Monday, December 31, 2012

GNU Linux over Microsoft Windows, re: From the perspective of a developer

The following is a copy and paste of a comment made on reddit at this post here.  This comment  was authored by reddit user named, RyanDwyer. I decided to re-post it here on my blog because I wanted to share an advanced Linux developer's assessment of the advantages that GNU Linux has over Microsoft Windows. RyanDwyer writes:

I'm a web developer, not a web designer. I use Ubuntu with Sublime Text 2 at both home and work. I use Linux for heaps of reasons:
  1. Keyboard shortcuts. I have keyboard shortcuts for opening almost any software I use and I've changed the Alt + F4 shortcut to something easier to press. I can manipulate windows (maximise etc) using the keyboard. I can quickly move a window by holding Alt and dragging anywhere on the window. If I'm dragging a window, I can maximise it during the drag by moving it to the top of the screen. I can manage my environment so much faster in Linux than in Windows where I had to reach for the mouse frequently.
  2. Bash scripts. I have a single Bash script that checks out code from our repositories, adds vhost config for it, reloads Apache, creates the Sublime project file and adds it to my Sublime recent history. I have a Bash script that allows me to change my default vhost easily using a symlink. I have a Bash script that can convert a project's database to a dev-ready format, such as replacing other people's email addresses with my own.
  3. Speed of file access/better structured filesystem. If I want to edit my hosts file, I can open a Terminal, typesudo vi /etc/ho and do it entirely using my keyboard in about 3-5 seconds. In Windows it's stored in some bizarre location in the Windows folder (including in a "drivers" directory!) and takes me longer. If I want to view or edit my FileZilla sitemanager.xml file I can do it in Linux by typing less .fisi. On Windows it's in my user folder, under either AppData or Application Data, and then in something like Local or Roaming. I'm confident any log I want to view or config file I want to edit can be done faster in Linux than in Windows. I can open large logs using less with minimal load time, whereas in Windows the IDE will likely become unresponsive.
  4. Compatibility with Linux servers. I can dump a production database and import it into my dev environment in just a few seconds using only my keyboard and a combination of SSH, mysqldump, gzip, SCP, gunzip and mysql. I don't have issues with filename capitalisation being different on local and production. I don't have issues with having functions that only exist on certain OSes - if it works locally, it works in production.
  5. I can list the files in a directory and copy the list into a text editor. I have yet to find a way to do this in Windows without writing a custom script or using third party software.
  6. I can run PHP in interactive mode (php -a). If I want to base64/url encode/decode something I can do it straight from CLI. On Windows I would create a PHP script and put it in a vhost.
  7. Package management. If I want to upgrade or something then I can do it through apt using one command. In Windows I have to mess around with new versions of WAMP. When I used to use Windows I had to install dbase for a client's project. I ended up having to install a second instance of Apache and PHP because WAMP didn't support dbase.
  8. I have powerful tools at my fingertips. If I want to find every .php file that contains a certain phrase and replace it across all files, I can do that in one command. If I want to create a static version of a site I can do so using wget -m .
  9. Process management. If I'm doing an intensive task and it's making my computer run slow, I can pause the process and resume it at a more convenient time such as when I go to lunch.
I guess you need to be familiar with Linux to be able to reap the benefits. For someone who's never used it there's a very steep learning curve. I couldn't imagine going back to Windows.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Paul Grignon's "Money As Debt" ( documentary transcript)

"'Since I entered politics, I have chiefly had men's views confided to me privately. Some of the biggest men in the United States, in the field of commerce and manufacture, are afraid of something. They know that there is a power somewhere so organized, so subtle, so watchful, so interlocked, so complete, so pervasive, that they had better not speak above their breath when they speak in condemnation of it."
~ Woodrow Wilson, former President of the United States.

"Each and every time a bank makes a loan, new bank credit is created - new deposits - brand new money."
~ Graham F. Towers, Governor, Bank of Canada, 1934-54.

"The process by which banks create money is so simple that the mind is repelled."
~ John Kenneth Galbraith, economist.

"Permit me to issue and control the money of a nation, and I care not who makes its laws."
~ Mayer Anselm Rothschild, banker.


Two great mysteries dominant our lives. Love and money. What is love is a question that has been endlessly explored in stories,songs, books, and television. But the same cannot be said about the question what is money. It is not surprising that monetary theory has not inspired any blockbuster movies. But it was not even mentioned in the schools most of us attended.For most of us, the question of where money comes from brings to mind pictures of the Mint printing bills and stamping coins.Money, most of us believe, is created by the government. This is true, but only to a point. Those metal and paper symbols of value we usually think of as money are indeed produced by an agency of the federal government called the Mint. But the vast majority of money is not created by the Mint. It is created in huge amounts everyday by private corporations known as banks.Most of us believe that banks lend out money that has been entrusted to them by depositors. Easy to picture, but not the truth. In fact, banks create the loan, not from the banks own earnings, not from the money deposited, but directly from the borrower's promise to repay.The borrower's signature on the loan papers is an obligation to pay the bank the amount of the loan plus interest, or lose the house, the car,or whatever asset was pledged as collateral. That's a big commitment from the borrower. What does the same signature require of the bank? The bank gets to conjure into existence the amount of the loan and just write it into the borrower's account. Sound far-fetched?Surely, that can't be true! But it is.

A Brief & Broadly Allegorical History of Banking
To demonstrate how this miracle of modern banking came about, consider this simple story, The Goldsmith's Tale.Once upon various times, pretty much anything was used as money. It just had to be portable and enough people had to have faiththat it could later be exchanged for things of real value, like food clothing and shelter. Shells, cocoa beans, pretty stones, and evenfeathers have been used as money. Gold and silver were, attracted, soft, and easy to work with so some cultures became expert with thesemetals. Goldsmiths made trade much easier by casting coins, standardised units of these metals whose weight and purity was certified.To protect his gold, the Goldsmith needed a vault and soon fellow townsmen were knocking on his door wanting to rent space tosafeguard their own coins and valuables. Before long the Goldsmith was renting every shelf in the vault and earning a small income fromhis vault rental business. Years went by and the Goldsmith made an astute observation. Depositors rarely came in to remove their actual, physical gold. And they never all came in at once. That was because the claim checks the Goldsmith had written as receipts for the goldwere being traded in the marketplace as if they were the gold itself. This paper money was far more convenient than heavy coins and amounts could simply be written instead of laboriously counted one by one for each transaction. Meanwhile, the Goldsmith had another business: he lent out his gold, charging interest. When his convenient claim check moneycome into acceptance, borrowers began asking for their loans in the form of these claim checks instead of the actual metal. As industryexpanded, more and more people asked the Goldsmith for loans. This gave the Goldsmith an even better idea. He knew that very few of his depositors ever actually removed their gold. So the Goldsmith figured he could easily get away with writing claim checks against hisdepositor's gold, in addition to his own. As long as the loans would be repaid, his depositors would be none the wiser and no worse off.And the Goldsmith, now more banker than artisan, would make a far greater profit than he could by lending his own gold.For years, the Goldsmith secretly enjoyed a good income from the income earned on everybody else's deposits. Now a prominent lender, he grew steadily richer than his fellow townsmen. And he flaunted it. Suspicions grew that he was spending his depositors’ money. His depositors got together and threatened the withdrawal of their gold if the Goldsmith didn't come clean about his new found wealth. Contrary to what one might expect, this did not turn out to be a disaster for the Goldsmith. Despite the duplicity inherent in his scheme, his idea did work: the depositors had not lost anything. Their gold was all still safe in the Goldsmith's vault. But rather than taking back their gold the depositors demanded that the Goldsmith, now their banker, cut them in by paying them a share of the interest.And that was the beginning of banking. The banker paid a low interest rate on the deposits of other people's money that he then loaned out at a higher interest, the difference covered the banks cost of operation and its profit. The logic of this system was simple and it seemed like a reasonable way to satisfy the demand for credit. However, this is not the way that banking works today.Our Goldsmith-Banker was not content with the income remaining after sharing the interest earnings with his depositors. And the demand for credit was growing fast as Europeans spread out across the world. His loans were limited by the amount of gold his depositors had in his vault. That's when he got an even bolder idea. Since no one but himself knew exactly what was in this vault, he could lend out claim checks on gold that wasn't even there. As long as all the claim check holders did not come to the vault at the same time and demand real gold no one would find out. This new scheme worked very well and the banker became enormously wealthy on the interest paid ongold that did not exist.The idea that the banker would just create money out of was too outrageous to believe. So for a long time the thought did not occur to people. But the power to invent money went to the banker's head as you can all imagine. In time, the magnitude of the banker's loan and his ostentatious wealth did trigger suspicions once again. Some borrowers started to demand real gold instead of paper representation.Rumours spread. Suddenly several wealthy depositors showed up to remove their gold. The game was up. A sea of claim check holders flooded the streets outside the closed doors of the bank. Alas, the banker did not have enough gold and silver to redeem all the paper he had put into their hand. This is called a run on the bank and it is what every banker dreads. This phenomenon of a run on the bank ruinedindividual banks and not surprisingly damaged public confidence in all bankers.It would have been straightforward to outlaw the practice of creating money from nothing. But the large volumes of credit the bankers were offering had become essential to the success of European commercial expansion. So instead the practice was legalised and regulated. Bankers agreed to abide by limits on the amounts of fictional loan money that could be lent out. The limit would still be anumber much larger than the actual amount of gold and silver in the vault. Quite often the ratio was nine fictional dollars to one actual dollar in gold. These regulations were enforced by surprise inspections. It was also arranged that in the event of a run, central banks would support local banks with emergency infusions of gold. Only if there were runs on a lot of banks simultaneously would the banker's credit bubble burst and the system come crashing down.

The Money System Today
Over the years, the fractional reserve system and its integrated network of banks backed by a central bank has become the dominantmoney system of the world. At the same time, the fraction of gold backing the debt money has steadily shrunk to nothing.The basic nature of money has changed. In the past the paper dollar was actually a receipt that could be redeemed for a fixed weightof gold or silver. In the present, a paper or digital dollar can only be redeemed for another paper or digital dollar. In the past, privatelycreated bank credit existed only in the form of private bank notes, which people had the choice to refuse, just as we have the choice torefuse someone's private check today. In the present, privately created bank credit is legally convertible to government issued fiatcurrency, or the dollars, loonies, and pounds we habitually think of as money.Fiat currency is money created by government fiat, or decree. Legal tender laws declare that citizens must accept this fiat money as payment for debt or else the courts will not enforce the obligation. So now the question is if governments and banks can both just createmoney than how much money exists? In the past, the total amount of money in existence was limited to the actual, physical quantity of whatever commodity was in use as money. For example, in order for new gold or silver money to be created more gold or silver had to befound and dug out of the ground. In the present, money is literally created as debt. New money is created whenever anyone takes a loanfrom the bank. As a result the total amount of money that can be created has only one real limit: the total level of debt.Governments place an additional statutory limit on the creation of new money by enforcing rules known as fractional reserverequirements. Essentially arbitrary fractional reserve requirements vary from country to country and from time to time. In the past, it was common to require that banks have at least one dollar worth of real gold in the vault to back ten dollars of debt money created. Today reserve requirement ratios no longer apply to the ratio of new money to gold on deposit but merely to the ratio of new debt money to the ratio of existing debt money on deposit in the bank.Today, a bank's reserves consist of two things. The amount of government issued cash or equivalent that the bank has deposited with the central bank plus the amount of already existing debt money that the bank has on deposit. To illustrate this in a simple way, let's imagine that a new bank has just started up and has no depositors yet. However, the bank's investors have made a reserve deposit of $1,111.12 of existing cash money at the central bank. Your required reserve ratio is nine to one.Step one: the doors open and the bank welcomes its first loan customer. He needs ten thousand dollars to buy a car. At the nine to one reserve ratio the new bank's reserve at the central bank, also known as high powered money, allows it to legally conjure into existence nine times that amount or ten thousand dollars on the basis of the borrower's pledge of debt. This ten thousand dollars is not taken from anywhere. It is brand new money simply typed into the borrower's account as bank credit. The borrower then writes a check on that bank credit to buy the new car.Step two: the seller then deposits this newly created ten thousand dollars at her bank. Unlike the high powered government money deposited at the central bank this newly created credit money cannot be multiplied by the reserve ratio. Instead it's divided by the reserve ratio. At a ratio of nine to one a new loan of $9,000 can be created on the basis of the ten thousand dollar deposit.Step three: if that $9,000 is then deposited by a third party at the same bank that created it or at a different one it becomes the legal basis for a third issue of bank credit, this time for the amount of $8,100. Like one of those Russian dolls, where each layer contains aslightly smaller doll inside, each new deposit contains the potential for a slightly smaller loan in an infinitely decreasing series. Now, if the loan money created is not deposited at the bank the process stops. That is the unpredictable part of the money creationmechanism. But more likely at every step the new money will be deposited at a bank and the reserve ratio process can repeat itself over and over until almost one hundred thousand dollars has been created within the banking system. All of this new money has been createdentirely from debt and the whole process has been legally authorised by the initial reserve deposit of just $1,111.12, which is still sittinguntouched at the central bank. What's more, under this ingenious system the books of each bank in the chain must show that the bank hasten percent more on deposit than it has out on loans. This gives the bank a very real incentive to seek deposits in order to be able to makeloans supporting the general but misleading impression that loans come out of deposits. Now unless all the successive loans are deposited at the same bank it cannot be said that any one bank got to multiply its initial high powered money reserve almost ninety times by issuing bank credit out of nothing. However, the banking system is a closed loop. Bank credit created at one bank becomes a deposit at another and vice-versa. In a theoretical world of perfectly equal exchanges the ultimateeffect would be exactly the same as if the whole process took place within one bank. That is, the bank's initial central reserve of a littleover eleven hundred dollars allowed it to ultimately collect interest on up to one hundred thousand dollars the bank never had.If that sounds ridiculous, try this. In recent decades, as a result of steady lobbying by the banks, the requirements to make a deposit atthe nation's central bank have all but disappeared in some countries and actual reserve ratios can be much higher than nine to one. For some types of accounts twenty to one or thirty to one reserve ratios are common. And even more recently, by using loan fees to raise therequired reserve from the borrower, banks have now found a way to circumvent fractional reserve requirements entirely. So, while the rules are complex, the common sense reality is actually quite simple. Banks can create as much money as we can borrow.

"Everyone sub-consciously knows banks do not lend money. When you draw on your savings account, the bank doesn't tell you you can't do this because it has lent the money to somebody else."
~ Mark Mansfield, economist and author.

Despite the endlessly presented mint footage, government created money typically accounts for less than five percent of the money in circulation. More than 95% of all the money in existence today was created by someone signing a pledge of indebtedness to a bank.What's more, this bank credit money is being created and destroyed in huge amounts everyday. New loans are made and old ones are repaid.

"I am afraid that the ordinary citizen will not like to be told that banks can and do create money...And they who control the credit of the nation direct the policy of Governments and hold in the hollows of their hands the destiny of the people."

~ Reginald McKenna, past Chairman of the Board, Midlands Bank of England.
Banks can only practice this money system with the active participation of government. First, governments pass legal tender laws to make us use the national fiat currency. Secondly, governments allow private bank credit to be paid out as government currency. Thirdly,government courts enforce debts. And lastly, governments pass regulations to protect the money system's functionality and credibility with the public while doing nothing to inform the public about where money really comes from.The simple truth is that when we sign on the dotted line for a so-called loan or mortgage our sign pledge of payment backed by the assets we pledge to forfeit should we fail to pay is the only thing of real value involved in the transaction. To anyone who believes we will honour our pledge that loan agreement or mortgage is now a portable, exchangeable, and saleable piece of paper. It's an IOU. It represents value and is therefore a form of money. This money the borrower exchanges for the bank's so-called loan. Now, a loan in the real world means that the lender must have something to lend. If you need a hammer my loaning you a promise to provide a hammer I don't have won't be of much help. But in the artificial world of money, a bank's promise to pay money it doesn't have is allowed to be passed off as money. And we accept it as such.
"Thus our national circulating medium is now at the mercy of loan transactions of banks, which lend, not money, but promises to supply money they do not possess."
~ Irving Fisher, economist and author.

Once the borrower signs the pledge of debt, the bank then balances the transaction, by creating with a few keystrokes on a computer,a matching debt of the bank to the borrower. From the borrower's point of view this becomes loan money in his or her account. And because the government allows this debt of the bank to the borrower to be converted to government fiat currency everyone has to accept it as money. Again, the basic truth is very simple. Without the document the borrower signed the banker would have nothing to lend.Have you ever wondered how everyone, governments, corporations, small businesses, and families can all be in debt at the same time and for such astronomical amounts? Have you ever question how there could be that much money out there to lend? Now you know -there isn't! Banks do not lend money; they simply create it from debt. And as debt is potentially unlimited so is the supply of money. And as it turns out the opposite situation is also true.Isn't it astounding that despite the incredible wealth of resources, innovation, productivity that surrounds us almost all of us, from governments, to companies, to individuals are heavily in debt to bankers? If only people would stop and think, how can that be? How can it be that the people who actually produce all the real wealth in the world are in debt to those who merely lend out the money that represents the wealth? Even more amazing is that once we realize that money really is debt we realize that if there is no debt there is no money.

"That is what our money system is. If there were no debts in our money system, there wouldn't be any money."
~ Marrine S. Eccles, Chairman and Governor of the Federal Reserve Board.

If this is news to you, you are not alone. Most people imagine that if most debts were paid off the state of the economy would improve. It is certainly true on an individual level. Just as we have more money to spend when our loan payments are finished we think that if everyone were out of debt there would be more money to spend in general. But the truth is the exact opposite: there would be no money at all. There it is - we are totally dependent on continually renewed bank credit for their to be any money in existence. No loans mean no money, which is what happened during the great depression. The money supply shrank drastically, as there was a 27% reduction in the supply of loans from 1929-33.

"This is a staggering thought. We are completely dependent on the Commercial Banks. Someone has to borrow every dollar we have in circulation, cash or credit. If the banks create ample synthetic money, we are prosperous; if not, we starve. We are,absolutely, without a permanent money system. When one gets a complete grasp of the picture, the tragic absurdity of our hopeless position is almost incredible, but there it is."

~ Robert H. Hemphill, Credit Manager, Federal Reserve Bank, Atlanta,Georgia.
Perpetual Debt

That's not all, banks create only the amount of the principal. They don't create the money to pay the interest. Where is that suppose to come from? The only place that borrowers can go to obtain the money to pay the interest is the general economy's overall money supply
But almost all that overall money supply has been created exactly the same way as bank credit that has to be paid back with more than what was created. So everywhere there are other borrowers in the same situation. Frantically trying to obtain the money they need to pay back both principal and interest from a total money pool which contains only principal. It is clearly impossible for everyone to pay back the principal plus interest because the interest money doesn't exist.The big problem here is that for long term loans such as mortgages and government debt the total interest far exceeds the principal.So unless a lot of extra money is created to pay the interest it means a very high proportion of foreclosure and a non functioning economy.To maintain a functioning society the rate of foreclosure needs to be low and so to accomplish this more and more new debt money has to be created to satisfy today's demand for money to service the previous debt. But of course this just makes the total debt bigger and thatmeans more interest must be repaid resulting in an ever escalating and inescapable spiral of mounting indebtedness.It is only the time lag between money's creation as new loans and its repayment that keeps the overall shortage of money fromcatching up and bankrupting the entire system. However, as the banks insatiable credit monster gets bigger and bigger the need to create more and more debt money to feed it becomes increasingly urgent. Why are interest rates so low? Why do we get unsolicited credit cards in the mail? Why is the U.S. government spending faster than ever? Could it be to stave off collapse of the entire monetary system? A rational person has to ask can this really go on forever. Isn't a collapse inevitable?

"One thing to realize about our fractional reserve banking system is that, like a child's game of musical chairs, as long as the music is playing, there are no losers."
~ Andrew Gause, monetary historian.

Money facilitates production and trade. As the money supply increases money just becomes increasingly worthless unless the volume of production and trade in the real world grows by the same amount. Add to this the realization that when we here that the economy is growing at 3% per year it sounds like a constant rate. But its not. This year's 3% represents more real goods and services than last years 3% because it is 3% of the new total. Instead of a straight line as is naturally visualised from the words, it is really an exponential curve getting steeper and steeper.

"The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function."
~ Albert A. Bartlett, physicist →

The problem of course is that perpetual growth of the real economy requires perpetually escalating new use of real world resources and energy. More and more stuff has to go from natural resource to garbage every year, forever, just to keep the system from collapsing.

"Anyone who believes exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist."
~ Kenneth Boulding, economist

What can we do about this downright scary situation? For one thing we need a very different concept of money. Its time more people ask themselves and their governments four simple questions. Around the world governments borrow money at interest from private banks.Government debt is a major component of the total debt and servicing that debt takes a big chunk of our taxes. Now we know that banks simply create the money they lend and the government has given them permission to do this. So the first question is: Why do governments choose to borrow money from private banks at interest when government could create all the interest free money it needs itself? And the second big question is: why create money as debt at all? Why not create money that circulates permanently and doesn't have to be perpetually re-borrowed at interest in order to exist. The third question: how can a money system dependent on perpetually accelerating growth be used to build a sustainable economy? Isn't it logical that perpetually accelerating growth and sustainability are incompatible? And finally: what is it about our current system that makes it totally dependent on perpetual growth? What specifically needs to change to allow the creation of a sustainable economy?


At one time charging any interest on a loan was called usury. It was subject to severe penalties including death. Every major religion forbade usury. Most of the arguments made against the practice were moral. It was held that money's only legitimate purpose was to facilitate the exchange of goods and services. Any form of making money simply by having money was regarded as the act of a parasite or of a thief. However, as the credit means of commerce increased the moral arguments eventually gave way to the arguments that lending involves risk and loss of opportunity to the lender and therefore attempting to make a profit from lending is justified.Today these notions seem quaint. Today the notion of making money from money is held as an ideal to strive for (i.e. loans,mortgages, bonds, stock market trading, currency speculation, real estate flipping, etc). Why work when you can get your money to work for you? However, in trying to envision a sustainable future it is very clear that the charging of interest is both a moral and a practical problem. Imagine a society and an economy that can endure for centuries because instead of plundering its capital stores of energy it restricts itself to present day income. No more wood is harvested than grows in the same period. All energy is renewable (i.e. solar, wind,tidal, hyrdo, biomass, geothermal, etc). This society lives within the limits of its non renewable resources by reusing and recycling everything and the population just replaces itself.Such a society could never function using a money system utterly dependent on perpetually accelerating growth. A stable economy would need a money supply at least capable of remaining stable without collapsing. Let's say we fix the total volume of this stable money supply to a given amount. Let's also imagine that money lenders must actually have existing money to lend (i.e. no creating money as debt). If some people within this money supply begin systematically lending money supply at interest their share of the money supply willgrow. If they continually re-loan at interest all the money that get's paid back, what's the inevitable result? Whether it's gold, fiat, or debt money it doesn’t matter. The money lenders will end up with all the money. And after the foreclosures and bankruptcies are all filed they will get all the real property too.Only if the proceeds of lending at interest were evenly distributed amongst the population would this central problem be solved.Heavy taxation of bank profits might accomplish this goal. But then why would banks want to be in business. If we are ever able to free ourselves of the current situation we could imagine banking run as a non-profit service to society dispersing its interest earnings as a universal citizen dividend for lending without charging interest at all.
"I have never yet had anyone who could, through the use of logic and reason, justify the Federal Government borrowing the use of its own money...I believe the time will come when people will demand that this be changed. I believe the time will come in this country when they will actually blame you and me and everyone else connected with the Congress for sitting idly by and permitting such an idiotic system to continue."

~ Wright Patman, Democratic Congressman 1928-1976, Chairman, Committee on Banking & Currency 1963-1975.
Changing the System

If it is the fundamental nature of the system that causes the problem tinkering with the system cannot ever solve those problems. The system itself must be replaced. Many monetary critics call for a return to gold based money claiming that gold has a long history of reliability. They ignore the many scams that can be played with gold: shaving coins, debasing the metals, cornering the market, all of which were practiced in ancient Rome and contributed to its fall. Some advocate silver as being more abundant than gold and therefore more difficult to corner. Many question the need to bring back precious metals at all since commodity money distorts the value of the commodity, is easily stolen, and the supply cannot be controlled beneficially. It is a certainty that paper, digital, plastic, or more likely bio-metric ID money would be the real medium of trade with the same potential for creating unlimited debt money we have now. Beyond that if gold again became the sole legal basis of money those who had no gold would suddenly have no money. Other monetary reform advocates have concluded that greed and dishonesty are the main problems and that there may be better ways to create an honest and equitable money system than returning to silver or gold. Inventive minds have proposed a variety of alternate waysto create money. Many private barter systems create money as debt much as banks do, but it is done openly and without charging interest(i.e. Local Exchange Trading System - LETS). An example is a barter system in which debt is expressed as pledges of hours of work. All work being valued equally at a dollar figure that then allows hours to be equated with a dollar price of goods. This kind of money system can be set up by anyone who can devise a way to do the accounting and find willing and trustworthy participants. Setting up a local barter money system even if it were little used now would be prudent emergency planning for any community. Monetary reform, like electoral reform, is a big topic and one that requires a willingness to change and think outside the box. Monetary reform again like electoral reform will not come easily because of the enormously powerful interests benefiting from the existing system will do their utmost to maintain their advantage. Now that we have seen that money is just an idea (i.e. symbolic, commodity, receipt for commodity, bogus receipt, fiat (gov't cash),debt (bank credit), debt (pledge)) and in reality money can be whatever we make it, here's one very simple alternative monetary concept to consider. This model is based on systems that have worked in the past in England and America. Systems that were undermined and destroyed by the goldsmith bankers and their fractional reserve system. To create an economy based on permanent interest free money,money could simply be created and spent into the economy by the government, preferably on long lasting infrastructure that facilitates the economy, such as roads, railroads, bridges, harbours, and public markets. This money would not be created in debt but would be created as value that value being in the form of whatever it was spent on. If this new money facilitated a proportional increase in trade requiring its use it would cause no inflation whatsoever. If government spending did cause inflation there would be two courses of action available. Inflation is equivalent in effect to a flat tax on money. Whether the money goes down in value by 20% or the government takes 20% of the money away from us the effect on our buying power is the same. Viewed this way, inflation in the place of taxation might be politically acceptable if well spent and kept within limits. Or, government could choose to counter inflation by collecting tax money that it then takes out of use, thus reducing the money supply and restoring its value. To control deflation which is the phenomenon of falling wages and prices the government would simply spend more money into existence. With no competing private debt money creation, governments would have more effective control of the nation's money supply.The public would know who to blame if things went wrong. Governments would rise and fall on their ability to preserve the value of money. Governments would operate primarily on tax money as it does now but tax money would go much further as none of it would berequired to provide interest to private bankers. There could be no national debt if the federal government simply created the money itneeded. Our perpetual collective servitude to the banks through interest payments on government debt would be impossible.

"Money is a new form of slavery, and distinguishable from the old simply by the fact that it is impersonal, there is no human relation between master and slave."
~ Leo Tolstoy.

The Invisible Power

"None are more enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free."
~ Goethe.
What we have been taught to believe is democracy and freedom has become in reality an ingenious and invisible form of economicdictatorship. As long as our entire society remains utterly dependent on bank credit for its supply of money, bankers will be in the positionto make the decisions on whom or what industry gets the money they need and who doesn't.
"The modern banking system manufactures money out of nothing. The process is perhaps the most astounding piece of sleight of hand that was ever invented. Banking was conceived in iniquity and born in sin. Bankers own the Earth. Take it awayfrom them, but leave them the power to create money, and with the flick of the pen they will create enough money to buy it back again...Take this great power away from them and all great fortunes like mine will disappear, and they ought to disappear, forthen this world would be a better and happier place to live in. But if you want to continue to be slaves of the banks and pay thecost of your own slavery, then let bankers continue to create money and control credit."
~ Sir Josiah Stamp, Director, Bank of England 1928-1941 (reputed to be the 2nd richest man in England at the time).

"The inability of the Colonists to get power to issue their own money permanently out of the hands of George III and theinternational bankers was the PRIME reason for the revolutionary war."
~ Benjamin Franklin.

Few people are aware today the history of the United States since the Revolution in 1776 has been in large part the story of an epic struggle (i.e. depressions, inflations, bank panics, war, infiltration, media ownership, mass deception, assassination, "education") to getfree and stay free of control by the European international banks. This struggle was finally lost in 1913 when President Woodrow Wilson signed into effect the Federal Reserve Act putting the international banking cartel in charge of creating America's money.

"I am a most unhappy man. I have unwittingly ruined my country. A great industrial nation is controlled by its system of credit. Our system of credit is concentrated. The growth of the nation, therefore, and all our activities are in the hands of a few men. We have come to be one of the worst ruled, one of the most completely controlled and dominated Governments in the civilized world, no longer a Government by free opinion, no longer a Government by conviction and the vote of the majority, buta Government by the opinion and duress of a small group of dominant men."
~ Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States 1913-1921.

The power of this system is deeply ingrained and so is the educational and media silence on the subject. Years ago, Canadian DeputyPrime Minister, Paul Hellyer, surveyed scores of non-economists both highly educated professionals and common sense people on thestreet and found that not one of them had an accurate understanding of how money is created. In fact it’s probably safe to say that most people, including the front line employees of banks have never given the matter a moment's thought. Have you?

"All of the perplexities, confusion, and distress in America arises, not from the defects of the Constitution or Confederation, not from want of honour or virtue, so much as from downright ignorance of the nature of coin, credit, and circulation."
~ John Adams, Founding Father of the American Constitution.

The modern money as debt system was born a little over three hundred years ago when the first Bank of England was set up in 1694 with a Royal Charter for fractional lending of gold receipts at a modest ratio of two to one. That modest ratio was just the proverbial foot in the door. The system is now world wide and creates virtually unlimited amounts of money out of thin air and has almost everyone on the planet chained to a perpetually growing debt that can never be paid off. Could it have all happened by accident? Or is it a conspiracy?Obviously something very big is at stake here.

"Whoever controls the volume of money in our country is absolute master of all industry and commerce...and when you realize that the entire system is very easily controlled, one way or another, by a few powerful men at the top, you will not have tobe told how periods of inflation and depression originate."
~ James A. Garfield, assassinated President of the United States.

"The Government should create, issue, and circulate all the currency and credits needed to satisfy the spending power of the Government and the buying power of consumers. By the adoption of these principles, the taxpayers will be saved immense sums of interest. The privilege of creating and issuing money is not only the supreme prerogative of government, but it is the government's greatest creative opportunity."
~ Abraham Lincoln, assassinated President of the United States.

"Until the control of the issue of currency and credit is restored to government and recognized as its most conspicuous and sacred responsibility, all talk of sovereignty of Parliament and of democracy is idle and futile...Once a nation parts with control of its credit, it matters not who makes the nation's laws...Usury once in control will wreck any nation.”
~ William Lyon Mackenzie King, former Prime Minister of Canada (who nationalized the Bank of Canada).

"We are grateful to the Washington Post, the New York Times, Time magazine and other great publications whose directors have attended our meetings and respected the promises of discretion for almost forty years. It would have been impossible for usto develop our plan for the world if we had been subject to the bright lights of publicity during those years. But, the world is now more sophisticated and prepared to march towards a world-government. The supranational sovereignty of an intellectual elite and world bankers is surely preferable to the National auto-determination practiced in past centuries."
~ David Rockefeller in an address to Trilateral Commission meeting, 1991.

"Only the small secrets need to be protected. The big ones are kept secret by public incredulity."
~ Marshall McLuhan, media ‘guru’

“Money as Debt" was created & produced as a video documentary by Paul Grignon. "Money as Debt" owes its origin to the work of many dedicated educators and advocates of monetary reform. It is intended as a general introduction to the conceptual basis of money. To learn more, visit:

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Wired's "Uncle Sam: If It Ends in .Com, It’s .Seizable"

Wired on coercive measures the US government is taking to control the internet
(Source link)

By David Kravets
March 6, 2012

When U.S. authorities shuttered sports-wagering site last week, it raised eyebrows across the net because the domain name was registered with a Canadian company, ostensibly putting it beyond the reach of the U.S. government. Working around that, the feds went directly to VeriSign, a U.S.-based internet backbone company that has the contract to manage the coveted .com and other “generic” top-level domains.

EasyDNS, an internet infrastructure company, protested that the “ramifications of this are no less than chilling and every single organization branded or operating under .com, .net, .org, .biz etc. needs to ask themselves about their vulnerability to the whims of U.S. federal and state

But despite EasyDNS and others’ outrage, the U.S. government says it’s gone that route hundreds of times. Furthermore, it says it has the right to seizeany .com, .net and .org domain name because the companies that have the contracts to administer them are based on United States soil, according to Nicole Navas, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman.

The controversy highlights the unique control the U.S. continues to hold over key components of the global domain name system, and rips a Band-Aid off a historic sore point for other nations. A complicated web of bureaucracy and Commerce Department-dictated contracts signed in 1999 established that key domains would be contracted out to Network Solutions, which was acquired by VeriSign in 2000. That cemented control of all-important .com and .net domains with a U.S. company – VeriSign – putting every website using one of those addresses firmly within reach of American courts regardless of where the owners are located – possibly forever.

The government, Navas said, usually serves court-ordered seizures on VeriSign, which manages domains ending in .com, .net, .cc, .tv and .name, because “foreign-based registrars are not bound to comply with U.S. court orders.” The government does the same with the non-profit counterpart to VeriSign that now manages the .org domain. That’s the Public Interest Registry, which, like VeriSign, is based in Virginia.

Such seizures are becoming commonplace under the Obama administration. For example, the U.S. government program known as Operation in Our Sites acquires federal court orders to shutter sites it believes are hawking counterfeited goods, illegal sports streams and unauthorized movies and music. Navas said the U.S. government has seized 750 domain names, “most with
foreign-based registrars.” VeriSign, for its part, said it is complying with U.S. law.

“VeriSign responds to lawful court orders subject to its technical capabilities,” the company said in a statement. “When law enforcement presents us with such lawful orders impacting domain names within our registries, we respond within our technical capabilities.”

VeriSign declined to entertain questions about how many times it has done this. It often complies with U.S. court orders by redirecting the DNS (Domain Name System) of a domain to a U.S. government IP address that informs online visitors that the site has been seized (for

“Beyond that, further questions should be directed to the appropriate U.S. federal government agency responsible for the domain name seizure,” the company said.

The Public Interest Registry did not immediately respond for comment. was targeted because federal law generally makes it illegal to offer online sports wagering and to payoff online bets in the United States, even though online gambling isn’t illegal globally. was registered with a Canadian registrar, a VeriSign subcontractor, but the United States shuttered the site without any intervention from Canadian authorities or companies.

Instead, the feds went straight to VeriSign. It’s a powerful company deeply enmeshed in the backbone operations of the internet, including managing the .com infrastructure and operating root name servers. VeriSign has a cozy relationship with the federal government, and has long had a contract from the U.S. government to help manage the internet’s “root file” that is key
to having a unified internet name system.

Still, the issue of the U.S.’s legal dominion claim over all .com domains wasn’t an issue in the January seizure of the domain of, which is implicated in one of the largest
criminal copyright cases in U.S. history
. was registered in the United States with a registrar based in Washington state.

The United States would have won even more control over the internet with the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act. But the nation’s biggest online protest ever scuttled the measures, which would have allowed the government to force internet service providers in the U.S. to prevent Americans from being able to visit or find in search engines websites that the U.S. government suspected violated U.S. copyright or trademark law.

But as the Justice Department demonstrated forcefully with the takedown of Megaupload, just a day after the net’s coordinated anti-SOPA protest, it still has powerful weapons to use, despite the deaths of SOPA and PIPA.

So how does International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, the global body that oversees the domain-naming system, feel about the U.S. government’s actions? ICANN declined comment and forwarded a 2010 blog post from it’s chief Rod Beckstrom, who said ICANN has “no involvement in the takedown of any website.”

ICANN, a non-profit established by the U.S., has never awarded a contract to manage the .com space to a company outside the United States — in fact VeriSign has always held it — despite having a contentious relationship with ICANN that’s involved a protracted lawsuit. But, due to contract terms, VeriSign is unlikely to ever lose control over the immensely economically valuable .com handle.

ICANN is also seeking to distance itself from the U.S. government by being more inclusive, including allowing domain names in a range of written, global languages, ending the exclusivity of the Latin alphabet in top-level domains. Still, many outside the United States, like China, India and Russia, distrust ICANN and want control of the net’s naming system to be turned over to
an organization such as the International Telecommunications Union, an affiliate of the United Nations. Last year, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin met with Hamadoun Toure, the ITU’s chief, and said he wanted international control over the internet “using the monitoring capabilities of the International Telecommunication Union.”

“If we are going to talk about the democratization of international relations, I think a critical sphere is information exchange and global control over such exchange,” Putin said, according to a transcript from the Russian government.Just last week, Robert McDowell, a Federal Communications Commission commissioner, blasted such an idea.

“If successful, these efforts would merely imprison the future in the regulatory dungeon of the past,” he said. “Even more counterproductive would be the creation of a new international body
to oversee internet governance.”

ICANN was established in 1998 by the Clinton administration, and has been under global attack to internationalize the control of the Domain Name System ever since. A United Nations working group in 2005 concluded that “no single government should have a pre-eminent role in relation to international internet governance.”

But those pressures don’t seem to have registered with President Barack Obama’s Justice Department. Hollywood was a big donor to Obama, and Obama reciprocated by naming at least
five former Recording Industry Association of America attorneys
to posts in the Justice Department, which has been waging a crackdown on internet piracy. The Justice Department is looking for even more money in next year’s budget to hire more intellectual-property prosecutors.

Without SOPA or PIPA, the Justice Department lacks any mechanism to prevent Americans from visiting sites that are on a domain not controlled by a U.S. corporation. Knowing that, the world’s leading BitTorrent site, The Pirate Bay, recently switched its main site from a .org domain to .se, the handle for Sweden.

The Pirate Bay’s lead is unlikely to be followed by the millions of non-U.S. companies that rely on .com, which remains the net’s beachfront real estate, even if it is subject to being confiscated by the U.S. But it is possible that the U.S. government’s big-footing over dot-com domains in the name of fighting copyright could add more weight to the arguments of those who want to put the U.N. in charge of the internet’s naming system. While that’s not inevitably a bad thing, it could lead to a world where any .com might be seizable by any country, including Russia, Libya and Iran. Still, don’t expect Uncle Sam to give up its iron grip on .com without a fight.

Bust Reveals Government Runs Hacking Groups

Infowars contributor Kurt Nimo covers the FBI's provocateur project to infiltrate and instigate rogue civil society crackers.

Kurt Nimmo
March 6, 2012

(Source link)

The establishment media has characterized the leader of LulzSec ratting out his hacktivist comrades as betrayal, but the incident reveals something far more sinister – government is responsible for creating and unleashing computer hacker groups.

Hector Xavier Monsegur, said to be the leader of LulzSec, worked for the FBI, according to news reports. He was reportedly arrested in Puerto Rico last June, pleaded guilty to hacking charges, and then began working with the FBI – or so the cover story would have it.

Monsequr, aka Sabu, decided what targets to attack and who would participate in the attacks, more than likely at the direction of this FBI handlers. It is believed he participated in the Anonymous effort to hack HBGary, the security firm that works closely with the CIA, NSA, FBI, and the Pentagon.

Sabu’s Lulz Security, commonly abbreviated as LulzSec, claimed responsibility for taking the CIA website offline. It also attacked Fox News, PBS, Sony, and a number of gamer sites. LulzSec claims to have hacked local InfraGard chapter sites, the organization affiliated with the FBI, and released the emails and passwords of a number of users of

LulzSec and Anonymous attacks have provided the government with an excuse to push their cyber security agenda and propaganda campaign, including the proposal for a “kill switch” that would have allowed Obama to shut down the internet (due to public outrage, the proposal was dropped from a House bill in February).

Government and corporate groups cited LulzSec and Anonymous lawlessness last June to push the so-called Protect IP Act (known as PIPA). The introduction of a House version of the bill, dubbed SOPA (Stop Online Privacy Act), was met with public outrage and widespread activism that forced Congress to reconsider the legislation.

In October, Mother Jones revealed that the FBI is notorious for
creating supposed terrorist groups from scratch and then framing patsies in
order to claim the government is protecting the United States from terrorists
and also breathe life into an otherwise moribund war on mostly nonexistent

Sabu’s role as an FBI provocateur working inside LulzSec reveals the government is attempting to do the same in order to push its so-called cybersecurity agenda. The establishment is eager to pass a raft of legislation to closely regulate the internet, strip the medium of its anonymity, and close it down as an activism and alternative media tool.

Monday, March 5, 2012

2600: "More Active Gamers Should Become Activist Hackers"

In this article featured in the Winter 2011/2012 edition of The Hacker Quarterly, Snugglepuff argues that young people should abandon gaming in fantasy worlds and instead et their minds to something more useful like hacking to make the world a better place. Source link.

By: Snugglepuff
snugglepuff (at) operamail (dot) com

I am fortunate to personally know many talented thinkers, many of whom are avid gamers. Some are also particularly brilliant and have solved programmatic problems I can barely understand. Some spend countless hours shut off from the realities of a world they admit is broken to play in a world that mostly isn't. For so many people I associate with, the understanding of a problem and the talent to tackle it with software coexist but remain separated from any effort to do so. Some won't care until a problem reaches them personally, others just don' t give much thought to the idea that problems like corruption, censorship, and the digital divide can be tackled with code.

Far outside the scope of most of the intelligent programmers I know are the growing number of people I know because of my involvement with writing software for privacy activists. Despite having few technical skills, they are passionate about doing anything in their very limited power to make the only world they live in a better one. Armed with nothing but hope and drive, they read and comment on news articles and write letters to their elected officials (and when was the last time you did that?). They spend countless hours blogging and podcasting their ideas into the ether hoping that someone will listen and do something -- anything.

The world is run by machines. They aren't using us as batteries because there's no reason to, with us being so willing to bum coal for them. Decisions are made with data which is or should be transformed into meaningful information and whether that information is accessible or not is less a matter of policy and more a matter of engineering. Elections in democratic countries are won by a fickle "swing vote" of voters with no ideology to predict their vote with. Their decision is composed slowly by a trickle of information about their choices until literal bits of information pull them harder in one direction than others. The control of information by censorship, misinformation, media bias, and lack of basic access to and understanding of technology resources are by and large engineering problems with engineering solutions. In a post-Wikileaks world, to believe that one can't make a serious impact in a world increasingly governed by software as a software developer is completely ridiculous and illustrates a disconnect from reality that seems to grow the longer one escapes from it.

Serious coding takes time. So does serious gaming. Both can be enjoying and frustrating, but ultimately the act of creating something leaves behind it a measurable value of utility that can be shared with the world as infinitely as people can access it. When someone has the ability to do one or the other, that person should realize, with whatever part of their conscience isn't governed by virtual currencies, that they are choosing to neglect the potential use of their skills for more than a few meaningful purposes. If you're already spending your weekends or weeknights helping people help each other, whether by programming or traditional volunteering, good for you. Welcome to the choir! For everyone else, hear ye:

People desperate to see change happen in their lifetimes across the world don't give a shit about your level 60 night e l f. Time is life. If you value your life outside of gameplay, it might be time to start looking for ways to prove that value in the greater context of history. Start hacking.

2600 Reflecting on the Role Hackerdom Played on the Rise of 2011's Social Movements

The following editorial I copied and pasted from the Winter 2011/2012 edition of 2600 The Hacker Quarterly. The source link here is not from the official 2600 website b/c they don't post the articles up online. The source link is from some random site I found with Google.

Original Title: "Movement"
2600 Editorial Team

While we can only speculate on what 2012 will bring, it seems fairly certain that 2011 will be remembered as a year when individuals worldwide began to feel empowered and when, more than ever before, the old guard was put on notice that its policies need to adapt and change with the times - or risk becoming extinct.

We've gone on at length before about the value of the individual, how we all have so much more power than we're led to believe, and how it serves the status quo to have us all convinced that we can't possibly make any difference. Our belief in this has never wavered, but it's essential to have it borne out in practice, as the theoretical can only go so far. After the last year, we can point with certainty towards various key examples that show how much individuals can accomplish with a little dedication, coupled with a degree of mastery in the world of technology. We can also point to the reaction these people get from those in charge as proof of the threat they pose to their power structure.

Freedom and empowerment are concepts that, once unleashed, spread quite rapidly. We saw that earlier in the year, as the Arab Spring took hold. I t all started with Mohamed Bouazizi, a street vendor in Tunisia who became so fed up with the constant corruption and humiliation that made it impossible for him to earn a living that he sacrificed his own life as the ultimate form of protest. The outrage from fellow citizens mushroomed and led to massive protests and the actual fall of the government less than a month later. According to The New York Times, "The protesters, led at first by unemployed college graduates... and later joined by workers and young professionals, found grist for the complaints in leaked cables from the United States Embassy in Tunisia, released by WikiLeaks, that detailed the self-dealing and excess of the president's family." The government had its state-run media to whitewash the news. The people had social networking and cell phones to get and share updates. I t was no contest.

The unrest spread to neighboring countries, leading to significant conflicts in no less than 16 of them, the most significant being Egypt, Libya, and Syria. The tensions had always been there. But once the fuse was lit, there was no turning back.

Domestically, we've witnessed much in the way of stress and hardship, but nothing that comes close to events in other parts of the world. However, while we may not have had security forces killing demonstrators or a repressive regime that tolerates no dissent at all, we, like all humans, have a sense of justice and can only be pushed around so much before something snaps. That appears to have been the case with September's Occupy Wall Street movement, a simple protest inspired by our friends over at Adbusters magazine, which wound up getting bigger and bigger before eventually spreading to hundreds of sites throughout the country and across the world. While the mass media initially mocked, ridiculed, and basically ignored these protests, supposedly due to the lack of a clear list of "demands" from the demonstrators, the movement actually became strengthened as a result. Since there wasn't a clear agenda, anyone who felt that the system wasn't working was able to join and help determine what path to take. Alliances were thus formed that wouldn't have been possible had all of the answers been laid out from the beginning, as would be expected in a typical political movement. It was an unusual tactic, but clearly an effective one. And the media's agenda of ignoring what was going on became painfully visible, which led to more outrage and an eventual about face on their part. Suddenly, the movement became front page news everywhere.

The concept of a group that had no leadership was very similar to that of Anonymous, an online entity which has become increasingly active in the "real world" as well as on the net. The Guy Fawkes masks they embraced were quite visible worldwide at many of the Occupy sites. But anonymity was only an option, not a main ingredient in what was going on. The lack of a hierarchy and the development of the
Occupy Wall Street General Assembly enabled any individual to speak to the crowd through the ingenious use of a "human microphone," created out of necessity due to an arbitrary ban on megaphones. This adaptability and desire to bypass unfair restrictions using clever tactics
is something we're all familiar with in the hacker world.

At press time, there have been a number of violent crackdowns on these groups by the authorities. While all kinds of excuses were given, ranging from health concerns to reports of crimes and illegal activities within the camps (much of which was echoed almost verbatim by mainstream media), many firsthand accounts dispute the degree of such problems. Actions caught on video clearly show that the people targeted were posing no threat to anyone, other than refusing to obey orders. Whenever we see this kind of reaction displayed by an authority figure, we know what it means, whether it's a high school principal expelling a student for some mischief on a computer, a corporation firing an employee for discovering a security hole, or a parent sending their kid to reform school or feeding them drugs because they're "out of control." It means the authority figure is desperately afraid of no longer being in charge of the situation. They begin to act increasingly irrational and they view the individual as the sole source of the problem. This is always the wrong course of action.

Listening to, learning from, and opening a dialogue with an individual is the only way to take positive steps. This is true regardless of how much or how little we agree with what they're saying or doing. For us in the hacker world, this is old news. But what's different is seeing this sort of thing playing out on
a different stage and seeing how those in charge are truly afraid of the kind of dialogue that empowers individuals. That alone is a milestone.

We've also seen tremendous growth in the use of technology by individuals for truly worthwhile goals. While social networking and smart phones were never designed to foment civil unrest, used properly they are invaluable tools in a movement gathering steam. Overseas, people used Facebook and Twitter to quickly organize mass demonstrations before the authorities knew what was happening. Attempts to restrict access to these services backfired badly. In the States, similar tactics were used by demonstrators, with the addition of numerous live video feeds from cities all over the country. When something happened, the whole world could literally be watching. Live. When the crackdown occurred in New York City, there were no less than four separate live streams being fed by people's smart phones, all with surprisingly good video quality and relatively decent audio. Well over 50,000 people were tuned in to these feeds, with many more picking them up from secondary sources. As interest in what was going on swelled, the mass media even joined in, simulcasting these streams since they hadn't been able to get behind the police barricades themselves. The people had literally
become the media.

We've learned a great deal from these events. The hacker world, the ideals of full disclosure, the distrust of governments and corporations, the embracing and manipulation of high tech, the desire for free speech, the empowerment of the individual….these are all intrinsically linked together. It really does all

But there's a flipside. There will always be people and entities who see all of this as a threat and who will try and control it. That's a battle that will never end and which will be fought in a variety of arenas. We see it every day in the form of corporate copyright abuses, antiquated business practices that fight technological advances, increased government secrecy, or the suspicion that's injected into the populace towards anyone who doesn't quite think, act, or look like everyone else.

In other words, individuals may have shown their ability to manipulate technology in a way that benefits them with these actions of 2011 . But those opposed to this sort of thing have been taking notes and will be better prepared to counter this ingenuity the next time around. As hackers and developers of new technology, we need to always have this on our minds, as the true future of freedom, both here and abroad, can be greatly affected by what we choose to consider as a priority.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

NDW: On Jesus's Message

The following is a letter to the editor featured in Neale Donald Walsch's Weekly Bulletin (Number 477) from Saturday 25 February 2012. Very insightful. I thought I would copy it here on my blog. While Neale at some points quotes the bible without citing the exact passage as bible scholars do, you can simply Google the quotes to find their proper citations.
Dear Neale...I'm new with this and have not read your books , being that I have poor vision and they are not in large print and I'm on disability and can't afford the CDs . I have two questions; 1. Who was Jesus and what does God say about Him? 2. I'm a Reiki Master and is doing Reiki to Help people OK with God ? Thank You, Love , Brian ..

Neale Donald Walsch Responds

Dear Brian.....I want to take your second question first, because it is much easier to answer. Of course is it "okay with God" to do Reiki "to help people." It is okay to do ANYTHING "to help people." How can helping people in any form not be okay with God?

Now, to your first inquiry...

Brian, you've asked what many consider to be the central question of the century. The impact of Jesus' life was so extraordinary, it will never be forgotten. That is because Jesus was/is a savior to all humankind. As are you and I.

Now, the difference between you and me and Jesus is that he donned the mantle, wore the cloak, accepted the responsibility. Most of us have not. In that sense, Jesus is our savior. For he did with his life what very few of us have done with ours. He did what we all came here to do! And in so doing it, he "saved" us from the necessity of doing it at all, if we do not wish.

Let me explain. We have all come to save the world. Not from the "snares of the devil," or from "everlasting damnation." (As CWG teaches, there is so such thing as the devil, and damnation does not exist.) We have come to save the world from its own mistaken notion of itself.

We are, right now, living in a world of our own creation, a non-truth, an experience which has nothing to do with ultimate reality, or with Who We Really Are. Jesus knew this. He also knew Who He Really Was. And he declared it, for all to hear. He declared something else as well. He said that what he did on the earth, we could do also.

Some people do not believe this. They cannot believe that they could be given--indeed, that they have been given--the same abilities as Jesus. Yet this level of faith is the key to experiencing those gifts. That is what Jesus taught. That was his central message. I think a careful reading of the following pages (CWG Book 1) would help provide clarity for you about this: pages 52, 55, 67, 86, 180 and 197.

I wrote a booklet, Recreating Yourself, which addresses much of this directly. In it, I make the point that it was Jesus himself who said, "According to your faith be it unto you." It was Jesus himself who said, "0 woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt." And the woman's daughter was made whole from that very hour. And it was Jesus himself who said, "If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you."

Yet if you cannot believe in yourself and in your own divine heritage (and because so many people cannot), Jesus set himself before us as the Sample. As the Model. As the Example and Expression of who we all really are. He wanted you to know that you can do it, you can be it, you are it. And in an act of enormous love and compassion, Jesus invited you, if you cannot believe in yourself, to believe in him. The idea being that if you can believe it is possible for one person to do it, you can believe it is possible for all people to do it.

Jesus didn't come here to show you how much greater than you he is, but how much greater you can be. Be demonstrating what he can do, he wanted to show you what you can do.

"Verily, verily I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it."

Isn't that an extraordinary promise? So great and so complete was Jesus' understanding of who he was, and of who you are ("I and my Father are one" he said, and later, "all ye are brethren"), that he knew deeply there was no limit to what you could do if you believed in yourself, or in what was true about you because of what was true about him.

Could there be a mistake about Jesus' declarations here? Could there be a misinterpretation? No. His words are very clear. He wanted you to consider yourself one with the Father, exactly as he is one with God. So great was his love for all humankind, and so full was his compassion at their suffering, that he called upon himself to rise to the highest level, to move to the grandest expression of his being, in order to present a living example to all human beings everywhere. And then he prayed that we would not only see the evidence of his oneness with the Father, but of our own as well.

"And for their sakes I sanctify myself that they also might be sanctified through the truth. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one."

You can't be much clearer than that.

Conversations with God tells us that all of us are members of the Body of God, though we imagine ourselves to be separate, and not part of God at all.

Christ understood our difficulty in believing that we were part of God, part of God's very body. Yet Christ did believe this of himself. It was therefore a simple matter (and a marvelous inspiration) for him to invite those who could not imagine themselves to be a part of God to imagine themselves to be a part of him. For he had already declared himself to be a part of God, and if we could simply believe that we were a part of Christ, through the simple truth of our Oneness with each other, with everyone...we would by extension necessarily be a part of God.

Jesus must have emphasized this point of our Oneness with each other, and therefore with him, many times, because the record of his teachings, and the commentaries upon them in the Bible contain countless references to our interrelationship. String just a few of these separate references together and you have an extraordinary revelation:

I and my Father are one. (John 10:30)

And the glory which Thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one. (John 17:22)

I in them, and Thou in me, that they may be made perfect in One. (John 17:23)

That the love wherewith Thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them. (John 17:26)

So we, being many, are one body in Christ; and everyone members, one of another. (Romans 12:5)

Now he that planteth and he that watereth are One. (1 Corinthians 3:8)

For we, being many, are one bread, and One Body: for we are all partakers of that one bread. (1 Corinthians 10:17)

For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by One Spirit are we all baptized into One Body, whether we be Jews or gentiles, whether we be bound or free; and have been all made to drink into One Spirit for the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? (1 Corinthians 12-16)

But now are they many members, yet but One Body. (1 Corinthians 12:20)

The Bible could not be more clear. Jesus could not have said it more directly. All of us are members of the Body of Christ. All of us are the Christed One. And if Christ is one with God, so, too, are we. We simply do not know it. Refuse to believe it. Cannot imagine it.

Yet it is not true that going through Jesus is required in order to be going with Jesus. Jesus never uttered such words, nor did he come close. That was not his message. His message was: If you cannot believe in me, if you do believe that I am who I say I am, what with all that I have done, then you will never, ever believe in yourself, in who you are, and your own experience of God will be virtually unattainable. Jesus said what he said, did what he did --- performed miracles, healed the sick, raised the dead --- even raised himself from the dead--that we might know Who He Was...and thus know also Who We Really Are. It is this second part of the equation which is most often left out of the traditional doctrine about Christ.

You see, Jesus is our savior, to the degree that he has saved us from the illusion of our own separation from God. Jesus is the Son of God, as are we all.

As are we all.

Beginning in February, 2012 I began sharing a very daring teaching. I did so then because I saw the world entering a very important period of its evolution, a time of change and a time of great expansion in our consciousness, and I knew that people were more ready than ever before to hear a very particular message.

"Imagine what your life would be like," I began saying everywhere I went, "if you told yourself before entering any moment, any space, or any experience: 'I have come that you may have life...and that you may have it more abundantly.' What would it be like if you thought of yourself in this way? Do you dare to do so? Is it sacrilegious? Is it blasphemous? Is it heresy or apostasy? Or is it your Natural State of Being?

"If you embrace it at last as your Natural State of Being, you will change your life forever--and the lives of all those whose life you touch."

You will have accepted the central invitation of Christianity, which from the beginning has been the same: To Be A Christed One.

I hope you have found this reply helpful as you continue your own search for your own answers to life's most challenging questions.



Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Economist on Unrest in China

A dangerous (but exciting) year
Economic conditions and social media are making protests more common in China—at a delicate time for the country’s rulers
Jan 28th 2012 | CHENGDU, DONGGUAN AND WUKAN VILLAGE | from the print edition

IN AN industrial zone near Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province in south-west China, a sign colourfully proclaims the sprawl of factories to be a “delightful, harmonious and happy district”. Angry steelworkers must have winced as they marched past the slogan in their thousands in early January, demanding higher wages. Their three-day strike was unusually large for an enterprise owned by the central government. But, as China’s economy begins to grow more sedately, more such unrest is looming.

China’s state-controlled media kept quiet about the protest that began on January 4th in Qingbaijiang District, a 40-minute drive north-east of Chengdu on an expressway that crosses a patchwork of vegetable fields and bamboo thickets. But news of the strike quickly broke on the internet. Photographs circulated on microblogs of a large crowd of workers from Pangang Group Chengdu Steel and Vanadium being kept away from a slip road to the expressway by a phalanx of police. Word spread that police had tried to disperse the workers with tear gas. In the end, as they tend to—and undoubtedly acting on government orders—factory officials backed down, partially at least. The workers got a raise, albeit a smaller one than they wanted. Managers’ wages were frozen.

Strikes have become increasingly frequent at privately owned factories in recent years, often involving workers demanding higher wages or better conditions. Private firms, like state ones, are usually strong-armed by officials into buying off strikers. The thinking is that capitulating keeps a lid on news coverage and helps to prevent unrest from spreading. Yet the explosive growth in the use of home-grown versions of Twitter has made it easy for protesters to convey instant reports and images to huge audiences. The Communist Party’s capacity to stop ripples of unease from widening is waning—just as economic conditions are making trouble more likely.

Anger at the bottom

At a cheap restaurant in Qingbaijiang, opposite a dormitory compound for Pangang employees, grimy steelworkers complain that the government’s promise of an extra 260 yuan ($41) a month is hardly enough. Many of the lowest-paid earn as little as $190 monthly. But the workers know that the steel industry is struggling—and that vengeance on persistent troublemakers can be fierce. A police notice warns of legal action, including imprisonment, against any strikers who continue “disrupting public order”. Security agents follow your correspondent in an unmarked car.

All this is partly a result of the curb on China’s stimulus spending and carefree (reckless, many would say) bank lending in the wake of the global financial crisis of 2008. There are fewer new construction projects; demand for steel has flattened. Pangang’s plant in Qingbaijiang is running at a loss. The number of steel firms in the red rose from nine in September to 25 a month later. Even though the government is less worried about inflation now than it was a few months ago, and is releasing the economic brakes a little, the steel industry is expecting a lean period. Some firms might have to close.

Overall economic growth is still looking robust. In the final three months of 2011 China’s economy grew by 8.9% compared with the same period a year earlier—enviable by almost anyone else’s standards, though still the slowest since the second quarter of 2009. The slowdown has so far been gentle, and in line with government efforts to prevent overheating. But this does not stop officials worrying that the coming year could be unusually difficult.
Europe is the biggest buyer of Chinese products—and the euro zone’s travails have plunged many manufacturers into despair. Depressed demand in both Europe and America has taken its toll on factories. The steelworkers’ strike was one of many in recent months, most of them in China’s export-manufacturing heartlands near the coast (see map).

Chinese exporters do not face as big a shock now as they did in late 2008, when the financial crisis caused a sudden collapse in demand and the loss of as many as 20m migrant-labour jobs. But that time China’s recovery was rapid, helped by stimulus spending of 4 trillion yuan (more than $630 billion at today’s exchange rate), as well as developed economies’ own stimulus projects. The impact on migrant workers was further mitigated by the coincidence of the worst of the downturn with the lunar new-year holiday, when most migrants go home for lengthy periods.

This time exporters face protracted slow growth in developed economies, and the risk that the euro zone’s difficulties might worsen. China’s policymakers do not want another lending spree that might burden the financial system with more bad debt, on top of the borrowing accumulated during the previous binge. The country’s relatively low budget deficit (about 2.5% of GDP in 2010) gives it room to spend more on social housing, social security, tax cuts for small firms and consumer subsidies. These could help promote private consumption—eventually.

Nerves at the top

The long-term plan is for China to wean itself off its reliance on exports and investment projects such as roads, railways and overpriced property developments, and for domestic consumption of goods and services to play a much bigger role in fuelling growth. But this rebalancing will be a long, hard slog. Officials do not want shock therapy because it could threaten the jobs of many of the 160m migrants who come from the countryside to provide the cheap labour behind China’s exports.

This economic quandary has become more acute at what is a delicate political moment for the Communist Party. Later this year (probably in October or November), the party will hold its five-yearly Congress, the 18th since its founding in 1921, at which sweeping changes in the country’s top leadership will begin to unfold.

The Congress will “elect” a new 300-member central committee (in fact it will be hand-picked by senior leaders). This will immediately meet to rubber-stamp the appointment of a new Politburo, a body that currently has 25 members. All but two of the Politburo’s nine-member inner circle, the Politburo Standing Committee, will be replaced. Two appointments are all but certain: Vice-president Xi Jinping to take over from President Hu Jintao (as party chief after the Congress and as president next March); and Li Keqiang to replace his boss, the prime minister, Wen Jiabao, also next March. There will be much jockeying for the other slots.

It is a decade since China experienced a leadership changeover on this scale—and the first time since the late 1980s that the advent of a new generation of leaders has coincided with such a troubled patch for the economy. The previous time, in 1988, an outbreak of inflation threw Deng Xiaoping’s succession plans into disarray, giving conservatives ammunition with which to attack his liberal protégés. The party’s strife erupted into the open the following year as students demanding greater freedom gathered in Tiananmen Square.

The threats to the party today are very different, but fear of large-scale unrest still haunts the leadership. The past decade has seen the emergence of a big middle class—nearly 40% of the urban population, as some Chinese scholars define it—and a huge migration from the countryside into the cities. The party takes no chances. Large numbers of plainclothes police are on permanent watch in and around Tiananmen Square. (Since 2008, visitors to the vast plaza have had to undergo airport-type scanning and searches.) Early last year, when anonymous calls began circulating on the internet for citizens to gather in central Beijing in sympathy with the uprisings that were breaking out in the Arab world, the location specified was not Tiananmen but Wangfujing, a shopping street nearby. The police responded by flooding that area with officers too.

In the Pearl River Delta, which produces about a third of China’s exports, there are plenty of signs of malaise. Outside a Taiwanese-owned factory in Dongguan, a dozen or so police officers wearing helmets and carrying clubs watch a small group of angry workers complain that the owner has run away. The factory (which makes massage seats) is unable to pay its debts. They are afraid that, this time, after the lunar new year break they will have no jobs to come back to. A plainclothes policeman tries to silence them. Then a uniformed officer moves in with a video camera, and most of the workers retreat, keeping a prudent silence.

Others in the delta have been less reticent. In November thousands of employees at a Taiwanese shoe factory in Dongguan took to the streets in protest against salary cuts and sackings, purportedly caused by declining orders. Protesters overturned cars and clashed with police. Photographs of bloodied workers circulated on the internet. There have been further protests in recent weeks.

Guangdong province also saw a wave of strikes in 2010. At that time workers—mainly in factories supplying the car industry—were demanding only higher pay and improved conditions. Most of those disputes were quickly and peacefully settled, and rarely involved action on the streets. The latest spate of confrontations looks different. The steelworkers at the state-owned factory near Chengdu wanted a raise; but, these days, rather than bidding to improve their lots, workers are mostly complaining about wages and jobs being cut. The strikers seem more militant.

A report published this month by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) says that, compared with those in 2010, the strikes of 2011 were better organised, more confrontational and more likely to trigger copycat action. “Workers are not willing this time to accept that they have to make sacrifices for the national good because firstly they have already made enough sacrifices, and secondly, fewer are willing to just pack up and go home,” says Geoff Crothall of China Labour Bulletin, an NGO in nearby Hong Kong.

Where the heart is

The government hopes that jobless migrants will return to their home villages, where they or their families still enjoy a tiny land entitlement on which they can subsist, or find work closer to their hometowns. Many will: job opportunities in the interior have grown in the past few years, thanks to a surge of government investment in central and western areas, aimed at evening out economic growth.

Last year Chongqing, a region in south-west China which had long exported large numbers of workers to the coast, for the first time employed more of its surplus rural workforce locally than it sent to other areas. Chongqing’s party chief, Bo Xilai, is believed to be a contender for the Politburo Standing Committee. He has been trying to turn Chongqing into a model for the absorption of rural labour into cities, a project that has involved vast spending on low-cost housing to accommodate the region’s migrants.

But rising numbers of migrant workers in big cities—more than 60% according to the National Bureau of Statistics in 2010—are themselves the offspring of migrants and have no experience of agricultural life. They regard themselves as urbanites, even if they are excluded from many of the welfare benefits to which city-dwellers are entitled. They are better educated than their parents’ generation, and more assertive. A riot by migrants last June in Dadun, another factory town in Guangdong where many of the country’s jeans are produced, hinted at the problems China could face if second-generation migrants lose hope. The manhandling of a pregnant woman by security guards prompted two days of violence, with thousands of migrants setting fire to vehicles and government buildings. Strikes in coastal factories now mainly involve second-generation migrants, according to the report by CASS.

Such unrest is not about to topple the party. As Chinese officials nervously digest the implications of unrest in the Arab world, demonstrations in Russia and an easing of repression in Myanmar, they draw comfort from the consistency of Chinese opinion polls. These appear to show high levels of trust in the central leadership and of optimism about the future under party rule. Many ordinary Chinese are contemptuous of local authorities, but still believe that leaders in Beijing are benign.

The power of weibo

But according to Victor Yuan of Horizon, a polling company in Beijing, citizens’ satisfaction with their own lives and confidence in the government, though high, experienced a “big drop” in 2010 and didn’t recover last year. Confidence in the government has fallen by about 10 percentage points, to around 60%.
Mr Yuan says the rapid spread of microblogs has contributed to this decline. By the end of last year, weibo, as Chinese versions of Twitter (itself blocked in China) are known, were used by nearly half of the 513m Chinese who had accessed the internet in the previous six months (see chart). This was slightly more than the number who used e-mail and a rise of nearly fourfold over the year before, according to the government-affiliated China Internet Network Information Centre. Li Chunling of CASS estimates that 90% of urban internet users under 30 are microbloggers.

Weibo have transformed public discourse in China. News that three or four years ago would have been relatively easy for local officials to suppress, downplay or ignore is now instantly transmitted across the nation. Local protests or scandals to which few would once have paid attention are now avidly discussed by weibo users. The government tries hard, but largely ineffectively, to control this debate by blocking key words and cancelling the accounts of muckraking users. Circumventions are easily found. Since December the government has been rolling out a new rule that people must use their real names to open accounts. So far, users seem undeterred.

In the build-up to the 18th Congress, China’s leaders will become especially anxious to prevent embarrassment to the party. Weibo are likely to make their lives a lot more difficult—at least that was the lesson from a ten-day stand-off in December between police and residents of the coastal village of Wukan in Guangdong.

The villagers’ protest was typical of thousands that roil the Chinese countryside every year: a complaint about the seizure of agricultural land by local officials for private redevelopment. Unusually, however, in Wukan citizens took control of their village and drove out party hacks and police. Officials were alarmed by images that circulated onweibo of triumphant residents rallying in the centre of their village, like students in Tiananmen Square 22 years ago (see the picture at the start of this piece). They tried, unsuccessfully, to stop news spreading by ordering a block on the village’s name and location.

The villagers gave up their protest on December 21st after a rare, high-profile intervention by the Guangdong party leadership, which promised to look into their complaints. Remarkably, on January 15th the protest leader, Lin Zuluan, was appointed as the village’s new party chief (the previous one having disappeared, it is thought into custody). Even the party’s main mouthpiece in Beijing broke its silence on the issue, saying it showed that local officials should stop treating citizens as adversaries. Wang Yang, Guangdong’s party chief, who is believed to be a contender for a senior Politburo position this year, said the incident demonstrated how people’s “democratic consciousness” was getting stronger. He called on officials not to ignore citizens’ concerns.

Few regard the Wukan episode as a turning point for the party. At least one protester on Tiananmen Square has since been seen being dragged away by police in the usual fashion. But it has stirred debate, online at least, about how the party should respond to protests and other forms of public pressure. And villagers in Wukan warn that they will not be satisfied until they have reclaimed their land. One protest leader says there could be another, “even bigger” uprising.

Not everyone has a home to go to

The new leadership that will take over after the upcoming Congress will quickly face tests of its ability to handle social unrest. Even if the country does not appear on the brink of an Arab-style upheaval, many Chinese academics say the next few years could see burgeoning instability, exacerbated by slower economic growth and a widening gap between rich and poor. China’s outgoing leaders have tried to suppress debate about ways of reforming the political system to allow the public to voice their grievances more freely. But many analysts believe there is a pressing need for such reform. Today’s “China model”, as some in China and abroad were tempted to call it after Western economies fell into disarray three years ago, appears increasingly unsustainable.

Chinese roulette

An intriguing glimpse of how at least some in the party elite might see things was offered last April when Zhang Musheng, a prominent intellectual, published a book calling for a revival of the one-time Maoist goal of building a “new democracy”. General Liu Yuan, the son of Liu Shaoqi who was China’s president during the Mao era, openly backed the idea. Mr Zhang (himself the son of a late senior official, as are several of the new leaders-to-be) said a new democracy would involve continued party rule but with much greater freedom.

Few of China’s liberals believe there is much chance of any leader pursuing this idea in the near future. But Mr Zhang’s description of China today has struck a chord (and has been circulated widely by weibo users). A well-known economist, Wu Jinglian, picked up a phrase of Mr Zhang’s in an essay in Caijing, a Beijing magazine, in which he attacked the notion of a “China model” and called for political reform. The phrase of Mr Zhang’s that made an impression was one describing China as “playing pass the parcel with a time bomb.”