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A last stand for the Davos ‘gods’?

photo of Adam Parsons

Adam Parsons
1st February 2016


After yet another Elysian gathering of corporate executives, politicians and celebrities in the Swiss mountains, the Davos elite appear more disconnected from the socio-economic realities facing humanity than ever before, and increasingly deluded about the role they can play in creating a sustainable future.

Although the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) mission statement claims that it is “committed to improving the state of the world”, it’s clear that the influence the ‘Davos class’ has exerted over global policy decisions has been overwhelmingly detrimental – especially over the past decade as mounting financial, environmental and social crises have converged to create a highly precarious world situation.

For a number of years in the run-up to the annual event, Oxfam has released widely-reported research with hard-hitting statistics that highlight the obscene levels of inequality that many of those attending Davos are both responsible for and benefit from. Predictably, the extreme concentration of wealth has reached a new high: a single coachload of 62 billionaires now own as much wealth as the poorest half of the world’s population – a number that has steadily fallen from 388 billionaires in 2010. Earlier than previously predicted, the richest 1% (which include many delegates at Davos) own as much wealth as the rest of the world combined, while the financial value of the remaining 99% has fallen by a trillion dollars since 2010 – a staggering drop of 41%.

Despite the WEF’s questionable commitment to improving the state of the world (not to mention last year’s contrived motto of ‘sharing and caring’), the issue of inequality was noticeably pushed down the agenda at this year’s gathering, even as the gap between rich and poor continues to widen apace. Instead, the official theme at Davos 2016 was “mastering the fourth industrial revolution”, with its promise of abundant new business opportunities and robotic automation that is more likely to further entrench corporate power than address global inequalities.

A survey conducted by PricewaterhousCoopers (PwC) especially for this year’s Alpine retreat reveals that climate change is also of relatively minor concern for global business leaders, even though 2015 was officially the hottest year on record and saw a spate of extreme weather events around the world. In a clear indication of the gulf that exists between corporate priorities and pressing ecological and social imperatives, the primary concern among the 1,400 CEOs interviewed by PwC was the impact of excessive government regulation – despite the widely accepted need for more effective government intervention in order to safeguard the environment and prevent further financial crises.

Subverting democracy

Nothing illustrates the entrenched neoliberal mind-set of business gurus and policymakers at Davos more clearly than their obsession with deregulation and ‘techno-fixes’ in the face of a global crisis that ultimately necessitates tighter controls on corporate activity, alongside a far-reaching moral rather than technological revolution. But the grand designs of the corporate elite don’t end there: a new and completely undemocratic model of global governance is being furtively established by the Davos class in a bid to clear away the ‘red-tape’ of public oversight.

As exposed in the Transnational Institute’s State of Power 2016 report, the WEF’s Global Redesign Initiative seeks to advance a purely corporate vision of governance in which decision-making processes between elected governments are marginalised in favour of those made by unaccountable stakeholders, such as transnational corporations and influential philanthropists – regardless of the impact this would have on democracy.

Drawing on the report, Nick Buxton writes: “There is considerable evidence that past WEFs have stimulated free trade agreements such as NAFTA [and] helped rein in regulation of Wall Street in the aftermath of the financial crisis”. He goes on to warn us not to be complacent about the significance and impact of exclusive meetings of elites such as those that take place each year in the Swiss Alps, as “we are increasingly entering a world where gatherings such as Davos are not laughable billionaire playgrounds, but rather the future of global governance. It is nothing less than a silent global coup d’etat”.

Nonetheless, the corporate strategy of undermining democracy and maximising income (for the few) seems increasingly unsustainable in light of the escalating social unrest and environmental degradation that this approach propagates. It’s becoming increasingly clear to a broad swath of progressives and activists that precious little time remains to dramatically reform the way we organise society so that governments, economic systems and businesses are primarily geared towards securing basic human needs and safeguarding Planet Earth.

In the end, the covert political deals fostered at exclusive conferences such as the WEF could amount to little more than a last stand by the Davos ‘gods’ to shore-up their political influence and maximise their earning potential during an uncertain period of economic turmoil and political instability. Whether their strategy succeeds largely depends on how effectively concerned citizens mobilise to confront an unsustainable, unjust and increasingly undemocratic status quo in the months ahead.

Those attending Davos should take note: millions of people are already demanding a fairer sharing of wealth and democratic power in countries across the world, and there is every indication that this trend is on an upward trajectory. The possibility of finally mounting an effective challenge to the power and influence of a dwindling minority of disconnected elites has never been more within our reach.

Image credit: Ash Carter, Flickr creative commons

– See more at: http://www.sharing.org/information-centre/blogs/last-stand-davos-gods#sthash.lbdFMjL6.dpuf


Posted in Anti-P2P, Empire, Guest Post, Politics, Sharing | No Comments »

Nothing Times Nothing: Are We Really Nearing the End of Capitalism?

photo of Guy James

Guy James
9th January 2016

Okay. As in all good blues songs, this story starts with ‘woke up this mornin’…’ and goes on to bemoan conditions of the storyteller’s life. We then go on to tie in an excellent critique by Stephanie McMillan of Paul Mason’s views on Post-Capitalism and why she thinks he is wrong to claim that it is the beginning of the end of capitalism.

Cartoon by Stephanie McMillan

Cartoon by Stephanie McMillan

In my case, I woke up this morning and read two articles on my kindle. This device, of course, is mass produced by Amazon (mine says ‘Assembled in China’ on the back), is sold cheaply as a loss-leader for their ebook platform so they can tie you into their proprietary format and bookstore, and does indeed allow me to hold literally thousands of books and articles in my two hands. I rarely pay for the content however – such is the abundance of good material on the internet that the bulk of my time using the device is spent reading articles saved for later when using Facebook or Twitter. In three years of owning it, I don’t think I have bought more than five books from the kindle store. The books I have bought have been mostly from independent online publishers such as OR Books or Synergetic Press.

Whether ‘information wants to be free’ (as in liberty), or not, the fact is that information does apparently ‘want’ to be free (as in beer, as in gratis). None of this is news, of course – we are all pretty much drowning in free or very low cost information, some of which is of an extremely high standard, to a degree unimaginable to previous generations.
Read the rest of this entry »


Posted in Activism, Anti-P2P, Commons Transition, Cooperatives, Original Content, P2P Labor | 2 Comments »

Syriza did not support the commons!

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
2nd January 2016

Despite its stated poliical intentions, which we reported about in this blog, every time push came to shove, Syriza did not support commons solutions, shows Theodoros Karyotis in ROAR magazine (which is now a print publication as well), highlighting different case studies:

“Let us look into some examples where the SYRIZA government, instead of ratifying what the popular struggles have conquered, has—by action or by inaction—sided with the old regime against those who have nominally been its “allies” in the previous years.


Until it was shut down by the previous government in 2013, ERT was Greece’s national broadcaster. Many of the workers became unemployed and some found work at NERIT, the new public broadcaster set up exclusively on partisan criteria. A great number of militant media workers, however, occupied the ERT buildings and kept broadcasting in a self-managed way, with all decisions taken in a horizontal manner, and with the citizens playing a protagonistic role in shaping the broadcaster’s programming.

The workers thus set the blueprint for a new kind of public—or common, in this case—radio and television. They repeatedly described their vision in detailed proposals for the operation of ERT. SYRIZA was involved in the struggle and promised the broadcaster’s reinstatement and a victory for the proposals of the workers.
The government ignored society’s proposal to create a new model of broadcasting as a commons. However, the new law passed by the SYRIZA-led government in May totally disregards the period of self-management. It reinstates the workers under the same top-down structure and imposes a CEO of questionable intentions, with no provision for society’s involvement in content creation. The new management went as far as cancelling the shows of the media workers who heroically kept ERT open for two years as “too radical.” All in all, the government ignored society’s proposal to create a new model of broadcasting as a commons, and it reinstated the pre-crisis model of corporatized public television.


Vio.Me was a building materials factory in Thessaloniki. As so many other companies in Greece, the owners abandoned the workplace leaving millions in unpaid wages. The workers of the factory, with the support of a vibrant solidarity movement, seized the means of production, and have been manufacturing and distributing ecological detergents out of the recuperated workplace through horizontal and collective procedures.

However, the state-appointed trustee, in collusion with the ex-owners and powerful business interests, are trying to liquidate the premises, and thus create the legal ground to evict the Vio.Me cooperative. Through militant action and continuous struggle, the workers demanded a political solution to the conflict: that the state activates legal mechanisms of expropriation (since the state is one of the main creditors of bankrupt Vio.Me) to ensure the continuation of production.

The nominally “left-wing” government lacked in political will to side with the workers against capital. This mechanism, which has been used with significant success in Argentina, presupposes that employment, the continuation of production and society’s efforts to reactivate the ailing economy are valued higher than the private interests of those who want to see through the destruction of this experiment in popular industrial self-management. That is, it presupposes the political will to put the interests of the many over the interests of the few.

However, despite the initial commitment of the government to push forward a political solution and create an adequate legal framework, the corresponding ministers kept silent, and the promises to use governmental power against economic power remained unfulfilled. All the while, the trustee is stepping up the legal battle against the recuperated factory to anticipate any political solutions to the conflict. Despite the imminent threat of liquidation, the nominally “left-wing” government lacked in political will to side with the workers against capital.


In 2011, the government announced the privatization of the water and sewerage company of Thessaloniki. Democracy activists who were at the moment deliberating in the squares united with the water workers to propose an innovative model of water self-management as a commons. They created Initiative 136, with the aim of participating in the public tender to claim the water company in the name of the citizens, and bring it under social control through local non-profit cooperatives, inspired by the Bolivian water committees—briefly discussed in this issue by Oscar Olivera.

Syriza_WaterPoliticians linked to the SYRIZA party upheld the state management of the company and, totally unfamiliar with the vocabulary of the commons, tried to marginalize the plan of Initiative 136 and defame it as “popular capitalism”, despite the obvious absence of a profit motive.

Notwithstanding the internal divisions, Thessaloniki’s water movement organized to confront the common enemy, in the face of the transnational water company Suez. After a non-binding grassroots referendum that demonstrated the overwhelming opposition of Thessaloniki’s inhabitants, as well as a decision by the constitutional court that upheld the public character of water, the privatization process was paralyzed.

It is ironic that the party that claimed hegemony within Thessaloniki’s water movement will now oversee the partial privatization of the company: according to the terms of the new memorandum, a considerable part of the water company’s shares is up for grabs. Although the majority has to remain state-owned, in line with the court ruling, this partial privatization of the water company is only a preamble to capital’s assault on this vital element. The water movement now has to rise up against its former ally and today’s administrator of neoliberal policies.


In Skouries, Halkidiki, a gold mine is in development by the Canadian company Eldorado Gold in collaboration with AKTOR S.A., Greece’s “national contractor”, owned by Giorgos Bobolas, the personification of Greek oligarchic power. The local population has waged a long and radical struggle against the environmentally disastrous mine, which is built among the region’s old-growth forests, and which will poison the aquifers that provide irrigation and drinking water to an area of 500km2, endangering the local flora and fauna and putting on the line thousands of jobs in agriculture, bee-keeping and low-intensity tourism.

All the while, the mining company, despite having acquired the mining rights in a scandalous deal with corrupt politicians that was condemned by the European courts, uses the language of “progress” and “investment”, utilizing the miners as a human shield, effectively promoting a civil war climate in the area.

While in government, SYRIZA proved incapable of opposing the plans of the Eldorado mining company for the gold mine in Skouries. SYRIZA took a central role in the struggle while it was in opposition, but it always pushed for a “political” solution and it opposed the more radical actions of the movement and its efforts to coordinate and mobilize outside of formal institutions. While in government, it proved incapable of opposing the plans of the mining company. Instead of delivering on its electoral promise to cancel the mine, it engaged in a small-scale “bureaucratic war” with the mining company, revoking and re-examining permits, all the while reassuring the miners that their jobs are not in danger.

Even the halting of Eldorado’s activity in August 2015 — perfectly timed with the announcement of national elections—does not seem to be aimed at stopping the mine, but rather at obliging the company to “adhere to environmental regulations”—seriously degraded by five years of structural adjustment. Prime Minister Tsipras declared that he cannot “destroy 5,000 jobs” by shutting down the mine—a gross overestimation of Eldorado’s real number of staff. This stance has already sparked mass resignations of party members in the area.

The anti-mining movement is now well aware that the strategy of the government is to gain political time, without planning to confront national and transnational capital in the area. Trusting SYRIZA’s “political solution” now looks like a lot of wasted time, while the police keep violently repressing all protest and the judicial powers go on criminalizing the struggle and prosecuting local residents in the hundreds.”


Posted in Anti-P2P, Commons, Commons Transition, P2P Public Policy, Politics | No Comments »

Protecting Solar Citizens in South Australia 

photo of Stacco Troncoso

Stacco Troncoso
23rd December 2015

Solar Power

A guest post by our colleague Sharon Ede.

The Total Environment Centre and Solar Citizens are appealing to a Federal Court to defend a decision by the Australian Energy Regulator that prevents South Australian Power Networks, the electricity distribution network provider for SA, from slapping a $100 solar tariff on households with solar panels.South Australian households have been faced with huge increases in electricity costs since privatisation in 1999, and many households have embraced renewable energy to beat rising prices. South Australia has almost 200,000 solar households, in a state of just over 1.5 million people. Meanwhile, electricity networks in Australia have arguably over-invested in infrastructure, with $45 billion spent on new poles and wires in the last five years.

On 9 December 2015, the following motion was moved and spoken to in the Legislative Council of South Australia by Mark Parnell, MLC, Parliamentary Leader of the South Australian Greens.

  1. That this council congratulates Solar Citizens on its campaign to protect households with solar panels from discriminatory pricing structures  sought to be imposed by power utility; and
  2. Calls on the state government to ensure that South Australians who embrace solar power will not be unfairly treated for doing their bit for the environment.

The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: Solar Citizens is an independent, non-profit, community-based organisation working to protect and grow solar power in Australia. With chapters across Australia, it is becoming one of the most effective and influential consumer organisations in this nation. In South Australia, one in four households now have rooftop solar and the power generated from these solar households currently meets about 5 per cent of South Australia’s total energy demand.

However, that is just the tip of the iceberg because the 190,000 solar households in South Australia producing 570 megawatts of rooftop solar power will, over coming years, be eclipsed by a massive boom in the solar industry. The Australian Energy Market Operator has said that this solar capacity could rise fivefold over the next two decades, meaning that rooftop solar could meet all of the state’s demand on some days within a decade. By 2034-35, along with large-scale renewables such as wind energy and solar PV, renewables collectively could be providing the equivalent of all of the state’s power needs.

So despite the environmental good that these solar owners are doing by reducing greenhouse emissions, earlier this year SA Power Networks applied to the Australian Energy Regulator to implement a residential solar tariff. This new tariff would end up costing solar households an extra $100 more in network charges per year, and would subsequently act as a disincentive for people to install solar PV on their properties.

However, the Solar Citizens stood up against this discriminatory proposal from SA Power Networks, and they rallied community support by collecting nearly 3,000 signatures and letterboxing many solar households. They sent a clear message to the Australian Energy Regulator to reject SA Power Networks’ residential solar tariff, which attacks those who are helping environment.

I would like to refer to an article that was published in the journal Renew Economy back on 14 August under the heading ‘SA Power Networks fights to charge solar homes $100 per year more for the grid’. The article, by Sophie Vorrath, includes the following:

Solar Citizens national director Claire O’Rourke, says that the move to overturn the AER’s decision on the special solar fee was just the latest attempt by SAPN to discriminate against solar homeowners.  ‘This is a brazen money grab from SA Power Networks who want to target solar homeowners, and are again trying to push through unfair fees onto the solar community by any means possible,’ O’Rourke said…

‘When SA Power Networks first proposed these new taxes on solar homeowners there was widespread community outrage. South Australians sent a clear message that they would not accept this attack on solar homeowners and the AER listened and rejected the proposed fees. It’s time for SA Power Networks to listen too, and to stop trying to penalise those in the community who are embracing renewable energy.’

‘SA Power Networks can either attack or embrace the community energy revolution. This latest move indicates they intend to undermine the efforts of thousands of South Australians who have chosen to take control of their electricity bills by making the switch to solar…This is an unacceptable move by SA Power Networks and we call on them to put a stop to this witch-hunt,’ said Ms O’Rourke.

The Solar Citizens’ campaign was successful, as I have alluded to, and on 29 October this year the Australian Energy Regulator handed down its final decision, where it rejected SA Power Networks’ unfair tariff.

However, it is not over yet. SA Power Networks has now applied for a judicial review in the Federal Court of the Australian Energy Regulator’s decision. I am very pleased to say that a number of consumer groups have now joined that court case, in particular, the Total Environment Centre and also Solar Citizens. Another article from the Renew Economy news service, this one by Giles Parkinson on 16 November this year, said:

Consumer groups have joined a court fight against South Australia’s main utility over a proposal to slap increased network charges on households with rooftop solar. The consumer groups see it as a crucial line in the sand to stop other utilities from following suit, and slapping more charges on 1.4 million solar households across the country.

I mentioned that one of the groups involved in the court case was the Total Environment Centre. Their spokesperson, Mark Byrne (a former South Australian, if I am not mistaken), made the point that if SA Power Networks succeeds in introducing the charge, other network operators around the country would follow. To quote Mr Byrne:

We consider it likely that if SA Power Networks is successful in its appeal, other networks around Australia will seek to introduce similarly discriminatory tariffs on solar customers, increasing their costs and slowing the introduction of a decentralised and renewable energy-based electricity system.

So, the case now includes the Total Environment Centre and Solar Citizens.  Solar Citizens has 90,000 members, so they are a big organisation, and they are funded by Energy Consumers Australia. I am delighted that their application to join the SA Power Networks court proceedings was approved back in mid-November.

It would be nice if that were the end of it, but clearly it is not. SA Power Networks have a number of other tricks up their sleeve, where they are trying to discriminate against solar customers, and in particular with their current ploy of moving customers onto so-called demand tariffs. Demand tariffs are an interesting beast that have a lot of merit, but they are also being used by electricity utilities to discriminate against solar.

In fact, I convened a round table here in Parliament House a few months ago with a number of small businesses, along with the Small Business Commissioner, to try to work out whether any action could be taken to prevent these small businesses being pushed onto a demand tariff, which effectively meant that if they installed solar panels it cost them more, which made no sense at all. People put solar panels on to reduce their demand for electricity from the grid and thereby reduce their costs; nevertheless, demand tariffs can act in a perverse way.

The introduction of demand tariffs by SA Power Networks would reduce the uptake of solar power in South Australia by about 50 per cent in coming years, although perversely it could accelerate the uptake of battery storage and thereby the disconnection of many customers from the grid altogether. The Total Environment Centre supports demand tariffs, but they argue that they should be properly structured. They prefer tariffs that are based on critical peak use, meaning that tariffs should be structured according to network peaks rather than individual consumer peaks, which may be at different times.

A good example is one group (I think it was a tennis club) that came to see me. The one day of the year that they used a lot of electricity was the day of their Christmas party. They had all the fridges running, they had all the lights on and probably the air conditioners because it was summer. That was the yardstick against which their tariffs were set. Their tariff was set as if they used that amount of electricity for the entire year; in other words, SA Power Networks used the peak and then made that effectively the price.

The national director of Solar Citizens, Claire O’Rourke, said that the move by SA Power Networks was an attempt by SA Power Networks to ‘gouge’ solar homeowners, and to quote her:

[They] are again trying to push through unfair fees onto the solar community by any means possible.


Posted in Activism, Anti-P2P, Campaigns, Commons, Featured Movement, Guest Post, P2P Action Items, P2P Collaboration, P2P Energy, P2P Foundation | 1 Comment »

Chris Hedges on the need for civil disobedience

photo of Stacco Troncoso

Stacco Troncoso
1st December 2015


Hard hitting commentary from Chris Hedges on the futility of appealing to corporate-bought regulatory agencies and bodies. You can read the full piece at Truthdig.com.

But there are moral and religious laws—laws that call on us to protect our neighbor, fight for justice and maintain systems of life—that must supersede the laws of the state. Fealty to these higher laws means we will make powerful enemies. It means we will endure discomfort, character assassination, state surveillance and repression. It means we will go to jail. But it is in the midst of this defiance that we will find purpose and, Packard argues, faith.

It was 6:30 in the morning and George Packard, dressed in a dark suit, a purple clerical bib and a clerical collar, was at church. Or, rather, at what has become church for the retired Episcopal bishop, activist and highly decorated Vietnam War veteran.

Packard stood with 20 other protesters on a chilly morning Nov. 9 to block two roads leading to the staging area for Texas-based Spectra Energy’s Algonquin Incremental Market (AIM) pipeline project. After an hour, he and eight other protesters were arrested by New York state police.

Carrying out sustained acts of civil disobedience is the only option left to defy the corporate state, says Packard, who over the years has been arrested at an Occupy Wall Street protest and other demonstrations. It will be a long, difficult and costly struggle. But there are moral and religious laws—laws that call on us to protect our neighbor, fight for justice and maintain systems of life—that must supersede the laws of the state. Fealty to these higher laws means we will make powerful enemies. It means we will endure discomfort, character assassination, state surveillance and repression. It means we will go to jail. But it is in the midst of this defiance that we will find purpose and, Packard argues, faith.

“This is the renewed presence of the church, people of spirit wandering around in the darkness trying to find each other,” Packard said to me before he was taken into custody by police during the Montrose protest. He stood holding one corner of a large banner reading, “We Say No to Spectra’s Algonquin Pipeline Expansion.” “When you find a cause that has spine, importance and potency you find the truth of the Scripture. You find it inside your gut. There is an ache in the culture.” Gesturing toward his fellow demonstrators, he added: “These are a few of the people who are speaking to it. This is what the church used to be. It used to be standing in conscience.”

The high-pressure, 42-inch-diameter pipeline, slated to run within 100 feet of critical structures of the Indian Point nuclear power plant and 400 feet of an elementary school, under major power lines, across a fault line, and below the Hudson River, would expose residents along the route to toxic emissions from compressor stations, along with the threat of ruptures, leakages and explosions. If an explosion caused a meltdown at Indian Point it would jeopardize the more than 21 million people living in and around New York City and the Hudson Valley. Pipelines are prone to leaks, breaks and explosions and are poorly monitored. On average in 2014, there was an accident involving a gas transmission pipeline every three days.

The gas in the AIM pipeline, bound for foreign export, will not be available to local communities along the route or provide many jobs to local residents (workers in pickup trucks blocked by the protesters at Montrose often had Texas or Oklahoma license plates). Residents, as is common along pipeline routes, have found themselves powerless to prevent the state from seizing their property under eminent domain and turning it over to the industry.

The protesters were from a local organization called Resist AIM. They had spent more than two years attending hearings and meetings with elected representatives and county and state officials, as well as reaching out to regulatory agencies such as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). But these officials and agencies, cowed or controlled by corporate power, ignored their pleas. The oil and gas industry controls FERC, the federal agency in charge of issuing pipeline permits, by placing members from the industry on the board. FERC has denied only one pipeline request in the last decade. The agency is a corporate front posing as a regulatory agency; most of its budget comes from permitting fees paid by the oil and gas industry. It rubber-stamps requests so the fossil fuel industry can transport fracked gas or shale oil in a series of pipelines from Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio and other areas in the Marcellus Shale region to export terminals on the East Coast. The New York AIM pipeline, which replaces a smaller pipeline, is part of this vast infrastructure project.

“Front-line communities start out by being obedient and attempting to influence legislation and regulation,” said activist Susan Rubin, who is part of Resist AIM. “They put a lot of time and energy into their two-minute talk with FERC thinking that will make a difference. We wasted about a year and a half going to these regulatory meetings and writing letters. We did not understand that FERC is a rogue agency run by gas and oil insiders.”

“It is a hard conversation to have with people, even explaining how broken FERC is, that being nice to our congresswoman is not going to fix it,” she said. “We have to turn up the heat. We have to get loud. But we live in a culture of obedience. When I was arrested in front of the White House in 2011 it caused a shift in me. I realized signing a petition would not work. I realized I needed to be in this for the long run. There would be no short victories. I do little happy dances for a few hours and then I get back to work because I have kids. This is what I have to do.”


Posted in Activism, Anti-P2P, Campaigns, Cognitive Capitalism, Collective Intelligence, Culture & Ideas, Empire, P2P Action Items, P2P Ecology, Politics | No Comments »

TPP and TTIP-Free Zones are being created by communities across the US and EU

photo of Stacco Troncoso

Stacco Troncoso
23rd November 2015


Reposted from Citizen Action Monitor, TPP-Free Zones are being created by communities across the US and EU.

Why aren’t Canada’s political, social, labour and environmental NGOs jumping all over this initiative?

Margaret Flowers“You can join communities that are rejecting these rigged corporate ‘trade’ deals that are being negotiated in secret and will undermine our ability to pass laws that protect public health and safety and the planet by organizing to create a TPP/TTIP-Free Zone. Details below.”Margaret Flowers

On a related note, The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, a Pennsylvania-based NGO has, since 1995, been doing magnificent work with communities to establish Community Rights – such that communities are empowered to protect the health, safety, and welfare of their residents and the natural environment, and establish environmental and economic sustainability. They have worked at the local municipal level to establish Community Rights. Communities that have established Community Rights ordinances have faced legal challenges from corporate and states. In response, CELDF has recently begun building on grassroots organizing to drive change to the state level, bringing together communities from across states to build State Community Rights Networks. For more information, visit the CELDF website by clicking on the about linked name.

Returning to TPP-Free Zones, so far no Canadian communities appear on the world map of TPP-Free Zones. To access this map, click on the following linked title. The repost below includes a link to this map as well as all the other details and links to affiliated information sources.


Communities Reject Rigged Trade, Create TPP/TTIP-Free Zones by Margaret Flowers, Popular Resistance, October 4, 2015

Note: You can join communities that are rejecting these rigged corporate ‘trade’ deals that are being negotiated in secret and will undermine our ability to pass laws that protect public health and safety and the planet by organizing to create a TPP/TTIP-Free Zone. Details below.

As negotiations of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) inch toward completion, resistance to it and the other rigged corporate international treaties, the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and Trade-in-Services Agreement (TiSA), is escalating.

  • A transAtlantic week of protests against the TPP and TTIP are planned from October 10 to 17. Visit Trade4People.org to learn more. Actions will be posted on Flush the TPP.
  • There will be protests in Miami at the end of October during the next round of TTIP negotiations. Details are not yet confirmed, but they will be posted on the Flush the TPP “Actions” page.
  • And during the APEC meetings in the Philippines in November, there will be protests in Manila and Washington, DC. Click here for information about the DC mobilization.

A powerful form of resistance is underway in communities across the United States and the European Union – people are passing resolutions opposing these ‘trade agreements,’ which are actually international treaties that should not be allowed to fast track through Congress, to create TPP and TTIP-free zones.

In the European Union, activists are working to pass 10,000 such resolutions. In collaboration with the public service union, Unison, Global Justice Now, is providing helpful materials. Global Justice Now reports:

“It’s not just the UK. In Austria, Germany, France and Belgium there are significant numbers of TTIP Free Zones being declared by local authorities. When EU and US negotiators in Brussels leave their meetings they immediately walk out into the Brussels municipality which is itself a TTIP Free Zone.

There are 39 ‘no TTIP’ councils in Spain and a good covering in Northern Italy. This is a Europe-wide movement of local resistance to the corporate power grab that TTIP represents.”

During the fight to stop Congress from passing Fast Track legislation that will be used to rush these agreements through Congress, cities from Seattle, WA to Madison, WI to New York, NY passed resolutions against Fast Track. Labor played a big part in making these successful. Now, new resolutions are underway in more cities with the goal of 100.

On October 8, a resolution will be voted upon in Miami, FL, potentially making it a TPP/TTIP-Free Zone before the next round of TTIP negotiations there. Click here for details.

Organizing a TPP/TTIP-Free Zone is a great way to raise awareness of the ways that these secret rigged corporate deals will directly impact our communities. From the prohibition of “Buy America” practices to the new powers for corporations to sue over public health and safety laws that interfere with their profits to the outsourcing of jobs, lowering of wages, reduction of food safety and raising the costs of health care, the TPP and TTIP place corporate profits over protection of people and the planet.

Here is more information on how to create a TPP/TTIP-Free Zone from the Alliance for Democracy:

“If you, our un-elected representatives, create this corporate-driven monstrosity and then go to Congress for a rubber stamp, WE WILL NOT OBEY.”

Which cities have gone TPP/TTIP/TiSA Free?

This map shows which US cities and counties have passed TPP Free Zone ordinances or resolutions against Fast Track, TPP or other pending trade pacts like the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA).

It is time to make our municipalities “TPP Free Zones,” following in the footsteps of the successful resistance to an earlier trade agreement, the Multilateral Agreement on Investment, which was defeated in 1998 thanks to a global grassroots campaign.

  • Click here to download a .pdf of our TPP Free Zone pamphlet. Print it on legal-size paper, or read the text online here.
  • Click here for a model municipal law to make your community a TPP Free Zone.
  • Click here for some pointers in getting a TPP Free Zone law passed.

What is a TPP-Free Zone?

AfD Co-Chair Ruth Caplan explains how local organizing for “TPP-Free Zone” laws can help defeat this so-called “free trade” agreement while supporting global civil society movements for economic and environmental justice and local democracy.

Educate for action: Our Fall 2012 issue of Justice Rising focused on international resistance to corporate global trade agreements, including the TPP. To read it online, click here. If you’d like to a copy, contact us at afd, The Alliance for Democracy or call 781-894-1179.

There’s more information, videos and resources on our TPP page.

Questions? Ideas? Resources? We’d like to hear from you. Contact the Alliance for Democracy office at afd (at) thealliancefordemocracy (dot) org, or 781-894-1179.

Lead image by Backbone Campaign


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UN Special Rapporteur: “Copyright might run counter to human rights”

photo of Stacco Troncoso

Stacco Troncoso
11th November 2015


Extracted from TechDirt. You can read the full article here.

Back in March, Tim Cushing wrote about a rather remarkable report from the UN Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, Farida Shaheed, in which she warned that copyright might run counter to human rights. As if that weren’t enough, Shaheed is back with another bold attack, this time on patents. As the summary to her report puts it:

There is no human right to patent protection. The right to protection of moral and material interests cannot be used to defend patent laws that inadequately respect the right to participate in cultural life, to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and its applications, to scientific freedoms and the right to food and health and the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities.

Patents, when properly structured, may expand the options and well-being of all people by making new possibilities available. Yet, they also give patent-holders the power to deny access to others, thereby limiting or denying the public’s right of participation to science and culture. The human rights perspective demands that patents do not extend so far as to interfere with individuals’ dignity and well-being. Where patent rights and human rights are in conflict, human rights must prevail.

The report touches on many issues previously discussed here on Techdirt. For example, how pharmaceutical patents limit access to medicines by those unable to afford the high prices monopolies allow — a particularly hot topic in the light of TPP’s rules on data exclusivity for biologics. The impact of patents on seed independence is considered, and there is a warning about corporate sovereignty chapters in trade agreements, and the chilling effects they can have on the regulatory function of states and their ability to legislate in the public interest — for example, with patent laws.

Read the rest of the article here.


Posted in Anti-P2P, Cognitive Capitalism, Collective Intelligence, Copyright/IP, Culture & Ideas, Economy and Business, Peer Property | No Comments »

Thanaticism: McKenzie Wark’s on the new order of ‘exterminalist’ capitalism

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
20th October 2015

This is the era of the rule of thanaticism: the mode of production of non-life … ” a social order which subordinates the production of use values to the production of exchange value, to the point that the production of exchange value threatens to extinguish the conditions of existence of use value“.

Excerpted from McKenzie Wark:

“Bill McKibben has suggested that climate scientists should go on strike. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its 2013 report recently. It basically says what the last one said, with a bit more evidence, more detail, and worse projections. And still nothing much seems to be happening to stop Thanaticism. Why issue another report? It is not the science, it’s the political science that’s failed. Or maybe the political economy.

In the same week, BP quietly signaled their intention to fully exploit the carbon deposits which it owns the rights. A large part of the value of the company, after all, is the value of those rights. To not dig or suck or frack carbon out of the ground for fuel would be suicide for the company, and yet to turn it all into fuel and have that fuel burned, releasing the carbon into the air, puts the climate into a truly dangerous zone.

But that can’t stand in the way of the production of exchange value. Exchange value has to unreel its own inner logic to the end: to mass extinction. The tail that is capital is wagging the dog that is earth.

Perhaps its no accident that the privatization of space appears on the horizon as an investment opportunity at just this moment when earth is going to the dogs. The ruling class must know it is presiding over the depletion of the earth. So they are dreaming of space-hotels. They want to not be touched by this, but to still have excellent views.

It makes perfect sense that in these times agencies like the NSA are basically spying on everybody. The ruling class must know that they are the enemies now of our entire species. They are traitors to our species being. So not surprisingly they are panicky and paranoid. They imagine we’re all out to get them.

And so the state becomes an agent of generalized surveillance and armed force for the defense of property. The role of the state is no longer managing biopower. It cares less and less about the wellbeing of populations. Life is a threat to capital and has to be treated as such.

The role of the state is not to manage biopower but to manage thanopower. From whom is the maintenance of life to be withdrawn first? Which populations should fester and die off? First, those of no use as labor or consumers, and who have ceased already to be physically and mentally fit for the armed forces.

Much of these populations can no longer vote. They may shortly loose food stamps and other biopolitical support regimes. Only those willing and able to defend death to the death will have a right to live.

And that’s just in the over-developed world. Hundreds of millions now live in danger of rising seas, desertification and other metabolic rifts. Everyone knows this: those populations are henceforth to be treated as expendable.

Everybody knows things can’t go on as they are. Its obvious. Nobody likes to think about it too much. We all like our distractions. We’ll all take the click-bait. But really, everybody knows. There’s a good living to be made in the service of death, however. Any hint of an excuse for thanaticism as a way of life is heaped with Niagras of praise.

We no longer have public intellectuals; we have public idiots. Anybody with a story or a ‘game-changing’ idea can have some screen time, so long as it either deflects attention from thanaticism, or better – justifies it. Even the best of this era’s public idiots come off like used car salesmen. It is not a great age for the rhetorical arts.
It is clear that the university as we know it has to go. The sciences, social sciences and the humanities, each in their own ways, were dedicated to the struggle for knowledge. But it is hard to avoid the conclusion, no matter what one’s discipline, that the reigning order is a kind of thanatcisim.

The best traditional knowledge disciplines can do is to focus in tightly on some small, subsidiary problem, to just avoid the big picture and look at some detail. That no longer suffices. Traditional forms of knowledge production, which focus on minor or subsidiary kinds of knowledge are still too dangerous. All of them start to discover the traces of thanaticism at work.

So the university mast be destroyed. In its place, a celebration of all kinds of non-knowledge. Whole new disciplines are emerging, such as the inhumanities and the antisocial sciences. Their object is not the problem of the human or the social. Their object is thanaticism, its description and justification. We are to identify with, and celebrate, that which is inimical to life. Such an implausible and dysfunctional belief system can only succeed by abolishing its rivals.

All of which could be depressing. But depression is a subsidiary aspect of thanaticism. You are supposed to be depressed, and you are supposed to think that’s your individual failing or problem. Your bright illusory fantasy-world is ripped away from you, and the thanatic reality is bared – you are supposed to think its your fault. You have failed to believe. See a shrink. Take some drugs. Do some retail therapy.

Thanaticism also tries to incorporate those who doubt its rule with a make-over of their critique as new iterations of thatatic production. Buy a hybrid car! Do the recycling! No, do it properly! Separate that shit! Again, its reduced to personal virtue and responsibility. Its your fault that thanaticism wants to destroy the world. Its your fault as a consumer, and yet you have not choice but to consume.”


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The Sustainable Development Goals: A Siren and Lullaby for Our Times

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Stacco Troncoso
1st October 2015

Continuing our critical coverage of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, we are happy to share this article authored by P2P Foundation partners Thomas Pogge and Alnoor Ladha which was originally published at Occupy.com

Most people haven’t heard about the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). And if you have, there’s probably a rosy halo emanating from the deep recesses of your subconscious. If so, the UN, the World Bank, the Gates Foundation, ONE.org, Save the Children and other counterparts of the charitable-industrial complex have done their job well.

On the eve of the Sept. 25 UN summit – when the new SDGs, a set of 17 goals and 169 targets, will replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – there is a battle for mindshare over the merits of this plan. The SDGs are important because they are a once-in-a-generation declaration of what the world’s power elites are willing to publicly commit. In fact, they are the only shared international agreement to address global poverty. As such, they capture many of the central assumptions and norms that underpin the global political economy.

Keep Calm and Carry on Shopping

At first glance, the rhetoric of the SDGs seems irresistible. They talk about eliminating poverty “in all its forms, everywhere” by 2030, through “sustainable development” and even addressing extreme inequality. None of which we would argue with of course. But as with all half-truths, one just has to dig beneath the surface for motivations to unravel.

Recent research by economist David Woodward shows that to lift the number of people living under $1.25 a day (in “international dollars”) above the official SDG poverty line, we would have to increase global GDP by 15 times – assuming the best-case-scenario in growth rates and inequality trends from the last 30 years. That means the average global GDP per capita would have to rise to nearly $100,000 in 15 years, triple the average U.S. income right now. In a global economy that is so inefficient at distributing wealth, where 93 cents of every dollar of wealth created ends up in the hands of the richest 1%, more growth is only going to enrich the rich while destroying the planet in its wake.

Of course, it is completely possible to achieve the necessary goal of reducing poverty, but not through the UN’s growth-based, business-as-usual strategy. Poverty can only be eradicated by 2030 if we address two critical issues head on: income inequality and endless material growth.

First, we must address the enormous inequality that has accumulated in the last 200 years. The richest 1% of humanity will very soon own over half of private wealth. And indeed, large increases in the socioeconomic position of the poorer half can be achieved through very modest inequality reductions. For example, a hypothetical doubling of their share of global income, from 4% to 8%, even if it came entirely at the expense of the richest 5%, would only reduce the incomes of these top earners by less than 10%.

The SDGs inequality goal (target 10.1) allows current trends of income concentration to continually increase until 2029 before they start to decline. This totally ignores the structure of our economic system which creates inequality in the very rules that enforce and articulate the current distribution of wealth.

The other essential task is for the world’s nations to adopt a saner measure of human progress; one that gears us not towards endless GDP growth based on extraction and consumption, but towards the wellbeing of humanity and our planet as a whole. There are plenty of options to choose from, all of which have been ignored in the SDGs. Instead, Target 17.19 says only that they will, “by 2030, build on existing initiatives to develop measurements of progress on sustainable development that complement GDP.” In effect, the SDGs perpetuate severe poverty and leave this fundamental problem to future generations.

Sustainable Development Goals, Millennium Development Goals, global poverty, global inequality, wealth inequality, gender inequality, international poverty line

Magical Accounting

Much of the credibility of the Sustainable Development Goals rests on the story that their predecessors – the Millennium Development Goals – have, on the whole, been a success. They have, so we are told, halved poverty since 1990.

The clear implication is that the basic model of GDP growth is working so well that we should trust it to finish the job. And whereas it’s certainly true that progress has been made on some problems in some places, many researchers, including the authors of this article, have shown that this does not add up to overall success. In fact, the progress has been so uneven, and the core data has been so massaged over the years, that it’s more accurate to say that the claim to have halved poverty is more magical accounting than verifiable fact.

For example, shortly after the MDGs were agreed, the UN moved from an aim of halving absolute numbers to halving the proportion of people in poverty. Then, they went from halving the proportion of impoverished people globally to just focusing on the developing world. They even went back in time to change the baseline year of recording, from 2000 back to 1990, which conveniently allowed them to co-opt all of China’s gains in lifting people out of poverty in the 1990s, despite the fact that China’s policies bear little resemblance to the UN’s prescriptions. And probably the most brazen of chimeric acts: they even changed the definition of poverty, moving their international poverty line (IPL) multiple times.

It seems the MDGs are a virtual Potemkin Village, stage managed to keep the true poverty trends from being exposed. For the successor goals to have any credibility, they must adopt a more realistic measure of poverty, actually address the root causes, and guard against the kind of statistical manipulation that so blighted the MDGs.

Sustainable Development Goals, Millennium Development Goals, global poverty, global inequality, wealth inequality, gender inequality, international poverty line

The Siren’s Call

The obvious question is why the UN and others in the development industry would want to deceive the public, and arguably themselves.

At one level, the objective of the UN, big foundations and other non-governmental organizations is to convince us of their competence, thereby creating enough support and interest to justify their existence and make them seen as worthy guardians of global issues – but not create so much political buoyancy and public attention that they would have to address the rules of the global operating system that has so benefited them. All the structural incentives are there to manipulate the figures and market themselves as a success.

Then, of course, there is the influence of the corporate-political elites who both fund most of these organizations and require the “good news” trend lines to defend and maintain the status quo. Add to that the personal and professional ambition of individuals within some of these institutions and you have the perfect conditions for lies and half-truths to win the day. In this way, the SDGs serve as both our siren and our lullaby.

We must understand that the development sector has two contradictory roles: they tell us that there are critical global issues to which we must pay heed, but then ensure us that they have the issues under control. This is why the UN, the World Bank and others have been so determined to convince us that they are competent and have the right plan. In fact, the UN has reached out to Madison Avenue in the hopes of marketing the SDGs, which they have positioned as the “world’s biggest advertising campaign.” They have even created a child-friendly propaganda kit for schoolteachers. If they can’t actually solve global problems, they can at least make us, and our children, think they’re solving them.

As the fig leaves are being ornately decorated, it would serve civil society well to remember that we cannot fix deeply entrenched social problems with the same logic that created them in the first place. Poverty, inequality and climate change are natural outcomes of our current set of economic rules. More growth in the absence of structural change is only going to worsen the lives of the world’s majority. But in the topsy-turvy world of Western development, facts are malleable, history is irrelevant, public perception is the playing field, self-interest is the foundation of benevolence, and GDP growth will lift all boats. It’s time to separate the siren and the lullaby.

Sustainable Development Goals, Millennium Development Goals, global poverty, global inequality, wealth inequality, gender inequality, international poverty line

Thomas Pogge is the founding Director of the Global Justice Program and Leitner Professor of Philosophy and International Affairs at Yale University. @ThomasPogge

Alnoor Ladha is the Executive Director of The Rules and a board member of Greenpeace International USA. @AlnoorLadha

You can stand with Naomi Klen, Noam Chomsky, Chris Hedges, Medha Patkar, Thomas Pogge, Alnoor Ladha and others by signing their shared Open Letter to the United Nations.


Posted in Activism, Anti-P2P, Campaigns, Cognitive Capitalism, Collective Intelligence, Economy and Business, Featured Trend, Guest Post, P2P Collaboration, P2P Ecology, Peer Property, Sharing | No Comments »

Volkswagen Scandal Confirms the Dangers of Proprietary Code

photo of David Bollier

David Bollier
28th September 2015


There is one notable aspect to the Volkswagen emission-cheating scandal that few commentators have mentioned:  It would not have happened if the software for the pollution-control equipment had been open source.

Volkswagen knew it could defraud consumers and deceive regulators precisely because its software was closed, proprietary and legally protected from outside scrutiny. Hardly anyone could readily check to see if the software was performing as claimed.

Sure, dogged investigators could laboriously compare actual car emissions to emissions in artificial regulatory tests. That’s essentially what broke open the Volkswagen scandal. But that is an expensive and problematic way to identify cheaters.

The larger question is why should a piece of software that has enormous public health and environmental implications be utterly impenetrable in the first place?  A locked box invites lawless, unaccountable and sloppy corporate behavior. It assures that hardly anyone can see what’s going on. Volkswagen exploited the cover of darkness for all that it could.

This lesson was driven home when columnist Jim Dwyer of the New York Times hailed free software attorney Eben Moglen – the former general counsel for the Free Software Foundation and founder of the Software Freedom Law Center – as “a prophet.”  Dwyer quoted Moglen:

Intelligent public policy, as we all have learned since the earth twentieth century, is to require elevators to be inspectable, and to require manufacturers of elevators to build them so they can be inspected.  If Volkswagen knew that every customer who buys a vehicle would have a right to read the source code of all the software in the vehicle, they would never even consider the cheat, because the certainty of getting caught would terrify them.

But since the code is proprietary, automakers know that they have plenty of room to cheat.  Not only is the code inscrutable, automakers realize that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has only enough funding to test 10-15 percent of new vehicles. That means “self-certification” is the primary means of enforcement: an utter joke.

Worse, inquisitive consumers can’t even check the software themselves. Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, it is a crime to breach the encryption of copyrighted software and look into its source code.  Wired magazine reported that last year, a number of open source advocates tried to make it legal to scrutinize copyrighted software for “good-faith testing, identifying, disclosing and fixing malfunctions, security flaws or vulnerabilities.”  But of course, the politically powerful auto industry squashed the idea, claiming that open access to the code would pose “serious threats to safety and security.”

The Volkswagen scandal shows that the real, larger threat to security comes from proprietary code controlled by large corporations, not from its open release. Why should we rely upon politically compromised, budget-starved government agencies to enforce the law against corporations who can use technological lockboxes to mask their deceits?  (The Volkswagen scam had been going on for years.)  Why not look to a supremely effective, transparent and virtually free form of enforcement – mandatory open source code?

In the wake of the 2008 financial meltdown, some brilliant minds made the same point about the Securities and Exchange Commission’s oversight of banks and financial institutions.  Why not require the disclosure of key financial statistics so that inquisitive minds could use open data analytics to spot dangerous trends in financial markets with greater speed and ferocity than the SEC?

Volkswagen has shown why open code would make automobiles safer and more environmentally benign.  Why not open code, Moglen asks, for airplanes, medical devices, anti-lock brakes and throttle controls in automobiles? Open source is our best protection against criminal hacking and corporate fraudsters alike.

Memo to government regulators everywhere:  Want to improve public safety and environmental compliance at a fraction of current costs and before the harm happens? Require open source code on critical technologies.


Posted in Activism, Anti-P2P, Cognitive Capitalism, Collective Intelligence, Copyright/IP, Economy and Business, Empire, Open Content, Original Content, P2P Ecology, P2P Legal Dev., Politics | No Comments »