Saturday, December 22, 2007

Intelligent Report Stalls Bush March to More War

by Geoff Olson, Vancouver Courier

Published: Friday, December 21, 2007

We've been given an extension on Peace on Earth this season. It turns out--surprise!--that Iran has no WMDs, and no means to make them.

Two weeks ago, the release of the National Intelligence Estimate, an annual summary by 16 separate US intelligence agencies, revealed Tehran abandoned its nuclear program in 2003. The demonologists in the White House panicked with the revelation that their latest devil, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, wasn't fibbing. The same can't be said--surprise!--for the chief executive inquisitor, George W. Bush.

According to White House spokesperson Dana Perino, U.S. president Bush was told in August that Iran's nuclear weapons program "may be suspended." Bush was informed "the new information might cause the intelligence community to change its assessment of Iran's covert nuclear program."

Yet in spite of this briefing several months ago, Bush was talking about "World War III" soon thereafter, with similar apocalyptic rhetoric coming from U.S. vice-president Cheney. Although the NIE is a definite setback for the Bush administration, the recent discovery that Ahmadinejad is less interested in weapons of mass destruction than powering his palace train set has only shifted White House rhetoric. The supposed global threat from Iran is now hedged in a thicket of qualifiers: if, when, could, etc.

The CIA, which was left holding the bag after the neocon's cherry-picking of intelligence in the lead-up to the Iraq War, appears to have had no interest in a sequel of finger pointing. We may also be seeing some cracks appearing in the governing elite's united front. Undoubtedly some influential figures blinked in their globe-sized game of Risk--especially after Russian president Vladimir Putin told Iran's supreme leader Ali Khamenei that a U.S. attack on Iran would be regarded as an attack on Russia.

All players, China included (which is now closely allied with Russia), fear the game of brinkmanship in the Mideast could unleash the Law of Unintended Consequences like the Tasmanian Devil on meth. And what exactly is the U.S. problem with Iran, if it's not actually weapons of mass destruction? Could it be coincidence that the three members of the "Axis of Evil," Iraq, Iran and North Korea, have made past moves toward trading in currencies other than the U.S. petrodollar? Without the military enforcement of U.S. funny money as the world reserve currency, the American domestic economy would be more "house of cards" than "house of Saud."

In an online essay, former diplomat Richard Cummings summed up the sad recent history of Iran. He recalled an incident from the past, during lunch with a female friend who was attending the University of Pennsylvania. Cumming's friend happened to be the daughter of then-Prime Minister of Iran, Mohammad Mossadegh. It was a student hangout, and a waitress recognized her. "Well, I guess you'll be going home to Iraq for summer vacation," the waitress said amiably. "Iran," Rudy said. To which the waitress replied: "Oh well, whatever."

Cummings' recollection of the "whatever" response sets him off on a well-worded rant on Iran's fate. Back in the 1950s, Mohammad Mossadegh, a Jeffersonian Democrat, looked to Washington as his model for Tehran. In a spirit of populist fervour, he nationalized the oil fields out of British Petroleum's domain. The British sued in the World Court and lost, and turned to Uncle Sam to get their oil fields back. Kermit Roosevelt, the CIA station chief in Tehran, got busy, noted Cummings: "Rent-a-Mobs appeared, the CIA paid off the military, and Mossadegh fled in his pajamas." Once Mossadegh was out, the Shah ascended to his Peacock throne, with all dissent violently stifled by paramilitary forces. Iran became one of the world's greatest violators of human rights.

The Law of Unintended Consequences arrived in the form of the scowling fundamentalist Ayatollah Khomeini, who renationalized the oil fields and gave the green light to the embassy hostage taking. It was the first "emboldening" of Islam, setting the world on the present course of dueling theocracies. All the result of Anglo-American provocation, and the stillbirth of democracy in Iran. And then there was the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, with Britain and the U.S. playing off both sides through military aid.

Cummings' essay, "Iran, Iraq, Whatever," is a sobering lesson about power politics masquerading as goodwill toward men. But with the release of the NIE report, plans for an insane upgrade to the "clash of civilizations" appear to have been shelved, at least for the time being. Peace on Earth is always a work in progress

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Believe Nothing

"Believe nothing, no matter where you read it or who has said it, not even if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense."- Buddha

The Centre for Public Integrity in the U.S. released a statement recently that North American society is at it's lowest point of trust in government and companies since the 1930's. How did we get to this point you might ask and what are the events of the day that continue to cause us to spiral down the path of total disillusionment.

First of all we have been lied to by the very people we have entrusted with our well being; the pillars of society, government leaders, employers, ministers, and sports heroes, Here is the rogues gallery of those who have fallen from grace.

Let's begin with the Presidents of the United States. I say Presidents, because this business of lying to it's citizens didn't start with George W. Bush. Bush is in our face now, but let's not forget Bill Clinton's famous statement; "I did not sleep with that woman", to "tricky Dickie Nixon and Watergate, to George Bush Snr. and the Saudis', cover-up after cover up. Deny, Deny , Deny is the message that is most heard around the White House, the corporate world, the husband or wife who is cheating on you, the minister in the church who is having sex with a male prostitute or our sports heroes; from Olympic stars to baseball stars who deny their use of performance enhancing drugs. Deny, Deny, Deny!

Little doubt that morality and truth have been replaced by lying, cheating, and doing whatever it takes to either succeed in business, sports, politics or the pursuit of the American dream . To win at life! And Canada is not immune. This week we were shocked to learn that Brian Mulroney, the former prime minister had taken a bag full of money from a German businessman in exchange for some favours. But are we really shocked. If this had happened in the 1950"s, yes indeed there would be shock. But we are so immune today to the notion that someone did something wrong, that we feel it's almost acceptable. It's called "lobbying".

Even the American congress has decided they can't stop the lobbyists from influencing public officials, so they are in a sense legalizing it by introducing legislation that tells lobbyists they can't have sit down dinners with people of influence in congress, they must stand and only serve appetizers. So it's okay to pay someone off with a "vote" in exchange for that government defence contract, as long you have appies'. That's it, and oh one more thing, you have to say that you are inviting everyone, rather than a specific guest list.

So, is it any wonder that whatever comes out of the candidates mouth for this election, you know that $29 million dollars is buying a lot of votes and favours. Wall Street and the White House are joined at the hip. Even Oprah's star status and bags of money aren't enough to give Obama a makeover, so he becomes a man of the people rather than being owned by the $25 million plus given to him by corporate self interest groups. Make no mistake about it the black family on welfare in Harlem is not on Obama's targetted donor list. The facts: 96 percent of Americans don't contribute to political campaigns at all. The wealthiest elements of the U.S.are sustaining and sponsoring the political process and its actors. What this means is you get a government that is essentially bought and paid for by the powerful interests affected by those decisions. "Sometimes it's like forcing people to drink castor oil. People don't really want to get bad news. But information is power. Until you find out the truth you can't dig yourself out of the mess.- Charles Lewis founder of the Centre for Public Integrity.

And speaking of actors, why does it take an actor like Brad Pitt, driving around on a bicycle in New Orleans to re-build the homes lost by Katrina. Only in America, can you get Larry King the Godfather of Gossip to go to New Orleans to interview Pitt like he's an American hero. With the billions spent on the war in Iraq you would think the congressman representing that district could find a few milllion to help the people who voted for her/him. Oh yes, I forgot they weren't on the guest list for appies'

When a candidate says they have the citizens interest at heart they are smoking weed or actually believing their own lies and the script from their campaign manager. Power does funny things to you. It either makes you corrupt, ruthless, cunning and narcissistic or it grooms you for a higher purpose. Unfortunately, we are in the midst of a tremendous good and evil struggle, the continuing insanity of a system that is corrupt and broken and needs to be fixed and exorcised. The only hope I feel is with my 5 year old grandson, who questions everything and believes nothing unless it agrees with his own reason and common sense

And so, we read the headlines in the paper; Major league baseball players lie about using steroids. The list is printed, and everybody denies. George Bush tells everybody that Iran has a nuclear bomb. The U.S. led investigation discovers that they have no bomb. Bush denies, and says "okay, well maybe they will have one day, I still all want you to fear them, and support me if I invade. Bush lies about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. "Okay, maybe I was wrong, but we are there now, so let's win, because you now we Americans hate to lose, whether it's a war or the super bowl. The facts; 3, 500 young lives lost , because George W. wants to win the game before he leaves. And here's more insanity, Bush gets on the radio/tv and tells the American people that this drug thing has tarnished baseball, the American pastime we have all grown to love. Here's a concept George, release a statement saying that you have single handidly destroyed the faith and trust of the office of the President , which we have all held in high esteem since the American revolution.

Your boss tells you that you are a great employee, rewards you for 25 years of service with a watch, and when you hear rumors of a possible takeover of the company he denies this and tells everybody their job is safe. Next year the company is bought by an off shore conglomerate. They announce they are cutting staff for the bottom line and to please their shareholders by saving money. You are given two weeks to empty your desk.

Every day somewhere in the world these things are happening. Telling a lie is now an acceptable form of denial. Telling the truth is more of an exception and treated with a query; "why are you telling me this, is there a motive here, what do you want from me, I don't believe you, you're just saying that,, what do you really mean, is there a method to your madness.".

It's no wonder that we are all a little bit confused, and so when I got this card from a very good friend, I couldn't help but notice the message from the Buddha, and so it made sense to share it, particularly because today is Sunday, a day of contemplation, and prayer. So here is my prayer; that all of you will take this message into your week, and ask only one question of yourselves and everyone you have a business or personal relationship with, when they are done speaking, don't be afraid to ask them this question; "So what part of this is a lie? Your fear is that they might tell you something you don't want to hear- the truth!

If you do nothing more for the rest of your life other than"speak your truth" and ask that fundamental question, you will always know what and who to believe in. I believe in my grandson because he always tells me when he is not telling the truth, he says, "Just kidding Grandpa". Maybe it's time for adults to start kidding instead of lying!

Friday, December 14, 2007


Can Anybody Save the World?

I’ve noticed those full-page ads in The New York Times on Sundays this summer, with the big, bold headline “YOU CAN CHANGE THE WORLD.” While I have many friends who believe in that credo, I didn’t think they had the $100,000 to fork over to see their sentiment in newsprint. Actually, the ads were taken out by Starbucks. Being insanely scared of a potential coffee addiction, I’ve probably had a half-dozen cups of joe in my life so I’m no devotee of Starbucks. But I will say I’ve always admired the pluckiness of the firm, whether it’s giving generous benefits to employees or venturing into the lifestyle-and-entertainment genre. Yet this ad gave me a partial scowl. I’m starting to get a little tired of the ubiquity of social responsibility and the marketing machine that’s hitting us over the head with corporate do-goodism.

Are there no more bad guys in the business world? Yeah right, that’ll be the day.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m a karmic capitalist at heart, believing a long-term (karmic) approach to business can create positive improvements in the world. But when I recently googled “change the world,” I came across rocker Joan Jett's “Cadillac Story” at the top of the sponsored links. How can an Escalade create positive change in the world? The ad men are up to their old ways.

So we have a good problem: PC pollution (and I don’t mean the personal-computer kind). Every business out there knows it needs to be perceived as Politically Correct. Otherwise it’s at risk of becoming a stock-market dog like Wal-Mart. So Joe and Mary Customer start getting a little confused. Who should they believe? Is that Gap ad campaign featuring the RED merchandise a good thing because it suggests a small portion of proceeds goes to a worthy cause? Or is it a bad thing because it’s a crass attempt to get people to buy things they don’t need, which just adds more crap to the planet?

I don’t have the answer, but I do believe we’re likely to see a big shift in the next five years that will help Joe and Mary see beyond the PC BS.

The No. 1 change we’ll see in the socially responsible business world will be transparency. It’s already happening, as smart companies are opening their books, processes and boardrooms to activists and journalists to show that these companies aren’t just bluffing with their ad campaigns. While the stock-market world has had social indexes like Domini for years, the consuming public hasn’t had any “Good Housekeeping” seal of approval that globally says, “This company walks its talk.” A number of savvy folks are in the process of creating those seals of approval and I welcome them because it will be a nice filter for all the socially responsible advertising clutter we’re starting to see.

In sum, can you truly change the world? No, not by yourself, but that doesn’t mean you don’t try. I’m encouraged that the business world has jumped on the bandwagon en masse, but let’s see how long some of those companies stay on the bandwagon when they realize real responsibilities come with looking responsible.

Given the big shift in leadership we’re likely to see in the next 10 years with the retirement of the baby boomers, I’m optimistic that the new crop of business leaders I meet when I speak at business schools is a world away from what I experienced as an MBA student nearly a quarter-century ago. This breed doesn’t just believe we should change the world; it knows the devastating consequences of not revising our collective habits would be devastating.
Chip Conley is founder and CEO of a chain of boutique hotels and author of Peak: How Great Companies Get their Mojo from Maslow (Jossey-Bass, 2007).

Three Cheers for the fourth-sector economy

Last year, Google’s directors took a step that did not get much attention but could take our social/political/economic world to the next level of maturity. They decided that the most important thing to do with the firm’s philanthropic dollars was not to set up a charitable foundation (although they did that also), but to establish another for-profit company dedicated to the good of humanity and nature. They put a billion dollars into, the firm’s philanthropic arm, to be invested in companies that can either make or lose money as long as the common good is advanced. Any profits remain in the company to do more for the common good. is one of the projects supported by It produces plug-in electric vehicles that reduce the need for gasoline because they recharge themselves overnight through the domestic electricity grid. All Google company cars are now RechargeIT cars.
The first corporations founded in America were what I call “common good corporations.” To build a bridge, for example, a town meeting established a separate organization called a “corporation.” The minimum amount that could be loaned to it was very small, so each person in town could buy at least one “share.” The bylaws stated that decisions would be made by a majority of shareholders. In this way, the democratic process of the town meeting was sustained in the corporation. The wealthy bought more shares; the poor bought one share. The corporation was managed by a board of “trustees” responsible for managing the bridge-building corporation for “the common good.” When the tolls paid off all the loans, the corporation ceased to exist.

Today, the highest priority of corporations is the financial interests of a few; decisions are made by one vote per share, not shareholder; and these corporations stay in existence as long as they choose. This is a nearly complete reversal of the priority and structure of the original corporation, contributing no benefit to the social structure.

I believe could supply a visible return on the moral values of the corporate world, and help define what I call a mature fourth sector in society. Currently, the three main sectors are government, for-profit companies and non-profit organizations. The fourth sector consists of businesses that have social agendas. A mature fourth sector would be one in which the highest priority is the common good without limits on how to express it. Mature fourth-sector firms would impose reasonable limits on equity returns, with all excess profits permanently set aside and managed for the common good.

Financial planners tell their clients the goal should be an 8 to 11 percent return on their investments. Companies could cap their returns at 12 percent. One of the initial priorities could be to put any excess capital into common-good investment funds that buy successful companies and convert them into common-good corporations. These firms could establish joint ventures, eventually making it possible to buy multinational corporations. Once one multinational in a market sector is bought by a common-good fund, it will be in the financial interests of shareholders in the remaining firms to sell quickly to the common-good funds, since the last companies in the market sector to sell would receive less for their shares. In this way, all multinationals could eventually become common-good corporations.

Will this be one of the peaceful paths to a global moral order that builds on individual freedom and a free market economy? I hope so. Every time I see companies like come into existence, I am going to step outside my front door and give out a big cheer. I invite you to join me. I look forward to the day when people often hear their neighbours stepping out their front doors and cheering, like I am sure those early American townspeople did when they finished their bridges.
Terry Mollner is president of the Trusteeship Institute in Shutesbury, Massachusetts, a founder of the Calvert Social Investment Fund and a member of the board of Ben & Jerry’s

Democratic Capitalism

Last year, when Muhammad Yunus won the Nobel Peace Prize, millions of people around the world learned of the miracles that banks serving the poor could deliver. It was a well-deserved honour for Yunus, and a great reminder of what microloans and other slight tweaks to “business as usual” can mean to hundreds of thousands of disenfranchised people. Yunus’ Grameen Bank is a marvelous example of the potential of community lending, the third leg of the stool for socially responsible investing. (The others are setting standards for what shares we will buy and entering into dialogue with companies we own.) For large populations around the globe, “the triumph of capitalism” has meant no improvement to personal well-being. Even in wealthy nations, large pockets of poverty are scattered throughout crowded and crumbling inner cities and hard-hit agricultural areas. Around the globe, many people are able and willing to work, but have little opportunity.

Access to capital is an essential component of building healthy communities. But capital is not always available to the poor. Banks are driven by the desire to be ever more profitable. Since a $600 loan and a $6 million loan take about as much effort from the bank, and have a vastly different impact on the bottom line, the bank opts for eliminating smaller customers.
In addition, poor people seeking a loan often appear suspicious or quirky to bankers. For example, let’s look at the case of a mobile-home park where an old couple running the operation wants to retire by selling the land. Between them, the owners of these mobile homes may have enough income to buy the land with a loan to be paid back over a reasonable period of time. But banks don’t lend to new co-operative ventures. They lend to a person or a corporation with good credit. Since no single person living in the mobile-home park can guarantee the payments, there can be no loan.

Community-oriented financial institutions have come about as an answer to this problem. Such institutions may be a bank (or a bank branch) dedicated to making loans that boost the community and alleviate poverty. It may be a credit union, created perhaps by a church or community group, that loans money only to its own members and only for the purpose of building healthier neighbourhoods. It may even be a non-profit group, set up to borrow from caring people and lend to those in need.

Support for these kinds of community-development financial institutions is one of the ways sustainable or socially responsible investing can be approached. At Domini Social Investments, we have a fund that purchases bonds, backing up community institutions that make microcredit loans globally; we purchase insured deposits that support poor populations; we even use activist tools to help the community-development world.

Community-development loans have an important place in socially responsible investment portfolios, allowing investors to participate directly in relieving poverty and—unlike philanthropy—enabling them to keep their money even after using it this way. Most important, such loans offer evidence that finance can be used to alleviate poverty and create universal human dignity. Nowhere is the connection stronger than it is when investors support these grassroots lending organizations, be they microcredit institutions like Grameen Bank in Bangladesh or community-building groups like Latino Community Credit Union or the Self Help Credit Union, both in North Carolina.
Amy Domini is the founder and CEO of Domini Social Investments, and author of several books on ethical investing.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Greenwashers make BBB's scam list

Environmental fraudsters join identity thieves, fake health claims, Web ripoffs.

Andrew Duffy, Victoria Times Colonist. Published: Thursday, December 13, 2007

VICTORIA -- The names may change, but the scams remain the same.
That's how Valerie MacLean sums up the annual release of the year's biggest scams and fraudulent practices, this year entitled the Better Business Bureau's Dirty Dozen Scams.

"The scams seem to repeat year after year, but what changes is the method of transmission and how they get to you," said MacLean, executive director of the B.C. Crime Prevention Association. "Take greenwashing and carbon-credit fraud. The interesting thing about that is it's the usual fraudsters capitalizing on current events, and right now anything green is a hot topic...."

In some cases it's as simple as companies falsely claiming their products are green, or air travellers paying a premium to offset carbon usage, although there's often no proof anything is done once the money is paid.

"No one checks into them and where the money is going. Sometimes, it's just an outright money grab," said Mayo McDonough, executive director of the BBB on Vancouver Island.
Greenwashing made the list for the first time at No. 5 behind false health claims, identity theft, home-repair rip-offs and affinity fraud -- in which scammers gain the confidence of a group and gets them to invest en masse.

"We put greenwashing up high on the list this year because it's brand new, but I would say identity theft is the biggest one we hear about," McDonough said. MacLean agrees. "It can come back to haunt you years down the road, and it can take years to restore your credit."
The bogus cheque overpayment scheme came in at No. 6. This scam sees buyers sending fraudulent cheques or money orders for more than a product is worth, and asking the seller to send them the excess cash back.

No. 7, is Internet fraud, where websites and e-mails ask for personal banking information for nefarious purposes, and No. 8 is the well-known Nigerian letter scam where people are asked to send money with the promise of a big payout down the line.

No. 9 is the bogus charity scam where fraudsters create an organization that sounds legitimate but has nothing but greed on its mind. No. 10 is unscrupulous moving companies that use hidden fees or, in some cases, hold your goods hostage until you pay their new bill. And No. 11 is the resort vacation promotion where people are promised exotic packages for free or at low cost only to be hit with a slew of hidden charges and a trip that is anything but first-class.

Finally, No. 12 is debit and credit card skimming, which sees fraudsters stealing your PIN without your knowledge.

MacLean and McDonough say education is key and websites like theirs identify latest scams

Innovation: 5 Things Customer Service Can Learn from SANTA CLAUS

Customer relationships are conversations, and customer service is the new marketing. One very important part of conversation is the spirit in which we approach it. In many ways, children got it right -- they approach every wish as possible. What do you want to be when you grow up? An astronaut!

The other important part of conversation is listening. What would you like Santa to bring you this year? Is the often unspoken question children begin to think about right about now when it gets chilly outside (well, in my part of the world) and signs of the holidays are starting to be everywhere you turn. Children look clearly into your eyes and tell you they are making their list for Santa.

Let’s take a look at five things that customer service can learn from Santa Claus:

1. Santa exists in the minds of those who believe in him. It’s the same for corporations. No matter what you think you are, you're only what your customers believe you to be.

2. Santa knows what kids want. Customers aren't children (usually!). But think about the last conversation with your best client. Was it about something they wanted -- or you?

3. Santa reads your list. More importantly, he checks it twice. What's worse than missing the opportunity to delight your customer? Letting a sloppy mistake ruin it. Accuracy is the star of your marketing team.

4. Santa rewards good behavior. In these days of increasingly compressed budgets, it's certainly easy to justify skipping the little things: sending a valued client a nice holiday gift, rather than the cheapest thing that will hold a logo. These economies are false savings.

5. Santa delivers -- every single time. Check the history books and you'll find Santa has never sent his regrets due to scheduling difficulties or bad flight weather. Find your Rudolph. Being there isn't half the battle. It's everything.

"Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.” Or there should be, when it comes to customer service. And, just like Christmas, the spirit of customer service excellence really should go on long after the wreath is boxed and you've taken the tree to the curb.

Regardless of which holiday you celebrate this month, may your days be filled with success, and your homes with peace.

Valeria Maltoni • Conversation Agent • Philadelphia, PA •

Thursday, November 22, 2007


On Monday at approximately 3:00 p.m. my life suspended, literally and figuratively. It was shortly after I entered an elevator …there was a thud, blackness, and people yelling is anyone in there, that I realized something had gone very wrong. My first frightening thought was that it was an earthquake, as everyone has been saying “we are overdue for the big one”. I thought this was the big one, and that everyone would be leaving the building not realizing that I was alone in the elevator suspended in mid air, not knowing if it would catch fire or plunge downward. My first instinct was to pound on the door, which I did- and hollered for help. I heard the faint sound of a woman’s voice, saying; “Is anyone in there”?. I said “yes”, she said “are you alone”, I said yes, and she told me there had been a power failure and that they were calling the fire department to get me out.

What happened in the next 1 ½ hours was very interesting. First of all I must tell that you whatever God or the universe had in mind for me that day was unknown, all I can tell you is that normally I park at a parking meter for this regularly scheduled meeting and today for some reason I was directed to an empty spot on the next street that had unrestricted free parking., and no time limit. Oh yes, and one more thing, I always take my cell phone with me, but that day I forgot it. So you can now visualize the picture, no cell phone, and total blackness, alone in the elevator suspended between floors.

How many of us are literally and metaphorically “suspended in life”. We are a moment away from very real things happening to us. We walk across the street on a sunny day….a car passes another and doesn’t see you in the crosswalk and in the blink of an eye you are gone. A hi-rise window washer in his daily routine is washing windows on the 45 th floor…suspended in mid air, loses his balance and his harness breaks and he plummets to his death. You are on your ski holiday, and riding the ski lift, suspended in mid air, the lift line breaks and you fall to your death. You are on a flight to Mexico for your holidays, suspended in the air and in mid flight, the plane develops a problem and has to crash land. What are you thinking in these “real life” moments.

I have now been through two of these life altering experiences, and so have lived to tell you about them. A number of years ago, I was on a flight to California, and as I usually do, because of my height took the exit row seat. Of course, as you all know that’s the emergency door, and so you have to assist in an emergency. An emergency you think will never happen. And how many times have you listened to the same boring speech of the flight attendant on what to do in an emergency. I just put on my head set and read and ignore her. Well that day was different. I got a tap on my shoulder and the flight attendant asked three of us to come to the back of the plane, she had something to tell us. She said the landing gear was stuck and we were going to have to make an emergency landing in Sacramento, because they had a long runway.

Those moments before the landing are the same moments I felt in the elevator. My God this is “really happening”, this is not a movie. I might die. So you begin to take an inventory of your life and what you thankfully did before you died.

I thought well at least I had seen my grandchildren that past weekend, played with them, enjoyed them and stayed an extra hour, maybe that’s a sign--God wanted me to have a little more time with them. I kissed my daughter goodbye, and remembered it was a special endearing hug and kiss. not just one of those pecks on the cheek that we all rush around giving--not pausing to really enjoy the moment. She was holding my granddaughter when all three of us hugged--it was special.

Next, I thought about all the people I helped at work that day to accomplish several tasks for a project. The day had gone really well and I felt that I had been of value, so if that was the last day of my life I had at least fulfilled my purpose of being in service. I thought about the unresolved issues with my son, and how sad it would be that I would have to die-- for him to make peace with me. I had always thought that that might happen, but I didn’t want to wish for it, because as the old adage goes, “be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it”. I thought about joining my Dad who had passed away three years ago, and what our reunion would be like, because our relationship was strained before his death. Then I thought about the fact I had just had a reunion with an old friend, and how special that was, as I hadn’t heard from him in about ten years, and thought we might not ever do this again as he was going back to Israel.

Then I began to think of my partner in life, she was at home, not knowing what was happening. If I had a cell phone, I could at least call her to say I loved her and I’m sorry for not completing that will we were supposed to do. I kissed her goodbye in the morning before I left, but it didn’t feel any different, like a last kiss, so maybe it’s not supposed to end this way.

The light came back on in the elevator, but it didn’t move and the whole building went silent. And so I began to say to myself you have to do something, and so I did. I meditated and prayed. I called for my guides, I called for my father to come and lend a hand, and I let go and turned it over to a higher power, and basically said I have no control over this, I am completely in your hands. Within minutes, I heard a fireman at the door. “We are going to try and get you out”. They tried to break the door down, but it would not budge. “He said we can’t get you out, but I am leaving “Taylor” here to be with you and to talk to you. Are you okay? I said okay as long as there is an air supply in here, which there was. Taylor stayed with me till the elevator mechanic came….suddenly at precisely 4:10 p.m. I heard the door opening, looked up and saw Taylor and the elevator mechanic. Only problem was they were on the third floor and I was staring up at them in an elevator shaft between the second and third floor. They still would have to pull me up to where they were. I’m 6’4” 235 lbs, and never felt so helpless. I needed faith in that moment, and as I had just done for the past 1 ½ hours-- turned it over. They grabbed my arms and lifted me up. Very symbolic…looking skyward…my feet hit the floor and I was alive. I had landed safely again.

In a matter of minutes I was up and out, and out of the building, breathing fresh air, but feeling differently again as I always do from these life altering events. I have had so many I’ve lost count. But I do know this --that each time it happens I think of my life as moments of time. What we do with those moments are very very important. It puts everything in perspective; life, work, friends, family…each of them share moments of time with us.

Is your life suspended, do you feel that you are a victim of time spent without connection or meaning; money spent without satisfaction, work accomplished and feeling good about it only temporarily, kissing and hugging your significant other each morning and night with a sense of rote, familiarity, but lacking in warmth and connectedness, are you planning to wait for your future to take care of your unfulfilled dreams. Do these thoughts always resonate for you; When I get enough money I will… When I retire I will….When I find a soul mate I will…..When the kids grow up I will….. When I win the lottery I will….. So much of what comprises the media and the American Dream, is just that dreaming.

I have begun to live my life in reality, and the reality is that at any given moment, at any given time in your life, you will die. And the other reality is we don’t know when that will be. Living your life in suspension is like buying yourself a box of Godiva chocolates and then just leaving it wrapped and looking at it every day. Commit to the moment, because that is all you have. Do something and everything while you can now. Speak your truth, tell your story, heal wounds, live your passion, love everyone, trust a few, and hurt no one. Don’t wait. This one is not on your schedule. Let it go, give it up, stop fighting to be in control. This is one battle you will lose. And above all, don’t give up living!

Oh and by the way, when we did successfully land the plane in Sacramento, everyone rushed to praise the pilots, but the pilots looked skyward and thanked someone else. I thank God for getting me out of that elevator. However I think the real reason was to tell you my story and to give you the message. I have now done my part; the rest is up to you.

Monday, October 08, 2007


Today is Thanksgiving in Canada. A day that traditionally means the giving of thanks. I thought I would use this as an opportunity to share what I am most thankful of, and most importantly what I am most grateful for.

Today more than ever I am grateful to be a Canadian. Why, because I see what the rest of the world is becoming. It's not pleasant. I am saddened to say that for the first time in my life I am happy that I did not make the decision to remain in the U.S. after I graduated from College. I am grateful to the University of Montana for giving me a chance to get a college education when no Canadian University would accept me. I am grateful for the opportunity to obtain my Bachelors degree and for them accepting me into the Masters program in Sociology.

Today more than ever I am grateful for my American friends and relatives, all of whom are sickened by what has happened to their country, but feel powerless to to able to do anything about it. I am grateful to Paul Wiley and The Book Tree Publishing, an American publisher in San Diego who has the faith and belief that Zentrepreneurism is a book that needs to have a voice and that the time is know for the American community to hear the message. They will be publishing my book in paperback in 2008. No Canadian publisher was interested. This speaks volumes on why an American gets things done , while a Canadian makes decisions by committee.

And so the paradox, I love to be doing business in the U.S., I love my American friends and relatives, and hate America and what it has become. George W. Bush, may in fact go down in history as not only the worst President in U.S. history, but will also be remembered for what he did to destroy the "soul" of the American people.

Today I am grateful for being able to speak my truth, in public, and in this blog. The monks in Burma have not had that privilege, and my heart goes out to them. Being grateful also comes with responsibility, to be grateful also means we are humbled first. Being humbled allows us to appreciate what we have, not what we don't have. I have been humbled so many times I have lost count. The important thing is that we stop and take notice each time we are humbled. If we don't we have learned nothing. Today I am grateful for being humbled and for the privilege of being able to see another flower, take another breath, touch another's hand, feel the warmth of another sunny day, and embrace my grandchildren, for yet another day.

Today I give thanks, yesterday I was humbled, and tomorrow I ask for yet another day!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Competition and Zen

What is the Zen reaction to competition in the business world? The traditional model makes competition "the enemy", but the reality is that few businesses are so closely aligned with their competitors products and services that they are even reemotely a commercial threat. Further, a more zen approach to business immediately widens the gap in both products and service between the zen company and any competition, since few companies understand the way a zenentrepreneurial approach to business rapidly moves a business to a higher level significantly immune to competitive pressures.

I can quite honestly say that there is no real competition to my group of companies. Sure there are companies that import and sell food products, there are distributors everywhere ... but the essential elements that define Qualifirst also separate it from the pack. It frees up a lot of time when you drop any shackles of competitive fear. When you take the economic future of the people that work with you seriously and address financial needs fairly and insist on serious work, most people respond.

Happy people do not move to other companies and happy people make the company thrive. Turnover is - after all - people leaving, ... for a reason. It is both logical and Zen for business owners and managers to tackle the reasons people leave rather than get mired in the tarpits of recruitment. Alaska Airlines did this and discovered they were actually hiring 5% of their staff on a continuous basis. This costly churning of resources was stopped its tracks when psychological tests were added to the recruitment to ensure the people hired were fundamentally oriented towards the customer rather than ego-centric. Turnover dropped like a stone in a pool of water.

You spend your time on doing better rather than watching your neighbour for signs of prosperity. I wish people in the industry well, even if they sell into my customers similar products. In most cases I have the better product and "the high ground". I will take the high ground, in both quality and behaviour, every day of the week instead of an extra few thousand dollars. Every one of my competitors have some redeeming features, and I assure you many have horror stories, which I ignore. I wish them well, and since I have absolutely no input into how they behave, I avoid critical comment unless asked.

I recently spent a considerable amount of time lecturing a friend of mine on how to organize and international import export company. The owner was so impressed, she flew in from Germany to see this strange person and sit in one of the sessions where I went into some detail about how to run this kind of business. Time well spend? On the surface ... no. Zentrepreneurism is not about the surface, but about the depths of business ... and freely helping people creates business undercurrents of surprising strength.

-Yves Farges, Founder/CEO Qualifirst Foods

One hell of a woman and her mosquito

I've just been told that the woman in whose hands the world would always change for the better passed away. At 64, much too early, Anita Roddick, left us. What a brave soul she was, never afraid to address the painful issues in our societies. She was never interested in being politically correct or in even being sensitive to her audience, she would just speak from her heart. She fought injustice with all her energy and passion.

What a drive she had...! There were only a very few bridges too far for her. She got far, very far, because she dared to cross whatever challenge was in front of her. From a tiny shop in Brighton, she created, together with her husband Gordon, one of the first companies - The Body Shop - that really did business just for social change. Yet for me, the most important part of her legacy is not her company - it is the simple fact that every individual can indeed change the world. "Just do it", could have been her tagline. So she lived. No regrets.

Well, perhaps one, she said to me a few years ago. In hindsight, she would have never let The Body Shop go to the stock exchange. In the end, that decision made her instrument for social change part of the world of money and that meant that ultimately The Body Shop had to play by its rules. There is probably nothing that frustrated her more.

I remember the time she cooked a spaghetti dinner for me in her home in the English countryside (she was always proud of her Italian roots). That evening, I tried to convince her about the importance of the media being more positive and more optimistic to inspire and stimulate people. She listened as well as she could, but I could tell I wasn't really reaching her. In her eyes and thoughts I could read too much other pain and global injustice that needed her energy. And, I felt at the moment that she was probably right. The world needs troublemakers to stand up for the issues that we all know that we need to fight for but that few of us actually do.

The world needed Anita Roddick. The world still needs us to stand up for the good causes that keep calling us. When it came to spreading the word – about Ode Magazine, about anything, and whether or not the size of a campaign would matter, she would always say, "If you think you're too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito."

There will be places where people will feel a sense of relief because they now know that they will never again be confronted by Anita's passion. Let's make a vow that we will stand there in her name. I will.

- Jurriaan Kamp, Publisher Ode Magazine

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Political Exploitation of Science

I have a fundamental belief in two sides to every story. So it is not suprising that I came across this rather interesting perspective from an author who has to remain nameless, beause I can't find the source. This is not my writing, so everything here needs to be quoted from an unamed source. It does however offer up significant arguments that make sense when it comes to the "global warming" debate, and the political and corporate opportunists that have been capitlaizing on fear and paranoia. It simply looks good when you are green! It's a long read, but worth the time.

"The exploitation of climate science for purely political goals is occurring throughout the developed world. For example, politicians in Canada have started to ban inexpensive and convenient technologies such as light bulbs, coal fired electricity generation and used oil heating to "stop climate change." They can't show how the alternatives being promoted will actually help the environment – we are expected to simply believe that such sacrifices for the climate will benefit us all, even if real pollution levels rise, food prices increase as agricultural land is converted to biofuels production and millions of birds are cut to pieces by wind turbines.

‘Believe' is the key word here, not ‘think'. Even the United States, previously one of the last bastions of common sense in climate wars, is being swept up in this dangerous movement. Besides the rise of ex-Vice President Al Gore to the status of climate change ‘superstar', rhetoric has reached a fever pitch in the U.S. Senate now that an environmental extremist, Senator Barbara Boxer of California, has taken over as Chair of the powerful Committee on Environment and Public Works. Exposing her extraordinary naivetĂ© Boxer maintains, "The American people have the will to slow, stop, and reverse global warming, and they sent a new cast of characters to Washington, and people are really hopeful that this new Congress will be able to do it." Claiming Gore as her hero, Boxer has even initiated an "online thank you card to Al Gore… -- thanking him for everything he has done to stop global warming!" To date, it has attracted over 77,000 endorsers.

Along with Vermont Senator Bernard Sanders and a handful of other Democrats, Boxer is promoting the ludicrously titled "Global Warming Pollution Reduction Act", also referred to as the" Sanders/Boxer bill, S.309". The phrase ‘global warming pollution' is wildly inappropriate but is used repeatedly by Gore, Boxer and others in the hopes that the public will look upon their actions as honest attempts to help the environment by reducing pollution. In reality, the major target of the act, Gore's crusade and other futile attempts to ‘stop climate change' (e.g. the Kyoto Protocol) is carbon dioxide (CO2), a gas essential to life and in no way a pollutant.

Using the sweeping and more threatening sounding term "greenhouse gases" (of which CO2 is only one), environmental alarmists clearly hope the public don't wake up to the fact that they are really speaking mostly about the benign gas CO2. While many politicians know very well that CO2 emission reduction is pointless and will have little if any impact on climate, some truly don't know the difference between CO2 and pollution – witness the Boxer-like statement of Canadian Liberal MP Joe Volpe before entering the House of Commons to vote in favour of Canada's ratification of Kyoto in 2002, "For all intents and purposes, there isn't anybody that I know that doesn't want cleaner air and a cleaner environment, so why would you vote no?"

Divorcing themselves entirely from science, political opportunists proceed to claim the moral high ground by appealing to our natural instinct to protect children. Combining such sentiments with religiosity and an adolescent ‘we can do anything' approach, they end up with assertions so removed from the real world as to be laughable, were the consequences not so serious.

"Just as we lift our children up to feed them, and we hold them close to comfort them, and to protect them from any manner of harm, just as we would never, ever leave them trapped in a locked car in the hot sun, we must protect them from global warming." Boxer told an April 14, 2007 National Press Club audience. "The ancient religious writings say, "See to it that you do not destroy my world for there is no one to repair it after you." Today for us, it should be simple. Working Together we can reverse Global Warming! We must lead on this issue, not follow; its our job. I truly believe when we do our job, our country and our families will be better and stronger and the world will be safer."

Of course we have no chance of "reversing global warming" (and why would we want to? Global cooling is far more dangerous and climate is never constant). Boxer's rhetoric is simply an appeal to emotion over rational thought. Such an unscientific stance is bad for society and, ultimately, bad for the environment as well, but political spin doctors seem to have concluded that it still attracts many voters. As the public learn more about the issue, this will eventually backfire politically. This is why groups like the Natural Resources Stewardship Project focus so strongly on public education. Once a majority of the public recognize that many of the assertions of Boxer, Gore, Dion and Volpe have no basis in reality, politicians will have little choice but to radically alter their approach – either that or be voted out of office in disgrace.
Besides ignorance and political opportunism, what is driving this movement?

The principle target in all this is fossil-fueled based energy sources. Boxer summed it up neatly in her introduction to the June 28 Senate committee hearing, "reducing emissions from powerplants is a fundamental part of any solution to global warming."

Besides vote-seeking politicians, who else would want to dismantle our fossil fuel-based economy? Some beneficiaries of such an agenda are obvious – alternative energy providers are already reaping financial windfalls from the scare. Nuclear power companies stand to make significant gains as well, provided they are not shut down entirely by environmentalists who oppose them even more fiercely than they do fossil fuel corporations. Many scientists and engineers who support nuclear power for its real benefits understand how today's climate scare is largely groundless and so do not boost nuclear power as a means to avert a climate crisis.
However, some spokespeople are not so careful. John Ritch, Director General of the London-based World Nuclear Association, uses language even more extreme than Gore and Suzuki.

At the October 2006 Pacific Basin Nuclear Conference in Sydney, Australia, Ritch said,
"The fact of this planetary crisis should no longer be a matter of psychological or political denial. For our best Earth-system scientists now warn, with ever increasing certainty, that greenhouse gas emissions, if continued at the present massive scale, will yield consequences that are - quite literally - apocalyptic: increasingly radical temperature changes, a worldwide upsurge in violent weather events, widespread drought, flooding, wildfires, famine, species extinction, rising sea levels, mass migration and epidemic disease that will leave no country untouched.

If these predictions hold true, the combined effect would be the death of not just millions but of billions of people - and the destruction of much of civilization on all continents."
NRSP scientists immediately sent Ritch solid evidence that his assertions were out of touch with modern climate science and expressed the hope that his "remarks are greatly tuned to a more realistic stance if the topic is brought up again in the future." NRSP continued, "Nuclear power clearly has important benefits to mankind but "stopping global climate catastrophe" is surely not one of them. [We] fear we undermine the whole effort when such extreme arguments are presented."

Ritch did not respond. Instead NRSP was answered by Jonathan Cobb, the association's "climate change advisor", who dismissed our concerns saying, "I can assure you that Mr Ritch pays close attention to the scientific discussion on climate change and he will continue to accurately report the overwhelming scientific consensus." That a climate change advisor would simply brush aside evidence that his employer had little need of his services is perhaps not surprising. However, that Ritch continues to use precisely the same language as above in his most recent speeches (June 2007) is inexcusable.

The specter of industry-caused "climate chaos" - a ridiculous term used by Canadian Green Party Leader Elizabeth May - ultimately leading to the ‘destruction of the planet' is a perfect vehicle for people who want to radically alter, or even dismantle, western civilization. Chief among these is Canadian Maurice Strong, head of the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro and until recently, Executive Officer for Reform in the U.N. Secretary General's office. His comment, "Isn't the only hope for the planet that the industrialized nations collapse? Isn't it our responsibility to bring that about?" speaks volumes about what is really going on in the minds of some environmentalists.

Industry runs on energy, but you cannot directly attack the energy source because this would alienate the vast majority of the public who benefit from industrialization. The easiest way is to show that the byproducts of industrial activity are causing a planetary collapse. Even though untrue, this claim provides another popular moral high ground for activists. Demanding carbon dioxide reductions provided the vehicle and the United Nations supposedly provided the science for the theory that human addition of CO2 would lead to uncontrolled global warming. The theory quickly became fact, and the scientific method of testing, and accepting or rejecting, was effectively thwarted. Scientists who tried to pursue a normal scientific approach to the issue were quickly branded as pawns of the energy sector.

There are negative side-effects of industrialization of course, but eliminating industry also eliminates its exceptionally beneficial impacts on quality of life. Besides ignoring the natural evolution of the human species, in the extreme, today's climate alarmism is decidedly anti-human. Human progress is seen, not as a natural evolution, but an unnatural aberration.
The following quotes illustrate the dangerous anti-human nature of cells within the environmental movement, many of whom have adopted today's climate crusade as their primary raison d'ĂȘtre:

Biologist David Graber (U.S. National Park Service): "They [natural things] have intrinsic value, more value - to me - than another human body, or a billion of them. Human happiness, and certainly human fecundity, are not as important as a wild and healthy planet. Somewhere along the line - about a billion years ago - we quit the contract and became a cancer. We have become a plague upon ourselves and upon the Earth. Until such time as Homo Sapiens should decide to rejoin nature, some of us can only hope for the right virus to come along."

Philosophy Professor Paul Taylor, City University of New York in "Respect for Nature: A Theory of Environmental Ethics", p. 115): "Given the total, absolute, and final disappearance of Homo Sapiens, not only would the Earth's community of life continue to exist, but in all probability, its well-being would be enhanced. Our presence, in short, is not needed. And if we were to take the standpoint of that Life Community and give voice to its true interests, the ending of the human epoch on Earth would most likely be greeted with a hearty "Good riddance!"

Dave Forman, Founder of Earth First!: "Phasing out the human race will solve every problem on earth, social and environmental."

Earth First! Journal editor John Daily: "Human beings, as a species, have no more value than slugs."

An equally extreme case is Peter Singer, a ‘bioethicist' at Princeton University. He maintains that the suffering of a crippled ant deserves equal consideration to that of a crippled human child. If we could only save one, he says, we should decide by the flip a coin or else we would be "speciests".

And of course the macabre " Voluntary Human Extinction Movement " is apparently alive and well with its "volunteer" class members agreeing that, "All of us should voluntarily refrain from reproducing further, bringing about the eventual extinction of Homo sapiens." Asserting that "Phasing out the human race by voluntarily ceasing to breed will allow Earth's biosphere to return to good health", the group's motto is "May we live long and die out."

In the extraordinary book "Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds" written 150 years ago by Charles Mackay, is written, "Men … think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one." Let's hope that Mackay's pessimism is no longer quite so applicable in a world where instantaneous and inexpensive mass communications is a fact of life – certainly society cannot afford to continue to sleep at the switch while eco-activists rapidly come to dominate governments. Environmental extremism is the real threat to society, not the miniscule contribution human-emitted carbon dioxide might make to global climate. It will take time for the general public to finally recognize this but, when they do, expect the whole environmental movement, its good aspects included, to be set back at least a generation. That will be the sad legacy of Al Gore, Barbara Boxer and David Suzuki. "

Author Unknown

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

It's not the Planet that's in Crisis it's the People

Remember years ago when there was this commercial that kept buzzing in our ears; "When EF Hutton talks, everyone listens". It was for a fund investment company, intimating that they had all the answers and we should pay attention. Well today it's not EF Hutton we are listening to, it's the Dalai Lama, and I for one listen when he speaks.

Recently he was interviewed for Ode magazine about his up-coming documentary that will be released in October. 10 Questions For the Dalai Lama. Against the backdrop of an exotic land, a lone filmmaker is granted one hour to ask ten questions of the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet. Containing rare historical footage as well as footage taken inside Tibet, a story is woven between a journeyman's personal observations, the troubled history of a government-in-exile, and the life and wisdom of one of the premiere spiritual leaders of our time.

The Dalai Lama shines as a universal symbol of peace and unity, promoting a greater understanding of philosophy and cultures. Inspired by the man himself and its film 10 Questions for the Dalai Lama monterey media has invigorated hundreds of community organizations, churches, and national groups to join in a national effort to "put the Unity back in their Community" by creating the national “Weekend of Unity & Peace”.

October 19 - 21, 2007 has been designated as this weekend of individual events designed to bring our communities together in a celebration of understanding, unity, tolerance, peace, and oneness. This enlivening event occurs while His Holiness is in the U.S. touring and just prior to the highly anticipated DVD release of the film Tuesday, October 23rd, which enjoyed a critically acclaimed national theatrical release this summer.

The world's first Executive Zentreat sponsored by the Centre for Zentrepreneurism will take place on that weekend to mark the event on Galiano Island. For more info go to

In an era when many religious and political leaders are viewed with suspicion, and when cynical agendas rule both government and clergy, the Dalai Lama is undeniably authentic. Along with Martin Luther King, Gandhi and Jesus, this great leader inspires millions and has influenced the world in so many ways. This is his story, as told and filmed by Rick Ray during a private visit to his monastery in Dharamsala, India over the course of several months. Also included is rare historical footage as well as footage supplied by individuals who at great personal risk, filmed with hidden cameras within Tibet. Part biography, part philosophy, part adventure and part politics, "10 Questions for the Dalai Lama" conveys more than history and more than answers--it opens a window into the heart of a great man.

Here are some excerpts:

"Everything is interdependent. Everything is interconnected. So my interest is very much linked to everyone's interests. Our survival and our future are very much linked to one another. Therefore the destruction of your so-called enemy is actually the destruction of your self. The concept of war-"destroy your enemy"-is old fashioned. It is out of date. "To use the power of the gun is a sign of weakness. The power of the gun is short-term. Very decisive, very powerful, but in the long run, the power of the gun cannot remain. This violence it won't work.:

There is too much greed , a limitless sort of desire. This is a source of problems, a source of suffering. If you always keep the feeling "oner more, one more, one more." until the last day, you are never satisfied. Mentally, you are a very poor person, always hungry. If desires are without self-discipline you want to kill someone, you want to tell lies, you want to take alcohol or drugs. That's self-destruction, in order to be safe from self-destruction, you need some self-discipline. Not some order from outside, but you have to analyze the value, the consequences.

Use your intelligence."There is too much emotion, too much negative emotion: frustration, hatred, anger." I think that's the greatest obstacle. So I think as a first step this should be cooled down. Reduced. Forget these things. And I think for the time being, we need more festivals, more picnics. Let us forget these difficult things, these emotions, and make personal friends. Then we can start to talk about these serious matters."

believe nothing,
no matter where you read it
or who said it,
not even if I have said it,
unless it agrees with your own reason
and your own common sense.

- buddha


Is it really green?

An IpsosoReid survey in Canada released yesterday says 63 per cent of people suspect goods marked as environmentally friendly are designed to sell the product. The tactic, called “green-washing”, is increasingly popular with marketers vying for shopping dollars. People suspect certain goods are labeled environmentally friendly as part of a tactic to sell the product rather than save the earth. UBC marketing professor Dan Putler said “such image overhauls don’t dupe shoppers easily”. “People have an understanding that companies want to look good even when they’re not doing good.” The results from the survey of 1,285 Canadian homeowners showed shopper’s doubt marketers intentions when it comes to the environment: Here are some results:
  • 56 per cent of people who consider themselves green savvy consider some products sold as green to be a marketing tactic.
  • 63 per cent of the total people surveyed consider some products sold as green to be a marketing tactic.
  • 40% of people would not be willing to pay more up front for items such as green building products.
  • 31 percent of people admit to not knowing much about environmental issues.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Breach of Trust

It smacked me right in the face, a headline in today's Vancouver Sun. "High Flying Canadian conman lands in U.S. jail. "He was a Canadian, the article said, who seemed to be living the American dream on the sunny California coast- a yacht and a 2006 Ferrari, country club and golf memberships, and a sprawling, multi-million dollar mansion in a wealthy enclave at seaside Monterey. His wife sported a $50,000 diamond ring and his four children attended private schools. He spent time collecting expensive works of art and rare sports memorabilia."

To dozens of his friends and clients, Jay Zubick was a popular and trusted investment adviser from Toronto, who had made a great life for himself and his family in his U.S. home -- all the while pursuing his passion for athletics at Ironman competitions across North America.It turns out, however, that the 42-year-old business whiz was, in fact, an English literature grad from Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ont., who was running a marathon investment swindle. The scam lasted seven years and drained some $16 million US from the savings of 29 victims in the U.S. and Canada.

At a California court this week, a "truly sorry" Zubick claimed to been "saved by Jesus" following his arrest earlier this year on 71 counts of fraud, money laundering and forgery. But a parade of embittered victims told a sentencing judge they felt cheated by their "best friend" who, in one woman's words, had left her "financially raped."

So what are the lessons to be learned here. First of all you never do business with your friends. Friends are just that "friends". Here's Webster's definition of friendship. The state of being friends; friendly relation, or attachment, to a person, or between persons; affection arising from mutual esteem and good will; friendliness; amity; good will. I don't see anywhere in there; "and thou shalt do business with a friend, thou shalt borrow money from a friend, and thou shalt trust thy friend with your entire life savings. You see I have only recently learned through my own life's experience, that the only person who really should be trusted with his/her money is the person who earned the money, namely yourself. If you don't trust yourself with money why should you trust others.

The article opened, he was Canadian who seemed to be living the American dream. If I hear those two words again I'm going to stand on the top of the New York Stock Exchange building and holler, "I' m tired- and I can' take it anymore. Stop selling the American Dream". The American dream has become it's worst nightmare, and why any self respecting Canadian would want to pursue it is beyond me.

Try this for a while, be a soft spoken, respected, ethical, and authentic Canadian, and begin to pursue your own personal dream of compassion, gratitude, and have a life of purpose and passion for what you love to do, not about what you don't have and need to get, because trust me their are more Americans who would love to be here rather than there.

Stop apologizing when people bump into you, stop apologizing for being slow to sign deals, stop apologizing for not being as hot a celebrity , stop apologizing for playing in the CFL instead of the NFL, and above all stop apologizing because you haven't quite fulfilled your American Dream. Pick door number two and be happy with your choice.

And please stop watching Howie Mandell's perpetuation of the myth that people will never be happy unless they have it all, "Deal or No Deal" has become Greed or no Greed". I don';t know about you but aren't you a little tired of all the Canadians who travel off to the U.S., to pursue "the dream" and always come home for a visit with the same quote; "Canada will always be my home". Okay here's a concept; have less, make less, and make Canada your home. Live here and enrich our lives instead of selling out.

We are too gracious to those movie or music stars who take flight and then know that we will always welcome them back with open arms.. "it's like bowing and flapping our arms downward in a simultaneous whoosh of "We're not worthy..we're not worthy. And finally, just as Jay Zubick, claims to have found Jesus, maybe it's time we find our Canadian "souls " again. It's as simple as this....sit down with a pen in hand and write down everything that you feel grateful for about being Canadian. It took me a lifetime to finally appreciate my birthplace, I hope it doesn't take you that long. Oh yeah about that breach of trust thing, Buddha says to forgive your enemies, but not forget them.

And one final peice of advice, when your best friend says he would like to offer you a spot in an "exclusive limited partnership, that is "very special", something just for my closest friends". You say...repeat after me, "that's nice except I'm not your friend", close the door and never look back. As in business and in life, you need only ask one question of anyone; so what part of this is a lie?

Monday, September 03, 2007

Going Green for Good or Greed?

Recently I received my complimentary copy of a new Vancouver magazine on sustainable living, called GRANVILLE It occurred to me as I leafed through the ads, and tried to find some articles of substance, that indeed the "Green Ad Revolution" has begun. First of all, you'll wonder why I got a copy and you didn't. Well, I just happen to live on the edge of Kerrisdale and Shaugnessy, two of the wealthiest areas in the Lower Mainland. So what does a magazine that caters to the wealthy look like. Well, this one kind of resembles a "Green" GQ, but instead of advertising Rolex watches and Armani suits, all of the purveyors of fine clothes, food, high end spas/resorts, and gourmet dining are cleverly incorporating the "green" word within their new re-designed logos.

Now given that Madison Avenue always smells money before the small do-gooding little organizations in any small town America or Canada, it's no wonder that Vancouver, who always likes to thumb their nose at the rest of Canada for being small town and well, just not hip, would want to capitalize on the "Green Revolution".

On a typical day in a downtown ad agency in Vancouver, if an associate gets a message to call either someone in Regina or LA, guess which one they return the call to . So in Vancouver's race to be LA North and be "cool", if they see that Madison Avenue has told Corporate America that it makes good money sense to stamp "Green" on everything, then you follow the American need for greed and start your own "Green " Magazine.

Fighting global warming has suddenly become big business., and America's addiction to celebrities, has now come together for one huge marketing machine that is now unstoppable. Forget the fear of terrorism, that's yesterday's news, and besides the defence industry has made enough money out of that. So I present to you the new buzz word and mantra on Wall Street, "Sustainability".

Given that America is now convinced that they need to be afraid of two things Terrorism and Global Warming, Madison Avenue has decided that this has created the "Perfect Storm" for a marketing windfall. Let's get back to Granville Magazine for a moment . I called the Editor, David Jordan and offered to submit a "free" article on excerpts of my book that deal with "ethics" and creating "values based" businesses, in other words creating profits with integrity. His response was interesting and surprising to say the least. "Thanks but no thanks, that's not our mandate." In other words as long as you talk about sustainable living or advertise about sustainable living you can be in the magazine.

So here's my question, if you hang a sign "We're Green" on the front door of your business establishment, does that immediately qualify you as a business I can trust to be; honest, fair to your employees, committed to improving the quality of life in your community, sympathetic to fair trade, and compassionate about the people you do business with and who buy from you. In other words a "Value Based Business". Now not only can I trust you but I can now also believe that you must have the best interest of me and the planet at heart because you paid between $1,500 to $6,000 for an ad in a magazine.

First of all if I lived in the East End of town, was on a low income, a student, homeless, or lived in Regina I'm not even going to get a comp. copy. For obvious reasons, I won't be able to buy the latest dress made out of soy for my wife for $2,500, or the latest hybrid car for $42,000, or have an organic gourmet dinner for $200 at a local fine dining eatery. How about those face treatments and massages with the finest in organic "save the planet' oils. You see where I'm going with this .

Leaving your eco-footprint is one thing, capitalizing on the latest 'Green" trend without any need for accountability for "telling the truth" perpetuates the endless parade of "get rich quick schemes that inundate the t.v. air waves between 2-4 a.m. This new upscale magazine waving the "green " flag is just another in the long line of Madison Avenue tricks to exploit your hard earned dollar. But hey, if Leonard DiCaprio says the planet needs saving, it must be so, because after all when Al Gore said it, he was just a loser politician that was trying to make a comeback.

Here's' a concept, Al Gore has been fighting to get peoples' attention on global warming since he was a young congressman with noble intentions. He never built a business around saving the planet. Remember if you combine America's addiction to celebrities and harness the power of Madison Avenue, you have hit the mother lode. The Dalai Lama has said we need to save humanity and teach compassion, one person at a time. "We must stop war, famine, and man's injustice to man." At no time did he say " Oh yes and on the subject of global warming you must capitalize on this fear, use it, go forth and make lot's of money"! And so I ask you the question, Is Going Green for Good or Greed?

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Vancouver Has Lost It's Soul !

It's been a steady decay, not one that happened overnight. But clearly Vancouver has lost it's soul. Not that it really ever had one, in this city of narcissists and "do your own thing" lifestyles. Hedonism is alive in this corner of the world. Don't let the mountains and the ocean fool you. I've been here for over forty years now and never really called Vancouver home. My birthplace is Edmonton, Alberta, and have lived with the constant teasing from the locals as to why anyone would want to be proud of coming from the prairies. I am, and can still have a warm and fuzzy feeling whenever I re-visit my home at 133rd St. and 107 A. Avenue

The smugness and arrogance of locally born Vancouverites has given way to a feeling of "what's happened to our city"?. The answer is simple, if you never build a sense of community from within, you have a city with no heart, no soul. If the sole motivation of your move to another country is to buy yourself in--you bring with you an attitude, not of greatfulness, but of entitlement. The price of homes become inflated, neighbourhoods become ghettos and entire communities turn into that countries territory , rather than becoming part of the local fabric. Vancouver is no longer multi- cultural, it has become bi-racial, Caucasion and Asian.

Vancouver is now a global city that is one stop within the Pacific world. Two thirds of male Canadians of Hong Kong origin between the ages of 25 and 40 live and work outside Canada. Large numbers of Vancouver residents have multiple homes throughout the world, creating great demand for real estate in Vancouver, but also leaving many condominiums unused for portions of the year. Like Switzerland for Europe, Vancouver is considered a safe place for storing money (not in banks, but in real estate) and a good place to send children to school.

In his article of June 30, 2007, "Chinese Vancouver: A decade of change- How the Lower Mainland became the leading Asian metropolis on the continent", Miro Cernetig of the Vancouver Sun writes;

" Remember "Hongcouver?" You don't hear that word much anymore in the polite society of Vancouver, a city that has grown into Canada's - and North America's - most effortlessly Asian metropolis.But a decade or so, ago you could hear the term "Hongcouver" everywhere.
It was an era's impolitic catch-phrase for the xenophobia and palpable occidental unease in Vancouver at the prospect of a profound upheaval in society. A sleepy city had suddenly found itself a magnet for one of the most significant - and wealthiest - immigration waves to ever hit Canada: the Hong Kong Chinese, who sought out Vancouver as a safe haven for their money.

"The Hong Kong immigrants were really a new kind of Canadian," said Henry Yu, a history professor at the University of British Columbia. "They were educated, spoke English and middle class or wealthy. They weren't going to start out as pizza delivery men and working in Chinese laundries."They expected to be first-class citizens, they wanted to live in the best neighborhoods, wanted the best schools for their kids.

Recall the words and debates - now rarely worth a headline - that polarized the city a decade or more ago, when Hong Kong's human tsunami began hitting Vancouver in the mid-'80s and late '90s.There was the volatile debate over "monster houses" - the name for the large homes many Hong Kong immigrants built in such rarefied and resolutely anglo enclaves as Shaughnessy and Kerrisdale, often knocking down trees and old-style houses to do so. Non-Chinese tended to see the word monster as an apt adjective for the grand size of the new homes they thought ugly and out of place; Chinese saw the word as a racist put-down, suggesting that "monsters" lived in such new homes designed to hold multiple generations.

Then there was the "University of a Billion Chinese" as the University of British Columbia was sometimes dubbed. The number of Chinese-Canadians students was soaring at the university, thanks in large part to the new Hong Kong immigrants who brought with them a diligence that made them academic stars and made it harder for the less competitive to gain entry to UBC.Many non-Chinese parents, as University of Washington academic and Vancouver native Katharyne Mitchell chronicled in a paper about the Hong Kong immigration wave, complained the new arrivals were "too competitive" or "too one-track-minded" compared to their own "more balanced" children.

And don't forget the simmering tensions in Richmond, where many of the Hong Kong immigrants first gravitated, radically changing the racial mix of the community in a few short years -- not to mention its shopping habits. Malls opened up full of Chinese stores, in effect creating a new, well-heeled and modern Chinatown on Vancouver's outskirts. On hot summer nights, you could hear the exotic clicking off mah-jong tiles on Richmond's quiet streets, where half the residents were suddenly Chinese.

Then there was, of course, the unforgettable Hong-Kong effect on the local real estate market.Billionaire Li Ka Shing started it by buying the Expo 86 lands and transformed them into a miniature version of the towering condos of his hometown Hong Kong. That accelerated a radical change to the city's skyline, with the luxury condos of Coal Harbour following, along with a profusion of downtown condo towers that have densified and energized the city's core, and made it more congested.

Predictably, real estate prices skyrocketed as the Hong Kong arrivals put their money into city property, new and old, often astounded at the houses they could get on the West Coast for the price of a two-bedroom apartment in Hong Kong.

Old-time Vancouverites who owned homes generally liked that consequence of the new Asian money. But even here there was a new angst that lingers on: those who didn't own property suddenly wondered how they could ever keep up with this new monied slice of Canadian society from across the Pacific."

The whispers at cocktail parties and behind closed office doors today is "how come I feel like a visitor in my own city". Not all immigrants who come to Canada or Vancouver for that matter have the kind of money brought by wealthy Asians, nor do they have the same sense of entitlement . My parents were poor Jewish immigrants who came with nothing and were just happy to have survived the Nazi concentration camps. They were so grateful to Canada that they made every effort to assimilate. What happens is that when you come here with an attitude of entitlement and there is no demand on you to assimilate and you are given the same privileges and access as others who have worked their whole life to value, then its no wonder that local Vancouverites will feel resentment, threatened and angry.

Add this to the Olympic nightmare, cost overruns, broken government promises, no help or compassion for the suffering of the merchants on the Canada line corridor, huge traffic jams, construction delays at every corner with every new development, no solution to massive homelessness, warring gangs, fueding drug lords, and epidemic breaking and entering of cars and homes, and you have "sin city", not the jewel of the Pacific. But don't bother calling 911, they'll just add you to the list of complaints that gets as much attention as committing jaywalking.

Here is the reality; we have a police force that is severly under manned and underfunded, with a mayor that can't organize a parade with one car., a mayor who is single handidly responsible for a 6 week garbage strike. Don't ever question the huge social benefits of the 17 day pep rally in 2010 in this town or you'll get a slap in the face from the Campbell Gestapo. Vancouver has sold whatever was left of it's soul to the people who care little for the soul of others. If you can buy a home in Kerrisdale, have a charge card at Tiffany's, own a BMW, lavish yourself and your children with clothes from Holt Renfrew, than you can have the "Vancouver dream", and enjoy the good life without feeling any guilt or remorse for anyone you might hurt. You've made it, heck you'll even get written up in Malcom Perry's column of the rich and famous. You won't however find any columnist covering the poor and ugly.

It is this attitude that has spilled over on to the streets of Vancouver. There is a simmering anger and distrust from people, who instead of talking openly about how they feel, swear at you and give you the finger in traffic, and murder each other at the slightest provocation. This is a city rotting from within it's core, and nothing can stop the juggernaut. Even a dose of "Zen" will cost you, they're called Spa Salons and Resorts, a refuge from reality. Maybe the Dalai Lama had a reason for wanting to have the worlds' first Centre for Peace here in Vancouver, he intuitively knows something we are not admitting, that Vancouver has lost it's soul!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Can Ethics Be Taught

The jury is still out. I however believe it's in your DNA. You either are or aren't an ethical person. The events over the past summer have convinced me that people will do anything to justify their actions. When I ran for school board over 30 years ago I asked my campaign manager what to tell my constituents. He shared with me the politicians credo; "Tell them what they want to hear", "that way you neither lie or tell the truth".

It's interesting that since that time---lying has become the official language of the White House. Whether it's Bush, Rove, Cheney or Rumsfeld when he was there, or whether it's your boss, girlfriend, wife, or husband, we have all learned how to lie from our parents. They were the first people we observed, so it's learned behaviour. My father was a master manipulator---he was able to make everybody wrong and make himself right on just about everything.---even if it really wasn't the truth. I learned from the Master, and until I got help to realize I was doing it, I honestly believed I was doing nothing wrong.

Here's my theory; If it's in the DNA, then George Snr. passed it on to George Jnr., Cheney Snr. passed it on to Cheney Jnr. , and so on and so on. By the way, after years of driving my Mother and I to psychiatrists, he himself was diagnosed as a clinical sociopath. Here are the characteristics of a sociopath; People with anti-social personality disorder, also called psychopaths, can do much more harm if they are in positions where they have power and authority, they may ruin the lives of lots of people. They are often very convincing and are very good at getting what they want. Sometimes the best way to deal with this kind of people, is to avoid all contact and cooperation with them.

In general, it is difficult to treat a person with anti-social personality disorder. To try to get them to understand that they are hurting other persons are often difficult, because they don't have any conscience, and it is hard to help them get one. It may have some effect to convince them that it is in their own interest to change, because their behaviour are hurting themselves in the long run. If that isn't bad enough, most people who show sociopath behavior aren't just sociopaths. They often also have narcissistic tendencies, sometimes intensely angered by anything that seems to suggest that he or she might have a flaw. In this mode, they will do anything, including brutalizing their own family, to maintain their own feeling that others see them as without any flaws. The combination is terribly painful to live with. Does this sound like someone you know...intimately?

This past summer I met with the founder and leader of a small independent, and as yet unaccredited, educational institution. That should have been my first clue. When I visited their campus. I discovered it really wasn't their campus. but someone else's they were running. It's amazing that we continue to trust or believe in our fellow man, despite the fact that they continue to let us down.

Somewhere deep inside I think we really want to trust someone...anyone. Despite that we are at the lowest level of trust of government and companies since the 1930's. I grew up in the 40's and 50's when there was an unwritten code of ethics, that if you shook hands with someone it was a deal. "You have my word on it"..meant something! Sadly it doesn't work that way anymore. Today a handshake is even toxic thanks to Howie Mandell's paranoia fear of germs causing imminent death.

Not only is a handshake toxic but so is a verbal commitment. That doesn't work either anymore as I found out. This is a rude awakening for an author who just wrote a book on ethics and right action. Here's the irony by the way, the Institute I speak of offers MBA's in sustainable business. Here's the glaring contradiction, let's tell others how to run an ethical business but let's not run one ourselves.

Teaching ethics is easy, teaching people about sustainability is easy too. Living and practicing an ethical life is a lot different. There are plenty of sociopath vegetarians leaving their eco-footprint I met one. Having worked at Universities I can tell you that it's particularly easy for academics to hide behind their course syllabus or intellectual jargon, which soon becomes, "verbal diarrhea". Just as politicians dance as fast as they can, so do academics.

In the 50;s and 60;s people were expected to always tell the truth. Today we are overwhelmed by anyone who has the slightest hint of integrity. Back to the DNA theory----if you were taught by your parents to always tell the truth, how honest do you think you would be with people. I would suspect that given your DNA, your chances are pretty good. If for example, you interview someone for a job and told them you were interested in them and then changed your mind and decided you weren't ...what part of that is a lie. We do it all the time, except we cover it, by saying my CFO told me I can't hire you., which means I'm lying but not really because to tell you the truth would make me wrong, and sociopaths don't like to be wrong. I think these examples are merely the tip of the iceberg. 90% of all people are dysfunctional in some way, and if you assessed CEO;s employers and employees, senior management, middle management, receptionists, it wouldn't matter, you will find a virtual tsunami fallout of untreated mental disorders affecting the way we do business and run our lives in North America.

Instead of references and CV's we should be giving everyone a personality assessment by qualified psychologists. Sociopaths are clever and can make it through the interview process, but they can't lie on a psychological assessment. I would suspect half the CEO's in this country would not be hired. Sociopaths who never get help, never like to admit they are wrong. As we said, Narcissism is the Sociopaths best friend...what a deadly combination. If you know someone like this...avoid contact at all cost.

I open the floor for debate, what's been your experience with truth and ethics, can it be taught or is in your DNA, and are you working for or living with a narssistic sociopath ?

N.B. By the way, e-mails are a great way to hide the truth. You can't see their eyes, hear the tonality in their voice or see their body language. I'll leave you with my favorite line; "I don't trust anyone except you and I---and I'm a little concerned about you".

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


By Corinne Asturias , VP, Consumer Strategist, Boomers and Sustainable Living

Ah, summer. The time of year you either start counting down the days to a vacation or start realizing that you've blown it by not planning one. And while the do-nothing allure of lollygagging on a chaise endures, we're finding that a hot ticket for growing numbers of travelers is going somewhere to do some good. We're not talking hard labor at the ends of the earth.

Today's giving adventures strike a happy balance between work and play. Volunteer vacations by the Sierra Club reward those who restore Native American ruins with chef-prepared meals and "secret" hikes. links volunteers to beautiful places: saving Manatees in Honduras, caring for elephants in Thailand or building a school in Tanzania. The appeal is native for gap-year Millennials and high schoolers looking for service credit. But don't underestimate the draw for seasoned Xer, Boomer and Mature travelers: They've glimpsed reality before boarding their planes home, and they want to preserve the specialness of the places they've loved.

How much lounging by a pool does a person really need, anyway?So if you're going snorkeling in Belize, why not spend a few days helping to count bottlenose dolphins? If Africa has always beckoned, why not work on a black rhino conservancy in Zimbabwe? Trip costs aren't cheap, but they usually include lodging, meals and guides, not to mention a cushion of safety and structure. But the real value for Gross National HappinessSM seekers? They take home a souvenir for their soul, instead of for the shelf, and how can you put a price on that?

Thursday, May 03, 2007

What's Wrong with America?

What's wrong with America? It's a pretty loaded question with an equally set of loaded answers.

In my book, "Zentrepreneurism", I talk about the fact that America's drugs are "Celebrities", and the "Relentless Pursuit of Success". If success is equated with the pursuit of the American Dream, whatever that is, the subsequent rewards follow. However, it should not be surprising to know that to fail in one's pursuit has an equally harmful effect. There are more Americans today failing in their pursuit of the American dream than ever before. If, the message given to all new arrivals, is that America is a country where everything is possible, and nothing is impossible. To fail then in business or in life, is the ultimate loss of all dignity and self respect.

Whether it's the killer at Virginia Tech or the killers at Columbine, they all weave a common thread, and that thread is one of perceiving to fail at life, especially life in America. Their profiles have an eery similarity, and it's one of absolute anger towards the rich and successful.

So how does one change a belief system that has been ingrained in the minds of it's citizens since the first immigrants came to Ellis Island. Well, you can't , you can only hope that this new generation, the ones that are not accepting the way things used to be and are, but are believing in a new set of values, where it's more important to climb the "consciousness ladder" rather than the corporate ladder. Where wealth of an individual is not measured by money, success and power, but what they contribute to the good of mankind.

Compassion and "telling the truth" have become more important than pay cheques to employees. Holding employers, government, your loved ones, and the people you do business with accountable is quickly becoming the only way to survive. Americans are hungry for the truth, they are hungry for answers, and they are hungry for hope. Whether they know it or not, the killers have become the "wake up" call for America to look at it's ugly underbelly and the failure of an entire system that has gone terribly wrong. Drugs, Violence, Gangs, Guns and Crime is the guaranteed hangover of anger, frustration, depression, and rejection.

So what can you do, well start by believing in something else. First of all know that it is government that should be afraid of us, not us afraid of the government . Start by not accepting that lying everyday is okay, whether it's the President or your spouse. Start believing in something other than celebrities and sports figures. Start believing in just YOU.

Stop comparing yourself to everyone on television or magazines, including Jenny Craig, Donald Trump or Martha Stewart. They are only people who have gotten you to believe that without them you can't quite measure up to losing weight, making money or even cooking. Stop "feeding" their dream. By fulfilling their dreams and ego driven motives, you actually "short change" yourself, because you will never quite be like them. But hey, why would you want to be any way.

Just be YOU for a while, hang out with yourself, turn off Dr. Phil and Oprah, meditate, start a movement , the YOU movement, BE YOU , and just so you know.. there is only YOU, God had a reason for making us each the way we are. Stop listening to other people's success stories, they either make you feel awful because you have'nt made it , or you feel so motivated that you will do anything to be just like them, and after all if they made it why can't you. Here's a clue, you can't be like them, because they are THEM, and YOU ARE YOU. Have you got it...good.. now go out and tell everyone you meet that you accept them for exactly who they are . Let's try that for a while and see if it works, if not it simply means that America hasn't learned it's lesson yet. God knows what's next! Well actually, he or she does!

A blatant plug: Zentrepreneurism can be purchased at