The gig is up: America’s booming economy is built on hollow promises | Robert Reich

Contract workers prop up big earners but under Trump’s anti-labor administration are ruthlessly exploited themselves

Uber just filed its first quarterly report as a publicly traded company. Although it lost $1bn, investors may still do well because the losses appear to be declining.

Related: The Uber drivers forced to sleep in parking lots to make a decent living

The standard economic measures – unemployment and income – look better than Americans feel

California is countering Trump on this, as on other issues

Related: Gig economy: California bill granting employee status passes assembly

Robert Reich, a former US secretary of labor, is professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley and the author of Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few and The Common Good. He is also a columnist for Guardian US

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Clubs, Cartels, And Bilderberg

Authored by Binoy Kampmark via Oriental Review,

“After decades of neoliberalism, we are at the mercy of a cluster of cartels who are lobbying politicians hard and using monopoly power to boost profits.”

Joseph Stiglitz, The Price of Inequality (2012)

The emergence of think tanks was as much a symptom of liberal progress as it was a nervous reaction in opposition to it.  In 1938, the American Enterprise Association was founded by businessmen concerned that free enterprise would suffer at the hands of those too caught up with notions of equality and egalitarianism.  In 1943, it dug into the political establishment in Washington, renamed as the American Enterprise Institute which has boasted moments of some influence in the corridors of the presidential administrations.

Gatherings of the elite, self-promoted as chat shops of the privileged and monstrously well-heeled, have often garnered attention.  That the rich and powerful chat together privately should not be a problem, provided the glitterati keep their harmful ideas down to small circulation.  But the Bilderberg gathering, a transatlantic annual meeting convened since 1954, fuels speculation for various reasons, not least of all because of its absence of detail and off-the-record agendas. 

C. Gordon Tether, writing for the Financial Times in May 1975, would muse that,

“If the Bilderberg Group is not a conspiracy of some sort, it is conducted in such a way as to give a remarkably good imitation of one.”

Each year, there are hushed murmurings and ponderings about the guest list.  Politicians, captains of industry, and the filthy rich tend to fill out the numbers.  In 2018, the Telegraph claimed that delegates would chew over such matters as “Russia, ‘post-truth’ and the leadership in the US, with AI and quantum computing also on the schedule.”  This time, the Swiss town of Montreux is hosting a gathering which has, among its invitees, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and President Donald Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner.

The Bilderberg Summit begins at the driveway – this year in Switzerland, at the hotel “Montreux Palace”.

Often, the more entertaining assumptions about what happens at the Bilderberg Conference have come from outsiders keen to fantasise. The absence of a media pack, a situation often colluded with by media outlets themselves, coupled with a general holding of attendees to secrecy, have spawned a few gems.  A gathering of lizard descendants hatching plans for world domination is an old favourite.

Other accounts are suitably dull, suggesting that little in the way of importance actually happens.  That man of media, Marshall McLuhan, was appalled after attending a meeting in 1969 by those “uniformly nineteenth century minds pretending to the twentieth.” He was struck by an asphyxiating atmosphere of “banality and irrelevance”.

The briefings that come out are scripted to say little, though the Bilderberg gathering does come across as a forum to trial ideas (read anything significantly friendly to big business and finance) that may find their way into domestic circulation.  Former Alberta Premier Alison Redford did just that at the 2012 meeting at Chantilly, Virginia.  In reporting on her results after a trip costing $19,000, the Canadian politician proved short on detail. 

“The Premier’s participation advanced the Alberta government’s more aggressive effort to engage world decision makers in Alberta’s strategic interests, and to talk about Alberta’s place in the world.  The mission sets the stage for further relationship-building with existing partners and potential partners with common interests in investment, innovation and public policy.”

One is on more solid ground in being suspicious of such figures given their distinct anti-democratic credentials.  Such gatherings tend to be hostile to the demos, preferring to lecture and guide it rather than heed it.  Bilderberg affirmed that inexorable move against popular will in favour of the closed club and controlling cartel.  “There are powerful corporate groups, above government, manipulating things,” asserts the much maligned Alex Jones, whose tendency to conspiracy should not detract from a statement of the obvious.  These are gatherings designed to keep the broader populace at arms-length, and more.

The ideas and policies discussed are bound to be self-serving ones friendly to the interests of finance and indifferent to the welfare of the commonwealth.  A Bilderberg report, describing the Bürgenstock Conference in 1960, saw the gatherings as ones “where arguments not always used in public debate can be put forth.”  As Joseph Stiglitz summarises from The Price of Inequality,

“Those at the top have learned how to suck the money out of the rest in ways that the rest are hardly aware of.  That is their true innovation.  Policy shapes the market, but politics has been hijacked by a financial elite that has feathered its own nest.” 

A nice distillation of Bilderbergism, indeed.

Gauging the influence of the Bilderberg Group in an empirical sense is not a simple matter, though WikiLeaks has suggested that “its influence on postwar history arguable eclipses that of the G8 conference.”  An overview of the group, published in August 1956 by Dr. Jósef H. Retinger, Polish co-founder and secretary of the gathering, furnishes us with a simple rationale: selling the US brand to sceptical Europeans and nullifying “anxiety”.  Meetings “unofficial and private” would be convened involving “influential and reliable people who carried the respect of those working in the field of national and international affairs”.

Retinger also laid down the rationale for keeping meetings opaque and secret.  Official international meetings, he reasoned, were troubled by those retinues of “experts and civil servants”.  Frank discussion was limited for fear of indiscretions that might be seen as rubbing against the national interest.  The core details of subjects would be avoided.  And thirdly, if those attending “are not able to reach agreement on a certain point they shelve it in order to avoid giving the impression of disunity.”

A security guard is seen May 29 above the entrance of the Fairmont Le Montreux Palace hotel in the Swiss town of Montreux, which is set to host the annual Bilderberg Meeting.

Retinger was already floating ideas about Europe in May 1946 when, as secretary general of the Independent League for European Co-operation (ILEC), he pondered the virtues of federalism oiled by an elite cadre before an audience at Chatham House.  He feared the loss of “big powers” on the continent, whose “inhabitants after all, represent the most valuable human element in the world.”  (Never mind those of the dusky persuasion, long held in European bondage.)  Soon after, he was wooed by US Ambassador W. Averell Harriman and invited to the United States, where his ideas found “unanimous approval… among financiers, businessmen and politicians.”

The list of approvers reads like a modern Bilderberg selection, an oligarchic who’s who, among them the banker Russell Leffingwell, senior partner in J. P. Morgan’s, Nelson and David Rockefeller, chair of General Motors Alfred Sloan, New York investment banker Kuhn Loeb and Charles Hook, President of the American Rolling Mills Company.  (Unsurprisingly, Retinger would establish the Bilberberg Group with the likes of Paul Rijkens, President of the multinational giant Unilever, the unglamorous face of European capitalism.)

Retinger’s appraisals of sovereignty, to that end, are important in understanding the modern European Union, which continues to nurse those paradoxical tensions between actual representativeness and financial oligarchy.  Never mind the reptilian issues: the EU, to a modest extent, is Bilderbergian, its vision made machinery, enabling a world to be made safe for multinationals while keeping popular sovereignty in check.  Former US ambassador to West Germany, George McGhee, put it this way: “The Treaty of Rome [of 1957], which brought the Common Market into being, was nurtured at Bilderberg meetings.”

Ranking The World’s Best And Worst Passports

As of 2019, there are 195 countries in the world, all varying widely in terms of size, culture, prosperity and influence. Some allow wide access to foreign countries for their citizens, and some don’t.

Any would-be global citizens might wonder: While exploring the broader world, which passports offer the most opportunities, and which, well, don’t?

Swiss

To try and quantify this, Nomad Capitalist has released its latest annual ranking of the best and worst passports. The consultancy based its ranking on five criteria: Visa-Free travel, taxation, perception, dual citizenship and personal freedom, with the goal of educating aspiring global citizens “about the true value of the world’s citizenships.”

First, a few highlights: The ranking hasn’t changed much from last year. Once again, EU, which grant holders untrammeled access to much of the Continent, occupied nine out of 10 of the top spots. Once again, the UK, which formerly possessed one of the world’s top passports, has fallen in the ranking, sliding to 27th place.

Once again, the US placed in the bottom end of the top 25th percentile, largely because of its low ranking on the taxation sub-index (US citizens are responsible for paying income taxes to the US Treasury even when that money is earned abroad).

Bringing up the rear were the usual suspects: Iraq ranked dead last, largely due to travel restrictions (Iraqi citizens can only easily visit 27 other countries). The second-lowest spot went to Afghanistan, followed by Eritrea, Yemen, Somalia, Syria, Pakistan, Libya, Sudan and North Korea.

Once again, the No. 1 spot went to Luxembourg, which ranked high on both taxation (it’s low), dual citizenship, freedom, perception and travel (citizens of Luxembourg can travel to 186 countries using just their passports). It was followed by Switzerland (the only non-EU country in the top ten), Sweden, Ireland, Belgium, Italy, Portugal, Finland, Spain and France.

The takeaway: Benefits vary widely depending on which passport you hold – though to truly understand this, it helps to try and travel abroad.

Nomad Passport Index 2019 by Zerohedge on Scribd

 

 

 

 

 

DARPA Can Exterminate Humanity: “You Could Feasibly Wipe-Out The Human Race”

Authored by Mac Slavo via SHTFplan.com,

One of the most dangerous experiments that mankind has ever embarked upon is DARPA’s desire for gene drive technology. Scientists now have the knowledge and the tools they need to create and deliver “Doomsday genes” which can selectively target and exterminate an entire species.

According to Sputnik News, and as previously reported by SHTFPlan,  the United States highly-secretive and advanced military research body DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) announced that it will invest tens of millions of dollars into genetic extinction research. While the official aim of this research is said to be fighting harmful insects, like mosquitos which carry Malaria, there are significantly darker implications and speculations surrounding the possible use of such a tool.

Joe Joseph of The Daily Sheeple said a quick Google search would give you enough information to let you know how horrific this kind of technology can be.

“…and you’ll find it fascinating just at how unbelievable a weapon this could be, how unintentionally mistakes can be made that can cause irreversible damage… irreparable damage… to the human race. And I mean, FAST!” Joseph said.

“A gene drive… if let’s just say there’s a mistake, you could feasibly wipe out the human race in a very very short period of time. It’s an unbelievable tool at the disposal of madmen.”

Emails released under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), suggest that the U.S.’s uber-secretive military body, DARPA, has become the world’s largest funder of this “gene drive” research.

Silvia Ribeiro, Latin America director of the ETC Group, an international organization dedicated to the conservation and sustainable advancement of cultural and ecological diversity and human rights, said:  “When it is developed under an umbrella of military research, you get a clear notion that there can be a dual purpose of this research.”

Jim Thomas, a co-director of the ETC group which obtained the emails, said the US military’s influence in furthering this technology would strengthen the case for a moratorium. “The dual-use nature of altering and eradicating entire populations is as much a threat to peace and food security as it is a threat to ecosystems,” he said. “Militarization of gene drive funding may even contravene the Enmod convention against hostile uses of environmental modification technologies.”

But while we are on the subject of UN bans, the sanctions they placed on North Korea are being willfully ignored by the rogue regime.  It stands to reason that should a military seek the use of this technology, they will also defy the UN’s “authority.” –SHTFPlan

Humanity is known for making mistakes, but we can’t come back from an extinction of our own making. “You can call it a ‘tool’ all day, [but] it’s a weapon,” says Joseph.