21 December 2012

Solstice Message

As the sun was rising in the east we heard the swoosh of large wings, 7 beats and then silence, 7 beats and then silence, 7 beats...we watched as three crows flapped in unison, flying in formation...the sounds as those of one set of wings...the silence was when their formation crossed, their pattern was that of a figure 8, infinity...

We came in to read this:

"Crow is an omen of change. Crow lives in the void and has no sense of time. The Ancient Chiefs tell us that Crow sees simultaneously the three fates---past, present, future. Crow merges light and darkness, seeing both inner and outer reality...Remember that Crow looks at the world with first one eye, and then the other. Cross-eyed. In the Mayan culture, cross-eyeds had the privilege and duty of looking into the future. You must put aside your fear of being a voice in the wilderness and "caw" the shots as you see them."

Happy Solstice, Yule Tidings to all.

To us it seems like the beginning of a New Year.

17 December 2012


‎"Bryant saw a flash on the screen: the explosion. Parts of the building
collapsed. The child had disappeared. Bryant had a sick feeling in his

'Did we just kill a kid?' he asked the man sitting next to him.

'Yeah, I guess that was a kid,' the pilot replied.

'Was that a kid?' they wrote into a chat window on the monitor.

Then, someone they didn't know answered, someone sitting in a military command center somewhere in the world who had observed their attack. 'No. That was a dog,' the person wrote.

They reviewed the scene on video. A dog on two legs?"

A surreal article about life as a drone operator in a war that is being waged more and more like a video game.
My story:
As a liaison responsible for clearing areas for fire in VietNam I constantly heard chopper pilots call requests for "3 military aged males with packs and weapons evading, request permission to engage"...too pat...after months of war and witnessing carnage it finally 'grabbed me' the wrong way...I asked, "What's your altitude"...When the pilot responded with 2000 feet (or maybe it was even higher) I asked him to check it out further and get back to me with a better ID...he radioed back "Disregard previous request"...I asked the nature of the target...he said it was a mamasan and two babysans by a river doing laundry...my heart exploded...my mind exploded...how many times had I given clearance to engage military aged males with packs and weapons who were children and mothers carrying laundry to the river, carrying rice back from the fields...it changed my life...and the rest of my tour I changed what was happening in my area...some appreciated it...some hated me for it.

I still awaken to the sounds of my own screams...in a cold sweat.

16 December 2012

This goes much deeper than 'gun control'...

We need a "disarmament" of our souls...of the soul of this nation and all others. An end to violence of all forms, extraction industries, species decimation, acidification of the oceans, monocultures of GMOs, an endless litany of our violent 'humanity'...

...from the sorrow in the street,
the holy places where the races meet;
from the homicidal bitchin'
that goes down in every kitchen
to determine who will serve and who will eat.
From the wells of disappointment
where the women kneel to pray
for the grace of God in the desert here
and the desert far away...

... We asked for signs
the signs were sent:
the birth betrayed
the marriage spent
Yeah the widowhood
of every government --
signs for all to see.

I can't run no more
with that lawless crowd
while the killers in high places
say their prayers out loud.
But they've summoned, they've summoned up
a thundercloud
and they're going to hear from me.

Ring the bells that still can ring ...

(thanks Leonard)

15 December 2012

Our Culture of Fear, War and Division

 Twenty-two children were stabbed in a violent knife attack by a man in China. The difference is no child was killed in the knife attack. This isn't a gun control issue in the 'strictest' sense. It is a culture of violence and divisiveness we have here in the US. There is not necessarily a correlation between gun ownership and gun violence. Switzerland has 44 weapons per 100 citizens...with few acts of gun violence. There is a culture of numbness in this country. Would we be mourning and weeping the loss of the 20 children who were killed by a drone attack in Pakistan? What about the troop in Afghanistan who went berserk and snuck away in the night from his base to murder the children, women and old men in the small village near the base? Yes, it gets media attention...for a moment. But we do not mourn, not as a nation. We do not become fixated. Connecticut has some of the strictest gun control measures in the nation...yet that did not stop this violence. I suspect that our culture is to blame...the culture of violent video games...the culture of testosterone filled movies and competition aimed at and for children and adolescent mentalities...the culture of bullying and power over others in all aspects of our political and 'civil' discourse.... This is all so complicated that we cannot discuss it as one singular issue.

We live in a constant state of fear and 'war for peace'...we militarize and weaponize the world...we mourn our losses and yet so many peoples suffer losses because of our actions.

An example...from personal experience. I mourn the loss of the 58,000 US KIAs in our war in VietNam, we built a wall to remember...but I have nightmares and never forget the 3 to 5 million people we killed in SE Asia...there is also a wall we put up, collectively, to conveniently ignore those losses.

"Teach your children well,
Their father's hell did slowly go by,
And feed them on your dreams
The one they picked, the one you'll know by.

Don't you ever ask them why, if they told you, you would cry,
So just look at them and sigh and know they love you.

And you, of tender years,
Can't know the fears that your elders grew by,
And so please help them with your youth,
They seek the truth before they can die."

Teach your children well...and make good decisions for them and for yourselves. Teach by doing. The best political statement you or I can make is how we live our lives

11 November 2012

A Bit About Me

It really gets down to the journey...the unknowable, the unseen...the rejuvenation, becoming young again and again. Through language and ideas, love and respect. Elemental...sharing the fire of our ancestors, telling the stories, being in awe...breathing the molecules that passed through the nostrils of Cleopatra and out of the gasps of dying Somalian babies...the sand of the beaches beneath my toes...the soil of the earth nourishing my body...the dirt beneath my wheels...diving deep and resurfacing...becoming one with the wave...hydration, completion. Outside the box...it's where we all must think...or all is lost. Who I'd like to meet: Musicians on the beach...no matter the instrument, accompanied by the pulse of the earth and moon. Myself on other paths.

28 October 2012

All Our Relations

Years ago I visited an elderly care center with a friend of mine...we went to see her grandfather before he died. I'd never met him before. He was in a wheel chair in a hallway, bent and shriveled, head bowed as if asleep or already gone...when I noticed him, he looked up at me through glass lenses which were as thick as the bottom of a pop bottle, accenting the size and meaning in his beckoning eyes. His fixed on mine, and a wizened hand motioned toward me to come to him. I stood by his side, he motioned me closer, closer...'til my ear was next to his mouth. He whispered, "In the end it's the wink of an eye!". Then his head dropped again, seemingly inattentive. That was nearly 4 decades ago. I've carried his message with me ever since, just as death has been riding on my left shoulder since my first combat experience.

The world ends for some 160 thousand people each day, as it will surely for each of us eventually...which is what makes our todays all the more precious. We are given the present, this gift...and our sensory organs to physically experience it. We build tactile memories through touching the Earth and her beauty in some way, each day. Through and with all our relations.

27 October 2012

The American Dream

Who exemplifies "The American Dream"?

Was it George W Bush who was born on third base and believed he hit a triple? Went on to throw our economy into a tailspin?

Is it Willard "Mitt" Romney who was born the son of a rich man, a politician...who drove Massachusetts into a tailspin? Who bought and sold workers as if they were chattel? Everything, anything for a buck?

Or is it a mixed race child who has experienced multi-culturism, suffered his mother's death at an early age...raised by a grandfather, veteran of WWII and a grandmother who hit the glass ceiling in her profession? A child who came of age and questioned his role in that time and that America? Who graduated from university and went on to get his advanced degree at Harvard and become the editor of the Harvard Law Review...and, though offered many high paying jobs, decided to work for the underprivileged...the ones who weren't born into entitlement such as Bush and Romney...

The American Dream personified is President Obama.

We should all be proud.

04 October 2012

The Onion Makes So Much Sense In Times Like These

PITTSBURGH—Citing three years of exhausting partisan politics, constant gridlock in Congress, and an overall feeling that the entire nation has "completely lost it," President Barack Obama openly asked a campaign-rally crowd Tuesday why he'd want to serve another term as president of "this godforsaken country."
"My fellow Americans, I come to you today to ask, why?" Obama said to 1,200 people gathered inside a gymnasium at Taylor Allderdice High School. "Why can't our congressional leaders work together to create jobs? Why can't Wall Street ever be held accountable? And most important, why on God's green earth would I voluntarily subject myself to this nonsense for another four years?"
"I'm dead serious," the president continued, saying that any reasonable person would have walked away the moment the Senate minority leader announced his main priority—above creating jobs and improving American health care—was to make Obama a one-term president. "I'm asking if anybody out there can come up with even one reason why I'd want to endure this unmitigated shit show for another minute, let alone through 2016. What's in it for me, ex­actly? Can anyone answer that? Anyone at all?"
After a long silence during which crowd members mostly just shuffled their feet and stared at the ground, Obama said, "Yeah, that's what I thought."
Arguing he'd have to be certifiably insane or some kind of sadistic freak to extend his presidency, Obama asked why anyone with half a brain would willingly open himself up to constant vilification by media strategists, or place himself in a situation that involves so much work for such little reward. He also asked the audience how "messed up and sick" he'd have to be to devote nearly a decade of his life to an unending cycle of political gamesmanship that stifles progress at every turn.
At one point during the 40-minute address, Obama wondered aloud if anyone could blame him for wanting to avoid another four years of idiotic questions about his birth certificate, racist immigration laws, Eric Cantor, citizens who know in their hearts the country must switch to renewable energy but simply refuse to do so, the South, antigay bigotry, and "just all of it, really."
"Today this nation faces difficult questions," Obama said. "For one, how bad must it have gotten for a politician to gladly—gladly—give up the most sought-after elected position in the world? And also, of all the people listening to me right now, is there even one of you who would honestly want to trade places with me? There isn't, is there? And I don't blame you."
In the coming weeks, Obama will reportedly continue to take his anti-second-term message across the country, asking ordinary Americans if they agree that his being on the ballot in November would make him a complete and total moron. Sources within the president's new "One Goddamn Reason" campaign confirmed he is genuinely curious to see if one American citizen can tell him why leaving the White House isn't the best thing he could possibly do for himself and his family.
"I have a pen and some paper right here," Obama said Wednesday morning at a town hall meeting in Ohio. "Let's list the pros and cons of being president. Con: There are people out there who literally want to shoot you dead. Con: We live in a country seriously considering a Newt Gingrich White House. Con: You can help 40 million Americans receive health care, sign legislation that regulates a financial system run amok, give the order to kill Osama bin Laden, help topple Muammar Qaddafi's tyrannical regime without losing the life of one American soldier, end the war in Iraq, repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell, stave off a second Great Depression, take out more than 30 top al- Qaeda leaders, and somehow everyone still calls you the next Jimmy Carter."
"Can anyone out there name a pro?" continued Obama, gesturing at the silent crowd with his pen. "That's okay. I asked a bunch of people in Pittsburgh the same exact question yesterday, and they couldn't, either."
While many Beltway observers questioned Obama's new strategy, saying the president could hurt his chances of serving a second term by saying he doesn't want to serve a second term, others argued Obama seems to have finally rediscovered his voice.
"Whenever I watch him on the stump asking a crowd, 'Why am I fucking here right now?' or saying things like, 'I think I'd rather die than do this job again,' he's so fiery and passionate I'm reminded of the 2007 Obama," Democratic strategist Karen Finney said. "The one who thought he could make a difference before a broken, nonsensical political system and an insane populace robbed him of his humanity, ripped out his heart, and left him for dead.

02 October 2012


We're concerned about our water table...we need rain.

This is our "pond"...dry peat.
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01 October 2012

October 3rd is the actual date of Robert's birthday (87)...not a spry pup, by any means.  I made camerones mariposa on the grill (butterflied shrimp) and some porcupine meatballs...finger food.  He had 3 rum and cokes.  He thought the first one that Cheryl made was too 'wimpy'...so I made him one where he could taste the dark rum...then he had another later on.  We laughed and tried to just be in whatever conversation he began which meandered along no apparent tangents...I was surprised that it was fairly easy to get him back into the car at the end of the day...of course, Cheryl's brother Jeff was helping him along on the opposite side, so he was very balanced and steady for the amount of fun he'd had.


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18 September 2012

If You Don't Like Capitalism or State Socialism, What Do You Want?

by Gar Alperovitz

The very first book I wrote—my Ph.D. thesis, basically—was on the bombing of Hiroshima. An odd place to start. The puzzlement for me was why this country and its leaders, knowing there were alternatives—which is now established as fact—nevertheless went ahead with those bombings.
What was the nature of our culture, the expansionism that created it, and the system that had driven it, which led us to do that? Vietnam and Korea, Iraq and Afghanistan, the World Bank and the IMF—what were they all about? I'm giving you shorthand for a way of thinking about very complex ideas that I’m sure you will understand.
The flaw is an odd kind of imperialism. It is a tragic and ironic form because Americans do have a genuine interest in promoting democracy and liberty as well as a genuine interest in running the global economy in a way that most people thought and still think is the only way possible.
I've worked at high levels of the U.S. government, including the Senate. The people there believe they're doing good work. It’s not that these are bad folks, and yet havoc is wreaked, wars go on, the Third World is badly damaged. We're up against not simply a power structure, not simply a system called capitalism, but a way of thinking that is genuine and honorable—and in my view, wrong. So it is better to start here when we think about what has gone wrong rather than to demonize. But it is a big deal, because now we're up against something more powerful—not only a system, whatever that might mean, but a culture and an ideology as well.
This situation has led me to the kinds of questions that I think are being posed by Occupy Wall Street and the young people who have spoken here today. To put it another way, if you don't like corporate capitalism and you don't like state socialism, what the hell do you want, and why should we listen to you if you don't know? Seriously: what do you want? And if you don't know, what are you talking about?
I don't pretend to offer you a final answer, but I do think those questions are on the table. They are on the table for the first time in my adult lifetime, perhaps even for the first time in American history. We can go through the long history of how, when problems arose in the nineteenth century, free land seemed to solve almost anything. And how in the twentieth century, wars in the first and second quarters of the century bailed us out of great stagnation and then the Great Depression, followed by wars in Korea and Vietnam and the growing military budgets of the third quarter of the century. Those wars were not by design, but they stabilized the system. With the spread of nuclear weapons we are now up against the incapacity of that particular mechanism to stabilize this particular system.
I don't think the system will collapse. U.S. government spending was 11 percent of GDP in 1929. It is now roughly 30 percent, providing a substantially greater “floor” beneath the economy. It may stagnate and decay, stagnate and decay, stagnate and decay—all the while gobbling up resources and causing climate destruction. I think this is the odd context we're moving into historically. It is also a context that is steadily forcing people to ask deeper and deeper and deeper questions, triggered, wonderfully, by Occupy Wall Street. It would not have triggered such a reaction if people didn't already sense that something is seriously wrong. Many don't have words for it, and many certainly don't have concrete actions in mind although they may have some inkling of what needs to be done. There are a lot of projects, there are a lot of ideas, but when such a large number of people—including the Tea Party, in its strange way— realize something is wrong with the prevailing system, that is a profound moment of history. It is the most profound moment of history I have ever been engaged in. And I have lived though the 1960s and was active in the anti-war movement, the civil rights movement, and so forth.
Those movements, particularly the feminist movement and the civil rights movement, were largely about getting into the system. "Let us in. Don't discriminate, don’t discriminate, don't discriminate." There were pieces of those movements with a different vision, but that was the dominant form. The environmental movement was saying, "Regulate the corporations." And indeed, a moment burst open that was favorable to regulation. I think that moment is over, and getting in is no longer the primary issue, except for very large numbers of people, particularly minorities, who are not getting in at all. There are now urgent questions of whether the system works and, I think, whether it can be changed in large.
So I think the underlying problem we're talking about here is: If you don't like capitalism and you don't like socialism, what the hell do you want and how do you get there? That's where I'm coming from—just to lay my cards on the table.
We spend a great deal of time at the Democracy Collaborative coming at it another way, not theorizing about history, although that's where we're coming from—Ted Howard and I—but asking, "Is there anything that the press isn’t covering because it lacks the money for on-the-ground reporting?" We try to learn what's out there, and we’ve been doing it for longer than I care to remember. What we’ve found out is that in one form or another there are four to five thousand neighborhood nonprofit corporations trying to benefit communities—some good, some bad, some very interesting, some not so interesting.
If you include all forms of worker-owned coops, you’ll see that they come in various flavors: some not so good, some wonderful, some changing. Even Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs) are changing, by the way—many are becoming unionized and participatory. There are in America today something like 11,000 worker-owned firms involving five to six million more people than are involved in the labor movement. Nobody is covering them; they are not being talked about. I opened the morning news and saw that credit unions are all of a sudden becoming very popular as the place to shift your money to. There are 130 million Americans involved in one or another form of coop, including credit unions.
Community land trusts (CLTs), started thirty years ago by Bob Swann, co-founder and first president of the E. F. Schumacher Society, are also popping up in different forms—hundreds of them all over the country. People are looking at various forms of ownership, and the CLT is one of them. There are also nonprofit corporations called social enterprises, whose sole purpose is to pursue some good mission for society. They too are popping up all over. Another form that is beginning to appear is municipal ownership. People tend not to be aware of municipal ownership of hotels and of land for development; there are 500 projects around the country where cities have established ownership of capturing the gas from garbage and turning it into electricity as well as into jobs and revenues. I could go on and give you more and more of these examples, but you can find them on our website: www.community-wealth.org.
By the way, for you socialists out there, you probably already know that 25 percent of America's electricity is created and distributed by either public utilities or coops. Twenty-five percent by public enterprise that is much cheaper than private enterprise because executive salaries are not high and there are no profits; it is as efficient or more efficient, more ecologically sound, and more amenable to community interests. In addition, there are 23 state governments that currently own or are establishing businesses, some in the form of venture capital, with the state retaining partial ownership. America? Socialism?
I'm giving you an overview of the myriad projects like this that are not reported on. Many of them have merit from an ecological point of view; many do not, but overall they democratize the ownership of capital. What did I say? I said these projects democratize the ownership of capital—in a very down-home American way. Coops. Community land trusts. Municipal enterprises—a lot of these in the South, by the way. They begin to tell you something about the possibility, no more than that as yet, of slowly establishing, in a radically decentralized, localist way—and then maybe going further—a different vision of how productive wealth might actually be organized. They may even provide some principles that would allow you to begin talking about a long-term systemic possibility. Maybe.
Systems—such as feudalism historically, capitalism and state socialism currently—are characterized above all by property relationships. And if you don't like any of them, ultimately you have to ask who owns the capital in your system.  We now know that 1 percent owns just under 50 percent of the investment capital; 5 percent owns two-thirds. It is a highly concentrated corporate capitalist system, maybe even more extreme in its ownership patterns than medieval society. I do not say that rhetorically. The pattern is medieval in its scale and scope of concentration of ownership. So ultimately, if you are interested in systemic change rather than—and I'm going to use a loaded word— “projectism,” you must ask not only who owns capital but what it might look like if the system were democratized, were American in content, and were to give rise to the principles and nurture the principles of democracy, ownership, community, and ecological sustainability.
Think of all of the advanced systems, particularly in those little countries in Europe, like Germany—remember that Germany could be tucked into Montana. We live in a continent. If you want democracy in a continent, you've got a big problem, especially compared to little countries. (I sometimes say to my students, just to drive the nail in, "France and Germany are ‘dinky’ little countries," meaning that their polity is organizable on a smaller scale than in a continent.)
I was legislative director to Gaylord Nelson, the founder of Earth Day. Our goal then was to regulate. We've largely run out of that possibility, I believe. Now there are deeper pressures at work. Let me say a bit about that to sharpen the edge of this nasty argument I'm making:
You can see in this country that whenever progress was made toward using the regulatory system—"the regulatory state"—to manage environmental issues (sort of), there also were strong labor movements. Historically, the progressive parties required a strong labor movement, even when it was at odds with the environmental movement, to enthrone a regime that could manage environmental problems through the regulatory system.
One of the negatives we face is that the American labor movement is in radical decay and under attack; it is faltering as the situation becomes worse and worse. Even at its height, it was a weak labor movement. In Sweden 80% of the labor force was unionized; in this country it was 35.4% at its height in 1945. Total labor movement unionization is currently at 11.8 or 11.9 percent, depending on whose numbers you use. It's at 5.7 percent in the private sector, and declining. I emphasize this number for a reason. Some people believe that there will be a resurgence of the old Democratic, liberal party out of which I grew—I'm a Wisconsin progressive—by organizing to make the state powerful enough to manage the corporate problems that can be identified and spoken about. Social democracy abroad, progressive liberalism here.
My contention is that the likelihood of a resurgence is slim. I'll take as much of it as I can get, but that is not the future. If the traditional models for managing inequities as well as social and environmental problems, models that required a strong social democratic formation of the labor movement at its core, are no longer valid, either there is another way forward institutionally—not just on the part of good folks but based on the institutional muscle and organizing power and money of an institution, in this case labor—or there is no way forward. We need to struggle with that dilemma.
My suggestion to you is that precisely because of the failure of this particular way of going about business (from which I come), we're finding these community experiences developing around the country, and everywhere we're finding anger and a change of consciousness and awareness that something is wrong. That’s why so many people have responded to Occupy Wall Street. My hat is off to Occupy Wall Street. Overall, there is a huge response brewing that tells you something about America. I believe that, almost because of the failings in the way corporate capitalism has been managed, we're paradoxically beginning to think about and build new institutions, to develop ideas and develop consciousness that are pointing in a different direction—maybe.
I'm a Schumacherian—by the way, do you know that Schumacher was a socialist? Everyone likes the first three parts of Small Is Beautiful. Read the fourth part, in which Schumacher stated: "Private ownership of large-scale industry is an absurdity." We should honor this, and we need to face it. Remember, he was chief economist of the National Coal Board of England, a nationalized industry that was more efficient than our coal industry. He struggled with what ought to be done about private ownership. Scott Bader, an early British experiment in a large-scale, cooperatively run industry, was one of his options. He also had complex schemes to transfer ownership to communities. He considered nationalization or maybe nonprofits as possible routes.
We haven't even stepped up to that question. We've been looking at local projects, and they're giving us ideas. You might be able to organize a local economy around small, high-tech businesses, the kind Juliet Schor talked about this morning—different types of coops, land trusts, all sorts of nonprofits and social enterprises. Even if you are able to do that, what do you do about big enterprise?
And then there's another dirty word: what do you do about planning? You want to manage a slow-growth, low-growth economy? Whether you're talking about how work hours may be changed and the policies involved— which Julie discussed this morning—or about changing material inputs, you are ultimately talking about regimes using one or another mechanism—regulation, tax benefits, or other forms that are inherently a planning system. Now you're back to power.
By the way, we plan all the time. That's what's going on with the committees in Congress right now. They're going to come up with a nasty plan, but it will be an integrated plan that's going to cut budgets and cause more recession and so forth. We do planning; the question is, who controls the planners?
So if we're interested in systemic change, not just projectism, we're not only going to have to face this kind of question but build the kinds of institutions from the ground up that begin to establish the power base over time, which might set the terms of reference for the larger patterns we're talking about. My term is a "Pluralist Commonwealth": many different forms—coops, land trusts, worker-owned companies, etc.—of common wealth. I don't think it's a great term, but it's descriptive of the mix and the kind of American diversity that my friends in Racine, Wisconsin, where I come from, would understand. I can talk to my conservative friends from high school about it. They understand that you can do such things in Racine, and you better be able to understand it, or you're not going to get anywhere.
I have found, when I talk about real things on the ground, I can have a rational discussion with almost anyone. And that leads to the larger questions. I have a very conservative friend—my old high school buddy. Extremely brilliant, extremely right-wing, extremely religious. When I was back in Wisconsin I asked him, "What do you think of Russ Feingold?" And he said, "Well, you know, I voted for Russ."
"You voted for Russ Feingold?"
"He was a man of principle. He said what he meant. And I respect that."
Strange, strange quality. So a good lesson is to ask, what do you want? Ask it seriously, with integrity, and also really know what you're talking about.
Let me press forward a little bit on some elements that take us beyond projectism and offer a sketch of what could become, maybe, a systemic design. The Democracy Collaborative has been deeply involved with a group of important cooperatives in Cleveland, Ohio. We've helped launch this project with the help of many people in Ohio. I'm going to tell you a little bit about the project, about the process that built it and where it's going, and also about its design.
As many of you know, these are worker coops. Julie mentioned that most people who have been involved in the new-economy movement are highly educated, wealthy, and white; this project, however, is in a part of Cleveland that is almost entirely black and where the median income is $18,000 per family. In that community, for complicated reasons I won’t go into here, a complex of worker-owned companies is developing—sophisticated in design and also a little bit different from regular coops. I want to emphasize that, because those of you who know something about coops, including worker-owned coops, also know that they have a difficult history because problems arise if there is not an adequate capital source or an adequate market. The ejido, a peasant cooperative structure developed in Mexico, was undermined by numerous political and economic forces. I don't want to see American coops go the way of the ejido in Mexico or the many other coops that have died aborning.
Argentine worker-owned companies provide an inspiring case. Very exciting, but if you actually study those that are succeeding, for the most part—not entirely—they are linked to the purchasing power of Buenos Aires's municipal government. That's a stabilizing part of the market.
What's going on in Cleveland draws to some extent on the Mondrag√≥n federation of worker cooperatives in the Basque region of Spain. In the Cleveland model there will be a series of worker-owned cooperatives. At present there is a large laundry—the most ecologically advanced laundry in northern Ohio, which uses and heats about a third of the water normally used—and a solar installation and weatherization company. They've just broken ground on a 3.25-acre greenhouse. About two businesses a year are going to be set up, with a revolving fund to help finance them. Significantly, this is a complex that is oriented—by design—to the purchasing power of large, nonprofit institutions in the area: hospitals and universities
In that section of Cleveland the universities’ and hospitals’ purchases amount to $3 billion a year, and that’s just procurement. Add to it salaries and construction costs. All by nonprofits, mostly subsidized by the taxpayer through Medicare, Medicaid, the hospital system, or government money going to universities. And none of it goes to the people who live in the neighborhood.
What has happened, thanks to a complex organizing process, is that part of the procurement, a very small part, is being directed—not entirely, we use the free market as well—to partially stabilizing the cooperatives and providing them with some protection from the violence of the free market.
The reason is not simply that people like worker coops and not simply that some of these nonprofits have an interest in improving their neighborhood—hospitals do like to have pleasant environs—but that they want to help rebuild the community as a whole, not help out only a few workers. It's a sin in some quarters, when discussing coops, to prioritize community over workers. There are purists who don't want to hear me say that. But I'm not interested in token jobs that fall apart.
The worker-owned companies in Cleveland are designed to link to a nonprofit, community-benefiting corporation. They give 10 percent of the profits to a revolving fund, part of which is used for the community; otherwise, they are independently run, worker-owned companies—except that they can't be sold. The goal is to rebuild community, not simply benefit a small group of workers who may sell the company and run off to the suburbs as soon as they make substantial money.
(By the way, there are 300 to 400, maybe 500, genuine worker coops that have not increased in scale and size for many years, but they hold the principle of worker-ownership, rather than community, as sacrosanct.)
The argument I’m making is that there is a larger interest, particularly when community-benefiting health and education institutions are involved and we have the reconstruction of the community as a whole as a goal. There is a larger interest in building a structure that is responsive to that goal. So here’s a principle and a little bit of an oddity to chew on. We're trying to stabilize the market substantially because there are so many community interests involved. It will be an easy matter, otherwise, for a large multinational doing solar installations to zoom in on the small company, undercut the prices for a year or two, and clobber it. In Buenos Aires, the city government has exactly the same goal of helping to stabilize, in part, the market for small companies.
I have just given you a design principle for a radically decentralized community-building cooperative system. Were you to apply this principle—substantial stability of community markets in a community-sustaining system—linking worker ownership to a design of this kind, you would have a design that doesn't look like corporate capitalism and doesn't look like state socialism but begins with community as the dominant principle and works backward from there.
I think this is a crucial principle, and let me tell you why: first, if you don't abide by it, you uproot communities. Cleveland was a city of 800,000; it's now 300,000. Where did the people go? They were blown away, scattered, and nobody cares—particularly if they're black and poor. Either you stabilize a community or—boom! That's what happens when capital moves on.
Second, we've been literally throwing away cities and rebuilding them in new locations. The schools, the housing, the roads, the hospitals, the government structure are simply discarded, and the companies move elsewhere. If you have an interest in rebuilding cities, you need to know there are extraordinary capital costs and extraordinary carbon costs.
Third, if you don't substantially stabilize the local basis of the economy, you cannot do serious planning for sustainability—such as high-density housing and mass transportation planning, key ingredients in changing the carbon footprint of a community. And if the population moves on and fragments, you can't combat climate change. There won't be anybody there to do it; you'll have wreckage as corporations and people move on to the next area and the next. Think about that.
If you want to stabilize communities, you'll have to do it through planning, as I just said. That is to say, supposing we had a serious mass-transit, high-speed rail system. Supposing we were able to match what many other countries already have—and what we will one day do when we overcome. Then we would have something to build on as a society, and it would all be paid for by taxpayers and commuters.
Would we want to hand the rebuilding of our transit system over to Bombardier, a Canadian company? Or to the Spanish companies or the German companies? All well qualified for doing it. Or could we not begin rebuilding American transit and manufacturing on our own, at the same time creating worker- and socially-owned jobs to stabilize communities so that they might become able to deal with the underlying problems in those communities that lead, for example, to climate change? Again, I’m simply taking that tiny model in Cleveland and applying it to some of the ingredients of a larger systemic model in order to address those problems and do it in a decentralized way.
Now, I've been around a long time. I do not think we're going to accomplish this tomorrow, but I'm also an historian; I wear two hats: as a political economist and as an historian. You know, systemic change comes and goes. Most societies endure radical changes unexpectedly; social movements arise out of nowhere. I wrote a book published a couple years ago, America Beyond Capitalism, and I’m glad I said in it that there’s going to be a movement that will explode. It’s the first time I’ve dared to predict something in general terms (and then find with the Occupy movement that something like it has occurred).
Because there's something so wrong that people know something major must be done, we're now casting about, looking for ways and doing wonderful experiments, trying to learn, trying to sense where to go. For the first time in many generations we are open to seriously rethinking our situation.
I’m talking here about systemic change. You want to play this game? Don't mess with it unless you're willing to really dig in and put your time on the line. The chips represent decades of your life. By the way, I'm talking to the person in your seat. This is not an ordinary discussion. Much as these are systemic questions, they are also existential questions about whether you want to do something—or not.
We are learning from the multitude of projects out there that, in my view and at this stage of development, are giving people an inkling of what might be. They're not much more than an inkling, but that’s a good start. They give people a chance to theorize and to think about what might happen if we put together, piece by piece, parts of the political, social, and cultural movements that are dedicated to community, democracy, equality. Even liberty is at stake. Liberty is at stake because if current conditions decay much more, we're going to see violence, and then there will be crackdowns. Heavy-duty issues are on the table.
In any case, right now there's a lot to do. It's a moment that is really opening up, as we have seen from Occupy Wall Street, and it's an exciting moment to take new steps and to do so in a way that takes us beyond anything that was done in the 1960s and, I think, in the 1930s and in the Progressive Era before that.
That is to say, we’re seeing the slow and steady reconstruction, culturally, of the notion of community in America, community in Cleveland, Ohio, or Racine, Wisconsin. It's the re-knitting of community as a cultural as much as an economic idea, and it’s happening in a way that is informed by what we've learned from the ecological and environmental movements but is also tough-minded about systemic questions.
It’s a question, if I'm even roughly close to the ball, of systemic change, not projectism. Let me see if I can say that another way: we need projects desperately, and we need to advance and learn from them and develop them. Economic experiments are also reaching a stage we can actually learn from and develop. But we need to go beyond projectism to systemic change, to a vision that is authentic and can answer the question, "If you don't like capitalism and you don't like socialism, what do you want, and how are you going to get there?" Really. And if you don't have an answer, why should we listen to you?
The starting point is where we are. Now we need collectively to grapple with the task in a much more sophisticated way than any of us has ever stepped up to before and then to advance the vision and nurture it in cultural, political, economic ways and beyond. What is especially interesting is that the ingredients, the cultural ingredients, are in place. And the OWS young people are bringing to the mix their awareness that something is truly, profoundly wrong, not only in this country but globally as well.
So all of this is on our plate, and in an exciting way. The problem is that if what I have said is even half-way true, it does present a burdensome existential problem: If it is our lot in history to open the possibility of that future, then we have to take responsibility in the matter. I'm talking to the person in your seat and mine.
The questions, as I say, come down to whether we as a whole will learn enough, do enough, and rise to the occasion to be able to actually transform the most powerful corporate capitalist system in the history of the world. I think maybe we can. Just possibly. In any case, it's certainly worth one hell of a try.

17 September 2012

Our greywater from kitchen and sauna shower


As long as there isn't a "drip" during the winter it will not freeze, even at 40 below zero.  We keep stoppers in our drains in winter.
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Winter is passing

It has been since autumn that I’ve written anything.  I feel...no, I know that a coup has been stag d in this country. But, from my vantage...