Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Making a Green Solidarity Economy Conference

Making a Green Solidarity Economy:
A Community Conference to Build a More Just
and Sustainable Future in Worcester and Beyond.

Worcester Youth Center, 326 Chandler St., Worcester, MA
Saturday, July 23, 10am-6pm

The conference will bring together individuals and organizations in Central Massachusetts who are
working towards progressive social, environmental, and economic goals. The day’s events are structured
to help share resources and skills, discuss best practices, strengthen inter-organizational relationships,
and identify actions we can take together to make a green solidarity economy for the betterment of our
communities. Morning workshops and discussions will build towards an afternoon dedicated to more
participatory envisioning and planning that will identify specific actions groups can take to support each
other and generate new initiatives that can transform our economy. The evening session will feature local
musicians and food in a casual atmosphere to encourage further discussion and relationship-building

The ecological and economic crises present both challenges and opportunities. Increasing social
dislocation, insecurity, entrenched unemployment, and growing inequalities demand that we rethink the
foundations of our economy and recreate our communities. In Worcester, we have the opportunity to build
a new economy based on ethical choices rather than market logics, an economy organized through a
caring community rather than by predatory profit-seeking, and an economy that marshals our political and
social resources instead of handing them over through corporate welfare and broken political systems.
Now is the time to Make a Green Solidarity Economy that privileges people over profits and sustainability
over environmental destruction.

For more info visit:
Contact: Lazri DiSalvo
Phone: (860) 309-5690; Email:

Friday, June 24, 2011

Share Or Die! New E-book Released

Editor's Note: I have two articles in this book- "How to Build a Housing Coop" and "How to Start a Worker Coop," which I may later post to this blog along with updates, permission permitting.

Share or Die is the first collection of writing from Generation Y about post-college work and life in the 21st Century. A new economy based in collaboration rather than competition is growing, and young people are at the cutting edge. Unsatisfied with their parents' communities, 20-somethings are using technology to build an entire infrastructure of social entrepreneurship dedicated to using less and sharing more. Share or Die chronicles some of these projects and gives readers the tools they need to join this new economy.

Table of Contents

Post-College Flowchart of Misery And Pain - Jenna Brager Front Inside Cover
Editor’s Preface - Neal Gorenflo p.8
Forward - Malcolm Harris p.10
The Get Lost Generation - Malcolm Harris p.12

The State of Gen Y - Jean-Yves Huwart p.18
Things as Which I’ve Been Asked to Dress: Life in The Non-Profit Industrial Complex - Sam Miller p.26
Unprepared: From Elite College to The Job Market - Sarah Idzik p.34
Quitter - Emi Gennis p.44
Take It And Leave It: Inside The Pack of A Modern Nomad - Nine p.48
Heartbeats And Hashtags: Youth in Service - Hannah Bechsher p.54
The Janus-Faced Craigslist: Comedy, Tragedy, And Video Games - Ryan Gleason p.60
The Shareable Job Search - Regan Mcmahon p.68
Emergent by Design - Venessa Miemis p.72
Organizing The Precariat - Tom Judd p.78
How to Start A Worker Co-Op - Mira Luna p.86

Get on The Lattice - Astri von Arbin Ahlander and Yelizavetta Kofman p.92

The Gen Y Guide to Collaborative Consumption - Beth Buczynski p.106
Stranger Dinners - Arianna Davolos p.116
Eating Rich, Living Poor - Melissa Welter p.122
Flexible Lives, Flexible Relationships - Lauren Westerfield p.130
Who Needs An Ivory Tower - Jenna Brager p.136
Detroit, Community Resilience, And The American Dream - Milicent Johnson p.142
Every Guest A Host: Inside A Nomad-Base - Robin p.156
Screening for Gold: How to Find and Keep Your Good Housemate - Annamarie Pluhar p.164
Generation Open - Chris Messina p.170
How to Build A Housing Co-Op - Mira Luna p.176
When Your Community Lets You Down - Corbyn Hightower p.182
Post-College Flowchart of Infinite Potential - Jenna Brager Back Inside Cover

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Coop Biz Development Legislation Advocacy

Fellow Cooperators,

We're launching an important campaign in support of legislation that will lead to significant Cooperative business development in underserved areas throughout the country. Its passage will change the face of Cooperative business development, opening Co-ops in places that can greatly benefit from the wealth creation, jobs, and stability Co-ops can bring to communities.

As believers in the Cooperative business model, it is our responsibility to support this legislation's passage as best we can.

We're hosting a conference call to discuss the legislation, campaign strategies, and begin implementing initial strategies. All Co-op Developers/Advocates/Friends are encouraged to participate. So please forward this along to anyone who may be interested. The more, the merrier!

Thursday - June 23rd - 1:00 - 2:00pm Eastern
The phone number is 605-562-3000
Access code 983018#

Before the call, we'd like you to help us gather information on who may be able to support this campaign in key Congressional Districts. Click HERE to open a shared Google Document and fill in any information you have about possible connections to co-op supporters in these districts. If you find your own Representative, speak up and let me know!

Hope to talk to you on Thursday!

Do not hesitate to contact me with any questions, comments, or suggestions.

Peter Frank
Cooperation Works! Advocacy Plan Coordinator

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Underground Market Crackdown: From the Vendors Side

Editor's Note: In many countries, the underground or informal economy is the majority of the economy, in the US it is a sprout bursting through concrete to breath life into a dying, stifled city. The laws are made partially for public health reasons and partially to reduce market competition against already wealthy capitalists and keep people slaves to low wage jobs, but how many people die of food poisoning compared to hunger (not being able to earn enough money or not be able to buy affordable food) in this country?

From Iso Rabins, founder of the San Francisco Underground Market: I started the Underground Market in 2009 as a reaction to the high bar of entry that has been created to start a food business, something that I experienced personally. Starting in a house in the Mission with seven vendors and 150 eaters, the market has grown to feed over 50,000 people and help over 400 vendors get their start.

As many of you have heard, the health department came to the last Underground Market on July 11th and served us a cease and desist letter, stating they no longer considered the market a private event.

The market was able to function to this point because it was considered a private event (hence the market sign-ups). We organized it in this way following a suggestion by the health department. Everyone who walks through the door is a member who knows they are eating un-certified food , so technically the health department doesn't have to be involved.

They have decided (apparently with pressure from the state level), that the market is no longer a private event, and can therefore not continue as it has. We have requested a meeting with the city attorney for a definition of what a private/public event is exactly, so we can determine where the line is, and continue running the market.

This was not an unexpected event. We’ve known that it was only a matter of time until someone became upset about the popularity of the event. Because we’ve been expecting it doesn’t mean that we accept it.

Over the last year and a half The Underground Market has grown into a supportive community of makers and eaters. We see that in the 30-50 new vendors that apply every month, bringing samples of foods they clearly poured their hearts into, and the thousands of people who walk through the door each month to eat that food.

Our goal is to keep this momentum going. We would like to see the market continue to exist much as it has because we feel that it provides a necessary venue for people starting new food businesses. We’re interested in providing a space for entrepreneurs who for a myriad of reasons are not able to abide by the regulations put in place. The regulations, upfront costs, red tape, and lack of clarity in procedures all too often stop amazing food from ever being eaten.

The market is used in different ways by different people. Some are home cooks that have always wanted to sell, but for various reasons have not been able. Cocotutti is a prime example. She sold her first chocolates at the market over a year ago, and has since won national awards, moved into a commercial kitchen, and is approaching markets to stock her goods. KitchenSidecar worked at a bio consulting job, with a food blog on the side, before she found the market. Now she cooks full-time, caters, holds her own dinners, and collaborates on a Vietnamese pop-up restaurant called Rice Paper Scissors with another vendor, Little Knock. Nosh This was working as an architect before he was laid off and turned to the world of candy. Following his recent appearances in the New York Times, his wholesale accounts have exploded, he has moved into a commercial kitchen, and is working to make “Bacon Crack” a household name.

These are a few examples of people whose business, and some would say lives, have been changed because of their exposure at the market. People who have been able to earn money for themselves instead of populating the unemployment rolls. People who are contributing to the local economy while at the same time expanding the local food community.

We want the Underground Market to be a space for food entrepreneurs to get started on a small scale. And we want to continue to offer them more resources to move forward. We have seen the need for some time to have a space where vendors can produce their wares commercially. A space where we can hold classes on food safety/business, have commercial kitchen space for vendor use, retail space for them to sell, and café space with rotating chefs for them to cook. This space will be a hub, a place where people can come together around the wealth of food being produced in our city. We are starting work on looking for a space/getting details together on the project, and will send more information out soon.

On a personal note, I want to say that I really appreciate all the support people have shown. From emails from friends to tweets from strangers, you have all shown that you think the market is an important event and that you want it to continue.

This shutdown is an opportunity to find a workable model that can help not only The Underground Market in SF, but similar markets all over the country. The precedent we set here will ripple across the country. It will effect not only San Francisco vendors, but vendors nationwide. From cottage food laws to street food, we’ve seen an explosion of opportunity for small entrepreneur food businesses pop up over the last several years. We will continue to move forward toward our goal of keeping the market open, and our struggle can be an opportunity to find yet another way to help this movement grow.

Thank you,

Iso Rabins
founder, forageSF

------- How to be involved --------

Contact your local city supervisor or:
- Call or email the Mission District supervisor, David Campos
(415) 554-5144

There are also more tangible ways to get involved, especially if you have legal expertise, so please email us if you’d like to get help out:

1. Keep the Underground Market
- Legal and political organizing expertise, email
2. forageSF incubator project
- Investors, designers, contractors, lawyers email

We want to hear what you think, so if you have any other ideas, questions, or suggestions, please email To stay up to date on what’s happening, follow our blog at

Thursday, June 16, 2011

A New Grassroots Economy

Sally Kohn
June 13, 2011 edition of The Nation.

From the vantage point of national politics, it would appear that the greedy, inequality-dependent version of capitalism, which just two years ago was teetering at the brink of extinction, has managed to survive, even tightening its grip on our so-called democracy. After all, the most striking quality of the status quo is its perpetual resilience. So it’s even more striking when viable alternative models blossom from grassroots organizations led by the low-income people and people of color most often locked out of the status quo. It’s potentially revolutionary when these alternatives point to a new vision of real economic democracy.

One prime example is the $80 million “community economy” created by the Alliance to Develop Power, in western Massachusetts. ADP is a membership organization comprising roughly 10,000 mostly low-income African-American and Latino leaders. Traditionally, ADP does what most community-organizing groups do—address issues that negatively affect their members, agitate for change and build their base for the next fight. But in its twenty-two-year history, ADP has done things a bit differently. “At the end of every issue campaign, our goal is to create an institution that our members control,” says outgoing executive director Caroline Murray. ADP members don’t want to continually fight those who own the economy. “We want to own stuff, too,” says Murray.

It all started with housing. ADP was organizing public housing residents to demand that basic safety and repair standards be met. In 1995 some leaders realized that the law allowed nonprofits to buy federal properties to keep them affordable. Today ADP owns 1,200 units of housing, structured as tenant-run cooperatives. Meanwhile, in 1997, when going over the budget for its first housing cooperative, ADP member Terry Allen was shocked by the sizable line item for landscaping. “Why don’t we mow the lawn ourselves?” he asked. So ADP started a member-run landscaping business, a worker center for immigrant day laborers and several food co-ops. Today, 106 people are employed in ADP’s community economy and, perhaps most notably, their economy continued to grow even when the national economy contracted. This year there will be fifteen new jobs for ADP members to fill, weatherizing homes with money secured from the local utility company through an organizing campaign.

We will not get real growth back into our economy until we change the tax code so it is no longer more profitable for a corporation to invest in the Wall Street casino than in their own main street assets.

ADP is expanding its community economy based on ideas generated by other community-organizing groups. For instance, ADP’s growing work on weatherization was learned from People United for Sustainable Housing, in Buffalo, New York. Since 2005 PUSH has acquired more than fifty dilapidated housing units and lots to transform into affordable green housing. Community residents have learned building trades and even joined construction unions based on apprentice work refurbishing the homes. Meanwhile, in the third-poorest city in America, PUSH is showing that poor people can be at the cutting edge of the twenty-first-century economy.

Similarly, ADP will soon launch a money services bureau, following the example of Communities Creating Opportunity, in Kansas City, Missouri. There, in response to a lack of mainstream banking options for low-income residents and rampant payday lending with exorbitant interest rates topping 431 percent, CCO is creating a small-dollar lending program financed by regional banks and run by community leaders. In Kansas City neighborhoods that don’t have a single bank branch, the CCO program will soon provide loans ranging from $300 to $2,000. The interest rate will be 36 percent—still high, but much better than 431 percent. CCO has learned a lesson similar to ADP’s: organizing can’t just be about opposing problems; it must create community-owned solutions.

ADP will also start an urban farming program based on models in Kentucky. In that state, small family farmers belonging to the Community Farm Alliance won tobacco settlement money to transition to vegetables and other new crops. But local grocery stores kept buying their produce from out of state. At the same time, the mostly poor, black residents of West Louisville weren’t even getting the frozen, cheap stuff (while the Louisville metro area had an average of one grocery store for roughly every 13,000 residents, West Louisville and East Downtown had three grocery stores for 80,000 residents). CFA started a farmers’ market in West Louisville to connect rural farmers with urban consumer needs, which also created jobs for young people in the neighborhood. The alliance is launching a for-profit food distribution company that will service other food markets.

Similarly, in Buffalo, the Massachusetts Avenue Project has trained more than 350 young people in gardening, food systems and business while using vacant lots to grow and sell more than 5,000 pounds of affordable fresh produce to residents in the community. MAP also packages its own chili starter and salsa, sold in grocery stores throughout the region, and a new aquaponics facility will yield 25,000 tilapia in the coming year.

ADP has proven that local grassroots alternatives can be scaled—combining innovative ideas from around the country to build a significant community-based economy. ADP’s businesses even turn enough of a profit to fund significant portions of the group’s organizing work—which will ensure that ADP’s model keeps growing. But beyond the impact in western Massachusetts, ADP and these other examples point to a new economic philosophy for America, where we the people aren’t owned by business and capital; instead, we the people own the economy.

At a time when it’s hard to find progressive inspiration nationally—when propping up the wealthy and the status quo is repeatedly privileged over more equitable alternatives—the grass is a good deal greener outside Washington.

Green Coop Industrial Laundry Wins $250,000 from Heinz in Pittsburgh

From SteelValley.Org

The Heinz Endowments awarded $250,000 to the Pittsburgh Steel Valley Authority (SVA) to manage a project development team to build a new green industrial laundry cooperative in the Pittsburgh central district. The goal of the project is to re-employ 100 primarily minority laundry workers who are being dislocated by the Sodexho Corporation. The SVA will be working with a large consortium---the city, county, the laundry workers’ unions (SEIU, Operating Engineers, Teamsters), the Allegheny Conference, the large, Spanish workers cooperative corporation - Mondragon, the Ohio Employee Ownership Center, UPMC, the Hill District KIZ, and other urban community leaders.--to help develop the project.

The idea of cooperative companies as competitive instruments of worker-friendly capitalism has become very popular these days; the Cleveland Foundation’s Evergreen Cooperative platform has spawned a couple of other successful businesses, including a profitable cooperative laundry, employing Mondragon industrial cooperative “one worker, one vote” principles.

The Evergreen Cooperative Laundry began operating last year in a new $6 million plant and services the health care and hospitality industries. Formed through a community economic development initiative to promote the development of urban cooperatives as a means to improve the quality of life in the community, this initiative was strongly supported through the leadership of the Cleveland Foundation and other local foundations, the City of Cleveland, major educational and medical stakeholder institutions, as well as professionals from the Ohio Employee Ownership Center, the Democracy Collaborative, and Mondragon.

As an important step in this direction, on April 7th, 2011 the SVA participated in a meeting with the workforce at the Sodexho Laundry in the Lower Hill District to discuss the potential development of this new business concept to replace the 100 or more jobs that will soon be lost when Sodexho closes. Representatives from the largest worker’s union at the laundry, the SEIU, participated in the meeting along with the Chief Executive Officer, Jim Anderson, and Plant Manager, Medrick Addison, of the Evergreen Cooperative Laundry in Cleveland. Sixty of the workers, primarily African-American and Asian, signed on to join the project and make it their company.

Equity is important to foundations and other large civic organizations as a means to alter the cycle of poverty. Today, too many working families work for low-wage employers in dead end jobs or are underemployed and unemployed. The proven Evergreen-Mondragon worker ownership and worker empowerment model has proven capable of transforming the current workplace status quo into one that is more participatory and more accountable to the workers, build worker equity based on meritocratic participation and enterprise success, create sustaining good and green job opportunities, engender self-driven wealth in disadvantaged neighborhoods, and reduce the environmental impact of the current industry. In October 2009, the United Steelworkers Union and Mondragon announced their collaboration to develop a Mondragon-USW union-coop model to transform manufacturing enterprises in a similar manner. The Pittsburgh union-cooperative laundry represents a starting point for what Heinz and SVA want to accomplish throughout the Pittsburgh metropolitan region.

Primary project goals include:

- Create job opportunities for historically disadvantaged individuals and provide for an opportunity to create family wealth through business ownership & equity

- Establish a sustainable, market-competitive, green laundry in a disadvantaged Pittsburgh neighborhood to support the regional healthcare and hospitality industry

- Build a hybrid co-op/union enterprise as a model for existing and new regional businesses, with help from community partners

- Reduce the environmental impact of regional laundry services by creating a fully competitive green enterprise.

Participatory Budgeting Leads the SF Mayoral Debate

Tonight, a Mayoral Debate on Open Government in San Francisco
From Tech President
by Nick Judd
June 16, 2011

Thursday night in San Francisco, Lotus Development Corporation founder Mitch Kapor will moderate a discussion about open government, civic engagement, technology and innovation between some of the leading candidates for mayor of the City by the Bay.

Beginning at 5:45 p.m. Pacific Standard Time and held at the headquarters of WordPress developers Automatic, the sold-out event, SFOpen, will be streamed live over at GovFresh. It's the kickoff to a series of summer events about urbanism and technology, but the crescendo of a push to put open government ideas — that 21st-century governments must do a better job of communicating what they are doing and involve citizens in deciding what to do — on the map for the San Francisco mayoral campaign. Ahead of this debate, GovFresh founder Luke Fretwell has been advocating, organizing and cajoling mayoral candidates to sign a pledge to use technology to make San Francisco's government more transparent, to involve more people in making decisions, and to better collaborate with people outside government if elected. He's also hosting blog posts on open government and transparency by candidates Phil Ting and Joanna Rees, and video of interviews with candidates on the subject.

Tonight's questions will come from a crowdsourced list where the lead questions are now about participatory budgeting, a process through which some portion of a government budget is allocated by popular vote; improving the performance of San Francisco's MUNI municipal transit system; and the digital divide, the difference in access to the Internet between people of differing race and class.

In part because of the unusual system the people of San Francisco will use to decide their next mayor, the race is still wide open. The online outlet SF Appeal notes that since voters will indicate second and third choices for mayor as well as their top pick, candidates will likely be cordial with one another — in the hopes of staying likeable with enough voters to earn runner-up votes even if they are not top picks.

The event is sponsored by, GovFresh and the Gray Area Foundation for the Arts, SF Appeal notes.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Sharing Revolution Conference

The Sharing Revolution Conference- Listed as a top trend by TIME magazine, the “sharing economy” is expanding rapidly as people create car shares, neighborhood tool lending libraries, fruit/vegetable exchanges, babysitting co-ops, vacation house swaps, “time banks” and other innovative approaches to reduce our impact on Earth, build community — and save money, too.

Bring a couple of friends and neighbors from other community groups. You’ll finish the day inspired and with a plan to get started.

Hear from Inspiring Experts

* Neal Gorenflo, Co-Founder, Shareable
* Janelle Orsi, Author, The Sharing Solution: How to Save Money, Simplify Your Life & Build Community
* Cecile Andrews, Author, Slow Is Beautiful
* Ed Everett, Community Strategist, GoGoVerde
* Plus over 15 organizations with cool ideas to make sharing easier, including Bay Area Community Exchange, RelayRides, JardinMatch, Neighborhood Growing Circles, Grubly, JustShareIt, TaskRabbit, Transition Towns, North Willow Glen Neighborhood Association Produce Share, Mountain View Cohousing Community, and more!

Share Innovative Ideas & Form Sharing Groups

* Put your learning into practice, right on the spot!
* Got a great idea? Share it at “The Sharing Revolution” Facebook page and in-person at the conference.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Mountain View Senior Center, 266 Escuela Avenue, Mountain View, CA 94040 [MAP]

Registration Fee (includes sustainable lunch):
$25 through June 17

$25 June 1-17
$30 at the door
Optional $15 for a signed, pre-owned copy of The Sharing Solution

Building Resilience: The New Economy in the Shell of the Old

By Sarah Byrnes

On a Thursday night around 6 p.m., people gathered for the fourth meeting of my Resilience Circle. We were in the social hall of the local Congregational Church, a big churchy room with folding tables and chairs. The meeting started with a potluck. The Clearys arrived with some pickles and olives they’d preserved themselves. In her softly unassuming way, Sarah Cleary began talking about how easy it is to can some of your own food.

Luka, the facilitator, called everyone together and kicked off the session with the exchanging of “Gifts and Needs.” Participants had written their gifts – things they could offer – on one set of note-cards and their needs on another. Luka himself started. “I can give bike tune-ups,” he said, placing a note card into the center of the circle. “And I’d love to learn how to hem my own pants.”

A few moments later, after two others also said that they’d like to learn to sew, Sharon offered to run a sewing class for the group. And moments after that, I was somehow scheduling a time for the pastor of the church to cut my hair, a skill she had learned around the edges of her divine pursuits. A dog-sitting/child-care exchange began to bud. People began brainstorming about how to find and share a 20-foot ladder. Lots of folks offered to help Sarah weed her garden in exchange for veggies. I asked her if she could help us organize a community-wide canning workshop.

An introductory session at a Resilience Circle meeting. Photo credit: Common Security Club.

Exchanges like this are popping up in Resilience Circles around the country, sometimes known as common security clubs. We like to say we’re slowly “flexing our mutual aid muscles” since they’ve gotten so badly out of shape.

I began working as the Resilience Circle Organizer about six months ago, having just ended a job in a non-profit focused on policy change. At that job, we worked ruthlessly and relentlessly for financial reform and, ultimately, saw the passage of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. We were in the midst of the perfect opportunity to start creating a new economy through federal policy. Wall Street had just crashed our economy. There was widespread agreement that the banking sector should be reined in. What better moment to end the practices that drove us off the economic cliff?

But as most people know, this didn’t happen. The sad truth is that the new law takes some great steps, but doesn’t get the job done. Even sadder, funding for the agencies which are supposed to police Wall Street is now at risk. This could torpedo the reforms in one of those horrible off-the-radar moves that Washington is so good at. All this to say that attempting to do policy change as an organizer or regular activist is damn hard. It’s draining. How can we keep up our energy when it seems that no matter what we do, the rules always favor the rich and powerful at the expense of the rest of us?

For me, Resilience Circle organizing has been the perfect antidote to this sense of helplessness. With or without Washington on board, I now see that small groups of people can – and are – creating a new, shareable, and sustainable economy from the ground up. And in this time of overwhelming economic uncertainty, people are exploring a new kind of security based on community ties instead of the acquisition of stuff.

Community members break into groups at a Resilience Circle meeting. Photo credit: Common Security Club.

In Resilience Circles, we say three things need to happen to make a transition to a new economy: we need a new story about the economy that dismantles the myth of “recovery;” we need stronger communities; and we need new “rules” – i.e. new policies befitting a democracy instead of rule by a corporate elite. To make this happen, Resilience Circles learn together, engage in mutual aid, and take social action. A (free and open source!) curriculum provides a guide for facilitators to lead groups through six initial sessions. From there, groups pick their own projects and self-facilitate.

I now see clearly that connected communities are essential if we’re to beat the rich and powerful elite who keep the system rigged. No matter how many e-mails we send, isolated individuals calling for change can easily be ignored, whereas networked groups of committed citizens can get things done. And, community keeps us motivated and energized by showing us that we have lots to offer each other. Cheesy as it sounds, it shows us that we have lots to share, from hair cuts to veggies to a 20-foot ladder.

All of this is slowly unfolding in my Resilience Circle, and in the Circles I talk to around the country. It’s transformative, hopeful, and fun.

Get involved – start or join a Resilience Circle in your neighborhood. Visit our website for info.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

New Decentralized Currency Stimulating Underground Barter Economy

New Decentralized Currency Stimulating Underground Barter Economy
New grassroots cyber currency, the Bitcoin, may provide the perfect vehicle to operate outside the establishment economy and snub the all-powerful banking cartels -- it's decentralized, quasi-anonymous, and its supply is regulated by an algorithm to actually create deflation over time.

Eric Blair

The masses are beginning to understand that the greatest threat to human freedom is the international banking cartel and their debt-based monetary system. Together with governments, they squash any manifestation of a free marketplace and personal freedom. Between runaway money printing, corporate cartel control, subsidies and taxes, and regulations and fees; the free market is nothing more than an ideology -- for now.

As the "Too Big to Fail" private banks consolidate even further with the help of their central baking partners and government puppets, it would seem that they form an all-powerful cartel. They force us to use their monopoly money to pay for all necessary goods and services. They track every economic transaction to plunder as much manufactured taxes and fees as possible. Income taxes are extracted to prop up the debt-based system, the Wall Street casino, the domestic surveillance prison, and endless wars. And on top of that, the consumer is ravaged by increasing inflation. Indeed, the system smashes personal and economic freedom.

Incidentally, it seems the precise remedy to such a system would be decentralization of currency and banking, or functioning in an underground economy outside the system. There may be hope for accomplishing both with the new crypto-currency that is beginning to gain recognition, the Bitcoin. Can this decentralized barter currency free humanity from the grip of the slave masters and provide for a truly free-market economy?

First, what is a Bitcoin?

Bitcoin is a voluntary digital currency that can be transferred peer-to-peer over the Internet. The open-source cryptographic program secures the electronic transactions without the need for a third party, like a bank or PayPal. There are no transfer fees or centralized clearing house needed for peers to trade Bits. Bitcoins are held in a wallet that carries an anonymous address in the system. Watch the brief video below for a concise description:

MIT's Technology Review recently reported on the functionality of the Bitcoin and its "booming" rise to $40 million in circulation:

In 2008, a programmer known as Satoshi Nakamotoâ€"a name believed to be an aliasâ€"posted a paper outlining Bitcoin's design to a cryptography e-mail list. Then, in early 2009, he (or she) released software that can be used to exchange bitcoins using the scheme. That software is now maintained by a volunteer open-source community coordinated by four core developers.

...Nakamoto wanted people to be able to exchange money electronically securely without the need for a third party, such as a bank or a company like PayPal. He based Bitcoin on cryptographic techniques that allow you to be sure the money you receive is genuine, even if you don't trust the sender.

The report explains what makes the peer-to-peer currency secure and anonymous:

Once you download and run the Bitcoin client software, it connects over the Internet to the decentralized network of all Bitcoin users and also generates a pair of unique, mathematically linked keys, which you'll need to exchange bitcoins with any other client. One key is private and kept hidden on your computer. The other is public and a version of it dubbed a Bitcoin address is given to other people so they can send you bitcoins. Crucially, it is practically impossibleâ€"even with the most powerful supercomputerâ€"to work out someone's private key from their public key. This prevents anyone from impersonating you. Your public and private keys are stored in a file that can be transferred to another computer, for example if you upgrade.

Understandably, many readers of this will be leery of a "cashless" currency due to the stigma attached to the idea by the global banking cartel's stated agenda of creating a "cashless society" allowing for total economic dominance. However, the Bitcoin is the antithesis of centralized control. The nature of the peer-to-peer digital transfers of bits is uncontrollable, as we've seen with BitTorrents.

The shutting down of Napster back in the day and the DHS' endless efforts to seize "pirate" websites will never stop peer-to-peer sharing of information. With Bitcoins, the transaction takes place from your personal computer out into a vast network of servers that process the transaction into the recipient's anonymous wallet located in his computer. This realization that this currency is virtually impossible to consolidate or shutdown would seem to make Bitcoins one of the biggest threats the control system has ever faced.

As evidence of Bitcoins being used to openly defy the system, an underground online drug trade has sprung up, as reported by Gawker. This so-called "Amazon" of illegal drugs accepts only Bitcoins as payment and is virtually untraceable unless the authorities assign massive resources to the endeavor; and even if they shut down the website, another will likely pop up to replace it. It's probably not the kind of press that the founders of Bitcoin would like, but it underscores the unconquerable nature of voluntary exchange between two individuals and the Bitcoin technology. When an authority tries to prohibit products that people demand, black markets will always pop up. And as we've seen with the war on drugs, it is impossible to stop no matter how much they throw at it.

As for how the long-term supply and value is controlled, MIT reported:

Nakamoto's rules specify that the amount of bitcoins in circulation will grow at an ever-decreasing rate toward a maximum of 21 million. Currently there are just over 6 million; in 2030, there will be over 20 million bitcoins.

Nakamoto's scheme includes one loophole, however: if more than half of the Bitcoin network's computing power comes under the control of one entity, then the rules can change. This would prevent, for example, a criminal cartel faking a transaction log in its own favor to dupe the rest of the community.

It is unlikely that anyone will ever obtain this kind of control. 'The combined power of the network is currently equal to one of the most powerful supercomputers in the world,' says Garzik. 'Satoshi's rules are probably set in stone.'

It is unlikely any major retailers will sign on to accept Bitcoins because they are deeply entrenched in the establishment economy and are likely saddled with debt to the banking cartel. The Bitcoin economy is more a grassroots opportunity for small businesses and individuals to sell used or self-produced products or services. Look for Ebay or Amazon knock-offs to pop up and allow individuals to sell items. Look for online casinos to spring up for Bitcoin players. Look for local organic cooperatives to implement them. Anything that a consumer desires that can be facilitated online can conceivably be done with an anonymous Bitcoin transaction in this emerging peer-to-peer barter market.

Nothing could be a more genuine example of a free market than two people voluntarily bartering for an item without a middleman or big brother snooping the transaction. The banks serve no purpose in online commerce except that most people pay for things from money in banks. Now, their role will seem to be diminished should the Bitcoin economy take off. Bitcoin seems like the ideal online currency to support if one wishes for freedom and anonymity, or to protest the centralized power of the banking cartel and their tax-thirsty puppet regimes.

Maybe I want to believe in it too much, so tell me where I'm wrong in the comment section. Activist Post may soon accept donations in Bitcoins and add a miner to support its growth. Tell us if your research says it passes the smell test or not.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

In the Midst of Economic Destruction, Inspiration
By Ruth Conniff
June 1, 2011

As things go from bad to worse in Wisconsin and other states, with massive cuts to schools, medical care, voter rights, and, as of last night in Wisconsin, the Earned Income Tax Credit, it's easy to feel overwhelmed.

It's a full-time job just to keep up with the coordinated assault on our democracy, our rights, our kids' future, and basic human services that make people's lives livable.

That's why gathering with people who have creative ideas and a ton of energy to help build a better world is both a relief and a big dose of inspiration.

Last night, across the street from the capitol building in Madison, Wisconsin, a group of progressives gathered in the boardroom of a large bank to talk about hopeful alternatives to the Republican model of budget slashing, inequality, and destruction.

The host was the Dane County TimeBank. TimeBanks--where people from all walks of life exchange goods and services in a non-monetary economy of mutual aid--are the brainchild of Edgar Kahn, who flew to Madison from Washington, DC, to join the conversation. Kahn started his career as a speechwriter for Robert Kennedy, joined the "War on Poverty" and co-founded Legal Services as well as the Antioch law school. But the project closest to his heart is TimeBanking.

Back when he was doing his War on Poverty work, Kahn says, "We were really focusing on how people were victims and what was wrong with them. That was a very partial view."

In 1980, Kahn had a massive heart attack. His close brush with death focused his attention on what was important to him. "For me, being alive was making a difference in other people's lives," he says.

He is not alone. Research shows that happiness is closely tied to social connectedness.

TimeBanking--which several speakers compare to an old-fashioned barn-raising--builds community through reciprocal giving. Whether members of a TimeBank walk dogs, babysit, do construction work, or serve as jurors in a people's court, everyone has something to contribute.

This vision of society is the inverse of the Republican private-business-uber-alles model, in which paying taxes and participating in anything from recycling to the public school system is an infringement on the individual right to maximize profit and minimize social responsibility.

TimeBanking may seem like a miniscule idea in the face of the current assault on so many basic social institutions. But expanding the barter economy looks better and better as state budgets get more dire. And, politically, the thinking behind TimeBanking is deeper and more radical than it at first appears.

"To be involved in TimeBanking may seem sweet and simple and even nice," Kahn says. "But we are taking on two major issues."

The first is the basic way we look at value--monetary value as defined by price, which in turn is defined by supply and demand. By devaluing the commonplace, says Kahn, "Our monetary system devalues every critical capacity we need to care for each other. . . to grieve with each other . . . to stand up for what's right."

"I think we're taking a stand on where value is--other than price," Kahn says.

That idea resonates in Madison, where people recently had the experience of standing together as citizens to defy Governor Scott Walker's union-busting, budget-cutting plans for our state and our communities.

As Dane County TimeBank board member and local entrepreneur Preston Austin put it: "Thousands and then tens of thousands and then hundreds of thousands of people got involved in a way most of us would have been cynical about days before,"

The power of people coming together like that is what TimeBanking is all about.

Among Dane Couny TimeBank's successful projects: a youth court, where a jury of teenagers trained in restorative justice "sentences" peers to help in the community, creating a culture of accountability, and an energy conservation team from a low-income neighborhood that changes light bulbs and improves energy efficiency in homes.

Cheri Maples, a Buddhist monk who used to work for the Madison police department and the Wisconsin Department of Corrections, and who now runs the Center for Mindfulness and Justice, talked about how TimeBanking can transform the way we treat public safety: using a TimeBank for neighborhood patrols, applying it inside the walls of prisons, and offering it when people get out of prison to “surround them with informal resources," and reintegrate them into the community.

Stephanie Rearick, the founder and director of the Dane County TimeBank, is co-owner of Mother Fools coffee house, a former activist with GreenPeace, and the founder of a small, independent record label. She had long been interested in an alternative, community-based economy.

"I didn't want to have a chain--but all the economic forces drive you toward more consolidation and growth," she said. "With environmental and social justice, it's really obvious the ways money drives things the wrong way.”

When she read the book The Future of Money by Bernard Lietaer, Rearick realized "it doesn't have to be this way."

"As an antidote to fighting for crumbs, together, we make pie," Rearick says.

"We're immersed in an economy of equals, and it feels really good," Rearick says. "What we intend do is scale this way up. We're ready to go and create an economy of abundance--an economy that's scaled to fit humans, and serves us instead of the other way around."

Another major stand the TimeBank idea takes, Kahn says, is "We're not just saying to people 'how can I help?'" Reciprocity--the idea that people are not just passive victims, that they have something to contribute—is also important.

The unintentional message of the traditional, liberal model of helping people is, “You have nothing to give."

For people who work in human services, this is a particularly interesting point.

Ron Chance, community programs manager for the Dane County Department of Human Services and a TimeBank board member, tied Kahn's vision directly to how to respond to state budget cuts:

"Some of it has to do with intentionally cultivating people who are getting creamed," he said. Instead, for too long, human services delivers services in a very top-down manner.

"In the private sector, people reinvent themselves or they die, like the auto industry," Chance said. "But we're doing the opposite--we just lop." Budget cuts will be handed down without a chance to do any creative thinking about making things work better with the people who are most affected.

Chance would like to see TimeBank challenges specifically linked to state budget cuts "where you invite people to present problems for the TimeBank to solve."

Don't get me wrong: this is not 1,000 points of light. Volunteerism--even enlightened, reciprocal volunteerism--won't save the world by itself. But the sheer chutzpah of the TimeBank idea is a welcome counterpoint to the compete-and-despair politics of Scott Walker.

Rearick and Austin recently got grant money to pursue "Time for the World," an effort to take TimeBank USA international.

"There is not a social issue that's a vexing problem that TimeBanking doesn't get at," says Rearick.

Case in point, says Austin, is a TimeBank member from Morocco just developed a voter registration aid to help Wisconsinites overcome the new barriers to getting registered and voting in the state's voter ID law.