Saturday, December 28, 2013

Climate Justice-James Boyce, UMass

This article on Environmental Climate Justice has been sitting at Truth Out for a little while.  It presents the basic issue well enough, but I added a touch of greater depth including the likes of Occupy Wall St. and the 1%/99% divide after it.

PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Paul Jay in Baltimore.
Now joining us from Amherst, Massachusetts, is James Boyce. He's the director of the Program on Development, Peace Building, and the Environment at the PERI institute. He's also a professor of economics at Amherst.
Thanks very much for joining us, James.
JAY: So, James, you've written a new book titled Economics, the Environment and Our Common Wealth. Before we dig into some of the issues in the book, what was your kind of overriding objective in producing the book?
BOYCE: Well, what I wanted to do was bring out the fact that when we worry about environmental degradation, when we worry about pollution and depletion of natural resources, we should be thinking not only about the relationship between humans and the natural world, but also the relationships among human beings, because, basically, when we find problems of environmental degradation, we find problems where some people are benefiting at the expense of other people. If nobody was being harmed, it wouldn't be a problem, at least not from the standpoint of economics.
So what I wanted to do in the book, Paul, was lift up the notion that these environmental problems are also social and economic and political problems and point to the implications of starting from an ethical standpoint that every human being on the face of the earth, present and future generations, we all have an equal right to a clean and safe environment, and think through what it would mean to actually organize our environmental policies around that fundamental principle.
JAY: So the thing is that, if I get it correctly, we're—to a large extent here, the reason there's such environmental degradation and the reason there's such, I guess, opposition to dealing with issues like climate change—but it also includes issue of toxic poisoning of our environment—is that there's interests there, there's people that make money out of it, and that ethical concerns or the issue of human rights is not very paramount to those people.
BOYCE: Yeah, that's right, Paul. I mean, these things don't just happen by accident; they happen following various patterns, right? And we have to ask, whenever we see a problem of environmental degradation, who benefits from activities that are causing the problem (if nobody benefited, it wouldn't be happening), who gets harmed, and why is it that the beneficiaries, the winners, are able to impose these harms on other people. And that really is the starting point for the book.
JAY: So what should be done? In this sense: it seems that—I guess there's short term and long term. There has been some victory, you could say, reforms in mitigating some environmental degradation. But are we facing issues that are so profound, so deep, that in fact there needs to be a bigger social transformation before they can be dealt with?
BOYCE: Well, I think we need to build on the victories we've achieved in the past, which are not inconsequential or minor, and move forward. But it's clear that we do need some big changes down the road. We've still got big problems to address.
I think what we need to build on are not only the victories of the environmental movement which brought us the Environmental Protection Agency and the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act and so on, but also the victories of the civil rights movement, of the voter rights movements, and so on which have helped to empower the people who tend to be on the losing end of environmental problems, the people who tend to be victimized most. Pollution, resource depletion, these don't affect everybody equally, Paul. Some people get hit harder than others, and it tends to be low-income communities and people of color who get hit the hardest here in the United States. It tends to be low-income people around the world who get hit the hardest.
And so if we want to address environmental problems, we also have to think about how to improve the ability of those who have the most to gain from addressing these problems to make their voices heard and to make their health and well-being and their children's well-being a central issue in the protection of the environment.
JAY: So what would you like to see? And concretely, what do you think needs to be done, given the current state of politics and such?
BOYCE: Well, I think we need to lift up the basic democratic and human rights principles that underlie environmental protection. We're not just interested in protecting the environment and nature for its own sake. It's not just about polar bears or spotted owls. It's about real people here and now, and it's about the well-being of future generations. And we need to think about those people when we're thinking about protecting the environment. We need to think about kids whose life opportunities are being affected by the pollution to which they're being exposed as infants and as small children. Air pollution, water pollution, these are human issues, human rights issues, and we need to be thinking about that and thinking about our commitment as a society to making sure that every child has an opportunity to live to their full potential and to have a productive and healthy and happy life. And I think if we broaden out our concerns with the environment to include our concerns with people, we can broaden the constituencies for doing something about the really serious environmental problems that we face today.
JAY: Because, like, I'm in Baltimore. In places—you know, some of the very poor areas of East Baltimore, West Baltimore, it's very hard for people to relate to, for example, climate change, which seems rather abstract when you're facing such, you know, difficulties getting through the day or very immediate issues of pollution. Like, there's a guy in East Baltimore that does a toxic tour, when they take you around east Baltimore, the amount of toxic dumps right next to where people are living, yet they sit there year after year.
BOYCE: Yeah, that's right. These are immediate environmental problems, and we ought to be paying attention to them. And there's no conflict between doing that and paying attention to climate change. After all, burning of fossil fuels, which is the main culprit in climate change, also releases lots of other nasty pollutants that impact local communities. And it is the kinds of communities you're talking about in Baltimore, in metropolitan areas across the country, that tend to be impacted worst by those emissions of pollutants from refineries, power plants, etc. It's also the case that as the climate changes, the people who are most vulnerable to those climate changes are low-income people who don't have the resources to adapt, don't have the air conditioners, don't have the ability to live in the leafy suburbs, don't have the ability to even get out of town when a hurricane like Katrina hits.
So I think that dealing with the environment is really a social justice issue, Paul, and I think, to move forward, that's how we need to increasingly frame it. We need to recognize that piece of the picture.

and my response-

This is a good start on an essential issue that Jay brings out from Boyce. Love Canal in 1978 in the US and Minimata in the 1950s in Japan were disasters that both contained these basic elements. However, the resistance of corporate executives in the Coal, Oil, Nuclear, and Financial industries, for example, goes beyond the lowest income and most discriminated communities. Since the 2008 crash, Occupy Wall St., and the 1%/99% slogan, some greater awareness was raised of economic problems. Beyond Coal, the Sierra Club's grassroots campaign against coal plants, has been able to stop more than a hundred plants already.
      Some utilities have promoted green power options, some non-profits like NYPIRG has helped those green power options, and best of all, some people have begun co-operative enterprises that are promoting household installations, like Co-op Power in Massachussets, solar power co-ops in Maryland, and others sprinkled across the US. The fact that modern wind power was developed in Denmark in the 1970s shows how their population was not dominated by a corporate culture at that time. They protested nuclear plans, and artisan mechanics started producing a new generation of micro turbines for starters. Germany then followed Denmark, and both implemented Grid Access Incentive payments, or Feed In Tariffs, which have proved their effectiveness. German farmers were the first to organize into partnerships there. A similar thing happened around the same time in the UK at a smaller scale. Spain has had some success, but has not benefited like Germany because of its corporate-based wind installations. The new business model, the new grassroots citizen model for any and all who can wake up. Americans and immigrants with the lowest incomes and the most discriminated against have good reasons to organize, but clearly face the greatest obstacles. Let those who have fewer obstacles be the focus of a turnaround, just as Ralph Nader, then Michael Moore have been able to as major activists.

Monday, December 9, 2013

From Occupy to Mondragon

After a lightweight article about Occupy, author Carl Davidson entered into a lively exchange with an obnoxious ideologue.

November 28, 2013

If Occupy Is a Battle, the First Round Was a Success

Understanding that the tides of social movements bring challenges and victories.
BY Carl Davidson
Matthew Richard’s essay on Occupy was, for me, a trip back in time, to my rebel youth, nearly 50 years ago. In his voice, I heard the full range of my own ideas and feelings from those “glory days.” In the 1,000 battles I’ve been through since then, I’ve tempered, reframed and even changed some of those views. It would be easy enough for me, in commenting on the essay, to slip into the role of wise old grio. But that’s not what I want. So I offer a few remarks from a different role, that of “co-conspirator.” I made it to Zuccotti Park and a dozen other encampments, too.
First, I don’t think Occupy failed, or has even disappeared. But to understand why, you first have to grasp what it was.
Occupy was largely an elemental rising of the “precariat,” today’s new working class, a distressed young generation burdened with debt and facing a precarious future of frequent joblessness in a wider order of savage inequalities. They had the audacity to choose the right target, Wall Street. They had the wisdom to seek allies, the 99% vs. the 1%. For at least a year, they changed the national conversation and spotlighted the main enemy.

lessthantolerant to                                                                                                                                                                      Carl Davidson
You should move to Cuba or maybe Spain, after all those two socialist countries are so successful, right?
Mondragon could not exist without subsidies from the government as I ca see from the research.
While I see nothing wrong with a Cooperative, silly ideas like yours and other union thugs just will not work.
Please let me know when you leave for Cuba.
  • Avatar
    Mondragon could not exist without subsidies from the Spanish government? Nope. Your research leaves a lot to be desired, to put it kindly. I've spent time studying at MCC in the Basque country, and 'government subsidies' has nothing to do with how they started or how they succeeded. Quite the contrary. They succeed because they create a quality product at competitive prices, and the workers control the entirety of the surplus value they create, relying on their own bank, research institutes and university. I've read a half-dozen books on the topic, and written one of my own as well. Now if you want to talk about the Bankster on Wall St, you have a good case.
      • Avatar
        Since our first New Markets Tax Credits (NMTCs) closing in 2004 we have recieved $704 million in NMTC allocation and invested in 78 projects in 24 states. These projects generated total investments of $1.4 billion and created 7,495 jobs. Our 78 projects are located in urban and rural communities, are large and small, and include for-profit and not-for-profit developers. From a community center in a severely distressed and densely populated area of the South Bronx, NY, to a manufacturer of truck parts in Council Bluffs, IA, our projects represent a cross section of our nation’s communities
        Like all delusional ideas, one can not see the forest for the trees. Your life blood is tax credits and public tax dollars channeled to you through sham corporations fed by government.
        You have to be able to turn a profit to exist once the feeding tube of government funds ceases.
        We shall see, I will follow this typical pipe dream venture for a couple of years, be prepared when I send you a "I told you so"
        • Avatar
          By means of “Subordinated Financial Contributions”, which is an instrument provided for by the Cooperatives Act of the Basque Country and paves the way for accessing the capitals market through the so-called secondary market or AIAF fixed-income market. Eroski was the first one to use this instrument in June 2002.

          It did so through the corresponding issue, which was approved beforehand by Eroski’s Congress and by Spain’s Securities and Investment Board (CNMV), initially amounting to 60 million euros, a figure that was subsequently raised to 90 million in view of the positive response made by investors.

          The main features of this extremely successful issue were: interest indexed to the Euribor +3 points, fixed interest not linked to results, instruments favouring liquidity, security and guarantee assured by Eroski and the fact that the issue and subsequent development were submitted to the approval of the CNMV.
          As one can see, they could not operate with out controlled market and special consideration of government regulations and financing.
          As I said Co-Ops are Ok but on a very limited scale and as long as they chase profit they are shams of your socialist dream.
          Also, feeding off low wage workers in Mexico and Turkey sort of make them hypocrites.
          But you keep your delusion going.
          One question though, where might one read this great socialist/communist manifest YOU wrote?
            • Avatar
              So MCC borrowed money, putting up solid collateral, to build a chain of over 200 supermarkets, which will be repaid, expanding employment and worker-consumer coops throughout Spain. They also lend money, at low interest, for people to buy cars and build homes....And you think this is parasitic subsidies? That's rather odd. Make me wonder what you would think of the federal government here giving land grants to railroads, the Morrell land grants and other support that built our system of state universities--and not even to mention huge military contracts from the Pentagon? But in any case, yes, as transitional measure and for immediate relief to the unemployed workers, I'm much in favor of a green energy industrial policy over a military industrial policy, for a variety of startups, not unlike the New Deal's TVA, whether they are coops or not. I'm interested in smart government, not the right wing fantasy of an anarcho-capitalism of no government. As for my book, you can buy it at

        Sunday, December 8, 2013

        Worker Rights- Germany's Co-Determination

        Germany's Co-Determination system came to my attention a few years ago, but somehow I wasn't able to grasp its significance.  However, as events have transpired over the years, my interest keeps returning to Spain's Mondragon Co-op complex, Italy's Emilia-Romagna region, the superior distribution of income in the Northern European countries, and the inequalities elsewhere, especially the US, well, now.  Oh, and then there's China, not to mention Japan, South Korea, India, Brazil, and elsewhere, each with their powerful role to play.
              I wanted to find a historical article on Germany's situation, and found an article in a UK journal article apparently from 1998 which claimed to have found scant details.  Then I turned up an article coming from Germany with some important specifics.  Hmm, US dog-eat-employees "free markets," or real social democracy and labor human rights.  Let me think a minute.  Well, yeah, that sounds about right.
             Finally, I found two EU sites, one about worker participation and the other about labor news.

        Co-determination: the secret history of workers' control?

        Christopher Winch

        One key aspect in Germany’s economic success is Mitbestimmung, or ‘co-determination’. This is a system of corporate governance and labour relations very similar to the one that the Bullock Report recommended, although without any explicit reference to Germany. At the time, the Bevin Society argued that the Bullock recommendations of one-third employer, one third employee and one third from nominees determined by the first two groups (the 2x + y’ formula), would lead to higher productivity and greater competitiveness and that this would result from the greater orientation towards production of a workforce holding a real stake in the company. ....

        Rebecca Page

        Co-determination in Germany –

        A Beginner’s Guide
        The word “co-determination”, or “Mitbestimmung” in German, is commonly heard outside of Germany but
        it’s actual meaning is often unclear. What it actually refers to, is a concept for employee consultation and
        participation (in certain cases) in company decisions at both establishment and company/group level within
        private sector companies in Germany. This co-determination concept has a long history – dating back
        originally to the 1920s – and is today regulated by a number of detailed laws.....
         Thanks to the Boeckler Foundation, I found this EU site-

        More than 1,000 active EWCs and counting – News from the EWC Database

        The ETUI’s database of EWCs currently records 1,039 active EWCs in 962 multinational companies. The highest number of EWCs has been established based on the German (351), French (260), British (186) and Belgian (179) law. Since the entry into force of the recast EWC Directive 2009/38/EC, the pace of establishment of new EWCs seems to be increasing steadily: at least 58 negotiations are known to be currently underway, and the sectoral European trade union federations report that more initiatives to open negotiations are in the pipeline.

        Interim report on 2013 bargaining round

        The Institute of Economic and Social Research has published an interim report on Germany’s 2013 round of collective bargaining. The study evaluates collective agreements concluded in the first half of 2013, affecting about 45% of all workers covered by such agreements – around 8.7 million employees, 1.2 million of them in eastern Germany. The average annual increase in collectively agreed wages and salaries will be 2.8% in 2013, slightly above the average of 2.7% in 2012.





        Saturday, November 16, 2013

        Sleepwalking to Extinction- R Smith

        This is a really good call to arms, but lacks the perspective of individual and group activism inherent in Solidarity Economics.  See my comments below....

        Published on Friday, November 15, 2013 by Adbusters

        'Sleepwalking to Extinction': Capitalism and the Destruction of Life and Earth

        (Image: STEVE MEISEL / AFP)When, on May 10th, scientists at Mauna Loa Observatory on the big island of Hawaii announced that global CO2 emissions had crossed a threshold at 400 parts per million (ppm) for the first time in millions of years, a sense of dread spread around the world and not only among climate scientists. CO2 emissions have been relentlessly climbing since Charles David Keeling first set up his tracking station near the summit of Mauna Loa Observatory in 1958 to monitor average daily global CO2 levels. At that time, CO2 concentrations registered 315 ppm. CO2 emissions and atmospheric concentrations have been rising ever since and have recently passed a dangerous tipping point: 440ppm.
        For all the climate summits, promises of “voluntary restraint,” carbon trading and carbon taxes, the growth of CO2 emissions and atmospheric concentrations have not just been unceasing, they have been accelerating in what scientists have dubbed the “Keeling Curve.” In the early 1960s, CO2 ppm concentrations in the atmosphere grew by 0.7ppm per year. In recent decades, especially as China has industrialized, the growth rate has tripled to 2.1 ppm per year. In just the first 17 weeks of 2013, CO2 levels jumped by 2.74 ppm compared to last year.
        Carbon concentrations have not been this high since the Pliocene period, between 3m and 5m years ago, when global average temperatures were 3˚C or 4˚C hotter than today, the Arctic was ice-free, sea levels were about 40m higher and jungles covered northern Canada; Florida, meanwhile, was under water along with other coastal locations we now call New York, London, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Sydney and many others. Crossing this threshold has fuelled fears that we are fast approaching converging “tipping points” — melting of the subarctic tundra or the thawing and releasing of the vast quantities of methane in the Arctic sea bottom — that will accelerate global warming beyond any human capacity to stop it.
        “I wish it weren’t true, but it looks like the world is going to blow through the 400 ppm level without losing a beat,” said Scripps Institute geochemist Ralph Keeling, son of Charles Keeling.
        “At this pace, we’ll hit 450 ppm within a few decades.”
        “It feels like the inevitable march toward disaster,” said Maureen E. Raymo, a scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, a unit of Columbia University.
        Why are we marching toward disaster, “sleepwalking to extinction” as the Guardian’s George Monbiot once put it? Why can’t we slam on the brakes before we ride off the cliff to collapse? I’m going to argue here that the problem is rooted in the requirement of capitalist production. Large corporations can’t help themselves; they can’t change or change very much. So long as we live under this corporate capitalist system we have little choice but to go along in this destruction, to keep pouring on the gas instead of slamming on the brakes, and that the only alternative — impossible as this may seem right now — is to overthrow this global economic system and all of the governments of the 1% that prop it up and replace them with a global economic democracy, a radical bottom-up political democracy, an eco-socialist civilization.
        Although we are fast approaching the precipice of ecological collapse, the means to derail this train wreck are in the making as, around the world we are witnessing a near simultaneous global mass democratic “awakening” — as the Brazilians call it — from Tahir Square to Zucotti Park, from Athens to Istanbul to Beijing and beyond such as the world has never seen. To be sure, like Occupy Wall Street, these movements are still inchoate, are still mainly protesting what’s wrong rather than fighting for an alternative social order. Like Occupy, they have yet to clearly and robustly answer that crucial question: “Don’t like capitalism, what’s your alternative?” Yet they are working on it, and they are for the most part instinctively and radically democratic; in this lies our hope.
        Capitalism is, overwhelmingly, the main driver of planetary ecological collapse
        From climate change to natural resource overconsumption to pollution, the engine that has powered three centuries of accelerating economic development, revolutionizing technology, science, culture and human life itself is, today, a roaring out-of-control locomotive mowing down continents of forests, sweeping oceans of life, clawing out mountains of minerals, pumping out lakes of fuels, devouring the planet’s last accessible natural resources to turn them into “product,” while destroying fragile global ecologies built up over eons of time. Between 1950 and 2000 the global human population more than doubled from 2.5 to 6 billion. But in these same decades, consumption of major natural resources soared more than sixfold on average, some much more. Natural gas consumption grew nearly twelvefold, bauxite (aluminum ore) fifteenfold. And so on. At current rates, Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson says that “half the world’s great forests have already been leveled and half the world’s plant and animal species may be gone by the end of this century.”
        Corporations aren’t necessarily evil, though plenty are diabolically evil, but they can’t help themselves. They’re just doing what they’re supposed to do for the benefit of their shareholders. Shell Oil can’t help but loot Nigeria and the Arctic and cook the climate. That’s what shareholders demand. BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and other mining giants can’t resist mining Australia’s abundant coal and exporting it to China and India. Mining accounts for 19% of Australia’s GDP and substantial employment even as coal combustion is the single worst driver of global warming. IKEA can’t help but level the forests of Siberia and Malaysia to feed the Chinese mills building their flimsy disposable furniture (IKEA is the third largest consumer of lumber in the world). Apple can’t help it if the cost of extracting the “rare earths” it needs to make millions of new iThings each year is the destruction of the eastern Congo — violence, rape, slavery, forced induction of child soldiers, along with poisoning local waterways. Monsanto and DuPont and Syngenta and Bayer Crop Science have no choice but to wipe out bees, butterflies, birds, small farmers and extinguish crop diversity to secure their grip on the world’s food supply while drenching the planet in their Roundups and Atrazines and neonicotinoids.....

        This is powerful stuff. Solidarity Economics is a recent formulation of co-operative, democratic economics coming out of Latin America and Quebec and inspired through the World Social Forum. It has already coincided with the foundation of the US Federation of Worker Co-ops and the US Solidarity Economy Network. Related perspectives have been articulated by Gar Alperovitz, Richard Wolff, Elinor Ostrom, and Jessica G. Nembhard. From consumer choices to workplace enlightenment to ecovillages, we have many choices that can support change. By addressing the resistant assumptions in our own experiences, we can build a movement which can then act like Gandhi, or many Gandhis, to transform the current fatheaded, muscle-bound system. Danish anti-nuke protests, artisan mechanics, and citizen wind co-ops and lobbying spurred the modern wind industry, followed by similar efforts in Germany and elsewhere, and we can all essentially do similar and the same.

        Wednesday, November 6, 2013

        The Super Rich- Who Needs America?


        How the Super-Rich Are Abandoning America

        As they accumulate more and more wealth, the very rich have less need for society. At the same time, they've convinced themselves that they made it on their own, and that contributing to societal needs is unfair to them. There is ample evidence that this small group of takers is giving up on the country that made it possible for them to build huge fortunes.
        Photo: luna715/cc/flickr1. They've Taken $25 Trillion of New Wealth While Paying Less Taxes
        The 2013 Global Wealth Databook shows that U.S. wealth has increased from $47 trillion in 2008 to $72 trillion in mid-2013. But according to U.S. Government Revenue figures, federal income taxes have gone DOWN from 2008 to 2012. Even worse, corporations cut their tax rate in half.
        American society has gained nothing from its massive wealth expansion. There's no wealth tax, no financial transaction tax, no way to ensure that infrastructure and public education are supported.
        Just how much have the super-rich taken over the past five years? Each of the elite 5% -- the richest 12 million Americans -- gained, on average, nearly a million dollars in financial wealth between 2008 and 2013.
        2. For the First Time in History, They Believe They Don't Need the Rest of Us
        The rich have always needed the middle class to work in their factories and buy their products. With globalization this is no longer true. Their factories can be in China, producing goods for people in India or Europe or anywhere else in the world.
        They don't need our infrastructure for their yachts and helicopters and submarines. They pay for private schools for their kids, private security for their homes. They have private emergency rooms to avoid the health care hassle. All they need is an assortment of servants, who might be guest workers coming to America on H2B visas, willing to work for less than a middle-class American can afford.
        The sentiment is spreading from the super-rich to the merely rich. In 2005 Sandy Springs, a wealthy suburb of Atlanta, stopped paying for most public services, deciding instead to avoid subsidizing poorer residents of Fulton County by hiring a "city outsourcer" called CH2M to manage everything except the police and fire departments. That includes paving the roads, running the courts, issuing tickets, handling waste, and various other public services. Several other towns followed suit.
        Results have been mixed, with some of CH2M's clients backing out or renegotiating. But privatization keeps coming at us. Selective decisions about public services threaten to worsen already destitute conditions for many communities. Detroit, of course, is at the forefront. According to an Urban Land Institute report, "more municipalities may follow Detroit's example and abandon services in certain districts."
        3. They Soaked the Middle Class, and Now Demand Cuts in the Middle-Class Retirement Fund
        The richest Americans take the greatest share of over $2 trillion in Tax Expenditures, Tax Underpayments, Tax Haven holdings, and unpaid Corporate Taxes.
        The Social Security budget is less than half of that. Yet much of Congress and many other wealthy Americans think it should be cut. These are the same people who deprive the American public of $300 billion a year by not paying their full share of the payroll tax.
        4. They Continue to Insist that They "Made It on Their Own"
        They didn't. Their fortunes derived in varying degrees - usually big degrees - from public funding, which provided almost half of basic research funds into the 1980s, and even today supports about 60 percent of the research performed at universities.
        Businesses rely on roads and seaports and airports to ship their products, the FAA and TSA and Coast Guard and Department of Transportation to safeguard them, a nationwide energy grid to power their factories, communications towers and satellites to conduct online business, the Department of Commerce to promote and safeguard global markets, the U.S. Navy to monitor shipping lanes, and FEMA to clean up after them.
        Apple, the tax haven specialist, still does most of its product and research development in the United States, with US-educated engineers and computer scientists. Google's business is based on the Internet, which started as ARPANET, the Defense Department's Advanced Research Projects Agency computer network from the 1960s. The National Science Foundation funded the Digital Library Initiative research at Stanford University that was adopted as the Google model. Microsoft was started by our richest American, Bill Gates, whose success derived at least in part by taking the work of competitors and adapting it as his own. Same with Steve Jobs, who admitted: "We have always been shameless about stealing great ideas."
        Companies like Pfizer and Merck have relied on basic research performed at the National Institute of Health. A Congressional Budget Office study reminds us that The primary rationale for the government to play a role in basic research is that private companies perform too little such research themselves (relative to what is best for society).
        5. As a Final Insult, Many of Them Desert the Country that Made Them Rich
        Many of the beneficiaries of American research and technology have abandoned their country because of taxes. Like multinational companies that rationalize the move by claiming to be citizens of the world, almost 2,000 Americans, and perhaps up to 8,000, have left their responsibilities behind for more favorable tax climates.
        The most egregious example is Eduardo Saverin, who found safe refuge in the U.S. after his family was threatened in Brazil, landed Mark Zuckerberg as a roommate at Harvard, benefited from American technology to make billions from his 4% share in Facebook, and then skipped out on his tax bill.
        An Apt Summary?
        Bernard Marcus, co-founder of Home Depot and member of the Forbes 400, had this to say about any American who might object to all the greed: "Who gives a crap about some imbecile?"

        Tuesday, October 29, 2013

        Robot Labor vs. China. And the Co-ops?

        A recent article on a solar farm in Spain, and on robots used on solar plants by a US firm reminded me of this article.  In this kind of ideological economic system, we need protectionist policies to slow down the mania and allow a scientific, and humanistic, approach support a social democratic and co-operativst economic ideology.  Well, while there are food co-ops selling organic food and buying wind power, solar co-ops in the US, and wind co-ops in Denmark, Germany, and the UK, and perhaps elsewhere, it's clear that the Corporate-Techno system will keep going full steam ahead.  Ah, the upheavals ahead will be spectacular.... 

        Skilled Work, Without the Worker

        By JOHN MARKOFF    Published: August 18, 2012 

        DRACHTEN, the Netherlands — At the Philips Electronics factory on the coast of China, hundreds of workers use their hands and specialized tools to assemble electric shavers. That is the old way.

        At a sister factory here in the Dutch  countryside, 128 robot arms do the same work with yoga-like flexibility. Video cameras guide them through feats well beyond the capability of the most dexterous human.

        One robot arm endlessly forms three perfect bends in two connector wires and slips them into holes almost too small for the eye to see. The arms work so fast that they must be enclosed in glass cages to prevent the people supervising them from being injured. And they do it all without a coffee break — three shifts a day, 365 days a year.

        All told, the factory here has several dozen workers per shift, about a tenth as many as the plant in the Chinese city of Zhuhai.

        This is the future. A new wave of robots, far more adept than those now commonly used by automakers and other heavy manufacturers, are replacing workers around the world in both manufacturing and distribution. Factories like the one here in the Netherlands are a striking counterpoint to those used by Apple and other consumer electronics giants, which employ hundreds of thousands of low-skilled workers.

        With these machines, we can make any consumer device in the world,” said Binne Visser, an electrical engineer who manages the Philips assembly line in Drachten.

        Many industry executives and technology experts say Philips’s approach is gaining ground on Apple’s. Even as Foxconn, Apple’s iPhone manufacturer, continues to build new plants and hire thousands of additional workers to make smartphones, it plans to install more than a million robots within a few years to supplement its work force in China.

        Foxconn has not disclosed how many workers will be displaced or when. But its chairman, Terry Gou, has publicly endorsed a growing use of robots. Speaking of his more than one million employees worldwide, he said in January, according to the official Xinhua news agency: “As human beings are also animals, to manage one million animals gives me a headache.”

        The falling costs and growing sophistication of robots have touched off a renewed debate among economists and technologists over how quickly jobs will be lost. This year, Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, economists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, made the case for a rapid transformation. “The pace and scale of this encroachment into human skills is relatively recent and has profound economic implications,” they wrote in their book, “Race Against the Machine.”

        Sunday, October 27, 2013

        Fair Trade-Maggie's, Patagonia, HonestTea

        Triple is too uncritical for my preferences, but they do publish some good articles from time to time to my taste.  I am happy to learn about Patagonia's extending their certifications to the social side to what appear to be the highest levels, unless they actually would go and start a full-fledged co-op supplier. Maggie's Organics did that in Nicaragua, I recall
        There is news about HonestTea, founded by an old college friend of mine.  Although bought by Coca-cola a couple of years ago, they are increasing their sustainable ingredients independently.  Then, an interview with IKEA USA struck me as uninspiring and uncritical business news. 

        Patagonia Goes Fair Trade

        By | October 22nd, 2013

        patagonia-fair-tradePatagonia made headlines when they admonished us: “Don’t buy that jacket.” In fact, they made so many headlines, we bought them anyway. Their commitment to environmental sustainability keeps them at the top of GoodGuide’s apparel recommendations. And they’ve even dipped their toes into social sustainability, with the Footprint Chronicles, a collective documentation of the supply chain and local impacts of all of their products. Today, Patagonia announces that it is taking its commitment to social responsibility much, much further – beyond documentation into third party verification.
        In the Fall 2014 season, nine styles will be Fair Trade Certified by Fair Trade USA. This step, a first from a major retailer, represents a huge vote of confidence for the Fair Trade apparel industry in general.
        “Offering Fair Trade products is an important new tool for us to help ensure fair wages and workplace safety for the workers in the supply chain who sew Patagonia clothes,” says Cara Chacon, Director of Social and Environmental Responsibility for Patagonia in a press release. “We are also empowering the people purchasing our products. This effort is part of a larger strategy to raise awareness with our customers on how they can make a difference in the world with their purchasing decisions.”
        Fair Trade USA’s certification works a bit differently in the apparel industry than it does for food and agriculture. When it comes to crops like those Fair Trade bananas and chocolate you may see on co-op shelves, the focus is primarily on protecting the agricultural workers, making sure they have living wages and giving them the freedom to improve their own situation. In the case of apparel, those benefits are also extended to the factory workers who cut, make and sew the products.....  

        Honest Tea Increases Organic Purchases and Fair Trade Premiums

        Gina-Marie Cheeseman By | October 24th, 2013 0 Comments

        Honest TeaThere is so much to like about Honest Tea’s 2013 Mission Report. The company, founded in 1998, and purchased in 2011 by the Coca-Cola Company, increased organic purchases and fair trade premiums. In fact, Honest Tea increased organic ingredient purchases to 4.9 million pounds in 2012-2013, 13 percent more than the year before, and six times more than 2007.
        The company is no stranger to organic ingredients. In 1999, it created the first organic ready-to-drink bottled tea, and in 2004 converted all of its tea and juice drinks to certified organic. The company contributed increased its Fair Trade premiums in 2012-2013 by 19 percent over the previous year. Honest Tea works with Fair Trade USA, and its organic products are certified by Pennsylvania Certified Organic and the USDA National Organic Program.
        “Our progress in growing the demand and the supply of organic ingredients helps illustrate that our efforts to democratize organic and healthy beverages are bearing some fruit, but there is still more work to be done,” said Honest Tea co-founder TeaEO, Seth Goldman.

        In addition to its organic and fair trade purchasing, Honest Tea is not afraid to take a stand on labeling genetically modified (GMO) products. It not only supports GMO labeling, but states that Honest Tea beverages “do not and have never contained GMOs.” All of its packages are labeled with a “No GMOs” logo in addition to a statement that says, “No GMOs means that if there is a bioengineered version of an ingredient, we don’t use it.” The company’s strong stance on GMO labeling might seem to create friction with its parent company, but Goldman insists that isn’t the case. In a blog post last year, he stated, “There are bound to be moments when our enterprise does not share all of the same ideas as our parent company. But there’s never been any pressure to compromise Honest Tea’s products, our ingredients, or our commitment to our mission.”....

        Interview: IKEA Unveils New Sustainability Strategy

        By RP Siegel | October 7th, 2013

        ikea logoMike Ward, President of IKEA USA gave the keynote address at the 6th Annual Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) Conference in Orlando last week where he unveiled IKEA’s sustainability strategy.
        I caught up with Ward a couple of days later to discuss the new strategy in greater detail.
        TriplePundit: What are the main elements of IKEA’s new sustainability strategy?
        Mike Ward: The new strategy really outlines for us how we want to transform the business in the next few years, using sustainability as a key platform of the business plan. People and Planet Positive is a way to explain to ourselves and to everyone what we’re going to be focusing on.
        3p: So what’s different now?
        MW: We’re looking at three change drivers. The first is a more sustainable life at home. We’ve always been fascinated with the way people live, and have focused our innovation on improving life, always at a low price. Sustainability adds another dimension to that challenge. Next we discussed energy independence and independence in the way that we source materials. That shows up in our commitment to renewable energy and the work we’ve done in our supply chain, particularly with respect to wood and cotton. The third aspect is a better life for the people and communities where we do business.
        3p: What does sustainable life at home look like?
        MW: That is where we can really add the most value. We have to be clear that even though people are becoming more aware, it’s a hard change for some people to make. But we, and all retailers, can be a big part of motivating people to make the change to a more sustainable way of living at home, because our products are so good.
        3p: How do you reconcile being a provider of low-cost furnishings with bringing sustainability into people’s lives, in cases where the more sustainable options currently cost more, like organic food, for example, or cotton, or LED light bulbs?
        MW: Cotton is a good example. We buy quite a bit of cotton. In fact, almost one percent of all the cotton grown in the world goes into IKEA products. The way we’re working with cotton is to really go back to the source. We work with the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) where we have an opportunity to influence the way it is produced. This is an independent organization that works with farmers to help them figure out how to use less water, less pesticide, and less fertilizer, therefore growing cotton more sustainably.
        3p: And adding your buying power helps improve the prices.
        MW: Yes, it does. We’ve set a goal that by 2015, all the cotton we buy will be produced in line with the BCI standards.....

        Tuesday, October 22, 2013

        JP Morgan Ch Fine to Coop Banks

        The recent fine of JP Morgan Chase is a little encouraging, but really just the tip of an outrageous iceberg.  In fact, business as usual continues because the Corporate Executive business model remains unchanged.  Since the Rochdale Co-op of the 1800s and Raiffeisen's credit unions a little later, Europe's Co-op Banks have gotten more than 20% market share in some areas and were less affected by the crisis.  In the US, the credit unions also fared better.  While I was a longtime Food Co-op member in NYC, I was only beginning to look into credit unions when I moved to Latin America.  There are a few projects here, and around the world, as the World Council of Credit Unions and the International Co-op Allia. indicate......  As for theories, of course, Mark Lutz gives a great account in his Economics for the Common Good, including giants like Ellerman and Daly, although J Vanek might require another source.  Ann Milford has made a recent advance in discussing Fair Trade, while J Birchall and J Rothschild have works which provide excellent historical perspectives.  Marjorie Kelly's recent work Owning Our Future accomplishes an excellent view including both social and ecological perspectives.

        2) JP Morgan Chase fine by Scheer
            b) actually, the fine is only $6 billion, which indicates that it was inflated unknowingly by the media....
        3) alternative indicators-
        4) Interview with Jaroslav Vanek-  see 4) below 

        Co-operative banks as key players

        Elisa Bevilacqua - 06 June 2012

        Co-operative banks have proven resilient and sustainable. Post-crisis financial regulation and reform must recognise the sector’s rich diversity

        Co-operative banks form decentralised networks that are subject to both banking and co-operative legislation. They play an important role in Europe and in the global banking industry. They serve 180 million customers mainly households, SMEs and local communities and have a market share of about 20 per cent in Europe. In some European countries, like in France, Austria, the Netherlands, Germany, Finland or Italy the market share ranges between 20% and 60%. Co-operative banks employ 750,000 people and have more than 50 million members across Europe. Furthermore, 1 in 3 Small and Medium Enterprises is serviced by a co-operative bank.

        These figures demonstrate the power of cooperative banking and the contemporary form of its business, which brings prosperity in both industrialised and developing countries. For co-operative banks historically created to improve access to finance for their co-operative members, who would have otherwise had limited access to financial services based on reasonable conditions, this remains a key objective.

        Indeed the history of many co-operative banks can be traced back to the financial exclusion faced by many communities in the 19th century. Most co-operative banks were established following the ideas of Schulze-Delitzsch and Raiffeisen to offer opportunities to rural communities and small businesses that would have otherwise remained unserved. In economic terms co-operative banks were established to address market failures: the members were owning and financing the institutions, taking part in decision making. The community monitoring and relationships offered the necessary incentives to ensure timely repayments of loans and allowed co-operative banks to flourish and become the banks of today.

        In short the co-operative banking model was an innovative answer to unequal access to financial services and the principle of mutualisation was a means to emancipating people from economic, social and even political dependency through self-reliance and solidarity. While evolution of the structures and national legislative frameworks and traditions have differed in the different EU countries, this basic set of values and characteristics still holds true.

        In particular the key distinguishing factor of member ownership is a common and defining feature. The local banks are effectively owned and controlled by the local customers through membership. The local banks in turn own and control the supporting infrastructures, regardless the number of tiers, roles and authorities delegated to them.

        As co-operative banks networks are established at local level, they are fully integrated in their immediate environments. This feature of proximity means that the credits collected are reinvested at the local and regional level and as a result the co-operative banks play a key role in development of areas in which they are based. In other words the decisions in co-operative banks are taken at local level and granted to local projects from the member/owners. “This reflects the primary banks’ awareness of their social and economic responsibility in their respective local communities and it is in line with the co-operative principle: from the local community and for the local community.”1 In this respect co-operative banks have continuously promoted entrepreneurship through fostering self-help, responsibility, co-operation and solidarity while emphasising the common good of the communities they belong to.

        Proximity: improving access to financial services and fostering regional development

        With 65, 000 branches in the EU-27, co-operative banks provide EU-wide coverage, from the inner cities up to the most remote areas and villages. They provide access to finance for customers in regions that would typically not be served by other players of the credit sector due to decisions based on the profitability criteria alone.

        The market share of co-operative banks in rural areas ranges from approximately 41% in Germany to up to 85% in France (3 co-operative banks groups combined). In most European countries, including France, Portugal, Italy, Spain, UK, Austria, the Netherlands, Greece, France and Finland, co-operative banks are often the only financial institutions present in areas that are considered remote.

        The inclusive role of co-operative banks has been illustrated in literature, a study of 2005 examines the consequence of historical presence of local co-operative banks on long-term growth (data from 1970 to 1993) and finds that the size of the total financial sector has little impact on regional growth, while the presence of co-operative banks is crucial.2 The authors argue that the less complex and smaller co-operative banks, with high knowledge of the local community are more suitable for providing funding for locally based businesses, than large financial institutions owned by a vast number of shareholders. On account of their proximity to the members and their local establishment, co-operative banks are well placed to gather more comprehensive information that allows for better evaluation of the needs of customers and their solvency. For example, processing soft information on borrowers, reducing information asymmetries and lowering moral hazard and adverse selection.

        Recent research conducted by the CEPS (Center for European Co-operative Studies) in 2010 across 7 EU countries has demonstrated the contributions of co-operative banks in fostering local growth.3 The research confirmed that the regional presence of co-operative banks has a positive impact on regional growth and GDP. Moreover in some countries like Austria and the Netherlands co-operative banks appeared to play a stabilising role through maintaining their presence in regions that experience slow growth and therefore contributing to future economic recovery.

        Resilience: contributing to the stability of the financial systems

        The member-customers are fully involved in the decision-making process of co-operative banks. Apart from allowing for risk minimisation, creditworthiness and customer need identification, member control is key to a long-term vision. Unlike other companies quoted on the stock exchange, co-operative banks are not subject to the volatility of financial markets. Their primary aim is the long-term relationship with customers/members and members value maximisation. The continuous increase of profits is not a goal per se. Thanks to this long-term approach ─ high level of capitalisation, stable incomes from retail business, a diversified credit portfolio and prudent risk management ─ co-operative banks demonstrated their resilience during the recent financial crisis and weathered the storm relatively well. The stabilising role of co-operative banks was illustrated in a recent study of the IMF and acknowledged by several commentators and policymakers, including EU and International institutions. They underlined the continuous support of co-operatives to local economy and small businesses also during the turmoil.

        Towards an enabling regulatory environment

        Thanks to their co-operative features and structure, co-operative banks are resilient and sustainable; they are an asset for stability and for providing accessible and inclusive financial services. As recently declared by the Secretary General for the United Nations, Mr Ban Ki Moon: “Cooperatives are a reminder to the international community that it is possible to pursue both economic viability and social responsibility.” However an enabling regulatory framework that fully takes into account the diversity of banking models in Europe is fundamental to be able to continue playing their crucial role.

        One of the lessons drawn from the sub-prime mortgage and financial crises is the importance of diversity in the banking industry. Although still difficult to apply in practice, several commentators, public authorities and international organisations have fully acknowledged that "just as an ecosystem benefits from diversity, so the world is better off with a multitude of corporate forms."

        Several researchers at European level (Lwellyn, Ayadi, Ferri, Kalmi et al.) have recently stated the powerful systemic benefits to be derived from diversity of business models and ownership structures in the banking sector. In short a pluralistic approach is likely to ensure greater financial stability and growth, as it responds to different objectives and business purposes.

        Despite these recognitions, the recent banking reforms and the post-crisis financial regulation show that legislation at international and European levels is conceived on the basis of the mainstream shareholders banks model (with high level of sophistication) and does not take properly into account the diversity and characteristics of the other models. If diversity has to be translated into practice, a cautious approach must be taken by the legislator to avoid a detrimental one-size fits all approach that might hamper growth and local communities.

        Elisa Bevilacqua is head of research and communications at the European Association of Co-operative banks

        1 Androniki Katarachia, “Social responsibility and customer satisfaction in cooperative banking”, 2nd International CIRIEC research conference (2009)
        2 Usai, S and Vannini M., “Banking structure and regional economic growth: lessons from Italy”, Annals of Regional
        Science (2005)
        3 Ayadi R., Llewellyn D., Schmidt R. et alt, “Investigating Diversity in the Banking Sector in Europe, Key developments, performance and role of cooperative banks”, CEPS (2010)

        4) Vol 5 No 1 1995
        Cooperative Economics: An Interview with Jaroslav Vanek

        interviewed by Albert Perkins

        Albert Perkins: Professor Vanek, how did you first develop your ideas on economy?

        Jaroslav Vanek:I had four major influences. First, I experienced the evils of communism when I was a refugee in Czechoslovakia from Stalinism, and later, when I came to the West, I also experienced the evils of western capitalism. Then, in between, I was fortunate enough to spend time with my late brother who did extensive work for the I.L.O. (International Labor Organisation) and wrote the first book about the workers' councils in Yugoslavia. I learned many of my basic ideas from him. He was a sociologist and I was an economist, and I was able to transpose his ideas into my field. Third was the doctrine of the Catholic Church. Pope John 23rd went a long way toward suggesting the desirability of economic democracy. Finally, I was influenced by Dubceck's model of social democracy. It could have been more successful than the Yugoslavian experiment, but for the Soviet tanks. I have had several interests in my life, including the area I call economic democracy. Economic democracy is a transposition of the idea of political democracy. It implies that economic life is governed by people who are involved in thateconomic life. Capitalism is based on property rights, and democracy on personal rights. Perhaps the most important aspect of capitalism, its objective function, is to maximise profit. If you look at it more carefully, profit is revenue minus labor costs and other costs. This means then human beings enter the defining objective function of the system with a negative sign. By contrast, economic democracy has an objective function where people are on the positive side of the equation. The idea is to maximise the welfare of the people participating. This is an enormous difference, and I'm convinced that the tragic difficulties of our culture -- ecological devastation, starvation, etc. -- can be traced to this negative side But capitalism could be cured slowly if we developed economic democracy. One of the main reasons why the western world is so schizophrenic is that we have political democracy and economic autocracy.