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Devoted to the liberation of money and credit, and the restoration of the commons
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Thanksgiving Newsletter 2018

November 22, 2018 - 11:28am

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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Categories: Blog articles

Free speech on the ropes

October 25, 2018 - 10:18am

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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Categories: Blog articles