At this time, our U.S. Congress rates a nine percent approval rating. It means nine percent of the American public registers “brain-dead.”
Those 535 members over the past 40 years deformed our nation from the largest creditor country in the world to the largest debtor nation in the world. We enjoyed less than $1 trillion in national debt to our current $18 trillion debt. That same Congress forced our young men and women into four hopeless, futile and asinine wars that killed tens of thousands of them and sent millions home with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, drugs and alcoholism. Not to mention dismembered limbs.
That Congress danced to the Military Industrial Complex’s tune of contrived wars benefiting the bankers and corporations that outfitted and fed those young soldiers. Those executives made millions while our kids came home in coffins or missing arms and legs and their minds.
That same Congress turned our nation from a rich manufacturing country into a multi-trillion dollar deficit nation where we import everything we once manufactured, to today where we buy everything from China to make their citizens rich. So rich, in fact, that we owe them $1.4 trillion in trade deficits. Ironically, China now owns many U.S. corporations and buys land for its own beachhead here in America, not to mention Vancouver, BC, Canada where it displaced most of the Canadians in the past 30 years. Chinese now dominates the language in once-English speaking Vancouver, BC.
That bunch of hot shot Congressional Critters took our vibrant economy and turned it into 15 million unemployed and 48 million food stamp users. Those same reps allowed 20 million illegal alien migrants to come into our country and work for crooked employers like Chipotle’s, Marriot Hotels, Holiday Inns, McDonald’s, Hormel, Tyson Chicken, Swift, painting, landscape and construction firms at minimum wages. They and the presidents that headed this country refused to enforce our laws. That’s why you MUST press “1” for Spanish and “2” for English.
Today, we face enormous consequences from their actions. Yet, U.S. voters return 96 percent of incumbents—such as Boxer, Feinstein, Hatch, McCain, Kyle, Schumer, Lindsey Graham, Levin, Udall, Bennet, Rangel, Jackson, DeGette and hundreds of other failed Congressional Critters.
So are they stupid or are they corrupt?
One reader named Brad said, “They are not necessarily stupid. It’s just that most of these psychopaths are bought. The wealthy buy their services and they get remuneration by jobs when they leave “service”, by getting to indulge in insider trading (again – was cut out, but quietly reinstated) etc.
“Just allowing insider trading makes EVERY decision with any economic consequence suspect, as they will have a vested personal income interest in helping corporations increase profits by any means. Thus the repeal of clean air and water regulations. They allow oil fracking to use 2 million gallons of water per well, pour over 530 toxic chemicals into the aquifer to poison and ruin it, and remain exempt from EPA oversight.
“Some may not be bought. Some not all the time. The sad fact is that enough ARE compromised that essentially the damages get done consistently.
“Most in office are so stupid (such as California’s Congresswoman Maxine Waters, who is also corrupt in the league with former Congressman Tom Delay of Texas) that they accept stupid, flawed societal paradigms like “what’s good for business is good for America” and we can see how well that’s working out.
“The parasitic wealthy class is stealing record profits in some of the worst working economy in history – why? Because they have the true entitlement society in which they get tax breaks, tax exemptions, no bid contracts, inflated government costs, subsidizations and most likely a ton of things we never hear about. Simply by allowing industry execs into the alphabet organizations like FDA, USDA, etc., allows them to regulate competition to a ridiculously low level, and to leverage their income, influence, and profits at everyone else’s expense.”
The greatest flaw facing all U.S. citizens remains “career politicians” that create a “good-old boy” network of cronyism and corruption.
If we citizens fail to press for a maximum of 12-year term limits, we face a downward spiral into poverty and failed government not seen since the 1930s. The majority of Congress remains corrupt. That’s why things in the USA don’t get better, but continue on the downward path.
Remember: power corrupts; long-term power corrupts absolutely.
“I never thought I’d live to see the day when the US State Department whitewashed the neo-Nazi views and heritage of a gang of thugs who had seized power in a violent coup d’état. In Iraq, Libya, and Syria, US policymakers empowered radical Islamists of one sort or another. That was bad enough. Today, however, in Ukraine they are empowering the heirs of Adolf Hitler. How is this not a scandal?”
–Justin Raimondo, From Iraq to Ukraine: A Pattern of Disaster
The Obama administration suffered its worst foreign policy defeat in 5 years on Sunday when the people of Crimea voted overwhelmingly to reject Washington’s Nazi-backed junta government in Kiev and join the Russian Federation. The balloting, in which more than 93 percent of voters “approved splitting off and joining Russia” reflects the strong ethnic, cultural and historic ties its people share with Moscow as well as the understandable fear that being “liberated” by the US could lead to grinding third world poverty and widespread mayhem the likes of which are manifest in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria.
The Obama administration rejected the nearly-unanimous referendum opining that they would not accept the results and would push for economic sanctions on Russia as early as Monday. In response, Russian President Vladimir Putin stated that the referendum “complied with international law” and that he would honor the will of the people. Putin, who was attending the Paralympic games in Sochi, has wisely stayed above the fray throughout the crisis brushing off the hysterical accusations and threats issued almost daily by President Obama or his vaudevillian sidekick John Kerry, the most incompetent buffoon to ever serve as US Secretary of State. Between Obama, Kerry and the irascible John McCain, who traipses from one media venue to the next spouting his cold war fulminations like an old man shooing kids off the front lawn, the US has made a spectacular hash of things leaving US foreign policy in a shambles. The Crimea fiasco shows that while Team Obama may be chock-full of fantasists, spin-doctors and crystal-gazing globalists it is sadly lacking in geopolitical pragmatists with a solid grasp of the way the world works. Obama has been no match for Putin who has tromped him at every turn. Here’s a clip from an article by the Associated Press:
“Moscow… called on Ukraine to become a federal state as a way of resolving the polarization between Ukraine’s western regions — which favor closer ties with the 28-nation EU — and its eastern areas, which have long ties to Russia.
In a statement Monday, Russia’s Foreign Ministry urged Ukraine’s parliament to call a constitutional assembly that could draft a new constitution to make the country federal, handing more power to its regions. It also said country should adopt a “neutral political and military status,” a demand reflecting Moscow’s concern about the prospect of Ukraine joining NATO.” (Crimea declares independence, seizes property, AP)
So, this is how Putin intends to play the game, eh; by using basic democratic institutions to block Washington from implementing its plan to deploy NATO and US missile bases in Ukraine? It sounds like a smart move to me.
Once again, Putin has made every effort to downplay his role in deciding policy so as not to embarrass the bungling Obama claque who seem determined to make themselves look foolish and impotent at every opportunity. Here’s how analyst Michael Scheuer summed up Putin’s behavior in an article at the Ron Paul website:
“The difference in the Ukraine intervention from others the West has conducted is that the terminally adolescent political leaders who run the West have run smack dab into a decisive, realistic, and nationalistic adult, in the person of Vladimir Putin, and they do not know what to do. They are learning that the Ukraine is not Libya or Egypt in that Putin will not to let the West make of Ukraine — or at least of Crimea — the same unholy mess its earlier unwarranted interventions made of Egypt and Libya. Putin has a very clear view of Russia’s genuine national interests, and reliable access to the Crimean base of the Black Sea fleet is one of them, it has been for centuries, and it will remain so in the future…
U.S. and Western leaders should be lining up to thank Vladimir Putin for a painful but thorough lesson in how the adult leader of a nation protects his country’s genuine national interests.” (Russia Annexing Crimea is the Cost of US/EU intervention in Ukraine, Michael Scheuer, Ron Paul Institute)
Putin realizes that derailing Washington’s strategy to control the Crimea will have serious consequences. He must now prepare for the typical litany of asymmetrical attacks including covert operations, special ops, arming Tatar jihadis to incite violence in Crimea, US-backed NGOs fomenting unrest in Moscow, etc etc, as well as stepped up US military and logistical support for Kiev’s thriving fascist element which has already morphed into the imposter-government’s security apparatus, a scary remake of Hitler’s Gestapo. Here’s the rundown from the World Socialist Web Site:
“On Thursday, the Ukrainian parliament voted to establish a 60,000-strong National Guard recruited from “activists” in the anti-Russian protests and from military academies. The force will be overseen by the new security chief, Andriy Parubiy, a founder in the early 1990s of the neo-Nazi Social-National Party of Ukraine. His deputy, Dmytro Yarosh, is the leader of the paramilitary Right Sector. It is the Ukrainian equivalent of Hitler’s storm troopers.
In addition to aiding the West in its provocations against Moscow, the main responsibility of these elements will be to carry through a social onslaught against the Ukrainian working class at the behest of international capital…” (What the Western-backed regime is planning for Ukrainian workers, World Socialist Web Site)
And here’s a bit more from the same article on the radical austerity program the IMF is planning to impose on Ukraine in order to shrink the government, reduce pensions, cut social services, and leave the country in a permanent state of Depression:
“Behind incessant rhetorical invocations of a “democratic revolution,” Ukraine’s newly-installed government of former bankers, fascists and oligarchs is preparing draconian austerity measures.
The plans being drawn up are openly described as the “Greek model,” i.e., the programme of savage cuts imposed on Greece by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and European Union (EU) that has caused Greece’s economy to collapse by nearly 25 percent in five years and produced a massive growth in unemployment and poverty…” (“What the Western-backed regime is planning for Ukrainian workers, World Socialist Web Site)
So, Putin definitely has his work cut out for himself. Fortunately, he appears to be getting sound advice from his political and military advisors who have avoided pointless grandstanding, gamesmanship or incendiary rhetoric the likes of which erupt from the White House and State Department on a daily basis.
Despite the fact that the Kremlin does not want to see Washington “lose face”, sometimes events make that impossible, as the astute political analysts at Moon of Alabama pointed out on Sunday. Here’s a blurb from a post at MoA that shows how Washington has essentially capitulated to Moscow and accepted its basic framework for resolving the crisis while trying to dupe the public into thinking the policy was their idea. Here’s the excerpt:
“There was another phone call today between Secretary of State Kerry and the Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov. The call came after a strategy meeting on Ukraine in the White House. During the call Kerry agreed to Russian demands for a federalization of the Ukraine in which the federal states will have a strong autonomy against a central government in a Finlandized Ukraine. Putin had offered this “off-ramp” from the escalation and Obama has taken it. The Russian announcement:
(Reuters) – “Lavrov, Kerry agree to work on constitutional reform in Ukraine: Russian ministry…
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry agreed on Sunday to seek a solution to crisis in Ukraine by pushing for constitutional reforms there, the Russian foreign ministry said.
It did not go into details on the kind of reforms needed except to say they should come “in a generally acceptable form and while taking into the account the interests of all regions of Ukraine”.
“Sergei Viktorovich Lavrov and John Kerry agreed to continue work to find a resolution on Ukraine through a speedy launch of constitutional reform with the support of international community,” the ministry said in a statement.” (Ukraine: U.S. Takes Off-Ramp, Agrees To Russian Demands, Moon of Alabama)
Can you believe it? The goofy Obama team wants the public to believe that the whole “constitutional reform”-thing was their idea so people don’t notice that the clunker administration and President Featherweight have run up the white flag and headed for the hills. This is classic Barack “lead from behind” Obama trying to make a full-blown retreat look like a victory.
Debt is everywhere but it just does not seem to matter. Thanks to the folks at Zero Hedge, you get the account Global Debt Crosses $100 Trillion, Rises By $30 Trillion Since 2007; $27 Trillion Is “Foreign-Held” – ”Total global debt has exploded by 40% in just 6 short years from 2007 to 2013, from “only” $70 trillion to over $100 trillion as of mid-2013, according to the BIS’ just-released quarterly review“. They make this assessment:
“Not surprisingly, given the significant expansion in government spending in recent years, governments (including central, state and local governments) have been the largest debt issuers (Graph C, left-hand panel). They mostly issue debt in domestic markets, where amounts outstanding reached $43 trillion in June 2013, about 80% higher than in mid-2007 (as indicated by the yellow area in Graph C, left-hand panel). Debt issuance by non-financial corporates has grown at a similar rate (albeit from a lower base).”
There seems only one valid conclusion drawing upon these figures. Whatever economic activity exists is based upon government expenditures and that corporations have lowered their interest rates on their outstanding debt. The former is most disturbing, while the latter, under normal circumstances, would offer a promise of an expanding economy.
Since the former middle class has endured the greatest loss of income and experiences a distinct lowering in their standard of living since the financial meltdown, the prospects of main street prosperity seems remote at best. Corporations, as a whole, have improved their balance sheets as they lower their debt service, accompanied with cost efficiencies and reduction in employee costs. The day of the upward mobility career looks like a distant memory for the working class.
Government employment is growing, but such a public sector economy never produces actual wealth. Only a disturbing burden of welfare obligations of all kinds and an increase in state debt comes out of this pattern of a false and unsustainable economy.
On the contrary, is that ultimate collapse inevitable when the paper financial system just keeps churning out a rise in the stated 40% increase in debt in just 6 years? Why not just continue the quantitative easing influx of funds to roll over past debt and purchase the new bonds needed to run the State/Corporate economy. If this irrational strategy is not working, why has the bottom not dropped out of the world economy?
This is a very sobering viewpoint that defies the normal predictability of mathematical consequences. Surely, there can be no debate that this 100 Trillion indebtedness will never be paid off. However, the political accommodations always seem to invent another rescue plan that prevents the wheels of commerce from stopping.
The reason why the elites are able to get away with this practice of delaying the inescapable is that they make the rules of how to elude the last constrains that would impose accountability. The financial game is like a moving target that never flies out of range. The quarry just changes direction and speed. Requirements for default are rewritten and the next imposition of austerity packages demands even more harsh burdens for the taxpayers. Net result from this tactic is that the purchasing power of all paper currencies loses value.
Possessing a monopoly on money means that this alarming world indebtedness only requires a periodic company bankruptcy that liquidates the stockholder equity or a governmental devaluation of its currency, which further impoverishes its citizen’s wealth.
Remember that the Bank of International Settlement is the central bank for all the other banksters’ own fiat fractional reserve branches. The essential question to investigate is why does every readjustment of national borders with the creation or demise of a particular country, immediately establish a national bank that conforms to the standards of the banksters’ financial system?
The obvious reason lies within the control of debt created currency. Not until every facet or deed of possessions is encumbered with a property lien, will the debt total be modified to superimpose a new financial order.
The uber-rich are not a function of amassing wealth alone. Titans of financial oppression are manipulators of the political banking system. Being part of the decisions that expropriate from the common-man and consolidates greater control under the auspicious of an evil elite, is the chart that needs to be tracked.
Funny money always buys fewer possessions. However, global indebtedness diminishes human freedom on a far more vast scale. While the economics of inconceivable debt defies intellectual acceptance, the absurdity of the geo-politics moves further to an institutional enslavement that is even more unimaginable to the naive laborer in a corporatist environment.
How many times have you heard soothsayers and investment guru’s forecast that the collapse is imminent? By all logic, they should be right. Nonetheless, there is to all intents and purposes, no end to the economic and governmental subjugation that continues uninterrupted.
Public and private debts are ultimately satisfied when insolvency turns into liquidation. Lawful and legal procedures do not apply when entire countries and economic alliances go on the chopping block. In the end, the trillions in unpaid debt instruments will continue to accrue interest from the theft of several billion peons that are afraid of resisting the established global order.
Economic prosperity is possible, but only after the chains of financial incarceration is broken. Within this zero interest rate backdrop, the acumination of untold fortunes grows as the people sink into a greater poverty. This plan is working well for the banksters.
Next, the winds of war are on the horizon to ratchet up another phony conflict in order to sell an even greater austerity to the public. It is very plausible that a 100 trillion measure will be but a long forgotten barrier when the gnomes of financial pillage ramp up their next rescue scheme.
Never underestimate the creative criminal wizardry of the central banksters to sell their next round of thievery or the gullibility of the masses to obey the dictates of outlaw governments.
“Please don’t go to Haiti — it could be dangerous down there!” several worried friends begged me right before I left. But boy were they wrong. Haiti is totally fun! I never had so much fun in my life as I did this past week in Haiti. And this is my very own tourist guidebook to all the neat stuff that I’ve done down here. Not exactly the Lonely Planet. But boy am I having a good time.
The most frequently asked question before I left was, “Are you going down there to do humanitarian work?” No no no. I’m going down there to be a tourist!
To start with, I got a really great bargain deal on Expedia — $800 to fly me from SFO to Port au Prince and five nights in a convenient, clean and quiet hotel called the Diquini Guest House. This was absolutely the smartest thing that I did on this trip. Why? Because the manager of the guest house, a former member of the Haitian diaspora and long-time resident of Washington DC, took me under his wing and for a reasonable fee let me hire his driver, translated for me, kept me fed on nicely-flavored Haitian stew and rice — and then took me off to explore Port au Prince. www.diquinigh.com.
First we went to the famous Hotel Oloffson where the ghosts of past American ex-pat writers such as Graham Greene and Lillian Hellman roam its gardens, terraces and gingerbread-style balconies; where Mick Jagger and even Jacqueline Kennedy have stayed — and where the famous vudou-inspired RAM band was playing that night. http://hoteloloffson.com/
The next day we explored what is left of the 2010 earthquake ruins, from what was left of the tragically beautiful stone-filigreed huge rose window of the old cathedral and the site of the historic National Palace to various small tent cities dotting Port au Prince that still house earthquake victims today, and the ruined buildings that still have market stalls precariously tucked into whichever concrete slabs are still left standing.
“So, Jane, how is Port au Prince actually doing now, four years after the quake?” you might ask, now that I’m an actual eye-witness to the scene of the crime. It’s not doing super-good, but not doing as badly as I had expected either. Most of the tent cities are gone now — as a lot of the homeless victims have by now squashed themselves in with relatives, left for the countryside or otherwise made do.
“But what are Haitians really like?” you might ask next. You can tell what Haitians are really like by the way that they drive. There are only a handful of traffic signals in Port au Prince and even fewer rules of the road. And Haitians drive very fast. But they also drive in a way that is almost polite. Everyone wants to get where they are going (and to get there fast) — but no one wants to actually hurt anyone else. I didn’t see any road rage there. Just people trying to get by.
Basically, Haitians are just people trying to get by after having been dealt a very rough hand for a very long time, from the moment they were kidnapped from Africa and sold as slaves here — starting in 1503, just eleven years after Columbus discovered the island. And those slaves were expendable too, worked to death in a few years at most and then replaced by other new slaves.
Then after having fought for and achieved its freedom in 1804, Haiti was also constantly attacked, exploited and/or invaded for the next 200-plus years by America, Canada and various combinations of European nations. And now Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world, resembling the slums of Uganda or the slums of Zimbabwe. And yet despite their poverty, which is dire and extreme, Haitians still remain stoically polite.
Next we went off to the Iron Market bazaar to buy Haitian stuff to hang on my walls when I get home. And then we drove all over Port au Prince — the grand tour. And that night we went off to Carnival in the Carrefour district. Are you jealous yet?
Carrefour’s pre-Lenten carnival was like one gigantic block party and was actually as much fun as Berkeley in the 1960s, the benchmark against I always measure how much fun something is.
I also wanted to go see San Souci and the Citadel, UNESCO world heritage sites up in Cap Haitien, but it was a seven-hour drive to get there, so we went to Fonds des Negres instead, which was only a three-hour drive, and I met a vodou master there. “No one is cursing you,” he told me. Not even the NSA? Good to know. Then he performed a candlelight ritual to help my knees get better. Then he pulled out a business card for his son who owns a botanica in SoCal who, for a price, could finish my knee treatment when I got back home .
And there’s also a cave in the mountains near Fonds des Negres where a “Suzan,” a vodou spirit, resides. But you have to get there by motorcycle and we didn’t have time to do all that on this day trip. So I just bought a sequin-covered vodou flag instead.
“Have you seen any zombies in Haiti?” might be your next question. Sorry, no. But on my plane ride down here, we ran into a bunch of really scary turbulence over Chicago and I thought I was going to die. So I had an epiphany. “When you are in your mother’s womb, the only way out is by going through a whole bunch of pain first — and death is also like that. First you pass through a whole bunch of pain and then, poof, you are out on the Other Side.” As a zombie? Let’s hope not.
The next day we went out searching for Jean-Bertrand Aristide and then ended the day in that famous five-star hotel in Petionville — just to see how the other 1% lives. Trust me, they are living well.
What else have I done down here? I can’t remember exactly. But I will tell you this: I have really had fun. And if you ever want to go to Haiti too, I totally recommend it highly. And, no, I’m not getting paid to say this.
PS: While in Haiti, I also watched the winter Olympics on TV — thus getting a chance to compare Port au Prince and Sochi. One city has far too little city planning and one city had far too much!
According to journalist Roi Tov, “With less than 350,000 denizens, [Sochi] has been occupied by at least 25,000 police officers, 30,000 soldiers, 8,000 special forces, and an undisclosed number of FSB agents.”
Port au Prince is nothing like that. The streets go every which-way like a patchwork quilt. But it does have one thing in common with Sochi — abuse of its fragile labor force.
And let’s also compare Port au Prince with Havana. I’m currently reading Carlos Eire’s autobiography, “Learning to Die in Miami”. Eire appears to believe with all his heart that the Castro experience was a nightmare — and yet just compare Cuba and Haiti today. Haiti has been under the thumb of American and European corporatists for ages and ages. And now, despite all its amazingly fertile soil and impressive mineral riches, Haiti is currently one of the poorest countries in the world. Seven out of ten Haitians live on less than $2 a day, according to the International Red Cross.
But in Havana under the Castro brothers, everyone has a good chance of getting a college education.
But, hell, most Haitians are lucky to have a chance to even get as far as fourth grade!
If Fulgencio Batista and the American corporatists who owned him back in 1959 had remained in power and Castro had never taken over Cuba, Cuba today would more than likely look just like Haiti today. And does anyone with a working brain really think that having American and European oil companies, bankers, war profiteers and neo-cons in control in Syria, Venezuela and Ukraine are going to help those countries either? Hell, just look at what those guys did to Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya — and to Detroit!
Scoundrel media editors find new ways to embarrass themselves. They mock legitimate news and opinion.
They suppress it. They violate fundamental journalistic standards doing so.
They suck up to power. They support monied interests. They deplore popular ones. They endorse Western aggression. They do it repeatedly.
They blame victims for horrific US crimes committed against them. They condemn Putin for responsibly defending the safety and security of endangered Russian nationals.
Thank heavens he’s around. He’s the one world leader challenging the damn fool in the White House responsibly.
He’s our best hope for world peace. He deserves worldwide support. His best efforts may not be enough.
Neocons infest Washington. They threaten everyone. The damn fool in the White House risks starting WW III.
His damn fool Secretary of State John Kerry said “we’re now discussing all of the options.”
He outrageously accused Russia of “aggression.” No nation commits it more often against more nonbelligerent nations than America.
It wages one lawless war after another. It ravages and destroys countries doing so. Kerry is an unindicted war criminal. So is the damn fool in the White House.
They threaten world peace. They risk potential armageddon. Media scoundrels cheerlead what demands condemnation.
They denounce what demands praise. When America goes to war or plans one, they march in lockstep. They do it disgracefully.
New York Times editors stand out. They masquerade as legitimate journalists. They feature managed news misinformation rubbish.
They endorsed Ukrainian putschists. They ousted a democratically elected government. They did so with well-planned US help.
Stop NATO’s Rick Rozoff called their coup the most overt one since Mussolini’s 1922 march on Rome. It’s no exaggeration. Nothing in recent memory matches their brazenness.
Times editors are mindless of mob rule governance. Fanatical putschists run things. They scare hell out of everyone paying attention.
Times editors turn a blind eye. Journalism the way it’s supposed to be is verboten. On March 2, they headlined “Russia’s Aggression.”
They outrageously accused Putin of “exploit(ing) the Ukrainian crisis to seize control of Crimea (as well as) any other power grab he may be hatching.”
They ludicrously claimed “an immediate threat to Ukrainian Russians is empty.” Crimean self-defense volunteers already put down an attempt by Kiev infiltrators to seize government buildings.
Times editors ignore what refutes their arguments. They lied claiming Ukrainians in Crimea are endangered.
They have nothing to fear from responsible governance. Democrats in charge prioritize public safety.
Times editors wrongfully accused ousted President Viktor Yanukovych of coup plotter killings.
They murdered civilians in cold blood. They gunned down Kiev security forces. They did so in Independence Square.
Neo-Nazi snipers fired from rooftops. They operated from windows in nearby buildings. Everything that happened was well choreographed in advance.
Washington’s dirty hands manipulated things. Obama bears full responsibility. He partnered with fascist thugs. He’s got another imperial trophy.
Keeping it is another matter entirely. Ukrainians nationwide won’t likely tolerate what’s planned for them. Perhaps real revolutionary fervor will erupt.
Times editors are consistent. They’re on the wrong side of history. They ignore facts. They bury them.
They make stuff up. They lie for power. They do it to defend the indefensible.
They lied claiming Putin wants “control over Crimea.” He wants to “humiliate Ukraine,” they said.
They want Obama, NATO and EU leaders challenging Putin “if (he) escalates his intervention in Ukraine.”
He supports its sovereign independence. He opposes Washington’s direct role in replacing democratic Ukrainian governance with mob rule fascists. Don’t expect Times editors to explain.
Neocon Washington Post editors want more direct US intervention. They support ousting Syria’s Assad forcibly. They endorse fascists usurping power in Ukraine.
They headlined “President Obama’s foreign policy is based on fantasy.” They bashed Assad, China’s Xi Jinping and Putin.
They want Obama confronting them more aggressively. If he “doesn’t make the case for global engagement, no one else” will for him, they said.
They claimed “the tide of democracy in the world” is “retrenching.” They ignored Washington’s direct role in subverting it at home and abroad.
In previous editorials, they barely stopped short of urging direct US intervention. They support Ukrainian fascists retaining power.
David Ignatius is one of many WaPo neocon columnists. He has longstanding close US intelligence ties. He’s no journalist. He’s a propagandist.
He openly favors arming anti-Assad death squads. He reports what Washington bullies want stressed.
Inconvenient facts are dismissed. Lies, damn lies and misinformation substitute. On March 2, he headlined “Putin’s error in Ukraine is the kind that leads to catastrophe.”
He lied claiming he “invad(ed) Crimea.” He did no such thing. He’ll deploy military forces to protect Russian nationals if needed. Any responsible leader would do the same thing.
Ignatius turned facts on their head. He claimed “former Soviet satellites” are “prosperous” EU members.
He ignored deepening poverty, unemployment and deprivation throughout its member states.
He ludicrously claimed countries making up the former Yugoslavia “emerged as strong democracies.” Pro-Western puppet governments run them.
He blamed Yanukovych for fascist street thug crimes. They “courageous(ly) braved the cold and police brutality to protest,” he said.
They committed cold-blooded murder. They ousted Ukraine’s democratically elected government. They rule by brutal force. Don’t expect Ignatius to explain.
He ludicrously envisions “a cascading chain of error that brings Russian troops deeper into Ukraine and sets the stage for civil war.”
Putin wants it avoided. He’s going all-out for stability and security. Fascist coup plotters will bear full responsibility if internal conflict erupts.
Ignatius is militantly hawkish. Obama “would be wise to seek to deter Russian aggression without specifying too clearly what the US ladder of escalation might be,” he urged.
His commentary excluded what’s most important for readers to know. Truth was systematically suppressed.
Wall Street Journal editors match the worst of outrageous opinion writers. Rupert Murdoch rules apply. On March 2, they headlined “Putin Declares War.”
They lied saying he “seized Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula by force (and) now has his sights on the rest of his Slavic neighbor.”
“(B)razen aggression,” they screamed. War threatens Europe’s heartland “for the first time since the end of the Cold War,” they claimed.
Post-WW II, it never once did until now. Washington’s orchestrated coup ups the stakes. Obama threatens world peace.
Putin is the world’s best chance to preserve it. Whether he’s able deter possible US aggression remains to be seen.
Journal editors turned truth on its head. It’s hard imagining more convoluted rubbish. They accused Putin of “moving to carve up Ukraineâ¤|”
They claim “a popular democratic uprising” toppled Yanukovych. They ignored a US-orchestrated fascist coup d’etat.
They called Russia’s parliament “rubber-stamp.” They lied accusing its members of “approv(ing) military intervention anywhere in Ukraine, which is nothing less than a declaration of war.”
They called Obama’s full responsibility for crisis conditions in Ukraine “made entirely in Moscow.”
Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov are world class diplomats. They’re democrats. They’re polar opposite Western fascists.
They’re worthy Nobel Peace Prize nominees. They’re more deserving than any other world leaders.
Nobel Committee members have their own system. They honor war criminals. Peacemakers needn’t apply.
Journal editors write what responsible ones wouldn’t touch. They claimed Putin seeks “entrench(ed) authoritarianism in client states.”
He wants them “prevent(ed) from joining free Europe,” they said. Freedoms in Western dominated areas are fast disappearing.
Neoliberal harshness is official policy. Ordinary people are ruthlessly exploited. Don’t expect Journal editors to explain.
They lied claiming Russia’s upper house Federation Council “approved (a) declaration of war.”
They lied again calling Kiev’s coup d’etat parliament democratic. They quoted Obama lying. He called Moscow’s legitimate defense of Russian nationals a “breach of international law.”
Journal editors urge aggressive anti-Russian measures. They want their officials targeted. They want Sixth Fleet warships patrolling Black waters close to Crimea.
Imagine their howls if Russian naval vessels entered the Gulf of Mexico. Imagine likely Washington countermeasures.
They want other NATO countries confronting Moscow. “Mr. Obama and the West must act,” they said. They must do more “than merely threaten…”
They absurdly called Ukraine “a casualty of Mr. Obama’s failure to enforce his ‘red line’ on Syria.”
“Ukrainians can’t be left alone to face Russia, and the Kremlin’s annexation of Crimea can’t be allowed to stand,” they said.
They called Putin “the leading edge of what could quickly become a new world disorder.”
Journal editors and commentators specialize in reinventing history. Their rubbish doesn’t wash. They consistently turn truth on its head.
They suppress what readers most need to know. They disgrace themselves in the process.
A previous article quoted former Chicago columnist Mike Royko (1932 – 1997) saying: “No respectable fish would (want to) be wrapped in” a Murdoch paper. It’s more than ever true now.
Ongoing crisis conditions persist. War winds threaten to become gale force. Potential East/West conflict is real.
Obama bears full responsibility if it erupts. Bellowing scoundrel media liars share it.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His new book is titled “Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity.”
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.
The big currency reset. It’s not a case of ‘if’ – it’s a case ofwhen.
Don’t expect your provincial Secretary of Treasury or Chancellor Exchequer to warn you about what is coming around the corner, because they are either too stupid to know, or too busy covering their own backsides.
To understand where we are, it’s very important to understand how we got here (another point which bureaucrats and backers do not want the general populace to know).
A quick history lesson then…
The Opposite of Emerging is Submerging
Lulled and distracted by the antics of developed country central banks and emerging economy central banks – to constantly “pump-up the jam” and flood the economy with paper casino chips from either Fort Knox or Mount Gox, the real tectonic shift of the global economy since 2008 has been more or less ignored by financial gurus and sages. It is taken as “normal” that deflation, ordisinflation is operating in the developed economies, but now we can see that rip-roaring inflation operating in the emerging economies.
Supposedly, this is ‘Muddle Through’, but since 2008 the North-South paradigm has all but dissolved – the developed OECD economies are locked in a death embrace with the Emerging economies. The developed economies are now locked into chronic globalization – exporting monetary inflation while importing cheap industrial goods, services and resources.
Since 2008 the always-promised ‘world shift’ of the economy from west to east, and from north to south has happened, but the net result is a shock. Pretending “we didn’t know” is comforting, but ultimately stupid.
This is an unstable equilibrium, or an interregnum – even a sideshow, because the current global economic context and process is the exact opposite of sustainable. Harm to both North and South is now the main impact of the post-2008 process of overreach and intense fiat paper shuffling. Listing the consequences and causes of this overreach is not easy and always open to argument, but possibly the best summary is to suggest that since 2008, ‘Ricardo’s comparative advantage‘ paradigm has been inverted. Economic and above all monetary globalization is now the path to ruin and poverty. From win-win to lose-lose. The worse it gets, expect the architects of ruin – establishment politicians, central bankers and financial pundits, to retreat into even deeper denial.
The Production Bubble That Triggers the Collapse
Another simple way to argue the global economy has overreached is that industrial and economic production capacity in the Emerging economies (EMs), starting with the BRICs, is now massively over-sized. This means the EMs can and will saturate the post-industrial, deflating North with industrial supply at every stage and opportunity as technology, design and product development throw up a new market openings everywhere. Examples like the car and cellphone, fashion wear and off-shore call center industries are relatively “classic”. All of these are already saturated with capacity – but the EMs are still adding more. Previous historical “classic examples” of this process for example included the ship building industry, but the scale paradigm has been woefully ignored.
BRAZILIAN SKILLZ: Production of top-line automobiles in Brazil has surpassed many of its ‘developed’ counterparts.
Since 2008, the process has intensified, creating an increasingly certain outlook for a forced and fiat end to the willingness of the EMs to accept the fiat currency endlessly printed to finance the deflating, de-industrializing DMs (developed economies).
This will not necessarily be a politicized process, of the type hinted at by India’s central bank governor (see http://finance.fortune.cnn.com/tag/raghuram-rajan/), due to the rapidity and scale of the crisis, but instead trigger the collapse of the current global fiat monetary orderdictated by national economic self-defence and survival in the EMs.
The economic jump start of the Ricardo model, which has run riot for the last quarter-century, and went into over-drived from 2008 – will be abandoned.
Deflation/Inflation: Two Sides of the Same Bitcoin
Ricardo’s original model held sunny Portugual as a producer of cork and sherry, while rainy England could produce wine casks from its oak forests and wool from its sheep flocks. The money used in a basically resource-based exchange using then-rapidly growing maritime transport capabilities was held to be stable and gold-linked (or based). Later on, low-cost labor resources were built into Ricardo’s paradigm called “comparative advantage”. The EMs since the 1980s have played the role of resource providers while the DMs were the solvent market suppliers.
While there was a clear limit on cork, wine, oak casks and woolens supply and demand, this does not really apply to modern global fiat money and modern industrial technology. These are high gain positive feedback processes which only stop when they hit a brick wall.
The Ricardo comparative advantage model does not apply to post-1980′s globalization and super economies – like those of China and India, where industrial technology has raced ahead of infrastructure development. This is simply a bomb waiting to explode, alongside the industrial capacity growth, the EMs engaged massive growth of credit, mushroom growth urbanization, neglect of the agriculture and food sector, and turning a blind eye to rampant or even “structural” corruption. Inflation was the sure and certain result.
The results do not stop there. While inflation took off inside the EMs, with their economies producing more than they can consume, and exporting to the DMs which consume more than they produce, the EMs are also exported deflation to the developed market economies. At the same time, the emerging market economies mined out their capital bases to maintain their breakneck growth of industrial capacity.
On an almost daily basis now, the EMs are all shifting to current account deficit with the inevitable consequences of national currency devaluation, further inflation, and of course – higher interest rates.
Win-Win to Lose-Lose: Global Fiat Currency Crisis
The post-1980′s economic globalization paradigm can be called an initial ‘Win-Win’ model which eventually morphed to Lose-Lose.
The industrial nations of the DMs, which formerly benefited from the resource nations of the EMs under the previous ‘Ricardo-type’ model, are now mired in debt and de-industrialization, making it impossible for them to “grow their way out of crisis”. The EMs on their present industrial expansion path can only grow themselves into rapidly-deepening crisis.
The “money-in-the-middle” especially concerns the US dollar and its subsidiary partner, theeuro, both of which are vastly overvalued fiat currencies – but against what? Almost inevitably, this will feature a big rebound for gold, playing the starring role of in this latest episode of “Canary in the Monetary Coal Mine”. From a personal standpoint, or national (for those who have any), physical gold and silver could end up providing solid protection against the exposure of a monetary reset.
Conversely, commodities are unlikely to profit on an enduring sustained basis, due to economic restructuring, re-centering and contraction being almost certain.
Commenting on the IMF’s latest report on global capital flows since 1980, Reuters on 30 January said that while the IMF estimates net capital inflows to emerging economies as $7 trillion or more only since 2005, this was a “legacy trend” hinged on the EMs running a much higher GDP growth differential above the DMs than present. The IMF report noted that for 2014, economic growth in the BRICs will go on declining, and for Russia and Brazil, they will be less even than the GDP growth of the US and Britain. While the IMF’s economists do not allow themselves to project break-of-series change to the global economy, the process of what Gordon T. Long calls “Global collateral impairment” can easily default as the net result of apparently ‘unrelated and complex’ runaway processes.
This collateral impairment will inevitably trigger multi-national currency protection measures, a situation already clear in countries like Turkey, India, Argentina and other EMs.
For DMs in the North, plans are likely already underway. Will the reset feature a brand new reserve currency, or the introduction a fledgling single global, or virtual currency? If so, what will it be backed by (or maybe it won’t). It’s hard to know right now, but a shift of that magnitude could provide for the introduction of something new in the mix.
It’s a case of problem, reaction, solution, and one can assume that this Hegelian equation has already been mapped out on the back of a napkin in an executive dining floor of the one of the world leading central banks, possibly written using Christine Lagarde’s lip stick.
As a result, sacrificing GDP growth to protect the national money in the EMs will be inevitable. In turn, this will send a severe shock wave North to the DMs ,which have surfed on the latter-day version of the Ricardo paradigm for the last 30 years, and are now left unable to adapt.
The basic conclusion is that a global monetary reset is now overdue.
There will be shock waves, and haircuts too.
Brace yourself for impact, because it’s coming.
President Obama’s Kansas speech is a remarkable document. In calling for more government controls, more taxation, more collectivism, he has two paragraphs that give the show away. Take a look at them.
there is a certain crowd in Washington who, for the last few decades, have said, let’s respond to this economic challenge with the same old tune. “The market will take care of everything,” they tell us. If we just cut more regulations and cut more taxes–especially for the wealthy–our economy will grow stronger. Sure, they say, there will be winners and losers. But if the winners do really well, then jobs and prosperity will eventually trickle down to everybody else. And, they argue, even if prosperity doesn’t trickle down, well, that’s the price of liberty.
Now, it’s a simple theory. And we have to admit, it’s one that speaks to our rugged individualism and our healthy skepticism of too much government. That’s in America’s DNA. And that theory fits well on a bumper sticker. (Laughter.) But here’s the problem: It doesn’t work. It has never worked. (Applause.) It didn’t work when it was tried in the decade before the Great Depression. It’s not what led to the incredible postwar booms of the ’50s and ’60s. And it didn’t work when we tried it during the last decade. (Applause.) I mean, understand, it’s not as if we haven’t tried this theory.
Though not in Washington, I’m in that “certain crowd” that has been saying for decades that the market will take care of everything. It’s not really a crowd, it’s a tiny group of radicals–radicals for capitalism, in Ayn Rand’s well-turned phrase.
The only thing that the market doesn’t take care of is anti-market acts: acts that initiate physical force. That’s why we need government: to wield retaliatory force to defend individual rights.
Radicals for capitalism would, as the Declaration of Independence says, use government only “to secure these rights”–the rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness. (Yes, I added “property” in there–property rights are inseparable from the other three.)
That’s the political philosophy on which Obama is trying to hang the blame for the recent financial crisis and every other social ill. But ask yourself, are we few radical capitalists in charge? Have radical capitalists been in charge at any time in the last, oh, say 100 years?
I pick 100 years deliberately, because it was exactly 100 years ago that a gigantic anti-capitalist measure was put into effect: the Federal Reserve System. For 100 years, government, not the free market, has controlled money and banking. How’s that worked out? How’s the value of the dollar held up since 1913? Is it worth one-fiftieth of its value then or only one-one-hundredth? You be the judge. How did the dollar hold up over the 100 years before this government take-over of money and banking? It actually gained slightly in value.
Laissez-faire hasn’t existed since the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890. That was the first of a plethora of government crimes against the free market.
Radical capitalists are just beginning to have a slight effect on the Right wing. The overwhelming majority on the Right are eclectic. Which is a nice way of saying inconsistent.
The typical Republican would never, ever say “the market will take care of everything.” He’d say, “the market will take care of most things, and for the other things, we need the regulatory-welfare state.”
They are for individualism–except when they are against it. They are against free markets and individualism not only when they agree with the Left that we must have antitrust laws and the Federal Reserve, but also when they demand immigration controls, government schools, regulatory agencies, Medicare, laws prohibiting abortion, Social Security, “public works” projects, the “social safety net,” laws against insider trading, banking regulation, and the whole system of fiat money.
Obama blames economic woes, some real some manufactured (“inequality”) on a philosophy and policy that was abandoned a century ago. What doesn’t exist is what he says didn’t work.
Obama absurdly suggests that timid, half-hearted, compromisers, like George W. Bush, installed laissez-faire capitalism–on the grounds that they tinkered with one or two regulations (Glass-Steagall) and marginal tax rates–while blanking out the fact that under the Bush administration, government spending ballooned, growing much faster than under Clinton, and 50,000 new regulations were added to the Federal Register.
The philosophy of individualism and the politics of laissez-faire would mean government spending of about one-tenth its present level. It would also mean an end to all regulatory agencies: no SEC, FDA, NLRB, FAA, OSHA, EPA, FTC, ATF, CFTC, FHA, FCC–to name just some of the better known of the 430 agencies listed in the federal register.
Even you, dear reader, are probably wondering how on earth anyone could challenge things like Social Security, government schools, and the FDA. But that’s not the point. The point is: these statist, anti-capitalist programs exist and have existed for about a century. The point is: Obama is pretending that the Progressive Era, the New Deal, and the Great Society were repealed, so that he can blame the financial crisis on capitalism. He’s pretending that George Bush was George Washington.
We radical capitalists say that it was the regulatory-welfare state that imploded in 2008. You may disagree, but let’s argue that out, rather than engaging in the Big Lie that what failed was laissez-faire and individualism.
The question is: in the messy mixture of government controls and remnants of capitalism, which element caused the Great Depression and the recent financial crisis?
By raising that question, we uncover the fundamental: the meaning of capitalism and the meaning of government controls. Capitalism means freedom. Government means force.
Suddenly, the whole issue comes into focus: Obama is saying that freedom leads to poverty and force leads to wealth. He’s saying: “Look, we tried leaving you free to live your own life, and that didn’t work. You have to be forced, you have to have your earnings seized by the state, you have to work under our directions–under penalty of fines or imprisonment. You don’t deserve to be free.”
As a bit of ugly irony, this is precisely what former white slave-owners said after the Civil War: “The black man can’t handle freedom; we have to force him for his own good.” The innovation of the Left is to extend that viewpoint to all races.
Putting the issue as force vs. freedom shows how the shoe is on the other foot regarding what Obama said. Let me re-write it:
there is a certain crowd in Washington who, for the last few decades, have said, let’s respond to this economic challenge with the same old tune. “The government will take care of everything,” they tell us. If we just pile on even more regulations and raise taxes–especially on the wealthy–our economy will grow stronger. Sure, they say, there will be winners and losers. But if the losers are protected by more social programs and a higher minimum wage, if there is more Quantitative Easing by the Fed, then jobs and prosperity will eventually trickle up to everybody else. And, they argue, even if prosperity doesn’t trickle up, well, that’s the price of the social safety net.
Now, it’s a simple theory. And we have to admit, it’s one that speaks to our intellectuals’ collectivism and Paul Krugman’s skepticism about freedom. That’s in Harvard’s DNA. And that theory fits well on a bumper sticker. (Laughter.) But here’s the problem: It doesn’t work. It has never worked. (Applause.) It didn’t work when it was tried in the Soviet Union. It’s not what led to the incredible booms in India and China. And it didn’t work when Europe tried it during over the last decades. (Applause.) I mean, understand, it’s not as if we haven’t tried this statist theory.
How does that sound? That’s blaming an actual, existing condition–government controls and wealth-expropriation–not a condition that ended in the late 19th century.
So which is the path to prosperity and happiness–freedom or force? Remember that force is aimed at preventing you from acting on your rational judgment.
Obama’s real antagonist is Ayn Rand, who made the case that reason is man’s basic means of survival and coercion is anti-reason. Force initiated against free, innocent men is directed at stopping them from acting on their own thinking. It makes them, under threat of fines and imprisonment, act as the government demands rather than as they think their self-interest requires. That’s the whole point of threatening force: to make people act against their own judgment.
The radical, uncompromised, laissez-faire capitalism that Obama pretends was in place in 2008 is exactly what morality demands. Because, as Ayn Rand wrote in 1961: “No man has the right to initiate the use of physical force against others. . . . To claim the right to initiate the use of physical force against another man–the right to compel his agreement by the threat of physical destruction–is to evict oneself automatically from the realm of rights, of morality and of the intellect.”
Obama and his fellow statists have indeed evicted themselves from that realm.
Many benefit programs have gone high tech with debit cards and J.P. Morgan Chase and others are making a pretty penny charging users fees. What is there to be done?
The Agricultural Act of 2014, signed into law by President Obama last Friday, includes $8 billion in cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) over the next decade. One way the bill proposes to accomplish these savings is by reducing food stamp fraud. When the new farm bill is enacted, many of America’s hardest working families will experience cuts in services and have trouble putting food on their family’s table. But there will be major gains for an industry that most Americans might not expect: banking.
Banks reap hefty profits helping governments make payments to individuals, business that only got better when agencies switch from making payments on paper—checks and vouchers—to electronic benefits transfer (EBT) cards. EBT cards look and work like debit cards, and by 2002, had entirely replaced the stamp booklets that gave the food stamp program its name. SNAP is the most well-known program delivered via EBT, but they also carry payments for Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF); Women, Infants and Children (WIC); childcare subsidies; state general assistance; and many other programs. EBT use is widespread, from the corner store to the supercenter. According to a 2012 USDA report, SNAP funds, averaging $133 per family member per month, can be spent at more than 246,000 authorized stores, farmers’ markets, farms, and meal providers nationwide.
Not only are the operating costs of delivering benefits by EBT lower—no paper checks to cut, envelopes to stuff, or postage to pay—but electronic forms of payment allow banks to multiply opportunities for revenue generation. Banks hold contracts with federal, state, and municipal agencies to provide EBT cards and services, collect interest on federal reserve money held for government programs (though not on SNAP funds), charge transaction fees for merchant use of bank technology and infrastructure, and levy penalties on users for EBT card loss, out-of-network use, and balance inquiries. Banks make money distributing government benefits if the economy is bad, because more people sign up for assistance; they make money if the economy is good, because rising interest rates mean more profit on the money they hold to distribute to beneficiaries.
Distributing government benefits is a lucrative industry. According to theGovernment Accountability Institute, J.P. Morgan Chase, which currently controls EBT contracts in 21 states, Guam, and the Virgin Islands, made more than half a billion dollars between 2004 and 2012 providing government benefits to U.S. citizens. In New York alone, J.P. Morgan Electronic Financial Services (EFS) holds a nine-year, $177 million EBT services contract with the State Office of Temporary and Disability Services (OTDA). New York currently pays $0.95 per month for each its 1.7 million SNAP cases. In addition, J.P. Morgan EFS collects penalties and fees from benefit recipients: $5 to replace a lost EBT card, $0.40 for each balance inquiry, $0.50 each time their cards are declined for insufficient funds, and $1.50 per withdrawal if they use ATMs to get cash more than once a month. While information about profit margins on EBT contracts is neither collected at the national level nor released by banks, EBT is a significant growth area for big banks. Last year, the Federal Reserve Payments Study reported that the number of EBT transactions more than doubled since 2006.
Electronic benefits delivery is such a rewarding business that banks seem to fear only two things: policy changes and bad publicity. The publicity problems of EBT programs became obvious over the last three months of 2103 when three major EBT system failure scandals erupted. The threat of policy change is perhaps less visible. New regulations could take distribution of these benefits out of the hands of for-profit banks, limit the fees they are able to collect, or mandate a switch from EBT cards to different kinds of electronic funds transfer with fewer opportunities for generating revenue, such as direct deposit. But banks have nothing to fear in the new Agricultural Act; it’s only good news for the finance sector.
The new farm bill lowers benefit levels somewhat, exempts new categories of people—college students, ex-felons, and lottery winners—from SNAP eligibility, and prohibits advertising to increase enrollment of eligible individuals, like radio and television campaign launched by the USDA in 2004. But the bill’s sponsor, Representative Frank Lucas (R-OK), and other members of the House Committee on Agriculture seem to trust that detecting and preventing fraud will accomplish much of the hoped-for savings. The new Act includes numerous fraud-fighting provisions, including those that:
- Require merchants to maintain unique terminal identification numbers for point of sale machines, further restrict the kinds of food that can be bought with SNAP, and bar manual sales of food items without bar codes;
- Improve procedures and technologies to facilitate state-to-state and state-to-federal information sharing;
- Invite federal-state collaborative pilot projects to “identify, investigate, and reduce fraud” by merchants; and
- Set aside $40 million to help the USDA store information, such as food purchase data from chain stores and loyalty card companies, and data-mine it, by linking store sales and EBT transaction data at the household level to uncover purchasing patterns, for example.
In short, the SNAP fraud provisions will increase the ability of state and federal agencies to track who bought what food, where, and for how much. A vast amount of information on the purchases of millions of U.S. citizens will be collected by state agencies and private entities, stored by the USDA, and data-mined for patterns of EBT use that indicate fraud.
Why will this intensified focus on fraud work out so well for banks? First, banks innovate and control the most cutting-edge technologies that detect and prevent fraud in electronic funds transfer. The financial sector employs armies of computer programmers, IT specialists, and software engineers, and banks hold dozens of patents on biometric technology, data-mining systems, and payment tracking software. State and federal agencies can develop fraud-fighting code and procedures themselves, but many lack sufficient capacity and choose instead to contract with banks. Florida, for example, piloted an eight-month EBT abuse detection project in 2012 that was staffed by both J.P. Morgan and state employees, as Peter Schweizer reported in The Daily Beast. The anti-fraud provisions of the farm bill, thus, provide a significant opportunity for more, and more lucrative, contracts for banks.
Second, fraud in food stamps, despite public perceptions, is already low, and getting from very little fraud to zero fraud is prohibitively expensive. This is especially true for trafficking—the trading of SNAP benefits for cash—the most common form of SNAP fraud. Merchants and recipients must work together to traffic SNAP benefits. Recipients approach a merchant, who might offer 50 cents on the dollar to convert food stamps to cash. The merchant runs the EBT card, hands over cash, and then reports sales for reimbursement by the Treasury. Current fraud detection and prevention focuses on suspicious patterns—merchants who claim lots of even-dollar sales, recipients who spend all of their SNAP benefits in the first week of the month—but traffickers have adjusted quickly, learning to input odd dollar amounts and to spread requests for reimbursement over time.
The USDA estimates that the amount of SNAP benefits being trafficked has been reduced by 145 percent since 1993. According to a March 2011 Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) report, for the period of 2006-2008, trafficking diverted about 1 cent of each benefit dollar. Trafficking is difficult to detect and prevent, because retailers and recipients who commit fraud adapt as fast as banks, states, and the USDA can develop new data-mining and investigative procedures. This fraud-detection arms race is expensive and time-consuming for government agencies and contractors, and adds cumbersome limits and procedures for users—both merchants and recipients—most of whom aren’t committing fraud.
What cost are we willing to bear to reduce SNAP fraud to less than a penny per dollar? Federal and state government agencies invest astronomical sums in high-tech tools to address a financially negligible problem. For comparison’s sake, while we lose $330 million a year to SNAP trafficking, Ashlea Ebeling of Forbesestimates that the U.S. government loses $40 to $70 billion a year to offshore tax evasion. Nevertheless, in 2012, the FNS conducted 4,396 undercover investigations of retail grocers suspected of fraud, at an undisclosed cost to taxpayers, identifying violations in about 40 percent of cases. In 2011, Alabama’s RFP for EBT services strongly encouraged potential vendors to “recommend the use of new and innovative technologies” to “improve detection and prevention of fraud” and integrate biometrics in their proposals for the state’s SNAP program. The five-year Alabama contract, worth $51 million, went to Xerox, the same company that denied SNAP users in 17 states access to food for several hours when they shut down their EBT system without any warning last October.
Third, only three firms handle the majority of EBT contracts with states and U.S. territories: J.P. Morgan EFS (23 contracts); Xerox State and Local Solutions, Inc. (17 contracts); and eFunds Corporation, a subsidiary of FIS Global (11 contracts). On February 10, J.P. Morgan confirmed that it plans to sell its prepaid card business, including U.S. Public Sector and EBT programs, after suffering a serious data breach on debit cards used at Target stores and facing inquiries from Connecticut and New York about its lack of sufficient privacy safeguards and high card fees. This may leave even fewer players in the mix, and that’s a bad thing, according to Michele Simon, author of the report, “Food Stamps, Follow the Money: Are Corporations Profiting From Hungry Americans?”, who provided a copy of the New York/J.P. Morgan EBT contract for this story. When so few firms control such significant market share, it implies limited competition and excessive market power. Simon suggests, in fact, that the recent changes to SNAP represent a large, mostly overlooked corporate subsidy. “The real policy challenge in SNAP is not fraud. It is the fact that we have an $80 billion a year program that does not solve hunger, and certainly does not provide good nutrition, but instead is a boon for banks, big box retailers, and junk food companies.”
If banks are secret winners, the losers are pretty clear: taxpayers, particularly those who receive nutritional support through the SNAP program. That’s one in seven Americans at this moment, and 52 percent of all Americans at some point in their lifetimes, according to Mark Rank, author of One Nation, Underprivileged: Why American Poverty Affects Us All. Put simply, the Agricultural Act of 2014 takes money from a program that serves the majority of Americans and gives it to banks and high-tech companies.
But it does something else. These provisions improve a system meant to collect information on the food purchases of more than half of the U.S. population, and fund the development of increasingly sophisticated technology to sift and analyze it. In the same year that we expressed shock and outrage that the NSA is collecting meta-information on our cellphone calls and Google searches, why are we acquiescing, even welcoming, a sophisticated new program to collect American consumer information? Do we really want the federal and state governments data-mining our grocery lists?
We need a solution that contains bank profits and prevents this kind of mass surveillance. The answer’s simple: stop trying to predict fraud, eliminate complicated rules about what can and cannot be bought with food stamps, and switch to direct deposit.
A key challenge of this solution is connecting benefits recipients with affordable bank accounts, because for-profit banks are not particularly interested in low-balance, high-transaction customers. But, according to Aleta Sprague, policy analyst in the Asset Building Program at the New America Foundation, strategies that focus on eliminating barriers to bank accounts will provide significant benefits for poor and working Americans. Connecting benefits recipients to the financial mainstream poses real challenges to both the public assistance system and current financial practices, but there are intriguing experiments already underway. In Washington state, for example, a collaboration of the Department of Commerce and Burst for Prosperity is connecting households on public assistance with affordable banking services and requiring that no-fee accounts be included in future EBT provider contracts.
“Instead of seeking to monitor and regulate every purchase a low-income consumer makes,” says Sprague, “we should recognize and capitalize on the potential of the public assistance system to serve as a mechanism for financial inclusion. That way, rather than constructing the safety net around distrust of the poor, we would leverage the system to increase families’ financial autonomy and capabilities.”
Direct deposit is more efficient, cheaper, and requires less administrative oversight. That’s why the IRS, Social Security, and Unemployment Insurance encourage us to use it. What direct deposit would not allow is paternalistic rules about how public assistance beneficiaries choose to use their resources to best support their families. Treating SNAP recipients like the reasonable, hard-working adults they are is not only simpler and less expensive; it is most just.
The name ‘Rothschild’ first appeared in the 18th century when Mayer Amschel Bauer established his banking empire in Frankfurt, Germany, and changed the family name. The Bauers were a notorious satanic family in Middle Ages Germany and the major Rothschilds remain master black magicians to this day. Mayer Amschel’s father, Moses Amschel Bauer, was a moneylender and proprietor of a counting house.
The Rothschild dynasty is controlled by the family’s satanic black magicians who know how reality works and how they can manipulate energy and human perception. They know that money, like everything else, is energy and they have set up the financial system to exploit this knowledge. People talk about ‘flows of money’, but it is really flows of energy and they have created an energetic construct that ensures that the energy of money flows to them. We call this construct the ‘economic system’ or ‘the economy’ and it appears to consist of banks, financial houses, stock markets and other forms of trading; but all of these entities are just acupuncture points on the meridians of money to ensure that the wealth of the world flows to the bloodline families. It is because of this that the Rothschilds count their wealth in multiples of trillions and more.
The Rothschilds control the global financial system and have accumulated their power by theft and exploitation. Their whole system is based on a gigantic fraud because there is no money, as we perceive it. The paper money and coins are backed by nothing. Their value is only the value that we can be persuaded they have. They are just worthless pieces of paper (a promise-to-pay or promissory note) and pieces of metal that we are tricked into taking seriously. Most ‘money’ is not even something you can hold today; it is only figures on a computer screen. ‘Money’ is brought into circulation through what is called ‘credit’, but this ‘credit’ is a belief-system, that’s all, a belief that it exists. The banks are not lending us anything and people are paying them a fortune to do so.
The bloodline families, particularly the Rothschilds, have controlled governments and banking for centuries and they have been able to dictate the laws of the financial system and introduce what is called ‘fractional reserve lending’. This allows banks to lend at least ten times what they have on deposit. In other words, they are lending ‘money’ they don’t have and that doesn’t exist – called ‘credit’ – and are charging interest on it. When you go to a bank to borrow, say £50,000, you have to provide ‘collateral’ by signing over your house, land, car or business, and this will go to the bank if you don’t meet the repayments. The bank is giving you nothing in return for all this. It types into your account £50,000 and that’s it. The £50,000 doesn’t really exist – it is a line of non-existent ‘credit’. Say you give someone a cheque for £20,000 from the original £50,000 and the recipient deposits the money into another bank. Now this second bank can lend ten times the £20,000 to other people, quite legally, and charge them interest. When you follow the original £50,000 from bank to bank, the amount of ‘credit’ that is created as it circulates the banking system is absolutely fantastic. We are talking here about a single loan that was created out of thin air in the first place.
This is how the Rothschilds have come to own governments and most of the world. Interest on money is the key here. If money was put into circulation interest-free, and there was no interest on money in any form, it would return to its rightful role as a unit of energy exchange that overcomes the limitations of barter. It is when you introduce interest that the trouble starts because then you are making money from money and it no longer serves the people – it enslaves them. The bank credit / interest system means that the unit of exchange for human activity comes into circulation right from the start as a debt.
Governments could create their own money interest-free to pay for public services, but instead they borrow it from the banking system and the population has to pay it back, plus interest. It is the same with individuals and businesses. Governments don’t create their own interest-free money because they are controlled by the families who also control the banks, most notably the Rothschilds. Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by the Rothschilds when he began to print interest-free money called ‘greenbacks’ to fund the North in the American Civil War. The Rothschilds were funding both sides in the Civil War, as they do in all the wars they engineer, but Lincoln eventually refused to pay their phenomenal levels of interest. The greenback system worked so well that Lincoln was considering making it the permanent means of government finance. This was the worst nightmare for the Rothschilds. The Rothschilds had Lincoln assassinated by John Wilkes Booth in 1865 and the greenback policy went with him.
There is another vital aspect to understand about interest on money: when you take out a loan, the bank ‘creates’, in the form of ‘credit’, the amount of the ‘loan’. This sounds obvious and straightforward, except for one thing. You are not paying back only the loan; you are paying back the loan, plus interest, and the interest is not created, only the principle figure. This means that there is never even nearly enough ‘money’ in circulation to pay back all the outstanding loans and interest. It is a fatal flaw with regard to human freedom and it has been done purposely to ensure that bankruptcy and loss of property and possessions to the banks is built into the system. It is all part of the Rothschild energy-construct that flows the wealth and energy of the people in their direction. A fantastic amount of the money that people pay in taxes goes straight to the private banks to pay back interest on ‘money’ that the government could create itself, interest free. ‘Privatisation’ is the selling of state assets in response to bank-created debt.
The world’s poorest countries are handing over control of their land and resources to the Rothschild banks when they can’t pay back the loans made specifically to ensnare them in this very situation. ‘Third World Debt’ was manufactured to replace physical occupation of resource-rich or strategically-situated countries with today’s financial occupation. Once a country is indebted to the Rothschild bankers with non-existent credit, it is forced to hand over control of its affairs to the banks, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). These then dictate economic and social policy at every level. The World Bank and IMF are wholly-owned subsidiaries of the Rothschilds and always have their place-men at the helm. Poor countries with debt they are struggling to repay are forced to cut spending on social programmes, health, education and humanitarian projects to pay the banks the ‘debt’ they owe. The world does not have to be in poverty and conflict. It is manipulated to be that way to serve the bloodline agenda for global dictatorship.
Julian Websdale is an independent researcher in the fields of esoteric science and metaphysics, and a self-initiate of the Western Esoteric Tradition. His interest in these subjects began in 1988. Julian was born in England, received his education as an electronic and computer engineer from the University of Bolton, served in a Vaishnava monastery during 2010, and has travelled to over 21 countries. Julian is also a member of the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign. Blog: julianwebsdale.tumblr.com
Source: Julian Websdale | Waking Times
In 1979, Iran shocked the world—and directly confronted America’s hegemonic ambitions in the Middle East — by charting its own revolutionary course toward participatory Islamist governance and foreign policy independence. Over the past thirty-five years the Islamic Republic of Iran has held dozens of presidential, parliamentary, and local council elections and attained impressive developmental outcomes—including more progressive results at alleviating poverty, delivering health care, providing educational access, and (yes) expanding opportunities for women than the last shah’s regime ever achieved. Furthermore, the Islamic Republic has done these things while withstanding significant regional challenges and mounting pressure from the United States and its allies. Below, Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett suggest that like 1979, 2014 is likely to be, in unique ways, another Year of Iran, when Tehran’s foreign policy strategy will either finally compel Western acceptance of Iran’s sovereign rights—especially to enrich uranium under international safeguards—or fundamentally delegitimise America’s already eroding pretensions to Middle Eastern hegemony.
Hassan Rohani’s election as Iran’s president seven months ago caught most of the West’s self-appointed Iran “experts” by (largely self-generated) surprise. Over the course of Iran’s month-long presidential campaign, methodologically-sound polls by the University of Tehran showed that a Rohani victory was increasingly likely. Yet Iran specialists at Washington’s leading think tanks continued erroneously insisting (as they had for months before the campaign formally commenced) that Iranians could not be polled like other populations and that there would be “a selection rather than an election,” engineered to install Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s “anointed” candidate—in most versions, former nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili. On election day, as Iranian voters began casting their ballots, the Washington Post proclaimed that Rohani “will not be allowed to win”—a statement reflecting virtual consensus among American pundits.
Of course, this consensus was wrong—as have been most of the consensus judgments on Iran’s politics advanced by Western analysts since the country’s 1979 revolution. After Rohani’s victory, instead of admitting error, America’s foreign policy elite manufactured two explanations for it. One was that popular disaffection against the Islamic Republic—supposedly reflected in Iranians’ determination to elect the most change-minded candidate available to them—had exceeded even the capacity of Khamenei and his minions to suppress. This narrative, however, rests on agenda-driven and false assumptions about who Rohani is and how he won.
“The Islamic Republic aims to replace American hegemony with a more multi-polar distribution of power and influence. It seeks to achieve this by using international law and by leveraging participatory Islamist governance and foreign policy independence to accumulate real “soft power”.”
At sixty-five, Rohani is not out to fundamentally change the Islamic Republic he has worked nearly his entire adult life to build. The only cleric on the 2013 presidential ballot, Rohani belongs to Iran’s main conservative clerical association, not its reformist antipode. While he has become the standard bearer for the Islamic Republic’s “modern” (or “pragmatic”) right, with considerable support from the business community, his ties to Khamenei are also strong. After Rohani stepped down as secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council in 2005, Khamenei made Rohani his personal representative on the Council.
Backing Rohani was thus an unlikely way for Iranian voters to demand radical change, especially when an eminently plausible reformist was on the ballot—Mohammad Reza Aref, a Stanford Ph.D. in electrical engineering who served as one of reformist President Mohammad Khatami’s vice presidents. (Methodologically-sound polls showed that Aref’s support never exceeded single digits; he ultimately withdrew three days before Iranians voted.) The outcome, moreover, hardly constituted a landslide—not for Rohani and certainly not for reformism: Rohani won by just 261,251 votes over the 50-percent threshold for victory, and the parliament elected just one year before is dominated by conservatives.
The other explanation for Rohani’s success embraced by American elites cites it as proof that U.S.-instigated sanctions are finally “working”—that economic distress caused by sanctions drove Iranians to elect someone inclined to cut concessionary deals with the West. But the same polls that accurately predicted Rohani’s narrow win also show that sanctions had little to do with it. Iranians continue to blame the West, not their own government, for sanctions. And they do not want their leaders to compromise on what they see as their country’s sovereignty and national rights—rights manifest today in Iran’s pursuit of a civil nuclear program.
The Iranian Challenge
Iran’s presidential election and the smooth transfer of office to Rohani from term-limited incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stand out in today’s Middle East. Compared to Afghanistan, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Palestine, Syria, and Tunisia, the Islamic Republic is actually living up to former U.S. President Jimmy Carter’s description of Iran as “an island of stability” in an increasingly unsettled region. And compared to some Gulf Arab monarchies, where perpetuation of (at least superficial) stability is purchased by ever increasing domestic expenditures, the Islamic Republic legitimates itself by delivering on the fundamental promise of the revolution that deposed the last shah thirty-five years ago: to replace Western-imposed monarchical rule with an indigenously generated political model integrating participatory politics and elections with principles and institutions of Islamic governance.
“Partnering with Tehran would require Washington and its friends in London and Paris to accept the Islamic Republic as the legitimate government of a fully sovereign state with legitimate interests.”
These strengths have enabled the Islamic Republic to withstand sustained regional and Western pressure, and to pursue a foreign policy strategy likely to reap big payoffs in 2014. This strategy aims to replace American hegemony, regionally and globally, with a more multi-polar distribution of power and influence. It seeks to achieve this by using international law and institutions, and by leveraging the Islamic Republic’s model of participatory Islamist governance, domestic development, and foreign policy independence to accumulate real “soft power”—not just with a majority of Iranians living inside their country, but (according to polls) with hundreds of millions of people across the Muslim world and beyond, from Brazil to China and South Africa. Such soft power was on display, for example, in the last year of Ahmadinejad’s presidency, when, during a trip to China, he won a standing ovation from a large audience at Peking University, where a representative sample of next-generation Chinese elites showed themselves deeply receptive to his call for a more equitable and representative international order.
In the current regional and international context, the West is increasingly challenged to come to terms with the Islamic Republic as an enduring entity representing legitimate national interests. In Tehran, the United States and its European allies could have a real partner in countering al-Qa’ida-style terrorism and extremism, in consolidating stable and representative political orders in Syria and other Middle Eastern trouble spots, and in resolving the nuclear issue in a way that sets the stage for moving toward an actual WMD-free zone in the region. But partnering with Tehran would require Washington and its friends in London and Paris to accept the Islamic Republic as the legitimate government of a fully sovereign state with legitimate interests—something that Western powers have refused to accord to any Iranian government for two centuries.
President Obama’s highly public failure to muster political support for military strikes against the Assad government following the use of chemical weapons in Syria on August 21, 2013 has effectively undercut the credibility of U.S. threats to use force against Iran. On November 24, 2013, this compelled an American administration, for the first time since the January 1981 Algiers Accords that ended the embassy hostage crisis, to reach a major international agreement with Tehran—the interim nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1—largely on Iranian terms. (For example, the interim nuclear deal effectively negates Western demands—long rejected by Tehran but now enshrined in seven UN Security Council resolutions—that Iran suspend all activities related to uranium enrichment).
But recent Western recognition of reality is still partial and highly tentative. The United States and its British and French allies continue to deny that Iran has a right to enrich uranium under international safeguards. They also demand that, as part of a final deal, Tehran must shut down its protected enrichment site at Fordo, terminate its work on a new research reactor at Arak, and allow Western powers to micromanage the future development of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure. Such positions are at odds with the language of the interim nuclear deal and of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). They are also as hubristically delusional as the British government’s use of the Royal Navy to seize tankers carrying Iranian oil on the high seas after a democratically-elected Iranian government nationalised the British oil concession in Iran in 1951—and as London’s continued threat to do so even after the World Court ruled against Britain in the matter.
If Western powers can realign their positions with reality on the nuclear issue and on various regional challenges in the Middle East, Iran can certainly work with that. But Iranian strategy takes seriously the real prospect that Western powers may not be capable of negotiating a nuclear settlement grounded in the NPT and respectful of the Islamic Republic’s legal rights—just as Britain and the United States were unwilling to respect Iran’s sovereignty over its own natural resources in the early 1950s. Under such circumstances, more U.S.-instigated secondary sanctions that illegally threaten third countries doing business with Iran will not compel Tehran to surrender its civil nuclear program. Rather, Iran’s approach—including a willingness to conclude what the rest of the world other than America, Britain, France, and Israel would consider a reasonable nuclear deal—seeks to make it easier for countries to rebuild and expand economic ties to the Islamic Republic even if Washington does not lift its own unilaterally-imposed sanctions.
“Continuing hostility toward the Islamic Republic exacerbates America’s inability to deal with popular demands for participatory Islamist governance elsewhere in the Middle East.”
Likewise, Iranian strategy takes seriously the real prospect that Washington cannot disenthrall itself from Obama’s foolish declaration in August 2011 that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must go—and therefore that America cannot contribute constructively to the quest for a political settlement to the Syrian conflict. If the United States, Britain, and France continue down their current counter-productive path in Syria, Tehran can play off their accumulating policy failures and the deepening illegitimacy of America’s regional posture to advance the Islamic Republic’s strategic position.
How Will the West Respond?
Coming to terms with the Islamic Republic will require the United States to abandon its already eroding pretensions to hegemony in the Middle East. But, if Washington does not come to terms with the Islamic Republic, it will ultimately be forced to surrender those pretensions, as it was publicly and humiliatingly forced to do in 1979. Moreover, continuing hostility toward the Islamic Republic exacerbates America’s inability to deal with popular demands for participatory Islamist governance elsewhere in the Middle East. Less than a month after Rohani’s election, it was widely perceived that the United States tacitly supported a military coup that deposed Egypt’s first democratically elected (and Islamist) government. The coup in Egypt hardly obviates the fact that, when given the chance, majorities in Middle Eastern Muslim societies reject Western intervention and choose to construct participatory Islamist orders. Refusing to accept this reality will only accelerate the erosion of U.S. influence in the region.
The United States is not the first imperial power in decline whose foreign policy debate has become increasingly detached from reality—and history suggests that the consequences of such delusion are usually severe. The time for American elites to wake up to Middle Eastern realities before the United States and its Western allies face severe consequences for their strategic position in this vital part of the world is running out.
About the Authors
Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett are authors of Going to Tehran: America Must Accept the Islamic Republic of Iran (New York: Metropolitan, 2013), which has just been released in paperback, with a new Afterword. They had distinguished careers in the U.S. government before leaving their positions on the National Security Council in March 2003, in disagreement with Middle East policy and the conduct of the war on terror. They teach international relations, he at Penn State, she at American University.
Source: The World Financial Review
It seems as if certain purported civil-rights activists think homosexuals are like some organized-crime groups: you can join the gang, but the only way you can leave is feet first.
A case in point is a lawsuit filed in the Superior Court of New Jersey against JONAH International — a Judaic organization that helps people overcome unwanted same-sex attractions (SSA) — and some of its associates by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). And what is the basis for the lawsuit? As co-founder of JONAH Arthur Goldberg explained to me:
[T]he lawsuit was filed under the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act alleging the commission of a consumer fraud on the unproven theory that same-sex attraction is inborn and unchangeable. Therefore, the programs and counselors to which we refer people have allegedly committed a consumer fraud because those seeking such services allegedly cannot change. Their goal is to put us (and other small organizations like ours) out of business.
Fraud? People with SSAs cannot change? JONAH’s satisfied program participants say otherwise. And here are just a few of their testimonials:
- Daniel Meir Horowitz wrote in a post titled “A Long, Hard Road: How Reparative Therapy Saved My Life,” “I want to shout to all those plagued by SSA who wish they were not: Don’t give up. Please. Despite what you read and hear in our secular culture about the false idea that change is impossible, a ray of light might be just around the corner.”
- Nathan wrote, “The insight [JONAH provided] also allows me to see this pattern [of SSA] for what it is not: the thinking that I was born this way as many elements of society continually preach or a belief that my SSA is so ingrained that it can never be overcome.”
- “Jonah Wife,” whose husband’s SSA had impacted negatively upon their marriage for years, wrote, “[The Therapy] really is working and since JIM [a program JONAH recommends] came into our lives we haven’t had one glitch in our personal life. And that’s really something to shout about!!”
But Goldberg offers more than just anecdotes. He also told me, “About two thirds of the clients referred to us report significant reductions in their unwanted behaviors and feelings. These results are consistent with other programs that utilize both spiritual and psychological work to help people seeking to change.”
Given this track record, it’s not surprising that those helped by JONAH are upset that pro-SSA activists are trying to squelch their freedom. As JONAH recently disseminated in an email:
A respondent who was sexually abused as a young boy reports, …I am so tired of politically correct hate groups that do everything they claim to despise in the name of tolerance – when they tolerate nothing but strict conformity to narrow ideological dogma…. I chose to have gay change therapy.”
A client who struggled with SSA for over 10 years says, “The gay movement is becoming one of the most destructive moments [sic] in history. They who want their rights acknowledged are the first ones to take away mine. I have the right to pursue whatever journey I value in life….”
Not according to the “civil rights” group the SPLC, he doesn’t. They and other activists claim that SSA is inborn, and, therefore, therapy designed to ameliorate it is ineffective, traumatic and fraudulent. And they have their own anecdotes. So let’s go beyond he said-she said and the here and now and examine the testimonial of time.
Homosexuality was institutionalized in Spartan military camps — which all boys were conscripted into at age seven — during the city state’s mid and late periods. And widely practiced homosexual behavior was common in much of ancient Greece. For example, we understand that the Sacred Band of Thebes warrior group comprised pederastic man-youth pairings. This raises a question: did all, or most, ancient Greeks have a “gay gene” or some other inborn cause of SSA? Logic dictates that their homosexuality was a purely psychological phenomenon (in many cases, if not most) that was culturally promoted and approved.
Now, has the human mind undergone some great transformation since the Hellenic period that would account for how SSA could never, ever be a purely psychological phenomenon today? Is it reasonable to say that it couldn’t be purely psychological in even 1 out of 1000 cases? That would be a radical position.
But if it can be so, then it could be psychological in 2 out of 1000 cases, or 30, 50, or 50 percent of them, correct? So at this point — even if we accept, for argument’s sake, that SSA could be inborn or at least have inborn factors — you’d have to admit that you really can’t know which cases are congenital and which are purely psychological.
Of course, there are people with SSA who defend the inborn thesis with the claim, “I’ve had these feelings my whole life.” This is a tendentious conclusion, however. This is not just because they’re extrapolating their own experience to all people with SSA, but also because we don’t have memories from prior to the age of three, four or five. So all these individuals can really say is, “I’ve had these feelings for as long as I can remember.” And what occurs during those tender, lost-memory years can have profound and far-reaching effects.
Moreover, what is the nature of these feelings? As Goldberg points out, since young children don’t have libidos and generally aren’t sexual, what the individuals in question actually sense is that they feel “different.” But identifying as homosexual? Hardly.
The point here is that the SPLC and other activists aren’t basing their opposition to SSA therapy on reason or science. As to this, note that no “gay gene” has ever been found; moreover, theories pertaining to hormonal anomalies during intrauterine development are at best inconclusive. So this raises a question: why are these activists so opposed to SSA therapy? I doubt it’s really because they think it’s fruitless and will harm people in its failure.
It’s because they’re afraid it will succeed.
You see, the pro-homosexuality lobby has made it a dogma in recent times that same-sex attractions are inborn and cannot be changed, in an effort to legitimize homosexual behavior. The idea is that if you were made that way, how can it be questioned? In fact, you will often hear pro-SSA activists say, “God doesn’t make mistakes.” And, no, He doesn’t, but the line of reasoning here is nonetheless mistaken.
First, whether you believe man is naturally flawed or tragically fallen, it’s clear we aren’t born perfect. Cleft lips, spina bifida, Down’s syndrome and many other congenital abnormalities attest to this, and no one refuses an infant with hypoplasia (a heart defect) surgery with the claim that “God doesn’t make mistakes.”
And consider the implications of the inborn-SSA justification. After all, the same social scientists who tell us SSA is congenital also say that sociopaths are born and not made. Now, if, further, someone was born with homicidal instincts, would this give him license to commit murder?
In other words, the inborn-SSA justification places us on a dangerous road, as it eliminates morality and replaces it with biological determinism. Translated simply, it asserts that if a feeling is inborn, it is okay to act upon it. But to reduce behavior to pure instinct is to reduce man to animal. Genetics does not determine morality.
Yet as true as this is, it’s not relevant to JONAH’s activities. Those who participate in the organization’s programs certainly don’t believe their SSA is inborn and irremediable, and they pursue remedies voluntarily. Moreover, their testimonials bear witness to how heartfelt their desire to live a normal life is and to how they appreciate the assistance of a group that has helped approximately two-thirds of the people seeking assistance to feel better about themselves and to reduce their homosexual feelings and/or behavior. So why should they be denied the choice to avail themselves of the therapy they so desperately want?
Yet this is what the tyrannical SPLC aims to do with an army of lawyers and its $256 million war chest, resources that, of course, JONAH can’t even begin to match. And while the organization is being represented pro-bono by the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund — which has already devoted almost a million dollars in legal time to the case — Goldberg tells me that JONAH has suffered significantly from the filing of the lawsuit. Cooperating therapists and those who struggle to overcome SSA have been intimidated. And JONAH has incurred significant costs deficit financing additional staff and other outlays directly attendant to the lawsuit. These are expenses it can ill afford.
But they pale in comparison to the costs of losing the suit. Goldberg warns, “It is important to note that we are simply SPLC’s initial target.” For sure. The SPLC calls their action against JONAH a “groundbreaking lawsuit,” and breaking ground is a precursor to further development. What they don’t tell you is that they will be building downwards, on broken hearts, broken hopes, broken families and broken liberties.
If you’d like to donate to JONAH and help it fight the SPLC, click here
The people that work here, own you.
I receive many emails from well-intentioned and intelligent readers who hold up Iceland as a shining example of what America must do in order to save herself. I agree, in principle with the people who wrote to me that we should emulate Iceland. The Icelanders have demonstrated tremendous resilience, courage and vision to overcome and, at least temporarily, defeat the banksters while restoring their economy.
The people of Iceland have more courage in their little finger than America has in its entire being. Iceland’s financial failure forced its government to resign or be removed, and it also caused citizens to re-evaluate the merits of their reckless spending, borrowing and consumption. Just how did Iceland do it?
Iceland’s President Olafur Ragnar Grimmson was interviewed earlier this year at the World Economic Forum in Davos on why Iceland has enjoyed such a strong recovery after it’s complete financial collapse in 2008, while the rest of the West is still mired in debt, poverty and hopelessness to go with empty promises of an economic recovery.
When asked whether Iceland’s policy of letting the banks fail would have worked in the rest of Europe, Grimsson stated:
“… Why are the banks considered to be the holy churches of the modern economy? Why are private banks not like airlines and telecommunication companies and allowed to go bankrupt if they have been run in an irresponsible way? The theory that you have to bail-out banks is a theory that you allow bankers enjoy for their own profit their success, and then let ordinary people bear their failure through taxes and austerity. People in enlightened democracies are not going to accept that in the long run. …“
Imagine that, let the banks fail! Let the criminal bankers take the same risk as any other business venture. Can we imagine Obama ever speaking this way in public? In fact, if the United States was Iceland, President Obama, John McCain, Diane Feinstein, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Lindsay Graham, Hillary Clinton, Valerie Jarrett, G.W. Bush, G. H. W. Bush, Lloyd Blankfein, Tim Geithner, Hank Paulson, Jon Corzine, Peter Sutherland, Ben Bernanke, et al., would all be in prison.
And nearly six years later, where is Iceland at today? In just the first year following the repudiation of the debt, the Icelanders economy grew by 2.6%. Banks failed, bankers and politicians were jailed and these brave people wrestled control of their lives back.
If the Icelanders could get their hands on Goldman Sachs officials they would. They impeached and convicted corrupt politicians who were in league with Wall Street, many of whom are serving prison sentences. Iceland is on its way to a full economic recovery while still saying no to the corrupt Goldman Sachs influences in Europe. Iceland is saying no to the Bank of International Settlement. Iceland is a beacon of hope for the rest of the G20 nations including the United States. Yet, the courage on display by the Icelanders will never be on display in the United States.
Americans Aren’t Icelanders
There are a number reasons that America will never throw off the shackles of the Bastards from Basel. First and foremost, we, as a country, are just too plain stupid. Through repeated and failed education programs, such as Goals 2000, No Child Left Behind and now the substandard Common Core, Americans lack the basic sense to organize against anything, much less a virulent pack of banksters.
Additionally, at the end of the day, the Icelanders victory will prove to be inconsequential and very temporary. When the international forces align against Iceland for some contrived excuse, their government will collapse like a house of cards and the banksters will be back in control. We have seen it in Egypt, Libya and soon it will be Iceland’s turn.
The Duck Dynasty worshiping, American Idol watching country can’t even find England on a map 65% of the time. A whopping 80% cannot find Iraq on a map, 55% cannot name the Vice President and America reads nearly two whole grade levels lower than they did only a 40 years ago. In short, the rank and file of our citizenry lacks the intelligence to organize their collective shoes in the closet.
Change can be painful and America has become a soft nation. We are not only an ignorant nation, we are the most obese nation on the planet. Most of the people in this country could not fight their way out of a wet paper bag. My military sources tell me that there have been serious discussions among the military leadership about how they would fight a guerrilla war against the bankster occupation forces which will consist mostly of the Chinese and the Russians. What is holding them back is that they do not feel that they can count on the support from the rank and file of this population. The military believes that maybe, on a good day, 2-3% of the adult males would stand with dissident military forces. I never thought I would write this, but the American people are no tougher than the French and the French haven’t won a war in over 200 years.
I do expect that the factions of the military are going to rise and put up some resistance. However, no revolution can be successful without the support of the people.
Well-intentioned people write to me and tell me how 250 million gun owners are going to throw off the chains of slavery. If that were going to happen, it would have happened nearly six years ago. In 2008, the banksters, led by Hank Paulson, helped themselves to our nation’s money and our economy went into free fall. And what did we do to stop the greatest bank robbery in world history? We did nothing!!! Subsequently, we are a defeated nation. With the growing foreign troop presence and the rise of America’s version of the East German Stasi (aka the DHS), we are also an occupied nation. Americans have lost the war and most are unaware that anything has even happened. Hillary Clinton is selling off the assets of this country to the Chinese. The EPA is stealing a million acres of land at a time. Your retirements, IRA’s and bank account will soon be gone. And what will most of America do, change the channel and open another beer.
This is why my analyses and subsequently my writing style changed to more of an adaptation approach. Americans need to be worried about having enough resources to survive the induced social chaos that is coming. Our people must also be able to defend their resources. And finally, you and your family need to develop strategies on how to avoid being induced or forced to into a detention camp. These events are not far away.If you do not know how to pray, now is the time to learn.
Source: The Common Sense Show
Can the sharing economy movement address the root causes of the world’s converging crises? Unless the sharing of resources is promoted in relation to human rights and concerns for equity, democracy, social justice and sustainability, then such claims are without substantiation – although there are many hopeful signs that the conversation is slowly moving in the right direction.
In recent years, the concept and practice of sharing resources is fast becoming a mainstream phenomenon across North America, Western Europe and other world regions. The internet is awash with articles and websites that celebrate the vast potential of sharing human and physical assets, in everything from cars and bicycles to housing, workplaces, food, household items, and even time or expertise. According to most general definitions that are widely available online, the sharing economy leverages information technology to empower individuals or organisations to distribute, share and re-use excess capacity in goods and services. The business icons of the new sharing economy include the likes of Airbnb, Zipcar, Lyft, Taskrabbit and Poshmark, although hundreds of other for-profit as well as non-profit organisations are associated with this burgeoning movement that is predicated, in one way or another, on the age-old principle of sharing.
As the sharing economy receives increasing attention from the media, a debate is beginning to emerge around its overall importance and future direction. There is no doubt that the emergent paradigm of sharing resources is set to expand and further flourish in coming years, especially in the face of continuing economic recession, government austerity and environmental concerns. As a result of the concerted advocacy work and mobilisation of sharing groups in the US, fifteen city mayors have now signed the Shareable Cities Resolution in which they officially recognise the importance of economic sharing for both the public and private sectors. Seoul in South Korea has also adopted a city-funded project called Sharing City in which it plans to expand its ‘sharing infrastructure’, promote existing sharing enterprises and incubate sharing economy start-ups as a partial solution to problems in housing, transportation, job creation and community cohesion. Furthermore, Medellin in Colombia is embracing transport-sharing schemes and reimagining the use of its shared public spaces, while Ecuador is the first country in the world to commit itself to becoming a ‘shared knowledge’-based society, under an official strategy named ‘buen saber’.
Many proponents of the sharing economy therefore have great hopes for a future based on sharing as the new modus operandi. Almost everyone recognises that drastic change is needed in the wake of a collapsed economy and an overstretched planet, and the old idea of the American dream – in which a culture that promotes excessive consumerism and commercialisation leads us to see the ‘good life’ as the ‘goods life’, as described by the psychologist Tim Kasser - is no longer tenable in a world of rising affluence among possibly 9.6 billion people by 2050. Hence more and more people are rejecting the materialistic attitudes that defined recent decades, and are gradually shifting towards a different way of living that is based on connectedness and sharing rather than ownership and conspicuous consumption. ‘Sharing more and owning less’ is the ethic that underlies a discernible change in attitudes among affluent society that is being led by today’s young, tech-savvy generation known as Generation Y or the Millennials.
However, many entrepreneurial sharing pioneers also profess a big picture vision of what sharing can achieve in relation to the world’s most pressing issues, such as population growth, environmental degradation and food security. As Ryan Gourley of A2Share posits, for example, a network of cities that embrace the sharing economy could mount up into a Sharing Regions Network, then Sharing Nations, and finally a Sharing World: “A globally networked sharing economy would be a whole new paradigm, a game-changer for humanity and the planet”. Neal Gorenflo, the co-founder and publisher of Shareable, also argues that peer-to-peer collaboration can form the basis of a new social contract, with an extensive sharing movement acting as the catalyst for systemic changesthat can address the root causes of both poverty and climate change. Or to quote the words of Benita Matofska, founder of The People Who Share, we are going to have to “share to survive” if we want to face up to a sustainable future. In such a light, it behoves us all to investigate the potential of sharing to effect a social and economic transformation that is sufficient to meet the grave challenges of the 21st century.
Two sides of a debate on sharing
There is no doubt that sharing resources can contribute to the greater good in a number of ways, from economic as well as environmental and social perspectives. A number of studies show the environmental benefits that are common to many sharing schemes, such as the resource efficiency and potential energy savings that could result from car sharing and bike sharing in cities. Almost all forms of localised sharing are economical, and can lead to significant cost savings or earnings for individuals and enterprises. In terms of subjective well-being and social impacts, common experience demonstrates how sharing can also help us to feel connected to neighbours or co-workers, and even build community and make us feel happier.
Few could disagree on these beneficial aspects of sharing resources within communities or across municipalities, but some controversy surrounds the broader vision of how the sharing economy movement can contribute to a fair and sustainable world. For many advocates of the burgeoning trend towards economic sharing in modern cities, it is about much more than couch-surfing, car sharing or tool libraries, and holds the potential to disrupt the individualist and materialistic assumptions of neoliberal capitalism. For example, Juliet Schor in her book Plenitude perceives that a new economics based on sharing could be an antidote to the hyper-individualised, hyper-consumer culture of today, and could help rebuild the social ties that have been lost through market culture. Annie Leonard of the Story of Stuff project, in her latest short video on how to move society in an environmentally sustainable and just direction, also considers sharing as a key ‘game changing’ solution that could help to transform the basic goals of the economy.
Many other proponents see the sharing economy as a path towards achieving widespread prosperity within the earth’s natural limits, and an essential first step on the road to more localised economies and egalitarian societies. But far from everyone perceives that participating in the sharing economy, at least in its existing form and praxis, is a ‘political act’ that can realistically challenge consumption-driven economics and the culture of individualism – a question that is raised (although not yet comprehensively answered) in a valuable think piece from Friends of the Earth, as discussed further below. Various commentators argue that the proliferation of new business ventures under the umbrella of sharing are nothing more than “supply and demand continuing its perpetual adjustment to new technologies and fresh opportunities”, and that the concept of the sharing economy is being co-opted by purely commercial interests – a debate that was given impetus when the car sharing pioneers, Zipcar, were bought up by the established rental firm Avis.
Recently, Slate magazine’s business and economics correspondent controversially reiterated the observation that making money from new modes of consumption is not really ‘sharing’ per se, asserting that the sharing economy is therefore a “dumb term” that “deserves to die”. Other journalists have criticised the superficial treatment that the sharing economy typically receives from financial pundits and tech reporters, especially the claims that small business start-ups based on monetised forms of sharing are a solution to the jobs crisis – regardless of drastic cutbacks in welfare and public services, unprecedented rates of income inequality, and the dangerous rise of the precariat. The author Evgeny Morozov, writing an op-ed in the Financial Times, has gone as far as saying that the sharing economy is having a pernicious effect on equality and basic working conditions, in that it is fully compliant with market logic, is far from valuing human relationships over profit, and is even amplifying the worst excesses of the dominant economic model. In the context of the erosion of full-time employment, the assault on trade unions and the disappearance of healthcare and insurance benefits, he argues that the sharing economy is accelerating the transformation of workers into “always-on self-employed entrepreneurs who must think like brands”, leading him to dub it “neoliberalism on steroids”.
Problems of definition
Although it is impossible to reconcile these polarised views, part of the problem in assessing the true potential of economic sharing is one of vagueness in definition and wide differences in understanding. The conventional interpretation of the sharing economy is at present focused on its financial and commercial aspects, with continuous news reports proclaiming its rapidly growing market size and potential as a “co-commerce revolution”. Rachel Botsman, a leading entrepreneurial thinker on the potential of collaboration and sharing through digital technologies to change our lives, has attempted to clarify what the sharing economy actually is in order to prevent further confusion over the different terms in general use. In her latest typology, she notes how the term ‘sharing economy’ is often muddled with other new ideas and is in fact a subset of ‘collaborative consumption’ within the entire ‘collaborative economy’ movement, and has a rather restricted meaning in terms of “sharing underutilized assets from spaces to skills to stuff for monetary or non-monetary benefits” [see slide 9 of the presentation]. This interpretation of changing consumer behaviours and lifestyles revolves around the “maximum utilization of assets through efficient models of redistribution and shared access”, which isn’t necessarily predicated on an ethic of ‘sharing’ by any strict definition.
Other interpretations of the sharing economy are far broader and less constrained by capitalistic assumptions, as demonstrated in the Friends of the Earth briefing paper on Sharing Cities written by Professor Julian Agyeman et al. In their estimation, what’s missing from most of these current definitions and categorisations of economic sharing is a consideration of “the communal, collective production that characterises the collective commons”. A broadened ‘sharing spectrum’ that they propose therefore not only focuses on goods and services within the mainstream economy (which is almost always considered in relation to affluent, middle-class lifestyles), but also includes the non-material or intangible aspects of sharing such as well-being and capability [see page 6 of the brief]. From this wider perspective, they assert that the cutting edge of the sharing economy is often not commercial and includes informal behaviours like the unpaid care, support and nurturing that we provide for one another, as well as the shared use of infrastructure and shared public services.
This sheds a new light on governments as the “ultimate level of sharing”, and suggests that the history of the welfare state in Europe and other forms of social protection is, in fact, also integral to the evolution of shared resources in cities and within different countries. Yet an understanding of sharing from this more holistic viewpoint doesn’t have to be limited to the state provision of healthcare, education, and other public services. As Agyeman et al elucidate, cooperatives of all kinds (from worker to housing to retailer and consumer co-ops) also offer alternative models for shared service provision and a different perspective on economic sharing, one in which equity and collective ownership is prioritised. Access to natural common resources such as air and water can also be understood in terms of sharing, which may then prioritise the common good of all people over commercial or private interests and market mechanisms. This would include controversial issues of land ownership and land use, raising questions over how best to share land and urban space more equitably – such as through community land trusts, or through new policies and incentives such as land value taxation.
The politics of sharing
Furthermore, Agyeman et al argue that an understanding of sharing in relation to the collective commons gives rise to explicitly political questions concerning the shared public realm and participatory democracy. This is central to the many countercultural movements of recent years (such as the Occupy movement and Middle East protests since 2011, and the Taksim Gezi Park protests in 2013) that have reclaimed public space to symbolically challenge unjust power dynamics and the increasing trend toward privatisation that is central to neoliberal hegemony. Sharing is also directly related to the functioning of a healthy democracy, the authors reason, in that a vibrant sharing economy (when interpreted in this light) can counter the political apathy that characterises modern consumer society. By reinforcing values of community and collaboration over the individualism and consumerism that defines our present-day cultures and identities, they argue that participation in sharing could ultimately be reflected in the political domain. They also argue that a shared public realm is essential for the expression of participatory democracy and the development of a good society, not least as this provides a necessary venue for popular debate and public reasoning that can influence political decisions. Indeed the “emerging shareability paradigm”, as they describe it, is said to reflect the basic tenets of the Right to the City (RTTC) – an international urban movement that fights for democracy, justice and sustainability in cities and mobilises against the privatisation of common goods and public spaces.
The intention in briefly outlining some of these differing interpretations of sharing is to demonstrate how considerations of politics, justice, ethics and sustainability are slowly being allied with the sharing economy concept. A paramount example is the Friends of the Earth briefing paper outlined above, which was written as part of FOEI’s Big Ideas to Change the World series on cities that promoted sharing as “a political force to be reckoned with” and a “call to action for environmentalists”. Yet many further examples could also be mentioned, such as the New Economics Foundation’s ‘Manifesto for the New Materialism’ which promotes the old-fashioned ethic of sharing as part of a new way of living to replace the collapsed model of debt-fuelled overconsumption. There are also signs that many influential proponents of the sharing economy – as generally understood today in terms of new economic models driven by peer-to-peer technology that enable access to rather than ownership of resources – are beginning to query the commercial direction that the movement is taking, and are instead promoting more politicised forms of social change that are not merely based on micro-enterprise or the monetisation/branding of high-tech innovations.
Janelle Orsi, a California-based ‘sharing lawyer’ and author of The Sharing Solution, is particularly inspirational in this regard; for her, the sharing economy encompasses such a broad range of activities that it is hard to define, although she suggests that all its activities are tied together in how they harness the existing resources of a community and grow its wealth. This is in contradistinction to the mainstream economy that mostly generates wealth for people outside of people’s communities, and inherently generates extreme inequalities and ecological destruction – which Orsi contends that the sharing economy can help reverse. The problem she recognises is that the so-called sharing economy we usually hear about in the media is built upon a business-as-usual foundation, which is privately owned and often funded by venture capital (as is the case with Airbnb, Lyft, Zipcar, Taskrabbit et cetera). As a result, the same business structures that created the economic problems of today are buying up new sharing economy companies and turning them into ever larger, more centralised enterprises that are not concerned about people’s well-being, community cohesion, local economic diversity, sustainable job creation and so on (not to mention the risk of re-creating stock valuation bubbles that overshadowed the earlier generation of dot.com enterprises). The only way to ensure that new sharing economy companies fulfil their potential to create economic empowerment for users and their communities, Orsi argues, is through cooperative conversion – and she makes a compelling case for the democratic, non-exploitative, redistributive and truly ‘sharing’ potential of worker and consumer cooperatives in all their guises.
Sharing as a path to systemic change
There are important reasons to query which direction this emerging movement for sharing will take in the years ahead. As prominent supporters of the sharing economy recognise, like Janelle Orsi and Juliet Schor, it offers both opportunities and reasons for optimism as well as pitfalls and some serious concerns. On the one hand, it reflects a growing shift in our values and social identities as ‘citizens vs consumers’, and is helping us to rethink notions of ownership and prosperity in a world of finite resources, scandalous waste and massive wealth disparities. Perhaps its many proponents are right, and the sharing economy represents the first step towards transitioning away from the over-consumptive, materially-intense and hoarding lifestyles of North American, Western European and other rich societies. Perhaps sharing really is fast becoming a counter-cultural movement that can help us to value relationships more than things, and offer us the possibility of re-imagining politics and constructing a more participative democracy, which could ultimately pose a challenge to the global capitalist/consumerist model of development that is built on private interests and debt at the cost of shared interests and true wealth.
On the other hand, critics are right to point out that the sharing economy in its present form is hardly a threat to existing power structures or a movement that represents the kind of radical changes we need to make the world a better place. Far from reorienting the economy towards greater equity and a better quality of life, as proposed by writers such as Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, Tim Jackson, Herman Daly and John Cobb, it is arguable that most forms of sharing via peer-to-peer networks are at risk of being subverted by conventional business practices. There is a perverse irony in trying to imagine the logical conclusion of these trends: new models of collaborative consumption and co-production that are co-opted by private interests and venture capitalists, and increasingly geared towards affluent middle-class types or so-called bourgeois bohemians (the ‘bobos’), to the exclusion of those on low incomes and therefore to the detriment of a more equal society. Or new sharing technology platforms that enable governments and corporations to collaborate in pursuing more intrusive controls over and greater surveillance of citizens. Or new social relationships based on sharing in the context of increasingly privatised and enclosed public spaces, such as gated communities within which private facilities and resources are shared.
This is by no means an inevitable outcome, but what is clear from this brief analysis is that the commercialisation and depoliticisation of economic sharing poses risks and contradictions that call into question its potential to transform society for the benefit of everyone. Unless the sharing of resources is promoted in relation to human rights and concerns for equity, democracy, social justice and sound environmental stewardship, then the various claims that sharing is a new paradigm that can address the world’s interrelated crises is indeed empty rhetoric or utopian thinking without any substantiation. Sharing our skills through Hackerspaces, our unused stuff through GoodShuffle or a community potluck through mealshare is, in and of itself, a generally positive phenomenon that deserves to be enjoyed and fully participated in, but let’s not pretend that car shares, clothes swaps, co-housing, shared vacation homes and so on are going to seriously address economic and climate chaos, unjust power dynamics or inequitable wealth distribution.
Sharing from the local to the global
If we look at sharing through the lens of just sustainability, however, as civil society organisations and others are now beginning to do, then the true possibilities of sharing resources within and among the world’s nations are vast and all-encompassing: to enhance equity, rebuild community, improve well-being, democratise national and global governance, defend and promote the global commons, even to point the way towards a more cooperative international framework to replace the present stage of competitive neoliberal globalisation. We are not there yet, of course, and the popular understanding of economic sharing today is clearly focused on the more personal forms of giving and exchange among individuals or through online business ventures, which is mainly for the benefit of high-income groups in the world’s most economically advanced nations. But the fact that this conversation is now being broadened to include the role of governments in sharing public infrastructure, political power and economic resources within countries is a hopeful indication that the emerging sharing movement is slowly moving in the right direction.
Already, questions are being raised as to what sharing resources means for the poorest people in the developing world, and how a revival of economic sharing in the richest countries can be spread globally as a solution to converging crises. It may not be long until the idea of economic sharing on a planetary scale - driven by an awareness of impending ecological catastrophe, life-threatening extremes of inequality, and escalating conflict over natural resources – is the subject of every dinner party and kitchen table conversation.
Agyeman, Julian, Duncan McLaren and Adrianne Schaefer-Borrego, Sharing Cities, Friends of the Earth briefing paper, September 2013.
Bollier, David, Bauwens Joins Ecuador in Planning a Commons-based, Peer Production Economy, 20th September 2013, bollier.org
Botsman, Rachel, The Sharing Economy Lacks a Shared Definition: Giving Meaning to the Terms, Collaborative Lab on Slideshare.net, 19th November 2013.
Childs, Mike, The Power of Sharing: A Call to Action for Environmentalists, Shareable.net, 5th November 2013.
Daly, Herman and John Cobb, For the Common Good: Redirecting the Economy toward Community, the Environment, and a Sustainable Future, Beacon Press, 1991.
Eberlein, Sven, Sharing for Profit – I’m Not Buying it Anymore, Shareable.net, 20th February 2013.
Enright, Michael in interview with Benita Matofska and Aidan Enns, Sharing, Not Buying at Christmas (Hr. 1), CBC Radio, 16th December 2012.
Friends of the Earth, Big Idea 2: Sharing – a political force to be reckoned with?, 26th September 2013.
Gaskins, Kim, The New Sharing Economy, Latitude, 1st June 2010.
Gorenflo, Neal, What’s Next for the Sharing Movement?, Shareable.net, 31st July 2013.
Grahl, Jodi (trans.), World Charter for the Right to the City, International Alliance of Inhabitants et al, May 2005.
Griffiths, Rachel, The Great Sharing Economy, Co-operatives UK, London UK, 2011.
Grigg, Kat, Sharing As Part of the New Economy: An Interview with Lauren Anderson, The Solutions Journal, 20th September 2013.
Heinberg, Richard, Who knew that Seoul was a leader in the sharing economy?, Post Carbon Institute, 12th November 2013.
Herbst, Moira, Let’s get real: the ‘sharing economy’ won’t solve our jobs crisis, The Guardian, 7th January 2014.
Jackson, Tim, Prosperity without Growth: Economics for a Finite Planet, Routeledge, 2011.
Johnson, Cat, From Consumers to Citizens: Welcome to the Sharing Cities Network, Shareable.net, 9th January 2014.
Kasser, Tim, The High Price of Materialism, MIT Press, 2003.
Kisner, Corinne, Integrating Bike Share Programs into a Sustainable Transportation System, National League of Cities, City Practice Brief, Washington D.C., 2011.
Martin, Elliot and Susan Shaheen, The Impact of Carsharing on Household Vehicle Ownership, Access (UCTC magazine), No. 38 Spring 2011.
Matofska, Benita, Facing the future: share to survive, Friends of the Earth blog, 4th January 2013.
Morozov, Evgeny, The ‘sharing economy’ undermines workers’ rights, Financial Times, 14th October 2013.
Olson. Michael J. and Andrew D. Connor, The Disruption of Sharing: An Overview of the New Peer-to-Peer ‘Sharing Economy’ and The Impact on Established Internet Companies, Piper Jaffray, November 2013.
Opinium Research and Marke2ing, The Sharing Economy An overview with special focus on Peer-to-Peer Lending, 14th November 2012.
Orsi, Janelle and Doskow, Emily, The Sharing Solution: How to Save Money, Simplify Your Life and Build Community, Nolo, May 2009.
Orsi, Janelle et al, Policies for Shareable Cities: A Sharing Economy Policy Primer for Urban Leaders, Shareable / The sustainable Economics Law Centre, September 2013.
Orsi, Janelle, The Sharing Economy Just Got Real, Shareable.net, 16th September 2013.
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Schor, Juliet, Plenitude: The New Economics of True Wealth, Tantor Media, 2010.
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Standing, Guy, The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class, Bloomsbury Academic, 2011.
Tennant, Ian, What’s in it for me? Do you dare to share?, Friends of the Earth blog, 8th January 2014.
Wiesmann, Thorsten, Living by the Principle of Sharing – an interview with Raphael Fellmer, Oiushare.net, February 2013.
Wilkinson, Richard and Kate Pickett, The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone, Penguin, 2010.
Yglesias, Matthew, There Is No “Sharing Economy”, Slate.com, 26th December 2013.
Deregulation, Privatization, and Cheap Labor…
The man who promised to restore hope and bring change to America, has announced a plan to open five corporate plantations in the United States. On Thursday, President Barack Obama, whose policies have resulted in the greatest number of public sector job losses in US History (Public sector jobs have declined by 718,000 jobs since Obama took office.) announced the opening of five “Promise Zones” located in San Antonio, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, southeastern Kentucky, and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. According to an article in USA Today:
“Under the proposed Promise Zones, the federal government plans to partner with local governments and businesses to provide tax incentives and grants to help combat poverty.” (“Obama to name 5 ‘Promise Zones’ for assistance“, USA Today)
Combatting poverty’ has nothing to do with it. Obama plans to shower the nation’s biggest corporations–which recorded record profits in the last year and are presently sitting on more than $1.3 trillion in cash–with more lavish subsidies and tax breaks while providing an endless source of cheap slave labor to boost future earnings. The president believes that the wealth generated in these profit zones, er, promise zones will trickle down to the area’s residents, even though–as the Christian Science Monitor notes–”it can be hard to tell whether a program’s benefits reach the poorest people, rather than flowing largely into the hands of the business owners who get the tax credits.”
Here’s more from USA Today:
“Obama said his administration plans “to partner with 20 of the hardest-hit towns in America to get these communities back on their feet. We’ll work with local leaders to target resources at public safety, and education, and housing.” (USA Today)
Translation: The Obama administration is committed to assisting the corporate oligarchy whenever possible even if it means further eviscerating the rapidly-diminishing US middle class and reducing millions of hard-working Americans to grinding third world poverty. Deregulation will allow corporations to privatize policing, education and any other lucrative public resource or service. According to the New York Times: “White House officials said the Promise Zones initiative would not provide new money, rather it would be aimed at providing the local governments and agencies “aid in cutting through red tape to get access to existing resources.”
No new money??
How do you like that? So, the man that helped push through the multi-trillion dollar Wall Street bailouts is not going to give one red cent to the nation’s poorest and most needy people. Instead, he is going to do whatever he can to eliminate the rules that keep voracious corporations from feeding at the public trough.
Conservative Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky — “praised the proposed Promise Zone for Eastern Kentucky saying:
“I wrote a letter last year supporting this designation because this region has suffered enormous economic hardship over the last several years,” McConnell said in a statement.”
Mitch McConnell likes Obama’s plan. That says it all, doesn’t it?
Plantations were a familiar feature of the antebellum South, but were abandoned following the Civil War. Now a new generation of corporate kleptocrats want to revive the tradition. They think that weakening consumer demand and persistent stagnation can only be overcome by skirting vital labor protections and shifting more of the cost of production onto workers. Obama’s promise zones provide a way for big business to slip the chains of “onerous” regulations and restore, what many CEO’s believe to be, the Natural Order, that is, a Darwinian, dog-eat-dog world where only the strongest and most cunning survive. This is a world in which Obama has done quite well, although he’s had to distance himself from his political base and throw friends under the bus (Jeremiah Wright) in his relentless climb to the top. Even so, selling out has never been an issue for Obama.
Special economic zones are not a new idea, in fact, they’ve been tried in the UK, Australia and other places where the global bank cartel exerts its grip. In Tokyo, last month, right-wing PM, Shinzo Abe announced the launching of his own “Special Economic Zones”. Here’s a short summary of Abe’s plan from an article in the Japan Times:
“Special zones aimed at spurring corporate investment through deregulation and tax incentives are to be created in Tokyo as well as Osaka and central Aichi Prefecture….Other deregulation steps to debut in such zones will let private firms operate public schools, let experts without teaching licenses teach classes, expand the scope of treatment that can be administered by non-Japanese doctors and nurses, facilitate the use of foreign drugs and increase the number of hospital beds.” (Japan Times)
Sound familiar? Deregulation, privatization, and cheap labor; the toxic coctail that has vaporized the US middle class and wiped out a good portion of the developing world.
Obama calls these promise zones. We think corporate plantations is a more fitting moniker.
As the global financial crisis now enters its seventh year, it is time to start asking difficult questions about the right priorities for popular protest if we want to realise a truly united voice of the world’s people. There can be no revolution in a truly moral or global sense until the critical needs of the extreme poor are prioritised and upheld, which will require mass mobilisations in the streets like we have never seen before.
At the onset of 2014, many people are now anticipating the prospect of a ‘global revolution’. The intense revolutionary fervour of 2011 may have dissipated in North America and much of Western Europe in the past couple of years, but a new geography of protest continues to shift and transmute in different countries and world regions – the million people on the streets of Brazil in June last year; the earlier defence of the commons in Istanbul’s Taksim Gezi Park; the indigenous uprising and student protests across Canada; the Ukraine demonstrations that are still under way.
There is no way of predicting where a mass protest movement will kick off next or what form it will take, but analysts expect that an even larger-scale version of an Occupy Wall Street-type movement will emerge in 2014. The conditions for a truly global political awakening are firmly in place, and few can believe in the politician’s rhetoric about the world economy sorting out its problems during the year ahead. Wealth and income inequalities continue to spiral out of control, increasingly to the benefit of the 1% (or indeed the 0.001%). Austerity policies pushed by governments on both sides of the Atlantic continue to threaten the social gains made since the Second World War, which is deepening social divisions and creating a new situation of desperately poor and hungry people in Britain, America and many so-called wealthy countries.
And there is no shortage of analysis about the structural crisis of our political and economic systems, from chronic unemployment and falling real incomes to corporate-captured representative democracies and Orwellian state controls. At the same time, governments remain committed to the paradigm of endless growth for its own sake, and are nearly all beholden to the interests of giant energy corporations that are determined to burn more fossil fuels than the planet can absorb without becoming unliveable. Not to mention the escalation of climate and ecological disasters, dwindling oil reserves, the risk of food shortages and further food price volatility, or even the prospect of global terrorism. Hence the growing understanding among everyday people that we are in the midst of a crisis of civilization, and we cannot rely on our existing government administrations to affect a necessary transformation of the international political and economic order.
The revised meaning of ‘revolution’
As we continue along this chaotic and uncertain road, the very idea of social or political ‘revolution’ is taking on new and different meanings. A common understanding of the term is no longer limited to the revolutionary wave of actions of the 20th century, which were typically led by charismatic leaders and a strong ideology, and often involved the violent overthrow of state power (notwithstanding such heroic examples of non-violent political struggle as Gandhi, Luther King and Vaclav Havel). But now we have the examples of Occupy, the Arab Spring, the Taksim Square demonstrations and other mass protest movements that defy conventional explanation in their spontaneous and largely peaceful mobilisations, their leaderless structures and practice of horizontal democracy, as well as their disavowal of traditional left/right politics and ideologies or ‘isms’, such as socialism and communism.
Since 2011 there is also much serious talk of a revolution of love and a collective awakening to our spiritual potential as human beings, as captured in the now-famous words of Russell Brand who advocates a “total revolution of consciousness and our entire social, political and economic systems”. Others speak of a revolution in our sense of self as ‘global citizens’, in which we equate our own interests with those of people anywhere in the world, and we no longer conform to a financialised vision of society in which we are forced to compete with everyone else as ‘others’. In short, a renewed sense of idealism and hope is everywhere being felt for a new society to be built from within the existing one, and for a revolution in every sense of the word – in our values, our imaginations, our lifestyles and our social relations, as well as in our political and economic structures.
What still isn’t clear is how the growing call for revolutionary change and new economic models can be realised on a truly international basis, and for the common good of all people in all countries – not only for the citizens of individual nations (in particular within the most advanced economies). The new protest movements may draw on a concept of human rights that is necessarily international, and they may be driven by social networks and communications technology that is shared beyond national borders, but their various concerns and demands are still generally of a domestic and country-specific nature.
Following the artful state repression of Occupy Wall Street, the vision of a collectively organised alternative to neoliberal politics is too often lost in a fight for or against individual reforms, while the Occupy movement as a whole has become increasingly atomised and fragmented. The Arab Spring is fast fading in memory, as exemplified by the political chaos and recent crackdown on popular dissent in Egypt. And there is little evidence of a shared agenda for change that can unify citizens of the richest and poorest nations on a common platform, one that recognises the need for global as well as national forms of redistribution as a pathway towards sharing the world rather than keeping it divided.
Blueprints for a new world
This is not to say that realistic proposals for planetary change do not exist, as individuals and groups everywhere are discussing the necessary reforms and objectives for how the economy should be run democratically at all levels, from the local to global. An abundance of enlightened thinking outlines the need for a ‘revolution’ in every aspect of our economic and political systems – a commons revolution, a food sovereignty revolution, a renewable energy revolution, the next American revolution – which altogether articulate an effective blueprint for a new and better world. But great uncertainty remains around how this crucial transformation of our lives can be affected when such immensely powerful forces of economic and political self-interest control the current world direction, combined with political apathy and disengagement among a vast swathe of the population.
With the global financial and economic crisis now entering its seventh year, it is time to start asking some difficult questions about the right priorities for popular protest if we want to realise a truly united voice of the world’s people. It is inevitable that the gap between rich and poor will continue to increase in most countries, and the reality of poverty and hunger will worsen across the world – regardless of the distorted arguments by the World Bank and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) coterie at the UN. And as living standards decline for many middle-class families in developed countries, there is a risk that people will remain preoccupied with their own situations and solely national concerns, which is already where all the militant strength is being directed in European and U.S. protest movements.
But there is no escaping the enormous disparities in wealth and income between rich OECD countries and the less developed nations, where millions of people face such extreme deprivation and food insecurity that at least 40,000 people needlessly die each day from poverty-related causes. There can be no genuine revolution in a moral or global sense until the critical needs of these voiceless poor are prioritised and upheld, which will require mass mobilisations in the streets like we have never seen before – not only predicated on redistributing resources from the 1% to the 99% within our own countries, but also centred on a shared demand for a fairer distribution of wealth, power and resources across the entire world. Perhaps that is where the true meaning of ‘global revolution’ begins, and it could be our greatest hope for a sustainable and just future in the coming year and beyond.
What do you consider the most important issue facing America in 2014? What will affect our country more than any other challenge facing us in the 21st century? What long-term impact will change the face of America for the worse?
A reader said, “This is truly scary when one adds it all up like you have done. Too many people are very low in the information poll and pay no attention to what is going on in this country. I am worried so much about all of this, but the liberals of this country just continue to march on and win over us. While I am not totally committed to one party, I am truly against the party in power. I am afraid that one day it will be too late. I fear the world that my grand children will grow up in.”
The most important issue facing Americans in 2014: the long-term ramifications if the S744 Amnesty Bill passes in the House of Representatives. It will set in motion a human wave of 100 million immigrants injected into the United States within the next 36 years. Enough people to double the size of our top 20 most populated cities.
If that bill passes, it will change the face of America dramatically on our cultural, linguistic, racial, ethnic, ethos, quality of life and standard of living scale. It will impact our environment more than anyone understands.
Ask yourself: do I want my kids to face an added 100 million immigrants added to America in the next 36 years? What will it mean to them, their lives, their communities, their schools, their water, their environment and their country?
As you saw in the series “What America Will Look Like in 2050?” no amount of denial, no amount of ignoring this behemoth, no amount of technology will be able to deal with the sociological, religious and cultural impact of 100 million immigrants from 150 countries around the world.
Please understand that 100 million added immigrants WILL land on our shores if the current 1965 Immigration Reform Act and 1986 amnesties continue—by 2050. If S744 passes, our brilliant U.S. Senate doubled the rate of speed from 1.0 million immigrants annually to over 2.0 million annually—to increase the rate of immigration at twice the speed.
As one of my readers noted above, the American public does not comprehend the enormity of the numbers, the size of that number, the consequences to our environment and/or the loss of our country to what constitutes a “human typhoon.”
So, whatever you can do in 2014, you need to focus on visiting your senator’s office, your House of Representatives’ offices, your newspaper editors, your governor’s office, your mayor’s office and every radio and TV show you can write, call or contact by email.
Why? Once S744 passes, we shall have crossed the point of no return, we will have “Crossed the Rubicon” exactly like Rome’s Caesar, which led to his ultimate defeat. We shall have overrun our country with an army of humanity that we shall not be able to water, feed, house, warm, transport, work, educate or medicate.
Again, I give you the tools to understand the ramifications of what we face. We can stop it this year, or our children will become victims of it.
These two videos show graphically what it will look like:
In a five minute astoundingly simple yet brilliant video, “Immigration, Poverty, and Gum Balls”, Roy Beck, director of www.numbersusa.ORG, graphically illustrates the impact of overpopulation. Take five minutes to see for yourself:
“Immigration by the numbers—off the chart” by Roy Beck
This 10 minute demonstration shows Americans the results of unending mass immigration on the quality of life and sustainability for future generations: in a few words, “Mind boggling!” www.NumbersUSA.org