Joe Firmage Automne 1999

Objet:         AUTUMN 1999
 la date:         Tue, 21 Dec 1999 05:40:16 -0700 (MST)
    De:         Joe Firmage <>
     A:         (All Registered Users)

Hello friend,

It's been a couple of months since I last e-mailed you. In the meantime, the
season of restlessness in Washington has come upon us once again, and I
thought I'd share a few ideas relevant to the times.

Incumbent and hopeful alike, politicians, committees, and lobbies are
polishing shoes and speeches through the winter, as we approach the first
election for a new millennium. The rare context in time and a review of the
candidates for President suggest that Election 2000 will be unusually
engaging. Not necessarily because of debates framed within present party
platforms, as Democrat and Republican agendas have edged ever closer to
their common center of gravity in recent years. Rather, the four candidates
leading the polls are all bright and able men, and each has lived much of
his life in the scrutiny of the public's electronic eye. One can anticipate
that they will need such experience, since they'll be the first Presidential
candidates to face the communications power of convergent media, evolving
into potent new forms with an Internet connecting them.

Al Gore enjoys on his side a raging bull economy, and his ideological vector
is tuned well to late 1990's just-left-of-center political momentum.
President Gore would likely give us a slightly more clunky but less canned
policy-driven vision, focused on the trajectory of issues of the preceding
administration, and perpetuating Bill Clinton's art of successful
incremental change. Gore's challenge, as noted by so many, is to reveal an
unmanufactured and unrehearsed emotional importance to America, because he
will likely not match the packaging that can be purchased by George W. Bush.

Deserving them or not, the former President's son has masterfully leveraged
the vibes of reverence accorded dynastic families in government. Working in
its favor, the Bush Campaign was wise enough to sense the need to take its
party to task for the shallowness of ethic demonstrated by national
priorities like those championed by Steve Forbes. It would seem though that
Bush will need great showmanship or the drama of a new crisis to make up for
an agenda painfully free of the breakthrough thinking needed for the next
millennium. He could always surprise us with something beyond "A Uniquely
American Foreign Policy." In any case, he will likely face much stiffer
tests of vision and intellect at later whistle stops.

Most competent in direct argument with him is John McCain, a worthy
Republican and heroic veteran whose passionate commitment to campaign
finance reform has earned him respect from many of the wisest conservatives.
If Americans would take the time to study truthfully the functioning of our
systems of governance, they would understand why McCain's hawkish military
posture and undeveloped domestic vision might be tolerable prices to pay for
a while, if he could actually drive through real advancements in our
king-making process. Enlightened Republicans who vote their belief in the
spirit rather than letter of our electoral process will likely be voting for
John McCain in the primaries.

McCain's handicap - an anchor caught in aging party dogma - is the weight
that Bill Bradley calculates Americans may be ready to begin releasing.
Bradley's speeches have demonstrated an apolitical quality. He identifies
the unnecessary failings of our society, laying the emphasis of
responsibility on our collective ideology rather than party affiliation. In
the midst of heady times on Wall Street and Main Street, he seems to sense
the interplay of profound acceleration, globalization of trade and
communications, the average ethics of modern living, and uncertainties in
future change - important clues to wild cards that the thought leader of a
free world might have to deal with in real time. Bradley appears to have the
vision of a genuine statesman. His challenge will be to create a platform
around truly important ideas for the 21st century expressed in simple terms,
moving with determination beyond the noise of arguments over rounding


I was reading the other day about Warren Beatty's address concerning a
presidential bid. He has been lamenting the lack of debate on issues of
great moment to many of us - international conflict, environmental
destruction, poverty, homelessness, military posture - none of which appear
to be moving concerns to the majority of exuberant modern capitalists in
this country. I personally think Beatty's speech was precognitive of types
of issues the 2000 election will evolve to debate, since basic questions
facing humanity in the first ten years of the new millennium will, in fact,
yield answers of enormous relevance to the exuberant modern capitalist.

Military Conflictions

One of the first is the question of whether we will continue to encourage
the militarization of nations, in principle by example and in profit through

"What kind of war will the U.S. fight in the future," asked Thomas Ricks for
the Wall Street Journal on November 12, 1999. "Some defense experts argue
that the threat will most likely come in the form of an epic confrontation
with a powerful state-of-the-art military. Say, for instance, Iran in 2025
smites its neighbors with chemical weapons and seizes Saudi Arabia's oil
fields. Others predict there won't be any more big wars - just a plethora of
enemy 'ankle-biters' menacing U.S. troops with nettlesome firefights, as the
Americans feed starving refugees on one block while separating warring
factions on the next."

Shall we invest our wealth in the military machine's global infrastructure,
weapons systems, and youthful vigor, capitalizing it with ideology and
equipment prepared to fight World War III? Or, shall we organize a network
of relatively nimble and mobile peace-keeping functions, capable of
insertion into regional crises? Shall we organize a Space Force?

These are not abstract questions. They are questions facing us here and now,
with consequences that will reverberate for generations. They are viewed as
central questions by the Pentagon, for our answers determine how our
military intends to invest the nearly $300 billion dollars received from us
annually, give or take a new lethal weapon or two.

But a growing number among military leaders privately will tell you, and a
few brave politicians openly argue, that these are entirely the wrong
questions. They believe that the right questions are more along the lines of
these: As science increasingly yields the ability for any determined
terrorist to take out a city electronically, biologically, chemically, or
atomically, how does the role of war-making in society change? Does the fact
that we spend more money each year on defense than the rest of the nations
on the U.N. Security Council combined contribute to the currency and ethical
permission of military solutions to conflicts among people? In comparison,
how much are we investing each year in addressing the frictions that give
rise to military confrontation? What are those frictions and how might they
be relaxed? How many of these frictions are caused by fictions?

Is America letting the painful necessity of past military investment and
surrounding ideological inertia confound genuine progress towards a peaceful
world community?

Giving journalists good reason to punctuate this question, we glimpsed this
fall an increasingly rare sharp distinction between the ideologies of
Democrat and Republican parties, in the tally of the Nuclear Test Ban Vote.
Despite one of President Clinton's finer hours in heartfelt effort for
passage, shockingly myopic, ethically vacant, and intellectually defective
posturing among Senate Republican leadership resulted in the failure of
America to ratify a proclamation to the world with the moral: "We, the
inventors of the nuclear bomb and the only nation to have deployed it in
conflict, forever foreswear its offensive use, shall not attempt to increase
its potency further, and shall open ourselves to inspection of commitment to
this oath." Such is the basic spirit of the treaty.

As reported by CNN's John Cloud on October 18, 1999, "Allies were ... upset.
Britain's government was 'deeply disappointed'; the Japanese Foreign
Minister 'extremely concerned.' To be sure, there was some justification for
the anxiety. It's difficult to dissuade India and Pakistan from testing
nukes in each other's backyards if the U.S. won't promise to end testing.
'There is a collective sigh of relief in Indian government circles,' says
Bharat Karnad of the Center for Policy Research in New Delhi. 'Jesse Helms
[who, as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, led the
opposition] has taken India off the hook.'"

The fig leaf postulate of the GOP leadership goes something like this:
Mutually Assured Destruction - a game of apocalyptic chicken among nations
with twitchy fingers on red buttons and nuclear footballs - is the policy
that will convince other countries not to develop and test advanced nuclear

Meanwhile, industriousness paid by Cold War inertia invents and spreads ever
more perfect machines of destruction, with ever sharpening focus of
lethality, packing ever more concentrated bangs, through increasingly
invisible systems of delivery, presumably in the future to be orchestrated
on "secure" Web sites clicked from distributed centers of command floating
and flying about the Earth.

If you were an alien visitor to this world, it isn't very hard to imagine
why you might want to keep your distance.

Recruiting troubles across the Armed Forces? The honest assessment that's
tough for the American ego to hear is that we've seen only the beginning.
Which 18-year old young man or woman wants to prepare to die on a
battlefield with satellite-guided, nano-engineered 'brilliant pebbles'
zipping through the air, remote controlled from policy joy sticks in
Washington, when he can be necking with his girlfriend while watching
Titanic, learning HTML in school, and chatting on AOL with friends in Japan
about some incredible new MP3 tunes?

Will humans collectively ever cherish, nourish, educate, trust and inspire
each other sufficiently to stop the cycles of hatred and let weapons rust?
The conflicts raging in Russia and other parts of Asia would suggest not, as
our brothers and sisters continue to churn in an underaided epochal
reconstruction of their communities, following a century of ravage by war.

My observations are not intended to affix primary responsibility for this
situation on the individuals within our military, who are among the most
ruggedly honest and ethical of any people I've had the pleasure to meet; we
have brave and intelligent family members forming and running the heaviest
iron of our collective machine. Rather, I am criticizing the forward-looking
relevance, and conveying deep concern about the consequences, of the
ideological charters that perpetuate the use of our ingenuity and resources
for militarizing our small spaceship. How long will we let the
consumer-producer cycle in this painful value chain go on before we vocalize
and seriously finance ideas that unify instead of divide, accommodating
steps toward an open world community of individual human beings? Are the
lines on Earth's map forever to divide, instead of denote, our cultures?

My own young generation has seen the memories of our parents' and
grandparents' painful sacrifices. Unlike any generation before us, we are
humbled by and grateful to be able to learn from terrifying memories of our
ancestors' horrors, passed to us in 70mm film and Digital Surround Sound.
Their anguish is engraved in blood painted across our history books. We must
question whether we have respect for their lessons - whether we have felt
the depth of their sacrifice - sufficient to evolve our momentum beyond both
the Hot and Cold War Realpolitik that killed them.

We must evolve the limits of the conceptual paradigm of humanity's future,
if we wish to give compass to our present.

I think it's fair to say that most people believe, or least certainly hope,
that one day human beings will have figured out how to live together in
peace. If such a utopian future is ever to be achieved in reality, there are
two great tests among many others that all inhabitants of Earth must figure
out together. First, influential individuals must step forward who have the
courage to question not simply the direction of funding for existing world
military machines, but the forward-looking adequacy of the aging social
programming informing their very charters. Second, positive new priorities
for our industrious activities will have to be identified which can go to
work quickly. Without coercion, they must truthfully invite harmony among
the ethical compasses of individuals across strata of world society, in
resonance with the gifts, needs and limits of Nature. These new priorities
must soar above the relevance of old grievances and individual profit,
giving us real comfort that unlocking our doors in faith one day is right.

Secretly, I think we are coming to know that this is the only sustainable
path for the long term. Since our cultural dialogue increasingly evolves in
Internet time, I imagine that within startlingly few years we will be asking
ourselves what ways we can find to drastically redirect military spending.
Other simpler approaches to sustainable prevention of military conflicts
will be emerging. We'll be telling our parents, spouses and children to come
home, with gratitude and admiration for their courage and sacrifice,
hopefully ready and able to use their tremendous skills for more rewarding
quests than war.

"Beautiful but hopelessly naive vision, Joe... the rest of us live in the
real world," many will likely say. We'll see. The candidates in the
elections of the next 20 years are going to be faced with precisely this
scale of challenge to their stewardship. I hope their visions can stretch
into the hearts of the people of all nations.  God help us if they can't.

Enlisting Bugs in the War on Drugs

Focusing the question of military confrontation on another kingdom of life,
we find a creature described by Rep. Bill McCollum as "a silver bullet in
the drug war". A strain of the fungus called Fusarium oxyporum is being
cultivated in the laboratory, designed to seek out and destroy all forms of
cannabis sativa, coca, and poppy plants. It has been reported that the Drug
Czar under Governor Jeb Bush's administration in Florida wants to try it

It is not a great secret to ordinary Americans that those components of the
U.S. War on Drugs focused on interdiction have failed to significantly
curtail availability. While there are frequently small and infrequently
large busts of traffic and traffickers, the supply of certain plant
substances demanded by the American consumer has fostered an underground
economy of production and distribution that will forever morph to confound
the obstacles confronting it.

The distribution system itself smells of the decay of the tens of thousands
of children it consumes. Both proponents and opponents of the War on Drugs
decry the catastrophic costs to society of the overall situation. But, that
is as far as total agreement goes.

Representing a prevalent view on corrective strategy, General Barry M.
McCaffrey noted years ago, "the elimination of illicit coca and opium
cultivation is the best way to reduce cocaine and heroin availability". So,
the logic now apparently goes, let us find a natural disease and use our
rising knowledge of the behaviors of biological agents to cultivate its
virulence so perfectly that it can destroy every instance of a species of
these evil plants. Now marijuana has been added to the target list.

As far as I can see, the hope is that we might be able to deploy some sort
of a biological DEA - like a U.S. Bug Force - making extinct the species it
targets, wherever it goes... and however it evolves.

Our world society's basic lack of lack of appreciation of the power of
evolution - a wound on truth that religious traditions must themselves
disinfect - is the concern that terrifies opponents of this flawed policy.
"Fusarium species are capable of evolving rapidly. Mutagenicity is by far
the most disturbing factor in attempting to use a Fusarium species as a
bioherbicide," wrote David Struhs, Secretary of the Florida Department of
Environmental Protection on April 6, 1999 to the Florida Drug Czar, Jim
McDonough. "It is difficult, if not impossible, to control the spread of
Fusarium species... Some species found in Europe have been found to
originate in Florida."

How can we think ourselves wise enough in science, and sure enough in
morals, to launch proactive biological warfare on these species? We can
neither predict nor control the evolutionary and geographic path such a
force would ultimately clear of life.

More broadly speaking, other people equally concerned about the health and
well-being of society have starkly different views on the War Against Evil
Plants. Tens of millions of Americans who have at one time or another smoked
marijuana, me included, believe that more workable policies rest in the
direction of decriminalization of consumption. Almost all of us are deeply
concerned about the dangers of substance abuse, into which category the
legal ones - alcohol and tobacco - yield by far the most destruction. "So
why should other substances be decriminalized?" one can logically ask.

The answer seems so simple: people will find ways to buy substances anyway,
and those who have no better living to make, make a living fulfilling demand
with supply. With profit margins directly indexed to the danger in
confounding law enforcement, this market battle attracts and cultivates
human infrastructure lacking an alternative vision of "wealth creation"
within reach. When the judicial wind blows over these innumerable
intermediaries, any hope of a normal life is snuffed out as they are
condemned to "correctional" facilities.

Many of us believe instead that decriminalization of the consumption of
certain plants is the only path that will end the cycle currently
marginalizing a shocking number of Americans. We believe it is foolish to
demonize plants as evil, but rather believe that scientific truth (which
most teens experience first hand) should be recognized and taught: these
substances have powerful effects which can be enjoyable and dangerous,
sometimes vital as medicine, and possibly even important for the evolution
of consciousness. Like many other substances, and certainly countless
technologies, their use is hard to control, and if consumed improperly or
excessively, they can be highly destructive to the body and the mind.

Those of us in the moderation-in-all-things party would say that this
perspective of truthful openness applies to all of the natural (a.k.a.
"naughty") risk-laden activities of human beings that make us feel good:
sex, alcohol, food, rock climbing, loud music, etc. Policies centered on the
drum beat of unscientific dogma are now quickly recognized by their intended
young audiences as... well... something from a doggy. Hence they don't tend
to work.

If we want to address the real problem and not simply pat ourselves on the
back for jailing another child, watching while another young "drug dealer"
fills the vacuum, we must eliminate profit from illicit drug distribution,
and target dependence and addiction as the primary crises. These problems
are reflections of the inadequacy of education and other deeper social ills,
and prohibition will not cure them. Biological warfare certainly will not
cure them. People experiencing the pain of society's wounds will simply turn
to other illegalities for relief.

To be very clear, decriminalization cannot occur without a deep commitment
to enduring education. The discovered knowledge of effects of these types of
substances must be taught at a young age, and updated throughout life. We
live in a highly mechanized society, not organically in a garden free of
single points of failure, and each individual is a vital function of a
community system. The lives of us all depend upon the functions of each of

Whenever decriminalization of consumption does become politically correct,
the transition is likely to be bumpy and challenging, but there would seem
no easier way out of ignorance than education.


As controversial as such subjects may be, more challenging subjects are
ahead for the statesmen and stateswomen of the 21st century, and they are
not likely to divide us along familiar political, social or even national

·       What is the strategic future of the United Nations with respect to
national and other multinational governing bodies?

·       Will the West step up and lend to Russia significant
multi-disciplinary assistance genuinely devoid of financial leverage
balanced in our favor?

·       What are the local and global consequences of the AIDS catastrophe
looming in Africa?

·       What are the social implications of the advancement of genetic

·       How will high-bandwidth, point-to-point, global communications
transform the behavior and intellect of the typical human being? The typical
government? The market economy?

·       How will a globalizing, growth-dependent, consumption-measured,
profit-worshipping economy grapple with increasingly obvious environmental
limits to resource sustainability, threatening the very tree of life on

·       What environmental solutions might emerge and how will economic
interests shift if easily scalable means are discovered to generate
electricity with little or no expenditure of fossil fuel?

·       How will geopolitics evolve if breakthroughs in our understanding of
physics yield the ability to influence the force of gravity - turning
garages into landing pads?

·       Recognizing that world wars framed the productive priorities of
humanity through the 20th century, what kind of vision will frame our future
productive priorities?

·       What unifying and rational spiritual meaning can fill the
increasingly painful vacuum left in the hearts of people - a void incapable
of satisfaction by the matter of profit, divisive religious dogma, and
sterilized science?

Hidden in such seemingly-intractable, potentially divisive challenges rest
rare and potent opportunities for collaboration, openness, and unity in
spirit crossing every kind of background, boundary and border. Such are the
subjects our world's leaders must be prepared to tackle in the first years
of the new millennium.

Each of us equipped with a connection to the Internet now has a global
voice, enabling us to share our reasoning with each other broadly. Every
quarter or so, I'll share with you my thinking on these types of questions,
inviting you to join me in a humblingly challenging quest for useful


It's been a year since founding the International Space Sciences
Organization, an enterprise pursuing breakthrough understandings in science.
We are studying the ideas encountered at the leading edge of physics and
consciousness research. In 1999, ISSO Science has begun to organize its
experimental agenda, and has since been following many promising paths of
hypothesis and test. We believe that a few years of concentrated and
structured studies can yield several remarkable insights in physics, with
significant implications for 21st century society.

We also recognize a responsibility to create educational and entertaining
programming to convey the wonders and dangers of scientific knowledge to
minds everywhere, enriching with the sense of spiritual meaning which
science can, yet does not often, uniquely convey. The ISSO Studio team is
just beginning to form, but our first productions have been underway for
some time. Stay tuned through 2000.

Having invested much of my greatly exaggerated net worth to bring ISSO to
this point, I'm in the process of raising capital for our projects, and one
first private briefing has been held. The group that gathered on October 12
talked about a whole range of different still-early concepts, but at the
center rested this point: physics does not have answers to its most
important questions, yet. There are profound implications following from
this fact. Our understanding of Nature progresses in successive
approximations of resolution, revealing her most potent secrets only when we
are ready. This is why Neanderthals didn't obtain access to nuclear forces
to settle arguments over land, food, and mates.

What can be seen in the leading edges of physics and consciousness research,
not to mention in the evening news, suggests to me that education in
spiritually integrating science is about as high a global priority as can be

One final note on the subject of positively influencing human affairs. The
Carl Sagan Foundation (CSF), a not-for-profit organization, has been formed
in memory of one of the greatest visionaries who ever lived. Founded by
Carl's wife and partner, Ann Druyan, CSF is presently raising capital for a
pioneering effort to transform the healing environment within a new
children's hospital in the Bronx. Images of Cosmos and new learning tools
from science have been designed into its walls, floors, ceilings, and
systems, turning the sterile and frightening landscape of the hospital into
a place of discovery and inspiration.

I have been privileged to make the first $1 million contribution to CSF. I
hope that others approached by Ann's team can find room in their hearts for
a gift to the children to be touched by this effort, establishing a model
for children's hospitals around the world, and expressing thanks for Carl
Sagan's inspiration.

Stay well,

Joe Firmage

Please do not reply to this message - it will not be responded to.

Address serious correspondence only to ISSO at:

General - Abigail Lewis (
Science - Andrew Mount (
Administrative - Lynore Tillim (
Press - Tony Young (

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