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Few people understand futures and options contracts on the open market, if one could call it that.  Essentially, what we humans do is write on a piece of paper a price and a date for commodities such as oranges (Think Eddie Murphy in Trading Places), coffee, pork bellies, grain, and the most talked about today-oil.  The futures pit used to be a place to hedge bets against a bad crop or to ensure future supplies at a pre-negotiated price.  In this era, less than 1% of all futures contracts written will ever see the light of day in delivery of those items.  It is all about shuffling the paper to stick the other guy with the speculative prices that a few million dollars has jacked-up.  It isn’t like the stock market where millions of shares worth hundreds of billions can be manipulated and are….but not as easily.  Leverage my friends is the “Power of the Schwartz” that allow few to make millions and now as the opportunists see the advantage of that leveraging, they are throwing their fund’s dollars at the commodities in anticipation of the same stupid hopes that the housing market counted on-that nothing ever goes down.

Now pretty brunettes can espouse all they want on CNBC about how the “free market” sets these prices and to dare to tamper with this “free enterprise” would be akin to sacrilege and completely throw our capitalist standards to the wind- forever shall we be damaged.  Never mind we’ve been adjusting the rules of the “free market” ever since there was a free market.  Derivatives did their damage in the nineties and those same geniuses brought us the CDO’s and other money-making “instruments” designed to ensure profit and lure in millions of investment dollars to make millions more in speculative endangerment to our species.  What the hell ever happened to investment?  One would buy a stock to invest in the future of a company, not buy a future to hope to put it to someone else on the food chain before time runs out.  These same talking brunettes tell you that it is demand and supply, and to a certain extent it is, however prices for oil have exploded in the face of less demand here and abroad.  How is it that we allow a small group of speculators to set the prices for oil that Exxon executives love to point to when questioned?  Because we are irrational idiots.  These are professional horse traders not oil men, drillers, refiners, wildcatters, and have well-manicured nails with no calluses on their hands.  They are toying with our financial system.

Here’s a possible solution for oil futures:

1.  One can only buy contracts of tanker loads with a minimum 250,000 DWT (Dead Ton Weight)

2. Any new futures contract must be bought at a time period at least 15 days out, not for that day of purchase.  Anyone holding older contracts can sell them but only in the month of expiration.

3. An oil futures contract cannot be traded until that contract month begins.

4.  Any contract that does not trade must take delivery at expiration. (Just have that tanker show up on the East River outside their palatial condo)

5. Apply similar standards to all other futures contracts in varying degrees.

 Now I guarantee you that prices on all commodities will fall to their real level of worth within days and oil will be at $50 a barrel overnight.  Too bad those who make all that money at the expense of our national economy don’t give a damn about their own country as much as they do about making profits at the expense of their country and country-men and women.  If they try to move the exchange to overseas, then we negotiate with that government to put the same rules in place.  It is to their advantage to do so and we give them enough foreign aid to help them keep illegal speculation at bay.  It would be cheaper than finding Bin Laden.

We need to take our futures back, now!

 

This article may be reproduced in all or part with permission as long the author credits are maintained.

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 Ray Kurzweil, a digital genius in his own right, ingests close to 200 different vitamins and extracts a day, employing a person who does nothing but handle the dissemination of the proper pills at the proper times.  It is his attempt at longevity; longevity to keep him alive for fifty more years.  Kurzweil, has been a pioneer in the invention and application of speech recognition technology, optical character recognition (OCR), text-to-speech synthesis,  and the most popular electronic keyboard instruments in music. He is the author of several books his latest, “The Singularity is Near.”  A production company has purchased the motion picture rights to The Singularity is NearFantastic Voyage, andThe Age of Spiritual Machines including the rights to Kurzweil’s life and ideas for the film Transcendent Man. To quote his public relations release on his latest book “The Singularity Is Near” portrays what life will be like after this event a human-machine civilization where our experiences shift from real reality to virtual reality and where our intelligence becomes non-biological and trillions of times more powerful than unaided human intelligence. In practical terms, this means that human aging and pollution will be reversed, world hunger will be solved, and our bodies and environment transformed by nanotechnology to overcome the limitations of biology, including death.”  Now there’s a pretty impressive release, but for Kurzweil it is “a matter of fact.”

Indeed, if there are long term solutions to the problematic issues of continued human existence fighting nature and ourselves on two different fronts, taking artificial intelligence and transferring our “engrams” or electrical impulses of who we are in essence, could have the potential for immortality and perhaps finally-long term wisdom.  Now, the question is “who gets to have the dubious privilege of living forever?”  Is this the final fight to decide who rules and who is decimated or are will we ever be able to co-exist with each other?

That is the ultimate question.  Without the dependency on biological degradation, who wouldn’t want to live forever?  That question beckons a whole new set of dangers as well as philosophical ponderings.  It may happen in the near future – it is no doubt happening in some government lab right now.

That is the ultimate question.  Without the dependency on biological degradation, who wouldn’t want to live forever?  That question beckons a whole new set of dangers as well as philosophical ponderings.  It could happen in the near future or who knows-it is not doubt being tested in some government lab right now. Extending the human race’s capability to race to the stars is important as we only have so much time left in our sun’s capability to produce fusionable energy before it burns out, or some other calamity occurs.  We need to establish other possible alternatives to allow our species to live on; we owe it to ourselves.  We may have a billion years before that happens, and some would say it doesn’t matter we will become extinct by our own hands, and that may be true, however, I vote for life to continue living at all costs.  It will happen sooner than you think and I wish I was born now – in the era that will change the longevity of humanity forever.

There are at least two different schools of thought on this issue.  One has a vested interested in how it all turns out for profitability and survival, and the other wants content and intellectual ideas to become available for a cost close to free as possible, if not completely free.  The parties are on opposite sides of the pendulum and archaic laws that never were designed to handle the “immortality” of human expression in art have been altered slightly to accommodate Disney and the mouse money to be generated in the billions-for years to come.

Rather than argue laws, let’s debate common sense or what’s left of it here in the infancy of interconnectability.  What I’m writing right now as you read this is a culmination of my experience, education, and imagination.  It is by law, owned by me and supposedly not to be redistributed, copied, or reproduced without my permission.  The “Fair Use” doctrine holds that I can be quoted on various media in small part by anyone so long as the proper crediting is maintained -as this being an original “work” as defined by the original copyright statute.  We all know damn well that this will appear on mirror blogs, lifted by automatic reaper spiders, cut and pasted in whole or part by individuals without any such adherence to the above laws.  Why is that?   What is the cause of such “free for all” attitudes and practices?  Look no further than the humans we are.

The day mimeographs (and that strange compelling smell) were doomed by Xerox we opened the gates to a pilfering society.  The ease of theft was promoted by technology, sort of like having automatic glass doors that open on infrared sensors instead of steel security entrances to bank vaults that are 24 inches thick.  Why wouldn’t you just walk in and take a few bundles for your needs?  Ah yes, but then the needs turn into wants that turn into human basic instinct of insatiable greed –as long as there are no repercussions– stuff your pockets full while you can.  Computer technologies are the automatic glass doors, and when was the last time you cut and pasted someone else’s music, photos, research, or content and emailed it to someone else?  How many minutes ago?

I have read articles on giving content away and how it will supposedly promote the sale of books, music, and the like.  I can only react quizzically as I see how well that works with blogs.  No one pays for blogs and all the advertising in the world isn’t going to really compensate you for your effort, although there are some ingenious few that can wring money from Google-but that’s more of a function of commerce merging with know-how than art for art’s sake.  Remember “Net Zero,” the free web portal? That didn’t last long-so much for advertising paying the way for “free content.”  Musical groups have fought on both ends of this philosophy, the most impressive for me being the most magnanimous and “free” bands of all time.  You could tape them in concert, exchange them with your friends pre-internet, and up until last year there was a data base for every concert they ever played in the last 40 years-completely free for your downloading pleasure.  Then something happened.  The surviving members totally disagreed on how to further proceed with this free-wheeling philosophy and shut the access down to free downloading.  No more burning and exchanging live concert experiences-and that had turned into a huge non-profit enterprise.  Fans that just wanted more of their favorite band, were willing to buy new CD’s but there were none after Jerry Garcia died in 1995.  A new production company took over the immense vault of all the shows of the last 40 years and there is no further free downloading of old Grateful Dead concerts.  That prevailing philosophy is what this is all about.  For the first time in our history we can preserve all art that is viable for profit as it’s immortality is somewhat assured by the digitization of it, for hundreds, possibly thousands of years.  It is now possible to have the heirs of this art to pass the profits of these works to their children’s children.  Is this not a good thing?  Which side of this would you stand if you were the person involved in doing the actual work that made all this possible?

The problem is that we are trying to cope with this prolonged copyright protection with such a heavy hand, we are ignoring and doing harm to those who want to use such works to enhance and create new art from the ashes.  For example, I recently tried to get permission for use of music over 35 years old for use in an audio book, as the my book “Only Moments” utilized music of different eras as a thread because the book was about two musicians in love and their lives that spanned over decades.  The Harry Fox Agency in New York is supposed to handle these types of (what we used to call “needle drops” on an actual record) snippets but after months of futile emails to their legal department, they would only defer to the original publishers.  Now, we are talking about a possible audio book that may sell about 100 copies if successful, and to hire someone to flush out 16 different publishers for permission to use 6-10 seconds maximum per song (of songs that are 35 years old) is not only expensive and time consuming, but the attempts were ludicrous.  By the time I had contacted four of publishers there was so much paperwork and confusion, it just wasn’t worth the effort.  So much for a fun project that would have been unique.  Why?  Because the intensive protection prohibits further creativity to use an art form from the past to enhance a new piece of art.  I’m not about to expose myself to a legal liability that could cost me tens of thousands of dollars to be made an example by those corporate lawyers who chose to be vicious.  The prosecuted cases of illegally downloading music cost some children’s parents and grandmothers incredible amounts of money in the recent past.  I would have gladly handed over a small fee for a small project but there is no structure for this type of consideration.  I know this affects people who shoot video for weddings, events, and corporate training, but legally they cannot use any music other than purchasing licensed musical “beds” that are available and generally work only with radio commercials.

I understand the need for making money.  I would like some protection myself, however there are extremes and at some point if we expect to have everything free, then the motivation to create art, to dedicate one’s life to do so-becomes possible for only those who have been financially endowed by rich parents or some such trust fund.  You can have my ear for my art, but I draw the line at my reproductive system.  Of course if it’s already past functioning ability, then what difference would it make to me?  There has to be a legal middle road here, I don’t like driving at night without headlights.

Here’s the latest irony of the issue.  The Chicago Digital Rights Agency recently gave recently deceased multi-media artist Ed  Paschke an award for his acheivements in art.  Take a look at his art.  It is mostly using other’s images and photos that have been altered or inserted into other media.  Is this not copyright infringment?  http://www.edpaschke.com/  And that’s an award from an agency committed to protect copyrights.  It get silly when you start to think about DVD’s being produced in China, fake clothing lines, and all other intellectual property.  Hell, I wear a fake Rolex because if I could afford a real one I’d be afraid that someone would rob me of it.  This one costs $350 and I bought it not because it is a status item, but because I like the way it looks and I don’t have to worry about it being forcibly taken from me.  But whatever reason I have, it doesn’t take the issue away.  The fact that there are positive aspects to copyright infringement doesn’t make it any more illegal by present law.  The enhancement of knowledge is created by building on the past and always has.  The digitization of knowledge may inhibit such knowledge growth by the laws passed by those who stand to profit forever on concepts they essentially stole from someone else as well.  Everything comes from some source, my own writing is heavily influenced by authors of the past and present that I have absorbed into my being.  It is a difficult thing to take control over and be fair, as in fair use.

After all is said, we are talking about business and the business of business is business.  In the words of Milton Friedman the famous United States’ economist, “there is no free lunch,” no matter how good it looks, smells, no matter how bad you want it…..eventually, we all pay the price.  I don’t mind paying a price as long as it doesn’t prohibit the progression of knowledge and expansion of the arts.

Now, if you want to reproduce all or part of this article you have my permission, as if you needed it anyway.

 

Next-Part III- Immortality, the Ultimate Goal

The first thing one has to look at as to where we are now, is how we’ve arrived here.  The frenzied pace of news, information, research, gaming, and other bytes funneling down the fibers at the speed of light are a culmination of technologies past, and those technologies were the result of human desire for expansion of our awareness, need for better survival and lifestyle upgrades as well as a longer life.  We seem to have reached a plateau of human ability to use these tools to further our personal “awareness” and technology is now on a global path that further enhances the differences between countries that will survive the depletion of traditional resources, of natural disasters, and of various other history-altering circumstances such as war, surprise obliterations, and the like.  Oh, you say, “but we’ve achieved such high standards of communication now, through our growth of technology.”  One should never confuse education with knowledge.  If you really want to know what it is like to be human, look at how we have taken incredible advances to kill each other will the most proficiency in human history.  In fact, technology is indeed linked directly with human history, from the first stoning to laser-tracked smart bombs.  Look at how we are now able to track anything or anyone on the planet, except those who have the power to not be tracked.  Our education system is in shambles brought down by the common denominator of “grading curves” so none be left behind.  We’ve completely allowed our institutions to promote and hand diplomas to those who cannot read or write, much less know what year our country was founded.  We have allowed this nation to be run by squawking heads of know-it-alls; political parties that care nothing but self-survival; bellowing blowhards that take themselves so seriously while proporting to be harmless.  These are the “shards of intellect” of spun sound bytes that people support like their favorite football teams.  And finally, we have mindless fools with their hands on the big red button.

So, to get back on track somewhat- we have pocket cell phones that dial us in (funny how that term still exists even though I haven’t seen a dial phone in 25 years) to the world of information.  Phones that allow us to see each other, talk across the world with instant access.  And what is the biggest feature that our aware, educated kids use?  Texting.  Why?  There is no personal contact, just what looks like apparent secretive communication, because safety exists in the shadows.  Now, think about the big picture.  Forget kids and cell phones, think big kids with super-secret encoding devices and war machines that can annihilate at a moment’s notice.  The messages stay the same throughout history.  Humans do not become more emotionally mature from generation to generation, they do not learn to rationalize any easier or quicker than their forebearers.  The difference is that the rapid technology leaves less time to ponder and balance thoughts before acting and now with digitization of those emotions, those thoughts and actions can be cloned in nano-seconds  (Think about that email you sent that you wished you hadn’t).  Now, do we all feel safer in this world?  Combine this with the mass-educational standards at an all time low and you have a time bomb ticking.  Can you hear it as well as I?  The one solace is that struggling is part of the human condition, so as the strong survive, we may eventually get back to that Darwinian standard through no choice of our own.  That road may have us speaking a new mixture of languages as the victor counts the spoils, a lesson we let go by the wayside by funding our own enemies with the dollars of old technology allowing them the access to the big red button.  No one wants to think about it really.  They care not of our sense of fair play (at least the cultural principles that we say we have) and have grudges to settle and have been waiting patiently thousands of years. Note I’m not singling out any particular country, you can pick your own over-reacting one from a long list.

The end result is always good for some-bad for others and inevitably, it is what it will be.  Everyone is magnanimous until their lives are drasticallly affected.  Answers are not readily available and the high seas are fraught with danger.  There’s more booty than movies and music to be pirated.

I’m sure there is some quasi-goverment think-tank for understanding and promoting the positive global effects of these lightning-quick responses due to digitization and the responsibility that comes with it.  Hopefully, it does more that build a “War Games” WOPR super-computer to minimize the outcome.  It affects much more than just copyrights.

Next-The Copyright and Arts Issues