“Top” 10 Democracy Realities in 2014

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This is the second of a two part series. Like part 1, “top” is in parenthesis to acknowledge the relative nature of the selections. There is no presumption that this is the definitive list. Readers will, no doubt, have their own ideas.

The lens used to determine both lists were what were impediments/possibilities for We the People to have genuine opportunities to have their voices heard and ability to shape decisions impacting the world around them.

Overall, 2014 saw a surge in participation of people seeking to build power for just and peaceful change. The quest to build mass movements linked issues, strategies and people in ways unseen for many years.

1.    Protests against police brutality
“Black Lives Matter” not only became a refrain of street protestors in 2014, but a movement sparked in response to the killings of blacks in Ferguson, New York City, Cleveland and many other communities. Participants are racially and age diverse – with some police officers among the growing ranks. Issues extend beyond issue of police mistreatment of people of color to militarization of police forces, disproportionate imprisonment of blacks, and institutional racism throughout society. Demands are equally expansive – from local to national, from political to cultural, from short- to long-term.

This growing movement has forced the mainstream culture to begin facing issues of race and prejudice as they relate to power and privilege. In doing so, it offers the opportunity for mass awareness and solidarity. Any progress in understanding and meaningful dialogue also strategically makes it more difficult for the power elite to use race as a divide and conquer strategy to maintain illegitimate power and authority.

2.    Movement to end corporate personhood and money as speech
The Move to Amend movement to end the inane constitutional doctrines asserting corporations are “persons” and money equals “free speech” continues to grow from its inception is 2010 following the Citizen United vs FEC Supreme Court decision.

More people in more places educated, advocated and organized in their communities for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to achieve these duel objectives.  Fueling the movement were the McCutcheon vs FEC and the Burwell vs Hobby Lobby Supreme Court decisions. The innumerable local, state and federal examples of growing corporate power and corruption associated with money in elections also contributed to a surge in awareness and attraction to this solution.

Many communities organized for passage of city council resolutions. Each and every of the two dozen communities that organized ballot initiatives were successful with most of the citizen driven ballot measures winning with landslide margins. That these these victories took place during the same elections that saw Republicans make gains at the federal and many state levels is evidence of the trans-partisan appeal of these concerns.

3.    Growing environmental movement
The state of New York’s ban on fracking may have been the most tangible victory in response to organized citizen pressure, although no doubt the science and economics of gas drilling were also factors. Resistance to fracking grows both in the U.S. and Europe.  Resistance included marches, rallies, forums, lobbying, civil disobedience and Community Bill of Rights initiatives.

The climate march in New York City drew hundreds of thousands of people. The Keystone pipeline continues to be delayed due in part to growing popular pressure (the fact that major Obama supporter Warren Buffett owns railroads that could transport the oil rather that pipelines was also a consideration).

The Vermont legislature passed a mandatory labeling bill for all food containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Voters in Jackson county, Oregon and Maui county, Hawaii banned GMO crops. Voters in Oregon came within an eyelash of passing a statewide ballot measure on GMOs – only losing because of massive political campaign spending by the pro GMO food corporations.

4.    Exposing the truth of money creation
Two of the fundamental sources of financial power of banking corporations worldwide are (1) most people believe a nation’s money is created by government, and (2) most money in a nation is actually created by private financial institutions, including private central banks.

So long as financial institutions control the issuance of money – whether by a private central bank (i.e. the misnamed Federal Reserve in the US) or by banking corporations (when they create money out of thin air as debt when they issue loans), financial institutions will not only possess the ultimate economic power in a society but the ultimate political power, since economic profits are translated to political power via lobbying and campaign contributions/investments.

More people worldwide are shedding the myth and understanding the reality of actual money creation – a major step toward the democratization of our money. Leading the way in 2014 was Britain.

Bank of England officials admitted in March that banks don’t loan out pre-existing deposits, they simply create it out of this air.  Martin Wolf, the chief economics writer for the Financial Times (the Wall Street Journal of England) wrote an article in April “Strip private banks of their power to create money.” And the U.K Parliament debated money creation in November – for the first time in 170 years. All of this was in part the result of the ongoing education, advocacy and organizing of the pro democratization of money group, Positive Money.

5.    Alternatives to dollar
The U.S. Empire hasn’t just been military. It’s been economic. The bomb and dollar operate hand-in-hand to maintain control and thwart democracy. There’s growing resistance to not simply U.S. military installations worldwide, but also to US-dominated World Bank and IMF policies, as well as to the US dollar as the world’s “reserve currency” – meaning nation’s must have dollars to purchase oil (the “petrodollar”) or conduct trade. This is changing.

The BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) nations announced plans to launch their own rival development bank to the IMF and World Bank. Russia is setting up its own SWIFT banking transaction system. Nations began trading with one another in their own currencies. This movement is led by China and Russia, with the later willing to sell oil for Rubles and Yuans. England, Canada and other countries also began to accept non-dollar payments with other nations.

Breaking away from the dollar is a key ingredient for nations to achieve national monetary sovereignty.

6.    Global resistance to corporate trade deals
Opposition to the proposed U.S.-Asian Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and U.S.-European Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) were global. Whenever and wherever negotiators and their corporate “advisors” met behind closed doors (where it should be acknowledged labor, indigenous, consumer, and environmental representatives were not invited), people were in the streets, lobbing their respective national elected representatives and educating the general public.

The message was clear and direct:  these “trade” agreements are in actually about global rule which, if enacted, would circumvent democratically passed laws and regulations on labor, environmental, consumer, health, the internet and financial controls. Fast Track (which would have allowed the President to ram these measures through Congress) was at least temporarily derailed from a vote.

7.    Increased revelations of spying and surveillance
The continued revelation of documents by Edward Snowden, Julian Assange (founder of WikiLeaks) and others detailing US domestic and international snooping of citizens en mass using the sweeping pretext of “terrorism” provided strengthened resolve to US citizens to take action to protect privacy and basic civil liberties and human rights under the U.S. Constitution. Actions calling for fundamental change at the legislative, executive, bureaucratic and judicial levels are all essential requirements for anything approaching a real democracy.

Snowden’s story received further attention when the documentary Citizenfour was released in the fall. He was honored in December with the Right Livelihood Award, an international award to “honour and support those offering practical and exemplary answers to the most urgent challenges facing us today.”

8.    Technology
The flip side of technology as a tool of spying, surveillance and suppression is the way technology can be used for mass education, awareness and mobilization.

As “mainstream” media in all its forms becomes more corporatized, the Internet has become a more important source for alternative information and analysis. This made the nationwide struggle to maintain net neutrality all the more important in 2014.

Pictures and videos documenting police brutality as it happened from mobile phones sparked mass reactions. Twitter was used to mobilize mass actions, be they in the U.S. against police brutality or in Hong Kong for democracy, in an instant.

9.    Local alternatives / sustainability
The more local the institution, the better chance people have to define it.

The last few years have seen a significant increase in the forms and numbers of local “micro” alternatives to large national or transnational “macro” political and economic institutions.

The rise of local independent businesses, local food production and distribution, local renewable energy, community internet broadband, community money (in both electronic and paper versions) sustainable housing, and decentralized transportation are among the many localized ways people are building democracy from the ground up.

10.    Increasing disgust with US politicians and Supreme Court
A majority of U.S. residents feel public officials don’t represent their interests, given the massive disconnect between what the public desires on issue after issue and existing public policy. A national Rasmussen Reports survey in 2014 found that an all-time high 53 percent of all Americans believe that neither major political party “represents the American people,” while 65% of Americans are dissatisfied “with the U.S. system of government and its effectiveness,” according to a 2014 Gallop poll – also an all time high.

Public views on the Supreme Court weren’t much better. Just 35% in a 2014 poll gave the court a positive job performance rating and a strong majority believes that Justices are influenced more by their own personal beliefs and political leanings than by a strict legal analysis. A huge majority, 74%, believes there should be a fixed term of 18 years for Justices.

This growing awareness that our government is broken because the system is fixed is a very positive sign for achieving real democracy. It reflects that the U.S. “democracy myth” that keeps people on the sidelines, believing all is good and that others should make decisions for them is evaporating.

We have to take charge if we want real democracy, self-governance or self-determination. It won’t happen by magic or physics, only by intentional, deliberate and genuinely inclusive engagement with others.

MONETARY HISTORY CALENDAR December 29 – 31

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DECEMBER 29

1809 – BIRTH OF WILLIAM GLADSTONE, CHIEF BRITISH FINANCE MINISTER AND FOUR-TIME BRITISH PRIME MINISTER
“From the time I took office as Chancellor of the Exchequer, I began to learn that the State held, in the face of the Bank and the City, an essentially false position as to finance. The Government itself was not to be a substantive power, but was to leave the Money Power supreme and unquestioned.”
[Note: the Chancellor of the Exchequer is the equivalent to the role of Minister of Finance or Secretary of the Treasury in other nations.]

DECEMBER 31

1781 – BANK OF NORTH AMERICA CHARTERED BY US GOVERNMENT
This was the nation’s first private commercial bank. The Articles of Confederation was the nation’s constitution at that time. Article 9 of the Articles gave Congress the power to “emit bills of credit” — to create money. By a single vote, Congress voted to willingly transfer their authority to issue money to The Bank of North America when it chartered the bank on December 31. Thus, the Bank served as a quasi national central bank. Why did Congress willingly give up their money power? The public argument was that the business of finance could not be ably conduced by a public body (Congress) — only by a small number of private financiers. The first head of the Bank was Robert Morris, the richest merchant in America. This same argument against public issuance of money is made today – a public body can’t be trusted to create and distribute our nation’s money supply. The result is the creation and distribution of our nation’s money supply by banking corporations.

1935 – “MONOPOLY” BOARD GAME PATENTED BY U.S. GOVERNMENT
“The Bank never ‘goes broke.’ If the Bank runs out of money, the Banker may issue as much more as needed by writing on any ordinary paper.” – Monopoly board game rule book
This is how it works in real life too, thanks to the US government handing over to banking corporations the license to issue money when they make loans. This creates money as debt, which must be repaid with interest.

1980 – DEATH OF MARSHALL MCLUHAN, CANDADIAN PHILOSOPHER OF COMMUNICATION THEORY
“Only the small secrets need to be protected. The big ones are kept secret by public incredulity.”
This certainly applies to money creation. Most people are unwilling to believe that the vast majority of money created and circulated in our society is done privately by financial interests.

———————–

Why this calendar? Many people have questions about the root causes of our economic problems. Some questions involve money, banks and debt. How is money created? Why do banks control its quantity? How has the money system been used to liberate (not often) and oppress (most often) us? And how can the money system be “democratized” to rebuild our economy and society, create jobs and reduce debt? Our goal is to inform, intrigue and inspire through bite size weekly postings listing important events and quotes from prominent individuals (both past and present) on money, banking and how the money system can help people and the planet. We hope the sharing of bits of buried history will illuminate monetary and banking issues and empower you with others to create real economic and political justice. This calendar is a project of the Northeast Ohio American Friends Service Committee. Adele Looney, Phyllis Titus, Donna Schall, Leah Davis, Alice Francini, Deb Jose and Greg Coleridge helped in its development. Please forward this to others and encourage them to subscribe. To subscribe/unsubscribe or to comment on any entry, contact monetarycalendar@yahoo.com

“Top” 10 Anti-Democratic Realities in 2014

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This is the first of a two part series reflecting on the fate and state of “democracy” in the U.S. in 2014. Part two addresses pro democracy happenings.

“Democracy” is for many a loaded word. It’s meant to mean the ability of individuals to possess an authentic voice either directly or indirectly in the shaping of decisions affecting their lives and communities, and to a lesser extent, the larger world. Feel free to mentally insert “self-governance,” “self-determination,” or “sovereignty” wherever “democracy” appears if you find any more accurate, comfortable and/or legitimate.

“Top” is in parenthesis to acknowledge the relative nature of the selections. There is no presumption that this is the definitive list. Readers will, no doubt, have their own ideas.

The lens used to determine both lists were impediments/possibilities for We the People to have genuine opportunities to have their voices heard and ability to shape decisions impacting the world around them.

1. Supreme Court decisions expand “money is speech” and corporate “personhood” doctrines

There were two notable cases handed down by the appointed-for-lifer Supremes — which itself is a profoundly undemocratic and unaccountable institution in our society. Both were controversial 5-4 decisions.

The first was McCutcheon vs Federal Election Commission, which stuck down aggregate limits on individual contributions to national political parties and federal political candidate committees. The existing limits, which one Mr. Shaun McCutcheon asserted was way too constraining and violated his First Amendment “free speech” rights had stood at a stifling $46,000 for federal candidates and $70,800 for political parties, or a $117,000 aggregate limit in the last election cycle. Following the decision, McCutcheon and his 1% friends are now free to donate to as many candidates as they wish and to as many political parties as they desire knowing their “free $peech right$” are protected.

The aggregate limits dated back to the Watergate era of the early 70’s. The majority of the Supremes obviously felt that the political corruption of the Nixon era connected to money in elections were as antiquated as bell-bottoms, vinyl records, and Star Wars.

The Burwell vs Hobby Lobby decision in June proved beyond doubt that the incredible imaginations of children’s fantasy lands with talking animals and candy raining from the heavens pale in comparison to the majority of the Supremes who concluding that a pile of legal documents which constitute a corporation possess “religious beliefs,” thus expanding corporate “personhood” one more notch. Just to be clear, the court ruled that religious beliefs could be held not by the individuals who own the corporation but the corporation itself. The legal yoga of this decision with its impressive constitutional twists, stretches and contortions allowed Hobby Lobby’s human owners to avoid covering certain contraceptives for their female employees under the Affordable Care Act which violated the “religious beliefs” of the pile of legal papers.

2.    Scientific study concludes U.S. is an oligarchy, not a democracy

Researchers from Princeton University and Northwestern University concluded in a study published in the fall, “Testing Theories of American Politics,” that the U.S. is a government ruled by the rich more than We the People. The study analyzed 1,779 policy issues from 1981-2002 – years before the Citizens United and McCutcheon decisions were handed down.

From their report:
“Despite the seemingly strong empirical support in previous studies for theories of majoritarian democracy, our analyses suggest that majorities of the American public actually have little influence over the policies our government adopts. Americans do enjoy many features central to democratic governance, such as regular elections, freedom of speech and association, and a widespread (if still contested) franchise. But, …America’s claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened…When the preferences of economic elites and the stands of organized interest groups are controlled for, the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.”

In case you missed the conclusion of our political impact on public policy, that would be “near zero.”

“Near zero” is also the difference our increased ability to govern would be if all we do in response is, as some proposed, to pass laws that make more transparent political contributions and/or reverse via constitutional amendment the Citizens United and/or the McCutcheon decisions.

Most average citizens who have PhDs in trying to do more with less didn’t need this formal study to know what their experiences have repeatedly confirmed.

Of course, as the gap between the rich and everyone else widens, so does the political impact. A Pew Research Center report earlier this month documented that the wealth gap in 2013 between America’s middle-income and upper-income families has never been greater in recorded history.

3.    Advanced negotiations of proposed Asian and European “trade” agreements

The proposed U.S.-Asian Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and U.S.-European Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) are “trade” agreements in name only. Both sets of negotiations are close to completion. Their ultimate objectives, however, aren’t about “trade” at all – being it free or fair – but about who rules, who decides. For their advocates, the answer is simple – transnational corporations.

The TPP negotiations have been negotiated in secret — secret to the public that is but not to trade representatives from 600 corporate transnational corporations who are consultants. Even members of Congress have been oblivious to the contents of the deal. What’s known about it is due to leaks.

Both corporate rule deals would usurp democratically enacted labor, environmental, consumer, health, internet and financial laws and regulations which to the corporate crowd are just downright silly impediments to doing what they want, when they want, and where they want via a “investor-state dispute resolution” process. This allows a corporation to sue governments (local, state and federal) before a panel of corporate-friendly types if it concludes that a democratically enacted law or regulation limits its ability to make a profit. Popular sovereignty via elected officials and judges and juries is replaced by the good ‘ol days of a single sovereign – but not a King or Queen ruling before his/her court but rather a corporate sovereign making decisions with no appeal process.

No wonder these proposed deals if agreed to internationally would be introduced in Congress for ratification only if something called “fast track trade authority” is first passed, which coincidentally was introduced in Congress this year. Fast Track allows the President to bypass Congress’ constitutional authority to write the laws and set and ratify trade policy. Fast Track would shift power from the legislative to executive branches through limiting the authority of Congress to only approve or disapprove trade agreements after limited debate, but not to amend or filibuster.

4.    Increased privatization/corporatization

The transfer of providing a good or service from the public to the private sector both increased in intensity and awareness this year – from privatized/corporatized prisons, to schools (charters), to torture (companies specialize in psychological interrogation), to warfare (private contractors who hire mercenaries in place of actual soldiers or “advisors” to the Middle East), to municipal services in response to bankruptcy (Detroit).

While privatization/corporatization advocates tout efficiency, cost savings and modernization, the realities are most often quite different – inefficiencies, cost increases (when everything is accounted for), layoffs of public employees, and basic lack of transparency and accountability. There’s one more reality – hefty profits for those corporations now providing the service or good. Still one more reality. Privatization/corporatization is a way for public officials to achieve an outcome that would be more difficult if done through public means (i.e. using private mercenaries instead of soldiers to wage wars or occupations, or private contractors who don’t have to be held publicly accountable for torture).

5.    Power of financial corporations

No subset of private corporations is more powerful than financial corporations. Unlike most corporations which make money from producing ostensibly useful goods or services – then translating their economic profits into political power — financial corporations make money the old fashioned way. They print it. Or create it out of thin air electronically as debt. That individuals, non-financial corporations and governments must pay back. With interest. That’s real financial power. Then they translate their virtually unlimited financial power into virtually unlimited political power. This came in mighty handy yet again in 2014 for bank executives who avoided criminal prosecution (at least in the U.S. but not in Iceland and elsewhere) for causing the 2008 global financial implosion, resulting in the foreclosure of hundreds of thousands of homes.

The misnamed private Federal Reserve System is a branch of government unto itself, though not accountable to any of the others. Their power to manipulate the stock and bond markets peaked in 2014 through the injection of upwards of at least $4 trillion thanks to their Quantitative Easing (QE) program. The gradual end of the program and its cheap money that was borrowed by corporations to buy back stocks and invest in overseas markets has had its own effects – the emerging financial crisis in emerging markets and a series of massive financial bubbles in the energy sector who borrowed on the cheap and now only sell oil and gas below their production cost.

Banksters basically wrote the bill slid into the federal spending bill as a “rider” that protects trillions of dollars of risky financial derivatives from crashing. If and when these casino bets (many on the price of oil continuing to rise. Oops) flop, the betters don’t pay for the losses. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (that would be we taxpayers) does. Call it a “heads they win, tails we lose” scenario.

Wall Street’s insulation from regulation was evidenced when Carmen Sagarra, a Federal Reserve bank examiner, released 48 hours of secretly recorded tapes documenting the lax regulation of the Fed toward Goldman Sachs, one of Wall Street’s largest banks. Despite slam-dunk proof that the Fed played footsie with bank leaders, zero change resulted. It didn’t hurt that what little media and political traction the issue received ended when the Ebola outbreak broke out.

6.    Fear

Fear has been used by the power elite from time immemorial to paralyze, distract and divide: paralyze people into inaction, distract attention away from real problems and those who cause them and divide people against one another who often have more in common that not. While an appropriate emotion in certain conditions to avoid immediate danger and often containing kernels of truth, fear is exaggerated by those who control social, political and economic institutions to dehumanize others and, thus, to justify wars, racism, xenophobia, genocide and reduction of civil liberties, and human rights to maintain status quos, expand controls, and undermine organized efforts for accountability and (re)create democracy.

Exaggerated fears were pronounced this year on everything from the imminent takeover of the entire Middle East by ISIS, Russian takeover of Ukraine (if not beyond), the Ebola virus spreading across the nation, and N. Korea hacking into movie studio computers. Maybe the single biggest fear, however, was that of the innate criminality and associated societal collapse resulting from black men and youth “roaming” in our society. Of course, black men and youth involved in petty theft, selling cigarettes and waving toy guns in Walmart’s and on park benches justified violent responses by white policemen.

In the face of created or exaggerated fears, those fearful are quite, if not most often, more than willing to let others decide and take care of them with few if any questions asked – whether those “caretakers” be the police, military, judges or politicians.

7.    November elections

Many will conclude given their political orientation that the mid-term elections were a tremendous expression of democracy. Not quite.

Yes, there was widespread dissatisfaction with many policies of the President. This was beaten out on Democratic candidates running for Senate and House seats on election day.

Yet, the trend continued unabated that only wealthy candidates or those with access to massive amounts of cash, either directly or indirectly, could run for office to begin with. Another continuing trend was that both major parties and their candidates ignoring the plight of the low-income and the takeover of government by financial and other corporate interests, among other issues.

The rotting election process itself, however, even more than the candidates or the issues regardless of party, was the major anti-democratic electoral reality.

More money poured into the federal elections than in any previous mid-term—following a long-standing trend. What was different was the number of contributors/investors – fewer people gave/invested more money. More money than ever before was also spent not by candidates or the political parties but by outside groups, funded by super rich donors and corporations but who often don’t have to disclose their donors. The Koch brothers continued their effort toward creating their own national but private political apparatus that simply did an end run around the Republican Party in terms of developing a political platform, raising and spending cash, vetting candidates, running ads, and turning out voters.

How exactly is all this good for democracy? And how specifically has this increased the possibility that candidates listened more to citizens and voters without money not connected to a political action committee? Well, it doesn’t. Those with the most money to invest in elections – be they directly to candidates or parties or indirectly to shadowy so called independent groups, dubbed Super PACs or in some cases called “social welfare organizations,” – have their voices heard and ultimately their needs met. If they didn’t, would they spend hundreds of millions of dollars? It’s simply a system of legalized bribery.

There was one more anti-democratic electoral reality in 2014: low voter turnout. At 36.4%, turnout was lower than during any election since 1942.

8.    Spying and surveillance

One sign of the crumbling control of any power elite of any society during any period of history is when the lens of the citizens directed toward their government is pivoted to become the lens of government directed toward citizens. The former produces accountability, the later tyranny.

Thanks to Edward Snowden and others, massive revelations of spying by the U.S. government, both domestically and internationally, was revealed. Public revelations included National Security Agency (NSA) collecting bulk phone records and millions of text messages; government cyber attacks against Anonymous; government spying on journalists and diplomats, jamming phones and computers, and using sex to lure targets into ‘honey traps;” government interception and storage of webcam images of millions of internet users not suspected of wrongdoing; leaked FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) court orders which weakened restrictions on sharing private information about Americans;  NSA developed technology to infect potentially millions of computers worldwide; the NSA “MYSTIC” program  capable of recording “100% percent” of a foreign country’s telephone calls;  NSA targeting of computer network “system administrators” across the globe;  government breach of Chinese company servers; NSA infiltration of German networks and specifically targeting Chancellor Angela Merkel; NSA collection of millions of images for facial recognition; extensive cooperation between the NSA and foreign governments; FISA court authorization of NSA to target 193 countries for surveillance; NSA and FBI surveillance of 5 Muslim Americans leaders for no legitimate reason; description of NSA “INREACH” program that allows “one stop” metadata from 23 different agencies; and NSA covert field activities which included in a number of countries “physical subversion” to infiltrate and compromise networks and devices.”

Numerous Congressional hearings addressing some of the revelations occurred. Sixteen former members and advisors of the Church Commission, which investigated government domestic spying in the 1970’s, called for new congressional investigations. The government released several previously classified documents on metadata gathering and surveillance and warrantless searches of electronic communications. However, Obama’s Presidential Policy Directive 28, issued in January, took place prior to most of the year’s revelations. Virtually nothing changed.

9.    Federal spending bill

There were too-numerous-to-document examples of programs in the annual federal spending bill passed by Congress in December that the public opposed and programs not funded or inadequately funded that the public supports. Each represents a lack of real democracy.

Three non-spending measures, though, deserve special consideration for their particular contributions to our vanishing ability at self-governance. One was previously mentioned – a “rider” shifting risky derivatives from banking corporations away from the free market in the event they go bust to the safe and secure lap of U.S. taxpayers. It’s capitalism at its finest if and when trillions of dollars of derivatives explode to the upside, socialism at its finest if and when they implode to the downside. Either way, the bankers win and we lose.

A second “rider” of the spending bill included a meteoric rise in allowable political investments/contributions from individuals to political parties. The degree of the increase wasn’t to keep up with inflation (at, say, 2-3%). Nor was the final increase 10%, 25%, 50%, or even doubling the previous limit. Way too low. The new “limits” are now 8 times the old ones – from $194,400 to $1.5 million over a two year election cycle. Eight times the previous limits. This makes the Democratic and Republican parties and by extension their candidates even more beholden to the voices and interests of the super rich and less inclined to listen and respond to the interests of low- and moderate-income people. These realities are even more acute, of course, for youth and people of color. Since the Supreme Court has concluded that money is speech, those with money will be booming their views, wants and needs even louder and more forcefully that ever before.

A final anti-democratic measure of the budget bill is a measure that was contained in the original House version but not in the final version. The House of Representatives in June overwhelmingly voted to prohibit the NSA from searching through Americans’ communications when targeting foreigners. This provision was unceremoniously removed at the last minute.

10.    Torture report

The December Senate report on CIA Torture confirmed what many victims and activists have asserted for years – the U.S. government, including the Executive branch along with the CIA and other so-called “intelligence” agencies, were out of control in violation of the due process and many other provisions of the U.S. Constitution and international human rights treaties, including the Geneva Conventions – which were called “quaint” and “obsolete” by Alberto Gonzales, Attorney General under George Bush. The decisions by the President eliminating all legal restraints and authorizing military interrogators to use extreme measures that in many cases were clearly torture were also clearly examples of executive supremacy and an imperial presidency.

The shocking and chilling report in a real democracy would result in immediate actions for justice among those who violated the constitution and international law. No real investigation took place or is forthcoming. No word from the current President that he will call on the Attorney General to launch a Department of Justice investigation what could lead to indictments. And no massive public outcry against torture and those who ordered it. It is this last point that may be the most disturbing of all.

MONETARY HISTORY CALENDAR December 22-28

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DECEMBER 22

1864 –IRON CITY BANK OF PITTSBURGH IS RECHARTED TO BECOME IRON CITY NATIONAL BANK
The bank was recharted under the new 1864 federal banking law.

Corporations possess no inherent inalienable “right” to exist in the US. They exist because the public via government (state and federal) grants “charters” or licenses to exist under terms established by the government. At one time, charters were democratic tools that rigidly defined the extent of their actions, issued for a limited duration.

Banks were, for obvious reasons, THE most rigidly defined and closely controlled type of corporation with precise limitations placed on capital, interest rates, residency requirements for directors and transparency of their financial books. And, of course, banking corporations, like all corporations, were prohibited from involvement in political or electoral matters as a means to protect the democratic “body politic.”

When banking corporations violated the terms of their charters and acting “ultra vires” (beyond their authority) the public response was routinely to dissolve their charter and either turn over the company to new owners with a new charter or distribute the banks’ assets to those who were victims of the banks’ actions.

Charters remain democratic tools. Corporations remain creations of the state and federal government. However, our history books nowhere contain this example of this expression of self-governance and, thus, our imaginations of how to control corporate actions are limited to corporate fines and legal actions against executives. Bank fines and even imprisonment of bank officials were and still are no substitute responses to profoundly unlawful banking practices compared to what was at one time a common strategy by our forebears: dissolving corporate charters.

DECEMBER 23

1913 – FEDERAL RESERVE ACT PASSES CONGRESS – CREATING FEDERAL RESERVE SYSTEM
The Act created a largely corporate controlled national banking and currency system, passed in the House by 298-60 and in the Senate by 43-25 and signed by President Wilson on this day. It was a major coup banking corporations through the establishment of a private central bank authorized to “monetize” government debt (i.e. to print their own money and exchange it for government securities or I.O.U.’s). The central banking system was composed of 12 regional private/corporate banks owned by participating commercial banks. All national banks were required to join the system. Banking corporations now controlled the issuance and circulation of our national currency. By controlling our national money faucet, they could create inflation and deflation. This corporate monopolization of our currency allowed for public regulation, but not control. It was now banking corporations, not the US government, that controlled the national currency. The Constitutional power for public creation of our power was handed over to private banking corporations. It’s the ultimate form of “privatization”  – more accurately “corporatization” – of what should be a public function or service.

DECEMBER 24

1294 – PAPACY OF POPE BONIFACE VIII BEGINS
Benedetto Gaetani became Pope of the Catholic Church on Christmas Eve, 1294. He instituted the first Christian “Jubilee” in 1300. Jubilee has both Jewish and Christian roots. According to Wikipedia, “The concept of the Jubilee is a special year of remission of sins and universal pardon. In the Biblical Book of Leviticus, a Jubilee year is mentioned to occur every fifty years, in which slaves and prisoners would be freed, debts would be forgiven and the mercies of God would be particularly manifest.” It was also common for land to be returned.  Pope Boniface VIII conditioned the forgiving of sins and debt on personal confessions and pilgrimages to sacred sites (i.e. basilicas of St. Peter and St. Paul in Rome) at least once a day for a specified time.

DECEMBER 25

2014 YEARS AGO – CLAIMED BIRTH DATE OF JESUS
In his book, Money and its True Function, author FR Burch said, “As long as Christ confined his teachings to the realm of morality and righteousness, He was undisturbed; it was not till He assailed the established economic system and ‘cast out’ the profiteers and ‘overthrew the tables of the money changers,’ that He was doomed. The following day He was questioned, betrayed on the second tried on the third and on the fourth crucified.”

1833 – BIRTH OF MARK “BRICK” POMEROY, NEWSPAPER PUBLISHER, CURRENCY REFORMER AND ORGANIZER OF “GREENBACK CLUBS”
At the national Greenback Party convention in 1876, Pomeroy was named chairman of a committee to coordinate the activities of local Greenback clubs across the country. The clubs served as forums for monetary education and mobilization on behalf of the Greenback Party. During his leadership, Pomeroy claimed almost 6000 clubs had been chartered: the most in Missouri, followed by Illinois. Michigan, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Texas and New York.

1983 – DEATH OF ROBERT H. HEMPHILL, CREDIT MANAGER, ATLANTA FEDERAL RESERVE BANK
“This is a staggering thought. We are completely dependent on the Commercial Banks. Someone has to borrow every dollar we have in circulation, cash or credit. If the Banks create ample synthetic money, we are prosperous; if not, we starve. We are absolutely without a permanent money system. When one gets a complete grasp of the picture, the tragic absurdity of our hopeless position is almost incredible, but there it is. ”

2013 – “BLOOMBERG VIEW” ARTICLE ON BART CHILTON, OUTSPOKEN FORMER MEMBER OF THE COMMODITY FUTURES TRADING COMMISSION
“Chilton leaves behind a sobering message: As we long suspected, Wall Street continues to use every trick in its playbook to do whatever it can to eviscerate numerous post-financial-crisis rules. The arsenal includes high-powered lobbyists who outnumber lawmakers 10-to-1; $1,000-an-hour letter-writing lawyers who gain strength from negotiating over arcana; and the occasional hoodwinking of a president whose knowledge of the ways of finance are close to nil.

In a recent interview, Chilton said that, despite years of hard work by financial regulators to put the 2010 Dodd-Frank law into force (witness the 882 pages required to explain a 71-page Volcker Rule), their efforts will be futile in the face of Wall Street’s money and power. ‘The lesson for me is: The financial sector is so powerful that they will roll things back over time,’ Chilton says. ‘The Wall Street firms have tremendous influence, and they can impact policy to a greater degree than any one regulator or a small group of regulators can.’

Bart’s views were confirmed in a most spectacular fashion on December 16 when President Obama signed the annual budget bill containing a “rider” permitting banking corporations to shift risky derivatives under financial protection of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) if and/or when they implode.

DECEMBER 28

1856 – BIRTH OF WOODROW WILSON, 28TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNTIED STATES
“A great industrial nation is controlled by its system of credit. Our system of credit is privately concentrated. The growth of the nation, therefore, and all our activities are in the hands of a few men who, even if their action be honest and intended for the public interest, are necessarily concentrated upon the great undertakings in which their own money is involved and who necessarily, by very reason of their own limitations, chill and check and destroy genuine economic freedom.” These misgivings, however, were expressed after he signed the Federal Reserve Act, creating the largely private U.S. Federal Reserve System.

1947 – BIRTH OF SPENCER BACHUS, CONGRESSPERSON, ALABAMA, REPUBLICAN CHAIR OF THE HOUSE FINANCIAL SERVICES COMMITTEE
“In Washington, the view is that the banks are to be regulated and my view is that Washington and the regulators are there to serve the banks.”

2013 — DEATH OF MARGRIT KENNEDY, AUTHOR OF OCCUPY MONEY
“At present, we’re stuck in the near vertical part of the exponential growth curve of money assets and debt. In nature the organism harboring this diseased growth would be on the verge of death. Can we even grasp that we’ve lost control — that we don’t rule this system, but it rules us? We need a transition process in which the creative power of money issuance is transferred to new institution that will use this power to benefit society, thereby ending the continuation of our compulsive, boundless expansion of money and debt. Only via a transition of this sort can we initiate a peaceful, evolutionary process that will lead us out of the crisis.”

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Why this calendar? Many people have questions about the root causes of our economic problems. Some questions involve money, banks and debt. How is money created? Why do banks control its quantity? How has the money system been used to liberate (not often) and oppress (most often) us? And how can the money system be “democratized” to rebuild our economy and society, create jobs and reduce debt? Our goal is to inform, intrigue and inspire through bite size weekly postings listing important events and quotes from prominent individuals (both past and present) on money, banking and how the money system can help people and the planet. We hope the sharing of bits of buried history will illuminate monetary and banking issues and empower you with others to create real economic and political justice. This calendar is a project of the Northeast Ohio American Friends Service Committee. Adele Looney, Phyllis Titus, Donna Schall, Leah Davis, Alice Francini, Deb Jose and Greg Coleridge helped in its development. Please forward this to others and encourage them to subscribe. To subscribe/unsubscribe or to comment on any entry, contact monetarycalendar@yahoo.com

MONETARY HISTORY CALENDAR Special Edition for December 21

Winter-Solstice-02

2012 – END OF THE MAYAN CALENDAR
The Mayans didn’t believe the end of their 5125 year calendar marked the end of the world, but rather the end of an old order. In its place would be people with a higher degree of awareness and consciousness.

Part of any such awareness and consciousness will surely include enlightenment and eventual replacement of unsustainable national monetary schemes of privatized/corporatized money creation with ones that are public and serve the interest of all, not simply the super wealthy or financial interests.

2014 — WINTER SOLSTICE
The darkest night of the year. For the next 6 months, the days (light) become longer.

This is a fine time to dedicate oneself to shedding greater light on monetary policy. A truly dark and invisible issue, monetary policy as this calendar has tried to demonstrate this entire year is essential to understanding and promoting justice, peace and democracy.

We have allowed private (corporate) interests to usurp our power to issue our own money to meet our needs and serve the common good. We’ve ignored monetary policy — believing it too complicated to understand, not connected to the issues we care about, and/or promoted by wild and unstable individuals. We, thus, focus instead on budget policies or tax policies as our only available public tools. We’ve also ignored history — those people and groups in our nation and around the world in the past and present who’ve seen the light, become aware and tried to act against the Money Power (which today are banking corporations and those they influence in government, academia and the media) to (re)assert real authority over creating and circulating money.

Money is the ultimate paradox — so involved in almost every aspect of our lives yet virtually completely unknown on how and for whom it’s created and circulated.

It’s time to shed light on money.

Happy Solstice!

NEO AFSC December 19, 2014 Podcast

podcasticon

Listen to podcast at http://afsc.org/audio/neo-afsc-december-19-2014-podcast

We summarize last week’s activities; announce upcoming events for next week; and comment on just 1 issue — due to its massive impact on all of our lives and because of a couple of important lessons it provides as we move forward to 2015 — the federal budget bill with its many spending provisions and two significant non-spending “riders” on bailing out Wall Street and dramatically increasing political contributions.

This is our last Podcast for 2014.

We welcome your feedback. What do you like? How could it be improved?

Our next Podcast will be January 9.

Happy Holidays!