Empathy Surplus Project

A Caring Citizens' Congress Federation.

The Empathy Deficit of the Financial Stability Board

ellen_brown.JPGRepublished from Truthout with permission from the author, Ellen Brown, pictured here with co-founder, Chuck Watts

On December 11, 2014, the US House passed a bill repealing the Dodd-Frank requirement that risky derivatives be pushed into big-bank subsidiaries, leaving our deposits and pensions exposed to massive derivatives losses. The bill was vigorously challenged by Senator Elizabeth Warren; but the tide turned when Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorganChase, stepped into the ring. Perhaps what prompted his intervention was the unanticipated $40 drop in the price of oil. As financial blogger Michael Snyder points out, that drop could trigger a derivatives payout that could bankrupt the biggest banks. And if the G20's new "bail-in" rules are formalized, depositors and pensioners could be on the hook.

The new bail-in rules were discussed in my last post here. They are edicts of the Financial Stability Board (FSB), an unelected body of central bankers and finance ministers headquartered in the Bank for International Settlements in Basel, Switzerland. Where did the FSB get these sweeping powers, and is its mandate legally enforceable?

Those questions were addressed in an article I wrote in June 2009, two months after the FSB was formed, titled "Big Brother in Basel: BIS Financial Stability Board Undermines National Sovereignty." It linked the strange boot shape of the BIS to a line from Orwell's 1984: "a boot stamping on a human face—forever." The concerns raised there seem to be materializing, so I'm republishing the bulk of that article here. We need to be paying attention, lest the bail-in juggernaut steamroll over us unchallenged.

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George Lakoff: In Politics, Progressives Need to Frame Their Values

IMG_3094_-_Version_2.JPGRepublished with permission from George Lakoff, originally published at Truthout

The following is a Truthout interview with Professor George Lakoff about his latest effort, THE ALL NEW Don’t Think of an Elephant!, to convince progressives to "frame" their political language and appeals based on deep-seated and active values. These are positions and actions that most of the public supports, but absent appropriate "framing" often vote their fears instead of progressive beliefs. It is necessary to ground a nurturing politics for the common good and core values in language and a moral foundation that appeals - rhetorically and emotionally - to the better selves of voters.

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Clean Elections Are a Human Right

Clean_Elections.jpgBy Chuck Watts, co-founder and president, Empathy Surplus Project

Healthcare is a human right and to ratify and implement it requires clean elections at all levels of government. Clean elections, according to the United Nations, are human rights events. American caring citizens consider clean elections basic and a sacred human right. We called clean elections “self-evident” in our founding freedom charter and linked them to our human health. So if we can’t get clean elections our life, liberty and happiness are at stake. Here is the second very long sentence of our U.S. Declaration of Independence that spells it out:  

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness, — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

How Do We the People Get Clean Elections?

The short answer is we have to focus on compassion and human rights, which is what our founders were talking about when they focused on “safety and happiness.” We actually have to talk to one another. In Ohio, our major political parties, i.e. Democratic, Green, and Republican Parties, all can get stronger in promoting clean elections beginning in our own political parties. 

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Progressive Democrats and Republicans Have a Lot to Say About Freedom

IMG_3094.JPGBy Paul Rosenberg originally at Salon, used with permission of George Lakoff, show in the photo with Chuck Watts. 

In 1996, cognitive linguist George Lakoff released Moral Politics, a book that should have utterly transformed our understanding of politics. And for many who read it, it certainly did.

In his 1980 book Metaphors We Live By, Lakoff introduced the concept of conceptual metaphors—metaphors that play a systemic structural role in shaping how we think, rather than merely an episodic, decorative role in making our language more interesting and amusing. In “Moral Politics,” he showed how two contrasting conceptual metaphors, based on sharply different family models—the patriarchal “strict father” and the egalitarian “nurturant parent”—serve to structure the moral visions of American liberals and conservatives.

In 2004, Lakoff released Don’t Think of an Elephant! Know Your Values and Frame the Debate, a more popular guide, drawing on a wider range of work in the cognitive sciences, which has sold over 300,000 copies but still hasn’t achieved Lakoff’s goal of educating the progressive community to stop shooting itself in the foot and start living up to its full potential. Ever the optimist—as well as a tireless educator—Lakoff  has just published a new tenth-anniversary edition, which expands its aim to make sense of how progressives have failed to capitalize on the advantage they seemed to have gained in the 2006 and 2008 elections.

But—as with his more massive, weighty tomes, such as Philosophy in the Flesh or Women, Fire and Dangerous Things—Lakoff’s real goal is not correcting a few years of mistakes, but rather a few centuries, or millennia. If that sounds like an ambitious goal, well, of course, it is. But science thrives on challenging received beliefs. Despite the easy, conversational style of this book, and the abundance of bite-sized goodies it contains, this is neither a minor work nor an opportunistic repackaging of an older one. As the following interview should make clear, there are major thematic concepts that are readily accessible in an “Aha!” sort of spirit, yet which also hold the promise of rewarding repeated reflection, not just in tranquility, but in light of much more effective action they can lead to as well.

Last, but not least, Lakoff’s own willingness to examine and learn from his own past mistakes and misunderstandings is a refreshing reminder of why Western science works so much better than our politics does—which is yet another reason to take heart in his efforts to help illuminate and guide the latter with the former.

The following interview has been lightly edited and condensed.

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Rotary and Peace Corps Kickoff Historic Collaboration

In an effort to promote global development and volunteer service, Rotary and Peace Corps have agreed to participate in a one-year pilot program in the Philippines, Thailand, and Togo.

Under the agreement, Rotary clubs and Peace Corps volunteers are encouraged to share their resources and knowledge to boost the impact of development projects in these three countries.

Opportunities for collaboration include supporting community projects, training, networking, and community education. Through the , Rotary clubs can continue to provide small grants to support volunteers and their communities.


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A Silent Revolution Is Taking Place

I am posting these remarks by Georg Kell after Anita Dobrzelecki and I, co-founders, returned from representing the Empathy Surplus Project at the UN Global Compact - USA Network Symposium on Climate Change, November 4, 2014, New York, NY; after we attended the 69th Annual Rotary International / UN Day, November 1, 2014, United Nations. Georg was not at our symposium and his remarks below capture the spirit of our gathering. Chuck Watts

Georg_Kell.jpegGeorg Kell

Executive Director, United Nations Global Compact

As prepared for

Sustainia Award Ceremony, The Danish Royal Theatre

30 October 2014 


We have over a decade of progress showing that business and investors around the world increasingly see the connection between the bottom line and the health of societies.

  • Corporate responsibility initiatives, standards and activities are booming at national and global levels. What began as a peripheral, ethical movement has evolved into a mainstream, strategic corporate practice.

I can say with confidence that a truly global movement is underway, changing markets from within.

  • In an interdependent and transparent world, it is increasingly true that long-term financial success goes hand-in-hand with social and environmental responsibility and sound ethics. The business case for sustainability has evolved significantly in the past 15 years.

A vanguard of companies in all key markets is taking action.

  • At the Global Compact launch in 2000, roughly 40 companies came together with a dozen labour and civil society leaders to commit to universal principles. Today, the Global Compact stands at more than 8,000 companies and 4,000 non-business signatories based in 145 countries.

  • Our participants represent nearly every industry sector, size, and come equally from developed and developing countries. The idea and practice of responsible business has been rooted in all continents, from China to Chile, Mexico to India, Norway to South Africa. We have 100 country networks which are convening companies and acting on key issues at the ground level.

  • The spread of this movement was unthinkable just 15 years ago when few companies in even progressive markets were considering their impact on the environment and society.

We see corporate sustainability becoming the DNA of business culture and operations. Quality drives change. 

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Beyond GDP: 20 States Have Adopted Genuine Progress Indicator

By Marta Ceroni, Originally published at The Guardian Sustainable Business Blog

Vermont two years ago became the first state in the US to pass a law introducing a new metric for measuring economic performance and success.

The Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI) offers an alternative to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which has been used at national and state levels since Simon Kuznets presented it to Congress in 1934, despite his warning of the oversimplifications embedded in the metric.

Systems thinker Donella Meadows, the founder of the Vermont-based organisation that I now direct, cut to the heart of GDP’s limitations when she wrote:

“If you define the goal of society as GDP, that society will do its best to produce GDP. It will not produce welfare, equity, justice or efficiency unless you define a goal and regularly measure and report the state of welfare, equity, justice, or efficiency.”

So it should come as no surprise that Vermont has been joined by 19 other US states and dozens of nations in working on “beyond GDP” metrics.

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May I Have A Drink of Water?

Water-Droplet.jpgWhen you turn on the tap to brush your teeth, what do you want? We want: 

  • Freedom from want of clean water.
  • Freedom from harm without clean water.
  • Freedom from fear of being without clean water.
  • And freedom to meet our individual needs and fulfill our individual dreams because we have plenty of clean water. 

The Ohio Sustainable Business Council invites you to celebrate National Caring Citizenship Day, which begins National Constitution Week (Sept 17 - 23), by attending a roundtable discussion on Clean Water in Ohio, Thursday, September 18, at noon, at Duket Architecture Firm.

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If I Had a Song

human_rights.jpegBy the Rev. John Paddock, Rector, Christ Episcopal Church, Dayton, OH

I was asked the other day, “What is a Christian response to shootings in places like Ferguson, MO, and Beavercreek, OH?” Folk are rallying and fundraising to support the police officers involved while others are doing the same for the victims. The media and internet are filled with folk taking sides and making venomous attacks on people representing different points of view. It’s hard to avoid.

I personally have strong feelings about circumstances like these, since I am the father of six adopted African American children. I know that racism permeates the systems and powers of this world and prejudice infects us all in many conscious and unconscious ways. It’s also true that police have a difficult job at best, and they fear for their lives as they go into fluid and potentially threatening situations. It also seems to me that all people of good will would like to see our society become more fair and just for everyone.

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The Power of Mental Pictures

By Britt Peterson first published in The Chronicle of Higher Education

Around about 2005, you couldn’t shake a stick in Washington without hitting a political consultant who was focus-grouping your stick-shaking metaphor to see whether it provided better "framing" than his opponent’s. The inspiration for the framing craze, George Lakoff’s book Don’t Think of an Elephant!, argued that the Democrats lost in 2004 because they ignored the importance of frames: subconscious structures that determine why people vote the way they do, and that can be activated through abstract linguistic triggers like "family values" or "death tax." Lakoff, a Berkeley professor of cognitive linguistics, became a sought-after consultant in his own right, advising everyone from John Kerry to the U.S. Senate to local unions.

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