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This webpage updated 14 October 2014

Merchants logo gif - 9347 BytesMerchants and Bankers Listings

Trade - an international perspective

This Merchants and Bankers Listings website is years old and is now (from 2009) undergoing a marked identity change. Its timeline material on economic history (for 1560-1930) is being moved to a website managed by Ken Cozens and Dan Byrnes, The Merchant Networks Project. This will empty many of this website's pages which have always been in series. In due course, Merchants and Bankers Listings will carry information from the Crusades on the early development of what became “capitalism” in Europe to 1560 or so. As well as a conglomeration of data on modern developments, mostly on modern/technical industry, computing, and for the future, today's climate change problems. The editor's view is that in the context of climate change, the views of Merchants and Bankers (and Economists, politicians), the keepers of matters economic, are due for a considerable shake-up. If this website can encourage the shake-up, and help inform it reliably, well and good. -Ed

More to come here

2005: New book for now and for the future: Jared Diamond, Collapse. Allen lane, 2005. (Intended partly as a warning for the present/future; on why some societies collapse and others fail) - Jared Diamond, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive. 2004. (Argues that Australia and China may soon be at risk of "eco-suicide". Examines the role of environmental abuse and other factors ["bad decisions"] in the demise of the Vikings, the Mayans and the people of Easter Island)

What to do about the Internet?

It was Vincent Cerf who invented the TCP/IP computer protocol that allowed development of the Internet. On 1 January 1983, a group of Internet pioneers watched while a network of 400 computers were switched from NCP protocol to TCP/IP. It all worked, though it took a month to "purify" the stability of the use of TCP/IP. A long came Tim Berners-Lee who have us www. and lo, the Internet. Some of Cerf's views in early 2005 were as follows. On The Internet: It's a mirror of our society, and if you don'tlike what you see in the mirror you fix the thing that's reflected.
On Censorship: To introduce mechanisms government could engage that would allow censorship of political speech is worrisome.
(The Australian newspaper, IT pages, 26 April 2005

2005: Expected date (in 2000) for eradication of polio world-wide.

2005: By November 2001, China Daily had reported that China is moving ahead to send a man to the moon after earlier work on manned space flights.

Prediction for 2005?: Pandas face extinction?: By February 2001, it is widely reported that China now has only about 1000 specimens surviving of its magnificent black-and-white giant Pandas, as economic development helps destroy its habitats and supply of bamboo for food. How are their numbers coming along by now?

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If you value the information posted here,
and the projects of these websites in general,
you may like to consider making a donation
to help reduce our production costs?
It would be greatly appreciated.
Options include:
paying via PayPal which this website uses - Ed

2005: Pamela Bone: An Australian writer complains about a lack of good news: In 2005, the University of British Columbia published a report funded by five nations named Human Security Report, but the contents were given little media attention. Some good news was that since 1992 the world had seen a decrease of 40 per cent in armed conflicts. The period since WWI is the longest interval for hundreds of years without a war occurring between the major powers. During the C20th, and bearing in mind two world wars, the number of men dying violent deaths was one per cent, while about 30 per cent of men in hunter-gatherer societies died violent deaths. In the past 50 years or so, millions of people in Asia have been lifted out of poverty. Just maybe, world population is starting to decline. Just maybe, the hole in the ozone layer has largely closed. We do need to be warned that we are on an environmentally unsustainable course. (And Pamela Bone wish es to complain that it is obscene that while children in the world are dying of hunger, in Western countries, cattle can be fed beer to make their meat more palatable.) The UN had making more preventive-type diplomatic missions, but UN failures, not successes, tended to be reported in the world media. News reports are just maybe, too realistic, leading to depression in children. Bone wants to know why while there is so much killing in Sudan, (Darfur), as much or more than in Iraq, why does Sudan seem so under-reported? (Melbourne writer Pamela Bone in The Australian, 21 February 2007)

year 2006

The Environment ... you have a problem with that?

From Dan Byrnes/Lost Worlds website

Introduction: This article is not sole-written, it is a collaborative presentation developed by a few like-minded people who are (November 2006) becoming increasingly concerned about world problems due, seemingly, to problems of climate change, or, climate in increasingly dramatic variation.

We consider, that we may as well regard the issuing in late 2006 of The Stern Report (by Sir Nicholas Stern, UK) as a watershed worth more than mere comment.

We rather suspect that as coming decades pass, weather and climate problems are going to stress, and restress, a great many of the ideas regarded as important by humanity, including, a good many religious ideas.

We rather suspect that if environmental problems worsen, that around the world, large sections of populations are going to find disappointingly less comfort in religious ideas that they and their forebears have traditionally cherished. If so, this is will probably cause more, not less, social stress.

We feel that around the world, neither religious leaders, nor politicians, not scientific advisors, are ready for the challenges which may well arise. For ourselves, we feel we could be most helpful if we simply provided a few website pages which provide a forum for registration, for discussion, of various issues.

And so, from the webpage you are currently visiting, this presentation will grow and change, more so if the page attracts useful responses from e-mailers.

Thinking thus, we felt that the quickest, easiest and most convenient way to give a netsurfer a quick Cook's Tour of many (often conflicting) ideas, outlooks and attitudes held by people around the world, would be to recompile, and re-edit, the already-well-known propositions of the Shit Happens lists. (Reductionism to the absurd, see below, where we have re-edited in order to make a few extra points of relevance to growing problems.)

Whether you find the Shit Happens jokes to actually be funny is your own business. We suspect that you'll find them less funny if you live near a coast which might become subject to a tsunami. Or, if/when you can no longer afford petrol for your car for the pursuit of pleasure.

We've re-edited the Shit Happens lists to try to juggle the reader into a re-consideration of the world's ideas on religion, fate, destiny, our various views on humanity's various and sometimes conflicting views on what life is for, and about; on where, if anywhere, we might be coming from or going to. (Remember The Blues Brothers? They also were on a mission from God!)

We are sorry about the crudity entailed by the lists, but we'd feel even sorrier if we didn't somehow communicate something useful to you. When you next feel busy, considering "the environment", consider also: what is the meaning of life? If you don't care, there are millions of people who do care. What if they happen to decide that they care more than you do?

We suspect that in coming decades, some of the meaning of life is going to appear to change, to change, or, it will be changed. Everyone should be as well-prepared as possible. Sir Nicholas Stern seems to think so, at least. We happen to be old enough to remember the varied and often contemptuous responses to The Club of Rome Report issued in the early 1970s. We lately think, that economist Sir Nicholas Stern is a brave man - Ed.

2006: China is now a leader in the fight against climate change, This week, Australia and the US can join in, writes Don Henry, executive director of Australian Conservation Foundation. “When Australia, China, India Japan, South Korea and the United States close the first meeting of the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate on Thursday, will the world be any different? After all, technology development agreements between developed and developing countries are not new. Late last year, under the Kyoto Protocol, two private Chinese chemical firms and the World Bank launched the single biggest project to cut greenhouse gas emissions, and the European Union and China have already signed an agreement to develop new and existing clean energy technologies. (Sydney Morning Herald, 10 January 2006).

The problem of "oil peaking" and oil supply depletion - worry now

2006++: The below item, rather serious, comes from a trusted friend of this website who wishes for the time being to remain anonymous. His concerned views on oil supply problems for the world future have been supplied to this website many times in recent years, but never before has he been so cogent/concise as here. He e-mails:

Yes, I watched the 4 Corners program [screened ABC TV Australia, Four Corners program, night of 10 July 2006] And yes I believe that oil production has peaked. This was predicted two decades ago.
The facts have been well understood and the bullshit from oil companies has been deliberate and carefully crafted. Many of the bullshit artists who continue to talk down the possibility of demand [for oil] exceeding supply are doing so because they stand to gain from high prices. They have driven the hapless economy to the brink and now they will drive it over the brink for the sake of another few years of profits. The fact that most politicians are going along for the ride, indicates just how corrupt the political process is in the USA. In Australia it is not much better. Profits for the oil companies and their associates seem to be one of the most important political considerations today.
So just who are our elected representatives representing?
And while it is obvious that we will run out of fossil fuels, thankfully before we run out of oxygen, it should be equally obvious that the energy of the future is hydrogen. The reasons are:
1. We have oceans of it (hydrogen oxide = H2O)
2. In joules per gram it is the most powerful chemical fuel in the universe.
3. When we burn it, all that remains is water.
It is true that there are will be many technical problems with a hydrogen economy. But there are none that could not be solved with a commitment from government and corporate interests. It must be lead by government however, since it will require considerable incentives to invest and develop the infrastructure and reticulation systems for any new fuel. Our motor vehicle fleet will need to be replaced and our air fleet will also need to be replaced with lighter than air or heavy as air aircraft. The conversion should have started a decade ago.
It would be one of the most massive projects undertaken in modern times. And I don't think we have the right people in power to embark on such a project.
If we don't start soon, it may have to wait another couple of hundred years, because the economy will be so disrupted it won't be capable of converting its way out of wet paper bag.
If it is correct, and I fear it is, that the USA is no longer a CAN-DO nation ... If the USA is now a CAN'T-DO nation, then I don't think they will be able to manage it. In which case, things could deteriorate considerably as various people squabble over dwindling oil reserves. Not in a punk-rock fashion, disaster-like, as in the movie, Mad Max, but more along the lines of many serious recessions.
In which case, certain people will be doing their damndest to distract the public sufficiently from asking: who caused this??? Who allowed it to happen?
Cheers, Anonymous
(See Matthew R. Simmons, Twilight in the Desert: The Coming Saudi Oil Shock and the World Economy. John Wiley, in July 2006, 428pp.)

Some of best news in several millennia: When 20 per cent or more of a population have mobile phones, and use them, research already indicates that dictators and tyrants can no longer function. (Noted by Bob Geldof in his documentary on Africa as screened in Australia on ABC TV on 7-11-2006).

2006 Environment: A few impressions: Year 2006 has been the world's sixth hottest year on record. Earth's ten hottest years have all occurred since 1994. The average extent of Arctic sea ice in September was 5.9 million square kilometres, the second lowest on record. Britain's Stern Review stated that “Australia exports $61.5 billion worth of climate change damage each year in the form of coal shipments.” If dams for Sydney's water supply were not topped up by water from the Shoalhaven River, the dams would be less than 20 per cent full. Air-conditioners are now using about 10 per cent of the NSW capacity to generate electricity. (Sydney Morning Herald, 16-17 December 2006, and on the same weekend, the Australian reported that Australia has now had ten years of below-average rainfall, plus a recent El Nino, all of which adds to bushfire risks. Australian also reported a paradox for greenie activists, “The green movement is struggling to maintain its relevance as the issues it has promoted for many years become central to mainstream party politics”, story by Matthew Warren)

2006: The year 2006 will see the first flights of new airliner, the A380, with advanced technology, double-deck layout, greater size and with a 555-seat capacity, even 800-seat capacity. (Predicted by 21 December 2000)

Global hell of limited nuclear conflict. If you thought that nuclear warfare was impractical, not really a useful option, you were probably right. Scientists have recently looked at probabilities and feel that even a small, limited nuclear war would have disastrous environmental and societal consequences, and after say, a few dozen Hiroshima-sized bombs had been exchanged, a pall of smoke would encircle the earth, causing temperatures to fall worldwide, and disrupting the food supply of millions of people. The new research has been conducted by scientists, some of whom originated the phrase, “nuclear winter”, in the 1980s, such as Dr. Owen Toon of University of Colorado, who researchers atmospherics. Part of research has been with reviewing the aftermath of the 1815 eruption of 1815, Tambora volcano, Indonesia, following which was “the year without a summer”, as crops failed in the northern hemisphere, such crop failures even being mentioned as such in the British Parliament. Famine occurred in Europe. Dust in the stratosphere can remain there for about ten years. (Sydney Morning Herald, 13 December 2006 and see recent issue of online journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics Discussions.)

Profit and loss: how climate change is likely to tip balance sheets: “The profit and assets of many of Australia's biggest companies will be hard hit by climate change, with coalminers and oil companies among those most at risk, according to an analysis published yesterday in Australia, the first report of its kind issued in Australia, issued by the stockbrokers, Citigroup. Sydney Morning Herald, 12 December 2006)

The Merchant Networks Project
Merchant Networks Project logo by Lou Farina

The history websites on this domain now have a companion website on a new domain, at Merchant Networks Project produced by Dan Byrnes and Ken Cozens (of London).

This website (it is hoped) will become a major exercise in economic and maritime history, with some attention to Sydney, Australia.

Dear Dan,
I am fascinated by your work for this website. I am trying to find info about the Snelling family who may have been merchants and bankers in Barcelona from the early 1600s to the 1700s....would you know anything about this family? I saw your citation on George....
Thanks, Linda (On 21-2-2002)
Answer: Unfortunately no, have no information or sources on any such query.

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The below material was emailed to this website by persons in the US on 20 December 2001 via: http://www.democracyctr.org/onlinenews/vol39.htm/


Seattle - Washington, DC - Prague - Davos - Genoa: This string of cities has become synonymous with a series of worldwide protests against economic globalization. For the citizens of the world paying slight attention, these protests come off as a caricature of scruffy young people engaged in street battle against police while well-tailored, well-reasoned world trade officials try to carry out their discussions.
Yet, beyond this caricature lies one of the most crucial public debates of the new century. As the world's economy becomes more and more integrated, what public rules will govern that new economy and who will write them?


The logic of economic globalisation's boosters is straightforward. With more international trade and commerce comes new economic opportunity -- new markets for what we produce as workers, cheaper prices for what we buy as consumers, new options for making a healthy return as investors.
Backers of unhindered globalization dismiss their critics as globophobes, the modern equivalent of flat-earthers, people naive to the realities of the new economic world. They are, in the words of a columnist in the International Herald Tribune, ...mobs of demonstrators and groups of devastators out to disrupt international organization of the world economy. They have nothing to propose.

True -- to simply argue against economic globalization is roughly akin to arguing against earthquakes. Human evolution itself seems hell bent on blurring the lines between nations and building both an economy and a culture that is global.
One can not be simply against globalization and at the same time a cheerleader for the international prosecution of Augusto Pinochet, the former Chilean dictator, or a champion of the right of immigrant workers to cross national borders in search of a better salary for their labor.

The issue is not globalization, yes or no, but the rules that will govern it. Those who would quickly dismiss globalisation's critics as having nothing to say either aren't listening or simply find it in their self-interest to feign deafness.
Behind closed doors, a remarkably tiny global elite is methodically spinning out a web of economic rules that will have dramatic effects on the lives of billions for decades to come. The global rules they are designing leave much to be critical about.


The world's poorest nations know too well what it is like to be on the receiving end of these rules from on high. International lending institutions, most notably the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), use the threat of cutting off foreign credit to force poor governments to adhere to a strict free-market theology designed by economists and analysts a hemisphere away.
Last year, for example, here in Bolivia, the World Bank blackmailed the Bolivian government into privatising the public water system of its third largest city -- landing it in the hands of a subsidiary of the powerful Bechtel Corporation. Within weeks of taking over, Bechtel doubled and tripled water rates for some of South America's poorest families. Widespread public protest eventually forced the company's departure, but not until it emptied the utility's bank accounts, left behind an unpaid $90,000 electric bill, and threatened to sue Bolivia for $20 million for the lost opportunity to make a profit.

The world's wealthiest nations will not be spared similar treatment as the current round of free trade negotiations is converted into international law. The granddaddy of all global economic rulemaking underway at the moment are the negotiations to establish a Free Trade Act of the Americas (FTAA), an international economic constitution that would hold sway over every city, state, and country from the tip of Argentina to the northern outposts of Canada.
In the name of eliminating barriers to foreign investment the FTAA would give multinational corporations the right take legal action against U.S. food safety laws, and to convert our water and other natural resources into commodities for sale. The global institutions that will be making these decisions will be far beyond the reach of average citizens.

It is no wonder that the development of global rules like these has been met with impassioned protest. It is also no surprise that the government and corporate officials involved are so anxious to keep their critics out of the deliberations, to dismiss them with ridicule, or as in Italy last month, to send in riot police to roust student protesters from their beds and beat them with clubs.
To be clear -- some of those coming to protest, clearly a minority, seem more inspired to violence than any real discussion of the issues involved. But that should not be used as an excuse to ignore the very real issues being raised by this string of protests.


The concerns and the demands being raised by globalisation's critics are neither radical nor new. In the U.S. and elsewhere the last century was marked by one public movement after another demanding public rules to counter the natural excesses of the private marketplace -- to limit child labor, to protect the rights of workers, to protect our environment, and to keep companies from cheating us on prices or selling us unsafe products.
All these reforms and others, when first proposed, were ridiculed as warrantless interference with the functioning of a vibrant economy. Eventually all have become matters of public consensus and accepted law.

Today the economic terrain is shifting underneath our feet. Once our marketplaces were mainly local and local communities could make their own rules. As economies around the world became more national, it has become the responsibility of national governments to take the lead in protecting the public. Today, with the world economy becoming more and more integrated, even national governments have found it harder to implement and maintain environmental, consumer, or labor protections.
Corporations tell us that if we don't make the rules to their liking, they will leave for other shores where they can get operate with less restriction. This new economic world order was described recently by a former U.S. Treasury Department official: Now the challenge is to demonstrate to the world that the loss of sovereignty by governments to capital is a new paradigm that will reward governments with good policies and punish those with bad ones.
By this perspective good policies are those which eliminate environmental, worker, community, and consumer rights and bad policies are those which seek to protect those rights.

In the end, the emerging battle over economic globalization is about something even more familiar and more dear to us -- democracy. There is no question that the rules of the new economic order will affect our lives in deep and important ways. It is also becoming quite clear that those rules are being written not by us or for us but by and for the wealthiest corporations and individuals on earth, too often at our expense.
Do we need international economic rules and rulemaking bodies? Absolutely. However, these rules must be aimed to protect people, not fortunes, and the bodies that make them must be democratic, not closed to all but a wealthy few.

The challenge now is to elevate the debate about globalization beyond simple rhetoric (on both sides), to understand what's at stake and to re-create democratic movements, coalitions, participation and rulemaking which are just as global as the economic forces we need to counterbalance.

THE DEMOCRACY CENTER ON-LINE is an electronic publication of The Democracy Center, distributed on an occasional basis to more than 1800 nonprofit organizations, policy-makers, journalists and others, throughout the US and worldwide.
Please consider forwarding it along to those who might be interested. People can request to be added to the distribution list by sending an e-mail note to mailto: info@democracyctr.org.

Newspapers and periodicals interested in reprinting or excerpting material in the newsletter should contact The Democracy Center at "info@democracyctr.org". Suggestions and comments are welcome. Past issues are available on The Democracy Center Web site.
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Dear Mr Byrnes, Thanks for making all this information available.
(23 January 2002) - I have found your data on English merchants and bankers very illuminating, ... early drug money; although I am interested in the early 1800s trade development between England (Liverpool in particular) , Ireland (Dublin) to the Caribbean (Jamaica and the Caribbean Coast of New Granada) I still have not found if the development followed of trade with South. America followed a similar pattern.
I only wish somebody would be out there in cyber-space with a list similar to yours covering the "wholesale merchants" of Dublin and Liverpool that dealt with the newly formed Republics of South America.
My ancestors, the Duncans of Dublin, were involved in shipping and other mercantile enterprises in the late 1700s and early 1800s in Dublin. I am trying to learn more about Irish (English really) mercantilism of that period as it relates to New Granada/Colombia, via Jamaica. It has been difficult to find sources, ... any suggestions?
Thanks in advance for any lead you might provide.

Best regards, Alfonso P. Duncan, apduncan@hotmail.com

Great Cockup County Library
Church Street
Great Cockup

Not The 1901 Census Online:
Statement from Miss Edith Tintwhistle, Head Librarian, now including a message from the Public Records Office

It has reached my ears that some very unkind things have been said in the bar of the Pig and Piccolo about our unsuccessful attempts to get the village 1901 census returns on the Internet by January 2 2002 as promised. Some very keen young people from Qinuseless, a firm in London, came down here with their laptops and spent all weekend guessing how many people would use our service once it is online. Our population is 3,472 and based on some very sophisticated calculations which took up the back of three large envelopes and a cigarette packet, Qinuseless came up with the figure of four: the retired couple in the old station house whose name I can never remember, Mrs. Fairfax Widdowson from the Manse and young Jamie Toadblower who said he might use it if he has a school history project during the holidays.

In fact the calculations were way out, since we forgot about all the other villages which surround us, plus all the descendants of our village folk in the rest of the county, the nation and the world. On the first day of the service we had 600,000 'hits', as I believe they are called and everything here stopped working, including Mr. Scurvy the caretaker who got fed up of answering the telephone.

Qinuseless have estimated how long it will take to get the service up and running again and have said that it will be a week, although they are not clear which week. My colleague Mr. Davis who looks after the large print books on a Friday did an evening class on web page design last term and has kindly agreed to see what he can do so long as I let him bring his bicycle into the library after dark - his pump was stolen last year. We really are doing our best, and the cheap jokes which I heard after church, such as "I wonder if the librarian can get a job with Railtrack?" and, "Did Qinuseless act as consultants for the Millennium Bridge" are not becoming to a senior member of the community. I overheard you vicar and if your books on Victorian Erotica are not back by Thursday next week I shall not waive your fine.

In the meantime genealogists from around the country and the world can still access the records by coming to Great Cockup Library in person and borrowing the personal computer on my desk. Booking is advisable and sessions are limited to 15 minutes per person. Please note that the library is closed Monday to Thursday and opens Fridays from 10.00 am to 12.30. pm. Closed weekends.


What a nightmare all this is proving to be! For the past two Fridays we have had queues from the library door as far as the grocery shop; the full length of Church Street - mostly middle aged couples with great thick files under their arms. The square is blocked with cars and many of them carry in their rear window the message that the owners are retired and spending the inheritance intended for their children. The first time I saw this I was mildly amused.

Mr Hartley in the Post Office has complained that people are leaning against his window. I apologise for the queue being so slow moving but must ask that people bring their own fold-up stools rather than upset Mr Hartley. He tells me that his irritable bowel has been aggravated by the insistence of his Head Office that he installs a computer for his Giro customers, and that he is not helped by queuing people sticking their heads into the Post Office door and asking cheekily if he can get the Public Records Office.

It has been suggested that in the current census fever we should open for longer hours. Mr Scurvy the caretaker says that it is lambing season and he is jiggered (actually he said another far ruder word ) if he is going to open up any more frequently.

On Wednesday morning I was disturbed in my Badedas bath by an urgent knock at the door. It was embarrassing to open the door in my candlewick dressing gown but the knock sounded urgent. Qinuseless had sent some of their top guns and they had called for the library key.

These young people and I spent all day in the library whilst curious members of the family history fraternity pressed their noses against the window and Mr Scurvy made reference to muddy footprints and bloody doors left open - it is curious how he cannot open the library more frequently yet has time to hang around when his presence is not appreciated.

The three young people from Qinuseless are very pleasant but rather unconventional by Great Cockup standards. Yasmin. a pretty young lady with a stud in her nose is responsible for Quality Assurance, which appears to consist of looking at me with an unnerving intensity all day and asking me how I feel about how things are going. Craig wears shirt, tie and enough body fragrance for the three of them, which is just as well since Zak appears to have personal hygiene difficulties. Either that or a farm tom cat has been spraying the bookshelves again. For a time I thought Zak was hearing impaired, since a wire from a box on his belt leads to an earpiece which emits a dull low frequency rhythmic thud. Zak wears tight greasy jeans, a black T shirt with a blasphemous reference to Jesus and a type of waistcoat made from tiger patterned fur fabric. I am told he is a Programmer. All day he sits motionless, speaking to nobody, scrolling through computer screens full of hieroglyphics. Craig is called a Systems Interrogationist, Brackets Forward Planning and Evaluation. He spends a lot of time sorting out his underpants through his trousers, presumably when he thinks nobody is looking. His job appears to be to translate Zaks enigmatic grunts, sighs and glances into words.

Mr Davis has popped in a couple of times and clearly feels that his computing abilities are not being appreciated by our young friends. Yesterday he left muttering something about it not working because in his words, dumbos out there keeping pressing their refresher buttons. Whenever I ask Craig about how long all this is going to take he grins rather patronisingly and replies that I must be patient

So ladies and gentlemen, all I can say with certainty is that the system still is not working, that it will take a week or two and Mr Davis asks if you will please stop pressing your refresher buttons, whatever that may mean.

Update 2

Oh dear this is all getting out of hand. Whereas I would perhaps get one or two Emails a month from an old school friend in South Africa, I have received over 100 Emails in the past 24 hours; from all over our former colonies and England, Scotland and Wales. My dear friend Cecil Hawthorne Hyssop from the Bank has noticed my stress levels rising and has kindly invited me to accompany him on a bicycle outing. I considered this kind offer carefully but decided to decline rather than give him the wrong signals. A gentleman wrote and offered to take me for a pint of bitter in the Pig and Piccolo. Thank you Mr Arter but you give away your class with your suggestion that I would drink beer and your remarks about my ample bosom are ungentlemanly. An Antipodean gentleman jokingly suggested that he might sue because of the pain and suffering of a stitch due to laughing. The Great Cockup Census Online is a serious business Mr Downunder and nobody is laughing here.

The High spot of the past two days has been that one of the many E mails has been from a lost cousin in the Industrial North. She does sound remarkably educated for someone from that part of England and although she originated from a good bloodline on her father's side she is the granddaughter of a fallen parlourmaid. We have yet to meet and whatever her background I am excited at the thought of having a new cousin to correspond with. You can read our correspondence on my letters page.

Mr Davis is being a bit of a nuisance with the Qinuseless Team. Zak, who today is wearing a T shirt with a Miss Marylin Manson on the front, has threatened to hit him- the first time I have heard Zak speak a whole sentence. Yasmin very diplomatically suggested to Mr Davis that his skills would be invaluable in creating a Cockup.com page using local business advertisers to raise money for bringing our 1901 Census online. We already have a coffee morning planned in the Parish Hall next weekend and it is good to see the village keeping up with the current national obsession with sponsorship and public private partnerships. Mr Davis said that he would only agree if his URL could be linked to the Library pages and tempers flared again when Craig was heard to mutter that it would be over his dead body. Yasmin and I calmed things down and it was agreed. I am beginning to like this young lady and may invite her for tea and muffins. Mr Davis has set off with his clip board and we all have high expectations.

Update 3

Yasmin has been to tea this afternoon and we really have been getting on like a house on fire. She said that she was worried about my mental state and I had to agree that I am very stressed by all this. Fortunately I have found a solution.

Yesterday afternoon I had tea at the Manse with Felicity Fairfax-Widdowson who you may remember was one of the four people originally expected to use our census online. Felicity is a very dear friend and without my asking, has offered to work alongside me at the library answering some of your E mails. Being an expert on family history she is well qualified to answer some of the more esoteric questions that are coming in every hour, day and night. She is also skilled in computing and will be introducing herself to you all shortly. She is a thoroughly good sort but I have to admit to some envy at her racy lifestyle and unconventionality.

It is with some relief that the Qinuseless team have finally got their technical update online. Now you will not think that any of the current incompetence is of my making. I have to admit that I was responsible for finding them in the Yellow Pages but they are all that I could afford given my current funding provision and their display advertisement looked very convincing.

Update 4

This message arrived on Monday 4 February. It appears that some naughty people out there have been alerting the PRO to this web site. I am sorry that I have taken so long to pass on this urgent message from the Public Records Office no less. I gather that they too have been having problems with their Census Online.

Subject: Census Helpdesk ref:EMAIL65716
Date: Mon, 04 Feb 2002 16:58:05 +0000
From: support@censushelpdesk.co.uk
To: edith@staithes.demon.co.uk

Thank you for contacting the 1901 Census Helpdesk.

We have received a copy of your 'chain email', and would be suggest that you add a paragraph including up to date information as to the web site. The following information details the position as at 29/01/2002.

Unfortunately, we are unable to give you a specific date, on which you will be able to access the site from you home PC. The site is currently available at specific record offices and libraries around the country. We are opening up the lines to more record offices and libraries, and then we will gradually open up the lines to the general public. This 'soft' re-launch is to prevent a re run of the excessive demand that we experienced that the beginning of January.

Yours sincerely

Dawn, Census Helpdesk

So now you know!

Update 5

Mr Davis is really pleased with himself. This morning he came panting into the library with an uncharacteristically fat floppy disk which he calls a zip disk. Zak recognised it and soon had its contents on the computer. Zak gave a snort of derision at the look of the thing and I have to admit that it does look like the back cover of a very badly printed Parish Magazine run off on one of those ink duplicators we have in the old days. Still at least Horace gets things done and he has raised three hundred pounds for the Census Online Fund. He is so thrilled to have made use of his web page design evening class at last. Only a few local shopkeepers refused to be on the Cockup.com page, as Horace has called it. Abraham Compost in the Greengrocers said he didn't think that many people would be coming from New Zealand to buy his carrots even if they did log on, so it was a waste of money.

Anyway CLICK HERE and see what you think!

Update 6

Now we really are in trouble.

Craig has told me that Zak has told him that we cannot even get onto our own 1901 census records from this office. Apparently this is "for the next week or so", at least until 20 February. Zak says it is because he is "testing the system". Therefore my desk is not accessible to visitors during that time. Neither are the desks at Upper Cockup, Lower Cockup or Cockup St Blair. Yasmin says that they do apologise for this and says will I thank you all for your patience.

Edith Tintwhistle (Miss)
10 February 2002


Hi everybody! I'm Felicity Fairfax-Widdowson. Gosh, isn't this fun! I'm going to be helping Edie with this e-mail lark because she is getting so many she needs a bit of a helping hand. I've already answered one, from a Mister Spider - you can see it on my letters page (there's a click thingey at the bottom too).

Web Counter by www.digits.com


Edith, also known as John and Sandra, would love to be contacted by other family historians with a sense of humour.


Edith's Correspondence The vicar now has a fan club Felicity's Correspondence Updated 10 February

THE TOADBLOWER SAGA CONTINUES New picture of Charlotte Hamilton-Whitmore, The Australian connection to the Toadblowers.

COCKUP.COM Sponsors of Great Cockup 1901 Census Online

Technical update from Qinuseless UPDATED DAILY BY CHANGING THE DATE ON IT

THE 1901 CENSUS CROSSWORD PUZZLE Wile away some time waiting for the census to come online

Your kind comments Messages from our many readers

Please let you friends know about Great Cockup Library by forwarding Edith's original E mail.

Watch out for regular updates from Great Cockup Library.


March 2000: Survey shows Linux software is on 60 per cent of Web servers. (Part of the Linux story)

July 2000: StarOffice to be released under GPL. (Part of the Linux story)

2000: Microsoft approaches the corporate market with release of Windows 2000.

21 October 2000: Billed as New Zealand's first Internet-based election, 15,000 students of the Auckland University of Technology took to the Internet to vote for their president.

October 2000: An Australian union began campaigning against the impending spread of Web cameras into child care centres, saying they pose a security risk and jeopardise the privacy of workers and children alike.

November 2000: One of America's most popular online retailers, Buy.com, is abandoned its Australian store due to "a difficult capital market environment in Australia".

November 2000: New Zealand's Ministry of Health pushed through a ban on the sale by New Zealand companies of prescription medicines to overseas consumers via the Internet.

November 2000: A study that polled over 1,000 Australian teachers found that more than 61% of them have Internet access at home, compared to a similar study in the US that computed a 59% figure.

Bad News book title: 2000: Howard Kurtz, The Fortune Tellers: Inside Wall Street's Game of Money, Media and Manipulation. The Free Press, 2000.


Prediction: By December 2001, about 4.4 million Australians own a personal computer.


During 2001, the 100th anniversary of the Nobel Prize, Cisco Systems in the US surveyed 79 Nobel laureates on their views on the Internet. Some 91 per cent say the Internet will be moderate or a "very big thing" in education, productivity and the exchange of ideas. But they do worry about privacy invasion and the unchecked abilities of people to access the personal and other records of other people without consent. (Find more at www.cisco.com/nobel/survey)

March 2001, Possible release of Windows 2000 by Microsoft.

2001: Microsoft releases Windows XP.

2001: On why you should be using Internet facilities? "If you don?t take advantage of it, your competitors will."
Sun Microsystems chairman Scott McNealy, quoted in The Weekend Australian, 14-15 April 2001.

2001: By April, in the US, the Internet Fraud Complaint Center, run by the FBI and National White Collar Crime Centre, reports that in its first six months of operation, it had received 20,014 complaints, the most-reported offence being investment fraud.
Reported in article by Brian Hale in The Sydney Morning Herald, 13 April 2001.

By 22 February 2001, it is reliably reported in Australia that the most-visited web sites in Australia by men are banks, followed by on-line trading sites.

Late April 2001: Australia's most powerful, publicly accessible supercomputer goes on duty (after some delays). A teraflop system, supplied by Compaq, and to be upgraded in September 2001. (The Compaq Alphaserver SC ES40-based system with 184 processors). Check Website (maybe defunctnow?):http://www.apac.edu.au

2001: April: Bandwidth has been doubling every 16 months.
(Sun Microsystems chairman Scott McNealy, quoted in The Weekend Australian, 14-15 April 2001.

May 2001: Saudi Arabia: "Dubai: More than 3.5 million people in the Arab World are logging onto the Internet, led by computer-smart residents of the United Emirates, according to a survey by the web portal Ajeeb.com. And in the rest of the world? The Internet makes little headway in Africa, a UN symposium (held in Namibia on World Press Freedom Day) has been told. Africa had 3.11 million Internet users, the US had 154 million, Europe had 113.14 million users, Asia had 105 million and Latin America 16.45 million. (Russia, Australia and Canada did not seem to be counted here.)
Reported by The Australian IT, 15 May 2001.

"A British company has developed software that impedes the spread of viruses by stopping infected computers from automatically forwarding the worm."
Item from IT pages, The Australian, 1 May 2001

June 2001: A survey finds that: "Only about six per cent of the world's population uses the Internet, with most of the rest unaware of it or not interested..."
The Australian IT, 19 June 2001.

June 2001: "The world's largest chipmaker, Intel, says it has built the world's fastest silicon transistors, running at speeds approaching 20GHz, and these will give Moore's Law another decade of life."
Reported by The Australian IT, 19 June 2001.

2001: President of Australian Computer Society is John Ridge.

June 2001: Microsoft president Steve Ballmer describes Linux as a cancer. (Part of the Linux story and widely regarded as ha ha, ha ha ha)

June 2001: Bill Gates describes the GPL as "Pac-Man-like". (News.com) (Part of the Linux story)

30 June 2002: Accountants over the Moon: After the latest news on the World.com crash and other scandal, comes a report that for the past five years, photocopier group Xerox has been overstating its revenue by US$3.55 billion. The news dropped the Xerox share price value by 30 per cent. President G. W. Bush is reportedly "very angry", as he tends to be associated with "big business interests". (Tell it to the auditors - Ed)

November 2001: Thailand's Parliament finally approved the nation's Electronic Transaction Law, which should be in force early next year. But some have expressed worries an associated committee's power could extend to the regulation of many types of businesses such as Internet cafes, ISPs, logistics providers and Internet data centres.

October-November 2001: A Queensland hacker has been jailed for two years (from November 2001) after accessing and activating systems that released millions of litres of sewage into Sunshine Coast creeks and parks.

October-November 2001: New Sites
A national directory of breast cancer groups has been launched on to the Internet. The Web directory lists organisations across the country - that's over 150 groups. Check online at: http://www.nbcc.org.au

20 October 2001: ANZ Bank may soon issue smartcards fitted with a computer chip to hold extra information. EFTPOS machines may be refitted to take information from such cards. Australia has been slow to consider such smartcard technology, partly due to privacy concerns.

October 2001: Business Banking on the Internet: The AIIA, ABA and NOIE have produced a new e-commerce publication looking at business use of the Internet for business banking needs and services on offer. (Senator Richard Alston, Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, launched the publication at the 'E-Commerce; the Banking Business Partnership' Forum held in Sydney on 22 October 1999.) The publication can be accessed online. Check Website at: http://www.noie.gov.au/businessbanking

November 2001: Auckland University To Develop Digital Enterprise Centre
The University of Auckland Business School is building a centre that will provide digital technologies information and assistance to New Zealand businesses. One researcher involved is Prof. Ananth Srinivasan, professor of Information Systems and Digital Enterprise at the University of Auckland.

11 November 2001: AuNz Net and Information Industry Briefs: News headlines include: Australia, NZ expected to sign global cyber-crime treaty - New Zealand ISP fined over free Internet claims - Telstra backs wireless data with developer's zone - AAPT rolls out broadband network in Shepparton.

11 November, 2001: With revenues from the area growing 100% in the past year, Telstra said it will expand its Web hosting services.

Asia-Pacific in brief: Serious about e-government, the Hong Kong government said it is aiming for 90% of all Internet-suited public services to be available online by the end of 2003.

The carving up of former Asia-Pacific Internet services provider Asia Online continued with liquidators in Hong Kong last week agreeing to send stranded customers to Telstra partner Pacific Century CyberWorks.

By 6 November 2001, in China, Beijing, pirated versions of new Windows XP release are on the market five days before official release in China, selling as cheaply as $7.20. (For every 100 Microsoft programs used in China, 94 are pirated, estimates are.)

November 2001: Asia Pacific In Brief: A government survey of Korean e-commerce said the value of online sales during August fell 1.8 billion won (about $30 million) to 272.2 billion won (about $420 million) compared to the prior month's sales.

Notice by November 2001: Register Chinese Character Domain Name- ONLY US$17/year! 100 Chinese Domain Names are registered every minute! Time is clicking, what are you waiting for? Go to http://www.chinese-dns.com Register NOW!!!
Verisign¤¤¤å³»¯Å°ì¦W²{¦b¼ö½æ¤¤¡T ¨C¤ÀÄÁ³£¦³100­Ó¤¤¤å°ì¦W³Qµù¥U¡M±zÁÙ¦bµ¥¤°»ò©O¡S ¨C­Óºô§}¬üª÷17¤¸/¦~¡T²{¦b´N¨ì http://www.chinese-dns.com µù¥U¡T

28 November 2001: "The relentless decline of the Australian dollar over the past 30 years has ended, according to the Reserve Bank of Australia." (Reported 28 November 2001 in The Australian newspaper)

28 November 2001: Interesting on recent trends for the Net are the views of Lawrence Lessig, a professor of Law at Stanford University. (Author of The Future of Ideas: The Fate of the Commons in a Connected World. Random House, 2001). Lessig views the earlier, more anarchic, non-corporate dominated Internet world of say, 1996, as a socio-political commons, something to which everyone has access. Gradually, via laws on copyright, or against material judged offensive, pro-censorship laws, the anarchic Internet will be controlled, disciplined, manipulated, "tamed".

Lessig quotes Niccolo Machiavelli, "Innovation makes enemies of all those who prospered under the old regime, and only lukewarm support is forthcoming from those who would prosper under the new."

Lessig notes, that as a technical Net innovation for browsing the Internet, the Web, was developed by a Swiss (not US) researcher who saw its potential, then fought to realise it. Hotmail (web-based email) was not invented in the US, but by an Indian immigrant to the US, Sabeer Bhatia. Online chatting was originated by an Israeli, who sold his idea to AOL for $400 million. Such services, earlier used for nothing, have been acquired by corporate interests, and so "tamed".

The trends noted by Lessig (see his article in The Australian, higher education supplement, 28 November 2001) are afoot, and are at one level complicating Net situation that formerly were free-wheeling, communicative and - somewhat anarchic. In particular, the shift from use of narrow-band (telephone lines) to broadband for Net data propagation and reception will be accompanied by corporate presences - who will exert their own particular influences.

2 December 2001: Enron files in US for bankruptcy. This has amongst other things wiped out the life savings of thousands of former employees whose funds have been in the form of now-worthless Enron stock. (Capitalism in America? We ask you!)

24 December 2001 as reported: Despite criticism for the plan, and warnings of damage from earthquakes, the Italian Government intends to build a bridge from the mainland to Sicily at a cost of 10,000 billion lira. (Aust$10.23 billion).

Newspapers of 8 December 2001 indicate Japan is now in fourth recession in a decade. "Bad news for everyone".

31 December 2001: Thin end of genetic wedge?: Prediction in UK: Britain's first "designer baby" will be born before year's end. This baby will be "designed" to have an immune system allowing it to assist a brother suffering leukemia. (Reported 16 October 2001)

Questions on Globalisation

Who are the major beneficiaries from Globalisation?
Please name them.
Are they suitable people?

Who (if any) are the major sufferers from Globalisation?
Please name them.
What are the resulting statistics?
If the statistics are not easily collectable, is Globalisation just hype?
If yes, should propaganda on Globalisation be abandoned? If not, how and why not?

In that famously-polite marketing line from a Japanese car manufacturer in Australia

Follows a mini-booklist relevant to this section of this website

Michael Lewis, The Future Just Happened. Random House, 2001. (On the impact of the Internet and new technology)
Anita Roddick, Take It Personally: How Globalization affects you and powerful ways to challenge it. Thorsons, 2001.
C. Buarque, The End of Economics? Ethics and the Disorder of Progress. London/New Jersey, Zed Books Ltd., 1993.
L. C. Thurow, The Future of Capitalism: How Today's Economic Forces Shape Tomorrow's World. Allen and Unwin, Australia, 1996.
Michael Wrong, In the Footsteps of Mr Kurtz: Living on the brink of Disaster in the Congo. Fourth Estate, 2001, 324pp.
Steven Johnson, Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities and Software. Allen Lane/Penguin Press, 2001.
Torbjorn Lundemark, Quirky Qwerty: The Story of the Keyboard @ Your Fingertips. University of New South Wales Press, 2001.
John Chipello, Hack Attacks Encyclopedia: A Complete History of Hacks, Cracks, Phreaks and Spies Over Time. 2001. (Complete with CD-ROM)
Christopher Locke, Gonzo Marketing: Winning Through Worst Practices. Perseus Publishing, 2001. (On web-based "gonzo marketing" for the Net future)
John Pilger, The New Rulers of the World. Verso, 2002. (Essays on the deployment of power in today's world)
Barbara Ehrenreich, Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting Rich in America. Metropolitan, 2002, 221pp.
Tariq Ali, The Clash of Fundamentalisms. Verso, 2002. (Analysis of the rise of a new Western colonialism and Islamic fundamentalism)
Richard Phalon, Forbes Greatest Investing Stories. John Wiley Wiley and Sons, 2001. (Profiles famed investors).

2003: Following the release in late 2001 of Windows XP, the next major release of Windows is expected to be in 2003, according to Microsoft.

30 November 2001: US reports on the fall of ENRON (gas supplier). Already billed as perhaps the biggest bankruptcy in world history.

Below is a partial listing of companies with "exposure" to the ENRON crash: This list was sent to this website from persons in the US:
Date: Friday, December 14, 2001 5:49 AM
Subject: Enron - partial list of credit exposure
Companies with exposure to Enron: Published: September 24 2001: Last Updated: December 13 2001:
Financial institutions Exposure Country
Abbey National Abbey National, a UK bank, has exposures of £115m ($164m) to the Enron group. It expects to provide up to £95m against this exposure in the second half of the year. UK
ABN Amro, the Dutch bank, revealed a potential exposure of E110m ($98m) to Enron, the crippled US based energy trading firm. Dutch
AEGON, the Dutch insurer, confirmed that its gross loan exposure to Enron and affiliated entities amounted to approximately $300m. Dutch
ANZ Banking Group said its direct exposure to Enron was $69m with indirect exposure being $51m. Australia
Axa said its estimated gross exposure to Enron was approximately E200m, ($178m) "only comprised of fixed income securities". Its net exposure is believed to be less than E100m ($89m). France
The Bank of Montreal said it has a total of $103m in total exposure to bankrupt Enron Corp Canada
Mitsubishi Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi said that the bank's loan exposure to failed U.S. energy giant Enron Corp and its related businesses totalled Y30.6bn ($248.1m). Japan
Chubb estimates that its maximum net pre-tax exposure under outstanding surety bonds issued to various obligees in connection with Enron commitments is approximately $220 million (or $143 million after tax, which represents $0.82 per share). US
CIBC reported it has credit exposure to Enron entities of approximately US$115m in senior unsecured loans, letters of credit and derivatives. In addition, CIBC confirmed it has secured exposures of approximately US$100m. Canada
CSFB Credit Suisse's exposure to Enron both secured and unsecured is estimated to be between $75m-to-$100m. Swiss
Daiwa Asset Management, the Japanese bank, has said that its current exposure to Enron is estimated at $140m. Japan
Fortis said its US operation has exposure equal to E54m to Enron while Fortis Bank has exposure of E22m. The US exposure relates to the investment portfolio of Fortis' insurance business. Provisions will be made in the fourth quarter. Belgian
JP Morgan Chase Approximately $500m of unsecured exposure to Enron, including loans, letters of credit, and derivatives. JP Morgan Chase also confirmed it has additional exposures that are secured, including $400m in loans secured by the Transwestern and Northern Natural pipelines. US
KBC Bancassurance Belgian bank and insurance group KBC Bancassurance has estimated its at 49.4 million euros. Belgian
National Australia Bank, estimates its the current exposure to Enron at A$200m ($104m). Australia
Société Générale Société Générale, the French bank, revealed an exposure of $206m to Enron. France
Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation said it has a $210m exposure to Enron. Japan
Energy companies' exposure
Country American Electric Power has $50m worth of exposure to Enron. US
BP, the UK integrated oil group, said its maximum liability to the Enron group was no more than £20m ($28m). UK
Centrica, the UK's biggest gas supplier, said it was working to cut its trading exposure to Enron, estimated to be about £30m ($42.8m). UK
Duke Energy currently has approximately $100m in non-collaterised exposure to Enron. US
Dynegy, the US energy trader, has $75m exposure to Enron. US
El Paso's maximum natural gas and power net trading exposure to Enron is approximately $50m. US
Exelon Power Team's direct net exposure to Enron, based on its current book of business and existing market prices, is less than $10m. The current direct gross exposure (including current energy sales from Exelon to Enron) is less than $20m. US
KeySpan and its subsidiaries have less than $4m of exposure, after tax, from Enron. US
Mirant said its current pre-tax exposure to Enron is approximately $50m to $60m. US
Reliant Resources' current exposure to Enron is approximately $80m. US
RWE of Germany estimated its net exposure to Enron was between E10m ($8.9m) and E11m, well down on a few months ago. Germany
UtiliCorp has limited exposure to Enron. UtiliCorp, is the holder of two unsecured promissory notes from Enron in the aggregate amount of $31.5m. Aquila, its' 80 percent-owned network businesses, has exposure of under $40m. It has not been determined the extent of the exposure by Midlands Electricity. US
Wessex Water reassures 2.4m west of England customers that the company would continue to operate even if Enron failed. England
Western Gas Resources has pre-tax credit exposure to Enron of $2.3m for currently outstanding transactions. US
Williams said that its net exposure related to Enron would be less than $100m.

Many of Enron Corp's 20,000 employees have received what may be their last pay cheque and many have lost savings and retirement funds because they are invested in now-worthless Enron stock. (Reported 3 December 2001)

The below material was emailed to this website by persons in the US on 20 December 2001 via: http://www.democracyctr.org/onlinenews/vol39.htm/


Seattle - Washington, DC - Prague - Davos - Genoa: This string of cities has become synonymous with a series of worldwide protests against economic globalization. For the citizens of the world paying slight attention, these protests come off as a caricature of scruffy young people engaged in street battle against police while well-tailored, well-reasoned world trade officials try to carry out their discussions.
Yet, beyond this caricature lies one of the most crucial public debates of the new century. As the world's economy becomes more and more integrated, what public rules will govern that new economy and who will write them?

Advertisement on Dan Byrnes Word Factory logo



The logic of economic globalisation's boosters is straightforward. With more international trade and commerce comes new economic opportunity -- new markets for what we produce as workers, cheaper prices for what we buy as consumers, new options for making a healthy return as investors.
Backers of unhindered globalization dismiss their critics as globophobes, the modern equivalent of flat-earthers, people naive to the realities of the new economic world. They are, in the words of a columnist in the International Herald Tribune, ...mobs of demonstrators and groups of devastators out to disrupt international organization of the world economy. They have nothing to propose.

True -- to simply argue against economic globalization is roughly akin to arguing against earthquakes. Human evolution itself seems hell bent on blurring the lines between nations and building both an economy and a culture that is global.
One can not be simply against globalization and at the same time a cheerleader for the international prosecution of Augusto Pinochet, the former Chilean dictator, or a champion of the right of immigrant workers to cross national borders in search of a better salary for their labor.

The issue is not globalization, yes or no, but the rules that will govern it. Those who would quickly dismiss globalisation's critics as having nothing to say either aren't listening or simply find it in their self-interest to feign deafness.
Behind closed doors, a remarkably tiny global elite is methodically spinning out a web of economic rules that will have dramatic effects on the lives of billions for decades to come. The global rules they are designing leave much to be critical about.


The world's poorest nations know too well what it is like to be on the receiving end of these rules from on high. International lending institutions, most notably the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), use the threat of cutting off foreign credit to force poor governments to adhere to a strict free-market theology designed by economists and analysts a hemisphere away.
Last year, for example, here in Bolivia, the World Bank blackmailed the Bolivian government into privatising the public water system of its third largest city -- landing it in the hands of a subsidiary of the powerful Bechtel Corporation. Within weeks of taking over, Bechtel doubled and tripled water rates for some of South America's poorest families. Widespread public protest eventually forced the company's departure, but not until it emptied the utility's bank accounts, left behind an unpaid $90,000 electric bill, and threatened to sue Bolivia for $20 million for the lost opportunity to make a profit.

The world's wealthiest nations will not be spared similar treatment as the current round of free trade negotiations is converted into international law. The granddaddy of all global economic rulemaking underway at the moment are the negotiations to establish a Free Trade Act of the Americas (FTAA), an international economic constitution that would hold sway over every city, state, and country from the tip of Argentina to the northern outposts of Canada.
In the name of eliminating barriers to foreign investment the FTAA would give multinational corporations the right take legal action against U.S. food safety laws, and to convert our water and other natural resources into commodities for sale. The global institutions that will be making these decisions will be far beyond the reach of average citizens.

It is no wonder that the development of global rules like these has been met with impassioned protest. It is also no surprise that the government and corporate officials involved are so anxious to keep their critics out of the deliberations, to dismiss them with ridicule, or as in Italy last month, to send in riot police to roust student protesters from their beds and beat them with clubs.
To be clear -- some of those coming to protest, clearly a minority, seem more inspired to violence than any real discussion of the issues involved. But that should not be used as an excuse to ignore the very real issues being raised by this string of protests.


The concerns and the demands being raised by globalisation's critics are neither radical nor new. In the U.S. and elsewhere the last century was marked by one public movement after another demanding public rules to counter the natural excesses of the private marketplace -- to limit child labor, to protect the rights of workers, to protect our environment, and to keep companies from cheating us on prices or selling us unsafe products.
All these reforms and others, when first proposed, were ridiculed as warrantless interference with the functioning of a vibrant economy. Eventually all have become matters of public consensus and accepted law.

Today the economic terrain is shifting underneath our feet. Once our marketplaces were mainly local and local communities could make their own rules. As economies around the world became more national, it has become the responsibility of national governments to take the lead in protecting the public. Today, with the world economy becoming more and more integrated, even national governments have found it harder to implement and maintain environmental, consumer, or labor protections.
Corporations tell us that if we don't make the rules to their liking, they will leave for other shores where they can get operate with less restriction. This new economic world order was described recently by a former U.S. Treasury Department official: Now the challenge is to demonstrate to the world that the loss of sovereignty by governments to capital is a new paradigm that will reward governments with good policies and punish those with bad ones.
By this perspective good policies are those which eliminate environmental, worker, community, and consumer rights and bad policies are those which seek to protect those rights.

In the end, the emerging battle over economic globalization is about something even more familiar and more dear to us -- democracy. There is no question that the rules of the new economic order will affect our lives in deep and important ways. It is also becoming quite clear that those rules are being written not by us or for us but by and for the wealthiest corporations and individuals on earth, too often at our expense.
Do we need international economic rules and rulemaking bodies? Absolutely. However, these rules must be aimed to protect people, not fortunes, and the bodies that make them must be democratic, not closed to all but a wealthy few.

The challenge now is to elevate the debate about globalization beyond simple rhetoric (on both sides), to understand what's at stake and to re-create democratic movements, coalitions, participation and rulemaking which are just as global as the economic forces we need to counterbalance.

THE DEMOCRACY CENTER ON-LINE is an electronic publication of The Democracy Center, distributed on an occasional basis to more than 1800 nonprofit organizations, policy-makers, journalists and others, throughout the US and worldwide.
Please consider forwarding it along to those who might be interested. People can request to be added to the distribution list by sending an e-mail note to mailto: info@democracyctr.org.

Newspapers and periodicals interested in reprinting or excerpting material in the newsletter should contact The Democracy Center at "info@democracyctr.org". Suggestions and comments are welcome. Past issues are available on The Democracy Center Web site.
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E-MAIL: info@democracyctr.org (I emailed these guys - they did not reply - just like other US foreign policy at other levels! Evidently, unanswerable!)

18 July 2002: WorldCom in US says it plans to file for bankruptcy protection.

Questions on Globalisation

Who are the major beneficiaries from Globalisation?
Please name them.
Are they suitable people?

Who (if any) are the major sufferers from Globalisation?
Please name them.
What are the resulting statistics?
If the statistics are not easily collectable, is Globalisation just hype?
If yes, should propaganda on Globalisation be abandoned? If not, how and why not?

In that famously-polite marketing line from a Japanese car manufacturer in Australia

20 July 2002: "The American market has fallen too far for it to be going through a normal correction. What we have seen is the bursting of the biggest stock market bubble the world has ever seen. The repercussions are already beginning to vibrate around the globe and they will influence international economies for a long time."
(Robert Gottliebson writing in Weekend Australian, 20-21 July 2002)

Reported 3 July 2002: In 1999 World Com's shares were worth US$64, now they are worth US6 cents, due to "the largest accounting error in US corporate history".

21 July 2002: US' WorldCom files for bankruptcy: The US$107billion (AUD$194 billion) WorldCom bankruptcy dwarfs last year's US$63.4 billion fall of US energy trader Enron. (Reported 23 July 2002 in Australia) Pundits say, "This bankruptcy cuts America's heart. The USA's biggest pension fund, California Public Employee's Retirement System faces a US$565 million loss and New York's state retirement system estimates its loss at US$300 million. Amongst other problems, WorldCom faces holders of US$28 billion in bonds and 27 banks that loaned the company US$2.65 billion in May 2001. WorldCom said that in June 202 it had improperly accounted for US$3.85 million expenses as capital spending accounts. WorldCom's former chief financial officer was Scott Sullivan.

28 August 2002: EMI plans to become the first major record label in Australia to sell its music through an online subscription service.

2002: Australia: As reported 14 December 2002, Boston Consulting Group has concluded that six per cent of Australian households control 63 per cent of the nation's personal wealth.


1978-2002: In the context of the ENRON crash, by February 2002, a news item reports: "There is a historical pattern in such things, as recognised by economist Charles P. Kindleberger in his classic 1978 book, "Manias, Panics and Crashes". 'The propensity to swindle and be swindled runs parallel to the propensity to speculate during a boom', he wrote. The 1929 US crash led to formation of the Securities and Exchange Commission."

Bad News book title: Paul Barry, Rich Kids. Random House, 2002. (On the recent demise of One-Tel in Australia, a so-called mobile phone company which gave itself billing system problems)

12 January 2002: US President George Bush is moving to distance himself from matters surrounding the failure of energy trader, ENRON, and speculation is that the scandalous bankruptcy could become his administration's biggest scandal. One of Bush's biggest campaign supporters/donors was Kenneth Lay, chairman of Enron. (Reported in Australian newspapers this date)

Press Release 2 June, 2002 - ----- Original Message ----- From: Catherine Austin Fitts - Sent: Monday, June 03, 2002 8:52 AM
Subject: Invitation: Launch of UnAnsweredQuestions.org, June 10, National Press Club

9-11 and the Public Safety: Seeking Answers and Accountability
A national press conference and formal web site launch for UnansweredQuestions.org will be held on Monday, June 10th from 2-5 PM at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.
The goal of this unprecedented press event and public inquiry is to pose pointed, as yet unanswered, questions regarding the failure of our national security infrastructure, and the response that has sacrificed civil liberties and rewarded failure as opposed to ensuring performance and guaranteeing freedom, now and in the future.
UnansweredQuestions.org is being launched by an independent, non-partisan network of citizens concerned about the growing number of issues surrounding September 11th that have yet to be addressed or resolved; and their related public safety and Constitutional implications. Invited panelists will offer statements, present well-documented research, and ask incisive questions relative to these issues while addressing how citizens can act now to ensure accountability from those in government directly responsible for public safety.
The conference will be moderated by Catherine Austin Fitts, President of Solari and former Assistant Secretary of Housing during the first Bush administration.
Confirmed participants include:
Mary Schiavo, Esq., lawyer for 32 passengers' families from all 9/11 hijacked planes, former Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Transportation ('90-'96) and author of Flying Safe, Flying Blind.
Lorna Brett, Director of Media Relations, Nolan Law Group, representing 9/11 families on United Airlines hijacked planes.
Ryan Amundson, whose brother Craig was killed at the Pentagon; co-founder of Peaceful Tomorrows.org.
Tom Flocco, independent investigative journalist who has researched and written extensively about insider trading in the trading days immediately preceding September 11th.
Jared Israel, Investigative Journalist and author of forthcoming book on 9-11.
Peter Erlander, Professor of Constitutional Law, William Mitchell University and past President of the National Lawyers Guild.
J. Michael Springmann, a veteran of 20 years of foreign service, who worked at the Saudi Embassy during a two year period when visas were issued to suspected Saudi hijackers.
Congressman Tom Tancredo (R-CO), the foremost House proponent of U.S. border security.
-- Other members of Congress as invited ...

Members of radio, television and print press are invited to attend. There will be ample opportunity for questions and follow-up, and one-on-one interviews with the panelists directly following the event. (Sight of press cards is required.)

Please contact Kyle F. Hence by Thursday, June 6th to register: 401-847-1963; kylehence@earthlink.net

At: National Press Club, Holeman Lounge, 529 14th Street NW; [corner of 14th & F St.], Washington, D.C.

January 2002: The folklore of the Internet is greatly based on notions that information will be available for free, or mostly-free. The economics of managing Internet-based facilities are gradually working against this notion. Concerning this trend, we find...
(From The Australian, IT pages, 29 January, 2002, p. 27:
That recently, Yahoo search engine (which works also with Google search engine), has made an agreement about technology for profiting from search-and-content assets with Northern Light Technology. Yahoo will now provide Premium Document Search/The Divine Special Collection Library, a fee-based search feature providing access to reference reports, news, and authoritative content. The charge will be US$4.95 per month or a one-article-fee of US$1-$4.00 fee per file retrieved. Will this become a trend, and grow and diversify? (More information on this was at: www.yahoo.com and www.divine.com - and years later, Yahoo merged with Microsoft)

2 January 2002: Further release in Europe of new currency, the Euro, affecting the lives of more than 300 million people in Europe. What will be the impact on the US dollar?

5 February 2002: Argentina: President Adolfo Rodriguez Saa, declares a moratorium on its foreign currency debt of US$132 billion or Aust$256 billion on 23 December 2001. The price of Argentine bonds had fallen by about 75 per cent. Argentina's peso had been tied to the US dollar from 1991, a situation which initially looked ok, but began to unravel when the US hiked interest rates in the mid-1990s. The country has suffered hyperinflation, and a host of other problems, and in early December 2001, the International Monetary Fund refused to bail it out yet again. Argentina's New York law firm is Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen and Hamilton.

Reported by 16 February 2002:The ENRON staff has produced an admirable whistleblower, Sheron Watkins, who has given evidence to congressional investigators (House Energy and Commerce Committee) on the fallen energy investor-giant. Ms Watkins, aged 42, formerly a vice-president at Enron, has delivered opinions flaying her former bosses, and been described as "an extraordinary and courageous woman".

16 February 2002: Headlines read/scream: "Argentina wakes up to misery". Is this the biggest economic meltdown in history? Argentina carries US$41 billion in international debt - and has defaulted as it has no means of repaying such debt. A journalist muses, "The mystery, and it is a great one, is how this all happened." (Reported in Australia by 16 February 2002)

Timeline: by November 2002 Microsoft is pushing Tablet PCs integrated with a digital camera with a large Californian auto insurance specialist.

November 2002: Argentina, province in the north-east, Tucuman: Charity workers with Red Silidaria find that 60 children per month are being taken to hospital with severe malnutrition and 400 are treated as outpatients due to food shortages in a country which has once been known as one of the world's breadbaskets, once the world's fourth-largest exporter of food, and only lately increasing exports of meat, wheat, corn and soya. The children suffer symptoms such as bloated stomachs, blotchy skin and dry hair associated with severe protein deficiency. Centre for Child Nutrition Studies which advises World Health Organisation says 20 per cent of Argentine children are suffering from malnutrition. Various organisations of Tucuman are considering a lawsuit against the governor of the province, where 64 per cent of people are in dire poverty. National Production Minister Anibal Fernande has been quoted as blaming a ruling class that are all sons of bitches, himself included. (Reported 26 November 2002)


Books of early 2003 -
Rakesh Khurana, Searching for a Corporate Saviour: The Irrational Quest for Charismatic CEOs. Princeton University Press, 2003, 320pp.

Louis V. Gerstner, Who Says Elephants Can't Dance? Inside IBM's Historic Turnaround. HarperCollins, 2003, 400pp.

Nigeria it is lately being said (April 2003), has "almost impossibly complex challenges". Recent books on Nigeria/Africa include:
Wole Soyinka, The Open Sore of a Continent. Oxford University Press, 2003. Eghosa E. Osaghae, Crippled Giant: Nigeria Since Independence. Indiana University Press, 2002/2003? Toyin Falola, Customs and Culture of Nigeria. Greenwood Publishing, 2002/2003? Karl Maier, This House Has Fallen: Nigeria in Crisis. nd?

Stop Press: For late entries and booklistings:

Jack Welch (former CEO of General Electric), Jack: Straight from the Gut. Hodder, 2001.

Jane Hutcheon, From Rice to Riches: A Personal Journey through a Changing China. Pan Macmillan, 2003.

Sharon Beder, Power Play: The Fight for Control of the World's Electricity. Scribe, 2003, 402pp.

Ian Watson, John Buchanan, Iain Campbell and Chris Briggs, Fragmented Futures: New Challenges In Working Life. The Federation Press, 2003. (Australian conditions)

2003-2005: Jeffrey Lee Parson, a fat-looking late-teenager from Hopkins, Minnesota, unleashes on the world the Blaster computer worm/virus which disabled 48,000 computers in 2003. By 5 February, 2005 he had got 18 months jail for it.

Reported July 2003: Around the world, e-mail use is growing at 300 per cent a year.

4 March 2003 - Check out the below US-based Net-turkeys seeking to profit from your fly-by-worries due to current world situation from a US-sent e-mail received here on 4 March 2003. Who said the Western Capitalist system isn't "alive and well"? Now read on (and check out the incredible range of the disclaimers "for reading purposes only") - and obviously, these US people are no longer with us on the same planet - so where the hell are they living???!!!!! And why on earth would anyone copyright this rubbish as of 2002????? - Ed
Headers of this e-mail below for the technically-minded...
Return-Path: rolfsdeena@islands.cc Delivered-To: danbyrnes &c Received: (qmail 11498 invoked from network); 4 Mar 2003 06:18:28 -0000 Received: from avs4.chariot.net.au ( by 0 with SMTP; 4 Mar 2003 06:18:28 -0000 Received: (qmail 26604 invoked by uid 104); 4 Mar 2003 06:20:24 -0000 Received: from rolfsdeena@islands.cc by avs2.chariot.net.au by uid 100 with qmail-scanner-1.14 (clamscan: 0.51. Clear:. Processed in 0.711402 secs); 04 Mar 2003 06:20:24 -0000 Received: from mta01bw.bigpond.com ( by avs4.chariot.net.au with SMTP; 4 Mar 2003 06:20:23 -0000 Received: from mail-fwd.vwh1.net ([]) by mta01bw.bigpond.com (Netscape Messaging Server 4.15 mta01bw Jul 16 2002 22:47:55) with SMTP id HB7O5P00.1NL; Tue, 4 Mar 2003 16:17:49 +1000 Received: from CPE-203-51-5-48.nsw.bigpond.net.au ([]) by bwmam06bpa.bigpond.com(MailRouter V3.0n 53/7833302); 04 Mar 2003 16:17:45 Reply-To: amadieldora@inves.es From: "Andrea" rolfsdeena@islands.cc To: "5511@bellatlantic.net" 5511@bellatlantic.net Subject: bigger office MIME-Version: 1.0 Content-Type: text/html; charset="iso-8859-1" Content-Transfer-Encoding: quoted-printable X-Qmail-Scanner-Message-ID: 104675882450126597@avs2.chariot.net.au

Reported July 2003: Around the world, e-mail use is growing at 300 per cent a year.

OTC - Newsletter Discover Tomorrow's Winners - Urgent Notice

Cost of Airport Security Soaring
By Barbara De Lollis, USA TODAY
The Transportation Security Administration expects to pay as much as $211 million a month for passenger screening services from private firms. Congress initially funded the TSA with $1.3 billion. The Bush administration is seeking $4.4 billion more to carry the agency through September 30.
Safety Sector Company in High Demand
With about 3000 airport bomb-scanning systems in use worldwide, the capability of Cal-Bay's (OTCBB: CBYI) pattern-recognition technology and its portability makes it ideal for airport security (including aircraft cargo bays, baggage handling, and passenger scans). Cal-Bay has developed a strategic alliance with another company that will provide an entry into the explosives-detection market for the military, which has significant potential for growth.
Analyst "Meehan Capital Management" says CBYI is undervalued...
Analyst Rating: Long-Term Speculative Buy
Recent Price: 22 cents
12-Month Target: $2.50
24-Month Target: $5.00

More Reasons to Invest in CBYI
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Our Subscribers Get In and Out and Profit Like the Pro's!
Congratulations to our subscribers who took action on our recommendation to buy EMCS. It rallied and is holding steady at $7.00, a 330% profit!
Certain statements contained in this news release may be forward-looking statements within the meaning of The Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. These statements may be identified by such terms as "expect", "believe", "may", "will", and "intend" or similar terms. We are NOT a registered investment advisor or a broker dealer. This is NOT an offer to buy or sell securities. No recommendation that the securities of the companies profiled should be purchased, sold or held by individuals or entities that learn of the profiled companies.
We were paid $27,000 in cash by a third party to publish this report. Investing in companies profiled is high-risk and use of this information is for reading purposes only. If anyone decides to act as an investor, then it will be that investor's sole risk. Investors are advised NOT to invest without the proper advisement from an attorney or a registered financial broker. Do not rely solely on the information presented, do additional independent research to form your own opinion and decision regarding investing in the profiled companies. Be advised that the purchase of such high-risk securities may result in the loss of your entire investment. Not intended for recipients or residents of CA,CO,CT,DE,ID, IL,IA,LA,MO,NV,NC,OK,OH,PA,RI,TN,VA,WA,WV,WI. Void where prohibited. The owners of this publication may already own free trading shares in CBYI and may immediately sell all or a portion of these shares into the open market at or about the time this report is published. Factual statements are made as of the date stated and are subject to change without notice. Copyright c 2002

Late 2003 Increasing numbers of people are talking Linux ... Linux ... Linux. But this domain finds only a very low percentage of Linux-based systems contacting its webpage offerings. Will the percentage rise?

What friends have noticed lately...
annoyances, informative, news, fun...

Computer Annoyances - during 2003: The curse of begging letters about commissions on handling say a loose, hush-hush $20 million or so, sent from bogus people claiming to be in distress in Africa (or, mostly in Nigeria). Up to 15 emails per day from them arrive here!! When will they stop? When will they learn that they are a curse to humanity. A curse to the reputation of what they claim is their own country or own continent? They are appalling people. They should be jailed by the UN! In jail, they should receive 100 of their own emails per day and nothing else!
Note: By late 2003, a lot of these have tailed off since a few people were put in jail!

March 2003: SCO files US$1 billion lawsuit alleging copyright infringement in Linux. (Part of the Linux story)

May 2003: The German government votes to switch 14,000 PCs to open source. Other governments (some in South America), begin defecting to Linux. (Part of the Linux story)

June 2003: The Sourceforge site (http://sourceforge.net) claims to host more than 60,000 open source products. (Part of the Linux story)

2003: Piracy or unpoliced waters?: In the first three months of 2003 were 100 attacks on merchant ships worldwide, with 145 people killed. In 2003 were 370 attacks at sea and 25 hijackings. Piracy risk spots lately are Indonesia (about 103 incidents), Bangladesh (32 incidents) and India (18 incidents). Areas where security is deteriorating seem to be Somalia, South America, Dominican Republic, Ecuador and Guyana. (Source: International Maritime Bureau)

20 September 2003 and earlier: Uproar in New York financial circles over huge remunerations for New York Stock Exchange chief Dick Grasso. "A gargantuan compensation package", uproar over which culminates in his resignation. New York Times thundered, "The sooner Mr Grasso is gone - and a number of his directors should follow him out of the door - the sooner the world's premier financial market can begin regaining the full confidence of its listed companies and the investing public." The compensation package was $US140 million, to be given "secretly" to Grasso. New York Post said, "And if they [the exchange board] weren't on drugs, they're just plain nuts".


William J. Bernstein, The Birth of Plenty: How The Prosperity Of The Modern World Was Created. McGraw-Hill, 2004, 420pp.

Deborah Cadbury, Seven Wonders of the Industrial World. Fourth Estate, 2004.

Deborah Cadbury, Seven Wonders of the Industrial World. Fourth Estate, 2004.

Doug Henwood, After the New Economy. Scribe, 2004, 269pp.

2004: US government will be working on a space-based missile-interception capability sited in Alaska. Possibly at Fort Greeley, Alaska. Also, a facility at Kodiak Island.
(Predicted by July 2001 in world news)

January 2004: SCO's letter to US Congress describes Linux as a threat to our (US) national security. (Part of the Linux story and widely regarded as very ha ha)

9 January 2004: Maybe get ready for a roller-coaster ride here, folk. Today The Australian newspaper has a front-page headline: US threat to world economy. That is, the US economy might threaten the rest of us.

Chronology of Computers and The Net 2004-2005

Follows a chronology of some milestones in the history of computerisation and the development of the Internet and multimedia. There is little consideration of technological development for radio/TV, nor of software for desktop publishing.

Follows a chronology of some milestones in the history of computerisation and the development of the Internet and multimedia. There is little consideration of technological development for radio/TV, nor of software for desktop publishing. (Page numbers given below are from a book by Sinclair.)

Please Note: Any items of the list of recommended reading are presented in terms of date of publication (the most recent last)

2004, Death of computer pioneer Bob Bemer, who developed the "Esc" key and the backslash, aged 84 in Texas. He warned of the Y2K bug as early as 1971, worked at IBM in 1950s and 1960s on the ASCII coding system still used by computers represent text. ASCII is still used by computers to represent text.

3 May 2004. A new computer virus is on the move, similar to the Blaster of 2003, this one called The Sasser Worm, appearing last Wednesday and gathering pace by last Friday. It hits Windows 2000, XP and Windows Server 2003. It does not affect other Windows products such as NT or WIN98,or Mac or Linux computers. It is not spread by email, but by exploiting security holes in MS products, though it slows down the user's machine while it propagates itself through the Net. Patches are made available.

Report of 11 May 2004 from a regular emailer...
Dear Reader, Newsletter just in....
* Record Broken: 82% of U.S. Email is Spam
Outdoing most analysts' worst predictions, spam accounted for 82 percent of all U.S. email last month. After a two-month drop in spam, the number of unsolicited bulk email skyrocketed in April, bringing the saturation number up to record levels here in the U.S. and across the world.
IT Management, 5 May, 2004

Jokes 2004. Personally, I think that it's true that some computers do not actually like people. Where this is the case, there should be a law enacted which obliges those computers to display a sign on their monitor screen as follows: "I seriously do not like people. If people approach me with ideas of using me, I will find a way to malfunction. My software will go haywire. Or my hardware might suddenly turn to jelly, it depends on what mood I am in. You have been warned. Now go away!"

Computer Advertising Terms Defined

NEW - Different color from previous design.

ALL NEW - Parts are not interchangeable with previous design.

EXCLUSIVE - Imported product.

UNMATCHED - Almost as good as the competition.

FOOLPROOF OPERATION - No provision for adjustments.

ADVANCED DESIGN - The advertising agency doesn't understand it.

IT'S HERE AT LAST - Rush job. Nobody knew it was coming.

FIELD TESTED - Manufacturer lacks test equipment.

HIGH ACCURACY - Unit on which all parts fit.

FUTURISTIC - No other reason why it looks the way it does.

REDESIGNED - Previous flaws fixed - we hope.

DIRECT SALES ONLY - Factory had a big argument with distributor.

YEARS OF DEVELOPMENT - We finally got one to work.

BREAKTHROUGH - We finally figured out a use for it.

MAINTENANCE FREE - Impossible to fix.

MEETS ALL STANDARDS - Ours, not yours.

SOLID-STATE - Heavy as anything!

HIGH RELIABILITY - We made it work long enough to ship it. [Jokes of 2004]


Microsoft annoys the Europeans: Microsoft in Europe has been hit with "landmark" anti-trust sanctions by the European Commission after a just has upheld formerly-imposed judgements, though MS will ask for the sanctions to be suspended while it appeals the decision. Meantime, EU regulators will take fresh looks at MS' software sales methods. In March 2004, MS had been held to be in violation of EU competition rules and to be abusing its dominant position in the market for PC operating systems. Microsoft was fined euro497 million, told to change its business practices, and ordered to offer a version of its Windows without MediaPlayer software to both PC makers and to consumers. It will also have to license information to rivals, making it easier for them to resign Windows-compatible servers.

(Reported 24 December 2004 in world press)


In Feb 2005 it is estimated that Microsoft chairman Bill Gates receives about 4 million emails each day. How many are answered, or even read? Who is ignoring whom?

On 2-2-2005, to sit with a novice at a Mac machine, to try to find a simple HTML editor, a WYSIWIG, the novice thinks he wants, from what he has seen of anything, and the writing work he wants to do is not complicated. Can we find a free download of some software for Mac here? Can't find one, and of what advice files we can find re Mac are either very old, or, old and woefully out of date with it. Seems to me that Macintosh is doing itself harm by not providing a simple free HTML editor for newbies, more so as it is very well known around the Net, that Mac computers can help produce some quite beautiful or otherwise impressive websites. Why would a large software company not help newbies on the road to useful achievements on the Net?

February 2005: Newspaper IT pages froth with indignation as they delve into the frustrations of Telstra's Bigpond services, which many find simply work badly. “Third week of service blackouts”. Outages. Drops in download speeds. Buy a new modem for $240 or so. No help at the Bigpond Help Desk, which is now regarded as either the Excuse Desk or the It's Your Own Fault Desk. Who should be getting a life here?

European Union has lately rejected ideas of the validity of patenting software. One motive is to avoid the “excesses” of the US system, which of course is being spearheaded by Microsoft, which utilises the values of an extraordinary number of [purchased] software patents. The EU view is that patenting software stifles innovation, entrenches monopolies and hampers the open source movement. (Rptd 22 Feb 2005)

Internet blogging in USA gets a flogging

(Item 4 of 24 October 2005) Opinion-handling in the US is evidently in serious trouble, but where are the facts? Is investigative journalism in the US being re-investigated – and by whom? Is this all a case of how quickly the US cultural worm can turn when it gains some new technology? Or is it that in the US, some permanent suspension of belief has achieved ultimate liftoff? What would Jesus do?

The mainstream media outlets are widely criticised, and noted news commentators are at a loss to defend, or to attack, as the case may be, all sorts of tactics engaged by journalists, politicians and partisans of all sorts. Since the advent of the popular Internet, great hopes have been that webloggers, or bloggers, can help redress any biases demonstrated by the mainstream media.

Now the podium-pendulum has swing the other way and while bloggers are challenging the mainstream media reporters, a lot of paid reporters by now are claiming that the bigger-budget bloggers are bullying them into toadying to various points of view. Many bloggers, including those using whiplash-effect emailer lists to sting their enemies, see themselves as newly-empowered by their Net activity, while mainstream media is seen as having lost some control. It's all partly an old-fashioned battle, and therefore somewhat predictable, between the left and right. Lost Worlds website suspects that with the rise of Christian-Right religious fundamentalism and with conspiracy theories so popular for so long in the US, the situation will only get worse, not better. New York Times has not been helping after being tricked into publishing fiction by one of its “reporters”.

It's also all far too easy to believe that these days, education systems in the US have been so brain-softened for decades now, that really searching journalism in the US has run out of demographic; that is, customers. Paradoxically, while much of the US population is now demonstrating an obesity epidemic, media in the US, including many bloggers, seem to be demonstrating an inability to find sets of relevant, balancing facts, and are now chronically starved of a relevant sense of truth. Too much spin, and everyone loses their balance? Too much fiction of all kinds rolling around in US popular cultures these days? Or is all this just part of a crisis of leadership in the US?

Many bloggers in the US seem not to realise that traditionally, useful newspapers keep their editorial material and their factual reportage on separate pages, which is a response pattern less easy to demonstrate with website pages than with the use of printed pages. What's most depressing is that such issues are so noisily prevalent in the world's richest nation.

October 2005: Release by Apple in US of an iPod for download of video, to sell for up to US$600.





Dana Thomas, Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Lustre. Allen Lane, 2007, 384pp.

Uche Okonkwo, Luxury Fashion Branding: Trends, Tactics, Techniques. Palgrave Macmillan, 2007, 332pp.

Rob Gifford, China Road: A Journey Into the Future of a Rising Power. Bloomsbury, 2007, 236pp.

James Kynge, China Shakes The World: the rise of a hungry nation. Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2007, 244pp.

Peter Hessler, Oracle Bones: A Journey between China and the West. John Murray, 2007, 244pp.

Joshua Kurlantzick, Charm Offensive: How China's Soft Power is Transforming the World. Melbourne University Press, 2007, 306pp.

Don Tapscott, Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything. Atlantic Books, 2007, 324pp. (Probably good reading for anyone using the Net for business/commercial purposes)

Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. Allen Lane, 2007, 558pp. (The USA's Iraq War is the single most profitable matter coming to the attention of the USA company, Halliburton)

Justyn Walsh, The Keynes Mutiny. Random House, 2007, 248pp. (John Maynard Keynes, the economist, played the stock market during and after the depression, and made the equivalent in today's terms of $30 million. Not bad for someone regarded by today's American Republican Party as a “socialist”)

Alan Greenspan, The Age of Turbulence. Allen Lane, 2007, 531pp.

Brink Lindsey, The Age of Abundance: how prosperity transformed America's politics and culture. Collins, no date.

Benjamin M. Friedman, The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth. Vintage Books, no date.


Sterling takes pounding as Britain caught in US vortex: In a sign that the US economic malaise is spreading to Britain, the pound is fast becoming one of the world's least-loved currencies.  For facts and figures see article in ... (Weekend Australian, sometime in 2008)

Advertisement on Dan Byrnes Word Factory logo


Hard disk company Seagate recently shipped its billionth hard drive, a sales volume that took them just on 30 years to attain. It is predicted that it will only take five years for the next billion drives to be sold. One billion drives, it is estimated, could hold all the information contained in four separate stacks of books stretching from our planet Earth to the sun. (Reported 26 May 2008)

So how goes the Internet revolution?

Lifted from website commentator Gerry McGovern

The Merchant Networks Project
Merchant Networks Project logo by Lou Farina

The history websites on this domain now have a companion website on a new domain, at Merchant Networks Project produced by Dan Byrnes and Ken Cozens (of London).

This website (it is hoped) will become a major exercise in economic and maritime history, with some attention to Sydney, Australia.


Many university websites are poorly organized, and filled with out-of-date content that has been directly published from print.

Delivering a better service to students and staff faces challenges because of decentralized management structures and concepts such as academic freedom.

If the average university website were to sit an exam it would fail. In fact, every day a great many university websites are being examined by potential students and they are failing badly.

Here's just a small sample of the things university websites are failing at:

1) At least 40 different versions of its logo were counted on the many websites of one university ...

The university has only one official logo, but because there is no central management of the Web, things have gone out of control. 2) On the homepage of another university there is a large graphic encouraging you to apply online. However, when you try to apply you are told that it's now too late. Obviously, the web team is too busy to remove this prominent graphic.

3) One university has a section about planning your first year.

I tried three links on the page. One gave me a "page not found" error. The next one informs me I am too late to apply for this service, and the final one has events listed from last March.

4) A university promotes courses but there is no obvious way to apply for them. On this website, it is very clear that the content has been directly translated from print without any thought for how it can be made work on the Web.

Many universities are more like loose associations than coherent organizations. Often, staff give more loyalty to a particular school or department than to the overall university. There can also be a strong rivalry between the university administration and the lecturing staff, with the lecturers and professors keen to protect their academic freedom.

The result is that there are multiple websites for any one university, many taking a very different approach to design. Out-of-date, poorly written content is rife because there are no standards, no measures, and few staff resources. Instead of freedom of expression what we get is freedom to be unprofessional.

Much of the Web is beginning to move towards standard layout and design because that's what people want. People like a navigation that is familiar, they like to know that the "Home" link will be in the same position on every page they visit. People like content that is well written, up- to-date, and accurate, and that basic demand is leading to more professional publishing processes being implemented.

Universities, on the other hand, are growing websites like mushrooms, and have an amazing capacity to publish large quantities of irrelevant and confusing content. I talked to one web manager who has tried to address this content quality issue. She interviewed heads of departments. A number of them were unable to explain in a coherent manner what exactly their department did.

I once stood in front of a group of university staff and asked the following question: What is an organization if it is not organized? "A university," someone replied. In a world exploding with content, teaching the skills of organization, and concise, clear writing has never been more important [than now].

Dare to put Windows and Linux on the one machine?

A brisk opinion from a subscriber - "Bill Football"
"I would strongly recommend against putting Windows and Linux on the same machine, although lots of people do this with a dual boot installation. Reasons: (a) You have to put Windows on first, as it normally manages to blow everything else away; (b) When one goes, or Windows gets a virus, both partitions will be gone in a flash; (c) Twice as much work to rebuild when your hard drive fails."
(Ends from Bill Football)

Subject: Richard Stallman and Open Source Software

The following is Richard Stallman's blurb published with the emacs distribution
Received July 2008

The GNU Project

By Richard Stallman
(originally published in the book "Open Sources")

The first software-sharing community

When I started working at the MIT Artificial Intelligence Lab in 1971, I became part of a software-sharing community that had existed for many years. Sharing of software was not limited to our particular community; it is as old as computers, just as sharing of recipes is as old as cooking. But we did it more than most.

The AI Lab used a timesharing operating system called ITS (the Incompatible Timesharing System) that the lab's staff hackers (1) had designed and written in assembler language for the Digital PDP-10, one of the large computers of the era. As a member of this community, an AI lab staff system hacker, my job was to improve this system.

We did not call our software "free software", because that term did not yet exist; but that is what it was. Whenever people from another university or a company wanted to port and use a program, we gladly let them. If you saw someone using an unfamiliar and interesting program, you could always ask to see the source code, so that you could read it, change it, or cannibalize parts of it to make a new program.

(1) The use of "hacker" to mean "security breaker" is a confusion on the part of the mass media. We hackers refuse to recognize that meaning, and continue using the word to mean, "Someone who loves to program and enjoys being clever about it."

The collapse of the community

The situation changed drastically in the early 1980s when Digital discontinued the PDP-10 series. Its architecture, elegant and powerful in the 60s, could not extend naturally to the larger address spaces that were becoming feasible in the 80s. This meant that nearly all of the programs composing ITS were obsolete.

The AI lab hacker community had already collapsed, not long before. In 1981, the spin-off company Symbolics had hired away nearly all of the hackers from the AI lab, and the depopulated community was unable to maintain itself. (The book Hackers, by Steve Levy, describes these events, as well as giving a clear picture of this community in its prime.) When the AI lab bought a new PDP-10 in 1982, its administrators decided to use Digital's non-free timesharing system instead of ITS.

The modern computers of the era, such as the VAX or the 68020, had their own operating systems, but none of them were free software: you had to sign a nondisclosure agreement even to get an executable copy.

This meant that the first step in using a computer was to promise not to help your neighbor. A cooperating community was forbidden. The rule made by the owners of proprietary software was, "If you share with your neighbor, you are a pirate. If you want any changes, beg us to make them."

The idea that the proprietary software social system--the system that says you are not allowed to share or change software--is antisocial, that it is unethical, that it is simply wrong, may come as a surprise to some readers. But what else could we say about a system based on dividing the public and keeping users helpless? Readers who find the idea surprising may have taken proprietary social system as given, or judged it on the terms suggested by proprietary software businesses. Software publishers have worked long and hard to convince people that there is only one way to look at the issue.

When software publishers talk about "enforcing" their "rights" or "stopping piracy", what they actually *say* is secondary. The real message of these statements is in the unstated assumptions they take for granted; the public is supposed to accept them uncritically. So let's examine them.

One assumption is that software companies have an unquestionable natural right to own software and thus have power over all its users. (If this were a natural right, then no matter how much harm it does to the public, we could not object.) Interestingly, the US Constitution and legal tradition reject this view; copyright is not a natural right, but an artificial government-imposed monopoly that limits the users' natural right to copy.

Another unstated assumption is that the only important thing about software is what jobs it allows you to do--that we computer users should not care what kind of society we are allowed to have.

A third assumption is that we would have no usable software (or, would never have a program to do this or that particular job) if we did not offer a company power over the users of the program. This assumption may have seemed plausible, before the free software movement demonstrated that we can make plenty of useful software without putting chains on it.

If we decline to accept these assumptions, and judge these issues based on ordinary common-sense morality while placing the users first, we arrive at very different conclusions. Computer users should be free to modify programs to fit their needs, and free to share software, because helping other people is the basis of society.

There is no room here for an extensive statement of the reasoning behind this conclusion, so I refer the reader to the web page, .

A stark moral choice

With my community gone, to continue as before was impossible. Instead, I faced a stark moral choice.

The easy choice was to join the proprietary software world, signing nondisclosure agreements and promising not to help my fellow hacker. Most likely I would also be developing software that was released under nondisclosure agreements, thus adding to the pressure on other people to betray their fellows too.

I could have made money this way, and perhaps amused myself writing code. But I knew that at the end of my career, I would look back on years of building walls to divide people, and feel I had spent my life making the world a worse place.

I had already experienced being on the receiving end of a nondisclosure agreement, when someone refused to give me and the MIT AI lab the source code for the control program for our printer. (The lack of certain features in this program made use of the printer extremely frustrating.) So I could not tell myself that nondisclosure agreements were innocent. I was very angry when he refused to share with us; I could not turn around and do the same thing to everyone else.

Another choice, straightforward but unpleasant, was to leave the computer field. That way my skills would not be misused, but they would still be wasted. I would not be culpable for dividing and restricting computer users, but it would happen nonetheless.

So I looked for a way that a programmer could do something for the good. I asked myself, was there a program or programs that I could write, so as to make a community possible once again?

The answer was clear: what was needed first was an operating system. That is the crucial software for starting to use a computer. With an operating system, you can do many things; without one, you cannot run the computer at all. With a free operating system, we could again have a community of cooperating hackers--and invite anyone to join. And anyone would be able to use a computer without starting out by conspiring to deprive his or her friends.

As an operating system developer, I had the right skills for this job. So even though I could not take success for granted, I realized that I was elected to do the job. I chose to make the system compatible with Unix so that it would be portable, and so that Unix users could easily switch to it. The name GNU was chosen following a hacker tradition, as a recursive acronym for "GNU's Not Unix."

An operating system does not mean just a kernel, barely enough to run other programs. In the 1970s, every operating system worthy of the name included command processors, assemblers, compilers, interpreters, debuggers, text editors, mailers, and much more. ITS had them, Multics had them, VMS had them, and Unix had them. The GNU operating system would include them too.

Later I heard these words, attributed to Hillel (1):

If I am not for myself, who will be for me?

If I am only for myself, what am I?

If not now, when?

The decision to start the GNU project was based on a similar spirit.

(1) As an Atheist, I don't follow any religious leaders, but I sometimes find I admire something one of them has said.

Free as in freedom

The term "free software" is sometimes misunderstood--it has nothing to do with price. It is about freedom. Here, therefore, is the definition of free software: a program is free software, for you, a particular user, if:

* You have the freedom to run the program, for any purpose.

* You have the freedom to modify the program to suit your needs. (To make this freedom effective in practice, you must have access to the source code, since making changes in a program without having the source code is exceedingly difficult.)

* You have the freedom to redistribute copies, either gratis or for a fee.

* You have the freedom to distribute modified versions of the program, so that the community can benefit from your improvements.

Since "free" refers to freedom, not to price, there is no contradiction between selling copies and free software. In fact, the freedom to sell copies is crucial: collections of free software sold on CD-ROMs are important for the community, and selling them is an important way to raise funds for free software development. Therefore, a program which people are not free to include on these collections is not free software.

Because of the ambiguity of "free", people have long looked for alternatives, but no one has found a suitable alternative. The English Language has more words and nuances than any other, but it lacks a simple, unambiguous, word that means "free," as in freedom--"unfettered," being the word that comes closest in meaning. Such alternatives as "liberated", "freedom" and "open" have either the wrong meaning or some other disadvantage.

GNU software and the GNU system

Developing a whole system is a very large project. To bring it into reach, I decided to adapt and use existing pieces of free software wherever that was possible. For example, I decided at the very beginning to use TeX as the principal text formatter; a few years later, I decided to use the X Window System rather than writing another window system for GNU.

Because of this decision, the GNU system is not the same as the collection of all GNU software. The GNU system includes programs that are not GNU software, programs that were developed by other people and projects for their own purposes, but which we can use because they are free software.

Commencing the project

In January 1984 I quit my job at MIT and began writing GNU software. Leaving MIT was necessary so that MIT would not be able to interfere with distributing GNU as free software. If I had remained on the staff, MIT could have claimed to own the work, and could have imposed their own distribution terms, or even turned the work into a proprietary software package. I had no intention of doing a large amount of work only to see it become useless for its intended purpose: creating a new software-sharing community.

However, Professor Winston, then the head of the MIT AI Lab, kindly invited me to keep using the lab's facilities.

The first steps

Shortly before beginning the GNU project, I heard about the Free University Compiler Kit, also known as VUCK. (The Dutch word for "free" is written with a V.) This was a compiler designed to handle multiple languages, including C and Pascal, and to support multiple target machines. I wrote to its author asking if GNU could use it.

He responded derisively, stating that the university was free but the compiler was not. I therefore decided that my first program for the GNU project would be a multi-language, multi-platform compiler.

Hoping to avoid the need to write the whole compiler myself, I obtained the source code for the Pastel compiler, which was a multi-platform compiler developed at Lawrence Livermore Lab. It supported, and was written in, an extended version of Pascal, designed to be a system-programming language. I added a C front end, and began porting it to the Motorola 68000 computer. But I had to give that up when I discovered that the compiler needed many megabytes of stack space, and the available 68000 Unix system would only allow 64k.

I then realized that the Pastel compiler functioned by parsing the entire input file into a syntax tree, converting the whole syntax tree into a chain of "instructions", and then generating the whole output file, without ever freeing any storage. At this point, I concluded I would have to write a new compiler from scratch. That new compiler is now known as GCC; none of the Pastel compiler is used in it, but I managed to adapt and use the C front end that I had written. But that was some years later; first, I worked on GNU Emacs.

GNU Emacs

I began work on GNU Emacs in September 1984, and in early 1985 it was beginning to be usable. This enabled me to begin using Unix systems to do editing; having no interest in learning to use vi or ed, I had done my editing on other kinds of machines until then.

At this point, people began wanting to use GNU Emacs, which raised the question of how to distribute it. Of course, I put it on the anonymous ftp server on the MIT computer that I used. (This computer, prep.ai.mit.edu, thus became the principal GNU ftp distribution site; when it was decommissioned a few years later, we transferred the name to our new ftp server.) But at that time, many of the interested people were not on the Internet and could not get a copy by ftp. So the question was, what would I say to them?

I could have said, "Find a friend who is on the net and who will make a copy for you." Or I could have done what I did with the original PDP-10 Emacs: tell them, "Mail me a tape and a SASE, and I will mail it back with Emacs on it." But I had no job, and I was looking for ways to make money from free software. So I announced that I would mail a tape to whoever wanted one, for a fee of $150. In this way, I started a free software distribution business, the precursor of the companies that today distribute entire Linux-based GNU systems.

Is a program free for every user?

If a program is free software when it leaves the hands of its author, this does not necessarily mean it will be free software for everyone who has a copy of it. For example, public domain software (software that is not copyrighted) is free software; but anyone can make a proprietary modified version of it. Likewise, many free programs are copyrighted but distributed under simple permissive licenses which allow proprietary modified versions.

The paradigmatic example of this problem is the X Window System. Developed at MIT, and released as free software with a permissive license, it was soon adopted by various computer companies. They added X to their proprietary Unix systems, in binary form only, and covered by the same nondisclosure agreement. These copies of X were no more free software than Unix was.

The developers of the X Window System did not consider this a problem--they expected and intended this to happen. Their goal was not freedom, just "success", defined as "having many users." They did not care whether these users had freedom, only that they should be numerous.

This lead to a paradoxical situation where two different ways of counting the amount of freedom gave different answers to the question, "Is this program free?" If you judged based on the freedom provided by the distribution terms of the MIT release, you would say that X was free software. But if you measured the freedom of the average user of X, you would have to say it was proprietary software. Most X users were running the proprietary versions that came with Unix systems, not the free version.

Copyleft and the GNU GPL

The goal of GNU was to give users freedom, not just to be popular. So we needed to use distribution terms that would prevent GNU software from being turned into proprietary software. The method we use is called "copyleft".(1)

Copyleft uses copyright law, but flips it over to serve the opposite of its usual purpose: instead of a means of privatizing software, it becomes a means of keeping software free.

The central idea of copyleft is that we give everyone permission to run the program, copy the program, modify the program, and distribute modified versions--but not permission to add restrictions of their own. Thus, the crucial freedoms that define "free software" are guaranteed to everyone who has a copy; they become inalienable rights.

For an effective copyleft, modified versions must also be free. This ensures that work based on ours becomes available to our community if it is published. When programmers who have jobs as programmers volunteer to improve GNU software, it is copyleft that prevents their employers from saying, "You can't share those changes, because we are going to use them to make our proprietary version of the program."

The requirement that changes must be free is essential if we want to ensure freedom for every user of the program. The companies that privatized the X Window System usually made some changes to port it to their systems and hardware. These changes were small compared with the great extent of X, but they were not trivial. If making changes were an excuse to deny the users freedom, it would be easy for anyone to take advantage of the excuse.

A related issue concerns combining a free program with non-free code. Such a combination would inevitably be non-free; whichever freedoms are lacking for the non-free part would be lacking for the whole as well. To permit such combinations would open a hole big enough to sink a ship. Therefore, a crucial requirement for copyleft is to plug this hole: anything added to or combined with a copylefted program must be such that the larger combined version is also free and copylefted.

The specific implementation of copyleft that we use for most GNU software is the GNU General Public License, or GNU GPL for short. We have other kinds of copyleft that are used in specific circumstances. GNU manuals are copylefted also, but use a much simpler kind of copyleft, because the complexity of the GNU GPL is not necessary for manuals.

(1) In 1984 or 1985, Don Hopkins (a very imaginative fellow) mailed me a letter. On the envelope he had written several amusing sayings, including this one: "Copyleft--all rights reversed." I used the word "copyleft" to name the distribution concept I was developing at the time.

The Free Software Foundation

As interest in using Emacs was growing, other people became involved in the GNU project, and we decided that it was time to seek funding once again. So in 1985 we created the Free Software Foundation, a tax-exempt charity for free software development. The FSF also took over the Emacs tape distribution business; later it extended this by adding other free software (both GNU and non-GNU) to the tape, and by selling free manuals as well.

The FSF accepts donations, but most of its income has always come from sales--of copies of free software, and of other related services. Today it sells CD-ROMs of source code, CD-ROMs with binaries, nicely printed manuals (all with freedom to redistribute and modify), and Deluxe Distributions (where we build the whole collection of software for your choice of platform).

Free Software Foundation employees have written and maintained a number of GNU software packages. Two notable ones are the C library and the shell. The GNU C library is what every program running on a GNU/Linux system uses to communicate with Linux. It was developed by a member of the Free Software Foundation staff, Roland McGrath. The shell used on most GNU/Linux systems is BASH, the Bourne Again Shell(1), which was developed by FSF employee Brian Fox.

We funded development of these programs because the GNU project was not just about tools or a development environment. Our goal was a complete operating system, and these programs were needed for that goal.

(1) "Bourne again Shell" is a joke on the name ``Bourne Shell'', which was the usual shell on Unix.

Free software support

The free software philosophy rejects a specific widespread business practice, but it is not against business. When businesses respect the users' freedom, we wish them success.

Selling copies of Emacs demonstrates one kind of free software business. When the FSF took over that business, I needed another way to make a living. I found it in selling services relating to the free software I had developed. This included teaching, for subjects such as how to program GNU Emacs and how to customize GCC, and software development, mostly porting GCC to new platforms.

Today each of these kinds of free software business is practiced by a number of corporations. Some distribute free software collections on CD-ROM; others sell support at levels ranging from answering user questions, to fixing bugs, to adding major new features. We are even beginning to see free software companies based on launching new free software products.

Watch out, though--a number of companies that associate themselves with the term "open source" actually base their business on non-free software that works with free software. These are not free software companies, they are proprietary software companies whose products tempt users away from freedom. They call these "value added", which reflects the values they would like us to adopt: convenience above freedom. If we value freedom more, we should call them "freedom subtracted" products.

Technical goals

The principal goal of GNU was to be free software. Even if GNU had no technical advantage over Unix, it would have a social advantage, allowing users to cooperate, and an ethical advantage, respecting the user's freedom.

But it was natural to apply the known standards of good practice to the work--for example, dynamically allocating data structures to avoid arbitrary fixed size limits, and handling all the possible 8-bit codes wherever that made sense.

In addition, we rejected the Unix focus on small memory size, by deciding not to support 16-bit machines (it was clear that 32-bit machines would be the norm by the time the GNU system was finished), and to make no effort to reduce memory usage unless it exceeded a megabyte. In programs for which handling very large files was not crucial, we encouraged programmers to read an entire input file into core, then scan its contents without having to worry about I/O.

These decisions enabled many GNU programs to surpass their Unix counterparts in reliability and speed.

Donated computers

As the GNU project's reputation grew, people began offering to donate machines running UNIX to the project. These were very useful, because the easiest way to develop components of GNU was to do it on a UNIX system, and replace the components of that system one by one. But they raised an ethical issue: whether it was right for us to have a copy of UNIX at all.

UNIX was (and is) proprietary software, and the GNU project's philosophy said that we should not use proprietary software. But, applying the same reasoning that leads to the conclusion that violence in self defense is justified, I concluded that it was legitimate to use a proprietary package when that was crucial for developing free replacement that would help others stop using the proprietary package.

But, even if this was a justifiable evil, it was still an evil. Today we no longer have any copies of Unix, because we have replaced them with free operating systems. If we could not replace a machine's operating system with a free one, we replaced the machine instead.

The GNU Task List

As the GNU project proceeded, and increasing numbers of system components were found or developed, eventually it became useful to make a list of the remaining gaps. We used it to recruit developers to write the missing pieces. This list became known as the GNU task list. In addition to missing Unix components, we listed added various other useful software and documentation projects that, we thought, a truly complete system ought to have.

Today, hardly any Unix components are left in the GNU task list--those jobs have been done, aside from a few inessential ones. But the list is full of projects that some might call "applications". Any program that appeals to more than a narrow class of users would be a useful thing to add to an operating system.

Even games are included in the task list--and have been since the beginning. Unix included games, so naturally GNU should too. But compatibility was not an issue for games, so we did not follow the list of games that Unix had. Instead, we listed a spectrum of different kinds of games that users might like.

The GNU Library GPL

The GNU C library uses a special kind of copyleft called the GNU Library General Public License, which gives permission to link proprietary software with the library. Why make this exception?

It is not a matter of principle; there is no principle that says proprietary software products are entitled to include our code. (Why contribute to a project predicated on refusing to share with us?) Using the LGPL for the C library, or for any library, is a matter of strategy.

The C library does a generic job; every proprietary system or compiler comes with a C library. Therefore, to make our C library available only to free software would not have given free software any advantage--it would only have discouraged use of our library.

One system is an exception to this: on the GNU system (and this includes GNU/Linux), the GNU C library is the only C library. So the distribution terms of the GNU C library determine whether it is possible to compile a proprietary program for the GNU system. There is no ethical reason to allow proprietary applications on the GNU system, but strategically it seems that disallowing them would do more to discourage use of the GNU system than to encourage development of free applications.

That is why using the Library GPL is a good strategy for the C library. For other libraries, the strategic decision needs to be considered on a case-by-case basis. When a library does a special job that can help write certain kinds of programs, then releasing it under the GPL, limiting it to free programs only, is a way of helping other free software developers, giving them an advantage against proprietary software.

Consider GNU Readline, a library that was developed to provide command-line editing for BASH. Readline is released under the ordinary GNU GPL, not the Library GPL. This probably does reduce the amount Readline is used, but that is no loss for us. Meanwhile, at least one useful application has been made free software specifically so it could use Readline, and that is a real gain for the community.

Proprietary software developers have the advantages money provides; free software developers need to make advantages for each other. I hope some day we will have a large collection of GPL-covered libraries that have no parallel available to proprietary software, providing useful modules to serve as building blocks in new free software, and adding up to a major advantage for further free software development.

Scratching an itch?

Eric Raymond says that "Every good work of software starts by scratching a developer's personal itch." Maybe that happens sometimes, but many essential pieces of GNU software were developed in order to have a complete free operating system. They come from a vision and a plan, not from impulse.

For example, we developed the GNU C library because a Unix-like system needs a C library, the Bourne-Again Shell (bash) because a Unix-like system needs a shell, and GNU tar because a Unix-like system needs a tar program. The same is true for my own programs--the GNU C compiler, GNU Emacs, GDB and GNU Make.

Some GNU programs were developed to cope with specific threats to our freedom. Thus, we developed gzip to replace the Compress program, which had been lost to the community because of the LZW patents. We found people to develop LessTif, and more recently started GNOME and Harmony, to address the problems caused by certain proprietary libraries (see below). We are developing the GNU Privacy Guard to replace popular non-free encryption software, because users should not have to choose between privacy and freedom.

Of course, the people writing these programs became interested in the work, and many features were added to them by various people for the sake of their own needs and interests. But that is not why the programs exist.

Unexpected developments

At the beginning of the GNU project, I imagined that we would develop the whole GNU system, then release it as a whole. That is not how it happened.

Since each component of the GNU system was implemented on a Unix system, each component could run on Unix systems, long before a complete GNU system existed. Some of these programs became popular, and users began extending them and porting them---to the various incompatible versions of Unix, and sometimes to other systems as well.

The process made these programs much more powerful, and attracted both funds and contributors to the GNU project. But it probably also delayed completion of a minimal working system by several years, as GNU developers' time was put into maintaining these ports and adding features to the existing components, rather than moving on to write one missing component after another.

The GNU Hurd

By 1990, the GNU system was almost complete; the only major missing component was the kernel. We had decided to implement our kernel as a collection of server processes running on top of Mach. Mach is a microkernel developed at Carnegie Mellon University and then at the University of Utah; the GNU HURD is a collection of servers (or ``herd of gnus'') that run on top of Mach, and do the various jobs of the Unix kernel. The start of development was delayed as we waited for Mach to be released as free software, as had been promised.

One reason for choosing this design was to avoid what seemed to be the hardest part of the job: debugging a kernel program without a source-level debugger to do it with. This part of the job had been done already, in Mach, and we expected to debug the HURD servers as user programs, with GDB. But it took a long time to make that possible, and the multi-threaded servers that send messages to each other have turned out to be very hard to debug. Making the HURD work solidly has stretched on for many years.


The GNU kernel was not originally supposed to be called the HURD. Its original name was Alix--named after the woman who was my sweetheart at the time. She, a Unix system administrator, had pointed out how her name would fit a common naming pattern for Unix system versions; as a joke, she told her friends, "Someone should name a kernel after me." I said nothing, but decided to surprise her with a kernel named Alix.

It did not stay that way. Michael Bushnell (now Thomas), the main developer of the kernel, preferred the name HURD, and redefined Alix to refer to a certain part of the kernel--the part that would trap system calls and handle them by sending messages to HURD servers.

Ultimately, Alix and I broke up, and she changed her name; independently, the HURD design was changed so that the C library would send messages directly to servers, and this made the Alix component disappear from the design.

But before these things happened, a friend of hers came across the name Alix in the HURD source code, and mentioned the name to her. So the name did its job.

Linux and GNU/Linux

The GNU Hurd is not ready for production use. Fortunately, another kernel is available. In 1991, Linus Torvalds developed a Unix-compatible kernel and called it Linux. Around 1992, combining Linux with the not-quite-complete GNU system resulted in a complete free operating system. (Combining them was a substantial job in itself, of course.) It is due to Linux that we can actually run a version of the GNU system today.

We call this system version GNU/Linux, to express its composition as a combination of the GNU system with Linux as the kernel.

Challenges in our future

We have proved our ability to develop a broad spectrum of free software. This does not mean we are invincible and unstoppable. Several challenges make the future of free software uncertain; meeting them will require steadfast effort and endurance, sometimes lasting for years. It will require the kind of determination that people display when they value their freedom and will not let anyone take it away. The following four sections discuss these challenges.

Secret hardware

Hardware manufactures increasingly tend to keep hardware specifications secret. This makes it difficult to write free drivers so that Linux and XFree86 can support new hardware. We have complete free systems today, but we will not have them tomorrow if we cannot support tomorrow's computers.

There are two ways to cope with this problem. Programmers can do reverse engineering to figure out how to support the hardware. The rest of us can choose the hardware that is supported by free software; as our numbers increase, secrecy of specifications will become a self-defeating policy.

Reverse engineering is a big job; will we have programmers with sufficient determination to undertake it? Yes--if we have built up a strong feeling that free software is a matter of principle, and non-free drivers are intolerable. And will large numbers of us spend extra money, or even a little extra time, so we can use free drivers? Yes, if the determination to have freedom is widespread.

Non-free libraries

A non-free library that runs on free operating systems acts as a trap for free software developers. The library's attractive features are the bait; if you use the library, you fall into the trap, because your program cannot usefully be part of a free operating system. (Strictly speaking, we could include your program, but it won't run with the library missing.) Even worse, if a program that uses the proprietary library becomes popular, it can lure other unsuspecting programmers into the trap.

The first instance of this problem was the Motif toolkit, back in the 80s. Although there were as yet no free operating systems, it was clear what problem Motif would cause for them later on. The GNU Project responded in two ways: by asking individual free software projects to support the free X toolkit widgets as well as Motif, and by asking for someone to write a free replacement for Motif. The job took many years; LessTif, developed by the Hungry Programmers, became powerful enough to support most Motif applications only in 1997.

Between 1996 and 1998, another non-free GUI toolkit library, called Qt, was used in a substantial collection of free software, the desktop KDE.

Free GNU/Linux systems were unable to use KDE, because we could not use the library. However, some commercial distributors of GNU/Linux systems who were not strict about sticking with free software added KDE to their systems--producing a system with more capabilities, but less freedom. The KDE group was actively encouraging more programmers to use Qt, and millions of new "Linux users" had never been exposed to the idea that there was a problem in this. The situation appeared grim.

The free software community responded to the problem in two ways: GNOME and Harmony.

GNOME, the GNU Network Object Model Environment, is GNU's desktop project. Started in 1997 by Miguel de Icaza, and developed with the support of Red Hat Software, GNOME set out to provide similar desktop facilities, but using free software exclusively. It has technical advantages as well, such as supporting a variety of languages, not just C++. But its main purpose was freedom: not to require the use of any non-free software.

Harmony is a compatible replacement library, designed to make it possible to run KDE software without using Qt.

In November 1998, the developers of Qt announced a change of license which, when carried out, should make Qt free software. There is no way to be sure, but I think that this was partly due to the community's firm response to the problem that Qt posed when it was non-free. (The new license is inconvenient and inequitable, so it remains desirable to avoid using Qt.)

[Subsequent note: in September 2000, Qt was re-released under the GNU GPL, which essentially solved this problem.]

How will we respond to the next tempting non-free library? Will the whole community understand the need to stay out of the trap? Or will many of us give up freedom for convenience, and produce a major problem? Our future depends on our philosophy.

Software patents

The worst threat we face comes from software patents, which can put algorithms and features off limits to free software for up to twenty years. The LZW compression algorithm patents were applied for in 1983, and we still cannot release free software to produce proper compressed GIFs. In 1998, a free program to produce MP3 compressed audio was removed from distribution under threat of a patent suit.

There are ways to cope with patents: we can search for evidence that a patent is invalid, and we can look for alternative ways to do a job. But each of these methods works only sometimes; when both fail, a patent may force all free software to lack some feature that users want. What will we do when this happens?

Those of us who value free software for freedom's sake will stay with free software anyway. We will manage to get work done without the patented features. But those who value free software because they expect it to be technically superior are likely to call it a failure when a patent holds it back. Thus, while it is useful to talk about the practical effectiveness of the "cathedral" model of development, and the reliability and power of some free software, we must not stop there. We must talk about freedom and principle.

Free documentation

The biggest deficiency in our free operating systems is not in the software--it is the lack of good free manuals that we can include in our systems. Documentation is an essential part of any software package; when an important free software package does not come with a good free manual, that is a major gap. We have many such gaps today.

Free documentation, like free software, is a matter of freedom, not price. The criterion for a free manual is pretty much the same as for free software: it is a matter of giving all users certain freedoms. Redistribution (including commercial sale) must be permitted, on-line and on paper, so that the manual can accompany every copy of the program.

Permission for modification is crucial too. As a general rule, I don't believe that it is essential for people to have permission to modify all sorts of articles and books. For example, I don't think you or I are obliged to give permission to modify articles like this one, which describe our actions and our views.

But there is a particular reason why the freedom to modify is crucial for documentation for free software. When people exercise their right to modify the software, and add or change its features, if they are conscientious they will change the manual too--so they can provide accurate and usable documentation with the modified program. A manual which does not allow programmers to be conscientious and finish the job, does not fill our community's needs.

Some kinds of limits on how modifications are done pose no problem. For example, requirements to preserve the original author's copyright notice, the distribution terms, or the list of authors, are ok. It is also no problem to require modified versions to include notice that they were modified, even to have entire sections that may not be deleted or changed, as long as these sections deal with nontechnical topics. These kinds of restrictions are not a problem because they don't stop the conscientious programmer from adapting the manual to fit the modified program. In other words, they don't block the free software community from making full use of the manual.

However, it must be possible to modify all the *technical* content of the manual, and then distribute the result in all the usual media, through all the usual channels; otherwise, the restrictions do obstruct the community, the manual is not free, and we need another manual.

Will free software developers have the awareness and determination to produce a full spectrum of free manuals? Once again, our future depends on philosophy.

We must talk about freedom

Estimates today are that there are ten million users of GNU/Linux systems such as Debian GNU/Linux and Red Hat Linux. Free software has developed such practical advantages that users are flocking to it for purely practical reasons.

The good consequences of this are evident: more interest in developing free software, more customers for free software businesses, and more ability to encourage companies to develop commercial free software instead of proprietary software products.

But interest in the software is growing faster than awareness of the philosophy it is based on, and this leads to trouble. Our ability to meet the challenges and threats described above depends on the will to stand firm for freedom. To make sure our community has this will, we need to spread the idea to the new users as they come into the community.

But we are failing to do so: the efforts to attract new users into our community are far outstripping the efforts to teach them the civics of our community. We need to do both, and we need to keep the two efforts in balance.

"Open Source"

Teaching new users about freedom became more difficult in 1998, when a part of the community decided to stop using the term "free software" and say "open source software" instead.

Some who favored this term aimed to avoid the confusion of "free" with "gratis"--a valid goal. Others, however, aimed to set aside the spirit of principle that had motivated the free software movement and the GNU project, and to appeal instead to executives and business users, many of whom hold an ideology that places profit above freedom, above community, above principle. Thus, the rhetoric of "open source" focuses on the potential to make high quality, powerful software, but shuns the ideas of freedom, community, and principle.

The "Linux" magazines are a clear example of this--they are filled with advertisements for proprietary software that works with GNU/Linux. When the next Motif or Qt appears, will these magazines warn programmers to stay away from it, or will they run ads for it?

The support of business can contribute to the community in many ways; all else being equal, it is useful. But winning their support by speaking even less about freedom and principle can be disastrous; it makes the previous imbalance between outreach and civics education even worse.

"Free software" and "open source" describe the same category of software, more or less, but say different things about the software, and about values. The GNU Project continues to use the term "free software", to express the idea that freedom, not just technology, is important.


Yoda's philosophy ("There is no `try'") sounds neat, but it doesn't work for me. I have done most of my work while anxious about whether I could do the job, and unsure that it would be enough to achieve the goal if I did. But I tried anyway, because there was no one but me between the enemy and my city. Surprising myself, I have sometimes succeeded.

Sometimes I failed; some of my cities have fallen. Then I found another threatened city, and got ready for another battle. Over time, I've learned to look for threats and put myself between them and my city, calling on other hackers to come and join me.

Nowadays, often I'm not the only one. It is a relief and a joy when I see a regiment of hackers digging in to hold the line, and I realize, this city may survive--for now. But the dangers are greater each year, and now Microsoft has explicitly targeted our community. We can't take the future of freedom for granted. Don't take it for granted! If you want to keep your freedom, you must be prepared to defend it.

Copyright (C) 1998 Richard Stallman

Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium, provided this notice is preserved.

Schadenfreude re Microsoft: This webmaster can't resist this, due to dislikes/distrust developed over a decade of using Microsoft software (We now use Linux offerings, eg, Ubuntu circa 2007). Headline: Xbox's "red ring of death" leaves Microsoft with a 1.3 billion headache: In what may be one of the costliest consumer warranty repairs in history, Microsoft has said it will spend up to US$1.15 billion (AUD$1.34 billion), to fix failing Xbox 360 game machine consoles. It seems that about one-third of delivered Xboxes are defective. And Microsoft is simply failing to get or keep a foothold in the computer game machine industry. (Well, diddums. Isn't it wonderful, the way software developers "ship product"? Without adequately testing it? - Ed) (Weekend, Sydney Morning Herald, 7-8 July 2007)

Just a part of this website's usual daily spam intake - disgusting!

From: Daviod (sic) Moore

Reply-To: davidmoore_22@yahoo.com To: davidmoore_c5@yahoo.com Subject: From Mr David Moore Date: Tue, 5 Aug 2008 06:57:52 +0700 (ICT) (09:57 EST)

From Mr David Moore Earl Road Cheadle Hulme SK8 6QG Cheadle P.O. Box 4 United Kingdom

Good Day,

Do accept my sincere apologies if my mail does not meet your personal ethics although, I wish to use this medium to get in touch with you first because it's fastest means. I am an external auditor of a well known Bank here in the United Kingdom.

In one of our periodic auditing I discovered a dormant accounts with holding balance of 10,000,000 (Ten Million British Pounds) which has not been operated for the past three years. From my investigations and confirmations,the owner of this account, a foreigner by name Mr.Gregory U.Wilson died in plane crash in July 19,2003 and since then nobody has done anything as regards the claiming of this money because he has no family members who are aware of the existence of neither the account nor the funds.

i have secretly discussed this matter with a top senior minister official of the federal ministry of finance here and we have agreed to find a reliable foreign partner to deal with us, although due to his position he did not want to take active part but as soon as you follow my instructions everything will be successful because we will be working hand in hand with him We thus propose to do business with you,standing in as the next of kin of these funds from the deceased and after due legal processes have been followed the fund will be released to your account without delay and we will use it for investment and to assist the less privileged in the society because if we left the fund with the government it will be fortified for nothing and will be used to suppress the poor masses in the society.

At the conclusion of the transfer you will take 35%,5% will be for any expenses both parties incurred in the process of this business and the remaining 60% will be for me. As soon as I hear from you and upon your strong assurance that you will not let me down once the fund goes into your account I will then start the processing of the transfer of the fund to your account without further delay.

I look forward to hear from you as soon as possible if you are interested.

Yours, Mr David Moore

2008: Sterling takes pounding as Britain caught in US vortex: In a sign that the US economic malaise is spreading to Britain, the pound is fast becoming one of the world's least-loved currencies.  For facts and figures see article in ... (Weekend Australian, before late July 2008)

Is this too alarmist from Sydney Morning Herald? The Year of Investing Dangerously - "The sharemarket has plunged, wiping out $400 billion of investors' wealth. Superannuation funds are about to announce their worst performance in two decades. There have been spectacular company collapses, with many more just clinging to life. Now the corporate watchdog is under attack for not being awake to the emerging problems." (Reported Weekend 28-29 June 2008)

9 July 2004. Former Australian prime minister and Labor politician Paul Keating objects to US comments on Labor views in Australia on current free trade agreements and says "the party will not be thugged by US officials".

Is this too alarmist from Sydney Morning Herald? "Crumbling foundations shake the US - With the mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac tottering and anxious depositors queueing to withdraw their money from a failed bank, the housing-driven credit crisis in the United States came home to Main Street this week. But analysts say the worst is yet to come. (Story by Anne Davies from Washington.) For example, The failed bank was an ordinary retail bank, IndyMac Bank in California, taken over by Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are the two biggest players in the secondary mortgage market. Reported Weekend 19-20 July 2008.

Micro-loans the Bill Gates way: It looks like a shift from micro-soft to micro loans. "The idea that small loans can awaken an entrepreneurial spirit among the world's poor won a Bangladeshi economist the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 and released a flood of money into thousands of 'microcredit' programs on the bet that the poor are good borrowers. Now, the world's largest private philanthropist is betting that they are also good savers. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation plans to donate hundreds of millions of dollars over the next few years to programs designed to spur savings in poor countries, officials at the Seattle foundation say. It is the philanthropy's first focused effort in financial services and is part of a broader push by the foundation into programs to help improve basic infrastructure in the neediest regions of developing countries."(Reported Weekend Australian 2-3 August 2008)

Wal-Mart ups its attitude: Wal-Mart Stores is mobilising its store managers and departmental supervisors around the country to warn that if Democrats win power in November 2008, they are likely to change federal US law to make it easier for workers to unionise companies - including Wal-Mart. In recent weeks, thousands of Wal-Mart store managers and department heads have been summoned to mandatory meetings at which the retailer has stressed the downside for workers should stores be unionised." (Reported Weekend Australian 2-3 August 2008)

Downsides of the subprime debacle

When humanity thoroughly outsmarted itself in 2008

More news about Osama bin-Wall-Street

No man has a prosperity so high or firm, but that two or three words can dishearten it; and there is no calamity which right words will not begin to redress. - Ralph Waldo Emerson, writer and philosopher (1803-1882) (From Wordsmith)

Australian cartoon SMH

For comments from a friend of this website on the USA's "Peak Debt" problem, which lately intensifies its current Peak Oil problems (plus a few good citation items for further reading), try the following link - and expect jokes about elephants in your lounge room and mind, those elephants that are everywhere these days... http://gerrypatterson.blogspot.com/2008/09/peak-debt_2760.html

Yes folks, September 2008 and meltdowns on Wall Street. All as brought to us by the folks who wanted to inflict "globalisation" on the world. They can't even properly manage a single street of New York! Admittedly, a more complicated street than usual - Wall Street. US free trade has gone into freefall without a parachute. A very unedifying spectacle indeed. Below is a little special project for this website, an inspection of the metaphors produced as "the subprime debacle" has had evil children who are spawning fresh disaster. It rather seems as though "capitalism" in the US is up for quite some revision. And by the way, you can find out some more interesting opinions, and more facts and figures than this page will give you, at the following links -
See also more views from sceptic Gerry Patterson at: http://gerrypatterson.blogspot.com/2008/09/peak-debt_2760.html and
He's also been blogging about this at: http://gerrypatterson.blogspot.com/2008/10/stop-digging.html

This particular webpage will only treat media comment and metaphors (but not money figures). Yes folks, it's time to get literary about the metaphors used when financial meltdown in the modern age follows Arctic ice sheet meltdown and dangers for polar bears. By now, the US is no longer a friend even to itself! Milton Friedman, where were you when the US needed a real money supply?- Editor

Or as this website said in earlier September 2008 as a front-page item, Today's feeling/Blog emotion: Economists of the world, unite! You have nothing ethical to lose but the chains in which the recent state of the US economy has kept you. Tell us (less-than-affluent as we may be) in time for the date of the US election, which money men in the US have been telling the most lies. Tell us now: is there is or is there ain't a depression in the US? Is any of this real? Is the US heading for real bankruptcy, or are things nothing more serious than complete moral bankruptcy? Where does the US money supply come from but from a peculiarly-dedicated computer which generates large-but-random numbers? And US$700 billion bailouts for naughty capitalists? Is this just Socialism for the rich? And business-as-usual, predatory, hard-line capitalism for the poor? We want to know. We need to know. All this from the folks who wanted to bring us globalisation; when they can't even successfully run a single street in New York! Now, let's see Wall Street pull itself up by its own bootstraps. It's said that the fundamentals of the US economy are strong. But can anyone actually name a single fundamental of the US economy which is strong? Does the US need some good old fashioned, Keynesian, trickle-up economics? (Remember, in the long run, we are all dead.) And, when Jesus returns, what will Jesus say? What would Jesus do? Turn over the money-changers' tables, again? Hmm? Bring in the FBI, we the people say here in Australia!

As Dani Rodrik, Professor of Political Economy at John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, wrote in a article on globalisation, (sorry, we lost the date): global markets are weakly governed. There is no global anti-trust authority, lender of last resort, regulator, no global safety net, no global democracy. So thank you, US promoters of globalisation, now you know why we anti-globalisation types had so much distrusted you. Free or open trade is being distrusted in the US itself as the presidential campaign trail hots up. The rise in food prices around the world has "exposed the downside of economic interdependence without global transfer and compensation schemes" being available. Will rising fuel (transport costs) mean the end of the outsourcing era? And there are no really enforceable global labour standards, either.

Prepare in late 2008 for much weeping and wailing about "the economy", never forgetting, how the famous Bill Clinton once famously said, "It's the economy, stupid".

If we read economic history, we find there is little new about weeping and wailing when times economic become tough. After the 1772 banking disaster in Britain known as "the Fordyce crash", which spread trouble to American colonies, and across the English Channel to Amsterdam, it was said in London that "the whole city was in tears". During the 1840s depression in New South Wales, Australia, which was partly due to the "moral causes" of excessive, wasteful speculation, a disgusted financier name in Adelaide (in what became South Australia), referred to the New South Wales finance names as "the borrowocracy". Since 1788, Australia has seen 26 recessions and four depressions, the bad times occupying 22 years of Australia's modern history.

After 1929 and the onset of The Great Depression, weeping and wailing took the form in the popular imagination of financiers leaping out of upper-storey windows to their doom. The webmaster recalls that after 1989 (someone sent him a UK newspaper clipping), serious troubles had set in for names at Lloyd's of London due to the operations of a shonky consortium at Lloyd's. It was said, "south-east England is convulsed in agony." It was rather as though one of those werewolves of London, "a hairy-handed gent", was again running amuk in Kent! Due to those insurance disasters, at least two well-known names in Australia, who were also Lloyd's names, were weeping at their losses. One had been a prime minister of Australia!

Let's go back as far as 22-23 December 2007, where, in Weekend Australian, it is said that "world faces a money market meltdown" (very correct prediction and citing views of Mervyn King, governor Bank of England). And columnist Glenda Korporaal is headlined, "US has been exporting toxic financial waste". [Pollution metaphor] But this website thought, hang on a second there, Glenda, not quite, it's worse than that. The US finance sector had been selling bad loans to poorer folk (or, to likely defaulters) and repackaging the debts for resale. The US had thus been packaging and exporting its poverty, and this website's own local council has been dudded for millions. And this website wondered deeply what the world would think if India, so well-known for its poverty, successfully managed to export that poverty? The world would be perfectly horrified! And very fearful. Please consider this as you read on ...
By September 2008, it is thought that 10 per cent of US homeowners are behind on repayments or have foreclosed/ been foreclosed on. In effect, the finance sector can't "deleverage", which is translated as - paying your debts [Religious/ethical metaphor].

Problems begin to surface ...

7 September 2009 US mortgage lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are nationalised in one of the largest bailouts in US history.

13 September - Bankers flood the US Fed Reserve as they explore options for Lehman Bros after its spectacular #3.9 billion loss.

14 September - Ten US banks join forces to create a $70 billion liquidity fund.

15 September - Bank of America buys Merrill Lynch for $50 billion. Britain's biggest mortgage lender, HBOS, is rescued by Lloyd's TSB for 12.2 billion pounds. In Australia, Reserve Bank injects AUD$1.3 billion to ease market nerves.

15 September

And in late 2008?

Monday 15 September: Black Monday, and news arrives of the fall of Lehman Bros. One remark re London is: "That night, London witnessed a bath of such extraordinary excess that it is bound to enter the annals of the City's economic and cultural history." [History of Economic Thought metaphor] At this time, the governor of the Bank of England is Mervyn King.

20 September

20-21 September, US weekend, the Bush administration makes first proposal for a rescue package for Wall St, about US$700 billion [Emergency metaphor], the US national debt ceiling will rise from about US$10,615 billion to about US$11,315 billion]. One journalist quotes a blogger named Calculated Risk, who asks, "Does anyone else believe that the threat of terrorism is greater at this moment right now than at any time in the past? Our financial system is standing on a pinhead." [Security risk metaphor] Another journalist suggests that Paulson's proposals are "suturing confidence" [Medical/surgical metaphor] Australian finance journalist Terry McCrann thinks this could be the end of American Exceptionalism (this website would quite agree). But he also mentions that bailouts will be paid in US dollars, and why would anyone manage bailouts with a currency from a disastrously self-discrediting nation?
There were immediate accusations that this would be welfare for the rich, a charge rebutted by claims about the need for a sense of government responsibility to see that problems get no worse (an argument this website would agree with, the "socialism for the wealthy" claim being merely an opportunity to make morbid jokes at the expense of ruling US free market ideology). It now appears as if the American definition of a free market is very expensive indeed! [metaphor problem derived from having metaphor problems, it's rather like a Hollywood shoot-out scene in a hall of mirrors, no?]

The progress of the package (US government becomes the buyer of last resort for repackaged home loans) is described as a pantomime [Metaphor from children's theatre]

We find in the weekend edition of Australian Financial Review, metaphors such as "new world disorder". Problems of "an inconceivable series of shocks" to the global financial system. Former chairman of US Federal Reserve Alan Greenspan has spoken of "a once-in-a-century financial catastrophe" ... "things have disintegrated" ... Historical comparisons are being made. A metaphor is introduced re an Agatha Christie novel, where each fresh murder induces more paranoia in the actors in the plot.

16 September - US Federal Reserve gives insurer American International Group an $85 billion loan in return for an 80 per cent stake. Goldman Sachs reports its 70 per cent drop in profits.

17 September - SEC temporarily bans short selling. Merrill Lynch boss John Thain defends $200 million bonus pool for executive pay.

18 September - Ireland and Britain ban short selling. US expands currency swap pool by $180 billion.

19 September - US Securities Exchange Commission bans short selling on 799 financial stocks as Australia, Canada and France join the crackdown. US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson proposes a $700 billion bail-out. Federal Reserve leads a $180 billion cash injection with European and Asian central banks.

21 September- Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley become regulated banks. Italy bans short selling.

22 September

22-9-2008: Large US commercial bank Wachovia sold its banking business to CRI in a government-sponsored deal. [Government intervention metaphor]. Days continue that shake the world [Geologic metaphor]. A bank in Iceland is 75 percent nationalised, and in due course, Iceland will suspend stock exchange trading.

22 September - Warren Buffett buys a $5 billion stake in Goldman Sachs. German chancellor condemns US and Britain for the crisis.

23 September

23-9-2008: Some government nationalisations occur in Britain, Belgium, France (re financier Dexia) and Luxembourg. Irish government says it will back deposits in savings banks. Iceland and Greece plan to follow Ireland. Robert Eisenbeis, a former vice-president of US Federal Reserve Bank, is surprised, he says, that all these issues have not been identified earlier. (So is this website!) European operations had also jumped eagerly into the subprime real estate markets. US banks had been ratioed at about 10 of debt to 1 of equity. US investment banks and hedge funds had been ratioed at about an absurdly optimistic 35:1. Deutsche Bank might have been at 52.1. Troubled Swiss bank UBS might have been leveraged to about 53:1 [Metaphor of gnome of Zurich gone quite made]. Barclay's Bank in UK might have been as high as 60:1?

Australian cartoon SMH

25 September

As Peter Hartcher (cited below) notes, we may be seeing the end of the American century, this is the day that a Chinese astronaut (Colonel Zhai) walks in space for the first time. On this same day, US Treasury secretary Hank Paulson bows on bended knee before US Democrats leader in House of Representatives and has to admit to her that it is Republicans, more than Democrats, who are torpedoing his rescue package. Meaning, US Republican Party ideology has just short circuited, big-time. There is also no circuit breaker, no way to turn off the remaining power generation. USA gigantism has just broken its hip and suffered a bad fall.
A UK political philosopher, John Gray, recalls how successive US governments have lectured the world on the necessity of sound finance, but notes that so far, Chinese banks are not falling over. We this website wonder how South America is going to fare, we've noticed no reports are noticed from there so far. [Hypocrisy metaphor]
So the era of US global leadership is over. Just maybe, the US had better get used to it? [Apocalypse metaphor] US commentator Pat Buchanan, a conservative, says the current problems are "a Katrina-like failure of government, of our political class, and of democracy itself. The party's over. What we are witnessing today is how empires end."
But hey, just hang on a cotton-pickin' second, and sorry Mr Buchanan, get a life! This is not the end of democracy, not at all. Australian democracy (whatever of it that has survived John Howard, GW Bush and our American alliance these past ten years) is still doing ok, thanks. Let's get real about democracy at least. This is merely the end of US-style democracy, where usually, more than 40 per cent of voters fail to vote. These problems, then, are possibly at least partly due to the less than 60 per cent of US voters who do vote! So what recriminations should the rest of the world now have with the percentage of US voters who don't vote?!

25 September - Washington Mutual becomes largest US bank failure and is sold to JP Morgan Chase for $19 billion. Ireland becomes first Euro state to fall into recession.

Australian cartoon SMH

27 September

When humanity thoroughly outsmarted itself in 2008

Weekend 27-28 September: SMH columnist Richard Glover has a field day. He welcomes us all to the Wall Street branch of the People's Collective for Distressed Bankers.

The front page of Weekend Australian states that the US$700 billion bail-out will be devoted to buying "toxic debt" in order to quarantine it from healthier markets and "the real economy".
Here's a kiss-it goodbye item - US is seen as fading superpower of the global financial system: German finance minister Peer Steinbruck is quoted as saying that the Wall Street financial crisis will reconfigure the world economy and the US will fade as the world dominant economic force.
US bank JP Morgan has taken over US giant Washington Mutual for US$1.9 billion. (WM is US' second-largest savings and loan institution.) US giants seem to be shrinking alarmingly. Uncle Sam has turned into Hedge-Fund Guy [Metaphor of suffering problems with definitions/metaphors]. One Sydney Morning Herald article suggests that, remember the neutron bomb, which will kill all the people but leave buildings intact? This global credit crisis will do the opposite, the poorer folk and their money will be indemnified by governments, while high-flying finance operations will crumble to dust. [Government intervention metaphor] One charitable writer this weekend thinks that no one is going to believe the current problems are the fault of Pres GW Bush, since he is not intelligent enough to dream up such problems. Which is a great comfort to us all.
In UK, two Anglican bishops suggest that the finance market system had been taking its rules from Alice in Wonderland [Mental health metaphor].

UK writer Geraint Anderson, a former banking analyst, has told all in his book on London, City Boy: Fear and Loathing in The Square Mile. Apparently there's an old bankers' saying; "A shortage of capital will kill you slowly but a shortage of liquidity is like a bullet to the head".

US president George W Bush is quoted yet again on the Paulson rescue package, "If money isn't loosened up, this sucker could go down". [Vulgarity metaphor].
French president Sarkozy has said, "Laissez-faire is finished. The all-powerful market that always knows best is finished." [History of Economic Thought metaphor] (As we recall how a few years ago, Bush complained that the French had no word for entrepreneur, hence their poor economic performances [just what anyone would expect from cheese-eating surrender monkeys, etc etc]).

Writer in Sydney Morning Herald Jacob Saulwick discusses issues, suggesting that for some people, the past 14 days have marked the end of capitalism as we know it [Apocalypse metaphor, maybe a revise Economics courses in universities-type metaphor]. For others, it is merely that investment banking, the whited sepulchre, and its executives' huge pay packets and bonuses, have stoked public disgust [Religion/ethical metaphor]. Capitalism has developed a serious legitimacy problem [Trust metaphor].
From the SMH we find, Political editor Peter Hartcher headlined with, "Faith no more as market revealed as a false idol" [Religious metaphor]. US financier George Soros has said for a long time, the belief that markets are self-correcting, which has been held as a kind of market fundamentalism, is false. [Truth metaphor] (This website agrees with Soros and wants to know why the US' Republican Party has promoted this falsity since Ronald Reagan first spoke of "trickle-down economics" and wasn't howled down in derision in the US' national media, which has also been disgracefully asleep at the investigative journalism wheel! The US mainstream media is a complete disgrace and so far as unremorseful as the US financiers!)

Australian cartoon SMH

29 September

We find, 29-9-2008, which was "Meltdown Monday", a woman in the US who works in the finance industry, who has just lost her house, speaking in hurricane terms of "a financial Katrina" as the US Congress baulks at latest plans for a rescue package. [Weather metaphor] The US House of Reps voted 228 no to 205 yes re a rescue package. The Bill is sent back for major revisions.

29 September - Britain's Bradford and Bingley bank is nationalised. Iceland nationalises its third biggest bank. US House of Reps rejects a $700 billion rescue package. Dow Jones index loses 7 per cent, a record one-day fall. Germany acts to bail out its second largest commercial property lender. Britain guarantees the first 50,000 pounds of saver deposits. Dutch government rescues European banking and insurance giant Fortis. US banking giant Citigroup swaps $12 billion in stock with Federal Deposit Insurance Corp in exchange for loss-sharing arrangement on a $312 billion pool of loans.

30 September

We find, 30-9-2008, a commentator remarking on TV that the world economy is "now in uncharted waters". [Navigation metaphor] Partly due to the speed of modern communications, and tighter interdependence of money markets; meaning, there are serious learning-curve opportunities here for all financial commentators. Meantime, there's been "a trainwreck on Wall Street" [Emergency and Systems Integrity metaphor] after the US Congress refuses to fully back the US$750 billion or so rescue package proposed by Hank Paulson, US Fed chairman Ben Bernanke, and Pres. G. W. Bush.

30 September - European bank Dexia gets e6.4 billion bail out from Belgium, France and Luxembourg. Ireland guarantees deposits in its six largest banks for two years. Banks in Australia hoard cash and deposits with Australia's Reserve Bank hits a record of AUD$10.6 billion.

When humanity thoroughly outsmarted itself in 2008

Late September - German Finance Minister Peer Steinbruck suggests that due to free marketeers in New York and London, the US "will lose its status as the superpower of the global financial system. Wall Street will never be what it was ..." [Hegemony metaphor] Steinbruck doesn't add that a lot of European banks are more badly-geared than many US banks. [Numbers games metaphor]

Of tonight's TV news in Australia 30-10-2008, two gem metaphors arise. A US economist suggests that of world currencies at this time, the US dollar is now "merely the tallest pygmy". [Genetic/racialist metaphor] (And we think that's a brilliant line!) An Australian commentator on situations of superannuation funds suggests that if Australian retirees cash in their superannuation now, they run the risk that they will "crystallise their losses". [Metaphor from science/natural phenomena].

Someone over today's coffee table gets out a copy of Time magazine and gives us a rundown. Here on top of everything else we find a totally disastrous literary problem with Time in a breakout - "anatomy of a meltdown". If this isn't a mixed metaphor, we're a cheese-eating surrender monkey's uncle! How come the subeditors at Time magazine didn't nip this one in the bud? (Well, the fact is, no one in the US knows what to look out for any more, the entire country has long ago lost its marbles!) [case here of a mixed metaphor]. We conclude from this rundown on what is in Time that "capitalism" is broken. So is language use! We feel, that as the Australians say, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." But if it's broke, well, fix it. Will $700 billion fix it on Wall Street? We don't think so. (US$700+ billion apparently might buy us eg, The Netherlands, but who today (the day Sarah Palin debated Biden and it was all so civilized, but SOoooooo unoriginal) wants to buy nethery real estate at dire risk from rising sea levels? Do we need to labour this point?)

Can anything save the USA from itself these days?(No, not even Hollywood, since as far as spectacles go, Hollywood you recall was totally outclassed by 9/11, Hollywood is also a goner! Hollywood now confines itself to remakes and other forms of low-grade cinematic shit. Film art? Forget it! Toxic cinematic waste!) But where were we? ...

A noted US financier name, Buffett, appears on US TV to say that this is "a financial Pearl Harbour", the politicians have no choice but to back the second-proposed rescue package. (A treachery-in-war metaphor, except that here, we might say that "Wall Street" has been treacherous to the rest of America! And to the world. But anywhere in the world, what can anyone who is not a US citizen say about this?) Buffett had warned as long ago as 2002 that derivatives were time bombs and "financial weapons of mass destruction" that could harm the entire economy.

1 October 2008

We find, 1-10-2008: Australian prime minister Rudd says on TV that 25 banks around the world have so far failed, this is serious. Former Australian prime minister Paul Keating says on TV that this is "a disintegration of the world financial system".

1 October - Warren Buffett in USA buys $3 billion worth of General Electric.

2 October

When humanity thoroughly outsmarted itself in 2008

A new West Australian Senator, Scott Ludlam, has let fly with an impressive blast at the contemporary world. He used his maiden speech in Parliament to blast Australia's carbon economy and to liken unrestrained economic growth to cancer. "This fossil economy knows only how to grow, it has to be larger this year than it was last year, lest its debts and contradictions collapse [it] upon itself and people's lives and careers get crushed in the wreckage. When our economy fails to grow, we call it a recession, but an entity that knows only blind growth we call a cancer." He's also against the international thirst for oil as a cause of unrest, too little attention paid to renewable energies, overpackaged and over-processed foods and car-dependent housing. (Reported in The Australian, 2 October 2008)

We find, early 2-10-2008: Japan has, technically, probably entered a recession. Philippines has lowered its forecasts on its economic growth. Euro-using Ireland is probably in recession and other Euro-using nations may follow it (eg, France). Denmark is in recession. New Zealand is sliding. One of our emailers thinks that Wall Street has lately seen a larger than usual dead-cat bounce. (The metaphors do continue to boggle.) Banks are unwilling to lend to each other [The trust metaphor]. Day of a second presentation of a bill for a rescue package in US Senate (which has 100 members). The Australian newspaper business section (which courtesy of Rupert Murdoch is now "with the Wall Street Journal" as Wall Street suffers a nervous breakdown), headlines - "Markets wary despite gains".

Global equities rebounded, but after Tuesday's bloodbath [Pillage-plunder metaphor], investors are sceptical that things can be "re-activated". "The health of the fractured domestic credit and money markets" [Medical metaphor] is a question. An Australian columnist Adele Ferguson cites views that "capitalism as we know it has broken down" [Reality check metaphor], but there is little sympathy available for stockbrokers. Another Australian columnist defines the problem as a "need for additional capital as firms need to offset huge losses due to marking down assets and are required to deleverage". (Would Francis Fukayama view this as "the end of wealth" or as "the end of history"? Or, just as the end of bullshit as we have known it?)

Major Australian retailer Harvey Norman, a very sensible firm indeed, is now going to make a huge cut in its advertising budget. So Australian advertising industries begin to shudder. An International Monetary Fund spokesman says that a non-perfect plan is better than no plan at all [A metaphor possibly drawn from a childhood-developed aversion to boredom?].
Around the world, central banks are being asked to provide lifelines to the global financial systems [A shifting -deckchairs-on-Titanic emergency metaphor]. [A bit before 15-10-2008, David Letterman Show in New York wondered if these rescue packages weren't a bit like the captain of the Titanic tweaking the brunch menu in his spare time from serious business?]

Is it the case that commercial banks in Australia are backing the central bank instead of lending to each other? Central bankers are now lenders of first resort? States in Australian can expect to see lower revenues from taxes as business slows, Federal government warns.

Apparently, US housing prices keep crashing at record rates. Down 16.3 per cent in about 20 US cities. The falls will continue to 2010. Pessimists say that decline need to go to 20 per cent down before things bottom out. Las Vegas and Phoenix are particularly bad, down by around 29 per cent [Numbers games metaphor].

Big banks are said to be like hummers; overweight, oversized, over-engineered and now can't afford the fuel they need to run [Reality check metaphor]. In the US, some banks are using tactics that are usually thought of as "of last resort". "Banks are now on life support systems with the central banks", says a Deutsche Bank economist in London [Medical and emergency treatment metaphor].

A Royal Bank of Scotland economist thinks that despite well-intentioned efforts, liquidity is not going in directions it was intended to [Navigation metaphor, and his bank is later deemed worthy by Downing Street of being partly nationalised].

But chaos in the purely financial sector has not yet filtered through to everyday life. Carl Mortished in London thinks that banks have self-subverted their original purpose, to match lenders and borrowers, and have set up towers of investment activity that distract them from their main functions. [Psychiatric metaphor re appropriateness of behaviour]. UBS is a large European bank that has already put off about 7000 staff and now allegedly plans to cut 1900 more jobs from its sectors which handle investment banking and fixed incomes. UBS has taken write-down and credit loss hits of about US$44.2 billion since 2007 and has been finding that rich clients are withdrawing their funds.

Meantime, worldwide, banks have lost about 131,700 staff since July 2007. Newspaper cartoonists are drawing pictures of financiers climbing out of windows to sit on ledges and have a final think before they jump. [Psychiatric metaphor re suicide] A stockbroker outfit in Australia speaks of "a perfect storm scenario" for investment outlooks [Weather/geography metaphor]

3 October

We find, morning of 3-10-2008: that Warren Buffet has invested more than US$3 billion in General Electric. He has also put more than $5 billion into Goldman Sachs. (It used to be said that what was good for GMH was good for America. Now it seems that whatever is good for good old-fashioned morality, decency, confidence and morale will be good for America and the world!) Meantime, Wall Street reportedly plunges yet again even after US senators have passed the revised rescue package bill, after a jittery night. (Dow Jones is down more than 350 points.) Pres. Bush now pleads with US Congress to back the second rescue plan. Investors shuddered overnight and failed to feel "calmed" [Valium or psychiatric-medical metaphor]. One reporter says "no magic pill" [Harry Potter metaphor]. Is the rescue package enough to boost confidence? Unemployment is lately growing to a seven-year high in US. Short selling of stocks in the US is now being badmouthed yet again. [Gossipy use of standard ethical metaphor]. Not forgetting Warren Buffett's famous description of "derivatives" as "financial weapons of mass destruction". (George W. Bush, eat your heart out about enemies-at-home who aren't Communists! Or Muslims. On the contrary, they are US ultra-free-marketeers!)

3 October - US House of Reps presses a revised $700 billion of rescue plan.

4 October

Columnist Matthew Stevens writing in Weekend Australian measures disasters so far in terms of US$800 billion in capital so far burned, with losses due to this crisis topping US$12 trillion. Columnist Terry McCrann attributes something not just to greed (etc), but to the way the financial markets have ceased to be "servants of the economy" and have become not just businesses in their own right, but markets that demand that the real economy bow to their will. There's a serious disconnect here. (It's peculiar how the phrase "the real economy" is coming into use, but no one is talking about "the unreal economy", which is what McCrann seems to be driving at - Ed).

Marvellous article in SMH by Peter Hartcher, "End of the American Century? [History of Economic Thought metaphor]. Editor of Newsweek International Fareed Zakaria, has lately published a book, The Post-American World. Andrew Bacevich, professor of international relations at Boston University, has written a book, The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism. (This website likes this. And recalls how the power of Rome ended on the River Rhine, but it now looks like the River Rhine of the American Empire merely runs down the gutters of Wall Street!) US presidents have been sending armies on missions they can only fail at. (For those who have seen the movie, Black Hawk Down, this website heard years ago from an Australian friend then in Mogadishu, the Somalis there thought the Americans had been given such a bad military brief, they behaved like girls; so they were treated as girls. So the movie ends with a scene of a US general on his knees in a makeshift operating theatre, swabbing up spilled blood. Sigh.)

Bacevich cites historian Corelli Barnett - "War is the great auditor of institutions". And certainly, the US is now being audited, and its next presidential election is on November 4, only 30-odd days away. In fact, Hartcher writes, the long-term credit-worthiness of the US government itself has been in doubt for some years. On these notes, see also two recent books about morale in the US from Naomi Wolf. The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot. Also, Give Me Liberty: How To Become An American Revolutionary.

By 5-10-2008, Has massive fraud been perpetrated by investment bankers? By 8-1-2008. Britain declares itself in recession. By 8-10-08, US, TV reports that policy makers are making it up as they go along, all this is unprecedented, is of historical dimensions. By 15-10-08, Lateline TV news (Australia), Rudd criticises "extreme capitalism" and its ills, an obscenity brought about by greed, obscene failures in US regulations on corporate governance ... rating agencies are now up for inspection in Rudd's views, need to reign in executives greed. By 16-10-08, NY Stock Exchange nose dives again. Markets are uncertain and unconvinced. By 16-1-0-08, There will be recession and it will be deep. Negative feedback loops are setting in, Gasp. The real economy is suffering, and is America on the skids? By 16-10-08, Interesting question arises, How would anyone quickly tell if China was experiencing a speculative bubble or a downturn? By 25-10-2008, Another day of market turmoil, but are things becoming more subtle? Greenspan's mistake, versus Bob Dylan's line, the pump don't work 'cos the vandals took the handle. By 13-11-08, Germany and UK now in recession, Japan is predicted to go to recession. By 14-11-08, the entire developed world is in recession.

When humanity thoroughly outsmarted itself in 2008

4-6 October, and the weekend newspapers: In Sydney Morning Herald.: Anatomy of a meltdown [that disastrously mixed metaphor again, thoughtlessly borrowed from Time magazine], John Collett writes that if you took certain advice in Australia in 2007 re your superannuation portfolio, your AUD$1 million would be worth about $700,000. [Numbers game metaphor]. "In unknown territory: there's nothing like the worst crash since 1929 to focus the mind": writes Ian Verrender [Numbers game + navigation metaphor]. "The aggressive self-belief of investment bankers sowed the seeds of disaster" writes Clancy Yeates [religious or ethical metaphor]. Of late, the Flemish bank Fortis (in 2007 confident enough to try to take over ABN Amro in a huge buyout) is partly nationalised by the governments of Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg [Government intervention metaphor plus distinct irony].
And gee, here's an easily-understandable machinery metaphor from an Australian national affairs correspondent - it's as though someone threw a bucket of sand into the engine of the world economy; adding, all this toxic debts is "the surprise booby trap hidden in the march of globalisation". Looks to us as though the march of globalisation has just broken ranks and run for cover!
In Weekend Australian: Credit crunch is here to stay, apparently. In the US, there's been a horrible crash at the intersection of Wall Street and Main Street, but the ambulance officers aren't allowed to wear their JM Keynes armbands, the US $700 billion bailout isn't a bailout, it's a rescue package. Even in a disaster zone, US politicians can't stop playing semantics, can't call a spade a spade. Banks have now been bailed out by governments in Hong Kong, India and Russia, but apparently there's not a Keynesian in sight anywhere in the world. There is a wrestling match going on between The Unknown and The Unspeakable.

5 October - Germany guarantees all private bank accounts.

Australian cartoon SMH

7 October

By 7 October: the end of a long weekend where this website lives, John McCain has referred to the US$700 billion rescue package as a "tourniquet" which will not entirely stop the bleeding. [Medical metaphor].

In weekend Australian Financial Review we find, "the world is hostage to the empire of debt". The American consumer is now a spent force due to addiction to debt (or, OPM = other people's money - recalling the US comedian who said that bail-out efforts are like trying to find a vein in a failure junkie) Americans have been indulging in too much retail therapy. There's been bloodletting on Wall St (War metaphor, or is that more an outdated reference to medical treatment by bleeding a patient with leeches?). Apparently, the US consumer is leveraged and the world is leveraged to the US consumer. More Jeremiahs are surfacing, and one of them has been Peter Schiff, global chief of Euro Pacific Capital see his book, Crash Proof: How to Profit from the Coming Economic Collapse". He says, collapse is/was inevitable as the foundations [of the economy, or consumerism] were faulty. One view is that US borrowing may well bankrupt the entire world, unless the world cuts the US out of the picture. [Medical/surgical metaphor, excision of corrupt tissue]
Risk modelling (VaR or "value-at-risk") as used in the US provided misleading predictions. How and why did so many smart people get it so wrong? Well, maybe too many mathematicians were talking, and not enough historians, were assessing risks. VaR uses an assumption of (disaster) events occurring once-in-a-century, has been around since 1922 and became more popular in the 1990s. VaR was recently used to help legitimise what has been called toxic debt (bad US mortgage loans). Rating agencies had under-estimated the risk of packages of such bad mortgages (collateralised debt obligations). Risk models failed, because they were misused, and apparently, to the extent they were misused, or beyond that extent.

When humanity thoroughly outsmarted itself in 2008

Shrewd US investor, "the Sage from Omaha", Warren Buffett, has been reshown on TV describing situations as "an economic Pearl Harbour" [Pillage and plunder metaphor, and see new book on Buffett by Alice Schroeder, The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life].
Another Meltdown Monday. More carnage. The world is unconvinced the rescue package will work. US economy is in pain [Medical metaphor]. Fear and panic are motivating sell-offs [Herd mentality metaphor]. Someone recalls what John Kenneth Galbraith said about the onset of the 1929 crash and thinks that once again, finance types have succeeded not via greed but in duping themselves [delusional optimism, " the Master of the Universe" syndrome discussed in Tom Wolfe's novel, Bonfire of the Vanities, a mental health or medical metaphor, delusional optimism]. (This website read Bonfire of the Vanities in a jet flying London - New York - San Francisco - Sydney around 4 July, 1989. As long ago as that!)].
Now, all clap hands children. This week is the 50th anniversary of the first issue of the first American Express credit card. In just 50 years, the credit card mentality has helped ruin the once-mighty USA!

(At which point, this webpage, being an astute and long-practiced sceptic, wonders if the delusional optimism that has helped cause all this might not soon be replaced by delusional pessimism - we feel that if so, that would be, like, really discouraging!

Remarks arise that the "investment banking model" is now obsolete". Really? Collapses of markets is wiping out the value of US retirement savings. Sounds to this website like a great betrayal!

An article reprinted from Washington Post, by Steven Pearlstein, suggests that the "Wall St greed" metaphor as being peddled by both McCain and Obama in the US is a populist political fantasy and that plain old finance executive incompetence is a better explanation for problems [Religious/ethical metaphor plus sociological dis-empathy].
This website now unhappily recalls a phrase long-used in Australia for things not worth their alleged value - "Not worth a Continental". What this website can't understand is how this phrase actually became common in Australia! It first arose when the troops employed by George Washington were fighting the American Revolution, and were paid in jumped-up Continental notes which rapidly depreciated in value - they were not worth a Continental. The stock exchanges of the world now seem to think that the current value of the US bailout is, well, not worth a Continental. As a metaphor, this is very old, but it does grow out of "the American Revolution", you know.

7 October

Australian TV news late night, "financial abyss" = geologic-spiritual metaphor. Struggling world economy, etc. "Tumultuous times" in UK as many banks talk to central bank (or, Bank of England). (Oh dear oh dear oh dear.) Interviewer question: what's going to happen with the use of credit cards?

9 October

It's taken this long for the more morbid and black humour to start circulating on the Net, but this webpage received the below items re "Japan" on 9-10-2008. We think the jokes are really directed at Wall Street and its "cash for trash" scenarios, but who knows?

We've just read that uncertainty has now hit the Japanese banking sector:
In the last seven days Origami Bank has folded. Sumo Bank has gone belly up.
Bonsai Bank announced plans to cut some of its branches. Yesterday, it was announced that Karaoke Bank is up for sale and will likely go for a song, while today shares in Kamikaze Bank were suspended after they nose-dived.
Samurai Bank is soldiering on following sharp cutbacks, Ninja Bank is reported to have taken a hit, but they remain in the black.
Furthermore, 500 staff at Karate Bank got the chop and analysts report that there is something fishy going on at Sushi Bank where it is feared that staff may get a raw deal!

(So now folks, all you have to do is translate those bad puns into other bad puns drawn from the USA's cultural history, and you see why we are now at where we are. Try on, for example, The It's All Over Now, Baby Blue Bank; where amid climate change and other problems, maybe corporate America hears some demonic voice singing, "You best leave now, take what you need you think will last". (Serious apologies here to Bob Dylan. Sorry, Bob, but the times, they are a'changing, and needs must drive. And the culture of the USA like so much needs to develop a proper sense of irony. It's a great song!)-Ed)Australian cartoon SMH

7 October - Icelandic Govt takes control of its second largest bank.

8th October

In an unprecedented move, UK government moves about 1000 billion pounds to help re-stabilise the British banking system, to stave off dire risks. This represents about 2000 pounds per capita in hock to the future on top of climate change problems emerging. This at about the time that notable central banks of the Western World announce an also-unprecedented co-ordinated strike by way of organised interest rate cuts.
In the banking business, "it's now firesale time" [Emergency metaphor, subset commercial]

8 October - US, Britain, China, Canada, Sweden, Switzerland and European Central Bankcut interest rates. Britain reveals a 500 billion pound bank rescue plan and later takes stakes in Royal Bank of Scotland, Lloyd's Bank and HBOS.

9 October - International Monetary Fund announces emergency plan to bail out governments affected by the crisis. Italy guarantees banks and deposits.

10th October

TV news - we are on the cusp of a global recession. UK rather dislikes the way Iceland has handled its crisis, but it remains quite unexplained just how so much UK money finds its way to Icelandic Banks to now be endangered. This is real head-scratcher territory. Netherlands people had also put their money into Iceland's banks. Iceland's banks apparently had lent more than 10 times the value of Iceland's economy/GDP! Iceland's banks only began their boom about 6-7 years ago. You go figure! Or maybe just go google.

11th October

When humanity thoroughly outsmarted itself in 2008

Another weekend, so a quick skip through some weekend papers and a skim across the surface of The Internet.

Weekend Australian frontpages, "the long slow crash of '08" and World Finance D-Day. World leaders gather in Washington to work on a blueprint for a co-ordinated global campaign to end the escalating financial crisis. [Rational planning metaphor] "Trust has dried up, just like credit" [Ethical metaphor] Unco-ordinated efforts are tending to make things worse. But it remains to be seen if co-ordinated efforts make any useful impacts. In Letters to Editor, someone wants to know in Australia, where employees are legally obliged to contribute to a superannuation fund, why the government can't be sued for forcing people to invest in a depreciating asset or superannuation fund? (Which assuredly is a very good question indeed!)

Worldwide, investors are fleeing stocks in blind panic. [Herd mentality metaphor] In the US, trying to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, or protein out of vermin swarming out from under Wall Street rocks, a small group of economists and psychologists is arguing that (suffering is character-building) during a recession, people lead healther lives, exercise more restraint, etc, pay more attention to family members, even engage in adult education. [Ethical metaphor in terms of restraints imposed from without, not from self-discipline derived from innerly-held or internalized moral values] We don't think this is peachy-keen at all, we fail to see why the rest of the world should be suffering, or improving morally, due to the excesses of priveliged USA banker types of little moral fibre such that they fall victim to delusional optimism inspired merely by big money numbers.

As Richard "Gorilla" Fuld from Lehman Bros said when attacked by Henry Waxman, a Democrat investigative committee member, "I feel horrible"; about what happened to the Lehman Bros firm, that is. But the rest of the world ... as it suffers SWL syndrome? (Sudden Wealth Loss)
Fuld isn't the only one who feels horrible about something. US Treasury Hank Paulson says that - "I share the outrage people have. It's embarrassing to look at this. I think it's embarrassing to the United States of America. There is a lot of blame to go around."

Australian cartoon SMH

Gee, the entire world banking system doesn't trust itself, which is presumably why in the UK, sales of safes are soaring. People want to keep their money where they can keep an eye on it. One guru assesses all the competing theories but boils it down to too much debt chasing too many poor-quality assets. [Failure of capitalism metaphor as Karl Marx spins in his grave saying, "I told you so". Or is this just a merely snobbish metaphor about failures of taste?]

The only good news (from Clancy Yeates in Sydney Morning Herald) is that Islamic finance rides the storm, doing quite nicely, thank you. Not doing gangbusters at all, just chugging along. The Islamic model for banking, which is Sharia Law-based, does not recomend usury, that is, the charging of interest. How refreshing is this!? Much less rip-off. The basic idea is that the Islamic system is more in tune with the real economy where the bank actually operates - but the explanation is complicated, so we leave you with it and move on to other disasters ...

In the US is a run on hedge funds and cash is king. US banks had been lending 96 cents of every dollar deposited with them. (Business-studies-type university students in the US have allegedly been taught "financial origami".) But in Europe, various banks had been lending Euro 1.4 for every single Euro deposited with them. Spain is said to have its own property bubble fuelled by absurd lending policies.
Ian Verrender in the SMH thinks that China has kept its exchange rate artificially low, sold bulk goods cheaply to the West, then bought on heavily into the US economy, which in turn helped silly Americans get themselves further into debt. China and oil-producing nations have seduced Americans by partly-financing their overspending, which now as property markets go, leaves the USA entirely vulnerable on the world stage as its national digital debt clock runs out of digits to register its national debt. It's called, running off the clock! [Numbers games metaphors]

One finance guru says (as the Australian dollar plummets in value) that as panic-selling ensues, it'd be better if spooked asset-holders took the view that things will need 18-24 months to "work through the system", while all indications are, that's a view that they almost certainly won't take.
In the US, President G. W. Bush may take things so seriously that he will contradict his usual free-market trader philosophy and more or less nationalise more banks [Hypocrisy metaphor]. As a US economic guru suggests that "the [US] banking system is broken". [Health/integrity metaphor and see history of economic thought]
Economist gurus in Australia are scratching their heads about why the Australian dollar has fallen so fast! [The Homer Simpson, or, the "doh" metaphor, unless, perhaps, the Australian dollar had been oversold?] Is it due to loss of faith in commodities?

In New York is a "downward spiral of fear", which is "stomach-churning". [Biological function metaphor, as in Australia called, "skidmarks on the underpants"] Arterial flows of capital in the banking sector are blocked [Cardiovascular metaphor re health]. Even a world-wide halt period for stock-exchange trading has been proposed, to enable a breather [respiratory system metaphor re health]
It's the eighth straight day of falls on New York Stock Exchange ... Joke on Wall Street is, "There are now only two positions to take: cash or foetal". Amongst the jokes and articles is an odd mix, like of live steam, melted butter and ice-cold vodka with a petro-dollar chaser with a flambe, peak oil piquancy, of schadenfreude, self pity, historical comparison and the reluctant view that our only hope is despair. Gulp, the US stock market is said to be heading for its worst annual return since 1937.

The tsunami metaphor [tectonic forces] surfaces in Weekend Australia as it threatens to swamp equities in Asia, which is having "currency fluctuations". Banks in South Korea are "over-leveraged" [Numbers games metaphor]. The People's Bank of China (which operates in a less than transparent way) has been reacting by cutting interest rates and "flushing liquidity", propping up a few banks. Bank of Japan can speak of an interest rate of only 0.5 per cent and so has nowhere to go, no room to move.
Some finance type in the US likens the entire set of financial problems to, like, any spread of the Ebola virus [Health and epidemiology metaphor].

In the US: Sub-prime: a capitalist dream turns into a nightmare. Sub-prime loans for jargon fiends were also known as "collatoralised debt obligations", "derivatives", and "residential mortgage-backed securities". How such insecure entities ever became transformed into "securities" is a major part of the problem - it was a lie that helped the US brazenly export its poverty. (As the propagandists for Hitler said, repeat a Big Lie often enough, and people will believe it! And it's true! Unfortunately.)
These insecure securities apart from being entangled in lies became entangled in various wrangles about interest rates as US foreclosures soared and the property markets dived.

At which points, things started to unravel. So far worldwide, about US$500 billion of overwritten value has been written off. That's a lot of poverty+fantasy exported from the US and then re-amplified to the suckers. After the amplification, what we are now getting is a lot of - feedback! And it's too piercing, man, too piercing. (If we can hijack an old joke from Stan Freberg about the Banana Boat Song. Have you ever noticed how bananas also can go rotten?)

Feeling a bit punitive, if anything, Stephen Roach (chairman of Morgan Stanley Asia) in Australia suggests from "at the edge of the abyss" that as they gather in Washington, the stewards of the world economy should be locked in a room till they can find a true global fix for the most challenging crisis of the modern world post WWII, or 1945. And so on. [Policing metaphor]
Sometime this week, Germany's government bailed out German bank, Hypo Real Estate, to the tune of Euro 50 billion. And UK PM Gordon Brown dignified the pages of The Times with the view that "The old solutions of yesterday will not serve us well for the challenges of today." [Obsolescence metaphor vs progress metaphor]

10 October - Global rout starts as fears deepen. Japan's Nikkei index falls almost 10 per cent (biggest drop in 20 years). Singapore enters recession. Britain's FTSE index loses 8.85 per cent, wiping out 90 billion pounds worth of shares in worst fall since 1987. Oil price slumps $5 per barrel.

12 October - Australian Govt. guarantees offshore borrowings and deposits in Australian banks.

13 October

Today it does seem that markets are rebounding more confidently. Have they been convinced that governments have achieved the best measures? But sadly, at this point as we wonder if things have bottomed out, a sceptical friend of this website emails to idly wonder if this webpage is missing any more subtle metaphors? Are there any metaphors flying about under the radar? This raises the prospect of "stealth bomber metaphors" relating to the current economic crisis. The mind boggles! It's not a little horrifying. We're appalled. But we must go as we watch a major Monday night Australian documentary on the economic crisis. And yikes! We find bulk stealth bomber metaphors flying in under the radar! Some are old, some are new.

13 October - France, Germany and Eurozone unveil massive support plans for banks and financial institutions.

And the documentary (from noted Australian finance journalist and sceptic, Paul Barry) says - beware of self-fulfilling prophecies about the brink of collapse [Paralysis or catatonia metaphor re danger of using apocalyptic metaphors about economic crises]. Even in 2007 the idea arose that US subprime mortgages were "a dirty bomb", bound to go off eventually [Enemy treachery metaphor]. One analyst sheets major problems back to the aftermath of 9/11, when the US Fed made injections into the US markets to re-mount confidence after the earlier dot.com crash, and the shock of 9/11 itself. If so, it appears those injections were badly mis-used.

There was even the ill-famed ninja loan - (no income, no job, no assets). Now, as time goes by, beware the ARMs. The automatically reset mortgages, which a few years down the track surprise the people who took them out. The interest charge rises and throws a mortgage-holder's budget, and then their lives, to the wind. Such is the price of having bought into a belief in a constantly-rising property market.

One commentator mentions Chaos Theory and in a literal and therefore an invalid way, "the butterfly effect". The subprime butterfly flaps its wings in the US and investors in Europe who delved into US "derivatives" encounter a near-perfect storm. There are contagion and feedback loops [Information Theory metaphor] Bear Stearns delved into the subprime market, and ended vaporizing itself. Hedge funds have vaporized. [Sci-fi metaphor re use of death rays]. With "derivatives" sold into systems, it's rather as though humidity has turned poisonous in the atmosphere, risk has been diffused throughout the entire world system, and no one can tell just where they'll strike a cloud of it in the system.

The market in credit default swaps (insurance against risks) was unregluated, and it "broke capitalism".

For real estate and mortage brokers, a little utility sprang up called "yield premium spread"; the shonkier was the subprime loan made out, the more it would yield; the more yield premium spread the broker got! One US commentator says, with a metaphor drawn from gridiron football, you ain't seen nothin' yet. The US is just at the end of the first quarter of a four quarter game, because more of those exploding ARMs are timed to go off yet again as time goes by. (Which is rather as though the under-regulated US investment sector has been laying land mines in innocent US suburbia and in the future of kids in schoolyards across the nation!)

In parts of the US eg Cleveland, the sense of community is dying as houses are boarded up. [Social health metaphor]

Australian cartoon SMH

But are European governments just throwing around monopoly money? Are the European banks too big to be allowed to go down, and too big to save? [Apocalypse metaphor] Is this a failure of the institutions and governance of the EU? Gordon Brown, PM of the UK, wants more control of risk [Numbers game metaphor, or, control-of-reality metaphor] in the investment economy and its food chain [metaphor from biology, and quite invalid] Again, watch for those exploding ARMs (also known as adjustable rate mortgages), they're just time bombs. And we end the night with a commentator's remark that as US Treasury Bonds diminish in value, the USA is already bankrupt. Sorry, that's that.

Australian cartoon SMH

14 October

When humanity thoroughly outsmarted itself in 2008

Markets do seem to be rallying, as though relieved that consortiums of governments still actually believe in themselves and each other. Though it also looks as though the American markets refused to even try to rally the past day or so unless they got some support from Europe (populated as it has been by cheese-eating surrender monkeys) and the UK; they quite rightly no longer have faith in the US system (so we discover that the US actually needs Europe after all). We feel moved to say, re the UK, that it now looks as though the former Royal Bank of Scotland is now the Royal Bank of the 1708 Union of the Thrones of Scotland and England. But moving along. Amid signs of probable recovery, one journalist remarks on the financiers' "near-death experiences" of late. So we cynically soon expect an upsurge in econo-psychic phenomena to turn into a new US variant of voodoo economics/para-normal economics. A US commentator remarks asperically about the attitude of the Bush administration while it was asleep for so long at the finance-regulation wheel, "Minimalism is good for modern art, but it doesn't work for banking regulation."

14 October - Nine US banks agree to a $250 billion capital injection. Icelandic stock exchange plummets 76 per cent when it opens after a week's closure. Australian announces a $10.4 billon stimulus package plan.

15 October

Most prominent and indeed funniest amongst today's metaphors is from US Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, who hates what he has lately had to do - deny incumbent Republican ideology and part-nationalise a few more US banks for the good of the US Commonwealth and maybe even the world (Gasp, ye gods, God forbid!).[A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do metaphor, let feminists be dismayed or laugh as they may. Or gasp! Re Ideological Irony, is this as Tom Waits once sang to us, how one time, "Small Change got rained on with his own .38"?]. And oh dear, markets are being coy, shy, retracting. Like snails going back into their shells, really.

Australian cartoon SMH

Other work on meltdown metaphors

When humanity thoroughly outsmarted itself in 2008

Evidently, this website was not outlandishly original with looking at these metaphors. Good work in this important field has been done in the US. One such webpage is by an expert on English grammar and composition. Another page reminds us that using metaphors at any times make Play-Doh of our conceptual frameworks. One such webpage says that the spread of the metaphors being used is due to the fact that no one understands just what is going on.

Another such webpage by Michael M. Phillips recounts how Warren Buffett reminded us all, "The economy is like a bathtub - you can't have cold water in the back and hot water in the front." (He might as well have been trying to recast Gresham's Law on money - "Bad money drives out good.")
One US Rep, Tom Feeney, a Florida Republican, says it's all as though Little Orphan Annie is being taxed to prop up Daddy Warbucks.
US TV comedian John Oliver wins accolades by telling us that propping up Wall Street with liquidity injection is hard work, as "it's like trying to find a vein in a failure junkie". A contrarian denies that any of this is anything like earth-shaking, which might have due to an Act of God. He says, "It's due to a combustible combination of private greed and public regulatory neglect."

Jessica Mador runs a website on this for Minnesota public radio and reports that, US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is scathing - she complains about finding vermin swarming under rocks it has become necessary to shift. Senator Amy Klobucher complains that Wall Street had a party, got very drunk, now has a bad hangover, and now has the audacity to call in the public, who weren't even invited to the party, to clean up the furniture!

Paul Krugman runs an item on "unfortunate economic metaphors". He wonders if Mr Paulson's plans will provide enough fiscal laxative to unplug the banking sector and get money flowing again. [Cloacal metaphor]

But the most perceptive remark comes from from The Metaphor Observatory, which divided its collection of metaphors between non-US-derived and US-derived and came up with evidence of some fascinating hypocrisy from the US. The Observatory has found as we have here, metaphors have been drawn from boating/navigation and weather, enemy ambush/treachery, emergency-accident, rescue, religion (Apocalypse), tectonic forces, and addiction/bad habits. But then they found that most metaphors arising in Europe tended to blame US internal activity. While some US-derived metaphors blame US internal activity, there is a great US tendency to "outsource the blame" to external-type causes, eg, Religion - Armageddon. Enemy ambush/treachery (Pearl Harbour). Weather (hurricane). Act of God (earthquake). Which is fascinating. The US outsources the blame to bad luck or Acts of God. But hello, what's that line on the US dollar? "In God We Trust". Is it? We love it! Outsourcing the blame! Distressedly distrusting the God in Whom We Trust! Only in America!

Meanwhile, contagion is spreading throughout the world. Iceland's three biggest banks have gone belly-up with debts which are twelve times the size of the Icelandic economy; Iceland is said to be suffering the ill effects of its own housing bubble. Around the world, governments are now conducting The War on Error. [A metaphor based on yet another metaphor which itself is not so accurate!] Digging in for a credit winter, headlines the SMH [Climate-weather metaphor]. An economist at a South Australian university explains that the US bailout will cost each USA adult about US$2500 via the taxation system. [Hip pocket nerve metaphor]

More metaphors from blogs

When humanity thoroughly outsmarted itself in 2008

Try, "crashed globalization". In economic crisis, metaphors fly like bad analogies. A complaint arises that politicians and journalists are nincompoops who have to use metaphors since they don't understand economics. [Metaphor of problems with the use of metaphors]. Are markets freezing up or melting down, can anyone make up their mind, please? [use of inconsistent metaphors]. Some assets are toxic [Pollution metaphor again] but bankers aren't wearing respirators, so why not?

Wall Street Gotta Lotta Gall Street

What about "a crushing economic contagion", is this a self-consistent metaphor? (No, not at all!) If all this is "an economic 9/11" in 2008, how come no planes were used, and this time will the US authorities please find the Osama bin-Laden responsible? One analyst thinks that with the subprime loans, which eventually charge higher interest to people unlikely to be able to pay, the act of subprime lending creates [gasp! they finally realised it!] the very problem it is supposed to solve. But this is quite different to repackaging the results and on-selling the "derivatives" around the world! One blog pleads, "Stop with the metaphors already!" But we say, try on one of our own invention - Wall Street Gotta Lotta Gall Street.

Try on, "blank check for Wall Street". Senator Judd Greg, a Republican from New Hampshire, thinks the problem has been a massive car wreck, and the Federal government wants to buy the wrecks, move them out of the way, and maybe try to resell them at a profit! [Lotta mixed metaphors there, whew!]
Blogger Jacob Wisberg thinks we have to reconceptualize capitalism (but does he or the US FBI speak practically of getting rid of crooks, spivs and well-dressed, fast-talking racketeers?). Blogger Daniel Gross wants to know re The Toddler Economy, why are CEOs and Wall Street financiers behaving so childishly?

Another blogger: is the big bailout a reverse auction? Or is this all a game of dominoes? Has Wall Street become Sesame Street? Will this downturn on the graph be V-shaped, U-shaped, L-shaped, or some weird W-shape? Why haven't economic commentators been collecting metaphors about the fall-down of the economy of Zimbabwe? A poet-musing blog wonders, who insures insurance companies? And he thinks, governments and tax payers do? But would this be an argument in the USA for the raising of taxes and bigger government, so everyone can feel even more secure? It all keeps going round and round, does it not? Whatever size government is in the US, it helped New Orleans very little. Isn't there an old Crosby Stills Nash and Young song named Helpless Helpless Helpless? Or is that, Helplessly Hoping? (Which has the line, "Confusion has its cost". Hmm?)

15 October - Biggest rise in British unemployment in 17 years, up 5.7 percent. US retail sales suffer biggest fall in three years, car sales decline 3.8 per cent. Iceland tries to stave off econmic ruin, slashes rates 3/5 per cent.

16 October - Swiss Govt injects CHF 6 billion into investment bank UBS. Japan's Nikkei index has worst fall since 1987. Oil price falls to less than half of its last-July price of $147 per barrel.

17 October - Pay deal for workers with Wall Street's top banks revealed as worth more than $70 billion, most from bonuses.

Weekend 18-19 October

When humanity thoroughly outsmarted itself in 2008

And at this point, we find few new metaphors being used in newspapers. Credit has run out, and so has imagination by now. Gloom and doom reigns. A US think-tank guru reminds us that the capitalist economy is predicated on trust, and trust is gone. Markets are gloomy or dipping. Manufacturing is dipping in the US, ripening prospects of a long-term trough. US hurricanes have reduced energy production. The Swiss National Bank is set to prop up UBS to the tune of US$60 billion. In the US, up to 20 per cent of US homeowners now owe more than their property is worth. Keynesianism is resurging in the US, further eroding the credibility of the rhetoric of Republicans on a daily basis. In Ireland, a bookie is so sure Barak Obama will win the US presidency, he is already paying out to bettors on Obama. Australia could be in recession inside six months. Crisis is slowing the locomotive of India's growth. Iceland seems to be engrossed in an orgy of self-blame for its woes (and may not have been bailed out by Russia after all).

In the UK, a self-confessed Marxist, satirist Brendan O'Neill, editor of Spiked, warns against anyone chortling at the current woes of capitalism, since there is no alternative to capitalism. Marx did not entirely believe that the collapse of capitalism was inevitable, so any "drooling over the collapse of the freemarket model" is inappropriate. No amount of "decadent snickering" can fill the debate gap. O'Neill worries about harsh effects on people's lives, and cites a left-leaning think tank which suggests that people will have to accept they will earn less and consume less, where less consumption might be associated with less production, and so less use of energy, less burning of fossil fuels, which might be a plus for the environment. (This website may as well add that Karl Marx was not an environmentalist, so his critique of capitalism might be irrelevant to capitalism as afflicted by environmental problems, which is also a condition of capitalism in USA by now.) TV news of 19-10-2008, US economy is losing altitude, the US has about 8000 banks, of which about 300 will fail.

20 October

Growth rate of China is slowing apparently, moving down to about 8 per cent. Question is asked, should the US have any New Deal? In the USA, US$1.4 trillion of bad home loans have drowned the dream of home ownership. On TV is interviewed a global economics guru from Chicago, David Hale, who predicts the onset of roughly a 9-monthy recession, and says that Obama's stated plans will collide with any such recession.

20 October - China warns crisis is damaging its own economic growth.

21 October - Bank of England governor Mervyn King admits "it now seems likely that the UK economy is entering a recession."

22 October - Biggest quarterly loss of any US bank since onset of crisis with Wachovia unveiling a $24 billion deficit.

24 October - Britain's biggest GDP drop since 1990.

Weekend 25-26 October

When humanity thoroughly outsmarted itself in 2008

By this weekend, we find the flood of metaphors is ebbing. By now, imagination as well as credit are exhuasted. There is a kind of whirlwind effect evident as metaphors move from Economics and national accounting protocols into the political sphere. Reports are rising of the beginnings of real trouble, not merely potential trouble. In Australia, several groups long involved in motor vehicle financing are departing that field. World-wide, it looks like International Monetary Fund will be approached for aid by several "developed countries". The Western World is being told by charity workers not to forget the world's poor, the millions who usually go to bed hungry.

Here's the real killer. This was when "the invisible hand" of the markets lost its grip and its freezing body fell down the crevasse. This was when the free market philosophy became rational and succumbed to self doubt. This weekend, former US Federal Reserve chairman for 18 years, Alan Greenspan, being grilled in Washington, made a partial-apology and admitted he had "made a mistake" in trusting that free markets could regulate themselves without government oversight. He has been criticized particularly for refusing to crack down on unregulated markets in "derivatives" and "credit default swaps". (Credit default swaps being rather like two people with HIV-AIDS having holidays together for the express purpose of exchanging body-fluids!) About his mistake, Greenspan said he had been mistaken in believing that unfettered markets are at the root of a superior economy. About the flaw in his ideology (as an economist, he assumed so heroically, he moved into psychopathology, and so did the US economy), Greenspan said, "I have found a flaw. I don't know how significant or permanent it is. But I have been very distressed by that fact". And he remains in "a state of shocked disbelief", as well he might, since he'd believed such nonsense about free markets for 40 years or more.
Well, Mr Greenspan, the flaw is more fatal than significant or permanent, and more so when in the hands of Wall Street, or indeed, any set of financiers in any era. We'd like to know how an old man ever began to maintain himself in such a state of blissful naivete in the first place! That's the real question. While the same goes for the US' Republican party. However, Greenspan did note that in 2005, he had warned, that protracted periods of underpricing risk would have dire consequences. In which he was all too correct, it now seems. Greenspan years before has been lauded as "world's greatest central banker ever". Now it seems that he hardly even knew which sides of an economic risk are the best to butter before some sucker buys it. Maybe he never even actually realised that there's a sucker born every minute?

Peter Hartcher (Sydney Morning Herald) thinks that Greenspan kept interest rates too low, allowing credit to inflate into a housing bubble. Hartcher thinks that we now see "one of the greatest catastrophes in the four centuries since the rise of financial capitalism". (Which is roughly since the formation of the Dutch East India Company / English East India Company and the rise of joint-stock companies - Ed).

In Weekend Australian, George Megalogenis thinks that the world never owed us a living, and now the world has gone mad. Governments ought to ask people, and banks, to be more self-reliant. He looks forward to capitalism V2.0. Where banks will be forced to retain more capital to tide them over times of strife. (Which is how banks started out, in England at least.) Credit will be more scarce for both business and consumer. in Australia, ordinary people are stacking their money into banks for safety, if there is any run on banks in Australia, it's from the top end of town. It's the captains jumping the ships, not the crew or the passengers. And finally, Australia's Prime Minister Rudd has been too kind in calling CEOs greedy and fearful. "What we are witnessing is rich people being stupid", Megalogenis concludes.

Australian cartoon SMH

28 October - US consumer confidence hits lowest point on record. Bank of England estimates that world's financial institutions have loses of $2.8 trillion.

29 October - US Fed cuts rates by 0.5 per centage points.

30 October - Germany's Deutsche Bank reports steep falls in profit.

31 October - Japan cuts interest rates for first time in seven years as Nikkei hits 26-year low. Australia's Commonwealth Bank buys BankWest from HBOS. Australian share markets are driven down.

2 November

And here is this website's version of the lesson that the Republican Party of the US and the Democrats have to learn. As events these past two months have shown us, if and when banks fail, when economic systems are faltering, who and what is it that bails them out? It is governments around the world, and their taxpayers. That is, people. Which means, the US government has got to start serving its people, not ideology, not party politics, and not pointless items of rhetoric such as "the American dream". We might as well ask, why has it taken since 1783, some 225 years, for the USA to find out the purpose of government in the modern world? Even right-winger Sarah Palin knew it by close to the election - she said she and McCain wanted to work for the US voters. It's just that she belongs to the wrong political party, a party unlikely to be engaging in any such profundity of thought about the role of government.

China's software pirates revolt against evil empire

This is the funniest thing we've ever heard about computer software piracy, except for the now-old joke that all of Indonesia runs on the same pirated copy of Windows 98! Microsoft has gotten sick of the Chinese pirates of its software, so it has been using a stealth anti-piracy program that blanks out computer screens. This program is called Windows and Office Genuine Advantage and was included in a recently distributed batch of updates. Users using downloads of those updates found their screens turning black if they were using pirated software. The blackened screens can be turned off, but return each hour to bother the pirate. Chinese nerds retaliated by writing a counter-program made available for free donwload. The question arises - has Microsoft illegally intruded into people's computers? But, is this all a joke, Microsoft Computer Torture, akin to Chinese Water Torture? Or just an in-joke about blue screens of death? This website thinks that no one would have any problems with Microsoft at all if they used free-download Linux systems such as Ubuntu - all this is entirely unnecessary!) (Weekend edition 25-26 October 2008 Sydney Morning Herald)

Australian cartoon SMH

Weekend 1-2 November

When humanity thoroughly outsmarted itself in 2008

By now, metaphors have largely been exhuasted, and anyway taken over by rhetoric about the rhetoric of the final days of the US presidential election campaign. In Weekend Australian, US consumers are berating for having shopped till they dropped, and then stopped, halted by a recession. Shopping therapy has finally succeeded; now they undergo collective catharsis. Deregulation of the finance markets has been discredited, and so a new era of regulation seems due to start. The credit crunch means the US is in the grip of an adverse feedback loop. The absurd headline arises, "global ructions fuel closures at steel mills", and since when have closures of manufacturers been fuelled by anything other than depair? This is perhaps the single-worst mixed-metaphor yet noticed! In any case, closed steel mills have a reduced carbon footprint. Private equity firms, which this website views as hostile takeover merchants of ill-intent and no experience in promoting real productivity, in recent years the terror of self-respecting businesses, are now drowning in debt, which is to say, their lacks of equity. Good riddance to them!

The headline appears, "sheltered from the global storm", and we are reminded of the Bob Dylan song, Shelter From The Storm, "I was burned out from exahustion ... blown out from the trail ... ravaged in the corn ..." G7 talks will move on G20 talks, and that's because the lady offering shelter from the storm under-estimated the problem. It is said that "global capitalism needs a new hymn sheet", [Religion metaphor] it is said that a "new capitalism" is needed, but given the apparent need for "a global financial policeman", all that is needed is a renewal of common honesty and decency, really. (This website has never believed a word of US pro-globalisation propaganda.)

Wall Street executives are mulling over a cap on their remunerations. People are wondering aloud about whether they'll pay themselves Christmas bonuses? So far, this website has heard only one radio report on a senior executive who has given himself a significant pay-cut, the CEO of a now-struggling Japanese airline. His example should be adopted en-masse by CEOs around the world as a sign of good faith in the rest of humanity. But there is a problem - "Top traders, who can out-earn CEOs in a good year, are concerned about possible disclosures of their names and pay." We say, diddums.

Australian cartoon SMH

3 November

When humanity thoroughly outsmarted itself in 2008

Aaghh! The word "deflation" looms as the next global threat! More shock horror. Troubles have been morphing into even bigger troubles, so an expert wants to see the morphing thing stopped. Deflation means, shock horror, declining prices. But gee, does that mean the operation of a rational market, or not? When demand drops off, doesn't price fall? Aren't novice economics students taught this? Well, deflation is less responsive to interest rate changes than inflation, you see. And central banks can't force consumers to buy anything. Now, it's more a case of needs must drive, not, wants must drive. So expect downturns for industries reliant on advertising.

3 November

And on the eve of the US election? So what about Osama bin-Wall-Street?

Some remarks in passing (hopefully, as the population of the USA gets wise and votes out their Republicans). Through all this, interest rates have remained a large preoccupation of the Australian media. Schadenfreude addicts around the world have been getting a serious rise out of all this, even in India, we are led to believe. The David Letterman Late Night Show from New York has nightly been taking the mickey out of all of it, and out of hockey-mom and attack-dog as she is, Sarah Palin as well, quite mercilessly; we know, since we've been watching most nights. But really, what can any country do when its own financiers betray it?

When humanity thoroughly outsmarted itself in 2008

(A sceptic we know personally fails to believe that Palin talks so folksy in her real life, as to Joe Six-Pack; she's more intelligent and class-conscious than that, and this is probably right. The last person we'd like to see as VP of the USA is someone who had a cameo backing-singer role in that dreaded country music song, Okie from Miskogie. Palin might as well be singing in the chorus of, Drop kick me Jeus through the Goal Posts of Life. If she is not in search of insane reasons to enjoy "The Rapture". But let us try to avoid discussions of End Times for as long as we can, for God's sake, if we can! For as long as we can.)

One of this website's friends has begun talking about America suffering not only peak oil supply problems, but Peak Debt problems as well. (Plus of late, unfortunate Peak Metaphor problems.) Another of our friends really wants to know: where do the the over-paid US CEOs put their millions of money once they take it all out of a corporation; because he can't imagine they'd leave it in the same circles in which they got it. We think this would be a good angle for the FBI to use for investigations once they are given the job of apportioning some of the need-for-blame that America has lately been experiencing (Though we seriously doubt that the august personages heading the FBI might wish to take the advice of totally amateur Australian readers of mere Australian newspapers as are available in all Australian newsagents on a daily basis!).

Whatever, this website has developed the wholly cynical view that it would take only one truly remorseful or even apologetic CEO in the US to return their unwonted golden parachute money to shareholders, and/or give it to charity, and he would then be taken as a whistleblower; and the whole shonky show about over-paid CEOs would automatically deflate in a few weeks; like that sadly-dying little party ballon mentioned in a certain Paul Simon song on his Graceland album.

However, we do worry that we haven't yet heard about any opinions on Wall Street's latest shenanigans from The Vatican. From Scotland Yard. From the CIA. From Vietnam, Malaysia, Norway, Poland, a number of South American countries. From Saudi Arabia. Why not? Osama bin-Laden so far hasn't put out a video giving us his opinion, but we finally think by October 2008, seven years after 9/11, that Osama did the US much less damage then, than "Wall Street" has done damage by now to its Homeland. Where was Homeland Security when the US really needed it as protection from Wall Street?

The odd thing is, no one saw bin-Laden's planes coming on that 9/11 day, but this website, and a vast number of other people around the world, including the governor of the Bank of England, have been seeing coming, these 2008 Wall Street tears, that have been coming for a long, long, long, time now.

In fact, this website thinks, one problem has been with the US education system, which fails in history classes to mention, as far as this website knows after much interrogation of US university graduates since 1994, that we happen to have met here in Australia, re the role of Robert Morris, regarded as "the financier of the American Revolution".

Robert Morris merchant of Philadelphia (1734-1806) till his fall was shockingly wealthy, a highly-capable financier with a useful reputation internationally; but a committed elitist and no real friend to real democracy; a man with views-about society-in-general based on his typical exercises of seriously-skilled uses of what is now called, predatory capitalism. It seems that the US education system prefers to ignore Morris's career.

(And anyone interested on this can just go merrily googling on that very remark - and they are personally invited to email this website on what they soon find out about Robert Morris and mention or lack of mention of him, in the contemporary US education system at the levels of high school, college, and university, including, yes, re curricula at Yale and Harvard.
Bring it on anytime, baby! Let's do a debate and we'll put it all straight on the Net, blow by blow! - Ed)

Australian cartoon SMH

The attitude of the vastly-overpaid CEOs of USA corporations today, the attitudes of the back-room advisors to the right wing of the Republican Party, some of whom we have seen here in Australia as interviewed on US PBS TV, resemble the inhumane 1780's-1790's outlook of Robert Morris far too closely for comfort. Morris from the early 1790s failed after still-unnamed parties in London pulled the plug on his main lines of credit, which had been set up many years before and had remained quite solid. The fact that the names of those in London who finally undid Morris are still unknown, as is the case, is part of this general shambles of the earlier financial history of the USA! American historians do not seem inclined to pursue the relevant questions.

Meanwhile, all of the few existing biographies of Morris are inadequate due to "loss of original documents". If every high school graduate in the US doesn't know even this, they have been badly-educated. But then, in 1967 or so, this website read an unforgettable book called The Mis-Education of American Teachers. Yes, that tragically long ago!

When Morris departed his official role as secretary of US finance, he left the US Treasury with only about $30,000. It is at this point, roughly, that the disjointed history of banking in the US began; a disjointed history that disjointed US historians seem to be disjointedly unable to confront.

And we now know where the history of banking in the US leads us to; to the zone where the US banking system, without the least sense of either decency, irony or social justice by 2007-2008, had been driven (using nothing more fancy than a modern computer system) to amusing itself by re-packaging and exporting US poverty in the form of "subprime" loans and derivatives created from them; derivatives of poverty, as quite distinct from derivatives of real or actual wealth as one might wish to imagine.

It would be very interesting to know just how many of those involved in the current US presidential race, on either side, and their staff, and family members, know anything that is historically useful at all, of the career of Robert Morris. Or not, as the case may be. And if they don't know, they don't know where our current problems with predatory "American-style capitalism" may have started!

Quite frankly, from all the available information, no one still quite knows, no one in the US wishes to ask, just how Robert Morris managed to "finance" the American Revolution. And what did that have to do with tobacco-growing and the sale of the American colonial tobacco crops from 1776-1783?

(Goddam, why is it that an Australian of all or any kindsa people wanna know 'bout that tobacco-selling shit?! As them good ol' more elite boys in the Republican Party never wanna wonder about in their small spare time from their such-devoted public service, or even the Democrats,'cos they don't know either. And on the goddammed Internet, too. We just don't get it! An Australian!!?)

Not until the intellectuals / historians / op-ed commentators of the USA (and their God-damned editors!) get with this, can anyone in the USA comfortably ask and answer and discuss this single question, will the political culture of the USA have changed considerably! Sorry just a little to make it so public, universities of the USA. Believe a lone Australian here, of all people, on this point of American history! These historical thoughts on Robert Morris and his ilk are actually very important to your political and social future!

Australian cartoon SMH

Somalia's pirates still winning: The world's largest shipping company, AP Moller-Maersk, owned by Saudi Arabia, has decided to stop using routes offshore of Somalia. The previous weekend, Somali pirates had hijacked the world's largest oil supertanker, Sirius Star, near the Seychelles Islands, 740km from the coast of Somalia. She carried two million barrels of oil. The ship's chief engineer and second officer were held for ransom. Th epirates have hostaged the ship for US$25 million. International concern has resulted in world leaders recommending that ransom demands not be met. Maersk will not send its 50 oil tankers by Cape of Good Hope, not the Suez Canal. The firm owns 77 ships and charters 15 more. Meanwhile, the world's biggest oil-tanker operator, Frontline (Of Oslo, Norway), seeks more intense military action for the problem. Somali pirates have lately held about 250 people on 15 ships. (This website from reading history has long thought that maritime pirates can only win in waters which are not policed by a respectable state. In such a situation, states observing waters populated with pirates, from time to time have simply let the pirates police the region in question, which Britain did in the Caribbean before it decided to crack down. To 1700, England as a maritime power, and as a matter of state terrorism, employed a very creative pirate, Captain Kidd, to haunt waters somewhat north-east of where Somalias's pirates are now working. It's darkly fascinating to note the continuation today of piracy in South East Asia, especially near the old Spice Islands. Somalia, not surprisingly, is lately being called a failed state, one which is unable or unwilling to police its own waters.) (Reported 21 November 2008)

4 November 2008

When humanity thoroughly outsmarted itself in 2008

Who wins the US presidental election? This website hopes that no-one in the US is ever tempted to use the word "Camelot" about any newly-incoming administration in 2009. That would drive this website really crazy! Purgatory might be a better word for where the new president will be living, as of January 2009. If not, Hell. (So much for the Christian Right in the USA, the right-wing of the US Republican Party, and their views of reality! God forbid!)

We think that when the new president arrives to take charge, he'll inherit such a God-awful mess, he won't be commander-in-chief. He'll be commander-in-grief. And we find Barack Obama is president elect of the USA. The world bursts into applause. Would he have won his victory without the USA's economy suffering the above -listed metaphors? A great many commentators think not!

And to cap off all of this, we found one more horrfying reason to be so sceptical of the USA. On 3 November, the media section of The Australian newspaper reported that a survey had indicated that only 5 per cent of Australian respondents had incorrectly thought that Obama was a Muslim. Whereas 18 per cent of American had a false view he was a Muslim. So we think, Americans haven't voted for Obama because the Republicans are obsolete, or out of common sense. They're just on the run from despair and looking for some hope.

4 November 2008 - Australia, RBA cuts by 0.75 percentage points.

6 November - European central banks make co-ordinated rate cuts.

10 November - China announces 4 billion yuan stimulus package.

20 November - Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac suspend mortgage foreclosures until January 2009.

24 November - Australian superannuation funds reveal their October month as worst on record.

26 November - USA Bank of America's bid for Merril Lynch is approved.

2 December 2008 - US is officially in recession.

Charities and "the social investing rating tool": Scepticism about the final effectiveness of noted charities - does their work actually do any good - has produced the use in the US of the Social Investing Ratings Tool" as used by US philanthropists and entrepreneurs. Now its use is spreading to Australia, where for example, "Oxfam Australia still has millions of dollars tied up in local and overseas sharemarkets". No one quite feels that they know where their donation goes and how good work it does. Yet the charity (not-for-profit) industry in Australia handles about AUD$7 billion annually. How do charities manage their own costs? Have charities been losing on their investments? Oxfam has recently lost $4 million. On and on the questions can roam. (Article, Brian Robins, w/e SMH, 27-28 December 2008)

When humanity thoroughly outsmarted itself in 2008

The Madoff Ponzi scheme: The whole world seems amazed and bewildered about how he did it, Bernard L. Madoff running his Ponzi scheme (pyramid-selling scheme). An "epic scam". Ripping off about US$50 billion (or 33 billion British pounds). An unimaginably large amount of money. Authorities are investigating Madoff after being tipped off by his sons, after their father had confessed to them his investment securities firm was an elaborate nonsense which had lately unravelled. The scheme had been going for as long as 20 years, or since Madoff was aged about 50 - he is now 70, born 1938. Madoff's victims have been located in New York, Boston, amongst European banks including a Swiss bank, Union Bancaire Privee, in France, in Britain, and amongst Spain's financial aristocracy. Madoff is now a "disgraced investment baron", the one-time chairman of the Nasdaq stock market index. Presumably, many now wonder what the victim's losses, for individuals, for institutions, will contribute to the damage that 2008 has already inflicted on the developed world's financial systems. For more, netsufers may well consult the wikipedia page on Madoff's career, highly informative. It seems that Madoff's modus operandus has been causing concern since 1999. Why it took US authorities so long to catch up with him is the question. (The Australian, 17-12-2008)

20 December 2008 - Standard and Poor's downgrades eleven of world's largest banks.

29 December 2008 - US Treasury injects $5 billion into car and home lender GMAC and agrees to lend up to one billion to General Motors.

In 2008, even the hugely-vaunted investor Warren Buffet (78-years-old) made mistakes, as he admits by now. He did some "dumb things", such as punt on oil, buy shares in two Irish banks which did badly, and anger financial officials by predicting (accurately) that the sharemarket would descend into shambles. (Though no one had to be Warren Buffett to see that coming.) Buffett's investments lost about 62 per cent of value, a huge hit, and he is down to a low US$25 billion or so. The more charitable see Buffett's 2008 as the toughest year of his life. (And by now, Wall St USA has just touched a 12-year low. (Item, 2 March 2009)

The Great Disruption 2008-2009 - Economics and all that

To survive we must change everything. It's that simple ...

This item has been lifted without copyright-remorse from the Australian "news-peek" website crikey.com issue of 11-3-2009 - Ed

Paul Gilding writes yesterday (10-3-2009) in New York Times ... in an article by Thomas Friedman that argued the need to recast our responses to the combined emerging catastrophe of economic collapse and dramatic climate change. Friedman went on to quote the work of Australian thinker Paul Gilding.

As Friedman wrote: "One of those who has been warning me of this for a long time is Paul Gilding, the Australian environmental business expert. He has a name for this moment - when both Mother Nature and Father Greed have hit the wall at once - 'The Great Disruption'."

Today Paul Gilding outlines his thoughts for Crikey readers (of 11-3-2009).

If we don't understand the problem, then we won't choose the right solution. The so-called "financial crisis" is not, repeat not, a problem of credit or sub-prime mortgages or complex financial products. They are all just symptoms of the problem.

Climate change likewise is not a problem but a symptom.

We have a system-design problem so we need to redesign the system. The good news is we can do this, but we're going to have to do it really, really fast, so starting soon would be good.

We have designed a system so complex and interconnected that is it full of extraordinary risks that no one can even understand, let alone manage it. We sit here comfortable in our delusional acceptance that this is a credit problem or a CDO problem, or a governance problem. So we think when we resupply credit or regulate the New York cowboys better (if there are any left) then all will be well and we'll get back to growing the economy.

I have one response. Tell 'em they're dreaming.

Where we are now, as I forecast in my "Great Disruption" letter in July 2008, is a new state that is not a year or two lold. We're going to be here for while now while we work out how to do things very differently and deal with the cascading consequences of our last 50 years of behaviour.

The global economy is a system, a complex interconnected, real time set of processes and relationships that thrives when it's growing. The problem is this: we are now operating that system right up against, I would argue beyond, the limits of its capacity to function. These limits are set by two broad challenges: Ecological Limits and System Complexity. When you hit the limits of any system, the system either stops growing, increases in complexity or breaks down to a simpler form.

I don't have time here to go into detail on our System Complexity problem, but let me say one thing. The oil market is a simple system. It is one commodity with reasonably predictable demand and supply parameters, relative to say the global financial markets overall. Yet our smartest people can't even forecast the oil price and get it wrong by a factor of 3 to 4 on a regular basis. So the idea that we can manage the global economy and financial markets to an acceptable level of risk is, well as I said, "they're dreamin'." The solution is to make this a self-managing system, which requires us to redesign it. We'll leave that one for another day, as here I want to focus on the second challenge.

How's the economy in your area?
Generic beggar somewhere in India, 2009
Photo by a contributor from India

This second system limit is completely beyond our control because we didn't design this system and it's set in science -- Ecological Limits. Think about the maths. We currently have a series of ecological strains and stresses that threaten the system's capacity to support humanity. (This is not opinion, this is science, see for example here [nyperlink deleted]. Let's call that "Very Big Problem" (VBP). VBP is our current economic system with its ecological impacts racing out of control.

Our plan is to take VBP and increase population by 50% making it VBP x 1.5 and then we plan to increase per capita income by around 300% by 2050. So our "plan" is to have VBP x 1.5 x 3. In case your maths isn't so good, that = Complete Catastrophe, also sometimes referred to as civilisation's collapse.

The good news is that it is not going to happen! Why not? Well first of all, physics and biology define are physical limits and their behaviour won't change, even with the cleverness of New York Cowboys. So we'll have no choice but to change. Secondly we are very, very clever when we put our minds to it. So can change very fast and that's a good thing.

How do we need to change and how fast? Lets go back to our maths problem -- the one we need to change the outcome of. Very Big Problem x 1.5 x 3 = Collapse. To avoid collapse, only three things can change:

1. "Very Big Problem",
2. "Population Growth"
3. or per capita "Economic Growth".

Population is a tough one, in the time frame available. Short of mass sterilisation or global catastrophe, the population is going to increase by roughly that amount by 2050. I don't propose either of those two solutions.

Per capita income not increasing is definitely an option. However, that's the one we're trying now and it doesn't seem be a very popular solution. So we may do that, but it wouldn't be very smart of us to plan to do that. That only leaves us one option we can deliberately pursue. That is we address Very Big Problem -- the ecological impact of the current economic model. Here I will end with a statement of the opportunity. Never in history has there been an economic opportunity to compare to this one. In Australia for example, we need to effectively eliminate (>90%) the net CO2 emissions of the economy, and do so within 20-30 years. (This is the maths of a global reduction of even 50% because our starting point is so high.)

We're going to redesign everything and don't think clean coal to gas or Prius's. Think elimination of CO2 and the end of the growth in material consumption. It doesn't get any bigger, or better, than this.

If you think it isn't going to happen, then think about the alternative. VBP x 4.5 = bye bye. That is not a good plan.

Paul Gilding has spent over 30 years working on sustainability issues as a business leader, activist and commentator. His full paper on this topic "The Great Disruption: can be found at his website: which is at: [sorry, lost]

As the world financial crisis continued ... : Economics commentator Ross Gittins is headlined, "No end to gloom until the US fixes its banks". (Sydney Morning Herald, w/e 28 Feb-1 March 2009)

Elizabeth Royte, Bottlemania: How Water Went on Sale and Why We Bought It. Scribe, 2008, 248pp.


The Great Disruption 2008-2009 - Economics and all that

10 January 2009 - US unemployment hits 7.2 per cent.

15 January - ECB cutsrates by 0.5 percentage points.

16 January- Remaining TARP funds released by US Senate. US Fed, Treasury and EDIC jointly aid Bank of America.

26 January - Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac ask US Govt. for $51 billion to continue operations.

3 February - Australia unveils AUD$42 billion stimulus plan, for education, comunity infrastructure, public housing, business tax breaks, and one-off payments to citizens. RBA cuts rates by another percentage point to 3.25 per cent.

4 February - US Treasury announces restrictions on executive pay for banks getting Federal aid.

13 February - US Congress passes President Obama's economic stimulus plan.

17 February - Fears of global slowdown shave 4./6 per cent off S&P.

18 February - Obama unveils $275 billion plan to help people with mortgages.

26 February 2009 - FDIC says the number of "problem banks" in US increased from 171 to 252.

Bishop Spong on 2008 US financial meltdown

The Rhetoric of the Stimulus Package

By Bishop Spong, USA, 19 Feb 2009.

(Bishop Spong is usually a wise commentator, and we place his remarks below as the single best set of comment we've yet seen on the world financial meltdown of 2009. Except for one historical point. This webpage feels that the objectionable "class war" aspect of US predatory capitalism as mentioned by Spong did not begin as recently, as he suggests. It actually began with the first US Treasury secretary, Robert Morris, the so-called "financier of the American Revolution". That is, the sort of capitalism objected to below was built into the US system from inception. That US citizens remain unaware of this makes everything today only more tragic. For citizens to remain ignorant of the history of their nation is only an invitation for them to repeat the national mistakes of their history more often. Anything below in italics is the editor's emphasis, not Spong's -Ed)

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The Rhetoric of the Stimulus Package: It has been fascinating watching our legislators in Washington debating the stimulus bill and seeking to reform the way stimulus monies have been spent thus far. My conclusion is that either memory is short or politics are blind. The Republicans, who controlled the White House for the last eight years and both Houses of Congress for six of the past eight years, and who managed to turn a billion-dollar surplus into a trillion-dollar deficit, suddenly became frightened of "saddling our children with massive debt." Where has all this fiscal responsibility been residing?

We listened to the same people who voted for the war in Iraq with its unlimited financial appropriations and with almost no accountability, including many "no bid" contracts let to American oil interests, who now seem to have decided that the stimulus package is a gigantic "giveaway of wasteful spending." People who supported President Bush's irresponsible and failed tax policies, which shifted massive wealth from the middle class to the wealthiest ten percent of the population and thus helped to lead this nation into the deepest economic recession since the Great Depression, now appeared to be advocates of more of the same as their way to get this nation out of the current downturn. Insanity has been correctly defined as continuing to do the same thing while expecting a different result! Yet the failed policies of yesterday were offered with straight faces as the solution to the crisis those same policies created.

We listened to the howls of protest from business leaders who have long lived high on the economic hog, accumulating vast wealth and awarding themselves gigantic bonuses through risky and inappropriate lending practices, but who now seemed outraged that their salaries and bonuses should be curtailed or limited. Coming hat-in-hand to the American taxpayers requesting a bailout with public funds, they apparently expected no change in their executive compensation. They seemed not to recognize that their greed had killed the goose that laid their golden eggs. A man like Ken Lewis, who as CEO of Bank of America has watched his business drop shareholder value by 96%, still argued against placing any limits on executive compensation. "We will lose our best talent," he told us with a straight face. Lewis failed to explain why such outstanding talent had led to such disastrous results.

The same could be said for the leaders of Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, Countrywide Finance, Washington Mutual, Merrill Lynch, Wachovia Bank, AIG, Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, WorldCom and countless other icons of American business. Was it outstanding executive talent that led these corporations either to bankruptcy or to being taken over at fire sale prices? Does that performance result from "irreplaceable" employees?

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Can the executives who have led Citigroup, J. P. Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, MBIA, Ambac, XL Capital, Ford, General Motors, Nissan, Sonic and others to similar cataclysmic drops in shareholder value be so good that their retention requires exorbitant salaries and bonuses? Would it be so great a loss to their companies if the stated threat that they would be gobbled up by foreign banks or hedge funds actually occurred? The cemeteries of the world are filled with "indispensable people." When the taxpayers of America are bailing out failed businesses run by failed executives, the people of America become the stockholders and members of the various boards of trustees, which gives them the right and the responsibility to set compensation. When these rescued companies recover and repay the taxpayers, then they can set their own compensation, subject only to their new stockholders' best judgment. Bonuses, which were designed to reward extraordinary performances, are hardly appropriate when those performances have led to today's economic crisis.

Those bank executives who were complaining that they could not live on the proposed $500,000 a year limit for publicly assisted businesses might look at the 7.6% of the population who have now lost their jobs and whose lives and security have been seriously disrupted. Perhaps they might also glance at those in the retired or near-retired population who during their working lives invested in what they were told were safe, conservative, dividend-paying businesses that would enable them to live into old age with dignity, but who now discover that executive greed and sheer incompetence have robbed them of their once secure future.

Whatever else this economic downturn has done it will inevitably begin to restore a semblance of that basic sense of balance that once governed American business practices. As recently as the 1970s, the ratio between the compensation paid to top executives and workers in America was about 35 to 1. That is, if the workers averaged $50,000 a year, the CEOs averaged $1,750,000 a year. Today, less than forty years later, that ratio has risen to 275 to 1, which means that if the average worker today makes $50,000 per year, the CEOs' average compensation has become $13,750,000 per year. Our society has lost all sense of proportionality, to say nothing of both our social and economic interdependence and mutual responsibility. When one adds these facts to the massive outsourcing of middle-class jobs that has taken place during the last 40 years in the United States, which has forced many workers into less skilled and less lucrative jobs, one realizes how much the purchasing power of the middle class, the working class and the working poor has actually declined, while executive salaries have blown the lids off the charts. The gap between the rich and the poor in the United States has reached unhealthy dimensions. Business leaders appear to have forgotten that there must be a general population with sufficient money to buy their products or recession, or even depression, is all but inevitable.

When the taxpayers of America are bailing out failed businesses run by failed executives, the people of America become the stockholders and members of the various boards of trustees, which gives them the right and the responsibility to set compensation. When these rescued companies recover and repay the taxpayers, then they can set their own compensation, subject only to their new stockholders' best judgment. Bonuses, which were designed to reward extraordinary performances, are hardly appropriate when those performances have led to today's economic crisis.

Yet in the political arena the idea that a basic fairness needs to be part of the business plan of this nation is looked upon askance. It was inserted into the last presidential campaign by the infamous "Joe the Plumber" rhetoric as a scare tactic. Republicans dubbed it "socialism." In Senator Joseph McCarthy's era it would have been called "communism"!

The Merchant Networks Project
Merchant Networks Project logo by Lou Farina

The history websites on this domain now have a companion website on a new domain, at Merchant Networks Project produced by Dan Byrnes and Ken Cozens (of London).

This website (it is hoped) will become a major exercise in economic and maritime history, with some attention to Sydney, Australia.

To some people fairness seems not to be compatible with capitalism and a free market society. The great battle cry from the ranks of the well-to-do when economic fairness is discussed is that the architects of fairness are engaging in "class warfare." We need to recognize that America has been fighting class warfare for decades, but it has not been attacks launched by the poor against the rich, as those who use this cry seek to suggest. It has been an attack, sometimes quite brutal, of the rich against the middle class and the poor. Our present economic crisis reveals the fact that the middle class and the poor have lost that war and because the rich have won, the rich are suffering. The time has come to redress these grievances and to reestablish fairness by adjusting the tax codes so that those who profit the most from the economic engine that is America will bear a proportionate part of the responsibility of financing the government of this great nation and securing its peace and wellbeing.

There are many things that Ronald Reagan did as President of the United States that were exciting and noteworthy. No one will ever forget his words, "Mr. Gorbachov, tear down this wall," uttered in a divided Berlin. Mr. Reagan, however, was guilty of the tactic of constantly painting the government as the enemy of the people. He suggested again and again that taxes were somehow inherently evil, that the government was always the problem and never the solution. He kept telling people that their compensation was their money and that they should be allowed to keep most of it. Taxes, he said, were basically confiscatory. This Reagan idea, recycled now through two Bush presidencies, poisons our national life to this day and its echoes are heard in the rhetoric that marks the current debate over the stimulus package.

I need to say to those who still salute this idea that most of the money they have made in the last forty years in this country could not have been made in any other country in the world. Those who have become successful financially owe most of their success to the privilege of living in the United States. They not only have a vested interest in but a responsibility for keeping this nation strong economically, militarily and socially. It takes tax dollars to do that and they need to recognize that their "confiscatory" taxes represent the biggest single bargain in the in the budget of every economically successful citizen. When corporations who make their fortunes in the freedom of this country then decide to establish offshore headquarters to avoid paying a fair share of taxes, they are acting in an unethical, selfish and irresponsible way. Freedom is expensive, as is the task of building the atmosphere in which civic life for all can bloom, but those things are well worth the cost.

Dan Byrnes Word Factory logo

All Americans want to have safe roads, bridges, harbors and tunnels. All Americans want to have good schools for our children, good hospitals and good medical care for all. We all want our food, including our corporations who make their fortunes in the freedom of this country then decide to establish offshore headquarters to avoid paying a fair share of taxes, they are acting in an unethical, selfish and irresponsible way. Freedom is expensive, as is the task of building the atmosphere in which civic life for all can bloom, but those things are well worth the cost. All Americans want to have safe roads, bridges, harbors and tunnels. All Americans want to have good schools for our children, good hospitals and good medical care for all. We all want our food, including our peanut butter, to be safe. We want our investments to be protected from both the Bernie Madoffs and the John Thains of this world. We want our medicines tested and to have their purity guaranteed. We want our people to be safe from attacks from foreign sources or domestic sociopaths. These precious and commonly expected realities of our corporate life cost money.

It is, therefore, not just fitting but proper that those who profit most from the life of our society accept the responsibility for and be motivated to keep that system not just functioning, but healthy. Those whose greed and selfishness have led this nation to a place where the whole economy goes into decline, recession and perhaps even depression should bear a proportionate share of the hard times that they have caused for others. I think they will be able to survive for a year or two on a capped salary and restricted bonuses. Class warfare? Socialism? Communism? No, fairness, honesty and mutual respect require these steps. It is even biblical, since the Bible says: "Freely you have received so freely give!" – John Shelby Spong [ends]

Making off with Madoff's property: Thieves with a sense of humour have got it in for world fraudster el supremo Bernie Madoff. About 22 December, they stole a statue from his Palm Beach mansion in Florida, and later returned it to a country club he frequents, signing themselves, "The Educators". There is no sign yet that Madoff got the point of the exercise, however. But by now, US president-elect Obama has opined that problems such as Madoff's huge frauds have only been possible due to lack of "adult supervision" of the US' financial sectors. And by the way, (as in w/e Australian, 20-21 December 2008), one of Madoff's victims was Joyce Greenberg, a widow of Houston, Texas, who with her family had invested millions with Madoff, and been paying income tax for years on "phantom earnings", as she quickly discussed with her accountant. Presumably, this will give the IRS in USA a nice angle on Madoff's activities? Madoff reportedly cheated his own friends and family members, making him perhaps the USA's most Un-American fraudster identified since bootlegger Arnold Rothstein fixed the 1919 world series. The Enron crash possibly lost about US$32 billion. Madoff made off with about US$50 billion! Phew! Another question arising is: Will anyone who actually was paid by Madoff, ever have to give it back? (Other reported, 3 January 2009)

Books noticed from early 2009

Viktor Mayer-Schonberger, Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age. Princeton University Press, 2009, 237pp.

Kim Humphrey, Excess: Anti-Consumerism in the West. Polity Press, 2009, 253pp.

William D. Cohan, House of Cards: How Wall Street's Gamblers Broke Capitalism. Allen Lane, 2009, 468pp.

Geraint Anderson, Cityboy: Beer and Loathing in The Square Mile. Headline, 2009, 422pp. (Confessions of a finance boy from London City's finance sector)

New movie by later 2009, By Michael Moore: Captalism: A Love Story. (Actually, a hate story. Michael Moore is back, accusing Wall Street of bankrupting America)

Jim Collins, How The Mighty Fall and Why Some Companies Never Give In. John Murray, 2009, 248pp. (Advice about failing companies, advice which will probably never be taken, a reviewer thinks)

Joseph Heath, Filthy Lucre: Economics For Those Who Hate Capitalism. Scribe, 2009, 337pp.

Kevin Phillips, Bad Money. Scribe, 2009, 238pp.

Paul Krugman, The Return of Depression Economics. Penguin Press, 2009, 191pp.

Charles R. Morris, The Two Trillion Dollar Meltdown. Black Inc, 2009,208pp.

Harry S. Dent Jnr, The Great Depression Ahead. Schwartz Media, 2009, 376pp.

Niall Ferguson, The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World. Allen Lane, 2009, 441pp.

Margaret Attwood, Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth. Bloomsbury, 2009, 230pp. (Even chimps understand favours and repay debts)

George Soros, The New Paradigm for Financial Markets. Scribe, 2008, 176pp.

Lisa Pryor, The Pinstriped Prison: How Overachievers Get Trapped in Corporate Jobs They Hate. Picador, 2008. (Or, how to feel sorry for the kind of twerps who helped cause the 2008 crash!)

Michael Wolff, The Man Who Owns the News: Inside the Secret World of Rupert Murdoch. Knopf, 2008, 446pp.

Loretta Napoleoni, Rogue Economics: Capitalism's New Reality. Allen and Unwin, 2005, 307pp.

Phillip Delves Broughton, What They Teach You At Harvard Business School. Viking, 2008, 304pp.

Michael Stermer, The Mind of the Market: Compassionate Apes, Competitive Humans and Other Tales from Evolutionary Economics. Times Books, 2008, 308pp. (Economic-life-decisions are influenced by emotions ingrained in our DNA)

David Suzuki and David R. Boyd, Suzuki's Green Guide. Allen and Unwin, 2009. (How and why going green is easier than you think)

Peter Singer, The Life You Can Save: Acting Now To End World Poverty. Text, 2009, 221pp.

Randall Stross, Planet Google: How One Company is Transforming Our Lives. Atlantic Books, 2009, 275pp.

Clay Shirky, Here Comes Everybody: How Change Happens When People Come Together. Penguin, 2009.

Tristram Stuart, Waste: The True Cost of What the Global Food Industry Throws Away. Penguin, 2009, 414pp. (Apparently in the US, home of the brave and land of the obese, about 50 per cent of all food is wasted)

Prediction: Nearly 40,000 Australians who planned to retire this year will be forced into part-time work as the economic downturn erodes the value of their homes and savings. Their savings/investments are generally down by a reported 20 per cent already. (Reported w/e Australian by 3-4 January 2009)

How's the economy in your area?
Generic beggar somewhere in India, 2009
Photo by a contributor from India

1 March 2009 - AIG in US gets $30 billion in capital to exchange for government control of two divisions.

2 March - US Fed and Treasury announce joint restructuring plan for AIG, which announces $61.7 billion fourth quarter loss - the biggest in US corporate history.

11 February - Freddie Mac announces it had a $23.9 billion loss in fourth quarter of 2008, and a $50.1 billion loss for all of 2008. Asks for an extra $30.8 billion.

By 2 March 2009, a commentator sounding wiser than most on the world financial crash is economic historian, Niall Ferguson, author of The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World. See: http://www.niallferguson.com/. (He's been interviewed by now on useful Australian TV news comment programming.) It's possible, he feels, that a great many people are still in denial about the nature and magnitude of the problems faced. Economists are uneasily aware that their discipline failed to make useful predictions of what was to come. He feels, the Western World is suffering a crisis of excessive indebtedness. Many governments and corporations are too highly leveraged. Thus, nothing can be solved by creating extra debt. Keynsians wishing to solve national economic problems (which occur in a semi-closed system) may fail to realise that this is a global crisis (occurring in other than a semi-closed system).  The aim must be debt reduction generally, he feels. But he seems to say little about questions of valid money supply. (W/e Australian, 28 Feb-1 March 2009).

12 March 2009 - Bank of America says it does not need more help. It will post a profit in 2009.

16 March - Obama in US seeks recovery of AIG bonuses earlier paid out.

24 March - US unveils a bank rescue plan.

30 March - Obama ousts GM boss Rick Wagoner and rejects recovery plans for GM and Chrysler.

2 April - ECB cuts policy rate to 1.25 per cent.

US 'may remove bank executives'

(BBC RSS headline news feed of 6-4-2009)

US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner says he is prepared to oust executives and directors at banks that require "exceptional" government assistance. He said the government would consider forcing out senior management to ensure that US taxpayers were protected.

His comments to CBS television come after the US government removed GM boss Rick Wagoner from his post. Critics say that financial firms have not been subject to the same government intervention despite massive bail-outs. Mr Wagoner was forced to leave as a condition for possible additional loans.

"If, in the future, banks need exceptional assistance in order to get through this, then we'll make sure that assistance comes with conditions," Mr Geithner said.

"Not just to protect the taxpayer but to make sure this is the kind of restructuring necessary for them to emerge stronger. And where that requires a change of management of the board, we'll do that."

The US government has come under fire for paying bonuses to American International Group executives (involved in insurance around the world) when the company has received more than $170bn in government aid.

Caption: US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner says that banks may be required to change management

Editorial comment from this website: This might be a small but useful start on the way to go. The entire earlier management(s) echelon circa 2008 of the US finance sector needs a complete cleanout and replacement with people in possession of ethics! Just where the USA will actually find people with the requisite ethics is the deeper, more sociological question. Maybe the USA will have to import responsibly-minded finance sector workers as "skilled labour"? - Ed

(Ends BBC Headlines story)

6 April 2009 - US Fed creates currency swap deals with ECB, Japan, England and SNB.

7 April 2009 - RBA cuts rates to 3 per cent, a 49-year low.

9 April - Wells Fargo in US reports a record profit in first quarter.

13 April - Goldman Sachs moves to raise $5 billion topay back TARP funding.

5 May 2009 - Evidence arises of easing term funding conditions as LIBOr falls below one per cent.

8 May - Fannie Mae requests $19 billion from Treasury after a $23.2 billion quarterly loss.

11 May - Following stress tests, US banks raise $7.5 billion in new capital.

12 May - Freddie Mac reports a first quarter 2009 loss of $9.9 billion and a deficit of $6 billion as of March 31.

20 May - Obama signs the Helping Families Save Their Homes Act, which temporarily raises FDIC deposit insurance coverage from $100,000 per depositor to $250,000.

21 May- S&P lowers its outlook on Britain's government debt from stable to negative because of the esimated fiscalcosts of supporting the nation's banking system. S&P estimate this will double to Govt's debt burden to about 100 per cent of GDP by 2013.

27 May - FDIC says the number of USA's "problem banks" increases from 252 to 305.

29 May - US GDP drops 5.7 per cent for first quarter.

1 June 2009 - USA's General Motors declares bankruptcy.

8 June - Ireland's credit rating is cut for second time in three months.

17 June - Obama proposes a US comprehensive regulatory reform plan.

25 June - AIG announces a deal to reduce the debt it owes the Federal Reserve Bank of New York by $25 billion.

Watching Australia make a solar-size fool of itself

Editorial comment from this website - Ed

The tragic farce of Australia avoiding work on solar power: Australian support for the solar industry is faltering just as the technology promises internationally to deliver baseload power - for example due to solar-orientated technology which can store heat energy in molten salts. As with the Andasol parabolic trough solar thermal plant near Guadiz in Spain, a project developed by a German company, Solar Millennium. (which has a link to Australia via a joint venture with Leighton Contractors.) Just one other solar project now being tested in Spain could generate enough power (clean energy) to run NSW, according to Matthew Wright, of a Melbourne advocacy group, Beyond Zero Emissions. In California, solar thermal power towers now stand in the Californian desert, utilising molten salts to store energy and cope with 15 hours of lack of sunlight. There is some solar research activity in Australia, at Australian National University, and via Australian and New Zealand Solar Energy Society (chief executive, John Grimes). But Grimes fears a brain drain from Australia as expertise developes here, due to lack of government and private sector support. The outlook of the Australian government is "all over the shop" apart from a $1.35 billion allocation for several solar power stations. Confusions over an Emissions Trading Scheme (of which this website disapproves) and renewable energy targets do nothing to help. On 11 June, the Australian government dumped a means-tested solar rebate, confusing suppliers, installers and user-homeowners. (While part of Australia's stimulus package was help for homeowners wanting more insulation, homeowners presumably otherwise using traditional means of home heating.)
Australia has the best solar resources in the world, but industrially it lacks economies of scale to fully exploit expertise and tactics that we develop. Solar-talented Australians achieving some success are nurturing partnerships in China, or Wales UK. Australia's state governments in general are going the opposite way to our developers of solar expertise, even though our national Electrical Trades Union is keenly watching selected developments. In short, solar is inevitable, but Australia is missing many opportunities as well as disappointing workers now toiling in the solar field.
All of which makes this website extremely angry. In Australia during 2009, as the Rudd/Labor government proceeds with government-by-wish-list, and cannot manage to build housing for Aboriginals in remoter parts of Australia despite promises promises, it is probably reasonable to suggest that nor could the Rudd government propose anything useful for the cooling or heating of those homes. Meanwhile, we have to suffer the pointless utterances of Mr Sell-Out, Minister for Environment Peter Garrett. And just as bad, the way the Minister for Climate Change, Ms Penny Wong, who knows as much about geography, C20th industrial history and climatology as the average four-year-old, sprays around adjectives as though, her own profound discovery, linquistics/semantics is the real way to cope with climate change. Bah humbug!
Garrett is ineffectual and bad enough. But if Federal Minister for Adjectives Wong keeps it up with the adjectives thing, one day soon this website will do a full-scale survey on her politics-of-adjective and send it to her along with samples of some 1980s-vintage solar panels so she can coat them with newly-found adjectives and improve the technology. We think, not! (See Article by Paddy Manning on sustainable investing, SMH 27-28 June 2009)

From Weekend Business, The Australian, 4-5 July 2009. German egineering conglomerate Siemens "settles bribery charges" in an arrangement with the World Bank. Rising US jobless figures a headache for Obama. (And on 23 July, "Bernanke predicts modest recovery" - imagine this, the word "modest" comes out of the USA! )

From Wall Street Journal section, w/e Australian, 11-12 July 2009. In USA, "Reborn GM rolls out of bankruptcy in a mere 40 days" (if you can believe that, we can't!)

How's the economy in your area?
Flats in China about mid-2009
Flats in China, sometime in 2009. Photo from a contributor from Sydney, Australia mid-2009

"Economics" versus neuroscience

Is the Sydney Morning Herald actually helping? Ian Varrender writes for it on w/e 4-5 July 2009, Happy New (financial) Year: just beware of sharks and Ponzi-packing spivs. And an article depicting Kevin Rudd and Barack Obama together is headlined "Three cheers for the ideals of guided capitalism". More capitalism-saving rhetoric!

Is economic behaviour actually rational?: The 2008 financial crash has sparked a fresh spate of articles challenging old ideas/assumptions that economic behaviour (particularly regarding investment/stock exchanges) is rational. "The failure of economists to spot the big punch has prompted a re-examination of the instincts that drive us ... the emperor Homo economicus has no clothes". British economist J. M. Keynes, often so maligned by high conservatives and economic rationalists, himself a stock exchange speculator, was the first to document the "animal spirits" and herd insticts" that lead us as a crowd moves in the direction of either fear or greed. "Animal spirits" are a preference for action rather than inaction. Brain activity is part and parcel of equations. Perceptions of a potential for a loss drive a part of the brain named the intraparietal sulcrus which helps us visualize outcomes. And so on. We fear losses, but we can also slaver with excess optimism. The expectation of a good financial gain stimulates a brain area known as "nucleus accumbens", and induces euphoria. As to the gender-patterning of behaviour, men tend to trade (switch patterns of investments) more often than women, while women are more risk-averse. Older investors tend to be less fashion-driven. Memory can play tricks about good or bad returns in the past. And if things were good in the past, this has nothing necessarily to do with risks lying in wait in the future. Is there such a phenomenon as symptoms arising from "investment trauma" that last the rest of a lifetime? (Yes.) The beat of scepticism goes on, all of it tending to debunk the outlook of the "Masters of the Universe" who ruled till late 2008.

(Article by Jessica Irvine, w/e SMH 25-26- July 2009)

Now let's look at a similar article from w/e SMH 18-19 July 2009, by think-tank supervisor Jack Fuller, "How science of irrationality could reshape the world" ... How much are we normally in control of our choices. (Junk food can be filled with ingredients which more or less addict us to certain products so that we eat even if we are not hungry.) The rational economic decision-maker is more myth than reality. No one should forget Alan Greenspan's famous remark about "irrational exuberance" in financial circles. Markets are not perfectible and neither are people. But are governments and business operations paying more attention to neuroscience? What is the neuroscience of self-control? Questions which are as old as religion, really. (When in situations of exciting temptation, avert your eyes, etc.) And what is a headline for the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald's Weekend Business for 18-19 July "Bonds plan touted as a safe bet for investors". Sigh.

Still, this newspaper is trying. But here are some Ten Commandments for Investors from an insert on money in SMH of 29 July 2009. (1) Remember the link between risk and return - and keep in awe of its holiness
(2) Thou shalt remember that leverage is a double-edged sword
(3) Thou shalt diversify
(4) Honour thy asset allocation (avoid a need to leverage, let your asset mix settle and don't disturb it unduly)
(5) Thou shalt not invest in anything that thou does not understand.
(6) Thou shalt not buy tree investments. Money does not grow on trees.
(7) Thou shalt pay heed to fees and taxes
(8) Thou shalt discern an investment adviser from a salesman
(9) Thou shalt not worship false gods
(10) Thou shalt not expect bull runs, nor bear markets, to last forever.

Follows a list of emotional states experienced by investors on the sine wave curves of "business cycles", where optimism is about mid-way/average. Optimism, excitement, thrill, euphoria to a curve-top, then down to anxiety, denial, fear, desperation, panic, capitulation, despondency, depresson, hope, relief, optimism. Rising again. Then all over again. Is "progress" merely a by-product?

21 July 2009 - US Fed chairman Ben Bernanke testifies to Congress that "the extreme risk aversion of last fall has eased somewhat, and investors are returning to private credit markets."

Bailed-out US banks paid out $40bn in bonuses. (Would't it be exotic to find out where these overpaid people put their money? - Ed). Wall Street Journal, w/e Australian, 1-2 August 2009) Much the same story is in SMH of 1-2 August ... "No rhyme or reason to bank bonuses". (So we assume these overpaid people just like money. Are they addicted? -Ed)

Big weekend news on grotesquely overpaid CEOs, etc: Around the world in the wake of the 2008 financial system crash, it seems, countries are awash with resentment about overpaid CEOs, especially in the banking sector, but it seems the executive-pay-bloat trend continues, lessons hve not been learned. Finance journalist Tim Boreham writes, "Given the horrors of the financial crisis, the top corporate brass shared the pain of investors with deep cuts to their pay packets and incentives, right? But no, not right, wrong. But Boreham doesn't entirely lay the blame at the feet of individual CEOs who try to cut a good deal for themselves. Some boards of companies re their own worst enemies, the problem is lack of ideas on corporate governance. The boards of many companies have been asleep at the wheel. The companies lately most likely to show restraint with CEO remuneration are those on the brink of collapse are at risk of takeover. Meanwhile, there is little evidence that companies seriously have to pay top dollar to attract excellent managerial talent, either in the domestic scene (nation by nation) or internationally. All round, it's probably a good idea that in Australia, the national productivity commission is looking at CEO remunerations. To have a fair assessment of the "real" value of CEOs to companies could be invaluable, as well as help to save money. (Weekend Australian, 26-27 September 2009, with a story next page on a bank admitting it used poor footwork lately and suggesting it will pay its senior executives less. We wish there were more such stories, and lists published of companies paying senior execs less). The Sydney Morning Herald waxes similar this weekend. Finance columnist Ian Verrender waxes hotly about CEO remuneration and complains "our corporate leaders have obliged us with tales of excess and greed, the likes of which became even more obscene during the boom years. We ended up seeing incompetent executives being paid even more than they'd have gotten if they'd done a decent job. (The if-you-pay-peanuts-you-get-monkeys argument.) But can it be happening all over again, Verrender asks. Why is financial/corporate pain not shared around equally. (That's new, an equity argument!) Verrender says, the problem lies with systems of corporate governance. Shareholders in companies need to have power to vote bindingly on executive pay rates so that reward and pain can be equally shared. And so in SMH this weekend, Ruth Williams reports that the trend she sees is for companies to "re-align" CEO remuneration with shareholder interests. This reflects the extent of shareholder pain, is the claim. Depressingly, Williams' article ends with a remark that some companies boards haven't woken up to the fact that shareholders own companies. Well, with this low level of intelligence and awareness abounding, we should all be asking ourselves, what hope do we have when the effects of climate change really sets in? (Sydney Morning Herald, 26-27 September 2009) Ross Gittins in the same issue of SMH wonders why macro economists persist with using GDP as a meaure of a nation's economic well-being, when it doesn't register the value of the work of volunteers (call that charity/altruism), or the value of work done at home. Nor does GDP accurately measure goods and services made available by government (including we hope, local government). No, Gittins writes, we need to shift indicators from measurement of economic production (which is susceptible to falsification from the likes of financial bubbles, speculation and boon-doggling) to human well-being. Instead of GDP we should be measuring real household income and consumption. Changes in the distribution of income, consumption and wealth should be regularly tracked (via median figures, not averages). How any hours do workers actually work, versus their enjoyment of leisure? And lastly, what is sustainable and what is not? All the good news that Gittins can report is two Nobel laureates in Economics, Joseph Stiglitz and Amartya Sen, are working on it.

6 August 2009 - Fannie Mae reports a loss of $14.8 billion in the second quarter of 2009 and asks for $10.7 billion from US Treasury.

27 August - USA's FDC says the number of problem US banks increases from 305 to 416.

Academic economists had been seduced by visions of perfectly-operating, frictionless market system(s). Scenarios provided by interesting mathematics led to delusions that “economics” was scientific. Neither markets nor investors – nor people - behave as rationally as was assumed, markets are not necessarily self-correcting, and do not necessarily reflect accurate pricing [of “financial products”].
(Ross Gittins, 'Why economists failed to predict a train wreck', Sydney Morning Herald, w/e 12-13 September, 2009, Weekend Business Section.] )

[Ross Gittins in September 2009 wrote - As a long-time Australian financial columnist, Ross Gittins, put it perceptively in a first-anniversary article on the fall of Lehman Brothers. (1) A group of ten British and Australian academics actually wrote to Britain's Elizabeth II, that they agreed with three economist Nobel laureates, Ronald Coase, Milton Friedman and Wassily Leontief, that “economics has turned virtually into a branch of applied mathematics, and has become detached from real-world institutions and events .... What has been scarce is a professional wisdom informed by a rich knowledge of psychology, institutional structures and historical precedents.” Gittins closed with saying “Many leading economists played a part in 'turning economics into a discipline that is detached from the real world, and in promoting unrealistic assumptions that have helped sustain an uncritical view of how markets operate'.”





These pages will be added to and improved in quality as time permits. In time, some essays may appear on these pages - Ed

- Dan Byrnes (otherwise indicated in these pages as -Editor) Merchants logo gif - 9347 Bytes

Note: You will find even greater detail than is given here, for specific periods in American - English - Australian history, with regard to merchants, traders, bankers and financiers, as part of the website, The Blackheath Connection... Blackheath Connection website logo gif - 8235 Bytes

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This website is produced by Dan Byrnes Word Factory. Send any snail mail to:
Dan Byrnes, Unit 4, 145 Marsh Street, Armidale NSW 2350 Australia.

This Merchants and Bankers Listings website is still a work-in-progress

Below is information for a new min-project set in times before the present as indicated by other material on this webpage - Ed


1860s or so: Rothschilds (Alfonsede R) begin investing in Russian oil, perhaps to compete with Rockefeller's Standard Oil in USA.
(Item from website The Market Place Oracle recvd by 31-7-2009 by "globalresearch, article by Andrew G. Marshall.)

1870s: By now, John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil Empire has a virtualm onopoly over the US and in many foreign countries. By this time, Russia's oil fields are being exploited including those at Baku (now Azerbaijan). The Rise of Rissian oilpower promoted the British to startoil exploration in Middle East, firstly in Persia. Related to such moves in Persia were the interests of Baron Julius de Reuter, (founcer of Reuters news agency, which had been started partly to transmit financial news). Reuters obtainedexploration rights from Shah of Iran. Reuter's efforts failed and his role was supplanted by one William Knox D'Arcy, who tied up oil concessions for Britain. (Who was a New Zealander regarded as an adventurer.
(Item from website The Market Place Oracle recvd by 31-7-2009 by "globalresearch", article by Andrew G. Marshall.)

1874: Egyptian government bankrupts. British PM Benjamin Disraeli is forced to turn to Rothschilds for the money to acquire shares in the Suez Canal Company. By which time, Rothschilds are major shareholders in Bank of France, and Bank of England (along with Baring Brothers, Morgan-Grenfell and Lazard Brothers).
(Item from website The Market Place Oracle recvd by 31-7-2009 by "globalresearch", article by Andrew G. Marshall.)

1879: German Empire and Austria-Hungary create Dual Alliance to fend off growing Russian influence in Balkans and lessening influenceof Ottoman Empire. Italy joined in 1882, making it the Triple Alliance.
(Item from website The Market Place Oracle recvd by 31-7-2009 by "globalresearch", article by Andrew G. Marshall.)

1885 approx: Rothschilds are ready to become a major oil supplier to Europe as well as the Far East, but it was found that the Baku-Batum railway (Azerbaijan) was inadequate to transport all the product. The opening of the Suez Canal become convenient for transport of oil from Russia. This renewed interest in the location of Palestine near the Suez Canal.
(Item from website The Market Place Oracle recvd by 31-7-2009 by "globalresearch", article by Andrew G. Marshall.)

1888: London strike by tailors in the rag trade. Some of the agitation is blamed on Jewish emigres with socialist tendencies. By thistime, the Rothschids as oil investors in Russia are worried about one Joseph Stalin, who was organizing labourers to strike at the Rothschilds' oil interests at Baku. The Rothschilds are also quite concerned at waves of Jewish immigrants arriving to Western Europe and Britain, who were pro-socialist and anti-Czarist, whereas the Rothschilds were pro-Czarist. At this point, Marshall claims, Edmond Rothschild began a personal campaign to create a [new] Jewish homeland in Palestine to take possibly troublesome Jewish emigres. This would have the effect of re-channelling their political energy into a new direction. Economically, (and as a protectorate?) this would also dovetail with the Rothschilds' new reliance on use of the Suez Canal near Palestine.
(Item from website The Market Place Oracle recvd by 31-7-2009 by "globalresearch", article by Andrew G. Marshall.)

1890: King of Netherlands allows creation of Royal Dutch Oil Company, an international oil company (first selling kerosene derived from Indonesia).
(Item from website The Market Place Oracle recvd by 31-7-2009 by "globalresearch", article by Andrew G. Marshall.)

1890: In Britain is founding of the Shell transport and Trading Company, to transport oil. It began with shipping product for Royal Dutch oil from Sumatra, Indonesia. Later merged with the 1890s-founded Dutch company to become Royal Dutch Shell.
(Item from website The Market Place Oracle recvd by 31-7-2009 by "globalresearch", article by Andrew G. Marshall.)

1892: Making of Franco-Russia Alliance, out of fear of growing German influences.
(Item from website The Market Place Oracle recvd by 31-7-2009 by "globalresearch", article by Andrew G. Marshall.)

1895: Rothschilds as one of world's leading oil producers become part of a deal between rival oil distributors to carve up world markets. The Russian government [Marshall says] disapproves of the possibility, so the deal fails.
(Item from website The Market Place Oracle recvd by 31-7-2009 by "globalresearch, article by Andrew G. Marshall.)

1902: Rothschilds oil interests join with Royal Dutch and Shell (which anyway were soon to merge) to form Asiatic Petroleum Company to further exploit the oil fields of Southern Russia. Joseph Stalin continued to agitate against this variety of industrialization. A 1903 strike by oil workers in Baku helped spark the first general strike in Russia.
(Item from website The Market Place Oracle recvd by 31-7-2009 by "globalresearch, article by Andrew G. Marshall.)

1904: Making of the Entente Cordiale between France and Britain, to help maintain the European balances of power.
(Item from website The Market Place Oracle recvd by 31-7-2009 by "globalresearch", article by Andrew G. Marshall.)

1905: Revolution in Russia. In later years, Rothschlds sell their Russian oil interests to Royal Dutch Shell but retain interests in Shell (which means that Rothschild retains an interest in the industrialization of Russia). Partly, Marshall says, due to conflict between anti-Semitic Czarist Russia and the Rothschild role as spokesmen for ideas of the creation of a new Jewish homeland in Palestine.
(Item from website The Market Place Oracle recvd by 31-7-2009 by "globalresearch, article by Andrew G. Marshall.)

1906: John D. Rockefeller steps into the vacuum in Russia led by the departing Rothschilds and finances Czarist Russia. Especially in view of a concession for railroads from Tashkend to Tomsk and from Tehita to Polamoshna (wanting land grants on both sides of the prospective lines, which in turn was an American model for railways development so that investors could profit from developments inspired by new railway communication being opened).
(Item from website The Market Place Oracle recvd by 31-7-2009 by "globalresearch", article by Andrew G. Marshall.)

1907: Making of Anglo-Russian Entente, to settle border disputes over Afghanistan, Persia and Tibet. Replaced by the Triple Entente between Britain, Russia and France.
(Item from website The Market Place Oracle recvd by 31-7-2009 by "globalresearch", article by Andrew G. Marshall.)

1909: Austria-Hungary annex Bosnia-Herzigovina, angering Russia.
(Item from website The Market Place Oracle recvd by 31-7-2009 by "globalresearch", article by Andrew G. Marshall.)

1912-1913: First Balkan War: Serbia, Montenegro, Greece and Bulgaria fight the Ottoman Empire. The later settlement annoyed Bulgria,which had territorial disputes with Serbia and Romania. There arose (1913) the Second Balkan War, Bulgaria attacked Greece and Servbia, then Romania, and the Ottoman Empire declared war against Bulgaria.
(Item from website The Market Place Oracle recvd by 31-7-2009 by "globalresearch", article by Andrew G. Marshall.)

1915: USA: Creation of American International Corporation (AIC), to develop domestic and foreign enterprises, extend US activities abroad, promote the interests of American and foreign bankers, business and engineering. It was "created and controlled" by Morgans, Stillmans, Rockefellers and had directors linked to National City Bank (controlled by Rockefeller), Carnegie Foundation, General Electric, the Du Pont Family, New York Life Insurance. American Bankers Association and Federal Reserve Bank of New York. After the Russian Revolution, its board members financially supported the Bolsheviks (Marshall said).
(Item from website The Market Place Oracle recvd by 31-7-2009 by "globalresearch", article by Andrew G. Marshall.)

(Item from website The Market Place Oracle recvd by 31-7-2009 by "globalresearch", article by Andrew G. Marshall.)

1916-1917: A group of US scholars called "The Inquiry" are asked by Pres. Woodrow Wilson to discuss options appearing if Germany ("the Kaiser) are beaten in war. Colonel Edward M. House is go-between for the president and the group. Colonel Houe is said to be a driving force behind creation of the Federal Reserve System. Out of "The Inquiry" grew the US' think tank, Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).
(Item from website The Market Place Oracle recvd by 31-7-2009 by "globalresearch", article by Andrew G. Marshall.)

1917: Russia: October Revolution. Including worker uprisings in oil fields against low wages and hard working conditions. Amidst changing situations, Marshall claims that the American Red Cross Mission in Russia became an operational vehicle for notable American interests as the revolution proceeded. Donors to Red Cross included J. P. Morgan (bankers), Mrs. E Harriman, Cleveland H. Dodge, Mrs. Russell Sage. William Boyce Thompson, a major stockholder in Chase National Bank and director of the Federal Reserve Bank (the Fed) of New York, was willing to pay all expenses of the American Red Cross Mission in Russia. The Mission ended up supporting Kerensky's new revolutionary government. In 1917, USA entered World War One.
(Item from website The Market Place Oracle recvd by 31-7-2009 by "globalresearch", article by Andrew G. Marshall.)

1919: Azerbaijan takes advantage of unrest in Russia to declare a sovereignty over the Baku oil fields, possibly with an eye to rivalling American oil interests as oil industry players. Foreign oil companies rush into Russia, hoping to scoop up discounted-price concessions. In 1920 the Nobel brothers sold their interests to SONJ (which became Exxon-Mobil). It is perhaps noticed on Wall Street that if (Western) monopoly controllers of industries can make alliance with socialist-style states, than captive markets will appear for exploitation, Marshall suggests.
(Item from website The Market Place Oracle recvd by 31-7-2009 by "globalresearch", article by Andrew G. Marshall.)

30 May 1919: scholars and diplomats from Britain/US meet and propose creation of a permanent Anglo-American Institute of International Affairs with branches in New York and London. New York's lawyers and financiers welcomed their ideas, which helped lead to the creation of CFR. Britain meantime formed its own Royal Institute for International Affairs. Marshall suggests that The Milner Group, a secret society inspired by British Imperialist in Africa, Cecil Rhodes, "dominated" the 1919 Peace Conference, and helped foment the creation of the League of Nations and its system of mandates. It helped found the Royal Institute for International Affairs (Chatam House, with like-minded bodies seen in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and India [where Milner seems unware of the existence of an institution called The British Commonwealth of Nations). The Milner Group also helped inspire the creation of Round Table Groups.
(Item from website The Market Place Oracle recvd by 31-7-2009 by "globalresearch", article by Andrew G. Marshall.)

1920: Marshall suggests, Russian gold is being siphoned through Sweden, melted, stamped by the Swedish mint and ends up sent through the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and into Kuhn, Loeb, and Co., and Morgan's Guaranty Trust Company (both of which had backed the advent of the US Federal Reserve System).
(Item from website The Market Place Oracle recvd by 31-7-2009 by "globalresearch", article by Andrew G. Marshall.) During the Red/White Russian Civil War, Wall Street financiers (unnamed by Marshall) backed both the Bolsheviks and Aleksandr Kolchak (of the Whites), as an each-way bet on Russian internal conflicts.
(Item from website The Market Place Oracle recvd by 31-7-2009 by "globalresearch", article by Andrew G. Marshall.)

1920s: Benjamin Strong, Governor of Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and Montagu Norman, Governor of Bank of England, work together to use their national financial powers to force all major countries to go on the gold standard and to operate through central banks without government interferences. US experiences a remarkable stock market boom, part of which was much borrowing from the US Federal Reserve. A persistent problem was a "relatively weak" reserve position of the Bank of England,since Britain lacked gold.
(Item from website The Market Place Oracle recvd by 31-7-2009 by "globalresearch", article by Andrew G. Marshall.)

Russo-Japanese War plus other factors disincline Rothschilds to make further loans to Russia at atime when Russia's financialneeds were desperate.
(Item from website The Market Place Oracle recvd by 31-7-2009 by "globalresearch, article by Andrew G. Marshall.)

1930s: Russia's modernization/industralization plans require the import of Western technology and expertise. American firms becoming involved included Ford, General Electric (to build hydro-electricity plants), DuPont, Standard Oil (importing Russian oil), Austin Co. (city and infrastructure building), General Motors, International Harvester and Caterpillar Tractor. Plus John Dere Co., Radio Corp, US Shipping Board (sold 25 cargo steamers to Russia). US banks with links to the Russian economy included Chase National, National City Bank and Equitable Trust, (all Rockefeller or Morgan interests, Marshall says).
(Item from website The Market Place Oracle recvd by 31-7-2009 by "globalresearch", article by Andrew G. Marshall.)

1931: Britain decides to abandon reliance on the gold standard.
(Item from website The Market Place Oracle recvd by 31-7-2009 by "globalresearch", article by Andrew G. Marshall.)

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