Monthly Archives: February 2011

The “Developing World,” What Does it Mean?

This talk by Fredrik Haren makes some useful comparisons between the “developed world” and the “developing world,” and their implications for the future.

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An inspiring story of ecological, economic, and social regeneration

Willie Smits: How we re-grew a rainforest

Nick Vujicic: “No arms, no legs, no worries!”

How can you not be moved and inspired by this?

Crowdsourcing and Crowdfunding Resources

Here is a brief compilation of some Crowdsourcing and Crowdfunding websites I’m aware of. Crowdfunding is being increasingly used to fund enterprises that serve the community and the common good.–t.h.g.

Updated January 18, 2012

Crowdsourcing.org

“Everything and anything crowdsourcing”

http://www.crowdsourcing.org/

Learn about the explosive growth of crowdsourcing to share ideas, information and content. Search our communities to see how crowdsourcing is being used to create, raise funds, engage customers, innovate, share knowledge, make predictions, promote social and environmental causes. Discover what crowdsourcing tools and platforms are available.

Share your knowledge of who’s doing what in crowdsourcing by uploading articles, documents, videos, blogs and news posts and also get involved in our question and answer forums. Assign your content submissions to the crowdsourcing communities of your choice to make your content easy to find. Educate and inform others and grow your knowledge.

Connect. Crowdsourcing.org is the place to connect and network with others that can learn from you and teach you. Join in the dialogue, share your views, interact online with other members. The more active you are the more you will benefit from being part of a network of Crowdsourcing followers and experts.

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IndieGoGo

http://www.indiegogo.com/

IndieGoGo helps you raise more money, from more people, faster.

Have something you are passionate about? You can create a funding campaign to raise money quickly and securely by tapping into your network of supporters and beyond. Our trusted platform has helped to raise millions of dollars for over 15,000 campaigns, across 157 countries.

Designed to meet your funding needs, anyone can start raising money immediately on IndieGoGo. Offer unique perks or tax deductions to your contributors in lieu of offering profit, but always keep 100% ownership. Each campaign has the opportunity to be featured on our homepage, placed in the press, or exposed via social media.

Join the tens of thousands of people that are visiting IndieGoGo everyday – start your campaign or find something to fund!

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Kickstarter

http://www.kickstarter.com/

Kickstarter is a new way to fund creative projects.

We believe that:

• A good idea, communicated well, can spread fast and wide.
• A large group of people can be a tremendous source of money and encouragement.

Kickstarter is powered by a unique all-or-nothing funding method where projects must be fully-funded or no money changes hands.

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GoGetFunding

http://gogetfunding.com/

Go Get Funding lets you raise money for personal plans, events, causes and more.

Use our site to support people you know, or others you can get to know!
Along with the satisfaction of helping people, you´ll also enjoy any rewards offered by fundraisers.

The Amazon Mechanical Turk

https://www.mturk.com/mturk/welcome

The Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk) is a crowdsourcing Internet marketplace that enables computer programmers (known as Requesters) to co-ordinate the use of human intelligence to perform tasks which computers are unable to do. It is one of the suites of Amazon Web Services. The Requesters are able to pose tasks known as HITs (Human Intelligence Tasks), such as choosing the best among several photographs of a store-front, writing product descriptions, or identifying performers on music CDs. Workers (called Providers in Mechanical Turk’s Terms of Service) can then browse among existing tasks and complete them for a monetary payment set by the Requester. To place HITs, the requesting programs use an open Application Programming Interface, or the more limited Mturk Requester site. [from Wikipedia]

Harvey Wasserman on ownership and class warfare

It may not really be “socialism,” but community ownership seems to be both sane and fair. The new Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers are the prime example. They are the only community-owned team in the NFL, but as Wasserman points out that ownership structure is no longer allowed. Why not? It seems to fit the pattern of privatization and dispossession that has been going on for a very long time. Recent examples are the demutualization of banks and insurance companies that I wrote about in my book, The End of Money. What will it take to reverse that tide and bring freedom back to organized sports? A boycott by fans might be a place to start, followed by the creation of new teams and leagues that make community ownership a requisite condition.–t.h.g.

Socialism triumphs at Super Bowl as class war looms
Harvey Wasserman
February 7, 2011 

Socialism has again triumphed at the Super Bowl.

The only major sports team owned by the community in which it lives has toughed out its fourth modern-era National Football League championship.

But the billionaire bosses of the rest of the league may be about to again assault the players—and the rest of us—who make it all possible.

Predictably, though FOX broadcast the Super Bowl, CBS refused to air a player’s union ad that was to air during another game on February 5.

The Packers’ gritty win underscores the kind of ownership that should be in place for all major sports teams. As a part owner (3 shares) of the Packers, I hate watching greedy union-busting bosses blackmail whole cities for tax breaks and new stadiums. They whine about “losses” but won’t open their books to the public or players.

The owners’ poster child is Daniel Snyder, whose Washington Redskins bears the most inexcusably racist moniker in America. Snyder is now suing the local alternative paper for an in-depth article he claims libeled him.

With some notable exceptions—like the now deceased Abe Pollin, who changed the name of the cross-town NBA Bullets—the owners treat these franchises like toys. They get taxpayers to fund obscenely overpriced arenas that double as private palaces and that always drain the communities that can afford it least. Then they threaten to leave town unless they get whatever they want.

Which now includes a huge give-back from the players and numerous other concessions.

The players are certainly well-paid by current national standards. And they’re hardly a band of angels. But unlike the owners, the game doesn’t happen without them.

And we’re only beginning to grasp the seriousness of the injuries many endure. Countless concussions suffered as “part of the game” could have been mitigated throughout league history by facing up to the issue and demanding better helmets and thoughtful rule changes.

The issue is doubly serious because the game as played downstream from colleges to little leagues mimics the NFL. Thousands of young people copying the big leaguers have suffered needless injury, often with lifelong impact.

But owners will almost always protect the status quo. And their corporate media will bill this likely lockout as a fight between “millionaires and billionaires.”

In fact, it’s between workers and owners.

As the superb sports commentator Dave Zirin has shown players who dare to speak out on issues of social justice often face serious repercussions from owners and the mainstream media.

Network sports bloviators love to rhapsodize on the small-town “cheese-head” roots of the Packers. But they never mention its not-for-profit status, or that the league now bans such ownership for other teams.

This is the great tragedy of American professional sports. Those of us who love these games, and the communities that support them, deserve to own the teams.

As the Packers have shown yet again, a not-for-profit enterprise can win the big games. And when owned by the towns in which they play, players and the society as a whole can win too.

Congratulations, fellow cheese-heads. May the rest of professional sports crumble at the feet of our community-based, not-for-profit ownership model.

And at those of the people who make the game possible by actually playing it.


HARVEY WASSERMAN’S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES is atwww.harveywasserman.com and www.lulu.com. This article was originally published by The Free Press, www.freepress.org.

Resume of Thomas Jefferson

This came to me in a forwarded email from a source identified only as “anz289.” Since Thomas Jefferson is one of my heroes, I’m pleased to share it with you.—t.h.g.

Resume of Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson was a very remarkable man who started learning very early in life and never stopped.

At 5, began studying under his cousins tutor.

At 9, studied Latin, Greek and French.

At 14, studied classical literature and additional languages.

At 16, entered the  College  of  William  and Mary.

At 19, studied Law for 5 years starting under George Wythe.

At 23, started his own law practice.

At 25, was elected to the Virginia House of Burgesses.

At 31, wrote the widely circulated “Summary View of the Rights of British America” and retired from his law practice.

At 32, was a Delegate to the Second Continental Congress.

At 33, wrote the Declaration of Independence.

At 33, took three years to revise  Virginia’s  legal code and wrote a Public Education bill and a statute for Religious Freedom.

At 36, was elected the second Governor of Virginia succeeding Patrick Henry.

At 40, served in Congress for two years.

At 41, was the American minister to  France  and negotiated commercial treaties with European nations along with Ben Franklin and John Adams.

At 46, served as the first Secretary of State under George Washington.

At 53, served as Vice President and was elected president of the American Philosophical Society.

At 55, drafted the Kentucky Resolutions and became the active head of Republican Party.

At 57, was elected the third president of the  United States

At 60, obtained the  Louisiana Purchase  doubling the nation’s size.

At 61, was elected to a second term as President.

At 65, retired to  Monticello

At 80, helped President Monroe shape the Monroe Doctrine.

At 81, almost single-handedly created the  University  of  Virginia  and served as its first president.

At 83, died on the 50th anniversary of the Signing of the Declaration of Independence along with John Adams

Thomas Jefferson knew because he himself studied the previous failed attempts at government.  He understood actual history, the nature of God, his laws and the nature of man.  That happens to be way more than what most understand today. Jefferson  really knew his stuff.  A voice from the past to lead us in the future:

John F. Kennedy held a dinner in the white House for a group of the brightest minds in the nation at that time. He made this statement: “This is perhaps the assembly of the most intelligence ever to gather at one time in the White House with the exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.”

The following is a collection of  Jefferson quotes from the same message:

When we get piled upon one another in large cities, as in Europe, we shall become as corrupt as Europe

The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.

It is incumbent on every generation to pay its own debts as it goes.  A principle which if acted on would save one-half the wars of the world.

I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.

My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government.

No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms.

The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.

The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.

To compel a man to subsidize with his taxes the propagation of ideas which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.

Thomas Jefferson said in 1802:

I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies.  If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around the banks will deprive the people of all property – until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered.

New Year’s Newsletter-2011

Much has transpired since I sent out my last newsletter early in December. I’ve spent time in Phuket and Krabi (Thailand), Penang, Kuala Lumpur, and Port Dickson (Malaysia), Sulawesi and Bali (both in Indonesia), then back to Bangkok and Chiang Mai (Thailand). I’ll not try to recount all of the significant events, experiences and achievements in these places, I’ll just say that I live a very blessed and interesting life. If you’d like to see pictures, you can visit my Photo Gallery at http://picasaweb.google.com/tomazhg.

In this edition, I’ll touch on the following topics:

Chiang Mai

Thai Entrepreneurs

Bali—The myth and the Reality

2011 Likely to Bring Serious Challenges to the Middle-class

Investing in the Common Good

Plans

Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai is still one of my favorite places. I’ve been here several times over the past three years, staying for varying lengths of time. This time I will be here for a month, after which I’ll return to North America for a planned stay of four months. The universe will decide what happens after that, but I have it in my mind to return to Thailand having already booked a return flight from Bangkok to LA and back

What’s the attraction here? There are several. First of all, I have friends here, both social and professional, so it is possible to strike a good balance between work and play. Secondly, I can better afford to live here than in the US. Very clean and comfortable lodgings can be had for $200-$300 per month, complete with private bath, good internet connection, convenient location, good public transportation that means I don’t need to have a car or even a motorbike to get around, and good food that is reasonably cheap. Thirdly, there are cultural attractions, many of which derive from the rich mix of Thais and foreigners. There’s a pretty good live music scene that includes jazz and Celtic music, plus frequent festival events. Fourthly, from Chiang Mai it is relatively easy and cheap to reach other interesting destinations throughout Southeast Asia. I could go on…

Thai Entrepreneurs

In Thailand, there is no such thing as unemployment insurance, and old age benefits provided by the government are so tiny as to be insignificant. That means that Thais need to be enterprising and supportive of one another to a greater extent than westerners. Besides that, Thais seem to have a greater connection to family and friends in the countryside who still have access to land, which makes me think that they will have an easier time adapting to the adverse economic conditions that appear to be on the horizon.

Pa is an entrepreneur. She has a juice stand which she sets up amongst a score of other food vendors every afternoon for the night market. Many of her customers are regulars. Split about half and half between Thai and farang (foreigner), they come back to her again and again, not  only because she makes the best smoothies and shakes, but because she is a bright spirit, happy and congenial. She truly enjoys her work, and that draws people like a magnet.

There is a kind of community amongst the vendors who operate there just outside the gate to the old city. It is a community that includes not only the vendors, but a goodly number of regular customers, as well. The vendors all know and help each other out in various ways, tending each other’s stands whenever it is necessary to run a short errand, or lending a hand when business is brisk.

Each vendor has a wheeled cart that is kept somewhere else in the off hours. They are brought to the market site in late afternoon, then wheeled off again around midnight by other entrepreneurs who make a business of providing the service of moving carts back and forth.

All of these people work very hard for little reward. Their prices seem absurdly low by western standards and in comparison to most of the local restaurants that cater to tourists—a fresh fruit shake for about half a U.S. dollar, a cup of fresh ginger tea for about 17 cents, a plate of pad thai noodles with chicken for less than a dollar. The low overhead expense of operating a street stall is a major factor that makes these businesses viable.

What makes their prices seem cheap to us of course hinges upon the exchange rates between the Thai baht and the currencies that tourists bring from home—dollars, euros, pounds, yen, etc. These foreign exchange rates are determined by mechanisms that seem to defy logic, and that few people understand. They are supposedly determined by what is touted as free trading (buying and selling) in the currency markets, but it is no secret that these markets are manipulated by central banks and big traders. In fact, the central banks of the various countries have a mandate to “manage” the value of their currencies. One has to wonder, what is the difference between “management” and “manipulation” and for whose benefit is it done?

Pa’s day begins early and ends late. I accompanied her a few times to see what her business entails. It starts in the late morning with a trip to the market to buy the fresh fruit ingredients needed for the evening’s business—papaya, pineapple, mango, watermelon, banana, apples, etc., and a separate trip to a roadside stand to collect a supply of the sweetest strawberries I’ve ever tasted. Then it’s off to the place where her cart is kept during the off hours where she washes the fruit and prepares for the evening’s business. The vendor carts get put in place around 4 in the afternoon and customers start coming around 5. It’s a pleasant experience to join the bustle of activity as the dinner hour wears on and waves of customers arrive, place their orders, and sit down at the portable tables to enjoy the food, the conversation and people watching. By 10 or 11, vendors begin cleaning up and shutting down and getting ready to repeat the process again the next day.

Bali—The myth and the Reality

The myth of Bali probably far exceeds the reality. That is not to say that it’s not worth the visit, it is, but if one is envisioning scenes from the movie South Pacific, they are likely to be disappointed. On my two visits, which were three years apart, I’ve spent most of my time in Ubud, so my observations are extremely limited. There are probably some more remote areas that can provide a different experience, but my impression of Bali is that it has become too dependent upon tourism and is rapidly losing its authenticity.

Ubud is purportedly the cultural center of the island, a claim that stands up pretty well. The whole place pretty much closes up around 10 or 11 at night. One notable thing about it is how quiet it is in the early morning hours. There are no late night discos blaring cacophonous sounds and heavy drum beats into the night, and traffic pretty much stops by midnight. The absence of mosques means that there are no artificially amplified “calls to prayers” rousing one from sleep at 4 a.m. as they do in Malaysia and other parts of Indonesia. The only sounds one hears are the insects buzzing in the trees, doves cooing, and the inevitable rooster crowing as dawn approaches. I take these sounds as God’s own call to prayer as s/he reminds us of the great mystery that is life, a mystery in which we all partake and are challenged to make good use of.

I spent the last night of my Balinese visit in Kuta—not really long enough to understand the good, the bad, and the ugly of the place. I knew in advance of Kuta’s reputation as being very “touristy” and wide open. It clearly is the former, crowded with foreigners, traffic congested, and filled with trendy shops, but I can’t confirm the latter. Although the two usually go together, Ubud seems to be the exception to that rule. I’ve spent enough time there to get a good sense of the place. There are plenty of tourists there and the town is dependent upon them, but any hanky-panky that goes on there must be deep underground.

I was surprised to see so many family groups in Kuta. I found the beach there to be not at all inviting. The beach itself is far from the broad expanse of golden sand that one imagines of a tropical paradise, and the water was roiled by a heavy offshore wind (and probably other things that go with heavy concentrations of humans).

I had some difficulty finding a place to stay in Kuta. The ones I tried were either too expensive or fully occupied. I did eventually find acceptable lodgings, and after a late check-in and much needed shower, I went in search of food and drink. The beachside restaurant I chose (Blue Ocean) saved the day. It turned out to have free Wi-Fi, pretty good food, and a fabulous band that played a lot of great tunes from the 70s and 80s. The mixed-age crowd included a “mature” couple whose jitterbug skills were a pleasure to watch. Here’s a clue to my persistent question of why people choose to vacation in places that are overrun with other tourists. What for me is a negative, is for them an attraction. Tourists want to be with other people who are like themselves in some place other than home, where they can let their hair down and party.

One last thing about Indonesia, They get you coming and going–US$25 for your visa-on-arrival, and 150,000 Rupiah departure tax (about $17)on your way out—not a lot of money but annoying nonetheless.

2011 Likely to Bring Serious Challenges to the Middle-class

I’ve presented strong evidence in some of my recent blog posts (Inflation Will Destroy the Dollar) that we are on the verge of large price increases resulting from the US government fiscal crisis and massive inflation of the dollar (euphemistically referred to as “quantitative easing”). The last two years have already brought significant increases in the cost of living, despite government pronouncements to the contrary (Chris Martenson: Inflation Is So Much Worse Than We’re Told). Ordinary working people and retirees are being hit with a “double whammy” of stagnant or falling incomes along with an increased cost of living. In their phony political charade, the Republicans are pushing to give us more of the former, while the Democrats want to give us more of the latter—either way, the people lose, and ultimately we will get an increasing measure of BOTH.

As the economic and financial picture worsens, people are getting more worried and looking for answers. I’m often asked for advice about how to invest and protect one’s savings. Financial advice is not my main interest but I can read the writing on the wall, and it seems certain that those who have any savings at all will see the purchasing power of their nest egg shrink badly over the next couple years. Investment advisors typically advise clients to choose amongst three basic investment objectives—income, growth, and capital preservation. In a depression, “cash is king,” but in an inflationary scenario, capital preservation becomes the be all and end all and holding dollar denominated securities, including bank balances and CDs, will not cut it.

Investing in the Common Good

As I wrote in my latest book, The End of Money…, I think civilization is going through a metamorphic change. Making the shift away from the debt-based financial system and the growth imperative and to a sustainable, more equitable society requires that we learn radical sharing, cooperation, and organization. I have for a long time  been arguing that we need to reorganize the exchange function to be decentralized and interest-free, and that we also need to reorganize the finance function. That means shifting our financial investments from Wall Street to Main Street and applying them to support community vitality, self-reliance, and the common good.

In that vein it is remarkable to observe the emergent phenomenon known as “crowd sourcing.” While that approach has been variously applied, in the realm of finance it means gathering small amounts of investment money from a large number of sources. Interestingly, those investments are often in the form of donations rather than loans or ownership shares. People are increasingly demonstrating their willingness to put up money for things that may not benefit them financially, but that are seen to be in the public interest. Kickstarter.com is a well-know web platform on which entrepreneurs can showcase their projects and solicit funding.

A more recent development that I am enthusiastic about goes even further in helping to organize support for emergent projects on an ongoing basis. It’s called CREW (Connect to Resources that Expand your World), and it’s avowed purpose is to “connect people to fund small business for the common good.” It’s not quite ready to “go public” yet, but as a member of the Founder’s Circle, I’ll soon be asking you to join CREW. Watch for it.

Plans

I’ll be returning to the US soon, landing in Los Angeles on February 17. My plan is to remain in North America until the middle of June before going abroad again to continue active collaborations and to participate in conferences in Asia and Europe. I’ll head for Tucson shortly upon my return to rest up, see friends, and take care of some business there, then finalize plans for my North American tour (I have a few invitations pending and can consider others).

Here’s wishing you all a happy and fulfilling year, and may 2011 bring greater peace, justice, and harmony to our world.

Tom Greco