In her new book, The People’s Platform: Taking Back Power and Culture in the Digital Age, out now from Metropolitan Books, Astra Taylor takes on both the techno-utopians and the techno-skeptics, reminding us that the Internet was created by the society we live in and thus is more likely to reflect its problems than transcend them. She delves into questions of labor, culture and, especially, money, reminding us who profits from our supposedly free products. She builds a strong case that in order to understand the problems and potentials of technology, we have to look critically at the market-based society that produced it. Old power dynamics don’t just fade away, she points out—they have to be destroyed. That will require political action, struggle, and a vision of how we want the Internet (and the rest of our society) to be. I spoke with Taylor about culture, creativity, the possibility of nationalizing Facebook and more.
Cross-posted at CreativeResistance.org. Against this calamitous backdrop, we are starting to see hope in the country’s next generation of campaigners, organisers and even artists. These new hybrid cultural activists have been dubbed “artivists” and are continuing the struggles of their predecessors with a new approach. The author MK Assante describes the artivist as someone who “uses her artistic talents to fight and struggle against injustice and oppression by any medium necessary”. For two weeks in February, I had the privilege of joining almost 200 activists, organisers and artivists in a Nairobi community centre (unnamed for security reasons) for an Artivism Lab.
There has been social policies that have led to a very, very significant reduction of poverty and to greater degree of equality. Venezuela’s not today an particularly equal society, but it’s the least unequal in all of Latin America, which is the most unequal continent in the world. So that’s not saying that much, but there has been a significant reduction of inequality. There has been a really significant transformation of popular political culture. And this is probably the most important thing that’s happened over [incompr.] years. For most of the Venezuelan popular sectors, the political system was alien. It’s something that they’d just given up hope on. They felt totally marginalized. They felt that they had no participation, no involvement, that the political system wasn’t responding to their needs. And that has changed dramatically. People feel empowered. People feel like they can self-organize to get things done. They feel like they have a possibility of a say in their own lives. And that’s huge, and that’s really, I’d say, the most important thing that has happened over those years. The level of political participation and political organization in Venezuela can’t compare with anything previously existing in Venezuela. There’s a widespread level of grassroots organizations around health, around water, around educational issues about–. So that’s–those are all huge gains.
Since the founding of public higher education, our nation has moved progressively toward expanding the doors of access. But in the last generation, we have moved in the opposite direction. State higher education funding on a per-student basis is lower today than it was in 1980. Federal financial aid no longer provides grants robust enough to defray the rising cost of college. As student debt continues to climb, it’s important to understand how our once debt-free system of public universities and colleges has been transformed into a system in which most students borrow, and at increasingly higher amounts. In less than a generation, our nation’s higher education system has become a debt-for-diploma system—more than seven out of 10 college seniors now borrow to pay for college and graduate with an average debt of $29,400.
D-CENT is a Europe-wide project creating privacy-aware tools and applications for direct democracy and economic empowerment. Together with the citizens and developers, we are creating a decentralised social networking platform for large-scale collaboration and decision-making. The initiative, D-CENT (Decentralised Citizens ENgagement Technologies), backed by the European Commission, will see the development of new open source, decentralized and privacy-aware digital tools and applications for direct democratic and economic empowerment. Together with citizens, social movements, and developers, D-CENT is creating a distributed social networking platform for large-scale collaboration to solve social problems and allow full citizen participation in the democratic process. The project will study possible implementations of liquid democracy: collective deliberation, decision-making, and the pros and cons of proxy voting.
For the first 80 years of the 20th century, four families largely controlled the nation’s top three banks: Morgan, Aldrich, Stillman and Rockefeller. National, financial and foreign policy was fashioned through personal connections to the Presidents — forged through blood, marriage, mentorships and connections made at Ivy League colleges, and through social activities like yachting, golfing, ranch barbeques and exclusive parties and clubs. Today’s Big Six banks are largely combinations (with additional members thrown in the mix) of the same Big Six banks that thrived through the Panic of 1907, Crash of 1929, WWII, the Bay of Pigs, the 1990s merger mania, and the recent financial crisis of 2008. They now hold $9.4 trillion, or 84%, of U.S. FDIC-insured deposits, $12.5 trillion, or 85%, of all U.S. bank assets — and control 96% of all U.S., and 43% of the $693 trillion of global derivatives positions. For the last 100 years, their leaders have collaborated with willing Presidents to run America.
Ahead of the meetings, IMF Managing Director Christine LaGarde and World Bank President Jim Kim spoke publicly about inequality and focused on the IMF’s April World Economic Outlook Report. The report forecasts cautious improvement for several advanced and emerging economies, including the United States, but notes that the recovery is uneven and vast inequality persists. One of the principle issues the report reviews is how sustainable the debt loads are for both G20 and developing countries. Over the last year, the G20 has vigorously debated how to deal with unsustainable country debts and speculative investments, root causes of the global financial crisis. One year ago in Washington, G20 Financial Ministers discussed the possibility of an international sovereign bankruptcy process in order to provide stability in the international financial system. The IMF staff also released a paper ahead of last year’s meetings, which explored aspects of the process. Last fall during the St. Petersburg Summit, G20 heads of state discussed the process and invited the IMF to continue to review debt sustainability and debt issues. IMF staff continues to actively explore more stable debt restructuring processes. “The IMF is right to focus the conversation on high debt burdens that promote inequality and limit recovery,” shared Eric LeCompte. “Everyone agrees there is a problem and hopefully everyone is moving to agreement that more orderly and predictable debt restructuring processes are the answer.”
We knew that efforts to rig global trade in the favor of trans-national corporations would not stop there. The movement of movements that stopped the first version of fast track has been preparing for the next stage. The new chairman of the Finance Committee, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), made a speech this week announcing that he was working to introduce a new version of trade promotion authority that he is propagandistically calling “smart-track,” but which sounds more like fast track in sheep’s clothing. Wyden was vague on the details, but this far into the process any fast track bill being pushed will still rig trade in favor of transnational corporations. Pushing for any form of fast track to get the unpopular Trans Pacific Partnership through Congress is a suicidal political move in an election year. The TPP is kept secret because it is unpopular, why assist the passage of something so unpopular — an agreement that will undermine jobs and income for most Americans, expand the wealth divide and increase the trade deficit. Already people are predicting the Democrats may lose their majority in the senate. Wyden’s pushing ahead on fast track for the TPP is a sure way to turn off the Democratic base and demonstrate once again the Republican-lite nature of today’s Democratic Party.
With U.S. inequality at its highest point since 1928 and Wall Street bonuses hitting pre-2008 levels, we look at the 100-year history of secret collusion between Washington and the financial industry. In her new book, “All the Presidents’ Bankers: The Hidden Alliances that Drive American Power,” financial journalist Nomi Prins explores how a small number of bankers have played critical roles in shaping a century’s worth of financial, foreign and domestic policy in the United States. Prins examines how these relationships have influenced events from the creation of the Federal Reserve, the response to the Great Depression, and the founding of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Now a senior fellow at Demos, Prins is a former managing director at Bear Stearns and Goldman Sachs, and previously an analyst at Lehman Brothers and Chase Manhattan Bank.
A wave is an apt metaphor for a popular movement as movements do not grow in a consistent upward line, but grow and recede in waves of action. We certainly saw this with the current social movement that has roots which run more than a decade deep and had a nationwide “Take Off” with the wave of occupy encampments that rose up, coast-to-coast together. Popular Resistance grew out of many conversations and meetings with people in the Occupy movement from across the country as well as people involved in other social justice campaigns. We seek to provide the movement for social, economic and environmental justice with daily news and resources, as well as to help us see that we are a movement of movements. We support decentralized, bottom-up approaches to movement development as we see in the #WaveOfAction and the Global Climate Convergence. As the popular movement intentionally escalates its actions, we will be in position to highlight these crises and to quickly escalate further if events occur that create an opportunity for rapid growth. These are times that demand each of us to step up and do more. The opportunities for rapid growth of the social movement created by the dysfunction of the rule- by-money-government are increasing in ways we can only imagine.
A man scaled the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican on Saturday, protesting Italy’s tough austerity programs. When bar-owner Marcello Di Finzio, 49, got on to the famous rooftop, he unfurled a banner calling for Pope Francis to step in and help those hit hard by the financial crisis and push an end to the austerity program. The banner read, “Stop for God’s sake, you are killing us. Give us back our lives.” Italian media reported that shortly before his climb he also posted a message via social media. He wrote: “They have taken everything from me, but they won’t take my dignity as well”.
April 4, 2014 will mark 46 years since Martin Luther King, Jr. was murdered while conducting a national campaign against economic inequality. In the nearly half a century that has passed, the gap between the top 1% wealthiest and the rest of Americans has only widened. On April 4th, RNs and our allies will hold vigils at congressional offices across the country to demand that congress pass the Robin Hood Tax – the only real cure to the illness of rampant economic inequality. H.R. 1579, the Inclusive Prosperity Act sponsored by Rep. Keith Ellison, contains a tiny tax on Wall Street’s speculative trades, which would raise up to $350 billion dollars a year to fund permanent living wage jobs rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure, creating a green energy manufacturing boom, providing quality education for all of our children, greatly expanding mass transit, guaranteed healthcare for all and in serving many other human and environmental needs.
Right now in various part of the United States and Canada there are people of all ages and all races trying to stop these oil pipelines that will carry sludge, and this fracking that sets off explosions under the Earth which also causes earth tremors and quakes. This is an immediate danger; it is very real, and you can do something about it. I want to remind you that if it wasn’t for people like yourselves that have taken a stand for something, we wouldn’t have the national forests, the redwoods, there wouldn’t be animals and various other forms of life, there would be no Yellowstone Park, and there would be a lot more species totally extinct than there are now. So taking a stand DOES make a difference.
For this round of cuts and consolidations, a solidarity between students and faculty had been well established, and grew and flourished under the recognition that we had shared goals in preserving the University of Maine System, not only for their jobs, or for our quality of education, but for the broader benefit of society that a liberal arts education provides, in allowing all working class people to lift themselves up into an intellectual realm that had until only recently in human history been reserved for priests and nobility. A vote of no confidence was issued forth from the Faculty Senate, and Selma Botman resigned, only to be replaced by President Theo Kalikow, who has continued forth advancing the austerity agenda on the University of Southern Maine. Selma Botman, while vacating the seat of the President, was allowed by administrators to continued to draw her salary for the duration of her term, and was in fact hired back as a consultant, and paid an additional $300,000 to write a paper, putting her annual earnings well into the realm of the top 1%. As though to thumb their noses at the student protestors, Administrators gave themselves a raise of $20,000 and upwards.
Support for full-fledged co-ops has inched into the mainstream as communities have grown weary of waiting for private investors to create good jobs — or sick of watching them take jobs away. In Cleveland in 2009, hospitals and a university gave seed money to a new group of businesses, the Evergreen Cooperatives, and now contract with them for laundry, energy retrofits and fresh produce. Last month, a government commission in Wales announced that “conventional approaches to economic development” were insufficient; it needed cooperatives. That same month, the New York City Council held a hearing called “Worker Cooperatives — Is This a Model That Can Lift Families Out of Poverty?”