Thursday, November 18, 2010

Ten Reasons to Believe: Important Sites on Worker Cooperatives

I recently asked Shared Sacrifice Facebook readers whether, as the economy collapses, people will turn to hate, or turn toward each other. The response was a unanimous, fearful prediction of hate. That led me to think about the people out there who have thought about and implemented, in some cases with extreme success, alternative economic models on the ground. So before you sink into despair at what economic decline will do to one another, take heart in the possibility that more people will come to realize that cooperation _is_ self-interest. For those only slightly familiar with cooperative work models, here are ten web sites to visit that will get you seriously thinking about the economic case for cooperation.

1. Most progressives have probably heard of Mondragon. Here's a quick read on how Mondragon works and some critical analysis the author speeds quickly through at the end.

2. Listen to this podcast by Business Matters on worker-owned coops.

3. The U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives is a national grassroots organization offering advice, resources, solidarity for worker cooperatives in the U.S.

4. Equal Exchange: a food cooperative

5. Check out Citybikes, a Portland cooperative bike shop--actually two branches in Portland

6. The Catholic Campaign for Human Development supports --and funds-- worker-owned cooperatives. "Over the past ten years, CCHD has supported worker-owned cooperatives focused on paraprofessional healthcare, child care, cleaning, sewing and craft production and temporary employment businesses."

7. Listen to "Your Call" with Rose Aguilar: "Worker-Owned Cooperatives: The Work We Do is the Solution" .

8. Personal essay by a worker-owner at the well-known Rainbow Grocery cooperative.

9. Participatory Economics guru Robin Hahnel on reducing inequality among worker cooperatives.

10. "The United Steel Workers Union, North America's largest industrial trade union, announced a new collaboration with the world's largest worker-owned cooperative, Mondragon International, based in the Basque region of Spain."

A careful study of worker cooperatives has something to offer progressives of varying tendencies. For the socialist, worker cooperatives really are schools and laboratories for what works and doesn't in trying to build a post-capitalist economy. For Greens, they're an example of the kind of policies that should be promoted by legislation and built by grass roots movements. For Democrats, they are a reason to push their party away from corporatism, if that's possible at this point. They may even have something to offer the non-paleo libertarians. Happy reading. I mean, this is happy reading, so happy reading!

Monday, November 08, 2010

the empirical-research-challenged person's guide to sound policymaking

In Connecticut, Governor Jodi Rell vetoed a bill that would have banned capital punishment in the state.  Her explanation couldn't have been any less intellectually or morally satisfying:

"There is no doubt that the death penalty is a deterrent to those who contemplate such monstrous acts.  The statistics supporting this fact, however, are not easily tabulated."

The last I heard, if there's "no doubt" about something, it's possible to empirically verify it.  At least, you know, when we're talking about public policy rather than the existence of God or the Easter Bunny. 

Back here in the real world, the death penalty does not deter crime.  It just doesn't.

Sunday, November 07, 2010


One of the more amusing things about Keith Olbermann's suspension is the amount of barely-concealed professional jealousy that has emerged from the media woodwork. A quick review of stories that have emerged on the Olbermann suspension in the last few hours:
In a few clumsy paragraphs, CNN contributor John Avlon manages to compose the most intellectually dishonest column I've seen on the issue so far. He cites Fox News's 30+ hyperpartisan hosts and contributors, in order to compare them to MSNBC's two or three, in order, finally, to cast a blanket of equivalency on all of them. This despite the fact that neither Olbermann nor Maddow have ever _endorsed_ a candidate, appeared at a campaign rally jointly sponsored by a Fox program and the candidates, and so on. Editorialists can be ideologically oriented without overtly supporting a party or candidate. Avlon doesn't get this. He also misses the fact that both Olbermann and Maddow have been critical of the Democratic Party and Obama, where one would never expect (nor ever witness) equivalent criticism of GOP leaders from Fox News.

He calls Maddow, who has an independent history all her own, Olbermann's "on-air protege." That's Ann Coulter language. It's also inaccurate and meanspirited, but was probably an attempt to sound clever. And, he explains Maddow's defense of Olbermann as a natural consequence of their ideological afinity, ignoring the fact that she, um, actually made some arguments. Avlon doesn't care about arguments, particularly those emerging from female proteges with no histories or personalities of their own.

He wraps it up with the most meaningless display of statistics I've seen since I used to go to L.A. Clippers games: Guess what, kids? 15% identify as conservative republicans while ONLY 11% describe themselves as liberal democrats. Good Gosh, a four-point gap among polar opposites! That didn't help the nutbags take over the Senate, but it's supposed to make Olbermann and his sidekick somehow contrite? Because, as Avlon contends, MSNBC's lefty partisanship emboldens Fox News?  Sigh. Another article to throw in the "don't write like this" basket.
Clever, albeit with an over-use of both metaphors and bold print (omitted below), is Tommy Christopher's speculation that IT'S ALL A CONSPIRACY!!!:
Amid the white hot coverage of MSNBC’s indefinite suspension of Countdown host Keith Olbermann, speculation furious enough to shame Melle Mel’s collegial quintet has emerged. Is this Olbermann’s Waterloo? Does Keith still have the juice to weather the maelstrom? Does the whole thing scream “Comcastic?”
One wrinkle that hasn’t been explored is an intriguing notion that a colleague of mine floated to me. Could the whole thing be an ingenious part of MSNBC’s re-branding effort, a publicity stunt with the dual purpose of drawing a sharper contrast with rival Fox News? Was 11/5 an inside job?
Deliberately or not, the Olbermann suspension is accomplishing great things for MSNBC. First of all, this thing is generating enough publicity to make P.T. Barnum look like Greta Garbo. But more than that, it also appears to have cleverly enlisted its own enemies in a Tom Sawyer-esque fence-painting exercise.
The bigger story is that MSNBC is now run by Republican Overlord and Bush-buddy Steve Burke. Even the New Republic thinks that's noteworthy.

My own take: We should, if we care to, condemn the suspension of Olbermann. But we should not settle for Olbermann, let alone worship him like many lib dems do. Moreover, we should explain the context of the supension and what it reveals about the economic forces at work in even the "liberal" media.

corp + state = fascism

My friend Joseph recently reminded me that Benito Mussolini allegedly said "Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power."

In addition to the difficulty in verifying the quote (damn, there's a lot of that going around these days), there is some legitimate doubt that, when he used the word "corporatism," Mussolini meant what we mean today.  Chip Berlet, however, points out that BM used the word to describe guilds, which would imply business conglomerates. Here's il duce himself saying:
It may be objected that this program implies a return to the guilds [corporazioni]. No matter!... I therefore hope this assembly will accept the economic claims advanced by national syndicalism. (p. 24)
It doesn't ultimately matter whether BM or his ghostwriter ever said this specifically.  Fascsism is an elite-driven historical act of desperation, where the freedoms, including market freedoms, associated with capitalism are sacrificed in order to save capitalism.  It's capitalism's "special period."  In that sense, it is a merger of the state and the corporate elite, or the intensification of that already-existing relationship.

So here's the question the quote, and discussion around it, sparked for me: Why do conservatives always conclude the solution is to eliminate state power only? Does it have anything to do with their conflation of fascism and Stalinism?
A third essential element of fascism, which evolved by necessity, but whose origins were intrinsic to the goals of fascism, is the thorough, public use of brutality to crush dissent and/or deviance. That quality is not a factor in the question, but it may be in the answer.

Friday, November 05, 2010

the rightist billionaire learning curve

Concerning the role of Latino voters in preventing a GOP Senate takeover, indulge me just one prediction:

Sooner or later the right will just learn to appeal to the ruling classes of each ethnic group, and those groups will, in turn, deploy subjectivist identity politics to subdue their organic critics.

Monday, November 01, 2010

isolationism as farce

William Astore is a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel and the kind of exacting, precice critic of war and the military inpooprial complex I like to read. He's got a good new essay, The New American Isolationism: The Cost of Turning Away from War’s Horrific Realities over at TomDispatch. Although not a wholly original idea, or perhaps because it's a commonly uttered theme--we're too removed from war to mount an effective opposition to it, this summation of the argument is especially effective.

Astore writes:

When you’re kept isolated from war’s costs, it’s nearly impossible to mount an
effective opposition to them. While our elites, remembering the Vietnam years,
may have sought to remove U.S. public opinion from the enemy’s target list, they
have also worked hard to remove the public as a constraint on their war-making
powers. Recall former Vice President Dick Cheney’s dismissive “So?” when asked
about opinion polls showing declining public support for the Iraq War in 2008.
So what if the American people are uneasy? The elites can always call on a
professional, non-draft military, augmented by hordes of privatized hire-a-gun
outfits, themselves so isolated from society at large that they’ve almost become
the equivalent of foreign legionnaires. These same elites encourage us to
“support our troops,” but otherwise to look away.