Monday, March 28, 2011

A Strange Man Is Following You

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Shouting about mind-control assassins, the 9/11 conspiracy, and the Bilderberg Group, radio host Alex Jones has cornered the bi-partisan paranoia market.

By Joe Hagan

Published Mar 27, 2011

A shadowy group of elites—mainly international bankers but also George W. Bush, Barack Obama, the Clintons, most of the mainstream media, the Saudi royal family, and Google—is trying to enslave the Earth’s population through orchestrated terror attacks and revolutions, vast economic manipulation, vaccines and fluoride, and an ever-widening system of surveillance that includes Facebook.

That’s the truth—at least, the truth according to Alex Jones, a popular talk-radio host who is today’s leading proponent and marketer of political paranoia. “The globalists have stolen the world’s power,” he told me recently, with surprisingly abundant good cheer. “Their big dream, and all they talk about, is creating a super bioweapon, basically based on a mouse pox, and just turn it loose and kill almost everybody. It kills about 99 percent of whatever mammal you design it for. It’s their Valhalla, and they’re going to do it.”

Given these views, it was a little odd to see the thickset Jones, dressed in black, squeezed in between Whoopi Goldberg and Barbara Walters on ABC’s The View in late February, talking about Charlie Sheen. Goldberg, in fact, looked a little stunned when Jones, a close friend of Sheen’s through the 9/11 “Truther” movement, which posits that 9/11 was an inside job orchestrated by Bush and others, began steering the conversation away from the celebrity train wreck and into the wilds of political conspiracy.

“Charlie Sheen is tired of being judged as the ultimate demon in this world,” growled Jones. “He didn’t kill a million people in Iraq! He wasn’t involved with the takedown of Building 7 here in New York!”

At one point, Goldberg tried to lasso Jones—“You’re talking too fast for me, baby, slow down”—but Jones darted away.

“They’ve got the TSA putting their hand down people’s pants,” he insisted. “We’ve got the banks bankrupting the U.S.—”

“Let’s stick with Charlie,” interjected Goldberg again, “ ’cause that’s way too much for me, man.”

“He didn’t steal $27.3 trillion, like the Federal Reserve!” yelled Jones. “Torture! Secret arrests! America turning into a police state!”

The women of The View, having lost control of their program, looked relieved to cut to a commercial. But Jones was only starting his grand tour through the mainstream media: That night, he appeared with Joy Behar to talk more about Sheen. Matt Drudge linked to a story on Jones’s website,, spiking traffic. There were also appearances on A&E and the History Channel.

Large swathes of America now know that the fix is in. The current president is a foreign-born Muslim; the last one conspired to bring down the World Trade Center, then covered up his nefarious crime with a tale about some hijacked airliners. Why wouldn’t people believe something horrible is afoot, what with economic chaos and multiple wars and devastating earthquakes and tsunamis. In this era of information anxiety, it turns out that telling people they are right to be afraid, anchoring their fears in specific details, is an excellent business model—and in America now, the paranoia business is booming.

This is the wave Alex Jones is riding. Fifteen years ago, he was an obscure FM talker in Austin who gained a bit of notoriety ranting about Timothy McVeigh and Waco. Now the longtime friend of Texas congressman Ron Paul is whispered about in the halls of Fox News, where he could envision himself “if I could have 100 percent control,” he says. His popularity isn’t a fluke; it’s a barometer of the rise of paranoia in every crevice of the Internet and cable TV, where fact and quasi-fact are now blurred on a regular basis and often make their way right onto mainstream screens. There has always been a shadow or two on the grassy knoll of American politics. But it’s never been more crowded up there. Jones’s visions of elitist machinations (and, of course, the elite are machinating), far from seeming ridiculous, have plenty of echoes on both the left and right. Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, Rolling Stone writer Matt Taibbi, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, and the creator of the Academy Award–winning documentary Inside Job all traffic, to various extents, in riling up fears of secretive plots, some based in fact, some much less so. Fox News’s Glenn Beck can seem almost a carbon copy of Jones, and according to Jones, who does not believe in coincidences, this is not a coincidence. Jones says that Beck built his success on Jones’s act. “Glenn Beck climbed over my back,” says Jones. “He’s like a fiddler crab that grabbed the shell off my back and scurried over me.”

And besides conspiring to steal his show, Beck is part of the bigger conspiracy. “He’s got psychological-warfare operatives writing some of that teleprompter stuff,” says Jones. “I’ve watched it. It’s very sophisticated; it’s very dangerous.”

Photographs: Remi Benali/Getty Images (SWAT Team); Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/MCT/Getty Images (TSA security checkpoint); Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images (FEMA, Bush with Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud); Stuwdamdorp/Alamy (burning money); Courtesy of Alex Jones (Jones); J. Scott Applewhite/AP photo (Federal Reserve, CIA building). Richard Drew/AP Photo (World Trade Center, Beck); Mohammed Mahjoub/AFP/Getty Images (Saudi Royal Family); Yuri Cortez/AFP/Getty Images (Obama); Justin Sullivan/Getty Images (Google); Getty Images (Teleprompter); Paul Sakuma/AP Photo (Facebook); Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty Images (Protest in Egypt)

Just who it is who’s dangerous is another question. The possible influence of Jones and other conspiracy-mongers became a subject of controversy after the attack on Representative Gabrielle Giffords and others by Jared Lee Loughner, who was said to be a devotee of a Jones-­affiliated 9/11 video called Loose Change, as well as Zeitgeist, an online film by a freelance video editor who has worked for advertising agencies and shares a number of Jones’s interests, like the 9/11 Truth movement and the century-old conspiracy theory that the Federal Reserve is running the world.

“There’s this big storm blowing through, and it’s going to knock some trees over,” is how Jones explains the Tucson shootings.

"Okay, let’s do it,” intones Jones, preparing to go on air the day after his appearance on The View. “Let’s hammer them hard. Initiate primary ignition! We are launch! Go!”

Jones makes a laser sound, and the Star Wars imperial theme music starts up.

“The news is intensifying,” he begins. He takes the day’s events—upheaval in Egypt—and reframes them in Jones­Vision: Instead of the democratic revolution everybody else sees, Jones sees a covert disruption by globalist forces, probably the CIA, “to basically have some new hot spots to pour money into. The military-industrial complex isn’t gorged enough.”

For Jones, it’s not that conspiracies are getting more popular now but that the world is waking up to the reality that he and Ron Paul have known all along.

“Dollar devaluation, global banking cartels, out-of-control federal government, police state—all happened,” Jones tells me with certainty, sitting in his studio in Austin. “We’re just studying history. ”

Alex Jones has been broadcasting since the mid-nineties, when Ron Paul, during a run for Congress in 1996, became a frequent guest. Jones takes some credit for Paul’s rise to prominence, calling his radio show “part of the concrete slab that the Ron Paul rocket is fueling on.”

Paul doesn’t embrace the full Jones package, of course. And Jones’s views have grown to include conspiracy theories from the left as well—he’s a crossover artist. “They blew it up, period!” he barks, speaking of the Twin Towers. “The hijackers were trained at U.S. military bases! They were part of drills! They nerve-gassed them onboard the aircraft! They flew the damn planes into the buildings!

“I mean, the point is, you start trying to go over the evidence of 9/11, it will make your mind melt down if you actually sat there with the endless documented facts,” he continues.

“And you want to say our government wouldn’t do that?” he asks incredulously. “Look at Operation Ajax! Operation Northwoods! Gulf of Tonkin! I mean, gimme a break, man!”

The meme of 9/11 as inside job was, traditionally, a left-wing obsession. There are whiffs of it in Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11, and the further left you go, the more elaborate the conspiracy becomes. But it turns out that the world of paranoia is round, and 9/11, with its billowing smoke and miles of video and a cast of thousands, is the terra incognita where left and right meet, fusing sixties countercultural distrust with the don’t-tread-on-me variety.

Initially, Jones lost 70 percent of his radio stations when he began talking about 9/11 Truth, he says. It didn’t fit into the talking points of the right-wing radio audience. But if Jones lost one audience, he began to gain another, much larger one online. As he stoked the Truther movement, rebuilding his show around a new, even more amped-up audience, celebrities like Charlie Sheen started calling him. “That was right when he was breaking up with Denise Richards,” recounts Jones. Since then, Sheen has been on several times, including the appearance in which he made the infamous rant against the co-creator of Two and a Half Men that started his recent jihad against his corporate overlords.

As Jones expanded, he gained radio stations in even bigger markets, including Miami and Los Angeles. He kept cranking out his line of documentaries like Endgame, which explains the secret plan “to exterminate 80 percent of the world’s population while enabling the ‘elites’ to live forever with the aid of advanced technology.” That film attracted country singer Willie Nelson to his cause. Dennis Kucinich went on “The Alex Jones Show” as a guest to talk about impeaching George Bush. Jesse Ventura became a regular. The imprimatur of celebrities and elected officials raised Jones’s profile and grew his audience and bank account. By 2010, he was up to Police State 4: The Rise of FEMA, part of a series showing how the Patriot Act, TSA, and FEMA were part of a scheme to tag and enslave people in advance of the global lockdown.

Alex Jones on The View in February.
It was Matt Drudge, whose obsessions with overreaching corporations like Google and his daily charting of the most granular signs of the Apocalypse add a nonpartisan element to his site’s right-wing cant, who did more than anyone else to make Jones more visible. “If you had to say there was one source who really helped us break out, who took our information, helped to punch it out to an even more effective level, he’s the guy,” says Jones. “Three years ago, there was almost no news coverage of Bilderberg [an elite conference] in this country; there was an electronic Berlin Wall. Drudge, every year, takes our reportage and links to it on our site.”

Jones says that it’s now “intensifying how much he links to us and promotes us,” recalling how Drudge, this past Christmas, made every link on the site green for the holidays—except links to Infowars, which Drudge published in red. “It was like a Christmas present,” says Jones.

If Jones had allies in Hollywood and Washington, populist anger was an even bigger ally, starting with the 2008 bailouts, which fanned paranoia on the Internet like nothing before them. “When Bush was getting out of office and Hank Paulson was talking about TARP,” explains Ted Anderson, CEO of Genesis Communications Network, which distributes Jones’s show, “a congressman came up and said, ‘We’ve been told we’ll run a risk of martial law if we don’t pass this TARP bill.’ That was a paradigm shift.”

The banking crisis looked, on its face, like proof that conspiracies were real. Goldman Sachs bankers worked in both the Bush and Obama administrations; the government bailed out AIG, which prevented big Goldman losses. As bankers took home enormous bonuses and unemployment shot to 10 percent, the leap to a “globalist” conspiracy was not very far.

One financial blog, Zero Hedge, run by a pseudonymous former hedge-fund analyst, drew a huge audience fueled by the same economic anger that eventually breathed life into the populist tea party. Zero Hedge even inspired Senator Chuck Schumer to call on the SEC to investigate the issue of electronic trading in Congress, even as the blog fanned the belief that an elite cabal of Goldman execs ran the entire country.

It was out of this wave of anger and data points that a film called Zeitgeist emerged. I first heard of this film from a day trader in early 2009 as it circulated in the financial community, where conspiracy theories flourished as the Dow plunged. It was posted on Google Video by a man who calls himself Peter Joseph, a composer and video editor. He pieced it together from video clips and still images and crafted the dark, moody music himself. The three-part movie synthesized the entirety of current events with three archetypal conspiracies: 9/11 Truth, the hidden secrets of the Federal Reserve, and the pagan origins of Christianity. It seemed to explain every aspect of global chaos in two hours.

“The idea was to hit people really hard with contrary information in an exciting way,” says Joseph. “I threw the work up on the Internet, and within a number of weeks, it started getting millions of views.”

His was a kind of New Age take on Jones’s pet conspiracies, co-opting them for a more apolitical, spiritual movement. In the surge of attention, Joseph had to work out licensing arrangements for the clips he used, then made two sequels, the latest of which, Zeitgeist: Moving Forward, was screened at Tribeca Cinemas in Manhattan.

Not surprisingly, Joseph and Jones became quick enemies.

“I can’t stand Alex Jones,” says Joseph. “I can’t handle all these people who are so extreme and dogmatic. People really misinterpret my work.”

Jones debated Joseph on his radio program. “All he talks about is reeducating everyone,” snips Jones. “If that’s not tyranny, I don’t know what is.”

Jones is buzzed by his appearance on The View. On his site, it says he “culture jammed” the program, and he gleefully mocks Barbara Walters and Whoopi Goldberg on his show.

“You realize that people hold up these big TV people like they’re gods,” he says. “But it was like being with these shriveled, demonic harpies, these empty vassalswho between them couldn’t do a crossword puzzle.”

I ask him why he wants to be on mainstream media, amid the elite he claims to hate. “I want to have a communication with the Establishment and say, ‘Do you really like what you’ve done?’ ” he says. “ ‘Do you really want to keep going with some plan that Cecil Rhodes came up with 100 years ago? Do you really want the big megabanks making hundreds of millions of dollars per quarter while everything else goes bankrupt?’ ”

After the show, Jones sits in his studio and monitors hits of his own name on Google News, which seem to pop up every few seconds because of the Charlie Sheen media explosion.

Jones is an entertainer—he studied broadcasting at a community college—and hardly unambitious. At one point, he suggests we title this story “Duh—Winning!” He has a staff of 25 and recently built a TV studio for his webcast. He has big dreams of starting an online social network and even a newspaper distributed in major cities. His sense of the Internet, where he has a massive Google footprint of alarming news clips and full-length YouTube movies like The Obama Deception and Fall of the Republic, is that it’s a virtual feeding pond for his ideas.

“I’m just throwing pebbles in the pond, and over time it starts making bigger and bigger waves,” says Jones.

The pond is ready. The one-two punch of the financial collapse and the election of a man whose last name rhymes with Osama mainstreamed conspiracy in the form of Fox News’s Glenn Beck.

Jones couldn’t help but notice. After I asked for examples of how Beck ripped him off, Jones went ahead and created a YouTube video titled “The Glenn Beck Secret,” showing how Beck allegedly lifted Jones’s ideas, one after the other. In Jones’s view, Beck has repackaged his ideas to serve GOP talking points, a tricky way of keeping people tethered to the two-party paradigm that lulls the masses into believing government actually serves their interests (“a control grid used to manipulate the people”).

When Beck, for instance, talks about Google as overly close to government agencies and therefore in cahoots with “hard-core leftists,” Jones points out that he preceded Beck in reporting that Google was an “NSA-CIA spy center,” and Jones, the truth-teller, didn’t try separating it from Bush’s wiretapping, which Jones sees as part of the same manipulation machine. “Glenn Beck has ripped us off on the Google boycott and then spun it deceptively,” he says.

Jones takes Beck’s success personally. “It’s very, very painful to see this biological android, a complete actor, reading off teleprompters and singing and dancing around and prancing around, a fairy dancing and prancing around, using my material,” he says.

In the chaotic, largely leaderless media environment, truth standards are in the eye of the beholder, and this has consequences. Polls show that public faith in institutions like Congress and the media are at an all-time low.

“Eleven percent,” says Jones. “Gallup.”

“There’s been a total loss of confidence, to the point now that the public is awake,” explains Jones, “but almost in a twisted, psychologically drugged state where people don’t trust anything.”

And not coincidentally—remember, nothing in Jones’s world is a coincidence—the rise of Jones’s show tracks closely with the price of gold. In 1999, when the price of gold bottomed out at $252.55 per ounce, Jones had about 200,000 listeners on an average day; now the price is above $1,400, and he has upwards of 3 million listeners through radio and the Internet. Gold advertisers account for roughly 25 percent of revenue for Jones. “I grew up with gold,” he says. “It grew up with me.”

Another noncoincidence: Jones’s main sponsor is a gold company, called Midas Resources, owned by his longtime business partner, Ted Anderson. Midas, which literally sends its customers gold bars and coins in the mail, also advertises with Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, and Rush Limbaugh. In one sense, Jones’s whole program can be seen as an advertising front for Midas, urging listeners to find shelter in precious metals, the symbol of comfort and certainty for currency obsessives, as he keeps up the drumbeat of dark and forbidding news that paints the world as a place where survival gear and water purifiers may be necessary any minute now. As an investment, it was pretty smart: Midas has become one of the top five gold companies in the U.S., says Anderson, and the revenues for “The Alex Jones Show” have grown “a hundredfold,” Jones says, in the past decade.

Cass Sunstein, a Harvard Law professor whom President Obama appointed as his “regulatory czar” in 2009, published a paper the year before about the dangers of conspiracy theories, and people who suffer from what he called “crippled epistemologies,” to public trust and the political system. Among his examples were 9/11 Truthers and the widespread myth that AIDS was spread by the government.

“They do not merely undermine democratic debate,” he wrote, with a co-author, Adrian Vermeule. “In extreme cases, they create or fuel violence. If government can dispel such theories, it should do so.”

Sunstein’s conclusions eerily foreshadowed the case of Jared Lee Loughner, who had marinated in online conspiracy theories before going on the shooting spree that killed six and badly maimed Congresswoman Giffords. Loughner’s case was much murkier than any white supremacist’s, and therefore scarier. His mélange of interests included Marxism, Mein Kampf, 9/11 Truth, and Zeitgeist.

Sunstein described conspiracists as being caught up in what he called “informational cascades,” in which a person accepts an explanation for an event when people he trusts offer up a conclusion with a high degree of confidence, even if they’re only speculating. Initial speculation “can start a process by which a number of people are led to participate in a cascade, accepting a conspiracy theory whose factual foundations are fragile.”

In this way, false information, augmented by fancy editing and music and narrated with authority, can travel fast, taking on greater and greater credibility the more it is linked to and e-mailed and posted by like-minded and trusted sources. “The conspiracy theory is initially accepted by people with low thresholds for its acceptance,” Sunstein’s paper argues. “Sometimes the informational pressure builds, to the point where many people, with somewhat higher thresholds, begin to accept the theory too.”

In a sense, Loughner, in his quest for answers to his own psychic confusion, was a person with a low threshold for acceptance, and he found himself buffeted by information cascades on the Internet, bouncing from political conspiracies to obscure language theories, a psychologically precarious man unable to distinguish fact from fiction.

To which Jones responded with a new cascade, interpreting Loughner’s actions as evidence of government mind control in action. “Well, see, that’s the problem with a question like this, is there’s so much evidence to it,” he says, rattling off what he considers proof that most of the major political assassins and domestic terrorists of the past 30 years were under mind control. “There’s encyclopedic amounts of evidence.”

Sunstein’s paper was roundly attacked, mainly because he proposed ways to deal with conspiracies that were academically and politically tone-deaf, like covert infiltration of conspiracy groups and collaborating with third parties armed with counterinformation.

Jones, in keeping with Sunstein’s warning that “efforts to rebut conspiracy theories also legitimate them,” pointed to it as proof that the government was trying to control people’s minds. But Jones wasn’t the only one who took umbrage: Glenn Greenwald, the liberal Salon columnist, argued that some of the most destructive conspiracy theories “emanated from the very entity Sunstein wants to endow with covert propaganda power: namely, the U.S. government itself, along with its elite media defenders.”

In the new media universe, where Jones and Greenwald (and Rachel Maddow and Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh) are virtual allies in their distrust of institutional authority and in fact feed on it, a wormhole has opened from the most far-flung and seemingly insane corners to the precincts where most of us live—and it doesn’t seem likely to close anytime soon.

On a large TV screen behind Jones, part of his new set design for his webcast, are rotating images of Charlie Sheen, Egyptian protesters, Ron Paul, an ad for Police State 4, and Julian Assange.

Assange, the poster boy for the idea of government transparency, shares with Jones the belief that the powers that be are an elite cabal oppressing the masses. In a 2006 essay, Assange wrote, “We see conspiratorial interactions among the political elite not merely for preferment or favor within the regime, but as the primary planning methodology behind maintaining or strengthening authoritarian power.”

Both men view themselves as antidotes to secrecy. If all the information comes out, they maintain, the conspiracy will be proved; ipso facto, it will be eliminated and the righteous will be victorious, with Assange and Jones as insurgent heroes. As Jones says to his listeners: “If you are receiving this transmission—You! Are! The resistance!”

It’s an archetypal story, right out of ­Joseph Campbell or Star Wars. And some of it is even true: The events in the Middle East, for instance, were in part fanned by the release of WikiLeaks documents showing their leaders enriching themselves while suppressing their people. And open frameworks of information, like Facebook and Twitter, acted as pirate alternatives to state-run TV and newspapers. In closed political systems, conspiracies are the norm, often fomented by the governments themselves.

But the conspiracy market is so crowded now that real conspiracy may be harder than ever to spot. Jones, far from accepting the WikiLeaks documents literally, sees Assange as part of the conspiracy. And Assange sees people like Jones as adversaries. “I’m constantly annoyed that people are distracted by false conspiracies such as 9/11,” he has said, “when all around we provide evidence of real conspiracies, for war or mass financial fraud.”

I often wondered, talking to Jones, if he really believed this shtick. When I press him about the mouse-pox scenario—I mean, c’mon—his voice rises to radio-host volume while he insists that these “supertechnologies of genetic engineering … will make 1,000 Chernobyls look like child’s play.”

When I’m not convinced, Jones softens his argument a bit, saying the elites, as powerful as they are, are also ham-fisted and might not pull it off. “They’re only able to wreck things and dominate things like a 10,000-pound gorilla,” he says, “and the world is sinking because they’re jumping around on top of it.”

Jones is undoubtedly a new kind of talent, using cinematic imagery drawn from science fiction, informed by a deep knowledge of history, and grafting it all to a Google News feed. The show is a kind of poetry with an epic sweep. It’s his theatrical certainty, his ability to not blink, that glues the fiction to the facts. “In the general scope of history and common sense, and studying how humans operate, we’re Rome in 407,” says Jones. “A few years before Alaric sacking it.”

Perhaps. Or maybe that’s just what reality looks like in the Internet age, when information has broken the levees of mainstream interpretation and no one knows whom or what to believe anymore. Sometimes Jones seems like a pro wrestler, making a grandiose faux spectacle of global upheaval, political corruption, and natural disaster that was dangerous enough on its own. If Jones believes there’s fantasy in his presentation, he never lets on. But he does make one statement that pretty much everyone, wherever in the politico-cultural universe they may reside, can agree on: “The fact that Alex Jones is becoming widely accepted,” says Alex Jones, “that’s prima facie evidence right there that we’re in deep crap.”

Alex Jones tells a story: He was in the greenroom at CNN, waiting to go on The Joy Behar Show, when he ran into Fareed Zakaria, the Time magazine columnist and foreign-affairs analyst. Jones buttonholed him about the Bilderberg Group, the yearly conference of select leaders whom Jones believes to be an elite cabal of globalist conspirators.

“He knew exactly who I was,” says Jones of Zakaria. “I said, ‘I want to talk to you about the Bilderberg Group,’ and he actually shuddered. Like, with his imperial conditioning, he said, ‘Oh, it’s no big deal; other journalists go there, not just me.’ ”

In this anecdote, Jones was confronting the elites, calling them on their B.S. But if Jones can help it, he’s going to be hanging out in a lot more greenrooms soon. Ted Anderson sees Jones getting his own TV show any moment now. And the programming of Fox News, he believes, is moving in Jones’s direction.

“They’re loosening up a little bit about the types of things you can talk about,” says Anderson. “You are hearing about 9/11 conspiracies on Fox. There’s no doubt about it. One of these cable channels is going to come up with a bona fide offer with no gag on him and say, ‘Go get ’em,’ and Alex Jones will become popular on television.”

Jones calls Fox News “alternative media for old people,” which is why he believes Fox has begun aping his edgy take on the world, especially on the Fox Business Network, where libertarian views have more traction. “They’re taking the nomenclature I’ve used,” he says, “as they move toward the transition to more of what I’m doing. And I have that from inside. I’m not going to say any names, but I have multiple sources.”

Jones and Anderson are friends of Judge Andrew Napolitano, a Fox Business Network host who is a frequent guest on Jones’s program, not to mention a popular substitute for Glenn Beck. “And now Fox, more and more, if you watch Andrew Napolitano’s show—‘Fighting the Tyranny,’ ‘Restoring the Republic,’ ‘The Rebellion Is Here’—they’re trying to duplicate that,” says Jones. “Beck was the test, and now they’re bringing it all online. They know that’s the wave of the future.” (This is a wave Jones may not be riding. “I’m sure Alex, like many others, wishes he had a platform on Fox News,” said Fox News programming executive vice-president Bill Shine. “That’s not going to happen, so he should stick with trying to locate the black helicopters.”)

Jones is careful to give Roger Ailes, the Fox News chief, an out on the whole “globalist” agenda. “He actually knows all about this stuff,” says Jones. “His bodyguards keep him safe from the New World Order. And that’s a fact. Navy SEALS. Retired Navy SEALS.”

Jones isn’t a man for understatement. At one point in our conversation, he claims the governor of Texas, Rick Perry, told “a high-powered political strategist, very well known, you know him from national TV,” that “ ‘there’s two people that I fear: Alex Jones and Ron Paul.’ ”

Perry’s people say that’s not true, of course. But it makes some sense. Perry, like many Republicans, has courted the tea party and tacked right of the mainstream GOP, trying to get ahead of political currents in his own state. And Jones is tacking that way, too, following the audience, talking about Obama’s birth certificate, selling gold bricks. Advertisements on his site ask, “Is this the end of America?,” which is pretty much the same ­anxiety-producing message that Sarah Palin, if she runs in 2012, or Mitt Romney, for that matter, will try to exploit.

The difference between Jones and the rest of these people, says Jones, is, “I’m consciously trying to tell the truth.”

You can see why he might believe this. The more history unfolds, the more successful he seems to become. The scales, he says, have simply fallen from our eyes.

“And there’s more scales under those,” says Alex Jones.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Economist on the future of the internet


The internet has been a great unifier of people, companies and online networks. Powerful forces are threatening to balkanise it

THE first internet boom, a decade and a half ago, resembled a religious movement. Omnipresent cyber-gurus, often framed by colourful PowerPoint presentations reminiscent of stained glass, prophesied a digital paradise in which not only would commerce be frictionless and growth exponential, but democracy would be direct and the nation-state would no longer exist. One, John-Perry Barlow, even penned “A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace”.

Even though all this sounded Utopian when it was preached, it reflected online reality pretty accurately. The internet was a wide-open space, a new frontier. For the first time, anyone could communicate electronically with anyone else—globally and essentially free of charge. Anyone was able to create a website or an online shop, which could be reached from anywhere in the world using a simple piece of software called a browser, without asking anyone else for permission. The control of information, opinion and commerce by governments—or big companies, for that matter—indeed appeared to be a thing of the past. “You have no sovereignty where we gather,” Mr Barlow wrote.

The lofty discourse on “cyberspace” has long changed. Even the term now sounds passé. Today another overused celestial metaphor holds sway: the “cloud” is code for all kinds of digital services generated in warehouses packed with computers, called data centres, and distributed over the internet. Most of the talk, though, concerns more earthly matters: privacy, antitrust, Google’s woes in China, mobile applications, green information technology (IT). Only Apple’s latest iSomethings seem to inspire religious fervour, as they did again this week.

Again, this is a fair reflection of what is happening on the internet. Fifteen years after its first manifestation as a global, unifying network, it has entered its second phase: it appears to be balkanising, torn apart by three separate, but related forces.

First, governments are increasingly reasserting their sovereignty. Recently several countries have demanded that their law-enforcement agencies have access to e-mails sent from BlackBerry smart-phones. This week India, which had threatened to cut off BlackBerry service at the end of August, granted RIM, the device’s maker, an extra two months while authorities consider the firm’s proposal to comply. However, it has also said that it is going after other communication-service providers, notably Google and Skype.

Second, big IT companies are building their own digital territories, where they set the rules and control or limit connections to other parts of the internet. Third, network owners would like to treat different types of traffic differently, in effect creating faster and slower lanes on the internet.

It is still too early to say that the internet has fragmented into “internets”, but there is a danger that it may splinter along geographical and commercial boundaries. (The picture above is a visual representation of the “nationality” of traffic on the internet, created by the University of California’s Co-operative Association for Internet Data Analysis: America is in pink, Britain in dark blue, Italy in pale blue, Sweden in green and unknown countries in white.) Just as it was not preordained that the internet would become one global network where the same rules applied to everyone, everywhere, it is not certain that it will stay that way, says Kevin Werbach, a professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

To grasp why the internet might unravel, it is necessary to understand how, in the words of Mr Werbach, “it pulled itself together” in the first place. Even today, this seems like something of a miracle. In the physical world, most networks—railways, airlines, telephone systems—are collections of more or less connected islands. Before the internet and the world wide web came along, this balkanised model was also the norm online. For a long time, for instance, AOL and CompuServe would not even exchange e-mails.

Economists point to “network effects” to explain why the internet managed to supplant these proprietary services. Everybody had strong incentives to join: consumers, companies and, most important, the networks themselves (the internet is in fact a “network of networks”). The more the internet grew, the greater the benefits became. And its founding fathers created the basis for this virtuous circle by making it easy for networks to hook up and for individuals to get wired.

Yet economics alone do not explain why the internet rather than a proprietary service prevailed (as Microsoft did in software for personal computers, or PCs). One reason may be that the rapid rise of the internet, originally an obscure academic network funded by America’s Department of Defence, took everyone by surprise. “The internet was able to develop quietly and organically for years before it became widely known,” writes Jonathan Zittrain, a professor at Harvard University, in his 2008 book, “The Future of the Internet—And How To Stop It”. In other words, had telecoms firms, for instance, suspected how big it would become, they might have tried earlier to change its rules.

Whatever the cause, the open internet has been a boon for humanity. It has not only allowed companies and other organisations of all sorts to become more efficient, but enabled other forms of production, notably “open source” methods, in which groups of people, often volunteers, all over the world develop products, mostly pieces of software, collectively. Individuals have access to more information than ever, communicate more freely and form groups of like-minded people more easily.

Even more important, the internet is an open platform, rather than one built for a specific service, like the telephone network. Mr Zittrain calls it “generative”: people can tinker with it, creating new services and elbowing existing ones aside. Any young company can build a device or develop an application that connects to the internet, provided it follows certain, mostly technical conventions. In a more closed and controlled environment, an Amazon, a Facebook or a Google would probably never have blossomed as it did.

Forces of fragmentation

However, this very success has given rise to the forces that are now pulling the internet apart. The cracks are most visible along geographical boundaries. The internet is too important for governments to ignore. They are increasingly finding ways to enforce their laws in the digital realm. The most prominent is China’s “great firewall”. The Chinese authorities are using the same technology that companies use to stop employees accessing particular websites and online services. This is why Google at first decided to censor its Chinese search service: there was no other way to be widely accessible in the country.

But China is by no means the only country erecting borders in cyberspace. The Australian government plans to build a firewall to block material showing the sexual abuse of children and other criminal or offensive content. The OpenNet Initiative, an advocacy group, lists more than a dozen countries that block internet content for political, social and security reasons. They do not need especially clever technology: governments go increasingly after dominant online firms because they are easy to get hold of. In April Google published the numbers of requests it had received from official agencies to remove content or provide information about users. Brazil led both counts (see chart 1).

Not every request or barrier has a sinister motive. Australia’s firewall is a case in point, even if it is a clumsy way of enforcing the law. It would be another matter, however, if governments started tinkering with the internet’s address book, the Domain Name System (DNS). This allows the network to look up the computer on which a website lives. If a country started its own DNS, it could better control what people can see. Some fear this is precisely what China and others might do one day.

To confuse matters, the DNS is already splintering for a good reason. It was designed for the Latin alphabet, which was fine when most internet users came from the West. But because more and more netizens live in other parts of the world—China boasts 420m—last October the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, the body that oversees the DNS, allowed domain names entirely in other scripts. This makes things easier for people in, say, China, Japan or Russia, but marks another step towards the renationalisation of the internet.

Many media companies have already gone one step further. They use another part of the internet’s address system, the “IP numbers” that identify computers on the network, to block access to content if consumers are not in certain countries. Try viewing a television show on Hulu, a popular American video service, from Europe and it will tell you: “We’re sorry, currently our video library can only be streamed within the United States.” Similarly, Spotify, a popular European music-streaming service, cannot be reached from America.

Yet it is another kind of commercial attempt to carve up the internet that is causing more concern. Devotees of a unified cyberspace are worried that the online world will soon start looking as it did before the internet took over: a collection of more or less connected proprietary islands reminiscent of AOL and CompuServe. One of them could even become as dominant as Microsoft in PC software. “We’re heading into a war for control of the web,” Tim O’Reilly, an internet savant who heads O’Reilly Media, a publishing house, wrote late last year. “And in the end, it’s more than that, it’s a war against the web as an interoperable platform.”

The trend to more closed systems is undeniable. Take Facebook, the web’s biggest social network. The site is a fast-growing, semi-open platform with more than 500m registered users. Its American contingent spends on average more than six hours a month on the site and less than two on Google. Users have identities specific to Facebook and communicate mostly via internal messages. The firm has its own rules, covering, for instance, which third-party applications may run and how personal data are dealt with.

Apple is even more of a world apart. From its iPhone and iPad, people mostly get access to online services not through a conventional browser but via specialised applications available only from the company’s “App Store”. Granted, the store has lots of apps—about 250,000—but Apple nonetheless controls which ones make it onto its platform. It has used that power to keep out products it does not like, including things that can be construed as pornographic or that might interfere with its business, such as an app for Google’s telephone service. Apple’s press conference to show off its new wares on September 1st was streamed live over the internet but could be seen only on its own devices.

Even Google can be seen as a platform unto itself, if a very open one. The world’s biggest search engine now offers dozens of services, from news aggregation to word processing, all of which are tied together and run on a global network of dozens of huge data-centres. Yet Google’s most important service is its online advertising platform, which serves most text-based ads on the web. Being the company’s main source of revenue, critics say, it is hardly a model of openness and transparency.

There is no conspiracy behind the emergence of these platforms. Firms are in business to make money. And such phenomena as social networks and online advertising exhibit strong network effects, meaning that a dominant market leader is likely to emerge. What is more, most users these days are not experts, but average consumers, who want secure, reliable products. To create a good experience on mobile devices, which more and more people will use to get onto the internet, hardware, software and services must be more tightly integrated than on PCs.

Net neutrality, or not?

Discussion of these proprietary platforms is only beginning. A lot of ink, however, has already been spilt on another form of balkanisation: in the plumbing of the internet. Most of this debate, particularly in America, is about “net neutrality”. This is one of the internet’s founding principles: that every packet of data, regardless of its contents, should be treated the same way, and the best effort should always be made to forward it.

Proponents of this principle want it to become law, out of concern that network owners will breach it if they can. Their nightmare is what Tim Wu, a professor at Columbia University, calls “the Tony Soprano vision of networking”, alluding to a television series about a mafia family. If operators were allowed to charge for better service, they could extort protection money from every website. Those not willing to pay for their data to be transmitted quickly would be left to crawl in the slow lane. “Allowing broadband carriers to control what people see and do online would fundamentally undermine the principles that have made the internet such a success,” said Vinton Cerf, one of the network’s founding fathers (who now works for Google), at a hearing in Congress.

Opponents of the enshrining of net neutrality in law—not just self-interested telecoms firms, but also experts like Dave Farber, another internet elder—argue that it would be counterproductive. Outlawing discrimination of any kind could discourage operators from investing to differentiate their networks. And given the rapid growth in file-sharing and video (see chart 2), operators may have good reason to manage data flows, lest other traffic be crowded out.

The issue is not as black and white as it seems. The internet has never been as neutral as some would have it. Network providers do not guarantee a certain quality of service, but merely promise to do their best. That may not matter for personal e-mails, but it does for time-sensitive data such as video. What is more, large internet firms like Amazon and Google have long redirected traffic onto private fast lanes that bypass the public internet to speed up access to their websites.

Whether such preferential treatment becomes more widespread, and even extortionary, will probably depend on the market and how it is regulated. It is telling that net neutrality has become far more politically controversial in America than it has elsewhere. This is a reflection of the relative lack of competition in America’s broadband market. In Europe and Japan, “open access” rules require network operators to lease parts of their networks to other firms on a wholesale basis, thus boosting competition. A study comparing broadband markets, published in 2009 by Harvard University’s Berkman Centre for Internet & Society, found that countries with such rules enjoy faster, cheaper broadband service than America, because the barrier to entry for new entrants is much lower. And if any access provider starts limiting what customers can do, they will defect to another.

America’s operators have long insisted that open-access requirements would destroy their incentive to build fast, new networks: why bother if you will be forced to share it? After intense lobbying, America’s telecoms regulators bought this argument. But the lesson from elsewhere in the industrialised world is that it is not true. The result, however, is that America has a small number of powerful network operators, prompting concern that they will abuse their power unless they are compelled, by a net-neutrality law, to treat all traffic equally. Rather than trying to mandate fairness in this way—net neutrality is very hard to define or enforce—it makes more sense to address the underlying problem: the lack of competition.

It should come as no surprise that the internet is being pulled apart on every level. “While technology can gravely wound governments, it rarely kills them,” Debora Spar, president of Barnard College at Columbia University, wrote several years ago in her book, “Ruling the Waves”. “This was all inevitable,” argues Chris Anderson, the editor of Wired, under the headline “The Web is Dead” in the September issue of the magazine. “A technology is invented, it spreads, a thousand flowers bloom, and then someone finds a way to own it, locking out others.”

Yet predictions are hazardous, particularly in IT. Governments may yet realise that a freer internet is good not just for their economies, but also for their societies. Consumers may decide that it is unwise to entrust all their secrets to a single online firm such as Facebook, and decamp to less insular alternatives, such as Diaspora.

Similarly, more open technology could also still prevail in the mobile industry. Android, Google’s smart-phone platform, which is less closed than Apple’s, is growing rapidly and gained more subscribers in America than the iPhone in the first half of this year. Intel and Nokia, the world’s biggest chipmaker and the biggest manufacturer of telephone handsets, are pushing an even more open platform called MeeGo. And as mobile devices and networks improve, a standards-based browser could become the dominant access software on the wireless internet as well.

Stuck in the slow lane

If, however, the internet continues to go the other way, this would be bad news. Should the network become a collection of proprietary islands accessed by devices controlled remotely by their vendors, the internet would lose much of its “generativity”, warns Harvard’s Mr Zittrain. Innovation would slow down and the next Amazon, Google or Facebook could simply be, well, Amazon, Google or Facebook.

The danger is not that these islands become physically separated, says Andrew Odlyzko, a professor at the University of Minnesota. There is just too much value in universal connectivity, he argues. “The real question is how high the walls between these walled gardens will be.” Still, if the internet loses too much of its universality, cautions Mr Werbach of the Wharton School, it may indeed fall apart, just as world trade can collapse if there is too much protectionism. Theory demonstrates that interconnected networks such as the internet can grow quickly, he explains—but also that they can dissolve quickly. “This looks rather unlikely today, but if it happens, it will be too late to do anything about it.”

Thursday, March 3, 2011

NDW on God and Economics

Below is a copy and paste of a blog post authored by Neale Donald Walsch at around the time of the 2008 election in which he discusses the economic policies of the Bush Administration. NDW doesn't answer very well the question asked by political science scholars (who gets what, when and how?). Instead, NDW talks about the economic policy of certain right wing politicians. NDW's analysis is not scholarly. Nonetheless, NDW does provide a basic analysis of tax cuts for the rich and does a rather weak job at relating it to the New Spirituality, for what it's worth.

By Neale Donald Walsch
Thursday September 18, 2008

Source link.

Is there a 'spiritual' way do approach economics? I believe the answer is yes. And I believe that the election in a few weeks in the United States will tell us where the spiritual values of America are.

Last week we talked about the two candidates and health care. This week, let's look at the economy and the two presidential candidates.

I was reading The Progress Report, on online newsletter written by Faiz Shakir, Amanda Terkel, Satyam Khanna, Matt Corley, Benjamin Armbruster, Ali Frick, and Ryan Powers the other day. It offered a remarkably informative look at the economics of John McCain.

"Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has spent much of his general election campaign for president trying to distance himself from President Bush's failed policies -- even though the policies he has outlined and would pursue as president mirror those of the last eight year," the Report said.

"McCain's strategy so far has been to make the public forget he is offering Bush's policies. During the Republican National Convention earlier this month, McCain and his fellow conservatives seemingly refused to acknowledge that the current administration even exists: Bush's name was mentioned once while Vice President Dick Cheney's name was not mentioned at all.," the Report went on.

I was shocked to learn this. I knew that Bush/Cheney were not very popular, but to be shunned by their own party like

The Progress Report went on to say that Convention speakers also ignored many key issues that face Americans today, such as health care, environment, and the economy." Yet at times, McCain's surrogates will let the truth slip out," the Report said.

"In June, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) admitted that McCain's economic policies would 'absolutely' be an 'enhancement' of Bush's."

Now that the country is darn near collapsing because of the financial crisis there are not many McCain supporters who want to be reminded that Sen.Lindsey said that.

The Progress Report said that Sen. Lindsey was right. "McCain's economic policies are rooted in the same supply-side economic theories that give huge tax cuts to the rich and the most profitable corporations, which will ultimately expand the already ballooning federal deficit. Indeed, as New York Times columnist and Princeton University economics professor Paul Krugman noted, McCain's economic proposals are "Bush made permanent," the Report went on.

Who will benefit from all this? Well, says The Progress Report, "The wealthy will cash in. If elected president, McCain plans to double down on Bush's corporate and individual tax cuts. His plan calls for reducing the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent, a plan that would save corporations $175 billion per year, with $45 billion going to America's 200 largest companies as identified by Fortune Magazine. The five largest U.S. oil companies would save a grand total of $3.8 billion per year.

"The wealthiest Americans would also cash in," the Report wen on. "McCain's tax plan will increase after-tax income of the richest 3.4 percent by more than twice the average for all households -- and offer no benefit to the poorest taxpayers and minimal savings for the middle class."

At the same time, McCain has not offered any specifics on how he would pay for these massive cuts. In fact, McCain's plan would produce the highest federal deficit in 25 years. After inheriting Bush's $407 billion deficit, yearly deficits under McCain would increase sharply, beginning with at least $505 billion in FY2009.

So, my friends, what do you think? Is 'give more to the rich' the highest spiritual value, in your opinion? I know that John McCain means well. He simply uses the same supply-side economic model as George Bush. This is what we used to call "trickle down economics" -- the idea that as the rich get richer, the benefit trickles down to the rest of America, including the middle class and the poverty class.

This is the man who voted 90% of the time in support of whatever George Bush put before Congress during this term. Are we ready to give this philosophy one more term? Gee whiz, what will it take for some people to admit, we had it wrong; it's time for a change....?

NDW: Economic Crisis God's Will?

Below is a copy and paste of 2 blog posts authored by Neale Donald Walsch in September of 2008 during the economic crisis in which NDW says that Conversation with God tells him that the economic crisis is God's will because it is humanity's sub-conscious collective will. God's will for humanity is humanity's will for itself. In the first blog post NDW asks the question, "Is the economic crisis God's Will?" And then in the second blog post, NDW answers that question. NDW alludes to a follow up blog post (a third post) but I can't seem to find it in the Way Back Machine. Oh well. Enjoy these two blog posts for what they're worth.

Monday September 15, 2008

By Neale Donald Walsch

There are those who say we are on the verge of a major, major economic collapse in this country and around the world. Today's events with one-time financial giant Lehman Brothers declaring bankruptcy, together with last month's government bailout of Fanny and Freddy, make it clear that the world is teetering at the edge of such a collapse.

And so once more we have to ask, as we did on Friday with regard to Hurricane Ike....Is this the will of God?

I raise the question -- again -- because in the past several weeks we have been talking here in our Sunday School All Week program (26 weeks of blogs on God and Life) about the idea, as advanced in the New Spirituality, that we are all creating our own reality -- both collectively and individually.

God says in Conversations with God that this is true; that humans have the power to create their own reality, and are doing so every day, every moment, either consciously or unconsciously. The book Happier Than God describes in detail how the Power of Personal Creation works...and how it has created the global conditions that affect our world today. You may wish to order this book (there is an icon at the far right of this page) and give it a read to learn more about this Mechanism of Creation.

Now some folks have posted comments at this site saying that it is not true, we do not create our own reality. God is "in charge" here, and it is arrogant and blasphemous for us to assert that we have the deciding role to play in the creation of human events. Yet that raises a question -- the same question I asked Friday with regard to Hurricane Ike: Is the present condition and circumstance with regard to global economics (and their possible imminent collapse) a manifestation of God's Will? Or is all this the result of human folly? (Which is simply another way to say, our own creation?)

Where does God stand in all of us? Does God want this to happen? Did God want Lehman Brothers to go under? Is God 'punishing' America for her hubris? Will God bring the United States to its knees, humbling it before the world, reducing it to a third class member of the community of nations?

Can prayer change any of this? If we pray to God, begging God to spare us, and to end or avoid the suffering of millions who could soon be caught in mortgage foreclosures and other fallouts of the financial crisis, will God answer our prayers? If we pray that no more horribly destructive storms hit the Gulf Coast, will God answer our prayers? If we pray that our candidate wins the November election for president, will God answer our prayers?

Does God intervene in the day-to-day life of Man? Does God assert His Will on the day-to-day affairs of the human race? If so, how? If not, why not? Why does God allow such horrible things to happen? Or is it possible that we, ourselves, are creating these outcomes, entirely unwittingly, as a result of our own way of thinking (and therefore of behaving)?

Tomorrow, the answer. Today, I'd like to hear yours. Is God the creator of our moment-to-moment reality? Or are we? Or is it neither? Are we all -- God included -- simply subject to "the sling and arrows of outrageous fortune?"

What is the process by which things happen? What is the mechanism that causes things to occur? IS there such a mechanism? If that popular movie The Secret is correct about the awesome power of the Law of Attraction...are we are attracting these calamities that are now besetting us? If God is truly The Creator, is God creating all this? Or, as I asked on Friday, is it God's way to simply create the heavens and the earth, and then sit back and watch the whole thing unfold, doing nothing?

C'mon folks. If ever there was a need for greater clarity on God's Role in the World's Life, this is the time. It is said that a million people a day hit on this Beliefnet site. Now is the time to have your voices heard...and to add some energy to the Process of Life Itself, however you believe that process works.

Filed Under: Conversations with God, economic crisis, Fanny Mae, government bailout, Ike, Lehman Brothers, Neale Donald Walsch


NDW’s follow up to the above blog post:

Who is 'in charge' here?
Wednesday September 17, 2008

By Neale Donald Walsch

We in the U.S. are about to decide who is 'in charge' here, by electing our next president in just a few weeks. But who is 'in charge' here on the whole earth? Is it God?

That is the question I have asked in this space in the aftermath of two calamities in one 7-day period: Hurricane Ike and the financial crisis on Wall Street.

Is all of this God's Will?

I believe not. Not in the classic sense that people understand the use of that term "God's Will." In the larger sense of the term, it IS God's Will...because God's Will is our will -- that is, the will of humanity, expressed collectively and individually through all of our thoughts, words, and actions.

I believe that there is no separation between Divinity and Humanity; that God and we are One. I believe that we are all Divine, and that some of us do not know it, do not experience it, do not believe it, do not accept it.

So how does that make it 'true' that we humans 'created' Hurricane Ike, and all its devastation, and the deaths it caused? How does that make it 'true' that we humans created the economic crisis now hitting Wall Street?

I believe it is like this: Certainly no one could claim that we are doing all this to ourselves deliberately. So we can eliminate from this discussion any idea that this is a conscious creation. It must, therefore, be an unconscious creation. It is something we are doing without knowing we are doing it, without being aware of the consequences of our thoughts, words, and actions.

To make the case regarding Ike, I believe -- and weather experts are now telling us -- that the ever-increasing savagry and power of our earth's tropical storms is the direct result of global warming, which, the experts tell us, has raised the temperature of the more shallow waters on the earth (such as along the Gulf Coast of the U.S.), which, in turn, increases the whirl of storm winds moving over these areas, turning them into hurricanes of incredible, and increasingly greater, force.

Climatologists tell us that we can expect stronger and stronger, more violent tropical storms on the earth from now on because of this thermal effect.

This is one outcome -- and only one -- of global warming. And who created global warming? I believe that we did. Unconsciously, to be sure. Unwittingly, for certain. Innocently, absolutely. But in any event most certainly.

Now half the human race is in denial of this point -- which is exactly how we created the situation to begin with. It is like tobacco smokers who deny, deny, deny that their smoking has any damaging effect on their bodies whatsoever -- and then come down with lung cancer. I have known such people who, even as they are dying of the cancer, sit in their bedrooms smoking.

In my mind there is no question that our human activities upon the earth have created the global warming crisis. In our arrogance we declare that we've had nothing to do with it. We haven't even contributed to it. We have had nothing to do with it at all.

This is the statement of many human beings today. We cannot and will not take responsibility for our own actions and choices. And that is too bad. That is remarkably sad. I can only hope that Al Gore and others on the same mission can wake up humanity fast enough for us to do something about all of this.

Similarly, it is greed, and nothing less, that has produced the crisis on Wall Street. Says USAToday in the lead story of today's edition written by reporter John Waggoner: "In staggering succession, some of Wall Street's biggest and oldest firms have been seized, failed outright, or merged into other companies." The paper then quotes Steve Romick, manager of FPA Crescent Fund, as saying, "It's the worst news out of Wall Street since I've been alive."

The choice to do whatever it took to optimize profits is what led to this collapse -- and that choice is the free-will manifestation of human beings.

Yet if God does not 'want' hurricanes to fly or financial institutions to collapse, and people's lives to be disrupted and destroyed in the process, why does God allow it? If God is the creator of our reality, why is God creating it like this?

The New Spirituality says that we are creating our own reality. It says that we and God are One, and that, as an aspect of Divinity, we have the power and the ability to produce and manifest outcomes in the physical world -- and are doing so every day.

We do this, we are told, with our thoughts, our words, and our deeds. We are able to do this because we are gods. We are Individuations, or aspects, of the Divine. Our word is Law. Our word is God's Word.

I understand that to some, this very thought is blasphemy. Fair enough. We each have the freedom to believe what we choose to believe. And I don't mean to offend anyone here by stating what I believe. Yet if what I believe is mistaken, if our word is not God's Word, but God is separate from us and has the final word on everything, then my original question stands: Why is God doing this to us? Or, if God is not doing this to us, why is God standing by, doing nothing, allowing us to do this to ourselves?

What IS God's role in our lives?

I believe that God's role is, has been, and always will be to empower us to create our own reality. I believe that God has given us the ability to do this both individually and collectively. In our next post, we will look at how this power works, and how we can use it in our daily lives.

For now, I would like to share that I believe -- and I believe strongly -- that prayer works. Because prayer is a statement of what we wish and of what we desire and of what we seek to experience, it uses the Power of God precisely as it was intended to be used; exactly as it was designed.

So, today, perhaps we might join in prayer.

Filed Under: Conversations with God, financial crisis, God, Hurricane Ike, Neale Donald Walsch, Wall Street