JimPinto.com - Connections for Growth & Success™
No. 139 : 16 December 2003

Keeping an eye on technology futures.
Business commentary - no hidden agendas.
New attitudes, no platitudes.

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American energy independence

My friend Ron Bengtson has a significant website which I'd like to bring to your attention. His message is summarized here, to encourage you to become part of this important new movement.

America has become dependent on a resource (oil), which is controlled by foreign powers. Modern day terrorism feeds off of this addiction to oil. The US trades its wealth for Middle East oil, enriching dictators, ideological extremists and the sponsors of terrorism. This harmful dependency threatens our economy and freedom, and that of future generations.

A powerful idea is spreading through America, an idea that resonates with the character of the American people. This is the recognition that Energy is a cornerstone of our economy and our dependence on its availability in abundance has become a matter of national security. New, cheap energy sources can and should be developed by concerted national effort. This is a call to take action, to change the course of history by declaring and fighting for American Energy Independence.

Renewable energy looks expensive until the price of the US Military protection of imported oil is considered by comparison. US taxpayers spends billions every year to pay for military hardware, considered an investment in America's security. The same argument can be made in favor of "investing" in a national renewable energy infrastructure. The hardware is expensive, not the energy created by the hardware.

America already has the technology needed to develop solar energy. For less than the cost of imported oil (if the cost of military protection is included) the US can get 100% of its energy requirements from the power released by sunlight radiating over the desert regions of the Southwest. American solar energy would be cheap, renewable and under our own control. To get to the practical stage, the initial hardware and infrastructure need to be publicly funded.

Electricity generated from America's solar energy can produce hydrogen gas by electrolysis of water, which can be used to power new hydrogen fueled cars. Hydrogen powered internal combustion engines have already been developed that will perform as well as existing gasoline engines, allowing the use of existing automobile technology for mass production.

Hydrogen is a clean universal fuel that can be used to power cars, trucks, planes, trains, buses, boats and ships. It can heat homes and commercial buildings, and generate electricity. It can replace all forms of fossil fuels. A nation that has converted all of its power systems to run on hydrogen will no longer be dependent on oil, because hydrogen can be made from many different sources of energy such as wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, fossil and nuclear.

The Hydrogen Economy will bring complete energy independence. We will be free to choose from many sources of energy, all of which will produce the one universal fuel: Hydrogen.

The American Energy Independence website include several interesting links to information on solar energy, wind power and a host of other interesting information. Take a look!

Click Visit the American Energy Independence website

American energy independence is a political choice, not financial or technological. This website includes a link to help you find the email address of your elected representatives in congress, with a suggested letter expressing support for Energy Independence.

Click Links to Take Action

Click Addicted to Oil

Please send your comments, feedback and suggestions to Ron Bengston:
Click Ron@AmericanEnergyIndependence.com

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Invensys slips and slides

Invensys shares have fallen to 16.75p a six-month low, with £586M market-cap. CSFB published a report estimating that the company could raise £2 billion through the disposal program, but was weighed down by the £654 million pension deficit. They commented: "Invensys is a distressed seller with £1.6B debt and £400M liabilities that need to be repaid."

In a conversation with a top Invensys manager (who preferred not to be named) he insisted that the press highlights only the worst possible scenarios. At my request, he posted a summary of the company's viewpoint on the Invensys weblog, concluding his statement with this:

    "Although sensitive to the concerns of employees, customers and investors, Invensys is confronting the issues and taking appropriate action. The creation of a smaller, more focused Invensys with reduced debts, a healthy pension fund and better performance in core markets is the key objective of the management team."
Most observers now feel that Invensys must clearly be evaluating a complete sell off. The proposed disposals will be difficult to accomplish at any reasonable price, within the needed timeframe. This will mean that Invensys will face going through a UK bankruptcy procedure called a "workout", which could bring huge current shareholder dilution, plus the banks will take a big loss. Clearly the clock is ticking...

In the last issue of eNews, I asked what YOU would do if you were Invensys CEO Rick Haythornthwaite. The Invensys weblog brought several answers. You might wish to provide your own.

Click Invensys weblog
Includes position statement from senior Invensys management, with follow-on commentary

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Electronic voting machines - improvements or security risks?

The discussion about potential security flaws with electronic voting machines brought lots of feedback, but raised more concerns.

Interestingly, some people from other countries were surprised, and even amused, that the US could have such problems with electronic voting. Rob Koene [Rob.Koene@Fluor.com] from the Netherlands wrote:

    "In the Netherlands, eVoting has already been in use for 10-15 years, for government, county, and town council elections. I honestly cannot remember when I marked a voting ballot with a pen. Neither have we ever heard reports of fraud. There are arguments that elderly, unintelligent or illiterate people would have problems with eVoting. But still, everybody is eVoting, and if you have a problem, the attendants are always there to help.

    "We, on the other side of the Atlantic, have followed the US elections with rising amusement, seeing the world's high tech leader using punch cards, pencils and the lot, to vote for the most powerful person in the world. And getting into deep sh-t because of it. If you would have voted electronically, most discussions would just not have been there.

    "So, hello USA! You are (still) a role model for most of this world. Get yourselves together please and buy proven technology. I'm sure that the Dutch government will be very willing to advise...."

My response to Rob Koene was that The Netherlands is a relatively small country, population of about 16 million, mostly educated and informed. Then, I got this from V Jayaraman [vjayaram@eth.net] from India, population over 1 billion, the world's largest democracy:
    "In India, electronic voting machines are used almost everywhere. Even illiterate people have learned to use them. How can it be so difficult in the USA, with a higher literacy rate? If there are difficulties faced in using the Electronic Voting Machines, they have to be identified and dealt with, rather than throwing away the tool."
Information on the Indian electronic voting machines is available (see weblink below). They are made by the two largest state-owned electronics companies, at a cost of about $100.00 each. The machines are battery-operated, and so can be used in villages where there is no electrical power available. Simple and seemingly fool-proof.

By comparison, the US touch-screen voting machines are complex and expensive, funded by $3.8 billion as part of the Help America Vote Act of 2002. This was Congress' attempt to forestall a repeat of the infamous Florida election debacle of 2000.

The US made machines are reported to cost about $3,500 each if states buy them in bulk, versus $5,500 to $6,000 each if individual counties purchase them in smaller quantities. Paper verification is expected to cost about an additional $500 per machine, but may not be available for all machines in time for the 2004 election.

My point about verifiable voting results remains. Without a paper trail, there will be no way to audit, or do a recount in the 2004 presidential elections. If there is a problem, will the courts decide the outcome - again?

Click Will Your Vote Count in the Next Election?
Maybe not! How will we even know?

Click India electronic voting machine FAQs

Click Criticism of electronic voting machinesí security is mounting

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The second superpower

Dr. Ted Mohns helps me greatly with his regular discussions and weblinks to significant new thinking. Here is my summary of an article by James Moore, which gives valuable food for thought.

As the US becomes more belligerent with the use of its power in the world, the new global village needs and wants a "second superpower". This must be a power that speaks for the interests of global society, for long-term well-being, for broad participation in the democratic process.

Where can the world find such a second superpower? No nation or group of nations seems able to play this role; even the common might of the European nations is barely a match for undisputed US power.

Moore suggests that there is indeed an emerging second superpower. But, it is not a nation. It is a new form of international power, constituted by a global social movement made up of millions of people concerned with broad agendas - social development, environmentalism, health, and human rights. These are activists who identify their interests with world society as a whole, who recognize that at a fundamental level we are all one. These are people who are attempting to take into account the needs and dreams of all 6.3 billion people in the world, not just the interests of one nation or another.

What is perhaps most interesting about this global movement is that it is not really directed by visible leaders, but by the collective, emergent action of millions of participants. Already, approximately 10% of the US population align themselves this way, and the percentage in Europe is somewhat higher. The global membership in Asia, South America, Africa and India is growing quickly with the spread of the Internet.

What makes these numbers startling is the new cyberspace-enabled interconnection among the members. The Internet and other interactive media continue to penetrate more and more deeply through all world society, and provide a means for instantaneous personal dialogue and communication across the globe. The collective power of texting, blogging, instant messaging, and email across millions of involved people cannot be overestimated. Like a mind constituted of millions of inter-networked neurons, the social movement is capable of astonishingly rapid and sometimes subtle community consciousness and action.

This new "superpower" demonstrates a new form of emergent democracy that differs from conventional political democracy that is mainly through the regular, formal process of voting. While deliberation in the first superpower is done primarily by a few elected or appointed officials, deliberation in the second superpower is done by each individual. Where participation in democracy in the first superpower feels remote to most people, the emergent democracy of the second superpower is alive with touching and being touched by each other, as the community works to create wisdom and to take action.

The second superpower takes action, not from the top, but from the bottom. The strength of the US government that it can centrally collect taxes, and then decide to spend, for example, $87 billion in Iraq. By contrast, the strength of the second superpower that it could mobilize millions of people to rally in the streets at short notice, to protest or act against anything they feel is wrong.

Deliberation in the first superpower is relatively formal - dictated by the US constitution and by slow and cumbersome legislation. The reality of old-style decision making often centers around lobbying and campaign contributions by special interests - big oil, the military-industrial complex, big agriculture, and big drugs - to mention only a few. Policy goals that have broad, long-term value for society at large are extremely difficult to promote - such as environment, poverty reduction and third world development, women's rights, human rights, health care for all. By contrast, these are precisely the issues to which the second superpower tends to address its attention.

In traditional democracy, sense-making (making sense of something) moves from top to bottom. "The President must know something that we don't" is the thinking of loyal but passive members of the first superpower. This old-style democracy was established in the 18th century, when education and information were both scarce resources.

But, the emerging second superpower of the 21st century depends upon educated informed members. Each individual is responsible for their own sense-making. Each seeks as much data - raw facts, direct experience - as they can get, and then they make up their own minds. This is the attractiveness to thinking individuals of participation in the second superpower.

If this sounds very much like Chaos Theory and Complexity Science - you're right. The first superpower wields its influence from the top down. The second superpower is more like a community of intelligent ants, working inexorably towards a common goal.

This may seem to be just a wishful fantasy. But, in the emergent behaviors of a new century, it may not...

Click The Second Superpower Rears its Beautiful Head

Click Jim Moore's weblog - Cybernetics, Politics, Emergence

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Automation unplugged - Afterword

My book, Automation Unplugged, is selling very well. Thank you all for your regular feedback, comments and reviews. I thought you might enjoy an extract from the "afterword".
    I'll let you in on a little secret. If you stand back and look at things from a distance, you begin to recognize the dinosaurs that are becoming extinct, the tall towers that are ready to topple. My writing helps me to do that. On the positive side, too, a wise old marketing guru gave me the key: "Don't follow - lead. Find positive trends that are about to break through, and jump in to become the boom-maker."

    In my mind, the key to leadership in the new century is not analysis (digging deeper into specific subjects) but synthesis - combining disciplines and finding the links that go beyond the linear extrapolations of each. The new leaders in industrial automation will not be good engineers, or marketers, or sales people, or manufacturing and quality experts. They'll be the teams that provide a synthesis of all of the above.

    We wonít become successful by selling more systems, or software, or fieldbus networks to new generations of big end-users. As the old dinosaurs die, you'll see new generations of leaders emerge - the ones who know how to tap multiple skills in a global environment, to sell flexible products to a global market. They'll offer not incremental advantages but giant leaps to markets that are indeed starved for something new.

    Most of all, donít be too serious.
    Remember to have some fun, and make some money!

Click Read "Automation Unplugged" - Complete Table of Contents

"Automation Unplugged" is now available online from the ISA website and several others (see web links below).

Click Buy the book on the ISA website

Click Automation techies, buy from AutomationTechies.com

Click Amazon.com - buy with 1-click

Click Readout - UK and Europe shipments

Click Automation Unplugged is the featured book on Ameritech UK

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Earl Cunningham [earlc@ectron.com] on our Wal-Mart discussion:
    "What is missing from your mention of Wal-mart are its benefits: The fact that their prices are lower means that those with the lowest incomes gain the most. A recent report shows that their grocery prices are 14% less than that of the big chains. This represents a huge benefit for the poor especially those with large families.

    "In effect, Wal-Mart's presence in a town actually raises the standard of living of the poorest people in the town. Because of their size this effect is obviously significant nationwide. In addition, they employ those same people plus Wal-mart is the largest employer of minorities and disabled people. Remember, the fact that they remain nonunion only means that their employees are satisfied with their employer."

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Kim.Anderson@ch2m.com [Kim.Anderson@ch2m.com] on the security flaws of electronic voting:
    "After the debacle in Florida at the end of the 2000 presidential election, I was left wondering whether we as Americans had already seen the last fair and honest election, and whether, from now on, we will ever know the difference.

    "My prediction is that the vast majority of Americans will continue to operate under the assumption that this great, central core of our society, the free and honest election, is beyond reproach. The realization that such a system is vulnerable, or would be taken advantage of, is too difficult, or too disparaging a concept.

    "But in fact, the voting system has always been vulnerable. It has and will continue to be exploited, whether by the racists of the last century, who used voter registration to maintain their power, or by the ideologues of the next. There are always those who believe the end justifies the means. However, the clumsiness with which the Florida Voting Commission opened itself to criticism with the electronic and paper trail they left, showing the removal of 53,000+ registered voters, 90% of whom were in a racial minority, is not likely to be repeated.

    "With the growing use of electronic databases and the security gaps you have publicized in your recent e-news, the sophistication of the attacks on voters and votes will continue to escalate. The next, perhaps obvious, question: How do you keep track of the eggs, when the fox is in charge of the hen house?"

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Charles Matheny [matheny@alaweb.com] recounted his recent encounter with the "war" between conservatives and liberals:
    "I had occasion to be driving through southern Alabama recently and was listening to a local talk radio station. Like many stations, the show was relayed from some central location and featured Bill O'Reilly of Fox Network fame.

    "He was railing on about "liberals" and how there is a "war" going on in the US. The liberals, and here he mentioned that part of the plan was to elect Hillary as President, have a plan to replace all conservative judges with liberal judges who will make rulings that amount to legislation. They will permit (gasp!) gay marriage, legalize dope and turn the US into (louder gasp) Canada. (Actually, by the time he finished his description of Canada, I was ready to move). He went on about how conservatives must fight this war against the liberals by every means available.

    "Now, I don't know where I was when war was declared, but somehow I missed it. However, now that it has been discussed on national radio, I think I need to find a recruiting office....."

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