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Saving The Ecosystem With Wild Backyards

It's Our Economy - December 12, 2017 - 4:00pm
This week on Love (and Revolution) Radio, Sherri Mitchell and Rivera Sun speak with citizen scientist and master gardener Adrian Fisher about reconciliation ecology and how her neighborhood outside Chicago, IL used wild plant gardening to not only connect two wildlife preserves on either side of her, but also a bi-continental migration route for innumerable wild species.
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From Chiapas To Rojava – More Than Just Coincidences

It's Our Economy - December 9, 2017 - 12:00pm
Above Photo: From Google is blocking our site. Please use the social media sharing buttons (upper left) to share this on your social media and help us break through. Autonomy brings together two revolutions on the left and from below «“Power to the people” can only be put into practice when the power exercised by social elites is dissolved into the people.» (Murray Bookchin, Post-Scarcity Anarchism) The largely unknown until recently Kurdish city of Kobane managed to attract the attention of the world with its fierce resistance[i] against the invasion of the Islamic State and became an international symbol, compared to the defence of Madrid and Stalingrad. The bravery and heroism of the People’s Defence Units and the Women’s Defence Units (YPG and YPJ) were praised by a large spectrum of groups and individuals – anarchists, leftist, liberals and even right-wingers expressed sympathy and admiration for the men and women of Kobane in their historical battle against what was often seen as IS “fascism”. The mainstream media was forced to break the silence over the Kurdish autonomy and soon numerous articles and news stories were broadcasted and published, often depicting the “toughness” and determination of the Kurdish fighters with a certain dose of exotisation, of course. However, this attention was very often selective and partial – the very essence of the political project in Rojava (Western Kurdistan) was left aside and the media preferred to present the resistance in Kobane as some weird exception to the supposed barbarism of the Middle East. Without surprise, the red star, shining on the victorious flags of the YPG/J was not a pleasing image in the eyes of the Western powers and their media. The autonomous cantons of Rojava represent a home-grown solution to the conflicts in the Middle East, encompassing grassroots democracy, ethnic, social and gender rights and all this in rejection both of IS terror but also of liberal democracy and capitalist economy . Although the West preferred to stay silent on this issue, this ideological foundation is the key for understanding the spirit that wrote the Kobane epopee and fascinated the world, as the Kurdish activist and academic, Dilar Dirik, claimed recently[ii]. As the battles for every street and corner of the city were intensifying, Kobane managed to captivate the imagination of the left and specifically of the libertarian left as a symbol of resistance and struggle and soon it was placed on the pantheon of some of the most emblematic battles for humanity, such as the defence of Madrid against the fascists in the 1930s. It was not by accident that the Turkish Marxist-Leninist group MLKP, which joined the YPG/J in/on the battlefield, raised the flag of the Spanish republic over the ruins of the city in the day of its liberation and called for the formation of International Brigades[iii], following the example of the Spanish revolution. It was not the battle for Kobane itself, but the libertarian essence of the cantons of Rojava, the implementation of grassroots direct democracy, the participation of women and different ethnic groups into the autonomous government that gave ground to the comparisons with the Spanish revolution. Another association was mentioned briefly in several articles – the revolution in Rojava and its autonomous government were compared to the Zapatistas and their autonomy in the south of Mexico. The importance of this comparison might be crucial in order to understand the paradigm of the revolutionary struggle in Kurdistan and what it means for those who believe another world is possible. The Zapatista movement is probably one of the most symbolic and influential elements of the revolutionary imaginary in the world after the fall of the state-socialist regimes in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In the morning of January 1, 1994, an unknown guerrilla force, composed of indigenous Mayas, took over the main towns of the southern-most Mexican state – Chiapas. The military operation was carried out with strategic brilliance and combined with the innovative back then use of the internet to spread the message of the revolutionaries, it echoed around the globe to inspire international solidarity and the emergence of the Alter-Globalisation movement. The Zapatistas rebelled against neoliberal capitalism and the social and cultural genocide of the indigenous population in Mexico. Ya Basta, Enough is enough, was their war cry that emerged from the night of “500 years of oppression”, as the First Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle stated. The Zapatistas rose up in arms when global capital was celebrating the “end of history” and the idea of social revolution seemed to be a romantic anachronism that belonged to the past. The Zapatista Army for National Liberation was forced out of the cities in twelve days of intense battles with the federal army but it turned out that the deep horizontal organisation in the indigenous communities could not be eradicated by any military intervention or terror. The masked spokesperson of the rebel army, Subcomandante Marcos, challenged the notion of historical vanguard as opposed to revolution from below, which does not aim to take power but to abolish it and this concept became central to the most mass anti-capitalist movements since – from Seattle and Genoa to the Syntagma and Puerta del Sol occupations and even the Occupy Movement. Where are the similarities with the Rojavan revolution? From Marxism-Leninism to Autonomy – a shared historical trajectory The roots of the democratic autonomy in Rojava can be understood only through the history of the Workers’ Party of Kurdistan (PKK), the organisation, which has been central to the Kurdish liberation movement since its creation in 1978. The PKK was established as a Marxist-Leninist guerrilla organisation in Northern Kurdistan, part of the Turkish state, combining the ideologies of national and social liberation. It grew to a substantial guerrilla force under the leadership of Abdullah Ocalan and managed to challenge the second biggest army in NATO in a conflict that claimed the lives of more than forty thousand people. The Turkish state displaced hundreds of thousands and reportedly used torture, assassination...
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Philando Castile’s Death Inspires Black Economic Movement

It's Our Economy - December 9, 2017 - 11:00am
Above Photo: ABEP and Blexit are the work of Twin Cities Black economic leaders including Me’ Lea Connelly (center), Brett Grant (left of Connelly), and Danielle Mkali (right of Connelly) Google is blocking our site. Please use the social media sharing buttons (upper left) to share this on your social media and help us break through. The death of Philando Castile was a turning point for many Minnesotans, who were once again forced to face Minnesota’s structural oppressions and deal with the aftermath of another death of a Black man by police hands. It was a turning point for Me’Lea Connelly, a former security firm manager and single mother who lives in Minneapolis. “We have to find another tool for resistance aside from the bodies of Black youth,” said Connelly, director of the Association for Black Economic Power (ABEP), which formed after the death of Philando Castile. “What a lot of people don’t know, after the lights went down at the [4th Precinct] Occupation, those kids were psychologically, socially, and physically abused, they were traumatized. We were right in the middle of trying to recuperate from that when Philando was killed,” said Connelly. That trauma inspired Blexit—a Black independence movement conducted through economic boycott—and ABEP. In the Twin Cities, economic organizing has often taken the form of legislative policy or (successful) efforts to pass higher minimum wages or guaranteed earned sick & safe time. But in the last few years, there has been a shift. More and more low-income communities and communities of color are looking to build their own economic systems in an attempt to build community power and resilience — and maybe even healing. “The movement has shifted. Five years ago it was income-driven, now it’s about building wealth,” said Vina Kay, executive director for Voices for Racial Justice. That wealth comes in many forms, but at its core it’s about ensuring that Twin Cities communities of color have the resources and assets they need to be resilient in the face of systemic oppression. It is this shift in movement which Blexit and ABEP represent. Cooperative development Connelly calls this an “invest/divest strategy” and it is the strategy behind the Village Trust Financial Cooperative, the Twin Cities’ first Black-owned credit union. Village Trust was the result of the first Blexit meeting following Castile’s death. Black community leaders envisioned it and organizers began putting the pieces together. The credit union is set to open in North Minneapolis, the former site of the Twin Cities’ only black-owned bank (now shuttered). “ABEP believes in establishing, existing in, and welcoming people into a new paradigm. The vision for our paradigm is a resource-based economy using the pathway of a cooperative commonwealth to get there. The establishment of a credit union is the first step to get to that.” While many might think of “food cooperative,” when they hear the word “co-op,” cooperatives actually have a long history in the Black community and other communities of color. Due to segregation, many Black communities were forced to form community collectives and cooperatives around food, banking, and education in order to become more resilient. Today, Twin Cities communities of color are again using cooperatives and other forms of economic organizing to respond to injustice and build socio-economic sustainability. “Village Trust is a really exciting example of people saying we want to put the money where it benefits us instead of it leaving the community,” said Christina Jennings, executive director of Shared Capital Cooperative. “Cooperatives are profoundly important tools for the practice of democracy. There are far too few opportunities to do this in society. Whether it’s a small or large cooperative, it’s incredibly important to practice this. Most places we don’t get to do that. Cooperatives can be incredible tools for building individual and community power, and for practicing democracy.” Community healing Economic sustainability is only one aspect of the economic justice organizing that’s happening in the Twin Cities. For many organizers, economic justice has just as much to do with healing as with economics. And for Arique Aguilar, the Woman of Color Organizer with TakeAction Minnesota, creativity and healing have everything to do with this new vision for economic justice. “I have been honing in on ‘what inspired earned sick & safe time,’ that we can dream so boldly – that imagination is core to economic organizing,” said Aguilar. As part of Aguilar’s work, women are being trained to be political healers, helping oppressed women and communities work through their trauma while helping them root their work in their own individual and community power. “The work has to be rooted in a sense of power, no matter what is coming down the pipe. We are bigger still, we are bigger still,” said Aguilar. For more information on Village Trust Financial Cooperative, please check out  
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The Real Causes Of Deficits And The US Debt

It's Our Economy - December 7, 2017 - 1:00pm
Above Photo: A general view of the Capitol Dome in Washington, D.C. | Photo: Reuters Google is blocking our site. Please use the social media sharing buttons (upper left) to share this on your social media and help us break through. Whatever financing issues exist for social security, Medicare, Medicaid, disability insurance, food stamps, etc., they can be simply and easily adjusted. With the Senate and House all but assured to pass the US$4.5 trillion in tax cuts for businesses, investors, and the wealthiest 1 percent households by the end of this week, phases two and three of the Trump-Republican fiscal strategy have begun quickly to take shape. Phase two is to maneuver the inept Democrats in Congress into passing a temporary budget deficit-debt extension in order to allow the tax cuts to be implemented quickly. That’s already a ‘done deal’. Phase three is the drumbeat growing to attack social security, Medicare, food stamps, Medicaid, and other ‘safety net’ laws, in order to pay for the deficit created by cutting taxes on the rich. A whole new set of lies are resurrected and being peddled by the media and pro-business pundits and politicians. Deficits and Debt: Resurrecting Old Lies and Misrepresentations Nonsense like social security and Medicare will be insolvent by 2030. When in fact social security has created a multi-trillion dollar surplus since 1986, which the U.S. government has annually ‘borrowed’, exchanging the real money in the fund created by the payroll tax and its indexed threshold, for Treasury bonds deposited in the fund. As for Medicare, the real culprit undermining the Medicare part A and B funds has been the decades-long escalating of prices charged by insurance companies, for-profit hospital chains (financed by Wall St.), medical devices companies, and doctor partnerships investing in real estate and other speculative markets and raising their prices to pay for it. As for Part D, prescription drugs for Medicare, the big Pharma price gouging is even more rampant, driving up the cost of the Part D fund. By the way, the prescription drug provision, Part D, passed in 2005, was intentionally never funded by Congress and George Bush. It became law without any dedicated tax, payroll or other, to fund it. Its US$50 billion plus a year costs were thus designed from the outset to be paid by means of the deficit and not funded with any tax. Social Security Disability, SSI, has risen in costs, as a million more have joined its numbers since the 2008 crisis. That rise coincides with Congress and Obama cutting unemployment insurance benefits. A million workers today, who would otherwise be unemployed (and raising the unemployment rate by a million) went on SSI instead of risking cuts in unemployment benefits. So Congress’s reducing the cost of unemployment benefits in effect raised the cost of SSI. And now conservatives like Paul Ryan, the would be social security ‘hatchet man’, want to slash SSI as well as social security retirement, Medicare benefits for grandma and grandpa, Medicaid for single moms and the disabled (the largest group by far on Medicaid), as well as for food stamps. Food stamp costs have also risen sharply since 2008. But that’s because real wages have stagnated or fallen for tens of millions of workers, making them eligible under Congress’s own rules for food stamp distribution. Now Ryan and his friends want to literally take food out of the mouths of the poorest by changing eligibility rules. They want to cut and end benefits and take an already shredded social safety net completely apart–while giving US$4.5 trillion to their rich friends (who are their election campaign contributors). Whatever financing issues exist for social security, Medicare, Medicaid, disability insurance, food stamps, etc., they can be simply and easily adjusted, and without cutting any benefits and making average households pay for the tax cuts for the rich in Trump’s tax cut bill. Social security retirement, still in surplus, can be kept in surplus by simply one measure: raise the ‘cap’ on social security to cover all earned wage income. Today the ‘cap’, at roughly US$118,000 a year, exempts almost 20 percent of the highest paid wage earners. Once their annual salary exceeds that amount, they no longer pay any payroll tax. They get a nice tax cut of 6.2 percent for the rest of the year. Furthermore, if capital income earners (interest, rent, dividends, etc.) were to pay the same it would permit social security retirement benefits to be paid at two thirds one’s prior earned wages, and starting with age 62. The retirement age could thus be lowered by five years, instead of raised as Ryan and others propose. As for Medicare Parts A and B, raising the ridiculously low 1.45 percent tax just another 0.25 percent would end all financial stress in the A & B funds for decades to come. For SSI, if Congress would restore the real value of unemployment benefits back to what it was in the 1960s, maybe millions more would return to work. (It’s also one of the reasons why the labor force participation rate in the U.S. has collapsed the past decade). But then Congress would have to admit the real unemployment rate is not 4.2 percent but several percentages higher. (Actually, it’s still over 10 percent, once other forms of ‘hidden unemployment’ and underemployment are accurately accounted for). As for food stamps’ rising costs, if there were a decent minimum wage (at least US$15 an hour), then millions would no longer be eligible for food stamps and those on it would significantly decline. In other words, the U.S. Congress and Republican-Democrat administrations have caused the Medicare, Part D, SSI, and food stamp cost problems. They also permitted Wall St. to get its claws into the health insurance, prescription drugs, and hospital industries–financing mergers and acquisitions activity and demanding in exchange for lending to companies in those industries that the companies raise their prices to generate excess profits to repay Wall St. for the loans for the...
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Will San Francisco Be The First City To Launch A Public Bank?

It's Our Economy - December 7, 2017 - 11:00am
Above Photo: courtesy S.F. Examiner Google is blocking our site. Please use the social media sharing buttons (upper left) to share this on your social media and help us break through. San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors released a new report last week that puts SF strongly in the running for the first city in the nation to launch a Public Bank. As the San Francisco Examiner explains, Supervisors Malia Cohen and Sandra Fewer are advancing the idea of establishing a municipal bank, which would end The City’s use of profit-driven large national commercial banks for banking services.  As Wall Street financial institutions come under increasing fire for their continued stream of fraud scandals and perpetual investments in dirty fuel, Public Banks are rapidly gaining traction as an ethical and profitable solution. “Within a few years, the municipal bank should be able to generate sufficient revenue to be able to cover its costs and serve as the primary financial institution for The City,” the report said. The report also confirmed San Francisco has the legal authority to establish a Public Bank. After reviewing State codes in detail, the City Attorney’s Office concluded that “State law does not preclude the City from creating a bank as a separate entity.” In fact, “a public bank serving a public purpose would be supported by case law.” The report suggested a municipal bank could launch and make loans in the first year starting with its initial equity, and “gradually build up its assets as loans are repaid with interest and new loans are originated.” The report follows a resolution, approved in April, to create a Municipal Bank Feasibility Task Force. That resolution cites Public Banking Institute right at the top, so we’re pleased to see our work assisting these elected officials. NEXT STEPS The San Francisco Retirement Board is expected to discuss the fossil fuel divestment vote this month.  The application process to serve on the Municipal Bank Feasibility Task Force is now open, with a Dec 22 deadline to apply. Interested applicants can apply here.  The Tax Collector has hired a new staff member to help study a Public Bank. A hearing on the report’s findings — requested by Fewer and Cohen last week — is expected to occur early next year in conjunction with the formation of the Municipal Bank City Task Force.
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Tax Bill Impact: What Happens To Renewable Energy?

It's Our Economy - December 6, 2017 - 10:00am
Above Photo: The House and Senate tax reform plans would boost fossil fuels while making changes that could be devastating for clean energy jobs and investment, renewable energy groups says. Credit: Dennis Schreoder/NREL Google is blocking our site. Please use the social media sharing buttons (upper left) to share this on your social media and help us break through. Tax credits for solar, wind and EVs fare differently in the House and Senate bills. The industry says some changes would be devastating, but the fight isn’t over. The Senate voted early Saturday to approve a major overhaul of the U.S. tax code that critics say would decimate clean energy investments while continuing to hand out tax breaks to the oil and gas industries. The sweeping tax system overhaul bill—which represents the biggest corporate tax cut in the country’s history and would reach into many areas of American lives—also contains language that would open the door for oil and gas companies to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. While the Senate proposal preserves tax credits that have spurred huge growth in the wind and solar industries, it contains an obscure provision that could undercut investment in renewables. Larger challenges for clean energy lie in the House of Representatives’ tax proposal, which passed in mid-November. That version takes a whack at a bundle of clean energy tax credits that were extended in 2015 in exchange for lifting a decades-old ban on crude oil exports. Now, as the two chambers begin work on reconciling their versions of the bill, the clean energy industry is bracing for a fight. Here’s what the two tax bills, as currently written, would do. New Hits to Clean Energy Investments The Senate bill contains a provision that has raised alarm across the clean energy industry: The Base Erosion Anti-Abuse Tax (BEAT) provision would subject tax credits given to companies with operations overseas to a new, 100 percent tax. That provision, according to a letter sent to the Senate by clean energy groups this week, would send investors fleeing and put $12 billion in clean-energy investments at risk. It says the impact would be “devastating.” “The tax equity marketplace would collapse under these provisions, leading to a dramatic reduction in wind and solar energy investment and development,” the letter states. Another last-minute change in the Senate bill, which was still being written just hours before the chamber voted on Dec. 2, could push more corporations to the Alternative Minimum Tax. The change could mean that certain clean energy tax credits could no longer be used and that depreciation for wind and solar projects would be calculated at a lower rate. “If these provisions are retained, they will result in broad instability and uncertainty for businesses and investors across many sectors, including the clean energy sector,” said a coalition of clean energy groups led by the American Council on Renewable Energy. Solar Power The Senate proposal says nothing about solar credits, so it would effectively maintain the current timeline on phasing out the Investment Tax Credit for solar developers and homeowners, which remains at 30 percent through 2019, then lowers every year until 2022, when it stays at 10 percent indefinitely. Congress approved this timetable in 2015, with the industry’s support. The House version maintains the current phase-down timetable, but at the end of 2021, the credit for homeowners drops to zero and the credit for developers drops to 10 percent. The 10 percent credit terminates altogether in 2027. The House proposal also would retroactively change how solar developers qualify for credits, a provision that could stall or halt investments that have already been made. (This applies to wind, too. See below.) Wind Power The Senate proposal, which says nothing about wind credits, would effectively maintain the current timeline for phasing out the Production Tax Credit for wind developers, which is currently 2.3 cents per kilowatt-hour and extends through 2019, but begins phasing down in 2017. The House version maintains the timeline but removes an inflation adjustment, a move that would drop the value of the credit by 40 percent to 1.5 cents per kilowatt-hour. The House proposal would also retroactively change the rules that dictate how wind developers qualify for credits. This change would mean that developers who started on wind projects that depended on the credits would, in effect, have to eat the costs or abandon the work. The American Wind Energy Association estimates this threatens 60,000 jobs and $50 billion in private investment. Together, the inflation adjustment and eligibility rule change would mean $12.3 billion less in incentives over 10 years, according to an analysis by Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation. Electric Vehicles The Senate bill is silent on electric vehicle tax credits. The House bill would eliminate the current $7,500 tax credit for purchases of electric vehicles, starting after the 2017 tax year. Oil and Gas The House and Senate bills maintain tax provisions for the oil industry, including deductions for drilling costs and preferential accounting rulesthat allow oil companies to reduce their tax burden. In the Senate bill, an amendment offered by Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and approved by the chamber would also allow some income from oil and gas companies to be taxed at a significantly lower rate. It would let energy companies classified as “master limited partnerships”—many based in Texas—qualify for the reduced rate under the “pass-through” benefit. (The New York Times points out that much of President Donald Trump’s income has been taxed in this way.) The House bill would kill tax breaks for the oil industry on marginal wells—a provision the Joint Committee on Taxation says will have no effect on revenue—and for “enhanced oil recovery,” a process designed to extract more oil from old reservoirs, which the committee says will have a $200 million impact. Drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge The Senate bill would allow oil and gas companies to drill in a 1.5 million-acre area of Alaska’s nearly 20-million acre Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Drilling in this pristine wilderness has been a longtime goal of Republicans, and the Senate voted down an amendment on Saturday that...
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