We are Hanno Beck, Lindy Davies, Fred Foldvary, Mike O'Mara, Jeff Smith, and assorted volunteers, all dedicated to bringing you the news and views that make a difference in our species struggle to win justice, prosperity, and eco-librium.
These two 2013 excerpts of Ellen Brown on the Fed are from (1) her Web of Debt blog, Dec 7, and (2) the Huffington Post, Dec 23.
Amend the Fed: We Need a Central Bank that Serves Main Street
December 23rd marked the 100th anniversary of the Federal Reserve.
At an IMF conference on November 8, 2013, former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers suggested that since near-zero interest rates were not adequately promoting people to borrow and spend, it might now be necessary to set interest at below zero. This idea was lauded and expanded upon by other ivory-tower inside-the-box thinkers, including Paul Krugman.
Negative interest would mean that banks would charge the depositor for holding his deposits rather than paying interest on them. Runs on the banks would no doubt follow.
To ordinary mortals living in the less rarefied atmosphere of the real world, the proposal to impose negative interest rates looks either inane or like the next giant step toward the totalitarian New World Order.
Paul Craig Roberts, former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, calls the idea “harebrained.” He is equally skeptical of quantitative easing, the Fed’s other tool for stimulating the economy. Roberts points to Andrew Huszar’s explosive November 11th Wall Street Journal article titled “Confessions of a Quantitative Easer,” in which Huszar says that QE was always intended to serve Wall Street, not Main Street. Huszar’s assignment at the Fed was to manage the purchase of $1.25 trillion in mortgages with dollars created on a computer screen. He says he resigned when he realized that the real purpose of the policy was to drive up the prices of the banks’ holdings of debt instruments, to provide the banks with trillions of dollars at zero cost with which to lend and speculate, and to provide the banks with fat commissions from brokering most of the Fed’s QE transactions.
100 Years Is Enough: Time to Make the Fed a Public Utility
The Federal Reserve Act was passed in 1913 in response to a wave of bank crises, which had hit, on average, every six years over a period of 80 years. The resulting economic depressions triggered a populist movement for monetary reform in the 1890s. Mary Ellen Lease, an early populist leader, said in a fiery speech that could have been written today:
“Wall Street owns the country. The great common people of this country are slaves, and monopoly is the master … Money rules … Our laws are the output of a system which clothes rascals in robes and honesty in rags. The parties lie to us and the political speakers mislead us…
We want money, land, and transportation. We want the abolition of the National Banks, and we want the power to make loans direct from the government. We want the foreclosure system wiped out.”
That was what they wanted, but the Federal Reserve Act was what they got. What the populists sought was a national currency issued debt-free and interest-free by the government, on the model of Lincoln’s Greenbacks. What the American people got was a money supply created by private banks as credit (or debt) lent to the government and the people at interest. Although the national money supply would be printed by the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing, it would be issued by the “bankers’ bank,” the Federal Reserve. The Fed is composed of twelve branches, all of which are 100 percent owned by the banks in their districts. Until 1935, these branches could each independently issue paper dollars for the cost of printing them, and could lend them at interest.
The new system was supposed to prevent bank runs, but in 1929 the United States experienced the worst bank run in its history. At that time, banks were required to keep sufficient gold to cover only 40 percent of their deposits. When panicked bank customers rushed to cash in their dollars, gold reserves shrank.
For its first half century, the Federal Reserve continued to pocket the interest on the money it issued and lent to the government. But in the 1960s, Wright Patman, Chairman of the House Banking and Currency Committee, pushed to have the Fed nationalized. To avoid that result, the Fed quietly agreed to rebate its profits to the U.S. Treasury.
But the central bank own some of the federal debt. Commercial banks hold the majority of it and do not rebate the interest they collected to the government. They also “buy: government bonds with newly created demand deposit entries on their books — nothing more.
At the end of 2013, the total for the previous 26 years came to about $9 trillion on a federal debt of $17.25 trillion. The federal debt has been accumulating ever since 1835, when Andrew Jackson paid it off and vetoed the Second U.S. Bank’s renewal.
How about the power to issue money be returned to the government. Make the Federal Reserve a public utility. The firehose of cheap credit lavished on Wall Street needs to be re-directed to Main Street.
Ed. Notes: Money sure does bring out the urge to reform in many of us.
Bankers have found a lucrative gravy train by controlling the money supply. Yet that control has been given to governments before, sometimes with happy results, sometimes not; witness the places with rampant inflation and near worthless national currency.
What might work better would be to allow currencies to compete, as we do credit cards. The role of government would be to set standards — as it does with weights and measures — and prosecute fraud. The government could still issue its own notes to anyone who’d take them, and so could banks, but also could currency clubs like local currencies. The competition would tend to keep all currencies honest. After a while, probably one or two would prevail, as do Visa and Master Card, but the possibility of an upstart currency would keep the successful ones honest.
One key component most monetary reformers overlook is that debt is not something ethereal but rather people borrow money in order to buy something, and usually that something is land, often with a house on it. If people did not have to buy land, they’d not have to borrow so much, by a long shot. Small mortgages would greatly reduce the profit and power of banks.
What would make it possible for people to not buy land? Well, they could “rent” the land from their community, or pay Land Dues or a land tax to their local government. When society gets the rent for land, then owners can’t charge a price for land, a gift of nature they did not create, whose value the presence of the populace generates. It’s fair, and prevents land from becoming an object of speculation, so the rent or dues or tax always stays affordable.
(Rebating some of the rental public revenue to residents would of course also help keep land affordable.)
While individuals now borrow to buy land, governments often borrow because they can’t tax enough. The reason they can’t raise enough funds with their taxes is because politicians levy dumb taxes that shrink the tax base rather than levy smart taxes that expand the tax base. The typical taxes on income, sales, and buildings reduce the worth of jobs, of purchasing power, and of improvements (respectively). The more things they tax and the higher they raise the rates, the more sand they throw into the gears of the economy. Not too smart.
But one tax, rarely used, does just the opposite: the tax on land. Having to pay it or Land Dues, owners don’t speculate but develop their sites and keep their locations at highest and best use (or sell to others who will). All that construction and development and efficient land use pushes up the value of locations in the region — a fatter tax base for the smartest of all taxes. With all that collected as public revenue, governments would no longer have to borrow much if anything at all — again cutting the money issue down to near dismissive size.
So, why is land invisible and money so fascinating?
This 2013 excerpt of Grist, Dec 24, by Heather Smith.
On April 29, the European Union voted to ban three of the most widely used pesticides in the world. The ban on clothianidin, imidacloprid, and thiamethoxam — collectively called neonicotinoids – was specifically aimed at seeing if this class of pesticide was indeed making honeybees too stupid to find their way back to the hive, as some studies suggested.
The EU ban came with many exceptions: The ban was only for two years. It did not ban all neonicotinoids; even the ones that were banned could still be applied to crops like winter wheat, because honeybees don’t fly in the winter and could care less about wheat. Greenhouses were also exempt from the ban.
The ban on likely bee-killing pesticides starts on Dec.1; so the seeds for 2014′s harvest were soaked and planted months ago, and neonicotinoids can persist in the soil for years.
Ed. Notes: However feeble, it is still a step in the right direction, toward defense of nature. Still, it is ironic that those who care must struggle to defend nature (including the human species) while those whose priority is to make a buck heedless of others don’t have to struggle at all; it is completely legal to alter nature for profit, without having demonstrated in advance that such alterations are totally safe, and expect no negative feedback from government, indeed, just the opposite, a forgiving and encouraging government. It’s an attitude and values embodied in the corporate charter whose salient power is to limit the liability of those making the decisions to profit at nature’s (and our) expense. Government should get out of the business of limiting liability, forcing business to buy insurance and to simply be more careful, which would totally reverse the present business mindset.
This 2013 excerpt of GB’s Telegraph, Spt 24, is by Alex Spillius.
Xinjiang Production and Construction Corp (XPCC), a quasi-military organisation also known as Bingtuan, said that it had signed a £1.7 billion agreement in June with KSG Agro, Ukraine’s leading agricultural company. KSG Agro however denied reports that it had sold Ukraine farmland to the Chinese, saying it had only reached agreement for the Chinese to modernise 3,000 hectares and “may in the future gradually expand to cover more areas”.
Under the 50-year plan, China would eventually control three million hectares, an area equivalent to Belgium or Massachusetts, which represents nine per cent of Ukraine’s arable land. Initially 100,000 hectares would be leased.
Any sort of “land-grab” deal can be highly sensitive politically. Madagascar was forced to scrap a plan to lease 1.2 million hectares to South Korea in 2009 after angry protests against “neo-colonialism”. The Philippines has also blocked a China investment deal.
With its current population of 1.36 billion predicted by the UN to rise to 1.4 billion by 2050, China is among the leading renter of overseas farmland in Africa, South America, and Southeast Asia, though the XPCC deal would make Ukraine China’s largest overseas farming centre.
China consumes about one-fifth of the world’s food supplies, but is home to just nine per cent of the world’s farmland, thanks in part to rapid industrialisation.
Apart from China, India, South Korea, the Gulf states, and western European corporations began taking tracts of land, especially in Africa, after global food prices spiked in 2008.
XPCC however is making the first such major foray into continental Europe. It has a country that has the largest land area in the continent and was known as the “bread basket as the Soviet Union” but which has progressed slowly since the fall of the Iron Curtain.
Ed. Notes: It matters little who owns the land; it matters a lot who gets the rent. As long as Ukraine’s populace get a fair return, the deal makes sense, sending surplus to where there is need. And paying rent for food and land is far more just than the invasions almost all societies have done in the past.
Silicon Valley investor Tim Draper wants to break California into six states.
This 2013 excerpt of the Los Angeles Times, Dec 21, is by Jessica Guynn.
Technology investor Tim Draper is drumming up support to create six states in California, one of them being Silicon Valley. He’s looking to get an initiative on the California ballot.
His argument for redrawing the California map: The state is underrepresented in Washington. “It is about time California was properly represented with senators in Washington. Make our number of senators per person about average.”
In October at Y Combinator Startup School, one tech entrepreneur called for Silicon Valley to secede from the United States altogether.
Balaji Srinivasan, co-founder of San Francisco–based genetics company Counsyl, gave a talk to aspiring entrepreneurs about “Silicon Valley’s ultimate exit,” saying, “We need to build opt-in society, outside the U.S., run by technology.”
Google CEO Larry Page spoke of his desire to set aside a place in the world where technological experimentation can be conducted unfettered by regulation. (“There are many exciting things you could do that are illegal or not allowed by regulation,” Page said.)
Investor Peter Thiel has championed the “seasteader” movement, which would create floating societies off the coast of California just beyond the clutches of the U.S. government.
And the Blueseed project wants to put foreign-born workers on a cruise ship off the coast of Northern California in international waters to evade immigration laws.
Ed. Notes: Couples get divorced all the time. Should counties be allowed to likewise secede? OOH, we do need to be free from unwarranted interference in order to express our true selves, yet OTOH we also need to mesh smoothly and respectfully with the larger society.
In this case, Silicon Valley owes a lot of its success to the proximity of Stanford University and to the “anything goes” attitude of California, but have techies paid back the valley? Not really, altho’ they could by paying Land Dues — which they should do to their own jurisdiction even if they do secede.
Redrawing the map is something going on right now; politicians always gerrymander boundaries for their own corrupt purposes. And now that people are so mobile and economies so extensive, political borders are relics that no longer reflect anything meaningful.
Perhaps it’d be better if there were some principle in place that would automatically redraw boundaries according to factors like topography, population size, and settlement pattern; coincidentally, such a region often matches the footprint of a major daily newspaper — a map of where its subscribers live. The reach of a major daily newspaper is also the area where land values are pulled up by the major central city. Hence in a geonomy, residents would pay their Land Dues to the regional government whose capitol is in that city.
Finally, must borders be hard and fast or could they be broad swaths like the transition zones between ecosystems? Perhaps we could let people living near the edge be the ones to choose which jurisdiction to whom to pay their Land Dues. If we weaken small group identity, maybe that’d strengthen species-wide identity … even universe-wide!
The petroleum industry wins one in Alberta and loses one in Pennsylvania.
These two 2013 excerpts about government oversight of oil extraction are from (1) Common Dreams, Dec 24, on Alberta by Jacob Chamberlain, and (2) PennFuture, Dec 20, on Pennsylvania.
In Alberta, Environmental Regulators Now Funded by Fossil Fuel Industry
Alberta, home to massive tar sands reserves, has a new environmental regulator in town. Roughly 150 publicly funded environment department staff including fish and wildlife officers, forestry officers, biologists, rangers, and others who watch over the oil industry’s activities in the province are expected to move over to the new Alberta Energy Regulator. The new organization will get all of its funding from levying fees on oil and gas companies; employees’ salaries are to be paid by the industry they are monitoring.
Gerry Protti, who helped found the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, an oil industry lobby group, has been chosen as chairman of the board of the new tar sands regulators.
Chief executive Jim Ellis, a former deputy minister of environment, has criticized environmental groups for publishing “negative media on the oil sands” and also attempted to bar environmental groups from taking part at a recent tar sands hearing.
Pennsylvania Supreme Court Strikes Down Key Portions of State’s Oil & Gas
In a 4-2 decision, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirmed a 2012 Commonwealth Court decision striking down controversial portions of Act 13, under the Pennsylvania Constitution. Most notably, the Court struck down parts of Act 13 that would have created a statewide zoning scheme for oil and gas activities, and required municipalities to allow those activities in all zoning districts, including residential districts.
PennFuture opposed Act 13 because of the issues relating to local preemption raised by Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille, insufficient regulatory safeguards to protect natural resources and communities, and an inadequate impact fee.
The decision is a substantial rebuff of attempts by the legislature and governor to treat the new shale gas industry differently in Pennsylvania than other heavy, industrial land uses.
Act 13′s evisceration of local land use powers was unprecedented — a “blanket accommodation of industry and development,” the Supreme Court wrote.
Chief Justice Castille articulates a new framework for evaluating government actions under Article I, Section 27, which guarantees each citizen the right to “clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment.” Those environmental rights are “presumptively on par” with other civil liberties found in Article I’s Declaration of Rights, writes Castille.
Ed. Notes: While Big Money got what it wanted in Alberta, its grab in Pennsylvania was way to audacious for at least one judge, a judge who nicely spelled out our rights to a healthy natural world. Hopefully, his point of view will prevail but in the real world, money rules, and most of that ruling money is unearned “rent” from nature, the money society spends for oil, land, and other aspects of the natural world. The favors that insiders buy with such money are items like limited liability and a stacked deck.
If we don’t want oil corporations to use that money to rule us, then we have to capture that money for ourselves. And why not? It already belongs to us. The money is spent for things like oil, which none of us created, and the value of oil is set by demand, which is something we all create. So let us use taxes, fees, leases, dues, etc, to redirect our spending for resources into the public treasury, so the funds can benefit us all.
Until we do, we must expect the petroleum industry to spend our common wealth any way they want. But once we do share what is already ours, then we can get government on our side. It’d quit limiting the liability of the culpable and start defending the health of both people and planet.
Ed. Notes: During scary times, many people get rid of currency and stock up on gold, behavior that bankers don’t like, since they make their money off people borrowing and remaining dependent upon currency. While gold did rise this recent recession, it did not rise as high as perhaps it should have during a downturn labeled “the Great Recession”. What kept the price of gold from soaring thru the roof was the above sale of tons of gold by the IMF, ostensibly to have cash for poor nations, but could the real motive have been to keep gold from displacing the official currencies of nations?
Also, does creating debt, even at zero interest, create prosperity? Or, does it merely distract attention from the real causes underlying endemic poverty and from the real solutions? The real problems are lack of owner occupancy and of honest dealings. How is lending to corrupt elites supposed to fix that? It never has before.
If rich nations really wanted to help poor nations, they’d allow true free trade and set a better example at home, a model of economic justice that could be copied everywhere — a geonomy of no corporate welfare, no taxes on our efforts, no privatized “rents”, and a total and equal sharing of the worth of Earth. Then hello prosperity, bye-bye debt, gold, and the rest of distracting non-solutions.
This 2013 excerpt of IRIN, Dec 11, is by Elizabeth Blunt.
Daniel Runde, aid worker at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), asked donor countries to shift their focus away from alleviating poverty and concentrate on helping developing countries reach a position from which they can end poverty and deliver social goods for themselves.
Economists Francois Bourguingon and Stefan Dercon found a significant relationship between economic growth and people who live on less than a dollar a day, but they found no little or no correlation between growth and any one of the non-income Millennium Development Goals, such as child nutrition, girls’ education, or the number of children in school.
“So the role of assistance and expertise is going to change,” Runde said. “It’s not going to be about the most money on the table but about the best ideas, the best solution to a problem.”
The help that is needed now, Runde thinks, is in the fields of economic growth and governance. At the moment, these areas receive a very small part of the aid budget from his own country, the US. What little money is available for growth and governance goes largely to Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Going forward, Runde says there should be more focus on issues such as tax collection, commercial law, contract enforcement, and secure land tenure. These ideas were greeted politely at the London meeting, but with considerable reservations by many attendees.
Ed. Notes: Given that land tenure and taxation (or community dues) are so important, the best help the North could give the South is the power of a good example. The North could lead the way by following the dictum “pay dues for what you take, not taxes on what you make.” The dictum to follow regarding property in land is to: claim publicly, occupy privately, pay rent neighborly (as they’ll pay you), and use sparingly. If the North were to adopt these powerful reforms, the South would not be far behind. Then the whole planet could enjoy prosperity, and sustainable prosperity at that.
This 2013 excerpt of OtherWords, Oct 9, is by Sam Pizzigati, author of The Rich Don’t Always Win: The Forgotten Triumph over Plutocracy that Created the American Middle Class.
Those janitors who clean Smithsonian museums? Those cooks at military bases? Those programmers writing software for Medicare? More and more of the workers who keep our government running work for private contractors. And many of these workers don’t make much at all. About 560,000 Americans employed by contractors have jobs that pay $12 an hour or less.
Meanwhile, the federal government reimburses private firms for up to $763,039 of the compensation they pay executives, a figure that will shortly rise to $950,000 under federal law. The federal government is now spending $20.8 to $23.9 billion annually, overall, for the compensation of top private contractor executives.
The government pays the President $400,000, the Vice President $230,700. If government reimbursed CEO salary at $230,700, it could give a $6 an hour raise to the 560,000 federal contractor workers who currently make $12 or less an hour.
Contractors like Lockheed Martin and other weaponeers owe their robust profitability to federal contracts. This profitability keeps corporate share prices high. Stock options and other stock awards translate these high share prices into whopping executive windfalls. Lockheed’s CEO Stevens took home $23.8 million last year.
The federal government already denies our tax dollars to companies with employment practices that discriminate on the basis of race or gender. We’ve decided, as a society, not to subsidize racial or gender inequality. Why should we subsidize economic inequality?
Ed. Notes: Bigger picture, why subsidize anything? We could forget about padding the wages for low-skilled work if instead we shared the worth of Earth. If everyone got an extra income from the value of land and resources — a la Alaska’s oil dividend or Singapore’s land dividend — then people could directly negotiate higher wages without having to have government intervene. People could also afford retraining. Or maybe even start their own business. All those futures sound brighter than being locked into an undemanding, tho’ better paying, job with a boss.
Even better, if we not only paid ourselves a Citizen’s Dividend but also axed the counterproductive taxes on earnings, purchases, and houses, why would we subsidize anything, even schools and clinics? Costs of living would be lower and with income higher, we would have the wherewithal to choose our own teachers and doctors, again without having to have government intervene.
Let our concern for struggling workers, and our distaste for income inequality, blossom into a campaign for geonomic justice.
China’s doctors are beginning to speak of a link between air pollution and lung cancer. Children as young as 8 have been treated.
This 2013 excerpt of the Los Angeles Times, Dec 24, is by Barbara Demick.
Back in the 1970s, the textbook lung cancer patient was a chain-smoking male in his 60s. Nowadays, Dr. Bai sees so many who are still in their 20s that the cases blend together. “When I see patients who are not smokers with no other risk factors, we have to assume that the most probable cause is pollution,” said Bai.
Increasingly, other Chinese physicians are reaching the same conclusion. At a time when cigarette smoking is on the decline in China, the nation is facing an explosion of lung cancer cases. In the last three decades, an era in which China industrialized, deaths from lung cancer have risen 465%.
Microscopic particles from exhaust, coal smoke, and vehicle fumes burrow their way into lungs. The World Health Organization classifies particulate levels between 300 and 500 micrograms per cubic meter as hazardous. When readings approached 1,000 in Harbin city, residents said they couldn’t see their dogs at the end of the leash.
The Harbin “airpocalypse,” as it was dubbed, was caused mostly by coal, which remains the major heating source in China.
Ten years ago, it was sensitive to talk about smoking because the tobacco industry was so important to the Chinese economy. Now it feels safe to talk about smoking. But for pollution, people are not prepared to talk about it. The doctor who first disclosed the case of an 8-year-old girl with lung cancer appears to have been publicly silenced.
Ed. Notes: If only rulers would demand solutions as much as they demand acquiescence. There are technical solutions awaiting on shelves. But governments won’t find them, thinking inside the box. They’d have to become open to what works. Besides treating the symptom — the exhaust — there are cleaner fuels, more efficient engines, less wasteful modes of heating and transportation, and better urban settlement patterns that don’t need as much energy intake. But to enjoy these benefits, the Chinese rulers would have to geonomize, and to that they’d have to quit relying on force and just give the people the opportunity to do the right thing, something Confucius might’ve said. To date, the Chinese rulers have made many rational decisions, so there is hope.
This 2013 excerpt of Gizmodo, Oct 09, is by Ashley Feinberg.
In China town planners accidentally built new apartments right where they’d already planned to build an eight-lane highway. The town council asked the new tenants if they would move out of their brand new homes. But since it could offer only meager compensation, the tenants refused. So the council built the highway around the new building, bringing an eight-lane highway to four. Ironically, the highway hasn’t done anything to help the horrible rush-hour congestion.
Ed. Notes: If a society enjoyed a true democracy, wouldn’t a planner error like this be avoided, instead of just blindly plowing along once some official’s decision had been made. Too often people don’t suffer the consequences of their choices; responsibility for our actions is something we humans need constantly to learn. That said, I bet if land values were the source of public funds and/or the source for a Citizen’s Dividend, then mistakes like this would be impossible or exceedingly rare.
This 2013 excerpt of Business Insider, Dec 23, is by Christina Sterbenz.
As the years pass, secrets surface. Government documents become declassified. We now have evidence of certain elaborate government conspiracies right here in the U.S. of A.
Parts of the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, which led to U.S. intervention in Vietnam, never happened. Talk of Tonkin’s status as a “false flag” for U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War has permeated public discourse almost since the time of the attacks, especially after the government admitted that the second incident may have involved false radar images. But after resisting comment for decades, the National Security Agency finally declassified documents in 2005, admitting the incident on Aug. 4 never happened at all.
In January 1973, then CIA Director Richard Helms ordered the destruction of all documents pertaining to MKUltra, the government use of hypnosis, sensory deprivation, isolation, torture, and most memorably, LSD, on unwitting U.S. and Canadian citizens, one of whom committed suicide. To conduct these experiments, the CIA paid prisons, hospitals, and other institutions to keep quiet; over 30 universities became involved in various studies. When Congress looked into the matter, no one, not even Helms, could “remember” details. Through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, more documents were located, but the full timeline remains incomplete. The events inspired investigative journalist Jon Ronson’s best-selling book, “The Men Who Stare At Goats,” now a movie of the same title starring George Clooney.
Investigating Iran Contra, Congress subpoenaed government documents as early as 1981 and forced declassification of others. It turns out senior officials in the Reagan administration sold arms to Iran, then under embargo. The government, with the National Security Council’s Oliver North acting as a key player, later used the profits to fund the Contras in Nicaragua. The hearings never labeled the sale of weapons to Iran a criminal offense, but some officials faced charges for supporting the Contras. The administration, however, refused to declassify certain documents, forcing Congress to drop them.
In 1990, a 15-year-old Kuwaiti girl identified only as “Nayirah” testified before Congress that she witnessed Iraqi soldiers pulling infants from their incubators at a hospital and tossing them to the ground to die. PR giant Hill & Knowlton arranged her testimony for a client, Kuwaiti-sponsored Citizens for a Free Kuwait, and furthermore that Nayirah was the daughter of Kuwait’s Ambassador to the U.S. Rep. Tom Lantos coordinated the whole thing. Nayirah’s testimony helped build support for the Persian Gulf War, though Congress would have likely pursued involvement without her words.
Ed. Notes: So people in power do conspire to do things they hope you never find out about. Some theories about their conspiracies do turn out to be true; conspiracy theories can not be dismissed out of hand.
Since it’s hard to know which ones will turn out to be true, which to be false, perhaps the wisest course is to suspend judgment of the claims of both the theorists, and of the government, especially when the government claims push buttons designed to sway people and win their acceptance of a controversial policy.
And keep reading sites like this to learn the facts that, for whatever reason, don’t see the light of day in the mainstream media, announcers who just parrot the official line.
This 2013 excerpt of OpEd News, Oct 8, is by William John Cox, author of the Policy Manual of the Los Angeles Police Department and of the Role of the Police in America for a National Advisory Commission during the Nixon administration.
Unstable and undemocratic countries are usually controlled by individuals and cabals against whom military force ends up harming their own domestic victims more than the entrenched leadership, and new regimes offer little improvement.
Destroying the infrastructure of a nation to turn its people against their “leadership” fails, as in Iraq, resulting in the deaths of thousands of innocent children. Targeting “insurgents” using drones and violent nighttime home invasions fails, as in Afghanistan, resulting in “collateral” deaths and injuries to bystanders. Imposition of economic sanctions fails, as in Iran, resulting in the destruction of the middle class and small businesses that are essential to a free society. Support of “rebels” against their government fails, as in Libya, when the new government is controlled by hostile and undemocratic forces. Continued use of aggressive war by the United States to bring about regime change will fail, as in Syria, for all of these reasons.
The use of war as an instrument of foreign policy fails in all of these situations because it does not produce the desired change; it injures the innocent victims of their unrepresentative governments and results in their hatred of the aggressors, rather than their oppressors.
In addition, the use of war by the United States also harms its own people through the wasteful diversion of scarce tax resources to the military-industrial complex, the compiling of massive and unsustainable public debt, and a reduction of personal freedoms by the intelligence-security complex.
Moreover, the use of aggressive, yet undeclared war by the United States has resulted in an undemocratic shift of power from the legislative branch to the executive branch of government. For the past 50 years, it has been the president, rather than Congress, who has repeatedly unleashed the greatest military force in history against far weaker nations and their people, who do not have the means or ability to fight back, except through acts of terror.
The aggressive use of war in most of these situations has been illegal. The United States signed the General Treaty for Renunciation of War as an Instrument of National Policy (Kellogg-Briand Pact) in 1928. Along with other nations, the U.S. promised to not use war to resolve “disputes or conflicts of whatever nature or of whatever origin they may be.” That treaty is still binding on the United States.
Moreover, the U.S. ratification of the United Nations Charter in 1945 incorporated its provisions into the “supreme law of the land.” Article 2 of the Charter provides, “All members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered [and shall] refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.”
In addition to Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria, the United States is also currently conducting aggressive wars in Somalia and Yemen. Not only are these wars undeclared by Congress, their extent is largely concealed from the American people. Moreover, in “fighting” these wars, the president, as Commander in Chief, claims the right to kill and detain “unlawful combatants,” including American citizens, anywhere in the world without trial.
Yet the American people no longer want to militarily intervene in other countries as a matter of foreign policy. A recent CBS/NYT poll found that 72 percent of Americans are opposed to removing dictators where it can, and a CNN poll found more than six in ten Americans desiring a more “non-interventionist” foreign policy.
There is violence and repression in the world, some of which threatens the security interests of the United States, and it would be naive to deny it; however, it is equally foolish to believe that undeclared aggressive war against nation states and their people can resolve each and every one of these threats. There has to be a better solution, one that is both legal and effective.
Assuming that the Obama administration can make the case that Bashar al-Assad and his regime poses a risk of danger to the people of the United States, shouldn’t the president present the evidence to Congress? Rather than an authorization to launch “limited military strikes” on Syria, which is tantamount to a declaration of war, the president could request a resolution along these lines:
“The Congress of the United States declares that Bashar al-Assad and his administration of the government of Syria pose a danger to the United States and directs the President of the United States to file an action against the government of Syria in the International Court of Justice and to take all necessary and reasonable steps to compel the personal attendance of Assad at The Hague to defend his government.”
The resolution is directed against Assad, personally, as the dictator of Syria, instead of the people of Syria. It is narrowly designed to compel him to leave the country to attend the trial, thereby forcing him to hand over the reins of his government to other, hopefully more moderate, factions. As a practical matter, once Assad leaves Syria, the chances of his ever returning are very slim.
In many respects, the congressional resolution would act like an arrest warrant in a domestic criminal action. There, a judge finds probable cause for the arrest and directs the police to take the suspect into custody and deliver the defendant for trial. In doing so, the police are authorized to use all necessary and reasonable force to take custody of the accused.
While a congressional resolution directing the U.S. president to secure the presence (consent) of the Syrian president at the International Court would be coercive, it would be far less violent than the unleashing of bombs and cruise missiles on the Syrian people.
The “arrest” of Assad has a valuable double meaning. One is the actual taking into custody or securing his appearance at The Hague; the other is that he is arrested or stopped from performing the dangerous acts he is accused of.
While the use of reasonable force personally directed against Assad to “arrest” him might result in his death, the use of force would not have political assassination as its purpose. To the contrary and much like hostage negotiations by professional police officers, every attempt should be made to negotiate his voluntary surrender. Reasonable rewards and incentives might also be offered for his delivery by members of his own government or military.
In matters such as Libya’s Muammar Gadaffi or Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, the harm done to the people and societies they governed would have been far less violent under a congressional arrest warrant than the actual war launched upon them by the United States, ostensibly for the same purpose.
Given the fact that societies in nations such as Iraq, Libya, or Syria are tribal in nature, the death and injuries suffered by the individual innocent victims of the violent and aggressive wars launched by the United States results in hatred and condemnation from generations to come. To the contrary, however, limited and effective action directed against their native oppressors would rebound with the respect and appreciation of the people, both now and in the future.
President Obama wants to bomb Syria to send a message that the use of chemical weapons against rebel forces is unacceptable. To the contrary, he should send a message to the world that the United States has the wisdom and power to achieve its foreign policy goals in a manner that is consistent with its constitution, legal obligations, and the will of its people.
Ed. Notes: Citizens have little control over government officials. Government officials get to spend public dollars almost any way they want, whether pouring the funds into the war machine or into Wall Street banks or whatever. Such power enjoyed by politicians makes it easy to ignore laws, treaties, constitutions, and even common sense.
If we want governments to be law-abiding and rational, we need to make governing less profitable, indeed, non-profitable. To shift the discretionary power of spending from politicians to people, we could replace social programs with a Citizen’s Dividend and require all military action to be funded by the income tax or Citizen’s Dues and use that tax or dues only for war. Tie war directly to taxation; when citizens get tired of one they’ll reduce the other.
Even deeper, reduce the economic reason for waging war. Many wars are turf battles but the issue of territory could be settled fairly and efficiently. What society must do is accept the notion that the worth of Earth belongs to everybody, not just the 1%. We should all pay in Land Dues proportional to the value of the part of Earth we claim, and get back rent dividends equal to the amounts everyone else gets back, de-motivating the turf reason for waging war, by nations big and small. Then the poor suffering people around the world will suffer less at the hands of the US military/industrial complex.
This 2013 of Popular Resistance, Dec 20, is by Kerry Drake.
End Homelessness: It is cheaper to give people an apartment than hospital visits, arrests and incarceration.
Give them an apartment first, ask questions later.
Utah has reduced its rate of chronic homelessness by 78 percent over the past eight years, moving 2000 people off the street and putting the state on track to eradicate homelessness altogether by 2015.
How’d they do it? The state is giving away apartments, no strings attached.
In 2005, Utah calculated the annual cost of E.R. visits and jail stays for an average homeless person was $16,670, while the cost of providing an apartment and social worker would be $11,000. Each participant works with a caseworker to become self-sufficient, but if they fail, they still get to keep their apartment.
Other states are eager to emulate Utah’s results. Wyoming has seen its homeless population more than double in the past three years, and it only provides shelter for 26 percent of them, the lowest rate in the country. City officials in Casper, Wyoming, now plan to launch a pilot program using the methods of Utah’s Housing First program. There’s no telling how far the idea might go.
This 2013 excerpt of National Geographic, Oct 8, is by Virginia Hughes.
By comparing the relative lengths of certain fingers in eight cave sites in France and Spain, archaeologist Dean Snow determined that three-quarters of the handprints were female.
Because many early cave paintings showcase game animals —- bison, reindeer, horses, woolly mammoths —- many researchers have proposed that they were made by male hunters, perhaps to chronicle their kills or as some kind of “hunting magic” to improve success of an upcoming hunt.
“In most hunter-gatherer societies, it’s men that do the killing. But it’s often the women who haul the meat back to camp, and women are as concerned with the productivity of the hunt as the men are,” Snow said.
The hands in the caves were much more sexually dimorphic than modern hands, meaning that there was little overlap in the various hand measurements.
Several years ago, evolutionary biologist R. Dale Guthrie performed a similar analysis of Paleolithic handprints. His work—based mostly on differences in the width of the palm and the thumb. He found that the vast majority of handprints came from adolescent boys.
For adults, caves would have been dangerous and uninteresting, but young boys would have explored them for adventure, said Guthrie. “They drew what was on their mind, which is mainly two things: naked women and large, frightening mammals.”
Was most of the art made by shamans who went into trances to try to connect with the spirit world? “If you go into one of these caves alone, you start to suffer from sensory deprivation very, very quickly, in 5 to 10 minutes,” archaeologist Dave Whitley said. “It can spin you into an altered state of consciousness.” In some hunter-gatherer societies shamans are female or even transgendered.
Left answered: Why would women be the primary artists? Were they creating only the handprints, or the rest of the art as well? Would the hand analysis hold up if the artists weren’t human, but Neanderthal? Why did these ancient artists, whoever they were, leave handprints at all?
“A pretty good hypothesis is that this is somebody saying, ‘This is mine, I did this,’” Snow said.
Ed. Notes: You think prehistoric artists needed subsidies or patrons? Or was art a normal and integrated part of life that everyone practiced, like today we might all send an email? And whose caves were they? Did artists need permission or pay rent? Or were caves the commons? Maybe the handprints belonged to the landlady! Or were left by taggers! Hopefully not. And hopefully art will make a comeback and moderns will regain a love for esthetics. For that, tho’, we need leisure, security, equality, and freedom. All are things that economic justice can deliver, specifically by following geonomics.
These three 2013 excerpts on unaffordable housing in the San Francisco Bay Area are from: (1) Think Progress, Dec 18 on frost death by Scott Keyes; (2) Pando, Dec 20, on attacking a Google bus by Carmel Deamicis; and (3) Boing Boing, Dec 21, on a dormitory by Cory Doctorow.
In The Wealthiest Area Of The Country, 7 Homeless People Have Frozen To Death This Winter
A homeless man was beaten up and robbed by multiple men, who took the new winter coat White’s sister had given him. He was wearing just a hoodie and shorts. He was the seventh homeless person in the San Francisco Bay Area to die in the cold since November 28.
Approximately 700 homeless people die from hypothermia every year. Those deaths tend to occur in the East Coast and Midwest, not California. But temperatures in the Bay have repeatedly dipped below freezing in the past few weeks, an uncommon occurrence in a region generally known for its lack of inclement weather.
The Bay Area has one of the highest homeless populations. The San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose metropolitan area is the wealthiest in the country, even outpacing New York-Connecticut and Washington DC-Maryland-Northern Virginia. This influx of money has brought higher housing prices and more evictions in the past few years.
Bay Area housing protestors in West Oakland attacked a Google bus taking employees to their Mountain View headquarters, smashing the bus’s rear window while Google employees were inside. For the SF protest, roughly 100 people showed up and blocked an Apple bus for 30 minutes, organized by Eviction Free SF, Our Mission No Eviction, and Just Cause.
“Rents are going through the roof in both cities, we’re seeing massive levels of eviction,” an organizer said. Another said “it’s important to link gentrification in the East Bay to gentrification in SF.”
As the tech industry grows in size, wealth, and power, it attracts more people to the SF Bay Area and decreases the amount of available housing. Some San Francisco and East Bay residents are getting pushed out of the cities they live in because they can no longer afford rent. Some landlords sell their property for high rates.
Many employees who work for Google, Apple, Facebook, LinkedIn, and other tech companies based on the Peninsula live in San Francisco or the East Bay. They take shuttles run by the corporations from these locations down to work in Menlo Park, Palo Alto, and Mountain View.
Protestors have blockaded tech company buses on previous instances, most notably a few weeks ago when a video went viral online. The clip showed a supposed Google employee shouting back at protestors, “You can’t afford it? You can leave.” The man turned out to be a union organizer.
The smashing of the Google bus window today marks the first time the anti-eviction movement has used physically aggressive tactics, although in May between 30 and 40 protesters in San Francisco’s Mission district attacked a piñata in the form of a Google bus.
Live in a San Francisco Ikea Bunk-bed in a Mass Hacker Dormitory for a mere $1k/mo
A Craigslist ad for a “hub for entrepreneurs” who come from all part around the world offers a barracks of dozens of bunk-beds ranked in rows for a mere $999/month. But for productive collaboration you also get access to plenty of whiteboards and brainstorm areas as you seek to launch your tech business. Space is shared by entrepreneurs of all sexes.
The building hosts events, meetups, and parties for the tech community. “Our goal is to facilitate the idea exchange and support an entrepreneur so that you don’t have to worry about housing and a place to work from. No need to hop from coffee shop to coffee shop – create meaningful relationships, work with people who will help you in the long run. We host events and workshop to which you’re welcome to attend as well.”
When I moved to San Francisco in the late nineties, I lived in half an illegal sublet for about $2K/month, and that was a deal by the standards of the day. But I had it better than the guy paying $800/month for the Sears shed in the back-yard — I got a toilet!
Ed. Notes: Bunk beds are bad but it’s even worse in Tokyo where traveling salesmen sleep in drawers. While there may be over population in some metro areas and too little shelter, there is also wasted land — vacant lots and under-used lots — and abandoned or near-empty buildings.
Why do owners do that? Many are speculating, waiting to get an even higher offer. But there is a way to prod them to put their land to best use. It’s a method Pittsburgh used when it had the most affordable housing of any major US city (and the by-far lowest crime rate) and even closed its homeless shelter not from lack of funds but from lack of guests, housing was so affordable.
What Pittsburgh did and any city, state, or nation could do is shift their property tax off buildings, onto land. To afford it, owners get busy developing. That increases the housing stock and decreases the housing costs.
That was in the old Steel City, in the Rust Belt, but in the Sun Belt this property tax shift could work even better, precisely because location values are higher. The local government would recover those socially-generated values and distribute the lion’s share to residents. As site values climbed, one’s share of this pie would grow. People could always afford to live where they love, and love where they live.
Shuttle vandalism is mindless. Shelters are helpful but still dealing with symptom, not system. Better than vandalize buses is to geonomize localities.
a new field of study offered in place of economics, as astronomy replaced astrology and chemistry replaced alchemy. Conventional economics, in which GNP can do well while people suffer, is a bit too superstitious for my renaissance upbringing. If I’m to propitiate unseen forces, it won’t be inflation or “the market”; let it be theEgyptian cat goddess. At least then we’d have fewer rats. Meanwhile, believing in reason leads to a new policy, also christened geonomics. That’s the proposal to share (a kind of management, the “nomics” part) the worth of Mother Earth (the “geo” part). If our economies are to work right, people need to see prices that tell the truth. Now taxes and subsidies distort prices, tricking people into squandering the planet. Using land dues and rent dividends instead lets prices be precise, guiding people to get more from less and thereby shrink their workweek. More free time ought to make us happy enough to evolve beyond economics, except when nostalgic for superstition.
a POV that Spain’s president might try. A few blocks from my room in Madrid at a book fair to promote literacy, Sr Zapatero, while giving autographs and high fives to kids, said books are very expensive and he’d see about getting the value added tax on them cut down to zero. (El Pais, June 4; see, politicians can grasp geo-logic.) But why do we raise the cost of any useful product? Why not tax useless products? Even more basic: is being better than a costly tax good enough? Our favorite replacement for any tax is no tax: instead, run government like a business and charge full market value for the permits it issues, such as everything from corporate charters to emission allowances to resource leases. These pieces of paper are immensely valuable, yet now our steward, the state, gives them away for nearly free, absolutely free in some cases. Government is sitting on its own assets and needs merely to cash in by doing what any rational entity in the economy does – negotiate the best deal. Then with this profit, rather than fund more waste, pay the stakeholders, we citizenry, a dividend. Thereby geonomics gets rid of two huge problems. It replaces taxes with full-value fees and replaces subsidies for special interests with a Citizens Dividend for people in general. Neither left nor right, this reform is what both nature lovers and liberty lovers need to promote, right now.
shaped by reality. In the 1980′s, the Swedish government doubled its stock transfer tax. Tax receipts, however, rose only 15%, since traders simply fled to London exchanges. Fearing a further exodus, the Swedish government quickly rescinded the tax altogether. (The New York Times, April 20) That willingness to tax anything leads us astray. Pushing us astray is that unwillingness to pay what we owe: rent for land, our common heritage. Assuming land value is up for grabs, we speculate. We cap the property tax on both land and buildings and the rate at which assessments can go up; while real market values rise quicker, assessments can never catch up. Our stewards, the Bureau of Land Management, routinely sell and lease sites below market value, often to insiders, says the Government Accounting Office. Once we grasp that rent is ours to share, we’ll collect it all, rather than let it enrich a few, and quit taxing earnings, which do belong to the individual earner. That shift is geonomic policy.
the study of the money we spend on the nature we use. When we pay that money to private owners, we reward both speculation and over-extraction. Robert Kiyosaki’s bestseller, Rich Dad’s Prophecy, says, “One of the reasons McDonald’s is such a rich company is not because it sells a lot of burgers but because it owns the land at some of the best intersections in the world. The main reason Kim and I invest in such properties is to own the land at the corner of the intersection. (p 200) My real estate advisor states that the rich either made their money in real estate or hold their money in real estate.” (p 141, via Greg Young) When government recovers the rents for natural advantages for everyone, it can save citizens millions. Ben Sevack, Montreal steel manufacturer, tells us (August 12) that Alberta, by leasing oil & gas fields, recovers enough revenue to be the only province in Canada to get by without a sales tax and to levy a flat provincial income tax. While running for re-election, provincial Premier Ralph Klein proposes to abolish their income tax and promises to eliminate medical insurance premiums and use resource revenue to pay for all medical expense for seniors. After all this planned tax-cutting and greater expense, they still expect a large budget surplus. Even places without oil and gas have high site values in their downtowns, and high values in their utility franchises. Recover the values of locations and privileges, displace the harmful taxes on sales, salaries, and structures, then use the revenue to fund basic government and pay residents a dividend, and you have geonomics in action.
a scientific look at how we divvy up the work and the wealth, how some of us end up with too much or too little effort or reward. That’s partly due to Ricardo’s Law of Rent, showing how wasteful use of Earth cuts wages. And it’s partly due to how a society’s elite runs government around like water boys, dishing out subsidies and tax breaks. While geonomists look political reality right in the eye, without blinking, conventional economists flinch. When Paul Volcker, ex-chief of the Federal Reserve, moved on to a cushy professorship at Princeton cum book contract, the crush of deadlines bore down. So Volcker asked a junior associate to help with the book. The guy refused, explaining that giving serious consideration to policy would ruin his academic career. The ex-Fed chief couldn’t believe it and asked the department chair if truly that were the case. That head honcho pondered the question then replied no, not if he only does it once. And economics was AKA political economy!
close to the policy of the Garden Cities in England. Founded by Ebenezer Howard over a century ago, residents own the land in common and run the town as a business. Letchworth, the oldest of the model towns, serves residents grandly from bucketfuls of collected land rent (as does the Canadian Province of Alberta from oil royalty). A geonomic town would pay the rent to residents, letting them freely choose personalized services, and also ax taxes. Both geonomics and Howard were inspired by American proto-geonomist Henry George. The movement launched by Howard today in the UK advances the shift of taxes from buildings to locations. A recent report from the Town and Country Planning Association proposes this Property Tax Shift and their journal published research in the potential of land value taxation by Tony Vickers (Vol. 69, Part 5, 2000). (Thanks to James Robertson)
what you do when you see economies as part of the ecosystem, following feedback loops and storing up energy. Surplus energy – fat or profit – enables us to produce and reproduce. To recycle society’s surplus, the commonwealth, geonomics would replace taxes with land dues (charged to users of sites and resources, including the EM spectrum, and extra to polluters), and replace subsidies with rent dividends to citizens (a la Alaska’s oil dividend). Without taxes and subsidies to distort them, prices become precise, reflect accurately our costs and values; then, motivated by no more than the bottom line, both producers and consumers make sustainable choices. While no place uses geonomics in its entirety, some places use parts of it, most notably a shift of the property tax off buildings, onto locations. Shifting the property tax drives efficient use of land, in-fills cities, improves the housing stock, makes homes affordable, engenders jobs and investment opportunities, lowers crime, raises civic participation, etc – overall it makes cities more livable. Geonomics – a way to share the bounty of nature and society – is something we can work for locally, globally, and in between.
a way to redirect all the money we spend on the nature we use – trillions of dollars annually. We can’t pay the Creator of sites and resources and are mistaken to pay their owners this biggest stream in our economy. Instead, as owners we should pay our neighbors for respecting our claims to land. Owners could pay in land dues to the public treasury, a la Sydney Australia’s land tax, and residents could get back a “rent” dividend, a la Alaska’s oil dividend. We’d pay for owning sites, resources, EM spectrum, or emitting pollutants into the ecosphere, then get a fair share of the recovered revenue. The economy would finally have a thermostat, the dividend. When it’s small, people would work more; when it’s big, they’d work less. Sharing Earth’s worth, we could jettison counterproductive taxes and addictive subsidies. Prices would become precise; things like sprawl, sprayed food, gasoline engines, coal-burning plants would no longer seem cheap; things like compact towns, organic foods, fuel cells, and solar powers would become affordable. Getting shares, people could spend their expanded leisure socializing, making art, enjoying nature, or just chilling. Economies let us produce wealth efficiently; geonomics lets us share it fairly.
in part the Great Green Tax Shift maxed out. Economically, taxing pollution and depletion does reduce pollutants and extracts – and thus the tax base; plus such taxes are regressive, requiring a safety net. On the other hand, collecting site rent is progressive and generates a revenue surplus payable as a dividend to residents, which can serve as the safety net. Environmentally, taxes on waste and extraction do not drive efficient use of land, as does getting site rent.
a way to connect the dots. Making the cyber rounds is “The Cavernous Divide” by Scott Klinger, from AlterNet (posted March 21): “As the number of billionaires in the world expands, so does the number of those in poverty.” Duh. The yawning income gap is not news. Nearly every issue of our quarterly digest carries a similar quote. Yet the connection was worked out long ago by one of America’s greatest thinkers, Henry George, who labeled his masterpiece, Progress and Poverty. Techno- and socio-advances always enrich few and impoverish many. Yet progress also pushes up location values – the geonomic insight (is Silicon Valley cheaper now or more expensive?). Instead of taxing income, sales, or buildings, society could collect those values of sites, resources, EM spectrum, and ecosystem services via fees and dues, which would lower the income ceiling, and instead of lavishing corporate welfare, pay out the recovered revenue via dividends, which would jack up the income floor. Dots connected.