We started a podcast!

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Check out our first episode of the Modern Socialist! Join us as we hear more about the vibrant co-op culture of Milwaukee’s River West neighborhood and explore a neighborhood gem in Savannah, Georgia.

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Co-op-a-palooza!

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This past Saturday, we dragged ourselves out of bed before the sun was up to head to Milwaukee for Co-op Fest! We had an amazing time, and were so impressed with  Riverwest and all the exciting things happening in this vibrant Milwaukee neighborhood.

Hosted by the Riverwest Cooperative Alliance, Co-op Fest is a one day conference that seeks to bring together co-op supporters from inside the Riverwest community and beyond. The theme for this year’s Co-op Fest, “Our. Cooperative. Communities.” and the website notes that this “reflects an emphasis towards our potential to reclaim our cooperative communities and sustain a responsible social legacy for future generations.”

The first Co-op Fest took place three years ago, and the event has grown larger every year. For this year’s Fest, they set up an outdoor tabling area, where participants are able to talk with Co-op representatives in between sessions. We loved learning about the New Barons’ Brewing Co-op, and are so excited for them to get up and running! (We also loved that they brought cookies baked with spent grains from their brews.)

While sadly we were only able to attend a few sessions, and had to leave before the event was over, we learned a lot and made some great connections. The sessions we participated in were engaging and lively, and session leaders were passionate and knowledgable. We were also happy to meet some other Chicagoans there, and see great potential for connection with other groups that share our interest in Co-ops.

Perhaps most importantly, events like this help to demonstrate how feasible Co-ops really are, and solidifies the idea that we are stronger together.

We are counting down the days until Co-op Fest 2017!

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A Music Industry Revolution or A One Percent Hustle?

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 Last week, Jay-Z announced with the a bevy of music superstars at his side that they were launching a new music streaming service named Tidal. Tidal was created from the acquisition of a Norwegian company for about $65 million big ones. The investors in this project include some of the largest artists in the world from Daft Punk, to Chris Martin of Coldplay, to Madonna. The talking point was that Tidal was the world’s first global artist owned music streaming service. The question remains: how will this impact small, independent artists?

Spotify, the largest music streaming service, pays the artists only fractions of a penny per stream.This payment model equals out to be only slightly better than not receiving shit for the artist. My first question for Tidal would be what is the compensation per stream? One would assume that if a company mission statement is to be more artist friendly, then the compensation would be one more equitable to the artist. But you know what they say about assuming…

My second question is how will Tidal seek investment? Their monthly rate of 20 dollars monthly is higher than any other streaming service but most likely won’t cover all the costs to run the company. Will they allow other artists to invest for a share in the company? Will it be run as a cooperative or just as an employee-owned corporation?  Will the company just be a vehicle for these established one percenter artist to cash in at the expense of the under-capitalized  majority? My guess, due to the pressures of capitalism, would be the later. A world where artists are exploiting other artists isn’t new, but doing so under the guise of altruism on this scale is a new phenomena. I hope I am ultimately wrong.

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When Socialists Ran Sh_t In America

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Last Friday, Comedian Bill Maher commented that America’s success during the post- WWII years was due to socialism in America. I could not agree more. America had the highest participation in labor unions along with an effective progressive tax system, we had a well-funded public education system and we invested in the infrastructure with the creation of the Interstate Highway system.  One of the leaders of that time was Frank Zeidler, the last socialist mayor of any major American city.

Frank Zeidler was the mayor of Milwaukee, Wisconsin from 1948 through 1960. During his tenure as mayor he more than doubled Milwaukee land mass and oversaw an explosion of Public and Private housing that coincided with the expansion of the city’s industrial economic output. Frank was also very fiscally conscious and kept the city out of debt for the majority of his time in office. With his transparent and fair leadership model, Zeidler was known as an honest politician who was guided by the common good of the citizens of Milwaukee.

 This period of time was not an easy one, particularly for a Socialist. Zeidler’s term as mayor coincided with the red scare and the rise of McCarthyism. The suburban populations in most American metro areas were beginning to assert their power, often in ways that were detrimental to central city populations. Throughout these battles, which Zeidler mentions in his memoir “A Liberal in City Government,” Frank weathered the Storm. He is a shining example of how an American socialist can govern in a climate even less receptive to the concept of socialism than today.  All of his achievements should be studied for the next platform we as socialist can put together to solve the problems we face today. And on that note, Frank Zeidler, I salute you!!

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A Socialist Approach to Dating

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Brandon and I both did our fair share of dating before coming to the (quite correct) conclusion that we are pretty darn good for each other. We were trading tales from our more hedonistic days awhile back and came to the conclusion that dating as a democratic socialist has its own peculiarities (looking for what the heck democratic socialist values are? Try here).

For example, splitting the check. Seems obvious, right? It’s the most fair way to handle the bill. We both had really different experiences with this. Brandon actually had young ladies tell him they had a great time on a first date, but didn’t want to go out again solely because he didn’t pay the whole bill. For me, as a lady, I had more than one gentleman take it as a sign that I didn’t like them and did not want to go out again.

The pervasive nature of a belief system is such that it touches everything you do. With regards to socialism, this often means that you have a relentless awareness of class struggles and inequality (it’s like that Futurama joke, “you watched it! You can’t unwatch it!”) that you just can’t get past. I once found myself on a first date where I was involved in a heated debate with a restaurant owner about paying servers a living wage…. While my date was waiting impatiently to order a bottle of wine across the table from me. He could not understand why I would want to be a part of that, but to me life is all about starting those kinds of conversations. I was accused of being too serious and a pessimist, even though I am by my nature a pretty light-hearted person.

Thinking about all of this made me wonder if I could date someone with really different beliefs from mine… And I think I could, as long as they were reasoned and passionate. Apathy is just not attractive. That said, I am very happy that I found my comrade in Brandon.

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On Seeking an Equal Piece of the (trans-fat, high-fructose corn syrup, E.Coli, and/or genetically modified ingredients containing) Pie

This is a large topic to attempt to tackle in blog-format, so this will be the first post of more to come on the subject. Food has always been a central part of my life (as it is for most of us since we need it to live), and I spend a lot of time thinking about the intersection of food, health, culture, and politics. As I have been getting more involved in socialism, I am starting to see that there is a real need to examine how we look at what we eat through this lens.

Socialism, at perhaps its most basic, is built upon a fundamental agreement that we should have collective ownership and equal distribution of resources, which includes food and water. Indeed, even in capitalist nations, it is generally agreed upon that all people should have food to eat and water to drink, at least enough so that they are not suffering. What is of interest to me is the many distinctions that can be made here. What kind of food? Of what quality? How much of it? How do we evaluate nutritional needs? And, most importantly, who is making these decisions?

As an illustration, let’s create a very simple hypothetical situation. You walk by someone every morning on your way in to work who is asking for change to buy something to eat. You decide one morning to buy food to give them instead, so you walk to the grocery store and are faced with all of the choices our food system has provided us with. You don’t know anything about what this person likes to eat, or what they grew up eating, or what they plan to eat for the rest of the day, but you know that they are hungry and you also want to spend as little money as possible. How do you make your decision?

The options are somewhat dizzying. You could buy the most calories for your dollar (hellllooooo doughnuts!), you could buy something that you think of as healthy (maybe the old standard of a chicken breast and broccoli?), you could buy something comforting (peanut butter and jelly, maybe?)… basically, you are trying to make an already complex and personal decision on behalf of someone else with very little information, albeit with the best of intentions. (See what I did there?)

This all reminds me of a story my mother told me several years back. At the time, she was running the kitchen of a nursery school, and there was a woman who used to come by and ask for money all the time in the mornings. One day, my mother offered to save the woman a plate of food from that day’s lunch, and the woman happily accepted. When she came back by to pick up the food, she took one look at it and pushed it right back at my mother. “I can’t eat any of that… I’m vegan!” she said. Just as she has a right to share in the food resources of our world, she also has a right to choose which ones. How do we reconcile these rights? That is a big question, indeed, and one that I look forward to exploring further here on the blog.