US Mint vs. ALD: More Press

More stories in the press on the subject of the recent announcement from the US mint. There isn’t as much attention being paid to this as I would like, but it still appears to be making a few headlines. 33 hits today, quite a step up from the 4 or 5 of a few weeks ago.

It’s still nothing more than a threat. No arrests made, no further elaboration from mint officials on the glaring errors in their statements. This shouldn’t be surprising to anyone who is familiar with the problems that We the People has been having getting their very simple questions answered.

But, like the tax protest problems, the law relating to money in the US is not exactly clear on the subject. Well actually it’s quite clear on the subject, it just isn’t being followed by the Federal Reserve or the government of the US. If it was, there would be no need for alternative currencies like the Liberty Dollar. The US dollar would provide a store of value. Inflation wouldn’t occur. We wouldn’t be in anything approaching the financial mess that this country is in right now.

Anyway, here’s a few of the stories I’ve run across.


Liberty Dollar medallions could land coin collectors in jail Trots out the 7 year old hatchet job from the Southern Poverty Law Center as part of the argument against the Liberty Dollar. Other than that it’s rather even handed.

The Washington Post says: ‘Liberty Dollars’ Can Buy Users A Prison Term, U.S. Mint Warns. But they only quote the same tired sources who misquoted the constitution in their original press release, and the above referenced hatchet job. No additional information, and much more negative than the Missoulian article.

As bad as the article is at the Washington Post, it’s nothing like the entrapment and complete mischaracterization that plays out on this video from WCBS. I’m actually embarrassed for the reporter who did this story. Is this what passes for journalism these days?

On a completely different note, the Philadelphia Inquirer wants to know: Is it sounder than a dollar? and quotes one of my more favorite statistics:

To use a concrete example, in 1948, gasoline sold for 25 cents a gallon, so a buck bought four gallons.

The dollar of that era was a silver certificate backed by just over three-quarters of an ounce of silver. That same quantity of silver still buys about four gallons at today’s prices – proof, say Liberty’s advocates, that precious metal retains its value while Federal Reserve notes, which they derogatorily call “FRNs,” diminish in value the moment they hit the street.

In what can only be called a positive piece for the Liberty Dollar. About the only article I’ve read that doesn’t toe the government line on the illegality of using Liberty Dollars in transactions. I hadn’t realized that the government had outlawed the barter system. I think they’ll have a hard time enforcing that.

Finally, UPI posted this last Wednesday, which has been picked up in several media locations:

U.S. Mint: ‘Liberty Dollars’ a buck short

WASHINGTON, Oct. 10 (UPI) — Alternative “Liberty Dollar” coins being circulated have prompted the U.S. Mint to remind users they can lose their liberty for five years for using them.

The silver and gold coins are produced at the private Idaho mint of the National Organization for the Repeal of the Federal Reserve Act and the Internal Revenue Code, The Washington Post reports.

They first appeared in 1998 as the brainchild of NORFED co-founder and “monetary architect” Bernard von NotHaus, who claims on the group’s Web site the coins are a hedge against inflation.

The group claims to have more than $20 million in Liberty coins and notes in circulation, which is a bane to U.S. Mint officials.

“Merchants and banks are confronted by confused customers demanding they accept Liberty Dollars. These are not legal coin,” mint spokeswoman Becky Bailey told the Post, adding users could face a 5-year prison sentence.

In response to a public warning issued by the Mint, NORFED responded on its Web site, saying: “Here it is in plain sight … the Liberty Dollar is not a coin, not legal tender, and backed with inflation proof gold and silver!”

UPI

A buck short, indeed. As if the mint has any idea what the value of a dollar really is. A deer skin (a buck) goes for a good bit more than a dollar these days. I think they need to arrest a few people. Let’s see how strong their case is.


Editor’s note. I left this article pretty much alone. I did remove a few links to previous articles that I had compressed into one longer article on the subject. I was tempted to add this one to that article as well, but decided to let it stand. Why? Because it is cautionary tale about how dangerous it is to think you know things that you don’t actually know and can’t really explain.

I find it amusing, in hindsight, that I was so certain that the Liberty Dollar system was in the right and that this would be proven in court, all the while ignoring that nagging little voice that pointed out just how far into the wrong the marketing had spread before it was checked by the warning from the US Mint. What came after these events should not have been a surprise.

The Surveillance State: 1984 in 2006

Last week was the news story concerning talking cameras in Britain:

The revolutionary ‘nanny camera’ scheme was first piloted in Wiltshire in 2003 and just seven weeks ago the loudspeakers were introduced by Middlesbrough Council, whose spokesman Mike Clark said they had already made a difference.

He said: “People have been shocked when a voice from a camera tells them to pick up sweet papers and cigarette butts. They tend to follow the request.

“Another example involved a number of people gathering outside the doorway of a pub. They were asked to disperse and they did.”

Cllr Peach added: “The talking cameras would be another weapon in our armoury. They could be used to crack down on any anti-social offence in the street.”

This week is the story concerning the future of cameras in Chicago, one of the US’ largest cities:

“By the time 2016 [rolls around], we’ll have more cameras than Washington, D.C. … Our technology is more advanced than any other city in the world — even compared to London — dealing with our cameras and the sophistication of cameras and retro-fitting all the cameras downtown in new buildings, doing the CTA cameras,” Daley said.
“By 2016, I’ll make you a bet. We’ll have [cameras on] almost every block.”

Both stories make casual allusions to “Big Brother” the almost mystical leader of Engsoc in George Orwell’s novel 1984. How they can acknowledge the kinship of the emerging surveillance state with Engsoc without screaming of the travesty of it all is beyond me. Yet they drop the phrase Big Brother, as if the words are devoid of any meaning.


WAR IS PEACE
FREEDOM IS SLAVERY
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH

Or maybe they are without meaning anymore. With the advent of ‘reality’ TV shows (one of them named Big Brother, unless I’m mistaken) in which the most private moments of a persons life can be transmitted for the titillation of the viewing audience, perhaps we have become numb to the concept of prying eyes checking up on our every move. Personally, I can’t think of a more dangerous tool to place in the hands of gov’t.

True, crime is down when cameras are placed on the street. It’s also a fact that crime goes down when martial law is declared. Crime sort of becomes a moot point when everyone is a prisoner in their own society, when someone is always watching to report the slightest transgression.

‘You are the dead,’ said an iron voice behind them.
They sprang apart. Winston’s entrails seemed to have turned into ice. He could see the white all round the irises of Julia’s eyes. Her face had turned a milky yellow. The smear of rouge that was still on each cheekbone stood out sharply, almost as though unconnected with the skin beneath.
‘You are the dead,’ repeated the iron voice.
‘It was behind the picture,’ breathed Julia.
‘It was behind the picture,’ said the voice. ‘Remain exactly where you are. Make no movement until you are ordered.’
It was starting, it was starting at last! They could do nothing except stand gazing into one another’s eyes. To run for life, to get out of the house before it was too late — no such thought occurred to them. Unthinkable to disobey the iron voice from the wall. There was a snap as though a catch had been turned back, and a crash of breaking glass. The picture had fallen to the floor uncovering the telescreen behind it.
‘Now they can see us,’ said Julia.

Yes, now we can see you.


Mea culpa review, 2017. I keep running across references to Neil Postman’s book Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business of late. I apparently missed this book back when it was released, but it was widely read (or at least everyone pretends they have read it now) and predicted the numbing of the public mind that endless entertainment sets up.

This development (and one of the thesis in that book) makes Aldous Huxley and Brave New World more prescient in the minds of many pundits; more prescient than George Orwell in 1984.

I don’t know. The two books were completely different animals and were focused on two different facets of the human condition. I think what is truer is that none of us knows what the future holds but all of us are convinced by our own experiences that we have better insight than those around us.

The surveillance state as it is developing in the US is almost benign in comparison to the way that it developed in Europe and Britain. At least it appears that way on the surface. I’m sure the victims of drones in our endless terror war in the Middle East would disagree on the subject of the deadliness of the US surveillance state. 

Free Talk Live: IP and Disney

Listening to the Wednesday edition of Free Talk Live on my Treo 650 today; listening to Ian pound Mark over the head for his support for Intellectual Property rights. (third day in a row, I might add…)

Generally, I agree with Mark on this issue. As an architect, I know that the thought that goes into design is a valuable commodity that needs to be protected. Otherwise the less scrupulous out there will simply wait for someone else to do the hard work of invention so that they can then profit from it at the inventor’s expense. Contrary to Ian’s assertions, I’ve not seen any evidence that people will do the months and years of work required to bring something to market unless they have reasonable confidence that they will make a profit from it. If anybody can copy a design and be free to sell it the day after it hits the market (or as in the case of the Chinese clothing ‘pirates’, even before it hits the market) then the chances for profit are greatly reduced. I don’t know of any business that stays in business without making a profit.

On the other hand, I don’t really believe that corporations (like Disney) should be allowed to hold rights to intellectual property. Those rights should be limited to real people, not legal entities that will continue to expect a profit long past the lifespan of the original author. Disney is a prime example of this, since their lobbying was instrumental in getting the latest extension to copyright terms passed.

There is a phrase that applies to the subject of Disney characters and the school mural that was the subject of rather heated discussion on Wednesday’s show. That phrase is “work of art”. A work of art is generally exempt from claims of copyright infringement. That doesn’t stop the corporations with lawyers and money at their disposal threatening people with legal action if their demands aren’t met. The truth is that the school blinked when Disney decided to play hard ball. If push had come to shove, Disney would probably have dropped the case.

Copyright terms expiring was the real reason for Disney going after public displays of their copyrighted works. Like Coke being synonymous with cola and Kleenex with facial tissue, Disney was fighting the battle of keeping their property from passing into the public domain; and they won that battle by passing new legislation. If corporations were excluded from owning these types of property, the entire battle could have been avoided.

[On the question from a listener concerning the objectivist opinion on the subject; as an objectivist myself, I think I can vouch for the fact that objectivists in general understand the need to protect the “mind’s contribution” to the creative effort]

Oh, and Ian, your disbelief in intellectual property doesn’t equate to the non-existence of intellectual property. But your willingness to steal other peoples ideas speaks volumes to the subject of why the MPAA and the RIAA are willing to go to such lengths to protect their investments.

For what it’s worth, this is one of those arguments that illustrates the very narrow difference between a communist (in the government-less nature of the word ‘commune’) and the little ‘a’ anarchists and the extreme edge of the Libertarian party. They would also tell you that ideas ‘should be free’, but I’m not willing to live in their version of utopia either.

Flight Simulator: Terrorist trainer?

I don’t want to give any credence to this guy’s rant on the subject of the usefulness of a flight sim like Microsoft Flight Simulator as a terrorist training tool…

However, I was watching United 93 on the History Channel the other day, and what do I see but advertisements for the flight simulator during the commercial breaks.

[Not a very good film. I really didn’t think it would be.]

Talk about bad ad placement. It’s like advertising Ginsu knives during the Lorena Bobbitt story. Not necessarily what you would like your product to be used for, to say the least.

SyFy Awards: Firefly a Winner

Even though it hasn’t been on the air in two years, Firefly took six awards in the popularly judged SyFy Genre Awards (hosted by SyFy Portal) this year.

The SciFi Channel aired three first-run episodes of the short lived series last season, qualifying the series for consideration in the awards this year. Loyal fans of the show clearly came through with support, giving it the ‘best series’ award for 2006, beating out SciFi’s own Battlestar Galactica.

The Firefly winners were:

BEST ACTOR/Television
WINNER:
Nathan Fillion, “Firefly”
RUNNER-UP: Matthew Fox, “Lost.”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR/Television
WINNER:
Adam Baldwin, “Firefly”
RUNNER-UP: Terry O’Quinn, “Lost.”

BEST SPECIAL GUEST/Television
WINNER:
Christina Hendricks, “Trash,” Firefly
RUNNER-UP: Claudia Black, “Avalon, Part 1,” Stargate SG-1

BEST EPISODE/Television
WINNER:
“Trash,” Firefly
RUNNER-UP: “Dalek,” Doctor Who

BEST Series/Television
WINNER:
Firefly
RUNNER-UP: Lost

The complete list of this years awards can be found here: http://www.syfyportal.com/news.php?id=2895

As the founder of Syfy Portal (Michael Hinman) observed “These types of wins shows how important fan bases are, and how effective they can be in fan-voted awards such as this,” “While some might question how much power these fanbases have, it is the fanbases that ultimately helps decide the fates of television shows and movies.”

The Wiki entry for a complete list and history can be found here: SyFy Genre Awards

An Explanation For the Link at Right

ZD Net Security: Second third-party fix out for Windows bug

Microsoft, with their legions of programmers, have to rely on uncompensated third parties to write patches for their worthless software. From the story:

The group, calling itself the Zeroday Emergency Response Team, or ZERT, created the patch so Windows users can protect their PCs while Microsoft works on an official update. People have a choice of third-party fixes. Security company Determina on Friday released a patch it authored for the same flaw.

Personally, I find this completely unacceptable. I also find it to be the norm when dealing with large corporations and their worthless products.

Microsoft plans to issue a fix for the problem on Oct. 10, its regularly scheduled patch day; pretty much meets the description of “a day late and a dollar short”.

Download Firefox with the button at the right top of the page…

Inalienable Rights Defined

(Originally posted here)

I had a request the other day to elaborate on how I would define inalienable rights without including god as the architect. This is a summation of what I’ve posted before on the subject.


Simply put, You exist. You exist as a individual, capable of sustaining your own life. The requirements for you life to continue can be conceptualized into ‘rights’ that you possess as a living, thinking being. You have the right to continue in your life, since you are capable of sustaining it barring intervention by others. This right is secured by the rational capacity of the individual, linked to the corporeal existence/free will of the individual, which manifests as actions in ‘self defense’.

Your ‘right to life’ leads to corollary rights. Existence is measured in time, and time (spent wisely) yields game/crops/shelter or ‘property’. You have a right to (justly acquired) property because your continued existence (your ‘right to life’) depends on being able to dispose of your property (the manifestation of productive life) as you see fit. Following this type of chain, you can produce several ‘rights’ that a person should reasonably expect to be ‘allowed’ to exercise. Liberty is the corollary right that ‘allowing’ falls under, since there would be no question of the free exercise of your rights if you did not have others with equal rights to contend with.

Since we all equally exist, we should all have ‘equal’ rights. The rights are inseparable because they stem from what we are. A prisoner has rights. Not because we ‘allow’ them; but because his free will enables them. The fact that there are prison breaks is merely proof that the prisoners maintain their rights *in spite of* the full force of gov’t and the people being intent on denying them the exercise of same. The unjustified killing of a person is therefore a destruction of a value equal to your own, and should be dealt with harshly by those who value the rights they possess.

That’s about as far as I’ve taken it. Much more to be written…


Mea culpa review, 2017. I haven’t updated the page recently, but if you go to Emergent Principles of Human Nature you will discover that my mental obsession with this topic has produced some fruit. Fruit of questionable value probably, but something at least. 

Abortion Argument in the News Again; Must be Election Season

(Originally posted here)

I see this subject pop up at every election cycle. I doubt this time around will be any different.

I’m so tired of this argument; I’ve been involved in online debates on this issue for more than 10 years. I’m tired of it because ‘I’ know the right answer; but neither of the entrenched sides of the discussion care to recognize it, no matter how many times I re-explain it.
Abortion wastes potential life (not a ‘life’ itself. That requires brain function and breath; facts which the ‘pro-lifers’ gloss over in the quest to ‘save’ the unborn. Question: how do you save children from their own parents? Even the born ones?) and so should not be used casually; especially medical abortion. Waste of potential, of any kind, is repugnant; but there is more than one potential at risk here.

A woman has the right to use and abuse her own body as she sees fit. Dictating to her the ‘sacred’ nature of the potentials she is faced with is an invasion of her privacy. (Question: why isn’t male masturbation illegal? It too wastes potential ‘life’) If ‘she’ has no privacy, does ‘he’ deserve it? If individuals have no privacy, then neither do businesses. Can you imagine corporations opening the inner workings of their board rooms to public scrutiny? Can you imagine why Roe v. Wade remains; and will continue as a decision?

The right answer is that gov’t has no business being involved in abortion; it shouldn’t be banning it, and it shouldn’t be paying for it. It is wholly a decision of the individual involved; she does not
have a ‘right’ to expensive medical procedures, nor does the husband have a ‘right’ force his will on her (Don’t like it? Don’t plant seeds where they aren’t wanted) It is a private matter; and the right to privacy exists whether you will it or not.

There is a need to determine, as a measure of justice, when life can be proven to exist (without destroying privacy) so that those who are in fact taking life meet with the justice they deserve. I haven’t heard a logical answer, other than the one handed down by Wade, from anybody to date. I would resist any statement, by any group I was affiliated with, other than one that encompasses this simple fact; a declaration of what life is; and the need to hold it as a supreme value.
Anything else is a waste of time, and violation of rights which I hold sacred.


Mea culpa review, 2017. Mercifully my libertarian delusions about tax dollars and government health expenditures fell by the wayside of my deeper understanding of what money is and what society is. What good governance entails. It could have happened sooner, but I’ll take the enlightenment anyway I can get it.

The last article I wrote on this subject was this one, in which I come out unambiguously on the side of choice, science having pretty much taken us to the edge of survivability for the fetus outside the womb. What is needed now, if the anti-abortionists want to prevail on this subject, is an artificial womb. With that invention the woman need no longer carry the baby to term herself, it can be implanted in the artificial womb and the lifers who think every sperm is sacred can just foot the bill for raising all those previously aborted children.

I’m sure they’ll jump at the chance to pay for that. 

DRM: Moderate?

I’m apparently a moderate on the subject. According to this Information Week story:

Calling themselves freedom fighters, members of the Free Software Foundation are engaging in a campaign against Digital Rights Management, which they emphatically refer to as Digital Restrictions Management.

Everytime I hear the phrase freedom fighter, I think of the old Robin Williams joke “What do you call people who fight fires? Fire fighters. So, what does a freedom fighter do?” Aside from that, I wish them luck.

DRM is the most Ill-conceived technological nightmare to come along in a long time. I’d like nothing more than to see the entire concept flushed along with the rest of the waste…

DRM: Who’s Rights are They?

The announcement from Universal last week brought up the subject of DRM, a sore spot for me and most of the people who listen to online music. But you would think that it had been smooth sailing for all these online years, if you believed the arguments that I’ve seen over the last week.

Napster and it’s overseas descendants aren’t and never were a problem, MP3.com wasn’t virtually hounded off the ‘net for daring to exercise fair use, DRM is a completely logical exercise of the rights holders over copyrighted material, which presents no problems to the end users who purchase the material.

…And if you believe that, I’ve got a bridge in Brooklyn that I want to sell you.

First off, let’s get a few definitions straight. The term piracy, as it is used in software circles these days, is a completely unworkable definition. Piracy involves profiting through theft, not copying files. While it can be argued that the end user ‘profits’ from copying files that he has not paid for, that sort of profiting is in a whole different league from the person who sells CDs and DVDs (and even the computer files themselves) that he’s made without license from the copyright holder. However, there is no distinction between the two in the eyes of Microsoft (and the other corporate software vendors) the RIAA and the MPAA; a completely ridiculous proposition on the face of it.

Then there is the term contract, in which the software industry claims their EULAs and online contracts are no different than a printed, signed and witnessed contract of a truly legal nature. However, if you trotted out the verbiage contained in the average EULA, I doubt you’d find many people willing to commit to the agreement, since the agreement invariably holds the software company innocent of any possible wrongdoing, while setting up a legal fence around the user so as to tightly constrain what uses the material can be put to.

Here is a piece of timely advice; never sign a contract that has been written by an attorney other than one in your employ without first having an attorney who is in your employ look it over. Contracts are always negotiable by both parties if they are to be considered valid. When you sign your name to a contract you agree to the terms, thereby waiving your right to negotiate terms in advance. A EULA does not allow for physical signatures and so consequently are not really contracts at all.

Additionally, any contract that you have to accept without negotiation is a contract that no one should hold themselves constrained by, since they had no say in what the exact contents of the contract would be.

Now when it comes to EULA’s I have to ask; Do you support the dishonest business practice of attempting to hold a customer to a contract that isn’t presented until after the transaction has taken place, or are you an honest businessman who presents the contract before any other business occurs? Anyone who thinks that it is commonplace and acceptable to withhold conditions of a sale until after the transaction has taken place is by definition a dishonest businessman. Honesty requires full disclosure before the sale. Restrictions that are revealed after the sale is finalized are not enforceable, as they are generally held to be outside of current law, and are a violation of the standard of full disclosure. In a nutshell, it is a dishonest and/or fraudulent business practice to withhold this type of information.

With the above as the generally understood standard of doing business, that contracts which I have not explicitly agreed to in writing are not binding, and that contracts that are not revealed until after the sale is finalized are not enforceable…

…Should I be faulted for holding the opinion that “All sales are final. The files are mine. Anything they have to say about my treatment of my files after that point is a claim. There is no agreement, other than cash for music files. There was no other legal contract presented.” and stripping the DRM from files that I had paid for and wished to listen to on a device of my choosing?

Apparently I am to be faulted. At least in the eyes of the people who plan on making money off of the legally clueless out there.

Fair use allows the user to make copies of copyrighted material for his own use. My own use requires that I strip the DRM from music files sold on most popular websites. If the websites attempted to enforce the contract terms, they would only alienate their customer base; ergo, it is nothing more than a paper tiger, never to be enforced except to remove individual user accounts.

…And if I can’t actually make the files usable, I don’t know why I would need an account in the first place.

The last definition that needs clarification: DRM, Digital Rights Management. The corporations that own the content have rights (which DRM manages) but you the user don’t. You have privileges that they can take away if they please. Welcome to the digital millennium.

My experience with the difficulty of using iTunes (and other DRM restricted services) has convinced me that DRM regimes are soon to be a thing of the past. It’s also convinced me that I will spend money on sites that don’t add DRM to the files. Sites like Sound Click for example. I don’t need to go to full out piracy sites (I find real pirates and their practices quite distasteful) I have no problem going down to the used CD store and getting the music I’m looking for at less than the dollar a song most sites are charging. I might download songs from Universal’s announced site, but only if I can remove the DRM.

Which brings us to the crux of the problem. The only way to make DRM enforceable is to appoint an ultimate Sys-Admin, a company that has the power to open back doors on all the computers currently in operation, and snoop through the files to make sure that no one is using files that they haven’t paid for. A job that Microsoft desperately wants to be given, as they quite eagerly pointed out when they announced the rollout of Longhorn (now Vista) two or three years ago. A big brother situation that I shudder to contemplate.

Otherwise DRM is an unworkable solution in the long term. As more content becomes available on the ‘net, more and more of it will appear shortly after it’s initial release with DRM, sans it’s protective wrapper, ready to be copied by anybody who doesn’t have an aversion to dealing with pirates.

Might as well just come up with a different solution now, save us all the hassle.