‘Going Non-Corporate’ Category Archives
by stuartbramhall in Going Non-Corporate
At $43 US, the Bitcoin has more than doubled in the last twelve months. According to Zero Hedge, this mainly relates to a 55 page report the European Central Bank published in October, expressing concern that the bitcoin’s popularity represents a potential threat to the reputation of central banks. Besides greatly increasing public awareness about the bitcoin, the report vastly increased it credibility among currency traders.
Market analyst Max Keiser is probably the best known supporter of the bitcoin revolution. Keiser uses them to fund Pirate this Film, his crowdfunding (see * below) site for documentary filmmakers and investigative journalists. He initially planned to use PayPal, but they refused to offer a business account to an entity with the word “pirate” in its name.
Besides saving Keiser and the users of his site thousands of dollars in currency exchange fees, PayPal commissions and credit card charges, the use of bitcoins also protects Pirate This Film from the “Wikileaks effect.” This is the term coined to describe the power major credit cards and PayPal have to shut down political sites they disagree with by refusing to process their donations. In fact, Keiser set up a bitcoin Kim Dotcom legal defense fund for the New Zealand folk hero the Obama administration is trying to extradite for alleged violations of copyright law (see The FBI’s Misadventures in New Zealand).
The video below is Keiser’s forty minute presentation to the 2012 Bitcoin Conference in London. In it, he explores the relative merits of bitcoins, gold and silver as a hedge against inflation, economic collapse or outright fraud by the banks that control Wall Street.
The presentation begins with a general discussion of the risk of investing in the current Wall Street bubble, which he believes is about to burst. Because a bank CEO’s pay is directly linked to the amount of debt they create, there is a powerful incentive to create as much as possible. All debt bubbles eventually burst. Because each bubble is bigger than the last, the recessions they create keep getting worse – at least for everyone but the bankers.
Keiser also explains the Martingale Principle, a strategy used by both roulette players and investment bankers who engage in speculative derivatives trading. Because the banks have a virtual guarantee the government will cover their losses with bail outs, it’s like a casino giving them an unlimited supply of free chips. They get to keep all the winnings, and the taxpayer covers the losses.
Bitcoins as an Investment
Keiser begins his discussion of the merits of bitcoins at 23 minutes. He asserts bitcoins meet all four conditions Aristotle set out for a currency: portability, fungibility (i.e. it can be divided into smaller units), intrinsic value and durability. I’m not sure I agree with the last two. Bitcoins have no intrinsic value in themselves. Gold, on the other hand, can be melted down for other uses. Durability could also be a major issue if a grid collapse caused the Internet to go dark. While it’s possible to trade virtual bicoins for metallic ones, the latter only have value if local producers and suppliers are willing to accept them as currency.
*Crowdfunding is the collective effort of individuals who network and pool their money, usually via the Internet, to support efforts initiated by other people or organizations. Crowdfunding is used to finance a wide variety of activities, including disaster relief, citizen journalism, political campaigns, startup company funding,documentary production, software development, scientific research,and civic projects.
Crossposted at Daily Censored
by stuartbramhall in Going Non-Corporate
Bitcoins are a safe decentralized currency that’s ideal for businesses and consumers alike because it’s controlled by the people who use it, rather than banks.
Hate banks? Fed up with Wall Street incompetence and criminality? Concerned the impending economic collapse and/or runaway inflation will gobble up your savings? Are you already unemployed – or like many Americans, only one paycheck away from the streets? Do you yearn to opt out of the brutal and corrupt capitalist system but find yourself tied to a banker-controlled money system that controls virtually every aspect of your life?.
Welcome to the bitcoin (BTC), a safe, reliable open source alternative currency, created and maintained by volunteers, just like Wikipedia. Four years after their introduction, bitcoins seem to have reached critical saturation, at least in numbers of Internet and brick and mortar business who accept them. Internet merchants, especially, love bitcoins. There are no currency exchange charges and no secure payment site, credit card or PayPal fees. Even better, it’s totally anonymous. So if someone wants to donate to Bradley Manning’s defense or Wikileaks, they can be confident neither Homeland Security nor the FBI is opening a file on them.
The bitcoin, a decentralized international currency, was first introduced in 2009 by an anonymous web developer who called himself Satoshi Nakamoto. Bitcoins can be exchanged by personal computer directly through a wallet file or a website, without an intermediate financial institution. Bitcoin production is automated, limited, divided and scheduled (bitcoins are generated every 10 minutes) and given to servers or “bitcoin miners” that verify Bitcoin transactions and add them to an archived transaction log. Transaction fees may apply to new transactions depending on the strain put on the network’s resources. Each 10-minute portion or “block” of the transaction log has an pre-assigned money supply. Currently, 25 Bitcoins are generated every 10 minutes. This will be halved to 12.5 BTC within the year 2017 and halved continuously every 4 years after until a hard-limit of 21 million bitcoins is reached within the year 2140.
Bitcoins are traded like other currencies, and one bitcoin is currently worth around 43 US dollars. At present there are over 10 million bitcoins in circulation.
How New Bitcoins Are Mined or Created
The way bitcoin works is that instead of having one central authority which creates and controls the money supply (as central banks do in most countries), this work is done by thousands of bitcoin “miners.” Anyone with a computer can be a bitcoin miner. Miners who successfully create new blocks are rewarded in bitcoins according to a preset schedule. The way the bitcoin network makes sure block chains are reliable is by making them extremely hard to produce. Instead of being allowed to create blocks at will, miners have to compute a cryptographic hash of the block that meets certain criteria. Bitcoiners refer to this process as “hashing”. The only way to find a cryptographic hash that’s “good enough to count” is to try computing a whole bunch of them until you get lucky and find one that works. Experienced miners recommend the use of a GPU (graphics processing unit), which can try hundreds of millions of hashes per second.
How to Get Bitcoins
Anyone can purchase bitcoins with US dollars or other national currency from bitcoin exchanges, which operate like currency exchanges. The current value of the bitcoin is around $43 US. There are also a number of websites (see http://thebitcoinmaster.blogspot.co.nz/2013/02/websites-that-do-not-give-free-bitcoins_18.html) where people can earn bitcoins (usually 0.000007 – 0.000008 BTC) by completing surveys, viewing websites or previewing music videos. On the best paying website (http://www.bitcoinget.com/), a person can earn around .002 BTC (around 8 cents each) performing tasks such as updating business directories and about one quarter of that for flagging images with adult content.
People can purchase metallic bitcoins from numerous vendors including https://www.casascius.com/
Where to Spend Bitcoins
Most bitcoins are spent for online products and services, such as ebooks, graphics, music, ring tones, web hosting and creation, domain names and technical support (especially on Linux, Ubantu and other open source programs). An increasing number of brick and mortar businesses (especially in Europe where austerity cuts have made Euros pretty scarce) accept bitcoins as payment for products and services. With a growing shortage of American customers who can pay cash, more and more US retailers are accepting bitcoins, especially in New York and on the West Coast.
Brick and mortar merchants employ a protocol available at http://www.bitvendor.net/. It’s far easier (and cheaper) than credit card payment. It enables customers to pay in bitcoins via any text-enabled cellphone
For a list of on-line merchants who accept bitcoins check out https://www.coindl.com/
For a list of brick and mortar businesses accepting them, consult:
More information on how to get a bitcoin wallet and start earning and spending them at
To be continued with a discussion of potential risks and a great bitcoin crowd funding website investigative journalists (including bloggers) can use to finance specific projects.
Crossposted at Daily Censored
by stuartbramhall in Going Non-Corporate, Sustainability, The Global Economic Crisis
Much of the work that went into the Voluntary Simplicity and Y2K movements (see prior blogs) has been incorporated into Transition Towns and other sustainability-related movements. There are now literally millions of groups worldwide focused on some aspect of bioregional sustainability. The most visible evidence of their success are the blossoming of home veggie gardens, urban community gardens and orchards and farmers’ markets; the 1,040 cities and towns (nearly 1/3 of the US population) which have signed onto the Kyoto accord; and the 125 communities voting to place citizens’ above corporate rights (see http://www.tikkun.org/article.php/jan2011kanner).
One of the most important factors in this success is the ability of the sustainability movement to address apathy and alienation head-on, by reengaging people in neighborhood and community life. For many people, local civic engagement leads on to re-engagement in the political process. I would never argue that progressives should focus on local community building to the exclusion of critically needed government reforms. Corporate lobbies still have the ability to overturn local and state laws in the courts by claiming that they violate alleged constitutional rights. Thus organizing to end so-called constitutional protections for corporations (which clearly run contrary to the intent of the founding fathers) – either through federal legislation or constitutional amendment (www.movetoamed.org) must be an extremely high priority. At the same time, I see the neighborhood and community sustainability networks playing a pivotal role in building strong grassroots lobbies to tackle banking reform, restoring of civil liberties or ending the wars in the Middle East.
The Basics of Sustainability Organizing
Sustainability-related work can be broken down into concrete, achievable steps, which also lends to its appeal. In preparing for the End of the World as We Know it, Y2K activists predicted local communities would need to prepare for breakdowns in the following services:
- Global commerce (food imports being the most crucial)
- Water and energy utilities
- Waste removal systems
- Telecommunications, Internet and mass media
- Financial institutions
- Transportation systems
- Governance and government services
- Health Care
- Institutions and agencies responsible for education, justice, manufacturing and security
In most places, organizers have found it easiest to begin with food, water and energy security – in part because they are most critical to human survival. However the bioregional economic network established as a first step in addressing food, water and energy security can also be used to prepare for breakdowns in other systems. For 99.9% of human existence people have relied on a bioregional economic model in which they have sourced the vast majority of their food and other essentials for life within a 100 mile radius. The process of re-creating this network is very helpful in learning to shift our thinking away from relying on national and multinational corporations to meet our needs.
Although the sustainability movement receives little attention in the mainstream media, it has it has been quietly building for nearly two decades – often with the support of state and local government (it receives the most state support in California). In Europe it receives national and EU support. The following is just a small snapshot of local accomplishments around energy, food and water security.
FOOD AND WATER SECURITY
- Increased local expertise in permaculture and biointensive agriculture techniques, as industrial fertilizers and insecticides (manufactured from fossil fuels) become unavailable and/or prohibitively expensive.
- De-paving – digging up private and public driveways and parking lots and replacing them with backyard veggie gardens and community orchards and gardens. In addition to improving food security, this restores watersheds by reducing run-off, a major threat to water security in the industrial world.
- Lawn liberation – replacing lawns and ornamental trees and shrubs with fruit and nut trees and veggie gardens.
- Support of local farmers through farmers markets and Community Supported Agriculture Schemes (in which residents “subscribe” to weekly deliveries of fresh veggies and fruit).
- Neighborhood and municipal systems of rainwater collection and purification and gray water collection
- Adoption of active run-off management plans, in which lost groundwater is measured and minimized in development planning – and replaced, for example via the Blue Alternative (in which groundwater is replaced by digging small catchment pools in open spaces).
- Reduced fossil fuel dependence in transportation:
o Beginning work to create local consumer-farmer/consumer-retailer networks, including state and locally owned banks, credit unions and cooperatives. Given that local businesses struggle to compete (their costs and prices tend to be higher) with national and multinational corporations, this can be facilitated via the creation of local barter systems (example from Greece at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-12223068) and/or local currencies, such as Ithaca hours, that can only be spent locally.
o Community and municipal initiatives to increase public and active transport (cycling and walking) through urban planning that incorporates growth management and sprawl reduction, creation of urban villages where residents live closer to essential services, and restricted permiting of malls and big box retailers (Portland and Vancouver, British Columbia are excellent examples).
o Community and neighborhood street reclaiming initiatives to make streets safer for people to use cars less and walk and cycle more.
o Increased uptake of car sharing schemes, employing efficient electric or hybrid vehicles or those run on regionally produced biomass fuels.
- Reduced home/business fossil fuel dependence:
o State, local and power company subsidies for home insulation schemes and solar water heaters.
o Subsidies and reduced permit fees for Green Building (buildings purpose-built to be energy/water/waste self-sufficient).
o State and local regulations and subsidies (as per German model) to increase distributed energy systems based on alternate energy sources (solar, wind, tidal, etc).
o Active promotion of Open Source computer and information technology.
by stuartbramhall in Going Non-Corporate
The health insurance lobby’s aggressive corporatization of health care – which started in the 1980s when Reagan deregulated the insurance industry- has had devastating effects on the US health care system. As Michael Moore portrays in the film Sicko, it has bankrupted thousands of families. He introduces several families in which a loved one develops a serious illness, only for the family to discover their health policy doesn’t fully cover treatment.
By drastically cutting reimbursement and repeatedly denying claims, the insurance industry has also bankrupted hundreds of hospitals and thousands of doctors (including me). What I find particularly galling is the hundreds of billions of dollars they have spent (over 50 years) to systematically block the expansion of Medicare – a highly popular and cost effective program – to cover America’s forty five million uninsured. Being uninsured kills. According to Physicians for a National Health Plan, every year approximately 100,000 people die prematurely due to their inability to access health care.
The fact that American insurance companies lobby to dismantle national health systems in other industrialized countries (Nicky Hagar writes about their efforts to interfere in the 2005 New Zealand elections in The Hollow Men) is just plain vicious and immoral.
Unfortunately ObamaCare does nothing whatsoever to end insurance company interference in health care. If anything, by requiring that all Americans purchase health insurance, it strengthens their hand by throwing billions of dollars of additional income their way. In this sense it’s more corporate welfare for the ailing insurance industry than true health care reform.
Going Non-Corporate in the Insurance Arena
Given my feelings about the corporate insurance lobby, you can imagine how it painful it was to write them a check every six months for homeowners and (when I owned a car) auto insurance. Their shady history aside, I have always felt there were ethical problems with the for-profit insurance model. In a humane society, no one should profit off other peoples’ misery – be it a serious medication condition, a house fire, or a car crash. In Islamic societies, the Koran forbids it, just as they prohibit usury (lending money at interest). Not only does the obligation to return a profit to shareholders increase premium costs, but there will always be a perverse incentive to deny claims to improve the bottom line.
You can also imagine how thrilled I am to discover that I have an alternative – which is sadly under-publicized. In addition to growing my own food and making my own cleaning and beauty products and bartering and trading for other necessities, I can now go non-corporate in the insurance arena, as well.
I now buy homeowners insurance from a “mutual and cooperative” insurance association (AMI – a New Zealand owned company). Under this model the members (clients) themselves own the insurance company. AMI belongs to an impressive international organization known as the International Cooperative and Mutual Insurance Federation, a global organization representing cooperative and mutual insurers from around the world. ICMIF has four official members in the US, which means everyone reading this can do the same when their current term of homeowners/auto insurance expires. I would specifically recommend EMC, Goodville or NAMIC, a broker representing 1,400 companies – as you can purchase insurance directly via the websites below:
Shelter (link not working)
Some US mutual/cooperative insurers in the US belong to a second organization, the Americas Association/Cooperative Mutual Insurance Societies or belong to both.
The American Agricultural Insurance Company http://www.aaic.fb.com
EMC Insurance Companies http://www.emcins.com/
Goodville Mutual Casualty Company http://www.goodville.com/
International Insurance Society http://www.iisonline.org/
National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies (NAMIC) http://www.namic.org
Shelter Insurance Companies http://www.shelterinsurance.com/ (link not working)