Progressive Review


Issues & ideas undiscovered, ignored or suppressed

How to rebuild America



Community land trusts

Commnity preservation

Intentional communities


Publicly owned Internet & cable systems


End Tuesday voting

Allowing 16 year olds to vote

The case fo lowering the voting age to 16

Alternative ways of voting





Local power






How to fix the Supreme Court when the Democrats are back in power

Participatory budgeting

Letting people help plan the budget

Urban statehood

Housing & land


Community land trusts


Eco housing

Senior cohousing

Shared equity home purchase

Small housing




Restorative justice

Community Courts

Better policing

End of monetary bail


Shorter work week




Public internet


Alternative currency

Community time banks


How credit unions are different from banks

Guaranteed income

Maximum wage

Municipal banks

The case for municipal banks

Postal banking

Public banks

State banks

Time banking

Worker owned businesses

Holistic economis

Printing money



Indians bring peacemaking to Brooklyn


Post Empire survival guide




Word: The importance of degrowth


Free Forest schools: free play in the natural world










Humanizing the Economy shows how co-operatives can create a more equitable, just, and humane future. With over 800 million members in 85 countries and a long history linking economics to social values, the co-operative movement is the most powerful grassroots movement in the world. Its future as an alternative to corporate capitalism is explored through a wide range of real-world examples. By John Restakis who has been active in the co-op movement for 15 years and is executive director of the BC Co-operative Association.

Slow Democracy






























Hidden issues: Postal banks


The rise of community courts

Washington state comes up with new family leave law

Newark Youth Court gives juvenile offenders a jury of their peers

How public banking could fund a Green New Deal

Maximum wage

British Labor Party leader argues for maximum wage

Senior cohousing

Senior cohousing

It's becoming more popular

Shorter work week

Six hour work day pays off

The case for a four day work week

25 hour work week

Community internet

Minnesota towns build their own internet system


Using community land trusts to fight gentrification

A new approach to sentencing

Bring back anti-trust

The rise of coworking

London rebels bring back street benches for homeless

Abandoned church converted in mural

State banks

Things to do while waiting for Trump to go: State banks

Time for public banks

Why your state needs its own bank

Bank of North Dakota outperforms Wall Street

Growing interest in state banks

Banks striking back at Vermont's interest in state bank

How state banks bring the money home

Public Internet & cable

Chattanooga's publicly owned Internet system



Community courts

The architecture of a people's court

A model community court

How community courts work

Bringing justice down to the community

Community land trusts

An alliance for community control of land

How community land trusts fight gentrification

Community Land Trusts

A counterweight to foreclosures



Cooperatives: The most underrated economic improvement

The role of co-ops during the recession

Revival of the union co-op movement


How one community built a co-op

The town that is rebuilding itself with cooperatives

Turning traditional businesses into cooperatives

The case for cooperatives

How cooperatives can help economic recovery

How to set up a community co-op


America's largest worker-owned cooperative

Cities that are encouraging cooperatives

London's new mayor to push co-ops

The interesting roots of the Mondragon cooperative

The case for worker cooperatives

All about cooperatives

The rise of black co-ops

The case for worker cooperatives


A different sort of cooperative

Madison to fund $5 million in co-op development

Deer Isle's model worker cooperative

Trade workers unions and coops: the story so far

How to start a workers co-op

The global importance of cooperatives

The power of cooperatives

All about cooperatives

Building worker cooperatives

The rise of solar cooperatives

Articles on cooperatives

Why cooperatives are good for you

Another step for American cooperatives

How Spanish cooperative kept unemployment 40% below national rate


Why cooperatives matter

Some well working cooperatives

Starting a co-op in your community

USW's cooperative program starting with laundries

The rise of cooperative economics

Co-ops work and have for decades

New co-op model for Main Street jobs

Cooperative power

Nearly one billion people belong to (and own) cooperatives

Guaranteed income

Canada experiments with a guaranteed basic income

California city to experiment with guaranteed income

Finland's experiment in universal basic income

Universal basic income gaining strength

Study: Universal basic income would grow the economy

Basic income finding support in Europe

Two Scottish towns consider guaranteed income

Another argument for universal basic income

Finland experiments with guaranteed income

Guaranteed minimum income once had bipartisan support

Why a guaranteed income will work

How a negative income tax could reduce poverty

Support large for a basic income for all

Europe likes a basic income for all

Interest in guaranteed minimum income is growing

A guaranteed income experment that was buried

Martin Luther King supported a guaranteed income

Why a guaranteed income makes sense

National ballot initiatives


Instant runoff voting

Interest grows in ranked choice voting

Portland, Maine has no trouble with instant runoff voting

Early voters like new instant runoff in Portland, ME

Can you trick instant runoff voting?

More cities moving to instant runoff voting

Federal court upholds San Francisco instant runoff voting



Analysis of court decision supporting instant runoff voting..



We've long advocated instant runoff voting and now Britain is voting on adopting it (over there it's called alternative voting or AV). This is one of the best graphics on the topic we've seen. (FPTP is "first past the post" or the way most American elections are run)

Instant runoff voting is a method of electing a single winner. It provides an alternative to plurality and runoff elections. In a plurality election, the highest vote getter wins even if s/he receives less than 50% of the vote, and may even be considered the worst choice by the majority of voters. In a runoff election, two candidates advance to a runoff if no candidate receives more than 50% in the first round.

Voters rank candidates in order of choice: 1, 2, 3 and so on. It takes a majority to win. If a majority of voters rank a candidate first, that candidate is elected. If not, the last place candidate is defeated, just as in a runoff election, and all ballots are counted again, but this time each ballot cast for the defeated candidate counts for the next ranked candidate listed on the ballot. The process of eliminating the last place candidate and recounting the ballots continues until one candidate receives a majority of the vote.


Political status

Ireland uses IRV to elect its president, Australia to elect its House of Representatives, and London to elect its mayor. In the U.S., San Francisco, CA, Burlington, VT, and Cary NC are communities that use IRV to elect their major city offices such as mayor. Many major universities use IRV for their student government elections and the American Political Science Association to elect its president. Hundreds of jurisdictions, organizations and corporations use IRV to elect leaders.

As a state senator, Barack Obama introduced legislation that would have instituted IRV at the state and congressional level in Illinois. John McCain, Bernie Sanders, Dennis Kucinich & Howard Dean support IRV. Newspaper endorsements

Postal banking

Senator proposes postal banking

Postal banking coming back?

The case for postal banks

How the Postal Service could make some money

Backgound on postal banking

Postal banking becomes an issue

Sanders wants post offics to get back into banking

The virtues of postal banking

How the Postal Service could make some money

Alternative currency

Local currency getting a boost

Local currency in Massachusetts

Local currency featured on PBS Newshour

SAM SMITH, SHADOWS OF HOPE, 1994 - During the last recession, the lease for a certain restaurant in Great Barrington, Mass., expired. The local bank wouldn't lend restaurateur Frank Tortrello money to move across the street. So Frank decided to print his own. He called them Deli Dollars. Each sold for $9 and could be redeemed for $10 worth of food after six months. Not only did the idea provide Frank with enough money to make his move, but it spread throughout the community. A local farm issued notes with the slogan "In Farms We Trust," featuring the head of a cabbage instead of the head of a president. New restaurants followed with their own currency and the local bills started showing up everywhere, including in church collection plates.

Others are also reinventing money. Alternative currency has cropped up in Ithaca NY and is being used by 700 individuals and business. In Seattle, some have devised cardboard money. In another town, wooden coins.

Then there's Daisy Alexander, a retiree from Montclair, New Jersey, and Pepe, a recent immigrant from Havana, Cuba. They both live in a low-income senior housing development section of Miami, Florida. At first glance, Daisy and Pepe seem to have little in common. But they are bound to each other -- in friendship and through the common bonds of a new economic system called time dollars or service credits.

Time dollars, described in the book Time Dollars: A Currency for the 90's by Edgar Cahn and Jonathan Rowe, operate like a blood bank. People help others in their community and get credits in a computer data base that they can draw upon in times of need. Cahn and Rowe describe how time dollars have transformed over 100 communities and how grass-roots groups built the new currency.

Here's how it works for Daisy and Pepe: Daisy volunteers three days a week tutoring first graders at the elementary school across the street from her home. Every week Pepe comes to her house and takes her grocery shopping. An amputee with a cane, Daisy is dependent on Pepe to provide this service for her. But no money changes hands. Daisy simply "cashes in" the time dollars she earns tutoring to "pay" for Pepe's shopping help. In turn Pepe earns time dollars to buy services he needs. But Daisy and Pepe gain in other ways as well. Both are renewed and enthused about the opportunity for helping, and inspired by the social activities that the sense of community has produced.

"The potential benefits of the time dollars concept are limitless. It can touch every life in every community, ranging from an apartment complex to an entire nation, every facility, from a nursing home to a university campus," says author Cahn. "It fosters a sense of financial independence, camaraderie, community spirit, harmony among age groups, races, religions, income levels, and even political adversaries."

In each of these cases, citizens have come to understand that money is just a way that we translate the value of products and services. Just because one may not have money does not mean there is no value to be exchanged. It is simply a matter of coming up with a way to keep track of it without the services of the Federal Reserve.

SAM SMITH'S GREAT AMERICAN POLITICAL REPAIR MANUAL, 1997 - It's legal to print your own money provided that it can't be mistaken for the government kind -- the Secret Service frowns on that. In fact, says Barbara Brandt in Whole Life Economics, in the 1860s there were more than ten thousand different kinds of locally issued bank notes in use in the US simultaneously, including that issued by state banks. After the creation of federal banking during the Civil War and a federal reserve system in the early 1900s, the variety of money in this country contracted. But in the 1930s, when communities found themselves with products, needs, skills and labor but little money, local currencies made a comeback. Writes Brandt: "In numerous communities, local governments, business associations, or charitable groups began to create their own money systems for local use. Local depression money came in many variations: vouchers that could only be traded in specific stores, or for specific items, and printed currencies (often called 'scrip') on paper, cardboard, or even wood, which had to be spent within the community a certain number of times or before a certain date. . . By 1933, the New York Times reported that one million Americans in three hundred communities were using barter or scrip system to keep their economies going. Today there is a revival of community money -- or green dollars as it is sometimes called. In 1983, Michael Linton developed a local exchange trading system on Vancouver Island that created $350,000 worth of trading in its first four years."

In Ithaca NY, some half million dollars worth of local trade has been added to the economy through Ithaca Hour notes. An Ithaca Hour is based on the average local wage, about $10 an hour. Ithica Hours have been used to buy plumbing, child care, car repair, and eyeglasses. They are accepted at restaurants, movie theatres, bowling alleys, and health clubs. As Paul Glover explained, "We printed our own money because we watched federal dollars come to town, shake a few hands, then leave to buy rain forest lumber and to fight wars. The local money, on the other hand, stays in our region to help us hire each other."

Participatory budgeting

Josh Lerner, Grassroots Economic Organizing - Low-income residents and activists in hundreds of cities around the world have designed a different way of managing public money: participatory budgeting. This is a process in which people who are impacted by a budget directly and democratically decide how it is spent. The most famous example is the Brazilian city of Porto Alegre, where residents decide on municipal spending in an annual cycle of assemblies and meetings. Since Porto Alegre pioneered participatory budgeting in 1989, however, it has spread throughout the world. Most of these experiences share a common process: diagnosis, discussion, decision-making, implementation, and monitoring. First, at neighborhood assemblies, residents identify local priority needs, generate ideas to respond to these needs, and elect delegates to represent each community. These delegates then discuss the local priorities and develop concrete projects that address them, together with experts. Next, residents vote for which of these projects to fund. Finally, the government implements the chosen projects, and residents monitor this implementation. For example, if neighborhood residents identify access to medical care as a priority, their delegates might develop a proposal for a new community health clinic. If the residents approve the proposal, the city funds it. The next year, a new health clinic is built.

Roughly 1,200 cities have participatory budgets already. Several countries have passed laws making participatory budgeting mandatory for local governments. The UN and other international organizations have actively promoted it. Even the Church of England is a fan.

Why such broad support? Probably because participatory budgeting offers something for everyone. It gives residents a forum to voice their demands and resources to satisfy many of those demands. They feel more connected to their city and better able to improve their environment, and they learn a lot in the process. Low-income and marginalized residents gain the most, thanks to their high rates of participation (unlike in most consultations) and 'pro-poor' spending criteria that redistribute funds to those with the greatest needs. Social movements and community organizations get to spend less time pressuring policy-makers and more time deciding policies themselves. Regular budget assemblies even help them recruit members and build stronger community networks. For bureaucrats and economists, participatory budgeting is a way to get better information on public needs and minimize corruption. For politicians, it can provide closer links with constituents and increase their popularity.

But participatory budgeting does not always have these effects. When politicians control decision-making and use it to support their own agendas, participatory budgeting can become disempowering. This danger of co-optation is particularly strong in the US. New York, Los Angeles, and other municipalities are increasingly holding consultations on city priorities, but not giving these consultations much power. Politicians and bureaucrats set the agendas, and although residents can share their opinions, they cannot make decisions. This controlled participation may look good for the city, but it rarely changes government spending. In the long run, it shows people that getting involved isn't worth the bother.

Co-optation is not the only challenge. Compared with Brazil, US cities have less urgent needs, more linguistic diversity, and fewer leftists in power. Experiences with participatory budgeting in developed countries, however, suggest strategies for adapting it to the US. Start small, with a pilot project in one neighborhood, agency, or program. So far, participatory budgeting has not caught hold in the US, but some cities are heading towards it. Seattle and Burlington, for example, have like-minded participatory grant-making programs, in which boards of residents help decide how city grants are awarded to community groups.

Some activists are also working to start participatory budgeting in public housing and schools, based on successful processes in Canada. A US participatory budgeting network recently formed to build on these experiences.

Participatory Budgeting Project


SAM SMITH, SHADOWS OF HOPE, 1994 - During the last recession, the lease for a certain restaurant in Great Barrington, Mass., expired. The local bank wouldn't lend restaurateur Frank Tortrello money to move across the street. So Frank decided to print his own. He called them Deli Dollars. Each sold for $9 and could be redeemed for $10 worth of food after six months. Not only did the idea provide Frank with enough money to make his move, but it spread throughout the community. A local farm issued notes with the slogan "In Farms We Trust," featuring the head of a cabbage instead of the head of a president. New restaurants followed with their own currency and the local bills started showing up everywhere, including in church collection plates.

Others are also reinventing money. Alternative currency has cropped up in Ithaca NY and is being used by 700 individuals and business. In Seattle, some have devised cardboard money. In another town, wooden coins.

Then there's Daisy Alexander, a retiree from Montclair, New Jersey, and Pepe, a recent immigrant from Havana, Cuba. They both live in a low-income senior housing development section of Miami, Florida. At first glance, Daisy and Pepe seem to have little in common. But they are bound to each other -- in friendship and through the common bonds of a new economic system called time dollars or service credits.

Time dollars, described in the book Time Dollars: A Currency for the 90's by Edgar Cahn and Jonathan Rowe, operate like a blood bank. People help others in their community and get credits in a computer data base that they can draw upon in times of need. Cahn and Rowe describe how time dollars have transformed over 100 communities and how grass-roots groups built the new currency.

Here's how it works for Daisy and Pepe: Daisy volunteers three days a week tutoring first graders at the elementary school across the street from her home. Every week Pepe comes to her house and takes her grocery shopping. An amputee with a cane, Daisy is dependent on Pepe to provide this service for her. But no money changes hands. Daisy simply "cashes in" the time dollars she earns tutoring to "pay" for Pepe's shopping help. In turn Pepe earns time dollars to buy services he needs. But Daisy and Pepe gain in other ways as well. Both are renewed and enthused about the opportunity for helping, and inspired by the social activities that the sense of community has produced.

"The potential benefits of the time dollars concept are limitless. It can touch every life in every community, ranging from an apartment complex to an entire nation, every facility, from a nursing home to a university campus," says author Cahn. "It fosters a sense of financial independence, camaraderie, community spirit, harmony among age groups, races, religions, income levels, and even political adversaries."

In each of these cases, citizens have come to understand that money is just a way that we translate the value of products and services. Just because one may not have money does not mean there is no value to be exchanged. It is simply a matter of coming up with a way to keep track of it without the services of the Federal Reserve.

SAM SMITH'S GREAT AMERICAN POLITICAL REPAIR MANUAL, 1997 - It's legal to print your own money provided that it can't be mistaken for the government kind -- the Secret Service frowns on that. In fact, says Barbara Brandt in Whole Life Economics, in the 1860s there were more than ten thousand different kinds of locally issued bank notes in use in the US simultaneously, including that issued by state banks. After the creation of federal banking during the Civil War and a federal reserve system in the early 1900s, the variety of money in this country contracted. But in the 1930s, when communities found themselves with products, needs, skills and labor but little money, local currencies made a comeback. Writes Brandt: "In numerous communities, local governments, business associations, or charitable groups began to create their own money systems for local use. Local depression money came in many variations: vouchers that could only be traded in specific stores, or for specific items, and printed currencies (often called 'scrip') on paper, cardboard, or even wood, which had to be spent within the community a certain number of times or before a certain date. . . By 1933, the New York Times reported that one million Americans in three hundred communities were using barter or scrip system to keep their economies going. Today there is a revival of community money -- or green dollars as it is sometimes called. In 1983, Michael Linton developed a local exchange trading system on Vancouver Island that created $350,000 worth of trading in its first four years."

In Ithaca NY, some half million dollars worth of local trade has been added to the economy through Ithaca Hour notes. An Ithaca Hour is based on the average local wage, about $10 an hour. Ithica Hours have been used to buy plumbing, child care, car repair, and eyeglasses. They are accepted at restaurants, movie theatres, bowling alleys, and health clubs. As Paul Glover explained, "We printed our own money because we watched federal dollars come to town, shake a few hands, then leave to buy rain forest lumber and to fight wars. The local money, on the other hand, stays in our region to help us hire each other."



As we have noted, developers are busy conning environmentalists and others into supporting more urban high rises in the name of "smart growth." In Washington, DC, they have even started agitating for an end to the capital's historic height limitation which has helped provide its appealing cityscape. But there are far more human, community-oriented and attractive solutions, starting with the accessory apartment:

Sam Smith, Utne Reader, 2000 - Not everyone who leaves the city wants to. In a large number of cases, the cost and availability of housing provides the impetus. Among the factors that have raised the cost and lowered the availability has been gentrification. The gentrifiers not only upscaled the housing stock, they have reduced it, since they require more space per-capita in which to live than did former residents.

One of the simplest, cheapest and quickest ways to counteract this trend is to permit accessory apartments (sometimes called granny flats) in single-family zones. Many of these apartments exist illegally -- there are an estimated 40,000 in LA alone -- supporting my theory that one of the best places to look for good ideas is in the underground economy. If normally law-abiding people insist on doing something against the rules, there's a good chance that the people know something the law doesn't.

The advantages of such apartments include lowering the effective cost of housing for the homeowner, increasing the supply of housing, providing a social and economic mix within neighborhoods, allowing voluntary individual care to replace some of the need for social services (e.g. the young apartment dweller helping the aged landlord upstairs), providing neighborhood-based economic opportunity and increasing the number of eyes on the street.

Reviving the practice of taking in boarders could also greatly improve the availability of housing. The boarder tradition played a major role in the growth of the American city, proving newcomers with an inexpensive place to stay and adding a source of income to those who had lived in the city long enough to own a house.

A more radical approach is cohousing. Cohousing involves individual homes clustered around a large common house with such facilities as a dining room, children's playroom, workshops and laundries. The houses typically have their own kitchen and are otherwise minimally self-sufficient but with the emphasis on communal facilities. Each cohousing plan is worked out with intense participation by future occupants. There is no single plan for these projects; they are designed for specific and changing needs and hospitable to spontaneity., The cohousing approach has been used for condominiums, cooperatives and non-profit rental housing.

There are other things to do. We could encourage the construction of more two and three family homes that were once a staple of urban America. We could build "grow houses" such as the 575-square foot designs of New Haven architect Melanie Taylor that are being built for as little as $30,000 in the southeastern US. Even more novel are the modular homes designed to grow or deconstruct over time as required by the occupants' changing lifestyle. The design of the Center for Maximum Building Tecnologies in Austin, Tex., allows for modules to be detached and moved to another house when the current owner no longer needs them.


PROGRESS REPORT A report released this week by the Center for American Progress Action Fund and Women's Voices. Women Vote details the difficulties single women face in today's economy. Forty percent make under $30,000 a year, less than married people or single men. Of 12.2 million single-parent households in the United States, more than 10 million are headed by single women.

Single women still suffer unequal pay. They make only 56 cents to the married man's dollar. Overall, women's median wages pay only 77 cents for every dollar men earn. Even after last year's minimum wage raise -- the first in a decade -- an employee working 40 hours a week at minimum wage only earns $15,080, barely above the poverty line for a family of two ($14,000) and under the poverty line for a family of three ($17,600).

Improving access to higher education will also help single women close the wage gap; currently, 84 percent of single mothers do not have a college degree. Just yesterday, the Washington Post reported that nearly 50 student lenders -- 12 percent of the market -- "have stopped issuing federally guaranteed loans in recent weeks because of paralysis in the credit markets," making it harder for single women to afford college.

With over 35 percent of children born to single women in 2005, single women have a large stake in their children's future. The average cost of child care can range anywhere between $3,000 and $13,000 a year per child -- an enormous burden for struggling single women. The United States and Australia are the only industrialized countries that don't require employers to offer paid maternity leave for new mothers, though some states. The housing crisis has a disproportionate effect on single women as well, as they are more likely to be subprime borrowers. They also spend proportionally more on housing than single men. "Unmarried women need a president who will make affordable housing a priority." Finally, "More than a third -- 35 percent -- of unmarried women are over the age of 50 and face retirement on their own rather than with combined savings with a spouse," and older, single women are one of the poorest demographic groups in the United States.

Health coverage is a particularly important issue for women. Four in 10 women have a chronic condition that requires ongoing medical care -- a significantly higher rate of chronic illness than men experience. At the same time, approximately 20 percent of single women have no health coverage at all.



Proportional representation means that political parties or like-minded constituencies win representation in proportion to their voting strength. If a political party wins 10% of the popular vote they win 10 percent of the legislative seats, 40% of the vote wins 40% of the seats and so forth.

PR opens up the system to all sorts of people who can't win representation now, including women (only 12 percent in the U.S. House), racial minorities, political minorities, Democrats living in Republican districts, Republicans living in Democratic districts, etc..

PR is used by most of the established democracies in the world, because it gives voters more choices at the polls, allows more voters to vote for winners, and dramatically increases voter turnout to 70-95% of eligible voters U.S. voter turnout for 1996 congressional elections was 44% of eligible voters. The US currently has the lowest voter turnout of any established democracy and other countries using winner-take-all systems also suffer from low turnout. One reason is that voters have very little choice since most races are so non-competitive, hence many voters vote for losers. It is hard to go to the polls if you don't feel your vote counts.

PR has a positive impact on campaign finance. Because candidates need less votes to win, they don't have to spend as much money to win those votes. Also, because PR elects representatives from multi-seat districts, there aren't any head-to-head battles that so often intensify the need for money. Candidates also can run together in slates and pool their resources.

In the U.S., voters are often stuck with choosing between the "lesser of two evils," instead of voting for who they truly like. Voters have to vote "against" their fears, instead of "for" their hopes. This dynamic, of always voting "against" something instead of "for" something, has a very debilitating effect on the voter's enthusiasm.

Every 10 years, the incumbent politicians and their parties gerrymander the districts to ensure "safe" seats. Eighty percent of U.S. and California congressional seats in 1996 were "safe." Over one third of state legislative races weren't even contested by one of the major parties. This reduces competition and increases the sense that voting doesn't count; quite literally, in redistricting politicians pick the voters before the voters pick them.

With PR there are no districts to gerrymander, voters have more choices at the polls, and more voters will cast a vote for a winner. voters can listen to a range of political perspectives and policy options, and vote for the candidate or party that best represents how they feel. Voters can vote for their hopes, instead of their fears.

The trend in the world is toward proportional systems and away from "winner take all". In recent years, the countries of South Africa, New Zealand, Scotland, Wales, Japan, Russia and Mexico have all adopted some form of PR. All the countries of the former Communist bloc adopted PR instead of "winner take all". The United Kingdom, the grandmother of "winner take all" democracies, recently adopted PR for elections to the European Parliament, to the London city council, adopted Instant Runoff Voting for the London mayoral election, and may have a national referendum soon on adopting PR.

PR played an important role in New York City until the elite got concerned that too many blacks, communists, and other troublemakers were getting elected. PR was the outgrowth of a charter commission launched by the reform mayor, Fiorello LaGuardia. Among the beneficiaries was Adam Clayton Powell who won a seat on the city council. Writes Dan Prosterman: "Between 1936 and 1947, the New York press turned a concerted about face with regard to PR. In the 1930s, city newspapers supported PR as a method of combating corruption in local government. A diverse group of papers, including the New York Times, Daily News, Herald-Tribune, Brooklyn Eagle, and the Communist Party-run Daily Worker, supported the 1936 PR referendum. Muffled cries against PR as "confusing" or "expensive" swelled into outrage with the election of Communists in 1941 and 1943. Many editorials decried PR as a subversive threat to American democracy. By the repeal referendum of 1947, nearly all of the city's press vehemently opposed PR."

The story of Cincinnati is instructive. Theodore Berry, a black member of the Cincinnati city council won election in 1953 under proportional representation. Because he was the highest vote-getter among councilmembers, by local tradition he should have become mayor but his election was blocked. In 1957, opponents of Berry convinced the city to do away with PR entirely. Berry was finally elected mayor under a conventional voting system in the 1970s, more than a decade after a major American city could have had its first black mayor.

Similar resistance has cropped up in New Zealand. New Zealand voted by a 70% margin in an advisory election to adopt the German system of mixed PR. This plan was initially opposed by the government, but after the election the prime minister said he would not block a final referendum on the matter. Later, however, he announced that a vote for the new system would be linked to a highly controversial plan for public financing of campaigns, thus lowering chances of final approval.

Any campaign for electoral reform can expect to be met by similar machinations. Yet the effort must be made if the varied voices of America are to be heard. Advocates of change repeatedly go down the futile path of attempting to win under existing rules, with surprisingly little effort directed at changing the rules.


There are many different types of PR, and because it is flexible it may be adapted to the situation of any city, state or nation. Here are a few of the most common varieties:

List System -- the most widely used form of PR. The voter selects one party and its pre-determined slate of candidates to represent them. Party slates can be either "closed" or "open," the latter allowing voters to indicate a preference for individual candidates, the former decided by the party. If a party receives 30% of the vote, they receive 30% of the seats in the legislature, 10% of the vote receives 10% of the seats, and so on. A minimum share of the votes may be required to earn representation-- typically 5%. This type of PR is ideal for large legislatures on state and national levels.

Mixed Member -- This German hybrid elects half the legislature from single-seat, winner-take-all districts and the other half by the list system. Those elected under the list system are seated in a such a way that the whole legislature reflects the proportion of the votes received in the list ballot.

Choice -- Allows constituencies of like-minded voters to win representation in proportion to their voting strength. The voter ranks candidates in an order of preference (1,2,3,4, etc.) Once a voter's first choice is elected or eliminated, excess votes are "transferred" to next choices until all positions are filled. Voters can vote for their favorite candidate(s), knowing that if that candidate doesn't receive enough votes their vote will "transfer" to their next choice. With choice voting, every vote counts and very few votes are wasted. Choice voting is ideal for non-partisan elections.

Preference or Instant Runoff Voting -- Ideal when selecting a single winner such as president, mayor, governor or district representative who must win a majority. Like choice voting, the voter simply ranks candidates in an order of preference (ex. 1. Nader 2. Perot 3. Clinton). The candidate with the least number of first place votes is eliminated, and their votes are "transferred" to their 2nd choice, 3rd choice and so on, until a candidate has a majority. It's like doing a traditional runoff, but doing it all in one election.

Most U.S. elections are held under plurality voting rules in which the candidate with the most votes wins. If three or more candidates run in the race, then the winner can have less than a majority of the vote. But the question always arises: was that winning candidate really preferred by most voters?

-- The instant runoff ensures the election of the candidate preferred by most voters.

-- It eliminates the problem of spoiler candidates knocking off major candidates.

-- It frees communities of voters from splitting their vote among their own candidates.

-- It promotes coalition-building and more positive campaigning

Approval voting: Under this system, used by a few professional associations, but as yet untested in a major political context, voters get to check off every candidate of whom they approve, but not in order of preference. Advocates claim this produces a fairer result, although there is the practical question of whether voters wouldn't rather rank the candidates. Multi-seat elections Here are the major choices for multi-seat elections: District and at-large elections: These typically American forms of election are responsible for many of the least appealing aspects of US politics. The main virture of district voting is that the district has someone with power at the seat of government. But it also leads to gerrymandering, minority disenfranchisement and intensely parochial decisions on the part of legislators. The typical legislator spends more time fixing problems for consituents than acting as a legislator. At-large elections, in which the voter has as many choices as there are seats available, leads to the majority of a community magnifying its power to the exclusion of minorities, and has been subject to successful assault in the courts on civil rights grounds.

Single Transferable Vote: This is essentially the principle of preferential voting applied to a multi-member body. Voters rank the candidates and those surpassing a mathematically derived quota are considered elected. To determine the other victors, the choices of the least successful candidate are distributed to the other candidates. This is the system used for years in Cambridge, MA, and in Ireland.

Restorative justice & community courts

Restorative justice at work


Changing the feel of courts

In Oakland schools, restorative justice is working

Alternatives to incarceration

Bringing justice down to the community

A court that works

HELEN W. GUNNARSSON, ILLINOIS BAR JOURNAL "The United States incarcerates more people than any country in the world," said the Pew Center on the States, in a report released February 28. . . Even more disturbing than these numbers is the report's conclusion: all that money, and all of those nonproductive person-hours in jail cells, are doing nothing to reduce the crime rate. Instead, the authors say, throwing people in jail is simply "saddling cash-strapped states with soaring costs they can ill afford and failing to have a clear impact either on recidivism or overall crime."

Given this dismal conclusion, interest in alternatives to traditional prosecutions and incarceration is understandably increasing. The Pew Center report cites diversion programs for nonviolent offenders with drug addictions or mental illnesses, also known as specialty courts, therapeutic courts, or problem-solving courts, as among the promising alternatives to jail time for Treating the underlying cause. . .

in 1993, [Greg Berman, director of the Center for Court Innovation] said, a community court was created in Manhattan to address quality of life crimes such as prostitution, drug possession, and vandalism. Instead of jailing nonviolent offenders, the court worked with community organizations to require restitution of the offenders.

Simultaneously, Berman said, the court used its resources to link the offenders with services such as drug treatment, mental health treatment, job training, and counseling in the hopes that in addressing offenders' underlying problems, they would curb recidivism. Statistics showed that these problem-solving courts were highly successful in achieving compliance with their orders, improving local perceptions of the justice system, and reducing recidivism, Berman said.

Today, there are thousands of problem-solving courts in the country. Most, if not all, are part of state criminal court systems, including community courts, drug courts, mental health courts, and domestic violence courts. . .

The Illinois Association for Drug Court Professionals lists 26 counties in Illinois with drug courts. Cook County has multiple sites with drug courts. . . Peoria County State's Attorney Kevin Lyons reports that he is participating in the planning stages for a mental health court in his county, which also boasts a domestic violence court. And Tazewell County began a pretrial diversion program through its state's attorney's office in 1974, long before the term "therapeutic jurisprudence" was coined. . .

Lake County's drug court and one-year-old mental health court, officially known as Therapeutic Intensive Monitoring court, provide a good illustration of how specialty courts work. . .

Team members meet every week to review the files of the TIM or drug court subjects, and all share information and ideas to craft appropriate, individualized treatment plans for each subject. Additionally, participants receive the benefit of services from outside professionals who may include the county jail doctor, a private therapist or counselor, a psychiatrist or psychologist, a job placement counselor, and/or a linkage worker who helps subjects find and participate in other community programs to meet their needs. . .

Offenders must . . . be amenable to treatment in order to be accepted into TIM or drug court. "Someone who denies a need for treatment, says she won't take her meds, or doesn't want to be labeled" won't want to be in TIM court - nor would she be accepted into the program, says Bishop. "Acceptance of responsibility is an element of participation in the program. Denial won't work.". . .

TIM or drug court subjects spend far more time in court than do offenders in traditional criminal courts. Initially, they're required to appear every week in court. As they show that they can comply with the specialty court team's requirements, the time between court appearances lengthens, first to every other week, then once a month. . .

Participants who violate the specialty court's orders or restrictions suffer consequences that are agreed on by the court team. Says Fabbri, "Violations are usually addressed incrementally." Someone may spend a weekend in jail, for example, he says. "Consequences will be a lot swifter and more severe than regular probation violations. These people are on our radar screen more and see the judge more.". . .

Mark Kammerer, a psychotherapist by training who's director of treatment programs for the Narcotics Prosecutions Bureau of the Cook County State's Attorney, confirms . . . hopes for specialty court graduates. In a memo . . . Kammerer cites encouraging statistics for Cook County's drug court graduates.

Kammerer first compared the criminal activity of the 443 drug court graduates . . . in the year prior to entering drug court to the year following graduation and found that felony arrests decreased by 92 percent, total arrests decreased by 83 percent, and 87 percent had no felony arrests at all. Further, felony convictions decreased by 86 percent, total convictions decreased by 80 percent, and 91 percent had no felony convictions at all. 91 percent of the graduates had no drug crime convictions and 93 percent had no felony drug crime convictions. . .

Kammerer comments on a similarity between the drug and mental health court populations: "If these people could have gotten their problems under control - could have broken the vicious cycle - by themselves, they would have by now. With the support and coercion of the court, people who couldn't do it on their own can do it." Specialty courts, he says, "are addressing specific issues that the criminal justice system has not been able to address."

THE CENTER FOR COURT INNOVATION is a leader in community justice programs One of its projects, the Red Hook Commnity Justice Center, has helped crime in the Brooklyn neighborhood drop 62%. Bronx Community Solutions has placed more than 18,000 misdemeanor offenders into blended punishment-assistance programs. An internal study finds a 71% drop in recidivism in its drug courts. There are now some 2,500 community courts nationally and more than a dozen in Britain and South Africa. The Center is working with officials in Japan, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

[Bragging rights: Greg Berman, executive director of the CCI, was once an intern at the Progressive Review]

BRONX COMMUNITY SOLUTIONS - "When I came to Bronx Community Solutions I was labeled a criminal and now I am getting a trophy and being called a champion." That's what one of the members of the Bombers said while Bronx Community Solutions celebrated the first season of the our basketball league. The trophies were shining and the young men were smiling as the celebration took place: as they collected their trophies everyone enjoyed food, drinks and praise for these young men changing their lives. . .

"I enjoyed playing basketball instead of spending time getting in trouble"

"I enjoyed playing against the police instead of being arrested by the police"

"It was a lot of fun with giving back to the community . . . "

This pilot program was aimed at changing police and community youth perceptions of each other from antagonist to comrades. Officer Warren Thompson of the 46th Precinct received a plaque for his help in organizing police officers for the Bronx Bombers to play against and expressed how eager he was to participate in the next season. . .

LOS ANGELES BUSINESS JOURNAL - In order to tackle the homelessness problem in a more comprehensive fashion, the establishment of a Community Court should be considered for Skid Row. This is what New York City did in 1993 to help stop the deterioration of Times Square and the theater district in midtown Manhattan. Such a Community Court would deal with quality of life crimes - public intoxication, illegal panhandling, public nuisance - committed in that area, and would link the people committing those crimes to needed services and housing and/or offer alternative sentences like community service to improve the area.

This unique problem-solving court was developed by the Center for Court Innovation as a new and more effective way to deal with the special problems in New York. It has been highly successful for a number of reasons. First, it is located within the area where the quality of life crimes are committed and is accessible to the defendants so they can respond to their citations. A single judge plays a critical role in ensuring the success of the court, so there is a more meaningful outcome from the criminal justice system and more individual accountability and responsibility by the defendant. The typical revolving door does not exist.

The city or district attorney, public defender and court coordinator work as team to determine what is in the best interests of the defendant and the community. Justice is swift and alternative sentencing or referral to service and treatment is made to fit the needs of the individual person.

The city of Santa Monica and the Los County Superior Court have established such a court in Santa Monica thanks to the help of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. In its first 10 months, the Santa Monica Homeless Community Court has achieved the following outcomes for 70 participants: 31 (44 percent) received an emergency shelter bed; 25 (36 percent) engaged in drug/alcohol treatment; seven (10 percent) placed in permanent housing; 13 (19 percent) accessed mental health treatment; 34 (48 percent) had citations or warrants dismissed upon program completion. . .

As Malcolm Gladwell reported in his 2006 New Yorker article "Million Dollar Murray," in the early 1990s Dennis Culhane, who is now a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and one of the foremost researchers in the field, found that New York was spending at least $62 million dollars annually to shelter 2,500 chronically homeless people. Boston Health Care for the Homeless, a leading service group for the homeless in Boston, has tracked the medical expenses of 119 chronically homeless people. Over five years the group, minus a few who died or were sent to nursing homes, accounted for 18,834 emergency-room visits at a minimum of $3,000 per visit. Researchers at the University of California-San Diego Medical Center followed 15 chronically homeless inebriates and found that over 18 months those 15 people ran up bills that averaged $100,000 per person. The 10 years that Murray, a chronically homeless man from Reno, Nev., spent on the streets cost $1 million.

VANCOUVER SUN - This year we will inaugurate Vancouver's first true community court. It is essentially a pilot program of quickstep proceedings for nuisance inner-city offenders who pose little risk of violence. . .

One of the biggest concerns in the criminal system for more than a decade has been repeat offenders -- often addicted and usually homeless -- who commit petty offences. It is positively medieval to imprison them and you can't sentence them to house arrest since they have no address, so what do you do?. . .

Community courts were established in the U.S. in the last century (and they have since sprouted elsewhere in the world) to deal with criminal matters that shouldn't be consuming expensive court and correctional time. They have proven to work.

Under their aegis, as in the similarly designed specialized drug courts, qualifying offenders are given more attention than normal and channeled towards help rather than imprisonment.

They provide a quick response to offenders by and large living below the poverty line, committing dumb property crimes to supplement welfare at best and at worst pay for a habit.

Instead of jail and correctional officers, the offender is introduced to the official panoply of B.C. Housing, welfare and mental health workers.

In theory, the court cuts across the independent silos of the various government ministries to provide an integrated solution that helps rather than punishes the offender. . .

We need a community court because our health and social programs are inadequate, our safety net so frayed, too many people are falling through the cracks.

TOMOS LIVINGSTONE, WESTERN MAIL, UK - Wales is to get its first community court later this month, giving residents a say on how offenders will be punished. The new Community Justice Court will be based in Merthyr Tydfil, and will see magistrates and court staff working alongside community groups to tackle anti-social behavior and help reduce re-offending. Although sentences will still be passed by magistrates, residents will be able to suggest suitable punishments for minor offences.

The courts were introduced in Liverpool in 2005, inspired by successful schemes in deprived parts of the US. Since then 10 other courts have been set up in England. The courts look at ways to reduce re-offending, and are intended to liaise with agencies which work to cut drug and alcohol abuse, as well as housing and employment agencies. The judges and magistrates involved are intended to hold regular meetings in the community in order to gain an understanding of local problems.

KENNEBEC JOURNAL, ME - Two years ago, when students at the Troy A. Howard Middle School in Belfast misbehaved, they wound up in the detention room for an hour. The room usually held about 14 students every Tuesday and Thursday, overseen by a teacher who shared the after-school duty.

Today the scene at the middle school detention room is entirely different. The room often is empty because no one has misbehaved. When it is occupied, students and teacher sit in a circle and talk.

The changes in the detention room, school administrators say, are the result of a program called restorative justice, which tries to teach students the consequences of misbehavior. Not only do students openly discuss their infractions, but they must apologize and make restitution in some way. "It has been a huge, huge positive," Principal Kimberly Buckheit said. Widely used in juvenile criminal justice systems, restorative justice practices are moving into classrooms across the country. . .

The Regional Education Alternative Learning School, an alternative school for seventh- through 12th-graders with campuses in Windham and on Mackworth Island, has used restorative justice techniques for the past five years, with help from a grant from the Department of Corrections Juvenile Justice Advisory Group. Students may choose to attend a community resolution circle led by a teacher.Each student must tell the other students in the circle what he or she did.

The other students and any victim who agrees to participate discuss how the student's misbehavior affected other people at the school. The student must come up with a way to make restitution through some sort of community service, such as cleaning a teacher's classroom or -- in the case of a food-throwing incident -- helping the janitors clean the lunch room. . .

Community circles have been incorporated into classroom instruction as well, because the techniques give every student a turn to speak, Buckheit said.

AUBREY FOX, GOTHAM GAZETTE - When Emily May set up the Web site Holla Back with six friends in October 2005, she didn't expect much response. . . Inspired by Thao Nguyen, whose decision to snap a cellphone picture of a subway rider masturbating led to a high-profile arrest and prosecution, Holla Back gives visitors, mostly women, a forum to post photographs and stories about their experiences being groped, catcalled or otherwise sexually harassed in public.

It didn't take long for the Web site to catch fire. "It was wild," said May. . . Little is known about the precise extent of harassment, despite an avalanche of anecdotal information and some small-scale surveys. . .

In a rare attempt to quantify the frequency of street harassment, Nielsen interviewed 100 subjects (including some men) in the Bay Area. Fully 62 percent of the women reported experiencing offensive or sexually suggestive comments "every day" or "often." An additional 28 percent said they heard comments "sometimes." Only 10 percent of the women she interviewed said that they "never" heard comments.

SAM SMITH, PROGRESSIVE REVIEW, 1990 - The decline of the older city is intimately related to the problem of crime. One need not get into a chicken-¬and-egg argument to recognize that the failures of urban policy contribute to crime and crime contributes to the failure of cities. The question is: how to be interrupt this destructive cycle? The conventional answers -- more police and more prisons -- not only haven't worked they are beginning to bankrupt a number of cities. As with the economy and the environment, we have to engage in lateral rather than incremental thinking if we are to come up with solutions that will really make a difference.

There are a number of things that could be done, but none are more important than restoring the community to the focus of our attempts to obtain social order. Most law and order stems from personal and community values or peer pressure of one sort or another. Yet our prescription for law and order in the city tends to ignore the role of the community, using as its surrogate vastly over-extended police departments and courts.

There is no substitute for organic social order, as even totalitarian countries have discovered. To create this organic system of justice, we must return to the community and build our justice system out from it.

Community courts and neighborhood constables are one way of re-creating community law and order. Back in the 60s I took part in a debate with DC public safety commissioner Patrick Murphy and a representative of the International Chiefs of Police, making the argument that the centralization of the local police department and deployment of officers to squad cars was moving in the wrong direction. The police reporter for the Washington Post turned to the person next to him and asked, "Who is that nut?"

Now, more and more cities are moving towards this concept, calling it "community policing." Recently, even as mainstream a figure as Matthew Crosson, chief administrator of New York state courts, called for the creation of community courts in neighborhoods to handle minor crimes. It should be noted, however, that neither the current view of community policing nor Crosson's idea of community courts go far enough in bringing the community into the justice system. For the system to really work, both police and courts not only have to be in the community but of the community as well. The power as well as the structure has to be in the neighborhood.

SAM SMITH, GREAT AMERICAN POLITICAL REPAIR MANUAL, 1997 - What law enforcement tool does every shopping mall and big office building have -- but not most neighborhoods? Their own police force.

It is hard to imagine how we can restore order to our communities without giving them some role in creating and maintaining this order.

Think, for example, about what typically happens when a kid first gets into trouble -- minor shoplifting, vandalism, a fight. The police are called to the scene. And what do the police do? They remove the young person from the very community against which the crime has been committed. The implicit message is that your sin is against the city or the country or the state, not against your neighbors or your community. Thus, from the very start we teach the wrong lesson.

Imagine instead that the community had its own constables -- with police training and powers -- but who lived in the community, were known in the community and helped the community maintain its own order. In minor non-violent offenses, the first person on the scene would be the constable, who could quickly bring the offender before a community judicial board instead of waiting months for the matter to wend its way through the normal judicial labyrinth. If found guilty, the offender would have to provide restitution or perform community service.

Neither is the notion of community-based restorative justice untested. Writing in The Progressive Review, David Spero described how western New York's Genesee County found itself with overflowing jail cells. It turned to community service sentences and to recruiting non-profits, schools, churches and road crews to assign hard work in lieu of jail time. As Spero noted, for the criminals working with such institutions it "was often their first positive contact with anyone in authority."

Then the county developed a system of victim support, including restitution from offenders. A felon diversion program allowed screened offenders a chance to put their lives together while their case was put on hold. Only 5% of those in the program turned out to be repeat offenders. Spero described one case:

"An 18-year-old sniper on LSD seriously wounded two passers-by. He went through diversion for 18 months, including victim-offender conciliation. This conciliation helps victims heal and forces offenders to confront the pain they have caused. The young sniper finally received a short jail sentence plus community service and now works, pays taxes, and raises a family in Genesee County."

Communities can get involved in other ways, as in the a victim-offender mediation program of LA's Centinela Valley. Director Steve Goldsmith told Spero how is works:

"First we get the victim to agree to mediation, then the young offenders and their parents. We hold the sessions at a place convenient to the victim, with two volunteer mediators who have gone through 40 hours of free training. The mediators let the victim and offender work out the solution. The important thing is the kids have to hear the consequences of their actions on others.

Such programs take a lot of effort. There are about 200 volunteer sponsors and victim advocates in the Genesee program and more than a 100 community agencies working with offenders. "


This would be a program for new and less wealthy would-be homebuyers in which the federal government became an equity partner with the purchaser. At the time of sale, the federal government would get its share back including its portion of the increase in value. This program would be immensely popular not only with would-be home buyers but with the real estate industry. And the beauty is that it could easily be a money maker


DEAN BAKER, TRUTHOUT - There is a simple and direct way in which the federal government can help out millions of moderate-income families struggling to keep their homes: They can simply change the rules on foreclosure to allow moderate-income homeowners the option to remain in their homes indefinitely as renters, paying the fair market rent.

This proposal would immediately give moderate-income homeowners a guarantee they would not be thrown out of the street because they cannot meet the terms of a predatory mortgage. It accomplishes this goal without requiring any elaborate new bureaucracy and without requiring a single dollar from the taxpayers. And this plan does not bail out the bankers, hedge funds, and other financial industry types who were speculating in mortgage debt.

Here's how the plan works: Currently, if a homeowner is not able to make their mortgage payments, the holder of the mortgage can go to court to place the house in foreclosure. This means, if the homeowner is not able to come up with back payments on the mortgage, or work out an acceptable arrangement with the mortgage holder, the bank or financial institution that holds the mortgage retakes ownership of the house and can have the homeowner evicted.

Under this security of housing proposal, the foreclosure process would be changed so the current homeowner would have the option to remain in their house as a renter paying the fair market rent. If a homeowner chose to go this route, the judge in the foreclosure proceeding would appoint an independent appraiser to determine the fair market rent for the house, in the same way a bank hires an appraiser to determine the value of the house before issuing a mortgage.

The former homeowner could then remain in their home as a renter for as long as they liked. The rent would be adjusted at regular intervals in step with the change of other rents in the area. There could even be an appeal process in which either party could request that the judge get a second appraisal, at the expense of the person complaining about the original appraisal. This should ensure the rent set for the house is fair. After the foreclosure, the mortgage holder would now own the house and be free to sell it to another person, but the former homeowner would still have the right to remain as a renter, regardless of who owned the house.

This program could be restricted to homes that cost less than the median house price for an area to ensure high income homeowners do not take advantage of it. The program would also only apply to people who lived in their homes, not investors. In short, it is a very simple and low-cost way to help moderate-income homebuyers. It does not give them any windfalls, but it can ensure they don't end up being thrown out on the street.



UPI, 2009 - Eighteen U.S. campuses that reported binge heavy drinking in 1993, showed little change more than a dozen years later, U.S. researchers found. Lead researcher Toben F. Nelson, an assistant professor of epidemiology and community health at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, said in 1993, 58 percent of students reported binge drinking in the past two weeks; in 2005, 56 percent said the same. For the purposes of this study, binge drinking was defined as at least four or five drinks in a row. The study, published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, found 28 percent of students in 1993 said they frequently binged on alcohol, while 32 percent of students said they binged on alcohol in 2005. . . Nelson's team found 88.5 percent of the students reported any drinking in 1993, while 86 percent reported any drinking in 2005. In 1993, 37 percent of students said they had driven after drinking, and in 2005, the figure was the same, the study said



Albania No minimum age
Austria 14
Denmark No minimum drinking age
Finland No minimum drinking age
France 16 (beer, wine
Germany 16 (beer, wine
Hungary No minimum age
Italy 16
Poland No minimum drinking age
Portugal 16
Romania No minimum drinking age
Russia No minimum drinking age
Spain 16
Switzerland 16
United Kingdom 5 (on private property with parental consent)


ROBERT KUBEY, FAIR - On October 17, 2006, when George W. Bush signed the John Warner National Defense Authorization Act of 2007 - a $538 billion military spending bill - he enacted into law a section called "Use of the Armed Forces in Major Public Emergencies." In the view of many, this Act substantially changed fundamental laws of the United States, giving Bush - and all future U.S. presidents - new and sweeping powers to use the U.S. military anywhere in the United States, virtually as he sees fit - for disaster relief, crowd control, suppression of public disorder, or any "other condition" that might arise.

News coverage of these significant changes in the law has been virtually nonexistent. . . What could happen under the new law? As just one example, let's say hundreds of demonstrators in Boston engaged in civil disobedience, sitting-in on the Boston Common to protest the country's policies in Iraq, and traffic ground to a halt. Under the new law, the president could order in the Massachusetts National Guard to clear out the protesters even if the Massachusetts governor opposed this.

Indeed, the president could order the Guard of any state into any other state - even if the governors of both states objected. Or the president could choose to use any element of the U.S. military - the Army, Air Force, Navy or Marines - to suppress a protest or carry out practically any kind of domestic action the president desired. And all of this with essentially no oversight - or checks and balances - on how the commander-in-chief uses these powers. Basically, after sending the National Guard somewhere, he or she merely needs to report to Congress every couple of weeks to let them know what the Guard is doing.

The law is so vague and far-reaching that numerous, normally conservative military and law enforcement groups, including the National Guard Association, the National Sheriffs' Association and the Adjutants General Association, have publicly come out against it, pledging their support for a new, bipartisan Senate bill from senators Leahy and Christopher Bond (R.-Mo.) that would overturn all the changes in law that occurred this past October.

The National Governors Association is displeased as well. In rare unanimity, the association called, on February 2, 2007, for the new law to be overturned, saying that it "unnecessarily expanded the president's authority to federalize the National Guard," a change "drafted without consultation with the governors and without full discussion or debate." All 50 U.S. governors have signed on to the association's letter of opposition - including all 22 Republican governors.

The Adjutants General Association, which represents officers responsible for National Guard training and readiness, also stands in opposition to the Act, saying that the language of the NDAA "significantly broadens the president's ability to declare martial law and mobilize the National Guard under national command without consulting with the governors." It adds that this broadening was "completely unnecessary" and done without any "committee or floor debate in either legislative chamber and with explicit opposition from the governors."

One might think that major military and law enforcement organizations and the united governors registering their displeasure would spark some news coverage, investigation and public debate. Yet the first news coverage did not appear until the first hearings on the Leahy/Bond bill, over six months after the bill was first signed. Even then, there was just a handful of stories - among them wire stories by Cox, McClatchy and AP, and editorials in the Winston-Salem Journal and Newsday.

While there was no news coverage, four months and two days after the bill was signed into law, the New York Times did take notice with an editorial headlined "Making Martial Law Easier."


BOB BLAIN, PROGRESSIVE REVIEW, 1994 - By 1993 federal debt was $4.4 trillion. From 1790 to 1993, taxpayers were charged $3.2 trillion in interest on federal debt. . . The present federal debt is arguably the original debt enlarged by 204 years of compounding interest.

According to the Federal Reserve Bulletin, the total money supply (currency, travelers checks, demand deposits, and savings accounts) in the U.S. economy in March 1993 was $4 trillion. The total debt of the federal government, state and local governments, corporations, farmers, home buyers, and consumers was in excess of $15 trillion. If the total money supply is $4 trillion, where is the other $11 trillion of borrowed money?. . .

The federal government has been adding interest to its debt for 204 years. James Jackson, Congressman from Georgia, predicted that this would happen in a speech he made to the First Congress on February 9, 1790. Jackson warned that passing Alexander Hamilton's plan to base the country's money supply on the existing federal debt of $75 million would "settle upon our posterity a burden which they can neither bear nor relieve themselves from." He predicted: "In the course of a single century it would be multiplied to an extent we dare not think of," . . .

The power to deal with this problem that Congress has neglected all these years is the power "to coin money and regulate the value thereof." It has overused its power "to borrow money on the credit of the United States." According to the Federal Reserve, 98 percent of the U.S. money supply is borrowed. Only 2 percent is coined.

The First Congress set the wrong precedent. It should have created $75 million in money and paid off the debt. With a population of 4 million people and an economy starved for a medium of exchange, that would have increased the money supply by $18.75 per person.

Why did the First Congress borrow instead of coin money? Newspapers at the time accused members of Congress of acting to serve their own interests. They sent agents into the countryside to buy up debt certificates that the general public thought were worthless. They then passed the Funding Act knowing that it would give themselves and their heirs a source of income that would grow exponentially with the debt. For every debtor there is a creditor. What is a $4 trillion debt for debtors is $4 trillion in claims for creditors.

To get out of this trap Congress has a range of options:

First, it could stop paying interest on the debt. Interest is the fuel that is exploding the debt. Cut off the fuel; stop the explosion. Since 1790 over $3 trillion in interest has been added to the original $75 million. Cutting interest would immediately cut the annual deficit by about $300 billion. Experience shows that all other conventional actions, no matter how painful, do no more than slow slightly the rate of debt growth. Then Congress could begin the process of paying off the debt.

A political problem with stopping the payment of interest is that people with money control politics. And many of them would have their interest income stopped. Insurance companies and pension funds are invested in federal debt and foreign holders would also be upset. Economically, however, we cannot continue to add compounding interest to existing debt. . .

A second option is for Congress to create the money necessary to fund public works. As a sovereign government, Congress' power is unique. It can create money debt-free and interest-free. Congress needs to stop thinking of itself as the same as other organizations that must take money in before they can spend it. Money does not grow on trees. It must be created. The only choice is whether to have it created as loans at interest from private banks or to have it created by Congress debt-free and interest-free. . .

A third more conservative option is being proposed by an organization called Sovereignty, which believes that a country that borrows money loses its sovereignty to its creditors. Their proposal is intended to restore U.S. sovereignty by reducing our dependence on borrowed money. Sovereignty proposes that Congress create money and lend it interest-free on a per capita formula to tax-supported bodies for capital projects and to convert existing debt to non-interest-bearing debt. Since first proposed in January 1989, the Sovereignty loan plan has been endorsed by over 1,814 city, town, and county governments and school boards, as well as by the U.S. conference of Mayors, the Michigan state legislature and the Community Bankers Association of Illinois, which represents 515 banks.

As loans, the money would be repaid, so money injected into communities would fund projects, then be removed. Of the three methods for putting money into circulation available to Congress, giving, paying, and lending, lending is the most cautious.

Benjamin Franklin attributed the economic success of the colonies to their creation of all the money they needed. He said that the root cause of the Revolution was the act of Parliament that prohibited the colonies from continuing to issue their own money. The moneylenders of England thought it more profitable that the colonies borrow their money. . .

Money is no more than an accounting device, a system of notes certifying that the bearer has done a share of the work and deserves a share of the wealth. Money's backing is the goods and services produced by the labor force. By creating money Congress can activate the idle productive power of our people. And what they produce will add real wealth to the U.S. Treasury and add nothing to the federal debt.


SAM SMITH' GREAT AMERICAN POLITICAL REPAIR MANUAL, 1997 - In the early 19th century, the little British Channel island of Guernsey faced a problem. Its sea walls were crumbling. its roads were too narrow, and it was already heavily in debt. There was little employment and people were leaving for elsewhere.

Instead of going still further into debt, the island government simply issued 4,000 pounds in state notes to start repairs on the sea walls as well as for other needed public works. More issues followed and twenty years later the island had, in effect, printed nearly 50,000 pounds. Guernsey had more than doubled its money supply without inflation.

A report of the island's States Office in June 1946 noted that island leaders frequently commented that these public works could not have been carried out without the issues, that they had been accomplished without interest costs, and that as a result "the influx of visitors was increased, commerce was stimulated, and the prosperity of the Island vastly improved." By 1943, nearly a half million pounds worth of notes belonged to the public and was so valued that much of it was being hoarded in people's homes, awaiting the island's liberation from the Germans.

About the same time that Guernsey started to fix its sea walls the town of Glasgow, Scotland, borrowed 60,000 pounds to build a fruit market. The Guernsey sea walls were repaid in ten years, the fruit market loan took 139. In the first part of the 20th century, Glasgow paid over a quarter million pounds in interest alone on this ancient project.

How did Guernsey avoid the fiscal disaster that conventional economics prescribed for it? First and foremost by understanding that when you build roads or sea walls or colleges or houses, you are not reducing your society's wealth. In fact, if you do it right, you are creating something that will add to its wealth. The money that was created was simply backed by public works rather than gold or "full faith and credit." It was, in fact, based on something more solid than the dollar bills in our wallets today. In contrast, tacking on an interest charge to public works -- as we do in the US -- creates no new wealth, but merely transfers claims on existing wealth from debtors to creditors.

Ellen Brown, Global Research, 2008 - All the king's men cannot put the private banking system together again, for the simple reason that it is a Ponzi scheme that has reached its mathematical limits. A Ponzi scheme is a form of pyramid scheme in which new investors must continually be sucked in at the bottom to support the investors at the top. In this case, new borrowers must continually be sucked in to support the creditors at the top. The Wall Street Ponzi scheme is built on "fractional reserve" lending, which allows banks to create "credit" (or "debt") with accounting entries. Banks are now allowed to lend from 10 to 30 times their "reserves," essentially counterfeiting the money they lend. Over 97 percent of the U.S. money supply has been created by banks in this way. The problem is that banks create only the principal and not the interest necessary to pay back their loans. Since bank lending is essentially the only source of new money in the system, someone somewhere must continually be taking out new loans just to create enough "money" (or "credit") to service the old loans composing the money supply. This spiraling interest problem and the need to find new debtors has gone on for over 300 years -- ever since the founding of the Bank of England in 1694 - until the whole world has now become mired in debt to the bankers' private money monopoly. As British financial analyst Chris Cook observes:

"Exponential economic growth required by the mathematics of compound interest on a money supply based on money as debt must always run up eventually against the finite nature of Earth's resources."

The parasite has finally run out of its food source. But the crisis is not in the economy itself, which is fundamentally sound - or would be with a proper credit system to oil the wheels of production. The crisis is in the banking system, which can no longer cover up the shell game it has played for three centuries with other people's money. Fortunately, we don't need the credit of private banks. A sovereign government can create its own.

Today's credit crisis is very similar to that facing Franklin Roosevelt in the 1930s. In 1932, President Hoover set up the Reconstruction Finance Corporation as a federally-owned bank that would bail out commercial banks by extending loans to them, much as the privately-owned Federal Reserve is doing today. But like today, Hoover's plan failed. The banks did not need more loans; they were already drowning in debt. They needed customers with money to spend and to invest. President Roosevelt used Hoover's new government-owned lending facility to extend loans where they were needed most - for housing, agriculture and industry. Many new federal agencies were set up and funded by the RFC, including the HOLC (Home Owners Loan Corporation) and Fannie Mae (the Federal National Mortgage Association, which was then a government-owned agency). In the 1940s, the RFC went into overdrive funding the infrastructure necessary for the U.S. to participate in World War II, setting the country up with the infrastructure it needed to become the world's industrial leader after the war.

The RFC was a government-owned bank that sidestepped the privately-owned Federal Reserve; but unlike the private banks with which it was competing, the RFC had to have the money in hand before lending it. The RFC was funded by issuing government bonds (IOU.s or debt) and relending the proceeds. The result was to put the taxpayers further into debt. This problem could be avoided, however, by updating the RFC model. A system of public banks might be set up that had the power to create credit themselves, just as private banks do now. A public bank operating on the private bank model could fan $700 billion in capital reserves into $7 trillion in public credit that was derivative-free, liability-free, and readily available to fund all those things we think we don't have the money for now, including the loans necessary to meet payrolls, fund mortgages, and underwrite public infrastructure. . .

This was the sort of banking scheme used in Benjamin Franklin's colony of Pennsylvania, where it worked brilliantly well. The spiraling-interest problem was avoided by printing some extra money and spending it into the economy for public purposes. During the decades the provincial bank operated, the Pennsylvania colonists paid no taxes, there was no government debt, and inflation did not result.

Like the Pennsylvania bank, a modern-day federal banking system would not actually need "reserves" at all. It is the sovereign right of a government to issue the currency of the realm. What backs our money today is simply "the full faith and credit of the United States," something the United States should be able to issue directly without having to draw on "reserves" of its own credit. But if Congress is not prepared to go that far, a more efficient use of the earmarked $700 billion than bailing out failing banks would be to designate the funds as the "reserves" for a newly-reconstituted RFC.


BRUCE DIXON, BLACK AGENDA REPORT - Throughout the 1930s, 40s and 50s, being identified as an active member of the NAACP in the South could cost your livelihood and home, your freedom, even your life. Many whose names nobody remembers served, and quite a few paid that price.

Today's NAACP officials, like their counterparts in corporate America, fly and dine first class --- they hobnob with celebrities and CEOs, and they depend on Disney, Chrysler, Bank of America and Fox TV to broadcast its annual Image Awards, which are handed out to other celebrities and black officials of whichever administration is in power.. The NAACP has in the recent past even chosen its CEO from the ranks of black execs at telecommunications corporations that digitally redline African American neighborhoods.

A significant portion of the black leadership in those days was responsible to black communities alone. They crafted political responses to the public policy crises of that era which they pursued both inside and outside America's legal system, responses aimed at changing public policies that harmed African American communities. Attorneys Charles Hamilton Houston and Thurgood Marshall crisscrossed the continent defending black prisoners on death row and filing cases to overturn legal segregation. It was due to years of these efforts that Thurgood Marshall, in the 1940s became known as "Mr. Civil Rights".

By contrast, a current black elected official like Atlanta's Kasim Reed, whose legal practice consists of defending corporate employers from civil rights and discrimination lawsuits represents himself with a straight face as a "civil rights lawyer". Presidential candidate Barack Obama too, is widely credited with being a "civil rights lawyer" too, despite having tried few or no significant civil rights cases in any court of law. . .

Can you imagine the black leadership in your town even talking to high school students, let alone calling them out in the street to accomplish a change in public policy? Can you envision today's celebrity and business-oriented black leadership trying to mobilize black America for anything more radical than watching their TV shows, buying their books, or volunteering and voting in their campaigns for political office. It is hard to construct a scenario in which today's black leaders might be induced to stand up to the crime control industry, to become persistent, forceful advocates of revolutionary reforms which can appeal broadly to the African American community . . .

Whenever we do see the beginnings of a mass movement to challenge our nation's misguided policy of black mass incarceration, one that unites our young and our old, our churches and our unions and the people on our street corners it won't be led by the folks we think of as black leaders today. And until the policy of mass incarceration is transformed into an explicitly political issue and directly challenged, black youth have little reason to listen to those leaders.


American Monetary Institute - Beginning in the 1980s - as part of the Reagan counter-revoution - interest rate controls began disappearing in this country. Rates that generally were below ten percent would rise as much as three times.

The media did not report this story, the politicians did not deal with it, and the banks got away with murder. This is not your average political or economic change; it altered views of fair interest rates going back to the earliest times. Essentially usury became legal.

A logical approach would be to return to pre-Reagan interest rate rules. The banks would be furious, but the rest of America would be better off. But while the exact maximum interest rate is debatable; what is not debatable is that today's rates are indefensible. Here is some interesting background on the issue:

STEPHEN ZRLENGA, DIRECTOR, AMERICAN MONETARY INSTITUTE - Aristotle (384-322 Bc) Formulated the classical view against usury. Aristotle understood that money is sterile; it doesn't beget more money the way cows beget more cows. He knew that "Money exists not by nature but by law":

"The most hated sort (of wealth getting) and with the greatest reason, is usury, which makes a gain out of money itself and not from the natural object of it. For money was intended to be used in exchange but not to increase at interest. . . Wherefore of all modes of getting wealth, this is the most unnatural."

And Aristotle really disliked usurers, "those who ply sordid trades, pimps and all such people, and those who lend small sums at high rates. For all these take more than they ought, and from the wrong sources. What is common to them is evidently a sordid love of gain"

The Scholastics (1100 -1500 AD), church scholars familiar with the available writings in existence, echoed Aristotle. Acquinas argued that money is a measure, and usury "diversifys the measure" placing extra demands on the money mechanism which harmed its function as a measure. . .

The Scholastics made the first attempt at a science of economics and their main concern was usury; but this was not the same as just charging interest. It was generally not forbidden to earn interest if the lender was actually taking some risk, without a guaranteed gain. Interest could also be charged when the lender suffered some loss or passed up some opportunity by extending the loan. . .

Two types of loans were always exempt from bans on interest: the "Societas", where the lender assumed some portion of the risk of the enterprise. Also exempt was the "Census" - an obligation to pay an annual return based on some "fruitful" property. At first it was paid in real produce, later in money.

The Census was normally capitalized at 8 times the annual return, but the risk of the "fruitful" base was on the lender not the borrower, for if the crop were destroyed by weather, the borrower had no obligation that year. Later cities issued "census" obligations based an tax revenues, which came to be called "rents".

Usury was much more than charging interest - it was taking unfair advantage; usury was an anti-social misuse of the money mechanism. Similar to the term Riba in the Islamic world.

The church's condemnation of usury: Pope Innocent IV (1250-1261) noted that if usury were permitted, rich people would prefer to put their money in a usurious loan rather than invest in agriculture. Only the poor would do the farming and they didn't have the animals and tools to do it. Famine would result. Burudian, a professor at the University of Paris wrote that: "Usury is evil. . . because the usurer seeks avariciously what has no finite limits". . . . St. Bernardine of Siena (1380-1444) observed that usury concentrates the money of the community into the hands of the few.

Divine and human law: All mankind's moral and legal codes censured usury, normally with mild limits on interest rates. But the Old Testament strictly forbade Jews from taking usury from their "brothers" (other Jews), and discouraged taking it from strangers. The Scholastics looked on all mankind as brothers. Other codes restricted usury:

- Code Of Hammurabi (2130-2088 BC) limited usury to 33%;

- Hindoo Law - Damdupat - limited interest to the full amount of the loan;

- Roman Law limited interest; Justinian's 6th century Code reduced the 12½% limit of Constantine the Great, to 4-8%, and accumulated interest could not exceed principal.

- The Koran totally forbids usury, from the 7th century;

- Charlemagne's laws flatly forbade usury in 806 AD.

- Magna Carta placed limits on usury in 1215 AD.

- Most states of the United States enforced usury limits until 1981.

Action against usurers: Pope Leo the Great (440-461) laid the cornerstone for later usury laws when he forbade clerics from taking usury and condemned laymen for it. In 850 the Synod of Paris excommunicated all usurers. The 2nd Lateran Council (1139) declared that unrepentant usurers were condemned by both the Old and New Testaments. Pope Urban III (1185-87) cited Christ's words "lend freely, hoping nothing thereby" (Luke 6:35).

Judicial action was taken against those openly practicing usury and the Church never condoned Jewish usury activity. Christian usurers who used semantic tricks in making loans were worried about excommunication and being denied the sacraments, especially burial in sacred ground. They used every word trick to avoid the usury label. Goods were sold on credit at a higher price which factored interest in. "Dry Exchange" bills in foreign currency were not sent for collection but resold to the borrower for a higher amount, reflecting interest.

Usurers were required to make monetary restitution to their "victims", and if they couldn't be found, to the poor through the Church. . . The heirs of usurers were also required to make restitution.

Fall of the usury prohibition: As economies became more dynamic, with real growth possibilities, it became clear that charging interest on business loans where the borrowing merchant prospered, couldn't be condemned as greed or lack of charity and by 1516 the idea of a lending institution charging interest for its services had been overwhelming accepted.

Calvin's reformation: John Calvin finished off the usury ban in 1536. But his arguments were shallow compared to the Scholastics: "When I buy a field does not money breed money?", he asked rhetorically. For centuries the Scholastics had demonstrated the correct answer is no - it is the field not the money which grows products. Calvin wasn't enthusiastic about usury. . . He considered usury sinful only if it hurt ones neighbor and that it was generally legitimate in business loans.

How capitalism viewed interest: The justification for charging interest evolved historically in works promoting capitalism. One recurring theme was to attack Aristotle. Francis Bacon's Works (1610) thrashed the Scholastics for: "almost having incorporated the contentious philosophy of Aristotle into the body of Christian religion... Usury is a thing allowed by reason of the hardness of men's hearts. For since there must be borrowing and lending, and men are so hard of heart as they will not lend freely, usury must be permitted

In William Petty's 1682 Quantulumcunque Concerning Money usury is redefined as: "A reward for forbearing the use of your own money for a term of time agreed upon, whatsoever need your self may have of it in the meanwhile."

This ascetic rewarding of self denial, with religious overtones, is still used by some in the 20th century, but Adam Smith's 1776 Wealth Of Nations, capitalism's "bible," put aside these earlier rationales, and justified usury in economic terms:

"The interest or the use of money. . . is the compensation which the borrower pays to the lender, for the profit which he has an opportunity of making by the use of the money. Part of that profit naturally belongs to the borrower who runs the risk and takes the trouble of employing it; and part to the lender, who affords him the opportunity of making this profit." This is how interest is popularly viewed today. But Smith overlooked that the lender gets his profit even when the enterprise loses; he ignored the successful business structures used by Venice for centuries, where the lender's return was based on actual profits. Smith's endorsement did not remove the stigma against usury; and the debate continued.

Eleven years later Jeremy Bentham's In Defence Of Usury (1787) . . . dismissed the harmful effects of usury on the common man: "Simple people will be robbed more in buying goods than in borrowing money." . . .

Despite continuous pressure and support from the financial community, the various justifications for usury proved inadequate in 1836 when John Whipple, an American lawyer wrote The Importance Of Usury Laws -An Answer To Jeremy Bentham. Whipple proved the impossibility of sustaining long term metallic usury:

"If 5 English pennies... had been... at 5 per cent compound interest from the beginning of the Christian era until the present time, it would amount in gold of standard fineness to 32,366,648,157 spheres of gold each eight thousand miles in diameter, or as large as the earth."

Whipple knew that answering the usury question required an accurate view of the nature of money, and he echoed Aristotle:

"It was never intended as an article of trade, as an article possessing an inherent value in itself, (but) as a representative or test of the value of all other articles." . . .

This view is clearly drawn from Aristotle's concept of money that money exists not by nature but by law. Aristotle clearly identifies the essence of money as an abstract legal institution invented by society - a creature of the law.

One can imagine how advanced the world of finance would be today if someone like Whipple were present at the Constitutional Convention in 1787. Had his viewpoint been distilled into law many unnecessary hardships (and wars?) could have been avoided. Instead the delegates operated under a primitive commodity concept of money, similar to that of the ancient oriental system and ignored the crucial monetary questions. . .

The modern world is now getting a taste of real usury. Up to 1981, interest limits (usually under 10%) were in effect in most of the USA. Today credit card debt is very high and growing, along with personal bankruptcy rates. Most people are paying 21 - 25% interest on their credit cards each year. Money they really can't afford to pay. Some economists actually favor letting the market charge whatever interest rates people can be forced to pay. But this should not continue - it will do so much harm to society that all the free market economists in the world chanting in unison won't be able to hide the damage.

Approaching the usury question intelligently requires a better understanding of the nature of money. . . How should civilized society view usury? First I think we have to admit that we don't have the full answer. But we do know parts of it. . .





John Horgan, New Scientist - Optimists called the first world war "the war to end all wars". Philosopher George Santayana demurred. In its aftermath he declared: "Only the dead have seen the end of war". History has proved him right, of course. What's more, today virtually nobody believes that humankind will ever transcend the violence and bloodshed of warfare. I know this because for years I have conducted numerous surveys asking people if they think war is inevitable. Whether male or female, liberal or conservative, old or young, most people believe it is. . .

Just a few decades ago, many scholars believed that prior to civilization, humans were "noble savages" living in harmony with each other and with nature. Not any more. Ethnographic studies, together with some archaeological evidence, suggest that tribal societies engaged in lethal group conflict, at least occasionally, long before the emergence of states with professional armies. Meanwhile, the discovery that male chimpanzees from one troop sometimes beat to death those from another has encouraged popular perceptions that warfare is part of our biological heritage.

These findings about violence among our ancestors and primate cousins have perpetuated what anthropologist Robert Sussman from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, calls the "5 o'clock news" view of human nature. Just as evening news shows follow the dictum "if it bleeds, it leads", so many accounts of human behavior emphasise conflict. However, Sussman believes the popular focus on violence and warfare is disproportionate. "Statistically, it is more common for humans to be cooperative and to attempt to get along than it is for them to be uncooperative and aggressive towards one another," he says. And he is not alone in this view. A growing number of experts are now arguing that the urge to wage war is not innate, and that humanity is already moving in a direction that could make war a thing of the past.

Among the revisionists are anthropologists Carolyn and Melvin Ember from Yale University, who argue that biology alone cannot explain documented patterns of warfare. They oversee the Human Relations Area Files, a database of information on some 360 cultures, past and present. More than nine-tenths of these societies have engaged in warfare, but some fight constantly, others rarely, and a few have never been observed fighting. "There is variation in the frequency of warfare when you look around the world at any given time," says Melvin Ember. "That suggests to me that we are not dealing with genes or a biological propensity."

Anthropologist Douglas Fry of Åbo Akademi University in Turku, Finland, agrees. In his book, Beyond War, he identified 74 "non-warring cultures" that contradict the idea that war is universal. His list includes nomadic hunter-gatherers such as the !Kung of Africa, Australian Aborigines and Inuit. These examples are crucial, Fry says, because our ancestors are thought to have lived as nomadic hunter-gatherers from the emergence of the Homo lineage around 2 million years ago until the appearance of permanent settlements and agriculture less than 20,000 years ago. That time span constitutes more than 99 per cent of the evolutionary history of Homo. . .


Sam Smith, The Progressive Review - Could the end of war be the abolition movement of the 21st century?

Even leaving morality aside, it would make a lot of sense. The United States, for example, hasn't won a war - in the sense of gaining something significant other than the symbolism of "victory" - in over sixty years. In fact the few military victories have been mostly against military less than 1% the size of ours - Panama, Grenada and Bosnia. The one exception - the first Iraq war - was against a force 15% the size of America's.

America's defense expenditures are more than double those of all the other top ten militaries combined. Yet we continue to drastically shortchange healthcare, retirement and education on behalf of purported military readiness.

One reason we are so willing to do so is because we consider war inevitable. In fact, war is not the product of human nature but of the organized state, a fairly recent invention in human history. Further, the nature of this invention has drastically changed over time. What general today would order his troops to fight in the manner of Henry VIII or even General Grant or Lee? And what did the American Revolution, the Civil War and Vietnam have in common, how were they different and which list is longer? Why do we use the same term to describe conflict that a hundred years ago claimed civilians as only 20% of its casualties but today results in 80% of its victims being civilians?

And what was the logic of World War I? After all those deaths, it helped to produce Hitler. Even a non-romantic look at the Civil War would at least raise the question: was there another less deadly way of having dealt with slavery and the South?

A logical review of America's own wars since WWII would lead almost inevitably to the conclusion that wars are no longer - if they ever were - an effective way of handling foreign affairs. They are excessively costly, environmentally disastrous, kill too many people and don't produced the sought-after results.

We avoid such questions because they seem almost unpatriotic. But what if war is another form of behavior - like slavery in the 19th century - that we now - if we so will it - have the potential of declaring extinct as part of our moral and social evolution?

We rarely ask this question not only because it seems too hard, but because we routinely accept accustomed approaches that are reasonable in the short run - such demanding the end to a particular war - but which avoid the larger issue.

In other words, we remain peace activists instead of becoming war abolitionists.
We call ourselves anti-war protestors but are really only talking about Iraq. And so forth.

The alternative would be a serious war abolition movement that would help others understand the futility of the military approach, its masochistic costs and the techniques and advantages of peace and mediation.

If this all sounds too radical, consider the following:

"I know war as few other men now living know it, and nothing to me is more revolting. I have long advocated its complete abolition, as its very destructiveness on both friend and foe has rendered it useless as a means of settling international disputes. . . "

And this:

"Men since the beginning of time have sought peace. Various methods through the ages have been attempted to devise an international process to prevent or settle disputes between nations. From the very start workable methods were found in so far as individual citizens were concerned, but the mechanics of an instrumentality of larger international scope have never been successful.

"Military alliances, balances of power, leagues of nations, all in turn failed, leaving the only path to be by way of the crucible of war. The utter destructiveness of war now blocks out this alternative. We have had our last chance. If we will not devise some greater and more equitable system, our Armageddon will be at our door."

The first words were spoken by General Douglas MacArthur during his farewell address to Congress. The second was from his statement soon after the surrender of the Japanese aboard the battleship Missouri.

A couple of years later, Japan approved a constitution with this provision:

"Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes."




FOR THE PAST quarter century, discussions of economic matters have been badly discolored by the distorted and childlike views of conservative economists. Even the media has bought into the rightwing economic mythology.

Traditional economists, of both left and right, often act like religious fundamentalists, except that they believe in the power of money rather than of Jesus.

We badly need what has been called post-autistic economics or, to use a less loaded phrase, holistic economics, which is to say looking at these matters as part of the natural complexity of life rather than regarding them with the artificial simplicity of theory.

If we took such an approach we would discover some solutions just waiting around for someone to notice. For example, cities - stuck in what one time Madison WI mayor Paul Soglin called lemon socialism - could allow themselves - and not just banks and developers - to make money. Land that is presently sold to developers at bargain prices might be leased by the city or a city might launch a shared equity program for lower income homebuyers under which it would be an equity partner and enjoy a portion of the profits at sale.

Holistic economics would look at other things now ignored - such as a gross domestic product that included volunteer work, parents' work and even the drug trade. Corporate disasters such as oil spills would not add to such a revised domestic product.

Holistic economics would recognize that humans do many things for reasons other than money. It would integrate itself into values such as cooperation and community, tradition and religion.

Holistic economics would also tackle a topic no one seems to want to touch: what sort of system works best without destroying natural resources including air, land and water? What sort of system does not depend on masochistic exploitation of the earth it is meant to serve?

And how do we develop an economic system not based on population growth as a major force to expand markets?

You won't hear about this on Marketplace or read about it in the business section of the New York Times, but the issues won't go away just because we don't talk about them.



[Another in our series on important issues that are ignored or suppressed by the establishment including the media. We will eventually have a page devoted to this topic]

SOME YEARS AGO, your editor asked a transportation expert to name the best form of mass transit. Without hesitation he replied, "Stop people from moving around so much."

He was ahead of his time because even today the cost of mobility is played down in transportation planning, environmental discussions and urban design. For example, while contemporary urban planning gives some attention to things like walkability and access, the same cities will simultaneously be planning new mass transit or highway systems that will encourage people to live further away from where they need to go.

Similarly, there is much talk of gas mileage but not as much about gas use. Until recently, my wife and I had two cars, each 12 years old, that did not do all that well in gas mileage but which we drove about half the average annual mileage of an American car. Miles per year are at least as important as miles per gallon.

And there are a lot of issues that don't even make it to the table. Such as how do we redesign existing neighborhoods to allow more accessible community services such as used to exist - like the corner deli, convenience store or cleaners? Zoning and urban planning took many of these away from urban neighborhoods. How do we get them back? My own neighborhood - Capitol Hill in Washington - still has lots of these services. I can walk to two hardware stores, a car repair shop, farmer's market, post office and similar services.

And what about big box stores? How do you make them more accessible to mass transit? What incentives can be used to encourage this? And why not have shops inside subway stations and other insufficiently used locations?

Here are some other ways our excess mobility affects our environment:

UNIVERSITY COLLEGE LONDON, 2006 - A huge change in how we travel is desperately needed to halt a trend that will see the UK's air dangerously and irreversibly polluted within 15 years if left unchecked, according to a report by the UCL Bartlett School of Planning and the Halcrow Group, commissioned by the Department for Transport.

A change in the behavior of UK residents will have more impact on achieving the CO2 emission reduction required than advancements in technology, say the authors of the report

Two possible policy routes the DFT could take to reach a proposed 60% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2030 were tested by UCL and collaborators at the Halcrow Group. The first scenario focused on the impact of technological advances - including hybrid cars and alternative fuels - on lowering emissions. The second scenario considered changes in travel behavior - from government and businesses to changes in residents' lifestyles and travel patterns. This second scenario was far more effective.

"To move towards these behavioral changes in the UK," said Professor Banister, "we could expect heavy government investment in cycling and walking; lower speed limits and national road pricing (similar to the London congestion charge but on an environmental and emissions basis and implemented across the whole country); better public transport and less long distance travel, as well as new urban design to improve accessibility to local services and facilities."

The report recommends that the government puts emissions at the centre of its thinking, i.e. by encouraging less commuting and more working from home; by providing better local facilities so that trip lengths can be reduced, and by encouraging people to shift to public transport. . .

Technological change will work in parallel, so fuel-efficient vehicles and hybrid cars as well as alternative fuels, such as compressed natural gas, methanol, ethanol, biodiesel and electricity are suggested as possibilities.

Professor Banister said: "We don't believe that the hydrogen car, for example, will be widely available before 2030, so we don't factor it in to any of our calculations. . . One thing is for sure: technology won't take us all the way there by 2030 - strong action on behavioral change will be required as well".

NEWS, AUSTRALIA - Holidaymakers may be ruining their favourite destinations through pollution and greenhouse gases, making the tourism industry one of the world's worst polluters, experts say.

A flight to that pristine beach and a few nights in an air-conditioned hotel room, when repeated on the mass scale of modern tourism, is all it takes to put the holiday business on a polluting par with heavy industries.

"Tourism is unfortunately one of the vectors of (climate) change at the moment and contributes, through its excesses, to the process of global warming," World Tourism Organization director general Francesco Frangialli told an international conference on meteorology in Madrid this week.

In 2006, 842 million people took a holiday in a foreign country and 40 per cent of them flew to their destinations. That's 336 million people, or more than the population of the United States, taking trips which spew greenhouse gases that fuel global warming.

Total air transport still only accounts for two per cent of carbon dioxide, the principal greenhouse gas, in the atmosphere, but its contribution is growing and tourism is one of the driving forces behind rising passenger numbers, Mr Frangialli said. He said 1.1 billion tourists were expected to take trips abroad in 2010, and 1.6 billion by 2020. . .,23483,21426187-27977,00.html


Progressive Review editor Sam Smith and Pentagon whistleblower Ernie Fitzgerald have proposed a constitutional amendment to provide for an independent attorney general selected in an off-year election. The idea is to replace independent prosecutors with a permanent watchdog on the federal government -- someone who is not politically beholden to the president and cannot be removed by the president.

Ernie's proposal:

1. The Attorney General of the United States shall be elected to office in the same manner as the President and Vice President, and shall be subject to impeachment and removal in the same manner.

2. The first election of the Attorney General shall take place in the first odd-numbered year after ratification of this Amendment.

3. The Attorney General shall be elected for a term of six years and may not succeed himself in office.

4. The Attorney General shall be paid the same annual salary as the Vice President at the time of the Attorney General's election.

5. On the completion of each full six-year term the Attorney General shall receive a annual stipend for life of 20% of his or her annual pay while in office.

6. Upon entering office, the Attomey General shall take an oath to uphold the statutory laws and the Constitution of the United States as originally written and amended and to apply them equally to all parties without regard to special status or privilege.

7. Neither the Attorney General nor his subordinates nor any other government prosecutor shall intrude upon inquiries or deliberations of a grand jury without an invitation or subpoena from the grand jury.

8. All statements or declarations by government prosecutors regarding a case at law shall be considered under oath and subject to penalties for perjury and false statements generally, and all prosecutors shall be subject to cross-examination by defendants and jurors.

9. The guarantees of human rights for all natural persons and the limitations of government powers delegated by the people through the Constitution shall apply to the facts of each case within the jurisdiction of the United States or any of them without the prejudice of prior interpretations.

10. These same guarantees and limitations on government powers shall be honored by all triers of fact and law in all legal issues arising within the jurisdiction of the United States or any of them.

Sam's addition . . . .

I wouldn't mind having the AG elected by a preferential ballot and in a publicly funded campaign. . .