Archive for the ‘internet’ Category
So now the battle is joined.
The Senate has passed, sending to The House, a bill that would impose a requirement that online merchants submit to state tax collection in states where they have no physical presence.
To try to make this more palatable they are exempting businesses with less than $1 million in annual sales, but this doesn’t matter when you get down to brass tacks.
Amazon, WalMart and other large retailers with online presence are supporting this move. This sounds insane, but it in fact is not — it is yet another attempt to destroy their competition using the jackboot of government rather than through free and open competition.
In the 1990s when I ran MCSNet we wanted to open an office in Wisconsin to serve Milwaukee business and residential customers. There was an easy way to handle residential dial-in customers through what amounted to a “virtual POP” but doing so for business users was far more difficult as at the time the technology to do so at a reasonable cost was not “fully baked.” If we wanted to implement our Cheapernet T1 service, for example, we neededequipment in leased physical space in-state. This meant that we had our name on space and our own hardware present in the location, which under long-standing law created nexus.
Nexus is the principle of “ties” or “activity” in a given location; for a business it is important as it triggers the requirement to comply with state and local tax requirements. In short, it brings you under the jurisdiction of that state. During the 1990s we had received several “demand letters” from both New York and California insisting that we “give” their sales tax authorities data dumps of everything we had sold to entities in both states. We had responded with “Bite Me!” to these demands several times; at one point I actually photocopied my butt-cheeks and sent that back in one of their demand letter reply envelopes. Both states were on fishing expeditions; as a Chicago-area ISP we did not do a material amount of business with people in either state, and only physical sales of property would have been taxable anyway. Nonetheless they were actually trying to audit us! It was a pure harassment tactic but lacking jurisdiction there was nothing either state could do to force us to comply.
Wisconsin was a different matter since we wanted to conduct business there. I investigated setting up a separate corporation to run that location and then engage in a business transaction with this “captive entity” such that the Wisconsin-registered corporation would show no net profit. The idea here was to evade the “nexus” that would otherwise attach to MCSNet in Wisconsin, thereby evading the requirement to register in the state and expose ourselves to the Wisconsin tax authorities.
Before you start screaming “you dirty tax evader!” please realize something — MCSNet’s primary business was the sale of services that were not subject to sales tax. We sold very few tangible goods; as a percentage of sales you couldn’t find them. The only reason we stocked and sold such goods was that it wasconvenient for customers, especially high-speed dedicated line business customers, to be able to order up service and get the hardware (along with warranty repairs or swap capability) from us.
The issue from my perspective was the pain in the ass factor from the sales tax auditors. They were real jackasses, and showed up every couple of years to harass us. I understand the reason for their audits, as once you register and start collecting tax you also have an exemption certificate; the goods you buy for resale are not taxed when you buy them — you collect the tax when you sell them to the customer and remit it. This provides a tremendous incentive to cheat by abusing your tax certificate to buy things without paying the sales tax that you intend to, and do, consume internally. The audits are performed for the purpose of catching this and nailing the violators, of which there are many.
But the fact remains these guys would show up and consume what often amounted to a full day of time and sometimes multiple days from some of my critical employees. Being a relatively small business of about three dozen employees to have one of my key people tied up “at whim” by these guys who wanted to riffle though our purchase orders to and invoices from suppliers, pointing at a random shipped item (say, a router) and demanding to know exactly where Serial #302052 went (and proof that the tax was paid if it wasn’t sitting in our inventory, whether we paid it when we put it to use internally or we billed, collected and remitted the tax if we sold it to a customer) was a royal pain in the ass.
We never cheated on our state tax obligations and despite these audits not once were we tagged for a deficiency. But I was going to be damned to Hell if I was going to intentionally expose ourselves to this crap coming from another state if I could legally avoid it.
The advice I got from our counsel was that I could try a scheme like I described where a “captive corporation” rented the space and owned the gear, then engaged in what amounted to a zero-profit transaction with us, but if I did so I was risking at best a civil suit from the tax authorities in Wisconsin and if someone up there got aggressive I might even get indicted.
I passed as the cost of getting sued would grossly exceed the cost of compliance, never mind the (small but present) risk of a criminal indictment, and just set the thing up. As it turned out Wisconsin was more-reasonable than Illinois in regard to deciding to show up and harass us — they didn’t during the remainder of the time I ran the place. We did our paperwork and remitted what we owed, and that was that.
Amazon, for its part, has engaged in this sort of screwball deal with its distribution centers in various states, arguing that this doesn’t give them nexus and thus they don’t need to collect tax. When threatened they reply with the threat to close the center and fire the employees (who are residents of the subject state) or sue, which effectively stalls the clock. This set of tactics has “worked”, because Amazon (and similar firms) are huge corporations with internal legal staffing that can fight these things and, at worst, delay the outcome driving up the costs for the states and there is virtually no chance that the company or its officers will be indicted by the states in question for tax evasion, as is the case for a small business. The problem is that as these cases have gone on over the years it has become increasingly apparent that Amazon and these other retailers will eventually lose and be forced to both pay and collect the taxes and might be exposed to penalties, interest and retroactive tax billing for willful evasive activity.
So what Amazon appears to have decided to do is play screw the other guy by forcing them into having a “virtual” nexus that otherwise would not exist! This is then sold to people as “fairness.”
It is nothing of the sort.
Amazon could choose to have distribution centers only in no-sales-tax states. It could then tell the rest of the states to “pound sand.” There is a long-standing US Supreme Court decision (“Quill”) that they can stand behind if they take this approach and are without question in the clear in doing so. But by doing so Amazon would have a serious problem because transit time and cost become a big problem, and since everyone wants everything right now, shipping cost is a huge expense and getting larger, and Amazon sees both cutting that cost and increasing speed of delivery as a competitive advantage (it is) they want to open distribution centers close to the people who shop.
But that leaves them with a problem because to do that they create nexus, and with nexus comes compliance costs. Since they’ve become increasingly unable to avoid this and meet their business goals they now seek to use the jackboot of government to shove it down their competitors’ throats!
That’s what this is about folks — audit and compliance costs. It is not about “sales tax” per-se. Those audit and compliance costs are a big problem and an open-ended channel of abuse from virtually every state. Further, simply figuring out your liability accurately is a problem all on its own because there are not only state sales taxes in many states there are county and local overrides, leading to the need to accurately track and bill tax based on thousands of jurisdictions with rates that change on a pretty-frequent basis. The business selling on the Internet could easily find itself not only subject to something like 46State audits but also audits by counties and cities that impose “override” taxes, as many states allow. This runs the number of potential audits into the hundreds or worse, all independent of one another, and forces said businesses to buy a service of some sort that can handle accurately tracking and computing the various rates in force in different places.
If you think these folks at the state sales tax audit departments won’t use this law to harass small businesses you’re dead wrong. They will. California and New York, in particular, are virtually certain to do so immediately — hell, they tried to force MCSNet to comply with their crap while we had no presence, no office, and sold essentially nothing into those states. If they could have compelled MCSNet to show up in their state with our records for an audit they would have done exactly that.
This bill, if it passes into law, will impose that sort of crap on any business that both sells online and has more than $1m in revenue, which is in fact a pretty small number. MCSNet passed that revenue number when we could still count our employees on my fingers.
Were I running MCSNet today and this bill were to pass I’d shut it down the next morning.
It’s simply not worth it.
This isn’t about taxation — it’s about Amazon, WalMart and a handful of other large online retailers forcing others to bear compliance costs that they voluntarily assumed as a consequence of their business model and which these other firms have legally avoided through their business model.
When private enterprise starts using the guns of government goons to kill their competitors it’s time for those competitors to respond with this and go home:
Imagine being a rancher and having a pack of predators attacking your livestock. These predators pose a grave danger to your livelihood and the safety of your family. You have a few options as to how to deal with this ravenous pack. You can remain vigilant and stand watch; shooing the hungry pack away whenever they come around. A possibility could be to try to provide alternate food options for them to keep them away from your animals. You may even choose to sacrifice the weakest of your livestock periodically to satiate the appetite of the predators. This will only cause the pack to increase in size and appetite… it will devour more of your livelihood. Or… you can get rid of the predators.
Speaking of hungry predators with insatiable appetites, have you seen what your governments have been up to lately?
The predators that come back night after night after night, ObamaCare and tax increases, are still going strong. The periodic predators that only come around when the opportunity presents itself, control of the internet and gun control, are coming out of the desk drawers that they have been stored in… waiting for just the right crisis/opportunity.
After having ObamaCare pushed upon the unwilling with complete disregard for the rights of individuals, the costs are already going up with double digit increases. I thought the ACA was supposed to reduce costs? While many state governments are refusing to fully comply with ObamaCare or to implement state run exchanges, the GoverNerd of my home state of Michigan has been going like gangbusters to getbought off by the feds.
By now everybody has been lambasted with smaller paychecks by the government ending the payroll tax holiday. Ben Swann reports how some politically connected groups got special deals as a part of the “fiscal cliff” negotiations while the citizenry got the shaft! What ever happened to the promise that nobody making less that $250,000 per year will see their taxes go up in any way, shape, or form? Oh yeah… that was a lie.
Not only do Americans face a smaller paycheck, they also face the fact that the money won’t go as far as it used to. This is not only due to the Federal Reserve devaluing the currency through planned inflation, but from a potential new sales tax on health insurance. For the new ObamaCare related taxes, click here. For more on rules on income taxes, click here. If you are productive, you are nothing but a life support for the State.
“We will keep the Chinese and Russian governments from cyber-attacking US computer systems… by spying on and collecting the personal information of US citizens.” He didn’t really say that… he’s not that honest.
First there was SOPA and PIPA and those went away due to public outcry. Then CISPA was introduced and went away due to public outcry. Now, it’s back.
Rep. Mike Rogers (R) MI has reintroduced CISPA. If we are to suspend common sense for just a moment… why would we want an organization that constantly comes under cyber attack and is continuously being hacked providing cyber security? It’s like UPS or FedEx going to the post office for advice on efficiency. Wouldn’t it be better to hire a group like Anonymous? Those guys at least appear to be capable.
The president even signed a questionable executive order related to emergency internet control. Sounds harmless enough, Winston and Julia?
What these new internet laws really provide is an opportunity for politically connected, rent seeking corporations to enforce IP at tax cattle expense and for the federal government to censor unpopular information and spy on the citizenry just like the Soviets would have done. Ever heard of firewalls, anti-virus software, or a business taking the personal responsibility for their own cyber security?
It also appears that many local and state governments as well as the federal government feel that mere mortal citizens do not have the right to own and use property without their blessing. The president has signed 23 executive orders related to gun control. The state of New York has rammed through legislation to restrict the property rights of citizens of that state. Meanwhile in Missouri, the democrats are pushing for full confiscation of private property with new legislation that will essentially make ownership of semi-automatic firearms and proper capacity magazines a class C felony. Other states and localities are getting into the act too. All of this is happening while the federal government stocks up on enough weapons and ammo to fight a 30 year war and local police departments are provided with urban assault equipment similar to that used in war zones.
The Political Response
“As soon as you say, ‘Those Democrats [or Republicans] are what’s wrong with this country,’ you’ve gladdened the Establishment’s heart. You’ve fallen for the Punch and Judy show. You are no threat to the system. Meanwhile, the looting goes on.” ~Tom Woods.
If anything has been learned by the people protesting ObamaCare at the town hall meetings and through writing letters and making phone calls, it’s that your rulers really do not give a damn what you think and you can put your concerns where the sun doesn’t shine. They are going to do what they want and unless you have enough money to outbid their true owners, you can go suck an egg.
Warning: This part will offend some of you but it needs to be said. You could always hold up your pocket constitution and shout, “Stop it! Stop it! You’re not allowed to do that!” You will then be ignored like the constituents before you since the very first congress and president took office. No government has ever been restrained by a constitution. The only thing that has ever restrained any government is its own inability to consume and destroy everything all at one time. And that inability is being overcome more and more with each passing day. There has never been a time in this country’s history ( or any country for that matter) where the constitution was obeyed even closely, let alone strictly. Not even under Grover Cleveland was it followed closely. Sure, Cleveland vetoed a lot of stuff but the fact that it made it to his desk in the first place is proof that the constitution wasn’t followed. What part of, “criminals don’t obey laws” do you not understand? I am certain that somebody will read that statement and despite all of the historical evidence will pull a Sheriff Mack, hit the refresh button and say, “If we could only get back to the constitution.”
I will concede that Nullification at the state level can be used to fight federal tyranny to a point. If the fed goons decide that they want something to happen, they will employ every dirty trick in their arsenal from bribery to outright brute force. But what if it is your state that is violating your rights to own property? For all branches of government, individual nullification will be the only real answer.
I would caution people not to put too much hope in their elected rulers to advocate on their behalf. That has been done before and here they are over $16 trillion dollars in debt later. It’s not that one party caves under pressure from the other party or popular opinion. No, it is that any period of resistance is nothing more than the requisite waiting period to make it look like they fought the good fight and do what they were planning to do all along. Then it is hailed as meeting in the middle in a grand example of bipartisanship and statesmanship. After all, the Indefinite Detention of US Citizens provision of NDAA 2012 was a result of bipartisan cooperation just as blocking any attempt to repeal that provision has been examples of bipartisan cooperation.
As Walter Williams has written, Under Article 1, Section 7 : “All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills.” Constitutionally and by precedent, the House of Representatives has the exclusive prerogative to originate bills to appropriate money, as well as to raise revenues.” The GOP could have defunded ObamaCare as soon as they took control of the House. By the same token, the Democrats could have defunded the wars as soon as they took control of the House. Ever notice how the actual policies never really change even though the rhetoric and party does? The system must be preserved at any and all costs.
This video clip is from the pro gun rights rally in Albany, New York. The likelihood of the politicians that voted for the NY gun ban getting voted out of office is pretty slim. The incumbency/recidivism rate for politicians is usually over 90%. The main point here is that the people are growing their numbers and getting others fired up. They are rising up against their rulers. They are setting the stage for nullification on the individual level!
The Effective Response
“No.” ~Rosa Parks
Bad laws are not repealed because people want them repealed or because the rulers have a moment of benevolence. Prohibition was not repealed because FDR was such a swell guy. Prohibition was repealed because it was unenforceable, Too many people were ignoring the law. The violation of the law made the government look impotent in addition to looking like the miserable failure that it was. The Civil Right movement did the same thing with the Bus Boycott and their activism.
The answer is non-compliance and civil disobedience. It is my sincere hope that it does not come down to armed resistance but that is a strong possibility. New Yorkers are the first to face off against their state government. This may be the “shot heard round the world.” As Alex Newman writes for the New American in his article Gun Owners Refuse to Register Under New York Law
“They’re saying, ‘F— the governor! F— Cuomo! We’re not going to register our guns,’ and I think they’re serious. People are not
going to do it. People are going to resist,” explained State Rifle and Pistol Association President Tom King, who also serves
on the National Rifle Association board of directors. “They’re taking one of our guaranteed civil rights, and they’re taking it away.”
Figure out ways to separate yourself from the government. Look into alternative currencies and markets; starve the beast. Twelve million fewer people voted in the 2012 elections, and that was the most important election of our lifetimes since the last most important election of our lifetimes… and until the next most important election of our lifetimes. Can you imagine the politicians trying to claim legitimacy and a mandate when only 10% of eligible voters even bother to show up to the polls? That is the easiest part of individual nullification as you don’t even have to show up.
If you are unhappy with the government you have… withdraw your consent. If America chooses to make a stand, they had better make certain that they make themselves clear. It will not be enough to just win the battle only to have the rulers pull back to regroup. If that is the case, they will come back again with a fervor never before seen. They will come back with an unimaginable violence… that is the nature of the State.
Imagine being a private citizen trying to earn a living and take care of your family but are constantly stalked by your government. These predators pose a grave danger to your livelihood and the safety of your family. What do you do?
“It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace²but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!” ~Patrick Henry
Lou – Freedom Feens
Those of you counting on getting your old assembly line job back in Detroit can forget it.
The recent eight year forecast published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that 4.19 million jobs will be gained in the US in professional and business services, followed by 4 million health care and social assistance jobs, while 1.2 million will be lost in manufacturing. This is great news for website designers, Internet entrepreneurs, registered nurses, and masseuses in California, but grim tidings for traditional metal bashers in the rust belt manufacturing states like Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio.
I’m so old now that I am no longer asked for a driver’s license to get into a night club. Instead, they ask for a carbon dating. The real challenge for we aged career advisors is that probably half of these new service jobs haven’t even been invented yet, and if they can be described, it is only in a cheesy science fiction paperback with a half dressed blond on the front cover. After all, who heard of a webmaster, a cell phone contract sales person, or a blogger 40 years ago? Where are all these jobs going to? You guessed it, China, and other lower waged, upstream manufacturing countries like Vietnam, where the Middle Kingdom is increasingly subcontracting its own offshoring.
These forecasts may be optimistic, because they assume that Americans can continue to claw their way up the value chain in the global economy, and not get stuck along the way, as the Japanese did in the nineties. The US desperately needs no less than 27 million new jobs to soak up natural population and immigration growth and get us back to a traditional 5% unemployment rate. The only way that is going to happen is for America to invent something new and big, and fast. Personal computers achieved this during the eighties, and the Internet did the trick in the nineties. The fact that we’ve done diddly squat since 2000 but create a giant paper chase explains why job growth since then has been zero, real wage growth has been negative, and American standards of living are falling.
Alternative energy and biotechnology are two possible drivers for a new economy. Unfortunately, the last administration did everything it could to stymie progress in both these fields, coddling big oil so China could steal a lead in several alternative technologies, and starving stem cell researchers of Federal cash, ceding the lead there to others. While the current crop of politicians extol the virtues of education, the reality is that we are dumbing down our public education system. How do we invent the next “new” thing, while shrinking the University of California’s budget by 20% two years in a row? If my local high school can’t afford new computers, how is it going to feed Silicon Valley with computer literate work force? The US has a “Michael Jackson” economy. It’s still living like a rock star, but hasn’t had a hit in 20 years.
China can have all the $20 a day jobs it wants. But if it accelerates its move up the value chain, as it clearly aspires to do, then America is in for even harder times. I’ll be hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst. How do you say “unemployment check” in Mandarin?
Submitted by Greg Simmons and Brett Buchanan of Scope Labs
Are financial markets a direct reflection of the overall health of a nation? I wish they were not, but I fear they are.
I wonder at times if our nation has entered a state of purgatory –
all of us mulling around in the waiting room to Hell, anxiously
counting the minutes until the grim reaper saunters through the door
sickle in hand his mission to send us off to eternal damnation.
Unfortunately, there is little time to close this door so that we may
stave off this potential fate that looms so near. What we need to alter
this course is a procession of men who possess moral fortitude and
common sense, men of rationality and reason. Men of action who will set
in motion the dismantling of institutions that bleed this nation dry.
Hope is not a strategy. This present state of manufactured optimism
emanating from the White House and our news outlets is contemptible. We
are in dire need of new reformist leadership and of new voices that
will speak the truth. A national purification is long overdue. Time is
not on our side. Look at the track record this nation has racked up
over the last few decades and this economic and moral purgatory in
which we find ourselves might very well mark the beginning of our walk
of death down the long road to Hell.
I make this analogy of a national state of purgatory not in jest,
but rather in practical terms. This nation has gone the way of an
absolute meltdown of morality and ethics. We’ve reverted to a sort of
Wild West where anything goes. From the halls of congress to our
corporate boardrooms our collective morality bar has sunk so low we
cannot go any lower without disconnecting from the great past this
nation is starved to regain. We stand dangerously close to the point
where immorality begets our undoing.
Personally, I am father to a daughter of fourteen years. Brett, my
co-author, is father to a twenty-month old daughter and an
eighteen-year old son. We desperately want to create for our children a
better world. But we are fallible men, and certainly not saints. The
paragraphs you are about to read are not written from some moral high
ground, or a Holier-than-thou pulpit, but rather from saddened hearts
when we see that by walking our own moral tightrope, if we were to
allow ourselves to slip below the bar, however slightly, we would be
just as guilty as the worst perpetrators of our nation’s moral
destruction. Also, when witness to greater moral transgressions, by our
own inaction, we become part of the problem. And we are just two men.
Amplify this by fifty million, one hundred million, or three hundred
million fold and it is no wonder immorality permeates our society.
This article is our personal effort to call people’s attention to
the truth. The brevity of our circumstance is immeasurable by past
reference. Economically, we have never been so challenged. Over the
past few decades a gullible US population cheered the halls of congress
and the Oval Office alike as the incestuous bedfellows of money and
politics ushered in a financial Coup d’état – co-opting our public
trusts with the greed and excess of Wall Street. Profits are now had at
any cost – damn the long-term consequences. Instead of being exposed as
the obvious fraud he was, Bernie Maddoff was coddled by the SEC – an
institution whose role as regulator is a complete failure. As Wall
Street and Washington raped an entire nation, employees of the SEC were
too busy surfing porn on the Internet and running private businesses
instead of doing the jobs taxpayers pay them to do. All the while,
young girls were selling their virginity to the highest bidder in
public cyber-forums where grown men (not hormonally charged teenage
boys) seek out their sexual fantasies in the netherworld of Internet
pornography. What of the wives, children, and even parents of these
men? Do they approve of such questionable actions?
Think of our children turning on the television to see people eating
bile, cow blood, and live bugs for money on game shows like Fear
Factor, or Flavor Flav and his hit reality show where he maintains a
stable of women all of whom physically fight each other to have sex
with him because he’s a celebrity – and a damn ugly one at that. And
finally, there’s always Survivor, the ultimate demonstration of all
things wrong with modern human interaction. A reality show that pits
person against person in a deceitful game of moral destruction where
lack of ethics are rewarded, instead of punished. Survivor, this is
what our nation’s leadership has become. Win at any cost. Damn the
future of anyone but myself.
Morality is in great part the measure of a nation. Have we unlearned
morality? Is this why we find ourselves staring down the abyss?
We are allowing ourselves to become more corrupt by the minute. We
stare into the face of our future being raped, but we do nothing. We
are as corrupt as the corrupters. We accept the unacceptable. We fail
to understand that absolute power, corrupts absolutely. In what will go
down as the greatest financial heist in history our leaders have chosen
to reward corrupt individuals and their hollow corporations for what
are arguably criminal levels of risk behavior by the moneyed elite of
this country. What message does that send to our children, or to anyone
for that matter? Be as corrupt as possible in the US and you will be
rewarded? Be the biggest failure jeopardizing the fate of others then
stand in the corporate welfare line with all the other wealthiest
institutions of the world, your greedy hand extended for a government
bailout check while you simultaneously foreclose on an entire nation?
Talk about the rich corralling the masses. It’s no wonder someone
coined the term “The Sheeple.”
The path we traveled to this purgatorial limbo is both easily
understood and misunderstood. The answers to understanding are
sometimes right in front of us. What are seemingly benign things or
actions, those everyday judgments or decisions we make to do one thing
or another, are not always benign. Tell a little white lie to make that
one sale that will put us into our bonus. Rig the game in our favor so
that we might enjoy a little more opulence for the few decades we have
remaining on this planet. Look the other way while the Federal Reserve
and Wall Street blow economic bubble after economic bubble and in the
process create a six-hundred trillion dollar shadow banking system that
plays by no one’s rules but its own. In the case of Goldman Sachs, and
Wall Street in general, lie, cheat, and steal their way to
profitability at the expense of three hundred million taxpayers. The
fact is that we have become an uncooperative nation willing to take
advantage of anyone for the sake of profit. The idea of building a
cooperative future where everyone wins has been sacrificed at the altar
It might be this purgatorial limbo I speak of is simpler than it
appears. It could be that we are collectively suffering the
consequences of the “Peter Principle”, or getting to the job of
failure. This principle supposes that an individual rises in a
corporate hierarchy to their first level of incompetence. An assembly
worker gets promoted to supervisor then to assistant manager, then
manager, until he next gets promoted to an upper management job for
which he is ill equipped and subsequently gets promoted no further as
he can no longer demonstrate the competence required for the task at
hand. He rather relies on subordinates who are then stuck with an upper
manager who cannot carry out his own duties. Could this be the state of
our nation? Have we been promoted as far as our competence allows? Are
we in fact incompetent to handle our future? Have we now elected a man
just incompetent enough for the Presidency who is being manipulated by
Goldman Sachs, the Federal Reserve, and a circle of (previous) Wall
Street insiders now on the government payroll as cabinet members and
high-ranking advisors? The saddest thing is that we sit idly by whilst
our virtue is being stolen. We do nothing.
A view of the world through rose-colored glasses does no one, any
good. We are not as resilient as we think we are. Instead, we exist in
a world of synthetic productivity where multi-tasking renders us
incapable of doing anything effectively or with any level of
competence. Multi-tasking, that art of simultaneous ineffectiveness is
a counter productive weapon that to a large degree has contributed to
the potential failure of this nation. If you were to listen to Alan
Greenspan however, you would believe that multi-tasking through
technological gains by way of the “new paradigm” was the gold at the
end of the Information Superhighway and that exotic mortgages and the
burgeoning spending class paved the road to riches. We now know these
premises to be empirically wrong.
It can now be argued that what would seemingly be advancements in
productivity are proving to be setbacks. The Information Superhighway
has led us to an era of technological arrogance. In reality all we have
accomplished is to dilute our ability to carry out simple tasks as we
click from a quarterly sales report due in an hour, to Facebook, to
on-line solitaire, to writing an email explaining to our boss why the
quarterly report will be delayed this day. We are a nation of excuse
makers. We look for someone else to keep us one step ahead of our
accumulating debt that smothers the potential of what could have been
an equitable future. Ironically, it is our technological arrogance that
impedes our ability to produce and manufacture our way to prosperity.
Craftsmen who used to flock to this country to fulfill the needs of
a manufacturing base flock here no more. “Made in the USA” used to mean
something. It meant quality. It was the definition of industrial
capitalism. But now through the wonders of globalization we have
exported our craftsmanship through an outflow of jobs to China and
India as we turned everyone in the USA into real estate agents,
mortgage brokers, and web designers – a perfect playground for bankers
to ply their craft, lending money in every creative manner both
thinkable, and unthinkable. “Made in the USA” has been reduced to the
status of punch-line – synonymous only with “Mortgage Backed
Securities” and other “Toxic Derivatives.”
Is it any wonder we have evolved into the ‘entitled society’? If we
weren’t on the government payroll, or subsidized by the US taxpayer
through social welfare then we were borrowing our way to prosperity.
Enter the God-fearing middle class. Just dumb enough to buy into the
scam a couple hundred million people began signing over their
paychecks, selling their future for the enjoyment of having things now.
We were transformed into non-productive Sheeple, selling our souls for
an easier life in lieu of a better future for our children. At our
current rate of productive attrition we will soon be a nation of
declawed housecats, possessing no skill-set whatsoever to survive in a
world where the ability to produce real goods still reins supreme. Yet
we remain the ‘entitled society’, when we are entitled to nothing.
We forget (through economic amnesia) that throughout history all
societies fail. Nicolaus Copernicus maintained that civilizations
failed when bad money, controlled and understood by an elite few, drove
out good money. The same can be said for morality. Bad, drives out
good. This is a reality of which we should all be acutely aware but
rather are immune to its possibility. We dangerously believe we cannot
fail. That, in fact, is the greatest gamble of all. A roll of the dice
against history, a bet against all natural laws of the universe, all
things are in a state of entropy. All things eventually wither away to
nothing. To possess longevity is to be ahead of the universe. Sadly, we
have constructed a fragile world that produces material things that do
not last. The fiat money we use as the currency of our production is by
design, destructive itself. The Federal Reserve prints greed, nothing
more. But still we covet it. We pursue it as if it had value. And in
this pursuit we destroy earth’s resources as if the laws of nature have
no relevance. We believe there is only now.
We, the entitled society, morally and fiscally bankrupt have borrowed,
spent, and bailed our way into a historical corner. Nero should be so
proud. Our public trusts are nothing more than government sanctioned
check-kiting operations shifting liabilities from one credit card to
another faster than our creditors can say “Federal Reserve.” The
Ponzi-scheme that is our fiat currency system is about to go the way of
what was for a time the symbol of American superiority, General Motors.
It used to be said that what was good for General Motors was good for
our nation. As I claimed in 2005 that GM would go bankrupt I will now
guarantee that the US government is soon to follow. How our ultimate
entropy will take form I cannot say, but form it will. We will default.
We will restructure. It will be at this point our arrogance will end.
Supporters of an escalation of the Afghanistan war often ask that we give military options a chance. They also respond to criticism of the surge by asking “okay smart guy, what would YOU do to fight Al Qaeda in Afghanistan?” Several pro-war posters also asked that pro-military arguments be given a chance.
Well, initially, the U.S. admits there are only a small handful of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. As ABC notes:
U.S. intelligence officials have concluded there are only about 100 al Qaeda fighters in the entire country.
100,000 troops in Afghanistan at an estimated yearly cost of $30
billion, it means that for every one al Qaeda fighter, the U.S. will
commit 1,000 troops and $300 million a year.
probably more than 100 homicidal maniacs in any large American city.
But we wouldn’t send soldiers into the city to get those bad guys.
Indeed, a leading advisor to the U.S. military – the very hawkish Rand Corporation – released a study
in 2008 called “How Terrorist Groups End: Lessons for Countering al
Qa’ida”. The report confirms what experts have been saying for years:
the war on terror is actually weakening national security.
As a press release about the study states:
should be perceived and described as criminals, not holy warriors, and
our analysis suggests that there is no battlefield solution to
There are additional reasons why prolonging the Afghan war may reduce our national security, such as weakening our economy.
But if you want a military solution anyway, Andrew J. Bacevich has an answer.
is no dove. Graduating from West Point in 1969, he served in the United
States Army during the Vietnam War. He then held posts in Germany,
including the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, the United States, and the
Persian Gulf up to his retirement from the service with the rank of
Colonel in the early 1990s. Bacevich holds a Ph.D. in American
Diplomatic History from Princeton University, and taught at West Point
and Johns Hopkins University prior to joining the faculty at Boston
University in 1998. Bacevich’s is a military family. On May 13, 2007,
Bacevich’s son, was killed in action while serving in Iraq.
Last year, Bacevich wrote in an article in Newsweek:
the chief effect of allied military operations there so far has been
not to defeat the radical Islamists but to push them across the
Pakistani border. As a result, efforts to stabilize Afghanistan are
contributing to the destabilization of Pakistan, with potentially
devastating implications. September’s bombing of the Marriott hotel in
Islamabad suggests that the extremists are growing emboldened. Today
and for the foreseeable future, no country poses a greater potential
threat to U.S. national security than does Pakistan. To risk the
stability of that nuclear-armed state in the vain hope of salvaging
Afghanistan would be a terrible mistake.
All this means that the
proper U.S. priority for Afghanistan should be not to try harder but to
change course. The war in Afghanistan (like the Iraq War) won’t be won
militarily. It can be settled—however imperfectly—only through politics.
new U.S. president needs to realize that America’s real political
objective in Afghanistan is actually quite modest: to ensure that
terrorist groups like Al Qaeda can’t use it as a safe haven for
launching attacks against the West. Accomplishing that won’t require
creating a modern, cohesive nation-state. U.S. officials tend to assume
that power in Afghanistan ought to be exercised from Kabul. Yet the
real influence in Afghanistan has traditionally rested with tribal
leaders and warlords. Rather than challenge that tradition, Washington
should work with it. Offered the right incentives, warlords can
accomplish U.S. objectives more effectively and more cheaply than
Western combat battalions. The basis of U.S. strategy in Afghanistan
should therefore become decentralization and outsourcing, offering cash
and other emoluments to local leaders who will collaborate with the
United States in excluding terrorists from their territory.
doesn’t mean Washington should blindly trust that warlords will become
America’s loyal partners. U.S. intelligence agencies should continue to
watch Afghanistan closely, and the Pentagon should crush any jihadist
activities that local powers fail to stop themselves. As with the
Israelis in Gaza, periodic airstrikes may well be required to pre-empt
brewing plots before they mature.
Were U.S. resources unlimited
and U.S. interests in Afghanistan more important, upping the ante with
additional combat forces might make sense. But U.S. power — especially
military power — is quite limited these days, and U.S. priorities lie
Rather than committing more troops, therefore, the
new president should withdraw them while devising a more realistic —
and more affordable — strategy for Afghanistan
words, America’s war strategy is increasing instability in Pakistan.
Pakistan has nuclear weapons. So the surge could very well decrease not
only American national security but the security of the entire world.
I think that diplomatic rather than military means should be used to
kill or contain the 100 bad guys in Afghanistan. But if we are going to
remain engaged militarily, Bacevich’s approach is a lot smarter than a
surge of boots on the ground.
Moreover, it would save hundreds of billions or trillions of dollars…
War hawks also ask “what would YOU have done after 9/11?” Gee, I don’t know . . . maybe gotten the Taliban to turn over Bin Laden?
BONUS UPDATE 2-FOR-1 AFTER THANKSGIVING PACKAGE DEAL SPECIAL: If you don’t hear about alternative plans such as Bacevich’s from the corporate media, here is why …
There are five reasons that the mainstream media is worthless.
1. Self-Censorship by Journalists
Initially, there is tremendous self-censorship by journalists.
For example, several months after 9/11, famed news anchor Dan Rather told the BBC that American reporters were practicing “a form of self-censorship”:
was a time in South Africa that people would put flaming tires around
peoples’ necks if they dissented. And in some ways the fear is that you
will be necklaced here, you will have a flaming tire of lack of
patriotism put around your neck. Now it is that fear that keeps
journalists from asking the toughest of the tough questions…. And
again, I am humbled to say, I do not except myself from this criticism.
What we are talking about here – whether one wants to recognise it
or not, or call it by its proper name or not – is a form of
Keith Olbermann agreed that there is self-censorship in the American media, and that:
can rock the boat, but you can never say that the entire ocean is in
trouble …. You cannot say: By the way, there’s something wrong with
our …. system.
As former Washington Post columnist Dan Froomkin wrote in 2006:
political journalism is in danger of becoming increasingly irrelevant,
but not because of the Internet, or even Comedy Central. The threat
comes from inside. It comes from journalists being afraid to do what
journalists were put on this green earth to do. . . .
the intense pressure to maintain access to insider sources, even as
those sources become ridiculously unrevealing and oversensitive.
There’s the fear of being labeled partisan if one’s bullshit-calling
isn’t meted out in precisely equal increments along the political
If mainstream-media political journalists don’t start
calling bullshit more often, then we do risk losing our primacy — if
not to the comedians then to the bloggers.
I still believe that
no one is fundamentally more capable of first-rate bullshit-calling
than a well-informed beat reporter – whatever their beat. We just need
to get the editors, or the corporate culture, or the self-censorship –
or whatever it is – out of the way.
2. Censorship by Higher-Ups
journalists do want to speak out about an issue, they also are subject
to tremendous pressure by their editors or producers to kill the story.
Pulitzer prize-winning reporter who uncovered the Iraq prison torture
scandal and the Mai Lai massacre in Vietnam, Seymour Hersh, said:
of the institutions we thought would protect us — particularly the
press, but also the military, the bureaucracy, the Congress — they
have failed. The courts . . . the jury’s not in yet on the courts. So
all the things that we expect would normally carry us through didn’t.
The biggest failure, I would argue, is the press, because that’s the
Q: What can be done to fix the (media) situation?
pause] You’d have to fire or execute ninety percent of the editors and
executives. You’d actually have to start promoting people from the
newsrooms to be editors who you didn’t think you could control. And
they’re not going to do that.”
And a series of interviews with award-winning journalists also documents censorship of certain stories by media editors and owners (and see these samples).
There are many reasons for censorship by media higher-ups.
One is money.
The media has a strong monetary interest to avoid controversial topics in general. It has always been true that advertisers discourage stories which challenge corporate power.
Indeed, a 2003 survey reveals that 35% of reporters and news executives
themselves admitted that journalists avoid newsworthy stories if “the story would be embarrassing or damaging to the financial interests of a news organization’s owners or parent company.”
In addition, the government has allowed tremendous consolidation in ownership of the airwaves during the past decade.
Dan Rather has slammed media consolidation:
media consolidation to that of the banking industry, Rather claimed
that “roughly 80 percent” of the media is controlled by no more than
six, and possibly as few as four, corporations.
This is documented by the following must-see charts prepared by:
And check out this list of interlocking directorates of big media companies from Fairness and Accuracy in Media, and this resource from the Columbia Journalism Review to research a particular company.
This image gives a sense of the decline in diversity in media ownership over the last couple of decades:
large media players stand to gain billions of dollars in profits if the
Obama administration continues to allow monopoly ownership of the
airwaves by a handful of players. The media giants know who butters
their bread. So there is a spoken or tacit agreement: if the media
cover the administration in a favorable light, the MSM will continue to
be the receiver of the government’s goodies.
3. Drumming Up Support for War
In addition, the owners of American media companies have long actively played a part in drumming up support for war.
is painfully obvious that the large news outlets studiously avoided any
real criticism of the government’s claims in the run up to the Iraq
war. It is painfully obvious that the large American media companies
acted as lapdogs and stenographers for the government’s war agenda.
Veteran reporter Bill Moyers criticized
the corporate media for parroting the obviously false link between 9/11
and Iraq (and the false claims that Iraq possessed WMDs) which the
administration made in the run up to the Iraq war, and concluded that
the false information was not challenged because:
[mainstream] media had been cheerleaders for the White House from the
beginning and were simply continuing to rally the public behind the
President — no questions asked.”
And as NBC News’ David Gregory (later promoted to host Meet the Press) said:
think there are a lot of critics who think that . . . . if we did not
stand up [in the run-up to the war] and say ‘this is bogus, and you’re
a liar, and why are you doing this,’ that we didn’t do our job. I
respectfully disagree. It’s not our role”
But this is nothing new. In fact, the large media companies have drummed up support for all previous wars.
And an official summary of America’s overthrow of the democratically-elected president of Iran in the 1950′s states, “In
cooperation with the Department of State, CIA had several articles
planted in major American newspapers and magazines which, when
reproduced in Iran, had the desired psychological effect in Iran and
contributed to the war of nerves against Mossadeq.” (page x)
The mainstream media also may have played footsie with the U.S. government right before Pearl Harbor. Specifically, a highly-praised historian (Bob Stineet) argues
that the Army’s Chief of Staff informed the Washington bureau chiefs of
the major newspapers and magazines of the impending Pearl Harbor attack
BEFORE IT OCCURRED, and swore them to an oath of secrecy, which the
media honored (page 361) .
And the military-media alliance has continued without a break (as a highly-respected journalist says,
“viewers may be taken aback to see the grotesque extent to which US
presidents and American news media have jointly shouldered key
propaganda chores for war launches during the last five decades.”)
As the mainstream British paper, the Independent, writes:
is a concerted strategy to manipulate global perception. And the mass
media are operating as its compliant assistants, failing both to resist
it and to expose it. The sheer ease with which this machinery has been
able to do its work reflects a creeping structural weakness which now
afflicts the production of our news.
The article in the
Independent discusses the use of “black propaganda” by the U.S.
government, which is then parroted by the media without analysis; for
example, the government forged
a letter from al Zarqawi to the “inner circle” of al-Qa’ida’s
leadership, urging them to accept that the best way to beat US forces
in Iraq was effectively to start a civil war, which was then publicized
without question by the media..
So why has the American press has consistenly served the elites in disseminating their false justifications for war?
One of of the reasons is because the large media companies are owned by those who support the militarist agenda or even directly profit from war and terror (for example, NBC – which is being sold to Comcast – was owned by General Electric, one of the largest defense contractors in the world — which directly profits from war, terrorism and chaos).
Another seems to be an unspoken rule that the media will not criticize the government’s imperial war agenda.
the media support isn’t just for war: it is also for various other
shenanigans by the powerful. For example, a BBC documentary proves:
was “a planned coup in the USA in 1933 by a group of right-wing
American businessmen . . . . The coup was aimed at toppling President
Franklin D Roosevelt with the help of half-a-million war veterans. The
plotters, who were alleged to involve some of the most famous families
in America, (owners of Heinz, Birds Eye, Goodtea, Maxwell Hse &
George Bush’s Grandfather, Prescott) believed that their country should
adopt the policies of Hitler and Mussolini to beat the great
See also this book.
Have you ever heard of this scheme before? It was certainly a very large one. And if the conspirators controlled the newspapers then, how much worse is it today with media consolidation?
$25,000 to $250,000, The Washington Post has offered lobbyists and
association executives off-the-record, nonconfrontational access to
“those powerful few”: Obama administration officials, members of
Congress, and — at first — even the paper’s own reporters and editors…
offer — which essentially turns a news organization into a facilitator
for private lobbyist-official encounters — was a new sign of the
lengths to which news organizations will go to find revenue at a time
when most newspapers are struggling for survival.
be one reason that the mainstream news commentators hate bloggers so
much. The more people who get their news from blogs instead of
mainstream news sources, the smaller their audience, and the less the
MSM can charge for the kind of “nonconfrontational access” which leads
to puff pieces for the big boys.
5. Censorship by the Government
as if the media’s own interest in promoting war is not strong enough,
the government has exerted tremendous pressure on the media to report
things a certain way. Indeed, at times the government has thrown media owners and reporters in jail
if they’ve been too critical. The media companies have felt great
pressure from the government to kill any real questioning of the
For example, Dan Rather said, regarding American media, “What you have is a miniature version of what you have in totalitarian states”.
Tom Brokaw said “all wars are based on propaganda.
And the head of CNN said:
was ‘almost a patriotism police’ after 9/11 and when the network showed
[things critical of the administration's policies] it would get phone
calls from advertisers and the administration and “big people in
corporations were calling up and saying, ‘You’re being anti-American
Indeed, former military analyst and famed Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg said that the government has ordered the media not to cover 9/11:
Ellsberg seemed hardly surprised
that today’s American mainstream broadcast media has so far failed to
take [former FBI translator and 9/11 whistleblower Sibel] Edmonds up on
her offer, despite the blockbuster nature of her allegations [which
Ellsberg calls "far more explosive than the Pentagon Papers"].
Edmonds has also alluded, Ellsberg pointed to the New York Times, who
“sat on the NSA spying story for over a year” when they “could have put
it out before the 2004 election, which might have changed the outcome.”
will be phone calls going out to the media saying ‘don’t even think of
touching it, you will be prosecuted for violating national security,’” he told us.
* * *
“I am confident that there is conversation inside the Government as to ‘How do we deal with Sibel?’” contends Ellsberg. “The
first line of defense is to ensure that she doesn’t get into the media.
I think any outlet that thought of using her materials would go to to
the government and they would be told ‘don’t touch this . . . .‘”
Of course, if the stick approach doesn’t work, the government can always just pay off reporters to spread disinformation.
Famed Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein says the CIA has already bought and paid for many successful journalists. See also this New York Times piece, this essay by the Independent, this speech by one of the premier writers on journalism, and this and this roundup.
in the final analysis, the main reason today that the media giants will
not cover the real stories or question the government’s actions or
policies in any meaningful way is that the American government and
mainstream media been somewhat blended together.
Can We Win the Battle Against Censorship?
cannot just leave governance to our “leaders”, as “The price of freedom
is eternal vigilance” (Jefferson). Similarly, we cannot leave news to
the corporate media. We need to “be the media” ourselves.
“To stand in silence when they should be protesting makes cowards out of men.”
- Abraham Lincoln
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
and silence go together. We…should use our privileged positions not
as a shelter from the world’s reality, but as a platform from which to
speak. A voice is a gift. It should be cherished and used.”
– Margaret Atwood
is no act too small, no act too bold. The history of social change is
the history of millions of actions, small and large, coming together at
points in history and creating a power that [nothing] cannot suppress.”
- Howard Zinn (historian)
“All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent”
- Thomas Jefferson