Our abandoned and ill led armies continue roaming the deserts of Afghanistan and Iraq like lost Bedouin in search of a pesky phantom jin that only materializes to harass, kill and maim our unsuspecting and vulnerable young soldiers.  The European Union is loaning $160 billion to Ireland’s banks so institutional investors can be made whole and the Irish people can labor the rest of their lives to pay off the debt.  This is getting Wall Street a bit nervous and may drive up interest rates threatening the portfolios of well healed investors and choking off our elusive economic recovery.  But as Sean Hannity is fond of saying, “don’t let your hearts be troubled”, cause Palin bagged a Caribou last night on Sarah’s Alaska and Cyber Monday is here and nirvana at Amazon is just is just a few clicks away.  Party on Garth…….

You Tube Music Video: Donald Byrd, Change

Risk, stability, peace, economy

November 29, 2010 Posted by | disaster planning, nuclear, Uncategorized, war | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leaky Reactors, Cyber Terror and Police States

This is how the world ends
This is how the world ends
This is how the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper
The Hallow Men TS Elliot

A few interesting  news items recently passed without much notice.  Two nuclear reactors located in the Northeast had to be  brought offline due to operational failures.  The Vermont Yankee reactor sprang a leak and had to be shut down.  The other incident occurred at the thirty six year old Indian Point reactor located about twenty miles north of New York City.  The cause of the problem at Indian Point was a transformer fire.  Both reactors  are owned and operated by Entergy and mirror similar problems at the Excelon operated Oyster Creek reactor located in south central New Jersey.

These incidents are endemic to aging nuclear power facilities.  These plants came on line during the the 1970’s and are now approaching the half century mark of service.  When these plants were commissioned it was believed they would have a shelf life of 40 years.   As the expected useful life span of these facilities approach regulators routinely grant extensions to the operators.  Operating these facilities past that point heighten potential risk factors.  As nuclear reactors age, the stress on these complex systems and containment facilities raise risk factors heightening the potential of system failure that lead to catastrophic events.

Leaky plumbing at the Oyster Creek nuclear plant is the culprit in poisoning the Cohansey Aquifer with 180,000 gallons of tritium contaminated water.  Regulators and environmental officials assert that the level of radio active isotopes in the water supply that serves South Jersey and parts of Philadelphia is well within acceptable levels for human consumption.  I guess that all depends on your definition of human; but I and many others remain skeptical on the subject of drinking radioactive laced water.

The aging nuclear infrastructure of the United States is a growing cause for concern.  The nuclear power industry was halted in its tracks in the 1980’s by a strong No Nukes environmental movement.  At the time it was generally understood that the cost of catastrophic risk and the industries inability to solve the long term problem of disposal and management of nuclear waste turned the public against the industry.

The Three Mile Island accident in Pennsylvania and the disastrous meltdown at Chernobyl in the Russian Caucuses led to a moratorium on new plant construction in the United States leading to the actual abandonment of plant construction in the Washington and New York.  It created a capital market crisis as the fear of defaults on WPPSS  revenue bonds spread to cast long shadows on the entire Muni Bond market.  The state of  New York stepped in to purchase the facilities of Long Island Power in order to make bondholders of the closed facility whole with tax payer money.  It was kind of like socialism for investors.

While most of the world has continued to build nuclear plants to address growing energy needs; the United States has not built a nuclear plant since the 1980’s and has lagged the world in using nuclear power to address energy needs. Sentiment on the desirability of nuclear power is beginning to change.  The Pickens Plan, former VP Dick Cheney’s secret meetings to develop a national energy strategy, the Gulf Oil Spill, the need to reduce dependence on foreign oil and the growing acceptance that the burning of fossil fuels is slowly cooking the planet has placed nuclear power back on the table as a viable component of America’s energy portfolio.

China is committed to building 100 nuclear power plants to wean itself from its crippling dependence on coal.  The United States is charging hard to keep up with its fast growing Asian competitor in a 21st Century nuclear power race.  The aggressive pursuit of nuclear plant development will increase the power and control of corporate entities charged with their construction, management and on going administration.  To accomplish a dramatic build-out in nuclear infrastructure large areas of  land situated near a plentiful water supply will need to be secured.   Environmental impacts, regulatory oversight and public transparency will be sacrificed at the alter of cost efficiency, expedience in implementation and security to protect the vulnerable facilities against the pervasive armies of terrorists that lurk in the shadows near every nuclear plant.

The controversy surrounding the collusion of government and business to exploit the Marcellus Shale natural gas vein is an instructive model of what we can expect from the stakeholders pursuing an aggressive campaign to develop Americas nuclear power infrastructure.  The dismissal of regulatory controls, the eminent domain of corporate interests, the opaque wall that shrouds risks factors and hides the environmental degradation resulting from the practice of fracking and the sacrifice of watersheds and aquifers to the expeditious extraction of natural gas are some of the documented behaviors of  a wanton corporate will imposed on the body politic.  Tragically this near sighted perspective willfully sacrifices the sustainable ecology of communities to the sole purpose of the profitable extraction of resources to serve shareholders of private corporations.   The nature of the nuclear beast will require that its interests be enforced by courts of law guided by extreme prejudice and protected by police battalions, state  guard units and private security groups in the name of national security interests.

The recently discovered Stuxnet computer virus is an indication of how the stakes are being raised in the nuclear power shell game.  The launch of a successful cyber attack on a nuclear facility anywhere in the world is a real game changer.  Self deluded uber patriots act more  like real pinheads if they believe that the destruction of Iran’s nuclear power capability is a harbinger for Middle East peace or enhances the   security of either Israel or the United States.  A nuclear event in Iran or North Korea are real game changers for the course of human history and the well being of  humanity. A clandestine service that can take out Iranian nuclear reactors can also be deployed to take out a reactor that is twenty miles north of New York City.  Or consider the consequences of a summer heat wave ravaging the citizens Philadelphia dying of thirst because the water supply is contaminated with radiation.  The extent of civil unrest would be extreme overwhelming the local law enforcement and judicial capabilities.  If these bleak scenarios come to pass,  Americans will be pining away for the good old days when a quick feel up at the airport by a TSA gendarme is fondly recalled like a high school make out session.  The pernicious yoke of marshal law under the nuclear challenged corporate security state will be incessant in practice and swift, sure and dire in its execution.

You Tube music video: No Nukes Concert 1979: Doobie Brothers Taking it to The Streets

Risk: democracy, energy policy, nuclear power, civil liberties

 

November 22, 2010 Posted by | community, culture, democracy, disaster planning, ecological, energy, environment, government, military, nuclear, regulatory, risk management | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Buffalo Bob vs. Zbigniew Brzezinski

Today I woke late and loitered in bed a bit. I was flipping back and forth between Zbigniew Brzezinski on Morning Joe and Buffalo Bob on Good Morning America. Under normal circumstances I would not have flinched from my attention to ZB. He was-as usual- great this morning and spot on concerning the precarious world situation. But I caught wind that GMA was airing a tease for this evening’s 20/20 show. They were interviewing a Millennialist Buffalo Bob from the House of Yahweh Compound in Texas. This prophet was prophesying that nuclear war will break out in 6 days! Now that’s a tease. A must see. Sorry ZB.

After this great news and a quick review of this morning’s local paper, I wanted to rush to my computer to blog on a few news items. But pressing matters of commerce took precedence and I would have to pass on my daily pontification and as the day progressed the economic and political news seemed to deteriorate as the heat and humidity began to rise to uncomfortable levels.

The Record (the paper of record for Northern New Jersey) led with a headline about Continental Airlines rising financial difficulties and it’s need to cutback on flights, fleet and jobs. The slow economy and rising fuel costs are blamed. This is hardly a shock to anyone who follows business news. Ever since I can remember the airline industry has been in perpetual difficulty. It is really incomprehensible to me how a business straining its capacity to accommodate customers has never been able to create an industry that is consistently profitable. Not even close. What’s even more incredible is why investors put their capital at risk in a business that has proven its inability to make a profit. That includes legendary capitalists like Carl Icahn and Julian Robertson. The later the iconic founder of the Tiger Management hedge fund had to close the doors to this storied fund due to his oversize position in US AIR.

Does anyone remember, Braniff, Eastern Airlines, TWA and PAN AM? Great bands all now happily camped at the top of the corporate scrapheap.

Can anyone say sustainability? The airline industry as now constituted is a non-sustainable industry. As its contribution to the global carbon footprint needs to be accounted for as a cost of doing business and remediation funded through carbon credits or cap and trade futures it will become more so.

The next story from this morning’s paper to catch our attention was the reminder that the State of New Jersey’s unfunded pension liability is approximately $25,000,000,000. Though some might consider the sum a rounding error in the federal budget deficit or a small accounting oversight in a procurement over billing for Mr. Bush’s War, the deficit will need to be addressed through some hard measures and demonstrates the absolute fallacy of the wonderful effects of the pandering Republican mantra of tax cuts. Baloney! The bill comes due sooner or later and I suspect that I’ll be getting a dunning message very soon.

Maybe we can sell the NJ Turnpike, Rt. 80 and the Garden State Parkway to a group of Chinese Private Equity Funds. And while we’re at it, let’s throw in our public school system, township libraries and local police forces. I would feel very comfortable having the Red Army police the streets of my community and enforce the law for all ez pass violators.

Next story in today’s Record led the Local section. The Essex Street Bridge that spans Rt. 17 has been closed for some time. It has choked off access to local businesses and they may be forced to close. This is a story about eminent domain, crumbling infrastructure and the pressing need for business people to be mindful of facilities risk and to practice risk management to mitigate the negative effects of these events. Fortunately our firm offers small business managers the Profit | Optimizer which helps to anticipate and plan mitigation initiatives if these events occur.

The Labor Department employment report was released and indicated that unemployment was now 5.25%; the highest in many years. This slowdown is speeding up and I don’t perceive any sector leadership emerging that can begin to lead us out of this recession. This one could get ugly.

I had an appointment with a small manufacturer this afternoon. As I was returning from the call I learned that the DOW sunk 400 points as crude oil futures went limit up at $11 on the remarks of an Israeli transportation minister who hinted that an air strike on Iranian nuclear facilities by the Israeli Defense Forces may be unavoidable. I shook my head.

Maybe Buffalo Bob knew something that Zbigniew did not. Or maybe the GMA marketing department is really a kick ass organization.

Maybe we are on the eve of destruction?

Do you think we’ll make it to the year 2525?

Risk: airlines, facilities, market, nuclear war, religion, serenity, pension funds, labor

June 6, 2008 Posted by | Bush, commodities, community, faith, nuclear, pop, Sum2, sustainability, war | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fallout from China’s Quake

The fallout from the earthquake that hit China could have severe global ramifications as the extent of the damage is becoming more apparent.

As of this writing, 19,000 people have been reported dead. Hundreds of thousands of people have been left homeless by the disaster and are living mostly on the streets. Numerous cities have been completely leveled. Many more are in urgent need of medical attention. The nation is experiencing a traumatic emotional shift from the building euphoria from the hosting of the Olympic Games to the national nightmare of this deadly quake.

The earthquake has also opened the door to a potentially larger catastrophe. The New York Times reports that the Red Army has been deployed to examine and buttress a number of dams that may have been damaged as a result of the quake. Further, the Times also reported that it believes the area has a number of nuclear fuel processing facilities. If true this heightens and changes the severity of the events geo risk profile. The consequences of the failure of either or both of these energy producing infrastructures is unimaginable.

The economic fortunes of the United States may also be directly affected by the China quake. The quake may spike inflation in China making its exports more costly for US consumers. Though there has been no indication that China’s manufacturing capacity was broadly affected by the quake, capacity may be required to address domestic consumption.

China may also need to repatriate some of the investment assets of its Sovereign Wealth Funds. China’s SWF is a large investor in US securities and some of that investment may be redirected for domestic purposes.

This power of this quake will move the earth under many peoples feet. We wish China and her people our prayers for a speedy and full recovery.

You Tube Video: Carol King, I Feel The Earth Move

Risk: Geo, China, Capital Markets, United States, Inflation, Credit, Nuclear

May 16, 2008 Posted by | China, commerce, community, environment, nuclear, pop | , , , , , , | Leave a comment