Hello Bitcoin Bobby Lee will be answering questions here on Sunday, April 12, at 5PM PST. Bobby is the Founder and CEO of Ballet, a new company that makes physical, non-electronic cryptocurrency wallets designed for the mainstream market (https://www.balletcrypto.com). Many of you know him as the co-founder and former CEO of China's first Bitcoin exchange, BTC China, which he sold in 2018, and physical bitcoin maker BTCC Mint. Bobby was ranked #20 on the CoinTelegraph 2020 list of most influential people in crypto/blockchain (https://cointelegraph.com/top-people-in-crypto-and-blockchain/bobby-lee). Please submit your questions now and vote for the ones you want to be answered. The top five questions will get a free Ballet wallet loaded with 0.01 BTC. Some suggested topics of discussion are: - the effect of the global pandemic on Bitcoin - the Bitcoin halving and price predictions - his new startup (Ballet) and its mission to promote global mainstream adoption of Bitcoin - technical details of Ballet wallets and response to common criticisms - anything else you want to talk about Verification: https://twitter.com/bobbyclee/status/1248726901415264256
Understanding Bitcoin - Validity is in the Eye of the Beholder
Preamble There are currently a lot of misconceptions and misinformation in the bitcoin community about the 'validity' of a blockchain or block, specifically in the case of hard forks. 'Validity' is mentioned a number of times in the bitcoin whitepaper and it is mentioned in different but similar contexts. Currently there seems to be a growing (incorrect) understanding that the validity of the chain is determined by whether the chain follows the original consensus protocol. If this were to be true, then any upgrades to bitcoin that fall outside the original consensus protocol that was initiated in bitcoin in 2009, would be considered 'invalid' and therefore not bitcoin. i.e. any and all hard forks would by definition be considered invalid. This would then mean that there is an argument that the bitcoin that currently exists is in fact not bitcoin at all, as it is not possible to deterministicly sync the full blockchain using a pre 0.8.1 bitcoin client. This is obviously not true as everyone considers the current network to be bitcoin, therefore there must be a more nuanced definition to describe validity. Another growing belief that is being pushed by certain people is that bitcoin consensus follows 'community consensus'. This is also not true, at least in the way it has been presented, and will be debunked in this article. Luckily there is a more nuanced and completed definition of 'validity' and it is described in the white paper but is not well understood by the community. (If you want to skip straight to the meat of this article, scroll down to the section titled 'Validity of Network Forks'.) In the whitepaper 'valid', 'invalid' and 'validity' are mentioned 6 times. A number of these times it is mentioned outside the context of network forks but I made a quick summary of them anyway below so as to clear up any confusion. The first time is in the section titled 'Network'. It states;
The steps to run the network are as follows: 1. New transactions are broadcast to all nodes. 2. Each node collects new transactions into a block. 3. Each node works on finding a difficult proof-of-work for its block. 4. When a node finds a proof-of-work, it broadcasts the block to all nodes. 5. Nodes accept the block only if all transactions in it are valid and not already spent. 6. Nodes express their acceptance of the block by working on creating the next block in the chain, using the hash of the accepted block as the previous hash.
The word 'invalid' is used in the same context in the 'Calculations' section of the white paper. Specifically, it states;
We consider the scenario of an attacker trying to generate an alternate chain faster than the honest chain. Even if this is accomplished, it does not throw the system open to arbitrary changes, such as creating value out of thin air or taking money that never belonged to the attacker. Nodes are not going to accept an invalid transaction as payment, and honest nodes will never accept a block containing them. An attacker can only try to change one of his own transactions to take back money he recently spent.
In this context 'valid' and 'invalid' is referring to the validity of individual transactions that have been published into a block. For example a transaction's outputs cannot spend/total more than its combined inputs. This meaning of 'valid' is well understood so I will not discuss this further. One more place in the bitcoin whitepaper that contains a reference to validity is in the 'Incentives' section (This is one of the most important and most misunderstood and under-appreciated sections in the whitepaper). In it it states:
The incentive may help encourage nodes to stay honest. If a greedy attacker is able to assemble more CPU power than all the honest nodes, he would have to choose between using it to defraud people by stealing back his payments, or using it to generate new coins. He ought to find it more profitable to play by the rules, such rules that favour him with more new coins than everyone else combined, than to undermine the system and the validity of his own wealth.
In this context Satoshi is talking about the fact that by undermining bitcoin and the blockchain by trying to steal from it, he is devaluing his own spoils. i.e. there is a disincentive to try and attack the network. This is unfortunately not a well understood concept but is not relevant to the word 'validity' in terms of hard forks. Another section of the white paper that mentions 'validity' is in the 'Simplified Payment Verification' section. In this section it states;
While network nodes can verify transactions for themselves, the simplified method can be fooled by an attacker's fabricated transactions for as long as the attacker can continue to overpower the network. One strategy to protect against this would be to accept alerts from network nodes when they detect an invalid block, prompting the user's software to download the full block and alerted transactions to confirm the inconsistency.
In this context, an 'invalid' block is simply a block that contains invalid transactions (as discussed earlier in this article) that are being used by an attacker to steal funds. This only works on an SPV (simplified payment verification) node because they do not have the full blockchain to check against. As this is not relevant to the 'validity' of network forks it is outside the scope of this article.
Validity of Network Forks The other places that the words 'valid' or 'invalid' are used in the white paper are all in the context that is relevant to network hard forks. In the 'Conclusion' section of the white paper it states;
They vote with their CPU power, expressing their acceptance of valid blocks by working on extending them and rejecting invalid blocks by refusing to work on them. Any needed rules and incentives can be enforced with this consensus mechanism.
The absolutely key word in these sentences is 'vote'. The mining nodes in the network vote in every block by accepting blocks they consider 'valid' and rejecting blocks they consider 'invalid'. Well this then begs the question; if the miners are voting on what is invalid and what is valid, what determines the validity? This is the crux of the issue. The currently held misunderstanding, often purveyed by a number of Core developers is that validity is determined by whether the blocks fit within the current consensus protocol. This is nonsensical. With each block being a vote, this would be the equivalent of when Fifa had a vote for their president in 2011 and the only name on the ballot paper was Sepp Blatter. In fact it is worse than that, as in the case for bitcoin it would be the same name (rules) on the ballet paper for every single block forever. Just like Fifa, this would make bitcoin into a kind of banana republic where the vote is totally meaningless, and in reality, there is no vote at all. This is in total contradiction to the white paper. In fact what it states is "Any needed rules and incentives can be enforced with this consensus mechanism." This means that the rules can be changed and voted upon if the majority of the hash power agrees. There is another section of the white paper specifically dedicated to this concept and goes into further detail. Although it doesn't directly reference the words 'invalid' or 'valid' it does directly reference the voting of hashing power. This is in the 'Proof-of-Work' section and it states;
The proof-of-work also solves the problem of determining representation in majority decision making. If the majority were based on one-IP-address-one-vote, it could be subverted by anyone able to allocate many IPs. Proof-of-work is essentially one-CPU-one-vote. The majority decision is represented by the longest chain, which has the greatest proof-of-work effort invested in it. If a majority of CPU power is controlled by honest nodes, the honest chain will grow the fastest and outpace any competing chains. To modify a past block, an attacker would have to redo the proof-of-work of the block and all blocks after it and then catch up with and surpass the work of the honest nodes.
The first sentence "The proof-of-work also solves the problem of determining representation in majority decision making." directly links to the statement in the white paper conclusion that "Any needed rules and incentives can be enforced with this consensus mechanism.". What is being stated is that the rules of the system, and any changes to them, can be determined and enforced using the proof-of-work system. It is stating that the majority of the hash power decides their representation in decision making. There is seemingly currently a sub-section of the bitcoin community and developers pushing the narrative that the 'users' control the network and determine what is 'valid'. This is wrong and is also explained in this section of the white paper. It states; "If the majority were based on one-IP-address-one-vote, it could be subverted by anyone able to allocate many IPs. Proof-of-work is essentially one-CPU-one-vote.". What this is saying is that with proof-of-work you cannot over inflate your representation beyond what you actually represent. There is no computational or systematic way for the network to determine a vote based on what 'users' 'want'. We can't use a twitter poll. We can't get a feeling from comments in a forum. Not only can you not know the intentions of any anonymous or pseudonymous social media accounts, we also cannot even know the intentions of known and identified entities. Even if you could get every supposed network participant in one room and have a direct vote, there would be no way to determine the difference between who is a real network participant who wants the network to thrive and who is against the network. There also would be no way to even apply the result of that vote into the network. This is a very very key point in proof-of-work and why it was used in bitcoin. The intentions of arbitrary entities CANNOT be determined. Miners are the only set of entities who's intentions we can determine. This is because bitcoin itself has given the miners their intentions and that is to make as much money as possible using bitcoin. This means that the miner's intentions are alligned with the network participants because the miners want to maximise the value of bitcoin to maximise their profit. If we cannot trust the majority of miners then the entire security model of bitcoin fails. I will discuss his further in another article as it is a fundamental yet misunderstood aspect of bitcoin that needs further illumination.
Conclusion Getting back to the crux of this article, how does this relate to 'validity'? Well as we now know, the miners are the ones who get to make the decision on whether a block is valid or not. This means that each individual miner is able to decide on what block is valid or not valid. This does not mean that different miners will always choose different arbitrary rules. In fact the opposite is true. In almost all situation the miners will chose to follow the exact same set of rules as all the other miners. This is because if one miner makes a decision to follow a new set of rules by considering blocks valid that other miners consider invalid, then their blocks will not be accepted by the rest of the network. In almost all situations this would be considered an adverse situation as the network is stronger working together as a whole, with as much hashing power and network effect as possible. In some situations like in the recent Bitcoin Cash fork it may be considered beneficial to enough entities and miners that a fork is made to occur. This sub-set of miners now view blocks with a new set of rules as valid, that other miners on the original chain consider invalid. This is when a hard fork occurs. Without going into too much detail on the economics of hard forks (an article about this will come later), it is important to realise that if the newly separated network has value and blocks are being mined on it then it will continue to exist. In this situation, what is a valid block? Well a block that is valid on one network will be considered invalid on the other and vice versa. Validity is in the eye of the beholder. From the perspective of a specific miner their own blocks are always valid, but they may consider blocks from other miners invalid and vice versa. The newly introduced concept by certain bitcoin Core developers that 'validity' is whether you follower the current chain or not, is at best incomplete and could be more accurately described as incorrect. Validity is determined by the miners as individual entities and not by the collective community. If the validity of blocks was determined by the collective community then there would be no need for miners at all and the network could be undermined trivially using a social attack. This new narrative that validity is determined by the collective community has created perverse concepts like 'miners hard forking is an attack on the network', when really all that is happening is that miners are changing what rules determine what is considered valid by using their hash power to vote, which is something that was explained in the white paper before the genesis block had even been mined. This is part of my 'Understanding Bitcoin' series of articles. If you found this article valid I appreciate any upvotes and tips on my your.org articles which you can find below. Understanding Bitcoin - Validity is in the Eye of the Beholder Understanding Bitcoin - What is 'Centralisation'? Understanding Bitcoin - Incentives & The Power Dynamic Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System
I log into the private session knowing my wingmate will be getting on soon but I wanted to work out a few things with my keybinds before we head out into the black. VR is incredible in this game but it does require a bit more effort to get everything just the way you want. I'm still getting used to my new Vulture. I've managed to fit "Mitch the Witch" with some good modules and enough firepower to put a hurt on the big ships. I'm loving the way she flies, but maneuvering in combat takes too much brainpower for me to be fully effective. The gimbaled mutli-cannon I've managed to engineer make up for my poor aim, but I need to land more shots with the fixed pulse lasers. I know I just need time to adapt to my HOTAS/rudder controls until the 6 dof ballet is second nature and keeping "Mitch" out of trouble becomes a reflex. Commander Guy is online now. We wing up and get into voice chat just as he exits the station in his green Chieftan aptly named "Kermit". I've grown very fond of seeing "Kermit" on my scopes in the last few days. I'd still be hopelessly grinding massacre missions had Commander Guy not invited me to join in on some very profitable bounty hunting at the last Community Goal. He's not just a wing man, he's really become my mentor. I've been playing ED on and off now for many months, but it wasn't until we started flying together that I really enjoyed everything it has to offer. Plus, there's so much I didn't know that I didn't know. I'm already a much better pilot having learned from Guy. So I can't wait to see what we'll be doing next... Me: What's the plan for tonight? Guy: We're hunting Thargoids Me: Very funny. I've unlocked Selene Jean so we could mine some -- Guy: No seriously, this week's CG is hunting Thargoids which includes the scouts. We're not ready for the big aliens, but you can handle a few of the little guys. Me: Uh...okay. I've never even seen a Thargoid yet...but if you say so....... aren't the scouts kinda hard to hit? Guy: Not for me. Git Gud. A few jumps later we arrive in Socho and start the drive out to Dantec station. On the way we stopped for a few necessities. Guy insisted we each get a set of decon limpets. I hesitated because have to give up some chaff and kill my FSD to fit the power but Guy's advice has never let me down yet, so I buy them. I've never used a limpet before so I guess I'll just have to figure it out along the way. Guy also fits Kermit with a Xeno Scanner and I replace Mitch's remaining chaff launcher with heat sinks. Apparently chaff won't do us any good against the scouts and heat sinks will be handy when I boost the shields. Up until now, my combat experience consisted mainly of Haz Rez Bounty Hunting and while that was fun, I wouldn't describe it as particularly scary especially when big brother Guy was doing most of the work. So the thought that came to mind as we casually dropped into the Non-Human Threat 4 signal source was simply: Well, this outta be different The next fifteen minutes were a maelstrom of panic, excitement, confusion and exhilaration. Me: ...how is my hull damaged??...I'VE STILL GOT SHIELDS!! Guy: Don't Panic... Me: ...are they all shooting at ME?? I feel like they're ALL SHOOTING AT ME!! Guy: It just starts intense, you'll be fine once we pick a few off. Me: I don't even think I'm making a dent....I can't tell h--- Guy: I'll call out their hull. He's at 10%. When he pops make sure you avoid th----- KA-POOF too late.... corrosive substance detected Me: WTF?! You only said THE MISSILES did caustic damage! Holy S*!# I'm DOWN to 50%!! Guy: Relax, pull out and use the decon limpet. You'll be fine... limpet destroyed HULL CRITICAL Guy: I said PULL OUT, you can't take fire while using it. Me: I've only got ONE LEFT!!!! Guy: Then don't screw it up! I put the furball on my six and boost to get Mitch the hell outta there. All I can do now is wait for the constant thwaap thwaap thwaap on my shields to end....IF it ends. I don't have time for this...36% and falling. thwaap thwaap What the hell was he thinking?!?! I can't handle this. thwaap This isn't a fair fight. I need a Chieftan....28%..... I don't want to rebuy!!! This was a mistake. I am so screwed. I accept my fate as poor Mitch limps through space with nothing but the strained hum of her engines to usher her to death......WAIT.....the guns, they've stopped! What are you doing you idiot--USE THE LIMPET! 25% repairing 24% 23% 22% corrosive substance neutralized Whoa. Too Close. Ok...Let's re-asses. Hull back up to 30%, Shields fully charged. Guy just popped the second Xeno so they're down to two. Maybe I can do this... Reverse course, full power to Systems. Let's go Mitch, we're not done yet! As we charge back into the fray I notice how pretty the green lasers spewing from Kermit are against the backdrop of the Thargoid ships and I allow myself a moment to enjoy the lightshow. Commander Guy has been handling just fine without me but I detect a hint of relief in his voice when I get back into range. Guy: Nice of you to join us. Did you enjoy your break time? Me: No, No I did not. We're gonna have words after this. Kidding aside, I was filled with a newly discovered confidence. Despite the damage, Mitch seemed to have an extra pip in her step. I was catching up with the events around me and finally starting to build my situational awareness. I went from reacting, to anticipating. A switch had been flipped and I was ahead of the curve now. My shots began hitting their target and I was evading most of the incoming fire. OH yeah baby, I got this. That first alien took forever to go down, but this guy seem to melt under the focused fire of Kermit and Mitch. Side by side we poured pulse lasers and multi-cannon ammo into this poor alien. Guy was calling out the hull strength once again and this time I veered away in time to avoid the corrosive cloud. I did a beautiful FA OFF boosted 180 maneuver and immediately started firing at the last scout hot on Guy's six. It was the kind move Tom Cruise would have envied. So there I was, in a 4G negative dive with this Thargoid when all of a sudden Guy decides now would be a good time to scoop up that precious Xeno material. Me: Are you F#*$%! kidding me? Get back here. I've only got a 25% hull left! Guy: This will only take a sec. He's just shooting at me anyways. We gotta get these things before they de-spawn. Me: ...but.... Guy: Look, I'll grab the propulsion elements while you get the weapon parts. We split it 50/50. What the hell, why not? I've never done a combat scoop before but there's a first time for everything. Retract hardpoints, boost towards the cargo. Gotta keep my speed up or I'm a sitting duck. I've got my thumb on the cargo scoop switch now, eyes on the distance remaining...2km, closing fast...wait for it....where's that scout? He's turned on me but still out of range....wait for it.....1.2 km......almost....there.......700m.........NOW! Cargo scoop open--Full reverse thrust....scanners say way too fast.....c'mon slow down....thrust right, keep it centered....collision warning..... I'm expecting the humiliating thud of cargo on the canopy but to my delight I hear blipity bip Cargo Acquired YES!!! thwaap thwaap NO!!! The scout is on me now and he got another good chunk of my hull with that volley. Weapons out, back to maneuvering speed. Now I'm just mad. Blasted Guy where are you?! I proceed to dodge, dip, dive, duck, and dodge the follow-on attacks and finally start to return fire. I'm doing work, but I just don't have enough hull to last. I consider making a run for it. It will take a while for my FSD to power up so it's now or never. I'm just about to call it quits when I see green flashes hit the scouts hull and from my left side Commander Guy slides his ship right between me and the alien. Way to go Kermit! Thank god. I take a deep breath and start to relax. Guy is really tearing into this thing too. I guess having me as bait makes it even easier for him to do his thing. My hull remaining is 16%. Not bad I thought as I happily watch the scouts hull fall faster than bitcoin. Then...a new sound catches my attention. Incoming Missile........Target Destroyed Of course. Why wouldn't the dying gasp corrosive attack from that last ship be aimed at me. I've got about 1 second to react. I know...I'll try spinning, that's a good trick. Ba-doom...Corrosive substance detected Welp...we gave it our best shot Mitch. I have no regrets and at least we went down fighti---- Guy: ----Get over here! Me:--wha--- Guy: You're out of limpet range. FLY TO ME! Holy shneikies I forgot he had decon limipets too! Hull 11% MUST. GO. FASTER. We're both flying full speed. Head to head... In range....YES YES....wait....hit the brakes.....stop!....NO!!! Out of range...NO NO NO.... Hull 8% Bring it around....back in range...Limpet launched. 6% I can't look.... 3... 2... Corrosive substance neutralized Me: .... Guy: Hey look at that, just in time. Me: ... Guy: Alright, lets turn in these materials and re-arm. Ready? Me: Sigh You bet. So that's the story one of the best gaming experiences I've ever had playing any game. I don't think I've ever had such an emotional roller coaster. But the highlight for me was the meaningful teamwork that played out in this scenario and I couldn't be happier with this particular event. I know FDev has issues, but last night, everything aligned for me to enjoy this game at a level I usually only dream of. Thanks for reading Commanders EDIT: Words and grammer
THE BLUEPRINT FOR FIXING AMERICA SOONER RATHER THAN AFTER IT IS TOO LATE
BEFORE going further with this, bear in mind it was a response to the previous post "WHAT IF LIBERTY WAS ATTACHED TO HUMANITY" and perhaps one might read that long list of QUESTIONS FOR HUMANITY before diving into issues on how one might repair our corner of the world...onward... Some people claim we are beyond a "tipping point" of no return. This analysis is commonly applied to global warming to describe the melting permafrost that is releasing methane gas which is believed to be 100 times more potent and lasting than carbon dioxide in causing global warming from the greenhouse effect. Others apply the "tipping point" idea to America's national debt; stating that if we switched from our fiat currency back to a gold standard, we couldn't pay off the interest, let alone our debt, based on current exports and GDP figures. Therefore, we have become a patently bankrupt nation contrary to the principles Thomas Jefferson and others warned us to follow to avoid the use of credit. A bankrupt America in a world of currencies based on a tangible asset like gold or levels of exports would be unable to purchase oil to feed our pathetic industries, let alone our levels of consumer consumption of energy. I managed to get through 2016 without using a drop of petroleum, propane or any other non-renewable source of energy. I studied and invested in solar and wind and it took me more than a decade to select and test the appliances, like a low wattage crock pot placed in an insulated cooler, to learn how to maximize my ability to live on minimal power. Americans don't have a decade to spare. Denmark did it well. They invested in wind and now boast regions with little or no use for petroleum; which is at the heart of both global environmental destruction, loss of rainforests, pollution of rivers, oceans, aquifers and war, which leaves its own lasting toxic landscape, enormous national debt, widespread death, loss of culture, physical and emotional scars. If poor little Denmark can cure its ills, why can't America accelerate our transition to renewables, save a bundle along the way and reduce our desire or need to engage in wars related to acquiring petroleum reserves, or our need to retain a fiat currency required to fund wars, oil purchases, bribe foreign officials and our own elected leaders. If the spigot of free money were removed, would America be as corrupt as it is today, or as destructive worldwide, as we've become? I believe part of the "Blueprint for fixing America" involves ridding ourselves of the patently corrupt, financially inept Federal Reserve and if possible, dismantling the BIS, IMF and World Bank, or at the least, installing a series of common sense policies to both upgrade these systems, regulate their actions through intelligent policies designed by a political body that relies on both public opinion through debates and analysis of performance driven QC metrics. The system of printing treasuries and taxing citizens was born, not from political debate or even a public vote, but by a small corrupt group in Congress and our banking system a century ago. It has failed to produce a healthy, debt free nation; the imperialism it funded has failed to produce a healthy, democratic, environmentally sustainable world, or even a world that views America as a true democracy, rather than the brutish arm of global corporations, and it has failed to produce a stronger middle class in America. Therefore, after 100 years of failures, perhaps it is time to replace the defective financial systems and taxes which fund defective military campaigns and patently defective, if not murderous systems of politics. What will replace "fiat currencies" remains to be seen, though models based on gold, silver and copper seemed to work pretty well before, and future models, such as bitcoin, or credits based on real production of exports, or levels of kwh power from renewables might also prove viable; something, anything, based on a real, tangible asset would be an improvement as it would eliminate the ability of a corrupt banker to simply press a button, create money from thin air, instantly indebting citizens of a nation seen as instant inflation, and then instantly buy their land or bribe their politicians: A person, corporation or group utilizing money for illegal activities would have to actually perform some kind of work to acquire it. Not so the case today. Whether it is to fix our energy policies, our role of the military in global affairs, our rapidly deteriorating environment, rapidly expanding levels of poverty, homelessness or levels of toxins we are exposed to either from the environment or self-ingested through legal and illegal drugs, our rapidly deteriorating mental health, intellectual capacity, shrinking middle class and standard of living; no matter what the policy is in America that needs to be changed, we aren't changing fast enough. We are like a deer caught in the headlights of a speeding automobile. The revelations of just how corrupt and dysfunctional our government, political and economic systems are has only recently been exposed to those who will study and analyze the evidence, and its so shocking they are either paralyzed or ineffective in bringing about effective change. You can't blame them too much. Faced with a new huge problem we really weren't aware of 20 years ago, and now faced with the prospect of trying to educate a sufficient body of Americans to create the change we must, the proponents for change stumble around testing different solutions; and more often than not, they fail. That is expected. Democracy as proposed by our Founding Fathers was the first of its kind and is an experiment. Experiments don't always work as planned; usually they do not. The trick in this democratic experiment is to recover before its too late. Whether or not we are past a tipping point is somewhat irrelevant as long as we don't give up. We must continue to innovate, to remain optimistic that we can and will prevail; and remain dedicated to the idea that our form of democracy can be shaped into a true popular democracy where every voice counts, where corporations cannot sway us from an honorable path, where people in other nations can become proud in their own quest to emulate our experiment in democracy without the need for our military to force our current corrupt brand of democracy on their citizens. That process has only exposed our defects to a wider geographic landscape and hardened the resolve of many citizens against mirroring America's brand of democracy. As that resistance continues to increase, our military will find it increasingly difficult to find willing souls in each nation who will undermine governments; and therefore our military and corrupt corporate agenda will need to employ hired guns to execute agendas; witness ISIS and CIA funding to topple Syria. In the old days it was easy to find citizens within a nation who were eager to bring American ideals to overthrow a brutal dictator. Today, the people of Syria living under a patently defective leader would prefer that brand of freedom to anything an "American Democracy" might represent. Today, the American brand of Democracy, as a valued export for nations to acquire, is worth less than toxic toilet paper. Dumping nuclear waste on a foreign nation would be less harmful and they know it. Its not that the original design of our democracy was either dishonorable, nor was it a bad idea or even poorly designed. In its day it was brilliant and even today it is far superior to the democracy Americans live with daily. We don't have a real voice in the process of electing our President, nor do we have a real voice in the way Congress operates, nor a real voice in the various emerging "secret courts" that increasingly preside over the actions of citizens, nor a real voice in public spending policies that are bankrupting future generations who have even less, if any voice, even faster than they are bankrupting current generations of our young in their 20's, who are far poorer than the older generation who at least had a chance at home ownership and developing a profitable business under some "free", "capitalistic", "market driven" middle class system that is all but gone in America today. What we are witnessing is not only a rapidly shrinking middle class and rapidly expanding population of impoverished, but a rapidly evaporating system of democracy, rapid expansion of our national debt and destruction of the global environment all taking place at the same time. Its an interlocking series of events that are quite telling in their synergistic effect on each other, yet complex enough to defy our ability to manage today's crisis du jure, let alone plan and execute an intelligent series of steps to bring a halt to these grave trends and thereafter, create a thriving, financially solvent, reasonably moral, non-violent America that can again become a shining beacon of Democracy for all the world to emulate without force; rather by simply becoming envious of our prosperity and the success of our middle class. Today, any envy foreigners might hold for American ideals are primarily focused on the celebs, and a level of wealth, few global citizens will ever attain; nor should they try. The lifestyle of the rich and famous is patently unsustainable and not very good for the financial health of a nation or the environment. Wealth in and of itself is no more evil than a car used in a bank robbery. Wealth, when properly applied can build schools, buy solar panels or wind turbines, or create innovative R&D facilities to invent new technologies that can foster new businesses and provide more Yankee exports. On the other hand, wealth applied to bribe politicians, build leaky oil pipelines or systems that pollute groundwater, or simply to buy a $50,000 dress for a Grammy Award ceremony is dangerous, destructive folly. Therefore, part of the path out of this mess needs to be a sense of modesty and reality based on what we've learned in the past 200 years about gross decadence and the ability of large groups of citizens to become easily hypnotized by fabulous levels of wealth most of them will never attain. Perhaps in a class entitled Personal Econ 101 we should both encourage people to develop ideas, invent, market, sell and manage a personal business, and include a section on prudent personal policies on how to manage their new found wealth; race tracks, casinos, bars and brothels are probably not good habits to hold if you expect to build and retain a thriving business, or nurture a reasonably sane, healthy family to carry your business and wealth forward to future generations. Teaching kids in any nation to acquire wealth merely so they can buy a new black beamer is not conducive to creating a sustainable society, sustainable financial policies, a sustainable environment, nor a sustainable government or society. Modesty, education and the prudent application of technology, financial resources, labor and mined or manufactured assets all have their place in creating a sustainable world or fixing what ails America and the world today. It is unfortunate, though easily predictable, that current generations all around the planet have generally lost all hope in obtaining that kind of world. They understand the government corruption; they see through the American Democratic farse and in their minds, if that enlightened nation is but a brutish scam based on corrupt political figures, extortion and murder, what hope does any human have of finding any peace or prosperity in any land? The result is an increasingly predatory nature of our tweens, teens, young adults and even middle aged folks who should know better, but are almost just as selfish and short-sighted as the desensitized generations raised on bloody TV and video games. Murder isn't really so bad as long as you're on the right side of the barrel; its expected in today's world. Get over it. We have become a mentally sick species destined to extinction if we don't change that attitude. We are living in the 6th great extinction and there is no guarantee our species will survive the process; in fact, some historians and anthropologists note there is a group of wealthy elite who are encouraging a mass die off to bring the human population down to 100M to perhaps 1B from the 7B level today. Perhaps we should let them proceed. Perhaps the earth will be better off after that horror show is over; but the really big question then becomes, if that sick group who would wage global genocide and continued environmental destruction to accomplish their agenda is the primary ruling elite after the bloodbath, what sort of future for habitats, let alone our own species, can we expect from that twisted group? Its another global problem staring us, the educated, enlightened 21st Century Human in the face, like headlights in the eyes of a deer; and we just don't have all the answers required to put humanity and the planet, or even our own nation, back on a predictable, moral, ethical, sustainable course. And so life in the 21st Century has become a giant hedonistic free-for-all suicide party; the population of predators and sociopaths is growing at a logarithmic rate, while those who would embrace charitable or democratic ideals are quickly being marginalized, or easily used and abused by those with power and money to do so. I personally believe the only way to halt, then reverse these dire trends is for the few remaining souls with a moral compass to unite and develop an action plan to first fix America. But with so many internal challenges, and personality conflicts even between "good souls"; we have failed to unite, we have failed to even be able to clearly identify people of moral fiber, as the many wolves in sheep's clothing are all around us. Recently I did a cursory audit of a huge, wealthy environmental group aimed at "saving dolphins, oceans and the environment", and found they had neither the wisdom to create prudent policies, nor any real effective activity, save their ability to sell t-shirts and expand their member base and revenue streams; very sad. And so the blueprint to cure America must include QC metrics; how many kids passed a high level math test as a result of your after school, charter school or public school program? How many of them are employed while in college because they clearly understand the student loan program in the U.S. is a patently defective system designed to enslave them? How many understand that trappings of financial slavery and are attempting to live intelligently within their modest means, rather than "...spend money they don't have for things they don't need." (George Carlin). We need to teach our young that the hypnotic glitz and glamour of the celebs and elite is not nearly as nourishing as a camping trip to a pristine forest that we need to keep pristine. We need to teach them that throwing money at an environmental charity is not quite as effective as simply picking up your trash, as well as some extra trash when visiting a beach. We need to teach them that car pooling is both fun and profitable, and we need to teach them that mending clothing to squeeze the last day out of a pair of shorts can be financially more sustainable and even a lot sexier than trying to acquire a $500 leather jacket, or 7 inch plastic pump cowboy boots. We need to find our roots as a blue collar worker, and Ag sector economy, rather than a nation of dog walkers, maids and gardeners serving the wealthy. Unfortunately, the population of families able to make a living in the Ag sector is also vaporizing, due to regs related to GMO seeds and USDA policies that have almost eliminated the ability of small farmers to survive. Meanwhile, our blue collar "MAKE SOMETHING USEFUL" jobs are all being outsourced to overseas sweat shops, as are our innovative White Collar Silicon Valley jobs in a world of a rising population of programmers, leaving only a dwindling white collar sector of financial management jobs (who produce few if any useful, tangible, sustainable products we really need, save a thriving toxic derivative market), and a bunch of dog walkers and real estate agents who only sell what already existed; a bit of dirt with some wood and a splash of new paint - the American Home - which is a center for consumption, doesn't actually produce anything useful, including intelligent, caring, charitable kids with any sort of skill set required to fix our nation, let alone our planet. I know of mothers who are so so so proud their son or daughter is a top notch dance champion, and as a musician, I am proud to be able to play rock, jazz or classical piano pieces, even sometimes at public gigs, but if I didn't make something tangible, useful, sustainable during the bulk of the hours in my week I'd feel useless; I'd just be another consumer instead of someone who manufactures SOMETHING tangible that others can use to both improve their standard of living, and reduce their impact on the environment. Folks who install solar panels do that sort of "honorable, ethical, blue collar work". Granted, they aren't manufacturing something, but at least they are doing some work that leaves a real, tangible asset on a structure that has the immediate effect of reducing America's reliance on petroleum; and that has long-term, positive financial and environmental consequences for the family, community and nation. Turning back to our stellar "Entertainer" kids, or kids studying to become real estate agents, you have to wonder if those grads will be surprised when they wind up as baggers at a grocery store trying to pay down a student loan that will never end, while paying off child support payments for kids they couldn't afford, nor spent time with to educate them on what mistakes to avoid, (nor ever went camping with them to teach them the value of minimalism, or pristine environments), while paying for social programs like Social Security and Obamacare our poor, bankrupt nation that exports almost nothing simply cannot afford. I praise our artists for their studious habits and wonderfully inspiring productions, cutting edge journalism and screen plays that cause us to reflect on ourselves and humanities journey through time; but with an overwhelming onslaught of advertising, high fashion, porn and violence, it might be prudent for every artist to also hold down a "day job", at least part-time, that actually contributed to creating a more financial, environmental and ethically solvent America. Even a part-time daily contribution by every breathing American towards these objectives might help reverse dire trends and create a united population of educated citizens who both care and are doing something constructive to counter-balance our highly destructive, unsustainable way of life today. Parents and schools need to educate kids on balancing selfish, personal agendas with activities that contribute to society in real, tangible production of products and services focused on deploying technologies that move America towards curing our ills before the "tipping point" trends running amuck today topple us over. The "Stockdale Principle" outlined in the book Good To Great embodies some of these ideals; taking a harsh, honest audit of where we are today and then designing effective management plans to get through the horrid state of affairs and emerge victorious through action based on optimism, and not Pollyanna optimism alone, nor on a fatalistic, hedonistic, careless, if not predatory attitude that seems to enshrine American values at every level of our society. A little discipline is a good thing, when balanced with creative abandon to invent something no one has seen before. A champagne party to celebrate a financial victory is probably also a good thing, IF - key word - you actually accomplished something that helps heal the world or provided some relief to your local community, our nation or a wetlands marsh. Drinking champagne every Sunday morning or buying a new pair of 7 inch plastic pumps just because your debit/credit card allowed it, and you think you deserve it after a 60 hour work week, is a rather short-sighted, if not myopic way of life based on endless consumption, that ignores the increasingly pressing problems of your life, your local community and the global village we all share. Perhaps that $10.00 price you paid for that cocktail might have made a difference had you had saved it to buy a PC keyboard for a child without a computer. Perhaps that $49.00 price for those dress shoes you didn't really need would have been better spent on buying a motherboard for a kid who could learn to install that board into a recycled, dented desktop case, then plug in that new keyboard you also bought them, and build their own PC, complete with a recycled monitor that was headed for a landfill and is now part of a child's at-home education system. Perhaps the parent in that home might remind their child with prudent guidance, that WHEN their math homework was done, THEN they can spend a short time playing some video game on that PC, before they move on to complete their history and science homework, and further remind them that if they fail to keep their grades up, that suite of video games can be uninstalled or blocked altogether. Perhaps instead of turning on the TV to gather the family, which only serves to fracture the family after kids begin wanting consumer items they can't afford, so they begin exploring methods of acquiring capital, like drug dealing in alleys, parents would leave the TV off and focus their energy on helping their kids get through those homework assignments, learn a little math, science and history along the way, learn what it means to create a sustainable home, community and financially solvent nation, and clearly learn what happens if we do not. Perhaps if more parents spent more time educating their kids, and got smarter along the way, more American adults would realize just how under water our nation is, and with some hope derived from that education, learn to fix the mess in their own lives one step at a time. Its a tall order and I am not sure Americans are willing to give up their baseball games or detective dramas in exchange for spending several hours each evening exploring socially relevant topics; whether political, scientific, or even charitable. But if American consumers don't modify their behavior and levels of consumption, and their hit list of acquisitions, most of which are unattainable due to our shrinking middle class and utter lack of any export industry able to finance our debt without utilizing our defective, bankrupt, imploding global system of fiat currencies; there is no hope for the generation that follows who will repeat the same mistakes because they don't know any better, or weren't educated soon enough to avoid those same mistakes. The painful truth is that as our society finds it increasingly difficult to acquire these sought after luxuries, and we continue to plunge into the financial abyss and political chaos of a third-world nation, we will have both blown the once-in-a-species democratic experiment, and our own ingenious potential to both cure our nation and help heal the planet torn by the industrial age and environmental destruction that is the legacy of a petroleum age. Petroleum was a blessing and a curse. It allowed a great global brain trust of 7 billion to be created and all the wonderful technology that mass invented, along with 7 billion mouths to feed and feet to shoe, who unfortunately also want 7 billion shiny black beamers we can't afford to build, let alone fuel. Elon Musk of Tesla once said to build 500,000 EV's would require all the lithium the planet can produce. Therefore, we need to invent and deploy another alternative and do so quickly, and while we're at it, utilize simple, affordable, practical technologies and habits like car pooling, mass transit and shopping only for what we really need, while recycling as much as possible, and ensuring our time spent is focused on educating our young so they don't make the same mistakes our generation did. All of these fundamental changes are part of healing America and the planet we all share and whether or not we do it or embrace it, the reality is this Spartan lifestyle IS coming sooner, rather than later, to every community on earth. Get used to it. Get used to the pain of rapid change and a deteriorating social fabric, social services, a rise in unethical, predatory conduct on every front, and a high risk for a rapid implosion and die off of humanity that will be horrific. This IS our future if we do not mend our ways and no amount of technology can save us from wanton, unbridled consumerism, or our universal tendency to ignore harsh realities. A little discipline and practical, effective planning, balanced with our artistic, humanitarian and spiritual agendas is required. So, curing what ails America is a complex idea that won't be completed by simply electing another corrupt official. You can't cure America by electing a new Mayor, Governor, Congressman or President. You won't accomplish it by switching banks or moving to a community sponsored credit union. You won't do it by simply installing solar on your roof and then pouring yourself a glass of champagne to celebrate the money you'll save on your electric bill or patting yourself on the back for reducing your need for petroleum, nor should you put the money you might save by car pooling into a fund for your annual trip to a Vegas casino where you can blow it in a weekend of heated hedonistic abandon. That sort of wreckless behavior might make sense to a 20 something kid who has never dropped five grand on a crap table, but in today's world that population of wealthy empowered young is also evaporating, and for the rest of us, prudence should guide nearly every action on this high wire act of trying to save humanity from itself. One good mistake, or worse, a continued series of imprudent mistakes, is all that is required to blow our last chance to avert the economic storm already at our door. In fact we don't even need to make a mistake; just continue on as we are doing today and there is little hope of any real, effective change for the better anything in the next 100 - 500 years of humanity's journey on this earth. Since much of this transformation must embody fundamental changes in how our federal government operates and the QC metrics that need to be installed to change its underlying principles of operation, bloated budgets, imperialistic campaigns and lack of focus on improving the plight of America's middle class, let alone provide much relief for America's impoverished, I suggest that a huge part of "the cure" involves finding and installing politicians who can "Get 'er done". We haven't seen anything like that anywhere in America for several decades, if not for more than a century. Sure, there are a few rare politicians who actually have a reasonably solvent, financially prudent, moral, ethical, perhaps even legal game plan, but they are quickly overwhelmed and marginalized, frustrated or assassinated, or through some other means, ejected from office; a process which leaves only the corrupt or inept left behind. This begs the question, "Would America's recovery be accelerated if a popular driven vote of no confidence by citizens could quickly remove politician's from office?" I don't mean impeaching a President after a billion dollar televised trial that requires Congress to stop dead in its tracks to handle a process that distracts them from more critical resolutions, rather I mean that if 60%, 70%, 80% or more Americans were polled each month, and were found to absolutely PRESS THE REJECT BUTTON, then the President in the Oval Office bowed out on Friday, the V.P. took the hot seat, we held an impromptu election to replace them from viable candidates, and the same rapid, low-cost process was enacted for Congress, State Governors and Legislators, County Supervisors and our Mayors and any other elected official. Put another way; when 80% of your constituents think you're doing a crappy job, odds are you saw that figure rising and the moment it hit 51% the warning shot was fired over your bow. When it hit 70% you had a hole in your boat and probably should have both modified your course and began polling citizens, civic planners, scientists, artists; hippies, bankers, anyone and everyone, on what you might do to improve your performance, and heal your reputation by delivering real solutions to real problems citizens are faced with every single day. Granted, a rapid change in high level leadership can create chaos; but we already have that today, so there's no big loss there. Granted, Americans can be a fickle group and a popular President today can easily become vilified the moment the food stamp program get slashed, or health insurance rates take a hike. Granted, if our currency goes into a freefall, as many economists predict, and we can't get the oil we need, if we begin experiencing brown outs and black outs like many developing nations endure daily, and if our highways continue to deteriorate just like our system of healthcare, ag and manufacturing sectors, its going to be pretty tough to stay in the Oval Office when such a system of rapid REJECTION is in place. That said, these negative trends are already with us across the board and I don't see either Presidential Candidate really mentally capable of fixing any of them; not one. To assume Hillary will fix things is insane; she's a known felon with absolutely no remorse, and though not convicted in a court of law, every American paying attention knows it. To assume Donald can fix it is to believe a businessman who often bases his profits and retained earnings on bankruptcy laws, and who would alienate a huge Latin American population, gays, women - name the group - is equally insane. Donald might actually be good for America, as he might be able to gut a lot of the bloat in government today, but at the end of the day, would you rather have a surgeon or a wreckless butcher performing your open heart surgery? The answer, I believe, is to enact a series of laws that require a politician at any level to step aside quickly when a massive, popular vote of NO CONFIDENCE appears; whether its a poll taken weekly, then summarized and enacted upon on a monthly or quarterly basis, or whether we simply employ such a law to regulate Congress, quickly removing Legislators who refuse to impeach any President who acquires a massive level of public wrath measured by frequent, regular, popular vote driven surveys managed by a known, impartial, trusted audit team; i.e. your local librarian staff. Perhaps if the libraries around the nation benefited financially from educating our young and at the same time, acting as a central community gathering place for political and charitable action committees, we'd see some improvements. Frank Zappa said "If you want to get laid, go to college. If you want an education, go to a library." and with the emergence of google, wikipedia and thankfully, the retention of libraries in our culture, there's little or no excuse for Americans not to continue obtaining an education, especially during this period of national crisis. With the technology that exists TODAY there's little or no excuse for failing to develop the polls, surveys and rapid voting mechanisms that would provide politicians with a "HOW AM I DOING?" answer, and if a rapid REJECT mechanism was built into every political office, things would probably get better much faster than any other method we could devise. Put another way; a drunk surgeon shows up to do your heart surgery and you happen to wake up just as they have begun cutting you open. You realize that person is patently unqualified to both perform the job ahead, let alone care for your life along the way. No matter how many other expert healthcare professionals might be present, wouldn't you vote to "STOP EVERYTHING. EJECT THIS CLOWN AND BRING IN ANOTHER SOBER, QUALIFIED TEAM LEADER?". Do you really think repairing our fragile, torn, crippled, dying nation is any less critical than your open heart surgery? Do you realize Washington D.C. has one of, if not the highest rate of alcoholism in our country? That's a huge "in-your-face" clue as to why things are as bad as they are in our nation and communities today. We have TV shows like the Apprentice or Survivor where only the best make it to the final episode. As Donald himself knows all too well, substandard performance gets you "FIRED!". There's no big trial; no long expensive paperwork trail. Its done with a smile, perhaps a pat on the back for those good things you were able to accomplish early on, but if you lack the stamina or ingenuity or prudence to continue making progress, guess what? You're done. Get out. Let someone else take the ball and run from wherever we are towards the goal line. Some will argue, and rightly so, that in a nation where the top political leader can be rotated like a pair of shoes, the only real power lies in a military Junta of corrupt, power hungry Generals and those who serve them or are "taken out". Well, if you've intimately studied American politics, that's what we have today anyway. Get a clue. Ike warned us about the Industrial Military Complex, wives of military officers and the officers themselves have come forward and revealed the way things work, so its no big surprise to see Obama swearing he's going to reduce deployment, then not long after he's in office, continue America's occupation in foreign lands. Its no big surprise to see every nation on earth condemn Israel for the situation in Palestine, and then see the U.S. is the only nation to veto resolutions that might force Israel to mend its ways. Its no surprise to see Orthodox Jews making overtures with Iran, while the government of Israel and Hillary threaten to bomb Iran into oblivion. It is no surprise to see rising rosters of homeless in America while we spend trillions fighting wars to acquire oil at a time in human history when we've already proven we can get all the energy we need to run entire nations from wind and solar projects; if we actually built them. And so the question of whether or not a rapid rotation of Presidents or Congressmen, Governors or Mayors might lead to a nation led by military leaders has already been answered; we already are. Perhaps only by putting someone in the Oval Office who understands this problem early on can we expect American streets to look less like battle grounds, and American Cops to look and act less like U.S. troops in Iraq. I may be wrong, but the system in place is patently corrupt, patently defective and completely ineffective. Whatever Democracy and America were SUPPOSED to be 200 plus years later it surely has not become. The solution? Throw the bums out and do it with less fanfare, less budget and less lost time. Hey, we might even make a weekly TV show out of it. Why do we have to wait forever for a State Of The Union address? When a nation is as messed up as we are today, a weekly 15 - 30 minute BOARD MEETING with American Stakeholders - every citizen - seems more appropriate. Like any board meeting, it should cover Old Business; i.e. programs being implemented and their QC Metrics produced by third party citizen bodies, and available online for download and analysis, and New Business, proposals for new programs, budgets, and a selection of innovative ideas that were gathered from the citizens themselves. A true representative of Americans would embrace their people, their ideas, their audits, and actively seek their opinions of their performance in office. A true representative of Americans wouldn't need a LAW to leave office if they knew their performance sucked and an overwhelming majority of Americans wanted them out; they'd just apologize - quickly - and step aside. And so the BLUEPRINT to fix America quickly, if not in time to avoid a complete meltdown, probably includes a rapid REJECT/RE-ELECT process. Its like a Jehovah Witness I know explained, as they are looking for good honest souls; "You have to sift through a lot of mud to find a few flakes of gold." Its a lot like the kids I teach in hard-core neighborhoods; you have A students, B students and F students. Very few kids are C or D students for long in a well run class. They are either encouraged and want to learn, and soon rise to the B or A level, or they are not encouraged or lack the desire and in a well run class they fail within a week or two and are asked to go spend their time in some class, some where, that they actually want to participate in. There is little sense in wasting time trying to teach a kid something they really do not wish to learn. The old saying "You can't teach a Pig to sing; you waste your time and just annoy the Pig." applies. And so the BLUEPRINT also means putting the right students in the right classes, and ensuring ALL STUDENTS understand the value of useful, productive work that requires skills America needs to remain competitive; unfortunately, ballet isn't one of them. If a kid wants to learn to play guitar or piano; great. Let them learn it like I did and study at home after finishing their math and science homework. They'll know it better and learn it faster at les cost than mommy having to spend hundreds or even thousands on piano lessons or instruments for a school marching band. I was also in a marching, orchestra and jazz band and while I have fond memories of it and wish America was so wealthy it could continue to afford these types of electives, those days are long gone. WHEN we have a balanced budget and WHEN we have kids no longer living in cars with their mothers anywhere in America - and I mean ANYWHERE - and WHEN we have cured our nation of our addiction to oil and plastic clothing; WHEN we have enough spare renewable energy to drive desalination plants to irrigate our fields to replace the crops lost due to global warming and ever-widening regions of drought, and WHEN we have desalination plants - 100's if not 1,000's of them - that do not produce dead zones from brine discharge, do not run by burning coal, LNG, petroleum, or require any process that produces nuclear waste; WHEN we have a planet that is not engaged in wars over in ground assets used to drive unsustainable economies and consumer practices, and WHEN we have Judges, Mayors, School Teachers, Governors, Legislators and Presidents all keenly aware that if they screw up a POPULAR VOICE can hand them a Pink Slip in a blink, THEN I will happily support schools with music and painting electives. In the meantime, the basics please; its all we can really afford and any child who really wants to learn to carve wood can take a class online, get a paper route or learn to repair computers in a free class they study online at their local library, then save their pennies to buy their first chisel, paint brush, ballet slippers, guitar or upright piano as the case may be.
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