Monday, March 25, 2019

When Are We Going to Tackle the For-Profit Monopolies Which Censored RussiaGate Skeptics?

We either take down Facebook and Google and turn them into tightly regulated transparent public utilities available to all or they will destroy what little is left of American democracy.
The RussiaGate Narrative has been revealed as a Big Con (a.k.a. Nothing-Burger), but what's dangerously real is the censorship that's being carried out by the for-profit monopolies Facebook and Google on behalf of the status quo's Big Con.
This site got a taste of Facebook-Google-Big-Media's Orwellian Authoritarian-Totalitarian censorship back in 2016 when a shadowy fake-news site called PropOrNot aggregated every major alt-media site that had published anything remotely skeptical of the coronation of Hillary Clinton as president and labeled us all shills for Russian propaganda.
Without any investigation of the perps running the site or their fake-news methodology, The Washington Post (Jeff Bezos' plaything) saw fit to promote the fake-news on Page One as if it were journalistically legitimate. Why would a newspaper that supposedly values the integrity of its content run with such shameless fake-news propaganda? Because it fit the Post's own political agenda and biases.
This is the essence of Facebook-Google-Big-Media's Orwellian Authoritarian-Totalitarian censorship: sacrifice accepted journalistic practice, free speech and transparency to promote an absurdly obvious political and social agenda.
If there was any real justice in America, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Google CEO Sundar Pichai should be wearing prison jumpsuits for what Facebook and Google have done to American democracy. Both of these monopolies have manipulated news feeds, search results and what individuals are shown in complete secret, with zero public oversight or transparency.
The damage to democracy wrought by Facebook and Google is severe: free speech no longer exists except in name, and what individuals see in search and social media feeds is designed to manipulate them without their consent or knowledge--and for a fat profit. Whether Facebook and Google are manipulating users for profit or to buy off Status Quo pressures to start regulating these monopolistic totalitarian regimes or to align what users see with their own virtue-signaling, doesn't matter.
What matters is that no one can possibly know how Facebook and Google have rigged their algorithms and to what purpose. The typical corporation can buy political influence, but Facebook and Google are manipulating the machinery of democracy itself in three ways:
1. They are secretly censoring alternative media and skeptics of the status quo narratives.
2. They are selling data and ads to anyone interested in manipulating voters and public opinion.
3. They are providing data to the National Security organs of the state which can then use this data to compile dossiers on "enemies of the people," i.e. skeptics and dissenters who question the "approved" context and narrative.
That's a much more dangerous type of power than buying political influence or manipulating public opinion by openly publishing biased "commentary."
We all understand how America's traditional Corporate Media undermines democracy: recall how every time Bernie Sanders won a Democratic primary in 2016, The New York Times and The Washington Post "reported" the news in small typeface in a sidebar, while every Hillary Clinton primary win was trumpeted in large headlines at the top of page one.
But this sort of manipulation is visible; what Google and Facebook do is invisible. What their algorithms do is invisible, and the shadow banning and other forms of invisible censorship cannot be easily traced.
A few of us can trace shadow banning because we have access to our site's server data. Please consider the data of Google searches and direct links from Facebook to oftwominds.com from November 2016 and November 2018:
Nov. 2016: Google Searches: 36,779
Nov. 2016: links from Facebook: 9,888
Nov. 2018: Google Searches: 12,671
Nov. 2018: links from Facebook: 859
Oftwominds.com has been around since 2005 and consistently draws around 250,000 page views monthly (via oftwominds.com and my mirror site on blogspot, which is owned/operated by Google. Interestingly, traffic to that site has been less affected by shadow banning; Coincidence? You decide....).
Given the consistency of my visitor traffic over the years, it's "interesting" how drastically the site's traffic with Google and Facebook has declined in a mere two years. How is this shadow banning not Orwellian Authoritarian-Totalitarian censorship? It's akin to China's Orwellian Social Credit system but for private profit.
It wouldn't surprise me to find my photo airbrushed out of group photos on Facebook and Google just as the Soviet propaganda organs did when someone fell out of favor in the 1930s.
Fortunately, oftwominds.com isn't dependent on Facebook or Google for its traffic; other content creators who were skeptical of RussiaGate are not so fortunate. One of the implicit goals of shadow banning and filters is to destroy the income of dissenting sites without the content creators knowing why their income plummeted.
Strip dissenters of their income and you strip them of the ability to dissent. Yea for "free speech" controlled by for-profit monopolies!
Where's the "level playing field" of free speech? As long as Facebook and Google are free to censor and filter in secret, there is no free speech in America. All we have is a simulacrum of free speech in which parroting "approved" narratives is promoted and dissent is censored/banned--but without anyone noticing or even being able to tell what's been filtered, censored or banned.
So when are we going to tackle privately held monopolies which are selling user data to the highest bidder, obliterating free speech in secret and manipulating news feeds and search to promote hidden agendas? I've argued (see links below) that the solution is very simple:
1. Regulate Facebook and Google as public utilities. Ban them from collecting and selling user data to anyone, including federal agencies.
2. Allow a modest profit to each firm via display adverts that are shown equally to every user.
3. Require any and all search/content filters and algorithms be made public, i.e. published daily.
4. Any executive or employee of these corporations who violates these statutes will face criminal felony charges and be exposed to civil liability lawsuits from users or content providers who were shadow-banned or their right to free speech was proscribed or limited by filters or algorithms.
There is no intrinsic right for privately held corporations to establish monopolies that can manipulate and filter free speech in secret to maximize profits and secret influence. We either take down Facebook and Google and turn them into tightly regulated transparent public utilities available to all or they will destroy what little is left of American democracy.
I recently addressed these invisible (but oh-so profitable) mechanisms in a series of essays:
My book Money and Work Unchained is now $6.95 for the Kindle ebook and $15 for the print edition. Read the first section for free in PDF format.


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Sunday, March 24, 2019

The Media, Mueller, the Big Con and the Democratization of Narrative

Falling for a con is painful. The first reaction is to deny being conned, of course. The second is to blame skeptics for being correct in their skepticism.
Here's the fundamental "story" of the Mueller Investigation: elites don't like "the little people" democratizing public narratives. The elites--who reckon their right to rule is self-evident--want to set the narrative and the context, because that's the foundation of power: once you get the citizenry to agree on your narrative and context, you secure two valuable things: 1) political legitimacy and 2) their obedience.
Elite anxiety over the "the little people" democratizing narratives is not a new phenomenon. Elites have demanded control of any media outlet that doesn't parrot their line and have tried to declare skeptical inquiry sedition for generations, stretching back to the founding of the Republic.
The elite interest in controlling the narrative and context long predates the era of "fake news." Please read this excerpt from the 1991 book The Radicalism of the American Revolution about the democratization of everyday life in post-Revolutionary War America (1790 - 1830):
"The result of all these assaults on elite opinion and celebrations of common ordinary judgment was a dispersion of authority and ultimately a diffusion of truth itself to a degree the world had never seen. With every ordinary person being told his ideas and tastes, on everything from medicine to art to government, were as good as, if not better than, those of "connoisseurs" and "speculative men" who had college degrees, it is not surprising that truth and knowledge became elusive and difficult to pin down."
This democratization deeply unsettled the elites, who were accustomed to leading by setting the "acceptable" narrative and context. Democracy, they discovered to their chagrin, isn't a force that one can bottle up and dispense in measured doses around election time; it spreads throughout every sphere of the society.
This reliance on one's own judgment depreciated the power not only of self-appointed elites but of those claiming superiority based on credentials. As novelist Herman Melville understood so acutely, this democratization of everything made everyone, pundit and commoner alike, a potential mark for a con and a potential chump for a compelling pitch that appealed to vanity, social aspirations and what we now call virtue-signaling.
Melville laid all this out in one of my favorite novels, The Confidence-Man, ostensibly a collection of stories about a motley cast of characters on a Mississippi riverboat but actually a meditation on the nature of trust, confidence and cons.
This puts Melville's 1857 novel at the very heart of the Mueller Investigation as various elite-promoted narratives are revealed as cons. Authority, of course, is well-placed to push The Big Con; declaring "the truth of the matter" as an article of faith is the acme of The Big Con.
Democracy requires all Americans take responsibility for sorting the wheat from the chaff. We're all potential marks, so we have to remain skeptical of every context and every narrative being pushed by authorities, elites, self-appointed experts, etc., all of whom are of course as self-serving as anyone else trying to advance their interests with a compelling story.
Here are a few paragraphs from my Amazon review of Melville's novel:
What ties the book together is not a story but a theme: the nature of trust and confidence. In a very sly way, Melville shows how a variety of cons are worked, as the absolutely distrustful are slowly but surely convinced to do exactly what they vowed not to do: buy the "herbal" patent medicine, buy shares in a bogus stock venture, or donate cash to a suspect "charity."
In other chapters, it seems like the con artist is either stopped in his tracks or is conned himself. Since the book is mostly conversations, we are left to our own conclusions; there is no authorial voice wrapping up each chapter with a neatly stated ending. This elliptical structure conveys the ambiguous nature of trust; we don't want to be taken, but confidence is also necessary for any business to be transacted. To trust no one is to be entirely isolated.
Melville also raises the question: is it always a bad thing to be conned? The sickly man seems to be improved by his purchase of the worthless herbal remedy, and the donor conned out of his cash for the bogus charity also seems to feel better about himself and life. The ornery frontiersman who's been conned by lazy helpers softens up enough to trust the smooth-talking employment agency owner. Is that a terrible thing, to trust despite a history of being burned?
The ambiguous nature of the bonds of trust is also explored. We think the Cosmopolitan is a con-man, but when he convinces a fellow passenger to part with a heavy sum, he returns it, just to prove a point. Is that a continuance of the con, or is he actually trustworthy?
The book is also an exploration of a peculiarly American task: sorting out who to trust in a multicultural non-traditional society of highly diverse and highly mobile citizens. In a traditional society, things operate in rote ways; young people follow in their parents' traditional roles, money is made and lent according to unchanging standards, and faith/tradition guides transactions such as marriage and business along well-worn pathways.
But in America, none of this structure is available. Even in Melville's day, America was a polyglot culture on the move; you had to decide who to trust based on their dress, manner and speech/pitch. The con, of course, works on precisely this necessity to rely on one's senses and rationality rather than a traditional network of trusted people and methods. So the con man dresses well and has a good story, and an answer for every doubt.
Much of the corporate media pushed a narrative that careful investigation has not confirmed. If there is one thing we can agree upon, it's that Mueller played it by the book and used all the resources available to him to follow every potential lead.
Various elites were counting on a conclusion that justified their dogged promotion of a specific agenda (impeachment), and now the backpedaling, air-brushing, convoluted explanations for why they fell for the con, etc. begins.
Every con depends on the mark wanting to believe the con is true.
Falling for a con is painful. The first reaction is to deny being conned, of course. The second is to blame skeptics for being correct in their skepticism.
My book Money and Work Unchained is now $6.95 for the Kindle ebook and $15 for the print edition. Read the first section for free in PDF format.


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Thursday, March 21, 2019

Politics Has Failed, Now Central Banks Are Failing

With each passing day, we get closer to the shift in the tide that will sweep away this self-serving delusion of the ruling elites like a crumbling sand castle.
Those living in revolutionary times are rarely aware of the tumult ahead: in 1766, a mere decade before the Declaration of Independence, virtually no one was calling for American independence. Indeed, in 1771, a mere 5 years before the rebellion was declared, the voices promoting independence were few and far between.
The shift from a pre-revolutionary era to a revolutionary era took less than a year. Perhaps no one exemplified the rapidity and totality of radicalization more than Benjamin Franklin, who went from an avowed Loyalist bent on reform to a dedicated, zealous revolutionary at the tender age of 70. (Old dogs can learn new tricks, at least in revolutionary eras.)
Recall that news could only travel as fast as a ship between seaports or a horse on the colonies' minimalist roads, and it took days to travel between Boston, Philadelphia and New York, and much longer to reach Williamsburg and Charleston and points west. Communications were slow and limited, and this makes the rapid change of the political tide even more extraordinary.
Are we in a pre-revolutionary era? Here's clue #1: politics has failed. When the political process can no longer fix what's broken, politics has failed. When entire classes of citizenry no longer feel represented, politics has failed. When the system delivers a steadily declining standard of living to the bottom 80% of households, politics has failed.
Clue #2: having failed, the political machinery passed the baton to the central bank, which attempted to fix what's broken by creating money out of thin air."Free" money and low-cost credit has always been viewed as the go-to fix for whatever's broken, because it's, well, free to the issuing central state and politically popular (everybody loves free money, free bread and free circuses).
This political expediency works for a time--hence it's popularity throughout history-- but eventually the asymmetries, perverse incentives and unintended consequences pile up and the entire financial system capsizes.
Clue #3: America's monetary substitute for political process has failed. The failure isn't visible to those paid not to look at centralized failure, but it's visible to objective observers. Glance at the chart below: the Federal Reserve has announced it will end reducing its "emergency response to save the world" balance sheet in September 2019, leaving it roughly $3 trillion larger than it was a decade ago in the pre-crisis definition of "normal."
This exceedingly modest reduction has been called "normalization," and so the end of "normalization" means we're back to normal, right?
Calling the extraordinarily abnormal balance sheet "normal" doesn't magically render it normal.
The magic trick of substituting monetary policy for the political process has failed. Creating credit and currency out of thin air is not a substitute for the loss of representation, soaring inequality, the dominance of parasitic elites or for responding to the changing realities of finance, economics, demographics or resources.
Central banks only have a few levers, and when they lower interest rates and buy assets, they're only temporarily propping up a failing system: they've fixed nothing. Huge swaths of the populace are still unrepresented; parasitic elites still dominate the financial and political systems; wealth and income inequality has been greatly accelerated; the majority of people are still losing ground and their wealth/income are increasingly precarious.
Revolutions are manifestations of dynamics that have been festering beneath the surface for decades. Those benefiting from a failing status quo--the top 5% that dominate finance, government, the media, think tanks, philanthro-capitalist foundations, higher education and the national defense/healthcare cartels--all reckon that since the system works great for me, it works great for everyone.
With each passing day, we get closer to the shift in the tide that will sweep away this self-serving delusion of the ruling elites like a crumbling sand castle.
My book Money and Work Unchained is now $6.95 for the Kindle ebook and $15 for the print edition. Read the first section for free in PDF format.


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Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Which Nations Will Crumble and Which Few Will Prosper in the Next 25 Years?

Adaptability and flexibility will be the core survival traits going forward.
What will separate the many nations that will crumble in the next 25 years and those few that will survive and even prosper while the status quo dissolves around them? As I explain in my recent book Pathfinding our Destiny: Preventing the Final Fall of Our Democratic Republic, the factors that will matter are not necessarily cultural or financial; being hard-working and wealthy won't be enough to save nations from coming apart at the seams.
Here are the factors that will matter in the next 25 years:
1. The ability to engage and survive non-linear change, which is rapid, unpredictable and systemic, as opposed to linear change which is gradual, predictable and limited in nature.
None of the current political systems are decentralized enough and adaptable enough to survive the non-linear era we're entering. As I explained in What If Politics Can't Fix What's Broken?, the politics of centralized compromise and incremental, top-down adjustments are wholly inadequate to dealing with non-linear disruptions.
2. The nations that cannot jettison their parasitic elites will fall; the few that find the political will to jettison their parasitic elites will have the wherewithal to survive and possibly even prosper as the global status quo collapses around them.
The problem, as we all know, is the parasitic elites rule the centralized hierarchies of wealth and political power, and they will cling to power even as the nation they rule crumbles around them. The hubris, complacency and greed of the ruling parasitic elites is near-infinite; the idea that the political and financial structures that they dominate will not survive simply doesn't exist in the parasitic elites, with the exception of a few outliers who are constructing remote bugout compounds with landing strips etc.
Unfortunately for these outliers, they can't escape satellite and drone imagery, or the loose tongues of employees, contractors, etc.
By the time the populace awakens to the precariousness of the entire status quo, it will be too late to effect meaningful change via removing the parasitic elites from power. Just as Rome was too hollowed out to survive by the end, the status quo structures will be too enfeebled to adapt quickly enough to survive.
3. Centralization of wealth, power and control has been the "solution" for hundreds or even thousands of years. We're approaching Peak Centralization and the systemic failure of centralization as the "solution" to anything.
The only sustainable solution going forward is radical decentralization of capital, political power and control of resources. The parasitic elites rule solely because wealth and power are so highly concentrated in the hands of the few. As the financial and political systems unravel and fail, solutions that are completely outside these centralized hierarchies will arise--if the populace is free to embrace them.
4. Solutions will obsolete the existing centralized financial and political structures. Reforms will all fail, as the parasitic elites will never relinquish their control or power. The "solution" will be the total collapse of the centralized financial and political structures and the parasitic elites that control them.
5. Adaptability and flexibility will be the core survival traits going forward. The only structures adaptable and flexible enough to respond quickly and effectively enough to survive are decentralized networks-- non-hierarchical, distributed rather than centralized, self-organizing rather than top-down.
Few if any of the "leading citizens" of Rome anticipated its collapse 20 years prior to the implosion. That is as true of the parasitic elites now as it was then. Collapse is truly "impossible" in the current mindset; it isn't even conceivable that what works now will stop working. But complacent belief in the permanence of the status quo doesn't stop friction or rust, nor will it stop collapse.
As an American, I hope the citizenry comes to understand the choice is simple and profound: either tolerate the dominance of our numerous parasitic elites and watch the nation come apart and fail or jettison the centralized structures the parasitic elites need to enforce their dominance.


Pathfinding our Destiny: Preventing the Final Fall of Our Democratic Republic ($6.95 ebook, $12 print, $13.08 audiobook): Read the first section for free in PDF format.


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My book Money and Work Unchained is now $6.95 for the Kindle ebook and $15 for the print edition. Read the first section for free in PDF format.


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