27 November 2010

21st Century Enlightenment

Sourced from YouTube, 19 August 2010

'Matthew Taylor explores the meaning of 21st century enlightenment, how the idea might help us meet the challenges we face today, and the role that can be played by organisations such as the RSA.'

Beginning of a Monetary Revolution?

Reposted in full from new economics foundation, 14 November 2010

'"The essence of the contemporary monetary system is creation of money, out of nothing, by private banks often foolish lending."

These are the words, not of a monetary crank, but of The Financial Times' Chief Economics Commentator, a member of the national Independent Commission on Banking (ICB), and probably the most decorated and prestigious economics journalist in the country. Martin Wolf wrote them in an article last week defending the Federal Reserve's right to embark on a second round of Quantitative Easing. He went on to say: "Why is privatisation of a public function right and proper, but action by the central bank, to meet pressing public need, a road to catastrophe?"

Quite so Martin. The truth is, as was explained at a conference in central London this weekend organised by Positive Money in collaboration with nef, that banks are no longer just intermediaries of our money. Rather, they are the creators of our money. Most estimates suggest that between 97-99% of the money in our economy is created as interest-bearing debt by banks when they make loans to us, the rest being cash. These loans are made, quite literally, but typing some numbers in to a computer and creating a liability for you, the borrower and an asset for the bank. It costs them nothing. There are complex rules - the Basel Framework - requiring banks to hold a very tiny amount of capital reserves in case of a 'run' - but essentially this is how fractional reserve banking works today.

Or rather, doesn't work. Because these same banks that can issue credit out of nothing for whatever they want (and make money out of it and whose shareholders have limited liability) also hold on to our hard-earned savings. If they just so happen to make some bad investments and get 'over-leveraged', our savings can go too. Unless the state jumps in of course. Which as we have seen, it has had to at a crippling expense to each and every one of us. But there's no need for radical think tanks like nef to make this point any more. We can just quote the Governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King, who pronounced in a speech on October 25th that:

“Eliminating fractional reserve banking explicitly recognises that the pretence that risk-free deposits can be supported by risky assets is alchemy. If there is a need for genuinely safe deposits the only way they can be provided, while ensuring costs and benefits are fully aligned, is to insist such deposits do not coexist with risky assets.”

The speakers at this weekend's conference were revealing. They included a Conservative MP, Steve Baker, the Director of a company who distributes fish and meat to 6800 retailers, a former stock-broker and banker, an eco-feminist academic as well as nef and Positive Money, both NGOs. In the audience trade unionists bumped up against city traders and young students schooled in orthodox economics cheered as they heard how most of what they had been taught was nonsense.

Left and Right appeared to be in substantive agreement over the problem. The monetary and banking system as it stand breaks all the rules of the free market and at the same time utterly fails to deliver socially just and ecologically sustainable outcomes. The alternatives will no doubt be discussed and argued over for some years to come. But it appears that a monetary revolution has just begun. As King went on to admit in his speech:

"Of all the many ways of organising banking, the worst is the one we have today."'

26 November 2010

Auction Unwanted Items, Raise Funds for Charity

This is a clever way of incentivising reuse and raising funds for charity - when the proceeds from successful auctions are deposited into the charity's bank account, the seller receives a receipt enabling them to claim a tax deduction.

Reposted in full from ProBono Australia, 25 November 2010

Australian community organisations are benefiting from an initiative, which enables people and companies to donate and sell goods and services online with the proceeds going to their preferred charity.

AidArena has been established by a group of Queensland business people and developed over the past two years. AidArena provides an online market place to help charities nationwide by capitalising on the value of items often thrown or given away by householders.

AidArena Spokesman Don MacMillan says the online platform is excited to provide an equal opportunity for all Australian Charities, regardless of their size, or nature.
He says the Salvation Army, the RSPCA and CanTeen are among the high profile charities to join forces with AidArena. However, AidArena is available to any organisation with a DGR status, including school funds.

MacMillan says the motivation for setting up AidArena was to assist a wide variety of charities in challenging economic times and help fill the donation shortfall by utilising goods and services rather than seeking cash.

The concept of AidArena was to provide a means for people and companies to donate goods and services while receiving a tax benefit. A tax deductible receipt is issued for the full sale price of the donated item when the resulting cash donation is deposited into the bank account of the chosen charity.

MacMillan says individuals can donate any household items they aren’t using anymore such as appliances or other electrical goods, sporting equipment, furniture, art works or valuables such as jewellery.

He says instead of donating money, companies can donate obsolete or dead stock and feel great that their goods and services are being auctioned for a good cause.

AidArena uses PayPal to provide buyers with a secure online account for the payment of items. Distribution of funds is handled by AidArena, which allows the charities to seamlessly receive the funds directly into their account.

AidArena is free for everyone to use, there are no joining or subscription fees. All donated items are being welcomed but must have a starting value of $9 and already high value items have been listed.

MacMillan says besides donating goods; trade, business or professional people, could auction their services online to raise funds for charity. The donor creates an online voucher and when successfully sold it is automatically emailed to the winning bidder.

He says the AidArena website – www.aidarena.com – was designed to be easy to use and navigate even for people with limited online skills, and if donors can use a digital camera and a computer they are well on their way to enjoying tax effective giving.

AidArena is free for everyone to use, there are no joining or subscription fees. AidArena will take care of all the administration work, monitor the auctions, and will transfer the funds raised (less the administration fee that ranges from as little as 4.4% to 14% depending on the final sale price) to the charity.

AidArena asks that all charities involved promote AidArena to their support base and corporate sponsors and encourage them to donate items for auction on their behalf.

Charities, buyers, and donors, and the general public, are encouraged to follow AidArena on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/aidarena) and Twitter (http://twitter.com/#!/AidArena).

Fresh Food Rescue in Australia

Reposted in full from Woolworths, who are supporting OzHarvest and Foodbank in SA.

'Ever wondered what happens to the fresh food that is not sold in our stores?

Each year households, retailers, restaurants and businesses throw out millions of tonnes of food which then finds its way into landfill sites. Although not always fit for sale, much of it is good quality and can easily be rescued and turned into nutritious, meals for the needy or vulnerable in our society.

The Woolworths Fresh Food Rescue program aims to rescue surplus fresh food from the waste stream and turn it into meals for the needy. With a target for 2010 to provide two million meals for those in need and $2 million for those who serve them, this extensive program will help address an underlying social problem in Australia.

View the community groups that received Fresh Food Rescue grants in New South Wales, Australian Capital Territory, Queensland, Victoria, Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania.

Woolworths recognises it has a significant role in ensuring that fresh edible food, which for various reasons cannot be sold, is put to the best possible use by turning it into meals. To do this, many Woolworths stores across the country currently work with organisations such as Foodbank, OzHarvest, FareShare, The Salvation Army and SecondBite. However, these organisations only have limited resources to collect and distribute the rescued fresh food that is so desperately required.

The Woolworths Fresh Food Rescue campaign will support these food relief charities at two core levels:

1) Expanding fresh food rescue from Woolworths stores to food relief charities. Already, over half of Woolworths supermarkets are rescuing surplus fresh food, which would otherwise go to landfill. Woolworths aims to substantially increase its partnerships with local food relief charities and soup kitchens and is actively seeking new community partners to work with stores right across the country.

2) Building additional capacity through a major grants scheme. Woolworths is contributing $2 million to help charity groups expand their operations and ensure thousands more people can access healthy, nutritious food. Over 100 food relief charities have benefited from infrastructure grants for vital items, such as vans, refrigerators, freezers and kitchen equipment.

With an ambitious target to reduce organic waste to zero by the year 2015, the ultimate aim is to have all 810 supermarkets in local partnerships. Local organisations who are keen to be part of the Fresh Food Rescue program should speak to their local Woolworths store manager.'

Latin American Nations Declare: Nature Has No Price Tag!

Can we...could we...find a way to make decisions to protect our life support systems without having to give them a monetary value? Latin American nations say: 'Yes, We Can!'

Reposted in full from Climate and Capitalism, 15 November 2010

'Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and Venezuela declare: “Nature is our home and is the system of which we form a part, and therefore it has infinite value, but it does not have a price and is not for sale.”

Ministers, Authorities of the Ministerial Committee for the Defense of Nature of the Plurinational State of Bolivia, Republic of Cuba, Republic of Ecuador, Republic of Nicaragua, Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, members of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas – Treaty of Commerce of the People (ALBA-TCP), gathered in the city of La Paz in the Plurinational State of Bolivia, from November 3rd to 5th, 2010.

Considering that:

1. There is within the United Nations is a push to promote the concept of a “green economy” or a “Global Green New Deal”[1] in order to extend capitalism in the economic, social and environmental arenas, in which nature is seen as “capital” for producing tradable environmental goods and services that should then be valued in monetary terms and assigned a price so that they can be commercialized with the purpose of obtaining profits.

2. Studies are being carried out and manipulated, such as the Stern Report on the Economics of Climate Change and the study on the Economy of Ecosystems and Biodiversity,[2] among others, in order to promote the privatization and the mercantilization of nature through the development of markets for environmental services, among other instruments.

3. Those who promote this new form of privatization and mercantilization of nature wish to develop a new kind of property rights which are not exercised over a natural resource in itself, but rather, over the functions offered by particular ecosystems, thus opening up the possibility of commercializing them in the market through certificates, bonds, credits, etc.

4. Under this capitalist conception that seeks only to guarantee benefit for those few who wield economic power: water should be privatized and distributed only to those that can afford to pay for it, forests are only good for capturing emissions and for selling on the carbon market that allows rich countries to avoid reducing emissions within their own territories, and genetic resources must be appropriated and patented for the enjoyment of those who possess modern technology.

Recognizing that:

The right to safe drinking water and sanitation is a human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of life, which has been endorsed by the United Nations and can only be guaranteed through the recognition and defense of the rights of Mother Earth.

Convinced that:

States are responsible for guaranteeing the sovereignty of the peoples over their natural patrimony and natural resources.

We declare:

1. That nature is our home and is the system of which we form a part, and that therefore it has infinite value, but does not have a price and is not for sale.

2. Our commitment to preventing capitalism from continuing to expand in the spheres that are essential to life and nature, being that this is one of the greatest challenges confronting humanity.

3. Our absolute rejection of the privatization, monetization and mercantilization of nature, for it leads to a greater imbalance in the environment and goes against our ethical principles.

4. Our condemnation of unsustainable models of economic growth that are created at the expense of our resources and the sovereignty of our peoples.

5. Only a humanity that is conscious of its present and future responsibilities, and states with the political will to carry out their role, can change the course of history and restore equilibrium in nature and life as a whole.

6. That instead of promoting the privatization of goods and services that come from nature, it is essential to recognize that these have a collective character, and, as such, should be conserved as public goods, respecting the sovereignty of states.

7. It is not the invisible hand of the market that will allow for the recuperation of equilibrium on Mother Earth. Only with the conscious intervention of state and society through policies, public regulations, and the strengthening of public services can the equilibrium of nature be restored.

8. Cancun cannot be another Copenhagen; we hope that accords will be reached in which developed countries truly act according to the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, and effectively assume their obligation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, without making climate change into a business through the promotion and creation of carbon market mechanisms.

9. That, committed to life, the countries present at this meeting agree to include in our permanent agenda, among other actions, the realization of a referendum on climate change and the promotion of the participation of the peoples of the world.

10. That it is urgent to adopt at the United Nations a Universal Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth.

[1] Global Green New Deal, 2009
[2] The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity

Creative Houses from Reclaimed Stuff

'In this funny and insightful talk from TEDxHouston, builder Dan Phillips tours us through a dozen homes he's built in Texas using recycled and reclaimed materials in wildly creative ways.'

Sourced from TED, November 2010

24 November 2010

Who Creates Money?

Dire Straits were closer to the truth than everyone thought when they wrote 'Money for Nothing!

Sourced from
Positive Money, November 2010

Revisiting Donald Appleyard’s Livable Streets

It's true: The less cars in your street, the more friends you have.

Sourced from Streetfilms, 1 November 2010

'Donald Appleyard [was] a scholar who studied the neighborhood environment and the ways planning and design can make life better for city residents. In 1981, Appleyard published "Livable Streets" based on his research into how people experience streets with different traffic volumes. The Second Edition of Livable Streets will be published by Routledge Press in 2011.

Today we're revisiting Appleyard's work in the second installment of our series, "Fixing the Great Mistake." This video explores three studies in "Livable Streets" that measured, for the first time, the effect of traffic on our social interactions and how we perceive our own homes and neighborhoods.

"Fixing the Great Mistake" is a new Streetfilms series that examines what went wrong in the early part of the 20th Century, when our cities began catering to the automobile, and how those decisions continue to affect our lives today.'

23 November 2010

From Crop to Swap - The Journey of Jeans

Sourced from Planet Ark, November 2010

'The way we dress reflects our personality and our lifestyle choices, and increasingly, we're thinking about the environmental and social impacts of our clothes. What really goes into making them? What are they made of, who made them and how were they made?

This video follows the journey of a pair of jeans from crop to swap. It's narrated by Melissa Doyle, co-host of Sunrise on Seven and Big Aussie Swap ambassador.

You can also check out our Companion Guide to the Crop to Swap video. It paints a more detailed picture of the journey of jeans and includes some handy hints on how to reduce the environmental impact of your wardrobe.'

21 November 2010

Remembering JFK

22 November 1963 - President John F Kennedy was assassinated 47 years ago today.

Sourced from

Jim Garrison (Kevin Costner) Final Courtroom Speech, JFK (1991), sourced from YouTube

Closing argument in the trial of Clay Shaw. Kevin Costner gives the speech of a generation, laying bare not only a compelling case against Shaw, but an indictment of the machinery of our government.

"Hitler always said: "The bigger the lie, the more people will believe it."

Lee Harvey Oswald, a crazed, lonely man who wanted attention and got it by killing a President was only the first in a long line of patsies.

In later years, Bobby Kennedy, Martin Luther King, men whose commitment to change and peace would make them dangerous to men committed to war would follow, also killed by such lonely crazed men.

Men who remove our guilt by making murder a meaningless act of a loner. We've all become Hamlets in our country, children of a slain father-leader whose killers still possess the throne.

The ghost of John F. Kennedy confronts us with the secret murder at the heart of the American Dream. He forces on us the appalling questions: Of what is our Constitution made? What is our citizenship, and more, our lives worth?

What is the future of a democracy where a President can be assassinated under conspicuously suspicious circumstances while the machinery of legal action scarcely trembles?

How many more political murders disguised as heart attacks, suicides, cancers, drug overdoses? How many airplane and car crashes will occur before they are exposed for what they are?

"Treason doth never prosper," wrote an English poet, "What's the reason? For if it prosper, none dare call it treason."

The American public have yet to see the Zapruder film. Why?

The American public have yet to see the real X-rays and photographs of the autopsy. Why?

There are hundreds of documents that could help prove this conspiracy. Why have they been withheld or burned by the government?

Each time my office or you the people have asked those questions, demanded crucial evidence, the answer from on high has always been "national security."

What kind of "national security" do we have when we have been robbed of our leaders?

What "national security" permits the removal of fundamental power from the hands of the American people and validates the ascendancy of invisible government in the United States?

That kind of "national security," gentlemen of the jury, is when it smells like it, feels like it, and looks like it, call it what it is - fascism.

I submit to you that what took place on November 22, 1963 was a coup d'etat. Its most direct and tragic result was a reversal of President Kennedy's commitment to withdraw from Vietnam.

War is the biggest business in America worth $80 billion a year.

President Kennedy was murdered by a conspiracy that was planned in advance at the highest levels of our government and carried out by fanatical and disciplined Cold Warriors in the Pentagon and CIA's covert operations apparatus - among them Clay Shaw here before you.

It was a public execution and it was covered up by like-minded individuals in the Dallas Police Department, the Secret Service, the FBI, and the White House - all the way up to and including J. Edgar Hoover and Lyndon Johnson, whom I consider accomplices after the fact.

The assassination reduced the President to a transient official. His job, his assignment is to speak as often as possible of this nations desire for peace, while he acts as a business agent in congress for the military and their hardware manufacturers.

Now some people say I’m crazy, a southern caricature seeking higher office. Well, there is a simple way to determine if I am paranoid.

Let's ask the two men who have profited the most from the assassination - your former President Lyndon Baines Johnson and your new President, Richard Nixon - to release 51 CIA documents pertaining to Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby, or the secret CIA memo on Oswald's activities in Russia that was "destroyed" while being photocopied.

All these documents are yours - the people's property - you pay for it, but because the government considers you children who might be too disturbed or distressed to face this reality, or because you might possibly lynch those involved, you cannot see these documents for another 75 years.

I'm in my early 40's, so I'll have shuffled off this mortal coil by then, but I'm already telling my 8 year-old son to keep himself physically fit so that one glorious September morning in the year 2038 he can walk into the National Archives and find out what the CIA and the FBI knew. They may even push it back then. Hell it may become a generational affair, with questions passed down from father to son, mother to daughter. But someday somewhere, someone may find out the damned truth.

We better. We better or we might just as well build ourselves another Government like the Declaration of Independence says to when the old one ain't working – just – just a little farther out West. An American naturalist wrote, "a patriot must always be ready to defend his country against its government."

I'd hate to be in your shoes today. You have a lot to think about. You’ve seen much hidden evidence the American public has never seen.

You know, going back to when we were children, I think most of us in this courtroom thought that justice came into being automatically, that virtue was its own reward, that good would triumph over evil. But as we get older we know that this just isn't true.

Individual human beings have to create justice and this is not easy because truth often poses a threat to power and one often has to fight power at great risk to themselves. People like S.M. Holland, Lee Bowers, Jean Hill, and Willie O'Keefe. They’ve all taken that risk. They have all come forward.

I have here some $8000 in these letters sent to my office from all over the country - quarters, dimes, dollar bills from housewives, plumbers, car salesmen, teachers, invalids - these are the people who cannot afford to send money but do, these are the ones who drive the cabs, who nurse in the hospitals, who see their kids go to Vietnam. Why?

Because they care, because they want to know the truth - because they want their country back, because it still belongs to us, as long as the people have the guts to fight for what they believe in.

The truth is the most important value we have because if the truth does not endure, if the government murders truth, if we cannot respect the hearts of these people, then this is not the country in which I was born and this is certainly not the country I want to die in.

Tennyson wrote “Authority forgets a dying king.”

And this was never more true than for John F. Kennedy whose murder was probably one the most terrible moments in the history of our country.

You the people, the jury system, sitting in judgment on Clay Shaw, represent the hope of humanity against government power.

In discharging your duty, in bringing the first conviction in this house of cards against Clay Shaw, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country."

Do not forget your dying king.

Show this world that this is still a government of the people, for the people, and by the people. Nothing as long as you live will ever be more important.

It's up to you.'