Feb 11

Watch this youtube series when you have an hour to kill- it’s extremely thought-provoking:




I knew we had long since departed from the gold standard but I had no idea of the ratios by which banks are legally able to fabricate and disburse new money in the form of debt. Apparently this is authorized for banks under a rule called the fractional reserve. As with any opinionated piece, take this with a grain of salt but there are some interesting thoughts:

The system in its current form is a treadmill that by nature guarantees the slowest runners to fall off no matter how fast they run. With a finite money supply of X required to pay X+Interest – it’s not possible for everyone to make it. Worse still, the treadmill once in motion must continuously accelerate in order to function. Common sense tells you that you can’t speed up a treadmill indefinitely and hope to stay on it.

Nowhere in any school system or mass media channel are these mechanics ever explained, or even acknowledged for that matter. We outlaw ponzi schemes and yet condone a financial system which is functionally equivalent? Given the inevitability of the outcome, the universal impact to every citizen, the magnitude of the impending damage and the potential curability of the problem (these are things we have the ability to change today- not like trying to stop an asteroid or reverse the greenhouse effect), why are lesser problems that are beyond our control getting all the attention? The silence around the acknowledgment of this issue and the search for a viable solution is eerie.

The argument that banks need to be for-profit institutions charging their customers interest in order to survive is usually backed by the idea that repayment failures cause losses and need to be offset somehow. If you dissect the process though, the interest rates and penalties are what cause most of the foreclosures and forfeitures in the first place. How’s that for a super-sized chicken/egg sandwich?

For all the sound and fury around the importance of our government establishing a balanced budget, it’s a meaningless activity until the currency behind it is stabilized. It’s like negotiating a salary while leaving the currency type as a variable – you’d probably be stoked about securing a $1MM figure until you realize the currency is in Lire or Yen.

It’s annoying to find fault and propose no solution. The proposal of the video is to convert all banking institutions to become non-profit entities that distribute dividends to their customers, abolishing what is effectively usury. I don’t know anything about the entity that funded the creation of the video and I haven’t given more than a few hours of thought to the implications of this proposal but I believe they’re essentially calling for banks to become credit unions. I can’t think for the life of me what kind of personal gain the author of the video stands to make by proposing this- which means I’m inclined to believe he/she is suggesting it for the right reason.

Bottomline, this is a thought provoking video series. There are no doubt entities that stand to make huge profit by keeping the broken system exactly the way it works now. Learning that the Federal Reserve is neither a government entity nor does it have any reserves was a shocking discovery – maybe others knew this already but that is a mind-blowing revelation to me. So my questions in thinking about this stuff at this point are:

  • What is the agenda behind this video? What are the downsides of the ideas proposed here that I’m missing (other than the obvious short term inability for banks and government to fabricate money when they need it)?
  • How can I become a bank (just kidding)?
  • Who are beneficiaries behind the Federal Reserve and why isn’t this entity named something more indicative of it’s private, for-profit status?
  • Is it truly feasible that the beneficiaries of the Federal Reserve would ever allow it to be dismantled and replaced by “credit union only” type system?
  • Wouldn’t achieving a more even distribution of wealth have positive effects on the economy for the same reasons that breaking up power monopolies fosters health in the form increased competition, activity and exchange?
  • If money were only allowed be conjured into existence when it was used to create tangible and immediately-usable infrastructure that facilitated more efficiency and growth in the economy, why would we not pass such a rule (the modern day gold standard where the gold equivalent is infrastructure of provable value)?
  • What is the most fair and plausible way to correct this broken system at this point and make it sustainable so everyone lands on their feet?
  • How many watch lists do you get added to when you suggest ideas like these? I guess I’ll find out…
  • Why does Ron Paul appear to be the only candidate addressing this issue?
  • If there’s anyone who is knowledgeable on this subject who wants to get together and talk over coffee- I’m interested in wading through the issues and understanding this better.

    Jan 03

    F$%# you Real Netwojerks. You killed a gem of a company this week when you forced Yottamusic to close its doors. This was a company that offered a free service that stood only to help you guys sell more accounts by making up for the inadequacies of your crappy web-based player. They made your service tolerable for people on Macs and also accessible for anyone working on multiple computers. The only flaw in their player was that which was introduced from the buggy Real player engine component that would occasionally crash the browser- and they probably would have figured out how to fix that too if you had just acquired those guys. How about instead of killing off the companies that are solving the inadequacies of your products, you focus your shareholder’s money on making your own stuff work?

    I’ve taken the liberty of rewriting your mission statement to bring it a bit more in line with the behavior you actually exhibit. One can only guess how many scarcity-minded middle-managers, SCO-trained lawyers and committees were behind this mistake. The smart move here that would have added value to your service and gained favor with your Mac user base would have been to acquire Yotta, put Luke in charge of your product dev team and replace all the crappy aspects of your service with the good stuff they created. You offer an API so presumably you’re interested in encouraging developers to extend your service and make it more useful? Way to send the exact opposite message to any potential developers who were thinking about doing so… instead you killed the guys that were using an API (albeit private) to create value. Rockin’ start to ’08…

    I will be canceling my Rhapsody service and shorting your stock first thing in the morning. I would do both now but the market is closed and apparently you offer no way to cancel service via your web site. Nice barrier to exit there – introduce enough friction to leaving by forcing your users to call your CSR’s and wade through an automated phone system to cancel (can’t wait to run that human hamster maze tomorrow – F$%# you again Real Networks). Apparently I’m not the only one who feels strongly about how poorly you guys handled this situation.

    I can’t in good conscience continue to give money to a company that behaves this stupidly. Actually stupididity isn’t the word to describe this because that implies benign uninformed-ness and this is just plain evil. I have been hoping that Real and Apple would work out a deal to extend Rhapsody integration to Apple TV and the iPod- now Rhapsody has instead taken a colossal step backwards making it almost entirely unusable on the Mac. Idiocy. For anyone who plans to remain a Rhapsody user, here’s an option to make their service usable again by averting the repeated disruption of applications crashes: place-shift your service so you can listen to your Rhapsody music on an iPod or your Apple TV or your iTunes. Here’s how:

    1. Buy something like the Replay Music client that allows you to record streaming music.
    2. Rip your Rhapsody songs to your hard drive (complete with ID3 tags).
    3. Bring them into iTunes and tag with a playlist called “Rhapsody.”
    4. Evaluate the music in your car, at the gym, on your Apple TV, wherever and then decide what’s worth buying. Delete it when your done evaluating and purchase using iTunes or Amazon (not Rhapsody).

    This tactic of course opens up the potential for abuse and requires that you do the right thing and purchase the music you plan to keep and delete the stuff you’re don’t when you’re through vetting it. I don’t advocate stealing music. If you want to steal music it’s probably easier through Bit Torrent and Pirate Bay if that’s really your thing.

    Your welcome, Real, for educating your subscribers on how to make your service truly usable again and compensating for your inability to deliver a technology that doesn’t crash every 5 min. Now resume your nastiness and put some of that over-zealous legal staff back to work doing something detrimental to your business so I can make some money off your stock. Yahoo music here I come… it’s half the monthly price of Rhapsody and they have a risk-free 14 day trial apparently. Some useful reviews from people that compared the two services here, here and here if you’re thinking of switching.

    Sep 13

    Get back to work.

    I’ll say it again: some of you have literally made a job out of preventing other people from doing theirs. Stop, go back to work and do something useful. You busy yourself with the task of harassing people who are coming to this country and busting their ass with insanely hard work in order to make a better life for their families. Granted, they don’t have the appropriate papers to be here but instead of wasting your time trying to keep them out, why not embrace the reality of this situation and find a workable solution to cope with what is happening? Somehow along the way you have confused citizenship with what it means to be American. What these people are doing is in fact the very essence of what it means to be American. Remember that we came uninvited to this country to escape a crappy situation at home and build a better life. We certainly didn’t get our papers from the Indians when we arrived. And yet because the illegals that come over now lack official documents stamped with official symbols, you decide to waste ungodly sums of money raised through the efforts of those of us who are working in a futile attempt to prevent them from being here. And the worst is that they’re doing jobs that nobody wants to do anyways. Frankly, those people are way more American than the ones that are born here who choose to sit on a couch and collect welfare.

    I’m an Arizona native of thirty-two years. I’ve had the privilege of watching Phoenix evolve to become the fifth largest city in the US. It’s a place of incredible potential and yet we are home to some of the most right-wing, close-minded curmudgeons imaginable. We have a sheriff that makes his prisoners wear pink underwear because he can. We have wacko, sanctioned vigilantes at the Mexico border called “minute men” who are armed with rifles and pistols volunteering to pick off anyone who comes across. I love this State but we are famous for our “Rambo-style” idiocy and legislative blunders like the conversion natural gas debacle. About once a year we seem to fall on our face with a new piece of ill-conceived legislation from our government. And in keeping with that tradition this year we now have this latest disaster-of-a-law (House Bill 2779) that is supposedly the magic cure for stopping illegal immigrants. Let me explain why this is not going to work.

    I am not a lawyer but from what I can understand from reading this bill, this law which becomes effective 1/1/08 proposes to attack the problem of illegal immigration by giving the State government teeth to go after businesses that hire an illegal. Sounds great on paper, right? Consider though that one infraction from a company doing business in AZ made unknowingly can result in suspension of their business license. A second infraction discovered (not committed) during the probationary period results in the permanent revocation of their business license. Companies headquartered in AZ that have employees in other states? All employees layed off. Companies with thousands of employees where two somehow slipped past HR’s eligibility screening? Goodnight. Critical infrastructure companies like hospitals, public transportation, utility companies? Not exempt. The obvious flaws with this legislation that somehow escaped those signing it into law:

  • How does the State propose to process the influx of complaints? The government staffing necessary to receive and enforce the complaints – where does that money come from?
  • How about the fun new burden on HR in every company in Arizona? They’re required to maintain compliance by periodically re-verifying each employee’s I-9? How many person-hours per year across every company in AZ will be required to perform this task and from where will these hours come?
  • Provided that resources magically manifest on both the government and business sides of the equation, do you really believe this top-down approach is going to stop some guy from hiking across the desert or piling into a van to come to America when his family is starving and there’s no way to provide for them at home?
  • So what we end up with is the same number of illegal immigrants entering the country now with zero chance of doing anything productive for society once they’re here. They’ll still have the same starving family at home so either they’ll turn to crime to raise the money necessary to feed them or you’ll see them begging on the median at the highway on-ramp. All this law does is guarantee extra headaches for employers, added taxes to fund more beaucracy and paper-pushing in government, and the displacement of illegals from constructive jobs to crime and destitution.

    I love Arizona but I’m afraid this is shaping up to be another faceplant in our tradition of ill-conceived legislative moves. This bill is not the product of trying to come to a realistic solution, it’s clearly the re-election tactic of a few politicians wanting to win votes by pinning the hard-ass immigration star on their lapel. Were they to be responsible for actually implementing this (beyond signing the parchment) there is no way in hell this would fly. We need to take a Freakonomics perspective here and ensure incentives are at work at every juncture of solving this problem. We need to establish a scorecard for how effectively the bills passed by each Senator actually performed at accomplishing their objectives- basically a fantasy league for Senators that tracks what they did. Campaigning becomes dramatically less important at that point- just look at their scorecard for how well they did last term.

    So to summarize: yes I realize we need some kind of mechanism to deal with illegal immigration but this law is not the way. Piling up sandbags to prevent a flood works in situations where there are acute and infrequent downpours. But when it’s the ocean that’s steadily encroaching, sandbags aren’t going to help- you need to rethink the problem and figure out how to work within the reality of the new terrain. As cheesy as the acting in this movie is, it has an interesting premise: what would happen if all the illegal immigrants suddenly vaporized? Think about it: agricultural industry would grind to a halt, restaurants would be left with nobody in the kitchen, good luck finding a gardener, the construction industry would collapse… These people perform jobs that nobody else wants to do. Who is going to tar a roof in a 120deg Arizona summer? Certainly not the guy sitting on his couch collecting a welfare check, he’s busy watching Jerry Springer. Rather than wasting immense resources to “vaporize” these immigrants, we need to figure out how to utilize them. Think amnesty programs. Think multi-lingual centers for processing new entrants and having probationary “parole office” arrangements whereby these people check in, contribute taxes on their earnings and are accounted for. Contrary to belief, reduction in the supply of menial labor jobs does not take away gainful employment from American citizens, it frees them up to do more interesting, fulfilling and skilled work.

    I’ve already wasted too much time in writing this letter. And you as well in reading it.
    Get back to work.

    sean

    Aug 11

    There is an inconsistency in the way in which proposed legislative changes are named at the Federal and State levels and I’m curious if anyone can provide insight about the possible rationale behind this discrepancy. Propositions up for vote at the State level are always named like “Prop 101” – you have to read it to know what the heck it does. Federal Acts, however, have vanilla names like the Patriot Act, No Child Left Behind, and the most recent travesty The Protect America Act of 2007 .

    Presumably the reason for naming a piece of proposed legislation is so that voters can talk about it, assign meaning and remember which proposal does what rather than trying to track a collection of numbered items. The only problem with this method though is that it introduces a naming bias into the equation- who is going to argue against something well-intentioned-sounding as the “Protect our Citizens Act” or the “Prevent Car Accidents Act?” And you would think the situation that is supposedly remedied by assigning descriptive names is less problematic at the Federal level since these things are voted on by Senators and Congress people- it’s their job to be knowledgeable of what each does (ie. they shouldn’t need the mnemonic benefit of descriptive titles). I would expect a Senator elected to his/her role to be able to keep track of these where I wouldn’t expect the same of the average citizen. I’ll refrain from a rant about how so many liberty restrictions have been recently submarined into effect under red-white-and-blue-colored titles. But I’m curious: if they’re going to use descriptive names for proposed legislative changes at the Federal level, why not at the State level? I’m admittedly not up on my US history so I may be off with the nomenclature of Acts, Proposals, Bills, Laws, etc but I would think intuitively this practice should be the reverse of what it is now given the voting constituency in each situation. Anyone? Bueller?

    Mar 06

    If you’re a startup in Arizona seeking to take advantage of the Angel Tax Credit program, here is what I recommend you’ll need:

    1. Psychic abilities – the AZ Dept of Commerce wants you to project tax returns for your startup into the year 2012. Does anyone else have a clue what their tax returns will look like in five years? It reminds me of the Mitch Hedberg line:
      Interviewer – “Where do you see yourself in 5 yrs?
      Interviewee – “Umm, celebrating the 5th year anniversary of you asking me this question!
    2. An impossible history for your company consisting of three years of past financials. That’s right. They want to see three years of history for companies to be eligible. Sooooo, let me get this straight- this program is intended to help secure angel investment for startups and yet you have to be in business three years in order to qualify? Hrmmm…
    3. A PhD in beauracracy with a minor in non-sensical studies – you really just have to read the email exchange below to appreciate the Yossarian-esque “Department of Redundancy Department” ridiculousness.
    4. Five months of lead time to get them to actually read your application. I filed our app on Oct 5th of 2006 when we were raising money thinking it would be a nice bargaining chip to have in negotiations with potential investors to close anybody that was on the fence. Wow, I’m glad we didn’t need that chip… it took them until March 2nd to even read our application. I can understand if there’s a backlog of applications because the program is so wildly popular, but they’ve certified 25 companies in 5 months. That’s five a month… one each week… what are these people doing the rest of the time?

    angelTaxCredit.jpgI couldn’t find the 13-page application anywhere on their site but fortunately i saved a copy of the one I completed. I emailed the lady last week but given their response time thus far I’m not holding my breath for an answer from her until August.

    Our friends from Fortymedia were recently kicked out of their garage by the City of Tempe – they have zero foot traffic and are a small web design shop that’s been around and paying taxes for years. Apparently there’s some fine print in the CCR’s about not being able to rent and work from home – another case of a city official with nothing better to do…

    If AZ is so interested in engaging in programs that promote growth and development in small business, a good place to start would be to stop f’ing with companies and let them be productive. People are betting their life savings to start a venture, working 15-hr days and gritting it out in an effort to build important things. Entrepreneurs hold the greatest promise of economic growth for AZ – why the heck is City and State so bent on suffocating startups with hoop after senseless hoop? If they’re not going to provide assistance the least they can do is get out of the way. It’s a miracle that small companies succeed in spite of our government.

    Anyways, sorry for the rant but this Angel Tax Program is a complete joke. I hate to discourage anyone from trying. It looks great on paper but clearly has some serious fundamental contradictions given its criteria and its stated purpose on the web site.

    UPDATE: So I stand corrected on the psychic and history aspects – apparently they’re a state entity asking authorization to federal records for past periods if they exist and pre-auth for the next five years since that’s the time the credit will apply. That’s a little more logical. Five month response time is still messed up though.

    ***************

    Sean Tierney
    Mar 2 (4 days ago)
    to 	Tiffany XXXXXXXX
    date Mar 2, 2007 9:53 AM
    subject  Re: JumpBox's Application for Angel Investment Program
    mailed-by  gmail.com
    
    Tiffany, wow. I completely forgot about this- we applied on Oct 5th...
    better late than never I suppose ;-)
    Answers to your questions inline:
    > NAICS number
    541512 - Computer Systems Design Services
    
    > relationship between JamStack, Inc. and JumpBox, Inc.
    Same entity- it was once called JamStack and we then formally renamed
    the entity to JumpBox, Inc. Let me know if you need the ammended
    articles for this.
    
    > You indicated Sean Tierney does not receive annual compensation. When do you
    > anticipate he will begin receiving compensation? In the mean time, does the
    > company provide worker's compensation and are other employee-related state
    > and federal provisions being followed?
    
    I am Sean Tierney - I provided the initial investment to launch the
    company and I'm currently the largest shareholder. I was not taking
    salary at the time this app was submitted however I just recently
    began drawing a very small salary as we landed some critical
    investment to advance things. It's puny at this point and merely
    covering my monthly payment on my HELOC. Yes, we file state and
    federal taxes and follow all the appropriate provisions. I can give
    you the Q4 tax papers for both if you need them to verify this.
    
    > All applicants must submit a completed Arizona Department of Revenue Form
    > 285SBI. Your form is not quite complete. To comply with the statutes of
    > this program, we need to obtain an authorization for release of confidential
    > information for the tax periods two years proceeding the investment year and
    > for all years the tax credit is available. This includes the three year
    > carry forward period. Therefore, please submit a revised form 285SBI and
    > add 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012 to the tax periods listed on #4. The form
    > can be found on the web at
    > http://www.azcommerce.com/doclib/finance/angel%20285sbi.pdf
    
    ? Tiffany, please call _me_ (you guys serve the businesses of AZ,
    right?). This company is 7 months old. I filled out the form to the
    best of our ability - if you need more information call me with
    specifics. It's taken you guys 5mos to read our app Pardon me but
    do you guys have anyone actually using this program? Hopefully you
    can understand why it seems like a complete joke from my
    perspective...
    
    > Your application contained the Certificate of Incorporation for JamStack,
    > Inc, which you identified as your business' previous name. Please provide
    > the amendment to the Certificate that changed the business name to JumpBox,
    > Inc or provide JumpBox's own Certificate of Incorporation.
    see attached
    
    > If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me. I look forward
    > to working with you. Thanks!
    
    Tiffany, thanks for your time. Please indicate the specific
    deficiencies on the application I submitted. We can give you whatever
    tax papers you request for Q3 and Q4 of 2006. We do not have 3 years
    of anything to give you because we are a startup that was founded in
    July. I understand that this Angel Tax credit program is geared
    towards startups like ourself so I'm not sure how you can seriously
    expect 3yrs of anything from us- unless I'm misunderstanding what
    you're asking for... please call me and we'll clarify what remains to
    qualify us.Sean 602.281.4648
    Jul 08

    drugCompanyDogfood.jpgI want to propose a radical idea here: to the executives and employees of the major drug companies- if you are an individual responsible in any way for manufacturing, distributing or selling mind-altering drugs, you should be required to sample your own product before you push it on others in the same way that police officers are required to take a hit from the taser weapon before they can administer it in the field. Undoubtedly this idea would meet intense resistance and never get approved. I can hear the opposing arguments now and the rebuttal of “well if that’s your logic then Smith & Wesson employees should have to…” But what if a vitamin manufacturer was unwilling to consume its own product – would you not be skeptical of what they’re selling? Consider for a moment the current state of the pharmaceutical industry: think about the sums of money involved, the incentives at every level to encourage unnecessary prescription of these drugs, think about how they are defended and litigated to minimize exposure and maximize profit in situations where new information comes to light revealing crippling side effects and ultimately recognize who will bear the cost of this government-sanctioned racket in the form of long-term health issues for a significant chunk our population. More and more western medicine appears broken and the problem cannot be isolated to the chemists inventing the compounds in the lab, the clinicians conducting the trials, the lawyers securing the patents, the drug reps pushing the product, the doctor’s and psychiatrists writing the slips, the insurance companies paying the claims or the pharmacists scooping the pills over the counter – it’s the economics of the whole chain the fact that each individual is so removed from the end result that ensures this ugly trend will perpetuate itself indefinitely.

    There’s a brilliant lyric from a song by Jack Johnson called Cookie Jar:

    you can’t blame me, says the media man
    i wasn’t the one who came up with the plan
    i just point my camera at what the people want to see
    it’s a two way mirror and you can’t blame me

    I understand the dynamics of the situation: “it’s my job” says the salesperson. “It’s my job” says the chemist. “It’s my job” says the lawyer. “Other companies would move into our space if we didn’t” says the CEO. Capitalism has come in direct conflict with the the Hippocratic Oath and the public interest of health and wellness though, and guess which one has steamrolled the other? In such a radical situation, isn’t a radical approach necessary to re-balance the boat? When the boat has demonstrated that it’s not going to right itself an is in fact in an indisputable state of capsizing, isn’t it time to rally the crew and take action to save the ship? Responsibility has to exist at each link of the chain – if you’re pushing the safety of your product and you’re unwilling to sample it yourself, what does that say about the confidence of your assertions that the product is in fact safe?

    I will share that for the greater part of 2001 I was on a cocktail of three of the most dangerous prescription drugs in existence: zyprexa, effexor and risperdal. How these substances continue to be sold blows my mind – read some of the patient testimonials from the above links to get a flavor for what these medications do. By some miracle and against the advice of every doctor and psychiatrist that saw me, I weaned myself off of these medications, evaded the path of zombie-dom that was inevitable for me and returned to a normal existence having gone through what I can only say what it must have felt like to the Apollo astronauts when they lost contact with earth on the dark side of the moon. Talking about a personal experience such as this carries a negative stigma, it’s seen as “uncool” and is arguably a risky bit of “career-damaging” info to share publicly. But having had first-hand experience with these medications and learning about the prevalence with which they are now being prescribed, it’s gut-wrenching to think about the lives that are being permanently destroyed under the guise of health and for monetary gain on the part of these drug companies.

    Following cognitive dissonance theory I can only imagine the supporting justifications that the employees of these companies must concoct to be okay with what they are doing. These drugs may be helpful in isolated cases as an intervention method but they are being prescribed as a way of life. Pharmaceuticals- don’t kid yourself, you are not improving the lives of your consumers- you are causing child suicides. Short of meeting this plague head-on with a radical addition of checks and balances such as the one I’m suggesting here, what is a possible resolution to this situation? I challenge any representative of one of the major pharmaceuticals to respond to this question. And to everyone else what do you think the answer is to this situation?

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