All posts by Thomas Spellman

US Notes and Reforming the Money System

This post is a response to a friend who suggested that JFK fought the Fed by printing US Notes:

My understanding is that US Notes were in circulation from 1862 until they were retired in 1971. There was a printing in 1963, but also in 1953 and 1928, in order to maintain the quantity already in circulation. There’s no evidence I’ve found that JFK directly attempted to increase the amount in circulation. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Note)

As I understand it, and I have looked at the balance sheet of the Fed to verify it (http://www.federalreserve.gov/boarddocs/rptcongress/annual07/sec2/c3.htm#nl7), any interest that the Fed gets from the bonds backing the FRNs above its operating costs is returned to the Treasury. The main source of the compounding US Government debt is not from the Fed printing the notes, or even holding the bonds backing them. Rather it’s that the US Government is printing interest-bearing bonds to cover its operating costs and selling them on the open market to foreign and global banks, foreign central banks, used for reserves, etc. The responsibility lies with the US Government; it’s not a Fed problem. There is however the complicating factor that the Fed sets the interest rates.

In my opinion, just getting rid of the Fed doesn’t address the core problem, which is that the US Gov is using bonds to pay for its budget, and requiring interest bearing notes as banking reserves. The most intelligent reform I’ve seen is http://nesara.org/ which suggests and offers a bill that uses a basket of interest-free US Notes and some gold/silver as the backbone of the economy. It would also change lending laws to remove compound interest from loans, only allowing fees to cover the actual costs of lending. This would basically change the banking and finance system into a highly regulated public utility, which I think it should be.  This is “our” money system after all.

Community

In a conversation with a friend this morning, the topic of watching TV shows came up.  My friend felt a but bad about watching shows such as Grey’s Anatomy and Lost, feeling like it was wasting time that could be used for walking in the woods, or reading a book.  My response was that I think these TV shows serve the purpose of including us in the daily dramas of a community.  We desire to watch these shows when we’re desiring more of a sense of beng a part of a community, which includes all these little sub stories and character dramas that we get from TV shows.

This is similar to my view of films, which are our modern equivalent of the tribal oral story teller.  We evolved over countless ages with myths, legends, and stories, all told orally.  Today, we are missing that, and in its place, we have film.  Film offers us our creation myths, our social teachings, a sense of who we are within our society, role models, a guiding principles.

Gamification talk at Google

Gamification talk at Google.

The speaker makes a few very interesting points in this talk that I’d like to react to.  Perhaps he makes them somewhere else that it’d be easier to quote, but I need to get my thoughts written while they’re fresh in my mind.

One point was that introducing rewards to an existing behavior will “always” link that behavior to the rewards such that if the rewards are removed, the behavior will end or diminish to significantly less than it was before the gaming began.  One example given is that of United Airline’s 1 million miles frequent flyer club, at the time the highest rewards level.  When people got there, they started flying with different carriers because there was no incentive to continue with United.  United then added higher levels, to keep the “game” going.

My reaction is that maybe there’s another factor at work having to do with some reciprocal value the flyer is getting, along the lines of provenance … or history … but then again, above 1 million miles they would still have had the record of more miles, but were not interested in continuing to acquire them because there was no secondary “status bonus” to get more.

Another point was that in gamification, the biggest winner is the “house,” i.e. the casino.  One example was the X Prize given to the first private space mission.  The X Prize foundation got more free press than anyone else benefitted in the actual prize, and the winner was funded by a billionaire and would have achieved the goal without any contest.

A question this sparked for me is: what happens in a scenario where a game is actually multi-user generated and interwoven such that every player is potentially also a house?  In this situation, then, the winners are not only those who acquire the most bonuses, but also those whose bonuses are acquired most?  This is the closest analogy I can think of to the idea of the kind of inter-trading system that I’m developing.

This is also related to another concept like an internet protocol, and the users of the protocol.  The more people use it, the more successful the protocol is and the more likely people will use it for new projects.  This underscores the benefit in this case of the protocol being open source and public domain, so that the “house” is not siphoning away value from the users.

The second point about the biggest winner being the house relates to another question I have about gamification, which is the effect that the observer or house has on the flows that it’s gaming.  This is akin to the idea of the observer affecting the observed.  It’s not possible to measure a flow without to some degree affecting the flow.  It’ not possible to filter a flow without running the flow through the filter, which at the very least slows down the flow.

And here’s another speaker from a different perspective, talking about how much more effective intrinsic motivation is for a different kind of task,  such as right-brain thinking.  He labels the main drivers as Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose.  He’s speaking mainly of the white collar skilled work force.

http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_pink_on_motivation.html

Cash is for SAPS

Status, Access, Power, Stuff

It’s what customers really want, in that order. And this list is also prioritized by “most sticky” and “cheapest to fulfill”.

via Cash is for SAPS | Gamification Blog.

When I read the above, I had a nebulus queezy feeling arise in my stomach.  “Does it really boil down to that?”  Can our collective Id be defined by SAPS?  The article is explaining that in marketing a product to a customer, one needs to realize that those should be the priorities, rather than focusing too much on some kind of cash or “stuff”-based incentive.  I thought to my self that the SAPS model is to “stuff” what my intuition is telling me that my deeper, more universal priorities are to “status”.  Well, if that’s true, I asked my self, then what would I label my top driving motivations in life?  Off the top of my head I came up with: Beauty, Esteem, Excellence, Empathy, Enlightenment, or BEEEE…  That list could probably be shortened to Beauty and Empathy (BE.)

Ha, sounds kinda like hoky new agey spiritual BS, doesn’t it? It does even a bit to me, and yet those are the first labels that came to my mind for my top drivers.  Now, to clarify, the article is talking about priorities in the context of customers in relationship with a commercial marketer, whereas I’m talking about self in relation to Self.  There’s a big difference between these paradigms…. or is there?

In one sense the commercial context is rooted in an existing economic paradigm based on competition within a field of scarcity.  As we humans are creatures of Nature, we will vie with each other for scarce resources in order to survive and be as successful as possible, Naturally (*).  When there is excessive competition, the priorities of SAPS most definitely become uppermost.

As a contrast, people who live within indigenous cultures that have existed on this earth sustainably for countless ages have a very different set of drivers.  It’s difficult for me to define, being that I’m a member of modern society.  But based on a combination of my own intuition and reading about their world view, it seems to me that their drivers are more about caring for each other, having a sense of belonging to the tribe and the landl, having freedom to be as one needs to, and being surrounded with an abundant and nourishing environment that offers everything one needs to live.

On the face of it, the indigenous culture agenda seems like a very different set of priorities than the SAPS model, but ironically each of the 4 descriptions of that view can be interpreted fairly directly by one of status, access, power, and stuff.  However, there’s still a huge difference.  What is it?

To be continued …

* For some, this might not be a given, at least when worded like that, such as to people who view serving others and one’s community as being as much if not more important than serving one’s self.  Well, it can be easily argued that serving others is in fact better for one’s self, when it is collectively reciprocated in the form of the universal Golden Rule.

towards a stable global economy

On 5/2/11, at 11:22 PM, Thomas H. Greco wrote:> One can conceive of many “disasters” looming for the global economy– world peace, a cure for cancer, etc.

Thomas, I think your reference to the global economy is more the global compounding debt money banking pyramid scheme …

I think global economy and trade will of course continue and will be improved with more sound, equitable, and sustainable global currencies. In this realm, Ellen Brown’s recent posts about the role that national banks play has been really enlightening to me. If you look at the national debt more simply as the debit side of a mutual credit system, then Japan’s and the US’s huge debts owed to their central banks at or near zero interest are actually GOOD in terms of enabling a plentitude of circulating currency, assuming those debts remain interest-free. In thinking about national currency in this manner, I’ve been realizing that the “reform” of the money system is a lot closer and more attainable than I’d previously thought possible. The solution is more a matter of how the existing systems are managed, than any kind of a systemic overhaul. Japan seems to have it pretty well figured out. It’s strange though that the private credit rating system that is threatening to lower the US’s credit rating is actually the most at odds with this, because it treats the soveriegn credit issuer as a borrower, rather than as the source of the promise of value at the heart of the national mutual credit system. A stable global money system is so close at hand, and yet seemingly so far due mostly to ignorance or confusion about how the system could work so effectively …

Cheney was right about one thing: deficits don’t matter

Ellen Browne has written another fantastic article about public debt:

CHENEY WAS RIGHT ABOUT ONE THING: DEFICITS DON’T MATTER

I really cannot emphasize enough how important this point is about how our US gov debt operates as the foundation of our economy.  Therefore, it needs to stay BIG.  However, what does need to change in order for it to be more sustainable is that it needs to be interest free, like Japan’s.  The US needs to be in debt to its self.  Yes that’s right.  Read the article to understand why.

Purity, Beauty, and Truth

It’s so hard to stay/be pure, so hard to see the reason why to be pure, whatever that even means…

And then the self awareness of one’s own “purity” is as always a self delusion, which the mind is so good at …

But spirit, like Baba Maal’s voice live in Southampton, is a penetrating powerful force like a sword of golden light piercing the darkness of the auditorium.

What do I mean by being pure? Being true to one’s self, remaining one’s true self in the midst of multiplied opportunities for distraction … dissipation … destruction … the “narrow path,” the path of Truth, (and Beauty?)  It’s been said that Truth is Beauty, and Beauty is Truth.  In pondering this I tread upon a well worn path, in the company of many … and this company is welcome, with joy, in the Truth and the Beauty of the heart.  In pursuit of Beauty .. in the Presence of Beauty … to be bathed in Truth internally makes one beautiful on the outside…

The best present is the Present given from one to one other, another, an other one.  The Present, as communicated in community, communion, through truth and beauty… yes, these are facts, stated simply, like a bureaucrat stating the regulations, only sweeter, but a bit detached … this  voice, this sight .. aloof and yet more personal than any other …

beauty .. truth .. they roll off the mental tongue quite differently – beauty o sweetly, full of Grace, tenderness, warmth, pleasure even. But Truth has a bite, aptly symbolized by the blade, cutting through delusion, illusion, confusion.

On the relativity of scientific “data”

It’s all about the frame of view … and the colors …

A friend recently posted this video on Facebook as proof that there is a cover up of the degree of health risk of the cesium-137 particles that covered the western hemisphere after the Fukushima explosion in Japan. In the video, two different images of C-137 in the atmosphere are compared, one from a public news story, and one from the research website of the same scientist whose data was used by the news story.  Watch the video to see how different they look.

http://www.youtube.com/user/dutchsinse#p/u/2/nDcZMgDWRkU

This was my reply:

Here’s the “scientist’s” video that is referenced in the conspiracy video: http://squid.nilu.no/~burkhart/sharing/MOVIES/Cs-137.avi you can see the directory of raw images here: http://squid.nilu.no/~burkhart/sharing/MOVIES/NH/ I haven’t found the other “public” image set yet that they are comparing it with.

One thing you can see, when both images are side by side, is that the units on the scales to the right of each image are different. This is a BIG RED FLAG that the conspiracy video people are fudging the truth. This is common with people who are either manipulating their viewers or aren’t sufficiently educated in how to read and understand scientific data views.

It could be that the two maps do in fact display the same data, but that the scale, or display sensitivity, is different. This is common in this kind of analytical data. When I did GIS layers to represent rural housing, road, and population densities in the Yuba and Deer Creek watersheds for Friends of Deer Creek, I could make the map look either really bad or really good just by changing the display scale. It’s the same data either way, but you’re just changing the “frame of view” (see George Lakoff on why Republicans are better at selling their platform to the public)

Often in this kind of data analysis, concentrations are amplified to an extreme degree while working with the data in order to get a more detailed view of the range of values.  With this type of thing you can really make the data look any way you want. The real question that this conspiracy video isn’t asking is, which display scale is the most appropriate to render a view of an ACTUAL health risk. What is the standard, if any? If we really want to get some kind of a realistic analysis for our selves of what actual levels mean in terms of health risk, then we’ll need to either be given more information, or we’ll need to do some work to get it. I for one don’t trust either the corporate news or the conspiracy theorists to explain the world to me.

In the video, an image was used to show the “real” levels that, according to the conspiracy theorists, “with a probability of 90%” we weren’t being told the truth about (probability is another area where data can be vastly distorted in order to manipulate – see Nassim Taleb’s fantastic writing on the subject at http://fooledbyrandomness.com ):

[image was removed by source]

(http://squid.nilu.no/~burkhart/sharing/MOVIES/NH/conccol_Cs-137_20110324T210000.png)

According to the scale on the right, in the Nevada City, CA area there MIGHT have been a level of about 0.67Bq/m-2 (whatever that means). The title of the map says Total Column, which I interpret to mean the projected total amount of c-137 in the vertical column of air above each surface square meter.

“Surface contamination is usually expressed in units of radioactivity per unit of area. For SI, this is becquerels per square metre (or Bq/m2).” (http://www.weitzlux.com/radiation/contamination_4175.html)

The trusty Wikipedia states, “the mean contamination of caesium-137 in Germany following the Chernobyl disaster was 2000 to 4000 Bq/m2. This corresponds to a contamination of 1 mg/km2 of caesium-137, totaling about 500 grams deposited over all of Germany.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cesium_137)

So, it could easily be thought that the map could be stating that 0.67Bq/m2 landed on the ground in CA.  However, the source of the data is coming from a scientist who studies aerosols and how contaminants are carried by the air into the arctic.  This adds weight to the notion that the map is projecting particles in the air column, hence the name (Total Column.)

If that’s the case, then we can assume that less than that would actually deposit on the ground, since it would be spread over a larger area.  But then again, the particles might still be depositing over time, whereas the map only shows a snapshot.  However, just having this level of understanding of the meaning of the map that “they” are keeping from us is very revealing to me.  Yes, any amount of radiation is bad, but degree does matter too.  If we compare that projected amount, 0.67Bq/m2, in the total column of air above NC, to the amount that was deposited on Germany, 2000 to 4000 Bq/m2, then we might feel a little better.  Then again, I’m feeling worse now, since I’m IN Germany right now.  😉

So, we again can and probably should take this to the next level of inquiry, which is to ask, if that’s just the amount of c-137 in the air column at that moment in time, can we find a reasonable estimate of TOTAL DEPOSITION that has already occurred, as well as a projection of total deposition based on measurements of the rate of emission combined with some estimate of how much in total will be released?  That, for me will have to wait …

In the mean time, here’s a quick summary about how to read a data display and compare it with another:

In a database that I built for SYRCL, the South Yuba River Citizen’s League, storing water quality data, in addition to an individual value, each data point is tagged with an analyte (c-137), a unit (Bq/m^2), and a matrix (total vertical column of air above the ground). If any of those is different between two sets of data, then they’re effectively different sets of data for the purposes of comparison. You also need to consider how the data is being graphically represented, primarily via the legend or scale and colors. If that’s different between two displays, then it’s the same data, but with a different frame of view, which can tell a different story about the data. Those are the 5 main factors in reading a data display.

the absurdity of banks

Sometimes I get a glimpse of the absurdity of the current reality …. participating in and yet also being tromped on by these giant ‘immortal’ monsters (banking institutions and the corporations that have risen up around them) that play at truly breathtaking levels with the modern forces of compounding debt money creation power … and I find my self enthralled, disgusted, and amused, all at the same time. The playing field is so incredibly skewed … it’s almost unfathomable … a bank is one of the most bizarre entities that I can imagine. And sometimes it seems the only way to have a chance of protecting and benefiting my community within such a system is to create such a similar monster that is owned by my community and have it vie for our benefit. But that’s just joining ‘them.’ It’s not my ideal of living community. In that context, the best solution I’ve seen is the NESARA (National Economic Stabilization and Recovery Act) plan defined by a non-banker, non-economist, systems analyst. In it, the rules for how banks operate are changed to ones that are more in alignment with how the human mind thinks about growth. It’s a saner model for a global money system, and it seems like it would be so much more stable.

.DS_Store, Flash Builder, and Eclipse

I’m working on a Flash app that will display live power data from people riding pedal power bikes. I’m using Flash Builder 4, which is based on Eclipse. Mac OSX creates a hidden file in every folder you browse in the Finder called, “.DS_Store”, as seen here:



Unfortunately, these files actually interfere with Eclipse’s display of source packages, at least when coding in the Adobe Flash Builder:


The best solution I’ve found so far is to create an entry in Eclipse’s External Tools to recursively delete all the rogue files using a command line like: “/usr/bin/find . -name .DS_Store -type f -print -delete”:


Running that External Tool in Eclipse returns the package display to how it should appear: