TURMEL: The "No Choice" TOES99 LETS Report

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John Turmel

Jun 23, 1999, 3:00:00 AM6/23/99

Topics: 1) Travel irritants; 2) TOES99; 3) Jubilee 2000 Chain of Debt;
4) Next year; European LETS Tour: Winston Smith in
France and Hans Werner in Germany.

JCT: Je demande le pardon des lecteurs francais qui devront
attendre que j'aie le temps de traduire mes rapports en francais.

The trip almost started with a catastrophe but God's looking out
for us. After getting back from Atlantic City, Pauline reminded me
that we were leaving at 3:45p.m. and that was the time I kept in mind
from then on. We were being picked up around 2:40 and planning to be
at the airport at 3:00. For some reason, Pauline got out of her bath
at 2p.m. to check the airline we were using and noticed that the
departure time was 3:00, not 3:45. Well, the race was on. Our ride
just happened to be there 20 minutes early so we made it to the
airplane with 5 minutes to spare. But the trip was that close to
catastrophe. I don't know what compelled Pauline to check the tickets
at the last minute but it saved our bacon.
The next irritant happened at Heathrow in London. We arrived at
6:30 and were hoping to be able to have breakfast with Sabine McNeil
and John Courtneidge. But we were put on a fast track to the next
terminal and did even go through customs. We were forced to stay in
the International area and could not check to see if anyone had
arrived either in Terminal 3 where we arrived or Terminal 1 where we
left. In the few moments we had before boarding, we got in touch with
Sabine to apologize and explain the foul-up. She indicated that she'd
call John to explain. Sorry for any inconvenience. I guess that we'll
be stuck in the international section on the way back so our meeting
with Sabine, John and David Williams will now be impossible. Too bad,
it would have been a nice highlight both going and returning.
Then at Cologne, the third quasi-catastrophe occurs. British
Airways lost my briefcase with all my literature, hand-outs, and
exhibits and LETS books. I have nothing on paper to use. I had put
both briefcases and my baggage carrier into a large plastic bag at the
airport and even added a second bag over it for strength. We reported
the loss with the baggage claim number and British Airways hoped to
get it delivered by tomorrow from wherever it was missed to Cologne.
So when British Airways delivered one of my briefcases but not the
other or the carrier, I had to wonder what kind of idiot would open
the two bags, take them out of the bag looking for the right owner and
then not put them back in. Separating the items would have to make
them look for 3 times as hard as looking for the owner of the one bag.
Then I remembered that the other bag not only had my local currency
examples but also had my wad of over $10,000 Abolitionist Party of
Canada currency I was going to use to account for my accommodations
while in Europe. They must have seen all the new kinds of money and
called in the Treasury boys who still don't know what to make of it.
Since I cannot fathom how why they would have split up the contents of
the bag, I must conclude that someone has held up the other bag. So
here I am with very few of my usual tools and the one I most sorely
missed was the LETS Diskette which I could always raise when someone
was talking about looking for the solution.

We missed the opening plenary and the first panel but attended
the next two panels and the final plenary of day 1. Registration was
simple though we had to complete the same information 4 times. It
seems that some of their funding is coming from organizations who all
want the original signatures to complete their deal, no photocopies.
No problem since it helped cover costs. And the price of the panels
was extremely reasonable. It was only 15 marks per day or 25 for both
days. A mark is worth 55 cents American and 75 cents Canadian. So the
registration was only $20 Canadian dollars, about $15 American.
Considering the 1997 and 1998 TOES were each over $200, it really was
a pleasant improvement. They really managed to make it affordable.
There was a big crowd, mostly German students. It really was
quite a turn-out event and the organizers are to be commended for
their success.
I sought out Peter Waldow, the main organizer, and told him I
wanted to have a Local Currency panel in one of the empty rooms on the
second day. He said the rooms were being used for media interviews but
were free in the afternoon and assigned Forum 1 for a 1p.m. LETS

Panel 2, 2p.m.-4p.m.
Pauline went to Forum 2 for "Beyond labour? Perspectives of the
developing countries." It seems she felt the same way I did. After
almost two hours of gloom and doom scenarios, me she got up, bemoaned
everyone being in despair and asked if they hadn't heard about LETS.
Many people had and she told them that this was the revolution they
were all waiting for and announced that there would be a panel at
1p.m. the next day on Local Currencies. That's one room covered even
though the local currency solution is not on the official agenda.
The Russian speaker, Boris Ragarlitzsky, mentioned how Russians
barter using "Favours" and companies pay people with the products they
make so they can peddle them at the market.
Over in Forum III, "Regulating the financial markets," the
panellists were Suzanne de Brunhoff (France Professor), Jorg
Huffschmid (U. of Bremen), Nicole Bullard (Focus in Thailand), and
Kevin Watkins (New Economics Foundation UK).
Their opening remarks were basically a litany of the world's ills
and calls for alternatives to the dictatorship of financial markets.
But they didn't offer any alternatives. I was surprised that Watkins
from the New Economic Foundation didn't mention LETS since David Boyle
gave LETS major play when NEC organized the 1998 Birmingham TOES.
At one point to a call for a solution, I shouted "Use LETS." Oh
how I wish I'd have had my LETS diskette to able to raise it up every
time I heard a speaker talk about their efforts at looking for a new
paradigm. They love using that word.
The moderator, Martine Metzger, noted that everyone had explained
the problems. "Could anyone suggest an alternative paradigm?" More
beating around the bush and when they were over, she again asked "But
what alternative paradigm is there?" "Wind down the power of the IMF,"
said one, "make economic decisions more participatory," said another,
etc., but never was there any indication of how it should be done.
There was no time for questions at the end so I approached each
speaker in turn.
I had prepared some quite unusual business cards with my name and
web site and collages of newspaper headlines on both sides. One side
is the cover of gambling headlines from my Adventures Book, the other,
a collage of newspaper headlines from articles about LETS and my
Guinness World Record efforts to promote LETS.
I asked Suzanne de Brunhoff if she'd ever heard of SELs in
France. Though she wasn't familiar with them, she had heard of them so
I gave her a card and told her "LETS is your alternative paradigm."
Then I asked Kevin Watkins and of course he'd heard of LETS. I
asked why he didn't mention it when they asking for a new alternative
paradigm. When he couldn't answer, I reminded him that LETS was the
paradigm they were looking for.
Then I asked Nicole Buttard if she'd ever heard of LETS. She said
she had two friends in Thailand who were quite enthusiastic about it
and she'd pass along my on to them.
Finally, Jorg Huffschmid never heard of local currencies even
though there are hundreds of Talent systems all around Germany and
probably one Bremen. He didn't want to know about it either. Nothing
like a guy with a closed mind telling us to keep ours open to new
alternatives. Any Talent systems in Bremen, give him a call and tell
him what it's all about.

Panel 3 4:30 - 6:30
Pauline went to Forum 2, Ethos, Utopia and labour ideology. She
didn't mention anything of interest so it was probably more defining
of the problem. I'm sure she'd have told me if someone had mentioned a
I went to Forum 3, Regulation of the world economic system -
Democratic alternatives to the neo-liberal world order with panellists
Candido Grzbowski (ibase Brazil), Susan George (Author France), Michel
Chossudovsky (University of Ottawa!), and Jakob von Uexkull (New
Economics Foundation).
A fellow Canadian sitting behind me was from Nova Scotia and had
heard of the Maritime Hours LETS.
Susan George said there were thousands of alternative paradigms.
Too bad she didn't mention one or two. She also mentioned the need to
handle a new kind of development.
Michel Chossudovsky sounded like a Noam Chomsky clone explaining
how the financial establishment uses war to their advantage such as in
Kosovo. Later I mentioned to him that he should have used Chomsky's
words about their "manufacturing consent" for the war by continued
focus on this one set of victims.
Jakob wanted to get rid of the supremacy of money. He wanted
enough for all. "Government can create money for its uses but who will
do it for the people?" I quipped "LETS can."
The moderator, Peter Wahl, said that the new paradigm was not yet
clear. It is to me but there was no chance to a quick quip. Boy I
missed my silent diskette.
Susan George mentioned how they had been successful in their
fight against the MAI Multilateral Agreement on Investment. We have
our governments' UN declarations on human and economic rights so why
would governments line up to sign MAI which subordinates people and nations
to corporations? "We need new concrete ideas." Of course, these rights
are fictional in the first place. Governments never mind advocating
such rights as long as they don't have to find a way of enforcing
them. Yet the courts can protect those rights for people with lawyers.
Chossudovsky called elected politicians marionettes for the
financial and military establishments and told us to "examine
politicians who do the opposite of what's good for their people." A
lot of good examining them will do if there's no alternative for the
voters to choose from. Examining them won't really help at all.
This time I got a chance during the question and comment period.
I wasn't sure if I'd get the chance. The two previous speakers both
delivered long orations. When it seemed like the second fellow was
through, I waved my "Stockport" flyer and was acknowledged by the
moderator. As I stood, the previous speaker who had the microphone
kept going. So I kept standing and waited and waited. I wasn't going
to sit down. As he demanded some kind of solution to the problems, I
answered "I've got it right here." Then another guy near him got the
mike and complained that the speakers were speaking German too fast
and the radio translation was terrible. I interjected "it wasn't that
bad." Then another guy near them got the mike and made a 4-5 minute
speech. Finally, they passed the mike down to me. As it was coming, I
kept quipping "now for some good news."
I first mentioned that the whole panel had been a despairing
message of gloom and doom. So many large problems need to be handled
but with no alternatives being offered, pessimism and despair seem the
only logical reactions. But there was no reason for such despair and I
read them the Stockport "anti-poverty" LETS local currency headline
and explained that if the global currency was so terrible, all we had
to do was set up our own local one. I couldn't understand why not one
of the panellists had mentioned it.
Then I put them on the spot. I said that I doubted they had not
heard of LETS and asked if any one of them had not heard of LETS. None
spoke up. So they all had or didn't' want to admit they hadn't. They
just did not see its larger potential to end their quest for the new
financial paradigm.
Then I mentioned that I was a LETS engineer and had wanted to put
a Local Currency Panel on the agenda but the WEED organizers had
refused. But now I had been given time at 1p.m. tomorrow to talk about
the solution and invited all to come to a pretty happy show.
I got a good round of applause and had broken up the crowd a few
times with earlier quips so I hope such a interested reaction is an
indication that there'll be some who attend this unplanned and
unadvertised event.

July 18 Plenary
I found Peter Waldow and asked him if he would announce my LETS
presentation during the plenary. He said he would not and told me to
put notices up on the walls. So I put up three which simply said:
"Tired of discussing the problem? Come discuss the solution: LETS
Alternative Currency. Forum 1, 1p.m." I even put one at the front of
the plenary forum.
Elmar Alvater, Professor of Economics at Free University Berlin,
was the only speaker for the plenary. He put me to sleep talking about
different problems of the financial system. After he had said "we need
a better system of finance," I shouted "Use LETS." He said it was
"doing fine without the help of engineers. We can't listen to guys
they call plumbers. Local currencies are fine to try out at the local
level but they have nothing to do with international finance."
I thought it was a terrible insult to engineering, especially
coming from an economist but I wasn't going to make a scene over it
then. I'd catch him later and report it here.
After the plenary, a lady behind me said "Our town has a LETS and
it doesn't work." I said "Come to my panel to find out how to make
it work right." She said "Sorry, I don't like your attitude." I
answered "Good. I don't need someone like you who's going to keep
doing it wrong just because you don't like my attitude." Then a Lenin
clone with a beard started calling me a religious fanatic. I hadn't
mentioned religion at all and I could only answer that LETS was
software engineering, not religion, though many of us know of its
religious anti-interest background.

Panel 1: 10:30-12:30
Yann Moulier Boutang (France) Ariell Salleh (University of Sydney)
Detlev Hartmann (Cologne Network "No Man is Illegal")and Nicola
Bullard, Focus on the Global Soughh (Thailand)
It was Nicola's second panel and I checked to the agenda to find
out that Yann Boutang, Madjiguene Cisse, Boris Ragarlitzsky, Farida
Akther, Michel Chossudovsky also had two panels. So they really could
have filled out the agenda with me and the US speakers that they had
successfully dissuaded from coming.
Again, it was a litany of griefs about the world currency system
with everyone competing to tell us the statistics of how bad things
are and everyone calling for the financial system to be changed. My
LETS disk would have been bobbing up and down like a yo-yo.
Nicola stressed the on-going efforts at "looking for a solution."
I really wanted to shout "You've already got LETS, why are you still
looking?" but I didn't think it short enough a quip to not interfere
with her next point after he breath.
This is the criteria I use for defensible quipping technique
during debates. I get a sense for the time available when each speaker
breathes and make sure that it gets in before they start talking
again. Those who didn't hear it do not have their concentration
interrupted and those who do hear it know it didn't interrupt the
speaker. Sometimes they turn into wonderful zingers my favorite of
which I've described in my Ottawa West Federal Election report.
So in this case, she was talking too fast and my "Killer Quip"
would not fit in.
When it was over and everyone was waiting for the first panel to
start, I walked around the front of the auditorium asking "Was he
putting down engineers?" One guy answered "He sure did." I pointed out
"Plumbers are the guys who put man on the moon. What has an economist
ever done that was successful?" and continued passing around cards and
then followed him outside where I braced him with my rebuttal."
He said "There are hundreds of successful economists." I asked
him to name a couple and tell me what they'd been successful at. He
mentioned that Karl Marx provided a very good understanding of the
workings of the capitalistic system. I had to agree that Marx's
analysis of the problem was pretty good though he never offered the
correct solution and so answered him that "Marx had his chance, and
his system broke down."
I said "You say LETS is fine to try on a small local database but
can't be done on the global database. Why not?" At this point, he
started backing away. He said he hadn't said it couldn't work on a
large database, he was saying it couldn't work at all." I said there
were thousands of systems around the world that were working. He said
the present system was also working. I rebutted "You spent your whole
speech telling us how it wasn't working and now you argue that it is?"
He responded "You say I'm wrong, I say you're wrong." So I said "I bet
you 100 Marks that you can't show any flaw in the LETS system," and he
retreated from debate.

LETS Local Currency presentation.
8 people was a disappointing turnout but one could hardly expect
many to deviate from the official agenda and attend something that the
organizers had frowned upon and not wanted to offer in the first
place. I think they missed a good 2-hour show.
At one point, some of Pauline's personal LETS anecdotes seemed
appropriate and she took over the talk and handled questions while I
left to settle other things. When I came back, there were no more
questions and everyone seemed interested in getting involved too.
A young African paid us the nicest compliment. He said: "I"m
really glad I came to this meeting. Now I can say I got something
useful out of this conference." Thank you Abdul. I hope you make use
of it.

July 19
I decided to use a sign that would focus on the picture of my
arrest at the Toronto IMF World Bank conference with the big picture
of my sign "Bankers Starve Third-World Babies." Pauline whipped up a
two sided picket sign for me with that message on one side and
"Abolish Interest on Debt" on the other while I made some photocopies
of the 1982 Toronto Star World Bank story and the Citizen Guinness
Record story with picture from my web site. Added to a 5 foot stick
and carried by a guy in a suit with a white hard hat, it was certainly
geared attract attention. It did.
While I walked along the chain of debt, many with their "Drop the
Debt for the poorest nations" signs, I'd say "What about us? Dropping
the interest on the debt solves it for all of us too."
As we went along, Pauline, Cologne LETSer Paula Cremer and her
friend Nina approached reporters and gave them out the Arrest-Guinness
flyer and several came over to take pictures. And lots of other people
asked for pictures and I gave every one of them the web site card. My
sign got thumbs up all along the route and people loved the bankers
starving babies sign, as usual. After all, these are the people
protesting debt repayment taking away from social services. We'd
expect them to agree.
I had one big impromptu score. AS we followed the Chain of Debt
to the end of the route, we ended up at the Jubilee 2000 outdoor festival
bandstand with a 10 piece band and thousands of people in attendance.
Hundreds of people were in the front dancing away. So they were
having fun.
I heard the German girl Master of Ceremonies interviewing a
British guy about the debt problem and decided I'd try to get a few
minutes up on stage to talk about the Germany Talent Tauschring LETS.
And it worked. I went to security at the back gate and asked for
an organizer. He escorted me to a trailer with five or six people
sitting about some computers and I mentioned that I wanted to say a
few words about LETS and debt. One guy sort of waved that it couldn't
be done but a girl looked at the the flyer and took me out to see the
Master of Ceremonies.
I explained the flyer and said that I had a short 30 second poem
I'd like to do. "I'll pay my tax... but not for interest." She saw no
problem in fitting it in, we practiced her translating the poem once
and then went on stage. I had my picket sign with me. She introduced
me and then did a long introduction in German I didn't understand but
I'll be able to ask Heinrich Haussmann who was there from Nurnberg
She asked me why I was here and I mentioned it was to speak of
LETS Talent Tauschrings at TOES. Then she asked me why I wore the hard
hat with "The Engineer." I answered that since I was not a political
candidate from a major party, I had to do something different to point
out that I'm a very special kind of engineer, a banking systems
engineer. I was surprised that that got a round of applause. They
hadn't even heard my proposal yet. They must have been happy to learn
that an engineer was looking at banking over the economists'
Then she let me do my speech where we handed the mike back and
forth as she translated. I find it effective to deliver two languages
in short bursts.
"We're here to abolish the debts of the world's poorest nations."
"But what about us poor in the rich nations?"
"Debts are no problem without interest."
"I'll pay the tax for army and police to handle strife;"
"I'll pay the tax for doctors, nurses who protect my life;"
"I'll pay the tax for all engaged repairing road and sewer;"
"I'll pay the tax for social servants helping out the poor;"
"I'll even pay the tax for bureaucrats with no regret;"
"But I object to paying tax for any interest on debt."
People were hooting and hollering and applauding before she even
translated the last line into German. There must have been many who
spoke English and also followed the rhyme. As I left the stage, I
waved my cap and shouted: "Viva LETS Talent Tauschring."
Nurnberg LETSer Heinrich Haussmann was in the crowd and came up
after to give me one of their LETS flyers and mention he'd been
reading about my trip as part of my German mailing list. We talked
about a possible trip to Nurnberg since there are many dates in
Germany still free.

So there's another TOES at an end. And it's the second time the
Banking Systems Engineer was kept off the agenda monopolized by
experts and Phds in Money Mismanagement philosophizing for us. Here
are a bunch of egg-head philosophers who know everything there is to
know about how bad things are with the system, asking themselves how
to cope with a malfunctioning currency system when the better system
has not only been staring them in the face, but has already been
endorsed by most of them already. They just don't see its significance
If they are aware of the success of LETS, as last year's TOES
agenda pointed out, why haven't they gone to pick up some software on
the Internet and helped people use it? Show them how to use it? They
don't even talk about it. Philosophers is all they are. Not an
engineer among them.
And now the first time, even the topic of LETS local currency has
been excluded too. Well, this is the last time LETS is kept off the
TOES agenda. And if I have any success, it might even be on the
plenary next year if they have two categories on the agenda:
A) Discussion of the problems,
B) Discussion of solution.
From now on, I'll use a new picket sign for these kinds of anti-
poverty meetings which will read "Use LETS interest-free software." Or
"We already have LETS. Why are you still looking?" It's better than my
It's time for The Engineer to beat up on the Egg-Heads getting in
the way of discussion of the solution. I'm not going sit by quietly
while they dance around the solution any longer. Next year, they're
going to see "Use LETS" every time one of them tells us how important
it is to keep looking for the new solution, paradigm, or way. I didn't
raise LETS enough this time but I will from now on.
I must admit that I am flattered that Pauline and I were the only
two delegates to this year's TOES who raised the LETS solution. I
think it's quite a distinction and I intend to play upon it during my
upcoming European LETS tour.

JCT: In my last post, I mentioned I posted my European itinerary
after the TOES conference. Since then, July 9 has been booked in
Bordeaux by one of France's most experienced LETSers, Winston Smith.
He has done so much for France LETS that meeting him was always one of
the priorities on my agenda.
I'm also pleased to find out that I'm going to be getting to meet
one of Germany's prime LETSers, Hans Werner. Anyone who visits his
their sites from my http://www.cyberclass.net/turmel/urlsnat.htm has
to appreciate the effort that went into their contributions.
So I consider getting to meet these two "parents" of their
nations' respective LETSystems a great thrill.
I've also had an invitation to visit Finland which would be nice
as part of my Nordic LETS tour to Denmark, Sweden, and perhaps Norway.
I'd like to make it.
Itinerary as of June 22 1999:


(s) <-- Speaking - Discours
(?) <-- Visit probable

17-19: (s) Cologne DE: TOES conference
20: (s) Cologne DE:talents...@t-online.de Marina Carboga
21: (s) Ahrweiler DE: p.im...@bonn.comlink.apc.org (Paul R. Imbusch)
22: (s) Mainz DE: murm...@mail.uni-mainz.de (Erik Murmann)
23: (s) Begijnendijk BE: vrouw...@skynet.be ("Geysen Dirk")
24-26: (s) Paris FR: euro...@globenet.org (Valerie Peugeot)
27: FREE-LIBRE (if on route - si en route)
28: (?) Hamburg
29: FREE-LIBRE (if on route - si en route)
30: (s) Bonn DE: SUN.se...@t-online.de Brigitte Gunther

1: (s) Braunau AT: gott...@pips.co.at (Gottfried Freudmann)
2: FREE-LIBRE (if on route - si en route)
3-4: (s) Dordogne FR: Archi...@aol.com (Daniel Delarasse)
5: (s) Ste Foy la Grande FR: MHSa...@aol.com (Marie Helene Sautet)
6: (?) Libourne: mat...@multimania.com (Thierry Mattio)
7-8: FREE-LIBRE (France)
9: (s) Bordeaux FR: winsto...@alternatif.net (Winston Smith)
10-11: FREE-LIBRE (France)
12: (?) Thiviers FR
13: FREE-LIBRE (France - Belgium)
14: (s) Antwerp BE: Robrech...@advalvas.be (Rob Siera)
15: (s) Hamburg DE: bir...@gmx.de (Birgit Koch)
16: (?) Nurnberg heinrich....@t-oneline.de (Heinrich Haussmann)
17: (s) Styria AT: reitend...@apsint.at (Oswin Soritz)

July 18-26:
(?) Viborg, DK: pep...@post6.tele.dk (Anne en Carsten)
(?) Stockholm SE: ma...@lovfors.se (Maria Lovfors)
(?) Skene, SE: bo.lju...@ctv.gu.se (Bo Ljungqvist)
(?) Vaasa West, FI: sa...@uwasa.fi (Salla Laurilehto)
(?) Nurnberg DE: heinrich....@t-online.de (Heinrich Haussmann)
(?) Warendorf DE: h.-j....@t-online.de (Hans Joachim Werner)

John C. "The Engineer" Turmel, Founder, Abolitionist Party of Canada
915-2045 Carling Ave., Ottawa, K2A 1G5, Tel/Fax: 613-728-2196
LETS Abolish Interest Rates http://www.cyberclass.net/turmel
For TURMEL topic http://www.onelist.com/subscribe.cgi/lets

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