Memo: From Nick Hanauer
You probably don’t know me, but like you I am one of those .01%ers, a proud and unapologetic capitalist. I have founded, co-founded and funded more than 30 companies across a range of industries—from itsy-bitsy ones like the night club I started in my 20s to giant ones like Amazon.com, for which I was the first nonfamily investor. Then I founded aQuantive, an Internet advertising company that was sold to Microsoft in 2007 for $6.4 billion. In cash. My friends and I own a bank. I tell you all this to demonstrate that in many ways I’m no different from you. Like you, I have a broad perspective on business and capitalism. And also like you, I have been rewarded obscenely for my success, with a life that the other 99.99 percent of Americans can’t even imagine. Multiple homes, my own plane, etc., etc. You know what I’m talking about. In 1992, I was selling pillows made by my family’s business, Pacific Coast Feather Co., to retail stores across the country, and the Internet was a clunky novelty to which one hooked up with a loud squawk at 300 baud. But I saw pretty quickly, even back then, that many of my customers, the big department store chains, were already doomed. I knew that as soon as the Internet became fast and trustworthy enough—and that time wasn’t far off—people were going to shop online like crazy. Goodbye, Caldor. And Filene’s. And Borders. And on and on.
Realizing that, seeing over the horizon a little faster than the next guy, was the strategic part of my success. The lucky part was that I had two friends, both immensely talented, who also saw a lot of potential in the web. One was a guy you’ve probably never heard of named Jeff Tauber, and the other was a fellow named Jeff Bezos. I was so excited by the potential of the web that I told both Jeffs that I wanted to invest in whatever they launched, big time. It just happened that the second Jeff—Bezos—called me back first to take up my investment offer. So I helped underwrite his tiny start-up bookseller. The other Jeff started a web department store called Cybershop, but at a time when trust in Internet sales was still low, it was too early for his high-end online idea; people just weren’t yet ready to buy expensive goods without personally checking them out (unlike a basic commodity like books, which don’t vary in quality—Bezos’ great insight). Cybershop didn’t make it, just another dot-com bust. Amazon did somewhat better. Now I own a very large yacht.
But let’s speak frankly to each other. I’m not the smartest guy you’ve ever met, or the hardest-working. I was a mediocre student. I’m not technical at all—I can’t write a word of code. What sets me apart, I think, is a tolerance for risk and an intuition about what will happen in the future. Seeing where things are headed is the essence of entrepreneurship. And what do I see in our future now?
I see pitchforks.
At the same time that people like you and me are thriving beyond the dreams of any plutocrats in history, the rest of the country—the 99.99 percent—is lagging far behind. The divide between the haves and have-nots is getting worse really, really fast. In 1980, the top 1 percent controlled about 8 percent of U.S. national income. The bottom 50 percent shared about 18 percent. Today the top 1 percent share about 20 percent; the bottom 50 percent, just 12 percent.
But the problem isn’t that we have inequality. Some inequality is intrinsic to any high-functioning capitalist economy. The problem is that inequality is at historically high levels and getting worse every day. Our country is rapidly becoming less a capitalist society and more a feudal society. Unless our policies change dramatically, the middle class will disappear, and we will be back to late 18th-century France. Before the revolution.
And so I have a message for my fellow filthy rich, for all of us who live in our gated bubble worlds: Wake up, people. It won’t last.
If we don’t do something to fix the glaring inequities in this economy, the pitchforks are going to come for us. No society can sustain this kind of rising inequality. In fact, there is no example in human history where wealth accumulated like this and the pitchforks didn’t eventually come out. You show me a highly unequal society, and I will show you a police state. Or an uprising. There are no counterexamples. None. It’s not if, it’s when.
Many of us think we’re special because “this is America.” We think we’re immune to the same forces that started the Arab Spring—or the French and Russian revolutions, for that matter. I know you fellow .01%ers tend to dismiss this kind of argument; I’ve had many of you tell me to my face I’m completely bonkers. And yes, I know there are many of you who are convinced that because you saw a poor kid with an iPhone that one time, inequality is a fiction.
Here’s what I say to you: You’re living in a dream world. What everyone wants to believe is that when things reach a tipping point and go from being merely crappy for the masses to dangerous and socially destabilizing, that we’re somehow going to know about that shift ahead of time. Any student of history knows that’s not the way it happens. Revolutions, like bankruptcies, come gradually, and then suddenly. One day, somebody sets himself on fire, then thousands of people are in the streets, and before you know it, the country is burning. And then there’s no time for us to get to the airport and jump on our Gulfstream Vs and fly to New Zealand. That’s the way it always happens. If inequality keeps rising as it has been, eventually it will happen. We will not be able to predict when, and it will be terrible—for everybody. But especially for us.
The most ironic thing about rising inequality is how completely unnecessary and self-defeating it is. If we do something about it, if we adjust our policies in the way that, say, Franklin D. Roosevelt did during the Great Depression—so that we help the 99 percent and preempt the revolutionaries and crazies, the ones with the pitchforks—that will be the best thing possible for us rich folks, too. It’s not just that we’ll escape with our lives; it’s that we’ll most certainly get even richer.
Nick Hanauer is a Seattle-based entrepreneur.
Some of you may have seen the greatly chopped articles about this in the Omaha World Herald and other MSM sources. Here is an original worth careful reading not only to help see the truth, but also to show the quality of Chelsea Manning's contributions to the understanding of the whole picture. Steve Horn
"The Fog Machine of War" Chelsea Manning on the U.S. Military and Media Freedom
FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. — WHEN I chose to disclose classified information in 2010, I did so out of a love for my country and a sense of duty to others. I’m now serving a sentence of 35 years in prison for these unauthorized disclosures. I understand that my actions violated the law.
However, the concerns that motivated me have not been resolved. As Iraq erupts in civil war and America again contemplates intervention, that unfinished business should give new urgency to the question of
If you were following the news during the March 2010 elections in Iraq, you might remember that the American press was flooded with stories declaring the elections a success, complete with upbeat
Those of us stationed there were acutely aware of a more complicated reality.
Military and diplomatic reports coming across my desk detailed a brutal crackdown against political dissidents by the Iraqi Ministry of Interior and federal police, on behalf of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal
Early that year, I received orders to investigate 15 individuals whom the federal police had arrested on suspicion of printing “anti-Iraqi literature.” I learned that these individuals had absolutely no ties
I was shocked by our military’s complicity in the corruption of that election. Yet these deeply troubling details flew under the American media’s radar.
It was not the first (or the last) time I felt compelled to question the way we conducted our mission in Iraq. We intelligence analysts, and the officers to whom we reported, had access to a comprehensive overview of the war that few others had. How could top-level decision makers say that the American public, or even Congress, supported the conflict when they didn’t have half the story?
Among the many daily reports I received via email while working in
The more I made these daily comparisons between the news back in the States and the military and diplomatic reports available to me as an analyst, the more aware I became of the disparity. In contrast to the
One clue to this disjunction lay in the public affairs reports. Near the top of each briefing was the number of embedded journalists attached to American military units in a combat zone. Throughout my
The process of limiting press access to a conflict begins when a reporter applies for embed status. All reporters are carefully vetted by military public affairs officials. This system is far from unbiased. Unsurprisingly, reporters who have established relationships with the military are more likely to be granted access.
Less well known is that journalists whom military contractors rate as likely to produce “favorable” coverage, based on their past reporting, also get preference. This outsourced “favorability” rating assigned to each applicant is used to screen out those judged likely to produce critical coverage.
Reporters who succeeded in obtaining embed status in Iraq were then required to sign a media “ground rules” agreement. Army public affairs officials said this was to protect operational security, but it also allowed them to terminate a reporter’s embed without appeal.
There have been numerous cases of reporters’ having their access terminated following controversial reporting. In 2010, the late Rolling Stone reporter Michael Hastings had his access pulled after reporting criticism of the Obama administration by Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal and his staff in Afghanistan. A Pentagon spokesman said, “Embeds are a privilege, not a right.”
If a reporter’s embed status is terminated, typically she or he is blacklisted. This program of limiting press access was challenged in court in 2013 by a freelance reporter, Wayne Anderson, who claimed to have followed his agreement but to have been terminated after publishing adverse reports about the conflict in Afghanistan. The ruling on his case upheld the military’s position that there was no constitutionally protected right to be an embedded journalist.
The embedded reporter program, which continues in Afghanistan and wherever the United States sends troops, is deeply informed by the military’s experience of how media coverage shifted public opinion during the Vietnam War. The gatekeepers in public affairs have too much power: Reporters naturally fear having their access terminated, so they tend to avoid controversial reporting that could raise red flags.
The existing program forces journalists to compete against one another for “special access” to vital matters of foreign and domestic policy. Too often, this creates reporting that flatters senior decision makers. A result is that the American public’s access to the facts is gutted, which leaves them with no way to evaluate the conduct of American officials.
Journalists have an important role to play in calling for reforms to the embedding system. The favorability of a journalist’s previous reporting should not be a factor. Transparency, guaranteed by a body not under the control of public affairs officials, should govern the credentialing process. An independent board made up of military staff members, veterans, Pentagon civilians and journalists could balance the public’s need for information with the military’s need for operational security.
Reporters should have timely access to information. The military could do far more to enable the rapid declassification of information that does not jeopardize military missions. The military’s Significant
Opinion polls indicate that Americans’ confidence in their elected representatives is at a record low. Improving media access to this crucial aspect of our national life — where America has committed the men and women of its armed services — would be a powerful step toward re-establishing trust between voters and officials.
Chelsea Manning is a former United States Army intelligence analyst.
A version of this op-ed appears in print on June 15, 2014, on page SR4 of the New York edition with the headline: The Fog Machine of War.
The masquerade of "National Security" becomes more macabre:
Good article urging cooperation within the Progressive community:
The list of countries with enduring and worsening civil strife is growing. A short while ago, the world media were highlighting Syria. Now they are highlighting Ukraine. Will it be Thailand tomorrow? Who knows? The variety of explanations of the strife and the passion with which they are promoted is very striking.
Our modern world-system is supposed to permit the Establishment elites who hold the reins of power to debate with each other and then come to a "compromise" that they can guarantee. Normally these elites situate themselves in two basic camps - center/right and center/left. There are indeed differences between them, but the result of the "compromises" has been that the amount of change over time is minimal.
This has operated as a top-down political structure, within each country and geopolitically between countries. The outcome has been an equilibrium slowly moving upward. Most analysts of the current strife tend to assume that the strings are still being pulled by Establishment elites. Each side asserts that the low-level actors of the other side are being manipulated by high-level elites. Everyone seems to assume that, if their side puts enough pressure on the elites of the other side, these other elites will agree to a "compromise" closer to what their side wants.
This seems to me a fantastic misreading of the realities of our current situation, which is one of extended chaos as a result of the structural crisis of our modern world-system. I do not think that the elites are any longer succeeding in manipulating their low-level followers. I think the low-level followers are defying the elites, doing their own thing, and trying to manipulate the elites. This is indeed something new. It is a bottom-up rather than a top-down politics.
Bottom-up politics is sometimes alluded to when the media speak of "extremists" becoming important actors, but the locution "extremists" misses the point too. When we are amidst bottom-up politics, there are versions of every complexion - from the far right to the far left, but including ones in the center. One can bemoan this, as did Yeats in one of his oft-quoted lines from The Second Coming:
"The best lack all conviction, while the worst
But note that Yeats is attributing the category of "best" to the old elites. Are they really the best? What is indeed true, to cite one of Yeats's less quoted lines, is that "the falcon cannot hear the falconer."
How then can we navigate politically in such an environment? It is very confusing analytically. I think however that step one is to cease attributing what is happening to the evil machinations of some Establishment elites. They are no longer in control. They can of course still do great physical harm by imprudent actions. They are by no means paragons of virtue. But those of us who wish to seek a better world to emerge from this chaotic situation have to depend on ourselves, on our own multiple ways of organizing the struggle. We need, in short, less denunciation and more constructive local action.
The wisest lines of Yeats are the last two in the poem:
"And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
As our existing historical system is in the process of dying, there is a fierce struggle over what kind of new historical system will succeed it. Soon, we may indeed no longer live in a capitalist system, but we could come to live in an even worse system - a "rough beast" seeking to be born? To be sure, this is only one possible collective choice. The alternative choice is a relatively democratic, relatively egalitarian system, also seeking to be born. Which one we shall see at the end of the struggle is up to us, bottom-up.
by Immanuel Wallerstein
Is it more than coincidental that all Republican federal incumbents and current candidates deny the recent scientific study about climate change? (OWH 5-7) If they had been around at the time of Columbus they would have believed the earth was flat and the country would still be in the hands of the original peoples.
On the other hand, all the Democratic candidates believe in the validity of the scientific study. Could it be that big oil money influences Republicans' thinking or should I say their pocketbooks?
Oil served us well as did horses before tractors and kerosene before electricity. I guess that's why the Republicans are called conservative. See the dictionary definition: "2. tending to preserve established tradition or institutions and to resist or oppose any changes."
Take your pick, Nebraskans: non-thinking, closed-minded, don't-change-a-thing candidates or those who are willing to look at the reality of today and plan for tomorrow.
Peg O'Dea Lippert
About a year ago at the Wed night Film Festival I made the comment that Germany had been able to make huge inroads in Solar Power relatively easily. (Germany produces 20% of their total power from solar today.) At the time my senile old mind could not come up with a concise explanation of how they did it. Here is an excerpt from Hartmann's book that does a pretty good job. The entire long long book review is in the book review forum of this site...
The German model of producing really quickly world leading amounts of Solar Power: In 1997 they instituted the 100,000 roofs program which mandated banks provide low cost 10 year loans to put solar panels on roofs. Renewable energy laws required power companies to buy back power from home owners at prices above the going rate so that the homeowner could pay off the loans. At the end of 10 years the power company gets to buy power back at the going rate. The power companies come out ahead because they do not have to build more expensive traditional power plants that would have been required to meet increased demand. By 2007 Germany accounted for ½ of ALL of the entire world's solar production.
That one year saw 1300 megawatt of solar power brought on line across the country.” The goal had been 3000 megawatts for the first decade. Instead 8500 megawatts were added as companies got into production and the cost of solar dropped greater that ½ between 1997 to 2007 and continued dropping.
The movie on PBS carefully skirts real problems largely brought on buy the Fossil Fuel industry. Indeed parts of it will reinforce the idea that environmentalists are extremists who deserve their place as kooks and the #1 domestic threat. There are multiple problems with this movie's lack of current obvious threats. Love Canal, killing baby seals, saving the whales, "protecting the Amazon", etc etc etc are all nice safe topics that will not upset the sponsors. Never mind that Fossil Fuels are causing ocean acidification that will kill the entire food chain the whales depend on. Never mind that the Amazon is still being destroyed along with forests all over the world. Never mind that Tar Sands are destroying the Canadian ecosystem and so forth. Just think what might have been if they had decided to show the effects of Tar Sands extraction in Canada. Wait, there's a reason you will not see that on PBS or any other MSM.-
Here is a link to the latest information in Mother Jones about the use of plastics that can mimic estrogen and lead to all kinds of problems including Breast Cancer. There will be a movie March 12th called "Plastic Planet" @ Mc Fosters that is well done and worth seeing.
When Lautenbaugh is pushing Charter Schools it ought to tell everybody concerned it's not to help the people of North Omaha.
Today, February 11th, 2014 is The Day We Fight Back against mass surveillance. Call your Senators and reps...
Dear Mr. Bush:
A few days ago I received a personalized letter from your Presidential Center which included a solicitation card for donations that actually provided words for my reply. They included “I’m honored to help tell the story of the Bush Presidency” and “I’m thrilled that the Bush Institute is advancing timeless principles and practical solutions to the challenges facing our world.” (Below were categories of “tax-deductible contributions” starting with $25 and going upward.)
Did you mean the “timeless principles” that drove you and Mr. Cheney to invade the country of Iraq which, contrary to your fabrications, deceptions and cover-ups, never threatened the United States? Nor could Iraq under its dictator and his dilapidated military threaten its far more powerful neighbors, even if the Iraqi regime wanted to do so.
Today, Iraq remains a country (roughly the size and population of Texas) you destroyed, a country where over a million Iraqis, including many children and infants (remember Fallujah?) lost their lives, millions more were sickened or injured, and millions more were forced to become refugees, including most of the Iraqi Christians. Iraq is a country rife with sectarian strife that your prolonged invasion provoked into what is now open warfare. Iraq is a country where al-Qaeda is spreading with explosions taking 20, 30, 40, 50 or 60 lives per day. Just this week, it was reported that the U.S. has sent Hellfire air-to-ground missiles to Iraq’s air force to be used against encampments of “the country’s branch of al-Qaeda.” There was no al-Qaeda in Iraq before your invasion. Al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein were mortal enemies.
The Bush/Cheney sociocide of Iraq, together with the loss of tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers’ lives, countless injuries and illnesses, registers, with the passage of time, no recognition by you that you did anything wrong nor have you accepted responsibility for the illegality of your military actions without a Congressional declaration of war. You even turned your back on Iraqis who worked with U.S. military occupation forces as drivers, translators etc. at great risk to themselves and their families and were desperately requesting visas to the U.S., often with the backing of U.S. military personnel. Your administration allowed fewer Iraqis into the U.S. than did Sweden in that same period and far, far fewer than Vietnamese refugees coming to the U.S. during the nineteen seventies.
When you were a candidate, I called you a corporation running for the Presidency masquerading as a human being. In time you turned a metaphor into a reality. As a corporation, you express no remorse, no shame, no compassion and a resistance to admit anything other than that you have done nothing wrong.
Day after day Iraqis, including children, continue to die or suffer terribly. When the paraplegic, U.S. army veteran, Tomas Young, wrote you last year seeking some kind of recognition that many things went horribly criminal for many American soldiers and Iraqis, you did not deign to reply, as you did not deign to reply to Cindy Sheehan, who lost her son, Casey, in Iraq. As you said, “the interesting thing about being the president” is that you “don’t feel like you owe anybody an explanation.” As a former President, nothing has changed as you make very lucrative speeches before business groups and, remarkably, ask Americans for money to support your “continued work in public service.”
Pollsters have said that they believe a majority of Iraqis would say that life today is worse for them than under the brutal dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. They would also say George W. Bush left Iraq worse off than when he entered it, despite the U.S. led sanctions prior to 2003 that took so many lives of Iraqi children and damaged the health of so many civilian families.
Your national security advisor, Condoleezza Rice, said publically in 2012 that while “the arc of history” may well turn out better for post-invasion Iraq than the present day violent chaos, she did “take personal responsibility” for the casualties and the wreckage. Do you?
Can you, at the very least, publically urge the federal government to admit more civilian Iraqis, who served in the U.S. military occupation, to this country to escape the retaliation that has been visited on their similarly-situated colleagues? Isn’t that the minimum you can do to very slightly lessen the multiple, massive blowbacks that your reckless military policies have caused? It was your own anti-terrorism White House adviser, Richard Clarke, who wrote in his book, Against All Enemies: Inside America’s War on Terror, soon after leaving his post, that the U.S. played right into Osama bin Laden’s hands by invading Iraq.
Are you privately pondering what your invasion of Iraq did to the Iraqis and American military families, the economy and to the spread of al-Qaeda attacks in numerous countries?
P.S. I am enclosing as a contribution in kind to your presidential center library the book Rogue Nation: American Unilateralism and the Failure of Good Intentions by Clyde Prestowitz (2003) whom I’m sure you know. Note the positive remark on the back cover by General Wesley Clark.
1) Iraq: most MSM have fallen for the supposed Al-Qaida connection to the bombings going on there. They are much more likely connected to the Sunni- Shiite split that was allowed and even encouraged by the USA war and occupation. It was common to wall off literally the Sunni areas from the rest of the country and the "awakening" of the Sunni sections to supposedly back the Maliki government by paying them well for their "cooperation". The "Democratic" government we pushed was w/o proper representation of the Sunni minorities and the Shia government has taken the opportunity to suppress the minority and force even greater inequality with really nary a protest from the great benefactors (USA). Incidentally, the idea that Al-Qaida was a major force in the Iraq war was mostly BS. For outsiders to come into a country and be effective they must have the support of the people. Mostly, the Al-Qaida presence was an attempt by USA propaganda to prevent people from seeing the war as mostly a movement against the foreign invader. (Guess who?) The president's plan to send more weapons to "help" Iraq especially, Hellfire missiles, will continue attacks stamped with USA from the air that will continue the "accidental" wedding/funeral/firewood collecting bombings. It will allow the Maliki government to purposely attack the Sunni minorities with some impunity.
2) The huge WVa Chemical spill that has made much of the water toxic... Some MSM are claiming that the chemical spill is of a material that is not toxic. Let's see, If such a spill happened in the Papio Creek the actual percentage of spilled material compared to the water in that creek would be fairly soon well under 1%. However, spill the same amount in a river of the size in this matter and the spilled material would be diluted so much further that we are talking way way low concentration. Yet people are getting seriously sick. The idea that this chemical is not a serious toxic material is therefore a joke. Of course, the 5000 gal figure will most likely turnout to be a gross understatement as is traditional with corporations who have such leaks. More important, is the fact that Chemical plants and their storage facilities exist all over the USA with many many in critical places and little, if any, regulation to prevent disasters that would make this one look like a bar of soap in the bathtub in comparison.
3) Ariel Sharon's death after 8 years in a coma... CBS's "coverage" mentioned him as a colossus in his time and actually mentioned two examples of his "leadership". One was his involvement in a massacre in which he allowed Christian militia to enter Palestian refugee camps and kill the occupants while Israeli troops under his command watched. Sharon let them in knowing pretty well what would result. The second mention was of Sharon's going to the Temple Mount with a bunch of his buds which CBS said resulted in the second intifada. In neither case did CBS really give the watcher the background or suffucient information to put these actions in their true context. There were also many other actions taken by him over his public life that somehow caused that hero of many, Ronald Reagan, to describe Sharon far more accurately in Ron's diary in 1982, as "the bad guy who seemingly looks forward to a war". Another unheard comment was any real look at the idea that Sharon suffered a major brain damage event back in January of 2006. It was pretty evident almost immediately that his condition was hopeless. Yet he was kept "alive" for eight years in a deep coma. Possibly this was an example of the concept some have that life MUST be prolonged no matter what cost to the family or the public which might have to foot the bill. Does anybody actually think Sharon would have wanted this?