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Member since: Wed Oct 13, 2004, 05:42 PM
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I agree with a lot of the points you made in this thread; but. I'm still hopeful.

I heartily agree with you that JFK's space program was a unique opportunity to "beat our swords into plowshares." I made similar points in a post in General Discussion last month: "I remember when a Democratic president committed us to go to the moon. I got some good comments, but, a lot of negative responses; sadly it seems quite a few good liberals don't see the value in space exploration.

I agree that there are some disturbing trends, such as the turning away from peaceful space exploration, the dumbing down of our educational system and the dumbing down of our political discourse (Witness the recent GOP debates). However, there are hopeful counter-trends: a push back on many levels, against the abuses of power, the resurgence of liberal religion, and a neglected and often maligned Progressive Caucus in Congress. Maybe there's hope, even for the U.S.

If the U.S. doesn't lead the breakout into space, there's still China, Europe, even Russia. Have you heard that Russia has put out some feelers to Europe and even the U.S. on a cooperative lunar base for the late 2030s and beyond? The only disappointing thing in that is the timetable: In the 1960s we did it in less than a decade.

Getting back to the Wow Signal: There's another possibility that no one has mentioned yet; it's based on the fact that everything in the universe is in motion. That, of course includes the Earth and the hypothetical source of the Wow signal. Maybe the Earth briefly crossed the path of a communication between a two solar systems or between a starship and its home world.

Anyway, I think that it's worthwhile to keep searching. Dr. Jill Tartar of Seti has stated that, what we would get from First Contact would be the knowledge that another civilization survived its technological adolescence.

Are Co-ops the Future of Capitalism?

There's a fascinating article at Alternet.org: UN Declares 2012 The Year of The Co-op: Is This The Future of Capitalism?

The Industrial Age gave the us the giant, top-down, vertically-integrated corporations that concentrated wealth in the hands of a very few mega-rich and gave us two Gilded Ages (We're living in one now!). Now a new model of worker owned companies is challenging the big, top-down corporations.

The United Nations has named 2012 as the International Year of Cooperatives, and indeed, co-ops seem poised to become a dominant business model around the world. Today, nearly one billion people worldwide are cooperative member-owners. That’s one in five adults over 15 — and it could soon be you.

Cooperatives have been around in one form or another throughout human history, but modern models began popping up about 150 years ago. Today’s co-ops are collaboratively owned by their members, who also control the enterprise collaboratively by democratic vote. This means that decisions made in cooperatives are balanced between the pursuit of profit, and the needs of members and their communities. Most co-ops also follow the Seven Cooperative Principles, a unique set of guidelines that help maintain their member-driven nature.


While 20th-century corporations were good at making money, the 21st century finds humanity in need of new business models that value sustainable growth and community benefit. The UN stands behind cooperative models, and in 2012 will dedicate its efforts to raising awareness of co-ops, helping them grow and influencing governments to support them legislatively.

The next few paragraphs are a discussion of the growth of the modern co-op movement. There's also an invitation to start your own co-op:

If you knew how many successful cooperatives surrounded you, and what a positive impact cooperative enterprise can have on the world, would you be more likely to join or start your own co-op? The UN believes you might. This is one of the primary goals of both the UN and the International Cooperative Alliance: to make you aware of the cooperatives in your own backyard, as well as their potential to influence your life and future.

The article goes on to discuss the role that legislation can play in encouraging the growth of co-ops, and the need for such legislation.

Co-ops can also have a major role to play in reducing poverty and inequality, as the workers of Mondragon, Spain proved when they started their own co-op:

In 2000, poverty expert Barbara Peters visited the town of Mondragón. She labeled it a “town without poverty” — and also noted the absence of “extreme wealth.” Peters immediately made the connection between this small town in Spain’s industrial region, and the suffering Rust Belt of North America. If the USW’s new plan succeeds, cooperatives may be able to reinvent faltering towns, even as they reinvent their own image for American workers.

Ultimately, the key to equal employment and fair wages may be as simple as taking control of our own economic realities, stepping up and sharing the responsibility for our future. The United Nations thinks you’d be a great boss — don’t you?

Michael Moore, Jim Hightower, and the authors of The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Always Work Better have all spoken of the need for new forms of corporate control to reduce inequality. The growth of new technologies, such as 3-D printing and molecular nanotechnology may provide the opportunity for new business models. The egalitarian co-op may be the dominant model in our future.

Read the rest at the Alternet Visions section.

Paul Krugman tears Charles Murray a new one!

Charles Murray has made a career of cherry-picking data to tell the elites exactly what they want to hear. In Losing Ground: American Social Policy 1950–1980, he tried to say that money spent on welfare was actually hurting the people it was intended to help; in his most famous book: The Bell Curve he tried to prove, among other things, that social classes were inevitable because poor people had lower IQ's. His latest book: Coming Apart turns on the white working class that has formed the backbone of the Republican constituency since Nixon's southern strategy of 1968. Murray claims that the working class is suffering from a moral breakdown and that is what's causing their economic hardships.

He's getting (and deserving) a lot of flack for his conclusions, one of the best smackdown's of Murray's psuedoscience comes from Professor Paul Krugman. Prof. Krugman has devoted a number of posts in his NY Times blog to refuting Murray.

Prof. Krugman begins in Blaming the Victims of Inequality to take Murray apart:

All the talk on the intellectual (or pseudo-intellectual) right seems to be about Charles Murray’s book Coming Apart: The State of White America, which asserts that the problem with blue-collar whites is … declining family values.


From an analytical point of view, this would seem to be a very odd time to focus on the alleged moral decline of the lower classes. During the 60s, it was at least somewhat reasonable to ask why social ills were rising despite a booming economy producing widely shared gains (although as William Julius Wilson pointed out, work was disappearing in the inner cities, and this helped explain rising social problems among those trapped in those inner cities). But now we have an economy that has left blue-collar workers behind; why invoke social values to explain their plight?

And to the extent that social decay is a reality among, say, the bottom third of the income distribution among whites, doesn’t this say that Wilson was right, that lack of economic opportunity is what breeds social disruption?

Of course, the sudden fuss about values makes perfect sense from a political point of view, as a distraction from the issue of soaring incomes at the top.

In Wages and Values, Krugman takes on Murray's and others for bemoaning the "deteriorating values of working-class Americans:"

Should we really be surprised that young men, confronting the reality that they won’t earn anything near as much in real terms as their fathers did — and that they will be even further from having what society sees as an adequate income, because even Adam Smith acknowledged the importance of social norms in defining prosperity — don’t marry and raise families the way the previous generation did?

His last post on this, to date, is Different slopes for Different Folks, where he takes on Murray's insistence that lowered wages should not lead to a lowered incentive to work:

So Murray is suggesting that a lower wage should not lead to any decline in work effort, and maybe even to an increase, since it takes more hours to achieve a given standard of living. In effect, he’s saying that the supply curve for labor, instead of sloping upward, slopes downward — or at any rate that it should.

This is not a crazy position: “backward-bending” labor supply is a staple of economics textbooks, because income effects work against substitution effects. Raise my wage rate, and the payoff to working more increases; but I also get richer; and one of the things people consume more of when they get richer, other things equal, is leisure. So a higher wage could lead either to a rise or fall in labor supply, and a lower wage similarly could work in either direction.

So far so good — although it’s one thing to assert this as a possibility, another to just assume it so that you can skip all the economic data and go straight to condemning moral values.

As Prof. Krugman says on another thread:

The key reason we can’t have a polite debate is that one side keeps putting out the old discredited arguments, again and again. Inequality hasn’t really increased, never mind the IRS data; we have huge social mobility, never mind the actual evidence; tax rates on the rich have gone up because they pay more taxes, never mind their soaring incomes; taxing the rich even slightly more has devastating effects on economic growth, never mind the Clinton boom and the Bush not-boom.

What if Obama loses? Must-read!

People here are telling each other that the GOP can't win, just can't win, really can't win in 2012. Johnathan Kohn at the New Republic begs to differ, and I think you need to read:

The presidential election of 2000 still makes me angry. Mostly that’s because of the grotesque way it ended, with five Republican-appointed Supreme Court justices shutting down the Florida recount. But partly that’s because of the liberal apathy that first put the outcome into doubt. Throughout the campaign, plenty of liberals told themselves the election didn’t really matter, because the differences between the two candidates weren’t that stark. A few of them even voted for Ralph Nader. Those votes were more than enough to change the eventual outcome.

Sound familiar?

History proved that these liberals were wrong. By any reckoning, the last decade would have been radically different if Al Gore, not George W. Bush, became president in 2001. And I’d like to think liberals will remember that in 2012, when the choice is between President Obama and the eventual Republican nominee. But I’m not sure they will. I certainly hear and read many smart liberals upset with President Obama, for things he’s done and (more frequently) for things he hasn’t done. I’m not sure how much they speak for liberals generally, but in a close election, like the one we’re likely to see in 2012, even modest changes in enthusiasm could change the outcome.

Kohn links over to the February issue of the Washington Monthly with the cover article: What if Obama Loses? with links to several articles by respected scholars on consequences of a GOP takeover.

Just some of those consequences would be:
  • Repeal of the Affordable Care Act
  • Gutting of the Environmental Protection Agency - ending any possibility of action on Global Warming
  • Continued Conservative takeover of the courts
  • Ending any effort to regulate the financial industry
  • Have I mentioned a new war yet?

I know people are saying that: There's no enthusiasm for Mitt, and people won't vote for someone as bat-shit crazy as Newt or Santorum, and Obama will win in a landslide. But we have to face the facts:

  • The GOP candidate will have half a billion dollars in his campaign piggy bank from the Kochs and others
  • We're going to face more dirty tricks from voter disqualification to tampering with electronic vote counts
  • The recovery, while real, is still shaky. Factors from the European economy to the price of gas could put us back in recession

A great comic actor, W.C.Fields, once said: "Time to take the bull by the horns and look the facts in the face!" It's time to face the possibility we might lose, and to buckle down to a hard fight, now until November.

Sara Robinson's New Rules for Radicals

I've been appalled at the way that discussion of the future has been dominated by conservatives and faux libertarians (Google on nanotechnology AND "Heritage Foundation". Now a progressive site is getting into the futurist game: AlterNet has a new "Visions" section. One of the first articles is by Sara Robinson, a professional futurist and progressive.

Her first article for the AlterNet's new section is: New Rules for Radicals: 10 Ways To Spark Change in a Post-Occupy World. Her first rule:

The first rule is this: The world is different now. The rules have changed.

Since Occupy, we all understand this. Nothing works now the way it did even just a couple of years ago. Political tactics that haven’t budged public opinion in years — like petitions and big street demonstrations — are suddenly working again. Narratives that seemed unassailable — like the primacy of free markets and low taxes — are being openly questioned. Doors that used to be closed to us are now opening. The media that once ignored us is now starting to listen. The conservatives are shaken and fumbling, stuck on autopilot and unable to re-route away from their old course even as disaster looms dead ahead. What’s going on here?

This next rule is one that I think a lot of people on Democratic Underground need to read:

2. No despair. Despair is a waste of time and energy.

Anger is useful. It gets the blood moving. It gets people out of their chairs and into the streets. Harnessed quickly to constructive action, it’s the fuel that drives change. But anger, once generated, also cools and congeals quickly into frustration, cynicism and despair. Indulging in our daily two-minute hate may be cathartic, but ultimately, it doesn’t change a damn thing about our situation. Even worse: it curdles, producing paralysis. Worst of all: once it starts festering, there’s nothing left to do with it but turn it on each other.

So: let’s drop that cool, cynical, I’ve-seen-it-all, let’s-not-get-too-excited-here stance. Stepping back from the pain by telling ourselves sagely that it’s all too much, our enemies are too strong, and there’s nothing we can do — that’s the lazy way out. Yes, you are no doubt right: and yes, it sucks mightily. But the answer to that isn’t to sit around indulging in a group bitch session about how awful it all is. The answer is to get off our butts and get back to work, because life is short and there’s a whole planet out there that needs to be fixed on our watch.

Think she sounds too optimistic? Read the article. There's also a planned newsletter for the Visions section.
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