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Because I am bored ...

While Bitcoin was originally proposed as a currency, it has most of the attributes of a commodity bubble, including a huge halo of swindlers and scam artists working to exploit it. It's also horribly energy-inefficient and contributes to the current global semiconductor shortage, neither of which are desirable. Even worse: attempts at fixing Bitcoin mostly revolve around tweaking the "proof of work" required to add a transaction to the blockchain. Currently, BtC and relatives are computation-intensive. Other paradigms exist, including the new fad for Chiacoin, currently big in China, which is storage intensive — this is what happens when the designer of Bittorrent brings his own personal obsessions to bear on the problem of manufacturing scarcity, and if you want to upgrade your SSD or hard drive in the near future you'd better get right to it before this catches on.

(And about NFTs, the less said the better. Grift, 100% grift, and exploitation of artists as well. Oh, and it appears to be mostly used for money laundering. So fuck off and die if you own any, and especially if you thought pirating some of my work and turning it into NFTs would be a good way to milk the gullible.)

However, these aren't the only options.

It occurs to me that if you want a blockchain secured by scarcity and diminishing returns, you might consider other options that don't totally fuck our lived environment and that can't be gamed trivially by, say, running Chiacoin (the storage-space coin protocol) as part of the burn-in for new consumer grade drives your employer has you shoving in racks at Amazon S3 or maybe Arsebook. (Who totally have a first-mover advantage on that brain-damaged currency in the "phone my customer account manager at Western Digital, tell him I want another ten million terabytes of non-shingled platters" stakes.)

For example, to Elon Musk, a modest proposal:

Hork up a bunch of space probes going somewhere of interest to JPL or NASA or ESA, as both a tax write-off and an apology to the international astronomical community whose night skies you just vandalized with Starlink. Order, say, a dozen. For energy where they're going and for what's coming next they're definitely going to need RTGs, but you're not as fussy about maximum launch weight as the US government (you have Falcon Heavy and, soon, Starship to launch them with) so you can order up something running on, say, Strontium-90: it'll be heavier, but who cares. You're also going to use some of the power from it to run ion rockets for positioning and slow long-term acceleration (hint: Starlink uses ion propulsion for station keeping/reboost: presumably SpaceX have got quite a bit of experience with this tech by now).

So, you kindly donated a couple of dozen probes to Neptune, Uranus, Pluto, Eris, Makemake, Haumea, and the rest of the gang (and the dwarf planet wonks are ecstatic).

But you're not going to be using much bandwidth for sending back data, most of the time. So what to do with those radio transmitters you just kicked out at something above solar escape velocity?

Code signing, that's what you do.

Each probe has a dedicated crypto processor and a very VERY private key. It receives a constant uplink from the ground, and replies by signing and echoing back to Earth the blockchain transactions it receives. The further away from Earth it gets, the longer the delay. Also, the higher demand for the currency rises, the longer the delay to get your transaction into the queue for uplink and signing via the big dishes. You might be able to make an end run around the queue by bribing someone, but gambits based on building hardware are going to run into the wee problem that Deep Space Tracking Networks aren't off-the-shelf commodities and even if they were, you couldn't force the receding space probe to listen to your transmitter and reply (presumably the uplink is secured by the coin owner's own PKI system).

Upshot: it's a cryptocoin system with a big up-front setup cost (as in, billions), which is good (it deters low-end me-too systems), guaranteed scarcity of signing resources, and absolutely no advantage accruing to anyone buying up earthly power or material resources. So it shouldn't drive scarcity in hard disks/GPUs or unreasonable power demands. Flip side: there's a centralized chokepoint (the deep space network) that can be throttled by governments. But some might see this as an advantage ...

PS: my preferred solution to the problems created by cryptocurrencies is to treat them all like child pornography: totally illegal, possession a strict liability offense, choke off interoperability with real currencies at the credit agency/bank interchange level, and make them useless for non-criminals, at which point only criminals will bother with them. And India is going down this route. Let's hope other governments follow suit rapidly and we can say goodbye to this Trump-grade lunatical grift before it degrades our lived environment any more.

PPS: I despise libertarianism. Just in case you were wondering ...

1202 Comments

1:

It's unfortunate that a coin that enforces scarcity by being mined only on Itanium hardware isn't feasible.

2:

You know, treating space probes as a tax write off isn't a bad idea, probably better than spending it on a $500 million Yacht (although not as good as investing in malaria vaccines). Or if you want to really annoy people, charge $1500 for each image you send back. The probe would be able to pay for itself pretty quickly (particularly if you had say, other instruments that scientists could use in the journey to the Outer Planets).

3:

Another horrible part about Bitcoin is how it poisoned what was a burgeoning decentralized tech space a decade ago. There's useful exploration to be done, various proposals and projects; variants on digital LETS, Chaumian cash, etc.

Now the whole space is consumed by the Bitcoin paperclip optimising machine.

4:

BTW, how would people know that (a) the probe is actually in space, rather than in Taklamakan or something, and/or (b) that a copy of the private key doesn't also exist on Earth?

5:

Yes, I know that is off-topic, but it is the first remotely plausible way that I have heard of to sell the turkey that was the Itanic. Congratulations.

6:

I don't have any suggestions but, for a long time now, I have been saying that we need to abolish Money - not as a token of exchange, but as a tradeable commodity. In other words, I entirely agree, but doubt that the UK or USA will start down that direction in our lifetimes. See also Piketty!

7:

How can you abolish money-as-a-commodity when all transactions for anything are simply trading one commodity for another? The only difference that money has is that it's a highly standardized commodity with a (generally) well-known value for your next transaction. It has fungibility, whereas accepting x bushels of wheat and y kW-h of electricity for your paycheck has very low fungibility.

By its very nature, money *is* a commodity.

8:

Does your PS even work though? Surely one of the supposed advantages of these things is that they are, or can be, robust against that kind of adversity, and the principal effect would merely be to cause people to devise new variants which maximise that robustness. And it seems to me that they already are useless as currencies because of the reasons in your first sentence - you can't depend on them to simply pay for things because in the time between you converting real money into crapto and you spending the crapto its equivalence with real money might have shrunk by a few orders of magnitude, so they are only any use to people who want to use them for playing silly games where that kind of behaviour is an actual advantage. To knock the legs out from under the silly games crew seems to me an aim which depends on global cooperation, and in practice will sooner or later run up against problems of the nature of "if you can't trade with any organisation that handles crapto you can't trade with China, oops".

Also, I would be very unhappy about the "strict liability" thing. I'm already unhappy that you can get an automatic five years for some criminal chucking away a gun into your garden when you didn't even know it was there; but the opportunities for that to happen are extremely rare, whereas crapto artists using unsuspecting website visitors' browsers to play their silly games in javascript is already an established problem. Similarly, it would vastly increase the ease of doing that to someone deliberately because you didn't like them, and make that possibility much more readily available than is the case when it requires a physical gun.

The real problem is not that people can play silly games with crapto, it's that they can play silly games with anything. Tulips, for instance; or a nation's membership of the EU. One could argue that at least with crapto the effects are largely confined to a more or less isolated domain that normal people don't have to care about, and the effects that do leak out, such as energy consumption, are probably less damaging overall than the unconfined effects of playing silly games with normal people's stuff in the conventional manner; so if they have that option available to devote their attention to instead of to the conventional options, it may restrict the real damage they can do. This is probably debatable enough to be argued over inconclusively until the cows come home, but it's sadly also more realistic than the preferable solution of eliminating the possibility of playing any silly games with anything.

9:

BTW, how would people know that (a) the probe is actually in space

There's more than one deep space tracking network: I'm pretty sure the Russian and Chinese ones would be willing to sell you some observation time (at a price).

10:

By its very nature, money *is* a commodity.

No it isn't: when money stops moving it has no value, much like the current in a copper wire goes away when the electrons stop moving.

The best metaphor for money (disclaimer: all metaphors are approximations at best, that break down in edge conditions) is that money is a current flow like electricity, not a substance like coal. (You can burn coal in a power plant and generate electricity, but ...)

Hence, incidentally, the lethality of liquidity crises in macroeconomics. The money is still present in the system in theory but it ain't flowing, and when it stops flowing, all economic exchanges mediated by money grind to a rapid halt.

11:

To knock the legs out from under the silly games crew seems to me an aim which depends on global cooperation, and in practice will sooner or later run up against problems of the nature of "if you can't trade with any organisation that handles crapto you can't trade with China, oops".

Apply that argument to child pornography, or heroin. I think you'll find that most countries, most of the time, taking a highly negative view of these commodities have successfully driven them way underground. They still exist but they're largely excluded from the general economy, the kiddie porn in particular (it's something that doesn't appeal to most people). In particular, China is fairly cooperative on persecuting drug smugglers and, as far as I know, child rapists.

crapto artists using unsuspecting website visitors' browsers to play their silly games in javascript

Problem goes away with strict liability: the BtC miner javascript malware comes via ad exchangers which are going to suddenly pay attention to what they're serving up if it results in the FBI/SOCA breaking down their doors and hauling them off in chains.

12:

I think all economists will disagree with you :

Textbook definitions normally list the following three properties of money:

- A medium of exchange
- A unit of account
- A store of value

I however agree that money should not be hoarded too much, as it damage the economy.


13:

Agreed about fiat money. Commodity money does exist. That was the first version of a coin, a stamped weight of silver or gold where the king who ordered the stamping was theoretically guaranteeing that said lump was the correct weight. Many of the subsequent features on coins were designed to keep people from scraping and scamming on the weight, until we got to fiat money, where the best way to avoid resource scams was to get rid of the resource and keep the value guarantee. Incidentally, the Aztecs, who ran with cacao bean money, also had to deal with scammers making fake cacao beans out of avocado skins and pebbles.

Anyway, the one problem I don't think you raised with the deep space signing system is that satellites are routinely designed and operated by people reprogramming them from Earth, to deal with bit rot, unexpected situations, etc. I'm not sure that having a computer that needs to be remotely reprogrammed to do part of its job is the best place to put a cryptocurrency signer...

14:

Actually, I had the Bright Idea for an alternative: someone creates a transparent cryptocurrency creator that people can use to quickly set up Local Exchange Trading Systems. The transparency part is that the encryption system for the blockchain running the LETS needs to be robust against state or big company hacks, which means AIUI that it's got to sit out there and get bashed on regularly so that everybody is reasonably confident that it's not worth hacking.

A bit of googling turns up that some block chain-head already thought of it, but it hasn't caught on. Yet.

Still, I'd love to see a killer LETS app that allows people to use LETS readily enough to make them worth something outside college towns and similar. A big part of the proof of work is time currency, where both the contractor and the client agree that the work was done, and can register it on the blockchain.

Hell, here's another one: a blockchain carbon registry, where the demonstration that the greenhouse gases are out of the air counts as a plus in the blockchain, while the re-emission of said GHGs counts as a deficit. The problem here is that carbon offsets are hugely problematic. In my limited experience, the data are easy to fake or hack, because it's far more profitable not to care. The blockchain guaranteeing the record is the easy part. The hard part is making sure that the data going in both accurately reflect reality and are resistant enough to the vagaries of politics that people can trust them at some level. But it's to dream of us getting serious about climate change and not just dicking around to make money off it.

15:

apology to the international astronomical community whose night skies you just vandalized with Starlink

If you think Starlink's been bad, just wait for Kuiper and OneWeb!

That said, Musk is the most likely of the three to both want to do this sort of thing and actually make it happen. He's certainly been doing enough damage with crapto (Thanks, Pigeon!) already.

16:

How about Solarcoin. Coins guaranteed to be generated with solar energy (or wind.) Once the bubble bursts the solarcoin facilities get added to the grid.

17:

Came across this yesterday: a private equity firm bought an idle power plant for the sole purpose of driving its entire output to powering data centers to grinding Bitcoin.

It doesn't sell any power to the external market, so it's largely unregulated by the state as a power plant. It makes it a Conservative ideal of externalizing costs (pollution: air and hot water plumes) and internalizing profits.

Last year, February '20 to '21, it mined 1200 Bitcoin at a cost of just under $2900 a coin.

https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2021/05/private-equity-firm-revives-zombie-fossil-fuel-power-plant-to-mine-bitcoin/

18:

The first two categories are the original use of money, though (once coins had been invented), it was used as a STORE of value and, to a letter extent, value that could be rented out.

However, what large amounts of it are now used for is a commodity that can be speculated on and, in various ways, money owners can use it to create money with nothing behind it, thus devaluing the money owned by other people. It is those actions which cause most of the harm, but those properties are most definitely NOT required for its primary purpose.

As OGH said in #10, the only benefit money provides to society is when it is moving. This is not a new observation. What I am saying is that we need to block its abuses, which have started to dominate its actual uses - and Ecurrency would be a good place to start.

https://quoteinvestigator.com/2016/02/05/muck/

19:

Charlie
NFT ?? Uh?

Pigeon
CORRECT
"Strict Liability" for ANYTHING AT ALL is a really bad move ...
There will always be something that slips through the cracks & some poor innocent schmuck will get jailed & ruined through no fault of their own.

P.S. I still can't get my head round how "Bitcoin" actually works, probably because I know it's a scam, so it "can't be worth it" ... or something like that.

20:

NFT ?? Uh?
It stands for New Formation of Technoshit, where people wrapped an old idea ("I'll sell you London Bridge") in new technospeak. It has two uses: fleecing rubes and laundering money.

P.S. I still can't get my head round how "Bitcoin" actually works, probably because I know it's a scam, so it "can't be worth it" ... or something like that.
The basic theory is simply that a thing is worth what people it is, so if you make something scarce that people want, it will be considered valuable. Bitcoin has designed-in scarcity due to how it works, and people started wanting it because it "is the future of currency", "evades government surveillance", showed up in a bunch of paid or unpaid ads, etc. It's a bubble / pyramid scheme, just with enough techno-wizardry to keep popping back up.

21:

Greg, NFTs are Non-Fungible Tokens.

Essentially a blockchain-notarized certificate of uniqueness/ownership of a digital asset such as an animated GIF of a nodding dog. At vast expense and environmental damage.

The new hotness in cryptocurrency circles, circa March 2021.

22:

The original idea of NFTs was that artists should be able to prove ownership of their digital art, as such art is frequently stolen and the artist is then not compensated. This would have been a useful thing, but the scum-element of the finance community turned it to shit very quickly.*


* Yes, they're all dangerous greedheads, but some of them are much scummier than others.

23:

Y'know, Charlie, your proposal starts to sound like in-(solar-)system slow money.

24:

Ah, so here's a way to fix things: tax money that is stored (in a bank, etc), or if it's not being used in a certain amount of time for goods or services (and financial services are explicitly excluded).

25:

Ah, so here's a way to fix things: tax money that is stored (in a bank, etc), or if it's not being used in a certain amount of time for goods or services (and financial services are explicitly excluded).

Sorry, interest does get taxed. For the rest of it, check out Scrips, especially stamp scrips. They're systems to get money moving faster within a community, by instituting a use-it-or-lose-it feature. One common form we see now are gift cards.

Actually, "blockchain scrips" is one of those match made in heaven/hell/??? ideas that might be worth exploring, in a science fictional way. Can blockchains be used as a way to get money to circulate within a system faster? I have no idea, but it's backasswords enough that it might conceivably be useful.

26:

Our host:
when money stops moving it has no value, much like the current in a copper wire goes away when the electrons stop moving.
Michel2Bec:
I think all economists will disagree with you...[one property of money is] a store of value.

Since the water is already muddy I'll jump in with both feet and splash around. I think Charlie's point was that money isn't a commodity, and in support of that notes that its value vanishes if it's not moving. Michel2Bec's counterargument is, I think, that "all economists" say that in order for something to be money it must act as a "store of value," implying that money can stop moving and yet retain value.

Re the need for "movement" and use of money as "store of value," I would suggest that its value isn't dependent on whether or not the money is actually presently engaged in a transaction, but rather, it is dependent on society's general expectation that dollars will continue to be useful for exchange in the future.

So I can store value by hoarding dollars, but only so long as there is a large pool of people willing to accept dollars later. And people will only be willing to accept dollars if they believe that they will be able to use the dollars themselves for their own future transactions.

So I think the movement metaphor is not quite precise, though it's a common one. Value of money comes from the expectation of ability to use the money for future exchanges. In that sense it is the societal expectation of movement, rather than the actual movement, that determines present value of money. If the issuing government collapses, or if there is a general fear that it will or might collapse, the value of the money will decrease rapidly (inflation).

Re "commodity," there's already abundant literature demonstrating that money is not per se a commodity. See chartalism, modern monetary theory, functional finance, etc. Money can be treated as a commodity certainly, and people may behave as if it were one, but to say that money "is" a commodity is not true. Money can be linked to a commodity by the issuer decreeing that the money will always be exchanged by the issuer for X quantity of Y commodity. For example, the United States Treasury could say that it will always provide one ounce of gold in exchange for $1,000. Or it could be fiat money, like the U.S. Dollar currently: the U.S. Treasury makes no promises that it will provide any actual commodity in exchange for dollars.

Combining the two to state the obvious--a commodity that isn't money can still be a store of value. "Value" is slippery and there is a huge distinction between value coming from an immediate practical use versus value coming from a socially-designated importance. Wheat in a silo is a commodity, and a money/currency can be issued by an entity backing it by that wheat. If other people won't accept the money then the money has no value even if it's theoretically backed by the wheat. The money's value is solely determined by social construction, not by the commodity itself. The wheat's value, in contrast, is more than social construction.

27:

Rabidchaos
I'd worked out the designed-in-scarcity aspect of Bitcoin, that's easy. I said I don't understand how it works ( The Blockchain, if you will )

"NFT"
Euw ....

whitroth
and if people are deliberately saving stuff up for a big purchase or particularly swish holiday, before they die, or ....
Agree that, "usually" money is only really useful if it's circulating. But there is a difference between Hoarding & Saving ... with a very thin & probably wobbly dividing line.

By the way
ALL money is "fiat" money - even in the "good old days" Gold was still fiat money - it wa worth what people decided it was worth.
I think, perhaps we need to re-read ( Or in my case read for the first time ) : Graeber

28:

The only non-awful cryptocurrency I've seen so far is Filecoin, which uses "proof of space-time", really proof of file storage. Not just using up storage space arbitrarily, but storing files for other people. The files get stored in some kind of munged up way that allows relatively inexpensive proof of "yes I still have the whole file" at any time.

29:

As I have pointed out before, that sort of thing has been tried before and it does not work; all it does is cause truly epic evasion and (as Greg says) harms the innocent. A much more radical solution is needed.

I can think of some things that would help, a bit, but even they are WAY more radical than mere variations on what we already have.

30:

I still don't understand what bitcoin is supposed to do and what it purpose it serves THAT IS NOT A SCAM ???. Everything I read about bitcoin takes me back to that old WC Fields quote, "You can't cheat an honest man."

31:

whitroth @ 24: Ah, so here's a way to fix things: tax money that is stored (in a bank, etc), or if it's not being used in a certain amount of time for goods or services (and financial services are explicitly excluded).

What are you going to do about low-income/low-wealth people who have a savings account against the proverbial "rainy day"?

Just tax away their life savings?

32:

I think that Bitcoin and NFTs were originally Not Intended to be scams. The utility of an artist being able to prove that they were the originator of a piece of art is obvious. The utility of a unique identifiable piece of digital currency is also obvious.

But they've both become scams. Bitcoin (and similar currencies) became scams over time. By the time NFTs arrived they were instantly co-opted as scams. The process by which these things have become scams, and the lack of governmental regulation allowing them to become so scammy... I'm not sure whether they say something about our current systems of government or about the character of current human-beings, or both, but they don't say anything good.

As for OGH's scheme above - someone would find a way to make it into a scam just about instantly if it ever came into being.

But I have an idea by which we might all become rich. I've invented the idea of "Blogcoin." It's produced by Charlie and all of his merry men/women writing and commenting on this blog. The proof of work product is yet another discussion of why Libertarians suck or how canned apes are easy/hard to ship, and what's wrong with Brexit, how Tories/Republicans are arseholes, how religion sucks, or content free but verifiable-by-writing-style posts from She of Many Names. Every secondary post on the thread is hashed with the hashes of every preceding post, and the original post by Charlie or one of his guests provides the initial hash for a given series of Blogcoin.

It will make millions for all of us, and I think we should start the project right away.

Praise "Bob."

33:

If the probe only signs things it's told to sign by the 'owner', then I don't think this is very different from just trusting certain people/organisations to sign blocks of transactions for you (proof of authority - enterprise ethereum, and some others do this).

It is true that a seriously distant probe can be used instead of proof of work though - the original blockchain paper envisaged it as a 'time stamp server', and you could have a system including blocks into a merkle root at each point in time, sending the hash to the probe and the probe then publicly broadcasting the signed root back to earth, which would then be fed into the next block, would work like a timestamp server - showing X probe-hash returns since a return that included the hash of the data proves in a publicly verifiable way that you had the data at a specific time which is the key property. There's still an enormous amount of trust that Elon didn't keep a sneaky copy of the private key himself.

All of this while fun, doesn't seem to be anywhere near as efficient as Proof of Stake however. And I'm much less negative on blockchain technologies (at least ones that don't use Proof of Work), because our financial systems are games the elite play with each other, and it's super hard to break into them. All the new blockchain based systems allow bedroom programmers access to electronic scarcity without gatekeepers, something that they didn't have before. I think there's opportunity for people to use this approach to solve the big problems facing humanity, which are mainly collective action problems.

34:

I'll just say that NFTs remind me of Yves Klein's Zone de Sensibilité Picturale Immatérielle

35:

Personally I don't care if people want to buy strings of numbers. What I hate is the fossil fuel burned to find them.

So maybe just set a minimum price per kWh for mining. Say 5 dollars. (or actually set the price for all electricity at 5 dollars, and provide discounts if you're not mining coins) If you use grid power you have to have a separate meter. If you're not paying it's treated just like any other electricity theft, like bridging the meter. The laws are all there already.

We should already have a carbon emission tax (obviously) and that takes care of people who build their own FF power station. If you want to build a renewable power plant, knock yourself out. As Troutwaxer suggested, when the bubble bursts, it's a good thing, plus it adds to the demand for solar, which as the Germans demonstrated, improves efficiency of supply.

36:

Actually, what I wonder is whether the work for cryptocurrency is something that can be sped up by quantum computing. If so, spend those Coins sooner rather than later.

In any case, I agree that getting the carbon footprint down is critical.

37:

Or Moore's law, or a really good Assembly programmer, or a better algorithm... and so on.

Goldman Sachs creating a crypto-currency desk is really all you need to know to see where it's going. Create a form of current Goldman Sachs fights against and I'm all in!

38:

JBS @ 31
Which describes me (retired) exactly .....

Actually
None of us should be bored.
Today's "Queen's Speech" was, quite frankly - terrifying.
Individually, some parts might have made sense - but - taken together, even I can see that they are definitive steps towards establishing fascism, or, at the "best" fascism-lite in this country: [ Crapping on the Courts, not being able to challenge the guvmint, not being able to challenge the Home Office' incompetence, requiring ID, stamping on peaceful protest, etc ... ]
And, of course the Shires "think" it will never, ever apply to them don't they? It's those awful elite lefties ( like me! ) who live in the big cities, who "deserve" it. Niemöller strikes again

39:

@27, @29, @31:

JEZUZ H. Christ, standing on a streetcorner, wearing a lime-green leisure suit, eatin' a watermelon an' spittin' out the seeds!!!!!!!!!!

WTF is wrong with all of you? You're giving me the bullshit of the white wing, "oh, socialism means I get half your cow".

Why would you even *begin* to think that it would hit, say, bank accounts that are (in the US) insured by the US... which is under $250k? Have you *ever* read me suggesting a thing that would attack the 95%?

Tax would START at the 2021 equivalent of, say, $500k, and get high the higher the account.

40:

Have you considered actually tweeting this at Musk? I feel like he's done crazier things lately; he might just take you up on it.

41:

So? My point stands. As I say, I remember such things in the UK. No, I am not arguing against higher taxes (and I already pay 40% on some of my income) to increase public funds from those who can afford it most, but against the much-disproved but still-believed myth (dogma?) that taxation is an effective way to solve abuses or extreme discrepancies. It isn't.

42:

Your proposal to ban cryptocurrency might run into 2 problems, 1 big 1 little.

1. China. I don't know the extent to which the new Chinese currency is a cryptocurrency, but any ban would have to have an exemption for that project.

2. You'll hear countless stories about how the ban is hurting Venezuelans. The crypto folks in the US are still using that as a plus point. But this brings about the bigger problem: drug cartels, North Korea, and Mafias have learned how useful a cryptocurrency can be used to launder money. I wonder if it's even possible to put THAT genie back in the bottle?

43:

Re: 'Money can be treated as a commodity certainly, and people may behave as if it were one, but to say that money "is" a commodity is not true.'

Suggest you look at the GDP contributions from the Financial Sector for pretty well any of the G20s.

Money is THE commodity!

44:
Local Exchange Trading Systems. ... A bit of googling turns up that some block chain-head already thought of it, but it hasn't caught on. Yet.

The most prominent of these, the timeline goes the other way: he started with a digital LETS, then several years later pivoted away, reusing the name and directing most of his attention to the new project(s). The LETS project was semi-abandoned, although it stayed running for existing users and even shows signs of recent activity now.

Still, I'd love to see a killer LETS app that allows people to use LETS readily enough to make them worth something outside college towns and similar.

Same. As someone wrote on twitter, "imagine what could have been done with the time, media coverage, and hardware that's been pumped into this set of pyramid schemes"

45:

I've been considering of building a small web service where you would put an URL (well, any relatively short string), and it'd calculate a digital signature for a hash of that URL. I'd like to put on a Paypal button or something to make it be a business. This would be an art project for basically doing the same thing as NFTs, just not using blockchain or too many resources on doing basically the same thing.

I'd use my own certificate authority, and have a database saving all signatures. Perhaps it could even have a mechanism for checking if a certain string has been signed already and fail to sign the same thing again.

Of course the users would be completely on my mercy on keeping the CA on-line and having the database. Also there'd be no way to check if the URL being signed belongs to the signer. However, that's the case with NFTs, they just use more smoke and mirrors and blockchain to seem more respectable.

This'd need some serious throttling and limiting, though - if I went public with this, some asshole would try to crash it and drive up my hosting costs.

46:

Charlie @ 11: Apply that argument to child pornography, or heroin. I think you'll find that most countries, most of the time, taking a highly negative view of these commodities have successfully driven them way underground. They still exist but they're largely excluded from the general economy...

Not really on illegal drugs. The illegal drug trade in the UK in 2007 was estimated by the Home Office (actually some consultants they hired) at between £4e9 and £6.6e9 per year. That was between 0.13% and 0.22% of GDP. During the financial collapse the following year it is believed that some banks were effectively rescued by drug money because it was the only liquid finance available. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Illegal_drug_trade#Profits

Large banks are routinely being fined for money laundering. They seem to regard it as a cost of doing business. Drug money is certainly not excluded from the general economy.

47:

Mikko Parviainen (he/him) @ 45: I've been considering of building a small web service where you would put an URL (well, any relatively short string), and it'd calculate a digital signature for a hash of that URL.

It already exists; https://www.globalsign.com/en/timestamp-service

One application is digital code signing. If you get an installation file for a Windows program it is probably digitally signed, because if a signature is not present Windows puts up dire warnings about malware. Code signing certificates come with an expiry date, so the code has to be countersigned by a digital timestamping service to prove that the code was created before the certificate expired.

If you get a Windows installer you can check for the signatures by right-clicking on the file. Look for the "Digital Signatures" tab. Drill down into the signature and look for counter-signers. There is a short list of these that Windows is set up to trust.

48:

It's likely not news here, but not all cryptocurrencies are equal in intent. I do see the 'pure "monetary" store' coins (eg. bitcoin) as being extremely damaging without redemption ('blockchain tech' is nothing new), but the "smart contract" ilk provide something new and genuinely useful: distributed, (broadly) trustless, conditional exchange.

I can encode the ownership of my home in a contract (using local law), then issue a conditional exchange ("Alex will own the contract to my home, if they have transferred X money into this account before Y date"). Where, today, ESCROW uses their business reputation as collateral for ensuring such an exchange is honest, a future with (environmentally sound) smart contract cryptocurrencies allows this to happen using the collateral of "the cash staked by all entities who have offered equal or greater amounts to make not lying in their mathematical validation of such exchanges financially undesirable".

ESCROW which (can be) more trustworthy than human-run equivalents *and* can operate at any distance or (lack of) connectivity; a domain-name system which doesn't depend upon central ownership and management, and can work across the stars; these are the
kinds of things that give me hope enough to let me wade through the collosal shitstorm that is NFTs, GPU farms and similar horrors.

49:

I may have mentioned this before, but if so then its dropped off my account history. So...

The Economic Organisation of a P.O.W. Camp by R.A. Radford is worth reading. Radford was captured by the Germans in WW2 and watched his fellow prisoners with an economists eye. He saw that a gift economy rapidly gave way to barter, and then to the use of cigarettes as currency. Prisoners who spoke both Polish and English were able to arbitrage goods and services between the British and Polish prisoners. Eventually a paper currency was established backed by tins of bully beef (I suspect Radford may have had a hand in this, although he doesn't claim credit).

People who want to abolish money or banks (generally on the Left), or fractional reserve banking (generally on the Libertarian Right), or whatever other part of the modern economy they don't like, never seem to explain what is going to stop people from simply reinventing it.

A case in point: back before the Reformation the charging of interest ("usury") was outlawed because Jesus said so, so loan contracts were disguised as commodity futures contracts with payment up front and delivery in one year. The commodity was never intended to be delivered (and the delivery terms and price were written to make sure of that), but the contracts also had penalty clauses for non-delivery along the lines of "the amount I have paid, plus 10% penalty". The "penalty" was the interest on the loan.

50:

Heteromeles @ 14: I'd love to see a killer LETS app that allows people to use LETS readily enough to make them worth something outside college towns and similar.

In a way, that was how things worked a couple of hundred years ago. "Money" meant gold or silver coins minted by the Royal Mint or other national authority. But carrying large amounts of money was difficult and dangerous; £100 in silver coins *weighed* 100 pounds because that was the definition of a pound. So banks invented "notes"; what today we would call "bearer bonds". A bank would take your £100 in silver and give you 100 notes, each of which said "I promise to pay the bearer on demand the sum of £1, signed, The Trumpton Bank". As long as you trusted the Trumpton Bank you would be willing to take these notes instead of the real money. But fifty miles away in Borcester the Trumpton Bank was an unknown quantity, so their notes traded, if at all, at a discount. Your best bet would be to take them to the Borsetshire Bank and change them for local notes or specie (at a smaller discount) because the Borcester Bank made it their business to know whether the Trumpton Bank was sound and what it's bank notes looked like.

Of course this decentralised system invited fraud and counterfeiting. Part 3 of The Hacker Crackdown by Bruce Sterling has an entertaining history of the American version. Eventually the system was centralised; only the central banks were allowed to issue notes, they became much harder to counterfeit, and that is where modern fiat money comes from.

But getting back to modern LETS, having them used more widely would actually defeat the purpose of LETS. The point of a LETS is to introduce extra liquidity into a local economy which doesn't have enough (see the Capitol Hill Babysitting Circle for a story about lack of liquidity). If the liquidity can spread through the national economy then the impact is the same as if the national bank just printed some extra money.

Another story; in Guernsey in 1822 the local government ("The States") wanted to build a big market building. Rather than borrow the money to pay for it, they printed the extra money (Guernsey issues its own pound notes to this day) and over the following years ceremonially burned some bank notes each year until they had destroyed the same amount of money they had originally printed.

51:

The point is that our legal and social systems developed such controls to limit the abuses of money, in the ways that it was used before modern telecommunications. But the latter (and secondarily automatic computation) meant that new abuses were developed, but we have not developed mechanisms to control them properly.

The limited controls that have been created are primarily there to ensure that only the 'proper' people can take advantage of them (see a recent case in the USA where an outsider did so, causing a furore). Worse, the mechanisms and controls have the effect of fuelling galloping monetarism, which is catastrophic for the planet and society.

Ecurrency is another new mechanism, and has brought its own, new abuses - but with, so far, inadequate controls.

52:

Paul
AIUI, "islamic" banking uses an almost identical fraud to cover their arses

53:
Large banks are routinely being fined for money laundering. They seem to regard it as a cost of doing business. Drug money is certainly not excluded from the general economy.

Nobody wealthy actually cares about money.

Instead they do care a lot about one thing that money cannot buy for them: Time. That is why they never go to prison, they simply cannot afford it. It is literally cheaper for them to pay off entire countries to make the laws and legal systems so that they don't have to go to jail!

The key concern with the drugs is keeping the wrong sort from entering the billionaire set with the money they made from the drugs trade.

54:

EC @ 51: I'm not sure exactly which bit of my posts you are replying to, but it sounds like a very rose-tinted view of economic history.

Greg @ 52: AIUI the Islamic sharia banking thing is a bit more complicated. Unlike the Catholic church the Islamic world does not recognise any central religious authority; every mufti (islamic jurist) is assumed to know the Koran and related material, and hence to be competent to make judgements ("fatwas"). Every institution offering financial products to muslims has to appoint a Shariah Board to keep its products halal. Some muftis appointed to these boards seem willing to take a broader view of what is halal when the money is right.

55:

From another blog (original poster was tagged Robert Pearson)...

The 2 main forms of money we use currently are credit money and currency. Credit money is an IOU from a bank that promises to deliver to the holder, on demand, currency. And currency, issued by the state, is a promise to reduce a debt to the state (usually a tax liability) by an equal amount.

Money in the form of a pure physical asset or commodity has rarely been successful. Successful monies tend to be financial instruments – IOUs.

Dogecoin and other crypto assets are not financial instruments. There is no issuer that creates his own liability, or promises to do something at some point for the holder. They are, in effect, virtual physical assets (if that makes sense), valued or ascribed a worth in the same way as other physical assets such as art, commodities etc.

56:

But getting back to modern LETS, having them used more widely would actually defeat the purpose of LETS. The point of a LETS is to introduce extra liquidity into a local economy which doesn't have enough (see the Capitol Hill Babysitting Circle for a story about lack of liquidity). If the liquidity can spread through the national economy then the impact is the same as if the national bank just printed some extra money.

Thanks for clarifying that, because I was unclear. I actually meant the situation you described previously--larger numbers of local currencies with a reasonable level of fraud protection.

Your points about local fraud and trust are extremely well taken. The converse problem is what we have now, with a few people getting enormously rich off of exporting wealth out of communities that can't defend it, impoverishing them and forcing them to downsize. I'm interested in finding ways to keep community trade a bit more within the community. To me, that's the purpose of a well-running LETS, to get people helping each other more through transactional relationships. As you point out, it's very far from a perfect solution, but it might serve as a counterbalance to having billionaires who have more resources that the bottom hundred countries on the planet. Arguably, the political side effects of having a few score billionaires running the US GOP, the UK, Russia, the House of Saud, and China are increasingly untenable for the other seven billion people on this planet.

57:

PS: my preferred solution to the problems created by cryptocurrencies is to treat them all like child pornography

A ridiculous equivocation. Will any computing process that relates to one-way hashing be considered illegal? Does it only become an illegal computation when someone else wants the result? Or is it only when there's a distinct value exchange? And what constitutes an 'exchange' exactly? Do you want mandated code in compilers to ban this sick filth? Or PSUs that determine suspicious cache activity? What if a decentralised crypto currency is the only support a political dissident or citizen journalist can rely on?

I'm no fan of crypto currencies, and in their current form they fail by most definitions of a working currency, but you're falling into the same trap that all reactionaries do when new things are scary. You might as well declare a war on $thing, where $thing is something in a long list of notable successes like: 'drugs', 'poverty', 'terrorism', etc. It's a concept that's here to stay. To mangle an aphorism: the internet will interpret restrictions as damage and route around any attempt to regulate it.

58:

Will any computing process that relates to one-way hashing be considered illegal? Won't that make most forms of codes and cyphers, including one-time pads, illegal?

59:

From what I understand of Musk, he'd call it CentauriCoin and launch a probe that would outlive humanity.
But it strikes me that he's ideally placed to farm Bitcoin, Doge, whatever, much closer to home. If energy and processing power are the two requirements, he's now got a mass production pipeline and a reliable launch platform for pumping small coin-mining platforms into a place where the energy never runs out, at a relatively low cost. Starship will only make the process faster and cheaper.
It may even be possible for the tens of thousands of Starlink satellites to mine bitcoin in the background. He did say that Starlink would pay for the Mars project. He didn't say how.

60:

They can take my hash tables from my cold, dead hands. And they'll never catch up with them anyway because they are O(1).

61:

It *would* have been a nice idea.

For example, on my authorial website, and my fecebook page, in the header, one of the two pictures is one by the (DAMN IT!!!) late Robin wood, who was a friend of mine. In the nav-bar, I have an explicit statement that she personally gave me the right to use it, and that it may not be copied.

Having some kind of token would be great for limited edition prints that are digital.

62:

The problem is that trying to regulate starts to trying to regulate everything... and then you might as well have public control of all businesses, except for small ones.

Which, in fact, is not something I have huge issues with.

63:

Which reminds me of the ultimate American business that I came up with in the eighties or nineties: I sell artistic stock certificates. There is no product or service (no costs), so that the only employee is the CEO (me, so pre-downsized), I print them on a nice color printer (pre-amortized), and if any buyer wants to sell them to someone else, I get a cut (10%? 25%?) of the sale price.

64:

There is an answer to that: stop pretending that being a corporation, only the corporation is guilty. I mean, did this huge building grow arms, and decide to launder money?

No. CEOs, company presidents, and the appropriate exec - CFO, for example, for money laundering - need to go to jail, do not pass Go, do not collect $200M, for 10 years, and are banned from ever working in the industry ever again.

JAIL time.

65:

It may even be possible for the tens of thousands of Starlink satellites to mine bitcoin in the background.
Not bitcoin. The bitcoin network is currently using about 16.5 GW. (Divide by oh say 250 watts per square meter to get solar panel area.)
https://cbeci.org/ (There are other estimates, most roughly similar)
My back of the envelope calc (hopefully slightly better than a Fermi estimate, but the arithmetic is easy to check) is about 25 human lives per day for a gigawatt coal plant, roughly 400 per day for bitcoin (if all coal, which it is not) at current rates and climbing rapidly. (Assuming RCP6 levels of fossil carbon in the atmosphere, and that the net will be a 50 percent reduction in human global population. some notes here.)

Re the proposal, it might be better if signing key generation were done once the probe was a ways out, say 10s of millions of kilometers. Initial key would be used to identify the probe itself. Could get fancier, e.g. with multiple independently supplied hardware RNG generators contributing, with multiple independently supplied hardware instances combining key bits with voting, and perhaps multiple independent signing hardware implementations. (A lot more analysis and design required. :-)

66:

If you're looking for crypto that isn't bad for the environment, proof of stake exists. Those kinds of cryptos, unlike proof of work ones like bitcoin, don't guzzle electricity like a hog. Ethereum, the second biggest crypto around, is in the process of transitioning to that model.

67:

@Crack The Safe (26)

That's the general idea.

In fact, money *should not be* a commodity:

One of the reason why gold was eventually selected over previous other kind of primitive money (ox-pelt-shapen bronze or iron ingots for example) is that it is basically useless for anything else; too soft to be useful for anything but oh shiny display stuff.

If money is a commodity, using for example these ingots to make something useful is intrinsically deflationary and deflation was as bad then as it is now.

I also vaguely remembered that a roman emperor created a financial crisis by "restoring the state coffers" and here it is:

https://themillionhistory.blogspot.com/2016/01/the-first-financial-crisis-rome-in-33-ad.html

Tiberius was initially as idiotic as the German dominated BCE.

Money supply should closely track the state of the economy, and as deflation is much worse than inflation, and precisely measuring the state of the economy is still currently out of our grasp, it's better to be somewhat inflationary (with the added side benefit of undercutting hoarders, forcing them to invest, hopefully in something useful).

Gold bugs are dangerous morons, bitcoin (designed to be deflationary) is not only environmentally criminal, but also economically deeply stupid.

68:

@Ederly Cynic

When money is no more a store of value, you should get rid of it as fast as possible for anything else that has value.

It's called hyperinflation.

69:

They are, in effect, virtual physical assets (if that makes sense),

Yes: bitcoin in particular seems to have been designed by somebody who mistook "money" for "commodity (precious metal) struck into coins", in other words, a gold bug. (And let's not get started on the inherent deflation built into the blockchain.)

70:

I think you misunderstand. The way the post I replied to was written, the possession of any form of one-way algorithm, including hashing tables, one-way pads, bytecoin mining software etc would be illegal as I read the OP.

71:

I've seen that claimed as a feature, because the effort required to "mine" (or quarry, or compute) bitcoin rises roughly as an exponent of the number of bitcoin already mined.

72:

>So, you kindly donated a couple of dozen probes to Neptune, Uranus, Pluto, Eris, Makemake, Haumea, and the rest of the gang (and the dwarf planet wonks are ecstatic).

Though scientific knowledge is valuable in its own right, how about kick starting space industry. Use what you've learned about automated tunneling from your Boring company, Elon, and put it to work - on Mercury.

Mine out Mercury to create a Dyson Swarm of solar power satellites.

Given Mercury's total mass, that is 70% metals and 30% silicates (almost like the core of a larger planet), and assuming that only 50% of the metals (35% of the total mass) is recoverable through mining operations (done by robots digging tunnels through the planet lie a giant anti-hill):

3.30E+23 kg total
2.31E+23 70% kg metals
1.16E+23 50% kg recoverable

Further assume that each SPS is a simple, easy to construct, rugged solar collector, essentially a giant mirror concentrating sunlight on a power generator instead of fancy-pants photo-voltaic cells (which wear out in a few decades anyways), and conservatively assuming that the a mid range material density is equivalent to steel (though many metals will be used in construction) , and for the sake of long term rugged durability the mirrors are 1 cm thick - they can cover a sphere with a surface area 237 time greater than the surface of the sun:

8.00E+03 kg / m^3 density of steel
1.44E+19 m^3 total volume of metal
1.44E+21 m^2 mirror surface area at 1 cm thick

6.09E+12 km^2 surface area of the Sun
6.09E+18 m^2 surface area of the Sun
237x the area of the sun

Assuming I didn't do a bone headed math mistake, that is amazing.

Put the SPS swarms in orbit at the same distance from the Sun as Mercury and their mirror area can cover 3.4% of the orbital sphere

5.79E+07 km radius orbit
4.21E+16 km^2 area of sphere
4.21E+22 m^2 area of sphere
0.034

The Sun generates 3.8E+26 j/sec. Assuming that we can capture 3.4% of that and the entire energy producing process is only 50% efficient:

3.80E+26 J / sec
1.20E+34 J / year
2.05E+32 J / year recoverable

Currently, Humanity uses 4,00E+20 j/year of energy. A Dyson swarm as described can increase that by a factor of 500 BILLION:

4.00E+20 J / year current Human energy use
513,700,653,207 x

Then again, blocking out about 3% of the sunlight reaching earth could trigger another ice age.

It's going to need one heck of an environmental impact statement.

But it beats a useless colony on Mars.

73:

Troutwaxer @ 32: Praise "Bob."

Howard? Or Dobbs?

74:

whitroth @ 39: @27, @29, @31:

JEZUZ H. Christ, standing on a streetcorner, wearing a lime-green leisure suit, eatin' a watermelon an' spittin' out the seeds!!!!!!!!!!

WTF is wrong with all of you? You're giving me the bullshit of the white wing, "oh, socialism means I get half your cow".

Why would you even *begin* to think that it would hit, say, bank accounts that are (in the US) insured by the US... which is under $250k? Have you *ever* read me suggesting a thing that would attack the 95%?

Tax would START at the 2021 equivalent of, say, $500k, and get high the higher the account.

Go back and read what you actually wrote and don't blame us for taking you at your word and not knowing what you meant instead. If you meant to exclude some minimum, you should have written that in the first place.

PS: Do you know what "Structured Transactions" are?

PPS: Fuck you and your casual "white wing" racism! Scheisskopf!!!

75:

A ridiculous equivocation. Will any computing process that relates to one-way hashing be considered illegal?

This is your YELLOW CARD for whataboutism/sealioning.

Read the moderation policy. If you do it again, your comments will be unpublished and you will be banned.

76:

whitroth @ 63: Which reminds me of the ultimate American business that I came up with in the eighties or nineties: I sell artistic stock certificates. There is no product or service (no costs), so that the only employee is the CEO (me, so pre-downsized), I print them on a nice color printer (pre-amortized), and if any buyer wants to sell them to someone else, I get a cut (10%? 25%?) of the sale price.

My sister is/was a big fan of the game Monopoly. I once tried to find stock certificates for the four Monopoly railroads. I was going to frame them along with a Monopoly game board for her birthday. The plan fell apart when I found out that only three of the railroads had actually existed & I wasn't able to forge a certificate for the fourth one.

Actually, it just hadn't occurred to me to forge such a certificate to make the set complete, although at the time I hadn't yet started using Photoshop.

77:

Definitely Dobbs. He is my ShorDurPerSav.

78:

Little peer moderation here... I think that whitroth's post is certainly capable of being misinterpreted, but I've read some of hia fiction and we've discussed his politics privately a little, and I can guarantee that for all the unfortunate phrasing he certainly didn't mean it the way you interpreted it. I think you two should apologize to each other and maybe ask if one of the real moderators can remove the offensive language, or maybe substitute "apple" for offensive fruit in whitroth's post.

I'll note for the record that in all the time I've been here, under both my real name and my nym that I've never seen a thread get ugly as quickly as this one has. Maybe everyone should calm the f--k down a little and realize that this is only one more debate on cryptocurrencies* and the stakes aren't actually that high.

So everyone take a chill-pill... Duuuuude!

* Personally, I think that both Cryptocurrenies and NFTs were invented in good faith. So was the idea that someone could buy stocks with borrowed money in 1929... But good faith isn't enough to overcome a poorly thought-out commodity, and those without good faith are making a sub-optimal situation much, much worse than it has to be.

79:

King's Cross, Marylebone, Fenchurch Street and Liverpool Street are the names of 4 real London railway terminii! Although not also the names of companies which owned said stations.

80:

Troutwaxer @ 78: Little peer moderation here... I think that whitroth's post is certainly capable of being misinterpreted, but I've read some of hia fiction and we've discussed his politics privately a little, and I can guarantee that for all the unfortunate phrasing he certainly didn't mean it the way you interpreted it. I think you two should apologize to each other and maybe ask if one of the real moderators can remove the offensive language, or maybe substitute "apple" for offensive fruit in whitroth's post.

Not my job to figure out what he really means when he posts something. I can only respond to what he writes.

He shouldn't have got on my shit about it.

81:

"blocking out about 3% of the sunlight reaching earth could trigger another ice age"


If you're collecting over 3%, and assuming efficiency of 50%, then that means you're sending over 1% of the sun's radiative output to Earth. Which then has to be reradiated out from earth as waste heat. Since the surface area of earth is less than 1% that of the sun, in order to radiate more than 1% of the sun's energy it would need to be hotter than the sun.

I don't think triggering another ice age would be much of a worry.

That's unless you're using all the energy in space. To mine bitcoin?

https://dothemath.ucsd.edu/2011/07/galactic-scale-energy/

82:

paws4thot @ 79: King's Cross, Marylebone, Fenchurch Street and Liverpool Street are the names of 4 real London railway terminii! Although not also the names of companies which owned said stations.

Since we're in the U.S. I was looking for the certificates from companies that had actually served Atlantic City, NJ as represented on the game board. But just out of curiosity, could you find printed stock certificates for the stations represented on the U.K. game board?

83:

Money as commodity: President Coolidge speaking of the 1920's stock market boom -- "After all, the chief business of the American people is business. They are profoundly concerned with producing, buying, selling, investing and prospering in the world." It's only gotten more so, without the producing and investing parts. It's the buying and selling of money that is The business.

In the old south slaves functioned as money, as well as credit, as they literally were embodied units of value. From the moment they were born they increased the owner's credit by $50, and incrementally every year of their lives, until they were no longer able to reproduce and their ability to labor unceasingly began to fall off. Their bodies within the contained credit economy of the south, which had neither specie nor currency, slaves were the ultimate form of value, which could be used to pay off gambling debts or almost anything. But only within the south. One could not exchange a slave for a carriage at a New York carriage factory.

This is why with Abolition the south suddenly had no financial assets at all. Except land, which was valueless w/o labor, so hey yay the KKK to the rescue, followed by buddy, Jimmy Crow.

84:

> Upshot: it's a cryptocoin system with a big up-front setup cost (as in, billions), which is good (it deters low-end me-too systems), guaranteed scarcity of signing resources, and absolutely no advantage accruing to anyone buying up earthly power or material resources. So it shouldn't drive scarcity in hard disks/GPUs or unreasonable power demands. Flip side: there's a centralized chokepoint (the deep space network) that can be throttled by governments. But some might see this as an advantage ...

I fail to see how it differs in any way from ordinary fiat money. Or was that the point?

85:

bought an idle power plant for the sole purpose of driving its entire output to powering data centers to grinding Bitcoin.

That can easily be generalised, and solar forums regularly get people asking for advice on building their own private solar powered crapto mining setup. The answer is that it's hard, but doable, with the primary requirement being careful choice of battery and experimentation to get the right throttling rates as solar input changes (it's an MPPT optimisation problem where the variable is mining rate, which drives power consumption, which is determined by power availability. AFAIK no COTS option).

Which means that banning mining, or trying to charge miners a high rate for electricity, would just make those private power plants even more profitable. But I suppose at least solar panels are easier to spot than cannabis plants.

86:

Relevant to this thread[1], a shift in Tesla's public position re Bitcoin:

Tesla & Bitcoin pic.twitter.com/YSswJmVZhP

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 12, 2021

The text is in an image, and it says (typed by hand from the image):
Tesla has suspended vehicle purchases using Bitcoin. We are concerned about rapidly increasing use of fossil fuels for Bitcoin mining and transactions, especially coal, which has the worst emissions of any fuel.
Cryptocurrency is a good idea on many levels and we believe it has a promising future, but this cannot come at great cost to the environment.
Tesla will not be selling any Bitcoin and we intend to use it for transactions as soon as mining transitions to more sustainable energy. We are also looking at other cryptocurrencies that use <1% of Bitcoin's energy/transaction.

Interesting move...

[1] That tweet was "Wed, 12 May 2021 22:06:14 GMT" (using https://oduwsdl.github.io/tweetedat/ - useful tool if one is using a VPN and/or Tor )

87:

How does proof of stake work? There are assertions that proof of stake based coins trivialize the power consumption issue. I didn't see an obvious flaw.

Seems easier than satellites.

For digital currencies, I don't hate them intrinsically. They do appreciably simplify small financial transactions internationally and provide a relatively low cost swap into a currency not tied to a central bank that is liable go into hyperinflation. That's good for moderately poor people, as wealthy people can keep wealth in property.

Bitcoin....
Big energy waster.
Deflationary.

Probably well structured, though I hate to admit it, to get adoption.

But, overall, a lousy implementation. Just not a great currency.

88:

Who invented the term "fiat money? Wikipedia is strangely silent on this.

89:

Interesting question. Here's a usage of "Fiat Money" (Cato Institute) from 1982:
https://www.cato.org/sites/cato.org/files/pubs/pdf/pa017.pdf

90:

The term "fiat money" may have been first used in 1876: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fiat%20money

The concept goes back to 11th Century China, as does hyperinflation by printing too much paper cash.

91:

Better yet, limit cryptocurrency mining to space w/ solar power. Keith Lofstrom's http://server-sky.com points the way to moving computation into orbit, a most reasonable proposal.

92:

Michel2Bec
and as deflation is much worse than inflation,
NO
I remember a year where we had between 20 & 25% inflation in a year ( About 1972? ) ... and then there was the inflation in Germany in the 1920's or Venezuela right now.
Try again?

Charlie @ 69
Is the no way of simply crashing Bitcoin, permanently? Surely governments couild do something, since it's so obviously harmful?

@ 76
At the risk of getting a warning myself .. what's the problem?
Probably a complete lack of understanding by me?
What's the problem or alternatively "value" of one way hashtags?
Can someone explain, as I'm lost.

Troutwaxer
Disagree on one point .. I think cryptocurrencies are a massive scam ( As Charlie says - "Gold Bug" ) - I don't know enough about NFT's

Paws
All owned by the (real) LNER, which realised that using only their names on the Monopoly board would be good free advertising.

Moz
"The government of $Country simply enacts: "The posession of &/or mining of any cryptocurrency carries a proportional fine in $Real_Money of a minimum of £10 000 per unit ... "
Would it work?

kiloseven
NAH
Just trash the whole rotten system

93:

Cryptocurrencies are certainly a massive scam NOW. I think the people who invented them had some relatively benign ideals... I think it's a case of doing one thing that has a relatively benign inspiration, then a second thing which had a relatively benign inspiration, and so on, then discovering that you've built a badly planned piece of crap - and then sighing "Oh well, I might as well get rich."

94:

Heteromeles @ 90
Bill Arnold @ 89

Thank you! Wikipedia has a long page defining the concept but it does not say when the term first appeared and who might have invented the term.

95:

think the people who invented them had some relatively benign ideals.

Most people who invent "big ideas" tend to be shocked when they see how the greedy / power hungry latch on and use said idea to further their own goals.

"But that's not what I intended ..."

96:

No, because they were (and are) not companies.

97:

and as deflation is much worse than inflation,
NO

Actually yes. But hyper either way beats non hyper either way.

There are a lot of stats in the US (and I assume elsewhere) about periods of deflation. The economy was terrible and many people lost everything. Most of this happened over 100 years ago in the US. And in the US the 1930s are so far off the charts to make it hard to analyze in comparison to other times.

98:

I fail to see how it differs in any way from ordinary fiat money. Or was that the point?

Well, yes.

"Ordinary fiat money" has been finely tuned to function as money usefully over a period of millennia. Cryptocurrencies are barely a decade old at this point. I suspect if they eventually settle down into a stable currency (ahem: NOT a so-called "stablecoin") they'll exhibit most, if not all, of the attributes of fiat currency, because those attributes are what makes money useful.

99:

I have by my arm a packet of banknotes, of various denominations of one particular currency.

The smallest is 5,000
The largest is 500,000,000,000

That's 8 orders of magnitude, for the Serbian Dinar, all from 1993.

100:

Greg, we have no lived experience of severe deflation in our lifetimes, but reading the history books, we're talking mass starvation events. Inflation is usually driven by an overheated economy (exceptions: the central bank is running the presses until they smoke, as in Weimar Germany, when they tried to pay off the Versailles war debt in a hurry and cratered the real economy as a side-effect). Plenty of food, just problems matching supply and demand. In deflation, there is no money: investors get a bigger return by stuffing it under the bed than by investing in buying stuff (including the raw materials factories run on). But workers still need to eat, so there are pay cuts and layoffs, and then starvation, as the price of a loaf of bread stays the same or even rises (the bakers have little or no cash to buy flour with, etc) but the ordinary folks took a huge pay cut and can't afford it.

No, really, the only reason you think inflation is worse than deflation is because you've only lived through one of them.

101:

If you read Satoshi Nakamoto's original rants, the guy was a paranoid goldbug and libertarian who despised governments and wanted to make it impossible for them to raise revenue via taxation (which he thought was their main source of funding, rather than bonds).

Bitcoin was designed on the basis of a whole shitload of weird misunderstandings of macroeconomics, with a side-order of Ayn Rand on top. And it has a baked-in agenda. As Karl Schroeder observed, technology is not value-neutral, it always comes with political strings attached. If you want automobiles, you end up with drink-driving laws, drivers licenses, and often jaywalking laws. Similarly, bitcoin was designed to promote bugfuck libertarian goldbuggery, with the physical metal replaced by a virtual commodity.

102:

Somewhere around here I have two Zimbabwe 500,000 dollar notes. They have expiration dates on them. (Long since past.)

I guess that made it easier to redefine the money and not have to deal with adding 3 to 6 zeros every year.

103:

Charlie @100 (Greg @96) :

Yes, and we sort of have working recipes how to get out of excessive inflation.

But to get out of the 1929 deflation, nothing worked, even the new deal was not really enough. We needed a world war and a lot of rebuilding after. Not a sane risk to take.

104:

Charlie @ 100/101
I can see how severe deflation would be really bad ... incidentally, didn't we have deflation, here, 1932-6, which was not a good time?
Agree re.Nakamoto being a goldbug, so the whole thing has "evil intent"
And should therefore be stopped, yesterday(!) [ Even without the GW effects of overheating *cough* the power-stations. ]
So, why are governments not doing anything about it?

105:

Charlie Stross @ 101

Thank you. This make things a bit clearer.

106:

Yes. But we still haven't dealt with the problems caused by fast communications and (later) automated trading, which supercharged various long-standing abuses related to speculation. The former is over half a century old, and the latter about half that.

107:

incidentally, didn't we have deflation, here, 1932-6, which was not a good time?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deflation#United_Kingdom

108:

>then that means you're sending over 1% of the sun's radiative output to Earth

Not really, a man like Elon should be thinking big - really, really big, so only a tiny fraction would be beamed as energy to Earth with the rest going to power space industry and mining operations.

There's a recently developed process from extracting and making carbon nanofiber (stronger than steel and used to build everything from tennis racquets to 747s) from atmospheric CO2.

https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-33998697

Assuming the process is scalable we have a motherload of CO2 which can be mined from the massive (100x denser than Earth's) atmosphere of Venus located just next door.

Mercury SPS swarms can provide the power to run the factories floating in Venus' atmosphere and the rail guns that would shoot the finished carbon fiber loads into orbit. Each industrial expansion can proceed apace with more SPS being built to further increase carbon mining operations, and so on...

The amount of carbon available is truly staggering:

4.80E+20 kg total mass Venus atmosphere
96.50% percent CO2
4.63E+20 kg total mass CO2

44 molecular weight of CO2
12 molecular weight of C
32 molecular weight of O2

1.26E+20 kg total mass of C
2.00E+03 kg / m^3 density of carbon fiber
6.32E+16 m^3 volume of carbon fiber

And we would want to remove as much carbon/CO2 as possible for the side benefits of terraforming.

What to build with all that carbon nanofiber?

How about Bishop Rings, space structures that make O'Neal Cylinders look like tool sheds? With a radius of 1,000 km and a width of 500 km it creates an inner surface are equivalent to the land area of India. Raised side walls only 3 km high contain the atmosphere (it does not need top containment, so the interior of the ring is open to space).

1.00E+03 km radius
6.28E+03 km circumference
5.00E+02 km width
3.14E+06 km^2 area

Assuming for radiation protection, rugged long term durability and resistance to tensile forces created by its gravity inducing spin the wall thickness is a solid 10 m. We could build 0ver 2,000 of them:

3.14E+12 m^2 area
10 m thick
3.14E+13 m^3 volume
2,011 each

Together, they provide the equivalent total living area of 12 new Earths

5.10E+08 km^2 earth surface
6.32E+09 km^2 bishop rings total area
12 each

That still leaves you with a massive atmosphere of mostly oxygen (put up the "no smoking" signs) just right for a massive dump of frozen hydrogen to create world spanning oceans.

However, that still leaves us with a mostly nitrogen atmosphere 3x denser than Earth's total atmosphere. But since nitrogen = fertilizer the next stage can be a seed dump of genetically optimized plants, algae, etc.

Also save some carbon fiber for a partial sun shield at the lagrange point and orbiting mirrors to create an artificial day/night cycle.

100 years ago both science and SF pictured Venus as a wet swampy planet. Ironically, mining and seeding would terraform Venus to look just like that - though it would take over a 1,000 years to finish the project.

P.S. In going to Mars Elon is choosing the one piece of solar system real estate with little or no economic value.

109:

Actually, speaking of hyperinflation and Dyson swarms. Well, we aren't really, but I had a Brain Flash (tm), so I'm going to trot this out before #300 and then try to bring it back into the Cryptocurrency mess.

I'm intrigued by Duffy's idea of turning Mercury into a Dyson Swarm to mine bitcoin, or whatever. Sounds great. I mean, there's nothing like working on rapidly decompressing, really hot iron ore (iron plasma by that point?) to just make my heart skip a beat or two.

Anyway, what happens to a Dyson Swarm when it dies? Nothing's immortal, least of all computers in solar orbit. Eventually there's just a cloud of lumps floating in orbit. What I'm wondering is how much gets flung off into deep space by the masochism tango that is the gravitational interaction between Jupiter, the Sun, and the swarm, and how much of it coalesces back into a new planet in the fullness of time.

That's where our planets came from in the first place, after all.

Anyway, that set me thinking of all the SFF scenarios one could set in a collapsing dyson swarm. There's also the scenario of the anomalously young planet orbiting the very old star (relic of an ancient, dead dyson swarm) and so forth. Has anyone explored this in science fiction, or are megastructures presumed to be stable over hundreds of millions of years?

Hard to pull this back into a discussion of cryptocurrency, but I guess the theme is: what's the dead hulk of cryptocurrency going to look like, since nothing lasts forever? If it follows social media, a few big companies will take over a majority of the system (BiteCoin, and Ether-dumb, perhaps?), while the rest of the world gets into fighting for rare metals and balsa supplies to build huge wind turbines and solar farms, because nothing will say 2030s Nouveau-Riches like your very own renewables latifundium, with immigrant labor keeping it running.

110:

Great idea - wrong location.

You want to set up massive computer facilities for mining bitcoin (or perhaps even doing computations) try Saturn's moon Titan:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HdpRxGjtCo0

Titan has a built in cold reservoir for cooling computer operations as defined by a Carnot heat engine efficiency (start 8:00 into the video). A heat engine on Titan runs 3x more efficiently (75%) than a heat engine on Earth with a room temperature cold sink (25%). Isaac Arthur also references the Landauer limit which allows twice as many computations at half the temperature for the same amount of energy.

Creating a cold sink by refrigeration on Earth costs more energy than you save and in space you can only get rid of heat via massive radiator panels.

Titan is where you want to build your bitcoin mining operation.

111:

But if you are a gold bug why not take the energy from a Dyson Swarm that creates 500 billion times our current energy usage to power particle accelerators? These atom smashers can cause nuclear transformation and create gold from base metals.

https://wtamu.edu/~cbaird/sq/2014/05/02/can-gold-be-created-from-other-elements/

>Gold is the chemical element with 79 protons in each atomic nucleus. Every atom containing 79 protons is a gold atom, and all gold atoms behave the same chemically. In principle, we can therefore create gold by simply assembling 79 protons (and enough neutrons to make the nucleus stable). Or even better, we can remove one proton from mercury (which has 80) or add one proton to platinum (which has 78) in order to make gold. The process is simple in principle but hard to do in practice. Adding or removing protons from a nucleus are types of nuclear reactions. As such, no series of chemical reactions can ever create gold. Chemical reactions change the number and shape of the electrons in an atom but leave the nucleus of the atom unchanged. The ancient alchemist dream of creating gold by simply reacting chemicals is therefore impossible. You have to use nuclear reactions to create gold. The difficulty is that nuclear reactions require a lot of energy.

>The nucleus of a stable atom is very tightly bound together, so it is hard to get anything permanently into or out of the nucleus. To induce a nuclear reaction, we have to shoot high-energy particles at a nucleus. We can get such particles either from radioactive decay, from nuclear reactions in a reactor, from the acceleration of slow particles, or from a mix of these techniques. For example, Sherr, Bainbridge, and Anderson created gold in 1941 by shooting neutrons at mercury. The neutrons were generated by a series of nuclear reactions that were kick-started by the Harvard cyclotron particle accelerator.

There' gold in them thar Dyson Swarms!

112:

But why stop at covering the surface of Titan with a computer complex devoted to bitcoin mining?

Once our Dyson swarm expands to utilize a full 100% of the sun's energy output we can create a Matrioshka brain.

And have it do nothing but mine bitcoin.

Which also suggests a way to protect mankind from aggressive AI and hostile Terminators bent on wiping out humanity.

We program them to be greedy.

And so they will voluntarily spend their existence mining bitcoin instead of killing us.

Eventually they will get rich enough to buy and sell us, but they won't exterminate us.

Instead of "Kill All Humans!", their motto will be "Mine All Bitcoin!".

(Seriously though, has there even been an SF novel examining a system of independent AIs forming their own economy, exchanging cyber currency for goods and services among themselves?)

113:

I was thinking that the reason we don't see Matrioshka brains lying around, aside from the improbable physics of making the damn things*, is that once they're dead, they strongly resemble planetary nebulae in both form and function, and gravity will recycle them.

Heck, it would have been amusing if 'Oumuamua was a shard of an old Matrioshka, dead for a few hundred million years before it got booted by the ignition of a new star, condensed in part from the debris of the old system. This even gets into the fate of galaxies, when the material for making new stars runs out. Can making Matrioshka brains out of system recycle planetary systems and make more stars and planets?

That would be cool and ironic, if the ultimate unintended consequence of intelligence and greed is to recycle planets into planetary nebulae, so they can make another generation of stars and planetary systems and continue the cycle a bit longer.

*Stripping a planetary core and launching into space in a controlled fashion? Do know the heat and pressure those things are under? That's like using a model rocket or quadcopter drone to retrieve molten steel from a blast furnace so you can replace your loose screw.

114:

(Seriously though, has there even been an SF novel examining a system of independent AIs forming their own economy, exchanging cyber currency for goods and services among themselves?)

I'm pretty sure James P. Hogan did something not unlike that in "Code of the Lifemaker", but it's decades since I read it and Jim was a full-bore crazy by the time he died and I'm trying to expunge those memories. (Also, it wasn't very good.)

Mind you, "wouldn't it be a good idea to build a Matrioshka brain to mine cryptocurrency" is one possible solution to the Fermi paradox if it turns out that currency as a demand signal and scarcity-based economics are universal side-effects of technological civilization. (Spoiler: I think this is unlikely.)

115:

Seriously though, has there even been an SF novel examining a system of independent AIs forming their own economy, exchanging cyber currency for goods and services among themselves?

Orion's Arm and Dan Simmon's Hyperion series do come to mind.

116:

Greg Tingey @ 104: Charlie @ 100/101
I can see how severe deflation would be really bad ... incidentally, didn't we have deflation, here, 1932-6, which was not a good time?
Agree re.Nakamoto being a goldbug, so the whole thing has "evil intent"
And should therefore be stopped, yesterday(!) [ Even without the GW effects of overheating *cough* the power-stations. ]
So, why are governments not doing anything about it?

My guess is it's because of the same reasons governments don't do anything about a lot of the problems that plague us. There are "people" who expect to profit & they have enough political power to thwart government action.

117:

Solar forums... building their own solar-powered crypto-mining.

ROTFLMAO!

I assume everyone here knows that day trading is a good way to lose money, given that you're competing with people with clustered computers co-located in the same datacenter as the stock exchange, and the micro/nanosecond difference that makes (speed of light) between your home network connection and their 10G? 25G connections that are meters away beat you, buy, then sell to you at a higher price?

Home crypto-mining is, of course, the same, since you're competing on your gaming pc against purpose-build rackmount servers, with 512G or 1T or 2% *cores*. Go ahead, use your little red wagon to try to beat that Formula 1 race car.

118:

Other than the White Paper, I've not found any original rants by Nakamoto other than this list of quotes here:

https://quotefancy.com/satoshi-nakamoto-quotes

Please note that I'm that I'm not arguing with you, just noting that my own 20-minute search hasn't found anything. Also, for the record, I'm definitely not a Libertarian. (They seem to be correct in about 10 percent of their philosophies, and anywhere between wrong and not "even sane-enough to be wrong" about the rest of their ideas.) What I did note in my research that a lot of Libertarian looniness seems to have accreted around the idea of cryptocurrencies, and that might be what you're noticing.

Anyway, if you could post a couple URLs I'd be quite grateful.

119:

Greg Tingey @ 92: I remember a year where we had between 20 & 25% inflation in a year ( About 1972? ) ... and then there was the inflation in Germany in the 1920's or Venezuela right now.

Now imagine if the currency appreciated by the same amounts as it depreciated in those events. If money is worth 25% more, then your labour is worth 25% less in monetary terms (i.e. you have to take a 25% pay cut). Everyone with money in the bank or other £-denominated assets is 25% wealthier. Everyone who owes money now owes 25% more value compared to everything else they can buy, and 25% more than they were previously set up to pay.

So if you have a mortgage, you are stuffed.

The bank demands money you don't have. You can't pay, so they foreclose and sell your house. But the sale doesn't cover the mortgage because the house now brings 25% less pounds than it used to. So now the bank is losing money. It can't cover its liabilities (which are also denominated in pounds), so it goes bust.

Now we get into the difference between M0 and M2. M0 is the money "printed" by the government. M2 is the money that everyone thinks they have (including bank balances, short-term savings and shares), so its the important number. M2 is several times M0 because banks take deposits and loan them out, and the loaned money winds up in someone else's account, from where it gets loaned out.... When a financial institution goes bust a lot of that money evaporates and M2 shrinks. So now lots of people have even less money to pay the mortgages. Those that can, tighten their belts and send more money to the banks. The rest go bust, lose their homes, and their banks go bust too, ensuring that the vicious cycle continues. M2 drops even though M0 remains the same. Because M2 drops, there is less money in the economy, so what there is becomes worth more. And so it goes on.

The modern solution is "quantitative easing" (QE): the government "prints" money, thereby increasing M0, and lends it to banks who then lend it out, thereby increasing M2. As the economy recovers and M2 starts to increase to the point of causing inflation, the government can call in those loans of printed money and thereby keep M2 stable.

(I've been saying "print" money. In reality the money is virtual; AIUI the central bank just increments its own balance with itself. The banks all have accounts at the central bank, which is where they keep the money they hold on customers behalf. So the central bank can loan the money by just transferring it to those accounts).

Actually, increases in M2 don't cause inflation; as Charlie said earlier, its the *circulation* of money that matters. A change in £/year is much more important than a change in the absolute number of pounds in either M1 or M2. This is important because wealthy people spend less and save more, so the money supply in £/year decreases as more money goes to wealthy people instead of poor people.

The weird thing is, governments have been doing QE since 2008, and inflation has stayed stubbornly low. Meantime the return on invested capital has also been very low; there seems to be a lot of money floating around looking for returns above 1% and not finding it.

My private theory is that every time the government injects liquidity into the economy it gets mopped up by the wealthy, who stash it in offshore accounts, trusts, whatever, out of the way of the tax man. Because there is now so much of this money it can't find productive investments, and so the available returns have dropped. This is why governments are finding it so cheap to borrow money; they are effectively borrowing back money they printed and lent out via QE. The problem is; how do we get that money back off the people who now own it? (Realistic suggestions only please: lynching people you don't like is generally frowned upon and is bound to get you talked about).

By the way, if you are ever in the London Science Museum, do go and see the MONIAC. It gives a whole new meaning to the term "cash flow". Videos are on YouTube and various simulators can be found around the Net.

120:

David L @ 107:

incidentally, didn't we have deflation, here, 1932-6, which was not a good time?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deflation#United_Kingdom

Just to give a little taste of what deflation does.

Between 1929 and 1932, worldwide gross domestic product (GDP) fell by an estimated 15%. By comparison, worldwide GDP fell by less than 1% from 2008 to 2009 during the Great Recession.

So if you remember the financial crisis of 2008-2009, the Great Depression was 15 times worse.

Think about why the fascists and the Nazis were able to come to power. Think about what might have happened if the 2008-2009 financial crisis HAD been worse.

In the U.S. we got Trumpolini as a delayed after-shock & y'all got Bozo the clown & wrecksit Brexit.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Depression

121:

The problem is; how do we get that money back off the people who now own it? (Realistic suggestions only please: lynching people you don't like is generally frowned upon and is bound to get you talked about).

This probably would escalate to the cyberwar equivalent of world war 3, because the richest of the rich have wealth on the scale of Kenya. So we're talking about making the equivalents of a few hundred middle-class nation-states disappear.

That said, if the US and the EU decided to go this route, for instance because the super-rich are the major road block in fighting climate change, then I'd start with the following four steps:

1. Hire as many wealth managers as possible by quintupling (or more) their salary, and put them to work in very permanent government jobs tracing wealth management of your targets. Wealth managers are (last I read) paid on the scale of pharmacists, not investment bankers. Give them more money, protection, and job security to do their jobs for you. Since loyalty is their primary product, you need to treat them like the knights they are and keep them loyal to your cause, which is saving civilization.

2. Once the critical weak points in the wealth management networks are known, hack the hell out of them, physically and electronically. One good way might be to do faux ransomware attacks where the material never comes back.

3. Mount global legal attacks on the super-rich who were targeted, demanding proof of ownership (produce the actual paper trail demonstrating ownership, which you already stole) to claim control over assets. The assets they cannot demonstrate control over get seized and broken up.

4. Have a really good follow-up plan to win the war you've just started, including rapidly iterating the cyber, financial, and legal arms of the attacks so that they continue to work, and possibly dealing with a global physical war too.

The problem with this is that some of the wealthiest players aren't just billionaires, they actually run rather large states, some of which are nuclear powers. This isn't a game of kill the rich, it's a power struggle between a growing anarchist plutocracy and democratic powers. If at the end there are no more billionaires, that will mark a radical shift in power towards bureaucrats, politicians, and the military. Decide whether that's a good thing before unleashing these particular war dogs.

122:

The New Deal, in the US, was halping... but then, of course, the "deficit hawks" that cut it back, and fought tooth and nail against anything that helped those who weren't rich, the exact same way that they did here in 2011 and 2012, and like they're doing now.

123:

OK
I did what I should have done to start with & "wiki'd" S Nakimoto ... [ Bonkers, but really dangerously bonkers ]
AIUI a "blockchain" is a one-way one-time pad with (effectively) irreversible cod/reading.
[ Though I suspect that, say GCHQ could probably brute-force read it if they felt they had to, maybe? ]

OTOH, since it is acknowledged that there is a fixed upper bound ( 21 million )to the amount of Bitcoin that is ever going to be available, so it really is a goldbug ... then ...
Why are national governments & more directly the Central Reserve Banks doing theor best to Crash_-&-Burn it???
In spite of JBS' comment at 116, I think the question still stands.

Paul
Ah yes, MONIAC - I knew of this, but had forgotten its name>
MANY THANKS for defining M0 & M2 in comprehensible form.

JBS
The utter disaster of Brexit has only just started. It is not going to be pretty.

H
Your point #2 - do this to Bitcoin, while you are at it - again, why is this not being done?
[ Thought - maybe governments are biding their time? Because, if a strike is authorised against Bitcoin, you need to get them all. No prisoners, no survivors to be allowed. Um. ]

124:

OTOH, since it is acknowledged that there is a fixed upper bound ( 21 million )to the amount of Bitcoin that is ever going to be available, so it really is a goldbug ... then ...

Except that it's not. The opposite side of the problem is that you can't allow an infinite amount of money either,* and of course it's possible to create as many variants of Bitcoin as anyone can imagine - you just need to install the software on a computer, provide enough randomness that it doesn't duplicate another form of cryptocurrency and start mining, which is exactly what people who start other cryptocurrencies are doing.

The idea that Nakamoto didn't understand this is ludicrous, so claiming that the structure of Bitcoin is evidence that he's a goldbug is very dubious unless you have some statements of his to back that up. Hopefully OGH will post some URLs and we can all see for sure - my own research may well be at fault here - but I couldn't find anything in my own searches that indicated anything other than hubris on Nakamoto's part.

Barring the possibility that I somehow attain Elon Musk-like levels of wealth, I wouldn't touch cryptocurrencies with someone else's ten-foot pole, but I do think accuracy matters when we discuss the problem.

* My understanding from a friend who mines currencies is that you can make the algorithm harder or easier to solve, thus allow either more or less total coins of your cryptocurrency to me mined. The possibility that Nakamoto chose a number which is much too small is certainly something worth speculating on - that may very well be the case.

125:

BTW, not trying to sealion or anything. I'm just not seeing the path from the Nakamoto quotes which I have read to "he's a crazy Libertarian goldbug." I'd be very happy to change my mind if someone has some material I haven't read.

126:

once they're dead, they strongly resemble planetary nebulae in both form and function, and gravity will recycle them.

I'm afraid that doesn't really make sense. Planetary nebulae are expanding shells of hydrogen and helium, surrounding (and ionized by) the hot-but-starting-to-cool core of the star, which is turning into a white dwarf.

If you built a Matrioshka brain around the Sun, it would have at most slightly more than the mass of Jupiter (i.e., if you also used Saturn and all the other planets to construct it), which is far less than you'd need to form a new star, and far less mass than is in a planetary nebula, so you'd never mistake one for the other.

If the Matrioshka brain dies before the star leaves the Main Sequence, then the various pieces will start colliding (traffic control for a Dyson swarm would be a bitch) and a fair amount of it will end up falling into the star; the rest will probably end up as a slightly extended cloud of pulverized dust. The smaller particles will be blown out by radiation pressure from the star; larger particles will have decaying orbits due to Poynting-Robertson drag from the same radiation, and will fall into the star. Whatever might be left will then be swallowed by the star as it expands to form a red giant.

127:

That was a shame. The Genesis Machine, IIRC, is a *brilliant* book, and the actual excitement in it is doing actual science.

128:

"Not finding returns above 1%"? Really? Try investing in real estate (some hedge funds did it, esp. in rental properties). Also high-tech firms.

129:

Its more complicated than that. If you want a steady income by lending money at interest to AAA borrowers then 1% is the best you will get. You can go for other things which might give higher rates, but with higher probability of loss.

You can always look retrospectively at prices and see that investors in GooBook made out like bandits over the last 15 months, but that is 20/20 hindsight. Figuring out where the big money is going to be in the next 12 months is a lot harder.

130:

#82 - Ok, I'd have to do some research, but I could find the names of the real railway companies who owned those 4 terminii.

#92 - Not when first built for sure, as you already know. The Late and Never Early Railway wasn't founded until Grouping in 1923.

131:

"In particular, China is fairly cooperative on persecuting drug smugglers and, as far as I know, child rapists."

Yes, but they don't like those things, whereas they seem to love crapto, governmentally, to the extent of building dedicated coal power plants to mine it with. "Don't trade with any financial institution that handles crapto" could well come to be (if we're not there already) a superset of "don't trade with any financial institution in China", and China is big enough that they could stick to their position and cause the initiative to fail before it got started.

"Problem goes away with strict liability: the BtC miner javascript malware comes via ad exchangers which are going to suddenly pay attention to what they're serving up if it results in the FBI/SOCA breaking down their doors and hauling them off in chains."

The problem only goes away for that particular class of vector, so it just requires them to switch to other methods, for instance compromised servers (all those wordpress sites...), "traditional" viruses, and getting patsies to do the actual pushing of buttons instead of taking the risk themselves.

132:

Paws
Marylebone: Great Central ( Nee: Manchester, Sheffield & Lincolnshire ) railway
King's Cross: Great Northern Rly
Liverpool St: Great Eastern Rly
Fenchurch St also GER, but with a lot of traffic from the London Tlibury & Southend ( LTSR )
As you know, but others may not, all were amalgamated, with others ( Notably the NER, NBR & GNoSR ) to form the LNER in 1923

133:

You're talking legit stock, not, say, hedge funds, nor are you talking about real estate (had your rent go up lately? How about your taxes or insurance?)

134:

For the US version, the Pennsy*, the Reading, the B&O, and the "Short Line"**.

* "The standard railroad of the world", as they billed themselves. Not too unreasonably, given that... was it in the twenties, or during WWII, that I've read 20% of ALL GOODS TRANSPORTATION IN THE WORLD at some point went over the Pennsy's tracks.

** Not a real railroad.

135:

I'm afraid that doesn't really make sense.

Fair enough. I think we both agree that disassembling planets and turning them into huge orbiting clouds of computronium probably does not end up with a system that runs for the rest of the history of that stellar system. Even assuming it's possible, which I doubt. It's one of those ideas that's great if one assumes that space is really empty and stars are really stable, and not so good if either of those assumptions are violated.

136:

Are you sure it's safe to risk giving Musk ideas?

Then again, so far as I'm aware he hasn't tried fuelling one of his rockets with FOOF and dimethyl mercury, so it's unlikely he's one of your fans.

137:

As I understand it part of the problem is scale. Sure, one multi-billionaire can pump a few billion into Apple, a few billion into Google and so on, but when all hundred of them want to do that things get tricky. This is why countries like Japan and Saudi Arabia have "all of the above" investment strategies.

Part of the reason the likes of Gates and Koch start meddling in politics is that it's a way to spend money. When you have staff actively looking for ways to deal with that spare billion you found down the back of the couch politics is a cheap hobby. The step from buying politicians/laws because it's cheaper than complying with them to buying them because you have an interesting idea is small.

In that sense we might even conclude that democracy* works... there's a lot more fossil money than green money around, and democratic governments reflect that.

* I can't think of a democracy with limits on political donations, or the use of money to influence elections. At the brutal end you have the loss-making Murdoch media in Australia... no-one even *tries* to treat that as the blatant purchase of political influence that it is.

138:

This, in fact, fits right in with the conversation.
https://www.gocomics.com/nonsequitur/2021/05/13

139:

Seriously though, has there even been an SF novel examining a system of independent AIs forming their own economy, exchanging cyber currency for goods and services among themselves?

And then they chase the last remaining humans out to Saturn, where the mere humans live in floating habitats and bicker with robot cats? Yeah, I think someone did something like that.

As for Code of the Lifemaker, I've said before that it's one of the best prologues in the entire corpus of science fiction literature, tacked onto an otherwise forgettable novel.

140:

As for Code of the Lifemaker, I've said before that it's one of the best prologues in the entire corpus of science fiction literature, tacked onto an otherwise forgettable novel.

Brilliantly accurate summation of "Code of the Lifemaker". Hogan should have just written the prologue as a short story and left it at that.

It would have worked even better if he invited other SF writers to write sequels, i.e. shared universe. But I don't think shared universes were really a thing yet in 1983.

141:

Canada briefly had strict limits on political donations. In the early 2000s we had a law limiting donations to $200. Some got around it by donating $200 to each of the candidates in all 308 ridings. Also, donations of <$200 were not separately tracked and only reported in aggregate. When the NDP (Dem-Soc) demanded that loophole be closed, the governing Tories were strangely disinterested.

The same law had parties receiving funding to the tune of about $1.75/vote/year. This was a big boon for the Greens and NDP, who have much less efficient votes in our FPTP system, and hurt the Liberals and Conservatives. Unsuprisingly this was unceremoniously dumped when the Conservatives took power.

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142:

It would have worked even better if he invited other SF writers to write sequels, i.e. shared universe. But I don't think shared universes were really a thing yet in 1983.

For what it's worth, Thieves World started in 1978. I'd go back to Lovecraft, Howard, and probably much further (the Bible? Sumeria) for the concept, but the term AFAIK goes back to Thieves' World.

143:

This is some hilarious news from Aotearoa today. Cancel culture is out in force, the company is losing outlets and suppliers even as we speak (well, up to a point... but that point might well be nothing left to lose)

https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/lifestyle/2021/05/kaiapoi-s-eagle-brewing-owner-david-gaughan-says-comment-labelling-m-ori-scourge-of-nz-was-misconstrued-as-racism.html

144:

whitroth @ 128: "Not finding returns above 1%"? Really? Try investing in real estate (some hedge funds did it, esp. in rental properties). Also high-tech firms.

You're cherry-picking with hindsight again.

Mounting commercial real estate losses threaten banks, recovery

The 10 Biggest Hedge Fund Failures

Theranos, and lots of other hi-tech companies that looked promising but didn't go anywhere for one reason or another.

We can play this game all day. You can point at people who got lucky and won big, and I can point at people who got unlucky and lost big (note: with Theranos I'm not talking about Elizabeth Holmes, I'm talking about the investors who believed her).

The consensus view is that the safest and most reliable investment on the planet is a US treasury bond. Yields (i.e. the interest rate) on 10-year treasury bonds have been running at around 1% above inflation for years, although they have recently started to tick upwards because investors are expecting inflation to rise due to Biden's spending plans (aside: that will be a test of my theory, which predicts that inflation won't rise, or not for long, because all that liquidity will wind up in the savings accounts of the very rich).

Anything with a higher yield than US treasuries carries a corresponding level of risk; you make more money on average, but you stand a higher chance of losing a big chunk. The trouble is that the more you put into higher risk investments, the more you increase your risk of losing everything to a run of bad luck. You can spread the risk over lots of investments, but that just drags your average return back down.

145:

Didn't some hedge fund employee lose $US20B in a week recently?

146:

Greg Tingey @ 123: AIUI a "blockchain" is a one-way one-time pad with (effectively) irreversible cod/reading.

No. Not even close. A one time pad is ... well, something else. Google it. It has nothing to do with blockchains.

Money started off as a barter commodity that then became a medium of exchange because lots of people wanted it (e.g. silver, gold). Kings started stamping uniform coins as a mark of standard weight and purity because that made exchange easier; you didn't need to assay the payment for every trade. Then fiat money was invented in the form of paper and metal tokens; the "intrinsic" value went away. Then bank balances started to be used and money went virtual during the industrial revolution.

When money goes virtual the central artifact is the ledger (or possibly multiple ledgers, but lets keep the model simple for now).

The ledger is simply a record of every transaction. Alice paid Bob £5. Charlie paid Dave £10. Dave paid Alice £3. By totting up all these transactions you can work out the current balances of Alice, Bob, Charlie and Dave.

Everyone has to agree that the ledger is correct, and everyone has to agree to abide by what it says. If Alice thinks Dave paid her £3 but Dave disagrees then the answer is on the ledger *by definition*. The ledger is an append-only structure; if it turns out that Alice's payment was made by mistake then that payment isn't erased, instead a new payment is added in the opposite direction.

This only works if you have a single authoritative ledger. The traditional solution has to been to appoint a trusted organisation (a "bank") to hold the ledger and record all the transactions. To pay someone some money you give the bank an instruction to add an entry to the ledger. In the old days this was called "writing a cheque". These days the message and signature is usually electronic, but its the same concept.

But you need the bank. This is both a single point of vulnerability and a single point of control. Libertarians hate that, and Satoshi Nakamoto's blockchain is a way around it.

The blockchain is simply a ledger of bitcoin transactions. Transactions are chunked up into blocks, with each block linked to the previous one. Nakamoto's innovation was to make it hard to add new blocks, but to include a payment for succeeding. Let me explain how.

A "cryptographic hash" is a kind of checksum; you take a big chunk of data and put it through the hash algorithm, and you get a small chunk of data called the hash (typically 512 bits = 64 bytes). This hash depends very sensitively on the input data; change one bit and you get a completely different hash, and there is no way other than brute force search to find a different input that gives you the same hash. So if anyone changes the data you will get a different hash, so if you have the hash you can depend on the data being unaltered.

To add a new block to the bitcoin blockchain you compute the hash of three things:

1. the hash of the previous block in the blockchain (which is what links your transactions to all the ones already on the ledger).

2. the list of transactions you want to include in this block.

3. a random number chosen by you.

The thing that makes this difficult is a rule about the allowed value for the hash you compute; it MUST start with a lot of zeros. The whole 512 bits is interpreted as a number, and that number must be less than a certain value, known as the "Difficulty". To find a hash that meets the Difficulty the only way is to try lots of random numbers, compute the hash of the whole block, and see if the new hash beats the Difficulty. If it does then you broadcast your new block and everyone adds it to their local copy of the blockchain. If not you pick another number and try again, and again, trillions of times.

The Difficulty is what stops competing versions of the ledger; if Alice wants to repudiate her payment to Bob she needs to come up with a list of blocks which doesn't include her payment. To do that she needs to generate and broadcast new blocks, complete with hashes lower than the Difficulty, and to do this faster than the whole of the rest of the world. She can only do this if she controls more than 50% of the computers that do the hashing.

The difficulty gets adjusted every few weeks to keep the average block rate to one every 10 minutes.

The people who do the hashing are called "miners". They get paid to do this in two ways: one is that new bitcoins are included as a payment in each block, with the amount declining over time. The other (meant as the long term payment mechanism) is that each transaction includes a payment for the miner. Miners can pick and choose which transactions to include in each block, so the motivation is to include the ones with the highest payment.

Unfortunately as bitcoins have become more valuable this has meant that it is increasingly economic to throw more energy into computing hashes. Hence the problem.

Satoshi Nakomoto was a computer science giant and an economic midget.

147:

Talking about gold bugging and mining...
My cousin (a miner) is convinced that a better way to do gold is to sell grams still in situ. You save all costs of digging while being more secure (you try to steal my 5 cubic meters granite with 5ppm gold 150m below ground).
The problem is obviously how much do you trust a geologist (to which the answer is always the same).

148:

The Difficulty is what stops competing versions of the ledger; if Alice wants to repudiate her payment to Bob she needs to come up with a list of blocks which doesn't include her payment. To do that she needs to generate and broadcast new blocks, complete with hashes lower than the Difficulty, and to do this faster than the whole of the rest of the world. She can only do this if she controls more than 50% of the computers that do the hashing.

I'll just point out that it's quite difficult to know who owns the other computers doing the hashing, and that's kind of one of the points of the whole thing.

So, there's really no way of knowing if somebody has that 50% of computing power for the blockchain, in one arranged as for example Bitcoin is. So, you basically have to trust entities you have no idea of, who they are, where they are, what they want.

I still don't know how this is better than the banks.

149:

I think the point is that it is "not" the banks.

150:

I am pretty sure Bitcoin was designed to be a scam, because of the inherent transaction limits - You cannot update a blockchain more than single-digit number of times per second. Globally. Across all entries in the ledger.

This obviously means no blockchain is ever going to be a viable currency, and the likelihood the designer of the blockchain missed this little problem is.. Low. If incompetence is not a likely explanation, the back edge of Hanlons Razor implies Malice.

So the various rantings of the originator was likely establishing bonafides for the affinity fraud.

Not sure if said originator died or the monster they created has grown so large they dont dare cash out. - Its one thing to steal a few million from US gold bugs. Cashing out the Satosi coins at this point would make you the kind of enemies that result in very well funded attempts to kill you.

151:

Krugman opinion on Bitcoin : "a fresh infestation of monetary cockroaches"

(can be read in anonymous browser mode)

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/13/opinion/cryptocurrency-inflation.html

152:

Mikko Paviainen @ 148: So, there's really no way of knowing if somebody has that 50% of computing power for the blockchain, in one arranged as for example Bitcoin is.

Actually we have a fairly good idea, and 75% of it is in China...

153:
Mikko Paviainen @ 148: So, there's really no way of knowing if somebody has that 50% of computing power for the blockchain, in one arranged as for example Bitcoin is.
Actually we have a fairly good idea, and 75% of it is in China...

Even if we take the public information at face value, and the entities with different names are actually separate with no common points of control, it'd take the collusion of... 3-4 of them?

In practice, multiple hours of the Bitcoin blockchain have been wound back over the years, notably in 2010 and 2013.

154:

China has a weird economy. Somewhat middle ages in many aspects. The party rules the country. And there are many issues for which there is no variation of rules allowed. But in many other ways there is all kind of local windage allowed.

I suspect that power plant is proposed and build in province so and so to allow them to raise the standard of living and add more factories for widgets which are in high demand in the area. Then while it is being built or afterwards but before the power is allocated elsewhere someone(s) notice they can make more return building a data center (small enough to avoid the central planning debates) and divert much of the power there.

As to how much collusion there is between province A and B, I suspect it varies a LOT with lots of suspicion in all directions.

155:

Knock yourself out, neckbeard.

(Moderator: RED CARD. Don't let the door hit you on the ass.)

156:

Moz: newshub.co.nz is blocked in the UK (and on a VPN into Canada), presumably because of regional rights issues. (I VPN'd into NZ and eventually got to read ... something trivial. In future maybe just summarize or quote for us non-natives?)

157:

I think your quote is a little unfair. Let me put it into context:

"And while it took a while, my sense is that by 2014 or so the great majority of economic commentators had accepted that looking at the money supply in the U.S. context offered basically no information about future inflation.

But now we have a new crop of financial types, especially, as I said, people associated with crypto, who don’t know about any of that and, as so often happens with money people, assume that they already know everything. So we’re having a fresh infestation of monetary cockroaches, and everything has to be explained again."

So what he's really saying is that cryptocurrency types represent a recurring problem of economic misunderstanding, that is, people who don't understand what history says about inflation.

158:

Some more thoughts on currency.

Bitcoin is "mined" by proof of work (meaning, proof of running a hash function many trillion times). Pretty much every form of currency except fiat is proof of something. Gold and silver are proof of digging, which varies from moderately to very environmentally unfriendly. Wampum was proof of time spent fiddling around with quartz drill bits and small shells, until European settlers introduced metal tools and mass production, and Wampum underwent hyperinflation.

In the Hitch-hikers Guide to the Galaxy the Golgafrincham "B" Ark crash-landed on Earth, and the survivors adopted the leaf as currency. But since leaves weren't proof of any work they weren't worth anything (three major deciduous forests to one ships peanut IIRC).

Fiat is probably proof of something too. Some combination of trust and authority maybe. Why is fiat currency valuable? The standard answer is "Because you have to pay your taxes in it". But that doesn't answer anything. Suppose that dollar notes were worthless for any other purpose. People getting a tax demand would go and buy the necessary dollar notes for the equivalent of a few seconds wage in whatever currency they were using and ritually hand them over to the government. That still wouldn't make them worth anything.

For that matter, why is gold valuable? The standard answer is that you can make jewellery and electronics out of it. But that doesn't make sense either. Electronics takes up about 1% of world gold production, so the value of the other 99% still needs to be explained. Why gold jewellery? Answer: because gold is a shiny yellow colour and that makes it pretty and therefore desirable. But shiny yellow plastic is even shinier and yellower, so why don't people make jewellery out of that? Answer: because plastic is cheap and nobody wants cheap stuff. So does that mean that people make gold jewellery because gold is valuable, not the other way around? Answer: I suppose so. So why is gold valuable?

What it comes down to is that value is a consensus hallucination, like government. Governments are in charge because everyone expects them to be in charge, until one day that expectation goes away and suddenly the government isn't in charge any more. Terry Pratchett had a nice take on it in "Making Money" (which is a really fun deconstruction of all this BTW). On a desert island potatoes are more valuable than gold, because you can eat the potatoes to stay alive. But in a city gold is more valuable than potatoes because you can use the gold to buy potatoes or anything else you need. What makes the difference? The city.

Incidentally "Making Money" had postage stamps being used as convenient currency. What makes a penny stamp worth one penny? You can put it on an envelope and get a penny's worth of postage. Proof of work again.

Gold is valuable because everyone knows its valuable. Same with dollars and pounds.

159:

[...] cryptocurrency types represent a recurring problem of economic misunderstanding, that is, people who don't understand what history says about inflation.

I think their position is slightly more sophisticated. Their argument is more along the lines of:

Never mind all the monetary theory, the real problem is that sooner or later along comes a government that decides to just print money to spend, and wham, hyperinflation, and all your money is worthless. Could happen here any day now. Yup, could easily be some time this month, or maybe later this year. Next year probably, if it isn't the year after. Or next decade. Some time in the next century for sure, all those millions you have stashed in the bank are going to be worthless! So only commodity money can be relied upon, because the government can't print more of it.
160:

This comes to mind. (And it's gotten worse in the last couple of weeks.)
I Need to Explain to You Just How Dire America's Pokémon Card Crisis Is (Jason Koebler, April 30, 2021)
Pokémon cards aren't just expensive. Card grading services are being completely overwhelmed in an “avalanche of cardboard.”

161:

So what he's really saying is that cryptocurrency types represent a recurring problem of economic misunderstanding, that is, people who don't understand what history says about inflation.

Based on the lead in to the article, Krugman seems to say to me that absent of a study of economics and history, people tend to not realize the past exists before their memory and just maybe they don't fully understand what they think they do.

My, now gone off the rails, brother who is 6 years younger than me and thus has no personal recollection of the 60s and Nixon and ... spouts all kinds of things to prove he has no idea ....

162:

Paul
SO - I'm wrong.
Which doesn't actually surprise me (!)
However, I DID look up "blockchain" on wiki & I do understand the idea/motivation behind cryptocurrencies, just not their modus operandii
And I DO UNDERSTAND "real" money.
Perhaps you would care to actually explain how a cryptocurrency based on a blockchain you know WORKS?
[ SO I have skipped all of you noddy stuff from: "Money started off ... down to S N' blockchain is a way around it" ]
So, "the hash" is a set, but complicated known routine?
The whole thing is dependant upon not being able to crack the hashing code, yes?

Satoshi Nakomoto was a computer science giant and an economic midget. - Agreed, but WHO THE FUCK IS HE - or "they" of course?
I assume various large guvmint agencies would LURVE to find out the answer to that.

Where you are wrong is @ 158
You still don't get that all money is "fiat" even, or maybe, especially, Gold.
Or maybe, you do?

"Commodity Money"
Hence the English/US quite-realistically-based concern (obsession?) with "property", especially land itself.
"they aren't making any more of it" ( Mark Twain? )

TJ
Not so sure.
If you cashed out the Satoshi coins, would not only lead to a very amusing ( for certain values of .. ) crash, but you would be so rich that you can afford to keep your enemies at bay, because you can hire better, more efficient thugs.
Or, if Paul is correct, you can total the PRC's economy, which is, maybe, why "5 Eyes" have not (YET) done anything about it?

163:

I see someone mentioned Thieves' World. GRRM's Wild Cards was around '86 or so.

164:

Right, making it harder to be taxed, and easier for money laundering and other crimes, like the Colonial Pipeline ransomware, and today's report of the ransomware attack on the Irish health system.

On the other hand, if you get people *really* po'd... "The DarkSide ransomware affiliate program responsible for the six-day outage at Colonial Pipeline this week that led to fuel shortages and price spikes across the country is running for the hills. The crime gang announced it was closing up shop after its servers were seized and someone drained the cryptocurrency from an account the group uses to pay affiliates.

“Servers were seized (country not named), money of advertisers and founders was transferred to an unknown account,” reads a message from a cybercrime forum reposted to the Russian OSINT Telegram channel."

https://krebsonsecurity.com/2021/05/darkside-ransomware-gang-quits-after-servers-bitcoin-stash-seized/

165:

I look at Krugman's op-ed column every weekday, not in anonymous mode, though I do have noScript running. I *think* that the regular op-ed columnists, who aren't paid for their columns, are free to read.

166:

"Suddenly, the government is not in charge"? Is that before the coup? Because, millinarians and Communists to the contrary, humans need a government, because that's how you deal with other humans, esp. when one or more groups decide they don't like you, or want what you have.

167:

I think Graeber got it more right: in the history of finance, debt came first, taxes came second, money came third, and much of what we think of as barter is stuff that happened when people who grew up with money made do without it.

That last is critical: if you throw people into a prison and they spontaneously start bartering stuff and using things as money substitutes, they didn't spontaneously regress to the neolithic and reenact the development of economics. They're trying to get by as they know how.

We're quite clear that taxes came early on, because the history of writing, at least in the Fertile Crescent, revolves around tax accounting: what people are giving to the kings and temples. Debt came along well before that, in the "IOU" sense, but it doesn't have to be quantized, merely fair.

Credit pretty definitely came around before money, because it's necessary to farming: you help the farmer while his crop's growing, you get a share of the crop when it comes in. That's a credit transaction, mediated by whatever (portion of crop, weight of precious metal equivalent). Precious metals stayed in treasuries mostly and were denominated by weight (talents, shekels, etc), while people of good account used credit documents based on the faith that the metal was there to trade against it.

Then (at least in the Mediterranean) we get warlords sacking temples as they build their evanescent empires. Now nobody in their right mind would give an invading soldier, or worse, an invading mercenary, credit for even a beer, so there arose a clever solution: standardized lumps of metal, stamped with the warlord's logo. When the warlord starts collecting taxes only in lumps, perforce his newly conquered subjects had to do their trade in lumps so that they had enough lumps to pay off their new lords and masters. If a mercenary was paid in lumps and paid the barkeep in lumps, then the barkeep could pay off his taxes. Money's an anonymous solution for taking credit-worthiness out of the equation, useful where lack of trust and anonymity are getting in the way of the riches and power.


And yes, I'm ignoring that the first attempts at money in Greece were stylized skewers. Why let a complex history get in the way of a good story?

The really cool fun part is that money in China and Central America didn't exactly follow this course, so it's actually even more complicated than Graeber made it. It's almost as if humans don't have one way to do economics, but that one culture's predilections have largely won out. At least for now....

168:

And now
A knuckle-dragging religious primitive, incapable of rational thought becomes "leader" of the DUP, one: THIS throwback if you really want to know ...

169:

"Suddenly, the government is not in charge"? Is that before the coup? Because, millinarians and Communists to the contrary, humans need a government, because that's how you deal with other humans, esp. when one or more groups decide they don't like you, or want what you have.

Not really, when we're talking about a government of incestuous god-kings, as in most pristine states. However...

The best case study we have of a pristine civilization arising from non-state ancestors is actually: Hawai'i (yes, I'm going to rattle on about that again). It's interesting because it cuts across the grain of a number of assumptions, including that you need grain to get a civilization. Another one is the idea of the Malthusian trap and Boserup's ratchet (people get hungry, then innovate new food production intensification strategies). In Hawai'i, as elsewhere in Polynesia, competition between farmers about who was the most productive led to rapid increases in productivity which were then followed by population growth. If this is generally true around the world, waiting until the crisis hits to innovate more productive systems is probably a bad idea. The systems you need to weather the crisis are better built when you can afford to experiment...

But about the development of states in Hawai'i. The classic Polynesian voyager model is clan based, with people ranked by birth order. This is good, in that it theoretically allows you to know who's entitled to what, and it's why genealogy is so important across the Pacific. At low population densities, it's entirely possible to know who's entitled to farm which plot and fish which beach or reef, based on who their parents and ancestors are. The inevitable disputes can be settled by the seniors getting together and hashing it out, possibly with a side order of violence if the junior partners are more numerous and better armed. But it's workable without a government, because everything's owned by clans.

There are two problems with this. One is that the people on the lowest end (the last-born children of the last-born children, going back generations) have no incentive to remember their genealogy, because it doesn't give them anything worth having. So over time, the number of people who aren't cleanly linked into the clans grows, and they still need to be fed. Simultaneously, the number of ancestors grows (you have 2 parents, 4 grandparents, 8 great-grandparents, and so on, doubling each generation), so when the islands are filling up, people have 2^5 or 2^6 possible ancestral claims on where to farm, swim, and fish. The possible and actual disputes were *endless,* and according to the stories passed down, people spent way too much time dealing with them.

Enter the high chiefs, who are typically senior anyway. They start instituting more state-like structures, because it's easier for a chief to rule than it is for families to endlessly bicker over who did what wrong. Eventually, the chiefs made it illegal for anyone not of the aristocracy to remember their genealogy, and made sure each peasant living in their districts had a plot of land to farm and a way to get access to the sea, all controlled by low-ranking chiefly bureaucrats who used food taxes to feed the king's core cadre of professional soldiers.

While I don't think each pristine state in world history followed exactly the same path, I suspect that the key point was where non-state political solutions broke down, and an authoritarian strongman stepped in with a good-enough alternative to make things work. This doesn't mean that governments are necessary. However it does mean in practice that non-government solutions to solving collective problems have to work as well or better than the government's solution ones do, or the government is going to gain and retain power.

I'd also add that if you've got a theory of state formation, you need to run the history of Hawai'i through it to see if still works. Thanks to Cook and others, western observers got to see the final unification of the islands as it happened, and the Hawaiians wrote down their previously oral histories as soon as they got writing a few decades later. You don't get better evidence than that.

170:

whitroth @ 134: For the US version, the Pennsy*, the Reading, the B&O, and the "Short Line"**.

* "The standard railroad of the world", as they billed themselves. Not too unreasonably, given that... was it in the twenties, or during WWII, that I've read 20% of ALL GOODS TRANSPORTATION IN THE WORLD at some point went over the Pennsy's tracks.

** Not a real railroad.

That's where the idea fell apart. There was no "Short Line"1. I have the Pennsylvania, Reading and B&O Railroad stock certificates, but no "Short Line", which NOW appears to have been based on the Shore Fast Line, the trolley operating between Atlantic City & Ocean City.

This must have been almost 20 years ago. I got the idea while visiting a model train show here in Raleigh.

I know I searched on the internet & I don't think Wikipedia had that information back then. It was still fairly small & not the trusted resource it is today. I still have the certificates in the file cabinet here next to my desk.

Maybe someday I'll finish it if I can find a certificate of the trolley company stock.

1 Actually there were (and still are) a bunch of "short lines", just none I could identify with Atlantic City during the early thirties when the Monopoly Game came into being.

PS: Paws @ 130 - Thank you, but it's not necessary. I was just idly curious. For my project I'd still need to find a certificate for a U.S. railroad that served the Atlantic City, NJ area back in the 1920s or 30s.


171:

Certainly there are any number of reasons to distrust the banks, but I'm not sure that a cryptocurrency is the answer.

172:

JBS
"Central Railroad of New Jersey" ?? "West Shore RR"??

173:

Er, this still misses a step, the "gold standard". Under this "1 unit" of paper $currency drawn on AnyBankLtd is backed by a certain mass of actual specie in AnyBankLtd's vaults.

Exactly when nations left the true gold standard is a matter for historians; I've seen a variety of dates from about 1915 to 1965.

174:

Well it has changed sometime last year, where you tend to get the paywall if you are not using NoScript, porn mode or Firefox "reading mode".

And to get the graphs linked in the column to work, you need Javascript active.


¯\_(ツ)_/¯

175:

I freely admit than I'm less than impartial when crypto is the subject.

176:

Cryptocurrencies are definitely a shit-show. We're only arguing about the history and motivations of that shit-show.

177:

I think the first experiments with unbacked paper cash were in 11th century China, followed closely by the first experiments in hyperinflation caused by printing too much unbacked cash. Nixon pulled US money entirely off the gold standard in 1971 IIRC, although I'm not sure that was the end of it. For what it's worth.

I'd also add, in reference to fiat money not being proof of anything, that it is indeed proof of the "Full Faith and Credit" of the United States, meaning that the US makes a dollar worth a dollar. I'm not sure whether a "government that's small enough to drown in a bathtub" could guarantee that the dollar was trustworthy, and that's one of those interesting paradoxes in libertarian thought that I very happily have too little time left in my life to explore in any depth.

One of the amusing things is the seeming convergence between money and carbon on this planet. In the normal course of things, the Earth cycles carbon a bit too slowly, so it builds up in the soil and rock. This isn't a bad thing, and indeed it's part of what has kept the planet habitable. Problem is, when you create titanic amounts of virtual money, it starts building up like coal under a swamp, surplus to the financial biosphere, until someone comes along and figures out a way to make more entropy with it, as humans have done with petrochemicals.

It's not an exact analogy, because the amount of virtual money does provide a proxy for political power even if it isn't used. But that's the interesting problem: if money disappears into unused long term savings, it means that there's no inflation (it's inert money). On the other hand, deflation (taking money out of the financial-sphere) pulls this money out and makes those who control the stockpiles that much more powerful, as noted above. And that's a bit of a problem.

178:

PS - No problem; the whole (serious) point was that generalisations about Monopoly (game) real world squares don't really map from location to location. I was aware that all 4 London stations had been owned by the Late and Never Early Railway when the game came out.

BTW King's Cross Station was originally built by the great Northern Railway; Marylebone by the Great Central Main Line; Fenchurch Street shared by the London and Blackwall Railway and the London, Tilbury and southend Railway ; Liverpool Street by the Great Eastern Railway! Just to prove I could do it! :-)

179:

Greg Tingey @ 172: JBS
"Central Railroad of New Jersey" ?? "West Shore RR"??

"Central Railroad of New Jersey" did not serve Atlantic City.
"West Shore RR" did not serve Atlantic City and was absorbed into the NY Central Railroad in 1886; forty plus years too early even if they had served Atlantic City.

"Atlantic City Railroad" served Atlantic City in the correct time period, but was a subsidiary of the "Philadelphia and Reading Railroad", which became the "Reading RR" in 1923. The "Camden and Atlantic RR" was a subsidiary of the "Pennsylvania RR" from 1852 to 1896 when the "Pennsylvania RR" consolidated its New Jersey subsidiaries into the "West Jersey and Seashore Railroad".

In turn, the "Atlantic City Railroad"and the "West Jersey and Seashore Railroad" were consolidated into a joint venture between the "Reading RR" and the "Pennsylvania RR" in 1933 (after the rail-lines on the Monopoly Board had already been set) to become the "Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Lines".

As I noted earlier, I have the certificates for the Pennsylvania, Reading and B&O railroads.

Some of the research I did back those many years ago indicated the Short Line RR was based on a "Seashore Bus Company" serving Atlantic City in the 20s & early 30s, but I was never able to find anything else about it; no stock certificate.

And at the time I didn't turn up anything about the trolley line connecting Atlantic & Ocean Cities, which Wikipedia NOW says may have been the prototype for the Short Line RR.

But I've had some interesting reading the last couple of days.

One of the things I did turn up is the Atlantic City Line between Philadelphia and Atlantic City was revived by the NJ Transit Corporation as a commuter passenger line in 1989. So, TODAY, there IS an Atlantic City Short Line RR.

180:


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182:

This comes to mind. (And it's gotten worse in the last couple of weeks.) I Need to Explain to You Just How Dire America's Pokémon Card Crisis Is

Well, that's a thing.

I don't play any form of Pokemon myself but I do think Pokemon cards would make a much better de facto currency than Bitcoins. Indeed, like all commodities used as currencies (cigarettes, cellphone minutes, etc.), they would retain value even outside the marketplace; if there's no trading to be done, you could sit down and play Pokemon.

I suppose it's harder to do money laundering or illegal drug purchases in Pokemon cards, which is not factor sending me over to Bitcoin.

183:

people tend to not realize the past exists before their memory and just maybe they don't fully understand what they think they do

The socialist governments of Saskatchewan ran the province in the black from its creation all through my childhood. A small amount of tax revenue put by for a rainy day, but most spent on the people. Got us Medicare and other good things. Worked fine up until people with a personal memory of the Dirty Thirties lost influence, at which point two terms of a Conservative (right-wing) government managed to run up the highest per capita debt in the country.

My personal memory is why I don't view right-wing pro-business parties as fiscally responsible — and why I know socialism can be fiscally responsible.

184:

Effectively a small brewery owner decided to go full retard on social media, and then complained about the backlash, then insisted the comment was "misconstrued", and is now arguing that he was really trying to make a statement about domestic violence. He's basically destroyed his business overnight, the entire craft beer scene has rejected him and the retailers have been returning product.

The quote:
"Ok let's speak the truth. Maori are the scurge of New Zealand. The quicker we put them in prison the better. I'm talking about the majority of the male population. The ones who beat their missis. Who don't give a fuck about society. Yeah you who will Rebel against these words. But truth be told you are NZ biggest problem right now."

The company (presumably him) came out with:
"We are aware of a comment circulating that may be misconstrued as racism. Firstly, Eagle Brewing totally denounces any form of racism and promotes a multicultural environment within its team of employees,"

And then he came up with a complete non-apology and weird digression while insisting he was absolutely not racist and his comments were taken wrong. Yeah.

"I am aware of one of my comments posted on a NZ news page which is misconstrued as racism. I woudl like to apologise for the way in which this post has been perceived. I denounce all forms of racism and I am in no way biased to any one culture.
My intention was to highlight the unacceptable issue of violence against women, which is statistically higher in some cultures.
I have always promoted multiculturalism in the workplace as well as equal opportunity for all genders and I will continue to do so.
Shortly I will be taking a break from Facebook, not sure how long for and I am considering my position within the business.
My health is currently not the best and I need some time to reflect on how the pressure of the last few years has impacted me.
My wife, staff and good friends have all been outstanding in their support of me. Thank you. The business and its stakeholders need to be confident that it will continue to flourish and it will.
Love and kindness makes the world a better place for us all"

185:

I get the impression that he is a politically capable knuckle-dragger, both in stronger form than otherwise identical opponent, which is going to be 'interesting'. We were on course for a SF victory next year which, courtesy That Bliar, would be a recipe for a Six Counties solution the other way round. However, he just MIGHT reverse the DUP's fortunes, probably by turning it into the TUV, which would be no better. There is a glimmer of light, in that Alliance are also gaining ground (probably due to "a plague on both your houses" viewpoint among many younger people). I wish we still had Dave_the_Proc's insight.

186:

EC
Agree
What happened to DtP, incidentally?

187:

The gold standard is just a promise made by the ledger holder that's supposed to inspire trust in them. It's not a necessary step, it's just how we happened to establish trust in banks as ledger holders in the West - they promised that if you ever stopped trusting them to hold an honest ledger, you could get gold out of the system and either find a different bank to hold the ledger for you, or do your own thing.

The important move is from currency as some form of physical object you move around, to notes in a ledger held by an entity you trust.

How the entity gains your trust in that migration is a side issue - in our history, it was via a promise that you could always get the old style physical objects back and stop trusting the ledger holder, but it's possible to imagine other ways to get there from money as a physical object.

188:

Simon Farnsworth @ 187: The gold standard is just a promise made by the ledger holder that's supposed to inspire trust in them. It's not a necessary step, it's just how we happened to establish trust in banks as ledger holders in the West - they promised that if you ever stopped trusting them to hold an honest ledger, you could get gold out of the system and either find a different bank to hold the ledger for you, or do your own thing.

The important move is from currency as some form of physical object you move around, to notes in a ledger held by an entity you trust.

How the entity gains your trust in that migration is a side issue - in our history, it was via a promise that you could always get the old style physical objects back and stop trusting the ledger holder, but it's possible to imagine other ways to get there from money as a physical object.

Can you say BANK RUN boys 'n girls?

189:

He got sick of being abused, and gave up.

190:

I freely admit than I'm less than impartial when crypto is the subject.
Frankly, the terminological appropriation of the word "crypto" by crypto-currency greed-addicts[2] sets me off. :-) It is (also) short for "cryptography" or older, "cryptology"[1], which is part of the foundation of block chain technologies used by cryptocurrencies.
As sabik #3 says (very loosely restated), cryptocurrencies have poisoned captured and occupied an intellectual space which included a wide variety of technological ideas with transformational potential, like e.g. descendants of (anonymous) Chaumian cash.
This may sound like "get off my lawn" to (often young) greed-addicts. It is not. :-)

[1] https://crypto.iacr.org/2021/ - deadline has passed, but:
Original contributions on all technical aspects of cryptology are solicited for submission to Crypto 2021, the 41st Annual International Cryptology Conference. Submissions are welcomed on any cryptographic topic including but not limited to:
- foundational theory and mathematics;
- the design, proposal, and analysis of cryptographic primitives and protocols;
- secure implementation and optimization in hardware or software;
- and applied aspects of cryptography

[2] First google is this sort-of-amusing pop piece: Greed: The Ultimate Addiction (Leon F Seltzer, October 17, 2012). Greed is OK as one of the spices motivating real world productivity/creation. (Cue the people saying that proof-of-work(or state, for that matter) blockchain techs are good because they foster economy of scale efficient improvements for their raw inputs.)

191:

I’m more sanguine about crypto-currencies than Charlie. They are suitable for financing illegal transactions, but then criminals usually find ways to finance their dealings regardless.

Here’s how I see things playing out in a world were crypto-currencies become pervasive:
We live in a world that has a glut of capital, where wealthy people suck up profits and don’t spend it but turn it into even more capital. If you don’t believe there's a glut of capital, just look at the rates of US government bonds and 30 housing mortgages. They are down in the dirt, a sure sign of oversupply.
To cure this problem economically (I’m not talking morally here), the surplus capital needs to be converted into demand (it needs to be spent.)

We have so little demand in the developed economies that governments, having run out of cutting interest rates, have now taken to printing money as a way to stimulate demand. The current Biden administration sending checks to the poor is a good way of doing this. They government of course issues bonds to pay for all it, running up the national debt, but the Fed is still doing Quantative Easing to the tune of about 100 billion a month, which basically conjuring money out of thin air to buy these bonds back. (It's a nice little dog and pony show.)

Crypto-currencies suck up surplus capital taking the money out of circulation, which enables the government to print replacement money with very little inflation. As crypto-currencies become more pervasive (and the government doesn’t tax the wealthy heavily), you’ll get following. The government will issue new money. It will do a couple of laps of the economy, before been sucked out of circulation as profits and turned into capital. If a lot of wealthy people think crypto is wonderful, it will finish up there.

So what happens if everybody decides to spend their crypto. Well, if they all successfully converted it back to the working currency and spent it, there would massive inflation equivalent to all that money printed, but if there was a large run on bitcoin or whatever, the crypto-currency will crash, since there is not floor of usefulness as with gold or the need to pay taxes as with fiat currencies. Nor is the country’s central bank likely to bail people out, so holders of the currency will all lose their shirts.

The net effect of all this then will be a large transfer of wealth from crypto-holders to the government for expenditures i.e. taxation

192:

Sorry, never occurred to me that newshub would block people outside Australia/NZ. And I thought the link text would be enough for most people to go off. "comments labelling Maori scourge of NZ misconstrued as racist"...

193:

Seems like maybe access to the queue becomes the chokepoint... which maybe boils down to the most powerful radio signal aimed at the probe.

Not that I feel I understand all this very well.

I suppose giant radio transmitters is at least cooler than warehouses full of gpu's.

194:

Chased away by the Many Named One's doxxing a year ago.

195:

While cryptocurrency is the topic, here's something fairly depressing- https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2021/05/private-equity-firm-revives-zombie-fossil-fuel-power-plant-to-mine-bitcoin/

Private equity eh? What a bunch of rascals they are.

196:

From reading the article it's a too-small-to-be-economic-to-run coal-fired power station that was converted to burn pipeline gas so it's about as polluting as regular gas-fired electricity generation that provides about 40% of America's electricity right now.

It indicates there's a market opportunity for the gas turbine generator manufacturers to build smaller Combined Cycle Gas Turbine plants (CCGT) in the 10MW region specifically to provide crypto miners with cheaper electricity.

197:

Bellinghman @ 194 & EC @ 189
That is so depressing ...
And indicates why I am openly not-very-tolerant ( to say the least ) "her" insertions.

198:

We're all doomed -- apparently investigators have discovered a security hole in the Universal Turing Machine, the basis of all modern digital electronics and computers.

https://cve.mitre.org/cgi-bin/cvename.cgi?name=CVE-2021-32471

It appears to be based on arbitrary code execution due to a buffer overflow.

"At this time there is no patch or workaround."

199:

A few new developments in the world of space news

1. The Economist finally confirms the following rumor about SpaceX: SpaceX charges $62 million for a new rocket, and $50 million for a reused rocket. That rumor has been around since 2019. Note that Block 5 has been around since 2018. This explains why the only new first stages built in 2020 were: 2 GPS launches, 2 human Dragon launches, and 1 ESA climate satellite.

2. Of the 6k active satellites in orbit, about 1.5k are Starlinks.
https://www.economist.com/business/2021/05/13/spacex-a-tesla-for-the-skies

3. Musk announced the orbital profile of the Starship test.
https://arstechnica.com/science/2021/05/rocket-report-starship-orbital-flight-details-ariane-5-may-delay-webb-launch/

4. China is either the second or fourth successful lander. The reason this is disputed is because the 1 USSR lander which survived on the surface survived for a few seconds. In Beagle 2's case, the solar panels didn't fully deployed, meaning the antenna couldn't be deployed.

5. Since April 22, SpaceX has had a launch on a 9-day interval. It's almost headed to the holy grail of 50 launches a year.

6. Right now, the Inspiration4 flight is scheduled to launch Sept 15. This is the mission that will launch Tom Cruise. Russia will launch its own actor in October.

200:

Moz @ 192: "Sorry, never occurred to me that newshub would block people outside Australia/NZ. And I thought the link text would be enough for most people to go off. "comments labelling Maori scourge of NZ misconstrued as racist"...

FWIW, they apparently don't block it everywhere, only the UK & Canada. I had no trouble accessing it here in the U.S.

I think the link text may be a bit misleading. The comments were not misconstrued. They clearly were racist.

201:

They released the latest Chinese census.

1. According to the Chinese government, the difference between the projected and census total population is due to an under count in Guangdong. That's the province which contains Shenzhen, Guangzhou, and the rest of the Pearl River Delta. The province's population rove from 106 million to 125 million, instead of the 112 million predicted.

2. The provinces that comprise Manchuria declined by 17%, 12%, and 2% respectively. That's China's Rust Belt, and home of any supposed Siberian invasion.

3. Other than the coast and the Northern Bank of the Yangtze, China's population pretty much declined North of the Yangtze. Short explanation: before 1000 AD, China used to fracture into Warring States. After 1200, it fractured into just 2 states - North and South China along the Quinling Huaihe Line (the split of the Song Dynasty follows this pattern, but isn't as clear-cut). In 2010, North China was 370 million people, 109 million of which were in Manchuria. It's interesting if this uneven population reduction signals that the line is becoming less significant.

https://www.reddit.com/r/China/comments/nanqkg/oc_annual_population_growth_rate_in_the_2010s_by/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northern_and_southern_China

4. Right now, Mongolia is the only country in East Asia with a TFR above replacement, close to 3. This is a reversal from the below-replacement level it reached after the collapse of the USSR. But as the chart in the article below shows, it may be starting to reverse since 2016. The geopolitics of Inner Mongolia should get interesting.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/may/11/analysis-chinas-ageing-population-predicament-global-implications-east-asia

5. According to the official numbers, China has a TFR of 1.3 "In 2019, only five countries had lower rates – South Korea, Singapore, Malta, Ukraine and Spain – according to World Bank data." To be fair, it's on par with Italy, Moldova, and a few other countries.

6. The gender gap is narrowing: "Data from Tuesday showed the practice was starting to decline. Among newborns, males outnumbered females from 111.3 to 100. Ten years ago the ratio was 118.1 percent."

7. Finally, 15% of the working-age population has some tertiary education, compared to 39% in the OECD and 345 in the US.

https://www.thebharatexpressnews.com/key-takeaways-from-the-chinese-census-results/

202:

6. Right now, the Inspiration4 flight is scheduled to launch Sept 15. This is the mission that will launch Tom Cruise. Russia will launch its own actor in October.

Right on the Inspiration 4 date, wrong on it being the Tom Cruise flight. He's currently expected to be on the second Axiom flight next year. Inspiration 4 is a 3 day free flight that isn't going to the ISS, not least because the docking mechanism is being replaced by an observation dome.

The Starlink launch last night had uninterrupted footage of the first stage landing back on OCISLY, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tdgg_qwj-hI is the SpaceX coverage, touchdown is about 24:30 in.

203:

You're right, my mistake.

204:

Yeah, a splendid opportunity to add yet more carbon to our upcoming bill. Just because it can be done doesn't mean it should be.

205:

I think you missed something: NOTE: the discoverer states "this vulnerability has no real-world implications."

206:

NOTE: the discoverer states "this vulnerability has no real-world implications."
Yeah, it's pure joke. (Made me laugh when I first read it though.)
Apply patches promptly, everyone. If you can't (and even if you can), strengthen whatever other measures you can, like firewalls, script blocking, be extra careful about attachments, etc.
(Fighting a home WiFi router for the last week or two, possibly compromised, certainly misbehaving with a sometimes-broken web console. Need to build another tool.)


207:

Vulch @ 202:

6. Right now, the Inspiration4 flight is scheduled to launch Sept 15. This is the mission that will launch Tom Cruise. Russia will launch its own actor in October.

Right on the Inspiration 4 date, wrong on it being the Tom Cruise flight. He's currently expected to be on the second Axiom flight next year. Inspiration 4 is a 3 day free flight that isn't going to the ISS, not least because the docking mechanism is being replaced by an observation dome.

Is he going up there to meet Xenu?


208:

I hope not. I'm a xenu-phobe.

210:

My dumbass nephew made the news...

In the dark?!? Damn, he is never going to hear the end of that.

(My dad and some friends exploded minor parts of their college campus, but nobody was hurt and they didn't get caught.)

211:

It does rather sound as though there's more to the story and in time someone will publish a summary of events and some recommendations.

I hope the nephew comes out of it ok.

212:

I want to get him a plaque which reads "Darwin Award, Second Place."

Can anyone translate a couple things for me from the paragraph which reads, "Officials say the incident all started when the first climber led the route and lowered off. The second climber then followed “and after climbing the route was cleaning the top anchors when [the 1st climber] said he saw his partner free fall from the top” and land in a large bush."

What does it mean that the first climber "lowered off." Also, what does "cleaning the top anchors" mean?

213:

"lowered off."

Got to the to then abseiled back down to the bottom.


"cleaning the top anchors"

As you climb you attach anchors to the rock and link your rope to it. Then the last climber will remove those anchors as they go past them. They're tied to a rope that goes all the way to the top then back down to the person on the ground, so they don't need any other anchors.

Are called "protection" in this diagram.

https://www.fix.com/blog/moving-from-the-climbing-gym-to-the-outdoors/

214:

The tricky part is often that top anchor - you have to leave it there. Generally you drop both ends of your rope to the bottom and the bight at the top runs through the anchor. You abseil down on that doubled rope, then when you are unhooked at the bottom pull one end, the other end goes up and through the anchor then falls down.

If the rope is clear both ways (common on short climbs), often the belayer will lower the climber rather than swapping over to a climber-controlled abseil. It's a bit of effort to swap without ever disconnecting from the anchor completely, and requires climbing carrying an abseil device.

Many climbs in popular areas have bolted-in top anchors so climbers can use those for lowering off. These days anywhere remotely popular will have those, or possibly just one lowering off point for a whole row of climbing routes. Of not it's common to carry a short length of old climbing rope, or just sacrifice a sling. Tie that off as an anchor, leave it in place.

There are several common mistakes made that lead to people falling as you describe.

* the person at the top assumes that the belayer still has them, while the belayer assumes the climber will abseil down using the doubled rope. If the climber does not check that they have resistance before stepping boldly backwards off the top... splat.

* less commonly the climber will set up for the abseil but make an error, or overestimate the amount of resistance that their gear will provide. They step back, can't hold tight enough and travel rapidly downwards while attached to the rope.

* less commonly the anchor fails. But again, the climber should check the anchor before stepping off.

* very occasionally some other bit of gear will fail. Did I mention checking your gear? You should check your gear.

215:

Just to make sure I have this right, the top anchor could have broken, my nephew might not have checked the resistance on the rope, or might have attempted to abseil down and failed to hold the rope with which he was lowering himself tightly enough, or some other piece of gear might have broken.

Alternately the climbing spot was popular-enough that there was a permanent anchor and it broke

216:

Or something else went wrong that my quick summary didn't think of.

But almost always the problem is human error.

217:

Right. Thanks very much for explaining all this, I now feel I have some understanding of what might have happened.

218:

There are other ways, for example this abomination: http://www.alpinist.com/doc/web19c/ms-beal-escaper

I found that the prospect of retreating with it motivates climbers to keep moving forward.

219:

Greg @ 162:

So, "the hash" is a set, but complicated known routine?
The whole thing is dependant upon not being able to crack the hashing code, yes?

Yes. Hashing is a standard part of cryptography which existed a long time before Bitcoin was invented; Nakamoto merely used it as part of the system. Bitcoin uses the SHA-256 algorithm which was one of a set developed by the US National Institute of Standards and Technology. It gets used everywhere. If you click on the little padlock in the URL bar for this web site and drill down into the certificate details you will see that the SHA-256 hash for the public key of this website is

96:0B:6C:00:22:97:C8:9E:1D:C6:9F:F1:6D:30:FF:AC:81:E7:41:BA:BE:5E:02:2D:6A:FB:AC:0A:3A:1B:28:DE

Another example use: when you install software on Windows it has to be "signed" by the publisher, otherwise Windows puts up scary warnings about not trusting it. What gets signed is not the actual file, its the hash of the file. This is because the signature algorithm would take too long if it had to do the entire file.

(In my earlier post I said the Bitcoin hash was 512 bits. I was wrong; Bitcoin uses the 256 bit variant).

If SHA-256 was cracked then a lot more things than Bitcoin would break. However that is not how things generally happen in practice. The design goal of SHA-256 is that it will take 2^256 (about 10^77) attempts to find an input which generates a given hash (known as a "collision"). The nightmare scenario is that someone finds a shortcut that lets them do it with only a few days of computer time. In that case I could create a website which masquerades as this one, or the UK government, or anything else. I could sign my malware to make Windows think it was a genuine Microsoft update. And I could also earn lots of Bitcoin :-/

But in practice that tends not to happen. What actually happens is that some cryptographers publish a paper showing how to knock a half a dozen zeros off the number, which makes it a million times easier, but still needing 10^71 attempts. Then someone else knocks another dozen zeros off a year later. Eventually it gets to the point where Google throws a few hundred GPU-years at the problem and publishes an actual collision, and everyone agrees that the algorithm is officially broken. You can see the story for the SHA-256's predecessor here.

But there is plenty of warning so anyone using that hash for anything important can migrate to a new improved algorithm. Cryptographers have been doing this for decades now, and the computer industry has the routine down fairly well.

And I DO UNDERSTAND "real" money.
Perhaps you would care to actually explain how a cryptocurrency based on a blockchain you know WORKS?

OK OK, no need to shout, I can hear you perfectly well.

I'd be happy to explain more if you can clarify the question (I just lurve geeksplaining). Do you want the technical details of how a signed transaction ends up being recognised as valid and placed on the blockchain? Or do you want to know how Bitcoin (or any other cryptocurrency) is useful in day-to-day commerce? Or something else?

If its about day-to-day use in commerce then the answer is simple: they aren't.

Satoshi Nakomoto was a computer science giant and an economic midget. - Agreed, but WHO THE FUCK IS HE - or "they" of course?
I assume various large guvmint agencies would LURVE to find out the answer to that.

All this is speculation of course, but I wouldn't be surprised to find that 1) they already know and 2) Nakamoto destroyed the keys to his early stash of bitcoins precisely so that it couldn't be used to destabilise the market. I read Nakamoto as a geek idealogue; the kind of person who thinks hard, reaches a (to him) logical conclusion, and then follows that conclusion to its logical end. Very Vulcan, in its way. I think he released Bitcoin because it seemed the logical thing to do. If so then destroying his initial wallet keys to protect it would also be the logical thing to do.

(I'm saying "he" because Satoshi Nakamoto is a male name and it's easier than saying "he/she/it/they" every time)

Suppose that large guvmint agencies find out who he is. What would they do with the information? Even if they managed to get Nakamoto's early keys and used them to crash its value, what would that achieve? There are plenty of other cryptocoins around, and the technology can't be uninvented.

Where you are wrong is @ 158
You still don't get that all money is "fiat" even, or maybe, especially, Gold.
Or maybe, you do?

I think I do, if I understand you correctly. I was using the term "fiat" in its usual sense: currencies that are issued by governments without being "backed" by something that has "real" value (like gold, silver, or tins of bully beef). My point was that ultimately all these things are only valuable because everyone believes them to be valuable. Is that what you meant?

Paul

220:

There are other ways, for example this abomination: http://www.alpinist.com/doc/web19c/ms-beal-escaper

The inventor isn't called Sam Gamgee by any chance?

221:

Re: '... males outnumbered females from 111.3 to 100. Ten years ago the ratio was 118.1 percent'

Glad this was mentioned: that the strong cultural preference for a male child when the one-baby rule was imposed ultimately resulted in approx. 1-in-7 males of the affected generation not able to find a female mate/wife thereby reducing overall reproductive rates into the future ... and so on.

Also a few single female co-workers who had left China because the corporate ladder climbing over there is more sexist than here in the West and made even worse because of the government mandated early retirement age imposed on women (approx. 50 yo). The few women I know are unlikely to move back to China. Anecdotal - yeah - because I've no idea what the past 40 years' official emigration by gender is.

222:

Re: '... if you want a blockchain secured'

I'm wondering how/whether distance somehow figures into this:

1- The farther away the funds are (off-planet) the longer the delay to (re-)accessing your funds. This seems at odds with the line that financial instrument traders are apt to move their offices as close as possible to trading exchanges in the hopes of providing their trading AI with a one or two nanosecond advantage.

2- If all these funds are kept off-planet, what is the risk that the data string (funds) get broken or lost via some natural (magnetic storm) or even a man-made event (weird combo of magic techie waves and/or particles) during transmission.

3- How can you check/verify that your e-funds still exist: what type of independent audit system is there? (Half wondering whether this ends up as Heisenberg's either you know how much money you have at a point-in-time or you know where it is but you can't know both simultaneously.)

223:

I skimmed the article. Gosh, I had never realized how friendly plants are. Why, this says that the large bush was able to break his fall, presumably rushing over from wherever it was....

224:

Yeah. Not terribly well-written, was it?

225:

Paul ( 219 )
Do you want the technical details of how a signed transaction ends up being recognised as valid and placed on the blockchain? - Yes
Oh & thanks, so far ....
I realise that for "normal" commercial transactions, Bitcoin is not the preferred option, shall we say?

"Real" as opposed to/being the same as "fiat" money.
Gold is only valuable, because people agreee that it's valuable - ditto Bully-Beef in a p.o.w. camp (!)
And the difference between that & people agreeing that a US$ is actually worth something ... is ... - yes, precisely.
So yes, that was exactly what I meant.
( 220 )
No: Galadriel

226:

Most of us with a brain and who think about it for a few minutes realize that $$$/£££/€€€ are just a way of equating how many chickens are the equivalent value of a flat screen TV or a day of labor me digging ditches for you. Everything else is a derivation of that concept.

227:

I realise that for "normal" commercial transactions, Bitcoin is not the preferred option, shall we say?

I think the blockchain cryptocurrency part inherently isn't why people don't do business with it, because you can in fact use it to pay for stuff. As an outsider, I see two problems that keep me out of it:

1. The value is hard to predict. Strict stability isn't necessary, because if you have a reasonably good idea of how much something will be worth when you exchange it, that's good enough (full faith and credit, really). With Bitcoin, my impression is that you can guess the value within an order of magnitude, which is not good enough.

2. Because of the blockchain, a lot of other entities know that the transaction exists. Moreover, a majority of the entities approving the transaction are in China, and again, that's not that great, especially if you're outside China. While there are many things I admire about China and many things that I despise about that vast country, the key factor for me is that I don't want to move my finances closer to the front in a potential China-US cyberwar than they already are.

228:

Troutwaxer @ 217: Right. Thanks very much for explaining all this, I now feel I have some understanding of what might have happened.

If you get a chance to talk to him, maybe he'll be able to explain what happened. I hope he gets better & you do get to talk to him.

229:

It finally crystallized in my mind: paying with cryptocurrency is like paying with a stock certificate... based on the value this hour.

230:

I want to get him a plaque which reads "Darwin Award, Second Place."

My oldest cousin died in a climbing accident. Sea stacks in Anglesey.

He was an instructor leading the climb. Apparently his student didn't belay so when my cousin fell he pulled both of them into the sea and they drowned. No idea who made the decision not to belay. Doesn't really matter now.

Nearly eight years now, but it still hurts.

231:

Greg asked for the gory technical details of Bitcoin. OK. This is going to take a bit of background. Satoshi Nakamoto didn't invent this all out of thin air; most of the components for Bitcoin were already in existence. Nakamoto just put them together in a novel way. I've already covered hashing algorithms. The other important bit is public key cryptography.

In a traditional "symmetric" key system, if Alice wants to send Bob a secret message she encrypts the message with a secret key, and Bob decrypts it with the same secret key. They know that nobody else can read it, and (less obviously) Bob also knows that Alice must have sent it, because nobody else has the key to encrypt it.

But how do they share the secret key in the first place?

Also, this means that if you have 100 people who want to communicate then each of them needs 99 secret keys to talk each of the others. There are ways around this with a single trusted authority handing out keys on demand, but that gets us back to the single point of failure.

Public key cryptography works like this: Alice and Bob both have two keys; a public key and a secret key. Each of them keeps their secret key secret, but publishes their public key to the whole world, including each other. Alice encrypts her message with Bob's public key, and Bob decrypts it with his secret key.

Each "key pair" of public and secret key is obviously related. The original scheme involved a public key that was the product of two very big (hundreds of digits) prime numbers, and the secret key was the individual primes (very roughly, and skipping over lots of number theory detail here). Multiplying the prime numbers is easy, but
factoring the product is known to be a very hard problem.

Modern systems use something called Elliptic Curves (don't ask), but the underlying idea is the same; the public key and secret key are related by some bit of number theory that is easy to do forwards but practically impossible (exact words) to reverse.

Going back to Alice and Bob; they know that nobody else can read the message but they have lost the other property; anyone could encrypt a message ending "yours sincerely, Alice" with Bob's public key, so he has no way of being sure that Alice sent it.

The solution is to turn the encryption around. Alice "encrypts" the message with her private key. Anyone getting it can now decrypt it with her public key, and be sure that Alice sent it. So now instead of a message that only Bob can read you have a message that only Alice could have sent. When you hear computer people talk about "digital signatures" this is the process they are referring to.

Obviously you can also combine the two processes to send messages that are both secret and signed.

Actually when Alice signs a message she generates a hash from the message and encrypts that, because that is faster than applying the encryption algorithm to the entire message. To verify the sender Bob decrypts the hash with Alice's public key, generates a new hash from the alleged message, and compares the two. If they match then Alice must be the sender.

Likewise when sending a secret message you don't encrypt the whole message using the public key. You generate a random "session key" for a traditional symmetric cypher, encrypt the message with that, and then encrypt the session key with the public key. As well as being faster, this means you can send the same long message to a list of
different people by just encrypting the session key once for each recipient, instead of encrypting the entire message for each recipient.


OK, back to Bitcoin. Bitcoins don't use the secret encryption part of this, but the whole scheme depends on digital signatures. If Bob wants to receive some bitcoins he generates an "address". This is actually a newly generated public key. The secret key is of course kept secret, but Bob can now send the address (aka public key) to Alice by whatever means he wants.

Alice meanwhile already has some bitcoins. She generates a message saying "Pay to {Bob's new address} 1 bitcoin, signed {Alice's bitcoin address}". (Actually the message is a bit more complicated; I'll come on to that later). Alice then transmits this message on a peer-to-peer network. Each peer ("node" in bitcoin-speak) checks at the transaction is valid, meaning that it is signed by an address which has that much
bitcoin to spend, and then forwards it on to all of their peers. So the message spreads around the world in a few seconds, including to Bob.

Most nodes just validate messages and pass them on, but some nodes are miners. Each miner accumulates a list of valid pending transactions and assembles them into a "block" which is going to be added to the ledger. Different miners may have slightly different blocks; that doesn't matter. As I explained previously, a valid block has a random number appended along with a hash code. The job of a miner is to find a random number that gives a hash code for the whole block less than the "difficulty". The difficulty is adjusted every few weeks to keep the average block rate to 1 every 10 minutes. Alice's message gets incorporated into the draft block by all the miners, and so when one of them wins the race to find the right random number the new block is broadcast to the peer-to-peer network, and the mining race begins again. At that point Alice's message paying 1 bitcoin to Bob has gone onto the blockchain (i.e. the bitcoin ledger) and is said to be "confirmed", so Bob can now see this and know that he has in fact got 1 bitcoin from Alice. Bob can now spend some or all of this bitcoin himself by sending his own message in the same way, signed with the secret key he generated at the beginning.

I said earlier that the payment messages are a bit more complicated. Lets say Alice has 3 bitcoins in address A1 and wants to pay one to Bob. She actually generates a new address which I will call A2 and sends a message saying "Pay 1 bitcoin to {Bob's address} and 1.99 bitcoins to {A2}, signed {A1}. The remaining 0.01 bitcoin goes as
a payment to the miner that wins the block containing the transaction. So there is a kind of bidding system for space in the blockchain; miners pick the messages that pay the most and leave any other messages for later, or perhaps never. So paying bitcoins is always an interesting exercise in guessing how much you need to pay to get into the next block. If you guess wrong your message could stay in limbo indefinitely (there is now a system for retransmitting it with a higher payment).

To check that Alice's message is valid each node merely (!) has to look through the whole blockchain for any message sending bitcoins to or from address A1 and add them up. That is the balance in A1. If the signature checks out and the balance is equal or greater than the amount spent in Alice's latest message then the message is a valid transaction.

When a miner finds a new block they transmit it over the peer-to-peer network. Each node in the network verifies that all the transactions are valid and the hash of the block is less than the current difficulty. Once the block is accepted it gets added to the node's copy of the blockchain and forwarded on to that node's contacts.

Simples!

232:

Oh man, I am so sorry.

233:

If Bob wants to receive some bitcoins he generates an "address". This is actually a newly generated public key.

You forgot the most exciting part. Bob uses a bit of software to generate a private key/public key pair. If Bob chooses the right software their new private key will be a long random string of bits. But if not the new key might be as little as 32 random bits padded with a lot of zeros.

Someone made more than $US20M by watching for those 8M public keys (4M 32 bit numbers, with the zero padding on the front or the back) and immediately sending a "pay the balance to me" transaction every time money went into one. Apparently the bug existed in more than one "crypto wallet' program.

234:

Back on topic, I came across this interesting article about the energy usage of Bitcoin mining:

"The authors estimated the energy consumption of the entire bitcoin network at 113.89 terawatts per hour - 99% of which comes from operating mining machines. To contrast, Cambridge's Centre for Alternative Finance estimated bitcoin's energy consumption at 128 terawatts per hour as of March 2021.

Based on their calculations, bitcoin's energy consumption is only half of the traditional banking system's 263.72 terawatts per hour and gold mining's 240.61 terawatts per hour.

The authors also said that many don't realize how much less energy bitcoin uses because of how limited transparency can be into gold and financial-system data.

Read more: 'Wolf of All Streets' crypto trader Scott Melker breaks down his strategy for making money using 'HODLing' and 100-times trade opportunities - and shares 5 under-the-radar tokens he thinks could explode
Comparing energy consumption of bitcoin, gold, and traditional banking system."

https://markets.businessinsider.com/currencies/news/bitcoin-mining-energy-consumption-traditional-banking-mike-novogratz-galaxy-digital-2021-5-1030437709

I'd be wary of this study for now, since it only looks at Bitcoin, not the combined energy usage of all cryptocurrencies. However, it does seem plausible. Below are the numbers for cloud computing globally

"To the Editor — Data centres account for 200 TWh yr–1, or around 1% of total global electricity demand1. While their energy usage has been stable in recent years as efficiencies increase, it may grow to between 15–30% of electricity consumption in some countries by 2030 (ref. 2)."

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41558-020-0837-6

235:

Based on their calculations, bitcoin's energy consumption is only half of the traditional banking system's 263.72 terawatts per hour and gold mining's 240.61 terawatts per hour.

I don't think I'd ever wondered about banking but it's not surprising; just keeping an ATM running on every street corner adds up when they cover continents. But turn that around: half the energy of keeping untold millions of small computers running is used up by wanking about Bitcoins? Yikes.

Mining likewise uses a lot of power but we expect mining to be a high-energy undertaking and we get metals at the end of the process.

236:

Yeah, but the total net worth of all bitcoins right now is $160 billion, give or take. I'm not sure what the size of the banking sector is, but from XKCD's now-dated Money figure, back in 2011, world GDP was $62.9 trillion, or about 400 times bigger than Bitcoin. So if Bitcoin's using as much energy as the banking sector right now, it's around 100 times less energy efficient. I'd suggest shutting it down until someone comes up with a way of producing cryptids (or whatever the generic unit of cryptocurrency is) that's at least 100 times more energy-efficient than Bitcoin. No point in wasting so much for so little owned by so few.

237:

Depends how you measure it - if high speed trading counts then those trades alone are bigger than GDP. They trade multiples of their capital every year, which is why market trading isn't included in GDP.

Also, not all bitcoin changes hands every year. Even excluding the 20% or so that is thought to be lost (ie, it has been mined but the private key is no longer known)

Trouble is that if you exclude market trading from your measure... you should also exclude craptocurrency trading. Albeit I suspect that crapto trading is actually very low energy compared to mining, so long as you exclude mining from trading (mining is how trades get confirmed, but continues even without trades)

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/High-frequency_trading

238:

The Business Insider piece is just embarrassing; writers should be punished for stuff like "terawatts per hour".

The actual pdf, from github, is a seriously wild free-for-all estimation spree[1], comparing huge hordes of hamsters, small bags of apples, and small boat loads of stony-iron meteorites.
https://github.com/GalaxyDigitalLLC/Financial-Industry-Electricity-Balance/blob/main/out/main.pdf
(For instance, if all financial transactions were bitcoin-based, then bitcoin would pick up the most of the banking energy usage in their analysis, at a very minimum.)
Yeah, gold mining sucks. I like gold (it doesn't tarnish), and wish my cables had slightly thicker gold on the contacts.

Galaxy Digital, the cryptocurrency firm of bitcoin enthusiast Mike Novogratz released the study on Friday, accompanied by open-source access to its calculations.
Sure.
As of April 23, 2021, the reported annualized usage of the Bitcoin network is 113.88 TWh/yr, which is taken to be E Miners in Eq. (1.1).
And they go with that number.
Which is near the bottom of a dip in the graph(or csv) at the https://cbeci.org/ that they cite.
If they went with May 13 2021, it would be 151.16 TWh/yr.
151.16/113.88 = 1.33.
(Is their choice of a dip a finance joke about buying the dips? Yes, curiously, they accessed the data "May 13, 2021", and then cherry picked the history.)

[1] Even by my standards of wild, which are ... high. :-) (Seriously, estimates used for comparison should be precise enough that the results are useful for comparison.)

239:

Ioan @ 234: Based on their calculations, bitcoin's energy consumption is only half of the traditional banking system's 263.72 terawatts per hour and gold mining's 240.61 terawatts per hour.


Of course gold mining is environmentally unfriendly in a long list of ways. Energy consumption is the least of it.

The problem with bitcoin energy consumption is that mining bitcoins is paid in bitcoins, so if the bitcoin price doubles then its worth spending twice as much on electricity to mine them, so the electricity consumption goes up in proportion with the price. If the price increases by another factor of 10 then it looks like bitcoins will be taking a substantial fraction of the electricity supply of the planet.

In fact in some countries this is already an issue. These tend to be badly run countries where electricity is either subsidised or widely pilfered. Some people have figured out that they can make money by mining on cheap household electricity; the electricity board pays the extra cost in subsidies, and the neighbourhood pays in increased brownouts and power cuts. Having bitcoins instead of the unstable local currency is a nice bonus.

Set against this are two things:

1. Every few years the number of bitcoins paid per block halves, so the electricity consumption will halve periodically too. Its a race between price increases and the reward cuts.

2. Even if the price doubles, miners still need to buy extra mining machines. So in reality the electricity consumption increase isn't quite so high. Nevertheless the guy who is using an old coal-fired power plant to generate electricity for mining is a harbinger of the future. This also means that one way to limit the environmental damage of bitcoin mining is to ration the supply of mining hardware. Bitcoin mining chips require chip fabs to make and are no use for anything else, so that looks like a plausible pinch-point for government control.

(You need specialist hardware to mine bitcoins because the process is a race to compute as many SHA-256 hashes as possible. This has made it economic to produce specialist chips that do nothing except compute SHA-256 hashes. Using anything else for the job is so slow in comparison that its just not economic.)

While I'm talking about mining hardware, has anyone tried to buy a graphics card recently? Its difficult, and you will pay a lot more than you should. The reason is that the designers of other cryptocurrencies looked at the CPU-bound mining process of bitcoin and decided to use hash algorithms that were limited by memory instead of CPU, in the hope of shifting the cost of mining to memory. This worked, but it means that a graphics card with sufficient on-board memory is an efficient mining machine, so the rise in prices of other cryptocurrencies means that everyone is trying to hook up a dozen high-end graphics cards in parallel to make a mining rig. If this is done in a cold country then the actual electricity cost drops because the mining rig generates heat which would otherwise be produced by running the same electricity through an electric heater.

240:

The reason people dont use Bitcoins for regular commerce is that it is literally not possible to do so.

Remember that long explanation of the technical innards? Transactions are part of new blocks. New blocks are limited per week. Each block only contains so many transactions.
You can literally only carry out under ten transactions per second across all bitcoins in existence. This suffices when the only trades are speculators holding onto their coins for months on end, but if significant numbers of people wanted to actually get paid in, and promptly spend bitcoins... They would simply find it impossible. Bidding on getting into the next block would mushroom until sufficient numbers of would-be traders gave it up as a mugs game.

The designer of bitcoin put a poison pill at the heart of it guaranteeing that it could never, ever replace fiat currencies. Hence, regardless of their public statements, I presume they are/were either a scammer, or literally a NSA working group wanting a tracking tool for the underground economy.

241:

You can literally only carry out under ten transactions per second across all bitcoins in existence.

Actually that is no longer true. The Lightning Network is a way to move bitcoins without adding a new entry on the blockchain for each transaction. Its complicated and there are some distinct disadvantages, but it does offer a couple of orders of magnitude improvement for small payments.

Warning: the underlying details make the blockchain look simple; I don't think I'm up to geeksplaining it.

242:

Does it boil down to "Let us hold your bitcoins for you. Here's some technobabble. Trust us!" ?

243:

Yes. It is straightforwardly a bank issuing notes "backed" by bitcoin, with much technobabble to disguise that fact, because the overwhelming majority of "investors" in bitcoin have.. let us say Issues with banks.

244:

Does it boil down to "Let us hold your bitcoins for you. Here's some technobabble. Trust us!" ?

No it does not. To set up a channel the node at each end puts some coins into a transaction which is locked to a future time (actually, a future block on the blockchain). When one side sends money to another they can update the copy of the transaction and send it to the other end. Finally the transaction can be closed out so they each get the right amount back. It needs one entry on the blockchain to set up, and another to close it out. If one side tries to cheat the other can simply let the whole thing time out.

There is also a way of setting up a chain of transactions across the network so you don't need a direct link to the party you want to send the coins to. Like I said, the details are complicated, but you don't need to trust anyone.

The major risk is that your counterparty nodes can't tell the difference between you trying to steal coins and just going innocently off-line due to a network failure, so if you can't stay on-line you could lose your coins. Also the coins in the channel are on-line all the time, so they are more vulnerable if your node gets hacked.

I have to confess my brain went cross-eyed when I tried to understand the details, so please don't ask me for a geeksplanation that is any more detailed than that. The Wikipedia article is a good place to start.

245:

Any thoughts on this?
My take is that some SUPERSECRET guvmint agency ( DARPA? ) is playing games & the left hand is deliberately not telling anyone else AT ALL.
Where the Gripping Hand might be & what it's gripping, is anyone's guess.

246:

The problem with the "secret government agency" theory is that they have access to a number of huge missile ranges that can be certified free of aircraft with cameras. Why be seen?

247:

I see three possible reasons for this:

It's aliens and the government is getting us ready for the big reveal. (Unlikely, to say the least.)

Someone has MUCH better tech than the U.S. Navy/Air Force/etc. and the problem has become too big to hide.

There was some kind of procurement SNAFU involving video displays which allows this to occur as an unwanted "special effect" and that story is expected to break soon.

So I'm guessing either the second or third, though I'd love to hear that we're not alone.

248:

I'll get to the really cool Laundryverse version at the end, but here's my take, at least for the UFO/USOs (submerging UFOs) around Catalina, which is near San Clemente and in the middle of the big Navy test and practice range around San Clemente and out to San Nicholas.

One thing to realize is that Catalina's been the center of weird stuff for a very long time--pre Contact, it was a major religious center for Southern California Indians, and there have been UFO/USO sightings off there for going on 70 years or more, along with all sorts of supernatural stuff (and one day I'll finish that book I set partly out there). So it's a great place to have sightings of the Unknown, whatever's causing the phenomena.

The second thing is that this is all off the Port of Los Angeles, so there are LOTS of ships in the vicinity--pleasure boats, fishing boats, military craft, and commercial boats. It's crowded waters, not the back end of beyond like the North Pacific. That makes a bit of a problem for someone trying to sneak in and out.

What does this all mean?

Well, it could be Chinese/Russian drones, flying from commercial vessels tracking into or out of LA. Problem with that is that if they get caught, the repercussions are rather enormous. But it would be easier to confine an operation to a commercial vessel or a yacht than to launch it from the shore. It's also not being launched from Catalina, unless the Wrigley Family are Russian or Chinese spies (which I strongly doubt). The island's visited by a lot of tourists, and it would be hard to set up the operation without someone noticing, except possibly at the Wrigley Ranch. And as with a UFO drone flying off a boat, noticing that the UFOs are flying onto the island, or onto boats in the water around it, would spoil the operation. One thing I should note is that Catalina, in fact that whole area, is really, really quiet, to the point where you can hear boats miles offshore. So flying a drone in and out without someone noticing demands really quiet technology and a fair amount of luck.

It could be civilians goofing around. Same problems as with the foreign operations, really. The only thing I'd add is that people have been flying RC UFOs around the LA area for at least a decade (I wanted one when I read about it), so I could believe that someone was being a dick and flying their RC or autonomous drone around a military vessel. Not getting caught is the hard part with this story.

To me, the most likely scenarios are video SNAFUs and US military operations, and it's probably a mix of both. I'll ignore the SNAFUs, which others understand better than I do, and focus on the military stuff, which others understand better than I do...Contrary to what you might think, the US has a long history of running tests on its own forces to check their readiness. Back in the day, pretending to be terrorists and infiltrating bases to test security was one of SEAL Team 6's missions, and there are still Red Hat forces at Area 51 to give pilots experience against Russian planes. Given how much they invest in base security around here, I'd expect them to test it occasionally.

If I had to bet, I'd guess that there's a counter cyberwar outfit somewhere in the Specwar community flying UFOs against conventional military, to see how they react to stuff that makes no sense and screws with their sensors. These fine lunatics then (possibly) debrief the captain and command crew over how the exercise went, but don't read in the rest of the crew, because they don't want them to get complacent.

Another possibility (not mutually exclusive) is that the Black Ops community using US military crews to test bleeding edge technology, and they're leaking some of the tests now for a reason. This is something they've done before (the trio of dorito chip planes over Texas about 5 years ago), so I wouldn't be surprised. The dorito chips leak was pretty clearly a pointed gesture to the Russians that we have stuff in our arsenal that they don't have the doctrine to handle, so throttling down their jets might be wise.

And finally, we have the possibility that there is an alien base in the California Bight, the poor sods. If so, then one could make a really interesting Lovecraftian B-story over why the US chemical industry dumped such huge amounts of DDT and other toxic stuff in the waters off Catalina. (e.g. https://www.latimes.com/projects/la-coast-ddt-dumping-ground/). It's really a horror down there, with thousands of leaking cans. Perhaps it wasn't just what it looks like, a colossal act of environmental damage and hubris. Perhaps they were trying to poison Them, whoever They are. If so, it didn't work.

The fun part is that none of these explanations are mutually exclusive. Someone could right a gonzo story where they're all partly true. Paging Bruce Sterling....

249:

That particular one?

Looks like a balloon that's lost its helium gradually sinking until a wave hits it.

250:

If it was deflating, how did it keep its shape then suddenly disappear? There's enough in the video to show that the ocean wasn't calm beneath it. If it's a partially inflated balloon, it's bizarre that it would hold its shape and apparently move in an environment that wasn't still.

I forgot to point out one reason for doing UFO tests off Southern California: Hollywood. It's a good place to hide/hire special effects companies to come up with stuff to test military systems and crews. This is well-known: there's a company that specializes in faking traumatic attacks for the combat medics training at Pendleton, for example (they hire amputees, and I'll let you figure out how they're made up to train the medics). There's also a lot of industrial shops scattered all over the basin, some working for Hollywood, some for the military. It's an easier environment to come up with and deploy some weird effect than elsewhere, because both industries can be very secretive.

As for the putative balloon, it was hot on IR. So perhaps it was set up to be really visible on IR, then rapidly disappear, perhaps using a bit of seawater to cool off? While it's circular in cross section, I'm not sure what about the shape of the rest of it. Perhaps it was some sort of RC plane, like Superman here or this commercially available octocopter. That's the point, that it's hard to identify unknowns from sensor videos. Someone setting out to spoof sensors with known properties in a known area could have a lot of fun with the crews manning the sensors, especially if the latter are new to the area and rotating in for training.

251:

I didn't see any movement. The camera jiggled a bit while it got a lock on it. Then you could see the background moving, which is what you get when you look at a floating object from a moving aircraft.

Being foil is only going to reflect IR, so you'll see reflected light. The moment it's swamped by water you're not going to see it in IR. Water will block any reflections, like dipping a mirror into milk.

I'm not sure it was a balloon, but it didn't do anything that I wouldn't expect a balloon to do. Maybe it's an Alien spacecraft cunningly disguised as a gender reveal balloon. "It's a BOY" (no, it's an alien).

252:

H
If I had to bet, I'd guess that there's a counter cyberwar outfit somewhere in the Specwar community flying UFOs against conventional military, to see how they react to stuff that makes no sense and screws with their sensors.
Seems the most likely, doesn't it?
With this the Black Ops community using US military crews to test bleeding edge technology, and they're leaking some of the tests now for a reason. a close second

253:

Meanwhile ( Deliberate separate posting )
What are the USA-ians take on this possile horror?
Bets as to which way they will jump?

254:

Well, it's an interesting lose-lose-win scenario.

There's been a fuss for decades that sweeping abortion rights allowed by a court ruling is a problem. IIRC, even the late Justice Ginsburg had reservations.

So it gets struck down, then what?

Well, most Americans want access to abortion, so if it's suddenly illegal across much of the US, that's a problem for the Republicans, not the Democrats. If the Supreme Court strikes down abortion, the outcry is probably going to force the democrats in the Senate to do something drastic, like kill the fillibuster, make abortion the law of the land, and expand the Supreme Court so that it's less capable of doing stupid, destructive things.

At the very least, I don't think the Republicans are going to make bank off this. Right now, the Democrats are too busy trying to repair the damage of the last decade to deal with electoral politics. Striking down abortion will definitely put electoral politics, along with wiping out the MAGAts as a political force, front and center on a huge number of radars, including mine.

We'll see how stupid and doctrinaire the new justices are. My uninformed take is that they'll keep the law standing. That will piss off Republicans and energize them for the 2022 election. We'll see.

255:

My take on the UFOs is a natural phenomena, akin to the Hessdalen lights https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hessdalen_lights
I remember reading somewhere theories about naturally occurring mirrored plasma spheres, unfortunately I can't remember where. But something like this, caused by geomagnetic effects or some such.
I think the reason we are seeing all these videos etc is that they have determined that whilst they don't necessarily know what they are; they are not aliens, Russians etc. I also think if they were "red team" tests they wouldn't publicise them either.
Alternatively any other option. I would love it to be something more exciting, parallel world incursion or something!

256:

I'm not clear what a natural mirrored plasma sphere is, although I agree that I'm not clear on what a will o' the wisp is either. That said, some of the stuff the sailors saw in 2019 was thought to be drones, not natural phenomena (e.g. https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/39913/multiple-destroyers-were-swarmed-by-mysterious-drones-off-california-over-numerous-nights). As for the US government and UFOs, it's pretty clear from Project Oxcart (forerunner of the SR-71), that they're perfectly happy with letting unknown projects be seen in public as UFOs, at least on some occasions.

That doesn't mean that what the ships experienced off my coast were Red Team exercises. But given that they're both heavily traveled by many vessels and used as military training grounds, it doesn't make a lot of sense for a foreign government to launch a drone swarm. It would be like the US Air Force launching a small flight of drones against some Russian Destroyers training in the Black Sea. It's not clear what they'd learn, and the chance of a diplomatic incident or worse seems rather high. Why bother? Even though a Red Team exercise seems less likely, it makes more sense in the area. They could fly the drones off another ship or even off San Clemente Island, and they'd have access to the reports from both the UFO side and the ship side, which would be useful.

257:

dpb @ 242: Does it boil down to "Let us hold your bitcoins for you. Here's some technobabble. Trust us!" ?

You can't cheat an honest man, you can only rob him.

258:

Mentioned this before, but I think the US military is working on post-stealth doctrine. Sensors are getting better, and past a certain point, stealth is just not going to work - if "radars" sense air-flows for example, literally anything that flies is going to show up as an out-of-place airflow, because without that, you fall out of the sky.

Once hiding becomes impossible, how do you avoid getting shot out of the sky on a regular basis? Well, Filling the sky with lots of false positives is the next best thing.. So a lot of this is likely various mad-science schemes to do that, being tested against team blue.

259:

Greg Tingey @ 245: Any thoughts on this?
My take is that some SUPERSECRET guvmint agency ( DARPA? ) is playing games & the left hand is deliberately not telling anyone else AT ALL.
Where the Gripping Hand might be & what it's gripping, is anyone's guess.

The thing to keep in mind about UFOs is the 'U' stands for UN-identified. If it had been identified, the government might try to cover it up, but even the U.S. military isn't so stupid they'd keep posting videos that make people ask questions after they know it's some SUPERSECRET defense project.

If it was some secret organization somewhere in the bowels of the U.S. Defense establishment, by now they would surely have had a quiet word with the Navy to COOL It! with declassifying UFO videos.

They might not tell what it is, but they would tell them to keep their noses out of it ... and stop making waves.

You classify the shit out of it and stop talking about it.

And DARPA is no supersecret. Anyone with half a clue knows who they are and what they do, especially anyone with half a clue & an internet account, since the internet is the result of one of DARPA's "blue sky" funding schemes from half a century ago.

Hell, they even have a website where you can go and find out how to apply for DARPA funding today if you want to get in on the action.

260:

Heteromeles @ 248:

[ ... ]

Well, it could be Chinese/Russian drones, flying from commercial vessels tracking into or out of LA. Problem with that is that if they get caught, the repercussions are rather enormous. [ ... ] So flying a drone in and out without someone noticing demands really quiet technology and a fair amount of luck.

[ ... ]

Couple of thoughts on that.

The Russians & Chinese are not the only nation states that spy on the U.S. And there are plenty on NON-nation state actors as well.

Almost all of the videos I've seen are some kind of "thermal images". They show a spherical area of something that is much hotter than the surrounding area. And that's ALL they really show. There's no range data, no size data, no course data, no ground-speed data ... just a blob of heat moving across the field of view.

So what is it? Nuclear powered flying saucer? Or a weather baloon with a railroad flare dangling from a string?

If I put my mind to it, I could probably figure a way to create something that would produce that kind of image on a thermal sensor with COTS hardware. I don't have the resources of a nation state or non-state actor, but for those who do, a deniable operation wouldn't have repercussions that great.

Hell, we've never identified who was responsible for this?
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/915059.stm

How many "repercussions" have they faced? Note: That's the one they found. Was it the only one? Or have there been others that were completed and haven't been caught.

261:

Heteromeles @ 250: If it was deflating, how did it keep its shape then suddenly disappear? There's enough in the video to show that the ocean wasn't calm beneath it. If it's a partially inflated balloon, it's bizarre that it would hold its shape and apparently move in an environment that wasn't still.

It's a thermal image. All you can tell is it's something with a sufficiently higher temperature than the background that it was detectable in a thermal image. The shape is simply a "hot spot" against a cooler background. And if it went into the water, it's not at all suspicious it suddenly became cool enough to no longer stand out against the background.


262:

Greg Tingey @ 253:Meanwhile ( Deliberate separate posting )
What are the USA-ians take on this possile horror?
Bets as to which way they will jump?

Brett Kavanaugh’s latest decision should alarm liberals

It's no secret that Republicans intend to impose Theonomic Fascism on the U.S.

Republican "leaders" will, of course, be above the law and exempt from any inconvenience caused by those rules.

263:

I know multiple people around the US who work for "I can't tell" doing "I can't say" and are fairly adamant about not speaking about it. All of them are VERY smart people.

I can imagine all kinds of odd reasons for the various UFO sightings.

What's interesting is they are dumping all of this out now. I wonder a small bit if this big dump isn't to push something else off the news cycle.

264:

Oh, yeah. DARPA it isn't.

There are multiple places where the US does all kinds of hidden research and such that are 3 or 4 levels removed from anything spoken about in public.

It would be hard to do today but the A-12 was designed in almost total secrecy. Ditto the F117. But there were lots of reports during later testing stages of odd lights in formation over Colorado or similar that turned out to be the F117 testing flights.

But harking back to my comment on the Mississippi River bridge. It's hard to do almost anything with people around and some bit NOT get on a camera picture or video.

265:

The Gripping Hamd is around your neck, always.

266:

Republican "leaders" will, of course, be above the law and exempt from any inconvenience caused by those rules.

It's worked for Cuban cigars, call girls, drugs, bribes, corruption… why wouldn't it work for abortions too?

(Actually, IIRC it worked that way when abortion was illegal too — those in power had no trouble finding discreet doctors when necessary.)

267:

In news that I am sure will warm the hearts of readers of this blog, Bitcoin has now fallen below $40,000 (from a high of just over $60,000).

268:

JBS
Thanks (!) for confirming my worst suspicions

What happens if the Rethuglican "supreme court" goes all C17th-catholic ...
Does the Biden admin, either/both: Appoint extra Justices &/or "simply" pass a new Act that makes abortion legal across all states?

269:

I really don't see what is unlikely for one branch of the USA military-spook industry to test out the 'stealthness' of a new toy by seeing whether they could fool another branch. It's such an obvious method :-)

270:

Because that is how you wind up with blue-on-blue friendly fire incidents.

271:

"The shape is simply a "hot spot" against a cooler background. And if it went into the water, it's not at all suspicious it suddenly became cool enough to no longer stand out against the background."


https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sky_lantern

Not much wreckage when a tissue paper balloon lands in the sea.

But it doesn't even have to be actively emitting heat. It can just as easily be shiny mylar reflecting the sun.

272:

I didn't explain very well about the mirrored plasma spheres. I read about the in context of explaining UFOs, as supposedly they'd look like metallic spheres. I couldn't find any reference to it with a quick search, but there are plasma mirrors http://iramis.cea.fr/LIDYL/Phocea/Page/index.php?id=175&ref=168
This is not exactly support for my idea though!

273:

If it is a drone being tested, so what?

274:

What happens if the Rethuglican "supreme court" goes all C17th-catholic ...

One of the unpleasant aspects of abortion in the US is that in some states it is becoming a luxury. If a rich woman (or a young woman with rich parents) gets pregnant in Missouri then they can travel to the state's only abortion clinic, stay in a hotel for the days legally required for her to "reconsider", and also pay for the procedure. For poor working single mothers these things can present an insuperable obstacle already. The courts have pretended that the practical difficulties are not an issue. The reality on the ground is already different.

If Roe-vs-Wade gets reversed, even in part, well that just puts more pressure on poor people. The rich can still take a flight to California, where things are going to stay more liberal. The poor will just have to bear the child. After all, its their fault for getting pregnant, isn't it?

275:

Re: 'If it is a drone being tested, so what?'

Depends on whose drone it is ...

I'm adding Mexican/Colombian drug cartel into the mix of possible owners/operators - maybe some alternative or supplementary delivery scheme to that tunnel mentioned below. After all - about a year or so ago, there was some news about a cartel using small auto-piloted/remote-controlled submarines somewhere around the Caribbean/Atlantic so maybe they've decided to expand their options.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-51304861

'US officials say they have discovered the longest smuggling tunnel ever found on the border with Mexico.

Stretching for 4,309ft (1,313m), the tunnel had a lift, rail track, drainage and air ventilation systems, and high voltage electrical cables.'

A couple of questions:

1- Is there any way to 'tag' a metallic/ceramic/plastic - or whatever material this balloon/ship is made of - electronically or via light or acoustic signature? If yes, then it'd make sense for the authorities to watch where it lands.

2- If this is drug smuggling and whoever is sending it accepts writing off a few losses whenever this 'UFO" is sighted by the public/authorities - by ditching the carrier and contents - as part of doing business and then these drugs end up spread out on the terrain or in the ocean - what's the environmental impact? I'm guessing that most animals - reptiles included - would be affected but have no idea to what extent. I'm also guessing that there would be a multiplier effect when a predator or scavenger eats the first animal that succumbs to the drug - as happens with poisoned rats and pigeons/crows.


276:

If Roe-vs-Wade gets reversed,

What many not in the US may not realize (and a non trivial number who do live in the US), RvW set a national standard that prevented outlawing abortion. Implementing a nation ban is very very unlikely. SCOTUS can't do it. It would require an act of Congress or an amendment which is a huge lift. 60 votes in the Senate for sure just now and not all R Senators would be on board.

I think that someone like 60% or more of the US population lives where abortion is and would be legal no matter what happens with RvW.

And the current analysis of Congressional seats and polling leads many to think that a SCOTUS overthrow of RvW would lead to some major R losses in elections. Public sentiment is not for such a thing at this time.

277:

I'm a bit confused here. Its a thermal IR image and the cold sea is dark. Does that not mean the representation being used is dark-is-cold? It will depend on the wave band being used, but the sea haze above the surface is often brighter - depending on atmospheric conditions (wind/humidity/time of day).

I wondered about a defective cool pixel in an image that has had a positive going noise reduction/smoothing applied. IR sensors are notorious for the numbers of duff pixels the cameras "correct" for. Some cameras run a calibration at start up. If after that a pixel goes wonky, the calibration will be out to lunch.

278:

While I'm talking about mining hardware, has anyone tried to buy a graphics card recently? Its difficult, and you will pay a lot more than you should. The reason is that the designers of other cryptocurrencies looked at the CPU-bound mining process of bitcoin and decided to use hash algorithms that were limited by memory instead of CPU, in the hope of shifting the cost of mining to memory.

Nvidia is on iteration 2 of trying to lock their cards out of crypto mining. Sort of. Kind of.

https://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2021/05/nvidia-will-add-anti-mining-flags-to-the-rest-of-its-rtx-3000-gpu-series/

Workstation graphics card suitable for CAD are getting hard to buy. Now toss in the chip shortage and system that were on a 3 week lead time a year ago are now on a 6 months lead time.

279:

@255

An invasion from New Britain?
Or is that a spoiler for "Empire Games"?

280:


@279:
Oops, I meant "Invisible Sun".

281:

The current GPU card shortage is sort-of artificial in that it's only the new super-hot video cards which are scarce and over-priced. There are plenty of older cards around even if the second-hand prices have risen somewhat but last-generation CAD/AI workstation cards are not that difficult to find. Those older cards can't mine crypto the way the new cards can or play the latest games or handle VR but anyone doing visual modelling or CAD can make do with a 3GB Quadro K4000 (eBay price £60-70) for most purposes. That was a £1000 card back when it was first offered for sale in 2013. Higher-spec cards like the 8GB Quadro M4000 can be had for £200 today.

282:

The problem is for those of us want to NOT build custom systems but buy somewhat standard setups so offices aren't a mismash of custom setups.

I suspect that the school cycle of North America and Europe is a factor here. HP and Dell and such are going to prioritize shipping a few 10,000 at a time to school districts and upper ed over filling one at a time orders for folks like me.

But when I check with re-sellers the US distributors are running very lean. Take what is on the shelf or wait a week or few.

283:

On the subject of UFOs I'd like to note that with enough thrust, even a brick can fly. And today we have huge amounts of very lightweight high efficiency thrusters, limited only by the capacity of their batteries/fuel tanks. We also have the high speed electronics to control batshit-insane numbers of props or jets pointing in weird directions and aerodynamically unstable configurations.

To put it in perspective, the Royal Marines have been releasing video of them testing out boarding vessels in motion using jet packs: not the crappy 1960s James Bond popularized peroxide bottle rockets, but real jet backpacks, with clusters of fuel-burning microturbines at wrist and shoulder. If you think about it, this is quite impressive: the turbines can't in aggregate weigh more than about 10kg and they're able to lift a fully-equipped soldier (at least 100kg) against gravity and fly at upwards of 60km/h for, reportedly, minutes (not seconds, as with the peroxide packs of yore).

Take that tech and remove the shaved ape and you can turn it into a drone with quite a range -- or use the microturbines as electrical generators to power clusters of electric fans on a big-ass quadrotor or octarotor frame.

There's no reason for such drones to be axially or radially symmetrical, aerodynamically stable, or even rigid: changing shape in flight is an option. So is submersibility, making for a hybrid submarine/helicopter drone.

If the objective is recon, we have insanely high resolution sensors these days, and can stash a terabyte of images on a micro-SDXC card the size of my little fingernail.

Upshot: your hypothetical Black Ops adversarial team is entirely plausible, but there are even wilder possibilities out there even in the civilian sector, using COTS tech rather than the usual military cost-plus procurement which isn't cleared to start building hardware until the weight of paperwork exceeds the fully fuelled-up launch vehicle.

284:

Sensors are getting better, and past a certain point, stealth is just not going to work

It has been noted that in the modern era, the life expectancy of a military airframe is 30+ years. However, a generation in radar signal processing is 10 years at best. Stealth is a function of the airframe, and usually requires compromises that impair its aerodynamics (as witness the "low observable" B-1B that could barely go supersonic, because the redesign to reduce its radar cross-section reduced the air intake ramps supersonic performance). So "stealth" planes usually progressively lose effectiveness against air defenses during their service lifespan.

"Low observability" (ie. airframes that don't have honking great big radar reflectors on every surface) is normal these days, everyone does it. The Eurofighter Typhoon II or the Su-36 would be considered stealthy by 1970s to early 1980s standards. But "pure" stealth designs are probably best left to drones, which are cheaper and can be obsolesced/replaced faster than expensive crewed aircraft.

285:

Greg: bear in mind that although the US Supreme Court is about 80% Catholics by declared faith, roughly 80% of US Catholics are okay with abortion and contraception per opinion polling.

The real anti-abortion/anti-choice center of gravity in US politics is with the Southern Baptist Convention, i.e. the bonkers snake-fondling Protestants.

Nor can you predict how an SC justice will jump from what they said or did before they were appointed to the bench. It's a lifetime post, they have tenure, they can do what the hell they want -- much like the Pope (except there's only one Pope, not a squabbling committee of them). Appointment to the Supreme Court is highly politicised but the justices tend to be more independent-minded than the politicians who appoint them would like.

Flip side: some of them turn out to be much, much worse than anyone expected. And others -- Kavanaugh in particular -- may be vulnerable to blackmail (someone paid off about $200,000 in credit card debts for him before he made the court; he also somehow bought a $2M house in DC on a lower level judge's salary, which is just not plausible).

286:

Oh, I agree (cf the RC superman I linked to above). There are a couple of problems though. One is that there's a lot of SIGINT equipment around that part of the ocean: two of the four southern Channel Islands (San Clemente and San Nicolas) are military reservations, and the Navy likes to practice in the surrounding waters. That's where these UFOs are popping up. Your hypothetical enemy actor would not just have to fly a drone in there (or worse, let an autonomous vehicle in there), they'd have to do it without feeding a lot of telemetry straight to the US Navy. If they're really having a bad day, the Navy gets to zero in on the controllers, and then they get to be miserable.

The second problem is that it's entirely possible, if a drone repeatedly buzzes the deck of a ship, for the captain to send a squad up there with M-4s to see if they can shoot it down. If they succeed, then some sailor gets to pull the pieces out of the water, and the investigators get to do their thing. Who'd take that risk?

That's the problem for me, and why I think UFOs off San Clemente are Red Hat tests and not enemy action. While admittedly it's possible that the US Navy's SPAWAR division had* its head up an orifice when those videos were shot, I kind of doubt it, which means that someone flying a drone around a ship or plane in that part of the ocean, right next to SPAWAR and SEAL headquarters, is just begging for trouble, unless they already work for the US military.

The other thing is that popping up UFO videos and claiming that the pilots don't know what they are is a great way to whip up a little innocuous xenophobia, at a time when the military is sucking funding to pivot from fighting terrorists to fighting China and Russia.

*SPAWAR's moving out of downtown San Diego. They're trying to figure out what to do with the site, probably along the lines of a transit stop and a lot of affordable housing. Hopefully. I'm trying to stay out of that particular environmental debate, since it's not really in my field.

I'm wondering if SPAWAR folding up shop has something to do with the US Space Force getting their assets. And speaking of the USSF, I also wonder if one of their covert missions is UFO emulation? It's a goofy notion, but most of their assets are admittedly classified, and I could see them getting the Men In Black just because no one would think a bunch of satellite jockeys had active agents on the ground, let alone a Red Hat element.

287:

MY big take on the whole "UFO" thing is that they know what's happening and they expect it to come out one way or another, otherwise they'd be either mocking the idea or classifying it.

No special idea about what "it" is. Could be an adversary, could be glitchy sensors, etc.

288:

The real anti-abortion/anti-choice center of gravity in US politics is with the Southern Baptist Convention, i.e. the bonkers snake-fondling Protestants.

The "problem with the Baptists," as I understand it, is that it's sort of like Discordianism. You can have a revelation or five, set up preaching without going to seminary like most of the other denominations require, and thereby develop a congregation.

Before I go any further, I want to stress that this IS NOT where most Baptists get their religion, but from what little I know, it's where some of the more problematic ones got their noses under the tent flap. I'd also stress that various and sundry non-denominational and evangelical churches get started the same way, worldwide. God talks to a lot of people, it seems, and for some reason They don't say the same thing to each one. That's religion for you.

I'm not sure if the snake handlers are all Baptists (actually, I'm pretty sure many are not). But I strongly suspect that many of the ones we would consider to be problems eschew reading the Gospels and go for the kind of religion where they consult their adrenal glands to determine what's right and proper, and therefore they are anti-abortion and generally misogynistic.

289:

Greg Tingey @ 268: JBS
Thanks (!) for confirming my worst suspicions

What happens if the Rethuglican "supreme court" goes all C17th-catholic ...
Does the Biden admin, either/both: Appoint extra Justices &/or "simply" pass a new Act that makes abortion legal across all states?

They'd need 60 votes to get it through the Senate. They don't always have 50.

I think we're headed for a future out of the "Handmaid's Tale"

290:

The Daedelus jetpack has a duration of around 10 minutes for the current design and the inventor, Richard Browning, is a Royal Marine reservist.

I'm not sure how useful the jetpack would be for boarding hostile ships, much of the manoeverability comes from the turbines mounted in sort of gloves (well, structures that the pilot puts his hands in) so an inbound Marine isn't going to be able to use their weapons until they're on the deck. They'll be able to dodge about, but suppression will have to come from elsewhere.

291:

I think the "snake handlers" are Pentecostals.

292:

gasdive @ 271:

"The shape is simply a "hot spot" against a cooler background. And if it went into the water, it's not at all suspicious it suddenly became cool enough to no longer stand out against the background."

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sky_lantern

Not much wreckage when a tissue paper balloon lands in the sea.

But it doesn't even have to be actively emitting heat. It can just as easily be shiny mylar reflecting the sun.

If the sun was in the sky, they could view the object in visible light ... in which case, if it was a Mylar balloon, they would have identified it and it wouldn't be classified as a UFO

The reason so many of these are Thermal Images is they happen at night. The one Greg linked in his comment happened at 11:00pm local time.


293:

the bonkers snake-fondling Protestants.

Great comment. You blew it with this absurd tack on.

The number of snake handling churches in the US is likely fewer than the number of unique visitors to this blog month to month.

They tend to be a few families who have issues with organized anything, much less churches. So store fronts or home churches. (Which I suspect is a somewhat alien concept to many outside of the US.) Finding one with more than 30 people involved would be hard.

But they are a great news filler when someone needs a "Man bites Dog" story. Especially when someone winds up dead or nearly so.

294:

Thing is, I watched a mylar balloon go hundreds of feet over my head yesterday when I was out hiking. The string was readily visible, the shape was readily visible, and it was moving in the wind, not sitting still. I've also been out sailing in the area where those UFOs happen many times, and I don't remember it ever being calm enough for a balloon to sit still while the ocean under it moves.

So please try again, and be real. These are not party balloons or fire lanterns blown offshore by a Santa Ana wind, and if you don't get that, please google Santa Ana before going any further.

295:

The "problem with the Baptists," as I understand it, is that it's sort of like Discordianism. You can have a revelation or five, set up preaching without going to seminary like most of the other denominations require, and thereby develop a congregation.

A vast number of electrons can be spend writing about the variations of US religious groups. And has been. Along with a lot of trees.

There are the mainlines (RC, RO, EO (all 3 flavors), CofE (3 more flavors now), Lutherans (4 flavors), and many more. Then there are the non mainline like Baptists, Pentecostals, Methodists, Presbyterians, and so on.

Now within the Baptist there is the biggest block which are somewhat loosely or closely aligned via the Southern Baptist Convention. The SBC for a long time was mostly here's our creed, follow it and you to can use the name. They also got together and had (somewhat have) a cooperative missions program that was well run. (No one getting rich and most of the money going to the stated purpose.) There is also the American Baptist association which is where the SBC came from and split off due to slavery. Plus you get a lot of Baptist oriented but not associated churches. But over the last 30 years they have been acting more and more like a governing body and expanding what you must do to use the name. Which is slow walking them toward all kinds of legal headaches.

The mainlines and some of the bigger associations run seminaries to train up pastors. But there IS a big collection of "called" preachers who've never gone to seminary. And many who go to a specific seminary wind up as a pastor in another denomination.

Clear as mud? Good. You get it.

Churches getting into US politics in many ways started with Billy Graham who begat Jerry Falwell. Who led to Newt who led to where we are now. And based on a great history of Billy a few days ago on "American Experience" he seemed to regret what he spawned later in life. But not according to his son, Franklin, is is full on MAGA and seems to want to re-write the history of his father's last few decades of life.

There are a non trivial number of very religious USA folks who are totally fed up with the current state of religion and politics in the US. But they are a minority. And tend not to be fire breathers looking for a battle.

I guess my point is that almost any generalization of a particular religious group in the US that is applied broadly to cover other religious groups over here is almost always a fail.

As an example the main CofE association here is very much liberal by most any definition of the term. But the other two are not. And after 15 years of warfare over the breakup these 3 groups have mostly decided to quit trying to win and just go their separate ways. But that fellow at Canterbury still gets weekly heartburn over the situation.

The SBC is seeing the beginning of such trouble. Numbers are down and some big names are basically saying "SBC is wrong and we're taking our ball and going to find another game."

296:

David L @ 278:

While I'm talking about mining hardware, has anyone tried to buy a graphics card recently? Its difficult, and you will pay a lot more than you should. The reason is that the designers of other cryptocurrencies looked at the CPU-bound mining process of bitcoin and decided to use hash algorithms that were limited by memory instead of CPU, in the hope of shifting the cost of mining to memory.

Nvidia is on iteration 2 of trying to lock their cards out of crypto mining. Sort of. Kind of.

https://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2021/05/nvidia-will-add-anti-mining-flags-to-the-rest-of-its-rtx-3000-gpu-series/

Workstation graphics card suitable for CAD are getting hard to buy. Now toss in the chip shortage and system that were on a 3 week lead time a year ago are now on a 6 months lead time.

I have an 8GB Radeon card in this computer (so I can play games on a 4K monitor). There's a bad chip somewhere on the card, because certain highly intense graphics will cause the Video Driver to stop responding & the game crashes. I'm pretty sure it is the card & not system memory.

I'd like to get the card repaired, but that's not likely going to happen. My only option is probably going to be to replace the card. I need to take the computer apart to figure out exactly which card I put in there (it's been several years) & what interface is on the motherboard (I think it's PCIe 2.0).

Cheap 8GB cards are running well over $800 right now.


297:

There are a non trivial number of very religious USA folks who are totally fed up with the current state of religion and politics in the US. But they are a minority. And tend not to be fire breathers looking for a battle.

Agreed, and thanks for the "clear as mud" approach. For the atheist techies, think of religions as tech companies. They go through a similar cycle of growth, the biggest ones becoming standards, then becoming bureaucracies and getting ossified, then getting hit by the "New Big Thing" and struggling to keep market share. Except it's slower with religions, goes back around 500 years, and has involved genocides and wars at the worst.

Anyway, the one point I'd argue with is the "fed up" category. Check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irreligion_in_the_United_States

Although 70% of Americans consider themselves as belonging to a religion, only 47% belong to a congregation. 30% do not consider themselves as belonging to a religion, of whom over 70% consider themselves not religious (around 35% of the US population, accounting for the non-congregated practitioners). That suggests that over half of Americans have a problem with the current state of religion in the US. "Doesn't work for me" is the biggest sector of religious belief in the US at the moment.

Thing is, politics in an democracy is all about organization, so a small, well-organized minority has considerably more power than a vast, unorganized majority. This is the key problem for any political movement in a democracy, and it's not an easy one to solve.

298:

On and off, for the last few years, I've been considering (if I can rope in a few friends who are lawyers) of writing my own amicus curae to submit for just this kind of case.

They keep fighting it on freedom of speech grounds. It is NOT - it's "Congress shall make no laws regarding... religion...". Abortion bans are *religious* laws, and so unConstitutional.

Want to argue? I had a Hasidic rabbi tell me Jews were ok with abortions. Most Pagan and atheiests are. So... it is Christian-sharia law.

299:

Ah, yes, COTS. Someone noted it does *not* show either distance or speed.

Unmanned hot-air balloon? Or, for that matter, one of those Asian lantern-type things, with a candle of some kind in it?

300:

So, you mount the weapons on the gloves, or shoulders, and aim and fire with a heads-up display.

At that point, we're getting to anime giant robot fighting.

301:

Not just Kavanaugh - Barrett should be *required* to recuse herself, based on her stated religion, and school background.

302:

Charlie Stross @ 285: Greg: bear in mind that although the US Supreme Court is about 80% Catholics by declared faith, roughly 80% of US Catholics are okay with abortion and contraception per opinion polling.

Yeah, but 80% of the Roman Catholic Supreme Court justices comes from the 20% of Roman Catholics in the U.S that wants to overturn Roe v. Wade and outlaw ALL abortion. They strongly intend to have their way on the subject.


303:

If it can lift a man for 10 minutes, I wonder what it can do with a man plus 50 kg of warfighting gear.

304:

Heteromeles @ 288:

The real anti-abortion/anti-choice center of gravity in US politics is with the Southern Baptist Convention, i.e. the bonkers snake-fondling Protestants.

The "problem with the Baptists," as I understand it, is that it's sort of like Discordianism. You can have a revelation or five, set up preaching without going to seminary like most of the other denominations require, and thereby develop a congregation.

The "problem with the Baptists" is the same as with all evangelicals (including evangelical Roman Catholics) in the U.S. ... this time around the money changers have thrown Jesus out of the temple.

See also:
"Christian" Reconstruction and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dominion_theology

305:

Troutwaxer @ 291: I think the "snake handlers" are Pentecostals.

Some of them are.

306:

@234 says,

"The authors estimated the energy consumption of the entire bitcoin network at 113.89 terawatts per hour - 99% of which comes from operating mining machines. To contrast, Cambridge's Centre for Alternative Finance estimated bitcoin's energy consumption at 128 terawatts per hour as of March 2021."

Running my microwave oven draws a thousand watts, costing about ten cents an hour. The hundred trillion or so watts cited above, ten to the fourteenth, divided by a thousand watts, is a hundred billion, ten to the eleventh. So supposedly Bitcoin miners use the same amount of energy as running a hundred billion microwave ovens, or more than twelve ovens going continuously for every human on earth, which would cost at least ten billion dollars an hour at retail prices, maybe around half that much for wholesale energy producers. I think there's a mistake somewhere, possibly in my arithmetic although I suspect it's in the article. Please clarify.

Maybe they meant gigawatts instead of terawatts, but even that would cost ten million dollars an hour, or a quarter billion per day, nearly a hundred billion dollars worth of electricity per year. Seems too high to make sense, burning off that much actual existing wealth just to turn around and say, now we've got bitcoins worth that same amount; why not just hold onto the existing forms of wealth you'd need to spend in order to create those digital coins in the first place? I could understand the attraction, sort of, if you ended up with more than you started with, but to just take it out of one pocket and put it in another sounds like, dare I say it, an exercise in futility. What a stupid waste. Must be like an optical illusion, with the quoted value for one bitcoin more like a tulip bulb during the Dutch mania of the 1600s than any reflection of energy consumed. Way overinflated by hype. Well deserved losses ahead, with nothing to show for the effort but a huge cloud of CO2. Thanks a lot guys, you really are geniuses.

Oops, read a little further, Bill Arnold explained what they really meant was a hundred trillion watt hours per year, not watts per hour. Roughly ten thousand hours in a year, that means instead of twelve microwave ovens per human, it's more like one for every thousand people, so eight million microwaves running nonstop. Yeah that sounds about like the power consumption of Ireland, another comparison I've seen. A hundred and sixty billion worth of bitcoin in total means twenty thousand worth of bitcoin per oven. Sorry, still sounds like the Madness of Crowds. I'd add a thousand bucks on my power bill to run a microwave oven for a whole year, how many years would it have to have been going to claim my twenty thousand worth of bitcoin, ten years? Not interested. If we're supposed to be so worried about inflation, why can't someone just buy gold eagles, pandas or krugerands, sounds about the same level of fuss and bother. Talk about reinventing the wheel.

307:

Good news on the semiconductor race:

https://www.verdict.co.uk/tsmc-trumps-ibms-2nm-chip-tech-hyperbole-with-1nm-claim/

1. TSMC has made progress on the 1 nm chip. This sounds more like a successful prototype than a finished model, but at least it's out of the "we can only demonstrate it in a lab under VERY controlled conditions"

2. TSMC is abandoning the Moore's Law convention. Rather than staying with 5 nm since late 2020 and then switching to 3 nm in 2022, they're jumping to 4 nm this year.

308:

JBS @ 394: "evangelical Roman Catholics"

Isn't that a contradiction? If someone is an evangelical I don't see how he or she can follow the Roman pope at the same time, much less follow a RC cult of the saints.

309:

Then you are back into peroxide rocket territory.

In this role it doesn't matter though. A civilian ship is under the guns of a dedicated warship and being boarded in a visually impressive manner. Any action that requires the boarders to have full war fighting gear would be ill advised.

310:

JBS @ 394: "evangelical Roman Catholics"

Isn't that a contradiction? If someone is an evangelical I don't see how he or she can follow the Roman pope at the same time, much less follow a RC cult of the saints.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Independent_Catholicism

311:

"Although 70% of Americans consider themselves as belonging to a religion, only 47% belong to a congregation. 30% do not consider themselves as belonging to a religion, of whom over 70% consider themselves not religious (around 35% of the US population, accounting for the non-congregated practitioners). That suggests that over half of Americans have a problem with the current state of religion in the US. "Doesn't work for me" is the biggest sector of religious belief in the US at the moment."

Actually, your dataset contains an even more important data point: Noes were 16% of the US population in 2007 and 23% in 2014. So it grew by 7 percentage points in the preceding 7-year period, and has grown by a further 6 percentage points since then.

Latin America is also becoming less Christian, with 47% of Uruguayans, 42% of Mexicans, and 40% of Cubans identifying as irreligious
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irreligion_in_Latin_America

312:

This is an important point because the assumption of Evangelical Christians since the Bush Administration has been that Latino Immigrants will keep the US as a highly religious nation. I can't find the study right now, but I remember reading that immigrants kept the overall number of Catholics consistent since the 1980s, while mainline Protestants have lost parishioners to Evangelicals and Atheists.
https://www.nbcnews.com/news/latino/catholicism-declines-latin-america-u-s-parishes-still-count-latino-n866986

313:

David L @ 295: Churches getting into US politics in many ways started with Billy Graham who begat Jerry Falwell. Who led to Newt who led to where we are now. And based on a great history of Billy a few days ago on "American Experience" he seemed to regret what he spawned later in life. But not according to his son, Franklin, is is full on MAGA and seems to want to re-write the history of his father's last few decades of life.

The two words you need to know why Billy Graham should burn in HELL for all eternity! are ... Franklin Graham.

314:

Here's a case where a civilian ship was boarded by military forces but not from a warship alongside:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CRme_HlPN-Y

Pro tip: if you are stowaways who decide to take over a ship, don't do it on the doorstep of the Special Boat Service.

315:

I don't know the numbers, but I know evangelism in Latin America is growing. I also know that both Presbyterian and Catholic churches are importing ministers/priests from other countries.

In any case, your points are well-taken, and I appreciate them.

It's unclear what value Christian religion provides to many people in many cases. It's frustrating to listen to a sermon that sounds basically like a sales pitch for an insurance policy: pay us regularly, and we'll make sure your soul goes to heaven. What about acting here and now on the problems everyone is experiencing?

316:

Interesting analysis. Which leads me to wonder at what point does the cost in unamortized hardware, space, and power cost more than the value of a cryptocurrency?

317:

There may not have been warships alongside but "winning" against the first wave of boarders would still have gone hard for them.

318:

whitroth @ 299: Ah, yes, COTS. Someone noted it does *not* show either distance or speed.

Unmanned hot-air balloon? Or, for that matter, one of those Asian lantern-type things, with a candle of some kind in it?

If they knew what it was it wouldn't be UN-identified.

319:

If someone is an evangelical I don't see how he or she can follow the Roman pope at the same time, much less follow a RC cult of the saints.

Decades ago I did two of my four teaching practicums in Catholic schools.

The first was a cool place. The nuns who also acted as counsellors were 'hip', talked to the kids where they were not 'where they should be', did things like explained the Church's position on premartial sex and birth control but made certain that the students knew exactly where their public-school friends were going for good medical advice on birth control and STDs.

The second was… not cool. Very doctrinaire with the kids, insisting on following all Catholic doctrine etc — while the main topic of conversation in the staff room seemed to be about extramarital sex and the best methods of birth control (for teachers, not students).

All the teachers at both schools were good certified Catholics — no way to get hired without a letter from your priest and regular attendance at Mass was a job requirement. None seemed particularly hung up on what the pope said, although the first school seemed much more in touch with the teachings of a certain Jewish carpenter…

320:

"It's unclear what value Christian religion provides to many people in many cases. It's frustrating to listen to a sermon that sounds basically like a sales pitch for an insurance policy: pay us regularly, and we'll make sure your soul goes to heaven. What about acting here and now on the problems everyone is experiencing? "

It provides a sense of community, and a communal experience. Some people need both psychologically.In other words, it creates a network for people who may not be as good at creating their own. Christianity sounds a lot more consistent than a rock concert or a sports game. That's why so many Christian churches rebelled against online worship; it can't replace the communal experience of the church itself.

321:

Niala @ 308:

JBS @ 394: "evangelical Roman Catholics"

Isn't that a contradiction? If someone is an evangelical I don't see how he or she can follow the Roman pope at the same time, much less follow a RC cult of the saints.

I don't really understand it either. But somehow ...

There's nothing in the New Testament that says Roman Catholics can't be evangelical

adjective
     1 Also e·van·gel·ic. pertaining to or in keeping with the gospel and its teachings.
     2 belonging to or designating the Christian churches that emphasize the teachings and authority of the Scriptures, especially of the New Testament, in opposition to the institutional authority of the church itself, and that stress as paramount the tenet that salvation is achieved by personal conversion to faith in the atonement of Christ.
     3 designating Christians, especially of the late 1970s, eschewing the designation of fundamentalist but holding to a conservative interpretation of the Bible.
     4 pertaining to certain movements in the Protestant churches in the 18th and 19th centuries that stressed the importance of personal experience of guilt for sin, and of reconciliation to God through Christ.
     5 marked by ardent or zealous enthusiasm for a cause.

noun
     6 an adherent of evangelical doctrines or a person who belongs to an evangelical church or party.

In fact, I think the New Testament requires it of Roman Catholics (and Orthodox Catholics)

Matthew 28:19-20
19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

Mark 16:15-16
15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.

And looking at #5, I don't think you even have to be a christian or even believe in god and cause doesn't have to be religion for someone to be evangelical about it.

322:

Interesting in relation to the OP: "China all but bans cryptocurrencies".

https://www.theregister.com/2021/05/19/china_cryptocurrency_crackdown/

323:

Nojay: Pro tip: if you are stowaways who decide to take over a ship, don't do it on the doorstep of the Special Boat Service.

Except that's not actually what happened.

324:

Haven't had time to keep up with this thread, but skimming in particular Paul's comments my thought was he really needs to read that Graeber book (Debt). But I see you had a similar thought, and time to expand it properly, and I'll defer to that. But definitely yes: debt (or credit) first, then taxes, then money and you can't really have money without taxes (otherwise it's just a kind of credit).

325:

Beyond that, in some fraction of teachings of some churches, you'll find relatively productive advice on, eg, mindfulness. For in-group people, religion often has net positive value - well beyond any of the actually religious teachings.

@322 Damian Albeit, China bans crypto in conjunction with setting up Digital Yuan...

Even though Bitcoin has many scammish aspects, the core notion of a decentralized exchange medium seems to have some value. I could see some sort of 'proof-of-stake', mildly inflationary digital currency co-opted as a means to get the world off of the dollar standard. There's real value there for everyone except the Sith.

326:

Well bugger me sideways with a broken bottle. I thought China was so in love with the stuff they were building power plants just to run hash farms and one of the problems with it from everyone else's point of view was the likelihood of over 50% of the hash farms being under Chinese control so the anti-fudging feature stopped working.

327:

China is not monolithic. Wasn't even at the height of Mao's power.

Lots of local development happens without central government involvement, or even knowledge. Rules are selectively enforced. Large facilities can be built totally without official approval and run for years without being shut down. Different branches of the government have different and sometimes contradictory goals and policies.

So it is entirely possible that the central government wants to crack down on Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, while local governments (or more likely government officials) are cooperating with Bitcoin miners.

328:

"...an inbound Marine isn't going to be able to use their weapons until they're on the deck."

Doesn't matter, because they can't anyway. To get to the deck without one of these doobries they either have to climb up something from the level of the sea or climb down something from a helicopter, so whatever they do they have to spend an uncomfortable amount of time being a target with both hands otherwise occupied. The Mercury bracelet things probably mean they spend the least amount of time in this vulnerable position, and probably also give them some freedom to jig about a bit and not approach in such a predictable and targety manner.

329:

In news that I am sure will warm the hearts of readers of this blog, Bitcoin has now fallen below $40,000 (from a high of just over $60,000).
Yeah, that drop ($37.5K ATM) has been fun.(And profitable for some. (Not me. (personal rules).) Hearts warmed.
IMO cryptocurrency people need to perform a tactical retreat, with actually solid (not bullshit) arguments including social/environmental costs/benefits (and shifts away from proof of work), but they, well many of them, won't. In news that I am sure will warm the hearts of readers of this blog, Bitcoin has now fallen below $40,000 (from a high of just over $60,000).
Yeah, that drop ($37.5K ATM) has been fun.(And profitable for some. (Not me. (personal rules).) Hearts warmed.
IMO cryptocurrency people need to perform a tactical retreat, with actually solid (not bullshit) arguments including social/environmental costs/benefits (and shifts away from proof of work), but they, well many of them, won't. Some (politically stupid ones) will even attack, overtly and (they'll arrogantly believe) covertly.

Interesting in relation to the OP: "China all but bans cryptocurrencies".
We'll see if China can (or does) make it stick. There are other methods that Chinese can use for money exfiltration. Is there a decent accounting/guesswork on how Bitoin and other cryptocurrencies are used/etc in China, and of the Chinese politics involved, including regional politics?
Google translate of the statement works well enough to get the gist:
https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/Zpl0MWesUp2E8R23fNJf_g (in Chrome, or using translate.google.com)
[google translate!!!]
2. Relevant institutions shall not conduct business related to virtual currency
Financial institutions, payment institutions and other member units must earnestly strengthen their social responsibilities. They must not use virtual currency to price products and services, underwrite insurance businesses related to virtual currencies or include virtual currencies in the scope of insurance liability, and must not directly or indirectly provide customers with other services. Services related to virtual currency, including but not limited to: providing customers with virtual currency registration, trading, clearing, settlement and other services; accepting virtual currency or using virtual currency as a payment and settlement tool; developing virtual currency exchange services with RMB and foreign currencies; Develop virtual currency storage, custody, mortgage and other businesses; issue financial products related to virtual currency; use virtual currency as investment targets for trusts, funds, etc.


Interesting in relation to the OP: "China all but bans cryptocurrencies".
We'll see if China can (or does) make it stick. There are other methods that Chinese can use for money exfiltration. Is there a decent accounting/guesswork on how Bitoin and other cryptocurrencies are used/etc in China, and of the Chinese politics involved, including regional politics?
Google translate of the statement works well enough to get the gist:
https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/Zpl0MWesUp2E8R23fNJf_g (in Chrome, or using translate.google.com)
[google translate!!!]
2. Relevant institutions shall not conduct business related to virtual currency
Financial institutions, payment institutions and other member units must earnestly strengthen their social responsibilities. They must not use virtual currency to price products and services, underwrite insurance businesses related to virtual currencies or include virtual currencies in the scope of insurance liability, and must not directly or indirectly provide customers with other services. Services related to virtual currency, including but not limited to: providing customers with virtual currency registration, trading, clearing, settlement and other services; accepting virtual currency or using virtual currency as a payment and settlement tool; developing virtual currency exchange services with RMB and foreign currencies; Develop virtual currency storage, custody, mortgage and other businesses; issue financial products related to virtual currency; use virtual currency as investment targets for trusts, funds, etc.

330:

Oops, sorry about the doubled text.

331:

If the sun was in the sky, they could view the object in visible light ... they would have identified it and it wouldn't be classified as a UFO

True to first approximation, certainly.

There are edge cases where people see something and still don't understand or believe what they seem to perceive. Consider the case of Lawn Chair Larry, who was spotted by several pilots legitimately using Long Beach Airport and did not expect to see some loony dangling from balloons in their airspace.

332:

I think you're right. I'd also suggest, from reading that article, that China wants to replace Bitcoin and company with its own blockchain-based virtual currency, where every transaction is tracked. If so, that might explain the major crackdown. Perhaps they're automating the STASI approach?

333:

China wants to replace Bitcoin ... where every transaction is tracked

I thought that was one of the major benefits of bitcoin over cash - every transaction is tracked and published, so everyone knows what happened, and those with a detailed view of the internet knows who was involved? We keep seeing amazingly cunning criminals caught that way...

Meanwhile we see fewer drug busts where the criminals are sitting on bags and bags of cash that they haven't been able to launder yet.

I'm not saying that Satoshi Nakamoto definitely works for the NSA but it's not out of the question.

334:

True to first approximation, certainly.

There are edge cases where people see something and still don't understand or believe what they seem to perceive. Consider the case of Lawn Chair Larry, who was spotted by several pilots legitimately using Long Beach Airport and did not expect to see some loony dangling from balloons in their airspace.

Silly thing is, this is a good argument for Red Hat UFO exercises. Show troops an "edge case" that makes no sense, and both collect data and figure out how to deal with these things. After all, we're in an era when innovation is a fundamental warfighting strategy. So if you're in combat, especially with another power, you're likely to be exposed to the unexpected.

The other thing is that it's a good test of mimicking the classic UFO tropes to gather intelligence, which I know (from articles publihed) that some pundits have latched onto as something to worry/bloviate about.

335:

"These are not party balloons or fire lanterns blown offshore by a Santa Ana wind, and if you don't get that, please google Santa Ana before going any further."

So I Googled. Wikipedia has this caption under a photo of stuff being blown into the area being discussed.


"The Santa Ana winds sweep down from the deserts and across coastal Southern California, pushing dust and smoke from wildfires far out over the Pacific Ocean. Los Angeles is in the upper left of this image, while San Diego is near the center."

Sounds exactly like the sort of wind that every day would blow hundreds of toy balloons out into this area.

336:

A pyromaniacs club with which I was associated as a kid executed an impressive multi-day UFO event with dry cleaning bags lofted with customized candles ("power sources") made with tightly rolled up paper towels soaked in melted paraffin wax.
At least one report had the bags flying silently in formation at hundreds of miles per hour, paraphrased. :-)
People are usually lousy observers, reporting their interpretation of the observation as fitted to their priors, rather than the observations, or the observations carefully separated from any interpretations.
Re the round UFO sighting at hand, what was the wind direction/speed relative to the sight line?

337:

This spurt of UFO sightings remnds me of the only UFO abduction movie I've ever liked, Flight of the Navigator.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flight_of_the_Navigator

338:

I have seen "credible" reports that resulted from old school RC model aeroplanes. People mistake the small size for great distance and get very excited by the extreme speed and high-G acrobatics those can do. These days with electric drive and folding props I can only imagine that people fly weirder things even more dramatically.

In case you're wondering, youtube has videos of people causing all sorts of weird stuff to engage in more-or-less controlled flight. I suspect there's no spacecraft, fictional or otherwise, that has not been flown in model form.

339:

Vulch @ 290: I'm not sure how useful the jetpack would be for boarding hostile ships, ...

None at all. That isn't the point. The Royal Navy doesn't board hostile ships, it sinks them. For hostage rescue situations they will use helicopters and ropes.

AIUI the jetpack trial is about the practicalities of actually getting on board in the middle of the ocean for a routine inspection, for example in fishery protection. The idea is that the Marine with the jetpack is carrying a ladder which can then be let down for the rest of the boarding party to climb up. Presumably they sometimes have conversations along the lines of:

Navy ship: "Let down a ladder for our boarding party".

Fishing boat: "We haven't got a ladder".

340:

Charlie @ 285
Yes, but the "SC" catholics will be & are extremists, as was seen last year ... oops - someone else (JBS) has noted this, lower down.
Can Kavanaugh be ejected, for previous corruption, etc? ( And, as whitroth says, Barrett - who gives me the creeps. )

H
I think UFOs off San Clemente are Red Hat tests That's the "Occams answer" isn't it, after all?
# 297 - STILL involves war & genocides ( Taliban / Da'esh / Myanmar / PRC persecution - though the last is mostly Han racism )

whitroth
Congress shall make no laws regarding... religion... THIS, yes
Someone needs to do it. ( p.s. "Christian-sharia law" - keep using that one, the penny might drop! )

"Evangelical" catholics: OSD & the crusades are where you start .... mind the blood puddles.

341:

Heteromeles @ 167: I think Graeber got it more right: in the history of finance, debt came first, taxes came second, money came third, and much of what we think of as barter is stuff that happened when people who grew up with money made do without it.

I don't agree. Gift economies work when the population is below Dunbar's Number. In these societies everyone knows everyone else, and a system of reciprocal favours and obligations develops. There are notions of obligation to others and to the community, and there may even be a commodity that somewhat resembles money (e.g. wampum), but all this is so bound about with custom and ceremony that you really can't isolate bits of it and say "that bit is money" and "that bit is debt".

(Aside: the limit of Dunbar's Number doesn't limit you to 150 individuals. If men deal with men and women deal with women then that gets you to 150 families, and if you have large households where the paterfamilias represents the household to the rest of society then you might be able to get to 1,000 individuals. But at that point the strains are going to be showing.)

Once you get above Dunbar's Number you start needing to keep track of ownership and obligations in some way because human memory isn't good enough any more. Writing develops as a way to track who owns what in the village granary. Then the local chief decides that everyone owes him and his henchmen a portion of the harvest in return for their protection, so clerks are needed to keep track of who has paid. Egypt got a head start on geometry thanks to the need to re-survey all the fields after the annual floods so that each farmer knew where he was supposed to plant and harvest.

So I think it more accurate to say that debt, money and tax developed in parallel, along with other technologies such writing, mathematics, pottery, metallurgy and farming. All of these enabled larger communities, which then needed more of the same technologies to organise, which meant having specialists, which in turn let them get bigger, and so on until you get the great Bronze Age civilizations. Trying to turn this into a chicken-or-egg question of whether money or debt or writing or pottery or metal came first isn't a useful exercise.

Going back to the WWII prison camp, yes the inmates recapitulated this rather fast because they already knew how it was done, but the primary driver was the size. The German POW camps housed thousands of prisoners, so a gift economy was impossible. Hence a trade system was inevitable. Had a prison camp only had 100 inmates they would not have needed trade.

you help the farmer while his crop's growing, you get a share of the crop when it comes in. That's a credit transaction [...]

Only if you extract that transaction from the society it exists in. Gift economies don't do that. The people doing this are more likely to see it as a natural obligation to provide labour when it is needed, and an equally natural obligation to provide food when when you have it. We, with our economic background, see a debt obligation created by the labour and redeemed by the food, but that's probably not how the farmer and his neighbour see it.

Many years ago I read a couple of books written by a journalist who had moved to the Welsh border to become a farmer. It was very much in the James Herriot tradition of anecdotes strung together into a book, but one of the things that struck me was the extent to which the local farmers worked together in a kind of gift economy, lending tools and labour where necessary to help each other without any formal payment or agreement beyond a general expectation that you would do likewise. It wasn't exactly an ethnologist's report, but the overall pattern was pretty clear.

These farmers were embedded in the formal economy; auctions and meat prices were absolutely central to their lives. But they also ran their own informal gift economy without needing to be told how. So I think that humans will naturally operate with money or gifts depending on the circumstances, and the main circumstance is the size of the community.

342:

I think that humans will naturally operate with money or gifts depending on the circumstances

That matches my experience, for the most part. There are inevitably always-defect players and I have run into a few of those too. But very few, and interestingly they've almost all been devout hypochristians.

It's quite possible to run the exact same setup with two sets of books, I have a couple of friends who owe me favours and my last "new" (repainted) bike cost me no money despite coming from a business who makes bikes. "you have enough shop credit" was the phrase used. But that bike was a complex arrangement of he made a bike for someone who later gave it back then I asked for something very similar so it was modified, repainted then shipped up to me. It kind of cost money, in reality it was mostly opportunity cost. But I suspect the tale told to the tax office is different to the one I just told :)

You see this a lot on neighbourhoods, when I had chickens I gave people eggs because I had lots and hoped it might make people happier about any noise or smells (and the occasional marauding chicken). Neighbours on one side just collected my mail and mowed my front lawn while I was away for a month. And they used to give me bunya nuts (well, they grew the nuts and the cockatoos gave me the bits they didn't want.. same thing, really). And so on up and down the street. Or round and round my friendship circle. Etc.

343:

Also, one that has come up a few times recently: men too often gain enormous credit by assuming the woman they are dealing with is competent. No amount of eyerolling can convey just how stupid this is, but it just happened *again*.

I wandered into a local trade supplier today to buy some bits and bobs for a project. Woman behind the counter was very helpful and advised me that actually I wanted different bits, then found them for me. I thanked her and paid, then she thanked me for accepting that she knew what she was talking about because "most men don't".

344:

Oh, and another thing.

The South American civilisations (Inca etc) didn't have writing, metal tools, the wheel, or money. Records were kept on quipus: arrangements of cords with knots in them. Mostly the knots recorded numbers, but some of them seem to have been symbols or identifiers of some sort. We can read the numbers but not the symbols. My guess is that a quipu was the equivalent of a notebook: an extension of the owner's memory rather than an independent record that could be read by someone else, and each official would have their own private system for tracking which cords represented what. But that's just a guess.

Those South American civilisations would make a fascinating counterpoint to our standard narrative of stone-bronze-iron ages based on the civilisations of the Fertile Crescent. Unfortunately too much of the information about how shose societies actually worked is now lost, partly because of the conquistadores, but mostly because they didn't write anything down.

345:

while local governments (or more likely government officials) are cooperating with Bitcoin miners.

More likely the local "party" owns all or a major part of the mining operation. Or the local party heads do so.

How do you think all of the 3rd and 4th generation decedents of the "Long March" got to be so rich?

346:

Yeah, I think you should really just read that Graeber book. Separately there are a few things I think you're a little skewed (not biased, just off kilter) on in these comments, but I think the underlying issue is about epistemology and I'm undermotivated to go into that so won't. I also think your intuition to talk about non-literate means of accounting is a good one, but to me it lends more weight to "credit" than to "money". In particular it pours cold water on the Dunbar number argument you make above. But it's a rich tapestry, it'd be dull if we all thought the same thing.

347:

OK, I'll go and read the Graeber book. Though having looked at the list of books by the same author I do have to wonder if he is only grinding one side of his axe.

348:

a system of reciprocal favours and obligations

An obligation looks a lot like a debt, at least to me. How do you define the boundary between them?

349:

Its a small distinction, but to me "debt" is one kind of obligation; one which is enforced by formal law and can be discharged in the form of money.
"Obligation" is a more general term for actions enforced by religion, custom, community pressure and so forth as well as by legal force. A Christian feels an obligation to go to Church on a Sunday, but that is not a debt. For that matter, when I order a gizmo from Amazon I would say that Amazon is *obliged* to supply the gizmo or refund my money, but I would not describe it as a *debt* unless they failed to do either.

Looking through dictionaries I can see that this distinction isn't always there, and "debt" can also be used more figuratively for obligations. But that is the distinction I am making here.

350:

Damn: hit submit too soon. I just want to add:

Going back to Heteromeles example of the farmer with a helpful neighbour; we might consider that the farmer owes the neighbour some food in return for his labour. But we might just as easily say that the neighbour owes the labour in return for the food given last winter. The language of debt and transaction fails to capture this relationship.

351:

I think the underlying issue is about epistemology and I'm undermotivated to go into that so won't.

OK, I can respect that, and I promise not to come back on this, but can you give me some pointers? Any keywords I should go and look up?

352:

example of the farmer with a helpful neighbour; we might consider that the farmer owes the neighbour some food in return for his labour. But we might just as easily say that the neighbour owes the labour in return for the food given last winter. The language of debt and transaction fails to capture this relationship.

When/where I grew up we always had friends and neighbors who helped each other out. (Not all neighbors were of this mindset.) No one kept a ledger except to skip the folks to "took" but never gave back.

And I don't mean trimming the hedge. Things like digging up the sewage drain field when clogged or repairing a washing machine when it broke. Those of us in the "group" had garage privileges. We could go into each other's garage to get a needed tool if the owner wasn't home.

It wasn't till decades later I found out my mother hated this setup.

No one in my current neighborhood operates this way. There ARE "boundaries".

353:

Gift/obligation (small-scale) "economies" ...
I am part of such a set-up, that also uses actual money.
My local Allotment Association, where we use money for some transactions, but there's an awful lot of plant-&-product swapping, shifting of surpluses & know-how exchange going on. In fact, trying to reduce it to a "money-only" set-up would crash it in pretty short order.

354:

"debt" is one kind of obligation; one which is enforced by formal law and can be discharged in the form of money

By this definition you can't have debts until you have money.

Graeber uses 'debt' in a broader sense. So do many people.

Citing the Oxford English dictionary: "That which is owed or due; anything (as money, goods, or service) which one person is under obligation to pay or render to another"

Examples dating back to the 1300s refer to things like a 'dette' being an obligation to help the king. (Literally: "We ere in dette, at nede to help þe kyng")

I understand that words shift meaning, but I remain unconvinced that in common usage "debt" refers solely to certain types of monetary obligations.

355:

Graeber uses 'debt' in a broader sense. So do many people.

I'll see when I read the book, but it sounds like equivocation is going on here.

356:

In other news, malware is going meta:

The Microsoft security team has published details on Wednesday about a malware campaign that is currently spreading a remote access trojan named STRRAT that steals data from infected systems while masquerading as a ransomware attack.

Because pretending to be your bank is just *so* last year.

357:

First off, I agree about Graeber. He definitely breaks hard left, and a lot of his writing isn't well-structured. Debt's the best of his books that I've read, and it can be annoyingly vague at times.

That said, I think the key is that what you're calling obligation he calls debt. The basic description of the book is that he started by trying to trace the history of money, and realized as he did his research that it did not develop from barter as popularly supposed (I'll get back to this), and that it was more useful to look at the history of debt as a basic human condition (what you'd call mutual obligations that tie people together) and look at how money came out of it. He starts with non-quantized debts (your obligations) before getting into how obligations became quantized (credit) and then alienated (money that anyone could spend, where credit requires people to have a relationship of some trust), and then manipulated (usury, finance, capitalism).

This all started because you trotted out the old story of money coming from barter. Per Graeber, that's been shot down any number of times, but then the dead myth dutifully is picked up again and carried along. I'll let you read Graeber's thinking about why it's so important to capitalism that money came from barter and credit came from money on your own, because it's an interesting read. He came to the conclusion that the reverse was almost certainly true.

358:

On a parallel to the idea of gift economics, people who get into alt-economics (raises hand) tend to get all excited about potlatching. While forcing people to accept gifts they don't want is a thing I've experienced (cf white elephants), the more I read about potlatches and competitive feasting from indigenous writers, the more I realized that wasn't what was going on. Starting to get a clue can be nice.

Potlatches are ceremonies around business deals, where the recipient is supposed to pay back what they get with interest. This has been described as competitive gift giving, where chiefs give more and more until someone defaults.

However, that's not exactly what was going on. Let's say there is no legal system, and you want to make a business contract with someone. How do you enforce that contract? The potlatch solution is that you throw a huge feast, drag in some entertainment to get people motivated to show up, then very publicly give the loan, ideally with everybody in the audience knowing what the conditions are. Since a festival of this size is a pain to put on, have a number of deals witnessed by the audience, with food, magic performances, giveaways, etc. in between to get people through the boring business part.

Then, if someone doesn't do a potlatch later on to publicly pay back the loan with interest, everyone knows they blew the deal, and their reputation suffers as a result.

Now obviously only rich people can do deals on this scale, and certainly the PNW tribes were pretty socially stratified. And also, I'm pretty sure this wasn't all the potlatches were about (they're quite multifunctional). Still, it's an interesting way to do business, when you don't have a system of courts and lawyers to enforce deals.

You can also see how a system like this could be overwhelmed if the society grew too big. This in turn would allow the most powerful and authoritarian chiefs to step in, rearrange things so that only they and their people could ratify deals, and declare themselves god-kings, thereby forming a state. Something kind of Trumpian about that last step, except that Trump would have failed miserably trying to create a state out of too many competing chiefs.

359:

"Can Kavanaugh be ejected, for previous corruption, etc? ( And, as whitroth says, Barrett - who gives me the creeps. )"

Personally, I would very carefully look into every high official Trump appointed. Some of them will be relatively clean evangelicals, appointed to make his allies happy, but others will be very, very corrupt, and possibly owned by Putin. And yes, I suspect that Kavanaugh is someone's wholly-owned, fully-blackmailed creature, but so far nobody has proved it.

360:

The problem is that impeachment of a justice requires a two-thirds vote of Congress, and that's not going to happen any time soon. While some people can be shamed into resigning, I get the feeling that shamelessness is baked in to the MAGAtry at this point. However, conviction of a felony (lying under oath, for example) might be an interesting burden for them to bear.

361:

You're not getting the world off the dollar standard until you've got one large country's currency to use... or until there's a meeting, say, of the G21 (or whatever), and create an international currency.

Presumably with more control and flexibility than the euro.

362:

Agreed, but a judge can be convicted of a crime, which is an alternate path to removal, and it puts someone like Kavanaugh into the position of having to compare threats...

I'd also be very, very curious about how Justice Kennedy ended up stepping down.

363:

Potlatches could be a loan, of sorts. Or they could just be weaponized charity. Likely they were both from time to time. I wonder what sort of resentful behaviors you would have seen in the recipients of the latter. Imagine the bank dropping by to loan you $100,000 and you not getting any real opportunity to pay it back until 3 months later. Certainly if you had enemies with no real means, you might just outspend them and keep them in perpetual shame.

364:

Let me note that I've read in Celtic regions, and maybe in some Native American regions, if someone wrote and sang a satire of you, you might as well kill yourself then.

365:

Let's say there is no legal system, and you want to make a business contract with someone. How do you enforce that contract? The potlatch solution is that you throw a huge feast, drag in some entertainment to get people motivated to show up, then very publicly give the loan,

Intriguing. A lot like a wedding, in fact. There is definitely a competitive edge to weddings, but I believe the original purpose of throwing a big bash was to make sure that the entire community saw that the couple were legally married. Partly so that everyone knew it was legitimate, and partly so that if either ever tried to marry someone else there was a good chance that a witness to the current marriage would be there to stop it.

Aside:

My wife and I were invited to a Hindu wedding some years ago. We turned up at the given time. There were rows of seats in a semicircle around the bride, groom and priest, who were sitting on some ornate cushions under a canopy and talking quietly. Some people were already sitting down, but most were milling around. We didn't know anyone except the bride and her parents, so we sat down and waited for things to start.

After we had been waiting about half an hour it slowly dawned on us that things had already been under way for some time, but this wasn't an audience participation event (I later found out that things had already been under way for 2 whole days; this was just the climax). The 300 or so guests weren't just milling around at random; the reception and ceremony were happening in parallel, so everyone was looking up relatives, renewing friendships and generally networking like mad. After a while food was served (Cardamom ice cream is a thing? Yes, tastes good!). Eventually the ceremony finished, we had a few brief words with the newlyweds (300 guests, 15 seconds per guest, do the arithmetic), and left.

366:

Oh, I agree that being forced to take unwanted charity is deliberately demeaning. This is where the notion of the white elephant comes from.

The thing to highlight is that the anthropologists studying the PNW First Nations highlighted the competitive nature of the feasts, while the modern indigenous writers highlight the business aspect. One focuses on the barbaric exoticism, the other focuses on the essential role the system played and still plays. Since the "barbaric exoticism" happened well after contact, I might guess that the business aspect was older, but it's hard to disentangle without a deep dive.

That said, for people writing fantasies, it's yet another use of Ye Olde Feast. Since Medievals used celebrations for similar purposes, I'd suggest the upshot is that exotic people aren't as exotic as some might hope.

367:

"Let me note that I've read in Celtic regions, and maybe in some Native American regions, if someone wrote and sang a satire of you, you might as well kill yourself then."

The inuit would make up on the spot a satirical song about their opponent. The opponent would do the same. The one with the funniest song won the argument.

368:

You might find this interesting:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/473205107/potlatch-a-card-game-about-coast-salish-economics

The link to buy the game no longer works, but you can find it on DriveThruCards:

https://www.drivethrucards.com/product/182080/Potlatch-A-Game-About-Economics


I backed it on Kickstarter, and it's a neat game. Not so thrilled with the card design — for some reason I find the designs busy and hard to read — but the game is cool. And the PDF is only a dollar :-)

369:

Come now, it's not worth killing yourself just because someone's satire raised a few boils… :-)

370:

Doing the dozens? Or more like a rap battle?

And to the older point, Stephan Colbert would have made an decent Celtic bard, I think. If he could raise a boil off Trump, then he would be great.

371:

Thanks! I'll look into it.

372:

Scott Sanford @ 331:

If the sun was in the sky, they could view the object in visible light ... they would have identified it and it wouldn't be classified as a UFO

True to first approximation, certainly.

There are edge cases where people see something and still don't understand or believe what they seem to perceive. Consider the case of Lawn Chair Larry, who was spotted by several pilots legitimately using Long Beach Airport and did not expect to see some loony dangling from balloons in their airspace.

Wasn't reported as a UFO though, was he?

373:

I'm in a shit mood this afternoon. I had to do some work on my computer, which entailed shutting it down and disconnecting it (and taking it into the other room where I have a work table).

After putting it all back together I'm having some trouble with the speaker system (5.1 Dolby).

Why can't manufacturers just label the damn inputs? Or at least write it down in the manual?

Simple. 1. front speakers, 2. rear speakers, 3. center/sub speakers.

How much would it cost to stencil that on the case? All of the speaker OUTPUTS are labeled that way.

OTOH, I found a power extender for the DVD drive (power cable wasn't long enough before) & relocated the DVD drive to the top bay, ABOVE the front USB panel.

Now I don't have to worry about damaging USB inputs while trying to play a DVD & I can get to the DVD tray without all the USB sticks being in the way.

374:

Greg Tingey @ 340: Can Kavanaugh be ejected, for previous corruption, etc? ( And, as whitroth says, Barrett - who gives me the creeps. )

Supreme Court Justices can be impeached & removed from office. The same rules apply as for impeaching & removing a President.

375:

In case you're wondering, youtube has videos of people causing all sorts of weird stuff to engage in more-or-less controlled flight. I suspect there's no spacecraft, fictional or otherwise, that has not been flown in model form.

Proof of concept should be Snoopy's doghouse, which is about as un-aerodynamic as anyone can ask. (And yes, someone found a Red Baron.) As you say, given the power-to-weight ratios available to small RC aircraft pretty much any shape can be made to fly and has.

376:

Supreme Court Justices can be impeached & removed from office. The same rules apply as for impeaching & removing a President.

So, not possible as long as the impeachee is Republican?

377:

Scott Sanford @ 375: "Proof of concept should be Snoopy's doghouse, which is about as un-aerodynamic as anyone can ask. (And yes, someone found a Red Baron.)"

I note that in the Red Baron video the Red Baron takes off perfectly in his Fokker triplane and is soon followed in the air by Snoopy, piloting a perfectly circular wing instead of a doghouse. The two then start a dogfight.

I didn't know that you could make a perfectly circular wing do aerial stunts like that!

378:

Part of the way the president can be so immune is that presidents (nixon and then trump) and their lickspittle attorney general's have put presidents above the law with regard to prosecution while in office.

Any other official, yea, its impeachment with 2/3 of the senate to remove them from office, but they could just be put in prison by the regular justice system and that would pretty much stop them using the power of their office until they were pardoned by the next republican president (its a whole interlocking web of bugs in the US constitution).

Kavenaugh, maybe. I think he put himself on the federalist SC list. He wasn't supposed to be on it. He's too dirty (because he did stuff like run the federalist society judge grooming operation). Might be actual crimes in his past that he could be convicted of. Of course the supreme court majority might decide to make republican judges also immune to prosecution.

Barret, I would assume, has been well insulated from all that as part of her grooming by the society. She was supposed to be on the list.

379:

US - SC
The whole thing is broken, isn't it?
I suspect if they jump the paleochristian way, Biden will simply appoint 4 more judges
Meanwhile, BoZo has just been given an opportunity to smash something else - the BBC.
OF COURSE he will take it, it's so depressing ....

380:

Paul Krugman, on bitcoin again, he is not a fan : "Technobabble, Libertarian Derp and Bitcoin"

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/20/opinion/cryptocurrency-bitcoin.html

381:

Part of the way the president can be so immune is that presidents (nixon and then trump) and their lickspittle attorney general's have put presidents above the law with regard to prosecution while in office.

Not so surprising, given that if you follow the office back to its constitutional roots, it's designed along the lines of British executive monarchy circa 1775, only elected and non-hereditary.

Today's British monarchy is very much watered-down on the executive powers side of things, but still has some embarrassingly mediaeval hold-overs such as being vested in the head that wears the crown, which in turn represents the powers of the abstract Crown™, the constitutional conceit that exists eternally (independent of the identity of the current monarch) and acts as the wellspring of legal authority. That is: there's a crown (actually several) that is a lump of jewellery, but there's also the Crown, which is a legal/constitutional abstraction. And the Crown is by definition above the law because it's what the law comes from. With the embarrassing side-effect that the monarch (the person in whom the power of the Crown is vested) is, uh ...

Well, let's just say it's a good thing Lizzie Windsor doesn't drive any more (she's 94!), and has no embarrassing habits like shoplifting or murder. (The former could be dealt with discreetly by having her trailed by a minion with a Coutts debit card, but the latter ... just look at Prince Mohammed bin Salman for an example of how badly that goes down these days.)

Anyway: POTUS is extremely insulated these days, so doesn't have many opportunities for petty crimes like shoplifting or homicide (I trust that in the latter eventuality, the Secret Service would intervene). Instead, going by recent behaviour, it seems to be all about bribery, self dealing, share pump'n'dumps mediated via twitter, and New Jersey Mafia-scale tax evasion. Of which the latter might eventually catch up with Trump, but it'll take years.

382:

And the interesting side effect that Monarchy can be shown to travel faster than light.

Witness:-
It is around 6_000 miles from Windsor Castle, where George VI died, to Kenya where Lizzie Battenburg was on holiday. At the exact moment of his death, she ascended the throne and became Elizabeth Mountbatten-Windsor, regnal name Elizabeth II (at least in Englandshire; it's less clear that that regnal number should be applied anywhere else in the Commonwealth). The transfer of Monarchy is instantaneous, therefore we get a speed of transfer of 6_000 / 0, which is an infinite velocity by definition, and clearly greater than C at a mere 186_000 mph.

383:

Of which the latter might eventually catch up with Trump, but it'll take years.

I'm fence sitting on this. As best I can tell the AG of NY has used the nonsense he did while in office to bootstrap the investigations for things going back years. And apparently the AG (US and NY) feel they have real meat to bite into.

I figure it's going to blow sky high within 12 months. And it all be about things from 2016 and prior to avoid all the issues you discussed.

Then things will get interesting. For various weird definitions of the term.

384:

"Monarchy can be shown to travel faster than light."

More prosaically, when they changed the rules about the succession recently, the relevant legislation had - at least as a legal fiction - to be enacted simultaneously in all the countries affected. Otherwise if the first 27 (approx) in line had all died while the laws were changing, the Commonwealth might have some kind of Schroedinger's Cat superposition of King Tāne and Queen Senna as head of state.

385:

"With the embarrassing side-effect..."

Eh... the capitalised abstraction may be, but the actual person in the silly hat isn't. And they know what happens to them if they start thinking they are.

386:

It is around 6_000 miles from Windsor Castle, where George VI died, to Kenya where Lizzie Battenburg was on holiday.

As a practical matter did this occur much or at all more than 200 years ago? Was there much that got stuck on hold while the new monarch was retrieved from somewhere remote in the age before telegraphs?

387:

As some chap with a rather different kind of silly hat also pointed out, of course.

Except it's one of these things that's a bit like pointing a torch at a distant planet and gently turning it from side to side. The lit-up patch may move faster than light, but you can't actually use that to send information. Lizzie could not in reality even start putting her crampons on until someone got on the phone and told her using normal sub-c communications.

However, you could still really bugger things up - given a susceptible combination of succession rules and currently eligible potential claimants - by, for instance, arranging for both the monarch and the heir to be equidistant from the same exploding nuke. The succession, in the postulated pre-existing circumstances, could go either of two ways depending on whether the monarch or the heir dies first. But now you are in a position where one of them, fundamentally, must have died before the other, but equally fundamentally it is impossible to make a single correct statement stating which one it was.

388:

With regard to Trump and his life of crime and lack of consequences one must keep in mind that the US justice system is also broken more generally in that when a rich old man is caught in prosecutable crime it will operate slowly enough that he will be dead or ready to go to a nursing home by the time he is actually sentenced, unless he stole money from other rich people.

389:

@375 & 7 - Snoopy’s Doghouse is a perennial favourite when my club (pdqflyers.com) does a public show. The practical problem is that the current model is an old fashioned glow fuel powered thing that too often takes ages to get started. I’ve flown electric powered models since about 1975 so this always baffles me.

One SF aircraft I haven’t seen flying is Thunderbird 2. I suspect the lift/drag ratio is bit problematic.

As for the sped of regnicity, I now want to see a story about the world with Regnal Drive ships.

390:

With regard to Trump and his life of crime and lack of consequences one must keep in mind that the US justice system is also broken more generally in that when a rich old man is caught in prosecutable crime it will operate slowly enough that he will be dead or ready to go to a nursing home by the time he is actually sentenced, unless he stole money from other rich people.

The main breakdown is around $600/hour, or whatever the attorneys are charging their radioactively orange and default-prone clients. Ignoring Trump's wealth, liquidity or lack thereof from prior to 2016, he raised several hundred million dollars off the MAGAts in 2020, to launch his campaign. And so far he has a...blog? It's reasonable to ask where that half million to million lawyer-hours in funds has gone.

And that's the problem: it's not that he'll get the best lawyers available, because many of that class value their reputations more than his money. But even if he gets the legal equivalent of a room full of chimpanzees typing up motions, the prosecutors have to deal with every single one of those documents they excrete. And that sucks up resources.

So I don't think it's kid gloves and politesse, I think it's more the problem of dealing with of sloppy sheets thrown around by roomsful of virally infected chimpanzees, who are getting paid to go apeshit, so as to keep their bananas supplier out of prison and feeding them. In a manner of speaking, of course. Comparing Trump or his lawyers to virally-hijacked chimpanzees unfairly insults at least one member of the comparison, so I must be careful and point out that this is all hypothetical. Ook.

391:

*chortle* Thanks for Snoopy.

392:

One of my daily look-ats. Yeah... his argument, as politely as possible, is "what problem does it solve?"

Other than tax evasion, money laundering, and ransom... and Ponzi.

393:

Pigeon @ 387: However, you could still really bugger things up - given a susceptible combination of succession rules and currently eligible potential claimants [by arranging for simultaneous deaths]

This is already an occasional headache for non-royal inheritance cases. See for example https://www.thegazette.co.uk/all-notices/content/103859

So I think the UK Supreme Court could come to a conclusion based on precedent without too much difficulty.

394:

Potus insulated - yeah. Remember, after he took the election in '16, he and Melanoma were both complaining they couldn't drive, or go anywhere.

395:

Oh, yes, weird. And nasty. And, if it takes nearly a year... why, that's right in the first part of the main running for the '22 elections. Watch the GOP defend "innocent until proven guilty"....

396:

Oh joy. Just read that the federal Tories have hired the same political consultants that BoJo used to win a majority and who worked the Leave campaign for Brexit.

https://www.thestar.com/politics/federal/2021/05/21/erin-otoole-has-hired-the-uk-consultants-who-helped-boris-johnson-and-brexiteers-win.html

Truly my cup runneth over. And by "cup" I mean a porcelain vaguely-goblet-shaped object firmly fixed to the floor.

397:

#384 - Indeed. Equally (and those who know my real name will get this) I am potentially second in line for the throne of Ireland, after my big cousin's firstborn.

#386 - Well, it actually sort of did as recently as 1952CE, because it did take several days to communicate her father's passing to Lillibet, in the safari lodge.

#389 - I've seen claims that Thunderbird 2 could fly (sort of; they're based on assumptions that:-
1) The fuselage with pod is a lifting body section.
2) When the pod is deployed, the cockpit, booms and tail have a lift thrust to mass ratio greater than 1.
I suspect that both of these are beyond the present state of the art in aerodynamics and building small aero engines.

#395 - As a Scot, I feel it incumbent on me to point out that I'd pronounce "GOP" as "gaup", a Scots word for vomit.

398:

I figure it's going to blow sky high within 12 months. And it all be about things from 2016 and prior to avoid all the issues you discussed.

Then things will get interesting. For various weird definitions of the term.

Doesn't that put it firmly into the midterm elections? If the Democrats lose the House and/or Senate that's going to be very interesting…

399:

Yeah, I know. But a court procedure is based around the idea that there is a unique correct answer on which all hypothetical fully-competent and fully-informed eyewitnesses would agree if only there had been any there to see the thing they're deciding about, and the decision they come out with is supposed to be the result of a best possible effort to determine what that answer would be. So I was trying to postulate a scenario where there would not be a unique correct answer, and of the hypothetical cloud of witnesses, half would come down one way and half the other, with equal validity and correctness.

400:

Wait, you're a Scot, and in line for the throne of Ireland?

And, re "gaup", thank you! Perfect translation.

401:

The only thing known to go faster than ordinary light is monarchy, according to the philosopher Ly Tin Wheedle. He reasoned like this: you can't have more than one king, and tradition demands that there is no gap between kings, so when a king dies the succession must therefore pass to the heir instantaneously. Presumably, he said, there must be some elementary particles -- kingons, or possibly queons -- that do this job, but of course succession sometimes fails if, in mid-flight, they strike an anti-particle, or republicon. His ambitious plans to use his discovery to send messages, involving the careful torturing of a small king in order to modulate the signal, were never fully expanded because, at that point, the bar closed.

Pterry- Mort

402:

#400 - Yes. Great grandfather on my paternal grandfather's corner of the family tree was born in Ulster, back before partition.

#401 - I actually:-
a) Thought of the idea first
b) Never told Pterry about it, so he thought of it independently
c) Didn't actually develop a whole extra chain of sub-atomic physics about it.

403:

William the Bastard died near Rouen, and Richard Gare de Lyon near Limousin.

404:

Other than tax evasion, money laundering, and ransom... and Ponzi.
Also money exfiltration. (Or as mentioned above, direct bitcoin mining and exfiltration, as long as there is proper internet connectivity.)

405:

In Norman times the monarchy was still technically elective as it had been for the Anglo-Saxon kings, so it was more a case of the crown condensing out of a probability cloud. Up until Henry II the procedure was roughly "Go to Winchester, occupy the Exchequer, head for London and get appointed King". Kingons didn't really start making an appearance until the later Plantagenets.

406:

And then, you're suggesting, that they planted the seed of kingons, or was it that they spun it all around, then slammed it into the cloud, and some of the target ejected kingons (and queeons)?

407:

https://www.rt.com/usa/524392-pentagon-ufo-hunter-exotic/

My immediate reaction was that the exotic materials were two nipple tassles and a sequined G-string.

408:

paws4thot @ 382: And the interesting side effect that Monarchy can be shown to travel faster than light.

Witness:-
It is around 6_000 miles from Windsor Castle, where George VI died, to Kenya where Lizzie Battenburg was on holiday. At the exact moment of his death, she ascended the throne and became Elizabeth Mountbatten-Windsor, regnal name Elizabeth II (at least in Englandshire; it's less clear that that regnal number should be applied anywhere else in the Commonwealth). The transfer of Monarchy is instantaneous, therefore we get a speed of transfer of 6_000 / 0, which is an infinite velocity by definition, and clearly greater than C at a mere 186_000 mph.

Divide by zero error

409:

EC
That's Rt.com - Putin's mouthpiece
And, remember that he ( like Trump) believes politics is a zero-sum agme

410:

David L @ 383:

Of which the latter might eventually catch up with Trump, but it'll take years.

I'm fence sitting on this. As best I can tell the AG of NY has used the nonsense he did while in office to bootstrap the investigations for things going back years. And apparently the AG (US and NY) feel they have real meat to bite into.

I figure it's going to blow sky high within 12 months. And it all be about things from 2016 and prior to avoid all the issues you discussed.

Then things will get interesting. For various weird definitions of the term.

An interesting thing I noticed today is the new "criminal" investigation is directed at the Trump ORGANIZATION. How do you put an ORGANIZATION in jail?

That's where HE belongs, but I'm not getting my hopes up yet.

In other newz!

Trump's election "audit" should be treated as a trojan horse, Arizona secretary of state warns

In her letter, Hobbs wrote: "I have grave concerns regarding the security and integrity of these machines, given that the chain of custody, a critical security tenet, has been compromised and election officials do not know what was done to the machines while under Cyber Ninjas' control."
"[M]y office did not reach this decision lightly," she continued. "However, given the circumstances and ongoing concerns regarding the handling and security of the equipment, I believe the county can agree that this is the only path forward to ensure secure and accurate elections in Maricopa County in the future."
Earlier this month, the Justice Department expressed concerns about certain audit practices that were being carried out by Cyber Ninjas, issuing a formal warning that they could be in violation of federal law. "We have a concern that Maricopa County election records, which are required by federal law to be retained and preserved, are no longer under the ultimate control of elections officials, are not being adequately safeguarded by contractors, and are at risk of damage or loss," the department wrote at the time. The letter was shortly rebuffed by Arizona Republicans.

There's no way to be certain the machines have not been infected with malware while under the control (lack of control) of the Cyber Ninjas. They've broken the chain of custody.

It's likely going to cost Maricopa County taxpayers millions of dollars and the Arizona Senate won't pay for it.

A spokesperson from Dominion, whose voting systems were used in the election, told Insider: "There are real concerns about what the unaccredited 'auditors' have done to Maricopa County's voting equipment, and whether the machines remain useable for future elections. What we do know, without a doubt, is that the secure chain of custody has been broken.".
411:

paws4thot @ 397: #384 - Indeed. Equally (and those who know my real name will get this) I am potentially second in line for the throne of Ireland, after my big cousin's firstborn.

One semester back when I was in college I had a roommate who was 614th in line of succession to be the next King of Greece. Came up in conversation about 2/3 of the way through a fifth of Ouzo.

412:

Robert Prior @ 396: " the federal Tories have hired the same political consultants that BoJo used to win a majority and who worked the Leave campaign for Brexit"

That's the only way the federal Tories could find ignorant fools willing to rush into a Canadian Constitutional Crisis (tm) without looking.

413:

Not relevant to your point, but ITYM 186,000 * 3600 mph.

414:

Alas for the joke, death is a process, not an instantaneous state change. Even if your heart stops, your brain takes some minutes to die, and your cells longer still, hence the ability to transplant organs.

So unfortunately, kingons have too low an exhaust velocity to be used in transport.

415:

You've forgotten the quantum component. The exact time of "real" death is of secondary importance to the observation that death has occurred - kingons travel faster than light because something has been observed!

416:

JBS
IF ( Big "if" ) I'm reading that rightly, then "cyber ninjas" MAY have screwd with AZ voting machines & they are a Rethuglican-front, or thought to be?
Yes/No?

417:

And since Bitcoin is nothing if not an efficient way to lose money quickly and stupidly, here's I Forgot My PIN: An Epic Tale of Losing $30,000, wherein a tech journalist for Wired poorly secures his Bitcoin stash.

418:

... then "cyber ninjas" MAY have screwd with AZ voting machines ...

Maybe they did and maybe they didn't; Arizona has no budget for checking for this kind of sabotage. The group's name certainly implies they think they have the kind of expertise to do that, even if they're just posers or script kiddies. Too, the company owner is well known to be a Trumpist and rumor monger, so it's plausible to consider them being willing to try something crooked.

419:

#408 - Divide by zero error

Not so; the code actually reads more:-

If time = 0 then
Speed := Infinity ;
Else
Speed := Distance / Long_float ( time ) ;
End if ;

-- If Infinity is a numeric, it may be assigned as Long_float'last.

#414 - That's a different philosophical argument; The medical profession have long held that death is brain death, or the instant when the determining physician signs the death certificate.

#418 - Wired's story was posted some years after there was a similar story line in The Big Bang Theory.

420:

You seem to have suffered a sense of humour failure.

Personally, I find the antics of the Rockwell Triangle (*) very funny. The delusional claims of the aliens-are-with-us, the pomposity of the USA military, and the desperate attempts of the media not to offend enough to lose customers.

(*) Of which the vertices are the three camps I mention.

421:

As an aside, I find it an interesting reflection on human psychology the way that the New Aether has become established - i.e. that no forces and similar can take effect without the transmission of a particle.

I feel that the strongest evidence for kingons is the way that they can split into two particles, causing an interference pattern. Sometimes that coalesces into a single king; at other times, the separations creates two lesser ones.

422:

And sometimes into a Kingon and a Queenon; witness The Anarchy (1125 to 53)

423:

"A Solution looking for a Problem"

"
Like a shark suspended in formaldehyde, it has value only if we believe it does.
"

https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2021-05-21/bitcoin-is-more-modern-art-or-religion-than-money

(but honestly this can be said of any monetary instrument, because the root of any monetary system is trust and reputation as Heteromeles said in his post about Potlatch)

424:

The circumstances that permit both kingons and queeons to be generated simultaneously from the same regimortem event also lead to the generation of bishons (woof!), nighons (aka navons) and castlons (aka rookons, although that's a geolocal pronunciation and many might just say rockons).

425:

the root of any monetary system is trust and reputation

Not quite. Money is what the king gives his soldiers, and also what he requires you to give to him as taxation. This arrangement motivates you to make things the king's soldiers need, so they will give you money for them.

Trust and reputation are important factors in a credit system, you might say they are its root but that could be putting the cart before the horse to some extent. And you could stretch it a bit to say you trust the king not to have his soldiers kill you if you pay your taxes, but really it's in the category of things that work a certain way whether you believe in them or not (like the soldiers). In general money is what you have when you can't rely on trust and reputation (but can rely on some soldiers somewhere).

426:

This gets at another idea, that when you've got forces competing for control of a polity, the one that tends to win offers more predictability and a broader range of services. Bandits go with "give me the money or die," which is predictable, but kings say "give me the taxes or go to prison, and I'll use the money to build a road so you can market your crops." Similarly predictable coercion, but more services offered.

The key thing is this situation is that the money has to be predictable. That's the whole full faith and credit part of a fiat currency like the dollar: you may hate the US, but you know what the dollar is doing. Compare that with a Zimbabwean dollar or bitcoin, both of which fluctuate wildly and rapidly.

427:

You've forgotten the quantum component. The exact time of "real" death is of secondary importance to the observation that death has occurred - kingons travel faster than light because something has been observed!

Ah, so there's a whole family of particles. I think kingons may be among the less useful of them.

Before I get into that, I'll point out that the US has a kingon-based system that's superior to what the British use: The Presidential Line of Succession. There's not just the obvious crew, there's two whole secret backup sets. Moreover, the authority gets passed fairly routinely, when presidents go to the hospital and such. And it's mechanized.

But so what: kingons are only useful for signalling a certain kind of information. The more useful part of this system is the medichirographon.

What's a medichirographon? Well, the instant the doctor signs the death certificate is the instant the kingon goes from zero to superluminal. However, the kingon is non-physical. A doctor instantaneously signing a death certificate is emitting ink faster than the speed of light. These ink particles--medichirographons--are physical objects with infinite velocity but limited mass. Therefore, we can create an FTL drive consisting of doctors emitting medichirographons: death certificates, prescriptions, doctor's letters, and so forth. While it would be a rocket running on ink, paper, and illegible handwriting (and doctor salaries), the exhaust velocity is infinite.

428:

That's a quite interesting theory, but the results you're discussing relate to the tendency of non-successors or secondary successors to claim that they have intercepted a kingon when in fact they have not. On the other hand, sometimes a single individual is the recipient of multiple kingons from multiple ancestors, which might function as a sort of secondary proof for your theory. Also, are kingons particles or waves?

Modern royalty does seem to wave a lot...

What's more interesting is that when a Princess intercepts a kingon it changes polarity and becomes a queenon.

It occurs to me that in addition to these physics that the line of succession is like a series of capacitors, each charging up with potential kingons which might be discharged in the direction of possible successors.

429:

If the exhaust velocity is infinite, we only need to emit two particles; one to accelerate and one to decelerate. The problem is that we would need to position the successor quite carefully in a spot directly opposite the desired direction of travel.

430:

AZ voting machines & they are a Rethuglican-front

Doesn't matter if it is R's, D's, or Boy Scout Troop 493 from the East End of London.

By US federal law voting machines have to be purchased from vendors who have passed a level of certification, then stored, updated, used, in a manner where there is a chain of custody about every detail. Sort of like crime scene evidence. Federal law set down minimums after the Florida 2000 fiasco.

The folks doing this AZ thing have NOT followed any process which could be called a valid chain of custody or examination process which meets any of the required procedures.

So the county vote officials (4R,1D) have said you just trashed over $1mil of equipment from the point of view of using it in the next election. Where do we send the bill for the replacement gear.

So the issue of them modifying the equipment is moot. They could turn them into PacMan consoles and it wouldn't make any difference at this point.

431:

I wonder - why not?

The dollar standard is effectively a tax on the world. While beneficial to the US, it doesn't seem likely that other nations are glad to pay that tax.

Other currencies are less trustworthy than the dollar, so there is no impetus to use them.

But, some sort of open exchange ledger with algorithmically controlled supply could be more predictable than the dollar and allow bypassing the dollar tax for China, the EU, the Middle East, and Russia. It wouldn't be a grassroots coin, more something originating in the central banks of major powers. Main issue is it probably won't happen until the US successfully alienates the EU.

Given the fairly clear evidence that US politics have become unstable, not setting up an alternative looks like a bad choice...

432:

David L., but the important part is it's Republicans wasting the taxpayer's money. /s
I'd suggest sending the bill to "Drumph!", not that it'll do any good, except, perhaps to raise his blood pressure.

433:

An interesting thing I noticed today is the new "criminal" investigation is directed at the Trump ORGANIZATION. How do you put an ORGANIZATION in jail?

Trump as a company is really over 3000 LLC's. All kinds of interlocking ownership relations and such. So first you have to figure out which companies did illegal things. Then go after the people who initiated such.

It is broadly assumed the reason for so many companies is to made it so damned hard to figure out "Who's on First"[1] that no one every gets caught. But now the NY AG is determined and has a staff dismantling things. Plus it appears that Trump's head accountant has agreed to help out the AG.

[1]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sShMA85pv8M

434:

Yeah. I'm probably wrong, but that's one catch. If IQ.45 was spinning off LLCs for business ventures, AFAIK (and IANAL), that's fine. The point of each LLC is to limit liability so that he can't be sued into oblivion when a deal goes bad. Only the assets in the LLC are at risk from forfeiture(again AFAIK). Presumably, if I was playing his kind of games, I'd be doing the same thing as a matter of course.

Now if he has a trust structure of some sort, it would be more interesting, because then trust owns the assets and he's simply the beneficiary. They'd have to prove that IQ.45 was using the trust(s) for things that it was illegal for them to do (he was acting as the owner, not the beneficiary), as when the IQ.45 Foundation was taken apart because it wasn't acting as a nonprofit but as an untaxed bank account. That's harder, especially if the trust was in a place (like the Cayman Islands) that has laws that "accidentally" make it harder to bust their trusts.

I'm hoping that IQ.45 wasn't bright enough to take full advantage of the modern wealth management apparatus, but simply spun off LLCs and shuffled assets among them. So long as most of these are in the US and he's the ultimate owner and not an offshore trust, he's quite vulnerable.

I'd also add that he's been under investigation for over a decade, so it's bureaucratic ineptitude if they don't have his financial setup mapped out in some detail. I'd hazard a guess that they need the witnesses as much to officially say what the investigators already know, because the investigators used methods to get the data (like counterintelligence) that won't stand up in court. The FBI, being both a criminal and counterintelligence operation, purportedly has to do stuff like this on occasion, so that knowledge can officially flow from the black ops counterintelligence wing to the white ops criminal investigation wing. Getting the correct people to say under oath what some hacker learned via illegal wiretap years before is fairly important in their criminal procedure.

435:

Back in the seventies or early eighties, Somtow Sucharitgul was something like 218th or 223rd in line for the Thai throne.

436:

Yes. Open door, no security, co. run by a Trumpist and conspiracy theorist.

I suspect the county will sue the state... though it might work better if they sue the state GOP.

437:

It may go further back. Consider that the oldest countries we know of, that is, city-states, the biggest, most important thing was the ruler's grainery, for times of bad harvest. I'd think it was reasonable to assume that in the first towns, you had craftspeople, who did fabric, and bows, and spears, and so didn't grow grain. They had to pay their share....

438:

Greg Tingey @ 416: JBS
IF ( Big "if" ) I'm reading that rightly, then "cyber ninjas" MAY have screwd with AZ voting machines & they are a Rethuglican-front, or thought to be?
Yes/No?

The owner of the "Cyber Ninja" company is a QAnon kook, but the basic problem is the "Audit" did not follow proper procedures for securing the machines & maintaining a chain of custody. They voided the manufacturer's warranty.

The manufacturer will not re-certify the machines after the chain of custody was broken. There's really no way to know if the machines have been tampered with or not. The local election board will have to replace them & the Arizona Senate won't reimburse them for the cost.


439:

whitroth @ 435: Back in the seventies or early eighties, Somtow Sucharitgul was something like 218th or 223rd in line for the Thai throne.

Did he drink Ouzo?

440:

"Therefore, we can create an FTL drive consisting of doctors emitting medichirographons: death certificates, prescriptions, doctor's letters, and so forth."

I guess it's the kind of drive system you tend to evolve naturally when you start with the Bistromathic drive and then have to deal with a botulism outbreak.

441:

The local election board will have to replace them & the Arizona Senate won't reimburse them for the cost.

This gives the Republicans a way to 'punish' counties that vote Democrat — just audit them after every election and force them to spend millions repurchasing equipment.

442:

It may go further back. Consider that the oldest countries we know of, that is, city-states, the biggest, most important thing was the ruler's grainery, for times of bad harvest. I'd think it was reasonable to assume that in the first towns, you had craftspeople, who did fabric, and bows, and spears, and so didn't grow grain. They had to pay their share...

"If you want to build a canoe, start by planting a garden." That's 20th Century advice from a Melanesian chief, and it gets at the way this works. If you don't want your crafters to farm or hunt to feed themselves, you have to feed them.

What and how much do you feed them? That's where you get these interesting measurements, like shekel, koku, and talent. These are either a standardized amount of grain needed to feed someone for a period (a koku is a year's worth of rice for one person). That food is the surplus you use to hire your crafters to do your projects. You're right, it's quite old, but it involves logistics and rationing, not money or credit.

Credit is what you get when a farmer needs pots to store the grain he's harvesting. So he goes to the potter and promises him either an amount of grain or a share of the harvest (CSA style) in return for the pots he needs. He gets the pots, then owes the potter part of his harvest. If his harvest fails or he doesn't repay his obligation, stuff happens and he doesn't get to do it again. This is crucial, because crops only mature once or a few times a year, so the farmer needs credit to get through the time when the crops are maturing. Herders have similar arrangements that don't involve money, again to help balance uncertainty and risk.

Again this is pretty ancient, because you don't necessarily need to quantize the deal in much detail to make it work. Where you need accounting and language is when you're taking tribute of all sorts of random stuff and you need to make sure you, God-King that you are, are getting what you need to do your thing.

443:

but kings say "give me the taxes or go to prison, and I'll use the money to build a road so you can market your crops."


That's exactly wrong. It's what kings say, but they're lying. It's what the governments of the world tell their citizens all the time: "your tax dollars at work" but it's the polar opposite of the reality.

Governments take dollars out of an infinite supply of dollars. They spend them to make roads by paying them to road builders. The dollars are worthless until the government says everyone must pay tax. Now people need the dollars that the road builders (soldiers) have to spend. When the taxes are collected they're not spent to do more road building, they're put back into the infinite supply. As you know, when you add a finite quantity to an infinite quantity, the finite quantity disappears. Effectively wished out of existence.

Tax is not theft. It's the exact opposite. It's what creates the value of the dollars in your pocket.

Damien is exactly right.

444:

"I wonder - why not?" (switch off the dollar as the world standard for currency)

Because you need dollars to buy oil. This is the same in essence as the road building example I gave above. You need the King's Coin to pay taxes. That gives the King's Coin value. Substitute "oil" for "tax". You must pay tax or the King's soldiers will make you miserable. You must buy oil or the lack will make you miserable.

But why do you need US Dollars to buy oil? Because the USA says so and will bomb the shit out of you if you start trying to trade significant volumes of oil in another currency.

445:

the Bistromathic drive

Ohh! I know this one!
It's where we try and convince Charlene that, if she ordered the king prawn boonah, I ordered the chicken jalfrezi and Feorag ordered the vegetable rogan josh, Charlene should pay a larger proportion of the bill, right?

446:

Heteromeles, the Trump Organization is much crazier than that. Largely because no banks would deal with him otherwise (not even Deutsche), Trump is *personally liable* for at least the debts incurred by the swarms of LLCs in his (dis)"Organization". And hundreds of millions of dollars of it are coming due. Some of that will be covered by the money conned out of his supporters late last year, but not all...

447:

Yes. It turns out that numbers are not absolute. Just as space and time depend on your movement through them, it turns out that numbers depend on your movement through restaurants. If the numbers represent your position in space then you can exploit this to change your position in space by moving through a restaurant. https://alienencyclopedia.fandom.com/wiki/Bistromathic_Drive

448:

Could the move to criminal investigation of the Trump Organization be a prelude to a RICO act prosecution?

I'm specifically thinking of the bits about money laundering, bankruptcy fraud, and bribery.

(And wouldn't it be hugely ironic given one Rudy Giuliani's history for bringing RICO charges against New York Mafia families?)

449:

That was sort of my point. All of those LLCs were to try and hide what was really going on. And MOST of what any one did was "legal". But the aggregation was illegal.

As to RICO
Under RICO, a person who has committed "at least two acts of racketeering activity" drawn from a list of 35 crimes—27 federal crimes and 8 state crimes—within a 10-year period can be charged with racketeering if such acts are related in one of four specified ways to an "enterprise."
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Racketeer_Influenced_and_Corrupt_Organizations_Act

What they did was things like ownership of estate A was transferred to company B. Company B hired companies C, D, E and F to manage it, take care of the grounds, advertise it, handle the money etc... It was used to take a tax dodge by making it historic. That process was handled by company X and X paid Ivanka a consulting fee as a part of the deal. But Ivanka was also employed by company "E" above and getting a salary. Which means that her consulting fee should have really been booked as payroll or it was illegal as a tax dodge. Now company F rents out part of the now "historic" estate to some of the Trump family as one of their "other" homes. But the tax laws don't allow this for historic things. But since it is done by renting out to company Q who then charges a nominal rent to the Trumps it becomes almost impossible to trace unless you have ALL the paper work in front of you and are looking for it. And you don't even know to look until someone points you at it.

450:

Possibly, but see https://www.popehat.com/2016/06/14/lawsplainer-its-not-rico-dammit/

RICO only applies to a specific list of crimes, and it needs to be a pattern. So you would need to show that the Trump Organisation makes a habit of at least one of these things: https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/1961

451:

Agreed. It's not RICO. This is also the opinion of a federal lawyer with the online handle Bmaz at Marcy Wheeler's blog
( https://www.emptywheel.net/ ) which is probably the best place to follow all things Trump.

It's also worth noting that the laws in play in the current Trump investigation are the laws of the State of New York, not federal laws. RICO is a federal law. (New York might have some equivalent to RICO, but it's almost certainly called something else.)

It's also unlikely that Trump's crimes against the U.S. Government are (legally) treason. This crime is very narrowly defined in U.S. law.

452:

I'll go out on a limb and point out that offenses covered by RICO include money laundering, especially for Russian interests. People have been publicly speculating on this for some time (Google "Trump Money Laundering")

Whether international money laundering happened and is provable in a US court...? That I can't say. But if I had to guess RICO, that's where I would go. The general pattern is shady money going into questionable real estate deals, where profits get skimmed and others deal with the fallout.

That said, the thing they need to do with Trump is to nail him first with a really obvious felony that precludes him from ever holding public office again. That will defang him. So if they decide to go RICO on him, there's not going to just be a smoking gun, there's going to be a smoking artillery emplacement and well documented craters where the shell companies exploded.

453:

"The local election board will have to replace them [the election machines] & the Arizona Senate won't reimburse them for the cost."

Well, that's the kind of lawsuit that the county would probably win against the state. But it kind of doesn't matter. Breaking the election in that county is the point and having to file that lawsuit and replace the machines is a stress on that election, so "mission accomplished".

Destroying is just so much easier.

454:

That said, the thing they need to do with Trump is to nail him first with a really obvious felony that precludes him from ever holding public office again. That will defang him.

I wish that that were true. His supporters will say the conviction is 'fake' or 'rigged' and it won't bother them a bit. Unless he goes to jail I can't see it affecting him much.

455:

JF
You just go back to paper-&-pencil forms for the voting ...

456:

#451 - A "Juan" Act perhaps? :-)

#455 - There again, I can see Trumpolini trying to require some sort of photo id that Rethuglicans have and Democrats don't, following the precedent that Bozo is trying to set in the UK.

457:

"You just go back to paper-&-pencil forms for the voting ..."

And you don't have to go far for examples on how to do it. We still have paper and pencil voting in Canada.

458:

Another irrelevance - I think that the next UK entry for the Eurodrivel Nong Contest should be:

http://www.lyricsondemand.com/miscellaneouslyrics/childsongslyrics/nobodylovesmelyrics.html

459:

Well, back in the 1960, 70s and even early 80, you had actually good pop stars and groups competing, eg Dana, Pet You too Lips, Brotherhood of Man, ABBA... Since about 1990, Lordi are one of the few acts that I wouldn't classify as a "no hit wonder".

460:

Charlie Stross @ 448: Could the move to criminal investigation of the Trump Organization be a prelude to a RICO act prosecution?

I'm specifically thinking of the bits about money laundering, bankruptcy fraud, and bribery.

(And wouldn't it be hugely ironic given one Rudy Giuliani's history for bringing RICO charges against New York Mafia families?)

The RICO act is FEDERAL law (Giuliani was a Federal Prosecutor - Southern District of New York - back then). The current investigation is being conducted by the New York State Attorney General and the Manhattan (New York City) District Attorney.

As with the federal law, New York law also criminalizes the offense referred to as "enterprise corruption." The enterprise corruption statute is New York's version of the federal RICO Act and was added to the Penal Law by the Organized Crime Control Act of 1986 to combat the "diversified illegal conduct engaged in by organized crime," including the infiltration and corruption of legitimate enterprises.

New York Penal Code Article 460, et seq.

Under current interpretation of the U.S. Constitution, any evidence the state comes up with that indicates a violation of Federal Law can be used to charge a Federal Crime, but AFAIK, there is no current RICO investigation against DJT or the "Trump Organization".

I hope New York State does convict him of racketeering, because that would mean he'd most likely have to serve his sentence at the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, although it's named after Clinton County, NY, not Hillary. Still ...

461:

Niala @ 457:

"You just go back to paper-&-pencil forms for the voting ..."

And you don't have to go far for examples on how to do it. We still have paper and pencil voting in Canada.

Pencil smears if handled improperly and it can be erased. Most places I know of use quick drying ink for marking paper ballots - doesn't smear and can't be erased.

The ballots from Maricopa County are paper ballots. The machines are programmable tabulators.

I think several others have pointed out the problem was not with the ballots or the tabulators, it's with the Republican dominated Arizona Senate deliberately breaking the voting system in those counties that gave Biden the victory in Arizona. The whole damn AUDIT is a FRAUD!

A Gerrymandered Supreme Court has told Republicans it's Ok for them to rig elections for PARTISAN political purposes as long as they don't mention race in doing so. Doesn't matter what kind of ballots they use. It's all about who gets to cast one.

462:

But her emails!

463:

Meanwhile ..
It appears that another of the USA's diseases is spreading, though it was already here in a small dose.
Now, it seems to have escaped

464:

Could the move to criminal investigation of the Trump Organization be a prelude to a RICO act prosecution?

As others have observed, it's not a direct link - but it's in the general neighborhood of a RICO case. There's an AP story about a RICO expert involved and a BI story about how Trump's business is suspiciously mafia shaped. But we've seen this before; Trump University went down in RICO flames but The Donald waddled out with only minor burns.

465:

I hope New York State does convict him of racketeering, because that would mean he'd most likely have to serve his sentence at the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, although it's named after Clinton County, NY, not Hillary. Still ...

Enthusiastically agreed! The correctional facility is named after the county, named in turn for the first governor of New York (and later vice-president), but these days who really cares? It would be delightful and appropriate to incarcerate him there.

It's also occurred to me that if the SDNY gets him he will go into the same building, likely the same Special Housing Unit, and even possibly the same cell as his friend Jeffrey Epstein.

466:

paws4thot @ 459: Well, back in the 1960, 70s and even early 80, you had actually good pop stars and groups competing, eg Dana, Pet You too Lips, Brotherhood of Man, ABBA... Since about 1990, Lordi are one of the few acts that I wouldn't classify as a "no hit wonder".

There have been a few Eurovision songs I liked enough to add them to my playlists. I don't think this years "winner" will be on there, but I liked the UK entry.

There have been a few others. And although some of them may be "no hit wonders" here in the U.S. or there in the U.K. they're still fairly big in their home countries.

467:

Greg Tingey @ 463: Meanwhile ..
It appears that another of the USA's diseases is spreading, though it was already here in a small dose.
Now, it seems to have escaped

Nope. Not ours. He was born in Northern Ireland, which is still part of the U.K.

468:

We still have paper and pencil voting in Canada.

So does Arizona and almost all of the rest of the country. Only a few idiot states left using touch screen voting.

Plus it's paper and INK.

The machines are for counting. And we have way too complicated ballots due to electing so many people in various jurisdictions. You CAN count by hand. You'd really not want to though.

469:

we have way too complicated ballots due to electing so many people in various jurisdictions.

That's a choice, though. There are many ways that could be simplified, although apparently the easiest option is use in some places (voter feeds their ballot through a scanner which says valid/invalid and optionally displays how it thinks the user voted).

But most of this founders on: first make the USA more democratic, *then* tinker with the details. Right now movement is in the other direction... focus really should be on a: get everyone to vote and b: make sure all the votes are counted.

470:

As you say. Parts of Europe (most definitely including the UK) exported our loons to you quite a while back, but we kept our Northern Irish ones.

471:

I have never listened to it, as I don't listen to such things, but I noted that it became more of a political popularity contest than a musical one a very long time ago.

472:

A friend of mine reckons the UK won but the votes are all held up by customs.

473:

Clearly next year’s entry should be a performer/performers from Scotland. That way if they do well the uk media can report it as “British performer does well at Eurovision”, whilst if they do badly they can report it as “Scottish performer fails at Eurovision”!

474:

"Somtow Sucharitgul ... in line for the Thai throne. Did he drink Ouzo?"

Footnotes required, I think.

btw, does anyone know where I can get a copy of Jasmine Nights in Thai? I know it's a thing but the only likely source, the Bangkok Opera shop in the BACC, was never open when I visited and I don't think it even exists now.

475:

Re: 'I thought that was one of the major benefits of bitcoin over cash - every transaction is tracked and published, so everyone knows what happened, and those with a detailed view of the internet knows who was involved?'

A question:

Can this tech/software be used to untangle a web say for instance DT's quasi-legal finances, biz and legal partnerships? That is, can it trace a string of relationships from and to any point or does it only work from a set starting point?

Half wondering whether this tech could also show exactly how such things as mutuals get pumped specifically whether trading activity is just an increase in the frequency of 'trades' being executed by the same X number of financial institutions: when their 'portfolio returns' start looking low, they just rev up the rate of trades, add their commissions/fees - which further boosts the final price paid by the customer and who then needs to get/set a higher 'ask-for' price next time ... repeat until this 'fund' hits its interim goal. I've also been wondering whether this type of trading is a reverse salesman-problem as in what is the longest route you can take within a prescribed number of points because a too obvious pass-the-hot-potato would probably be illegal/quickly detected by gov't financial oversight groups.

Re: Eurovision - UK

Maybe the UK could do what Switzerland did in 1988 when they hired a Canadian (Celine Dion) to do a song written/composed by two Swiss nationals. Although reading the Wikipedia article about how the voting went maybe the UK could consider playing nice with France. Nope - ain't gonna happen!


Re: DT & lawyers

I'm half-wondering whether DT didn't deliberately try to hire as many lawyers as possible so that he could use lawyer-client privilege to make sure they couldn't talk.


Re: Favors/gifts impact on the 'real economy'

I moved to a much smaller city a couple of years ago and it seems that the size of the central/hub city has a direct and inverse relationship v-a-v the neighborliness of its urban and suburban areas. This is most apparent with services like snow clearing where once it stops snowing everyone comes out with their shovels, and after clearing their driveway often amble over to help clear one of their neighbor's driveway, chat, and move on again. The result is that hardly anyone hires a snow clearing service. So if you're an economist, you'd probably say that neighborliness is bad for the economy and who cares that you're getting some fresh air, an aerobic workout, establishing/renewing social connections, using fewer environmentally unfriendly products, etc.

476:

Ridiculous planning consent is a bit of a strange attractor here. Feast your eyes on CJP Grey's latest video, "Sharks!"

477:

I'm half-wondering whether DT didn't deliberately try to hire as many lawyers as possible so that he could use lawyer-client privilege to make sure they couldn't talk.

Very few "name" lawyers will take his call. True for a long time. He is well known for not paying if the work doesn't produce the result he desires.

And if the talk involves committing a crime (present or future) then lawyers have to talk. At least when asked.

478:

But her emails!

Putting a mail server in her home and using it for State Department business has to rank up there with one of the most stupid acts of hubris for an elected official at the top level of the US government. And it was against the rules. Maybe not a "crime" but against the rules.

She created that gift that keeps on giving. It will likely be an R fund raising item long after she's dead and gone.

Which is one reason I thought she would be a terrible President. (the hubris bit). But being just terrible is why I voted for her.

479:

"The real economy"
Don't make me have a sick laugh.
My ancient ( 40+ years ) "panasonic" FM radio is getting wobbly - I think a capacitor/resistor is slowly dying.
Can I actually get a simple FM-ONLY radio?
No.
Got to have "DAB" & often fucking bloody useless bluetooth as well.
Far too many radios, now, have push-buttons only, which require the dexterity of a well-trained ferret, because, after you've pushed a button, it's 1.5 seconds before you press the next one ... & you require an M.A. in S Korean "English" to read & understand the destructions, anyway.
Grrr ...
"We are going to make the product expensive & complicated, whether you want it or not"

481:

#466 - I picked some sample acts who have an international profile for more than "that one song", and who also did well in Eurovision. You may like to note that I did not, for example, cite David Hasselhof who is big in Germany as a rock star rather than an actor.

#468 and #469 - OK, comment on the UK system based on having been a Count Agent (party actor, witnessing but not p