About Nick Mirzoeff

Writer and critic

A Last Blast on Sandy

Out here in Long Island, you can really see the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy. Trees are down everywhere, there’s construction on all sides. Yet New York City is trying to shut down its hurricane relief centers. FEMA requires loan applications to be in by December 31. Today the New York Times ran quotes from people calling Sandy the storm of a lifetime, who are planning to rebuild in places where the flooding was most devastating.

So let’s review the climate change situation one last time in 2012. To have experienced a month that was not warmer than the historic average, you must now be at least 27 years old. That means close to 50% of the world’s population has lived only in the time of warming. By all measures scientific and experiential, the climate is changing and the only debate is how fast.

This year, two major exit routes to climate disaster closed. With the desultory agreement at the Doha round of the UN climate change convention, even the most optimistic person has realized that national governments are not going to drive this agenda. For instance, the world’s developed nations are committed to donating about $60 billion to the poorest threatened nations to help them adapt. None has been forthcoming so far. Imagine if these countries were banks–they’d have ten times the cash.

Second, and more worrying, the global hydrocarbon industry has done an end run around the idea of “peak energy.” This much-touted idea from the 1990s suggested that the world’s reserves of fossil fuel were about to be used up and so alternatives would have to be found. The exploitation of natural gas by fracking, and the expectation that reserves under the Arctic and Greenland will become available once the ice melts, have changed all that. Scientists have created means to turn natural gas into diesel, of which there is currently a shortage, and the building blocks for plastics. In other words, the path is technically open not only to continue the fossil fuel economy but to expand it.

These points are not exactly unrelated. Politicians are easily influenced by immense wealth and there’s no money like oil money. The “recoverable reserves” of oil and gas now amount to $160 trillion, which is real money even these days–more in fact than all global equities markets. To take just one example, 85% of Nigeria’s oil revenues go to one per cent of the population. Of that money, some $300 billion is entirely unaccounted for. Living standards for the mass population have not improved during the oil exploitation period of Nigeria’s history. This is where the politics kicks in.


Occupy Nigeria

Remember Occupy Nigeria? There was a reason why millions participated.

Because none of the oil, gas and tar is actually necessary as other research has shown:

A well-designed combination of wind power, solar power and storage in batteries and fuel cells would nearly always exceed electricity demands while keeping costs low.

As Peter Rugh has recently shown in his excellent article on the Far Rockaways, this contradiction is now at the center of post-Sandy politics. He quotes Occupy Sandy activist Jessica Roth

“If the Rockaways were based on clean energy going into this we would have been in a completely different situation. We would have had battery packs off of solar that were storing energy. We would have had wind turbines off the coast, which can pull up to 30 miles an hour off winds coming into the shore.”

Meanwhile, State Senator Addabbo has his mind on gas. While he says he is opposed to fracking, a carbon intensive method of methane extraction widely opposed by environmentalists, he supports the construction of a 30-inch pipeline that Williams Transco plans to build that will pump highly-pressurized, inflammable, fracked gas through the Rockaways.

This is a crossroads in national and international politics that Sandy has thrown into high relief here in New York. Renewable, local energy and a related localized politics interactive with its community–a sustainable democracy. Or a pipelined energy, controlled from afar by a small global elite.

A protest in the Far Rockaways

A protest in the Far Rockaways

This is why we occupied 2012 and how we must take the argument forward. It’s not a “climate” debate. The climate is a model for average temperatures and conditions. There isn’t a politics in a model. The question is how we respond to the change the model predicts, who benefits from that change, and whether those impacted by it will have a voice. It’s about freedom.

The Debt-Race Nexus

It’s worth revisiting this: debt is a system of social disciplinary control at national and international level. This system operates a means of deflecting opposition to itself, namely the amplification of resentment against “others,” which in the developed world manifests as increased racism. This interface is in high gear at present.

Greece is perhaps the most direct example of this interaction. This week, the all-powerful ratings agency Moodys raised Greece’s outlook to B-. This “promotion” is in fact an indication that austerity measures have been sufficiently implemented and that opposition to them has been contained. It is an index for the international bond market and a huge win for the vulture capital funds that bought Greek debt at intense discount. Expect a Michael Lewis book about vulture funds next year.

In the meantime, as the social protest against austerity has been blocked by the Troika, the rise of Greek fascism continues. Golden Dawn direct people’s anger at the impoverished but visibly different African migrants, who arrive in Greece at least in part because the rest of Europe makes such strenuous efforts to keep them out. No matter that the late Martin Bernal showed in his three volume work Black Athena that ancient Greek civilization learned extensively from Egypt (and Semitic Middle Eastern cultures), so that what we call “Greece” was always already a hybrid.

It’s a finely tuned gamble by the E.U. that Golden Dawn provide a sufficient safety valve for social unrest but do not succeed to the extent of gaining access to state power, in the manner of the French National Front. Or perhaps the bankers are sufficiently cynical that bond repayments is all that matters.

Indeed, there has been a similar rise in public racism cross Europe from Britain to Italy and Russia, especially at football (soccer) matches. It might seem that this represents a return to working-class racism as seen in the 1970s but sport is now so expensive that, almost by definition, people attending games live would have to be considered middle-class. Perhaps the very visibility of money in sport serves as a means to focus social resentment into racist forms?

British footballers Anton Ferdinand and John Terry confront each other over hate speech from Terry

British footballers Anton Ferdinand and John Terry confront each other over hate speech from Terry

More bizarrely still, despite all the protocol trainings by soccer authorities, the players themselves are now acting out this racism on the pitch. John Terry’s racist remarks to Anton Ferdinand (above) were discovered via a fan’s cellphone video posted to YouTube. When I was young, racism was endemic at football but I thought that the very substantial numbers of both black British and African players, not to mention the increased diversity of the UK, would have changed that. And in the boom era of “Cool Britannia,” it seemed that it had. With recession comes racism.

In Russia, fans of a team called Zenit have issued a statement saying they want no black or gay players. Italian team Lazio, based in Rome, have long been associated with fascism (literally, Mussolini). But every weekend there’s something hateful said on or off the pitch, or some physical violence from fans to players or each other.

Let’s not get superior. Last week, when President Obama gave a speech at Newtown CT in honor of the victims of white male rage (whether technically sane or unbalanced), a rash of obscene tweets broke out because his speech replaced some American football game on TV. The N-word was very extensively used.

As austerity continues as a form of social control, in defiance of the recommendations of central bankers in the UK and common sense everywhere, so too has a calibrated targeting of others. Dog whistles, subtle and not so subtle, have been blowing for months, if not years.

The fact that African-Americans and Latin@s in the US have been hardest hit by the 2008 crash has had no effect on this discourse. In fact, it seems to reinforce the narrative in which “sub-prime” borrowers (meaning people of color) were to blame. As if the people lending them the money were just good Samaritans and not making as much money from interest rates and derivatives as they could.

All that said, I don’t think that the connections between the debt crisis and the revival of racism are fully understood yet and it’s going to be an important topic of research and activism going forward.

Power Abuses. Refuse.

You may have read today that UBS Bank was the first of the banksters to be finally convicted of fraud. They fought it all the way and only a Japanese subsidiary took the fall. For the New York Times, this indicated once again

a pattern of abuse

If, like me, you’ve spent time in the UK recently that turn of phrase has to give you pause. It used to be said that power corrupts. It’s more accurate to say that power abuses. It abuses the idea of the innocence of children, it abuses the fantasy of the market, it sustains the fantasy that guns don’t kill people. We occupied to refuse all that. I still do and there’s new evidence today that it works.

Abuse. Is that the right word to use in connection with the systematic sexualized exertion of power over children? So much less troubling than, say, rape. You’ll have heard about the extraordinarily widespread allegations against the DJ and TV star Jimmy Savile in the UK over decades. At least eight other men have already been charged, including the former pop star Gary Glitter. That’s rock and roll, it might be, and has been, said. What, then, of third-tier sports commentator and game show host Stuart Hall (no relation at all to the distinguished academic)? The agent for “celebrities” Max Clifford? and other B and C list “stars”?

I think back to when I was at school. There was Mr B., who was suddenly asked to leave. There was Mr P., who I am now told everyone knew had a collection of child porn video tapes in school. There was Mr W., who used to invite boys to lunch in the pub. I remember I only went once and felt left out. On to university! Here it’s Mr K. (no doctorate for him) using a bed-pan in class. Mr. C drinking pints of Guinness. Professor B. appearing for tutorials in a silk dressing-gown and nothing else.

Nothing untoward ever happened to me and my English friends think I am making too much of this. I used to be told that my writing was too “angry” when I was younger. Maybe. And I’m certainly not past anger now. But what I have learned to do is connect this set of abusive practices to a wider context. It’s said that Savile and his ilk are in the past. The BBC TV news editor who dropped the story last November said to the investigation:

In the end I just felt … 40-year-old contestable claims about a dead guy was not a N[ews]N[ight] story and not worth the fuss.

Don’t make a fuss, there’s nothing more English than that. The ludicrous “Lord” Patten who heads the BBC went further, admitting there were problems of management–such as dropping the major child abuse scandal of the past century–but

I don’t think you necessarily address them by just putting heads on spikes.

This is a very English way of saying, “let’s not have a revolution, like those unsavory French did.” No Lords in charge of French media, though, are there?

Not to excuse the French one per cent. Yesterday a French court upheld an investigation into the repellent rapist, sorry, alleged rapist, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, former head of the IMF, for being part of a

ring that recruited prostitutes for sex parties from Paris to Washington.

Strauss-Kahn claims he didn’t know they were hookers. Perhaps somewhere in his psyche, he really does think that attractive, much younger women are instantly turned on by the very presence of a sixty-year-old banker.

Or not. Perhaps, like the British bankers who dreamt up derivatives and fixing LIBOR, who learned all about abuse at school in the “Savile era”, he knows what it is to abuse. And he knows that power gets him the unchallenged possibility to do so. So that what he did in the daytime to, say, Niger by inflicting disastrous debt repayment structures on the country was qualitatively the same as what he would do to the women at night. The UBS bankers called the men who fixed rates for them “heroes” and sent them Bollinger champagne and a “small bonus.” Mustn’t give away the really good stuff: the money.

So it’s no surprise to me that two countries with some of the longest histories of abuse in all senses are now leading the response, which is refusal. In Spain, the Citizen’s Debt Audit are denouncing the “debt-ocracy” that has replaced their democracy by making public debts private. That is to say, the public debt of the banks has been absorbed by the state so it will end up being repaid by citizens. Those same citizens are dying, literally, of debt. There are debt suicides weekly. The Audit is the first step towards a national refusal.

In Ireland, there has been an undeclared debt refusal movement.18% of mortgages are in default. Banks have claimed to be helping but the Bank of Ireland has “forgiven” only €600,000 to date. The new government has stepped in and passed an insolvency law that aims

to ensure that people were not forced to vacate their homes because they were in mortgage debt. The solutions all involve a “degree of forbearance over a period of time” to debtors, he said. In reality, that will mean debt write-off.

Debt strikes work, in other words. Better to declare them, though.

So the old mantra that went “there is no alternative, so you have to submit” has met its refusal. Saying no may not stop the abuse. Eventually, though, if everyone says no you can derail the system that allows it.

The Back End

Sometimes being in a social movement involves exciting things like street actions or public performance. More often, there’s painstaking and not very glamorous administrative work to be done. Today was one of those days.

During the day I worked on setting up the next web project after Occupy 2012 finishes in twelve days time. More on that as it moves to viability. The evening was my first Strike Debt organizing meeting in the US since the People’s Bailout.

After the publicity generated by the Rolling Jubilee and associated Strike Debt actions, there is a huge backlog of data, contacts, affiliate groups and so on that we have to work through. There are some 25,000 emails in the Strike Debt accounts now. So for several hours this evening, we worked through ways to clarify this data. This means working on spreadsheets, designing visualizations, devising intake forms and other work that is very much like work, except that you don’t have to do it but you chose to anyway.

It’s the difference between, if all goes well, sending an email to nycga.net and never ever hearing back from anyone and getting a proper response that leads to you becoming involved. It’s about making sure that people who want to know what’s going on can do so, and also about finding ways to share the administrative labor this involves. All good stuff. Nonetheless, I am now too tired to generate any more thought  out of the event. I forgot that activism is actively demanding.

We Are Rolling

The Rolling Jubilee has rolled out its first debt abolition. Letters to over forty (former) debtors have been mailed out in specially designed care packages. The point here is that if you are in debt, you’re used to getting letters of all kinds, carefully designed to get you to open them, that are about repayment. So these shiny gifts want to send the message that they contain something very different.

The Debt-Mas Tree with a Care Package

The Debt-Mas Tree with a Care Package

Here’s what people will read:

We write with good news: the above referenced account has been purchased by the Rolling Jubilee Fund, a 501(c)(4) non-profit organization. The Rolling Jubilee Fund is a project of Strike Debt. The mission of this project is to buy and abolish personal debt. We believe that no one should have to go into debt for the basic things in our lives, like healthcare, housing, and education.

You no longer owe the balance of this debt. It is gone, a gift with no strings attached. You are no longer any obligation to settle this account with the original creditor, the bill collector, or anyone else.

A letter to a former debtor

A letter to a former debtor

The Rolling Jubilee debt-buying team has taken incredible care with all the mechanics of this process. The team itself includes accountants and lawyers. They’ve been meeting with legal advisors since the summer to get this right.

Today the legal team also went public, via an interview with Nick Pinto of the Village Voice. Sadly, this was necessary because certain economics commentators on the institutional left took it upon themselves to claim that Strike Debt was going to get the debtors into tax trouble. The assertion was the IRS would see the debt forgiveness as income. Strike Debt is clear that it’s a gift and not subject to tax.

The tax lawyer dismisses the concern that the Rolling Jubilee is engaged in commercial activity: “It doesn’t make a great deal of sense to me,” she said. “When Habitat for Humanity is helping people build houses, someone still has to buy the lumber. It doesn’t change their tax status. The critical thing is that this is a not-for-profit organization, and it’s not engaged in trying to make money.”

The fact is that as of now, there’s $100,000 less medical debt out there. That has to be a good thing. We know it’s a drop in the ocean but that’s not the point. The Jubilee is a hack, or very precisely, a détournement. This latter was the way the Situationist International used the system against itself, which is exactly what the Rolling Jubilee has done.

It’s inspired activists in the UK to set up their own organization, Strike Debt UK. Writing in the new issue of the Occupied Times, the activists ask:

Can we, for example, buy discounted debt on the secondary debt market? Do we want to do this? What is the procedure? What are the relevant laws in England and Wales? Do we need a Debt Resistors’ Operations Manual here? Many of the questions raised in the group highlighted the need for people to come together, do the research, and share their findings in an accessible way. It also became very apparent that debt is becoming a popular tool in the resistance of capitalism, and as defaulting becomes more commonplace, we need to establish processes which will protect people, rather than financial institutions.

These are the right questions to ask. It would be nice if our friends on the established left felt like helping out. But we’ve been doing fine by ourselves so far. The next step is coming. Watch Barcelona in January, New York in February, maybe London in March. We are rolling.

Over The Fences, Again. One Year After D17

This time last year was D17, a day when OWS tried to establish a new occupation at Duarte Square, land owned by Trinity Wall Street Church. The effort failed and Mark Adams spent 30 days in Rikers Island on exaggerated criminal charges resulting from the plan to cut back the fence that the church had put up. It seems so much more than a year.

Morgan Jenness has produced this rather wonderful artwork to commemorate the anniversary.

D17 by Morgan Jessens

D17 by Morgan Jenness

The vision here blends Delacroix’s 1832 classic painting Liberty Leading The People with the New York skyline and the Duarte fence. Ironically, the painting itself was also recently evicted out of Paris and sent to the Louvre’s outpost museum in Lens.

tous à lensLens is a depressed former industrial city in Northern France. One Parisian I asked why they had sent Liberty up there replied dryly: “Now everyone’s unemployed, they thought it was time for them to get some culture.”

Back in New York, the remembrance of a year ago brings back how absolutely vital it then seemed to continue the occupations as encampments. I don’t mean to disparage–the encampments were so amazing and nothing that has happened since would have happened without the experiences we had there and what was learned. A year on, and that self-fashioning into a community of mutual aid has blossomed in ways that we could not possibly have anticipated back then.

That’s why events like the Winter Jubilee are so important as a way for us all to check back in with our own “beloved community” from time to time. People are working with Occupy Sandy, in militant research, in the Rolling Jubilee and other projects and we don’t necessarily connect with each other. Of course, that was the beauty of the park, that the other working groups were just there. But if you’re building a movement, then or now, there comes a point where you can’t all fit into one square all the time.

As we put what we have learned into practice, it is borne in on us every day that the one per cent is still determined to foist the crisis onto us, to use every violence at their disposal to make sure that it remains that way, even to the point of trying to block relief aid for the victims of Hurricane Sandy, let alone banning the murderous weapons that kill people each and every day.

We’re still climbing fences. They’re just a little higher now.

The Winter Jubilee

Today was Strike Debt’s Winter Jubilee in New York and it made for a lovely homecoming, to see all my Occu-buddies and many other people, seemingly new to the movement. It’s part of the new meeting structure that includes one open house a month to explain what we’ve been doing and what is planned for the future. It’s a way for people to join in or just to keep posted.

I enjoyed it all the more for the fact that this was the first major Strike Debt event that I had no part in organizing. By the time I arrived, the space kindly donated by Artists Space was being transformed into a Strike Debt hangout.

Getting ready

Getting ready

On the way in people were greeted, given handouts and publications and a “Hello! My Debt Is” badge. They could sign up for more information and email listservs.

winter jubilee 2Inside there was food and drink, a Radical Kids area, a Rolling Jubilee debt cancellation letter station and lots of people getting to know each other. The room was packed. Proceedings kicked off with David Backer’s popular performance of Woody Guthrie’s Debt Song, reprised from the Rolling Jubilee.

debt songs

The formal part of the afternoon began with historian George Caffentzis reading from Ben Johnson’s seventeenth-century play Catiline about the Roman Consul who promoted debt abolition–in 63 BCE.

There were popular report backs on the Rolling Jubilee and Occupy Sandy. Yesterday, two hundred local people gathered at the Occupy Sandy hub in Staten Island and took visitors on a tour of the storm damage. It’s hard to explain to outsiders how unlikely this event would have seemed before the storm. Staten Island is one of the most Republican regions of the city and certainly no Occupy stronghold. But when a diesel generator was stolen from the Occupy hub, someone donated an oversized solar-panel generator replacement that same afternoon.

There were shout-outs of debt figures, a kind of reverse auction for the worst situation that proved strangely hilarious in the debt assembly style. At the suggestion of Marisa Holmes we moved into breakouts to imagine a world without debt. In my group, I was the only person from about 15 who had been involved with Strike Debt before, so I facilitated. It was fun to see people take to the horizontal process and spontaneously generate an updated version of the first Strike Debt assemblies of the summer. There were lots of good ideas here, especially a call for debt and legal clinics, something we’ve been meaning to do for a while but have only been able to undertake in Staten Island.

After reportbacks, entertainment then followed from Strike Debt magician Andrew Ross and the Radical Kids performance of “Rapunzel: A Debt Crisis.”

debt magic

Providing organized child care is something that many of us in OWS have been arguing for over a long period, and it was great to see it take this first step as part of Strike Debt.

The afternoon concluded with drinks and cake. Somehow, cake and debt have become related memes. People left feeling happy and unified. It’s good to be back.

strike debt

A Return to Violence

Even before I heard about the massacre in Connecticut, before I was even technically in the country, I was reminded of the intense peculiarities of the U.S. In the Customs area of American Airlines, every kind of traveler was greeted with an immense slow-moving queue. A tall, white US citizen began remonstrating with American Airlines staff about the lack of energy in helping people. They called in Customs officers as back up and for a moment it looked as if he would be arrested. In fact, after an explanation, nothing happened.

When I finally got to the front, the Customs person I spoke to pointed out that people will have gone home blaming “big government” for that. In fact, it’s American Airlines to blame for pushing 500 people into retirement and not replacing them as part of their “restructuring.” And then he added that he could get fired for saying that. So to keep airline debt-holders happy, thousands of tired travelers are inconvenienced, miss connections, lose luggage–and added bonus, the government gets the blame.

Then, of course, we heard about the shooting. It’s important to repeat, yet again, that these don’t happen in Europe because they don’t allow people access to guns. When we see it reported that support for “gun control” has gone down, let’s remember what this really means in the condensed meme that it represents. “Gun control” means “the African-American socialist president is going to take away your guns as part of his plan to institute a United Nations-run totalitarian society.” Gun sales shot up after Obama’s elections in both 2004 and 2008.

It’s no accident that nearly every shooter in these events is a white male. That’s not to say that the shooting itself was a racialized event but that the fact that white men demand to make it absurdly easy for people like them to get guns has a racialized motive. And then the shooting of Congresswoman Giffords and the “Batman” shooting in Colorado did involve political motives.

I’ve had many occasions over the past year to write about people with unmet needs in this society. Many found their way to the occupations, when they were active, both here and in the U.K. Like most of them, whatever this young man’s issues were, he clearly did not get the help he needed. And he far more clearly received the message that this violent society sends most loudly of all, that violence is a good way to make a point, to resolve issues and to claim attention. And that it’s ok to use that violence on people weaker than yourself, whether women, children, the endebted, the homeless.

In order to make any kind of move away from the culture of violence, it’s obvious that there needs to be limits set on the possibilities that one person can attack another. But that is just a small start. The health care system needs to be able to help all those with needs. That requires more public revenue.

Women against Starbucks in the UK

Women against Starbucks in the UK

In Europe, they have ideas about that too. UK Uncut has shamed Starbucks into making some restitution for their tax avoidance by making these kinds of connections:

Sarah Greene, a UK Uncut activist said: “It is an outrage that the government continues to choose to let multinationals like Starbucks dodge millions in tax while cutting vital services like refuges, creches and rape crisis centres. It does not have to be this way.”

The politics of austerity is also a politics of violence. As the Greek Debt Audit Campaign has put it:

The link between debt, austerity and privatisation is clear. We consider it urgent to end the growing impoverishment of the people and ensure that all can cover their basic needs, as reflected in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: housing, food, healthcare, education, employment and social services.

One way to summarize these rights is the formula “the right to existence” that comes down to us from anti-slavery organizing. A right to existence includes the right not to be subjected to physical or economic violence.

Staten Island today

Staten Island today

When I turned on my phone for the first time, one of the messages I received was from the Small Business Administration because I registered with FEMA after Sandy. It reminded me that the SBA loans were the “primary” form of government “assistance” for the disaster and that the deadline for applications was December 31, 2012. More debt, with deadlines, while people are still clearing up and finding out what their situation really is.

That’s the last official day of this project. Obviously, it won’t be over on that date.

What’s Radical Now

Fifteen months ago, OWS launched the meme of the 99% against the one per cent. We identified the agents of the crash as “Wall Street” and its primary consequence for the 99% as debt. In 2013 the agenda has to move forward. The new agents of exploitation are the mining and energy companies. The consequences are all too visible in the climate disasters.

As 2012 closes, the first billion dollar fine has been levied against HSBC bank. It’s a good symbolic moment but it amounts to 5% of HSBC’s annual profits. Directors are “deferring” their bonuses, meaning they get them in five years time. Today, it was UBS’s turn to step up for a billion dollar hit in the LIBOR case. The banks are happy because they did not get prosecuted. The financial markets let it be known that if big banks were prosecuted and declared ineligible to trade, it would engender another financial crisis. Governments don’t want that and caved. Still, the banksters have been sufficiently cowed to stop pretending they can’t afford a small increase in their US taxes.

None of this has helped the endebted very much. Admittances to British universities are down 14% this year, thanks to new tuition fees, for example. If debt suicides got as much coverage as royal-related prank call suicides, there would be nothing else in the media at all. Personal debt can’t be fixed, it can only be abolished.

And the reason for that is all around us. Abnormally cold temperatures in Northern Europe suggest that the slowing of the Gulf stream may have begun as predicted. No IPCC prediction, it should be noted, is behind predicted pace: they are all ahead. Arctic ice melt is so far ahead of presumed pace that it’s freaking out even those inside the climate change field. Floods, typhoons, hurricanes. You know the drill. We can’t grow our way out of the debt because it just adds to the planetary emergency.

So today Britain decided to approve its “dash for gas” and endorse the expansion of fracking in the UK. Never mind that the last time they tried, it set off earthquakes–yes, really. Now all they are doing is shattering carbon emission targets and polluting the British water table. Even the British government’s own climate change commission says that the planned 40 new gas-fueled power stations are not compatible with its own goals on carbon.

And it turns out that even in the neoliberal market-driven terms it makes no sense: gas will add £600 ($1000) to energy bills per year. But the same energy from renewables would only cost £100 ($160).

So welcome to your new one per cent: the energy moguls, who are driving us to extinction in the name of sustainability.


Here’s Francis Egan, head of Cuadrilla, the UK fracking mob. He was brought in from a company called BHP Billiton. You’ve never heard of them: here’s what they do:

We are a leading global resources company. Our purpose is to create long-term shareholder value through the discovery, acquisition, development and marketing of natural resources.

We are among the world’s largest producers of major commodities, including aluminium, copper, energy coal, iron ore, manganese, metallurgical coal, nickel, silver and uranium along with substantial interests in oil and gas.

What does this mean? it means they mess things up massively all over the world. Below is their own publicity photograph, demonstrating just that.

BHP Billiton

They have revenues of $72 billion annually and make pre-tax profits of $27 billion–nice returns there of 30% profit. Where do we get this information? On the debt investors page. In other words, we have to fry the planet so BHP Billiton can pay its debts. We don’t know as much about Cuadrilla because it’s a private equity company like Monsanto. But let’s have a wild guess that it’s profile is very similar. Debt, energy and climate disaster are mutually reinforcing and catalyzing. We have to get off the roundabout.

What’s radical now: demanding an end to growth, no new fossil fuel exploitation, debt abolition and a living wage. Can’t happen? Ask HSBC and UBS.


On Continuing Not To Be Dead

Instead of doing that consumerist frenzy holiday shopping thing, why not have an Occupy weekend in NYC? There are important and fun events all weekend on student activism, recovering from Sandy and what’s next for Strike Debt. Still not dead, folks.

Book Block!

Book Block!

On Friday, support the excellent occupation by Cooper Union students by participating in the book block: a parade of books as shields. Make your own from 12-1pm on Friday December 14 at Cooper Square (7 East 7th St) and then join in the discussions on the future of student activism from 1-3pm and who knows what might happen next.

Saturday Dec. 15

This is important. Here’s a call from the Occupy Sandy people taking on mutual aid in Staten Island with people from the local community:


On Saturday we, the residents of affected areas of Staten Island, will come together and make our voices heard as part of a citywide day of action.  We invite you to come hear our stories and go on a tour of our neighborhood, a tour of destruction. We will open our community and our homes to show the world what is really happening in Staten Island. Hurricane Sandy was a disaster, but the lack of government response is shaping up to be another kind of catastrophe. We deserve better and we demand answers and action.

Go! and take your friend the journalist/blogger/film maker to publicize this to the max. Houses in NYC are getting devastated by black mold, just like people were in New Orleans after Katrina. You have to demolish all the walls to get rid of it. FEMA and co are offering nothing but loans. The obvious hope is to create more upscale housing and offices on these sites, although they will equally obviously flood next time as well.

Sunday Dec 16

Winter Jubilee

Not tired yet are you? Good. So go to the Strike Debt Winter Jubilee. This is not another debt abolition event, it’s an introduction to what Strike Debt does, and hopes to do in the future, as well as a seasonal secular celebration of a year of being undead. See you there!