Category Archives: The state of democracy

2019 Spring Newsletter

2019 Spring Newsletter

  • Summer travel plans
  • Announcing Beyond Money Podcast
  • Jubilee
  • Elections 2020
  • Global War Profiteers vs. the People of the United States

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Summer travel plans

My travels last year were quite limited for various reasons. This year I’m planning to spend six weeks in Europe and the UK starting in early May and extending to the middle of June. My first objective is to meet up in London with colleagues who have been working toward organizing a mutual credit clearing network to enable moneyless trading among cooperative businesses and small and medium sized enterprises. I also have plans to meet up with colleagues in Italy, and I am slated to spend the first two weeks of June as a facilitator in residence (FIR) at the Kalikalos holistic summer school at Mt. Pelion in Greece, where I have previously conducted workshops and spent a lot of productive and enjoyable time. At this point I have some unscheduled blocks of time mainly in the latter part of May, which makes possible visits to other places as opportunities arise and the spirit moves me.
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Announcing Beyond Money Podcast

Building upon last year’s interview with executives of the Moxey trade network, Ken Freeman and I have been working together to set up the Beyond Money Podcast website. The site is now live with the first two of what we hope will be a long series of audio interviews with major players who have knowledge and/or experience in some aspect of alternative currencies and exchange systems.

In the premier episode I provide a broad overview of the money and banking system, its history and dysfunctions, and discuss reciprocal exchange alternatives that have emerged and are continuing to develop. The second episode is an interview with educator and social activist Heloisa Primavera, in which she tells about the conditions that led to the rise of the social money movement in Argentina around the turn of the century, its eventual fall, and current efforts to rebuild it.
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Jubilee

I have long argued that the global interest-based debt money regime is dysfunctional, destructive and unsustainable, yet debts in both the private and public sectors continue to explode exponentially along with increasing disparities of incomes and wealth, causing social, economic and financial pressures to continue to build. The need for strong measures and serious restructuring is enormous but the vested interests, fearing their loss of power, are resistant to change.

In his latest book, “…And Forgive Them Their Debts, renowned economist Michael Hudson, reveals that periodic debt forgiveness has been a practice in many cultures going back thousands of years, even predating the Jubilee prescribed in Mosaic Law and described in Old Testament of the Bible. Hudson’s long historical purview is highlighted in the book’s subtitle, “Lending, Foreclosure and Redemption from Bronze Age Finance to the Jubilee Year.” He argues that periodic debt forgiveness is a necessity to preserve civilization because of the inevitable imbalances that develop over time. The Financial Times has called this book one of the best economics books of 2018.

I’ve not yet read the book, but I met Hudson more than 30 years ago and have followed his work ever since. There are numerous videos available in which Hudson describes his research findings and prescriptions, including this recent interview by award winning journalist Chris Hedges: On Contact: The history of debt forgiveness.

It is to be expected that such a proposal as debt forgiveness, if acknowledged at all, would be greeted by the mainstream as “radical,” “impractical,” or even “communistic,” but it is not hard to see the necessity of making a periodic reset when it comes to debt. Anyone who has ever played the game, Monopoly, knows that, if played long enough, one player ends up owning everything and all the others end up with debts they cannot pay.

Bankruptcy procedures have long since been established to enable some financial restructuring for individual and corporate debtors. These procedures invariably include the reduction of debts in whole or in part. Debtor prisons have long since been abolished but debt bondage remains in many forms and laws tend to favor creditors and the owners of capital over those whose livelihood depends on their ability to sell their labor in the market.

As conditions build toward the next financial crisis, the powers-that-be will undoubtedly employ ever more desperate measures to hold on to power. An article in SD Bullion outlines the ways we should expect them to react to the eventual crisis.
Here is an excerpt:

 “Writing for the Financial Times in February of 2018, the former head of research for the central bank of central banks (the BIS), William White stated the common sense perspective that, “Governments and international forums need to revisit bankruptcy procedures. Debt that cannot be serviced will not be serviced.

“What Mr. White failed to mention in his somewhat recent op-ed article was that the BIS’ FSB has been writing and enacting new global bank and globally important financial institution bankruptcy laws for years now. 

“Far [too] few people banking in supposed first world nations fully understand the existence nor the potential implications of current Bank Bail-in Laws and other financial emergency provisions which have been enacted in recent years.

“Various financial spillover lock down laws have been put into place since the last great recession in 2008 thoughout the G20 nations (yes the USA is part of the G20).”

The bottom line is that, as always, those least able to afford it will be required to pay the cost of systemic failures. Your “money in the bank” may not be as safe as you think. Now that depositors are “legally treated as unsecured creditors,” the stage is set for partial or total confiscation of depositors’ funds. A global financial reset is inevitable. It can be done intentionally in an orderly fashion, but more than likely, the debt crisis will be left to fester until or the reset happens spontaneously and chaotically. The big question is, when will it occur?
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Elections 2020

For the first time in many years, the people may have a chance to decide who will be a major party candidate for US President. For the past several decades, the “Demopublican” regime has forced voters to choose between two preselected candidates, both of whom can be counted upon to advance the agenda of the elite political establishment. But on the heels of the 2018 midterm election victories of many reform-minded and progressive candidates to Congress, the winds of change are beginning to blow.

In anticipation of the Democrat party primary elections, the field of potential Presidential candidates has exploded. It is extremely important that all voices and all ideas be heard. We must not allow the media to tell us which ideas are workable and which are not, or which candidate is able to win and whjich is not. To that end I am supporting with my small voice and small financial contributions the campaigns of many candidates to assure that they will qualify to participate in the upcoming debates.

The criteria established by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) for participating in the Democratic primary debates in June and July are:

  1. Receive at least 1% in 3 polls either nationally or in early states (Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina) between January 1 and mid-May; or
  2. Receive 65,000 individual donations, including at least 200 from 20 different states

The DNC has also said that the field would be restricted to 20 candidates, so if more than 20 candidates satisfy the criteria above, they would knock out the bottom few.

While a closer look at the details of their various platforms is necessary, and I am not yet ready to endorse any candidate, I like what I’ve been hearing from Andrew Yang and Tulsi Gabbard.

Yang has many ideas that I like. Citing advances in automation and artificial intelligence, Yang, on his website, declares one of his main priorities:

I’m not a career politician—I’m an entrepreneur who understands the economy. It’s clear to me, and to many of the nation’s best job creators, that we need to make an unprecedented change, and we need to make it now. But the establishment isn’t willing to take the necessary bold steps. As president, my first priority will be to implement Universal Basic Income for every American adult over the age of 18: $1,000 a month, no strings attached, paid for by a new tax on the companies benefiting most from automation.

The Yang campaign reports that he has already reached the threshold of 65,000 individual donors more than two months before the May 15th deadline, and they have also raised over $750,000 in the last month.

As for Tulsi Gabbard, this excerpt from her website resonates with my own values:

She is a champion for protecting our environment, ensuring clean water and air for generations to come, investing in infrastructure and a green energy economy, healthcare for all, civil liberties and privacy, support for small businesses, criminal justice reform, sustainable agriculture, breaking up the big banks…and she needs your help!

Regime change wars are bankrupting our country and our moral authority. We need to redirect those resources into a renewable, sustainable economy that works for everyone and bring about an era of peace. We must put service above self and reclaim our great democracy from the forces of hatred and division.

As the 2020 campaign season heats up, it is crucial that we attend to more than just the mainstream media channels. You can find a list of my favorite sources here.
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Global War Profiteers vs. the People of the United States

David DeGraw’s report on the vast extent of corruption in the military-industrial-security complex.

The problem has long been recognized but it’s far worse than we thought. DeGraw’s report quotes President John F. Kennedy, speaking in 1961 about the state secrets privilege:
It is a system which has conscripted vast human and material resources into the building of a tightly knit, highly efficient machine that combines military, diplomatic, intelligence, economic, scientific and political operations. Its preparations are concealed, not published. Its mistakes are buried, not headlined. Its dissenters are silenced, not praised. No expenditure is questioned, no rumor is printed, no secret is revealed….If you are awaiting a finding of ‘clear and present danger,’ then I can only say that the danger has never been more clear and its presence has never been more imminent.”

10 Mind-Blowing Pentagon Audit Reports All Americans Need to Know

Key Findings:

1) Record Number of Whistleblowers Retaliated Against & Silenced, As Trillions of Dollars Unaccounted For
2) Department of Defense Inspector General Caught Covering Up Corruption, Altering Audit Reports
3) Intelligence Community Whistleblowers Retaliated Against, Cover-Up Attempts Reported, Key Officials Wrongfully Fired, ‘Honest Inspectors Flee,’ Prominent Insiders Speak Out, ‘There Is No Oversight’
4) C.I.A. Caught Illegally, Unconstitutionally Spying on Congress, Using National Security Classification to Cover-Up Corruption, Routinely Retaliating Against Investigators & Whistleblowers
5) First-Ever Full-Scope Audit Failed, No Congressional Briefing, Accounting Fraud “Legalized”
6) Fixable Pentagon Accounting Problems Ignored, Well-Proven, Long-Established Systemic Failure to Address Known Critical Issues
7) Many Critical Cyber Vulnerabilities Ignored at Pentagon & U.S. Treasury, An Open Invitation For Criminals Worldwide
8) Known Solutions – That Can Save Tens of Billions of Tax Dollars Annually – Not Implemented, As Key Gov Accountability Offices Drastically Underfunded & Understaffed
9) Since 1998, $21 Trillion Unaccounted For, $2.6 Billion in Bribes and 12,727 Government Officials Through Global Military Revolving Door
10) Classifying Corruption: Under the Guise of National Security, U.S. Treasury Looted & Constitution Rendered Null & Void
Conclusion
Download Full Report

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The Siege of Venezuela–What are the facts, and who’s to blame?

In 2018, the United Nations Human Rights Commission (HRC) sent its former Secretary, Alfred de Zayas to Venezuela to investigate the situation there. De Zayas is an American lawyer, writer, historian, a leading expert in the field of human rights and international law.

John Bolton, Donald Trump, Mike Pompeo (L to R)

In August of 2018, de Zayas presented his Venezuela report to the HRC but it was greeted with a shocking silence. The only mainstream media outlet that I am aware of that has covered the UN report is the Independent (UK), in an article titled, Venezuela crisis: Former UN rapporteur says US sanctions are killing citizens, published on January 26, 2019. I have not seen any similar coverage it in the United States, and I myself learned about the report almost by accident. Amidst the deafening drumbeat for regime change, one must wonder why such an official investigation has been ignored.

Despite this neglect by the mainstream media, several recorded interviews of De Zayas have made their way onto the Worldwide Web. In this video interview, the UN Investigator and human rights rapporteur gives a summary of his findings. De Zayas says that there is no humanitarian crisis in Venezuela, but“The government … through an external economic war is being asphyxiated.” He asserts that “the financial blockade has had extremely adverse human rights impact” and it has been the intention of the United States “to create a situation whereby the people or the military would topple the government…and then the one percent could again come in and again control the wealth of Venezuela.”

Among the facts that he presents are these:

  • The Venezuelan oil company Citgo has not been allowed to take it revenues, amounting to 9 or 10 billion dollars, out of the United States.
  • In July 2017 Citibank decided, without prior notice, to close the accounts of the Central Bank of Venezuela,
  • And again, in November 2017, Citibank blocked the transfer[of funds] for a shipment of more than 300,000 doses of insulin.
  • Also, in November 2017, “the company Euroclear, retained $1.65 billion that the government of Venezuela had paid for the purchase of food and medicine.

These and numerous other blocks of payment for essential medicines, he argues, are responsible for increased rates of child and maternal mortality, and increased deaths due to lack of insulin and anti-retroviral drugs.

National security advisor, John Bolton has arrogantly admitted on air to Fox Business host Trish Regan that the [Trump] administration had the goal of putting U.S. companies in charge of Venezuela’s oil production. See it on former Congressman Ron Paul’s Liberty Report.
The most recent developments in this matter have included new financial sanctions, the attempt to declare the Maduro presidency illegitimate and to impose a hand-picked puppet, and an attempt to provoke an incident by sending so-called “aid” to the border with Columbia. As Mr. De Zayas, puts it, “Juan Guaido is riding on the Trojan horse of the United States.”

We should be grateful to Mr. De Zayas for courageously reporting the truth of the matter in Venezuela. It is distressing to me to see such broad support by Western and Latin American governments for regime change in Venezuela based on trumped-up charges. Such blatant imperial overreach should have the US populace up in arms, especially after the obvious falsehoods that have been put forth to overthrow governments in places like Iraq, Libya, and others countries across the middle-east and North Africa, and the attempted overthrow of the Assad government in Syria. Truly, the world order today has all the hallmarks of a fascist super-state.

You can find Mr. de Zayas’ official report at https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G18/239/29/PDF/G1823929.pdf?OpenElement. I have excerpted the Conclusions and Recommendations from the report and you canfind them here. You might also want to visit Alfred de Zayas’ Human Rights Corner.
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Venezuela addendum
Here are some additional excerpts and links to articles about the current situation regarding Venezuela.

Another Failed Coup in Venezuela?
George Ciccariello-Maher dissects the failing US-backed coup in Venezuela.
From Venezuelanalysis

Underestimating the People
We’ve seen this all before: On April 11 of 2002, the Venezuelan opposition—according to the most credible accounts—unleashed snipers on its own supporters and used the ensuing deaths to justify a coup against Hugo Chávez. But the opposition dramatically overplayed its hand and underestimated the Chavista grassroots, who it routinely smeared as the blind followers of a populist strongman. When coup leaders abolished all branches of government and scrapped the constitution, hundreds of thousands of poor Venezuelans poured into the streets demanding, and eventually forcing, Chávez’s return to power.

Much has changed since 2002. A perfect storm of Chávez’s death, collapsing global oil prices, a mismanaged system of currency controls, ferocious aggression from the opposition and—more recently—U.S. sanctions, has thrown the Venezuelan economy into a tailspin. Many of the impressive accomplishments of the Bolivarian Revolution—in health care, education and poverty reduction—have quickly evaporated, producing frustration, confusion and desperation among even Chavismo’s most hardline supporters.

Read the rest of the article here
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Hands off Venezuela
By Pat Hynes,
From Traprock Center for Peace and Justice

Hope and US Aid at the Border, the title of a recent New York Times video, deodorizes the US attempt to overthrow President Maduro of socialist Venezuela and replace him with a hand-picked member of the Venezuelan elite, capitalist class.

As the major media presents it, the US is altruistically rushing to feed a people in economic crisis. And, of course, our government knows what is best for the Venezuelan people (just as we did for Afghani, Iraqi and Vietnamese peoples). Yet, photos of mass rallies reveal that millions of darker-skinned – indigenous and mixed-race Venezuelans, of poorer classes support their elected president, while smaller numbers of white descendants of early Spanish colonizers back the US-selected and designated new president, a legislator named Juan Guiado. Our troops and aid anywhere near Venezuela smell like regime change.


The enlightenment of another Iraq and Afghanistan veteran, Kevin Tillman, pierces the benighted world of Washington. “As one of the soldiers who illegally invaded Iraq…I know an illegal coup/invasion when I see one…if Venezuelans believe their president (their president) PMaduro has mismanaged the nation’s most valuable asset [oil], it is their right to seek change, but this is not a right enjoyed by Donald Trump, Nancy Pelosi or Elliot Abrams.”

Please read the full article.
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Financial Imperialism: the Case of Venezuela
by Jack Rasmus
From Counterpunch

The US Neocon-led strategy is increasingly clear: establish a ‘beach-head’ on the Colombian-Venezuelan (and Venezuelan-Brazilian) border under the guise of providing humanitarian aid. Use the aid to get Venezuelans on the border to welcome the US proxy forces to cross over. Set up political and military structures thereafter just inside the Venezuelan borders with Colombia and Brazil, from which to launch further similar efforts deeper into Venezuela.  Repeat this province by province, step by step, penetrating Venezuela space until enough local units of the Venezuelan military change sides and convince one or more of the Venezuelan military hierarchy to join them. Establish a dual state and government within and along the border of the Venezuelan state this way. A breakaway State and dual power within the country. Make it appear, by manipulating the media, that the Venezuelan people are rising up against the Maduro government, when in fact it is US proxy forces invading and using opportunist local politicians, military, and others in the ‘conquered’ zones, as the media covers for their invasion.

Read the full article.
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Can Venezuela and its neighbours survive the coming war?
by Thierry Meyssan
From Voltairenet

Thierry Meyssan is a French journalist, author and political consultant. He is founder of the Voltaire Network (1994) and has written numerous articles about the geopolitical power struggle.
In this article, Meyssan argues that:

If my analysis is correct – and for the moment, everything seems to confirm it – we have to prepare for a war not only in Venezuela, but throughout the Caribbean Basin. Nicaragua and Haïti are already destabilised.

This war will be imposed from the exterior. Its aim will no longer be to overthrow leftist governments for the profit of right wing parties, even if appearances will at first be confusing. The logic of events will make no distinction between one side or another. Little by little, the whole society will be threatened, without the distinction of ideology or social class. Identically, it will become impossible for other states in the region to shelter from the storm. Even those who believe that they can protect themselves by serving as a rear base for military operations will be partially destroyed. For example, even though the Press hardly ever mentioned it, entire cities were wiped out in the region of Qatif, in Saudi Arabia, even though this country was Washington’s main ally in the « Greater Middle East ».

You can read the entire article here.
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What the Press Hides From You About Venezuela
A Case of News-Suppression All Across the Mainstream Media
From NotSee America

By Eric Zuesse Introduction This news-report is being submitted to all US and allied news-media, and is being published by all honest ones, in order to inform you of crucial facts that the others — the dishonest ones, who hide such crucial facts — are hiding about Venezuela. These are facts that have received coverage only in one single British newspaper: the Independent, which published a summary account of them on January 26th. That newspaper’s account will be excerpted here at the end, but first will be highlights from its topic, the official report to the UN General Assembly in August of last year, which has been covered-up ever since. This is why that report’s author has now gone to the Independent, desperate to get the story out, finally, to the public. Read the full article here.
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Feel free to provide additional pertinent links, and your comments, by entering them in the Leave a Reply box below.

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Money, Oil, War and the Global Power Structure

Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of State and corporate power. —Benito Mussolini (1883-1945), Fascist Dictator of Italy

The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to the point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is Fascism–ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or any controlling private power. — Franklin D. Roosevelt

The current attack by US and globalist forces against the Venezuelan government is the latest in a long series of regime change actions aimed at keeping or restoring control over essential resources, in this case oil, and preventing any significant departure from corporatization and elite rule. It should be clear by now that according to Mussolini’s definition, the present world order is not democratic, but fascist. Centralized control of money, banking, and finance have allowed the power elite to develop financial weapons that can be deployed to bring independent governments to heel, with military force being deployed if necessary.

In his recent article, Sanctions of Mass Destruction: America’s war on Venezuela,  journalist Garikai Chengu points out that, “American economic sanctions have been the worst crime against humanity since World War Two. America’s economic sanctions have killed more innocent people than all of the nuclear, biological and chemical weapons ever used in the history of mankind,” and highlights the obvious saying, “The fact that for America the issue in Venezuela is oil, not democracy, will surprise only those who watch the news and ignore history. Venezuela has the world’s largest oil reserves on the planet.”

Chengu goes on to say that “From the first moment Hugo Chavez took office, the United States has been trying to overthrow Venezuela’s socialist movement by using sanctions, coup attempts, and funding the opposition parties. …United Nations Human Rights Council Special Rapporteur, Alfred de Zayas, recommended, just a few days ago, that the International Criminal Court investigate economic sanctions against Venezuela as a possible crime against humanity perpetrated by America.”

 “Prior to American sanctions, socialism in Venezuela had reduced inequality and poverty whilst pensions expanded. During the same time period in America, it has been the absolute reverse. President Chavez funneled Venezuela’s oil revenues into social spending such as free+6 healthcare, education, subsidized food networks, and housing construction.”

Caitlin Johnstone reports that Psychopathic US Senator Openly Calls For Maduro To Suffer Gaddafi’s Fate.

Johnstone reports that, while the Maduro government has refused this “Trojan Horse” of supposed aid from the United States, he has not been refusing aid from other sources. “In reality, Maduro has been accepting aid from everywhere except from the government that is openly staging a coup in his country in gross violation of its national sovereignty. Just last week Caracas accepted 933 tons of food and medical supplies from China, Cuba, India and Turkey, and Russia has shipped in 300 tons of aid on its own.”

Florida Senator Marco Rubio posted this image in his recent tweet. The implication is clear that Rubio wants Maduro to be tortured, sodomized and murdered just as Gaddafi was in Lybia for defying the demands of the empire.

CNN’s Ana Cabrera reports that Florida Senator Marco Rubio has said that “no matter how long this takes,” the US and the international community are standing with the people of Venezuela, “until freedom is restored in Venezuela.”

Sure, freedom for U.S. corporations to plunder Venezuela’s oil resources, and once again dominate the Venezuelan people. We’ve seen this “ploy” so many times before, in so many different places; can anyone possibly take it seriously? Mr. Rubio, you call yourself (on your Twitter page) “a follower of Christ,” but your behavior is not at all Christ-like. Did Christ ever call for the violent overthrow of governments, or the torture and murder of another human being, or the promulgation of lies intended to justify such actions?  Even the United Nations has acknowledged that this so-called “aid” that you are trying to impose is a political ploy. “Humanitarian action needs to be independent of political, military or other objectives,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York.

And it is not only the Trump administration that is beating the drums for this takeover of Venezuela. According to Johnstone, even so-called democrats like Bill and Hillary Clinton, Dianne Feinstein, Bernie Sanders, and Kamala Harris are calling for regime change there.

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President Donald Trump – the first two years


The American people elected Donald Trump to shake things up, and, for better or for worse that is what he’s been doing. Most of what Trump has done in the first two years of his presidency has been destructive—to the environment, to social justice, to economic equity, and to civil discourse. But whether he knows what he is doing or not, he has been shaking up America’s longstanding foreign policy in a way that I think is positive. The United States, under both major parties, has, since the fall of the Soviet Union, been working to maintain “full spectrum dominance” around the world. It has been bent upon constraining the power and influence of potential rivals like Russia and China, and promoting by both overt and covert means, regime change in numerous countries around the world in hopes of installing puppet regimes that would be subservient to the demands of the “New World Order.”

Trump may very well be a narcissistic “loose cannon,” and his intentions may be purely self-centered and aimed at self-aggrandizement, but many of his foreign policy actions are moving the world in the direction that it needs to go, i.e., towards a multi-polar world order. He is doing this by (1) trying to cooperate and normalize relations with Russia, (2) pressuring Britain and Western European (NATO) allies, thus undermining longstanding alliances, and (3) upsetting prior trade agreements via the imposition of tariffs.

The turmoil in Washington politics has at times been almost comical, as we’ve seen the evident tug of war between a strong-willed President with his own ideas, and the entrenched “deep state” that is controlled by the elite global power establishment. This has been evident in some of the presidential appointments that seem at odds with Trump’s rhetoric, like the appointment of super-hawk and Russophobe, John Bolton as national security advisor.

The appointment of John Kelly, as White House Chief of Staff, was supposed to control Trump, but now Trump has ousted Kelly and named Mick Mulvaney as his temporary replacement. Does that indicate a power shift in Trump’s favor? Or now that the Democrats have taken control of the House, will they be able to tie Trumps hands?

Time will tell.

Thanksgiving Newsletter 2018

In the United States, the fourth Thursday in November is designated as Thanksgiving Day, a national holiday. Days of thanksgiving were variously celebrated in the colonies from very early times, but the national holiday we celebrate today was proclaimed in 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, by President Abraham Lincoln. It is fitting that we take time to remember the many blessings that each of us enjoys, even in the most dire circumstances.

What we consistently fail to do is to recognize the misery that our actions may be causing for others. While individually, the way we live our lives may be exemplary, our collective circumstances often derive from less than benevolent actions take on our behalf by political and economic leaders. One need not look very deeply to see the absurdity of the present world order that is based on perpetual war and struggles for dominance among national and supra-national elites. When one considers the marvelous technological advances and the vast amounts of material wealth that humans have been able to produce, it is clear that no one in this world should need to live in squalor. Yet, vast numbers of our brothers and sisters around the world lack the barest necessities to live a dignified life, much less the resources needed to realize their full potential. Still others are being terrorized, bombed, detained and persecuted through no fault of their own.

The hard question for me is, “How am I complicit in all of this, and what can I do about it?”

While driving in my car I often have the radio tuned to the local NPR station. A couple of days ago I happened to hear an episode (Ep. 356) of the popular Freakonomics program, this one titled, America’s Hidden Duopoly. The discussion was about the American two-party political system, which is in essence a duopoly of political power. Many Americans have long lamented the fact that they are often required to make a choice between “the lesser of two evils.” Third parties come and go by none has ever gained enough support to offer anything but “a wasted vote.”

Is there some other way in which the problem can be addressed? One initiative mentioned in the interview that seems to hold some promise is Unite America. Their motto is Country Over Party and their focus is on “building a movement to elect common-sense, independent candidates to office who can represent We, the People – not the party bosses or special interests.” The way they propose to achieve that is through their “Fulcrum Strategy,” that is “focused on electing independent candidates to narrowly divided legislatures, like the US Senate, where they can deny both parties an outright majority and use their enormous leverage to forge common ground solutions.” The argue that it would take only 4 or 5 independent Senators to swing the balance of power.

Hmmm, that itself is a tall order, but it just might work. Another initiative that looks promising is World Beyond War.
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David Brooks is a familiar figure on the PBS News Hour, where he has for years been providing political commentary alongside Mark Shields. I can’t say that I’ve been all that impressed with him, but after a friend referred me to a presentation he gave at the 2018 Pacific Summit earlier this year I came away with a different opinion. I find Brooks much more impressive and insightful as a social philosopher and historian. He articulately and entertainingly provides an assessment of our present sociopolitical predicament. I recommend that you can view that presentation on YouTube.

Still, I have a little different take on the situation, something that no one else seems to be seeing. Arnold Toynbee is quoted as having said, “Civilizations start to decay when they lose their moral fiber and the cultural elite turns parasitic.” That is the situation we find ourselves in today. Our political leadership has let us down. When the power elite works to dominate and exploit us, when they can no longer be trusted to tell us the truth,  when they fail to act on behalf of peace and the common good, what is there but to revert to tribal identities and find common cause with those whom we know and trust? While pundits and politicos decry the rise of “populism,” I see it as a natural response to the failure of the power elite. Populist actions are not always tainted by racism, sexism, and scapegoating. We need to rebuild society from the bottom up, starting with the people around us, then branching out to form alliances and coalitions. But if we are to end up with something better than what we wish to replace, our actions need to be open-hearted and beneficent. With good will toward all, perhaps it is possible to have a populist revolution that is peaceful and advances the causes of social justice, economic equity, individual liberty and human unity.
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The American Economy Is Rigged

In a recent article, Joseph E. Stiglitz, former chief economist of the World Bank, argues that the American economy is rigged and outlines a few things that we can do about it.

Stiglitz begins his article by saying:
“Americans are used to thinking that their nation is special. In many ways, it is: the U.S. has by far the most Nobel Prize winners, the largest defense expenditures (almost equal to the next 10 or so countries put together) and the most billionaires (twice as many as China, the closest competitor). But some examples of American Exceptionalism should not make us proud. By most accounts, the U.S. has the highest level of economic inequality among developed countries. It has the world’s greatest per capita health expenditures yet the lowest life expectancy among comparable countries. It is also one of a few developed countries jostling for the dubious distinction of having the lowest measures of equality of opportunity.”

 

 

He then explains how economic inequality and political inequality are mutually reinforcing, each growing in response to growth in the other. When the super-rich are able to make the rules, they can rig the game to become ever richer. He concedes that “There is no magic bullet to remedy a problem as deep-rooted as America’s inequality. Its origins are largely political, so it is hard to imagine meaningful change without a concerted effort to take money out of politics.”

Stiglitz outlines a number of measures that could achieve that but all of them require legislative action. That seems like a “catch 22.” If the political machinery is so thoroughly in the hands of the economic and political elite, how is it possible to use the political process the change the status quo? I have long argued that, in view of that political reality, the only viable strategy is to design and deploy  innovative monetary and financial systems that enable us reclaim “the credit commons.” By decentralizing the control of credit, it is possible to reduce our dependence upon bank borrowing and political forms of money. This is not so far-fetched as it might first appear. For details of how it can be, and is being done, see my article, Confronting the power elite.

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Free speech on the ropes

big-brother quotes

If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.     —George  Orwell

What the Arab world needs most is free expression.    —Jamal  Khashoggi

In his famous dystopian novel, 1984, George Orwell describes a world in which people’s actions and words are closely monitored in order to detect and punish thoughtcrime.  It is a world in which the ruling power structure has the means to preempt the expression of any idea or story that might challenge the official narrative of events and reality. Though a little late by Orwell’s reckoning, that world has all but arrived.

The development of the internet and the worldwide web brought, for a time, tremendous power to ordinary people to communicate and inform one another directly, bypassing the established news filters and centralized control of information. But in recent years, new corporate megaliths have emerged that have the power to shift control back in favor of “Big Brother.” We have become so dependent upon private corporate media platforms, like Facebook, Twitter, Google and YouTube, that they are able to manipulate our thoughts and behavior. To be banned from those channels means to effectively be banished from participation in political discourse. Corporate power on such a scale inevitably ends up being complicit with political oligarchies in controlling  public perceptions and defining “reality.” The hyped-up battle against “fake news” is really a battle against free speech.

Facebook teams up with the “Thought Police” to purge dissenting voices

Facebook’s purging of hundreds of pages and accounts in recent days has been widely reported. The purges have been done based on allegations of “spam,” and “inauthentic behavior,” or of providing  “Russian propaganda.” But there’s much more to it than that.

An article in the online journal, Global Research, describes the arrangement that Facebook made five months ago with the Atlantic Council to,  “prevent [their] service from being abused during elections.” And who is the Atlantic Council? According to the article, the Atlantic Council “is a think tank that is essentially funded by NATO, weapons manufacturers, Middle-Eastern oil-state monarchies, billionaires and different branches of the US military. In short, it has been described as being nothing less than NATO’s unofficial propaganda wing. The Atlantic Council doesn’t shy away from its political intents across the world, which can be seen solely by looking at who sits on its directors board – the crème de la crème when it comes to US neocons & war criminals: Henry Kissinger, Condoleezza Rice, Frank Carlucci, James A. Baker, R. George P. Shultz, James Woolsey, Leon Panetta, Colin Powell, Robert Gates, and many more.”

The article goes on to say that, “Many of the pages and accounts taken down have been political (often leftist), anti-war, independent journalists and media outlets that are known to go against the grain of mainstream media outlets.” You can read the complete article here.

So, what can we do? Let’s all dump Facebook, as well as Twitter, YouTube and all the other  massive, proprietary, data mining and propaganda platforms. I know that is not so easy to do, but alternatives do exist, and more of them are emerging every day. Here is a list of 6 Alternatives to Facebook. This article provides a list of 11 Facebook alternatives, and Fox News, surprisingly, provides a list of, Secure alternatives to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. My search engine, DuckDuckGo, turns up several more.

One Facebook alternative that has gotten significant funding support of late is MeWe. A recent article reports that MeWe has thus far managed to raise $10 million to support its development. The article quotes MeWe founder and CEO, Mark Weinstein: “It is clear that the world wants a better social network that treats its member as customers to serve, not data to sell. We’ve built a social networking experience that has a remarkable suite of features people love and none of the BS. MeWe has no ads, no spyware, no content manipulation, no facial recognition, and no Russians (or anyone) paying to show you fake news.”

Well, that sounds promising, but time will tell how real it is.
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Jamal Khashoggi’s murder and the U.S./Saudi connection

The sensational case of the murder and dismemberment of Washington Post journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, underlines just how desperate the power elite is to control the narrative and manipulate our perceptions and beliefs. It would be a mistake to view this horrendous atrocity in isolation from the wider geopolitical propaganda campaign, much of it emanating from the U.S. government and their NATO and middle-eastern allies.

Two weeks after Khashoggi’s disappearance, The Washington Post published his last editorial, in which Khashoggi wrote:

“Arab governments have been given free rein to continue silencing the media at an increasing rate. There was a time when journalists believed the Internet would liberate information from the censorship and control associated with print media. But these governments, whose very existence relies on the control of information, have aggressively blocked the Internet. They have also arrested local reporters and pressured advertisers to harm the revenue of specific publications.”

The reaction of Donald Trump to this affair has been what we would expect. While paying lip service to justice and accountability, he immediately tried to provide cover for the Saudi regime by suggesting that the murder may have been the work of “rogue killers.” He also made it clear that he would not halt weapon sales to the Saudi government, a clear signal that money trumps “American values,” and belies the myth of the United States as champion of democracy and human rights.

But the cozy relationship between Saudi Arabia and the United States goes back way before Trump. Recall that, according to the official report on the 9/11 terror attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, 15 of the 19 terrorists were from Saudi Arabia. Why then did the United States attack Iraq and Afghanistan instead? It is also established fact that the Bush family and the bin Laden family were longtime business associates. Furthermore, according to this article by Cindy Rodríguez in the Denver Post, “While all flights were halted following the terrorist attacks, there was one exception made: The White House authorized planes to pick up 140 Saudi nationals, including 24 members of the bin Laden family, living in various cities in the U.S. to bring them back to Saudi Arabia, where they would be safe. They were never interrogated.”

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Who is interfering with whom?

Virginia State Senator Richard Black addressed the June 30, 2018 Schiller Institute conference via video. In his presentation titled, The True Interest of the United States, Senator Black, a combat veteran, argued that “U.S. foreign policy in Iraq, Libya, Syria and elsewhere in South-West Asia, …has spawned huge armies of terrorists,” and in no way benefits the interests of the American people.

And a vintage article by William Blum, recently republished by Global Research, highlights the hypocrisy of U.S. government officials and the media in blasting Russia for their alleged interference in the U.S. political process, while the U.S. government has a long and sordid history of extreme interference in other countries. I count 55 instances in William Blum’s list of “the United States overthrowing, or attempting to overthrow, a foreign government since the Second World War.” See it here:  Overthrowing Other People’s Governments: The Master List of U.S. “Regime Changes.” –t.h.g.

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