Friday, September 17, 2004

a techno-evolutionary step - theoritical death of interest

A clip from my recent conversation on Political Crossfire that captures a notion that if we wanted to we could probably build a new system to replace money.

Blah, Blah, Blah...

...Printed money accounts for very little. Most the money in the system is merely electronic. So not only is there no real material such as gold backing up the money, there is no real material representing it either.

Money is generated by debt. Simple as that. This is why fractional reserve banking can work, this is why speculation can work. Every time you use a credit card to buy dinner, you create new money. No one even knows how much money there is.

I think we've finally arrived at an techno-evolutionary step where we can dispense with money and return to a barter system based on electronic contracts. In a world without manufactured needs, we no longer have a real need for coin to store and transport value, so we no longer have a real need to purchase money holding services from a bank, the very thing that creates interest.

For anyone gaining wealth from interest on debt, this means that the need for interest has to be artificially maintained in order to sustain the accumulation of wealth.

This makes the subject of money very severe as we step into the new century. Thanks Dan for bring the thread up.

...Blah, Blah, Blah...

Intereresting shit.

 

 

Monday, September 13, 2004

Are Educated Voters Bad For Republicans?

Interesting e-mail from the Washington Post today, linking to some poll data that I browsed though and just happened to find an interesting pattern. It seems the more educated people tend to lean in favor of the Democratic ticket while the less educated people tend to lean in favor of the Republican ticket. No wonder the Republicans put education on such a low priority. ;)

 



Also, noticed that while Bush leads in the polls in the Midwest and the South, Kerry leads in the more affluent East and West coasts. It can be said that in the urban sprawls on the coasts, there are many inner city folks that can hardly be called affluent, but then again, those people don't usually take these polls. I also noticed when I was visiting Bucks County PA last weekend, a place that used to be populated with farmers and Republicans, and is now being invaded by affluent people from New York who are buying large estate style homes, that there seems to be an abundance of Kerry/Edwards bumper stickers.



Kinda makes you wonder if there is a corollary where the more educated a person is, the less likely the chance that he/she will fall for the rhetorical commotion of the current administration. Maybe L. Frank Baum had a point when he characterized the misled farmer as a scarecrow without a brain in his 1900 published Wizard of Oz.

Source = Washington Post
 

Thursday, September 09, 2004

National Security Strategy

I'm currently reading the National Security Strategy, which the Bush administration established last September. According to Noam Chomsky, this document essentially declares the right to attack any potential challenge to the global dominance of the United States. I admire Chomsky and I respect his always lucid observations, but of course I need to look at this document for myself. I could not get past the first of many sections without commenting, so I think what I'll do is treat this one section at a time and post my comments as I go. My objective is to identify the risks that we may be taking when we accept documents like this from our government.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/nsc/nss.html

The document opens up with ...

The United States possesses unprecedented— and unequaled—strength and influence in the world. Sustained by faith in the principles of liberty, and the value of a free society, this position comes with unparalleled responsibilities, obligations, and opportunity. The great strength of this nation must be used to promote a balance of power that favors freedom.

The overview illustrates a nation that emerges from the cold war without counterbalance and suggests that this superpower be leveraged to promote a balance of power that favors freedom. But the problem that I see with this document is that it lacks any indication of who the freedom is for. Freedom is a relative quantity. In South Africa, the Dutch created the Orange Free State, so named because the people there were free to have slaves unlike in the British controlled regions where slavery was banned, for them that constituted a free society. Free trade often means that corporations are free from protective regulations, in other words, free to exploit the workers - free to rip off the consumers... Freedom might mean the freedom to rape, the freedom to kill or the freedom to steal.

Words like freedom and liberty should have modes of operation; in it's "pure" mode for instance, the term freedom or liberty might carry the singular meanings that we most often think about when we see these words installed in American culture like gleaming jewels that adorn our proclamations, our songs of patriotism and our political speeches. In pure form they can remain suspended in a metaphysical world of idealism and inspiration, but once applied to the physical world, where pure states are rarely ever preserved, these words should switch to an "applied" mode where we should automatically ask questions, starting with who gets the freedom and who pays for it. In applied mode the terms must be qualified.

The National Security Strategy is a document that sets these words down, without qualification, as actual objectives upon which strategies are built. This means we are permitted to understand the strategy but the objectives may remain elusive, or worse yet, open for interpretation. The document provides absolutely no guarantee to anyone that the prescribed strategy won't be used to secure the freedom for a dictator to enslave his people. Of course there is some language in the second section that uses another unqualifed term "human dignity" but again without qualification it's hard to know what people this applies to and what people it doesn't. Obviously, doctrines can be misleading... Our own founding doctrines state that all men are created equal but what they really meant was that all landowners were created equal, the rest of the Americans had to fight for representation.

This is not a direct attack on the strategy so much as it is an effort to look at it from another angle and to at least recognize the potential danger of such a declaration. The document starts off by stating how the power and influence of the United States is unparalleled. Anytime you have an unmatched power, I don't care if it's the United States or anyone else - you should always challege their intent and you should always read between the lines.
 

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Judging Wikipedia

Wikipedia: This came in on my Slashdot feed... (For those WDK... Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia based on WikiWiki. WikiWiki is a document server for publishing/sharing content on the web, but with the added ability for anyone using their browser to edit the content as well.)
 
Here's the Slashdot post...
Posted by CmdrTaco on Sunday September 05, @10:02AM
from the well-duh-people dept.
Frozen North writes "Recently, this article in the Syracuse Post-Standard caused a stir by dismissing Wikipedia as an authoritative source, and even suggesting that it was a little deceptive by looking too much like a "real" encyclopedia. Techdirt suggested an experiment: insert bogus information into Wikipedia, and see how long it takes for the mistake to be removed. Well, I did that experiment, and the results weren't good: five errors inserted over five days, all of which lasted until I remoed them myself at the end of the experiment."
 
All this really says is that Wikipedia can be corrupted. I think the point of many of these short-lived communities is best described by the honor-system in which something is safeguarded by nothing other than the good intentions of people.

The internet adds global reach to these communities making the popularity factor critical, as soon as enough people and machines come aboard the honor-code will be broken and the value of the community will disipitate.

It would be fair to point out the context of the article,   receiving comment. The article is hailed as a warning to librarians and high school teachers not to allow Wikipedia as a valid source for research. Obviously this is a valid concern, Wikipedia is after all, an encyclopedia open to public manipulation. I've been using Wikipedia for a while now and i think it's the most facinating encyclopedia I've ever read, most of it seems like very accurate content. It's already the largest encyclopedia in the world and still growing fast. The last edition is always right on your browser. To an extent, I think the only people willing to spend the time editing content will be interested in delivering quality, understanding of course, that some bad nuts will be in the bag. So, with size will come corruption, but I will still use it along with my own judgement. The continued stregnth of Wikipedia after being emersed in distrust, will be the heavy use of links to show reference to validated sources. For me it's just a pleasure to navigate, while exploring the content. A good site to meander through.

 

 


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* Current Post
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* Arctic Drilling
* Human Decline
* Wealth Inequality
* Bush Sells Our Forests
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* Chemical Assault
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* The Endless War
* Do the Rich Need Tax Breaks?
* A Collapse of Some Kind
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Books That I am Reading:


The World Is Flat
A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century

Thomas Friedman

In this book Thomas Friedman continues his exploration of globalization and how the playing feild is leveling out.

War on the Middle Class
How the Government, Big Business, and Special Interest Groups Are Waging War on the American Dream and How to Fight Back

Lou Dobbs

This book is pretty much a print version of his TV program. This is what I call good investigative journalism


Books That I've Read Lately:


Catcher in the Rye


J.D.Salinger

My daughter is an avid J.D.Salinger fan and turned me on to this book. I'm glad she did. I read the first half on one airplane trip and finished the next half on the return flight. Salinger's naration is wonderful, his vivid style reminds me of Steinbeck.

Crash Proof
How to Profit From the Coming Economic Collapse

Peter D. Schiff

I've been reading the writing on the wall for some time now about the comming economic collapse and this book is one of those messages. I highly recomend this book for anyone interested in an easy to understand explanation of what is causing the crises and basic strategy for how to weather the storm.

A Peoples History of the United States: 1492 - Present


Howard Zinn

This book seems to draw a lot of criticism from people who point out that Zinn fails to present the complete picture, but I think that's the point. Zinn is simply filling in the gaps intentionally left by "politically correct" historians and in so doing, he sheds light on some of the real American heros who continue the "politically incorrect" American Revolution to this day. These heros are not the celebrated leaders and soldiers of the American Establishment who took the reins of exploitation from the British Establishment but the working class people who continued to stand up to exploitation regardless of what banner they wave. It's these working class people who continue to fight for liberty and justice and it's these unsung heros that we need to thank for our way of life and we can thank Howard Zinn for pointing them out, especially now that patriotism has somehow come to mean loyalty to a flag rather than to a principal.

Paradox Of Choice: Why More Is Less


Barry Schwartz

An interesting counter-view to the ever-so-popular notion that our vast array of options improves our culture.

Why I Am A Reagan Conservative


Edited By: Michael K. Deaver

I'm reading this book because I don't consider myself to be conservative. I suppose this is because I've been focused for so long on issues around which conservatives hold positions that I disagree with. But recently I've been looking beyond these issues in search of what I might agree are valid conservative positions and it seems the more I look the less I find, which is alarming to me considering the influence that conservatives have over the policies that effect our lives. Hopefully this book will provide me with some insight.

The Ayn Rand Reader


Ayn Rand: Edited by Gary Hull

I know, I know... what is Ayn Rand doing on this booklist? Answer: I read from as many perspectives as possible. Being a free thinker, I refuse to submit myself to a reading diet. Besides, I want to understand what it is that Ayn Rand fans are raving about and what institutes like ARI are pushing into our education systems.

A Thousand Barrels a Second
The Coming Oil Breakpoint and the Challenges Facing an Energy Dependant World

Peter Tertzakian

I've been trying to understand as much as I can about the coming oil crises. The author is Chief Energy Economist of ARC Financial, one of the world's leading private equity firms focused on energy. As far as I can tell so far, his book isn't a crack on politics or doom and gloom but a straightforward analysis of the realities of energy that so many people are ignoring.

TechGnosis
Myth, Magic & Mysticism in the Age of Information

Erik Davis

I've actually been reading the hardback version of this book, on and off, for long time now. The problem I have with this book is it's depth. Davis presents so many interesting ideas and references that I wind up placing a book mark and taking excursions into related materials. It can take me days to digest what Davis is saying in one sentence. Eventually, I always come back to the book, drawn in my Davis' poetic language of intellect. This book represents a true frontier for my mind.

The Moon Is Down


John Steinbeck

Steinbeck is always an easy read for me. His characters and scenes are so vivid. But this book in particular has the added significance of having had an extraordinary impact as Allied propoganda in Nazi-occupied Europe. Despite Axis efforts to supress it (in Fascist Italy, mere possession of a copy of the book was punishable by death) hundreds of thousands of copies were secretly translated into numerous languages, printed on unnaccounted paper and smuggled across borders. This story, a triumph of ideas in the face of cold steel and brute force, offered hope for the "unconquered" people under foreign occupation and celebrated the unbreakable spirit of free people. I feel like I should be sending copies to Iraqis currently under US occupation, but that could easily be construed as an act of terrorism.

Confessions of an Economic Hitman


John Perkins

I've been able to put two and two together for some time, so nothing in this book astounds me but it does bring the workings of the international banks and corporations as well as the US government out of the speculations of so-called conspiracy theories and into the matter-of-fact narration of one man's career path as an economic hitman.

Collapse:
How Societies Choose To Fail Or Succeed
Jared Diamond

Facinating book. Jared Diamond's name is what caught my attention as I was killing time at the bookstore at the airport. I was very impressed with his documentary "Guns, Germs and Steel" and figured he would make this study of societal destinies equally interesting. I was 100% correct. I especially enjoyed the chapters on the collapse of the Polynesian societies, realizing the scale-relativity with the evolution of our global society.

Brave New World

Aldous Huxley

Of course... the third book in my dystopian trilogy.

The United States of Europe:
The New Superpower and the End of American Supremacy
T.R.Reid

An excellent perspective on the power that's rising in Europe as we Americans continue to sleep with visions of our own glory in our heads.

Imperial Ambitions:
Conversations with Noam Chomsky on the Post-9/11 World
Noam Chomsky, David Barsamian

As always, Professor Chomsky presents that calm and collected voice of logic that cuts through all the noisy rhetoric, half-truths, corporate funded media hype and emotionally driven spin sessions. Barsamian's interviews with Chomsky are clear, crisp and sober conversations.

Farenheit 451
Ray Bradbury

Figured I'd continue my journey through "negative-utopia" that I started with 1984. It does seem appropriate given the current state of America from which I found much more connection with Bradbury's vision than I did with Orwell's, especially the way in which the real source of oppression is not the government but the people themselves.

Cuba
A New History

Richard Gott

Just a straight forward history book, but Cuba has a facinating history that reaches back to the days of Columbus and offers everything from pirates to revolutions.

1984
George Orwell

It seemed like a good idea to refresh my memory of a mid-century perspective on where the world is headed. Although I found some relief in knowing that we have not followed the Stalinesque course to the letter, I nevertheless found much of Orwell's larger concepts ringing ever so true in 21st Century America, especially Orwell's concept of continuous war and Big Brother.

The Best Democracy Money Can Buy
Greg Palast

Easy read... Palast is a circus ring master showing us unbelievable things. Penetrating investigation with a sense of humor.

One Market Under God
Extreme Capitalism, Market Populism, and the End of Economic Democracy

Thomas Frank

After reading the Lexus and the Olive Tree, I felt I needed a counter-balance view of globalization and how the liberated capitalism that I see everywhere around me, breaking the chains of regulation, is riding the globalization wave.

20:21 Vision
Twentieth-Century Lessons for the Twenty-First Century

Bill Emmott

The author, Economist cheif editor, tends to present very objective and slightly outside views of American economics/politics. I think this renders a more accurate assesment of how we fit in with the rest of the world. The book is a tour of the major forces of the 20th century with emphasis on how they are currently shaping the 21st century.

The Lexus and the Olive Tree


Thomas Freidman

Damned good book! Really opened up my eyes to what globalization is all about. Freidman's style of writing is engaging and his explainations are straightforward. I can see why people regard this book as the essential primer on the subject. I can also see why people think he is "pro-globalization" but I tend to think he's not so much promoting it as just pointing out the inevitability of it. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in understanding globalization.

The Gnostic Gospels


Elain Pagles

I thought it was good. Explains a lot about the gnostic strain of Christain faith.

Consilience


Edward O. Wilson

Facinating. From the moment he starts decribing the Ionian enchantment on the first pages. This book describes the interrelation of seperate bodies of knowledge and how it all comes together.

The History of Money


Jack Weatherford

Human culture is possessed and these are some involving stories about the demon we call money.

Other material of interest:

Origins of the Federal Reserve (PDF) - Murray N. Rothbard

Excellent account of the monetary imperialism that led to the creation of the Federal Reserve.

The Elkhorn Manifesto
R. William Davis

This is an open letter to Americans that provides a historical perspective on the U.S. government's prohibition of Marijuana. Without stating any position on that particular issue, I have nevertheless saved a copy of the letter here because of what I think are some valueable and verifiable references to to what I call the "corporate priority over the better interests of the nation".