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A few well-written words can convey a wealth of information, particularly when there is no lag time between when they are written and when they are read. The IPS blog gives you an opportunity to hear directly from IPS scholars and staff on ideas large and small and for us to hear back from you.

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Entries since June 2012

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Chief Justice Roberts Saves the Day

June 28, 2012 ·

Chief Justice RobertsChief Justice Roberts saves the day
Angers the Right that he voted this way

The individual mandate won't get the axe
The Court just affirmed that the key is the tax

Don't want to comply? Well here are the facts:
Don't buy the insurance, just pay the tax

So — sick people, kids, the poor and the wealthy
Can now pay through the nose
To profiteers to be healthy.

Josh Fox's New Fracking Gem

June 28, 2012 ·

If ever an online video should go viral, it is Gasland director Josh Fox's vital new 18-minute gem, The Sky Is Pink.

It should become a widespread hit because:

  1. It's brilliant.
  2. It's funny.
  3. It will scare the crap out of you and make you want to take action.

The film's title comes out of the mouth of a public official in Pittsburgh who, in Michael Moore comedic-style language, talks about how the media will report lies — "the sky is pink" — unless someone is out there to regularly rebut them. And if you say, "The sky is blue," the media will report this as a debate worthy of coverage.

What's brilliant about Fox's mini-documentary is that he both exposes the disinformation campaign being waged by the natural gas industry — and its allies in (very) high places — and reveals, in leaked documents and PowerPoint presentations, that the industry is fully aware that its fracking wells are contaminating water. Formally called hydraulic fracturing or shale-gas drilling — fracking requires large quantities of water and a cocktail of toxic chemicals. By poisoning drinking water and farmland, it endangers public health. 

The natural gas industry lies. Its executives know they lie. And we swallow their lies. Literally.

As someone who has wrestled with the climate crisis for over two decades, this mini-doc comes at a critical time. The crisis in journalism — with investigative journalism increasingly rare, and corporate control of the media at unprecedented heights — is one reason the Earth's climate is increasingly unstable. Tragically, we may already have reached critical tipping points, with dire consequences for everyone.

Watch this new film and weep for our water, our democracy, and our future.

Then spread the word and take action. Here are some great groups to support who are fighting fracking, working on media democracy issues, and trying to get the word out on the environmental crisis.

Daphne Wysham hosted Earthbeat, the only weekly radio show in North America devoted specifically to climate change news and interviews, breaking environmental news, and environmental justice perspectives from 2003-2011. Earthbeat aired on over 60 public radio stations in the U.S. and Canada. The show is on hiatus, but not for long.
Is High-Tech the Next Step for the New Economy Movement?

June 28, 2012 ·

When I tell people that I work for the New Economy, the response I often get is, "So is that, like, Google and stuff?" It takes a second for me to explain that the New Economy movement is about promoting the public ownership of wealth and that it involves a structural and cultural reorientation toward what's good for stakeholders in the community, rather than corporations.

High-tech will shape the next generation, but can it be open to nontraditional economic ideas? Photo by Ben Rimes/Flickr.

At the recent progressive “Take Back the American Dream” conference, my partner immediately lost interest when I said this. He leaned back and gave a disappointed, "Oh… so like co-ops?" as an answer. Indeed, compared to the exciting world of shiny tablets and nifty smart phone apps, the concept of public ownership is decidedly old hat. Municipally owned utilities, Employee-Stock Purchase Plans, and community development corporations have been around (and prospering) for decades. Looking at the evidence, public ownership is as established as the state-owned Bank of North Dakota and the public-investment Alaska Permanent Fund that they champion.

But his initial reaction got me thinking: Can new technologies become part of the new economy movement?

On the one hand, the tech market is hardly an exception to the typical oligopoly speculation machine found in other industries. Google and Apple control 82 percent of the smartphone market. Microsoft's got an 88 percent share in operating systems, and in the United States, 82 percent of search engine operations fall under Google’s control, as well, allowing it to practically dictate privacy settings on the Internet. On top of unabashed monopolization, scandalous labor practices, such as those of Apple in China, provide little reassurance that these companies care much for what they do to communities. And the willingness to fuel bubbles evinced by Facebook's Instagram buyout suggests a mindset as greedy and careless as that of any i-banker.

On the other hand, the culture of companies like Google and Zynga is decidedly more open to New Economy principles than traditional industries. Google's "Don't be Evil" mantra, and its occasional genuine willingness to forego profit for the sake of the common good — witness the China office's decision to reroute through censorship-free Hong Kong — seem to suggest an open ear to end goals beyond profit. Its famous employee perks, no matter how instrumental for retaining talent, still equip workers with nap pods and free onsite childcare. And the concern with employee well-being extends to even smaller companies, such as Tagged, which gives its employees wellness allowance, yoga studios, and quiet rooms.

On average, high tech companies seem more participatory, less hierarchical, and more community-oriented than traditional industries. They also indicate a greater skepticism towards Wall Street bankers, the biggest opponents of the New Economy movement. Both Google and Facebook show a special concern for keeping control of their corporations in the hands of the founders. Finally, there's also the inherent sympathy of Silicon Valley, a place whose success stems from the public research of nearby universities and government projects. Stanford-raised entrepreneurs should have no trouble understanding the New Economy’s emphasis on anchor institutions and rooted development.

Perhaps the ultimate answer is that the new tech sector offers an opportunity, if not an immediate slam-dunk, for the New Economy Movement. Chuck Collins, in his "99 to1" book on inequality, argues that Occupy should partner with the portion of the 1 percent that is sympathetic to the protesters' goals. High tech is a great place to start. Less entrenched than finance and more oriented towards experimentation, Silicon Valley's entrepreneurs are more likely to consider a non- Keynesian-spending-or-austerity economic model. In a place where nothing-to-lose-by-trying start-ups are the norm,  should find an audience willing to listen.

Thus, we should try addressing ourselves to Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, to see if the language of Dilbert and Office Space can speak to the concerns of all of our communities.

Olga Musayev is a recent graduate from Yale University working to bring the principles of the New Economy Working Group to the next generation.

Let's Give Kids Better Mental Health

June 26, 2012 ·

“People are just not reaching us where we are at.  We want to be reached.” – Washington, D.C. focus group youth participant.

The mental well-being of our youth is crucial to achieving progress and prosperity in our communities. In Washington, DC, youth face particular challenges as disparities in resources and risks vary drastically in just a matter of miles. I wrote JPI’s report, Mindful of the Consequences: Improving the Mental Health for DC’s Youth Benefits the District, to show that current prevention and treatment services do not match the level of need and many youth are at risk for contact with the justice system due to untreated mental problems. To illustrate this, I mapped where arrested youth are coming from: predominately areas of low income and high rates of risk factors that impact mental well-being.

Some D.C. leaders will criticize this report citing the millions of dollars being spent already on mental health – as if that should be enough. My challenge to D.C. leaders is to admit that what is being done is not enough. Too many children are suffering from poor mental health while not receiving the attention needed. Too many youth are being misunderstood when their cry for help looks like aggression. Far too many are being penalized and channeled into a lifetime of involvement with the justice system just because it was too expensive to…invest in psychologists.

Melissa Neal, DrPH, is Senior Research Associate for the Justice Policy Institute. A longer version of this post appears on their Just Policy Blog.

The Lineup: Week of June 25-July 1, 2012

June 25, 2012 ·

In this week's OtherWords editorial package, William Barclay explains why we need a Robin Hood tax on financial transactions and Robert Alvarez warns that the nation's nuclear safety policies fall short of what's needed. Get all this and more in your inbox by subscribing to our weekly newsletter. If you haven't signed up yet, please do.

  1. The Tea Party Shtick / Sam Pizzigati
    Our founders wouldn't be amused.
  2. The Robin Hood Tax / William Barclay
    Finance should once again support the real economy of goods and services.
  3. A Radioactive Conflict of Interest / Robert Alvarez
    Having the Energy Department manage radiation health research makes as much sense as giving tobacco companies the authority to see if smoking is bad for you.
  4. Big Cable's Plan to Lock Down Your Future / Timothy Karr
    While the likes of Comcast and Time Warner Cable have every right to profit from their investments and services, they shouldn't abuse their dominant market share to remake our Internet in their image.
  5. One Weak Domino / Donald Kaul
    Other countries have problems, but Greece's are an encyclopedia of bad behavior.
  6. Afghanistan's Corrupt Oligarchy / Jim Hightower
    The brothers of Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan's incompetent, impossibly vain, and dishonest president, have amassed astonishing fortunes.
  7. Bilked by Banks / William A. Collins
    Wall Street's misdeeds haven't loomed large this election year.
  8. Super Highway Robbery / Khalil Bendib

Super Highway Robbery, an OtherWords cartoon by Khalil Bendib

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