Archive for the ‘Inspiring Moments in Resistance’ Category

In 2011, to address the failed US recovery, former Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) and Congressman John Conyers (D-Michigan) introduced HR2990, the National Emergency Employment Defense Act. The bill proposed to abolish the Federal Reserve system and end the ability of private banks to create money out of thin air.* If the bill had passed, it could have instantly ended all federal deficits and debt, while simultaneously providing trillions of dollars for vital infrastructure and restoring funding to states and local authorities for education, hospitals, clinics, housing, police, libraries and other programs cut after the 2008 economic crash.

The late Stephen Zarlenga, founder of the American Monetary Institute and co-author of the bill, always found it ironic that in 2008-2099 the US Treasury “printed” between $3-15 trillion of new money (aka quantitative easing) – as HR2990 proposes. However instead of spending this government-created money into the economy as HR2990 specifies, they handed it over to private banks. They in turn used it to pay obscene CEO salaries and to inflate their stock prices by buying back shares.

Among other provisions, of HR2990 would

  • Dismantle the Federal Reserve and transfer its powers to a new Monetary Authority operating under US Treasury oversight.
  • Replace all Federal Reserve notes with United States Money.
  • Instruct the Secretary of the Treasury to create United States Money to address any and all deficits resulting from a discrepancy between tax receipts and funds appropriated for government services.
  • Subject to criminal and civil penalties any person [ie banks] who creates or originates United States Money by lending against deposits through “fractional reserve banking.”
  • Prohibit borrowing by the Secretary or by any federal agency or department, independent establishment of the executive branch, or any other instrumentality of the United States (other than a national bank, federal savings association, or federal credit union) from any source other than the Secretary.
  • Require the Secretary to begin to pay off all outstanding US debt payment in full in United States Money.
  • Prescribe requirements for the entry of United States Money into circulation.
  • Require the Monetary Authority to instruct the Secretary to disperse monetary grants to states for public infrastructure, education, health care and rehabilitation, pensions, and paying for unfunded federal mandates.
  • Direct the Secretary to make recommendations to Congress for payment of a tax-free Citizens Dividend to all U.S. citizens residing in the United States in order to provide liquidity to the banking system at the commencement of this Act, before governmental infrastructure expenditures have had a chance to work into circulation.
  • Prescribe requirements for federal funding of education programs, coverage of any deficits in Social Security Trust Fund account, a universal health care plan, resolution of aspects of the mortgage crisis, and a program of interest-free lending of United States Money to state and local governmental entities.

As Kucinich points out in the preamble to his bill, Article 1 Section 8 of the US Constitution places the power to create money in Congress. In 1913, Congress made the foolhardy decision to delegate this bower to the Federal Reserve system and private banks. Predictably the latter operate the US monetary system (and money creation) in such a way as to their profits – and not for the benefit of the American people. The result has been increasing economic instability, skyrocketing income inequality and growing power of private banks, such as Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan – to the extent they virtually control our so-called democratic system of government.

More information on the American Monetary Institute at their website: http://www.monetary.org/

Link to HR2990: HR2990

In the video below, Kucinich** speaks about HR2990 on the floor of Congress in 2013.


*Contrary to popular belief, the government doesn’t create the dollars in circulation in the US. The vast majority is created by private banks out of thin air when they initiate loans. See How Banks Invent Money Out of Thin Air

**Like Bernie Sanders, Kucinich was more of an anti-coproratist than a Democrat. He opposed military intervention in Iraq, Libya, Syria and the Patriot Act. As a presidential candidate in 2004 and 2008 he called for single payer health care, free education (including pre-school and university), instant run-off voting, a moratorium on GMO crops, withdrawal from the WTO and NAFTA, ending the death penalty and the War on Drugs and lowering the voting age to 16. He collaborated with libertarian Republican Ron Paul on a number of bills and currently serves on the Ron Paul Institute advisory board. He lost his seat in 2013 after the Ohio state legislature re-districted his Congressional District out of existence.

 

We Are Legion: The Story of the Hactivists

Brian Knappenberger (2012)

Film Review

We are Legion traces the early history of Anonymous, the vast leaderless international hactivist community, back to geeky pranksters from MIT’s (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) Model Railroad Club. After branching out to form the Cult of the Dead Cow, they would morph into 4Chan, a website where anonymous – mainly adolescent users – go out of their way to post the most repulsive and/or obscene images and text they could think of.

The fact that most 4Chan posts bear the screen name “Anonymous” would inspire a group of 4Channers to formally take that name in 2006-2007. Their first politically motivated prank was directed attack against Neo-Nazi talk show host Hal Turner. In addition to shutting down his website through a DoS* attack, they charged massive amounts of pizza and industrial supplies to be sent to his address. On learning he was an FBI informant (by hacking into his emails), the widely disseminated this information to his right wing supporters.

By January 2008 when they took on the Church of Scientology (after the Scientology lawyers threatened them for disseminated an unflattering video of Tom Cruise promoting Scientology), they had transitioned from pranksters into a virtual online army.

In addition to repeatedly DoS-ing the Scientology website and tying up their hotline, they staged their first street protest in February 2008 – with more than 10,000 Anonymous members picketing Scientology offices in every major city. It was these protests that first popularized the Guy Fawkes mask originating from the V for Vendetta graphic novel and film.

In 2010 they launched Operation Payback to disable Mastercard, Visa and PayPal websites, after Wikileaks published Bradley Manning’s damning emails and videos about US atrocities in Iraq and the four companies suspended Wikileaks online payment services.

In 2011 Anonymous members provided third party website, dial-up and encryption services and text-based Twitter feeds for activists in Tunisia, Egypt and other Arab Spring countries.

It was around this time the FBI began investigating Anonymous – resulting in the arrest of the Anonymous 16 for taking down the PayPal website. Several of the arrestees are featured in the documentary as they prepare to go to trial. Owing the amorphous and leaderless nature of the network, the arrest of dozens of Anonymous activists  seems to have done little to curtail their activists.


*A denial-of-service attack (DoS attack) is a cyber attack where perpetrators seek to make a website  unavailable by temporarily or indefinitely disrupting services. It’s typically accomplished by flooding the targeted website with superfluous requests in an attempt to overload its systems.

Anonymous – The Hacker Wars

Vivien Lesnik Weisman (2014)

Film Review

The Hacker Wars is a riveting documentary about members of Anonymous – the leaderless international hacking community – who have made their identity public. It focuses on four individuals: Andrew (Weev) Auernheimer, Barrett Brown, Jeremy Hammond and a hacker turned FBI informant who went by the screen name BABU.

The first two men made their identify public as a form of civil disobedience – directed at government surveillance, secrecy and suppression of civil liberties. Hammond’s name became public after an FBI informant named BABU entrapped him into hacking into Stratfor, the infamous private intelligence/security contractor.

Weev was arrested in 2013 – not for hacking – but for downloading over 100,000 government email addresses from an unscecure AT&T website and sharing the security glitch with journalists. He served 13 months in jail before his conviction was overturned on appeal.

Barrett Brown, a non-hacker, was a journalist who reported on Anonymous activities. He was arrested for allegedly copying a publicly available Stratfor link to his Project PM website, a clear violation of his first amendment rights. He was sentenced to 63 months in Federal prison. He was released to a halfway house (on house arrest) in November 2016.

BABU was arrested in June 2011 and released after one day after agreeing to infiltrate Anonymous on behalf of the FBI. Eight days later (at the behest of the FBI), he formed the splinter group Antisec, which in September 2011 aggressively promoted Occupy Wall Street to other Anonymous members. In December 2011, he persuaded Jeremy Hammond to assist him with the infamous Stratfor Christmas Hack. This was the operation in which scores of ex-CIA and ex-military operatives who worked for Stratfor woke up on Christmas to discover they had donated $50,000 each to various charities.

Hammond pled guilty and was sentenced to ten years.

The FBI was an active member of Anonymous for nine months in all. BABU’s role as an informant came out at his trial in April 2012. Owing to his invaluable service to the FBI, he walked away a free man.

Steal This Film – Trial Edition

League of Noble Peers (2006)

Film Review

Steal This Film is the prequel to TPB-AFK (see Pirate Bay, Wikileaks and the Swedish Pirate Party), the documentary about Sweden’s prosecution of the four Pirate Bay founders.

It goes much deeper into the ideological values behind Pirate Bay, whose activities its creators view as civil disobedience aimed against Swedish (and American) copyright laws.

The Pirate Bay (TPB) founders and their supporters (including members of the Swedish Pirate Party and the late Aaron Swartz – see The Mystery of Aaron Swartz’s Alleged Suicide) argue that the Motion Picture Association (MPAA), the powerful US lobby that forced Sweden to prosecute Pirate Bay, experienced minimal economic damage from Pirate Bay users sharing free copies of their films. In the their view, the main financial damage to the film industry, music industry and print and electronic stems from the Internet allowing millions of ordinary people to become creators of video, music and the written word. They feel that file sharing is one the best ways to fight archaic copyright laws, which limit creativity and control of information to a handful of elites for their own profit and political control.

They argue it’s virtually impossible to end file sharing owing to its extremely decentralized nature. Every time a big file sharing site like Knapster, Pirate Bay or Kim Dotcom’s Megaupload (see Kim Dotcom and America’s Diabolic Intellectual Property Laws) is shut down, thousands of new ones spring up to take their place.

The documentary also explores historical precedents going back thousands of years where ruling elites have sought to suppress information exchange and creativity. Following the invention of the printing press, France enacted strict censorship laws on printers, publishers and booksellers. This would lead to a dedicated publishing industry in bordering countries that made a fortune by smuggling banned titles to eager French readers.

They point out the MPAA also filed numerous court actions against the first video recorder and MP3 player manufacturers.

Although the Swedish government was extremely reluctant to take action against TPB (and violate Sweden’s guaranteed right to public access), the powerful MPAA put pressure on the US State Department. They, in turn, threatened Sweden with WTO sanctions for failing to uphold “intellectual property” rights. After the MPAA hired their own private investigator to locate TPB’s server and its four founders.

The film TPB-AFK (see link above) covers the trial, in which all four men were found guilty of “accessory to crime against copyright law.” They each served eight to nine months in jail – the last, Fredrik Neij, was released in 2015

Membership in Sweden’s Pirate Party swelled on the back of the TPB case. Countries all over the world have formed Pirate Party – in 2015 Iceland’s Pirate Party would win 16 seats in parliament. The first US Pirate Party was formed in Atlanta in 2006.

Real Value

Directed by Jesse Borkowski (2013)

Film Review

Real Value is about the reform potential of “social enterprise” – a business model in which local entrepreneurs pursue profit while delivering tangible benefits that strengthen their local communities.

The film profiles four North Carolina businesses:

TS Designs – an organic T-shirt manufacturer that morphed out of a vibrant textile industry destroyed by the North American Free Trade Act. In addition to growing organic cotton an manufacturing T-shirts, TS Designs, which is entirely solar powered, grows organic vegetables to ensure their employees have access to healthy local feed.

Sow True Seeds – an heirloom seed company dedicated to preserving crop diversity (in contrast to companies like Monsanto and Cargill that aim to increase profits by promoting monopoly ownership of monoculture* crops). Sow True Seeds donates leftover seed to schools and community gardens and allows local residents to trade their labor for free seeds.

Piedmont Biofuels – a cooperative that produces biofuels from locally sourced food waste.

Redwoods Group – an insurance company working to keep kids safe by gathering actuarial data and educating local businesses how they can reduce their insurance costs.

The film also explores the general theory of social enterprise (as taught by Harvard Business School). The model challenges the conventional wisdom that big and centralized is always better for the economy. They give the energy industry as an example – how the consolidation of control among a handful of corporate CEOs has resulted in a system of energy production that is enormously inefficient and environmentally destructive – mainly because the end users have no voice in how it operates.

It also explores one of the major hurdles social enterprises face at present, namely educating consumers about their purchasing habits, eg the value of paying slightly more for a T-shirt that doesn’t fall apart after three months or purchasing biofuel that doesn’t result from the destruction of Indonesian rainforests.


*Although they are extremely profitable for Food Inc, the major drawbacks of monoculture crops are their need for massive inputs of synthetic fertilizers that destroy the soil and their heightened susceptibility to pests.

** In Indonesia, thousands of acres of rainforest are destroyed every year to plant palm oil plantations for biofuel. This wholesale rainforest destruction is a major factor in creasing atmospheric CO2 levels.

Autogestio: Adventures into the New Economies of Catalonia

Enfable (2015)

Film Review

Autogestio* begins with an update on Spain’s modern Robin Hood Enrique Durand. In 2008, Durand borrowed a half million pounds (around $700,000) from 38 banks and donated it to various Spanish anti-capitalist organizations. When he defaulted on the loans, the banks took him to court, where he called numerous expert witnesses to explain no banks had lost any money because they created the loans out of thin air. Despite the fact this is where all money comes from – banks create it out of thin air – the court dismissed the witnesses and Durand went into hiding.

The documentary is based on a June 2015 visit Devon activists made to Durand’s home region of Catalonia to study Cooperativa Integrale Catalonia (CIC). The latter is a coalition of work and and mutual aid co-oporatives created by Catalonian activists seeking to build an alternative economy outside the corporate money system. Many of the activities CIC engages in are technically illegal, such as occupying abandoned land and buildings as living space or to grow food, start cooperatives or provide various community services. However through the years, they have discovered a number of creative ways to turn these squats into legal tenancies.

At present there are 26 local currencies in use in Catalonian communities. Some have been created by CIC and some by other eco-groups seeking to strengthen their local communities. The beauty of local currency is, unlike fiat (bank-created) currency, it can’t be spent outside the community that creates them. This means it can’t disappear into the pockets of billionaires or distant corporations.

In addition to promoting the use of local or “social” currencies for local transactions, the CIC promotes the use of Fair Coin for national and international transactions. Fair Coin, a type of cryptocurrency,** is an eco-friendly alternative to Bitcoin.

The filmmakers challenge the popular misconception that the Bitcoin isn’t central controlled like fiat currency. In actuality, Bitcoins are controlled by a handful of people who have computers powerful enough to “mine”*** Bitcoins, by unlocking the algorithms needed to create new block chains. These and other individuals are constantly speculating in Bitcoins, driving up their value. Because they can’t be traced, they are also widely used on the Dark Web to pay for illicit drugs and other activities (such as hired assassinations).

Unlike Bitcoins, it’s impossible to speculate in Fair Coins because their value is carefully regulated by a network of cooperatives to main a relatively stable value. Fair Coop, the group that monitors and regulates Fair Coins, was started by Enrique Durand and anyone can become a member.

At present Catalonia is seeking independence from Spain – via national referendum or otherwise. See Catalonia Independence Referendum


*Autogestio is a Catalan word meaning collective self-management.

**Cryptocurrency A cryptocurrency is a digital or virtual currency that uses cryptography for encryption for security.

***Bitcoin mining is the process through which bitcoins are released into circulation. It involves solving a computationally difficult puzzle to discover a new block, which is added to the blockchain, and receiving a reward in the form of few bitcoins.

 

Eco Social Justice on the Global Frontlines

Vendana Shiva (2017)

The following is a compelling Earth Day presentation by Indian activist Vendana Shiva linking ecocide and genocide to the brutal “free market” drive to rob from nature and people to produce profit.  This wide ranging talk combines a unique perspective on the violent British colonization of both India and North America, the more recent role of major chemical and food companies (eg Dow, Dupont and Monsanto) in imposing free trade treaties such as GATT and the TPP, and the growing anti-corporate resistance movement in India and elsewhere.

Vendana begins by describing an agricultural conference she attended in 1987, at which the major chemical manufacturers laid out plans to increase their profits by introducing GMO seeds and lobbying for laws and treaties that would prohibit seed saving by farmers. She goes on to talk about Navdanya, the nonprofit organization she founded in 1984 to resist the so-called “Green Revolution” that imposed industrial farming on Indian farmers. In promoting seed saving and other traditional organic farming methods, Navdanya was influenced by Gandhi’s use of sustainable self-reliance as a weapon against colonialism.

At the 1987 conference, the chemical companies bragged the entire world would be growing GMO crops by 2000. Thanks to strong global citizens movements, this never happened. Ninety percent of the world’s food is GMO-free, thanks to wholesale rejection of this technology in Europe, Africa and Asia. Likewise only 30% of the world’s food production is industrialized.

Vendana maintains the primary purpose of industrial farming isn’t to produce food but to increase profit. Due to the massive energy input it requires, factory farming is an extremely inefficient method of food production. Traditional farms producing a diversity of crops will always provide more nutritional output than an industrial farm producing a single monoculture crop.

She blames the forced introduction of industrial farming for India’s high level of malnutrition – 1/4 of the general population and 1/2 of Indian children lack adequate nutrients in their diet.


*GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) was the international treaty that created the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1995 (under President Bill Clinto)n.