Shared ownership vs. peer to peer rentals

kristy Wealth of Networks

Shared ownership vs. peer to peer rentals

Excerpted from Paul Citarella in Shareable:

“The simple truth is, if you rent something long enough you’ll eventually pay for the cost of that item and have nothing to show for it. You could own these items, but then you’re paying for something that will sit idle most of the time, which doesn’t make much sense. As it turns out, there is a model in between renting and owning that combines the best of both worlds – shared ownership. It’s a simple concept. A group of like-minded people get together and pool their resources to purchase and own something together, as a group. Each co-owner gets an equal share of usage time, and pays an equal share of the expenses. This model is, in effect, combining the usage needs of several individuals into a group that makes the economics work more like a home. The group as a whole uses the item frequently enough to make ownership the obvious answer over renting. From the co-owner’s perspective, there are several benefits. It’s a way to pay for the portion of the item that they’ll actually use. It’s also a way to multiply their purchasing power. Instead of owning something worth $10K for example, they can now afford something worth $30k or $40k depending on how many co-owners are in the group. For many, shared ownership can provide access to a lifestyle that they simply couldn’t afford on their own. It also reduces consumption and waste because it’s making better use of an otherwise underutilized item.”

#OccupyWallStreet Electoral Reform: Eva Waskell and the Election Integrity Movement

Gordon Cook has published an extraordinary and in-depth report on the work of Eva Waskell, pioneer of the Election Integrity Movement:

Report: The Privatization of Democratic Elections via Computer Technology, on Eva Waskell and the Election Integrity Movement. Cook Report, February 2010

Full report at http://www.cookreport.com/eva.pdf

Intro via http://www.cookreport.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&catid=38%3Acurrent-issues&id=253%3Aapr-may-2010&Itemid=73

Excerpts

“Waskell: “The most important political office is that of private citizen.” Justice Louis Brandeis said that, not me. And citizens in the election integrity movement take their political office pretty seriously. They’re trying to live it. And don’t forget, they’re angry citizens. Angry citizens who have the potential to have a powerful and lasting effect on shaping election reform if they can channel that anger into effective action. There’s a connection here to something a member of the audience at Supernova 2009 said. I’m paraphrasing a tiny bit. “The public Internet was created by angry young men. Now it’s run by old men who still act like angry young men.” Something similar in terms of harnessing human energy is happening with today’s innately curious citizens who for the first time really started paying attention to how elections were run and then suddenly they became angry! It was citizens who were closest to the nuts and bolts of local election procedures as practiced. They were in the trenches and saw with their own eyes what was happening on election day at the polls and at the LEOs office, and on election night in the central counting room, and they had a gut reaction to much of it. It was citizens who directly observed the meaningless pre-election logic and accuracy tests, the meaningless recount procedures, the flagrant partisanship, the barriers to observer access, the rigged recount in Ohio after the November 2004 election.”

COOK Report: Don’t these various citizen groups have anything in common?

Waskell: There definitely is common ground and common purpose to what these dedicated volunteers are doing but they’re largely functioning in cells. I haven’t seen any real kind of sustained national coordination. The Creekside Declaration of March 22, 2008 is one attempt by about a dozen election integrity advocates (including election official Ion Sancho of Leon County, Florida) to define a common purpose: “Our mission is to encourage citizen ownership of transparent, participatory democracy.” And Nancy Tobi in New Hampshire, Andi Novick in New York, voting rights attorney Paul Lehto from Washington state, and Bev Harris’ watchdog group Black Box Voting and her mighty elves have begun to focus more and more on election integrity and election reform as a human rights issue. In addition, Harris et al rightly focus on the public right to know, public access to open election data, transparency, and accountability. Right now these concepts, especially the public right to know, public oversight and public control of elections, are pretty foreign to mainstream thinking in general and within the election community itself.

COOK Report: Let’s get back to the nascent election integrity movement.

Waskell: Some of the initial post-2000 efforts of the election integrity movement have been quite successful. But if this is going to grow into a genuine movement that makes a permanent difference, they are going to have to build relationships with election officials based on mutual respect and understanding. Exactly what Greg Mortenson did in Afghanistan as described in his recent books Three Cups of Tea and Stones Into Schools. Mortenson also points out that the very first step in his mission to promote peace through education was listening. He listened to the people. He listened and he heard what they wanted and that was what motivated him. I can’t emphasize enough how critical face-to-face listening is as a first step.

Right now I don’t see much listening and mutual respect at the local level. Citizen activists and election officials are largely throwing stones at each other. Yes, election officials must be held accountable if they violate the law and I know from first-hand experience that they have done so repeatedly with total impunity. This has set a very bad and deeply engrained precedent within our election system. Just ask the two women who found official election records, results tapes of precinct vote totals, in a dumpster behind the election department building in a county in Florida—a crystal clear violation of the federal law regarding retention of election records. And it was caught on videotape! The citizens were subsequently harassed by officials but the LEO was not punished at all. Injustices like this must not be allowed to continue. They’re part of what fuels many activists.

At the same time, this arrogant and unlawful behavior does not reflect the vast, vast majority of hard-working, patient, dedicated and honest election officials who are doing the very best they can with very limited resources and working under pressure coming from a very large number of conflicting forces. Let’s think about what they have to deal with as the ringmistress or ringmaster of a 30-ring circus. By the way, election administration/management courses in The Election Center’s Professional Education Program cover the topic of “organized anarchy.”

Election officials need to remember that there are definitely some citizens who ask questions that expose their basic ignorance about election procedures. And there are citizens who only seem to point out what you’re doing wrong and not what you’re doing right. (Election administration is like housework in this regard. People only notice when something is not done. “You didn’t wash my blue socks.” There’s never any praise for what is routinely done. “Hey sweetie, thank you ever so much for taking out the garbage. Let me give you a hug.) This does not mean that all citizens can be painted with the same brush of disdain. At some point, hopefully in the near future, citizens and election officials are going to have to create a process equivalent to having three cups of tea. And they need to create a safe space where this can happen. It’s going to be exciting to see how this unfolds in each jurisdiction.

COOK Report: Can you briefly summarize how your focus shifted over the years?

Waskell: Before I say something about my shift in focus over the years, let me say something about my focus during an actual election. It was always necessary to shift your focus and your awareness during any election to ensure that you saw the whole problem in context and in relationship to all of the other parts of the election system. The trick in doing this was that some of the election context was visible and some of it was either invisible or a taboo topic you didn’t talk about. At the same time, you had to know what was important and keep your eye on that. You had to understand what you were looking at. This is a key factor in election monitoring that’s overlooked all the time. You can’t effectively monitor a process you don’t understand. You wouldn’t want me to evaluate brain surgery, for example, or someone’s golf swing. Yet we have people observing an election process all the time and they have no idea of what they’re looking at…whether it’s the pre-election logic and accuracy test or the vote counting. One last point. Because there’s so much happening election day within a very short period of time, it’s very easy for something that’s critical to get lost in the chaos.

COOK Report: So how did your focus and your thinking about elections evolve over time?

Originally I focused on the technology and the need for robust, mandatory standards. And I researched the ownership of the vendors when I had the chance. Who really owned these private companies whose software had such enormous political power? Who were the programmers? Who were the other employees? Ronnie Dugger has done a lot of digging in this area and so have a number of citizen-based groups. Unfortunately, what these public service investigators have uncovered and documented is not well known at all outside the activist community. So government agencies in Nevada and California know more about the employees in casinos and the people who collect money from parking meters than any election official at any level of government anywhere in the country knows, or has even tried to know, about the people who own, work, consult with and are tied to the companies that manufacture voting systems. When any state or local election sleuths examine the private vendors, their number one concern is whether or not the company will remain solvent so no LEO gets burned buying a voting system and then having the vendor go out of business. The vendors will tell you that this entire situation isn’t really a problem because they do backgrounds checks on their employees. No further comment. Let’s move on to something more uplifting.

The proprietary vote-counting software was the first dragon I wanted to slay. Then later I realized that trade secret election software does much more than count votes. The vendors’ election management systems are used for many essential and critical functions throughout the election process and all of this software is uncertified, unexamined and unregulated. So first it was all about the flawed voting equipment and this impenetrable black box that was counting votes.

And because I jumped into the three lawsuits at the very beginning, I quickly saw the limitations of the courtroom process. Then over the course of a few decades, I spoke with numerous attorneys across the country who were involved in a variety of election litigation at the local level. The common theme that emerged here was that the courtroom was a dead end. The Catch 22 situation the plaintiff always faced was that you have to show fraud before you get access to the voted ballots. But you have to inspect the original voted ballots if you expect to prove fraud. And even if a judge orders the LEO to turn over the ballots or the election database on the election computer, some or all of the key evidence—without failure—has a funny way of disappearing. The plaintiff is left empty-handed (and soon to be ridiculed) and the LEO goes back to work as if nothing happened, except that the LEO will be sure to tell the stenographers—I mean the press—about how much money the “sore loser” has cost the local taxpayers.

That reference I just made to a judge ordering the election database on the election computer to be turned over to the plaintiff comes from a court case in Pima County, Arizona stemming from a 2006 Regional Transportation Authority election with just a yes/no choice on the ballot. I don’t know where to begin to talk about this election and the actions of the local election department in Tucson because there are so many absolutely excellent examples of what really happens when someone gets too close to potential hard evidence. The voted optical scan ballots suddenly get moved to another county…for safekeeping. Poll tapes with vote totals go along for the ride. Critical documents are missing and never found. No one is held accountable. Transparency is close to zero. Observer access to the hand recount is restricted. The press reports are very, very misleading and incomplete, and when you read the citizen reports about what happened, the details that emerge are disturbing. It’s a perfect story for PBS’s FRONTLINE but the entire story would have to be shown in several parts so people would have time to absorb the dirty little election secrets that were exposed. But it’s the disappearance of evidence that should concern us.

What needs to be done now?

In addition to a Democracy Index, we also need to get to work on gathering election data for a Transparency Index and an Accountability Index for LEOs. Citizens have a pretty good head-start on gathering solid data in these areas. One of the groups that come to mind is SAVE R VOTE in Riverside, California, which was founded by Tom Courbat. SAVE R VOTE has written six citizen observation reports on six elections from June 2006 to November 2008 and submitted them to the Riverside County Board of Supervisors and state election officials. These reports detailing multiple and repeated violations of election procedures, chain of custody, security, transparency and auditability are well worth the read. I suggest starting with the report on the June 2008 election entitled Broken Links and the follow-up report on the November 2008 election entitled Missing Pieces .

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The Latin American connections to #OccupyWallStreet

Excerpted from New Compass magazine:

This report from Liberty Plaza connects tactics and philosophies surrounding the Occupy Wall Street movement with similar movements in Latin America, from the popular assemblies and occupation of factories during Argentina’s economic crisis in 2001-2002, to grassroots struggles for land in Brazil.

New Compass:

Almost overnight in late 2001, Argentina went from having one of the strongest economies in South America to one of the weakest. During this economic crash, the financial system collapsed like a house of cards and banks shut their doors. Faced with such immediate economic strife and unemployment, many Argentines banded together to create a new society out of the wreckage of the old. Poverty, homelessness, and unemployment were countered with barter systems, factory occupations, communally-run kitchens, and alternative currency. Neighborhood assemblies provided solidarity, support and vital spaces for discussion in communities across the country. Ongoing protests kicked out five presidents in two weeks, and the movements that emerged from this period transformed the social and political fabric of Argentina.

Almost overnight in late 2001, Argentina went from having one of the strongest economies in South America to one of the weakest. During this economic crash, the financial system collapsed like a house of cards and banks shut their doors. Faced with such immediate economic strife and unemployment, many Argentines banded together to create a new society out of the wreckage of the old. Poverty, homelessness, and unemployment were countered with barter systems, factory occupations, communally-run kitchens, and alternative currency. Neighborhood assemblies provided solidarity, support and vital spaces for discussion in communities across the country. Ongoing protests kicked out five presidents in two weeks, and the movements that emerged from this period transformed the social and political fabric of Argentina.

These activities reflect those taking place at Occupy Wall Street and in other actions around the US right now. Such events in Argentina and the US are marked by dissatisfaction with the political and economic system in the face of crisis, and involve people working together for solutions on a grassroots level. For many people in Argentina and the US, desperation pushed them toward taking matters into their own hands.

“We didn’t have any choice,” Manuel Rojas explained to me about the occupation of the ceramics factory he worked at outside the city of Mendoza, Argentina during the country’s crash. “If we didn’t take over the factory we would all be in the streets. The need to work pushed us to action.” This was one of hundreds of businesses that were taken over by workers facing unemployment during the Argentine crisis. After occupying these factories and businesses, many workers then ran them as cooperatives. They did so under the slogan, “Occupy, Resist, Produce,” a phrase borrowed from Brazil’s Landless Workers Movement (MST), which has settled hundreds of thousands of families on millions of acres of land through direct action.

In 2008 in Chicago, when hundreds of workers were laid off from the Republic Windows and Doors factory, they embraced similar direct action tactics used by their Argentine counterparts; they occupied the factory to demand the severance and vacation pay owed to them – and it worked. Mark Meinster, the international representative for United Electrical Workers, the union of the Republic workers, told me that the strategies applied by the workers specifically drew from Argentina. In deciding on labor tactics, “We drew on the Argentine factory occupations to the extent that they show that during an economic crisis, workers’ movements are afforded a wider array of tactical options,” Meinster said.

Many groups and movements based in the US have drawn from activists in the South. Besides the 2008 occupation of the Republic Windows and Doors factory in Chicago, movements for access to water in Detroit and Atlanta reflected strategies and struggles in Cochabamba, Bolivia, where in 2000, popular protests rejected the multinational company Bechtel’s water privatization plan and put the water back into public hands. The Take Back the Land movement in Florida, which organized homeless people to occupy a vacant lot and pairs homeless families with foreclosed homes, mirrors the tactics and philosophy of the landless movement in Brazil. Participatory budgeting in Brazil, which provides citizens with direct input on how city budgets are distributed, is now being implemented by communities across the US.

These are just a handful of movements and grassroots initiatives that provide helpful models (in both their victories and failures) for decentralizing political and economic power, and putting decision making into the hands of the people. In the face of corrupt banks, corporate greed and inept politicians, those occupying Wall Street and other spaces around the US have a lot on common with similar movements in Latin America. Besides sharing the same enemies within global banks, international lending institutions and multinational corporations, these movements have worked to make revolution a part of everyday life. And that is one of the most striking aspects of about what’s happening with the Occupy Wall Street movement right now.”

P2P Microfinance’s thousand points of light: Kiva’s Intercontinental Ballistic Visualization

Must watch, very impressive:

“What happens when 620,000 lenders fund 615,000 entrepreneurs, students, and other microfinance borrowers around the world? Five+ years of Kiva loan activity, in full color. Thanks to all the lenders, borrowers, partners, and team members who brightened this map – and helped to change lives in the process.”

Intercontinental Ballistic Microfinance from Kiva on Vimeo.

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P2P and Utopia: the values of the new civilization

Very nice artistic rendering of the p2p value universe, by Vasilis Kostakis:

P2P and Utopia from Vasilis Kostakis on Vimeo.