RICHMOND -- A Richmond police officer is facing criticism and anger Monday for a Twitter comment he made about Internet hackers.
Angry posts on the Facebook pages of the Richmond Police Department and the Contra Costa Times are criticizing the officer for his Jan. 26 tweet about a hacker attack on the Ultimate Fighting Championship website.
"Get those hacking (expletive). I'm a cop in the bay area CA. (sic) I would go at them with both guns!" Richmond police Sgt. Mike Rood wrote via Twitter to UFC President Dana White.
The hacker group Anonymous and its supporters viewed the comment as a criminal threat, and called for the department to punish Rood.
"In his tweet, he expresses his desire to use firearms to deal with problematic people," several posters wrote on the Contra Costa Times' Facebook page, apparently copying a form letter. "I fear for the safety of the citizens of Richmond after seeing such irresponsible action displayed by one of its very own police officers."
Richmond police Capt. Mark Gagan would not confirm the identity of the officer, citing state privacy protections, or discuss
particulars of the case. He said the department received a flood of complaints beginning Monday evening.
"We are well aware of the response people have had to the situation," Gagan said. "We are opening an investigation, and we will get to the bottom of it. If there were policy violations, we will deal with it appropriately."
Rood's tweet apparently referenced an attack by a hacker group last week on the UFC website.
The UFC is a sports organization that promotes professional mixed martial arts fights, and has aggressively pursued piracy in the courts, according to mmajunkie.com, a site that promotes mixed martial arts.
Recently, the UFC site published an editorial supporting the controversial anti-piracy bills SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (Protect IP). In response, hackers defaced the site and publicized the personal information of White, including phone number, Social Security number and current and past addresses.
However, a Las Vegas woman who does not know White told FOX 5 Vegas last weekend that her telephone number and address were apparently included in that file, and she received more than 500 harassing phone calls.
In an interview posted Jan. 26 on mmajunkie.com, White said, "I said a couple years ago piracy is a serious issue to us, and we are going after it guns a blazin.'"
The following legislation has been edited in terms of its formatting.
HOUSE BILL NO. 1160 Offered January 16, 2012 A BILL to prevent any agency, political subdivision, employee, or member of the military of Virginia from assisting an agency or the armed forces of the United States in the investigation, prosecution, or detainment of a United States citizen in violation of the Constitution of Virginia. ________ Patron - Marshall, R.G. ________ Referred to Committee for Courts of Justice ________ Be it enacted by the General Assembly of Virginia: 1.§ 1. Notwithstanding any contrary provision of law, no agency of the Commonwealth as defined in § 8.01-385 of the Code of Virginia, political subdivision of the Commonwealth as defined in § 8.01-385 of the Code of Virginia, employee of either acting in his official capacity, or any member of the Virginia National Guard or Virginia Defense Force, when such a member is serving in the Virginia National Guard or the Virginia Defense Force on official state duty, may engage in any activity that aids an agency of or the armed forces of the United States in the execution of 50 U.S.C. 1541 as provided by the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 (P.L. 112-18, § 1021) in the investigation, prosecution, or detainment of any citizen of the United States in violation of Article I, Section 8 or 11 of the Constitution of Virginia.
The following resolution has been edited in terms of its original formatting.
Official copy of the RNC Resolution Exposing United Nations Agenda 21 passed at the WM12 -1-13-12 __________________________________
Republican National Committee *Member Services*
Resolution Exposing United Nations Agenda 21
WHEREAS, the United Nations Agenda 21 is a comprehensive plan of extreme environmentalism, social engineering, and global political control that was initiated at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992; and,
WHEREAS, the United Nations Agenda 21 is being covertly pushed into local communities throughout the United States of America through the International Council of Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI) through local “sustainable development” policies such as Smart Growth, Wildlands Project, Resilient Cities, Regional Visioning Projects, and other “Green” or “Alternative” projects; and,
WHEREAS, this United Nations Agenda 21 plan of radical so-called “sustainable development” views the American way of life of private property ownership, single family homes, private car ownership and individual travel choices, and privately owned farms; all as destructive to the environment; and,
WHEREAS, according to the United Nations Agenda 21 policy, social justice is described as the right and opportunity of all people to benefit equally from the resources afforded us by society and the environment which would be accomplished by socialist/communist redistribution of wealth; and,
WHEREAS, according to the United Nations Agenda 21 policy National sovereignty is deemed a social injustice; now therefore
RESOLVED, the Republican National Committee recognizes the destructive and insidious nature of United Nations Agenda 21 and hereby exposes to the public and public policy makers the dangerous intent of the plan; and therefore be it further
RESOLVED, that the U.S. government and no state or local government is legally bound by the United Nations Agenda 21 treaty in that it has never been endorsed by the (U.S.) Senate, and therefore be it further
RESOLVED, that the federal and state and local governments across the country be well informed of the underlying harmful implications of implementation of United Nations Agenda 21 destructive strategies for “sustainable development” and we hereby endorse rejection of its radical policies and rejection of any grant monies attached to it, and therefore be it further
RESOLVED, that upon the approval of this resolution the Republican National Committee shall deliver a copy of this resolution to each of the Republican members of Congress, all Republican candidates for Congress, all Republican candidates for President who qualify for RNC sanctioned debates, and to each Republican state and territorial party office and recommend for adoption into the Republican Party Platform at the 2012 Convention. __________________________________
Schaeffer Cox and two of his followers in the Alaska Peacemaker Militia appeared in court on Monday expecting to file more motions to dismiss the charges against them. Instead they were greeted with additional indictments by a federal grand jury charging them with conspiring to kill government officials, including law enforcement officers.
According to the latest indictment, Cox and company did “knowingly, willfully, and unlawfully conspire and agree together” to “kill, with premeditation and malice aforethought, officers and employees of the United States, including law enforcement officers.”
The maximum sentence for the charges is life in prison.
The charges stem from an alleged plot that came to light in March of last year, when Cox, Coleman Barney and Lonnie Vernon were first arrested. At the time, each was charged with conspiracy to commit murder at the state level, and were indicted for several weapons charges at the federal level. The state charges were eventually thrown out.
Cox is a self-described “sovereign citizen” and leader of the Alaska Peacemaker Militia and Alaska Assembly Post. He also is the “Secretary of Defense” for the national Assembly Post, and Commander-in-Chief” of the “several States of the United States of America.” Barney and Vernon are also “officers” in the Militia and Alaska Assembly Post.
According to the latest indictment, Cox, Barney and Vernon conspired to stockpile weapons, including silencers, hand grenades, grenade launchers and a “Hornet’s Nest” anti-personnel round “as part of their membership in the Alaska Peacemaker Militia and the Alaska Assembly Post, and in furtherance of their collective belief that at some undetermined and unknown point in the future they would be compelled to take up arms against the government.” The indictments also allege that Cox “did solicit, command, induce and endeavor to persuade” Barney and Vernon to kill a law enforcement officer, which carries an additional sentence of up to a 20-years.
The indictment alleges that with the Alaska Assembly Post, Cox formed a military arm, legal arm, judiciary and even his own currency, in preparation for a government take-over or to form a new government in the event of a “government collapse.” Cox also created a list of state and federal government employees — including U.S. Marshals, employees of the TSA and the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection, and Alaska State Troopers — and gathered personal information about them “so that Cox and others could kill them in the event of a ‘government collapse,’” the indictment alleges.
In one November 2010 incident described by court documents, Cox was slated to appear on a local television program in North Pole, Alaska, and arranged for Barney and Vernon to provide him with armed protection based on Cox’s belief that a federal “hit team” was planning to assassinate him in Fairbanks. According to court documents, Barney and Vernon “established a tactical and armed perimeter security force of militia members” around Cox during the interview, which even stopped locals and asked them for names and identification.
In the same month, according to the indictment, Cox paid for 16,000 newspapers ads with the title “Court Fraud! Thousands of Judgments Void” The ads contained information on a public meeting about the “deceptively named ‘Alaska Court System’” that, along with the Alaska Bar Association, “are under criminal investigation. If you have had a case decided without full disclosure of the true nature of the ‘Alaska Court System’ the damages can be corrected.”
In December of 2010, Cox assembled with members of the Alaska Assembly Post in the back of a Denny’s for a “common law court” that would “try” Cox for a weapons charge against him. He was unanimously acquitted by the “jury,” which he brought up in a hearing that same month in District Court in Alaska. He told the judge that the courts did not have any jurisdiction over him.
In February 2011, Cox failed to appear at his next hearing over the weapons charge, and a warrant was put out for his arrest. According to the indictment, he met with members of his militia and “directed the others regarding actions they should take in the event that Cox was arrested for failing to appear. Cox and others developed a ‘2-4-1’ plan that if Cox or any militia members were killed then COX and the others would kill two other people (specifically law enforcement, judges, or district attorneys) in return.”
In the hearing Monday, Cox and the others pleaded not guilty to all of the charges. When the conspiracy to commit murder charge was announced, Cox said “I’m not guilty — and totally innocent,” the Anchorage Daily News reports.
The trial was also delayed until May 7 during the hearing.
I saw a quote in an issue of Reason Magazine that just kept coming back to my mind. It was in reference to Prohibition (both the old one and the current one):
"The eternal temptation to ban things that give people pleasure"
I think it could also be expressed as "The eternal temptation to get pleasure from preventing the pleasure of others".
Either way, there are an awful lot of awful people who seem determined to try to make sure no one is having any fun. That's fine if they stick to being annoying pains in the rear. Unfortunately, the illegitimate institution of The State gives these perverts a way to exert power over others. What a messed up shame.
Occupy has proven the power of Social Media. Protests are more visible, sustainable, and effective than ever before. However, the movement is struggling to maintain momentum as it reaches the inherent boundaries of protest.
The Great Collective is the logical conclusion to Occupy, the decentralized masses with no leaders and no agenda, not a political party, a collective. Effective campaigns can now run with little or no money using crowd-sourcing, viral marketing, and social media.
The decentralized Occupy model is inherent in the structure of Social Media. Occupy’s life is not the flesh that is sitting in the park, facing down Stormtroopers. It’s the people watching, organizing, and supporting via the Internet. This throbbing neural
pathway which has burned itself into the great network of social networks is absolutely determined to overthrow all power which has no true legitimacy. Occupy is only the first rumblings of something much, much bigger.
Is "respect for the law" important for civilization? If so, then civilization is doomed. And it isn't our fault.
You can't have respect for something which is absurd. For me to have respect for the law, the law has to follow Natural Law. It can't be arbitrary and bizarre. It can't be counterfeit. But that is just about all it is anymore. The "law" is fake. No one with a lick of sense or any ethics at all could have any respect for it anymore.
So, if "respect for the law" is necessary in order for civilization to survive, 99.9999% or so of the "laws" on the books (the statutory "laws") must- absolutely MUST- be tossed into the garbage heap. Before it is too late. Otherwise no reasonable person can possibly have any respect for the "law". None.
As originally posted on:Forbes.com January 23, 2012
“What would YOU Like #Anonymous to hack next?” the shadowy group dared its followers over twitter. “Tweet and let us know ^__^.”
The shadowy group made it clear that the backlash against the shutdown of Megaupload.com was not going to stop anytime soon. After already hitting prominent targets like the Department of Justice, the FBI and the MPAA, Anonymous moved on CBS.com over the weekend, deleting the entire site in a massive assault that briefly reduced the company’s web presence to a single file. The attack was a step-up from their usual Distributed Denial-of-Service attacks, which they refer to as a “Low Orbit Ion Cannon.”
Later, they proceeded to move against Universal Music, repeating an earlier attack. After that, several Brazillian targets such as Tangara De Serra received similar treatments, followed by French Media Company and former Universal Owner Vivendi.
It’s unclear where the attack will go from here, but the momentum from the Megaupload.com backlash will be difficult to maintain, even coming from a group with as many tendrils as Anonymous. Some have even speculated that the group could lash out against some of the largest presences on the internet: sites like Facebook, Twitter and Youtube.
“Lulz at people saying we would take down Twitter, FaceBook, and YouTube…” YourAnonNewsTweeted. “Why would Anon take down how we send our messages?”
But Anonymous is a loose coalition at best, and that particular Twitter voice doesn’t speak for every hacker that sails under their banner. Large sites like Facebook may be safe from coordinated attacks, but lone wolves and smaller groups of hackers are far more difficult to control.
Anonymous has received criticism for aligning themselves with Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom (yes, that is his legal name), a lavish millionaire who used the proceeds from Megaupload to fuel a persona that sat somewhere between hacker nerd and hip-hop mogul. He’s currently behind in a New Zealand prison, and Anonymous has vowed to continue attacking until he’s released.
In the meantime, other torrent and file-sharing websites like thepiratebay.org remain clear and viable alternatives to Megaupload. For file-sharing proponents, the free and unabated exchange of all kinds of information is an inalienable right of the internet, and they’ve made it clear that they will respond with an impressive array of digital weaponry against anyone that stands in their way.
“Support file-sharing. Legal or not. It is our right,” tweeted Sabu, a prominent Anon. hacker.
Dinelson deface 68 Websites for Protest Against SOPA and PIPA. List of all Hacked site is posted here. A protest to a Congressional bill called SOPA caused quite a stir on Wednesday as thousands of websites protested SOPA with blacked-out pages.
Megaupload, a hugely popular website for sharing files, was a major SOPA target, because it allegedly disobeys copyright laws and legislation. After the SOPA protest, the Department of Justice issued a release stating that federal officials had taken the site down. Following this announcement, a hacking collective called Anonymous launched several attacks on government and entertainment industry websites, including those for the Justice Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Universal Music.
2 days back SOPA and PIPA were dropped by Congress. Both the House and the Senate on Friday backed away from a pair of controversial anti-piracy bills, tossing them into limbo and throwing doubt on their future viability.
The Stop Online Piracy Act—a bill misleadingly named for its aspirations, not its probable effect—has provoked an outpouring of justified opposition, much of it centered on two primary concerns: The virtual certainty that it will result in the ancillary blocking of much legitimate free speech, and the damage it would do to the basic architecture of the open Internet. One point I haven’t seen pressed forcefully enough thus far, however, is that architectural and free speech concerns are not entirely independent. The practical effect of SOPA will be to create an architecture for censorship—both legal and technological—that will radically alter the costs of engaging in future censorship unrelated to piracy or counterfeiting.
SOPA is a 70 page statute establishing a detailed legal process by which the Justice Department can initiate blocking of supposed pirate domains by ISPs and search engines, and by which private parties can seek orders requiring payment processors and ad networks to sever ties. After flying largely below the radar of public attention for many months, we’re finally seeing sustained scrutiny and fierce debate over the bill. But the portion of the bill laying out the specific types of criminal conduct that trigger this Rube Goldberg censorship machine occupy just a couple of paragraphs. With the legal framework in place, expanding it to cover other conduct—obscenity, defamation, “unfair competition,” patent infringement, publication of classified information, advocacy in support of terror groups—would be a matter of adding a few words to those paragraphs. One sentence slipped in as a rider on some must-pass omnibus bill would do it: “Section 102(2)(B) is amended to add ‘or civil action under 17 USC §271′.”—voila, a nuclear weapon for patent trolls.
Then there’s the technological architecture. If SOPA passes, thousands of commercial ISPs, colleges, small businesses, nonprofits, and other entities that maintain domain servers are going to have to reconfigure their networks, potentially at substantial cost, in order to easily comply with the new law. There is an introductory clause in the latest version of the bill stipulating that no network operator will be required to implement a specific technology or redesign their networks in any particular manner in order to be considered in compliance. But let’s think realistically about what compliance will look like. Genuine “rogue sites” often operate via dozens of different domains, which means we’re apt to see regular updates to the government’s standing blacklist, potentially adding dozens or hundreds of domains in one go. Any sane network operator is just going to build a filter that reads off the current list of banned domains from a government feed and automatically stops resolving them. (This will, incidentally, be an enormously attractive attack surface for hackers: Spoof the SOPA feed—either at the source or to a particular provider—and you’ve got an instant bulk denial of service attack!)
Once the up-front costs of implementing that filter mechanism are paid, the marginal cost of additional censorship is effectively zero for the providers. It won’t much matter to the providers, at that point, whether the blacklist contains 10 domains or 10,000. The technology itself, needless to say, will be indifferent to the rationale for blacklisting. The filter will just automatically implement the list of domains it’s given; it won’t know or care whether they’re being blocked for hosting pirated movies, Hamas propaganda, or the Pentagon Papers.
These twin architectures will obliterate major institutional barriers to Internet censorship generally, not just censorship for antipiracy purposes. Political actors—or special interest groups—who want to expand the scope of blocking will no longer have to justify putting in place a wholly new system of Internet blocking. Instead, the rhetorical question will become: Now that we’ve got this whole filter architecture in place for music and movie pirates, how can we possibly justify not using it for sites that host terrorist propaganda or classified documents, for sites that implement a patented business model without permission, for sites enabling speech some U.S. court has held libelous, and for whatever new moral panic is gracing the cover of Time in five years. Surely you’re not suggesting that illicit downloads of Norbit are a bigger problem than whatever outrage Joe Lieberman is fulminating against this week, are you?
Changing legal and technological architectures also changes the costs of future political decisions that make use of those architectures. Speech is more likely to stay free when censorship isn’t. The cheaper the muzzle, the dimmer the prospects for online expression.
As originally posted on:News Truth January 16, 2012
Well, I was a tad bored today and decided to do some research about councils, police and other companies.
I know that some of you will already be aware of the fact that your council is not really a council but instead it is a company that is trading for profit. This also applies to many other organisations that the general public think are public servants, they are not, they are employees of private companies.
Here is a selection of images that I clipped from Dun and Bradstreet today, just a wee bit of proof for you but feel free to do your own research.
Glasgow District and Glasgow City Council
Bank Of England
Revenue and Customs
Ministry Of Justice
Scottish National Party
These are just a few of the ones that I dug out. They are all listed as companies on Dun and Bradsteet. Go figure!
Syria's government is a revolting abomination. I recall Abdullah Almalki, the Canadian citizen who CSIS had Syria torture for them mention how he could hear children being tortured in the other
room behind the back wall of his cell. I despise it just as much as I despise the rapist theocratic bullshit government of Iran.
But at the same time, let's put something into perspective. The USA's detestable puppet-regimes making all that noise for the Syrian government to stop with the crackdown and the killing of innocent people, ... while Bahrain and Saudi Arabia murdered their innocent protesters! And while they did jack-shit about Israel's mass-murdering of innocent civilians in Operation "Cast Lead."
It's the same nauseating, hypocritical expropriation of the call for democracy in the Middle East by the revolting US government and its inhuman stooges. (Of whom, stephen harper is one of the most contemptible.)
None of those governments, Syria, Iran, Jordan, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, The USA, Canada, are worth a damn. To hell with all of them.
The Federal Reserve System (also known as the Federal Reserve Corporation, and informally as the The Fed) is the Private central banking system owned by foreign bankers. It was fraudulently created in 1913 with the enactment of the Federal Reserve Act, largely in response to a series of financial panics, generally resulting in "bank runs", particularly a severe panic in 1907. Over time, the roles and responsibilities of the Federal Reserve System have expanded and its structure has evolved. The FED began with approximately 300 people or banks that became owners (stockholders purchasing stock at $100 per share - the stock is not publicly traded) in the Federal Reserve Banking System. They make up an international banking cartel of wealth beyond comparison. The FED banking system collects billions of dollars in interest annually and distributes the profits to its shareholders. The Congress illegally gave the FED the right to print money (through the Treasury) at no interest to the FED. The FED creates money from nothing, and loans it back to us through banks, and charges interest on our currency. The FED also buys Government debt with money printed on a printing press and charges U.S. taxpayers interest. Many Congressmen and Presidents say this is fraud .Events such as the Great Depression were major factors leading to changes in the system. Its duties today, according to official Federal Reserve documentation, are to conduct the nation's monetary policy, supervise and regulate banking institutions, maintain the stability of the financial system and provide financial services to depository institutions, the U.S. government, and foreign official institutions.
On June 11th, 2011 we attempted (with a video release: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XySGw-g2tyk) to provoke the people of the U.S. to #Occupy a public space and demand Federal Reserve Chairman, Ben S. Bernanke (http://pastebin.com/FwXtLkjx) step down. A lot of people said that this wouldn't cause any real change. We disagree. Of course it won't fix the problem, but it is a start. Imagine the effect it would have. It would force the media to reveal to the masses the exact impact the Federal Reserve has had on our country. It would boost the morale of those already occupying in way which is almost indescribable, and we would continue as follows:
"We have all seen the world wide protests of occupy wall street and seen such great support worldwide. A lot of people such as Ron Paul, Michael Ruppert, David DeGraw have talked about this issue, but not enough action has been taken.
People may think it's all Wall Street, corporations and politicians. But they are all linked to the Federal Reserve. We need to start on one realistic and solid goal.
The Fed is responsible for destroying the U.S. dollar, and impacting the global economy. We may be in debt but the Fed makes the money we dont have and loans it out. (http://pastehtml.com/view/bkd7oyhd0.html) This effects the banks corporations and politicians, this will show them we are not unorganized or dumb. When the Fed is gone we will then proceed to clean up the rest of the filth consuming the world economy by voting them out of office and boycotting them.
But we need to start with a significant impact."
1. Ben S. Bernanke steps down from all goverment positions indefinitaley and is tried in criminal court.
2. The Fed reserve is removed. (i.e. "evicted")
3. That all board members are investigated and tried in criminal court for crimes against humanity.
On June 17th we will gather at Zuccoti Park, the place it all began and this spot is historical and signiffigant to our demands due to the Federal Reserve branch being near and Ben Bernanke as well.
Come brothers and sisters we are no longer occupying we are #evicting.
Indefensiblelifelong asshole Jerry Lewis, Republican crook from California’s “Inland Empire,” will finally retire from the House because his district is no longer a geometric abomination carved out by his GOP cronies. Lewis, a hateful clown in a white fright wig, has spent his career being a complete asshole while lavishing pork projects on his district as long as they were named for “Representative Jerry Lewis.”
A Democrat will easily win the new district, the lines of which were drawn up by a committee of voters, so they reflect the actual population in the region (heavily Latino) of poor and working-class Californians. Jerry Lewis will spend the last years of his miserable life greasing palms on Capitol Hill for some lobbying firm or another. He sucks. [LA Times/Huffington Post]
The US government is watching our every tweet, but don’t worry, it’s just to get a “situational awareness” of the world. Since 2010, the Department of Homeland Security has been monitoring “publicly available” information such as forums, Twitter accounts, and websites like WikiLeaks, Facebook and Hulu (what? – “Hey boss, I’m just monitoring these SNL clips for classified information disguised as terrible jokes”). So millions of people saying things that may or may not be true makes the job of the government easier? Not surprisingly, the DHS seems a little confused about how long it holds on to the information it trawls: a spokesperson says it doesn’t hold on to Internet traffic data; the document pertaining to this initiative says it does, but “for no more than five years.” Oh, whew.
The biggest takeaway from the publicly available list of publicly available sites that the DHS monitors is that Twitter appears to be officially Important, despite the ridiculous volume of crap that it publishes (to sift through it all, the DHS uses no less than 13 different trend sites and six search sites).
Of course, ideally, the US government would like more than just the public tweets: it subpoenaed Twitter in December 2010 in an attempt to obtain private messages sent between Julian Assange and other Wikileaks workers.
And when insidery maneuvers and legal action doesn’t work, the government isn’t afraid to turn to the private sector to get the digital wisdom of people who have venture capital enough to obtain such wisdom: in the Bay Area, a private company creepily named Vigilant Video helps the police by tracking the locations of people’s cars using license plate scanners. That doesn’t yet conflict with the Supreme Court’s as-yet-undecided verdict on whether it’s constitutional for investigators to track cars using GPS devices without a warrant (if it ever will). But SCOTUS has “expressed deep reservations” about such tracking, which is nice of it.
What of the Internet “kill switch” legislation currently coming back onto the scene, which could give the government authorization to shut down the Internet, Egypt-steez, in times of crisis? Presumably it would still give the government the ability to somehow “work offline.” [Reuters]
With only a mobile phone and a promise of money from his uncle, David Obi did something the Nigerian government has been trying to do for decades: He figured out how to bring electricity to the masses in Africa's most populous country.
It wasn't a matter of technology. David is not an inventor or an engineer, and his insights into his country's electrical problems had nothing to do with fancy photovoltaics or turbines to harness the harmattan or any other alternative sources of energy. Instead, 7,000 miles from home, using a language he could hardly speak, he did what traders have always done: made a deal. He contracted with a Chinese firm near Guangzhou to produce small diesel-powered generators under his uncle's brand name, Aakoo, and shipped them home to Nigeria, where power is often scarce. David's deal, struck four years ago, was not massive -- but it made a solid profit and put him on a strong footing for success as a transnational merchant. Like almost all the transactions between Nigerian traders and Chinese manufacturers, it was also sub rosa: under the radar, outside of the view or control of government, part of the unheralded alternative economic universe of System D.
You probably have never heard of System D. Neither had I until I started visiting street markets and unlicensed bazaars around the globe.
System D is a slang phrase pirated from French-speaking Africa and the Caribbean. The French have a word that they often use to describe particularly effective and motivated people. They call them débrouillards. To say a man is a débrouillard is to tell people how resourceful and ingenious he is. The former French colonies have sculpted this word to their own social and economic reality. They say that inventive, self-starting, entrepreneurial merchants who are doing business on their own, without registering or being regulated by the bureaucracy and, for the most part, without paying taxes, are part of "l'economie de la débrouillardise." Or, sweetened for street use, "Systeme D." This essentially translates as the ingenuity economy, the economy of improvisation and self-reliance, the do-it-yourself, or DIY, economy. A number of well-known chefs have also appropriated the term to describe the skill and sheer joy necessary to improvise a gourmet meal using only the mismatched ingredients that happen to be at hand in a kitchen.
I like the phrase. It has a carefree lilt and some friendly resonances. At the same time, it asserts an important truth: What happens in all the unregistered markets and roadside kiosks of the world is not simply haphazard. It is a product of intelligence, resilience, self-organization, and group solidarity, and it follows a number of well-worn though unwritten rules. It is, in that sense, a system.
It used to be that System D was small -- a handful of market women selling a handful of shriveled carrots to earn a handful of pennies. It was the economy of desperation. But as trade has expanded and globalized, System D has scaled up too. Today, System D is the economy of aspiration. It is where the jobs are. In 2009, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a think tank sponsored by the governments of 30 of the most powerful capitalist countries and dedicated to promoting free-market institutions, concluded that half the workers of the world -- close to 1.8 billion people -- were working in System D: off the books, in jobs that were neither registered nor regulated, getting paid in cash, and, most often, avoiding income taxes.
Kids selling lemonade from the sidewalk in front of their houses are part of System D. So are many of the vendors at stoop sales, flea markets, and swap meets. So are the workers who look for employment in the parking lots of Home Depot and Lowe's throughout the United States. And it's not only cash-in-hand labor. As with David Obi's deal to bring generators from China to Nigeria, System D is multinational, moving all sorts of products -- machinery, mobile phones, computers, and more -- around the globe and creating international industries that help billions of people find jobs and services.
In many countries -- particularly in the developing world -- System D is growing faster than any other part of the economy, and it is an increasing force in world trade. But even in developed countries, after the financial crisis of 2008-09, System D was revealed to be an important financial coping mechanism. A 2009 study by Deutsche Bank, the huge German commercial lender, suggested that people in the European countries with the largest portions of their economies that were unlicensed and unregulated -- in other words, citizens of the countries with the most robust System D -- fared better in the economic meltdown of 2008 than folks living in centrally planned and tightly regulated nations. Studies of countries throughout Latin America have shown that desperate people turned to System D to survive during the most recent financial crisis.
This spontaneous system, ruled by the spirit of organized improvisation, will be crucial for the development of cities in the 21st century. The 20th-century norm -- the factory worker who nests at the same firm for his or her entire productive life -- has become an endangered species. In China, the world's current industrial behemoth, workers in the massive factories have low salaries and little job security. Even in Japan, where major corporations have long guaranteed lifetime employment to full-time workers, a consensus is emerging that this system is no longer sustainable in an increasingly mobile and entrepreneurial world.
So what kind of jobs will predominate? Part-time work, a variety of self-employment schemes, consulting, moonlighting, income patching. By 2020, the OECD projects, two-thirds of the workers of the world will be employed in System D. There's no multinational, no Daddy Warbucks or Bill Gates, no government that can rival that level of job creation. Given its size, it makes no sense to talk of development, growth, sustainability, or globalization without reckoning with System D.
The growth of System D presents a series of challenges to the norms of economics, business, and governance -- for it has traditionally existed outside the framework of trade agreements, labor laws, copyright protections, product safety regulations, antipollution legislation, and a host of other political, social, and environmental policies. Yet there's plenty that's positive, too. In Africa, many cities -- Lagos, Nigeria, is a good example -- have been propelled into the modern era through System D, because legal businesses don't find enough profit in bringing cutting- edge products to the third world. China has, in part, become the world's manufacturing and trading center because it has been willing to engage System D trade. Paraguay, small, landlocked, and long dominated by larger and more prosperous neighbors, has engineered a decent balance of trade through judicious smuggling. The digital divide may be a concern, but System D is spreading technology around the world at prices even poor people can afford. Squatter communities may be growing, but the informal economy is bringing commerce and opportunity to these neighborhoods that are off the governmental grid. It distributes products more equitably and cheaply than any big company can. And, even as governments around the world are looking to privatize agencies and get out of the business of providing for people, System D is running public services -- trash pickup, recycling, transportation, and even utilities.
Just how big is System D? Friedrich Schneider, chair of the economics department at Johannes Kepler University in Linz, Austria, has spent decades calculating the dollar value of what he calls the shadow economies of the world. He admits his projections are imprecise, in part because, like privately held businesses everywhere, businesspeople who engage in trade off the books don't want to open their books (most successful System D merchants are obsessive about profit and loss and keep detailed accounts of their revenues and expenses in old-fashioned ledger books) to anyone who will write anything in a book. And there's a definitional problem as well, because the border between the shadow and the legal economies is blurry. Does buying some of your supplies from an unlicensed dealer put you in the shadows, even if you report your profit and pay your taxes? How about hiding just $1 in income from the government, though the rest of your business is on the up-and-up? And how about selling through System D even if your business is in every other way in compliance with the law? Finding a firm dividing line is not easy, as Keith Hart, who was among the first academics to acknowledge the importance of street markets to the economies of the developing world, warned me in a recent conversation: "It's very difficult to separate the nice African ladies selling oranges on the street and jiggling their babies on their backs from the Indian gangsters who control the fruit trade and who they have to pay rent to."
Schneider suggests, however, that, in making his estimates, he has this covered. He screens out all money made through "illegal actions that fit the characteristics of classical crimes like burglary, robbery, drug dealing, etc." This means that the big-time criminals are likely out of his statistics, though those gangsters who control the fruit market are likely in, as long as they're not involved in anything more nefarious than running a price-fixing cartel. Also, he says, his statistics do not count "the informal household economy." This means that if you're putting buckles on belts in your home for a bit of extra cash from a company owned by your cousin, you're in, but if you're babysitting your cousin's kids while she's off putting buckles on belts at her factory, you're out.
Schneider presents his numbers as a percentage of the total market value of goods and services made in each country that same year -- each nation's gross domestic product. His data show that System D is on the rise. In the developing world, it's been increasing every year since the 1990s, and in many countries it's growing faster than the officially recognized gross domestic product (GDP). If you apply his percentages (Schneider's most recent report, published in 2006, uses economic data from 2003) to the World Bank's GDP estimates, it's possible to make a back-of-the-envelope calculation of the approximate value of the billions of underground transactions around the world. And it comes to this: The total value of System D as a global phenomenon is close to $10 trillion. Which makes for another astonishing revelation. If System D were an independent nation, united in a single political structure -- call it the United Street Sellers Republic (USSR) or, perhaps, Bazaaristan -- it would be an economic superpower, the second-largest economy in the world (the United States, with a GDP of $14 trillion, is numero uno). The gap is narrowing, though, and if the United States doesn't snap out of its current funk, the USSR/Bazaaristan could conceivably catch it sometime this century.
In other words, System D looks a lot like the future of the global economy. All over the world -- from San Francisco to São Paulo, from New York City to Lagos -- people engaged in street selling and other forms of unlicensed trade told me that they could never have established their businesses in the legal economy. "I'm totally off the grid," one unlicensed jewelry designer told me. "It was never an option to do it any other way. It never even crossed my mind. It was financially absolutely impossible." The growth of System D opens the market to those who have traditionally been shut out.
This alternative economic system also offers the opportunity for large numbers of people to find work. No job-cutting or outsourcing is going on here. Rather, a street market boasts dozens of entrepreneurs selling similar products and scores of laborers doing essentially the same work. An economist would likely deride all this duplicated work as inefficient. But the level of competition on the street keeps huge numbers of people employed. It liberates their entrepreneurial energy. And it offers them the opportunity to move up in the world.
In São Paulo, Édison Ramos Dattora, a migrant from the rural midlands, has succeeded in the nation's commercial capital by working as a camelô -- an unlicensed street vendor. He started out selling candies and chocolates on the trains, and is now in a more lucrative branch of the street trade -- retailing pirate DVDs of first-run movies to commuters around downtown. His underground trade -- he has to watch out for the cops wherever he goes -- has given his family a standard of living he never dreamed possible: a bank account, a credit card, an apartment in the center of town, and enough money to take a trip to Europe.
Even in the most difficult and degraded situations, System D merchants are seeking to better their lives. For instance, the garbage dump would be the last place you would expect to be a locus of hope and entrepreneurship. But Lagos scavenger Andrew Saboru has pulled himself out of the trash heap and established himself as a dealer in recycled materials. On his own, with no help from the government or any NGOs or any bank (Andrew has a bank account, but his bank will never loan him money -- because his enterprise is unlicensed and unregistered and depends on the unpredictable labor of culling recyclable material from the megacity's massive garbage pile), he has climbed the career ladder. "Lagos is a city for hustling," he told me. "If you have an idea and you are serious and willing to work, you can make money here. I believe the future is bright." It took Andrew 16 years to make his move, but he succeeded, and he's proud of the business he has created.
We should be too. As Joanne Saltzberg, who heads Women Entrepreneurs of Baltimore -- a business development group -- told me, we need to change our attitude and to salute the achievements of those who are engaged in this alternate economy. "We only revere success," she said. "I don't think we honor the struggle. People who have no access to business development resources. People who have to work two and three jobs just to survive. When you are struggling in this economy and still you commit yourself to having a better life, that's really something to honor."
Nothing is sacred. Nobody is safe. Everything must go. Knowledge is free; it is the most valuable weapon a free people can have in the war against authority and hierarchy. I bloggregate from the miscellaneous battlefronts in this war. Unless we agree otherwise, I reserve the right to publish anything and everything you email me.
A Picture is Worth a Thousand Arguments
Regarding the I,Spy argument I made back in 2012:
MIT students make 3D-printed ice cream
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