The Zeitgeist Movie Series – My Take

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Let me open by saying that these movies are a classic definition of Propaganda. They follow the tried and true model of massaging real facts to their own needs, and using strategic omissions or worse. That said, I have long wondered whether monetary system is the best way to organize Planet’s resources at this stage of evolution for our mighty civilization. It is rather clear to me that human race is much further along thanks to invention of Money and evolution of Markets and Banking, but is Monetary System in it’s current form truly the best method to propel us onto the next stage of evolution as a species?

For those not familiar with the series, let me start of with by focusing on particularly ugly misinformation in the films:

  • The films pile Communism along with Capitalism and others as a Monetary system. That is just a complete fib, and if you don’t believe me, just read the first 2 sentences on Wikipedia definition of Communism. In fact The Venus Project and various others like it are just pure Communism solutions, but of course they stay away from being labeled as such, seeing how Communism got nothing but bad publicity in the past.
  • The Evil “Profit” is really not an aspect of Monetary system, but rather a key element of Capitalism. Meanwhile Evil “Interest” is not inherently there to enslave us, but rather an aspect of Monetary system that ensures that Money is properly allocated and remain “active”, instead of piling up idly “in someone’s mattress”.
  • Artificial Scarcity goes hand in hand with Price Gauging and other Capitalism evils that are well known, hence US and most other Western countries have laws to abolish these practices and prosecute anyone engaging in Collusion or Monopoly. Free Market is designed by definition to eliminate scarcity and encourage competition, driving price and the Evil Profit down.
  • The current “Glue” of society, that which guides us as humans, is Money. This is how we got our Technology to progress as far as it has. This is the key principle that allowed us to combine “Human Ingenuity” of many people towards the common goal. Without it, we each would be exploring duplicate or disparate ideas and likely progress would be much slower. Furthermore, without it most likely no-one would take the time to fully educate our children generation to pass on the knowledge collected over time. That knowledge and education is what allows us humans to continue and excel – Standing on the Shoulders Of Giants as we often call it.
  • Ecological impact remains 100% relevant even with Money-Free society. There will always be someone who feels it is fine to dump pollution, as long as it is not in our “city limits”. Or another who is fine mining Lithium, even if it may collapse a mountain where 1 million “other” people grow their crops today? How will we resolve such disputes? Weapons?
  • Problems without monetary gain are “not solved” today – absolute fib, obviously. Society richest people pledging their funds more than ever now, and even large corporations are engaged with philanthropy, more so than ever before. Furthermore, most of humanity’s crippling diseases are being researched on a massive scale, thanks to donations and large R&D budgets of established Pharmaceuticals. This is exactly where Monetary system shines, whereas in pure Communism it is unclear whether we could guide so many of our brightest minds into these important common goals.
  • Planned Obsolescence is presented as big evil also, while I contend that it is actually great positive as our society faces accelerated progress forward. With more and more investment into R&D (mostly to stay competitive, another big positive) there are continuous new discoveries that benefit all kinds of products. Another thing one would learn in business school (ahem), is that various brands position themselves for different durability, which is signaled to consumers in price and generally in brand. I will fully agree that we have big issue with lack of good recycling techniques. There seems to be lack of incentive there, for our economy, but I am seeing increased interest there as well, as we dispose of more and more useful things.
  • Israeli Kibutz is mentioned as non-violent place, which is true. However, I think it is of greater interest as one of the best incarnations of working communism on the planet now, albeit on a small and isolated scale.

Technological Utopia (what they call “The Venus Project”) was envisioned years ago, and even subject of one of the original Star-Trek episodes. I still believe that key issues that approach suffers from are still unresolved, including all essential Human Incentive problem, predicting and managing demand/supply and covering all critical “professions” for sustainability. Presence of Money solves all these via signaling mechanism, same one that movie presents as “evil” and “leading to inequality”.
Similar ideas have been tried and failed, so far. Latest example, and perhaps most similar to the series, is the Israeli Kibbutz cooperative. In conclusion, here is an interesting read about how they are faring today.
Although one way to look at money is debt, the true essence that we use it for in our economy is signaling. Here is a simple example where moneyless economy runs into trouble: You have newly designed holocam coming off the manufacturing line. First one is due to ship tomorrow, and both 19 year old gifted woman and 70 year old scientist are interested in it. How do we decide who gets the first one? First come first serve? what if 70 year old scientist happens to be the one who found cure for cancer? What if 3rd person is interested, one who invented faster than light space-travel? How do we measure one contribution against another? Today the answer is pretty much Money.

Weekend Fun – Educational Edition – Sort off

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Changing pace from negative Cyber-terror post, lets recapture our fun. Today’s video is not music video, nor is it anyone playing at the beach.

It is very informative 8 minutes or so video, helping to explain the intricacies of Financial Markets Turmoil that occurred recently, including the infamous Sub-Prime Lending fiasco. British humor at it’s finest! Thanks, Marc, for the tip!

 

Now, once you watched it and ready for real educational part, and you do have some money you are saving for a rainy day, here are some of my personal investment tips:

  • Stay Away from any Fund that is called Enhanced, High or Structured. In other words, stay away from Hedge funds!
  • Don’t invest in anything which you can’t explain how it works. So do invest in CDs, and companies that you trust. Like my favorites of late Microsoft, Yahoo! and Kraft Foods. Use a company like ShareBuilder to simplify your investing.
  • Want higher returns and willing to take on some risk? Try Prosper loans marketplace. At least here you know exactly who you giving your money to, what is their income and credit score. Plus, they have 100% identity protection guarantee, so if anything fishy is uncovered, you get 100% refund of your funds.
  • Of course, good old 5.00% Savings Account is a simple option also

Amazon MP3 Download is finally here

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Amazon MP3 Downloader I have been waiting too long! Welcome, everyone, to the Digital Music age! What, I missed the revolution?

Not at all. I refused to purchase music that was locked into single platform and DRM‘d to death. Why would I pay for a song, only to end up not being able to listen to it on most of my PCs at home or on most of my mobile devices?! Even if my entire home was Apple (which it totally isn’t), there are still serious limits!

You can always stop by your favorite store and purchase a CD with a music you want. Then, with few simple clicks, you would have your very own Compatible Unprotected music, so why buy into Apple’s jail?! Even if you love Apple devices that much, simple rip the CD onto it, and viola!

Enter the Future! Finally, Unprotected High-Quality (256Kpbs) MP3 files can be purchased from a trusted place, non other than Amazon.com!

Today I rushed forth and purchased my first complete digital album. The experience wasn’t flawless, but it was mostly due first time setup. Amazon asks you to download a tiny desktop application to manage your downloads in background. It looks straightforward enough, and easily configurable to tell it where to put the music on your PC, automatically. It will even auto-add it for you to Media Player or iTunes library, nirvana!

Go ahead and try it, individual songs are as low as $0.89 and I finally have a digital music store I can wholeheartedly recommend! Just click through on excellent Frou Frou album in the blog’s side panel.

PodNovaLast thing for today, I know my Podcasts super-guide is way overdue. I started on draft, really! Meanwhile, let me just tell you that I use PodNova.com to organize my Podcasts and to auto-download new Podcasts to PC/Linux/Other platforms of your choosing.

I downloaded the latest version of client and it seems simple enough, and works fine on Vista!

Speaking of Vista, it’s been about 5 days since I installed my authentic Windows Vista Premium (which took about 10 minutes, btw!) and I love it! Of course this is just a start, and I am yet to try Video Editing and Graphics Editing, but everything else I tried went very well! So, Highly Recommended!!!

eBay Gone Berserk? Lost All Marbles?

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vintage_auction  We have been eBay patrons for many many years, probably almost since it’s inception. But lately, it seems to become more and more of a wild west and less and less of organized trusted marketplace.

Check out this latest example of an auction. Could this be an antique sold by resident of last century? Must be, and he’s probably a ghost by now! That or there was some other reason that eBay blocked him from selling and supposedly removed him/her (see screen shot below for evidence).

meet_the_sellerBut, even though the user is not registered since July 2006, his/hers auctions are doing just fine. There are several of them ending daily, some even with Actual Winning Bids!

I wonder what the poor folk who pay the person can expect for their money. There isn’t even a way to leave negative feedback, once the user isn’t registered. But it gets better! We have decided to alert the “excellent” eBay customer care to this alarming situation, and got a reply back, several days later:

First of all, I would like to thank you for reporting such an important information to us. Valued members like you are indeed an asset to our community.

… please report the listing violation using our online form.

The best part is, that the form they are referring us to has no such reason in valid complaint drop-down as ‘unregistered user selling’, or even ‘other’. And, presuming for a second that our complain ended up in the ‘wrong’ department, they can’t forward emails/complaints inside eBay customer care?! They have to ask us to resubmit?!

Just to make sure I bore you to death with this post, there are more horror stories from other users and one that we ourselves recently ran into. And trying to resolve it with proper eBay channels is impossible, it seems that they don’t have the time to read even few sentences of your complain to understand the situation. Instead, they are shooting standard email responses completely unrelated to the question/concern.

Well, rant over. I think eBay is still fine for those cheap unimportant purchases, but if you are planning to make a major purchase, beware!!!

Us? We are giving up at this point. Maybe the good folks at Consumerist can pick it up and get to the bottom of this.

Seriously, with all the Millions and Billions eBay and PayPal making on these auctions, they can’t find good programmers? Or decent customer service?

Iraq, Prosperity and our Dangerous roads

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I decided to give Prosper.com a try about a month ago (read my original thoughts on that), and today came across an interesting listing from our brave soldier currently deployed.

I do hope, for his sake, that the listing’s photo is real and of his own financial accounts. However, the most interesting thing must be the Questions and Answers section of the listing. When asked, out of genuine concern from Prosper investors about being repaid in case of his fatality in a dangerous deployment, the answer was:

No I am not in a “safe” area. But to compare the odds of me dying here lets look at statistics. There is no traffic where I am at. So if you live in the states YOU have a MUCH higher chance of dying in an accident than me dying here in Iraq. (Aug-02-2007)

Hmm, no traffic, you say? Who knew that we are in the danger zone here while Iraq is all around safe place to be, eh?

Looks like other Prosper lenders have no argument with this rock solid logic, since there are no further follow up questions and his listing is getting fully funded any minute now.