The Green Bad Deal

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The recently-proposed Green New Deal is proof that climate change is for progressive Democrats what terrorism is for neoconservative Republicans: a ready-made excuse to expand government and curtail liberty. This radical plan would authorize the US government to seize control of major sectors of the US economy, phase out gasoline-fueled cars, make buildings “energy efficient,” and even replace air travel with rail travel.

Supporters of the Green New Deal claim that the science regarding the risk of climate change is “settled.” However, the science is far from settled. Many of the claims regarding climate change have been debunked.

Some supporters of policies like the Green New Deal have actually supported criminalizing dissent from the so-called “settled” science of climate change. This reveals the authoritarianism of some people demanding Americans give up real liberty and prosperity because of phantom fears of impending environmental disaster.

Like all forms of socialism, the Green New Deal suffers from what Ludwig von Mises identified as the “calculation problem.” Knowledge of the most efficient use of resources is conveyed by prices set in a free market. Prices reflect individuals’ subjective preferences regarding the best use of resources. When government uses force to remove resources from the marketplace, it makes it impossible for the price system to function, leaving government officials and private citizens unable to determine the most efficient use of resources. That is why every attempt at government management of the economy inevitably reduces the people’s standard of living.

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has dismissed concerns regarding the almost 100 trillion dollars ten-year cost of implementing the Green New Deal by suggesting that Congress simply make the Federal Reserve pay for it by creating new money. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s claim is rooted in Modern Monetary Theory. This theory states that, when government controls the currency, it need not worry about running up large debt for welfare and war; it can have the central bank print more money to pay for more government.

Modern Monetary Theory is not modern. The Federal Reserve has facilitated the growth of government by printing money since its creation. It is no coincidence the birth of the Federal Reserve was immediately followed by the rise of the welfare-warfare state.

Whether done to monetize the federal debt or to jump-start economic growth, the Federal Reserve’s creation of new money harms the economy. In fact, Fed-induced distortions, caused by actions including money creation and interest rate manipulation, are the root cause of the boom-and-bust cycle that plagues the American economy. The Green New Deal would, in addition to its other negative impacts, hasten and deepen the inevitable Federal Reserve-caused economic crisis facing America. It would also increase the hidden and regressive inflation tax.

Ironically, the Green New Deal also would likely damage the environment. History shows that the most effective way to protect the environment is with a free-market economy that respects property rights. Therefore, those concerned with protecting the environment should support the free market, along with a legal system that holds private property owners accountable when their actions damage the environment or harm other individuals or their property.

Weaponizing the World Bank and IMF

This is a transcript of the full interview with PressTV for their Program “Economic Divide”, of which sections were aired in this broadcast – “U.S. military use of IMF, World Bank”

Background

Wikileaks revelation

The U.S. Army states that major global financial institutions — such as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) — are used as unconventional, financial “weapons in times of conflict up to and including large-scale general war,” as well as in leveraging “the policies and cooperation of state governments.”

PressTV: Are these so-called financial institutions guilty of that, and how do they do it? If so, this would point to the fact that these organizations are NOT independent.

Peter Koenig:  Let me start with the fact that indeed these organizations are not independent at all.

The World Bank and IMF are fully controlled by the US. The US has a de facto veto power, since it possesses about 17% of the votes, and it takes 85% to overrule the veto – impossible.

OECD is an organization of some 34 so-called industrialized countries, also dominated by the US and her mostly vassal states of the European Union, Canada, Australia, Japan, New Zealand — so of course, they are controlled by the US, or simply, the West.

You could add to these organizations also WTO – the World Trade Organization, also dominated by the US and Europe to the detriment of developing countries, especially since the latter are too weak in general to impose their trade conditions, or even simply get a fair deal.

And yes, these institutions, WB and IMF, can and have used in the past, financial means as “weapons” – for example, the World Bank’s use of structural type adjustment loans, or so-called “rescue packages” by the IMF – a glaring example is Greece, and lately Argentina. These loans come with strong austerity conditions attached, meaning privatization of public properties, of natural resources – all to the benefit of foreign corporations – and to the detriment of the countries and local populations concerned. At home, in Greece and Argentina – there are growing tariffs for all services, reduction of pensions, education and health services are being privatized and unemployment is rampant, leading to poverty.

In the case of Argentina, in 2015 in November, just a month before the neoliberal Macri was pushed in by Washington as Argentina’s new President – the Kirchner regimes were able to reduce poverty from close to 70% in 2001/2002, when Argentina’s economy collapsed, then also as a result of the IMF, they, the Kirchner Governments, managed to reduce it to about 14%. Today Argentina’s poverty rate is above 35% — and rising, especially with the largest ever IMF loan made in the history of the IMF, granted to Argentina late last year, of US$ 57 billion.

So yes, lending instruments of these organizations can and are being weaponized. Imagine, Argentinians cannot take it any longer and resort to a civil war — I don’t even want to think about it.

PressTV:  It is said the US is not only using this against Venezuela, but it has also exercised this on countries, like Ecuador and Argentina. Isn’t the sovereignty of these countries being violated, and aren’t the economic rights of its citizens also violated due to the actions of the government, like exercising austerity and budget cuts?

Peter Koenig:  Yes, very clearly the sovereignty of these nations is being violated. Not only that, interfering in another nations economic affair is an international crime. However, all international courts of justice in The Hague and elsewhere are bought by Washington. A recent statement by US Foreign Secretary Pompeo, couldn’t have been blunter; he threatened any judge of the ICC with sanctions or harsh actions, if they would dare pursue any US or Israeli citizens, adding that this would apply to other allies too.

The US has not used the IMF and the World Bank in Venezuela, simply because Venezuela under Chavez has exited both Institutions and they are not a member of OECD. However, they have used another – let’s say “money tool” to attempt bringing Venezuela to her knees – economic and financial sanctions. Sanctions can only be imposed to countries that are linked to the dollar-based western monetary system, that also includes the Euro and currencies in Canada, Australia NZ, Japan. But no longer Russia and China and much of the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization) countries.

Under this western system any monetary transaction has to go through a transfer scheme, called SWIFT, and it is automatically channeled through a US, usually Wall Street bank, in either New York or London. Therefore, every transaction is being subject to control and can be blocked and funds can even be confiscated. In the case of Venezuela, the US Government has practically confiscated US$ 35 billion in US banks, and through CITGO – the Venezuela gasoline corporation in the US, from whom profit and cash flows were blocked in US banks.

That’s how the US is punishing Venezuela for not giving it free reign to steal its natural resources, the largest known oil reserves in the world, and for being a socialist country.

On top of it, the US propaganda is such that the majority of the people around the world believe that Venezuela is mismanaged, is suffering from hunger and needs regime change. All of this is a flagrant lie. Fortunately, this is now changing, since about 60 nations, including China, Russia and India in the UN have expressed their disgust with this coercive US policy and stand firmly behind Venezuela – that means more than 50% of the world population supports the current, freely and fully democratically elected Venezuelan Government, headed by Nicolás Maduro.

But the US has used the IMF and the World Bank’s “Money Weapons” in Argentina and also to some extent on Ecuador. The case of Argentina I described earlier, and in an example of Ecuador, the government proposed a motion at the UN, preferring breast feeding over artificial milk, à la Nestlé. The US – followed by her European vassals – threatened Ecuador with trade sanctions, if they would not withdraw their motion – so, they did. And that’s only one example.

PressTV:  Another point of interest is that these financial weapons are largely governed by the National Security Council (NSC), which is currently headed by the US national security advisor John Bolton. The document notes that the NSC “has primary responsibility for the integration of the economic and military instruments of national power abroad.” John Bolton is an avid advocate of regime change, like in Iran: why has he been given these broad powers?

Peter Koenig: John Bolton has been known since the Bush Administration and even earlier as a ruthless character that finds hardly a match among the many ruthless politicians the US has in stock. So they let him lose because his pathological psychopathic behavior is intimidating to many countries.

First you bring down countries by intimidation, once that has been achieved, it is easier to put other coercive measures in place, like more sanctions, as in the case of Iran. And finally, if nothing works, they threaten and demonstrate US/NATO military intervention by putting the weapons at a country’s doorstep. Like in the case of Russia. However, I doubt very much that the US really intends to intervene militarily in Russia and Iran – or in Venezuela for that matter. There is too much at risk. Washington knows that the Russian modern missiles – that can fly at speeds in excess of 20 Mach – and the S-400 missile defense systems, are far superior to anything the US has in store.

In addition to a big-mouth, Bolton is a very good sable-rattler.

PressTV:  It appears that countries who counter US policies can be economically pressured in order to have financial assistance, and if they don’t walk Washington’s line, then these financial instruments can be used against them to bring about regime change: Is this an accurate scenario? Are many countries forced to be financially weak to then be subservient to the US?

Peter Koenig: Yes, this is a plausible scenario, especially in the case of a country that has natural resources, like oil, and especially, if the country does not have a corrupt leader that easily bends to the wishes of Washington. There are reasons invented to punish the country with “sanctions” – case in point is Iran – the negation of the Nuclear Deal for no good reason whatsoever, other than to weaken Iran’s economy – and once the country is weak enough, the IMF and WB come in and offer “help” in the form of bail-out loans, or structural adjustments as they were called in the 80’s and 90’s.

If the government falls for these loans – often the ministry of finance in such countries are infiltrated by “Fifth Columnists” or Atlantists – the IMF and World Bank come in with large loans, i.e. huge debt, that at the end leaves the country totally enslaved to the masters of Washington – ready for privatization of all public goods, natural resources. – Iran has a lot of oil and gas – and other resources.

If that doesn’t work, the Fifth Columnists create civil unrest in the hope of bringing about regime change – which then would allow Washington to put in a puppet regime and come in to steal what it wants to steal, and control a country’s strategic position – like in the case of Iran. So, Iran beware. – I think Iran is fully aware of the game – and the departure of Iran’s Foreign Minister, Mr. Javad Zarif, may just be the beginning.

Trump’s Stance on the Golan will allow Israel to Operate with Impunity Elsewhere

When President Donald Trump moved the US embassy to occupied Jerusalem last year, effectively sabotaging any hope of establishing a viable Palestinian state, he tore up the international rulebook.

Last week, he trampled all over its remaining tattered pages. He did so, of course, via Twitter.

Referring to a large piece of territory Israel seized from Syria in 1967, Mr Trump wrote: “After 52 years it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel’s Sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which is of critical strategic and security importance to the State of Israel and Regional Stability.”

Israel expelled 130,000 Syrians from the Golan Heights in 1967, under cover of the Six Day War, and then annexed the territory 14 years later – in violation of international law. A small population of Syrian Druze are the only survivors of that ethnic cleansing operation.

Replicating its illegal acts in the occupied Palestinian territories, Israel immediately moved Jewish settlers and businesses into the Golan.

Until now, no country had recognised Israel’s act of plunder. In 1981, UN member states, including the US, declared Israeli efforts to change the Golan’s status “null and void”.

But in recent months, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu began stepping up efforts to smash that long-standing consensus and win over the world’s only superpower to his side.

He was spurred into action when Bashar Al Assad – aided by Russia – began to decisively reverse the territorial losses the Syrian government had suffered during the nation’s eight-year war.

The fighting dragged in a host of other actors. Israel itself used the Golan as a base from which to launch covert operations to help Mr Assad’s opponents in southern Syria, including Islamic State fighters. Iran and the Lebanese militia Hezbollah, meanwhile, tried to limit Israel’s room for manoeuvre on the Syrian leader’s behalf.

Iran’s presence close by was how Mr Netanyahu publicly justified the need for Israel to take permanent possession of the Golan, calling it a vital buffer against Iranian efforts to “use Syria as a platform to destroy Israel”.

Before that, when Mr Assad was losing ground to his enemies, the Israeli leader made a different case. Then, he argued that Syria was breaking apart and its president would never be in a position to reclaim the Golan.

Mr Netanyahu’s current rationalisation is no more persuasive than the earlier one. Russia and the United Nations are already well advanced on re-establishing a demilitarised zone on the Syrian side of the separation-of-forces line. That would ensure Iran could not deploy close to the Golan Heights.

Mr Netanyahu is set to meet Mr Trump in Washington on Monday, when the president’s tweet will reportedly be converted into an executive order.

The timing is significant. This is another crude attempt by Mr Trump to meddle in Israel’s election, due on April 9. It will provide Mr Netanyahu with a massive fillip as he struggles against corruption indictments and a credible threat from a rival party, Blue and White, headed by former army generals.

Mr Netanyahu could barely contain his glee, reportedly calling Mr Trump to tell him: “You made history!”

But, in truth, this was no caprice. Israel and Washington have been heading in this direction for a while.

In Israel, there is cross-party support for keeping the Golan.

Michael Oren, a former Israeli ambassador to the US and a confidant of Mr Netanyahu’s, formally launched a plan last year to quadruple the size of the Golan’s settler population, to 100,000, within a decade.

The US State Department offered its apparent seal of approval last month when it included the Golan Heights for the first time in the “Israel” section of its annual human rights report.

This month, senior Republican senator Lindsey Graham made a very public tour of the Golan in an Israeli military helicopter, alongside Mr Netanyahu and David Friedman, Mr Trump’s ambassador to Israel. Mr Graham said he and fellow senator Ted Cruz would lobby the US president to change the territory’s status.

Mr Trump, meanwhile, has made no secret of his disdain for international law. This month, his officials barred entry to the US to staff from the International Criminal Court, based in The Hague, who are investigating US war crimes in Afghanistan.

The ICC has made enemies of both Washington and Israel in its initial, and meagre, attempts to hold the two to account.

Whatever Mr Netanyahu’s spin about the need to avert an Iranian threat, Israel has other, more concrete reasons for holding on to the Golan.

The territory is rich in water sources and provides Israel with decisive control over the Sea of Galilee, a large freshwater lake that is crucially important in a region facing ever greater water shortages.

The 1,200 square kilometres of stolen land is being aggressively exploited, from burgeoning vineyards and apple orchards to a tourism industry that, in winter, includes the snow-covered slopes of Mount Hermon.

As noted by Who Profits, an Israeli human rights organisation, in a report this month, Israeli and US companies are also setting up commercial wind farms to sell electricity.

And Israel has been quietly co-operating with US energy giant Genie to explore potentially large oil reserves under the Golan. Mr Trump’s adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has family investments in Genie. But extracting the oil will be difficult, unless Israel can plausibly argue that it has sovereignty over the territory.

For decades the US had regularly arm-twisted Israel to enter a mix of public and back-channel peace talks with Syria. Just three years ago, Barack Obama supported a UN Security Council rebuke to Mr Netanyahu for stating that Israel would never relinquish the Golan.

Now Mr Trump has given a green light for Israel to hold on to it permanently.

But, whatever he says, the decision will not bring security for Israel, or regional stability. In fact, it makes a nonsense of Mr Trump’s “deal of the century” – a regional peace plan to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that, according to rumour, may be unveiled soon after the Israeli election.

Instead, US recognition will prove a boon for the Israeli right, which has been clamouring to annex vast areas of the West Bank and thereby drive a final nail into the coffin of the two-state solution.

Israel’s right can now plausibly argue: “If Mr Trump has consented to our illegal seizure of the Golan, why not also our theft of the West Bank?”

• First published in The National

Saddamizing al-Assad

Donald Trump’s first action upon assuming the Presidential throne of the United States involved the re-location of a bust of Winston Churchill back into the Oval Office. Originally given to President Bush the Second in July, 2001, Churchill’s bust was removed by Barack Obama (January, 2009) in favor of a bust of Martin Luther King. If the symbolism in all of this changing of the bust business were a pinball machine, then lights and buzzers would be flashing and dinging like crazy!

Churchill, of course, like Dr. King, was well known for his rhetorical flourishes. Given recent events, I offer this extended Churchillian gem, a War Office Minute recorded on May 12, 1919, when Churchill was both Secretary of State for War and Secretary of State for Air, for your consideration.

I do not understand this squeamishness about the use of gas. We have definitely adopted the position at the Peace Conference (Versailles) of arguing in favor of the retention of gas as a permanent method of warfare. It is sheer affectation to lacerate a man with the poisonous fragments of a bursting shell and to boggle at making his eyes water by means of lachrymatory gas. I am strongly in favor of using poisoned gas against uncivilized tribes. The moral effect should be so good that the loss of life should be reduced to a minimum. It is not necessary to use only the most deadly gasses: gasses can be used which cause great inconvenience and would spread a lively terror and yet have no serious permanent effects on most of those affected.

Yes, that’s vintage Versailles-era Churchill promoting the “moral effect” of chemical weapons, with an eye to quelling the contentious “tribes” of soon-to-be British Mandate Iraq. Fast forward one century later, and the use of “poisoned gas” is back in the news, in connection with the Syrian conflict. In particular, the Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad, who does not possess a Churchill bust as far as we know, once again stands accused of using weaponized gas to attack his own citizens. A chorus of Western leaders chants “Gas! Gas! Gas!” at al-Assad, because Winston Churchill did not get his wish, since gas warfare has been considered illegal for almost a century, despite the former British Prime Minister’s obviously logical argument for it. Might as well ban War altogether! Except that, War is still entirely legal—only certain modes of warfare are not, such as chemical weapons.

In the meantime, Syrian President al-Assad flatly denies these allegations, blaming instead the rebel factions that are trying—at the moment unsuccessfully—to topple his regime. These rebel groups, whom Assad labels “terrorists,” include ISIS and al-Nusra, an al-Qaeda affiliated militia or mercenary formation. In fact, despite President Trump’s inaugural cruise missile strike on a Syrian airbase, no one knows who perpetrated the sarin gas attack on the village of Khan Sheikoun in April, 2017.

We do know, however, that 30 years ago the Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein gassed between 3,000 and 5,000 Kurds to death in a town called Halabja, in Kurdish Iraq. That was March 16,1988, part of an anti-Kurdish campaign known as al-Anfal. In the face of universal condemnation, the Reagan Administration stood behind Saddam, shielding his regime from sanctions. There were even some fuzzy reports at the time that pinned the chemical blame on Iran, against whom Saddam had been waging a Kuwaiti, Saudi, and American assisted war since September of 1980. Indeed, those reports were ‘fuzzy’ because Saddam’s forces had been attacking the Iranians with chemical weapons since 1983, a fact entirely known to the Reagan Administration

Interestingly enough, when Saddam went rogue and invaded Kuwait in August of 1990, the first Bush Administration absolutely Hitlerized Saddam for his use of “poisoned gas” during the previous decade. Talk about policy pivots! Thus it came to pass that the useful genocidal tool Saddam became the useful genocidal villain Saddam. Ultimately, Saddam Hussein’s use of chemical weapons became a major pretext for launching the Second Crusade against Iraq in 2003.

And now, we have “gas” in Syria, which has been floated as a “red line” since the Obama Administration. The United States, it should be noted, has no direct interest, or stake, in Syria. Nevertheless, we have conducted thousands of airstrikes in Syria since August of 2014, despite having no policy to accessorize our bombing campaign in that war-torn, Middle Eastern nation.

So far, Bashar al-Assad has not quite fit the neatly tailored line of villains used to sell undeclared wars to American taxpayers the last 30 years. This line includes: Manuel Noriega, Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, and, most recently, Moammar Qaddafi.

As of this reporting, the “Saddamizing” of Syria’s al-Assad remains incomplete; the portrait of Assad as another neo-Hitler, unfinished. Until then, we may not have a Syrian Policy beyond “Bombs Away!”, but at least we can rest assured that Winston Churchill’s bust is back in the Oval Office, symbolizing the continuing spread of a “lively terror” throughout the Middle East.

Addendum:  Nota bene. Currently, yet another American Regime is playing the demonization game, this time with Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro as the “Devil with the Red Dress on.” It is worth noting, in this connection, that the MLK bust in Obama’s Oval Office did not engender a foreign policy even remotely reflective of Dr. King’s worldview, as Obama Administration regime change operations in Honduras (2009), Libya (2011), and the stalled-out Syrian intervention, certainly attest. Indeed, it was Obama’s 2015 characterization of Venezuela as a “national security threat” that set the stage for the Trumpistanis’ would-be Bushwhacking of Venezuelan democracy, just as President Clinton laid the groundwork for the unusually disastrous invasion of Iraq in 2003 by declaring “regime change” the official U.S. policy towards Iraq on Halloween, 1998 (in other words, Clinton let Al-Qaeda and the Neo-Cons — a very bad jazz band — in.). The American Regime names change, yet they keep playing the same tune, which perhaps only proves the old adage that absolute power is absolutely tone deaf.

However that may be, it should be emphasized that the Regime Changelings’ coup has not succeeded in Venezuela. Maduro, the former bus driver, has refused to be thrown under the bus by the unlawful firm of Pence, Pompeo, Bolton, and Rubio; their hand-picked usurper, Juan Guaido (“I’m a puppy, not a puppet!”), has failed to win Venezuelan hearts and minds. In Venezuela, it could very well be that we are witnessing a decisive break in the Regime Change tide.

From Kabul to Okinawa, the Outrageous Abolition of War

Inaam (left), Habib (right) and I (photographer) sharing a good laugh at the Borderfree Nonviolence Community Centre in Kabul

I decided to write this ninth love letter specially to Inaam, the 21st century generations of the world and the people of Okinawa because of three personal reasons.

I miss having the wonderful energies of 15-year-old Inaam at the Borderfree Nonviolence Community Centre. Inaam has to polish boots in the streets of Kabul to supplement his family’s income and to survive today’s terrible economic system.

I also wish that the vision and work of abolishing war had been “attractive” enough to keep Inaam in the Abolish War Team beyond three weeks. Inaam, born at the turn of the 21st century, deserves to live in world without war.

I write to the courageous and kind Okinawans because though Japanese soldiers killed my grandfather in World War II, the people of Okinawa and Japan are healing my father through their nonviolent resistance.

*****

Dear Inaam, the 21st century generations of the world and the people of Okinawa,

You’re only fifteen, and I’m almost fifty.

I wish I didn’t hear you say to me, “Hakim, I think that war will never be abolished.” Have we greedy adults made it so very difficult for you to picture a humanity without war?

I know that deep down inside, you want war to disappear forever. I can see this wish on your face in the photo I took in 2015, for the Afghan Peace Volunteer’s #Enough! War campaign.

Inaam in 2015 (second from left) saying no to war

In 1945, the UN Charter had committed to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind”.

I’m sorry that the UN and our human family have continued to inflict on you “untold sorrow”.

But I believe in you and your generation! 16-year-old Swedish student Greta Thurnberg is your peer, and she demonstrated the same wisdom you have when she said:

Today we use 100 million barrels of oil every day. There are no politics to change that. There are no rules to keep that oil in the ground, so we can’t save the world by playing by the rules because the rules have to change. Everything needs to change and it has to start today.

I wish Greta had said this about the obsolete and ineffective method of war too, but she didn’t.

There is no politician currently in office who has proposed laws to ban war. I had hoped that Bernie Sanders in the US and Jeremy Corbyn in the UK would, but they haven’t.

With your reason and compassion, you see through all the current peace negotiators of the Afghan conflict: beneath their emperor’s clothes, you see that they are naked war executioners.

When the world imagines that these peace negotiators/war executioners will negotiate for genuine peace, the world is fantasizing that the US military-christened Hellfire missiles, costing about US$58,000 each, or the extremists’ opposing suicide bombing vests, costing much less, can usher heaven into Afghanistan.

Even if you could cast an under-age vote in this July’s scheduled Afghan Presidential elections, none of the 18 candidates will abolish war. Yes, to gain votes, they will all parrot the rhetoric that they wish to end the Afghan war, but none of them will abolish the method of war.

It was only years after his political career, in 2017, that former President of USSR Mikhail Gorbachev wrote:

In modern world, wars must be outlawed, because none of the global problems we are facing can be resolved by war — not poverty, nor the environment, migration, population growth, or shortages of resources.

Gorbachev understands the real political risk of humankind annihilating herself through nuclear warfare.

Inaam, as a war child, you understand by experience that there are also no politics today to abolish war. Together with the Gretas and youth of the world, build the necessary new politics.

You’ve seen how the Afghan Peace Volunteers are organized without a Director, so if the new politics needs to be one without a President, a CEO or a Prime Minister, go for it! And, don’t worry about all the various mis-used and bombastic political terms. Go for nonviolent liberty, equality and fraternity. As the late French diplomat Stephane Hessel wrote about nonviolent resistance when he was 93:  “Indignez vous. Time for Outrage!

Also, to practice magnanimity through life, you and I must exercise timeless patience while working our butts off.

I mean, it was way back in the 1930s that British engineer Guy Stewart Callendar calculated that a doubling of CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere could warm the Earth by 2 degrees Celsius. It has taken 90 years to reach today’s level of climate activism, and despite this, we still have people like Trump who denies climate change.

Or like with the abolition of slavery. The Qin Dynasty of China abolished slavery in 221 BC and Pope Paul III forbade slavery of the indigenous peoples of the Americas in 1537. Niger made slavery a crime only in 2003! So, the human family’s struggle against slavery took more than 2000 years, and even today, modern slavery still exists, like with the child brick-layers of Afghanistan.

History’s gradual but seismic changes happened when different individuals and societies took decisive actions at different times and ages. We can each be those channels of change: get the scientific results of war out there, use your shrill and growing voice, demand for laws to ban war, divest from the military industrial complex, don’t join the military corporations, persuade your soldier-brother to be a conscientious objector, prohibit all weapons, make military generals very unpopular just as the CUNY undergraduates did, refuse to cooperate for war like some Google and Microsoft staff did, replace every war method with a thousand nonviolent methods, turn soldiers into pacifist mediators…

All these are revolutionary acts of love; you’re already familiar with the Dari phrase, “ در کار خیر پیش دستی کردن- dar kaar khair pesh dasti kardan”, which means “For charitable work, set your hands to work quickly!”

Am I asking too much of the 15-year-old you?

You see, I want so much for you to have a meaningful and gorgeous life, and to have enough friends, friends even with those considered “enemies”.

My father had considered my Japanese friend Eitaro Oka an “enemy”, because Japanese soldiers who had occupied Singapore in 1942 killed his father. It was World War II.

But, when Eitaro visited me in Singapore years ago, my father and mother hosted him. The first thing Eitaro said to my father was, “I want to ask you for forgiveness, for the killing of your father.” My father inspired me with his reply, “You were not the one who killed my father. Please enjoy the meal, a special Singaporean dish called Hainanese Chicken Rice prepared by my wife.”

Eitaro (centre) with my parents in Singapore

When I joined a group of Japanese peace activists in Okinawa three years ago, an elderly Japanese monk stood before officials in the local office of Japan’s Ministry of Defense, and asked me for forgiveness! He pleaded against the presence of US military bases in Okinawa. This kind monk had covered his bald head with the Borderfree Blue Scarf of the Afghan Peace Volunteers!

The kind monk (left, standing) and Yuichi (centre, standing) with other Japanese activists in an office of Okinawa’s Ministry of Defense.

Many young Japanese like Yuchi, Sara and Kamoshita are resisting the re-militarization of Japan. Their current Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, is regrettably addicted to military prowess, and wants to amend the Japanese constitution to enable the re-establishment of a Japanese army. Shinzo is a human being who is sold-out to money and power, and not very sound, as he has even nominated US President Trump for the Nobel Peace Prize!

Sara, Yuichi and Kamoshita ( first, second and third from right) with other activists

Kamoshita and Sara had wanted to visit us in Kabul this winter, but Kamoshita emailed me, I am sorry to late reply. I can’t travel to Afghanistan this time. I couldn’t persuade my family…They worry me to go.”

Not only are Japanese activists working to abolish war. Many ordinary Japanese are resisting the heavy killer machinery too.

In fact, in a February 2019 referendum, 72% of Okinawan voters opposed the construction of a new US military base to replace an existing one.  Most Okinawans don’t want US military bases on their peaceful and beautiful island.

You’ll also be encouraged to know that Masoma, Habib and new members of the Afghan Peace Volunteers had sent Msent Kamoshita, Sara and Okinawans a video message of solidarity.

Ordinary Japanese link hands in protest, at the gate of a US military base in Okinawa (insert) New Afghan Peace Volunteers link hands in solidarity with Okinawans, saying, “No to US military bases in Okinawa and Afghanistan!”

So, dear Inaam, remember how you told me that the current education system is not teaching you anything useful? You’re right. I’m sure that you can educate yourself better than the schools, especially in the knowledge, values and skills needed to build a better world.

We have on many occasions talked about true education: thinking and feeling deeply, freeing ourselves from the control of money, questioning all power, changing the culture of war within us. In relational learning, we connect all the dots and love like everyone and everything in the world is related.

Our lives are brief, but as long as I have opportunity, I’ll walk with you.

Baa mihr  با مهر( With love ) !

Hakim

US and Puppet Guaido Implicated in Terrorism Plot Against Venezuela PLOT

The US coup with the self-proclaimed Venezuelan puppet president Juan Guaidó has been failing. Right-wing Latin American countries and the European Union, while willing to go along with the charade farce president, have not been willing to take military action against Venezuela.

This week the US was caught seeking to create violent chaos with imported mercenaries disguised as Venezuelan military, funded by assets seized from Venezuela as part of the US economic war. Telesur reports the government unveiled telephone conversations and other evidence between leaders of the right planning violence against the country that came from a Guaidó aide.

Earlier this week Guaido’s ‘chief of staff,’ Roberto Marrero was arrested along with his bodyguard. In announcing the arrest, Minister of Interior Justice and Peace Nestor Reverol said that Venezuela had dismantled a “terrorist cell” that planned to attack and destabilize Venezuela. As a result of that arrest evidence has been uncovered about a terror campaign planned against Venezuela.

The arrest uncovered new evidence about the terror campaign planned by the US and the Venezuelan opposition. Mission Verdad reports on a press conference by Jorge Rodríguez, Minister of Communication and Information which described how the arrest of Marrero led to the discovery of widespread terrorist plans. The new evidence points to a plot funded by assets seized by the United States from Venezuela and channeled into bank accounts through Colombia.

Reporting on the Rodríguez press conference, Mission Verdad describes how eight to ten teams of assassins were being brought to Venezuela from Nicaragua, Honduras and El Salvador and being trained in Colombia to carry out terrorist acts in Venezuela. They planned selective assassinations of high-profile figures of the Venezuelan State and attacks on the country’s public services. Half these groups had entered the country, while others were blocked by the shutdown of the borders over the phony attempt to deliver humanitarian aid.

The objectives of the terrorist plot were shown in a slide by Jorge Rodríguez. Mission Verdad reports the slide described how Operation Libertad (or Operation Freedom) planned:

  • Selective killings of government officials
  • New sabotage to the Caracas Metro, the Cable Car and the electric service
  • False-positive operations or false flags by people disguised as military deserters
  • A general strike, an assault on Miraflores and terrorist actions such as the assassination of President Maduro

The mercenary teams planned to conduct their terrorist acts disguised as deserters of the Bolivarian National Armed Forces to portray them as “military deserters.”  They sought to show a non-existent conflict between the Venezuelan military and the legitimately elected government.

They also report that among the material seized from Marrero were cell phones that allowed investigators access to conversations, which showed $500,000 and $700,000 being spent per day to pay these assassins and to bribe members of the military to desert and join them. The money was deposited by NGOs created in January and February in accounts of Banesco and Bank of America by the government of Iván Duque after a request from Juan Guaidó. The communications indicate the funds came from money seized from Venezuelan companies by the United States. The money stolen from Venezuela that would be used to finance this operation would amount to $1 billion.

To add further to the hypocrisy of the United States, the Department of the Treasury sanctioned the Economic and Social Development Bank of Venezuela when Guaidó’s terrorist aide was arrested on suspicion of terrorism.

Mission Verdad reports Guaidó himself and right-wing leader, Leopoldo Lopez, who is under house arrest for previous violence, were implicated, writing, “On Marrero’s phone, conversations were also found in a group called ‘the General Staff,’ made up of members of the Voluntad Popular party. Among them, Leopoldo López is identified, in charge of his leadership; Freddy Guevara, in charge of advising on the discursive line of Guaidó; Marrero, the deputies Freddy Superlano and Sergio Vergara, and Juan Guaidó himself.”

Guaidó has described “Operation Freedom” which is consistent with these plans. Freddy Guevara describes how the operation is moving “from a strategy of siege to one of assault” with selective assassinations and attacks against public services. This is all consistent with Guaidó’s comments at a rally on March 22 in El Tigre, Anzoátegui state, where he said: “Venezuelans do not beg for our rights, so soon we are going together to Miraflores to rescue the office of all Venezuelans,” and told his followers “we must organize because the dictator will not go out kindly.”

In a speech at the Mobilization for Peace outside of the Miraflores Palace on Saturday, President Maduro described how the country is facing “the strongest imperialist aggressions that the Republic has ever survived in 200 years.” Maduro said the people continue to be “the greatest guarantee of peace, democracy, and sovereignty of the Fatherland” against the attacks perpetrated by the Venezuelan right-wing and the US. Regarding the plans of the terrorist cell described in the article below, he assured the people: “We are going to capture them and hand them over to Justice.”

The long-time US effort to put in place a US friendly government in Venezuela is reaching new aggressiveness and violence under the Trump administration led by National Security Advisor John Bolton, Special Assistant Elliot Abrams and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. President Trump has openly called for military action since August 2017. Those opposed to US intervention in Venezuela will be holding a mass protest at the White House on August 30 to kick-of a week of action against NATO and the war against Venezuela.

The Faculty of Divinity, Cambridge and Approved Ideas

He has sent so many cliques and groups into titters of anger, and the indignant have attempted to turn on him. The university environment should be the last place where dangerous ideas, and views, are stifled and stomped upon. In actual fact, we are seeing the reverse; from students unions to middle- and upper-managerial parasites and administrators, the contrarian idea must be boxed, the controversial speaker silenced and sent beyond the pale. Dissent and disagreement are lethal toxin to such affected notions as “diversity” and “inclusiveness”.

It should be very clear that meaningless terms such as diversity and inclusiveness do very little to the content of actual intellectual conversation. Ideas are there to be debated, not accepted by high caste strictures. The modern academic environment suggests something quite opposite: a policing rationale, an insistence on thought control that is insidious and all too common in managed structures. When incorporated into the university structure, the bureaucrat takes precedence over the intellectual, the mindless cherry picker over the polymath. The more ideas you have, the more of a threat you will be, requiring regulation and the occasional ostracising. In broader public spaces, this may even require you losing a platform altogether.

Which leads us, then, to Jordan Peterson, agent provocateur and psychology professor at University of Toronto who was led to believe that he would be taking up residence for two months at the Faculty of Divinity in Cambridge University in Michaelmas Term. In a statement to the Cambridge student newspaper, Varsity, a University spokesperson confirmed “that Jordan Peterson requested a visiting fellowship, and an initial offer has been rescinded after a further review.”

In a bitter irony that should have been apparent, the Canadian academic had his invitation rescinded in the name of “inclusiveness”, a baffling justification given its very opposite interpretation. In a statement to the Guardian, the University spokesman proclaimed Cambridge “an inclusive environment and we expect all our staff and visitors to uphold our principles. There is no place here for anyone who cannot”. Now there speaks the virtue of an intolerant tolerance.

Left hanging with menacing dullness is the entire lack of precision as to what those politburo designated principles are. Even more to the point, the Faculty of Divinity is left looking buffoonish having first extended an invitation in the first place, presumably because it was in the spirit of the University’s values. Those values, in turn, must have been flipped in an act of feeble mind changing.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission’s guide on Freedom of Expression for higher education providers and students’ unions in England and Wales is instructive here. It notes section 43 of the Education (No 2) Act 1986, which places a legal duty on universities and Higher Education Providers more broadly to take “reasonably practicable” steps to protect freedom of speech within the law for their members, students, employees and visiting speakers.

There is no “right” for any group or speaker to speak to students at Student Unions or HEP premises. But once a speaker has been invited to speak at any meeting or event, he or she “should not be stopped from doing so unless they are likely to express unlawful speech or their attendance would lead the host organisation to breach other legal obligations and no reasonably practicable steps can be taken to reduce these risks.”

As Peterson tetchily noted, he not only requested a visiting fellowship at the Faculty of Divinity but been extended an invitation. “You bloody virtue-signalling cowards,” he tweeted. He also deemed the Faculty of Divinity’s publicity on the issue misrepresentative, having “not equally” publicised “the initial agreement/invitation” while giving the impression that he had gone “cap-in-hand to the school for the fellowship.”

So what is it about Peterson that could possibly fall within those extreme instances? Causing offense, perhaps, but certainly nothing illegal or criminal. He had, after all, visited Cambridge last November during the course of a book tour. He spoke at the Corn Exchange. He met faculty staff members. He also recorded videos and podcasts with the noted philosopher and Cambridge don Sir Roger Scruton, presented at the Cambridge Centre for the Study of Platonism and Stephen Blackwood, founding President of Ralston College. But perhaps most importantly, he was invited to address the venerable, and student-run Cambridge Union to a packed house.

The Cambridge University Student Union had a different take. They were “relieved” at the rescinding of the offer. “It is a political act to associate the University with an academic’s work through offers which legitimise figures such as Peterson. His work and views are not representative of the student body and as such we do not see his visit as a valuable contribution to the University, but as one that works in opposition to the principles of the University.”

The statement is riddled with daft, anti-intellectual claptrap. It is stingingly parochial. It is also dangerous. The only “political act” in this entire affair is one affirming that a speaker with certain views associated or otherwise with the student body cannot take up residence to discuss views that are not approved by prior screening. The CUSU has taken it upon itself to deliberate over what a “valuable contribution” from an academic might look like, suggesting that it already has a set of acceptable, stock ideas that are beyond challenge. The statement is also vacuous on one fundamental point: to merely allow someone to debate a position is to legitimise him (note – not even the idea, but the person), a position presuming that an attempt at understanding is the same as approval.

Varsity has gone through the supposedly precarious resume that is Peterson’s: his opposition to an anti-discrimination bill adding gender identity to the Canadian Human Rights Code in 2016 as an infringement of free speech; his refusal to use any gender neutral pronoun; his claimed defence of white privilege and masculinity. Even this laundry list is hardly a credible basis for denying him a place to engage in debate; if anything, those card carrying CUSU members, not to mention Faculty staff, might wish to engage and confront Peterson in gladiatorial bouts of the mind. But not so; far easier to pull the platform away, and simply claim to know the whole truth.

Instead of showing the very resilience that should be encouraged in thinking, the opposite is being fostered by such decisions. An enfeebled student and academic community is being encouraged, because it is free of controversy and packed with acceptable behavioural norms. The latter is distinctly geared towards a beastly toadyism at universities, where students prefer to attack certain contrarian ideas rather than the very class that detests them: university management.

When brands are being advertised, names promoted, thoughts only count in a bland, inoffensive sense. The sweet is preferred over the bitter; the discomforting eschewed in favour of Aldous Huxley’s pneumatic chair. Any complement of controversial ideas must be approved of in advance. Given that Peterson has no interest in complying with this diktat, he has become, inadvertently to many, a torch for intellectual freedom. Attempting to shut, and shutdown the man, is mere confirmation of many of his claims, even if you disagree with a good number of them.

  • Related reads: “The Utility of Jordan Peterson’s Digressions” Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5, and Part 6.
  • The Matrix: 20 Years Later

    “Unfortunately, no one can be told what the Matrix is.  You have to see it for yourself.”

    Those words were first spoken twenty years ago and sent people flocking to movie theaters to find out just what the Matrix was.  When The Matrix came out, I was going through a phase of spiritual exploration, with a particular focus on Gnosticism, so the premise that reality is a dream controlled by malevolent forces resonated with me at the time.  Although the number of essays and books written about the movie and its implications has waned over the years, the imprint left by The Matrix on pop culture remains to this day.

    Despite the adoption of the term “red pill” by conservatives and various elements of conspiracy culture (proving once again that the Right continues to steal imagery from the Left), The Matrix is a very anti-capitalist movie as shown by its literal use of human resources, a theme the Wachowskis would revisit in their later movie Jupiter Ascending.

    “The Matrix is a system, Neo. That system is our enemy. But when you’re inside, you look around, what do you see? Businessmen, teachers, lawyers, carpenters. The very minds of the people we are trying to save. But until we do, these people are still a part of that system, and that makes them our enemy. You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inured, so hopelessly dependent on the system, that they will fight to protect it.”

    These words spoken by Morpheus could easily be spoken by any anarchist on the street today.  But to paraphrase Slavoj Žižek, The Matrix functions as a Rorschach test that allows everyone to read their own “-ism” into the movie.  This philosophical ground has been covered before by people with more letters after their names than me.

    In the succeeding two decades, we may have replaced minidisks with flash drives, and those cool sliding phones with rather boring-looking smartphones, but we have constructed our own Matrix. It is not as all-encompassing or as sophisticated as the one in the movie, but it is there.

    This is a world we started building long before The Matrix came out, but with the advances of technology, it seems to have accelerated.  We now have social media which engineers have admitted is designed to be addictive.  Who needs a jack in the head when one has a smartphone and an internet connection?  We have the people “inured to the system and not ready to be unplugged” as shown by studies where people cannot give up their phones for even a few hours without profound anxiety often called nomophobia.  We even have the term FOMO (fear of missing out) which is really just a fancier term for loss aversion, the fear of being disconnected in our over-connected world.  No one wants to face the Desert of the Real.

    And this is one of the central themes of The Matrix: alienation.  In the movie, human beings are alienated from the (destroyed) natural world and from each other, contained in their own individual pods.  In our own world we are in a world plagued by climate destabilization and the profound social alienation of modern life.  While people are more connected than ever before, for many, close personal ties are simulated, in that they can add someone to a friends list and like their posts, but never actually meet and talk to them.

    “You’ve felt it your entire life, that there’s something wrong with the world. You don’t know what it is, but it’s there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad.”

    Many people see there is something wrong with the world, but the reactions are different.  In the world of the mainstream, where Republicans and Democrats squabble with each other, but deny there is anything actually wrong at all.  They go on with their lives downloading images and thought-forms from mass media and wake up in their beds to believe whatever they want to believe.

    Then there are the authoritarians and would-be fascists who acknowledge that there is something wrong, but like the character of Cypher, are only concerned with using it to leverage their own power and position within the system.

    The final faction, the anarchists, dissenters, and outcasts of all types, those who were forced into the Desert of the Real for various reasons (poverty, proscribed identity, and so forth).  They all see there is something wrong with the world.  Some try to fight against it, but many are simply seeking out their own Zion, a place to be free of the controls of the system.  These are the people who cannot be assimilated to this world of perceptions.

    In the sequels Reloaded and Revolutions, it is revealed that the Matrix has a failsafe, the Architect’s plan with other iterations of the One and the continued destruction and rebuilding of Zion.  Our own Matrix has its own failsafes, among them a strong emphasis on conformity, and the ability to pass off its systemic flaws as individual failings.  And it has its own Agents, that we often call the police, but is really just the power of the State.  Our surveillance systems are not as omniscient as the Matrix, they are becoming more ubiquitous and allow for the rapid deployment of Agents to quash any form of descent.

    And yet the problem does not go away, for the Machines in The Matrix nor in our world.  The Machines have to continually destroy and rebuild Zion, while our world system has yet to figure out what do with all those that do not accept it.  And this is our opportunity.  For all of its dystopianism, The Matrix ends on a note of hope that still resonates to this day.

    “I know you’re out there. I can feel you now. I know that you’re afraid… you’re afraid of us. You’re afraid of change. I don’t know the future. I didn’t come here to tell you how this is going to end. I came here to tell you how it’s going to begin. I’m going to hang up this phone, and then I’m going to show these people what you don’t want them to see. I’m going to show them a world without you. A world without rules and controls, without borders or boundaries. A world where anything is possible. Where we go from there is a choice I leave to you.”

    We still have a choice of where we want to go, it is not an easy choice and many would rather take the blue pill and check their social media feed.  But if enough of us walk away, and are willing to face the Desert of the Real, we can have that world.  A world without rules and controls, borders and boundaries.  Unlike in the movie, we cannot let the system decide.  This choice is up to us.

    Reining in the Yemen Conflict: The US Congress and War Making Powers

    We keep hearing it.  Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is firm on the view that the Yemen conflict should conclude. “We all want this conflict to end,” he never tires of saying. “We all want to improve the dire humanitarian situation.”  Then comes the nub, poking, irritating and undeniable: “But the Trump administration fundamentally disagrees that curbing assistance to the Saudi-led coalition is the way to achieve these goals.”

    The Yemenis might be suffering and heading to oblivion, but the issue of resolving the conflict was not to handicap the Saudi-led coalition.  Certain allies need succour and encouragement.  To that end, the US would continue to give “the Saudi-led coalition the support needed to defeat Iranian backed rebels and ensure a just peace.”  Such an attitude sits poorly in the humanitarian stakes, given that US assistance to the Saudi and Emirati aerial campaign has been indispensable in targeting civilian objects (schools, funerals, weddings, water treatment plants and medical clinics).  An enforced coalition naval blockade has also sparked a broader crisis of starvation and disease, a famine that may prove to be one of the worst in living memory.  These are not exaggerations.

    A further absurdity also arises.  Not only does continued US backing of Saudi Arabia in Yemen’s travails fail to pass the test of national interest, an argument can be made that it is distinctly against it.  Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has profited from the conflict, receiving sponsorship from Coalition forces.  In short, a sworn enemy of US influence is being subsidised by Washington’s dizzyingly daft policy on the subject, one supposedly designed to combat those very same foes.

    The blood-soaked logic of Pompeo and company has not done so well in Congress.  Of late, enthusiasm has waned for the US sponsored effort which has remained, as many before, unauthorised by legislators.  US lawmakers, who tend to pass their time in hibernation on the subject of controlling executive power, have generally been all too indifferent in making referrals to the War Powers Act of 1973.

    In recent times, a certain change has taken place.  The House and Senate have been going through the process of passing respective resolutions that, when finalised, may well see a halt in US funding to the war effort in Yemen.  It is, in truth, ordinary rather than audacious, but in President Donald Trump’s America, the ordinary is now proving remarkable.

    Moves began with the passage of H.J. Res. 37 on February 13 directing President Donald Trump “to remove US Armed forces from hostilities in or affecting Yemen within 30 days unless Congress authorizes a later withdrawal date, issues a declaration of war, or specifically authorizes the use of the Armed forces.”  The resolution does not affect continued operations against Al Qaeda, but expressly prohibits the provision of inflight fuelling for non-US aircraft that perform any functions related to the conflict.

    The Senate resolution, S.J. Res. 7, is of similar wording.  As Senator Bernie Sanders, who co-sponsored the resolution in the Senate along with Utah Republican Mike Lee, explained to fellow members, “The bottom line is that the United States should not be supporting a catastrophic war led by a despotic regime with an irresponsible foreign policy.”

    What is different about the approaches this time around is the availing of procedures by Congress that were added to the War Powers Resolution in 1983.  In the Senate, the provision enables resolution sponsors to neutralise filibusters, force votes and remove obstruction.  All this, despite opposition from the leadership in Congress or individual senators.

    The resolutions in question have also been amended to permit the US president to continue sharing intelligence if deemed in the national interest.  This provision, in of itself, permits Trump a back door to continue supporting the Saudi coalition.  The Defense Department has also put forth the view that US support in the conflict hardly falls within the definition of “hostilities” pursuant to the War Powers Resolution.  The joint resolutions, to that end, would have no legal consequence, and would, as the General Counsel of the DoD iterated in February, also “undermine our ability to foster long-term relationships, increase interoperability, promote burden sharing, and build strong security architectures throughout the world.”  Such torturous words are fittingly confessional, demonstrating the sheer depth of the US commitment to the conflict even as officials seek to deny it.

    The scene is now set for President Trump to consider a veto.  This he has made clear, with the White House claiming that the premise of H.J. Res 37 is flawed.  The statement issued in rebuking supporters of the resolution insist that US support to the Saudi-led coalition is minimal at best.  “The provision of this support has not caused United States forces to be introduced into hostilities.”  Ever slippery, though, the statement goes on to acknowledge that “support is provided pursuant to licenses and approvals under the Arms Export Control Act, statutory authorities for Department of Defense to provide logistics support to foreign countries, and the President’s constitutional powers.”

    As ever, when the executive fears a curb on its broad powers, the threat of constitutional instability is thrown about.  Given that US support for Saudi Arabia and allied countries in the Yemen conflict is premised on the use of executive constitutional powers, the resolution “would raise serious constitutional concerns to the extent it seeks to override the President’s determination as Commander in Chief.”  More to the point, it is time for Congress to step up to the plate and be counted in matters of war.

    Monetary Policy Takes Center Stage: MMT, QE, or Public Banks?

    As alarm bells sound over the advancing destruction of the environment, a variety of Green New Deal proposals have appeared in the US and Europe, along with some interesting academic debates about how to fund them. Monetary policy, normally relegated to obscure academic tomes and bureaucratic meetings behind closed doors, has suddenly taken center stage.

    The 14 page proposal for a Green New Deal submitted to the US House of Representatives by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez does not actually mention Modern Monetary Theory, but that is th it’s e approach currently capturing the attention of the media – and taking most of the heat. The concept is good: abundance can be ours without worrying about taxes or debt, at least until we hit full productive capacity. But the devil is in the details….

    MMT advocates say the government does not need to collect taxes before it spends. It actually creates new money in the process of spending it; and there is plenty of room in the economy for public spending before demand outstrips supply, driving up prices.

    Critics, however, say this is not true. The government is not allowed to spend before it has the money in its account, and the money must come from tax revenues or bond sales.

    In a 2013 treatise called “Modern Monetary Theory 101: A Reply to Critics,” MMT academics actually concede this point. But they write that “these constraints do not change the end result,” and here the argument gets a bit technical. Their reasoning is that “The Fed is the monopoly supplier of CB currency [central bank reserves], Treasury spends by using CB currency, and since the Treasury obtained CB currency by taxing and issuing treasuries, CB currency must be injected before taxes and bond offerings can occur.”

    The counterargument, made by American Monetary Institute researchers among others, is that the central bank is not the monopoly supplier of dollars. The vast majority of the dollars circulating in the United States are created, not by the government, but by private banks when they make loans. The Fed accommodates this process by supplying central bank currency (bank reserves) as needed; and this bank-created money can be taxed or borrowed by the Treasury before a single dollar is spent by Congress. The AMI researchers contend, “All bank reserves are originally created by the Fed for banks. Government expenditure merely transfers (previous) bank reserves back to banks.” As the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis puts it, “federal deficits do not require that the Federal Reserve purchase more government securities; therefore, federal deficits, per se, need not lead to increases in bank reserves or the money supply.”

    What federal deficits do increase is the federal debt;  and while the debt itself can be rolled over from year to year (as it virtually always is), the exponentially growing interest tab is one of those mandatory budget items that taxpayers must pay. Predictions are that in the next decade, interest alone could add $1 trillion to the annual bill, an unsustainable tax burden.

    To fund a project as massive as the Green New Deal, we need a mechanism that involves neither raising taxes nor adding to the federal debt; and such a mechanism is actually proposed in the US Green New Deal – a network of public banks. While little discussed in the US media, that alternative is being debated in Europe, where Green New Deal proposals have been on the table since 2008. European economists have had more time to think these initiatives through, and they are less hampered by labels like “socialist” and “capitalist,” which have long been integrated into their multiparty systems.

    A Decade of Gestation in Europe

    The first Green New Deal proposal was published in 2008 by the New Economics Foundation on behalf of the Green New Deal Group in the UK. The latest debate is between proponents of the Democracy in Europe Movement 2025 (DiEM25), led by former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, and French economist Thomas Piketty, author of the best-selling Capital in the 21st Century. Piketty recommends funding a European Green New Deal by raising taxes, while Varoufakis favors a system of public green banks.

    Varoufakis explains that Europe needs a new source of investment money that does not involve higher taxes or government deficits. DiEM25 proposes for this purpose “an investment-led recovery, or New Deal, program … to be financed via public bonds issued by Europe’s public investment banks (e.g. the new investment vehicle foreshadowed in countries like Britain, the European Investment Bank and the European Investment Fund in the European Union, etc.).” To ensure that these bonds do not lose their value, the central banks would stand ready to buy them above a certain yield. “In summary, DiEM25 is proposing a re-calibrated real-green investment version of Quantitative Easing that utilises the central bank.

    Public development banks already have a successful track record in Europe, and their debts are not considered debts of the government. They are financed not through taxes but by the borrowers when they repay the loans. Like other banks, development banks are moneymaking institutions that not only don’t cost the government money but actually generate a profit for it. DiEM25 collaborator Stuart Holland observes:

    While Piketty is concerned to highlight differences between his proposals and those for a Green New Deal, the real difference between them is that his—however well-intentioned—are a wish list for a new treaty, a new institution and taxation of wealth and income. A Green New Deal needs neither treaty revisions nor new institutions and would generate both income and direct and indirect taxation from a recovery of employment. It is grounded in the precedent of the success of the bond-funded, Roosevelt New Deal which, from 1933 to 1941, reduced unemployment from over a fifth to less than a tenth, with an average annual fiscal deficit of only 3 per cent.

    Roosevelt’s New Deal was largely funded through the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC), a public financial institution set up earlier by President Hoover. Its funding source was the sale of bonds, but proceeds from the loans repaid the bonds, leaving the RFC with a net profit. The RFC financed roads, bridges, dams, post offices, universities, electrical power, mortgages, farms, and much more; and it funded all this while generating income for the government.

    A System of Public Banks and “Green QE”

    The US Green New Deal envisions funding with “a combination of the Federal Reserve [and] a new public bank or system of regional and specialized public banks,” which could include banks owned locally by cities and states. As Sylvia Chi, chair of the legislative committee of the California Public Banking Alliance, explains on Medium.com:

    The Green New Deal relies on a network of public banks — like a decentralized version of the RFC — as part of the plan to help finance the contemplated public investments. This approach has worked in Germany, where public banks have been integral in financing renewable energy installations and energy efficiency retrofits.

    Local or regional public banks, says Chi, could help pay for the Green New Deal by making “low-interest loans for building and upgrading infrastructure, deploying clean energy resources, transforming our food and transportation systems to be more sustainable and accessible, and other projects. The federal government can help by, for example, capitalizing public banks, setting environmental or social responsibility standards for loan programs, or tying tax incentives to participating in public bank loans.”

    UK professor Richard Murphy adds another role for the central bank – as the issuer of new money in the form of  “Green Infrastructure Quantitative Easing.” Murphy, who was a member of the original 2008 UK Green New Deal Group, explains:

    All QE works by the [central bank] buying debt issued by the government or other bodies using money that it, quite literally, creates out of thin air. … [T]his money creation process is … what happens every time a bank makes a loan. All that is unusual is that we are suggesting that the funds created by the [central bank] using this process be used to buy back debt that is due by the government in one of its many forms, meaning that it is effectively canceled.

    The invariable objection to that solution is that it would act as an inflationary force driving up prices, but as argued in my earlier article here, this need not be the case. There is a chronic gap between debt and the money available to repay it that actually needs to be filled with new money every year to avoid a “balance sheet recession.” As UK Prof. Mary Mellor formulates the problem in Debt or Democracy (2016), page 42:

    A major contradiction of tying money supply to debt is that the creators of the money always want more money back than they have issued. Debt-based money must be continually repaid with interest. As money is continually being repaid, new debt must be being generated if the money supply is to be maintained.… This builds a growth dynamic into the money supply that would frustrate the aims of those who seek to achieve a more socially and ecologically sustainable economy.

    In addition to interest, says Mellor, there is the problem that bankers and other rich people generally do not return their profits to local economies. Unlike public banks, which must use their profits for local needs, the wealthy hoard their money, invest it in the speculative markets, hide it in offshore tax havens, or send it abroad.

    To avoid the cyclical booms and busts that have routinely devastated the US economy, this missing money needs to be replaced; and if the new money is used to pay down debt, it will be extinguished along with the debt, leaving the overall money supply and the inflation rate unchanged. If too much money is added to the economy, it can always be taxed back; but as MMTers note, we are a long way from the full productive capacity that would “overheat” the economy today.

    Murphy writes of his Green QE proposal:

    The QE program that was put in place between 2009 and 2012 had just one central purpose, which was to refinance the City of London and its banks.… What we are suggesting is a smaller programme … to kickstart the UK economy by investing in all those things that we would wish our children to inherit whilst creating the opportunities for everyone in every city, town, village and hamlet in the UK to undertake meaningful and appropriately paid work.

    A network of public banks including a central bank operated as a public utility could similarly fund a US Green New Deal – without raising taxes, driving up the federal debt, or inflating prices.

    ­­­­­­­­­­• This article was first published under a different title on Truthdig.com.