We Need to End Money Creation by Private Banks – Urgently

After 18 years with the New Zealand Green Party, I will be voting for the Social Credit Party in our parliamentary elections in September. Founded in 1954, Social Credit was NZ’s official third party for many years, winning 20-30% of the vote in the 1970s. They have consistently campaigned around ending the ability of private banks to create money. Contrary to popular belief, 97% of the money circulating in the global economy is created (out of thin air) by private banks when they issue loans. (See 97% Owned)

Given the impending dual crisis we face (post-COVID19 economic collapse and catastrophic climate change), the need to regain public control over our money system is more urgent than ever. New Zealand, like the US has embarked on massive Quantitative Easing (QE).  Under QE, money created by central banks is handed over to private banks to buy back Treasury bonds.* This influx of new cash is supposed to inspire private banks to lend lots of money to businesses to create new jobs.

The US, UK, and EU tried QE following the 2008 global economic collapse. It didn’t work then and it won’t work now. Instead of using these funds to increase business lending, private banks used it to increase stock prices by buying back shares, to increase CEO salaries, and to speculate in the housing market (driving up house prices) and derivatives.

The result? A so-called jobless recovery in which stock prices soared with minimal new job creation.

What we needed then and what we need now is for the new money central banks (including the Federal Reserve) to be spent directly into the economy to fund the COVID19 recovery.

The movement to retake public control of money creating is a very old one, growing out of the US Greenback Party. Named after the Greenbacks Lincoln issued to fund the Civil War (rather than incurring massive debt to private banks). In 1892, the party was reborn as the Populist Party (aka the People’s Party). In 1892, the Populist candidate for president won 8.5% of the popular vote. (See The Populist Moment)

It was a Labour government that first used the Reserve Bank of New Zealand to fund state housing and the State Advances Corporation* in 1936. The US and Canada also used direct Reserve Bank funding to reduce joblessness during the Great Depression and to help pay for World War II. The US continued to use this so-called “overdraft facility” to cover deficits until 1981, Canada used theirs until the mid-seventies, and New Zealand theirs until 1987.


*Treasury bonds are the financial instruments governments issue when they borrow money from financial institutions to fund their deficits.

**The State Advances Corporation was a government agency providing extremely low interest mortgages for first time home owners.

Below is a recent local radio interview I gave with New Plymouth’s Social Credit candidate.

Successful Mass Protest During Repression

United in Anger: A History of ACT-UP

Directed by Jim Hubbard (2012)

Film Review

This documentary traces the history of ACT-UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), one of the few successful mass protest organizations during the repressive Reagan era. Between 1981, when the AIDS epidemic was first recognized, and 1987, 40,000 Americans died of AIDS. During this time Reagan refused to utter the word AIDS, much less advocate for research, prevention and treatment. Prior to 1987, 80% of patients diagnosed with AIDS would be dead in two years.

ACT-UP first formed in New York City in 1987, the same year the first anti-AIDS drug AZT became available. By 1996, the year the life-saving Triple Cocktail* became available, they had 147 chapters across the US.

The film mainly focuses on the New York City chapter, and their Monday night meetings attended by hundreds of activists. Most former ACT-UP members believe the secret of their success decentralized (non-hierarchical) organizing. This fostered the burgeoning of dozens of affinity groups based on the needs of specific AIDS patients (women, minorities, low income).

The ACT-UP Women’s Caucus was one of the more important affinity groups, as the CDC was stubbornly resistant to the reality that AIDS was the number one killer of American women. Because the disease presents differently in women (eg with a a high incidence of cervical cancer), the initial CDC diagnostic criteria made it impossible for female AIDS patients to qualify for Social Security Disability or Medicaid. This not only left them penniless and homeless as the disease progressed but denied them access to America’s for-profit health system

In 1987, ACT-UP held their first protest at the Burroughs-Wellcome Tuckahoe (New York) research facility to protest the prohibitive prize of AZT ($10,000 per year).

Over the years, the organization held a number of creative protest actions, most involving civil disobedience:

1988 – Unfurled banners on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange to protest AZT’s  high cost.

1988 – Made the front page news for “taking over” the FDA to demand more rapid approval of drugs for AIDS treatment.

1989 – Joined with other social justice groups for a City Hall protest against Mayor Ed Kochs failure to fully fund low income housing and hospitals (many AIDS patients were dying in hospital corridors.

1989 – Joined with Women’s Health Network for a 7,000+ protest at St Patrick’s Cathedral (with hundred protestors “dying in” inside the sanctuary) to protest the Catholic Church opposition to safe sex, condoms, and abortion.

1990-94 – Commenced four-year campaign to pressure CDC to include women with AIDS in their diagnostic criteria to include women with AIDS.

1990 – Protest to force National Institutes of Health (NIH) to include patients in designing clinical trails

1991 – Camera bombed Dan Rather’s CBS network news yelling “Fight AIDS not Arabs) the day the US declared war on Iraq (picked up by all major US news outlets).

1995 – Blocked Midtown Tunnel to protest city/state service cuts

 

 

 

 

Sarah Roberts: Taranaki’s Tireless Anti-Fracking Campaigner

 

A Broken Earth

Directed by James Muir (2020)

Film Review

This is a beautifully made film about Taranaki fellow activists Sarah Roberts and David Morrison and their tireless efforts to hold Taranaki’s (mostly foreign-owned) fracking industry to account.

The film begins when the couple literally woke up one morning and discovered their dairy farm was surround by fracking wells and production stations that were discharging fracking wastes into a stream they used to water their herd. Around this time, Sarah began experiencing many of the same health complaints (headaches, nosebleeds, rashes, etc)  as many of her neighbors.

On investigation, they discovered 14 fracking wells to the front of their property, 16 to the rear, and 12 at the side. Although four wells were directly adjacent to their property line, they were never consulted, or even notified, about the well construction. After examining oil industry and Taranaki Regional Council (TRC) records, Sarah also discovered that the casings (linings) of some of the wells had been leaking for two years – without TRC carrying out any required ground water testing.

Most of the film concerns the history of the farm, which David’s father bought after returning from World War II, and the decision by both men to preserve the land surrounding the farm as a conservation estate. Until Sarah and David made the gradual  discovery that unregulated oil and gas drilling had systematically transformed one the most pristine natural landscapes on Earth into an industrial zone. The film also shows the the difficult heartbreaking decision the couple made to sell the farm David had managed for 20 years.

The film also also details the extensive research Sarah did into a failed regulatory process (by TRC, Stratford District Council, New Plymouth District Council, and South Taranaki District Council) that essentially allows oil and gas companies to regulate themselves.

As a result of this “self-regulation,” fossil fuel companies are allowed to dig fracking wells adjacent (and under – via horizontal drilling) people’s homes, schools, hospitals, etc. The end of the film features one of the first public meetings Sarah organized (in 2015) to notify local residents about oil industry plans to drill adjacent to Norfolk School.

As part of her tireless campaigning, she worked with Taranaki Energy Watch to file a lawsuit in Environment Court in 2016 to require that district councils set minimum separation distances between fracking wells and homes, schools, and hospitals. You can find information about the lawsuit at  http://www.taranakienergywatchnz.org/.

You can read the Environment Court’s preliminary findings (which are favorable) below.

You can watch the film free until July 5 at https://festival.docedge.nz/film/a-broken-earth/

Click to access 2018-NZEnvC-227-Taranaki-Energy-Watch-Incorporated-v-South-Taranaki-District-Council.pdf

 

 

Long Distance Revolutionary: A Journey with Mumia Abu Jamal

Long Distance Revolutionary: A Journey with Mumia Abu Jamal

Directed by Stephen Vittoria (2012)

Film Review

This is a moving and beautifully made film about the journalistic career of Mumia Abu-Jamal, both before and after his 1981 incarceration. The film is narrated by a score of famous Black intellectuals, historians, writers, teachers, journalists, and activists. Prior to his arrest for the murder of Philadelphia cop Daniel Faulkner in 1981,* Mumia was a radio journalist for the NPR station at Temple University in Philadelphia. His interviews and news features were syndicated throughout the Delaware Valley. At the time of his arrest he was president of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists.

Thanks to a trial plagued with legal irregularities, he was found guilty and sentenced to death.

In 1992, after ten years on death row, a Pacifica** journalist organized for him to do regular Live from Death Row commentaries mainly focused on the immense sufferings of his fellow inmates (never on his own circumstances) under the barbaric US system of mass incarceration. He also used the broadcasts to draw public attention to the bomb the Philadelphia police (in collaboration with the FBI) dropped on the MOVE household in 1985 (see https://stuartbramhall.wordpress.com/2019/08/03/the-police-war-against-move/).

The series was carried by Pacifica radio stations across the US and by Democracy Now shortly after its 1996 start-up.

Mumia’s Live from Death Row commentaries ended when state authorities banned all journalists from interviewing inmates in the Pennsylvania correctional system. The collected broadcasts were published as a book, Live from Death Row, in 1995.

After his radio broadcasts ended, Mumia worked on three more books:

  • Faith of our Fathers (2003) – about the history of African and African American spirituality
  • We Want Freedom (2008) – about the history of the Black Panther Party
  • Jailhouse Lawyers (2009) – about prisoners-turned-advocates who have learned to use the legal system to assist fellow inmates.

He also published an article in the Yale Law Journal in 1991 about the inhumane treatment of death row prisoners.

All of his publications required major research, which Mumia carried out without benefit of Internet access, and were were written out longhand.

Despite the ban on journalist interviews, scores of political science and African studies teachers arrange for Mumia to present to their classes via conference calls.

In 2006, the Free Mumia Movement went international, with mass protests demanding his release occurring in all major cities. The same year a St Denis, a suburb of Paris named a street after him. In 2007 Paris proclaimed him an honorary citizen.

In April 2011 the Third Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the death penalty, and the Philadelphia District Attorney agreed to accept a sentence of life imprisonment without parole. Because of a surprise December 2019 ruling (based on new evidence), Mumia now has a real chance of winning a new trial (see Counterpunch).


*In 1999, Arnold Beverley confessed to the murder of Officer Daniel Faulkner. He maintains the Mob hired him and a friend to kill Faulkner due to the latter’s efforts to root out police corruption. See https://stuartbramhall.wordpress.com/2019/11/10/how-abcs-20-20-framed-mumia-abu-jamal-for-execution-in-2001/

**Pacifica Foundation is an American non-profit organization which owns five independently operated, non-commercial, listener-supported radio station.

 

The Downshifters Guide to a Resilient Future

RetroSuburbia: The Downshifters Guide to a Resilient Future

by David Holmgren

Melliodora (2020)

 

The online version of the book is available for pay-what-you-feel at http://online.retrosuburbia.com/ https://retrosuburbia.com/

With the global economic crash predicted to result from the COVID-19 lockdown, the publication of RetroSuburbia earlier this month is a happy coincidence.

This book is based on the premise that our current globalized economic system is inherently unstable. Although the exact mechanism that will topple global capitalism is impossible to predict, Holmgren believes it will most likely relate to one (our more) of the following three crisis points: 1) major resource depletion (oil, water, topsoil, phosphate, collapsed fishstocks, etc); 2) catastrophic climate change; or 3) the collapse of a massive real estate or share market bubble (as occurred in 2008).

Under any of these scenarios, the vast majority of us will experience a reduced standard of living. As jobs disappear and personal income declines, people will have no choice but to downsize their consumption levels. As it becomes harder and harder to rely on the capitalist system to meet basic needs (food, water, energy, Internet, postal service, health, security, etc), they will need to become more self-sufficient and rely more on family, friends, and neighbors. As they downsize their lifestyles, more extended families and even friends and neighbors will live together in the same households and produce most of their own food.

Holmgren predicts this catastrophic event may occur so suddenly that people will have no time to prepare. Securing a fertile rural homestead won’t be an option for most of us. For the most part, we will be stuck with the land and house we live in now.

In essence, RetroSuburbia is a manual we can use to “retrofit” the space we currently occupy to help us better cope with what he describes as “our energy descent future.”

Holmgren seems to have thought of everything, covering a range of topics, including how to assess a property for optimal food production, heating your home off-grid, water harvesting, gray water systems, recycling human waste, the mechanics of shared living, soil fertility and contamination, seed saving, sustainable transport, managing our own health and security, raising self-reliant resilient children, and conflict resolution.

Holmgren is the co-originator of permaculture* technology, in my view Australia’s most important export.


*Permaculture is a set of design principles centered on whole systems thinking, simulating, or directly utilizing the patterns and resilient features observed in natural ecosystems. It uses these principles in a growing number of fields including regenerative agriculture, rewilding, and community resilience

Work Sucks: Life After Work

Work Want Work: Labour and Desire at the End of Capitalism

By Mareile Pfannebecker and J.A. Smith

Zed Books (2020)

Book Review

In this book, authors Pfannebecker and Smith summarize the current anti-work movement and literature. In view of rapid displacement of blue and white collar workers by robots and computers, coupled with the offshoring of most manufacturing jobs, there are growing calls for an end to waged work altogether.

The chorus has only increased following the 2008 global economic crisis, which has caused a large proportion of young people to face a lifetime of precarious low paid, part time, and temporary employment.

The economic shutdown accompanying the COVID-19 pandemic makes a examination of the role of work especially timely. With the forced closure of non-essential businesses – and resulting bankruptcies – many analysts are predicting unemployment levels as high as 33% – or higher.

The first half of Work Want Work looks at the big change in the nature of work over the past few decades. The authors start by providing numerous examples of the monetization of non-work activities (eg the collection and sale of our personal data by Facebook and Google to corporate advertisers). They also delineate how more and more workers are required to perform tasks outside their training and job description – for example teachers are asked to identify potential terrorists, university professors to guarantee jobs placements, and doctors to manage health promotion.

The book introduces new terminology to help explain categorize these changes in the nature of work:

  • malemployment – refers to work that fails to provide sufficient income to live on, precarious employment, work in healthy or unsafe environments, work falsely categorized as self-employment (eg the “gig economy”), and “workfare” (where recipients are forced to work at a sub-minimum wage to receive unemployment, sickness, and disability benefits).
  • disemployment – refers to workers expelled from the economy (and society) when they cease to qualify for benefits.
  • young-girlification – refers to the complex phenomenon enabling corporations to profit from the bigger-than-life persona people cultivate on social media and reality TV (eg YouTube and Instagram “influencers,” the Kardashians, and the Pope).

Examining what a post-work world might look like, the last third of the book asks what people will do with their new-found leisure time. Obviously we don’t want a system in which government and/or experts decide the best way for us to spend our time. At the same time nearly all have us have been conditioned by advertising and government/corporate propaganda to desire stuff that probably isn’t good for us.

Detroit’s Urban Gardens: The People Take Over

Urban Roots: Urban Gardens in Detroit

Directed by Leila Connors and Matthew Schmid (2011)

Film Review

This incredibly inspiring film is about the mainly African American Detroit residents who have converted abandoned properties into productive urban farms. As the filmmakers demonstrate at the end of the video, grassroots urban farming has become a common strategy for rehabilitating decaying urban areas. To me, what is happening in Detroit and other distressed cities indicates the revolution has already begun. The system is failing, and ordinary people are already taking over.

Owing to the steady decline in US car manufacturing, Detroit’s population has dropped from 2 million in 1950 to less than 900,000 in 2019. The city has 44 square miles of abandoned property and 40,000 vacant lots. This could potentially provide 10,000 acres of farmland.

The filmmakers visit several of Detroit’s urban farms, where they interview the groups running them, as well as the army of volunteers who staff them. Although many volunteers are unemployed or retired, many have paying jobs and garden in their spare time. Many of the older volunteers with Southern roots already have extensive agricultural experience. All participants speak of a a new sense of self-reliance and control over their existence, stemming from their involvement in meaningful, non-repetitive work.

Given that most of metropolitan Detroit is a food desert,* urban farms are the only access to fresh produce for many residents. Urban farmers also sell produce at farmers markets and to local restaurants. Meanwhile the restoration of community activity in abandoned neighborhoods discourages drug dealing and other criminal activity.

Although a few farms have permits from the city to cultivate the abandoned property, most of the gardens are technically illegal. City officials (quoted in the film) refuse to zone city land for agricultural purposes because they’re still holding out for a Walmart or a major supermarket or golf course to spawn commercial redevelopment.

The urban gardeners deride this sentiment, pointing to failed city projects to rebuild Detroit through massive investment in casinos and a sports stadium.


*A food desert is defined as an area with limited (or no) access to affordable nutritious food.

Anyone with a public library card can view the full documentary free on Kanopy. Type “Kanopy” and the name of your library into your search engine to register.

 

 

 

Restoring Community

Planet Community

Foundation for Intentional Community (2018)

Film Review

Planet Community is a series of five ten-minute documentaries about creating “intentional communities” – situations where people choose to live cooperatively with non-relatives. Many sustainability activists (myself included) believe rebuilding our communities will be fundamental to the transition to a lower tech, non-fossil fuel economy. Pooling resources makes it much easier for people to lower their carbon footprint. Even more important, living in intentional community can go a long way towards alleviating the loneliness and social isolation that plagues modern society.

Part 1 looks at life in the Dancing Rabbit eco-village in northeastern Missouri. This episode explains the the concepts of Outer Sustainability (which includes developing a local microgrid to provide electricity, local food production and distribution networks, eco-housing and recycling and reclaiming resources); Interpersonal Sustainability (relearning skills people need to live cooperatively – such as communication, conflict resolution, and embracing diversity); and Inner Sustainability (confronting unearned privilege and social oppression).

Part 2 explores a number of student housing cooperatives for University of Michigan students in Ann Arbor. The coops were created by the Inter-Cooperative Council (ICC) for students unable to afford dorms or rental housing. The student cooperative houses, which are self-governing. The ICC, which owns the houses, also offers residents training in trauma survivor support, personal stress reduction, and coop management (eg how to pass a kitchen inspections.

 

Part 3 is about the Enright Ridge Ecovillage, established in 2009 around a Cincinnati forest reserve. At Enright Ridge, each family owns their own home and participates in a governing body that runs various community projects, including a pub, a low income housing project and a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture schemes connect food producers and consumers more closely by allowing consumers to “subscribe” to the harvest of a particular farm or group of farms).

 

Part 4 visits a cluster of three co-housing schemes involving 300-400 residents in Ann Arbor Michigan. Each scheme is run as a “condominium association” to satisfy Michigan state law. Residents, who make governance decisions via consensus, work cooperatively to share meals, organize community events, compost, recycle, and operate a “common house.”

Part 5 concerns the Black Oaks Center for Sustainable renewable Living. The latter is a non-profit organization in Kankakee Illinois started by an African American woman and her son to teach permaculture principles to local residents to help them become more resilient. Their program offers training in sustainable agriculture and lifestyle choices, as running markets in food insecure city neighborhoods.

 

The Role of Exiled Spanish Anarchists in the 1968 Near Revolution in France

The Angry Brigade: The Spectacular Rise and Fall of Britain’s Urban Guerilla Group

PM Press (2008)

Film Review

The film traces the role played by anarchists exiled from Spain during the Franco dictatorship in inspiring anarchist movements in Germany, France, Switzerland, Italy, Turkey, Netherlands and the UK. It primarily focuses on the Black Cross, an international group providing material and psychological support for anarchist prisoners; the French First of May Group; and Britain’s Angry Brigade.

For me, the most interesting part of the film is the role of the First of May group in instigating the mass insurrection (and near revolution) that occurred in France in 1968.

The only serious inaccuracy in the film relates to the identification of German’s Beider Meinhoff gang as an organic First of May anarchist group. It’s now recognized as a Gladio operation heavily infiltrated (and possibly run) by CIA operatives. See The Secret CIA Program to Control Europe

 

 

Black Lives: Beating the Odds in Baltimore

Black Lives: Doom. Choosing Between Good and Bad in Black US Neighborhoods

RT (2019)

Film Review

The ninth and final episode of RT’s Black Lives series focuses on positive changes Black community leaders are making in Baltimore – against great odds.

It starts by profiling a Black barber who learned his trade in prison, after being locked up at 16 for dealing drugs. Coming out with a skill he could use to support himself provided a clear pathway out of illegal activities destined to send him back to jail.

They also interview a black postal worker who asserts he claims he never had the “nerve” to dabble in illegal drugs.

We also meet a former gang leader who founded Men Against Murder after getting out of prison. The group enlists the help of other ex-cons to monitor illegal street activities and partner with families to get kids out of gangs and off drugs. He talks about running a group that assists young people transition out of foster care (in most states, the foster system simply suspends services at 18, leaving many of their wards homeless and jobless).

There are also heartbreaking scenes following a young African American with a good resume and no criminal record in his unbelievably disheartening struggle to find a job.