Category Archives: Education
By Robert Parry, the investigative reporter who many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. Originally published at Parry’s Consortium News (republished with permission).
In the wake of Donald Trump’s victory, a hot new issue – raised by President Obama in an international setting on Thursday and touted on The New York Times’ front page on Friday – is the problem of “fake news” being disseminated on the Internet.
Major Internet companies, such as Google and Facebook, are being urged to censor such articles and to punish alleged violators. Also, teams of supposedly “responsible” news providers and technology giants are being assembled to police this alleged problem and decide what is true and what is not.
But therein lies the more serious problem: who gets to decide what is real and what is not real? And – in an age when all sides propagate propaganda – when does conformity in support of a mainstream “truth” become censorship of reasonable skepticism?
As a journalist for more than four decades, I take seriously the profession’s responsibility to verify information as much as possible before publishing it – and as editor of Consortiumnews.com, I insist that our writers (and to the extent possible, outside commenters) back up what they say.
I personally hate “conspiracy theories” in which people speculate about a topic without real evidence and often in defiance of actual evidence. I believe in traditional journalistic standards of cross-checking data and applying common sense.
So, I am surely no fan of Internet hoaxes and baseless accusations. Yet, I also recognize that mainstream U.S. news outlets have made horrendous and wholesale factual errors, too, such as reporting in 2002-03 that Iraq had reconstituted its nuclear weapons program (The New York Times) and was hiding stockpiles of WMD (many TV and print outlets, including The Washington Post).
And, mainstream outlets getting such life-and-death stories wrong was not just a one-off affair around the Iraq invasion. At least since the 1980s, The New York Times has misreported or glossed over many international issues that put the United States and its allies in a negative light.
For instance, the Times not only missed the Nicaraguan Contra cocaine scandal, but actively covered up the Reagan administration’s role in the wrongdoing through the 1980s and much of the 1990s.
The Times lagged badly, too, on investigating the secret operations that became known as the Iran-Contra Affair. The Times’ gullibility in the face of official denials was an obstacle for those of us digging into that constitutional crisis and other abuses by the Reagan administration. [For more on this topic, see Consortiumnews.com’s “New York Times: Apologist for Power.”]
In that same era, The Washington Post performed no better. Leonard Downie, its executive editor at the time of the Contra-cocaine scandal, has continued to reject the reality of Ronald Reagan’s beloved Contras trafficking in cocaine despite the 1998 findings of CIA Inspector General Frederick Hitz that, in fact, many Contras were neck-deep in the cocaine trade and the Reagan administration covered up their criminality for geopolitical reasons.
More recently, during the mad dash to invade Iraq in 2002-03, the Post’s editorial-page editor Fred Hiatt wrote repeatedly as flat fact that Iraq was hiding WMD and mocked the few dissenting voices that challenged the “group think.”
Yet, Hiatt suffered no accountability for his falsehoods and is still the Post’s editorial-page editor, still peddling dubious examples of Washington’s conventional wisdom.
Ministry of Truth
So, who are the “responsible” journalists who should be anointed to regulate what the world’s public gets to see and hear? For that Orwellian task, a kind of Ministry of Truth has been set up by Google, called the First Draft Coalition, which touts itself as a collection of 30 major news and technology companies, including the Times and Post, tackling “fake news” and creating a platform to decide which stories are questionable and which ones aren’t.
Formed in June 2015 and funded by Google News Lab, the First Draft Coalition’s founding members included Bellingcat, an online “citizen journalism” site that has gotten many of its highest profile stories wrong and is now associated with NATO’s favorite think tank, the Atlantic Council.
Despite Bellingcat’s checkered record and its conflicts of interest through the Atlantic Council, major Western news outlets, including the Times and Post, have embraced Bellingcat, apparently because its articles always seem to mesh neatly with U.S. and European propaganda on Syria and Ukraine.
Two of Bellingcat’s (or its founder Eliot Higgins’s) biggest errors were misplacing the firing location of the suspected Syrian rocket carrying sarin gas on Aug. 21, 2013, and directing an Australian news crew to the wrong site for the so-called getaway Buk video after the July 17, 2014 shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.
But like many news outlets that support establishment “group thinks,” Bellingcat wins widespread praise and official endorsements, such as from the international MH-17 investigation that was largely controlled by Ukraine’s unsavory intelligence agency, the SBU and that accepted Bellingcat’s dubious MH-17 evidence blaming the Russians.
If such a Ministry of Truth had existed in the mid-1980s, it might well have denounced the investigative reporting on the Contra-cocaine scandal since that was initially deemed untrue. And if “Minitrue” were around in 2002-03, it almost surely would have decried the handful of people who were warning against the “group think” on Iraq’s WMD.
Power and Reality
While it’s undeniable that some false or dubious stories get pushed during the heat of a political campaign and in wartime – and journalists have a role in fact-checking as best they can – there is potentially a greater danger when media insiders arrogate to themselves the power to dismiss contrary evidence as unacceptable, especially given their own history of publishing stories that turned out to be dubious if not entirely false.
It’s even more dangerous when these self-appointed arbiters of truth combine forces with powerful Internet search engines and social media companies to essentially silence dissenting opinions and contrary facts by making them very difficult for the public to locate.
Arguably even worse is when politicians – whether President-elect Donald Trump or Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan or President Obama – get into the business of judging what is true and what is false.
On Thursday, an impassioned President Obama voiced his annoyance with “fake news” twice in his joint news conference in Berlin with German Chancellor Angela Merkel — “because in an age where there’s so much active misinformation and it’s packaged very well and it looks the same when you see it on a Facebook page or you turn on your television. … If everything seems to be the same and no distinctions are made, then we won’t know what to protect.”
Let that phrase sink in for a moment: “We won’t know what to protect”? Is President Obama suggesting that it is the U.S. government’s role to “protect” certain information and, by implication, leave contrary information “unprotected,” i.e. open to censorship?
On Friday, a New York Times front-page article took Facebook to task, in particular, writing: “for years, the social network did little to clamp down on the false news.”
The Times added, in a complimentary way, “Now Facebook, Google and others have begun to take steps to curb the trend, but some outside the United States say the move is too late.”
This new alarm about “fake news” comes amid the U.S. government’s “information war” against Russia regarding the Syrian and Ukraine conflicts. Obama’s State Department insists that it is presenting the truth about these conflicts while Russia’s RT channel is a fount of disinformation. Yet, the State Department’s propaganda officials have frequently made false or unsupported claims themselves.
On Wednesday, there was the unseemly scene of State Department spokesman John Kirby refusing to answer reasonable questions from a Russian journalist affiliated with RT.
The RT journalist asked Kirby to identify the hospitals and clinics in Syria that he was claiming had been hit by Russian and Syrian airstrikes. You might assume that a truth-teller would have welcomed the opportunity to provide more details that could then be checked and verified.
But instead Kirby berated the RT journalist and tried to turn the rest of the State Department press corps against her.
QUESTION: Don’t you think it is important to give a specific list of hospitals that you’re accusing Russia of hitting? Those are grave accusations.
KIRBY: I’m not making those accusations. I’m telling you we’ve seen reports from credible aid organizations that five hospitals and a clinic —
QUESTION: Which hospital —
KIRBY: At least one clinic —
QUESTION: In what cities at least?
KIRBY: You can go look at the information that many of the Syrian relief agencies are putting out there publicly. We’re getting our information from them too. These reports —
QUESTION: But you are citing those reports without giving any specifics.
KIRBY: Because we believe these agencies are credible and because we have other sources of information that back up what we’re seeing from some of these reports. And you know what? Why don’t [you] ask … Here’s a good question. Why don’t you ask your defense ministry … what they’re doing and see if you can get…”
QUESTION: If you give a specific list —
KIRBY: No, no, no, no, no, no, no.
QUESTION: If you give a specific list of hospitals —
KIRBY: No, no, no.
QUESTION: My colleagues who are listening hopefully would be able to go and ask Russian officials about a specific list of hospitals that you’re accusing Russia of …”
KIRBY: You work for Russia Today, right? Isn’t that your agency?
QUESTION: That is correct. Yes.
KIRBY: And so why shouldn’t you ask your government the same kinds of questions that you’re standing here asking me? Ask them about their military activities. Get them to tell you what they’re – or to deny what they’re doing.
QUESTION: When I ask for specifics, it seems your response is why are you here? Well, you are leveling that accusation.
KIRBY: No, ma’am.
QUESTION: And if you give specifics, my colleagues would be able to ask Russian officials.
As Kirby continued to berate the RT journalist and stonewall her request for specifics, an American reporter intervened and objected to Kirby’s use of the phrase “‘your defense minister’ and things like that. I mean, she’s a journalist just like the rest of are, so it’s – she’s asking pointed questions, but they’re not …”
Kirby then insisted that since RT was “a state-owned” outlet that its journalists should not be put “on the same level with the rest of you who are representing independent media outlets.” (But the reality is that Voice of America, BBC and many other Western outlets are financed by governments or have ideological benefactors.)
Kirby’s hostility toward legitimate questions being raised about U.S. or U.S.-allied assertions has become typical of Obama’s State Department, which doesn’t seem to want any challenges to its presentation of reality.
For instance, during the early phase of the Ukraine crisis in 2014, Secretary of State John Kerry called RT a “propaganda bullhorn” and Richard Stengel, Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy, issued a “DipNote” saying RT should be ostracized as a source of disinformation.
But Stengel’s complaint revealed a stunning ignorance about the circumstances surrounding the February 2014 putsch that overthrew Ukraine’s elected President Viktor Yanukovych.
For instance, Stengel cited RT’s “ludicrous assertion” about the U.S. investing $5 billion to promote “regime change” in Ukraine. Stengel apparently wasn’t aware that Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland had cited the $5 billion figure in support of Ukraine’s “European aspirations” during a public speech to U.S. and Ukrainian business leaders on Dec. 13, 2013.
At the time, Nuland was a leading proponent of “regime change” in Ukraine, personally cheering on the Maidan demonstrators and even passing out cookies. In an intercepted, obscenity-laced phone call with U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt, Nuland said her choice to lead Ukraine was Arseniy “Yats is the guy” Yatsenyuk, who ended up as Prime Minister after the coup.
So, was Stengel a purveyor of “fake news” when he was accusing RT of disseminating fake news or was he just assembling some propaganda points for his underlings to repeat to a gullible Western news media? Or was he just ill-informed?
Both democracy and journalism can be messy businesses – and credibility is something that must be earned over time by building a reputation for reliability. There is no “gold seal” from the Establishment that makes you trustworthy.
It’s simply important to do one’s best to inform the American people and the world’s public as accurately as possible. Awarding trust is best left to individual readers who must be the ultimate judges of what’s real and what’s fake.
Are you finding yourselves suddenly a bit doubtful of the wisdom of drone wars? Presidential wars without Congress? Massive investment in new, smaller, “more usable” nuclear weapons? The expansion of bases across Africa and Asia? Are you disturbed by the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Yemen? Can total surveillance and the persecution of whistleblowers hit a point where they’ve gone too far? Is the new Cold War with Russia looking less than ideal now? How about the militarization of U.S. police: is it time to consider alternatives to that?
I hear you. I’m with you. Let’s build a movement together to end the madness of constantly overthrowing governments with bombs. Let’s propose nonviolent alternatives to a culture gone mad with war. Let’s end the mindset that creates war in the first place.
We have opportunities as well as dangers. A President Trump is unpredictable. He wants to proliferate nuclear weapons, bomb people, kill people, stir up hatred of people, and increase yet further military spending. But he also said the new Cold War was a bad idea. He said he wanted to end NATO, not to mention NAFTA, as well as breaking the habit of overthrowing countries left and right. Trump seems to immediately back off such positions under the slightest pressure. Will he adhere to them under massive pressure from across the political spectrum? It’s worth a try.
We have an opportunity to build a movement that includes a focus on and participation from refugees/immigrants. We have a chance to create opposition to racist wars and racism at home. We may just discover that what’s left of the U.S. labor movement is suddenly more open to opposing wars. Environmental groups may find a willingness to oppose the world’s top destroyer of the environment: the U.S. military. Civil liberties groups may at long last be willing to take on the militarism that creates the atrocities they oppose. We have to work for such a broader movement. We have to build on the trend of protesting the national anthem and make it a trend of actively resisting the greatest purveyor of violence on earth.
I know you’re feeling a little beat down at the moment. You shouldn’t. You had a winning candidate in Bernie Sanders. Your party cheated him out of the nomination. All that stuff you tell yourselves about encouraging demographic trends and the better positions of young people is all true. You just looked for love in all the wrong places. Running an unpopular candidate in a broken election system is not the way to change the world. Even a working election system would not be the central means by which to improve anything. There’s no getting back the mountains of money and energy invested in this election. But activism is an unlimited resource. Directing your energies now in more strategic directions can inspire others who in turn can re-inspire you.
Your outsider is threatening insiderness. He’s got the same tribe of DC corporate lobbyists planning his nominations that Hillary Clinton had lined up for hers. Can we resist that trend? Can we insist that the wars be ended? Can those moments of off-the-cuff honesty about dinosaurs like NATO be turned into actual action? Donald Trump took a lot of heat for proposing to be fair to Palestinians as well as Israelis, and he backed off fast. Can we encourage him to stand behind that initial inclination?
Can we stop the Trans-Pacific Partnership and end NAFTA as well? We heard a million speeches about how bad NAFTA is. How about actually ending it? Can we stop the looming war supplemental spending bill? Can we put a swift halt to efforts in Congress to repeal the right to sue Saudi Arabia and other nations for their wars and lesser acts of terrorism?
How about all that well deserved disgust with the corporate media? Can we actually break up that cartel and allow opportunities for media entrepreneurs?
Dear United States,
Donald Trump admitted we had a broken election system and for a while pretended that he would operate outside of it by funding his own campaign. It’s time to actually fix it. It’s time to end the system of legalized bribery, fund elections, make registration automatic, make election day a holiday, end gerrymandering, eliminate the electoral college, create the right to vote, create the public hand-counting of paper ballots at every polling place, and create ranked choice voting as Maine just did.
Voter suppression efforts in this year’s elections should be prosecuted in each state. And any indications of fraud in vote counting by machines should be investigated. We should take the opportunity created by all the McCarthyist nonsense allegations of Russian interference to get rid of unverifiable voting.
There are also areas in which localities and states, as well as international organizations and alliances, must now step up to take the lead. First and foremost is investing in a serious effort to avoid climate catastrophe. Second is addressing inequality that has surpassed the Middle Ages: both taxing the overclass and upholding the underclass must be pursued creatively. Mass incarceration and militarized police are problems that states can solve.
But we can advance a positive agenda across the board by understanding this election in the way that much of the world will understand it: as a vote against endless war. Let’s end the wars, end the weapons dealing, close the bases, and cut the $1 trillion a year going into the military. Hell, why not demand that a businessman president for the first time ever audit the Pentagon and find out what it’s spending money on?
We apologize for having elected President Trump as well as for nearly electing President Clinton. Many of you believe we defeated the representative of the enlightenment in favor of the sexist racist buffoon. This may be a good thing. Or at least it may be preferable to your eight-year-long delusion that President Obama was a man of peace and justice.
I hate to break it to you, but the United States government has been intent on dominating the rest of you since the day it was formed. If electing an obnoxious president helps you understand that, so much the better. Stop joining in U.S. “humanitarian wars” please. They never were humanitarian, and if you can recognize that now, so much the better. The new guy openly wants to “steal their oil.” So did the last several presidents, although none of them said so. Are we awake now?
Shut down the U.S. bases in your country. They represent your subservience to Donald Trump. Close them.
Want to save the earth’s climate? Build a nonviolent movement that resists destructive agendas coming out of the United States.
Want to uphold the rule of law, diplomacy, aid, decency, and humanitarianism? Stop making exceptions for U.S. crimes. Tell the International Criminal Court to indict a non-African. Prosecute the crime and crimes of war in your own courts. Stop cooperating in the surrounding and threatening of Russia, China, and Iran. Clinton wanted to send weapons to Ukraine and bomb Syria. Make sure Trump doesn’t. Make peace in Ukraine and Syria before January.
It’s time that we all began treating the institution of war as the unacceptable vestige of barbarism that it can appear when given an openly racist, sexist, bigoted face. We have the ability to use nonviolent tools to direct the world where we want it to go. We have to stop believing the two big lies: that we are generally powerless, and that our only power lies in elections. Let’s finally get active. Let’s start by ending war making.
24-minute game-changing video: Electronic ‘voting’ machines without physical evidence = OBVIOUS ongoing election fraud; central method to pick a 51% to 49% ‘winner’ with fractionalized ‘counting’ documented
A real-time demo of the most devastating election theft mechanism yet found, with context and explanation. Demonstration uses a real voting system and real vote databases and takes place in seconds across multiple jurisdictions.
Over 5000 subcontractors and middlemen have the access to perform this for any or all clients. It can give contract signing authority to whoever the user chooses. All political power can be converted to the hands of a few anonymous subcontractors.
“It’s a product. It’s scaleable. It learns its environment and can adjust to any political environment, any demographic. It runs silently, invisibly, and can produce plausible results that really pass for the real thing.”
Provides solutions and actions for immediate deterrence.
When Americans are told an election is defined by touching a computer screen without a countable receipt that can be verified, they are being told a criminal lie to allow election fraud. This is self-evident, but Princeton, Stanford, and the President of the American Statistical Association are among the leaders pointing to the obvious (and here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here). Again, no professional would/can argue an election is legitimate when there is nothing for anyone to count.
- The US is a literal rogue state empire led by neocolonial looting liars. The history is uncontested and taught to anyone taking comprehensive courses. If anyone has any refutations of this professional academic factual claim for any of this easy-to-read and documented content, please provide it.
- US ongoing lie-started and Orwellian-illegal Wars of Aggression require all US military and government to refuse all war orders because there are no lawful orders for obviously unlawful wars. Officers are required to arrest those who issue obviously unlawful orders. And again, those of us working for this area of justice are aware of zero attempts to refute this with, “War law states (a, b, c), so the wars are legal because (d, e, f).” All we receive is easy-to-reveal bullshit.
- And, obviously, corporate media are criminally complicit through constant lies of omission and commission to “cover” all these crimes. Historic tragic-comic empire is only possible through such straight-face lying, making our Emperor’s New Clothes analogy perfectly chosen.
- The top three benefits each of monetary reform and public banking total ~$1,000,000 for the average American household, and would be received nearly instantly. Please read that twice. Now look to verify for yourself.
Demanding arrests as the required and obvious public response rather than ‘voting’ for more disaster:
The categories of crime include:
- Wars of Aggression (the worst crime a nation can commit).
- Likely treason for lying to US military, ordering unlawful attack and invasions of foreign lands, and causing thousands of US military deaths.
- Crimes Against Humanity for ongoing intentional policy of poverty that’s killed over 400 million human beings just since 1995 (~75% children; more deaths than from all wars in Earth’s recorded history).
- Tens of trillions in looting, including $6.5 trillion just reported by the US Department of “Defense” as “lost.”
US military, law enforcement, and all with Oaths to support and defend the US Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic, face an endgame choice:
- Demand arrests, with those with lawful authority to enact it. An arrest is the lawful action to stop apparent crimes, with the most serious crimes documented here meaning the most serious need for arrests.
- Watch the US escalate its rogue state crimes that annually kill millions, harm billions, and loot trillions.
In just 90 seconds, former US Marine Ken O’Keefe powerfully states how you may choose to voice “very obvious solutions”: arrest the criminal leaders (video starts at 20:51, then finishes this episode of Cross Talk):
Solutions worth literal tens of trillions to ‘We the People’:
- The top three benefits each of monetary reform and public banking total ~$1,000,000 for the average American household, and would be received nearly instantly. Please read that twice. Now look to verify for yourself.
- We can quantify the end of the lie-started and illegal Wars of Aggression quickly into the trillions, and that said, it’s worth a lot more than what we quantify.
- Truth: a world in which education is expressed in its full potential to only and always begin with good-faith effort for objective, comprehensive, and verifiable data.
Would an ‘interview’ with George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams help?
If so, here are two:
July 4th, 2016 interview with Washington, Jefferson, Adams: America’s REQUIREMENT from our Declaration of Independence & Constitution to arrest .01% criminal ‘Nobility class,’ or suffer as their indentured servants
‘Election’ 2016 interview with Washington, Jefferson, Adams: America’s right and necessity to arrest .01% tyrants engaged in lie-started illegal Wars of Aggression, bankster-looting, and constant lying
Note: I make all factual assertions as a National Board Certified Teacher of US Government, Economics, and History, with all economics factual claims receiving zero refutation since I began writing in 2008 among Advanced Placement Macroeconomics teachers on our discussion board, public audiences of these articles, and international conferences (and here). I invite readers to empower their civic voices with the strongest comprehensive facts most important to building a brighter future. I challenge professionals, academics, and citizens to add their voices for the benefit of all Earth’s inhabitants.
Carl Herman is a National Board Certified Teacher of US Government, Economics, and History; also credentialed in Mathematics. He worked with both US political parties over 18 years and two UN Summits with the citizen’s lobby, RESULTS, for US domestic and foreign policy to end poverty. He can be reached at Carl_Herman@post.harvard.edu
Note: Examiner.com has blocked public access to my articles on their site (and from other whistleblowers), so some links in my previous work are blocked. If you’d like to search for those articles other sites may have republished, use words from the article title within the blocked link. Or, go to http://archive.org/web/, paste the expired link into the box, click “Browse history,” then click onto the screenshots of that page for each time it was screen-shot and uploaded to webarchive. I’ll update as “hobby time” allows; including my earliest work from 2009 to 2011 (blocked author pages: here, here).
24-minute game-changing video: Electronic ‘voting’ machines without physical evidence = OBVIOUS ongoing election fraud; central method to pick a 51% to 49% ‘winner’ with fractionalized ‘counting’ documented.
Many people may mistakenly believe that the future is something that others, like big companies or governments usher in and that they themselves play either a minor active role, or one that is entirely passive. In reality, there are already groups of regular people just like you or me around the world literally building the future of their communities themselves with their own two hands and in collaboration with their friends, family, neighbors, and through the power of the Internet, with like-minded individuals around the world.
Above image: Instead of some planned community built by government or developers, we can add a layer of opensource technology over our existing communities, on our rooftops, in our offices, and at existing public spaces or markets. In addition to this added layer of physical technology, a little change in our mindset will go a long way in transforming our communities.
Because of the exponential progress of technology, the impact of small, organized projects is increasing as well. Think about 3D printing and how for many years it remained firmly in the realm of large businesses for use in prototyping. It was only when small groups of enthusiastic hobbyists around the world began working on cheaper and more accessible versions of these machines that they ended up on the desktops of regular people around the world, changing the way we look at manufacturing.
Similar advances in energy production, biotechnology, agriculture, IT, and manufacturing technology are likewise empowering people on a very distributed and local level.
What we see emerging is a collection of local “institutions” giving people direct access to the means to change their communities for the better, bypassing more abstract and less efficient means of effecting change like voting or protesting.
Political processes, however, will become more relevant and practical when people actually have resources and direct hands-on experience in the matters of running their communities. Demanding more of those that represent you will have more meaning when those demands are coupled with practical solutions and enumerated plans of action.
3D printing has come a long way since the first RepRap desktop printers and their derivatives which includes MakerBot’s first designs. 3D printing has gone from an obscure obsession among hobbyists to a mainstream phenomenon that is transforming the way we look at manufacturing.
Let’s explore these “institutions” and see what is possible, what is already being done, and how you can get involved today in physically shaping your community’s future starting today.
A makerspace is exactly what it sounds like: a space where you make things. However, it is often associated with computer controlled personal manufacturing technology like 3D printers, CNC mills, and laser and/or waterjet cutters. There is also a significant amount of electronic prototyping equipment on hand including opensource development boards like the Arduino, which allows virtually anyone to control physical objects in the real world.
Makerspaces also generally include a small core team with skills ranging from design and engineering to software development. These teams usually are eager to bring in new people and introduce them to the tools, techniques, and technology they are so passionate about.
Makerspaces already exist around the world and it is very likely that no matter where you live, you have one relatively nearby. Makerspaces hold workshops for both absolute beginners and experienced tech enthusiasts.
Makerspaces hold frequent workshops to share their knowledge and enthusiasm with others, often absolute beginners. There is a good chance your local makerspace has workshops available. Some are even free.
You can prototype virtually anything in a makerspace, making it the perfect place to go when you have a problem and want to develop a practical, tangible solution to solve it. Everything from an opensource solar charger to a new kind of 3D printer could be (and has been) made at a makerspace, making it the perfect nexus for our local community and the variety of other local institutions that may crop up there.
A combination of rediscovered traditional practices combined with modern technology makes local food production both practical and profitable. Community gardens are not uncommon, and there is a growing interest around the world, particularly in urban areas to utilize the sun-soaked rooftops to grow food with which to consume or distribute to local restaurants and markets.
US-based Growing Power proves what communities can accomplish by working together. They have proven that community urban agriculture can be both practical and profitable, with their project becoming not just a local business, but a resource for the community as well.
The Comcrop project in Singapore provides a particularly impressive example, having been in operation for several years now, serving not only as a source of locally produced food for restaurants and grocery stores, but also as a community resources teaching all who are interested how to raise crops in a dense urban environment like that found in Singapore.
Singapore’s Comcrop project has proven that even in the densest of urban environments, agriculture can be carried out by communities for profit, fun, and education. Collaboration with local makerspaces could further enhance their operation’s efficiency.
Another impressive example of local agriculture is US-based Growing Power where greenhouses, vermiculture, and aquaponics are all combined to generate an immense amount of food feeding into a local distribution network the project has diligently developed over the years.
Local food production and distribution is steadily expanding around the world as the concept of farmers’ markets spread and entire communities of both producers and consumers connect in a much more relevant, transparent, and beneficial manner than possible under the existing mass consumerist paradigm of big-ag and big-box stores.
Applying the resources found at a makerspace to local agriculture gives us the ability to take organic agriculture and increase its efficiency through automation. That’s the idea behind ProgressTH’s own automated agriculture project, and others like it. There is no reason why local communities cannot have locally produced organic food, and utilize technology to bring efficiency on par with that claimed by large-scale operations.
Modern civilization does not function without electrical power, something we are reminded of every time the power goes out during a storm. Currently, most of the world’s power still comes from centralized national grids and large power plants.
However, the march forward of technology is finally making the means of producing power locally more accessible to more people around the world. An extreme example of a localized, distributed power grid can be found in the remote hills of Thailand’s Phetchaburi province where the national power grid never quite made it. A local team created a tech-center of sorts where villagers were trained in the designing and installation of solar power systems, bringing the village light and power for irrigation house-by-house. The villagers have created a sort of collaborative network where everyone helps out when expanding the network’s capabilities.
The Pedang Project in Phetchaburi, Thailand has literally brought power to a tiny remote village isolated from the national power grid. Now it is taking its experience and sharing it with others around the country to replicate their success.
This network also trains people from all over the country to replicate their success elsewhere, even in areas where the national grid does reach, but where independence in power production is still sought.
This includes a school halfway across the country that is entirely solar powered which has incorporated alternative energy in the curriculum giving students practical experience and skills to use once they graduate.
A school in Thailand’s northeast has also become a center for alternative energy and organic agriculture, all of which is combined with more traditional curriculum. Students grow their own food and help maintain the solar power system that powers the school during studying hours.
Imagine every community, rural or urban, developing their own alternative power solutions themselves, managing both the physical infrastructure and the knowledge required to maintain it. It doesn’t necessarily need to replace current power production, but it could augment it until technology makes it possible for complete, localized and distributed power production.
Healthcare + DIYbio
Makerspaces are already collaborating with hospitals and healthcare professionals around the world to speed up the process of developing solutions to everyday problems, or lower the costs of existing solutions that remain out of reach for many patients.
MIT’s MakerNurse program is one example of this. Bangkok-based QSNICH (Queen Sirikit National Institute of Child Health) is another example. Decentralizing and opening up the development of biomedical technology is key to lowering its prices. While subsidizing healthcare now is necessary to ensure people who cannot afford treatment can still get it, in the future, healthcare will be so cheap such subsidies will have less impact on the quantity and quality of care.
Biomedical technology, the hardware you see in hospitals is one thing, the actual pharmaceuticals and therapies administered to patients is another. DIYbio (do-it-yourself biology) is a growing community much like the maker movement that seeks to open up biotechnology to a wider audience by lowering the cost of equipment and opening up knowledge by making their work collaborative, transparent and, most importantly, opensource.
And, believe it or not, cutting-edge technology like gene therapy which has actually already cured cancer in terminal leukemia patients and shown promise in clinical trials for everything from heart disease to blindness and deafness is being approached by the DIYbio community. For now, it borders between something like a community lab and a small start-up company, as is the case with Bioviva or Andrew Hessel’s Pink Army Cooperative. In the future, we can see current collaborations between makerspaces and healthcare professionals extending and evolving between biotech researchers and local community labs.
Again, the makerspace allows for the prototyping and development of much of the opensource biotech equipment already being produced and making headlines around the world.
Microfactories are localized manufacturing facilities that specialize in small-run production. Say that you create a brilliant prototype at your local makerspace, but need to make only 100-200 of them at a time. Traditional factories because of current economies of scale usually will not help you, at least not for a reasonable price. Microfactories can fill the void between makerspace prototypes and mass production.
Microfactories already exist, but require large capital investments for the amount of machinery required to efficiently carry out small-run production. Advances in personal manufacturing will continue to lower these barriers, and many makerspaces around the world are already working to bridge the gap between prototyping and small-run production.
In the future, microfactories may evolve into an entire network of distributed manufacturing making mass production obsolete. This is, again, dependent on the progress of manufacturing technology. When computer-controlled manufacturing processes like CNC mills and 3D printers can handle more materials, faster, and more efficiently, small-run production will become more and more practical.
And already, microfactories are going from concepts to actual physical locations as is the case with the GE-backed FirstBuild microfactory in the US. In Thailand, electronics company Gravitech has created a production facility just north of Bangkok making Arduino-compatible boards for the local market cheaper and of better quality than could be imported.
An Arduino-compatible board made in Thailand for the Thai market beats out Chinese-made boards both in quality and even price. This is part of a trend toward the gradual reduction of manufacturing “hubs” and lead toward a more distributed and local means of manufacturing.
This is just the leading edge of a shifting paradigm toward fully distributed manufacturing. Again, makerspaces will play a crucial role, providing educational and training resources for the local community to learn how to design and develop ideas into prototypes and then pass them on to local microfactories for production and distribution.
Local Motors is pioneering the concept of distributed car manufacturing. Microfactories in the future may make everything from handheld devices to something as big as a car, on demand or in small runs that will challenge or entirely shift our current globalized manufacturing paradigm.
Just how far could this go? Looking at US-based Local Motors, who is attempting to create (which much success) a distributed auto-manufacturing network, it can probably end up encompassing nearly everything we use on a daily basis short of aerospace and architecture. With 3D-printed buildings cropping up around the world, each community might have their own cooperative-owned system for that as well.
Maybe now you can see how communities possessing these key institutions could begin to tackle their problems head on, practically, with tangible solutions instead of waiting for others, far away, to address them for them. By doing so, people will become more directly involved in their own destiny, possessing both skills and experience in running and improving their communities, giving them better insight and discretion when engaging in political processes beyond their community.
And because of the talent that is attracted to and produced within makerspaces, the means of creating, for example, parallel mesh communication networks or water production and distribution systems, could exist as well. Virtually everything in one’s community could end up a product of local talent, entrepreneurial vision, and innovation.
But it is important to remind potential critics that this is not a process toward tens of thousands of isolated communities scattered across the planet. Like makerspaces today, while each one possesses its own tools and talent, they are all connected and collaborating together with other spaces around the world taking and adapting great ideas when needed, while sharing their own success with others through an opensource culture.
The distributed nature of these economic, manufacturing, healthcare, agricultural, and infrastructure networks also means more resilience, especially because they are collaborative on a much larger scale. There is no single power plant or agricultural region to “wipe out” to plunge a huge population dependent on either into crisis. Disasters and crises can be absorbed and compensated for by neighboring communities unaffected. The loss of power in one community will not affect another if both are self-sufficient in power production. However, temporary assistance would be possible for one community to lend another.
“Standards,” if you will, would still exist, honed not through legality and policy, but through actual performance data, user feedback, and reputation. And because this process by its very nature is a flexible one, unforeseen opportunities and threats could be capitalized on or met as needed.
How Can You Get Involved Today?
Yes, you can get involved today! All you have to do is find your closest makerspace (or here) and drop by to check it out. You can also begin teaching yourself by taking advantage of the huge amount of fully free resources online covering everything from the basics of 3D printing, to opensource electronics, to local organic agriculture, to DIYbio. Let your favorite Internet search engine be your guide and find the resources you find most useful to your own style of learning. On YouTube alone, by simply typing any area of interest in, you can usually find dozens of tutorials and presentations.
A makerspace in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Just a few years ago, there were no makerspaces at all in Thailand, now there are clubs and spaces from north to south and a growing community connected through collaboration and enthusiasm about the power of hands-on innovations and solutions.
Get your friends involved; and if none are interested, it is easy to make new friends who are interested in this shifting paradigm, since “collaboration” is in fact at the very heart of it. If you are in Bangkok, feel free to contact us for workshops that ProgressTH and its many friends have on offer, some of which are even free.
The most important thing to remember is, no matter how small your progress is day to day, it will all add up in a year’s time to something that will surely surprise you. The only sure way to fail is by doing nothing — after all, zero times all the days in the year still only equals zero. You do not need to be a trained engineer or professional designer, biologist, or experienced farmer to begin building up your local community. Many of the most prominent names contributing to this current paradigm are college dropouts, or entirely self-taught. You will surely run into professionals, however, and you will learn a lot from them.
It is a truly exciting journey, and one that will have direct benefit to both yourself and your community. You can do it part-time in addition to your existing job. And many have ended up making a living full-time by contributing. We have, and will continue covering this unfolding movement, and we would love to cover your contributions… so start contributing!
SOCIALISM IS GOOD
Countries such as Singapore, Norway and Switzerland are part capitalist and part socialist.
We are talking about “borderline socialist states, with generous welfare benefits and lots of redistribution of wealth.”
All of the above countries are wealthier than the USA.
The term “socialism” was used by Henri de Saint-Simon.
Simon saw “socialism” as a contrast to the doctrine of selfish “individualism”.
“The richest 1% now own as much as everyone else put together.”
Communism, as organised by Lenin and Stalin, was an extremist (Kosher Nostra) doctrine, not much different from fascism; with the original Soviet and Chinese Communism , a rich elite treated the ordinary people as slaves.
Hitler, like Tony Blair, was used by the ‘right wing’ to smash socialism. Hitler got his thugs to beat up socialists.
Chris Watson.In 1904, Australians elected the first Australian Labor Party prime minister: Chris Watson, who became the first democratically elected social democrat.
Salvador Allende, president of Chile and member of the Socialist Party of Chile. His presidency was ended by the CIA on 9 11.The main opposition to Socialism comes from the CIA, working on behalf of the rich elite.
In Indonesia, the moderate socialist President Sukarno was toppled by the CIA, who ordered the murders of around one million Indonesians, the vast majority of them moderates.
The CIA toppled the socialist Salvador Allende, and replaced him with the fascist Augusto Pinochet.
The CIA also committed mass murder in Nicaragua because it preferred right wing dictatorship to agrarian reform.
In the UK, the CIA infiltrated the Labour Party and took over all the key positions.
The game of Monopoly comes to an end when one player has a monopoly.
“The richest 1% now own as much as everyone else put together.”
The current economic crisis is easily solved if we adopt a more socialist approach.
It’s time to increase taxes on the rich.
“The west’s leading economic thinktank”, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development recently produced a report on inequality.
The report says that rising inequality causes lower growth in an economy.
Rising inequality is estimated to have reduced growth by:
More than 10% in Mexico and New Zealand.
Nearly 9% in the UK, Finland and Norway.
Between 6% and 7% in the United States, Italy and Sweden.
OECD secretary-general Angel Gurría
The report shows that the UK economy would have been more than 20% bigger had the gap between rich and poor not widened since the 1980s.
The OECD proposes higher taxes on the rich and policies aimed at increasing the wealth of the bottom 40% of the population.
Reagan and Thatcher supported ‘trickle-down economics’, the crazy idea that ordinary people would benefit from weakening trade unions and making bankers richer.
1. “Income inequality has a sizeable and … negative impact on growth.”
2. “Inequality … hampers growth.”
“The richest 1% now own as much as everyone else put together.”
The game of Monopoly can go on for ever, so long as the rich 0.01% do not end up controlling all the properties, houses, hotels and cash.
The game of Monopoly can also go on for ever, so long as you are allowed to borrow money.
You land on ‘Mayfair’ where your opponent has hotels.
You haven’t got enough cash, so you borrow from ‘the bank’, which has limitless money.
Each time you pass ‘Go’ you pay 5% on your borrowing.
If your opponent lands on your hotels on ‘Oxford Street’, you then have enough money to pay back the money borrowed from the bank.
Of course, if your opponent has far more properties and hotels than you, you will end up with growing debts.
But, the bank always allows you to borrow more money.
So the game goes on for ever.
The game only ends if:
(1) the rules are changed so that there is a limit to borrowing
(2) and, one player has far more properties, hotels and cash than the other and the dice are generally in his favour.
The USA currently has some economic problems.
Its debt is rising.
Its population is ageing.
Its schools are mediocre.
Its infrastructure is rickety.
Its politicians are corrupt.
It is spending too much money on wars.
There is a giant gap in wealth between the elite and the average citizen…
A well nourished man steals maize from a starving child during a food distribution at a feeding center in Sudan in 1998. Photo by Tom Stoddart.
But, so long as the US government can go on printing money, the game can go on for ever.
Of course, if the USA fails to get its house in order, the dollar will go down in value and ordinary people become much poorer.
We should all look at Switzerland, which is made up of a number of counties (cantons).
The central government in Switzerland controls the railways.
The cantons control education, labour, economic and welfare policies and so on.
Each canton has its own parliament and constitution.
The communes vary in size from a few hundred to more than a million people.
Many people today are richer than people back in 1820.
However, the gap between the haves and the have-nots globally is now at the same level as in the 1820s.
This is according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
The researchers studied income levels in 25 countries, charted them back to 1820 and then collated them as if the world was a single country.
The Gini coefficient is used to measure income inequality.
Zero represents perfect equality and 100 perfect inequality.
The global Gini rose from 49 in 1820 to 66 in 2000.
Between 1950 and 1980, income inequality did drop sharply.
This was due to an ‘egalitarian revolution.’
This ‘egalitarian revolution’ involved Socialist Parties and Trade Unions winning better wages and conditions for the poor, particularly in Europe.
Reagan came to power in 1981 and Thatcher came to power in 1979.
Inequality shot up after globalization got going in the 1980s.
The gap between the haves and the have-nots globally is now at the same level as in the 1820s.
Only in a few nations – such as Switzerland and France – has there been a long-term decline in income inequality.
The Scandinavian countries have the smallest income disparities, but these countries have now been fully infiltrated by the CIA and its friends.
There is a continuing mind control programme to persuade the voters that the rich deserve to be rich and that the poor deserve to be poor.
There is a continuing mind control programme to persuade the voters that taxes on the rich must not be raised and that the moderate socialist policies in Scandinavia are a bad thing.
Robert Owen took over some textile mills at a place called New Lanark in Scotland.
At that time, in the early 19th century, children from as young as five were working for thirteen hours a day in the mills.
Robert Owen brought about reforms, such as halting the employment of young children.
His mills prospered.
A sanitised version of a UK military punishment for its own soldiers.
(“Dying Detroit” – The Impacts of Globalization. Social Decay and Destruction of an Entire Urban Area)
At theeconomiccollapseblog, we read about:
6. Approximately 1 billion people throughout the world go to bed hungry each night.
Gordon Brown reportedly works for the CIA.
Nobody seems to know exactly how much the Rothschilds are worth today. They dominate the banking establishments of England, France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and many other nations. It was estimated that they were worth billions back in the mid-1800s. What the total wealth of the family is today is surely an amount that is almost unimaginable, but nobody knows for sure.
“What we have in the world today is not capitalism.
“Rather, it more closely resembles ‘feudalism’ than anything else…