New strategy for liberating countries

Here's an idea: Instead of using trillions on the war-machinery in e.g. Afghanistan and Iraq, why not instead use them on infrastructure? More specifically IT infrastructure? And utterly specifically: The Internet.

For countries that actually want help, and have an open mindset from the start, roll out high speed fiber networks throughout the country, with possibilities for both fiber access and wireless access over mobile phones etc.

For countries that wants to restrict internet, and for parts of countries which are ruled by bad folks, throw up a whole bunch of satellites. These have to be powerful enough so that the antenna can be easily hid, e.g. a 15x15x1 unit or smaller. Smuggle inn hundreds of thousands of these antennas, spread them throughout. Air-drop them, each with their own little parachute. Let them have the option of running as a WLAN hotspot. They should be so plentiful that the ruling classes had no way of rooting them out form their society - ending up with one of these devices should not let you stand out like some opposition leader.

Make durable netbooks, tablets, OLPCs. Air-drop some millions of them too.

Then one could start a nice site in their languages, whose URL was printed on the box, and whose default URL on the tablets pointed to. This site should obviously only be factual and informational - giving links to lots of resource on the internet, explaining how it works. Give Google some extra billions to make the translation to and forth these languages near perfect.

Start some websites with actual, relevant information, using pictures and speech, and text: When building a road, a house, a school, consider these things - possibly use this technique. A group of ten people can build a school-building in ten days like this. You should consider these situations when you sow your wheat, rice, whatever. Your children should go to school. If your child has these symptoms, you can do like this. Here's school-resources. With this, you'd have a humanitarian project going to. Changing a country's political system probably goes hand in hand with the population's wellbeing.

If only everyone got access to information about how everyone else is living, unrestricted, one would think that countries could transform from within. Opposition groups could form, having access to a medium that at least wasn't tapped right from the start (Obviously, one still have the problem of ruling-class spies). The military in our western countries could then fall back to monitor how this pans out, acting as some sort of "online resource", maybe even physical, if they deemed it necessary or relevant.

In the same vein, every western country should set up extreme amounts of Tor-nodes. It should not be possible for e.g. China and Iran to block their citizens' access to the internet.

A small trillion dollars will take you a long way in this scheme, trust me.

The citizens of Myanmar (Burma) and North Korea would probably be happy too - it seems like no one is going to war for them, but they could possibly piggy-back on the efforts in the US's selected war-zones.


Spotify Gift Card Out of Stock?!

I wanted to buy a gift card to Spotify this Christmas. And what greets me?!
Out of stock
Due to popular demand our gift cards are currently out of stock. But there is good news, we plan to release new gift cards in the near future so check back regularly for more details.

Isn't that just the dumbest thing you've seen in a while?

Apparently, these are physical cards, and I can see how that is nice. But why not just let me have an electronic version instead if the physical variety is out of stock? I really personally don't give a damn, and I didn't actually think they would be physical in the first place - I somehow expected that one got a pdf file with some code, possibly with a nice card-appearance that one could print out, cut to size and wrap up. Seriously; We're approaching the most major holiday season, and people buy gifts for Christmas, not subscriptions to themselves! Isn't it simply extremely strange that Spotify don't want to jack into this obvious revenue stream?


Prospect for US's economy: Not Good

.. at least that is what I manage to get out of this interview with Janet Tavakoli, a woman who sounds like she know what she's talking about (~11 mins):

Controlled collapse of the dollar?

As a follow-up on the "Difference between Wall Street and Bernad Madoff" post, here's an interesting comment from Jim Rickards, director of market intelligence for scientific consulting firm Omnis, where he shares his outlook for the dollar.

Please take time to compare that with this video from January 22, 2009, From MIT's "View from the Top" symposium: The Future of the Economy, embedded here (if you don't have half an hour, then go to 13:50, in particular from 19:10, with the point that coincide with Jim's above being served at 22:00):


Difference between Wall Street and Madoff?

Q: So, what's the difference between Wall Street and Bernad Madoff?

A1: Madoff will spend time in prison.
A2: Madoff hadn't yet managed to involve the entire world in his Ponzi Scheme.

America is in for a rough ride, it seems. They are currently hit by a "triple whammy", consisting of some independent and interdependent situations.

[I can't seem to stop adding more links as the days go by - this is so interesting!]

The first problem, which everyone has understood, and often also have directly been touched by, is the housing price crash and credit crisis. Extremely simplified, the banks, insurance companies, rating agencies and large investors of wall street has by deep financial black magic "invented" money that by and large simply ceased to exist the second the housingmarket stopped going upwards. What they have done is to leverage their initial stash of money to an amazing degree, apparently up to 35 times. What you do is to take your dollar, get 34 more dollars from banks, and invest that. A 10% increase in the original investment now turns into a 350% increase on your dollar. The problem is that this also works the other way! So, ANY small decrease in the valuation of the underlying assets, which in this case to a large extent were people's houses, would amplify at least 35 times downward in the system. This in itself isn't all that bad - but since there is a huge feedback loop at play, it just continues downward by amplification of itself, in the same way it seemingly never stopped going upwards.The next problem, which one sometimes hear some mumblings about, but which largely has gone under the radar of most people, is America's federal deficit, which has become absurdly huge. USA have for several years been needing billions of dollars from external investors every month just to keep the wheels turning - this both because they import more than they export, and because it is expensive running such a big nation (and they even haven't got free healthcare nor education!). The net effect is that they spend more money than they earn - on a national scale. And the existing loans are of course already running an interest. As long as one aren't paying down on ones loan, the interest turn into compound interests - interest on the interests. This can actually lead to the situation where USA don't even have enough tax revenue to pay off the interest of what they have in debt. The root of this problem has nothing to do with the Crisis of Credit, and is of course extremely dangerous in itself.

(Note the dates of these next videos)With the current mega crash of the financial institutions, USA feel that they have to bail out these banks, less their entire country would just stop working at all. This is because one needs the banking system for the wheels and gears of the country to turn around - all money are going through them, and if they just fully crashed, it would take months to get the wheels turning again, and in the meantime no-one could basically do any transactions, and nothing could thus be produced. This might have led to a complete breakdown of the society. It has been deemed that this cannot happen.

Since there was such a huge amount of "magicked" money in play, the government have to get hold of some actual money to inject into the supersized holes that opened up when the magic stopped working. This they were hoping to acquire by even more borrowing.

However, USA has, as described above, been living "above their means" for several years now, depending on this continuous supply of ever more new huge loans given largely by China. This is effectively like living on the credit card, and paying the interests by getting a new credit card and maxing out that too.

The recently released TIC data for January shows that there was a net outflow of money from USA. This number swings up and down, and have been negative before too - but the amount of money flow out during January is apparently worrisome compared to the trend. The Fed made a statement on March 18 that apparently can be read in a very dark way: What might have happened just days ago, possibly revealed by "private" TIC data (there is a lag of 1.5 months before this becomes public - while at least drafts of this data obviously is available to the governments before that), is that China has gotten cold feet, and basically feel that USA's credit rating has gone way down, worrying whether the stuff they've already bought might go massively down in value. Hence the money flow from China might already have all but stopped up.

The only way for a government to get hold of money when no one wants to borrow you cash, is to literally start the presses: Print those dollars! That should rationally lead to a marked decrease in the dollar's value, and hence inflation (The "insta-drop" in the exchange rate for the dollar-against-whatever-else a few days ago was most probably due to everybody's realization of this. It should fall further).The third problem comes as a side effect of the credit crisis, and will compound the problems: Since the current crisis leads to people being fired because there aren't anyone buying the stuff they used to produce, the government gets another double-whammy: They have to pay benefits to these people, but even worse, they loose the tax income these people used to produce!

So, all in all: Three very bad effects at work: America is already living above their means, needing a continuous supply of fresh money in form of loans both to keep the system running, and to repay the existing loans. Then the economy suddenly starts crumbling due to a huge fault in the banking system, which means that America needs even more money to "fill in the holes" of the system. But to top this off, this same crisis leads to reduced production and consumption and rather massive job cuts (which also spirals), which lead both to a even bigger need for money for unemployement benefits AND to less income for the country in form of tax.

To round this off, read this Rolling Stone article. It is a lengthy 8 page feature, but I find it an extremely interesting read. It is maybe slightly conspiratorially inclined, but the research seems thorough.
  • March 19, 2009: Matt Taibbi @ Rolling Stone: The Big Takeover. The article starts being very good at the chapter "I. PATIENT ZERO", page 2.

(Added 2010-03-01) Rolling Stone have several Matt Taibbi articles, all of them very interesting:
What really is amazing, is that the stock markets around the world is going fast upwards these days. If the above logic has any merit at all, the dollar, and most probably also USA's economy, should be in for quite a ride downwards within a rather short time. Intense. Wonder how this will pan out. PS: In the Wikipedia article on Ponzi Scheme, I came across the scholarly article "Optimal Design of Ponzi Schemes in Finite Economies" by Utpal Bhattacharya. It was published in the Journal of Financial Intermediation, Volume 12, Issue 1, January 2003. It was submitted two years before that. This is a pay-article, but there seems to be a possibly earlier version available here for free(Click the "Download" link). Here's a Google Scholar link, and a standard Google Search link. The abstract goes like this, highlights by me: "As no rational agent would be willing to take part in the last round in a finite economy, it is difficult to design Ponzi schemes that are certain to explode. This paper argues that if agents correctly believe in the possibility of a partial bailout when a gigantic Ponzi scheme collapses, and they recognize that a bailout is tantamount to a redistribution of wealth from non-participants to participants, it may be rational for agents to participate, even if they know that it is the last round. We model a political economy where an unscrupulous profit-maximizing promoter can design gigantic Ponzi schemes to cynically exploit this “too big to fail” doctrine. We point to the fact that some of the spectacular Ponzi schemes in history occurred at times where and when such political economies existed—France (1719), Britain (1720), Russia (1994), and Albania (1997).". The thought of what might have happened here is actually rather chilling, if you ask me. (Thanks to Øyvind Skårland for the "View from the top" and "gun in mouth" link, and Anders for the cartoon-style "CrisisOfCredit" link)


America to the Rescue!

This would have been extremely funny, wasn't it for the fact that it is instead deeply disturbing!

The video is from the Swedish site Bubblare.se, since YouTube apparently had to kill it off due to Viacom International Inc. doing the DMCA dance.


Google Mail - Gmail - have IMAP!

Google Mail, Gmail, have enabled IMAP for remote access! They formerly only had POP, which sucks for remote access.


For those that doesn't get it instantly, this means that you may access your email using Thunderbird at home, Outlook at work (you must have a shitty job!), The Bat! at school and the very good Gmail web interface for everywhere else. Everything and everywhere will be synched: If you get an email and read it while at work, it will also pop up (as read) when you open up your Thunderbird at home, in the folder you moved it to when at work.

Many standard users choose to only use the Gmail web access system, as that is very simple to understand yet very flexible and powerful.

Google have choose to handle the tag/folder problem in the most obvious way: if you copy an email to another folder, it will still be the same email, just "tagged" with the new folder. This means that even if you remove an email from every IMAP folder, it will still show in the All mail folder. However, if you move it to Thrash or Spam, it will only reside there, and if you remove it from those, it'll be gone forever.

It was a breeze to set up in Thunderbird, everything just as expected.

For the ones that would get cracking: enable IMAP in the Gmail Settings (and click Save Settings!). The IMAP server is the obvious imap.gmail.com, using SSL (port 993, standard), and SMTP server, if you want your outgoing mail to go through Google instead of your ISP or your job or whatever, is the obvious smtp.gmail.com, using TLS. Since many ISPs block port 25 outgoing, thus hindering you from using another SMTP server than the ISPs' own, Google's SMTP server is also available at port 587. (The reason for blocking port 25 are good - it stops evil hackers from using zombie computers as spam servers).

Actually, using the Google SMTP server is a great option even if you don't use Gmail actively (you'll have to sign up for Gmail to be able to authenticate with the SMTP server, but you don't really need to use the actual Gmail). One reason is that the "outgoing email server settings" won't change if moving a laptop between home, work or a random coffee shop. Also, Google Mail's SMTP services implement DomainKeys and DKIM (same thing, really), so that your emails will get a huge "good score" on most spam-filtration systems on the reception side (your email won't end up in the SPAM folder of the recipient).


I will now change to using Gmail as mail host for my way to many accounts and folders, putting nearly my entire life in their hands..! (I already use Google Calendar!).


An English blog too!

YAB - Yet Another Blog - this time in English!

(here's the Norwegian one..)

Since there only are about 4.7 million Norwegians, while about 6570 million people in the world, where between 450 and 2900 million people know some English, I reckon that I can heighten my chances of anyone else reading my thoughts if I also have a blog in English.

Although, zero times whatever is still not a lot, is it?

Some other links:
Worldometers (several interesting numbers about the world!)
ibilio's "worldpop" (another world population estimate)
US popclock (so many Americans - and they're growing!)
Second language (Wikipedia)
Breathing Earth Watch the simulation for a little while - Food for thought!

PS: My girlfriend pointed out that Swedes and Danes might be able to read my Norwegian blog too.. Good point: There are over 5.4 million Danes and 9.1 million Swedes.

PPS: I suddenly realized that the number of people on the earth increase by a good bit more than "one Norway" every month (~6.3 million and more). That's ... pretty intense.