Monthly Archives: June 2012

Microchipping Humans

I saw Logan’s Run in high school and thought it was a cool sci fi movie. My friends and I wondered how the people would ever submit to having a device implanted in themselves or their children so that others could control them. Well, turns out there are lots of good reasons to have one implanted…but do they outweigh the reasons not to have them implanted.?

Like every technology, the sinister applications must be considered. Pets are one thing, but human family members…

Over the weekend I am doing some technical manuevering, apologies if there is any disruption in your experience.

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Boon for Biz: Healthcare Mandate Upheld

“Chief Justice Roberts sides with the left”   says the liveblog of the SCOTUS from HuffingtonPost. They’ve upheld the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act. It is being treated as a tax by the courts – that is the interpretation. There is a provision of a sort of state’s rights caveat, but conservatives may be disappointed and shocked, especially with Roberts. What is being parsed here is one of the factions of the conservative movement.

The Official Opinion on the ACA Act:http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/11pdf/11-393c3a2.pdf

“The Left” liked the mandate because they are empathetic to all, Roberts liked it – more likely – because it goes a long way in marrying private interests with government requirements in which the values responsible are questionable.

The values of the ACA supporters are up for debate, but the values behind for profit health care are not. If the legislature and court are going to uphold the idea that the government can tax and require Americans to buy a product or service, the least they could do is insure that service has Americans best interest in mind – not theirs. This decision is a victory for empathy among the people but also for Big Business related to the the health care industry. It’s a blow for individual choice but a victory for a sense of a shared human (American) condition.

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Capitalism Crises Should Send Us Back to the Drawing Board

Modern culture assumes the natural order includes a capitalist philosophy – it is not necessarily the case. Here is a very simple and informative animation that explains how we think about the roots of our current economical crises.

In reality, there are alternatives to capitalismRichard Wolf of the Guardian UK explains based on first hand observation:

Modern societies have mostly chosen a capitalist organization of production. In capitalism, private owners establish enterprises and select their directors who decide what, how and where to produce and what to do with the net revenues from selling the output. This small handful of people makes all those economic decisions for the majority of people – who do most of the actual productive work. The majority must accept and live with the results of all the directorial decisions made by the major shareholders and the boards of directors they select. This latter also select their own replacements.

Capitalism thus entails and reproduces a highly undemocratic organization of production inside enterprises. Tina (short for Euro style capitalism) believers insist that no alternatives to such capitalist organizations of production exist or could work nearly so well, in terms of outputs, efficiency, and labor processes. The falsity of that claim is easily shown. Indeed, I was shown it a few weeks ago and would like to sketch it for you here.

In May 2012, I had occasion to visit the city of Arrasate-Mondragon, in the Basque region of Spain. It is the headquarters of the Mondragon Corporation (MC), a stunningly successful alternative to the capitalist organization of production.

MC is composed of many co-operative enterprises grouped into four areas: industry, finance, retail and knowledge. In each enterprise, the co-op members (averaging 80-85% of all workers per enterprise) collectively own and direct the enterprise. Through an annual general assembly the workers choose and employ a managing director and retain the power to make all the basic decisions of the enterprise (what, how and where to produce and what to do with the profits).

As each enterprise is a constituent of the MC as a whole, its members must confer and decide with all other enterprise members what general rules will govern MC and all its constituent enterprises. In short, MC worker-members collectively choose, hire and fire the directors, whereas in capitalist enterprises the reverse occurs. One of the co-operatively and democratically adopted rules governing the MC limits top-paid worker/members to earning 6.5 times the lowest-paid workers. Nothing more dramatically demonstrates the differences distinguishing this from the capitalist alternative organization of enterprises. (In US corporations, CEOs can expect to be paid 400 times an average worker’s salary – a rate that has increased 20-fold since 1965.)

Given that MC has 85,000 members (from its 2010 annual report), its pay equity rules can and do contribute to a larger society with far greater income and wealth equality than is typical in societies that have chosen capitalist organizations of enterprises. Over 43% of MC members are women, whose equal powers with male members likewise influence gender relations in society different from capitalist enterprises.

MC displays a commitment to job security I have rarely encountered in capitalist enterprises: it operates across, as well as within, particular cooperative enterprises. MC members created a system to move workers from enterprises needing fewer to those needing more workers – in a remarkably open, transparent, rule-governed way and with associated travel and other subsidies to minimize hardship. This security-focused system has transformed the lives of workers, their families, and communities, also in unique ways.

The MC rule that all enterprises are to source their inputs from the best and least-costly producers – whether or not those are also MC enterprises – has kept MC at the cutting edge of new technologies. Likewise, the decision to use of a portion of each member enterprise’s net revenue as a fund for research and development has funded impressive new product development. R&D within MC now employs 800 people with a budget over $75m. In 2010, 21.4% of sales of MC industries were new products and services that did not exist five years earlier. In addition, MC established and has expanded Mondragon University; it enrolled over 3,400 students in its 2009-2010 academic year, and its degree programs conform to the requirements of the European framework of higher education. Total student enrollment in all its educational centers in 2010 was 9,282.

The largest corporation in the Basque region, MC is also one of Spain’s top ten biggest corporations (in terms of sales or employment). Far better than merely surviving since its founding in 1956, MC has grown dramatically. Along the way, it added a co-operative bank, Caja Laboral (holding almost $25bn in deposits in 2010). And MC has expanded internationally, now operating over 77 businesses outside Spain. MC has proven itself able to grow and prosper as an alternative to – and competitor of – capitalist organizations of enterprise.

During my visit, in random encounters with workers who answered my questions about their jobs, powers, and benefits as cooperative members, I found a familiarity with and sense of responsibility for the enterprise as a whole that I associate only with top managers and directors in capitalist enterprises. The easy conversation (including disagreement), for instance, between assembly-line workers and top managers inside the Fagor washing-machine factory we inspected was similarly remarkable.

Our MC host on the visit reminded us twice that theirs is a co-operative business with all sorts of problems:

“We are not some paradise, but rather a family of co-operative enterprises struggling to build a different kind of life around a different way of working.”

No one is supposing that alternatives to capitalism are all sunshine and lollipops, there will always be challenges that arrive, but with a shared interest in efficiency, profit making, and employee quality of life, the solution sounds more fair for more people. The fruits of productivity can raise the standard of living for all, workers really can reap what they sew.

If nothing else, it is time, like the animation showed, to seriously debate and discuss the entire capitalist system.

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Sage Slave

Thomas Hall was a slave in Orange County, North Carolina. He was 81 when he was interviewed by the Federal Writer’s Project in 1937. Our future comes at us at an ever quickening pace and with the chaos of a globalized community – we are not taking the time to learn about our past. Here is an excerpt of Thomas Hall’s words to his interviewer:

Getting married and having a family was a joke in the days of slavery, as the main thing in allowing any form of matrimony among the slaves was to raise more slaves in the same sense and for the same purpose as stock raisers raise horses and mules, that is, for work. A woman who could produce fast was in great demand and would bring a good price on the auction block …

The food in many cases that was given the slaves was not given them for the pleasure or by a cheerful giver, but for the simple and practical reason  that children would not grow in to a large healthy slave unless they were well fed and clothed, and give a good warm places to live. … – My Folks Don’t Want Me to Talk About Slavery Continue reading

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The REAL Reason Conservatives Win Even While Progressive Ideas are Favored

The following piece was written by Joe Brewer, a visionary and progressive activist practiced in political framing and thinking with values first. It makes some great points, drawing on deep human history. Thanks Joe, and pay special attention to his lines in bold.

The REAL Reason Conservatives Always Win

by on June 22, 2012 in Political Mind, Progressive Infrastructure, Social Movements

Have you ever wondered why it is that Progressives repeatedly lose ground in American politics?  We almost always have the facts on our side.  The experts agree with us.  Hell, a lot of us are the experts.  And yet history clearly shows that Conservatives have the best political game in town.  They dominate political discourse, establishing which frames shape the most important issues of the day.  Their values associated with rugged individualism, mass consumption, and a contempt for civil society are blasted at the American public through massive media outlets that they have acquired and built up over the last several decades.  And when the global economy melts down as a direct result of their economic and fiscal policies, who gets blamed?  In a word, liberals.

What’s going on here?  Why is it that Conservatives are so good at winning and Progressives produce a lackluster resistance at best?  The answer comes from a fundamental insight from evolutionary biology.  Stated simply, it goes like this: Continue reading

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