Crypto revealed

• This is a nice interview of UC-Berkeley computer researcher Nicholas Weaver in Current Affairs.  He does a pointedly humorous takedown of what he labels “a giant self-assembled Ponzi scheme. You hear about people making money in Bitcoin or cryptocurrency. They only make money because some other sucker lost more.

and:

So the stock market and the bond market are a positive-sum game. There are more winners than losers. Cryptocurrency starts with zero-sum. So it starts with a world where there can be no more winning than losing. We have systems like this. It’s called the horse track. It’s called the casino. Cryptocurrency investing is really provably gambling in an economic sense. And then there’s designs where those power bills have to get paid somewhere. So instead of zero-sum, it becomes deeply negative-sum.

Effectively, then, the economic analogies are gambling and a Ponzi scheme. Because the profits that are given to the early investors are literally taken from the later investors. This is why I call the space overall, a “self-assembled” Ponzi scheme. There’s been no intent to make a Ponzi scheme. But due to its nature, that is the only thing it can be.

2022-05-17T17:06:55-05:00May 17th, 2022|HomeRecommended|

Linda Greenhouse weighs in on the infamous leak

• Yet another masterful analysis by the wonderful (and incomparable) Linda Greenhouse, writing in the NYT; Justice Alito’s Invisible Women. A pertinent excerpt:

“In the wake of the mortifying breach that the leak represents, there has been much talk of the Supreme Court’s “legitimacy.” The court has a problem, no doubt, one that barriers of unscalable height around its building won’t solve. But if a half-century of progress toward a more equal society, painstakingly achieved across many fronts by many actors, can be so easily jettisoned with the wave of a few judicial hands, the problem to worry about isn’t the court’s. It’s democracy’s. It’s ours.”

 

2022-05-06T11:56:59-05:00May 6th, 2022|HomeRecommended|

As the world burns…

 

This time-lapse video captured by a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellite shows the white plumes of wildfires burning in northern New Mexico fueled by extreme drought and high winds, along with the brownish cloud of a haboob (dust storm caused by high winds) blowing south from Colorado.

2022-05-04T18:39:01-05:00May 4th, 2022|HomeRecommended|

Yes, I agree with Tom Friedman again

Tom Friedman, writing in the NY Times, I think has it right when he argues that the US ought to be more circumspect when speaking publicly about the war in Ukraine.  An excerpt:

“Our goal began simple and should stay simple: Help Ukrainians fight as long as they have the will and help them negotiate when they feel the time is right — so they can restore their sovereignty and we can reaffirm the principle that no country can just devour the country next door. Freelance beyond that and we invite trouble.”

2022-05-04T14:29:32-05:00May 4th, 2022|Home, Musings|

Unsettling SCOTUS leak

Absent the draft in a wartime footing, I can’t imagine the Supreme Court would ever consider forcing men to choose an option with 10-15 times the mortality risk to them of another option (as is the case in term pregnancy versus legal elective abortion). Yikes.  And to these eyes, Alito’s logic seems extremely flawed, e.g.:

“And far from bringing about a national settlement of the abortion issue, Roe and Casey have enflamed debate and deepened division.”

Um, what does he think having half the states outlawing abortion and half allowing it is likely to do to deepening national division, with a resultant crazy quilt of varying laws and some states already wanting to criminalize anyone merely assisting someone seeking an abortion?

It is odd to me that his arguments totally ignore the fact that in survey after survey, an overwhelming majority of Americans favor allowing at least some form of legal pregnancy termination.

Even Bret Stevens acknowledges “You may reason, justices, that by joining Justice Alito’s opinion, you will merely be changing the terms on which abortion issues get decided in the United States. In reality, you will be lighting another cultural fire — one that took decades to get under control — in a country already ablaze over racial issues, school curriculums, criminal justice, election laws, sundry conspiracy theories and so on….A court that betrays the trust of Americans on an issue that affects so many, so personally, will lose their trust on every other issue as well.”

Gotta love the fact that Mitch McConnell said the person responsible for the leak should face criminal charges, but would not vote to impeach DJT, who willfully and clearly attempted to subvert the results of a legitimately held presidential election and supported an insurrection.

2022-05-03T16:51:40-05:00May 3rd, 2022|Home, Musings|

Well done, Harvard

• Congratulations to Harvard for being unafraid to face its legacy of slavery, and even more impressively, to act in deed as well as word with a $100 million commitment to help with the work of “reckoning and repair.” The full report of the committee charged with examining the subject and making recommendations is here.  I’m happy they have joined other universities in acknowledging truth and responsibility. From the report:

“Harvard must set a powerful example as it reckons with its own past. We must pursue not only truth, vital though that is, but also reconciliation. Doing so requires a range of actions—visible and continuing—that address the harms of slavery and its legacies, many of which still reverberate today, affecting descendants of slavery in the community and indeed the nation.

These actions must include monetary and nonmonetary efforts.⁠ Slavery was a system that, through violence, deprived the enslaved of the value of their own labor, creating a persistent multigenerational racial wealth gap that continues to disadvantage descendants of the enslaved. And the legacies of slavery—exclusion, segregation, marginalization, criminalization, disenfranchisement, and more—compounded its damage. The economic and social costs of categorical exclusion from and discrimination in education—not only but perhaps especially at Harvard—are profound.”

2022-04-26T16:36:04-05:00April 26th, 2022|HomeRecommended|

Republicans seem to have no real policy ideas (they want to openly express, at any rate)

• Paul Krugman’s column in the NYT, Republicans Say, ‘Let Them Eat Hate’, is worth a read.  An excerpt:

“...a real and important problem: The unraveling of society in Appalachia and more broadly for a significant segment of the white working class. Yet neither Vance nor, as far as I can tell, any other notable figure in the Republican Party is advocating any real policies to address this problem. They’re happy to exploit white working-class resentment; but when it comes to doing anything to improve their supporters’ lives, their implicit slogan is, “Let them eat hate.”…I’d say that G.O.P. campaigning in 2022 is all culture war, all the time, except that this would be giving Republicans too much credit. They aren’t fighting a real culture war, a conflict between rival views of what our society should look like; they’re riling up the base against phantasms, threats that don’t even exist.

2022-04-19T15:12:40-05:00April 19th, 2022|HomeRecommended|

On smart packaging…

This was an interesting and hopeful description of a biodegradable material with some intrinsic antibacterial activity that in tests outperformed the typical plastic fruit boxes used to package strawberries. It’s composed of a mesh of nanoscale fibers made from zein (from corn gluten meal) and other bio-polymers that can be extracted from food waste.  Cool stuff!  Now if only they can bring it to market – anything to help reduce the burden of environmental plastic is a plus.  It was a cooperative effort from Harvard’s Chan School of Public Health and Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University, with a brief description here from the Chan School, and academic paper describing the work here.

2022-04-18T12:59:24-05:00April 18th, 2022|Home, Musings|
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