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Forum Post: FreeDA: Taking Freedom Into Our Own Hands

Posted 10 years ago on Dec. 18, 2011, 7:01 p.m. EST by LeoYo (5909)
This content is user submitted and not an official statement

The Free Democracy Amendments

  1. Barring violation to the rights of others, the right of a free people to be secure in their individual decisions of personal safety, ingestion, expression, activity, association, and property, shall not be violated without due process of law.

  2. The freedom from direct taxation being necessary for the right of a free people to be sovereign in the ownership of their labor and of their property, the imposition of direct taxation shall be prohibited at all levels of government allowing for only indirect taxation with tax deductions for non-patrons of social welfare services.

  3. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude shall exist within the United States or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

  4. Barring conviction for either treason or for voting fraud, the right of all mentally coherent adult citizens to vote at all levels of government shall be guaranteed, the violation of which shall be punishable with equivalence to an act of treason.

  5. The right of a politically free and democratic people to engage in Initiative, Referendum, and Recall, to have all of their votes counted, and to be without the undemocratic imposition of an electoral college, shall be guaranteed at all levels of government.

  6. The provision of Patriot Dollars to voters for the sole funding of political campaigns at all levels of government shall be enacted to keep political campaigns free from the undemocratic influences of monied interests that shall be prohibited from funding any political advertisements outside of political campaigns.

  7. The offering or acceptance of any item or service of value including but not limited to the offering or acceptance of future employment involving a public official or candidate for public office of any branch or level of government shall be prohibited and punishable with equivalence to an act of treason.

  8. All communication to take place between a lobbyist and a public official shall be public and open to the press, the violation of which shall be punishable with equivalence to an act of treason.

  9. The separation of corporation and state being necessary for the independence of a democratic government in serving the needs of the people, no public service shall be under the management of a private sector entity and each State of the United States shall have a state bank collectively forming the Union Reserve Bank of the United States with a state appointed bank official from each State to compose the Union Board of Governors exercising all the responsibilities of the Open Market Committee.

  10. Any private business acquiring a national market share large enough to be a detriment to the national economy upon the business' failure shall undergo divestment into smaller units assessed to be economically secure for fallibility in the national economy.

Prior to a national ratification, the Free Democracy Amendments, collectively referred to as the FreeDA Liberty Bill, can be enacted at the state level in the 24 ballot initiative states where a Union Reserve Bank could be formed from the newly created state banks whose state appointed bank officials would serve as the Union Board of Governors with all the responsibilities of the Open Market Committee.

Trans-Partisan Cooperative Voting: Establishing Political Accountability

Voter public control through the application of Free Democracy Affidavits http://occupywallst.org/forum/freeda-template/ or FreeDA can be the solution to bringing about political accountability under conditions in which ballot initiatives, referendums, and recalls, are not an option. For the People to be free, politicians must be legally bound to serving the specific interests of the People rather than the interests of the corporations. By refusing to vote for any candidate who doesn't sign an affidavit legally committing that candidate to supporting the will of the People, voters will be able to exercise their democratic power to hold the candidates who do sign and are elected, legally accountable. However, VOTERS MUST REMAIN UNITED ACROSS PARTY LINES IN THEIR AGREEMENT ON THE AFFIDAVITS AND IN THEIR REFUSAL TO VOTE FOR CANDIDATES WHO WON'T SIGN THE AFFIDAVITS. This trans-partisan cooperation is essential to the success of bringing about permanent political reform, taking freedom into our own hands. The greatest support shall come from the participation of independent voters willing to forego partisan voting whenever partisan candidates are unwilling to sign an affidavit. If, initially, no candidates are willing to sign in the election in which the affidavits are first presented, it will only be a matter of time before both partisan and non-partisan willing candidates emerge from among the FreeDA supporters in subsequent elections. In accordance with amendments 6, 7, 8, and 9, of the Liberty Bill, the FreeDA signers would also be signing on to affirmations of not accepting campaign contributions from corporations and non-profits, not accepting gifts from special interests once in office, making all communication with lobbyists open to the press and the public, and not having an account with a private bank. In support of such candidates, a FreeDA 501(c)4 PAC would receive contributions to fund ads for all of the FreeDA signers collectively.

What if an elected FreeDA signer declines to uphold an affirmation of the affidavit and the justice system declines to enforce the law? Since the elected official had the majority of the voters' support to win the election, the action to take place in response to a failure of justice will be by that same voting majority as well as by other FreeDA supporting voters from throughout the state. The action that these voters take will have to result in the total shut down of their state capitol along with a demand of the appropriate legal penalties to be enforced against the state attorney general for declining to prosecute the affidavit violator on the grounds of perjury. It is a battle for justice that must be won as the outcome will establish the precedent for all future outcomes. Civil disobedience, a general strike among the non-legal profession employees of the state justice department, and other tactics will have to be well planned in advance on a scale rivaling that of the 2011 Wisconsin protests to see the battle through. This voter solidarity across party lines in the use of affidavits and the demand for justice will be a people's revolution that either establishes democracy in America, setting an example for people of similar political situations to follow around the world, or fails and establishes the official American acceptance of the tyranny of corporate rule.

If the FreeDA Liberty Bill should ever be ratified, the provision for a national initiative would open the door to voting for a Democratic Congress http://occupywallst.org/forum/amendment-for-a-democratic-congress/.

Complementing the Free Democracy Amendments, the Union National Cooperative Municipal Economic Initiatives can be enacted at the municipal level to protect local economies from the ravages of corporate exploitation http://occupywallst.org/forum/the-cooperative-union/ .

Moving Forward - A Tweet For Freedom

College students affiliated with http://www.uspirg.org/ the Public Interest Research Groups http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_Interest_Research_Group willing to work with a Green Tea Coalition composed of the Green Party and the Tea Party have the organizational history, academic resources, and activist drive to successfully champion FreeDA. Without an interest from such people, it's doubtful anyone else will ever take up the cause for FreeDA. After all, "None are more hopelessly enslaved http://occupywallst.org/forum/none-are-more-hopelessly-enslaved-than-those-who-f/ than those who falsely believe they are free." However, even the average person can help champion the cause of FreeDA by simply spreading word of FreeDA through Twitter as with knowledge comes the freedom to decide one's own actions and with the freedom to decide, the freedom to take action.



Read the Rules
[-] 6 points by LeoYo (5909) 10 years ago

"Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them" -Frederick Douglass

[-] 2 points by Middleaged (5140) 9 years ago

On #8 above, Perhaps all Communication between a Lobbyist or Banker & either a Politician or Federal Court Judge .... should only be allowed in Written Form without any personal or Voice Contact. All Documents would be submitted and entered into Public Record with Date and Origin Recorded by Clerks at County, State, Federal Level.

Looks like Frederick Douglas was all over this. Douglas knew what an idiocracy Looked like.

I was just going to post something about John Taylor Gatto, US Educator who perfected Teaching only to find the System didn't want him to Teach or improve Teaching in the USA.


[-] 3 points by Renneye (3874) 9 years ago

Thanks for the intro to 'John Taylor Gatto', 'Ma'! Now here's a scholar!

He reminds me of another expert on the 'Dumbing Down' process of our education system, 'Charlotte Iserbyt'.

John Taylor Gatto;

~Main thesis[edit]

What does the school do to children? Gatto states the following assertions in "Dumbing Us Down":

  1. It confuses the students. It presents an incoherent ensemble of information that the child needs to memorize to stay in school. Apart from the tests and trials that programming is similar to the television, it fills almost all the "free" time of children. One sees and hears something, only to forget it again.

  2. It teaches them to accept their class affiliation.

  3. It makes them indifferent.

  4. It makes them emotionally dependent.

  5. It makes them intellectually dependent.

  6. It teaches them a kind of self-confidence that requires constant confirmation by experts (provisional self-esteem).

  7. It makes it clear to them that they cannot hide, because they are always supervised.[11]

He also draws a contrast between communities and “networks,” with the former being healthy, and schools being examples of the latter; in the United States, networks have become an unhealthy substitute for community.~

[-] 2 points by Middleaged (5140) 9 years ago

Hate to say it, but I relate to what he is teaching. Anyway, I'm sure I could have done much better taught a different way. But ... I do think our corporate system wants us dependent and filling a certain position at lower pay and narrow duties.

[-] 6 points by LeoYo (5909) 10 years ago

"None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free." -Goethe


[-] 3 points by shadz66 (19985) 10 years ago

I paraphrased this quote recently - but couldn't remember who said it ! Thanx for this singular 'forum-post' and thread and also for your thoughts and efforts on this matter. I commend you wholeheartedly and think that there is much to reflect upon here.

pax, amor et lux ...

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

Do you have this one?

The Incestuous Relationship Between Bankers, Business and Congress

Saturday, 10 November 2012 12:48 By Chris Paulus, Occupy.com | News Analysis


[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 10 years ago

Check out

How Big Banks Run the World - at Your Expense http://truth-out.org/news/item/9658-how-big-banks-run-the-world-at-your-expense

[-] 2 points by shadz66 (19985) 10 years ago

Thanx. Gar Alperovitz is right in the vanguard of the necessary 'new thinking' in The U$A. I really appreciate your heads up on this and from the article :

  • "Once you realize money must be and is regularly created and expanded, then the interesting questions begin to occur - like "How is it done ?" & "Who benefits from it ?""

fiat lux ...

[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

How Wall Street Won the Election Long Before the First Vote Was Cast

Saturday, 27 October 2012 09:29 By Nomi Prins, AlterNet | News Analysis


[-] 3 points by shadz66 (19985) 9 years ago

W0W Leo, GR8 link !! Nomi Prins is an ex Goldman Sachs banker and a very astute commentator, journalist and novelist. Thanx & :

fiat justitia ...

[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5909) 10 years ago

I'm unable to post these anytime soon as I've recently made a post so I thought you might be interested in posting them.

Cannibalistic Capitalism and Green Resistance

Friday, 31 August 2012 00:00 By Craig Collins PhD, Truthout | News Analysis


Money in Politics: Where Is the Outrage?

Friday, 31 August 2012 09:38 By Bill Moyers and Bernard A. Weisberger, Moyers & Company | Op-Ed


[-] 2 points by shadz66 (19985) 10 years ago

"Banks Weren’t Meant to Be Like This", by Prof. Michael Hudson :

Thanx 'Leo' I am interested and appreciate your links which I am saving for later perusal, reflection & possibly comment. SOLIDARITY & http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t-l91O9VxN0 :-)

per aspera ad astra ...

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 10 years ago

Here's another article you may be interested in that I may try to post later.

The Myth That Japan Is Broke: The World's Largest "Debtor" Is Now the World's Largest Creditor

Saturday, 08 September 2012 07:25 By Ellen Brown, Truthout | News Analysis


[-] 2 points by shadz66 (19985) 10 years ago

Excellent Link !!! 'eYe' Opening !! Thanx ! ~*~

fiat lux ..

[-] 2 points by shadz66 (19985) 10 years ago

Excellent Linx !!! Equally 'eYe' Ohpening !! I thinx that thanx are in order again ! ~i~

fiat lux ...

[-] 2 points by shadz66 (19985) 9 years ago

Break Up Corporate Banking Cartels and reclaim the Lincolnian definition of democracy (Govt. of, by & for the people). Thanx for your excellent 'truth-out' article. Some more food for thought and reflection :

Educate ; Agitate ; Organise !!!

dum spiro, spero ...

[-] -1 points by funkytown (-374) 10 years ago

No man can truly be free if he is bound by any law, any responsibility, or any form of censure.

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 10 years ago

No man can truly be free if no one is bound by the recognition of another's freedom.

[-] 1 points by TheRoot (305) from New York, NY 10 years ago

Found this gem in all your comments. To me, it is the link between morality and true politics. Very cool.

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 10 years ago


As for 'supreme credit', I don't know what that is. Is that a reference to something I've posted or linked to?

[-] 1 points by DKAtoday (33802) from Coon Rapids, MN 10 years ago

What - you quoting ayn ?

[-] -1 points by funkytown (-374) 10 years ago

I'm big on pig, actually... if I were to enclose a piglet in a ten by ten pen would you say that he was free or would you say that he is un-free? And now if I were to extend that fencing to create a 100 by 100 square foot enclosure would you say that the pig was free or would you say that he is un-free? Such is the nature of law. No one can truly be free if bounded by law. And in America, laws are but lines in the sand; they require our voluntary virtuous submission. Freedom, as you can plainly see, arrives as but a matter of degree. And so does slavery.

[-] 1 points by DKAtoday (33802) from Coon Rapids, MN 10 years ago

I'm not going to get into this right now - maybe some other time.

[-] -1 points by funkytown (-374) 10 years ago

Take your time, a lifetime if you so desire...

[-] -1 points by Postman0917 (-46) 9 years ago

So, the question I see is this: How free? -should We allow ourselves to be? I'm all for as much freedom as possible so long as our humanity remains intact, but I also believe a certain level of social responsibility is also required in order to maintain a civilized society. Like paying taxes for example. Can you imagine what would happen in this country if nobody was required to pay taxes? It's true the never-ending War-Machine would come to a screeching hault (which would be a good thing), but at the same time millions and millions of poor people would starve to death and the streets would become flooded with starving, dying homeless people with no government aid (which would be a bad thing). There would also be no more public schools, no more post offices, no more police stations, no more government, etc. etc.

I think there are many areas where we need to be "way more free" than we currently are, which for most people in America is hardly free at all. And at the same time there are also areas where some of us need to be "less free", like for example: billionaires being less "free" to exploit and to rule the world without any boundaries or limitations as they currently do.

100% Freedom is not even feasible, much less should it even be desirable or attempted within our current corrupt system. Until we evolve to the point where we actually solve our problems at the root instead of dealing with the never-ending symtoms of a failed corrupt system, we will never be as "free" as we could and should be.

"No one can truly be free if bounded by law." This is true. And it is also true that within our current corrupt system, certain laws are needed. 100% Freedom only works in a perfect or ideal world, which we are far from. Take the crime of "theft" for example. A starving, poor person steals an apple from an apple cart and is caught "red-handed" and put in jail for his "crime". Only in a world where the basic needs of people are guaranteed and everyone has their own apples would the law against apple-theft become unnessary and obsolete. Almost all "crime" is caused by our corrupt monetary system (the root of the problem) that intentionally produces scarcity and a struggling under-class. Seriously. There is a reason why rich people don't steal apples from apple carts. Why would they? But this is not to say that rich people are never motivated to steal from other people. They just do it in other ways, like for example, under-paying workers through a lifetime of exploitation because they are "free" to do so and there is no "law" against it. In this case what is being stolen is the lives of the hundreds or thousands or millions of exploited workers who spend their entire lives working hard everyday just to barely survive, while the rich CEO's bank account overflows with most all of the profits from their labor, which is much more than just an apple from an apple cart. In fact, (for the purpose of this example) it's likely the starving, poor apple-thief who stole the apple from the apple cart was one of the workers who worked hard everyday for the rich CEO and yet still couldn't even afford to buy the apple. :-) Yet the apple-thief goes to jail while the rich CEO remains free.

[-] 5 points by LeoYo (5909) 10 years ago

"The greatest weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed." -Stephen Biko

[-] 0 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 10 years ago

we don't all own property

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 10 years ago

I'm not understanding the relavence of your reply.

[-] 1 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 10 years ago

those that don't own property must follow the rules of the owner of property they are on

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 10 years ago

Okay, I understand that. What I don't understand is what that has to do with the posted quote that was replied to or what it is intended to be in response to.

[-] 1 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 10 years ago

the response is at the top of the list

nothing to do with the fortune cookie

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 10 years ago

1.Barring violation to the rights of others, the right of a free people to be secure in their individual decisions of personal safety, ingestion, expression, activity, association, and property, shall not be violated without due process of law.

Okay, so we don't all own property and those that don't own property must follow the rules of the owner of property they are on so long as it's not in violation of their rights.

[-] 1 points by brightonsage (4494) 9 years ago

Property is more than real estate.

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago


[-] 4 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

Workplace Democracy: Equality Over Profit

Wednesday, 22 May 2013 09:09 By David Morgan, Truthout | Op-Ed


Operating a workplace as a democracy in the contemporary business world isn't easy, Morgan says, but worker cooperatives are showing the way while thriving and multiplying.

Creating a new economy within the confines of predatory capitalism is an immense undertaking. The various oppressions that exist in society at large can insidiously take root in any new project if we don't work to undo their influence. Cooperatives, the democratic businesses leading the way in the struggle for a new economy, are no exception, and can be a difficult undertaking, given the lack of democracy in our daily lives. Contrary to our national mythology, we practice democracy very infrequently. Almost every organization, institution, or site of human interaction is governed by hierarchical principles, founded on individualism, and driven by competition. Even many social justice organizations can mimic corporate structures and assume these traits.

By contrast, cooperative businesses are an experiment in everyday democracy, and worker-ownership is something that is unfamiliar and challenging, requiring deliberation, commitment, and patience. If being democratic were as easy as sitting around a table and agreeing to make democratic decisions, our lives would be much simpler. Of course, the reality is quite different; we can get lost in egotism and conflict, fall into a cult of personality, or confuse democracy as an event, not a process. There are also fundamental business concerns like accessing startup capital and simply paying the bills.

Trying to find money to start a business is difficult for most, whatever kind of business one is hoping to start. Co-ops face an even steeper climb given the lack of understanding about how they differ from other businesses. Many banks are tentative about loaning to worker co-ops, which tend to be less singularly focused on profit and are often balancing a whole host of goals defined by their membership. A traditional business may sell shares of the company to raise funds, but most worker co-ops are wary about selling stock to those who aren't workers. Some worker co-ops do sell shares to raise money, but eliminate the shareholders' voting power. Since most investors want a say in the direction of the company, co-ops have to prove they are making a difference and a profit in order to attract outside money.

If start-up money is acquired, then co-ops must chart their way of working in their bylaws, either creating their structure anew or adopting a model from a like-minded group. This foundational step looks dramatically different from incorporating a hierarchical business. Each person comes to the table with different material needs, and it is the group's job to meet those so that the members can fully participate in the democratic process. Together, they decide not only the business' priorities and operating procedures, but also how decisions are made. Many worker cooperatives operate by consensus - meaning that until all members agree, a proposal is subject to revision or can be blocked outright - and operate on a one-member-one-vote policy, but this format has to be decided upon by the members at the outset. Enterprises that require many operating decisions to be made in a high pressure timeframe must be clear about how these are to be delegated and disagreements expeditiously resolved. What's more, co-ops grow and change, bring on new members, and with time, set new priorities. Consequently, their way of operating is dynamic, and needs to be adaptable to new circumstances.

It can be an arduous process to meet a variety of needs, both at the beginning while drafting bylaws, and on a daily basis. This careful balancing act hinges on how the co-op is governed. Each day, responsibilities are executed through the democratic decision-making process, which relies on trust and a sincere commitment to soliciting the input of others. It requires time to reach a decision democratically, and worker co-operatives grapple with prioritizing the process over the decision itself. When a high-stakes decision needs to be made, this can mean setting aside other tasks to focus the group's attention on a single issue. Contentious subjects can take a long time to address and personal feelings can become entangled with group objectives. This is, of course, not unique to the co-op model, and these group dynamics will be familiar to most workplaces. What sets co-ops apart is their dedication to ironing out tensions, and prioritizing fairness at all stages of the decision-making process.

As such, worker cooperatives deal with conflict differently than other businesses. It can be even harder to overcome conflict in a co-op than in a traditional workplace; it is easier to complain to someone's boss or union representative than to bring forth an issue directly to that person in a group setting. It can be especially difficult when dealing with larger oppressions, such as sexism and other marginalizing practices. These are often swept under the rug in a hierarchical workplace, but worker democracy gives workers space to deliberate on how these issues affect them and their work. While this process can be a strength for worker-coops, it requires a strong and supportive structure, so that the onus isn't solely on the individual to be outspoken and address the issues. It's also important that true whistleblowers feel they are respected and that their jobs aren't endangered by speaking out.

It is frequently argued that making timely decisions and dealing with conflict are magnified as the size of the co-op increases. Some claim that worker democracy can only be effective on a quite small scale, and many co-ops struggle with growing pains. Founding members can hold tightly to the co-op's initial priorities and processes, expecting new members to conform, rather than allow the co-op to change with time. In the nonprofit world, this is an oft-addressed problem known as founders' syndrome. As co-ops grow, however, they need to remain subject to worker control, and develop systems for accountability and transparency. Two of the largest cooperative systems in the world, Mondragon and Emilia Romagna, have succeeded in adapting in these ways, and have grown to include millions of members, who each have a say in how the system operates.

The cooperative movement is still learning how to best address these issues. The co-op movement has developed structures for teaching about what democracy looks like in the workplace. Despite operating within a context that is by its nature competitive, self-serving, and undemocratic - namely, the contemporary business world - worker cooperatives are not merely surviving but are thriving and multiplying, forming a bedrock of community control and localizing the economy. For the cooperative movement to succeed on a larger scale, the focus needs to remain on creating structures and systems of fairness and equality over those of expedience and profit.

Copyright, Truthout.

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

Teach Your Children Well: Don't Play Monopoly

Wednesday, 22 May 2013 00:00 By Mark Karlin, Truthout | Interview


Do you really need to own Boardwalk and Park Place and all the associated property to be a winner? That's how it works with Monopoly. But isn't that the sort of board game teaching the wrong lessons to our children - and to us?

Don't we have enough corporations and businesses monopolizing our economy and owning our government?

Enter Co-opoly, a board game where cooperative business are developed through team strategy. In short, sharing knowledge and creating cooperative strategies determine whether everyone wins or everyone loses. It's not about an individual grabbing up all the wealth and bankrupting others; it's about the economic success of people working together.

Co-opoly is the creation of The Toolbox for Education and Social Action (TESA), a worker-owned cooperative based out of Northampton, Massachusetts. They create and distribute educational resources on social and economic change for activists, organizers and educators. TESA also partners with other social justice organizations to build the materials and programs they need to effectively teach about their causes.

Brian Van Slyke is a worker-owner at TESA. He has created educational resources on subjects ranging from people's history to social change movements and the cooperative movement. Truthout recently interviewed Van Slyke about Co-opoly, its creation and its challenge to Monopoly.

Mark Karlin: Clearly Co-opoly is a creative alternative (boosting the cooperative movement) to Monopoly, the ultimate game of capitalism. Can you explain your organization and how you came up with the idea for Co-opoly?

Brian Van Slyke: One of the interesting things about Monopoly is that people often promote it as a good way to teach about financial literacy, even though the way you win is by obliterating all of your opponents and leaving them in economic ruin. What many people don't know about Monopoly is that it was actually created to teach about the dangers of cutthroat capitalism. The original version was called The Landlord's Game, and it was used in the Great Depression as an underground game and organizing tool to teach tenants about how they were being ripped off. Its creator, Elizabeth Magie, had her vision corrupted - and now we know Monopoly as the game that's a shining example of American capitalism.

So, what Monopoly does so perfectly is present the problem. We created Co-opoly to offer the solution.

Originally, we came up with Co-opoly: The Game of Cooperatives based out of a need we saw through our work in the cooperative movement. We wanted to give people a way to not only learn about co-ops and the immense benefits they have for individuals and their communities, but also to allow people to experience cooperation. Co-opoly actually started with the intention of being a 15-minute role-play activity for a workshop, but it kept building and expanding until one day we had a board game prototype! We spent three years traveling around the country, testing it out with game designers, co-op enthusiasts, educators and people at conferences. During this time, we took in all of their input and advice. In the end, we came up with something that is an incredibly fun game and is also a great tool for building the cooperative movement and a democratic economy.

Mark Karlin: On the box cover of the game, it says, "Where everyone wins or everyone loses." So we can safely assume a billionaire hedge fund operator would not like Co-opoly. Is that a safe assumption?

Brian Van Slyke: I'd go out on a limb and say that's a safe assumption.

In fact, you could even say these hedge fund billionaires are the villains of Co-opoly. The main nemesis in Co-opoly that players struggle against together is the Point Bank. The Point Bank essentially symbolizes the economy of exploitation, big bankers, as well as the system of profit over people and the planet.

I'd also say that Co-opoly's philosophy is antithetical to the values of these hedge fund billionaires and big bankers because everyone's in it together. In Co-opoly, people are playing as individual members of the co-op as well as the whole co-op itself. People can lose Co-opoly in two ways. First, if a single player goes bankrupt, then everyone loses. Second, if the co-op as a whole goes under, everyone loses. Perhaps particularly infuriating to lovers of cutthroat capitalism is that players win Co-opoly together by starting another co-op in their community. Essentially, the way people win Co-opoly is by springboarding the cooperative movement in their community. Luckily, we don't feel so bad alienating these billionaires - the world happens to comprise primarily non-billionaires. In fact, we're currently on our second pressing of Co-opoly, as we sold out of the first pressing in under a year, so it is safe to say that many people feel the same way about the billionaires. The game has been distributed in roughly 30 countries - from the US to the UK, Spain, Malaysia, Chile, Australia, India, Hungary, Greece and many more.

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

Mark Karlin: Can you briefly describe how the game is played?

Brian Van Slyke: At the start of each game, players come up with a co-op that they are going to play as. As they play, the game teases out their co-op's story. As players go around the board, they run into different opportunities, hurdles and life events they have to overcome together.

There's a lot of laughter and heart-pounding fun in Co-opoly. When players land on the "Work" spaces, they play mini-games of charades, drawing, or unspoken - this is how they earn points (the game's currency) for their co-op.

People often say to us when they first hear about Co-opoly: Yes, it sounds great, but is it actually any fun? Honestly, we think it is. (Of course, we might be a little biased.) Co-opoly was designed so that its lessons don't hit you over the head.

You learn while while you're laughing and talking and strategizing, and a lot of these lessons hit home upon reflection. Co-opoly was built so that it could be used as a versatile tool, a good time, or both. You can also watch a video about how the game is played.

Mark Karlin: It's ingrained in the national myth of American individualism that economic opportunity is an individual endeavor. How does Co-opoly educate players about working together to create an economic alternative to "everyone is in this for themselves"?

Brian Van Slyke: In Co-opoly, players come to understand that their interests and needs will not always align - but that they have to work together to survive. For instance, you might want to buy the child care card, but I, as a player without a child, don't get any direct benefit from it. Yet, if you go bankrupt because we didn't support you, we all lose. So, as a group we have to figure out if it's worth purchasing or not.

That is the beauty of the game; it turns the "I'll only care about myself" mentality on its head. Even if buying the child care card benefits you and not directly me, I'm still in trouble if you're in danger of going bankrupt. The thing that makes Co-opoly exemplary is that players consistently see that their fate and well-being is directly tied to the success of their whole group (the co-op) as well as the other players.

Mark Karlin: Truthout continually focuses on the growing cooperative movement, but many Americans are unaware of cooperatives as an option for an employment model. Can you discuss the state of cooperatives in the United States?

Brian Van Slyke: The cooperative movement has a long history in the United States. Most recently, though, it's become a growing trend as a response to the global economic meltdown. As CEOs continue to make big bucks off of exploited labor and governments continue to slash social safety nets, people are realizing they're going to have to come together if they want to make it.

Many workers are turning toward the co-op model to create their own fair jobs. Some are taking over failing businesses and turning them around, such as the Just Crust pizzeria in Boston. This also includes the inspiring story of the workers who occupied the Republic Windows and Doors factory in Chicago and are now turning it into the New Era Windows Cooperative. In addition, some groups are working with historically exploited peoples to found their own co-ops. WAGES (Women's Action to Gain Economic Security), for example, is working with primarily Latina women in California to develop eco-friendly home cleaning services. There are also co-op networks springing up around the country meant to help co-ops supply mutual aid to one another, like the Valley Alliance of Worker Co-ops and the US Federation of Worker Co-ops. Both of these are organizations in which TESA has membership.

Of course, the co-op movement faces many hurdles, including the fact that most people don't have experience with practicing everyday economic democracy (and this is also where I'd argue Co-opoly comes in), and it can be difficult to access startup capital. Still, the co-op movement in the United States is growing. This is because this so-called recovery has made us collectively realize something: when people say we need jobs, that's simply not enough. What we need are good jobs that are democratically owned and controlled by the people in the communities.

Mark Karlin: One of the major mantras in the US is that the individual enterprise is necessary for democracy, but aren't cooperatives the ultimate financial model of a democratic workplace?

Brian Van Slyke: The funny thing about a lot of people who promote American democracy is that they seem to think democracy should only be practiced by voting once every few years. Even then you're only voting for someone else to, maybe, represent your views. The beauty about the cooperative movement is that it makes democracy a daily reality. Our system of government might have some semblance of democracy, but the rest of our society, and especially our economy, is based on hierarchy, exploitation and profit. In turn, I would ask: how can we have a truly democratic society without having lots of small, little, everyday democracies? In reality, it's just not possible.

Co-ops are businesses owned and operated democratically by a specific set of people. Each member, or owner, only has one share and one vote in the co-op. When there are good times, these co-op members share the benefits equally; and during the hard times, they share the burdens equitably. There are co-op coffee shops, grocery stores, print shops, bike delivery services, house cleaners, factories, artist stores, farms, grocery stores and so much more. These co-ops are run by the membership together, and people have to make decisions regarding big and small challenges and opportunities together.

In some ways, I think that's what scares people who are used to hoarding wealth: the idea of democracy in the workplace and the economy would mean their reign would come to an end. Of course, that's the same thing that excites so many others - that we could really be in charge of our lives and communities.

Mark Karlin: There are several different types of cooperatives. Can you name and describe a few of them?

Brian Van Slyke: There are certainly different types of cooperative models, including housing co-ops, worker co-ops, consumer co-ops, producer co-ops, artist co-ops and more.

What makes an organization a co-op is its one-member, one-vote structure. Defining the membership defines the type of co-op. For example, if the workers at a home improvement store own the business together equally, it's a worker co-op. An example of another kind of co-op is one that is consumer owned, such as a food co-op, where customers can buy one share of the co-op and make decisions on issues such as board structures, product prices and what the store stocks.

Worker and consumer co-ops can be huge or very small. For example, my co-op, TESA, is only four people. Equal Exchange, a worker co-op distributor of fair trade goods, has roughly 100 worker-owners. Union Cab, a worker co-op taxi service in Madison Wisconsin, has more than 200 worker-owners. The Mondragon co-op system in the Basque region of Spain has nearly 200 worker co-ops and almost 100,000 worker-owners.

Mark Karlin: Part of Co-opoly's educational goal is to show that people learn to work together. Yet, those individuals forming cooperatives may experience a failure at first. How is that reflected in the board game?

Brian Van Slyke: Losing the game is a very real possibility. In fact, I'd say people only win about half the time.

We live in a cutthroat economic world that isn't friendly to most people, and starting a business - co-op or not - is a real struggle. In Co-opoly, players come up against personal as well as group challenges that threaten their ability to win. Players can have mounting medical bills. The group could decide to take on a risk they think will pay off but goes wrong instead. The Point Bank could prey on the co-op. The economy could collapse. The cost of housing could skyrocket. But always, everyone is in it together.

Of course, the point of co-ops is to help share this burden equitably amongst members, and this allows co-ops to survive in many situations where normal businesses would shut down. A brief illustration of this point: a 2008 study by Quebec's government demonstrated that around 62 percent of new co-ops in the province were still open after five years. The traditional models of business in the region, on the other hand, had a five-year survival rate of only 35 percent. That is a staggering difference!

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

Mark Karlin: Can you describe a bit more The Toolbox for Education and Social Action? Is it a cooperative?

Brian Van Slyke: Yes, TESA is a worker-owned cooperative, and we were founded in the summer of 2010. We build educational resources for social, economic and environmental change movements. Some of these are products we create in-house, like Co-opoly. In addition, we also partner with organizations to build resources for their campaigns and causes.

We believe that democratic and popular education is vital for building more just communities and a more democratic, equitable world. Many social and economic change movements either don't use education to its fullest extent, or employ hierarchical forms of education that don't empower learners to include their own needs and take action. Our mission is to provide the materials and opportunities for organizations, individuals and movements to be able to actually use participatory forms of education that develop people's abilities to make a difference in their lives and communities. We've worked with organizations such as the Green Worker Cooperatives, the War Resisters League, the New England Farm Workers Council, In Solidarity with (Im)migrants, Youth Action Coalition, the Center for Workplace Democracy, the Cooperative Development Institute and more. Through these partnerships, we've helped the organizations build one-day conferences, workshops, lesson plans, their own games, curricula, handbooks and self-education materials for their membership. We're open to hearing from any group working towards social, economic and environmental justice about working together!

Mark Karlin: How can someone who wants to learn how a cooperative team works obtain the board game?

Brian Van Slyke: I'm glad you asked! The best place to get Co-opoly: The Game of Cooperatives is from our online store. We also offer an extensive set of other co-op resources on our site - posters, reading materials, workshops and education kits.

Co-opoly and our other co-op materials have been used in community organizing spaces, by people trying to turn their businesses into co-ops, by people looking to start co-ops, by families looking to have a game night where everyone doesn't hate each other at the end, between friends, by existing co-ops looking to do membership outreach or internal education, and much more. Going forward, we are going to be creating more resources, such as curricula and other games on social justice issues. We release free materials and curricula on a weekly basis, and in the middle of this month, we will start to sell resource bundles full of educational materials, DIY projects, primers and more. Our first focus is on how labor is striking back against the ongoing corporate onslaught against workers and everyday people.

People who want to stay up to date with the materials we're releasing should follow us on Twitter and Facebook, or sign up for our mailing list.

You can purchase Co-opoly on TESA's web site and enjoy playing it with friends and family.

Copyright, Truthout.

[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

New Monetary Systems for a Sustainable Democracy and "The Great Turning"

Wednesday, 31 July 2013 00:00 By Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese, Truthout | News Analysis


Our money system is ill-equipped to help us solve the pervasive socio-economic and ecological challenges we face. Transformation of our money system is critical because monetary diversity is just as important to human survival as biodiversity is to the fate of the earth.

There is a lot that we can learn from nature, and one important lesson is that diverse systems have greater strength and resilience. When conditions change, various components within a diverse system will step in to pick up where others fail. The weaknesses of monocultures are evident in agricultural systems where crops either flourish or wither each season. We also know that using permaculture, in which multiple types of plants are grown together to fill different functions and aid each other, creates greater abundance. Less obvious is that these same principles can be applied to monetary systems. The dominant type of money, a fiat currency, essentially a mono-currency based on debt and scarcity, is failing most of us. Inherently, it encourages competition and hoarding, traits that mean some will win, and some will be left out. It is also required to perform functions that are at odds with each other: to both circulate in the economy and to be accumulated for future use. And it requires constant growth to survive, a trait that becomes more maladaptive as we bump into the limits of a finite planet.

Alternatively, new types of money are being developed to complement the dominant currency. Over the past 40 years, the number of complementary currencies has grown from two to many thousands. Time is proving that these new currencies can be designed to fulfill vital functions that the dominant currency cannot and that they actually strengthen the overall monetary system. This is leading to a whole new way of thinking about money.

Money is an agreement between people about how to structure exchanges. It can be used to connect unmet needs with unused resources, however a community decides to define those terms. And money can be designed to shape behavior in ways that are positive for individuals and for society, that encourage cooperation, trust, protecting the environment and sharing prosperity.

The transition to a more diverse monetary system is happening largely outside of governments and large financial institutions. People within communities are working together to solve problems and meet their basic needs. It is possible to create what Jacqui Dunne, coauthor with Bernard Lietaer of Rethinking Money: How New Currencies Turn Scarcity Into Prosperity, calls "sustainable abundance."

And as long as complementary currencies are designed in ways that are transparent, hyper-democratic and restorative, they will avoid the negative forces of the current system that defaults to increased wealth inequality and isolation of individuals. We are in the early phase of a transition, from the industrial age to the information age, from growth at any cost to sustainability and from competition to cooperation. Conditions are ripe to create the kind of world in which we want to live and to fund it using a diverse monetary system.

Debt-based Currency Creates Scarcity, Competition

To understand money more fully, we must first address how money is created and how the design of monetary systems shapes human behavior.

The dominant currencies worldwide are fiat-currencies, meaning that they are created from nothing tangible. Rather than being based on gold or other substances, they are guaranteed by the reputation of a government. This is important to note, because there is nothing magical about money. You don't need special power or wealth to create it. Money is a medium of exchange, and any community, no matter how small or how large, can design their own way to handle exchanges among themselves.

Another important concept to understand is that dominant currencies are based on debt. In the United States, the Federal Reserve, which is organized like a private corporation, creates money that is lent to private banks, which then create more money by issuing loans for amounts of up to 10 times the amount that the bank has in holdings and charging interest on those loans.

The US government also obtains money by incurring debt. Even though the Constitution gives it the power to create money, it has ceded that power to the Federal Reserve. Of course, the US Treasury prints money and produces coins, but to have access to that money, the government must issue bonds, which are bought by banks or investors with an expectation of more money in return. Money that is based on debt inherently creates scarcity and competition. To put it in simple terms, all money that is borrowed must be paid back with added interest. The more that is loaned, the more that must be repaid. That extra money, the interest, goes to the bank rather than being spent in the community. In other words, interest consumes money and removes it from circulation within the community, thereby creating scarcity. It also drives the need for an economy to continually grow.

Interest also creates competition, as people vie for the dollars within the community to be able to pay off their interest. Some will succeed and some will lose. And some may spiral deeper and deeper into debt, ending in financial ruin. This is the reason that debt-based money goes hand-in-hand with bankruptcy.

The current system also encourages hoarding and isolation. Most of us depend on money to meet our basic needs for food, shelter, health care and so on. We fear that without money, we may one day end up on the street, hungry and in need. There is no sense of safety net or that our community will be there to take care of us. This drives the feeling that we must hang onto our money and protect it from others who might try to take it from us. It erodes our trust in each other. Dunne describes trust as an important aspect of social capital that is being eroded by the current system.

Complementary Currencies Balance Weaknesses

Lietaer and Dunne point out in Rethinking Money that the current monetary system is very fragile. In the past four decades, there have been "no fewer than 145 banking crises, 208 monetary crashes and 72 sovereign debt crises. This adds up to an astounding total of 425 systemic crises - an average of more than 10 countries in crises each and every year!"

But it doesn't have to be this way. It is especially during these times of crisis that complementary currencies are the most beneficial and can balance out the weaknesses of the dominant currency. This has been most clearly demonstrated by the Swiss WIR, which is nearing its 80th anniversary.

During the financial crisis of the 1930s, a group of 17 businessmen figured out a way to continue to operate their businesses even though they had all received notices from the banks that their credit was either reduced or cut off completely. They realized that their debts were to each other for goods and services. So they created a mutual credit system to keep track of what they owed each other and strove to keep their credits and debits relatively equal.

The resultant WIR system is flourishing today. In 2010, it reported that 16 percent of Swiss businesses were trading in WIR at a volume of $1.6 billion each year. Moreover, the WIR is a major reason that the Swiss economy is so stable. It turns out that WIR currency is countercyclical. When there is a recession, trading in WIR increases, and it decreases when francs are available again. WIR is also highly-leveraged, meaning that trading in WIR increases the circulation of francs in the economy. This happens because not all transactions are strictly in WIR, some are part WIR and part francs.

Dunne reports that the WIR system is being piloted in Burlington, Vermont, by the Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility program. The WIR system is a mutual credit system that is only used by businesses, but there are other types of complementary currencies as well. Another one that has been very successful is the Banco Palmas, which started in a very poor community in Brazil. The people of Conjunto Palmeira realized that money was being drained from their communities because 80 percent of what they earned was spent elsewhere. They created a currency called "Fomentos," which could only be spent locally. Additionally, they created a lending system without interest that provided small loans to help people meet their basic needs during tough times and larger loans to help businesses. Initially, loans were made in Fomentos so the money had to be spent locally. Eligibility for the loan was determined by one's social capital or trustworthiness. Research has found that the Fomento creates a multiplier effect because use of the local currency avoids excessive leaking of purchasing power to the nonlocal economy. Local currency circulates more quickly and for longer periods, changing more hands in the local economy than its national equivalent. Further, as this report describes, "the Fomento method seeks to generate a dynamic of development within the community: support for local production, lower costs for local producers, more employment, increased sense of community. This dynamic of development will last beyond the program's duration in a self-reinforcing 'virtuous circle.' "

Over time, because of the success of Banco Palmas currency in creating jobs and reducing poverty, the Brazilian government and the largest bank in Brazil partnered with the Instituto Palmas. The Palmas currency is now present in 66 communities around Brazil.

[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

Complementary Currencies Shape Human Behavior

There are many types of complementary currencies. Some are very specific to a community, such as the Banco Palmas, or the BNotes used in Baltimore, and some are used in large areas such as the WIR in Switzerland or the Regio in Germany. The Baltimore BNotes are exchanged for federal dollars, but other types of currencies are based on time. And still others are earned through certain behaviors. A well-known complementary currency that shapes behavior is the frequent flyer program. It was designed to develop customer loyalty to a particular airline and was initially only exchanged for plane tickets. Now, many frequent flyer programs have expanded so that earned points can be exchanged for car rentals, hotel stays and goods.

Another successful currency that began out of a desire to change behavior took place in Curitiba, Brazil. In the poor neighborhoods, the roadways were too small for trash trucks to get through, and the trash was piling up. The mayor recognized that the city's buses had a lot of empty seats. He solved both problems by announcing that a bag of trash brought onto a bus could be exchanged for a bus token. Within two weeks, the trash-filled neighborhoods were cleaned up. The story of Curitiba doesn't end there. Farmers began accepting the bus tokens in exchange for produce. And fishermen started trawling for trash on the days they were not fishing. The standard of living in the city rose so that it became one-third higher than the standard of living for the entire country. And Curitiba was designated the most ecologically advanced city in the world.

A key ingredient for the design of a successful complementary currency is to connect an unused resource, seats on the bus, with an unmet need, trash removal, using a form of currency, the bus token. In every community there are unmet needs that can be met by unused resources. There are many possibilities. It is up to communities to decide what the ingredients are for their complementary currency system.

Other key ingredients for success are to make sure that the system is transparent and that it has a good governance system that is hyper-democratic and can handle difficulties as they inevitably arise. The new currency system should also be created in a way that reflects the values of the community and builds the type of future that the community wants to see.

It is important to think about the desired outcomes for a complementary currency because there are ways to design the system that encourage specific behaviors. One concept that is used when the goal is to keep the money circulating within and stimulating the local economy rather than being hoarded is the demurrage or negative interest. In this type of system, the currency loses value over time.

For example, if a currency has to be used within a certain time period, like a gift certificate that expires, as the expiration date approaches, a person will feel an incentive to use it. Dunne describes this as thinking about money that rusts if not used. Complementary currencies create cultural change. The use of local currencies teaches that spending in and investing in one's community makes the local economy stronger. It also teaches cooperation, mutual assistance and fosters personal relationships and trust within a community. And it strengthens democracy if it is structured in a way that allows people to participate in and have a voice in the system.

Many currencies are local or specific to a community, but there are other options. The infrastructure is being created using cellphones so that trade can occur globally without being locked into one system like PayPal and without using a conventional banking system.

The Time is Ripe for a Diverse Monetary System

The conditions for real systemic change are here: crises, cultural shift and information.

There are real economic crises and hardships that are motivating people to search for alternative ways to meet their needs. Another massive economic crash is looming as big banks engage in high-risk derivative trading at high volumes and expect to be able to bail themselves out by seizing deposits, as happened in Cyprus.

And the financial crisis is converging with an ecological crisis. Unlimited growth is just not possible, and people are more motivated to change their behavior and create systems that are less harmful to the planet and more sustainable.

This is part of the cultural shift that is occurring. Also, as our government and large institutions operate more secretly and independently from a democratic process, the public is beginning to realize the damage that this causes. There are greater demands for open communication, transparency, sharing and participatory democracy.

And finally, we are transforming away from the industrial age to an information age that Dunne describes as an "age of wisdom." Information is readily available through the internet and can be shared easily and quickly with others around the globe. This transformation is also affecting the types of work that are available: less manufacturing and more technology.

We are in a time that some call "The Great Turning." It is a time for broad systemic changes. And it is possible to make these changes in ways that create sustainable abundance for all. We can learn from the weaknesses of the current systems so that our new systems do not default at a later date to the situation we are in now.

Some of the weaknesses of the current monetary system are being resolved by applying principles used in permaculture. On a side note, the transition town movement arose by applying permaculture principles to the design of societies.

In "Currency Solutions for a Wiser World," Bernard Lietaer asks, "Have you ever wondered why cash shortage so bottlenecks our best efforts and initiatives when we actually live in a world where there is neither a shortage of things needing to get done, nor a shortage of people wanting to do them?" Note the combination in his question of unmet needs and unused resources that Dunne also highlights. Then, he provides the answer, focusing in on the system of currency:

"The answer to this question has to do with the monopoly of the kind of money system we use, which is the source of the scarcity which so many people experience and the root cause of a great number of our problems. Our money system was designed a long time ago and is now out of date. It is particularly ill equipped to help us solve the pervasive socio-economic and ecological challenges facing us today. . . the transformation of our money system is critical to resolving the challenges of our times . . . monetary diversity is just as important to human survival as biodiversity is to the fate of the earth." New complementary monetary systems are forming more rapidly than ever before in history. In this information age, people can learn from each other, learn from history and create new community-based solutions like never before and avoid the corrupt and dysfunctional government that prevents solutions to the urgent problems we face. People are yearning for real democracy, and part of that means remaking and democratizing the monetary system. People can build community and break from the Wall Street finance system. Finance can be re-made as a tool to solve problems, create meaningful work for everyone and transform to a new economy. We can create "sustainable abundance" in ways that are restorative and cooperative.

The creation of the world in which we want to live is in our hands. We've only scratched the surface in this article. We urge you to read Rethinking Money and more that is available on the new economy. And you can hear Jacqui Dunne speak at the Economic Democracy Conference of the Democracy Convention in Madison, Wisconsin, August 7 to 11.

Further reading:

Capitalism in Crisis: Our Opportunity for a New System

Before Next Crash, Create Finance System That Serves Public: Shrink, Regulate Banks, and Enforce Law

Remaking the Federal Reserve, Building Public Banks and Opting Out of Wall Street

Opting Out of Wall Street and Building Sustainable, Resilient Communities: Remaking Finance

The Foundation of a New Democratic Economy Is Worker Self-Directed Enterprises

Cooperatives and Community Work Are Part of American DNA

Solve the Real Problems - Poverty Retirement and Health Insecurity - and the Economy Will Recover

For Real Economic Recovery, Government Must Stop Favoring Banks Over Homeowners

You can hear Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese interview about Rethinking Money with Jacqui Dunne on Clearing the FOG.

Copyright, Truthout.

[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

A Socialism for the 21st Century

Friday, 07 June 2013 00:00 By Richard D Wolff, Truthout | News Analysis


What to Do Now

Where communists achieved government power, they made many of traditional socialism's prescribed macro changes. As a result, genuine benefits accrued at the micro-level in the forms of much improved job security and wages and much improved access to education, housing and medical care. Where socialists gained governmental power, they made parallel (albeit slower and more modest) macro changes in the same direction, with corresponding benefits for the micro level. The changes and resulting benefits won for communists and socialists the considerable supports they enjoyed across most of the 20th century. At the same time, the political power concentrated at the macro level (and institutionalized in the party and the state) and narrow ideological conformity provoked considerable criticism and opposition over much the same period.

But neither the macro-level changes nor the micro-level benefits ended the exploitative employer-employee relationship that defines the capitalist workplace. At that micro-level, employed workers still used their brains and muscles to produce outputs whose values exceeded the values of what they obtained in return as real wages. In some communist countries, that value relationship was denominated in the administered prices set by central planners. In most countries, the value relationship was denominated in market prices. In either case, what matters is the difference between what workers added in production to the value to the raw materials, tools, and equipment used up in production, and the value of their wages. That difference (the "surplus" in Marx's theory or "net revenue," "profit" and other terms in other theories) continued to be appropriated and distributed by persons other than those workers nearly everywhere that socialists or communists shaped economies. True, the surplus-appropriators could be state officials (e.g., commissars) rather than privately elected boards of directors, or perhaps they were heavily state-regulated private boards, but in any case, they exploited the surplus- producers precisely as Marx specified in his Capital. In simplest terms, in actually existing socialism and communism, the workers who produced the surplus continued to be excluded from appropriating and distributing it. A parallel from slavery may prove instructive here. Critics of slavery often defined their objectives as improving slave conditions: achieving better diets, clothing, housing, integrity of slave families and so on. Other critics took a very different approach: they demanded abolition of slavery. Socialists and communists, who often began as abolitionists in their relation to capitalist exploitation, evolved over the last century into advocates of the improvement of workers' conditions while leaving intact the workplace relationship of employer and employee. Communists, in effect, substituted state for private capitalism, whereas the socialists stressed state-regulated versus private (relatively less regulated) capitalism. Workers got better working conditions where communists and socialists were powerful, but they did not get an end to exploitation and all its social effects. [2]

A socialism for the 21st century must include and stress the importance of micro-level social transformation at the base of society in the workplace. Ending exploitation in workplaces is that transformation. Instead of workers producing surpluses for others to appropriate and distribute, they must now do that for themselves collectively. They must become their own board of directors. Ending workplace exploitation means that non-workers, whether private individuals or state officials, can no longer appropriate or distribute workers' surpluses. As "producer cooperatives" or "democratized enterprises" (among other names), such transformed workplaces represent a priority goal of a new socialism. That socialism stresses the micro-level transformation of society - the end of exploitation wherever people work - as the necessary companion or counterpart to the traditional macro-focus on property ownership and distribution mechanisms. The macro and micro components of socialism would both become equally necessary, conditions of each other's existence, mutually reinforcing as well as mutually dependent. Neither will be viewed or treated by policy as determinant of the other. Both will shape one another much as they both shape and are shaped by the larger social and natural contexts.

Such a socialism for the 21st century situates the workers - the majority - as key micro-level agents of its project and of the new society being established. Workers will transform their factories, offices and stores into producers' cooperatives or what are increasingly called worker self-directed enterprises (WSDEs). [3] They will likewise defend them both from regression back to capitalist enterprises and from subordination to any state or party apparatus. Workers will operate their enterprises as the continuing core of the transition from capitalism to socialism. As their own boards of directors, workers will collectively appropriate and distribute the surpluses they produce. They will thereby have replaced capitalists. Workers' democratic self-government in the workplace will then have superseded capitalism's undemocratic organization of the workplace.

Other social institutions formerly dependent on receiving distributions of capitalist surpluses from the appropriators will then be dependent instead on workers directing their own enterprises and thus distributing their own surpluses. Government revenue, for example, to the extent it depends on taxes on enterprise surpluses, would then flow from (and hence be responsive to) workers in their capacity as enterprise self-directors. The state would then become directly and financially dependent on the organized (in and by their enterprises) workers in a way and to a degree unequalled in human history. Correspondingly, the risks of power passing from the mass of people in their residences and workplaces to a state bureaucracy - a serious problem for traditional socialism - would be reduced.

When the workers collectively and democratically distribute the surpluses they produce, they will have a powerful influence on how the society's surpluses are distributed. That influence will likely work against the sorts of extreme inequality in the distribution of personal income typical of capitalist societies. For example, workers in WSDEs will not likely distribute wildly disproportionate shares of the surplus in the forms of huge salaries for top executives while the mass of employees barely get by. There will be little need for redistributive tax systems because enterprises' initial distributions of income - both as individual wages and as distributed shares of the surplus - from WSDEs will be far more egalitarian. The long history of capitalism's failed efforts to avoid highly unequal distributions of wealth, income, political power and cultural access can finally be overcome by a transition to a non-exploitation-based economic system.

The socialism for the 21st century sketched above combines the traditional macro-focus on socialized productive property and planning with the micro-focus on a democratization of workplaces. Removing workplace exploitation represents a major step toward achievement of the French Revolution's goals: liberté, égalité and fraternité. Capitalism took some steps but prevented others. Its spokespersons and defenders forever celebrated (and still do) a democracy that is rigidly excluded from the system's enterprises (where most adults spend most of their active lives). Capitalism's history repeatedly demonstrates that the absence of democracy inside enterprises undermines it elsewhere in society (or else yields caricatures, as in "democratic" elections corrupted by the system's economic inequalities).

By including the democratization of enterprises - as embodied in WSDEs - a 21st century socialism can also recapture, renew and refocus the hope, commitment and passions inaugurated in the French Revolution. Revolutionary upsurges have punctuated capitalism ever since despite all the efforts of modern societies finally to extinguish them. A socialism for the 21st century can build on the centuries-long interest in communal and cooperative work organizations among both religious and secular communities. It can partner with present-day cooperative institutions whose multiplicity and potential have been celebrated by Gar Alperovitz. [4] Imagine democratic enterprises interacting with democratic residential communities - economic and political democracies reinforcing one another and making one another real, not merely formal. Jointly they would co-determine how society functions and changes. That vision and goal animates a socialism for the 21st century. It builds upon, while also critically departing from, traditional socialism's contradictory history. It embodies the aspirations of all those who contemplate the present in the spirit of knowing that we can do better than capitalism.

Copyright, Truthout.

[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

American Fascism: Ralph Nader Decries How Big Business Has Taken Control of the US Government

Wednesday, 05 June 2013 11:29 By Amy Goodman and Aaron Mate, Democracy Now | Video Report


Describing the United States as an "advanced Third World country," longtime consumer advocate and former presidential candidate Ralph Nader calls for a new mass movement to challenge the power corporations have in Washington. "It is not too extreme to call our system of government now 'American fascism.' It's the control of government by big business, which Franklin Delano Roosevelt defined in 1938 as fascism," Nader says. "We have the lowest minimum wage in the Western world. We have the greatest amount of consumer debt. We have the highest child poverty, the highest adult poverty, huge underemployment, a crumbling public works — but huge multi-billionaires and hugely profitable corporations. I say to the American people: What's your breaking point? When are you going to stop making excuses for yourself? When are you going to stop exaggerating these powers when you know you have the power in this country if you organize it?" Nader has just published a new book, "Told You So: The Big Book of Weekly Columns."

Ralph Nader: Yeah, it's a good start. And we've got to show the American people it's easier than they think to turn the country around in many ways. And let's start with the lowest bar of all. Thirty million workers in this country are making less today than that workers made in 1968, inflation-adjusted. These are the workers who clean up after us, grow our food, serve us in the stores, take care of our ailing grandparents. Just let that figure sink in. These are the workers that are most underemployed, underinsured. They work in often the most dangerous situations. They don't have unions. And the question is: Is our society so inert, is our society so surrendering of any kind of civic sovereignty, that we cannot get a minimum wage equal to 1968? That's supported, by the way, by 70 percent of the people, including Rick Santorum, and until last year, Mitt Romney. That's how basic it is. So, we have a president saying in 2008, when he was campaigning, he wants $9.50 by 2011, and now he's down to $9.00 by 2016. The Democrats are sitting on inadequate bills in the House and Senate and not really pushing the Republicans.

So, here's what we're trying to do. August is the big recess, where the members of Congress go back home. So we want people to get 300 to 400 signatures on a summons by the people back home, summoning the congresspeople and the senators to exclusive town meetings in each district. And those of you who are watching or listening to this program and want to show how to turn this around—it's a great economic stimulus, by the way, to give people who desperately need the necessities of life more money—if you want to take 30 million people up to $10.50 an hour, which catches up barely with 1968, even though the worker productivity has doubled, by the way, since then, just go to timeforaraise.org. Remember, this is—if we cannot do this, it's doubtful we can change anything in this country. Timeforaraise.org. You'll get a "whereas ... whereas ... whereas ..." very well done summons that you can go around and get people to sign—it will be the easiest petition you'll probably ever get to sign—to the congressperson or the senator, saying, "In August, and in a municipal building or wherever, we want you to show up, and we're going to let you know what we want you to do." That's why I called it a summons instead of a petition.

[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

Opting Out of Wall Street and Building Sustainable, Resilient Communities: Remaking Finance, Part III

Wednesday, 08 May 2013 00:00 By Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese, Truthout | News Analysis


This article is the continuation of a series on remaking our financial system so that it serves and protects people instead of the "too big to fail or jail" banks, collectively called big finance. More and more people see that the current financial system rewards those who hoard their money and invest in risky or damaging ventures such as derivatives and other forms of speculation and are asking: how do we opt out of Wall Street now? They do not want to be part of big finance practices that keep money out of the economy and place us all in danger of losing our bank deposits if an investment goes badly. Almost all Americans experience the predatory practices that have put the population in debt in order to meet basic needs for housing, education and health care.

This article points to steps you can take in your community now to escape this corrupt system. Previous articles looked at longer-term changes that require government action, such as public banks. In this article, we focus on communities taking action to create alternative currencies and ways they can be integrated into a financial system that connects people with each other, builds dignity and community, and reduces dependence on big finance.

On Clearing the FOG, we spoke with three people who are actively engaged in building alternative economies. Edgar Cahn, author of No More Throw-Away People: The Co-Production Imperative, is founder of the concept of time dollars. Paul Glover created the first local currency based on hours, or labor, in Ithaca, New York. Glover has written many books, including Hometown Money: How to Enrich Your Community with Local Currency. And Jeff Dicken directs Baltimore Green Currency, a local currency backed by federal dollars that has a larger social mission.

All three guests have a vision of a new type of economy that is based on the ideas that all people have talents that contribute to the greater society and that we are mutually interdependent. They see local currencies as a way to build local supply chains and new businesses and services that create sustainable and resilient communities by keeping money circulating in their communities. Local living economies will provide necessary protection when the next economic crash occurs.

Time Dollars Bridge the Two Economies

To fully understand the importance of time dollars, we must first recognize that there are two simultaneous economies: the market economy, in which money is exchanged to purchase goods and services and the non-market economy, which includes all of the activities within families, neighborhoods and communities, in which money is not exchanged. Both economies have a purpose and are necessary for a thriving and healthy society.

Normally, we only study and hear about the market economy. But the needs of a society cannot be met purely within a market economy. The market is based on scarcity: the less there is of something, the more valuable it is. And the market doesn't value family, community and democracy, the things that are needed to create a society in which most of us would want to live. The non-market economy is not included in current economic measures like the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

At the heart of the concept of time dollars is a restructuring of the operating system on which the economy is based into one that values the non-market economy equally with the market economy. Cahn states that the old operating system (the market economy) "used to work fairly well, but it was subsidized by labor exacted from the subordination of women, the exploitation of minorities, racism, and the exploitation of immigrants." That system has been "bled dry," so it is time to replace it with a system that restores and reinvigorates family, neighborhood and community. Cahn developed the idea for time dollars when he was hospitalized. He was being cared for, but he was not in a position to give anything back and he did not like feeling useless. It was in the 1980s, during a recession with high unemployment and many unmet needs, and the thought occurred to him that others might not like feeling useless either. Most people don't like receiving services without being able to give something in return.

The time dollar system restores dignity and connects people to each other. People identify for themselves what they have to give and what they need. And every person has something to give. It can be running errands, fixing things, providing companionship or services or teaching someone. People earn time dollars for the work they do, and they can use those to purchase the services they need. Time dollars place value on the unpaid work that is done in families and communities. They redefine what we value as work and recognize the value of every person.

A fundamental component of time banks is the idea of co-production, which includes social justice as an integral element. The market economy creates externalities for which it is often not held responsible. The obvious externalities are those due to environmental harm. The market economy also creates social externalities or harm to the non-market economy, to one's ability to do the work that is necessary for family and community. Time dollars are a bridge between the two economies. And co-production means that individuals and communities must be enlisted as co-producers of the outcome and must have access to social infrastructure as well as physical infrastructure. Cahn summarizes, "If you care about justice, democracy and sustainability, you must enlist the community." Co-production is based on five core principles. First is that people of all ages have something to give that is real and that those gifts should be recorded and valued. Second, what is commonly called volunteering should be honored as work. Third is reciprocity, that we give help and receive help. Reciprocity creates the awareness that we need each other and develops a "pay it forward" mentality. Fourth is social capital, which means we must invest in ways to bring people together and embed them in a support group in order to have lasting results. And fifth is respect, that everyone's voice is equal and that there must be ways to know when something is not working.

The time dollar system has evolved into an international movement of time banks in 37 countries. There are 300 time banks in the United States and they have handled millions of time dollars. One program in New York has logged 196,000 hours. Research shows that only 10 percent of participants regularly report their hours and only 25 percent report with some frequency, so the total amount of hours is much higher. The software that helps a community keep track of the time dollars and services, called Community Weaver, is open source and available for free on the Time Bank web site.

When Cahn first discussed the idea of time banks, he was discouraged from going forward for many reasons. There were concerns about the legality and taxation and the effect it would have on society. It is now clear that these concerns were unfounded and that time dollars are a success. They do make a difference in communities. People express trust and hope, and they learn good things about each other, even in places that have a reputation for being dangerous neighborhoods.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

Community Currencies Connect

Another type of local monetary system is community or local currency. Local dollars are designed, created and printed and then are used in the community at places of business that agree to accept them. There is a long history of barter-exchanges, on which community currencies build. Paul Glover started the first local currency in the United States, called the Ithaca Hour, in 1991. Ithaca hours are worth one hour of work or ten federal dollars. They come in denominations down to one-eighth hour. At the time they were introduced, they immediately doubled the minimum wage, although some professionals charge more than one Ithaca Hour for an hour of work. They are accepted by 500 businesses within a 20 mile range around Ithaca, New York.

Ithaca Hours are a form of time currency that is backed by both time, or labor, and federal dollars. Some local currencies are backed by only federal dollars, such as the BNote in Baltimore. BNotes are exchanged for federal dollars at a rate of 11 BNotes for ten federal dollars and are then used at hundreds of local businesses which accept them. Thus, an immediate benefit to BNote users is a 10 percent discount on purchases.

Perhaps the most important benefit of local currencies is that they keep money circulating within a community, which has a multiplier effect. Instead of dollars being spent at a store and then being immediately siphoned off to whatever outside corporation owns that store, BNotes stay in the community. Local businesses are more likely to buy the goods and services they need from other local suppliers or businesses.

A study done by Local First of Grand Rapids, Michigan, showed that a 10 percent shift in spending away from chain stores to local businesses "would generate an annual economic impact of nearly $200 million and create 1,300 jobs with over $70 million in payroll." Local currencies are a tool to teach people in the community to use more local independent businesses, which strengthens the community. But they are more than a tool, because local currencies teach that money is really a temporary way to store value between transactions and that a community can decide collectively how they want to handle that storage.

Glover explains that "Ithaca hours connect, while dollars control." Federal dollars are based on debt and an extractive economy. When federal dollars are used, fees and interest go to big finance. Local dollars connect people to local businesses and connect local businesses to each other, thereby building community and the local economy.

The success of local currencies depends on how much they are used in the community and the number and diversity of businesses that accept them. As Glover describes in A Recipe for Successful Community Currency, there must be networkers in the community who recruit businesses, connect them to local suppliers and services, and teach people how to use the dollars and troubleshoot when problems arise. Local currencies are like other cooperative institutions in that they take constant attention to function well.

Building Sustainable and Resilient Communities

Local currencies provide a vehicle to conduct our lives outside of big finance and to strengthen our communities. But the amount of actual economic impact is constrained by the amount of goods and services that can be sourced and produced locally. This is called the Law of Local Currencies: "The degree of economic activity accounted for by a local currency cannot exceed the degree of sufficiency of the community in which it is used."

In order to really opt out of Wall Street, local currencies must stimulate greater local supply chains and be tied into a bigger system of finance. So part of the work of local currencies is to assess what goods and services are purchased or needed in the community and make funds and space available to create those goods and services through independent businesses or worker-owned cooperatives. The goal is to meet more of the communities needs at the local level - that is, to build local, sustainable communities.

The ideal local economy would also have closed feedback loops, meaning that the resources needed to create something were produced locally and the waste from the production and use of that something was recycled in a useful way. This is how a community creates sustainability and resilience in the case of an economic crisis. Local currencies can be used to provide funds to create new businesses and support existing businesses through no-interest micro-credit loans. Glover was able to do that with Ithaca Dollars. Loans without interest were made in amounts of up to $30,000. And Dicken envisions using the federal dollars that are collected through their exchange for BNotes to back a rotating system of credit. In these situations, rather than creating monetary interest, the real interest earned from small loans is the communal interest generated by making the community a better place.

Ultimately, there may be ways to connect communities in a region through local currencies to build more diverse and resilient supply chains. And Glover envisions ways to build a currency backed by labor that can be used nationwide to replace currency based on extraction. In Local Dollars, Local Sense, author Michael Shuman also describes creating regional investment institutions or local stock markets that provide a way to build community and individual wealth outside of Wall Street.

Solidarity Economy

As more people realize that the current debt-based extraction economy serves the interests of big finance at a cost to people and the planet, support for alternative economies is growing. Around the world, the new economy is called a solidarity economy because it is based on cooperation rather than competition. The new economy replenishes and creates abundance rather than destroying and encouraging scarcity.

Money is a concept, a way to store value. It is up to us to decide what we value and how we choose to store it. We can create systems that reduce our dependence on American empire and stop fueling exploitation and wars for resources. We can create systems that value each person and are based on values that rebuild communities, justice, trust and democracy. We can create systems that involve participation by everyone and guarantee that basic needs are met in a way that restores dignity. The need for these systems is great. The opportunity to make them a reality is here. You can listen to Alternative Currencies and Economies with Jeff Dicken, Paul Glover, and Edgar Cahn on Clearing the FOG Radio.

This article was first published on Truthout and any reprint or reproduction on any other website must acknowledge Truthout as the original site of publication.

[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

Worker-Owned Cooperatives: Direct Democracy in Action

Saturday, 20 April 2013 10:45 By David Morgan, Occupy.com | Report


Flashpoints—those unexpected events that movements gather around, when everything is accelerated, exciting, and energizing—fizzle. Whether they fail to gain traction, or splinter off to catalyze multiple new efforts, movement events serve an important function: they are short­lived and inspiring.

At the same time, they are moments of immense opportunity when we can make strides and pool our collective power. The cooperative movement is experiencing a string of these moments now, and is burgeoning with renewed activity. I see this first­hand as a co­-owner of the Toolbox for Education and Social Action (TESA), a worker­-owned cooperative that participates in many co­op networks. We’ve facilitated hundreds of co­op workshops around the country, and taught thousands with our resource Co­opoly: The Game of Cooperatives.

It’s our philosophy that cooperatives enable direct democracy and local control over the economy. As participants in the co­op movement, we help to turn flashpoints into lasting social change. Fortunately, the path to a community-­controlled economy is well­ worn, and the adaptive responsive networks of the movement are buoying this energy. Over decades, these movement-based networks have quietly built support structures to transition us to a new economy. And with renewed demands for economic justice, they are springing to life.

The Model

As many look for ways out of the capitalist morass of boom­-bust cycles, worker cooperatives have taken center stage. Cooperatives are democratic enterprises where both ownership and decision­-making power are democratically shared. As a result, they keep money and power in the hands of the community.

There are many types of co­ops — credit unions, housing co­ops, food coops, and so on — and though they abide by the same Seven Cooperative Principles, all coops operate differently. Worker cooperatives involve everyone in decision­-making on a one ­vote, one­ share-per-member basis. The company is also equally owned by all. Even though only 1% of the cooperatives in the United States are worker owned, their organizing success has recently made them a focal point in the struggle for economic justice. Indeed, Occupy Wall Street participants launched a worker-run co-op print shop in Brooklyn called OccuCopy.

These organizations are inspired by successful historical examples, like the Mondragon system in Spain, and Emilio Romagno in Italy, which provide a model for economic transition and sustainability. Today’s co­ops are also guided by an earnest, evidenced solidarity—in other words, they put their money where their mouth is—which provides support for members and fellow organizations alike. Guided by cooperative principle number six, which promotes cooperation amongst cooperatives, partnerships between co­ops were easily realized. They multiplied and soon turned to regional alliances, which snowballed into national networks.

The Network Hubs

Organizations that facilitate democratic ownership have been essential to the movement's lasting success, and their approach and structure differ from other social change institutions. Since worker control is so valued within the worker co­op movement, these support organizations take the same shape as their member organizations and are structured as worker cooperatives.

Each member has a share of the organization, which makes them co-­owners of the cooperative. When decisions need to be made that affect the group, each member has one vote to say how the cooperative is run — a mix of direct democracy and representational structures.

Inspired by the Mondragon cooperative network, the Valley Alliance of Worker Cooperatives (VAWC) came together in Western Massachusetts in 2005. The group first met at the U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives Eastern Conference on Workplace Democracy, and they are a direct result of national networks crystallizing at the regional level.

What sets VAWC apart is a strategy of co­op-led development. The organization helps start­up or transitioning co­ops get their footing; they provide technical assistance to their membership in the form of skill­sharing and professional guidance. “We received help on things like bylaws, articles of incorporation and other things that are difficult for people running small businesses to get done while trying to keep everything going,” says Rebekah Hanlon, worker-­owner of Valley Green Feast, one of VAWC’s member organizations.

VAWC recently launched an inter­cooperative loan fund. Through the fund, members tithe 5% of profits to help one another and to invest in new co­op ventures. “We've gotten to a point where not only do we have knowledgeable co­operators from all walks of life meeting monthly, but we also have capital,” adds Rebekah.

“I look forward to the day when our loan fund is mature enough the help a business start up. It'll be a real accomplishment when a new co­op can be supported with finances, technical assistance and inter­cooperative opportunities.”

The organization is structured as a worker co­op, and operates by consensus with a membership comprised of representatives from other worker co­ops. They jointly share in promotional opportunities, both for their individual co­ops and for teaching the public about the model. VAWC’s work has a multiplier effect; each new co­op they help launch can join the Alliance, which positions the group to help even more co­ops get off the ground.

"Being a part of co­operators directing and funding their own support and development has been a powerful experience,” says VAWC’s sole staff member, Adam Trott. “It has also been effective. Since 2009, VAWC has supported 4 worker co­op conversions, co-­created curriculum at UMass, Amherst as members of the Co­operative Enterprise Collaborative, co­-founded the cross sector Valley Co­operative Business Association, launched the VAWC Interco­operative Development Fund and more."

VAWC enjoys an exceptionally cooperative cultural context in the Pioneer Valley, where there is a strong desire for economic democracy, and a history of collective management. In fact, by the time VAWC was formed, half of its its member organizations were independently operating, and had many cooperative allies.

A similarly rich cooperative culture exists across the country, in the San Francisco Bay Area, where the Network of Bay Area Worker Cooperatives, or NoBAWC (pronounced "no boss"), is a hub for the region, literally centralized within 30 minutes of each member organization.

A stunningly large network—nearly one out of every five U.S. worker co­ops are part of NoBAWC —most member co­ops are in Oakland, San Francisco, and Berkeley. Like other membership organizations, NoBAWC grew out of a need to collaborate and share best practices amongst like­-minded organizations. The members now share resources and incentivize collaboration by offering each other reduced rates on their goods and services.

Since their formation in 1995, they’ve grown so large as to require a permanent staff person and a dedicated steering committee to chart the group’s long­term vision. Like VAWC, NoBAWC develops and promotes start­up co­ops. Smaller, regional efforts like VAWC and NoBAWC now feed into a national network of worker cooperatives. As the first and primary national hub, the United States Federation of Worker Cooperatives (USFWC) brings together the full array of players within this movement. After many years of organizing, they were incorporated in 2004 to provide support to their membership, as well as educational outreach to the public. A small organization with a two­-person staff, USFWC’s extensive work to promote cooperation puts them in the center of a dynamic movement.

The Federation connects its members to each other and to support organizations through referrals and their regular conferences and events. The support they provide to their members is both extensive and flexible. They provide essential information and resources according to the membership’s needs, such as meeting facilitation, or research into health plans. It is no small task to coordinate such a diverse patchwork of co­ops, and the USFWC capably handles a membership representing over 1,300 workers, from many different industries and geographies.

In addition, in the last few years, the USFWC launched the Democracy At Work Network (DAWN), a peer adviser system within worker co­ops that provides support, from sales to structure, to existing and start­up worker co­ops.

“Resources are starting to be directed at worker cooperative development in a way we haven’t seen since the 1970s,” reports Melissa Hoover, Executive Director of the USFWC. “People are not just organizing individual cooperatives, they’re organizing cooperative networks for mutual aid and support. In the last five years, we’ve seen networks or proto­-networks of existing cooperatives start in New York City, Madison, and Austin.” There is emergent interest in more national groups, as well, especially around core issues like financial access. These types of working groups aim to fill out the middle of the co­op movement, acting as a working group somewhere between regional and national in scope.

The co­op movement is gaining steam, drawing from new energies and a renewed interest in the model. All movements have these periods of acceleration, times when opportunity comes knocking at every turn. Typically, such are the times when reflection is most needed, because new dynamics can dramatically change the situation.

[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

“Worker cooperatives are growing in visibility and scope, and while we shouldn’t be afraid of this, my own understanding of cooperative history and the system in which we’re embedded leads me to believe that we need to be cautious and strategic, and insist on the integrity of the form,” cautions Melissa Hoover. Thanks to savvy organizing, and much behind­-the-scenes work, cooperatives have the structures in place and will continue to fight for nothing short of a new economy.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

North Dakota’s Economic “Miracle”—It’s Not Oil

North Dakota has had the nation’s lowest unemployment ever since the economy tanked. What’s its secret?


[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

Empowered by the Past: Red State Co-ops Go Green

Friday, 05 April 2013 09:22 By Brooke Jarvis, Yes! Magazine | Report


A century ago, cooperatives electrified the poorest counties in the nation. Today, can they lead the way to a smarter, cleaner grid?

Charles Cotton never gave much thought to the fact that he owns a piece of Jackson Energy Cooperative, the utility that delivers power to his home in Berea, Ky. His grandparents used to go every year to the co-op’s annual meeting and cook-out, where member-owners elect representatives and vote on cooperative business, but Cotton himself has never gone. He uses Jackson Energy simply because it’s the only utility serving his region.

But last November, Cotton’s membership paid off in a way he hadn’t expected: The cooperative gave him an energy upgrade, installing a plastic moisture barrier underneath his house and replacing his old furnace with an efficient heat pump. Cotton’s home now feels warmer and his electric bills have dropped significantly, but he never paid a dime up front.

Jackson Energy’s status as a cooperative led directly to Cotton’s retrofit. It is one of four rural electric cooperatives participating in a pilot program called How$martKY, run by the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development (MACED). The program will let Cotton slowly pay back the cost of the retrofit: His bill is smaller than before, but he’s actually paying a bit more than the cost of the electricity he uses. The extra charge is how he repays the cost of the retrofit. It’s a scheme called on-bill financing—a way for people of all financial backgrounds to reap the benefits of energy efficiency without a big up-front cost.

Since on-bill programs like How$martKY are still experimental, MACED made a point of kicking off its pilot program by working with cooperatives. Investor-owned utilities are legally required to prioritize shareholder profits, and often can’t take on risky or unproven ventures. But electric cooperatives are required to maximize value for their members. That makes a cooperative potentially more willing to try out a program with an as-yet-unproven effect on the utility’s bottom line, but with the immediate potential to help member-owners and wean the region off fossil fuels. “Because they’re customer-owned, because they’re intent on customer satisfaction, it made sense to start with them,” says Justin Maxson, president of MACED. The program is a small step forward in a region of the country underserved by renewables, but one with the potential to grow. “What we love is that it has a shot to make energy efficiency much more scalable,” says Maxson. “That’s especially important in Appalachia, where we’re so over-dependent on coal as our primary source of energy.”

Most of the nation’s electric cooperatives were founded on the idea that small steps can beget big change. Many such cooperatives date back to the 1930s (Jackson Energy started in 1938), when the electricity divide in the United States was stark: Approximately 90 percent of urban homes had power, and 90 percent of rural homes did not. For-profit utilities had little interest in building transmission lines in sparsely populated areas, so the federal government offered loans and encouraged farmers and ranchers to set up their own electric cooperatives. By the mid- ’40s, some 50 percent of rural Americans had electricity; by the mid-’50s, the vast majority did. Now cooperatives form the largest electric utility network in the nation, serve some 42 million people in 47 states, generate $45 billion in annual revenue, and employ nearly 130,000 people. Approximately 78 percent of U.S. counties are served by electric cooperatives. Clean-energy advocates hope that network can be harnessed to bring big changes once again to America’s energy landscape.

A transformative influence?

Co-op electricity, like that of the nation as a whole, comes from a mix of sources that varies by region—and because of cooperatives’ strong presence in coal-producing regions, their reliance on coal-fired power is higher than the national average. Still, 90 percent of electric cooperatives have at least some renewable power in their portfolios, and 96 percent offer some sort of energy efficiency program. As of 2007, co-ops got 3 percent more of their energy from renewable sources than did the nation’s utility sector as a whole. Cooperatives around the country are pushing to do better. In 2008, a number of them banded together to form the National Renewables Cooperative Organization, an umbrella group that supports local co-ops in making the switch to renewable energy. The organization found that renewables make sense for cooperatives for more than environmental reasons. Diverse power sources can insulate members from volatile prices, and renewable energy projects can create jobs in the communities where members live.

In Tennessee, a cooperative is offering members direct stakes in a new solar farm. A Montana cooperative helped a city in its coverage area rebuild a failing hydroelectric plant. In Minnesota, an electric co-op is researching ways to combine hydro and wind power to achieve a more stable power supply. An Indiana co-op is operating 14 landfill gas-to-energy plants. A cooperative in Hawai‘i, which was set up 11 years ago when the petroleum-powered, for-profit utility went up for sale, is planning to provide 50 percent of its power from renewable sources within the next 10 years.

Co-ops find many reasons to pursue energy efficiency—as in South Carolina, where the energy demands of a quickly growing population threatened to overload the grid. Reluctant to take on the cost of building new nuclear or natural gas plants, a group of cooperatives created an on-bill financing pilot program similar to How$martKY. Since South Carolina has the nation’s highest percentage of manufactured homes (which, on average, use far more energy per square foot than traditional homes), efficiency is an easy target. Eventually, the co-ops hope to retrofit more than 200,000 homes, saving customers $280 million a year.

Electric co-ops are also pushing forward with “smart grid” upgrades—advanced technologies that increase efficiency, reliability, and the integration of new power sources. A consortium of cooperatives won a $68 million stimulus grant to test how in-home displays of energy consumption change consumer behavior and improve efficiency. Other co-ops have pursued similar projects on their own. In 2012, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission found that cooperatives lead the industry when it comes to the adoption of advanced metering systems. These let customers know how much energy they’re using, so they can scale back, and how strained the grid is, so they can save money by waiting until off-peak hours to use energy-intensive appliances.

Innovations adopted by cooperatives can quickly ripple out into the broader industry. Unlike for-profit utilities, which tend to be proprietary with their information, cooperatives make a point of collaborating. “While the co-ops are very much independent of each other in terms of the ultimate decision that gets made in the boardroom, there’s a lot of collaborative work that goes on,” says Martin Lowery, a vice president of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, which provides support services to about 1,000 electric cooperatives across the nation.

It’s a potentially powerful mix of local accountability and national connectivity. For example, Alaska’s Kotzebue Electric Association, located north of the Arctic Circle, is developing both wind and solar thermal generation projects in an effort to move away from expensive diesel fuel. As a result, cooperatives around the nation can learn from Kotzebue’s findings on battery storage in extreme conditions.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

Beyond utilities

Some cooperatives have green energy written into their missions. Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative, for example, describes itself as “committed to reinventing how Kaua‘i is powered.” But many other co-ops would not go so far. Their goal is to provide reliable, low-cost energy to their members—whatever the source. Just like their investor-owned counterparts, many electric cooperatives have opposed environmental regulations, including the EPA’s decision to regulate greenhouse gases as pollutants. The choices of electric co-ops depend on their members: Renewables and energy efficiency are only a priority if members want them.

Still, the fact that so much of the nation runs on electricity that’s cooperatively managed represents a significant opportunity—particularly since many rural areas have lagged behind in efficiency and renewable power. Cooperatives have “a diverse infrastructure that’s hard to paint with one brush,” says Maxson. “But [they have] the potential to be a powerful point of leverage in supporting energy efficiency and economic opportunity in rural communities.”

Lowery also believes cooperatives can spur deeper conversations among members about their values and their communities. That, after all, is the real difference between cooperative utilities and those owned by stockholders. Value to stockholders is narrowly defined: It means “profit.” But the members of electric cooperatives have the possibility of defining value in their own terms.

As members learn to recognize and utilize that power, Lowery envisions a much stronger push toward more sustainable energy. But he doesn’t stop there. His long-term goal is for members to use their cooperatives to solve problems that go beyond energy.

“It’s about being a facilitator, a catalyst for a dialogue about what’s going to be needed for a healthy and sustainable community in the future. That could mean responding to the needs of aging populations in rural America, the need for healthcare and broadband services, water quality and availability, educational opportunities for kids,” said Lowery.

“Electricity is a means to an end. We’re not utilities. We never were utilities. We’re there to meet the needs of communities and thereby improve their quality of life.”

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

Why Is Socialism Doing So Darn Well in Deep-Red North Dakota? It's the Banks

Sunday, 31 March 2013 11:33 By Les Leopold, Alternet | News Analysis


North Dakota is the very definition of a red state. It voted 58 percent to 39 percent for Romney over Obama, and its statehouse and senate have a total of 104 Republicans and only 47 Democrats. The Republican super-majority is so conservative it recently passed the nation's most severe anti-abortion resolution – a measure that declares a fertilized human egg has the same right to life as a fully formed person.

But North Dakota is also red in another sense: it fully supports its state-owned Bank of North Dakota (BND), a socialist relic that exists nowhere else in America. Why is financial socialism still alive in North Dakota? Why haven't the North Dakotan free-market crusaders slain it dead?

Because it works.

In 1919, the Non-Partisan League, a vibrant populist organization, won a majority in the legislature and voted the bank into existence. The goal was to free North Dakota farmers from impoverishing debt dependence on the big banks in the Twin Cities, Chicago and New York. More than 90 years later, this state-owned bank is thriving as it helps the state's community banks, businesses, consumers and students obtain loans at reasonable rates. It also delivers a handsome profit to its owners -- the 700,000 residents of North Dakota. In 2011, the BND provided more than $70 million to the state's coffers. Extrapolate that profit-per-person to a big state like California and you're looking at an extra $3.8 billion a year in state revenues that could be used to fund education and infrastructure.

One of America's Best Kept Secrets

Each time we pay our state and local taxes -- and all manner of fees -- the state deposits those revenues in a bank. If you're in any state but North Dakota, nearly all of these deposits end up in Wall Street's too-big to-fail banks, because those banks are the only entities large enough to handle the load. The vast majority of the nation's 7,000 community banks are too small to provide the array of cash management services that state and local governments require. We're talking big bucks; at least $1 trillion of our local tax dollars find their way to Wall Street banks, according to Marc Armstrong, executive director of the Public Banking Institute.

So, not only are we, as taxpayers, on the hook for too-big-to-fail Wall Street banks, but we also end up giving our tax dollars to these same banks each and every time we pay a sales tax or property tax or buy a fishing license. In North Dakota, however, all that public revenue runs through its public state bank, which in turn reinvests in the state's small businesses and public infrastructure via partnerships with 80 small community banks.

How the State Bank Creates Jobs

Banks are supposed to serve as intermediaries that turn our savings and checking deposits into productive loans to businesses and consumers. That's how jobs are supported and created. But the BND, a state agency, goes one step further. Through its Partnership in Assisting Community Expansion, for example, it provides loans at below-market interest rates to businesses if and only if those businesses create at least one job for every $100,000 loaned. If the $1 trillion that now flows to Wall Street instead were deposited in public state banks in all 50 states using this same approach, up to 10 million new jobs could be created. That would effectively end our destructive unemployment crisis.

No Bailouts for the BND

Banking doesn't have to be a casino. It doesn't have to be designed to create gambling opportunities so bank traders and executives can make seven- and eight-figure salaries. As BND president Eric Hardmeyer said in a 2009 Mother Jones interview:

We’re a fairly conservative lot up here in the upper Midwest and we didn’t do any subprime lending and we have the ability to get into the derivatives markets and put on swaps and callers and caps and credit default swaps and just chose not to do it, really chose a Warren Buffett mentality—if we don’t understand it, we’re not going to jump into it. And so we’ve avoided all those pitfalls.

As state government employees, BND executives have no incentive to gamble their way toward enormous pay packages. As you can see, the top six BND officers earn a good living, but on Wall Street, cooks and chauffeurs earn more.

•Eric Hardmeyer, President and CEO: $232,500

•Bob Humann, Chief Lending Officer: $135,133

•Tim Porter, Chief Administrative Officer: $122,533

•Joe Herslip, Chief Business Officer: $105,000

•Lori Leingang, Chief Administrative Officer: $105,000

•Wally Erhardt, Director of Student Loans of North Dakota: $91,725

The very existence of a successful BND undermines Wall Street's claim that in order to attract the best talent big banks need to offer enormous pay packages. Yet somehow, North Dakota is able to find the talent to run one of the soundest banks in the country? The BND is living proof that Wall Street's rationale for sky-high executive pay is a self-serving fabrication. (For more information on financial inequality please see my latest book, How to Earn a Million Dollars an Hour, Wiley, 2013.)

Wall Street Is Gunning for Bank of North Dakota

As you can well imagine, our financial elites would love to see this successful (socialist!) bank disappear. Its salary structure and local investments makes a mockery of Wall Street's casino banking system. But the bigger threat comes from the possible spread of this public banking concept to other states. Already, there are 20 or so state legislatures that are exploring state banks. Collectively, more public banks would pose an enormous threat to the $1 trillion in state and local bank deposits that now run through Wall Street.

But elite financiers also stand to lose much more. In the 49 states without a public bank, there's no safe place to turn for loans to rebuild schools and finance other public infrastructure projects. That creates an enormous opportunity for Wall Street firms to hook localities on expensive bond programs -- like capital appreciation bonds, which can lead to repayments equaling 10 times the original loan. Investment bankers and advisers also make enormous fees by selling expensive, high-risk financial schemes to state and local governments (read an investigative report here). But such schemes are useless in North Dakota where the state bank provides the capital the state needs for a fraction of the long-term costs.

Trade Agreements: Wall Street's Weapon of Mass Destruction

Clearly, from Wall Street's perspective, the North Dakota bank must go, and all other state efforts to replicate it must be thwarted. Wall Street's stealth weapon may be lodged within the latest corporate trade agreement called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which currently is being negotiated in secret. We already know that Wall Street is seeking to remove all tariff restrictions that prevent the U.S. financial services industry from doing business in countries like Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. The biggest banks also want the treaty to eliminate "non-tariff" barriers including regulations that create "unfair" competition with state-owned financial enterprises.

Depending on the final language, it is possible that the activities of the Bank of North Dakota could be ruled illegal because "foreign bankers could claim the BND stops them from lending to commercial banks throughout the state," according to an analysis by Sam Knight in Truthout. How perfect for Wall Street: a foreign bank can be used as a shill to knock out the BND.

The Public Bank Movement

A small but highly dedicated group of financial writers, public finance experts and former bankers have formed the Public Bank Institute to spread the word. Working on a shoestring budget, its president Ellen Brown (author of Web of Debt), and its executive director Marc Armstrong have become the Johnny Appleseeds of public banking, hopping from state to state to encourage legislatures to explore state-owned banks.

The movement is gathering steam as it holds a major conference on June 2-4 at Dominican University in San Rafael, CA featuring such anti-Wall Street hell raisers as Matt Taibbi and Gar Alperowitz, along with Brigitte Jonsdottir, a member of the Icelandic parliament, and Ellen Brown.

Is America Up For This Fight?

Since the crash, the financial community has largely managed to wriggle off the hook. In fact, fatalism may be replacing activism as we sense that maybe Wall Street is simply too big and too powerful to change. After all, the big banks seem to own Washington, as too-big-to-fail banks are permitted to grow even larger and more invulnerable to prosecution and control.

But this new public banking movement could have legs, especially if it teams up with those fighting for a financial transaction tax (see National Nurses United.) Most Americans remain furious about how financial elites profited from the crisis -- before, during and after -- while the rest of us pick up the tab. Americans know deep down that Wall Street is the predator and we are the prey.

The state-owned and operated Bank of North Dakota proves that it doesn't have to be that way. This is the time to fight for public state banking in a big way.

You game?

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

How Worker-Owned Companies Work

Saturday, 30 March 2013 10:03 By Theresa Riley, Moyers & Company | Interview and Video


Economist Richard Wolff is a proponent of democracy at work: an alternative capitalism that thrives on workers directing their own workplaces. In the documentary film Shift Change, producers Mark Dworkin and Melissa Young tell the stories of successful cooperative businesses from Spain to San Francisco. We caught up with Dworkin and Young to find out what makes cooperative businesses work.

Theresa Riley: What drew you to this topic as filmmakers? Why did you want to make this film?

Mark Dworkin and Melissa Young: As filmmakers we don’t just expose problems. We want to help people find solutions. In 2002 we were in Argentina at the height of their economic crisis, and in hundreds of workplaces which had closed, workers took over the company, went back to work, and made a go of it. These examples made quite an impression on us, and we featured their stories in two films: Argentina — Hope in Hard Times and Argentina Turning Around. A friend who saw the Argentina documentaries suggested that we learn more about the Mondragon cooperatives in the Basque Country of Spain. When we did, we were moved and inspired by this successful model of worker ownership and its potential to change the culture of work — not just in Spain but around the world. Our investigations revealed that there are hundreds of thriving worker cooperatives that promote economic democracy right here in North America, but they are little known.

Riley: How many businesses in America are worker-owned?

Dworkin and Young: Employee ownership in the U.S. is much more widespread than usually understood, with at least 11,000 such businesses in operation. Many are Employee Stock Ownership Plans or ESOPs, where employees own part or all of the company. Introduced under President Nixon, this is one way for private companies to transition to employee ownership. ESOPs may or may not be democratic and participatory places to work. Worker cooperatives are both owned and managed by their workers — one worker, one vote. According to the U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives, currently there are about 400 worker cooperatives in the U.S. They operate many types of businesses, mainly services, and are growing especially among Latino immigrants and in working class communities.

Riley: Most of the businesses you visited in the film seemed to have weathered the economic downturn of recent years. But have some co-ops failed? How do privately-owned small businesses and worker-owned businesses compare? Do they fail less often?

Dworkin and Young: One of the challenges faced by cooperative businesses is that they have to survive in the larger economic system, over which they have little control. Worker co-ops in Mondragon and in the U.S. have done better than other similar sized businesses in the current economic crisis. When sales and profits are down, worker owners don’t just close the doors. People take a hard look and try to figure out what they can do to make things better – such as adding new products or finding ways to improve efficiency and productivity. At any given time some co-ops are doing better than others, depending on the industry in which they operate. So in Mondragon each year co-ops that are profitable pay into a “rainy day fund,” and co-ops that are going through hard times are able to withdraw funds to help them out. In co-ops where business is slow, members can often find temporary work in co-ops that are doing better. And since workers own and manage the company, they may agree to reduce their pay on a temporary basis until business picks up again. That way nobody has to lose their job. Cooperative networks that function in a similar way are just beginning in the U.S.


[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

How the Coop Movement Can Help Us Win Together

by Toolbox for Education and Social Action

Workers at the former Republic Windows & Doors have been much celebrated in the press for their victory over Bank of America. Their story is an inspiration, and a precious victory that we will continue to cheer. True to the cooperative movement, their transition to become New Era Windows was supported by a network of allies who propelled the workers into the limelight and helped them overcome those banks that were deemed too big to fail. Theirs is a story of sharing ideas and making a joint effort at movement building, with co-op developers, unions, and the workers themselves as players.

Republic’s workers were unionized, and as members of Local 1110 of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America, they had a sneaking suspicion that layoffs were coming. In late 2008, Bank of America cancelled the company’s line of credit, driving Republic into bankruptcy, the workers were set to be laid off without their dued severance pay or other benefits. Mark Meinster, one of the ambitious union organizers from Local 111, suggested that the embattled workers occupy the factory. Their suggestion was met with some skepticism—even other union organizers thought for sure they’d be arrested—but their risk paid off, and the workers won back what the bank had threatened to take away. Photo: Marianne O'Leary / flickr

However, in 2012, after this momentous win, Serious Energy, the company that eventually bought out Republic, attempted to oust the workers a second time, precipitating another factory occupation. The forward-thinking organizers who won the first time around mobilized again, and after a second victory, began thinking about forming a worker cooperative. It was a hard-fought and ultimately successful showdown, but the union needed more support to make the transition to the co-op model. Those same workers who twice occupied Republic have since decided to take permanent control of the company and turn it into a cooperative called New Era Windows.

Enter the Cooperators

One of the key members of this cooperative team is the Center for Workplace Democracy (CWD). Based in Chicago, CWD was founded in October of 2011 as a “worker-ownership development center.” A four-person organization, CWD knew their business hinged on their ability to work with and learn from their allies. They drew on the experiences of Cooperation Texas and Green Worker Cooperatives, and reached out to the groups that had helped germinate the ideas that made those organizations successful.

CWD is a young organization that mixes public education and advocacy with professional training and technical assistance. These skills have enabled them to assist with Republic’s transition, and they prepared organizational documents for the company that addressed its new business structure, incorporation details, and so on. CWD also provided guidance with regard to cooperation—how to work collaboratively within the new framework—and hard administrative skills for the new worker-owners, who had no prior managerial experience.

Taking control of Republic was primarily a political struggle, and its organizers used economic means to solidify their victory. True to their mission to provide investment capital for worker cooperatives, a nonprofit organization called The Working World extended their help to negotiate the purchase of the factory, and find a new space for the company.

Funding a Worker Takeover

When, in 2012, Serious Energy dragged their feet and delayed the buyout, preferring instead a plan to scrap the machinery and sell the recycled metal, The Working World shined a light on their malfeasance, publicly shaming the owners of Serious while actively fundraising on the workers’ behalf. Donations streamed in, amounting to nearly $9,000 in additional start up funds, which was added to the buy-in capital that workers contributed when they elected to become a cooperative. The Working World then went a step further and became New Era’s sole backer, providing $500,000 in seed money.

In order to move to the next stage, the worker-owners of New Era and CWD worked on crafting their business plan, and obtaining the skills they’d need to make it in the long run. The beacon that New Era lit shined light on a number of other potential avenues for broadening the co-op movement in Chicago, and CWD took up this charge, forming a Co-op Academy to help develop similar aspiring worker co-ops. Based on hands-on, democratic, and experiential learning.

Our own organization, the Toolbox for Education and Social Action, is developing curriculum for CWD’s Academy. We are collaborating with the Academy students on creating program components, and creating other resources to connect the participants with practitioners in the field.

Together, we will work within Chicago’s emerging co-op movement, developing curriculum that is sensitive to the students’ context and responsive to their needs. The curriculum will be put to use in CWD’s 12-week long Cooperative Business Academy, launching in fall of 2013, which includes the full scope of co-op development.

The contributions of these organizations and their ongoing collaborations shows that Republic Windows & Doors struggle was more than just a flash point. It energized those involved and brought about new partnerships that continue to give shape to the new economy, and we can use these partnerships as a model for other struggles. The workers who initiated and sustained New Era’s efforts bring out the best of the cooperative movement: that empowered workers can create profound, fundamental change.


[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

Food and Land at the Service of People: an Interview With Peter Rosset

Sunday, 24 February 2013 07:54 By Tory Field and Beverly Bell, Other Worlds | Interview


Agricultural economist Peter Rosset is with the Center for the Study of Rural Change in Mexico and the Land Research Action Network. He is also a member of the technical support team of Via Campesina. Beverly Bell talked with Peter Rosset in Havana in 2009; they updated the interview in 2012.

There are several fundamental pillars that are necessary to take control over food and agricultural systems. One is to force even reluctant or reactionary governments to regain control over their national borders from the flow of imported food. That means canceling free trade agreements and not signing WTO agreements. It means stopping the import either of incredibly cheap, subsidized food from agro-export countries which drives local producers out of business, or of food made ridiculously expensive by food speculation. Governments also need to support peasant and small-farmer agriculture as the fundamental source of food for national economies. Why not big farms or agribusiness? It’s more than proven in any country in the world that if agribusiness controls the majority of the land, there will not be enough food for people because agribusiness just doesn’t produce food for local people. What agribusiness does, be it the United States or Thailand, is produce exports.

Sometimes those exports are not even food for people but soybeans for animals, or ethanol, or biodiesel for automobiles in other part of the world.

On the other hand, the real vocation of the small farm, the family farm, the peasant farm, the indigenous farm, is producing food for the family, for the local economy, and for the national economy. All over the world, these farmers are underrepresented in control of land. So a second essential element to claim control over food and agricultural systems is for countries to place their bets on peasant and family agriculture. And that means land has to be taken away from agribusiness. That, in turn, means real agrarian reform, redistribution of land to people who are landless, who are poor, who want to earn a living with dignity by producing food for people. And that means rebuilding small and family agriculture by investing in it. That necessitates changing budget priorities so that, instead of government subsidies flowing to support the exports of agribusiness, they flow to small farms.

Yet a third pillar in reclaiming control of agriculture means changing how we produce food. Via Campesina and other social movements say that we can no longer afford to keep food prices tied to the cost of petroleum. We can’t keep using indiscriminate amounts of chemical fertilizer, tractors, mechanical harvesters, and pesticides. We need to engage in ecological agriculture that preserves soil fertility for future generations.

Fourthly, we need to defend the territories of indigenous peoples and peasant communities who haven’t yet lost their land. Part of the strategy must also be to gain new territories through land reform or land occupations.

A fifth element involves seeds. We can’t allow seeds to be patented and privatized by Monsanto and Syngenta and other corporations. We can’t allow them to be contaminated by GMOs. We need to support the free exchange of local, indigenous seeds, because those varieties are much more adapted to local environmental conditions and can form a much stronger basis for new national food systems. Sixth, we need to nationalize the food reserves that are in the hands of transnational corporations.

Part of the origin of the recent food crisis is that under neoliberal policies of the past 20 years, most countries sold off their food inventories that were in the hands of the public sector. World food reserves are now largely in the hands of private corporations like Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland. This is a problem because when it comes to food reserves, the public sector and the private sector behave in exactly opposite ways. If there’s a food shortage, the public sector releases food from storage so that prices won’t rise so fast, or so people who can’t afford food can get it from public sources. But private traders and transnational corporations hoard and speculate. That is, they withhold food from the market in order to drive prices up even higher so that they can make a windfall profit, at the cost of some people not being able to eat.

But we can’t just renationalize food reserves in the hands of governments because we can’t trust governments. There has to be some kind of a co-management scheme where farmers and consumers, through their social movements and grassroots organizations, participate in owning and managing food reserves so that those reserves exist in every country – but at the service of people, not of private profit.

Via Campesina and allied social movements have all gathered together under the banner of food sovereignty. This is the collective banner of struggle to build counter-power to transnational corporations, to renationalize food systems, and to regain control over rural territories and the land. To make sure that land is used to support rural peoples. To support production, for local and national consumption, of healthier food, more affordable food, food that’s not speculated with, that’s not hoarded, that’s not contaminated with GMOs. To reclaim our food systems and protect our lands and territories.

Download the Harvesting Justice pdf here http://www.otherworldsarepossible.org/sites/default/files/documents/Harvesting%20Justice-Transforming%20Food%20Land%20Ag_0.pdf , and find action items, resources, and a popular education curriculum on the Harvesting Justice website.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

Lifting the Veil of Mirage Democracy in the United States

Wednesday, 13 February 2013 00:00 By Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers , Truthout | News Analysis


We live in a mirage democracy," Zeese and Flowers assert, as they trace the history and describe the institutions of a not-so-robust US democracy.

"Democracy" demokratia = demos+kratia; or democracy = people+power.

The "greatest democracy on Earth" is how the United States is portrayed to its people and the world. The hallowed words "We the people" and "Of, by and for the people" echo in the minds of Americans to characterize the United States. But do they accurately describe the "democracy" we have?

In reality, a constant conflict that has existed throughout US history, indeed throughout the history of democratic states, is present between the elites and the people. Justice Louis Brandeis said it well when he stated, "We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both."

Over the past 40 years, income inequality in the United States has exploded from its lowest level in 1978 . What kind of democracy exists under these circumstances? And is real democracy possible for a global empire? How does nation-state democracy exist within the new globalized economy that serves transnational corporations?

A New Vocabulary for "Democracy"

A new vocabulary is developing to describe the current state of democracy in the United States. We begin with some key words and phrases.

Managed Democracy: A governmental system that includes widespread voter franchise and competitive elections, but the elections are managed so that no matter what candidate(s) are elected, the elites win. The role of citizens in government is to choose between two pre-selected candidates, neither of whom will represent the people's interests and both of whom will represent the elites' interests. Chris Hedges refers to this as "political theater."

Polyarchy: A term highlighted by Cliff DuRand, author of "Recreating Democracy in a Globalized State," that is very similar to managed democracy. He calls it a low-intensity democracy that veils the rule of elites and allows citizens to think they are participating in power through contested elections that do not change the elite power structure.

Inverted Totalitarianism: Classical totalitarianism is the model of Hitler or Mussolini, an all-powerful government led by a charismatic leader that partners with business interests in a security state. Inverted totalitarianism is a similar marriage of government and business, but the measures employed to maintain this relationship are more subtle. It is the coming of age of corporate power, maintained through a security state working in tandem with corporate propaganda that permeates influential institutions such as the media, education, popular culture and evangelical religion.

Globalized State: This is a government that serves the interests of transnational capital devoid of any real connection to the people of the nation. The globalized state rules through economic structures such as trade agreements, the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, World Trade Organization and through international military actions.

Capitalism: An economic system based on private ownership of capital, goods and the means of production. Goods and services are produced for profit. It is an inherently unequal system. In feudalism, political power and the economy were united in the noble class. Under capitalism, there is a separation of political and economic power, which gives people the impression of participation.

Neoliberalism: The dominant economic ideology of the last three decades which insists upon an extreme separation of government and capital so that the market can operate "freely." The market operates only in the interests of individuals without allegiance to the collective society. Government exists solely to provide basics such as standards for weights and measures, laws and courts to protect property and infrastructure for the market. Neoliberalism welcomes state intervention only when that intervention is to corporate advantage as in trade agreements, bailouts or corporate welfare. Under neoliberalism, state resources and public programs are decreasingly funded and increasingly privatized. DuRand states that neoliberalism is the "default position of capitalism to which it reverts unless restrained by popular struggles."

Neofeudalism: This is the reconfiguration of political and economic systems to create an empowered tiny oligarchic elite class. Chris Hedges points to the structure described by George Orwell in "1984" in which there is an inner party (2 to 4 percent) of corporate and political managers, an outer party (12 to 14 percent) that consists of managers, the security state and the propaganda arm, and the rest of the population exists as "proles."

[-] 4 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

The Birth of US "Democracy"

The United States celebrates the founding of the country and the so-called "Founding Fathers" as the birth of democracy, but the real democracy movement occurred before the American Revolution. In fact, it was the founding fathers, a group of propertied elites, slave holders, noted lawyers and wealthy merchants, who created a system designed to prevent a truly democratic state.

In the pre-Revolutionary period, the American democracy movement involved small farmers, laborers, artisans, shopkeepers, seamen, women, African slaves and native Indians who revolted against the grievances of the day. There existed abolitionists who opposed slavery and slaves who rebelled against plantation owners. Disputes over taxes, ordinances, and land titles and of being ruled over by a royal governor, who represented a distant British government or a corporate monopoly like the British East India Company, were sources of democratic revolt.

Colonial governments were structured for the elites and only those with substantial property ownership had any right to participate. Sheldon Wolin, in Democracy Inc. describes the rise of a "fugitive democracy" in this period. There were spontaneous protests, assemblies, petitions, tarring and feathering of government officials, burning effigies of officials, surrounding courthouses and removing government officials from office and storming jails to free their own. Committees of correspondence were formed to coordinate actions with counterparts in other colonies. This democracy movement was born out of necessity, out of the struggle for survival against deep-seated grievances and was improvisational rather than institutionalized.

Ray Raphael in The First American Revolution: Before Lexington and Concord describes colonists in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, filling the courthouse to prevent British judges from entering. And, in Worcester, 4,622 militiamen from 37 surrounding communities lined Main Street as crown-appointed officials walked the gauntlet, reciting their resignations 30 times each, "so all could hear." Raphael reports that these common people were intensely democratic, disavowing all leadership. In fact, "when they elected representatives, they did so on a day-to-day basis."

Wolin writes that in the period from 1760 until the Constitutional Convention, there was intense political interest that formed an "American demos" that "began to establish a foothold and to find institutional expression, if not full realization. State constitutions were amended by provisions that broadened voting rights, abolished property qualifications for office, and in one case, instituted women's suffrage. There were also efforts to ease debtor laws, even to abolish slavery." It was these attacks on property that prompted several "outstanding politicians" (also known as the founding fathers) to "organize a counter-revolution aimed at institutionalizing a counterforce to challenge the prevailing decentralized system of thirteen sovereign states in which some state legislatures were controlled by 'popular' forces."

These outstanding politicians were some of the wealthiest property owners in the United States, slave holders, well-known lawyers and merchants. James Madison, credited as being the "father" of the Constitution, wrote in The Federalist Papers #10: "Democracies have ever been . . . incompatible with . . . the rights of property . . . [because it would threaten] the unequal distribution of property." The founders were concerned with "the excess of democracy" as one delegate to the convention said. The new Constitution put property rights ahead of human rights.

The "founders" proposed a new system of national power that discouraged the "American demos," removed people from the councils of government and reduced the power of states. The Constitution favored elite rule and protection of property. It established a republic in which courts protected minority rights and property rights from majority sentiment, and government power was limited.

Only the House of Representatives would be directly elected by the people, at least the limited group of six percent of the white, male property-owning population that was allowed to vote. Wolin writes, "The Constitution of the Founders compressed the political role of citizen into an act of 'choosing' and designed it to minimize the direct expression of a popular will." The president was not directly elected, but rather citizens voted for electors who chose the president in the Electoral College. Senators were selected by state legislators, and judges were appointed by the president. It created a representative, not participatory or direct, democracy. The "right to vote" is not even mentioned in the Constitution.

While people were declared "sovereign," they were, in fact, "precluded from governing." "From the beginning," Cliff Durand writes, the country "was designed to be undemocratic." The role of the people was limited to choosing from among the political elite the representatives who would rule them. This managed democracy or polyarchy is far removed from the people power of real democracy. As Durand writes, "Democracy means people's power, not the legitimizing of elite rule."

Throughout US history there have been democratic moments when the people sought to seize power. These included Jacksonian democrats, abolitionists, suffragettes, populists, progressives, civil rights activists and '60s radicals; and the Occupy movement of today. These political conflicts have "often been described as a war between 'the haves and the have-nots.' "

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

The Rise of the Corporate State

Beginning in the 19th century, wealth and power shifted from property owners and merchants to corporations. This shift was accelerated during the industrial revolution, when corporations gained great economic and political power. Wealth became more concentrated in the hands of a few robber barons, who used it as political leverage. President Abraham Lincoln warned in a November 21, 1864, letter to Colonel William F. Elkins about the corruption that would follow this rise of corporate power:

"I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. . . . corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed." Mass production and new forms of energy and transportation allowed industrialists to accumulate wealth rapidly. This wealth was used to amass more resources and control over the economy. Industrialists bought up their competitors and formed monopolies. They enriched themselves through cheap labor. Workers were housed in unsanitary factory towns and forced to work in unsafe conditions. They were paid low wages and charged high prices for basic goods in factory-owned stores.

Many of the wealthiest people in US history made their riches during the industrial revolution: oil magnate John D. Rockefeller; steamboat and railroad businessman Cornelius Vanderbilt; Andrew Carnegie with his empire of steel; financiers Jay Gould, Andrew Mellon and J. P. Morgan; and mass producer of automobiles Henry Ford.

The industrial revolution was also a time of gross political corruption. Bribery of politicians and bureaucrats and the gift of political positions and contracts in return for favors and loyalty ran rampant. The result was two political parties loyal to the elites with narrow agendas that were unwilling to challenge the status quo in any meaningful way.

The courts were no better. The Fourteenth Amendment, passed in 1868 to provide due process of law to freed slaves, was used mostly to empower corporations. In 1886, the Supreme Court voided 230 state laws that regulated corporations, primarily freight rates charged to farmers, on the basis that the regulations deprived corporations of property without due process. Of 307 Fourteenth Amendment cases considered by the Supreme Court between 1890 and 1910, 288 were about protecting corporate rights, only 19 about people. This is when the court established that corporations were "legal people" while at the same time protecting corporate owners from criminal prosecution.

The situation rose to a head under the presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR), who was elected after the depression began. The Roosevelt family is one of the oldest banking families in the nation, as are the Delanos. His great-grandfather James Roosevelt founded the Bank of New York in 1784, and five generations of Roosevelts headed that bank. Before that the family helped fund the American Revolution. FDR's uncle, Fred Delano, was appointed to the first Federal Reserve Board in 1914. FDR's first job was with a JP Morgan law firm, and he lived in the home of JP Morgan partner Thomas Lamont when he went to Washington, DC, as assistant secretary of the Navy. During the '20s, before he became governor of New York, he was a Wall Street investor, banker and lawyer. During FDR's presidency, when he broke from the gold standard and created mass government jobs, the financiers and big business interests who funded his campaigns were shocked. A group of businessmen planned a coup and contacted General Smedley Butler, the most decorated Marine in history, to become the American Mussolini and make FDR either a figurehead or remove him. Butler blew the whistle and although a congressional committee confirmed the plot, there were no prosecutions. Many of the corporations bailed out in the recent financial collapse came from the same corporations allegedly involved in the coup attempt. Perhaps a more sophisticated coup has taken place now.

Following World War II, new institutions were created that propelled the rise of the global corporate state. In 1944, members of 44 nations gathered in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, to discuss how to rebuild the international economy. The United States was the dominant power at this meeting. Out of it came the Bretton Woods System, which tied official reserves to the US dollar instead of to gold.

This conference also gave birth to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the precursor of the World Bank. Shortly after that, the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT) was created, which reduced barriers to trade between nations. In 1995, it became the World Trade Organization (WTO). This shift was significant because unlike the GATT, the WTO had the power to enforce rules, which meant that nations were required to change their laws to comply with rules put forth by the WTO. Today, the largest trade agreement in history, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which is being negotiated by the Obama administration in secret except for 600 corporate advisors, will result in a global corporate coup.

Since the 1980s, the era of so-called "free trade," the world has seen the rise of transnational corporations. This has allowed the off-shoring of jobs that has hollowed out the US labor market and caused labor's share of the GDP to hit an all-time low. It has also allowed the free flow of finance overseas, the avoidance of more than $100 billion in corporate taxes and the growth of international tax havens housing tens of trillions of dollars off-shore. Neoliberalism, which had been unleashed upon the world, is now coming home to the US.

[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

Of Monopolies and Sacrifice Zones

DuRand describes unfettered capitalism, or neoliberalism, as a game of Monopoly. In the Parker's Brothers game, the players begin on equal ground. The goal of the game is to amass wealth and property to the point of collapse, bankrupting the other players who are no longer able to participate. He writes that, just as in Monopoly, inequality is an integral part of a capitalist economy.

In the board game, when only one player is left, the game ends. Players may choose to start fresh with a new game. In the real world, there is no reset. Instead, there is the drive toward greater degrees of inequality as the rich become richer at the expense of people and the planet. Occasionally there is respite in the form of social programs that counter the effects of neoliberalism, but in the absence of popular struggle, the drive toward greater profits continues unabated.

In his most recent book, "Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt," Chris Hedges describes the real effects of neoliberal policies on US communities. His words are made even more powerful through the illustrations of Joe Sacco. Hedges and Sacco stayed in communities that have been destroyed economically and environmentally for the sake of corporate profits. They call these areas "Sacrifice Zones" and define them as "areas in the country that have been offered up for exploitation in the name of profit, progress and technological advancement." Their intention was to show "what life looks like when the marketplace rules without constraints, where human beings and the natural world are used and then discarded to maximize profit."

Hedges and Sacco reported on levels of poverty and poisoning of communities that most Americans don't recognize as existing in the United States. They tell stories of drug use and violence that arise as people are trapped in losing situations that involve great suffering. And they describe efforts of those who try to provide some relief. Hedges states that their stories are "important windows into what is happening to the rest of us."

In the final section of the book, they cover the Occupy protests, which arose in large part because of growing wealth inequality and fraud by the elites. At some point, people do rise up and fight back. Those in power know this and employ all sorts of tools to prevent it.

The Maintenance of the Corporate State

The actions of the robber barons of the 19th and early 20th centuries resulted in such abuse of workers and poor living conditions that labor and others joined in protest. The response of the elites was the New Deal, which brought some relief, calmed the masses and allowed capitalism to continue.

Relative quiet ensued until the 1960s and early '70s, when multiple struggles manifested in movements for civil rights, opposition to war, the environment and women's rights. DuRand writes that this uprising was described by elites as a "crisis of democracy," meaning that people were demanding too much democracy. Capitalists felt under attack once more. Following a blueprint developed by Lewis Powell in his memo to the US Chamber of Commerce, they built institutions over the next 40 years, including think tanks, lobbying firms and courts, to promote the market agenda and control the media and universities to prevent another outbreak of democracy.

We are living in a time of Inverted Totalitarianism, in which the tools used to maintain the status quo are much more subtle and technologically advanced. These include propaganda and control of the major media outlets that hide the real news about conditions at home and our activities around the world behind distractions such as high-profile citizen trials and celebrity gossip. The major electronic media, owned by six corporations nationwide, also routinely misinforms the public about domestic and foreign policy. A recent example is the "Fiscal Cliff."

Another tool is to create insecurity in the population so that people are unwilling to speak out and take risks for fear of losing their jobs and being unable to afford food, a home and health care. Changes in the work environment, such as the attack on unions and the war on whistleblowers, have led to greater job insecurity. Changes in college education also silence dissent, including the trend toward adjunct rather than tenured professors. Adjunct professors, now comprising 85 percent of faculty, are less willing to teach topics that are viewed as controversial. This, combined with massive student debt, are tools to silence the student population, once the center of transformative action.

Hedges describes the growing security state and is actively fighting provisions within the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that allow the indefinite detention of US citizens without trial. Legal experts fear the NDAA also weakened Posse Comitatus, passed in 1878 to limit federal military powers, so that the military can be used on domestic soil. There is obvious collaboration between military and local police departments through joint training exercises, paramilitary police forces and new equipment such as tanks and drones. The Department of Homeland Security is building a 176-acre secure compound in the lowest-income area of Washington, DC.

Laws, such as the Patriot Act and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, allow warrantless wiretapping of US citizens. In fact, whistleblower William Binney, who served in the NSA for 40 years, estimates that the NSA is currently storing between 15 and 20 trillion communications, including domestic emails and billing transactions. And the Pentagon is set to increase its cyber-security program by five-fold.

Other, more subtle forms of public control come in the form of organizations that function to protect the interests of corporations and their servant political parties. This may occur through direct creation of "astro-turf" groups or by co-optation of existing grassroots and other groups by granting them increased access to politicians and controlling their access to foundation grants and donations. A recent example involves Obama's "enforcer," Jim Messina, who met with liberal organizations during the health reform process to keep them in line with the Democratic agenda. DuRand writes that in polyarchy, "it is through its penetration and co-optation or even creation of the components of civil society that the elite garners the consent of the people to its rule and thereby achieves governability."

Those groups that directly challenge the system and cannot be co-opted by money or access are routinely infiltrated for the purpose of spying, dividing and destroying. More evidence of infiltration and spying on Occupy is coming to light.

We live in a mirage democracy. Elections have become expensive spectacles with $2 billion presidential campaigns and a corporate media that reports on the political drama every day for months on end. Elections are tightly controlled, rigged for the two parties by restrictive ballot access laws, a corporate-run debate commission that blocks third parties, gerrymandered voting districts, unverifiable computer vote counts and a mass media that does not cover alternatives to the corporate duopoly. US voting systems are among the least democratic in the world. They lack modern, more democratic approaches like universal voter registration, proportional representation and ranked choice or instant run-off voting. Only half the US public is registered, and only half of registered voters vote, so these mirage elections provide a less than legitimate government.

Our next article, Part II of this series on democracy, will focus on how participatory government and economic democracy are being put in place in Latin America and steps being taken in those directions in the United States. If we are to achieve the "We the People" government to which we aspire and end the mirage democracy we are in, these are the twin pillars on which real democracy will stand.

You can hear our interview with Chris Hedges and Cliff DuRand: What Kind of Democracy Exists in the US? on Clearing the FOG Radio (podcast) or view it on UStream/ItsOurEconomy.

This is Part I in a series on democracy in the United States. Next week we examine participatory democracy as an antidote to managed democracy.

You can intervene in the nation's budget debate by watching a Roots Action video and writing your Congressional representatives and the president here.

This article was first published on Truthout and any reprint or reproduction on any other website must acknowledge Truthout as the original site of publication.

[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5909) 10 years ago

Mother, mother

There's too many of you crying

Brother, brother, brother

There's far too many of you dying

You know we've got to find a way

To bring some lovin' here today - Ya


Father, father

We don't need to escalate

You see, war is not the answer

For only love can conquer hate

You know we've got to find a way

To bring some lovin' here today


Picket lines and picket signs

Don't punish me with brutality

Talk to me, so you can see

Oh, what's going on

What's going on

Ya, what's going on

Ah, what's going on


In the mean time

Right on, baby

Right on

Right on


Father, father, everybody thinks we're wrong

Oh, but who are they to judge us

Simply because our hair is long

Oh, you know we've got to find a way

To bring some understanding here today



Picket lines and picket signs

Don't punish me with brutality

Talk to me

So you can see

What's going on

Ya, what's going on

Tell me what's going on

I'll tell you what's going on - Uh

Right on baby

Right on baby


[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5909) 10 years ago

Oh, mercy mercy me

Oh, things ain't what they used to be

No, no

Where did all the blue sky go?

Poison is the wind that blows

From the north, east, south, and sea

Oh, mercy mercy me

Oh, things ain't what they used to be

No, no

Oil wasted on the oceans and upon our seas

Fish full of mercury

Oh, mercy mercy me

Oh, things ain't what they used to be

No, no

Radiation in the ground and in the sky

Animals and birds who live nearby are dying

Oh, mercy mercy me

Oh, things ain't what they used to be

What about this overcrowded land?

How much more abuse from man can you stand?

My sweet Lord

My sweet Lord

My sweet Lord


[-] 1 points by DKAtoday (33802) from Coon Rapids, MN 10 years ago
[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5909) 10 years ago

Mr. President, you have been so correct in resisting attempts to balance the budget by increasing taxes. The tax load on the average American family is already at counterproductive levels with the underground economy having now grown to an estimated $500 billion per year, costing about $100 billion in lost Federal tax revenues per year.

The size of the underground economy is understandable when one considers that median family income taxes have increased from $9 in 1948 to $2,218 in 1983, or by 246 times. This is runaway taxation at its worst.

Importantly, any meaningful increases in taxes from personal income would have to come from lower and middle income families, as 90 percent of all personal taxable income is generated below the taxable income level of $35,000.

Further, there isn't much more that can be extracted from high income brackets. If the Government took 100 percent of all taxable income beyond the $75,000 tax bracket not already taxed, it would get only $17 billion, and this confiscation, which would destroy productive enterprise, would only be sufficient to run the Government for seven days.

Resistance to additional income taxes would be even more widespread if people were aware that:

One-third of all their taxes is consumed by waste and inefficiency in the Federal Government as we identified in our survey.

Another one-third of all their taxes escapes collection from others as the underground economy blossoms in direct proportion to tax increases and places even more pressure on law abiding taxpayers, promoting still more underground economy-a vicious cycle that must be broken.

With two-thirds of everyone's personal income taxes wasted or not collected, 100 percent of what is collected is absorbed solely by interest on the Federal debt and by Federal Government contributions to transfer payments. In other words, all individual income tax revenues are gone before one nickel is spent on the services which taxpayers expect from their Government.

Grace Commission Report

January 12, 1984



"Pay Any F.R.B. Branch or Gen. Depositary for Credit U.S. Treas. This is in Payment of U.S. Oblig.;"

(IRS endorsement stamp)

[-] 0 points by VQkag2 (16478) 10 years ago

Your siting a study that is quarter century old? LOL. You compare taxes paid in 1948, and 1983? Does the annual income, inflation, matter at all.? Ridiculous. You wanna capture black market economy taxes? legalize drugs. Let people decide for themselves instead of the costly "war on drugs" that targets minorities. Your screed appears to claim we can't take anymore taxes from the poor 1%. Well guess what? That's BS! The 1% crashed the world economy (and still benefit) The 1% created this "great recession" and have enriched themselves while the 99% have suffered and sacrificed. They should be made to pay. To sacrifice! To suffer! They should be prosecuted for their crimes and have the money they stole returned to the people!. Now thats from 2012! Not 1984. What a joke! LMFAO

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 10 years ago

The joke is your inability to read the thread of posts I've made over the past week showing the consistent presence of a monied aristocracy (as Jefferson put it) confirmed by presidents and even the father of the Federal Reserve Act. Even in my latest post, you've failed to comprehend the fact that it shows people's tax dollars going straight to the bankers, not to the government, and that even 90% of this comes from people making under $35,000 even though the income tax was originally enacted to only tax the 1% and didn't apply to other Americans until their war time Victory Tax was converted into a tax for the general population.

[-] -1 points by VQkag2 (16478) 10 years ago

Blah! Blah! Blah!...................1984???....................................................... You wanna capture black market economy taxes? legalize drugs. Let people decide for themselves instead of the costly "war on drugs" that targets minorities. Your screed appears to claim we can't take anymore taxes from the poor 1%. Well guess what? That's BS! The 1% crashed the world economy (and still benefit) The 1% created this "great recession" and have enriched themselves while the 99% have suffered and sacrificed. They should be made to pay. To sacrifice! To suffer! They should be prosecuted for their crimes and have the money they stole returned to the people!. Now thats from 2012! Not 1984. What a joke! LMFAO

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 10 years ago

And the joke that you reveal yourself to be continues to grow.

[-] 1 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 10 years ago
[-] 0 points by VQkag2 (16478) 10 years ago

Yeah. What about legalizing drugs? For or against? What about prosecuting the 1% fin criminals? For or against.? Speak up! Take a stand. Stop hiding behind insults and old numbers!

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 10 years ago

What about reading the very first clause of the Free Democracy Amendment? For or against? C'mon, stand up and stop hiding behind ignorance and at least pretend that you know how to read.

[-] 0 points by VQkag2 (16478) 10 years ago

You ain't my teacher handing out reading assignments. If you can't discuss your 1st clause then I guess it ain't worth it. Probably more out of date "protect the wealthy taxpayer" propaganda. Why would I waste my time with readings from someone who wants to protect the poor wealthy tax payer? I'm smarter than that. and I think I'm smarter than you.

[-] 0 points by LeoYo (5909) 10 years ago

And yet your replies consistently prove that you're not. Reading comprehension is obviously not your thing. There are no teachers, only students. Those who are unwilling to learn are in no position for carrying on worthwhile discussions.

[-] -1 points by VQkag2 (16478) 10 years ago

And again you avoid taking a stand on any issues. Only insults. Concerned about lost taxes from black market? legalize drugs! Yes?, no? Are you willing to go after the money stolen by the 1%? Prosecute the 1% fin criminals? Yes? No?

[-] 0 points by LeoYo (5909) 10 years ago

A stand has already been taken but your lack of reading comprehension prevents you from observing it. Will you finally learn to read or will you continue chasing your tail with questions answered long before they were ever asked? Yes? No?

( http://occupywallst.org/forum/political-organization-rather-than-political-party/#comment-763942 )

[-] 1 points by VQkag2 (16478) 10 years ago

You have not answered! Are you mentally retarded.? I just got here boss. What are you afraid of. You can't have a conversation. You have to refer back to previous posts. Don't be silly. You can't answer because I guess we disagree. Whatever. Lotsa people disagree. I disagree with you that we should protect the poor wealthy 1% from tax increases. No big deal. It happens. You don't have to discuss anything. You are dismissed. On your way.

[-] 0 points by LeoYo (5909) 10 years ago

You can't have disagreements where there is no comprehension. All you can have are baseless accusations while grasping at the wind.

[-] -1 points by VQkag2 (16478) 10 years ago

I'm not grasping. I'm simply asking about your beliefs. You are refusing to discuss. Why? IDK. I suppose it could be you just can't back up your arguments. Either they are too weak, or because you don't have the mental capacity. In any event I can't make you discuss anything and there are plenty of people to discuss important issues with on this site. So again. You are dismissed. On your way.

[-] 0 points by LeoYo (5909) 10 years ago

And just what arguments of mine would those be? You see, you are grasping. When you respond to a post with baseless accusations due to a lack of reading comprehension, you're not asking about beliefs, you're simply blowing misdirected hot air. And when you refuse to correct your error of not seeking comprehension of all that is before you, you consistently dismiss yourself from any meaningful discussion. So, you can continue declarations of dismissals over and over again but it only continues to confirm your own ongoing dismissal.

[-] -1 points by VQkag2 (16478) 10 years ago

Meaningless. Useless. No substance. Just schoolyard insults. You are still dismissed.

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 10 years ago

And you're still grasping at the wind.

[-] 3 points by ZenDogTroll (13032) from South Burlington, VT 10 years ago

I think I like it.

[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5909) 10 years ago

"all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed." -Declaration of Independence

[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5909) 10 years ago

"Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it." -George Bernard Shaw

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

Act Before the Bail-In: Now Is the Moment to Seize Public Banking

Monday, 15 July 2013 14:41 By Rudy Avizius, Occupy.com | Op-Ed


If you knew someone with a gambling problem, you probably would not give them your money to hold. If you knew that they had placed bets that were 30 to 70 times more than the amount of money they had, you would consider them totally reckless. If you knew that the money they were holding and betting with was borrowed money, other peoples’ money and not their own, you would probably conclude that they are hopelessly addicted to, well, yes: money. Now picture this scenario:

You are a public official, such as a school business administrator, county treasurer, municipal finance manager, pension fund administrator, or anyone who has responsibility for protecting public money. You try to access the money and the transaction is denied. You investigate why you cannot access money you know is in your account and you find out that the bank has failed and has been closed until further notice by the authorities. You also discover that the government will be confiscating part of your money in order to “stabilize” the bank.

You might be thinking, that “cannot happen here,” right? You placed the public monies you are charged with into a large bank because they are properly “collateralized” and therefore you believe these funds are safe. Now let's settle for the truth: your money is at serious risk.

In a nutshell, what happened in Cyprus was that the banks were over-leveraged and the size of the liabilities of the banks exceeded the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the entire country of Cyprus. Given the fact that the “bail outs” of the large banks in 2008 were so politically unpopular, the European “troika” imposed a “bail in,” where customers with savings accounts were to have some of their savings seized (read: stolen) in order to stabilize the banks.

The losses to some accounts were as high as 60%. The banks were closed for 12 days, so account holders had no access to their money and once the banks reopened, they had only limited access to their money in order to protect the banks.

Was this plan by the “troika” — the European Central Bank, European Commission and International Monetary Fund — just a one-time event, or was it something more? It turns out, in fact, that the "bail in" was actually planned in advance, in 2012, at the G20 Financial Stability Board in Basel Switzerland, where the U.S. FDIC and the Bank of England created a joint paper outlining a confiscation scheme.

Under the FDIC/BOE joint paper, accounts could be seized by the failing bank and converted to stock equity as part of a “bail in” scheme — although the stock would be worthless because the bank would have already failed.

Don't be deceived into thinking the "bail in" is a European heist. There is a plan to confiscate savings in New Zealand if necessary to save the banks. Canada also has a confiscation plan in the wings should their banks falter. The European Union has just reached an agreement where shareholders and depositors will be tapped to “bail in” any bank in trouble.

But let's look at the U.S. and imagine what might happen here. Consider that our largest banks have derivative contracts with a notional value of more than $700 trillion (think $700,000 BILLION). The entire world GDP is only $70 trillion, therefore the liabilities of the big banks could not be covered by the entire GDP of the United States.

Does this sound similar to what happened in Cyprus? Does this sound similar to the gambler we discussed at the beginning? What is very important to keep in mind is that Cyprus is a small country and that much larger outside forces came in to “stabilize” the banks there. By contrast, if one (or more) of the large U.S. banks experiences a derivative failure, there is not enough money on the planet to “stabilize” them.

The derivatives are really nothing more than “bets” placed by the banks, and when (not if) these “bets” start going bad, the banks will be on the hook for their value. You need to know that these derivative “bets” have been given super-priority status in case of a bank bankruptcy. What this means is that the holders of these derivative contracts will have first priority for payment and that you as an individual or government entity will be placed at the back of line — as a bank creditor — should a large bank fail. The bottom line is that you will probably get little or nothing back.

Most people do not understand that once you give a bank your money, the money legally is no longer yours. Under the law, you are an unsecured creditor to the bank and are treated as such in any bankruptcy proceeding. As an individual or as a public official, if you have money in one of the big banks, you have essentially given your money to that gambler and now you are a creditor to the gambler. This sort of loss has already happened with the MF Global collapse. While this was a futures trading company and not a bank, the blueprint for confiscations was tested here and with the Sentinel case the legal system upheld the customer losses. These trading accounts were supposed to be “segregated” accounts that belonged to the account holders, not MF Global. As an analogy, think of a “segregated” account as a safe deposit box at a bank: the contents belong to you, not the bank. In the MF Global collapse, the bank essentially gambled with the assets in the customers’ safe deposit boxes, and the legal system placed the creditors of the bank above the safe deposit box holders.

Now let's take JP Morgan Chase, which has $1.1 trillion in deposits, and Bank of America, which also has over $1 trillion. Again, remember the gambler, Chase, has about $70 trillion in bets out there, but is holding only about $1 trillion in deposits and another trillion in assets. It has made bets with a value approximately 35 times all the money it has access to. Again, this is YOUR money the bank is betting with, not their money.

Bank of America also has about 30 times its assets in derivative bets. Citigroup and Wells Fargo each have over $900 billion in deposits and also many times their assets in derivative bets. If any one of these big banks fails, they are so interconnected that it is likely to bring down the other large banks. In fact, both Bank of America and JP Morgan Chase have moved their riskiest derivatives from their uninsured trading houses to the FDIC insured subsidiaries, which are their retail banks, putting the funds in those accounts at a significantly increased risk.

Once even one of these biggest banks experiences a derivatives meltdown, there will not be enough money in the FDIC or probably even the U.S. Treasury to cover the losses. Still think Cyprus cannot happen to you?

If you are a public official who has responsibility for protecting public money, you probably have that money deposited into an account with one of the largest banks. Do you still believe that money is safe? Are you doing your fiduciary duty to protect that money in the public interest? As a government official in charge of finances, what are your options?

One option is to start a public bank such as the Bank of North Dakota. First, public banks do not gamble with derivatives and the Bank of North Dakota thrived during the crisis of 2008. Not only will you get the safety of the money for which you have responsibility for, but other advantages to this approach include: the ability to provide interest free or low interest loans for public infrastructure projects, the ability to create jobs, generate revenue, and build up the local community.

Consider this: if you buy a home for $100,000, by the time you have paid the mortgage in full, the total cost will have been close to $300,000. Paying those who build the home and provide the raw materials $100,000, and paying the financiers $200,000 for money that was not even theirs, makes little sense, right? But the same principle applies if a state, county or municipality wants to build a road, school, bridge or other infrastructure: they need to go to Wall Street for financing at high interest rates.

However, they could just as easily form their own bank and finance the project at zero or near zero interest. With public banking, the projects would cost less than half and the finance costs would not be siphoned out of the community, impoverishing it while ending up on Wall Street or in Cayman Island tax shelters. In short, public banking ensures that the finance costs stay in the community.

Think of the things that could be accomplished if you could eliminate debt service as a line item in your budget. The money deposited in the public bank would be safe and would serve the local community. You could use the public bank to refinance existing debt at zero or near zero percent interest. You could lower tax rates. This idea has such appeal that currently there are initiatives in 20 states to start public banks.

If you are a public official with a fiduciary responsibility to protect public funds, one of these large banks fails and you lose the public's money, think of the consequences once the public becomes aware that you did not heed the warnings of Cyprus. Think of the consequences when the public becomes aware that you did not consider alternatives to the big vulnerable banks.

It is time to bring home the money from Wall Street, where it is at risk. If there is a derivative crash, try meeting your payroll with stock equity (in a failed bank). The impact of not meeting a payroll will be both immediate and forceful. It is vital to get that money out of Wall Street before the next meltdown.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

To those public officials who are truly interested in serving your communities, this is your moment. This is your time to step up. Be bold, be innovative, and empower your communities. You owe it to your fellow citizens, your children and your future. Visit this website to learn more about the possibilities that public banking offer, to learn how to get started, and where to find help in implementation. You are not alone if you wish to make this happen.

Consider yourself warned: your money is not safe in the big banks. The MF Global losses, the Cyprus confiscations, the Sentinel case, the FDIC/BOE Joint Paper, and the plans in the European Union, Canada, New Zealand and Spain to raid private accounts — this should all be raising red flags. Personal accounts, as well as any school, municipal, county, and state funds that are deposited in any of the big banks are not safe. The plans for confiscation have already been developed, they have been approved, they are awaiting the next crisis.

So ask your public official in charge of finance where they keep YOUR taxpayer money. Ask them if they have researched the public banking option. Do not accept no for an answer. If they say that you do not understand these things, tell them to explain it to you. After all, this is your money that you worked so hard for. Tell them you won't let big gamblers from Wall Street use YOUR personal or taxpayer money to cover THEIR losses — and you won't stand for public officials risking your economic future with these gamblers, just because this is how it has been done in the past.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

What We Can Learn From America's First Tea Party About Countering Corporate Power

Saturday, 06 July 2013 09:57 By Thom Hartmann, Yes! Magazine | News Analysis


Before there was Citizens United, a modern Tea Party movement, or national momentum to ban corporate personhood, Thom Hartmann shows that resistance to corporate power is just as patriotic as Boston’s original Tea Party.

On a cold November day, activists gathered in a coastal town. The corporation had gone too far, and the two thousand people who'd jammed into the meeting hall were torn as to what to do about it. Unemployment was exploding and the economic crisis was deepening; corporate crime, governmental corruption spawned by corporate cash, and an ethos of greed were blamed. “Why do we wait?” demanded one at the meeting, a fisherman named George Hewes. “The more we delay, the more strength is acquired” by the company and its puppets in the government. “Now is the time to prove our courage,” he said. Soon, the moment came when the crowd decided for direct action and rushed into the streets.

That is how I tell the story of the Boston Tea Party, now that I have read a first-person account of it. While striving to understand my nation's struggles against corporations, I came upon a first edition of Retrospect of the Boston Tea Party with a Memoir of George R.T. Hewes, a Survivor of the Little Band of Patriots Who Drowned the Tea in Boston Harbor in 1773, and I jumped at the chance to buy it. Because the identities of the Boston Tea Party participants were hidden (other than Samuel Adams) and all were sworn to secrecy for the next 50 years, this account (published 61 years later) is the only first-person account of the event by a participant that exists, so far as I can find. As I read, I began to understand the true causes of the American Revolution.

I learned that the Boston Tea Party resembled in many ways the growing modern-day protests against transnational corporations and small-town efforts to protect themselves from chain-store retailers or factory farms. The Tea Party's participants thought of themselves as protesters against the actions of the multinational East India Company.

Although schoolchildren are usually taught that the American Revolution was a rebellion against “taxation without representation,” akin to modern day conservative taxpayer revolts, in fact what led to the revolution was rage against a transnational corporation that, by the 1760s, dominated trade from China to India to the Caribbean, and controlled nearly all commerce to and from North America, with subsidies and special dispensation from the British crown.

Hewes notes: “The [East India] Company received permission to transport tea, free of all duty, from Great Britain to America…” allowing it to wipe out New England–based tea wholesalers and mom-and-pop stores and take over the tea business in all of America. “Hence,” he told his biographer, “it was no longer the small vessels of private merchants, who went to vend tea for their own account in the ports of the colonies, but, on the contrary, ships of an enormous burthen, that transported immense quantities of this commodity ... The colonies were now arrived at the decisive moment when they must cast the dye, and determine their course ... ”

A pamphlet was circulated through the colonies called The Alarm and signed by an enigmatic “Rusticus.” One issue made clear the feelings of colonial Americans about England's largest transnational corporation and its behavior around the world:“Their Conduct in Asia, for some Years past, has given simple Proof, how little they regard the Laws of Nations, the Rights, Liberties, or Lives of Men. They have levied War, excited Rebellions, dethroned lawful Princes, and sacrificed Millions for the Sake of Gain. The Revenues of Mighty Kingdoms have entered their Coffers. And these not being sufficient to glut their Avarice, they have, by the most unparalleled Barbarities, Extortions, and Monopolies, stripped the miserable Inhabitants of their Property, and reduced whole Provinces to Indigence and Ruin. Fifteen hundred Thousands, it is said, perished by Famine in one Year, not because the Earth denied its Fruits; but [because] this Company and their Servants engulfed all the Necessaries of Life, and set them at so high a Rate that the poor could not purchase them.”

After protesters had turned back the Company's ships in Philadelphia and New York, Hewes writes, “In Boston the general voice declared the time was come to face the storm.”

The citizens of the colonies were preparing to throw off one of the corporations that for almost 200 years had determined nearly every aspect of their lives through its economic and political power. They were planning to destroy the goods of the world's largest multinational corporation, intimidate its employees, and face down the guns of the government that supported it.

The Queen's Corporation

The East India Company's influence had always been pervasive in the colonies. Indeed, it was not the Puritans but the East India Company that founded America. The Puritans traveled to America on ships owned by the East India Company, which had already established the first colony in North America, at Jamestown, in the Company-owned Commonwealth of Virginia, stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mississippi. The commonwealth was named after the “Virgin Queen,” Elizabeth, who had chartered the corporation.

Elizabeth was trying to make England a player in the new global trade sparked by the European “discovery” of the Americas. The wealth Spain began extracting from the New World caught the attention of the European powers. In many European countries, particularly Holland and France, consortiums were put together to finance ships to sail the seas. In 1580, Queen Elizabeth became the largest shareholder in The Golden Hind, a ship owned by Sir Francis Drake.

The investment worked out well for Queen Elizabeth. There's no record of exactly how much she made when Drake paid her share of the Hind's dividends to her, but it was undoubtedly vast, since Drake himself and the other minor shareholders all received a 5000 percent return on their investment. Plus, because the queen placed a maximum loss to the initial investors of their investment amount only, it was a low-risk investment (for the investors at least—creditors, such as suppliers of provisions for the voyages or wood for the ships, or employees, for example, would be left unpaid if the venture failed, just as in a modern-day corporation). She was endorsing an investment model that led to the modern limited-liability corporation.

After making a fortune on Drake's expeditions, Elizabeth started looking for a more permanent arrangement. She authorized a group of 218 London merchants and noblemen to form a corporation. The East India Company was born on December 31, 1600.

By the 1760s, the East India Company's power had grown massive and worldwide. However, this rapid expansion, trying to keep ahead of the Dutch trading companies, was a mixed blessing, as the company went deep in debt to support its growth, and by 1770 found itself nearly bankrupt.

The company turned to a strategy that multinational corporations follow to this day: They lobbied for laws that would make it easy for them to put their small-business competitors out of business.

Most of the members of the British government and royalty (including the king) were stockholders in the East India Company, so it was easy to get laws passed in its interests. Among the Company's biggest and most vexing problems were American colonial entrepreneurs, who ran their own small ships to bring tea and other goods directly into America without routing them through Britain or through the Company. Between 1681 and 1773, a series of laws were passed granting the Company monopoly on tea sold in the American colonies and exempting it from tea taxes. Thus, the Company was able to lower its tea prices to undercut the prices of the local importers and the small tea houses in every town in America. But the colonists were unappreciative of their colonies being used as a profit center for the multinational corporation.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

Boston's Million-Dollar Tea Party

And so, Hewes says, on a cold November evening of 1773, the first of the East India Company's ships of tax-free tea arrived. The next morning, a pamphlet was widely circulated calling on patriots to meet at Faneuil Hall to discuss resistance to the East India Company and its tea. “Things thus appeared to be hastening to a disastrous issue. The people of the country arrived in great numbers, the inhabitants of the town assembled. This assembly, on the 16th of December 1773, was the most numerous ever known, there being more than 2000 from the country present,” said Hewes.

The group called for a vote on whether to oppose the landing of the tea. The vote was unanimously affirmative, and it is related by one historian of that scene “that a person disguised after the manner of the Indians, who was in the gallery, shouted at this juncture, the cry of war; and that the meeting dissolved in the twinkling of an eye, and the multitude rushed in a mass to Griffin's wharf.”

That night, Hewes dressed as an Indian, blackening his face with coal dust, and joined crowds of other men in hacking apart the chests of tea and throwing them into the harbor. In all, the 342 chests of tea—over 90,000 pounds—thrown overboard that night were enough to make 24 million cups of tea and were valued by the East India Company at 9,659 Pounds Sterling or, in today's currency, just over $1 million.

In response, the British Parliament immediately passed the Boston Port Act stating that the port of Boston would be closed until the citizens of Boston reimbursed the East India Company for the tea they had destroyed. The colonists refused. A year and a half later, the colonists would again state their defiance of the East India Company and Great Britain by taking on British troops in an armed conflict at Lexington and Concord (the “shots heard 'round the world”) on April 19, 1775.

That war—finally triggered by a transnational corporation and its government patrons trying to deny American colonists a fair and competitive local marketplace—would end with independence for the colonies.

The revolutionaries had put the East India Company in its place with the Boston Tea Party, and that, they thought, was the end of that. Unfortunately, the Boston Tea Party was not the end of that. It was only the beginning of the power of corporations in America.

The Birth of the Corporate “Person”

Fast forward 225 years.

The American war over corporate power is heating up again. A current struggle centers on the question of whether corporations should be “people” in the eyes of the law.

In October 2002, Nike appealed a lawsuit against it to the Supreme Court, asking it to rule that Nike's letters to newspapers about treatment of workers in Indonesia and Vietnam are protected by the First Amendment.

In Pennsylvania, several townships recently passed laws forbidding corporate-owned farms. In response, agribusiness corporations threatened to sue the townships for violation of their civil rights—just as if these corporations were persons.

Imagine. In today's America, when a new human is born, she is instantly protected by the full weight and power of the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Similarly, when papers called articles of incorporation are submitted to governments in America (and most other nations of the world), another type of new “person” is brought forth into the nation.

The new corporate person is instantly endowed with many of the rights and protections of personhood. It doesn't breathe or eat, can't be enslaved, can live forever, doesn't fear prison, and can't be executed if found guilty of misdoings. It is not a human but a creation of humans. Nonetheless, the new corporation gets many of the Constitutional protections America's founders gave humans to protect them against governments or other potential oppressors. How did corporations become persons?

After the Revolutionary War, Thomas Jefferson proposed a Bill of Rights with 12 amendments, one of which would “ban commercial monopolies,” forever making it illegal for corporations to own other corporations, to do business in more than one specific product or market, and thus forever preventing another oppressive commercial juggernaut like the East India Company from arising again in North America to threaten democracy and oppress the people.

But Jefferson's amendment failed and the corporations fought back. Now those corporations use the club of the amendments that did pass to influence elections and legislation favoring them—in the name of their rights as persons.

An Historic Goof?

What most people don't realize is that this is a recent agreement—and it is based on an historic error. Only since 1886 have the Bill of Rights and the 14th Amendment been applied explicitly to corporations. For 100 years people have believed that the 1886 case Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad included the statement “Corporations are persons.” But looking at the actual case documents, I found that this was never stated by the court, and indeed the chief justice explicitly ruled that matter out of consideration in the case.

The claim that corporations are persons was added by the court reporter who wrote the introduction to the decision, called “headnotes.” Headnotes have no legal standing.

It appears that corporations acquired personhood by persuading a court reporter and a Supreme Court judge to make a notation in the headnotes of an unrelated law case. In Everyman's Constitution, legal historian Howard Jay Graham documents scores of previous attempts by Supreme Court Justice Stephen J. Field to influence the legal process to the benefit of his open patrons, the railroad corporations. Field, as judge on the Ninth Circuit in California, had repeatedly ruled that corporations were persons under the 14th Amendment, so it doesn't take much imagination to guess what Field might have suggested Court Recorder J.C. Bancroft Davis include in the transcript, perhaps even offering the language, which happened to match his own language in previous lower court cases.

Alternatively, Davis may have acted on his own initiative. This was no ordinary court reporter. He was well-connected to the levers of power in his world, which in 1880s America were principally the railroads, and had, himself, served as president of the board of a railroad company.

Regardless of how it happened, an amendment to the Constitution, designed to protect the rights of African Americans after the Civil War, passed by Congress, voted on and ratified by the states, and signed into law by the president, was re-interpreted in 1886 for the benefit of corporations. The notion that corporations are persons has never been voted into law by the people or by Congress, and all the court decisions endorsing it derive from the precedent of the 1886 case—from Davis' error.

Other legal errors have been corrected with time. The notions that women aren't persons under the law, (affirmed, for example, in the 1873 Bradwell v. State case) and that blacks aren't entitled to equal protection (decided in the Dred Scott and Plessy cases) were superseded by court cases affirming the full rights of African Americans and women under the law. The establishment of corporate personhood, on the flimsy foundation of a court reporter's insertion of a phrase into a legal summary, may be the next mistake to be corrected, particularly if grassroots efforts continue to challenge the legitimacy of corporate personhood.

(Adapted from Thom Hartmann's book Unequal Protection: The Rise of Corporate Dominance and The Theft of Human Rights)

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

Capitalism in Crisis: Our Opportunity for a New System

Wednesday, 19 June 2013 13:30 By Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese, Truthout | News Analysis


It's time to end the era of Big Finance capitalism and an economy based on the extraction of resources, especially for energy. This statement is not an ideological proposal, but a practical one. We simply cannot continue on the present path, and as systems fail and resources become scarce, we will be forced to change what we do.

While this sounds pessimistic, it is actually an opportunity to be optimistic. Out of crisis spring new opportunities. The transition to a new economy based on sustainability and democracy has been growing worldwide for decades now and is taking root in the United States. And the new economy is being founded in principles that strengthen people, communities and the planet.

We are literally in the midst of reshaping the world and as a result, this is the time to make the new economy in a way that is redefining, as economist Joel Magnuson writes, "what is good, beautiful, fair, or wholesome, and making sure that our economic system allows us to live according to these beliefs."

Magnuson is author of The Approaching Great Transformation: Toward a Livable Post- Carbon Economy. As the title implies, Magnuson focuses on the decline of fossil fuels and the ways this will force us to develop smaller localized economies that do not emphasize growth.

Magnuson's work is complemented by economist Gar Alperovitz, author of America Beyond Capitalism and his newest book, What Then Must We Do?: Straight Talk About the Next American Revolution. Alperovitz writes about other crisis opportunities, like the health care and banking crises, that are forcing change. He sees the United States at the beginnings of re-making the economy so that wealth, and the political power that goes with it, is shared by all. Both authors provide current examples of how communities and other institutions are responding to the reality of finding alternative ways to meet our needs. We can build on the experience of these models to prepare ourselves to face the environmental and economic crises and transform our social systems to be more just and sustainable at the same time.

There Is No Such Thing as Green Capitalism; Re-Localization Is Necessary

As Buckminster Fuller says, "To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete." There is a simple truth: that every system does what it is designed to do. If a different outcome is desired, then the system must be changed. This is true with the current economic system, which is rooted in capitalism and which has been expanded globally through neoliberal economic policies.

Hundreds of years of experience with the capitalist economy and the recent decades of explosive globalization have provided sufficient information to see that they are incompatible with sustainability. The main drivers of capitalism are consistent growth and increasing profits, which have been gained by exploitation of people and the planet. And globalization is possible because of cheap fossil fuels. In contrast, a sustainable economy will have to be driven by remaining within the limits of the planet's capacity. We can't have it both ways; we can't have both unlimited growth and sustainability.

Magnuson argues that there is no such thing as green capitalism and that the much praised "triple bottom line" in business will only slow our demise rather than prevent it. If we are to transition to the new economy successfully, then we have to change our way of doing business and our way of life.

Many of the concepts that are being put forth to mitigate our crises are perhaps palatable, but are not real answers. Market solutions such as true-cost pricing and carbon trading have been promoted to solve our climate and energy crises because these are easy and acceptable to most people. They mean we don't really have to change the way we live. But they won't work, as Magnuson outlines very clearly in his book. If we pursue them, we will learn this lesson the hard way when we run out of fossil fuel completely or make the ecosystem incompatible with human life.

Likewise, simply creating systems that recycle materials, while important, is also insufficient because the vast majority of our economy is based on, as Magnuson writes, "cheap, one-time fossil fuels" and, "It would be a wild stretch of imagination to think that we could substitute this magnitude of production and consumption with recycled materials."

There is also a dilemma regarding increasing efficiency if it is not achieved within a new economic system. Too often, increased efficiency has led to increased use and no fundamental change at the bottom line. As an example, Magnuson notes that, "Since 1980 the fuel efficiency of cars in the US has increased by 30 percent, but fuel consumption per vehicle has stayed about the same." When something becomes more efficient, people may simply use it more. Technology alone is also not the answer, though it is part of the solution. So far, technology has been used to increase efficiency, but the data show that "the rate with which we burn through materials has increased despite the wonders of technology." Instead of a technological solution, we must first change the foundation of the economic system to that of sustainability, and then design technology that serves the ends we desire, not vice versa. We are witnessing the reality of the destructive effect of "natural selection" under capitalism. Magnuson writes, "The fittest have never been those that are most efficient, but rather those that are most powerful. Also, capitalism as a system has never been about mere survival. It is about growth, accumulation, and expansion." In nature, growth as an end goal is pathological - as we see in cancer cells or invasive plants.

The increased economic and environmental costs of fossil fuel and extractable resources will force us to create smaller-scale and more localized communities. Fortunately, this is underway around the world in the more than decade-old Transition Town Movement, which Magnuson describes in detail. Based on the ideas of permaculture, transition towns are places where the community comes together to design an "energy descent action plan" with specific steps to be taken based on the resources at hand in that particular community and its needs.

There is not one way to do things in the transition town movement. Rather, in what is called "The Great Unleashing" in transition towns, groups that are working on a variety of projects, such as renewable energy or local food production, local economies, construction, arts and more, join together to meet the needs of their community in a democratic and even joyful way.

Combining the idea of transition towns with the concepts developed by meta-economists such as E. F. Schumacher can lead to the development of new systems that replace the old systems and that are not only sustainable but actually create a better quality of life. Re-localization of the economy is an opportunity to redefine what we value and build systems that support those values.

[-] 5 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

If Not Capitalism, Then What?

Alperovitz sees examples throughout the country of the beginning of a transformation to a new democratic economy that is different from corporate capitalism and state socialism. In the new economy, wealth is shared more equitably, workers own and manage the companies they work for, Wall Street finance is replaced by public banks, and an insurance-based sick-care system is replaced by a national public health program, among many other changes. Control over the economy comes from the bottom, rather than the top. We are in the midst of revolutionary economic change, a process that Alperovitz calls "evolutionary reconstruction." This involves the gradual process of remaking the economy by creating new democratic economic institutions and recreating existing structures that will grow and replace the current system.

This transformation is happening because the existing system is not working for most Americans. In a country where the wealthiest 100 people have wealth equal to 180 million people, the wealth divide has become so extreme that the economy is dysfunctional. And unfettered investment-gambling by large financial institutions in derivatives worth trillions of dollars places the US and world economies at risk of another collapse.

Fortunately, we are further along the path to transformation than most of the public realizes and further along than the corporate mass media reports. Alperovitz points out: "130 million Americans - 40 percent of the population - are members of one or another form of cooperative, a traditional collective ownership form that now includes large numbers of credit unions, agricultural co-ops dating back to the 1930s, electrical co-ops prevalent in many rural areas, insurance co-ops, food co-ops, retail co-ops (such as the outdoor recreational company REI and the hardware purchasing cooperative ACE), health-care co-ops, artist co-ops and many, many more."

What are some of the ingredients of the new economy? Alperovitz calls it a "pluralist commonwealth." It includes cooperatives, worker-owned companies, neighborhood corporations, small- and medium-sized independent firms, municipal enterprises, state health efforts, new ways of banking and investing, regional energy, benefit corporations, land trusts and national public firms, and related democratic planning capacities like participatory budgeting.

He notes that the zeitgeist of the times is pushing a great economic debate upon us. He highlights that the Merriam-Webster dictionary announced a few months ago that the two most looked-up words in 2012 were "socialism" and "capitalism." In addition, a Pew poll found that people age 18 to 29 have a more favorable reaction to the term "socialism" than to "capitalism" by a ratio of 49 to 43 percent. This demonstrates that Americans are looking for new answers. There is an opening for a real and serious discussion about alternatives to the present system.

Alperovitz recognizes there is no full alternative in place at this time and that worker-owned cooperatives can fall under many of the same market pressures that capitalist-owned businesses suffer. More development is needed to create improved models. One example Alperovitz points to is the Evergreen Cooperative model which links worker-ownership with community interest. He calls this "a 'mixed' model ... that involves worker co-ops that are linked together and subordinated to a community-wide, nonprofit structure." For larger models to learn from, Alperovitz looks abroad to the Mondragon cooperatives in Spain and the Emilia Romagna network of cooperatives in Italy. "Mondragon has demonstrated how an integrated system of more than 100 cooperatives can function effectively (and in areas of high technical requirement) - and at the same time maintain an extremely egalitarian and participatory culture of institution control. The Italian cooperatives have demonstrated important ways to achieve 'networked' production among large numbers of small units - and further, to use the regional government in support of the overall effort."

Alperovitz urges us to get serious about this discussion and "engage in a far-reaching and thoughtful debate about how a new model might be created that is both systemically sophisticated and also appropriate to American culture and traditions - a model that nurtures democracy and a culture of inclusiveness and ecological sanity."

And while we are figuring out this new comprehensive model, we can continue to experiment with new democratic models in the workplace and the economy at local and state levels. As we discover systems that function to empower people through more equitable sharing of wealth and greater control over their economic lives, these systems will be adopted in other places. This creates momentum that propels the new system forward. In What Then Must We Do? Alperovitz calls this "checkerboarding."

Alperovitz acknowledges the dysfunction of the political system in Washington DC, but he points out that Congress is not the only place where reform is possible. In fact, throughout history the steady progression of city-by-city and state-by-state policy changes has led to change at the national level. When neighboring states adopt a new policy that works, then nearby states will see it and copy it. He points to how this is currently occurring with gay rights and the reform of marijuana laws.

[-] 5 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

Banking and Health Care: Opportunities for Major Change

At the national level, Alperovitz sees two major "hot spots" that could cause significant structural changes with big impacts on the economy. These are health care and banking. Both are major foundations of the big-finance economy. They have in common that both are failing tens of millions of people and that there are already state and local efforts to change them.

US health care, which makes up 18 percent of the economy, is responsible for 100,000 preventable deaths each year. The number of uninsured has hovered around 46 to 50 million for years, and the number of people with insurance who are unable to afford health services is climbing.

The implementation of the Affordable Care Act (a k a Obamacare) does not address the fundamental problems of private health insurance, for-profit hospitals and the pharmaceutical industry's profiteering. It is like putting a very expensive Band-Aid on a fatal disease. The Congressional Budget Office now estimates that when Obamacare is fully implemented, 31 million people will still not have insurance. And those who do have insurance will be paying higher premiums for less coverage. The nation will become a nation of underinsured who, when they get seriously ill, are at an even greater risk of bankruptcy.

Alperovitz notes that efforts to create single-payer health care systems are being pursued in nearly two dozen states. One state, Vermont, has come the closest to success by passing a health law that creates a path to a single-payer health system that would provide health care to everyone in the state. Even its incomplete success is already infectious: people in other states are organizing along a route similar to Vermont's, using the concept of health care as a human right to back their demand for a single-payer system. Economic pressure will encourage state legislators to appreciate the budget savings of a single-payer health system.

Big bank finance is also an area that is dysfunctional. The banks are too big to regulate, too big to allow to fail and too big to prosecute. They were bailed out with trillions of dollars from the Federal Reserve and Department of Treasury and continue to receive $85 billion each month from the Federal Reserve in virtually free loans. Yet small businesses are starved for cash and struggle to find banks that will extend credit to them, so the economy continues to falter. It has also come to light that the model used recently in Cyprus, of taking the savings of depositors during a financial crisis, is also the model of the big banks in the United States. Rather than a bailout, the banks are planning for a bail-in if their risky investments falter - that is, they are planning on turning savings into bank stock to bail themselves out.

As a result of these factors, there is growing interest in public banks, with 20 states considering some form of legislation around the issue and some cities seriously looking at the option of a city bank. The rationale for this type of bank is hard to challenge - keep your government money in your city or state instead of giving it to Wall Street banks and use that money to leverage more funds for investment in your state. This essentially allows banks to operate in the public interest, investing in Main Street rather than Wall Street, for example through low-cost student loans, loans to entrepreneurs, responsible mortgages, greening the economy and rebuilding infrastructure.

As a historian, Alperovitz knows the future is not predictable, but he sees models being developed, the desire for something new and the dysfunction of government and the economy creating a situation such that we could be on the verge of "the next American explosion." He sees the changes being put in place as "lay[ing] the foundation for something that could well become very important."

Don't Save Capitalism, Change the System

In the early 1900s, the capitalist economy was in a crisis. Decades of corruption and cronyism created conditions similar to today: mistreatment of workers, high unemployment and pollution of the environment were rampant problems. In response, a strong movement arose, made up of labor and the left, pushing for greater equality and rights. This frightened Big Finance and forced it to act. The response was New Deal policies that provided jobs and a safety net.

Many view the New Deal not necessarily as a massive social program but as an effective tool to rescue capitalism. Labor and the left were pushing for socialization of the economy. The New Deal created just enough socialization through public jobs programs and Social Security and enough relief of popular suffering that people were placated. Of course, this is a simplified version of the story. There was still strong pushback by Big Finance to limit progressive policies, which led to ups and downs throughout the 1930s, and of course World War II created an economic boom.

The point is that instead of a real transformation of the economy in the 1930s and 40s, we saw changes within the finance capitalist system to make it more palatable to the people. The overall system did not change, and over time is reverting back to the position of gross corruption and inequality, as well as the destruction of unions and the safety net that we see today.

This presents another opportunity. There will be forces from the top that will try to rescue capitalism again. One current example is the new "B Team" announced by Arianna Huffington of The Huffington Post and run by wealthy financiers Sir Richard Branson of the Virgin Group and Jochen Zeitz, who rescued Puma from financial collapse. Their goal is to "prioritize people and planet alongside profit." The B Team uses language that is similar to what groups who are calling for progressive change use, such as "People and the planet before profit" and "Human needs, not corporate greed." But the B Team mission is to serve people, the planet and profit. To us, this sounds like another New Deal approach to throw fundamental change off track. We appreciate that these business leaders see the inequity, ecological destruction and unfairness of the present system and want to do something about it, but we believe the real solution is greater systemic change.

And so this is the challenge of the people. We can sit back and let Big Finance run the world economy based on profit as an important value, or we can get active and join with those creating a new economy that is democratic, grassroots and rooted in the values that are important to greater humanity. It is up to us to create the economy that serves the needs of people, protects the planet and exploits neither people nor the Earth.

Capitalism is once again at a crossroads. We can determine the path. We can create a system that is neither corporate capitalism nor state socialism but that is defined by the limits of resources and by the desires of the people. This new system will have some features of both capitalism and socialism, but will be rooted in participatory democracy, fair sharing of economic wealth and ownership, and values such as cooperation and sustainability.

The future is in our hands. A lot is already happening. Let's dig in, work together and create not just a new world, but a better place for all of us.

To get involved in the movement to transform the economy and politics. Visit PopularResistance.org. Further Reading:

History Teaches That We Have the Power to Transform the Nation Before Next Crash, Create Finance System That Serves Public, Part I: Shrink, Regulate Banks, and Enforce Law Remaking the Federal Reserve, Building Public Banks and Opting Out of Wall Street, Remaking Finance Part II Opting Out of Wall Street and Building Sustainable, Resilient Communities: Remaking Finance, Part III

You can hear "How We Create the New Economy" with Gar Alperovitz on Clearing the FOG here.

This article was first published on Truthout and any reprint or reproduction on any other website must acknowledge Truthout as the original site of publication.

[-] 2 points by Phanya2011 (908) from Tucson, AZ 9 years ago

Hi! You have wonderful ideas. I am writing a screenplay that shows the results of a new way of doing everything. I have some ideas, but your input would greatly help. I created a blog -- http://createyourownreality-parksview.blogspot.com/ -- where I am drafting the basic plot, characters, etc. for a screenplay. If you have a minute, I would appreciate any input you might like to add. I maintain that if we can see a visual representation of what the world we are striving to create would be like, it will be easier to believe it. Hopefully, it will even seem possible by the time I am finished.

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

Well, ask me specifically whatever you'd like and we'll see what I can come up with.

[-] 2 points by frovikleka (2563) from Island Heights, NJ 9 years ago

It is only in times of a crisis will we be able to get the sea change we need in the way our political and financial institutions are run

We are in that crisis now, and we should take advantage of it


[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

Public Banking Institute


The Public Banking Institute (PBI) was formed in January 2011 as an educational non-profit organization. Its mission is to further the understanding, explore the possibilities, and facilitate the implementation of public banking at all levels -- local, regional, state, and national.

PBI’s vision is to establish a distributed network of state and local publicly-owned banks that create affordable credit, while providing a sustainable alternative to the current high-risk centralized private banking system. This network will act in the public interest, using its counter-cyclical credit-generating capacity to stabilize potential credit crises, maintain the floor against threats of asset devaluations, build infrastructure, and fund expansion of critical industrial productive capacity. Most important, public banking will create jobs, by partnering with local banks to fund local business, advancing credit for public infrastructure, and augmenting government revenues.

PBI’s mission includes analyzing U.S. and global financial events to facilitate public banking, sharing best practices and lessons learned from research and initiatives in the U.S. and globally, using PBI’s online resources, website, webinars, blog, and in-person conferences. PBI’s activities include:

• Publication of research involving the U.S. private banking system, past and current;

• Evaluation of existing and historical public banking models, in the U.S. and abroad;

• Publication of research regarding the legal requirements, structure, and daily operations of existing and proposed public banking and financing systems;

• Publication of a semi-annual legislative guide and presentations to aide local public banking initiatives; and

• Organization of public forums that enable state and local public banking efforts.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

Transcend Conditioned Consciousness: None But Ourselves Can Free Our Minds

Monday, 17 June 2013 10:00 By David DeGraw, Notes From the Underground | News Analysis


Seventeen years ago, I read a book called The Evolving Self. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, it profoundly affected the direction of my life. Here’s the section of the book that became a splinter in my mind and resonated the most with me:

“In order to gain control of consciousness, we must learn how to moderate the biases built into the machinery of the brain. We allow a whole series of illusions to stand between ourselves and reality…. These distortions are comforting, yet they need to be seen through for the self to be truly liberated… to come ever closer to getting a glimpse of the universal order, and of our part in it.”

Since reading that, I have dedicated my life to coming “ever closer to getting a glimpse of the universal order, and of our part in it.” After years of research and analysis, I’ve come to hard-fought, battle-tested conclusions that I’ve been sharing with people to great effect, and will share with you now. This will not be for the faint of heart. It will hit hard and we don’t have much time, so let’s get right down to it. At this point, if you spend much time researching power politics or the distribution of wealth, resources and basic necessities, it seems evident and undeniable, dare I say, “common sense,” that we, in fact, live in a neo-feudal society built on debt and mental slavery.

That may sound like over-the-top rhetoric, and it obviously sounds extreme to propagandized and conditioned minds, and yes, it is extreme. However, it is the unfortunate reality of the present situation. The facts are there for the rational and unbiased mind to absorb and comprehend.

If you take a few minutes of your time and read this through, it will easily be proven. We will look at how the system works, and then, hopefully, we will begin the process of evolving society together, as grandiose as that may sound.

Let’s start by giving some context and perspective on present circumstances by breaking down some economic data. As Thomas Jefferson once said, “Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day.”

I: Unprecedented Wealth

For the past 35 years, with technological advancements, there has been an explosion in production and profits, in wealth creation. That unprecedented increase in wealth, as many of you know, has gone to the top economic 1%. Most of it, the lion’s share of it, went to not even the top economic 1%, but to the top one-hundredth of one percent, to the modern day aristocracy.

After analyzing the most recent data, here’s the headline: US millionaire households now have $50 trillion in wealth. They have $39 trillion in legally accounted for wealth, and an estimate of $11 trillion hidden in offshore accounts.

Let that sink in for a moment… 50 TRILLION DOLLAR$.

Most people cannot even comprehend how much $1 trillion is, let alone $50 trillion. One trillion is equal to 1000 billion, or $1,000,000,000,000.00.

Only one-tenth of one percent of the population makes one million dollars a year, and, again, most of that wealth is in the top one-hundredth of one percent.

To show how consolidated the wealth is, even in the upper most portion of the top one percentile, the richest 400 people have as much wealth as 185 million Americans combined; that’s only 400 people with as much wealth as 60% of the entire US population. Before continuing, let me defuse the reactionary propagandized mind’s instinctive response. This is not about demonizing people just because they have money. There are many people who are using their wealth and resources to improve the human condition. It’s important to understand that the focus here is not on the people who have a mere $10 million or so in wealth. When discussing the modern day aristocracy, the main focus is on the pathological, shortsighted and greed-addicted forces that are doing much more to limit human potential than enhance it.

Broadly speaking, the aristocracy is composed of governments, political parties, policy groups, think tanks, intel factions, private military companies, large global corporations, banks and media empires. Included in that are mega-wealthy billionaires and CEOs who have unprecedented control of wealth and resources. For example, the Business Roundtable, the people who run the 147 inter-connected corporations who control half of the world economy. However, the ultimate point here is to show people that there is presently more than enough wealth and capabilities to solve societal problems. We can truly evolve society in unprecedented fashion. At this point, there is an overwhelming majority of the population, even a majority of the mega-wealthy, who realize that our present systems are obsolete, unsustainable and unstable. We don’t need to spend our finite time and energy fighting with each other. We already have a critical mass of aware citizens, we just need to inspire and organize them to build the cultural and political will. Once we do that, we will be an unstoppable force.

Let’s get back to that 50 trillion number, because we have had an entire generation of mind-blowing wealth creation that has been systematically withheld from the population.


Can you comprehend how much money $50 trillion is? Just to give a little context, we can end world hunger and provide clean drinking water to everyone on the planet for an estimated $40 billion. Again, one trillion is one thousand billion, and we are talking about $50 trillion.

Imagine what could be done with that amount of wealth. Imagine the implications, the possibilities. Imagine how we could evolve society, to the benefit of everyone, with modern technology and just a fraction of that staggering amount of wealth.

The average American cannot comprehend how much wealth there is because there is no frame of reference, no comparison of scale or historical precedent. If Americans had an understanding of how much wealth is being kept from them and the possibilities of what we could do with that wealth, we would have a full-blown societal evolution right now.

II: Debt Slavery

It is the denial of wealth that keeps you in check; it keeps you in debt. Just at the point when technological advancement, production, distribution and wealth increases should have made everyone’s life much easier, just when basic necessities should have become much more affordable and easier to obtain, they became more expensive. The cost of production dropped dramatically and efficiency of distribution skyrocketed. Housing, food, health and education costs should have plummeted dramatically. However, most basic necessities now come at a much higher price, and people are forced to take on increasing levels of debt to keep up. As most people are aware, student debt, consumer debt, medical debt and household debt have reached all-time record highs.

As an old wise person once said, “There are two ways to conquer and enslave a nation. One is by the sword. The other is by debt.” We live in a neo-feudal system of debt slavery. The indentured servant is now the indebted consumer.

When you understand the wealth at hand, you begin to grasp the crime against humanity that is afoot. We live in the richest, most technologically advanced society humanity has ever known. Yet, here we are, in the 21st century, with an all-time record number of Americans living in poverty.

After careful consideration, it must be said that this is not only the greatest theft of wealth in history; it is also the greatest crime against humanity in history.

People can’t afford to pay their medical bills. Millions upon millions of American families have lost their homes, and millions more are on the verge of losing their homes. An all-time record number of children are going hungry. Meanwhile, record-breaking profits and record-breaking bonuses for the bailed out banana republic aristocracy.

How healthy is a society when 400 people have as much wealth as 185 million of their neighbors combined? What kind of a system produces a result like that? As famed social psychologist John Dewey said, “There is no such thing as the liberty or effective power of an individual, group, or class, except in relation to the liberties, the effective powers, of other individuals, groups or classes.”

Now that you are beginning to grasp the wealth at hand, and the possibilities of how that wealth can be used to evolve society, let’s take a look at how we got into this situation and how exactly it is that they got away with hoarding so much wealth.

To paraphrase a man who fought against the aristocracy, ‘The depravity and amount of suffering required for the accumulation of such a staggering magnitude of wealth, in the hands of a few, is kept out of the picture, out of the mass media, and it is not easy to make people see or understand this.’ Especially when you have an all-encompassing mainstream media propaganda system.

[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

III: Mental Slavery – Conditioned Consciousness

“To subdue the enemy without fighting is the highest skill.”

  • Sun Tzu, The Art of War, 246 BC

The mainstream media is the most effective weapon of mass oppression humanity has ever known.

Since the early 1900’s and World War I, a massive propaganda system has been in place. This is not a conspiracy theory; it is all well documented. Research Edward Bernays, Walter Lippman, Ivy Lee, George Creel and the Committee on Public Information for starters. In fact, you don’t even need a conspiracy theory; you just need a basic understanding of propaganda, social psychology and behaviorism – more on that later.

The bottom line, as Dewey once said, “We live exposed to the greatest flood of mass suggestion humanity has ever experienced.” Speaking from personal experience, having been born and raised inside this propaganda system, and still obviously living inside it, I have come to realize that even the most independent minded among us vastly underestimates how mentally conditioned we all are. Most people are no more consciously aware of this mental domination than they are aware of gravity. It’s like the air we breathe.

For two obvious examples, let’s start with television consumption and advertising. The average American watches more than five hours of TV a day, every single day of their life. American children view more than 40,000 ads per year, every single year of their life. Think about that. That’s intensive mental domination administered on a daily basis, from the cradle to the grave.

Ultimately, as Phil Merikle summed it up, “It’s what advertisers have known all along: if we just keep the exposure rate up, people will be influenced.” Repetition, it’s all about repetition.

Repetitive messages fill our mental atmosphere. To paraphrase Philip Lesley in Managing the Human Climate, ‘When a message appears all around you, you tend to accept it and take it for granted. You find yourself surrounded by it and your subconscious mind absorbs and becomes immersed in the climate of repetitive ideas.’ They form the origins of your thoughts. It’s where your desires, opinions and perspectives are born.

To spin a McLuhan riff, the mainstream mass media is the software on which our minds run; it’s our operating system. It’s an extension of our nervous system. Repetitive mainstream propaganda creates a belief system, popular reference points, symbols, archetypes, mental patterns, a mindset and groupthink, all based on repetition – and groupthink is a highly contagious infectious disease.

It’s hard to escape groupthink. As with freedom and democracy, you must be ever vigilant to avoid the tyranny of groupthink and cultural conditioning. As Walter Lippmann said, “In the great blooming, buzzing confusion of the outer world, we pick out what our culture has already defined for us, and we tend to perceive that which we have picked out in the form stereotyped for us by our culture.” To remix a quote from Dostoevsky, ‘Leave people alone without mass media and they will be lost and confused. They will not know what to support, what to cling to, what to love and what to hate, what to respect and what to despise.’

Malcolm X said it best, “The media’s the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. Because they control the minds of the masses.”

The mainstream media keeps everyone isolated inside a false reality, a pseudo mental environment. People are trapped in a bubble of status quo supporting reality, in a bubble of what’s good for shortsighted, short-term corporate interests.

People’s consciousness and awareness gets conditioned and contracted, they become isolated and detached from wider reality. People are born and raised inside mass media created illusions. As Eduardo Galeano put it, “The majority must resign itself to the consumption of fantasy. Illusions of wealth are sold to the poor, illusions of freedom to the oppressed, dreams of victory to the defeated and of power to the weak.”

As Harold Lasswell said in 1927, “The new antidote to willfulness is propaganda. If the mass will be free of chains of iron, it must accept its chains of silver. If it will not love, honor, and obey, it must not expect to escape seduction.”

Now, let’s sharpen our focus a bit and look from a more practical perspective.

IV: The Spectrum of Thinkable Thought

The censorship that is most prevalent today is the most dangerous form. Not censorship of explicit words, sex or violence, but censorship of any thoughts outside of shortsighted corporate ideology. Any thoughts that lead to critical thought on the established power structure or veer outside of the spectrum of status quo supporting opinion are left out of the debate, out of mainstream public consciousness.

The mainstream press does not cover the most vital social, economic and political issues. The more important something is, the less they report on it. If mentioned at all, it’s mentioned in passing, with little, if any, in-depth reporting, discussion and debate on it. It’s censorship by omission and bullshit on repetition.

As Noam Chomsky observed, this is how propaganda and social control posing as freedom and democracy works: “The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum…. That gives people the sense that there’s freethinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate.” To paraphrase Alex Carey, they create ‘the spectrum of thinkable thought. They set the terms of debate, to determine the kinds of questions that will dominate public consciousness, people’s thoughts. They set the political agenda in ways that are favorable to shortsighted corporate interests. The debate is never about the curtailment of the manipulative power of entrenched global corporations.’

Imagine wall-to-wall 24/7 news coverage of the trillions of dollars in fraudulent activity that got us into this mess. Imagine in-depth coverage of the corruption of our political process through a system of bribery that makes the mafia look like amateurs.

What about the staggering consolidation of wealth? Imagine if the media kept discussing how a small percentage of the population has 50 trillion dollars, then they started debating how we could use just a fraction of that money to solve problems, create solutions and evolve society.

What if they reported on all the wealth and resources that a small number of corporations control, then debated how that wealth and those resources could be redeployed to get us onto a sustainable and thriving path?

When you understand what is possible, you see how truly corrupt, shortsighted, ignorant and obsolete our system of rule is. You then realize that our mainstream media system is pure propaganda. When you see the reality that they don’t tell you about, it becomes all too clear. If you were to just look at what they don’t tell you, you would see. Mainstream media is the most effective weapon of mass oppression humanity has ever known. It’s hard to break free, when you are always told you are free.

As Huxley put it in Brave New World Revisited, “The victim of mind-manipulation does not know that they are a victim. To them, the walls of their prison are invisible, and they believe they are free.”

You can’t break free until you see the walls. The whips and chains have evolved into TVs and radios. As William Blum said, “Propaganda is to democracy what violence is to dictatorships.” If television was around in the 1770s, we would still be living under British rule.

In the land of propaganda, tyranny is democracy. It’s “enlightened despotism.” When it comes to oppression, it’s all cyclical yet evolutionary. Most people live in a mental cage now, they toil on mentally conditioned plantations.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

V: Behaviorism & Assembly Line Intelligentsia

People reading this may try to dismiss it as a conspiracy theory. We must always be conscious of the reactionary propagandized mind and the army of paid off propagandists who uphold this system of mental domination. “Conspiracy theory” is the ultimate label to trigger dismissal without causing people to think about the content and substance of the message.

When it comes to the reactionary propagandized mind, their impulsive, instinctive dismissal further demonstrates how well they have been indoctrinated and conditioned. Once again, you don’t need a conspiracy theory to understand the system of mental conditioning; you just need to have a basic understanding of propaganda, social psychology and behaviorism. Modern indoctrinated intelligentsia have been produced like products off an assembly line. In The Genesis of the Technocratic Elite, Zoran Vidakovic breaks down how the assembly line of indoctrination works:

“Selection, education, and specific indoctrination of technical and administrative cadres are carried out first in metropolitan educational and research factories and their branches in dependent societies, under the wing of the superficially independent foundations which sustain the international projects of ‘technical aid,’ and then within the personnel policy of the transnational corporations that raise people from the local environments to responsible managerial and technical functions in their internationally located branches, or that in other ways subordinate and direct the ‘modernized’ industrial entrepreneurs, agrarian ‘reformers,’ functionaries, and leading intellectuals from the ministries and banks, universities, and public information, cultural, and scientific institutions.

The essential effect of this great factory for the almost assembly line production of dependent and emasculated ‘technocratic elites’ is that the material position, status, and professional success of the members of these groups imperatively depends on their conformity to the ideology of dependence and the interiorization of the intellectual, political, and ideological characteristics of this social type programmed in metropolitan laboratories for the technological, social, and cultural transformation of ‘developing countries.’…

The ideology of total repression unites with the ideology of technological and cultural dependency and assimilation; in this union repression gains strength as the condition of the entire dependent economic growth, technological progress, and ‘modernization of society,’ as a circle of insurmountable dependency on the import of prefabricated knowledge and technical and consumerist models is closed up by the ambitions of the protagonists of authoritarian rule.”

We live in a Skinner box. It’s classic “behavioral modification” (b-mod) within a “token economy.” We have an outdated system of incentives; you incentivize and reward certain behavior, and you punish or withdraw basic necessities for other behavior. It’s behaviorism 101.

Give people a paycheck to have certain opinions, to do certain things. You can see it everywhere, in almost all professions, not just the media. If you think a certain way, if you do certain things, you will be awarded with a paycheck. If you don’t, you lose your paycheck. Or, as Thomas Paine said in Rights of Man, “Those who do not participate in this enacting do not get fed.”

People get paid a lot of money to spew bullshit talking point propaganda on a daily basis. The truth of the matter: if you propagate the message of tyrants, and if you are good at it, you can become rich and famous. That’s what primitive self-obsessed ego-driven careerists do. They are the ultimate pawns of empire. They enrich themselves by riding the coattails of conquerors.

As W.E.H. Lecky once said, ‘The simple fact of applying certain penalties to the profession of particular opinions, and rewards to the profession of opposite opinions, while it will make many hypocrites, it will also make many converts.’

Our Skinner box society, our token economy is run by the modern day aristocracy through a system of enlightened despotism. You either bow down and play by their rules or you lose access to basic necessities. It’s the root of modern monetary enslavement – debt and wage slavery.

The fact of the matter, the truth of the matter: we are not supposed to be freethinking participatory citizens involved in the decision-making processes that guide our lives and determine our fate. We are mentally conditioned to be spectators, mindless reactionary consumers and wage slaves.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

VI: Totalitarian Minds Inside the All-Consuming Cult

If you want to get wicked about it, we could quote extensively from the work of Edward Bernays, Gustave LeBon or Walter Lippman on the “bewildered herd,” but that’s too easy. Let’s drop some Jacques Ellul, from his 1965 analysis of the social mind, Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes:

“Propaganda is today a greater danger to mankind than any of the other more grandly advertised threats hanging over the human race…. Propaganda ruins not only democratic ideas but also democratic behavior – the foundation of democracy, the very quality without which it cannot exist…. Propaganda destroys its very foundations. It creates a man who is suited to a totalitarian society….

A man who lives in a democratic society and who is subjected to propaganda is being drained of the democratic content itself – of the style of democratic life, understanding of others… he is a ‘totalitarian man with democratic convictions,’ but those convictions do not change his behavior in the least. Such contradiction is in no way felt by the individual for whom democracy has become a myth and a set of democratic imperatives, merely stimuli that activate conditioned reflexives.

The word democracy, having become a simple incitation, no longer has anything to do with democratic behavior. And the citizen can repeat indefinitely ‘the sacred formulas of democracy’ while acting like a storm trooper.”

That is as accurate a depiction of the average modern American as I have ever come across. In the same book, Ellul went on to explain the inherent danger of our two-party system and the general apathy Americans have toward politics:

“The conflicting propaganda of opposing parties is essentially what leads to political abstention. But this is not the abstention of the free spirit which asserts itself; it is the result of resignation, the external symptom of a series of inhibitions. Such a man has not decided to abstain; under diverse pressures, subjected to shocks and distortions, he can no longer (even if he wanted to) perform a political act. What is even more serious is that this inhibition not only is political, but also progressively takes over the whole of his being and leads to a general attitude of surrender….

At the same time, this crystallization closes his mind to all new ideas. The individual now has a set of prejudices and beliefs…. His entire personality now revolves around those elements. Every new idea will therefore be troublesome to his entire being.”

In Comments on the Society of the Spectacle, Guy DeBord summed up the primary function of the mainstream media, “For what is communicated are orders; and with perfect harmony, those who give them are also those who tell us what they think of them.”

For an even deeper understanding on how propaganda works, let’s return to Ellul:

“Governmental propaganda suggests that public opinion demand this or that decision; it provokes the will of a people, who spontaneously say nothing. But, once evoked, formed, and crystallized on a point, that will becomes the people’s will.

The government really acts on its own, it just gives the impression of obeying public opinion, after having first built that public opinion. The point is to make the masses demand of the government what the government has already decided to do.”

They “amputate the argument” and replace it with “engineered consensus.” As Robert Lynd wrote in Democracy In Reverse, “They operate actually to confirm the citizen’s false sense of security in totaling up ‘what the majority think’… The false sense of the public’s being ‘boss’ that they encourage operates to narcotize public awareness of the seriousness of problems and of the drastic social changes many contemporary situations require.”

In 1935, Malcolm Willey explained, “An individual may be moved to action through repetition, as, for example, in advertising; but his action is made more certain if he is made to realize that thousands, even millions, of others are thinking and feeling as he himself does. Herein lies the importance of the contemporary communication network; it not only carries its symbols to the individual, it also impresses upon him a sense of numbers.”

James Madison also realized this when he wrote Public Opinion, “The larger a country, the less easy for its real opinion to be ascertained, and the less difficult to be counterfeited.” That was written in 1791, when the US population was only about five million people.

In 1901, Gabriel Tarde wrote, “Newspapers have transformed… unified in space and diversified in time the conversations of individuals, even those who do not read papers but who, talking to those who do, are forced to follow the groove of their borrowed thoughts. One pen suffices to set off a million tongues.”

Bertrand Russell also hit at the root in Free Thought and Official Propaganda, when he said, “it is much easier than it used to be to spread misinformation, and, owing to democracy, the spread of misinformation is more important than in former times to the holders of power.”

1.Taking the Risk Out of Democracy, Alex Carey summed it all up in this one sentence: “That this simple regime of thought-control should prove to have been so triumphant, with so little public resistance, must be put down to its persistent, repetitive orchestration.”

For all the discussion and focus on political and economic policy, what we really need to do on the individual level, first and foremost, is transcend conditioned consciousness. Once we do that, positive political and economic policy will be the natural byproduct and inevitable result.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

VII: Free Your Mind

“You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inured, so hopelessly dependent on the system, that they will fight to protect it… Sooner or later you’re going to realize, just as I did, that there’s a difference between knowing the path, and walking the path. I’m trying to free your mind… But I can only show you the door. You’re the one that has to walk through it.”

– The Matrix

In revisiting the reactionary propagandized mind, when you confront a member of the consumer cult and expose their mental conditioning processes, the false reality and illusions that people are trapped in, they will instinctively dismiss or attack you. People will bite your hand when you try to remove the mental leash from their neck.

The Evolving Self, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi explains further, “To prevent its annihilation, the ego forces us to be constantly on the watch for anything that might threaten the symbols on which it relies for identity. Our view of the world becomes polarized into ‘good’ and ‘bad’ – things that support the image, and those that threaten it.” This is also how the third Mayan veil works. In this case, your media created cultural programming; it distorts reality to make it congruent with conditioned views.

Anything that deviates from the conditioned norm is ridiculed and instantly, instinctively dismissed before critical thinking skills are activated. The repetitious conditioning process leads to an amputation of critical thinking faculties. That which people are not familiar with becomes odd, evil and damaging to their mental construct, to their thought patterns, to their fabricated self-image. For instance, we tend to look for anything that confirms our pre-existing beliefs while ignoring anything that goes against them. This is how confirmation bias works, to paraphrase Bertrand Russell: ‘If people are offered a fact which goes against their instincts or their cultural programming, they will refuse to believe it. If, on the other hand, they are offered something which falls in accordance to their cultural programming, in accordance to their conditioning, they will accept it, even on the slightest evidence.’

Having been bred within this all-pervasive propaganda system, I understand the disbelief people feel. When our conditioned belief system is called into question and comes crashing down, it is a hard pill to swallow. No one wants to believe that they have been manipulated or taken advantage of. This will stir up an instinctive dismissal, a powerful emotional response. We are creatures of habit, and it is much easier, over theshort-term, to just stay on a path of denial and ignorance. Hear no evil. See no evil.

The task upon us is to consciously counter conditioned consciousness. The most difficult and important prerequisite to freedom is the ability to see past all of your culturally programmed biases. It takes great personal inner-strength and determination to achieve this; you will inevitably have to face many facts that will go against your programmed, conditioned beliefs. If one can endure this, one will eventually come to experience true freedom.

However, even if one is strong enough to have an awareness of their conditioning, it is another level to confront and transcend it. As Nietzsche said, “Even the most courageous among us only rarely has the courage for that which they really know.”

“Are you brave enough to see?

Do you want to change it?”

–Trent Reznor

Noam Chomsky makes the ease in which you can free your mind clear, and stresses the importance of doing so:

“To take apart the system of illusions and deception which functions to prevent understanding of contemporary reality [is] not a task that requires extraordinary skill or understanding. It requires the kind of normal skepticism and willingness to apply one’s analytical skills that almost all people have and that they can exercise….

As long as some specialized class is in position of authority, it is going to set policy in the special interests that it serves, but the conditions of survival, let alone justice, require rational social planning in the interests of the community as a whole, and by now that means the global community.

The question is whether privileged elite should dominate mass communication and should use this power as they tell us they must – namely to impose necessary illusions, to manipulate and deceive…. In this possibly terminal phase of human existence, democracy and freedom are more than values to be treasured; they may well be essential to survival.”

Most Americans are aware of the fact that we are on a disastrous path. However, many of us feel powerless to change things. These feelings are only a result of our conditioning and induced delusion. We have become so propagandized that many of us do not realize the significant position that we are in. We are not poor people trapped in a third world existence. We are a mass of people who have the power to evolve society and change the course of history. It is stunning to hear all these people, so many people saying that they can’t do anything about it. Far too many people think that we can’t create change; that is why we don’t.

Why do you think that we can’t change the world? How did you come to that conclusion? Who taught you to believe that?

The overwhelming majority feels powerless to create political change. If they would just realize that they are the overwhelming majority, they would no longer feel this way. As Ellul said, “Only when he realizes his delusion will he experience the beginning of genuine freedom – in the act of realization itself – be it only from the effort to stand back and look squarely at the phenomenon and reduce it to raw fact.”

VIII: Cyberspace Underground Railroad

Time comes and times go…

Thanks to the Internet, to the cyberspace underground railroad, people are now freeing their minds from conditioning and entrenched power censors. The Internet is to our generation what pamphlets were to our forefathers’ generation during the first American Revolution. People are going to the Internet to find out all the information that the corporate mainstream media is not letting people know about. As a result, we now have a critical mass of informed and outraged citizens who are also using the Internet to organize. They are now transcending conditioned consciousness and expanding their awareness on a scale unprecedented in human history.

A new empowering collective consciousness, built on self-sufficient and aware individuals, is quickly evolving. As William Adams Brown said, “We are developing a social conscience, and situations which would have been accepted a generation ago as a matter of course are felt as an intolerable scandal.” John Dewey continues, “Liberty in the concrete signifies release from the impact of particular oppressive forces; emancipation from something once taken as a normal part of human life but now experienced as bondage…. Today, it signifies liberation from material insecurity and from the coercions and repressions that prevent multitudes from participation in the vast cultural resources that are at hand.”

The inevitable demise of our current neo-feudal system was summed up by George Orwell when he said, “For if leisure and security were enjoyed by all alike, the great mass of human beings who are normally stupefied by poverty would become literate and would learn to think for themselves; and when once they had done this, they would sooner or later realize that the privileged minority had no function, and they would sweep it away. In the long run, a hierarchical society was only possible on a basis of poverty and ignorance.”

If you are still wondering if we can truly create change, consider this simple truth from Strobe Talbott, “All countries are basically social arrangements, accommodations to changing circumstances. No matter how permanent and even sacred they may seem at any one time, in fact they are all artificial and temporary.”

Our government was created in the time of the horse and wagon. It took days or weeks to deliver one handwritten message across state lines. Today, we have instantaneous worldwide communication and an unprecedented amount of wealth in the most technologically advanced society. The masses are now connected and aware. It’s time to evolve our obsolete system. You know it, and so does everyone else who pays attention. We will soon have new ways of living that will make our modern age like look the Stone Age. People are throwing off their mental shackles and realizing their potential. A new renaissance and age of enlightenment has begun. Another world is happening. Humanity is rising.

Emancipate Yourself From Mental Slavery


Transcend Conditioned Consciousness


Enough writing from the Underground. It’s time to contrive to be born, to transform our world. We are building a decentralized global network of self-sustaining community incubators designed to maximize the transformative energy around us and facilitate the evolution of society. If you want to join us in this effort, enlist here.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

Global Power Project, Part 1: Exposing the Transnational Capitalist Class

Friday, 14 June 2013 09:14 By Andrew Gavin Marshall, Occupy.com | News Analysis


The Global Power Project, an investigative series produced by Occupy.com, aims to identify and connect the worldwide institutions and individuals who comprise today's global power oligarchy. By studying the relationships and varying levels of leadership that govern our planet's most influential institutions — from banks, corporations and financial institutions to think tanks, foundations and universities — this project seeks to expose the complex, highly integrated network of influence wielded by relatively few individuals on a national and transnational basis. This is not a study of wealth, but a study of power.

Many now know the rhetoric of the 1% very well: the imagery of a small elite owning most of the wealth while the 99% take the table scraps. This rhetoric and imagery was made popular by the growth of the Occupy movement, so it seems appropriate that a project of Occupy.com should expand on this understanding and bring the activities of the global elite further to light.

In 2006, a UN report revealed that the world’s richest 1% own 40% of the world’s wealth, with those in the financial and internet sectors comprising the “super rich.” More than a third of the world’s super-rich live in the U.S., with roughly 27% in Japan, 6% in the U.K., and 5% in France. The world’s richest 10% accounted for roughly 85% of the planet's total assets, while the bottom half of the population – more than 3 billion people – owned less than 1% of the world’s wealth.

Looking specifically at the United States, the top 1% own more than 36% of the national wealth and more than the combined wealth of the bottom 95%. Almost all of the wealth gains over the previous decade went to the top 1%. In the mid-1970s, the top 1% earned 8% of all national income; this number rose to 21% by 2010. At the highest sliver at the top, the 400 wealthiest individuals in America have more wealth than the bottom 150 million.

A 2005 report from Citigroup coined the term “plutonomy” to describe countries “where economic growth is powered by and largely consumed by the wealthy few.” The report specifically identified the U.K., Canada, Australia and the United States as four plutonomies. Published three years before the onset of the financial crisis in 2008, the Citigroup report stated: “Asset booms, a rising profit share and favorable treatment by market-friendly governments have allowed the rich to prosper and become a greater share of the economy in the plutonomy countries.”

"The rich," said the report, "are in great shape, financially.” In early 2013, Oxfam reported that the fortunes made by the world’s 100 richest people over the course of 2012 – roughly $240 billion – would be enough to lift the world’s poorest people out of poverty four times over. In the Oxfam report, "The Cost of Inequality: How Wealth and Income Extremes Hurt Us All," the international charity noted that in the past 20 years, the richest 1% had increased their incomes by 60%. Barbara Stocking, an Oxfam executive, noted that this type of extreme wealth is “economically inefficient, politically corrosive, socially divisive and environmentally destructive...We can no longer pretend that the creation of wealth for a few will inevitably benefit the many – too often the reverse is true.”

The report added: “In the UK, inequality is rapidly returning to levels not seen since the time of Charles Dickens. In China the top 10% now take home nearly 60% of the income. Chinese inequality levels are now similar to those in South Africa, which is now the most unequal country on Earth and significantly more unequal than at the end of apartheid.” In the United States, the share of national income going to the top 1% has doubled from 10 to 20% since 1980, and for the top 0.01% in the United States, “the share of national income is above levels last seen in the 1920s.”

Previously, in July of 2012, James Henry, a former chief economist at McKinsey, a major global consultancy, published a major report on tax havens for the Tax Justice Network which compiled data from the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), the IMF and other private sector entities to reveal that the world’s super-rich have hidden between $21 and $32 trillion offshore to avoid taxation.

Henry stated: “This offshore economy is large enough to have a major impact on estimates of inequality of wealth and income; on estimates of national income and debt ratios; and – most importantly – to have very significant negative impacts on the domestic tax bases of ‘source’ countries.” John Christensen of the Tax Justice Network further commented that “Inequality is much, much worse than official statistics show, but politicians are still relying on trickle-down to transfer wealth to poorer people... This new data shows the exact opposite has happened: for three decades extraordinary wealth has been cascading into the offshore accounts of a tiny number of super-rich.”

With roughly half of the world’s offshore wealth, or some $10 trillion, belonging to 92,000 of the planet's richest individuals —representing not the top 1% but the top 0.001% — we see a far more extreme global disparity taking shape than the one invoked by the Occupy movement. Henry commented: “The very existence of the global offshore industry, and the tax-free status of the enormous sums invested by their wealthy clients, is predicated on secrecy.”

In his 2008 book, Superclass: The Global Power Elite and the World They Are Making, David Rothkopf, a man firmly entrenched within the institutions of global power and the elites which run them, compiled a census of roughly 6,000 individuals whom he referred to as the “superclass.” They were defined not simply by their wealth, he said, but by the influence they exercised within the realms of business, finance, politics, military, culture, the arts and beyond. Rothkopf noted: “Each member is set apart by his ability to regularly influence the lives of millions of people in multiple countries worldwide. Each actively exercises this power and often amplifies it through the development of relationships with other superclass members.”

The global elite are of course not defined by their wealth alone, but through the institutional, ideological and individual connections and networks in which they wield their influence. The most obvious example of these types of institutions are the multinational banks and corporations which dominate the global economy. In the first scientific study of its kind, Swiss researchers analyzed the relationship between 43,000 transnational corporations and “identified a relatively small group of companies, mainly banks, with disproportionate power over the global economy.”

In their report, "The Network of Global Corporate Control", researchers noted that this network – which they defined as "ownership" by a person or firm over another firm, whether partially or entirely – “is much more unequally distributed than wealth” and that “the top ranked actors hold a control ten times bigger than what could be expected based on their wealth.” The “core” of this network – which consists of the world's top 737 corporations – control 80% of all transnational corporations (TNCs). Even more extreme, the top 147 transnational corporations control roughly 40% of the entire economic value of the world’s TNCs, forming their own network known as the “super-entity.” The super-entity conglomerates all control each other, and thus control a significant portion of the rest of the world’s corporations with the “core” of the global corporate network consisting primarily of financial corporations and intermediaries.

In December of 2011, the former deputy secretary of the Treasury in the Clinton administration, Roger Altman, wrote an article for the Financial Times in which he described financial markets as “a global supra-government” which can “oust entrenched regimes... force austerity, banking bail-outs and other major policy changes.” Altman said bluntly that the influence of this entity “dwarfs multilateral institutions such as the International Monetary Fund” as “they have become the most powerful force on earth.”

With the formation of this “super-entity” – a veritable global supra-government – made up of the world’s largest banks and corporations exerting immense influence over all other corporations, a new global class structure has evolved. It is this rarefied group of individuals and firms, and the relations they hold with one another, that we wish to further understand.

According to the 2012 report, "Corporate Clout Distributed: The Influence of the World’s Largest 100 Economic Entities," of the world’s 100 largest economic entities in 2010, 42% were corporations while the rest were governments. Among the largest 150 economic entities, 58% were corporations. Wal-Mart was the largest corporation in 2010 and the 25th largest economic entity on earth, with greater revenue than the GDPs of no less than 171 countries.

According to the Fortune Global 500 list of corporations for 2011, Royal Dutch Shell next became the largest conglomerate on earth, followed by Exxon, Wal-Mart, and BP. The Global 500 made record revenue in 2011 totaling some $29.5 trillion — more than a 13% increase from 2010.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

With such massive wealth and power held by these institutions and "networks" of corporations, those individuals who sit on the boards, executive committees and advisory groups to the largest corporations and banks wield significant influence on their own. But their influence does not stand in isolation from other elites, nor do the institutions of banks and corporations function in isolation from other entities such as state, educational, cultural or media institutions. Largely facilitated by the cross-membership that exists between boards of corporations, think tanks, foundations, educational institutions and advisory groups — not to mention the continual "revolving door" between the state and corporate sectors — these elites become a highly integrated, organized and evolved social group. This is as true for the formation of national elites as it is for transnational, or global, elites.

The rise of corporations and banks to a truly global scale – what is popularly referred to as the process of “globalization” – was facilitated by the growth of other transnational networks and institutions such as think tanks and foundations, which sought to facilitate these ideological and institutional structures of globalization. A wealth of research and analysis has been undertaken in academic literature over the past couple of decades to understand the development of this phenomenon, examining the emergence of what is often referred to as the "Transnational Capitalist Class" (TCC). In various political science and sociology journals, researchers and academics reject a conspiratorial thesis and instead advance a social analysis of what is viewed as a powerful social system and group.

As Val Burris and Clifford L. Staples argued in an article for the International Journal of Comparative Sociology (Vol. 53, No. 4, 2012), “as transnational corporations become increasingly global in their operations, the elites who own and control those corporations will also cease to be organized or divided along national lines.” They added: “We are witnessing the formation of a ‘transnational capitalist class’ (TCC) whose social networks, affiliations, and identities will no longer be embedded primarily in the roles they occupy as citizens of specific nations.” To properly understand this TCC, it is necessary to study what the authors call “interlocking directorates,” defined as “the structure of interpersonal or interorganizational relations that is created whenever a director of one corporation sits on the governing board of another corporation.”

The growth of “interlocking directorates” is primarily confined to European and North American conglomerates, whereas those in Asia, Latin America and the Middle East largely remain “isolated from the global interlock network.” Thus, the “transnationalization” of corporate directorates and, ultimately, of global class structures “is more a manifestation of the process of European integration – or, perhaps, of the emergence of a North Atlantic ruling class.”

The conclusion of these researchers was that the ruling class is not “global” as such, but rather “a supra-national capitalist class that has gone a considerable way toward transcending national divisions,” notably in the industrialized countries of Western Europe and North America; in their words, "the regional locus of transnational class formation is more accurately described as the North Atlantic region.” However, with the rise of the "East" – notably the economic might of Japan, China, India, and other East Asian nations – the interlocks and interconnections among elites are likely to expand as various other networks of institutions seek to integrate these regions.

The influence wielded by banks and corporations is not simply through their direct wealth or operations, but through the affiliations, interactions and integration by those who run the institutions with political and social elites, both nationally and globally. While we can identify a global elite as a wealth percentage (the top 1% or, more accurately, the top 0.001%), this does not account for the more indirect and institutionalized influence that corporate and financial leaders exert over politics and society as a whole.

To further understand this, we must identify and explore the dominant institutions which facilitate the integration of these elites from an array of corporations, banks, academia, the media, military, intelligence, political and cultural spheres. This will be the subject of the second installment in the series, appearing next week.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

Global Power Project, Part 10: TransCanada Corporation, Kings of the Keystone Pipeline

Saturday, 07 September 2013 09:46 By Andrew Gavin Marshall, Occupy.com | Report


TransCanada Corporation describes itself as “a leader in the responsible development and reliable and safe operation of North American energy infrastructure." Beginning in 2005, the company announced plans for the Keystone XL pipeline. In 2010, Canada’s National Energy Board (NEB) approved the full pipeline project, stating that it was in the “public interest” to transport Canadian tar sands oil to the Gulf Coast in the United States.

If approved, the Keystone XL pipeline would transport oil from Alberta through six U.S. states: Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. Russ Girling, President and CEO of TransCanada, said the project would “improve U.S. energy security and reduce dependence on foreign oil from the Middle East and Venezuela.”

As opposition to the pipeline project increased — and dramatically so in the wake of BP’s 2010 Gulf oil spill — Girling stated, “There is no way we could have ever predicted that we would become the lightning rod for a debate around fossil fuels and the development of the Canadian oil sands...The pipeline itself is routine. It’s something we do every day. It will be a safe pipeline.”

Canada’s National Energy Board, however, said that TransCanada had failed to meet safety standards for its pipeline within Canada. While the company “considered itself compliant,” a former TransCanada employee blew the whistle on TransCanada's “culture of noncompliance” of environmental and safety regulations that posed “significant public safety risks,” and referred to the company’s approach as “organized crime.”

In the United States, TransCanada has been suing American citizens who refuse to allow the pipeline to cross their property, threatening to confiscate their lands through the application of "eminent domain," which allows for the confiscation of private property if “it is judged to serve a larger public good.”

The U.S. State Department was responsible for undertaking an "environmental assessment" of the pipeline to determine whether or not it would be approved. Declassified documents revealed an intense lobbying effort by TransCanada with the State Department, including several officials with the company holding multiple meetings with high-level State Department officials.

TransCanada has hired multiple lobbying firms and individuals, many of whom have direct ties to the Obama administration. This potentially even includes ties to Obama’s personal lawyer as well as to a former campaign adviser. In the first half of 2013, TransCanada spent nearly half a million dollars lobbying the United States on the Keystone project.

In 2013, the Canadian government announced its intentions to fund a massive $16 million PR campaign for the Canadian oil and energy industry in the United States, with a “key part” of the funding going toward promoting the Keystone project. This is part of an agenda decided in March of 2010, when officials from the Canadian federal government and the Alberta government met with oil and gas industry CEOs to discuss “upping their game” in promoting the tar sands.

By 2013, there were roughly 48 different groups lobbying the U.S. government on the issue of the Keystone project, and all but two appeared to be lobbying in favor of the project. While a good deal of the promotions for the project emphasized that it would create thousands – and potentially tens of thousands – of jobs, these jobs were almost exclusively temporary, and the State Department’s own assessment noted that the actual number of full-time jobs that would be created by the pipeline would be 20.

Then, in early March of 2013, the State Department released a 2,000-page draft report assessing the environmental impact of the Keystone project. The State Department had contracted the writing of the report to “experts” who had previously worked for TransCanada. In fact, TransCanada even paid the consultancy firm to write the report, which was subsequently considered an official government document of the State Department.

Not surprisingly, the Canadian government and the oil industry praised the report, while environmentalists and climate scientists criticized it as “deeply flawed.” Both the EPA and the Department of Interior have subsequently slammed the report as “insufficient” and “inaccurate.”

The government of Canada has, for years, been writing laws and implementing major policies at the direct suggestion of the oil industry, and has increasingly been demonizing those who protest against the policies, especially indigenous and environmental groups. The Canadian government has been increasingly equating protest groups with “terrorists,” and Canada’s spy agencies have been providing information about protesters directly to energy corporations, and even infiltrating such groups in an effort to disrupt their actions. TransCanada provided training information to police agencies across the U.S. in which they refer to anti-pipeline protests as “terrorism.”

Russell K. Girling is the president and CEO of TransCanada and is a member of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE), an interest group that consists of Canada’s top 150 CEOs and was the main driving force behind corporate treaty projects like NAFTA. Girling is also a member of the U.S. National Petroleum Council and the U.S. Business Roundtable, as well as being a board member of Agrium Inc., an agribusiness conglomerate. Girling was also the co-chair of the City of Calgary 2012 United Way campaign.

Derek Burney, who sits on the board of TransCanada, is a senior advisor to the law firm Norton Rose Fulbright, chairman of the international advisory board of GardaWorld, a member of the advisory board of Paradigm Capital, and a member of the board of governors of Ottawa Hospital. Burney is the former chairman of the board of CanWest Global Communications Corporation (formerly Canada’s largest newspaper conglomerate) from 2006 to 2010, former president and CEO of CAE Inc. (1999 to 2004), former chairman and CEO of Bell Canada (1993 to 1999), and was the former lead director of Shell Canada from 2001 to 2007.

On top of that, Burney was the Canadian ambassador to the United States from 1989 to 1993, following two years serving as chief of staff to Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, in which time he was a pivotal figure involved in the negotiations of NAFTA. Burney was also the Prime Minister’s personal representative to the G-7 Summits between 1990 and 1992. He is the chancellor of Lakehead University, and was the head of the Conservative Transition Team in 2006 for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, after which time he was appointed to the Independent Panel on Canada’s Future Role in Afghanistan (2007 to 2008). Burney is a distinguished alumni of the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute and is a member of the distinguished advisory council of the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University.

Richard E. Waugh is a member of the board and CEO of The Bank of Nova Scotia (Scotiabank), a member of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE), a director of the International Monetary Conference (IMC), an international meeting of bankers, and is vice chair of the board of directors of the Institute of International Finance (IIF), the largest and most influential international banking lobbying group. Waugh is also a member of the Council of the Americas, a member of the international advisory council of The Americas Society, a board member and chair of the Canada advisory board of Catalyst. He is also a member of the advisory councils of the Schulich School of Business at York University, the Guanghua School of Management at Peking University, and the Canadian Museum of Human Rights, as well as being the former campaign chair for the United Way of Toronto, and the current co-chair of the Canada-Brazil CEO Forum.

Members of the board of TransCanada sit on the boards of multiple other energy and oil companies, media conglomerates, military contractors, banks, interest groups and think tanks, as well as having served in top government positions. The elites at TransCanada have the connections to push the Keystone pipeline down the throats of North Americans, to destroy the environment, and make a handsome profit in the process.

As Utah Phillips once wrote, “The earth is not dying, it is being killed, and those who are killing it have names and addresses.”

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

Global Power Project, Part 9: Banking on Influence With Morgan Stanley

Friday, 09 August 2013 10:18 By Andrew Gavin Marshall, Occupy.com | News Analysis


Morgan Stanley, one of the largest banks in the United States, reported a 66% increase in earnings in July over the same period last year. Morgan Stanley had taken more than $107 billion of U.S. taxpayer money through the bailout programs in the wake of the financial crisis that it helped to create, making it the largest U.S. recipient of bailout funds.

Like the other big banks, Morgan Stanley had been busy paying settlements for the massive criminal fraud conspiracies it engaged in, particularly related to the housing crisis. In 2011, the banks came to a $40 million settlement with the state of Nevada over mortgage fraud.

Also See: Global Power Project, Part 1: Exposing the Transnational Capitalist Class; Global Power Project, Part 2: Identifying the Institutions of Control; Global Power Project, Part 3: The Influence of Individuals and Family Dynasties; Global Power Project, Part 4: Banking on Influence With JPMorgan Chase; Global Power Project, Part 5: Banking on Influence With Goldman Sachs; Global Power Project, Part 6: Banking on Influence With Bank of America; Global Power Project, Part 7: Banking on Influence With Citigroup; Global Power Project, Part 8: Banking on Influence with Wells Fargo.

In 2012, Morgan Stanley paid a settlement of $4.8 million regarding electricity price-fixing charges leveled against the bank in New York State, costing consumers roughly $300 million, after generating $22 million in revenue for the bank. In a settlement over foreclosure fraud in 2013, the bank along with Goldman Sachs agreed to pay $557 million to more than 200,000 homeowners who had been foreclosed on.

A former real estate executive for Morgan Stanley pleaded guilty in 2012 to violating anti-corruption laws, and was “charged with secretly acquiring millions of dollars’ worth of property investments for himself and a Chinese government official." In 2012, one Morgan Stanley executive was charged with a hate crime for using racial slurs and stabbing a cab driver of Egyptian descent, after having refused to pay the cab fare.

And yet it’s not simply enough for this financial behemoth to defraud the American public and profit from the economic crisis it helped create. It has also managed to profit from increasing hunger and land grabs across the so-called Third World. As big banks speculate on food prices, they drive the costs of food up, sparking food riots and increasing hunger across much of the world while making banks a nice profit in the process.

The three financial institutions most active in food speculation are Barclays, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. Thus, as millions more people get pushed into hunger, rest assured: Morgan Stanley will be there to swoop up the profits, as untold numbers of people get displaced and foreign investors purchase their lands at giveaway prices. In just one example, Morgan Stanley bought 40,000 hectares of land in Ukraine.

Thus, based on mortgage fraud, the housing crisis, bailouts, the food crisis and the great global land grabs, it's fair to say that Morgan Stanley is a bank seeking profits at the expense of people, the environment and the world at large. The Global Power Project investigated 24 individuals on both the executive committee and board of directors of Morgan Stanley. The most highly represented institution shared by elites at Morgan Stanley is the Council on Foreign Relations, with six individual affiliations between the two organizations.

It is followed by four mutual affiliations with McKinsey & Co., and three affiliations each between the bank and the former Merrill Lynch (now owned by Bank of America), Columbia University, the Brookings Institution, and the Peterson Institute for International Economics. Further, the bank has two individual affiliations with each of the following: the World Economic Forum, the Business Council, Merck & Co., President Obama’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), the Conference Board, the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Stanford University and Alcoa.

Meet the Elites

James P. Gorman is Chairman and CEO of Morgan Stanley, a former executive at Merrill Lynch, and a former Senior Partner at McKinsey & Co. He is a current member of the Board of Overseers of Columbia Business School, a member of the Business Council, the Partnership for New York City, the Financial Services Forum, the board of directors of the Institute of International Finance, and the International Advisory Panel of the Monetary Authority of Singapore. Klaus Kleinfeld is on the board of directors of Morgan Stanley, and is Chairman and CEO of Alcoa, the world’s leading aluminum producer. Kleinfeld is also the former CEO of Siemens and a former director of Citigroup. He is a member of the Supervisory Board of Bayer AG, Chairman of the Board of the U.S.-Russia Business Council, a Trustee of the Conference Board, and a member of the Business Roundtable, the Board of Trustees of the Brookings Institution, the International Business Council of the World Economic Forum, the board of directors of the World Economic Forum USA, the board of directors of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the Steering Committee of the Bilderberg Meetings.

Hutham S. Olayan is Senior Executive Director of the Olayan Group, President and CEO of Olayan America Corporation, and is a Trustee of the American University of Beirut. She is a member of the board of directors of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, a member of the International Board of the U.S.-Middle East Project, and a member of the International Advisory Council of the Brookings Institution. She is founding member of the Arab Bankers Association of North America, a member of the board of the MasterCard Foundation, a member of the International Advisory Board of the Blackstone Group, a member of the boards of Georgetown University and the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and is a Counselor of the Conference Board. Olayan is a member of the Advisory Council of the Carnegie Middle East Center and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

James W. Owens is the former Chairman and CEO of Caterpillar, and a member of the board of directors of IBM, Alcoa and the Council on Foreign Relations. Owens is also Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Peterson Institute of International Economics, a Senior Advisor to Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. (KKR), a former Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Business Council, and a former member of President Obama’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board. He is currently a member of the Board of Trustees of North Carolina State University.

Laura Tyson, who sits on the board of Morgan Stanley, is Professor of Global Management at the Walter A. Haas School of Business at the University of California Berkeley, and is former Dean of the London Business School and former Dean of Haas Business School. Tyson was the former National Economic Adviser to President Clinton from 1993 to 1996 and was a member of President Clinton’s National Security Council and Domestic Policy Council, as well as Chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers. Tyson was director of the Council on Foreign Relations from 1997 to 2007, where she remains as a member, and is also a member of the MIT Corporation, as well as a former member of President Obama’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board. A Senior Advisor to McKinsey Global Institute, Credit Suisse Research Institute, The Rock Creek Group, and a Senior Fellow of the Center for American Progress, Tyson is currently a member of President Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness and has been a member of the Foreign Affairs Policy Board to the U.S. Secretary of State since 2011. She is also a member of the Advisory Council of the Brookings Institution Hamilton Project, a member of the board of AT&T, a former member of the board of Eastman Kodak Company from 1997 to 2011, and a member of the board of CB Richard Ellis and Silver Spring Network. Tyson is additionally a former director of New America Foundation, a former member of the board of the Peterson Institute of International Economics, and currently sits as a member of the Committee on Capital Markets Regulation, the Global Agenda Council of the World Economic Forum, the advisory board of Generation Investment Management and H&Q Asia Pacific, as well as a member of the National Academies’ Board on Science, Technology and Economic Policy and on the board of directors of the Committee for Responsible Federal Budget.

At Morgan Stanley, like elsewhere among the big Wall Street banks, an elite class of individuals connected through their institutional affiliations and social groups exert incredible influence over finance, corporations, the government, media, policy, educational institutions and global society at large. Regardless of the immense suffering that Morgan Stanley and its like institutions inflict on the world, so long as it is able to profit from that suffering, it considers itself safe and secure.

Too big to fail. Too big to jail. Too cancerous to care.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

Global Power Project: Banking on Influence with Wells Fargo

Friday, 02 August 2013 09:21 By Andrew Gavin Marshall, Occupy.com | Report


This is part 8 of the Global Project series.

Just recently, in late July, Wells Fargo surpassed the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) as the world’s largest bank by market capitalization. This followed Wells Fargo reporting a 19% increase in profits over the second quarter as the bank has been busy consolidating the housing market while other big banks have retreated from it. Wells Fargo had amassed a share of almost 40% of the U.S. mortgage market by early 2013. Now, let's put this in context with the company's other recent activities.

Wells Fargo, which acquired Wachovia in the wake of the financial crisis, controlled roughly 28.8% of all home loans issued across the United States in 2012, compared to 11.2% of the market it controlled in 2007, just before the housing implosion. In 2012, the bank paid a $175 million settlement following revelations that “mortgage brokers working with Wells Fargo had charged higher fees and rates to more than 30,000 minority borrowers across the country than they had to white borrowers who posed the same credit risk.”

In the settlement, the world’s largest bank “admitted no wrongdoing,” noting in a press release that the bank simply wanted “to avoid a long and costly legal fight.” Then, in 2013, Wells Fargo agreed to a further $42 million settlement because “it neglected the maintenance and marketing of foreclosed homes in black and Latino neighborhoods across the country.” Again, of course, the bank admitted no wrongdoing.

But that's just the tip of things. A civil mortgage fraud suit was filed against Wells Fargo in late 2012 for hundreds of millions of dollars in damages over “reckless mortgage loans” made by the bank for over a decade in the lead-up to the financial crisis. Even in light of the massive settlement in 2012 over mortgage fraud, which simultaneously forced big banks to adhere to new rules regarding the mortgage market, it was found that both Bank of America and Wells Fargo had “flagrantly violated those obligations,” increasing foreclosure risks for Americans. Also, this past May, Wells Fargo agreed to pay a $105 million settlement in a fraud case brought by Orange County, which also implicated Bank of New York Mellon to the tune of a $114 million settlement.

It gets better. In 2010, Wachovia – which was purchased by Wells Fargo in 2008 – paid a settlement of $160 million for laundering over $100 million in drug money for Mexican and Colombian drug cartels. Further, the bank admitted that it had failed to “apply the proper anti-laundering strictures” regarding the bank’s handling of $378.4 billion in currency exchanges with Mexico between 2004 and 2007. A federal prosecutor commented, “Wachovia’s blatant disregard for our banking laws gave international cocaine cartels a virtual carte blanche to finance their operations,” as tens of thousands of Mexicans were killed in an exponentially violent drug war. Thus, in the aftermath of the financial crisis, not only did the big banks receive sprawling government bailouts (Wells Fargo got $25 billion from the U.S. government), but according to the UN, proceeds pouring in from the global drug trade ultimately helped keep Wells Fargo and others afloat as “the only liquid investment capital” available to them during the crisis. But Wells Fargo didn't just profit from laundering money for major drug cartels -- it also profited, and continues to profit, at the other end of the drug war as a major investor in the prison-industrial complex, specifically with heavy investments in the GEO Group, the second largest private prison company in the United States.

As the largest bank in the world, Wells Fargo is deeply connected with some of the most powerful U.S. and international institutions to ensure that no matter how many crimes it commits -- fraud, illegal foreclosures, money laundering, you name it -- it will continue to consolidate markets, grow larger and presumably get away with its criminal activities for relatively small fines. The Global Power Project examined a total of 26 individuals on the executive committee and board of directors at Wells Fargo to assess their institutional affiliations. The most represented institutions (with three individual affiliations each) are the Council on Foreign Relations and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), followed by Harvard, Citigroup, Chevron, the Financial Services Roundtable and Target Corporation (with two individual affiliations each).

Meet the Elites

Elaine L. Chao, who sits on the board of Wells Fargo, was formerly U.S. Secretary of Labor in the George W. Bush administration, from 2001 to 2009. She was a Distinguished Fellow of the Heritage Foundation from 1996 to 2001 and has resumed that position since 2009. She was also the President and CEO of the United Way of America from 1992 to 1996, Director of the Peace Corps from 1991 to 1992, and Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation from 1989 to 1991. Chao is a member of the board of directors of Dole Food Company, News Corporation, Protective Life Corporation, the Institute of Politics of Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and a member of Harvard Business School Board of Dean’s Advisors, as well as a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

John S. Chen, also on the board of Wells Fargo, is a senior adviser to Silver Lake Partners, a director of the Walt Disney Company, a member of the Board of Overseers Emeriti of the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University, a former member of the President’s Export Council, a member of the board of trustees of the Brookings Institution, chairman of the U.S.-China Policy Advisory Roundtable at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Wells Fargo board member Enrique Hernandez, Jr. is the president and CEO of Inter-Con Security Systems, and sits on the boards of Chevron, Nordstrom, McDonald’s Corporation, and the board of trustees of the University of Notre Dame. He is a member of the Harvard College Visiting and Harvard University Resources Committees and is a member of the John Randolph Haynes and Dora Haynes Foundation.

Federico F. Peña, on the Wells Fargo board, was a U.S. Secretary of Transportation and U.S. Secretary of Energy during the Clinton administration, and previously a member of the Colorado House of Representatives and a former mayor of Denver. More recently, he has been a senior adviser to Vestar Capital Partners, on the board of Sonic Corporation and a member of the Diversity Advisory Board of Toyota North America. A former national board member of the Obama-Biden Transition Team, Peña is also former National Co-Chair of Obama For America and currently a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

John G. Stumpf, the president and CEO of Wells Fargo, is a member of the board of directors of the Financial Services Forum and chairman of the board of the Financial Services Roundtable, and is also on the boards of Target Corporation, Chevron, and on the board of trustees of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

For a mega-money laundering, drug war profiteering, prison-industry enlarging global bank like Wells Fargo, the evidence is obvious: it helps to have affiliations with individuals and institutions that make up the U.S. and increasingly the international power elite. Like the other big banks, Wells Fargo is too big to fail, too big to jail, too criminal to control -- and too tumorous to tolerate.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

Global Power Project, Part 7: Banking on Influence With Citigroup

Friday, 26 July 2013 09:52 By Andrew Gavin Marshall, Occupy.com | Report


In the second quarter of 2013, the third-largest U.S. bank by assets, Citigroup, posted a 42% increase in profits which CEO Michael Corbat praised as a “well balanced” result of “cost cutting” programs, including the firing of 11,000 workers.

This big bank has a sordid history of predatory profiteering and criminal activity, not unlike all the other large banks. In the early 20th century, what was then National City Bank was the main bank for the Rockefeller Standard Oil interests. Over ensuing decades and mergers it eventually came to be Citibank, and in the late 1990s, Citigroup. At that time, the bank was dealing with accusations that it had aided in the laundering of roughly $100 million in payoffs by Mexican drug cartels.

In 2000, the mega-bank was accused of abusing borrowers and clients through predatory lending practices. The bank aroused further controversy by helping Enron evade financial rules which allowed the company to hide its real financial reporting from government regulators. In 2005, Citigroup paid a $2 billion settlement to Enron investors who had filed a class-action lawsuit against the bank for helping Enron hide billions of dollars in debt.

Also See: Global Power Project, Part 1: Exposing the Transnational Capitalist Class; Global Power Project, Part 2: Identifying the Institutions of Control; Global Power Project, Part 3: The Influence of Individuals and Family Dynasties; Global Power Project, Part 4: Banking on Influence With JPMorgan Chase; Global Power Project, Part 5: Banking on Influence With Goldman Sachs; Global Power Project, Part 6: Banking on Influence With Bank of America.

A 2005 report by Citigroup created the term ‘plutonomy’ to describe the modern state capitalist system in which there is only the rich “and everyone else”; an economy in which the rich increasingly become the consuming class, driven to a significant degree by “disruptive technology-driven productivity gains, creative financial innovation, [and] capitalist friendly cooperative governments.”

Referencing the United States, the U.K., Australia and Canada as modern plutonomies, Citigroup global strategist Ajay Kapur noted, “The Plutonomy is here, is going to get stronger, its membership is swelling,” and while the "risks" of plutonomies include “war, inflation, financial crises, the end of the technological revolution and populist political pressure,” Kapur noted that “the rich are likely to keep getting even richer, and enjoy an even greater share of the wealth pie over the coming years." Indeed, Citigroup would ensure that this was the case.

In the 1990s, Bill Clinton’s Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin helped to deregulate Wall Street and allow for massive mergers and the proliferation of dangerous financial instruments in the derivatives market, which helped create the future housing crisis. After leaving the White House, Rubin became an adviser to Citigroup, and ultimately the bank’s chairman, where he helped push the mega-bank further down the path taken by Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs to build up an unprecedented housing bubble. When the inevitable happened, Citigroup owned tens of billions of dollars in bad debts. Meanwhile, Robert Rubin was appointed as an economic adviser to the transition team for President Obama.

Citigroup was subsequently bailed out by the federal government, that is, the U.S. taxpayer, and became the largest single recipient of bailout funds totaling some $476.2 billion in cash and guarantees. Citigroup was essentially put into receivership by the government, which decided to reward the bank after its highly effective and efficient participation in the destruction of the economy. The U.S. Treasury eventually sold the last of its shares in Citigroup in 2010. Since that time, the bank has been quietly settling civil complaints and lawsuits, further proving that criminal activity by major financial institutions comes down to a cost-benefit analysis: if the cost of committing massive crimes is less than the benefit of engaging in such criminal activity, there is little incentive to obey the law rather than pay comparably lower fines after breaking it.

Between 2003 and 2011, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) accused Citigroup of securities fraud five separate times, with the bank agreeing to pay settlements in each case, amounting to a slap on the wrist from the SEC. As a Bloomberg report stated bluntly, for Citigroup “obeying the law is too damn hard." Or rather, simply, it is unnecessary.

In 2011, Citigroup paid a $285 million settlement with the SEC for defrauding investors. In 2012, the bank paid another settlement of $590 million for defrauding investors, though it made sure not to admit guilt as the payment was “solely to eliminate the uncertainties, burden and expense of further protracted litigation.” In 2013, Citigroup agreed to pay a further $968 million to Fannie Mae over the bad mortgage loans it sold to the company in the run-up to the financial crisis.

But before you assume that Citigroup simply defrauded investors and other institutions, know this: the bank also undertook foreclosures on hundreds of U.S. military members during the financial crisis, often while the military personnel were in Iraq or Afghanistan. After illegally foreclosing on military personnel while they were overseas fighting wars for the America's imperialists and profiteers, Citigroup made a later appearance in Iraq, announcing in 2013 that it would be the first U.S. bank to open a branch in Bagdad “as major international oil groups as well as industrial and construction companies are looking to invest in Iraq."

Iraq is just the latest hub of overseas criminal financial activities for Citigroup, which has meanwhile been struggling to “comply” with anti-money laundering laws after also participating in the largest financial scam in history: the Libor rate-rigging scandal. At the same time, the bank has been dooming the European Union’s crisis countries (namely Greece) to a faster decline, issuing self-fulfilling reports that suggest the region is headed for further crisis, thus reducing investor confidence and pushing the crisis-hit economies into even deeper crisis.

In sum, Citigroup's fraudulent lifestyle – with its increased quarterly profits – is one more example of how the institutions of the financial system function as criminal conglomerates on a scale far surpassing any Mafia on record. And of course, for such criminal activity to go unpunished, the institution cannot exist in isolation. In fact, like all other big banks, Citigroup is heavily integrated in the national – and increasingly international – structure of elite institutions, with cross-membership between major corporations, think tanks, governmental positions, media and educational institutions.

Thirty-seven individuals on the executive committee and board of directors of Citigroup were examined for the Global Power Project. The most represented institution was the Council on Foreign Relations, with six individual affiliations, followed by Morgan Stanley, Banco Nacional de Mexico (Banamex), American Express, the Foreign Policy Association, IBM, the Brookings Institution, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Yale University, and Stanford University, among many others.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

Meet the Elites

On the board of directors of Citigroup is Franz B. Humer, the chairman of Roche Holding, a major pharmaceutical conglomerate. Humer also sits on the International Advisory Council of JPMorgan Chase, and is chairman of INSEAD, chairman of Diageo Plc, a member of the international advisory board of Allianz SE, a member of the board of Jacobs Holdings, and a member of the European Round Table of Industrialists (which advises EU leaders on promoting policies beneficial to large corporate and financial interests). Humer also serves, comfortingly, as chairman of the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children.

Judith Rodin, the president of the Rockefeller Foundation, is on the board of Citigroup. Rodin also served as the President of the University of Pennsylvania from 1994-2004, after which she remained as President Emerita. A former Provost of Yale University, Rodin also serves as a director of Comcast Corporation, AMR Corporation, the World Trade Memorial Foundation and Carnegie Hall. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a former honorary director of the Brookings Institution. Additionally, Rodin is a member of the board of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) – a joint venture between the Rockefeller Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to promote the advancement of GMOs in Africa – and she served as a member of the High Level Panel of the African Development Bank. Rodin currently serves as a member of the international advisory council of the Mary Robinson Foundation, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences. She is also a participant in the World Economic Forum, the Global Humanitarian Forum, the Clinton Global Initiative’s "poverty alleviation track," and she is a board member of Obama’s White House Council for Community Solutions.

Another member of the Citigroup board is Ernesto Zedillo, the former President of Mexico from 1994 to 2000, who was pivotal in implementing the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), much to the benefit of big banks and corporations, and to the detriment of poor and working people. Zedillo had previously served a number of positions in the Mexican government, including deputy director of the Bank of Mexico. Currently, Zedillo is the director of the Center for the Study of Globalization and an International Economics and Politics professor at Yale University. He is a member of the Group of Thirty, on the board of directors of Alcoa and Procter & Gamble, and on the international advisory boards of both BP, Rolls-Royce and ACE Ltd.. He is additionally an adviser to the Credit Suisse Research Institute, a member of the Foundation Board of the World Economic Forum, a former member of the Trilateral Commission, the former chairman of the Global Development Network, a former chair of the High Level Commission on Modernization of the World Bank Group Governance, a former member of the international advisory board of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Coca-Cola Company, a former member of the Global Development Program Advisory Panel of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and he is currently a member of the board of the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

William R. Rhodes, another Citigroup board member, serves as a senior advise to Citi and is president and CEO of William R. Rhodes Global Advisors. A director of the Private Export Funding Corporation, Rhodes is a senior adviser to the World Economic Forum, the global management firm Oliver Wyman, vice chairman of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations, a director of the Korea Society and the U.S.-China Business Council, a member of Korean President Lee’s Council of Global Advisors, a member of the international advisory board of the National Bank of Kuwait, a senior adviser to the Dalian Government in China, a member of the private sector advisory board of the Inter-American Development Bank, a member of the international policy committee of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a member of the board of the Foreign Policy Association, and a trustee of the Asia Society and the Economic Club of New York. Rhodes is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Group of Thirty, the Lincoln Center Consolidated Corporate Fund Leadership Committee, the Metropolitan Museum of Art Business Committee, and he sits on the advisory council of the Brazilian American Chamber of Commerce. He is a former vice chairman of the Institute of International Finance, a chairman emeritus of the Americas Society and the Council of the Americas, a director of the U.S.-Russia Business Council and the U.S.-Hong Kong Business Council, a chairman of the U.S.-Korea Business Council, a trustee and member of the board of governors of the New York Presbyterian Hospital, a chairman of the board of trustees of the Northfield Mount Hermon School, and a member of the board of overseers of the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University.

Like all the big banks, Citigroup is heavily integrated with other dominant institutions in American and international society, which helps explain why the bank can break so many laws and get away with it. It’s not simply financial weight that makes this bank “too big to fail” and “too big to jail.” It's the institutional affiliations that also help make it that way.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

Global Power Project: Identifying the Institutions of Control

Thursday, 20 June 2013 09:41 By Andrew Gavin Marshall, Occupy.com | News Analysis


The Global Power Project, an investigative series produced by Occupy.com, aims to identify and connect the worldwide institutions and individuals who comprise today's global power oligarchy. In Part 1, which appeared last week, I provided an overview examining who and what constitute the global ruling elite – often referred to as the Transnational Capitalist Class (TCC). In this second part, I will attempt to identify some of the key, dominant institutions that have facilitated and have in turn been supported by the development of this oligarchic class. This is not a study of wealth, but a study of power.

In an article for the journal International Sociology, William K. Carroll and Jean Philippe Sapinski examined the relationship between the corporate elite and the emergence of a “transnational policy-planning network,” beginning with its formation in the decades following World War II and speeding up in the 1970s with the creation of “global policy groups” and think tanks such as the World Economic Forum, in 1971, and the Trilateral Commission, in 1973, among many others. The function of such institutions was to help mobilize and integrate the corporate elite beyond national borders, constructing a politically “organized minority.” These policy-planning organizations came to exist as “venues for discussion, strategic planning, discourse production and consensus formation on specific issues,” as well as “places where responses to crises of legitimacy are crafted,” such as managing economic, political, or environmental crises where elite interests might be threatened. These groups also often acted as “advocates for specific projects of integration, often on a regional basis.” Perhaps most importantly, the organizations “provide bridges connecting business elites to political actors (heads of states, politicians, high-ranking public servants) and elites and organic intellectuals in other fields (international organizations, military, media, academia).”

One important industry association, according to researchers Carroll and Carson in the journal Global Networks (Vol. 3, No. 1, 2003), is the International Chamber of Commerce. Launched by investment bankers in 1919, immediately following WWI, the Paris-based Chamber groups roughly 7,000 member corporations together across 130 countries, adhering to largely conservative, “free market” ideology. The “primary function” of the ICC, write Carroll and Carson, “is to institutionalize an international business perspective by providing a forum where capitalists and related professionals... can assemble and forge a common international policy framework.” Another policy group with outsized global influence is the Bilderberg group, founded between 1952 and 1954, which provided “a context for more comprehensive international capitalist coordination and planning.” Bringing together roughly 130 elites from Western Europe and North America at annual closed meetings, “Bilderberg conferences have furnished a confidential platform for corporate, political, intellectual, military and even trade-union elites from the North Atlantic heartland to reach mutual understanding.”

As Valerie Aubourg examined in an article for the journal Intelligence and National Security (Vol. 18, No. 2, 2003), the Bilderberg meetings were organized largely at the initiative of a handful of European elites, with heavy financial backing from select American institutions including the Rockefeller Foundation, the Ford Foundation and the CIA. The meetings incorporate leadership from the most prominent national think tanks, such as the Council on Foreign Relations, Brookings Institution, Carnegie Endowment and others from across the North Atlantic ‘community.’

Hugh Wilford, writing in the journal Diplomacy & Statecraft (Vol. 14, No. 3, 2003), identified major philanthropic foundations such as the Rockefeller, Ford, and Carnegie foundations as not only major sources of funding but also providers for much of the leadership of the Bilderberg meetings, which saw the participation of major industrial and financial firms in line with those foundations (David Rockefeller of Chase Manhattan is a good example). Bilderberg was a major force in helping to create the political, economic and strategic consensus behind constructing a common European market.

With the support of these major foundations and their leadership, the Bilderberg meetings became a powerful global tool of the elites, not only in creating the European Union but in designing the process of globalization itself. Will Hutton, a former Bilderberg member, once referred to the group as “the high priests of globalization,” and a former Bilderberg steering committee member, Denis Healey, once noted: “To say we were striving for a one-world government is exaggerated, but not wholly unfair...we felt that a single community throughout the world would be a good thing.”

The large industrial foundations have played a truly profound – and largely overlooked – role in the shaping of modern society. The ‘Robber Baron’ industrial fortunes of the late 19th century – those of Morgan, Rockefeller, Carnegie, Harriman, Vanderbilt, etc. – sought to shape a new order in which they would maintain a dominant influence throughout society. They founded major American universities (often named after themselves) such as Vanderbilt, or the University of Chicago which was founded by John D. Rockefeller.

It was through their institutions that they sought to produce new elites to manage a new society, atop of which they sat. These universities became the harbingers of modern social sciences, seeking to "reform" society to fit the needs of those who dominated it; to engage in social engineering with the purpose of social control. It was in this context that the Carnegie Corporation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and later the Ford Foundation and others were founded: as engines of social engineering. One of their principal aims was to shape the development of the social sciences – and their exportation around the world to other industrial and imperial powers like Great Britain, and beyond. The social sciences were to facilitate the “scientific management” of society, and the foundations were the patrons of "social control."

The Rockefeller, Carnegie and Ford foundations were instrumental in providing funding, organization and personnel for the development of major American and international think tanks such as the Council on Foreign Relations, which became essential to the emergence of a dominant and entrenched U.S. business class linking academia, political, strategic, corporate and financial elites. The Rockefeller and Ford foundations in particular constructed the field of modern political science and "Area Studies" with a view to educating a class of people who would be prepared to help manage a global empire. They were also prominent in developing the educational system for black Americans designed to keep them relegated to labor and “vocational” training. They helped found many prominent universities in Africa, Asia and Latin America to train indigenous elites with a "Western" education in the social sciences, to ensure continuity between a domestic and international elite, between core and periphery, empire and protectorate.

Another major policy planning group is the Trilateral Commission, created out of the Bilderberg meetings as a separate transnational think tank and founded by Chase Manhattan CEO (and Chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations) David Rockefeller along with academic-turned-policymaker Zbigniew Brzezinski in 1973. The Trilateral Commission linked the elites from Western Europe, North America and Japan (hence “trilateral”), and it now also includes members from China, India and a range of other Pacific-East Asian countries.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

Consisting of a membership of roughly 350 individuals from finance, corporations, media, think tanks, foundations, academia and political circles, the Trilateral Commission (TC) has been immensely influential as a forum facilitating the development and integration of a "transnational elite." The aim of the TC was “to foster closer cooperation among these core industrialized areas of the world with shared leadership responsibilities in the wider international system.” The most famous report issued by the Trilateral Commission in the mid-1970s suggested that due to the popular activism of the 1960s, there was a “crisis of democracy” that it defined as an “excess of democracy,” which needed to be reduced in order for “democracy to function effectively.” According to the Trilateral Commission, what was needed was increased “apathy and noninvolvement on the part of some individuals and groups” to counter the “crisis” being caused by “a highly educated, mobilized, and participant society.”

Moving elsewhere, the World Economic Forum, founded in 1971, convenes annually in Davos, Switzerland and was originally designed “to secure the patronage of the Commission of European Communities, as well as the encouragement of Europe’s industry associations” and “to discuss European strategy in an international marketplace.” The WEF has since expanded its membership and mandate, as Carroll and Carson noted, “organized around a highly elite core of transnational capitalists (the 'Foundation Membership') – which it currently limits to '1000 of the foremost global enterprises’.” The meetings include prominent individuals from the scientific community, academics, the media, NGOs and many other policy groups.

Another major policy planning group emerged in the mid-1990s with an increased focus on environmental issues, called the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), which “instantly became the pre-eminent business voice on the environment” with a 1997 membership of 123 top corporate executives, tasked with bringing the “voice” of big business to the process of international efforts to address environmental concerns (and thus, to secure their own interests).

Among other prominent think tanks and policy-planning boards helping to facilitate and integrate a transnational network of elites are many nation-based organizations, particularly in the United States, such as with the Council on Foreign Relations, the Brookings Institution and the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), among many others. The advisory boards to these organizations provide an important forum through which transnational elites may help to influence the policies of many separate nations, and most importantly, the world’s most powerful nation: the United States.

The Council on Foreign Relations, founded in 1921, refers to itself as “an independent, nonpartisan membership organization, think tank, and publisher,” with roughly 4,700 members. It is largely based in New York with affiliate offices in Washington D.C. and elsewhere. The CFR is, and has been, at the heart of the American foreign policy establishment, bringing together elites from academia, government, the media, intelligence, military, financial and corporate institutions.

The CFR worked in close cooperation with the U.S. government during World War II to design the post-War world over which America would reign supreme. The Council was active in establishing the “Grand Areas” of the American Empire, and in maintaining extensive influence over the foreign policy of the United States.

As Carroll and Carson noted, there is a prominent relationship between those individuals who sit on multiple corporate boards and those who sit on the boards of prominent national and transnational policy-planning groups, “suggesting a highly centralized corporate-policy network.”

Studying 622 corporate directors and 302 organizations (five of which were the major policy-planning groups: ICC, Bilderberg, Trilateral Commission, World Economic Forum and World Business Council for Sustainable Development), Carroll and Carson assessed this network of transnational elites with data leading up to 1996, and concluded: “The international network is primarily a configuration of national corporate networks, integrated for the most part through the affiliations of a few dozen individuals who either hold transnational corporate directorships or serve on two or more policy boards.” Out of the sample of 622 individuals, they found roughly 105 individuals (94 “transnational corporate linkers” and 11 others “whose corporate affiliations are not transnational but who sit on multiple global policy boards”) making up “the most immediate structural contributions to transnational class formation.” At the “core” of this network were 17 corporate directors, primarily European and North American, largely linked by the transnational policy groups, with the Trilateral Commission as “the most centrally positioned.” This network, they noted, “is highly centralized in terms of the individuals and organizations that participate in it.”

In undertaking a follow-up study of data between 1996 and 2006, published in the journal International Sociology (Vol. 25, No. 4, 2010), Carroll and Sapinski expanded the number of policy-planning groups from five to 11, including the original five (ICC, Bilderberg, TC, WEF, and WBCSD), but adding to them the Council on Foreign Relations (through its International Advisory Board), the UN Global Compact (through its advisory board), the European Round Table of Industrialists (ERT), founded in 1983, the EU-Japan Business Round Table, the Transatlantic Business Dialogue, and the North American Competitiveness Council.

The results of their research found that among the corporate directors, “policy-board membership has shifted towards the transnationalists, who come to comprise a larger segment of the global corporate elite,” and that there was a growing group of elites “made up of individuals with one or more transnational policy-board affiliations.” As Carroll and Sapinski concluded:

"The corporate-policy network is highly centralized, at both the level of individuals and that of organizations. Its inner circle is a tightly interwoven ensemble of politically active business leaders; its organizational core includes the Trilateral Commission, the Bilderberg Conference, the European Round Table of Industrialists and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, surrounded by other policy boards and by the directorates of leading industrial corporations and financial institutions based in capitalism’s core regions."

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

Organizations like the European Round Table of Industrialists (ERT) are not think tanks, but rather, industry organizations (exclusively representing the interests and individuals of major corporations), wielding significant influence over political and social elites. As Bastiaan van Apeldoorn wrote in the journal New Political Economy (Vol. 5, No. 2, 2000), the ERT “developed into an elite platform for an emergent European transnational capitalist class from which it can formulate a common strategy and – on the basis of that strategy – seek to shape European socioeconomic governance through its privileged access to the European institutions.”

In 1983, the ERT was formed as an organization of 17 major European industrialists (which has since expanded to several dozen members), with the proclaimed objective being “to revitalize European industry and make it competitive again, and to speed up the process of unification of the European common market.” Wisse Dekker, former Chairman of the ERT, once stated: “I would consider the Round Table to be more than a lobby group as it helps to shape policies. The Round Table’s relationship with Brussels [the EU] is one of strong co-operation. It is a dialogue which often begins at a very early stage in the development of policies and directives.” The ERT was a central institution in the re-launching of European integration from the 1980s onward, and as former European Commissioner (and former ERT member) Peter Sutherland stated, “one can argue that the whole completion of the internal market project was initiated not by governments but by the Round Table, and by members of it... And I think it played a fairly consistent role subsequently in dialoguing with the Commission on practical steps to implement market liberalization.” Sutherland also explained that the ERT and its members “have to be at the highest levels of companies and virtually all of them have unimpeded access to government leaders because of the position of their companies... So, by definition, each member of the ERT has access at the highest level to government.”

Other notable industry associations include the Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE), formerly called the Business Council on National Issues (BCNI), a group comprised of Canada’s top 150 CEOs who were a major force for the promotion and implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The CCCE remains one of the most influential “interest groups” in Canada. In the United States there are prominent industry associations like the Business Council, the Business Roundtable, and the Financial Services Forum. The Business Council describes itself as “a voluntary association of business leaders whose members meet several times a year for the free exchange of ideas both among themselves and with thought leaders from many sectors.”

Likewise, the Business Roundtable describes itself as “an association of chief executive officers of leading U.S. companies with more than $7.3 trillion in annual revenues,” which believes that “businesses should play an active and effective role in the formation of public policy.”

Finally, the Financial Services Forum proclaims itself to be “a non-partisan financial and economic policy organization” which aims “to pursue policies that encourage savings and investment, promote an open and competitive global marketplace, and ensure the opportunity of people everywhere to participate fully and productively in the 21st-century global economy.”

These are among some of the many institutions which will be researched and examined in greater detail throughout the Global Power Project. In the next installment, I will be examining not only the societal and economic results of these dominant institutions of power, but the specific individuals — and in some cases family dynasties — that wield significant influence nationally and globally.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

Global Power Project, Part 3: The Influence of Individuals and Family Dynasties

Friday, 28 June 2013 09:15 By Andrew Gavin Marshall, Occupy.com | News Analysis


The Global Power Project, an investigative series produced by Occupy.com, aims to identify and connect the worldwide institutions and individuals who comprise today's global power oligarchy. In Part 2, which appeared last week, I discussed some of the dominant institutions that have facilitated and have in turn been supported by the development of this oligarchic class. In this third part, I examine the dynastic influence wielded by prominent corporate and financial families. This is not a study of wealth, but a study of power.

Also See: Global Power Project, Part 1: Exposing the Transnational Capitalist Class and Global Power Project, Part 2: Identifying the Institutions of Control

Dynastic power, embedded in the institution of "family," has been with humanity for as long as empire: ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome, China, the European empires and beyond. With the rise of capitalism, finance and corporations, formal political dynasties became less relevant to the expansion and maintenance of power and empire. Instead, dynastic power was and remains largely wielded in the corporate and financial sectors.

In Europe, the Rothschild banking dynasty was the unparalleled family power of the 19th century, and has continued as a major influence in Britain, France and elsewhere well into the 20th and 21st centuries. Baron Benjamin de Rothschild, considered to be the “world’s richest Rothschild today,” told the Israeli publication Ha’aretz in 2010, “We have an obligation to continue the dynasty.” And indeed, the Rothschild banks and family are doing well. It recently decided to bring together the French and British banking assets under one roof, and the dynasty has even been expanding its influence in merchant banking in London. The Rothschild bank was also seeking to extend its presence in the United States, “to take advantage of the growing demand for independent advice from companies globally.”

In the United States, the 19th century saw the rise of multiple corporate and financial dynasties, though the most lasting and still the most influential is the Rockefeller family. Initially through the Standard Oil empire, which was broken up into corporations we now know as ExxonMobil, Chevron and others, Rockefeller influence was prominent in universities (notably the University of Chicago and Harvard), in finance, with Chase Manhattan Bank (now JPMorgan Chase), in the creation and maintenance of major foundations (Rockefeller Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Rockefeller Family Fund) and in the establishment and leadership of major think tanks (Council on Foreign Relations, Trilateral Commission, Bilderberg), all of which created access to political and social power that shaped institutions, ideologies and individuals on a vast scale. James Wolfensohn, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, was formerly president of the World Bank, a long time member of the Steering Committee of the Bilderberg Group, and a trustee of the Brookings Institution and the Rockefeller Foundation. Wolfensohn’s father served as an advisor to the Rothschilds and taught the young Wolfensohn how to “cultivate mentors, friends and contacts of influence.” Upon the event of David Rockefeller’s 90th birthday, celebrated at the Council on Foreign Relations in 2005, Wolfensohn described the Rockefeller patriarch as “the person who had perhaps the greatest influence on my life professionally,” and added: “In fact, it’s fair to say that there has been no other single family influence greater than the Rockefeller’s in the whole issue of globalization.” In Canada, the Desmarais family, which owns Power Corporation, exists as the country's most influential dynasty with significant business and family ties to Canada’s political elite. Through their participation, organization and leadership in prominent think tanks and industry associations, the Desmarais have become a powerful influence in shaping not only Canada but the process of globalization itself in recent decades.

There are, of course, parallel corporate and financial dynasties in countries all over the world, such as the Agnellis in Italy, the Wallenbergs in Sweden, and the still-existing monarchs in Britain, the Netherlands, Belgium and beyond, who despite their “symbolic” political power wield significant financial and corporate influence. It should be no surprise that these powerful financial and corporate dynasties have substantial interaction and integration with one other. Bilderberg meetings act as a forum which very often represents dynastic influence from the Atlantic community, including the Rockefellers, Rothschilds, Desmarais, Wallenbergs, Agnellis and the Dutch, Belgian and Spanish monarchies, among others. It should also be no surprise that the two arguably most influential dynasties – Rothschild and Rockefeller – have been steadily increasing their connections, both formal and informal.

In fact, as the Financial Times reported in May of 2012, “Two of the best-known business dynasties in Europe and the US will come together after Lord Jacob Rothschild’s listed investment trust and Rockefeller Financial Services agreed to form a strategic partnership,” with the Rothschild-owned RIT Capital Partners purchasing a 37% stake in the Rockefeller family’s “wealth advisory and asset management group.” This “transatlantic union,” noted the Financial Times, “brings together David Rockefeller, 96, and Lord Rothschild, 76 – two family patriarchs whose personal relationship spans five decades.”

To understand the kind of influence and power we're talking about, it is helpful to briefly examine the biography -- dare we refer to it as a CV -- of one of the global patriarchs himself, David Rockefeller. Rockefeller was Chairman and CEO of Chase Manhattan Bank from 1969 to 1980, after which he remained Chairman of the International Advisory Committee of Chase Manhattan, from 1981 to 1999, and subsequently a member of the International Advisory Council (2000-2005) when the bank merged into JPMorgan Chase.

Rockefeller was a founding member of the Bilderberg Meetings and he still holds an exclusive position on the Steering Committee’s Member Advisory Group. He was the Chairman of Rockefeller Group, Inc. from 1981 to 1995, and Chairman of Rockefeller Center Properties, Inc. Trust from 1996 to 2001. David Rockefeller was also a Chairman of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, where he remains as an advisory trustee; Chairman and Life Trustee of the Museum of Modern Art; and former Chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations, from 1970 to 1985, where he remains as Honorary Chairman.

And it doesn't stop there. The senior Rockefeller is founder of the David Rockefeller Fund; Chairman Emeritus of the Board of Trustees of the University of Chicago; former President of the Harvard College Board of Overseers; Honorary Chairman of the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy (CECP); and he was co-founder of the Global Philanthropists Circle. Rockefeller was also the founder and former North American Chairman of the Trilateral Commission, from 1973-1991, and remains Honorary Chairman. He was the founder of the Partnership for New York City, founder and Honorary Chairman of the Americas Society and the Council of the Americas, and he currently sits as Honorary Chairman and Life Trustee and Chairman Emeritus of the Rockefeller University Council. He is an honorary director of the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

The past and present affiliations held by this one individual span the largest bank in the United States, the most prominent national think tank, highly influential transnational think tanks and policy boards, foundations and universities. This one individual has a network of influence that includes: JPMorgan Chase, the Council on Foreign Relations, Trilateral Commission, Bilderberg Group, University of Chicago, Rockefeller University, Harvard, and many other prominent institutions. The fact that he has held – or currently holds – leadership positions in these institutions, and often for several decades, is an example of the significant networks of influence that go far beyond his identity as a “banker” or “former CEO of Chase Manhattan.”

When we place David Rockefeller in the context of his dynastic family's broad array of institutional engagement, and the power that his past and present family members wield, the influence becomes much greater. Dynastic power again, like class power, should not be confused with "conspiracy theory," as it does not function as a conspiracy but rather as a network of institutions, corporations, banks, think tanks and foundations with indirect political influence. They are more opportunistic than omnipotent, and are perhaps better thought of not as a few obscure families running the world but more akin to organized crime families – the Mafia – operating on a much larger scale.

Empire does not just happen, nor, for that matter, does “capitalism.” Society is made, constructed, shaped, directed, organized and engineered. Ideas are embedded in institutions, which establish ideologies, indoctrinate individuals and implement objectives. But they are not omnipotent; they must respond to changes in the population, in public opinion and will, in the cultural evolution of humanity, in resistance to war, tyranny, oppression and impoverishment. Institutions and ideologies must adapt to changing circumstances, to technological and cultural developments, or they will become obsolete.

The population, however, must also adapt to a changing environment, technological developments, cultural attitudes, economic and social disasters, and political engagement. The population – the people, both nationally and globally – must work to adapt their thinking, their perspective and their understanding of power, of ideas and institutions, of the way in which society functions and the ways in which it could function.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

The purpose of the Global Power Project is to provide a lens through which to view and understand power more directly – not as abstract concepts of “democracy” or “capitalism,” liberal or conservative, Republican or Democratic, but as a complex relationship between power and people. This research seeks to identify the individuals and institutions that wield significant power over society, nationally and globally, to help us understand who specifically has shaped and is continuing to shape the world we all live in.

Starting next week, the Global Power Project will reveal extensive research on one or more institutions at a time, selecting them based upon known or perceived influence, and examining the individuals who serve in leadership, board membership and advisory roles at those institutions, answering the questions: what are their backgrounds, what other institutions have they worked for, what other boards do they sit on, what organizations are they members of? And importantly: how is their power connected?

Stay tuned next week, as we find out.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

Global Power Project, Part 4: Banking on Influence With JPMorgan Chase

Friday, 05 July 2013 09:19 By Andrew Gavin Marshall, Occupy.com | News Analysis


In May, JPMorgan Chase was listed as the largest bank in the world with assets at roughly $4 trillion -- some $1.53 trillion of it in derivatives. This was reported a month after the announcement that the bank had posted a record first-quarter profit of $6.5 billion.

Also See: Global Power Project, Part 1: Exposing the Transnational Capitalist Class; Global Power Project, Part 2: Identifying the Institutions of Control; and Global Power Project, Part 3: The Influence of Individuals and Family Dynasties.

Jamie Dimon, the bank's CEO and Chairman, has faced a host of scandals in relation to his management of the megabank, including the loss of roughly $6 billion through the London branch of the bank -- losses that Dimon was accused of hiding. A 300-page report by the U.S. Senate, investigating the “creative accounting” of JPMorgan, noted that the bank “hid losses, did not share information with its regulators, and misled the public” in what one banking regulator referred to as “make believe voodoo magic.” Stated bluntly in The New York Times, JPMorgan Chase, the largest derivatives dealer in the world, “is too big to regulate."

In the midst of the scandal, the bank faced a potential “revolt” of its shareholders in a bid to strip Dimon of his dual role as CEO and Chairman. In confidential government reports which were leaked to The New York Times, the bank was accused of “manipulative schemes” which transformed “money-losing power plants into powerful profit centers” while executives made “false and misleading statements” under oath.

Yet even in the midst of scandal, Jamie Dimon was praised in a storm of support by billionaires, corporate kingpins and media barons. Calling JPMorgan Chase “as good a bank as there is,” New York City mayor and billionaire media baron Michael Bloomberg went on to call Dimon “a very smart, honest, great executive.” News Corporation chairman Rupert Murdoch praised Dimon as “one of the smartest, toughest guys around,” while Jack Welch, former chairman and CEO of General Electric, referred to him as a “great leader” and said he had earned the “right to hold both Chairman and CEO titles.” To top it off, billionaire investor and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, Warren Buffet, dubbed Dimon “a fabulous banker.”

And the adoration goes all the way to the top rung. In 2009, The New York Times referred to Jamie Dimon as “President Obama’s favorite banker.” In 2010, Obama told Bloomberg BusinessWeek that he didn’t “begrudge” bank CEOs like Jamie Dimon and Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs for their massive bonuses of $17 and $9 million, respectively. Obama explained: "I, like most of the American people, don’t begrudge people success or wealth. That is part of the free-market system.” The president added, “I know both those guys; they are very savvy businessmen.”

In May of 2012, Obama rushed to Jamie Dimon’s defense in light of the financial scandals, stating that Dimon was “one of the smartest bankers we got.” The Financial Times referred to Dimon as “the last king of Wall Street.” And when finally faced with the decision to strip Dimon of his dual role as chairman and CEO, Obama’s "favorite banker" ended up winning “a decisive victory" by maintaining both his roles.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

But this is just the surface of JPMorgan Chase’s financial manipulations. The bank, in fact, was at the forefront of creating Credit Default Swaps (CDS), a key aspect of the derivatives market that led to the inflation and subsequent blowout of the housing bubble. JPMorgan developed these “financial instruments” as a type of insurance policy in 1994, allowing the bank to trade its debt (in the form of loans to corporations and governments) to third parties, thus handing off the risk and removing the debts from its accounts, which allowed it to make further loans. JPMorgan opened up the first CDS desk in New York in 1997, “a division that would eventually earn the name the Morgan Mafia for the number of former members who went on to senior positions at global banks and hedge funds.” Back in 2003, the same Warren Buffet who would later praise Dimon referred to credit default swaps as “financial weapons of mass destruction.”

JPMorgan was also at the forefront in the United States pushing for financial deregulation, particularly the slow-motion dismantling of the Glass-Steagall Act that had been put in place in 1933 in response to the financial speculation which had helped spark the Great Depression. After hearing proposals from banks such as Citicorp, JP Morgan and Bankers Trust, which advocated the loosening of “restrictions” put in place by Glass-Steagall, the Federal Reserve Board in 1987 voted to ease many of the regulations. That same year, Alan Greenspan, who had previously been a director of JP Morgan, became the chairman of the Fed. In 1989, the Fed approved an application submitted by JP Morgan, Chase Manhattan, Citicorp and Bankers Trust to further reduce the regulations imposed by Glass-Steagall. In 1990, JP Morgan became “the first bank to receive permission from the Federal Reserve to underwrite securities.”

Financial deregulation accelerated under President Clinton, much to the delight of Wall Street banks, which were then permitted to merge into megabanks, with JPMorgan merging with Chase Manhattan to form JPMorgan Chase. As early as 2006 and 2007, multiple megabanks were beginning to bet against the housing market through various hedge funds, allowing them to make profits on the housing collapse they created. JPMorgan continued to sell mortgages as it bet against the mortgage market, passing on the risk while it hedged its bets to profit from the failure and losses of others. In 2011, the bank paid a $153 million fine to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to settle allegations of “securities fraud.”

In the midst of the financial crisis in 2008, JPMorgan Chase became not only a major criminal, but also a prime beneficiary. In 2007, the global investment bank Bear Stearns was named by Fortune magazine as the second “most admired” financial securities company in the United States, while Lehman Brothers was put in first place. As the financial crisis erupted, Bear Stearns executives “discovered” that they were “nearly out of cash” in March of 2008. The CEO of Bear Stearns, Alan Schwartz, made a phone call to Jamie Dimon -- JPMorgan Chase was the clearing agent for Bear Stearns -- asking for an overnight loan. Dimon, who also sat on the board of directors of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, turned there instead of providing the loan through his own bank. The president of the New York Fed – who was elected by the banks that own the New York Fed – was Timothy Geithner. Geithner began discussions with Bear Stearns, and the following morning he held a meeting with Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, the former CEO of Goldman Sachs, where they agreed to an emergency loan for Bear Stearns, providing the funds through JPMorgan Chase.

Over the following day, Geithner and Paulson informed Bear Stearns that it must sell the bank within days, and a deal was negotiated in which JPMorgan Chase would purchase Bear Stearns at $2 per share. Though Dimon had first refused to purchase the failed bank, he now engaged in negotiations with Geithner who won over Dimon by guaranteeing $30 billion for JPMorgan to purchase the sunken bank. Long story short: through the New York Fed, the U.S. government purchased billions of dollars in bad debts made by Bear Stearns, including $16 billion in credit default swaps that were downgraded to “junk” assets, while JPMorgan Chase acquired $360 billion in Bear Stearns assets with little or no risk.

With the purchase of Bear Stearns facilitated by the New York Fed, and for the benefit of JPMorgan, Geithner continued in his role as willing servant to the banks who had elected him as president. Then, in September of 2008 when the insurance conglomerate American International Group (AIG) plunged into crisis and sought support from the government, the Fed and Treasury initially refused. AIG turned to JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs, who went to the government to pressure for state support. The New York Fed, with Geithner at the helm, again organized a secret bailout of the institution, valued at $85 billion. In October, the government added an extra $38 billion to the AIG bailout, and the New York Fed provided a further $40 billion in November. Overall, U.S. taxpayers bailed out the insurance giant with $150 billion.

Because many banks kept junk assets with AIG which didn’t affect its balance sheets, the insurance giant was allowed to continue making risky loans. Meanwhile, the New York Fed, noted Bloomberg journalist David Reilly, acted as “a black-ops outfit for the nation’s central bank,” and as a “quasi-governmental institution [which] isn’t subject to citizen intrusions such as freedom of information requests.” The AIG bailout, wrote Reilly, revealed what could be described as a “secret banking cabal.” Through AIG, bailout funds went to American, French, German, British, Swiss, Dutch and even Canadian banks. Goldman Sachs received over $12 billion, and billions also went to Merrill Lynch, Bank of America, Citigroup, Wachovia, Morgan Stanley, and JPMorgan Chase.

JPMorgan Chase was using bailout money from the government to purchase other banks and companies. As one executive at the bank commented in regards to a $25 billion bailout from the government, “I think there are going to be some great opportunities for us to grow in this environment.” The banks repaid the bailout loans from other bailout funds they got from government, siphoning off taxpayer money back and forth and rewarding them for their risky behavior. One university study noted that banks with political access – whether through lobbying efforts or board membership on the Fed – were more likely to get bailout funds, and in bigger numbers, than other banks. Notably among the most politically connected banks were Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley.

According to a 2012 study by the International Monetary Fund and Bloomberg magazine, JPMorgan Chase continues to receive government support far beyond the bailouts, as it is a major recipient of corporate welfare and state subsidies. In fact, according to the study, the biggest bank in the world gets roughly $14 billion per year in state subsidies and welfare, largely helping “the bank pay big salaries and bonuses.”

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

The Biggest and Most Connected Bank

Not only is JPMorgan Chase the biggest bank in the world with over $4 trillion in assets, but its power and influence extends far beyond financial matters. It is a major political force in the world, highly integrated within the network of global elites who make up the plutocratic ruling class. As the subject of study for the Global Power Project, I examined 55 people at JPMorgan Chase, including all members of the executive committee, the board of directors and the international advisory council.

Of the 55 individuals examined at the bank, a total of 13 (or roughly 24%) of the individuals were either members or held leadership positions (previously or presently) with the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). The CFR has been at the heart of the foreign-policy elite of the United States since it was created in 1921. Further, a total of eight JPMorgan officials held leadership positions in the World Economic Forum, the second most represented institutional affiliation of the bank. Holding yearly conferences that bring together thousands of participants from elite financial, corporate, political, cultural, media and other institutions, the WEF is one of the principal forums for the global elite, with JPMorgan operating right there at the center.

The next most represented institution is the Trilateral Commission, with 5 individuals at JPMorgan Chase holding membership in the international think tank – or “global policy group” – uniting elites from North America, Western Europe and Japan (and now also including China, India, and other Pacific-rim nations). The Trilateral Commission itself was founded in 1973 by the CEO of Chase Manhattan Bank – which later merged into JPMorgan Chase – David Rockefeller.

In descending order, the other most highly represented institutions having cross membership between leadership positions with JPMorgan Chase are: the Federal Reserve Bank of New York (4), the Business Council (4), Citigroup (4), Bilderberg (4), the Group of Thirty (4), Sara Lee Corporation (3), Harvard (3), American Express (3), American International Group (3), the Business Roundtable (3), Rolls Royce (3), the Center for Strategic and International Studies – CSIS (3), the European Round Table of Industrialists (3), the Peterson Institute for International Economics (2), the U.S.-China Business Council (2), and the National Petroleum Council (2).

Institutions which hold two individual cross leadership positions with JPMorgan Chase include: the Monetary Authority of Singapore, the University of Chicago, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co., General Electric, Asia Business Council, the U.S. President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), the Coca-Cola Company, National Bank of Kuwait Advisory Board, INSEAD, China-United States Exchange Foundation, Mitsubishi, the Carlyle Group, and the IMF.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

Meet the Elites at JPMorgan Chase

It’s worth taking a look at some specific individuals who serve in a leadership and/or advisory capacity to JPMorgan Chase to get an idea of the composition of some of these global plutocrats.

Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JPMorgan Chase, sits on the boards of directors of: the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Harvard Business School, and Catalyst. He is a Trustee of the New York University School of Medicine, a member of the Executive Committee of the Business Council, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, a member of the International Business Council of the World Economic Forum, a member of the Financial Services Forum, and a member of the International Advisory Panel of the Monetary Authority of Singapore.

Members of the board of JPMorgan Chase include James A. Bell, former President of Boeing and a current member of the board of Dow Chemical; Crandall C. Bowles, a director of Deere & Company and the Sara Lee Corporation, a former director of Wachovia, a Trustee of the Brookings Institution, on the Governing Board of the Wilderness Society, and a member of the Business Council and the Economic Club of New York. Other JPM board members include Stephen B. Burke, CEO of NBC Universal and Executive Vice President of Comcast Corporation; David M. Cote, the Chairman and CEO of Honeywell International who sits on President Obama’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, on the advisory panel to Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. (KKR), and is a member of the Trilateral Commission; and Lee Raymond, director of the Business Council for International Understanding, who sits on the advisory panel to KKR, is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and former Chairman of the National Petroleum Council as well as former Chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil, from which he retired in 2006 with a compensation package of $398 million.

JPMorgan Chase has an International Council which provides advice to the bank’s leadership on economic, political and social trends across various regions and around the world. The International Council is chaired by Tony Blair, former Prime Minister of the UK, who also sits as an adviser to Zurich Financial. The Council includes Khalid A. Al-Falih, the President and CEO of Saudi Aramco (Saudi Arabian Oil Company), the world’s largest oil company, who also sits on the International Business Council of the World Economic Forum. Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan is also on JPMorgan’s International Council, and sits as Chairman of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), a partnership between the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation. Annan is also on the boards of the United Nations Foundation, the World Economic Forum, and he is a member of the Global Board of Advisors of the Council on Foreign Relations.

The Council includes the third richest man in Mexico, Alberto Bailléres, as well as the Chairman and CEO of Telecom Italia, Franco Bernabé, who was the former CEO of Eni, one of the world’s largest oil companies (and Italy’s largest corporation), as well as the former Vice Chairman of Rothschild Europe. Bernabé sits on the board of PetroChina, China’s largest oil company. Bernabé is also a member of the European Round Table of Industrialists (a group of roughly 50 major European CEOs who directly advocate and work with EU political leaders in designing and implementing policy), he was a former Advisory Board member of the Council on Foreign Relations, a member of the board of FIAT, and is actively a member of the Steering Committee of the Bilderberg Meetings.

Martin Feldstein, a prominent Economics professor at Harvard and the President Emeritus of the National Bureau of Economic Research, is another member of the International Council. Feldstein was the Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers to President Ronald Reagan and sat on the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (an “independent” group that advises the president on intelligence matters) under President George W. Bush (from 2007-2009). President Obama appointed Feldstein to the Economic Recovery Advisory Board, and he also sits on the board of the Council on Foreign Relations, is a member of the Trilateral Commission, a participant in Bilderberg Meetings, and is a member of the International Advisory Board of the National Bank of Kuwait.

Gao Xi-Qing is the Vice Chairman, President and Chief Investment Officer of the China Investment Corporation (CIC), China’s sovereign investment fund. He was referred to by the Atlantic as “the man who oversees $200 billion of China’s $2 trillion in dollar holdings.” Another notable Chinese member of the International Council is Tung Chee Hwa, the former Chief Executive and President of the Executive Council of Hong Kong, a core policy-making institution in the government of Hong Kong. Tung Chee Hwa is also the Vice Chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), a major political advisory group in the People’s Republic of China, once chaired by Mao Zedong. Tung Chee Hwa as well is the founder and Chairman of the China-United States Exchange Foundation, and a former member of the International Advisory Board of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Carla A. Hills is the only woman on the JPMorgan International Council, and is Chairman and CEO of Hills & Company International, a global consulting firm. She was the former United States Trade Representative in the George H.W. Bush administration, where she was the primary negotiator for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). She is also the Co-Chair of the Council on Foreign Relations, and sits on the International Boards of Rolls Royce and the Coca-Cola Company, as well as sitting on the board of directors of Gilead Sciences. Hills is a Counselor and Trustee of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a major American think tank where she also sits as Co-Chair of the Advisory Board (alongside Zbigniew Brzezinski, co-founder of the Trilateral Commission). In addition, Hills is a member of the Executive Committee of both the Trilateral Commission and the Peterson Institute for International Economics, as well as sitting on the boards of the International Crisis Group and the US-China Business Council, as Chair of the National Committee on US-China Relations, and Chair of the Inter-American Dialogue.

Henry Kissinger – former U.S. Secretary of State, National Security Adviser to President Richard Nixon, and Secretary of State to President Ford – also sits on the International Council of JPMorgan. Kissinger was a former adviser to Nelson Rockefeller, who recruited Kissinger as director of the Special Studies Project of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund in the 1950s. Kissinger was a director of the Council on Foreign Relations from 1977-1981, is a member of the Trilateral Commission, a former member of the Steering Committee and continuous participant in the Bilderberg Meetings, and is founder and chair of Kissinger Associates, an international consulting and advisory firm. Kissinger Chaired the National Bipartisan Commission on Central America during the Reagan administration, which provided justification for Reagan’s wars in Central America, and he was also a member of the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board from 1984-1990, advising both Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Alongside Zbigniew Brzezinski, Kissinger was a member of the Commission on Integrated Long-Term Strategy of the National Security Council and Defense Department, established in the late 1980s to develop a long-term strategy for the United States in the world. Kissinger has also been a member of the Defense Policy Board, providing “independent” advice to the Pentagon leadership on matters of foreign policy, from 2001 to the present, for both the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations. Kissinger is also a Counselor and Trustee of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Honorary Governor of the Foreign Policy Association, an Honorary Member of the International Olympic Committee, an adviser to the board of directors of American Express, and is a Trustee Emeritus of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In addition, Kissinger is a director of the International Rescue Committee, the Atlantic Institute, and is on the advisory board of the RAND Center for Global Risk and Security, as well as Honorary Chairman of the China-United States Exchange Foundation.

Mustafa V. Koc is also a member of the International Council, and is Chairman of Koc Holding AS, Turkey’s largest multinational corporation. He also sits on the International Advisory Board of Rolls Royce, the Global Advisory Board of the Council on Foreign Relations, is a member of the Steering Committee of the Bilderberg Meetings, a former member of the International Advisory Board of the National Bank of Kuwait, and is Honorary Chairman of the Turkish Industrialists and Businessmen’s High Advisory Council.

Gérard Mestrallet is the Chairman and CEO of GDF Suez, one of the largest energy conglomerates in the world, and is on the board of Suez Environment (one of the major water privatization companies in the world), and also sits on the supervisory board of AXA, a major global French financial conglomerate. He is also an advisory board member of Siemens, and is a member of the European Round Table of Industrialists and the International Business Council of the World Economic Forum.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

John S. Watson is the Chairman and CEO of Chevron Corporation. He is on the board of the American Petroleum Institute and is a member of the National Petroleum Council, the Business Roundtable, the Business Council, the American Society of Corporate Executives, and the Chancellor’s Board of Advisors of the University of California Davis. He is also a member of the International Business Council of the World Economic Forum. The Chairman of JPMorgan Chase International, Jacob A. Frenkel, is Chairman and CEO of the Group of Thirty, and a member of the International Council. He is also a former Vice Chairman of American International Group (from 2004 to 2009, when it was rescued with the massive government bailout); the former Chairman of Merrill Lynch International (from 2000 to 2004), and the former Governor of the Bank of Israel (from 1991 to 2000). Frenkel was an Economic Counselor and Director of Research at the International Monetary Fund (from 1987 to 1991) and prior to that he was the David Rockefeller Professor of International Economics at the University of Chicago (from 1973 to 1987). In addition, Frenkel is the former Editor of the Journal of Political Economy, former Vice Chairman of the Board of Governors of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, former Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Inter-American Development Bank, and a former member of the International Advisory Board of the Council on Foreign Relations. Frenkel is currently a member of the board of directors of the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), a member of the Trilateral Commission, member of the International Advisory Council of the China Development Bank, member of the board of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, member of the Economic Advisory panel of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, member of the Council for the United States and Italy, member of the Investment Advisory Council of the Prime Minister of Turkey, and sits on the board of Loews Corporation.

To sum: it should be clear, from the evidence, that the leadership of JPMorgan Chase is not an isolated group of individuals involved in finance and exclusively relegated to the banking world, but a highly networked and influential group consisting of central figures in the global plutocracy – referred to as the "Transnational Capitalist Class" – with significant economic, social and political power. To refer to JPMorgan Chase simply as "a bank" is like referring to the United States as just "a country." A geopolitical force unto itself, and a conglomerate embedded within a transnational network of elite institutions and individuals, JPMorgan Chase goes beyond the financial indicators. Put simply, it is one of the most powerful banks in the world.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

Global Power Project Part V: Banking on Influence With Goldman Sachs

Monday, 15 July 2013 09:18 By Andrew Gavin Marshall, Occupy.com | News Analysis


Anyone who has paid even minimal attention to the global economic and financial crises gripping the world since 2007 has heard the name Goldman Sachs.

One of the largest banks in the United States, Goldman Sachs was central to the process of creating the housing bubble that popped in 2007-8, which led to the largest economic crisis since the Great Depression. As Matt Taibbi famously documented in Rolling Stone, Goldman has been involved in “every major market manipulation since the Great Depression,” profiting along the way as “a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.”

Let's go back to a little history.

In 2006 and 2007, as Goldman was selling high risk securities on home mortgages worth $40 billion, it was simultaneously betting against the housing market, ensuring that as the housing market crashed, the bank would make a significant profit. Thus, “the nation’s premier investment bank pass[ed] most of its potential losses to others before a flood of mortgage defaults staggered the U.S. and global economies.”

In late 2007, as the mortgage crisis was accelerating, executives at Goldman Sachs sent each other emails explaining that they would make “some serious money” betting against the housing market. Like a self-fulfilling prophecy, the bank helped the market crash harder and faster.

A U.S. Senate investigation into Goldman Sachs concluded that the bank “profited from the financial crisis [which it helped cause] by betting billions against the subprime mortgage market, then deceived investors and Congress about the firm's conduct,” and referred the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the U.S. Justice Department to investigate the bank for criminal or civil action.

As Goldman’s CEO Lloyd Blankfein himself stated: “We focused a lot of ourselves on trying to benefit from the crisis that happened... we were going to use that opportunity to make ourselves a better firm.” In 2012, however, President Obama’s Justice Department announced that it would not pursue criminal charges against the bank. This, after the bank received over $12 billion in bailouts from the U.S. government to save the bank from the crisis that it created and profited from.

This, after Goldman Sachs helped create the Greek debt crisis for which entire populations of European countries are being punished into poverty while allowing the bank (among other banks) to continue to profit from the deepening depression and crisis in Europe. This, after Goldman Sachs (along with other investment banks) helped create a global food crisis by speculating on food prices, sending the prices sky-high, then making immense profits while tens of millions of people around the world were pushed into hunger and starvation.

Obama’s decision not to prosecute the bank, of course, had nothing to do with the fact that Goldman Sachs was one of the top contributors to the Obama campaign in 2008 and again to his re-election campaign in 2012.

CEO Blankfein turned more heads when he told CBS News in November of 2012: “You’re going to have to undoubtedly do something to lower people’s expectations – the entitlements and what people think that they’re going to get, because it’s not going to – they’re not going to get it.” Suggesting that benefits like social security, Medicare and Medicaid were providing too much “support” to everyday people, Blankfein explained that “entitlements have to be slowed down and contained... because we can’t afford them.” Apparently, the fact that Goldman Sachs received more than $10 billion in government welfare in exchange for its role helping to create a national and global financial crisis did not strike Blankfein as hypocrisy. The lesson he imparted: there is plenty of money to support the bank but not old-age pensioners. Because as Blankfein lectured the public about its need to "lower expectations" and lose its social benefits, bonuses for Wall Street executives were going up, with Goldman Sachs's bonuses and salaries for 2012 topping $13 billion.

Goldman's Reach into Other Institutions

For the Global Power Project, we examined a total of 83 individuals at Goldman Sachs, including executives, the board of directors, and several advisory boards. The most highly represented institution was Harvard University, where 12 (or 14%) of the 83 individuals hold leadership positions.

Following Harvard was the Council on Foreign Relations, where 10 Goldman Sachs representatives are members. The University of Pennsylvania and the World Economic Forum each have five individuals sharing leadership positions with the bank; four individuals are affiliated with the Bilderberg Meetings, four with Columbia University; and three with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the Brookings Institution, Rockefeller University, the Nature Conservancy, the Securities Industry Association, and the World Bank.

And the list goes on from there, as Goldman Sachs shares two individual leadership positions or affiliations with Tsinghua University, Cornell University, the Partnership for New York City, Wal-Mart, the Aspen Institute, New York University, Fannie Mae, Yale University, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Credit Suisse, Oxford, Barnard College, Prudential, the Bank of England, EastWest Institute, the London School of Economics, the Trilateral Commission, DiamlerChrysler, the OECD, the Central Park Conservancy, the Museum of Modern Art, Caterpillar, the International Rescue Committee and the Asia Society. The bank also includes two former European Commissioners.

Goldman Sachs shares one leadership position – past or presently – with the following institutions: the Financial Services Forum, Catalyst, the Monetary Authority of Singapore, Stanford, Investor AB, Stockholm School of Economics, the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, George W. Bush’s National Economic Council, ExxonMobil, Novartis, Honeywell International, Target, UnitedHealth Group, Perseus, EADS, PepsiCo, Royal Philips Electronics, Zurich Financial, PricewaterhouseCoopers, BP, Allianz, European Round Table of Industrialists, Royal Bank of Scotland, HSBC, Siemens, the Bank of Spain, IMF, the Group of Thirty, the Population Council, the European Central Bank, Princeton, Soros Fund Management, New York Stock Exchange, the Ford Foundation, Google, BHP Billiton, and the People’s Bank of China, among many others.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

Meeting the Elites

There are several individuals holding leadership positions with Goldman Sachs who represent what we refer to as the global ruling class – or global plutocracy – by virtue of their multiple positions on numerous boards and advisory groups, think tanks, educational institutions, and other important institutions of influence, giving them unparalleled access to policy-makers around the world.

Let’s start with Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein, who has been chairman and CEO of the bank since 2006, and who is also a member of the Dean’s Advisory Board of Harvard Law School, a member of the Dean’s Council of Harvard University and is a member of the Advisory Board of Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management. Blankfein is also a member of the Board of Overseers of Weill Medical College at Cornell University, the board of directors of the Partnership for New York City, and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the International Advisory Committee of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. He is additionally a member of the board of Catalyst, Chairman of the Financial Services Forum and is a member of the International Advisory Panel of the Monetary Authority of Singapore.

Stephen Friedman is on the board of directors of Goldman Sachs and has been Chairman of Stone Point Capital since 2005. He was previously Chairman of President George W. Bush’s Intelligence Advisory Board and Intelligence Oversight Board from 2006 to 2008, and was Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York between 2008 and 2009. Friedman was also the Assistant to the President for Economic Policy and Director of the National Economic Council in George W. Bush’s White House from 2002 to 2004, and was previously the Chairman of Goldman Sachs. He is a Trustee of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, a Trustee of Columbia University, a Trustee of the Aspen Institute, a former director of Wal-Mart and Fannie Mae, and is a member of the board of advisers of the Center for New American Security and the board of directors of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Also on the board of Goldman Sachs is Lakshmi N. Mittal, a director of ArcelorMittal, the world’s largest steel company, and is also a director of the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company (EADS) N.V., as well as a member of the International Business Council of the World Economic Forum. He is a member of the Advisory Board of the Kellogg School of Management, a member of the Executive Committee of the World Steel Association, a member of the Foreign Investment Council of the Government of Kazakhstan, a member of the Indian Prime Minister’s Global Advisory Council, a member of the International Advisory Board to the President of Mozambique, and a member of the Domestic and Foreign Investors Advisory Council to the President of the Ukraine.

The Chairman of Goldman Sachs International is Peter D. Sutherland, former Attorney General of Ireland from 1981 to 1984, who was European Commissioner for Competition Policy in the EU from 1985 to 1989, after which he was Chairman of Allied Irish Banks from 1989 to 1993. Between 1990 and 1995, Sutherland was Chairman of the European Institute of Public Administration, and was the Director-General of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) from 1993 and the first Director-General when it became the World Trade Organization (WTO), which he led until 1995. Sutherland was the Chairman of BP from 1997 to 2009, the former CEO of Ericsson, a former Director of the Royal Bank of Scotland, and former Chairman of the General Assembly and President of the Advisory Council of the European Policy Center. Sutherland was additionally the former European Chairman of the Trilateral Commission from 2000 to 2009, and remains at the Trilateral Commission as a member and Honorary European Chairman. He was previously the Vice Chairman of the European Round Table of Industrialists, from 2006 to 2009. He is a member of the Foundation Board of the World Economic Forum, the Supervisory Board of Allianz SE, a member of the boards of BW Group and Koc Holding, and President of the Federal Trust. He is a former member of the Council of International Advisors to the Chief Executive of Hong Kong, ia member of the Board of Directors Emeriti of the European Institute, and is on the International Advisory Board of BritishAmerican Business. Sutherland is also the Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the UN for Migration and Development and has been the Consultor of the Extraordinary Section of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (financial adviser to the Pope).

Senator Judd Gregg, a member of the International Advisory Board of Goldman Sachs, is a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1980 to 1988, former Governor of New Hampshire from 1989 to 1993, and a U.S. Senator from 1993 to 2011. As a Senator, Gregg was the Chief Negotiator for the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 (the bailout bill), and is a member of President Obama’s Bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. He is also a Senior Adviser to New Mountain Capital, and is on the boards of IntercontinentalExchange and Honeywell International.

Another member of Goldman Sachs’ International Advisory Board is Lord Griffiths of Forestfach, a member of the British House of Lords and member of the board of directors of Times Newspaper Holdings Ltd and Telereal Trillium. He is Vice Chairman of Goldman Sachs International, was a former Professor at the London School of Economics, former Dean at City University Business School, and was a director of the Bank of England from 1983 to 1985. Between 1985 and 1990, he was the head of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s Policy Unit, where he “was a chief architect of the government’s privatization and deregulation programs.” In 2009, following a record-breaking $22 billion that was given out to Goldman Sachs executives and leadership in payment and bonuses, Lord Griffiths told a British audience that they should “tolerate the inequality as a way to achieve greater prosperity for all.”

Victor Halberstadt, a member of the International Advisory Board of Goldman Sachs, is also a Professor of Economics at Leiden University in the Netherlands, and former Crown-Member of the Netherlands Social-Economic Council. He is former Chairman of the International Advisory Board of DiamlerChrysler, former advisor to the Secretary-General of the OECD, former member of the Council on Defence for the Government of the Netherlands, and former Informateur to the Queen of the Netherlands, as well as the former President of the International Institute of Public Finance. Halberstadt is a former Honorary Secretary-General of the Bilderberg Meetings, where he remains as a member of the Steering Committee, and is a director of ING Group, Stork, DiamlerChrysler, KPN and PA Consulting Group. He is a member of the board of Koc University, the Lee Kuan Yew School for Public Policy in Singapore, and a member of the Board of Trustees of the Population Council. He is additionally Chairman of the Board of the American European Community Association (AECA), a member of the board of the Netherlands Opera and is a member of the Faculty of the World Economic Forum.

A Senior Director of Goldman Sachs is John C. Whitehead, who was former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State in the Reagan administration from 1985 to 1989, the founding Chairman of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, and was an employee, partner, Co-Chairman and Senior Partner for Goldman Sachs between 1947 and 1976. He is a former member of the board of directors of the New York Stock Exchange, former Chairman of the Securities Industry Association, former Chairman of the Board of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, former Chairman of the United Nations Association, the International Rescue Committee, International House, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and former Chairman of the Harvard Board of Overseers. Whitehead is an Honorary Life Trustee and former Chairman of the Asia Society, Chairman Emeriti of the International Rescue Committee, a former director of the Nature Conservancy, a board member emeriti of the Watson Institute for International Studies and a director emeriti of the EastWest Institute. He is former Chairman of the Hungarian-American Enterprise Fund, a former member of the Steering Committee of the Bilderberg Meetings, Chair Emeriti of the Brookings Institution, a Commissioner of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, a member of the board of the National September 11th Memorial and Museum at the World Trade Center and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

It’s not surprising that with individuals like Stephen Friedman, Peter Sutherland and John C. Whitehead holding leadership positions with Goldman Sachs, the bank has established a highly influential network of affiliations with some of the world's major institutions and policy-makers. The “vampire squid” has indeed spread its tentacles far beyond mere financial influence; through its affiliations with global plutocrats who serve on its boards, Goldman is a cosmopolitical conglomerate with ever-expansive power.

Even mother nature can’t seem to take on Goldman Sachs. When Hurricane Sandy hit New York City in November of 2012, power was knocked out for more than 1 million New Yorkers. But the bank’s 200 West Street headquarters were shining bright, “lights glowing and music playing.” With heaps and sandbags surrounding the building and generators running, Goldman sent off a lone, ominous blue glow into the stormy night: a symbol to all that even in the worst of circumstances, amid a sea of human suffering, Goldman Sachs remains ever present, lights on...doing business and making money.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

Meet the Elites

Bank of America’s CEO, Brian T. Moynihan, was a former executive vice president at Fleet Boston and director of BlackRock. He is currently a member of the Business Roundtable and Vice Chairman of the Financial Services Forum, as well as being a member of the International Advisory Panel of the Monetary Authority of Singapore. Charles O. Holliday, Jr. is the Chairman of the Board of Bank of America and a director of Royal Dutch Shell, and was the CEO of DuPont from 1998 to 2009. He was the former Chairman of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, the Business Council, Catalyst, the Society of Chemical Industry, and is a founding member of the International Business Council. Holliday is a director of Deere & Company, a member of the board of Planet Forward, Climate Works Foundation, the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University, and is a member of the board of directors of the National Geographic Education Foundation and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

Mukesh D. Ambani is a member of the board of Bank of America and is the Chairman and Managing Director of Reliance Industries. He is a member of the Global Board of Advisors of the Council on Foreign Relations, a member of the Prime Minister’s Council on Trade and Industry for the Government of India, a member of the board of governors of the National Council of Applied Economic Research in New Delhi, and a member of the Millennium Development Goals Advocacy Group. Ambani is also a member of the Foundation Board of the World Economic Forum, a member of the Indo-U.S. CEOs Forum, a member of the International Advisory Board of the National Bank of Kuwait, Vice Chairman of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, and a member of the Advisory Council of the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University. Additionally Ambani is a member of the Business Council, the India-Russia CEO Council, Co-Chair of the Japan-India Business Leader’s Forum, Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Indian Institute of Management, and is a member of the International Advisory Council of the Brookings Institution.

Monica C. Lozano is Chairman and CEO of ImpreMedia and CEO of La Opinion, as well as a member of the board of directors of the Walt Disney Company. She is also a member of the Board of Regents of the University of California, a Trustee of the University of Southern California and a director of the Weingart Foundation, as well as a member of the board of directors of the Commission of the 21st Century Economy. Lozano was a member of President Obama’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board from 2009-2011, and has since been a member of President Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness as well as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Rockefeller Foundation and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Charles O. Rossotti is a senior adviser to the Carlyle Group and was the Commissioner of the IRS from 1997 to 2002, also sitting on the board of directors of Booz Allen Hamilton, Quorum Management Solutions, Primatics Financial and AES Corporation. He too is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Linda P. Hudson, who sits on the board of BofA, is the President and CEO of the military contractor BAE Systems, and former Vice President of General Dynamics. Hudson sits on the board of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum and on the executive committee of the Aerospace Industries Association. She is a member of the University of Florida Foundation Board and the International Women’s Forum.

Anne M. Finucance, who is the Global Strategy and Marketing Officer at Bank of America, is also a director of Partners HealthCare System, CVS Caremark Corporation, a trustee of Stonehill College and Carnegie Hall, and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Finucance sits on the boards of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, the American Ireland Fund, the International Center of Journalists, and the National September 11 Memorial & Museum.

Banking on America?

Bank of America is, in short, a profound symbol of much that is wrong on Wall Street: massive fraud, money laundering, racketeering, conspiracy, and weighty influence in Washington and beyond. Surely it's comforting to know that a woman who sits on the board of BofA, Monica Lozano, also sits on President Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, advising the president as to how to appropriately manage the economic "recovery". In terms of the media reporting on Bank of America's crimes, Lozano, as CEO of a media company and board member of the Walt Disney Company, along with BofA board member Charles K. Gifford — who sits on the board of directors of CBS Corporation — signal that a “fair” portrayal of the bank's activities aren't exactly what the public should expect. What is clear is that Bank of America, like all big banks in our era, isn't merely a financial institution but simultaneously acts as an influential institution in the media, military industrial complex, think tanks, chemical companies and government circles.

The bank is too big to fail. Too big to jail. And too connected to change.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

Global Power Project: Banking on Influence With Bank of America

Thursday, 18 July 2013 09:31 By Andrew Gavin Marshall, Occupy | News Analysis


This July, Bank of America was expecting to report an earnings increase of 32% from last year. The Washington Business Journal declared the bank among the top 10 “most improved brands” of the year. Bank of America is the second-largest bank in the United States following JPMorgan Chase. So why does this bank deserve such an “improved” reputation? Perhaps it's worth looking at a little of the bank’s record for some clarity.

During the first year of the global financial crisis, which the big banks helped to create and which they profited enormously from, the government stepped in to bail out Bank of America. They rewarded the bank $20 billion for its massive financial crimes, as well as a special guarantee for nearly $100 billion of potential losses on the balance sheets of Merrill Lynch, which Bank of America acquired during the crisis.

As it turns out, Bank of America and other big banks continue to get "backdoor bailouts" through the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, which acts as a legal guarantor and protector of the Wall Street chain gang of criminal conglomerates. The bank was recently added to a list, compiled by a corporate watchdog group, of the "dirty dozen" criminal financial institutions for its role deceiving investors, committing mortgage and foreclosure abuses and engaging in municipal bond rigging and illegal payments.

When Matt Taibbi wrote in Rolling Stone that Bank of America was “a hypergluttonous ward of the state whose limitless fraud and criminal conspiracies we’ll all be paying for until the end of time,” he wasn't exaggerating. The bank foreclosed on tens of thousands of Americans through a “mass perjury” scheme and pushed worthless mortgages on pension funds and unions. As several big banks – including BofA, JPMorgan, Wells Fargo and Citigroup – agreed to pay a $25 billion settlement with the government over “abusive mortgage practices,” the Department of Justice granted the banks what amounted to legal immunity “from civil government claims over faulty foreclosures.” In January, Bank of America settled to pay $11.6 billion to the government-controlled mortgage company Fannie Mae in response to a legal battle over “bad loans.”

In June of 2013, six former BofA employees and one contractor issued sworn statements in which they accused the bank of lying to homeowners, fraudulently denying loan modifications and paying bonuses to staff who pushed people into foreclosure. One of the whistleblowers commented, “we were told to lie to customers.” Employees that pushed ten or more homeowners per month into foreclosure would receive a $500 bonus, and the Bank also “gave employees gift cards to retail stores like Target or Bed Bath and Beyond as rewards for placing accounts into foreclosure.”

Further, anyone who “questioned the ethics” of the bank's practices was summarily fired - a policy that led to a lawsuit in which homeowners accused the bank of racketeering “to defraud homeowners who sought modifications and then acted as the kingpin of that [racketeering] enterprise.”

Of course, it doesn’t end there. Bank of America, along with multiple other big banks, has been accused of laundering money for Mexican drug cartels. The FBI confirmed that BofA was involved in laundering drug money for the Los Zetas drug cartel in Mexico. However, in a twist of fine news for the bank, U.S. government regulators indicated they would not hold the bank responsible for its actions.

Banking on Influence

So how does a massive criminal enterprise engaging in large-scale fraud, racketeering and money laundering get a free pass from the U.S. government? The bank’s financial clout in the economy certainly plays a part. But so too do its affiliations with dominant national and international organizations, institutionalizing the bank within the larger global power structures and the elites who run them. Research conducted for the Global Power Project found 28 individuals at Bank of America, including executives and members of board of directors, with institutional affiliations. Four of the individuals who hold leadership positions at BofA are also affiliated with the major foreign-policy think tank in the United States: the Council on Foreign Relations. Three individuals are connected to Morgan Stanley, another major financial institution, while two affiliations exist with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (promoting big business "solutions" to environmental crises), the Business Council, Catalyst, Duke University, Stanford University, and BlackRock.

The following institutions each also hold one individual affiliated with Bank of America: Royal Dutch Shell, DuPont, Deere & Company, the World Wildlife Fund, the President’s Export Council, Harvard, the World Economic Forum, Brookings Institution, Sara Lee Corporation, Monsanto, CBS Corporation, BAE Systems, General Dynamics, Walt Disney Company, President Obama’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, the Rockefeller Foundation, Business Roundtable, Financial Services Forum, PepsiCo, Carlyle Group, Booz Allen Hamilton, Goldman Sachs, the International Advisory Panel of the Monetary Authority of Singapore and the International Advisory Board of the National Bank of Kuwait.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

History Teaches That We Have the Power to Transform the Nation

Wednesday, 12 June 2013 16:24 By Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers , Truthout | News Analysis


We live in a time of great crises on many fronts. As the economy continues to fail and extraction methods for energy become more radical and harmful to people and the planet, momentum is building for a mass uprising. Turkey is the most recent illustration that the event which sparks popular unrest cannot be predicted. We can only suspect that it is coming. So, we must be prepared.

Times of crisis also offer opportunities for real change. We can create an economy and society that are more just and sustainable. Alternatively, we can continue down the same destructive path. What type of society emerges from this unrest will be determined in large part by our actions.

The question we hear frequently is: How do people build power and ultimately transform the nation and the world in a way that is lasting and based on our values? Many people in the United States feel the task is futile, the power structure too strong, so that working for real, transformational change of the economic and political system is unrealistic.

The fact is, United States and world histories show that an organized and mobilized populace is what has always caused transformational change. This history is not taught in our education system or emphasized in the heroes we idolize in our culture, but it is so significant that it cannot be hidden from view. The country could not operate if the people refused to participate in its corrupt systems. The ultimate power is with us, if we let go of fear and embrace it. Now that there is a history of more than 100 years of modern resistance movements, there is data to show what works and what doesn't. As a result, we can develop a vision, a strategic plan and tactics that make success more likely than ever before.

100 Years of Resistance Shows What Works

On September 11, 1906, Mahatma Gandhi proposed a campaign of nonviolent resistance to stop discrimination against Muslim Indians working in South Africa. After a seven- year struggle using a range of tactics of noncooperation and resistance, the South African government was forced to change its policies. This was the beginning of Gandhi's methodology of Satyagraha (devotion to truth) for overcoming an ingrained power structure supported by overwhelming military or police power with strategic resistance, civil disobedience and noncooperation.

Since then, there have been hundreds of resistance campaigns in the United States and around the globe from which we can learn and develop our own strategy, for our own times. There have been a variety of resistance actions including guerilla wars, insurgencies, terrorist campaigns and a wide range of nonviolent movements in which unarmed activists challenged violent governments.

There are enough lessons from this wide variety of strategies that we have a good idea of what works and what doesn't, and we can develop a recipe with a good chance of success. In Why Civil Resistance Works, Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan publish an empirical study analyzing 323 violent and nonviolent resistance campaigns between 1900 and 2006. Among these, 100 were major nonviolent resistance campaigns which they found have increased in frequency and success in recent times. They find what a Dutch revolutionary found decades ago: "The more violence, the less revolution."

The most striking finding of their research was that nonviolent resistance campaigns were twice as likely to achieve full or partial success as were violent campaigns. They define violent campaigns as armed resistance campaigns like guerrilla movements and insurrections. They looked at three broad categories of campaigns: anti-regime, territorial (that is, those waged for anti-occupation or self-determination) and others which did not fit these categories, like antiapartheid campaigns. Only in the second category did the success rate of violent resistance come even close to nonviolent. In the other two categories, nonviolent campaigns had much higher levels of success; in the third category, nonviolent campaigns had a monopoly on success.

The authors also looked at why some nonviolent campaigns succeed and some fail. The key factor was whether the campaign became a mass movement or remained a fringe movement. Mass participation seems to succeed because people joining the campaign from diverse segments of society gradually erode the government's sources of power.

The Albert Einstein Institute, which has been examining resistance movements over the last 50 years, writes about the need to build a mass movement made up of key sectors of society. The nine sectors they focus on are youth, labor, religious and nonprofit groups, civil servants, media, business, police and military. These are the pillars that make up the power structure which holds the government in place. Strategy and tactics should be developed with the goal of dividing people within these groups and pulling them to the movement so the movement grows into a mass movement and the power structure is gradually weakened.

When we discuss "mass movements" we do not mean that a majority of the population needs to be active in the movement, but we do mean that, one, the long-term vision of the movement needs to be one that has widespread support, and two, enough of the population is involved that it cannot be ignored - indeed, that it may reach a tipping point that cannot be stopped. For example, the long-term vision of our project, PopularResistance.org, is to end the rule of money so that the needs of the people and protection of the planet come before profits. This is a broad vision that encompasses many issues and has widespread support among people in the United States.

In the fall of 2011, the Occupy movement may have had several hundred thousand people actively involved in it. Some were only able to attend single events such as marches and were not involved on a regular basis. This represented only 0.1 percent of the population. It is evident that this number scared the power structure from reports on how the Obama administration, Homeland Security and the FBI worked with police and mayors across the country to infiltrate, arrest and destroy the movement. If 0.1 percent of the population can have that kind of effect, what will 1 percent or 10 percent be able to accomplish? Occupy demonstrates that an organized and mobilized people can change the direction of the country.

Indeed, Mark Lichbach, a professor of government and politics, has written in The Rebel's Dilemma, that when more than 5 percent of the population engages in sustained, coordinated civil disobedience, few governments can remain in power whether they are a dictatorship or a democracy. The path to reaching this 5 percent begins when people who are already active in resistance build solidarity and draw more people to the movement. As more people see the movement growing and that there is a strategy to win, they will have the confidence to join it. Achieving the 5 percent tipping point with a diverse cross-section of society then becomes well within reach.

Chenoweth and Stephan point out the most important parts of the power structure to divide are the police and the military. Their review shows that the odds of success increase by 60 percent when security forces join the resistance movement. This demonstrates one reason why nonviolent movements are more successful than violent movements. The police and military unify against a movement when they are under attack, but not when the movement is openly and strategically sympathetic to the ways in which members of the police and military forces are ill-affected by the status quo.

This was demonstrated by Occupy Wall Street, in a scene almost everyone remembers during the second weekend of Occupy, when it was still struggling to get its footing. There was a protest in which the police divided the protesters and arrested many of them. Some women were being held under arrest behind an orange mesh fence when Officer Tony Bologna, wearing a white commander's shirt, walked over to them and sprayed them in the face with pepper spray. A blue-collar officer standing nearby can be heard on video saying "I can't believe he just pepper sprayed them." That night, Lawrence O'Donnell, whose father was a police officer, discussed the incident on MSNBC supporting the protesters and criticizing the pepper spraying.

In that incident, we can see how nonviolent movements grow and weaken the power structure. The white-collar police commander was divided from the blue-collar police officer, the media came to the defense of the protesters and the public heard positive comments about the movement. Now, how different would it have been if the women were shouting "Kill the police!" or throwing apples or batteries at the police? The blue-collar cop would have said, "Thank goodness he pepper sprayed them!" and O'Donnell would have either ignored the event or criticized the protesters. We would have seen united opposition against us, rather than succeeded in dividing the power structure and bringing people to our side.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

Two Tracks: Stop the Machine and Create a New World

To achieve transformational change, we must proceed on two tracks: protesting what we oppose, and building alternative systems to create the world we want to see. It is important for the public to see constructive action to build an economy and society which ensures that life will not only continue but will even improve if the movement succeeds. This strategy also helps to demonstrate the values of the movement.

We live in a mirage democracy, but the movement for real democracy, which could also be called "people power," is growing around the world and within the United States. We can build a democratic economy where people have greater control over their economic lives, where workers own the businesses and wealth is shared in a more egalitarian way, an economy that is sustainable and restores rather than destroys the environment. We can transform the current system to a government that involves greater participation in decisionmaking, elections not controlled by money, and officials who represent the people, not just concentrated wealth. Projects related to all of these goals can be put in place now; indeed, they are being put in place.

Gandhi went back and forth between these two tracks throughout his lifetime. During his campaign to end British imperialism in India, he changed his emphasis in the mid-1930s, a dozen years before independence from the British Empire. His work focused on building economically self-reliant communities from below (Sardovaya, social uplift for everyone). This became an adjunct to the strategy of noncooperation and civil disobedience to unjust laws. Gandhian economics meant thousands of self-sufficient small communities with self-rule and the need for economic self-sufficiency at the village level.

We call this dual track approach, "Stop the Machine, Create a New World. The latter approach is important for many reasons and deserves more time and resources than the former because it builds community, solves urgent problems, and builds wealth for individuals and communities. We are literally building the kind of society in which we want to live. This dual-track approach has been put into a visual form in this Roadmap by the Metta Center for Nonviolence. Currently, people are building economic democracy - including worker-owned cooperatives, participatory budgeting, community supported agriculture, farmer's markets, community banks and credit unions as well as local currencies and local investment networks, community land trusts, and more - so that people can strengthen their communities. In time, of course, national policies will need to be changed as well, in order to, for example: establish an open and transparent Federal Reserve that is democratically accountable, public rather than private creation of money, the end of corporate personhood, public funding of public campaigns, a new energy economy where every home, business and community uses energy efficiently and produces energy, the end of the destructive extraction economy, and so much more.

Instead of the corrupt and dysfunctional government in which we have the illusion of participating through elections and in which representatives are selected by Wall Street, people can build their own nonhierarchical democratic institutions that bring people together to solve community problems, pool talents, resources and energy, and allow real democracy to be practiced. This can happen at the local or national level.

During Occupy, the general assemblies were a form of participatory democracy. This experience could be further developed with community assemblies coming together to discuss the needs of their communities and beginning to solve their own problems. The process begins by looking at strengths and weaknesses, assessing resources that are already present such as abandoned buildings, and identifying those that need to be created such as community gardens and health centers. Every person in the community has something to give; as the founder of the Time Bank movement, Edgar Cahn, says, "There are no throwaway people." The next step is to figure out how community needs can be met by building on those resources.

We also saw it in the instinct for mutual aid that came to the surface when disasters occurred. Whether it was Superstorm Sandy hitting the coasts of New Jersey and New York or tornadoes wreaking havoc in the Midwest, we have seen members of the Occupy movement come to the aid of those affected through Occupy Sandy and Occupy Oklahoma Relief. This kind of mutual aid in times of need is part of building the kind of society we want to see and provides an opportunity to organize new people and get them involved in the movement.

In addition to building the economic and political system we want, we also need to create our own subculture. As Progressive Review editor and The Great American Repair Manual author Sam Smith emphasizes, movements need to develop their own subcultures of music, art and theater so people are joining something they will enjoy being part of. Culture also builds camaraderie and provides ways to pull people to the movement. We reprinted a portion of Smith's book in A Movement Manual.

Regarding the need to create the world we want, Smith quotes Jean Paul Sartre: "Values rise from our actions as partridges do from the grass beneath our feet." In other words, Smith explains, "Sartre believed that existence precedes essence. We are what we do." We will write more about the transition to a new democratic and sustainable economy next week based on our interviews with Gar Alperovitz, author of What Then Must We Do?: Straight Talk About the Next American Revolution, and Joel Magnuson, author of The Approaching Great Transformation: Toward a Livable Post-Carbon Economy. You can hear the interview at Clearing the Fog Radio.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

So Many Choices for Tactics to Further the Movement

Within this two-track approach of building a mass, nonviolent and transformative movement, there are literally hundreds of resistance tactics that have been used successfully. Lists of those tactics can be found at the Albert Einstein Institute and the Global Nonviolent Action Database.When choosing tactics, thought should be given to choosing actions that build and further the movement, such as those that pull people from the power structure and get the message of the movement out clearly. Images, puppets, costumes, T-shirts and other materials can be used to convey the message. Creating a symbol or slogan that shows what the movement stands for in a catchy way can also help to convey the movement's message. For example "We are the 99%" unifies people and shows that while we don't have monetary resources, we do have people power. Often the only corporate media coverage a protest will receive is a photograph, so it is important that photos clearly portray the message of the action.

Humor may be one of the most powerful forms of protest by mocking the power structure or political leadership. When we interviewed people about developing strategy and tactics for the movement, Ralph Nader made the suggestion that "every city should have at least one court jester." Just as court jesters in the Middle Ages could mock the nobility in ways no one else could, and just as Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert can say things the media cannot say, a town jester can mock government and the political establishment in a way that educates the public.

As one Egyptian protester told The Atlantic, "It's easier to make them look ridiculous" than to confront the power structure directly "It's very effective because it breaks the fear barrier." Adel Iskandar, 33, a media scholar and lecturer at Georgetown University told the Atlantic that sharing a laugh created "a sense of solidarity and camaraderie among those who supported the cause."

Abbie Hoffman, a Youth International Party (or Yippie) protester from the 60s, was well-known for his use of humor, including dropping money onto the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange, running a pig as a candidate for president, and the "levitation" of the Pentagon. These all got media attention, mocked the status quo and made political points.

The Yes Men's antics are examples of using humor to put transnational corporations and government in embarrassing situations. Their mission is to "use humor, truth and lunacy to bring media attention to the crimes of their unwilling employers." To do so, they impersonate representatives of corporations and government to do an "identity correction." They also create mock web sites that look like they belong to the target of their political message and then make the kinds of announcements that they think the target should be making. The Yes Men have impersonated the World Trade Organization (WTO) and many others, including Dow Chemical in a stunt where one of them appeared as a Dow spokesman on BBC accepting full responsibility for the Union Carbide disaster in Bhopal, India. Their actions are examples of "motherhood and mismatch," a tactic discussed more fully by Bill Moyer of the Backbone Campaign, in which an issue that is as sacred as motherhood is chosen and the entity being protested is exposed for violating "motherhood" and for a mismatch in not doing what it professes to do.

Other creative tactics focus on forcing an entity to be responsible for the effects of its actions. During protests against Bank of America's foreclosures and evictions of people from their homes, protesters moved living room furniture into bank lobbies - couches, coffee tables, rugs - and literally moved into the banks.

As Nathan Schneider wrote in The Nation, rather than having internal conflicts about the use of different tactics, encourage diversity. He reported activist Austin Guest telling a group that rather than being negative about other people's actions, "Add the things you do, so we can get a real diversity of tactics." The result in his situation was lots of creativity with "ideas like a Song & Dance Brigade, a Naked Bike Bloc, a Male Prostitution on Wall Street Brigade ('We will do anything for money!')."

Among the most successful tactics are those that create a dilemma for the opposition, that leave it with a lose-lose choice and the movement with a win-win. An example is the lunchroom counter sit-ins during the civil rights movement. Protesters came into whites-only restaurants, sat down and demanded to be served. If they were served, they won and broke the color line. If they lost, the unethical and immoral reality of Jim Crow segregation was exposed. Either way, they won.

In 2012, Veterans For Peace organized a protest at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the anniversary of the invasion of Afghanistan, during which they read the names of New Yorkers and Afghanis killed in the war. The memorial had a 10 PM curfew - a curfew only enforced when people were exercising their constitutionally protected rights to freedom of speech and assembly. The reading of the war dead and the laying of flowers went beyond the 10 PM curfew, putting the police in the uncomfortable position of arresting veterans involved in a somber, respectful ceremony or allowing them to violate the curfew. The white-collar commander insisted on enforcing the curfew and the blue-collar police looked very uncomfortable - especially when Jay Wenk, a World II Purple Heart Medal holder in his 80s, was arrested. The case goes to trial on July 8th in New York City.

Finally, the use of campaigns, rather than one-day events, allows for a series of escalating tactics, build-up of media attention and drawing increased participation. A one-day event can be useful to memorialize an important date like May Day, but a campaign that uses different creative tactics, symbols, and clear messages and increases the intensity of tactics allows for a movement to grow. For example, the Walmart campaigns have moved from city to city, held national days of protest and then built to a Ride for Respect to the annual shareholders meeting; meanwhile, low-paid fast food workers are moving their one-day strikes from city to city - New York, Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis and Milwaukee - and inviting local communities to stand with the workers.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

What Are the Ingredients of a Successful Movement?

The goal is to build a mass movement that seeks transformational change. The issue of our era is the rule of money by concentrated corporate interests, the "looting class," who put their profits ahead of the necessities of the people and the protection of the planet. People in the United States already support this agenda for change; the movement needs to be clear that we embrace it and know how to achieve it.

A successful movement proceeds on two tracks of protesting what it does not like and building what it wants and always pulls people from the power structure to the movement. It cannot be an armed insurrection that is violent because that will unite the power structure, rather than weaken it. Instead, strategic and militant nonviolence which leads to a misuse of power by the security state causes divisions within the power structure and increases support for the movement.

The movement needs to be diverse and built from the bottom up. As Sam Smith writes, movements are "propelled by large numbers of highly autonomous small groups linked not by a bureaucracy or a master organization but by the mutuality of their thought, their faith and their determination." The grassroots base results in a diversity of tactics that make it hard for the police to predict what will come next, where the next action will be and who is organizing it. When diverse groups of people are involved and acting in solidarity, it demonstrates that there truly is a mass movement, which makes it harder for the opposition to pit one group against the other.

It is important for people to understand the ingredients of a successful movement because the opposition will do all that it can to divide, disrupt and undermine a movement that is making progress. People must be vigilant to keep the movement from being thrown off course.

One of the great challenges is the current managed democracy, because many people are not fully aware that both major parties serve Wall Street. When it comes to electoral politics, we agree with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who never endorsed a candidate or publicly stated membership in a political party. Dr. King said, "I feel someone must remain in the position of non-alignment, so that he can look objectively at both parties and be the conscience of both - not the servant or master of either." Just as he was working to end segregation when there were two political parties that supported Jim Crow segregation, we need to end corporate rule when there are two political parties that make up a corporate duopoly owned by big business interests.

As Lance Selfa makes clear in his book, Democrats: A Critical History, people need to understand that the Democratic Party is where progressive movements go to die. This is evident today in the union movement which made tremendous gains when it remained independent of the Democrats, but since joining the Democrats has seen its power and membership dwindle. It is also true with the civil rights, women's, environmental and peace movements.

History shows that building an alternative to the duopoly, even if it never wins an election, is a path to change if it shows that it has enough electoral support to affect the outcome of the election. This was true of the abolition parties before the Civil War, the Populist Party of the late 1800s, and the Progressive, Bull Moose and Socialist Parties of the 20th century. None of these won elections, but they changed the direction of the country. In addition, direct democracy through voter initiatives has been a successful way of bypassing the two parties and bringing issues to the people where important breakthroughs have occurred. Changes are needed to make elections, especially at the national level, viable tools for real change.

Opportunities to Build Resistance

To build a mass movement, we need to seek opportunities for solidarity among people working on a variety of issues. One such opportunity is the negotiation of the largest trade agreement in history, The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). This agreement is a global corporate coup that will affect efforts to protect the environment, workers' rights, consumer rights, health care and indeed virtually every issue people are currently working on. If we join together to stop the TPP before it goes to Congress in October, it will be a defeat for transnational corporate power. When we win this battle, we can build on it for future battles.

There are other issues around which we can build solidarity. Austerity and the current automatic budget cuts of sequester are affecting all Americans and present another opportunity to build the movement to the 5 percent tipping point. The impact is growing every week and will grow even more in the future.

Beyond these major issues, we need to continue to fan the sparks of resistance wherever we see them. We cannot count on the corporate mass media to cover the growing culture of resistance, but instead must continue to build the independent and citizen's media. PopularResistance.org is one web site that covers the ongoing revolt in the United States and around the world. It also provides resources and tools for activists, from those who are new to activism to those with experience.

In addition, we need to be ready when the next wave of mass resistance arises. Movements are not linear. Rather, they are a series of waves of different sizes, rising and falling. As climate activist Tim DeChristopher said after he was convicted for falsely bidding on illegal oil and gas leases:

Every wave on the ocean that has ever risen up and refused to lay back down has been dashed on the shore, but it is the very purpose of a wave to rise up, because once it rises up above the horizon it finally has the perspective to see that it's not just a wave, that it's a part of a mighty ocean. And the sharpest rock on the wildest shore can never break that ocean apart; they can never wear that ocean down, because it's the ocean that shapes the shore. That's what we're starting ... With wave after wave after wave crashing against that shore, we shape it to our vision.

When the next tidal wave develops, we need to be prepared to shape the nation toward our vision. We are in a time when the people are awakening, not only to the dysfunctional and corrupt nature of the government and big finance capitalism economy, but also to their own power. Multiple crisis are coming to a head at the same time, causing a great turning - the climate crisis, ecological collapse, the end of cheap energy, the failure of nuclear power, the wealth divide, the collapse of corporate capitalism, and at the same time an undercurrent is growing not only of protest but also of building an alternative democratic economy. Systems are failing and new systems are developing.

The rule of money is a powerful opponent of democracy, but a mass movement, united to build power in the people, can transform the country in ways that today we can only imagine.

This article was first published on Truthout and any reprint or reproduction on any other website must acknowledge Truthout as the original site of publication.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

National Cooperative Bank


National Cooperative Bank (NCB) provides comprehensive banking services to cooperatives and other member-owned organizations throughout the country. What makes NCB unique is that the bank was created to address the financial needs of an underserved market niche – people who join together cooperatively to meet personal, social or business needs, especially in low-income communities.

Chartered by the 95th Congress on August 20, 1978, NCB commenced lending operations as a federal instrumentality on March 21, 1980. Congress appropriated $184 million of “seed money” in the form of U.S. Treasury Notes, which represented NCB’s initial capitalization and the government’s ownership of the bank.

In 1981, NCB was privatized as a member-owned financial institution, and the seed money was converted into subordinated debt. At that time, the Class A preferred stock of NCB previously held by the United States was converted into Class A subordinated notes as of December 31, 1981. Since then NCB has been structured as a cooperative and all capital stock has been owned by borrowers or entities eligible to borrow from NCB. The legislation requires NCB to repay the $184 million, with interest, in full by 2020. To date, NCB has reduced the loan balance down to $85 million.

NCB’s Mission

NCB’s mission is to help cooperatives grow by supporting and being an advocate for America’s cooperatives and their members, placing special emphasis on serving the needs of communities that are economically challenged.

NCB’s Customers

NCB’s customers are cooperatives, such as grocery wholesaler co-ops, purchasing co-ops or housing co-ops. Other customers share in the spirit of cooperation, driven by democratic organizing principles. They may be Alaska and Native American enterprises, which by their very nature, are member-run and member-owned. Others may be community health centers or charter schools, driven entirely by community needs. What they all have in common is a single fundamental principle – they have joined together cooperatively to meet personal, social, and/or business needs.

In accordance with our congressional charter, NCB has a significant commitment to community revitalization. The employment of the cooperative model in the development of business and affordable housing is critical for low-income Americans, and strengthens communities in both urban and rural areas.

What is a Co-op?

A cooperative is a business that is organized, owned and governed by the people who use its products or services. Those people are called member-owners, and they own the co-op. They share the costs, the earnings, and they also have a voice in its operations and policies through a board of directors elected from among the members.

Co-ops benefit their members by taking advantage of economies of scale, combined buying power and strength in numbers to save money and return profits. In the process, co-ops provide millions of jobs, support business and personal needs, and enhance quality of life. A cornerstone of America’s economy, co-ops have been empowering people, developing communities and supporting innovation in this country for more than 100 years.

NCB Capital Impact

NCB Capital Impact, is a national, non-profit community development financial institution. It provides financial services and technical assistance to help make high-quality housing, health care, healthy foods, and education more accessible and attainable, and eldercare more dignified and respectful. Capital Impact has used its depth of experience, cooperative approach, and diverse network of alliances to generate over $1.7 billion in critical investments that create a high quality of life for low income people and communities.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

The Next American Revolution Has Already Begun: An Interview With Gar Alperovitz

Saturday, 08 June 2013 10:08 By Gar Smith, The Berkeley Daily Planet | Interview


Gar S: You argue that “evolutionary reconstruction” does not flow from reform or revolution but rather “from building institutions, workplaces and cultures concerned with democratizing wealth.” How significant are cooperative enterprises in today's economy. Could you describe the current state of America's cooperative economy?

Gar A: Given that the economy is unlikely to truly collapse and provoke explosive change—for all the reasons I have indicated—and given that a “reform” solution like the New Deal is extremely difficult in the absence of a strong institutional power base for liberalism (e.g. labor unions), we face an extremely unusual political situation. I believe we are entering an extended period, a multi-decade period, in which the dominant reality is likely to be one of erratic growth, stagnation, periodic inflation, substantial political stalemate and decay.

In such a context, the prospects for near-term change are obviously not great—especially when such change is conceived in traditional terms. On the other hand, for precisely such reasons, there is likely to be an intensified process of much deeper probing, much more serious political analysis, and much more fundamental institutional exploration and development. In fact, this is already well underway. Beneath the surface level of politics-as-usual, continuing political stalemate and the exhaustion of existing approaches have begun to open up some very interesting strategic possibilities. These are best understood as neither “reforms” (policies to modify and control, but not transcend, current corporate-dominated institutions) nor “revolution” (the overthrowing of current institutions), but rather a longer-term process of “evolutionary reconstruction”—that is, institutional transformation that unfolds over time.

Like reform, evolutionary reconstruction involves step-by-step nonviolent change. But like revolution, evolutionary reconstruction changes the basic institutions of ownership of the economy, so that the broad public (rather than “the one percent”) increasingly comes to own more and more of the nation’s productive assets. As the old system decays, an evolutionary reconstruction would see the foundations of a new system gradually rising and replacing failing elements of the old.

Though the press doesn’t much cover this, such processes are already observable in many parts of the current American system. Some numbers: There are now ten thousand worker-owned companies of one kind or another in the country. And they are expanding over time, and they’re becoming more democratic rather than less. There are 130 million people who are members of one or another form of cooperative. A quarter of American electricity is produced by either municipal ownership or cooperatives. Twenty-five percent of American electricity is, in other words, “socialized.” There are neighborhood corporations, land trusts, and other municipal and state strategies. One can observe such a dynamic developing in the central neighborhoods of some of the nation’s larger cities, places that have consistently suffered high levels of unemployment and poverty. In such neighborhoods, democratizing development has gone forward, paradoxically, precisely because traditional policies have been politically impossible.

All this has been building in scale and sophistication to the point that growing numbers of people now talk about a “New Economy.” It doesn’t yet compare to the giants of Wall Street and the corporate economy, of course. But it is growing to the point where challenges are also becoming possible. Move Your Money campaigns have seen billions transferred out of Wall Street banks into credit unions and local and community banks. If you add up the credit unions they are the equivalent of one of the largest US banks, knocking Goldman Sachs out of the top five.

I see this era as something akin to the decades before the New Deal, the time when experimentation and development in the state and local “laboratories of democracy” laid down the principles and programs that became the basis for much larger national policies when the right political moment occurred.

Gar S: You clearly show that regulating Wall Street doesn’t work and breaking up large banks is unlikely to last. The conservative Chicago School of Economics, you point out, had a solution: essentially any business “too big to regulate”” should be nationalized. “Take them over; turn them into public utilities.” Could large banks really be taken over and transformed?

Gar A: The old conservative economists were right: Regulation doesn’t work; they capture the regulators. Anti-trust doesn’t work; if you break them up, they re-group. Look at Standard Oil. Look at AT&T and the telephone companies. In fact, the major banks are even bigger now than they were in 2008 when they were deemed “too big to fail.” They imperil the entire economy. So ultimately the only answer, logically, is to take them over at some point. Milton Friedman’s revered teacher, H.C. Simons, the founder of the conservative Chicago School of economics, was one of the first to point out this logic. He argued that this was necessary because it was the only way to preserve a genuinely free economy. Can it be done? We just did it in one form: In response to the financial crisis the federal government essentially nationalized General Motors and A.I.G. and was in a position to do the same with Chrysler and several major banks because of the huge injections of public capital that were required to save them from bankruptcy. At one point, Obama frankly told the bankers that he was the only one standing between them and the pitchforks. What happens when the next financial crisis occurs (as most observers on left, right and center think inevitable)? Or the one after that?

There are also already alternative models at hand. Most people don't realize this, but the federal government currently runs 140 different government banks. They aren’t always called banks, although sometimes they are, like the Export-Import Bank and the National Cooperative Bank. But sometimes they take the form of small business loans programs or agricultural programs. Then there is the Bank of North Dakota, a public bank that has been there for ninety years. It's a state-owned bank, very popular with small business but also labor. Twenty states have introduced legislation to create public banks of their own. States have huge tax flows, which could capitalize such banks. Once you start to look more carefully, beneath the surface of media attention, it may be that far more is possible much earlier and much faster than many now imagine.

Gar S: If you don’t like corporate capitalism or state socialism, what’s left? Shouldn’t a fundamental goal be to prevent accumulations of great wealth. Once great wealth or power is attained, there is a tendency to fear the majority and seek to protect one’s fortune at all costs.

Gar A: That is a fair question, and most people don’t face it squarely: “If you don’t like corporate capitalism, where the corporations dominate the political system, and you don’t like state socialism, where the state dominates the system by virtue of its ownership, what do you want?” I think the developments reported on in the book point towards something very American, something that might be called “a community sustaining system”—one in which national structures and regional structures and local structures are all oriented to producing healthy local community economies, and thereby healthy and ecologically sustainable democratic communities.

We are at a very remarkable moment in American history: Even as we face massive economic, social and environmental challenges, more and more people are beginning to see that politics as usual doesn’t work, that the problems are fundamental to the system itself. These issues are on the table for the first time in many decades. So there needs to be an answer at some point, in terms of system design, to the question of what a system looks like that isn’t corporate capitalism and isn’t state socialism but begins with community and how we build it.

The truly central question is who gets to own the nation’s wealth? Because it’s not only an economic question, it determines politics in large part. The corporate capitalist system lodges such power in the corporations and tiny elites. An alternative system must begin at the bottom and democratize ownership from the bottom up—all the way from small co-ops and neighborhood corporations on up through city and state institutions and even, when necessary, regionally and nationally.

I think we can see the outlines of such a model already emerging in developments in the New Economy. It might be called a “Pluralist Commonwealth.” Plural forms of common wealth ownership. Worker ownership, co-ops, municipal utilities, neighborhood land trusts, state ownership of certain national firms. Plural forms. It’s not very sexy language, but it attempts to get to the idea that you must change ownership of wealth in many different ways in order to achieve democratic results and achieve cultural changes that allow us a democratic solution to the systemic problem. The key thing is that just below the surface of media attention a great deal is going on—many, many new developments that move in the direction of democratic ownership, starting at the very grass roots level, and moving up.

All of this ultimately also puts “the system question” on the table. We need a serious and wide-ranging debate around a broader menu of institutional possibilities for America’s future than the stale choices commonly discussed on both left and right.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

Cooperative Economics: Replacing a Capitalism in Collapse

Sunday, 02 June 2013 09:40 By Carl Gibson, Occupy.com | Op-Ed


I live in a co-op house with 30 other people in Madison, Wisconsin. While we pay rent to the nonprofit organization that manages Madison’s co-op properties, our only landlords are each other. We have weekly meetings to discuss house business and make decisions in a democratic process, using a consensus model. We agree to not buy any food or products for the house that come from detestable companies like Monsanto, Koch Industries and Tyson, and get most of the ingredients for house meals from the farmer’s market and a local food co-op. We all actively take part in our own residence by making sure things are kept (relatively) clean, problems are solved quickly, and the house remains a thriving community. As 30 people all living in one big house, sharing expenses, growing our own food in rooftop gardens and recycling/composting as much we can, our environmental footprints are much smaller as a whole. Also, I only pay $500 a month in rent, utilities, washer/dryer, internet, and even food. And this is in a house within walking distance of the downtown area, right on the lakefront.

This made me wonder - why did I ever allow myself to live alone with no community and pay a landlord who doesn't make decisions with tenants in a democratic process? And why did I do it considering that form of living cost twice as much as my current housing situation? It's just one example of cooperative economics replacing the outdated corporate capitalist model.

We’re witnessing capitalism’s death throes right now. The stock market surges to new highs on a regular basis, corporate profits soar every quarter, and taxes on corporations as a percentage of GDP are lower than they’ve ever been in decades. Despite all the success of corporations, they’re actually squeezing more productivity out of their workers by laying off their coworkers.

Productivity is at historic highs, but Americans making minimum wage have less buying power as a whole now than they did 51 years ago. Like all top-heavy structures, it won’t be too long before the unsustainable model of everlasting growth comes to a crashing halt. The co-op movement will become our new economic model if we start seriously building it now and introducing mainstream America to co-op living and working in the next 5 years. It’s already happening in several parts of the country.

Richmond, California had a chronic unemployment problem, and decided to tackle it by thinking outside the box with the co-op model in mind. After Gayle McLaughlin, a Green Party candidate, was elected mayor, a hub of co-op businesses emerged where workers all owned their labor. The community modeled their efforts after the Mondragon co-op in Spain, the world’s largest successful co-op business with 83,000 employees.

When the Windows & Doors factory closed in Chicago, fired all its workers and vacated its building, the workers eventually realized there was still a demand so they took over the vacant building and re-opened the business as a co-op. Imagine if GM’s workers decided to take over the business after the corporate model failed. Imagine how many workers could have shared the boost in profits from the company’s recovery!

Co-op residences are also great organizing spaces. One of the biggest blows to the Occupy movement was being evicted from the spaces which had become our central organizing hubs. But in a residential co-op community that makes decisions by consensus and decides on house responsibilities through elected positions, everyone takes an interest in their community and works to maintain it. The same holds true when a worker is responsible for their labor – they strive to be more productive, so they can share directly in the profits instead of cede it all to a corporate executive in exchange for a 25-cent an hour raise. When living and working in a co-op environment, one learns solidarity and teamwork as a way of life that's also best for self-preservation.

The cooperative economic model can also apply to banks, as seen in the Bank of North Dakota. It’s a bank that works with 80 community bank branches to collectively store and invest the money of North Dakota’s people. It stores North Dakota’s tax revenues and distributes its profits to the state treasury and the people of North Dakota, who are their shareholders.

The bank doesn’t engage in risky Wall Street gambling on the derivatives or credit default swap markets. The bank’s executives, while making a comfortable six-figure salary, aren’t paid exorbitant salaries and bonuses, defeating the argument of Wall Street executives that high pay is the cost of effective financial management. Using that model, we can and should nationalize the Federal Reserve and make it the people's public bank, instead of Wall Street's arm of control over our currency and economy.

With a nation fully engaged in a society where cooperative resident-owned housing and cooperative, worker-owned labor is the norm, public banking and hyper-localized economies will also become the new norm. This is essential because with the collapse of capitalism will come numerous other solutions for systems that will only exacerbate the problems of wealth inequality, poverty, debt and unemployment. The co-op model is the best model to succeed capitalism, as it still incentivizes workers and residents to do the best they can for a positive living environment or a lucrative career while also doing away with the corporate hierarchy that is an unnecessary drain on workers’ financial and emotional vitality. It’s the best solution for poverty and inequality, two of the most common byproducts of capitalism.

Co-ops are a perfect antidote to homelessness. There are six vacant houses for every homeless person; we can simply occupy these buildings, file for nonprofit status and form a co-op fair housing organization that employs the homeless to adapt the vacant buildings to modern code, while allowing them to live in the spaces they renovate.

Co-ops can also be formed in “food desert” neighborhoods, where the lack of affordable healthy food options within walking distance leads to obesity and other resulting health problems in a community. If a co-op formed to employ people to build, plant and maintain community gardens to supply healthy local food for the community, isn’t that worth a public investment?

All it takes to form a co-op is a small group of determined people all set on an idea to cooperatively own and operate a facet of the economy and allow them to make decisions in a democratic process. By democratizing society through housing and work, we can start a new revolution in our politics, our economy, and even our environment by choosing to consume sustainably and minimize our impact on the planet. It’s up to us - let’s get it done.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

Putting the Culture Back in Agriculture: Reviving Native Food and Farming Traditions

Sunday, 02 June 2013 13:31 By Tory Field and Beverly Bell, Other Worlds | Harvesting Justice Series


“At one point ‘agriculture’ was about the culture of food. Losing that culture, in favor of an American cultural monocrop, joined with an agricultural monocrop, puts us in a perilous state…” says food and Native activist Winona LaDuke.[1] Her lament is an agribusiness executive’s dream. The CEO of the H.J. Heinz Company said, “Once television is there, people, whatever shade, culture, or origin, want roughly the same things.”[2] The same things are based on the same technology, same media sources, same global economy, and same food.

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Together with the loss of cultural diversity, the growth of industrial agriculture has led to an enormous depletion in biodiversity. Throughout history, humans have cultivated about 7,000 species of plants. In the last century, three-quarters of the genetic diversity of agricultural crops have been lost. Thirty crops now provide 95% of our food needs, with rice, wheat, maize, and potato alone providing 60%. Eighty-five percent of the apple varieties that once existed in the US have been lost. Vast fields of genetically identical crops are much more susceptible to pests, necessitating increased pesticide use. The lack of diversity also endangers the food supply, as an influx of pests or disease can wipe out enormous quantities of crops in one fell swoop.

Native peoples’ efforts to protect their crop varieties and agricultural heritage in the US go back 500 years to when the Spanish conquistadors arrived. Today, Native communities throughout the US are reclaiming and reviving land, water, seeds, and traditional food and farming practices, thereby putting the culture back in agriculture and agriculture back in local hands.

One such initiative is the White Earth Land Recovery Project in Minnesota, which is recovering healthy stewardship of local tribes’ original land base. They are harvesting and selling traditional foods such as wild rice, planting gardens and raising greenhouses, and growing food for farm-to-school and feeding-our-elders programs. They are reintroducing native sturgeon to local waters as well as working to stop pesticide spraying at nearby industrial farms. They are also strengthening relationships with food sovereignty projects around the country. Winona LaDuke, the founding director of the project, told us, “My father used to say, ‘I don’t want to hear your philosophy if you can’t grow corn’… I now grow corn.”

Another revival effort involves buffalo herds. In the 1800s, European-American settlers drove wild buffalo close to extinction, decimating a source of survival for many Native communities. Just one example of the resurgence is the Lakota Buffalo Caretakers Cooperative, a cooperative of small-family buffalo caretakers, on Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. The cooperative sees its work as threefold, to “restore the buffalo, restore the native ecology on Pine Ridge, and help renew the sacred connection between the Lakota people and the buffalo nation.” At the national level, the Inter-Tribal Bison Cooperative is a network of 56 tribal bison programs from around the country with a collective herd of over 15,000.

In New Mexico, Native communities are organizing a wealth of initiatives. Around the state, they have started educational and production farms, youth-elder farming exchanges, buffalo revitalization programs, seed-saving initiatives, herb-based diabetes treatment programs, a credit union that invests in green and sustainable projects, and more. Schools like the Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute, the Institute of American Indian Arts, and the Santa Fe Indian School – along with grammar schools, high schools, and non-profit programs – have developed agricultural education programs. The Traditional Native American Farmers’ Association helps farmers get back onto the land, hosts workshops on seed saving and agricultural techniques, and has a youth program. The annual Sustainable Food and Seed Sovereignty Symposium at the Tesuque [Indian] Pueblo in northern New Mexico brings together farmers, herbalists, natural dyers, healers, cooks, seed savers, educators, water protectors, and community organizers. From the 2006 symposium came the Declaration of Seed Sovereignty, which denounced genetically engineered seeds and corporate ownership of Native seeds and crops as “a continuation of genocide upon indigenous people and as malicious and sacrilegious acts toward our ancestry, culture, and future generations.”

In addition to the symposium, the Tesuque Pueblo also hosts Tesuque Natural Farms, which grows vegetables, herbs, grains, fruit trees, and cover crops, including varieties long lost to the region. The project is building a Native seed library. The overarching goal is to make the Pueblo autonomous in both food and seeds. Emigdio Ballon, Quechua farmer and geneticist at Tesuque Natural Farm, said, “The only way we can get our autonomy is when we have the resources in our own hands, when we don’t have to buy from seed companies.”

The farm provides fresh foods to the senior center, sells at the farmers’ markets, and trains residents to begin farming themselves. The farm also grows medicinal herbs to treat HIV, diabetes, and cancer, and makes biofertilizer from plants. The preschoolers at the Head Start program garden; grammar school students are beginning to, as well.

People from across the nation come to Tesuque Natural Farms to study agricultural production and to take workshops on pruning, beekeeping, poultry, soil fertility, composting, and other topics. Soon the farm hopes to create a research and education center, where people can come for three to six months.

Nayeli Guzman, a Mexica woman who worked at the farm, said, “What we’re doing is very simple. These ideas are not an alternative for us, they’re just a way of life... We need to all work together as land-based people.

“Creator is not exclusive, so there’s no reason we should be,” she said. “They tell us, ‘The more biodiversity you have, the richer your soil is going to be.’ It’s like that with people. The more different kinds of people you have, the more able we’re going to be to survive. We can’t compartmentalize ourselves. That’s what industrial agriculture does.”


[1] Winona LaDuke in “One Thing to Do About Food: A Forum,” Alice Waters, ed., The Nation, September 11, 2006, 18.

[2] Sharon Beder, Global Spin: The Corporate Assault on Environmentalism (Devon: Green Books, 2002), 184.

Download the Harvesting Justice pdf here, and find action items, resources, and a popular education curriculum on the Harvesting Justice website. Harvesting Justice was created for the US Food Sovereignty Alliance, check out their work here.

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Copyleft Other Worlds. You may reprint this article in whole or in part. Please credit any text or original research you use to Tory Field and Beverly Bell, Other Worlds.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

Facing Off: The Integration of Capital vs. the Integration of Peoples in the Americas

Sunday, 02 June 2013 11:03 By João Pedro Stédile, Peace & Collaborative Development Network | Speech


(This is excerpted from a speech by João Pedro Stédile, Co-coordinator of the Landless Workers Movement of Brazil. Edited by Beverly Bell).

João Pedro Stédile is an economist, co-founder and co-coordinator of the Landless Workers Movement (MST) of Brazil, and leader among Latin American social movements. He gave the following talk to hundreds of Haitian farmers at the 40th anniversary assembly of the Peasant Movement of Papay (MPP) on March 18, 2013. I’d like to bring to you the perspective of the Landless Workers Movement on this complex historic moment, and on the social movements we’re building in Latin America.

Just when it seemed like the capitalist system was eternal, a crisis in the system exploded in 2008. The first consequence has been the ideological defeat of neoliberalism, because neoliberalism says that the market will resolve everything, and that idea has been shot down. The second consequence has been the decline of the political power of the US. They still have the strength but no one believes in them anymore. On the contrary, the whole world is mad at the gringo capital.

Periods of crisis in capitalism are always a sign that the door is open for change in the world, but at this point, we don’t know in which direction. For that reason it’s very important what [deceased Venezuelan president Hugo] Chávez told us: study, reflect, and comprehend reality in order to be able to change it.

At this moment, there is a strong project of recolonization of the continent according to the US’s interests. We defeated them with the Free Trade Area of Americas (FTAA), but now they come with their military forces, bilateral trade treaties with Mexico and with Colombia and with Chile, a treaty for the Pacific, and the control of Central America and the Carribean. And all of the politics of Obama are in that direction: reconquer the continent for the interests of his businesses. Don’t be fooled by the color of his skin; he is a representative of gringo capitalism.

There’s also a sector of the domestic bourgeoisie in our countries that wants to profit from our riches. They propose a international integration, but of the capitalist type. Companies from Brazil, Argentina, and Colombia are running around Latin America making investments and profits, with the support of those governments. But another key element of this moment is that of integration among our peoples. No people from a single country can liberate itself, because the enemy now is international capitalism with its banks and its companies. In all countries of Latin America, for example, Monsanto controls the transgenetic seeds and the agrochemicals, the market for corn and soy. It finances our governments, buying senators, congresspeople, mayors, and yes, even bishops to bless the transgenic seeds. So, when you rise up against Monsanto here in Haiti, you are helping all of the farmers of Latin America. When we in Brazil take experimental farms from Monsanto and destroy them, we are also helping all of Latin America.

To help us integrate and fight our common enemies, we have to have programs of economic integration. We have to fight against the dollarization of our economies, and force our governments to create a new Latin American-wide currency. It’s essential that the governments on the left and the progressives of Latin America leave the sphere of the dollar. Chávez even proposed a name for this new currency, the sucre.

We also have to build up our integration through communication. In the old days, the capitalists used the churches to dominate us ideologically. Now they can’t, so they use the television. But the television is just an instrument of communication, so it can be a weapon of education as well. And for that reason as well, Chávez was a visionary. He proposed that we construct TeleSUR, a Latin American TV network under the control of the people, to deliver news.

In the political field, we in the South are advancing with the construction of the [regionally integrated] Southern Zone and, throughout all of Latin America, CELAC [the Community of Latin America and Caribbean States]. This is very important because CELAC is the grave of the OAS [Organization of American States], the political arm of the gringos. It was the OAS that first proposed MINUSTAH [UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti, the UN force occupying the country] and that provided soldiers. If we had only CELAC, which doesn’t include Canada and the US, there would be no foreign troops in Haiti.

For integration among our peoples, we also have to educate a new generation of youth for liberation. The capitalists want the youth only for consuming drugs and cell phones, but we need them to be teachers and doctors and engineers. Here Fidel gave us a great lesson with the construction of the ELAM [the Latin American School of Medicine], that’s a great school for training doctors. I want to tell you that in Brazil, more Black doctors have been trained in Cuba than in all of the faculties of medicine in Brazil. Put another way, the poor of Brazil that want to be doctors go to Cuba. We in Via Campesina [the worldwide coalition of farmers, peasants, and landless people] are doing our part by creating a network of agro-ecology schools.

What you are doing here in this school [the agro-ecology training center of the Peasant Movement of Haiti] is revolutionary. It’s anti-imperialist. It’s anti-capitalist. The imperialists want to control our seeds to control our plates and our lives. Building a school of agro-ecology in the countryside, and taking control of your seeds, is the same as building a fort of guerrillas. Guerrillas of Black descent. We need to take one more step in integrating peoples, which is to organize mass struggles. When people stay seated, they’re no good for anything. We have to put our energy in each country to build struggles against our principal enemies: the banks, the transnational companies, and the media controlled by the bourgeoisie. And I hope we will join together the fights from our countries and create a common struggle. I hope we achieve very soon one united battle to definitively defeat Monsanto, Nestlé in milk, Cargill in corn, and mining companies.

To conclude: I’d like you to understand that the situation in Latin America in this moment is in a permanent face-off between [capitalist integration and integration of the peoples]. This face-off occurs from the setting of prices in the seed market to every governmental election. The enemies are the same, so to defeat them, we have to unite and undertake continent-wide actions.

For more information on the MST, on the farmer-led mass movement against Monsanto and corporate agriculture, and on the worldwide campaign for food sovereignty, please see Other Worlds’ new book, Harvesting Justice: Transformations in Food, Land, and Agriculture

Many thanks to Paige Schneider, Tim Burke, and Ereeni Roulakis for transcribing and translating this presentation.

Copyleft Beverly Bell. You may reprint this article in whole or in part. Please credit any text or original research you use to Beverly Bell, Other Worlds.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

How Two Plant Geeks Grew a Permaculture Oasis in an Ordinary Backyard

Saturday, 01 June 2013 11:57 By Abby Quillen, YES! Magazine | Book Review


In “Paradise Lot,” two residents of an inner city write about how they transformed less than an acre of their blighted yard into a thriving food forest full of mushrooms, gooseberries, silkworms, and more. Eric Toensmeier and Jonathan Bates are not your average backyard gardeners. They call themselves plant geeks, and they’re not kidding. Toensmeier sustained a serious head injury in 1994, and to heal, he memorized thousands of Latin plant names, families, orders, and superorders. He also cross-indexed a tome of edible plants with references listing cold-hardy varieties and perennials. Bates studied biology and ecology and spends a lot of time poring over Plants for a Future, an online database of useful plants. Not surprisingly, when the two friends bought a duplex together in 2004, they didn’t build your average garden.

They set out with a list of ambitious goals. They wanted to transform their yard into a permaculture oasis by planting “a mega-diverse living ark of useful and multifunctional plants” from their bioregion and around the world. They hoped to harvest “two handfuls of fresh fruit every day for everybody in the house, including guests, for as long a season as possible,” and also to attract birds, beneficial insects, and a couple of bachelorettes.

Toensmeier, the main author of Paradise Lot, who also wrote Perennial Vegetables and co-wrote Edible Forest Gardens, doesn’t skimp on details about how he and Bates turned a “dead and blighted” one-tenth of an acre of compacted soil in a “biologically impoverished neighborhood” of Holyoke, Mass., into Food Forest Farm, an Eden for edibles. Although it is more memoir than how-to, Paradise Lot outlines the basics of sheet mulching, raising silkworms, keeping chickens, and growing mushrooms. Readers will gain an understanding of the principles and objectives of permaculture, a movement that began in Australia in the 1970s. It combines indigenous land management practices, ecological design, and sustainable methods to create low-maintenance gardens that function like natural ecosystems.

It’s inspiring and a little daunting to read about what Toensmeier and Bates achieved on their small plot in eight years. They managed to transform their Massachusetts front yard into a tropical garden. In their backyard, they installed a pond, shed, and greenhouse, and they grow about 160 edible perennials, many of which you’ve likely never heard of before. Here’s an inventory of the berries they harvest each season: honeyberries, strawberries, goumi cherries, Gerardi dwarf mulberries, four kinds of currants, gooseberries, jostas, blueberries, wild raspberries, golden Anne raspberries, ground-cherries, wintergreen berries, juneberries, and lingonberries. Toensmeier hopes the complexity and diversity of Food Forest Farm won’t dissuade beginners from experimenting with permaculture in their backyards, since part of the reason they undertook the project in an urban area with typical inner-city problems was to make it a relevant example for amateurs to emulate. “Our desire to try many new things—new models of production, hundreds of new and interesting species—meant that we put a lot more time into a garden of this size than any reasonable person would ever do,” he writes. It’s helpful that the book shares the friends’ ample mistakes, setbacks, and revisions, making it clear that the most important thing a gardener needs if embarking on a similar project is a dedication to experimentation.

Paradise Lot offers gardeners more than inspiration and instruction. Toensmeier and Bates present an unconventional alternative to the American dream: two single men committed to a friendship and to making their backyard and neighborhood better. “Trusting each other with such a responsibility felt especially rare in this world,” Bates writes in one of the short essays he contributes to Toensmeier’s text. The friends’ dedication to each other and to a patch of land paid off. “We made our little paradise here,” Toensmeier writes. Moreover, Paradise Lot is permeated by an incredibly hopeful and compelling vision of humans’ place in nature. Toensmeier is critical of the environmental movement’s emphasis on minimizing footprints, because he thinks that permaculture and indigenous land management practices offer us ways to affect ecosystems for the better. After all, he and Bates turned a barren lot into a habitat for fish, snails, frogs, salamanders, raccoons, opossums, woodchucks, bugs, and worms.

And the wildlife actually helps them manage the garden. The birds eat insects. The opossums eat rotten fruit when it drops. The squirrels eat unwanted Norway maple seedlings. Some permaculture farmers even employ squirrels as labor by setting out buckets near their nut trees, letting the squirrels fill them, and swapping the nuts for corn. Toensmeier is convinced it’s time for us to re-evaluate our ideas of “nature,” “agriculture,” and “wilderness” and embrace the potential to transform our communities into beautiful, healthy ecosystems like Food Forest Farm.

“Imagine what would happen,” he writes, “if we as a species paid similar attention to all the degraded and abandoned lands of the world.”

This work by Truthout is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

Can Unions and Cooperatives Join Forces? An Interview With United Steelworkers President Leo Gerard

Friday, 24 May 2013 00:00 By Amy Dean, Truthout | News Analysis


United Steelworkers President Leo Gerard talks to Truthout about the challenges and opportunities of a new labor model: the union co-op.

As the economic crisis festers for many long-term unemployed and underemployed people, the idea of worker-owned and worker-run cooperatives has become ever more appealing as a possible pathway toward an economy that works for everyone. Theorists such as Gar Alperovitz have argued for the importance of cooperatives in providing a nuts-and-bolts alternative to dominant methods of economic production: They offer an example of a different way of doing business that people can see and experience in their own lives. As someone who loves to see organized labor on the move in any form, I am interested in the role that unions can play in promoting co-ops - and I have been excited to see the United Steelworkers take an especially proactive role in bolstering the cooperative movement. I spoke with Steelworkers President Leo Gerard about how union/co-op hybrids could change the experience of work for those who clock in every day and about the depth of vision it will take to make union co-ops a serious part of the American economy.

Given that cooperatives currently make up only a tiny percentage of our economy, I first asked Gerard whether he thought co-ops could be viable at a larger scale.

"People don't realize there are millions of people in the United States and Canada that are already members of co-ops," he said. "When I was a kid growing up in northern Ontario, my parents used to shop at a food co-op. I think that there are already a lot of these businesses; people just don't know it."

Gerard next discussed the structure of "union co-ops" that the Steelworkers have begun, in partnership with Spain's Mondragon cooperatives. Here’s how it works: Employees can join the union of their choice, and they are guaranteed a living wage, benefits and a collective bargaining agreement. In some of the new union co-ops, workers get ownership shares in the enterprise, which they pay for a little at a time out of their paychecks and which accrue equity over a period of six or eight or 10 years. Workers vote on the composition of the management team and collectively bargain with that team to set workers' wages, benefits, and procedures for handling disputes. I asked Gerard about how the union's work with Mondragon came about.

"After the business cycles of corruption and manipulation destroyed so many enterprises since '07, '08, '09," Gerard said, "we started to have a discussion amongst some of our officers. I had read about the Mondragon a long, long time ago, and we started a dialogue with them. We came to an understanding on what we call the 'union co-op' model. We'd use some of the structure of Mondragon and some of their experiences, knowledge and skills. And we'd try to find enterprises [in the US] where we could adapt that."

"It has evolved slowly," he continued. "I'd rather go slow and build a good foundation than go fast and fail. We've developed a pretty broad network of allies and supporters. We've got some projects going on, including a green laundry concept in Pittsburgh. In almost every major city, there are industrial laundries. The work is hard, it's dangerous, and it doesn't pay very well."

The Steelworkers have helped launch a cooperative laundry in Pittsburgh that allows workers to benefit from the profits of the business and that uses environmentally friendly technologies. "It's going to have roots. It's going to have customers. It's going to have structure," says Gerard of the Pittsburgh laundry. "We're talking to universities, hospitals and hotels. They get the advantage of being in a green laundry that's efficient. They get to be in a progressive organization like a co-op and then build forward."

I asked about what expansion would look like.

"Once it's successful," he said, "we take the model to other cities and try to build a network of green laundries. At the same time as we're building that network, we would look at the manufacturing of the green laundry equipment. If you've ever seen one of the modern green laundries, it reminds me of a steel mill or a paper mill. If you've got a modern steel mill or a modern paper mill, you put the raw material in at one end, it comes out at the other end, maybe half a mile later, with .0001 of an inch of deviance, never touched by human hands. [With the laundries,] you put the raw material in, which is sheets and pillows and all that, and it's an assembly. It comes out at the other end, folded, and piled up and identified for where it's going to go."

Gerard says the plan is for the cooperatives to expand from providing the service work at laundries into actually manufacturing the machinery. Moreover, he's committed to nurturing their development over the long haul: "This wouldn't happen in six weeks. It might take 10 years to evolve. You've got to have a vision." I next asked him if industrial laundries were chosen as a target for a cooperative because - unlike traditional manufacturing industries - the jobs can't be outsourced to other countries.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

"I wish I was that smart," Gerard said. Instead, he emphasized that the choice of targets was based on a more immediate pragmatism: "It's where the low fruit was. The green laundry idea fits the complete program. You're doing something for the environment" - by more efficiently using energy than in traditional laundries - "and you're creating meaningful jobs that can pay decently. If you can take that structure and [replicate] it in different places in the country, you can build the capacity for the cooperatives to come together. That's my view with this union co-op Mondragon-Steelworker concept," he said. "Once we show successes, people will say, 'I want some of that.'"

I asked how cooperatives might affect the experience of going to work for people who work there. Oftentimes, the same deep-seated grievances between workers and management that help drive a unionization campaign can also make it tough for a healthy work environment to form in traditional workplaces, even once workers win a union. I wondered if union co-ops could provide a way for the labor movement to encourage workers to realize their best selves in the workplace and to overcome the difficulties in adversarial situations. Gerard responded by emphasizing the generally dismal state of labor relations: "The reality in North America is that the management culture that comes out of the business schools, that comes out of the National Chamber of Commerce, makes unions the target. The business community [has] bought into that." Therefore, if you want to bring your coworkers together in a union, he said, "You have to organize in secret. There are very few places where you're going to go from an unrepresented workplace and organize right out in the open. You start off in a hostile environment."

"The statistics are that employers fire people, punish people, isolate people, intimidate people. When that's done, the relationship is steeped in adversity and steeped in conflict from the start, regardless of how [an organizing drive] turns out."

By contrast, he added, "if you start off in an environment where you're transforming a company into a cooperative, or you're organizing a new operation into a cooperative, it has to start off in the open. It has to start off in a way where information is shared, and knowledge is shared, and decisions are shared. You want to have the kind of relationship where workers are more knowledgeable, are more involved, are going to make good decisions."

For that reason, Gerard believes that the union co-op model offers hope for a type of workplace relationship that only has room for improvement over today's economy. "It's not utopia," he said. "It's an experiment. [But] if it works, it can't be any worse than the system we got now."

Beyond the Pittsburgh laundry, the USW has been hard at work - in partnership with the Ohio Employee Ownership Center (OEOC) - to put together a template that unions interested in forming cooperatives from scratch can use to build their own projects. The template highlights what the USW says is a key difference between most mainstream co-ops and a union co-op: "Although it may be common within larger co-ops to elect people to look out for the day-to-day interests of the worker-owners as owners, it's decidedly less common within co-ops to elect people to look out for the day-to-day interests of worker-owners as workers." To address workers' needs, the union-co-op template suggests creating a Union Committee to act as the workers' agent for bargaining the contract with management. Thus, union co-ops would explicitly have workers' needs in mind when structuring the working conditions and wages within the co-op. This is something the USW says it is putting into practice in its nascent projects in Cincinnati. Looking to the future, it will be interesting to see what differences emerge in how workers experience union co-ops with Union Committees versus those in other types of co-ops.

With this in mind, I was curious if the Steelworkers' experimentation with co-ops made Gerard feel more or less optimistic about the possibility of organized labor's survival in the United States.

"Here's what I know," he said. "There's not an advanced democracy on the planet that doesn't have a strong free labor movement. Anytime there's been totalitarian regimes, the foundation of replacing those regimes has been workers coming together with students and other disadvantaged groups in society and fighting for democracy - democracy with a free labor movement."

"As bad as everything is on the public attack on the labor movement and some of the nasty misrepresentations that are out there, if labor law were changed, people would want to join unions. In spite of all the nastiness that's brought us, we're going to survive. Work is changing. You've got all kinds of freelancers. We're going to grow, and we're going to have to modernize. There are models out there that have to be experimented with, and the union co-op is one of those models."

"I think if we're successful in the initial stages, even if it takes a while, we will have a new model that people can look at and promote and grow. What makes me optimistic is that there is a strong consensus that most of the country is fed up with the existing model. When you end up with an economic model where the banks are too big to prosecute, when you end up with 140 companies controlling 70 percent of the world's production, what does it mean for the little guys?"

"I'm not sure that we're going to turn Ford Motor Company into a co-op," Gerard said. "But maybe some of the folks that provide auto parts to the Ford Motor Company can become a co-op." After all, he argued, the status quo alternative calls out for replacement: "The model that's out there stinks."

Copyright, Truthout.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

Congressmen Pocan and Ellison Introduce "Right to Vote" Constitutional Amendment

Saturday, 18 May 2013 11:25 By Brendan Fischer, PRWatch | Report


"The right of voting for representatives is the primary right by which other rights are protected," wrote Thomas Paine in 1795.

Yet contrary to popular belief, there is no affirmative right to vote in the U.S. Constitution. This gap in our founding document has provided an opening for the wave of voter suppression measures that swept the country in recent years, and before that, the poll taxes and Jim Crow restrictions that disenfranchised millions. This week, two Congressmen -- both from states at the epicenter of today's voting rights struggles -- are seeking to fix that.

“The right to vote is too important to be left unprotected,” said Rep. Mark Pocan of Wisconsin, who is co-sponsoring an amendment to the U.S. Constitution guaranteeing the right to vote.

“Even though the right to vote is the most-mentioned right in the Constitution," added Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison, the bill's other sponsor, "legislatures across the country have been trying to deny that right to millions of Americans, including in my home state of Minnesota. It’s time we made it clear once and for all: every citizen in the United States has a fundamental right to vote.”

U.S. Constitution Does Not Protect Voting Rights

Under the U.S. Constitution, the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments ensure the vote cannot be denied on the basis of race, the Nineteenth prohibits discrimination based on gender, the Twenty-fourth outlaws the poll tax, and the Twenty-sixth Amendment extends voting to age 18. When the U.S. Constitution was ratified, the franchise was limited to white, property-owning men, and these amendments have edged the document closer to its democratic aspirations.

But beyond those amendments -- and a few federal statutes, like the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which might be neutered by the Supreme Court this term -- the right to vote is mostly a matter of state law. And states in recent years have hardly been careful about protecting access to the ballot box.

After Republicans gained new statehouse majorities in the 2010 elections, a majority of states introduced proposals to enact restrictions on the right to vote. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, 25 laws and 2 executive actions passed in 19 states between 2011 and 2012 to impose strict ID restrictions, or shorten early voting, or limit registration drives, among other measures. More restrictive bills have been proposed in 2013.

Wisconsin's Constitution Includes Express Voting Protections

Pocan's state, Wisconsin, passed one of the strictest voter ID laws in the country in 2011 after Governor Scott Walker and a GOP-dominated legislature took power. The law threatened to disenfranchise more than 300,000 voters who did not have the required forms of ID, primarily people of color, students, and the elderly. (Like many of the restrictive voter ID laws proposed since 2011, the bill tracked a "model" Voter ID Act from the American Legislative Exchange Council). But just months after Wisconsin's law was enacted, a state court struck down the law based on the Wisconsin Constitution's protections for voting rights.

"Every United States citizen age 18 or older who is a resident of an election district in this state is a qualified elector of that district," the Wisconsin Constitution reads.

Four years earlier, in 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court found that Indiana's relatively similar voter ID law did not violate the U.S. Constitution -- which unlike the Wisconsin Constitution, does not expressly safeguard the right to vote.

Pocan and Ellison are seeking to ensure that citizens across the country can share the voting rights protections that have (so far) been enjoyed by Wisconsin residents.

Pocan: "Our country is at its strongest when everyone participates" The Pocan/Ellison proposal, if approved by Congress and ratified by two-thirds of state legislatures, would affirmatively guarantee the right to vote, prohibiting not only restrictive ID measures, but also new limits on early voting, and measures to crack down on registration drives or same day registration, and other voter suppression efforts.

The proposed amendment language is simple, yet broad:

SECTION 1: Every citizen of the United States, who is of legal voting age, shall have the fundamental right to vote in any public election held in the jurisdiction in which the citizen resides.

SECTION 2: Congress shall have the power to enforce and implement this article by appropriate legislation.

“At a time when there are far too many efforts to disenfranchise Americans, a voting rights amendment would positively affirm our founding principle that our country is at its strongest when everyone participates," Pocan said Monday at a press conference in the Wisconsin Capital.

"As the world’s leading democracy, we must demand of ourselves what we demand of others—a guaranteed right to vote for all.”

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

Everyday Socialism, American-Style, Is Happening Now

Tuesday, 14 May 2013 10:44 By Gar Alperovitz, Chelsea Green Publishing | Book Excerpt


Gar Alperovitz is the Lionel R. Bauman Professor of Political Economy at the University of Maryland. He is best known for articles, books and speeches about the development of an alternative cooperative/publicly owned segment of the economy in the United States.

Alperovitz's latest book is What Then Must We Do? Straight Talk About the Next American Revolution.

"Gar Alperovitz's new book develops a brilliant strategy for the type of transformative change that can lead America from decline to rebirth," writes James Gustave Speth, author of America the Possible.

Support Truthout's mission. Gar Alperotivz's new book, What Then Must We Do: Straight Talk About the American Revolution, is yours with a minimum donation to Truthout of $25, or a monthly donation of $15.

Chapter 11 of What Then Must We Do?

One more obvious step, for the moment, in connection with real-world democratization (and maybe also about what can be done if you want to start getting serious).

I assume you are aware that socialism—real socialism, not the fuzzy kind conservatives try to pin on Barack Obama—is as common as grass (well, maybe not that common, but still very common indeed) in the United States.

I'm not talking about the public programs that come to many minds when socialism is discussed in an American context. These programs often help people in need and do many other useful things, but they don't attempt to change the underlying systemic design and the political power it confers on corporate actors.

I'm talking about the (efficient) government ownership of businesses, some set up in the past and still working very nicely, thank you, and many new efforts now also flourishing big-time.

For a start: It's often forgotten—or simply not known—that there are more than two thousand publicly owned electric utilities now operating, day by day, week by week, throughout the United States (many in the conservative South). Indeed, 25 percent of US electricity is supplied by locally owned public utilities and co-ops. Moreover, most of these now conventional "socialist" operations have a demonstrated capacity to provide electricity at lower cost to the consumer, not to mention cheaper and more accessible broadband. (Nationally, on average, customers of private utilities pay 14 percent more than customers of public utilities.)

One obvious reason: Public utilities and co-ops simply don't pay the same exorbitant executive salaries common in the private sector. They get pretty much the same work done for far less. General managers of the largest class of publicly owned power companies earned an average salary of roughly $260,000 in 2011. Average compensation for CEOs of large investor-owned utilities was $6 million—almost twenty-five times as much.

Also, of course, public utilities and co-op producers don't have to pay private shareholders any dividends. And they return a portion of their revenues to the city or county to help supplement local budgets, easing the pressure on taxpayers. A recent study found an average transfer of 5.2 percent of revenues to municipalities—compared with average tax payments by private-investor-owned utilities of 3.9 percent.

In smaller communities revenues from public utilities are often a crucial component of city budgets. In Ashland, Oregon, for instance, fully 30 percent of the general fund that pays for such services as police, fire, and street maintenance comes from public utility profits; only 16 percent comes from property taxes. Similarly, the century-old public utility in Norwich, Connecticut, is a major contributor to the city, with more than 10 percent of its total billings—more than 5 percent of the city's total annual budget—going to the municipal general fund.

A number of public utilities also play a powerful role in building a green economy. In California the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD)—one of the ten largest public utilities in the United States—now supplies more than 24 percent of its retail energy sales from renewable sources; it expects to reach a goal of 37 percent renewable energy by 2020. SMUD is also on target to slash CO2 emissions to just 10 percent of 1990 levels by 2050.

Another leader, Austin Energy in Texas, runs the most successful utility-sponsored green energy marketing program in the country. Approximately 15 to 17 percent of its power currently comes from renewable sources—primarily wind, with landfill methane gas a distant second. The utility expects to reach 30 to 35 percent renewable energy by 2020. It also has a twenty-year agreement to purchase power from a large wood-fired power plant in East Texas, and it expects to achieve a CO2 reduction goal of 20 percent below 2005 levels by 2020.

A number of cities are now also regularly involved in the public land development business—increasingly in situations where public policies, such as those involving mass transit, create huge land value increases and other benefits that would otherwise simply go to private developers.

Boston was one of the first to realize this possibility. In 1970 the city embarked on a joint venture with the Rouse Company to develop historic eighteenth-century Faneuil Hall Marketplace (a six-and-a-half-acre downtown retail complex with forty-nine shops, eighteen restaurants and pubs, twenty-five eateries, and forty-four carts). Boston kept the property under municipal ownership and negotiated a lease agreement in which the city got a portion of the development's profits in lieu of property taxes. By the mid-1980s Boston was collecting some $2.5 million per year from the marketplace, and by 2008 this had increased to several million a year. One expert estimate is that the approach allowed the city to take in "40 percent more [revenue] than it would have collected through conventional property tax channels."

Some of the most interesting examples of what might be called "development socialism" occur when a city develops and leases land it owns in and around entrances to publicly funded mass transportation subways and light rail systems. Land values go up dramatically at such locations, and cities used to simply let developers grab the publicly created opportunities—and then try to tax back whatever they could. Now many cities routinely maintain public ownership of the land, directly capturing the increased values the public investment creates.

In Miami, Florida Miami-Dade Transit is involved in the ownership of multiple large transit-linked joint development ventures. Dadeland South Station, for instance, includes multiple office buildings, a luxury hotel, and ground-level retail space. Dadeland North Station comprises more than 370,000 square feet of retail space, a large residential rental building, and a luxury apartment building. Taken together the projects generate annual revenues of around $1.3 million for Miami-Dade County.

The San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) has eighteen transit-oriented development projects under way (and numerous others in various stages of development). In the nation's capital, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority has established more than fifty revenue-generating joint development projects. The Valley Transportation Authority of Santa Clara County, California, has designed its Transit-Oriented Development Program to encourage mixed-use development within two thousand feet of transit stops. Not only does its Almaden Lake Village Project return revenues to the city, but 20 percent of the 250 residential units are offered at below-market cost to low-income households.

I mentioned at the outset that many utilities now help create broadband services. This is another area where public enterprise has become increasingly common, both via utility-based strategies and through other independent municipal efforts. More than 130 cities have built citywide public Internet networks. Hundreds have partial networks (connecting schools, businesses, and government buildings), and hundreds more are actively planning the construction of such networks.

Many others have made Internet provision a priority and are investing in telecommunications, including cable television, high-speed Internet services, local and long-distance telephone service, fiber leasing, and wireless data transmission. Indeed, by 2007 over seven hundred public power companies—or more than a third of them—were offering some form of advanced telecommunication services.

OptiNet, the broadband division of the city-owned utility in Bristol, Virginia (BVU), was the first utility in the nation to provide voice, video, and broadband over a fiber-to-the-user network. By early 2012 OptiNet had achieved approximately 70 percent market penetration in its primary service area (city limits of Bristol, Virginia) and had reached 53 percent of total homes and businesses in more recent expansion (counties surrounding Bristol served by BVU). In 2010 and 2012 OptiNet increased Internet speeds without raising prices and now provides connections that can be faster than those of many large cable companies.

Chattanooga, Tennessee, offers the fastest citywide fiber network in the country (up to 1 Gbps) for prices that are often eight to ten times cheaper than in neighboring locales served by Comcast and AT&T. As a result, several companies have relocated their operations and jobs to Chattanooga. The city's network was also influential in convincing Amazon to expand its massive distribution center in the city.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

Here, for the record, are a few more illustrations of conventional "socialism" in action.

Many cities are involved in hotel construction and ownership—and making profits on these efforts. City-owned hotels can be found in communities as different as Austin, Houston, Chicago, Omaha, Overland Park (Kansas), Sacramento, Marietta (Georgia), Oceanside (California), Myrtle Beach (South Carolina), Denver, Phoenix, and Vancouver, Washington (near Portland, Oregon). To take just one example from a seemingly conservative area: In May 2008, the Dallas City Council, led by mayor Tom Leppert, voted by an 11–2 margin to pursue construction and operation of a publicly owned convention center hotel. A charter amendment that would have stopped the effort was defeated in a public referendum, and in November 2011 the city celebrated the grand opening of its convention-oriented city-owned $500 million, 1.2-million-square-foot, twenty-three-story, 1,001-room hotel.

Cities are also involved in one or another form of hospital ownership, with a recent survey (2010) finding that roughly one-fifth of hospitals in the United States are publicly owned. One of the most interesting is Denver Health. Once an insolvent city agency ($39 million in debt in 1992), Denver Health is now a competitive health care system structured as an innovative blend of democratized ownership and direct municipal accountability. As a quasi-governmental agency it now has relative autonomy over decisions, yet it is subject to the state's open-meetings law (allowing for public involvement) and has a board that is appointed by the city's mayor.

Denver Health operates a highly efficient system that includes eight primary care centers and thirteen school-based clinics. An award-winning leader in its field, and consistently profitable for more than two decades, it employs roughly fifty-six hundred Denver-area residents and treats more than a third of Denver's population, including a full 37 percent of the city's children. About 65 percent of the patients are ethnic minorities, and more than 40 percent are uninsured.

One of the most interesting developments—now to be found in nearly seven hundred local projects—involves green operations that capture methane and turn it into fuel to produce electricity (and make money for the city). Here for instance is how Riverview, Michigan, does it—using a formula to be found in one form or another in many other cities.

Riverview teamed up with Detroit Edison (the local public utility) and a private corporation, Landfill Energy Systems, to develop a landfill gas-to-energy project on its 178-acre landfill. The project captures 4.3 million cubic feet of landfill gas per day and in turn uses it to provide electricity for over five thousand homes—in the process generating more than $150,000 a year in royalty income to help fund needed public services. The carbon emissions impact is also significant: The utility estimates the conversion operation removes the equivalent of the emissions produced by almost fifty thousand passenger vehicles each year.

A variation on the same theme is a wastewater-to-energy facility at California's Point Loma Treatment Plant, which serves a 450-square-mile area near San Diego. The methane produced through the treatment process there generates electricity for process pumps, lights, and computers. Since 2000, San Diego has saved around $3 million annually in energy costs through the operations of the facility. You didn't know about such things?

Most people don't, and the decaying American press isn't much help. Also, "the other side" doesn't have any interest at all in letting you know what can be done. Indeed, what is being done all the time in the way of large-scale democratization throughout the country, even (if you like) "socialism," American-style.

(That is one of the best reasons, by the way, to get serious about digging deeply. There are lots more practical precedents out there to build on if somebody does the work of finding out about—and refining and adapting—things that work for current and future use and, above all, moving the process beyond partial experiments to ever greater publicly benefitting democratization over time.) We've just looked at the tip of the iceberg here. Many interesting things are also happening at the state level.

In California, CalPERS (the state pension fund, now in operation for eighty years) oversees $237 billion in investments. Even factoring in the negative effects of the financial crisis and recession, the market value of its portfolio has risen 52 percent in the past ten years. Not only is CalPERS one of the largest investors in the state of California, it has taken a lead in directing a share of its investments to community-building efforts in the state (rather than handing over all state pension asset investments to Wall Street and other financial advisers and investment firms). (We're not talking small potatoes here: Such state investments totaled $23.5 billion as of September 2012.

In Alabama the public pension system—Retirement Systems of Alabama (RSA)—invests in numerous local Alabama industries, in many cases also helping create worker-owned firms. Investments range from aerospace to tourism development and include, among others, Navistar International—a firm that paid its engine manufacturing plant employees to work in the community rather than lay them off when the recession caused a drop in production.

In Alaska, the Alaska Permanent Fund invests oil revenues on behalf of citizens of the state. Earnings provide annual dividends to state residents as a matter of legal "right." In 2011, a low payout year, each individual state resident received dividends of $1,174 (almost $6,000 for a couple with three children). In 2008 each resident received $2,069 (over $10,000 for a family of five).

Roughly two-fifths of the states (38 percent) also actively provide aid to worker-owned companies. Several directly support ESOPs (and/or worker cooperatives) with initiatives ranging from the linked deposit/investment programs in Indiana to education, technical assistance, and training programs in many states. Two states—Vermont and Ohio—support employee ownership centers that in turn leverage public funds to offer a variety of services to ESOPs and worker cooperatives.

By the way, almost half the states—twenty-three—in "capitalist" America also directly invest public funds in promising start-up companies. In Maryland, to take just one example, the Enterprise Investment Fund regularly invests in start-ups in exchange for equity and a guarantee from the firm that it will continue to operate in the state for at least five years. The fund has performed exceptionally well: Between 1994 and 2011 the state made total returns of $62.5 million on its investments. Successful ventures range from high-tech fluorescence and luminescence companies like Plasmonix to Advanced BioNutrition Corp., a Columbia-based company that extracts fatty acids from algae for use as nutritional ingredients in aquaculture (fish farming) and domestic animal feeds.

You get the idea: If you start getting serious about democratizing the ownership of wealth, there are many, many examples to build upon—and then extend. Most provide profits to cities and states that badly need revenues—and in turn, this obvious boon to taxpayers suggests some potentially interesting political possibilities for the future.

More to chew on in this regard shortly.

I can't resist one last illustration, just for the record, from that rock-ribbed bastion of Adam Smith–spouting conservatism—the great state of Texas.

The Texas Permanent School Fund was established more than 150 years ago with $2 million from the state's general fund. In 1876 roughly half of all the land (and associated mineral rights) in the state still in the public domain was added to the fund, and beginning in 1953 coastal "submerged lands" were also added after being relinquished by the federal government. The state-owned fund currently (2011) owns 626,000 acres of surface land and 12 million acres of mineral land and submerged land.

Every year a distribution is made from the profits of the publicly owned ("socialized") fund to defray education costs for every county in the state—roughly $2 billion in the last two years. The fund also guarantees bonds for local school districts, enabling them to pay significantly lower interest rates on their debt.

If Texas can find ways to do things like this, I suspect your state can explore quite different possibilities as well (with a little help from its friends).

Support Truthout's mission. Gar Alperotivz's new book, What Then Must We Do: Straight Talk About the American Revolution, is yours with a minimum donation to Truthout of $25, or a monthly donation of $15.

Copyright by Gar Alperovitz.

[-] 2 points by Renneye (3874) 9 years ago

Exceptional thread, Leo!!

All the makings of "A People's Society".

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

Whenever I come across a good article on either cooperatives or on public banking, I always add them to this thread.

[-] 2 points by Renneye (3874) 9 years ago

There are a few threads here that stand out from the rest, in that they have a more 'global community' feel that transcends politics. The bigger picture. This is definitely one of those threads. Thanks again Leo!

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

Thank you for the compliment.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

New Era Windows Cooperative Is Open for Business in Chicago

Friday, 10 May 2013 10:47 By Laura Flanders, GritTV | Video Report


Meet the takers: They took over their factory, they took on their bosses, they took the initiative to form a worker cooperative and today they’re taking the wraps off a brand-new worker-owned company: New Era Windows. It opened May 9 in Chicago.

The workers in this story are members of the same workforce who, when they received word that their plant was about to be closed with no notice at what was then the Republic Windows and Doors factory in 2008, occupied their plant and became a cause celebre in a grim winter of mass layoffs. When they were laid off again in early 2012, by a second owner, they decided, as Nike would say, to “think different.” With encouragement from their union, the United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers of America (UE), and The Working World, a progressive investment group that helps co-operative start-ups internationally, they formed a company, “New Era LLC.” New Era is 100 percent owned by workers and now, at last, open for business.

“We decided to make a co-op because we were tired of our life being in someone else’s hands,” window maker Melvin “Ricky” Macklin told GRITtv the day before the opening.

“When [Republic] closed we felt like it was the end of our lives...but we realized, we’re not nobody,” added co-worker/owner Armando Robles, president of the union local, UE 1110.

It hasn’t been easy. Last year the New Era team had to fight for several months even to be allowed to bid on the factory. After that came contract negotiations and a move to a cheaper new location. To save on expensive moving costs, workers shifted the equipment from their old plant, themselves, in 80 tractor trailer loads.

“There have been times that we weren’t sure that we were going to be able to get New Era off the ground,” recalled Macklin. “You need investors. Well, we didn’t have a lot of people knocking on the door to give us money.”

That’s where The Working World stepped in.

“We have to remember, it still has a long way to go,” says The Working World’s Brendan Martin. But the only way the company has been able to get launched in less than a year, he says, is because of the potential unleashed in the process of launching a cooperative. “If this were looked at by normal investment institutions, they’d have assumed it would cost $2-5 million to open a business like this. It’s been less than a million and the only reason for that is because that other $2-3 million of value has been brought by the workers.”

A day before the opening, workers were putting the final touches on the plant, showing the fire inspector around and thinking about the work ahead of them. With just twenty worker-owners currently employed, the factory space looks large. Will they get enough orders to fill it? They are confident (and they passed the fire code inspection).

The former owner of Republic Windows and Doors didn’t go bankrupt. He’s still operating a factory in town. New Era is small by comparison. As Martin put it, “They don’t have all the inside connections; they don’t have all the backroom buddies.”

On the other hand, they don’t need a massive profit margin to be viable, and they live in a community that needs good, modern windows.

“Now more than ever they need support,” says Martin. Among other clients, they’re hoping that housing cooperatives and other cooperative businesses will choose to buy their windows from New Era in solidarity. “It’s not just about financial support, but it is about customers,” he says.

Becoming owners brings with it new responsibilities and work. GRITtv asked the workers if they're nervous:

“In opening up this plant we have learned we are so much more than what we thought we were,” Macklin said. “In opening up this plant we’ve done our own electrical work, we’ve done the plumbing work. And all we thought was we were just window makers.”

You can read more about the journey to New Era here http://www.thenation.com/blog/168416/chicago-workers-economic-plan-go-co-operative , here http://www.thenation.com/blog/166534/worker-ownership-under-consideration-chicago-factory-occupied-2008 and here http://www.thenation.com/blog/168727/workers-vs-investors-famous-windows-factory-danger-liquidation and watch GRITtv's 2009 discussion of worker takeovers with Naomi Klein, Avi Lewis and UE organizer Leah Fried here http://blip.tv/grittv/naomi-klein-and-avi-lewis-why-can-t-we-fire-the-boss-2139852 . For more information on New Era, go to newerawindows.com.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

"Are You Man Enough?"


There's not a street that you can walk

You got to watch just who you're talkin' to

They're out to get ya,

can't turn your back on a smilin' face

Next thing ya know, there ain't no trace of you

And this I betcha,

some people lose and some folks win

It's a matter of what they do

Are you man enough, big and bad enough?

Are you gonna let 'em shoot ya down?

When the evil flies and your brother cries

Are you gonna be around?

Someone needs a friend, just around the bend

Don't ya think you should be there?

Are you man enough when the goin's rough?

Is it in your heart to care?

There's no pretending it goes away

With every step that you take you pay your dues

and I ain't lyin'

You got to struggle to see the light

How someone's lookin' to steal your right to choose

And that don't stop tryin'

It's like a jungle outside the door and it's keepin' you so confused

Are you man enough, big and bad enough?

Are you gonna let 'em shoot ya down?

When the evil flies and your brother cries

Are you gonna be around?

Gotta keep your eye on the passers-by, better watch your step

'Cause ya never know where the knife would go And they ain't missed yet

The strong survive, they stay alive, they always do

But nothin' they ever teach you is true

Are you man enough, big and bad enough?

Are you gonna let 'em shoot ya down?

When the evil flies, and your brother cries

Are you gonna be around?

Someone needs a friend, just around the bend

Don't ya think you should be there?

Are you man enough when the goin' get's rough?

Is it in your heart to care?

Are you man enough, big and bad enough?

(Are you big and bad enough?)

Are you gonna let 'em shoot ya down?

When the evil flies, brother cries

(And your brother sighs)

Are you gonna be around?

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

Remaking the Federal Reserve, Building Public Banks and Opting Out of Wall Street

Wednesday, 17 April 2013 00:00 By Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese, Truthout | Op-Ed


Creating a Finance System That Serves the People, Part II

In Part I of this series, we examined breaking up the too-big-to-fail-or- jail banks, regulating them - especially their massive and risky derivatives trading - and more aggressively enforcing laws and regulations against security fraud.

In Part II, we examine how to remake the Federal Reserve into a transparent, democratic institution that serves the necessities of the people and the economy, not just the bankers; how to develop public banks in every state and many cities throughout the nation; and how people can opt out of Wall Street right now.

In other articles and on our web site, we examine the broader economy and how to remake it by putting in place economic democracy so that people have greater control over their economic lives and more influence over the direction of the economy.

It is worth restating that we do not see the proposals here as final, but more as an opportunity to continue the discussion so Americans can develop a finance system that serves and protects them.

Transform the Federal Reserve

A fundamental question for the new finance system is the role of the Federal Reserve and whether it should remain in private hands. The Federal Reserve is a privately owned US central bank that acts behind closed doors to create money and set interest rates, and it presently puts the interests of the big banks first. The Federal Reserve was originally created by Congress in 1913 and can be altered, nationalized or even dismantled by Congress.

The Fed is a private entity that is controlled by the banks. The 12 Regional Reserve Banks issue shares of stock to its member banks. The Fed is not operated for profit, and the stock may not be sold, traded or pledged as security for a loan. It does pay dividends that are, by law, 6 percent per year. But more importantly, the stock provides banks with votes to elect six of the nine members of the board of governors of the regional banks.

As Leo Panitch told The Real News Network, it is "not just that the banks are too powerful outside the Treasury and Fed. The Treasury and Fed are part of the Wall Street nexus, and they are organized in such a way, and the people who work in them are trained in such a way, as to be reproducing the current system."

There is widespread agreement among economists that there is a need for a central bank to regulate the money supply by setting interest rates and to be a lender of last resort in a financial crisis. However, Bill Black argues that the Fed can be made very small and mechanical in its setting of interest rates, rather than maintaining the current approach, which depends on what members of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors decide.

Further, the Fed needs to be made utterly transparent. "There is no reason for anything the Fed does to be opaque" says Black. In 2010, an "audit the Fed" bill passed in Congress despite aggressive opposition by the Fed. It was not the broad, open audit originally proposed by former Texas Republican Congressman Ron Paul and Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Florida), but it did provide a snapshot audit of a limited time of Fed activity.

As a result of the Government Accountability Office (GAO) audit of the Fed, Senate sponsor Bernie Sanders of Vermont said, "We now know that the Federal Reserve provided more than $16 trillion in total financial assistance to some of the largest financial institutions and corporations in the United States and throughout the world." Among the investigation's key findings was that the Fed unilaterally provided trillions of dollars in financial assistance to foreign banks and corporations from South Korea to Scotland. These decisions were all made without the public, media or elected officials' knowledge, and they would have remained secret without an audit.

In addition, the audit found conflicts of interest. For example, the CEO of JPMorgan Chase served on the New York Fed's board of directors at the same time that his bank received more than $390 billion in financial assistance from the Fed. Sanders urged that "No one who works for a firm receiving direct financial assistance from the Fed should be allowed to sit on the Fed's board of directors or be employed by the Fed."

But the fundamental question is: who should control the money supply? The control of the money supply may be one of the most important functions of government, but currently it is controlled by the Federal Reserve. The Fed creates funds digitally and makes them available to private banks at a low interest rate, which the banks can then use as they like to invest, add to their personal reserves and/or make loans of up to ten times the amount of their holdings.

At present, the government can only issue bonds that are sold to the Fed, banks or investors with the funds raised by those bond issues used for federal spending. These bonds are loans that must be repaid with interest by the government. So in effect, the government places itself in a position of debt by borrowing money from the banks, and then taxpayer dollars are used to pay the debt with interest. If the government created its own (debt-free) money instead, taxpayers would get more value for their dollars and the system could be more democratic and transparent, and could function for the public good.

Henry Ford said, "It is well enough that people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning." Why? Because, as Thomas Edison pointed out, "If our nation can issue a dollar bond, it can issue a dollar bill. The element that makes the bond good, makes the bill good ... It is absurd to say our country can issue $30 million in bonds and not $30 million in currency. Both are promises to pay, but one promise fattens the usurers and the other helps the people."

As part of the economic track of the 2011 Democracy Convention, Greg Coleridge argued that the US Constitution gives the government the power to create money; Article I, Section 8 says: "The Congress shall have power ... to coin money, regulate the value thereof, and of foreign coin." The creation of money is a public function, perhaps more important than any other part of the commons. As Coleridge points out, public money means we create our own money debt-free rather than borrowing from banks and building up debt.

The American Monetary Institute has put forward a thorough model of remaking the finance system to take power from the banks and give it to the people through the government. The institute point to a bill introduced by former Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), HR 2990, which dismantles the Federal Reserve and puts the necessary functions in the Department of Treasury, where a monetary authority is created to prevent inflationary and deflationary impacts. It would prevent banks from creating money through fractional reserve lending. Instead, money would be created by the government, which spends it into circulation for necessary programs - for example, infrastructure, education, health care.

Economist Jack Rasmus also urges that we "democratize" the Fed and require it to function as a national, Bank of North Dakota-like "public banking institution that would provide cost-only loans to the consumer sector (mortgage, auto, student, installment, etcetera), finance public investment corps for alternative energy, lend to community infrastructure projects, and totally remove the private banks from its board of governors and open market committee decision-making process."

Moving the money creation function into the federal government would place it within the US constitutional system of checks and balances to work for the whole society, not only for the bankers and the privileged. Rather than the banker's corporation, the Federal Reserve, creating money, the Fed would be replaced by a US Central Bank operating within the Department of the Treasury (as one option) which would create money.

Further, Coleridge argues, that there is good reason for governments to control the money supply because there are times when more money is needed in the economy and times when the money supply needs be slowed. When money is created by government, it is an asset and not debt to banks. We should be funding necessary projects and paying our debts with debt-free money. Money should be made for the benefit of the entire economy, not for the benefit of bankers.

Under such a system, the creation of money would be used to serve the interests of society. The money would be created and spent into circulation by the federal government for infrastructure, including the human infrastructure of education and health care. For example, the American Society of Civil Engineers grades US infrastructure D+ and sees an urgent need for over $3.6 trillion in spending to bring existing infrastructure to safe levels by 2020. As the federal government spends money on infrastructure and other urgent needs and funds local and state governments, this money is paid out to contractors, who pay their suppliers and laborers, who pay for their living expenses, and, ultimately, that money gets deposited into banks, which are then in a position to make loans.

Some creative thinking is needed to develop a new central banking system. We should open our minds to a wide range of options. For example, in addition to the approach described here, the finance system could be a fourth branch of government, elected directly by the people; or with a combination of elected and appointed governors to represent different parts of society, for example: energy, housing, health care, workers, transportation. The current system is not working and needs rethinking so that it serves the needs of the people and the society, not only the desires of financiers.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

Public Banking: A Public Bank in Every State

Ellen Brown, the president of the Public Banking Institute, argues that we need a public bank in every state and major city. The United States has one model for public banking: the bank of North Dakota. When North Dakota farmers were losing farms to Wall Street, they organized a populist movement, and in 1919, set up the bank of North Dakota. The publicly owned bank recycles state revenues into credit for the state. Thus, North Dakotans keep their money in their community.

The result has been an ongoing success. Even during the current economic collapse, North Dakota escaped the credit crisis and has maintained a budget surplus since 2008, low unemployment and no public debt.

Imagine how different California could be if it had public banks. Brown summarizes: "At the end of 2010, it had general obligation and revenue bond debt of $158 billion. Of this, $70 billion, or 44 percent, was owed for interest. If the state had incurred that debt to its own bank - which then returned the profits to the state - California could be $70 billion richer today. Instead of slashing services, selling off public assets, and laying off employees, it could be adding services and repairing its decaying infrastructure."

How does public banking work? All of the revenues of the state go into the state's public bank, which, like other banks, leverages those deposits into credit. The state bank partners with local banks to fund local projects. For example, when there is a flood or other disaster, the bank quickly helps provide funds to rebuild homes and infrastructure. It is a bank focused on serving the public interest and which returns the profits to the public.

According to Brown, there have been two recent studies that show public banks are less corrupt than private banks and that they are more efficient and more profitable. The North Dakota public bank has complete transparency and accountability - including routine audits by several agencies. It does not pay executives exorbitant salaries and bonuses. It does not reward people for churning out risky loans. And it does not engage in casino investing in risky derivatives. It has lower costs because no advertising is necessary; instead, the government guarantees the bank easy access to liquidity.

The most obvious reason for a public bank is to allow a state to use its resources to build the economy of the state by keeping resources in-state and not sending them to Wall Street, but there are other reasons. The events in Cyprus, where depositors were forced to bail out the banks through seizure of their savings, show there needs to be a banking system that protects people. Cyprus-like seizures of accounts can happen in the United States.

In fact, Ellen Brown reports that as part of the "living wills" banks are required to prepare under Dodd-Frank - which describe how they will survive an economic crisis - the banks include "bail-in" provisions. These plans require depositors (who are unsecured creditors, with fewer rights than derivative investors) to bail out the banks by turning their savings into bank stock, which could be worth only pennies on the dollar in a crash.

Marc Armstrong, executive director of the Public Banking Institute, asks of the states: "What is their plan to prevent city, county and state governments from becoming creditors for the too-big-to-fail banks, the next time these banks lose a multi-billion dollar bet? Because of their fiduciary responsibility to the public, we request that our public finance officials answer the question: what is the risk we have in doing business with too-big-to-fail banks that are apparently now able to seize deposits and convert them to capital?"

The living wills of the big banks make them too risky for city, county and state government money, as well as pension funds' money. Another concern is that at least 1,350 school districts and government agencies across the nation have turned to a controversial form of borrowing called capital appreciation bonds to finance major projects. These bonds allow the government to avoid paying anything now and pass the debt on to future generations, but at a much greater cost. For example, $22 million borrowed now with no payments due for 21 years would cost the taxpayers $154 million, seven times the amount borrowed, when it is repaid in 2049.

This practice raises questions. Armstrong summarizes: "Why are state and local governments, school districts and public hospitals paying Wall Street banks billions of dollars of interest on municipal bond and capital appreciation bond debt, when we could be paying that same interest to ourselves by issuing credit with a public bank?" Michael Hudson, a former Wall Street economist, sees the private banking system as cannibalizing the economy and supports public banks to fund the needs of the nation. When the banks failed, the FDIC should have taken them over, essentially made them into public banks, says Hudson:

If the government would have taken over Citibank it would not have done the kind of things that Citibank did. The government would not have used depositors' money and borrowed money to gamble. It wouldn't have gone down the casino capitalism route. It wouldn't have played the derivatives market. It wouldn't have made corporate takeover loans. None of these are productive from the vantage point of economic growth and raising productive powers and living standards. They would not be the proper behavior of a public bank.

Hudson points to the differences between public and private banking. Private "[b]anks are supposed to make money. And unfortunately, they can make money most easily ... by being parasitic, not by being productive." On the other hand, a public bank "would make loans for long-term purposes to serve the economy and help the economy grow."

With the risks of Wall Street banks increasing and dislike of their banking practices mounting, the public banking movement is growing. It is also being spurred by the US Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve's refusal to assist states with their budget problems. Brown reports that 20 states are considering public banks, as are a growing number of cities. Brown says, "We need to get more information out there and develop a groundswell of popular support. Populist movements start with a lot of study, learning about the monetary system." One place to do that is at the June 2-4 public banking conference in California.

Brown would like to see states remove the middleman, the private banks that profit from their deposits, by creating a public bank in every state so states could "bring their money back home and leverage it for their own purposes." There is no good reason for states and cities not to develop public banks and many good reasons to do so.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

Change Is Already Happening as People Opt Out of Wall Street

There are a variety of vehicles being developed to help people move their money out of Wall Street banks and the current finance system. The Move Your Money Project encouraged people to move their money from the big banks to community banks and credit unions. The Occupy movement held a Bank Transfer Day on November 5, 2011, as part of this campaign. The campaign was assisted by banks whose corrupt practices became notorious and who had started adding fees, like ATM card fees. Three months after Bank Transfer Day, more than 5.6 million customers had moved their money. The campaign continues at Switch Your Banks, which has a consistently excellent blog on banking. Credit unions, a form of cooperative finance, now have assets of over $1 trillion and are becoming major financial players.

People have also been creating time dollars and time banks. This concept, originated by Edgar S. Cahn, allows people to give time to get time; that is, if someone takes an hour to teach someone to read, they can get an hour for a massage from someone else participating in the time bank, and the masseuse can get an hour from a local participating plumber. This work is conducted outside of the tax system and allows people who have skills, but perhaps are unemployed or underemployed, to use their skills in a dignified way to purchase the skills of other people. TimeBanks.org provides a directory of Time Banks in the United States. If you cannot find one in your community, you can create a time bank.

Another opt-out is local currency. Across the world, 1,900 local communities, including over a hundred in the United States, are now issuing their own currency. Some communities, such as Ithaca, New York, issue paper currency; others in Canada, Australia, the UK or France issue complementary electronic money.

The new Internet currency, Bitcoin, has become popular very quickly. Bitcoin is already bigger than many sovereign currencies and this month broke the $1 billion value mark. Bitcoin is not tied to any particular financial institution and is independent from world governments. Some view Bitcoin as a safe haven for people trying to protect their money from corrupt Wall Street banking, but large investors have begun buying up Bitcoin to avoid taxes. The outcome is uncertain at this time.

More and more questioning has arisen regarding the current debt-based finance system. Occupy Wall Street offshoot Strike Debt is building popular resistance to all forms of debt imposed on us by the banks. They produced the Debt Resistor's Operations Manual, which provides specific information and tactics for understanding and fighting against the debt system. It provides information on how to deal with personal debt, as well as how to work collectively to challenge the way debt undermines communities. Strike Debt also organized a Rolling Jubilee where participants buy debt at pennies on the dollar, as debt collectors do, but rather than collecting the debt, they forgive it. So far, they have raised over $578,000 to abolish over $11.5 million in debt.

People are also examining ways to invest locally rather than on Wall Street. Michael Shuman, in Local Dollars, Local Sense points out that Americans have $30 trillion invested in stocks, bonds, mutual funds, pension funds and life insurance funds, but not even 1 percent of these savings touch local small business. He shows how people can profit by putting money into building their local businesses and creating resilient local and regional economies. Shuman describes many ways to opt out of Wall Street and opt in to local investment, among them investment clubs and networks, local investment funds, community ownership, direct public offerings, local stock exchanges and crowd funding.

Tying It All Together

In his current book, What Then Must We Do?, political economist Gar Alperovitz argues that banking is one of two major areas where game-changing, systemic change might develop (the other is health care). As the Wall Street finance system fails us and places us at great financial risk, people are looking for alternatives and thinking about ways to create a finance system that will serve the people. A lot has been done in this area, and a cohesive set of principles is beginning to be developed. These include:

•Investigation and enforcement of the finance system.

•Breaking up the big banks and limiting their size so they are not a systemic risk.

•Remaking the Fed into a small, transparent, mechanical controller of interest rates.

•Transferring the power to create money to the government in a new central bank.

•Creating public banks in cities and states throughout the country.

•Creating systems outside of the finance system that allow for barter, time banks and other alternatives.

•Encouraging community banks and credit unions.

•Encouraging local investment in communities instead of Wall Street investment.

This article does not attempt to cover all aspects of finance. For example, the international systems dominated by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund require major transformation, but that topic would require an article of equal length. We also do not deal with the economy beyond finance, where we see worker-self-directed enterprises or worker cooperatives as the foundation of a new democratic economy that spreads wealth and power more equitably among the people and where a progressive tax system would fund the government.

Finance is the center of the US economy. The current system does not function for most people - or for small- and medium-sized businesses. It is a system that is addicted to casino-like investment, is corrupted by unprosecuted security fraud and funnels money to the wealthiest.

The 2008 collapse had devastating consequences, and since the system remains quite opaque, we do not know whether another collapse is near. It is time to develop an alternative system of finance designed to support the needs of the people and the country, not the needs of bankers. We hope this article adds to an ongoing conversation, and we look forward to your comments so the conversation can be advanced further.

You can listen to Big Finance Fraud and Public Banks with Bill Black and Ellen Brown on Clearing the FOG Radio.

This article was first published on Truthout and any reprint or reproduction on any other website must acknowledge Truthout as the original site of publication.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

"Shift Change": Creating Economic Democracy Through Workplace Cooperatives

Tuesday, 05 February 2013 09:10 By Mark Karlin, Truthout | Interview


Shift Change brings you behind the scenes of some of the most exciting cooperative successes in Europe and the United States. This is a movement that's creating jobs, strengthening communities and showing that another economy is possible. It's a movement that's taking off - and Shift Change is the way to understand what's happening.

  • Sarah Van Gelder, YES! Magazine

Shift Change is a timely documentary about the growing cooperative movement. In the last two years, Truthout has posted many articles on the efforts to achieve economic democracy through worker ownership. Shift Change offers an energizing look at the workings of the giant cooperative model, Mondragon, in Basque, Spain. The film also covers strong US-based worker-owned enterprises that prove the investor Wall Street model of business is not necessary to a successful company.

Mark Karlin: You and your documentary partner, Melissa Young, have completed more than 20 documentaries covering progressive issues, like the threat to unions, the dangers of biotechnology ill-applied, international grassroots environmental activism, and more. What, at this time, brought you to the topic of cooperatives as featured in Shift Change?

Mark Dworkin: In our documentary work together we look at political and social issues not only to rehash what is wrong, but also to offer realistic ideas about what might be done about it. In 2002 we were in Argentina at the height of their economic crisis, and in hundreds of workplaces which had closed, workers took over the company, went back to work, and made a go of it. These examples made quite an impression on us, and we featured their stories in two films - Argentina - Hope in Hard Times and Argentina Turning Around. In 2010 at the US Social Forum, a friend suggested it was time for a new film about Mondragon - and that we ought to make it, since our Argentina films show we understand the potential for worker co-ops, and we have a lot of experience filming in Spanish-speaking countries. He was able to help us find start-up money, and we went for it. We quickly realized we should include the stories of several co-ops in the US, so our audience would not get the mistaken idea that worker co-ops cannot succeed here.

Mark Karlin: A good chunk of Shift Change explores the mother of all cooperatives, Mondragon, in Basque Spain. Can you explain the history and current structure of Mondragon, as well as its size?

Mark Dworkin: The Mondragon cooperatives began in the difficult years following the Spanish Civil War. Spain had a dictator who had a grudge against Basque country, because the Basques had opposed his violent rise to power. Left to themselves to rebuild from the war and create a viable economic future, people in Basque country were willing to try something new. Inspired by a visionary priest, they started a technical school that emphasized Christian principles of cooperation. Five graduates of that school who went on to get engineering degrees, set up the first industrial cooperative, soon followed by others, always with an eye to the future development of their region. Now, more than a half-century later, there are 85,000 workers in 120 independent cooperatives, working together for the common good. They do $25 billion worth of business a year. They have their own bank and one of Spain's largest supermarket chains. They make appliances, machine tools, computer equipment, and compete successfully in the global economy.

Mark Karlin: Spain is one of the southern European Community countries struggling with unemployment. How does Mondragon strategically deal with a global economic downturn in terms of unemployment at the cooperative?

Mark Dworkin: One of the challenges faced by all cooperative business is that they have to survive in the larger economic system, over which they have little control. Nonetheless, cooperatives in Mondragon and in the US are faring better in the current crisis than other, similar sized businesses. When sales and profits are down, they don't just close the doors. People take a hard look and try to figure out what they can do to make things better. Generally some of the co-ops are doing better than others, depending on the industry in which they operate. So each year Mondragon co-ops that are profitable pay into a "rainy day fund," and co-ops that are going through hard times are able to withdraw funds to help them out. In co-ops where business is slow, the members can often find temporary work in co-ops that are doing better. And since workers own and manage the company, they may agree to reduce their pay on a temporary basis until business picks up again. That way nobody has to lose their job.

Mark Karlin: Tell us a bit about the Evergreen Cooperatives in Cleveland. How would Evergreen play out as a model for other cities?

Mark Dworkin: The Evergreen Cooperatives take much of their inspiration from Mondragon. They are a wonderful example of business, labor, local government and civic foundations working together to re-develop their region. Rather than offer large sums of government and foundation money to private companies to move to Cleveland - only to have them move somewhere else a few years later - they decided to use those funds to start new businesses, based in the inner city, which are owned and managed by their employees. And they made strategic partnerships with major local institutions, such as Case Western Reserve University and the Cleveland Clinic to buy the products and services that these cooperative businesses would offer. Many other cities are sending delegations to Cleveland to study the Evergreen model with an eye to adopting the idea - though in each case the best products and services will depend on the needs of each city and the resources it can leverage. Local anchor institution partners would depend on local conditions, but the idea of business, labor, community, and government working together for the common good can take hold anywhere.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

Mark Karlin: The United Steel Workers (USW) launched a relationship with Mondragon not too long ago. How is that working out? Has anything come of it at this point? Does the USW plan to challenge the traditional capitalist management and profit model?

Mark Dworkin: The USW/Mondragon collaboration has a number of pilot ventures just getting off the ground in Ohio and Pennsylvania. And other unions are interested too. It is a relatively new idea for organized labor to begin building businesses, and they have a lot of people watching, so they are taking care to make their first ventures a shining success. Unlike in the Mondragon Cooperatives, which are not unionized, the worker owners of these new union co-ops will be union members. And while the companies will be professionally managed, the managers will be under democratic supervision by the workers, where the union helps represent the needs and desires of the rank and file. Like Mondragon, these companies will emphasize not just short-term profit but also long-term job creation and sustainability.

Mark Karlin: Cynics argue that American workers have been conditioned to the managerial profit-making system and are resistant to the cooperative concept. How do your respond to that perception?

Mark Dworkin: I agree that we learn from an early age to navigate hierarchical social structures, and we have lots of practice competing, though little practice cooperating. So we have a lot to learn in order to make cooperatives a success. But I think many people are willing to make the effort. We have participatory instincts that are stifled in the dominant economy. I remember one friend who lit up when I told him that in worker cooperatives, people are encouraged to put forward their ideas about how to make the company better. That's sure different, he said; everywhere I have ever worked you're best off if you keep your head down and your mouth shut. So I wouldn't say that workers are resistant to cooperation, but rather our cooperative instincts are suppressed and trained out of us. To help overcome this, all of the co-ops we visited place a high priority on initial training and ongoing leadership development of their members.

Mark Karlin: Truthout has been excerpting Gar Alperovitz's book, America Beyond Capitalism: Reclaiming Our Wealth, Our Liberty and Our Democracy. How are cooperatives representative of economic models of democracy?

Mark Dworkin: Gar Alperovitz and The Democracy Collaborative that he helped to found are key designers of the Evergreen Cooperatives, and I have enormous respect for Gar's thinking and his work. One thing that the Democracy Collaborative talks about is how we are proud to live in a democracy, yet when we go to work, most people in the US have to check their democracy at the door. Cooperative companies are run democratically in terms of their day-to-day operations, and economic democracy in their home region is enhanced, because strategic decisions with long-term consequences for the region are made democratically by people who live and work there, and share a commitment to future sustainability.

Mark Karlin: Do you see evidence that the cooperative movement is gaining momentum in the United States?

Mark Dworkin: Cooperatives are taking off, especially in the last few years when economic conditions have been desperate and more people have been willing to think outside of the box. But it doesn't mean they will all succeed. Such change doesn't happen overnight. New cooperatives like other new businesses need a sound business strategy and plan, and they need the commitment and capital to keep going for the first few years as the business gets off the ground. But with the enthusiasm we have seen, we are optimistic. We've even heard reports that after viewing Shift Change people decided to try to form new co-ops or convert existing businesses to cooperatives.

Mark Karlin: How does democracy in the workplace, through worker ownership, have an impact on political democracy?

Mark Dworkin: Millions of people have become disenchanted with our political democracy, because they don't see how to get involved constructively and it is so hard to get things done. But when given the experience of running a business democratically, people develop their ideas and abilities and feel energized. We've heard numerous stories of co-op worker/owners gaining confidence in their thinking and becoming more involved in social movements and civic affairs. Worker cooperatives are living laboratories of democracy, and democracy is contagious - it cannot help but spill over from the job to life outside of work.

Mark Karlin: In 2012, You and Melissa Young also completed a documentary, We Are Not Ghosts, on the community-based effort to revitalize Detroit. Do you see hope for the development of cooperatives in a city such as Detroit, left in ruins by the flight of manufacturing jobs?

Mark Dworkin: The grass-roots efforts we profile in Detroit involve a lot of community-based cooperation. For the most part it has not yet taken a business form, although Ghosts does visit a very successful bakery that has helped revitalize a run-down neighborhood and a small bicycle repair shop that is a worker co-op. Detroiters are rethinking what a post-industrial city should be like, grounding their efforts in neighborhoods and addressing immediate needs - such as growing food in empty lots, creating spoken word and visual art, organizing neighborhood efforts to reduce violence, etc. So in We Are Not Ghosts we were more interested in the content of what is happening in Detroit - in spite of reports from the major media that focus on shuttered factories, abandoned houses and white flight - rather than its organizational form: non-profit, small business or co-op business. Having said that, the spirit of cooperation is strong. People remaining in Detroit love their city and are committed to working hard and helping it to survive. As Detroit spoken-word poet Jessica Care Moore says in the film, "Somebody's got to tell them. We are not ghosts! We are in this city, and we are alive!"

Mark Dworkin and his partner Melissa Young founded Moving Images. They have produced and directed more than 20 progressive social documentaries. Many of these programs have aired across North America on PBS, and they are widely distributed to schools, libraries and community organizations.

Copyright, Truthout.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

"I freed a thousand slaves I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves."

Harriet Tubman

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

Worker Self-Directed Enterprises


Democracy at Work is a project, begun in 2010, that aims to build a social movement. The movement’s goal is transition to a new society whose productive enterprises (offices, factories, and stores) will mostly be WSDE’s, a true economic democracy. The WSDEs would partner equally with similarly organized residential communities they interact with at the local, regional, and national levels (and hopefully international as well). That partnership would form the basis of genuine participatory democracy.

Utilizing media, from short video clips that go viral to our already well-established weekly and increasingly syndicated “Economic Update” radio program (WBAI, 99.5 FM, New York) and from podcasts to articles to blogs, this interactive website reaches and engages a fast growing audience.

Open to and interested in democracy at work, that audience also wants to move actively with beyond today’s dysfunctional economic and political systems while mindful of mistakes made by earlier efforts to go beyond capitalism. This interactive website will serve as the central location for these forms of media, a database of research and resources that support and strengthen the movement, and the open discussions shaping that movement as it grows. We begin with a definition of workers’ self-directed enterprises. In some ways, they are similar to co-ops, worker owned enterprises, and other organizations of production that reject the old, top-down, hierarchical capitalist model. Yet in crucial ways, workers’ self-directed enterprises are also unique.

Workers’ Self-Directed Enterprises (WSDE’s): WSDE’s are enterprises in which all the workers who collaborate to produce its outputs also serve together, collectively as its board of directors. Each worker in any WSDE thus has two job descriptions: (1) a particular task in the enterprise’s division of labor, and (2) full participation in the directorial decisions governing what, how and where to produce and how to use the enterprise’s surplus or profits.

Simply put, in place of a hierarchical, undemocratic, capitalist production organization giving those decisions exclusively to a small minority – major shareholders and the board of directors – WSDE’s institutionalize democracy at work as the economy’s central principle and society’s new foundation.

We believe that now is the time for a comprehensive new strategy and new movement for social change. We invite you to join with Democracy at Work to work toward those goals.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

From Occupation to Co-operation


Co-op Think Tank organizes to expand member-owned movement

By Robyn Ross, Fri., Jan. 25, 2013

They called it "breaking up with your bank."

At the height of the Occupy movement in 2011, more than 700,000 people nationwide moved their savings from institutions like Bank of America to credit unions. Besides offering more competitive rates, credit unions are in principle democratically governed, owned by their customers. The one-person-one-vote egalitarianism and cooperative structure of credit unions appeals to people tired of banks structuring loans and imposing fees to profit distant shareholders, as well as to those who objected to the role of major national banks in creating the conditions that led to the nationwide recession.

A group of Austinites is proposing to sustain that cooperative spirit and expand it to other sectors of the economy. "With Occupy Wall Street," says Mark Wochner, a board member at both Wheatsville Food Co-op and Black Star Co-op Pub and Brewery, "people were asking for an alternative model that was focused on the individual, the community, and being good for the environment. For hardcore co-op people, it's like, 'We're right here.'"

The "hardcore co-op people" constitute the Austin Co-op Think Tank, which this weekend is hosting the Austin Cooperative Summit, a conference focused on developing co-ops in Central Texas. Conference organizer Kim Penna, who works at College Houses, says the project involves both regional strategic planning and public education about co-ops. "Co-ops are a proven answer to the questions that people were asking during Occupy," she says. "'Why don't we have more of a voice? Why are outside forces dictating the jobs we can get?' Co-ops answer those problems. If there isn't a job for you, you can create a worker co-op and create a job – take back your voice."

The co-op is an economic enterprise democratically run by members or employees. Members own and govern the co-op, with each person who makes a basic, defined contribution having one share and one vote. While national co-ops exist – REI, Ocean Spray, Blue Diamond nuts – most co-ops, by nature, are local businesses.

"The members are not people who live 2,000 miles away who have the investment as part of their pension fund," Wochner says. "They are people who shop at the co-op or people who work there. The wealth either goes to people that work there, or it's reinvested in the community or the co-op, or given to the members."

The primarily local, democratic nature of co-ops makes them an appealing alternative to Wall Street capitalism. Jim Jones, a lifelong co-op activist who worked in Austin in the late Seventies and early Eighties, puts it this way: "Instead of trying to pressure the government or employer to do something differently, you simply say, 'We'll try to do it ourselves.'"

The Think Tank isn't Austin's first cooperative brain trust. Austin's first housing co-ops were formed during the Depression, and by the Seventies, they had become an integral part of campus-area culture. In 1977, the co-op community hosted a national cooperatives conference, and afterward, members of the different local co-ops wanted to keep meeting and maintain momentum. They formed the Austin Co-op Link, which produced educational events until it dissolved almost 20 years later, when individual co-ops facing financial hardship had to focus on their own survival.

The Link is one aspect of Austin's co-op history featured in a film documentary in progress produced by Jones, who worked in housing co-ops and helped found Wheatsville. (A short preview will be shown at the summit.)

Like the post-Occupy present, the Sev­enties were a time of social upheaval and questioning established systems. "You typically see spikes in cooperative activity and in labor activity around periods of crises," says Carlos Perez de Alejo of Cooperation Texas, which helps organize worker co-ops. "People are recognizing that business as usual is not working and are more open to what an alternative might look like."

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

Practical Hurdles

But if co-ops address so many economic and political problems, why aren't there more of them?

For starters: money.

Most businesses begin with capital drawn from major investors or lenders, pulled from savings, borrowed from friends or family, or raised through stock offerings. People who want to start co-ops – particularly worker co-ops – often don't have access to these resources, and co-ops can't sell stock.

Traditional lenders are often leery of the co-op model because its egalitarianism is seen as risky. Most banks are used to dealing with a single owner of a business to negotiate and secure a loan and aren't comfortable working with a co-op's multiple owners.

Cooperatively structured credit unions would seem to be the logical solution, but hurdles exist there, too. The same policies that make credit unions more stable than conventional banks limit the loans they can make. They mostly lend only from their own deposits, and they're limited to lending 12.25% of their assets to commercial enterprises, narrowing the opportunities for financing co-ops.

Some local co-ops have solved the capital problem creatively: Red Rabbit Cooperative Bakery started its operation with $10,000 raised through a Kickstarter campaign. Black Star Co-op spent several years collecting investing members at beer socials before Wheatsville invested the last $50,000.

A new business also needs legal services and accounting, but co-ops' options are again restricted by service providers' unfamiliarity with the co-op model. Business attorneys who don't understand how to start a co-op, for example, might encourage entrepreneurs to form a limited liability corporation instead.

"Co-ops require the same kind of assistance 'regular' businesses get – financial services, legal services, marketing, technical assistance, training, and education," says Perez de Alejo. He cites the success of the Mondragon cooperatives in the Basque region of Spain and a network of co-ops in the Emilia Romagna region of northern Italy. In both places, there are support organizations whose primary purpose is to develop cooperatives. "That's the kind of infrastructure we need to think about building here in Austin and Texas, if we're serious about taking things to scale and moving them forward for the long term," he says.

The Think Tank hopes to use this weekend's summit in part to reach other service providers who'd like to work with co-ops. Some members dream of one day seeing legal and accounting co-ops that offer their services to others in the co-op community.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

What Goes Around ...

In April 2010, Kelsey Balcaitis, a youth financial education coordinator at A+ Fed­eral Credit Union, organized a workshop to help employees understand the cooperative model, inviting representatives from Wheats­ville and Black Star. "We talked about values and principles a lot – how do our owners see us, what are the individual challenges we face," recalls Rose Marie Klee, president of Wheatsville's board. "We realized at some point that this was not the only conversation we should have."

The group continued to meet and add members, eventually calling itself the Austin Co-op Think Tank. In August 2011 it held a retreat to brainstorm a five-year plan for helping co-ops "go mainstream" in Austin. One step toward that goal is getting the Austin community to see all the different co-ops – housing, producer, consumer, worker, utility – as connected. "If you have very successful independent co-ops that everybody thinks of separately," Jones says, "you'll never get that sense of it being more than a business. If you start thinking of it as a way of doing things – rather than a particular place of business – then it has the potential for becoming mainstream."

To that end, the Think Tank developed a mentorship program that paired co-op newbies with seasoned professionals. Piggy­back­ing on the United Nations' naming of 2012 the International Year of Cooper­at­ives, the group worked with the City Council to amplify the proclamation locally.

So far, much of the value of the Think Tank has been in building relationships among people in different co-ops. Because of connections made at Think Tank meetings, Wheatsville lent its boardroom to College Houses for a training program, and the Inter-Cooperative Council financed a fire sprinkler system in its older houses through University Federal Credit Union.

Wheatsville sells Red Rabbit doughnuts; Black Star uses Red Rabbit bread. The ICC housing co-ops have been Wheatsville's biggest customers for years. Think Tank members would like to see these networks expand; what about a cooperative cleaning or pest control or laundry service that could be used by Wheatsville, Black Star, and other co-ops?

"I think we're underambitious in this country," says Brian Donovan, the general administrator of the ICC. He points to the International Co-operative Alliance's goal to make co-ops the fastest-growing business model by 2020. He'd like to see more co-ops in day care, housing, energy – services where consumers need stability.

"People with a lot of capital in Wall Street can make money whether the stocks go up or down," Donovan says. "The only time they're not making money is when it's stable – so the vested interest is in instability. But in the co-op, stability is the goal. When things go bad in a co-op, you make adjustments to survive – you don't fold and declare bankruptcy or sell to a competitor. So I think we could provide these long-term services for ourselves, instead of having profit-motivated or instability-motivated, investor-owned companies running them."

The collaboration among Austin's coops – whether they brew beer, sell groceries, print T-shirts, or provide housing – are what Jones thinks will propel the local cooperative economy forward. He describes the current scene as a "golden age" for Austin, akin to the Seventies. "In both instances there was a social system that was open-ended and allowed people to become involved easily. If you look at who's involved in the Think Tank, it's not all the managers or staff or presidents of the board – it's whoever's interested. It lets people get involved without running for a board or getting hired."

For Perez de Alejo, that open social system allows existing co-ops to find common ground that will be essential for expansion to occur. "Typically, different types of co-ops operate in their silos and don't communicate much with one another," he says. "With the Think Tank, we're beginning that conversation and trying to figure out where we can lock arms and think about the future together."

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

The Politics of Debt in America: From Debtor’s Prison to Debtor Nation

Tuesday, 29 January 2013 10:24 By Steve Fraser, TomDispatch | News Analysis


Debt and the Birth of a Nation

Nowadays, the conservative media inundate us with warnings about debt from the Founding Fathers, and it’s true that some of them like Jefferson -- himself an inveterate, often near-bankrupt debtor -- did moralize on the subject. However, Alexander Hamilton, an idol of the conservative movement, was the architect of the country’s first national debt, insisting that “if it is not excessive, [it] will be to us a national blessing.”

As the first Secretary of the Treasury, Hamilton’s goal was to transform the former 13 colonies, which today we would call an underdeveloped land, into a country that someday would rival Great Britain. This, he knew, required liquid capital (resources not tied up in land or other less mobile forms of wealth), which could then be invested in sometimes highly speculative and risky enterprises. Floating a national debt, he felt sure, would attract capital from well-positioned merchants at home and abroad, especially in England. However, for most ordinary people living under the new government, debt aroused anger. To begin with, there were all those veterans of the Revolutionary War and all the farmers who had supplied the revolutionary army with food and been paid in notoriously worthless “continentals” -- the currency issued by the Continental Congress -- or equally valueless state currencies.

As rumors of the formation of a new national government spread, speculators roamed the countryside buying up this paper money at a penny on the dollar, on the assumption that the debts they represented would be redeemed at face value. In fact, that is just what Hamilton’s national debt would do, making these “sunshine patriots” quite rich, while leaving the yeomanry impoverished. Outrage echoed across the country even before Hamilton’s plan got adopted. Jefferson denounced the currency speculators as loathsome creatures and had this to say about debt in general: “The modern theory of the perpetuation of debt has drenched the earth with blood and crushed its inhabitants under burdens ever accumulating.” He and others denounced the speculators as squadrons of counter-revolutionary “moneycrats” who would use their power and wealth to undo the democratic accomplishments of the revolution.

In contrast, Hamilton saw them as a disinterested monied elite upon whom the country’s economic well-being depended, while dismissing the criticisms of the Jeffersonians as the ravings of Jacobin levelers. Soon enough, political warfare over the debt turned founding fathers into fratricidal brothers.

Hamilton’s plan worked -- sometimes too well. Wealthy speculators in land like Robert Morris, or in the building of docks, wharves, and other projects tied to trade, or in the national debt itself -- something William Duer and grandees like him specialized in -- seized the moment. Often enough, however, they over-reached and found themselves, like the yeomen farmers and soldiers, in default to their creditors.

Duer’s attempts to corner the market in the bonds issued by the new federal government and in the stock of the country’s first National Bank represented one of the earliest instances of insider trading. They also proved a lurid example of how speculation could go disastrously wrong. When the scheme collapsed, it caused the country’s first Wall Street panic and a local depression that spread through New England, ruining “shopkeepers, widows, orphans, butchers... gardeners, market women, and even the noted Bawd Mrs. McCarty.”

A mob chased Duer through the streets of New York and might have hanged or disemboweled him had he not been rescued by the city sheriff, who sent him to the safety of debtor’s prison. John Pintard, part of the same scheme, fled to Newark, New Jersey, before being caught and jailed as well.

Sending the Duers and Pintards of the new republic off to debtors’ prison was not, however, quite what Hamilton had in mind. And leaving them rotting there was hardly going to foster the “enterprising spirit” that would, in the treasury secretary’s estimation, turn the country into the Great Britain of the next century. Bankruptcy, on the other hand, ensured that the overextended could start again and keep the machinery of commercial transactions lubricated. Hence, the Bankruptcy Act of 1800.

If, however, you were not a major player, debt functioned differently. Shouldered by the hoi polloi, it functioned as a mechanism for funneling wealth into the mercantile-financial hothouses where American capitalism was being incubated.

No wonder debt excited such violent political emotions. Even before the Constitution was adopted, farmers in western Massachusetts, indebted to Boston bankers and merchants and in danger of losing their ancestral homes in the economic hard times of the 1780s, rose in armed rebellion. In those years, the number of lawsuits for unpaid debt doubled and tripled, farms were seized, and their owners sent off to jail. Incensed, farmers led by a former revolutionary soldier, Daniel Shays, closed local courts by force and liberated debtors from prisons. Similar but smaller uprisings erupted in Maine, Connecticut, New York, and Pennsylvania, while in New Hampshire and Vermont irate farmers surrounded government offices.

Shays' Rebellion of 1786 alarmed the country’s elites. They depicted the unruly yeomen as “brutes” and their houses as “sties.” They were frightened as well by state governments like Rhode Island’s that were more open to popular influence, declared debt moratoria, and issued paper currencies to help farmers and others pay off their debts. These developments signaled the need for a stronger central government fully capable of suppressing future debtor insurgencies. Federal authority established at the Constitutional Convention allowed for that, but the unrest continued. Shays' Rebellion was but part one of a trilogy of uprisings that continued into the 1790s. The Whiskey Rebellion of 1794 was the most serious. An excise tax (“whiskey tax”) meant to generate revenue to back up the national debt threatened the livelihoods of farmers in western Pennsylvania who used whiskey as a “currency” in a barter economy. President Washington sent in troops, many of them Revolutionary War veterans, with Hamilton at their head to put down the rebels.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

With New Constitution, Post-Collapse Iceland Inches Toward Direct Democracy

Sunday, 27 January 2013 07:10 By Sam Knight, Truthout | News Analysis


When the global financial system crumbled over four years ago, Iceland played host to one of the most dramatic economic collapses in modern history. Its three largest banks were unable to refinance debt roughly ten times the size of the country's gross domestic product (GDP), causing one of the world's wealthiest nations to limp with hat in hand to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The island became a symbol for capitalism's systemic failure.

Now, Iceland is making headlines for more positive reasons: activists there are in the process of advancing some of the strongest freedom of information laws and journalist protections in the world, and the Icelandic economy, while still beset by problems, is significantly outperforming other crisis-stricken countries.

Most recently, on October 20, a remarkable constitution - written by an elected council with help from the public - took a step closer toward ratification after it was approved in a referendum by a 2-1 margin.

Before the changes are signed into law, the draft must be approved by the Althingi, Iceland's Parliament, approved again by referendum and finalized once more by the legislature after a fresh parliamentary election in April.

Uncertainty is swirling around the status of the constitution, however. Those opposed to it - primarily right-wingers - claim that the 48.9 percent turnout for October's vote doesn't lend the document legitimacy. There is also fear among the constitution's supporters in Parliament that some of their colleagues are trying to abrogate the public's influence by altering the document's content instead of offering the technical revisions they were given the mandate to make. "I truly believe that our democracies have been hijacked by bureaucrats," said Parliamentarian Birgitta Jónsdóttir, a self-described "realist-anarchist" elected after the Kitchenware Revolution protests which ensued following the 2008 financial crisis forced the long-ruling conservative government to resign in 2009. "I don't want the new constitution to be plagued with their language, but the language of the people," she insisted in a Skype conversation with Truthout. "Their time is over. They just can't get over it." It's unsurprising that inertia is casting a pall over the constitution's future. In January 2011, the constitutional council's election was controversially nullified by Iceland's Supreme Court. Parliament effectively overruled this decision by appointing the 25 candidates who received the most votes to take seats on the council to rewrite the constitution.

Regardless of the document's final status, the drafting process - inspired by crowdsourcing techniques - has produced a remarkably progressive legal code and generated significant interest from around the world.

"A PBS TV crew of seven or eight followed a group of us around the north of the country before the [October] vote," Thorvaldur Gylfason, an economics professor and member of the constitutional council, told Truthout. (The footage will be part of a four-hour series on the US Constitution set to air in May.)

At home, supporters are hoping that the constitution can create more momentum for innovative reform. Information technology specialists who opened the drafting process to the public through social media are expecting to set up open data projects in partnership with the government. There has also been another web-based open government reform in the city of Reykjavik: the city council passed a law forcing it to consider 16 citizen-initiated proposals made each month through a web site called "Betri Reykjavík" (Better Reykjavik). There has been talk among its boosters that the constitution could mark the beginning of a gradual movement toward direct democracy. But to better understand the significance and global appeal of the new constitution, it is worth discussing the state of Iceland's economy, which has defined both the constitutional movement and international scrutiny of the diminutive subarctic nation since 2008.

A Shining Beacon of Post-Collapse Economics?

According to bloggers, Facebook memes and some prominent commentators, Iceland is the shining beacon of post-collapse economics.

Their narrative paints a picture of the government, emboldened by protest movements, refusing to be held to the fire for the mistakes of rapacious financiers and corrupt politicians, even sanctioning them for crash-related misdeeds. At least seven bankers have been charged with criminal offenses so far - two were recently sentenced to nine months in prison. Those indicted include the once powerful investor Jón Ásgeir Jóhannesson, who was charged in December with illegally securing loans worth around $50 million. And former Prime Minister Geir Haarde was found guilty of not holding cabinet meetings on important issues - one of four charges brought against him - although the verdict didn't warrant any jail time. This justice has supposedly left the country less burdened by debt and a domineering financial sector that crowded out sustainable industries.

But like most political memes bandied about on the Internet, this overly optimistic commentary must be critically examined. Iceland is faring better than most countries hit hard by the global meltdown. Write-downs and debtor revolts have undeniably mitigated the consequences of collapse.

Citizens, through referenda brought on by presidential vetoes, rejected Parliament's plan to pay billions of dollars claimed by the British and Dutch governments after one of Iceland's three major banks, Landsbanki, saw its cross-border savings scheme, known as Icesave, fail.

The establishment - perhaps influenced by widespread protests that followed the crisis - has also been somewhat attentive to the plight of debtors. The Supreme Court ruled that loans indexed to foreign currencies - commonly issued during the boom, but rendered absurdly expensive after the krona collapsed - were, in fact, illegal, significantly reducing mortgage principals overnight. The government also announced a plan in December 2010 to cap distressed homeowners' mortgage principals at 110 percent of estimated home values. According to a financial industry-backed report published last February, Icelandic banks, since the end of 2008, have forgiven debt equivalent to 13 percent of GDP.

The government also didn't directly bail out the three major banks - Kaupthing and Glitnir being the other two - but nationalized them (albeit momentarily - more on that later). And crucially, it eschewed sweeping austerity that the IMF typically favors - a strategy that seemingly paid off, as Iceland exited the IMF program in the summer of 2011.

It appears these developments have given Iceland's economy room to grow. The unemployment rate in October was at 4.5 percent, and the country's GDP grew by 3.1 percent in 2011, according to Statistics Iceland. Fairly impressive when considering eurozone misery.

There are also explanations for Iceland's performance that are less dramatic than frenzied demonstrations and white-collar prosecutions. Emergency capital controls have prevented a total collapse of the krona. Some post-crisis years saw net emigration, relieving the labor market of excess supply. The defunct banks invested in assets, like British retail chains, that largely retained value after the global bust - a significant amount of their debts could be covered by liquidating these assets. Finally, the post-collapse devaluation of the krona has made Icelandic commodities more competitive on global markets, giving the country the trade surplus it desperately needs to amass foreign currency.

But the lionization of Iceland glosses over persistent systemic problems.

"Look at what's happening in Europe. The crisis is much deeper and harder in Greece and other countries. It's just horrifying," Jónsdóttir said.

"But," she warned, "we could end up exactly like that."

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

Cooperatives and Community Work Are Part of American DNA

Tuesday, 22 January 2013 16:28 By Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers , Truthout | Op-Ed


There is so much in US history that has been hidden or mythologized that ignorance is more common than knowledge even among the best informed. That is how we felt when we read For All the People and then interviewed the author, John Curl, on Clearing the FOG radio.

Curl's area of expertise is very important for those of us seeking transformational change to a new, more equitable economy and participatory democracy. His book methodically and authoritatively traces the hidden history of cooperatives, cooperation and communalism in US history. He shows how these models of economic democracy were intertwined with many of the transformational changes the country has made, including breaking from English empire, ending slavery, and gaining women's suffrage, worker rights and union rights, as well as civil rights. He also shows how economic democracy has been in constant battle with concentrated-wealth-based capitalism, which is threatened by a more equal distribution of wealth. This history is critical for advocates to understand; therefore, For All the People is essential reading.

Why Cooperatives, Cooperation and Communalism Matter

Creating transformational change is not only about protesting what we do not like and resisting and refusing to cooperate with the power structure; it also requires us to simultaneously build the world we want. If big-finance capitalism does not serve the people, what will? The mass of people who struggle through their daily lives need to know there is an alternative available that will meet their needs and improve their lives. People who urgently require employment, housing, food and other immediate needs can work together now to solve their problems in ways that also undermine big-finance capitalism and build democratic and sustainable systems.

Changing the economic system to one that is more democratic is fundamental to shifting political power away from concentrated wealth and to people. However, decentralized and democratic economic systems will not address all of the crises that exist sufficiently. Some, such as finance, health care, energy, climate and transportation require national approaches and coordination. When political power begins to shift, these bigger solutions can be put in place and greater transformation will be possible.

History reinforces the idea that to achieve transformational change, we must proceed on twin tracks: protesting and building. Mahatma Gandhi changed his emphasis in the mid-1930s, a dozen years before independence from the British Empire, to work focused on building economically self-reliant communities from below (sardovaya, or social uplift for all). This became an adjunct to the strategy he is most known for, satyagraha (noncooperation and civil disobedience to unjust laws). Gandhian economics meant thousands of self-sufficient small communities with self-rule and the need for economic self-sufficiency at the village level joined together in a cooperative federation of village republics. This is bookended by the Gandhian social ideal of dignity of labor, equitable distribution of wealth, communal self-sufficiency and individual freedom.

We discovered this two-path necessity when we were organizing the Occupation of Washington, DC at Freedom Plaza. We learned that change required a strategy of two parts: protesting what we oppose, and building what we want; to make the goals of the occupation clear, we called it Stop the Machine, Create a New World. The latter approach is important for many reasons and deserves more attention than the former because it builds community, solves urgent problems, builds wealth for individuals and communities, and creates the society we want.


Spain's Rebellion Moves to Print

Thursday, 24 January 2013 00:00 By Michael Levitin, Truthout | Report


Cooperatively owned by journalists and readers, Spain's radical new monthly magazine, La Marea, is committed to democratic regeneration and aims to reach people with sober language and militant ideas.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

Ownership, Full Employment and Community Economic Stability

Wednesday, 23 January 2013 11:50 By Gar Alperovitz, Back to Full Employment | Op-Ed


[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

New Cuba: Beachhead for Economic Democracy Beyond Capitalism

Thursday, 17 January 2013 00:00 By Keith Harrington, Truthout | Op-Ed


The year 2012 may have been the United Nation's International Year of Cooperatives, but 2013 may turn out to be the more historic year for worker-ownership if the Cubans have anything to say about it.

To listen to the mainstream American media, however, you'd never know it. As a video supplement to a recent New York Times article makes clear, the corporate press has already made up its mind on how the story of Cuba's economic liberalization is bound to end: "In a state defined by all-consuming communism for the past 50 years, capitalist change comes in fits and starts, and only at the pace that the government is willing to allow."[Emphasis added]

In other words, Cuba's post-communist story ends just like China's - in capitalism, because according to orthodox dogma, there's nowhere else to go. Trapped by the limited possibilities of this dichotomist capitalism-or-communism mentality, mainstream commentators lack the perspective needed to appreciate (much less inform others) that a transition away from a state-dominated command economy might conceivably lead to a type of market that is very distinct from our elite-shareholder-dominated and profit-fixated capitalist model.

But that is precisely the nuanced story we find in Cuba when we dig just below the surface and consider the very guidelines the Cuban government has adopted to steer the transition process. Since the state unveiled its nuevos lineamientos or new guidelines for economic development in 2010, the easing of government restrictions on private entrepreneurial activity has only constituted a single aspect of a much broader picture of change. Unfortunately, The New York Times and its ilk have gotten so hung up on the privatization shift, that they've left out crucial details about the types of private enterprises the Cuban government is attempting to foster.

Specifically, the government is placing high priority on the development of worker-owned-and-managed firms and has recently passed a law intended to launch an experimental cadre of 200 such firms. Under the law, workers - rather than government bureaucrats or elite boards of directors - will democratically run the businesses, set their own competitive prices, determine wages and salaries and decide what to do with the profits they generate. In other words, Cuba's new worker cooperatives will operate pretty much along the same lines as their successful cousins in the capitalist world, including Spain's Mondragon Cooperative Corporation.

But what sets the Cuban cooperative experiment apart and renders it such an incredible opportunity for the global worker-cooperative movement, is its occurrence in a political-economic milieu that is currently free from the distorting effects of capitalist competition. This is significant because while cooperatives have proven just as competitive as capitalist firms in a capitalist context, when capitalist profits and growth assume top priority, worker-owned firms may be compelled to act more like capitalist firms and subordinate core objectives such as worker empowerment and well-being, community development and environmental sustainability. Indeed, as cooperatives grow, even the percentage of actual worker owners in their ranks has been known to decline, as we've seen with Mondragon.

In short, the worker-ownership movement could greatly benefit from a national-scale economic environment that will allow cooperative enterprises to develop according to their own particular democratic nature and exhibit their true potential, free from the profit-above-all dictates of capitalism. No country bears as much promise in this respect than contemporary Cuba.

Nevertheless, for Cuba's experiment to work, all efforts should be made to steer the economy and the behavior of the country's emergent private entrepreneurial class in a direction that comports with the ethos and objectives of economic democracy. Above all, this would likely require severe restrictions, if not an outright ban, on the entry of large foreign capitalist firms or the establishment of large domestic capitalist firms. For, as economists such as Jamee Moudud of Sarah Lawrence University and many structuralist thinkers have pointed out, as jobs and tax revenues become dependent on the success of capitalist firms, societies become constrained in their ability to pursue developmental paths that do not prioritize capitalist accumulation. Accordingly, during the early years of the cooperative experiment, Cuba should seek to limit foreign direct investment to cooperative or triple-bottom-line firms as much as possible, facilitate joint-ventures between such firms and its own cooperatives and continue to seek industrial loans largely from committed social democratic partners such as Venezuela, and other "pink-tide" trade partners.

Finally, the global cooperative movement must appreciate the historic, strategic importance of Cuba's experiment and mobilize its resources to support the effort. As observers of the situation have pointed out, Cuba's experience with worker cooperatives is limited primarily to its agricultural sector, and the establishment of a robust non-agricultural cooperative sector will require serious provision of training, technical support and worker acculturation. On this front, the experience of successful worker-ownership movements in Argentina, the United States, Spain and other countries could prove invaluable. Such assistance might be coordinated with the help of organizations such as Democracy at Work, the Democracy at Work Network, the Democracy Collaborative and the Working World, all of which specialize in helping worker cooperatives grow and thrive.

Of course, anyone can bolster this important beachhead for economic democracy by simply spreading the word and helping plug the gap in the media's coverage of Cuba's transition. Please help bust the myth that markets mean capitalism for the new Cuba by sharing this article and others cited here.

Copyright, Truthout.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

When Democracy Is Trumped by the Excesses of Capitalism

Thursday, 10 January 2013 09:14 By Richard D Wolff, Haymarket Books | Book Excerpt



The Foundation of a New Democratic Economy Is Worker Self-Directed Enterprises

Thursday, 10 January 2013 15:02 By Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers , Truthout | Op-Ed


A commitment to democracy logically should extend to the place where adults spend most of their lives. Workers in control of their own workplaces are much less likely to ship their own jobs overseas, underpay employees or pollute their own communities.

The economic collapse and slow recovery that has led to high unemployment and under-employment, coinciding with an extreme wealth divide in which workers have a shrinking share of the GDP, means people are looking for new approaches. How can we create an economy that works for all Americans?

Through his new project, Democracy at Work, economist Richard Wolff strives to develop a social movement that puts in place a reorganization of the economy built on a foundation of employee control of the workplace. Employees would act together as their own bosses in a fully egalitarian, democratic workplace where workers run the business, share the assets and create a workspace that runs in harmony with not only its workers, but the entire community. We join him in this effort through our project, It's Our Economy, which seeks to create economic democracy, with worker ownership at its foundation. Economic democracy is consistent with the democratic ideals of the United States. And employee ownership is an all-American approach to problem-solving that has been supported by people on the Right and Left. Workers will relish the democratic structure; businesspeople will appreciate its entrepreneurial spirit. In our next column we will review the history of worker ownership and communalism that dates back to the founding of this country, indeed, pre-dates European settlement of North America.

We are not starting from scratch. There are thousands of successful, majority worker-owned businesses in the United States. The largest majority employee-owned business is Florida-based Publix Super Markets, a $27 billion company that employs 152,000 people. That's more workers than Costco and Whole Foods combined. As we finish the international year of the co-op, worker ownership is growing. One in five adults in the world are members of co-ops; and a majority of Americans find cooperatives to be less expensive, more trustworthy and to provide better service than traditional businesses.

As political economist Gar Alperovitz reports, "There are 120 million members of cooperatives in the United States; 20 percent of the American electric system is either co-op or municipal, essentially socialized. Land trusts are developing at the local level. At the state level, there are many approaches, like public pension funds, for example. California's is the most well-known, but the state of Alabama is heavily using its pension funds and even investing in some forms of worker-owned companies."

Wolff argues that workplaces need to go beyond majority ownership, to "Worker Self Directed Enterprises" (WSDE). He makes a strong case that workers in control of their own workplaces are much less likely to ship their own jobs overseas, underpay employees or pollute their own communities. As workers' enterprises become fully functioning, they benefit those who participate as workers as well as the customers and communities they serve.

Much of what goes wrong in US-European capitalism is due to how corporations are organized - hierarchical and undemocratic. As Wolff says "people go to work and do what they are told rather than participate." The undemocratic workplace is dominated by a handful of people - owners, stockholders or a board of directors. Those who make the decisions create greater wealth and power for themselves, usually at the expense of their workers; and not surprisingly they get involved in politics to ensure that they continue to keep their power and wealth.

Worker Self Directed Enterprises are a new way of organizing. Workers have the capacity to direct decisions in their workplace. As decision-makers they have to live with the decisions they make, like moving jobs overseas, replacing workers with technology or polluting their environment. Wolff says: "If we are committed to democracy, then the workplace where people spend most of their adult lives should be democratic."

Especially when an economy is not working, it is time to say "this system does not do what we need, we can do better." Throughout history, there has been a gradual move to self-governance. As Wolff notes, "We don't need kings, nor do we need to be governed by a few at the workplace." To accomplish this transition to a decentralized and democratized economy, we need to build a social movement that takes this message to the American people.

A large portion of the population already agrees with us. These ideas are majoritarian, but are not realized because wealth is in the hands of a few and politicians need concentrated wealth to sustain them and remain in office. This wealth also controls the media and limits discussion. Thus, we also need to continue building an independent, citizen's media to broaden discussion and understanding.

Worker Self Directed Enterprises are built on the experience of the worker cooperatives. The phrase WSDE is used to emphasize that workers make the decisions. The largest cooperative in the world is the Mondragon Cooperative - a network of 250 co-op enterprises that makes up the 7th largest corporation in Spain, with 85,000 worker-members who make the decisions. Mondragon defied the economic collapse in Spain. And now Mondragon is joining with US steelworkers to develop worker-owned steel mills in the US.

There is experience-based evidence that worker directed enterprises can have advantages over traditional corporate models. According to a study by Harvard and Rutgers researchers, companies with substantial employee ownership often outperform those without, because of lower staff turnover, stronger trust relationships at work and greater innovation.

The companies that succeed do so in large part because of the "innovation engine" that is unleashed by worker ownership. Group innovation is free fuel for a business that is created when people's passion is ignited toward innovating together and employees are engaged in creating better products and better ways to deliver them. This strategy seeks to create a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

What are the some of the keys to success? Research shows successful businesses realize that innovation comes from differences in thinking, therefore engaging many workers encourages innovation. Most of the time innovation does not mean new technology, but new solutions to problems, rearrangements and improvements in operation. Allowing experimentation, trying new approaches and sharing the lessons from these efforts means all can learn and innovate further. And success comes from sharing information not only with employees, but also with suppliers and customers. The entire organization is rewarded for its innovation and values of teamwork and sharing. Worker ownership is a practical, not utopian, model of organizing workplaces.

Changing the workplace is not only about more successful business; it is about people living more fulfilled lives. Wolff points out that many workers view work and workplaces negatively because they are not organized to be positive experiences for workers; that "Happy Hour" is something that takes place outside of work. "If more enterprises were employee-owned, fewer workers would face daily exploitation. The ratio of average CEO pay to worker pay (currently, an astounding 380:1) would shrink. Inequality, which harms society and hampers economic growth, would lessen."

Employee Self-Directed Enterprises will also change politics as they put democratic power in the workplace and build wealth among workers. As the balance of power shifts, majoritarian solutions to the challenges the country faces will no longer be taboo. The foundation of political democracy will move from a small number of owners, to worker directors thereby broadening the base of government. This article is based on a radio interview with Richard Wolff on Clearing the FOG (Forces Of Greed). You can listen to the interview here.

Copyright, Truthout.


How We Can All Make Money Like the Billionaires

Thursday, 10 January 2013 14:49 By Thom Hartmann and Sam Sacks, The Daily Take | Op-Ed


[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

Political Football Over Disaster Relief: Another Argument for Public Banking

Friday, 04 January 2013 09:17 By Ellen Brown, Truthout | Op-Ed


Post-Sandy and post-Katrina "disaster relief" has been characterized by more profit-taking by big business than relief to families and small businesses. The Bank of North Dakota demonstrated it doesn't have to be that way after flooding devastated Grand Forks in 1997.

In a shameless display of putting politics before human needs, Congress began 2013 still scrapping over a $60 billion Hurricane Sandy relief bill fully nine weeks after the disaster hit. And if the Katrina experience is any indication, the bill may not bring adequate relief to struggling and displaced homeowners even when it is finally passed.

The damage wrought by Sandy to New York and New Jersey coastal areas was similar in scale to that to New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Just two weeks after Katrina hit, Congress approved $62.3 billion in emergency appropriations, along with numerous subsequent emergency funding requests to cover the damages, which topped $100 billion. Yet as noted on the Occupy Sandy Facebook page, federal relief funds post-Katrina were gutted in favor of "privatizing and outsourcing relief, making room for predatory lenders, disaster capitalists, and gentrification developers." According to a report by Strike Debt, the vast majority of FEMA's resources and efforts are spent on public assistance programs that provide infrastructure restoration. Individual victims of disaster are for the most part just offered personal loans - loans that have many features of predatory subprime lending.

Disaster victims are now being expected to shoulder relief expenses that used to be shared publicly. Most people believe they are covered by their insurance policies or by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), but many disaster victims have found that their insurance policies include obscure provisions that exclude coverage, and the only aid that FEMA gives to individuals is the opportunity to take on more debt.

It is a failing of our austerity-strapped federal disaster relief system that it can offer little real help to individuals; and it is a failing of our private, for-profit insurance system that the legal duty of management is to extort as much money as possible from customers while returning as little as possible to them, in order to maximize shareholder profits.

Most Sandy Victims Are Left Stranded

The report by Strike Debt was based on observations made at a community meeting in Midland Beach, Staten Island, on November 18, 2012, as well as on interviews with FEMA and Small Business Association (SBA) representatives, volunteer workers, local business owners, and residents throughout New York City. According to the report, there are three main sources of financial support being offered to Sandy victims: insurance, grants, and loans. Federal support is available only once private insurance has been exhausted. In many cases, residents who believed they had insurance that would cover the Sandy disaster are finding that, for a variety of reasons involving the fine print in the policies, their claims are being denied. Difficult-to-understand clauses allow insurers to deny coverage depending on such things as whether the storm was officially classified as a hurricane or a tropical storm.

For federal aid programs, according to the report:

  • Victims are required to first apply for loans before qualifying to apply for FEMA aid, placing the economic cost of the disaster on the individual victim.

  • Aid programs favor those who can take on debt, further exacerbating pre-existing inequalities among residents.

  • Federal programs are inflexible and fail to meet even basic individual and community needs.

  • Relief options are not clearly communicated or well understood. Policies are so complex that even lawyers are confused.

Except for temporary living costs, FEMA grants are accessible only after the homeowner, renter or business applies for an SBA loan. If the applicant qualifies for a loan, he or she is not likely to be provided further FEMA aid. Disaster loans are made through FEMA on the basis of credit history, and favorable interest rates are available only if the applicant cannot get credit elsewhere. That means favorable interest rates are offered only if an applicant cannot qualify for credit through a commercial bank. When the banks got in trouble themselves, the Fed dropped the Fed funds rate (the rate at which they borrow from each other) to nearly zero. But no such relief is extended to disaster victims.

There is no FEMA money for small businesses other than loans, and businesses have difficulty taking on debt when they don't know when they will be able to reopen. The small business application is reported to be at least 30 pages long, and is often difficult to complete because flooding has destroyed much of the required paperwork.

Many homeowners were strained by mortgages that were underwater prior to the storm, and their properties have now depreciated to the point of having no market value at all. They have no choice but to try to rebuild, but how can they take on more debt? The focus on lending, says the report, moves money from the victims of disaster into the hands of loan servicers, who make enormous profits off these loans.

A Better Model: Disaster Relief in North Dakota

That is the state of disaster relief in most parts of the country, but one state has developed a different model – North Dakota. North Dakota is the only state in the union to have its own state-owned bank. The Bank of North Dakota (BND) has a mandate to serve the public interest, and it has no shareholders other than the state itself. That gives it wide-reaching flexibility in emergencies, allowing it to act quickly to catalyze and coordinate resources.

The BND's emergency capabilities were demonstrated in 1997, when record flooding and fires devastated Grand Forks, North Dakota. The town and its sister city, East Grand Forks on the Minnesota side of the river, lay in ruins. Floodwaters covered virtually the entire city and took weeks to fully recede. Property losses topped $3.5 billion. The response of the state-owned bank was immediate and comprehensive, demonstrating a financial flexibility and public generosity that no privately-owned bank could match. Soon after the floodwaters swept through Grand Forks, the BND was helping families and businesses recover. Led by then-president and CEO John Hoeven (future North Dakota governor and US senator), the bank quickly established nearly $70 million in credit lines – to the city, the state National Guard, the state Division of Emergency Management, the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks, and for individuals, businesses and farms. It also launched a Grand Forks disaster relief loan program and allocated $5 million to help other areas affected by the spring floods. Local financial institutions matched these funds, making a total of more than $70 million available.

Besides property damage, flooding swept away many jobs, leaving families without livelihoods. The BND coordinated with the US Department of Education to ensure forbearance on student loans; worked closely with the Federal Housing Administration and Veterans Administration to gain forbearance on federally-backed home loans; established a center where people could apply for federal/state housing assistance; and worked with the North Dakota Community Foundation to coordinate a disaster relief fund, for which the bank served as the deposit base. The bank also reduced interest rates on existing Family Farm and Farm Operating programs. Families used these low-interest loans to restructure debt and cover operating losses caused by wet conditions in their fields.

To help finance the disaster recovery, the BND obtained funds at reduced rates from the Federal Home Loan Bank. These savings were then passed on to flood-affected borrowers in the form of lower interest rates.

The city was quickly rebuilt and restored. As a result, Grand Forks lost only 3% of its population between the 1997 floods and 2000, while East Grand Forks, right across the river in Minnesota, lost 17% of its population.

Bringing Real Security to Communities

Just as we can rely on our local public fire department to be there for emergencies, so a public bank can be relied on to lend a true helping hand when private banks, insurers, and FEMA may not. Unlike private insurers that are prone to withdrawing coverage on obscure technicalities, a publicly-owned bank is not beholden to shareholder profit-seeking; and unlike federal disaster relief agencies, a public bank is not dependent on a penny-pinching Congress for funds. Like private banks, it has the ability to create money in the form of bank credit on its books, and it has access to very low interest rates. But private banks have a business model that requires them to take advantage of these low rates to extract as much debt service as the market will bear. A public bank can pass these low rates on to disaster victims and local governments.

When the biggest private banks needed an emergency bailout, trillions of dollars in nearly-interest-free money came flooding their way. Why? As Sen. Dick Durbin said of Congress in 2009, "Wall Street owns the place.” The private banking industry also owns all twelve branches of the Federal Reserve. If we the people want the sort of security in emergencies that is available to Wall Street banks, we need to own some banks ourselves.

Just as Occupy Sandy has pre-empted the official rescue agencies through community organizing, so a Public Bank of New York or New Jersey could pre-empt the vulture Wall Street banks and finance the state's own rebuilding. Twenty states have now introduced bills of various sorts to establish their own banks. For more information on the campaign in your state, see here.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

Discourse on Voluntary Servitude

The Discours sur la servitude volontaire of ÉTIENNE DE LA BOÉTIE, 1548

Rendered into English by HARRY KURZ

[Published under the title ANTI-DICTATOR]


I see no good in having several lords; Let one alone be master, let one alone be king.

These words Homer puts in the mouth of Ulysses,[1] as he addresses the people. If he had said nothing further than "I see no good in having several lords," it would have been well spoken. For the sake of logic he should have maintained that the rule of several could not be good since the power of one man alone, as soon as he acquires the title of master, becomes abusive and unreasonable. Instead he declared what seems preposterous: "Let one alone be master, let one alone be king." We must not be critical of Ulysses, who at the moment was perhaps obliged to speak these words in order to quell a mutiny in the army, for this reason, in my opinion, choosing language to meet the emergency rather than the truth. Yet, in the light of reason, it is a great misfortune to be at the beck and call of one master, for it is impossible to be sure that he is going to be kind, since it is always in his power to be cruel whenever he pleases. As for having several masters, according to the number one has, it amounts to being that many times unfortunate. Although I do not wish at this time to discuss this much debated question, namely whether other types of government are preferable to monarchy,[2] still I should like to know, before casting doubt on the place that monarchy should occupy among commonwealths, whether or not it belongs to such a group, since it is hard to believe that there is anything of common wealth in a country where everything belongs to one master. This question, however, can remain for another time and would really require a separate treatment involving by its very nature all sorts of political discussion.

For the present I should like merely to understand how it happens that so many men, so many villages, so many cities, so many nations, sometimes suffer under a single tyrant who has no other power than the power they give him; who is able to harm them only to the extent to which they have the willingness to bear with him; who could do them absolutely no injury unless they preferred to put up with him rather than contradict him.[3] Surely a striking situation! Yet it is so common that one must grieve the more and wonder the less at the spectacle of a million men serving in wretchedness, their necks under the yoke, not constrained by a greater multitude than they, but simply, it would seem, delighted and charmed by the name of one man alone whose power they need not fear, for he is evidently the one person whose qualities they cannot admire because of his inhumanity and brutality toward them. A weakness characteristic of human kind is that we often have to obey force; we have to make concessions; we ourselves cannot always be the stronger. Therefore, when a nation is constrained by the fortune of war to serve a single clique, as happened when the city of Athens served the thirty Tyrants,[4] one should not be amazed that the nation obeys, but simply be grieved by the situation; or rather, instead of being amazed or saddened, consider patiently the evil and look forward hopefully toward a happier future.

Our nature is such that the common duties of human relationship occupy a great part of the course of our life. It is reasonable to love virtue, to esteem good deeds, to be grateful for good from whatever source we may receive it, and, often, to give up some of our comfort in order to increase the honor and advantage of some man whom we love and who deserves it. Therefore, if the inhabitants of a country have found some great personage who has shown rare foresight in protecting them in an emergency, rare boldness in defending them, rare solicitude in governing them, and if, from that point on, they contract the habit of obeying him and depending on him to such an extent that they grant him certain prerogatives, I fear that such a procedure is not prudent, inasmuch as they remove him from a position in which he was doing good and advance him to a dignity in which he may do evil. Certainly while he continues to manifest good will one need fear no harm from a man who seems to be generally well disposed.

But O good Lord! What strange phenomenon is this? What name shall we give to it? What is the nature of this misfortune? What vice is it, or, rather, what degradation? To see an endless multitude of people not merely obeying, but driven to servility? Not ruled, but tyrannized over? These wretches have no wealth, no kin, nor wife nor children, not even life itself that they can call their own. They suffer plundering, wantonness, cruelty, not from an army, not from a barbarian horde, on account of whom they must shed their blood and sacrifice their lives, but from a single man; not from a Hercules nor from a Samson, but from a single little man. Too frequently this same little man is the most cowardly and effeminate in the nation, a stranger to the powder of battle and hesitant on the sands of the tournament; not only without energy to direct men by force, but with hardly enough virility to bed with a common woman! Shall we call subjection to such a leader cowardice? Shall we say that those who serve him are cowardly and faint-hearted? If two, if three, if four, do not defend themselves from the one, we might call that circumstance surprising but nevertheless conceivable. In such a case one might be justified in suspecting a lack of courage. But if a hundred, if a thousand endure the caprice of a single man, should we not rather say that they lack not the courage but the desire to rise against him, and that such an attitude indicates indifference rather than cowardice? When not a hundred, not a thousand men, but a hundred provinces, a thousand cities, a million men, refuse to assail a single man from whom the kindest treatment received is the infliction of serfdom and slavery, what shall we call that? Is it cowardice? Of course there is in every vice inevitably some limit beyond which one cannot go. Two, possibly ten, may fear one; but when a thousand, a million men, a thousand cities, fail to protect themselves against the domination of one man, this cannot be called cowardly, for cowardice does not sink to such a depth, any more than valor can be termed the effort of one individual to scale a fortress, to attack an army, or to conquer a kingdom. What monstrous vice, then, is this which does not even deserve to be called cowardice, a vice for which no term can be found vile enough, which nature herself disavows and our tongues refuse to name?

Place on one side fifty thousand armed men, and on the other the same number; let them join in battle, one side fighting to retain its liberty, the other to take it away; to which would you, at a guess, promise victory? Which men do you think would march more gallantly to combat — those who anticipate as a reward for their suffering the maintenance of their freedom, or those who cannot expect any other prize for the blows exchanged than the enslavement of others? One side will have before its eyes the blessings of the past and the hope of similar joy in the future; their thoughts will dwell less on the comparatively brief pain of battle than on what they may have to endure forever, they, their children, and all their posterity. The other side has nothing to inspire it with courage except the weak urge of greed, which fades before danger and which can never be so keen, it seems to me, that it will not be dismayed by the least drop of blood from wounds. Consider the justly famous battles of Miltiades,[5] Leonidas,[6] Themistocles,[7] still fresh today in recorded history and in the minds of men as if they had occurred but yesterday, battles fought in Greece for the welfare of the Greeks and as an example to the world. What power do you think gave to such a mere handful of men not the strength but the courage to withstand the attack of a fleet so vast that even the seas were burdened, and to defeat the armies of so many nations, armies so immense that their officers alone outnumbered the entire Greek force? What was it but the fact that in those glorious days this struggle represented not so much a fight of Greeks against Persians as a victory of liberty over domination, of freedom over greed?

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

It amazes us to hear accounts of the valor that liberty arouses in the hearts of those who defend it; but who could believe reports of what goes on every day among the inhabitants of some countries, who could really believe that one man alone may mistreat a hundred thousand and deprive them of their liberty? Who would credit such a report if he merely heard it, without being present to witness the event? And if this condition occurred only in distant lands and were reported to us, which one among us would not assume the tale to be imagined or invented, and not really true? Obviously there is no need of fighting to overcome this single tyrant, for he is automatically defeated if the country refuses consent to its own enslavement: it is not necessary to deprive him of anything, but simply to give him nothing; there is no need that the country make an effort to do anything for itself provided it does nothing against itself. It is therefore the inhabitants themselves who permit, or, rather, bring about, their own subjection, since by ceasing to submit they would put an end to their servitude. A people enslaves itself, cuts its own throat, when, having a choice between being vassals and being free men, it deserts its liberties and takes on the yoke, gives consent to its own misery, or, rather, apparently welcomes it. If it cost the people anything to recover its freedom, I should not urge action to this end, although there is nothing a human should hold more dear than the restoration of his own natural right, to change himself from a beast of burden back to a man, so to speak. I do not demand of him so much boldness; let him prefer the doubtful security of living wretchedly to the uncertain hope of living as he pleases. What then? If in order to have liberty nothing more is needed than to long for it, if only a simple act of the will is necessary, is there any nation in the world that considers a single wish too high a price to pay in order to recover rights which it ought to be ready to redeem at the cost of its blood, rights such that their loss must bring all men of honor to the point of feeling life to be unendurable and death itself a deliverance?

Everyone knows that the fire from a little spark will increase and blaze ever higher as long as it finds wood to burn; yet without being quenched by water, but merely by finding no more fuel to feed on, it consumes itself, dies down, and is no longer a flame. Similarly, the more tyrants pillage, the more they crave, the more they ruin and destroy; the more one yields to them, and obeys them, by that much do they become mightier and more formidable, the readier to annihilate and destroy. But if not one thing is yielded to them, if, without any violence they are simply not obeyed, they become naked and undone and as nothing, just as, when the root receives no nourishment, the branch withers and dies.

To achieve the good that they desire, the bold do not fear danger; the intelligent do not refuse to undergo suffering. It is the stupid and cowardly who are neither able to endure hardship nor to vindicate their rights; they stop at merely longing for them, and lose through timidity the valor roused by the effort to claim their rights, although the desire to enjoy them still remains as part of their nature. A longing common to both the wise and the foolish, to brave men and to cowards, is this longing for all those things which, when acquired, would make them happy and contented. Yet one element appears to be lacking. I do not know how it happens that nature fails to place within the hearts of men a burning desire for liberty, a blessing so great and so desirable that when it is lost all evils follow thereafter, and even the blessings that remain lose taste and savor because of their corruption by servitude. Liberty is the only joy upon which men do not seem to insist; for surely if they really wanted it they would receive it. Apparently they refuse this wonderful privilege because it is so easily acquired.

Poor, wretched, and stupid peoples, nations determined on your own misfortune and blind to your own good! You let yourselves be deprived before your own eyes of the best part of your revenues; your fields are plundered, your homes robbed, your family heirlooms taken away. You live in such a way that you cannot claim a single thing as your own; and it would seem that you consider yourselves lucky to be loaned your property, your families, and your very lives. All this havoc, this misfortune, this ruin, descends upon you not from alien foes, but from the one enemy whom you yourselves render as powerful as he is, for whom you go bravely to war, for whose greatness you do not refuse to offer your own bodies unto death. He who thus domineers over you has only two eyes, only two hands, only one body, no more than is possessed by the least man among the infinite numbers dwelling in your cities; he has indeed nothing more than the power that you confer upon him to destroy you. Where has he acquired enough eyes to spy upon you, if you do not provide them yourselves? How can he have so many arms to beat you with, if he does not borrow them from you? The feet that trample down your cities, where does he get them if they are not your own? How does he have any power over you except through you? How would he dare assail you if he had no cooperation from you? What could he do to you if you yourselves did not connive with the thief who plunders you, if you were not accomplices of the murderer who kills you, if you were not traitors to yourselves? You sow your crops in order that he may ravage them, you install and furnish your homes to give him goods to pillage; you rear your daughters that he may gratify his lust; you bring up your children in order that he may confer upon them the greatest privilege he knows — to be led into his battles, to be delivered to butchery, to be made the servants of his greed and the instruments of his vengeance; you yield your bodies unto hard labor in order that he may indulge in his delights and wallow in his filthy pleasures; you weaken yourselves in order to make him the stronger and the mightier to hold you in check. From all these indignities, such as the very beasts of the field would not endure, you can deliver yourselves if you try, not by taking action, but merely by willing to be free. Resolve to serve no more, and you are at once freed. I do not ask that you place hands upon the tyrant to topple him over, but simply that you support him no longer; then you will behold him, like a great Colossus whose pedestal has been pulled away, fall of his own weight and break in pieces.

Doctors are no doubt correct in warning us not to touch incurable wounds; and I am presumably taking chances in preaching as I do to a people which has long lost all sensitivity and, no longer conscious of its infirmity, is plainly suffering from mortal illness. Let us therefore understand by logic, if we can, how it happens that this obstinate willingness to submit has become so deeply rooted in a nation that the very love of liberty now seems no longer natural.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

In the first place, all would agree that, if we led our lives according to the ways intended by nature and the lessons taught by her, we should be intuitively obedient to our parents; later we should adopt reason as our guide and become slaves to nobody. Concerning the obedience given instinctively to one's father and mother, we are in agreement, each one admitting himself to be a model. As to whether reason is born with us or not, that is a question loudly discussed by academicians and treated by all schools of philosophers. For the present I think I do not err in stating that there is in our souls some native seed of reason, which, if nourished by good counsel and training, flowers into virtue, but which, on the other hand, if unable to resist the vices surrounding it, is stifled and blighted. Yet surely if there is anything in this world clear and obvious, to which one cannot close one's eyes, it is the fact that nature, handmaiden of God, governess of men, has cast us all in the same mold in order that we may behold in one another companions, or rather brothers. If in distributing her gifts nature has favored some more than others with respect to body or spirit, she has nevertheless not planned to place us within this world as if it were a field of battle, and has not endowed the stronger or the cleverer in order that they may act like armed brigands in a forest and attack the weaker. One should rather conclude that in distributing larger shares to some and smaller shares to others, nature has intended to give occasion for brotherly love to become manifest, some of us having the strength to give help to others who are in need of it. Hence, since this kind mother has given us the whole world as a dwelling place, has lodged us in the same house, has fashioned us according to the same model so that in beholding one another we might almost recognize ourselves; since she has bestowed upon us all the great gift of voice and speech for fraternal relationship, thus achieving by the common and mutual statement of our thoughts a communion of our wills; and since she has tried in every way to narrow and tighten the bond of our union and kinship; since she has revealed in every possible manner her intention, not so much to associate us as to make us one organic whole, there can be no further doubt that we are all naturally free, inasmuch as we are all comrades. Accordingly it should not enter the mind of anyone that nature has placed some of us in slavery, since she has actually created us all in one likeness.

Therefore it is fruitless to argue whether or not liberty is natural, since none can be held in slavery without being wronged, and in a world governed by a nature, which is reasonable, there is nothing so contrary as an injustice. Since freedom is our natural state, we are not only in possession of it but have the urge to defend it. Now, if perchance some cast a doubt on this conclusion and are so corrupted that they are not able to recognize their rights and inborn tendencies, I shall have to do them the honor that is properly theirs and place, so to speak, brute beasts in the pulpit to throw light on their nature and condition. The very beasts, God help me! if men are not too deaf, cry out to them, "Long live Liberty!" Many among them die as soon as captured: just as the fish loses life as soon as he leaves the water, so do these creatures close their eyes upon the light and have no desire to survive the loss of their natural freedom. If the animals were to constitute their kingdom by rank, their nobility would be chosen from this type. Others, from the largest to the smallest, when captured put up such a strong resistance by means of claws, horns, beak, and paws, that they show clearly enough how they cling to what they are losing; afterwards in captivity they manifest by so many evident signs their awareness of their misfortune, that it is easy to see they are languishing rather than living, and continue their existence more in lamentation of their lost freedom than in enjoyment of their servitude. What else can explain the behavior of the elephant who, after defending himself to the last ounce of his strength and knowing himself on the point of being taken, dashes his jaws against the trees and breaks his tusks, thus manifesting his longing to remain free as he has been and proving his wit and ability to buy off the huntsmen in the hope that through the sacrifice of his tusks he will be permitted to offer his ivory as a ransom for his liberty? We feed the horse from birth in order to train him to do our bidding. Yet he is tamed with such difficulty that when we begin to break him in he bites the bit, he rears at the touch of the spur, as if to reveal his instinct and show by his actions that, if he obeys, he does so not of his own free will but under constraint. What more can we say?

"Even the oxen under the weight of the yoke complain, And the birds in their cage lament,"

as I expressed it some time ago, toying with our French poesy. For I shall not hesitate in writing to you, O Longa,[8] to introduce some of my verses, which I never read to you because of your obvious encouragement which is quite likely to make me conceited. And now, since all beings, because they feel, suffer misery in subjection and long for liberty; since the very beasts, although made for the service of man, cannot become accustomed to control without protest, what evil chance has so denatured man that he, the only creature really born to be free, lacks the memory of his original condition and the desire to return to it?

There are three kinds of tyrants; some receive their proud position through elections by the people, others by force of arms, others by inheritance. Those who have acquired power by means of war act in such wise that it is evident they rule over a conquered country. Those who are born to kingship are scarcely any better, because they are nourished on the breast of tyranny, suck in with their milk the instincts of the tyrant, and consider the people under them as their inherited serfs; and according to their individual disposition, miserly or prodigal, they treat their kingdom as their property. He who has received the state from the people, however, ought to be, it seems to me, more bearable and would be so, I think, were it not for the fact that as soon as he sees himself higher than the others, flattered by that quality which we call grandeur, he plans never to relinquish his position. Such a man usually determines to pass on to his children the authority that the people have conferred upon him; and once his heirs have taken this attitude, strange it is how far they surpass other tyrants in all sorts of vices, and especially in cruelty, because they find no other means to impose this new tyranny than by tightening control and removing their subjects so far from any notion of liberty that even if the memory of it is fresh it will soon be eradicated. Yet, to speak accurately, I do perceive that there is some difference among these three types of tyranny, but as for stating a preference, I cannot grant there is any. For although the means of coming into power differ, still the method of ruling is practically the same; those who are elected act as if they were breaking in bullocks; those who are conquerors make the people their prey; those who are heirs plan to treat them as if they were their natural slaves.

In connection with this, let us imagine some newborn individuals, neither acquainted with slavery nor desirous of liberty, ignorant indeed of the very words. If they were permitted to choose between being slaves and free men, to which would they give their vote? There can be no doubt that they would much prefer to be guided by reason itself than to be ordered about by the whims of a single man. The only possible exception might be the Israelites who, without any compulsion or need, appointed a tyrant.[9] I can never read their history without becoming angered and even inhuman enough to find satisfaction in the many evils that befell them on this account. But certainly all men, as long as they remain men, before letting themselves become enslaved must either be driven by force or led into it by deception; conquered by foreign armies, as were Sparta and Athens by the forces of Alexander [10] or by political factions, as when at an earlier period the control of Athens had passed into the hands of Pisistrates.[11] When they lose their liberty through deceit they are not so often betrayed by others as misled by themselves. This was the case with the people of Syracuse, chief city of Sicily (I am told the place is now named Saragossa [12]) when, in the throes of war and heedlessly planning only for the present danger, they promoted Denis,[13] their first tyrant, by entrusting to him the command of the army, without realizing that they had given him such power that on his victorious return this worthy man would behave as if he had vanquished not his enemies but his compatriots, transforming himself from captain to king, and then from king to tyrant.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

It is incredible how as soon as a people becomes subject, it promptly falls into such complete forgetfulness of its freedom that it can hardly be roused to the point of regaining it, obeying so easily and so willingly that one is led to say, on beholding such a situation, that this people has not so much lost its liberty as won its enslavement. It is true that in the beginning men submit under constraint and by force; but those who come after them obey without regret and perform willingly what their predecessors had done because they had to. This is why men born under the yoke and then nourished and reared in slavery are content, without further effort, to live in their native circumstance, unaware of any other state or right, and considering as quite natural the condition into which they were born. There is, however, no heir so spendthrift or indifferent that he does not sometimes scan the account books of his father in order to see if he is enjoying all the privileges of his legacy or whether, perchance, his rights and those of his predecessor have not been encroached upon. Nevertheless it is clear enough that the powerful influence of custom is in no respect more compelling than in this, namely, habituation to subjection. It is said that Mithridates[14] trained himself to drink poison. Like him we learn to swallow, and not to find bitter, the venom of servitude. It cannot be denied that nature is influential in shaping us to her will and making us reveal our rich or meager endowment; yet it must be admitted that she has less power over us than custom, for the reason that native endowment, no matter how good, is dissipated unless encouraged, whereas environment always shapes us in its own way, whatever that may be, in spite of nature's gifts. The good seed that nature plants in us is so slight and so slippery that it cannot withstand the least harm from wrong nourishment; it flourishes less easily, becomes spoiled, withers, and comes to nothing. Fruit trees retain their own particular quality if permitted to grow undisturbed, but lose it promptly and bear strange fruit not their own when ingrafted. Every herb has its peculiar characteristics, its virtues and properties; yet frost, weather, soil, or the gardener's hand increase or diminish its strength; the plant seen in one spot cannot be recognized in another.

Whoever could have observed the early Venetians,[15] a handful of people living so freely that the most wicked among them would not wish to be king over them, so born and trained that they would not vie with one another except as to which one could give the best counsel and nurture their liberty most carefully, so instructed and developed from their cradles that they would not exchange for all the other delights of the world an iota of their freedom; who, I say, familiar with the original nature of such a people, could visit today the territories of the man known as the Great Doge, and there contemplate with composure a people unwilling to live except to serve him, and maintaining his power at the cost of their lives? Who would believe that these two groups of people had an identical origin? Would one not rather conclude that upon leaving a city of men he had chanced upon a menagerie of beasts? Lycurgus,[16] the lawgiver of Sparta, is reported to have reared two dogs of the same litter by fattening one in the kitchen and training the other in the fields to the sound of the bugle and the horn, thereby to demonstrate to the Lacedaemonians that men, too, develop according to their early habits. He set the two dogs in the open market place, and between them he placed a bowl of soup and a hare. One ran to the bowl of soup, the other to the hare; yet they were, as he maintained, born brothers of the same parents. In such manner did this leader, by his laws and customs, shape and instruct the Spartans so well that any one of them would sooner have died than acknowledge any sovereign other than law and reason.

It gives me pleasure to recall a conversation of the olden time between one of the favorites of Xerxes, the great king of Persia, and two Lacedaemonians. When Xerxes[17] equipped his great army to conquer Greece, he sent his ambassadors into the Greek cities to ask for water and earth. That was the procedure the Persians adopted in summoning the cities to surrender. Neither to Athens nor to Sparta, however, did he dispatch such messengers, because those who had been sent there by Darius his father had been thrown, by the Athenians and Spartans, some into ditches and others into wells, with the invitation to help themselves freely there to water and soil to take back to their prince. Those Greeks could not permit even the slightest suggestion of encroachment upon their liberty. The Spartans suspected, nevertheless, that they had incurred the wrath of the gods by their action, and especially the wrath of Talthybios,[18] the god of the heralds; in order to appease him they decided to send to Xerxes two of their citizens in atonement for the cruel death inflicted upon the ambassadors of his father. Two Spartans, one named Sperte and the other Bulis, volunteered to offer themselves as a sacrifice. So they departed, and on the way they came to the palace of the Persian named Hydarnes, lieutenant of the king in all the Asiatic cities situated on the sea coasts. He received them with great honor, feasted them, and then, speaking of one thing and another, he asked them why they refused so obdurately his king's friendship. "Consider well, O Spartans," said he, "and realize by my example that the king knows how to honor those who are worthy, and believe that if you were his men he would do the same for you; if you belonged to him and he had known you, there is not one among you who might not be the lord of some Greek city."

"By such words, Hydarnes, you give us no good counsel," replied the Lacedaemonians, "because you have experienced merely the advantage of which you speak; you do not know the privilege we enjoy. You have the honor of the king's favor; but you know nothing about liberty, what relish it has and how sweet it is. For if you had any knowledge of it, you yourself would advise us to defend it, not with lance and shield, but with our very teeth and nails."

Only Spartans could give such an answer, and surely both of them spoke as they had been trained. It was impossible for the Persian to regret liberty, not having known it, nor for the Lacedaemonians to find subjection acceptable after having enjoyed freedom.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

Cato the Utican,[19] while still a child under the rod, could come and go in the house of Sylla the despot. Because of the place and family of his origin and because he and Sylla were close relatives, the door was never closed to him. He always had his teacher with him when he went there, as was the custom for children of noble birth. He noticed that in the house of Sylla, in the dictator's presence or at his command, some men were imprisoned and others sentenced; one was banished, another was strangled; one demanded the goods of another citizen, another his head; in short, all went there, not as to the house of a city magistrate but as to the people's tyrant, and this was therefore not a court of justice, but rather a resort of tyranny. Whereupon the young lad said to his teacher, "Why don't you give me a dagger? I will hide it under my robe. I often go into Sylla's room before he is risen, and my arm is strong enough to rid the city of him." There is a speech truly characteristic of Cato; it was a true beginning of this hero so worthy of his end. And should one not mention his name or his country, but state merely the fact as it is, the episode itself would speak eloquently, and anyone would divine that he was a Roman born in Rome at the time when she was free.

And why all this? Certainly not because I believe that the land or the region has anything to do with it, for in any place and in any climate subjection is bitter and to be free is pleasant; but merely because I am of the opinion that one should pity those who, at birth, arrive with the yoke upon their necks. We should exonerate and forgive them, since they have not seen even the shadow of liberty, and, being quite unaware of it, cannot perceive the evil endured through their own slavery. If there were actually a country like that of the Cimmerians mentioned by Homer, where the sun shines otherwise than on our own, shedding its radiance steadily for six successive months and then leaving humanity to drowse in obscurity until it returns at the end of another half-year, should we be surprised to learn that those born during this long night do grow so accustomed to their native darkness that unless they were told about the sun they would have no desire to see the light? One never pines for what he has never known; longing comes only after enjoyment and constitutes, amidst the experience of sorrow, the memory of past joy. It is truly the nature of man to be free and to wish to be so, yet his character is such that he instinctively follows the tendencies that his training gives him.

Let us therefore admit that all those things to which he is trained and accustomed seem natural to man and that only that is truly native to him which he receives with his primitive, untrained individuality. Thus custom becomes the first reason for voluntary servitude. Men are like handsome race horses who first bite the bit and later like it, and rearing under the saddle a while soon learn to enjoy displaying their harness and prance proudly beneath their trappings. Similarly men will grow accustomed to the idea that they have always been in subjection, that their fathers lived in the same way; they will think they are obliged to suffer this evil, and will persuade themselves by example and imitation of others, finally investing those who order them around with proprietary rights, based on the idea that it has always been that way.

There are always a few, better endowed than others, who feel the weight of the yoke and cannot restrain themselves from attempting to shake it off: these are the men who never become tamed under subjection and who always, like Ulysses on land and sea constantly seeking the smoke of his chimney, cannot prevent themselves from peering about for their natural privileges and from remembering their ancestors and their former ways. These are in fact the men who, possessed of clear minds and far-sighted spirit, are not satisfied, like the brutish mass, to see only what is at their feet, but rather look about them, behind and before, and even recall the things of the past in order to judge those of the future, and compare both with their present condition. These are the ones who, having good minds of their own, have further trained them by study and learning. Even if liberty had entirely perished from the earth, such men would invent it. For them slavery has no satisfactions, no matter how well disguised.

The Grand Turk was well aware that books and teaching more than anything else give men the sense to comprehend their own nature and to detest tyranny. I understand that in his territory there are few educated people, for he does not want many. On account of this restriction, men of strong zeal and devotion, who in spite of the passing of time have preserved their love of freedom, still remain ineffective because, however numerous they may be, they are not known to one another; under the tyrant they have lost freedom of action, of speech, and almost of thought; they are alone in their aspiration. Indeed Momus, god of mockery, was not merely joking when he found this to criticize in the man fashioned by Vulcan, namely, that the maker had not set a little window in his creature's heart to render his thoughts visible. It is reported that Brutus, Cassius, and Casca, on undertaking to free Rome, and for that matter the whole world, refused to include in their band Cicero,[20] that great enthusiast for the public welfare if ever there was one, because they considered his heart too timid for such a lofty deed; they trusted his willingness but they were none too sure of his courage. Yet whoever studies the deeds of earlier days and the annals of antiquity will find practically no instance of heroes who failed to deliver their country from evil hands when they set about their task with a firm, whole-hearted, and sincere intention. Liberty, as if to reveal her nature, seems to have given them new strength. Harmodios and Aristogiton,[21] Thrasybulus,[22] Brutus the Elder,[23] Valerianus,[24] and Dion[25] achieved successfully what they planned virtuously: for hardly ever does good fortune fail a strong will. Brutus the Younger and Cassius were successful in eliminating servitude, and although they perished in their attempt to restore liberty, they did not die miserably (what blasphemy it would be to say there was anything miserable about these men, either in their death or in their living!). Their loss worked great harm, everlasting misfortune, and complete destruction of the Republic, which appears to have been buried with them. Other and later undertakings against the Roman emperors were merely plottings of ambitious people, who deserve no pity for the misfortunes that overtook them, for it is evident that they sought not to destroy, but merely to usurp the crown, scheming to drive away the tyrant, but to retain tyranny. For myself, I could not wish such men to prosper and I am glad they have shown by their example that the sacred name of Liberty must never be used to cover a false enterprise.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

But to come back to the thread of our discourse, which I have practically lost: the essential reason why men take orders willingly is that they are born serfs and are reared as such. From this cause there follows another result, namely that people easily become cowardly and submissive under tyrants. For this observation I am deeply grateful to Hippocrates, the renowned father of medicine, who noted and reported it in a treatise of his entitled Concerning Diseases. This famous man was certainly endowed with a great heart and proved it clearly by his reply to the Great King,[26] who wanted to attach him to his person by means of special privileges and large gifts. Hippocrates answered frankly that it would be a weight on his conscience to make use of his science for the cure of barbarians who wished to slay his fellow Greeks, or to serve faithfully by his skill anyone who undertook to enslave Greece. The letter he sent the king can still be read among his other works and will forever testify to his great heart and noble character.

By this time it should be evident that liberty once lost, valor also perishes. A subject people shows neither gladness nor eagerness in combat: its men march sullenly to danger almost as if in bonds, and stultified; they do not feel throbbing within them that eagerness for liberty which engenders scorn of peril and imparts readiness to acquire honor and glory by a brave death amidst one's comrades. Among free men there is competition as to who will do most, each for the common good, each by himself, all expecting to share in the misfortunes of defeat, or in the benefits of victory; but an enslaved people loses in addition to this warlike courage, all signs of enthusiasm, for their hearts are degraded, submissive, and incapable of any great deed. Tyrants are well aware of this, and, in order to degrade their subjects further, encourage them to assume this attitude and make it instinctive.

Xenophon, grave historian of first rank among the Greeks, wrote a book [27] in which he makes Simonides speak with Hieron, Tyrant of Syracuse, concerning the anxieties of the tyrant. This book is full of fine and serious remonstrances, which in my opinion are as persuasive as words can be. Would to God that all despots who have ever lived might have kept it before their eyes and used it as a mirror! I cannot believe they would have failed to recognize their warts and to have conceived some shame for their blotches. In this treatise is explained the torment in which tyrants find themselves when obliged to fear everyone because they do evil unto every man. Among other things we find the statement that bad kings employ foreigners in their wars and pay them, not daring to entrust weapons in the hands of their own people, whom they have wronged. (There have been good kings who have used mercenaries from foreign nations, even among the French, although more so formerly than today, but with the quite different purpose of preserving their own people, considering as nothing the loss of money in the effort to spare French lives. That is, I believe, what Scipio [28] the great African meant when he said he would rather save one citizen than defeat a hundred enemies.) For it is plainly evident that the dictator does not consider his power firmly established until he has reached the point where there is no man under him who is of any worth.

Therefore there may be justly applied to him the reproach to the master of the elephants made by Thrason and reported by Terence:

Are you indeed so proud Because you command wild beasts? [29]

This method tyrants use of stultifying their subjects cannot be more clearly observed than in what Cyrus[30] did with the Lydians after he had taken Sardis, their chief city, and had at his mercy the captured Croesus, their fabulously rich king. When news was brought to him that the people of Sardis had rebelled, it would have been easy for him to reduce them by force; but being unwilling either to sack such a fine city or to maintain an army there to police it, he thought of an unusual expedient for reducing it. He established in it brothels, taverns, and public games, and issued the proclamation that the inhabitants were to enjoy them. He found this type of garrison so effective that he never again had to draw the sword against the Lydians. These wretched people enjoyed themselves inventing all kinds of games, so that the Latins have derived the word from them, and what we call pastimes they call ludi, as if they meant to say Lydi. Not all tyrants have manifested so clearly their intention to effeminize their victims; but in fact, what the aforementioned despot publicly proclaimed and put into effect, most of the others have pursued secretly as an end. It is indeed the nature of the populace, whose density is always greater in the cities, to be suspicious toward one who has their welfare at heart, and gullible toward one who fools them. Do not imagine that there is any bird more easily caught by decoy, nor any fish sooner fixed on the hook by wormy bait, than are all these poor fools neatly tricked into servitude by the slightest feather passed, so to speak, before their mouths. Truly it is a marvellous thing that they let themselves be caught so quickly at the slightest tickling of their fancy. Plays, farces, spectacles, gladiators, strange beasts, medals, pictures, and other such opiates, these were for ancient peoples the bait toward slavery, the price of their liberty, the instruments of tyranny. By these practices and enticements the ancient dictators so successfully lulled their subjects under the yoke, that the stupefied peoples, fascinated by the pastimes and vain pleasures flashed before their eyes, learned subservience as naively, but not so creditably, as little children learn to read by looking at bright picture books. Roman tyrants invented a further refinement. They often provided the city wards with feasts to cajole the rabble, always more readily tempted by the pleasure of eating than by anything else. The most intelligent and understanding amongst them would not have quit his soup bowl to recover the liberty of the Republic of Plato. Tyrants would distribute largess, a bushel of wheat, a gallon of wine, and a sesterce: [31] and then everybody would shamelessly cry, "Long live the King!" The fools did not realize that they were merely recovering a portion of their own property, and that their ruler could not have given them what they were receiving without having first taken it from them. A man might one day be presented with a sesterce and gorge himself at the public feast, lauding Tiberius and Nero for handsome liberality, who on the morrow, would be forced to abandon his property to their avarice, his children to their lust, his very blood to the cruelty of these magnificent emperors, without offering any more resistance than a stone or a tree stump. The mob has always behaved in this way � eagerly open to bribes that cannot be honorably accepted, and dissolutely callous to degradation and insult that cannot be honorably endured. Nowadays I do not meet anyone who, on hearing mention of Nero, does not shudder at the very name of that hideous monster, that disgusting and vile pestilence. Yet when he died — when this incendiary, this executioner, this savage beast, died as vilely as he had lived — the noble Roman people, mindful of his games and his festivals, were saddened to the point of wearing mourning for him. Thus wrote Cornelius Tacitus,[32] a competent and serious author, and one of the most reliable. This will not be considered peculiar in view of what this same people had previously done at the death of Julius Caesar, who had swept away their laws and their liberty, in whose character, it seems to me, there was nothing worth while, for his very liberality, which is so highly praised, was more baneful than the crudest tyrant who ever existed, because it was actually this poisonous amiability of his that sweetened servitude for the Roman people. After his death, that people, still preserving on their palates the flavor of his banquets and in their minds the memory of his prodigality, vied with one another to pay him homage. They piled up the seats of the Forum for the great fire that reduced his body to ashes, and later raised a column to him as to "The Father of His People." [33] (Such was the inscription on the capital.) They did him more honor, dead as he was, than they had any right to confer upon any man in the world, except perhaps on those who had killed him.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

They didn't even neglect, these Roman emperors, to assume generally the title of Tribune of the People, partly because this office was held sacred and inviolable and also because it had been founded for the defense and protection of the people and enjoyed the favor of the state. By this means they made sure that the populace would trust them completely, as if they merely used the title and did not abuse it. Today there are some who do not behave very differently: they never undertake an unjust policy, even one of some importance, without prefacing it with some pretty speech concerning public welfare and common good. You well know, O Longa, this formula which they use quite cleverly in certain places; although for the most part, to be sure, there cannot be cleverness where there is so much impudence. The kings of the Assyrians and even after them those of the Medes showed themselves in public as seldom as possible in order to set up a doubt in the minds of the rabble as to whether they were not in some way more than man, and thereby to encourage people to use their imagination for those things which they cannot judge by sight. Thus a great many nations who for a long time dwelt under the control of the Assyrians became accustomed, with all this mystery, to their own subjection, and submitted the more readily for not knowing what sort of master they had, or scarcely even if they had one, all of them fearing by report someone they had never seen. The earliest kings of Egypt rarely showed themselves without carrying a cat, or sometimes a branch, or appearing with fire on their heads, masking themselves with these objects and parading like workers of magic. By doing this they inspired their subjects with reverence and admiration, whereas with people neither too stupid nor too slavish they would merely have aroused, it seems to me, amusement and laughter. It is pitiful to review the list of devices that early despots used to establish their tyranny; to discover how many little tricks they employed, always finding the populace conveniently gullible, readily caught in the net as soon as it was spread. Indeed they always fooled their victims so easily that while mocking them they enslaved them the more.

What comment can I make concerning another fine counterfeit that ancient peoples accepted as true money? They believed firmly that the great toe of Pyrrhus,[34] king of Epirus, performed miracles and cured diseases of the spleen; they even enhanced the tale further with the legend that this toe, after the corpse had been burned, was found among the ashes, untouched by the fire. In this wise a foolish people itself invents lies and then believes them. Many men have recounted such things, but in such a way that it is easy to see that the parts were pieced together from idle gossip of the city and silly reports from the rabble. When Vespasian,[35] returning from Assyria, passes through Alexandria on his way to Rome to take possession of the empire, he performs wonders: he makes the crippled straight, restores sight to the blind, and does many other fine things, concerning which the credulous and undiscriminating were, in my opinion, more blind than those cured. Tyrants themselves have wondered that men could endure the persecution of a single man; they have insisted on using religion for their own protection and, where possible, have borrowed a stray bit of divinity to bolster up their evil ways. If we are to believe the Sybil of Virgil, Salmoneus,[36] in torment for having paraded as Jupiter in older to deceive the populace, now atones in nethermost Hell:

He suffered endless torment for having dared to imitate The thunderbolts of heaven and the flames of Jupiter. Upon a chariot drawn by four chargers he went, unsteadily Riding aloft, in his fist a great shining torch. Among the Greeks and into the market-place In the heart of the city of Elis he had ridden boldly: And displaying thus his vainglory he assumed An honor which undeniably belongs to the gods alone. This fool who imitated storm and the inimitable thunderbolt By clash of brass and with his dizzying charge On horn-hoofed steeds, the all-powerful Father beheld, Hurled not a torch, nor the feeble light From a waxen taper with its smoky fumes, But by the furious blast of thunder and lightning He brought him low, his heels above his head.[37]

If such a one, who in his time acted merely through the folly of insolence, is so well received in Hell, I think that those who have used religion as a cloak to hide their vile-ness will be even more deservedly lodged in the same place.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

Our own leaders have employed in France certain similar devices, such as toads, fleurs-de-lys, sacred vessels, and standards with flames of gold.[38] However that may be, I do not wish, for my part, to be incredulous, since neither we nor our ancestors have had any occasion up to now for skepticism. Our kings have always been so generous in times of peace and so valiant in time of war, that from birth they seem not to have been created by nature like many others, but even before birth to have been designated by Almighty God for the government and preservation of this kingdom. Even if this were not so, yet should I not enter the tilting ground to call in question the truth of our traditions, or to examine them so strictly as to take away their fine conceits. Here is such a field for our French poetry, now not merely honored but, it seems to me, reborn through our Ronsard, our Baïf, our Bellay.[39] These poets are defending our language so well that I dare to believe that very soon neither the Greeks nor the Latins will in this respect have any advantage over us except possibly that of seniority. And I should assuredly do wrong to our poesy — I like to use that word despite the fact that several have rimed mechanically, for I still discern a number of men today capable of ennobling poetry and restoring it to its first lustre — but, as I say, I should do the Muse great injury if I deprived her now of those fine tales about King Clovis, amongst which it seems to me I can already see how agreeably and how happily the inspiration of our Ronsard in his Franciade [40] will play. I appreciate his loftiness, I am aware of his keen spirit, and I know the charm of the man: he will appropriate the oriflamme to his use much as did the Romans their sacred bucklers and the shields cast from heaven to earth, according to Virgil.[41] He will use our phial of holy oil much as the Athenians used the basket of Ericthonius;[42] he will win applause for our deeds of valor as they did for their olive wreath which they insist can still be found in Minerva's tower. Certainly I should be presumptuous if I tried to cast slurs on our records and thus invade the realm of our poets.

But to return to our subject, the thread of which I have unwittingly lost in this discussion: it has always happened that tyrants, in order to strengthen their power, have made every effort to train their people not only in obedience and servility toward themselves, but also in adoration. Therefore all that I have said up to the present concerning the means by which a more willing submission has been obtained applies to dictators in their relationship with the inferior and common classes.

I come now to a point which is, in my opinion, the mainspring and the secret of domination, the support and foundation of tyranny. Whoever thinks that halberds, sentries, the placing of the watch, serve to protect and shield tyrants is, in my. judgment, completely mistaken. These are used, it seems to me, more for ceremony and a show of force than for any reliance placed in them. The archers forbid the entrance to the palace to the poorly dressed who have no weapons, not to the well armed who can carry out some plot. Certainly it is easy to say of the Roman emperors that fewer escaped from danger by the aid of their guards than were killed by their own archers. It is not the troops on horseback, it is not the companies afoot, it is not arms that defend the tyrant. This does not seem credible on first thought, but it is nevertheless true that there are only four or five who maintain the dictator, four or five who keep the country in bondage to him. Five or six have always had access to his ear, and have either gone to him of their own accord, or else have been summoned by him, to be accomplices in his cruelties, companions in his pleasures, panders to his lusts, and sharers in his plunders. These six manage their chief so successfully that he comes to be held accountable not only for his own misdeeds but even for theirs. The six have six hundred who profit under them, and with the six hundred they do what they have accomplished with their tyrant. The six hundred maintain under them six thousand, whom they promote in rank, upon whom they confer the government of provinces or the direction of finances, in order that they may serve as instruments of avarice and cruelty, executing orders at the proper time and working such havoc all around that they could not last except under the shadow of the six hundred, nor be exempt from law and punishment except through their influence.

The consequence of all this is fatal indeed. And whoever is pleased to unwind the skein will observe that not the six thousand but a hundred thousand, and even millions, cling to the tyrant by this cord to which they are tied. According to Homer, Jupiter boasts of being able to draw to himself all the gods when he pulls a chain. Such a scheme caused the increase in the senate under Julius,[43] the formation of new ranks, the creation of offices; not really, if properly considered, to reform justice, but to provide new supporters of despotism. In short, when the point is reached, through big favors or little ones, that large profits or small are obtained under a tyrant, there are found almost as many people to whom tyranny seems advantageous as those to whom liberty would seem desirable. Doctors declare that if, when some part of the body has gangrene a disturbance arises in another spot, it immediately flows to the troubled part. Even so, whenever a ruler makes himself a dictator, all the wicked dregs of the nation — I do not mean the pack of petty thieves and earless ruffians[44] who, in a republic, are unimportant in evil or good — but all those who are corrupted by burning ambition or extraordinary avarice, these gather round him and support him in order to have a share in the booty and to constitute themselves petty chiefs under the big tyrant. This is the practice among notorious robbers and famous pirates: some scour the country, others pursue voyagers; some lie in ambush, others keep a lookout; some commit murder, others robbery; and although there are among them differences in rank, some being only underlings while others are chieftains of gangs, yet is there not a single one among them who does not feel himself to be a sharer, if not of the main booty, at least in the pursuit of it. It is dependably related that Sicilian pirates gathered in such great numbers that it became necessary to send against them Pompey the Great,[45] and that they drew into their alliance fine towns and great cities in whose harbors they took refuge on returning from their expeditions, paying handsomely for the haven given their stolen goods.

Thus the despot subdues his subjects, some of them by means of others, and thus is he protected by those from whom, if they were decent men, he would have to guard himself; just as, in order to split wood, one has to use a wedge of the wood itself. Such are his archers, his guards, his halberdiers; not that they themselves do not suffer occasionally at his hands, but this riff-raff, abandoned alike by God and man, can be led to endure evil if permitted to commit it, not against him who exploits them, but against those who like themselves submit, but are helpless. Nevertheless, observing those men who painfully serve the tyrant in order to win some profit from his tyranny and from the subjection of the populace, I am often overcome with amazement at their wickedness and sometimes by pity for their folly. For, in all honesty, can it be in any way except in folly that you approach a tyrant, withdrawing further from your liberty and, so to speak, embracing with both hands your servitude? Let such men lay aside briefly their ambition, or let them forget for a moment their avarice, and look at themselves as they really are. Then they will realize clearly that the townspeople, the peasants whom they trample under foot and treat worse than convicts or slaves, they will realize, I say, that these people, mistreated as they may be, are nevertheless, in comparison with themselves, better off and fairly free. The tiller of the soil and the artisan, no matter how enslaved, discharge their obligation when they do what they are told to do; but the dictator sees men about him wooing and begging his favor, and doing much more than he tells them to do. Such men must not only obey orders; they must anticipate his wishes; to satisfy him they must foresee his desires; they must wear themselves out, torment themselves, kill themselves with work in his interest, and accept his pleasure as their own, neglecting their preferences for his, distorting their character and corrupting their nature; they must pay heed to his words, to his intonation, to his gestures, and to his glance. Let them have no eye, nor foot, nor hand that is not alert to respond to his wishes or to seek out his thoughts.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

Can that be called a happy life? Can it be called living? Is there anything more intolerable than that situation, I won't say for a man of mettle nor even for a man of high birth, but simply for a man of common sense or, to go even further, for anyone having the face of a man? What condition is more wretched than to live thus, with nothing to call one's own, receiving from someone else one's sustenance, one's power to act, one's body, one's very life?

Still men accept servility in order to acquire wealth; as if they could acquire anything of their own when they cannot even assert that they belong to themselves, or as if anyone could possess under a tyrant a single thing in his own name. Yet they act as if their wealth really belonged to them, and forget that it is they themselves who give the ruler the power to deprive everybody of everything, leaving nothing that anyone can identify as belonging to somebody. They notice that nothing makes men so subservient to a tyrant's cruelty as property; that the possession of wealth is the worst of crimes against him, punishable even by death; that he loves nothing quite so much as money and ruins only the rich, who come before him as before a butcher, offering themselves so stuffed and bulging that they make his mouth water. These favorites should not recall so much the memory of those who have won great wealth from tyrants as of those who, after they had for some time amassed it, have lost to him their property as well as their lives; they should consider not how many others have gained a fortune, but rather how few of them have kept it. Whether we examine ancient history or simply the times in which we live, we shall see clearly how great is the number of those who, having by shameful means won the ear of princes — who either profit from their villainies or take advantage of their naïveté — were in the end reduced to nothing by these very princes; and although at first such servitors were met by a ready willingness to promote their interests, they later found an equally obvious inconstancy which brought them to ruin. Certainly among so large a number of people who have at one time or another had some relationship with bad rulers, there have been few or practically none at all who have not felt applied to themselves the tyrant's animosity, which they had formerly stirred up against others. Most often, after becoming rich by despoiling others, under the favor of his protection, they find themselves at last enriching him with their own spoils.

Even men of character — if it sometimes happens that a tyrant likes such a man well enough to hold him in his good graces, because in him shine forth the virtue and integrity that inspire a certain reverence even in the most depraved — even men of character, I say, could not long avoid succumbing to the common malady and would early experience the effects of tyranny at their own expense. A Seneca, a Burrus, a Thrasea, this triumvirate [46] of splendid men, will provide a sufficient reminder of such misfortune. Two of them were close to the tyrant by the fatal responsibility of holding in their hands the management of his affairs, and both were esteemed and beloved by him. One of them, moreover, had a peculiar claim upon his friendship, having instructed his master as a child. Yet these three by their cruel death give sufficient evidence of how little faith one can place in the friendship of an evil ruler. Indeed what friendship may be expected from one whose heart is bitter enough to hate even his own people, who do naught else but obey him? It is because he does not know how to love that he ultimately impoverishes his own spirit and destroys his own empire.

Now if one would argue that these men fell into disgrace because they wanted to act honorably, let him look around boldly at others close to that same tyrant, and he will see that those who came into his favor and maintained themselves by dishonorable means did not fare much better. Who has ever heard tell of a love more centered, of an affection more persistent, who has ever read of a man more desperately attached to a woman than Nero was to Poppaea? Yet she was later poisoned by his own hand.[47] Agrippina his mother had killed her husband, Claudius, in order to exalt her son; to gratify him she had never hesitated at doing or bearing anything; and yet this very son, her offspring, her emperor, elevated by her hand, after failing her often, finally took her life.[48] It is indeed true that no one denies she would have well deserved this punishment, if only it had come to her by some other hand than that of the son she had brought into the world. Who was ever more easily managed, more naive, or, to speak quite frankly, a greater simpleton, than Claudius the Emperor? Who was ever more wrapped up in his wife than he in Messalina,[49] whom he delivered finally into the hands of the executioner? Stupidity in a tyrant always renders him incapable of benevolent action; but in some mysterious way by dint of acting cruelly even towards those who are his closest associates, he seems to manifest what little intelligence he may have.

Quite generally known is the striking phrase of that other tyrant who, gazing at the throat of his wife, a woman he dearly loved and without whom it seemed he could not live, caressed her with this charming comment: "This lovely throat would be cut at once if I but gave the order." [50] That is why the majority of the dictators of former days were commonly slain by their closest favorites who, observing the nature of tyranny, could not be so confident of the whim of the tyrant as they were distrustful of his power. Thus was Domitian [51] killed by Stephen, Commodus by one of his mistresses,[52] Antoninus by Macrinus,[53] and practically all the others in similar violent fashion. The fact is that the tyrant is never truly loved, nor does he love. Friendship is a sacred word, a holy thing; it is never developed except between persons of character, and never takes root except through mutual respect; it flourishes not so much by kindnesses as by sincerity. What makes one friend sure of another is the knowledge of his integrity: as guarantees he has his friend's fine nature, his honor, and his constancy. There can be no friendship where there is cruelty, where there is disloyalty, where there is injustice. And in places where the wicked gather there is conspiracy only, not companionship: these have no affection for one another; fear alone holds them together; they are not friends, they are merely accomplices.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

Although it might not be impossible, yet it would be difficult to find true friendship in a tyrant; elevated above others and having no companions, he finds himself already beyond the pale of friendship, which receives its real sustenance from an equality that, to proceed without a limp, must have its two limbs equal. That is why there is honor among thieves (or so it is reported) in the sharing of the booty; they are peers and comrades; if they are not fond of one another they at least respect one another and do not seek to lessen their strength by squabbling. But the favorites of a tyrant can never feel entirely secure, and the less so because he has learned from them that he is all powerful and unlimited by any law or obligation. Thus it becomes his wont to consider his own will as reason enough, and to be master of all with never a compeer. Therefore it seems a pity that with so many examples at hand, with the danger always present, no one is anxious to act the wise man at the expense of the others, and that among so many persons fawning upon their ruler there is not a single one who has the wisdom and the boldness to say to him what, according to the fable, the fox said to the lion who feigned illness: "I should be glad to enter your lair to pay my respects; but I see many tracks of beasts that have gone toward you, yet not a single trace of any who have come back."

These wretches see the glint of the despot's treasures and are bedazzled by the radiance of his splendor. Drawn by this brilliance they come near, without realizing they are approaching a flame that cannot fail to scorch them. Similarly attracted, the indiscreet satyr of the old fables, on seeing the bright fire brought down by Prometheus, found it so beautiful that he went and kissed it, and was burned; so, as the Tuscan [54] poet reminds us, the moth, intent upon desire, seeks the flame because it shines, and also experiences its other quality, the burning. Moreover, even admitting that favorites may at times escape from the hands of him they serve, they are never safe from the ruler who comes after him. If he is good, they must render an account of their past and recognize at last that justice exists; if he is bad and resembles their late master, he will certainly have his own favorites, who are not usually satisfied to occupy in their turn merely the posts of their predecessors, but will more often insist on their wealth and their lives. Can anyone be found, then, who under such perilous circumstances and with so little security will still be ambitious to fill such an ill-fated position and serve, despite such perils, so dangerous a master? Good God, what suffering, what martrydom all this involves! To be occupied night and day in planning to please one person, and yet to fear him more than anyone else in the world; to be always on the watch, ears open, wondering whence the blow will come; to search out conspiracy, to be on guard against snares, to scan the faces of companions for signs of treachery, to smile at everybody and be mortally afraid of all, to be sure of nobody, either as an open enemy or as a reliable friend; showing always a gay countenance despite an apprehensive heart, unable to be joyous yet not daring to be sad!

However, there is satisfaction in examining what they get out of all this torment, what advantage they derive from all the trouble of their wretched existence. Actually the people never blame the tyrant for the evils they suffer, but they do place responsibility on those who influence him; peoples, nations, all compete with one another, even the peasants, even the tillers of the soil, in mentioning the names of the favorites, in analyzing their vices, and heaping upon them a thousand insults, a thousand obscenities, a thousand maledictions. All their prayers, all their vows are directed against these persons; they hold them accountable for all their misfortunes, their pestilences, their famines; and if at times they show them outward respect, at those very moments they are fuming in their hearts and hold them in greater horror than wild beasts. This is the glory and honor heaped upon influential favorites for their services by people who, if they could tear apart their living bodies, would still clamor for more, only half satiated by the agony they might behold. For even when the favorites are dead those who live after are never too lazy to blacken the names of these man-eaters with the ink of a thousand pens, tear their reputations into bits in a thousand books, and drag, so to speak, their bones past posterity, forever punishing them after their death for their wicked lives.

Let us therefore learn while there is yet time, let us learn to do good. Let us raise our eyes to Heaven for the sake of our honor, for the very love of virtue, or, to speak wisely, for the love and praise of God Almighty, who is the infallible witness of our deeds and the just judge of our faults. As for me, I truly believe I am right, since there is nothing so contrary to a generous and loving God as dictatorship — I believe He has reserved, in a separate spot in Hell, some very special punishment for tyrants and their accomplices.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

Notes in the Main Text:

[1] Iliad, Book II, Lines 204-205.

[2] Government by a single ruler. From the Greek monos (single) and arkhein (to command).

[3] At this point begins the text of the long fragment published in the Reveille-Matin des François. See Introduction, p. xvii.

[4] An autocratic council of thirty magistrates that governed Athens for eight months in 404 B.C. They exhibited such monstrous despotism that the city rose in anger and drove them forth.

[5] Athenian general, died 489 B.C. Some of his battles: expedition against Scythians; Lemnos; Imbros; Marathon, where Darius the Persian was defeated.

[6] King of Sparta, died at Thermopylae in 480 B.C., defending the pass with three hundred loyal Spartans against Xerxes.

[7] Athenian statesman and general, died 460 B.C. Some of his battles: expedition against Aegean Isles; victory over Persians under Xerxes at Salamis.

[8] See Introduction, p. x.

[9] The reference is to Saul anointed by Samuel.

[10] Alexander the Macedonian became the acknowledged master of all Hellenes at the Assembly of Corinth, 335 B.C.

[11] Athenian tyrant, died 527 B.C. He used ruse and bluster to control the city and was obliged to flee several times.

[12] The name Syracuse is derived from Syraca, the marshland near which the city was founded. The author is misinformed about "Sarragousse," which is the Spanish Zaragoza, capital of Aragón.

[13] Denis or Dionysius, tyrant of Syracuse, died in 367 B.C. Of lowly birth, this dictator imposed himself by plottings, putsches, and purges. The danger from which he saved his city was the invasion by the Carthaginians.

[14] Mithridates (c. 135-63 B.C.) was next to Hannibal the most dreaded and potent enemy of Roman Power. The reference in the text is to his youth when he spent some years in retirement hardening himself and immunizing himself against poison. In his old age, defeated by Pompey, betrayed by his own son, he tried poison and finally had to resort to the dagger of a friendly Gaul. (Pliny, Natural History, XXIV, 2.)

[15] This passage probably suggested to Montaigne that his friend would have been glad to see the light in Venice. See Essays, Book I, Chapter XXVIII.

[16] A half-legendary figure concerning whose life Plutarch admits there is much obscurity. He bequeathed to his land a rigid code regulating land, assembly, education, with the individual subordinate to the state.

[17] The Persian fleet and army under Xerxes or Ahasuerus set out from Sardis in 480 and were at first successful, even taking Athens and driving the Greeks to their last line of defense in the Bay of Salamis. Darius, the father of Xerxes, had made a similar incursion into Greece but was stopped at Marathon.

[18] The messenger and herald of Agamemnon in the Iliad.

[19] Marcus Porcius Cato, often called the Utican from the city where in 46 B.C., after reading the Phaedo of Plato, he ended his life. He was an uncompromising reformer and relentlessly attacked the vicious heirs to the power of Lucius Cornelius Sylla, the Roman dictator (136-78 B.C.). The Utican, born in 95 B.C., was only seventeen years old when Sylla died.

[20] Cited from Plutarch's Life of Cicero.

[21] Tradition made of Harmodios and Aristogiton martyrs for Athenian liberty. They plotted the death of the tyrant Hippias but were betrayed and put to death by torture, c. 500 B.C.

[22] Athenian statesmen and general (died 388 B.C.) who ousted the Thirty Tyrants from power in Athens and restored the government to the people.

[23] Lucius Junius Brutus was the leader of the Roman revolution which overthrew the tyranny of Tarquinius Superbus, c. 500 B.C., and established the republic under the two praetors or consuls. As one of these magistrates it became his dolorous duty to condemn to death his two sons because they had plotted for the return of the Tarquins.

[24] Publius Licinius Valerianus was a brilliant military leader chosen by his troops to be Emperor during a time of great anarchy. He met his death in Persia (260 A.D.).

[25] Dion of Syracuse (400-354? B.C.) was famous for his protection of Plato in Sicily and for his expedition in 357, which freed his city from the tyranny of Denis.

[26] Artaxerxes.

[27] The Hieron, a youthful didactic work, consisting of a dialogue between Simonides and the Tyrant of Syracuse. The latter confesses his inner doubts and misgivings, his weariness at the dangers constantly besetting him, his sadness at not being loved by anyone. Even if he gave up his power, he would be in danger from the many enemies he has made. Simonides advises him to mend his ways and try kindness and generosity as a way of government.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

[28] Publius Cornelius Scipio (235-183 B.C.) led the brilliant campaign in Africa which caused Hannibal's recall from Italy and his final defeat.

[29] The Eunuch, Act III, Scene 1.

[30] Cyrus the Great (died 528 B.C.), founder of the Persian Empire, attacked Croesus before the latter could organize his army, and drove him in mid-winter out of his capital of Sardis. The episode here mentioned is related in Herodotus, Book I, chap. 86.

[31] A Roman coin (semis-half, tertius-third) of variable value, originally of silver, later of bronze.

[32] In his Histories (Book I, chap. 4) which cover the period (69-96 A.D.) from the fall of Nero to the crowning of Nerva.

[33] Suetonius, Life of Caesar, paragraphs 84-88.

[34] The great dreamer of empire whose costly victory at Asculum wrecked his hopes of world domination. He was finally killed (272 B.C.) by a tile dropped on his head by an old woman. This story of the toe conies from Plutarch's Life of Pyrrhus.

[35] Titus Flavius Vespasianus left his son Titus to complete the capture of Jerusalem while he, newly elected Emperor by his armies, turned back to Rome after the death of Galba in 69 A.D. The reference here is found in Suetonius, Life of Vespasian, Chapter VII.

[36] In Greek mythology, Salmoneus, King of Elis, was the son of Aeolus and the brother of Sisyphus. He was reckless and sacrilegious and claimed to be the equal of Zeus by imitating his thunderbolts. Zeus threw him into Hades.

[37] Aeneid, Chapter VI, verses 585 et seq.

[38] These are references to heraldic emblems of royalty. The sacred vessel contained the holy oil for the coronation of the kings of France, said to have been brought by an angel from heaven for the crowning of Clovis in 496. The fleur-de-lis is the well-known heraldic flower dating from the 12th century. In its earlier forms it has other elements besides petals, such as arrow tips, spikes, and even bees and toads. The oriflamme or standard of gold was also adopted by French royalty. Originally it belonged to the Abbey of St. Denis and had a red background, dotted with stars surrounding a flaming sun. Some scholars have noted in the three branches of the fleur-de-lis a heraldic transformation of toads which formed presumably the totem of the ancient Francs.

[39] These three were the most inspired of the Pléiade, a group of seven poets of the Renaissance in France. La Boétie's boast is impulsive but natural when one thinks of the vigor and hope of this period. Du Bellay (1548) published a Defense of the French Language which explained the literary doctrines of the group. The reference in the text to this Defense helps date the Contr'un.

[40] This unfinished epic has only four cantos; it attempts to relate how to Francus, son of Hector, is revealed the glorious future of France. He beholds a visionary procession of her kings descending from him all the way to Charlemagne. King Clovis (465-511), of whom many tales are told, was baptized after the miracle of Tolbiac and founded the Merovingian dynasty. Although the poem was not published till a few days after the Massacre of St. Bartholomew, Ronsard had spoken of his project more than twenty years before. He had even read the finished Prologue to Henry II in 1550. La Boétie's early reference bespeaks his close relations with the poets of his day.

[41] Aeneid, Canto viii, verse 664.

[42] Ericthonius, legendary King of Athens (1573-1556 B.C.) was the son of the earth. He is at times represented in the guise of a serpent carried by the Cecropides maidens to whom Athens had entrusted him as a child. The allusion here is to the Panathenaea festival when maidens carried garlanded baskets on their heads. Races were also held for which the winners received olive wreaths as prizes.

[43] Under Caesar the power of the Senators was greatly reduced and military leaders were permitted to share with them legislative and judicial powers.

[44] The cutting off of ears as a punishment for thievery is very ancient. In the middle ages it was still practiced under St. Louis. Men so mutilated were dishonored and could not enter the clergy or the magistracy.

[45] Plutarch's Life of Pompey.

[46] Lucius Annaeus Seneca (4 B.C.-65 A.D.) was exiled from Rome to Corsica for eight years by the intrigues of Messalina, wife of Claudius. Agrippina had him recalled and entrusted to him jointly with Burrus the education of her son Nero. Seneca ended his life some fifteen years later when Nero, suspecting him of conspiracy, ordered him to die. Burrus similarly tried to restrain the tyrant but he lost his power after the murder of Agrippina, a crime which he had prevented once before. He died in 62 A.D. suspecting he had been poisoned. Thrasea, unlike these two teachers of Nero, refused to condone the crime of matricide. He attacked Nero in the Senate but finally in 66 A.D. he was condemned by that august body and, after a philosophic discourse celebrated with his friends by his side, he opened his veins.

[47] She was really killed by a kick, according to Suetonius (Life of Nero, chap. 35) and Tacitus (Annals, Book XVI, chap. 6). She abetted Nero in many of his crimes; the murder of his mother, of his gentle wife Octavia. After the brutal death inflicted on Poppaea, Nero shed many tears.

[48] Suetonius, op. cit., chap. 34, and Tacitus, op. cit., Book XII, chap. 67.

[49] Messalina (15-48 A.D.) was the fifth wife of the emperor Claudius. At first honorable, mother of two children, she suddenly turned to vice and has transmitted her name to the ages as a synonym for the lowest type of degraded womanhood. While still the wife of Claudius, she married a favorite with his connivance. The Emperor, finally convinced of her treachery, permitted the killing of his wife and her lover. He then married Agrippina who persuaded him to adopt Nero as his son, thereby signing his own death warrant, for his new wife, by giving him a plate of poisonous mushrooms, opened the way for her son's succession to the throne.

[50] Suetonius, Life of Caligula, Chapter 33.

[51] Suetonius, Life of Domitian, Chapter 17. The tyrant died in 96 A.D. after three years of bestial government inspired by abject fear of conspirators. Finally Domitia, his wife, hatched the plot which led an imperial slave to stab his royal master to death.

[52] Herodian, Book I, chap. 54. Commodus (161-192 A.D.) unworthy son of Marcus Aurelius, had planned to put to death his concubine, Marcia. She poisoned him first.

[53] Ibid., Book IV, chap. 23. The reference is to Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Bassianus, better known as Caracalla, who was killed (217 A.D.) in a plot arranged by his own praetor, Macrinas, who succeeded him to power, lasted a year, and was killed in his turn by his own soldiers.

[54] Petrarch, Canzoniere, Sonnet XVII. La Boétie has accurately rendered the lines concerning the moth.


[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

Chris Hedges | The Final Battle

Tuesday, 25 December 2012 10:15 By Chris Hedges, Truthdig | News Analysis


Over the past year I and other plaintiffs including Noam Chomsky and Daniel Ellsberg have pressed a lawsuit in the federal courts to nullify Section 1021(b)(2) of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). This egregious section, which permits the government to use the military to detain U.S. citizens, strip them of due process and hold them indefinitely in military detention centers, could have been easily fixed by Congress. The Senate and House had the opportunity this month to include in the 2013 version of the NDAA an unequivocal statement that all U.S. citizens would be exempt from 1021(b)(2), leaving the section to apply only to foreigners. But restoring due process for citizens was something the Republicans and the Democrats, along with the White House, refused to do. The fate of some of our most basic and important rights—ones enshrined in the Bill of Rights as well as the Fourth and Fifth amendments of the Constitution—will be decided in the next few months in the courts. If the courts fail us, a gulag state will be cemented into place.

Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Mike Lee, R-Utah, pushed through the Senate an amendment to the 2013 version of the NDAA. The amendment, although deeply flawed, at least made a symbolic attempt to restore the right to due process and trial by jury. A House-Senate conference committee led by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., however, removed the amendment from the bill last week.

“I was saddened and disappointed that we could not take a step forward to ensure at the very least American citizens and legal residents could not be held in detention without charge or trial,” Feinstein said in a statement issued by her office. “To me that was a no-brainer.”

The House approved the $633 billion NDAA for 2013 in a 315-107 vote late Thursday night. It will now go before the Senate. Several opponents of the NDAA in the House, including Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Va., cited Congress’ refusal to guarantee due process and trial by jury to all citizens as his reason for voting against the bill. He wrote in a statement after the vote that “American citizens may fear being arrested and indefinitely detained by the military without knowing what they have done wrong.”

The Feinstein-Lee amendment was woefully adequate. It was probably proposed mainly for its public relations value, but nonetheless it resisted the concerted assault on our rights and sought to calm nervous voters objecting to the destruction of the rule of law. The amendment failed to emphatically state that citizens could never be placed in military custody. Rather, it said citizens could not be placed in indefinite military custody without “trial.” But this could have been a trial by military tribunals. Citizens, under the amendment, could have been barred from receiving due process in a civil court. Still, it was better than nothing. And now we have nothing. “Congressional moves concerning the NDAA make it clear that Congress as a whole has no stomach for the protection of civil liberties,” said attorney Bruce Afran, who along with attorney Carl Mayer has brought the lawsuit against President Obama in which we are attempting to block Section 1021(b)(2).

The only hero so far in this story is U.S. District Judge Katherine B. Forrest of the Southern District Court of New York. Forrest in September accepted all of our challenges to the law. She issued a permanent injunction invalidating Section 1021(b)(2). Government lawyers asked Forrest for a “stay pending appeal”—meaning the law would go back into effect until the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit issued a ruling in the case. She refused. The government then went directly to the Court of Appeals and asked it for a temporary stay while promising not to detain the plaintiffs or other U.S. citizens under the provision. The Court of Appeals, which will hear oral arguments in January, granted the government’s request for a temporary stay. The law went back into effect. If the Court of Appeals upholds Forrest’s ruling, the case will most likely be before the Supreme Court within weeks.

“President Obama should never have appealed this watershed civil rights ruling,” Mayer said. “But now that he has, the fight may well go all the way to the Supreme Court. At stake is whether America will slide more toward authoritarianism or whether the judicial branch of government will stem the decade-long erosion of our civil liberties. Since 9/11 Americans have been systematically stripped of their freedoms: Their phone calls are monitored under [George W.] Bush and Obama’s warrantless wiretapping program, they are videotaped relentlessly in public places, there are drones over American soil and the police control protesters and dissenters with paramilitary gear and tactics. As long as Obama and the leadership of both parties want the military to police our streets, we will fight. This is unacceptable, un-American and unconstitutional.”

We knew the government would appeal, but we did not expect it to act so aggressively. This means, we suspect, that the provision is already being used, most likely to hold people with U.S. and Pakistani dual citizenship or U.S. and Afghan dual citizenship in military detention sites such as Bagram. If the injunction were allowed to stand during the appeal and U.S. citizens were being held by the military without due process, the government would be in contempt of court.

Judge Forrest’s 112-page opinion is a stark explication and condemnation of the frightening erosion of the separation of powers. In her opinion she referred to the Supreme Court ruling Korematsu v. United States, which declared constitutional the government’s internment of 110,000 Japanese-Americans without due process during World War II. The 2013 NDAA, like the old versions of the act, allows similar indefinite detentions—of Muslim Americans, dissidents and other citizens.

Section 1021(b)(2) defines a “covered person”—one subject to detention—as “a person who was a part of or substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners, including any person who has committed a belligerent act or has directly supported such hostilities in aid of such enemy forces.”

The section, however, does not define the terms “substantially supported,” “directly supported” or “associated forces.” The vagueness of the language means that the plaintiffs, including those who as journalists have contact with individuals or groups deemed by the State Department to be part of terrorist organizations, could along with others find themselves seized and detained under the provision.

The corporate state knows that the steady deterioration of the economy and the increasingly savage effects of climate change will create widespread social instability. It knows that rage will mount as the elites squander diminishing resources while the poor, as well as the working and middle classes, are driven into destitution. It wants to have the legal measures to keep us cowed, afraid and under control. It does not, I suspect, trust the police to maintain order. And this is why, contravening two centuries of domestic law, it has seized for itself the authority to place the military on city streets and citizens in military detention centers, where they cannot find redress in the courts. The shredding of our liberties is being done in the name of national security and the fight against terrorism. But the NDAA is not about protecting us. It is about protecting the state from us. That is why no one in the executive or legislative branch is going to restore our rights. The new version of the NDAA, like the old ones, provides our masters with the legal shackles to make our resistance impossible. And that is their intention.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

"So this is how liberty dies... with thunderous applause."

Senator Padme Amidala

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

It amazes us to hear accounts of the valor that liberty arouses in the hearts of those who defend it; but who could believe reports of what goes on every day among the inhabitants of some countries, who could really believe that one man alone may mistreat a hundred thousand and deprive them of their liberty? Who would credit such a report if he merely heard it, without being present to witness the event? And if this condition occurred only in distant lands and were reported to us, which one among us would not assume the tale to be imagined or invented, and not really true? Obviously there is no need of fighting to overcome this single tyrant, for he is automatically defeated if the country refuses consent to its own enslavement: it is not necessary to deprive him of anything, but simply to give him nothing; there is no need that the country make an effort to do anything for itself provided it does nothing against itself. It is therefore the inhabitants themselves who permit, or, rather, bring about, their own subjection, since by ceasing to submit they would put an end to their servitude. A people enslaves itself, cuts its own throat, when, having a choice between being vassals and being free men, it deserts its liberties and takes on the yoke, gives consent to its own misery, or, rather, apparently welcomes it. If it cost the people anything to recover its freedom, I should not urge action to this end, although there is nothing a human should hold more dear than the restoration of his own natural right, to change himself from a beast of burden back to a man, so to speak. I do not demand of him so much boldness; let him prefer the doubtful security of living wretchedly to the uncertain hope of living as he pleases. What then? If in order to have liberty nothing more is needed than to long for it, if only a simple act of the will is necessary, is there any nation in the world that considers a single wish too high a price to pay in order to recover rights which it ought to be ready to redeem at the cost of its blood, rights such that their loss must bring all men of honor to the point of feeling life to be unendurable and death itself a deliverance? http://www.constitution.org/la_boetie/serv_vol.htm

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

A Public Bank for Scotland Could Ensure Economic Sovereignty

Friday, 07 December 2012 00:00 By Ellen Brown, Truthout | News Analysis


With the Scottish National Party in control, independence is on the table. One way Scotland could exercise true economic sovereignty - and control over the national currency, credit and debt - would be to have its own publicly-owned bank, one that served the interests of the Scottish people.

The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and the Bank of Scotland have been pillars of Scotland's economy and culture for more than three centuries. So when the RBS was nationalized by the London-based UK government following the 2008 banking crisis, and the Bank of Scotland was acquired by the London-based Lloyds Bank, it came as a shock to the Scots. They no longer owned their oldest and most venerable banks.

Another surprise turn of events was the triumph of the Scottish National Party (SNP) in the 2011 Scottish parliamentary election. Scotland is still part of the United Kingdom, but it has had its own parliament since 1999, similar to US states. The SNP has rallied around the call for independence from the UK since its founding in 1934, but it was a minority party until the 2011 victory, which gave it an overall majority in the Scottish Parliament.

Scottish independence is now on the table. A bill has been introduced to the Scottish Parliament with the intention of holding a referendum on the issue in 2014.

Arguments in favor of independence include that it will allow the Scottish people to make decisions for Scotland themselves, on such contentious issues as having nuclear weapons in their seas and being part of NATO. They can also directly access the profits from the North Sea oil off Scotland's coast.

Arguments against independence include the fact that Scotland's levels of public spending (which are higher than in the rest of the UK) would be difficult to sustain without raising taxes. North Sea oil revenues will eventually decline.

One way budgetary problems might be relieved would be for Scotland to have its own publicly-owned bank, one that served the interests of the Scottish people. True economic sovereignty means having control over the national currency, credit and debt.

The Public Bank Option

It was in that context that I was asked to give a presentation on public banking at RSA Scotland (the Royal Society of Arts) in Edinburgh on November 22. A special adviser and a civil servant from the Scottish government were among the attendees. The presentation was followed by public sector consultant Ralph Leishman, director of 4-consulting, who made the public bank option concrete with specific proposals fitting the Scottish context. He suggested that the Scottish Investment Bank (SIB) be licensed as a depository bank, on the model of the state-owned Bank of North Dakota. Lively debate followed.

The SIB is a division of Scottish Enterprise (SE), a government economic development body. SE encourages economic development, enterprise, innovation and investment in business, which is achieved by the SIB through the Scottish Loan Fund. As noted in a September 2011 government report titled, Government Economic Strategy:

Securing affordable finance remains a considerable challenge.... Evidence shows that while many large companies have significant cash holdings or can access capital markets directly, for most small- and medium-sized companies, bank lending remains the key source of finance. Unblocking this is key to helping the recovery gain traction.

The limitation of a public loan fund is that the money can be lent only to one borrower at a time. Invested as capital in a bank, on the other hand, public funds can be leveraged into nearly ten times that sum in loans. Liquidity to cover the loans is provided by deposits, which remain in the bank available to the depositors. Any shortage in liquidity can be covered by borrowing at low interest from other banks or the money market. As observed by Kurt Von Mettenheim, et al., in a 2008 report titled Government Banking: New Perspectives on Sustainable Development and Social Inclusion from Europe and South America (at page 196):

In terms of public policy, government banks can do more for less: Almost ten times more if one compares cash used as capital reserves by banks to other policies that require budgetary outflows.

Leishman stated that the SIB now has investment funds of £23.2 million from the Scottish government. Rounding this to £25 million, a public depository bank could have sufficient capital to back £250 million in loans. For deposits to cover the loans, the Scottish Government has £125 million on deposit with private banks, currently earning little or no interest. Adding just 14 percent of the General Fund cash and cash equivalent reserves held by Scotland's local governments would provide another £125 million, reaching the needed £250 million with six times that sum in local government revenues to spare.

The Model of the Bank of North Dakota

My assignment was to show what the government could do with its own bank, following the model of the Bank of North Dakota (BND). On the Saturday following the RSA event, the Scotsman published an article by Alf Young that summarized the issues and possibilities so well that I'm taking the liberty of abstracting from it here. North Dakota is currently the only US state to own its own depository bank. The BND was founded in 1919 by Norwegian and other immigrants, determined, through their Non-Partisan League, to stop rapacious Wall Street money men foreclosing on their farms. All state revenues must be deposited with the BND by law. The bank pays no bonuses, fees or commissions; does no advertising; and maintains no branches beyond the main office in Bismarck. The bank offers cheap credit lines to state and local government agencies. There are low-interest loans for designated project finance. The BND underwrites municipal bonds, funds disaster relief and supports student loans. It partners with local commercial banks to increase lending across the state and pays competitive interest rates on state deposits. For the past ten years, it has been paying a dividend to the state, with a quite small population of about 680,000, of some $30 million (£18.7 million) a year.

Young writes:

Intriguingly, North Dakota has not suffered the way much of the rest of the US - indeed much of the western industrialized world - has, from the banking crash and credit crunch of 2008; the subsequent economic slump; and the sovereign debt crisis that has afflicted so many. With an economy based on farming and oil, it has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the US, a rising population and a state budget surplus that is expected to hit $1.6 billion by next July. By then North Dakota's legacy fund is forecast to have swollen to around $1.2 billion.

With that kind of resilience, it's little wonder that 20 American states, some of them close to bankruptcy, are at various stages of legislating to form their own state-owned banks on the North Dakota model. There's a long-standing tradition of such institutions elsewhere too. Australia had a publicly-owned bank offering credit for infrastructure as early as 1912. New Zealand had one operating in the housing field in the 1930s. Up until 1974, the federal government in Canada borrowed from the Bank of Canada, effectively interest-free....

From our western perspective, we tend to forget that, globally, around 40 percent of banks are already publicly owned, many of them concentrated in the BRIC economies, Brazil, Russia, India and China.

Banking is not a market good or service. It is a vital part of societal infrastructure, which properly belongs in the public sector. By taking banking back, local governments could regain control of that very large slice (up to 40 per cent) of every public budget that currently goes to interest charged to finance investment programs through the private sector.

Recent academic studies by von Mettenheim et al. and Svetlana Andrianova et al show that countries with high degrees of government ownership of banking have grown much faster in the last decade than countries where banking is historically concentrated in the private sector. Government banks are also less corrupt and, surprisingly, have been more profitable in recent years than private banks.

Young writes:

Given the massive price we have all paid for our debt-fuelled crash, surely there is scope for a more fundamental re-think about what we really want from our banks and what structures of ownership are best suited to deliver on those aspirations?

... As we left Thursday's seminar, I asked another member of the audience, someone with more than 30 years' experience as a corporate financier, whether the concept of a publicly-owned bank has any chance of getting off the ground here. "I've no doubt it will happen," came the surprise response. "When I look at the way our collective addiction to debt has ballooned in my lifetime, I'd even say it's inevitable."

The Scots are full of surprises, and independence is in their blood. Recall the heroic battles of William Wallace and Robert the Bruce memorialized by Hollywood in the Academy Award-winning movie Braveheart. Perhaps the Scots will blaze a trail for economic sovereignty in the EU, just as North Dakotans did in the US. A publicly-owned bank could help Scotland take control of its own economic destiny, by avoiding unnecessary debt to a private banking system that has become a burden to the economy rather than a pillar in its support.

Copyright, Truthout.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

America's 'actually existing' worker-owned capitalism

By Moria Herbst

Last week, retiring Minnesota grocery chain owner Joe Lueken did something unusual: he gave his business to his 400 employees. The story received widespread attention as a heartwarming, It's A Wonderful Life-esque act of beneficence.

But Lueken's decision was no one-off Christmas fairytale. In fact, Bob Moore, owner of Oregon-based cereal producer Bob's Red Mill Natural Foods, did exactly the same thing two years ago.

Their actions reflect the under-the-radar but growing trend of worker ownership in the United States. The surprising truth is that there are thousands of successful, majority worker-owned businesses in the United States. We're not just talking small-scale hippie co-ops: the largest majority employee-owned business is Florida-based Publix Super Markets, a $27bn company that employs 152,000 people. That's more workers than Costco (COST) and Whole Foods (WFM) combined.

At a time of high unemployment, soaring corporate profits and diminishing job quality, employee ownership offers an appealing, viable alternative to mainstream corporate capitalism. It's a way for workers to own "the means of production" without overthrowing the system – and without asking a gridlocked Congress to create a jobs program.

Far from some communist ideal, employee ownership is an all-American third way that both left and right can embrace. Worker advocates can applaud the model's more democratic structure, while free marketeers can admire its entrepreneurial spirit.

Workers who directly reap the fruits of their labor – rather than toil for higher returns for anonymous investors – are more motivated, productive, and creative. According to a study by Harvard and Rutgers researchers, companies with substantial employee ownership often outperform those without, because of lower staff turnover and stronger trust relationships at work.

Fortunately, the idea is catching on. Since 1975, the number of companies with partial employee ownership in the US has grown from 1,600 to more than 10,000 – about 10% of the American workforce. We sorely need these alternatives. For a nation fixated on the idea of individual liberty, Americans have a remarkable tolerance for undemocratic, top-down leadership at our workplaces, where, after all, we spend most of our waking hours.

In recent decades, the playing field between employers and employees – that is, between capital and labor – has become severely warped. Especially at the lower end of the skills spectrum, workers often face a lack of respect by management, erratic schedules, and punishment for trying to form a union. The vast majority of American workers are "at-will" – meaning, you can be fired for any reason. Perhaps your performance has lagged, or perhaps the boss doesn't like your new shoes.

If more enterprises were employee-owned, fewer workers would face this daily exploitation. Labor's share of the national income – now at its lowest point in recorded history – would rise. The ratio of average of CEO pay to worker pay (currently, an astounding 380:1) would shrink. Inequality, which harms society and hampers economic growth, would lessen.

Here's why. In publicly-traded corporations, the board of directors – nominated by a tiny number of outside investors – decides who runs the show and how profits are distributed. In employee-owned companies, workers themselves are the shareholders. Because stock does not trade publicly, the business is insulated from the pressures of the stock market and its obsession with short-term profit. Instead, the worker-owners can focus on long-term growth, sustainability, and fairness.

Part of that focus is executive pay. The base salary of the CEO of Publix, for example, was about $810,000 last year, far lower than than that of his grocery chain CEO counterparts. Publix isn't a slave to Wall Street's tendency to set bloated executive pay packages on expectations that share prices will magically balloon under new leadership.

Another focus is creating and maintaining good jobs for the long haul. While publicly-traded firms slash workers in a downturn, for example, an employee-owned company might choose to cut hours or pay for everyone to avoid layoffs.

To be sure, employee ownership is no panacea. Publix, for example, has faced employment lawsuits, including one over overtime pay. That's why proponents call for workplaces to be not only employee-owned, but also employee-directed. This is a more robustly democratic model in which workers become the board of directors of a company, making all decisions about what it produces how the spoils are distributed. Economist Richard Wolff details these kinds of models in his book, Democracy at Work: he often cites Mondragon, a successful Spanish conglomerate, as an example.

And then, there are the worker-owned John Lewis department stores in Britain, a $13bn-plus business. The company grows at a faster rate than competitors as it defies the low-wage retail business model, and offers workers solid compensation and pensions. The company's purpose, according to its constitution, is "the happiness of all its members, through their worthwhile and satisfying employment in a successful business". Sounds utopian … but it's happening every day.

Another example is Der Spiegel, the leading German consumer magazine, which is part-owned and managed by its employees. As print media collapses elsewhere, Spiegel is still going strong. When I did a fellowship there, a writer told me he and his colleagues skimp on travel expenses because they know it's their bottom line, too.

Academic studies show they're not alone. When you and your colleagues own the place, you're not going to steal a stapler or pad your hours. Trust and workplace ethics: isn't that what all those company retreats and office birthday celebrations have failed to accomplish?


[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

Collective Workplaces Spell Job Security, Fair Treatment and Real-Life Democracy

Wednesday, 05 December 2012 00:00 By Graciela Razo, Truthout | Report


Amid the economic downturn in 2007, economist, professor, and Truthout contributor and advisory board member Richard Wolff laid out a vision for a radical reorganization of labor wherein employees had control of their workplaces. From choosing their work hours to coming to consensus about everyday business operations, employees would act together as their own bosses to combat inequality in the workplace.

The Story of Beyond Care

After facing insecure jobs, low wages and toxic unemployment, Susana Peralta and 19 other women turned that radical restructuring of the workplace into a reality. Their cooperative brainchild Beyond Care blossomed in 2008 as a new way to provide quality employment for their community in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.

The alternative workplace provides a necessary service of part- and full-time childcare where the women are their own bosses and chose their own hours and wages, a welcomed change from traditional workplaces.

"Not only did we create a space with fairer wages, but we found a way to employ our entire community," Peralta, the Beyond Care cooperative president said.

Peralta and her coworkers are exactly what Wolff and his new organization Democracy at Work, a collaboration with Truthout and several other partners, conceptualized for the future of employment. Democracy at Work was born in 2011 after Wolff's weekly radio show Economic Update, supported by Truthout, became syndicated in ten cities and listeners grew desperate for a solution to the abysmal employment and economic crisis.

"People wanted a solution, so we had to answer this demand," Wolff said. "The answer we came up with is democracy at work that would respond to the criticism we're making about the failures of the system to solve its own problems, to the failure of the old traditional socialism to be a model that attracts people and excites them." The fundamental idea of Democracy at Work is to create a society based on workers' self-directed enterprises. Fully egalitarian in every sense, workers run the business, share the assets and create a workspace that runs in harmony with not only its workers, but the entire community.

Wolff's argument is that workers in control of their own workplaces are much less likely to ship their own jobs overseas, underpay employees or pollute their own communities. As workers' enterprises become fully functioning, they benefit those who participate as workers as well as the customers and communities they serve. But before Beyond Care came into full operation, the women worked every day just to promote the business to get its first clients. Because they had to build up the daycare on an idea alone, with no money, it was completely up to them to gain momentum for the business. They put up flyers all over their neighborhood, trying to spread the word about their cooperative. After four years of word-of-mouth promotion and advertising, the collective got its first client. Now, Beyond Care has more clients than it can handle; the childcare center now has to turn down nearly seven clients each week because of its growing popularity. Parents love that their children are learning Spanish and that Beyond Care is entirely democratically run, Peralta added.

The women are constantly attending trainings and are currently working on expanding their services to meet the needs of children with disabilities. Unlike traditional workplaces, pleasing its customer-base is vital to Beyond Care's survival.

"If you work with an agency, you work to please your boss; when you work for a cooperative, you have more incentive to please the customers because your job depends directly on it," said collective developer Emma Yorra.

But perhaps most importantly, Peralta said, is the job security a collectively run workplace provides. No one worries about not having clients or being fired with nowhere to go. There are always clients and work to be done for the community, she said.

"We all have equal benefits and security now," Peralta said. "It isn't just for those of us who started the co-op; we're interested in something that benefits the entire community."

This "radical reorganization and democratization of enterprise," according to Wolff, gives workers complete control of their own workplaces, allows them to decide their wages and work fair hours, just as Beyond Care has been doing for the past four years. In a democratic workplace, no longer do bosses or agencies dictate how much employees should be paid - solving the issue of struggling workers barely able to pay for basic living expenses.

But job security would be the most beneficial outcome of worker self-directed enterprises, adds Jen Hill, co-founder of Democracy at Work. "When people are secure in their work-life, they have the freedom to participate in politics, home life and have time with their families, which would produce a more educated and creative society where everyone has a voice," Hill said. "Generations would be self-expressed, more equal and more secure. The opposite of what capitalism has done for us: insecurity and inequality."

Red Emma's Story

The freedom and democratic control of a cooperative gave the founding members of Red Emma's bookstore in Baltimore, Maryland, the freedom to expand further than a traditional business. Collectivized at the end of 2004, Red Emma's has flourished into a fully sustainable business, complete with a cafe serving fair-trade coffee, a space for political discussions, a free computer lab and a template for others to begin their own collective.

"We wanted to build an infrastructure that creates the world we want to see and a space that allows us to put our politics into practice," said Kate Khatib, a Red Emma's founding collective member. "Emma's is an experiment, a laboratory to see if these things we talk about in our literature actually work, and if not, why doesn't it work? What can we do instead?"

Owned and operated by 14 collective members and a group of volunteers, Red Emma's grew into a product of its own politics, giving each member a say in every aspect of the operation. But Emma's still has a few of the same obstacles many other independent bookshops across the country have. The collective still has times when it struggles with book sales or building repairs.

And although Emma's is an open collective, it takes six months to become a full member. After three months of volunteering for five hours each week and a series of checkpoints and reviews, the collective must come to a complete consensus before inviting someone to join. Then after three more months of working as a provisional member, they are eligible to become a collective member and officially added to Red Emma's ownership documents.

"Collectives offer a way to change the way we think of work," John Duda, another founding collective member said. "It's a space that changes people's expectations of what labor can look like."

Consensus becomes the basis of each workday. Every member and volunteer knows which lightbulb goes where, how much money was brought in that week and where the cooperative's produce comes from (local, family-owned grocery stores) and is encouraged to participate in each business decision.

Weekly collective meetings are run so every participant has a chance to speak. Each member focuses on a certain aspect of Emma's: public relations, book ordering, volunteers and logistics. Direct democracy developed Emma's into one of Baltimore's destination bookstores and into a worker self-directed enterprise that's able to be replicated by other business ventures.

"It's rewarding to see that it is possible to build something that is sustainable, that has a capacity to reproduce itself as an institution," Duda said. "It opens a space where people learn to live a little differently."

Democracy at Work is spreading this template to make it easier for collectives and cooperatives to sprout in cities where unemployment is deteriorating entire neighborhoods. The organization is developing informational videos to make these methods more accessible, and there are plans to organize a training institution where ideas are manifested into concrete business plans.

"We are developing a movement. We have the basic idea. We have a very enthusiastic audience," Wolff said. "It's growing, but the trick is how to find a way to glue people together, give them enough to do that they feel part of something because that's what they want."

Copyright, Truthout.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

The Counterrevolutionary Constitution


We've all been taught in school that the Founders of the United States of America fought a revolution that freed the colony from British rule. That much is true. They even drew up a list of complaints to explain why that revolution was necessary, which was published as The Declaration of Independence. In it they clearly enumerated the instances of tyranny that the colonists would no longer passively endure, but also laid out the principles of democracy they wished to establish:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by the Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."

The lie we were taught to believe is that the Constitution of the United States of America established such a government and was the legitimate result and continuation of the revolution. It was not. It was a counterrevolutionary document and it totally betrayed the revolution.

It was not at all self-evident to the Framers that all men are created equal. In the Constitution they counted some men as equal but others as only three fifths persons. This was done to placate the slave-holding states into ratifying the Constitution.1

The Framers not only didn't secure the unalienable rights of Blacks to liberty, but denied those rights by allowing slavery, which is the opposite of liberty, to continue.

Although the Founders stated clearly that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, the new Constitution didn't bother to ask for the consent of the majority of the governed. Blacks, Native Americans, indentured servants, women, and landless workers were certainly to be governed under the new Constitution, but they were not granted the right to vote. White male landowners were allowed to vote, but to ensure that the United States would be a plutocracy where those who owned the country ruled it, even their votes were not granted the decisive role they would have in a democracy. They were prohibited from voting for Senators or for President and Vice-President, and the Constitution made Congress, not citizens, the sole "Judge of the Elections, Returns and Qualifications of its own Members...." There was no guarantee that the popular vote even had to be counted, no less taken into account, and it could be overridden by the Electoral College, Congress, or the Supreme Court.

The revolution, fought to establish equality and democracy, had been betrayed by a Constitution that condoned inequality and established a plutocracy.

But the Framers didn't stop there. In their counterrevolutionary zeal, and against the wishes of Thomas Jefferson and other delegates, they gave an unelected body, the Supreme Court, the power to made decisions that could not be appealed. Such totalitarian power in the hands of unelected people is contrary to the most basic principles of democracy. This was exactly the sort of power that King George had and that the colonists revolted against. They were able to, and frequently did, petition the king for redress of grievances, but they had no vote in his decisions and his edicts could not be appealed. In establishing the Supreme Court, the Framers once again betrayed the revolution and established an undemocratic distribution of power that the Founders had shed blood to rid us of.

There are many more examples, some of which I've mentioned in my other writings, but these should suffice to demonstrate that the Constitution of the United States of America was a counterrevolutionary document and a betrayal of the democratic principles set out in the Declaration of Independence.

  1. Slavery's Constitution: From Revolution to Ratification, by David Waldstreicher


[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

The Value of Voting


During a long discussion on one of his forums, long-term Democratic Party organizer and former Democrat Congressional candidate Ray Lutz accused me of being opposed to voting. This was my response:

A democratic system of government is one in which power is vested in the hands of the people. That's the dictionary definition and even Ray agreed to it.

An undemocratic system of government is one in which power is vested in the hands of the government. That government could be a dictatorship, a monarchy, a plutocracy, an oligarchy, or even a pseudo-democracy, but if power is vested in the hands of the government rather than in the hands of the people, the system does not meet the definition of a democratic form of government.

In a democratic form of government, where power is vested in the hands of the people, voting is the most precious right of all, as it is the way that the people exercise the power vested in them, either directly by voting on issues, budgets, and policies, or indirectly by voting for representatives who are obligated to represent their constituents and can be directly recalled by the people at any time that they fail to represent the people who elected them.

In an undemocratic form of government, where power is vested in the hands of the government rather than in the hands of the people, voting is totally worthless and a waste of time, as the people do not have power and the government doesn't have to count their votes, can miscount and/or ignore their votes, can overrule the popular vote, and elected representatives are not obligated to represent their constituents but can represent their personal beliefs or philosophies, their big donors, or whatever they wish, and cannot be held accountable as long as they continue in office, which is the only time that people need them to represent the interests of the people.

In an undemocratic form of government, voters can hope that their votes might be counted, can hope that their elected officials might represent them, but have no power to ensure that their votes are counted or that their elected officials actually represent them.

The system makes all the difference. As an analogy, breathing is a good thing and we humans couldn't survive without being able to breathe. But underwater or in a toxic environment filled with lethal gas, breathing can bring about death more quickly than holding one's breath and trying to escape. Breathing isn't always a good thing, it is only a good thing in an environment with oxygen suitable for human life.

The same is true of voting. In a democratic system, voting is precious and essential. In an undemocratic system, it can be fatal, as it can allow the destruction of the economy, military adventurism, obstacles to basic human rights such as jobs, education, food, clothing, shelter, and health care, and other tragic consequences of allowing government to exercise uncontrolled power rather than vesting power in the hands of the people.

Most people in the US today are opposed to our government's ongoing wars of aggression. Even those who are uninformed and uneducated, who aren't aware that historically, the way that most empires fell was because they became militarily overextended, sense that there is something wrong with spending trillions of dollars on foreign wars while basic domestic needs go unmet. But because we do not have a democratic system of government, we have no power to end the wars. The best we can do is vote for candidates we hope might end the wars, but if, like Obama, they expand the wars instead of ending them, there is nothing we can do about it because our government has the power to start or end wars and we do not. If wars were on the ballot, it could only be as a nonbinding referendum, as there is no Constitutional way to force the government to obey the will of the people. The Constitution vested power in the government rather than in the hands of the people.

I do not oppose voting any more than I oppose breathing. I oppose voting only when it occurs within an undemocratic form of government, thus legitimizing an undemocratic form of government and consenting to be governed undemocratically, just as I oppose breathing only when in a toxic or anaerobic environment where breathing can be fatal. Just as I would want to try to help anyone trapped in a toxic or anaerobic environment hold their breath until they could escape, I want to try to help people trapped in an undemocratic form of government withhold their votes until they can escape. If I tell a drowning person to hold their breath until they can get their head above water, I am not condemning breathing. If I tell people not to vote until they have a democratic form of government, I am not condemning voting. In both cases, I am trying to preserve life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and to promote the general welfare.


[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

Now Make Me Do It: The Mythical Apathy of the Electorate


By: mymarkx Friday October 19, 2012 10:52 pm

Many liberals and progressives, not to mention conservatives and wingnuts, bemoan the apathy of the electorate. It isn’t enough to just vote, they insist, once you elect somebody you have to actively force them to represent you, and they cite Franklin D. Roosevelt who said, “I agree with you, I want to do it, now make me do it.” The problem, they claim, isn’t with the system or with our representatives, but with us for not being organized and active enough to make our representatives represent us. Many elected representatives claim that they would like to represent their constituents, but, like FDR, they can’t unless they are made to.

If true, this would reflect poorly on us as a people. We have a basically good system, and some good representatives, but we are just too lazy and apathetic to make our representatives represent us.

This is all a lie. Let me give you an example. Back during the Bush administration a lot of people wanted to see Bush and Cheney impeached. In one district the desire for impeachment was so high that activists were able to collect signatures from more than 80% of the residents asking their representative, John Olver, to support impeachment. But when he was formally presented with the petition, his response was, “Spare me! I’m well aware that the overwhelming majority of my constituents want me to support impeachment. I will not.” His response would have been the same if the petition had signatures from 100% of his constituents. It wasn’t that people were too apathetic to care, or too lazy to try to make him represent them, it was that our Constitution never gave people the power to exercise their will through their elected representatives. As both the Bush and Obama administrations made clear, our government does not allow public opinion to influence policy decisions. We are not a democracy or a republic. In the United States power is vested in the hands of the government, not in the hands of the people.

In both a democracy and a republic, by definition, supreme power over government is vested in the hands of the people. In a democracy, the people exercise their power directly by voting on budgets, policy issues, and other matters of import, but in a republic the people exercise their power indirectly through their elected officials. In the United States we have no such power. We can ask our representatives to represent us, we can protest if they don’t, but we have no way to make them do our will because we have no power over them. Once they are elected, they are free to represent us, if they wish, or they can, if they choose, represent their big campaign donors, their personal ideologies, the interests of a foreign country, or anything else they want. We can petition until we turn blue and protest until we get ourselves shot, but we have no way to sway them. Sure we can wait until their terms of office, the only time they’re supposed to represent us, are over, and then try to elect somebody else who can’t be held accountable, but while our representatives are in office, while they are supposed to be representing us, we cannot make them do so.

Of course we can ask Congress to impeach them, but Congress doesn’t like to impeach its own Members. If one Member was impeached, other Members might be subject to impeachment in revenge, so that’s a can of worms they prefer not to open. Sometimes they threaten impeachment, or even begin impeachment proceedings, but they don’t impeach. There have been impeachments of some district judges, but no sitting President, Supreme Court Justice, or Member of Congress has ever been impeached: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impeachment_in_the_United_States

If your representatives appears to be representing you, it is because they chose to or their big donors told them to, not because you made them do it. You have no power to make them do anything. When you vote, you are not voting for representatives, you are voting for petty tyrants who may or may not represent you and over whom you have no power whatsoever. Once their term of office is over and they are no longer representing you, you cannot bring back to life the dead from the wars they funded with your taxpayer dollars or renounce the debts they incurred that your granchildren will still be paying . The damage they do while in office can be irreparable and you have no control over them while they’re in office. You can try to elect somebody else, somebody who tells smoother lies, but you will have no real power over them either.

Of course with corporate money even in local politics, gerrymandered districts, easily hacked and totally unverifiable central tabulators, you can never know for sure that your vote for a new representative was counted at all, no less counted for the candidate you tried to vote for.

Yet approximately 50% of the electorate vote anyway, hoping against hope that their vote might be counted and that they might be represented. The other half of us know better.

In a democratic form of government, a vote is the most precious right of all because it is the way that people exercise their power over government, either directly or through their representatives.

We do not have a democratic form of government in the United States. The Constitution gave us a plutocracy where we have no power over government to exercise.

So don’t berate yourself and your neighbors for not making your representatives do their jobs. You can’t. The 39 plutocrats who wrote the Constitution, the wealthy elite 1% of their time, made sure that you wouldn’t have that power, as they didn’t trust the “mob and rabble” of democracy and wanted those who owned the country, people like themselves, to always rule the country.

You’re not apathetic. You’ve been had.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

A template for OWS to model. http://evergreencooperatives.com/

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 10 years ago

The Benefits of Buying Locally http://reclaimdemocracy.org/local_business_benefits/

Each year brings more national chains displacing locally-owned businesses throughout the country. We see clones replace unique establishments. People across the country are losing sense of community in their town, and consider this trend a symptom, but could it be a cause as well? Also, what are the impacts of this trend on our economic well-being?

It seems obvious that we do business where we perceive we receive the best value for our time and money. Perceptions, however, are not always accurate when we are lacking some of the essential information for fully informed decisions. We see and hear the omnipresent ads of corporate chains everyday, but are collectively under-informed about the many important values independent businesses provide us individually and as a community.

Some economists would call the chain encroachment a natural trend. Tough for the family who owns the small business, but it doesn’t really affect the economy. Overall sales may even go up a little when a chain drives out a small independent, so what’s the problem?

The disappearance of local businesses leaves a social and economic void that is palpable and real – even when it is unmeasured. The quality of life of a community changes in ways that macroeconomics is slow to measure, or ignores completely. Let’s look at some of the issues.

  1. Building A Strong Local Economy - The giant chains often win a town’s consent to build new stores with promises of growth and tax revenues. But when communities such as St Albans, VT & New Paltz, NY performed thorough analyses, they concluded proposed new “big box” retailers would create economic costs exceeding benefits, (loss of existing jobs and increased infrastructure demands being the top two) and wisely rejected them on those grounds. They are among more than 90 [now 200] communities around the country to have such foresight in recent years. Their scrutiny inevitably shows that most income of new chains comes directly from established businesses. For example, an extensive study of new Wal-Marts at Iowa State University found 84% of sales simply shifted dollars away from existing local merchants.

It’s time to consider the real costs to a community that loses its local business base. Independent local businesses employ a wide array of supporting services. They hire architects, designers, cabinet shops, sign makers and contractors for construction. Opportunities grow for local accountants, insurance brokers, computer consultants, attorneys, advertising agencies and others to help run it. Local retailers and distributors also carry a higher percentage of locally-made goods than the chains, creating more jobs for local producers.

In contrast, a new chain store typically puts in place a clone of other units, eliminates the need for local planning, and uses a minimum of local goods and services. In a company-owned store, the profits are promptly exported to corporate headquarters. These factors lead local independent merchants create a multiplier effect in the local economy of 3 – 3 1/2 times that of a chain outlet (the multiplier difference in non-retail businesses is generally lower, but no less important).While many communities focus on sales tax revenue, we need to remember that the one-time tax revenue is only one part of the economic picture.

Small manufacturers are also affected since they rely on local retailers to give their new products a chance. Local retailers are more free to take chances with the goods of a new manufacturer, or a product that is not part of a national sales plan. Therefore, small manufacturers and a wide variety of service industries have a clear stake in the nationwide health of local retailers.

In the larger picture, sales of the 500 largest corporations grew 700% in the past 20 years, yet those corporations are now net disemployers, firing more people than they hire despite record profits. That our economy is still in decent health is testimony to the employment generated by small business during this time. We need to recognize the impact of our dollars and support institutions that benefit our common interests.

  1. Ensuring Choice and Diversity – Retailers sift through competing goods and services to find those that appeal to their customers. Even though a single local shop may have a smaller selection than a big chain outlet, a multiplicity of independent retailers creates great diversity.

For example, when 3,000 or so national independent booksellers or music shops buy for their local customers’ tastes, the cumulative effect is demand for a wide variety of ideas and music. This makes accessible controversial books or music from new artists with the expectation that there will be a market somewhere within a variety of stores. As fewer giant corporations dominate both production and sales, our options – determined by a powerful few – will be drastically reduced.

Our freedom of choice is imperiled when a few buyers from national chains choose what reaches consumers. This may be only mildly disturbing for most consumer goods, but truly frightening when you consider the impact on our choice of news sources, books, music and other modes of expression.

  1. Maintaining Community Character – When asked to name our favorite restaurant, cafe, or shop, we almost always cite a unique local business (look at the results in any “Best of” polls as proof). We embrace the idea of distinctive businesses with local character, but often forget their survival depends on our patronage. It is easy for us to get so consumed by efficiency that we forget how much of our lives we spend eating out, shopping, and doing other business. We owe it to ourselves to consider the quality of our experience, and ask if we benefit when we choose a community-based business.

Local owners with much of their life savings invested in their businesses have a natural interest in the long-term health of the community. Community-based businesses are essential to charitable endeavors, frequently serving on local boards, and supporting a variety of causes. Yes, there are some corporate chains that give back to towns in which they do business, but anyone who raises funds for local non-profits will tell you that independents are their base of support. Not all local businesses are models to follow, and corporate chains are not inherently bad, but the overall impacts are clear: local businesses play a vital role in our community that corporate chains rarely do, while chains often even undermine community interests.

Recurring Problems

The loss of local businesses hasn’t just resulted from free market economics; it’s had plenty of help. Favoritism from large manufacturers toward corporate chains such as “promotional allowances” (free advertising), takes different forms, many of them illegal under anti-trust laws. Enforcement of these laws, created to protect consumers and communities, is an important step in solving these problems.

Local officials nationwide often fall for the seductions and political appeal of luring new national chains. They often look at promises of jobs and tax revenues, but fail to consider the greater losses that occur when the local business base is undermined. We see examples nationwide of tax and regulatory breaks worth millions used to lure out-of state corporations. Why should these businesses enjoy favors that our community-based businesses do not?

Let’s make future decisions based on full-cost accounting, and create a level (or better) playing field for local businesses with our policies; the chains already have enough laws rigged in their favor nationally.

Hope For The Future

For long-term progress, a conceptual change also is necessary. We need to consciously plan that future with rules that will encourage the values we want reflected in our communities. And each time we spend a dollar, we would do well to weigh the full value of our choices, not solely to ourselves immediately, but for the future we want in our own hometowns.

By Jeff Milchen, former executive director of Reclaim Democracy and co-founder of the American Independent Business Alliance (AMIBA) http://www.amiba.net/ . Please contact AMIBA for reprint permission (and updates to the article) or for assistance launching buy local campaigns or other initiatives to support community-based enterprise.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 10 years ago

"In December 1907, 1 entered the United States Senate and served there for 18 years. Within ninety days after I entered the Senate, on the 25th day of February 1908, 1 analyzed completely the Panic of 1907; showed its causes, how it could be cured, and how depressions could be prevented in the future. My text was stability in the value of money."

"I was made Chairman of the Committee on Banking and Currency of the United States Senate on March 5, 1913, and immediately drafted a Bill called the Federal Reserve Bill. In drafting this Bill I was greatly assisted by the results of four years work done by the National Monetary Commission. That Commission's report consisted of 32 volumes, and an auxiliary library of 2500 volumes. It had been established on my request from the floor of the United States Senate."

"In July 1913, Hon. Carter Glass joined me in presenting to the Senate and to the House the so-called Federal Reserve Bill which had been prepared by me the previous March, but which had been expanded, and contained provisions with which I was not entirely content. My Committee was immediately called together to take testimony on this Senate Bill, and after 3,000 pages of printed testimony had been taken, my colleagues in the Senate authorized me to write another Bill. I thereupon had the Senate strike out the Bill that had been prepared in the House and substitute the Bill which I had originally prepared. The Senate adopted the Bill written by me without a change of word. In the Bill introduced in July, in which the Hon. Carter Glass joined me, I had inserted a provision requiring that the powers of the Reserve System be employed in the service of commerce and to promote a stable price level. The meaning of this, of course, was to establish and maintain the stable value of money under mandate. This mandatory provision was stricken out in the House under the leadership of Hon. Carter Glass. I was unable to keep this mandatory provision in the Bill because of the secret hostilities developed against it, the origin of which at that time I did not fully understand."

"Under the administrations of Wilson, Harding, Coolidge and Hoover, this Act was diverted from its proper purpose on the advice of some who controlled the policies of a number of the largest banks."

"In the campaign of 1920, under the pretext of lowering the cost of living, those in charge of some of the largest banks demanded the contraction of credit and currency. This was done in spite of nine protests I had made on the floor of the Senate between January and June of 1920. Policies pursued by those in charge of the Central Federal Reserve Banks resulted in raising the value of money 80%, from an index of 60 in May 1920 to an index of 107 in June 1921."

"Again, under President Hoover, the contraction of credit took place on such a colossal scale as to force the dollar index (purchasing power) to 166. The consequence was universal bankruptcy, every bank in the United States being forced to suspend operations at the close of Hoover's services."

"The purpose of this book is to bring before the American people the knowledge that they must have regarding the nature and manipulations of their money system. In my opinion, America faces a crisis which may result in the loss of our Representative Constitutional Government unless every man and woman, rich or poor, young or old; doctor, lawyer, merchant, laborer, educator, clergyman, social worker, society leader; will bestir himself or herself toward the problem of bringing the fundamental truths of monetary science to every fireside."

"It is time for intelligent Americans to examine their money system and learn how to make simple but fundamental changes. Those who own insurance policies and savings accounts must bestir themselves to protect those accumulations. It is an obvious fact that the value of savings accounts and insurance policies will be destroyed unless correct measures are taken to restore property values, employment, and equitable raw material price levels. Instead of allowing our entire social order to be changed, we should examine the fundamental cause of our economic chaos. Making a few intelligent and scientific changes in the operation of our money system will eliminate the dangers of our being afflicted by false principles."

"It is hopeless to think that a few public- spirited citizens in some of the key cities of the United States can accomplish this enormous benefit. They cannot; their handicaps are many. The truths themselves are very simple, but many of the newspapers and publishing companies allow themselves to be used to carry misinformation to the American public, while neglecting to print the truths. Honest money principles are understandable to every one when the money subject is presented in its true light."

"America will remain in a deplorable condition only so long as the "Let George do it" attitude continues."

"Americans must bestir themselves to eliminate the causes of this business depression and social disorder, and restore prosperity and opportunities to the American people. Loyal Americans realize that the possession of knowledge carries with it the responsibility of dissemination."

"It required the assistance of every loyal American to help win the World War. In my opinion, the American people have more at stake today than they had at the time of the World War, not that I at all deprecate the glorious services rendered by men in uniform. But I believe the future of our nation and the principles for which it has stood, were less in jeopardy then than they are today. It is not necessary that you make the sacrifices you made at the time of the World War, but the cooperation of every one in this important educational program is absolutely necessary."

"The solution of the problem to protect our homes does not rest with a few leaders in a distant city. It is necessary that every man and woman appoint himself and herself a leader. Honest Money Groups must be formed in every block, in every precinct throughout the United States, and in every rural community. The rural community centers and schoolhouses can be most profitably employed this winter in showing the American farmers how simply they can solve all of their own problems. Their grave troubles have been caused not by overproduction, but by money manipulations frequently executed upon foreign advice and to harmonize with foreign "policies." The result has been the extraction of dollars of a distorted purchasing power from the American farmer. Collecting dollars of such unfair purchasing power has deprived many American farmers of their homes, and all farmers of their share in the industrial products which this nation is so well equipped to manufacture and distribute."

"The principal reason for endorsing this book is that I feel it is an intelligent vehicle for the dissemination of the truths which must be understood in every home and crystallized into legislation as quickly as possible."

Robert L. Owen,

New York City,

October 29, 1934.

From the forward of "Money Creators" by Gertrude Coogan http://www.archive.org/stream/MoneyCreators/Coogan-MoneyCreators-WhoCreatesMoney-WhoShouldCreateIt1935_djvu.txt

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

Senator Nelson Aldrich, the maternal grandfather of the Rockefeller brothers, had been instrumental in the writing of the Payne-Aldrich Tariff Act for lowering tariffs in April of 1909 while at the same time being instrumental in the writing of the income tax amendment in June of 1909. Just a year before in 1908 in response to the Panic of 1907, he had been responsible for the passage of the Aldrich–Vreeland Act which had established the National Monetary Commission leading to the Aldrich Plan and the Federal Reserve System mainly based upon the central banking designs of Paul Warburg that had been published in 1906 and discussed in secret at the Jekyll Island Club in 1911 where both Aldrich and J. P. Morgan had been members. By having published rumors that the Knickerbocker Trust Company had become insolvent in 1907, J. P. Morgan is thought by some historians to have engaged in a deliberate act of market manipulation that had precipitated the 1907 panic to consolidate the banks controlled by Morgan.

The Pujo Committee Report concluded in 1913 that a community of influential financial leaders had gained control of major manufacturing, transportation, mining, telecommunications and financial markets of the United States. The report revealed that no less than eighteen different major financial corporations were under control of a cartel led by J.P Morgan, George F Baker and James Stillman. These three men, through the resources of seven banks and trust companies (Banker’s Trust Co., Guaranty Trust Co., Astor Trust Co., National Bank of Commerce, Liberty National Bank, Chase National Bank, Farmer’s Loan and Trust Co.) controlled an estimated $2.1 billion. The report revealed that a handful of men held manipulative control of the New York Stock Exchange and attempted to evade interstate trade laws.

The Pujo Report singled out individual bankers including Paul Warburg, Jacob H. Schiff, Felix M. Warburg, Frank E. Peabody, William Rockefeller and Benjamin Strong, Jr.. The report identified over $22 billion in resources and capitalization controlled through 341 directorships held in 112 corporations by members of the empire headed by J.P. Morgan.


[-] 3 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago

"The shareholders of every Federal reserve bank shall be held individually responsible, equally and rateably, and not one for another, for all contracts, debts, and engagements of such bank to the extent of the amount of their subscriptions to such stock at the par value thereof in addition to the amount subscribed, whether such subscriptions have been paid up in whole or in part, under the provisions of this Act."

"Stock not held by member banks shall not be entitled to voting power."

"No Senator or Representative in Congress shall be a member of the Federal Reserve Board or an officer or a director of a Federal reserve bank."

"The capital stock of each Federal reserve bank shall be divided into shares of $100 each. The outstanding capital stock shall be increased from time to time as member banks increase their capital stock and surplus or as additional banks become members, and may bo decreased as member banks reduce their capital stock or surplus or cease to be members. Shares of the capital stock of Federal reserve banks owned by member banks shall not be transferred or hypothecated."

"After all necessary expenses of a Federal reserve bank have been paid or provided for, the stockholders shall be entitled to receive an annual dividend of six per centum on the paid-in capital stock, which dividend shall be cumulative. After the aforesaid dividend claims have been fully met, all the net earnings shall be paid to the United States as a franchise tax, except that one-half of such net earnings shall be paid into a surplus fund until it shall amount to forty per centum of the paid-in capital stock of such bank."

"The net earnings derived by the United States from Federal reserve banks shall, in the discretion of the Secretary, be used to supplement the gold reserve held against outstanding United States notes, or shall be applied to the reduction of the outstanding bonded indebtedness of the United States under regulations to be prescribed by the Secretary of the Treasury. Should a Federal reserve bank be dissolved or go into liquidation, any surplus remaining, after the payment of all debts, dividend requirements as hereinbefore provided, and the par value of the stock, shall be paid to and become the property of the United States and shall be similarly applied."

"Federal reserve banks, including the capital stock and surplus therein and the income derived therefrom shall be exempt from federal state, and local taxation, except taxes upon real estate."

"The Federal Reserve Board shall have power to levy semiannually upon the Federal reserve banks, in proportion to their capital stock and surplus, an assessment sufficient to pay its estimated expenses and the salaries of its members and employees for the half year succeeding the levying of such assessment, together with any deficit carried forward from the preceding half year."


Examining the organization and function of the Federal Reserve Banks, and applying the relevant factors, we conclude that the Reserve Banks are not federal instrumentalities for purposes of the FTCA, but are independent, privately owned and locally controlled corporations.

6 Each Federal Reserve Bank is a separate corporation owned by commercial banks in its region. The stockholding commercial banks elect two thirds of each Bank's nine member board of directors. The remaining three directors are appointed by the Federal Reserve Board. The Federal Reserve Board regulates the Reserve Banks, but direct supervision and control of each Bank is exercised by its board of directors. 12 U.S.C. § 301. The directors enact by-laws regulating the manner of conducting general Bank business, 12 U.S.C. § 341, and appoint officers to implement and supervise daily Bank activities. These activities include collecting and clearing checks, making advances to private and commercial entities, holding reserves for member banks, discounting the notes of member banks, and buying and selling securities on the open market. See 12 U.S.C. §§ 341-361.

7 Each Bank is statutorily empowered to conduct these activities without day to day direction from the federal government. Thus, for example, the interest rates on advances to member banks, individuals, partnerships, and corporations are set by each Reserve Bank and their decisions regarding the purchase and sale of securities are likewise independently made.

8 It is evident from the legislative history of the Federal Reserve Act that Congress did not intend to give the federal government direction over the daily operation of the Reserve Banks:

9 It is proposed that the Government shall retain sufficient power over the reserve banks to enable it to exercise a direct authority when necessary to do so, but that it shall in no way attempt to carry on through its own mechanism the routine operations and banking which require detailed knowledge of local and individual credit and which determine the funds of the community in any given instance. In other words, the reserve-bank plan retains to the Government power over the exercise of the broader banking functions, while it leaves to individuals and privately owned institutions the actual direction of routine.

10 H.R. Report No. 69, 63 Cong. 1st Sess. 18-19 (1913).

11 The fact that the Federal Reserve Board regulates the Reserve Banks does not make them federal agencies under the Act. In United States v. Orleans, 425 U.S. 807, 96 S.Ct. 1971, 48 L.Ed.2d 390 (1976), the Supreme Court held that a community action agency was not a federal agency or instrumentality for purposes of the Act, even though the agency was organized under federal regulations and heavily funded by the federal government. Because the agency's day to day operation was not supervised by the federal government, but by local officials, the Court refused to extend federal tort liability for the negligence of the agency's employees. Similarly, the Federal Reserve Banks, though heavily regulated, are locally controlled by their member banks. Unlike typical federal agencies, each bank is empowered to hire and fire employees at will. Bank employees do not participate in the Civil Service Retirement System. They are covered by worker's compensation insurance, purchased by the Bank, rather than the Federal Employees Compensation Act. Employees traveling on Bank business are not subject to federal travel regulations and do not receive government employee discounts on lodging and services.

12 The Banks are listed neither as "wholly owned" government corporations under 31 U.S.C. § 846 nor as "mixed ownership" corporations under 31 U.S.C. § 856, a factor considered in Pearl v. United States, 230 F.2d 243 (10th Cir. 1956), which held that the Civil Air Patrol is not a federal agency under the Act. Closely resembling the status of the Federal Reserve Bank, the Civil Air Patrol is a non-profit, federally chartered corporation organized to serve the public welfare. But because Congress' control over the Civil Air Patrol is limited and the corporation is not designated as a wholly owned or mixed ownership government corporation under 31 U.S.C. §§ 846 and 856, the court concluded that the corporation is a non-governmental, independent entity, not covered under the Act.

13 Additionally, Reserve Banks, as privately owned entities, receive no appropriated funds from Congress. Cf. Goddard v. District of Columbia Redevelopment Land Agency, 287 F.2d 343, 345 (D.C.Cir.1961), cert. denied, 366 U.S. 910, 81 S.Ct. 1085, 6 L.Ed.2d 235 (1961) (court held land redevelopment agency was federal agency for purposes of the Act in large part because agency received direct appropriated funds from Congress.)

14 Finally, the Banks are empowered to sue and be sued in their own name. 12 U.S.C. § 341. They carry their own liability insurance and typically process and handle their own claims. In the past, the Banks have defended against tort claims directly, through private counsel, not government attorneys, e.g., Banco De Espana v. Federal Reserve Bank of New York, 114 F.2d 438 (2d Cir. 1940); Huntington Towers v. Franklin National Bank, 559 F.2d 863 (2d Cir. 1977); Bollow v. Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, 650 F.2d 1093 (9th Cir. 1981), and they have never been required to settle tort claims under the administrative procedure of 28 U.S.C. § 2672. The waiver of sovereign immunity contained in the Act would therefore appear to be inapposite to the Banks who have not historically claimed or received general immunity from judicial process.

Lewis v. United States


[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 9 years ago



88th Congress, 2d Session

September 21, 1964

The Federal Reserve was established as a public agency. But private banks were given control of the 12 regional Federal Reserve banks that is, they were given the privilege of electing six directors of each bank, and these directors—a 2/3 majority—in turn, selected the presidents and other chief officers of the bank.

In practice the Federal Reserve is “independent” in its policymaking. The Federal Reserve neither requires nor seeks the approval of any branch of Government for its policies. The System itself decides what ends its policies are aimed at and then takes whatever action it sees fit to reach those ends.

Since the Federal Reserve is independent it is not accountable to anyone for the economic policies it chooses to pursue. But this runs counter to normally accepted democratic principles. The President and Congress are responsible to the people on election day for their past economic decisions. But the Federal Reserve is responsible, neither to the people directly nor indirectly through the people’s elected representatives. Yet the Federal Reserve exercises great power in controlling the money-creating activities of the commercial banks.

with an “independent” Federal Reserve, Congress and the President can be moving in one direction while the Federal Reserve is moving in the other. The result is sometimes no policy at all. At other times, it leads to the Federal Reserve’s neutralizing the President’s economic policies. This very possibility caused President Johnson to request the Federal Reserve in his 1964 Annual Economic Report to Congress not to nullify his efforts to reduce unemployment and raise incomes. Should the President have to ask any Government agency to go along with his policy as approved by Congress? Obviously not.

The President is elected by the people. During his campaign for election the President normaly advocates some economic policy. The economic issues weigh heavily in the campaign. Why then should the President find himself faced with an independent Federal Reserve Board which may not agree or may even try to nullify the policies he wishes to pursue? The President should be able to fashion a total package of economic policies, including monetary ones, as he sees fit. The money authorities should have the right and duty to counsel and advise. But they should not have the power, as they do when they are independent, to nullify the intended effects of the President‘s programs.

There are two sides to independence—one is economic, the other political. On the economic side, independence means that the Federal Reserve formulates and executes economic policy, using its monetary controls, without any necessary reference or coordination with the policies being followed by the other branches of the Government. This, of course, invites clashes between the Federal Reserve and other parts of the Government. Clashes have occurred, with sad results for all. On the political side, independence means that the Federal Reserve is not accountable to anyone for its actions. As the situation now stands, there is no mechanism by which the Federal Reserve can be made to change a policy it has chosen to follow. The members of the Federal Reserve do not come up for election as do Members of Congress or the President. Though an arm of Congress, the Federal Reserve is not responsible to it. The Federal Reserve does not present an annual report to Congress nor does Congress review the system’s actions as a normal part of its business. The Congressional power of the purse—the historic source of the legislatures power—does not apply to the Federal Reserve, which provides its own revenue. The System is not even subject to audit control of the General Accounting Office. Finally, the President, though he may select one or two of the members of the Federal Reserve Board, appoints them for 14-year terms. In the normal course of events, these men cannot be removed from office and because of their long tenures they do not reflect any single President’s ideas.

The private banks who control the System, together with some allies—notably, Wall Street newspapers and other members of the financial community favor Federal Reserve independence.

Of the 12 members of the Open Market Committee—the Committee which actually controls credit policy—5 are presidents of regional banks. These presidents are elected by the individual regional banks’ nine-man board of directors with its preponderance of private commercial bank representatives. Further, all 12 of the regional bank presidents participate an the Open Market Committee’s discussions, though only 5 can vote. The “discussion” Open Market Committee, then, has 19 members—12 regional bank presidents and the 7 members of the Federal Reserve Board.

when the System was originally founded a struggle was waged over who would control the Federal Reserve—public or private interest. The solution was a compromise. But what (in 1913) was the master switch governing the money Supply—the discount rate—was left in the hands of a totally public body—the Federal Reserve Board in Washington. This was a deliberate act. President Wilson rejected the notion of diluting the public nature of the Board when he said, “Which one of you gentleman would have me select the presidents of railroads to be on the Interstate Commerce Commission to fix passenger rates and freight rates?” But when Congress in 1933 and 1935 authorized the Open Market Committee, which in effect succeeded to the policymaking role of the Board, it gave private interests a firm foothold in determining monetary policy—the money supply and the general level of interest rates. Five of the twelve voting members of the Open Market Committee are regional bank presidents. These men hold their offices through the votes of bank directors, two-thirds of whom are elected by private bankers. The other seven bank presidents, of course, participate in the discussions of the Open Market Committee. The upshot is that men whose views must meet the test of the private bank-selected directors help determine the Government’s monetary policy. A purely public group has given way to a mixed body with questionable qualifications to represent the public interest.

All members of the Committee should be public servants. There is absolutely no reason why they should not be. Private influences—especially private bank influences—have no place in setting the Nation’s monetary policies.

No law or regulation specifies how much of the Federal Reserve’s earnings must be returned to the Treasury, but in practice the Federal Reserve spends all of the income it cares to spend, pays dividends to member banks on their “stock” and sets aside a large amount as “surplus.” The remainder is then returned to the Treasury. It usually returns an amount several times the amount of its expenses.

In recent years the Federal Reserve has, regrettably, followed a policy which has given away billions to the private banks. It has done this by increasing the money supply largely through lowering bank reserve requirements. The Federal Reserve could have provided part of the increase in the money supply itself by purchasing Government securities. But it did not choose to do so.

In the early part of 1958, the Federal Reserve lowered reserve requirements in order to let private banks increase the money supply by a maximum of $10 billion. The purpose of reducing reserve requirements was to make more funds available for loans to business. The banks, instead, used the new “excess” reserves to acquire $10 billion of interest-bearing U.S. Government securities. This is an example of a giveaway”—Where the Federal Reserve should have purchased Government securities instead of letting private banks do it—to the advantage of their profits and to the disadvantage of the taxpayers.

the bond giveaway bill was a bill sponsored by the American Bankers’ Association, introduced in Congress in 1959. Its purpose was to transfer $108 billion of Government securities from the Federal Reserve to private bankers. The goal was to reduce “enormous” Federal Reserve holdings of Government securities—and transfer them, and their interest income, to private firms. The mechanism was to permit banks to count vault cash as reserves, and use the “excess” reserves thereby created to buy bonds from the Federal Reserve. The bill was passed into law only after the House stated its firm opposition to the give that the new away sections of the bill, and expressed the hope “excess” reserves would be used to expand business loans.

The reward for buying bonds with money that private banks create is the “subsidized” profits they enjoy.

the “burden” of U.S. Government bonds, held by the private banking system is the heavy bond interest payments, borne by the taxpayers, that go to private bankers when the same amount of money could be created by an agency of Government . Then the taxpayers would not bear this tremendous cost on Government bonds purchased with reserves given to the private bankers.

It is the Federal Reserve Bank of New York that carries out sales of bonds and bills for the Treasury. The manager of this account acts as agent for the Treasury, the Federal Open Market Committee and seven foreign banks.

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York conducts these transactions as agent for the entire system.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 10 years ago

"A great industrial nation is controlled by its system of credit. Our system of credit is concentrated. The growth of the Nation, therefore, and all our activities are in the hands of a few men... We have come to be one of the worst ruled, one of the most completely controlled and dominated, governments in the civilized world—no longer a government by free opinion, no longer a government by conviction and the vote of the majority, but a government by the opinion and the duress of small groups of dominant men."

Woodrow Wilson in 1916 as quoted by former Senator Robert L. Owen (the Father of the Federal Reserve Act) in "National Economy and the Banking System," Senate Documents No. 23, p. 100, 76th Congress, 1st Session, 1939. http://ia700500.us.archive.org/11/items/NationalEconomyAndTheBankingSystemOfTheUnitedStates/NationalEconomyAndTheBankingSystem.pdf

[-] 2 points by gnomunny (6819) from St Louis, MO 9 years ago

It's interesting that Wilson's quote is as true, if not more so, today than it was when he first spoke it almost 90 years ago.

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 10 years ago

"We may congratulate ourselves that this cruel war is nearing its end. It has cost a vast amount of treasure and blood. . . . It has indeed been a trying hour for the Republic; but I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. As a result of the war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed. I feel at this moment more anxiety for the safety of my country than ever before, even in the midst of war. God grant that my suspicions may prove groundless."

Abraham Lincoln in a letter to Col. William F. Elkins dated November 21, 1864

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 10 years ago

President Jackson's Veto Message Regarding the Bank of the United States; July 10, 1832


WASHINGTON, July 10, 1832.

To the Senate.

The bill " to modify and continue " the act entitled "An act to incorporate the subscribers to the Bank of the United States " was presented to me on the 4th July instant. Having considered it with that solemn regard to the principles of the Constitution which the day was calculated to inspire, and come to the conclusion that it ought not to become a law, I herewith return it to the Senate, in which it originated, with my objections.

A bank of the United States is in many respects convenient for the Government and useful to the people. Entertaining this opinion, and deeply impressed with the belief that some of the powers and privileges possessed by the existing bank are unauthorized by the Constitution, subversive of the rights of the States, and dangerous to the liberties of the people, I felt it my duty at an early period of my Administration to call the attention of Congress to the practicability of organizing an institution combining all its advantages and obviating these objections. I sincerely regret that in the act before me I can perceive none of those modifications of the bank charter which are necessary, in my opinion, to make it compatible with justice, with sound policy, or with the Constitution of our country.

The present corporate body, denominated the president, directors, and company of the Bank of the United States, will have existed at the time this act is intended to take effect twenty years. It enjoys an exclusive privilege of banking under the authority of the General Government, a monopoly of its favor and support, and, as a necessary consequence, almost a monopoly of the foreign and domestic exchange. The powers, privileges, and favors bestowed upon it in the original charter, by increasing the value of the stock far above its par value, operated as a gratuity of many millions to the stockholders.

An apology may be found for the failure to guard against this result in the consideration that the effect of the original act of incorporation could not be certainly foreseen at the time of its passage. The act before me proposes another gratuity to the holders of the same stock, and in many cases to the same men, of at least seven millions more. This donation finds no apology in any uncertainty as to the effect of the act. On all hands it is conceded that its passage will increase at least so or 30 per cent more the market price of the stock, subject to the payment of the annuity of $200,000 per year secured by the act, thus adding in a moment one-fourth to its par value. It is not our own citizens only who are to receive the bounty of our Government. More than eight millions of the stock of this bank are held by foreigners. By this act the American Republic proposes virtually to make them a present of some millions of dollars. For these gratuities to foreigners and to some of our own opulent citizens the act secures no equivalent whatever. They are the certain gains of the present stockholders under the operation of this act, after making full allowance for the payment of the bonus.

Every monopoly and all exclusive privileges are granted at the expense of the public, which ought to receive a fair equivalent. The many millions which this act proposes to bestow on the stockholders of the existing bank must come directly or indirectly out of the earnings of the American people. It is due to them, therefore, if their Government sell monopolies and exclusive privileges, that they should at least exact for them as much as they are worth in open market. The value of the monopoly in this case may be correctly ascertained. The twenty-eight millions of stock would probably be at an advance of 50 per cent, and command in market at least $42,000,000, subject to the payment of the present bonus. The present value of the monopoly, therefore, is $17,000,000, and this the act proposes to sell for three millions, payable in fifteen annual installments of $200,000 each.

It is not conceivable how the present stockholders can have any claim to the special favor of the Government. The present corporation has enjoyed its monopoly during the period stipulated in the original contract. If we must have such a corporation, why should not the Government sell out the whole stock and thus secure to the people the full market value of the privileges granted? Why should not Congress create and sell twenty-eight millions of stock, incorporating the purchasers with all the powers and privileges secured in this act and putting the premium upon the sales into the Treasury?

But this act does not permit competition in the purchase of this monopoly. It seems to be predicated on the erroneous idea that the present stockholders have a prescriptive right not only to the favor but to the bounty of Government. It appears that more than a fourth part of the stock is held by foreigners and the residue is held by a few hundred of our own citizens, chiefly of the richest class. For their benefit does this act exclude the whole American people from competition in the purchase of this monopoly and dispose of it for many millions less than it is worth. This seems the less excusable because some of our citizens not now stockholders petitioned that the door of competition might be opened, and offered to take a charter on terms much more favorable to the Government and country.

But this proposition, although made by men whose aggregate wealth is believed to be equal to all the private stock in the existing bank, has been set aside, and the bounty of our Government is proposed to be again bestowed on the few who have been fortunate enough to secure the stock and at this moment wield the power of the existing institution. I can not perceive the justice or policy of this course. If our Government must sell monopolies, it would seem to be its duty to take nothing less than their full value, and if gratuities must be made once in fifteen or twenty years let them not be bestowed on the subjects of a foreign government nor upon a designated and favored class of men in our own country. It is but justice and good policy, as far as the nature of the case will admit, to confine our favors to our own fellow-citizens, and let each in his turn enjoy an opportunity to profit by our bounty. In the bearings of the act before me upon these points I find ample reasons why it should not become a law.

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 10 years ago

It has been urged as an argument in favor of rechartering the present bank that the calling in its loans will produce great embarrassment and distress. The time allowed to close its concerns is ample, and if it has been well managed its pressure will be light, and heavy only in case its management has been bad. If, therefore, it shall produce distress, the fault will be its own, and it would furnish a reason against renewing a power which has been so obviously abused. But will there ever be a time when this reason will be less powerful? To acknowledge its force is to admit that the bank ought to be perpetual, and as a consequence the present stockholders and those inheriting their rights as successors be established a privileged order, clothed both with great political power and enjoying immense pecuniary advantages from their connection with the Government.

The modifications of the existing charter proposed by this act are not such, in my view, as make it consistent with the rights of the States or the liberties of the people. The qualification of the right of the bank to hold real estate, the limitation of its power to establish branches, and the power reserved to Congress to forbid the circulation of small notes are restrictions comparatively of little value or importance. All the objectionable principles of the existing corporation, and most of its odious features, are retained without alleviation.

The fourth section provides " that the notes or bills of the said corporation, although the same be, on the faces thereof, respectively made payable at one place only, shall nevertheless be received by the said corporation at the bank or at any of the offices of discount and deposit thereof if tendered in liquidation or payment of any balance or balances due to said corporation or to such office of discount and deposit from any other incorporated bank." This provision secures to the State banks a legal privilege in the Bank of the United States which is withheld from all private citizens. If a State bank in Philadelphia owe the Bank of the United States and have notes issued by the St. Louis branch, it can pay the debt with those notes, but if a merchant, mechanic, or other private citizen be in like circumstances he can not by law pay his debt with those notes, but must sell them at a discount or send them to St. Louis to be cashed. This boon conceded to the State banks, though not unjust in itself, is most odious because it does not measure out equal justice to the high and the low, the rich and the poor. To the extent of its practical effect it is a bond of union among the banking establishments of the nation, erecting them into an interest separate from that of the people, and its necessary tendency is to unite the Bank of the United States and the State banks in any measure which may be thought conducive to their common interest.

The ninth section of the act recognizes principles of worse tendency than any provision of the present charter.

It enacts that " the cashier of the bank shall annually report to the Secretary of the Treasury the names of all stockholders who are not resident citizens of the United States, and on the application of the treasurer of any State shall make out and transmit to such treasurer a list of stockholders residing in or citizens of such State, with the amount of stock owned by each." Although this provision, taken in connection with a decision of the Supreme Court, surrenders, by its silence, the right of the States to tax the banking institutions created by this corporation under the name of branches throughout the Union, it is evidently intended to be construed as a concession of their right to tax that portion of the stock which may be held by their own citizens and residents. In this light, if the act becomes a law, it will be understood by the States, who will probably proceed to levy a tax equal to that paid upon the stock of banks incorporated by themselves. In some States that tax is now I per cent, either on the capital or on the shares, and that may be assumed as the amount which all citizen or resident stockholders would be taxed under the operation of this act. As it is only the stock held in the States and not that employed within them which would be subject to taxation, and as the names of foreign stockholders are not to be reported to the treasurers of the States, it is obvious that the stock held by them will be exempt from this burden. Their annual profits will therefore be I per cent more than the citizen stockholders, and as the annual dividends of the bank may be safely estimated at 7 per cent, the stock will be worth 10 or 15 per cent more to foreigners than to citizens of the United States. To appreciate the effects which this state of things will produce, we must take a brief review of the operations and present condition of the Bank of the United States.

By documents submitted to Congress at the present session it appears that on the 1st of January, 1832, of the twenty-eight millions of private stock in the corporation, $8,405,500 were held by foreigners, mostly of Great Britain. The amount of stock held in the nine Western and Southwestern States is $140,200, and in the four Southern States is $5,623,100, and in the Middle and Eastern States is about $13,522,000. The profits of the bank in 1831, as shown in a statement to Congress, were about $3,455,598; of this there accrued in the nine western States about $1,640,048; in the four Southern States about $352,507, and in the Middle and Eastern States about $1,463,041. As little stock is held in the West, it is obvious that the debt of the people in that section to the bank is principally a debt to the Eastern and foreign stockholders; that the interest they pay upon it is carried into the Eastern States and into Europe, and that it is a burden upon their industry and a drain of their currency, which no country can bear without inconvenience and occasional distress. To meet this burden and equalize the exchange operations of the bank, the amount of specie drawn from those States through its branches within the last two years, as shown by its official reports, was about $6,000,000. More than half a million of this amount does not stop in the Eastern States, but passes on to Europe to pay the dividends of the foreign stockholders. In the principle of taxation recognized by this act the Western States find no adequate compensation for this perpetual burden on their industry and drain of their currency. The branch bank at Mobile made last year $95,140, yet under the provisions of this act the State of Alabama can raise no revenue from these profitable operations, because not a share of the stock is held by any of her citizens. Mississippi and Missouri are in the same condition in relation to the branches at Natchez and St. Louis, and such, in a greater or less degree, is the condition of every Western State. The tendency of the plan of taxation which this act proposes will be to place the whole United States in the same relation to foreign countries which the Western States now bear to the Eastern. When by a tax on resident stockholders the stock of this bank is made worth 10 or 15 per cent more to foreigners than to residents, most of it will inevitably leave the country.

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 10 years ago

Thus will this provision in its practical effect deprive the Eastern as well as the Southern and Western States of the means of raising a revenue from the extension of business and great profits of this institution. It will make the American people debtors to aliens in nearly the whole amount due to this bank, and send across the Atlantic from two to five millions of specie every year to pay the bank dividends.

In another of its bearings this provision is fraught with danger. Of the twenty-five directors of this bank five are chosen by the Government and twenty by the citizen stockholders. From all voice in these elections the foreign stockholders are excluded by the charter. In proportion, therefore, as the stock is transferred to foreign holders the extent of suffrage in the choice of directors is curtailed. Already is almost a third of the stock in foreign hands and not represented in elections. It is constantly passing out of the country, and this act will accelerate its departure. The entire control of the institution would necessarily fall into the hands of a few citizen stockholders, and the ease with which the object would be accomplished would be a temptation to designing men to secure that control in their own hands by monopolizing the remaining stock. There is danger that a president and directors would then be able to elect themselves from year to year, and without responsibility or control manage the whole concerns of the bank during the existence of its charter. It is easy to conceive that great evils to our country and its institutions millet flow from such a concentration of power in the hands of a few men irresponsible to the people.

Is there no danger to our liberty and independence in a bank that in its nature has so little to bind it to our country? The president of the bank has told us that most of the State banks exist by its forbearance. Should its influence become concentered, as it may under the operation of such an act as this, in the hands of a self-elected directory whose interests are identified with those of the foreign stockholders, will there not be cause to tremble for the purity of our elections in peace and for the independence of our country in war? Their power would be great whenever they might choose to exert it; but if this monopoly were regularly renewed every fifteen or twenty years on terms proposed by themselves, they might seldom in peace put forth their strength to influence elections or control the affairs of the nation. But if any private citizen or public functionary should interpose to curtail its powers or prevent a renewal of its privileges, it can not be doubted that he would be made to feel its influence.

Should the stock of the bank principally pass into the hands of the subjects of a foreign country, and we should unfortunately become involved in a war with that country, what would be our condition? Of the course which would be pursued by a bank almost wholly owned by the subjects of a foreign power, and managed by those whose interests, if not affections, would run in the same direction there can be no doubt. All its operations within would be in aid of the hostile fleets and armies without. Controlling our currency, receiving our public moneys, and holding thousands of our citizens in dependence, it would be more formidable and dangerous than the naval and military power of the enemy.

If we must have a bank with private stockholders, every consideration of sound policy and every impulse of American feeling admonishes that it should be purely American. Its stockholders should be composed exclusively of our own citizens, who at least ought to be friendly to our Government and willing to support it in times of difficulty and danger. So abundant is domestic capital that competition in subscribing for the stock of local banks has recently led almost to riots. To a bank exclusively of American stockholders, possessing the powers and privileges granted by this act, subscriptions for $200,000,000 could be readily obtained. Instead of sending abroad the stock of the bank in which the Government must deposit its funds and on which it must rely to sustain its credit in times of emergency, it would rather seem to be expedient to prohibit its sale to aliens under penalty of absolute forfeiture.

It is maintained by the advocates of the bank that its constitutionality in all its features ought to be considered as settled by precedent and by the decision of the Supreme Court. To this conclusion I can not assent. Mere precedent is a dangerous source of authority, and should not be regarded as deciding questions of constitutional power except where the acquiescence of the people and the States can be considered as well settled. So far from this being the case on this subject, an argument against the bank might be based on precedent. One Congress, in 1791, decided in favor of a bank; another, in 1811, decided against it. One Congress, in 1815, decided against a bank; another, in 1816, decided in its favor. Prior to the present Congress, therefore, the precedents drawn from that source were equal. If we resort to the States, the expressions of legislative, judicial, and executive opinions against the bank have been probably to those in its favor as 4 to 1. There is nothing in precedent, therefore, which, if its authority were admitted, ought to weigh in favor of the act before me.

If the opinion of the Supreme Court covered the whole ground of this act, it ought not to control the coordinate authorities of this Government. The Congress, the Executive, and the Court must each for itself be guided by its own opinion of the Constitution. Each public officer who takes an oath to support the Constitution swears that he will support it as he understands it, and not as it is understood by others. It is as much the duty of the House of Representatives, of the Senate, and of the President to decide upon the constitutionality of any bill or resolution which may be presented to them for passage or approval as it is of the supreme judges when it may be brought before them for judicial decision. The opinion of the judges has no more authority over Congress than the opinion of Congress has over the judges, and on that point the President is independent of both. The authority of the Supreme Court must not, therefore, be permitted to control the Congress or the Executive when acting in their legislative capacities, but to have only such influence as the force of their reasoning may deserve.

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 10 years ago

But in the case relied upon the Supreme Court have not decided that all the features of this corporation are compatible with the Constitution. It is true that the court have said that the law incorporating the bank is a constitutional exercise of power by Congress; but taking into view the whole opinion of the court and the reasoning by which they have come to that conclusion, I understand them to have decided that inasmuch as a bank is an appropriate means for carrying into effect the enumerated powers of the General Government, therefore the law incorporating it is in accordance with that provision of the Constitution which declares that Congress shall have power " to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying those powers into execution. " Having satisfied themselves that the word "necessary" in the Constitution means needful," "requisite," "essential," "conducive to," and that "a bank" is a convenient, a useful, and essential instrument in the prosecution of the Government's "fiscal operations," they conclude that to "use one must be within the discretion of Congress " and that " the act to incorporate the Bank of the United States is a law made in pursuance of the Constitution;" "but, " say they, "where the law is not prohibited and is really calculated to effect any of the objects intrusted to the Government, to undertake here to inquire into the degree of its necessity would be to pass the line which circumscribes the judicial department and to tread on legislative ground."

The principle here affirmed is that the "degree of its necessity," involving all the details of a banking institution, is a question exclusively for legislative consideration. A bank is constitutional, but it is the province of the Legislature to determine whether this or that particular power, privilege, or exemption is "necessary and proper" to enable the bank to discharge its duties to the Government, and from their decision there is no appeal to the courts of justice. Under the decision of the Supreme Court, therefore, it is the exclusive province of Congress and the President to decide whether the particular features of this act are necessary and proper in order to enable the bank to perform conveniently and efficiently the public duties assigned to it as a fiscal agent, and therefore constitutional, or unnecessary and improper, and therefore unconstitutional.

Without commenting on the general principle affirmed by the Supreme Court, let us examine the details of this act in accordance with the rule of legislative action which they have laid down. It will be found that many of the powers and privileges conferred on it can not be supposed necessary for the purpose for which it is proposed to be created, and are not, therefore, means necessary to attain the end in view, and consequently not justified by the Constitution.

The original act of incorporation, section 2I, enacts "that no other bank shall be established by any future law of the United States during the continuance of the corporation hereby created, for which the faith of the United States is hereby pledged: Provided, Congress may renew existing charters for banks within the District of Columbia not increasing the capital thereof, and may also establish any other bank or banks in said District with capitals not exceeding in the whole $6,000,000 if they shall deem it expedient." This provision is continued in force by the act before me fifteen years from the ad of March, 1836.

If Congress possessed the power to establish one bank, they had power to establish more than one if in their opinion two or more banks had been " necessary " to facilitate the execution of the powers delegated to them in the Constitution. If they possessed the power to establish a second bank, it was a power derived from the Constitution to be exercised from time to time, and at any time when the interests of the country or the emergencies of the Government might make it expedient. It was possessed by one Congress as well as another, and by all Congresses alike, and alike at every session. But the Congress of 1816 have taken it away from their successors for twenty years, and the Congress of 1832 proposes to abolish it for fifteen years more. It can not be "necessary" or "proper" for Congress to barter away or divest themselves of any of the powers-vested in them by the Constitution to be exercised for the public good. It is not " necessary " to the efficiency of the bank, nor is it "proper'' in relation to themselves and their successors. They may properly use the discretion vested in them, but they may not limit the discretion of their successors. This restriction on themselves and grant of a monopoly to the bank is therefore unconstitutional.

In another point of view this provision is a palpable attempt to amend the Constitution by an act of legislation. The Constitution declares that "the Congress shall have power to exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever" over the District of Columbia. Its constitutional power, therefore, to establish banks in the District of Columbia and increase their capital at will is unlimited and uncontrollable by any other power than that which gave authority to the Constitution. Yet this act declares that Congress shall not increase the capital of existing banks, nor create other banks with capitals exceeding in the whole $6,000,000. The Constitution declares that Congress shall have power to exercise exclusive legislation over this District "in all cases whatsoever," and this act declares they shall not. Which is the supreme law of the land? This provision can not be "necessary" or "proper" or constitutional unless the absurdity be admitted that whenever it be "necessary and proper " in the opinion of Congress they have a right to barter away one portion of the powers vested in them by the Constitution as a means of executing the rest.

On two subjects only does the Constitution recognize in Congress the power to grant exclusive privileges or monopolies. It declares that "Congress shall have power to promote the progress of science and useful arts by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries." Out of this express delegation of power have grown our laws of patents and copyrights. As the Constitution expressly delegates to Congress the power to grant exclusive privileges in these cases as the means of executing the substantive power " to promote the progress of science and useful arts," it is consistent with the fair rules of construction to conclude that such a power was not intended to be granted as a means of accomplishing any other end. On every other subject which comes within the scope of Congressional power there is an ever-living discretion in the use of proper means, which can not be restricted or abolished without an amendment of the Constitution. Every act of Congress, therefore, which attempts by grants of monopolies or sale of exclusive privileges for a limited time, or a time without limit, to restrict or extinguish its own discretion in the choice of means to execute its delegated powers is equivalent to a legislative amendment of the Constitution, and palpably unconstitutional.

[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 10 years ago

This act authorizes and encourages transfers of its stock to foreigners and grants them an exemption from all State and national taxation. So far from being "necessary and proper" that the bank should possess this power to make it a safe and efficient agent of the Government in its fiscal operations, it is calculated to convert the Bank of the United States into a foreign bank, to impoverish our people in time of peace, to disseminate a foreign influence through every section of the Republic, and in war to endanger our independence.

The several States reserved the power at the formation of the Constitution to regulate and control titles and transfers of real property, and most, if not all, of them have laws disqualifying aliens from acquiring or holding lands within their limits. But this act, in disregard of the undoubted right of the States to prescribe such disqualifications, gives to aliens stockholders in this bank an interest and title, as members of the corporation, to all the real property it may acquire within any of the States of this Union. This privilege granted to aliens is not "necessary" to enable the bank to perform its public duties, nor in any sense "proper," because it is vitally subversive of the rights of the States.

The Government of the United States have no constitutional power to purchase lands within the States except "for the erection of forts, magazines, arsenals, dockyards, and other needful buildings," and even for these objects only "by the consent of the legislature of the State in which the same shall be." By making themselves stockholders in the bank and granting to the corporation the power to purchase lands for other purposes they assume a power not granted in the Constitution and grant to others what they do not themselves possess. It is not necessary to the receiving, safe-keeping, or transmission of the funds of the Government that the bank should possess this power, and it is not proper that Congress should thus enlarge the powers delegated to them in the Constitution.

The old Bank of the United States possessed a capital of only $11,000,000, which was found fully sufficient to enable it with dispatch and safety to perform all the functions required of it by the Government. The capital of the present bank is $35,000,000-at least twenty-four more than experience has proved to be necessary to enable a bank to perform its public functions. The public debt which existed during the period of the old bank and on the establishment of the new has been nearly paid off, and our revenue will soon be reduced. This increase of capital is therefore not for public but for private purposes.

The Government is the only "proper" judge where its agents should reside and keep their offices, because it best knows where their presence will be "necessary." It can not, therefore, be "necessary" or "proper" to authorize the bank to locate branches where it pleases to perform the public service, without consulting the Government, and contrary to its will. The principle laid down by the Supreme Court concedes that Congress can not establish a bank for purposes of private speculation and gain, but only as a means of executing the delegated powers of the General Government. By the same principle a branch bank can not constitutionally be established for other than public purposes. The power which this act gives to establish two branches in any State, without the injunction or request of the Government and for other than public purposes, is not "necessary" to the due execution of the powers delegated to Congress.

The bonus which is exacted from the bank is a confession upon the face of the act that the powers granted by it are greater than are "necessary" to its character of a fiscal agent. The Government does not tax its officers and agents for the privilege of serving it. The bonus of a million and a half required by the original charter and that of three millions proposed by this act are not exacted for the privilege of giving "the necessary facilities for transferring the public funds from place to place within the United States or the Territories thereof, and for distributing the same in payment of the public creditors without charging commission or claiming allowance on account of the difference of exchange," as required by the act of incorporation, but for something more beneficial to the stockholders. The original act declares that it (the bonus) is granted " in consideration of the exclusive privileges and benefits conferred by this act upon the said bank, " and the act before me declares it to be "in consideration of the exclusive benefits and privileges continued by this act to the said corporation for fifteen years, as aforesaid." It is therefore for "exclusive privileges and benefits" conferred for their own use and emolument, and not for the advantage of the Government, that a bonus is exacted. These surplus powers for which the bank is required to pay can not surely be "necessary" to make it the fiscal agent of the Treasury. If they were, the exaction of a bonus for them would not be " proper."

It is maintained by some that the bank is a means of executing the constitutional power "to coin money and regulate the value thereof." Congress have established a mint to coin money and passed laws to regulate the value thereof. The money so coined, with its value so regulated, and such foreign coins as Congress may adopt are the only currency known to the Constitution. But if they have other power to regulate the currency, it was conferred to be exercised by themselves, and not to be transferred to a corporation. If the bank be established for that purpose, with a charter unalterable without its consent, Congress have parted with their power for a term of years, during which the Constitution is a dead letter. It is neither necessary nor proper to transfer its legislative power to such a bank, and therefore unconstitutional.

By its silence, considered in connection with the decision of the Supreme Court in the case of McCulloch against the State of Maryland, this act takes from the States the power to tax a portion of the banking business carried on within their limits, in subversion of one of the strongest barriers which secured them against Federal encroachments. Banking, like farming, manufacturing, or any other occupation or profession, is a business, the right to follow which is not originally derived from the laws. Every citizen and every company of citizens in all of our States possessed the right until the State legislatures deemed it good policy to prohibit private banking by law. If the prohibitory State laws were now repealed, every citizen would again possess the right. The State banks are a qualified restoration of the right which has been taken away by the laws against banking, guarded by such provisions and limitations as in the opinion of the State legislatures the public interest requires. These corporations, unless there be an exemption in their charter, are, like private bankers and banking companies, subject to State taxation. The manner in which these taxes shall be laid depends wholly on legislative discretion. It may be upon the bank, upon the stock, upon the profits, or in any other mode which the sovereign power shall will.

[-] 0 points by LeoYo (5909) 10 years ago

Upon the formation of the Constitution the States guarded their taxing power with peculiar jealousy. They surrendered it only as it regards imports and exports. In relation to every other object within their jurisdiction, whether persons, property, business, or professions, it was secured in as ample a manner as it was before possessed. All persons, though United States officers, are liable to a poll tax by the States within which they reside. The lands of the United States are liable to the usual land tax, except in the new States, from whom agreements that they will not tax unsold lands are exacted when they are admitted into the Union. Horses, wagons, any beasts or vehicles, tools, or property belonging to private citizens, though employed in the service of the United States, are subject to State taxation. Every private business, whether carried on by an officer of the General Government or not, whether it be mixed with public concerns or not, even if it be carried on by the Government of the United States itself, separately or in partnership, falls within the scope of the taxing power of the State. Nothing comes more fully within it than banks and the business of banking, by whomsoever instituted and carried on. Over this whole subject-matter it is just as absolute, unlimited, and uncontrollable as if the Constitution had never been adopted, because in the formation of that instrument it was reserved without qualification.

The principle is conceded that the States can not rightfully tax the operations of the General Government. They can not tax the money of the Government deposited in the State banks, nor the agency of those banks in remitting it; but will any man maintain that their mere selection to perform this public service for the General Government would exempt the State banks and their ordinary business from State taxation? Had the United States, instead of establishing a bank at Philadelphia, employed a private banker to keep and transmit their funds, would it have deprived Pennsylvania of the right to tax his bank and his usual banking operations? It will not be pretended. Upon what principal, then, are the banking establishments of the Bank of the United States and their usual banking operations to be exempted from taxation ? It is not their public agency or the deposits of the Government which the States claim a right to tax, but their banks and their banking powers, instituted and exercised within State jurisdiction for their private emolument-those powers and privileges for which they pay a bonus, and which the States tax in their own banks. The exercise of these powers within a State, no matter by whom or under what authority, whether by private citizens in their original right, by corporate bodies created by the States, by foreigners or the agents of foreign governments located within their limits, forms a legitimate object of State taxation. From this and like sources, from the persons, property, and business that are found residing, located, or carried on under their jurisdiction, must the States, since the surrender of their right to raise a revenue from imports and exports, draw all the money necessary for the support of their governments and the maintenance of their independence. There is no more appropriate subject of taxation than banks, banking, and bank stocks, and none to which the States ought more pertinaciously to cling.

It can not be necessary to the character of the bank as a fiscal agent of the Government that its private business should be exempted from that taxation to which all the State banks are liable, nor can I conceive it "proper" that the substantive and most essential powers reserved by the States shall be thus attacked and annihilated as a means of executing the powers delegated to the General Government. It may be safely assumed that none of those sages who had an agency in forming or adopting our Constitution ever imagined that any portion of the taxing power of the States not prohibited to them nor delegated to Congress was to be swept away and annihilated as a means of executing certain powers delegated to Congress.

If our power over means is so absolute that the Supreme Court will not call in question the constitutionality of an act of Congress the subject of which "is not prohibited, and is really calculated to effect any of the objects intrusted to the Government," although, as in the case before me, it takes away powers expressly granted to Congress and rights scrupulously reserved to the States, it becomes us to proceed in our legislation with the utmost caution. Though not directly, our own powers and the rights of the States may be indirectly legislated away in the use of means to execute substantive powers. We may not enact that Congress shall not have the power of exclusive legislation over the District of Columbia, but we may pledge the faith of the United States that as a means of executing other powers it shall not be exercised for twenty years or forever.