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Republished by Energy Bulletin, Countercurrents and OpEdNews.

The following exchange between Michael Carriere and Alex Knight occurred via email, July 2010. Alex Knight was questioned about the End of Capitalism Theory, which states that the global capitalist system is breaking down due to ecological and social limits to growth and that a paradigm shift toward a non-capitalist future is underway.

This is the final part of a four-part interview. Scroll to the bottom for links to the other sections.

Part 3. Life After Capitalism

MC: Moving forward, how would you ideally envision a post-capitalist world? And if capitalism manages to survive (as it has in the past), is there still room for real change?

AK: First let me repeat that even if my theory is right that capitalism is breaking down, it doesn’t suggest that we’ll automatically find ourselves living in a utopia soon. This crisis is an opportunity for us progressives but it is also an opportunity for right-wing forces. If the right seizes the initiative, I fear they could give rise to neo-fascism – a system in which freedoms are enclosed and violated for the purpose of restoring a mythical idea of national glory.

I think this threat is especially credible here in the United States, where in recent years we’ve seen the USA PATRIOT Act, the Supreme Court’s decision that corporations are “persons,” and the stripping of constitutional rights from those labeled “terrorists,” “enemy combatants”, as well as “illegals.” Arizona’s attempt to institute a racial profiling law and turn every police officer into an immigration official may be the face of fascism in America today. Angry whites joining together with the repressive forces of the state to terrorize a marginalized community, Latino immigrants. While we have a black president now, white supremacist sentiment remains widespread in this country, and doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon. So as we struggle for a better world we may also have to contend with increasing authoritarianism.

I should also state up front that I have no interest in “writing recipes for the cooks of the future.” I can’t prescribe the ideal post-capitalist world and I wouldn’t try. People will create solutions to the crises they face according to what makes most sense in their circumstances. In fact they’re already doing this. Yet, I would like to see your question addressed towards the public at large, and discussed in schools, workplaces, and communities. If we have an open conversation about what a better world would look like, this is where the best solutions will come from. Plus, the practice of imagination will give people a stronger investment in wanting the future to turn out better. So I’ll put forward some of my ideas for life beyond capitalism, in the hope that it spurs others to articulate their visions and initiate conversation on the world we want.

My personal vision has been shaped by my outrage over the two fundamental crises that capitalism has perpetrated: the ecological crisis and the social crisis. I see capitalism as a system of abuse. The system grows by exploiting people and the planet as means to extract profit, and by refusing to be responsible for the ecological and social trauma caused by its abuse. Therefore I believe any real solutions to our problems must be aligned to both ecological justice and social justice. If we privilege one over the other, we will only cause more harm. The planet must be healed, and our communities must be healed as well. I would propose these two goals as a starting point to the discussion.

How do we heal? What does healing look like? Let me expand from there.

Five Guideposts to a New World

I mentioned in response to the first question that I view freedom, democracy, justice, sustainability and love as guideposts that point towards a new world. This follows from what I call a common sense radical approach, because it is not about pulling vision for the future from some ideological playbook or dogma, but from lived experience. Rather than taking pre-formed ideas and trying to make reality fit that conceptual blueprint, ideas should spring from what makes sense on the ground. The five guideposts come from our common values. It doesn’t take an expert to understand them or put them into practice.

In the first section I described how freedom at its core is about self-determination. I said that defined this way it presents a radical challenge to capitalist society because it highlights the lack of power we have under capitalism. We do not have self-determination, and we cannot as long as huge corporations and corrupt politicians control our destinies.

I’ll add that access to land is fundamental to a meaningful definition of freedom. The group Take Back the Land has highlighted this through their work to move homeless and foreclosed families directly into vacant homes in Miami. Everyone needs access to land for the basic security of housing, but also for the ability to feed themselves. Without “food sovereignty,” or the power to provide for one’s own family, community or nation with healthy, culturally and ecologically appropriate food, freedom cannot exist. The best way to ensure that communities have food sovereignty is to ensure they have access to land.

Ella Baker championed the idea of participatory democracy

Similarly, a deeper interpretation of democracy would emphasize participation by an individual or community in the decisions that affect them. For this definition I follow in the footsteps of Ella Baker, the mighty civil rights organizer who championed the idea of participatory democracy. With a lifelong focus on empowering ordinary people to solve their own problems, Ella Baker is known for saying “Strong people don’t need strong leaders.” This was the philosophy of the black students who sat-in at lunch counters in the South to win their right to public accommodations. They didn’t wait for the law to change, or for adults to tell them to do it. The students recognized that society was wrong, and practiced non-violent civil disobedience , becoming empowered by their actions. Then with Ms. Baker’s support they formed the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and organized poor blacks in Mississippi to demand their right to vote, passing on the torch of empowerment.

We need to be empowered to manage our own affairs on a large scale. In a participatory democracy, “we, the people” would run the show, not representatives who depend on corporate funding to get elected. “By the people, for the people, of the people” are great words. What if we actually put those words into action in the government, the economy, the media, and all the institutions that affect our lives? Institutions should obey the will of the people, rather than the people obeying the will of institutions. It can happen, but only through organization and active participation of the people as a whole. We must empower ourselves, not wait for someone else to do it. Read the rest of this entry »


Republished by Energy Bulletin, OpEdNews, and Countercurrents, and translated into Turkish for Hafif.org.

The following exchange between Michael Carriere and Alex Knight occurred via email, July 2010. Alex Knight was questioned about the End of Capitalism Theory, which states that the global capitalist system is breaking down due to ecological and social limits to growth and that a paradigm shift toward a non-capitalist future is underway.

This is the third part of a four-part interview. This part is a continuation of Alex’s response to the second question. Click here for Part 2A. Scroll to the bottom for links to the other sections.

Part 2B. Social Limits and the Crisis

MC: Capitalism has faced many moments of crisis over time. Is there something different about the present crisis? What makes the end of capitalism a possibility now?

AK: As I described in the last section, the current crisis can be understood as resulting from a massive collision between capitalism’s relentless need for growth and the world’s limits in capacity to sustain that growth. These limits to growth are both ecological and social. In this section I’ll discuss the concept of social limits to growth.

The Extraordinary Power of Social Movements

Social limits to growth function alongside the ecological limits but are drawn from a different source. By social limits we mean the inability, or unwillingness, of human communities, and humankind as a whole, to support the expansion of capitalism. This broadly includes all forms of resistance to capitalism, a resistance that has arguably been increasing around the world through innumerable forms of alternative lifestyles, refusal to cooperate, protest, and outright rebellion.

As a disclaimer it’s important to recognize that not all resistance is progressive. There are right-wing, fundamentalist, and undemocratic forces that also resist capitalism, for example the Taliban, or North Korea. These are not our allies. They do not share progressive values, we cannot condone their attacks on women, or on freedom more generally, and I don’t see anything to be gained by working with them. However it is important to recognize how these forces are aligned against capitalism and U.S. imperialism, in addition to being aware of the danger they present to our own hopes and dreams.

Progressive resistance, on the other hand, has always taken its strength from grassroots social movements. Silvia Federici writes about the immense and varied peasant movements in medieval Europe that fought for religious and sexual freedom, challenging both feudal lords and emerging capitalist elites. I like to think of these rebels as my European ancestors – they were just commoners but they rose up to fight for a better world. This is the nature of social movements. Ordinary folks, daring to pursue their deepest aspirations, interests and dreams, join together with others who share those desires, and thereby create something extraordinary. The magic exists in the joining-together. Isolated individuals lack the power to accomplish what a group can achieve.

We can appreciate this extraordinary power if we look at how social movements have transformed our lives. A century ago, millions of American workers joined the labor movement and won the 8-hour day, Social Security, and workplace safety. Regular folks carried forward the Civil Rights Movement and broke Southern segregation. The feminist and LGBT movements have transformed the way gender and sexuality are viewed all over the world. It’s hard to overstate how dramatically these and other social movements have improved society. While capitalism has invented ways to co-opt social movements and redirect them into outlets that do not challenge the system on a deep level (like the “non-profit industrial complex”), movements have remained alive and vibrant by empowering people to reach towards a different world.

Have social movements limited capitalist oppression recently? To answer this we need to learn the story of the Global Justice Movement.

Demonstrators tear down a section of security fence in the Mexican resort city of Cancun to confront the World Trade Organization’s Fifth Ministerial summit on Sept. 10, 2003.

The Global Justice Movement

David Graeber, anarchist anthropologist, wrote a remarkable essay called “The Shock of Victory” in which he looks at this movement that suddenly flared up at the turn of the millennium and seemed to disappear just as quickly. Although most Americans may not remember the Global Justice Movement, and those who participated in it may feel demoralized by the fact that capitalism still exists, Graeber points out that many of the movement’s ambitious goals were accomplished. Read the rest of this entry »


Republished by Energy Bulletin, The Todd Blog, OpEdNews, Countercurrents, and translated into Turkish for Hafif.org.

The following exchange between Michael Carriere and Alex Knight occurred via email, July 2010. Alex Knight was questioned about the End of Capitalism Theory, which states that the global capitalist system is breaking down due to ecological and social limits to growth and that a paradigm shift toward a non-capitalist future is underway.

This is the second part of a four-part interview. Scroll to the bottom for links to the other sections.

Part 2A. Capitalism and Ecological Limits

MC: Capitalism has faced many moments of crisis over time. Is there something different about the present crisis? What makes the end of capitalism a possibility now?

AK: This is such an important question, and it’s vital to think and talk about the crisis in this way, with a view toward history. It’s not immediately obvious why this crisis began and why, two years later, it’s not getting better. Making sense of this is challenging. Especially since knowledge of economics has become so enclosed within academic and professional channels where it’s off-limits to the majority of the population. Even progressive intellectuals, who aim to translate and explain the crisis to regular folks, too often fall into the trap of accepting elite explanations as the starting point and then injecting their politics around the edges. This is why there is such an abundance of essays and videos analyzing “credit default swaps”, “collateralized debt obligations,” etc., as if this crisis is about nothing more than greedy speculators overstepping their bounds.

On the contrary, the End of Capitalism Theory insists there are deeper explanations for why this crisis is so severe, widespread, and long-lasting. Here’s one explanation: The devastating quaking of the financial markets, and the lingering aftershocks we’re experiencing in layoffs and cut-backs, are manifestations of much larger tectonic shifts under the surface of the economy. This turmoil originates from deep instabilities within capitalism, the global economic system that dominates our planet. The dramatic crisis we are experiencing now is resulting from a massive underground collision between capitalism’s relentless need for growth on one side, and the world’s limited capacity to sustain that growth on the other.

These limits to growth, like the continental plates, are enormous, permanent qualities of the Earth – they cannot be ignored or simply moved out of the way. The limits to growth are both ecological, such as shortages of resources, and social, such as growing movements for change around the globe. As capitalism rams into these limiting forces, numerous crises (economic, energy, climate, food, water, political, etc.) erupt, and destruction sweeps through society. This collision between capitalism and its limits will continue until capitalism itself collapses and is replaced by other ways of living.

Tectonic Plates Colliding - Capitalism is Ramming into the Limits to Growth, Causing Massive Shocks on the Surface of the Economy

The End of Capitalism Theory argues that capitalism will not be able to overcome these limits to growth, and therefore it is only a matter of time before we are living in a non-capitalist world. A paradigm shift towards a new society is underway. There’s a chance this new future could be even worse, but I hold tremendous hope in the capacity of human beings to invent a better life for themselves when given the chance. Part of my hope springs from the understanding that capitalism has caused terrible havoc all over the world through the violence it perpetrates against humanity and Mother Earth. The end of capitalism need not be a disaster. It can be a triumph. Or, perhaps, a sigh of relief.

Defining the Crisis

Rather than spend our time learning the language of Wall St. and trying to understand the economic crisis from the perspective of the bankers and capitalists, I think we can get much further if we take our own point of reference and then investigate below the surface to try to find the true origins of the crisis. This is what I call a common sense radical approach. Start from where we are, who we are, and what we know, because you don’t need to be an academic to understand the economy – you just need common sense. Then try to get to the root of the issue (radical coming from the Latin word for “root”). What is really going on under the surface? What is the core of the problem? If we can’t come up with a common sense radical explanation of the crisis, we’ll always be stuck within someone else’s dogma. This could be Wall St. dogma, Marxist dogma, Christian dogma, etc. So what is this crisis really about? Read the rest of this entry »


Republished by Countercurrents, OpEdNews, Alliance for Sustainable Communities – Lehigh Valley, The Pigeon Post, Dissident Voice and The (Grace Lee) Boggs Blog!

The following exchange between Michael Carriere and Alex Knight occurred via email, July 2010. Alex Knight was questioned about the End of Capitalism Theory, which states that the global capitalist system is breaking down due to ecological and social limits to growth and that a paradigm shift toward a non-capitalist future is underway.

The interview will be available in four parts. Scroll to the bottom to read all of Prof. Carriere’s questions.

Part 1. Crisis and Opportunity

MC: The current financial crisis is clearly a moment of peril for both individuals and the broader system of capitalism. But would it also make sense to see it as a moment of opportunity?

AK: Absolutely. I see opportunity springing from every crack in the structure of capitalism. For all those who wish to see a different world, this moment is dripping with opportunity because the old order is crumbling before our eyes.

Shock and Awe on the New York Stock Exchange

The crisis extends far beyond the broken financial system. Millions of people are losing their jobs, homes, and savings as the burden of the crisis gets shifted onto the poor and working class. Public faith in the system, both the government and the capitalist economy, has been shattered and is at an all-time low. And it’s not just the economic crisis. The bank bailouts, the endless wars in the Mid East, the BP spill and the meltdown of the climate, and about a dozen other crises have shaken us deeply. It’s become common sense that the system is broken and a major change is needed. Barack Obama was elected in the US precisely by promising this change. Now that he is failing to deliver, more and more people are questioning whether the system can provide any solutions, or whether it’s actually the source of the problem.

Shattered faith is the dominant sentiment today. You can see it in people’s faces – the disappointment, grief, worry, and anger. To me, this loss of faith presents an enormous opening for putting forth a new, non-capitalist way of life. People are ready to hear radical solutions now, like they haven’t been since the Great Depression.

Historic Crossroads

If we go back to 1929, we’ll see some interesting parallels to our current moment. When that depression started, millions lost their livelihoods to pay for the bankers’ crisis. Faith in capitalism sunk to rock bottom. The public flocked to two major ideologies that offered a way out: socialism and fascism.

Socialism presented a solution to the crisis by saying, roughly: “Capitalism is flawed because it divides us into rich and poor, and the rich always take advantage of the poor. We need to organize the poor and workers into unions and political parties so we can take power for the benefit of all.”

Socialism attracted millions of followers, even in the United States. The labor movement was enormous and kept gaining ground through sit-down strikes and other forms of direct action. The Communist Party sent thousands of organizers into the new CIO, at the time a more radical union than the AFL. Socialist viewpoints even started getting through to the mass media and government. Huey Long was elected Senator from Louisiana by promising to “Share Our Wealth,” to radically redistribute the wealth of the country to abolish poverty and unemployment. (He was assassinated.) Socialism challenged President Roosevelt from the left, pushing him to create the social safety net of the New Deal.

On the other side, fascism also emerged as a serious force and attracted a mass following by putting forth something like the following: “The government has sold us out. We are a great nation, but we have been disgraced by liberal elites who are pillaging our economy for the benefit of foreign enemies, dangerous socialists, and undesirable elements (like Jews). We need to restore our national honor and fulfill our God-given mission.”

When people hear the word fascism, they usually think of Nazi Germany or Mussolini’s Italy, where successful fascist movements seized state power and implemented totalitarian control of society. Yet fascism was an international phenomenon during the Depression, and the United States was not immune to its reach. General Smedley Butler, the most decorated Marine in US history, testified before the Senate that wealthy industrialists had approached him as part of a “Business Plot” and tried to convince him to march an army of 500,000 veterans on Washington, DC to install a fascist dictatorship.

Today we are approaching a similar crossroads. When I hear the story of the Business Plot I think about the Tea Party, which has sprung from a base of white supremacist anger, facilitated by right-wing elements of the corporate structure like Fox News. This is an extremely dangerous phenomenon. The “teabaggers” have moved from questioning Obama’s citizenship, to now trying to reverse the gains of the Civil Rights Movement, such as the ability of everyone, regardless of color, to enjoy public accommodations like restaurants.

I think it’s fair to name the Tea Party, Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, the Christian Right, etc. parts of a potential neo-fascist movement in the United States. Their words and actions too often encourage attacks on people of color, immigrants, Muslims, LGBT folks, and anyone they don’t see as legitimate members of US society. Ultimately, many in this movement are pushing for a different social system taking power in the United States: one that is more authoritarian, less compassionate, more exploitive of the environment, more militaristic, and based on a mythical return to national glory. This is not a throwback to Nazi Germany. It’s a new kind of fascism, a new American fascism. And it’s a serious threat.

Tea Party racism in Denver, April 15, 2009

On the other hand, this crisis is also an opportunity for all of us who see capitalism as a destructive force and believe the message of the recent U.S. Social Forum that “Another World is Possible. Another US is Necessary.”  “Socialism” in the post-McCarthy/Cold War era of the United States is a dead word, because it carries a lot of baggage from the Soviet Union. Rightly so, the USSR was a terrible dictatorship that is hardly an example to follow. The question is, how do those of us who are progressive and anti-capitalist articulate our ideas to resonate with a mass audience in this moment?

Common Values

I argue that we need to speak to the population in a language of our common values: democracy, freedom, justice, and sustainability. Read the rest of this entry »


The tar sands are an abomination. In a desperate move to counteract peak oil, Canada and the United States are waging war on Alberta’s ecosystem and indigenous communities, as well as on the planet as a whole.  This crime must be stopped.

Clayton Thomas-Muller also recently spoke on Democracy Now!, see the video. [alex]

greenpeace.org

Tar Sands: The World’s Largest Climate Crime
By Clayton Thomas-Muller

Published originally in Left Turn Magazine, Jan/Feb 2010

Often when one looks at the global climate crisis and the critical necessity of forests as carbon storehouses, we have visions of the Amazon rainforest in South America, or the vast rainforest cover in places like Malaysia, Indonesia, across south East Asia and Africa. What many don’t envision is the second largest carbon storehouse on Mother Earth located in Canada’s northern region known as the Boreal Forest.

This soggy, wet, biologically diverse region spreads across the continent east to west. It is home to hundreds of First Nations/Indigenous communities that have utilized these ecologically diverse regions for their livelihood from time immemorial. Many also do not know that the Boreal Forest is second only to the Amazon region in terms of daily forest loss due to industrial expansion. This tree loss is further exacerbated by an infestation of the spruce pine beetle, brought on by milder winters in the north, which has been destroying millions of hectares of trees from southeast Alaska all the way to western Alberta.

Also found beneath the pine-covered ground are vast stores of minerals and fossil fuel deposits, the most famous of which is known as Canada’s Athabasca Tar Sands in Northern Alberta. Second only to Saudi Arabia in terms of recoverable oil reserves, Canada’s tar sands have an estimated 177 billion barrels of recoverable oil. The main difference between these two sources is the fact that the tar sands in Canada are not a conventional form of oil; they are a tarry clay and sand like mixture that at room temperature is hard as a hockey puck.

To remove this oil, one of two methods must be used. The first is surface mining, where industry removes the top layer of muskeg, trees, clay and sand as well as lakes, streams and even rivers to depths of up to 300 feet. They then use the world’s largest steam shovels, earth movers and dump trucks (300 tons per load) to strip mine out the mix that is then hauled off to industrial upgrader facilities and processed into synthetic oil. In the end it works out to around 5 tons of earth for every barrel of oil. Every day they move enough earth to fill the famous home of the Toronto Blue Jays, the Rogers Sky Dome.

ran.org

If the deposits are more than a depth of 300 feet, producers must use a deep well injection process called “In Situ” or Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage (SAG-D). This process is six times more carbon and water intensive then conventional oil extraction. The industry must also utilize vast amounts of natural gas to superheat fresh water to be injected into Mother Earth to “melt” the bitumen that then is sucked out of the ground with uptake pipes for upgrading.

Thanks to the 600 million cubic feet of natural gas is burned every day for this type of extraction, the tar sands is the single largest source of carbon dioxide emissions in Canada, and the primary reason Canada is not fulfilling its legally binding emission reduction targets under the Kyoto Protocol. By 2030 at the current rate of expansion, the tar sands will be responsible for an emission level between 100-187 million tons of CO2 every year.

Probably most disturbing part of this extraction process are the runoff streams created by the use of water in the separation process. Once water is no longer usable it is dumped into a vast network of ten tailings ponds that can be seen from outer space. Every day these tailings ponds leak eleven million liters of contaminated water into the Athabasca River and ground water in the surrounding area. By the year 2030 if the tar sands continue to grow at the current rate of expansion these tailings ponds volume combined will represent a body of water as large as Lake Ontario.

Frontline Nightmares

As a result of this “Tarmageddon,” many local Indigenous communities have seen an increase in the presence of deadly forms of cancers and other autoimmune diseases in their populations. Many have observed the negative effects on critical traditional food sources such as the fish, moose, muskrat, beaver and plants that they depend on for sustenance and cultural needs. Moose have been found to have levels of arsenic 400 times the acceptable level as well as sores and tumors. Muskrat have been found with bloody noses and their homes smelling of petroleum. Fish with lesions and deformities are a common thing for fisherman in the region. The effect this has on First Nations/Indigenous communities is amplified when considering our fundamental connection to the sacredness of Mother Earth expressed through our reliance on traditional hunting, fishing and gathering practices. Read the rest of this entry »


A short article I wrote for local Philly paper The Defenestrator, with a few tips on how to avoid paying back student loans. Student debt functions as an enclosure on youth – it keeps post-college youth from pursuing their dreams or working with others for a better world, because they feel pressured to pay their debt back. This affects students even before they graduate – rather than study what they care about, students feel immense pressure to study a subject that will land them a good job.

A few statistics:

  • By 2008 average college tuition had increased by 439% since the 1980s, meaning it’s over 5 times as expensive as a generation ago. This doesn’t include books, housing, meal plans, etc.
  • Graduating college seniors in 2008 had an average debt of $23,200. 67% of seniors graduated with student debt. (Project on Student Debt)
  • As recently as 1993, less than half of seniors graduated with debt.
  • Prior to 1980, 80% of government financial aid was given in the form of grants and scholarships that did not have to be repaid. Today, 80% of gov’t financial aid comes in the form of loans.
  • 78% of undergraduates worked full or part-time jobs while taking classes in 2003-04. In 1984, it was 49%.
  • In 1970, 40% of new college students considered “being very well-off financially” to be very important, and about 70% considered “developing a meaningful philosophy of life” to be very important. In 2005, 70% considered “being very well-off financially” to be very important, and about 40% considered “developing a meaningful philosophy of life” very important.

Please comment if you have other suggestions on how to break free of student debt! [alex]

Break the Chains of Student Debt!

Alex Knight, June 3, 2010

Paying back student loans can be a real downer. Loans can make organizing after college virtually impossible as they force debtors to work a full-time corporate or nonprofit job, or join the military just to pay them off. When I graduated from college, I had $50,000 worth of student loan debt. I felt I was forced to get a full-time job, and pay them off as quickly as possible so in the future I could finally dedicate myself to social change work. Luckily I didn’t have to make this choice, as there are other options available! Here are a few worth knowing about.

First, you can defer or get a forbearance, to delay payments. Often with these you can delay paying your loans for years, although interest may accrue during that time, and you may be forced to make special payments. For example Sallie Mae used to require you to pay $100 for a 6-month forbearance on private loans, but now they’ve chopped this to $200 for only a 3-month forbearance, which often makes it almost pointless. Nevertheless, you can often easily qualify for an “unemployment” deferment, even if you are working part-time.

Second, you can try to run from your loans altogether and go into default. The only problem with this, besides destroying your credit rating, is if you have co-signers on your loans, such as parents. If you go into default, you’d also be screwing them over.

A third option has recently emerged, which should be taken advantage of as much as possible. It’s called Income-Based Repayment, and it can be used to reduce or eliminate your monthly payments for most Federal loans (not those pesky private ones, unfortunately). Through the federal government’s Direct Loan program, which was recently enlarged by Obama’s Health Care reform, you can consolidate your federal loans into an IBR (or Income-Contigent Repayment – ICR) plan. Payments then become “based” or “contingent” on your income, so if you work part-time and don’t make a lot of money, you won’t have to pay a lot, and you could even eliminate your monthly payments entirely if you earn less than 150% of the poverty line. If you’re a full-time activist like me, you almost certainly qualify. And after 25 years, your debt will be forgiven.

So check out IBR, and don’t let student loans stop you from dedicating your life to building the social movements our communities and world so desperately need!

Income-Based Repayment
Income-Based Repayment (IBR) is a new payment option for federal student loans. It can help borrowers keep their loan payments affordable with payment caps based on their income and family size. For most eligible borrowers, IBR loan payments will be less than 10 percent of their income – and even smaller for borrowers with low earnings. IBR will also forgive remaining debt, if any, after 25 years of qualifying payments.

Who can use IBR? IBR is available to federal student loan borrowers in both the Direct and Guaranteed (or FFEL) loan programs, and covers most types of federal loans made to students, but not those made to parents. To enter IBR, you have to have enough debt relative to your income to qualify for a reduced payment. That means it would take more than 15 percent of whatever you earn above 150% of poverty level to pay off your loans on a standard 10-year payment plan. Use our calculator to see if you’re likely to be eligible.

How does IBR make payments more affordable? IBR uses a kind of sliding scale to determine how much you can afford to pay on your federal loans. If you earn below 150% of the poverty level for your family size, your required loan payment will be $0. If you earn more, your loan payment will be capped at 15 percent of whatever you earn above that amount.

Except for the highest earners, that usually works out to less than 10 percent of your total income. Read the rest of this entry »


Sakura Saunders’ excellent article from ZNet exposing one form of the “modern Enclosures” – displacing communities from their land to make money for transnational corporations, in this case mining companies in Papua New Guinea. Read this closely!

As described by Silvia Federici’s excellent book Caliban and the Witch, the Enclosures are the violence and displacement that created the first class of landless workers in Europe, commodifying their labor with the wage.  And these Enclosures have continued to expand and develop alongside the system of capitalism, in fact I will make the argument that this violence is the base, the foundation, for the system as a whole, and it could not function without it.

We must never forget that at every moment, capitalism is committing violence against poor and indigenous communities in order to make its profits. As Sakura cites, “more than 10 million people are involuntarily displaced every year to make room for development projects.” So much for ‘laissez-faire’!  [alex]

Mining Through Roots

Displacement, Poverty and the Global Extractive Industry

Monday, June 14, 2010

In the highlands of Papua New Guinea, several villages rest on a man-made island literally surrounded by an open pit gold mine and its expanding waste dumps. As the waste dumps have grown, they’ve devoured homes, schools, and most of the areas once used for gardening, making the indigenous population rely on money to acquire food while crowding them into increasingly squashed living quarters. At the same time, these same communities – the original landowners of the mine site – are criminalized for what the company calls “illegal mining,” a practice of panning for gold that the local community considers its birthright.Apalaka village

This so-called illegal mining is used by the company as a pretext for detentions, killings, and even the burning down of an entire hillside of homes*. Meanwhile, public funds are diverted from schools and hospitals to deal with “law and order” issues and the construction of a multi-million dollar fence to surround the mine site.

This scenario – the protection of the have’s from the have-not’s by a process of criminalization, militarization and the construction of walls – is an all-too-familiar response to the social issues created by global capitalism and colonization. Immigration policies criminalize people, militarize borders, and separate communities along boundaries set up to trap people in an economic reality that conspires against them. Meanwhile, the developed nations that aggressively protect their borders against new entrants have created a global economic and military system that forces people out of rural areas that are then used by large industry to extract resources, be they cash crops, minerals, lumber, oil and gas, or the industrial infrastructure needed to produce and export these goods (such as dams, highways, and pipelines). This rural to urban migration turns cities into sweatshops with expendable labor and the corresponding rights, leaving few options for the dispossessed. Labor exploitation becomes codified in Temporary Foreign Worker Programs, where developed countries attempt to receive maximum benefit from the desperation of the world’s impoverished. Read the rest of this entry »


Yesterday CNN broke the story that BP is dumping toxic dispersant Corexit 9500 into the Gulf in order to sink the oil under the surface, hiding the true size of the spill and therefore reducing their financial liability.  In other words, instead of cleaning up the horrible mess they’ve made, BP has decided to try to hide the disaster as much as possible so they won’t need to pay for it.

Such outrageous corporate irresponsibility perfectly illustrates of how capitalism’s obsession with profits necessarily leads to ecological and social trauma. BP is forced by the stock market to concentrate all their efforts on increasing their bottom line and limiting losses, even if it means driving more oil underwater and away from the cleanup crews.

We need to move to a world where marine life, biodiversity, as well as human health and well-being are valued as more important than a corporation’s profit margin. It fills me with great anger and frustration for every daily tragedy that we have to suffer at the hands of this monstrous system. Even the slightest amount of rationality or simple human empathy would prevent these kinds of machine-brained crimes against the Earth if they were allowed to intervene.

Here’s the transcript, via Crooks and Liars, which also has the video. [alex]

Anderson Cooper talked to Fred McCallister, an investment banker with Allegiance Capital Corporation, who is going to be testifying before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee today about something that’s appeared painfully obvious to me for some time now, that BP is using dispersants to hide the size of the oil spill in the hopes if limiting their liability. My only question is why has the government allowed them to do it?

ANDERSON COOPER: Fred McCallister joins us now.

Fred, why do you think that BP would prefer to use dispersants over skimmers?

FRED MCCALLISTER, VICE PRESIDENT, ALLEGIANCE CAPITAL CORPORATION: Anderson, thank you for having me on tonight.

The issue that BP is facing right now is whether to use what’s practices that are normal around the world, which is to try to cause the oil to come to the surface, and then deploy the right amount of equipment and the right type of equipment to gather that oil up and get it out of the Gulf.

Using the dispersants allows the oil to stay under the surface, and this accomplishes several purposes. It allows the — it makes it a lot more difficult to quantify the amount of oil that’s coming out, which has a direct impact on damages and royalties that have to be paid.

It keeps it out of sight and out of mind. And it allows BP to amortize the cost of the cleanup over several years, 10 to 15 years, because some of this oil is going to biodegrade, but a lot of that oil is going to roll up on the beaches for 10 or 15 years.

And if they can amortize that over 10 or 15 years,as opposed to dealing with that over the next 15 months, that’s a much better financial position for BP to be in. Read the rest of this entry »

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