Banking: The American Dream By The Provocateur Network

One more greatly done animated film on the eternal theme of how the global banking system works. It has everything – great animation, conspiracy theories, history, JFK’s death and more.

It is well enough that people of the nation do not understand our banking and money system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning.” Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company

We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office.” Aesop

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RIP – Whitney Houston

Another turbulent life has just come to an end – Whitney Houston dies age 48.

From her humble beginnings to the start of her career in places like the P1 in Munich to absolute stardom in the mid-1980s when you could not watch any Music or Video channel for long without seeing her smiles and enthusiastic joy to her downfall and crisis and finding her life again afterwards. We believe the two videos do show two sides of Whitney Houston well worth to be remembered for.

RIP Whitney Houston

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Pakour / Freerunning: Some more videos

image Tempest Japan It has been a while since we covered one of our favorite city outdoor activity.

So here are some new pointers and videos.

The first video by Clinton Jones with his slow motion shots provides great insides how some of the jumps are done.

The next one is the Tempest Pro Reel from the guys that also run the Tempest Freerunning Academy in L.A.

The third video is from Toronto – you can see Canadians don’t take themselves so seriously – great job.

More info:

Tempest Freerunning Academy

Tempest TV on YouTube

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History: Niall Ferguson – The 6 killer apps of prosperity

We finally found some time to watch Niall Ferguson’s Ted Talks presentation on the “killer applications” he also describes in his latest book Civilization The West and the Rest

Niall Ferguson starts his presentation outlining his playing field, pointing us to the facts that more than 106 billion people have walked this planet and 94% of those are already dead. Out of those 106 billion 60% were or are Asian and most of them were or are very poor (shortening their life span / economic output). He then bridges over to explain the concept of the “Great Divergence“, that the majority of today’s wealth (US$195 Trillion) was made after 1800 by so-called Westerners and till today 66% of the world’s wealth is owned by these Europeans, North-Americans and Austral-Asians that only make up 19% of the world’s population.

Prof. Angus Maddison’s data sets are used to visualize how this divergence has almost exponentially grown since the 1800 until the late 1970s while running parallel for centuries before.

He then continues explaining how this divergence is not rooted in empires by drawing a line across centuries from Samuel Johnson’s History of Rasselas, the Ottoman Ibrahim Muteferrika, the “ideas and institutions” of Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, continuing via John Locke’s property rights to W. Churchill definition of civilization in 1938 – freedom, comfort and culture.

This creates the foundation for what he calls “killer apps” that have set the “West” apart from the “Rest”:

  1. Competition
  2. The Scientific Revolution
  3. Property rights
  4. Modern medicine
  5. The consumer society
  6. The work ethic

To spice up the presentation with the latest buzz words, this half dozen items, his “the killer apps of culture” are then compared to apps on smartphones. Looks like he has not fully understood the concept of applications (at least with regards to smartphones). Each of the “items” he mentions actually forms pillars, pre-requisites or features, that when applied together in the right way, form culture. Culture is the application of society and not each of its building blocks.

Later comparisons are then juggled around – between East & West Germany, North & South Korea, North and South America to rehash that totalitarian states and totalitarian communism were not successful. It has seemingly slipped him completely that it were the same empires and the same means (land grab for his example) that created the divergence between the Northern and Southern Americas (and their different developments over these last 200 years). North America has thrown out the then leading empires earlier and could therefore profit from the industrial revolution that replaced the land based economies previously dominant in both of these continents.

His understanding of work ethics is bound to the numbers of hours worked p.a. by each member of the work force – a rather limited one-sided and biased understanding of this term.

Next comes the visualization of the “end of western predominance of the last centuries” with the same per capita GDP ratios, this time the graphs extended to the 2000s with the West falling back to pre-1900 levels.

He ends his presentation with “…the great divergence is over, folks

Those of us fortunate enough to study at prime US/UK universities are well aware that many of the professors there are also great entertainers in the way they transport their message to the audience. Niall Ferguson’s presentation for most of its reasoning and in general remains just that – a nice piece of entertainment. It lacks the core elements to explain most of the forces and underlying causes for this western dominance of the last two centuries. Like a fable of history – it has its parts of truth but overall remains merely a tale to sell his message.

While the “laws and rules invented by reason“, the ideas and reforms of the “Age of Enlightenment” and their western beginning in 18th-century Europe might have made changes like the industrial revolution possible in the first place, people are not driven by altruistic motives in general, they are mostly motivated by direct incentives like for example money.

The “laws and rules of reason” were certainly important to unlock the human potential & capital of the western countries, but it was that drive for incentives that made them successful. Thus creating the core of this change since the 1800s – what made the western empires more successful than their historic predecessors at least in the near-time historic look of today – were the application of new and disruptive technologies for profit, the so-called industrial and other technology based revolutions beginning with the invention of the steam engine in western countries around the 1800s. It should be noted that after the hight of the “Age of Reason” around 1790 -1800, Romanticism with its emphasis on emotions and it’s moves to balance rationality against intuition and the sense of justice often understood as counter-enlightments became the dominant cultural movement in Europe and other western countries. Both of these cultural movements have influenced our societies till today, even if you don’t want to go as far as linking the first to authoritarian states and the second to liberalism. But neither of them per-se was the reason for the dominance of western empires over most of the world’s population for the last 200 years. It was the successful transformation of the land based economies into technology based ones.

This transformation also better explains the exponential growth of the per capita GDP figures that Niall Ferguson so happily provides throughout his presentation. The GDP totals do look quite different (he does not even mention those) – not surprisingly – as due to their much larger populations the economies of China and India have always been multiples of those from so-called Western (European) territories for the last 4000 years up until the 1800s. Another strongly supporting argument that the successful use of technology was what actually made the difference.

George Washington’s wealth for example, still considered to have made him one of the richest American presidents till today, was landbased or landlocked. This means that his annual economical output (actually the results he owned) – besides factors like weather – was defined by the size and quality of his land together with the number of people working it. This limitation was true for all land-based economies and empires including those in Asia or even medieval Europe. There was always a threshold that could not be overcome no matter how many people would be employed on a piece of land and may those been slaves, serfs, peasants or free people. You could only increase your economic output by the use of more land and / or more people.

Most of Jean-Baptiste Colbert’s ideas we attacked by Adam Smith in his “Wealth of Nations“, but it was one of these ideas of the European mercantilism – its early pre-industrial manufacturies particularly in France during the 17th century that started the break-away from these land based economies. Together with the arrival of companies that enabled multi-person ownership, these changes created the Bourgeoisie, the new wealthier members of the “Third Estate” that – out of self interest and to gain more power – strongly contributed to change the feudal order that was the foundation for most European and non-European empires for thousands of years. While those manufacturies optimised and automated many of the production processes, these first non-land based parts of the economy were still limited in scale by the number of hands (manu factum) that were available to be employed.

The true disruptive change came with the arrival of the machines in the 1800s – the Archeiropoieta (made without hands) – that was suddenly possible and could theoretically be scaled limitless.

One machine allowing to replace hundreds of farm workers, one factory worker together with machines being able to create more economical output per year than hundreds of manual workers. A few soldiers with machine guns and cannons created in these high-tech factories being able to control thousands of indigenous warriors in Africa, the Americas, India and Asia – thus allowing the new western empires to exploit merely the rest of the world latest from 1800 onwards for the resources needed to keep their machines and economies running. And here we do believe it does not really matter that some of the underlying physics, like the one Ferguson mentioned to build more accurate guns & cannons, were derived or discovered with logical reasoning rooted in the “Age of Enlightenment” – those were used as instruments of war and oppression, as means of exploitation to maximize the profits of the dominant elites in western societies (they were equally used against their own citizens for the same reasons).

It was this technology based superiority together with centuries of exploitation of half of the world for resources that created the per capita GDP exponential growth of the West, limiting such growth for those exploited and strongly increasing it for those exploiting.

None of that has ever contributed to better work ethics as we latest know from early industrial times when workers were often treated worse than slaves until checks and regulations were brought in to stop social turmoils close to civil wars. It was the drive of few powerful players in our societies that assured the survival of these systems predominantly done to guarantee the continuation of their powers and wealth.

Similar can be said for competition. Almost all key players in western trade or industry were continuously trying to create monopolies, cornering markets and blocking competition. Like with the other of Niall Ferguson’s “killer apps” competition is also not a build-in feature, it had most of the time be recreated after society as a whole suffered long enough or disruptive events brought an end to one of the newly created monopolies. From the spice trade wars of the Portuguese vs the Dutch, the trade, patent and IP wars between the UK and the newly raising Prussia that later became the German Reich, the radio communication monopolies, the electricity and telephone monopolies to the commodity and financial speculations of today – it looks more like the quest for becoming a monopoly, dominating or cornering markets seems to be build into our current economical system than the opposite that Niall Ferguson assumes. These drivers then quickly get participants from private, public and other areas of society to form what might best be euphemized as “special interest groups” or “lobbying” – by definition knowingly and intentionally working against the common interest of society as a whole to better themselves.

Niall Ferguson’s six “killer apps” have certainly contributed to “freedom, comfort and culture” for an elite group within western societies, have helped to sustained their “western empires” and for some years during the 19th and 20th century broad groups of society might have benefited as well, but will those help to sustain or rebuild our societies into the future.

With disparities in most western countries between the majority of people and the few rich ones having during the last years again reached levels beyond Victorian times, “property rights” having again become the rights of the few who own most of the western countries (and previously most of the World), the “scientific revolution” and “modern medicine” being limited, hindered or blocked by patent and IP battles, lack of access for many within deteriorating health systems or simply already happening somewhere else (not invented here), the “consumer society” running out of steam since years with most not having access to the financial means to actually consume beyond their bare necessities and more and more of the aging western society slowly gliding into the poverty bracket, all of Niall Ferguson’s “killer apps” seem to have lost their ground.

Niall Ferguson concludes by claiming the western decline is not inevitable because history does not work in life cycles. With regards to an inevitable decline of the West, we believe he might be right, but for other reasons. And it is already late in the game – it will now need major events to stop these processes, a few words and small steps will not change it anymore. With the trillions of Euros, created or to be created by generations of people, so willfully handed over by politicians to extend the current dealings for a few more years and protect the card houses they have built, it is now becoming more and more like a train accelerating to full speed on its way into the abyss.

After the fall of the communist empires and the exponentially increased financial speculation of the last decades that now in some western countries amounts for up to 40% of their GDP, a new disruptive phase for the existing empires has started. The continued and till today unchallenged support of this “part of the economy” by politics across all western countries with bills already run up beyond dozens of trillions – amounts that can by definition not be recreated by their real-world economies, is further accelerating this drive. Soon when the deleveraging will become more visible and completely inevitable, all those economies will have to shrink by at least the size of those bubbles. Then it will be “last man standing” or the “winner takes it all” – the U.S. and China currently having the best chances to win that trophy. Europe – at least for the moment – seems to be engrossed in burning the ground she is standing on and if continued for longer might sooner or later diminish to its previous level of importance – when the Mongols stopped their westwards raids before the Western European countries because they considered those countries not worth raiding as there was nothing there worth stealing for them.

Such processes of decline and decay in previous centuries often took decades or even centuries. Now with the much increased speed of worldwide life, having reduced the time-spans for acting often from days to minutes, we might not have that luxury of time left. Or as the Chinese say – we are living in interesting times.

Note: The video is also available as CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 on the TED talks site

Humor: Stephen Colbert is preparing them

image Twitter preparethem In response to what was said by Mitt Romney during his “victory speech” on Tuesday in Florida, Stephen Colbert created the hashtag #PrepareThem on Twitter. As we all know Stephen will always try to help out when it comes to support the GOP with finding the perfect candidate…

The best quotes we’ve seen so far:
(Comedy alert — Comedy alert – politicians and yaysayers there is nothing to see here – carry on looking the other way):

  • Newt Gingrich is a family values candidate. He values families so much, he’s had three!
  • You can’t spell “Romney” w/o “money”, you can’t spell “Gingrich” w/o “rich”, you can’t spell “Santorum” w/o laughing.
  • If Newt got divorced while President, would his ex wife get half of America?
  • We are here to #Preparethem for what’s coming.
  • Romney does to businesses what Newt does to his wives
  • #Mitt’s talent for self enrichment & plunder from pathetic inefficiency are an inspiration for any Kaputillest”– David Koch
  • Notice #Newt ‘s wives only recovered from their illness once he left
  • If Newt and Mitt aren’t good reasons to vote Democrat, there’re excellent reasons to be pro-choice!
  • Mitt is not worried about the very poor, there will always be enough around to wash his magic underwear.
  • Newt, Mittens, or Cthulhu? Why go with the lesser evil?
  • Can someone ask Mitt Romney why he wants to be President? Because I don’t think he knows the answer to that question
  • Romney, Gingrich, Obama, along with Santorum most supported lender relief as well as NDAA. These men are the identical. #preparethem
  • Reading the #preparethem feed is like a Turing test.

image Stephen Colbert Overall we really like the deep confidence that 99.998% of all commenters expressed with those candidates for one of the most important positions on this planet. Yes guys, can you feel it, that’s the strong backhold, roots and support you have with anybody on the street, your country or anybody talking to you that has not been paid to say otherwise.

Maybe a metaphor in the gestalt of a quote from Bertold Brecht helps:

Some party hack decreed that the people
had lost the government’s confidence
and could only regain it with redoubled effort.
If that is the case, would it not be be simpler,
if the government simply dissolved the people.

(German original: Nach dem Aufstand des 17. Juni ließ der Sekretär des Schriftstellerverbands
in der Stalinallee Flugblätter verteilen auf denen zu lesen war, daß das Volk das Vertrauen der Regierung verscherzt habe und es nur durch verdoppelte Arbeit zurückerobern könne.
Wäre es da nicht doch einfacher, die Regierung löste das Volk auf und wählte ein anderes?)

image CC By Cliff1066 @

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Opinion: ACTA – speaking out the unspeakable

image Kader Arif Kader Arif, the Rapporteur for the ACTA agreement in the European Parliament has today resigned over the issues he sees with the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA).

To express his views and issues as a member of the European Parliament he issued the following statement on his blog (in French – English translation below)

Je tiens à dénoncer de la manière la plus vive l’ensemble du processus qui a conduit à la signature de cet accord : non association de la société civile, manque de transparence depuis le début des négociations, reports successifs de la signature du texte sans qu’aucune explication ne soit donnée, mise à l’écart des revendications du Parlement Européen pourtant exprimées dans plusieurs résolutions de notre assemblée.

En tant que rapporteur sur ce texte, j’ai également fait face à des manœuvres inédites de la droite de ce Parlement pour imposer un calendrier accéléré visant à faire passer l’accord au plus vite avant que l’opinion publique ne soit alertée, privant de fait le Parlement européen de son droit d’expression et des outils à sa disposition pour porter les revendications légitimes des citoyens.

Pourtant, et chacun le sait, l’accord ACTA pose problème, qu’il s’agisse de son impact sur les libertés civiles, des responsabilités qu’il fait peser sur les fournisseurs d’accès à internet, des conséquences sur la fabrication de médicaments génériques ou du peu de protection qu’il offre à nos indications géographiques.

Cet accord peut avoir des conséquences majeures sur la vie de nos concitoyens, et pourtant tout est fait pour que le Parlement européen n’ait pas voix au chapitre. Ainsi aujourd’hui, en remettant ce rapport dont j’avais la charge, je souhaite envoyer un signal fort et alerter l’opinion publique sur cette situation inacceptable. Je ne participerai pas à cette mascarade.

English Translation by
”I want to strongly denounce the entire process that led to the signature of this agreement: no inclusion of civil society organisations, lack of transparency from the beginning of the negotiations, repeatingly postponing the signature of the document(s) without any explanations provided, not taking the demands of the EU Parliament into consideration that were expressed on several occasions within our assembly.

As the Rapporteur for this document(s), I have faced never before seen manoeuvres from the right wing of this Parliament to impose a rush through agenda so that the public would not be alerted, depriving the EU Parliament of its freedom of expression, powers and means provided as the legal representation of the people.

Everyone knows that the ACTA agreement is problematic, whether with regards to its impact on civil rights, the way it wants to create liabilities of Internet access providers, its consequences on generic drugs manufacturing, or how little it safeguards our Protected Geographical Status (framework).

This agreement can have major consequences for the lives of our fellow citizens, and yet everything is being done to prevent the European Parliament from having its say in this matter. So today, in releasing this report for which I was in charge, I would like to send a strong signal and alert the public about this unacceptable situation. I will not (continue to) participate in this masquerade.”

Meanwhile the ACTA agreement has yesterday been signed by 22 of the 27 EU member states (EU and states that signed are: the EU, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the UK) at a ceremony in Tokyo and the EU Commission continues with their propaganda that everything is fine with that agreement.

(Note: Australia, Canada, Japan, South Korea, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore and the US had already signed ACTA on 01-Oct-2011)

This agreement will still have to be ratified and put into local laws by the parliaments of the respective countries and discussions/votes in the EU are scheduled to continue during June this year.

Besides the issues raised already on further extensions of copyright laws, Internet censorship, holding ISPs liable for activities of their users, the end of generic drugs that currently safe millions of lives every year and further diminishing civil rights, we would like to throw in some of our thoughts on this agreement that we so far have not seen voiced anywhere else (people do seem to forget rather quickly):

We believe what should be extensively discussed and safeguards against it / the stop of the agreement as a whole strongly lobbied by those affected most of this agreement short- mid- and long-term: European High Tech companies or any companies that invest heavily into Research & Development.

A reminder of not so long ago events and a warning:
If we recall events right (can easily be checked) it was in the 1970 early 1980s when U.S. investigators where “invading” European and other non U.S. R&D departments under the “cover” of potential copyright infringement and copied / collected / investigated the secret development (documentations) and research for new products in leading European High-Tech firms. At least sometimes the official investigators were accompanied by “industry experts” or in other words – the employees of commercial U.S. firms that worked in the same field of business. Surprisingly and certainly completely unrelated similar developments / new products showed up unusually quickly with the U.S. competitors. Needless to say that extensive R&D is expensive and who cut corners here.

In short: – We believe that ACTA will open all doors to a new wave of Industrial Espionage particularly in Europe.

Our question to all European High-Tech companies:
How would you feel when your closest competitors will soon have the right to walk around in your company, inspect, copy and note down any of your trade secrets, R&D you invested billions into, your latest inventions that you’re just getting ready to market with new products?

Maybe its time to wake up and do something about that!

A reminder to all European politicians:
We would also like to remind all the yay-sayers in the European parliament, the members of parliament in the various European states and all others involved in this piece of legislation that this could be the last thrust to destroy the competitive edge that European companies still have over their competitors in the U.S., Asia and developing countries.

Maybe the millions of Euros consultancy contracts you’ve been promised after your “career” as representative of the European people might not materialize at all because you rendered Europe out of her influence and possibilities to participate in steering matters. You’ve been a useful tool, but after that you’re not needed any more, so why pay? Hey, isn’t that the cut-throat capitalism you guys always wanted – or wait – was it only when others had to pay the price?

Maybe those who push for such legislation already today don’t take you seriously. They certainly will as soon as you stand up for European interests and her people.

A general reminder:
Have a look at the duties, rights & responsibilities provided to the so-called secret / intelligence services of your and the other countries involved here. Industrial espionage is now included for quite a few of the countries having signed ACTA and besides in the U.S. in Europe – as far as this has been made public – France is training their agents specifically in the “art of industrial espionage” since a few years.