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Tag Archives: real-estate
Posted: August 10, 2016 at 9:16 pm
Cyberpunk a short story by Bruce Bethke
In the early spring of 1980 I wrote a little story about a bunch of teenage hackers. From the very first draft this story had a name, and lo, the name was–
And you can bet any body part you’d care to name that, had I had even the slightest least inkling of a clue that I would still be answering questions about this word nearly 18 years later, I would have bloody well trademarked the damned thing!
Nonetheless, I didn’t, and as you’re probably aware, the c-word has gone on to have a fascinating career all its own. At this late date I am not trying to claim unwarranted credit or tarnish anyone else’s glory. (Frankly, I’d much rather people were paying attention to what I’m writing now –e.g., my Philip K. Dick Award-winning novel, Headcrash, Orbit Books, 5.99 in paperback.) But for those folks who are obsessed with history, here, in tightly encapsulated form, is the story behind the story.
The invention of the c-word was a conscious and deliberate act of creation on my part. I wrote the story in the early spring of 1980, and from the very first draft, it was titled “Cyberpunk.” In calling it that, I was actively trying to invent a new term that grokked the juxtaposition of punk attitudes and high technology. My reasons for doing so were purely selfish and market-driven: I wanted to give my story a snappy, one-word title that editors would remember.
Offhand, I’d say I succeeded.
How did I actually create the word? The way any new word comes into being, I guess: through synthesis. I took a handful of roots –cyber, techno, et al– mixed them up with a bunch of terms for socially misdirected youth, and tried out the various combinations until one just plain sounded right.
IMPORTANT POINT! I never claimed to have invented cyberpunk fiction! That honor belongs primarily to William Gibson, whose 1984 novel, Neuromancer, was the real defining work of “The Movement.” (At the time, Mike Swanwick argued that the movement writers should properly be termed neuromantics, since so much of what they were doing was clearly Imitation Neuromancer.)
Then again, Gibson shouldn’t get sole credit either. Pat Cadigan (“Pretty Boy Crossover”), Rudy Rucker (Software), W.T. Quick (Dreams of Flesh and Sand), Greg Bear (Blood Music), Walter Jon Williams (Hardwired), Michael Swanwick (Vacuum Flowers)…the list of early ’80s writers who made important contributions towards defining the trope defies my ability to remember their names. Nor was it an immaculate conception: John Brunner (Shockwave Rider), Anthony Burgess (A Clockwork Orange), and perhaps even Alfred Bester (The Stars My Destination) all were important antecedents of the thing that became known as cyberpunk fiction.
Me? I’ve been told that my main contribution was inventing the stereotype of the punk hacker with a mohawk. That, and I named the beast, of course.
[Note: If you want to find out more about the etymology of cyberpunk — and quite a few other things, too — take a look at Bruce’s web page. Alternatively, why not just scroll down and read the story itself?]
The snoozer went off at seven and I was out of my sleepsack, powered up, and on-line in nanos. That’s as far as I got. Soon’s I booted and got–
–on the tube I shut down fast. Damn! Rayno had been on line before me, like always, and that message meant somebody else had gotten into our Net– and that meant trouble by the busload! I couldn’t do anything more on term, so I zipped into my jumper, combed my hair, and went downstairs.
Mom and Dad were at breakfast when I slid into the kitchen. “Good Morning, Mikey!” said Mom with a smile. “You were up so late last night I thought I wouldn’t see you before you caught your bus.”
“Had a tough program to crack,” I said.
“Well,” she said, “now you can sit down and have a decent breakfast.” She turned around to pull some Sara Lees out of the microwave and plunk them down on the table.
“If you’d do your schoolwork when you’re supposed to you wouldn’t have to stay up all night,” growled Dad from behind his caffix and faxsheet. I sloshed some juice in a glass and poured it down, stuffed a Sara Lee into my mouth, and stood to go.
“What?” asked Mom. “That’s all the breakfast you’re going to have?”
“Haven’t got time,” I said. “I gotta get to school early to see if the program checks.” Dad growled something more and Mom spoke to quiet him, but I didn’t hear much ’cause I was out the door.
I caught the transys for school, just in case they were watching. Two blocks down the line I got off and transferred going back the other way, and a coupla transfers later I wound up whipping into Buddy’s All-Night Burgers. Rayno was in our booth, glaring into his caffix. It was 7:55 and I’d beat Georgie and Lisa there.
“What’s on line?” I asked as I dropped into my seat, across from Rayno. He just looked up at me through his eyebrows and I knew better than to ask again.
At eight Lisa came in. Lisa is Rayno’s girl, or at least she hopes she is. I can see why: Rayno’s seventeen–two years older than the rest of us–he wears flash plastic and his hair in The Wedge (Dad blew a chip when I said I wanted my hair cut like that) and he’s so cool he won’t even touch her, even when she’s begging for it. She plunked down in her seat next to Rayno and he didn’t blink.
Georgie still wasn’t there at 8:05. Rayno checked his watch again, then finally looked up from his caffix. “The compiler’s been cracked,” he said. Lisa and I both swore. We’d worked up our own little code to keep our Net private. I mean, our Olders would just blow boards if they ever found out what we were really up to. And now somebody’d broken our code.
“Georgie’s old man?” I asked.
“Looks that way.” I swore again. Georgie and I started the Net by linking our smartterms with some stuff we stored in his old man’s home business system. Now my Dad wouldn’t know an opsys if he crashed on one, but Georgie’s old man–he’s a greentooth. A tech-type. He’d found one of ours once before and tried to take it apart to see what it did. We’d just skinned out that time.
“Any idea how far in he got?” Lisa asked. Rayno looked through her, at the front door. Georgie’d just come in.
“We’re gonna find out,” Rayno said.
Georgie was coming in smiling, but when he saw that look in Rayno’s eyes he sat down next to me like the seat was booby-trapped.
“Good morning Georgie,” said Rayno, smiling like a shark.
“I didn’t glitch!” Georgie whined. “I didn’t tell him a thing!”
“Then how the Hell did he do it?”
“You know how he is, he’s weird! He likes puzzles!” Georgie looked to me for backup. “That’s how come I was late. He was trying to weasel me, but I didn’t tell him a thing! I think he only got it partway open. He didn’t ask about the Net!”
Rayno actually sat back, pointed at us all, and smiled. “You kids just don’t know how lucky you are. I was in the Net last night and flagged somebody who didn’t know the secures was poking Georgie’s compiler. I made some changes. By the time your old man figures them out, well…”
I sighed relief. See what I mean about being cool? Rayno had us outlooped all the time!
Rayno slammed his fist down on the table. “But Dammit Georgie, you gotta keep a closer watch on him!”
Then Rayno smiled and bought us all drinks and pie all the way around. Lisa had a cherry Coke, and Georgie and I had caffix just like Rayno. God, that stuff tastes awful! The cups were cleared away, and Rayno unzipped his jumper and reached inside.
“Now kids,” he said quietly, “it’s time for some serious fun.” He whipped out his microterm. “School’s off!”
I still drop a bit when I see that microterm–Geez, it’s a beauty! It’s a Zeilemann Nova 300, but we’ve spent so much time reworking it, it’s practically custom from the motherboard up. Hi-baud, rammed, rammed, ported, with the wafer display folds down to about the size of a vid casette; I’d give an ear to have one like it. We’d used Georgie’s old man’s chipburner to tuck some special tricks in ROM and there wasn’t a system in CityNet it couldn’t talk to.
Rayno ordered up a smartcab and we piled out of Buddy’s. No more riding the transys for us, we were going in style! We charged the smartcab off to some law company and cruised all over Eastside.
Riding the boulevards got stale after awhile, so we rerouted to the library. We do a lot of our fun at the library, ’cause nobody ever bothers us there. Nobody ever goes there. We sent the smartcab, still on the law company account, off to Westside. Getting past the guards and the librarians was just a matter of flashing some ID and then we zipped off into the stacks.
Now, you’ve got to ID away your life to get on the libsys terms–which isn’t worth half a scare when your ID is all fudged like ours is–and they watch real careful. But they move their terms around a lot, so they’ve got ports on line all over the building. We found an unused port, and me and Georgie kept watch while Rayno plugged in his microterm and got on line.
“Get me into the Net,” he said, handing me the term. We don’t have a stored opsys yet for Netting, so Rayno gives me the fast and tricky jobs.
Through the dataphones I got us out of the libsys and into CityNet. Now, Olders will never understand. They still think a computer has got to be a brain in a single box. I can get the same results with opsys stored in a hundred places, once I tie them together. Nearly every computer has got a dataphone port, CityNet is a great linking system, and Rayno’s microterm has the smarts to do the job clean and fast so nobody flags on us. I pulled the compiler out of Georgie’s old man’s computer and got into our Net. Then I handed the term back to Rayno.
“Well, let’s do some fun. Any requests?” Georgie wanted something to get even with his old man, and I had a new routine cooking, but Lisa’s eyes lit up ’cause Rayno handed the term to her, first.
“I wanna burn Lewis,” she said.
“Oh fritz!” Georgie complained. “You did that last week!”
“Well, he gave me another F on a theme.”
“I never get F’s. If you’d read books once in a–”
“Georgie,” Rayno said softly, “Lisa’s on line.” That settled that. Lisa’s eyes were absolutely glowing.
Lisa got back into CityNet and charged a couple hundred overdue books to Lewis’s libsys account. Then she ordered a complete fax sheet of Encyclopedia Britannica printed out at his office. I got next turn.
Georgie and Lisa kept watch while I accessed. Rayno was looking over my shoulder. “Something new this week?”
“Airline reservations. I was with my Dad two weeks ago when he set up a business trip, and I flagged on maybe getting some fun. I scanned the ticket clerk real careful and picked up the access code.”
“Okay, show me what you can do.”
Accessing was so easy that I just wiped a couple of reservations first, to see if there were any bells and whistles.
None. No checks, no lockwords, no confirm codes. I erased a couple dozen people without crashing down or locking up. “Geez,” I said, “There’s no deep secures at all!”
“I been telling you. Olders are even dumber than they look. Georgie? Lisa? C’mon over here and see what we’re running!”
Georgie was real curious and asked a lot of questions, but Lisa just looked bored and snapped her gum and tried to stand closer to Rayno. Then Rayno said, “Time to get off Sesame Street. Purge a flight.”
I did. It was simple as a save. I punched a few keys, entered, and an entire plane disappeared from all the reservation files. Boy, they’d be surprised when they showed up at the airport. I started purging down the line, but Rayno interrupted.
“Maybe there’s no bells and whistles, but wipe out a whole block of flights and it’ll stand out. Watch this.” He took the term from me and cooked up a routine in RAM to do a global and wipe out every flight that departed at an :07 for the next year. “Now that’s how you do these things without waving a flag.”
“That’s sharp,” Georgie chipped in, to me. “Mike, you’re a genius! Where do you get these ideas?” Rayno got a real funny look in his eyes.
“My turn,” Rayno said, exiting the airline system.
“What’s next in the stack?” Lisa asked him.
“Yeah, I mean, after garbaging the airlines . . .” Georgie didn’t realize he was supposed to shut up.
“Georgie! Mike!” Rayno hissed. “Keep watch!” Soft, he added, “It’s time for The Big One.”
“You sure?” I asked. “Rayno, I don’t think we’re ready.”
Georgie got whiney. “We’re gonna get in big trouble–”
“Wimp,” spat Rayno. Georgie shut up.
We’d been working on The Big One for over two months, but I still didn’t feel real solid about it. It almost made a clean if/then/else; if The Big One worked/then we’d be rich/else . . . it was the else I didn’t have down.
Georgie and me scanned while Rayno got down to business. He got back into CityNet, called the cracker opsys out of OurNet, and poked it into Merchant’s Bank & Trust. I’d gotten into them the hard way, but never messed with their accounts; just did it to see if I could do it. My data’d been sitting in their system for about three weeks now and nobody’d noticed. Rayno thought it would be really funny to use one bank computer to crack the secures on other bank computers.
While he was peeking and poking I heard walking nearby and took a closer look. It was just some old waster looking for a quiet place to sleep. Rayno was finished linking by the time I got back. “Okay kids,” he said, “this is it.” He looked around to make sure we were all watching him, then held up the term and stabbed the RETURN key. That was it. I stared hard at the display, waiting to see what else was gonna be. Rayno figured it’d take about ninety seconds.
The Big One, y’see, was Rayno’s idea. He’d heard about some kids in Sherman Oaks who almost got away with a five million dollar electronic fund transfer; they hadn’t hit a hangup moving the five mil around until they tried to dump it into a personal savings account with a $40 balance. That’s when all the flags went up.
Rayno’s cool; Rayno’s smart. We weren’t going to be greedy, we were just going to EFT fifty K. And it wasn’t going to look real strange, ’cause it got strained through some legitimate accounts before we used it to open twenty dummies.
If it worked.
The display blanked, flickered, and showed:
I started to shout, but remembered I was in a library. Georgie looked less terrified. Lisa looked like she was going to attack Rayno.
Rayno just cracked his little half smile, and started exiting. “Funtime’s over, kids.”
“I didn’t get a turn,” Georgie mumbled.
Rayno was out of all the nets and powering down. He turned, slow, and looked at Georgie through those eyebrows of his. “You are still on The List.”
Georgie swallowed it ’cause there was nothing else he could do. Rayno folded up the microterm and tucked it back inside his jumper.
We got a smartcab outside the library and went off to someplace Lisa picked for lunch. Georgie got this idea about garbaging up the smartcab’s brain so that the next customer would have a real state fair ride, but Rayno wouldn’t let him do it. Rayno didn’t talk to him during lunch, either.
After lunch I talked them into heading up to Martin’s Micros. That’s one of my favorite places to hang out. Martin’s the only Older I know who can really work a computer without blowing out his headchips, and he never talks down to me, and he never tells me to keep my hands off anything. In fact, Martin’s been real happy to see all of us, ever since Rayno bought that $3000 vidgraphics art animation package for Lisa’s birthday.
Martin was sitting at his term when we came in. “Oh, hi Mike! Rayno! Lisa! Georgie!” We all nodded. “Nice to see you again. What can I do for you today?”
“Just looking,” Rayno said.
“Well, that’s free.” Martin turned back to his term and punched a few more IN keys. “Damn!” he said to the term.
“What’s the problem?” Lisa asked.
“The problem is me,” Martin said. “I got this software package I’m supposed to be writing, but it keeps bombing out and I don’t know what’s wrong.”
Rayno asked, “What’s it supposed to do?”
“Oh, it’s a real estate system. Y’know, the whole future-values-in-current-dollars bit. Depreciation, inflation, amortization, tax credits–”
“Put that in our tang,” Rayno said. “What numbers crunch?”
Martin started to explain, and Rayno said to me, “This looks like your kind of work.” Martin hauled his three hundred pounds of fat out of the chair, and looked relieved as I dropped down in front of the term. I scanned the parameters, looked over Martin’s program, and processed a bit. Martin’d only made a few mistakes. Anybody could have. I dumped Martin’s program and started loading the right one in off the top of my head.
“Will you look at that?” Martin said.
I didn’t answer ’cause I was thinking in assembly. In ten minutes I had it in, compiled, and running test sets. It worked perfect, of course.
“I just can’t believe you kids,” Martin said. “You can program easier than I can talk.”
“Nothing to it,” I said.
“Maybe not for you. I knew a kid grew up speaking Arabic, used to say the same thing.” He shook his head, tugged his beard, looked me in the face, and smiled. “Anyhow, thanks loads, Mike. I don’t know how to . . .” He snapped his fingers. “Say, I just got something in the other day, I bet you’d be really interested in.” He took me over to the display case, pulled it out, and set it on the counter. “The latest word in microterms. The Zeilemann Starfire 600.”
I dropped a bit! Then I ballsed up enough to touch it. I flipped up the wafer display, ran my fingers over the touch pads, and I just wanted it so bad! “It’s smart,” Martin said. “Rammed, rammed, and ported.”
Rayno was looking at the specs with that cold look in his eye. “My 300 is still faster,” he said.
“It should be,” Martin said. “You customized it half to death. But the 600 is nearly as fast, and it’s stock, and it lists for $1400. I figure you must have spent nearly 3K upgrading yours.”
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Posted: August 6, 2016 at 4:54 pm
Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson needs to get to 15 percent in polls to make it onto the debate stage this fall. John Raoux/AP hide caption
Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson needs to get to 15 percent in polls to make it onto the debate stage this fall.
Libertarian Party candidates Gary Johnson and Bill Weld pitched themselves as the antidote to Washington partisanship in a CNN town hall, hoping to appeal to voters frustrated with both the Republican and the Democratic presidential nominees.
Both are former Republican governors Johnson from New Mexico and Weld from Massachusetts and told CNN’s Anderson Cooper they align with most voters on both fiscal and social issues.
“We want the government out of your pocketbook and out of your bedroom, and the polling shows that a majority of Americans think that,” said Weld, the party’s vice presidential nominee.
Johnson, who ran for the GOP nomination in 2012 before becoming the Libertarian nominee four years ago, said if they are elected, the two longtime lawmakers will almost act as co-presidents sharing a staff and “planning to do this as a partnership.”
“Two heads for the price of one, and that it would be a plus for the country, believing that,” the former New Mexico governor said.
“I think it would be refreshing to have a party that was not terribly partisan holding the White House, and we would hire the best people from the Democratic Party, the smartest people from the Republican Party and the best people from the Libertarian Party,” Weld added.
The two bemoaned the rules that, as of now, would keep them off the presidential debate stage come this fall. A third-party candidate must hit at least 15 percent in polling, and the Libertarian ticket is at 9 percent in the latest CNN/ORC poll. The Green Party’s Jill Stein is at 5 percent in that same survey.
A third-party candidate hasn’t made it onto the stage since independent Ross Perot in 1992, but with both Republican nominee Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton still struggling to unite their parties’ bases while being dragged down by high disapproval ratings, there is a rare opening. And Johnson and Weld are aiming to fill that void.
“The idea that we should not be at those debates expressing what is a majority point of view in the country can only be laid at the door of the two-party monopoly, the duopoly, that has a stranglehold on power in Washington,” Weld said. “That’s the Rs and the Ds, who sometimes seem to exist mainly for the express purpose of killing each other.”
Johnson stood by his characterization that Clinton was “beholden” to special interests and slammed her high fees for speaking to Wall Street groups. He argued there is a conflict of interest between the former secretary of state and her family’s Clinton Foundation that “smacks of pay-to-play.”
But Weld had harsher words for Trump and the way the GOP candidate has reacted to criticism from the family of a Muslim-American soldier killed in Iraq.
“He’s a showman. He’s a pied piper. He’s the music man,” Weld said about the billionaire real estate magnate. “More recently, it’s gotten more serious, and the noun that comes to my mind is a screw loose.”
Johnson dismissed the idea that they would play spoiler this fall, though.
“A wasted vote is voting for somebody that you don’t believe in, and if we’re going to continue to vote for the lesser of two evils, that’s still evil,” he told a questioner.
Johnson did depart from typical libertarian orthodoxy in one instance. Previously, he has said that “religious freedom, as a category” was “a black hole,” and he said he wouldn’t back any state religious freedom laws, such as ones that would protect people like wedding photographers or bakers from having to provide services for a gay wedding.
“I fear that under the guise of religious liberty, the LGBT community is being discriminated against,” Johnson said. “There can be a balance between the two, but I don’t want to support discrimination in any form whatsoever.”
Shetamia Taylor, a woman who was wounded in the Dallas police attack last month, asked Johnson about the Black Lives Matter movement. And the Libertarian nominee gave a rare acknowledgement that, as a white man, he had been slow to realize there was a problem between minorities and law enforcement.
“My head’s been in the sand on this. I think we’ve all had our heads in the sand, and let’s wake up,” Johnson said. “This discrimination does exist.”
On the subject of foreign policy, Johnson said the two weren’t pushing for an isolationist approach, simply one that was more hesitant to enter into foreign skirmishes.
“We both reject the notion that libertarians are isolationists,” Johnson said. “We’re not isolationists. We’re non-interventionists. We don’t want to get involved in regime change that has the potential to make the world less safe.”
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Posted: July 8, 2016 at 7:54 am
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Posted: June 29, 2016 at 6:34 pm
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Posted: June 21, 2016 at 6:45 am
The Minerva Reefs (Tongan: Ongo Teleki), briefly de facto independent in 1972 as the Republic of Minerva, are a group of two submerged atolls located in the Pacific Ocean south of Fiji and Tonga. The reefs were named after the whaleship Minerva, wrecked on what became known as South Minerva after setting out from Sydney in 1829. Many other ships would follow, for example the Strathcona, which was sailing north soon after completion in Auckland in 1914. In both cases most of the crew saved themselves in whaleboats or rafts and reached the Lau Islands in Fiji. Of some other ships, however, no survivors are known.
Both North and South Minerva Reefs are used as anchorages by yachts traveling between New Zealand and Tonga or Fiji. While waiting for favourable weather for the approximately 800-mile (1,300km) passage to New Zealand, excellent scuba diving, snorkelling, fishing and clamming can be enjoyed. North Minerva (Tongan: Teleki Tokelau) offers the more protected anchorage, with a single, easily negotiated, west-facing pass that offers access to the large, calm lagoon with extensive sandy areas. South Minerva (Tongan: Teleki Tonga) is in shape similar to an infinity symbol, with its eastern lobe partially open to the ocean on the northern side. Due to the lower reef and large entrance, the anchorage at South Minerva can be rough at high tide if a swell is running. The lagoon also contains numerous coral heads that must be avoided. While presenting an attractive area to wait out harsh weather occurring farther south, the Minerva reefs are not a good place to be when the weather is bad locally. This does not occur often, but it is important to maintain awareness of the situation and put to sea if necessary.
Scuba diving the outside wall drop-offs at the Minerva Reefs is spectacular due to the superb water clarity and extensive coral, fish and other marine life. There are few suspended particles and the visibility is normally in excess of 100 feet (30m) since there is no dry land at high tide. Of particular note are the numerous fan coral formations near the pass at North Minerva and the shark bowl area located by the narrow dinghy pass on the western lobe of South Minerva. The inside of the lagoon at South Minerva is also home to numerous giant clams. Divers at Minerva must be entirely self-sufficient, with their own compressor, and should also be aware that the nearest assistance is a multiple-day boat ride away in Tonga. Due to the vertical drop off and water clarity, divers must watch their depth carefully.
It is not known when the reefs were first discovered but had been marked on charts as “Nicholson’s Shoal” since the late 1820s. Capt H. M. Denham of the HMS Herald surveyed the reefs in 1854 and renamed them after the Australian whaler Minerva which collided with South Minerva Reef on 9 September 1829.
The Republic of Minerva was a micronation consisting of the Minerva Reefs. It was one of the few modern attempts at creating a sovereign micronation on the reclaimed land of an artificial island in 1972. The architect was Las Vegas real estate millionaire and political activist Michael Oliver, who went on to other similar attempts in the following decade. Lithuanian-born Oliver formed a syndicate, the Ocean Life Research Foundation, which allegedly had some $100,000,000 for the project and had offices in New York and London. They anticipated a libertarian society with “no taxation, welfare, subsidies, or any form of economic interventionism.” In addition to tourism and fishing, the economy of the new nation would include light industry and other commerce. According to Glen Raphael, “The chief reason that the Minerva project failed was that the libertarians who were involved did not want to fight for their territory.” According to Reason, Minerva has been “more or less reclaimed by the sea”.
In 1971, barges loaded with sand arrived from Australia, bringing the reef level above the water and allowing construction of a small tower and flag. The Republic of Minerva issued a declaration of independence on 19 January 1972, in letters to neighboring countries and even created their own currency. In February 1972, Morris C. Davis was elected as Provisional President of the Republic of Minerva.
The declaration of independence, however, was greeted with great suspicion by other countries in the area. A conference of the neighboring states (Australia, New Zealand, Tonga, Fiji, Nauru, Samoa, and territory of Cook Islands) met on 24 February 1972 at which Tonga made a claim over the Minerva Reefs and the rest of the states recognized its claim.
On 15 June 1972, the following proclamation was published in a Tongan government gazette:
A Tongan expedition was sent to enforce the claim the following day. It reached North Minerva on 18 June 1972. The Flag of the Tonga was raised on 19 June 1972 on North Minerva and on South Minerva on 21 June 1972.
Tongas claim was recognized by the South Pacific Forum in September 1972. Meanwhile, Provisional President Davis was fired by founder Michael Oliver and the project collapsed in confusion. Nevertheless, Minerva was referred to in O. T. Nelson’s post-apocalyptic children’s novel The Girl Who Owned a City, published in 1975, as an example of an invented utopia that the book’s protagonists could try to emulate.
In 1982, a group of Americans led again by Morris C. Bud Davis tried to occupy the reefs, but were forced off by Tongan troops after three weeks. In recent years several groups have allegedly sought to re-establish Minerva. No known claimant group since 1982 has made any attempt to take possession of the Minerva Reefs.
In 2005, Fiji made it clear that they did not recognize any maritime water claims by Tonga to the Minerva Reefs under the UNCLOS agreements. In November 2005, Fiji lodged a complaint with the International Seabed Authority concerning Tonga’s maritime waters claims surrounding Minerva. Tonga lodged a counter claim, and the Principality of Minerva micronation claimed to have lodged a counter claim. In 2010 the Fijian Navy destroyed navigation lights at the entrance to the lagoon. In late May 2011, they again destroyed navigational equipment installed by Tongans. In early June 2011, two Royal Tongan Navy ships were sent to the reef to replace the equipment, and to reassert Tonga’s claim to the territory. Fijian Navy ships in the vicinity reportedly withdrew as the Tongans approached.
In an effort to settle the dispute, the government of Tonga revealed a proposal in early July 2014 to give the Minerva Reefs to Fiji in exchange for the Lau Group of islands. In a statement to the Tonga Daily News, Lands Minister Lord Maafu Tukuiaulahi announced that he would make the proposal to Fiji’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola. Some Tongans have Lauan ancestors and many Lauans have Tongan ancestors; Tonga’s Lands Minister is named after Enele Ma’afu, the Tongan Prince who originally claimed parts of Lau for Tonga.
Area: North Reef diameter about 5.6 kilometres (3.5mi), South Reef diameter of about 4.8 kilometres (3.0mi). Terrain: two (atolls) on dormant volcanic seamounts.
Both Minerva Reefs are about 435 kilometres (270mi) southwest of the Tongatapu Group. The atolls are on a common submarine platform from 549 to 1,097 metres (1,801 to 3,599ft) below the surface of the sea. North Minerva is circular in shape and has a diameter of about 5.6 kilometres (3.5mi). There is a small sand bar around the atoll, awash at high tide, with a small entrance into the flat lagoon with a somewhat deep harbor. South Minerva is parted into The East Reef and the West Reef, both circular with a diameter of about 4.8 kilometres (3.0mi). Around both reefs are two small sandy cays, vegetated by low scrub and some trees[dubious discuss]. Several iron towers and platforms are reported to have stood on the atolls, along with an unused light tower on South Minerva, erected by the Americans during World War II.. Geologically, Minervan Reef is of a limestone base formed from uplifted coral formations elevated by now-dormant volcanic activity.
The climate is basically subtropical with a distinct warm period (DecemberApril), during which the temperatures rise above 32C (90F), and a cooler period (MayNovember), with temperatures rarely rising above 27C (80F). The temperature increases from 23C to 27C (74F to 80F), and the annual rainfall is from 170 to 297 centimeters (67-117 in.) as one moves from Cardea in the south to the more northerly islands closer to the Equator. The mean daily humidity is 80percent.
The Tuaikaepau (‘Slow But Sure’), a Tongan vessel on its way to New Zealand, became famous when it struck the reefs on 7 July 1962. This 15-metre (49ft) wooden vessel was built in 1902 at the same yard as the Strathcona. The crew and passengers survived by living in the remains of a Japanese freighter. There they remained for three months in miserable circumstances and several of them died. Finally Captain Tvita Fifita decided to get help. Without tools, he built a small boat from the wood left over from his ship. With this raft, named Malolelei (‘Good Day’), he and a few of the stronger crew members sailed to Fiji in one week.
Coordinates: 2338S 17854W / 23.633S 178.900W / -23.633; -178.900
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Posted: June 19, 2016 at 3:36 am
I first wrote about seasteading two years ago, shortly after the Seasteading Institute launched. The brainchild of Patri Friedman (grandson of Milton) and others, seasteading is a program for political reform based on a proliferation of self-governing ocean colonies. As I described it in 2008:
A key advantage of seasteads is what Friedman calls dynamic geography, the fact that any given seasteading unit is free to join or leave larger units within seasteading communities. Seasteading platforms would likely band together to provide common services like police protection, but with the key difference that any platform that was dissatisfied with the value it was receiving from such jurisdictions could leave them at any time. [Friedman] argues that this would move power downward, giving smaller units within society greater leverage to ensure the interests of their members are being served.
Seasteading is based on a delightfully bottom-up argument: that the problem with government is the lack of choice. If I dont like my job, my apartment, or my grocery store, I can easily pick up and go somewhere else. The threat of exit induces employers, landlords, and store owners, and the like to treat us well without a lot of top-down oversight. In contrast, switching governments is hard, so governments treat us poorly. Seasteaders aim to change that.
The pragmatic incrementalism of seasteading is also appealing. Friedman doesnt have to foment a revolution, or even win an election, to give seasteading a try. If he can just a few hundred people of the merits of his ideas, they can go try it without needing assistance or support from the rest of us. If the experiment fails, the cost is relatively small.
Yet seasteading is a deeply flawed project. In particular, the theory of dynamic geography is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the relationships among mobility, wealth creation, and government power. In a real-world seasteading community, powerful economic forces would cripple dynamic geography and leave seasteaders no freer than the rest of us.
To see the problem, imagine if someone developed the technology to transform my apartment building in Manhattan into a floating platform. Its owners could, at any time, float us out into the Hudson river and move to another state or country. Would they do it? Obviously not. They have hundreds of tenants who are paying good money to live in Manhattan. Wed be furious if we woke up one morning and found ourselves off the coast of South Carolina. Things get more, not less, difficult at larger scales. Imagine if Long Island (which includes the New York boroughs of Queens and Brooklyn and a lot of suburbs) were a huge ocean-going vessel. The residents of Long Island would overwhelmingly oppose moving; most of them have jobs, friends, familiy, churches, favorite restaurants, and other connections to the rest of the New York metro area. The value of being adjacent to Manhattan swamps whatever benefits there might be to being part of a state with lower taxes or better regulations.
Successful cities need a variety of infrastructureroads, electricity, network connectivity, water and sewer lines, and so forth. At small scales you could probably design this infrastructure to be completely modular. But that approach doesnt scale; at some point you need expensive fixed infrastructuremulti-lane highways, bridges, water mains, subway lines, power plantsthat only make economic sense if built on a geographically stable foundation. Such infrastructure wouldnt be feasible in a dynamic city, and without such infrastructure its hard to imagine a city of even modest size being viable.
I think the seasteaders response to this is that the advantages of increased liberty would be so large that people would be willing to deal with the inconveniences necessary to preserve dynamic geography. But heres the thing: The question of whether the advantages of freedom (in the leave me alone sense) outweigh the benefits of living in large urban areas is not a theoretical one. If all you care about is avoiding the long arm of the law, thats actually pretty easy to do. Buy a cabin in the woods in Wyoming and the government will pretty much leave you alone. Pick a job that allows you to deal in cash and you can probably get away without filing a tax return. In reality, hardly anyone does this. To the contrary, people have been leaving rural areas for high-tax, high-regulation cities for decades.
Almost no ones goal in life is to maximize their liberty in this abstract sense. Rather, liberty is valuable because it enables us to achieve other goals, like raising a family, having a successful career, making friends, and so forth. To achieve those kinds of goals, you pretty much have to live near other people, conform to social norms, and make long-term investments. And people who live close together for long periods of time need a system of mechanisms for resolving disputes, which is to say they need a government.
The power of governments rests not on the immobility of real estate, but from the fact that people want to form durable relationships with other people. The residents of a seastead city would be no more enthusiastic about dynamic geopgrahy than the residents of Brooklyn. Which means that the government of the city would have the same kind of power Mayor Bloomberg has. Indeed, it would likely have more power, because the seastead city wouldnt have New Jersey a few hundred yards away ready to take disaffected residents.
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Posted: June 12, 2016 at 8:24 pm
Although many utopian societies seem doomed from the outset, the Republic of Minerva was up against a unique challenge: creating a libertarian micro-nation on reclaimed reefs in the Pacific Ocean, when the land already had an owner.
Situated 250 miles from Tonga, the Republic of Minerva was conceived by wealthy Nevada real estate mogul Michael Oliver. According to Oliver, his organization the Ocean Life Research Foundation had raised $100 million to create a utopian society on Pacific reefs. Oliver’s plan was to create a micro-nation without taxes, welfare or economic intervention, that lived chiefly off of tourism and fishing.
In 1971, Minerva’s construction began by bringing barges of sand to the reefs to raise them out of the ocean. Oliver then led a conference of neighboring states in which he delcared his intentions, only to find out that Tonga had issued a claim over the land. At that point, Oliver and his organization jumped the gun a little bit. Ignoring other claims to Minerva, Oliver issued a declaration of independence and created a coin currency for his new nation and was all set to launch into his experiment in nation building.
Unfortunately, the King of Tonga did not accept the new country’s legitimacy, and issued a document laying official claim to the reefs. Within months, representatives from Tonga made it clear they were in control of the reefs, and Oliver and his followers left without a fight.
Since that time, a few other groups have tried to set up shop on the islands of Minerva, only to be rebuffed once again by the Tongan government. Almost all of the land brought to the reefs has since been reclaimed by the Pacific Ocean.
Posted: at 12:38 am
Seasteading is the libertarian fantasy of attempting to establish a society on (or under) the sea. Given that a large swath of the oceans are international waters, outside the jurisdiction of any one country, some people see seasteading as the most viable possibility for creating new, autonomous states with their own pet political systems in place.
Given that international maritime law doesn’t, as such, recognize ginormous boats or artificial islands as stateless enclaves or independent nations, diplomatic recognition, if the owners actually need it, is somewhat problematic.
Seasteading is inspired by real life examples of boat-based provision of services not legal in certain countries. Examples include casino boats (ships that, upon reaching international waters, open up their gambling facilities to passengers) and the organization Women on Waves,[wp] which provides abortion services in countries (such as Ireland, Poland, Portugal and Spain) where abortion is illegal or in which the rules are stricter than they would prefer. Another example is pirate radio stations, which got their name from the fact that many of them operated from boats in international waters.
Several seasteading projects have been started; only two have ever been completed (three if you count Sealand and its ‘Prince’), and the vast majority have never even really begun. It is quite possible that herding libertarians is difficult.
Some cryonicists are seasteaders, which implies truly remarkably compartmentalised thinking about the value of large, stable social structures.
As they age, some libertarians are realising that replacing government may be more work than they can personally achieve as actualised individuals.Reason, of course, tells them not to stop thinking about tomorrow.
With the exception of Sealand, there have been three seasteading projects that could be considered “successful” in any sense of the word.
The longest-lived and most successful was the “Republic of Minerva,” an artificial island in the South Pacific constructed by real estate millionare Michael J. Oliver and his Phoenix Foundation using dredged sand to expand the tiny Minerva Reef. The intention was to establish an agrarian anarcho-capitalist utopia; presumably the libertarian supermen would evolve past the need to drink, as there was no source of fresh water on the island. Minerva formally declared independence in 1972 and attempted to establish diplomatic relations with the surrounding nations, though it was mostly ignored. The small settlement lasted for approximately five months, until the government of Tonga sent a military expedition (along with a convict work detail, a brass band, and HRM King Taufaahau Tupou himself) to claim the island by force (or rather, re-claim it; the original reef had been considered a culturally important Tongan fishing region). In 1982 a second group of Libertarians tried to reclaim the atoll but were again forced off by the Tongan military. Since then, the project has collapsed, and the island has since been mostly reclaimed by the sea.
Unabashed, Oliver tried to funnel funds into various separatist groups and revolutionaries in the Bahamas and Vanuatu, but was met with extremely little success. Today, the Phoenix Foundation still chugs on, eyeing tiny islands like the Isle of Man and the Azores and grumbling to themselves.
Rose Island (officially the “Respubliko de la Insulo de la Rozoj”) was a 400-square-meter artificial platform in the Mediterranean founded by an Italian casino entrepreneur in 1968. It styled itself as a libertarian capitalist state with Esperanto as its official language, but was in fact little more than a tourist resort complex, and had virtually no space for permanent residents. The Italian government, seeing the project as nothing more than a ploy to avoid having to pay taxes on revenue from the resort, seized the platform with police a few weeks after it opened and destroyed it with explosives.
Operation Atlantis was an American attempt by Libertarian soap-magnate Werner K. Steifel to create an anarcho-capitalist utopia (noticing a trend here?) in the Bahamas by building a large ferro-cement ship, sailing it to its destination, anchoring it there and living on it. The boat was built, launched from New York in 1971, and (after capsizing once on the Hudson river and catching fire) taken to its final position in the Caribbean, where it was secured in place. Preparations were made for the residents to immigrate to their new floating city-state, but unfortunately for them it sank almost immediately. After two more attempts and eventually pouring a lot of money into an island off the coast of Belize that he couldn’t get autonomy for, the project collapsed.
Libertarians are hardly the only people to try and colonize the ocean. China, for instance, has used a version of seasteading in order to enforce its claims on the Spratly Islands, an archipelago in the South China Sea that’s claimed in whole or in part by six nations (the PRC, the ROC, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Brunei). They’ve been hard at work using land reclamation to build artificial islands with airstrips, piers, harbors, and helipads, which they say are for military “and civilian” use.
The video game Bioshock features what is probably the best-known example of a seastead in popular culture.
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Posted: May 9, 2016 at 7:41 am
The Arango Orillac Building where the Mossack Fonseca law firm is situated at inPanama City. The absence of any prominent US institutions or citizens in the first list of names revealed by the ICIJ has spurred rumours ranging from a conspiracy to media bias. (REUTERS)
From China censoring its social media to the Kremlin alleging a CIA conspiracy, the Panama Papers revelations have caused major ripples through global powers, with implicated world leaders denying allegations of wrongdoing.
The Panama Papers on Monday brought to light the shadowy world of offshore companies and how the rich and the famous hide their wealth from public view, with its first list of names including heads of state, celebrities, prominent businessmen and football stars.
Spearheaded by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), and worked on by over 100 media organisations through the world, the leaks place a Panama-based law firm, Mossack Fonseca, at the centre of the tangled web of shell companies and paper trails.
However, the information, or the blank spaces in between, has led to sharp criticism on social media, with many commenting on the lack of US names or banks in the list. Conspiracy theorists allege a western plot to destabilise Russian president Vladimir Putin, while others raised more serious concerns of media bias.
Corporate media protecting the 1%?
The only direct US link to the Panama Papers so far is that of financial writer and life coach Marianna Olszewski – who allegedly employed a 90-year-old British man as a stand in to mask funds she had confidentially invested in an offshore company.
The lack of any prominent US citizen or institutions name appearing on the list – that too despite the ICIJ listing 617 middlemen that Mossack Fonseca worked with in the United States – has begun to attract conspiracy theories and criticism.
One of the most searing criticisms has been that of Craig Murray, the former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, and a prominent human rights figure.
In a blog post on Monday, Murray said that German daily Suddeutsche Zeitung had made the dreadful mistake of turning to the western corporate media to publicise the results.
In consequence the first major story, published today by the Guardian, is all about Vladimir Putin and a cellist on the fiddle. As it happens I believe the story and have no doubt Putin is bent, Murray wrote.
But why focus on Russia? Russian wealth is only a tiny minority of the money hidden away with the aid of Mossack Fonseca. In fact, it soon becomes obvious that the selective reporting is going to stink.
Do not expect a genuine expose of western capitalism. The dirty secrets of western corporations will remain unpublished.
Murray points to the US-based ICIJs funders as being a reason why no American politician or public figure has been named so far.
Their funders include the Ford Foundation, the Carnegie Endowment, The Rockefeller Family Fund, the WK Kellogg Fund and the Open Society Foundation (Soros) – all significant (and significantly wealthy) industrial and corporate entities.
I know Russia and China are corrupt, you dont have to tell me that, writes Murray. What if you look at things that we might, here in the West, be able to rise up and do something about?
While Murrays points have more substance than, say, conspiracy theorists on social media, its more likely that no United States citizens have been named because of the sheer volume of data that needs to be analysed.
Nonetheless, questions about media bias have been raised onTwitter.
I’m not saying #Putin isn’t guilty of any wrongdoing, I’m just pointing out the framing of the #PanamaPapers suggests a clear media bias.
World leaders actually named in the #PanamaPapers but Putin, who is NOT named, is used by all media covering story? pic.twitter.com/nthb26QtTE
These #Panama leaks don’t mention Putin once. Yet MSM have somehow found him guilty of multiple crimes. Propaganda overload! ?? #BlamePutin
Read: Panama Papers: N Korea shell companies funding nuclear weapons surface
Among the most high-profile names implicated in the leaks was Russian president Vladimir Putin. While the Russian leader was not directly named in the Panama Papers, some of his closest associates including Sergei Roldugin, godfather to Putins daughter Maria, and Yuri Kovalchuk, Bank Rossiyas biggest shareholder, were.
The leak exposes the offshore holdings of 12 current and former world leaders and reveals how associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin secretly shuffled as much as $2 billion through banks and shadow companies, the ICIJ wrote, while The Guardian on Monday led with how Putins closest friends had operated a network of companies and banks to allegedly create a slush fund for the former-KGB spy.
Read:Journalists working on Panama papers ex-CIA operative: Kremlin
Russia, unsurprisingly, has denied the allegations, with a spokesperson for the Kremlin saying that the leaks were a result of a CIA-backed anti-Putin campaign; a statement which has found vociferous support among Twitter users
Only very naive and stupid people open off-shore accounts in #Panama which is controlled by the CIA. #PanamaLeaks
Its obvious the main aim of this dump is our president in the context of parliamentary elections and, in the longer term, presidential elections… Its obvious the barbs of this attack are directed against our country and, personally, against our president, Dmitry Peskov said on Monday, according to RCB News.
The degree of Putinophobia has reached such a level that youre just not allowed to say good things about Russia or about Russias successes. The bad things that you have to talk about, Peskov added.
One of the few other Russian officials to address the sensational claims was Andrei Kostin, the head of state-owned banking giant VTB.
Mr. Putin was never involved. Its bullshit, Kostin said in an interview with Bloomberg on Monday.
Watch | The Panama Papers leak explained
Meanwhile, China also appears to be censoring social media posts about the Panama Papers leak which has named several members of Chinas elite, including President Xi Jinpings brother-in-law, Deng Jiagui.
The ICIJ shows Deng as having registered two companies in 2009; around about the same time that Jinping was rising in power.
An investigative report by Bloomberg News in 2012 revealed that Deng and his wife had hundreds of millions of dollars in real estate, share holdings and other assets.
Hundreds of posts on networks such as Sina Weibo and Wechat on the topic have been deleted since Monday morning.
The website Freeweibo.com, which actively tracks censorship on Weibo, listed Panama as the most censored term on the network.
The American angle
Given that the ICIJ has listed 617 middlemen in the US, it would be surprising, to say the least, if American figures were not linked to the growing scandal.
The law firm, which helped its clients (including firms subject to sanctions, such as in North Korea and Syria) set up offshore companies, came into the spotlight after more than 11 million of its internal files were leaked to German daily Suddeutsche Zeitung.
Zeitung then approached the ICIJ, which helped organise a 9-month long global investigation into the leaked files, the results of which were made public on Monday.
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Censorship, CIA and no US citizens: Panama Papers …