28/09/2016

John Kerry Gives Russia An Ultimatum: Stop Bombing Aleppo Or All Cooperation Ends - ZeroHedge

Jeff Fitchett:  More and more it is looking like the proxy war in Syria will lead to a much broader global conflict pitting the US and their vassal states (Europe, Canada, Australia, Japan) against Russia & China.  The hypocrisy stemming from the US is epic.  Obama's lecture to Russia about "the increasing Russian aggression" is a joke.  How Obama can keep a straight face while spewing lies deserves an Academy Award rather than the Nobel Peace Prize.  Last I checked the US has 700+ military bases in over 100 countries.  Perhaps it was opposite day at the UN general assembly last week!

Originally published at ZeroHedge


In the latest, and most dramatic - if perhaps entertaining - escalation of diplomacy between the US and Russian, earlier today Secretary of State John Kerry threatened to cut off all contacts with Moscow over Syria, unless Russian and Syrian government attacks on Aleppo end. Kerry issued the ultimatum in a Wednesday telephone call to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Kerry told Lavrov the U.S. was preparing to "suspend U.S.-Russia bilateral engagement on Syria," including on a proposed counterterrorism partnership, "unless Russia takes immediate steps to end the assault on Aleppo" and restore a cease-fire.
As the AP reported, in the telephone call with Lavrov, Kerry "expressed grave concern over the deteriorating situation in Syria, particularly for continued Russian and Syrian regime attacks on hospitals, the water supply network and other civilian infrastructure in Aleppo," Kirby's statement said. Kerry also told Lavrov the U.S. holds Russia responsible for the use of incendiary and bunker-buster bombs in an urban area. 
It was unclear what effect Kerry's words would have. There have been many threats lobbed at Russia over the years for the duration of the Syrian conflict, now in its 6th year, and most warnings have gone unfulfilled, including President Barack Obama's declaration that the U.S. would take military action if Syrian President Bashar Assad crossed the "red line" of using chemical weapons. Furthermore, Syria has repeatedly stressed that it is in its right to try to retake Aleppo from rebel forces. 
"The burden remains on Russia to stop this assault and allow humanitarian access to Aleppo and other areas in need," Kerry told Lavrov, according to State Department spokesman John Kirby.
According to western-based sources, government shelling and airstrikes landed near a bread distribution center and two hospitals in Aleppo on Wednesday. Activists and medics reported several people killed. They said at least one of the medical facilities was no longer operable, leaving the country's biggest city with only six functioning hospitals.
Ironically, despite Moscow's military engagement in the war alongside Assad's government, Washington has been working with its former Cold War foe in hopes of securing a cease-fire and a peace process, most recently a "landmark" ceasefire deal, which however collapse just a week later after US-coalition forces "mistakenly" bombed a Syrian army position. Still, despite the most recent collapse in diplomatic relations, current coordination to ensure U.S. and Russian planes stay out of each other's way will continue no matter what, the Pentagon said. The U.S. and its coalition partners are flying missions in Syria against IS; the U.S. also has a small contingent of special forces on the ground.
As AP notes, Kerry's threat aside, the U.S. has few other options beyond engaging Moscow to end the fighting between Assad's forces and rebels. Obama has made clear he won't authorize military action against Syria and the presence of Russian air assets alongside Syrian forces makes such a scenario all the more unlikely. The U.S. is similarly uncomfortable ramping up military support for anti-Assad rebels given the close ties even the so-called "moderate" groups maintain with al-Qaida-linked militants.
Making matters worse, peace efforts without Russia are unlikely to win over Assad. And green-lighting Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey or other countries to provide more weapons to the rebels could only make the war deadlier. Already, as many as 500,000 people have been killed. 
Meanwhile, the Russian Foreign Ministry presented a different version of the call, which focused on Lavrov's demand that the U.S. compel opposition forces to separate themselves from extremist groups. He told Kerry that many U.S.-backed groups have merged with the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front and said Nusra was getting U.S. weaponry that way. He made no reference to the "ultimatum" showing how seriously Russia is taking it.

26/09/2016

The Western Narrative on Syria (and pretty much everything else) is a facade - by Jeff Fitchett

Nothing is as it seems.  We are being lied to by our governments and the media.  Like minded people feel the same and appreciate that an information war has been going on for decades.  Our beliefs and thoughts are shaped on a daily basis by individuals bankrupt of ethics and values.  Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Most people just want to go about their day living a healthy and happy existence.  A very small percentage of our population is hell bent on destroying lives all in an effort to maximize profits, gain power and dictate what transpires globally.

We the people remain subdued because of the constant barrage of distractions we face.  It takes effort to ignore the bullshit and dig into what is really happening.  It often seems futile to think about how we can change the course of the direction humanity is going.  Each of us can only control our own actions.  Nobody is perfect, but we each can strive to unplug from the matrix in our own unique way.

It is imperative to not give up and raise a white flag in surrender.  Unhitching ourselves from the system that is destroying us is an arduous task, but it is also a fruitful endeavour.  The joy and sense of accomplishment is worth the effort in time.

The wars being waged by the West will be the undoing of Western domination.  The policies instituted by the maniacs running the show are becoming ridiculous to say the least.  You have to ask yourself; "who are they kidding?"  The truth is sitting out in the open for anyone to see who is willing to see.  It is all a facade that is slowly breaking down.  Obama receiving the Nobel Peace prize is a farce.

People are beginning to question why our governments are instigating policies in far off places that are leaving us worse off in our home countries as the social fabric that has kept us together is unravelling.  The West is plodding down a path that will lead to a 3rd world existence.

Resources are being wasted for what? Death and destruction? An inflection point is coming and the outcome will be surreal.

Listen to Bashar Ja’afari and US Peace Council Representatives on Syria


Gerald Celente Trends In The News - Proof US Media HATES Peace, LOVES War (Sep 21, 2016)

Jeff Fitchett: This is a good update from Gerald Celente. I wish there were more people like Gerald!


24/09/2016

Trivium Report Weekly update featuring: The Invisible American by Jim Clifton

“In a capitalist society, all human relationships are voluntary. Men are free to cooperate or not, to deal with one another or not, as their own individual judgments, convictions, and interests dictate. They can deal with one another only in terms of and by means of reason, i.e., by means of discussion, persuasion, and contractual agreement, by voluntary choice to mutual benefit. The right to agree with others is not a problem in any society; it is the right to disagree that is crucial. It is the institution of private property that protects and implements the right to disagree—and thus keeps the road open to man’s most valuable attribute (valuable personally, socially, and objectively): the creative mind.”
Ayn Rand

Earlier this week, as I was reading through my ‘pending articles to read’ pile, I came across an article by the Chairman and CEO of Gallup.  Gallup is a major research and polling company that is used by many companies and organizations.  The article below sheds a light on the true state of affairs within the US as it pertains to the majority of Americans.  The same statistics apply to most Western nations.  The situation in developing countries is much worse.   

It pains me to see the decline in the standard of living of so many people from all around the world.  It frustrates me that the establishment position is that we are in a recovery.  The first step to solving a problem is to realize that there is a problem.  

As I have mentioned in past articles, political upheaval is increasing because more and more people are starting to question the direction we are heading.  In 2016, the Brexit vote was the first major signal that discontent is increasing.  The upcoming US, German and French elections will be interesting to watch.

The Invisible American - by Jim Clifton 

I've been reading a lot about a "recovering" economy. It was even trumpeted on Page 1 of The New York Times and Financial Times last week.

I don't think it's true.

The percentage of Americans who say they are in the middle or upper-middle class has fallen 10 percentage points, from a 61% average between 2000 and 2008 to 51% today.

Ten percent of 250 million adults in the U.S. is 25 million people whose economic lives have crashed.

What the media is missing is that these 25 million people are invisible in the widely reported 4.9% official U.S. unemployment rate.

Let's say someone has a good middle-class job that pays $65,000 a year. That job goes away in a changing, disrupted world, and his new full-time job pays $14 per hour -- or about $28,000 per year. That devastated American remains counted as "full-time employed" because he still has full-time work -- although with drastically reduced pay and benefits. He has fallen out of the middle class and is invisible in current reporting.

More disastrous is the emotional toll on the person -- the sudden loss of household income can cause a crash of self-esteem and dignity, leading to an environment of desperation that we haven't seen since the Great Depression.

Millions of Americans, even if they themselves are gainfully employed in good jobs, are just one degree away from someone who is experiencing either unemployment, underemployment or falling wages. We know them all.

There are three serious metrics that need to be turned around or we'll lose the whole middle class.
1 According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the percentage of the total U.S. adult population that has a full-time job has been hovering around 48% since 2010 -- this is the lowest full-time employment level since 1983.
2 The number of publicly listed companies trading on U.S. exchanges has been cut almost in half in the past 20 years -- from about 7,300 to 3,700. Because firms can't grow organically -- that is, build more business from new and existing customers -- they give up and pay high prices to acquire their competitors, thus drastically shrinking the number of U.S. public companies. This seriously contributes to the massive loss of U.S. middle-class jobs.
3 New business startups are at historical lows. Americans have stopped starting businesses. And the businesses that do start are growing at historically slow rates.

Free enterprise is in free fall -- but it is fixable. Small business can save America and restore the middle class.

Gallup finds that small businesses -- startups plus "shootups," those that grow big -- are the engine of new economic energy. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, 65% of all new jobs are created by small businesses, not large ones.

Here's the crisis: The deaths of small businesses recently outnumbered the births of small businesses. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that the total number of business startups and business closures per year crossed for the first time in 2008. In the nearly 30 years before that, the U.S. consistently averaged a surplus of almost 120,000 more business births than deaths each year. But from 2008 to 2011, an average of 420,000 businesses were born annually, while an average of 450,000 per year were dying.

Bottom line: The two most trusted institutions in the U.S. are the military and small business. Most people know about our military's importance, but not as many appreciate the role small business plays in creating the majority of new jobs and in national security itself.

America needs small business to boom again. Small businesses are our best hope for badly needed economic growth, great jobs and ultimately accelerated human development. When we get small business to boom, we can save America, restore our middle class and once again lead the world.

A version of this blog post originally appeared in The Small Business Journal.
Jim Clifton is Chairman and CEO at Gallup.



20/09/2016

Deconstructing Samantha Power’s Big Lies on US Warplanes Massacring Syrian Force - by Stephen Lendman

She’s Obama’s neocon UN envoy, a despicable character, complicit in his high crimes by outrageously supporting them.
Edward Herman once called her a member of “the cruise missile left.” She glorifies US-sponsored genocides outrageously called humanitarian interventions, ignoring or shamelessly justifying Washington’s sordid record of repeated supreme crimes against peace.
She disgraces the office she holds, part of Obama’s permanent war criminal cabal. Her notion of responsibility to protect is mass slaughter and destruction to advance America’s imperium.
Responding to Russia’s calling an emergency Saturday Security Council session to address US naked aggression against Syrian forces earlier in the day, flagrantly breaching Geneva ceasefire terms, she shamelessly changed the subject, turned truth on its head, bashed Russia’s “uniquely hypocritical and cynical” attempt to make her explain her government’s lawless aggression.
“Why are we having this meeting tonight,” she asked? “It is a diversion from what is happening on the ground. If you don’t like what is happening on the ground then you distract.”
“It is a magician’s trick…(W)e encourage the Russian Federation to have emergency meetings with the Assad regime and deliver them to this deal.”
“What Russia is alleging tonight is that somehow the United States is undermining the fighting against ISIL. The Russian spokesperson even said that the United States might be complicit in this attack.”
Truth about Obama’s war, its support for ISIS and virtually all other terrorists groups operating regionally and elsewhere is too much reality for her or other rogue US officials to admit publicly.
Playing the blame game instead, she disgracefully holds Assad and his democratic government responsible for Obama’s genocidal war – typical US arrogance and hubris.
“We are investigating (Saturday’s US terror-bombing) incident,” she ranted. When America investigates its own high crimes, whitewash follows every time.
Neocons infesting Washington don’t “regret the loss of life,” as Power claimed. They mass slaughter defenseless victims over and over again endlessly, civilians considered legitimate targets.
Power’s remarks were more despicable than usual, calling Russia’s legitimately convened Security Council session on Saturday “a stunt with moralism and grandstanding…uniquely cynical and hypocritical.”
She lied accusing Assad of “intentionally striking civilian targets with horrifying, predictable regularity.”
She lied saying Syria “prevent(s) life-saving humanitarian aid from reaching people” in need.
She lied claiming Syrian forces steal humanitarian aid for themselves.
She lied accusing its military of double-tapping civilian targets (striking the same ones twice to target rescue personnel rushing to the scene to aid victims of the first strike).
She lied claiming Syria used chemical weapons against its own people.
She lied saying Syria “tortured tens of thousands of people in its prisons, which now double as torture chambers.”
She lied about what she called Syria’s “worst practices: hitting hospitals, hitting refugee camps, hitting markets without a single public expression of remorse” – these and other civilian sites routine US targets in all its wars of aggression.
She lied accusing Syria of numerous other atrocities, calling them “some of the most systematic (ones) that we have seen in a generation.”
She lied claiming America doesn’t support ISIS or other terrorist groups – imported death squads it  created and uses as imperial foot soldiers.
She lied saying Saturday’s US willful, malicious and lawless terror-bombing of Syrian military personnel was done “in error.”
There was nothing accidental about it, a flagrant breach of Geneva terms, a high crime of war, more proof America reviles peace and stability.
Power sounded buffoon-like claiming “(t)he United States is extremely serious about making (Geneva) work.” It was dead-on-arrival because Washington rejects cessation of hostilities and diplomatic conflict resolution.
Power is paid to lie for Washington’s criminal cabal in charge. Her despicable remarks show she does it with relish.

18/09/2016

Russia Has No Partners In The West — Paul Craig Roberts

The Russian government is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. The Russian government keeps making agreements with Washington, and Washington keeps breaking them. 
This latest exercise in what Einstein defined as insanity is the latest Syrian cease fire agreement. Washington broke the agreement by sending the US Air Force to bomb Syrian troop positions, killing 62 Syrian soldiers and wounding 100, thus clearing the way for ISIS to renew the attack.
Russia caught Washington off guard in September 2015 when the Russian Air Force was sent to bomb ISIS positions in Syria, thus enabling the Syrian Army to regain the initiative. Russia had the war against ISIS won, but pulled out unexpectedly before the job was done. This allowed the US or its agents to resupply ISIS, which renewed the attack.
So Russia had to return to Syria. In the interval Washington had inserted itself. Now the Russian air attacks on ISIS are more complicated, as is the sky over Syria. Russia notifies Washington of its planned attacks on ISIS, and Washington warns ISIS and perhaps Turkey which shot down a Russian plane. Nevertheless, the Syrian Army gained ground. 
But each time victory was stymied by “peace talks” or a “cease fire,” during which the US supported forces would regroup. Consequently, a war that Russia and Syria could have already won continues, and with a new element. Now Washington has directly attacked the Syrian army.
The US military claims it thought it was striking ISIS. Think about that a minute. The US claims to be a military superpower. It spies on the entire world, even on the personal emails and cell phone calls of its European vassals. Yet, somehow all this spy power failed to differentiate a known Syrian Army position from ISIS. If we believe that, we must conclude that the US is militarily incompetent. 
This is what has happened: Priot to the current “cease fire,” the Russians could attack the US-supported jihadists, but the US could not attack Syrian forces directly, only through its jihadist proxies. The US has used the “cease fire” to create a precedent for US direct attacks on the Syrian Army.
The Russians, who almost had the war won, have shifted their focus to “peace talks” and “cease fires” that the US has used to introduce Washington’s direct participation into the conflict. 
It is a mystery that the Russian government believes Washington and Moscow have any common interest in the outcome in Syria. Washington’s interest is to remove Assad and put Syria into the chaos that rules in Libya and Iraq. Russia’s interest is to stabalize Syria as a bulwark against the spread of jihadism. It is extraordinary that the Russian government is so misinformed that it thinks Moscow and Washington have a common interest in fighting terrorism, when terrorism is Washington’s weapon for destabilizing the Middle East.
How can the Russian memory be so short. Washington promised Gorbachev that if he permitted the reunification of Germany, NATO would not move one inch to the East. But the Clinton regime placed NATO on Russia’s border.
The George W. Bush regime violated the ABM Treaty by pulling out of it, and the Obama regime is putting missile bases on Russia’s border.
The neoconservatives deep-sixed no first use of nuclear weapons and elevated them to pre-emptive first strike in US war doctrine.
The Obama regime overthrew the Ukrainian government and installed a US puppet government in a former constituent part of Russia. The puppet government launched a war against the Russian populations in Ukraine, causing secession movements that Washington has mischaracterized as “Russian invasion and annexation.”
Yet, the Russian government thinks Washington is a “partner” with whom it has common interests. 
Go figure.

17/09/2016

Fundamentals do not support financial market valuations. Central Banks are keeping the system afloat - By Jeff Fitchett

“All compromise is based on give and take, but there can be no give and take on fundamentals.  Any compromise on mere fundamentals is a surrender.  For it is all give and no take.”
Mahatma Gandhi
Eight years ago on September 15th, 2008 Lehman Brothers, one of the world’s largest investment banks, filed for bankruptcy.  The failure of Lehman Brothers along with other massive Wall Street firms triggered the financial crisis in 2008 that is now referred to as “The Great Recession”.

Shoddy lending practices and too much debt was the underlying factor that caused corporate titan’s such AIG, Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, GE, General Motors, and many other large corporations to seek tax payer funded bailouts.  

The recession that ensued had a ripple effect that was felt globally.  Governments and Central Banks enacted extreme policies that are still being implanted to this very day all in an effort to keep the financial system afloat.  

The 2008 financial crisis has shaped how I look at the world of finance and government.  I have grown skeptical of central planners ability to manage the global economy. 


Last Friday the Dow Jones plunged nearly 400 points as the odds of a September rate hike ‘had’ increased.  





















Chart Courtesy of Bloomberg, ZeroHedge


On the following Monday, September 12th, Federal Reserve Board Member, Lael Brainard did a speech at the Chicago Council of Global Affairs and in her speech she alluded to the fact that to tighten monetary policy now is less compelling. (Read full speech text here).  In response the odds of a September rate hike dropped and equity markets rejoiced with the belief that the ‘good times’ will continue.





















Chart Courtesy of Bloomberg, ZeroHedge

S&P 500 market pricing on Friday Sep 9th (markets think rates are going up) and Monday Sep 12th (markets think rates stay as is)





















Chart Courtesy of Bloomberg, ZeroHedge

As outlined in last weeks missive; structural issues  have not been dealt with. I think that ever increasing amounts of debt & stimulus will lead to hyperinflation.  Developing nations are dealing with this now and the rot will slowly creep into G20 nations.  

It is fascinating to observe the disparity between economic fundamentals and the broad based financial markets.  Perhaps future historians will label the time period in which we live as “The Age of Extremes” 

























Charts Above Courtesy of Bloomberg, ZeroHedge


























Chart Courtesy of Casey Research
































Charts Courtesy of Harvard University, Zero Hedge


Peddling fiction....

Interview with Greg Hunter & David Stockman

Jeff Fitchett: This video is worth your time.  I agree with David Stockman's assessment on current affairs.


16/09/2016

Your Money or Your Life: What’s Behind the Latest Government Scam to Rob You Blind? - John W. Whitehead

Originally published at The Rutherford Institute
 
“The fact is that the government, like a highwayman, says to a man: Your money, or your life. And many, if not most, taxes are paid under the compulsion of that threat. The government does not, indeed, waylay a man in a lonely place, spring upon him from the road side, and, holding a pistol to his head, proceed to rifle his pockets. But the robbery is none the less a robbery on that account; and it is far more dastardly and shameful.”—Lysander Spooner, American abolitionist and legal theorist
If a cop wrongfully attacks you, you cannot fight back.
If a SWAT team wrongfully raids your home, you cannot defend yourself.
If a highway patrol officer wrongfully takes your money or your valuable possessions, you cannot get them back without a lengthy, costly legal battle.
It used to be that the Constitution served as a bulwark against government abuses, excesses and wrongdoing.
That is no longer the case.
Having been reduced to little more than a historic document, the Constitution now provides scant protection against government abuses, misconduct and corruption.
Not only are “we the people” painfully vulnerable to the whims of any militarized cop on the beat, but we are also sitting targets for every government huckster out to fleece the taxpayer of their hard-earned dollars.
We get taxed on how much we earn, taxed on what we eat, taxed on what we buy, taxed on where we go, taxed on what we drive, and taxed on how much is left of our assets when we die.
Because the government’s voracious appetite for money, power and control has grown out of control, its agents have devised other means of funding its excesses and adding to its largesse through taxes disguised as fines, taxes disguised as fees, and taxes disguised as tolls, tickets and penalties. For example, red light cameras, which were sold to the public as safety measures, have in practice become backdoor taxes aimed at swelling government bank accounts.
The government’s schemes to swindle, cheat, scam, and generally defraud Americans have run the gamut from wasteful pork barrel legislation, cronyism and graft to asset forfeiture schemes, the modern-day equivalent of highway robbery, astronomical health care “reform,” and costly stimulus packages.
Americans have also been made to pay through the nose for the government’s endless wars, subsidization of foreign nations, military empire, welfare state, roads to nowhere, bloated workforce, secret agencies, fusion centers, private prisons, biometric databases, invasive technologies, arsenal of weapons, and every other budgetary line item that is contributing to the fast-growing wealth of the corporate elite at the expense of those who are barely making ends meet—that is, we the taxpayers.
Those football stadiums that charge exorbitant sums for nosebleed seats? Our taxpayer dollars subsidize them. Those blockbuster war films? Yep, we were the silent investors on those, too. Same goes for the military equipment being peddled to local police agencies and the surveillance cameras being “donated” to local governments.
Now the government and its corporate partners in crime have come up with a new scheme to not only scam taxpayers out of what’s left of their paychecks but also make us foot the bill, and it’s coming at us in the form of a war on cash.
What is this war on cash?
It’s a concerted campaign to do away with large bills such as $20s, $50s, $100s and shift consumers towards a digital mode of commerce that can easily be monitored, tracked, tabulated, mined for data, hacked, hijacked and confiscated when convenient.
According to economist Steve Forbes, “The real reason for this war on cash—start with the big bills and then work your way down—is an ugly power grab by Big Government. People will have less privacy: Electronic commerce makes it easier for Big Brother to see what we’re doing, thereby making it simpler to bar activities it doesn’t like, such as purchasing salt, sugar, big bottles of soda and Big Macs.”
Much like the war on drugs and the war on terror, this so-called “war on cash” is being sold to the public as a means of fighting terrorists, drug dealers and tax evaders. Just the mere possession of cash is enough to implicate you in suspicious activity and have you investigated. In other words, cash has become another way for the government to profile Americans and render them criminals.
The rationale is that cash is the currency for illegal transactions given that it’s harder to track, can be used to pay illegal immigrants, and denies the government its share of the “take,” so doing away with paper money will help law enforcement fight crime and help the government realize more revenue.
Despite what we know about the government and its history of corruption, bumbling, fumbling and data breaches, not to mention how easily technology can be used against us, the campaign to do away with cash is really not a hard sell.
It’s not a hard sell, that is, if you know the right buttons to push, and the government has become a grand master in the art of getting the citizenry to do exactly what it wants. Remember, this is the same government that plans to use behavioral science tactics to “nudge” citizens to comply with the government’s public policy and program initiatives.
It’s also not a hard sell if you belong to the Digital Generation, that segment of the population for whom technology is second nature and “the first generation born into a world that has never not known digital life.”
And if you belong to the growing class of Americans—46% of consumers, approximately 114 million adults and rising—who use your cell phone to pay bills, purchase goods, and transfer funds, then the government is just preaching to the choir when it comes to persuading you of the convenience of digital cash.
In much the same way that Americans have opted into government surveillance through the convenience of GPS devices and cell phones, digital cash—the means of paying with one’s debit card, credit card or cell phone—is becoming the de facto commerce of the American police state.
It is estimated that smart phones will replace cash and credit cards altogether by 2020. Already, a growing number of businesses are adopting no-cash policies, including certain airlines, hotels, rental car companies, restaurants and retail stores. In Sweden, even the homeless and churches accept digital cash.
Making the case for “never, ever carrying cash” in lieu of a digital wallet, journalist Lisa Rabasca Roepe argues that cash is inconvenient, ATM access is costly, and it’s now possible to reimburse people using digital apps such as Venmo. Thus, there’s no longer a need for cash. “More and more retailers and grocery stores are embracing Apple Pay, Google Wallet, Samsung Pay, and Android Pay,” notes Roepe. “PayPal's app is now accepted at many chain stores including Barnes & Noble, Foot Locker, Home Depot, and Office Depot. Walmart and CVS have both developed their own payment apps while their competitors Target and RiteAid are working on their own apps.”
It’s not just cash that is going digital, either.
A growing number of states—including Delaware and California—are looking to adopt digital driver’s licenses that would reside on your mobile phone. These licenses would include all of the information contained on your printed license, along with a few “extras” such as real-time data downloaded directly from your state's Department of Motor Vehicles.
Of course, reading between the lines, having a digital driver’s license will open you up to much the same jeopardy as digital cash: it will make it possible for the government to better track your movements, monitor your activities and communications and ultimately shut you down.
So what’s the deal here?
Despite all of the advantages that go along with living in a digital age—namely, convenience—it’s hard to imagine how a cashless world navigated by way of a digital wallet doesn’t signal the beginning of the end for what little privacy we have left and leave us vulnerable to the likes of government thieves and data hackers.
First, when I say privacy, I’m not just referring to the things that you don’t want people to know about, those little things you do behind closed doors that are neither illegal nor harmful but embarrassing or intimate. I am also referring to the things that are deeply personal and which no one need know about, certainly not the government and its constabulary of busybodies, nannies, Peeping Toms, jail wardens and petty bureaucrats.
Second, we’re already witnessing how easy it will be for government agents to manipulate digital wallets for their own gain. For example, civil asset forfeiture schemes are becoming even more profitable for police agencies thanks to ERAD (Electronic Recovery and Access to Data) devices supplied by the Department of Homeland Security that allow police to not only determine the balance of any magnetic-stripe card (i.e., debit, credit and gift cards) but also freeze and seize any funds on pre-paid money cards. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in June 2016 that it does not violate the Fourth Amendment for police to scan or swipe your credit card.
Third, as the ever insightful Paul Craig Roberts observes, while Americans have been distracted by the government’s costly war on terror, “the financial system, working hand-in-hand with policymakers, has done more damage to Americans than terrorists could possibly inflict.” Ultimately, as Roberts—who served as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy under Ronald Reagan—makes clear, the war on cash is about giving the government the ultimate control of the economy and complete access to the citizenry’s pocketbook.
Fourth, if there’s a will, there’s a way. So far, every technological convenience that has made our lives easier has also become our Achilles’ heel, opening us up to greater vulnerabilities from hackers and government agents alike. In recent years, the U.S. government has been repeatedly hacked. In 2015, the Office of Personnel Management had more than 20 million personnel files stolen, everything from Social Security numbers to birth dates and fingerprint records. In 2014, it was the White House, the State Department, the Post Office and other government agencies, along with a host of financial institutions, retailers and entertainment giants that had their files breached. And these are the people in charge of protecting our sensitive information?
Fifth, if there’s one entity that will not stop using cash for its own nefarious purposes, it’s the U.S. government. Cash is the currency used by the government to pay off its foreign “associates.” For instance, the Obama administration flew more than $400 million in cash to Iran in January 2016, reportedly as part of a financial settlement with the country. Critics claim the money was ransom paid for the return of American hostages. And then there was the $12 billion in shrink-wrapped $100 bills that the U.S. flew to Iraq only to claim it had no record of what happened to the money. It just disappeared. So when government economists tell you that two-thirds of all $100 bills in circulation are overseas—more than half a trillion dollars’ worth—it’s a pretty good bet that the government played a significant part in their export.
Sixth, this drive to do away with cash is part of a larger global trend driven by international financial institutions and the United Nations that is transforming nations of all sizes, from the smallest nation to the biggest, most advanced economies.
Finally, short of returning to a pre-technological, Luddite age, there’s really no way to pull this horse back now that it’s left the gate. While doing so is near impossible, it would also mean doing without the many conveniences and advantages that are the better angels, if you will, of technology’s totalitarian tendencies: the internet, medical advances, etc.
To our detriment, we really have little control over who accesses our private information, how it is stored, or how it is used. Whether we ever had much control remains up for debate. However, in terms of our bargaining power over digital privacy rights, we have been reduced to a pitiful, unenviable position in which we can only hope and trust that those in power will treat our information with respect.
America’s founders, however, did not believe in trusting government officials or giving them too much power. In fact, they believed those entrusted with power will eventually pervert it into tyranny. As Thomas Jefferson observed, “Let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.”
Unfortunately, that Constitution has since been shredded.
Our republic has been transformed into an oligarchy.
We have come full circle, back to a pre-revolutionary era of taxation without any real representation.
Lysander Spooner, a 19th century American abolitionist and legal theorist, was right when he concluded that the government is far more disingenuous and dangerous to the rights, property and lives of the citizenry than the common criminal or highwayman. As Spooner points out:
[Unlike the government,] the highwayman … does not pretend that he has any rightful claim to your money, or that he intends to use it for your own benefit…  He has not acquired impudence enough to profess to be merely a “protector”… He does not persist in following you on the road, against your will; assuming to be your rightful “sovereign,” on account of the “protection” he affords you. He does not keep “protecting” you, by commanding you to bow down and serve him; by requiring you to do this, and forbidding you to do that; by robbing you of more money as often as he finds it for his interest or pleasure to do so; and by branding you as a rebel, a traitor, and an enemy to your country, and shooting you down without mercy, if you dispute his authority, or resist his demands… In short, he does not, in addition to robbing you, attempt to make you either his dupe or his slave.
How tragically apropos the analogy remains today.
We the people, once free citizens of a free nation, are now at the mercy of cutthroats and villains masquerading as government agents and elected officials.
We continue to be robbed at gunpoint, treated like cattle, tracked incessantly and forced to serve and obey.
We continue to be branded rebels and traitors and enemy combatants, shot without hesitation for daring to resist an official order or challenge injustice, and duped into believing all this was done for our “good.”
In the end, as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, we are no better than when we first started out more than 200 years ago as indentured slaves to a government elite intent on using us for their own profit and gain.