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Nature's Labor Lost

Had a good lunch with my old friend Harold Rosen, Founder and CEO of the Grassroots Business Fund, and his able team who operate in the tricky “Impact Investing” Space. This means they make fairly large loans to social enterprises and businesses in Developing Countries. Harold took the bold step of leaving a secure job at the International Finance Corporation (World Bank) several years ago to start up GBF, and just closed a deal with several investors to give him the capital he needs to expand his operation. I shared my experiences, summarized in my book, on how to take organizations to the “next level”. Good luck, Harold!

Meanwhile, back on the home front, I think Boise-Cascade has moved in next door, given the number of legacy oak trees that are being felled in the neighborhood. It seems that PEPCO, our energy company, has grown tired of repairing power lines felled during the numerous violent wind storms coursing through our heavily wooded community. Breaks my heart to see trees that were probably hatched from Civil War Era acorns fall to the chain saw, all because — are you listening, Rush? — we wont’ do anything about Global Warming. Trust me, we did not have these violent wind storms when I was a lad, growing up in Levittown, New York.

I know, I know, you think it’s all a Liberal hoax, Rush. Do me a favor: sit under an apple tree for a few hours in the fall and, after the 3rd or 4th Macintosh bounces off your fat head, repeat after me: “Gravity is real, Science is real….”

Contrary to my previous websayito, we do have things to be thankful for this Thanksgiving:

We are alive

Iran does not have the bomb (yet)

Newt is not President (yet)

So come on! Smile!

Still working through the East-West jetlag from my trip, which is a more benign form than the West-East strain, which once caused me to fall asleep in mid-sentence when I was doing a debriefing to a consulting client in Bangkok. The E-W version is accompanied by what Faulkner called “a gutful lassitude”, not at all unpleasant but vaguely distracting, and it has caused me sometimes to stop at green lights and go sailing through red ones.

I’m getting back in touch with Don Quixote after a six week hiatus. I dragged myself across the 900 page mark this morning. DQ and Sancho have met a travelling acting troupe which features a monkey who tells the past and present, but not the future. I know, I know…..

Quelle surprise! The Super Committee failed to come up with a compromise to cut the deficit. Quelle autre surprise! The columnists are split, the conservatives blaming Obama and the liberals blaming the Republicans. I’m so glad nothing important is at stake, like the future of the planet.

Wouldn’t it be grand if there were another Steve Jobs or Bill Gates toiling away in his garage right now, about to spring the next Big Thing that will unleash another wave of American innovation.

Somebody, invent something, please!

Nov
18

This is Global Entrepreneurship Week (today is the last day, sorry, I just couldn’t get to it, travelling too much) and I have two blogs out there, one in The Washington Post and the other at ONE.ORG both of which have scored some good traffic and comments, so check them out. They have also keep my Amazon ratings high all week which is also fun to see.

The bride is recovering from her Equine Malfunction on her honeymoon, and being taken good care of by her new husband. Thanks, Douglas, and best wishes for a speedy recovery, Michelle!

Now that I am home from my 6-week Odyssey I will do these websayitos more frequently.

I do have to share, however, my own unique so-this-social-media-stuff-really-does-work experience. The day after the wedding, I was in a taxi headed to Paddington, from where I would take the Heathrow Express to the airport of the same name, and then on to Spain for the Microcredit Summit, when, on a whim, I sent a tweet to Nick Kristoff of the New York Times (1.2 million Followers) with the following message: “Hey, Nick, I just got the bill for my daughter’s wedding, and it came in less than $10 million, so I will have money left over for schools and vaccines.” (This was a reference to a tweet NK sent which was critical of Kim blowing $10 mm on her DOA wedding) Good old Saint Nick retweeted it, resulting in my acquiring an additional 70 Followers in the next 24 hours.

So, yeah, Social Media works. But you knew that.

Another Tree picture. I'll stop when Mother Nature Does

Actually I’m in Portland, Oregon today, at the Net Impact Conference at the Oregon Convention Center, and will be on a panel this afternoon at 3:30 “What’s Next for Microfinance?” with my colleagues Mary Ellen Iskendarian of Women’s World Banking and Alex Counts of Grameen Foundation, and will be signing books at the Convention bookstore afterwards. Net Impact is a 20,000 member whose mission is “to inspire, educate, and equip individuals to use the power of business to create a more socially and environmentally sustainable world.”

The stop in Leavenworth, Kansas was for a board meeting of Cereal Ingredients, Inc., a small but innovative company that makes flavors and colors for cereal companies, protein bars, snack foods and even dog food. Leavenworth is also the site of “Camp Fed” which houses all the white collar criminals and will likely soon be home to former Goldman Sachs director and head of McKinsey, Mr. Gupta, once he exhausts his war chest and all his appeals. As with Martha Stewart, I’m left scratching my head as to why someone who was obviously already awash in dough felt the need to cheat to make even more. Innocent until proven guilty, of course. In the meantime, timely fodder for the gang laying seige to Wall Street.

Seeing the rolls of concertina wire atop the chain fence surrounding Camp Fed I was briefly transported back to Kabul and fortress-like defenses of the embassies, hotels and office buildings there. Oh, and Hamid, such a helpful statement that if the U.S. went to war with Pakistan, you would side with Pakistan. You don’t just bite the hand that feeds you, you take the arm off at the shoulder. But I guess you thought it was a good way to keep the ISI assassins off your trail for another day or two? Whadevah.

Finally, thanks to Kevin Nenstiel for his insightful review of my book on Amazon. I always appreciate it when someone “gets” what I was trying to do.

Oct
22

I’m liking Obama Reloaded who is much more decisive and not afraid to make decisions like to withdraw from Iraq, despite a unanimous chorus of nay-saying from the GOP candidates. In fact, it’s a pretty good bet that if the Republicans are against it, it will be the right thing to do for the country.

I read an interview with Clinton in the Guardian where he came out with a good summation of why it’s pointless to argue with the GOP on just about any topic. Clinton made a distinction between philosophical vs. ideological differences, arguing that, in the latter case, facts don’t matter because the person has already made up his mind and nothing is going to change it. I think he’s right on: if a fact — say, on global warming — were a bullet, you would need to coat it with teflon and run it through that Super Collider in Geneva to get it up to a speed where it could penetrate Rush Limbaugh’s skull.

Speaking of Rush, I turned myself into an oxycodone pill and sneaked into an emergency meeting Rush held with the GOP field where they discussed how to deal with this latest crisis.

“Did you see how little Obama spent to get rid of Ghadaffi?” Gingrich exclaimed. “I mean, did any of the Defense Contractors who stuff money in your pockets make anything out of it?”

Shaking heads. Only one hand went up. “I mean, one of our contributors made some chump change on jet fuel and a few Hellfire Missiles, but other than that……”

“Damn, where is “Blank Check Ronnie” and “Yellow Cake Dick” when we need them?” Bachmann lamented. “I mean, if you needed an excuse to go to war and there was no evidence, he would make it up.”

Heads nodded. A collective sigh filled the room. You could almost hear everyone thinking:

“Justification No. One: Weaponsamassdestruction.”

“Justification No. Two: Sadaam plotted Nine Eleven.”

“Justification No. Three: Al Queda was in Iraq.”

“Justification No. Four: Sadaam is a Brutal Dictator.”

Only Rush was smiling. Perry asked him what was so funny.

“You guys. Don’t you get it? The real money is in Climate Change. Look at the destruction these floods and powerful storms are causing. Are you telling me you guys can’t figure out how to profit from that? I mean, I’m doing my job, denying it, ensuring that no one will act until it’s too late — but you guys gotta step up!”

The mood in the room did a 180 then. You could almost hear everyone thinking: “Make money off Climate Change. Why didn’t I think of that?”

Warfare took another step into the 25th century today with the advent of tiny robots that our troops can throw over walls and thru windows in Iraq and Afghanistan to see who or what is waiting inside without having to storm in and risk being surprised by an IED or ambusher with an AK. Word has it that the only one not elated by this development was Cheney, who is concerned that it might reduce the need for boots on the ground and Halliburton non-compete contracts billed out at $1 million per solider per year.

But Cheney was quick to adapt: “Those robots will need things like oil, to keep them working properly, and in case you haven’t noticed, oil is not cheap! And robots, like people, suffer from battle fatigue and need to take R & R, and that costs money as well.” Cheney added that he thought a 300% markup was “more than reasonable”.

They also finally came out with lower body armor that protects, among other things, the family jewels. About time! At this rate, though, our troops will go into combat looking like Iron Man, covered from head to toe in kevlar. One has to wonder about the cost of all this, and whether it’s sustainable in the long run, especially if we compare our $1 million per soldier per year to the Taliban’s annual cost: 6 sheep plus three 100 kg bags of rice.

And then there is the question of whether we are even making the best use of this investment. An article in the Times said that our troops are getting frustrated at the lack of cooperation from the MilPak, who often sit back, observing from a few feet away, as Taliban operatives on their side of the border pump rockets into our forward fire bases. When we call up to complain they tell us “We haven’t observed anything.” 0ur troops aren’t allowed respond in kind because we might anger the Pakistan government.

This fine tradition of sending our troops into combat with one hand tied behind their backs began in Korea, and has continued on to this day. I remember when the first kid on our block in Levittown, NY, Billy Nolan, came back from a place called Vietnam in 1965 and told me “We could win tomorrow if the politicians would let us.”

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