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Internet Intelligence?

Of course the title of this entry might immediately invoke thoughts that the phrase itself is oxymoronic.  Is there in fact intelligent life on the Internet?  What with the inane information on Facebook and Tweeter one could make the case that the Internet is nothing but a salvage yard of useless ideas.  But one can only hope that it also provides a useful tool for the betterment of Mankind.   Today there is a countless plethora of data flowing across the Internet that runs our economies, industries and even our personal financial affairs not to mention our personal personal affairs.   The news outlets of all stripe have been filled the last few weeks with stories about breaches of security on Banks, governments, militaries, and even the Internet providers themselves.   The hacking exposure threatens identity theft and our national security and vital infrastructure such as utilities, airlines, banks and government agencies of all kinds.    We are being spied on in the Internet and spying is all about gathering Intelligence by crooks or enemies to cause of loss or harm.  Such spying and threats to our economy is not new.  We’ve had an “Internet” for millennia and societies have worried about its breach of security from the beginning of time.

The modern version of the Internet moves with the speed of light and carries more data but it is in theory and actuality no more than an updated adaptation to the collection and use of information that Man has employed since recorded time.   Since Biblical times Man has wanted to spy on foreign lands and societies to advance their hopes of conquest or trade relations.  The very oceans and seas are a vast “Internet” of flowing information as are all the ancient trades routes across the continents of the Northern Hemisphere.  Before the Jews began their advance into the promised land they sent forth spies to check things out, to steal information about the possible opponents and to report on the economic promise of the foreign lands.  History is replete with such missions from China to Western Europe.  Travelers from far lands were prized because of the intelligence they could bring back with their exploits and even the ordinary events of the day were newsworthy to those running the economies.   This all started as soon as we moved out of the caves into settled communities and cities.   People reached out and brought back information–intelligence.  It was slower than today but there was a pretty constant stream of information to digest and access to that information was a treasure to governments and traders and even the man on the street because it affected the availability and price of goods and luxury items.

In Roman days the Mediterranean Sea was one large Internet connection.  Ships plied those waves constantly and with those ships flowed information about new crops, mineral supplies, wars, preparation for wars, building of fleets for invasions, plagues and the overthrow of governments.  The first ship from Alexandria to Ostia (port for Rome) that brought news of the grain crops along the Nile for that season had a real advantage for those buying and selling the crops and the Roman government itself wanted this information.  Of course, just as today on the Internet you had to use judgement to discern the truth of the reports; false information made its way across the seas then just as it does through the Cloud today.   There was closely guarded “trade secrets” held by many in the world of commerce and the governments.  The shoals, reefs, bays of all locations around the world were vital for commerce and wars, in addition to the actual news brought to land.  More than once a foreign fleet was foiled in an attempt to conquer a particular land because they ran aground due to lack of accurate knowledge about local conditions.  The Greeks at Syracuse, the Spanish Armada, the Persians at port of Athens are only a few such examples.

In times past maps were closely guarded by those employing them.  They were a huge advantage for both trade and war and the mapmakers were often hired directly by the King or the most powerful of the commercial traders and the mapmakers were in a dangerous business if suspicion fell on them for letting the maps fall into the “wrong” hands.   Foreigners coming to a local port were almost always required to utilize local pilots to guide the ships through the last few miles to avoid the reefs, shoals and headlands and dock safely at port.  That practice continues to this day mostly for different reasons.  Ships going through the Panama Canal for example are steered through there by the captains but by local pilots familiar with the lay of the land as it were.   And it protects local jobs and inc0me.  When explorers figured out a new route for trade they didn’t come home and announce all the details to the world, they said I can show you how to make money using my knowledge of a new route.  They were reluctant to reveal the information to their sponsors just as Columbus was with Isabella and Ferdinand.

Mankind has always had a flow of valuable and vital information that could cause harm if revealed to a party no intended to be the recipient.  It just moved slower but was a steady drumbeat of data.   The Carthaginians long prior to Alexander the Great had a trade route through the Straits of Gibraltar to Cornwall in England for the tin which they brought back for bronze production.  It was valuable information and they kept it secret as long as they could.  They sure didn’t reveal the details of the route to their historical ancestors the Phoenicians.  By Alexander age a Greek from Marseilles found the same route on an epic voyage of discovery and the world suddenly had two sources of tin but by then the Iron Age had arrived.

The technology has changed rather dramatically but the flow of data across and around the world is nothing new at all and the desire to hold such information close the vest of the recipient is nothing new.  As has been said, knowledge is power.  Thus the counter force of spying or hacking we call it today.

“The first destroyer of the liberties of a people is he who first gave them bounties and largesses.”  Plutarch, Greek historian.  http://www.olcranky.wordpress.com


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2 Cents Worth On Life Its Ownself

Let’s go right to work.  At these prices I can’t afford to spend time lingering….

All those that are surprised that Putin favors BO to win the election hold up your hands.  You do recall BO’s captured comments by the open mike when he told old Med that Vladimir should just be patient until the election and then BO would have more “flexibility dealing with Russia.  Of course Vladimir wants someone in the White House he can rollover.   In the meantime the Russkies don’t help with Iran or Syria or, well, where exactly are they being supportive?

Don’t take my scepticism for much weight regarding the whole issue of man-made global warming but you are encouraged to read the letter to the WSJ about three weeks ago on that topic.  We are constantly bombarded with the idea that the science is established that such a phenomenon exist.  That letter is by three very distinguished scientist and some at those elite Eastern schools.  They decry the lack of scientific purity in the research on the subject and posit that the subject has become captive to conclusions before data analysis.  Indeed the entire “green” movement has become its own industry.  The last thing they would want is for the world to solve the problem.  Then they would have nothing to do and frankly those cushy jobs with institutes, foundations and charities supporting the green agenda would disappear.  Their raison d’etre would be gone.

A footnote to the above topic.  You note that just in the last week the battle has begun over the huge solar panel projects planned for the deserts of the West.  That big project in California has already drawn opposition by three green groups talking about the environmental damage such a large solar array will have on the area.  Interestingly they also take the position that there is no evidence to support the notion that solar energy would improve the environment.  One of their arguments is that working the desert earth would release more methane and other harmful elements into the atmosphere than would be eliminated by the solar project.  These aren’t right-wing Tea Party types opposing the project.  Ah, ain’t watching the human play fascinating.  Wonder if we are in Act III yet.

We note that Biden has only given 2% of his income for charities.   Guess he couldn’t afford more with the expense of his hair transplants and all that dental and orthodontic work.

Bush was the epitome of evil for keeping all those poor terrorists in Gitmo but BO is still works on water and calms the seas even though he has followed the same policy for nigh on 4 years.  Don’t believe for a minute he needs some kind of Congressional approval for closing it down.  He is commander-in-chief and can order the military to do whatever he wants with those prisoners whether we like it or not.  He could release them tomorrow or send them to any other of our military bases around the world if he really wanted that.

Well, we have the announcement from Europe that the ECB will save the day a la our own Fed by printing up more Euros to support the Spanish, Italians, our Greek friends and assorted others.   They say they will do it in s “sterilized” fashion.  By that they mean that they won’t be printing more money and increasing the size of their balance sheet.  Allegedly they will sell other assets to make the new purchases.  But you let me know if you have seen an explanation of exactly how that will work and what assets they will redeem to buy the new bonds to support the Euro.  Those minor details have not been reported yet in the WSJ or Financial Times or any of the business news channels.  Conclusion–they are hiding the ball and will in fact just print more money.  After all if they didn’t then they wouldn’t accomplish what they view as they mission in this crisis.   Of course we hoi polloi just aren’t sophisticated enough to understand high finance right and they sure don’t want to trust us with plain language or simple truths.    I really believe that you could take an Italian or French politician and stick them into our Democrat party and you wouldn’t notice any change.

I am NOT a birther person.  Don’t hyperventilate.  But all that discussion did cause a new look at the Constitution.  Under the 20th amendment it would seem that if there is a serious question regarding the qualifications to be President and those are timely raised that an “elected” President would be denied his office and the Vice President would take the office at least until his qualifications were proved or removed.  Just read the amendment for yourself, it is pretty plain.   The presumptive President has to be “qualified” to assume office.

Just a word to the wise and those who want to make informed investment decisions–keep a constant eye on the Baltic Dry Index.  It monitors the shipping of hard goods and basic commodities.  Four years or so ago it was at 11,000, now it is at 675.  It is down over 60% just year to date.  Iron ore which is a fundamental item for all economies is down over 30% this year in shipments.  China ain’t buying much at all and has ample inventories.   Thus Australia is beginning to slow down significantly because it supplies the bulk of iron ore and coal to China.  No one else around the world is picking up the slack, not in South America or anywhere else.  Steel, lots of steel, is necessary for any thriving economy.  Until that Baltic Dry Index starts moving up big time the world economy will continue to languish.  All the other headlines are interesting and should be watched because monetary policy can help or screw things up badly, but bottom line you need that steel production to go up or we are just treading water at best.

You think Clint wasn’t a big hit at the Republican convention?  Well, the next week Smith and Wesson stock shot up about 15%.   He made their day.

“Newspapers nowadays use facts merely as the raw material of propaganda.   By suppression, or alteration, or overemphasis , or by the trick of false perspective, or by scare headlines and editorial comment, the “facts” are made to convey exactly the particular idea which the newspaper desires to suggest to its readers”.  P. Gibbs, English novelist, 1944.  http://www.olcranky.wordpress.com

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Capitalist Traders Then And Now

There are those occupying Wall Street and railing against capitalism but at the same time almost all of them worship Zuckerberg and Jobs as celebrities. Needless to say they also don’t say anything negative about rap “singers” earning millions a year. They seem to be very selective about which rich folks they dislike. They don’t like people who buy and sell things that is for sure. But there have been Zuckerberg’s and Jobs for most of recorded history and we and our ancestors have been the beneficiary of their vision and risks they took.

If we turn back the clock to the very early 16th century we find two cousins in Portugal, one named Serrao and the other Magalhaes. They were what we would call upper middle class but far from wealthy. The age of exploration was in full flower; this was only a few years after the third voyage of discovery of Columbus. They wanted adventure, riches and to push the envelope. They both shipped out to the then brand new trading area for Portugal in India which was in its infancy. They went and fought in numerous battles there and Magalhaes was wounded and sent back home but after healing he was bored and shipped out again for India and parts east. This next campaign with his cousin Serrao in tow went all the way to Malacca on the western coast of modern Malaysia. It was then the major entrepot, or trading and transition port for the eastern silks, porcelain and spices from the East–China and the Spice Islands. There the locals planned an surprise attack on the five Portuguese ships. Magalhaes captain grew suspicious and sent him to warn the command ship and turns out he did in just the nick of time. He and the others repelled the borders and drove off the other attackers. Some of the Portuguese were onshore at the time. All were killed except one–Serrao. It was his cousin who rescued him from the beach at the last moment in a row boat. The fleet retreated but not forever.

Magalhaes was promoted and the fleet returned in 1510 and seized Malacca and all its riches. But cousins did very well financially because of their share of the nutmeg, mace, cinnamon and cloves taken as part of the booty. Magalhaes decided to return home and enjoy life; Serrao wanted one more try for even more adventure and riches. Serrao joined the expidition to the Spice Islands about 1800 miles farther east. The Spice Islands are south of the Philippines, just west of New Guinea. The trip was initially successful and the three ships were loaded to the gills. Indeed the commander had so overloaded Serrao ship that it foundered on a nearby reef. Serrao was able to save much of the crew and they returned to the islands were he went “native” and became an advisor to the local king of Ternate, one of the Spice Islands and had the good life but remote.

Meanwhile back home Magalhaes grew bored quickly and by 1512 went to war again this time in Morocco where he was again badly wounded and returned home with a limp for life. He was also accused of pilfering the army/navy supplies for his own benefit but was tried and cleared of those charges. Amazingly, during the time period and the time after his return from Morocco he received letters from his cousin given all sorts of details about the Spice Islands and local navigation details and crop availability. They were erratic but constant over the years. It would take a year for some letters to arrive from a return voyage of a Portuguese ship. Magalhaes also studied everything he could find in the local library about navigation and studied navigation under one of the era’s masters of that art. He was an “expert” on the Spice Islands even though he had not been there.

Because the Pope had adjusted the demarcation line, moving it 800 miles farther west Magalhaes now concluded (wrongfully) that the Spice Islands were in the Spanish portion of the division. He had appealed to the Portuguese King to allow him to lead a mission going west to reach them rather than around the Cape of Good Hope at Africa’s southern tip which had been the Portuguese route for a couple of decades. After rejection in Portugal he took his pitch to the Spanish court and his proposal was accepted. He started his adventure in 1519 with five ships and was going to round what would become Cape Horn. Like Columbus he had miscalculated the circumference of the earth and the voyage was far longer than he imagined.

His expedition did round the Horn and made into the Pacific and explored many islands as they kept trying to make their way to the Spice Islands the riches they could reap there. Magalhaes encountered many obstacles and dangerous situations and finally met his fate in the Philippines by the spear of native there on the beach. Curiously, his cousin also died within weeks of him and “only” a few hundred miles away. He was poisoned by the King of Ternate who had become jealous of his power and suspected his ambitions. Of the five ships that left Spain only two managed to drop anchor in the Spice Islands and they loaded their holds with cloves, indeed they again overloaded. Only the Victoria finally made it back to Portugal. Of the 265 men that began the adventure only 31 were aboard the Victoria upon its return. In spite of the enormous expense in those days to outfit such and expedition, the cloves in the hold of the Victoria brought enough profits to pay for the entire mission and the loss of the other ships.

The man killed on the beach in the Philippines is best known in American history books as Magellan. He changed his name to a Spanish Magallanes and in turn the English version of Magellan. Our history books give him a couple of sentences and say he was the first to go around the earth. Well, the expedition did, he didn’t make it and it was for trade that he made the adventure. He was on the cutting edge of commercial development of his day, an entrepreneur and innovator. The real story of historical figures is often far more interesting than the “fifteen minutes of fame” blurbs that become the accepted totality of the life.

Hey, the avowed socialist finance minister of France under Hollande is on to something. He is quoted this week as saying that a government that keeps adding debt is just making the country poorer. Hmm, wish our own closed socialist in the White House could get his head around that concept. The BO budget calls for another 9 trillion increase in our debt over the next decade, in addition to the 16 trillion we already have. www.olcranky.wordpress.com

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