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Archive for 'Empire'

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 »

50 Ways to Leave the Euro: Greece and the Global Crisis

photo of Kevin Flanagan

Kevin Flanagan
15th November 2015

By Thomas Greco

The problem is all inside your head, I told the Greeks
The answer is easy, you need only stop the leaks
The power is yours to claim the freedom that you seek
There must be fifty ways to leave the Euro
          (Apologies to Simon and Garfunkel)

Following the resounding “NO” vote by the Greek people on the bailout conditions in the July referendum, the negotiations between the Greek government and “the institutions” resumed with the expectation that a better deal for Greece would ensue. The outcome was quite the contrary. Greek negotiators ended up agreeing to a bailout deal that was far more onerous than the one the voters had rejected. Why?

The harsh reality is that the Greek government is insolvent. Having been lured into the debt-trap and the shared euro currency by western oligarchs using a combination of measures, including outright fraud, Greece was forced to accept the onerous conditions attached to the first two bailouts. Now it has been bludgeoned into accepting a third. The weapon of choice is the euro currency itself which is being wielded by the European Central Bank (ECB). By throttling the flow of euro currency into the country, the ECB last summer created near chaos in the Greek economy. This, and the threat of even more severe punishment in the future, was enough to bring the Greek government to heel.

With sovereign debt up around 180% of GDP, there is no way that the Greek government will ever be able to grow its way out of the current mess. The draconian measures demanded by the creditor institutions will just make it worse. Even the IMF has acknowledged (with apparent reluctance) that some debt relief is necessary for the Greek economy to recover. The new agreement forces the Greek government to yield even more sovereignty and to open its economy and its people more fully to exploitation by corporate interests and transnational banking institutions.

While the Greek government may be insolvent, the nation of Greece is not poor, at least not yet. But many of the conditions being imposed on the Greek government and the Greek economy will change all that. These include the demands for privatization of public assets, as well as the debt repayments and increasing tax burdens that are doing great harm to family-run businesses and mid-level enterprise that form the backbone of the Greek economy.

The fact is that Greece is blessed with many riches and the vultures from the west would dearly love get their hands on all of them. All the negotiations, past and present, have been about pressuring the Greek government to help them do it. Investigative reporter Greg Palast, with Michael Nevradakis, in a recent article spotlighted a fundamental root of the current problem saying that, “… the euro itself ..is the virus responsible for Greece’s economic ills,” and “The imposition of the euro had one true goal: To end the European welfare state.” So it isn’t Greece alone that has been a target. Palast and Nevradakis continue, pointing out that, “Each Eurozone nation, unable to control neither the value of its own currency, nor its own budget, nor its own fiscal policy, could only compete for business by slashing regulations and taxes.”

But the roots of the problem go even deeper than the euro currency. The present eurozone crisis is but one current example of the elite agenda that was kicked into high gear during the Reagan-Thatcher era of the 1980s and became codified in the “Washington Consensus.” Using international trade agreements and institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank as their instruments, “the powers of financial capitalism” have been able to easily invade one country after another with toxic loans, enabling them to wield increasing power as they loot the commons and convert all manner of publicly owned assets to private corporate profit centers. Professor Carroll Quigley, mentor to former U.S. President Bill Clinton, revealed almost 50 years ago that “…the powers of financial capitalism had another far-reaching aim, nothing less than to create a world system of financial control in private hands able to dominate the political system of each country and the economy of the world as a whole. ”

Fortunately, in the wake of the 2008 financial meltdown, money and banking are at long last again becoming common topics for political debate. People are waking up to the fact that those who control money control economics, politics, and virtually everything else. Yet we have all been duped into allowing the money power to be turned over to unelected and often unknown persons. The result has been the subversion of democratic government, increasing disparities in incomes and wealth, and economic hardship and impoverishment of the masses.

Greece is now the pivot point of a struggle that has been ongoing for a long time. People around the world must now decide whether we will create a “new world order” based on democratic government by and for the people, or allow ourselves to be herded into a neo-feudal society dominated by the few at the top of the international banking and corporate pyramid.

In the wake of his re-election victory on September 20, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras continues to argue that Greece’s economy cannot recover from its deep depression unless the burden of servicing its debt is eased. As things stand at this moment, it seems the best the Greek government can do is to negotiate a stretching out its debt repayment schedule. That may buy a bit more time, but will not be enough to cure the “disease.”

Despite all the fear mongering and predictions about the dire consequences that might result from Greece’s exit from the eurozone (Grexit), the choice is clear for the Greek government, either it will continue to surrender its people and its economy to be raped and plundered, or it will declare its independence, withdraw from the eurozone, and do what needs to be done to rebuild its economy on its own terms. How might that be done?

Now that we recognize what the elite agenda is and the true nature of the political currencies that are being used to beat governments and peoples into submission, it is clear that we must find ways to (1) disencumber ourselves of obligations that have been fraudulently imposed on us, (2) reduce our dependence on systems and structures that cheat and disempower us, and (3) build functional alternatives that serve the common good. Here are the steps that will eventually need to be taken by Greece and others that find themselves in a similar predicament.

Continue to read the full article on Common Dreams – http://commondreams.org/views/2015/11/06/50-ways-leave-euro-greece-and-global-crisis


Posted in Empire, P2P Money, Politics | 1 Comment »

Essay of the Day: the Concept of a Transnational Capitalist Class

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
15th October 2015


From the abstract:

“In the last 40 years, various authors have argued that a new transnational capitalist class (TCC) has emerged, which operates across the borders of national states. The approaches in question are debated widely in the social sciences, not only because of their theoretical assumptions and the empir- ical evidence provided, but also because international power relations are changing, not least in the context of the current crisis. The main claim of the authors in question appears to be validated by the advancing interna- tionalization of capital relations and by the internationalization of the state. It appears that these processes have gained traction with the neoliberal trans- formation of capitalism.

If this claim is true, it follows that there are far-reaching changes to state structures, the international state system, and the trajectory of social conflicts and struggles. Alterations in class relations are specifically important because they lead to new configurations of relations of forces1 and power apparatuses, and, in a second step, to new arrangements of domination and regulation.

The aim of this article is to review the approaches in question critically. We assume that existing theories of transnational class formation are charac- terized by significant weaknesses, both in terms of basic class and state theoretical assumptions and in terms of accounting for the role of state apparatuses in class formation…. “


Posted in Empire, Featured Essay, P2P Hierarchy Theory | 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 »

People’s Tribunal to Assess Fracking and Human Rights

photo of David Bollier

David Bollier
1st September 2015

Screen Shot 2015-07-29 at 4.23.25 PM-250x190

When the state no longer enforces its own legal standards on human rights or ecological protection, often in deference to corporate partners, the logical response is to establish a commons-based alternative – a people’s tribunal. That’s what is now planned in the case of fracking and its implications for human rights.

The Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal (PPT) has scheduled a session in March 2017 to “consider whether sufficient evidence exists to indict certain named States on charges of failing adequately to respect the human rights of citizens as a result of permitting, and failing to adopt a precautionary approach to, hydraulic fracturing and other techniques of unconventional oil and gas extraction within their jurisdictions.”  The Tribunal is an internationally recognized public opinion tribunal functioning independently of state authorities and operating out of Rome. The Tribunal will hold a week of hearings in both the US and UK.

Governments take great pains to prevent their most sacrosanct policies from being questioned in courts of law.  Consider how the US Government short-circuited any significant court rulings about the NSA’s extensive secret surveillance of citizens, in violation of the Fifth Amendment.  It took Edward Snowden’s revelations to force judicial review.

We’ve been here before, of course. The lawless Vietnam War was a prime example. As a corrective to the state crimes committed in that instance, philosopher Bertrand Russell and Jean Paul Sartre organized the Vietnam War Crimes Tribunal in 1967 to hear evidence about violations of the citizen’s basic human rights. In that tradition, today’s PPT will assess the human rights implications of fracking.

The PPT obviously does not have the coercive powers of the state, nor any state-based legal authority. The world’s governments are free to ignore the judgments of the PPT, as they very well might. But as Russell said in opening up the War Crimes Tribunal, “We are not judges. We are witnesses.  Our task is to make mankind bear witness to these terrible crimes and to unite humanity on the side of justice in Vietnam.”  So the PPT convenes itself, independently of states, politics and vested interests, and invokes the broad, recognized standards of international human rights law.  In this case, it will gather evidence about the actual or likely human rights consequences of fracking in various countries.

The PPT explains its process in this way:

PPT Sessions are virtually identical to courtroom proceedings in which a complainant or class of complainants brings an action against a government or private party and asks that they be judged against legal standards. The Peoples’ Tribunal, comprised of eleven members, including five to seven jurists of high standing in international human rights law as well as expert in the field, along with internationally well known representative of civil society, hears testimony from victims, witnesses and experts in various fields, hears arguments from prosecuting and defense attorneys, deliberates and in time issues judgments and recommends remedies.

“The importance and strength of decisions by the PPT rest on the moral weight of the causes and arguments to which they give credibility, as well as the integrity and capability to judge of the Tribunal members.” The goal of PPT Sessions is “recovering the authority of the Peoples when the States and the International Bodies failed to protect the right of the Peoples.”

Complaints heard by the Tribunal are submitted by the victims or by groups or individuals representing them. The PPT calls together all parties concerned and offers defendants the opportunity to make their own arguments heard. The panel of judges is selected for each case by combining members who belong to a permanent list and individuals who are recognized for their competence and integrity.

Since 1979, the PPT has held about forty sessions on various topics, including the behavior of agrochemical companies and the Canadian mining industry in Latin America.  The outcomes of the PPT sessions allow for witnesses to be publicly heard and for a public record to be established.  The proceedings also have an obvious public education dimension.

This latest session of the PPT is being jointly organized by the Global Network for the Study of Human Rights and the Environment (UK), the Environment and Human Rights Advisory (USA) and the Human Rights Consortium (UK).  The Tribunal will consider a number of specific issues, such as the impacts of fracking on physical and mental health, on hydrology and seismic activity, and on social life.  It will also look at the effects of the entire fuels infrastructure on people’s human rights, and the climate impacts of fracking.

Like any commons, the PPT does not go of itself; it relies upon people’s active participation and help.  People are invited to submit witness statements, donate to help fund the proceedings (travel, lodging, office services); conduct mini-tribunals in their countries; and to endorse the Tribunal.


Posted in Activism, Commons, Empire, Ethical Economy, Food and Agriculture, Open Government, Original Content, P2P Ecology, P2P Movements, P2P Public Policy | No Comments »

Approaching a Global Deflationary Crisis?

photo of Kevin Flanagan

Kevin Flanagan
31st August 2015

By Brian Davey

Anyone with any sense for global economic trends ought to be worried. The signs are everywhere of a serious deflationary crisis. It is obvious that Chinese growth is falling. The prices for energy and the raw materials that feed the growth economy keep falling. The demand for Chinese exports is down too. Stock Markets in Asia are falling, despite attempts to prop them up. Countries are being tempted to export their problems abroad – for example by competitive devaluation. In Europe its obvious that a “solution” is being cobbled together for the Euro and Greek crisis even though no one at all believes that it will work. At the same time the policy response of “quantitative easing” which has kept interest rates down very low has reached the end of the road. With interest rates at or near to zero the scope for addressing the crisis through monetary policy (low interest rates) is exhausted. Many pundits believe that low interest rates have not encouraged productive investment but speculative bubbles – the creation of capacity in fields that in the long run will not pay, or fuelled a casino style speculation, a giant bubble of bets that could soon collapse, bringing the global economy down with it.

So what is going on? How do we explain the situation? In this paper I am going to argue that there are a number of ways of understanding and addressing what is developing into a global crisis. The desire to make the crisis understandable can convert into a temptation to make it seem simpler than it is. At its most banal we have the explanations that neo liberal German politicians are prone to – like the idea that the crisis is because of a lack of confidence and trust and that this can be resolved (in Europe) purely and simply by countries following the Eurozone rules. If the confidence and trust are restored then all will be well and the market will restore prosperity.

A more adequate story is needed than this – and it is one that needs to focus on global trends not just in Europe but in the USA, the so-called developing world and above all in China. This story has a number of different plots and sub plots, not one. We need to understand how the sub plots interweave. The story is one of debt, competitive imbalances and an energy crisis and all need to be told. To make the story even more complicated we need to keep in mind too that an even more important story, that of climate change, has to be held in our minds too. If and when humanity has any chance of resolving these crises it will have to resolve that one at the same time. Will this be possible? I don’t know – what I do know is that there is a theory, by archeologist Joseph Tainter, that humanities’ problem solving capacities are limited by complexity. A friend is currently trying to get me to use twitter. However I am daunted by reducing complex situations to short simple messages. Understanding the global economy is like entering a labyrinth. As I get older I notice that some people become famous because of the clarity in the way that they write. What may not be noticed is that the apparent clarity in a political economic message is often the result of simplification. The popularity of neo-liberal economcs is like that.
So lets look at the ways of describing the crisis. In summary this can be described as the interrelationship between 4 processes.

(1) Structural policy stupidity – policy governance cannot cope with the complexity of the crisis. Politicians cannot cope with communicating complex messages to their peoples nor find the mechanisms to cope with the complexity of the issues.

(2) Problems are also caused by uneven development between countries and sectors which cannot be sustained without methods for recycling purchasing power from the more competitive countries to the less competitive ones. These imbalances become most problematic when capital export from surplus to deficit countries slows which happens when growth slows in the deficit countries.

(3) The crisis is both cause and effect of a rising amount of debt – personal, corporate, state and financial sector – which has acted as a drag on growth. As growth falls all kinds of debt become more difficult to service so the monetary authorities have tried to push interest rates down. Nevertheless the finance sector has tended to become both more speculative and more predatory as there is a “hunt for yield”. Interest rates rise when risk premiums are imposed on distressed borrowers (including states), money making occurs through financing arrangements based on “passing the risk parcel” exploiting the naivety of lenders about complex financial arrangements and by the promotion of asset price bubbles. The bigger players are rescued during crises but the smaller players (including tax payers and those who lose their state benefits) are made to pay.

(4) The crisis is the result of reaching “the limits of economic growth” and, in particular, because of resource depletion in the energy sector. This is less obvious because of currently low and falling energy and commodity prices but we need to study the experience of the energy sector over last few years, not just the immediate situation. The immediate fall in commodity and energy prices is a result of the onset of the crisis – a crisis which very high and rising energy prices up until recently helped bring on. The high energy prices have been compatible with a high level of debt only because interest rates have been so low and because there has been a “hunt for yield”, something that would pay more than leaving money on deposit paying very little.

Depletion of resources in the energy and mining sector means that it is taking more energy than before to extract energy (and other mined resources) and this has pushed up the costs of extraction of energy and other minerals. High energy costs act as a drag on the growth of the economy as a whole – because energy costs, like interest rates, enter into the production of virtually everything else. This is particularly acute problem in the energy sector itself as the energy sector is such a huge user of energy. The energy companies need a high price for energy otherwise they cannot actually make a profit. However, if energy prices are high for too long the economy wilts.

The development of unconventional oil and gas has been possible because quantitative easing has made a large amount of money to Wall Street at a low interest rate and they have been “searching for yield” – looking for somewhere to put this money to earn a high rate of interest. This funded the voracious capital expenditure needs of the industry with its high drilling intensity. However it pre-supposed that prices would remain high enough for long enough to cover costs and this has not happened. The problem is set to get a lot worse as depletion speeds up.

So, to repeat, the best way to tell the story of this crisis needs to relate ALL of these elements together – policy failure, debt, imbalances, energy. Each element is causatively connected to the others but sometimes in a time lagged way which obscures the relationships. Together these elements are bringing about what some observers are calling “secular stagnation”.

“Stanley Fischer, vice-chairman of the US Federal Reserve, has laid out the predicament that forecasters face. Half way through each year, economists have had to explain why their global growth forecasts were too optimistic, he said, and this has happened “year after year”. While growth rates have been falling across the world, it’s not yet clear whether this is all a hangover from the 2008 crash or something more fundamental.”[1]

In my view it is “something more fundamental”. It is related to reaching the limits to growth – and this has to do with fossil fuel and materials depletion and the end of cheap energy. However, this does not exclude a partial truth in the other narratives that economists are using to explain low growth.

In the reminder of this article I run through each of these themes in more depth.

Read the Full Article – http://www.credoeconomics.com/?p=164


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Essay of the Day: Commons for Peace

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
27th August 2015

* Article: Commons for Peace. James Quilligan. Kosmos Journal, FALL | WINTER 2011


“Although the term ‘human security’ has various meanings, two have predominated. Following the Cold War, several major studies—including the UN Secretary-General’s 1992 report, Agenda for Peace; the 1994 World Development Report of the UN Development Program; and the 2003 report, Human Security Now, by the UN Commission on Human Security—proposed peaceful alternatives to military security. This shifted the traditional meaning of security from national defense to social development and the rights of civilians. Meanwhile, a second branch of human security was examining reasons why the international community should intervene in a sovereign state, which jeopardizes the safety and security of its people through political violence or military aggression. The principle of responsibility to protect (R2P) was put forward by the 2001 report of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty to bring peace and legal order to citizens whose lives are endangered by their own government.”


1. How Commons’ Rights Differ from Human Rights

James Quilligan:

” Human security may call for community-based development, social well-being and popular selfdetermination, but the rights of local citizens preempt sovereign authority only during humanitarian crises—not when there is a military security threat. Since many analysts in the human security field view human rights and development as a legitimate part of the people’s social contract with their government, they challenge the issue of state sovereignty mainly in terms of the legitimacy of foreign intervention.

The commons field takes a different approach. It questions the effectiveness of the traditional model of human rights and development, stressing the importance of socially created value and the management of resources by local communities beyond the purview of government jurisdiction or market incentives. Rather than subjects of the state, civilians must be treated as people whose livelihoods are destroyed when they are separated from the social and natural wealth upon which they depend. Commoners want the state to provide greater security for the rights of citizens to produce and manage these resources and less support for their privatization. The commons thus provide a strong critique of the inequality and unrest that result from market forces. Destabilization of a commons may be caused by many factors, not the least of which are corporate-driven efforts to enclose and extract a valuable resource. This can result in the financing of social instability.

It’s true that poverty, disease and lack of capacity or development by local people may be an immediate cause—or result —of failed commons. Yet the underlying reasons for failed commons, resource conflict and security crises often involve the meddling of the domestic state, a foreign state, or domestic or foreign businesses in the management and production of a community’s natural and social capital. The field of human security does not address this dimension of resource security.

At the same time, human security, with its realism concerning the alternatives to armed security, can be helpful to commons practitioners who view the commons in a political vacuum, isolated from state and regional influences. Commoners believe that communities can generate genuine livelihood and well-being simply by negotiating, monitoring and policing their own rules for resource management. But this minimizes the fact that state or regional conflict over the ownership and production of local stocks and supplies can pose major security problems—of infrastructure, governance, lawlessness, hostility and fear. In many cases, sudden and catastrophic changes in political regimes lead to radical and violent changes, disrupting the peace, security and wellbeing of a community’s ability to manage its commons.

While human security supports the protection of civilian interests through human rights, material relief and the mobilization of peacebuilding and peacekeeping efforts, it places more emphasis on the personal safety of citizens than on specific means for the self-management of their commons. Commoners argue that wellintentioned proposals for human rights, social development and peacebuilding are often imposed on pre-existing commons and neglect the survival and subsistence needs of their resource communities, resulting in poverty, disrupted livelihoods and resource refugees. The uprooting and displacement of a population, crime, weapons and extremist ideologies are also cross-border problems, which is why a regional approach to human security may be necessary.

Commons advocates often point out that sovereign jurisdictions and their social institutions rarely match the territorial expanse of ecosystems, social and cultural groupings and religious diasporas. Yet most commoners have little experience in the management of resource crises which transcend state boundaries.”

2. Socially Chartered Agreements for Resource Security

“Both fields generally agree that sustainable security in particular areas should be established by the people who live there, since they are the ones most knowledgeable about potential solutions to their problems. Commoners assert that resource security cannot be guaranteed by people they don’t know or trust, and many human security proponents agree that outside forces are not always the best source of citizen safety. Some advocates of human security support a participatory framework for peacekeeping, civilian protection and self-determination in disputed areas and conflict zones, one aspect of which is the local governance of community holdings and provisions which may be endangered. Many resource communities have also developed social charters under peaceful conditions—declarations of their rights to produce and manage a commons—which involve a wide range of people who depend on these assets for their physical and material welfare. Socially chartered agreements allow citizens and local public officials to design effective policies and institutions specifically tailored to their circumstances. Social charters can also be created for regional commons by addressing the security of resources vital to all stakeholders in a transborder environment, such as water, food and energy. In strife-torn areas, social charters may include plans for peacekeepers to manage conflict and protect civilians. These peacekeeping measures could be financed through leases or taxes on the commons.” (http://www.kosmosjournal.org/wp-content/article-pdfs/commons-for-peace.pdf)

3. Commons for Peace as a Anti-Enclosure Movement

“The challenge now for those who recognize the importance of Commons for Peace (C4P) is to define security as non-closure: the rolling back of new or existing property enclosures which deny the rights of people to their means of livelihood and welfare.

Government and market enclosures remove people from their sources of living wealth and sustenance, leading to failed commons and the potential for resource conflict and armed intervention. Proponents of human security, unlike commons activists, have generally not opposed state enclosure laws or privatization. This is probably the sharpest difference now between human security and the commons. Yet there is much common ground: both fields agree on devolving power to local communities and the non-interference of outside forces. They converge on the creation of locally chartered agreements for the protection of civilians and their common goods, encouraging communities to flourish through legitimate local management. They also agree that peace itself is a social and cultural good, which must be locally managed and shared.

As a democratic movement, Commons for Peace would defend the social protests that emerge from the destruction of a commons—or from any form of external control that does not promote life, human dignity, security and peace. Socially chartered agreements for the local production and management of commons are won through hard-fought but peaceful negotiations to protect them from enclosure, overuse and deterioration. This means safeguarding a community’s sources of survival, sustenance and well-being by resisting abusive interference, whether domestic or foreign. C4P would speak for a third sector of popular will—the powerful force of people who are infuriated by losing not only the benefits of access, use, production and governance of their commons, but also the safety and security which only this natural and social capital can offer. The indignation of C4P must be focused through the determination of communities to reclaim their commons non-violently and redefine the boundaries of resource domains threatened by further enclosure and exploitation.

Neither human security nor the commons are concepts currently recognized in mainstream society. All the more reason that these fields should join forces. C4P would demonstrate that human rights, poverty, disease, food, health, education, political participation and the peaceful management of resource conflict can no longer be separated from the commons. Indeed, nothing is more vital to the peace and security of individuals and communities across the world today than the long-term preservation of their commons.”


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On the emergence of a global working class

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
14th August 2015

Excerpted from Nick Dyer-Whiteford:

“The idea of a ‘global working class’, which a decade ago would have been dismissed as leftist phantasm, is attracting increasing attention (Baranov, 2003; Linden, 2008; Mason, 2007; Struna, 2009; Breathnach, 2010).

‘Global worker’ designates collective labour that is : i) internationalized by the world-scale expansion of capital, a process in whose long historical arc a turning point is the doubling of the available global labour-power occasioned by the 1989 fall of the socialist states; ii) variegated by an increasingly complex division of labour, conventionally termed ‘the growth of the service sector’ (Soubbotina, 2000), describable in Marxist terms as an expansion of employment in the spheres of circulation and social reproduction; iii) universalized by the inclusion of women–aka ‘the feminization of work’ (Morini, 2007), the growth of production centers outside the global north-west, and flows of migrant labour, all shattering the notion of a white, male working class; iv) connected, albeit to very differing degrees and with many stratifications, to digitalized communications systems – crude but telling indicators are the global count of two billion Internet users and five billion cell phones; v) precarious in its conditions, with a chronic insecurity underpinned by capital’s access to a transcontinental reserve army of the unemployed, a surplus population whose task it is to survive in a state of readiness for work; iv) planet-changing in the effects of its labours, effects that, while historically cumulative, are only now becoming visible in global bio-crisis.

The global worker is not just an aggregate, the sum of all labours directly and indirectly mobilized by capital, a reckoning that could have been made at any time in the last three hundred years. What gives this abstraction a contemporary concreteness is its organizational form: the ‘value chain’. Subject since the 1980s of a burgeoning managerial study, value chains (Porter, 1985) – also variously termed ‘supply chains’ (Tsing, 2009), ‘commodity chains’ (Gereffi & Korzeniewicz, 1994) and ‘global production networks’ (Henderson et al., 2002; Levy, 2008) – are institutionally and technologically linked sequences of labour-processes that ‘add value’ at every stage, from research and development to assembly and marketing, dispersed to locations around the planet calculated, in terms of production costs, resource availability, and proximity to markets, to maximize profits. Some sensitive analysts prefer to avoid the ‘linear connotations’ of ‘chains’ (Levy, 2008: 2), highlighting the ‘intricate links – horizontal, diagonal as well as vertical – forming multi-dimensional, multi-layered lattices of economic activity’ (Henderson et al., 2002: 442). The construction of value chains require organizational power and geographic reach of the sort generally only commanded by multinational corporations, often entails foreign direct investment (FDI), international trade agreements, and ‘complex forms of governance at multiple levels’ (Levy, 2008: 2). The value chain form is enabled by neoliberal globalization policies, and driven by the financialization of corporate practices in which ‘need to meet capital market expectations and appease mutual fund managers’ necessitates cutting costs and increasing efficiencies at every level (Levy, 2008: 35, citing Williams, 2000).

Digital technologies are a sine qua non for value chains, which depend on a telecommunications infrastructure to reduce the transaction costs of ‘coordinating dispersed operations’ and on software systems for ‘modular production processes that rely on standards and routinized interfaces with suppliers and customers’ (Levy, 2008:8). Equally important is the use of electronic communication to integrate transportation with systems of retail or business-to-business distribution: the icon of this ‘the elevated significance of logistics’ is the digitized Universal Product Code (Sealey, 2010: 28).

Conversely, however, value chains are necessary for digital technologies, which are produced in world-wide division of labour that links very different kinds of labour. The computer industry can be schematically divided into two main sectors: software and hardware. In the software sector, key areas such as business applications and digital games display a characteristic pattern where key creative design and engineering functions are located in high-end studio or campus ambiences in North America, Western European and Japan. Routinized programming is increasingly outsourced and off-shored to subcontracted enterprises, whether in Bangalore, Ho-Chi Minh City, Dublin or Budapest, where wages and working conditions are an order of magnitude lower. This value-adding logic also extends to the incorporation of ‘free labour’ (Terranova, 2000) through selective use of open-source programming initiatives or user-generated content, such as game mods. If one ignores the role of janitorial, cleaning and service staff, characteristically migrant, often female, who maintain the environments of programmers and designers working through the ‘death marches’ and ‘crunch times’ routinely demanded by the industry, much of this software work falls within the scope of ‘immaterial labour’ (Hardt & Negri, 2000: 290-294), even if with a very high degree of stratification.

Where the full scope of the labours necessary to a Microsoft, an Apple or Sony becomes apparent is, however, on the hardware side (Smith et al, 2006). Here again, the key design and prototyping for an Xbox, an iPad or iPod or a Playstation3 is likely to be done by high level engineers and architects. The semiconductors required, which a decade or so ago might have come from toxic chip fabrication lines, will today more likely be produced in highly automated Taiwanese plants. When one comes to the actually assembly of the devices, however, this will performed by in Central America, Eastern Europe, or – most probably – in Southern China, with its manufactories of silent, serried work, obligatory unofficial overtime and incessant industrial accidents: reports suggest as many as 40,000 fingers a year are lost in Pearl River factory lines, giving ‘digital labour’ a grim signification (Barboza, 2008). Beyond this, the role of manual labour in the making of computing devices plunges off into yet more abyssal directions–on one hand into the mining of columbine tantalite and other minerals indispensable to consumer electronics amidst the carnage of the Eastern Congo, and on the other to the toxic e-waste disposal sites of Asia and Africa where computers and game consoles go to die, in their expiration poisoning the workers who excavate their remains (Dyer-Witheford & de Peuter, 2009). The point here is not just that manual work continues to exist in a so-called digital age as some residual hold over; it is rather that the profitability of digital products depends on the incessant re-positing of cheap, degraded labour, so that new technoscience and human exhaustion accompany one another hand in hand.

Anna Tsing’s (2009: 48) apparently portentous claim that analysis of supply chain capitalism is ‘necessary to understand the dilemmas of the human condition today’ is thus correct. Global capital unites humanity, then divides it again. Class is defined by who appropriates surplus value from whom. In the planet factory, command flows down the value chain, but value flows upward in an inverse cascade, from the one billion absolutely immiserated people living at the edge of malnutrition (the involuntary regulators of the price of labour power for the system as a whole), stopping at a series of intermediate plateau or shallow pools–the old and new industrial proletariat class-bathes ‘immaterial labour’, and passes though a range of intermediate and contradictory positions (managers and technocrats) before ascending to condense in the bodies of a global ruling class. The process by which the rich live longer, in better health, with more beautiful bodies, sensory extensions and mobility now, in the age nanobots and immortality enzymes, promises to become a veritable plutocratic mutation.”


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