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The Signposts Timeline:
Civilians Find Themselves on the Frontlines of Conflict as Geopolitical Power Begins Giving Way to Sociopolitical Power

America's decline begins in earnest, accelerated by gross administrative incompetence and corruption at the dawning of the 21st century

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If war is basically a human psychological defense mechanism against a frightening environment, this bodes ill for the 21st and 22nd centuries-- for this period is enormously stressful and often terrifying for much of the populace; and at the same time individuals and small groups will be gaining ever greater capacities to add their own voices and influences to developing events (this includes terrorists).

-- Blood Rites: Origins and History of the Passions of War by Barbara Ehrenreich, Virago, London 1997, Reviewed by Cath Walsh http://www.richmondreview.co.uk THE RICHMOND REVIEW BOOK REVIEW, found on or about 9-17-99

"...with things like biotech and robotics we may be empowering individuals in dangerous ways and exposing ourselves as a human race to grave new risks"

-- Sir Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal

-- Voices on the future By David Kirkpatrick FORTUNE.COM; CNN; January 29, 2003

"We are inevitably empowering more people with the potentiality to harm on an ever growing scale"

-- Martin Rees, astronomer royal

-- The end of the world as we know it (maybe) by Simon Hattenstone; April 24, 2003; The Guardian

1997-2017 sub trends and detours; military actions are becoming much 'fuzzier' and more difficult for any single party to dominate at length-- while civil unrest/dissent is becoming much easier for some governments to suppress at times, due to the spread of new "non-lethal" weaponry

USAmerica is gradually relinquishing its role as world policeman, mostly for budgetary and political reasons (though its diminishing economic and military power relative to a couple other world powers also plays a role; see My Name is Legion for one aspect of this process). Though US business still aggressively courts world markets, the rest of America is turning inwards.

USAmerica veered sharply off-course in terms of peace, prosperity, and prestige in the wake of the 9-11-01 terrorist attacks. It ramped up secrecy for many US government and business operations, which led to an overall increase in waste, corruption, and mistakes in both camps, as well as lost research and innovation opportunities. It wasted huge sums on a military buildup largely irrelevant to reducing terrorism, even as the country's own health system effectively collapsed for nearly half the workforce. America also stripped its citizens of many civil liberties they had long enjoyed, and placed virtually all but its most powerful and wealthy elite under intense surveillance. The new surveillance measures allowed those in power greater capacities to pressure, control, and deter political opposition/dissent and whistleblowing on wrongdoing, which increased the opportunity for inefficiencies, corruption, and fraud at many levels in US business and government-- but especially in the higher ranks. For example, known members of certain political organizations would routinely be denied access to airline travel, thereby preventing them from participating in various events and meetings. They would also be harassed at various check points, in attempts to goad them into behavior they could be arrested for, among other things.

-- Scientists tell Washington secrecy impairs research

-- Anti-terror laws 'will curb research'; Times Online

"If you eliminate manufacturing, which accounts for 65 percent of private sector R & D, then innovation will decline, and you will see a nation in decline."

-- W. R. Timken Jr., chairman of Timken (a large regional US employer), and previously chairman of the National Association of Manufacturers

-- As Factory Jobs Disappear, Workers Have Few Options By STEVEN GREENHOUSE; September 13, 2003; New York Times

"The numbers reflect a severe idea recession"

-- Where Has All the Ambition Gone? By James Champy; Fast Company Issue 74 | September 2003, Page 112

-- The Deadly Effects of Suppressed Info By Mark Clifford; Businessweek; MARCH 21, 2003

"Twenty armed men willing to die within a few years can tie up billions of U.S. money, military men, equipment, and attention. When they are gone, twenty more can spring up to take their place."

-- On its Present Course, the U.S. is doomed to lose; Toby's Political Diary - 'Let it Begin Here'; May 27, 2003

"...we cannot, nor can you in the United States of America, guarantee 100 percent nothing will happen when a determined, crazy, evil person is determined to die"

-- Prince Bandar bin Sultan, Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States

-- U.S. Officials: Saudis Ignored Warnings; ABC News; May 15, 2003; [note the URL is not permanent: different content is cycled through it on a regular basis]

"Absolute security is an illusion...To pretend otherwise benefits no one but those who want to see our liberties eroded to nothing."

-- Robert Ferrell, security researcher

-- Are You Scared Stupid? Do Tell By Michelle Delio; WIRED; Feb. 17, 2003

-- Critics Say Security Laws Sacrifice Civil Liberties by Paul Roberts, IDG News Service/PC World; January 20, 2003

-- 'red alert may bring martial law'

-- U.S. becoming Big Brother society: Report; Associated Press; Jan. 16, 2003

-- Fighting terror by terrifying U.S. citizens by ROB MORSE; November 20, 2002; San Francisco Chronicle

-- The New McCarthyism: Secret Arrest and Detention instead of Blacklisting. by Toby Sackton; November 10, 2002; Toby's Political Diary - 'Let it Begin Here'

-- Court's ruling opens new chapter in government censorship

-- Envoy dubs US a police state

-- US uses terrorism law in other crime probes

-- Rotten, Old-Fashioned Corruption at the FCC By Molly Ivins, AlterNet; May 29, 2003

-- The Faint, Fading Voice of the Left By Thane Peterson; Businessweek; MAY 20, 2003

-- The "Enronization" of America By Thane Peterson; JUNE 10, 2003; Businessweek


"According to some estimates we cannot track $2.3 trillion in transactions"

-- US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld

"We know it's gone. But we don't know what they spent it on...they have to cover it up...that's where the corruption comes in. They have to cover up the fact that they can't do the job."

-- Jim Minnery, Defense Finance and Accounting Service

"[the defense budget] numbers are pie in the sky. The books are cooked routinely year after year"

-- Department of Defense Analyst Franklin C. Spinney

"With good financial oversight we could find $48 billion in loose change in [the Pentagon building]"

-- Retired Vice Admiral Jack Shanahan

-- The War On Waste (possibly by Vince Gonzales); CBSNews.com; Jan. 29, 2002

"the federal government is keeping its books much like Enron did, and all of us will end up paying for it"

-- Sheila Weinberg, the Institute for Truth in Accounting

-- Federal reports blasted BY KEN GOZE; West Proviso [IL] Herald, 1/1/2003; Digital Chicago Inc.; http://www.pioneerlocal.com/cgi-bin/ppo-story/localnews/current/wp/01-01-03-27530.html [this article was cached for a time at http://www.unknownnews.net/cache34.html, where it was found on or about 1-1-03]

"We should not lose sight that building the capacity to fight corruption is paramount"

-- Sam Laidlaw, ChevronTexaco executive VP for business development

-- Relief agency wants oil payments revealed by Verne Kopytoff; June 18, 2003; San Francisco Chronicle

-- Backlog of Whistleblower Cases Growing, Agency Report Says By Tania Branigan; Washington Post; July 21, 2003; Page A04

Over a third of all economic crimes are only uncovered with the help of whistleblowers.

-- Economic Crime Detected Mostly by Whistleblowers and Audits, PwC Survey Finds By SmartPros Editorial Staff; July 9, 2003

"Whistleblowers can pay dearly for doing the right thing"

-- In the name of truth by Caroline Overington; The Age; July 22 2003

What becomes of US and British government whistleblowers? Smears and harassment.

-- Insiders Outed; Daily MoJo; motherjones.com; July 24, 2003

-- Whistleblowers get the axe by Jed Gottlieb; The Independent Online; Vol. 14 No. 48; Issue Date 11/27/2003 [this item was still a live link as of 12-03-03; however, the datestamp on the article seemed awfully recent compared to my memory of originally running across the item online, perhaps a month or so earlier in realtime than the datestamp indicates].

"I think George Bush is the most corrupt American president since Harding in the Twenties"

-- Ken Livingstone, Mayor of London

-- Livingstone attacks President Bush ; BBC; 8 May, 2003

"a firm that pays the vice president of the United States a million dollars a year has now taken over operation of Iraq's oil wealth"

-- Global Eye -- Language Barrier By Chris Floyd; The Moscow Times; found on or about 12-03-03

-- 'the amount that Halliburton could receive in the future is virtually limitless'

-- Secret Halliburton deal endangers U.S. credibility; The Atlanta Journal-Constitution; 5/8/03

-- Halliburton Discloses Bribery Payment In SEC Filing

As disturbing as it will eventually become to many US citizens, there's substantial evidence that the US president and vice president, their staffs, Congressional allies, and friends/families already have or will directly benefit financially and politically from the 9-11-01 terrorist attacks and the legislation and policies they subsequently pushed through Congress (as well as various high profile business scandals in the headlines of the time) more than anyone else who can be linked in any way to the events.

-- Follow the Money, Bush, 9-11 and Deep Threat by Fran Shor; www.counterpunch.org; May 21, 2002

-- The Army Secretary's Business (washingtonpost.com); March 28, 2002; Page A28

-- When the Business of Business Is Politics . . . (washingtonpost.com)By Sebastian Mallaby; The Washington Post January 28, 2002; Page A21

-- Memo Shows Enron Division Headed by Army Secretary Thomas White Manipulated California Electricity Market CONTACT: Public Citizen at www.citizen.org; 202-588-7742; MAY 8, 2002; ww.commondreams.org

-- Papers Show That Enron Manipulated Calif. Crisis By Peter Behr; Washington Post; May 7, 2002; Page A01

-- Docs Say Enron Was Part Of The Problem by Dan Ackman, 05.07.02; Forbes magazine

-- Bush and Ken Lay Slip Slidin' Away By Sam Parry February 6, 2002; consortiumnews.com

-- At Enron, the Fall Came Quickly (washingtonpost.com) By Steven Pearlstein and Peter Behr; Washington Post; December 2, 2001; Page A01

-- Enron Conservatives by ROBERT L. BOROSAGE; COMMENT | February 4, 2002; The Nation Company, L.P.; http://www.thenation.com

-- Enron-gate by Molly Ivins - Creators Syndicate; 12.06.01; URL: http://www.workingforchange.com/article.cfm?ItemId=12461

-- Enron Spoils the Party BY MICHAEL DUFFY AND JOHN F. DICKERSON; Cathy Booth Thomas, Karen Tumulty and Michael Weisskopf reporting; Time.com; Jan. 27, 2002

-- White House Aided Enron in Dispute (washingtonpost.com) By Dana Milbank and Paul Blustein; Washington Post; January 19, 2002; Page A1; Joe Stephens, James V. Grimaldi and Lucy Shackelford contributors

-- Campaign Gifts, Lobbying Built Enron's Power In Washington (washingtonpost.com) By Dan Morgan and Juliet Eilperin; Washington Post; December 25, 2001; Page A01

-- Through Enron, Lay Left His Mark, All Right by David Morris June 12, 2002 Commondreams, citing Minneapolis Star Tribune, December 9, 2001

-- DeLay Advisers Reaped Enron Windfall By John Bresnahan and Damon Chappie; Roll Call Inc.; February 25, 2002

-- Waxman: Energy Policy Helpful to Enron By PETE YOST, Associated Press/Yahoo! News; Jan 25, 2002; US Energy policy: http://www.fe.doe.gov/general/energypolicy.shtml

-- Harold Meyerson, "Enron's Enablers," The American Prospect vol. 13 no. 3, February 11, 2002.

-- Bush 2000 Adviser Offered to Use Clout to Help Enron (washingtonpost.com) By Joe Stephens; Washington Post; February 17, 2002; Page A01; Lucy Shackelford contributor

-- NSC Aided Enron's Efforts (washingtonpost.com) By Dana Milbank and Alan Sipress; Washington Post; January 25, 2002; Page A18

-- Enron Collapse Entangles Bush Administration By Arshad Mohammed; Reuters/Yahoo!; January 10, 2002

-- Lawmakers Want Bush Away From Enron By MARCY GORDON;The Associated Press/Yahoo! Politics Headlines; January 16 2002

-- Bush Did Try to Save Enron By Sam Parry; May 29, 2002; consortiumnews.com

-- President Bush Urges Senate to Support Retroactive 'Enron Escape'; Silicon Valley Biz Ink; Legislation to be Debated on Senate Floor September 9th; 'Class Action Fairness Act Empowers Those Who Looted Enron & Worldcom to Evade Accountability,' Says Alliance For Justice; Aug. 26 /PRNewswire [2002 datestamp]

America also began actively promoting and encouraging monopolistic, anti-competitive, and predatory business behavior in multinational corporations worldwide (such as Microsoft).

-- Yahoo! News - Reliance on Microsoft Called Risk to U.S. Security

-- Yahoo! News - Report calls Microsoft dominance national security risk

"Policymakers must "confront the security effects of monopoly and acknowledge that competition policy is entangled with security policy from this point forward"

-- from a paper prepared by the Computer and Communications Industry Association

-- Security Report Puts Blame On Microsoft By Jonathan Krim; Washington Post; September 24, 2003; Page E01

-- Report: Microsoft dominance poses security risk CNET News.com By Robert Lemos; September 24, 2003

"...technology experts are warning of the dangers of relying so heavily on just one outfit -- Microsoft Corp. -- to provide the backbone of the computing and Internet world"

-- Epidemic By Steve Hamm, Jay Greene, Cliff Edwards, Jim Kerstetter, and bureau reports; SEPTEMBER 8, 2003; Businessweek

-- Microsoft software "riddled with vulnerabilities", trade body claims By INQUIRER staff: 28 August 2003; the INQUIRER

-- Microsoft monoculture allows virus spread by Danny Penman; 25 September 03; NewScientist.com news service

-- Mono-culture and the .NETwork effect posted by Ray [possibly Ray Yeargin], October 13, 2003; Updated: October 14, 2003; Librenix

-- Gartner echoes concerns on Microsoft reliance CNET News.com By Robert Lemos; October 8, 2003

-- A Fraudulent, Cynical Settlement; News, Views and a Hong Kong Diary by Dan Gillmor; November 2, 2001; KnightRidder.com

Microsoft's stunning win in its settlement with the US government seems to have stemmed from a convergence of factors. First off, the Bush Administration all along had a different perspective on the case than previous Administrations. Microsoft also put up a fierce lobbying campaign. Then there was the weakening economy, the 9-11 terrorist attacks, and the judge wishing for a speedy settlement. This set the stage for Microsoft to negotiate some sweet terms for itself.

Many observers believe the Department of Justice simply didn't understand the technical details of the issues under negotiation, and so Microsoft got the best of them.

-- Circumstance Had Role in U.S.-Microsoft Deal (washingtonpost.com) By Jonathan Krim; Washington Post; November 3, 2001; Page A21

Microsoft has made a deal with the US government giving it (Microsoft) effective control over the internet. What did the government get in return for handing over such power to Microsoft? Will Microsoft become effectively another branch of government, performing surveillance on users, censoring or shutting down web sites the government dislikes, or helping collect internet taxes down the road? It appears Windows XP is the final lock on Microsoft's absolute control of the internet.

-- You're free to think by Dave Winer; Nov 6, 2001; davenet.userland.com

Preventing excessive concentrations of power over the public in either government or corporate entities has been a hallmark of the American way for much of our history. Now however, such prevention is becoming more difficult to do, as advances in computer and telecommunications technologies are allowing the creation of new global organizations and the reshaping of old ones in ways which defy the previous constraints any one government could exercise upon them.

A current example of such concentration of power is Microsoft's present course of extending its computer monopoly to the internet via .NET.

Microsoft's monopoly in PCs has reduced innovation and competition in the industry. Now via .NET it is trying to do the same with the internet industry. If it works, soon Microsoft could become a gating force in the online world, effectively controlling who may participate there.

But even if Microsoft acts responsibly with all this power, there would still remain the enormous security vulnerability such dependence upon a single standard would mean for any nation so enthralled. For within such a system, a single flaw could lead to the entire nation being compromised. Its citizenry, its businesses, its utilities, its government, its military-- everything. Maybe all simultaneously. We're talking not of the crash of a single computer, or even thousands here, but of an entire nation crashing, and being unable to get back up and running again. Maybe as the result of an accident, or bug. Maybe from a terrorist attack. Maybe from a military attack.

The past history of Microsoft product security provides plenty of reasons for concern here.

-- The Threat Of Microsoft's .Net BY WHITFIELD DIFFIE AND SUSAN LANDAU; found on or about 10-25-01, and other sources

Some economists who've studied economic depressions believe the clearest causes of depressions are too little business competition, especially when government itself contributes to such reductions. Also, when governments prop up inefficient businesses rather than letting them fail, that too can help bring on depression.

The USA itself may still be vulnerable to experiencing economic depressions in the present or future. There's no clear way to guarantee they won't occur. All we have available are clues from past experience about how we might minimize the frequency and severity of economic downturns.

-- Could We Face Another Depression? By Christopher Farrell; BusinessWeek; The McGraw-Hill Companies Inc. ; OCTOBER 19, 2001

The Republican political party of USAmerica controlled both houses of Congress for the whole decade preceding the Great Depression. They also held the Presidency during these years. They pushed tariffs to an all time high, often looked the other way as big business commited violations of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act and market competition within the USA waned, and made tax cuts which benefited the wealthy.

It was after all this that the Great Depression took place, lasting for many years. Republicans lost their popular support with this event.

-- Encyclopedia Americana: Republican Party possibly by George H. Mayer, University of South Florida, Grolier Incorporated

When nations are at war or in economic trouble they tend to reduce their tolerance of free and open markets, and open borders. If this happens in 2002 and after in USAmerica, it could lead to economic and technological stagnation. Increases in defense-related research and development will also reduce the engineering and scientific talent available for commercial developments, further slowing overall progress. Increased security concerns make for more secrecy too, which slows information flow through the economy, making business responses to markets more sluggish.

Note that according to USAmerican leadership in late 2001, America is both at war and in economic recession, simultaneously.

-- RETHINKING THE ECONOMY By Michael J. Mandel, Peter Coy and William Symonds; OCTOBER 1, 2001; BusinessWeek Online; The McGraw-Hill Companies Inc.

-- Extending its tentacles; The Economist Newspaper/The Economist Group; Oct 20th 2001

Microsoft is steadily squeezing customers harder and harder for more revenues-- i.e., the real costs of being a Microsoft customer are growing by the day. Microsoft is also using its legal clout to gag sources which might publish information about Microsoft's software performance or quality compared to competitors. The company's latest software also leaves users with little or no privacy left at all on their machines, as personal info is routinely sent to the Microsoft mothership. Info, which among other things, allows Microsoft to keep tabs on competing software applications a user might install. With its new system Microsoft now could also decide to make your PC stop working entirely if you install too many new items on it-- unless you cough up more money for the company. The UCITA (Uniform Computer Information Transaction Act) theoretically gives them the power to shut down the entire world and demand new payments before allowing everyone to continue.

Oh yes-- and Microsoft is thumbing its nose at free speech rights in nations like the USA as well, by imposing censorship clauses in its software licenses. For example, users of FrontPage 2002 are not allowed to criticize the company or its products using the package.

-- A punitive puppeteer? The Gripe Line by Ed Foster; INFOWORLD; InfoWorld Media Group, Inc., October 04, 2001

The entertainment industry hopes to seize control of all digital devices with the SSSCA (Security Systems Standards and Certification Act). The SSSCA would effectively build copy protection into every new electronic device on the planet, making certain the industry could squeeze every last penny out of consumers, even for extra copies they have always had legal rights to for free in years past.

The previously passed 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act gave the industry such control in principle, but the SSSCA would give it to them in cold hard physicality.

Add to these items the huge new surveillance and control powers the US government wants over US citizens, plus Microsoft's own new user control systems added to Windows XP, and you get a possible convergence of corporate and government interests which could spell real trouble for civil liberties in all sorts of arenas.

At this point the entertainment industry may not realize they're stepping onto a slippery slope. Because the same weakening of individual rights they're presently pushing out of their own greed could eventually allow political extremists in government to turn around and start dictating what the industry itself can publish or air.

-- Entertainment control freaks have an ally in Microsoft (10-23-2001)

-- Ashcroft: 'Unlawful conduct' is over November 2, 2001; Cable News Network; CNN.com

Microsoft is trying to stifle free speech and public disclosures pointing out security problems and bugs in its software. The company is using terms like "information anarchy" in its arguments.

Public disclosure forces Microsoft to correct problems, and do it as soon as possible. If problems were not publically disclosed, Microsoft might never correct them, leaving ever larger numbers of users vulnerable to the first criminals who discovered the vulnerabilities on their own. Public disclosure also allows others to possibly put up temporary defenses to hold off attackers until Microsoft does distribute a patch.

Public disclosure of ongoing security problems with Microsoft's software also slows the adoption of its newest wares, and offers opportunities for competing operating systems like Linux; another reason Microsoft would probably like to stop such disclosures.

-- Microsoft, Researchers Tussle Over Security Issues By Elinor Mills Abreu; Yahoo!/Reuters; November 6, 2001, and other sources

Microsoft is using its considerable market clout to try to silence security researchers-- to prevent them from disclosing to the public information about security flaws in Microsoft's software.

It appears that if Microsoft succeeds in censoring security problems with its software, enormous new opportunities will open up for both domestic and international 'crackers' and/or various computer criminals to steal money and identities electronically, as well as sabotage the systems of companies or governments dependent upon Microsoft software.

-- MS to force IT-security censorship By Thomas C Greene; The Register; 2 November 2001

-- Microsoft dominance of OS market grows, IDC study says By Laura Rohde, IDG News Service/maccentral.macworld.com; October 08, 2003

"Our model "shows that closed-source projects are always slower to converge to a bug-free state than bazaar open-source projects," say theoretical physicists Damien Challet and Yann Le Du"

-- New Findings Shake Up Open-Source Debate By Mike Martin; NewsFactor Network; September 18, 2003

USAmerica's new belligerence overseas in general didn't help matters either, as much of the world, including longtime allies of the USA, soon became angry with USAmerica's behavior. This led to increasing acrimony on all sides, and greater trade and military frictions between the US and the rest of the world. The US didn't realize it, but it was effectively convincing people worldwide that there were essentially two groups of people in the world: the US and everyone else. This did not bode well for America's future, for several reasons. One, the USA was only 300 to 500 million people strong during this period, compared to six to eight billion other human beings on the planet (the US made up just 5% to 6% of total world population). Much of the USA's highly touted knowledge and wealth actually stemmed from world trade and sharing in the research and development of scientists and engineers worldwide; likewise the US dollar's strength depended heavily upon how US prestige and credibility was rated globally. Much of the USA's military power was based on perception rather than reality, too. The US could not afford to suffer many native casualties in any conflict, and so it was heavily dependent upon mercenaries or the soldiers of allied nations to do the 'grunt work' in many events. US projection of military power also did and looked best when used only against the weakest and most backward of other world nations. After a while world observers began to notice this fact.

The USA itself may still be vulnerable to experiencing economic depressions in the present or future. There's no clear way to guarantee they won't occur. All we have available are clues from past experience about how we might minimize the frequency and severity of economic downturns.

-- Could We Face Another Depression? By Christopher Farrell; BusinessWeek; The McGraw-Hill Companies Inc. ; OCTOBER 19, 2001

-- "The 20th Century Was Probably Lucky"; Businessweek; MARCH 10, 2003 [an interview of Robert Shiller (author of Irrational Exuberance) by Marcia Vickers]

"I think the United States is setting itself up for a Latin American-style financial crisis"

-- Economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman

"...if he [Bush] wins reelection to the White House, an economic meltdown will become "inevitable."...[according to Krugman]"

-- NY Times Columnist Sees Gloom in America's Future By Mark Egan; Reuters; September 16, 2003

"A small minority of economists are already sounding warnings that interest rates and inflation will rise to unacceptable levels by the end of next year or early 2005."

"And when it all unravels, it will unravel fast" -- Diane Swonk, chief economist, Bank One Corp

-- The War and the Economy By Jonathan Weisman; Washington Post; September 16, 2003; Page E01

"Globalisation means that mistakes in one country - especially the world's largest economy - have powerful repercussions elsewhere."

-- US economic folly should worry us all by Joseph Stiglitz; September 17, 2003; The Guardian

-- Trade war on the horizon By NANCY DILLON; New York Daily News; July 12, 2003

-- US and Europe on brink of trade war by Andrew Osborn and Larry Elliott; July 12, 2003; The Guardian

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act is being increasingly used to stifle business competition and innovation across-the-board-- which spells bad news ahead for consumers.

-- DMCA: Ma Bell Would Be Proud by Lauren Weinstein; WIRED; Jan. 20, 2003

The Recording Industry Association of America's pursuit of individual music downloaders will likely make for a stampede by consumers into various anonymity protection technologies-- thereby providing demand to bring about an economic supply response from entrepreneurs-- and so make it harder for all online criminal activity to be persecuted: including terrorism.

-- The Anonymity Doomsday Factor By John C. Dvorak July 7, 2003; PC Magazine

-- Tech worker says agency uses 'non-compete' agreements to bully, intimidate By Jeff Nachtigal; May 23, 2003; Washington Alliance of Technology Workers, Communications Workers of America, Local 37083, AFL-CIO

"The genius of international science collaboration"

-- Artificial intelligence, swimmer detectors, and blast resistant structures; eurekalert.org; 2-Nov-2002; Contact: Gail Cleere; cleereg@on.navy.mil; 703 -696-4987; Office of Naval Research

-- Fear of 'foreigners' may slow scientific progress; eurekalert.org; 30-May-2003; Ginger Pinholster; gpinhols@aaas.org; 202-326-6421; Coimbra Sirica; 631-757-4027; American Association for the Advancement of Science


-- Buffett Sees Trouble for Airlines and Economy, Promise in Energy By Christopher Edmonds; Special to RealMoney.com; 05/03/2003; thestreet.com; URL: http://www.thestreet.com/comment/chrisedmonds/10084966.html

-- Fortress US Growing frustration over losing research and good will due to barriers to foreign scholars By Peg Brickley; February 11, 2003; The Scientist Inc. in association with BioMed Central

-- Study shows strong association between academic collaboration and scientific publishing productivity; eurekalert.org; 16-Feb-2003; Contact: John Toon; john.toon@edi.gatech.edu; 404-894-6986; Georgia Institute of Technology Research News

-- Defense Tech: Why the U.S. Must Share By Stan Crock; Businessweek; JUNE 20, 2002

"They call it World War Four, an unofficial title that is now used routinely by top officials and ground-level operatives in the U.S. military and the CIA...[as opposed to]...the Cold War, which the CIA types like to consider World War Three..."

"[the so-called WW4 is bigger than merely Iraq and Afghanistan; indeed, it is]...a broader war whose battlefields have spread quietly to two dozen countries"

"Below the surface are dozens of operations, some secret and some simply unnoticed, conducted by the CIA, the FBI, the diplomatic corps and small, elite military squads. They have been aided by changes to U.S. laws after Sept. 11 that allow Americans to do things once forbidden -- such as assassinating foreign figures"

"[as is presently being prepared for and envisioned by US leadership, this is a world war which]...could last decades"

"...one mistake of the Cold War was that the U.S. came to think that you have to fight the enemy everywhere. That's how we wound up in Vietnam, which was a terrible mistake in every sense...I'm concerned that that's happened in Iraq, and that it could happen elsewhere."

-- The Fourth World War by Doug Saunders; commondreams.org; December 03, 2003; originally posted September 6, 2003 by the Globe & Mail of Canada "The Pentagon's plan to hire a private paramilitary force to guard sites in Iraq may have surprised many Americans, but it was really just another example of a remarkable recent development in warfare: the rise of a global trade in hired military services."

-- t r u t h o u t - P.W. Singer Have Guns, Will Travel, found on or about 12-3-03, citing Have Guns, Will Travel By P. W. Singer; New York Times; 21 July 2003

-- Have Guns, Will Travel by Peter W. Singer; The Brookings Institution; December 3, 2003; citing The New York Times, July 21, 2003

-- Privatized Military Wave of the Future, Firms Say

"In Colombia and around the world, civilians are doing work formerly done by the military"

-- US's 'Private Army' Grows by Rachel Van Dongen; December 03, 2003; commondreams.org; originally published September 3, 2003, by the Christian Science Monitor

-- Bombings Bring U.S. 'Executive Mercenaries' Into the Light By William D. Hartung; May 16, 2003; Editor: John Gershman, Interhemispheric Resource Center; foreignpolicy-infocus.org

-- Iraq accuses U.S. of illegally funding mercernaries; Associated Press with CP [no page datestamp displayed for consumers/surfers, but the page was accessible online 12-3-03; "20030104" is part of the URL and may indicate something about original publication date]; The Globe and Mail

-- Outsourcing the Dirty Work The military and its reliance on hired guns By Joshua Kurlantzick; The American Prospect Vol 14, Iss. 5; Issue Date: 5.1.03

-- Privatizing Combat, the New World Order By Laura Peterson; The Center for Public Integrity; [datestamp of 2002]

-- This sense of irresistible US superiority is overblown by Martin Woollacott; July 12, 2002; The Guardian

-- 'All this puts us in a very weak position for dealing with real threats'; New York Times

Increasingly the US was putting itself at odds with everyone, and so it was getting more and more difficult to find non-US troops to deploy to the field. Other nations began withholding their own technological innovations from the US and investing more into their own military forces, to gain independence from what was increasingly perceived as the global bully.

The USA's radical changes in nuclear use policies announced after 9-11-01 also caused a huge increase in the proliferation of nuclear and biological weapons worldwide-- but by far the biggest jump was in biological weapons, as they were the easiest and most cost-effective weapons of mass destruction for most nations to pursue. Why the increase? For protection from US military action and/or to gain a stronger hand in trade negotiations.

-- Mini-nukes on US agenda by Paul Reynolds; 6 August, 2003; BBC

-- 'Dr Strangeloves' meet to plan new nuclear era by Julian Borger; August 7, 2003; The Guardian

"Is George Bush the most dangerous president in U.S. history?"

According to Professor John Swomley, "...the administration has directed the military to prepare plans to use nuclear weapons against at least seven countries - China, Russia, North Korea, Syria, Iran, Libya and Iraq."

"The problem we face today is one that Al Gore described as a new doctrine that destroys the goal of a world in which states consider themselves subject to law, in favor of the notion that there is no law but the discretion of the president of the United States" -- Professor John Swomley, teacher of Christian ethics, the St. Paul School of Theology in Kansas City

-- Bush would use mini-nukes, prof warns By Dave Zweifel; September 15, 2003; The Capital Times

Of course, lots of people worldwide, from the top echelons to the bottom, resented the US for basically forcing everyone into such a defensive posture, with little choice but to spend money developing all manner of what could someday turn out to be Doomsday weapons. The USA was pretty much putting all humanity at greater risk by its policies, and not very many people liked it. Even where the US later tried to rectify some of its whopping policy mistakes stemming from its over-reaction to 9-11-01, it often encountered formidable obstacles, such as its reduced credibility worldwide, and the general animosity its previous moves had inspired. The enormous debt incurred in the earlier period also severely limited the ways by which America could make amends.

The destructive legacy of the younger Bush Administration will pose many problems for the Administrations which follow, in terms of repairing domestic US institutions and American finances in general.

-- Oil may be the answer, but it isn't the question By Argyle Ellis; Feb 6, 2003; Asia Times

"future generations...will ultimately have to pay the price for his fiscal irresponsibility"

-- Paying the Price; Washington Post; September 14, 2003; Page B06

"...borrowing that will make life in America a very different experience for generations to come"

-- Dizzying Dive to Red Ink Poses Stark Choices for Washington By DAVID FIRESTONE; Sep 14, 2003; The New York Times/Yahoo! News

Over time all this began causing the USA to shrink as a superpower. First it shrank in prestige and stature and credibility, as fewer and fewer people now saw America as that 'shining city on a hill', as Reagan used to call it. The USA was increasingly seen as hypocritical, self-serving, and dangerous. And not very smart (to put it nicely).

-- Foreigners See U.S. as 'Greedy Bully' By Michel Martin; ABC News; December 4, 2003

-- The American administration is a bloodthirsty wild animal By Harold Pinter; 11/12/2002; dailytelegraph.co.uk

-- Subject: Why the World's Opinion of Us Matters; From: Robert Wright; A Real War on Terrorism; Sept. 5, 2002; slate.msn.com

-- Rogue States? America Ought to Know The Hyperpower Sets Its Own Rules apparently by Phyllis Bennis; Mar 01 2002; tompaine.com

-- A rising anti-American tide by Brian Knowlton; International Herald Tribune; December 5, 2002

-- Approval of U.S. dives in new poll; Toronto Star

-- World Image of U.S. Declines (washingtonpost.com) By Richard Morin; December 5, 2002; Page A26

-- Why even allies are now anti-US - AUG 15, 2002

-- Global warmth for U.S. after 9/11 turns to frost By Ellen Hale, USA TODAY; 08/14/2002

-- 'We are loathed, and I think the world has every right to loathe us, because they see us as greedy, self-interested and almost totally unconcerned about poverty, disease and suffering'

-- World's View of U.S. Sours After Iraq War, Poll Finds; New York Times

"It is a fact that outside the United States many regard the world's only super-power with increasing suspicion and in some cases hostility"

-- Douglas N. Daft, chairman of Coca-Cola

-- America is now a hard sell; found on or about 10-9-03

"This is one of those little telltale signs of a much broader drift in trans-Atlantic relationships that reveal the gradual break-up of the Western alliance"

-- Loren Thompson; military analyst; the Lexington Institute of Arlington, Virginia

-- No-show at air show makes US view plain' June 18 2003; The New York Times/The Sydney Morning Herald

-- Poll suggests world hostile to US; BBC; 16 June, 2003

-- World support for U.S. at new low, survey finds; The Associated Press/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: 6/3/03

As budget deficits mounted and more business scandals came to light, even as the US government continued to refuse to adequately police its own business community, US financial credibility began to shrink as well. Foreign investors slowly began withdrawing from American markets, in a steady stream. Other currencies gradually began to see more use versus the US dollar than had occurred since before World War II.


-- Fannie Mae's Loss Risk Is Larger, Computer Models Show; New York Times

-- Divided on Derivatives Greenspan, Buffett at Odds on Risks of the Financial Instruments By John M. Berry; Washington Post; March 6, 2003; Page E01

"derivatives are financial weapons of mass destruction, carrying dangers that, while now latent, are potentially lethal"

-- Avoiding a 'Mega-Catastrophe' By Warren Buffett; FORTUNE; March 3, 2003

-- Apocalypse is nigh, Buffett tells Berkshire faithful By Simon English; 04/03/2003; telegraph.co.uk

-- Tripping Over Pension Shortfalls: Underfunded plans have led companies like US Airways into bankruptcy and will compromise others' credit ratings and spending plans By David Henry; Businessweek; MAY 14, 2003

"banks could suffer the same fate as some energy companies"

-- Buffett hits back at Greenspan over the risk of derivatives By Grant Ringshaw; Telegraph (11/05/2003)

-- Global economy reviving, US twin deficits a peril - IMF By Lesley Wroughton; Business Report; September 18, 2003

-- IMF warns US on deficit By Rodney Smith; BBC; 28 August, 2003

"The people running Wall Street simply do not grasp how corrupt and arrogant they appear to everyone else..."

-- Wall St. bosses, misguided defenders fighting back By Dan Gillmor; May. 07, 2003; Mercury News

-- Wall Street vs. U.S. government: Which is sneakier?

-- A Corporate (Crime) State by Ralph Nader; June 15/16, 2002; counterpunch.org

"One-quarter of public firms have to amend reports after SEC review – a sign of widespread manipulation."

-- How many Enrons are there? More than people may think. csmonitor.com By Ron Scherer; The Christian Science Monitor; July 03, 2002 edition - http://www.csmonitor.com/2002/0703/p03s02-usec.html

-- Big investors say more reforms needed at NYSE ; reuters.com

"First, investors are told they can't trust the sell-side research analysts because of conflicts with investment bankers. Now, it looks like the buy-side, mutual-fund managers, are just as rotten."

-- Eliot Spitzer on His Fund Blitzkrieg by Mara Der Hovanesian; Edited by Patricia O'Connell; SEPTEMBER 18, 2003; Businessweek

-- US giants 'inflating their profits by billions' By Jason Nissé; 30 June 2002; news.independent.co.uk

-- Foreign Investors Losing Faith

-- Saudi investors 'could withdraw US funds'; 19 August, 2002; BBC

-- Saudis withdraw billions of dollars from US

-- The Dollar's Precarious Position By Christopher Farrell; JANUARY 31, 2003; Businessweek

-- The Dollar: Soggy and Still Sliding By Peter Coy, Jack Ewing, and Laura Cohn; JANUARY 3, 2003; Businessweek

-- Dollar slides to brink of free fall By Philip Thornton; 27 June 2002; Independent

-- Dollar Plunges As Euro Surpasses $1.14

-- 'Venezuelan move to replace US$ with the €uro upsetting Washington more than Saddam's €uro conversion last November'

-- 'a less global world where cities shrink into towns as people move closer to food and water supplies, where currencies will be local, electrical power delivered by cooperatives and bicycles and walking'

-- Complementary currencies for social change An Interview with Bernard Lietaer By Ravi Dykema; July August 2003; Nexus Colorado's Holistic Journal

Sensing the USA's vulnerability, certain other countries worldwide, many of which were just wrapping up major financial reforms of their own, began touting their markets as more open and transparent and safer than America's. And lots of investors began to agree.

"Foreign policy bankruptcy is a condition that invites a run on the bank by a nation's enemies and adversaries."

--Approaching imperial overstretch by Patrick J. Buchanan; July 21, 2003; worldnetdaily.com

"We can get that return in Britain and the Nordic countries, so why go to the U.S., where the currency risk is greater?"

-- The Germans Are Beating a Quiet Retreat By David Fairlamb, Chester Dawson, and Emily Thornton; Businessweek; JUNE 16, 2003

"Fifty-one percent of 280 fund managers...said...that U.S. earnings are the worst in the world when it comes to predictability, volatility and transparency."

-- Pierre Belec, Reuters; 2002

-- Not Buying the U.S. Earnings Story By Pierre Belec; Jun 22, 2002;Yahoo! /Business - Reuters

-- Profits: They Aren't As Good As They Look By Pallavi Gogoi and Robert Berner; Businessweek; FEBRUARY 10, 2003

-- 'In the Bush economy, everything that can go wrong is going wrong'

-- Bursting Bubbles Why the economy will go from bad to worse By Dean Baker; 5.9.03; inthesetimes.com

-- 'the endgame - including the risks of deflation and a dollar crisis - appears all the more treacherous'

-- 'History shows market volatility can last decades'; Star Tribune

-- No Way to Plan, Thanks to Uncle Sam (washingtonpost.com) By Ric Edelman; July 6, 2003; Page B01

As more and more American citizens (and small businesses) fell into bankruptcy over health care costs, rampant identity theft, and anti-innovation and anti-competitive US business policies, US economic potential shrank, real growth slowed, and the economy eventually began to contract (compared to many other developed nations of the time). The US financial markets swooned over a period of years, then swooned some more. The blossoming domestic recession and departure of foreign investors weren't the only reasons: inflation and interest rates were rising too, in sort of a revisit of the stagflation from the Carter years. America was also burdened with an unimaginable debt load, even as its financial obligations to its population were rising, and economic mis-management had severely curtailed revenue generation even as it ramped up debt. The increasing popularity of boycotts of American products and services internationally (as well as the declining competitiveness of many US products in the marketplace) also had an impact.

"...American families live just one illness or accident away from complete financial collapse"

-- US Study: Medical Bills Main Culprit In Bankruptcies by Araminta Wordsworth; www.commondreams.org; October 09, 2002; originally published by the National Post in Canada, April 27, 2000

"It was very unlikely 30 years ago that an ordinary family could run up a half-million dollar medical bill, yet today that can happen in a matter of weeks in a major medical centre"

-- US Study: Medical Bills Main Culprit In Bankruptcies by Araminta Wordsworth; www.commondreams.org; October 09, 2002; originally published by the National Post in Canada, April 27, 2000

"Americans are raising the white flag as never before..."

-- Breaking Records--For Bankruptcies By Andy Serwer; FORTUNE STREET LIFE found on or about 7-14-2002

-- US bankruptcies break records; BBC; 30 December, 2002

-- The Bankruptcy Run Isn't Slowing By Michael Arndt; JANUARY 2, 2003; Businessweek

-- Our Crushing Personal Debt (washingtonpost.com) By David S. Broder; September 1, 2002; Page B07

"Ninety percent of personal bankruptcies are caused by the loss of a job, high medical bills or divorce"

-- The House Passes Anti-Consumer Bankruptcy Bill apparently by Adam J. Goldberg; Mar 21 2003; tompaine.com

"This chart shows the number of long-term unemployed [ 2 ] in the US (measured in thousands). By the end of 2002, it had risen to a level that has only been reached twice before in the last fifty years - early in the great recessions of 1982 and 1992."

-- Thoughts on ... guilt; iwillnotgoquietly.manilasites.com; March 29, 2003

-- Unemployment Rate Rises to 6.1% May Level Highest in Nine Years By John M. Berry; Washington Post; June 6, 2003

-- Unemployment Rate Surges to 6.4 Percent (washingtonpost.com) By John M. Berry; Washington Post; July 3, 2003

"...By some measures, as the Economic Policy Institute noted, we are in "the longest continuous stretch of job decline since 1944-46."..."

-- Meanwhile, Back in the Job Market By E. J. Dionne Jr.; March 14, 2003; Page A27; The Washington Post

"U.S employers still aren't hiring. The labor market is now in its longest slump since WW II."

-- Will the job market ever get better? By Mark Gongloff; July 3, 2003; CNN

-- Study: IT worker unemployment at 'unprecedented' levels - Computerworld by Patrick Thibodeau; SEPTEMBER 17, 2003

-- The Hidden Costs of Offshore Outsourcing Moving jobs overseas can be a much more expensive proposition than you may think. BY STEPHANIE OVERBY' Sep. 1, 2003 Issue of CIO Magazine

"In the out years, by their own estimate, their plan is a job and growth killer"

-- Jared Bernstein, economist at the Economic Policy Institute

-- Bush's Data Dump The administration is hiding bad economic news. Here's how. By Russ Baker; July 11, 2003; slate.msn.com

-- Surging Jobless- and Fake Unemployment Numbers ; May 02, 2003; nathannewman.org

-- Land of the Fee: Companies are nickle-and-diming Americans to death on the sly; Businessweek

"State and city governments have added thousands of fees in an effort to balance their budgets."

-- Land of the Fee and Businesses Invent New Fees to Boost Revenues; December 4, 2003; abcnews.go.com; Bob Jamieson contributor

-- Ego, Super-ego, and ID Theft: Why Identity Theft is Only Likely to Get Worse, Not Better By Robert X. Cringely; PBS | I, Cringely; September 18, 2003

-- Yahoo! News - Identity thieves feed on credit firms' lax practices

-- Child ID Theft Can Go Unnoticed for Years By Geraldine Sealey; December 4, 2003; abcnews.go.com

"THE U.S. PENSION SYSTEM -- what's left of it, that is -- is in sad shape."

-- Fixing Pensions; July 15, 2003; Page A18; The Washington Post

"These plans are already underfunded by billions of dollars...This provision digs the hole even deeper, and weakens important protections that have been built into the system over the last 16 years."

-- Steven Kandarian, executive director of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation

"America's pension funds now have a total deficit of about $400 billion — a record..."

-- Senate Panel Votes to Give Pension Relief to Companies By MARY WILLIAMS WALSH; September 18, 2003; New York Times

-- Stocks' Slide Is Playing Havoc With Older Americans' Dreams; New York Times

"The nation is using only 75 percent of its industrial capacity, the lowest level in 20 years."

-- For Bush, Time to Mend Economy Is Running Out By Dana Milbank; Washington Post; April 5, 2003; Page A01

"House prices in the U.S., the U.K. and four other major economies will drop "dramatically" in the next few years, leading some of those nations to slip into recession..."

-- U.S., U.K. House Prices to Decline `Dramatically' (Update1); Last Updated: May 29, 2003; quote.bloomberg.com

"Fears of war and terrorism, continued mistrust of Corporate America, and a weak economy are forming a vicious cycle that'll be tough to break"

-- Why Investors Remain Weary and Wary By Amey Stone; Businessweek; FEBRUARY 27, 2003

-- If This Is a Bull, Buyer Beware (washingtonpost.com) By Jerry Knight; July 7, 2003; Page E01

-- Bull Market 2003: The Worse the Company, the Better the Stock

-- Statistical physics predicts stock market gloom by Jenny Hogan; 02 December 02; NewScientist.com news service

-- Stock market crashes are predictable, major decline is coming in 2003 and 2004, says UCLA physicist; eurekalert.org; 14-Dec-2002; Contact: Stuart Wolpert; stuartw@college.ucla.edu; 310-206-0511; University of California - Los Angeles

-- 'Stocks remain more expensive than they have been for much of the last century, relative to corporate earnings'; New York Times

-- US giants 'inflating their profits by billions' By Jason Nissé; 30 June 2002; news.independent.co.uk

"We won't be putting money into a society which is not transparent and [is] corrupt, and I suspect other countries won't either."

-- US President George W. Bush, 2002

-- EU gives more aid to Arafat in defiance of Bush by Suzanne Goldenberg; June 28, 2002; The Guardian

"...a state cannot be based on a foundation of terror or corruption...a...state must be based on the principles that are critical to freedom and prosperity: democracy and open markets, the rule of law, transparent and accountable administration, and respect for individual liberties and civil society." -- US President George W. Bush, 2002

-- a jaundiced eye - the weblog, found on or about 5-8-02; citing the New York Times at http://nytimes.com/2002/05/02/politics/02CND-PREX.html

"Fifty-one percent of 280 fund managers...said...that U.S. earnings are the worst in the world when it comes to predictability, volatility and transparency."

-- Pierre Belec, Reuters; 2002

-- Not Buying the U.S. Earnings Story By Pierre Belec; Jun 22, 2002;Yahoo! /Business - Reuters

-- Profits: They Aren't As Good As They Look By Pallavi Gogoi and Robert Berner; Businessweek; FEBRUARY 10, 2003

-- 'the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index is more expensive than it has been at any time since 1950, outside of the late 90's'; New York Times

-- Some corporate insiders remain on a selling spree

"Historically, insiders have been uncanny market "forecasters," Painchaud and other analysts say."

-- Corporate insiders are on a selling spree By Josh Friedman; LOS ANGELES TIMES/The Contra Costa Times; Aug. 14, 2003

-- Consumer Sentiment Hits 9-1-2 Year Low (washingtonpost.com)

-- Consumer Sentiment Plummets to Decade Low (washingtonpost.com)

-- Late credit card payments reach 5-year high - Apr. 29, 2002; CNN

"The best way to foster creativity in the digital age is to overhaul current copyright laws"

-- A radical rethink; The Economist; Jan 23rd 2003

-- Lessons from abroad: United States trails Europe in dependence on renewable energy; 16-Feb-2003; Contact: Monica Amarelo; mamarelo@aaas.org; Ginger Pinholster; gpinhols@aaas.org; 303-228-8301; American Association for the Advancement of Science

Only the US President Herbert Hoover offered a worse economic performance than George W. Bush has so far.

-- Squandering Prosperity By Harold Meyerson; The American Prospect vol. 14 no. 6, June 1, 2003

-- BIS says deflation possible, except U.S.

"...David Tice is quite bearish and believes the U.S. is headed for a long and painful ride downhill"

-- Prudent Global Income Fund By Cheryl Peress July 1, 2003; fundemail.com

"...the US is heading for maybe the greatest financial mess in world history"

-- Sage Financial Advice From Legendary Richard Russell; 16.07.2003; iraqwar.ru

"They're setting the stage for the next economic problem of stagflation with higher inflation and sluggish growth."

-- Edward Leamer, director at the UCLA Anderson Forecast of Los Angeles

-- Plunging interest rates alarm critics By David A. Sylvester; Mercury News; Jun. 30, 2003

"Tax revenue has fallen for three straight years, a streak not seen since the Depression."

-- Budget Deficit May Surpass $450 Billion By Jonathan Weisman; Washington Post; July 15, 2003; Page A01

-- US 'faces future of chronic deficits'

"I'm pretty nervous about the long-term implication of the deficits we're building right now...They're not smart deficits, they're ideological deficits."

-- Jared Bernstein, senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute

-- Not all economists say deficits are bad By Alex Berenson; NEW YORK TIMES/The Contra Costa Times; Jul. 20, 2003

-- Deficits as Far as the Eye Can See By Howard Gleckman; Businessweek; MAY 13, 2002

-- Greenspan warns of problems from rising deficits By MARTIN CRUTSINGER, July 16, 2003; The Sacramento Bee

-- 'Greenspan says growing deficits threaten reduction of unemployment'

"Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan warned yesterday that continuing large federal budget deficits eventually would cause long-term interest rates to rise and damage U.S. economic growth."

-- Greenspan Sees Danger In Deficits By John M. Berry; Washington Post; July 17, 2003; Page E01

Out of control government deficits are creating terrible risks for the future of the US economy.

-- Alarms from Uncle Sam's Auditer Edited by Alicia Henry; Businessweek; JULY 17, 2003

"In truth, as bad as it may seem, it's actually worse."

-- Rep. John M. Spratt (S.C.)

-- Budget Deficit May Surpass $450 Billion By Jonathan Weisman; Washington Post; July 15, 2003; Page A01

-- Will Debt Weigh Down the Recovery? By Dean Foust; Businessweek; AUGUST 13, 2003

"The [US] consumer sector has never been more indebted and corporations are going bankrupt in record numbers"

-- Asia, its reserves and the coming dollar crisis - FinanceAsia.com By Richard Duncan 21 May 2003; FinanceAsia.com

"The financial system: unbalanced, unfair, unsustainable"

"When this credit bubble bursts in the United States and Britain, it will be middle-class consumers that will first bear the brunt of the financial crash."

-- The coming first world debt crisis by Ann Pettifor; 1 - 9 - 2003; opendemocracy.net

"At the present rate, estimates the Levy Institute, the amount owed to foreigners will rise to $8 trillion by 2008, or 60% of GDP."

"The U.S. economy has only just begun to enter the vicious downward spiral stage of this credit bubble cycle..."

-- Nixon's The One by Bill Bonner, Editor, The Daily Reckoning; August 29, 2003; financialsense.com

-- States borrow record amounts By Dennis Cauchon and Patrick McMahon, USA TODAY; 6/30/2003; Updated 7/1/2003

-- The States' Dire Straits By Michael Wallace; JULY 14, 2003; Businessweek

-- Finances of U.S. States Called Worst Since World War II; New York Times

-- N.Y. Fiscal Crisis Is Echoed Across Nation (washingtonpost.com) By Michael Powell; November 24, 2002; Page A01

"the worst crisis in state finances since World War II."

-- Ray Scheppach, National Governors Association executive director

-- Stiffing States And Cities By David S. Broder Sunday, November 24, 2002; Page B07

-- Governors Cite U.S. In Fiscal Crises (washingtonpost.com) By Jonathan Weisman; December 6, 2002; Page A01

-- Leaving the States in the Lurch (washingtonpost.com) By David S. Broder; July 31, 2002; Page A19

-- A Grim Fiscal Forecast for States (washingtonpost.com) By Dale Russakoff; December 24, 2002; Page A05

The awful fiscal shape of California is hurting the rest of the US economy too.

-- Some Golden State By Christopher Palmeri and Ronald Grover; Businessweek; JULY 7, 2003

It's expected the Federal Reserve will start hiking interest rates by 2005.

-- Democrats Expect Record Debts By Jonathan Weisman; Washington Post; May 31, 2003; Page A04

The US registers the worst wholesale inflation rate of the past thirteen years.

-- Energy touches off inflation spurt By Rex Nutting, CBS.MarketWatch.com; Feb. 20, 2003

-- Welcome to the Big Darkness By Hunter S. Thompson; ESPN Internet Ventures; found on or about 10-9-03

-- Bursting Bubbles By Dean Baker, In These Times May 28, 2003

-- Greenspan warns big trade gaps can be disruptive; Forbes

-- Boycott of American Goods Over Iraq War Gains

-- Coca-Cola disappears from menu as Europeans try to boycott U.S. goods by MELISSA EDDY; Associated Press; March 31, 2003

-- Arab nations gear for cola war HindustanTimes.com

-- Soda Giants Battle Public Panic in India (washingtonpost.com) By Rama Lakshmi; August 10, 2003; Page A17

-- Poison in your soft drink, says study HindustanTimes.com by Sutirtho Patranobis; August 5, 2003

-- Coke, Pepsi fail EU standards in India test By NIRMALA GEORGE, Associated Press/Nando Media/The Anchorage Daily News ; August 21, 2003

-- Coca-Cola promotes drink with 'swastika' robots; Associated Press/ananova.com; 30th April 2003

-- McDonald's Expects to Post Its First-Ever Loss (washingtonpost.com) By Dina ElBoghdady; December 17, 2002

-- 'the first time one of Detroit's Big Three has fallen to fourth place'; New York Times

"...the threats are consumer revolt against unreliable, difficult-to-use, and outright ugly products"

-- Nicholas Negroponte: The Innovation "Void"; [Nicholas Negroponte interviewed by Stephen Baker]; AUGUST 25, 2003; Businessweek

For more on the downward spiral in product and service quality in which the USA seemed to be leading the world at the dawn of the 21st century, please see The Signposts Timeline Prologue: 2001 AD-2002 AD.

-- Dire States by David Usborne; 17 July 2003; Independent Digital

-- Hatred for U.S. is growing abroad

Then, atop all this, came the first substantial American casualties and military defeats in decades. As well as new and devastating terrorist attacks on civilians and soldiers, which of course the previous US military buildup had done nothing to stop. Over time the US had been increasingly forced to 'go it alone' in the new conflicts it seemed hellbent on entering, regardless of the advice of allies or the potential consequences. This finally led to stunning numbers of casualties in several events, which caused increased domestic turmoil inside the US. The frequent unilateralism of US policies also made it and its perceived agents prime targets of choice for terrorists both domestic and foreign, to a magnitude never experienced before. Then came the humiliating military defeat(s) seen on television and the internet worldwide. The days and weeks following the defeat(s) were dangerous ones for the whole world, as America essentially comtemplated starting a nuclear war in retaliation, and was barely dissuaded from it by various parties and circumstances.

All this led to the USA withdrawing from world affairs in many ways, to lick its wounds. By now it had serious internal problems which would require much pain and reshuffling of resources to overcome. The demand from the citizenry that these domestic affairs be tended to was one of the factors which helped pull the US back from the brink.

It didn't help matters during all this that religious and environmental factions tried to exploit these problems for their own benefit, attempting to usurp control of many governmental and corporate policies and strategies as the social pie (and trust in remote authority, both government and corporate) shrank drastically in public perceptions in many developed nations. Though most were materially more well off than in previous decades, they were very hard pressed for leisure time, which left them feeling worse off rather than better. Increasingly during this time many world citizens who perceived their own government, businesses, or other social institutions linked to American style cronyism became incensed and politically active against such alignments.

Over this time the fortunes of the U.N. followed a similar path to that of the U.S., of wielding less overt influence over the world (partly because the UN was seen as merely a mercenary force for the US). So where was real power and influence flowing to in the meantime? To the virtual states arising upon the internet.

Some believed virtual states were already here in 2000; that is, that modern geopolitical states have themselves been transformed into virtual states by innovations in technology and business. That market share and mind share have replaced the old measures of a nation's strength such as territorial dominance and the capacity to manufacture physical goods.

Under 20% of circa 2000 USAmerica's GDP stemmed from manufactured goods.

The same sources described above believe this change in national perspective might help bring about longer and deeper periods of peace worldwide. However, the newly emerging hierarchy they ascribe to sounds much like the same old imperialist practices forced onto weaker nations by stronger ones throughout human history. It boils down basically to nations like the USA exporting all their lowest paid, dirtiest, and most dangerous jobs to third world countries, while keeping all the high paying, clean, safest, and most satisfying jobs at home. In other words, the same trend apparent for the second half of the 21st century.

But mounting software development expertise in places like India, the active opposition to many virtual state-related processes and advances by highly placed politicians and executives in nations like the USA, the increasing outcry by citizens in both developed and developing nations protesting regulation without representation regarding world trade policies and related issues, and the mounting struggle between proprietary software models and Open Source in the USA and elsewhere all would seem to throw monkey wrenches into the plan and expectations of these particular experts.

There's also the growing indignation and outrage of citizens in the developed nations against constant surveillance and monitoring and other transgressions by their own geopolitical governments to contend with.

At some point even slaves will rebel. And the middle-class of the developed nations will have far less patience with elitist plans for their futures, than actual slaves-- if history is any guide.

-- The Standard.com: Future State By Michael Parsons, on or about 1-17-2000, http://www.thestandard.com (http://www.thestandard.com/article/display/0,1151,8852,00.html may be the original URL); a review/commentary regarding the book The Rise of the Virtual State: Wealth and Power in the Coming Century by Richard Rosecrance, Basic Books

Even as far back as 1998 the emerging threads of future conflict between geopolitical and virtual states, and the fertile environment in which vigilante organizations would rise in world influence could be seen. USAmerica was doing all it could to stymie the creation of an international court system which might adhere to higher ideals than it itself desired in the pursuit and persecution of war criminals, genocidal dictators, and justice in general. Thus, those pushing for true justice and freedom for all were increasingly forced to do so outside of antiquated geopolitical legal frameworks. Latter-day versions of 1990s Iraq's Saddam Hussein may eventually come to fear various vigilante organizations more than the forces of states like USAmerica, or legacy groups like the UN. Such villains may find themselves increasingly harassed by virtual state factions as well.

-- "Pinochet Takes U.S. Conservatives To New Territory" By Jonathan Wright, Reuters Limited/Yahoo, 12-13-98

The ramp up of conflict between the net and the geopoliticals

-- "Nations strive to limit freedom of the Internet" By David L. Marcus, Globe Staff, 12/28/98, page A01 of the Boston Globe on 12/28/98

The increasing introversion of USAmerican society (and many other developed nations of the time) is greatly amplified by the growing power and seductive nature of virtual reality technology over this period-- though it seems USAmerica may go deeper into VR seclusion than many other states now-- about the only resistance USAmerica has to VR attraction is its historical puritanical tendencies against pleasure and ease-- but modern stresses tend to cancel out that puritanism, due to sheer survival concerns.

USAmerica leads all nations by 2015 in the proportion of its population that remains immersed in VR for more than 30% of their free time. The preferred VR scenarios are either nostalgic scenarios of the past or variations on favorite Web/ TV shows of recent seasons or the television of past decades. These VR experiences are often extended and complemented by realtime, physical adjuncts including props and sets or other appropriate items-- physical accessories that are getting ever cheaper to obtain due to declining costs to replicate almost any known object. Highly popular VR scenarios enjoy sufficient members so that the VRs are even spawning their own dedicated communities, both physical and online. Most scenarios however, contain one physical individual and many virtual companions. As VR scenarios mature and become more diverse and personalized, community VRs break down, and eventually almost all VR scenarios contain only a single physical individual, except for unusual circumstances and the popularity of online gaming where players wager realtime assets in their contests (high stakes gambling proves a very tough problem for humanity to beat in the future).

The "survivalist/anarchist" movement of USAmerica (and existing to a lesser extent in other regions of the globe, like South Africa, etc.) is intertwined in some ways with various religious factions; but that aspect is discussed elsewhere in the Signposts. Here, let us focus on the political/economic/technological/military elements of the movement: The "S/A's" (Survivalists/Anarchists) are forced by events to split into three sometimes competing major camps. The most primitive is an Amish-like group which is intensely religious and shuns all but the most essential technological aids for daily life. This group leads a very hard and sparse life, especially as the so-called 'natural environment' around the globe degrades due to pollution, wars, terrorism, and accidents. It's difficult to stick to an 18th century lifestyle when it's necessary to wear a light duty space suit in the garden sometimes (even if you only need the air conditioned suit because of the 119 degree temperature outside).

-- "Arctic Ozone Hole, Responding To Greenhouse Gases, Will Worsen Through 2020, Columbia Team Finds", 8 April 1998 Columbia University, "Scientists Find Further Global Warming Evidence In Temperature Reconstruction Study Years 1997, 1995, 1990 Are The Warmest Since 1400 A.D. ", 22 APRIL 1998, National Science Foundation]

40% of deaths worldwide can be traced to a range of environmental factors (with pollution prominent among them).

David Pimentel of Cornell says we're getting hit from every side in the present and future. We're being increasingly crowded into urban locations which make wonderful breeding grounds for both old and new diseases among us, even as the added stresses weaken our immune systems and make us more vulnerable to a wide range of illnesses. The poor among us are malnourished and often get little or no proper medical care, making them a rich environment for diseases to reach critical mass and spread to the rest of us worldwide. Worsening pollution in air, water, and soil is poisoning our food and water supplies and making it even more likely we'll get sick, and do so more frequently, in years to come.

Global warming/climate changes lower our defenses still more via added stress, while allowing warm weather loving diseases to spread further and faster than ever before across the globe. Agricultural insect and disease pests are also amplified by such warming, thereby making food costlier and harder to come by-- causing even more widespread malnutrition. Climate change also kills the fertility of present agricultural regions, forcing farmers to move to new ones.

Increases in global travel and tourism make it easier than ever for diseases to span the globe in a matter of hours, affecting diverse populations suddenly and without warning. Future growth in world travel will only exacerbate this.

The continued loss of atmospheric ozone and its shielding effect against ultraviolet light will lead to people suffering from age-related blindness at much younger ages, as well as a big increase in skin cancers.

The cutting/burning of rainforests worldwide and overfishing of the oceans is gradually reducing the oxygen and food yields on which we depend.

It may be our best chance to reduce coming woes is to increase global cooperation (in effect, set up at least a minimal world government).

-- "Environmental pollution and degradation causes 40 percent of deaths worldwide, Cornell study finds", 9-30-98, Cornell News Service Home Page, and MOTHER NATURE IS STRIKING BACK, EDITED BY CATHERINE ARNST, Developments to Watch, Business Week: October 26, 1998

-- "Long-Term Air Pollution Harmful At Any Level", University Science, UniSci Science and Research News http://unisci.com, 15-Apr-1999 [Contact: Elisabeth Zemp Stutz M.D.

-- Campaign helps limit child sun exposure, Yahoo/Reuters Health December 16 1998

-- Tehran Smog Shuts Schools, Keeps Cars Off Streets, Yahoo/Reuters December 16 1998

-- E. coli outbreaks increase in swimmers, Yahoo/Reuters Health, December 15 1998

-- The Red Cross expects global warming to result in escalating scales of disasters in coming decades.

-- "Red Cross Predicts Worse Natural Disasters" By Janet McEvoy, Reuters/Yahoo! News, June 24 1999

The second group of 'Survivalists/Anarchists' is more Thoreau-like, adhering to a largely covert form of civil disobedience, picking and choosing what they like from both law-abiding and outlaw lives of the early 21st century. Most of the Thoreau group are very difficult for the authorities to identify, as they are typically law abiding to average observation. However, this group increasingly partakes of the offerings from the newly emerging virtual states, which are frequently anathema to the more heavily regulated and censored 'official' online services-- thereby weakening the realtime physical seats of government over the long term.

Want to see the future of civil disobedience?

A Florida university professor and biochemist (Hugo Nanofsky) was angered in 1984 when police permanently confiscated the family minivan being driven by his 16 year old son, after discovering NO drugs in a search, but a homemade pipe construed to be "drug paraphenalia", during a routine traffic stop.

So what did Nanofsky do? For weeks he wrote letters to the police chief, his City Council, the State District Attorney, and local newspapers.

But it did no good.

The family lawyer advised the professor's son to plead guilty to possession of paraphenalia to get a suspended sentence and his record sealed. But this meant the family van was lost forever, as an accessory to crime.

Nanofsky tried various legal avenues to get the van back, but it was all in vain.

Nanofsky decided he'd try to dissolve the drug bureaucracy his own way after that.

How? Over the next 14 years Nanofsky genetically engineered orange trees to create THC, the active ingredient in marijuana-- as a hobby.

Then Nanofsky posted messages to internet newsgroups that he was offering FREE "cannabis-equivalent orange tree seeds" by way of the U.S. mail.

It took the U.S. Justice Department a few weeks to arrive at his campus office in response. They persuaded him to stop distributing the seeds. But they may have been too late, as several hundred packages of seeds had already been sent out by then, and current law does not require Nanofsky to turn over his mailing list, or even classify what he did to be a crime.

Plus, others armed with similar expertise and equipment can reproduce the seeds themselves from scratch.

-- "Oranges that get you high A Florida Biochemist designs a citrus tree with THC", San Francisco Bay Guardian, 11-9-98

The third group is both a blessing and a curse for the authorities of the period, as they are often active vigilantes making aggressive moves of their own regarding issues covered in the headlines of mainstream news media. For example, in a 21st century version of Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in the 1990's, the Vigilante group would dive into the fray gleefully within a matter of minutes or hours, long before any large geophysical state could marshall its forces and lay its plans, making the Vigilantes a wildcard in many events that follow headline-making developments. Sometimes the Vigilantes' interference is welcomed by many, but usually it is not. The critical point is that they cannot be stopped by most reasonable means. Many Vigilante groups are as well armed and trained as many official top-of-the-line small force units of nations like USAmerica of the period. All these matters are made even more complex as some world court judgements decide in favor of Vigilante actions after the fact, and the newly emerging virtual states sometimes back them as well. Even the true military of states like USAmerica are often ambivalent towards the Vigilantes-- because despite the fact that sometimes official armies are forced to fight the Vigilantes, almost as often 'real' soldiers are glad to have Vigilantes pop up to help them at fortuitous moments, often far ahead of and more rapidly than formal geopolitical forces can. Another distinguishing characteristic of many Vigilante groups is their whole-hearted embrace of high tech, and especially the global network. The Vigilantes end up providing and/or protecting much of the essential infrastructure required for the new virtual states to be created in the first place. Vigilante groups and individuals in general tend towards libertarianism, anarchism, atheism, and a sort of 'let the chips fall where they may' perspective on entrepreneurship and technological experimentation-- confident that they themselves may successfully deal with any elements which get out of hand due to this policy, such as biological weapons use by terrorists. Note that the Vigilante groups are quite diverse, and by no means do the generalities given above pertain strictly to all members. Vigilantes too have their share of the devoutly religious and conservative souls-- it's just that they tend to draw the line at aggressively pushing their ideals on others (though they are aggressive in selling various wares to others-- and in "fighting fire with fire" where military or terrorist actions are concerned: Vigilantes often respond to outright violence with their own overt violence, thereby teaching many despots, criminals, terrorists (and even a few geopolitical administrations!) some hard lessons about injustice and rash acts which injure the innocent).

'Outsourcing' tasks involving security and defense issues, as well as peacekeeping and the distribution of humanitarian aid in dangerous areas to private mercenary companies, is becoming increasingly attractive to down-sized, lean-budgeted governments and corporations. Some companies are even returning to an old historic business practice of creating and maintaining their own standing armies.

--"We Don't Do Wars", Background Briefing with Stan Correy, Radio National, Australian Broadcasting Corporation on Sunday 15/06/97

To give you a better idea of the gestation process from which many of these Vigilante groups spring in the 21st century, here's a few examples of Vigilante origins:

* Rogue AI and/or hacker/cracker hunter/killer teams/gangs
* Ex-military/paramilitary groups (some mercenaries)
* New Crusaders, Jihadis, Zionists. (factions trying to further strengthen fundamentalist Christianty and/or Islam and/or Judaism)
* Many corporate rogues and spin offs.
* Rogue environmental activist orgs and/or spin offs.
* Many government rogues and spin offs (like Russian, Israeli, and USAmerican)
* More than a dozen rogue billionaires and accompanying lackey organizations (some of these orgs can be enormous and organized essentially as corporations or military agencies; imagine a 21st century edition of Ross Perot heading up an EDS (Electronic Data Systems) dedicated solely to furthering some pet political cause of the boss, and staffed largely with ex-military and intelligence personnel)
* Hundreds of rogue millionaires and accompanying lackey organizations (most of these orgs are pretty small and disorganized)
* Exile spin offs (Russians, Israelis, and others)
There's a huge variety among Vigilante groups in regards to group cohesion and loyalty and other matters. Many members of many Vigilante organizations actually maintain software agents whose sole purpose is to keep up virtual scorecards/filters that help guide/remind the member as to exactly what groups/policies they are subscribing to at a given moment (and these cards may spontaneously change at any time).

Despite their many faults and mistakes over these decades, the Vigilantes are likely a major reason why no purposeful terrorist or military action involving biological weapons or nuclear warfare use escalates to such levels that the entire world is destroyed during the bulk of the 21st century. Why? Because the Vigilantes substantially increase the uncertainty for everyone in regards to the outcome of events: terrorists, powers, and superpowers alike.

Naturally, the uncertainty the Vigilantes generate at times benefit certain geopoliticals and corporations more than others-- and so of course the beneficiaries eventually begin to encourage and even support (often covertly) the Vigilante's efforts when and where they view it as in their interests. What powers/superpowers 'encourage' the Vigilantes most often? USAmerica, and various factions of Chinese and Russian origins, to name a few. Of course, such benefactors are just as likely in the next crisis to come along to find themselves on the outs with the Vigilante they previously supported-- so the levels of uncertainty for everyone continue to be high during much of the century.

USAmerican representatives acknowledge the widespread involvement of mercenaries and vigilantes in trouble spots around the world.

-- "US Believes Russian Mercenaries Operated In Kosovo", Reuters/Yahoo! News , June 23 1999

This greater uncertainty eventually leads to the geopoliticals abandoning the old 'talk big and posture mightily but actually do little or nothing' political strategies of previous decades, as well as the other overused policy of simply ignoring problems they don't want to deal with. The 'talk big but do nothing' strategy has over the past decade or so proved politically fatal to many career politicians in the developed nations. Plus, the intelligence agencies of the developed states are also increasingly warning leaders against continuing such policies in many instances. Thus, for a few years at least, many geopoliticians actually earn their keep by doing the jobs they were elected for (or trying anyway), rather than perpetually posturing to garner further moves up the power ladder like lots of their predecessors. Unfortunately for everyone, incompetent and corrupt leadership in the USA near the beginning of this period brings about calamitous consequences for much of this span, which requires a great deal of pain and suffering in the aftermath to clean up.

To be fair, it appears things wouldn't have gone so awry in USAmerica if not for the successful and spectacular terrorist strikes of 9-11-01. For the US Administration of the time otherwise wouldn't have gained the political wherewithal to so damage the country with its radical and largely idealogical moves. Previous administrations had typically been too ham-strung by domestic dissent and opposition (as well as possible independent counsel investigations) to take such heavy-handed and unilateral actions as those of post 9-11-01.

However, the worst pain in all this was suffered by USAmerica, in any case. Although the entire world suffered in recession for quite some time due to America's virtual financial collapse, eventually it (the world) recovered (long before America itself), and emerged stronger for it all, with its previous historic dependence upon the US economy having largely been broken by the event. It also helped recovery that much of the world in the aftermath of the collapse broke ranks with the US regarding many onerous anti-competitive business practices and excessive intellectual property protection schemes, which all tended to give too much power to big business and to reduce the pace of innovation, while also keeping prices for many items artificially high. Vast new opportunities for third world agriculture and aquaculture also emerged with new and fairer trade treaties than before.

After world recovery strengthened sufficiently, the new intellectual atmosphere now largely free of domination by the US led to many long term political and economic problems actually get solved, or at least having innovative experimental solutions tried on them. As a result global trade ran more smoothly, world pollution levels plateaued somewhat, prosperity increased, defense budgets shrank, and the gaps between rich and poor worldwide began shrinking again as well (except within the struggling US itself).

Some truly big problems like major wars are averted, and many small problems barely show up on the politico-economic radar screens before they're taken care of. Of course, this 'mini-golden age' of international politics doesn't last long at all-- but its timing is crucial. For the first half of the 21st century is one of the riskiest times in all of human history: our technology makes it increasingly easy and cheap to destroy ourselves, or devolve our civilization back to Stone Age levels. And yet there remain many natural threats to our survival impervious to remedies by those same technologies. Our still immature socio-economic systems increase our vulnerabilities still more. Atop all this, the technological innovations we demand and the breakthroughs we are achieving are coming almost faster than we can fully comprehend and absorb them-- which injects enormous instability into our institutions and daily lives.

During this time of great danger and staggering instability, the presence of the Vigilantes and their obvious willingness to 'get involved' where and when they perceive the necessity usually moderates the actions of more 'official' entities like the geopoliticals both inside and outside their own borders, while also reducing the wiggle room the geopolitical elites like to use for avoiding responsibility or real decision-making.

Most Vigilantes circa 2010 and later take an especially dim view of things like "ethnic" or "religious" cleansing perpetrated by a geopolitical on its own citizens or those of neighboring states, such as the actions documented in Yugoslavia during 1999, or conspiratorial manipulation of an entire nation's economy by a mega-corporation or foreign fiscal entity to better subjugate the citizenry for low cost labor in high risk jobs, or create a convenient dumping ground for the toxic wastes of wealthier nations. However, as "justice" is a high priority for many Vigilantes, and easily leads to excesses better termed as "revenge"-- and some circumstances are very complex in the "justice" area (such as various conflicts in the Mideast and the Balkans)-- bonafide 21st century Vigilantes in some cases may be just as prone to mistakes in judgment and extremes in actions as anyone else. However, as the global Vigilante movement matures, they tend to focus their efforts on single individuals or small groups of elite believed to be in control of the events deemed unacceptable by the Vigilantes themselves. Thus, various 21st century despots and hubris-filled corporation execs and high government officials are among the first to learn the lessons taught by Vigilante instructors.

But other states/organizations suffer similar fates as the 21st century winds its way into the history books. Yes, these more sober descendents of the original wild-eyed anti-government and often racist militias and mercenaries of the late 20th century end up doing much to postpone Doomsday for the planet for roughly a century, as they sometimes humble far larger entities with their responses to various developments. The Vigilantes perform longer term good as well by helping protect the fledgling virtual states from the still powerful Old World governments of the time.

A large part of the value of the Vigilantes to the world during this time is due to the growing inadequacies of most existing geopolitical entities. I.e., there is more and more often a power 'vacuum' amidst critical and fast moving developments, as the powers of the status quo mull about in indecision or unwillingness to address things like ethnic cleansing, despotic military action, and extraordinary exploitation by mega-corporations upon poor nations of little or no perceived security or economic value to richer factions. In many cases like these, the Vigilantes step in with their own solutions-- which often as not save many lives and (at least temporarily) put things back on a somewhat civilized footing in a given region.

The Vigilantes often get a surprising amount of support from average citizens worldwide, as they have no claim to superpower status, and usually readily admit their actions are flawed and incomplete-- but are also recognized by most to at least be making real attempts to solve problems, in the absence of such commitments from greater powers.

And, of course, in many instances the population of various poor and underdeveloped states which benefit from the intervention of the Vigilantes subsequently become strong supporters and allies of the Vigilantes-- offering the Vigilantes a slowly expanding power base from which they may undertake still larger actions.

As you might expect, those realtime geophysical governments sufficiently intelligent to see what the newly emerging virtual states mean for traditional authority often attempt to target Vigilante members for arrest, persecution, and worse. Because the Vigilantes are providing some major pillars of the new governments to come-- new governments which will surely replace the old.

The old governments usually have much more massive resources at their command than the Vigilantes in the beginning. But the Vigilantes are often more efficient with theirs', and usually much more agile than government forces. Traditional governments enjoy their greatest successes against the Vigilantes early on, and thereafter see their fortunes decline, even as the Vigilantes grow stronger.

Predictions by Frances Cairncross, senior editor of the Economist magazine:

Cairncross predicts the declining costs of long distance telecommunications (and increasing accessibility to the internet) will allow the economic rate of growth and living standards worldwide to rise more and faster than it would otherwise. This implies growing financial independence and capabilities on the part of both individuals and organizations.

Other predictions/speculations from Cairncross:

* greater fragmentation and 'looseness' in companies and business organizations...perhaps like the networked Hollywood interests which today produce theatrical films. This implies growing freedom on the part of both individuals and organizations to set their own agendas, even where they might directly conflict with those of larger entities like governments and big corporations.

* a paradoxical simultaneous decline and rise in government powers over the individual. On the one hand, global commercial sales of books and other products and services reduce the censorship power and economic and legal control of individual governments over citizens. Yet at the same time it will become easier for governments to spy on citizens and locate them as it wishes. The ultimate socio-economic consequences of this paradox are unclear...This implies an expanding potential for uncertainty, insecurity, suspicion, and 'power vacuums' during given events, which may encourage and nurture the rise of vigilante organizations.

* less risk of substantial military conflicts in the future, as better communications leads to greater global democracy, and democracies don't war with one another as much as other types of nations do.This implies an expanding potential for SMALLER, LIMITED geopolitical conflicts in the future, usually inside given nations and not directly impacting the neighbors of such states. Most such conflicts will likely involve the use of 'non-lethal' weapons in conflicts between citizens and their own governments. This circumstance too would seem to encourage the emergence of both virtual states and vigilante organizations...

Cairncross has published a book on these subjects: "The Death of Distance".

-- "An economist ponders the impact of technology" by JENNIFER FILES, The Dallas Morning News/Mercury Center, 7-8-98

Please note that there are significant differences between terrorist groups and the majority of Vigilante organizations (although those who find themselves branded as "enemies" by the Vigilantes will surely label the Vigilantes as terrorists at the time). The Vigilantes' usually go out of their way to avoid harming non-combatants, while terrorists do the opposite (in practice the Vigilante's differentiation between innocents and combatants is at least a bit better than that of avowed terrorists, in the majority of events, and in the opinion of many third party observers of the time). Vigilantes are typically very public in whatever they decide to take action about, unlike most terrorists who secretly or without warning plant or drop bombs among women and children, and then make public their responsibility after the fact-- or else try mightily to hide or diminish it (the smaller and weaker the terrorist entity, the more likely they claim responsibility; the bigger and more influential the terrorist entity (such as a superpower) the more likely they try to hide their involvement, or else shift the blame onto others, or to flaws in technology or intelligence). Vigilantes do often maintain their individual anonymity like terrorists, but often announce their plans either slightly before or during the time they are carrying them out. There are many other points and counterpoints of the differences between terrorists and Vigilantes, but the above should be sufficient for a start.

As for differences between old style 20th century mercenaries and 21st century Vigilantes...that's a highly complex distinction to make. But one rule of thumb may be that Vigilantes tend to possess more financial independence from many of the factions on which behalf they intercede...

Both the Vigilantes and newly emerging virtual states are also strengthened as a consequence of heavy use of "non-lethal" weapons technology by governments across the globe to deal with civil unrest at almost every level (from lone individuals to hundreds of thousands of protesters and rioters). You see, as it becomes ever more difficult for citizens to voice or act out political/social/economic dissent in the streets, they increasingly take it online-- and the virtual states help protect them from retribution from the old-line physical authorities.

Handheld Star Trek-style phasers (capable of stunning or killing targets with a beam of light) are becoming feasible.

-- "Ray gun freezes victims without causing injury" by Max Glaskin Innovation: The Sunday Times, Times Newspapers Ltd., May 9 1999, http://www.the-times.co.uk/

However, dissent in the physical realm is not shut out entirely by government use of non lethal weaponry: the Vigilantes develop and deploy their own non-lethal weaponry and the means to combat it to their members as well as allies, often forcing effective stalemates at the least with major national governments, in those battles the Vigilantes choose to take on. By virtue of their frequently superior online savvy, the Vigilantes can often even outdo many governments in conflicts where non-lethal weaponry plays a major role. Vigilante techware includes cheap but tough air-filtered and metallicized plastic suits to which anti-riot foam cannot adhere, most common riot gases do not affect, and many electronic stunners are impotent against. Add another layer of something like kevlar or better, and your man is circa 1997 bullet and stab proof too. Most sonic and light-based weapons are defeated with relatively simple electronic aids (like active sound wave cancellation), and EMP blasts by suitable fast and auto-reset circuit breakers (as well as 'hardened' or simplified/enlarged circuitry for near proxity blasts).

The above items are but the cheapest and simplest physical tools in the Vigilantes' store for dealing with the old-line states. Other items include owner keyed firearms (only the owner can fire them) with remote gun sights (tiny video cam on the barrel offers muzzle view to user no matter how the gun is positioned (the 'Cyberpunk Writing Handbook' (originally at "http://cs.sonoma.edu/~paradigm/handbook/cpunk.html", which is now a dead link) may have been among the first sources to mention the possibility of remote muzzle cams)). The muzzle cam dispenses with the laser sight telltales of pre-2000 weapons, while also adding a convenient medium for night vision and other sight enhancement possibilities.

-- "High-tech blooming in Israel" by DAN GILLMOR, April 27, 1998, Mercury News, and others

Cyber-vigilantism on the rise

-- "Cyber-vigilantes hunt down hackers" by Winn Schwartau, CNN/IDG, 1-12-99

Geopolitical-vigilantism on the rise

-- "The Privatisation of Global War?" by Paul Treanor, 1-18-99, http://www.heise.de/tp/english/inhalt/co/2605/1.html, Alle Rechte vorbehalten Verlag Heinz Heise, Hannover

(For more about this period check out Perspectives 1990 AD-2050 AD)

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