HomeLatest ThreadsGreatest ThreadsForums & GroupsMy SubscriptionsMy Posts
DU Home » Latest Threads » Demeter » Journal
Page: 1 2 3 Next »


Profile Information

Gender: Female
Hometown: Ann Arbor, Michigan
Home country: USA
Member since: Thu Sep 25, 2003, 01:04 PM
Number of posts: 85,373

Journal Archives

Weekend Economists Revelations and Reviews April 26-28, 2013

Well, this is a week that was!

First, the Obituary of the Weekend:

RIP Uncle Vernon Dursley
(Actor Richard Griffiths Dies)


Richard Griffiths, a versatile character actor who won a Tony Award for his stage portrayal of a British teacher in “The History Boys” but gained his widest exposure as a mean-spirited uncle in the “Harry Potter” series of movies, died March 28 at a hospital in Coventry, England, after heart surgery. He was 65.

His agent, Simon Beresford, announced his death.

Mr. Griffiths was known for the incisive intelligence he brought to his roles, his flawless vocal delivery and his considerable girth. Trained in the classical tradition of the British stage, he played Falstaff in several Shakespearean stage productions and later took on dozens of roles in theater, television and film...


....His love of language and his great ear for dialects were all the more remarkable for being born out of an unhappy and testing childhood. He was born in Thornaby-on-Tees in Yorkshire, the son of a steelworker. Both his parents were deaf, and at the age of four he was translating sign language from his mother to the local shopkeepers. His parents "could make noises when they were emotionally aroused, but they couldn't form it into speech."

He attended Our Lady & St Bede School but dropped out at 15 after having tried running away from home several times, and worked as a porter. He wanted to be an artist but his beloved Rembrandt was out of fashion at Stockton & Billingham College, and instead he drifted into acting, largely "out of disappointment", he once claimed. He won a place at the then Manchester Polytechnic, and from there his confidence grew and grew.

Work came quickly but also often predictably. He joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1974 and slogged his guts out playing clowns and Falstaffs, but soon directors learnt not to judge a book by its cover. He was gentle Gonzalo to Michael Aldridge's Prospero in Keith Hack's production of The Tempest (1974), and the same year Tiny in David Rudkin's chilling Afore Night Come. Inevitably he was also Bottom in A Midsummer Night's Dream in 1977 and Trinculo to Michael Hordern's impeccable Prospero in another Tempest in 1978. His performances in The Comedy of Errors and The Merry Wives of Windsor were preserved for the BBC Shakespeare cycle, and soon the parts got bigger, including Henry VIII for Howard Davies and Volpone for Bill Alexander, both in 1983.

You couldn't help but notice him even in the smallest of parts, which is what his television career was all about for the first few years. After a few cough and spits as policemen and park keepers, Roland Joffe cast him in a BBC Birmingham play for the Second City Firsts strand in 1977, and from there he won a guest role in the final episode of The Sweeney as a petty crook terrified of his wife but unable to stifle an enormous libido.

He was even better guesting in Minder in 1982 as the drunken, bitter brother of a successful pop star who pushes a grand piano into a swimming pool and ends up standing on top of it while drinking champagne. The episode, "Dreamhouse", came from the pen of Andrew Payne, who went on to create Pie in the Sky (1994-97), Griffiths's biggest television success, in which he starred as a detective cum chef.

Other leading television roles included the excellent Bird of Prey (1982) in which he starred as a geeky computer programmer who uncovers a conspiracy, and the sitcom A Kind of Living in 1988. He still popped up in guest roles to great effect, such as playing a crusading clergyman dogged by a scary Satanist (Keith Allen) in Inspector Morse (1993), and Willie Whitelaw in Jeffrey Archer: The Truth (2002).

His film work included trips to Hollywood for Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear (1991) and Sleepy Hollow (1999), though finally it was two major roles in the 2000s which really cemented his place in screen history. He had already won an Olivier, a Drama Desk, a Critics Circle and a Tony Award for his performance as the inspirational but tragic teacher Hector in Alan Bennett's The History Boys at the National before delivering the goods again in the screen version in 2006. He was deeply wounded, he said, by a reviewer who referred to Hector as a paedophile. "That really, really upset me," he said. "If you have carnal knowledge of an 18-year-old male that's not paedophilia. Nobody in Hector's class is under 18." By then he was also known to a whole new generation as the cantankerous Uncle Vernon in the Harry Potter series of films. He was awarded an OBE in 2008.

He continued to triumph on stage, notably in David Hare's version of Brecht's The Life of Galileo at the Almeida in 1994, as Martin Dysart in Equus with Daniel Radcliffe at the Gielgud in 2007, and in Art in 1998 and Heroes in 2005, both at Wyndhams. It's a magnificent roster of appearances which illustrate how hard-working and versatile he was, though it is a tragedy that Griffiths died so early into what were perhaps going to be his most exciting times.

Richard Griffiths, actor: born Thornaby-on-Tees, North Yorkshire 31 July 1947; OBE 2008; married 1980 Heather Gibson; died Coventry 28 March 2013.

Next, the destruction of the rest of the world...

Homeland Security Failed In Boston


The FBI and Justice Department put-on a clever media dog and pony show last night to trumpet how the combined forces of law enforcement successfully captured the Boston Marathon Bombers, but nothing could be farther from the truth. Within 24 hours of the bombing, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev had escaped in plain sight by returning to their normal activities, even though the older brother Tamerlan had been a focus of FBI surveillance in 2011. The real crime-scene-investigative heroes were millions of members of the internet social media website Reddit, who virally leveraged their diverse skills as citizen-social-investigators.

These self-deputized “CSI” agents sifted through police scanner chatter, cell phone pictures, and community rumors to scrutinize the terrorists’ movements in front of the Lord & Taylor store to “out” the names of the Boston Bombers...Tamerlan Tsarnaev was obviously named in honor of “Tamerlane”, the brilliant military strategist who ruthlessly conquered every nation between India and modern day Turkey to establish his 15th Century Islamic Caliphate. The Tsarnaev family immigrated to the U.S. in 2002 and older brother Tamerlan following two years later. They were granted permanent political asylum in 2007, while collecting welfare and living in public housing in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In 2009 and 2010, Tsarnaev was the New England Golden Gloves heavyweight Champion and would have made the U.S. Olympic Training Team in 2009, if he had not lost a controversial quarter-finals decision after knocking down his opponent for a full “eight count”. After a 2011 tip from Russian State Security, Tamerlan Tsarnaev was subject to a “prevention” interview by the FBI. He was told: “We know what sites you are on, we know where you are calling, we know everything about you, everything!” Tamerlan’s father, mother and aunt were also “interviewed”. Tamerlan’s public-facing YouTube playlist currently features Chechen revolutionary videos by singer Timur Mutsuraev, “The Emergence of Prophecy: The Black Flags from Khorasan” and other radical jihadi favorites. He was also arrested in 2009 for domestic assault of his girlfriend. On January 12, 2012, Tamerlan flew to Moscow and apparently traveled to the Caucus region of Dagestan or Chechnya. He returned in July 2012. During this period it is assumed that he developed the sophistication to manufacture the bombs and grenades he used in Boston by attending a jihadi training camp. On June 12, 2012, shortly before Tamerlan returned, his mother was arrested and charged with two counts of malicious/wanton damage and property defacement, after stealing $1,624 worth of clothes from a Lord & Taylor. She conveniently left for Dagestan to avoid prosecution and shortly thereafter Tamerlan’s father also left the U.S. for his homeland...It should have been easy for FBI investigators to connect Tamerlan Tsarnaev as a person of interest. He was Chechen, on Russian terrorist watch-list, recently traveled to Chechnya, had an arrest for assault, and his mother had been prosecuted by Lord & Taylor. But the law enforcement trail went cold after the first 24 hours for the bombers who placed black backpacks in front of the Boston Lord & Taylor store on Patriot’s Day.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was so confident of his escape that he slept in his single-unit dorm room at UMass-Dartmouth the day after killing three and wounded 180 Boston Marathon spectators. He acted completely relaxed the next day as he worked out at the gym, played video games, participated in intermural soccer, and went to a hip-hop party on campus that evening. Meanwhile, law enforcement officials frantically called out to the public for any clues on how the terrorists had vanished....Unknown to the Tsarnaevs, who were probably basking in the glory of their perfect crime and dreaming up the next slaughter for their Chechen offensive, the Reddit citizen-social-investigators had identified Dzhokhar and Tamerlan by analyzing the bombers’ hats to pin-point the Tsarnaev brothers as the “unsubs.” Reddit had also identified their new Camaro get-away-car and was closing in on their current location.

The Tsarnaevs, who were also monitoring Reddit, suddenly realized they had been identified as perpetrators and were forced to break their disciplined covers by robbing a 7-11 store for quick cash, assassinating a campus policeman, and then botching their escape when they car-jacked a Mercedes with a Lo-Jack security system. It still took law enforcement another 48 hours of dodging homemade grenades and engaging in multiple gun fights with automatic weapons to stop the Chechen terrorists...As America’s first successful major domestic terror attack in the eleven years since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and Washington DC, the Boston Bombing is evidence that some dramatic change in policy must have allowed a person identified as a potential terrorist to successfully complete his mission and almost escape in plain sight. The ramifications of the politically driven changes to Homeland Security’s domestic surveillance and enforcement appear to have substantially contributed to the failure to protect American citizens from the people who live amongst us and still hate us. Congress should conduct open hearings to thoroughly investigate this intelligence failure and to author bipartisan legislation that better protects our nation from terrorists.


Because the VSPs are all gamblers who live by the Gaming Code:

"This time it's gonna be different!"

The REAL VIPs in this world have been shut out of the conversation:

  • The experts, like Krugman and the like, who use real data, proven theories, and logic. It doesn't matter WHAT they are expert in: economics, science, ecology, human processes, education....they've been pushed aside by greed, indifference to results, and magical thinking. By gamblers, con men and cheats.

  • The 99%, who create and drive the REAL economy.

  • The true public servants, those not bought and owned by Corporations or banksters.

    The Gamblers infest government policy at home and abroad. They've destroyed our foreign relations with all other nations. They've destroyed economies on all scale: local, state, national, international. They've destroyed democracy because the only way they can win is by Fascism. And Winning is the only thing--but their idea of winning is a Win-Lose scenario. They can't tolerate the idea that all parties in a deal could come out ahead...because that wouldn't be WINNING, you see. Not in their twisted frame of reference.

    And we the People have to fight back, before they destroy the entire human race and the ecology that keeps us alive. Preferably without torches and pitchforks, but when all else fails, as it is....there may not be any alternative.
  • Remaking the Federal Reserve, Building Public Banks and Opting Out of Wall Street


    By Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese, Truthout
    Creating a Finance System That Serves the People, Part II

    In Part I of this series, we examined breaking up the too-big-to-fail-or- jail banks, regulating them - especially their massive and risky derivatives trading - and more aggressively enforcing laws and regulations against security fraud.

    In Part II, we examine how to remake the Federal Reserve into a transparent, democratic institution that serves the necessities of the people and the economy, not just the bankers; how to develop public banks in every state and many cities throughout the nation; and how people can opt out of Wall Street right now.

    In other articles and on our web site, we examine the broader economy and how to remake it by putting in place economic democracy so that people have greater control over their economic lives and more influence over the direction of the economy.

    It is worth restating that we do not see the proposals here as final, but more as an opportunity to continue the discussion so Americans can develop a finance system that serves and protects them.

    Transform the Federal Reserve

    A fundamental question for the new finance system is the role of the Federal Reserve and whether it should remain in private hands. The Federal Reserve is a privately owned US central bank that acts behind closed doors to create money and set interest rates, and it presently puts the interests of the big banks first. The Federal Reserve was originally created by Congress in 1913 and can be altered, nationalized or even dismantled by Congress.

    The Fed is a private entity that is controlled by the banks. The 12 Regional Reserve Banks issue shares of stock to its member banks. The Fed is not operated for profit, and the stock may not be sold, traded or pledged as security for a loan. It does pay dividends that are, by law, 6 percent per year. But more importantly, the stock provides banks with votes to elect six of the nine members of the board of governors of the regional banks.

    As Leo Panitch told The Real News Network, it is "not just that the banks are too powerful outside the Treasury and Fed. The Treasury and Fed are part of the Wall Street nexus, and they are organized in such a way, and the people who work in them are trained in such a way, as to be reproducing the current system."

    There is widespread agreement among economists that there is a need for a central bank to regulate the money supply by setting interest rates and to be a lender of last resort in a financial crisis. However, Bill Black argues that the Fed can be made very small and mechanical in its setting of interest rates, rather than maintaining the current approach, which depends on what members of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors decide.

    Further, the Fed needs to be made utterly transparent. "There is no reason for anything the Fed does to be opaque" says Black. In 2010, an "audit the Fed" bill passed in Congress despite aggressive opposition by the Fed. It was not the broad, open audit originally proposed by former Texas Republican Congressman Ron Paul and Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Florida), but it did provide a snapshot audit of a limited time of Fed activity.

    As a result of the Government Accountability Office (GAO) audit of the Fed, Senate sponsor Bernie Sanders of Vermont said, "We now know that the Federal Reserve provided more than $16 trillion in total financial assistance to some of the largest financial institutions and corporations in the United States and throughout the world." Among the investigation's key findings was that the Fed unilaterally provided trillions of dollars in financial assistance to foreign banks and corporations from South Korea to Scotland. These decisions were all made without the public, media or elected officials' knowledge, and they would have remained secret without an audit.

    In addition, the audit found conflicts of interest. For example, the CEO of JPMorgan Chase served on the New York Fed's board of directors at the same time that his bank received more than $390 billion in financial assistance from the Fed. Sanders urged that "No one who works for a firm receiving direct financial assistance from the Fed should be allowed to sit on the Fed's board of directors or be employed by the Fed."

    But the fundamental question is: who should control the money supply? The control of the money supply may be one of the most important functions of government, but currently it is controlled by the Federal Reserve. The Fed creates funds digitally and makes them available to private banks at a low interest rate, which the banks can then use as they like to invest, add to their personal reserves and/or make loans of up to ten times the amount of their holdings.

    At present, the government can only issue bonds that are sold to the Fed, banks or investors with the funds raised by those bond issues used for federal spending. These bonds are loans that must be repaid with interest by the government. So in effect, the government places itself in a position of debt by borrowing money from the banks, and then taxpayer dollars are used to pay the debt with interest. If the government created its own (debt-free) money instead, taxpayers would get more value for their dollars and the system could be more democratic and transparent, and could function for the public good.

    Henry Ford said, "It is well enough that people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning." Why? Because, as Thomas Edison pointed out, "If our nation can issue a dollar bond, it can issue a dollar bill. The element that makes the bond good, makes the bill good ... It is absurd to say our country can issue $30 million in bonds and not $30 million in currency. Both are promises to pay, but one promise fattens the usurers and the other helps the people."

    As part of the economic track of the 2011 Democracy Convention, Greg Coleridge argued that the US Constitution gives the government the power to create money; Article I, Section 8 says: "The Congress shall have power ... to coin money, regulate the value thereof, and of foreign coin." The creation of money is a public function, perhaps more important than any other part of the commons. As Coleridge points out, public money means we create our own money debt-free rather than borrowing from banks and building up debt.

    The American Monetary Institute has put forward a thorough model of remaking the finance system to take power from the banks and give it to the people through the government. The institute point to a bill introduced by former Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), HR 2990, which dismantles the Federal Reserve and puts the necessary functions in the Department of Treasury, where a monetary authority is created to prevent inflationary and deflationary impacts. It would prevent banks from creating money through fractional reserve lending. Instead, money would be created by the government, which spends it into circulation for necessary programs - for example, infrastructure, education, health care.

    Economist Jack Rasmus also urges that we "democratize" the Fed and require it to function as a national, Bank of North Dakota-like "public banking institution that would provide cost-only loans to the consumer sector (mortgage, auto, student, installment, etcetera), finance public investment corps for alternative energy, lend to community infrastructure projects, and totally remove the private banks from its board of governors and open market committee decision-making process."

    Moving the money creation function into the federal government would place it within the US constitutional system of checks and balances to work for the whole society, not only for the bankers and the privileged. Rather than the banker's corporation, the Federal Reserve, creating money, the Fed would be replaced by a US Central Bank operating within the Department of the Treasury (as one option) which would create money.

    Further, Coleridge argues, that there is good reason for governments to control the money supply because there are times when more money is needed in the economy and times when the money supply needs be slowed. When money is created by government, it is an asset and not debt to banks. We should be funding necessary projects and paying our debts with debt-free money. Money should be made for the benefit of the entire economy, not for the benefit of bankers.

    Under such a system, the creation of money would be used to serve the interests of society. The money would be created and spent into circulation by the federal government for infrastructure, including the human infrastructure of education and health care. For example, the American Society of Civil Engineers grades US infrastructure D+ and sees an urgent need for over $3.6 trillion in spending to bring existing infrastructure to safe levels by 2020. As the federal government spends money on infrastructure and other urgent needs and funds local and state governments, this money is paid out to contractors, who pay their suppliers and laborers, who pay for their living expenses, and, ultimately, that money gets deposited into banks, which are then in a position to make loans.

    Some creative thinking is needed to develop a new central banking system. We should open our minds to a wide range of options. For example, in addition to the approach described here, the finance system could be a fourth branch of government, elected directly by the people; or with a combination of elected and appointed governors to represent different parts of society, for example: energy, housing, health care, workers, transportation. The current system is not working and needs rethinking so that it serves the needs of the people and the society, not only the desires of financiers.

    Public Banking: A Public Bank in Every State

    Ellen Brown, the president of the Public Banking Institute, argues that we need a public bank in every state and major city. The United States has one model for public banking: the bank of North Dakota. When North Dakota farmers were losing farms to Wall Street, they organized a populist movement, and in 1919, set up the bank of North Dakota. The publicly owned bank recycles state revenues into credit for the state. Thus, North Dakotans keep their money in their community.

    The result has been an ongoing success. Even during the current economic collapse, North Dakota escaped the credit crisis and has maintained a budget surplus since 2008, low unemployment and no public debt.

    Imagine how different California could be if it had public banks. Brown summarizes: "At the end of 2010, it had general obligation and revenue bond debt of $158 billion. Of this, $70 billion, or 44 percent, was owed for interest. If the state had incurred that debt to its own bank - which then returned the profits to the state - California could be $70 billion richer today. Instead of slashing services, selling off public assets, and laying off employees, it could be adding services and repairing its decaying infrastructure."

    How does public banking work? All of the revenues of the state go into the state's public bank, which, like other banks, leverages those deposits into credit. The state bank partners with local banks to fund local projects. For example, when there is a flood or other disaster, the bank quickly helps provide funds to rebuild homes and infrastructure. It is a bank focused on serving the public interest and which returns the profits to the public.

    According to Brown, there have been two recent studies that show public banks are less corrupt than private banks and that they are more efficient and more profitable. The North Dakota public bank has complete transparency and accountability - including routine audits by several agencies. It does not pay executives exorbitant salaries and bonuses. It does not reward people for churning out risky loans. And it does not engage in casino investing in risky derivatives. It has lower costs because no advertising is necessary; instead, the government guarantees the bank easy access to liquidity.

    The most obvious reason for a public bank is to allow a state to use its resources to build the economy of the state by keeping resources in-state and not sending them to Wall Street, but there are other reasons. The events in Cyprus, where depositors were forced to bail out the banks through seizure of their savings, show there needs to be a banking system that protects people. Cyprus-like seizures of accounts can happen in the United States.

    In fact, Ellen Brown reports that as part of the "living wills" banks are required to prepare under Dodd-Frank - which describe how they will survive an economic crisis - the banks include "bail-in" provisions. These plans require depositors (who are unsecured creditors, with fewer rights than derivative investors) to bail out the banks by turning their savings into bank stock, which could be worth only pennies on the dollar in a crash.

    Marc Armstrong, executive director of the Public Banking Institute, asks of the states: "What is their plan to prevent city, county and state governments from becoming creditors for the too-big-to-fail banks, the next time these banks lose a multi-billion dollar bet? Because of their fiduciary responsibility to the public, we request that our public finance officials answer the question: what is the risk we have in doing business with too-big-to-fail banks that are apparently now able to seize deposits and convert them to capital?"

    The living wills of the big banks make them too risky for city, county and state government money, as well as pension funds' money.

    Another concern is that at least 1,350 school districts and government agencies across the nation have turned to a controversial form of borrowing called capital appreciation bonds to finance major projects. These bonds allow the government to avoid paying anything now and pass the debt on to future generations, but at a much greater cost. For example, $22 million borrowed now with no payments due for 21 years would cost the taxpayers $154 million, seven times the amount borrowed, when it is repaid in 2049.

    This practice raises questions. Armstrong summarizes: "Why are state and local governments, school districts and public hospitals paying Wall Street banks billions of dollars of interest on municipal bond and capital appreciation bond debt, when we could be paying that same interest to ourselves by issuing credit with a public bank?"

    Michael Hudson, a former Wall Street economist, sees the private banking system as cannibalizing the economy and supports public banks to fund the needs of the nation. When the banks failed, the FDIC should have taken them over, essentially made them into public banks, says Hudson:

    If the government would have taken over Citibank it would not have done the kind of things that Citibank did. The government would not have used depositors' money and borrowed money to gamble. It wouldn't have gone down the casino capitalism route. It wouldn't have played the derivatives market. It wouldn't have made corporate takeover loans. None of these are productive from the vantage point of economic growth and raising productive powers and living standards. They would not be the proper behavior of a public bank.

    Hudson points to the differences between public and private banking. Private "banks are supposed to make money. And unfortunately, they can make money most easily ... by being parasitic, not by being productive." On the other hand, a public bank "would make loans for long-term purposes to serve the economy and help the economy grow."

    With the risks of Wall Street banks increasing and dislike of their banking practices mounting, the public banking movement is growing. It is also being spurred by the US Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve's refusal to assist states with their budget problems. Brown reports that 20 states are considering public banks, as are a growing number of cities. Brown says, "We need to get more information out there and develop a groundswell of popular support. Populist movements start with a lot of study, learning about the monetary system." One place to do that is at the June 2-4 public banking conference in California.

    Brown would like to see states remove the middleman, the private banks that profit from their deposits, by creating a public bank in every state so states could "bring their money back home and leverage it for their own purposes." There is no good reason for states and cities not to develop public banks and many good reasons to do so.

    Change Is Already Happening as People Opt Out of Wall Street

    There are a variety of vehicles being developed to help people move their money out of Wall Street banks and the current finance system.

    The Move Your Money Project encouraged people to move their money from the big banks to community banks and credit unions. The Occupy movement held a Bank Transfer Day on November 5, 2011, as part of this campaign. The campaign was assisted by banks whose corrupt practices became notorious and who had started adding fees, like ATM card fees. Three months after Bank Transfer Day, more than 5.6 million customers had moved their money. The campaign continues at Switch Your Banks, which has a consistently excellent blog on banking. Credit unions, a form of cooperative finance, now have assets of over $1 trillion and are becoming major financial players.

    People have also been creating time dollars and time banks. This concept, originated by Edgar S. Cahn, allows people to give time to get time; that is, if someone takes an hour to teach someone to read, they can get an hour for a massage from someone else participating in the time bank, and the masseuse can get an hour from a local participating plumber. This work is conducted outside of the tax system and allows people who have skills, but perhaps are unemployed or underemployed, to use their skills in a dignified way to purchase the skills of other people. TimeBanks.org provides a directory of Time Banks in the United States. If you cannot find one in your community, you can create a time bank.

    Another opt-out is local currency. Across the world, 1,900 local communities, including over a hundred in the United States, are now issuing their own currency. Some communities, such as Ithaca, New York, issue paper currency; others in Canada, Australia, the UK or France issue complementary electronic money.

    The new Internet currency, Bitcoin, has become popular very quickly. Bitcoin is already bigger than many sovereign currencies and this month broke the $1 billion value mark. Bitcoin is not tied to any particular financial institution and is independent from world governments. Some view Bitcoin as a safe haven for people trying to protect their money from corrupt Wall Street banking, but large investors have begun buying up Bitcoin to avoid taxes. The outcome is uncertain at this time.

    More and more questioning has arisen regarding the current debt-based finance system. Occupy Wall Street offshoot Strike Debt is building popular resistance to all forms of debt imposed on us by the banks. They produced the Debt Resistor's Operations Manual, which provides specific information and tactics for understanding and fighting against the debt system. It provides information on how to deal with personal debt, as well as how to work collectively to challenge the way debt undermines communities. Strike Debt also organized a Rolling Jubilee where participants buy debt at pennies on the dollar, as debt collectors do, but rather than collecting the debt, they forgive it. So far, they have raised over $578,000 to abolish over $11.5 million in debt.

    People are also examining ways to invest locally rather than on Wall Street. Michael Shuman, in Local Dollars, Local Sense points out that Americans have $30 trillion invested in stocks, bonds, mutual funds, pension funds and life insurance funds, but not even 1 percent of these savings touch local small business. He shows how people can profit by putting money into building their local businesses and creating resilient local and regional economies. Shuman describes many ways to opt out of Wall Street and opt in to local investment, among them investment clubs and networks, local investment funds, community ownership, direct public offerings, local stock exchanges and crowd funding.

    Tying It All Together

    In his current book, What Then Must We Do?, political economist Gar Alperovitz argues that banking is one of two major areas where game-changing, systemic change might develop (the other is health care). As the Wall Street finance system fails us and places us at great financial risk, people are looking for alternatives and thinking about ways to create a finance system that will serve the people. A lot has been done in this area, and a cohesive set of principles is beginning to be developed. These include:

    Investigation and enforcement of the finance system.

    Breaking up the big banks and limiting their size so they are not a systemic risk.

    Remaking the Fed into a small, transparent, mechanical controller of interest rates.

    Transferring the power to create money to the government in a new central bank.

    Creating public banks in cities and states throughout the country.

    Creating systems outside of the finance system that allow for barter, time banks and other alternatives.

    Encouraging community banks and credit unions.

    Encouraging local investment in communities instead of Wall Street investment.

    This article does not attempt to cover all aspects of finance. For example, the international systems dominated by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund require major transformation, but that topic would require an article of equal length. We also do not deal with the economy beyond finance, where we see worker-self-directed enterprises or worker cooperatives as the foundation of a new democratic economy that spreads wealth and power more equitably among the people and where a progressive tax system would fund the government.

    Finance is the center of the US economy. The current system does not function for most people - or for small- and medium-sized businesses. It is a system that is addicted to casino-like investment, is corrupted by unprosecuted security fraud and funnels money to the wealthiest.

    The 2008 collapse had devastating consequences, and since the system remains quite opaque, we do not know whether another collapse is near. It is time to develop an alternative system of finance designed to support the needs of the people and the country, not the needs of bankers. We hope this article adds to an ongoing conversation, and we look forward to your comments so the conversation can be advanced further.


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

    Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese

    Kevin Zeese JD and Margaret Flowers MD co-host ClearingtheFOGRadio.org on We Act Radio 1480 AM Washington, DC and on Economic Democracy Media, co-direct It's Our Economy and are organizers of the Occupation of Washington, DC. Their twitters are @KBZeese and @MFlowers8.

    A Tax System for the 99 Percent


    ...three ways the people are pushing back....

    ...More and more of us are saying that corporations, Wall Street, and the wealthy should pay their fair share. The good news is that rising numbers of organizations and people are involved in struggles for a more just tax system. Below we share the contours of three such campaigns, all of them winnable before the next U.S. president is elected.

  • Corporations: Daily newspaper headlines remind us that corporations are making record profits while their workers’ paychecks have been frozen for decades. These same corporations complain that the corporate tax rate, pegged at a mere 35 percent, is one of the highest in the world. And, corporations are lobbying furiously to cut that rate. Among the things that these corporations don’t tell you is that, thanks to the thousands of loopholes their lobbyists have peppered throughout the tax code, large numbers of them actually pay little or no taxes at all. Last fall, the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) pointed out that 25 of the largest U.S. corporations paid their CEOs more than they paid Uncle Sam. As a result, the corporate share of overall U.S. tax revenue has fallen to near its lowest share in over half a century. Perhaps the biggest tax advantage that giant globe-girdling corporations enjoy is that the Cayman Islands, Bermuda, and several other offshore “tax havens” charge little or no corporate taxes. Thanks to clever accountants, such corporations can declare large portions of their profits in these countries with low tax rates and thereby minimize corporate tax payments to Uncle Sam. In fact, U.S. corporations avoid paying an astounding $90 billion in U.S. taxes a year by taking advantage of these tax havens. Needless to say, this also puts at a relative disadvantage locally rooted small businesses that have no such tax loophole.

    The good news: A coalition of groups called the Financial Accountability and Corporate Transparency (FACT) Network is rallying support behind the Cut Unjustified Tax Loopholes Act. The bill, introduced by Senators Carl Levin (D-MI) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), would significantly close these loopholes.

  • Wall Street: Occupy Wall Street was right on the money as it lambasted the casino-like financial activities of Wall Street firms, activities that helped crash the economy in 2008. Indeed, a huge share of trades of stocks and derivatives in the United States are handled by so-called “high speed” trading firms whose sole purpose is to make money for corporate and individual clients via purely speculative activity that has nothing to do with a productive Main Street economy.

    The good news: A set of groups in the United States has joined allies in Europe and around the world to call for financial speculation taxes to curb speculation while raising hundreds of billions of dollars to fund jobs, climate-saving innovations, public health, and the like. In the United States, groups as far-ranging as National Nurses United, HIV/AIDS activists, and climate justice groups have come together behind such a tax, often called a Robin Hood tax. In early April, activists dressed as polar bears joined others clad in the Robin Hood green to protest a meeting of financial officials in Washington. This is hardly a pipe dream. Citizen pressure has compelled eleven European Union nations to agree to initiate such a tax as early as 2014.

  • Individuals: The top tax rate on individuals was lowered from 91 percent under President Eisenhower to a mere 35 percent under George W. Bush. With pressure from unions and other groups, the U.S. Congress pushed it back up to 39.6 percent for the top 1 percent in early January 2013. Yet, among the richest U.S. citizens who still make out like bandits are the CEOs of the largest firms. Thanks to yet another outrageous and gaping tax loophole, corporations can deduct CEO pay over $1 million as long as they can claim it is performance-based—something that it turns out is quite easy to do. Hence, there is no real check on today’s staggering pay packages that offer CEOs, on average, more than 380 times their average worker’s pay.

    The good news: A number of unions and social justice groups are rallying together to close this tax loophole on CEO pay. Even Senator John McCain favors reducing this perverse ratio. And, there is an important recent precedent for such action: In Obama’s first term, both the bank bailout and the health care reform legislation included a $500,000 cap on pay deductibility with no performance pay exemptions.

    Bottom line: Each of these three fights is winnable as public outrage grows, and as other revenue-hungry governments point the way to sensible tax reform. To create decent jobs and thriving Main Streets, our local, state and federal governments need revenue. A fair tax system can deliver that with no cuts in vital government programs. The United States is not broke; its rules and tax system are simply unfair.


    John Cavanagh and Robin BroadJohn Cavanagh and Robin Broad wrote this article for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas with practical actions.

    Robin is a Professor of International Development at American University in Washington, D.C. and has worked as an international economist in the U.S. Treasury Department and the U.S. Congress. John is director of the Institute for Policy Studies, and is co-chair (with David Korten) of the New Economy Working Group. They are co-authors of three books and numerous articles on the global economy, and have been traveling the country and the world for their project Local Dreams: Finding Rootedness in the Age of Vulnerability.
  • GOOD NEWS ANTIDOTES: Worker-Owned Cooperatives: Direct Democracy in Action By David Morgan


    ...The cooperative movement is experiencing a string of these moments now, and is burgeoning with renewed activity. I see this first-hand as a co-owner of the Toolbox for Education and Social Action (TESA), a worker-owned cooperative that participates in many co-op networks. We’ve facilitated hundreds of co-op workshops around the country, and taught thousands with our resource Co-opoly: The Game of Cooperatives. It’s our philosophy that cooperatives enable direct democracy and local control over the economy. As participants in the co-op movement, we help to turn flashpoints into lasting social change. Fortunately, the path to a community-controlled economy is well worn, and the adaptive responsive networks of the movement are buoying this energy. Over decades, these movement-based networks have quietly built support structures to transition us to a new economy. And with renewed demands for economic justice, they are springing to life.

    The Model

    As many look for ways out of the capitalist morass of boom-bust cycles, worker cooperatives have taken center stage. Cooperatives are democratic enterprises where both ownership and decision-making power are democratically shared. As a result, they keep money and power in the hands of the community. There are many types of co-ops—credit unions, housing co-ops, food coops, and so on — and though they abide by the the same Cooperative Principles, all coops operate differently. Worker cooperatives involve everyone in decision-making on a one vote, one share-per-member basis. All also equally owns the company. Even though only 1 percent of the cooperatives in the United States are worker owned, their organizing success has recently made them a focal point in the struggle for economic justice. Indeed, Occupy Wall Street participants launched a worker-run co-op print shop in Brooklyn called OccuCopy.

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


    Obama’s Expanding Kill List By Paul Craig Roberts

    Dictatorship is Government Unconstrained by Law


    Prosecutors always expand laws far beyond their intent. Attorneys in civil cases do the same. For example, the 1970 Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act was passed in order to make it easier for the government to convict members of the Mafia. However, the law, despite its intent, was quickly expanded by prosecutors and attorneys and used in cases against pro-life activists, Catholic bishops, corporations accused of hiring illegal immigrants, and in divorce cases. “Junk bond king” Michael Milken, a person with no ties to organized crime, was threatened with indictment under the RICO Act. Prosecutors have found that the asset freeze provision in the Act is a convenient way to prevent a defendant from being able to pay attorneys and, therefore, makes it easier for prosecutors to coerce innocent defendants into a guilty plea.

    We are now witnessing the expansion of Obama’s Kill List. The list began under the Bush regime as a rationale for murdering suspect citizens of countries with which the US was not at war. The Obama regime expanded the scope of the list to include the execution, without due process of law, of US citizens accused, without evidence presented in court, of association with terrorism. The list quickly expanded to include the American teen-age son of a cleric accused of preaching jihad against the West. The son’s “association” with terrorism apparently was his blood relationship to his father. As Glenn Greenwald recently wrote, the power of government to imprison and to murder its citizens without due process of law is the certain mark of dictatorship. Dictatorship is government unconstrained by law. On February 10 the Wall Street Journal revealed that the Obama dictatorship now intends to expand the Kill List to include those accused of acting against foreign governments. Mokhtar Belmokhtar, an “Algerian militant” accused of planning the January attack on an Algerian natural gas facility, has been chosen as the threat that is being used to expand Obama’s Kill List to include participants in the internal disputes and civil wars of every country.

    If the Obama regime is on the side of the government, as in Algeria, it will kill the rebels opposing the government. If the Obama regime is on the side of the rebels, as in Libya, it will kill the government’s leaders. Whether Washington sends a drone to murder Putin and the president of China remains to be seen. But don’t be surprised if Washington has targeted the president of Iran. The elasticity of the Kill List and its easy expansion makes it certain that Washington will be involved in extra-judicial executions of those “associated with terrorism” over much of the world. Americans themselves should be alarmed, because the term “association with terrorism” is very elastic. Federal prosecutors have interpreted the term to include charitable contributions to Palestinians. The next time former US Representative Cynthia McKinney gets on an aid ship to Palestine, will Washington give the green light to Israel to kill her as a terrorist agent for her association with aid to Gaza, ruled by the “terrorist organization,” Hamas?

    Already a year or two ago, the director of Homeland Security said that the federal police agency’s focus had shifted from terrorists to “domestic extremists,” another elastic and undefined term. A domestic extremist will be all who disagree with Washington. They also are headed for the Kill List. Where is the government going with this? The most likely outcome is that everyone disliked or distrusted by those who have the power to add to the Kill List will find themselves on the list. The government can expand the Kill List beyond the original intent as easily as the RICO Act was expanded beyond its original intent. As the Founding Fathers knew and the American people have forgot, no one is safe in a dictatorship. Clearly, the American public lacks sufficient comprehension to remain a free people. All indications are that the large majority of Americans fear alleged terrorists in distant lands more than they fear their government’s acquisition of dictatorial powers over them--powers that allow government to place itself above the law and to be unaccountable to law. This is despite the fact that 99.999% of all Americans will never, ever, experience any terrorism except that of their own government. According to a recent poll of registered American voters, 75% approve of Washington’s assassination of foreign citizens abroad based on suspicion that they might be terrorists, despite the fact that the vast majority of the Gitmo detainees, declared by the US government to be the most dangerous men on earth, turned out to be totally innocent. Only 13% of registered voters disapprove of the extra-judicial murders carried out by Washington against foreign citizens, whether based on wrong intelligence, hearsay, or actual deeds. http://www.ahherald.com/newsbrief-mainmenu-2/monmouth-county-news/14849-public-says-its-illegal-to-target-americans-abroad-as-some-question-cia-drone-attacks

    Registered voters have a different view of the extra-judicial murder of US citizens. In what the rest of the world will see as further evidence of American double-standards, 48% believe it is illegal for Washington to murder US citizens without due process of law. However, 24% agree with the Obama regime that it is permissible for the government to murder its own citizens on accusation alone without trial and conviction of a capital crime. As The Onion put it, “24% of citizens were unequivocally in favor of being obliterated at any point, for any reason, in a massive airstrike.” http://www.theonion.com/articles/american-citizens-split-on-doj-memo-authorizing-go,31207/ Are we to be reassured or alarmed that 24% of registered voters believe that the terrorist threat is so great that suspicion alone without evidence, trial, and conviction is sufficient for Washington to terminate US citizens? Should not we be disturbed that a quarter of registered voters, despite overwhelming evidence that Washington’s wars are based on conscious lies--”weapons of mass destruction,” “Al-Qaeda connections”--are still prepared to believe the government’s claim that the person it just murdered was a terrorist? Why are so many Americans willing to believe a proven liar?


    Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy and associate editor of the Wall Street Journal. He was columnist for Business Week, Scripps Howard News Service, and Creators Syndicate. He has had many university appointments. His internet columns have attracted a worldwide following.

    Solar panels could destroy U.S. utilities, according to U.S. utilities By David Roberts


    Solar power and other distributed renewable energy technologies could lay waste to U.S. power utilities and burn the utility business model, which has remained virtually unchanged for a century, to the ground.

    That is not wild-eyed hippie talk. It is the assessment of the utilities themselves.

    Back in January, the Edison Electric Institute — the (typically stodgy and backward-looking) trade group of U.S. investor-owned utilities — released a report [PDF] that, as far as I can tell, went almost entirely without notice in the press. That’s a shame. It is one of the most prescient and brutally frank things I’ve ever read about the power sector. It is a rare thing to hear an industry tell the tale of its own incipient obsolescence.

    I’ve been thinking about how to convey to you, normal people with healthy social lives and no time to ponder the byzantine nature of the power industry, just what a big deal the coming changes are. They are nothing short of revolutionary …


    PA Court Deals Blow to Fracking Industry: Corporations Not The Same As Persons With Privacy Rights


    “In the absence of state law, business entities are nothing.”

    A Pennsylvania judge in the heart of the Keystone State’s fracking belt has issued a forceful and precedent-setting decision holding that there is no corporate right to privacy under that state’s constitution, giving citizens and journalists a powerful tool to understand the health and environmental impacts of natural gas drilling in their communities.

    “Whether a right of privacy for businesses exists within the prenumbral rights of Pennsylvania’s constitution is a matter of first impression,” wrote Washington County Court of Common Pleas Judge Debbie O’Dell Seneca late last month. “It does not.”

    Judge O’Dell Seneca’s ruling comes in an ongoing case where several newspapers sued to unseal a confidential settlement where major fracking corporations paid $750,000 to a family that claimed the gas drilling had contaminated their water and harmed their health. The Court ordered that settlement unsealed, enabling the papers, environmentalists and community rights advocates to examine the health issues and causes.

    “The ruling represents the first crack in the judicial armor that has been so meticulously welded together by major corporations,” said Thomas Linzey, executive director of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, which has helped 150 communities in eight states adopt Community Bill of Rights to limit corporate powers. “It affirms what many communities already know, that change only occurs when people begin to openly question and challenge legal doctrines that have been treated as sacred by most lawyers and judges.”

    The Court’s ruling is significant because the fracking companies have relied on secrecy agreements with landowners to hide the environmental and health impacts of gas drilling. Corporate lawyers even filed briefs in this case claiming that environmental and public health groups such as Earthjustice, Philadelphia Physicians for Social Responsibility and others were barred from submitting ‘friend of the court’ briefs, which they recanted in a hearing, the ruling noted, “because no such rule of exclusion exists.”

    But where the ruling is likely to make the biggest waves is in the so-called corporate personhood debate. The Judge spent more than a third of her 32-page decision saying why corporations and business entities were not the same as people under Pennsylvania’s constitution, and why, for the purposes of doing business in the state, that federal court rulings that blur the rights of people and businesses do not apply...


    Propaganda System That Has Helped Create a Permanent Overclass Is Over a Century in the Making


    Pulling back the curtain on how intent the wealthiest Americans have been on establishing a propaganda tool to subvert democracy...Where there is the possibility of democracy, there is the inevitability of elite insecurity. All through its history, democracy has been under a sustained attack by elite interests, political, economic, and cultural. There is a simple reason for this: democracy – as in true democracy – places power with people. In such circumstances, the few who hold power become threatened. With technological changes in modern history, with literacy and education, mass communication, organization and activism, elites have had to react to the changing nature of society – locally and globally.

    From the late 19th century on, the “threats” to elite interests from the possibility of true democracy mobilized institutions, ideologies, and individuals in support of power. What began was a massive social engineering project with one objective: control. Through educational institutions, the social sciences, philanthropic foundations, public relations and advertising agencies, corporations, banks, and states, powerful interests sought to reform and protect their power from the potential of popular democracy.

    Yet for all the efforts, organization, indoctrination and reformation of power interests, the threat of democracy has remained a constant, seemingly embedded in the human consciousness, persistent and pervasive.

    In his highly influential work, The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind, French social psychologist Gustav Le Bon suggested that middle class politics were transforming into popular democracy, where “the opinion of the masses” was the most important opinion in society. He wrote: “The destinies of nations are elaborated at present in the heart of the masses, and no longer in the councils of princes.” This was, of course, a deplorable change for elites, suggesting that, “the divine right of the masses is about to replace the divine right of kings.” Le Bon suggested, however, that the “crowd” was not rational, but rather was driven by emotion and passion. An associate and friend of Le Bon’s, Gabriel Tarde, expanded upon this concept, and articulated the idea that “the crowd” was a social group of the past, and that “the public” was “the social group of the future.” The public, argued Tarde, was a “spiritual collectivity, a dispersion of individuals who are physically separated and whose cohesion is entirely mental.” Thus, Tarde identified in the growth of the printing press and mass communications a powerful medium through which “the public” was shaped, and that, if managed appropriately, could bring a sense of order to a situation increasingly chaotic. The newspaper, Tarde explained, facilitated “the fusion of personal opinions into local opinions, and this into national and world opinion, the grandiose unification of the public mind.”

    The development of psychology, psychoanalysis, and other disciplines increasingly portrayed the “public” and the population as irrational beings incapable of making their own decisions. The premise was simple: if the population was driven by dangerous, irrational emotions, they needed to be kept out of power and ruled over by those who were driven by reason and rationality, naturally, those who were already in power...

    Go to Page: 1 2 3 Next »