Risk Rap

Rapping About a World at Risk

Baggin Bears in Jersey

Locked and loaded their going for bear in New Jersey’s Highland Region.  The Highlands is one of the states last stand of expansive underdeveloped woodlands and critical watershed that provides drinking water to over two million state residents.  The Highlands is also the preferred habitat and home to most of the states black bears.  But starting Monday, the Highlands will become a deadly killing ground for the lovable species as the state appeals court threw out a suit brought by two animal rights groups to halt a six day bear hunt.

Environmental Commissioner Bob Martin signed off on this year’s hunt, saying it’s needed to help control a growing black bear population. The agency estimates the state’s black bear population at 3,400, up from 500 bears in 1992.

“The Comprehensive Black Bear Management Policy is full of scientific flaws and outright fabrications,” APL contends. “In their zeal to hold a recreational trophy hunt, the council has slapped together a scientifically sloppy, self-contradictory document that pretends the hunt is necessary when in fact, the science does not support a hunt.”

The suit filed by the Animal Protection League (APL) contends that the scientific assessment of the bear population and its environmental impact is flawed and its findings are biased.  The suit also alleges that proponents of the hunt,  The New Jersey Outdoor Alliance made illegal contributions to Gov. Chris Christie’s election campaign.  The  New Jersey Outdoor Alliance disputes the claims made by the APL and issued a response that appears on the Ammoland website.

During public hearings comments ran 3 to 1 against the bear hunt.  Public opposition to the hunt has been vocal and considerable.  If the voice of the public counts for nothing why go through the charade of soliciting public comments?  A recent public hearing on the expansion of the El Paso Corp gas pipeline through the Highland region had a similar tenor to it.  Of the twenty of so citizens and groups who spoke at the meeting not one supported the expansion of the pipeline.  Local residents and groups affected by the El Paso expansion initiative are concerned that their opposition to the project is falling on deaf ears of regulators and government officials responsible for green lighting the project.  If the project is a fait accompli regardless of public criticism why solicit  public comment and go through the motions of participatory democracy?

The Highlands Commission was formed to determine how the resources of the region are managed and how the area will be developed.  The Highland region is a critical watershed area and a vital open recreational space for an overwhelmingly urban state.  The Highlands Commission is the stewardship body chartered to reconcile the competing interests of a complex community of stakeholders.  The immediate needs of wildlife preservation, smart development and long term sustainability of an environmentally stressed ecosystem will require effective engagement of all Highland Community stakeholders.  Governor Christie’s slate of nominees to to the Highland Council  is being criticized as too pro development.   This may auger well for stakeholders like El Paso Corp but it may have deadly consequences for endangered bears and other species struggling to hang on in an increasingly hostile environment.

You Tube Video: Junglebook, Bare Necessities

Risk: environment, bears, sustainability, water, open spaces, democracy

December 3, 2010 Posted by | associations, democracy, ecological, environment, government, politics, regulatory, sustainability | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 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

By the Waters of Babylon

By the rivers of Babylon we sat
and wept when we remembered Zion.
Psalm 137

It was the last concert ever to be held at Giants Stadium and the first time I would see Bruce Springsteen live.  Situated between the exits 16E and 16W on Jersey’s own Thunder Road me and my friends arrived early to tailgate at the Meadowlands Stadium complex.  We gobbled subs and washed them down with exotic bottled water imported from Long Island.  We amused ourselves by watching the growing parade of Bruce fans cramming the highways that slowly inched toward entry gates granting license to plow through carousing crowds to search for a parking space.  As a fiercely proud and life long resident of the Garden State this occasion was long overdue; but catching The Boss at the last concert at Giant Stadium made it extra special and worth the wait.

I grew up not far from the stadium.  Fifty years ago I lived in a house on the rise on the western edge of the Meadowlands on Orient Way in Rutherford.  As the crow flies it may be a mile and a half from the splash of asphalt I was now standing upon.  As a child I remember being in awe at the vista that laid outside the window of my room.  To a young lad the vast expanse of a seemingly endless grassland stretching beyond the bounds of my peripheral vision was my idea of a wild and untamed jungleland.  I remember hearing tales of bottomless pits of hungry quicksand eagerly awaiting an opportunity to swallow unsuspecting little boys unfortunate enough to wander into the infinite expanse of tall reeds, thick grasses and towering bulrushes. Thinking back it was probably a story my parents told me to warn a young child off from the thought of a solo expedition to explore the intricate and dangerous swamp of rivers and rivulets weaving together the beautifully complex riparian ecosystem.

Half a century ago it was a common sight to see cars parked along the dirt roads that lined the tidal pools and estuaries of the Overpeck, Berry Creek and Hackensack River.  The brackish waters of the Meadowlands sustained a rich biodiversity.  It nourished interdependent communities of crabs, mussels, clams, fish and mammals that would grace Sunday afternoon dinner tables of intrepid trappers and fishermen that happily spent  the day harvesting the bounty of the rich urban aquaculture.  I would often imagine the sight of the ancient ones, engaging in the same activity, who centuries ago, situated on the banks of these same tributaries, pulling up nets bursting with fish, blessing the abundance the Great Spirit so richly conferred upon them as their rightful inheritance.  As it says in the Old Testament “there is nothing new under the sun.”

My salami sub with mozzarella and roasted peppers was going down real good.  Bite after bite it just tasted better and better but its good size and over apportionment of spicy meat and rich mootz was filling me up.  I feared if I took one more bite it would burst my gut so I had to put it down, wrapped it back up and save the rest for tomorrows lunch.

To know when enough is enough is a virtue that we as a species are hard pressed to understand.  If your full from a meal, saving a bit of the sandwich for tomorrows lunch is an example of moderation and a lesson in good stewardship.  Nowhere on earth does the glaring examples of overindulgence, avarice, corruption and the pernicious wastefulness of corporate greed manifest itself in such a shocking manner as it does in the Meadowlands Complex.   Two stadiums, a race track, an IZOD Center and a commercially bankrupt and aesthetic abomination called Xanadu forms the commercial polyglot known as the Meadowland Sports Complex.  It is the finest work of commercial developers, financiers and local governments eager to cash in on ambivalent taxpayers and gullible local townsfolk believing billion dollar stadiums, built atop garbage laden landfills, financed with state bond issues will be sufficient to retain the loyalty of Jets, Giants, Nets and Devils.  Desperate job seekers also hope to land a job as a beer vendor allowing them to walk up and down the windy steps of these sacred sports palaces to pay taxes to cover the loans on the stadiums.

When we entered the stadium complex looking for a place for our modest tailgate we wanted a space offering an easy exit from the incomprehensible mess of the parking lot.  Unfortunately extracting ourselves and our fellow citizens from the unsustainable commercial, political and environmental mess created by the New Jersey Exposition and Sports Authority will be impossible for the many generations of Jerseyites that will follow in our footsteps.  Our local governments have ceded stewardship responsibility of the Meadowlands to corporate developers.  A corporate  manager’s  idea of stewardship is to extract a maximum amount of profit for shareholders in the shortest time frame possible.  Corporations may come and go but the people of a community must remain.  Sometimes left  to pick up the pieces from the wreckage  caused by ill advised development and are tasked to restore the delicate balance of nature with the complex ecosystem of stakeholders.  Well considered balance is the cornerstone of effective stewardship and is essential to a community’s long term sustainability, wellness and growth.

The Meadowlands is dealing with the wreckage caused by EnCap.  EnCap acted like a pernicious organized crime syndicate.  It  operated with the complicit support of local governments, business associations and sophisticated private equity investors that conspired to loot public treasuries, steal public lands, and secure licenses to dump toxic waste into the delicate Meadowlands ecosystem.  The Meadowlands Sports Complex should be considered a white collar crime scene.  Xanadu, yet another needless mall of America is an aesthetic abomination.  It remains unoccupied and sits like a useless heap of garbage as another crass commercial scar on a once pristine riparian ecology.  Where crabbers would gather on afternoons to harvest a natural bounty; the garish presence of Xanadu now presides like a festering scab, concealing a cancerous tumor, implanted by the toxic greed of EnCap, metastasizing in the gooey mush of the meadowlands good earth.

When they broke ground on the Sports Complex in the early 1970’s they discovered that highly toxic mercury levels polluted the water and earth in wide swaths of the development zone.  The pollution was the remnants of a long departed manufacturer.  The remedy was to encase the mercury in a plastic sheet.  The mercury poisoning forever altered the delicate ecology of the meadowlands leading one to believe  that this would make current developers and planners more sensitive to the ecological impact of development.  But the anti regulatory mindset that has pervaded government and business partnerships has opened the door for environmental assaults as exemplified in this most recent example by EnCap.

As show time approached, the parking lot was growing more crowed.  The growing party of revelers spread out their tables, coolers and barbecues to celebrate the momentous event.  As the smoke from the fires rose into the air I recalled  a vivid vision from my youth.  One evening as I peered out my window, I witnessed  the night sky frame a line of fire extending to the outer reaches of my vision.  The conflagration consumed the reeds and tall grasses of the meadowlands.  The flaming horizon was an electric line of agitated orange that reached ever upward.  The fire danced against the ghostly backdrop of the lighted Manhattan skyline.  The combustible apparition of angry flames appeared to threaten the looming silver skyscrapers lining  The Avenue of the America’s.

The image of that fire will always haunt me.  It heralded the drastic turn in the nature of the meadowlands.  The fires were clearing space for the industrial parks, land fills and new commercial enterprises desperately needed for the rapidly expanding American economy.  The waterways and aquaculture of the meadowlands were incompatible with the economic needs of our changing nation.  Clean water, vibrant stocks of fish, rich flora, birds and mammals were something we willingly sacrificed at the alter of economic progress.  Today during these austere times, when the gods of economic progress have seemingly abandoned us; we should make it a point to visit the empty malls and walk through the unoccupied office spaces purchased with the sacrifice of our natural environment to the fickle gods of economic progress.

Fire and water is an eternal dance of opposites that continuously engages a dynamic dialectic heralding a harbinger of change that always moves to restore a balance in the cycle of opposites.    The fire of development that consumed the meadowlands of my youth may now be snuffed out by the waters of a changing time seeking to restore a sustainable balance for future generations.  This will indeed please the Great Spirit.  The Boss began the concert with a tune he wrote for this special occasion.  It would be a good idea to take a wrecking ball to the unsightly Xanadu mistake as a first step in restoring the meadowlands to its true natural glory.

You Tube Video: Bruce Springsteen: Oh Mary Don’t You Weep No More

Risk: sustainability, environment, commerce

Artwork for this post is by Susan K. Arnold, By the Waters of Babylon.

This post is written in participation for Blog Action Day.  Theme is water.

October 15, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Drill Baby Drill: The Bill Comes Due

Louisiana has declared an emergency shrimping season for the off shore beds at the mouth of the Mississippi River. The emergency harvest of shrimp, oysters and stone crabs is a desperate attempt to grab a final yield from a once bountiful aquaculture that sustained and defined the regional Cajun identity for many generations. The spreading oil slick gushing from a toppled offshore oil platform threatens to bury that life as it covers the delicate ecology with a toxic cloak that may spell a death blow to a regions way of life.

It is estimated that 210,000 gallons of crude oil are gushing into the Gulf of Mexico every day following the explosion and collapse of British Petroleum’s Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling platform that killed 11 workers. The Transocean rig was reportedly not equipped with a special safety devise that should have capped the well with the collapse of the oil platform. This assertion is being denied by Transocean stating that the well was equipped with the devise but unfortunately it failed to work. The use of the safety devise is a regulatory requirement for any offshore drill platforms in Europe but in the United States this safety devise is not required and is considered an optional operational risk devise. Like the recent coal miner disaster at Massey Mines, and word today that two more miners have died in Kentucky, occupational wages sometimes result in death. We need to understand that preservation of life and environmental safety are critical components of a cost of doing business that must be factored into ROI calculations and risk assessment scenarios.

The Coast Guard is in charge of emergency response to this growing disaster. The Coast Guard is skimming surface oil and using containment booms to control the growing oil slick. The Coast Guard is also considering igniting controlled burns of the surface oil which would release toxicity into the air. Another strategy being considered is the injection of chemicals into the spill to coagulate the oil. This strategy has never been attempted at such an extreme 5,000 foot depth and would also release additional toxins into the water. Technological solutions like the drilling of a relief well or the construction of a containment vessel would take months to accomplish. Man made solutions to cap the environmental disasters of their making always seem to pale in comparison to the scale and fury unleashed by the unrestrained power of nature.

This event marks yet another example of making an honest assessment of the true costs of our behavior and choices. Like the global economic meltdown that was the result of the unfettered credit orgy the bill for risky behavior always comes due. The continued focus on the exploitation and extraction of fossil fuels at the expense of alternative sources of energy comes at a great cost. This disaster may indeed be the death blow to an aqua industry that nurtured a region for many generations and informed a cuisine and culture respected and treasured by throughout  the world.   And like any excursion to a fine NOLA restaurant, someones always got to pick up the tab.

The bill always comes due. We want to gorge ourselves at the well of cheap energy only to discover how dear the price of this devil’s bargain really is. Environmental degradation is the most obvious tip of a precarious iceberg that threatens to tip as it melts into an ocean of unsustainability. A destroyed eco-culture of marshlands and animals, abandoned hamlets and townships no longer able to extract a living from the land are the immediate visible signs of the cost of this deal with the devil gone bad. We must begin to realize that the cost of cheap energy also requires our nation to continually engage in wars and military actions to protect this vital resource.

Cheap oil has badly skewed our economic infrastructure. It has encouraged our businesses to produce inefficient cars that led to the decline of a strategic industry and destruction of cities like Detroit and Gary Indiana. It caused the terrible moniker of rust belt cities to be pinned on a region of our country that was once the source of our nations wealth. Cheap energy help turn our prized manufacturing centers into economic anachronisms. Cheap oil has forestalled commitment to developing innovative green technologies that continues us to cede our position as a global manufacturing power. As we watch China and Brazil march forward with massive commitments to the development of energy innovation industries that will serve future needs of an energy dependent global economy, America is engaged in a bloody rear guard action to defend the ways of an old dying world too protect depleting trickles of oil.

Tonight as Americans go to sleep in their energy inefficient homes it is hoped that they may pause to consider that drill baby drill is a rallying cry for an unsustainable dying future. Think of the villages along the Louisiana bayous and how their way of life is coming to an end. Its time to consider the real costs of a Drill Baby Drill economy and begin to chart a course to a sustainable future.

You tube Music Video: Cajun Music: DL Menard and Louisiana Aces, Out My Backdoor

Risk: economic, environmental, culture

April 30, 2010 Posted by | culture, disaster planning, ecological, environment, politics, regulatory | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Managing Pandemic Risk

pandemicThe Swine Flu outbreak carries with it the potential to severely damage the financial health of small and mid-size enterprises (SMEs). Left unmanaged pandemics can impair profits, generate losses, undermine the contribution of key employees, disrupt supply chains, halt operations and undermine an enterprises financial health that can ultimately lead to bankruptcy.

Though many consider pandemics as a force majeure risk event that lies beyond control, businesses can take steps to mitigate and manage the drastic challenges a pandemic can pose to a business. This is particularly important for businesses that find themselves in a weakened position due to the recession. Businesses that have become highly stressed due to the current business cycle are at acute risk of becoming insolvent due to the shock of this potentially catastrophic risk event. Business managers, bankers, shareholders and businesses with extended supply chains need to take steps to manage and mitigate the severe  effects of pandemic risk.

The first step is to create or update a business continuity plan. Business continuity plans need to address a range of issues that includes planning for disasters in general and planning for the unique challenges an influenza pandemic presents and integrate mitigation initiatives into critical business processes.

All businesses are unique. Addressing a pandemic risk event in your business plan will require you to conduct a risk-management assessment on all aspects of your operations, business processes and market impact to ensure continued operation and financial health of the enterprise.

Some things management must consider in its review are:

  • Assess how you work with employees, customers, contractors to minimize contagion threats
  • Determine mission critical business functions your business requires to maintain operations
  • Stress test your business operations to determine how to function with high absentee rates
  • Review inventories in case foreign or domestic suppliers and transport services are interrupted
  • Review supply chain links, determine at risk suppliers and identify backups
  • Reorganize work spaces to minimize the spread of the disease
  • Equip employees to support telecommuting
  • Develop communication strategies to update employees, customers and the media
  • Use this opportunity to expand e-commerce capabilities
  • Promote awareness of the problems associated with pandemic flu
  • Alert employees about what steps you’re taking and what they can do to limit the pandemic’s impact
  • Review sick-leave and pay policies to ensure they don’t discourage workers from staying home when they’re ill
  • Make backup plans if you need to pull people out of countries where the epidemic strikes
  • Develop a travel policy that restricts travel to areas where the virus is active
  • Stock up on masks and sanitizers, and consider staggering work hours to limit the size of gatherings

Sum2 publishes the Profit|Optimizer product series.  The Profit|Optimizer is the leading SME risk management platform that helps business managers and business stakeholders quickly assess enterprise risk factors and take considered action to mitigate and manage those risk factors. Sum2 will be releasing a pandemic risk assessment module by the close of this week.  The product will retail for $95.00 and will assist SME’s to assess, mitigate and manage the threats posed to their business by pandemics and other social disasters.

More information can be found on our website www.sum2.com.

Sum2 helps businesses assess risk and realize opportunities.

April 30, 2009 Posted by | business continuity, disaster planning, geography, operations, Profit|Optimizer, regulatory, risk management, Sum2, supply chain | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Are Sound Practices?

What are Sound Practices?

Sound practices are a set of standards and controls that mitigate numerous risk factors in the corporate enterprise. Sound practices must address corporate governance, operational and market risk factors, regulatory compliance, corporate citizenship, and stakeholder communications within a set of defined expense ratios.

Corporate Governance

James Wolfensohn, former President of the World Bank stated, “Corporate governance is about promoting corporate fairness, transparency and accountability.” Sound practices are a necessary prerequisite for effective and ethical corporate governance. Businesses must accept its precepts and clients and investors must demand compliance, ethical trading principles, honest and timely disclosure, operational integrity and a full commitment to its implementation and adherence. Effective corporate governance practices maintains the faith of investors and provide clear measures of transparency, accountability and performance measurement of business managers and owners.

Financial Health

The implementation of a sound practices program is a powerful value creation tool. A sound practices program provides investors and creditors an enhanced level of confidence that operational risk factors are minimized and other classes of risk are being monitored and controlled. Corporate and transactional transparency and shareholder disclosure is assured. Investor confidence and a more thorough understanding of a corporations strategy and risk characteristics will be the result of a sound practices program.

Investor Communications

The sound practices program advocates the delivery of reports, analysis tools and management compliance statements to investors and corporate stakeholders through accessible media channels. All communications should support a stated level of transparency for investor disclosure. Investors should expect timely disclosure of corporate risk factors and other events pertinent to corporate performance, profitability and potential risk events and factors.

Brand Building, Regulatory Compliance and Best Practices

Sound practices require that regulatory compliance programs be embraced as a brand building exercise. Corporations that approach compliance by implementing best practice solutions will mitigate reputational and regulatory risk, attract high end clientele, and command premium product margins.

February 15, 2009 Posted by | sound practices | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Hunger Banquet

St. John’s Memorial Church
Ramsey, New Jersey
Invites you to attend a
Hunger Banquet
Friday, January 16th
7:00 to 9:00 p.m.

What is a Hunger Banquet?

A Hunger Banquet is an interactive educational activity that dramatizes the inequality that perpetuates poverty in the world. Guests are assigned roles as they enter, representing different income levels around the world. What each person receives for dinner depends on the role they are playing. The banquet presents an opportunity for people to see and feel the effects of poverty and to work together to generate solutions.

Why Should We Hold a Hunger Banquet?

Poverty has many faces. Unfortunately, many of them are children’s. According to NetAid, approximately 850 million people worldwide are undernourished. This constitutes 14% of the world’s population. Over 95% of these people live in the developing world. Hunger is least likely to be caused by lack of food. Instead hunger is the result of many factors contributing to food insecurity. Some of these factors include disease, access to water and sanitation, health care, distribution of food, politics, and access to resources. One billion people lack a clean water supply and over two billion people lack adequate sanitation. These two factors are major causes of disease, a leading cause of hunger.

Is there a Solution to Chronic Hunger?

There is enough food in the world today for every man, woman and child to lead a healthy and productive life. Over 30 developing countries have managed to reduce hunger by 25% since the early 1990’s. Hygiene measures resulting from access to water and sanitation can significantly reduce the number of hungry and undernourished people as their bodies are better able to process food.

The solution to world hunger requires a global response. Lets be part of the solution.

You Tube Video: Feed The World

January 15, 2009 Posted by | Millennium Development Goals, poverty | , , , | Leave a comment


God is with us!

At the close of a Quaker Meeting a few years ago I was speaking with a weighty Friend about Darfur. We were both outraged about the carnage and abject horror the people of the region were experiencing. We discussed the timid response world leaders and governments were offering to address the genocide. I remember remarking to this Friend that “the Lord provides”. She answered that unfortunately that is not always the case. Her remark took me back and gave me reason to pause. It led me to question a very basic supposition of my faith; that the Lord is a personal God, a quick and present helper at all times and under all circumstances.

I began to wonder if I was being flippant or merely mouthing a hallow cliche as my personal testimony of faith. Did my remark express an emotional ambivalence to this human tragedy? Was it a tacit expression of my disengagement from the situation and my intention not to get involved. Was it an excuse for not taking action because I’m not responsible so I am absolved from a responsibility to act. Or was I rationally recusing myself from involvement because God was in control? Taking comfort in the rationalization that fate, karma, kismet and divine intervention was not the province of humans and was way above my humble pay grade? Perhaps it was a Pollyannish expression of my faith? These questions made me uncomfortable in my understanding of God and how God is made manifest in the lives of humans.

My partisan Christian ears thought the Friend’s answer may have detected a hint of blasphemy. But I knew that the theology of many Quakers do not understand God as an incarnate presence on earth. So this could not be interpreted as a blasphemous admission that God is not omnipresent nor omnipotent. In a queer sort of way this may serve to absolve God from the moral damnation for permitting this to happen. It also lets God off the hook for being slow to act in saving these people from such a terrible fate.

I firmly believe that the Darfurs of the world are the handiwork of men and nation states. If the nations of the world lived in cooperative unity, offered mutual support and practiced tolerance for cultural and political differences the state of civilization would more resemble the paradise of heaven. It would indeed be more to the liking of how God wants us to behave and live as we spend our short time here on earth.

In the deepest and darkest places of the globe were life seems to have little value, where cruelty and brutality are life’s daily bread, where living one more hour seems to be a miraculous accomplishment; those are the places were God dwells and is made manifest in each breath, each heart beat, each drink of water and in every crumb of food that passes through a hungry mouth. God lives in the heart and hopes of those who struggle to endure yet one more day. God lives in each kindness, each helpful offering of aid, within the encouragement of each small word, a comforting embrace or beloved kiss. Those are living embodiments of answered prayers by those who are suffering from debilitating privation, sickness and oppression. Yes God moves in these people and lives in the rubble of those places; offering all the transcendent possibility that all is not lost, nothing is ceaseless and God remains a good and present helper.

The Quakers have a saying, “All God Hast is Thou.” The weighty Friend who stated that God doesn’t always provide spoke a plain truth. She challenged my faith and helped me to understand that we are Gods hands here on earth. We can use our hands to build up the kingdom and put them together to offer ourselves as a fervent prayer by placing ourselves at the service of others.

God is manifest and dwells among us.

God is with us!

You Tube Video: Oh Come Oh Come Emmanuel

You Tube Video: Mahalia Jackson, Troubles of the World

Risk: cynicism, defeatism, selfishness, unbelief

December 24, 2008 Posted by | faith, politics | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

G20 Mulls State of the Globe

The leaders representing the largest world economies will sit down this weekend to plot some strategies to deal with the global economic crisis. The challenges confronting this group is extensive and vast. Inflation, deflation, credit markets, energy prices, political stability, capital markets, exchange rates, balance of trade, and the slowing growth of the world economies are problems that will require more then a weekend meeting to solve. The Economist Magazine has some thoughtful insights into the extent and depth of the problems, some possible solutions and potential roadblocks to implementing them.

One point The Economist raised for consideration is the conflict between the global reach of capital market institutions and the national based sovereign regulatory bodies that are responsible for governance and oversight. This glaring challenge came to light last month in the EU when national banking governors were forced to enact national solutions to Pan Euro Zone banking problems. Regulators are concerned that savvy global banking institutions will engage in a type of regulatory arbitrage to skirt national governance laws. The global banking system has surpassed the constraints of national regulatory laws and it is a principal challenge that the G20 must address. Indeed during the height of the credit crisis national regulators were hard pressed to explain why it was in the best interest of the countries taxpayers to bail out foreign banks and to share credit facilities with other central banks repo desks. The supranational nature of our economic and political institutions is a difficult pill for some to swallow. Country Firsters will certainly use this as an opportunity to beat the isolationist and nationalist drum.

This G20 meeting is likened to the Bretton Woods agreement that adopted fixed currency exchange rate and formed the IMF and IDRB. These initiatives foreshadowed the Marshall Plan and were key to the ascendancy of American economic dominance in the post WW2 era. Though many are playing down the similarities of the two events this meeting comes at a time when the American economic colossus has lost its groove and whose preeminence is now being challenged by the EU, China and a slew of Third World confederates that are demanding more equitable distribution of world resource and a chance at sustainable economic development.

The conference is certain to adopt some classic Keynesian solutions to stimulate growth. Indeed the activist interventionist actions the world central bankers have employed to deal with the crisis, like the TARP will become more widespread. This will certainly raise the debate about protecting the sanctity of free market capitalism against the creeping socialism advocated by the proponents of the Keynesian approach to stimulate growth. Here it is necessary to remember that this is not about an ideological debate concerning the righteousness of conservative or liberal political dogmas. The global economic crisis is real and it is creating political instability and economic hardship across the globe. For many in the Third World this crisis has acutely spiked their struggle for survival as the barest subsistence levels are not being met.

As the G20 makes the big decisions to patch the broken world economy we believe that the real business of the G20 should be a careful examination and implementation of the Millennium Development Goals.

The Millennium Development Goals provide an opportunity for the world leaders to unite behind a program that promises to offer the potential of long term sustainable growth, prosperity, peace and a commitment to our shared humanity and respect for life. This I believe is the the real business that the G20 men and women need to address this weekend.

You Tube Video: Charlie Chaplin, Great Dictator Globe Scene

You Tube Music: Bob Marley and the Wailers: One Love/People Get Ready

Risk: global economy, sustainable development, political stability, peace

November 15, 2008 Posted by | Bush, economics, jazz, Millennium Development Goals, politics | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Centralia PA

The high water mark of the Confederacy was achieved at the Battle of Gettysburg along Cemetery Ridge on the afternoon of July 3 1863. Here the futile and costly charge led by Confederate General George Pickett ended the hopes of the secessionists to extend the war north of the Mason-Dixon Line. It also signaled the beginning end of the Confederacy and their hopes to dismantle the Union.

November 19 will mark the 145th anniversary of the Lincoln’s Gettysburg address. Lincolns speech is revered as an oratorical masterpiece. It ably conveyed a free people’s resolve and reverence for a representative democracy and the price free people’s must pay to secure the grace of liberty.

I bring this up because the great state of Pennsylvania is again a high water mark in the presidential battlefield of this historic election. Pennsylvania is the battle ground state whose electorate may decide who sits in the office of our next president. And as the candidates jaw on about Joe the Plumber, Six Packin Six Packers and the sacred patriotism of Hockey Moms, I hope voters continue to consider the environmental degradation that has visited this region too such terrible effect.

The town of Centralia is a scant 101 miles northeast of Gettysburg. Centralia was founded in 1840 and its residents have made a living mining the coal along the Reading Seam for over 100 years. Today however, Centralia is a ghost town. It had to be evacuated due to an underground fire that has been burning for 40 years fueled by the coal that once provided the miners and residents of the town its livelihood. The experts predict that the inextinguishable fire will burn for 250 years and its toxic emissions and danger of ground cave ins have made the town along Highway 61 uninhabitable.

The devastation of this environmental industrial disaster should be a prime issue in the campaigns of the candidates along with occupational safety, environmental protection, the provision of health care and jobs for these distressed areas. Unfortunately as the Bush Administration continues to allow strip miners to operate with impunity without regards to any environmental safeguards the devastation and degradation of small towns like Centralia will remain a real threat.

I ask my fellow countrymen in Pennsylvania to consider your vote and turn back the tide of ignorance to the real issues confronting our nation. Environmental degradation and ecological risk is a real threat to our livelihood and well being. Ask the former citizens of Centralia. Today’s video shows the devastation of the once small town of Centralia accompanied by great guitar work by Mr. Winter.

You tube Video: Johnny Winter Highway 61 Revisited

Risk: environmental, brownfield remediation, mining

October 27, 2008 Posted by | Bush, elections, environment, rock | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment