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Thread: The Global Rat Race & The Magna Carta - Destroying the commons, Noam Chomsky

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    The Global Rat Race & The Magna Carta - Destroying the commons, Noam Chomsky

    Destroying the commons:
    How the Magna Carta became a Minor Carta

    By Noam Chomsky

    Down the road only a few generations, the millennium of Magna Carta, one of the great events in the establishment of civil and human rights, will arrive. Whether it will be celebrated, mourned or ignored is not at all clear.

    That should be a matter of serious immediate concern. What we do right now, or fail to do, will determine what kind of world will greet that event. It is not an attractive prospect if present tendencies persist - not least because the Great Charter is being shredded before our eyes.

    The first scholarly edition of Magna Carta was published by the eminent jurist William Blackstone. It was not an easy task. There was no good text available. As he wrote, "the body of the charter has been unfortunately gnawn by rats" - a comment that carries grim symbolism today, as we take up the task the rats left unfinished.

    Blackstone's edition actually includes two charters. It was titled The Great Charter and the Charter of the Forest. The first, the Charter of Liberties, is widely recognized to be the foundation of the fundamental rights of the English-speaking peoples - or as Winston Churchill put it more expansively, "the charter of every self-respecting man at any time in any land". Churchill was referring specifically to the reaffirmation of the charter by Parliament in the Petition of Right, imploring King Charles to recognize that the law is sovereign, not the king. Charles agreed briefly, but soon violated his pledge, setting the stage for the murderous English Civil War.

    After a bitter conflict between king and Parliament, the power of royalty in the person of Charles II was restored. In defeat, Magna Carta was not forgotten. One of the leaders of Parliament, Henry Vane, was beheaded. On the scaffold, he tried to read a speech denouncing the sentence as a violation of Magna Carta, but was drowned out by trumpets to ensure that such scandalous words would not be heard by the cheering crowds. His major crime had been to draft a petition calling the people "the original of all just power" in civil society - not the king, not even God. That was the position that had been strongly advocated by Roger Williams, the founder of the first free society in what is now the US state of Rhode Island. His heretical views influenced John Milton and John Locke, though Williams went much further, founding the modern doctrine of separation of church and state, still much contested even in the liberal democracies.

    As often is the case, apparent defeat nevertheless carried the struggle for freedom and rights forward. Shortly after Vane's execution, King Charles granted a Royal Charter to the Rhode Island plantations, declaring that "the form of government is Democratical", and furthermore that the government could affirm freedom of conscience for Papists, atheists, Jews, Turks - even Quakers, one of the most feared and brutalized of the many sects that were appearing in those turbulent days. All of this was astonishing in the climate of the times.

    A few years later, the Charter of Liberties was enriched by the Habeas Corpus Act of 1679, formally titled "an Act for the better securing the liberty of the subject, and for prevention of imprisonment beyond the seas". The US constitution, borrowing from English common law, affirms that "the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended" except in case of rebellion or invasion. In a unanimous decision, the US Supreme Court held that the rights guaranteed by this act were "considered by the Founders [of the American Republic] as the highest safeguard of liberty". All of these words should resonate today.

    The second charter and the commons

    The significance of the companion charter, the Charter of the Forest, is no less profound and perhaps even more pertinent today - as explored in depth by Peter Linebaugh in his richly documented and stimulating history of Magna Carta and its later trajectory. The Charter of the Forest demanded protection of the commons from external power.

    The commons were the source of sustenance for the general population: their fuel, their food, their construction materials, whatever was essential for life. The forest was no primitive wilderness. It had been carefully developed over generations, maintained in common, its riches available to all, and preserved for future generations - practices found today primarily in traditional societies that are under threat throughout the world.

    The Charter of the Forest imposed limits to privatization. The Robin Hood myths capture the essence of its concerns (and it is not too surprising that the popular 1950s television series The Adventures of Robin Hood was written anonymously by Hollywood screenwriters blacklisted for leftist convictions). By the 17th century, however, this charter had fallen victim to the rise of the commodity economy and capitalist practice and morality.

    With the commons no longer protected for cooperative nurturing and use, the rights of the common people were restricted to what could not be privatized, a category that continues to shrink to virtual invisibility. In Bolivia, the attempt to privatize water was, in the end, beaten back by an uprising that brought the indigenous majority to power for the first time in history. The World Bank has just ruled that the mining multinational Pacific Rim can proceed with a case against El Salvador for trying to preserve lands and communities from highly destructive gold mining. Environmental constraints threaten to deprive the company of future profits, a crime that can be punished under the rules of the investor-rights regime mislabeled as "free trade".

    And this is only a tiny sample of struggles under way over much of the world, some involving extreme violence, as in the eastern Congo, where millions have been killed in recent years to ensure an ample supply of minerals for mobile phones and other uses, and of course ample profits.

    The rise of capitalist practice and morality brought with it a radical revision of how the commons are treated, and also of how they are conceived. The prevailing view today is captured by the late American ecologist Garrett Hardin's influential argument that "freedom in a commons brings ruin to us all", the famous "tragedy of the commons": What is not owned will be destroyed by individual avarice.

    An international counterpart was the concept of terra nullius, employed to justify the expulsion of indigenous populations in the settler-colonial societies of the Anglosphere, or their "extermination", as the founding fathers of the American Republic described what they were doing, sometimes with remorse, after the fact. According to this useful doctrine, the native Americans had no property rights since they were just wanderers in an untamed wilderness. And the hard-working colonists could create value where there was none by turning that same wilderness to commercial use.

    In reality, the colonists knew better and there were elaborate procedures of purchase and ratification by crown and parliament, later annulled by force when the evil creatures resisted extermination. The doctrine is often attributed to John Locke, but that is dubious. As a colonial administrator, he understood what was happening, and there is no basis for the attribution in his writings, as contemporary scholarship has shown convincingly, notably the work of Australian scholar Paul Corcoran. (It was in Australia, in fact, that the doctrine has been most brutally employed.)

    The grim forecasts of the tragedy of the commons are not without challenge. The late Elinor Olstrom won the Nobel Prize in economics in 2009 for her work showing the superiority of user-managed fish stocks, pastures, woods, lakes, and groundwater basins. But the conventional doctrine has force if we accept its unstated premise: that humans are blindly driven by what American workers, at the dawn of the industrial revolution, bitterly called "the New Spirit of the Age, Gain Wealth forgetting all but Self".

    Like peasants and workers in England before them, American workers denounced this New Spirit that was being imposed upon them, regarding it as demeaning and destructive, an assault on the very nature of free men and women. And I stress women; among those most active and vocal in condemning the destruction of the rights and dignity of free people by the capitalist industrial system were the "factory girls", young women from the farms. They too were driven into the regime of supervised and controlled wage labor, which was regarded at the time as different from chattel slavery only in that it was temporary. That stand was considered so natural that it became a slogan of the Republican Party, and a banner under which Northern workers carried arms during the American Civil War.
    (Admin: We see this in China today)

    Controlling the desire for democracy

    That was 150 years ago - in England earlier. Huge efforts have been devoted since to inculcating the New Spirit of the Age. Major industries are devoted to the task: public relations, advertising, marketing generally, all of which add up to a very large component of the gross domestic product. They are dedicated to what the great American political economist Thorstein Veblen called "fabricating wants".

    In the words of business leaders themselves, the task is to direct people to "the superficial things" of life, like "fashionable consumption". That way people can be atomized, separated from one another, seeking personal gain alone, diverted from dangerous efforts to think for themselves and challenge authority.

    The process of shaping opinion, attitudes and perceptions was termed the "engineering of consent" by one of the founders of the modern public relations industry, Edward Bernays. He was a respected Wilson-Roosevelt-Kennedy progressive, much like his contemporary, journalist Walter Lippmann, the most prominent public intellectual of 20th-century America, who praised "the manufacture of consent" as a "new art" in the practice of democracy.

    Both recognized that the public must be "put in its place", marginalized and controlled - for their own interests, of course. They were too "stupid and ignorant" to be allowed to run their own affairs. That task was to be left to the "intelligent minority", who must be protected from "the trampling and the roar of [the] bewildered herd", the "ignorant and meddlesome outsiders" - the "rascal multitude" as they were termed by their 17th-century predecessors. The role of the general population was to be "spectators", not "participants in action", in a properly functioning democratic society.

    And the spectators must not be allowed to see too much. Barack Obama has set new standards in safeguarding this principle. He has, in fact, punished more whistleblowers than all previous US presidents combined, a real achievement for an administration that came to office promising transparency. WikiLeaks is only the most famous case, with British cooperation.

    Among the many topics that are not the business of the bewildered herd is foreign affairs. Anyone who has studied declassified secret documents will have discovered that, to a large extent, their classification was meant to protect public officials from public scrutiny. Domestically, the rabble should not hear the advice given by the courts to major corporations: that they should devote some highly visible efforts to good works, so that an "aroused public" will not discover the enormous benefits provided to them by the nanny state. More generally the US public should not learn that "state policies are overwhelmingly regressive, thus reinforcing and expanding social inequality", though designed in ways that lead "people to think that the government helps only the undeserving poor, allowing politicians to mobilize and exploit anti-government rhetoric and values even as they continue to funnel support to their better-off constituents" - I'm quoting from the main establishment journal, Foreign Affairs, not from some radical rag.

    Over time, as societies became freer and the resort to state violence more constrained, the urge to devise sophisticated methods of control of attitudes and opinion has only grown. It is natural that the immense PR industry should have been created in the most free of societies, the United States and Great Britain. The first modern propaganda agency was the British Ministry of Information a century ago, which secretly defined its task as "to direct the thought of most of the world" - primarily progressive American intellectuals, who had to be mobilized to come to the aid of Britain during World War I.

    Its US counterpart, the Committee on Public Information, was formed by Woodrow Wilson to drive a pacifist population to violent hatred of all things German - with remarkable success. US commercial advertising deeply impressed others. Joseph Goebbels admired it and adapted it to Nazi propaganda, all too successfully. The Bolshevik leaders tried as well, but their efforts were clumsy and ineffective.

    A primary domestic task has always been "to keep [the public] from our throats", as essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson described the concerns of political leaders when the threat of democracy was becoming harder to suppress in the mid-19th century. More recently, the activism of the 1960s elicited elite concerns about "excessive democracy", and calls for measures to impose "more moderation" in democracy.

    One particular concern was to introduce better controls over the institutions "responsible for the indoctrination of the young": the schools, the universities, the churches, which were seen as failing that essential task. I'm quoting reactions from the left-liberal end of the mainstream spectrum, the liberal internationalists who later staffed the administration of US president Jimmy Carter, and their counterparts in other industrial societies. The right wing was much harsher.

    One of many manifestations of this urge has been the sharp rise in university tuition, not on economic grounds, as is easily shown. The device does, however, trap and control young people by debt, often for the rest of their lives, thus contributing to more effective indoctrination.

    The three-fifths people

    Pursuing these important topics further, we see that the destruction of the Charter of the Forest, and its obliteration from memory, relates rather closely to the continuing efforts to constrain the promise of the Charter of Liberties. The "New Spirit of the Age" cannot tolerate the pre-capitalist conception of the Forest as the shared endowment of the community at large, cared for communally for its own use and for future generations, protected from privatization, from transfer to the hands of private power for service to wealth, not needs. Inculcating the New Spirit is an essential prerequisite for achieving this end, and for preventing the Charter of Liberties from being misused to enable free citizens to determine their own fate.

    Popular struggles to bring about a freer and more just society have been resisted by violence and repression, and massive efforts to control opinion and attitudes. Over time, however, they have met with considerable success, even though there is a long way to go and there is often regression. Right now, in fact.

    The most famous part of the Charter of Liberties is Article 39, which declares that "no free man" shall be punished in any way, "nor will We proceed against or prosecute him, except by the lawful judgment of his peers and by the law of the land".

    Through many years of struggle, the principle has come to hold more broadly. The US constitution provides that no "person [shall] be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law [and] a speedy and public trial" by peers. The basic principle is "presumption of innocence" - what legal historians describe as "the seed of contemporary Anglo-American freedom", referring to Article 39; and with the Nuremberg Tribunal in mind, a "particularly American brand of legalism: punishment only for those who could be proved to be guilty through a fair trial with a panoply of procedural protections" - even if their guilt for some of the worst crimes in history is not in doubt.

    The founders of course did not intend the term "person" to apply to all persons. Native Americans were not persons. Their rights were virtually nil.

    Women were scarcely persons. Wives were understood to be "covered" under the civil identity of their husbands in much the same way as children were subject to their parents. Blackstone's principles held that "the very being or legal existence of the woman is suspended during the marriage, or at least is incorporated and consolidated into that of the husband: under whose wing, protection, and cover, she performs every thing". Women are thus the property of their fathers or husbands. These
    principles remain up to very recent years. Until a Supreme Court decision of 1975, women did not even have a legal right to serve on juries. They were not peers. Just two weeks ago, Republican opposition blocked the Fairness Paycheck Act guaranteeing women equal pay for equal work. And it goes far beyond.

    Slaves, of course, were not persons. They were in fact three-fifths human under the constitution, so as to grant their owners greater voting power. Protection of slavery was no slight concern to the founders: It was one factor leading to the American Revolution. In the 1772 Somerset case, Lord Mansfield determined that slavery is so "odious" that it cannot be tolerated in England, though it continued in British possessions for many years. American slave-owners could see the handwriting on the wall if the colonies remained under British rule. And it should be recalled that the slave states, including Virginia, had the greatest power and influence in the colonies. One can easily appreciate Dr Johnson's famous quip that "we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of negroes".

    Amendments after the American Civil War extended the concept "person" to African-Americans, ending slavery. In theory, at least. After about a decade of relative freedom, a condition akin to slavery was reintroduced by a North-South compact permitting the effective criminalization of black life. A black male standing on a street corner could be arrested for vagrancy, or for attempted rape if accused of looking at a white woman the wrong way. And once imprisoned, he had few chances of ever escaping the system of "slavery by another name", the term used by then-Wall Street Journal bureau chief Douglas Blackmon in an arresting study.

    This new version of the "peculiar institution" provided much of the basis for the US industrial revolution, with a perfect workforce for the steel industry and mining, along with agricultural production in the famous chain gangs: docile, obedient, no strikes, and no need for employers even to sustain their workers, an improvement over slavery. The system lasted in large measure until World War II, when free labor was needed for war production.

    The postwar boom offered employment. A black man could get a job in a unionized auto plant, earn a decent salary, buy a house, and maybe send his children to college or university. That lasted for about 20 years, until the 1970s, when the US economy was radically redesigned on newly dominant neo-liberal principles, with rapid growth of financialization and the offshoring of production. The black population, now largely superfluous, has been re-criminalized.

    Until Ronald Reagan's presidency, incarceration in the US was within the spectrum of industrial societies. By now it is far beyond others. It targets primarily black males, increasingly also black women and Hispanics, largely guilty of victimless crimes under the fraudulent "drug wars". Meanwhile, the wealth of black American families has been virtually obliterated by the latest financial crisis, in no small measure thanks to criminal behavior of financial institutions, with impunity for the perpetrators, now richer than ever.

    Looking over the history of black Americans from the first arrival of slaves almost 500 years ago to the present, they have enjoyed the status of authentic persons for only a few decades. There is a long way to go to realize the promise of Magna Carta.

    Sacred persons and undone process

    The post-Civil War Fourteenth Amendment of the US constitution granted the rights of persons to former slaves, though mostly in theory. At the same time, it created a new category of persons with rights: corporations.

    In fact, almost all the cases brought to the courts under the Fourteenth Amendment had to do with corporate rights, and by a century ago, they had determined that these collectivist legal fictions, established and sustained by state power, had the full rights of persons of flesh and blood; in fact, far greater rights, thanks to their scale, immortality, and protections of limited liability.

    Their rights by now far transcend those of mere humans. Under the "free-trade agreements", Pacific Rim can, for example, sue El Salvador for seeking to protect the environment; individuals cannot do the same. General Motors can claim national rights in Mexico. There is no need to dwell on what would happen if a Mexican demanded national rights in the United States.

    Domestically, recent US Supreme Court rulings greatly enhance the already enormous political power of corporations and the super-rich, striking further blows against the tottering relics of functioning political democracy.

    Meanwhile Magna Carta is under more direct assault. Recall the Habeas Corpus Act of 1679, which barred "imprisonment beyond the seas", and certainly the far more vicious procedure of imprisonment abroad for the purpose of torture - what is now more politely called "rendition", as when Tony Blair rendered Libyan dissident Abdel Hakim Belhaj, now a leader of the rebellion, to the mercies of Muammar Gaddafi; or when US authorities deported Canadian citizen Maher Arar to his native Syria, for imprisonment and torture, only later conceding that there was never any case against him. And many others, often through Shannon Airport, leading to courageous protests in Ireland.

    The concept of due process has been extended under the Obama administration's international assassination campaign in a way that renders this core element of the Charter of Liberties (and the US constitution) null and void. The US Justice Department explained that the constitutional guarantee of due process, tracing to Magna Carta, was now satisfied by internal deliberations in the executive branch alone. The constitutional lawyer in the White House agreed. King John might have nodded with satisfaction.

    The issue arose after the presidentially ordered assassination-by-drone of Anwar al-Awlaki, accused of inciting jihad in speech, writing, and unspecified actions. A headline in The New York Times captured the general elite reaction when he was murdered in a drone attack, along with the usual collateral damage. It read: "The West celebrates a cleric's death." Some eyebrows were lifted, however, because he was a US citizen, which raised questions about due process - considered irrelevant when non-citizens are murdered at the whim of the chief executive. And irrelevant for citizens, too, under Obama administration due-process legal innovations.

    Presumption of innocence has also been given a new and useful interpretation. As The New York Times reported, "Mr Obama embraced a disputed method for counting civilian casualties that did little to box him in. It in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants, according to several administration officials, unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent." So post-assassination determination of innocence maintains the sacred principle of presumption of innocence.

    It would be ungracious to recall the Geneva Conventions, the foundation of modern humanitarian law: They bar "the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court, affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples."

    The most famous recent case of executive assassination was Osama bin Laden, murdered after he was apprehended by 79 Navy SEALs, defenseless, accompanied only by his wife, his body reportedly dumped at sea without autopsy. Whatever one thinks of him, he was a suspect and nothing more than that. Even the US Federal Bureau of Investigation agreed.

    Celebration in this case was overwhelming, but there were a few questions raised about the bland rejection of the principle of presumption of innocence, particularly when trial was hardly impossible. These were met with harsh condemnations. The most interesting was by a respected left-liberal political commentator, Matthew Yglesias, who explained that "one of the main functions of the international institutional order is precisely to legitimate the use of deadly military force by Western powers", so it is "amazingly naive" to suggest that the US should obey international law or other conditions that we righteously demand of the weak.

    Only tactical objections can be raised to aggression, assassination, cyberwar, or other actions that the Holy State undertakes in the service of mankind. If the traditional victims see matters somewhat differently, that merely reveals their moral and intellectual backwardness. And the occasional Western critic who fails to comprehend these fundamental truths can be dismissed as "silly", Yglesias explains - incidentally, referring specifically to me, and I cheerfully confess my guilt.

    Executive terrorist lists

    Perhaps the most striking assault on the foundations of traditional liberties is a little-known case brought to the US Supreme Court by the Obama administration, Holder vs Humanitarian Law Project. The project was condemned for providing "material assistance" to the guerrilla organization PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party), which has fought for Kurdish rights in Turkey for many years and is listed as a terrorist group by the state executive. The "material assistance" was legal advice.

    The wording of the ruling would appear to apply quite broadly, for example, to discussions and research inquiry, even advice to the PKK to keep to non-violent means. Again, there was a marginal fringe of criticism, but even those accepted the legitimacy of the state terrorist list - arbitrary decisions by the executive, with no recourse.

    The record of the terrorist list is of some interest. For example, in 1988 the Reagan administration declared Nelson Mandela's African National Congress to be one of the world's "more notorious terrorist groups", so that Reagan could continue his support for the apartheid regime and its murderous depredations in South Africa and in neighboring countries, as part of his "war on terror". Twenty years later Mandela was finally removed from the terrorist list, and can now travel to the US without a special waiver.

    Another interesting case is Saddam Hussein, removed from the terrorist list in 1982 so that the Reagan administration could provide him with support for his invasion of Iran. The support continued well after the war ended. In 1989, president George H W Bush even invited Iraqi nuclear engineers to the US for advanced training in weapons production - more information that must be kept from the eyes of the "ignorant and meddlesome outsiders".

    One of the ugliest examples of the use of the terrorist list has to do with the tortured people of Somalia. Immediately after September 11, 2001, the United States closed down the Somali charitable network Al-Barakaat on grounds that it was financing terror. This achievement was hailed one of the great successes of the "war on terror". In contrast, Washington's withdrawal of its charges as without merit a year later aroused little notice.

    Al-Barakaat was responsible for about half the US$500 million in remittances to Somalia, "more than it earns from any other economic sector and 10 times the amount of foreign aid [Somalia] receives", a United Nations review determined. The charity also ran major businesses in Somalia, all destroyed. The leading academic scholar of George W Bush's "financial war on terror", Ibrahim Warde, concludes that apart from devastating the economy, this frivolous attack on a very fragile society "may have played a role in the rise ... of Islamic fundamentalists", another familiar consequence of the "war on terror".

    The very idea that the state should have the authority to make such judgments is a serious offense against the Charter of Liberties, as is the fact that it is considered uncontentious. If the charter's fall from grace continues on the path of the past few years, the future of rights and liberties looks dim.

    Who will have the last laugh?

    A few final words on the fate of the Charter of the Forest. Its goal was to protect the source of sustenance for the population, the commons, from external power - in the early days, royalty; over the years, enclosures and other forms of privatization by predatory corporations and the state authorities who cooperate with them, have only accelerated and are properly rewarded. The damage is very broad.

    If we listen to voices from the South today we can learn that

    the conversion of public goods into private property through the privatization of our otherwise commonly held natural environment is one way neo-liberal institutions remove the fragile threads that hold African nations together. Politics today has been reduced to a lucrative venture where one looks out mainly for returns on investment rather than on what one can contribute to rebuild highly degraded environments, communities, and a nation. This is one of the benefits that structural adjustment programs inflicted on the continent - the enthronement of corruption.

    I'm quoting Nigerian poet and activist Nnimmo Bassey, chairman of Friends of the Earth International, in his searing expose of the ravaging of Africa's wealth, To Cook a Continent, the latest phase of the Western torture of Africa.

    Torture that has always been planned at the highest level, it should be recognized. At the end of World War II, the US held a position of unprecedented global power. Not surprisingly, careful and sophisticated plans were developed about how to organize the world. Each region was assigned its "function" by State Department planners, headed by the distinguished diplomat George Kennan. He determined that the US had no special interest in Africa, so it should be handed over to Europe to "exploit" - his word - for its reconstruction. In the light of history, one might have imagined a different relation between Europe and Africa, but there is no indication that that was ever considered.

    More recently, the US has recognized that it too must join the game of exploiting Africa, along with new entries like China, which is busily at work compiling one of the worst records in destruction of the environment and oppression of the hapless victims.

    It should be unnecessary to dwell on the extreme dangers posed by one central element of the predatory obsessions that are producing calamities all over the world: the reliance on fossil fuels, which courts global disaster, perhaps in the not-too-distant future. Details may be debated, but there is little serious doubt that the problems are serious, if not awesome, and that the longer we delay in addressing them, the more awful will be the legacy left to generations to come. There are some efforts to face reality, but they are far too minimal. The recent Rio+20 Conference opened with meager aspirations and derisory outcomes.

    Meanwhile, power concentrations are charging in the opposite direction, led by the richest and most powerful country in world history. Congressional Republicans are dismantling the limited environmental protections initiated by Richard Nixon, who would be something of a dangerous radical in today's political scene. The major business lobbies openly announce their propaganda campaigns to convince the public that there is no need for great concern - with some effect, as polls show.

    The media cooperate by not even reporting the increasingly dire forecasts of international agencies and even the US Department of Energy. The standard presentation is a debate between alarmists and skeptics: on one side virtually all qualified scientists, on the other a few holdouts. Not part of the debate are a very large number of experts, including the climate change program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology among others, who criticize the scientific consensus because it is too conservative and cautious, arguing that the truth when it comes to climate change is far more dire. Not surprisingly, the public is confused.

    In his State of the Union speech in January, President Obama hailed the bright prospects of a century of energy self-sufficiency, thanks to new technologies that permit extraction of hydrocarbons from Canadian tar sands, shale, and other previously inaccessible sources. Others agree. The Financial Times forecasts a century of energy independence for the US. The report does mention the destructive local impact of the new methods. Unasked in these optimistic forecasts is the question what kind of a world will survive the rapacious onslaught.

    In the lead in confronting the crisis throughout the world are indigenous communities, those who have always upheld the Charter of the Forests. The strongest stand has been taken by the one country they govern, Bolivia, the poorest in South America and for centuries a victim of Western destruction of the rich resources of one of the most advanced of the developed societies in the hemisphere, pre-Christopher Columbus.

    After the ignominious collapse of the Copenhagen global climate change summit in 2009, Bolivia organized a People's Summit with 35,000 participants from 140 countries - not just representatives of governments, but also civil society and activists. It produced a People's Agreement, which called for very sharp reduction in emissions, and a Universal Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth. That is a key demand of indigenous communities all over the world. It is ridiculed by sophisticated Westerners, but unless we can acquire some of their sensibility, they are likely to have the last laugh - a laugh of grim despair.

    Noam Chomsky is Institute Professor Emeritus in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology department of linguistics and philosophy and the author of numerous best-selling political works including, most recently, Hopes and Prospects, Making the Future, and Occupy. This is the full text of a speech he gave recently at the University of St Andrews in Scotland. His website is

    Used with permission of TomDispatch.

    (Copyright 2012 Noam Chomsky.)

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2008

    Sat, 07 Mar 2015 08:00:00 PST


    Key to Freedom
    By Foster Gamble & Kimberly Carter Gamble

    When the Shaka Movement won the victory of banning GMOs for a year in Maui, it was only a matter of weeks before Monsanto and Dow Chemical filed a law suit against the County to stop the ban. So why are we hopeful that the GMO battle, and many others like it, can be won?

    Because knowledge is power.

    And there is some information surfacing that is truly a golden key to securing not just the right to safe food, but to justice on all fronts.


    It is a mind-blowing revelation about our history that is both complex and unprecedentedly empowering. This discovery makes it possible to hold corporate and government officials personally accountable and liable for the harm their decisions cause. How?

    It seems that the laws Monsanto and the US government are using to squelch so many good efforts are actually laws of commerce, not laws of the Constitution. This apparently all changed after the United States of America became the UNITED STATES, Incorporated. Yep. Became a corporation.

    America is not just in cahoots with corporations. According to our research, it appears that it is a corporation — along with all the 53 Commonwealth countries like: the UK, Canada (the former Hudson Bay Company — its corporate name), Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. This revelation, ironically, is what is going to make it possible for justice to prevail. This corporate takeover is at once the ultimate corruption and the strategic key to our liberation. Knowledge of it is already being applied with great success.

    This Commercial Law demands personal accountability. Imagine if every decision maker in every government or corporate role was personally liable for the damage his or her decision caused. That’s what the operative Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) makes possible. As a result of plaintiffs applying this knowledge, already over a dozen high level corporate officials have resigned when confronted with taking personal responsibility for their actions. And this is only just beginning.


    Why did the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently circulate a report on “sovereign citizens” and CNN blare a headline that these freedom lovers are a bigger threat than ISIS? State and local police, responding to a survey by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, ranked “sovereign citizens” as America’s most serious terror threat, with Islamists coming in second. When citizens are armed with truth, everything is possible. Think Ghandi and the Salt Laws.

    To wrap around this, let’s consider who would possibly benefit from the incorporation of America. As we have been unpacking the reality and ramifications of this incorporation process, we have determined that turning the country into a corporation is actually a key part of the strategy to achieve global control by elite international bankers. We did not know this when we made THRIVE. We had traced the prevailing corruption to the international bankers, but we had not understood then the role of the corporate structuring in the international bankers drive to secure domination in their New World Order.

    As with just about everything we now believe to be true, this was not what we were expecting. The notion that America is a corporation frankly seemed outlandish when we first heard about it. But we have both learned to look more deeply before dismissing new information, and over the past year, the deeper we looked, the more validation we found.

    This is not to say the subject is not rife with disinformation, misinformation and simple irresponsible reporting. It is. But that just means it takes longer and requires a lot of fact checking to get it right. Which is why we are inviting you into our discovery process now.* Unlike with the film, we are still in the early stages of unpacking this new revelation, and sincerely invite you to help piece together the evidence and also to correct where we are off or incomplete in our understanding.

    We are confident that America and other commonwealth countries are corporations, and that this knowledge holds unprecedented power for overcoming the dangerous fascist takeover that is otherwise unfolding. It certainly has looked, walked and smelled like a corporate duck for the last century. With your help verifying various claims and finding documents, we can assemble a comprehensive, fact-based time line from which to inform some of the most leveraged activism of all time.*


    The facts we laid out in THRIVE demonstrate the reality of a Global Domination Agenda on behalf of elite international bankers. After over 29 million documented views, none of the facts in our film have been proven wrong. What we now understand is that this agenda is secured by the incorporation of the country. This is because as a corporation, it can be rendered bankrupt, and as with any bankrupt corporation, demands can be placed on it, including the securitization of its citizens (official debt slavery), and the collateralization of our work, our organizations and our land.

    Holding the Sun
    Indeed, in order to accomplish the maximum consolidation of wealth and power into the hands of the global banking elite, three things apparently happened. First was the incorporation of America. Second was the bankrupting of the corporation, and third was putting all the citizens on the hook for the unrepayable debts of that corrupt corporation. As far-fetched as this may sound, we invite you to stick with us in unpacking it because the evidence that this has happened, though not complete, is compelling. And the power we have when we disengage is profound. This clever covert takeover is built on our unknowing compliance. And, as Gandhi emphasized, non-violent non-participation is our golden key to freedom.


    Corporations function via mutually accepted offers — through contractual agreements. As such, in order to function successfully, US, Inc. is dependent upon our cooperation — our contractual acquiescence. We have been unwittingly tricked into giving it to them. Which means we can intentionally take it back. It takes some serious unlearning to fully grasp how this works because just about everything we have ever learned about rights and justice is false.

    We are hosting a live on-line event on March 14, 2015 noon to 2 PM PDT with empowerment expert Cal Washington and the Thrive Team to unpack this literal incorporation of America, Canada and so many other “countries” — what this means, and the exciting solutions emerging as this knowledge is applied. Cal is now advising activists working on the Smart Meter issue, and already the head of California Public Utilities Commission has stepped down as well as two high level utility execs in Quebec, rather than risk being personally liable for the harm smart meters cause. Applying the knowledge Cal describes is truly one of the most significant breakthroughs for justice movements that we have ever come across.

    Here is a rough in-process timeline of major turning points in America’s history that ultimately aided the corporation-based global elite takeover. When this actually became the plan, we don’t know. Much of what we understand is based on a compelling sequence of circumstantial evidence. We invite you to help us track down the documentation and add your voice and research to this exciting and liberating discovery.* In our next ThriveTogether Event we will be discussing how applying this is already being used to empower grass roots movements for social and environmental justice.


    These statements started overriding individual rights as laid out in the Declaration of Independence by empowering the categorization of people into States run by governments.


    The US Constitution was established in 1788, which officially consolidated the States into a super-state, The USA. The Continental Congress passed a resolution on September 13, 1788, to put the new Constitution into operation with eleven states. North Carolina and Rhode Island also ratified it by May 1790.

    It’s worth noting that unlike the Declaration of Independence which acknowledged the intrinsic rights of all beings, the U.S. Constitution when ratified only allowed 7% of “We the People” to vote. White, Male, Land Owning Puritans only need apply. It would take over 130 years before Native Indians, Blacks and Women were allowed to vote.

    1861 — Abraham Lincoln declares war on the Southern Confederate States


    These granted a host of new dictatorial powers to the President of the Super State, the USA. There were Presidential “dictates” all the way back to George Washington, but associating them with current events, especially “emergencies” related to the Civil War became more frequent and invasive of individual rights under Lincoln.


    After the civil war, the US government was virtually bankrupt. The politicians apparently cut a deal to borrow money from certain European banking families — led by the Rothschilds. Congress passed an Act titled: “An Act To Provide A Government for the District of Columbia.” This is also known as the “Act of 1871” or the “District of Columbia Organic Act of 1871.” Without any Constitutional authority, Congress created a separate form of government for the District of Columbia. (“Acts of the Forty-First Congress,” Section 34, Session III, chapters 61 and 62.)

    This Act created the corporation known as THE UNITED STATES, and its jurisdiction covered the ten-mile square parcel of land known as “the District of Columbia.”

    In the United States Code, Title 28, Part VI, chapter 176, Subchapter A, 3002, (15) (A), the first definition of the “United States” is “a Federal Corporation.”

    Many historians provide a logical explanation for having the seat of government not reside in any particular state in order not to give any unfair advantage or influence to that state. Whether or not this was innocuously intended, or part of the scheme from the outset, the “incorporation” of Washington, DC laid the groundwork to lay a corporate framework over the entire country because the precedent was set and because it could happen as an extension rather than as a whole new undertaking.

    Some researchers say that the original United States was usurped at this time. They say the original Constitution was never removed; it has simply been dormant since 1871. We have not found the official documentation that the entire USA was incorporated in this way, although we will show considerable evidence that what resulted in America is a commerce-based legal structure.

    The government which was created for the District of Columbia via the Act of (1871) operates under Private International Law, and not Common Law, which was the law of the Constitutional Republic. Many people who understand this corporate takeover believe our form of governance today is based upon Roman Civil Law and Admiralty/Maritime Law — better known as the “Divine Right of Kings” and “Law of the Seas”, respectively.

    The language certainly reflects this. We’ve become increasingly aware, through scholars like Jordan Maxwell of the use of maritime words like Currency (the current), Bank (of the river), “Pass the Bar” (sand bar) or sitting in the “dock” as a plaintiff or witness, as well as “liquid assets” and how an unpayable mortgage is considered “under water.”

    Instead of absolute rights guaranteed under the “organic” Constitution, we now have “relative” rights or privileges. One example of this is the Sovereign’s right to travel, which has been transformed under the incorporated government policy into a “privilege” which we must be licensed to engage in. This operates outside of the original Constitution and is but one example among many.


    Wolf in sheep's clothing
    The US Corporation was largely financed by the wealthy international banking families. In 1912, much of the debt that the United States Corporation had taken on came due, but the Corporation didn’t have the funds to pay them off. They asked to borrow more from the wealthy international bankers who had bought most of the bonds, but the families refused. Instead, apparently knowing this time would come, the families had jointly met in secret at Jekyll Island, Georgia, creating a private corporation, the “Federal” Reserve.

    This enabled a private corporation of international bankers to be in charge of making up money, determining how much was in circulation at any given time, funneling huge amounts to themselves and securing their role as creditor to the entire bankrupt US, Inc.


    President Woodrow Wilson, under the influence of Mandell House, a Rothschild agent, pushed “The Federal Reserve Act” through Congress on December 22, when many politicians had already left for the holidays. This was a commercial deal between a private banking cartel and the corporation that had supplanted the US government. It “authorized” the cartel to be the legal issuers of US currency. Three previous attempts to institute and maintain a private central bank monopoly in the U.S. (Bank of North America 1782, First and Second Bank(s) of the United States — 1791 and 1816) had resulted in chaos and failure. This time, the bankers pretended to be against the Federal Reserve Act, which deceived the people and encouraged Congress to go along with it. This provided the international bankers with the power to take over control of the currency that would then be used to fund the corporation.

    “Give me control of a nation’s money and I care not who makes the laws.”
    — Mayer Amschel Rothschild

    Between 1928–1932 the nations of the world met five times in Geneva, Switzerland in order to set up what would be the policy of all the participating countries. In 1930 the U.S., Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal etc. are all reported to have declared bankruptcy.

    One research group has written: “If you try to find the 1930 volume which contains the minutes of what happened, you will probably not find it. This volume has been pulled out of circulation or is hidden in the library and is very hard to find. This volume contains the evidence of the bankruptcy.”

    We have not yet found the minutes to this meeting of the Convention where the alleged bankruptcy was declared but do believe it happened right around this time.

    Please help us verify this critical event if you have or can find relevant evidence.*

    How would this declaration of bankruptcy empower the elite bankers? As a bankrupt corporation, terms of the bankruptcy could be negotiated to provide that people within the region (i.e: the U.S.) could be given as collateral, beholden to the international bankers as the “creditor.”


    In 1932 Franklin Roosevelt came into power as President of the United States. After the great depression, the government was even more desperately in debt to the Rockefeller, Rothschild banking cabal and their Federal Reserve, so on April 5, 1933, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt issued Executive Order 6102, the Emergency Banking Act, confiscating all gold held by private citizens in America. This tyrannical decree built on the Trading With the Enemy Act of 1917, which claimed to give the President such sweeping powers, and which, as with virtually all government power grabs, was never repealed.

    It stated, “All persons are required to deliver on or before May 1, 1933 all Gold Coin, Gold Bullion, & Gold Certificates now owned by them to a Federal Reserve Bank, branch or agency, or to any member bank of the Federal Reserve System.”

    Confiscating real money (gold) from the people — under threat of huge fines and imprisonment — rendered us entirely dependent on the Federal Reserve’s currency, which was under international bankers control.

    Here’s a stunning 1993 address to the House of Representatives by Congressman James Traficant, Jr. of Ohio in which he states “It is an established fact that the United States Federal Government has been dissolved by the Emergency Banking Act,” and summarizes much of the situation we are describing here.

    Individuals allegedly became part of the deal — our land and our labor pledged into the future as collateral for the vast debt of the corporation to the fiat money bankers. Under natural law, we each own our bodies and the fruits of our labor. Under the clandestine US Corporation version of commercial law, your body (and your labor) is a commodity, an asset of the bankers, that can be traded on the New York Stock Exchange. The registration of our birth certificate and our Social Security number are allegedly the transfer of our real selves into a corporate fiction, a pseudo-self called a “straw man” — that the Corporation then pledges as collateral for the US, Inc.’s debt to the bankers.

    This is something we are still documenting. Please help with the research and documentation.*

    Even the leftist political organization MoveOn has recently promoted a petition to reveal the truth about our real vs. fictional selves…

    Roosevelt needed a legal case in the Supreme Court to recognize the bankruptcy and alter the judicial system to shift power away from the states and toward more consolidated Federal control. Many claim the Erie vs. Thompkins decision in 1938 accomplished this. It reversed an earlier case (Story v. Tyson) that had decentralized power to the states, and now consolidated it uniformly to the Federal government.


    This spread the taxing authority of the corporate “District of Columbia” into the sovereign states, overlaying them with fictional but nonetheless consequential corporate status, so called “Federal States” — subsets of the corporate US, and thereby subjecting them to Federal tax.


    Unable to afford to pay off debts to France and other countries in the promised medium of gold, President Nixon signed Executive Order 11615, which unilaterally canceled the direct convertibility of the United States dollar to gold. At this time, the effect of a few elite creating unbridled fake money was unleashed on the world.

    Just as with the consolidation of US States under Federal Rule (actually under the authority of the US Corporation) the current move to create a One World Government, consolidating and taking over all nation states into a global superstate, is the same process unfolding at the next larger scale. It serves to keep the structure of nations and states as mere management and enforcement mechanisms. This is how we illustrated it in our film, THRIVE:

    With globalist laws and international taxes, as proposed by the World Bank at the Copenhagen Climate Summit in 2009, the global legal authorization, structure and funding would be in place to accomplish the long-planned Global Domination Agenda.

    As unsettling as it can be to recognize the level of deception that has transpired, the real conundrum comes as we confront our own relationship to authority, because that is at the heart of both the pain and the possibility that this challenge portends. We are truly called to consider how some people claim the right to rule over others and how that came to be.

    Think of it for a moment. If, when you were born, someone came in to your parents’ home and demanded that they sign over your life to them — your time, your privacy, a percentage of your wages, your choices about who you could marry and what you could own and what kind of education and health care you could get — chances are your parents would demand to know how they got the power to do that… and kick them out or have them arrested. Unless, of course, your parents had somehow been lead to believe that this was the natural state of things; that, simply by virtue of being born, we all agreed to submit our individual sovereignty to a group we were told deserved it. It had been this way throughout recorded history, so it must be inevitable, and right.

    But alas, it is not inevitable, and it is not true or right. No one can actually have more authority than we agree to give to them. It’s not logical or ethical. It’s impossible, in fact, because those bestowing power can only in reality give the amount of power they have and no more. Just like you can’t give someone more oranges than you have, you can’t give someone more authority than you have. So no one can rightfully have more power than you give them. And that is the key to unlocking the kingdom. Literally. And to transforming the world to one of freedom, prosperity and thriving.

    Unlearning our knee-jerk submission to and belief in authority is perhaps the hardest part. And it is challenging. Once we do that, we can call their bluff and render their aggression immobilized by using their own system. As in the non-violent martial art of Aikido, the attacker’s aggression is redirected back to them until they stop the violation. And we have the power to win virtually every court case where we did not actually cheat or harm a victim, and to remedy every injustice. But the process requires that we really understand what is going on, and how we got here.

    Thrive is hosting a series of events to help in this process. We hope you will join us for a live event with people’s advocate Cal Washington on March 14, 2015 at ThriveTogether.

    Knowledge is Power (infographic)

    So here we are — in a bankrupt country that is actually a bankrupt corporation, indebted to the European central bankers, who are in turn apparently indebted to the Asian elders who possess most of the world’s gold. Most people we’ve met who understand this suggest that the solution is to return to our original constitutional republic. This would be a positive step in the direction of integrity and freedom, and valuable on our path to true freedom, but to our minds, not enough. This is what Thrive’s three-stage solution strategy is all about.

    Even the myth of retaining a “minimal” government leaves the cancer of authoritarianism in the body of human relations. And it is still based on the fallacy that we can give someone authority we don’t ourselves have. It is logically impossible and morally devastating.

    Calling something a republic is no guarantee of liberty. Just recall the USSR — the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the Republic of North Korea and the Weimar Republic which led to Nazism. Shrinking the government to the protection of individual rights is a good idea, and an important step. But it’s time to acknowledge that every time throughout history that some people are “authorized” to have rights that others don’t have it has grown toward tyranny until it collapses under its own corruption or there is a revolution — always with intense suffering along the way. And each revolution has just replaced the old regime with a new one that starts abusing their unnatural and unethical power. But we do not have to repeat that. We cannot afford to.

    “It is not just the abuse of power that is the problem. It is the power to abuse.”
    — Stefan Molyneux
    The only answer we see that has a chance of working in the long run to create and sustain a harmonious civilization is one where no one gets to have more rights than another — a voluntary society with rules that protect individual rights, property, contracts and ecosystems but no rulers with mandatory authority over others.

    This might seem as strange to some as the idea of a round world did to everyone 600 years ago. But the one thing we have found that everyone agrees with is they don’t want to be violated personally against their will, so perhaps that is a hint from the universe as to an appropriate and viable guiding principle for humanity. Without the myth of “power over,” the human beings behind schemes like government monopoly on power, bankers’ monopoly on money creation, and covert corporations that rule the masses would not be able to go unaccountable.

    Whatever justification you might come up with for initiating force against another, other than genuine self-defense, is based ultimately on coercion. We won’t get to peace through initiating violence.

    Breaking Chains
    We are ensnared in a system where the people are ruled by the city government, which is ruled by the state, which is ruled by the federal government, which is operating as a corporation and now trying to get us into a consolidated global corporate government tyranny. But to free ourselves, we need to ask, and not stop asking, the question, “How did some people get the authority by which they claim to rule us?” There is no legitimate answer. They do not rightfully have authority other than what each of us agrees to give to them. There is an administrative process required of us to avoid what they call “tacit agreement” — an implication of our accepting their authority via our silence. Our knowledge, and our voice, turn the whole thing around. This is the process we will be discussing on March 14th and which truly holds the key to our liberation.

    With this knowledge, we can now demand of judges, police officers and politicians give evidence that they have the right to the commercial contract with us. This is the basis of the personal accountability for which they will now be charged. Most of them either don’t know anything about this, and will therefore try to bully us into submission, or they do know but won’t tell. In the latter case, they will still try to test our knowledge, avoid the question or still try to intimidate, coerce and shut us up.

    Perhaps the government and mainstream media campaign against individual sovereignty is now making more sense in this new light…

    Naked Emperor
    When we know the truth and are willing and able to stand to it, especially when we have the means of publicizing their actions, they tend to back off, drop our cases, or flat-out resign their positions. They would usually prefer to disappear, repent or even join the ranks of justice-seeking whistleblowers rather than risk the personal and professional liability that lands on them when we know their claim to authority is a charade. The would-be Emperor truly has no clothes.

    We each actually reside in a realm of true nature — beyond governments and jurisdictions and arbitrary laws and victimless crimes. We are each a source of life on an unboundaried planet. We are real flesh and blood beings and in that reality we are truly free from such absurdities as Corporate Rights and Personhood, State Pre-emption, Eminent Domain, Emergency powers, the Divine Right to Rule, Manifest Destiny, the Social Contract, Majority Rule, Executive Orders and all the countless, deceptive ruses of domination that have been concocted throughout human history to control us and harvest our labor for the good of a sociopathic elite addicted to controlling the rest of us rather than facing their own fears and earning their own self-liberation through the path of truth.

    The truth of our intrinsic freedom is emerging — just in time given our looming police state economic insanity and out-of-control weapons of mass destruction. The toothpaste is out of the tube about our essential nature and it is being grounded in consciousness, courts and commerce worldwide. The elite know their fortress of lies is crumbling, as do hundreds of bank and corporate executives as well as judges, politicians, government workers, soldiers, cops and disillusioned alphabet soup intelligence agents who are saying no and running for protection and, hopefully, for ethical lines of work.

    * Please join us in building a fact-checked comprehensive historical time-line, in getting skilled at representing yourself and your loved ones as the free beings that we are rather than corporate chattel, and spreading these eternal and powerful truths. Feel free to post your input, evidence and insights in the comment thread below this blog or send it to

    How would we organize ourselves and our activities without government enforcement? The same way adults create their lives once they move out of their parents’ homes. We make voluntary choices, as long as we don’t violate others, and learn by the consequences. There would still be organizations, but they would not be authoritarian state-enforced monopolies, and they wouldn’t give rights to anyone that everyone else doesn’t have.

    Knowledge is Power
    Humans voluntarily have self-organized in groups throughout history and this is natural. This is real community. We are social beings. It doesn’t need to be enforced. But corporations — dependent on the licensing, authority, subsidies and services of a few individuals claiming “the power to rule” — are not aligned with equal rights and universal morality. This has always led to fascist tyranny — with one new regime replacing the old without people noticing that the notion of ruling itself is the destructive common denominator of all forms of government.

    This will be our major topic of exploration in the upcoming months. We have been preparing a major paper addressing both the philosophical fundamentals and the practical solutions to the common objections like “What about the roads?” “Who would care for the poor?” and “What about security against invasion?” Stay tuned!

    Onward together toward a thriving world!

    Partial Selection of Resources

    The Bankruptcy of America — 1933
    Judge Dale, retired

    The Bankruptcy of The United States
    Congressman James Traficant, Jr., Ohio

    Waking Times

    Who is Running America

    The Independent Treasury (closed June 30, 1921)

    Global Sovereign’s Handbook
    Johnny Liberty

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