Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Internecine Deep State Conflict Moves to Stage Two

It now seems evident that the Neoliberal Camp of the U.S. Deep State is highly vulnerable on an individual basis.
I tend to notice things like a year-old blog entry suddenly getting thousands of page views. The essay that received a surge of recent interest: Is the Deep State at War--With Itself? (December 13, 2016).
I'm reprinting the essay below for those interested, as nothing has emerged to change the conclusions.
That in itself reveals that the internecine war within America's Deep State is if anything heating up as those attempting to hang a "Russian collusion" narrative on their Deep State opponents have failed to produce any proof of this collusion despite a year of effort.
Then all of a sudden big political donor Harvey Weinstein gets taken down for behaviors that have been well-known within the circles of power for 20+ years. So what changed? Why did Mr. Weinstein's protective wall suddenly fail after serving him so effectively for decades?
But Mr. Weinstein was only the first to fall. Now high-profile figures across the mainstream media are toppling like dominoes. Doesn't it seem a bit peculiar that all these Protected Privileged are suddenly being exposed, disgraced and removed from positions of influence and power?
Maybe it's just random coincidence, but I doubt it. It has the scent of an intentional covert campaign. It's well known that the mainstream media and Hollywood has been in bed with the security agencies for decades, and so it seems non-random that suddenly all these big-shots have lost their Protected Privileged Status more or less at once.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but it looks like those who played on the losing side's team (or cheered from the sidelines) just had their privileges revoked.
Were we to speculate on the meaning of this first-sweep of the media: how about a campaign to strip the failed narrative of its media supporters? Now that everyone sees the lay of the land, the Second Stage will be to collect all the dirty laundry that's been hidden away out of fear, and then methodically expose, disgrace and remove the next layer of media/entertainment supporters of the failed narrative.
Stage Three will be to collect and release the same sort of evidence against the political class. We can discern evidence for this campaign in the number of candidates who suddenly declare they won't be running for re-election for personal reasons, or to "move on to other projects," etc.
As this campaign moves up the wealth-power pyramid, we'll see more big shots resigning or retiring. Those that resist will find all their dirty laundry is suddenly being made public.
Isn't it interesting that PBS and the rest of the mainstream media went all out to support Hillary Clinton's recent media campaign to revive the "Russian collusion" narrative via her new book, yet the campaign fell flat with the American public?
This is remarkable: a highly coordinated, massive media campaign failed to re-energize the "Russian collusion" narrative, and may have actually backfired by drawing renewed interest in Russian dealings with the Clinton Foundation during Hillary's term as Secretary of State.
I hesitate to draw a military analogy, but it certainly feels like a replay of the Battle of Midway, in which an over-confident Japanese Imperial Navy was poised to declare victory until the cream of its fleet, four aircraft carriers, were sunk or disabled in the space of a few moments by U.S. Navy dive bombers.
The grand attack that was supposed to reverse these catastrophic losses--Hillary's book and accompanying media blitz--fizzled, and that failure clearly eroded the defenses of those who supported this counter-attack by the demoralized but still powerful Neoliberal Camp of the Deep State.
It now seems evident that the Neoliberal Camp of the U.S. Deep State is highly vulnerable on an individual basis: all too many over-confident big-wigs appear to have counted a bit too much on their Protected Privileged Status being permanent.
Collectively, they appear to have forgotten, perhaps as a result of their titanic hubris, that only the paranoid survive.
Various cliques within the 3-Letter Agencies are frantically trying to protect their satraps and benefactors, but the tide has turned and all the threats and pay-offs that defended the Protected Privileged so effectively for decades are no longer working.
Now the Protected Privileged are running scared, as well they should, for the opposing camp within the 3-Letter Agencies has all the dirty laundry it needs to bring down the Neoliberal Camp, one disgraced big-shot at a time.
The way of the Tao is reversal.
Here's last year's essay on the Deep State conflict:


Is the Deep State at War--With Itself?
December 14, 2016
The recent pronouncement by the C.I.A. that Russian hackers intervened in the U.S. presidential election doesn't pass the sniff test--on multiple levels. Let's consider the story on the most basic levels.
1. If the report is so "secret," why is it dominating the news flow?
2. Why was the "secret report" released now?
3. What actual forensic evidence is there of intervention? Were voting machines tampered with? Or is this "secret report" just another dose of fact-free "fake news" like The Washington Post's list of 200 "Russian propaganda" websites?
4. The report claims the entire U.S. intelligence community is in agreement on the "proof of Russian intervention on behalf of Trump" story, but then there's this:
"The C.I.A. presentation to senators about Russia’s intentions fell short of a formal U.S. assessment produced by all 17 intelligence agencies. A senior U.S. official said there were minor disagreements among intelligence officials about the agency’s assessment, in part because some questions remain unanswered."
Given that the N.S.A. (National Security Agency) was so secret that its existence was denied for decades, do you really think the NSA is going to go public if it disagrees with the C.I.A.?
Given the structure of the Deep State and the intelligence community, "minor disagreements" could well mean complete, total disavowal of the C.I.A.'s report.
That this is the reality is suggested by the F.B.I.'s denunciation of the report's evidence-free, sweeping conclusion:
5. The supposed interventions clearly fall under the purview of the NSA. So why is the C.I.A. going public in what is clearly a politicized report intended to influence the public via massive, sustained coverage in the mainstream media?
6. Notice the double standard: so when the U.S. attempts to influence public opinion in other nations, it's OK, but when other nations pursue the same goal, it's not OK?
7. What are we to make of the sustained campaign to elevate "Russian hackers and propaganda" from signal noise to the deciding factor in the U.S. election?
8. Russian hacking and attempts to influence American public opinion are not new. The intelligence agencies tasked with protecting American cyberspace have long identified state-sponsored hacking from Russia and China as major threats. So why, all of a sudden, are we being told the Russians successfully influenced a U.S. election?
What changed? What new capabilities did they develop?
9. And most importantly, what evidence is there that Russian efforts affected the election? Were digital fingerprints found on voting machine records? Were payments to American media employees uncovered?
Shouldn't statements purported to be "fact" or the "truth" be substantiated beyond "trust us, an agency with a long history of failed intelligence, misinformation and illegal over-reach"?
10. Doesn't it raise alarms that such a momentous accusation is totally devoid of evidence? If you're going public with the conclusion, you have to go public with at least some of the evidence.
Here's the media blitz and some skeptical response:
Longtime readers know I have proposed a major divide in the Deep State--the elements of the federal government which don't change regardless of who is in elected office. This includes the intelligence community, the Pentagon, the diplomatic and trade infrastructure, Research and Revelopment, and America's own organs of media "framing" and "placement."
More recently, I wondered if the more progressive elements of the Deep State recognized the dangers to U.S. security posed by the neocons and their candidate, Hillary Clinton, and had decided to undermine her candidacy:
In other words, it's not the Russians who sabotaged Hillary--it's America's own Deep State that undermined her coronation. It wasn't a matter of personalities; it was much more profound than that. It was about the risks posed by the neocon strategies and policies, and just as importantly, the politicization of the intelligence network.
And this is precisely what we discern in the C.I.A.'s unprecedented and quite frankly, absurd "secret report:" a blatantly politicized "report" that is not supported by any evidence, nor is it supported by the other 16 intelligence agencies. (Silence doesn't mean approval in this sphere.)
We can now discern the warring camps of the Deep State more clearly. On the one side is the C.I.A., the mainstream media, and the civilians who have feasted on wealth and power from their participation in the neocon's Global Project.
On the other side is the Defense Department's own intelligence agencies (D.I.A. et al.), the N.S.A., the F.B.I. and at least a few well-placed civilians who recognize the neocon agenda as a clear and present danger to the security of the nation.
From this perspective, the C.I.A.'s rash, evidence-free "report" is a rear-guard political action against the winning faction of the Deep State. The Deep State elements that profited from the neocon agenda were confident that Hillary's victory would guarantee another eight years of globalist intervention. Her loss means they are now on the defensive, and like a cornered, enraged beast, they are lashing out with whatever they have in hand.
This goes a long way in explaining the C.I.A's release of a painfully threadbare and politicized "report."


If you found value in this content, please join me in seeking solutions by becoming a $1/month patron of my work via patreon.com.
Check out both of my new books, Inequality and the Collapse of Privilege($3.95 Kindle, $8.95 print) and Why Our Status Quo Failed and Is Beyond Reform($3.95 Kindle, $8.95 print, $5.95 audiobook) For more, please visit the OTM essentials website.

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Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Asymmetry of Bubbles: the Status Quo and Bitcoin

Shall we compare the damage that will be done when all these bubbles pop?
Regardless of one's own views about bitcoin/cryptocurrency, what is truly remarkable is the asymmetry that is applied to questioning the status quo and bitcoin. As I noted yesterday, everyone seems just fine with throwing away $20 billion in electricity annually in the U.S. alone to keep hundreds of millions of gadgets in stand-by mode, but the electrical consumption of bitcoin is "shocking," "ridiculous," etc.
Since the U.S. consumes about 20% of the world's energy, we can guesstimate the total amount of electricity wasted on stand-by and similar sources of waste is more on the order of $100 billion annually.
What's shocking and ridiculous is that upwards of $100 billion in electricity is squandered globally annually on stand-by devices and other painfully obvious sources of waste. But this attracts essentially zero concern or commentary. Do you notice any asymmetry in the scrutiny being applied to the status quo and to bitcoin et al.? The status quo-- wasteful beyond measure--is just fine: nobody questions the staggering waste built into the status quo, from hundreds of millions of devices consuming electricity but doing no work to hundreds of millions of vehicles idling in traffic for hours each and every day across the globe--nope, the really big issue is bitcoin / blockchain consumption.
Does anyone question how much electricity the vast server farms of Google and Facebook consume in order to serve up adverts and store photos of puppies and kittens? And how about the energy consumed by the NSA and the dozens of National Security agencies that have proliferated over the past 16 years? How much coal gets burned to serve adverts, archive photos of puppies and kittens, and store billions of emails, phone calls to Aunt Sadie, etc. for future analysis? (Dear old Sadie could be a jihadist--ya never know...)
There's also an interesting asymmetry in pronouncements of bubbles. Almost every pundit / commentator agrees that the cryptocurrencies are in crazy bubbles akin to the tulip bulb mania, but how many of these folks publicly ask if fiat currencies might be the greatest bubbles in human history, pyramids of illusion that are supposedly worth tens of trillions of dollars?
Do the bubbles in bonds, stocks and real estate get the same scrutiny as the bubble in cryptos? Do any of the conventional critics deriding the bubble in bitcoin bother comparing the scale of all these bubbles? So bitcoin is in a bubble at a market cap of $170 billion, but the unprecedented $500 trillion bubble in stocks, bonds, debt instruments and real estate is perfectly fine and no risk at all? (Approximately $300 trillion in global financial assets and $200 trillion in real estate.)
Shall we compare the damage that will be done when all these bubbles pop?owners of bitcoin would suffer a collective loss of $85 billion should bitcoin fall in half from $10,000 to $5,000, while the owners of stocks, bonds, debt instruments and real estate will suffer a collective loss of $250 trillion when these bubbles pop--an event that history tells us is inevitable.
The status quo does an excellent job assuring us that these $500 trillion bubbles will never pop-- never, ever, ever; they will continue expanding until the end of time because central banks are the greatest power in the Universe and they will never ever let these markets decline.
Meanwhile, history is conclusive: ultimate financial powers in the Universe are 0 for 100 in terms of staving off collapses of asset bubbles, especially asset bubbles based on the infinite expansion of credit.
So which bubble is more dangerous? Which one should be attracting the most scrutiny and risk assessment? The mainstream will answer "bitcoin," but if we strip away the astounding asymmetry that's being applied to all things bitcoin/blockchain, we might find that worrying about the destruction of $250 trillion is considerably worthier of close examination than the potential for what amounts to signal-noise (in comparison to losses that will be measured in the tens of trillions) losses in bitcoin.
The asymmetry of bubbles will generate an asymmetry of losses.



If you found value in this content, please join me in seeking solutions by becoming a $1/month patron of my work via patreon.com.
Check out both of my new books, Inequality and the Collapse of Privilege($3.95 Kindle, $8.95 print) and Why Our Status Quo Failed and Is Beyond Reform($3.95 Kindle, $8.95 print, $5.95 audiobook) For more, please visit the OTM essentials website.

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Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Did Anyone Do Even a Minimal Check on the Sensationalist Bitcoin Electrical Consumption Story?

Check the context before uncritically accepting sensationalist conclusions.
Let's start with a primer on how to write a sensationalist story that can be passed off as "journalism:"
1. Locate credible-sounding data that can be de-contextualized, i.e. sensationalized.
2. Present the data as "fact" rather than data that requires verification by disinterested researchers.
3. Exaggerate the data as much as possible and set the tone and context with emotionally laden words: "shocking," etc.
4. Select a context that sensationalizes the conclusion.
Now let's take a look at a story that has been swallowed whole, with little to no fact-checking or disinterested inquiry: bitcoin's electrical consumption, i.e. the electricity consumed by mining/maintaining bitcoin's blockchain.
Let's start by stipulating that energy consumption is a consequential matter worthy of serious inquiry. It's important to measure the energy consumption of all the systems that operate within the current status quo, and compare the consumption levels of these systems.
With that in mind, let's take a look at the story.
Right off the bat, the context we're offered to grasp the enormity of bitcoin's mining consumption is the electrical consumption of Nigeria, a nation, we're breathlessly informed, with 186 million residents. Wow! That's a crazy amount of electrical consumption, right?
Let's do some very basic fact-checking before we accept sensationalist conclusions, shall we?
Nigeria consumes about 24 billion kWh annually, while the U.S. consumes 3,913 billion kWh annually.
So Nigeria uses 3/5th of 1% (0.6%) of the electricity the U.S. consumes.
Now let's compare that electrical consumption with the amount of electricity consumed in the U.S. by residential devices and chargers on stand-by, i.e. appliances, devices, chargers, gizmos, etc. that aren't in use and doing no work but that are still consuming electricity.
About a quarter of all residential energy consumption is used on devices in idle power mode, according to a study of Northern California by the Natural Resources Defense Council. That means that devices that are “off” or in standby or sleep mode can use up to the equivalent of 50 large power plants’ worth of electricity and cost more than $19 billion in electricity bills every year.
(Please read the article to find out just how much power the 50+ gadgets in your home consume doing absolutely zero work.)
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, annual residential electrical consumption totals 1,410 billion kWh.
So 25% (the amount of household electricity consumed by stand-by devices) of 1,410 billion equals 352 billion kWh consumed annually by residential appliances and devices on stand-by in the U.S.
Now let's compare the annual electrical consumption of Nigeria (24 B kWh) with the annual residential electrical consumption of devices on stand-by in the U.S.
The annual electrical consumption of Nigeria (24 B kWh) is 6.8% of the annual electrical consumed by household devices on stand-by in the U.S. That means the supposed consumption of bitcoin mining is 1/14th of the power lost to residential devices on stand-by in the U.S., devices doing essentially nothing.
Now let's add in all the appliances and devices in government and private-sector offices on stand-by. Let's conservatively estimate another 150 B kWh lost to all this stuff on stand-by.
Now let's multiply the total of electricity lost to stuff on stand-by mode (doing no work whatsoever) in the U.S., 500 B kWh annually, by five, since the U.S. consumes roughly 20% of all electricity globally.
This gives us an estimate of all the electrical power lost to electrical appliances and devices on stand-by globally every year: 2,500 billion kHh. 1% of that wasted electricity is 25 billion kHh. If you reckon this seems high, let's shave these totals to 1,500 billion kHh and 15 billion kHh.
Let's go back to the story about bitcoin's consumption of electricity which tells us "a shocking 215 kilowatt-hours (KWh) of juice (is) used by miners for each Bitcoin transaction."
But then a few paragraphs down, we discover the electricity per transaction might only be 77 kWh-- nobody really knows for sure. Hmm. 77 is 36% of 215, so the "shocking" consumption might overstate actual consumption by a factor of three?
Let's choose a number between 77 and the "shocking" 215, since nobody really knows what the real number is: shall we guesstimate 135, or 2/3 of the high guesstimate? That would drop the annual consumption of bitcoin mining from 24 B kWh annually to 15 B kWh, less than 1% of the electricity wasted annually on stand-by devices doing no work whatsoever.
And so, um, bitcoin mining is a threat to the planet because it consumes less than 1% of all the electricity squandered by appliances and devices on stand-by? If we want to stop wasting so much energy, perhaps we should start by mandating near-zero stand-by power consumption for the hundreds of millions of devices which are not in use that are nonetheless sucking up electricity every second of every day.
Here's another thought: check the context before uncritically accepting sensationalist conclusions.



If you found value in this content, please join me in seeking solutions by becoming a $1/month patron of my work via patreon.com.
Check out both of my new books, Inequality and the Collapse of Privilege($3.95 Kindle, $8.95 print) and Why Our Status Quo Failed and Is Beyond Reform($3.95 Kindle, $8.95 print, $5.95 audiobook) For more, please visit the OTM essentials website.

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Monday, November 27, 2017

My Crazy $17,000 Target for Bitcoin Is Looking Less Crazy

The basis of this admittedly crazy forecast was simple: capital flows.
I think we can all agree that bitcoin (BTC) is "interesting." One of the primary reason that bitcoin (and cryptocurrency in general) is interesting is that nobody knows what will happen going forward.
Unknowns and big swings up and down are characteristics of open markets.It's impossible to forecast bitcoin's future price because virtually all the future inputs are unknown.
We've lived so long with managed markets that only loft higher that we've forgotten that unmanaged markets are volatile and full of unknowns. We've forgotten that markets are reflections of all sorts of things, from human emotions to herd behavior to changes in the underlying Mode of Production, i.e. how stuff gets done, made, distributed and paid for.
Last May, when bitcoin was around $580, I distributed a back-of-the-envelope forecast of $17,000 per bitcoin to my subscribers and patrons ($5/month or $50 annually). (In June, I presented the case to subscribers of PeakProsperity.com, where I'm a contributing writer.)
The basis of this admittedly crazy forecast was simple: capital flows. There is around $300 trillion in financial "wealth" sloshing around the global economy, and another $200 trillion in real estate. (The sum of financial wealth is now much higher, due to the extraordinary gains in global markets.) I reckoned that if a tiny slice of that financial wealth flowed into bitcoin--1/10th of 1%-- the inflow of capital would push bitcoin to around $17,000 per coin.
If 1% of all that wealth sloshing around looking for yield and safety decided to find a home in bitcoin, the forecasted price was an insane $170,000.
Compared to this, $17,000 per BTC looked almost conservative. But since bitcoin was under $600 at the time, $17,000 looked pretty darn crazy. But the math looked compelling to me: $300 trillion in mostly mobile capital sloshing around an inherently unstable system, and little old bitcoin was worth a meager $9 billion. Given that the total number of bitcoin was limited to 21 million, it didn't seem much of a stretch to imagine a tiny sliver of all that capital flowing into BTC.
I heard many reasons why my scenario didn't hold water. Fair enough: the future is unknown, I could have been completely wrong, and BTC could have dropped back to $60 or $6.
I repeated my analysis to my subscribers and patrons in December 2016, when BTC had reached $900.
So now we know bitcoin didn't go to $60, or zero; it has climbed to $9,500 or so, a bit over halfway to my rough and unsophisticated back-of-the-envelope forecast of $17,000. Could BTC suddenly drop to $7,000? Of course it could; given its history, we should expect dizzying declines of up to 30% or more.
The interesting thing to me is that nobody knows what will happen going forward. Not knowing is refreshing. So is the opportunity to be right or wrong. This is what investing is supposed to be about.
There are all sorts of scenarios out there. Some will be right, some will be wrong, some will be half-right, and in all likelihood, stuff will happen that nobody predicted.
Here is a chart prepared by Tuur Demeester way back in 2013. It's interesting because nobody has a crystal ball, so we're all guessing based on what we expect to happen and what we see as the primary dynamics in play.
For what it's worth, here are my notes to subscribers/patrons from last May/June. To me, this was more or less stating what I took to be obvious. As for all the quibbles about centralization and decentralization: yes, yes, yes and yes--I realize fiat currency issued by banks has certain features of decentralization and that bitcoin is vulnerable to the dominance of (or manipulation by) self-serving players. But the question boils down to: what matters most going forward?
Musings Report #21 5-21-16 (emailed to subscribers/major patrons)
Unlike precious metals, crypto-currencies are easy mediums of exchange: you can send or receive bitcoin as easily as you send or receive dollars with PayPal, Dwolla or similar services. The great problem going forward for many people will be transferring their remaining financial wealth out of depreciating currencies in their homeland to some other currency in another more stable country.
When governments clamp down on bank transfers and impose other capital controls, this will become increasingly difficult in conventional channels. Should demand for bitcoin rise, the price will skyrocket. Right now all 17+ million bitcoin in existence are worth about $8 billion--a drop in the bucket of the world economy's $200+ trillion in financial assets and a tiny sliver of gold's global $7 trillion valuation.  It would take very little to push bitcoin's valuation to $80 billion, and this would still be a very thin slice of total financial assets.
Musings Report #22 5-28-16 (emailed to subscribers/major patrons)
The primary reason to follow crypto-currencies such as bitcoin and Ethereum's ether currency is that they are outside the control of the self-serving exploitive elites that control the credit money issued by central banks and states.
Crypto-currencies are revolutionary because they are independent of central banks and an easy medium of exchange. Gold and silver are independent forms of money, but other than silver coins, the precious metals don't lend themselves to acting as mediums of exchange in an increasingly digital world.
The key point here is the current financial system is highly centralized, while crypto-currencies are decentralized. Should a government decide to recapitalize bank losses with a bail-in, i.e. expropriating depositors' money to cover banks' losses, as was done in Cyprus, the depositors have no recourse: the state sends the order to the banks and the depositors' accounts are legally robbed.
While some people believe the government will be able to outlaw the use of crypto-currencies, or expropriate bitcoin just like it does with regular bank accounts, the decentralized nature of crypto-currencies makes this more difficult than in a system dominated by five Too Big To Fail banks and a central bank.
Another reason to follow the growth of blockchain applications (the technology underpinning bitcoin) is that these big banks have jumped on the blockchain and "smart contracts" technology of Ethereum. The politically potent banks recognize that they must either adopt these technologies or they will wither on the vine, and they will not look kindly on any government effort to outlaw the technologies that are their future.
The last reason to follow crypto-currencies is their potential to gain value. In a currency-swap, bitcoin acts solely as a medium of exchange between yuan and dollars. But due to the structural limit on the total number of bitcoin that can be created/mined (21 million, of which 17 million are in circulation), bitcoin is a store-of-value currency as well as a medium of exchange.
All the gold in the world is currently worth about $7 trillion.
All the bitcoin in circulation total $8 billion--an order of magnitude smaller than gold. Were bitcoin to represent 1% of total global financial assets, i.e. $2.9 trillion, that would represent a 362-fold increase, suggesting a price per bitcoin of $172,000.
That sounds insane, so let's say bitcoin becomes a mere 1/10th of 1% of total global financial assets. That equates to a price of $17,000 per bitcoin.
Impossible? let's check back in 5 years in 2021, and in 10 years, in 2026, before we declare this impossible.
In June 2016, I wrote:
The point is that value is ultimately driven by demand, and demand is driven by utility. As bitcoin’s utility increases in a world of rising financial repression, capital controls and expropriations, devaluations, etc., the demand for bitcoin will likely rise as well.
And as bitcoin’s stability and valuation increase, the potential for a self-reinforcing feedback loop increases: as bitcoin’s value rises, it attracts more capital, which pushes prices higher, and so on.
Perhaps bitcoin will remain a financial novelty; perhaps it will suffer some fatal technological snafu. Maybe some new cryptocurrency will replace bitcoin. All of these are possibilities. But at this point, given the seven-year history of bitcoin and cryptocurrencies, the regulatory acceptance of the technology in the U.S., the Gold Rush mentality of major corporations into these technologies, and the rise of financial repression globally, it seems like a reasonably safe bet that cryptocurrencies may not just be around in seven years--they might play a larger role in global finance.

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Thank you, Gautam L. ($50), for your splendidly generous contribution to this site-- I am greatly honored by your support and readership.

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