Third Paradigm is an out-of-the-box thinktank on community sovereignty and regenerative economics.
We look at how to take back our cities, farmland and water; our money, production and trade; our media, education and culture, our religion and even our God.
We present a people's history of the Bible and a parent's view on how to raise giving kids in a taking world.
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Tu 2:30 pm, Th 5:30 pm (UK)
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by Robin Upton
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New World Notes
by Ken Dowst, WWUH
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Welcome to the seventh episode of Third Paradigm. Third Paradigm has gotten fan mail from some flounder, as Bullwinkle would say. But not just any flounder - an altruist in Bangladesh with a Ph.D. in Artificial Intelligence. We'll look at this strange fish and what he's up to. And we'll look at a similarity between Rwanda and New Hampshire that Santa Cruz might take a lesson from. I'll play a video clip of A California Carol from the Courage Campaign, and ask whether their solutions would work. And after a sleepless night from reading a report on the economic state of Santa Cruz County, I came up with this week's idea: SimCounty — a Game of Sovereignty and Survival that isn't at someone else's expense.
This Sunday's sermon looks at the New Testament's infancy narrative — the story of Jesus' birth and how it fits historically. But first, we'll start with a poem:
I'm certain that when peace comes, and I don't say if, it will sneak up and spring at us with a sense of humor. If peace comes without humor and art and music and the swapping of recipes, I don't believe it can't last. One listener is bringing peace to Bangladesh one typing font at a time. Robin Upton went from the UK to Bangladesh in '98 after finishing his doctorate in Statistics and Artificial Intelligence. He taught computing in an orphanage, but found that even though they had Bangla fonts on the computer, there was no way to use them. Over the years, he developed a typing system with website, installer and documentation, and resolved to give it away for free. He contacted government officials, who didn't respond. He set up meetings with academies and councils, who seemed baffled by his lack of interest in selling it. But he persisted in putting it on the internet, where it's gotten a couple of thousand downloads, increasing steadily. It's open source and has attracted a community that's added new features, including support for Indian Bangla fonts. It's available at altruists.org, along with a wealth of resources for making altruism a viable social norm. His directory of 150 altruistic sites includes radio4all.net, where 3rd Paradigm is posted weekly for download. Thank you to them for connecting us, and to Robin for letting me know that someone's listening.
During this last week, I did a presentation for another altruistic group called Dining for Women. It's a national network of women who hold potlucks and donate what they would have spent on dinner out to a global women's cause. This month's recipient was a cooperative called Rwanda Knits. My presentation delved into the history of the Hutus and Tutsis, which I'd never really understood before and, judging from the response, neither had many others. In the process I learned some interesting statistics about Rwanda. After the genocide, the population left behind was 70% women. A law was passed that required women to fill 30% of Parliament seats. Today, however, Rwanda's Parliament is 56% women, including the Speaker, out of 55% overall. By contrast, the US population is 51% women, but Congress is only 16%. One State Senate, however, is catching up to Rwanda as the first to have a female majority - little old New Hampshire. But that's not the only revolutionary thing about them. For a tiny State, they have an enormous legislature - 400 members, which is one for every 2000 people. Each one is paid a whopping $100 a year plus gas money. This comes to $40,000 a year for 400 employees. Now that's a workforce budget even agribusiness would envy.
Thinking about this, I did some quick calculations. Here in Santa Cruz County, we have 266,000 people. If we formed a County-wide Congress with the same 1 to 2000 ratio, it would have 133 representatives. But to make the Congress efficient, they'd have to have no power. Say what? Well, right now, City Council meeting are taken up by people either asking for favors or people making complaints. If you had no power, you wouldn't have to deal with any of those people. The only people you'd deal with would be other people committed to figuring out a solution to the big problems, like snowballing unemployment. With no clout and no pay, you wouldn't even need elections — just provide a place to meet, access to data and officials, a mechanism to communicate with the public and you're good to go. Oh, and one more thing — a mandate to come up with the best possible solution under the circumstances. To shoot down another's solutions without offering something better isn't an option.
This latter element, a mandate for change, would make them fundamentally different than the national Congress, which has no such requirement. Congress tends towards inertia. If they do nothing, they can't be blamed. It's the original Hollywood version of Kill Bill — to get a bill ratified is a Sisyphean feat, but to kill a bill is all downhill. As we slip into the abyss of the Depression, it's unrealistic to expect Congress to change their stripes and be proactive. But for us, doing nothing in this crisis is not an option. We have to find our own solutions. We can and should debate why one solution is better or worse than another. But in the end, we have to choose something. If we develop local solutions with local buy-in, it would put pressure on the national Congress to come up with something better or allow us to enact our own laws. Do-it-yourself government may be a giant leap for mankind, but it's one small step for women in Rwanda, New Hampshire or here at DIY radio.
But the national Congress isn't the only ones coming under budget pressure. Here in California, an organization called the Courage Campaign sent this Christmas Carol to Ebenezer Arnold:
[couragecampaign.org – A California Carol]
There are some high-powered activist groups behind the Courage Campaign, and I'm sure they know what they're doing, but I found the video thin on solutions. Ronald Reagan, the ghost of California past, tells Arnold to raise taxes. We already pay 25% Federal income tax, 11% State tax, and 8% sales tax. If property taxes are added in, it could go over 50%. Maria Shriver, the ghost of California present, tells her husband to raise revenues instead of cutting pensions for state employees. How does she suggest we do this? State employees, including the California Federation of Teachers, agreed to gamble with their pension fund by putting it in the stock market under the condition that taxpayers covered their losses. Now that's a sweet deal. Are we okay with paying more State taxes in order to cover their bets? "W," the ghost of California future, congratulates Arnie for being more ruthless than him, but the only alternative offered by an aide is for closing the yacht tax loophole. That may be fine, but it would take a lot of yachts to float pension funds put into the stock market.
To bring this back to the county level, our Senator, Barbara Boxer, sent out a California Recession Report in time for the holidays, which included a county-by-county fact sheet. In Santa Cruz, unemployment in October was 6.5%, which is over 17,000 people. The county cut 10% of its own workforce and implemented a 10% reduction in county programs. It expects that next year these cuts will be greater. I out of 33 homes have gone into foreclosure, which is 3100 out of 103,000 houses. The food bank is overwhelmed, but on the positive side, our credit rating is still good for securing tax anticipation notes. I have to ask - why are we borrowing money rather than offering discounts for property owners who agree to have their taxes deducted monthly? It would help both homeowners and the county with cash flow.
But not to worry about all this — Barbara Boxer is, in her words, focusing like a laser beam on saving and creating jobs. Obama's going to give the States grants to build bridges, green up buildings, fund Medicare, train police, and address the housing crisis. Again, I have to ask — how does this work? Why are we giving our money away in taxes only to beg, borrow, and steal it back? Maybe our problems are finally so insoluble that the State and the Feds are willing to let the counties retain some of their own money, in return for filling in the hole they've dug us into.
Although I have to wonder how well we'd do. I just received my Friends of the Santa Cruz Public Libraries newsletter. The director and assistant director are both retiring. So they've hired a professional recruitment firm out of Denver to do a nationwide search for a replacement. Let me get this straight — at a time when it's uncertain whether libraries will survive and the county just laid off 10% with more to come, they can't find the most qualified person in Santa Cruz? My own background is in recruiting and I'd do the job for free. Until then, I'm saving my donation for a more frugal cause.
We'll break for a song by Ani de Franco called Red-Letter Year. When we come back, I'll throw out my idea for playing our way to survival, and then we'll do our post-Christmas debriefing on the birth story of Jesus.
[Ani DiFranco – Red Letter Year]
That was Ani de Franco with A Red-Letter Year. 2009 promises to be a red-letter year in the sense of the Chinese curse "may your children live in interesting times." The layoffs being conducted are like a person who cuts off their arm when they have to lose 10 lbs. It'll only make it harder for us to get healthy — and I don't say "again" because there's nothing healthy about the way we've been living. In the last show, I talked about everyone tightening their belt one notch — reducing their salary and hours by 10% and committing 4 hrs a week in free services to the community. This might hurt a little, but in a healthy way, like building muscle rather than this socially-transmitted gangrene of unemployment. We could make it unpatriotic to work more than 36 hours and deprive your neighbor of a job.
In thinking about this idea, it occurred to me that we needed a way to play out social strategies without having to wait for the life-and-death consequences. There are a lot of ideas out there but no process for testing them. There's also no way that uses the best of cooperation and competition to refine them. So here's my idea for making this crisis more fun.
I'd like to partner with the makers of Sim-City to help students produce an on-line, open-source game called Sim-County — a game of sovereignty and survival that's not at someone else's expense. Here in California, each county would play against the other 57 counties, with stealing of ideas encouraged. The rules are that you can only ask for 3 wishes per year from the Federal gov't, from the State, from local gov't, and from your fellow citizens. The objective is to make your county debt-free and self-sufficient by the year 2020 in food, shelter, energy, goods, and trade. To test your strategy against the program, you'll ask Cassandra and see how it pans out. Cassandra will be a database of where things stand at the end of 2008 and their logical relationships to each other. But it won't just deal with the crises that have already hit. Groups like the Institute for Policy Studies will put in their best projections for when new crises will hit, based on global trends and analysis. So the target keeps moving year to year.
Sound impossible? The good thing about this game is that everyone wants you to win. If you win, we all win. If you don't play, we're all facing unemployment, starvation, and global meltdown. So what have you got to lose?
Now, for a change of perspective, we'll go back 2000 years plus or minus a decade and examine the birth story of Jesus. According to the Bible, Jesus was born during Herod's census, which is why Joseph and Mary went to Bethlehem even though they were Nazarenes. While they were there, three wise men from the East came to tell them that Herod was looking to kill the one that the prophecy said would displace him, so they went to hide in Egypt.
To place the story in context, Herod, self-named the Great, died in 4 BC. There's no evidence that there was ever a "Massacre of the Innocents," as the Biblical event is called, which is the sort of thing that would have been recorded. When Herod died, a Roman proctorate was brought in to rule. In 6 CE, this proctorate affected a very unpopular census. Its purpose was to charge a per-head tax in occupied Judea, which the resistance movement saw as the first step towards land theft and slavery. Before this, Rome had collected a temple tax, which the resistors refused to pay — which is relevant to the story where Jesus is asked if he'll pay the temple tax. The ruling Hebrew dynasties, called tetrarchies, had their own chambers in the temple, which may have been like bank vaults where they kept their wealth. On top of the temple, flouting the Hebrew prohibition against idols and images, the Romans had erected a giant golden eagle symbolizing their rule. But while Judea was in the hands of Hebrew collaborators with Rome, the elite benefited from the temple tax more than they put in.
To go back to Jesus' birth, some of the facts had to have been changed. If Jesus was born during the census year, Herod the Great was already died and his son, Herod Antipas, wasn't yet ruling. The date of Jesus' birth is set at 1 AD - anno domini or year of the Lord, because the year 0 doesn't exist. But this year doesn't match either the census or the rule of either Herod. At the start of next week's program, however, we'll look at two births that do correspond with the census. One is to an elite family that may have hidden in Egypt to avoid the tax. The other is the birth of an armed insurgency movement that started with an act of nonviolent resistance in relationship to the temple eagle.
Until then, this has been Tereza Coraggio as your host of Third Paradigm, broadcasting from Free Radio Santa Cruz. And thank you to Skidmark Bob for production and upping my street cred. Now when I go into the music store to pick up DeVotchka, the band we played a few weeks back, the guys behind the counter rave about it and hope I haven't bought the last copy. So thanks Bob and thank you to you for listening. Whether you're in Bangladesh or down the street, send us a note and let us know. We'll leave you with a song from the movie Garden State to usher in what promises to be a pivotal year. It's Let Go by Frou Frou which claims that there's beauty in the breakdown.
[Frou Frou – Let Go]
Thanks for listening.