Polar Opposites

>> May 12, 2020

>> Blog Post #70

Not a day goes by without you hearing about the dramatic effects the COVID-19 pandemic has on people’s lives and on the economy. The economy has tanked in all countries as a direct consequence of people closing shops during the confinement.

I’ve actually suspected that this economic turmoil is a bigger factor in why many countries are currently getting out of their confined states and back to more normal working arrangements (read normal as in the “norm”) than the sanitary situation itself.

You’d think that the markets would tank because of this but I have actually been extremely surprised by just how fast they have rebounded since the initial – and very strong – crash that occurred between end of February and end of March.

The only reason I can think of, and it’s probably the right one, is that the insane amount of money that has been injected by governments around the world in liquidity has artificially supported markets that are no longer correlated with the real economy. At this point, I believe it is fair to wonder if this can’t just go on forever as no one really seems to care. But please take a look at it and try to spend just two seconds figuring out if you are the one benefiting from the “free” money and / or the stock “performances”. Chances are, you might say no in both cases. Just think about it.

On the other side of the spectrum, Bitcoin has just lived another day yesterday. And nothing has changed. Well actually nothing has changed in the value proposition. The hardest money the world has ever known, sitting on top to a very decentralized protocol and network, with unprecedented censorship resistance characteristics. You have to marvel at what bitcoin has accomplished since its inception.

Yesterday was another milestone in Bitcoin’s very short, yet tremendously rich history. Bitcoin went through its 3rd halving.

See unlike FIAT currencies which might just be inflated into oblivion, Bitcoin’s total market supply is capped. No more than 21 million Bitcoins will ever be produced. The supply is finite, and its rate of production is hard coded in Bitcoin’s consensus rules so that it gradually decreases over time.  Bitcoin’s protocol states that every 210,000 blocks, the block subsidy is cut in half.

Now, I won’t get into too many details on how this works, as it can get confusing fast depending on how much you know regarding bitcoin, but you have to understand that the block subsidy, is part of the reward that is allotted to the miners in return for the work they provide in securing the bitcoin network. Here’s me trying to explain this as succinctly as possible:

Transactions are created every day by the participants who send and receive bitcoin. These transactions are pooled together and included in blocks by the miners, acting as some sort of housekeepers of the network. The miners are compensated for their housekeeping tasks by receiving a reward every time they mine a block. The block reward consists of the block subsidy – the part we are looking at today – and the transaction fees that are included in every single transaction contained in the block that is mined. When mining a new block, the miner will include in the block a transaction paying himself that subsidy, effectively creating new Bitcoins in the process. This is the only way Bitcoin is created, until the total number of Bitcoin every created reaches 21 million, at which point miners will only be collecting transaction fees.

As I said, yesterday was the third halving. Initially, the block subsidy for miners was 50 new bitcoin per block. After block 210,000 the rate of issuance of new money was cut to 25 new bitcoin per block, with blocks being produced approximately every 10 minutes. Since last evening, we are down to 12.5 bitcoin per block, which means every day, approximately 1,800 new bitcoins are issued.

This is going to be a very – VERY – scarce asset, not artificially inflated by governments. Its value proposition is extremely different from that of US dollars or Euros for example. No matter what you think of any of these three currencies, or your home country’s currency, you have to realize there might be some benefit to holding some funds in bitcoin, just in case.

Police – Do Not Cross

>> May 6, 2020

>> Blog Post #68

Another week, another company that folds due to restrictive legislation. This time it’s the Dutch company BitKassa.

last time was end of April only… 🙁

Imagine you run a business and from one day to another you see the need to place this big red banner on your front page.

It must hurt so bad.

Here’s their post about why. 1st paragraph includes this:

« Main reason is we no longer want to commit to the excessive demands of the Dutch Central Bank, and the Dutch Ministry of Finance who does a great job serving the Dutch Central Bank in enforcing unreasonable regulation upon Dutch Bitcoin companies. »

Country legislation that protects government sponsored associations of non-elected officials to the detriment of hardworking, honest people who are trying to build for the future.

Makes me sad.

Building is important. Staying in the shade probably is too. It’s still early in the game. I learned early enough that you did not want to sit at the frontier of bitcoin to FIAT if you did not want to face issues. This is just another example of this. License fees, legal delays or costs and fines are designed to run you out of business and protect the establishment.

It Has Already Been Written

>> April 28, 2020

>> Blog Post #66


We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly, all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

US Declaration of Independance – July 4, 1776

It is the right of the People to abolish it…

But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

This tweet also went by today that I thought was interesting

What If It Got Worse?

>> April 23, 2020

>> Blog Post #63

The weather is gorgeous, we figured out our kids are better served when we are teaching them, we actually spend more quality time together, we have learned (let’s not get ahead of ourselves here – we are just learning) how to grow food for ourselves. Everything is going fine. We are actually looking ahead with hope that this whole COVID-19 crisis will help us take better habits and build a better future. But what if this pandemic episode just led us to even worse?

One of the first things that got me riled up was how the state started telling us what to do, what to eat, what to drink as if we were its babies. Then came the power grab, with those fascist-leaning laws.

But this is only the tip of the iceberg. What we as commoners have to deal with when we are confronted with central governing bodies. But let’s face it, the government doesn’t give a f… about us. To think otherwise would be stupid. So, what you have to do is take a look at what governments care about. Law, order – that’s the part you usually focus on as it has more direct impact on your lives – and outside warfare. This second part is your country fighting with other countries, for power. Look at this closely. Your daily lives have most probably been turned upside down because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But the other part has not paused for one second. There is a strong case to make that it has actually only exacerbated.

Beware, governments are going to fight tooth and nail for power and the monger this lasts, the harder they will cling on to it.

That’s why opting-out of this mess is probably the wiser thing to do, but I believe I have told you that already.

COVID Is The Next Political Campaign

>> March 31, 2020

>> Blog Post #50

I turned the TV on today while I was having lunch, to watch the news. I don’t do that very often as I find the quality of TV news appalling. But once in a while, when there is a major topic being discussed it’s actually interesting to see how it is presented on TV and what they choose to talk about or not.

Guess who choose to make a live public appearance again today? The president, Emmanuel Macron. It must be the second time this week that he makes a televised speech during the news. I think he is starting to like it too much.

Anyways, the entire thing sounded like a slogan for the next political campaign. Let’s fight for France, we will do it together, let’s make sure we support our local industry and remain sovereign, blablablablabla….

I’m not saying anything of what he is saying is good or bad, I’m just saying that the only thing I heard, was vote for me as a president.

Made me want to puke.

Bon appétit….

What Are Borders?

>> March 30, 2020

>> Blog Post #49

I saw a tweet a few days ago that made me react.

Obviously, I understand the natural tendency for humans to arm themselves if they fear that physical harm can come to them and, in times of crisis, a very strong uptick in demand is definitely to be expected. Then depending on where you live and what your country’s laws on firearms are this can be more or less difficult or acceptable. The gun portion of the tweet therefore came as no surprise to me, especially coming from a known gun proponent.

The frontier component of the tweet is more interesting. What is a frontier? Ragnar’s response to that question was “What is water?”. Borders are interesting as depending what you are talking about, they can be extremely different in nature.

You have the natural physical border. Water is a very good example of this, but so have been mountains or deserts of you look at how countries have evolved geographically throughout history. Rivers, lakes, oceans have very often served as a natural delimitation of a town, a province or a country and still do today.

But you have another type of border, the one enforced by a country, its government, the troops it can deploy to protect them. Sometimes these borders are not the manifestation of a material delimitation but the virtual design of some kind of will. You can cross a border without having to hop over it as there is no line between country A and country B in many cases.

So how do you use a border to protect yourself from a virus? It’s not like COVID-19 is going to stop at the border frontier post – if you still have one. And yet most countries seem to be shutting down their borders. It seems to be the only thing they are trying to manage is that who eventually gets in is a citizen, one for whom they are “responsible”, meaning they would have to provide a bed for if hospitalized. I’d argue that for a majority of governments around the world, their worst fear would be to be seen as not knowing how to handle their own citizens with their citizen’s hard-earned money (their taxes). They are far more concerned about that, which would make them obsolete, than the actual number of casualties I am afraid.

If this is true, what is the benefit of a border? Is it not only to protect a state in its governmental function? I can see a culture or tradition being maintained without a border, but not a state. Why would we want a border then?

And lastly, and maybe a little more philosophically if I may say, borders can also be seen as a temporary limit for mankind. The rivers that men and women could not swim across restricted them until they were able to walk around or swim across. The seas and oceans killed many before the first settlers were able to cross them. The edge of the earth even disappeared when Magellan sailed around the world, and Man even left the confines of his home on earth when he started exploring space. What is a border if not something you naturally want to conquer and go past?

The image I chose for this post is the photo of a meeting room in Panmunjom in the heart of the DMZ. DMZ stands for demilitarized zone and as its name might suggest, …, it is the exact opposite! probably one of the most heavily militarized zones in the world, which separates North Korea from South Korea. The blue building (“UN protected”) that houses this room actually sits across the boarder, with one half being in the north and the other half being in the south. If you have ever been there, please let me know in the comments below. I have personally been there and technically have set a foot in North Korea (you can do it while you visit the UN base) and it was a very strange experience that to this day still makes me wonder how I should think about it.

Traffic Restrictions

>> March 19, 2020

>> Blog Post #43

There’s a local police officer in the town my kids go to school that really rubs be the wrong way. The police force in France is set up in an unusual way that people outside of France are not aware of. You actually have two “police” forces. One is called the police and is similar to what you probably have wherever you live. The other is the gendarmerie and actually consists of a police force of trained military. They actually fall under the army’s authority.

Anyways, this particular guy that really annoys me is from the police, but the kind of police that has very little authority because they report to the mayor and deal with very limited local affairs. His morning responsibility is to help me cross the street in front of the kids’ school while making a point of showing all the cars in the town that he’s in charge of the crossing. Just thinking about it pisses me off, the guy is so overzealous it is embarrassing. I’ve also seen him turn on the siren and the lights – only when people are there to witness the scene – when someone is double parked so that he can do his best chuck Norris impersonation and threaten to hand the driver a parking ticket. That’s pretty much the extent of his power. But boy does he take his job seriously.

Anyways, he stopped me in the street on Monday, the day the restrictions on being out of home came into effect in France. It was 12:05 and the restrictions were supposed to take effect at 12:00. He asked me if I had my self-signed attestation authorizing me to be out of my home. I knew it was the first day and I was not running much of a risk by not having it, so I responded I did not. He lectured me for a sec and I drove home.

Today I went to town again, to try to find some toilet paper. What else?

He was there.

He stopped me.

I opened the window and handed him my self-signed attestation without even looking at him. I cannot suppress the feeling of anger at having the state restrict my liberty by confiscating public spaces. The form was filled out thoroughly as I just don’t want to be fined. I didn’t add comments to it, although I really really really want to. Nothing was missing from it. Name, address, birth date, purpose of me cruising around on such a fine day and my signature.

There was nothing he could say about it.

And yet he did….

“you should add the time of the day you are leaving your house”.

This is not something that is requested on the form, just another overzealous ask of his. I guess he’ll be asking for my DNA and fingerprints tomorrow.

These are the first people that jump ships when shit hits the fan and become oppressors. Fucking fascist.

Power Grab – Waging Wars on Ghosts

>> March 17, 2020

>> Blog Post #41

French President Macron went on television yesterday evening to announce that France had entered a war. He repeated the phrase “we are in a war” over and over again, to bash it into everyone’s mind and probably make viewers believe that this is inevitable or true…

I wanted to write about it last night, but I was too angry, my entire reaction to the whole speech was disgust.

You cannot wage war against a virus. A war if you look at various dictionaries is generally defined as a period of armed fighting between countries, states, groups, organizations. However, it has sometimes been used metaphorically to describe different realities.

The war on drugs. Established under Nixon, the war on drugs was an attempt by the US to meddle in the political affairs of Central and South American countries under the false pretext of fighting drug abuse back home. The policy lasted for decades and led to a lot of political instability south of the border and to some well documented racial disparities in prosecutions and prison sentencing in the US, with the African American community being the big loser on that front.

Then you have the war on terror. This one defies logic when you think of it. How can you go on television, make a false statement, start a war on that false statement, be responsible for thousands of deaths – on both sides – remain in office and then retire peacefully. That is exactly what happened when George W. Bush declared the “War on Terror” and decided to invade Irak even though the UN experts determined that Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction….

How is it possible, that you – as people – will accept “leaders” to blatantly lie to your face, with terrible consequences – people died because of it – and stay silent?

The Macron discussion yesterday went something like this.

  • These are not normal times.
  • They are happening because you – the French people – are acting irresponsibly.
  • I personally blame you for your behavior.
  • You are actually the reason this virus is spreading, and I blame you for it.
  • So, I will punish you and send you to your room until further notice.
  • To do so, I will take decisions that have never been taken before in times of peace in this country’s history.
  • All these are based on discussions I have had with “the experts”.
  • I am declaring war – even though there is no enemy.
  • By doing so, I will be allowed by the powers I am now granting to myself, to take a slew of decisions that will not be in your best interest.
  • You have given me no choice.
  • It is your fault.
  • If you do not comply, you will be severely punished.

I am terrified at how easily democracies seem to be sliding out of the people’s hands.

People you are going to get fucked hard. New laws will be passed that will severely restrict your personal liberties, and they will never be rescinded once the virus disappears.

I hope some smart people start to take that declaration and document the choice of words and how they are used to manipulate the mass. This is the only thing Macron was doing yesterday and it is far scarier in my books than the virus itself.

Please, in these difficult times, remain safe. Take care of your loved ones and respect the basic hygiene rules to try and slow down the spread of the virus. But I also urge you to remain vigilant and critical of all the laws that are going to be taken very quickly by your respective governments.

You are a human being, you have no master, you have no owner. You are also capable of loving and caring for people. Stay safe.

Power Again – Democracy > Health

>> March 13, 2020

>> Blog Post #40

Power: That which you do not want to let go of.

Follow-up to yesterday’s post.

France just changed the rules. The situation is more dire than it was before. Let’s pick another random number and now say that all gatherings of more than 100 people are banned in our fight for Corona Virus.

Exceptional situations warrant exceptional measures. All schools will be closed until further notice. 12 million students, out of a total population of 67 million people will have to stay home.

Where this really gets ridiculous is that municipal elections will be maintained this weekend, all in the name of democracy, as more than 45 million French people are invited to come and gather in their townhalls to vote.

Meanwhile in America Trump leads the way. To fight the virus all you have to do is shake hands with corporate America. No better time to make money than when people’s lives are at risk.

A sick “democracy” must be better than a healthy world. Or maybe only the economy needs to be healthy.


>> March 12, 2020

>> Blog Post #39

Power: That which you do not want to let go of.

France just passed a law last week making it illegal to organize any gathering of more than 1,000 people because of the Corona Virus outbreak.

The goal is plain and simple, try to contain the spread of the virus as much as possible.

My first reaction was to wonder how they had come up with this number. Seems almost random. Actually, I’m fairly sure it is just as random as anything else. How does a group as large as 1,000 people help prevent exponential growth? What are the economic numbers that would make cancelling gatherings of 500 or 893 people to difficult?

In any case, the reaction was fairly logical, at least in my books. Most events that I know of or have heard about since then have been cancelled. Garage sales, school reunions etc., except for something very specific.

Political meetings. It is election season in France, with all French municipalities voting in a few weeks for their mayors. Apparently, who gets elected in places like Paris are more important than curbing the spread of the virus as they tried to pack their meetings over the weekend by limiting the number of attendees to just under 1000 people. Here, let’s organize a meeting of 999 people, we are complying with the law. Now please vote for me because I’m a responsible person who should take all sorts of decisions with the powers you grant me…. That tells you a lot about the consideration politicians have for their fellow compatriots, but no one seems to say anything about it. I think these politicians should just go fuck themselves.

Now let’s turn our eyes to Russia for a second. The Parliament just passed a bill that would enable Vlad Putin, to potentially stay in office until 2036! Hey, when something in the law isn’t to your advantage, just change it. Why would you ever want to surrender your power?

Fortunately, some opponents decided to hold rallies to protest these rule changes that seem to come from another age, but… those rallies were not authorized because of the risk of contamination due to the corona virus…. The irony….

No here I am today, wondering what I should think about the risks to me and my family, friends, loved ones, when some many people, countries, governments are taking very different approaches to the pandemic risk. The only thing I know for sure is that I shouldn’t base any of my decisions on the laws that politicians pass as they have nothing to do with what is right for people and everything to do with their own very personal agendas.