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I am now an American Express Cardholder because of Wikileaks

2010 December 23
by Ian Welsh

Since Mastercard and Visa, in cutting off Wikileaks from donations, decided that they knew better than me who I should be able to give money to, I applied for and have now received an American Express card.  Granted, American Express isn’t always a good actor, but at least they are willing to allow me to spend my money, my way.

45 Responses
  1. December 23, 2010

    I assume you also have taken your money out of banks and put it in credit unions. I sure have.

  2. anon2525 permalink
    December 23, 2010

    Boycott Paypal and Amazon, too. It’s a first step. Of course, there needs to be a public campaign so that the boycott is known. They are unlikely to reverse themselves at this time because to do so would get them labelled as “anti-patriotic” by the authoritarians.

    It’s unfortunate that the internet was developed in the 80s and 90s. If it had been developed in the 30s and 40s, then the democracy would have created a public utility instead of subsidizing private profits.

  3. Morocco Bama permalink
    December 23, 2010

    Granted, American Express isn’t always a good actor, but at least they are willing to allow me to spend my money, my way.

    For now, you are, but technically speaking, it’s their money…..a pseudo loan based on their arbitrary, subject to change at a whimsical moment’s notice, terms. Either way, AMEX is just another head of the hydra.

  4. BlizzardOfOz permalink
    December 23, 2010

    I’m definitely avoiding Amazon/Visa/Mastercard (never used Paypal much). Still trying to wrap my head around three things:
    1) Corporations acting at the behest of the government to punish a private actor, whom the government can’t/won’t prosecute through the justice system
    2) Corporations supposedly in competition with each other, allowing themselves to be seen acting in concert with each other as an oligopoly, not even for pricing power, but to coerce an individual they don’t like.
    3) Many individuals, including writers I thought I respected, reflecting on this and concluding that the main story is, Julian Assange is icky.

    Yeah, I knew we weren’t free, but this episode really hammers that home.

  5. December 23, 2010

    All my money’s in a local credit union. Was considering getting rid of my Visa and going over to American Express for exactly the reason Ian relates here, but I have my doubts that AmEx will do anything differently. I think it’s just a matter of time. Will wait and see.

    As for Amazon, though I have long shopped there, I’ve now stopped. Just bought 8 books at Barnes & Noble the other day, as a matter of fact. PayPal — used to use it all the time on eBay, but now that I haven’t bought there in eons, will also stop. Just wrote check to WikiLeaks and Assange via a local organization that is supporting them.

    Those of us who are doing this will probably get labeled “domestic extremists,” to use the language so beloved of the DHS, but hey — new chapter in life!

  6. anon2525 permalink
    December 23, 2010

    Those of us who are doing this will probably get labeled “domestic extremists,” to use the language so beloved of the DHS…

    People and corporations that are doing this are anti-free-speech, anti-free-press (which is simply an extension of free speech), and anti-freedom-of-association, or, in short, anti-American. Don’t let them distort the usage of the English language.

  7. December 23, 2010

    Just out of curiosity, Ian, do you know where your donations to Wikileaks are going?

    How much money are they taking in? How much of it goes to overhead (server fees, etc) and how much goes to salaries? Who gets those salaries, and how much do they receive?

    Is there some place where we can examine their books?

  8. Morocco Bama permalink
    December 23, 2010

    Is there some place where we can examine their books?

    Maybe some whistleblower will leak it to Wikileaks for publication, otherwise, don’t hold your breath.

  9. Ian Welsh permalink*
    December 23, 2010

    My money is going to help Wikileaks publish things. That’s what I need to know.

  10. December 23, 2010

    My money is going to help Wikileaks publish things. That’s what I need to know.

    Wow. You sound like someone who donates to a televangelist.

    My money is going to do God’s work. That’s what I need to know.

    Oh well, it’s your money. I’m not as trusting.

  11. alyosha permalink
    December 23, 2010

    Although it was written before the Wikileaks controversy, Sara Robinson’s Starving the Beast: Ten Things You Can Do To Take America Back contains ideas consistent with pulling yourself out of companies like MasterCard/Visa. It’s part of the growing recognition/retreat among the left that the political battle is over (and lost), and fighting must occur by other means. Stirling’s recent article in Corrente has a similar kind of conclusion, stated in much different terms.

    This growing acknowledgement that politics is nearly hopeless, with a rudimentary mapping out of the alternatives (by Sara Robinson, Chris Hedges, and others), is for me is one of the most amazing yet understated developments of 2010. Of course this has its roots going way back, to 1960s counterculture, if not earlier, but it’s amazing to me how much buy-in this belief now enjoys, from a number of surprisingly different quarters.

  12. jcapan permalink
    December 23, 2010

    God, I relish the chance to see this debate played out once again.

  13. BlizzardOfOz permalink
    December 23, 2010

    mixr2d2, it’s tough to ignore you when you post 700 times a day. Want to tone it down a bit? Wikileaks makes you very concerned, I think we got it.

  14. Plink permalink
    December 23, 2010

    1) Corporations acting at the behest of the government to punish a private actor, whom the government can’t/won’t prosecute through the justice system
    2) Corporations supposedly in competition with each other, allowing themselves to be seen acting in concert with each other as an oligopoly, not even for pricing power, but to coerce an individual they don’t like.

    It’s a sort of crypto-monarchal system that gestated in the late ’90s and burst forth under W. It obtains almost everywhere and is acknowledged practically nowhere.

    It’s what passes for a constitutional system in the West now, the “War on Terror” having ripped the old consitutional arrangements to shreds.

    It certainly was operating when the Microsoft anti-trust action was uncermoniously squashed–though the state Attorneys General wanted to press on with the case, and had absolutely the constitutional authority to do so, the Bush administration stopped them. It didn’t pass a law, institute an emergency measure, obtain an injuction…no. It simply…stopped them. And that was that.

  15. just a reader permalink
    December 23, 2010

    Wikileaks donations still flowing, but not to Assange legal fund

    Have moves by PayPal and major credit cards choked off Wikileaks’ donations? Not according to the chairman of a German foundation that channels donations to the whistleblower website.

    The Wau Holland Foundation, a group associated with the hacker group the Computer Chaos Club, remains one of the main conduits for Wikileaks donations.

    Chairman Winfried Motzkus explains that donations are still flowing, though they are not being used for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange’s personal legal battle against allegations of sexual assault in Sweden.

    What does Julian Assange live on these days?

    Now, as one of the four permanent Wikileaks employees, he gets a salary. That is based on the size of the Greenpeace-remuneration for people in executive roles, so for example a campaigner.

    (The remuneration for campaigners at environmental organisations such as Greenpeace ranges from about €3,800 to more than €5,000 per month, according to news agency DPA.)

    There are rumours about luxury flights and expensive hotels for Assange.

    For us, such bills haven’t turned up. Only completely normal flights have been billed here, mostly even without accommodation costs, because people are put up privately.

    Has the foundation contributed to the bail and taken on legal costs (for Assange?)

    No. That is primarily not an issue for Wikileaks but rather, at least theoretically, his private matter. That has nothing to do with the foundation.

    We won’t accept any bills that have anything to do with this legal process. The process may be related to Wikileaks. But we can’t simply redirect donations that are earmarked for a specific purpose.

    Are the donations still flowing?

    Direct bank transfers for Wikileaks are still coming to us. We were only affected by the Paypal ban. Payments via Mastercard and Visa were not made through our foundation.

    Donations from foreign countries are perhaps somewhat more difficult because of that, and have become somewhat more expensive. But they’re continuing.

    How much has been donated to Wikileaks by now?

    More donations always roll in when Wikileaks is heavily covered in the media. Now perhaps it’s a little less again. Since October 2009 more than €900,000 has been amassed, of which more than €370,000 has been disbursed.

    In January or February we plan to publish a complete financial audit of Wikileaks donations.

    Is the foundation overloaded by the Wikileaks campaigns?

    At first we were completely overrun. It is our biggest project by far. We are employed and all work on a voluntary basis for the foundation. We are also spread out geographically. So it isn’t a simple matter.

    http://m.thelocal.de/sci-tech/20101223-31975.html

    http://www.wauland.de/english.html

  16. anon2525 permalink
    December 23, 2010

    It’s a sort of crypto-monarchal system that gestated in the late ’90s and burst forth under W. It obtains almost everywhere and is acknowledged practically nowhere.

    It’s what passes for a constitutional system in the West now, the “War on Terror” having ripped the old consitutional arrangements to shreds.

    Power tends to corrupt. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. — John Acton

    The Cold War acted as a brake on the u.s. gov’t.’s actions. With its end, decision makers in the u.s. have stopped attempting to provide a moral and legal counterweight to the former soviet union’s actions. They now feel free to behave immorally and illegally and say, “Who will stop us?” “We’re going to invade and occupy a country that does not threaten us — who will stop us?” “We’re going to kidnap and torture prisoners and hold them without charge indefinitely — who will stop us?” “We’re going to wiretap all communications in the u.s. and any communications around the world that go over wires we control — who will stop us?” “We’re going to spend trillions of dollars rescuing the banks that committed massive financial fraud — who will stop us?” “We’re going to evict people from their homes when we don’t even have records proving that we hold the titles to them — who will stop us?”

  17. Celsius 233 permalink
    December 23, 2010

    As much as is possible; boycott the entire corporate machine.

  18. December 23, 2010

    The Wau Holland Foundation, a group associated with the hacker group the Computer Chaos Club, remains one of the main conduits for Wikileaks donations.

    Chairman Winfried Motzkus explains that donations are still flowing, though they are not being used for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange’s personal legal battle against allegations of sexual assault in Sweden.

    And where does Mr. Motzkus get his information? Does he have access to WikiLeaks books or is he just repeating something he was told? Does he receive any of the money? His group is “one of the main conduits.” What are the others?

    If WikiLeaks was a conservative organization, would people be so trusting of the information?

  19. Plink permalink
    December 24, 2010

    While I’m not sure I’m entirely in agreement, this quite amused me.

    “I ain’t called Secretary of State for nothing!”

  20. guest permalink
    December 24, 2010

    Where can you use AmEx? Might as well just go back to using cash. They really should break up that duopoly (I mean MC/Visa, not the RepulsicanDemoncraps.)

  21. cathyx permalink
    December 24, 2010

    I have used American Express for many years. I can use it at every large retail store, at any gas station, at most small and midsized retail store, and at most restaurants. I can use it to rent any car, and most charities also accept it. For the very few times I can’t use it, I do have a visa that is issued from my credit union. And, I get cash back rewards for every dollar I pay with my AMEX card, so needless to say, I put every penny I can on that card.
    And no, I do not work for AMEX and get nothing for praising it.

  22. December 24, 2010

    @myiq2xu

    Is Wikileaks a “liberal” organization? Seems to me it’s mostly an anti-state organization. Nobody seemed terribly concerned with it when it was publishing documents indicating corruption in Asian and African countries. But when it releases documents relating to the seedy underbelly of the American empire…well, whoa, boy look the fuck out.

    Your arguments (here and at the Confluence) could be taken as suggesting that you are an Imperialist. Is this true?

    Can you document every penny of everything you’ve ever donated to? Ever donated to the Democratic Party? That puts you in Koch company right there, my friend. So who’s allying with right-wing billionaires? Donated to the Clintons? I assume you know of their friendship with Saudi royalty and shady, billionaire business friends.

    Finally, your Mossad conspiracy is a little weak given that only 2,000 of 250,000 cables have been published. But that’s ok, everyone’s got a little reactionary in them…maybe you have more than most, but we’re all loving liberals so you’re welcome in the big tent.

  23. December 24, 2010

    @Plink,

    Thanks…that’s awesome.

  24. gtash permalink
    December 24, 2010

    Best of the Season to All of You–

    And I took time just before Thanksgiving to Move My Money too. Out of Bank of America and into a credit union. Credit Unions are certainly closer to the people they serve, but I have been reading they too are being pressed by bed loans made by a few “corporate credit unions”–those formed by large companies. How dependent or independent they are from their corporate namesakes I do not know, but there is concern in some quarters about the viability of some credit unions because of this. Like banks, CU’s have to contribute to a reserve which is similar to FDIC for banks. Reserves contributions have increased proportional to the number of members who lent money badly and need help now.

    But I wholly endorse the idea of leaving banks and credit card companies as much and as soon as you can. The commonly accepted wisdom is “money talks, bullshit walks”. But what happens when the Money Walks Away?

  25. S Brennan permalink
    December 24, 2010

    I’ve been using a credit union since 1990. I think interest in those institutions comes from watching Frank Capra’s, It’s a Wonderful Life . Sadly, the overall lesson of the movie and the 12 years of FDR has been lost…that profit driven institutions must not be allowed to gain social/economic/political control of any society has been completely lost among the liberal elite. Truthfully, the Democratic elite and their wannabe minions have come to believe that the US should be dotted with big and small Pottersvilles from coast to coast.

    Now the message of the movie is: “An angel helps a compassionate but despairingly frustrated businessman by showing what life would have been like if he never existed.” But to the depression hardened audience of the time, the clear message was, either you stand up to moneyed interests, or you live as an indentured servant.

  26. Ian Welsh permalink*
    December 24, 2010

    I don’t audit every organization I give money to. What I know is that Wikileaks has done things I approve of — both releasing these cables and various other releases in the past. Frankly, even if Assange was taking first class flights, I wouldn’t care. However, there is zero evidence he is, and that sort of stuff would come out.

    Get a grip. I don’t know why you hate Wikileaks other than that you are, at heart, an authoritarian supporter, but I believe in government transparency, and I’m willing to put my money where my mouth is in this particular case.

  27. Ian Welsh permalink*
    December 24, 2010

    What the Chairman is saying is that

    1) His foundation NEVER accepted MC and Visa donations for Wikileaks. Direct bank transfers still work and he is still getting money that way. His foundation is NOT the only way Wikileaks gets money, and never was.

    2) Paypal has cut of donations to Wikileaks through his foundation.

    3) Money he receives for Wikileaks is not being used for Assange’s defense.

    ie. this is non-news.

  28. alyosha permalink
    December 24, 2010

    I used to work for a credit union. In California, there are two types:

    1) those that are associated with a company or industry group,

    2) and what are called community credit unions.

    The latter are not associated with any particular industry, but are sort of like community banks. How they were able to accomplish this – and get the tax break that normal community banks don’t get – is beyond me. I don’t know if the situation in California is common elsewhere.

    The usual kind of credit unions (case 1 above) often have the world “Federal” in their name, such as “Widget Brothers Federal Credit Union”. At our credit union, we voted to change our charter, and become a community credit union. We had to drop the word “Federal” from our name. The compelling economic reason was simply numbers – far more potential customers in our community than those remaining in our industry group.

    Are credit unions safe? Your savings are protected with depositors insurance, analogous to FDIC insurance. My credit union had a lot of aerospace members, which meant an older, conservative demographic. The product mix and loan portfolio maintained by this credit union was likewise conservative and seemingly safe. They did a huge volume of auto loans, and whatever mortgages they made were mostly sold off, gone from the books.

    And yet, there were cases of mismanagement and outright corruption, which were carefully and quietly swept under the rug, out of the public eye. Banking is really a confidence game, and if you don’t think your money is safe, the bank folds. Banks (or any conservative institution) are great places to learn about authoritarian structures and psychology. The software systems (especially at smaller outfits, like credit unions) are often antiquated, but banks in general are great places to pursue a career in security of all types, especially network security.

    I don’t bank there any more. I use one of the name brand national banks, for a lot of reasons. Every banking service under the sun is offered by the big guys, whereas the little guys are a bit more limited in their offerings. Someday I’ll fine tune this choice and find a solid community bank that better fits my needs and isn’t so far up in the oligarchy.

  29. S Brennan permalink
    December 24, 2010

    Here’s a scene where Mr. “the law is the law” Potter calls for the for the fullest prosecution of Baily.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B3sZy7IVRiw&feature=related

  30. December 24, 2010

    “do you know where your donations to Wikileaks are going? How much money are they taking in? How much of it goes to overhead (server fees, etc) and how much goes to salaries? Who gets those salaries, and how much do they receive?”

    What would be wrong with any of those things? Why would it be wrong for the people who run Wikileaks to draw a salary for their work?

    Myiq, what exactly is your problem with Wikileaks? I must have missed something.

  31. December 24, 2010

    I guess “authoritarian supporter” is the new racist.

  32. December 24, 2010

    I must have missed something.

    Yes, you have.

  33. December 24, 2010

    myiq2xu,

    Over at The Confluence i suggested authoritarian tendencies, but if you’re going to concern troll you might expect a little trolling in return.

    I asked if you’re an Imperialist. Would you care to answer? Do you think that the American Empire and its intrusions into the self-determination of other nations, whether violent or political, is good and right? Are you in favor of US lobbyists writing Spanish law?

    Read up on that one, the law was going to pass until Spanish politicians decided that it just didn’t look good for them to openly enact a US written law. They wouldn’t have known if not for Wikileaks. The Spanish public wouldn’t have known if not for Wikileaks.

    What this release is doing is exposing the sausage making. Those of us who follow foreign policy have long had a pretty good inkling of the details, but the State has reserved for itself plausible deniability. That’s gone now, and the reason that the US government is so upset is that it cannot behave – easily – as it was without secrecy. Not hard to argue that the behavior was good for neither the vast majority of Americans or citizens of the world.

    So i’ll ask this way: are you in favor of the US government doing whatever the fuck it wants under a cloak of secrecy? We’re not talking about plans for the atom bomb here, we’re talking about political machinations done in the name of the American people. Are you in favor of US foreign policy being enacted in your name, without your input and in secret?

    Or are you just mad that it was DoS documents and now Madame Secretary looks like she’s a spy? For the record, those of us who follow stuff like this assume that diplomats are doing at least some intelligence gathering and intelligence services regularly use the cover/protection of embassies and foreign service jobs. Name of the game, so Clinton isn’t any different than anyone else was or would be…i mean, she’s a craptacular Secretary of State but that’s what happens when you give a politician a diplomat’s job.

  34. December 24, 2010

    I asked if you’re an Imperialist. Would you care to answer?

    No, I’m not. I am not in favor or secrecy either. Just because I don’t trust WikiLeaks doesn’t mean I trust our government.

    The rule of law is the OPPOSITE of authoritarianism.

    BTW – Hillary seems to have survived these awesome revelations just fine. If you were shocked and surprised to learn our embassies are involved with the CIA then you’re not nearly as smart as you think you are.

  35. December 24, 2010

    I see, you’re not even reading comments you reply to all the way through. So, i guess, never mind. And that being the case, it’s hard not to lough out loud at a guy who’s screen name indicates that he’s two times smarter than whoever he’s talking to.

    What does the rule of law have to do with this? Is Wikileaks guilty of espionage? No, it’s guilty of publishing documents. If it was playing at espionage, it would have sold the lot to various intelligence services and made a quiet killing. If you’re talking about the accusations against Assange, then it’s a different matter entirely. If Julian Assange is guilty of rape, then he should deal with the Swedish consequences, and his guilt or innocence should be the province of the Swedish legal system.

    That you’re so keen to tie Assange the person with Wikileaks the organization makes it appear that you’re trying to guide the direction of conversation. So i have to ask, why would you want guide the conversation in this direction? If you’re anti-authoritarian and not an imperialist, then why aren’t you focusing on what the actual documents say about authority and empire?

  36. December 24, 2010

    Never mind that last comment. I subjected myself to reading all of myiq2xu’s posts (and all the related comment threads) on the matter…including the Manning piece.

    He appears to believe that Wikileaks is a giant government conspiracy in order to shut down freedom of speech on the internet. No doubt, the likes of Sen. Lieberman’s admiration for Chinese style censorship will be one of the consequences of this matter. And there exists the possibility that Assange is a US agent playing a great big totalitarian prank on the lot of us.

    On the other hand, read his Manning piece. You won’t question his choice of American Empire over American Republic or just how much of an authoritarian he really is after that one.

    “I’ll betcha the next guy will think twice about breaking the law against unauthorized release of classified information.” ~myiq2xu in comments and in response to people questioning whether Manning’s imprisonment is cruel and/or unusual.

    Why it sounds like cop talk…that’s no surprise, i suppose, from a guy who sounds pretty proud of being an MP.

  37. anon2525 permalink
    December 25, 2010

    For those who have not seen this and are interested, here is another recent (Dec. 22nd) interview with Assange. It is about 24 minutes long:

    Frost over the World – Julian Assange

  38. December 25, 2010

    And that being the case, it’s hard not to lough out loud at a guy who’s screen name indicates that he’s two times smarter than whoever he’s talking to.

    My alias was meant to be a joke. It was given to me by my daughter after I won a Trivial Pursuit tournament. When I first started commenting in the blogosphere I used it and I soon discovered that how people react to it revealed a lot about them.

    IOW – my alias is a test and you failed.

    If you think you’re so smart why don’t you start your own blog? You can write pithy treatises on how Jesus wasn’t a Jew and stuff. I’m sure there are lots of people eager to bask in the glory of a sneering drugstore cowboy pseudo-revolutionary.

    BTW – I don’t need to tie Assange to WikiLeaks – he runs it.

  39. December 25, 2010

    The NYT finally speaks out:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/26/opinion/26sun3.html

    The whistle-blowing Web site WikiLeaks has not been convicted of a crime. The Justice Department has not even pressed charges over its disclosure of confidential State Department communications. Nonetheless, the financial industry is trying to shut it down.

    But a bank’s ability to block payments to a legal entity raises a troubling prospect. A handful of big banks could potentially bar any organization they disliked from the payments system, essentially cutting them off from the world economy.

    Posting this in the hopes it doesn’t become troll fodder but a source of hope.

  40. December 26, 2010

    Fuck American Express! Boycott them! They are exporting American doc review jobs to India.

  41. December 26, 2010

    They see me trollin’…they be hatin’.

  42. December 26, 2010

    @myiqissmallerthanithinkitis

    You’re tying the personal behavior of Assange to the organizational behavior of Wikileaks. You are, in effect, saying that Wikileaks must be bad/corrupt because Assange is a horny douchebag. Would you use the same reasoning against, say, unions. We all know that at the top of the union hierarchy there is corruption. By your Wikileaks reasoning, all unions must be bad/corrupt. The Christian Church is corrupt at its highest levels, does that make all of Christianity bad? How about the Democratic Party?

    IOW-do you apply this laughable reasoning to everything or just Wikileaks and Julian Assange?

    Finally, oh noes…i failed your test! Excuse me, it’s seppuku time.

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