Bitcoin vs. Big Government

tl;dr Bitcoin works, at least for fast transactions

@Reason:

Time will tell whether the gold bugs or the skeptics are right, but what’s being overlooked is that it doesn’t matter whether Bitcoin makes it as a store of value or a unit of account for it to work as a medium of exchange. Even if the Bitcoin market remains volatile and never pans out as a good store of value or unit of account, one can imagine users converting their dollars or euros to bitcoins for just long enough to make a transaction; perhaps just minutes. And as long as it works as a medium of exchange, it is the true digital cash that was missing from the cypherpunks’ predictions.

With a little bit of effort, today you can purchase bitcoins anonymously with physical cash. You could then do all sorts of things the government doesn’t want you to do. You could buy illegal drugs on the notorious Silk Road, an encrypted website that has been operating with impunity for the past two years facilitating annual sales estimated  at almost $15 million. You could gamble at various casinos or prediction markets, buy contraband Cuban cigars, or even give money to WikiLeaks. Dissidents in Iran or China can use Bitcoin to buy premium blogging services from WordPress, which now accepts payment in the currency. Perhaps more importantly, Bitcoin makes the cypherpunks predictions of markets for stolen secret information and even assassinations feasible.

Last month, the Treasury Department issued guidance on how it plans to regulate Bitcoin exchanges. This is good news for the currency since it implies the government is looking to regulate its use rather than prohibit it. Confronted with Bitcoin’s potential, it’s not reasonable to expect that Treasury’s money laundering cops would simply let it be. So it’s a sensible approach for them to take because Bitcoin, much like BitTorrent, can be used for both licit and illicit purposes and would in any event be difficult to shut down.

Headlines, Know » No Comments

5 tips for surviving an economic disaster

OK, so this guy’s five tips really boil down to “have important stuff and keep it safe.” Having plenty of important stuff is important for dealing with serious stuff. Gotcha.

But as a survivor of an economic crisis and witness to others of late he makes one strong point: have cash money. Make it rain.

Hyperinflation is one possible result of economic meltdown, but it’s not necessarily the result, and even after it starts, having a supply of cash on-hand is a good idea. Cash, even in an economic disaster, has value for a time.

If you don’t have twenty minutes to listen to the guy ramble, the types important stuff to have in case of serious stuff are pretty straight-forward and can be classified as a couple of things:

  • Have safe stuff: high ground, shelter, layered security, and safes for your important stuff,
  • Have important stuff: money, money alternatives, water, food, ammo, etc.

That’s pretty much it. His suggested money alternatives are get an offshore bank account and get some precious metal currency. There are still limits to gold and silver, but if you have that, cash, and stuff to barter with, well, you won’t die.

Also, be wary of any Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. After the collapse, they go evil.

Features, Guides, Live » No Comments

Homeland Security’s Ammunition Purchases Should Not Worry You

homeland security ammunition 450x679 Homeland Security’s Ammunition Purchases Should Not Worry You

A CBP agent with M14 rifle and HK P2000 pistol, both of which require ammunition to function properly (img Andrew Tuohy)

tl;dr the order’s fake but it keeps their budget intact

@Gear Scout:

Talk of the Department of Homeland Security’s recent ammunition solicitations has gone from the fringes of the internet to the mainstream in websites like Forbes. I was disappointed by the Forbes article – rather than talk cold hard facts, it was rife with ill-informed speculation.

Government and military procurement is a very complex topic; so complex, in fact that it’s sometimes hard to discern best value practices from actual waste, fraud, and abuse. However, there are practically no examples of nefarious acquisitions intended to be used for the subjugation of the American populace. These ammunition contracts and solicitations are no exception.

Before we begin, it’s important to understand that an RFQ (request for quote) or solicitation is not a purchase. When Infowars says something like “the Department of Homeland Security is planning to buy a further 750 million rounds of ammo in addition to the 450 million rounds of hollow point bullets already purchased earlier this year,” or “Following controversy over its purchase of around 1.2 billion bullets in the last six months alone, the Department of Homeland Security has put out a new solicitation for over 200 million more rounds of ammunition,” the reader is led to assume, naturally, that DHS has actually purchased that amount of ammunition. That is simply not the case. A solicitation is the equivalent of a want-to-buy ad on Craigslist, writ large. It’s not an actual purchase.

Headlines, Know » No Comments

In Spain, unemployment leads to dumpster diving, leads to locked dumpsters

Madrid Spain A couple of 005 450x354 In Spain, unemployment leads to dumpster diving, leads to locked dumpsters

Romanian scavengers dumpster dive for books to resell which were thrown away in Madrid, Spain, on August 22, 2012 (img by Daniel Ochoa de Olza/AP)

I hear all the time that the US is turning socialist. While there are many government-led social programs and policies in place and have been for decades, the US is anything but socialist. It’s a word that gets thrown around to criticize government, and for all intensive porpoises, is pure hyperbole.

Many people would be hard-pressed to identify it. But here’s an example. Girona, a city in Spain, is installing locks on dumpsters to keep the homeless from eating potentially-spoiled food, for their safety.

“When you don’t have enough money,” she said, declining to give her name, “this is what there is.”

The woman, 33, said that she had once worked at the post office but that her unemployment benefits had run out and she was living now on euro 400 a month, about $520. She was squatting with some friends in a building that still had water and electricity, while collecting “a little of everything” from the garbage after stores closed and the streets were dark and quiet.

Such survival tactics are becoming increasingly commonplace here, with an unemployment rate over 50 per cent among young people and more and more households having adults without jobs. So pervasive is the problem of scavenging that one Spanish city has resorted to installing locks on supermarket trash bins as a public health precaution.

Read the whole thing here.

Still, there is something to be gained. Do you know how to dumpster dive? I mean, it’s not a skill most people practice. Or want to practice. Or would do even if they got paid to do it.

Fortunately for us, there are guides. You want to know what the homeless eat? They eat this stuff.

What is safe to eat?

After all, the finding of objects is becoming something of an urban art. Even respectable employed people will sometimes find something tempting sticking out of a Dumpster or standing beside one. Quite a number of people, not all of them of the bohemian type, are willing to brag that they found this or that piece in the trash. But eating from Dumpsters is the thing that separates the dilettanti from the professionals.

Eating safely from the Dumpsters involves three principles: using the senses and common sense to evaluate the condition of the found materials, knowing the Dumpsters of a given area and checking them regularly, and seeking always to answer the question, “Why was this discarded?”

If it sounds too alien, you haven’t been hungry enough.

Know, Live » 1 Comment

Learn more. Owe less.

7196945640 0faab67519 450x337 Learn more. Owe less.

So, uh… educate yourself. And don’t go into debt. (img by hardtopeel)

College is seeming more and more like a racket, and people are finding out too late to do much more than letter up some cardboard signs, march around the neighborhood beating on cookware, or post on tumblr about how the system did them wrong.

On the one hand, I don’t blame them. They didn’t know what they were getting into when they borrowed a couple of hundred thousand dollars to get a degree. They believed viewbooks and college marketing, which said that people with degrees are guaranteed to make good money fresh out of school.

Circumstances have changed. College education costs have more than doubled in the last 15 years, and people with degrees are worth less than ever due to the collapsed job market and to degree inflation.

What can you do about it? (more…)

Features, Know, Live » No Comments

Gas prices could hit $2.50 a gallon by November, analyst predicts

6625148339 6b552b71ee b 450x302 Gas prices could hit $2.50 a gallon by November, analyst predicts

Single-digit gas prices to two decimals. (img by Steve Snodgrass)

tl;dr the Saudis are probably America’s bitch.

@BBJ:

 Gas prices have been dropping steadily in Massachusetts since April, and according to at least one analyst, that may just be the tip of the iceberg.

Energy analyst Philip Verleger told Bloomberg TV that U.S. drivers could see $2.50-a-gallon gas prices by November.

The cause is two-fold, he said: the price of oil has fallen sharply recently due to over-production in Saudi Arabia and falling demand due to Europe’s economic slowdown is also a factor, said Verleger. (more…)

Headlines, Know » No Comments