Friday, November 1, 2013

The Republic of Denial

Ignored Reality Is Going To Wipe Out The Human Race
by PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS


To inform people is hard slugging. Everything is lined up against the public being informed, or the policymakers for that matter. News is contaminated by its service to special interests and hidden agendas. Many scientists or their employers are dependent on federal money. Even psychologists and anthropologists were roped into the government’s torture and occupation programs. Economists tell lies for corporations and Wall Street. Plant and soil scientists tell lies for agribusiness and Monsanto the devil. Truth tellers are slandered and persecuted. However, persistence can eventually win out. In the long-run, truth sometimes emerges. But not always. And not always in time.

I have been trying to inform the American people, economists, and policymakers for more than a decade about the adverse impacts of jobs offshoring on the US economy.

The word has eventually gotten out. Last week I was contacted by 8th grade students competing for their school in CSPAN’s StudentCam Documentary Contest. They want to interview me on the subject of jobs offshoring for their documentary film.

America is a strange place. Here are eighth graders far ahead of the economics profession, the President, the Congress, the Federal Reserve, Wall Street, and the financial press in their understanding of one of the fundamental problems of the US economy. Yet, people say the public schools are failing. Obviously, not the one whose students contacted me.

Is it too late? I know much, but not all. So this is not the final word. I think it might be too late. When skilled jobs are sent abroad, the skills disappear at home. So do the supply chains and the businesses associated with the skills. Things close down, and abilities are lost. Why take a major in collage for a job that is offshored. A culture disappears.

But we can start them back up, right? Perhaps not. When a First World country exports its technology and know-how abroad to a Third World country in order to benefit from lower cost labor, how does the First World country get the work back? Living standards and the cost of living in Third World countries are much lower than in First World countries. The populations of First World countries cannot pay their mortgages, car payments, student loans, medical care, and grocery bills with the wages of Third World countries.

When First World wages drop, mortgage, car, credit card, and student loan payments do not drop. Americans cannot live on Chinese, Indian, and Indonesian wages. Once the technology and know-how is transferred, the low wage country has the advantage in the absence of tariff protection.

For America to revive, our economy would have to be walled off with high tariffs, and subsidies would have to be provided in order to recreate US industry and manufacturing. But many corporations now produce offshore, and America is broke. The government has been $1 trillion dollars in the hole each year for the last 5 years.

Jobs offshoring diminished the US tax base. When a job is sent abroad, so is that job’s contribution to US GDP and tax base. When millions of jobs are sent abroad, US GDP and tax base cannot support government spending levels. To the extent that there are any replacement jobs, they are in lowly paid domestic services, such as waitresses, bartenders, retail clerks, and hospital orderlies. These jobs do not provide a tax base or consumer spending power comparable to manufacturing jobs and tradable professional services such as software engineering and information technology.

Republicans and increasingly Democrats, as both parties are dependent on the same sources of campaign contributions, blame “entitlements.” By entitlements they mean welfare.

In fact, entitlements consist of Social Security and Medicare. Entitlements are funded by the payroll tax, approximately 15% of payroll. The fact that a person pays the payroll tax all his working life is why the person is entitled to Social Security and Medicare if they live to retirement age. Welfare, such as food stamps and housing subsidies, are a small part of the federal budget and are not entitlements.

Every since President Reagan was betrayed three decades ago by Alan Greenspan and David Stockman, both of whom sold out to Wall Street and raised the Social Security payroll tax above what was needed to pay Social Security benefits in order to protect Wall Street’s stock and bond portfolios from exaggerated deficit fears, Social Security payroll tax revenues have exceeded Social Security payments. As of today, Social Security revenues exceed payments to beneficiaries by an accumulated $2 trillion. The money was used by the federal government to pay for its wars and other spending programs. The Social Security Trust Fund holds non-marketable IOUs from the Treasury. These IOUs can only be made good from an excess of tax revenues over expenditures or by the Treasury selling $2 trillion in bonds, notes, and bills and paying off its IOUs to the Social Security Trust Fund. This is not going to happen.

The Federal Reserve could not care less about the US population. The Fed was established for the purpose of protecting and aiding banks. Currently, the Fed, as if America were a Banana Republic which America appears to be becoming, is printing one thousand billion dollars per year in order to support the banks and to finance the federal deficit.

This is bad news for Americans, as it means that their fiat money is being created at a far greater rate than the demand for the dollar. The implication for our future is a drop in the dollar’s value. As there are no jobs, a drop in the dollar’s value means high inflation on top of unemployment and double the misery of the Great Depression.

As bad as this is, it is minor compared to the destruction of the planet’s environment. Online information shows that the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem is in crisis after the BP spill and use of Corexit, a dispersant used to hide, not clean up, the spilled oil. The Fukushima catastrophe has hardly begun. Yet already the radioactive water pouring into the Pacific Ocean has made fish dangerous to eat unless a person is willing to accept a higher risk of cancer.

Fukushima has the potential of making Japan uninhabitable and of polluting the air, water, and soil of the US with radioactivity. Yet the crisis is seldom mentioned in the US media. In Japan the government just passed a law that could be used to imprison Japanese journalists who report truthfully on the dire situation.

Take the time to familiarize yourself with the online information about Fukushima.. According to the presstitute media, Americans face threats from Iran and Syria and from whistleblowers such as Edward Snowden. The real threats are simply not in the news.

If you search Fukushima, you will find information that the presstitute media hides from you. See for example, http://www.globalresearch.ca/28-signs-that-the-west-coast-is-being-absolutely-fried-with-nuclear-radiation-from-fukushima/5355280

There are a number of other threats to the environment on which our lives depend. One is the effort to extract more productivity from the soil by use of GMOs. Monsanto has altered the genes of several crops so that the crops can be sprayed with RoundUp to eliminate weeds. The results have been to deplete the soil of nutrients, to destroy the micro-biology of the soil so that new plant diseases and funguses are activated, and to produce superweeds that require heavier doses of the glyphosate in RoundUp. The heavier dose of RoundUp worsens the aforementioned problems. US agricultural soil is losing its potency.

Now we come to chemtrails, branded another “conspiracy theory.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chemtrail_conspiracy_theory However, the US government’s efforts to geo-engineer weather as a military weapon and as a preventative of global warming appear to be real. The DARPA and HAARP programs are well known and are discussed publicly by scientists. See, for example, http://news.sciencemag.org/2009/03/darpa-explore-geoengineering Search Chemtrails, and you will find much information that is kept from you. See, for example, http://www.globalresearch.ca/chemtrails-a-planetary-catastrophe-created-by-geo-engineering/5355299 and http://www.geoengineeringwatch.org

Some describe chemtrails as a plot by the New World Order, the Rothchilds, the Bilderbergers, or the Masons, to wipe out the “useless eaters.” Given the amount of evil that exists in the world, these conspiracy theories might not be as farfetched as they sound.

However, I do not know that. What does seem to be possibly true is that the scientific experiments to modify and control weather are having adverse real world consequences. The claim that aluminum is being sprayed into the atmosphere and when it comes to earth is destroying the ability of soil to be productive might not be imaginary. Those concerned about chemtrails say that weather control experiments have deprived the western United States of rainfall, while sending the rain to the east where there have been hurricane level deluges and floods.

In the West, sparse rainfall and lightening storms without rain are resulting in forests drying out and burning down. Deforestation adversely affects the environment in many ways, including the process of photosynthesis by which trees convert carbon dioxide into oxygen. The massive loss of forests means more carbon dioxide and less oxygen.

Watershed and species habitat are lost, and spreading aridity further depletes ground and surface water. If these results are the consequences of weather modification experiments, the experiments should be stopped.

In North Georgia where I spend some summers, during 2013 it rained for 60 consecutive days, not all day, but every day, and some days the rainfall was 12 inches–hurricane level–and roads were washed out. I received last summer 4 automated telephone warnings from local counties not to drive and not to attempt to drive through accumulations of water on the highways.

One consequence of the excess of water in the East is that this year there are no acorns in North Georgia. Zilch, zero, nada. Nothing. There is no food for the deer, the turkeys, the bear, the rodents. Starving deer will strip bark from the trees. Bears will be unable to hibernate or will be able only to partially hibernate, forced to seek food from garbage. Black bears are already invading homes in search of food.

Unusual drought in the West and unusual flood in the East could be coincidental or they could be consequences of weather modification experiments.

The US, along with most of the world, already had a water problem prior to possible disruptions of rainfall by geo-engineering. In his book, Elixir, Brian Fagan tells the story of humankind’s mostly unsuccessful struggle with water. Both groundwater and surface water are vanishing. The water needs of large cities, such as Los Angeles and Phoenix, and the irrigation farming that depends on the Ogallala aquifer are unsustainable. Fagan reminds us that “the world’s supply of freshwater is finite,” just like the rest of nature’s resources. Avoiding cataclysm requires long-range thinking, but humanity is focused on immediate needs. Long-range thinking is limited to finding another water source to deplete. Cities and agriculture have turned eyes to the Great Lakes.

Los Angeles exists because the city was able to steal water from hundreds of miles away. The city drained Owens Lake, leaving a huge salt flat in its place, drained the Owens Valley aquifer, and diverted the Owens River to LA via aqueduct. Farming and ranching in the Owens Valley collapsed. Today LA takes water from the Colorado River, which originates in Wyoming and Colorado, and from Lake Perris 440 miles away.

Water depletion is not just an American problem. Fagan reports that “underground aquifers in many places are shrinking so rapidly that NASA satellites are detecting changes in the earth’s gravity.”

If the government is experimenting with weather engineering, scientists are playing God when they have no idea of the consequences. It is a tendency of scientists to become absorbed by the ability to experiment and to ignore unintended consequences.

Readers have asked me to write about Fukushima and chemtrails because they trust me to tell them the truth. The problem is that I am not qualified to write about these matters with anything approaching the same confidence that I bring to economic, war and police state matters.

The only advice I can give is that when you hear the presstitute media smear a concern or explanation as “conspiracy theory,” have a closer look. The divergence between what is happening and what you are told is so vast that it pays to be suspicious, cynical even, of what “your” government and “your” presstitute media tell you. The chances are high that it is a lie.

The Corporate State of Surveillance

Opting Out
by RALPH NADER

America was founded on the ideals of personal liberty, freedom and democracy. Unfortunately, mass spying, surveillance and the unending collection of personal data threaten to undermine civil liberties and our privacy rights. What started as a necessary means of reconnaissance and intelligence gathering during World War II has escalated into an out-of-control snoop state where entities both governmental and commercial are desperate for as much data as they can grab. We find ourselves in the midst of an all-out invasion on what’s-none-of-their-business and its coming from both government and corporate sources. Snooping and data collection have become big business. Nothing is out of their bounds anymore.

The Patriot Act-enabled National Security Agency (NSA) certainly blazed one trail. The disclosures provided by Edward Snowden has brought into light the worst fears that critics of the overwrought Patriot Act expressed back in 2001. The national security state has given a blank check to the paranoid intelligence community to gather data on nearly everyone. Internet and telephone communications of millions of American citizens and millions more citizens and leaders of other countries. Even friendly ones such as Germany, France and Brazil have been surveillance targets –over 30 foreign leaders such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff have reportedly been targeted by this dragnet style data-collecting. More blatantly, covert devices were reportedly placed in European Union offices and earlier by Hillary Clinton’s State Department on the United Nations to eavesdrop on diplomats. World leaders are not pleased, to put it mildly.

Many Americans are not pleased either. And while most of the recent public outrage in the U.S. has been directed at instances of government snooping, giant private corporations are equally as guilty of the troubling invasion of peoples’ selves. Companies such as Google, Apple, Microsoft and Facebook blatantly collect and commercialize personal data — often covering their tracks with complicated fine-print user agreement contracts that most people, whose property it is, “agree” to without any consideration. Clicking “I agree” on an expansive, non-negotiable user agreement for a website or a software program is, to most people, just another mindless click of the mouse in the signup process.

These “take-it-or-leave-it” contracts leave the consumer with little power to protect their own interest. (See here for our extensive work on this issue. Also, visit “Terms of Service; Didn’t Read” for a valuable resource that summarizes and reviews online contracts so that users can have a better understanding of what they are agreeing to.)

Just last week, news broke that Google plans to roll out a new advertising feature called “Shared Endorsements.” This policy allows Google the right to create user endorsements in online advertisements. So, if a Googler happens to share their preference for a particular product online, his or her endorsement might end up featured in an ad without any notice or compensation. Of course, users are welcome to “opt-out” of this program — but how many millions will remain ignorant of the fact that they unwillingly opted-in by clicking their consent to contract terms they did not bother to read out of habit. (Google’s official statement claims the move is to “ensure that your recommendations reach the people you care about.”)

Opting-out should be the default option for all these types of agreements.

School children are also being targeted by mass data collectors. InBloom, a nonprofit organization based in Atlanta, offers a database solution for student records between grades K-12. In theory, this service is supposed to make it easier for teachers to utilize emerging educational products and tools. But in practice, many parents are concerned about how this data will be used — in one instance, for example, student social security numbers were uploaded to the service. One parent told the New York Times:
It’s a new experiment in centralizing massive metadata on children to share with vendors… and then the vendors will profit by marketing their learning products, their apps, their curriculum materials, their video games, back to our kids.

Facebook poses another data mining risk for young children. Although Facebook does not currently allow children younger than 13 to join — the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act prevents the online collection of data of children without parental permission — reportedly more than five million underage children use the social media website anyway. This exposes them (and their personal information) to thousands of advertisers that use Facebook to collect marketing data and promote their products. See the Center for Digital Democracy’s recent report “Five Reasons Why Facebook is Not Suitable For Children Under 13.” Notably, Facebook recently changed their privacy policy to allow teenagers between the ages of 13 and 17 to opt-in to sharing their postings with the entire world, as opposed to just their “friend network.”

The insatiable appetite for data is reaching beyond the digital realm, as well.

The Washington Post recently reported that Mondelez International, the company behind snack brands like Chips Ahoy and Ritz, has plans to deploy electronic camera sensors in snack food shelves to collect shopper data. These “smart shelves” can scan and save a customer’s facial structure, age, weight and even detect if they picked something up off the shelf. The device can then use that gathered data to target the consumers with “personalized ads.” For example, at the checkout line, a video screen might offer you 10 percent off the box of cookies you picked up but ultimately chose not to purchase. The Post reports: “The company expects the shelf to help funnel more of the right products to the right consumers, and even convince undecideds to commit to an impulse buy.”

The smart shelf builds on the Microsoft “Kinect” camera technology, which has the ability to scan and remember faces, detect movement and even read heart beats. Microsoft developed the Kinect camera as a video game control device for the home. In light of Microsoft’s reported connection to the NSA PRISM data gathering program, why would anyone willingly bring such a sophisticated spy cam into their living room?

Along the same lines, certain retailers are using smart phones to track the movement of customers in their store to gather information on what products they look at and for how long — similar to how Amazon tracks online shopper habits so it can direct them to other products that algorithms determine they might be interested in. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has called on the Federal Trade Commission to regulate this disturbing practice. He recently announced a deal with eight analytic companies to institute a “code of conduct” for utilizing this seemingly Orwellian technology. Sen. Schumer told the Associated Press: “When you go into your store for your Christmas shopping, there’ll be a sign out there that says that you’re being tracked and if you don’t want to be, you can very simply opt out.” The details on how exactly one opts-out of this invasive technology, short of leaving their cell phone at home, is not yet clear.

With all these instances of Big Brother encroachment, one might want to opt out of the digital world entirely, and avoid supermarkets and retail chains that spy on customers. Unfortunately, that is becoming more and more difficult in an increasingly technology-obsessed world.

It’s time for citizens to stand up and demand their right to privacy, which is a personal property. Mass surveillance and rampant data collection are not acceptable and should not be the status quo. Recall that there was once a time when the federal government could defend our nation without limitless access to computer records, emails, online search histories and wiretapping phone calls without open judicial authorization. Businesses could be successful without tracking and saving your shopping habits and student records were not commodities to be traded away. Why do they now do what they do? Because they can.

Remember, what you allow to be taken from you by the private companies can also end up in the files of government agencies.

This Saturday, a coalition of groups including the ACLU, Public Citizen, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), the Libertarian Party and many more are gathering on the National Mall to protest mass surveillance by the National Security Agency. This is a positive first step in letting our elected officials know that ceasing the collection of private personal information about you is important and mass surveillance should be prohibited. Visit here for more information about this weekend’s rally. Join the movement to end these burgeoning, tyranny-building abuses by runaway federal agencies.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Five Lessons From the Battles Against GMOs

High-Stakes Battle in Washington
by RONNIE CUMMINS


Twenty years after the controversial introduction of unlabeled and untested genetically engineered foods and crops, opposition to GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) and Monsanto the devil  has created one of the largest netroots-grassroots movements in the U.S.

There are arguably more important issues facing us today than the battle against Frankenfoods. The climate crisis and corporate control over [the] government and media come to mind. But the rapidly growing anti-GMO Movement illustrates the powerful synergy that can develop from the combined use of social media, marketplace pressure and political action. Recent developments in this sector indicate that out-of-control corporations, media, politicians and the proverbial “1 percent” can be outsmarted and outmaneuvered. And quite possibly defeated.

In the wake of high-stakes multi-million dollar GMO labeling ballot initiatives in California in 2012, and Washington State in 2013, an army of organic food and natural health activists have put Corporate America and the political elite on the defensive. We’ve [demonstrated] that aggressive populist issue-framing; unconventional “inside-outside” coalition-building; marketplace pressure; and online list-building, mobilization and fundraising – strategically channeled into local and state-based political action – can begin to even up the odds between David and Goliath.

Here are five strategic lessons from the ongoing battle against GMOs in the U.S, lessons that may be applicable to a broad range of political issues.

  • Aggressive populist issue-framing works.
The desire to know what’s in our food, coupled with a growing concern for food safety and a distrust of large chemical companies, the mass media, Congress and federal regulatory agencies, is a hot-button issue that unites the majority of Americans – Democrats, Republicans, Greens, Libertarians and Independents alike.
Forty percent of consumers believe that unlabeled genetically engineered foods and crops are unsafe. Another 40 percent are unsure. These numbers terrify large supermarket chains, biotech companies and food corporations. So does the notion that states such as Washington, Connecticut, Maine and Vermont will soon require mandatory labeling of GMOs – which will likely drive these controversial foods and crops off the market, just as labeling laws have already done in Europe.
Anti-GMO campaigners have gained the support of millions of consumers and voters by framing] food safety as a populist issue. And by relentlessly and aggressively challenging the opposition – big-name companies that include Monsanto, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, NestlĂ©, General Mills and others.
  • Unconventional “inside-outside” coalition-building builds critical mass.
After 20 years of grassroots public education and advocacy, the organic and natural health movements, led by a hybrid coalition of non-profit public interest groups, such as the Organic Consumers Association and Food Democracy Now, and green businesses, including Mercola.com, Dr. Bronner’s, and Nature’s Path, are approaching something like critical mass.  
Over 100 million U.S. consumers are now regularly shopping for organic and natural foods, nutritional supplements and other products, giving rise to a rapidly growing $80 billion-a-year market for organic and natural products. One of the most important accomplishments of the right-to-know, anti-GMO movement has been to unite the advocacy and fundraising efforts of non-profit groups and health and green-minded for-profit businesses. After 20 years of often operating on shoestring budgets, activist groups (the “outsiders”) are now increasingly joining hands with a number of profitable organic/green/Fair Trade businesses (the “insiders”). This inside-outside strategy has managed to raise a not insignificant war chest of almost $20 million to support the state GMO labeling ballot initiatives in California and Washington in 2012 and 2013, while simultaneously pressuring major brands, such as Whole Foods Market, Trader Joe’s and Chipotle, to embrace GMO labeling.  
At the same time activist groups with a more radical message (“outsiders”) are learning that you must, for maximum impact, work with more moderate groups (the “insiders”), and vice-versa. This ecumenical “inside-outside” strategy has allowed the more radical organic and natural health groups and scientists to highlight the alarming human health and environmental hazards of GMOs, and carry out boycotts, street demonstrations and direct action, while the less radical campaign groups and coalitions meanwhile appeal to a more moderate demographic with the mainstream message that consumers have the right to know what’s in their food.
  • Marketplace pressure and political action must go hand-in-hand.
Anti-GMO campaigners have now learned that marketplace pressure and political action go hand-in-hand. It’s not enough to just vote with your pocketbook for organic and non-GMO foods and products, to reward good companies and brands and punish the bad ones. We must get political, and vote for a healthy, climate-friendly food and farming system in the voting booth as well. If we want to drive GMO foods off the market, we must not only walk our talk in the marketplace and in our everyday lives, but also “get political” and mobilize our base to get involved in legislative battles and political campaigns.  
One important consequence of marketplace pressure and boycotts is their potential to gradually divide our opponents. In the case of the anti-GMO movement, we’ve begun to drive a wedge between the biotech/industrial agriculture corporations, and their erstwhile allies, food manufacturers and supermarket chains. In the wake of the California GMO labeling ballot initiative (Proposition 37), the Organic Consumers Association and our allies launched a nationwide boycott of Traitor Brands, the organic and natural brands whose parent corporations spent $20 million [along with the biotech industry’s $30 million] to defeat Prop 37. 
We sabotaged several dozen corporate Facebook pages, tarnishing brand names such as Kashi, Cascadian Farm, Honest Tea, Naked Juice, Silk, Horizon, and Ben and Jerry’s, to depress sales. This caused several large multinationals, including Unilever, parent company of Ben and Jerry’s, and Mars, parent company of Seeds of Change, to back off from anti-labeling activities. Other retail and food giants, including Wal-Mart, fearing an escalation in consumer activism, have begun lobbying the FDA to implement federal GMO food labels.
  • Sophisticated online list-building, mobilization and fundraising are key.
Anti-GMO campaigners are rapidly becoming more sophisticated in terms of building broad coalitions, using online petitions to build large email lists, pooling national email lists, segmenting national lists in order to target state and local constituencies, using Facebook, Twitter and other social media for network-building and mobilization, setting up c4 lobbying organizations to complement c3 non-profit groups, and raising funds online.
In the recent GMO ballot initiative campaigns in California and Washington, as well as state legislative campaigns for labeling in several dozen other states, right-to-know supporters have been able to send coordinated or complementary email messages to over 10 million people at once. Over the past 12 months groups like the Organic Consumers Association, Mercola.com, Food Democracy Now, Natural News, Alliance for Natural Health, Center for Food Safety, Just Label It, Environmental Working Group, Cornucopia, Friends of the Earth, CREDO, and MoveOn have been able to send out anti-GMO or pro-labeling messages to literally millions of consumers and voters on a regular basis, generating thousands of grassroots volunteers, organizing thousands of local events and protests, and raising over $20 million, mainly in small donations. The anti-GMO movement may not have the deep pockets or the advertising and PR clout of the biotech and Big Food lobby when it comes to the corporate media, but we are rapidly developing our own mass media on the Internet and Facebook.
  • Local and state political action is more effective than campaigns that target federal laws and lawmakers.
The anti-GMO movement, like other social change movements, has learned the hard way that corporations and the wealthy elite control not only the mass media, but the federal government, Supreme Court, and regulatory agencies such as the FDA, USDA, and EPA. After decades of sending petitions and lobbying the White House, Congress and the FDA, to no avail, it has become clear that the political elite, including President Obama, care more about their wealthy campaign contributors than they do about their constituents, including the 93 percent who, according to a recent New York Times poll, support mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods.  
As a consequence the anti-GMO movement has moved its focus away from the unfavorable terrain of Washington D.C., and instead turned its attention to marketplace pressure, and state, county and local political campaigns, especially ballot initiatives. Citizen ballot initiatives are legal in 24 states and approximately 1,000 counties and municipalities. This form of direct democracy gives voters the power to enact labeling laws, bans or regulatory and zoning restrictions on biotech corporations and Big Ag, bypassing indentured politicians and federal bureaucrats. A number of California and Washington State counties over the last decade have moved beyond just labeling to outright bans on GMO crops, thanks to citizen-driven local political action. In 2014, four Oregon counties will have ballot initiatives calling for bans on GMO crops.
Win or lose in Washington State on November 5, the anti-GMO Movement has evolved into a savvy army of grassroots activists who are committed to the ongoing battle to reclaim our food and farming systems, part of a larger battle to transform the entire political and economic system.

Sexy Halloween Costumes


Does Democracy Still Work in America?