|Progressive Calendar 12.05.08||<– Date –> <– Thread –>|
|From: David Shove (shove001tc.umn.edu)|
|Date: Fri, 5 Dec 2008 05:14:55 -0800 (PST)|
P R O G R E S S I V E C A L E N D A R 12.05.08 1. Venezuela/socialism 12.05 11am 2. Ffunch 12.05 11:30am 3. FNVW craft sale 12.05 3pm 4. Palestine vigil 12.05 4:15pm 5. Media awards party 12.05 6pm 6. AltVio workshop 12.05-07 6pm 7. Moyers 12.05 9pm 8. Peace walk 12.06 9am Cambridge MN 9. Nakba/Palestine 12.06 9:30am 10. Workplace justice 12.06 10am 11. Xmas gifts 12.06 10am 12. El Salvador 12.06 10am 13. HomelessVets/peace 12.06 10am 14. NWN4P Mtka 12.06 11am 15. Alt gift wrap 12.06 12noon 16. NWN4P GoldenValley 12.06 1:30pm 17. Northtown vigil 12.06 2pm 18. Cartoonist 12.06 4pm 19. TVbyGIRLS 12.06 7pm 20. Calliope chorus 12.06-07 7:30pm 21. James Lardner - How the rich are taking our common inheritance 22. Jennifer Matsui - Obama-Cola "The Great National Temperance Beverage" 23. ed - Capitalism is sadism (poem) --------1 of 23-------- From: Lydia Howell <lydiahowell [at] visi.com> Subject: Venezuela/socialism 12.05 11am VENEZUELA:Democratic Socialism Moves Forward Tune in to an interview with the author, PETER PHILLIPS, who is also co-editor with Andrew Roth, of the Project Censored annual book CENSORED 2009 (Seven Stories Books), Fri,Dec.5, 11am on "Catalyst" on KFAI Radio:90.3 fm Mpls 106.7fm St. Paul. Archived online for 2 weeks aftr broadcast on the Catalyst page at http://www.kfai.org Here's an op-ed on the situation in Venezuela (as opposed to the ongoing propagranda smears perpetrated by the US government in the corporate media). -Lydia Howell Democratic Socialism Moves Forward in Venezuela By Peter Phillips Democracy from the bottom is evolving as a ten-year social revolution in Venezuela. Led by President Hugo Chavez, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela ((PSUV) gained over 1½ million voters in the most recent elections November 23, 2008. "It was a wonderful victory," said Professor Carmen Carrero with the communications studies department of the Bolivarian University in Caracas. "We won 81 percent of the city mayor positions and seventeen of twenty-three of the state governors," Carrero reported. The Bolivarian University is housed in the former oil ministry building and now serves 8,000 students throughout Venezuela. The University (Universidad Bolivariana de Venezuela), is symbolic of the democratic socialist changes occurring throughout the country. Before the election of Hugo Chavez as president in 1998, college attendance was primarily for the rich in Venezuela. Today over one million, eight hundred thousand students attend college, three times the rate ten years ago. "Our university was established to resist domination and imperialism," reported Principal (president) Marlene Yadira Cordova in an interview November 10, "We are a university where we have a vision of life that the oppressed people have a place on this planet." The enthusiasm for learning and serious-thoughtful questions asked by students I saw that day was certainly representative of a belief in the potential of positive social change for human betterment. The University offers a fully-staffed free healthcare clinic, zero tuition, and basic no-cost food for students in the cafeteria, all paid for by the oil revenues now being democratically shared by the people. Bottom up democracy in Venezuela starts with the 25,000 community councils elected in every neighborhood in the country. "We establish the priority needs of our area," reported community council spokesperson Carmon Aponte, with the neighborhood council in the barrio Bombilla area of western Caracas. I interviewed Carmon while visiting the Patare Community TV and radio station - one of thirty-four locally controlled community television stations and four hundred radio stations now in the barrios throughout Venezuela. Community radio, TV and newspapers are the voice of the people, where they describe the viewers/listeners as the "users" of media instead of the passive audiences. Democratic socialism means healthcare, jobs, food, and security, in neighborhoods where in many cases nothing but absolute poverty existed ten years ago. With unemployment down to a US level, sharing the wealth has taken real meaning in Venezuela. Despite a 50 percent increase in the price of food last year, local Mercals offer government subsidized cooking oil, corn meal, meat, and powered milk at 30-50 percent off market price. Additionally, there are now 3,500 local communal banks with a $1.6 billion dollar budget offering neighborhood-based micro-financing loans for home improvements, small businesses, and personal emergencies. "We have moved from a time of disdain [pre-revolution - when the upper classes saw working people as less than human] to a time of adjustment," proclaimed Ecuador's minister of Culture, Gallo Mora Witt at the opening ceremonies of the Fourth International Book Fair in Caracas November 7. Venezuela's Minister of Culture, Hector Soto added, "We try not to leave anyone out... before the revolution the elites published only 60-80 books a year, we will publish 1,200 Venezuelan authors this year...the book will never stop being the important tool for cultural feelings." In fact, some twenty-five million books - classics by Victor Hugo and Miguel de Cervantes along with Cindy Sheehan's Letter to George Bush - were published in 2008 and are being distributed to the community councils nationwide. The theme of the International Book Fair was books as cultural support to the construction of the Bolivarian revolution and building socialism for the 21st century. In Venezuela the corporate media are still owned by the elites. The five major TV networks, and nine of ten of the major newspapers maintain a continuing media effort to undermine Chavez and the socialist revolution. But despite the corporate media and continuing US taxpayer financial support to the anti-Chavez opposition institutions from USAID and National Endowment for Democracy ($20 million annually) two-thirds of the people in Venezuela continue to support President Hugo Chavez and the United Socialist Party of Venezuela. The democracies of South America are realizing that the neo-liberal formulas for capitalism are not working for the people and that new forms of resource allocation are necessary for human betterment. It is a learning process for all involved and certainly a democratic effort from the bottom up. Peter Phillips is a Professor of Sociology at Sonoma State University and director of Project Censored. The /Censored 2009/ yearbook has just been released in Spanish at the 2008 International book fair in Caracas. --------2 of 23-------- From: David Shove <shove001 [at] tc.umn.edu> Subject: Ffunch 12.05 11:30am Meet the FFUNCH BUNCH! 11:30am-1pm First Friday Lunch (FFUNCH) for progressives. Informal political talk and hanging out. Day By Day Cafe 477 W 7th Av St Paul. Meet on the far south side. Day By Day has soups, salads, sandwiches, and dangerous apple pie; is close to downtown St Paul & on major bus lines --------3 of 23-------- From: "Ava Thomas, FNVW" <avafnvw [at] earthlink.net> Subject: FNVW craft sale 12.05 3pm FRIENDS FOR A NON-VIOLENT WORLD ANNUAL CRAFT SALE Friday December 5th, 3 PM - 9 PM & Saturday December 6th, 9 AM - 3 PM Minneapolis Friends Meeting / 4401 York Ave S, Mpls / (corner of 44th & York Ave. South) 612-926-6159 Food, music, entertainment for all ages, a stunning array of holiday gifts, many donated handcrafts, artisans present, and a store just for kids F.N.V.W. promotes non-violent living through education and example. Use this opportunity to contribute and purchase, for it isn't just shopping - it's supporting a peaceful future. For more information, call 651-917-0383 -- www.fnvw.org, info [at] fnvw.org --------4 of 23-------- From: Charles Underwood <charleyunderwood [at] hotmail.com> Subject: Palestine vigil 12.05 4:15pm Friday, 12/5, 4:15 to 5:30 pm, vigil to end US military/political support of the Israeli occupation of Palestine, corner Summit and Snelling, St Paul. --------5 of 23-------- From: Jeremy Iggers <jeremyiggers [at] gmail.com> Subject: Media awards party 12.05 6pm The Twin Cities Media Alliance is hosting a celebration of local ethnic and community media Friday, December 5 from 6 to 8:30 p.m. in the Black Forest Inn's banquet room, next door to the restaurant at 26th and Nicollet Ave., Minneapolis. It's a chance to meet and network with local grassroots journalists and other local media folk, and sample the global flavors of Eat Street. There will be a brief program at 7 p.m. honoring the winners of the first Minneapolis Community and Ethnic Media Awards, sponsored by TCMA and New America Media. An assortment of appetizers from Eat Street restaurants and markets will be served, with wine, beer and non-alcoholic beverages available. A minimum donation of $15 is requested; donations for wine and beer will be collected separately. Space is limited. To reserve tickets, please send a check payable to TCMA, 2600 E. Frankin #2, Minneapolis, MN. 55406. To pay by credit card, please go www.tcdailyplanet.net/Awards08, or directly to our secure payment site at https://www.thedatabank.com/dpg/262/donate.asp?formid=TCM-Event&c=399480. For more information, please contact either me, or our operations manager Emily Pearson Ryan at 612-436-9188, emily [at] tcdailyplanet.net. -Jeremy Twin Cities Media Alliance --------6 of 23-------- From: Charles Underwood <charleyunderwood [at] hotmail.com> Subject: AltVio workshop 12.05-07 6pm 12/5 (6 pm) to 12/7 (5 pm), basic level Alternatives to Violence Workshop, Hennepin County Women's Workhouse, 1355 Shenandoah Lane, Plymouth. avperika [at] gmail.com or http://www.fnvw.blogspot.com --------7 of 23-------- From: t r u t h o u t <messenger [at] truthout.org> Subject: Moyers 12.05 9pm Bill Moyers Journal | Sen. Russ Feingold http://www.truthout.org/120308U On Bill Moyers Journal Friday: "As one of the most progressive voices in the Senate who also campaigned for President-elect Obama, what does Russ Feingold (D-Wisconsin) expect of the next four years? Bill Moyers sits down with the Wisconsin senator to find out his perspectives on progressivism and its role in the new administration, and to ask him what changes he'd like to see in the Obama presidency." --------8 of 23-------- From: Ken Reine <reine008 [at] umn.edu> Subject: Peace walk 12.06 9am Cambridge MN every Saturday 9AM to 9:35AM Peace walk in Cambridge - start at Hwy 95 and Fern Street --------9 of 23-------- From: "wamm [at] mtn.org" <wamm [at] mtn.org> Subject: Nakba/Palestine 12.06 9:30am Florence Steichen: "The Nakba: Memory, Reality And Beyond" Saturday, December 6, 9:30 a.m. (Refreshments), 10:00 a.m. (Presentation and Discussion) Southdale Hennepin County Library, 7001 York Avenue South, Edina. Florence Steichen will report on the Sabeel Conference, which she attended November 12th-19th. Sessions were held in Nazareth and villages in the Galilee, which were demolished in 1948, and Jerusalem and environs. They included personal stories of eyewitnesses to the events of 1948. From the Conference brochure: "Through lectures, workshops and excursions, the Sabeel Seventh International Conference will seek to commemorate the Nakba of 1948, examine the current struggles for freedom, equality, and identify, and move towards a future of justice, peace and reconciliation. To address 'The Way Forward' participants will discuss how memory can serve as the doorway to a future of justice, peace and healing." Sponsored by Middle East Peace Now. Endorsed by: WAMM. FFI: Call Florence Steichen, 651-696-1642. --------10 of 23-------- From: Erin Parrish <erin [at] mnwomen.org> Subject: Workplace justice 12.06 10am December 6: Workplace Justice. Support/Networking Meeting. 10 AM - Noon at the Minnesota Women's Building, 550 Rice Street, St. Paul. For more information call 952-996-9291. --------11 of 23-------- From: Bridget Borer <bridgetborer [at] gmail.com> Subject: Xmas gifts 12.06 10am This is a nice event and you can get some sweet gifts and support Native American artists. Tell your friends about it! Gifts From the Heart "annual winter Sale" Exhibit Host: Sharyn Whiterabbit Saturday, December 6 at 10:00am thru Sunday, December 14 at 4:00pm All Nations Church, Phillips Neighborhood, 22nd Bloomington Av Mpls --------12 of 23-------- From: Charles Underwood <charleyunderwood [at] hotmail.com> Subject: El Salvador 12.06 10am Saturday, 12/6, 10 am, DC-based Voices on the Border director Roddy Hughes discusses "The 2009 Legislative and Presidential Elections in El Salvador and the Role of International Observers," Resource Center of the Americas, 3019 Minnehaha Ave, Suite 20, Mpls. http://www.americas.org --------13 of 23-------- From: Charles Underwood <charleyunderwood [at] hotmail.com> Subject: Homeless vets/peace 12.06 10am Saturday, 12/6, 10 to 11:30 am, meeting Homeless Veterans for Peace, Peacehouse, 510 E Franklin, Mpls. Bob Heberle 612-789-9020. --------14 of 23-------- From: Carole Rydberg <carydberg [at] comcast.net> Subject: NWN4P Mtka 12.06 11am NWN4P-Minnetonka demonstration- Every Saturday, 11 AM to noon, at Hwy. 7 and 101. Park in the Target Greatland lot; meet near the fountain. We will walk along the public sidewalk. Signs available. --------15 of 23-------- From: Do It Green! Minnesota <Do_It_Green_Minnesota [at] mail.vresp.com> Subject: Alt gift wrap 12.06 12noon Alternative Gift Wrap Demo on Sat, Dec 6th 12-2pm Did you know that most wrapping paper is not recyclable because of its thin fibers, metallic inks, and protective coatings? Come learn about eco friendly ways to wrap gifts this year. Alternative Gift Wrap Demo Saturday, December 6th 12-2pm Do It Green! Resource Center located inside Twin Cities Green store 2405 Hennepin Avenue South Minneapolis, MN 55405 Open Tues-Sat 11am-7pm, Sun Noon-5pm Stop by the Do It Green! Resource Center inside Twin Cities Green retail store for a 30 minute demonstration on ways to wrap gifts more eco friendly this year, then make your own reusable cloth gift bag to take home! You can also view these items on display from December 6th through the new year. 12:-12:30pm Alternative Gift Wrap Demonstration 12:30-2:00pm Sew Your Own Cloth Gift Bag No RSVP needed, just stop on by! --------16 of 23-------- From: Carole Rydberg <carydberg [at] comcast.net> Subject: NWN4P GoldenValley 12.06 1:30pm Saturday, 1:30-2:30 PM Golden Valley - NW Neighbors for Peace will hold large banners on the pedestrian bridge over Highway 55, just west of Winnetka, in Golden Valley every Saturday. There is plenty of parking in the lot at the NW corner of the intersection; all are welcome. FYI Carole 763-546-5368. --------17 of 23-------- From: Vanka485 [at] aol.com Subject: Northtown vigil 12.06 2pm Peace vigil at Northtown (Old Hwy 10 & University Av), every Saturday 2-3pm --------18 of 23-------- From: Lydia Howell <lydiahowell [at] visi.com> Subject: Cartoonist 12.06 4pm KIRK ANDERSON has been a TC-based cartoonist, who's sharp wit takes on national issues (torture) and local ones (Vikings' "sex boat" scandal and subsidies for stadiums). He's created a country - Amnesia - that looks strangely familiar after eight years of Bush-Cheney and corporations backing both Republicans and Democrats. His cartoons have appeared in the NY Times, Washington Post, The Onion, and hundreds of other publications. Anderson freelanced at the Minneapolis Star Tribune (where Banana Republic was born) and was staff cartoonist for eight years at the St.Paul Pioneer Press for eight years. Now, you can follow Generalissimo Wally and his merry band of robbers in a new collection of cartoons BANANA REPUBLIC by Molotov Cartoons SAT. DEC.6, 4pm; BOOK EVENT at May Day Books, 301 Cedar Ave. S., basement of Hub Bicycle, West Bank, Minneapolis 612-333-4719 --------19 of 23-------- From: Erin Parrish <erin [at] mnwomen.org> Subject: TVbyGIRLS 12.06 7pm December 6: TVbyGIRLS. FUNdraiser. Meet some of the amazing TVbyGIRLS youth partners, watch their video creations, and hear their plans to help shape a better world. Event is free, but we invite you to bring your checkbook and make a contribution. 7 - 9 PM at Intermedia Arts, 2822 Lyndale Ave South, Minneapolis. --------209 of 23-------- From: Erin Parrish <erin [at] mnwomen.org> Subject: Calliope chorus 12.06-07 7:30pm December 6 and 7: Calliope Women's Chorus Concert Poetica Musica: Poetry in Music. Celebrating literature & promoting literacy, this concert will feature spoken word by guest artist Desdamona and poetry by Carol Connolly, in addition to gorgeous choral arrangements of poetry such as May Sarton's "Now I Become Myself," Wendell Berry's "Peace of Wild Things," Byron, Yeats. 7:30PM both evenings, at All God's Children, 3100 Park Avenue, Minneapolis 55407. $10 Student/Seniors, $12 in Advance, $15 at the Door. To pre-order tickets or for more info please contact Calliope at 612-285-5835. --------21 of 23-------- How the Rich are Taking our Common Inheritance ... and Why We Should Take it Back Unjust Deserts: An Interview with Gar Alperovitz and Lew Daly James Lardner Dissent November 21, 2008 http://www.dissentmagazine.org/online.php?id=177 IF THE conservative era now collapsing around us had a reigning idea, it was best expressed by Margaret Thatcher when she declared with Bourbonesque flair that 'there is no such thing as society.' In their new book Unjust Deserts: How the Rich are Taking our Common Inheritance and Why We Should Take it Back, Gar Alperovitz and Lew Daly turn Thatcher's premise on its head and with it the whole individualistic worldview that ruled our politics for the last three decades. They focus on the role of knowledge in economic growth, arguing that expanding knowledge is a collective source of wealth and, as such, demands a significant social return in the direction of greater equality. James Lardner: After all the twists and turns of an amazing presidential campaign, the key point of contention in the end was 'the redistribution of wealth' - not Barack the Reverend Wright-trained 'America-hater' or the San Francisco-style 'limousine liberal,' but 'Barack the redistributor.' What do you make of this charge? Lew Daly: Obama used the phrase 'spread the wealth around' when Joe the Plumber asked about his tax plan late in the 2008 presidential campaign, and, of course, the McCain team seized on this 'socialist' idea and made it their central critical theme in the final days before the election. As in Father Coughlin's time and Barry Goldwater's, Joe the Plumber's charges of 'socialism' didn't carry much weight at the polls. But I actually think this particular plot twist at the end was the most interesting political moment of the entire presidential campaign, because it foreshadows what the Obama years will be about. For the last two decades, the Republican Party ignored distribution while the Democrats changed the subject from distribution to growth, from 'dividing the pie' to 'enlarging the pie.' It was arguably the Democrats who worked the hardest to sell middle America on this 'win-win' idea of putting growth before equality, and both parties hooked us in by loosening credit and creating 'wealthy feelings' with two major asset bubbles. Well, that's over now, and the politicians no longer have the luxury of avoiding the real problems of declining household earning power and growing inequality. But what Obama should have done more clearly on the campaign trail, to start this debate off on the right foot, was fire back a very simple point, easily illustrated: he's not trying to 'spread the wealth around' so much as put a stop to the massive redistribution that's already going on in America from the middle to the top. JL: What is this 'upward redistribution?' Gar Alperovitz: The economic facts plainly show this. In the decades after the Second World War, productivity and wages rose together, almost on a one-to-one basis. Beginning in the 1980s, productivity and wages began to diverge, a divergence that sharpened to record levels under George W. Bush. Since 2000, productivity has increased about 20 percent, but the median hourly wage went up only 3 percent. So the question is: Where is the wealth that used to go to wage-earners going today? Scott Lilly of the Center for American Progress gives us a snapshot of where it's going by looking at the Bush 'recovery' of 2002-2006. Although this was a particularly extreme period, the relative magnitudes are roughly in line with trends emerging over the last thirty years. Household income increased a total of $863 billion over the period. $626 billion of the total gain went to the top 1 percent of households. The bottom 90 percent got only $41 billion, less than 5 percent of the total gain. Unless Joe the Plumber thinks 90 percent of the people create only 5 percent of the output-this can only be described as upward redistribution. Or as Theodore Roosevelt put it, taking from those 'who earn more than they possess' and giving to those 'who possess more than they earn.' LD: From this kind of evidence on distribution, we probe deeper to look at the societal and historical contributions that make all of us 'social debtors' by Teddy Roosevelt's moral standard (or immoral standard, as it were) of possessing more than we individually earned. The rich are simply more indebted because they necessarily received more from society, and so, logically, they owe more back. Or put another way, the problem with Joe the Plumber's critique of 'spreading the wealth around' is that it doesn't take into account the fact that wealth is already highly socialized before we even start talking about taxation. It has already been 'spread around' by many kinds of social contributions that add far more value to our labor and investments than what anyone pays in taxes. JL: You quote Warren Buffett posing this question: 'How much money would I have if I were born in Bangladesh, or born here in 1700'? What's his point? Isn't it obvious? LD: Yes, it is obvious. The problem is we don't take it seriously. He's saying - in fact, these are also his words - that 'society is responsible for a very significant percentage of what I've earned.' JR: Wait a minute...society? But Margaret Thatcher didn't believe there was such a thing. LD: Yes, it became an unfashionable concept for a while in a few other countries besides our own. By 'society' Buffett means everything that individuals depend on and benefit from which they themselves did not create and do not maintain. From good roads, to public schooling, to national defense, to food and drug regulation, to social insurance programs like Social Security and Medicare-there are many institutions and systems that all or most of us commonly use in our daily lives. These are often funded by taxes, of course, but for pennies on the dollar compared to the value they add to our lives GA: But Buffett's deeper point is that his wealth is not strictly a product of his unique talents or effort. For all his gifts, he's telling us that his billions are largely an accident of when and where he was born - that if he were the same person he is today (with the same amount of effort and intelligence) but was born in a poor country or transported back to early America, he would not have the wealth he has today or even a tiny fraction of it. So why then should we think of the wealth he 'owns' as entirely, or even largely, his and, therefore, as being immune from other kinds of claims such as social need? JL: So you're making a new argument for the old idea of sharing the wealth? LD: In the first place, we're talking about where wealth comes from, and who really 'owns' it in the first place. But the time horizon has to be larger. We're also talking about what the living owe the dead, about how society has preserved the advances created by previous generations, and what this cumulative 'inheritance' of human learning, if you will, contributes to our current economic activities and well-being. Now, to understand the impact of this inheritance, we need to grasp some basic facts about economic growth and how we accumulated our wealth. We need to know what the growth record has been and how our growth has changed in the modern era. JL: And how has growth changed? GA: Basically the story is that we have moved from a labor-intensive, small-scale farming economy to a knowledge-based information economy. In the process, the sources of growth have changed, but it's important to understand that individuals have not really changed. We work no harder today than our ancestors did in 1800 or in the ancient past, and just the same, we are no more intelligent, in terms of basic brain capacity and reasoning ability. The cave paintings of earliest human culture are works of roughly the same basic intelligence as the theory of relativity. Let's hold that thought: Essentially, we work no harder and are no more intelligent than our ancestors from the near or even the ancient past. And yet our economy is more than 1,000 times larger than it was in 1800, and the best measure of prosperity, per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP) - the amount of output the economy generates for every person - is twenty times higher today than it was in the early nineteenth century (it was $42,000 in 2006, the equivalent of almost $170,000 for a family of four). The key to this growth, experts agree, is rising productivity, usually measured in terms of the amount of output per hour of work, which rose more than fifteen-fold since 1870. JL: Wasn't economic growth always based on some combination of knowledge, capital, and labor? GA: Yes, but the recipe - the balance of ingredients - is very different from what it used to be. After the Second World War, economists began to formally study economic growth, and a method known as growth accounting was developed to measure the sources of growth - the idea being that if we understand the 'how' of economic growth, where it's coming from, then we can develop better policies to improve the economy and raise living standards. The pioneer in this work was MIT economist Robert Solow, who, in a brief but now-famous paper published in 1957, made a startling discovery (he later won a Nobel Prize for this work). In contrast with the then-dominant assumption that increases in the supply of capital (factories, machines, etc.) were the main engine of economic growth, Solow found that less than 13 percent of growth in the first half of the twentieth century could be attributed to capital accumulation or increases in labor supply (in fact, labor supply per person had been diminishing as the forty-hour week became the norm). Most of the growth, that is, was not coming from the conventional inputs of labor and capital, what workers and employers supply. The nearly 88 percent of growth that remained unaccounted for - which became known as the Solow Residual - could only be attributed, Solow concluded, to something broader and deeper than the everyday economic activity embodied in labor effort and capital accumulation. Solow defined this as 'technical progress in the broadest sense,' or, in other words, the cumulative knowledge and technological capacity of our society. This did not make any sense in terms of our traditional individualistic way of thinking about economic activity or economic rewards. JL: But in a technological society, isn't individual brainpower more important than ever? GA: Maybe not. An engineer working today might have the same human capital as an engineer working 100 years ago. Yet, as the Stanford economist Paul Romer points out, the contemporary engineer is typically far more productive. The reason is self-evident: 'He or she can take advantage of all the additional knowledge accumulated as design problems were solved during the last 100 years.' The value is in the knowledge, not the individual. JL: What does it mean to say that the value is in the knowledge? LD: Romer's example suggests something deeper about the cumulative impact of expanding knowledge: As knowledge grows and improves against a relatively fixed baseline of human effort and intelligence, the importance of individual contributions shrinks proportionally. In other words, the locus of value or value-generation is shifting from the individual to society. And this, in turn, means that our conventional individualistic basis for judging economic differences no longer holds. How do we measure 'who deserves what' in an era of knowledge-based growth, where the cumulative knowledge of society is increasingly more important than individual effort or intelligence? Clearly, the way we talk and think about inequality doesn't account for the enormous 'free lunch' of inherited knowledge at the heart of both our annual GDP and our total wealth. JL: The people who figure out the Forbes 400 Richest say we shouldn't be especially troubled by the degree of inequality in modern America because, compared to their nineteenth and twentieth century forbears, so many more of today's millionaires and billionaires are 'self-made.' GA: They've got it backwards. But, in fairness to Forbes, so do a lot of other people. Popular culture and much of our education promotes a 'heroic' view of progress that obscures how most technologies really develop. The heroic view sees progress simply as a sequence of great achievements by extraordinary individuals. It is the view that Albert Einstein rejected when he famously said 'many times a day I realize how much my inner and outer life is built upon the labors of my fellow men, both living and dead.' The reality is much closer to Einstein's view of building on others' labor over a long duration. From transportation, to medicine, to computers, technological progress is much less about isolated 'eureka' moments than about recombining existing knowledge in new ways. An individual may hit upon something new that adds to existing knowledge and makes it more effective, but really the key is how the existing knowledge predisposes the individual to look for certain things within a narrow range of possibilities - a condition that makes discovery almost an automatic process over time. This is plainly illustrated in the very common phenomenon of 'simultaneous invention,' where two or more people working independently invent or discover the same thing at roughly the same time. So, Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace both discovered the theory of evolution by natural selection at the same time. Or take the telephone. The very day Alexander Graham Bell's lawyer filed for his patent on the telephone in 1876, so did Elisha Gray, and it's possible that the only reason another inventor, Antonio Meucci, didn't beat them both is that he didn't have enough money to file for the patent several years earlier. None of these individuals 'invented' the telephone in any strict individualistic sense. Bell's 'heroic' contribution was simply that he won the race to obtain legal title to an invention that was about to happen anyway. JL: OK, but just because single individuals aren't the engines of progress that doesn't mean everyone plays an equal part. Isn't innovation still limited to fairly small circles of people who have a certain kind of special claim on the rewards? LD: No, because, even if the number of people applying themselves to a problem is frequently very small, none of them are essential to the process. What is essential is the knowledge they all have at their disposal. Take Bill Gates: If Bill Gates had to learn for himself all the knowledge he had at his disposal in the late 1970s when he started Microsoft, he wouldn't have gotten very far, probably not much further than his stone-age ancestor who may have invented a new kind of weapon for hunting animals or something like that. That's how you have to judge what Bill Gates morally deserves: How far would he have gotten without the knowledge he inherited for free from previous generations? Whatever your answer to that question is - that's the extent of his personal contribution and his deserving-ness. And if Bill Gates hadn't been born at all, by the way, we still would have had the kind of software he built his fortune on, as his many outmaneuvered competitors would happily have proved. So, take away Gates, and we still have the personal computing revolution, but take away the knowledge Gates and others built upon in developing effective computer software, from earlier computer languages such as Fortran and Basic (most of which were developed with government support, by the way) all the way back to basic arithmetic, and not only would we have no computers of any kind, we'd still be counting on our fingers or moving pebbles around just to have any grasp at all of the important data in our lives, like too many days without rain. When the very wealthy, like Gates, are reflexively defended in the press and in public life generally, it's often on the assumption that they made a unique contribution and in doing so greatly helped society in a way that no one else could have. But the facts demonstrate that this isn't true. JL: We haven't used the word 'incentive.' Justice aside, don't we need a high degree of inequality to keep our inventors and entrepreneurs properly motivated? GA: Yes, of course, a monetary reward helps; we do not oppose reasonable incentives. But in today's economy, many people get rewarded far out of proportion to what they actually contribute. At the same time, many also get far more than they need to 'incentivize' their effort. But our main focus is on the broader problem of inequality, not on undeserved fortunes per se. The problem we see is a society whose wealth is commonly created, by and large, but very unequally distributed and enjoyed. The largely collective way we produce our wealth is morally out of sync with the individualistic way we distribute the wealth and also justify the resulting vast inequalities. So we're not saying to the Bill Gateses of the world: you don't deserve anything and we're going to tax it all away. What we're saying is that our society should be more equal than it is if we truly believe, first, that people should be rewarded according to what they contribute, and second, that society should be repaid for the large contributions it makes, which enable everything else. These are common beliefs or, at least, reasonable ideas, so that is not the problem. The problem is a mistaken view of wealth-creation, which distorts how these common ideas are applied. JL: You often use the term 'inheritance' in the book. How should we view the concept of 'inheritance' as a moral proposition? How is inherited knowledge like and unlike inherited wealth or property? LD: Most people do not consider inherited wealth or property to be something people really and fully 'deserve' to enjoy, even if they are legally entitled to it. We never think the rich heir really 'deserves' to be rich. At the same time, we tend see the wealth and income people get from the market as something that's 'deserved' - because the market, we assume, usually rewards people in rough proportion to their contributions. The problem with this is that a significant portion of what people get from the market has nothing to do with what they individually contribute. Take away the inherited knowledge we use in our work and daily life, and productivity will go way down along with income. So in accounting for the knowledge we inherit we have to ask ourselves if we are so much more deserving than the rich heir lolling about on daddy's estate. Obviously what we add is important and has something to do with the differing economic benefits people enjoy, yet the difference between what the high-tech CEO contributes and what the janitor who cleans out his waste basket contributes is ultimately very small compared to the share of everyone's gains that comes from inherited knowledge. JL: There used to be a pretty clear distinction between 'earned' and 'unearned income.' What happened to those terms? LD: A famous American president named Roosevelt once suggested that the survival of civilization depended on eliminating unearned wealth. Progressive taxation was the remedy he proposed, and he was the first American president to truly advance that cause. Poor John McCain might be surprised to learn that the Roosevelt in question was his Republican hero Teddy, not Barack the Distributor's oft-slandered 'communist' role model, Franklin. The truth is, progressive taxation is a conservative idea; it's based on reciprocity. People who have more income and wealth, T. R. assumed, necessarily got more help from society to begin with, and therefore they owe more back to society, as a share of their income, than those who get less from the market. Or, in other words, the rich 'earn' less of their income than the poor earn because they benefit so much more from the contributions of society. Such unearned income is the natural moral target for taxation, because no one deserves it. JL: High taxes vs. high growth - don't we have to choose? GA: No. In fact, when our productivity growth rates were the highest, in the 1950s and early 1960s, the top marginal income tax rate stood at about 90 percent across that period. Today the top marginal rate is 35 percent. Ironically, in the more recent era of dramatic tax-cutting for the rich, productivity often stagnated. So, in fact, by historical standards, higher taxes have often been correlated with strong growth, while cutting taxes has been correlated with stagnation and decline. JL: Do people in fact work harder when they know they'll get to keep more of what they earn? Don't higher taxes at some point reduce effort? GA: Perhaps 'at some point.' But there's little evidence that it works this way at the top, which is the target of our argument. As I suggested earlier on the issue of incentives, very, very large fortunes simply aren't needed to generate productive contributions. If Bill Gates was told by the government in 1980 that he'd only end up with $25 billion in his bank account when his company peaked (instead of the $50-something billion he actually held), do you think he would have stopped trying to build Microsoft? What if the limit was only $1 billion, or a generous executive salary? Even then he would have continued, no doubt. Clearly, there is a huge gap between what the richest earn and what it takes to 'incentivize' their contributions. These economic 'rents,' as they're technically termed, are pervasive in our economy, especially at the top. JL: Are you simply arguing for a higher tax rate on the very wealthy? Or for a whole different way of viewing - and using - the taxes they pay? GA: Both. A higher tax is appropriate because the very top groups have been able to capture such high percentages of society's core wealth - which in turn derives so overwhelmingly from inherited knowledge. One approach might include enacting an annual wealth tax of 2 percent on the richest 5 percent of households in America. This money could be used to finance federal education grants, with the goal of replacing the student loan system with a pure grant system. This could require national service in return, in a flexible way, with forgiveness after perhaps two years of service. The principle here is giving more people access to our technological and knowledge inheritance through higher education. It's a way of equalizing (or somewhat equalizing) the benefits of something - knowledge - we all inherit in common. Much more progressive taxation on inheritance, on income at the top, and on windfall profits like those recently 'earned' in the oil industry, would also be important steps forward. JL: So you're in favor of redistribution? Is that where it all leads? LD: We'd like to retire that word from the political vocabulary because you can't redistribute something that is already highly socialized, and wealth and income in the 'era of knowledge-based growth' (whoever ends up 'owning' it) is indeed highly socialized. Most importantly (and more to the point), individual productivity is increasingly dependent on what can only be described as a collective good, a common inheritance of knowledge. No one deserves to benefit from this common inheritance more than anyone else, by moral definition, because it's not created by any individual. So, to the extent that inherited knowledge ('technical progress in the broadest sense,' as Solow termed it) is increasingly driving economic growth, the fruits of knowledge - the wealth being generated by knowledge - should be more equally shared. Wealth that is commonly created should be equally, or at least more equally, shared. James Lardner is co-author of Up to Our Eyeballs: How Shady Lenders and Failed Economic Policies are Drowning Americans in Debt, editor of Inequality.org, and a senior fellow at Demos. Gar Alperovitz is the Lionel R. Bauman Professor of Political Economy at the University of Maryland and Lew Daly is Senior Fellow and Director of the Fellows Program at Demos. Their new book, Unjust Deserts, came out this November from The New Press --------22 of 23-------- Obama-Cola "The Great National Temperance Beverage" by Jennifer Matsui December 4th, 2008 Dissident Voice In 2004, American voters were offered a choice between two presidential candidates in an elaborately staged "taste test" based on consumer preference for one brand of Cola over the other. More recently, voters were faced with yet another soft drink challenge, but this time it was based on the dominant brand's ill-advised attempt in 1985 to "mess with success" and re-launch its product under a "new" label. Unlike the Bush/Kerry campaign that pitted competing (but otherwise identical) corporate interests against one another, election 2008 more closely resembled an internal struggle within a single corporate entity. This time around, GW played the unenviable villain role of the Coca Cola exec responsible for his company's disastrous decision to tamper with the formula and packaging of a beloved, much touted brand of carbolic soda, while Barack Obama played the dissenting marketing genius who comes to the rescue and restores the poisonous product back to its original flavor. Having put the genie, so to speak, back into the bottle, the whiz kid replaces the despised and disgraced CEO much to the relief of customers and shareholders alike. In this fictionalized retelling of the story, the youthful upstart's deceptively bold campaign to oust his former boss is launched with the support of his enthusiastic and idealistic marketing team, most of whom were eventually given the pink slip once the new CEO settled into his upper floor suite. McCain's minor role as hired mouthpiece attempting damage control for the outgoing CEO was a comical and insignificant aside to bigger picture premise of an arrogant and deluded leader being challenged by a charismatic and visionary upstart. Never mind that the "visionary" envisioned nothing more radical than a return to the recent past of putting the requisite amount of high fructose corn syrup in aluminum cans. While Pepsi may have profited handsomely in the short term from Coca Cola's mishandling of its newly launched product and the public relations fiasco that followed, it was Coca Cola that ultimately prevailed, outselling the rival brand two-to-one within six months of reintroducing the old formula as "Coke Classic". In subsequent retellings of the events in 1985, Coca Cola's swift and repentant capitulation to consumer demand would be upheld as an example of "the power of the people" in shaping corporate policy, citing the example of millions of angry Coke drinkers bombarding the company's Atlanta headquarters with angry letters and staging public events to express their anger over what they felt was the company's arrogant disregard of customer loyalty. What is most often overlooked in this updated David vs Goliath parable is how the beleaguered Behemoth, while publicly licking its wounds, was in fact, laughing all the way to the bank, even as the competition gained short term windfalls over the ensuing "scandal". Also absent from this feel good retelling of "The People vs New Coke" is how this so-called consumer movement was not in fact a spontaneous rising up of angry citizens against an arrogant giant but a mostly media-generated spectacle that took its talking points from Pepsi's PR department, hoping to cash in on the "controversy". The media/entertainment industrial complex pushes forward these faux story lines, substituting substance with empty calories while prioritizing the trivial at the expense of truth telling. Our system of governance in collusion with its corporate overseers relies on a lazy and willfully misinformed citizenry to effectively function. Like the carefully orchestrated spat between the identical blonde "frenemies" of The Hills, the presumed enmity between Team Obama and Team Bush (and even Team Clinton) was merely a plot device to enhance the selling points of deodorant and hybrid cars during a profitable election cycle. Voters, not unlike soft drink aficionados, can be counted on to rally around a non-cause perpetrated by multiple corporate entities all profiting from a well orchestrated marketing blitz - just as they can be counted on to take these falsely constructed narratives and marketing campaigns at face value, eschewing facts for factoids, truth for "truthiness" and reality for the MTV version. Coverage of November's landmark presidential election puts forward a similar feel good spin on what really amounts to a staged confrontation between costumed rivals. Admittedly, it's difficult not to applaud the triumphant outcome of the "underdog" in this elaborately choreographed "battle". The poised and telegenic President-Elect is a flawless package, even if his sleek exterior conceals the same corrosive elements that defined his predecessors. Once again, a multi-lateral marketing campaign yielded a simulacrum democratic movement under a new slogan. "Yes, we can!" heralded as a stroke of (marketing) genius on par with "I have a Dream" (but without all the pesky nuance, intellectual depth and angry black guy connotations) was less a continuation of Dr King's groundbreaking speech than having evolved from the brain trust that once declared Coca-Cola "The Great National Temperance Beverage". By the time he officially enters the White House with his revived cabinet of Clinton appointees, President Obama will have calmed the angry public backlash at the executive responsible for tampering with an established brand of "soft" Imperialism and exposing it as a crude, corpse strewn land grab. Like the subsequently re-branded "Coke Classic," Brand Obama has never been about "change" but merely reversion to an executive branch that pretends to "feel your pain" while continuing to inflict it even more brutally on vulnerable and impoverished populations overseas. Still weeks away from officially taking office, and already President-Elect Obama's early supporters - those insignificant and ultimately embarrassing hordes of anti-war "progressives" who dug into near empty pockets to launch his grassroots campaign - are feeling the sting of betrayal with each passing news cycle announcing his cabinet picks. Perhaps we should not be surprised by his choice of hawkish economic and foreign policy advisors and "experts", or the appointment of Lady MacClinton herself as Secretary of State. After all, contrary to popular belief, no one at Coca-Cola was fired or otherwise penalized for their role in perpetrating what is widely perceived as the worst marketing decision ever made for the simple reason that for all its bad publicity, the "miscalculation" proved ultimately beneficial to the architects of this "failure". "Catastrophic success" then as now describes the unintended benefits that befall the mighty in the wake of a seemingly insurmountable setback. Presidential candidate Obama might have questioned Senator Clinton's judgment in authorizing the war in Iraq with her "yes" vote, but having measured the decorous curtains in his plush new quarters, perhaps he can afford to be magnanimous towards his former nemesis Bill Clinton. No doubt the old horn dog is salivating over the prospect of spending quality time with his next booty call while the Missus waddles across the world stage to collect her next consolation prize. What pundits describe as the "seamless" White House transition currently underway should give us more reason to despair than hope. This smooth and apparently amicable transfer of power that the pundits insist is proof that civility and pragmatism are being restored to the nation's highest office merely confirms that "change" and "hope" are, and always have been, euphemistic terms for "Business and Empire as Usual". That should have been obvious when the "anti-war" candidate shifted his rhetorical stance from ending the bloodshed in Iraq to escalating the US military presence in Afghanistan. His groveling campaign speech to AIPAC was another indication that his conscience and intellect were impediments on the path to his "historic" presidency; short-term glitches in an otherwise flawlessly executed marketing campaign. His swift post-election appointment of Likud Party poster boy Rahm Emanuel as Chief-of-Staff, Joe "I am a Zionist" Biden as Vice-President, and of course, the selection of Hillary ("I will obliterate Iran") Clinton to lead the State Department are further indications that the next US president is gearing up to serve as Israel's next outsourced leader. As he prepares to fulfill his duties overseeing the vast corporate/ military apparatus required to sustain his newly adopted homeland, the last thing we should expect from this "agent of change" is, say, a rational and humane response to the humanitarian crisis currently playing out in Gaza as Israel's deadly blockade of the occupied territories intensifies, or a swift withdrawal of US troops from Iraq as promised early on his campaign. Nor should we expect the media under an Obama presidency to relinquish its role as the propaganda arm of an National Security State comprised of a willfully misinformed electorate unable to distinguish between Brand A Cola and its political counterpart. After all, voters, content to passively adore their beloved candidate from a viral YouTube video or a Huffpo blog post extolling his sterling qualities, did not set a mandate for their "agent of change" or otherwise instruct him to implement policy that represented a significant departure from the current one. It was enough, it turns out, to project one's hopes on to an abstractly held notion of "change" and bask in the warm glow of being part of a movement, even if the movement was little more than a disgraced brand's temporary recall of a product tainted by bad publicity. The one time community organizer turned politician has finally revealed himself as a viral marketing phenomenon on par with Max Headroom, Coca Cola's virtual, lantern jawed mascot whose appeal rested on his ability to convey nothing and everything simultaneously. Depending on the psychological profile of the consumer, the remote, disembodied Cola mascot was either a figure of strength and authority or a "new wave" icon thumbing his digital nose at the old order. This enigmatic shape shifter was reborn in the Senator from Illinois who similarly and deceptively conveyed youth and rebellion while advocating the same kind of muscular foreign policy of his predecessors. This cynically contradictory message did not appear to cause discomfiture among Obama's centrist base, who insist to this day that the "grassroots" nature of his early campaign and the "cool" factor he was able to engender in a process that traditionally overlooks the role of young voters somehow mitigates the President-Elect's transformation from agent of "change" to establishment hawk waiting to serve out Bush's third term. Where "Classic" was once stamped on a hastily reconfigured pop can to distinguish it from its internal rival, "Hope" became the official slogan of a disgraced brand desperately seeking to re-establish its dominant market share with a quick fix solution. Just as consumers never noticed that the cheaper sweetening agent that had replaced liquid cane sugar in the "old" Coke was now the staple ingredient of "Classic" Coke, most of us remain blissfully non-cognizant of the sleight of hand deceptions going on behind the scenes as Brand USA relaunches itself as a continuation of the status-quo. Jennifer Matsui is a freelance writer living in Tokyo. She can be reached at: jenmatsui [at] mac.com. Read other articles by Jennifer. This article was posted on Thursday, December 4th, 2008 at 10:13am and is filed under "Third" Party, Activism, Afghanistan, Anti-war, Capitalism, Culture, Democracy, Democrats, Empire, Middle East, Neoliberalism, Obama. --------23 of 23-------- Capitalism is a socially approved form of sadism. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- - David Shove shove001 [at] tc.umn.edu rhymes with clove Progressive Calendar over 2225 subscribers as of 12.19.02 please send all messages in plain text no attachments To GO DIRECTLY to an item, eg --------8 of x-------- do a find on --8 vote third party for president for congress now and forever
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