Wednesday, June 22, 2011


If you borrow, you should expect to pay it back. Besides maintaining your honor, responsibility is part of the social contract. By remaining faithful to the institution of lending, we maintain its utility for the community. Paying your debts is simply decent behavior.

But we don't live in decent times. In many cases today, the most socially responsible way to deal with debt is to refuse to pay. It is as honorable as a slave throwing off the chains. Please allow me to explain.

Usury, the charging of interest on a loan, has long been recognized as a method of exploitation. Laws have been passed to prevent such behavior. In ancient Israel, Jews were forbidden to charge interest on a loan to a fellow Jew. Even today, devout Jews will not charge interest on a loan to a family member.

Most of the world's legal systems, developed under Christian Europe, defined usury as the crime of charging exorbitant interest. To allow banks to make a profit and remain open, they permitted some interest, usually capped at about 3% per year. Though bankers sometimes grumbled or hedged by compounding more frequently, for the most part this system worked.

Only Islam has succeeded in completely banning usury. Sharia law prohibits any interest charge on a loan. There are more than 300 Islamic banks in 51 nations, with over $400 billion in assets. This concept has been growing in spite of being targeted for destruction by some very powerful forces. A country with functional Islamic banks seems to be at higher risk of invasion by the USA.

If you go to an Islamic bank for a loan, the banker will want to know how you intend to use the money. They don't ever pay for antisocial or unhealthful behavior that is banned by Sharia. No Islamic ATMs will be found in casinos. In place of a consumer loan, you might end up with a lease agreement, where the bank buys what you want and sells it to you at a profit, with payments over time guaranteed by the collateral of the item purchased.

If you want a business loan, the banker will want to study your business plan, because if it is good, the bank may become your partner, sharing both risks and benefits. This is similar to the way locally owned banks used to function everywhere, before the big corporations bought them up or ran them out. When a community bank gives you a loan, you become a trusted member of the community, which shares in your losses or successes. We're all in it together.

I remember when loan sharks were organized criminals, just like protection racketeers. Attorney General Robert Kennedy prosecuted lots of these criminals for usury, fraud, and bribery. Some speculate that it cost him his life. Today those criminal behaviors have not just become legal, but Congress awards special favors to the worst practitioners.

In 1984, when I was nominated for WA State Representative, I became aware of a lobbying effort that was happening in every state, starting with Delaware. The banking lobby urged each state to become more "business friendly" by eliminating usury prohibitions and other corporate regulations. They threatened legislators that refusing these changes would lead to centrally owned banks closing their operations. In fact, many big corporations are based in Delaware to this day. It worked.

I remember when it was illegal to charge more than 10% interest per year anywhere in the USA. Now the sky is the limit. Banks are barely regulated. They charge hidden fees, jack rates without warning, and compound whenever they choose, especially if they get any indication that you are poor or struggling. Even well trained lawyers can't interpret the fine print of a credit contract. Debt is a yoke around your neck with which they drag you down.

The whole story is bigger than that, involving fiat currency, fractional lending, and global dominance by a few, very powerful people. I encourage you to research it, if only by reading other posts in this blog. But for now, all you really need to know is that the gig is up. Rather than be dragged around by their noses, people are standing up and rebelling.

Look at Greece. They're rioting in the streets because of debt manipulation. They are not alone. So I urge you to join in. Refuse to pay any unsecured debt to big corporate lenders. They really can't do anything but send threatening messages. Plan to default on your secured loans as well, by studying bankruptcy codes, demanding to see the documents (most banks have repackaged and traded debts so much, they can't prove who owns the debt), and organizing to resist foreclosures.

The police and courts don't have to be our enemies in this matter. Talk with them reasonably. They are our neighbors. The bankers that are causing all this pain are not. Use that advantage.

Sunday, June 05, 2011


I expected to be on a plane to Libya today. I’m not. Apparently, ticket costs exceeded available funds and priorities were set to allow the retired government officials travel and leave me here. It makes sense. So I’ll be following the mission of Senator Mike Gavel, Attorney General Ramsey Clark, and Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney with the Dignity Delegation and passing word to my friends.

If this invasion drags on the way US occupations have been doing lately, there will be more opportunities. Bike4Peace International could happen, if enough people are willing to step out and demand the militaries step aside and give peace a chance. I’m eager to hear about your commitment.

Meanwhile, I’ve learned something about American hubris by asking friends what I should say to Gaddafi. Even members of the peace community seem to think he’s a tin pot dictator who deserves to be blown away by an honorable US military. It amazes me how quick otherwise intelligent people are to pass sweeping judgments about a situation they’ve barely explored and discount the lives of people they’ve never met.

My history with Africa has taught me to be skeptical of that “dictator” label. My ex-wife grew up very close to President Kaunda of Zambia, who was called a dictator because during his 27 years as leader he built a socialist system of clinics and schools, while organizing resistance to apartheid. The capitalist Chiluba, elected to replace Kaunda with US blessing, followed IMF austerity rules, which led to famine and poverty. They’re lucky they don’t have enough resources to attract military invasion.

NATO & the USA are not invading Bahrain, where women who’ve protested are now routinely being forced to confess under threat of rape. Apparently it’s okay to shoot nonviolent protestors, as long as the bullets come from the USA. Bahrain, the gas station of the fifth fleet, gets a pass on letting Saudi thugs terrorize their protestors. We don’t hear the word “dictator” applied to their leaders.

Let’s look at Libya. The people there enjoy a higher standard of living than the rest of their continent on the average, with free college education, universal health care, and many benefits from nationalized oil. The rate of imprisonment is lower than in Texas. The USA executes about twice as many of our citizens as Libya each year, while killing hundreds of times as many foreign civilians. While I don’t want to become an apologist for Gaddafi, or try to evaluate the relativity of horror, it would be more righteous for the USA to clean up our own act first.

We live in the belly of the beast. The American military is the most gawdawful killing machine the world has ever known. We’re rolling over other nations at an unprecedented rate with absolute disregard for international law. A mere generation after the great hope of post WWII peace building, the American Empire rages as if none of the restraints our parents wrote against war crimes were supposed to apply to us. Our military openly seeks global dominance, occupying about 70% of the countries on Earth.

There is no legal excuse for any nation to interfere in another’s civil war, especially when there are strong indications that the unrest was at least encouraged, if not incited by the secret forces of the invaders. The closest precedent for this situation was probably Korea, which is rarely sited as a model for conflict resolution.

The growing violence in Libya is confusing, to say the least. In contrast to the nonviolent uprisings in neighboring Tunisia & Egypt, the Libyan rebels started off by firebombing a police station in February. The Al Qaida veterans among the rebels made quite a show of parading the burnt remains of cops. Cluster munitions were found to have been used in Misrata. The first accusations were against the loyalist forces, but research showed the munitions to have been purchased by the US Navy.

Apparently the NATO operations in Libya are a direct follow through from joint exercises in the Atlantic, showcasing the new high tech aircraft carrier, the USS GHW BUSH, now in the Mediterranean. After bombing select targets to destroy the response capabilities of the Libyan loyalists, NATO is now providing helicopter support for the rebels, stretching the UN mandate to “protect civilians.” There is still discussion about providing “boots on the ground.” At what point does it become an invasion?

In 1986 & 87, I participated in the International March for Peace & Justice in Central America, along with 350 people from 35 nations. I like to believe the witness we bore helped to move the world toward more peaceful resolutions of conflict. We certainly don’t have any perfect governments yet, but there is a growing awareness that war is obsolete. Every person on Earth deserves equal respect for the full range of human rights. Violence is a problem, not a solution, and we can rise above it.

We must acknowledge to role of overly consumptive lifestyles in fomenting war. The USA would not be involved in Iraq or Libya if they did not sit on two of the largest reserves of a certain liquid mineral that we consume too rapidly. Our taste for the raw resources of other nations underlies much of the conflict. Ironically, we’d be healthier and happier if we slowed our rates of consumption.
The vision of Bike4Peace International is bicyclists from all around the planet pedaling from Tunisia, through Libya, Egypt, Gaza, Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Kashmir. Self supporting teams of cyclists would be encouraged to join for all or any part of the over 6,000 Kilometer ride through conflicted territories. We would be openly pacifist, willing to listen to every point of view, and asking all to disarm and discuss.

To organize this ride, we’ll need contacts among the peace community of every nation, diplomatic liaisons to precede cyclists and smooth border crossings, language translators, local hosts to provide food and water, and lots of discussions. It is a huge cooperative venture for the noblest goal we can imagine. What part will you play?

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