Time to grow up, AoCs. New blood needed.

Agents of Conscience, I'm not asking you to stop making friends and networking with people like yourselves. But I think we need more critical dialectic thinking.

The political system in the USA says the people who believe fervently in one thing (as opposed to being well rounded and open minded) invest earliest in the process to produce a candidate who must guarantee them what they want. These people are leaders, but I don't say "leader" with any capital L. They get candidates to commit early to a position (ethanol perhaps) the candidate has not had time to research. This produces perverted environmental legislation as well as bans on stem cell research and prayer in schools.

The more fervently you hold to your supposition, the more people who are AoC are attracted to learn from you, and you can quickly get a small posse to support your candidacy, and perhaps leverage the system.

But if you are not listening to critics, you risk the worst possible outcomes. EG:

1) ROHS "the restriction of the use of certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment". It means that you replace the toxic LEAD (Pb) in Solder circuitry with silver, gold and tin. Sounds great at first. Europe has done it, Japan is doing it, it has a lot of momentum. BUT the lifecycle of elements and production means we are mining Gold and Silver (one of the top producers of mercury is silver mining) from rain forests in developing countries to make less toxic (and less recyclable and less durable and less repairable and more greenhouse gas producing) circuit boards, which are going to be buried in a well regulated landfill in a developed country. The lead being replaced, incidentally, is one of the highest recycled (non mined) content metals on earth. SHAME!!!!

2) Mercury recycling: The USA has all these mercury recovery and recycling programs, sending environmentalists all over the place to hunt down mercury products and recover the mercury through recycling. The mercury is then (according to WSJ April 2006) primarily sold to alleuvial mining programs in rain forests. We are taking mercury out of well regulated western landfills and sending it into river basins in Africa and the Amazon. SHAME!!!!

I am a hard core environmentalist, and I don't mean to overstate the negative. Banning lead from gasoline was probably the best environmental law ever passed. But banning lead from solder may be the worst environmental law ever passed. I'm not saying to stop environmental laws. But I'm saying that the next generation of AoCs and environmentalists needs to study the entire lifecycle of product decisions. I read all kinds of insults hurled at environmentalists in engineer forums for solder, and I can't say I blame them.

(This turned into another "Alchemy must lead to western medecine" blog).

What I'm hunting for is environmentalist writing which is not back slapping emotional rib-punching self-righteous wreckless hogwash. The reason I need it is that I WANT OUR TEAM TO WIN. Some of our quarterbacks suck. There's no time to waste making non-toxic, biodegradeable packages out of baby seal pelts. The environmental answers must be rationally and logically researched. We have a limited number of enviro or eco-dollars to spare out to the M1 economy, and we need to spend them wisely.


Ok, it's getting through. It's going to be bigger than landfills. It hits endangered species, rain forest, toxicity/cancer, and it's driven by the most inane, dispensible purchasing decision we make.

4o years from now educated people will not buy gold. It will prove easier to change than vegetarianism or organic foods because not buying gold saves you money. Buying gold paves roads into rainforests and kills gorillas.


Hollywood is getting it. Not that Hollywood is the best champion to look towards (see "the day after"... or actually, don't).

This is not like a boycott of coffee which would hurt poor farmers. The gold miners are poor, but they are being relocated to unnatural places where they buy/eat bushmeat.

I'm going to write more about this.

Evolution of Environmentalism 1: Agents of Conscience

I don't know about you, but I know when it started inside me. 10th grade, FHS Sophomore 1978, morning speech ("forensics") class. The long-term speech/debate coach (Dollarhide?) had gone into Jr High administration and they filled his position with some fraternity kid from Univ of Ark, Randall Oxford, who had been an FHS debater sometime before. At least that's the version I recall.

To make a long story short, the morning Foresnics/speech debate class was lightly attended by the teacher, who was out of office 2 years later. But those AMs had some smart kids in them, and we were talking all the time about big stuff. My mom had given me a bunch of wild reading, Bhagavad-Gita, Tao, Plato, and I was giving the New Testament its fair share. I really wanted to do something profoundly spiritual for the rest of my life.

I think extinction is a strong hook for environmentalists. You see rain forest disappearing, tigers going extinct, you acqaint that with your favorite animal (dinosaurs, duh) and realize your second favorite (gorilla, dolphin, tiger) is on the chopping block.

So anyway a lot of us young folks (anyone sitting near me at least) were debating whether leaving society and becoming a hermit was preferable to riding along in a society which was pounding the daylights out of future generations' habitat. I came up with the concept that the hermit path was going to keep my conscience all shiny without changing anything. And that you had to do what is necessary to change society, and do what is necessary to get along in that society in order to change it.

I stuck with that. Some friends (some outside of HS, I also spent a lot of time at Univ of Ark student union, where i was a janitor in the evening) told me it was impossible, if I entered the machine I'd get chewed up by it.

Well, jump ahead a decade or two. I see that inside the machine there are a lot of us environmentalists, trying to pay off our college loans or buy a nice house or afford to buy at a coop instead of Wal-Mart. As is natural, whether you are a skinhead or a gangster or a fraternity drinker, we hang out with folks like ourselves and read one another's blogs and listen to one anothers songs, and get along with each other.

So how do we find a career path? We are kind of competing against each other for a limited number of eco-jobs, and all agreeing more funding is needed to raise the tide for all of our eco-jobs. We wind up adapting much of society's get-along, consensus-power, back-patting talk and accomodating and generally showing deference and agreements with each other. For example, how could we not be suspiciuos about a recent report (not enough data to confirm relevance or causality, but it's an example) that the icy poles or Mars are receding? That's kind of a shocking blow to "Global Warming", the current celebrity of environmental causes.

I find asking about it doesn't alarm friends as much as when I say I'm still open minded to how history will judge the Iraq War II. I won't get into that here, except to say that as a student of WWII I am a little concerned by how short term "proof" or certainty is measured, and I am relied we didn't have streaming embedded coverage of Iwo Jima or Normandy beach. I mean, who could have possibly believed those Japs could have formed a democracy when they were walking out and committing suicide bombing?

End of tangent...

What I'm exploring at this stage in life are 2 things. Entrepreneurism vs. Idealism and need for Dialectic in Environmentalist study. I will vomit if I attend another Middlebury College lecture where everyone nods in agreement and subtly underhands softball questions about environmental issues. It's disgusting to subject those students who have invested that much tuition to such vacant thinking. I'm sure there have been good fighting arguments at lectures I've missed, but I don't want to risk the stastical potential of my time spent watching the get-along-back-patting-political-consensus-more-money-so-we-don't-distastefully-compete-for-one-another's-jobs-so-lets-all-chuckle-and-applaud-at-taking-for-granted-we-all-vote-Bernie-Sanders drivel.

That kind of crap means we collect fluorescent bulbs to recycle the mercury, selling the mercury to alleuvial mining groups who dump it in rain forests to obtain gold. It means we change lead solder to silver-gold solder, increasing demand for that gold, increasing demand for that mercury. And feel good about ourselves.

My life and my determination to be an agent of conscience is too short for that. We must embrace truth.

But if we choose entrepreneuralsim and are trying to build a company and hire people and pull ourselves up by the bootstraps, how truthful can we be every single hour of every single day. I don't know what the crap on the floor an employee asked me about was. I'm sure it's not radioactive or poison, I'm sure it's oil. But if I call in a test squad, someone's going to lose their job. How sure can you be? I offered to clean it up myself and put it in a bag and bring it to hazwaste day (ca-ching), and I encourage the employees to ask me what the liquid on the floor is every day, and to come in and report every injury, cause you have to. But my clients have pushed my price down from 18 cents per pound to 12 cents. It's a cloudy sky overhead, prepare for rain.

to be continued...

2080 vision - new no-knee-jerk environmentalism

May 5, 2006. If you plan to live to 2080, please apply here:
(another blog on the theme of unintended consequences...)

There are a lot of people in charge, working hard, in government and business, etc. You've seen that. Some care a lot about things outside their own personal interest; we call these "good people". "Outside" could mean being a "company man", could mean worshipping your family, could mean caring about critters, you could be a patriot, or care about other aspects of the environment. But what I'm looking for is someone who cares about the year 2101, and it's likely going to be someone who will still be alive in 2080. Among those who will be around in 2080, those who care about things outside themselves will care about the year 2101. Also, they aren't yet distracted by other good things they'll one day care about, like the job or kids or status.
There are actually a lot folks who care about 2101, but most of us only have time to form opinion about the direction the world is headed based on cursory information. We learn about, and choose to care about, something outside our personal interest - say ice caps melting. We form an opinion about it. But most of us don't have enough expertise to do more than cast a vote and muster ourselves to agree or disagree with another person's opinion.
Both the young and the older tend to form opinions based on listening to people we trust. By trust, I mean we trust their motives and their facts, that they are a good source of information, smarter than us, or at least smart enough to know more than we are likely to learn in our spare time between now and the business trip or kids soccer game or taxes or box elder cutting or Mothers Day card or cassava pounding... At best, we are students who take a class on the issue and learn enough to write a paper during a semester.
So, let's call these people PTWs, Professionals We Trust, as gatekeepers for our opinion. Now let's pretend we work for the DEP or ANR or EPA, and we want to develop a policy, and we aren't experts in the field of, let's say, computer recycling. We want to get some PWTs together so we can have some informed policy that will improve the direction the world is spinning towards 2101. How about if we gather a big representative sample of these professionals, and see if they can arrive at a consensus.
All good so far.
Now we can't technically call this a "focus group". We may think we have a "focus group". But in actuality, a good focus group is designed to bring NEW BLOOD and fresh perspectives. Campaign Focus Groups disqualify anyone with a professional interest or knowledge, they are person-on-the-street consensus tools. We don't have a focus group, we have a set of people who may or may not be able to see outside their self interests. And of those looking outside their self interest, they may be well informed on just one thing, or have "patriotism" or something as their selfless goal.
You start with someone on the group who everyone can agree is unselfish, outwardly directed. One group of people is upset about photos of young kids standing on piles of garbage that were exported to their country from the USA. These people care a lot about others. They start to organize to drive business to people who share their concerns. That's a good thing! I don't like competitors who ship garbage to other countries! They undercut the costs I take on when I remove and properly manage the garbage. They have to be on the committee.
Other well meaning businesspeople, who have more facts, seem to agree there's a problem, and seem motivated to take resolve it. What could be a better business than helping improve the world? If you can earn a living, buy lacrosse equipment for your kids, and help these passionate folks improve the situation, that's great isn't it? We have me and another couple of ethical recyclers on the panel now, we are starting to form a real PWT group.
Now there's a third issue or fear - might be global warming, or national security, but it should be something relating to computers... I know! Privacy! There are a lot of stories about phishing scams and data. The beauty of this is that it can be a civil law issue - people are suing companies for losing or reusing confidential data. And who gets sued, usually? If you want bacon, you corner the fattest pig. Clients with money. Banks, hospitals, etc. These folks are concerned about their liabilities in both issues - seeing their garbage dumped overseas, and failing to safeguard client data, and they are certainly the victims of fraud as much or more than the rest of us.
Together, these people - the activists, the businesspersons, the EPA officials, and the bank/hospital clients, and other people like retailers and garbage haulers (who don't want to be involved in the policy but are afraid they'll get legislated at if they don't attend) agree that it's not ok to just send hard drives just anywhere, the information needs to be erased. A guy who sells hard drive shredding equipment will sponsor coffee at the conference, no one really pays attention to him but he's there for insurance.
Actually, everything I've written so far looks good.
Are these people enough to get legislation passed? NO. I'm telling you, from work in government, that this is a group which is "necessary but not sufficient" to create legislation which actually gets written and actually gets voted on, passed, and not vetoed.
One place you can turn is to Public Interest Groups (PIRGs). They have mainly been fueled by 2080s, college kids who care about something but don't have anything invested yet, who care and burn. Because lacrosse pants and home mortgages really do start to dilute your time spent thinking of things in the future (back to paragraph 1).
Where else can you turn?
How about a multi-billion dollar company which is working on another realm of the world - personal property rights vs. copyrights and copyrewrites. They for years have been involved in a slugfest with another group of individuals, technicians and folks who hate checking the End User License Agreement (EULA) which basically says that you can't make a copy of their software for your friend. That's fair. But they have also come up with OEM licenses and other things to keep you from passing on the software when YOU HAVE FINISHED USING IT. It is all about moving away from personal property, to a new system called LICENSING. It's based on the same concept as the Inheritance tax, that when a deceased person is "finished" with their things, that the government can take a slice. Again, probably fair. But this is digital... it is when you are finished with each individual piece of property, before you've died, that they take ALL OF IT.
"So when the company [Microsoft] announced late last year that it was favoring sweeping federal privacy legislation holding companies accountable for how they treat consumer data, one might be forgiven for wondering what the company had up its sleeve." (Wired News
Well, some of us are exhausted, and willing to take any victory we can, so if we can do well on our issue (children perched on garbage overseas sent by competing businesspeople underpricing our services), and our friendly businesspeople who care can get more money from the banker and hospital, let's take this. The Linux guys will work out the other thing.
OEMs also jump in. HP makes 50% of all corporate profit from sale of toner cartridges, and has gone to great lengths to ban refilling and reselling toner cartridges. Too bad we can't scare people about privacy issues around toner cartridges. But we CAN scare them about their HARD DRIVES. Refurbished "white box" computers are 1/3 of all sales in the USA, much higher worldwide. For used monitors, white box PCs, and toner cartridges, there is another piece of legislation, a form of flow control called Manufacturer TakeBack, which I'm someday going to defeat in court. That's for another blog... let's finish the privacy issue. Privacy is good. Where is Robin's problem in all of this?
ONE, no one discussed the fact that the billions of dollars in software being wiped off the hard drives from this new legislation will cripple the secondary market, whose revenues other businesspeople (very small businesses, by the thousands) depend upon to make their own recycling collections work. Will the net effect be more recycling? Maybe it will, I'm just saying that I didn't bring it up because I didn't hear anyone else ask.
TWO, no one actually documented that hoards of Iranian students have upgraded the factory where they were taping back together all of the shredded paper (a big sales line in the fine paper shredder equipment market) and they are now booting up hard drives to get your personal information. WE NEED A VICTIM. In law, it's called Habeus Corpus. I have not seen any evidence other than BAN grabbing hard drives in Nigeria for their own purposes that there is a business booting up Pentium Is and getting data.
THREE, no one looked at the balance of harm. One of my clients used to donate their computers to schools. Now we take them and wipe all the drives, and the schools don't have software and we can't afford to donate the PCs because of the wages we paid wiping the drives. So I'm the winning businessman in the example above.
We need people who are experts in data security and information theft in the room. That doesn't mean people who sell fear or shredding equipment. We need statistical measures. If I put my P1 on a boat to China without wiping the hard drive, which do have have to fear more, data theft, or getting struck by lighting on the way home? How does hard drive skullduggery compare as a statistical risk against, say, avain flu?
My understanding from talking with writers on the subject is that the risk is real, but that Microsoft and other program sellers have much more to gain by wiping used equipment than any consumers have to lose. Most data theft (where there's habeus corpus, an actual, not theoretical, crime) happens where there is proximity to, knowledge of, or contact with, the victim. The thief has as some point been within 50 feet. In house, or a neighbor, somehow you want enough info about your victim that you don't do something dumb, like me claiming to be a 80 year old black woman. A distant second is theft from online hacking and phishing, where the data is at least very current and available in great volumes very quickly.
I'm sure there are opportunity crimes. You know what - Pentium IIIs an 4s need to be wiped. That's because someone will boot them up to see if they work, and that person is probably honest, but might not be. Generally, it's enough to erase the files, but you might want to go further and erase the whole hard drive. DON'T LEAVE YOUR P4 for curbside pickup, or in an unattended recycling shed until a data wiper can get to it, please. But a PII that's been sitting in your closet for 5 years?
On the scale of risk, where does booting up old Pentium Is, shipped halfway around the world, rank? I'd guess it's like leaving sales records of maintenance in the glove compartment of your car when you sell it. Someone COULD find out more about you through that paperwork. And wipe your DNA and fingerprints off the glove compartment while you are at it.
Can hard drives which are F-disked be reopened with special software? Yes. That's what DOD (Dept. of Defense) standards are about. If it's George Bush's red button laptop, DOD isn't enough, that thing's gotta be smashed. If you are already taking steps to secure data in house, like a hospital, you should be wiping hard drives yourself.
Don't get me wrong, I'll keep doing this, and keep charging for it. But we recyclers need to come to grips that there is a significant sector of our marketplace which ain't buying the fear we are selling. If I am a public library and I know all the data on the PCs has been publicly available to everyone since we got the P1, am I going to take money out of our book fund to pay Robin to wipe the drive? In the meantime, if I am a data thief, will I pay for an unseen/untested P1 laptop from that library and spend 20 minutes reformatting the F-disk hard drive?
The future: There will be a program installed in every PC which is a "Mission Impossible" cassette. IT departments will have a key to execute the program, which will spew 1s and 0s all over the drive. We want to work with colleges and other institutions so that the program also re-installs a "spare tire" program, like Linux, so that the PC can still be easily retested and resold.
Meanwhile, your privacy is already for sale by credit card companies. go to
www.abika.com and order your own info. It's worse than an FBI file. Legislation should be directed at ABIKA not at making Microsoft's EULA system easier to manage.
The anti-export folks need to look at where the piles of garbage are coming from. If it is a residue from a legitimate reuse practice, like spoiled apples from an apple store importing apples from America, how can fresher produce be sent? Who is sending the wormy apples? Don't just plunk a kid on the pile and say "don't export food!!!"
The PWT need to take stock in the "consensus" packages we are putting our names on. Too often, a focus group begins with a fair list of reps, and then the ones with less money stop flying to meetings, and it turns into "last man standing" model legislation, sponsored by a billion dollar anti-grey-market conglomerate.
Don't get me started on leadfree WEEE legislation today.
A lot of my friends say, this is good info, good points, but it's too much. If we try to consider all of the possibilities, no one will ever do anything. At least we are making progress. We may as well give up and follow the "free market".
This is where we need some 2080 folks. My generation takes "improvement" to mean next year will be better than yesterday, and we can't deal with a bigger scope of work than that. I say, suck it up, soldiers. You and I couldn't design an airplane either, but let's not give up on flight. Environmentalists have to be more like engineers and med school students. If we care enough about the planet to make legislation, we should care enough to work as hard as a doctor or software writer or a bridge architect. Fixing a problem today which sets the world on a path of powerlessness is wrong. I think people in 2101 should own personal property, stuff they can keep and maintain and resell and buy second hand and adapt and fix. A guy started collecting "disposable" cameras, the ones everyone was screaming about being wasteful 15 years ago, and started refilling and reselling them... Now he's a millionaire. And Fuji and Kodak are bringing suit against him all the way to the Supreme Court!! They say he isn't licensed to fix their disposable stuff.
If there is a simpler solution to the kid sitting on a pile of garbage that preserves our freedom, let's keep the freedom for now.
We are good people, we conference goers. But I think in 2080, we will be seen as the Alchemists who gave birth to modern medecine. The future environmentalists and ecologists will be less scatalogical and reactionary, and take time to measure all of the organs affected by legislation, and make the best choice. Maybe it will turn out to have been the privacy legislation after all. I'm just critiquing the sausage making process. I don't have time to actually answer the question, you see... I have to go to work.
If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins. - Benjamin Franklin
There is no poison on earth more potent, nor half so deadly, as a partial truth mixed with passion. -- Michael J. Tucker

Thank you Lynn Scarlett - Mining Subsidies

Thank you in advance, Lynn Scarlett
"Industry-friendly interior chief quits...[Gale] Norton leaves office at a time when her agency was increasingly tied to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff....Until Bush appoints a successor, Deputy Interior Secretary Lynn Scarlett will take the helm of the Interior Department. A Santa Barbara resident, Scarlett is former president of the Reason Foundation, a Los Angeles think tank with libertarian leanings. She has worked to promote free-market solutions to environmental problems." San Jose Mercury News 3/11/06
March 11, 2006: Starting soon, Lynn Scarlett, former executive of the Reason Foundation, will become Acting Secretary of the USA Interior Dept., replacing Gale Norton. http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/news/14074802.htm. Scarlett wrote reports on recycling and solid waste in the 1990s, and was a source for the mid 1990's diatribe, "Recycling is Garbage" by NYTimes' John Tierney. In a 1997 editorial in Reason Magazine, Scarlett wrote, ``Environmentalism is a coherent ideology that rivals Marxism in its challenge to the classic liberal view of government as protector of individual rights.''
Lynn Scarlett's criticism of recycling was best summed up in her quote from Tierney's article: "In a purely market-driven situation, people would still recycle according to what makes sense in their area."
It will be wonderful to finally have this free market, level playing field advocate finally in charge of the federal agency responsible for collecting fees on federal land mining and forestry projects. The agency is arguably the de facto administrator of the Superfund (technically overseen by EPA, but bankrupted by cleanup costs at federal copper and gold mining sites on federally "leased" land).
Ms. Scarlett has already been in charge of the Bureau of Land Management for several years. The BLM administers land leases to mining companies under USA's 1872 General Mining Act, at a rate unchanged from the $5/acre set during the 1872 Apache Indian wars. Her failure thus far to reform extraction subsidies may be explained by the cozy relationship between lobbyist Jack Abramoff and former Interior Secretary Gale Norton ties (a possible explanation for Norton's early retirement).
If the cost of recycling and waste disposal were still administered in 1872 dollars, the former Reason Foundation president would be outraged. Now Ms. Scarlett is completely in charge of the federal mining and forestry land lease and cleanup enforcement. What can we expect?
Implicit in her 1995 article "Solid Waste Recycling Cost"
http://www.reason.org/ps193.html is a criticism of government interference in raw material commodity supply and demand. The article made valid points about exaggerated landfill closure rates.
Now, under Ms. Scarlett's tenure, we should expect the price of copper, gold, aluminum, silver, palladium and other metals used in electronics manufacture to be unshackled from the 1872 GMA / Superfund subsidy system. As mining and refining bear an increasing share of their true costs, we can expect electronics recycling to achieve a great leap forward, as it has already in countries without federal mining subsidies. The “wild, wild east” has a truly free market for raw materials, making it a magnet for recycled metal.
The subsidies by the Interior Department were a major focus of the GAO's recent report to Congress on the underachievement of electronics recycling in the USA. It is easier, more energy efficient, and cleaner to get a pound of copper out of used electronics than out of a mountain in Montana. With reform of the BLM, it can be a less expensive source of copper as well.
Even free market environmentalists shouldn't demand complete reform of the BLM subsidy programs in the first year. Perhaps, as a starter, the Interior Department can implement a "user fee" for mining companies obtaining federal land leases. Added to the $5/acre, 0% royalty system, the User Fee can cover the salaries of the federal workers who actually administer mining and forestry land leases. Afterwards, these "user fees" might even cover the overhead of these federal agencies, or to pay for the development of access roads put in by the federal government to provide access to the mining and timber industry.
We shouldn't expect a profit from leases or "user fees" on federal lands any more than we demand a profit from public recycling programs. But perhaps primary smelting and mining may one day pay enough into the system to cover its own Superfund costs, as recycled smelters are forced to do. Seven of seven of America’s secondary copper smelters have been closed, with the biggest factor being failure to pay their cleanup and remediation costs.
China, which has no BLM subsidies, has been more than happy to take over the secondary copper market. America is left with mining and primary smelting. If you owe Superfund ten million dollars, like recycled smelters, Superfund can go after you. If you owe Superfund ten billion dollars, like a virgin smelter, BLM takes over the "leased" site.
The simple fact is that hard rock mining on federal lands accounts for 45% of all toxics pollution released by all USA industries. If we could dump all of America's raw municipal solid waste straight onto the ground on federal land, it would generate less pollution, and would generate more than $5 per acre in revenues. Or another “modest proposal” might be to dump MSW onto an existing mining Superfund site, effectively "sub-letting" the land lease for the fraction of a cost of a regulated lined landfill, a win-win scenario for both extraction and disposal.
The 1872 mining laws have been around so long, that the recycling community doesn't even discuss them any more. But the fact is, reform works.
Canada's small revisions to its 1977 mining cleanup laws are credited with mining-giant Noranda's multi-million dollar investment into electronics recycling the following year. A few months after the reforms, which were opposed by the mining company, Noranda’s president made a major speech on “sustainability” as the future of the industry, and Noranda soon made the largest electronics recycling investments in history. Micrometallics of California is now owned by Noranda.
We eagerly await the anticipated effects of similar small doses of free market reforms to the 1872 General Mining Act and Superfund implementation. Go to it, Lynn Scarlett.
Robin Ingenthron March 11, 2006

Pre 2006 - Chaucer and recycling connection

12/25/05 A Chaucer poem gives insights to "True Stewardship" and "Recycling Export" debate...
A thousand times I have heard men tell,
That there is joy in Heaven, and pain in hell;
And I accorde well that it is so
But natheless, yet wot I well also,
That there is none doth in this country dwell
That either hath in heaven been or hell,
Or any other way could of it know,
But that he heard, or found it written so,
For by assay may no man proof receive.
But God forbid that men should not believe
more things than they have ever seen with eye!
Men shall not fancy everything a lie
Unless themselves it see, or else it do;
For, God wot, not the less a thing is true,
Though every wight may not it chance to see.

I used to think that moving up in an organization, or to a position of more stature in society, was moving from low to high. As my old boss, Hank Southworth, put it, "going from ground level to seeing things from 50,000 feet". That the higher ups in society saw things from a bigger perspective.
Now I understand, and see evidence of, the fact that moving up constrains you. You have access to more information, definitely, and better information perhaps. But the virtue of your importance constrains you. Just as you cannot get as drunk at a party when you are a senator, you cannot speak as radical a thought, even if you suspect or allow yourself to believe it.
In that way, moving up is actually digging in deeper. You are more constrained in your thinking as you rise in society. Loss of face is a greater loss for a great king than it is for an urban laborer.
By moving down, one opens more options and lowers the ante. With a lower ante, one can take greater risks.
One still needs access to good information. To the degree that the highest ups have better info, they are closer to the truth. It is just the social pressure that constrains them. A bum on the railroad tracks is free from social pressure, but I guess doesn't have as much interest in, or access to, worldly information.
To some degree, pressure and risk of loss of face would raise the effort and diligence, and I would guess that a senator might try a little harder to succeed in an argument. That's good. But if a person on the street is motivated by a Higher Power to achieve truth, I do believe that the dignity at stake can be equal.
If the internet grants an encyclopedia of information to every motivated man, increases in stature will drop in value.

Hypothetical Perfect Recollection

Looking at the human brain like Steve Pinker (How the Mind Works), as scientific observer, you realize that everything we "see" or "experience" is product of stimulation on the brain. What one person's eye sees as the color red, you could not say with absolute certainty is another person's "red". Even though the two agree, what the different brains show as "normal" may simply be synchronized (red is to Dick as blue is to Jane)..
So why do two experiences, separated by passage of Time, appear so differently in the Mind? I look at my 3 children playing together today, making noise and games and worlds of pretend, and it reminds me of my own childhood play. I wish to myself that I could see this moment this clearly my whole life, to preserve and permanently enjoy the sight.
I suppose, if the mind could not differentiate between past and present, that it would be pretty confusing to walk around functionally. If I could hear every single conversation I have ever had at the same clarity and decibel that I hear noise NOW, it would be pretty distracting. Finding my place in the current world would be like "fast forwarding" on a TIVO or VCR tape. But hypothetically, for all practical purposes, if I was well fed and in no imminent danger, "living in the past" would be a nice thing to do. So far as every human had at least a few "good memories", we could all enjoy ourselves more equally, rich and poor, like spending the same dollar over and over again.
If we all had a camera strapped to our bodies 24 hours per day (something probably imaginable in the next decade or two, at least for a handlful of people) we could achieve a facsimile of Perfect Recollection, but minus the impression or thought that it's making or creating. If I see someone steal for me that I thought was honest, I'm shocked. Once I've seen that person steal from me over and over again, I'm going to see them with a different emotion.
What ties this to recycling? Surely there would be a greater useful purpose served by perfect recollection, as we measure our efforts to make our lifestyles sustainable.
I'm constantly thinking about what my children and grandchildren will see in the world they mature in, and how they will hold me and my generation accountable for this world. Orangutans and mountain gorillas will be pretty much limited to DNA samples in labs and specimens at zoos, kind of like Panda bears where national news is made whenever one of the specimens bears young. The extinctions will be largely blamed on natural resource extraction... copper mines and timber harvests Borneo, coltan (for cell phones) and timber from central Africa http://www.panda.org/about_wwf/where_we_work/asia_pacific/our_solutions/heart_of_borneo/our_solutions/mining_logging/index.cfm
The mining and extraction companies are run by intelligent people, who manage publicly traded stocks, and who are simply meeting demands placed on them by earners. Those earners create demand for resources, which creates roads into forests, which creates access to habitat by poor people who don't have electricity and therefore can't enjoy the same things the earners enjoy. So they enjoy other things, like "bush meat", or sell the bush meat (gorilla and chimp steaks) to tourists giggling over the "endangered species platter" at a local restaurant. Military bases bring demand for liquor bars and strip joints. Casinos and gambling zones bring demand for prostitutes and escort services, which attract people addicted to drugs, bringing demand for other criminal services. Mines and timber harvesters create environmental destruction in their own right, but also bring whisky, gambling, prostitution, drugs, and endangered species poaching to the heart of the rainforest.
If I play my whole life back, will the recycling I do make a difference? If we cannot meet 100% of world demand for metals, resins, and fibers through recycling, would the mines be there anyway? Does it matter if the PNG OK Tedi River mine dumps 60,000 MT of mine tailings per day, or 80,000 MT of mine tailings per day?
I chose recycling because it is hands on, Karma, measurable. It means engaging in business, rather than meditating on a mountaintop. I hope to raise 3 kids who are agents of conscience, and who can do good things in this world.
But if the Right that you do is dependent on undoing the Wrong someone else is doing... Have you really made a difference? Or are we like brakes on snowmobile, pounding through virgin forest?
I'll be anticipating the answer to that question at the end of my life, and I think some future generations will be digging through records like this one to determine WHAT in the HELL my generation was THINKING, wiping out the gorillas, chimps, orangutans and blue whales. But the truth of the question is posed every day, as if the Hypothetical Perfect Recollection was already here. I can pretend at this moment that I'm recalling this moment perfectly. Recalling as in what was I thinking, right now (not as an observer with future knowledge at my disposal). But if I ask myself one day "what were we thinking?", maybe I will remember this moment, as I pretend I'm trying to figure out exactly what it is I am thinking, as humanity plays the role of a self-conscious comet, headed into the planet, creating not a gulf of mexico or other crater-lake, but with the same result. Two or three lifetimes is more like an instant blast than it is like the thousands of lifetimes evolution took to create this creation.

December 17, 2005

Letter to the Iraqi People:

May God bring each of you peace and justice, health and sustenance to you and your families.
My name is Robin, and I am a father of three, and I run a small recycling and parts company in the state of Vermont. It is a cold winter here, but the people are used to the ice and snow, as fathers and mothers have taught the kids how to live in peace with it for many generations. I can imagine, for your children, the desert sun must be less of a burden than it would be for me, but they would not enjoy playing in the ice and snow as much as my children do. Both the sun and the ice must be enjoyed but treated with respect.

I’m writing to you because I was thinking yesterday, after your election, what it must be like to be going through such a revolution. The first thing that struck me is that when change happens this suddenly, quickly, and violently, that different people will come to different conclusions at different times.

Just as some Americans know more about the world than others, I am sure individual Iraqis must see the war and restructuring differently. Sometimes Americans are kind of uneducated about different histories in the world, and some of us are pretty ignorant of our own history, too, for that matter. This gives rise to different views here of what is happening and why, and who to believe and when. Is it the same there?

I’m sure to you it is obvious why some of your young men and women could still be absolutely convinced that the American army is there to do harm. Some of you may have had cousins, friends, sons or brothers who joined the resistance. Some of them have killed themselves, or killed others, trying to protest in dignity a change brought by force by a foreign soldier. Some of you, like some of us, have also lost family and loved ones to those acts of hate, anger or protest.
I just thought I’d write you this note to share my own perspective. I’m politically an independent. I did not vote for Bush in the last election, though that was more from my concern about how he borrows money than it was about the war.

When it came to the war, I was hopeful. I must confess I was naively certain America army would would face chemical weapons during the first days of war. Like millions of others, I was led to believe some things, some of which may never have been explicitly said. Our journalists, like yours, want an exciting story, and the suspicion is more exciting than the doubt. An expectation grew that Sadaam Hussein was building weapons and testing his ability to expand his power. The fact that he shot at our planes, and evidence that he tried to assassinate George Bush’s father after the first Gulf War, really didn’t put him in a position to be heard if he protested his innocence. I say if, because I don’t even remember that he did protest his innocence. Not loudly enough, that’s for sure.

As the combat wrapped up, I continued to be hopeful. Though the search for WMD came to seem a farce, I thought the war was justified more by hope than by fear. The chemical weapons were not the most important thing, to me, about the war. I do remember people giving other reasons for the invasion, and those are the reasons I listened to and still hope are correct.
This letter is to share those ideas about this war with someone on your side of the sea, and to ask for your perspective. I hope, in my deepest soul, that this is like the American invasion of Germany and Japan, neither of which had oil or other resources to exploit. I’m not speaking about the cause of those invasions, but about the outcomes. The people of Germany and Japan were lied to and suffered greatly at the hands of their own rulers. Some Americans must have been shocked at the cost of assistance after the war, for the rebuilding of those countries. Americans had seen Japanese commit suicide and fight to the last woman and child to protect barren islands, like Iwo Jima. It must have been difficult to imagine that those same Japanese would one day participate in a democracy and peaceful world economy larger than that in Mexico, Brazil, England, France, Germany or Italy.

Today, Japan is the second most powerful country, economically, on earth. All Japanese children go to school. It has fine hospitals and fine cities, and awesome factories, which have for decades been the models for, the pride of, Asia. Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia and now China are following Japan; American factories emulate those which grew from Japan’s democracy. I think of it as a nation of intense pride, though much more humble and circumspect than it was in the years leading up to the war.

As I watch the news from your country, Iraq, I wonder how many years it took for the people of Japan to believe that America would help to rebuild the nation and leave it alone? And if our cause is the same, I wonder how many years it will take for your people to believe it. As your insurgents see our history of meddling in Palestine and Iran, did the Japanese see as “hegemony” our footprint in China and the Philippines? If the analogy between Japan and Iraq is stretched too thin there, I hope the difference will be paid out over years rather than as a different outcome entirely.

I hope that my children will fear and respect Iraq as my generation feared and respected Japan – for its economic might, the talent of its children and inventors, and the influence it will hold on its neighbors.

As I watch and read the news from Bagdad and Washington, I’m pretty sure America’s plan really is to do for Iraq what it did for Japan and Germany. To jump-start an Iraq which will rebuild itself.

Some Americans stayed in Japan, of course, but I think everyone in the world understands they are guests, and Japanese are in charge. I’ve never been to Iraq and I’ve never been to Japan, so I my letter couldn’t be very convincing to the insurgents following the jihadist roadmap today. What do I know, and what do my opinions matter?

I cannot say I know that much. I can say I lived in Africa for a couple of years. I think that many of the Africans I knew continue to live under such oppression that they’d secretly welcome an American invasion and a Japanese-style reconstruction. Probably not a majority of Africans. And if it ever happened, and violence continued during the process, you and I both know they would have second thoughts along the way, as you have.

I can also talk about trade and business around the world. This century is exciting and new. The internet, international banking, posts and jet travel have made it possible for even a tiny businessman like me to make close friends and business partners in faraway places. Can you believe that in the past 2 years we’ve had visitors to our little Middlebury, Vermont, junkyard from Hong Kong, Alexandria, Kaunas, Jakarta, Accra, Taipai and Guangzhou? In Egypt, in India, in China, Ghana, and Cameroon, and Lithuania, and Peru, we make business deals with small businessmen and women. Like me, they are trading and negotiating and brokering, and we are building our reputations side by side. We shake hands by email. We wave our fingers in frustration by email. We say thank you by telephone.

Last year, someone asked me if I was worried about Americans losing jobs. I thought about it. I realized that I consider myself a closer friend to the man in Hong Kong I trust, or the woman from Egypt who confides in me, or the man from Cameroon who watches my kids for me as a favor when I run to the bank. I have more in common with honest and hardworking people than with lazy and loud people who happen to share my language. I believe my children will have friends across international boundaries, and that common citizenship will mean no more or less to them than a common license plate address in an Orlando parking lot.

Someday I hope my kids and I will meet more Iraqis individually, and we will trade together, and we’ll introduce you to our business partners in other new countries. I’m sure when I do, that there will be young men working for you, like the 18 year old John on my staff, who has a new baby and is trying to build his first job. And people like Brian, who served in the first Gulf War, not knowing much history about Japan or Iraq or Iran at the time. Or Michelle, a mother of three whose husband passed away, and now works in our machine shop and sometimes drives the truck. Or Yadji, my first business partner in Cameroon, who has worked off and on for me in Vermont, shoveling snow he could not have dreamed of as a boy in Africa.

If I visit your place of work in 20 years, I guess I’d meet adults who began grade school during the Gulf Wars, and people who fought on both sides of your insurgency. If you are smart and successful, you will probably have Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds on your staff, enabling you to trade and deal as a franchise in every part of the country, and across its borders. Maybe you will have a few Africans, Mexican, and Japanese employees as well. Maybe one of my cousins will work for you, without worry, in peace, like I worked in Africa in 1985, or like the Lithuanian and Cameroonian who have worked for me.

Maybe I will hear face-to-face a side of this I have not thought of. Maybe my mind will change before then.

My father’s cousin was Jack Hensley by the way, the American construction contractor who was kidnapped and assassinated last year. He was older than I am and I didn’t know him, though I know his younger brother, Ty. Jack and Ty’s father, Jerry Hensley, fought the Japanese in WWII. When I started this letter, I didn’t plan on bringing that up, and I promise it won’t come between us if you fought against this Japanese-style liberation by occupation and separation.

This is more than a hope or dream, but far from a certainty. We will be with a new president of the USA long before then. Watch us two years from now, when America begins to prepare for life without George Bush 41. Better yet, come to Vermont for a visit, and we’ll share a maple-syrup-snow-cone.


Robin Ingenthron, USA Citizen

Veterans Day, 2005

Yes, it does appear that this will be a quarterly blog, about a career in recycling, and how this career, or perhaps any career, can succeed in making a positive impact on the world.
I met a guy from Montreal when I was 17, during a 3 week "work camp" in Switzerland in 1979, Robert D. There were a lot of discussions between us that kind of resemble this blog so far. He was an intense guy, I really liked him, though he ruffled feathers with some of the German and Danish camp volunteers who also became good friends. Anyway, he was 25, and he had it all worked out in a career/spiritual search way. An Artist! Create!! Make beauty, produce it, mine it from deep in your soul! His measure was the creative beauty each of us produces. His counsel on my political and environmental worries was that no matter how hard one works or tries, there is someone else in the world who will disagree with it. If one actually begins to make a difference, someone else will work even harder to destroy what you are creating, and will feel equally strong about the opposite of what you are trying to achieve. If you aren't finding that nemesis, it's because you aren't actually accomplishing or changing anything, I think he'd say. I stayed in touch with Robert for a couple of years, and then gave his address in London to an acquaintence/friend of mine visiting London. (She came back fascinated and enthralled and thanking me for introducing her, that he was fantastic. He wrote back a scalding letter that he was not a youth hostel and how dare I give his address to mere acquaintances. He also called her at least a good lay, so I didn't feel too bad. But staying in touch with people... well, the ball was in Robert's court after that (*footnote - jeez, RD googled his name and found this, and now I need to correct several things, e.g. we were in touch after that... well, I meant that the frequency of correspondence cooled thereafter.. Or maybe it just sticks in my mind because the shame I felt turned to resentment, as it does, and anyway, this is all allegory, I think. Anyway, RD has a good sense of humor about this, and hopefully he is at least flattered that I recall his advice and impact in a way that attributes it great importance, whether or not the recollection is lucid or comprehensive...).
I wanted to measure myself in terms of "an agent of conscience" or "agent of (positive) change". Robert thought the Kennedy proved the outcome of trying to be an effective agent of change, and told me to !CrEaTe! It's true that my idea that I'd always be an artist "on the side", as a "hobby", hasn't produced that much (basically several notebooks of mere doodles and an occasional outburst of song or rap poetry, mainly to my kids). *note to self - hit save*, and I wasn't as successful as I thought I might be in turning 1% of my time into an artistic statue of David. The fact that this is a "quarterly daily blog", published 3 times per year, kind of illustrates or proves the point. Anyway, I was talking about Robert's vision to my mother, who I've always considered incredibly creative. She put me to bed telling me stories about her childhood and brothers and sisters. I put my kids to bed with stories of her creativity. Maybe I'll share one later. But I put Robert's maxim to her about his intense belief in his decision to be an artist, and she said it was great, but said that in her early adulthood she decided that raising a child can be like creating a work of art, and that one could be a mother with the same intensity as a Da Vinci or Michealangelo, and wind up creating or contributing to the creation of another person who would be like a work of art to society.
Robert wrote back: "Babies are babies. Art is Art." I'd also say that just as artists change their styles and approaches and productivity over their careers, that my mom's parenting went through definite seven or eight year periods... For me that was 1-7, then 8-15, then when I was 16... well, I'd have to go back and look at it more closely but that seems kind of right, though obviously my eye, as a beholder, was a different lense and light of the mother/artists work during those different times..
This brings me to my own parenting. Twins are now 9.5, little boy is 5. As this business, Good Point Recycling, grows and creates more jobs, we are recognized in both the local and recycling community. In early 2003, I had one employee - me - who wasn't paid at all (I wrote checks for the truck which was bought off my home mortgage, but that's not really income). By November of 2003, I had hired one part-time job trainee (Roy) from the Workforce Training program in VT, and a kid Rayce who came in after high school to do demanufacturing. Almost all the material was trucked to ElectroniCycle. I'd occass...
One of my sons just woke up. Maybe I'll get back to this later.

I wrote about 10 pages since the last entry, and then got really discouraged because of a computer crash when I lost them. I guess Frontpage doesn't save a copy of your work like Word (autorecovery).
So I'm trying to get away from the discouragement. In the past I've put manic amounts of work into something and then lost it (like a Mac Plus SE20 with my 2.5 chapters of novel in it was stolen from my temp apartment in East Boston. Discouraging, but to be honest, I lost more of that novel to pints of Guinness than I lost to the break-in).
Maybe this will be a quarterly blog, we'll see.
I just wrote about 6 pages of material beginning with a lesson to my son (nearly 9 years old), going into an old discourse about SAME/CHANGE being the yin-yang of the subjective world, spiraling into the Gita, Evangelical Christianity, and Islam, and circling back to recycling. Available only on request. The main point (for a human audience) is that recycling is better than living in a monastery because there is this opportunity to actually subtract from catastrophic human impact on the environment. If 99 people throw aluminum cans away, the sole person who saves 100 cans can probably flush his toilet and sleep in peace.
Here's the conclusion (references to Heaven, Hell, masturbation, LSD, mitochondria's effects on universes outside hypothesized mitochondrial awareness, and redemption omitted) to the desktop blog on Spirituality and Recycling.
Way back in high school, I decided to believe that locking myself in a monastery and keeping my conscience shiny and pristine is not really adding enough value to a society as out of harmony as ours appeared to be. Instead I chose a more active, karma yoga, through measurably effective work, towards conservation of resources, and sustainability of the planet. I figured, if I had achieved sudden nirvana, and had the rest of my life to account for, that I might as well spend it recycling. So I might as well start there, and then pick up nirvana if I ran into it along the way, like Siddhartha with his ferry boat job. Recycling would pay the rent, and buys time, and makes the world better than it would be for my grandchildren if I did nothing.
Pretty soon I discovered just how much work there was to do. Because society is consuming those resources at a shocking, appalling, frightening and awing rate, it creates an opportunity to establish reversal, roll-back, or negative impact, deriving from my ability to reverse the sins of others. If 100 people throw away aluminum soda cans, I can pick the 100 cans up and save them, giving me moral standing and perhaps a “net” justification for my own consumption and lifestyle.
But if we spread the credit for recycling around among participants, then my recycling job eventually becomes a job someone else could do, and I need to find some other waste to address. Drawing a good salary at recycling may be a good “don’t blame me” alibi when my grand kids or great-grandkids are left holding the bag. “Yes, grandpa Robin, you picked up 99 cans, which probably made up for the toilet and shower you consumed that day (we are now out of water). It may even have paid for the paper you used to print out your recycling facts. But here we are, with no rainforest and a picture book of African and Amazonian wildlife next to a book of Dinosaurs (all disappeared)." At some point, the time comes to delegate someone else to pick up the cans, and we need to throw our vision and energy at a new environmental problem.
So really, recycling is just a way to produce sustainable wealth and income, a benign or symbiotic income producing method which produces wealth out of waste. That’s a good start. But the real work is in influencing or slowing the total rate of consumption.
If you believe that, fellow recyclers, then you understand that we cannot just measure our success in tons. It has to be part of a coherent story we tell our children about what we are doing. Recycling doesn't excuse us from the original, nirvana task, to foster spiritual progress, to maintain a just and fair and noble society, or to spark a creative rainbow of expressions. We should earn a living better than we could doing something extractive (like mining or cutting down rain forests) but use that platform to create Good in other concentric circles.
Recycling is not a license to be lazy, to drive drunk, or slap your kids, any more than keeping a clean house can offset cheating on your taxes, or praying in church can offset lying to your clients.
What is best about recycling is the degree to which resource consumption and resource conservation is measurable and creates a scientific common setting with religion and spiritual growth. The same could be said about organic farming, manufacturing hybrid or solar vehicles, or reducing the number of grams of mined aluminum in a soft drink tab. It is the potential for measurable karma which makes recycling careers unique. It is imperative that recycling be done honestly, in a total lifecycle analysis. If a recycling idea turns out to have environmentally perverse or unintended consequences, the recycling sage will thank the critic and change the direction.
You care enough to Change.
You care enough to Change and that sets you apart from animals which cannot change.
You actually set up systems which make it simple for everyone to change[1].
Perhaps we accept that not everyone can change, or even that everyone has to. Society has been comfortable in the past supporting a class of people, such as monks or priests, who specialize in heavy thinking and prayer and meditation (outsourcing our spirituality in an expanding and codependent economy). Some folks really really need to change, they are destroying their families and relationships through self-destructive hedonism and alcoholism… we also outsource working with those people, either to social welfare departments or to the police, it doesn’t matter that much if we don’t see it.
For my kids, it’s the most important thing to care enough to learn to change, and be honest enough to measure and monitor your change.
"The important thing for people, like the kids I'm raising, to care enough to learn to change, and be honest enough to measure and monitor the change."

When I came back from Peace Corps, Cameroon, Africa in 1987 I spent a lot of time at my grandmothers' place in Forsyth, Missouri. One of the ideas I wanted to pursue was to broaden literature by allowing thousands of digressions via "footnotes". At the time the only computer I had used was a VAX system at Carleton College in Minnesota (class of 1984), and I realized it was going to be pretty hard to do with a typewriter, but I actually tried for about 6 hours to write an essay or journal which branched out into circular and wandering digressions. I'd set a footnote but put the footnote on a new page, unattached to the other pages, and put footnotes in the footnote page, leading to other pages, trying to use a 1.1.1 type of tracking.
It was probably a symptom of manic depressive disorder. But it was a good thing.
Today, with computers and internet, you don't have to write your own footnotes, you can link to other peoples work, or when you realize a connection you can hyperlink your own work. I'm just reminiscing how "high tech" and innovative it felt at the time.
Eventually I stopped keeping journals and just wrote letters to friends. Then I stopped writing letters to friends and raised kids, but I think a lot of good ideas are getting lost. So I thought I start a blog, about environmental issues in general and recycling in particular. Then someday when my kids are big maybe I can make a book.

Oldest posts 2003-2005 Imported

First, let me stick my blog neck out and say I seem to be the only person in Vermont who is still remotely open minded about how Iraq will turn out.

Here's my thinking. The daily bombs are awful, and if it bleeds it leads the news. Photos and AP wire stories travel instantly across the globe, giving us instant feedback. I'm not callous or blind.

What I don't know is how anyone could have predicted the outcome of Japan if they were relying on information from embedded reporters in Iwo Jima.

The outcome in Iraq will be told 50 years from now. It may be horrible, I'm not saying I'm convinced it's going to turn out positive like Japan. But I'm saying you couldn't predict Japan based on kamakaze pilots and Iwo Jima suicide bombers, and I don't know how hopeful anyone could have been during reconstruction. Japan didn't have oil or any natural resources to rebuild with, and didn't treat women particularly well (the #1 indicator of GDP, I think, is women's rights).

What you can predict is public opinion of going to war or staying in a war. FDR had to repeatedly deny that he was going to aid England by sending supplies during the Nazi attacks across the Channel. 90% of Americans were against entry into WWII, and 70% even opposed sending supplies to England by boat.

When the population is unable to debate use of force, the decision to stay in a war or wage a war falls on a small number of people who are isolated, who have to tune out the din of the surrender monkeys. That's probably not a great mindset for making careful considerations of withdrawal. Maybe we should leave, or should not have entered Iraq. But if 95% of the people yelling to leave don't know what "Iwo Jima" is, it kind of enables the war machine to tune out the careful good advice commingled in the pack of reactionary withdraw cries.

Sometimes I wonder if Putin is onto something when Russia buries every headline of Chechnya and denies submarines are sunk. I would hate that, because I consider myself reasonable and well-informed. The other thing that would be bad about that is that it would strongly indicate that USA has no business being successful anywhere anyway.

A German guy told me a few months ago that if the USA had never arrived in Normandy and Italy, and had not entered the war, that the Germans would have worked it out and gotten rid of the Nazis on their own. Interesting. I tend to think Nazi German would have lasted at least as long as Stalinist USSR, and in fact USSR might still be around today if they weren't bordered by free Berlin.

Here's the problem... Taking out Germany (which did not attack USA) as long as you are going to take out Japan, because you are mobilized and have a license, was (let's say) a good thing in retrospect. Taking out Sadaam when you are already in Afganistan may have been sensible in a mideast reconstruction sense, and some of us were open minded to it without the WMA argument. The WMA argument (even the one that the price of oil was already predicted to skyrocket, and we were acting preeminently against future procurement of weapons of mass destruction by a Sadaam with 2006 oil revenue) was secondary to some of us. But we admit the WMA argument pushed the majority over the top, and without the BS claim we would have been outvoted.

That's why democracies are generally safer. It's the Catch 22 of the Iraq decision. You can't convince a democracy to install a democracy by force unless you convince the first democracy that they are under attack already.

Ok, what to do now?

Dumb Idea:

We have GPS tracking devices that are installed on animals for tracking.

USA and Iraq could put these devices on an animals, such as a large number of pooches or monkeys, or pigs, something not common in Iraq, to track them by satellite if one is reported stolen or missing.

If a bus or recruitment pickup or other work-solicitation vehicle shows up, they need to have one of the animals with them. People are warned not to get on buses without doggies or monkeys.

Maybe the same thing could be accomplished with a certain type of car or minivan which is rare in Iraq, GPS or lojack on any "red" vehicle, RFID tags would tell if the van is legitimate. But it would be more expensive than dog collars, I'm guessing.

- posted by Robin @ 1:44 AM
Thursday, July 31, 2003

This is a new "eWaste Recycler Blog" page just to help everyone understand how the export and recycling transactions work.

As of 7AM this morning I have already received 10 offers to buy used or surplus equipment or software (see part numbers below). These are all offers to pay, and include buyers across the globe - Denmark, UK, Asia, USA, Brazil.... By midnight I will typically have received 200 requests for parts and equipment. I have a backload from vacations etc. of about 2,000 offers I haven't even had a chance to read.

The point here is that there is a very legitimate repair market, and it is stronger (and I would argue, better) overseas. In South America, for example, becoming a "TV repairman" is considered something like becoming an engineer. In the USA you don't see many valedictorians going into the field.

Anyway, if I suddenly get quiet about who is exporting and to where, it is in part because I know that some of these people trading are fine people trying to repair stuff. But there is an increasing crackdown by multinational OEMs, which manufacture in developing countries. And admittedly, there is a black market - notice all the offers for software for example. They would rather see 100 legitimate repair shops close than see one repackaging used parts, or swapping used parts for new parts at one of their warehouses. The line between the "white" market -- legitimate reuse and repair, and the "black" market -- stolen goods, repackaged used equipment sold as new, and violation of EULA (end user license agreements -- see "OEM version" software solicitation below), is blurred, and referred to as the "gray market".

As multinational OEMs consider which country to invest in, they consider more than labor rates and political stability. A crackdown on the gray market is part of the package offered to foreign governments. Agencies for those governments, desperate for the OEM investment, begin to crack down on the refurbishers. Shortly before I visited China, for example, agents in Ninhai arrested approximately 100 printer/PC/toner cartridge/one-use-camera repairers, and jailed them without trial. This winds up shifting the parts recovery to the countryside.

So these countries still need parts, and in the environmental lifecycle analysis, we should feel good about supplying them. It is easier to sell the parts below hidden in a pile of scrap.

There are 2 bad outcomes -- toxics along for the ride usually refers to a contamination (mixing in a little bit of bad with a legitimate load, of copper scrap for example). In the example above, it is "goodies along for the ride". There is an incentive for the overseas repair people to get the parts they need by buying a whole load of scrap with the parts hidden underneath, avoiding high tariffs and hostile conversations with government agents.

Some USA companies are participating in this, it benefits both parties. I can get money and get rid of my scrap at the same time. But at the same time, the NEED the copper, aluminum, zinc, coltan, etc. to MAKE their new equipment. How can they ensure they can get the raw material without letting it support the gray market?

The solution: Set up "shredding" recycling operations, and companies (like printer manufacturers, who gave away printers in the 1990's hoping to sell $40 ink cartridges -- they FREAK over the used cartridge refurbishing in China). even voluntary participate in manufacturer take-back. These companies want to legitimize shredding as the best recycling method.

The other solution: Mining. The more they have to pay for copper, the greater the incentive for copper mining. Sadly, this is SUCH a high polluting industry that you could never open a mine near a populated area. Where are the new investments? Among native populations... Borneo, for example, is a hot mining area.

We need to recycle to keep mining at bay. But we need to promote reuse. The secondary market is typically 7 TIMES LARGER than the "new" product market, because 7 people out of 8 car buyers on this planet will NEVER be able to afford a new car.

So what I promote is honest bill of lading -- state exactly what is on each containerload, naming the parts on the list below, along with the copper scrap and grade of scrap. But if I sell through a broker, I don't know for sure what the bill of lading is translated into.

The honest bill of lading approach I use is very difficult. Some overseas buyers won't touch it because they are afraid of the OEM enforcement against the "gray market", and I lose customers to companies which label the load as scrap.

Enough for now. The list of parts requested at 7 am this morning is below...

ICL Dumb Terminal P420 -CE
DELL Latitude CPT (V) UK Keyboard P/N 0w023
Looking for 2 x FCE2-6412-NE or FCE2-6412-E
20 x 2.5 inch Laptop drives-20GB please
MS OEM SOFTWARE/COAs/covers & manuals with COAs.
Microsoft OEM Software in small and large quantities. Buying in areas of 5-10 or more! The
Office 2000 SBE Office 2000 PRO Office XP SBE Office XP PRO Office 97 PRO Office 97 SBE WIN 95, 98, 98 SE, 2000 PRO and XP Windows 2000 Server Windows 2000 Server +5, 10 or 25 SBE Server 2000 Works Suite 2001 Works Suite 2002 Word 2002 NT Server 4.0 NT Server 4.0 W/5 Cal, 10 Cal or 25 Cal NT 4.0 Workstation

- posted by Robin @ 5:10 AM
Thursday, July 17, 2003

I am a buffalo in a Microsoft herd. But it is a fast-running herd of elites, with a digital divide behind us.

This is the new age "planned obsolescence" described by Vance Packard. Im real-time.

Unlike the automobile, which is now available/accessible by 90% of Americans, the web superhighway is still hovering under 50%. Sell your 10 year old car, and you made an 17-year-old's dream. Sell your 10-year-old computer, and you sucked in a sucker.

It's like if a 10 year old car went at 25 miles an hour and a new car drove at 90 miles an hour.... what would happen? Would kids still learn to drive? If not, how would the american economy and demographic be changed?

A speed limit regulated detroit because people were in physical danger. No such speed limit exists on the web. Bandwidth, processor speed go to the highest bidder.

But this microsoft obsolescence thing... who said that your kids couldn't learn to drive because the used cars only go 1/2 the speed of the new cars?

Subtext? Baby boomers with stock in new PC manufacturing enjoy the planned obsolescence drive. If kids can't learn to drive on Dad's 486, they have to support stock in dad's Gateway-ibm-hp-dell portfolio.

Will a 2040 history student be able to scan my blog? I will eventually publish. Blogger is like limbo between griper and author.

- posted by Robin @ 6:26 PM

I am a buffalo in a Microsoft herd. Directions I've always gone, things I always did that worked, no longer work (drag and click text-box for example).

This is the new age "planned obsolescence" described by Vance Packard. Im real-time.

Except, look behind us. I'm following, grazing. But unlike the automobile, which is now available/accessible by 90% of Americans, the web superhighway is still hovering under 50%. It's called the digital divide. Sell your 10 year old car, and you made an 17-year-old's dream. Sell your 10-year-old computer, and you sucked in a sucker.

How long before the other drivers demand they need to browse, too? It's like if a 10 year old car went at 25 miles an hour and a new car drove at 90 miles an hour.... what would happen? Would kids still learn to drive? If not, how would the american economy and demographic be changed?

A speed limit regulated detroit because people were in physical danger. No such speed limit exists on the web. Bandwidth, processor speed go to the highest bidder.

But this microsoft obsolescence thing... who said that your kids couldn't learn to drive because the used cars only go 1/2 the speed of the new cars?

Subtext? Baby boomers with stock in new PC manufacturing enjoy the planned obsolescence drive. If kids can't learn to drive on Dad's 486, they have to support stock in dad's Gateway-ibm-hp-dell portfolio.

Will a 2040 history student be able to scan my blog? I will eventually publish. Blogger is like limbo between griper and author.

- posted by Robin @ 6:24 PM