April 30, 2011

Time Banking

Filed under: Food and Farms, Relocalization, Time Banking and Co-Production — Tags: — Russ @ 2:20 am


As the full destructive and tyrannical import of commodification sets in, individuals, communities, and peoples are looking for ways to break this tyranny. One aspect of domination is our servitude to the bank-controlled cash supply. So one key part of fighting back is the imperative to Take Back Our Money. One key part of relocalization is the development of alternatives to the system cash economy. There are many such alternatives – barter, alternative currencies, Local Exchange Trading Schemes (LETS), people’s banks, and others. One alternative which is vigorously spreading is Time Banking.
A Time Bank is a program for giving and receiving services among members of a community. It’s a way of organizing the informal economy of a community along the lines of reciprocal gifting of work. Members of a Time Bank offer and request every imaginable kind of service – professional expertise, skilled labor, manual labor, domestic chores, any kind of assistance, giving lessons, the use of resources and facilities. Every hour you give is credited to your Time Bank account, an hour you receive is an our you’ve committed yourself to reciprocate. Some banks tally the accounts in hours, others call them time dollars (T$) or something similar. But the measure is always time.
When you receive a service and now owe a service, your reciprocation doesn’t have to be to the same person. Instead, you can help another member, who in turn helps another, who may then help the person who first helped you. This gives the Time Bank all the flexibility and diversity of barter, since two members don’t have to directly trade services if only one of them has what the other wants. (Technically, it’s not barter but a way of accounting for exchange of gifts, along with an assumed moral responsibility to give as much as you get.) Instead, Andy (a musician) can give Beth (an expert gardener) a piano lesson, then Beth can help Carl (a mechanic) lay out and plant his garden, and then Carl can do minor repairs on Andy’s car. So we started out with Beth owing one hour, Andy being owed. Then Beth gave an hour to Carl, who then owed an hour. Carl gave this hour to Andy, thus zeroing out the accounts.
That’s one example of how diverse services can complement one another through the Time Bank. While the aspiration of any Time Bank is to assemble as much reciprocal expertise as possible, in practice one almost always starts out with a much larger proportion of less expert labor and help. (That’s what you’d expect in collapsing economies; the less skilled labor is liquidated first, and this is the more likely initial pool for a program like a Time Bank. But today’s terminal liquidation isn’t going to spare anyone, and as we’re seeing, insecurity and job loss are creeping steadily up the ladder of professionals.) But that’s not a conceptual problem for the Time Bank, because a basic principle is that all hours are to be valued equally, regardless of the nature of the work.
This is the principle which is most directly counter to capitalism and elitism in general, since so many people have been indoctrinated into notions of hierarchy, competition, superiority based on credentials, formal education, economic or professional status. But the basic premise of alternatives to the dollar is that we’re trying to break free of the entire nightmare. It’s only a partial evolution of consciousness to accept the basic idea of something like the Time Bank but then relapse into a capitalist mindset where it comes to the details. It would be a contradiction. The whole point of economic relocalization is to transcend the Social Darwinist competition mindset and cultivate a community mindset. This is accomplished through the principle and even more through the act of trading hour for hour regardless of how the system ideology and its economists view the particular kind of work.
(Of course, there has to be a mechanism to ensure the quality of the work performed, since we’re not utopians who assume each and every person will always work to the best of his ability. So part of the job of the Time Bank broker is to check up on transactions to confirm that members’ work is satisfactory.
In general, the job of the broker is to administer the program, see that people know how to use it, receive questions or complaints and solve problems, help integrate the Time Bank with other relocalization programs, and in general cultivate the community atmosphere of the project.)
The goal and ability of a Time Bank isn’t to generate new production and “grow” the economy, but to value work which system economics refuses to value.
The Time Bank is meant to help overcome many problems of our degraded communities. We face the structural problem of increasing isolation and atomization, the ideological pathology of fetishizing “individuality” at the same time that we become ever more dependent upon corporations and government, the associated pathology of faith in top-down Leaders and “experts”, our conditioning against asking for help and our fear that we have nothing of value to contribute.
Time Banking directly attacks this ideology and seeks to overcome the conditioning and diminish our social fears. All this contributes to undermining the kleptocratic structure.
A Time Bank can be focused on particular areas of need. I’m particularly interested in its potential to emphasize local food production and distribution. Normal gardening help, help with harvest and any local processing, establishing and working at community gardens, establishing and running CSAs, transportation of food, seed storage, letting others cultivate gardens on land one is unable to cultivate on one’s own, any special expertise associated with any of these, can all be part of the Time Bank. And this in turn can be integrated with farmers’ markets, seed banks, and other food programs, as well as actual barter of the produce.
While different communities will have different goals for Time Banks, I think the aspiration must be to try to guide them toward economic relocalization and community resiliency. It should be seen as a vehicle toward reskilling in all the skills and crafts we’ve lost but now have a critical need to recover. Although a Time Bank is likely to start out small and with the skills available among its pioneers and early adopters, these early organizers and members must look for opportunities to recruit members who have these valuable skills, and encourage them to give hours as teachers of these skills. That’s perhaps the most practically valuable thing a Time Bank can accomplish, short of its potential to help rebuild community feeling and action in themselves.

April 28, 2011

The Latest SCOTUS Assault: Lochner’s Back (AT&T vs. Concepcion)

Filed under: American Revolution, Corporatism, Law, Sovereignty and Constitution — Tags: — Russ @ 10:06 am


Just over a month ago I wrote

We’ll soon find out what’s the latest from the SCOTUS on unconscionable contracts of adhesion, extortionate ”contracts” forced upon us through the coercion of monopoly and artificially created economic hardship. These strong-arm contracts are increasingly popular, and are imposed anywhere the corporations attain the position of dominance which enables them. In theory such contracts, just like gambling, are supposed to be unenforceable, uncontracts. But here too the SCOTUS has usually served as the corporate goon. The Lochner era was based upon the legalization of “contract” extortion, and although the court nominally abandoned this doctrine in 1937, in practice courts almost always still find such contracts valid. In the case of AT&T vs. Concepcion, AT&T’s thefts were so outrageous that the lower courts found the contracts it imposed, forestalling its victims to combine to sue as a class, to be unconscionable. But this will be the SCOTUS’ big chance to restore Lochner as official court doctrine. 

And so it has been. The corporatist SCOTUS released its decision in AT&T vs. Concepcion on Wednesday, finding that mandatory arbitration clauses forbidding class action suits on behalf of vast numbers of consumers each defrauded for small amounts are valid contracts. (Decision PDF here.) This reverses lower court rulings which correctly found that these are unconscionable contracts of adhesion, meaning that they are coerced upon a weak party by a much stronger party, and are therefore invalid.
Earlier I wrote a longer post on this case. Here’s an excerpt, to give the basics of the issue. 

The gist of the case, AT&T Mobility vs. Concepcion, is that AT&T systematically committed flat out fraud and theft by tacking bogus charges onto bills. The goal was to cover up for these by slathering the contracts in fine print boilerplate jargon, forcing the customer, as a condition of the contract, to agree to “arbitration” in any dispute, and make the thefts small enough that the customer either wouldn’t notice or would consider it too much of a hassle to pursue a refund. And by keeping the victims informationally isolated from one another, AT&T hoped the thefts would all look like mistakes which at worst warranted crediting the customer’s account, not felonies which warrant punitive damages as well as prison sentences for company cadres.

There’s a lot here which shouldn’t be able to happen, according to the capitalist textbooks. According to capitalist ideology, a competitor should come along and take all of AT&T’s business by offering better service. This competitor will allegedly offer clear contracts, no fine print, which don’t require the customer to surrender his constitutional rights as the condition of the contract. (The contract should always be absolutely clear, as a matter of market efficiency. Anyone who makes the contract opaque is simply hindering the market, not behaving as a legitimate capitalist, and will hurt himself in the competitive marketplace. The ideology says so.) This hypothetical competitor will also be so good as to not, um, steal. The contracts which surrender the right to sue are clearly invalid, as they are unconscionable contracts of adhesion. Meanwhile a conscientious government, conscientiously enforcing a conscientious law, will see that the victim gets his day in court and will vigorously prosecute the wrongdoer. The system will be vindicated!

Of course, in reality the opposite happens. In reality the telecom sector matured, congealed, and calcified. It concentrated into a stagnant oligopoly with full government assistance. All the oligopolists collude to impose the same opaque, unconstitutional adhesion contracts upon the prostrate customer. The government encourages them to do this. No competitor is likely to arise. The government helps set up the insurmountable barriers to entry. There is no competition. “Competition” is just another Marie Antoinette “let them eat cake” term – “You don’t like the contract? Go to the competition!”

There is no competition. In almost every sector, a few oligopolists have a stranglehold, and they collude to impose this grip with no escape, no alternative. The government does all it can to help them attain this death grip. Capitalism is a failure and a fraud. 

The telecom sector, like almost all others, is by now an oligopoly where a handful of corporations completely dominate the market. They then present a united front in forcing these contracts upon customers. This has become standard practice over the last ten years. So it’s absurd to claim that the customer has any market recourse. The arbitration clause, coercing him into surrendering his constitutional rights, is forced upon him. Nor is there much of a non-participation option. It’s increasingly difficult to function in this country, at work and socially, without a cell phone. The telecoms have done all they can to craft government policy to bring about this condition.
So the telecoms have done all they can to force us to use cell phones in the first place, and then they directly force us to sign mandatory arbitration clauses. This is doubly a coercion, and it’s doubly a lie to claim the customer has any choice. So the arbitration clause is obviously unconscionable, if that legal term is to have any meaning at all.
This meaninglessness is exactly what the activist corporatists* on the SCOTUS want. Writing for the majority, Scalia says

“The dissent claims that class proceedings are necessary to prosecute small-dollar claims that might otherwise slip through the legal system,” Scalia wrote. “But states cannot require a procedure that is inconsistent with the FAA, even if it is desirable for unrelated reasons.”

“The overarching purpose of the FAA,” Scalia wrote, “is to ensure the enforcement of arbitration agreements according to their terms so as to facilitate streamlined proceedings. Requiring the availability of classwide arbitration interferes with fundamental attributes of arbitration and thus creates a scheme inconsistent with the FAA.” 

This is an historical lie. The Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) was originally intended to apply only to agreements between sophisticated market players. Even leaving aside the unconscionable adhesion fact, the FAA was never intended to work between powerful sophisticated players and individual citizens. Once again we see the fraudulence of Scalia’s alleged “originalism” principle, how it applies only where it would bring about the results he wants. Elsewhere he happily drops it and decides directly counter to it.
Also, how depraved is the notion that if the law as allegedly constituted would bring about a result outrageous to human decency (as this decision certainly is), the court must nevertheless comply. Yet that’s what Scalia says in that quote.
This is doubly a lie. By law courts aren’t supposed to be slaves to the alleged letter of the law where the result would outrage the conscience. Courts have broad leeway to take equity and human decency into account. And this doctrine of compliance with outrage also contradicts the American Revolution’s fundamental principle of constitution, that the forms of the law are valid only insofar as they uphold basic the verities of human community like life, liberty, and justice. Arbitration coercion, not to mention the initial vast systematic fraud, assaults these. Therefore even if the FAA demanded the upholding of this coercion, which it does not, that would simply mean the FAA is unconstitutional.
Scalia lies about the goal of the act, and about the goal of the decision. The decision simply wants to help facilitate organized crime. Nothing more, nothing less.
In this case the crime, very common among telecoms, is the systematic theft of small amounts from vast numbers of victims. But as I said in the excerpt above, the broad goal is to reinstate the Lochner regime, where no one has any protection at all from coercion in the form of unconscionable “contracts” which impose every kind of extortion, penalty, humiliation, and stripping of all of our Constitutional rights. The corporatists hate the Constitution, and have long dreamed of destroying it. Through mechanisms like this, they’re making steady progress. An entity like the SCOTUS is nothing but their factotum.
The people need to realize that the SCOTUS has abdicated and is completely illegitimate. No citizen owes it reverence or obedience. On the contrary we have a citizen responsibility to reject and resist it.
Of course AT&T is spewing the standard Orwellian lies about how arbitration is “good for consumers”. But as the author of the business piece linked above, certainly no bomb-throwing radical, says, if that’s true, then why does it have to be forced upon them? Why isn’t it just an option? We know the answer.
*We must reject all the nonsense we’ll be seeing about this being a bad decision by the 5-4 “majority”. The entire court is corporatist, and these 5-4 decisions (Citizens United was another) do not pit corporatists against citizen advocates, but only the judicial activists against the more passive corporatists. It’s only a technical squabble among anti-democratic ideologues who broadly agree on the corporate assault.

April 26, 2011

What’s Our Affirmative?


In my last post and the subsequent comment thread we discussed how our scattered blogs may be able to coalesce, and what the preliminary basis of such a coalescence may be. The consensus is that people want to write about actions we can start to undertake now. So I figured I’d jot down a list of some of these relocalization actions and ideas, as well as a few notes on the underlying philosophy which will encompass them. We’ll need to share our expertise and experiences with all these things. In most cases we’ll be sharing during the act of developing this expertise through experience in the first place. I’m sure no expert yet on any of it. To most people all this stuff is pretty new.
1. Food Sovereignty: This is the philosophy that we have a human right, not just to food but to the land to grow the food, and to a polity and economic structure which supports and enhances this right. Then it’s also the practice of this right, including the political struggle to attain it.
There’s the core of my whole program. Agricultural science has proven that medium and small size organic agriculture is more productive than corporate monoculture. This fact will become ever more critical for our physical survival as we enter the post-oil age, since industrial agriculture is overwhelmingly dependent upon fossil fuels for fertilizer, pesticides and herbicides, mechanical harvesting and processing, and transportation. So this agricultural transformation is a physical necessity. 
I add that this transformation to a nation of tens of millions of small and medium-sized individual and cooperative producers is the only thing which can provide the basis for full employment on an autonomous basis. This then can be the foundation for economic and political democracy. Making a virtue of necessity, we can transform our current travail into the full triumph of the democratic movement. We can simultaneously save our lives and conquer our freedom, or else we can do neither. 
So where do we start toward this great goal? We start at the start, with the simplest and most broadly accepted actions – planting gardens, saving seeds, establishing farmers’ markets, and similar deeds. From there we elaborate these into a comprehensive plan for food relocalization, with personal production supplementing (or even being supplemented by) localized food distribution networks which bring together a coalition of regional farmers and regional buyers, all of whom achieve a much greater resiliency and security for themselves and for all the people of their communities. We enlist the mythology of history by resurrecting old heroic names like Victory Gardens and coin new ones like Freedom Seeds. We accompany all this activity with an educational program which puts it all in our current political and economic context. We gradually propose that common sense prevail, that none of this will work in the long run if we allow the potentially productive land to remain uselessly enclosed. (Not to mention that those who enclose it are those who stole it.) We study successful examples of land redemptions like the Landless Workers’ Movement of South America. 
This can then be tied in with parallel efforts at community education on the Land Scandal, which would include organized land redemption among its proposed solutions. 
2. Alternatives to money: Since I’m soon going to devote a separate post to Time Banking, I won’t delve into this one here. But I’ll just mention the many alternative currencies and exchange structures which have already been tried out, often with considerable local success. 
Here the basic medium-run goal is to extricate ourselves from the globalized economy and the cash economy as much as possible. The main vehicle will probably be some form of cooperative organization, since this looks like the best way to overcome the challenges of both being cash-poor in the first place, and of running a functional local economy without incurring the full tyranny of bureaucracy and taxation. I’ll have lots more to say about that. 
3. Energy: We’ll have to relocalize it as much as possible. I don’t know much yet about the full potential and the limits. I’ll leave that to others. 
The main thing I’m personally interested in is on-farm biodiesel generation to run the tractors and other equipment and the trucks to locally/regionally distribute the produce. I haven’t read studies yet, but I suspect that where rational farming practices prevail (where the manure and/or crop waste generated by the farm is recycled back into the soil), sufficient fuel could be produced to close this farm-to-eater loop.
4. Transportation: This one looks trickiest. We really are slaves to the car, and most of us have to use the car for almost everything. As much as possible relocalization will have to strive to minimize the need for driving.
5. Health care: The existing system is heavily dependent upon fossil fuels, and would therefore be unsustainable even if it were equitably organized. As we know, it’s also organized in a predatory, profiteering way. Since the goal of the health care system is not to care for health but to generate profit and be rationed by ability to pay; and since the people are now being economically liquidated; it follows that fewer and fewer of us will have access to care. We’ll need to turn to alternatives. Living in a healthy way to begin with is now paramount. We see another linkage with a redeemed food production system, since organic food is far more valuable in terms of nutrition and lack of unhealthy inputs. We’ll also need to learn about herbal medicine and tend herbal medicine gardens. That’s one example of an alternative. 
Lots more about the malevolence of the health system at my health racketeering page. 
6. Education: The gutting of school budgets and the pernicious character of the curriculum and socialization at our “public” (that is, increasingly corporatized) schools, means that we’ll be turning to educational alternatives like home-schooling, including on a cooperative basis, more and more. 
This schooling will become more and more entwined with the practical education of learning to grow food, produce manufactures without fossil fuels, salvage materials from obsolete items, etc. 
That leads to the whole panoply of relocalized crafts, manufactures, reskilling in the pre-oil ways. 
All of this will take place in an environment where we’ll have vast opportunities and responsibilities to educate a broader public and bring it into these activities. This environment will also contain many risks and dangers, as our enemies try to block us and, failing that, repress us. We’ll have to fight back through direct action, evasion, passive resistance, appeals to that broad public, and anything else called for by circumstance. So the strategy and tactics of the struggle against oppression is also part of our project.
And what’s the principled basis of all this? The same simple, wholesome beginning we made in 1776: We want to build a society which exalts life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The economy and the polity, which today so aggressively seek to destroy all of these, must be liberated and rebuilt toward maximizing these. This means we seek economic and political democracy. 
So there’s an overview of the challenges we face, the goals we seek, and therefore the affirmations we must write about.

April 21, 2011

Online Organizing

Filed under: Internet Democracy — Russ @ 9:07 am


While I don’t have a fully fleshed-out concept yet for how a movement could organize online, I wanted to jot down a few notes.
1. I think almost everyone agrees that in the long run the Internet is no substitute for real life meeting and working together. This is especially true since movement-building requires foundation actions sustained over a long period of time. These actions, whatever they are, take place in the real world, not online. The only significant online action is information exchange, which I’ll get to below.
So a primary goal is to use the Internet to form relocalization and democratizing groups in the real world.
2. As these groups are formed, they can coordinate and form a rudimentary confederation online. Again, real confederative activities will ultimately have to take place in real life.
3. In the meantime, we communicate information about the state of our polity and economy. Here I think we could fruitfully divide our labor if we had a significant number of blogs dedicated to similar transformational goals. These blogs could confederate under a “brand name”, link to one another, and delegate among themselves responsibility for regular reporting on particular topics.
Here’s some examples of what I think are the most important subjects: The state of the Bailout, failure of bank reform, corporate welfare, unemployment (and the phoniness of “job creation”), inequality of wealth and income, the SCOTUS and courts, globalization, the state of the money supply (including MMT), energy issues, the Permanent War, civil liberties, the Land Scandal, the health racket bailout, net neutrality and other Internet issues, intellectual property, corporatist ideology, and Food Sovereignty (farm issues, biofuels, GMOs, the Food Control structure).
That list isn’t meant to be exhaustive, but those are the things that immediately came to mind.
And then there’s the many affirmative topics of agroecology and sustainable food production, distributed and decentralized energy, alternatives to money, land redemption, tallying protest actions, home schooling toward a goal of better citizenship, alternative medicine, non-fossil fuel crafts, every kind of decentralized and/or non-capitalist production, every kind of community-building endeavor, democratic ideology. Again, those are just some examples.
So for example if we had fifty bloggers, each could agree to take special responsibility for one or two of those and to regularly report on it. Of course everyone would also be free to write on anything else as well.
4. Everyone would also have a responsibility to try in various ways to spread the word around the web.
5. If resources allowed, it would also be good to have one or more online forums, where larger-scale discussions to could take place.
6. Although we might start with a relatively broad mission statement, at some point it would be good to draw up a platform. But that could wait till later. (I’m sorry I got sidetracked from my plan for a mock Convention at this blog, but I’ll get back to that shortly. That exercise should help discover what we really agree upon.)
7. We know we can’t rely upon the Internet to always be available for this kind of organization. So as soon as some real life confederative action is taking place, one of the first goals has to be setting up a redundant, real-world communication system, including a plan for print media.
So there’s some notes about the Internet.

April 19, 2011

We Must Fight For Local Government, the Closest to the People’s Sovereignty


The American Revolution went through a long ideological evolution on the issue of sovereignty. This continued an evolution going back to the 16th century in Europe. In America, the 18th century inherited the concept of sovereignty reposing in Parliament. As the colonial conflict with this body escalated in the 1760s, the activists questioned this notion of sovereignty. They experimented with the idea of sovereignty as split between the King and the legislature, with Parliament and the colonial assemblies being co-equal and having no legitimacy over one another. But eventually they abandoned this scheme in favor of the only one which makes any sense at all: Sovereignty resides only with the people.
This was therefore the implicit basis of the written Constitution, although the Framers, at best ambivalent about democracy, didn’t render this explicit the way they had so often in the years leading up to 1776. The closest we come in the written document to an explicit repose is in the 9th and 10th amendments, where the most legitimate power is said to reside with the states. This implicitly admits the Articles of 1788 were an arrogation. So has been all federal aggrandizement since then. (The 9th and 10th both mention the people, but in a basically condescending way; the people retain whatever rights we deign to leave to them. The 10th basically says the same thing regarding the relation of the federal government to the states, but since the entire debate over the Constitution focused on federal legitimacy vs. that of the states, it has to be taken as a more serious admission of illegitimacy on the part of the so-called “federalists”. At any rate, the entire process was illegitimate, and the document fundamentally flawed, since it despised the people’s sovereignty which had been the basis of the Revolution in the first place.)
So the written Constitution, by the 10th Amendment, significantly empowers the states. But since state sovereignty itself is merely a convention established only at the sufferance of the truly sovereign people, the states cannot assault the people. But that’s what we see in Michigan and Wisconsin, where administrations “elected” by a small portion of the electorate, and therefore existing with only the most threadbare pseudo-legitimacy (that is, no legitimacy at all, if we rightly consider each election a plebiscite on the entire fraudulent process) are enacting these veritably fascist Emergency Manager laws. These laws claim to empower the state government to appoint bureaucrats with the power to dissolve local governments and break contracts these governments have with the people. It’s a direct top-down assault on the very idea that local government has any legitimacy, and therefore on the fundamental American principle that the people have sovereignty. It’s a reactionary reversion to the pre-1776 mindset, an attempt to usurp pseudo-sovereignty by government elites. It’s a new escalation of the general campaign to completely roll back the American Revolution itself, as well as the accomplishments of the English Revolution prior to it. As with everything else, the goal of a restored feudalism is clear.
Don’t be fooled into thinking this is an assertion on the part of the states. Even if one could try to argue it was technically allowed by the 10th amendment, that’s not in fact the spirit. Again, the 10th implicitly stands only on the underlying philosophy of the American Revolution, which reposes sovereignty in the people only. This in turn implicitly reposes the greatest legitimacy in local government.
On the contrary, the goal here as everywhere is to liquidate all democratic sovereignty and power in favor of direct centralized tyranny exercised by the federal government, acting as goon and bagman for the big banks and other big corporations.
This is civil war, and the front line is right in your home town. Wall Street can’t directly destroy your local government, but it’s trying to have its state-level thugs do so. Whether or not you let them is the measure of your claim to be citizens and human beings, and of your right to freedom and prosperity. This applies in every town, and it applies to we the people as a whole.



April 18, 2011

The Impossibility and Undesirability of Reformism


Up until a few years ago I thought reformism was possible and might be desirable. But then I considered these facts:
1. The Bailout, a brazen act of autocracy, and which was obviously hideously bad policy, was imposed right in the face of overwhelming opposition from the people.
2. The Democrats had what was arithmetically a one-party dictatorship in 2009-2010. This resulted in zero change from Bush policies. Indeed, every Bush policy was intensified and/or accelerated.
3. Everywhere you look, the entire system in all its aspects – including both criminal parties and the entire mainstream media – is bent on a zero-compromise, scorched earth, unconditional surrender, neoliberal onslaught which is veritably totalitarian. There is literally no policy proposal anywhere which is not corporatist and kleptocratic. (And all public interest policies and programs which still do inertially exist are under attack, with the intent to destroy.)
4. This has been the entire political and economic history since the 1970s, in response to incipient Peak Oil and the terminal decline of the capitalist profit rate, as all sectors reached maturity. (That is, the primary causes of the neoliberal onslaught were structural, not “chosen”.)
For further reading I refer to the posts linked on my Neoliberalism page in the above right-hand corner, especially the four-part series starting here.
When you put all that together, it’s clear that reformism within this system is impossible. The system is too corrupt, rotted, and evil, right to its very core. It’s calcified in these ways in all its aspects.
So I had to look for a new way, and developed my philosophy of a new society based on truly federal direct democracy (since I was also forced to reject representative pseudo-democracy as inherently corrupt). And the more I lived with it, the more I realized that economic and political democracy is not just the only possible way, but is also the only way which has any moral validity, and constitutes the culmination of humanity’s political development. This assumes that the progress of democracy ever had any logic, and wasn’t just a cult which was accidentally empowered by the fossil fuel surplus. One would have to be a kind of atheist where it comes to politics and humanism, who believes in nothing but stupid chance in human affairs (even though people have thought so systematically and fought so passionately according to a plan), to think that the development of democracy was only about the coal and the oil.
(Not to mention that by now shouldn’t we really consider it beneath our human dignity to still supplicate before political “elites”, begging them to trickle some better crumbs down upon us after they steal what only we produce? We know they’re nothing but parasitic scum. We know they’re morally and intellectually inferior to the productive people. So why would anyone still want them to exist at all, even if it were somehow possible to reform their conduct? Are we really such children? Or do we really doubt out own capacity to rule ourselves? Or are we just too lazy? Any of those would, I guess, prove the tyrants down through history correct after all.)
But if we don’t believe that, if we believe that history, while not necessarily progressing (as witness its final crisis in our times, and the all too likely prospect that the human flame shall be stifled forever), does have a definite logic and a progress in principle, then we must recognize that the spirit of 1788 was a growing pain and a hijacking, and that it’s time for humanity to take the next step, onto the true path of positive democracy.
Positive: Direct, participatory, federative, and encompassing all economic production.

April 15, 2011

Where Will We Find the First Wave?

Filed under: Internet Democracy — Tags: , , — Russ @ 1:48 pm


In his book The True Believer, Eric Hoffer postulates that a mass movement cannot spring into being solely of its own accord, but that the road must be prepared by the steady, corrosive educational work of “men of words” who are alienated from the existing regime and have broken with it completely. Conversely, where all intellectuals and writers support the regime, the movement will never rise.
Today in America there’s no such alienated faction among the various groups of publicly visible writers. In the MSM, in academia, among established NGOs, the communicators are overwhelmingly flunkeys of the corporate regime. Whether out of real belief, or cynical careerism, or cowardice, they’re all public lackeys. Offhand I struggle to think of even individual exceptions, let alone discernable groups.
It looks like the alienated men of words and revolutionary writers exist only here in the blogosphere, a place isolated from the public and whose very existence is tenuous. How do we break out to reach the mass consciousness? To ask a more specific question, with whom should we start as a target audience? The answer seems obvious.
One of the most extreme examples of this regime’s short-sightedness, and one of the real reasons we have for optimism, is its disregard of the same intellectual-literary basis of its support I just mentioned, one of its main bulwarks against an adverse movement’s rising.
This is the way the regime is proceeding, for nothing but the sake of short-term bankster profiteering, to liquidate the job prospects of the newly educated, even as it saddles them with undischargeable debt. It’s doing this even as it continues to exhort and practically order everyone who can “afford” it to go to college. In this way the regime will produce an ever-growing logjam of unemployable, financially pre-crippled intellectuals. History proves that there are few social bottlenecks which are more explosive.
It’s clear that here, among these unemployable college graduates and permanent debt slaves, their entire lives ruined before they’ve even begun, ruined by an intentional government/bank/university scam, is where we must seek the intellectuals of the movement and the first big wave of its real cadres, to join the handful of us who are now trying to pioneer this movement. Once this is achieved, we’ll have the manpower to make a mass appeal.
So one of the first tasks is to figure out how to attract this Internet-active audience to our websites.

April 14, 2011

Hello, and Program Note

Filed under: Uncategorized — Russ @ 1:38 pm
Hi everyone, I just wanted to apologize for being absent for another week just after my long break. It was a combination of being busy with some things and a lingering uncertainty about how to start the next phase of the blog. But I should be resuming normal programming, for good this time, in the next few days.
In the meantime, thanks to everyone who’s been bearing with me the last few weeks.

April 7, 2011

Basic Question and Thoughts

Filed under: American Revolution, Civil Disobedience, Freedom, Relocalization — Russ @ 3:30 am


The temporary reflation of the bubble seems stable for the moment (though that could rapidly change at any time). Thanks to oligopoly position, fraudulent accounting, and every form of robbery, banks and corporations are claiming record “profits”, and executives are extracting record personal looting figures.
These obscenities are being accompanied by an ever more vicious direct assault on the people, as everywhere the government slashes public interest spending. Every cent of these cuts is then redirected to the corporations and the rich. Nowhere is government spending actually being cut. On the contrary every government budget continues to increase. The spending is simply redistributed upward. What we have today is the most thoroughgoing welfare state the world has seen. But it’s welfare for the corporations, welfare for the rich. The purpose of government, as it sees itself, is now nothing but to serve as bagman and goon. Any public interest spending which continues to exist does so only out of inertia and political duress. If they could absolutely wipe out Social Security and Medicare tomorrow, they would.
It’s clear that this is civil war. It’s clear that the government has voluntarily abrogated all legitimacy. America is at war with economic terrorism in the form of the banks and corporations, and the government is their thug. Nothing could be more clear than this.
And yet the people remain complacent, meek, even smug. Even as they’re being liquidated in real time, they think only of how to continue to party. It’s clear that the mass consciousness is not organically reaching the brink (though as with the bubble, that could change quickly).
So my question is, does it follow that the growing few who understand all this should, for the time being, forget about trying to figure out how to “reach the masses” and instead focus on slowly growing and protecting a movement of self-selected activists?
I suppose that’s what we’ve been trying to do all along, but we still seem unclear about exactly what the strategy is. I’ve been mulling it over, and to use myself as an example, I want to prepare myself as well as possible on a personal level while trying to get a movement going which does the following:
1. Engages in “apolitical” economic relocalization as much as possible.
2. Among committed citizens, also forms a nucleus for political relocalization. Systematic political education goes on among this group. This group must also formulate a politically and spiritually inspiring philosophy and mindset to accompany the toolkit of actions. 
3. To what ever extent possible, this nucleus becomes involved in local politics. But this may not be an initial priority everywhere.
4. To whatever extent government and corporate power hinder the activities of (1), the political activists take any opportunity for broader political education of various producers and perhaps the public.
5. Wherever necessary and possible, the locally involved political activists take on responsibilities of local and regional government, gradually achieving objective legitimacy. But actual assertion of authority against parasitic “official” structures would have to wait for later.
6. To whatever extent possible, these organizations, at whatever level of development, would come together to consult in a kind of federation. To whatever extent possible, they could coordinate and assist one another.
7. This structure would then gradually make its presence known to the public, mostly through “apolitical” education about the economy and relocalization, but also political education, wherever it seems that would be fruitful.
8. Then, once the next, terminal crash comes, and/or the general deterioration into permanent depression accelerates, the movement will be prepared to offer a home, a means of self-help, and a realm of action, to any size mass of people ardent and desperate for a solution.
So there’s a few thoughts on the gradual building of a movement under our current adverse conditions, where it looks like we have a long wait and gradual deterioration ahead of us.
So then much of what I write from here on will be dedicated to discussing elements of this program in detail.
Any suggestions or criticisms? Maybe the hardest part to accept is how small it starts. All the old ideologies started with resounding, apocalyptic proclamations and goals. But I don’t see how one can start that way today. The system is too monumental, such that any attempt to butt heads with it will only get the upstart head smashed like an eggshell. No, for as long as the kleptocracy stands, the successful movement will have to operate primarily through preserving itself in the face of tyranny, and secondarily through undermining that tyranny.
But every step of the way, we prepare for the kleptocracy’s fall.

April 6, 2011

Libya and the Permanent War

Filed under: Global War On Terror, Sovereignty and Constitution — Tags: — Russ @ 2:12 am


I don’t think I have much that’s new to say about the latest US war, the first which is 100% Obama’s.
It does represent a further evolution of the Permanent War, as this time there wasn’t the slightest pretense of seeking Congressional approval. Congruently, it’s another advancement of imperial presidency doctrine, with Hillary Ribbentrop actually declaring that for Congress to try to restrain the president would be a violation of the prerogative of the executive. It’s simply amazing how meaningless the Constitution has become even for those who swear to uphold it and claim to base their legitimacy upon it.
My readers will know that I consider no phenomena to be unrelated to the kleptocratic war on America, and so it is with the imperial presidency. I’ve written briefly about this before, how the emphasis on foreign policy favors the executive. US foreign policy since WWII has focused on colonial exploitation. At the same time this emphasis is meant to starve and show contempt for domestic policy. And then, when this exploitative, contemptuous government turns to domestic policy, it does so from point of view of a foreign conqueror like Attila. So it’s logical that executive would take the lead here as well, with Congress his rubber-stamp. I’ll probably have another post on this, developing the idea in the corporatist context.
I don’t care any longer in principle about matters of the “balance of powers”, since I recognize this as having been a scam in the first place. These powers, properly balanced or not, were always intended to uphold a new ruling class over the people, and so it has been throughout US history. All that’s happened since the 70s is that the development of this ruling class has required increasing imbalance and contempt for even the forms of its own Constitution.
As for the war itself, it looks like a farce and a crime. We know that Western wars are waged only for malevolent ends and have only destructive consequences for everyone but the power elites. This one will and can be no exception. (When I earlier considered the possibility of supporting a no fly zone, I stipulated that we were discussing only that by itself. Of course, one of the reasons for rejecting such a zone was that by itself it could never accomplish anything. Therefore we see how the moment the West decided to seize the opportunity for war, they took the original “no fly zone” idea and turned it into something far more vast.)
It’s hard to say who these rebels even are. From what I read, most military units on either side have melted away as the air strikes began, and we’ve been left with Gaddafi loyalists against rebel paramilitaries of uncertain provenance. Nor is it clear who’s represented by the “rebels”, including turncoat Gaddafi officials and Chalabi types who have been living in America, who requested this NATO war.
We know from history that this war will not help the Libyan* people. From our point of view, the most important thing about it is how it will further entrench the military state in our own countries.
[* I’m not an expert, but so far as I read there’s no such thing as “Libya”. Rather, it’s a conglomeration of tribes, with Gaddafi leading a tribal coalition largely from the western part of the country, which has always been at odds with the tribes from the eastern part. The rebellion, at least in the east, has arisen largely among these tribes. If anyone thinks I have that wrong, let me know.]  
The war is another act of aggression, and demonstrates yet again how the neoliberal West intends for its wars to continue permanently, flaring up ever anew at new boundaries, with zero democratic restraint and increasing contempt for even the pretense of such restraint. (Meanwhile, the US praised the violent crackdown upon the undisputed rebellious majority in Bahrain.) I’m reminded of Hitler’s planned end stage for the Nazi empire, once the Soviet Union had been pushed beyond the Urals, its main power permanently smashed, and the most intense part of the war won. At that point, he envisioned a permanent “bleeding boundary” at the periphery of the empire, as over generations chronic distant warfare was enshrined as the permanent feature of life. Something similar is intended today, although at this empire’s bleeding boundary the conflagrations are likely to be more severe. This will continue for as long as the neoliberal empire stands, although we can hope that every act of overextension, including political overextension abroad (and, dare we hope, at home? but previous wars haven’t had that effect), will bring closer the day of its fall.
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