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Montebello E-News

 April 19, 2007

 If you are working to do something positive in the world, the universe will conspire to help you achieve it.

Florence Reed, founder, Sustainable Harvest International

www.sustainableharvest.org

 

In This Issue

1. The Chicken, the Egg, and Life in Montebello

2.     Walks outside the Box, Part 1

3.     Announcements

4.     Not-So-Fun Fact

5.     The Flashback Quarterback on Student Loans

6.     About Montebello E-News and “My Montebello”

 

Online Community Lesson

 The Chicken, the Egg, and Life in Montebello

Those among us who are business innovators love having their own businesses and creating ways to increase profit.  Sometimes, they look at issues in the community and find ways to increase profit as they help the community, thereby crossing over into “social entrepreneurship”, a phrase which we are likely to hear often as our society confronts Herculean challenges about the environment, retirement, job security, and Social Security. 

Many, if not most, business innovators find government intervention into their businesses annoying at best, crippling at worst.  Regulations generate paperwork, not wealth.  One imagines that many business innovators were happy when the late President Ronald Reagan championed deregulation.

But here is where the chicken and the egg come into the discussion.  Which came first, a free-market economy (laissez-faire capitalism) or government regulation?  The economy, of course.  Government regulation was a reaction to the abuses or failures of the economy:  slavery, wage exploitation, unhealthful working conditions, dangerous working conditions, child labor, environmental depredation and degradation.  (Of course, if one sees fellow humans and the Earth as no more than resources to be exploited for maximal personal gain, then one could argue that there have been no abuses or failures of the economy.)

Interestingly, abuses and failures still occur, and government responds by imposing or enforcing regulations.  A glaring example is the accounting regulations which arose from the Enron debacle.  Current cases include data-collection companies whose security has been breached, pet-food processors whose product has been tainted, vegetable growers whose produce has sickened, if not killed, people, and sub-prime lenders whose magnanimity has lead to calamity for homebuyers.  And then, looming like a large malevolent shadow on the horizon and dooming coming generations in other parts of the world, is global warming.

Since abuses and failures came before government regulation, and since abuses and failures continue, could we have a regulation-free economy, in order to enable business innovators to do what they do well?  No, unless the public be educated to expect more of businesses and do expect more of businesses.  In other words, if consumer buying habits became the “regulator”, businesses would work to meet those expectations.  That would work to an extent, but the fallacy of such an argument is to expect that the public could be so educated and would embrace such education in sufficient numbers as to compel businesses to subscribe to what some call the triple bottom line, in descending order of priority, people, planet, and profit.

So, it seems as if regulation would be the yang to the yin of innovation.  Inseparable.

If you answer the multiple-choice questions below and e-mail to lessonanswers@mymontebello.com with “Lesson answers” in the subject field, you will be credited toward a “certificate of recognition in community affairs” to be awarded in 2007 by a local nonprofit organization.

1. A conclusion which could be drawn from the above is that

(a) a free-market economy is bad for society.

(b) we humans abuse every good thing, which leads to regulations to temper that abuse.

2. Consumer expectations

(a) do have an effect on the behavior of businesses.

(b) can completely replace government regulations with regard to the triple bottom line of people, planet, and profit.

(c) can be changed through education.

 

 

Walks outside the Box, Part 1

 Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.
George Bernard Shaw, Irish literary critic, playwright and essayist,
1925 Nobel Prize for Literature, 1856-1950 

“Walks outside the Box” is about finding solutions when others shrug their shoulder,   despair or offer palliatives.  How do we start this essay?  Because the killings at Virginia Tech are headline news, we start there.  I find myself asking, “What solution is there to prevent such a tragedy from recurring?” 

          In American tradition, finding solutions is difficult, because we look for a consensus.  A consensus, in most instances, means that some group will be dissatisfied in some respect or some solution will be less than complete.  Also, there are prerequisites before we start fashioning a solution.  For example, as “World News Tonight” is reporting in the background, the culture of campus security clashes with the culture of an open university campus.  Thus, killings on a campus cannot be prevented with certainty. 

          But we can improve the odds if we stop looking for a consensus and set aside the prerequisites.  To do so, we have to ask ourselves which are our indispensable priorities and values, and which are our dispensable priorities and values.  When somebody express the concern that we would be treading on inalienable rights, I would ask, “What makes a right inalienable, given that definitions change with time?” and “Where does a right which clashes with the right to life stand in the ranking of priorities and values?”  When somebody says that I should sequester myself for protection if a shooting is taking place, I ask, “Why should I not try to kill the killer with whatever means is at my disposable?” and “Why must I wait until professionals come to put an end to the shooting?” 

          A professor who had taught the Virginia Tech killer creative writing said that she had discussed the killer’s morbid writing with others, but that nothing could be done under the law.  The question was asked whether the campus should have been locked down, but the answer was that there were many ways to get onto the campus.  Questions are now being raised about Virginia’s laws on gun ownership. 

          One can become confused and frustrated by the constraints on possible solutions.  In taking a walk outside the box, in trying to come up with a solution, I say, “It makes more sense for me to look to myself for a solution than to look to others.”  In other words, if I look at all the priorities and values which constrain campus security and local law enforcement, I cannot depend on them to ensure my safety.  This is not to say that I should prevent them from doing their job;  rather, this is to say that I am not going to depend on them, as, even if they did their job, they could not guarantee my safety.  With regard to self-preservation, I am not ready to become a sacrifice to the ephemeral or ambiguous priorities and values of others.  I take a walk outside the box to find a solution. 

          But what does that mean practically?  We will explore that in the next part.

 

 Announcements

FOR EVERYONE.  On Friday May 4, 2007, MELA Counseling Services Center, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, is having its thirteenth annual fashion show at  the Quiet Cannon, 901 Via San Clemente, Montebello.  Our theme this year is “Spirit, Compassion & Hope”.  Social hour begins at 5:30 p.m. with shopping at the vendor tables, then dinner and fashion show at 6:30 p.m.  Men's fashions are from the National Suit Company and women's and children's fashions by Jeff Anderson's Clothing.  MELA provides a variety of counseling services for teenagers and adults including anger management, substance abuse recovery, parenting education and health education information.  In additional to the fashion show, there will be two essay contest winners who will read their stories to the audience.  For additional information please contact Veronica Diaz or Kathy Salazar at 323-721-6855. 

FOR YOUTH AND TEACHERS.  “Youth Venture, in partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and MTV Tr3s “Voces”, will select teams of two or more youth, ages 13 – 20, every week through June 29, who submit great ideas for encouraging their peers to graduate from high school and college.  …[W]inners will receive grants of up to $1,000 to create their ventures, an organization, business or club to help young Latinos stay in school and prepare for college and careers.  Maybe you want to start a tutoring club to help students improve their language and math skills, or a club that helps students prepare for the SATs, improve school conditions, help build students self-esteem, or teach students about their college options and financial aid.  Got an idea?  ¿Qué esperas? Send it in and win some guap to make it a reality!”  Go to www.youthventure.org and click under “Tu Voz My Venture”.  From  Malena Buckley-Ess, Bilingual Digital Communications Specialist, Youth Venture, AmeriCorps VISTA.

 

 

Not-So-Fun Fact

 An Earth-killer meteor came within 280,000 miles of our planet on May 21, 1996.  An impact could have been devastating to life on Earth.  Fortunately for us, the meteor missed!

 

 

The Flashback Quarterback on Student Loans

In the E-News essay, “How Little We Know”, we were told that we should be careful about making decisions, given that we would not have all the facts.  When it comes time to make decisions about student loans, consider the excerpt below from an article by Ralph Nader dated May 13, 2006, http://www.counterpunch.org/nader05132006.html .

...The government's Department of Education offers student loans directly, bypassing the middleman. It gives the loan money to Ohio State University, for example, which then loans it to students.  Direct lending by Uncle Sam is far cheaper.  It will cost taxpayers less than 1 cent on the dollar, while Sallie Mae guaranteed loans will cost taxpayers 12 cents on the dollars.  Who made these projections?  Mr. Bush's own budget analysts. 

I have observed previously that our weakened, disorganized democracy is increasingly both exposé-proof and solution-proof. [Nader is saying that we are jaded, as well as impeded in the pursuit of solutions.]  Nonetheless, the solution is for the government to stop allowing companies special advantages like Sallie Mae kickbacks to universities in order to get the student business, as 60 Minutes pointed out. Then more direct Department of Education lending can save taxpayers money and provide more loans for hard-pressed students and parents….

 But is that the whole story?  No, according to CNNmoney.com, April 11, 2007: 

…New York, which began probing financial arrangements between loan companies and schools late last year, says that student lenders [like Sally Mae] are paying kickbacks and offering perks to financial aid officers [at universities] to win a coveted spot on the list of preferred lenders at various colleges and universities.

 

[New York State Attorney General Andrew] Cuomo said these arrangements were not properly disclosed to students who, as a result, may not get the most competitive terms possible. …[Emphasis added.]

 

The investigation has now expanded to about 100 schools and at least six lenders and is gaining steam and greater notice across the United States….

 

About Montebello E-News and “My Montebello”

To learn about this newsletter, Montebello E-News, and the accompanying, growing Web site, “My Montebello”, visit www.mymontebello.com.  Also, you will find instructions and contact information for submitting announcements for publication in this newsletter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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