Saturday, July 30, 2011

Beyond Surrogacy – Gathering in the Meadow at Runnymede

“If, then, the control of the people over the organs of their government be the measure of its republicanism, and I confess I know no other measure, it must be agreed that our governments have much less of republicanism than ought to have been expected; in other words, that the people have less regular control over their agents, than their rights and their interests require.”

“Funding I consider as limited, rightfully, to a redemption of the debt within the lives of a majority of the generation contracting it; every generation coming equally, by the laws of the Creator of the world, to the free possession of the earth he made for their subsistence, unincumbered by their predecessors, who, like them, were but tenants for life.”

…from Thomas Jefferson’s Letter to John Taylor, Monticello May 28, 1816

“Wherefore we will and firmly order that the English Church be free, and that the men in our kingdom have and hold all the aforesaid liberties, rights, and concessions, well and peaceably, freely and quietly, fully and wholly, for themselves and their heirs, of us and our heirs, in all respects and in all places forever, as is aforesaid. An oath, moreover, has been taken, as well on our part as on the part of the barons, that all these conditions aforesaid shall be kept in good faith and without evil intent.”

“Given under our hand - the above named and many others being witnesses - in the meadow which is called Runnymede, between Windsor and Staines, on the fifteenth day of June, in the seventeenth year of our reign.”

…from the Magna Carta, 1215

I had the privilege of gathering with about twenty five magnificent people in San Francisco last week to engage in a dialogue about the foundations of our economy. During this interaction, we considered the degree to which our social systems – from our relationships with the Earth, our fellow humanity, and with our values and the exchanges thereof – are based on surrogacy (from the Latin meaning “cause to be chosen in place of”). Surrogacy exists in a number of forms, a few of which include:
- our use of currency and notes to represent value and the exchange or accumulation thereof;
- our unconsidered, yet ubiquitous use of Aristotelian concepts of causation and regression every time we ask the question, “Why?” (y = mx +b for the mathematicians, and Why = Measured phenomenon + unexplained error for the philosophers and drunks);
- our Aquinian view of hierarchies in which someone or something is ‘responsible’ for some or all portions of our temporal and existential experience;
- our notion of dominion and entitlement in which we, without consideration, allow others to act on our own behalf to supply our unconsidered conveniences of materials, services, and animating energy / power; and,
- our use of religious constructs, narratives, and idols to absolve ourselves of present accountability for future ‘judgment’, ‘reward’, or ‘retribution’.

As we have discussed in previous essays, an accessible example of surrogacy is the relationship that takes place when one transacts a purchase with money. When I walk into a cafĂ©, I carry a few dollars, approach the counter and place an order. In the name of convenience and efficiency, I hand the money to the person at the register and, in so doing, I’m explicitly stating that with this transfer of an artifact (existing only in a consensus illusion of value without any intrinsic value), I have absolved myself of any future need or desire for any form of relationship. The matter is finished. When I receive my beverage there is no persistence of humanity between me, the clerk or the server. We’re done. But embedded within that transaction, I’ve also allowed the money to insulate me from the grower of coffee, the roaster, the shipper, the grinder, the barista – none of whom I need to consider (nor may I want to consider). Further, I require no knowledge, consciousness, or concern regarding the wood pulp pressed into a disposable cup, the resin molded to form the plastic lid nor the engineer of the espresso machine. A corollary of the notion of surrogacy is the mantra of ‘efficiency’. In our post-modern mode of detachment, the more we can insulate ourselves from our actions and the field effects thereof, the more ‘efficient’ we hail the system.

At the most superficial consideration, we may conclude that, in the frenzy of our tempo, stopping to think about the entire field effect of our actions and engagements is either impossible or unnecessary. However, I would suggest that this impulse finds itself at the root of our incapacity to effectuate a more suitable experiment with the world in which we find ourselves. Would we consume that which we do if, in so doing, we would look into the faces of all of the people that played a role in putting a good or service in our hands or at our disposal? Would we regress towards a monetary system if we could use abundance within our direct stewardship as a means of engagement and exchange? In the Magna Carta, referenced above, is it any wonder that the document is relatively neutral with respect to money but highly energized with the means of production – things like lands, forests, title, and community?

One of the structural weaknesses of our systems built on surrogacy is our ill-founded notion that somewhere there must be an expert, a guru, a master, or a diety who is watching out for, or over us. By convincing ourselves that we need to be ever outward in our quest to find sustenance, morality, or justification, we fail to understand that all externalities are merely utilities of manifestation for which personal and community stewardship can be exercised. The ‘good’ and ‘bad’, the ‘powerful’ and ‘weak’, the ‘sacred’ and ‘profane’, the ‘rich’ and ‘poor’ are but poles on a magnet – holding no intrinsic value but rather serving as attractors and repellers of energy and animation. Placing this energy and animation in the hands of others – whether through social systems, community hierarchies, or artifacts – robs each of us from our ability to fully engage in our ecosystem.

Jefferson was deeply concerned with the separation of people – as individuals and generational cohorts – from the consequence of their actions. He warned against political and religious systems that reinforce such detachment. In the Magna Carta, the barons explicitly stated that, for them to enter into agreements with the sovereign, they would take full responsibility for all of their physical and emotional impulses – both positive and negative. These sources of inspiration share a number of phenotypic similarities but, principle among them is the complete rejection of surrogacy without constant accountability from those who assign powers to a surrogate. In other words, no surrogate can work if there is not constant, informed vigilance on both the artifact of stewardship appropriated from the right holders to the custodian and the actual behavior and performance of the surrogate.

Which brings me back to San Francisco. During our conference, it became quite evident that notions of productivity and utility were unconsidered. It was clear that the difference between debt, equity, and credit were indistinguishable in the minds and lives of most of us. The principle of First Order accountability – actually consciously engaging at every level of all elements of our existence and the enablements thereof – was an inaugural, disciplined journey for all.

Not under the leadership of a master or guru, not under the banner of sovereign or politician, we the people need to reconvene at our Runnymede and reconcile ourselves to the fact that we’ve entrusted far too much with neither conscious consideration nor the means to maintain vigilance and accountability. And, having arrived at a considered review, we need to, once again, elect those things for which we’re willing to literately transfer surrogacy and those things that require our direct supervision and responsibility. As we watch events unfold this week in the madness in Congress around the nation's and the world's finance, we must all remember that we are not victims. We are those who ceded our stewardship and accountability and we now need to reclaim and animate the same.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Electromagnetic Money – A Novel…

The following post is entirely for amusement value only. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, persons living or dead is entirely coincidental. After all, sometimes, serious people like me need to have a bit of fun. Enjoy!

On July 22, 2011, the Washington Times published a report on information from a classified assessment from 2005 in which the National Ground Intelligence Center suggested that China may have electromagnetic pulse (EMP) weapons that could be used in future conflicts. This was not news. For years, China, Taiwan and others have joined the U.S. and Russia and several European states in assessing the viability of high altitude and non nuclear EMP (HEMP and NNEMP, respectively) as a means of crippling computers, communication systems and infrastructure. Like the Pakistani submarine capabilities developed using French and U.S. technology, the Chinese unmanned undersea vehicle programs which use seabed magnetism and topography for undetectable navigation and countless other systems, this ‘breaking news’ is neither breaking nor news.

In 1962 and in the subsequent years, projects like Operations Fishbowl, Starfish and others successfully tested EMP and HEMP devices with devastating effects to power grids and communication systems in Hawaii. The ability to detonate a nuclear device – and other impulse generators – and, in so doing, create blankets of electromagnetic disruption has been well known. The Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack issued its Critical National Infrastructures Report in 2008. The report details the nature of the threats and provides numerous indicators to individuals and institutions whose work is well documented. And, in recent years, Congress and the White House have publicly (if you actually pay attention) expanded budgets for shielding of Department of Defense Infrastructure.

So I was intrigued by the release, in the past week, of several reports about the Asian ‘threat’ of EMP and HEMP attacks. And I wondered whether these trickling leaks may have more to do with Leon Panetta’s June 9, 2011 confirmation hearing testimony than first meets the eye. While exceptionally well documented since the mid-2000s when the EMP commissions were organized, we’ve known about capabilities held by our nation and potential threats across the globe. However, as we’ve been nearing our unraveling fiscal crisis of confidence and accountability, the Secretary of Defense (the same man who had ample access to classified intelligence briefings of foreign and domestic capabilities at the CIA) decided to float the notion that an electromagnetic attack or cyber attack would enter military doctrine as a means to justify hostile reprisals on perpetrator states.

After taking a quick look at the GAO reports (from 2001 forward) about the infrastructure risks associated with the data centers that keep track of U.S. Treasury, Federal Reserve, and taxation records of the United States, I began to wonder if we may be building a narrative to explain one path to catastrophic resolution of our economic challenges.

Let’s take a step back. Facing a collapsing economic confidence in tandem with mounting costs of the Vietnam War, the U.S. balance of payments and trade deficits were undermining confidence in dollar investors. As foreign investors lost confidence in policies that failed to control domestic financial recklessness, many began demanding to redeem gold notes for gold. Switzerland, in July of 1971 demanded redemption of $50 million in gold. France, with considerably greater proportional exposure, decided to pursue redemption of nearly $200 million. With Congress recommending dollar devaluation during the summer and during acrimonious ‘debates’ between Democrats and Republicans, France decided to amp up their demand for the government to honor its commitment. And then, on a sultry weekend in August (really, we can’t even be creative with the dates when we choose to be dishonorable?) President Nixon closed the gold window sticking it to all of the Bretton Woods investors. Having defaulted in August 1971, Nixon began looking for a new interest who would be willing to invest in the U.S. and, lo and behold, he found an unlikely buyer – China.

Part of France’s incentive to support the dollar was the U.S. commitment to fight the war of liberation and democracy in French Indochina. When it was clear that neither the war nor our alliance with France was going to prove to be a winning strategy, we decided to target them to bear the brunt our accountability collapse and stuck them with the closed gold window. Now, in a world of digital and electronic records of trillions of dollars of Treasuries and in the face of a collapsing resolve from China to support our forty year excesses, we are beginning to condition the public to believe that China may ‘attack’ us with an EMP device. Is there a chance that we’re actually contemplating our own doomsday closure of the ‘Treasury Window’ by detonating, or inviting an erasure of the record of our obligations with, a giant EMP blast which, according to GAO reports, would wipe out considerable evidence of domestic and international financial transactions and obligations?

And wouldn’t it be convenient if, in the “I told you so record” (analogous to our post facto awareness about our terror enemies) we could show that Defense Secretaries and Directors of the CIA had been testifying that Iran, North Korea, China, or others were developing and testing EMP devices? You see, at 400 kilometers above the Earth’s surface, it’s hard to find the “Made in China” label on the side of the missile. All you see is what looks a bit like the sun. And then the power goes out, computers stop working, communications shut down, and the only thing left to work is propaganda. The whodunit story would be only told by the perpetrators / victims and the public would never know the truth. Best of all, we would have an opportunity to simply ‘forget’ that which we never intended to honor.

Measuring intent is a delicate and dangerous proposition. But, one thing’s for sure. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist (though it might be helpful if you were) to see that the recent co-emergence of default talks and the flurry of ‘news’ regarding information that was known for over a decade seem to make strange bedfellows. Having disclosed the EMP technology in patents issued to the U.S. Navy and U.S. defense contractors going back to 1969, our sudden concern seems to be responsive to some new, emerging narrative. And with the evidence of our obligations to the world’s investors all sitting in digital archives in centralized centers, and given our past willingness to default on those who assisted our economic growth, I sure hope someone’s watching the horizon a few minutes before a second sunrise over New Jersey, Virginia or Texas because following that contrail will help us figure out who erased our memory.

And if it never happens, it sure would make one killer Hollywood blockbuster…

Sunday, July 17, 2011

From Russia with Love

This week saw the economies of scarcity – manifest in the Bretton Woods denominated (and now indicted perversions of) ‘promissory notes’ – teeter ever closer to the edge of their own demise. And we saw the soothsayers scurrying about in their frantic, ghoulish orgy of empty deferral as they rushed to find yet another potion to push back the hands of time (or defer the inevitability of accountability). No August 2 fix – neither by Democrats, Republicans, nor Tea Swillers – will alter the reality that the current system of disembodied consensus irresponsibility is irreparably damaged and is ripe for transformation. So, this post is NOT about the economy of the past but the agents of transformation. Specifically, this post is about a few great people who are working to transcend the requiem of scarcity into the anthem of abundance.

Years ago, I met Ken Dabkowski who, at the time, was working at The Arlington Institute. Tireless in his dedication to take the visions of TAI’s founder and render them accessible to a larger community, Ken struggled to find a path to help humanity wake up from the discordant stupor of present illusions. As TAI downsized, I invited Ken to sojourn with M•CAM for a season while he found a meaningful path to engage his passion and his destiny.

I can’t say I know, with any precision, where we are in that process but what I can say with absolute certainty is that Ken has found a path to render visions into reality. One year ago, Ken and I spent several weeks in Mongolia. Traveling from a camel herder nomadic community in the South Gobi to the highlands of Arkhangai – the ancestral core of the great Khan Empire – we noticed that, no matter where we went, the landscape was punctuated with old Soviet installations beside which resided vast mounds of vodka bottles. In fairness, present day Mongolians are adding their fair share of new glass to these troves but, there’s no question that vodka and its associated bottle litter is more pervasive than many other fixtures across the landscape.

During our journey, we were confronted with the refrain of need for better food security and agriculture infrastructure. Occasionally we saw greenhouses that had been built by Korean aid and development agencies. However, these aluminum frames, plastic draped constructions did little to withstand the violent sandstorms – a signature of the Mongolian climate – and as a result, many stood tattered in the windy desert and plains.

Using our Integral Accounting framework, we launched a program to take the native abundance – namely, vodka bottles – and use these to build windstorm resistant greenhouses. Ken undertook to develop this project and, in less than one year, we went from idea to construction. In partnership with people like glass engineer and artisan Bill Hess, beetle-kill lumber construction engineer Greg Smith, M-ICP logistics master Nergui Dorj, the ‘SoNo’ M•CAM Heritable Innovation Trust interns (lead by my daughter, Katie Martin), UVA’s Jefferson Public Citizens student grant recipients, Professor Bob Swap and a team from the Mongolian Academy of Sciences, together with countless others, the possibility of using the legacy of Russian vodka bottles to enhance food production in Mongolia went from concept to reality. None of this would have been possible were it not for the inspired leadership of Ken.

Is it possibly the case that if we look at the unconsidered litter of our industrial frenetic consumption, we may find that we have bypassed opportunities to confront today’s challenges with yesterday’s abandoned resources? Is it possible that the foundation for tomorrow’s transformation may come from a repurposing of today’s neglect? Is it possible that we could actually begin transforming our models for future engagement by repurposing what once served to foster dependency and addiction? Maybe the vodka bottle greenhouse is an anomaly that cannot be repeated. Maybe the world’s challenges are too great to be confronted with a re-imagined view of the ignored and abandoned. But then again, maybe not. What is important is that each of you knows that there’s a phenomenal young man who inspired an international team to transform the legacy of an addictive past into a fruitful future. His name is Ken and we’re all more fortunate to know that he’s in our world.

Make sure you take a look at the amazing slideshow at the bottom of the following website:

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Let Them Eat Cake

As the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported its June 2011 employment data, I found myself nodding off in complete boredom as the pundits and economists recoiled in now predictable shock. Their much heralded recovery, it seems, was neither heralded or a recovery. Rather it was Mary Poppins-esque, you know, “if you say it loud enough, you almost sound precocious.” And yes, the several-week run up in stocks that we’ve seen is, well, in a word, a fattening for the coming slaughter. There is no data on any front that suggests that U.S. equities - save the defense industry - are ideally situated to weather the reckoning but, alas, we’re heading for a most intriguing convergence. As I have stated on several occasions, with all the haranguing about the debt ceiling, we seem to be overlooking the fact that, once issued, we need to have a buyer for the debt. There’s no question that the shuffling of a few trillion in assets in late July or early August is going to trigger another sweep by the keepers of the house as the giant roulette wheel of sovereign default continues its frenetic dervish impression.

I was intrigued by the acquiescence to national security-inspired socialism represented by the ‘no big government’ advocates who had nary a whimper when, this week, they passed the Defense budget which, for those of you who didn’t read it, is organized around the following four themes: 1) taking care of people; 2) rebalancing and enhancing military capabilities; 3) efficiencies and reforms; and 4) supporting our deployed troops. While even the most casual observer realizes that much of this $650 billion budget goes to fund pensions and health care (uh oh, sounds like pesky entitlements to me) while another significant component goes to supporting employment in key conservative Congressional districts (can anyone say ‘pork’?), it is somewhat ironic to see this budget for our ‘security’ when put in the context of the present and future enemies we seek to defend against.

With the migration of our campaign against ‘terror’ moving eastward with all eyes now on Pakistan, we are confronted with the recognition that, according to the most aggressive estimates, including all Saudi, Pakistani ISI, U.S. CIA and other covert support from the late 1990s to the mid-2000s, our official ‘terror’ enemies have a budget between $2.5 and $3.0 billion. Pakistan’s total budget – spent in part with U.S. defense contractors – is about $6.4 billion. Iran’s budget estimated at slightly over $8 billion (not including the contingent funds they may have on reserve to purchase nuclear devices from Pakistan or other armed states) is in line with other regional defense allocations. Rounding out the all Bush-proclaimed Axis of Evil states, we’re looking at a total combined threat of less than $30 billion. And in spite of our willingness to out spend our enemies by 20 times, we still seem to be philosophically and actually losing our campaigns.

To put our $650 billion in context, the People’s Republic of China’s budget is just over $100 billion with France ($62 billion), the United Kingdom ($57 billion) and Russia ($52 billion) rounding out the top five. In point of fact, if you take the top 20 nations ranked by military expenditure, the U.S. accounts for 51% of the total global budgeted defense expenditure. And, our defense industry contractors, subsidized as they are by a very generous Congress and White House, supply a considerable amount of the defense hardware and systems for the top twenty nations’ militaries. So I was particularly intrigued to see that, in the face of protected government concessions insuring their on-going profitability, the defense industry has actually been one of the top employment terminators for the 6 months ending in June. According to the Challenger, Gray & Christmas report, the defense industry has been the third most job-cutting trailing only the government/non-profit, and retail sectors.

Among the G-20, there’s no question that military expenditures have been a significant component of the economic engine in modern economies. In the past two hundred years, the largest spikes in economic activity have included expansion of defense spending. However, there is a growing chasm of uncertainty around what is happening as we see Timothy Geithner’s August 2 looming on the horizon.

One of the last times the world saw conflict-fueled indebtedness at current scale was the Napoleonic Wars. France and Great Britain took economically divergent paths to fund their campaigns with far-reaching consequences. While both France and Great Britain went deeply into debt to fund their conflicts, Great Britain’s willingness to impose austerity and tax increases, combined with their commitment to maintaining a metal standard currency, made their debt a desirable investment at home and abroad. In contrast, France’s profligate indebtedness combined with its revolutionary ‘tea-party-like’ revulsion to taxes, put its debt in dubious desirability and, in the end, resulted in greater taxation and ultimate sovereign bankruptcy.

Where does this all come together? Well, for starters, we need to understand that the fiscal conservatism which seeks to achieve financial controls with the reduction of social programs while continuing to debt-finance ‘national security’ at a rate that is ten fold greater than the sum of all of our present and contemplated foes is, in a word, disingenuous. The notion that we can stabilize our war-thirsty budget without revenue increases has, as its historical justification, Napoleonic logic. Who would have thought that our Tea Party friends would be so 19th century French? On, or about August 2, 2011, the only winners will be those who fate and ignorance have protected. However, their win will be short-lived. The very dollars they seek to control will, shortly after the 2nd, erode in value and, in the end, their role in distracting fiscal discipline may lead the public to conclude that our fears made us less secure. Congress and the White House have looked at the American people and said, “Let them eat bullets.” That’s likely to be as popular as it was for Louis XVI and his lovely bride, Marie. And, after our current monarchists have been disarticulated, our economy will be well-suited for Napoleon and his economic genius. Here’s a thought. Let’s wake up and care BEFORE this happens!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Declaration of Interdependence


Sitting on a beautiful boat in the Rock Hall marina last night I was captivated by one of the most delightfully comic July 4th dramas. Over the loudspeakers poised just inside the breakwater came the mournful strains of the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ sung in a dirge tempo followed by twangy crooners lauding their American pride. Just beyond the barge, a respectable quantity of explosives lit the night sky for a solid sparkling shower of what was probably 15 – 20 minutes. And on the bridge, a dozen of us celebrated the camaraderie of old and new friends. Anonymously assured yet clamoring for no attention in the towering skies behind the foreground antics was one of the most terrible and beautiful thunderstorms I’ve seen. With thunderheads scratching the ceiling of the atmosphere, massive discharges danced in antiphon with the Chinese pyrotechnics showering into the Chesapeake Bay. During Lee Greenwood’s ‘I’m Proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free’, the lightning was flashing once every 7- 10 seconds, ever brighter and ever higher as if to say, “Look at me. Freedom, unconstrained, can soar to the heavens.”

Those who saw the lightning – and I’m fairly certain that there were a few – probably spent their time, in the main, commenting how glad they were that the thunderstorm was passing to our southwest so as not to rain on the festivities. But as the sparks persisted, I was lost in the discharges high above finding myself reveling in the enormity of the explosive power of polarity derived from wind, water and magic. And in the midst of my thoughts, I found a path towards another window on our present state of affairs.

Sitting on the waters of the Chesapeake, so many ironies flooded into the celebration of the birth of a nation which, in no small way, has a total incapacity to understand its roots or its destiny. Our national anthem, which has no connection to the birth of the nation, is the product of Francis Scott Key’s impotent musings on board the HMS Tonnant as he sat with American Prisoner Exchange Agent Colonel Skinner in the morning hospitality of British Officers Vice Admiral Cochrane, Rear Admiral Sir Cockburn and Major General Ross. Written during the bombardment of Baltimore in September of 1814 (during the optimistically named War of 1812 despite its 3 year duration with over 20,000 casualties), the poem questioned destiny rather than its modern wistful, illiterate celebration of assurance. Entrenched as our national anthem 80 years ago by the Hoover Administration during the carnage of the Depression, it is fascinating to see our modern fervor around the hymn in the face of looming certain erosion of our confidence and arrogance.

Ironic, too, that our celebration of independence from the tyranny of George is, once again marred by our desire for independence from the tyranny of another George – this one a wayward Republican who, as spender-in-chief, led the nation in an orgy of consumption befitting a thoughtless monarch for whom we are now all paying dearly. With his court still entrenched under the current administration, we find ourselves using Chinese explosives to mark our independence from… oh, that’s right, the makers of the fireworks.

And how fitting it is that our very name, the United States of America is unraveling as state after state confronts insolvency in the face of economic mismanagement and entitlement debauchery? One wonders precisely how many horses are in the stable of the apocalypse? Mind you, this is no catastrophic world-ender event. No, this is the apocalypse of our tired illusions in which Independent Supremacy is a fallacy around which we are all supposed to stand in Roman attention.

The pen that wrote our national anthem was sitting, at peace aboard the civil hospitality of an enemy. The President who, two generations ago vainly attempted to remind Americans of their manifest destiny, used a pensive supplicant poem as our anthem rather than a rallying march of confidence. And our celebrations of independence prophetically allow Chinese technology to define our highest moment of national pride. Are any of us capable of allowing the scales to fall from our eyes and realize that our aspiration to an exalted isolation is not only self-defeating but actually worsens the pain of our coming economic and civil realignments and necessitated austerity?

Chinese and Hindu tradition is filled with parables of the futility of these narrative-imposed conflicts. Morsels of wisdom fall from a table set rich with admonitions surrounding the conflict created by self-imposed illusions. I am particularly drawn to the wisdom lessons of Sun Wu Kong (the Monkey King in Chinese mythology) who is the audacious creature who, armed with invincibility and perfect clarity, spends his early incarnations fighting heaven, nature, demons, and everything with whom he can pick a fight. While he does a capital job of wrecking havoc throughout the universe, he finds it exhausting. Ironically, when cowed by the Goddess of Mercy, he finds obedience equally exhausting. It’s not until he sees his destiny to be a catalyst for change and an inspiration towards elevated purpose that he finds his place in the cosmology of the Buddha.

And, with a final stroke of irony, this mythical figure showed up in the lightning punctuated eve of our Independence Day. Thriruvananthapuram, home of one of the notable temples to Lord Hanuman (the Hindu deity counterpart of Sun Wu Kong) was the site of an archeological unveiling this week when a team found what may be one of the largest hoards of gold, diamonds and emeralds ever found in a single location. Reports of this cache predictably characterized it as ‘worth an estimated $17 billion’ which amounts to approximately 1 percent of India’s nominal GDP or 10 percent of the nation’s total revenue for fiscal year 2010. In a country so rich with cultural and religious awareness, I found it fascinating that such a revelation would be discussed in its Occidental, monetary consequence rather than its religious and metaphysical significance.

I wonder if we can, above the din of ‘bombs bursting in air’, take a moment to reflect on the experiment that is this country. We the People, are of necessity, not Independent. We are, in fact, fully dependent on a heterogeneous world. While our politicians debate debt ceilings and limits on expenditures, we seem to neglect a pathologically obvious assumption which is NOT a certainty – namely, that our neighbors across the globe actually will continue to extend us credit. This arrogance led the Federal Reserve into its uncomfortable position of having to be the buyer for U.S. Treasuries (conveniently termed Quantitative Easing). And, we will, before August 2, be confronted with a trillion dollar conundrum. Once again, we will need to present the world with a credit-worthy story about a country which honors its commitments. So, between the beer and hot dogs, toss a little tofu on the grill, douse it with some soy sauce and ask yourself what kind of neighbor are you? Because if we want interdependence to be palatable, we’d best learn to be guests on board a ship of another flag at least for a moment. Ponder that. Xie xie, Arigato, Danke, Shokran… you get the point.