December 7, 2013
"I was called a terrorist yesterday, but when I came out of jail, many people embraced me, including my enemies, and that is what I normally tell other people who say those who are struggling for liberation in their country are terrorists."

Nelson Mandela (via azspot)

(via letterstomycountry)

October 22, 2013
"

On Saturday, a coalition of critics of the U.S. surveillance establishment will gather in Washington D.C., under the banner Stop Watching Us for a rally asking Congress to “stop the NSA’s unconstitutional mass surveillance.”

[…]

This is a vital cause, and I agree with it.

Yet I cannot support this coalition or the rally. It is fatally compromised by the prominent leadership and participation of the Libertarian Party and other libertarian student groups; their hard-core ideology stands in direct opposition to almost everything I believe in as a social democrat.

"

Tom Watson

I’m a little bewildered by this article and I’m struggling to wrap my head around its logic. The author believes libertarianism to be a poisonous ideology that is, at its root, deeply, even dangerously, conservative. Therefore, to collaborate with libertarians in pursuit of a common goal ultimately helps to advance a worldview that promotes, despite its posturing, an authoritarian society. I guess my response to this is “huh?” 

If progressives and social democrats spent their time exclusively in the company of like-minded activists, they’d find themselves in small groups, participating in esoteric debates that do nothing to advance larger goals, such as ending mass surveillance, cutting an obscenely large defense budget, repealing drug laws, or protecting civil liberties. If political change is going to occur, there must be some force behind it, whether it’s a large crowd of protesters or a well-funded advocacy group. The more souls linking arms and demanding change, the better.

If a libertarian Republican homemaker from Tennessee feels compelled to join a 20-something New York socialist in order to protest mass surveillance, why would anyone seek to destroy that coalition in favor of a smaller, less inclusionary, and less powerful group? To shun fellow Americans seeking to join your cause because you dislike the totality of their political beliefs is not only rude and self-defeating, it runs contrary to the vision of what America is supposed to be: a unified, diverse, and engaged citizenry fighting together to protect each other’s rights. 

(via prettayprettaygood)

LTMC:  Imagine for a moment that the republican party was replaced entirely by the Libertarian party.  The consensus that Progressive Democrats and Libertarians would have is broad indeed:

- End the War on Terror

- End the War on Drugs

- End Mass Incarceration

- End Mass Surveillance

- End the TSA

- Increase oversight of police

- Increase prisoner’s rights

- Demilitarize domestic policing

- Cut military spending

- End U.S. Imperialist foreign policy

This is just the short list.  The amount of common ground between Progressive Democrats and Libertarians far outstrips the amount of common ground between Libertarians and Republicans.  It is foolish and stupid to reject an alliance between Progressives and Libertarians simply because the former disagrees with the latter on economics, taxes, and healthcare policy.  

Tom Watson is 100% wrong on this one.  And he’s doing more damage to Progressive causes by refusing to associate with people who disagree with him.  If Alan Grayson and Dennis Kucinich can work with Ron Paul to co-sponsor an anti-war bill, Watson should be unafraid to make common cause with Libertarians who share his beliefs on mass surveillance.

(via letterstomycountry)

(via letterstomycountry)

October 22, 2013
"I have noticed even people who claim everything is predestined, and that we can do nothing to change it, look before they cross the road."

Stephen Hawking (via stxxz)

MIND BLOWN

(via cognitivedissonance)

(via cognitivedissonance)

August 5, 2013

Peacefully typing on his Ipad, Adam Kmett leans back in his chair as a smile slowly comes across his face as he reflects on his travels to China.

"I don’t want to get back on the plane," he says as he types on his Ipad.

After but a a couple weeks abroad, he has gained a better appreciation for the Chinese people and culture through open-minded conversations and casual interviews. The people he has met come from all backgrounds, socially, educationally, economically, and geographically. Every individual has a unique story, a tale of history influenced by media, events concocted by circumstance. Much like myself, these individuals enjoy hearing others experiences and learning from them. They take great interest in my project and travels in order to better understand my story.

So far, these findings have led to very informative and even eye-opening new information regarding perspectives in a few respective areas such as:

the Communist Party
America
Customs/Traditions
Economics
Social Issues including religion, homosexuality, and abortion.


With more sure to come, these ideas can lead Adam to offer takeaways from traveling that can be shared with friends.

For now….he smiles and goes back to the journey…and hopefully a second date tomorrow with the girl who has the red bow tie in her hair.

March 24, 2013
questionall:

Does anyone else find this excessive?

questionall:

Does anyone else find this excessive?

(via randomactsofchaos)

January 10, 2013
Writing to Write… Without Looking Back on what i say :]

What if you didn’t even own your body?

In a world increasingly forgetful of our surroundings, we as humans sometimes overlook that we are also creatures of the Earth. The air we breathe was also the air our ancestors inhaled hundreds of thousands of years ago. The composition of elements making up our bodies are permanent to the Earth itself, not even ourselves, for we exist in only short bit of time. Money is like time, unless well spent it is useless.

That’s another point I’d like to hash out too I suppose. What drives us to consume so much money? Surely, there are many factors to this question that all act in various proportions to varying degrees of input, but at the bottom there must be an answer. Is it our quest for power? Our quest for ‘happiness’? There is so much money out there but so little distribution, and those with it seem to abuse their ‘power’ and perpetuate the inequality.

On my Facebook profile I write under my religious beliefs I am a humanist, believing in the ultimate emancipation of humanity. To me, that represents a transition out of the current world order to an order of direct democracy, self-sustainability, and peace. These all democratic institutions I have been informing myself of are fascinating to say the least. And to speak to my last statement, I contend they could be highly valuable in serving as future models to renewing a societal order based upon principles of fairness and equality. At our current disposition of time, there seems to be no greater inequality of income in history. Compounding the problem, those with the power to keep the status quo permanently locked seem to be doing just that.

When we are little children we dream of changing the world. We dream of peace and harmony. But then as we get older, those  beautiful fixations are yanked from our minds as we are told that they could never happen, solving problems are impossible to fix. But how can one know this for oneself if one has never bothered to try? What floods out these fires, which burn to see change. What damns these ideas that we once held so near and dear?

On the news tonight, the headline spoke of a “influenza pandemic” that has killed some people in the country recently. What is not told are the stories of the lives of innocent people who die everyday in the hospital due to illness obtained while in the hospital. Innocent people die everyday there, and far more do.

192,000 people died last year like that alone. Here is my contention. Why are these lost voices not worth remembering? Perhaps in part because these deaths are a fact of the status quo, the way we do things. But look at what underlies the status quo: huge corporations, enormously profitable drug manufacturers, and hospitals with multiple tiers of management. If hospitals were run democratically, wouldn’t one believe people might be more concerned about the dying people they see everyday then uplifting profits, overmedicating, and most generally overhospitalizing?

Take another issue, at my school so many people gripe and complain about the school. 50,000 price tag and they can’t help but moan about the President’s salary, or the crappy food at GnT’s or the 3rd floor of Rossin. But are these people stupid? No, I contend they do not see themselves as entering into a community where they can stimulate change. In these democratic schools I doubt that is the case. What is the difference?

Look, to answer my original question, and to tie all these points together. If Mother Nature owns our bodies and has given us a lease on life, why not make our best effort to change the status quo, to demand a better sense of equality, and to ensure there is even a planet Earth our great ancestors might be able to see years and years from now.

Right now a ship is scraping the ocean floor damning the ecosystem that had been untouched by anything foreign. Right now, a person is being fired at their job because the corporation sees them as liquidity (easily releasable). Right now, a student is learning Calculus but their sincerest interest is to be learning about the history of China because they love that culture.

I must always remind myself never to stay comfortable. One must stay positive, up-beat, and proactive in seeking out the problems of the world in need of fixing.

In the words of Horace Mann, “Until you have done something for humanity you should be ashamed to die.” - Horace Mann

#change #goals #thoughts #world #corporations #schools #democracy #freedom #lovelife

December 28, 2012
WHAT OUR BUSINESSES, SCHOOLS & Gov’t SHOULD Look Like

This is the extensions of the blog I just posted, unfortunately cut off but now in full here…

Morning Star has many of the usual positions that one would expect at an ordinary company: there are floor workers, payroll personnel, folks that handle the mail and outside communications, and so on.  The difference is that, from a bird’s eye view,  no single person at Morning Star is anybody else’s boss.  The entire operation appears to thrive on the power of collective expectations, and by giving workers a direct stake in the success of the company.  Workers at Morning Star make their own decisions about how to perform their job, what tools they need to keep the machines running, and how to structure their work day to keep production running smoothly.  As one employee put it, there is no bureaucracy that he has to fight through if he needs something for his lab.  He just goes out and purchases it.

To some, this may seem like a frightfully inefficient way to run a business.  If employees can make instantaneous discretionary purchases of lab equipment on the company dime, then where is the cost control?  Such a system seems doomed to failure without a hierarchy of some sort to check potentially unwise exercises of indiscretion.

The answer is that these checks are built into the system of collective expectations.  As another Morning Star employee put it, Morning Star’s business model presumes that employees who are closest to a particular business process are the most qualified to make decisions about how to keep that process running efficiently.  Thus, one would expect an unwise purchase to be met with scrutiny by one’s peers on the factory floor.  Morning Star’s firm model thrives by ensuring that one individual is never and uncontested decision-maker solely responsible for decisions related to a business process at the company.  Every worker has a stake in the outcome of everybody else’s labor.  The threat of discipline from management is unnecessary to achieve desired outcomes.

Morning Star is not the first company to adopt this business model.  Valve Corp., a wildly successful Video Game company that currently dominates the Video Game industry through it’s Steam platform, also has no formal management.  Gore Inc., the makers of Gore-Tex, are an 8,500 strong company that has no company organization chart.  Though Gore does retain a few corporate officer titles for various purposes within the company, those officials have little direct power over other employees in the corporation.  Those same officers are also not unilaterally chosen by the Board of Directors, but rather, in a more democratic fashion:

In Gore’s self-regulating system, all the normal management rules are reversed.  In this back-to-front world, leaders aren’t appointed: they emerge when they accumulate enough followers to qualify as such.  So when the previous group CEO retired three years ago, there was no shortlist of preferred candidates.  Alongside board discussions, a wide range of associates were invited to nominate to the post someone they would be willing to follow.  ‘We weren’t given a list of names – we were free to choose anyone in the company,’ Kelly says.  ‘To my surprise, it was me.’

Other firms have shown that “non-management management” approach is feasible.  At IDEO Corp., a Palo Alto engineering company responsible for such ubiquitous inventions as squeezable toothpaste tubes, or the mouse you are using to point & click things on your computers, there are no bosses, and no management structure.  Sun Hydraulics is a $170 million dollar manufacturing firm with no job titles, no organization chart, and even lacks job performance criteria for its employees.  There is a Plant Manager, but their job is not to supervise employees: it’s to water the company’s plants.

How are so many companies, in areas as diverse as tomato farming, hydraulics production, and video game production, running successful businesses without traditional management?  In a society built on Capitalism, the common wisdom is that productive firms require managers with coercive authority to motivate people to do their jobs.  Most ordinary people are shocked when they learn that there are companies who stay profitable with no bosses.  How can this be an efficient way to run a company?

As it turns out, there’s a lot of evidence that top-down management is an inefficient form of firm organization.  Gary Hamel, writing for the Harvard Business Review, noted several reasons to abandon traditional management hierarchies, one of which is the fact that managers add both personnel costs and unnecessary complexity to a firm:

A small organization may have one manager and 10 employees; one with 100,000 employees and the same 1:10 span of control will have 11,111 managers. That’s because an additional 1,111 managers will be needed to manage the managers. In addition, there will be hundreds of employees in management-related functions, such as finance, human resources, and planning. Their job is to keep the organization from collapsing under the weight of its own complexity. Assuming that each manager earns three times the average salary of a first-level employee, direct management costs would account for 33% of the payroll.

Top-down management also centralizes risk-taking in the hands of fewer decision-makers, which increases the likelihood of a disastrous event:

… As decisions get bigger, the ranks of those able to challenge the decision maker get smaller. Hubris, myopia, and naïveté can lead to bad judgment at any level, but the danger is greatest when the decision maker’s power is, for all purposes, uncontestable. Give someone monarchlike authority, and sooner or later there will be a royal screwup. A related problem is that the most powerful managers are the ones furthest from frontline realities. All too often, decisions made on an Olympian peak prove to be unworkable on the ground.

The personal whims of managers can also kill or disincentivize ideas that are good for the company, especially when ideas have to be filtered through multiple levels of management:

…[A] multitiered management structure means more approval layers and slower responses. In their eagerness to exercise authority, managers often impede, rather than expedite, decision making. Bias is another sort of tax. In a hierarchy the power to kill or modify a new idea is often vested in a single person, whose parochial interests may skew decisions.

Then there’s “the cost of tyranny:”

The problem isn’t the occasional control freak; it’s the hierarchical structure that systematically disempowers lower-level employees. For example, as a consumer you have the freedom to spend $20,000 or more on a new car, but as an employee you probably don’t have the authority to requisition a $500 office chair. Narrow an individual’s scope of authority, and you shrink the incentive to dream, imagine, and contribute.

The success of these business models demonstrate one of the fundamental criticisms of traditional Capitalist modes of production that Marx attempted to illustrate when he was writing Das Kapital.  While Marx was wrong (in my opinion) about quite a few things, the success of the companies above demonstrates that Marx was correct to point out that divorcing employees from management decisions related to their own labor is an inherently inefficient means of production.  Divorcing employees from the product of their labor separates them from one of the primary motivating forces to perform that labor.  This process of alienation itself is what creates the necessity for “bosses”—employees whose primary purpose is to oversee & discipline other employees in their assigned tasks.  

Thus, what we really see in Marx’s Theory of Labor Alienation was, inter alia, an argument about firm management: the need for “bosses” in the workplace only arises when employees are completely divorced from the means of production.  When workers have a direct stake in the final product of their labor, they no longer need the threat of coercion from superiors to do their job.  An employee’s direct interest in the outcome, combined with the power of collective expectations of their peers in the workplace, replaces the threat of, and need for, discipline from above.

With all this being said: I am not attempting to argue here that the success of non-managed firms proves that stateless socialism is viable, or validates Marxism writ large.  Indeed, I’m sure that the folks at Reason have a much different view on Morning Star’s success than I do—and moreover, I remain, as I have always been, a fan of mixed economies.  

What I think is clear, however, is that Marxist theorists are right to point out that there is nothing inherently “natural” or “necessary” about the way the workplace is organized in most Western societies today.  There is plenty of evidence to suggest that top-down hierarchies in the workplace are neither necessary for profitability, nor an extension of natural human activities.  Indeed, if Gary Hamel’s observations about the inefficiency of management are true, we appear to have been doing it wrong for quite some time.

December 28, 2012
Letters To My Country: Did A California Company Just Prove Marx Right?

WE THE PEOPLE….

This is exactly the very premise I would suggest be considered for implementation in the schools, businesses, and later, government, in the 21st century. In an era of unprecedented access to information, a time with expanding capability to garner information to make rational decisions, and a strong push for progressive reform in this country we could really, really, change our trajectory for the better.

letterstomycountry:

Morning Star is a California company that is responsible for processing 40% of California’s tomato crop. They also have no management. (Via Reason.tv):

Morning Star has many of the usual positions that one would expect at an ordinary company: there are floor workers, payroll personnel,…

December 28, 2012
afternoonsnoozebutton:

Heads of state in order of succession for the US and China, and their college majors. Notice anything? Full article here.

afternoonsnoozebutton:

Heads of state in order of succession for the US and China, and their college majors. Notice anything? Full article here.

(via randomactsofchaos)

July 15, 2012
A Universe From Nothing

Just finished watching a lecture by Laurence Krauss, on “A Universe From Nothing.” Was enjoyable, eye-opening, humorous, and insightful into understanding the beginning of “everything” from “nothing. Truly worth watching….

July 14, 2012
sousmarin:

Hmm interesting

sousmarin:

Hmm interesting

(via randomactsofchaos)

July 13, 2012
politicalprof:

Things more popular than Congress today.
ht: Ezra Klein

politicalprof:

Things more popular than Congress today.

ht: Ezra Klein

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