Bitcoin: Beanie Babies for Techno-Libertarians?

I’ve got nothing against collectibles, and I have the Franklin Mint plates to prove it. But most of the little I know about economics I got from reading J.K. Galbraith, so whenever people start talking about Free money — guaranteed to appreciate!, the alarm bells go off. From the Washington Post:

Bitcoin soared past the $17,000 mark on Thursday, a dizzying run for a digital currency that was worth less than $1,000 at the start of the year and was once largely the preoccupation of technologists or those looking to avoid scrutiny to launder money or buy drugs and weapons online.

The fast rise — it has gone up more than 40 percent this week alone — is creating a buying frenzy among eager speculators around the world and helping push bitcoin into the mainstream. And it is also forcing U.S. regulators to grapple with whether to legitimize a product that operates outside the control of any government or financial institution.

The run-up in price comes as bitcoin enthusiasts prepare to reach a new landmark. On Sunday, a bitcoin product will trade for the first time on a U.S. financial market, making it almost as easy to bet on the virtual currency as oil, corn or the euro…

McClatchy:

Much of the computer power sustaining bitcoin occurs at massive complexes – or farms – in rural China running on electricity from coal-fired generating plants in Sichuan and Inner Mongolia. Reporters from Quartz and Bloomberg visited one of the massive farms in August, and said it had eight warehouses containing 25,000 processing machines, or about four percent of the global bitcoin network.
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Repub Horrorshow Open Thread: Sick Kids, Feh!


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Word is that Sen. Hatch is planning to retire, so I guess he now feels free to air his true GOP “I got mine, fvck you poor kids” philosophy in public.

I don’t know much about LDS theology, but from what little I do, there’s a bunch of [face*palm] going up back on Hatch’s home stake right now…



Late Night Horrorshow Open Thread: Yep, They Did It

One tiny positive note:



Friday Morning Open Thread: Thank (Murphy the Trickster) God It’s Finally Friday


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Happy nice news!

Apart from bracing ourselves for the inevitable Friday news dump, what’s on the agenda for the day?

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There’s been a lot of public tone-deafness this week, but Young Prince Jared will not be outdone. per Vanity Fair:

2017 has not been the year many of us hoped for. Yet the holiday season—a time for giving thanks, and sharing bounties, and passing around joy—is upon us all anyway, Kushners included, and some semblance of normalcy must be kept. For Kushner Cos., that means continuing an annual tradition of sending around company-branded swag to its usual group of real-estate developers, bankers, and business acquaintances. Three years ago, the company gift was a black, Kushner Cos.-branded hooded sweatshirt with white piping; two years ago, a similarly branded black vest; last year, a pair of headphones. This year, according to a person who has seen the gift, Kushner Cos. sent its friends a white bathrobe embossed with its logo on the right shoulder.

A full-length branded bathrobe would be, in any year, an unusually intimate corporate gift to send around. But in late 2017, as several recipients have noted, a bathrobe comes loaded with suggestive connotations. The bathrobe figures prominently in several women’s accounts of alleged sexual harassment by both Harvey Weinstein and Charlie Rose. Images of Trump in a robe of his own proliferated online earlier this year after Sean Spicer, responding to a New York Times story depicting the president wandering the East Wing in a bathrobe, denied that he even owned one. It has become a symbol, fairly or not, of something unseemly—hardly something that anyone wants to be reminded of as they unwrap presents around the menorah or tree.

“There are plenty of people who have gotten [the robes] who are shocked,” one person who saw the robes and spoke with others who received them told me. “Lots of rich white guys can’t believe it, given what’s going on in the world, with harassment and misuse of bathrobes. It’s the most tone-deaf holiday gift of all time.”

“Custom holiday gifts are ordered many months ahead of time—long before bathrobes were in the news,” Christine Taylor, a Kushner Cos. spokeswoman, said. “So not tone deaf at all, just a thoughtful holiday gift.“

“Sometimes a robe is just a robe,” she added…

Yeah, like you’ve never felt the urge to just slop around the house Oval Office, too exhausted even to dress properly. Poor lad is just depressed, is all. And can you blame him! [/snark]



Open Thread: The Dim-Witted, Angry, Acting-Out Madness of “King” Donald

President Trump has told confidants that a government shutdown could be good for him politically and is focusing on his hard-line immigration stance as a way to win back supporters unhappy with his outreach to Democrats this fall, according to people who have spoken with him recently.

Over the past 10 days, the president has also told advisers that it is important that he is seen as tough on immigration and getting money for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, according to two people who have spoken with him. He has asked friends about how a shutdown would affect him politically and has told several people he would put the blame on Democrats.

Trump’s mixed messages on a partial government shutdown could hamper the ability of congressional Republicans to negotiate with Democrats, whose support they need to pass spending legislation in coming weeks. Many Republicans said this week that a shutdown is a possibility they hope to avoid. Even inside the White House, aides fret about the possibility, saying it would not poll well…

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THIS IS FINE, Repubs reply.

President Donald Trump over the summer repeatedly urged senior Senate Republicans, including the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, to end the panel’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, according to a half-dozen lawmakers and aides. Trump’s requests were a highly unusual intervention from a president into a legislative inquiry involving his family and close aides.

Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, the intelligence committee chairman, said in an interview this week that Trump told him that he was eager to see an investigation that has overshadowed much of the first year of his presidency come to an end.

“It was something along the lines of, ‘I hope you can conclude this as quickly as possible,’” Burr said. He said he replied to Trump that “when we have exhausted everybody we need to talk to, we will finish.”

In addition, according to lawmakers and aides, Trump told Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Senate Republican leader, and Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., a member of the intelligence committee, to end the investigation swiftly…

Trump’s requests of lawmakers to end the Senate investigation came during a period in the summer when the president was particularly consumed with Russia and openly raging at his own attorney general, Jeff Sessions, for recusing himself from any inquiries into Russian meddling in the election. Trump often vented to his own aides and even declared his innocence to virtual strangers he came across on his New Jersey golf course.

In this same period, the president complained frequently to McConnell about not doing enough to bring the investigation to an end, a Republican official close to the leader said.

Republicans downplayed Trump’s appeals, describing them as the actions of a political newcomer unfamiliar with what is appropriate presidential conduct…

During this time, Trump made several calls to senators without senior staff present, according to one West Wing official. According to senators and other Republicans familiar with the conversations, Trump would begin the talks on a different topic but eventually drift toward the Russia investigation.

In conversations with McConnell and Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Trump voiced sharp anger that congressional Republicans were not helping lift the cloud of suspicion over Russia, the senators told political allies. The Times reported in August that the president had complained to McConnell that he was failing to shield Trump from an ongoing Senate inquiry…


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Thursday Morning Open Thread: When the Going Gets Weird…


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I, for one, welcome our new SkyNet overlords. Our current “leaders” are failing fast…



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Gosh, Ms. Haberman, you sound bitter! Maybe you can rewrite your ‘exclusive access’ Trump bio as a memoir: “Donald, Glenn, and Other Men Who I Let Lie to Me”…

Speaking of professional liars, anyone old/educated enough to remember the Watergate days should’ve known better than to trust a single word out of Roger Stone’s mouth:

Not the Onion:

President Trump’s longtime associate Roger Stone was in contact with a New York radio personality who had conversations with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange during the 2016 campaign season, according to sources familiar with the situation.

The radio host, Randy Credico, is the individual Stone referred to as an intermediary between him and Assange. Stone initially declined to reveal his name to the House Intelligence Committee because he said they had an “off-the-record” conversation, though he insisted there was nothing untoward about their conversation. Stone later did privately disclose the identity of the individual to the panel.

Credico received a subpoena this week to appear Dec. 15 before the House Intelligence Committee, something Credico’s attorney Martin Stolar says he “certainly” plans to comply with. Credico tweeted out a copy of the subpoena on Tuesday.
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Apropos Of Not Much

So I read the latest over at Talking Points Memo on the slow-rolling Republican “moderate” cave on the tax bill to Trump and the GOP’s I Got Mine/Tongue-Bath-A-Billionaire Caucus.  That led me to a Twitter rant born of despair and rage.

The TL:DR is that dominant-power decline has happened before, will happen to whoever comes next, and is well underway now.  None of this is new; none original.  It just bubbled up, and as misery loves company, I give you a slightly edited version of the rant below.

As the GOP prepares to transfer wealth up and gut national finances in the process, it’s worth reflecting a little on national power. US predominance is no law of nature. It emerged in specific historical circumstances, & it will erode (is eroding) within its historical moment.

Trump and GOP actions are powering that decline, from gutting US diplomacy to abandoning soft power/trade alliances to an over reliance on the trappings of military power on the international security side to an attack on the US’s domestic capacity to solve problems, propel economic growth, and secure good lives for the great mass of its people.

The attack on universities that is both part of GOP rhetoric and built into the tax bill, for example is an attack both on civic life (in the form of engaged and critical-thinking citizens) and on the dollars and sense of economic life. Universities are where research happens, ideas turn into companies and all that. Whack them and we become not just dumber, but poorer too.

More decline follows as the basic sequence of life gets made harder for more people. CHIP follies are making pregnancy and childhood more wretched and even deadly. Ongoing assaults on the ACA, Medicaid and Medicare do the same for all of us and if/when the GOP passes its tax bill, most Americans will see taxes and deficits go up, threatening Social Security and everyone’s old age.

This kneecapping of American well-being and power extends across the policy spectrum.  Crapping on the environment isn’t just a matter of not hugging trees.  Just ask the citizens of Flint, MI if bad water is just an aesthetic loss. Recall the LA of my childhood and consider whether air pollution is just a matter of obscured views and great sunsets, etc.

All of these (and many more) domestic policy choices actually make us poorer, as individuals and as a nation. One more example: we already have crappier infrastructure than many of our national competitors. Among much else, that means it can take us longer to get to work — which is both an individual cost and and a net weakening of the US economy as a whole.

These are hidden taxes, charges we pay not in cash, but in our ability to choose how to spend our lives. That cuts US productivity as a matter of GDP, and our contentment as a matter of GHQ (Gross Happiness Quotient) (I made that up. I think.)

None of this means American will (necessarily) collapse entirely. It just means we will be less well off and, in the context of national power, less able to act in the world as a whole. We won’t be able to afford as much (see Britain, post 1918), and…we will — we already — find ourselves with less moral capital, less ability to persuade and encourage fidelity and emulation abroad. (Again, see Britain, post 1918).

There’s real danger ins such decline.  See Putin’s post Soviet Russia for one approach to the loss of economic, military and ideological/moral power.

In that context, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least to see Trump, backed by the GOP, launch into a second war of choice in an as many decades, with similarly awful consequences.

But, that said, even though nations find it hard enough just to muddle through a relative decline in international stature, the world goes on, in somewhat different order. That’s happening now. We can’t really stop it.

We do have a choice though — we can accept a relative decline that still has the US eagerly pursuing a rich and just future…

Or we can dive further the implications of the current GOP program, and watch as our politics become yet more of a zero sum game in which those with the most grab all the crumbs they can, leaving the rest of us to our own devices, while US power dwindles.

And that, by way of the long road home, leads me here: Trump’s GOP* is a fundamentally anti-American party. It is working as hard as it can to deliver wealth and power to a small constituency to the detriment of our national interest. That’s how an organized crime ring acts, not a party of government.

And with that….this thread.  It is open.

*And it is his party, or, if you prefer, he’s the predictable face of what that party has long been becoming.

Images: J. W. M. Turner, The Fighting Temeraire tugged to her last Berth to be broken up1839.

after Hieronymous Bosch, The Hay Wain (central panel of a tryptich), between 1510-1520.