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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


Posted in Activism, Anti-P2P, Cognitive Capitalism, Collective Intelligence, Culture & Ideas, Empire, Featured Movement, P2P Rights, Politics | No Comments »

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.”


Posted in Anti-P2P, Economy and Business, P2P Subjectivity | No Comments »

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

photo of Stacco Troncoso

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 »

How to hack the mainstream discourse on ending poverty

photo of Adam Parsons

Adam Parsons
27th September 2015

The Rules team have initiated an ambitious campaign to ‘hack’ the official logic of the Sustainable Development Goals, in which they highlight the true reality of poverty and point the way towards real solutions for a fair and sustainable world.

In less than three weeks’ time, the world’s heads of state will gather at the United Nations in New York to officially adopt the post-2015 development agenda, known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). A massive publicity machine will soon move into gear to promote the good news of this global plan of action, which on the surface appears truly laudable in its quest to “free the human race from the tyranny of poverty and want and to heal and secure our planet”. But is the high-minded and progressive rhetoric everything it’s cracked up to be, or is there more to this ‘feel good story’ of progress than meets the eye?

According to the campaign group The Rules, there’s so much wrong with the SDG process that its 17 goals and 169 targets are not only misleading and inadequate, but even dangerous. They argue that while the SDGs represent a significant step forward by aspiring to completely eradicate extreme poverty by 2030, the new agenda fails to provide an answer for how to realise its objectives within the means of our shared planet. While the overarching goals themselves have always been attainable, there is a delusion at the heart of the SDG process that suggests we can achieve them without challenging dominant economic interests and radically overhauling the status quo.

Hence the danger that hides behind the noble intentions: by playing along with the star-studded narrative that subtly tells us ‘the world is getting better and there is nothing wrong with business-as-usual’, we risk locking in the global development agenda “for the next fifteen years around a failed economic model that requires urgent and deep structural changes”.

The bigger questions                          

For these reasons, The Rules team have initiated an ambitious campaign to ‘hack’ the official logic of the SDGs and reframe the narrative on eradicating global poverty. Rather than buying into the mainstream story that we can “end poverty and hunger everywhere” by 2030 within the defunct economic paradigm of endless growth and debt-fuelled consumption, they have proposed a contending set of questions that encourage engaged citizens to see how the SDGs cannot possibly succeed within the existing political context.

As Joe Brewer explains in his piece on Hacking the SDG Discourse, these three basic questions can help us to acknowledge the root causes of poverty and environmental harm, thereby focusing on the bigger picture issues of power and politics that also point towards the real solutions to our civilisational crisis. Anyone can use these scripts to contradict the ‘feel good story’ of progress and reframe the fundamental issues. In so doing, we can also become more hopeful and empowered if we are asking the same questions, reaching similar conclusions and embracing a shared vision of a better world. To quote one of The Rules’ maxims: “To fix a problem, you first have to know why it exists”.

Click on the links above each question to see the short video animations that neatly summarise each one. See also the infographics further below that succinctly illustrate some of the key points of analysis and highlight the true reality of poverty and hunger, which sharply contradicts the received wisdom of global development. You can also sign The Rules’ open letter to the United Nations that declares how the SDGs are not in fact representing the best interest of the world’s majority – “those that are currently exploited and oppressed within the current economic and political order”.

How Is Poverty Created? #PovertyIsCreated
“Where do poverty and inequality come from? What is the detailed history of past actions and policies that contributed to their rapid ascent in the modern era? When were these patterns accelerated and by whom?”

Who’s Developing Who? #WhosDevelopingWho
“The story of development is often assumed or unstated. What is the role of colonialism in the early stages of Western development? How did the geographic distribution of wealth inequality come into being? What are the functional roles of foreign aid, trade agreements, debt service, and tax evasion in the process of development? And most importantly, who gains and who loses along the way?”

Why Is Growth The Only Answer? #WhyGrowth
“The mantra that “growth is good” has been repeated so often that it has the feel of common sense. Yet we know that GDP rises every time a bomb drops or disaster strikes. Growth, as defined up till now, is more nuanced and complex than this mantra would have us believe. Why must the sole measure of progress be growth (measured in monetary terms)? Who benefits from this story? What alternative stories might be told?”

Further resources:

The story of poverty – The Rules

How To Feel Good About Global Poverty, by Martin Kirk, Fact Co.Exist

Hacking the SDG Discourse: A Narrative Strategy for Changing the Story of Global Development, by Joe Brewer, Medium.com

Who Framed Global Development? Language Analysis of the Sustainable Development Goals, by Joe Brewer, SlideShare

Three Ways Humans Create Poverty, by Jason Hickel, Joe Brewer, and Martin Kirk, Fact Co.Exist

SDGs and the Problem with Saving the World, by Jason Hickel, Jacobin

– See more at: http://www.sharing.org/information-centre/blogs/how-hack-mainstream-discourse-ending-poverty#sthash.Upii7zpH.dpuf


Posted in Activism, Anti-P2P, Campaigns, Cognitive Capitalism, Commons, Commons Transition, Culture & Ideas, Economy and Business, Empire, Ethical Economy, Open Calls, Original Content, P2P Action Items, P2P Collaboration, P2P Development, P2P Ecology, P2P Movements, P2P Public Policy | 2 Comments »

Biomedical patents reduce innovation by 30%

photo of David de Ugarte

David de Ugarte
9th September 2015


Is intellectual property necessary for innovation? Is it counterproductive? For the first time, the publication of significant quantities of evidence from the Human Genome Project demonstrates the latter.

As much as the official discourse would like it to be, the debate on intellectual property is not about whether authors or inventors would earn the same thing or more if this legal monopoly was abolished. The question is whether we need rents from a monopoly that only exists thanks to legislation for innovation to exist and whether more innovation is created with protection from intellectual property or without it.

In the field of theory, Michele Boldrin made a fundamental contribution which is now part of the corpus of economic theory by demonstrating that under certain conditions, which are common and widespread today, that incentive is not necessary.

Emprical evidence however, in fields like the biomedical and pharmaceutical industry, was scarce, though it did point to the innovator having incentives beyond patents that would be sufficient to justify and profit amply from R&D.

The type of evidence necessary is two similar innovations, one patented and the other not, coexisting in the market from the outset. The record current for illicit duplication is two years, accused but never proved in the case of the Warfarin, the generic version of an anticoagulant called Coumadin, originally patented by DuPont Pharmaceuticals Inc. What’s interesting about the Coumadin case is that it continues to create revenue of some 500 million dollars annually for DuPont. According to the Wall Street Journal, the monthly expense per patient is $35.50, compared with $28.60 for the generic. However, in spite of the difference in prices, Coumadin continues to have almost 80% of the market. Today, Coumadin remains DuPont’s flagship product, and central to the multinational’s bank accounts, in spite of having been one of the few cases where the nearly simultaneous appearance of a generic creates a situation comparable to the absence of patents.

The definitive case: the human genome

We surely owe the definitive empirical proof to the recent paper by Heidi Williams, a Ph.D. student in Economics at Harvard University.

Williams analyzes the consequences of the Human Genome Project, whose results from the sequencing of the genome belong to the public domain, with those of Celera, a business that hoarded its results under patents.

What’s interesting is that there are genes that were originally protected by Celera, which, by being resequenced through public effort, then became patent-free. This way, Williams could really do two different studies: in one, she compared the impact of patented genes with genes in the public domain from the moment of their sequencing, and in the other, the result of genes that were originally Celera’s being devolved to the public domain.

The result in both cases was similar: patents decreased innovation and its results by 30%. Additionally, in the cases where Celera enjoyed a brief period of monopoly, the negative effects on innovation were maintained, though at a smaller scale, after the gene sequencing was released. That is, the negative effects of intellectual property on innovation tend to persist even after the end of legal protection.

If we extend these conclusions to other settings of intellectual property, we’ll understand, for example, why books in the public domain lead to new editions and translations with more regularity that those under Creative Commons.


We already knew from theoretical models and the scarce empirical evidence available that a pharmaceutical market without patents would, in all likelihood, see greater investment in R&D because only innovation would guarantee temporary extraordinary rents close to those of monopolies. But it also would see a rapid expansion of innovations, in the form of generics, in less-developed nations.

Now we know also that biomedical patents reduce innovation by a third, but also that as short as the period of monopoly may be, the social cost tends to be maintained over time.

If we add up both results, the political consequences are clear: the political and social objective should no longer be the reduction in time or place for exclusive use, but rather its total elimination.

Translated by Steve Herrick from the original (in Spanish)


Posted in Anti-P2P, Commons Transition, Copyright/IP, Culture & Ideas, Empire, Networks, Open Access, Open Content, Open Models | No Comments »

The Impending Liberation of “Happy Birthday”

photo of David Bollier

David Bollier
4th September 2015


If the culture industries wonder why people have so little respect for copyright law these days, they need look no further than the Warner Music Group’s claimed copyright of the song “Happy Birthday.”  It’s a grotesque mockery of the avowed principles of copyright law and a scam on the public that has persisted for decades.  But with a revenue stream of $5,000 a day, or $2 million a year, Warner Music is not about to stop charging people for the right to perform “its” song.

Thanks to a courageous filmmaker, however, this travesty may soon come to an end.  Jennifer Nelson had been making a documentary about the “Happy Birthday” song when Warner said it would cost her $1,500 to use it in her film.  Nelson filed a lawsuit two years ago, a remarkable challenge in itself to the usual legal bullying by copyright owners. After all, who has the money or stomach to battle large corporations with well-paid lawyers or to lobby Members of Congress whose minds have already been made up by campaign contributions from music, film and publishing companies? Most TV shows simply forbid their hosts and performers from singing “Happy Birthday,” and various restaurants have come up with their own alternative songs, lest they incur licensing fees.

It now appears that Nelson’s legal team has uncovered hard evidence that the copyright to “Happy Birthday” has been invalid for years.  In a storage facility used by the University of Pittsburgh, lawyers found a 1922 songbook that contained the lyrics of “Happy Birthday” in a song entitled “Good Morning and Birthday Song.” This is significant because there was no copyright notice on the song in the book – a requirement for copyright protection under the law at the time – and anything published before 1923 has entered the public domain and is free for anyone to use.

Of course, Warner attorneys have their own highly technical legal responses. That’s what usually happens in such cases – the historical record and legal rules resemble a murky cave from which no one but expensive lawyers emerge. In this case, a judge will have to adjudicate whether there is enough evidence to decide the case now, or whether a trial will be needed. Still the discovery of the 1922 songbook is considered a “smoking gun” by many.

However the arcane legal arguments play out, it’s patently absurd that a song that derived from Negro folk culture and “written” by two sisters, Patty and Mildred Hill, in 1858, is still copyrighted in 2015 and won’t enter the public domain until 2030 — 172 years after its “original” creation. This lengthy copyright monopoly was the supposed “incentive” that the Hill sisters needed to “create” the song.

Thanks to Nelson and other artists who have joined her lawsuit, the expensive copyright joke known as “Happy Birthday” may soon be coming to an end.  But when will copyright law begin to take account of the actual generative power and “authorship” of social commons?  That, I fear, will require a much larger revolution in law.

Robert Brauneis’ 2010 law review article on the copyright of “Happy Birthday” is the most rigorous, full-scale treatment of this subject, available here.  A shorter but still extensive account by Flenn Fleishman appeared recently on Boing Boing.


Posted in Anti-P2P, Campaigns, Cognitive Capitalism, Copyright/IP, Culture & Ideas, Original Content | No Comments »

The anti-democratic and anti-social design foundations of the Euro

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
7th August 2015

“This was not a mistake; this was not something that they tried to avoid. It is what they wanted to happen, a crisis that would cause a realignment of political power and the end of the European welfare state.”

Excerpted from an interview with Greg Palast:

“Mundell, who taught at Columbia University, won the Nobel Prize for his writings on currency, and what’s interesting is that he won the Nobel Prize for the theory of optimum currency areas, the theory that nations should join currency unions when they have similar economies. Therefore, agriculture economies should have a joint currency; he thought the US and Canada [should] have two different currencies, east-west, not Canadian-American, but the western US should have one currency with Canada, and eastern Canada and the eastern US should have one currency. In other words, he believed that a combination, like putting Germany in the same currency zone as France and Spain, would be ridiculous; it’s a violation of his core theory through which he won the Nobel Prize.

Why is this important? This is the very same guy who is the inventor, you could say, of the euro, which he called the “europa” – that there should be one single common currency for all of Europe, damn the optimum currency theory. Now why would someone suggest a currency that is exactly the opposite of everything he’s taught? I spoke to him about this, and he said that it has nothing to do with creating a good currency. It has everything to do with changing the politics of Europe. He was very, very right-wing. He is the creator of another economic theory, which wouldn’t get him the Nobel Prize; in fact, it’s called “voodoo economics,” supply-side economics. That is, the more you cut taxes, the more tax revenue you get. The more deregulation of business you get, the better your economy – and if you deregulated the banks, there would be less risk in the banking system. All of those supply-side systems, which we call “Thatcher economics,” “Reaganomics,” after Ronald Reagan, it’s all been discredited; it’s all called “voodoo economics,” and yet, that’s what the euro is. It’s an instrument of voodoo economics.

“This was not a mistake; this was not something that they tried to avoid. It is what they wanted to happen, a crisis that would cause a realignment of political power and the end of the European welfare state.”

By having one currency for Europe, and with it, a rule – remember, with the euro comes the rule that you cannot have more than a 3 percent deficit or 60 percent of debt compared to your gross domestic product. That means that no nation, because you don’t have your own currency, has any control over monetary policy or fiscal policy or currency exchange rates. Basically, you lose complete control of your financial system, and he said, “It gets rid of the meddling of parliaments and congresses and governments to fool around with fiscal and economic policy.” What he meant is that democracy gets in the way of good economics.

So, what happens when you get rid of democracy? He says, “That leaves government only one choice,” the only choice when there’s a crisis, as we have now. When there is a crisis, governments will eliminate labor union power, will eliminate government regulation, will privatize industry, power companies, water companies, because they’ll need to pay off their debts, and basically, the power of government and labor unions, the working class, those powers will be eliminated, and wages will fall. In order to maintain employment, governments will allow wages to fall and regulations to die.

In other words, this crisis, in Mundell’s terms, is what he had planned and what the creators of the euro had planned. Crisis is part of the euro plan, a crisis that would cause a realignment between business and labor in Europe, and that the welfare state of Europe will be destroyed, and that’s exactly what has happened. What you’re seeing now, with the collapse of the southern European economies, including Greece and Spain and Portugal, what’s happening here was part of the euro plan. This was not a mistake; this was not something that they tried to avoid. It is what they wanted to happen, a crisis that would cause a realignment of political power and the end of the European welfare state. By the way, the end of the European welfare state caused by a crisis is a quote from Mundell. That’s exactly what he told me and I have it on tape.”


Posted in Anti-P2P, P2P Money, P2P Public Policy | 1 Comment »

Small Loans, Big Problems: The False Promise of Microfinance

photo of Stacco Troncoso

Stacco Troncoso
4th August 2015


We would argue that there are other winners in what Hickel calls “the microfinance game”. Corporate interests of all stripes have a vested interest in seeing millions of people drawn more deeply into the debt-based globalized money economy.

Reposted from Local Futures talks about the false promise of Micro-finance.

Ever since Bill Clinton and the World Bank enthusiastically embraced the microfinance concept in the 1990s, we at Local Futures have been skeptical of its benefits, seeing it as part of a whole package of “market solutions” to our social and environmental crises that, in the long run, make things much worse. We have pointed out that these loans often target rural populations who were not previously in debt: they represent the long arm of capitalism reaching into remote rural areas, encouraging a shift away from dependence on the land and the local community, towards competition in a resource-depleting global economy.

It has not been easy to oppose micro-credit: many well-intentioned grassroots activists have bought into the idea that giving ‘Third World’ women a loan would eradicate poverty and reduce population. This thinking was promoted with missionary zeal, and spread rapidly across the world. In trying to counter it, we have often felt like heretics. (One of the most difficult moments was when I was asked to debate Muhammad Yunus, the founder of the Grameen Bank, at the height of his popularity, on BBC radio.)

For this reason we’re very happy to see this article by Jason Hickel, a professor of anthropology at the London School of Economics, in the UK Guardian: The microfinance delusion: who really wins? As Hickel says, “microfinance usually makes poverty worse”, because the vast majority of microfinance loans are used to fund the purchase of consumer goods that the borrowers simply can’t afford: “they end up taking out new loans to repay the old ones, wrapping themselves in layers of debt.” Even when used to finance a small business, the most likely outcome is that the new businesses fail, which leads to “vicious cycles of over-indebtedness that drive borrowers even further into poverty.” The only winners are the lenders, many of whom charge exorbitant interest rates. Hickel concludes that “microfinance has become a socially acceptable mechanism for extracting wealth and resources from poor people.”

We would argue that there are other winners in what Hickel calls “the microfinance game”. Corporate interests of all stripes have a vested interest in seeing millions of people drawn more deeply into the debt-based globalized money economy. Interestingly, at the bottom of the webpage where Hickel’s article appears there are links to articles sponsored by the credit card giant Visa, all of them urging more “financial inclusion” in the global South – in other words, bringing more people into the economic system that corporate interests like Visa dominate. “Helping the world’s one billion unbanked women” turns out to be about how “more than 200 million women lack access to a mobile phone, meaning they’re excluded from digital banking opportunities.” Another article argues that one of the greatest challenges facing policymakers involves “providing some 2.5 billion people with access to formal financial services.”

This is propaganda, pure and simple: it is part of a drumbeat coming from think-tanks and corporate-friendly pundits that have been very effective in convincing people – including well-meaning philanthropists and activists – that the solution to global poverty requires pulling ever more people into the global economic system. That system is failing the majority even in the “wealthy” countries, while spurring rampant consumerism and unsustainable resource use worldwide.

The solutions to our many crises – including poverty – will not come from a global marketplace rigged by de-regulatory trade treaties to favor the biggest multinational corporations. They depend on preventing further deregulation of global corporations, while shifting towards more localized economies in which people can have real control over their own lives.


Posted in Anti-P2P, Cognitive Capitalism, Culture & Ideas, Economy and Business, Empire | No Comments »