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Post Capitalism

photo of Charles Eisenstein

Charles Eisenstein
1st September 2014

PictureIn an interview recently, Aftab Omer observed that I seem hesitant to describe Sacred Economics as a post-capitalist economic vision. I replied that I am not talking about the end of capitalism, bur rather a transformation in the nature of capital, so that capitalism no longer bears the social dynamics to which we are accustomed.

After the interview, Aftab probed a little deeper. “As you know,” he said, “the essence of capitalism lies not in the kind of money being used, but in control over capital in a broader sense. Why then do you not describe your thinking as post-capitalist?”

One reason is simply strategic: the term “capitalism” is so fraught with a century and a half of ideological baggage that it is impossible to use the term without triggering blunt political categorizations, throwing the conversation onto well-worn and deeply rutted paths. For example, it invites comparisons with the failed experiments in state socialism of the 20th century, or suggests that I don’t value individual enterprise and initiative.

There is a second, and deeper, reason why I avoid the term: if we define capitalism as the private ownership of the means of production, and post-capitalism as ending that private ownership, we are still reifying “ownership” or property as an absolute category. But in fact, ownership like money is nothing but a social agreement, a system by which society allocates certain exclusive rights to decide how capital is used. Even in the most resolutely capitalist countries, this right is never absolute: to take a trivial example, zoning ordinances severely limit what we can do with our property in American suburbia. 

What is more relevant to me than the fiction of property is the precise nature of the social agreements that define and underlie property. In Soviet state socialism, despite ideology to the contrary, it was actually a small elite group that decided how the means of production were to be deployed (and who reaped most of the benefits). In that sense it wasn’t so different from Western capitalism.

Reading Sacred Economics, one might think, “This is still capitalism. It still allows private ownership of land, factories, intellectual property, and other means of production.” But if we don’t see ownership is a reified category, an absolute predicate, then the matter is not so simple. Because what is this “ownership”? What is the social agreement that the concept embodies? It is rather different than what we have today. 

Echoing Roman law, to own something today implies the right to ”use, enjoy, and abuse” it. In other words, all the benefits derived from it are yours, and you are under no obligation to use it in a way that benefits society or the planet. (As mentioned, this has seldom entirely been the case in practice.) What would ownership mean if we significantly altered this Roman law conception? That is what Sacred Economics proposes. First, it circumscribes the private right to “use and abuse” property by penalizing socially and environmentally harmful activities like polluting. Secondly, inspired by Henry George, it separates as much as possible the “enjoyment” (i.e. the fruits) of ownership from the fruits of the labor and creativity added to the thing owned. This means eliminating “economic rents” – the proceeds one obtains through the mere ownership of property, as opposed to the improvement of the property or the wise use of the property. Thirdly, it limits the extent to which one may enclose the cultural and intellectual commons, in part by curtailing copyright and patent terms. Finally, it asserts a public interest onto financial capital by subjecting money to a demurrage fee, a negative interest rate, that discourages hoarding and encourages zero-interest lending, in essence making money less of a thing you can keep, hold, and own. Hold onto it too long, and eventually it will no longer be “yours.” 

“If we define capitalism as the private ownership of the means of production, and post-capitalism as ending that private ownership, we are still reifying “ownership” or property as an absolute category. But in fact, ownership like money is nothing but a social agreement, a system by which society allocates certain exclusive rights to decide how capital is used.”

These might seem like technical reforms that leave the fact of ownership of the means of production unchanged, but actually they change what “ownership” means. When we understand that property is a fluid concept, a broad label we give to a complicated set of social agreements, then it becomes hard to say what is capitalism and what is not. 

At bottom, the blurriness of the concept of ownership implicates the blurriness of the concept of the owner. Who, or what, owns property? The 17th-century thinkers that developed the philosophical foundations of property law (and law in general), Hobbes, Locke, Pufendorf, Hutcheson, etc., despite their differences, all pretty much took for granted a world of separate individuals giving consent, entering into contracts, and making free-willed moral choices. It is from this assumption that libertarian ideas about the sanctity of property and the sanctity of contract are born, along with the irreconcilable difficulties that arise in integrating these with the good of the body politic. Private property (its presence or absence as an absolute category) goes hand in hand with the separate self. A system grounded in the understanding of our inter-existence, in the fluid and fractal co-construction of self and society, no longer takes ownership as a well-defined category. The terms capitalist, socialist, post-capitalist, and so forth, because they draw on ownership as an elemental concept, are therefore a little bit obsolete.  

Originally posted in charleseisenstein.net


Posted in Activism, Copyright/IP, Culture & Ideas, Economy and Business, Ethical Economy, Gift Economies, Original Content, P2P Business Models, P2P Foundation, Politics | No Comments »

Labour in the circuits of global markets: theories and realities

photo of Vasilis Kostakis

Vasilis Kostakis
1st September 2014

Screen Shot 2014-09-01 at 8.19.10 AMThis is to announce the new issue of Work Organisation, Labour & Globalisation, entitled “Labour in the circuits of global markets: theories and realities:

It is Supply chains are becoming ever more tightly integrated as corporations vie with each other to bring their products to global markets before they lose their value through replication or obsolescence. This restructuring of supply chains involves the interaction of a range of different public and private, local and global actors, including companies involved in ‘knowledge-based’ activities as well as those producing and shipping material goods. Both intellectual and manual labour are implicated in these processes of consolidation and acceleration and feel the squeeze: in intensification of work, the precarisation of working conditions and the fragmentation of the workforce, raising challenges for the organisation and representation of labour. This volume brings together accounts of what is happening to logistical labour along global supply chains with theoretical discussions of the problematic relationship between the ‘knowledge-based’ and real economies, and material and immaterial labour. It also presents research on other dimensions of labour precariousness, with contributions from Europe, Asia and the Americas. This volume makes important contributions in the fields of political economy, geography and labour sociology.

Two articles, included in the issue, might be of special interest to the readers of our blog: Henrique Amorim discusses the theories of immaterial labour providing a critical reflection based on Marx, while our friends Pavlos Hatzopoulos and Nelli Kambouri with Ursula Huws write on the containment of labour in accelerated global supply chains using the case of Piraeus Port, a recently privatized Commons in Greece.


Posted in Commons, Featured Essay, P2P Labor, Politics | No Comments »

What is the Transatlantic Trade Investment Partnership?

photo of Øyvind Holmstad

Øyvind Holmstad
31st August 2014

“The Transatlantic Trade Investment Partnership is a trade deal between the EU and the US – and is anything but harmless. The deal boosts corporate power and endangers people and the planet.”


Posted in Activism, Anti-P2P, Videos | No Comments »

The Malware

photo of Charles Eisenstein

Charles Eisenstein
31st August 2014


“This is not about being nice. It is about staying focused on our real goals and not letting ourselves be hijacked by other motives. Again, there is no formula for how to do this, but I think that striving to accurately understand the world of the CEO – what it is like to be them, their humanness, and not a caricature of them as a monster – can only enhance our effectiveness. If we operate from a delusion we perpetuate the image of that delusion. “

I want to add to my reflections on my Green Party visit and my relationship to social and environmental activists in general, because I have been told that I seem to be much more critical of them than I am of the CEOs, politicians, etc. who are driving the world-destroying machine. Toward them, I counsel love and understanding – well don’t the people who have dedicated their lives to protecting the earth deserve it even more?

Usually, I feel more at home among social and environmental activists than I do among people with mainstream views, because I know we feel a lot of the same pain. A big issue in the air in Minnesota was the vast expansion of mining happening in pristine wilderness areas in the northern part of the state. I was happy to be among people who didn’t need convincing that this is a terrible calamity. I felt at home knowing that each person there feels it as intensely as I do; that no one justifies it for all the GDP and jobs it will supposedly produce, that no one covers it up with one or another glib story in which normal is normal. These are people who know, to varying degrees, that the story we call civilization bears a deep sickness.

When I identify habits of hatred and domination within activists, along with hidden motives of seeing oneself as good and right and better-than-thou, I don’t mean to impugn the fundamental wellspring of these lives of service, which can only be reverence for our planet and grief for what is happening here. We are, however, all born into a society of separation and we all carry its wounds. The hidden motives and habits I describe go along with these wounds. They are a kind of malware that steers the host toward behavior that no longer serves the original sponsoring motives of compassion and service. The malware motivates ineffective strategies: ineffective at creating real change, but effective in serving the agenda of the malware. One of these strategies is to arouse as much loathing as possible toward the people running the corporations and their collaborators in politics. 

I am familiar with this malware only because I have so often witnessed it running in myself. Sometimes when I am attacked, I notice a nearly unconscious, reflexive program to dominate the attacker, to beat him into submission, to humiliate him. Because I am well-versed in my logic and enjoy a lot of support, I could probably win such battles most of the time, come out smelling like a rose, leaving a trail of defeated enemies behind me until the day of my own humiliation. I might win each battle, but I would lose the war. Knowing this, when I get the occasional piece of hate mail around a certain sensitive topic that starts with, “Shame on you Charles for…” I do my best to suspend the domination program, responding instead along the lines of, “Thank you for your forthright expression of your feelings,” or something like that. (There isn’t a formula; it comes from a moment of understanding what it is like to be the other person.) Now I cannot say that the results are always good, but sometimes an adversary is converted into an ally, or at least a modicum of understanding and human connection is born. The questioner might still disagree, but it will not be in the spirit of “shame on you.” 

When it doesn’t work, I sometimes realize to my chagrin that dominance-behavior still snuck into the interaction despite my attempt to avoid it. A part of me hurts when I get attacked, and that hurting seeks expression sometimes by hurting back. This is the habit we call “fighting.” I don’t think that any of us, even if we have devoted our lives to serving what is beautiful, are exempt from habits like this, woven as they are into the fabric of our society. 

That is not to say there is never a time in the world for a fight. It is the unconscious, reflexive habit of fighting that is most dangerous.

How to translate the approach I described in personal interactions to important goals on a larger level, such as stopping the sulfide mining projects in northern Minnesota? I wish I knew. I am certainly not advocating that we shy away from exposing uncomfortable truths in order to avoid offending the mining CEOs. This is not about being nice. It is about staying focused on our real goals and not letting ourselves be hijacked by other motives. Again, there is no formula for how to do this, but I think that striving to accurately understand the world of the CEO – what it is like to be them, their humanness, and not a caricature of them as a monster – can only enhance our effectiveness. If we operate from a delusion we perpetuate the image of that delusion. 

How to effectively resist the mining companies? I do not know. I don’t think there is a short-cut answer, a trivial solution; if I were to offer one I would be insulting the intelligence of the dedicated activists who are intimately familiar with the situation. I think that all of the tools used today, from legal challenges to petitions to direct action on-site, are valid and needn’t be run by the “malware.” 

Here is an example of how the malware operates by contaminating truth with hatred. Initially, one might describe in graphic terms the damage that sulfide mining can cause: the dead fish and birds, poisoned lakes devoid of life, devastated forests, heavy metal contamination. This description evokes horror and grief. Then the malware takes over and says, “And the mining companies are well aware of the damage and they are doing it anyway! In service to their greed!” Aren’t they awful, appalling, inexcusable. I see this kind of argument all the time, as if the main point were to convince you to hate along with me. Unfortunately, such tactics repel the undecided, who are likely to discount the graphic descriptions of the effects of mining by thinking, “Those are just fighting words. They are exaggerating so that they can defeat these people they hate.” That’s what people do in a fight – they exaggerate the bad behavior of their opponents. That is one reason why I think the truth will be more receivable if it doesn’t accompany the invitation to hate. The same is true for many kinds of resistance action.

I am aware that sometimes it is hard to find another interpretation for corporate behavior; for example, when they actively suppress evidence that shows that their activities are harming people or the environment. It sure seems like pre-meditated evil in service of greed. When cover-ups are discovered, they should be exposed as well. But again, we don’t need to resort to the explanation that “they are just wicked.” Instead we can ask what story they are living in. And we can ask ourselves, When have we told lies, hurt people, and covered it up? Why did we do it and what were we feeling? 

Marshall Rosenburg famously said, “Every judgement is the tragic expression of an unmet need.” The same wounds that get activated as the malware in resistance actions also express themselves in the internal workings of activist groups themselves, if perhaps on a subtler level. The same character assassination, infighting, lying, and cover-ups play out, destroying solidarity, consuming energy that could otherwise go toward creating change, and generating untold stress. We cannot accomplish much from a fractured foundation. This is another reason to deprogram from the habit of judging and fighting; another reason to recognize our projections and use them as tools for self-inquiry. I find it a fruitful exercise to attempt this with the people (like anti-environmentalist politicians and right-wing hatemongers) who trigger me the most. It builds a new habit that also operates with respect to my allies and the people I love. 

I offer these observations about hidden malware so that my brothers and sisters who have dedicated their lives to healing our world will be more effective. It is not to take them to task, bring them down a notch and puncture their self-importance. That is not my crusade. I’m simply describing a virus whose virulence subsides when it is no longer hidden.


Posted in Activism, Culture & Ideas, Featured Content, Featured Essay, Original Content, P2P Epistemology, P2P Foundation, P2P Subjectivity, Politics | No Comments »

Peer production, disruption and the law – call for debates, essays and interviews

photo of Kevin Flanagan

Kevin Flanagan
30th August 2014

From The Journal of Peer Productionhttp://peerproduction.net

We are now inviting contributions to this special edition of the Journal of Peer Production in the form of short essays of between 1000 and 3000 words to complement the longer peer reviewed articles that will appear in thisedition of the journal, due to be published in December 2014 The contributions can be testimonies, working papers and critical essays by researchers and practitioners. Debates are essays by several authors expressing clearly contrasting viewpoints about a relevant issue.

The deadline for these contributions is 24 October 2014 and should be sent to

disruptlawissue AT peerproduction.net

The contributions will be reviewed by the editors – Steve Collins (Macquarie) and Angela Daly (Swinburne/European University Institute) – and so will not be peer-reviewed. Please see here for more details on JoPP submissions and style: http://peerproduction.net/about/submissions/

Special edition description

The disruption caused by new technologies and non-conventional methods of organisation have posed challenges for the law, confronting regulators with the need to balance justice with powerful interests. Experience from the “disruptions” of the late 20th century has shown that the response from incumbent industries can lead to a period of intense litigation and lobbying for laws that will maintain the status quo. For example, following its “Napster moment”, the music industry fought to maintain its grip on distribution channels through increased copyright enforcement and the longer copyright terms it managed to extract from the legislative process. The newspaper industry has similarly seen its historical revenue stream of classified ads disrupted by more efficient online listings, and responded to its own failure to capitalise on online advertising by launching legal campaigns against Google News in various European countries.

Though the law as it stands may not be well-equipped to deal with disruptive episodes, the technological innovations of the last twenty years have created an environment that generates disruption. The Internet, the Web and networked personal computers have converged into the ubiquitous post-PC media device, leaving twentieth century paradigms of production, consumption and distribution under considerable threat. The latest technology to be added to this group of disruptive innovations may be 3D printing, which in recent times has become increasingly available and accessible to users in developed economies, whilst the manufacturing capacity of 3D printers has dramatically grown. Although current offerings on the market are far from a Star Trek-like “replicator”, the spectre of disruption has once again arrived, with the prospect of 3D printed guns inspiring a moral panic and raising questions of gun control, regulation, jurisdiction and effective control. In addition, 3D printing raises a number of issues regarding intellectual property, going far beyond the copyright problems that file-sharing brought about due to its production of physical objects.

This special issue of the Journal of Peer Production calls for contributions that deal with the intersection of peer production, disruptive technologies and the law. Potential topics include, but are not restricted to:

- The threat posed by peer production to legacy industries

- The regulation of disruptive technologies through the rule of law or embedded rights management

- Lobbying strategies of incumbent players to stymie disruptive technologies

- Emergent economies or practices as a result of disruptive technologies

- Extra-legal norm formation in peer production communities around disruptive technologies

- Historical perspectives on the legal status of collaborative projects

- Critical legal approaches to technology, disruption and peer production

- The role and ability of the law (which differs across jurisdictions) in regulating autonomous production

- The resilience of law in the face of social and technological change

- The theories and assumptions which continue to underpin laws rendered obsolete by social and technological change

JoPP will be published twice a year. All scientific contributions will be peer reviewed. Submissions should be made to the editors though our contact form. PEERPRODUCTION.NET


Posted in Culture & Ideas, Open Access, Open Calls, P2P Legal Dev., P2P Theory | No Comments »

Video: Jim Zemlin on the Importance of Foundations for Collaborative Technological Development and Economics

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
29th August 2014

Jim Zemlin gave an excellent talk about the importance of foundations in facilitating collaborative development at the 2014 State of Linux conference. He focuses on the key role of FLOSS Foundations, such as the Linux Foundation, and their key role in facilitating open production.

His main points:

* A neutral home for collection and sharing of resources.

* Enable structured investment.

* Helping industry understand how to engage with the community.

* Shared legal defense.

* Shared development infrastructure.

* A neutral home for key developers.

* Addressing market failures.

* Raising awareness (marketing) to bring in more developers and users.

* Organize events for face to face meetings and training.

* Provide training and certification to help grow the community.

Watch the video here via


Posted in Conferences, P2P Collaboration, P2P Governance, P2P Infrastructures, P2P Technology, P2P Theory, Peer Production, Videos | No Comments »

Book of the Day: Critical Introduction to Social Media

photo of hartsellml

29th August 2014

Christian Fuchs. Social Media. A Critical Introduction. Sage, 2014.

URL = http://fuchs.uti.at/books/social-media-a-critical-introduction/


Now more than ever, we need to understand social media – the good as well as the bad. We need critical knowledge that helps us to navigate the controversies and contradictions of this complex digital media landscape. Only then can we make informed judgements about what’s happening in our media world, and why.

Showing the reader how to ask the right kinds of questions about social media, Christian Fuchs takes us on a journey across social media, delving deep into case studies on Google, Facebook, Twitter, WikiLeaks and Wikipedia. The result lays bare the structures and power relations at the heart of our media landscape.

This book is the essential, critical guide for understanding social media and for all students of media studies and sociology. Readers will never look at social media the same way again.




Posted in Collective Intelligence, Featured Book, P2P Epistemology, P2P Governance | No Comments »

How Algorithmic Scheduling is complicating working lives and the parenting of the poor

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
28th August 2014

Excerpted from the NYT:

(worth reading the detailed working life profiles in detail)

“Like increasing numbers of low-income mothers and fathers, Ms. Navarro is at the center of a new collision that pits sophisticated workplace technology against some fundamental requirements of parenting, with particularly harsh consequences for poor single mothers. Along with virtually every major retail and restaurant chain, Starbucks relies on software that choreographs workers in precise, intricate ballets, using sales patterns and other data to determine which of its 130,000 baristas are needed in its thousands of locations and exactly when. Big-box retailers or mall clothing chains are now capable of bringing in more hands in anticipation of a delivery truck pulling in or the weather changing, and sending workers home when real-time analyses show sales are slowing. Managers are often compensated based on the efficiency of their staffing. Scheduling is now a powerful tool to bolster profits, allowing businesses to cut labor costs with a few keystrokes. “It’s like magic,” said Charles DeWitt, vice president for business development at Kronos, which supplies the software for Starbucks and many other chains.

Yet those advances are injecting turbulence into parents’ routines and personal relationships, undermining efforts to expand preschool access, driving some mothers out of the work force and redistributing some of the uncertainty of doing business from corporations to families, say parents, child care providers and policy experts.

In Brooklyn, Sandianna Irvine often works “on call” hours at Ashley Stewart, a plus-size clothing store, rushing to make arrangements for her 5-year-old daughter if the store needs her. Before Martha Cadenas was promoted to manager at a Walmart in Apple Valley, Minn., she had to work any time the store needed; her mother “ended up having to move in with me,” she said, because of the unpredictable hours. Maria Trisler is often dismissed early from her shifts at a McDonald’s in Peoria, Ill., when the computers say sales are slow. The same sometimes happens to Ms. Navarro at Starbucks.”


Posted in P2P Labor, P2P Rights, P2P Technology | 1 Comment »

Critique of political economy of water and the collaborative alternative

photo of Vasilis Kostakis

Vasilis Kostakis
27th August 2014


Screen Shot 2014-08-27 at 11.10.27

An thought-provoking critique on the political economy of water  along with a collaborative, Commons-oriented proposal have been published at the European Water Movement website, by Kostas Nikolaou, member of the initiative K136. Kostas begins his article criticizing the current practices regarding the water management and the recent efforts to privatize another Commons so to maximize capital accumulation. Then he deals with two critical questions: i) “who made and who makes the privatization of water everywhere in the world?” and ii) “saying no to privatization and ultimately preventing the privatization, say yes to what?”. Through the case of the collaborative alternative from Thessaloniki, Greece, i.e., the initiative K136, and other historical successes of the movement, Kostas makes concrete proposals for a cooperative alternative. If you are interested in the Commons (since you are here, certainly you are!), you should definitely read the essay in full here.


Posted in Activism, Commons, Cooperatives, Culture & Ideas, Economy and Business, Featured Essay, Open Models, P2P Collaboration, Peer Property, Politics, Sharing | 1 Comment »

South/South collaboration for a post-capitalist paradigm by François Houtart

photo of Kevin Flanagan

Kevin Flanagan
26th August 2014

BRICS Summit 2014
In July 2014 a new step was taken towards constructing a multi-polar world, with the meeting in Brazil of the BRICS, the constitution of a new Bank and of a Fund for Development. This was followed by a joint meeting between the BRICS, UNASUR, the Organization of the South American States and CELAC (the Community of Latin America and the Caribbean).  All this happened without the participation of the Triad (USA, Europe and Japan).

It is, of course, a very positive advance, already preceded by very important agreements on energy between two members of the BRICS, China and Russia. The aim of the new institutions is to boost growth and to eliminate poverty. They bring ‘emerging countries’ with important financial reserves together with others in a less privileged situation, in a South/South relationship. Latin America has been chosen for the new scenario and both the president of Russia and the prime minister of China, have taken the opportunity to reinforce their links with the progressive countries of the subcontinent.

However, the basic conception of South/South relations is still expressed within the classic framework of development, with the same concepts and the same measures, with no or little consideration for externalities (ecological and social), i.e. a modernization that has been captured by the logic of the market. This is why it has been possible to bring together societies oriented by a capitalist project (India), a socialist country with a regulated market (China) and various forms of social-democratic systems, accepting capitalism as a ‘growth’ instrument, together with policies of income redistribution (Brazil, South Africa).

In this paper, I deliberately develop a provocative style, in order to call attention to the urgent need for a radical (going to the roots) transformation and to initiate transition steps.

A multi-polar world with the same conception of modernity and of development

The main emphasis of the BRICS initiative is to create a new pole against a monopolistic globalization dominated by an imperialistic nation and with international institutions mainly at the service of this unique pole (World Bank, IMF, WTO, etc.).  But it is not to create a new model of development after the death of the present one. Of course, there is an awareness of its inner contradictions, hence the adoption of some measures to alleviate the environmental burden and to help people to emerge from poverty, but in various degrees there is continuity in the same vision.

On the whole there is little questioning of the main concept of modernity as a lineal progress on an inexhaustible planet, using a ‘sacrificial’ economy to achieve this goal. It means joining the unsustainable development club, only in a different way. At best, it is presented as a necessary step to prepare another era, or the capitalist North is accused of responsibility for the damages and the ‘underdevelopment of the South’ (not without reason, of course). But this is an easy way to escape one’s own responsibilities.

Many examples can be given. The systematic disequilibrium of metabolism between nature and human beings provoked by the different rhythms of reproduction of capital and nature was denounced by Karl Marx, but it has not been solved by socialism, as Marx anticipated. On the contrary, the development of productive forces has increasingly meant a destruction of eco-systems, more noxious gases and the poisoning of the sources of life (soils, water).

The Global South is today reproducing the same pattern of relations with nature, in three ways:  either by transforming nature into commodities according to pure capitalist logic, as in India, or, in a new perspective of extracting natural wealth to provide means for a welfare state like the progressive countries of Latin America, or, as a means of a new State-oriented process of accumulation, as in China. In this way the present philosophy of South/ South relations does not solve the problem. On the contrary, in spite of some strong verbal ecological positions, the same path is followed.

The discourses at the Brazilian meetings in Fortaleza and in Brasilia and the objectives for the new institutions, like the new Bank and the Fund for Development, do not abandon the classic definitions of growth as increasing GNP and of development as the main result of technological progress: all these are intellectual tools created by a modernity that has been hijacked by capitalist logic. Such criticism, as we shall see later, does not mean a romantic return to the past, nor the proposal of a new form of utopian socialism. What it means is the redefinition of the collective life of humankind on the earth, respecting the regenerating capacity of the planet, and refusing a concept of a development that is based on sacrifice.

To continue to read the full article visit http://alainet.org/active/76072


Posted in Politics | 1 Comment »