Why The Powers That Be Are Pushing A Cashless Society

We Can’t Rein In the Banks If We Can’t Pull Our Money Out of Them

Martin Armstrong summarizes the headway being made to ban cash,  and argues that the goal of those pushing a cashless society is to prevent bank runs … and increase their control:

The central banks are … planning drastic restrictions on cash itself. They see moving to electronic money will first eliminate the underground economy, but secondly, they believe it will even prevent a banking crisis. This idea of eliminating cash was first floated as the normal trial balloon to see how the people take it. It was first launched by Kenneth Rogoff of Harvard University and Willem Buiter, the chief economist at Citigroup. Their claims have been widely hailed and their papers are now the foundation for the new age of Economic Totalitarianism that confronts us. Rogoff and Buiter have laid the ground work for the end of much of our freedom and will one day will be considered the new Marx with hindsight. They sit in their lofty offices but do not have real world practical experience beyond theory. Considerations of their arguments have shown how governments can seize all economic power are destroy cash in the process eliminating all rights. Physical paper money provides the check against negative interest rates for if they become too great, people will simply withdraw their funds and hoard cash. Furthermore, paper currency allows for bank runs. Eliminate paper currency and what you end up with is the elimination of the ability to demand to withdraw funds from a bank.

***

In many nations, specific measures have already been taken demonstrating that the Rogoff-Buiter world of Economic Totalitarianism is indeed upon us. This is the death of Capitalism. Of course the socialists hate Capitalism and see other people’s money should be theirs. What they cannot see is that Capitalism is freedom from government totalitarianism. The freedom to pursue the field you desire without filling the state needs that supersede your own.

There have been test runs of this Rogoff-Buiter Economic Totalitarianism to see if the idea works. I reported on June 21, 2014 that Britain was doing a test run. A shopping street in Manchester banned cash as part of an experiment to see if Brits would accept a cashless society. London buses ended accepting cash payments from July 2014. Meanwhile, Currency Exchange dealers began offering debt cards instead of cash that they market as being safer to travel with. The Chorlton, South Manchester experiment was touted to test customers and business reaction to the idea for physical currency will disappear inside 20 years.

France passed another Draconian new law that from the police parissummer of 2015 it will now impose cash requirements dramatically trying to eliminate cash by force. French citizens and tourists will then only be allowed a limited amount of physical money. They have financial police searching people on trains just passing through France to see if they are transporting cash, which they will now seize. Meanwhile, the new French Elite are moving in this very same direction. Piketty wants to just take everyone’s money who has more than he does. Nobody stands on the side of freedom or on restraining the corruption within government. The problem always turns against the people for we are the cause of the fiscal mismanagement of government that never has enough for themselves.

In Greece a drastic reduction in cash is also being discussed in light of the economic crisis. Now any bill over €70 should be payable only by check or credit card – it will be illegal to pay in cash. The German Baader Bank founded in Munich expects formally to abolish the cash to enforce negative interest rates on accounts that is really taxation on whatever money you still have left after taxes.

***

Complete abolition of cash threatens our very freedom and rights of citizens in so many areas.

***

Paper currency is indeed the check against negative interest rates. We need only look to Switzerland to prove that theory. Any attempt to impose say a 5% negative interest rates (tax) would lead to an unimaginably massive flight into cash. This was already demonstrated recently by the example of Swiss pension funds, which withdrew their money from the bank in a big way and now store it in vaults in cash in order to escape the financial repression. People will act in their own self-interest and negative interest rates are likely to reduce the sales of government bonds and set off a bank run as long as paper money exists.

Obviously, government and bankers are not stupid. The only way to prevent such a global bank run would be the total prohibition of paper money. This is unlikely, both in Switzerland and in the United States because the economies are dominated there by a certain “liberalism” to some extent but also because their currencies also circulate outside their domestic economies. The fact that but the question of the cash ban in the context of a global conference with the participation of the major central banks of the US and the ECB will be discussed, demonstrates by itself that the problem is not a regional problem.

Nevertheless, there is a growing assumption that the negative interest rate world (tax on cash) is likely to increase dramatically in Europe in particular since it is socialism that is collapsing. Government in Brussels is unlikely to yield power and their line of thinking cannot lead to any solution. The negative interest rate concept is making its way into the United States at J.P. Morgan where they will charge a fee on excess cash on deposit starting May 1st, 2015. Asset holdings of cash with a tax or a fee in the amount of the negative interest rate seems to be underway even in Switzerland.

***

The movement toward electronic money is moving at high speed and this says a lot about the state of the financial system. The track record of the major financial institutions is nearly perfect – they are always caught on the wrong side when a crisis breaks, which requires their bailouts. The fact that we have already seen test runs with theory-balloons flying, the major financial institutions are in no shape to withstand another economic decline.

For depositors, this means they really need to grasp what is going on here for unless they are vigilant, there is a serious risk of losing everything. We must understand that these measures will be implemented overnight in the middle of a banking crisis after 2015.75. The balloons have taken off and the discussions are underway. The trend in taxation and reduction of cash seems to be unstoppable. Government is not prepared to reform for that would require a new way of thinking and a loss of power. That is not a consideration. They only see one direction and that is to take us into the new promised-land of economic totalitarianism.

People can’t pull cash out of their bank accounts – for political reasons, because they’ve lost confidence in the bank, or because “bail-ins” are enacted – if cash is banned.

The Financial Times argued last year that central banks would be the real winners from a cashless society:

Central bankers, after all, have had an explicit interest in introducing e-money from the moment the global financial crisis began…

***

The introduction of a cashless society empowers central banks greatly. A cashless society, after all, not only makes things like negative interest rates possible, it transfers absolute control of the money supply to the central bank, mostly by turning it into a universal banker that competes directly with private banks for public deposits. All digital deposits become base money.

The Government Can Manipulate Digital Accounts More Easily than Cash

Moreover, an official White House panel on spying has implied that the government is manipulating the amount in people’s financial accounts.

If all money becomes digital, it would be much easier for the government to manipulate our accounts.

Indeed, numerous high-level NSA whistleblowers say that NSA spying is about crushing dissent and blackmailing opponents … not stopping terrorism.

This may sound over-the-top … but remember, the government sometimes labels its critics as “terrorists“.  If the government claims the power to indefinitely detain – or even assassinate – American citizens at the whim of the executive, don’t you think that government people would be willing to shut down, or withdraw a stiff “penalty” from a dissenter’s bank account?

If society becomes cashless, dissenters can’t hide cash.  All of their financial holdings would be vulnerable to an attack by the government.

This would be the ultimate form of control. Because – without access to money – people couldn’t resist, couldn’t hide and couldn’t escape.

And see this:

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Major Media Keep Propagandizing for Hillary Clinton

Eric Zuesse

On Sunday May 3rd, Britain’s Guardian, which has major influence upon Democratic Party opinion-leaders, headlined “Clinton campaign keeps progressives guessing: how far left will she go?” Tom McCarthy ‘reported’ that: 

“In three weeks of multi-format politicking – roundtables, speeches, fundraisers, mile markers – Clinton has seized the Democratic banner and run with it, pitching voters on progressive priorities from reproductive rights to income inequality to climate change.”

The underlying assumption is that the record of Hillary Clinton indicates that her campaign rhetoric reflects accurately both her real beliefs and the policies that she has instituted in her political career. This is a false assumption.

Mr. McCarthy selectively interviewed ‘experts’ who espouse the same false assumption that he’s selling:

“Amy Walter, national editor of the Cook Political Report, said that while Clinton may currently be emphasizing issues that resonate with Democratic primary voters, there was no reason to think the words were not honestly come by, and the candidate did not seem to be straying outside her central political identity.”

Ms. Walter, in turn, supported her opinion by saying that Ms. Clinton’s “actual core set of values” such as supporting “gay marriage,” were “honestly come by” and constituted “her central political identity.” 

According to Clinton’s supporters, her verbal endorsement of liberal social positions makes her a progressive regardless of whether she has an actual record of supporting Wall Street and the billionaire class, who, as I documented in a previous report, constitute and have constituted the top financial contributors to her political career. In fact, the assumption of these supposedly liberal pundits is that corruption (back-door political payoffs to financial backers) isn’t a far more important issue in American politics and policymaking than is mere verbal adherence (such as Hillary is now giving) to social issues such as feminism and gay rights.

However, those ‘journalists’ aren’t even accurately representing Hillary Clinton’s merely verbal record, much less her actual policy record.

On 12 June 2014, Ms. Clinton on NPR said, “For me, marriage had always been a problem left for the states.” In other words: it wasn’t a human right, available to people in a manner without prejudice; it was like slavery before President Lincoln: a state’s-rights matter instead of a human-rights matter.

Her interviewer, Terry Gross, however, pointed out, and asked:

“DOMA [the anti-gay-rights federal law] was actually signed by your husband when he was president. In spite of the fact that he signed it, were you glad at this point that the Supreme Court struck some of it down?”

Hillary answered:

“Of course. And, you know, again, let’s — we are living at a time when this extraordinary change is occurring and I’m proud of our country.” In other words: She follows, instead of leads, the country, on even that issue.

Gross then said:

“I understand, but a lot of people already believed in it back [in] the ’90s. A lot of people already supported gay marriage.”

Ms. Clinton replied:

“But not — to be fair, Terry, not that many.” In other words: She follows instead of leads the country — even in her mere rhetoric, not to even deal with what her actual policies are and have been.

However, her policies have been consistently to serve the rich and powerful (her financial backers) at the expense of the poor and powerless. This fact was amply documented in the links to my most recent article on her actual record. She ardently supported NAFTA but then criticized it when she was running in 2008 for the Presidency. And on Fracking, GMOs and other issues where large international corporations have profit-interests that go in the opposite direction to the public interest, she has reliably been with the mega-corporations.

When Ms. Gross then meekly said, ”I’m pretty sure you didn’t answer my question,” Ms. Clinton responded angrily, “You know, I really — I have to say, I think you are very persistent, but you are playing with my words and playing with what is such an important issue.”

Gross replied to that: “I am just trying to clarify so I can understand.”

Clinton said in reply: “No, I don’t think you are trying to clarify.”

To this allegation, that Ms. Gross was the one who was dissembling or misrepresenting, Gross simply caved: “You know, I’m just saying — I’m sorry.” (Perhaps she then bowed down to the queen, but, since this was radio instead of television, no record exists on that.)

In American journalism, standing up against a serial liar who has support from much of the Establishment can get one fired, or one’s show cancelled.

Clinton now gave sign that the offense of having probed ever so slightly would be treated by the queen with forgivenness:

“When I was ready to say what I said, I said it.”

Gross responded: “OK, thank you for clarifying that. [Now addressing her listeners:] If you’re just joining us, my guest is Hillary Clinton. Her new memoir ‘Hard Choices’ is about her four years as secretary of state.” The ‘journalist’ thus got back to what she’s paid for: selling what the Establishment is offering — in this case: selling another Republican ‘Democrat’ like Obama has been. This way, for example, the Wall Street bailouts and resultant soaring federal debt that will have to be repaid by higher taxes and/or less government services to all future U.S. taxpayers and that were started by George W. Bush and were continued by Barack Obama, will be continued without doubt if Hillary Clinton becomes the Democratic Party’s Presidential nominee: she’ll adhere to Republican policies as much as Obama has adhered to Romney’s policies on most things.

And that’s really what ‘journalists’ such as at Guardian and NPR are really selling. Their real audience isn’t the public who think they are receiving journalism instead of mere propaganda; it’s instead the aristocracy who control the ‘news’ media.

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Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity, and of Feudalism, Fascism, Libertarianism and Economics.

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US-Coordinated Saudi Bombers Using Banned, US-Made Cluster Bombs: HRW

Now we know what has become of the thousands of banned cluster bombs Obama shipped to Saudi Arabia in 2013.

US-based group Human Rights Watch:

Cluster Bomb psywarrior.com

Saudi-Led Airstrikes Used Cluster Munitions

Credible evidence indicates that the Saudi-led coalition used banned cluster munitions supplied by the United States in airstrikes against Houthi forces in Yemen…

US-coordinated and assisted Wahhabi bombings using cluster and other weapons “have been hitting areas near villages” HRW said, adding that cluster bombs:

should never be used under any circumstances. Saudi Arabia and other coalition members – and the supplier, the US – are flouting the global standard that rejects cluster munitions because of their long-term threat to civilians.

Violating international norms, Obama shipped the Sharia dictatorship almost 1 billion dollars worth of banned cluster bombs in August, 2013:

Foreign Policy journal, August 2013: US Shipping Thousands of Cluster Bombs to Saudis, Despite Global Ban

This was in addition to a 60 billion dollar lethal weapons sale Obama made to the Saudi dictatorship in 2010 to help it wage offensive operations throughout the region as a US proxy.  Though the US was already the world’s biggest arms trafficker, this was the biggest arms sale in US history:

Guardian, September, 2010: “Barack Obama to Authorize Record $60bn Saudi Arms Sale – Biggest arms deal in US history”

Cluster bombs produced by the US are industrial-level versions of what the Boston Bombers tried to build using a commercially available pressure cooker.

Obama has himself previously planted and detonated banned cluster bombs in crowded civilian areas of Yemen and killed several times more civilians, including some 21 children and 5 pregnant women, than were killed in the Boston Bombing.

Reporter and UK-based colleague @_DirtyTruths.

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How the Establishment Is Trying to Deep-Six Sanders’s Campaign

Eric Zuesse

The Hillary Clinton campaign is now focusing its public pitch at liberal fools to get them to ignore her record and believe her words. Here are examples:

The NBC ‘News’ political analyst (and perhaps a future President Clinton’s Press Secretary) Chuck Todd posted, on May 1st, the following item, under the heading “Why Bernie Sanders Likely Helps Hillary Clinton”:

“*** Why Bernie Sanders likely helps Hillary: Bernie Sanders’ official entrance into the 2016 presidential race is most likely a good outcome for Hillary Clinton. Why? He will elevate many of the issues that Clinton and the entire Democratic Party want to discuss during the primary season (income inequality, curtailing the role of big money in presidential politics, climate change). And he’ll do so as someone who isn’t interested in scoring political points – especially in the form of negative attacks – against Hillary. Hillary’s Harlem (err Brooklyn) Globetrotters now has its Washington (err Vermont) Generals. The question we have is whether it’s enough competition to up Hillary’s game.”

The major ‘news’ media are pressing hard this line, that Hillary needs only to speak her mind truthfully, and Democratic voters will then know that she supports their interests and not the interests of the billionaires who are pouring enormous cash into her campaign coffers, such as:

Screen Shot 2015-04-23 at 10.17.40 AM

Robert L. Borosage (who is paid by the ‘Institute for America’s Future,’ and by the ‘Campaign for America’s Future,’ and by ‘Progressive Majority,’ and by The Nation, and by other aristocratic liberal front organizations) headlined at (one such front) Huffington Post, similarly on April 30th, “Hillary: Time to Step Up on the Trade Deal,” and he opened:

“It’s time for Hillary Clinton to take a position on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement and the fast track authority designed to ramrod it through the Congress. Hillary has been non-committal to date, with many assuming she will eventually support the president whom she served as Secretary of State. But now the pressure to take a stand is growing.”

Borosage then said that Hillary is needed by the Party now in order to help defeat what he calls (this time with real, not fake, honesty) “The President’s Corporate Offensive.” In other words, he’s actually saying: the pro-Wall-Street ‘Democrat’ Hillary is needed in order to help defeat the pro-Wall-Street ‘Democratic’ President’s trade deals.

How stupid and faithful (to Hillary) do these people think Democratic voters are?

All of these liberal aristocratic hacks are publicly urging Clinton to say things that her entire prior history proves that she doesn’t really believe. They are urging her to lie (which, of course, she will do anyway, as soon as the time is ‘appropriate’).

On April 26th, I headlined “What’s Obama Up to, with His TPP & TTIP?” and I presented both Obama’s and Hillary’s actual records on both NAFTA and the now-proposed TPP & TTIP, and what I documented there is that both of these politicians talked a storm against those deals while they were running for the Democratic nomination but then turned around 180 degrees and pushed the deal through once they gained the power they had purchased with that campaign cash. In other words: both Obama and Hillary have proven track-records on this, and both are proven liars in exactly the same way: they sucker the liberal masses while seeking their Party’s nomination, but then serve their own financial backers’ interests once in power and thus they return the favor to their financial backers that those backers had purchased while the ‘liberal’ poliitician was campaigning to win those liberal votes by lying to those liberal voters.

How much more will liberals put up with these lies from these double-crossing liars who are actually nothing more than agents for the aristocracy? For the evidence that it’s that crass, just click on that last link above. It’s raw — exactly what the Republican ‘Justices’ on the U.S. Supreme Court wanted when they ruled that political campaign contributions are First-Amendment-protected ‘free speech,’ especially for corporations and (the largely defunct) labor unions (the latter so as for those conservative ‘Justices’ to ‘prove’ that they’re ‘non-partisan’). It’s simply one con on top of another, ad-nauseum.

It might even have gotten now to the “quid pro quo” level of outright bribes that those ‘Justices’ themselves have said exceed the bounds of ‘protected free speech.’ See this for the evidence on that. But who cares? Do those Republican ‘Justices,’ even? Aristocrats traditionally prefer to engage in the other kinds of corruption, anyway. If what Bill and Hillary Clinton are doing is extending down to that ‘lower class’ corruption, who cares, at this stage, about those ‘finer’ points, of such judge-made laws?

So: turn the TV off, and end your newspaper and magazine subscriptions, or else continue to pay the aristocrats who receive that money to deceive you with it. That’s how rotten things have now become. As a news-consumer, one must either go on strike, or get struck. That’s what the public’s ‘choice’ remains, in this judge-made ‘democracy.’

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Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity, and of Feudalism, Fascism, Libertarianism and Economics.

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Police Caught in Lies, Charged with Murder, Homicide in Freddie Gray Killing

The Washington Post this week cited a police claim that a prisoner who spent a few minutes in the van in which Freddie Gray was fatally injured said Gray was “trying to hurt himself.”

Though the WaPo / Baltimore police version of the prisoner’s statement, and the implication that Gray severed his own spine, already seemed on its face like a dark joke or the kind of ham-handed cover for murder that would be issued in the bleakest totalitarian police state, US state-violence-promoting outlets such as Fox News jumped on the claim, with irate commentators like Hannity using it to chide protesters for jumping to conclusions “before the facts were in”.

Gray’s killing was always the straw that broke the camel’s back, part of hundreds of years of ongoing criminal abuse of African Americans in Baltimore and the US in general, and not the entire reason for Baltimore protests.  (For example, US police kill approximately 1,000 people per year, according to conservative federal statistics.  Another federal count admitted to be too low finds that 4,813 victims were killed by police after arrest between 2003 and ’09.  African Americans are the second group most likely to be killed by US police, after indigenous people.)

But the day after WaPo issued its police-sourced “quote” from the prisoner who shared the van with Gray, Business Insider released a report from the same prisoner, Allen, who says that the Baltimore police and Washington Post misquoted him, and he didn’t say Gray was trying to hurt himself.

“…why the [expletive] would he do that to himself?” Allen said to Business Insider.

Indeed, the Medical Examiner’s report has now been released, and has determined that “Mr. Gray’s death was a homicide”.

Warrants for the six officers involved in Gray’s “illegal arrest” have been issued, and charges ranging from second-degree murder, to manslaughter and assault are being filed against them.

In addition, police dishonestly reported that the knife Gray was carrying at the time of his illegal arrest was a switchblade, a type of knife not allowed in Baltimore.

In reality, “The knife was not a switchblade and is lawful under Maryland law”.

The kind of sleazy, brutal, and criminal treatment of African Americans seen today in Baltimore (and the US in general) is part of a continuum that stretches back through the US’s relatively short existence (samples from Baltimore history given here).

Cornell Professor of History Edward E. Baptist notes that it was only a few generations ago when African people kidnapped by American criminals were “marched through the streets of downtown Baltimore” to be used as profit-generating machines.

Indeed, Baptist documents that white looting of Africa and Africans through stealing and forcing them to work under gun and torture (torture using every implement that could be purchased from US hardware stores at the time) is what allowed the US to emerge as the world’s biggest economy; without slavery it would simply never have happened.

The idea that the commodification and suffering and forced labor of African Americans is what made the United States powerful and rich is not an idea that people necessarily are happy to hear.  Yet it is the truth.

Edward E. Baptist

That American criminals carried out their form of slavery to an extent that allowed them to build the world’s biggest economy also explains Columbia historian Howard Zinn’s assessment that “American slavery [was] the most cruel form of slavery in history…”

As some people today chide African Americans for some of the ways they choose to protest violent, disproportionate oppression by the state, Baptist also documents that whites, including abolitionists, displayed the same racist, shocking hypocrisy or ignorance during de jure slavery, complaining that by staging violent uprisings against the crime of enslavement, African Americans were only hurting their own cause, or were “proving” that they were an inherently violent race.  To be sure, many of the “concerned” people tisking African Americans today would have been doing the same during uprisings against de jure slavery.

Ajamu Baraka notes of these kinds of reactions (which are largely and oh-so-mysteriously only applied to the victims of massive US state violence, not the perpetrators):

For many of our young white comrades, people of color and even some black ones who were too young to have lived through the last period of intensified struggle in the 1960s and ‘70s and have not understood the centrality of African American resistance to the historical social struggles in the U.S., it may be a little disconcerting to see the emergence of resistance that is not dependent on and validated by white folks or anyone else.

A laughable break from the seriousness of these events has been Barack Obama’s personal chastisement of “thugs and criminals” in Baltimore, and his heartfelt advice to protesters (mimicking the abolitionists cited by Baptist) that violence is counter-productive to achieving their aims.

Obama speaks from the highest position in a social hierarchy that, as noted above, almost exclusively used unimaginable violence, theft, and looting of Africans and indigenous people to become and maintain itself as a group that can extend its domination globally.  He stands as one of the world’s more notorious thugs, criminals, and terrorists, as he personally and intentionally executes thousands of innocent people and bystanders by burning them to death with what the US calls “Hell Fire”; he presides over history’s biggest surveillance and prison system, and condones, funds, and/or perpetrates land-theft, torture, aggression, and use of chemical weapons against civilians to accomplish his aims, while he illegally devotes trillions to nuclear weapons development as water is illegally cut off to poor US citizens, and, in contrast to eight other countries including India, China, and Russia, he refuses to evacuate his own citizens from a war-zone and humanitarian crisis he is helping to create in Yemen.

Author and UK-based colleague @_DirtyTruths.

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US-Assisted Wahhabi Bombings of Yemen are “Devastating”: UN

The UN Secretary General stated Thursday that Saudi bombings of Yemen, which are assisted and coordinated by the US, “are having a devastating impact on humanitarian aid efforts and are in violation of the laws of war.”

While noting that fighters within Yemen are also committing war-crimes – ISIS, for example, has been able to establish a presence in the country thanks to the Saudi campaign – the UN has “been particularly critical of the Saudi air strikes”, for which the “United States is providing aerial refueling and intelligence” from within and outside the Saudi-Wahhabi dictatorship’s territory, as well as rescuing Saudi pilots: “U.S. military assets ha[ve] been used to rescue two Saudi pilots” – McClatchy.  (The US also evacuated its own government staff.)

While 8 countries, including India, China, and Russia, have carried out missions to rescue thousands of their civilian nationals, as well as foreign nationals and some Americans from the Yemen war zone, the Obama regime, recalling Bush’s treatment of hurricane Katrina refugees, refuses to evacuate any of the 3 to 4,000 US civilians trapped in Yemen, despite US-lawsuits calling on Obama to do so.

The UN said that “more than 1,200 people have been killed in the past six weeks of fighting and that 300,000 have fled their homes.”

Antiwar.com reports that US-backed Saudi aggression “has provided an opportunity for AQAP [al Qaeda] and ISIS to gain ground”, as the Houthis, a domestic Yemeni movement opposed to al Qaeda, had previously prevented the Saudi-supported groups from gaining a foothold.

Reporter and UK-based colleague @_DirtyTruths.

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What the Media Get Very Wrong About ‘Socialism’ — And About Senator Sanders

Eric Zuesse

On April 30th, Jonathan Cohn at Huffington Post provided a perfect example of what the media get wrong about the meaning of “socialism” — and about the meaning of the new U.S. Presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders. 

Cohn’s report was aptly titled, “Bernie Sanders Is A Socialist And That’s Not As Crazy As It Sounds”; and, indeed, he started right away with an assumption that socialism is crazy but “not as crazy as it sounds.” 

Cohn said that “Socialism, as commonly understood by Americans, means widespread government ownership of business,” but Cohn said that, “that’s not the agenda Sanders has actually been promoting.”

Cohn reassured the reader there that Sanders instead “generally identifies himself as a democratic socialist. The distinction matters. Democratic socialism, as generally conceived in the U.S., is a milder, more aspirational form of the ideology.”

——

First of all, Cohn fundamentally misrepresented Sanders in this. Sanders has always identified himself as a democratic socialist. There is a huge difference between “generally” versus “always,” in this particular context. To say that Sanders “generally” identifies himself as a democratic socialist is to say that sometimes he self-identifies as being instead a proponent of dictatorial socialism. That’s outright false.

But the mush in Cohn’s head then gets even mushier. He continues by alleging that “Democratic socialism … is a milder, more aspirational form of the ideology” than is “widespread government ownership of business.”

Actually, it’s an entirely different ideology. It’s not a different “form of the ideology”; it’s a different and fundamentally opposite (because democratic) ideology. “Widespread government ownership of business” is communism, not socialism. Sanders never has supported or endorsed that. He has instead said — and repeatedly and clearly, much more so than mush-headed ‘journalists’ such as Cohn — that (to use his words): 

“Branding someone as a socialist has become the slur du jour by leading lights of the American right from Newt Gingrich to Rush Limbaugh. Some, like Mike Huckabee, intentionally blur the differences between socialism and communism, between democracy and totalitarianism.” 

In fact, that very same statement from Senator Sanders continued: 

“If we could get beyond such nonsense, I think this country could use a good debate about what goes on here compared to places with a long social-democratic tradition like Sweden, Norway and Finland, where, by and large, the middle class has a far higher standard of living than we do.” 

He was telling the truth there, not distorting what a U.S. Presidential candidate (namely, he) believes.

No matter how many times the junior U.S. Senator from Vermont (junior to the veteran Democrat Patrick Leahy, who is almost a soul-mate of Sanders but more moderate in his expressions of his beliefs, and also slightly less progressive than he) asserts that the nordic European countries represent reasonably close models to Sanders’s ideal, and that the former USSR never was anything of the kind, ‘journalists,’ and Republicans, mush together those mainly-opposite models.

For Republicans to do this is understandable, since they’re supporters of the corporate State, otherwise called “fascism,” and that’s (those corporations are) who donates the major money into the Republican Party and who have called its fascist tune almost without interruption since 1896; and democratic socialism is the very opposite of that.

However, there’s no excuse when ‘journalists’ do this. False ‘reporting’ is simply unprofessional. But it’s normal in American ‘journalism,’ a field that’s taught at the university level in schools that are in “Communications” departments where they share personnel with public relations and other forms of outright and prostituted deceptions-for-hire. That’s the standard model of ‘journalism’ in fascist countries, because they’re controlled by their top international corporations. That’s the virtually universal standard of ‘journalism’ in the United States these days. Truthfulness is almost irrelevant in such ‘journalism.’ Authentic journalism is rare in such nations. (It’s sadly rare in all nations.)

——

Secondly, there is nothing at all ‘aspirational’ to Sanders’s ideology: it was the ideology of U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and I present the case in my latest book that FDR played a bigger role in establishing this ideology than did any other single person, starting in 1932 when he introduced in a campaign speech (and then in his subsequent Presidency) the intellectual underpinning for the most advanced form of this economic model, the most advanced form of a democratic-socialist economy and body-politic. If that was ‘aspirational’ for the greatest U.S. President of the 20th Century (as historians generally recognize FDR to have been), then what FDR was ‘aspiring’ to was still far more like today’s nordic European democracies than it is like today’s (the post-1980) U.S.A.; and Bernie Sanders represents that FDR-ideal far more than does any other current U.S. Presidential candidate.

And Sanders represents not at all Marxism or communism (what Cohn called “widespread government ownership of business”), and is just as alien to that tradition as he is to fascism, because both of those traditions are simply the left-and-right wings of dictatorship, and democracy is at the very opposite end from any of that.

——

This essay from Sanders goes on, in fact, to describe his impression of one of the nordic democracies, Finland, from his recent visit there:

“Finland is a country which provides high-quality health care to all of its people with virtually no out-of-pocket expense; where parents and their young children receive free excellent childcare and/or parental leave benefits which dwarf what our nation provides; where college and graduate education is free to students and where children in the public school system often record the highest results in international tests. In Finland, where 80 percent of workers belong to unions, all employees enjoy at least 30 days paid vacation and the gap between the rich and poor is far more equitable than in the United States.”

But Sanders also is realistic about the difference between any particular example, such as Finland, versus any ideal, such as democratic socialism:

“Let’s be clear. Finland is no utopia. Not so many years ago, it experienced a severe economic downturn. Its economy today is not immune to what is happening in the rest of the world. There also are, to be sure, important differences between the United States and Finland — a small country with a population of only 5.2 million people. Finland has a very homogenous population. We are extremely diverse. Finland is the size of Montana. We stretch 3,000 miles from coast to coast.”

——

If you want to know what Sanders believes, read his statements, not articles about him in corporate media. Whereas the campaign statements of politicians such as Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have often been contradicted by their actual actions once they have gained power, Sanders’s statements and his entire record as a public official have been one-and-the-same.

But, above all, get to know his actual voting-record as a U.S. Senator and a Congressman before that. It’s a record that Franklin Delano Roosevelt would probably be proud to call his own if he were still alive and in politics today. 

Senator Sanders just wants to bring the Democratic Party — and the American Government — back to the ideals that motivated it when the greatest Democratic President was in charge. 

Sanders’s message is based on something timeless. It goes all the way back to the Gracchi brothers in ancient Rome. You see lots of that in FDR’s speeches, too, and in FDR’s subsequent actions as the U.S. President. It’s the ideology, progressivism, but Sanders sometimes uses the term “socialism” to refer to it, because that’s the term that is used in the most-successful countries, where it has actually long been instituted.

And, if you want to understand where that ideology comes from in the very particular case of Sanders himself, just read his background. (That’s from wikipedia, but it fails to link to any documentation where it says that he “opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq,” so here’s the source on that highly important matter. He’s not like Hillary Clinton; he doesn’t have to apologize on that enormous ‘blunder’ by this country; he doesn’t have to say, “A person who got that judgment wrong will be the best person to occupy the Oval Office.” He can hold his head high while he speaks the truth about important matters.)

There: you now already know more about Sanders — and more about his “socialism” — than you are likely to get to know truthfully from America’s corporate media (or from our corporate-backed NPR or PBS either).

Making these sorts of things clear is not what America’s press is designed to do. And that fact is going to become a very big problem for candidate Sanders to try to overcome — he won’t be trying to overcome only Hillary Clinton and the Republican Party, but also the press. Or, as the propagandists put it: “our free press.” (It’s not ‘ours,’ and it’s not ‘free.’)

They can mock his idealism and say that our country is too corrupt for anything of the sort to “work” here. But that was already the general direction America was heading in between 1932 and 1968, when the racist and corporate opposition finally brought it down and Richard Nixon’s “Southern Strategy” restored the planter-class in its newer corporate form. Sanders is merely trying to turn that around. He wants to make a real political difference.

He wants to present a clear alternative — and to do it within the Democratic Party, which was formerly led by the very same ideological tradition that he represents. He wants to bring the Democratic Party back to its own modern FDR roots.

Far from its being ‘aspirational,’ Sanders’s “socialism” was the actual direction this nation was going in during 1932-1968, and is the direction in which much of Europe has already surpassed America after the U.S. itself turned away from this “socialism.”

The corporate media will mock him, and the big money will be against him, but he is only doing what, under the prevailing historical circumstances, he believes that America, at this stage in our national history, needs to be done. He really believes that, if he doesn’t do it, then no one will. And he really believes that the only way it can be done is if he wins the U.S. Presidency. Unlike Ralph Nader, he really is in this to win, not merely to throw the election to the Republican nominee in order to punish the Democratic Party for its lack of purism.

One of the few real journalists (as opposed to mere stenographers to the powerful) whose career is successful in today’s America, Matt Taibbi, headlined in Rolling Stone (since he’s too good a journalist to be hired by such media as The New York Times or the Washington Post or FRONTLINE or “60 Minutes,” or etc.) on April 29th, “Give ’Em Hell, Bernie: Bernie Sanders is more serious than you think,” and he wrote, of Sanders, “That’s the one who cares.” Taibbi should know; he is among the few good journalists who have met enough of the aspirants to be able to recognize the difference between authenticity and fakery. And he had spent lots of time with Sanders back in 2005, to do an in-depth article subtitled, “A month inside the house of horrors that is Congress.” Sanders is not part of the Establishment, and doesn’t want to be.

Sanders is a progressive populist who says what he means, and who means what he says; and that’s the main reason why the Establishment is so afraid of him. They don’t want to lose control of the Government. But he is committed to their losing control of the Government. Calling his ideology by any name, either “socialism,” or “progressivism,” or “populism,” or simply “democracy,” they fear it. And they fear him.

And this is why, if his candidacy somehow takes off, the bosses will be taking off their gloves, and putting on their brass knuckes. It will be political war in America, no mere political campaign. Thus, his candidacy, if it gets any traction at all, will supercharge Hillary Clinton’s already-enormous campaign chest. All prior campaign-spending records will become exceeded long before Election Day has arrived. And things will have gotten very ugly.

This will not be a sectional war, like 1860. It will be a class war. In 1860, the issue was whether to free the slaves from their masters. In 2016 it will be whether to free the public from the aristocracy. Think Europe 1848, though it won’t necessarily be the failure on this side of the Atlantic that that was on theirs nearly two centuries ago.

But if Sanders’s campaign fails to take off, there won’t be any such war at all, just continued ongoing victory for the aristocracy, against everyone else. For example, in the latter link, the “Table 1. Real Income Growth by Groups” shows that during 2009-2012, the bottom 99% received 0.8% of America’s “Real Income Growth,” while in 2012-1013, the bottom 99% received 0.2% of that “Real Income Growth.” Though essentially all of the economic benefits from the post-‘recession’ ‘recovery’ went to the top 1% economic group, there was, starting in 2009, no more ‘recession’ in the U.S. as economists measure those things; all of this is instead referred to by them as ‘economic recovery,’ even though far fewer than 1% experienced any of whatever it was.

Beyond any abstractions about ideology, Senator Sanders is now entering the Democratic Party to take it over by declaring that this is an economic performance that Democrats should condemn, as a Party. And he is hoping that many Independents and even a few Republicans will join with him in this fundamental battle for the collective heart, mind, and body, of this nation, this culture, this country, this society.

Sanders is not a William Jennings Bryan type. He is no religious fundamentalist. His war is strictly about this world, not about any other. To him, morality concerns only how people treat others, not about how they treat any god.

If he wins his war, then he will change the world, but it will be only this world, not any other, that he changes. His enemies might try to turn God against him, but he will not worry, if he has the people with him. And, in aristocrats’ hearts of hearts, that’s all they really worry about, too. Everything else is mere propaganda. The media know all about it. In a sense, it’s their specialty.

———-

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity, and of Feudalism, Fascism, Libertarianism and Economics.

Posted in Business / Economics, General, Politics / World News | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Former Head of UN, Nobel Laureate Kofi Annan: Iraq Chaos a Product of Illegal US Invasion

In an interview with RT, Nobel Laureate Kofi Annan, who was UN Secretary General from 1997 to 2006, stated:

You cannot disassociate the situation in Iraq today from the US intervention of 2003. Because not only did the intervention take place, but they dismantled the Iraqi Army, which was the tool of Saddam to maintain law and order.

The civil service, the Baathist Party were all [dismantled]. So the structures and state institutions vanished overnight, creating a very serious vacuum, which has led to where we are today. So I don’t think anybody can argue with that. The link is clear.

When the US launched the invasion in 2003, Annan stated unequivocally that it was “illegal”.

Support for the US invasion maxed out at about 14% or less in every country, though some dictators defied their populations and joined the US axis for the act of aggression, which destroyed Iraq, killed millions, and destabilized the region.

The Nuremberg Tribunal, theoretically the basis for contemporary international law, established that war of aggression is the worst international crime, and countries that commit it are responsible for everything that ensues because of it.  Convicted perpetrators of and participants in aggression were then executed.

Annan also pointed out in his interview that the world’s large powers:

…apply the law to the small people and the small countries, but [say] we would absolve ourselves, it wouldn’t apply to us. What sort of justice is that? It has to be, we have to aim for a system, and a legal system where the laws are applied fairly and consistently across the board.

Reporter and his UK-based colleague on Twitter @_DirtyTruths.

Posted in General, Politics / World News | 6 Comments

When the Herd Turns

 

Once market participants realize the top is in and the only possible result from here on is a loss, the herd will turn and follow the leaders who are selling.

A funny thing happens when the stock market herd turns–all the usual central bank tricks no longer push the markets higher.

Though the mainstream financial media reports on central bank policy as if the policies move the markets, the actual mechanism is not policies per se but their effect on the belief structure of market participants.

If market participants believe the markets are going higher, for whatever reason, they will buy more stocks to reap the anticipated gains.

If market participants believe the top is in and markets will decline, they will sell, i.e. liquidate positions rather than build them. This is called distribution, as the smart money distributes stocks to the greater fools who have yet to get the memo that the top is in and from now on, stocks will only lose value.

What causes the herd to turn? The process is not entirely mechanical or predictable. Those in the front of the herd tend to lead those following, and so we look to the leading stocks, sectors and players for clues as to what the herd will do.

When the leaders of the stock rally dwindle to a few names, that is evidence that the herd is losing its momentum and confidence.

When those leaders no longer make new highs but instead notch lower highs despite good news, that is further evidence that the herd’s direction is becoming increasingly uncertain.

When the herd’s leading edge veers first one way and then the other, this lack of coherence is also evidence that the herd’s leaders are no longer confident in which direction to take.

The herd is all about following the pack in front. The animals just behind the leaders have no way to know what the animals in the rear of the herd are doing; they only know what the leaders are doing, and the herd instinct is to not leave the safety of numbers.

So when the leaders turn, the herd follows. The leaders might sense danger ahead, or see obstacles to avoid. Which way to go? A handful of those in the front decide for all those behind, and that decision is ultimately based on avoiding risk.

Once the herd has turned, all attempts to reverse the change in direction fail as the momentum cannot be stopped.

When the leaders realize that further market gains are increasingly unlikely and fraught with risk, they will exit. The herd following them will also exit, as the selling of the leaders will eventually push markets down despite central bank purchases.

To the leaders who are selling, central banks are simply large-scale chumps, snapping up shares right when those buying stocks are about to stampede over the cliff. Central banks buying equities give sellers more opportunities to distribute to greater fools; they can’t change the direction of the herd.

The ultimate hubris of central banks was their supreme belief in their own powers to direct the herd. As long as the herd was stampeding in one direction, the central banks could imagine that their shouted orders were directing the herd.

But once the herd turns, the futility of those orders will be revealed.

Once market participants realize the top is in and the only possible result from here on is a loss, the herd will turn and follow the leaders who are selling.

Posted in General | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

For Heaven’s Sake: Hedge!

Q: How do you make a small fortune on Wall Street?

A: Start with a large fortune.

~ old investing adage

Last fall, I wrote an article titled Defying Gravity that warned of the absurd price levels that stocks and bonds had risen to.

The piece first looked at the unbroken multi-year march upward in prices through the myriad money-printing cycles of the world’s central banks, as well as the near-extinction of bearish investors on Wall Street — which it then contrasted with the vast gap between valuations and the underlying weak economic data, deteriorating chart technicals, and evidence that the “smart money” was exiting the market. The takeaway? Prudence strongly recommended moving to cash and hedging one’s open market positions.

Less than a month later, the stock market abruptly dropped by 7%. Those who didn’t seek safety in advance were left licking their wounds, panicked not knowing if the painful down-draft was over.

Fortunately for them, the Federal Reserve jawboned it’s willingness to step in further if needed, the ECB announced a trillion-Euro stimulus program, the Bank of Japan waded into domestic and foreign markets as a buyer of last resort, and China’s central bank continued its staggering balance sheet expansion. Collectively, this put a floor on the markets, which soon climbed back to record highs.

Where We Are Now

So here we are roughly six months later, and the same warning bells are ringing — just louder this time.

Yes, stocks recovered from their brief October swoon, and yes, they are at — or very close to — their all-time highs. Indeed, everything is so awesome that investor sentiment has never been more positive. If you worry that having too many people on the same side of the boat is a sign of complacency and over-confidence, the following chart should frighten you:

(Source)

But very importantly, the rate of increase in equity prices is changing. Specifically, it’s slowing down. Prices are beginning to compress, forming a classic “wedge” which Charles Hugh Smith warns could break the relentless multi-year uptrend:

This is a dangerous sign at a time when, despite all the central bank stimulus programs raging around the world, economic growth is decelerating. Quartlery GDP growth for both the US and the Eurozone are barley above 0%, and China’s recently-reported 7% growth is the lowest reported in over 24 years (and many analysts suspect this reported growth is substantially overstated).

(Source)

Stocks, in theory at least, should be priced based on future earnings expectations. With anemic/moribund/near-recessionary growth numbers like these, what kind of delusional drunken rantings do we need to tell ourselves to justify today’s record stock valuations?

Valuations, mind you, that can change on a dime as sentiment shifts. As proof: in the past 48 hours, due to disappointing guidance, Twitter’s and Yelp’s stock prices have plunged 25%. And as I’ve been writing this piece, LinkedIn’s price has fallen over 22% in the aftermarket, evaporating 2 full years of gains.

Here at Peak Prosperity, we’ve long forecasted that crashes happen first at the periphery where the weaker players are, and then progresses steadily inward towards the core. The high-flying, unprofitable, dubious-value social media space is exactly where we’d expect to see the early failures occur before the larger market rolls over. That may very well be what we’re witnessing now.

And in the age of high-frequency trading (HFT) where the majority of trades and nearly all quotes are generated by algorithms, the speed with which prices can collapse is orders of magnitude faster than what was possible in previous eras. When the market action becomes unfavorable, algos just stop trading — within milliseconds. Since they’re responsible for the overwhelming majority of trading in today’s markets, price support vaporizes along with the algos. With the instantaneous disapperance of buyers, flash crashes result. HFT expert Joe Saluzzi explains this risk in depth in our upcoming podcast with him — to be released this weekend — in which he states:

The flash crash [of 2010] was caused by a poor market structure that went out of control. Where basically market makers were flipping back and forth and once their inventory positions got exhausted or their risk levels got too high, they were shutting down. And many of them were quoted afterwards explaining that they just stopped trading and exited the market. That’s why you had a flash crash: because it was a void in liquidity.

For Heaven’s Sake: Hedge!

All this worrisome data reminds me of another old joke:

A terrible storm came into a town and local officials sent out an emergency warning that the riverbanks would soon overflow and flood the nearby homes. They ordered everyone in the town to evacuate immediately.

A faithful religious man heard the warning and decided to stay, saying to himself, “I will trust God and if I am in danger, I believe God will save me.”

The neighbors came by his house and said to him, “We’re leaving and there is room for you in our car, please come with us!” But the man declined. “I have faith that God will save me.”

As the man stood on his porch watching the water rise up the steps, a man in a canoe paddled by and called to him, “Hurry and come into my canoe, the waters are rising quickly!” But the man again said, “No thanks, God will save me.”

The floodwaters rose higher pouring water into his living room and the man had to retreat to the second floor. A police motorboat came by and saw him at the window. “We will come up and rescue you!” they shouted. But the man refused, waving them off saying, “Use your time to save someone else! I have faith that God will save me!”

The flood waters rose higher and higher and the man had to climb up to his rooftop.

A helicopter spotted him and dropped a rope ladder. A rescue officer came down the ladder and pleaded with the man, “Grab my hand and I will pull you up!” But the man STILL refused, folding his arms tightly to his body. “No thank you! God will save me!”

Shortly after, the house broke up and the floodwaters swept the man away and he drowned.

When in Heaven, the man stood before God and asked, “I put all of my faith in You. Why didn’t You come and save me?”

And God said, “Son, I sent you a warning. I sent you a car. I sent you a canoe. I sent you a motorboat. I sent you a helicopter. What more were you looking for?”

If you still have capital invested in the financial markets and you haven’t started moving a sizable portion of it to safety — either into cash or positions that hedge against a correction — what additional warning signs could you possibly be waiting for?

Don’t be caught waiting too long to act. Once the next correction is upon us, it will already be too late.

As we originally advised before the market drop six months ago, strongly consider moving more of your paper investments to cash for the time being. This is one of those times when the benefits of safety far outweigh the risks of speculating to catch a few more up days in the market. (Remember, the research definitively proves that we feel much greater mental suffering when we experience a loss than when we miss out on a gain)

And for any capital you decide to keep in the markets, we urge you to explore hedging those positions against a market drop.

“Hedging” is the practice of allocating a minority percentage of your investments to safer or inversely-correlated holdings relative to the majority of what’s in your portfolio. So how to do you go about doing it?

In Part 2: How to Hedge Against A Market Correction, we explore the standard range of hedging techniques that are commonly used to offer portfolio protection and/or upside during a market downturn. These include raising cash, using stops, inverse and leveraged securities, shorting, options, and futures.

And for those who choose to forgo hedging, you might want to want to start donating to a wide range of churches, synagogues, temples and mosques. Like our friend in the story, when the next storm hits, divine intervention is going to be your best hope…

Click here to access Part 2 of this report (free executive summary; enrollment required for full access)

Posted in General | 2 Comments

Who’s Crazy Now? American Psychological Association Supported Torture “At Every Critical Juncture”

Like Nazi and Soviet Psychologists, American Psychologists Aided Abuse

While most psychologists are good people, tyrannies have always deployed corrupt psychologists to punish dissenters, and label them “crazy”.

The Nazi government substantially supported psychologists … many of whom, in turn, espoused extermination of the people they considered to be “racially and cognitively compromised”.

Soviet psychiatrists famously aided Stalin in applying fake insanity diagnoses to political dissenters.  The official explanation was that no sane person would declaim the Soviet government and Communism.

And authoritarian American psychologists are eager to label anyone “taking a cynical stance toward politics, mistrusting authority, endorsing democratic practices, … and displaying an inquisitive, imaginative outlook” as worthy of a trip to the insane asylum. (Those traits may also get one labeled as a potential terrorist.)  Indeed, Americans are literally being thrown in the loony bin after they question those in power.

As prominent forensic psychiatrist James Knoll – psychiatry professor at SUNY-Syracuse and director of a forensic fellowship program – writes in the Psychiatric Times:

When psychiatric science becomes co-opted by a political agenda, an unhealthy alliance may be created. It is science that will always be the host organism, to be taken over by political viruses…. [P]sychiatry may come to resemble a new organism entirely — one that serves the ends of the criminal justice system.

Indeed, American psychologists created the American program of torture which was specially-crafted to produce false confessions to justify U.S. military policy.

Ironically – given the background of psychologists deployed by Stalin to crush dissent – the type of torture used by the CIA was a Communist torture technique .  And see this.  (In reality, we’ve known for 2,000 years that all torture produces false confessions. And we’ve known for a very long time that torture reduces our national security.)

It wasn’t just rogue psychologists: the American Psychological Association was central to the torture program.

Pulitzer-prize winning journalist James Risen reports today in the New York Times:

The American Psychological Association secretly collaborated with the administration of President George W. Bush to bolster a legal and ethical justification for the torture of prisoners swept up in the post-Sept. 11 war on terror …

“The A.P.A. secretly coordinated with officials from the C.I.A., White House and the Department of Defense to create an A.P.A. ethics policy on national security interrogations which comported with then-classified legal guidance authorizing the C.I.A. torture program,” the report’s authors conclude.

***

The involvement of health professionals in the Bush-era interrogation program was significant because it enabled the Justice Department to argue in secret opinions that the program was legal and did not constitute torture, since the interrogations were being monitored by health professionals to make sure they were safe.

***

The American Psychological Association “clearly supports the role of psychologists in a way our behavioral science consultants operate,” said Dr. William Winkenwerder, then the assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, describing to reporters why the Pentagon relied more on psychologists than psychiatrists at the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

***

By June 2004, the Bush administration’s torture program was in trouble. The public disclosure of the images of prisoners being abused at the Abu Ghraib prison earlier that year prompted an intense debate about the way the United States was treating detainees in the global war on terror, leading to new scrutiny of the C.I.A.’s so-called enhanced interrogation program, which included sleep deprivation and waterboarding, or simulated drowning. Congress and the news media were starting to ask questions, and there were new doubts about whether the program was legal.

***

In early June 2004, a senior official with the association, the nation’s largest professional organization for psychologists, issued an invitation to a carefully selected group of psychologists and behavioral scientists inside the government to a private meeting to discuss the crisis and the role of psychologists in the interrogation program.

Psychologists from the C.I.A. and other agencies met with association officials in July, and by the next year the association issued guidelines that reaffirmed that it was acceptable for its members to be involved in the interrogation program.

To emphasize their argument that the association grew too close to the interrogation program, the critics’ new report cites a 2003 email from a senior psychologist at the C.I.A. to a senior official at the psychological association. In the email, the C.I.A. psychologist appears to be confiding in the association official about the work of James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, the private contractors who developed and helped run the enhanced interrogation program at the C.I.A.’s secret prisons around the world.

In the email, written years before the involvement of the two contractors in the interrogation program was made public, the C.I.A. psychologist explains to the association official that the contractors “are doing special things to special people in special places.”

***

“In 2004 and 2005 the C.I.A. torture program was threatened from within and outside the Bush administration,” [Stephen Soldz, a clinical psychologist and professor at the Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis] said by email. “Like clockwork, the A.P.A. directly addressed legal threats at every critical juncture facing the senior intelligence officials at the heart of the program. In some cases the A.P.A. even allowed these same Bush officials to actually help write the association’s policies.”

***

The critics frequently criticized the 2005 findings of an association committee, the Presidential Task Force on Psychological Ethics and National Security, or PENS, which concluded that it was appropriate for psychologists to remain involved with interrogations, to make sure they remained safe, legal, ethical and effective.

So psychologists created, pushed and rationalized, and then actually took part in the torture program.

Like Nazi and Soviet psychologists, these quack American psychologists have lent their hand to tyranny.

Posted in Politics / World News | 8 Comments

Baltimore as a Microcosm of America

Submitted by Mike Krieger via Liberty Blitzkrieg blog,

Screen Shot 2015-04-30 at 10.25.59 AM

In these drug-saturated neighborhoods, they weren’t policing their post anymore, they weren’t policing real estate that they were protecting from crime. They weren’t nurturing informants, or learning how to properly investigate anything. There’s a real skill set to good police work. But no, they were just dragging the sidewalks, hunting stats, and these inner-city neighborhoods — which were indeed drug-saturated because that’s the only industry left — become just hunting grounds. They weren’t protecting anything. They weren’t serving anyone. They were collecting bodies, treating corner folk and citizens alike as an Israeli patrol would treat Gaza, or as the Afrikaners would have treated Soweto back in the day. They’re an army of occupation. And once it’s that, then everybody’s the enemy. The police aren’t looking to make friends, or informants, or learning how to write clean warrants or how to testify in court without perjuring themselves unnecessarily. There’s no incentive to get better as investigators, as cops.

– From the excellent Marshall Project article: David Simon on Baltimore’s Anguish

Baltimore, Maryland is in many ways the perfect microcosm for these United States of America. If you still don’t get that, you’ll be in for a rude awakening in the years ahead.

A gradual erosion of the Constitution and the civl rights of the citizenry, the abuse of power by people in authority, perverse financial incentives that lead to horrible outcomes, zero accountability, and a ubiquitous surveillance state apparatus; Baltimore has it all. Yet all of these troubling traits have also come to characterize early 21st century America.

As tends to be the case, the populations that have been victimized the longest and most systemically — in Baltimore and across the U.S. — are the poor, weak and disenfranchised.  Like a cancer, corruption, theft, and blatant abuse of the citizenry by the powerful will spread and spread until it consumes everything unless the tumor is removed. It has now spread so deeply and so dangerously throughout American life, the general public will soon have no choice but to confront it and do something about it, or face a total extinction of opportunity and suffer the same desperate fate as the people out in the streets of Baltimore.

David Simon, creator of the excellent hit HBO series “The Wire,” recently sat down for an interview with former New York Times reporter Bill Keller to explain the situation in Baltimore as he sees it; its origins and what is needed to fix it. As you read, think about the many parallels to the U.S. economy in general; the endless criminal maneuverings within the centers of power in Washington D.C. and Wall Street, the forever spinning revolving door of corruption, the marauding gangs of cronies making impossibly large piles of money based on connections, fraud and rigged markets as opposed to adding value, the idiocy of the war on drugs, the fraudulent accounting, and the overbearing surveillance state. Increasingly, when America looks in the mirror Baltimore and Ferguson are staring right back. We just haven’t admitted it yet.

Now, from the Marshall Project:

Bill Keller: What do people outside the city need to understand about what’s going on there — the death of Freddie Gray and the response to it?

David Simon: I guess there’s an awful lot to understand and I’m not sure I understand all of it. The part that seems systemic and connected is that the drug war — which Baltimore waged as aggressively as any American city — was transforming in terms of police/community relations, in terms of trust, particularly between the black community and the police department. Probable cause was destroyed by the drug war. 

Probable cause from a Baltimore police officer has always been a tenuous thing. It’s a tenuous thing anywhere, but in Baltimore, in these high crime, heavily policed areas, it was even worse. When I came on, there were jokes about, “You know what probable cause is on Edmondson Avenue? You roll by in your radio car and the guy looks at you for two seconds too long.” Probable cause was whatever you thought you could safely lie about when you got into district court.

Then at some point when cocaine hit and the city lost control of a lot of corners and the violence was ratcheted up, there was a real panic on the part of the government. And they basically decided that even that loose idea of what the Fourth Amendment was supposed to mean on a street level, even that was too much. Now all bets were off. Now you didn’t even need probable cause. The city council actually passed an ordinance that declared a certain amount of real estate to be drug-free zones. They literally declared maybe a quarter to a third of inner city Baltimore off-limits to its residents, and said that if you were loitering in those areas you were subject to arrest and search. Think about that for a moment: It was a permission for the police to become truly random and arbitrary and to clear streets any way they damn well wanted.

How does race figure into this? It’s a city with a black majority and now a black mayor and black police chief, a substantially black police force.

What did Tom Wolfe write about cops? They all become Irish? That’s a line in “Bonfire of the Vanities.” When Ed and I reported “The Corner,” it became clear that the most brutal cops in our sector of the Western District were black. The guys who would really kick your ass without thinking twice were black officers. If I had to guess and put a name on it, I’d say that at some point, the drug war was as much a function of class and social control as it was of racism. I think the two agendas are inextricably linked, and where one picks up and the other ends is hard to say. But when you have African-American officers beating the dog-piss out of people they’re supposed to be policing, and there isn’t a white guy in the equation on a street level, it’s pretty remarkable. But in some ways they were empowered. Back then, even before the advent of cell phones and digital cameras — which have been transforming in terms of documenting police violence — back then, you were much more vulnerable if you were white and you wanted to wail on somebody. You take out your nightstick and you’re white and you start hitting somebody, it has a completely different dynamic than if you were a black officer. It was simply safer to be brutal if you were black, and I didn’t know quite what to do with that fact other than report it. It was as disturbing a dynamic as I could imagine. Something had been removed from the equation that gave white officers — however brutal they wanted to be, or however brutal they thought the moment required — it gave them pause before pulling out a nightstick and going at it. Some African American officers seemed to feel no such pause.

This is another fascinating microcosm considering how Barack Obama has done absolutely nothing to help the black community or poor in this country. It took a black President to so shamelessly hand everything to a handful of oligarchs and further oppress black communities.

What the drug war did, though, was make this all a function of social control. This was simply about keeping the poor down, and that war footing has been an excuse for everybody to operate outside the realm of procedure and law. 

“The drug war began it, certainly, but the stake through the heart of police procedure in Baltimore was Martin O’Malley.”

In case you aren’t aware, Martin O’Malley was the ambitious Mayor of Baltimore who had his eyes dead set on the Governor’s seat. So much so that he cooked the crime books of Baltimore to create a crime “miracle,” and destroyed city police work in the process. Mr. O’Malley has recently discussed possibly running against Hillary in the 2016 Democrat primary.

But that wasn’t enough. O’Malley needed to show crime reduction stats that were not only improbable, but unsustainable without manipulation. And so there were people from City Hall who walked over Norris and made it clear to the district commanders that crime was going to fall by some astonishing rates. Eventually, Norris got fed up with the interference from City Hall and walked, and then more malleable police commissioners followed, until indeed, the crime rate fell dramatically. On paper.

How? There were two initiatives. First, the department began sweeping the streets of the inner city, taking bodies on ridiculous humbles, mass arrests, sending thousands of people to city jail, hundreds every night, thousands in a month. They actually had police supervisors stationed with printed forms at the city jail – forms that said, essentially, you can go home now if you sign away any liability the city has for false arrest, or you can not sign the form and spend the weekend in jail until you see a court commissioner. And tens of thousands of people signed that form. 

Unsurprisingly, the rule of law often dies at the hands of an ambitious politician.

The situation you described has been around for a while. Do you have a sense of why the Freddie Gray death has been such a catalyst for the response we’ve seen in the last 48 hours?

Because the documented litany of police violence is now out in the open. There’s an actual theme here that’s being made evident by the digital revolution. It used to be our word against yours. It used to be said — correctly — that the patrolman on the beat on any American police force was the last perfect tyranny. Absent a herd of reliable witnesses, there were things he could do to deny you your freedom or kick your ass that were between him, you, and the street. The smartphone with its small, digital camera, is a revolution in civil liberties.

In these drug-saturated neighborhoods, they weren’t policing their post anymore, they weren’t policing real estate that they were protecting from crime. They weren’t nurturing informants, or learning how to properly investigate anything. There’s a real skill set to good police work. But no, they were just dragging the sidewalks, hunting stats, and these inner-city neighborhoods — which were indeed drug-saturated because that’s the only industry left — become just hunting grounds. They weren’t protecting anything. They weren’t serving anyone. They were collecting bodies, treating corner folk and citizens alike as an Israeli patrol would treat Gaza, or as the Afrikaners would have treated Soweto back in the day. They’re an army of occupation. And once it’s that, then everybody’s the enemy. The police aren’t looking to make friends, or informants, or learning how to write clean warrants or how to testify in court without perjuring themselves unnecessarily. There’s no incentive to get better as investigators, as cops. There’s no reason to solve crime. In the years they were behaving this way, locking up the entire world, the clearance rate for murder dove by 30 percent. The clearance rate for aggravated assault — every felony arrest rate – took a significant hit. Think about that. If crime is going down, and crime is going down, and if we have less murders than ever before and we have more homicide detectives assigned, and better evidentiary technologies to employ how is the clearance rate for homicide now 48 percent when it used to be 70 percent, or 75 percent?

Because the drug war made cops lazy and less competent?

How do you reward cops? Two ways: promotion and cash. That’s what rewards a cop. If you want to pay overtime pay for having police fill the jails with loitering arrests or simple drug possession or failure to yield, if you want to spend your municipal treasure rewarding that, well the cop who’s going to court 7 or 8 days a month — and court is always overtime pay — you’re going to damn near double your salary every month. On the other hand, the guy who actually goes to his post and investigates who’s burglarizing the homes, at the end of the month maybe he’s made one arrest. It may be the right arrest and one that makes his post safer, but he’s going to court one day and he’s out in two hours. So you fail to reward the cop who actually does police work. But worse, it’s time to make new sergeants or lieutenants, and so you look at the computer and say: Who’s doing the most work? And they say, man, this guy had 80 arrests last month, and this other guy’s only got one. Who do you think gets made sergeant? And then who trains the next generation of cops in how not to do police work? I’ve just described for you the culture of the Baltimore police department amid the deluge of the drug war, where actual investigation goes unrewarded and where rounding up bodies for street dealing, drug possession, loitering such – the easiest and most self-evident arrests a cop can make – is nonetheless the path to enlightenment and promotion and some additional pay. That’s what the drug war built, and that’s what Martin O’Malley affirmed when he sent so much of inner city Baltimore into the police wagons on a regular basis.

So much of what was said there characterizes the perverted culture in Washington D.C. and on Wall Street. People are financially incentivized to commit fraud, crime and deceive customers. Those people are then promoted and train the next class. And the beat goes on…

The second thing Marty did, in order to be governor, involves the stats themselves. In the beginning, under Norris, he did get a better brand of police work and we can credit a legitimate 12 to 15 percent decline in homicides. Again, that was a restoration of an investigative deterrent in the early years of that administration. But it wasn’t enough to declare a Baltimore Miracle, by any means.

What can you do? You can’t artificially lower the murder rate – how do you hide the bodies when it’s the state health department that controls the medical examiner’s office? But the other felony categories? Robbery, aggravated assault, rape? Christ, what they did with that stuff was jaw-dropping.

Now for the accounting fraud. Looks like Baltimore authorities learned well from Wall Street.

So they cooked the books.

Oh yeah. If you hit somebody with a bullet, that had to count. If they went to the hospital with a bullet in them, it probably had to count as an aggravated assault. But if someone just took a gun out and emptied the clip and didn’t hit anything or they didn’t know if you hit anything, suddenly that was a common assault or even an unfounded report. Armed robberies became larcenies if you only had a victim’s description of a gun, but not a recovered weapon. And it only gets worse as some district commanders began to curry favor with the mayoral aides who were sitting on the Comstat data. In the Southwest District, a victim would try to make an armed robbery complaint, saying , ‘I just got robbed, somebody pointed a gun at me,’ and what they would do is tell him, well, okay, we can take the report but the first thing we have to do is run you through the computer to see if there’s any paper on you. Wait, you’re doing a warrant check on me before I can report a robbery? Oh yeah, we gotta know who you are before we take a complaint. You and everyone you’re living with? What’s your address again? You still want to report that robbery?

They cooked their own books in remarkable ways. Guns disappeared from reports and armed robberies became larcenies. Deadly weapons were omitted from reports and aggravated assaults became common assaults. The Baltimore Sun did a fine job looking into the dramatic drop in rapes in the city. Turned out that regardless of how insistent the victims were that they had been raped, the incidents were being quietly unfounded. That tip of the iceberg was reported, but the rest of it, no. And yet there were many veteran commanders and supervisors who were disgusted, who would privately complain about what was happening. If you weren’t a journalist obliged to quote sources and instead, say, someone writing a fictional television drama, they’d share a beer and let you fill cocktail napkins with all the ways in which felonies disappeared in those years.

I mean, think about it. How does the homicide rate decline by 15 percent, while the agg assault rate falls by more than double that rate. Are all of Baltimore’s felons going to gun ranges in the county? Are they becoming better shots? Have the mortality rates for serious assault victims in Baltimore, Maryland suddenly doubled? Did they suddenly close the Hopkins and University emergency rooms and return trauma care to the dark ages? It makes no sense statistically until you realize that you can’t hide a murder, but you can make an attempted murder disappear in a heartbeat, no problem.

But these guys weren’t satisfied with just juking their own stats. No, the O’Malley administration also went back to the last year of the previous mayoralty and performed its own retroactive assessment of those felony totals, and guess what? It was determined from this special review that the preceding administration had underreported its own crime rate, which O’Malley rectified by upgrading a good chunk of misdemeanors into felonies to fatten up the Baltimore crime rate that he was inheriting. Get it? How better than to later claim a 30 or 40 percent reduction in crime than by first juking up your inherited rate as high as she’ll go. It really was that cynical an exercise.

So Martin O’Malley proclaims a Baltimore Miracle and moves to Annapolis. And tellingly, when his successor as mayor allows a new police commissioner to finally de-emphasize street sweeps and mass arrests and instead focus on gun crime, that’s when the murder rate really dives. That’s when violence really goes down. When a drug arrest or a street sweep is suddenly not the standard for police work, when violence itself is directly addressed, that’s when Baltimore makes some progress.

But nothing corrects the legacy of a police department in which the entire rank-and-file has been rewarded and affirmed for collecting bodies, for ignoring probable cause, for grabbing anyone they see for whatever reason. And so, fast forward to Sandtown and the Gilmor Homes, where Freddie Gray gives some Baltimore police the legal equivalent of looking at them a second or two too long. He runs, and so when he’s caught he takes an ass-kicking and then goes into the back of a wagon without so much as a nod to the Fourth Amendment.

So do you see how this ends or how it begins to turn around?

We end the drug war. I know I sound like a broken record, but we end the fucking drug war. The drug war gives everybody permission to do anything. It gives cops permission to stop anybody, to go in anyone’s pockets, to manufacture any lie when they get to district court. You sit in the district court in Baltimore and you hear, ‘Your Honor, he was walking out of the alley and I saw him lift up the glassine bag and tap it lightly.’ No fucking dope fiend in Baltimore has ever walked out of an alley displaying a glassine bag for all the world to see. But it keeps happening over and over in the Western District court. The drug war gives everybody permission. And if it were draconian and we were fixing anything that would be one thing, but it’s draconian and it’s a disaster.

This is true about the drug war, but even more true about the “war on terror.” Also endless, also used to justify anything.

Medicalize the problem, decriminalize — I don’t need drugs to be declared legal, but if a Baltimore State’s Attorney told all his assistant state’s attorneys today, from this moment on, we are not signing overtime slips for court pay for possession, for simple loitering in a drug-free zone, for loitering, for failure to obey, we’re not signing slips for that: Nobody gets paid for that bullshit, go out and do real police work. If that were to happen, then all at once, the standards for what constitutes a worthy arrest in Baltimore would significantly improve. Take away the actual incentive to do bad or useless police work, which is what the drug war has become.

So much of what’s been happening in Baltimore for decades is now also business as usual within the highest corridors of American power. As I’ve said time and time again, incentives are the key variable here. If you’re rewarded for fraud and white collar crime, you will get more of it. If you jail the perpetrators of it, you’ll get less of it. TBTF Wall Street execs and private equity guys don’t want to sit in a jail cell for a decade, believe me. They’d sell 50 Picassos and 30 sharks soaked in formaldehyde before that ever happened.

The sad part is we aren’t even trying to change the incentive structure of status quo criminality. This is because the current generation of power players were trained and molded by the same types before them. This is all they know. Money and power are their gods. Crime is their religion. We have no choice but to stop them.

For related articles, see:

The U.S. Department of Justice Handles Banker Criminals Like Juvenile Offenders…Literally

Tim Geithner Admits “Too Big To Fail” Hasn’t Gone Anywhere (and that’s the way he likes it)

Meet Mary Jo White: The Next SEC Chief and a Guaranteed Wall Street Patsy

Some Money Launderers are “More Equal” than Others

Posted in Politics / World News | 8 Comments

Illusory Superiority, Related Psychological Phenomena, and the Importance of Cross-Cultural Exposure

In addition to direct conflicts of interest inherent in the structure and functioning of media, the following psychological phenomena underscore the importance, in terms of approaching truth, of reading and researching on as broad a spectrum and as cross-culturally as possible.  People creating and disseminating narratives in any one society or larger group (ie “the west”), are subject to these features of human psychology; to claim or believe they are not is merely to exhibit them.

To attempt to extract ourselves from these obstacles is to become aware of them and to read and view news and opinion/analysis, and absorb culture (ie film, TV, books) broadly.  For US citizens, this includes exposing oneself to independent and non-corporate US media (ie this, this, this, this) as well as information from groups US American culture tends to feel suspicious of or hostile towards, such as Iran (which has an international news outlet called Press TV), or Russia (which has RT).

Obtaining the big picture by reading/viewing broadly allows us to see the biases, conscious and subconscious, present in each perspective, including, eventually, one’s own, and thus brings us closer to truth.

Illusory superiority

A cognitive bias whereby individuals overestimate their own qualities and abilities, relative to others. This is evident in a variety of areas including intelligence, performance on tasks or tests, and the possession of desirable characteristics or personality traits. It is one of many positive illusions relating to the self, and is a phenomenon studied in social psychology.

Illusory superiority is often referred to as the above average effect. Other terms include superiority bias, leniency error, and sense of relative superiority.

Svenson (1981) surveyed 161 students in Sweden and the United States, asking them to compare their driving skills and safety to other people. For driving skills, 93% of the U.S. sample and 69% of the Swedish sample put themselves in the top 50%; for safety, 88% of the U.S. and 77% of the Swedish put themselves in the top 50%.

A vast majority of the literature on illusory superiority originates from studies on participants in the United States. … Some studies indicate that East Asians tend to underestimate their own abilities in order to improve themselves and get along with others.

A recent Psychological Bulletin suggests … after our own performance, we readjust our estimates of our own performance more than we readjust our estimates of others’ performances.

Selective recruitment [a facet of illusory superiority] is the notion that, when making peer comparisons, an individual selects her own strengths and the others’ weaknesses in order that they appear better on the whole.

…when making peer comparisons on a specific characteristic, an individual chooses a comparison target—the peer to whom he is being compared—with lower abilities.

[Another facet, Egocentrism,] is the idea that an individual places greater importance and significance on their own abilities, characteristics, and behaviors than those of others.

Focalism … [is] the idea that greater significance is placed on the object that is the focus of attention. Most studies of the better-than-average effect place greater focus on the self when asking participants to make comparisons (the question will often be phrased with the self being presented before the comparison target—”compare yourself to the average person”). According to focalism this means that the individual will place greater significance on their own ability or characteristic than that of the comparison target.

Research by Sedikides & Strube (1997) has found that people are more self-serving (the effect of illusory superiority is stronger) when the event in question is more open to interpretation… This has been partly attributed also to the need for a believable self-view.

The effects of illusory superiority have also been found to be strongest when people rate themselves on abilities at which they are totally incompetent. These subjects have the greatest disparity between their actual performance (at the low end of the distribution) and their self-rating (placing themselves above average).

Bias blind spot

The cognitive bias of recognizing the impact of biases on the judgement of others, while failing to see the impact of biases on one’s own judgement.

Self-enhancement biases may play a role, in that people are motivated to view themselves in a positive light. Biases are generally seen as undesirable,[4] so people tend to think of their own perceptions and judgments as being rational, accurate, and free of bias. The self-enhancement bias also applies when analyzing our own decisions, in that people are likely to think of themselves as better decision makers than others.

People also tend to believe they are aware of “how” and “why” they make their decisions, and therefore conclude that bias did not play a role. Many of our decisions are formed from biases and cognitive shortcuts, which are unconscious processes. By definition, people are unaware of unconscious processes, and therefore cannot see their influence in the decision making process.

When made aware of various biases acting on our perception, decisions, or judgments, research has shown that we are still unable to control them. This contributes to the bias blind spot in that even if one is told that they are biased, they are unable to alter their biased perception.

[Experiment subjects] displayed standard biases, for example rating themselves above the others on desirable qualities (demonstrating illusory superiority). The experimenters explained cognitive bias, and asked the subjects how it might have affected their judgment. The subjects rated themselves as less susceptible to bias than others in the experiment (confirming the bias blind spot). When they had to explain their judgments, they used different strategies for assessing their own and others’ bias.

…when people decide whether someone else is biased, they use overt behavior. On the other hand, when assessing whether or not they themselves are biased, people look inward, searching their own thoughts and feelings for biased motives.[5] Since biases operate unconsciously, these introspections are not informative, but people wrongly treat them as reliable indication that they themselves, unlike other people, are immune to bias.

[In another test, subjects were able to persuade themselves that] they were unlikely to be biased, [but] their introspective reports did not sway the assessments of observers.

People tend to attribute bias in an uneven way. When people reach different perceptions from each other, they each tend to label the other person as biased, and themselves as being accurate and un-biased.

Pronin also hypothesizes ways to use awareness of the bias blind spot to reduce conflict, and to think in a more “scientifically informed” way. Although we are unable to control bias on our own cognitions,[3] one may keep in mind that biases are acting on everyone. Pronin suggests that people might use this knowledge to separate others’ intentions from their actions.

In-group favoritism

In-group favoritism, sometimes known as in-group–out-group bias, in-group bias, or intergroup bias, refers to a pattern of favoring members of one’s in-group over out-group members. This can be expressed in evaluation of others, in allocation of resources, and in many other ways.[1] For example, it has been shown that people will seek to make more internal (dispositional) attributions for events that reflect positively on groups they belong to and more external (situational) attributions for events that reflect negatively on their groups.

This interaction has been researched by many psychologists and linked to many theories related to group conflict and prejudice.

In 1906, the sociologist William Sumner posited that humans … had an innate tendency to favor their own group over others, proclaiming how “each group nourishes its own pride and vanity, boasts itself superior, exists in its own divinities, and looks with contempt on outsiders” (p. 13). This is seen on the group level with ingroup–outgroup bias. When experienced in larger groups such as tribes, ethnic groups, or nations, it is referred to as ethnocentrism [see below].

… study [has] demonstrated that, regardless of two groups’ similarity, group members will behave viciously toward the out-group when competing for limited resources.

By Tom Gauld – www.tomgauld.com

…one of the key determinants of group biases is the need to improve self-esteem. That is, individuals will find a reason, no matter how insignificant, to prove to themselves why their own group is superior.

[In one study,] regardless of the facts that a) participants did not know each other, b) their groups were completely meaningless, and c) none of the participants had any inclination as to which “style” they like better—participants almost always “liked the members of their own group better and they rated the members of their in-group as more likely to have pleasant personalities”. By having a more positive impression of individuals in the in-group, individuals are able to boost their own self-esteem as members of that group.

Ethnocentrism

Judging another culture solely by the values and standards of one’s own culture. Ethnocentric individuals judge other groups relative to their own ethnic group or culture, especially with concern for language, behavior, customs, and religion.

William G. Sumner coined the term “ethnocentrism” upon observing the tendency for people to differentiate between the in-group and others. He defined it as “the technical name for the view of things in which one’s own group is the center of everything, and all others are scaled and rated with reference to it.”

He further characterized it as often leading to pride, vanity, beliefs of one’s own group’s superiority, and contempt of outsiders.

Anthropologists such as Franz Boas and Bronislaw Malinowski argued that any human science had to transcend the ethnocentrism of the scientist. Both urged anthropologists to conduct ethnographic fieldwork in order to overcome their ethnocentrism. Boas developed the principle of cultural relativism and Malinowski developed the theory of functionalism as guides for producing non-ethnocentric studies of different cultures.

People born into a particular culture that grow up absorbing the values and behaviors of the culture will develop a worldview that considers their culture to be the norm.

If people then experience other cultures that have different values and normal behaviors, they will find that the thought patterns appropriate to their birth culture and the meanings their birth culture attaches to behaviors are not appropriate for the new cultures. However, since people are accustomed to their birth culture, it can be difficult for them to see the behaviors of people from a different culture from the viewpoint of that culture rather than from their own.

Examples of ethnocentrism include religiocentric constructs claiming a divine association like “divine nation”, “One Nation under God“, “God’s Own Country“, “God’s Chosen People“, and “God’s Promised Land”.

[The US national anthem proclaims:

Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the Heav’n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!

Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust.”]

Collective Narcissism

…phenomena such as national identity (nationality) … are manifestations of collective narcissism among groups that critically define the people who belong to them.

…collective narcissism that may already exist among a group is likely to be exacerbated during conflict and aggression.

…cultures that place an emphasis on the individual are apparently more likely to see manifestations of perceived individual greatness projected onto social ingroups existing within that culture.

A quote from Hitler almost ideally sums the actual nature of collective narcissism as it is realistically manifested, and might be found reminiscent of almost every idea presented here: “My group is better and more important than other groups, but still is not worthy of me”.

Xenophobia

Racist US political cartoon: Uncle Sam kicks out the Chinaman, referring to the Chinese Exclusion Act.

The unreasoned fear of that which is perceived to be foreign or strange.[1][2] Xenophobia can manifest itself in many ways involving the relations and perceptions of an ingroup towards an outgroup, including a fear of losing identity, suspicion of its activities, aggression, and desire to eliminate its presence to secure a presumed purity.

Americentrism

…refers to the ethnocentric and xenophobic practice of viewing the world from an explicitly U.S. perspective, with an implied belief, either consciously or subconsciously, in the preeminence of U.S. culture.

U.S. television networks have been perceived to contain an Americentric bias in the selection of their material.

English Wikipedia has been accused of Americentrism due to favoring sources from the US and dismissing non-US sources as biased, as well as frequently giving greater focus on US history and opinion in articles.

Reporter focuses on global force dynamics and writes professionally for the film industry.  On twitter with his UK-based colleague @_DirtyTruths.

Posted in General, Politics / World News, Science / Technology | 9 Comments

Organic Farming Changes Agriculture from a Huge Carbon Source to a Carbon-DESTROYER

From Source of 35% of All Carbon Worldwide to Carbon Sink

Science China Press reports (via the American Association for the Advancement of Science):

Approximately 35% of global greenhouse gases (GHGs) come from agriculture. Some argues that human can reverse global worming by sequestering several hundred billion tons of excess CO2 through regenerative, organic farming, ranching and land use. Increasing the soil’s organic content will not only fix carbon and reduce emissions, it will also improve the soil’s ability to retain water and nutrients and resist pests and droughts.

To mitigate GHG emissions and retain soil fertility, organic agriculture might be a wise choice for decreasing the intensive use of synthetic fertilizers, protecting environments, and further improving crop yields. Recent research showed that replacing chemical fertilizer with organic manure significantly decreased the emission of GHGs. Organic farming can reverse the agriculture ecosystem from a carbon source to a carbon sink. [i.e. organic farming ties up and binds or “sequesters” carbon, instead of emitting any carbon. In other words, organic farming pulls carbon out of the environment and locks it in the soil.]

To explore the potential of farmlands acting as a carbon sink without yield losses, Jiang Gaoming, a professor at the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Botany, conducted an experiment on a temperate eco-farm in eastern rural China. Crop residues were applied to cattle feed and the composted cattle manure was returned to cropland with a winter wheat and maize rotation. Crop yield and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions were carefully calculated according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories 2006.

This study showed that replacing chemical fertilizer with organic manure significantly decreased the emission of GHGs. Yields of wheat and corn also increased as the soil fertility was improved by the application of cattle manure. Totally replacing chemical fertilizer with organic manure decreased GHG emissions, which reversed the agriculture ecosystem from a carbon source (+ 2.7 t CO2-eq. hm-2 yr-1) to a carbon sink (- 8.8 t CO2-eq. hm-2 yr-1).

Making full use of crop residues as forage for cattle, collecting and composting cattle manure, and replacing part of the chemical fertilizer input with organic manure have been successfully shown to be ideal choices to reduce energy waste and cut GHG emissions without crop yield losses. A combination of organic manure and chemical fertilizer demonstrated the best result in improving soil quality and crop yields, while decreasing GHG emissions. Solely utilizing chemical fertilizer on the farmland not only led to increased GHG emissions, but also deteriorated the quality of the soil.

Similarly, a different team of Chinese scientists publishing in 2013 in the prestigious American scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found:

N fertilizer … in China during the past 3 decades … is estimated to have contributed to a net gain in soil organic carbon of 85 Tg per year. Nevertheless, our data show that N fertilizer-related GHG emissions are several times greater in magnitude than soil organic carbon gains. For China to reduce the gap between GHG emissions and soil carbon sequestration and to move toward low GHG emission agriculture, it is necessary to examine the entire N chain to identify potential emission reductions.

***

Decades of excessive N use have contributed to a variety of environmental problems, including large GHG emissions and serious water pollution. Our life cycle analysis shows the significance of the carbon footprint associated with the N fertilizer chain in China. GHG emissions tripled from 1980 to 2010, with the amount growing from 131 to 452 Tg CO2-eq⋅y−1, and, if unabated, to 564 Tg CO2-eq⋅y−1 by 2030. China needs a combination of reforms in the fertilizer industry and changes in management practices and technologies at the farm level to minimize excessive N use in the field. Our scenario analysis indicates it is feasible to reduce GHG emissions by 20–43% from a “business as usual” scenario by 2020 if an appropriate range of mitigation measures are introduced covering both N fertilizer manufacture and its agricultural use.

Fracking Is Bad for the Environment

The myth that “green revolution” farming practices – such as the use of large quantities of nitrogen fertilizers – is harmless is just one of the myths that have hampered our ability to address climate.

For example, “clean natural gas” from fracking has been touted for years as a cure for global warming.  But scientists say that fracking pumps out a lot of methane … into both our drinking water and the environment.  Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas: 72 times more potent as a warming source than CO2.  As such, fracking actually increases – rather than decreases – global warming.   (The fracking boom is also causing other harmful effects.)

So Are Nukes …

Numerous scientists have also pushed nuclear power as a must to stop global warming.  But it turns out that nuclear is .

Mark Jacobson – the head of Stanford University’s Atmosphere and Energy Program, who has written numerous books and hundreds of scientific papers on climate and energy, and testified before Congress numerous times on those issues – notes that nuclear puts out much more pollution (including much more CO2) than windpower, and 1.5% of all the nuclear plants built have melted down. More information here, here and here.

Jacobson also points out that it takes at least 11 years to permit and build a nuclear plant, whereas it takes less than half that time to fire up a wind or solar farm. Between the application for a nuclear plant and flipping the switch, power is provided by conventional energy sources … currently 55-65% coal.

And a former NRC Commissioner says that trying to solve global warming by building nuclear power plants is like trying to solve global hunger by serving everyone caviar.

Scam and Trade

One of the main solutions to global warming which has long been pushed by the powers that be – cap and trade – is a scam. Specifically:

  • The economists who invented cap-and-trade say that it won’t work for global warming
  • Many environmentalists say that carbon trading won’t effectively reduce carbon emissions
  • Our bailout buddies over at Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley, Citigroup and the other Wall Street behemoths are buying heavily into carbon trading (see this, this, this, this and this).

As University of Maryland professor economics professor and former Chief Economist at the U.S. International Trade Commission Peter Morici writes:

Obama must ensure that the banks use the trillions of dollars in federal bailout assistance to renegotiate mortgages and make new loans to worthy homebuyers and businesses. Obama must make certain that banks do not continue to squander federal largess by padding executive bonuses, acquiring other banks and pursuing new high-return, high-risk lines of businesses in merger activity, carbon trading and complex derivatives. Industry leaders like Citigroup have announced plans to move in those directions. Many of these bankers enjoyed influence in and contributed generously to the Obama campaign. Now it remains to be seen if a President Obama can stand up to these same bankers and persuade or compel them to act responsibly.

In other words, the same companies that made billions off of derivatives and other scams and are now getting bailed out on your dime are going to make billions from carbon trading.

War Is the BIGGEST Source of Carbon

The U.S. military is the biggest producer of carbon on the planet.

Harvey Wasserman notes that fighting wars more than wipes out any reduction in carbon from the government’s proposed climate measures.

Writing in 2009 about the then-proposed escalation in the Afghanistan war, Wasserman said:

The war would also come with a carbon burst. How will the massive emissions created by 100,000-plus soldiers in wartime be counted in the 17% reduction rubric? Will the HumVees be converted to hybrids? What is the carbon impact of Predator bombs that destroy Afghan families and villages?

The continuance of fighting all over the Middle East and North Africa  completely and thoroughly undermines the government’s claims that there is a global warming emergency and that reducing carbon output through cap and trade is needed to save the planet.

I can’t take anything the government says about carbon footprints seriously until the government ends the unnecessary warsall over the globe.

So whatever you think of climate change, all people can agree that ending the wars is important.   Anyone who supports “humanitarian war” by the U.S. is supporting throwing a lot of carbon into the air. (War also destroys the economy.)

Geoengineering: More Harm Than Good?

Many of the “geoengineering” solutions being proposed would cause more harm than good.

Some people are pushing geoengineering because they say “we have to do something“. But we should not do anything that doesn’t have a net benefit … and most geoengineering proposals would have adverse health and environmental impacts, and could even boomerang and increase warming.

So What Should We Do?

As noted above, switching from synthetic nitrogen farming to organic farming will dramatically reduce carbon output.

In addition, top climate scientists say that soot plays a huge role in the melting of snow and ice.  The director of Stanford’s Atmosphere and Energy Program and professor of civil and environmental engineering (Mark Jacobson) believes that soot is the primary cause of melting arctic ice, and says:

Controlling soot may be the only way to significantly slow Arctic warming over the next two decades …

Reducing soot will be cheaper than the “decarbonation” which many policy-makers have proposed. And it would increase the health of millions of people worldwide.

Using specific smart combinations of solar, wind and geothermal energy will also greatly reduce the carbon load.

Finally, we must decentralize power generation and storage.  That would empower people and communities, produce less carbon, prevent nuclear disasters like Fukushima, reduce the dangers of peak oil (and thus prevent future oil spills like we had in the Gulf), and have many other positive effects.

Posted in Energy / Environment, Politics / World News, Science / Technology | 19 Comments

Invest in Activism, Not Bernie Sanders

Yes, Bernie Sanders would be a far superior president to Hillary Clinton.

That requires a bit of elaboration. Something I just scraped off my shoe would be a far superior president to Hillary Clinton, but Sanders would actually be good in a whole lot of ways. He has numerous imperfections, but the contrast with Clinton is like day to night.

I’d rather have him running than not.

But please do not give him or Hillary or the wonderful Jill Stein or any other candidate a dime or a moment of your life. Instead, join the movement that’s in the streets of Baltimore opposing police murder, that’s in the halls of the United Nations pushing to abolish nukes, that’s blocking mountaintop removal, divesting from Israel, advancing renewable energy, and struggling to create fair elections through steps like automatic registration in Oregon, and pushing legislation to provide free media, match small donors, give each voter a tax credit to contribute, or take the power to establish plutocracy away from the Supreme Court.

I’m not against elections. I think we should have one some day. At the presidential level we do not currently have elections. That office is not up for election; it is up for sale.

The point is not that we should abandon all hope or that when the going gets tough we should just give up. The point is that there is a huge opportunity here. Hillary Clinton expects to bring in billions (with a B) in bribery for her campaign (primary and general). To begin to compete with Hillary, Sanders would have to bring in a big chunk of that, at least some hundreds of millions of dollars.

For that kind of money we could create a television network dedicated to peace and justice and democracy from here on out. Or we could open a counter-recruiting office next-door to every military recruitment office in the United States. Or we could organize and bus people in for the largest and longest march on Washington against racism, militarism, extreme materialism, and the corruption of our elections ever seen, complete with food supplies and bail funds for as long as it takes. Instead of a march for nothing, how about an occupation for no more Bushes or Clintons or anyone like them?

The complete breakdown of the presidential election system is made obvious to some by the pairing of another Clinton against another Bush. Sanders muddies that clear picture, but only if you imagine he actually has a chance. On that basis, some will now propose to take a year away from policy-based principled activism, after which, the thinking will go, what’s another half a year for hold-your-nose lesserevilist Clinton campaigning? And, please understand, by entering the Democratic primaries, Sanders has committed to supporting the Democratic Party nominee and to encouraging his supporters to support her.

Activism gave women the right to vote. Activism got kids out of factories. Activism got the Navy out of Vieques. Activism won the last civil rights movement. Activism has always been the driving force for change. Two years of “registering voters” busy work out of every four years, and the reliance on corrupt figures that it creates, drains away our activism. It was activism that forced President Bush in 2008 to end the war on Iraq as of 2011 in a treaty signed by himself and Iraqi President Maliki. It was the antiwar uproar of the Bush years that led Congress members to think twice about voting for a new war in 2013 and has left them incapable of formally supporting the new war in Iraq that President Obama launched in 2014 despite the feelings of any number of people who believed that voting for him was somehow a significant act.

I worked as press secretary for Dennis Kucinich for president in 2004. I watched him make all the right points and win the most standing ovations in debates with the other Democrats. The reports the next day tended to mention him in the last paragraph as having also been there. And if you asked people in the room cheering for him they’d say “Yeah, I’d vote for him if he had a chance.” And inwardly, and sometimes outwardly, I’d rage at them: “Imagine the chance he’d have if all you morons weren’t bowing down to your televisions? Why show up and act as if you have an independent brain if you’re just going to do what your television told you to do?”

So, here I am in the role of “that jerk” telling Bernie Sanders fanatics that it’s hopeless — a self-fulfilling prophecy of doom if ever there was one. But we have limited time, energy, and money. I don’t think saving the planet is hopeless. I just think the best place to put our resources is into uncorrupted, principled, policy-driven, nonviolent, creative activism — including the activism needed to create fair, open, verifiable elections.

Sure, we now have the internet in a slightly larger way than a decade ago. Sure, a few more people are disgusted enough with Clinton without yet being disgusted with the whole broken system. Sanders is coming to speak in a very small church in my town next week and I’ll probably go listen. Any tiny influence the corporate media will allow him on the conversation, so much the better. Maybe with only two Democrats running they’ll be forced to allow him a few seconds here and there. Maybe he’ll point out that a corrupt corporate hack who voted for the war on Iraq was unacceptable last time and should be again. And yet, she’ll be accepted.

The price has been rising. The media has been worsening. Sanders will be skillfully marginalized and mocked. Hillary will avoid debating him. And the election will place either a Democratic or a Republican catastrophe in the White House. Not because I have some sort of wisdom due to having been around a few years. Not because I’m in a bad mood. But because the media monopolies that Clinton’s husband facilitated have demonstrably grown more powerful than ever, and elections have grown more corrupted by money — Just ask Hillary who pretends to oppose it.

Now anything is technically possible. But considering the scandals already known about Hillary Clinton, what sort of new one could make a difference? None that I can even imagine. She could suffer some unfortunate sudden illness or accident, but in that unlikely and undesirable scenario, the media would hand the election to the Republican, even blame Sanders for Clinton’s illness or death. You think I’m kidding? The Washington Post just suggested that a victim of Baltimore Police murder broke his own spine.

There’s no need for any hard feelings at all among those who mean well. You think the smartest strategy is raising funds for Bernie, we can still be the best of friends. I just happen to disagree. The real question is not whether the next President will be a walking disaster, but what sort of popular movement will have been developed to resist it.<--break->

Posted in General | 15 Comments