Boing Boing 

Jane Austen to grace £10 notes


Jane Austen will appear on a new issue of the English £10 note, a welcome break in the sausage-fest that presently constitutes our specie. The new Bank of England governor Mark Carney -- a Canadian, from a country where the money is staunchly blokey -- confirmed the change after the outgoing governor Mervyn King let it slip.

"Jane Austen certainly merits a place in the select group of historical figures to appear on our banknotes. Her novels have an enduring and universal appeal and she is recognised as one of the greatest writers in English literature," the new governor said.

He also announced that the Bank would carry out a review of the process for selecting the historical figures who appear on banknotes, to ensure that a diverse range of figures is represented.

"We believe that our notes should celebrate the full diversity of great British historical figures and their contributions in a wide range of fields. The Bank is committed to that objective, and we want people to have confidence in our commitment to diversity. That is why I am today announcing a review of the selection process for future banknote characters," Carney said. The review will be overseen by the chief cashier Chris Salmon, whose signature appears on banknotes.

What an amazing turn of events. The only thing that would make this better is more women on the money -- I look forward to the Ada Lovelace fiver and the Emmeline Pankhurst 20.

Jane Austen to appear on £10 note [Katie Allen and Heather Stewart/The Guardian]

Stamping $1s to amend the Constitution & kill Citizens United

Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry's is riding around the country in a rainbow colored van, stamping $1 bills with messages like "not to be used for bribing politicians," as a way of raising consciousness about the impact of money in politics in the wake of the Citizens United Supreme Court verdict, which opened the doors to infinite campaign financing by special interests.

He's seeking a constitutional amendment that overturns the verdict, and he's got 15 states onboard. You can sign a petition, buy a stamp and stamp your own money, and hold stamping parties with your friends. The full list of stamp messages is:

"Not to Be Used for Bribing Politicians".
"Stamp Money Out of Politics"
"Corporations are Not People"
“Not To Be Used for Buying Elections”

Stamp Stampede

Hollow spy-coins milled out of real currency


A company called "Covert Coins" mills hollow coins out of real currency and turns them into hidden, spook-tastic secret compartments. Reviews say that the coins are indistinguishable from undoctored items on casual inspection.

Micro SD Card Covert Spy Coin - Secret Compartment (Many Countries/Denominations) (via Oh Gizmo)

Lessig: Democrats' policies are up for auction to highest bidder, too

Writing in The Atlantic, Larry Lessig reminds supporters of the Democratic Party that corruption isn't limited to the Republicans. The Dems, too, have a party where policy is driven by campaign donations rather than principle, evidence or even ideology.

This way of thinking about the "necessities" of modern political life is so obvious to mainstream Democrats that it follows the party whether it is in power or not. The Center for American Progress, for example, is the Democratic Party's most important Washington think tank. Its researchers have produced an incredible range of valuable work, mapping a progressive agenda for the party to follow. There is no better home for left-thinking policy wonks in D.C., and no more than a handful of institutions that have ever produced better left-leaning work.

Or at least, and possibly, depending upon whether it pays. For, as investigative journalists Ken Silverstein and Brooke Williams have documented in a series of recent articles, CAP's agenda is potentially vulnerable to a long list of undisclosed corporate funders. According to Silverstein, CAP staffers are "very clearly instructed to check with the think tank's development team before writing anything that might upset contributors." (CAP disputes Silverstein's portrayal.) In at least one case, CAP has acted as an undisclosed lobbyist for a corporate contributor. (Disclosure: Silverstein and Williams's work on think tanks has been funded in part by a research center I run.)

My point is not that these are bad people pushing bad policy. My point instead is just this: Democrats must recognize that we don't actually get very much from this bargain. Sure, we'll win some elections, including the presidency, and so a regular mix of not-right-leaning souls will have this democratic royalty bestowed upon them. But we won't get much actual policy. Or policy consistent with the principles of this party, if indeed there are any principles not yet auctioned off to big money.

Can Democrats Get a New Party, Too?

Bank of Canada kills editorial cartoon, calls it "counterfeiting"


Canadian Conservative senator Mike Duffy is in disgrace over the news that he submitted fraudulent expense claims totalling $90,000 and secretly borrowed a like sum from the Prime Minister's Chief of Staff to pay it (and kill an auditor's investigation into his conduct). So Dan Murphy drew an editorial cartoon depicting a notional Canadian $90,000 bill bearing Senator Duffy's leering face. But the toon only ran briefly, because the Bank of Canada threatened Canadian newspapers with criminal prosecution for counterfeiting if they ran it.

That gets to the crux of the matter. Laws that fight counterfeiting are fine (though really, any forger gifted enough to back-engineer a single-sided cartoon of a $90,000 bill that bears the image of Mike Duffy and a hologram of Nigel Wright deserves a medal, not jail time) but the Bank of Canada has no business playing Thought Police.

Parodies of bank notes are nothing new. In 1819, British cartoonist George Cruikshank, angered after seeing a woman hanged for passing a forged note, drew a Bank of England note that featured 11 men and women dangling from nooses. During the currency panic of 1837, a series of “shin plasters” — typically five- and six-cent bills — poked fun at U.S. economic policy.

Jack Knox: The ($90,000) Duffy buck stops here, Bank of Canada decides [Jack Knox/Times Colonist] (Thanks, Derryl!)

Pendants carved out of old British coinage


London's Thornhill Jewellery takes old British coinage and laser-cuts carves sweet/funny/silly designs into them. You can also get them made to order from the year of your choosing (to celebrate a birthday, for example). I saw several of these in person Sunday at Spitalfields Market and they're just great.

Thornhill Jewellery / coins

Monster money!


Google Translate says that the caption on this image is Japanese for "Bill of surprised frontispiece monster world." I can't really hazard any guesses beyond that, but hey, monster money!

『びっくり口絵 怪物世界のお札』 (via Crazy Abalone)

Forging £1 coins is apparently profitable


Three men have been convicted of forging £1 coins. The London Police Detective Inspector even got all quippy about the sentencing ("These three men are organised criminals who were intent on undermining the UK monetary system. There is nothing fake about the reality they must now face of life behind bars." -- yes, yes, very clever DI South) but what fascinates me about the story is that it can somehow be profitable to forge £1 coins.

I got passed a fake pound shortly after I first moved to the UK, almost ten years go; it was a foil-wrapped plastic slug. Not realizing it was fake, I tried to buy something with it at a corner shop and the cashier pressed it edge-on on his counter and the foil split open, revealing the green plastic disc inside.

From the sound of this article, these fakes were solid metal, which, I think, would make them more expensive than the fake I got. When you add the costs of the materials, the wages for the manufacturing process, warehousing, the discount for counterfeit cash, etc, it's hard to believe that this was worth anyone's while.

On the other hand, it's probably easier to go on counterfeiting when you're passing very small denominations as most people (me included) won't bother going to the cops over a mere pound; and it's much harder to remember where a given pound coin came from than a £20 note.

The court heard Fisher, of Rags Lane in Goffs Oak, Hertfordshire, Sullivan, of Bancroft Chase in Hornchurch, east London, and Abbott were arrested during an undercover police operation in Essex last May.

Police found a storage container with 1.6 million metal discs inside and fake coins equivalent to £20,000.

Fake coins equivalent to a further £30,000 were found in a nearby car.

Three men jailed over 'largest' fake £1 coin plot [BBC]

(Image: Yet another forged pound coin, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from pahudson's photostream)

Infographic: how money corrupts Congress, and what to do about it


Money wins Elections is an excellent, scrolling infographic that illustrates how money corrupts the American legislative process, showing that time and again, Congress has voted the way that the big money told it to, against the prevailing popular opinion. It's all in support of the American Anti-corruption Act, and it was created by Tony Chu for part of his MFA thesis project.

Money wins Elections

New Canadian $5 celebrates the space programme


I'm pretty fond of the design of the new Canadian plastic $5 note, which is much improved if you draw Spock ears, eyebrows and hairline on old Sir Wilfrid Laurier.

The new Canadian $5 bill has just destroyed every single other piece of currency in the world (IMO) (farm9.staticflickr.com)

New US$100 bill in circulation 10/8

NewImage

The new US$100 bill will go into circulation on October 8, 2013. New security features include a "3-D Security Ribbon" woven into the paper. The image changes from bells to 100s with the viewing angle, and "color-shifting" bell graphic that changes from copper to green, "an effect which makes the bell seem to appear and disappear within the (copper-colored) inkwell." "The Redesigned $100 Note"

Big pictures of small change

Pesoooo

Artist Martin John Callanan and the Advanced Engineered Materials Group at the UK's National Physical Laboratory used an infinite 3D optical microscope to capture 400 million pixel images of the lowest denomination coin from many currencies. "The Fundamental Units"

Lessig's TED talk on fighting corruption in politics with campaign finance reform

Larry Lessig presented at TED his new project, an effort to curb the corrupting influence of money in American politics with a reform to campaign finance, so that the government depends on the people alone. It's a wonderful talk:

There is a corruption at the heart of American politics, caused by the dependence of Congressional candidates on funding from the tiniest percentage of citizens. That's the argument at the core of this blistering talk by legal scholar Lawrence Lessig. With rapid-fire visuals, he shows how the funding process weakens the Republic in the most fundamental way, and issues a rallying bipartisan cry that will resonate with many in the U.S. and beyond.

Lawrence Lessig: We the People, and the Republic we must reclaim

Why can't we prevent asteroid strikes?

Asteroids: Yet more evidence that (as a society) we aren't very good at prioritizing preventative measures against long-term risks.

When US money was nice to look at


US currency was beautiful, once upon a time, when it sported images of animals and symbolic statuary, rather than deifying its citizen-rulers by putting presidents on the money as though they were kings. This 1901 $10 note (available on Wikimedia Commons in a 33.34MB, 6,454 × 5,784 JPEG!) is a case in point.

United States $10 Banknote, Legal Tender, Series of 1901 (Fr. Ref#114), depicting Meriwether Lewis and William Clark of the Lewis & Clark Expedition. The central portrait is a depiction of an American bison. Part of the National Numismatic Collection, NMAH, Smithsonian Institution. (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)

Game theory and bad behavior on Wall Street

An opinion piece by Chris Arnade on the asymmetry in pay (money for profits, flat for losses), which he describes "the engine behind many of Wall Street’s mistakes" That asymmetry "rewards short-term gains without regard to long-term consequences," Chris writes in a new guest blog at Scientific American. "The results? The over-reliance on excessive leverage, banks that are loaded with opaque financial products, and trading models that are flawed." [Scientific American Blog Network]

Database documenting payouts to UK slave-owners to be launched for public use

The British government paid out £20 million to compensate 3,000 slave-owning families for the loss of their "property" when slave ownership was abolished in Britain's colonies in 1833. At the time, that sum amounted to 40% of the UK's annual spending budget; today, one could calculate the total value of the 19th-century payouts to be around £16.5 billion (=USD $25 billion; the actual sum can vary, depending on how you calculate).

In The Independent, an article digging in to the data, which will be released this week in the form of a publicly accessible database.

Read the rest

Great moments in pedantry: Canada puts the wrong maple leaf on its $20 bill

Hey, that's not a Canadian sugar maple leaf! That is very clearly the leaf of the invasive Norway maple.

Guitar picks made from coins


Etsy seller GuitarPickCollection sells handmade guitar (mandolin, banjo, etc) picks made from coins and slugs that have been formed to suit. I was never much of a guitar player and so I can't guess whether this would be good news for your favorite axe, but if you do fancy a coin-pick, this maker's stuff is rather beautiful.

(via OhGizmo)

Commemorative coins are sneaky pork

You know those cool commemorative coins that the US Mint keeps issuing? Turns out that they're a handy way for Congress to get around the ban on porky earmarks for their home district. As reported last April in The Foundry:

Here’s how it works: In June of last year, Rep. Peter Roksam (R-IL) introduced legislation authorizing a commemorative coin honoring the Lions Club, a service organization based in Oak Brook, IL – part of Roksam’s district.

The legislation dictates that proceeds from the coin sales be used to pay for the cost of producing the coins, but adds: “all surcharges received by the Secretary from the sale of coins issued under this Act shall be promptly paid by the Secretary to the Lions Clubs International Foundation for the purposes.”

In other words, assuming the costs of production are covered, the legislation will steer federal funds to an organization in Roksam’s home district. No earmarks required.

There's a long list of other commemorative coins, mostly issued at Republican instigation (the coins all seem to emanate from the House), but sometimes with a Democratic push in the Senate.

Congress Uses Commemorative Coins to Circumvent Earmark Ban

A visit inside a vault holding $315,000,000,000 in gold bricks


A fascinating visit to the Bank of England bullion vault, which stores $315 billion in gold. The narrator is kind of sad because he says gold is useful for many things and it's just sitting here.

Gold Christmas Tree

Reuters:

The tree-like ornament is made of 88 pounds of pure gold, standing about 7.9 ft high ... It is decorated with pure gold plate silhouette cutouts of 50 popular Disney characters and draped with ribbons made of gold leaf. The price tag? A mere $4.2 million.

Bogus Lincoln $100 bill fails to impress checkout clerk

A man in Rhode Island was either too dumb or too cheeky for his own good: the counterfeit bills he tried to pass at a local Target had Abraham Lincoln on the $100, popularly known as a Benjamin. [Sun Chronicle]

Russian beard tax token from the reign of Peter the Great


This is a Russian beard tax token from the reign of Peter the Great, who set out to modernize Russia by getting everyone to shave. Anyone who wanted to keep a beard had to buy one of these tokens (which bore the legend "the beard is a superfluous burden"). Costs varied by profession -- nobles and officers paid 60 rubles, top merchants paid 100, and so on. Additionally, everyone passing into a city while wearing a beard had to pay a kopek's worth of face-fur-toll.

Update: You can buy replica beard tokens, too.

Beard Tax Token, 1705 (via Neatorama)

Panama aims to adopt Euro

The Panamanian president announced that the country would like to introduce the Euro as legal tender, alongside the U.S. dollar. [Reuters]

Commodity market prediction takes the Internet by storm

Good news! There is not an unavoidable bacon shortage looming in our future. Bad news! What was actually being predicted was really an increase in meat prices across the board. Droughts have completely decimated this year's corn crop, and as corn is the stuff we usually feed our meat, it's going to cost more to raise a pig (or a cow, or a chicken) next year. Key takeaways: There will still be meat, it's just going to be more spendy next year, and also don't trust the British when they offer you "bacon" because they actually mean Canadian bacon, which is different (and inferior).

Meet "Big Trash"

Over the long run, keeping stuff like tree limbs and compostable waste out of landfills is good for cities. There's only so much space in a landfill and getting more land is extremely expensive. So why haven't more cities hopped on the curbside composting bandwagon, or at least banned yard waste from landfills? There's probably a lot of factors that go into those decisions, but one, apparently, is the influence of large, private companies that handle waste collection and see the diversion of re-usable waste as a detriment to their income. (Via Chris Tackett)

HOWTO send vulture debt collectors packing

"Defending Junk-Debt-Buyer Lawsuits" is a paper written by Peter A. Holland of the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law and published in the May 1 issue of Clearinghouse Review. It's a clear, short, absolutely readable (and indispensable) guide to fending off speculative lawsuits from vulture debt-collectors. These are the debt collectors who buy up bad debts that banks and other creditors have written off (because there's insufficient evidence that the debt exists in the first place, or because it's past the statute of limitations, or because the debtor has been through a bankruptcy). Then they bulk-file lawsuits against the debtors, hoping that they won't show up in court to defend themselves, so that the vultures can win judgments and use them to go after houses, cars, salaries and so on. As Naked Capitalism's Yves Smith puts it, these vultures are buying up a lot of scrap paper, hoping to find a lottery ticket.

It's surprisingly easy to fend off these bottom-dwellers, though. They have to prove that you owe them money. A brief moment spent scrutinizing the documents filed against you is usually enough to find evidence that will get the case dismissed. Holland's paper explains in detail just what to do to get these vampires to flee from your door:

Read the complaint and accompanying documents multiple times, highlighter in hand, while looking for intentional deceptions, errors, and omissions that could help your client prevail. First, look for defects on the face of the complaint. For example, the named plaintiff might be a different corporation from the entity named in the supporting documents. This occurs with surprising frequency. Second, if your state requires debt buyers to be licensed as debt collectors, check whether the debt buyer is licensed. Suing without a license creates standing issues, and, according to an increasing number of courts, it constitutes a violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.16 The junk-debt buyer is subject to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act because the junk-debt buyer allegedly acquires the debt after default.

Third, look for the failure to prove the existence of (or the terms and conditions of) the alleged underlying contract. Failure to prove the contract is the rule rather than the exception. Often a contract is not even attached to the complaint. More often, some well-worn photocopy sample of a terms-and-conditions mailer is attached. This sample is often illegible, and almost never signed by the consumer. On close inspection, the printing date on this document often reveals that it was generated years after the account was allegedly opened. Also, the terms and con- ditions submitted may not be from the original creditor identified by the junk-debt buyer but are presented to make the claim appear supported.

Fourth, the debt buyer is usually unable to prove a complete and unbroken chain of title. Without a valid chain of title, the debt buyer does not have standing to sue.

Defending Junk-Debt-Buyer Lawsuits (via Naked Capitalism)

(Image: Vulture, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from 7704782@N07's photostream)

Butter-knife money-clip


Last night at dinner in San Francisco (I'm in town to give a Long Now talk tonight), our waiter noticed that I was wearing a ring made from an ornate spoon handle and produced his home-made money-clip, which he'd fashioned from an antique butter-knife he found at a pawn shop. He said he'd used a hand clamp to hold the handle, wrapped the blade in a cloth dishtowel, and used careful hammer-taps to bend it around. He also said that he flew with it routinely without any problems from the TSA. It was a really nice piece -- he wrapped his bills around his credit-cards and ID to create the necessary thickness.

Butter Knife Money Clip

Oatmeal Spells F U in Money Shots

I am kneeling on a sun-dappled hardwood floor with stacks of $20 bills in $2,000 bundles in each hand helping to spell out the word "douchebaggery," and thinking: $220,000 just doesn't seem like that much money. I found myself in this position after asking Matthew Inman, the artist behind the cartoon and business The Oatmeal, if I could take pictures when he withdrew the cash he will ultimately hand over to the American Cancer Society and the National Wildlife Federation in order to use it to make fun of a Web site that threatened him with legal action.

This is the latest episode in a saga that BoingBoing has documented in quite some detail, and which began June 11, when Inman posted an annotated version of a letter he had received from Charles Carreon, a well-known attorney representing FunnyJunk, a user-submitted content site, complaining about a post Inman had made a year ago. Inman complained in 2011 about FunnyJunk's business model, noting, "Most of the comics they've stolen [have] no credit or link back to me. Even with proper attribution, no one clicks through and FunnyJunk still earns a huge pile of cash from all the ad revenue." It's a common problem with sites that rely on submitted items, and each site has different policies on how to manage such unauthorized postings. Inman didn't issue DMCA takedown notices, though he would have been within his rights. He says he's just not interested in engaging in that sort of behavior. (By the way, did you know you have to register an agent with the copyright office to qualify for the safe-harbor provision of the DMCA? Me, neither! FunnyJunk's registration was received May 29, 2012, shortly before its lawyer sent the letter to Inman.)

Read the rest