More Bitcoints, CO2 Emissions and Global Warming

[Editor’s note: today’s discussion starts by Dr. Pournelle adding a cautionary comment about Bitcoins, then some thoughts about CO2/global warming debate. He is working hard to recover; you can use the “Well Wishes” page to add your encouragement.]

I have been too brief.  It’s hard to type.

Bitcoin is fiat money, and it  would not be wise to hold a significant part
of your savings in it. There is a small chance of significant gain and a
large chance of it appreciating at greater  than inflation, so therefore
better than holding paper cash.  If a real crises comes, something of
survival magnitude, it will be worthless.  At least you can start fires with
paper.  OF IF WE GET TO THAT. .22 rifle cartridges will be both [be worth] more than


Carbon dioxide emissions help tropical rainforests grow faster: Study shows trees absorb more greenhouse gas than expected

Even if the climate modelers had a point:

Tropical forests are growing faster than scientists thought due to rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

A Nasa-led study has found that tropical forests are absorbing 1.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide every year as they photosynthesise and grow.

And this is far more than is absorbed by the vast areas of boreal forest that encircle the Arctic.

Well, look at that, complexity strikes again; maybe the world doesn’t boil down to the limited ideology of people desperately grasping for relevance in global society?
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Most Respectfully,

Joshua Jordan, KSC
Percussa Resurgo

We do not want to run an open experiment on increasing CO2 but the amounts so far are fertilizer, not pollutant. We do need to find cheap ways to sequester carbon because Africa must develop.  Perhaps CO2 enhanced oil recovery will make economical CO2 happen at a profit.  More CO2 is a blessing for farmers, whatever the effect on climate.

I am still wondering where the 2014 is the hottest year on record comes from.  It sure wasn’t from the US or Europe.

Advisor Dan Spisak notes:

I would point out that a combination of increased temperatures and greater CO2 levels is contributing to making the oceans more acidic and this is having the effect of putting coral reefs into danger as the very ocean they live in dissolves them. So while there can be positive effects in other parts of the system I fear that the sheer size, complexity, and scope of what is involved means it will be important and challenging to see what the total balance of this is, be it positive, negative or neutral.

From  Advisor Peter Glaskowsky:

Ironically, Bitcoin advocates use “fiat money” as a derogatory term for government-backed currency.

Their point is that Bitcoin isn’t issued by anyone. No one entity decides how much Bitcoin should be circulating or what it should be worth. Which is all true, as far as it goes.

But of course Bitcoin is still given an entirely arbitrary value based on a kind of mutual consent that can be altered or withdrawn at any time, just like government-backed currency, so it works out the same way, ultimately.

Hence the irony.


Sony Hack and North Korea Plus More Bitcoins

[Editor’s note: One of Jerry’s readers started a discussion about the Sony hack and North Korea, which got the Chaos Manor Board of Advisors into a short discussion. Plus more thoughts about BitCoins.  We have also added a “Well Wishes” page for readers messages of support as Dr. Pournelle recovers from his stroke. The discussion is below, but first, a status note from Jerry.]

They think I may be able to go home at end of week but possibly not. I hope to stat a few more days because Roberta not really up to it and my balance is awful.I need more practice. .It is slow but I can do it. I am learning fast. I do tire easily.

The Sony Hack and North Korea Discussion

It’s amazing how quickly the FBI pointed the finger at North Korea.
How could they possibly search through proxy servers, spoofed MAC addresses, etc and finger North Korea in such a short time? One possibility is that someone said, “Here are my conclusions, now let’s find some data to support these conclusions”, much like they did in the run-up to the second Iraq debacle.

And, everyone had a pointless comment to make based on the increasingly suspect FBI claims:

No one should kid themselves. With the Sony collapse America has lost its first cyberwar. This is a very very dangerous precedent.

— Newt Gingrich (@newtgingrich) December 17, 2014

Suddenly, there’s a war on… Let’s forget that outburst — and others like it — for a moment and get back to the point:

US cybersecurity experts say they have solid evidence that a former employee helped hack Sony Pictures Entertainment’s computer system — and that it was not masterminded by North Korean cyberterrorists.

Oops. Yeah, major events like this tend to be inside jobs in one way or another. Consider the USS Maine and the fallout of that. We’ve had similar incidents throughout U.S. history. Thankfully, we live in an age where angry, ignorant, old men can’t speculate and lead the country to war over nothing as easily as they once did.
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Most Respectfully,

Joshua Jordan, KSC
Percussa Resurgo

I opposed the second Iraq invasion, but I would net put it that way. It is over simple. I do agree they were quick to assume North Korea had both the competence and the will.
Sony as a victim made a good bit on a very bad movie.

On ridiculing a head of state, does any remember Kaplan [Charlie Chaplin] and The Great DICTATOR? [See – Editor] First I ever heard of Hitler, and established my opinion of him for [a long] time, and I am sure I was not alone in that.

From Chaos Manor Advisor Peter Glawkowsky:

Even if we say that the Sony hack was a “cyberwar,” it wasn’t the first of its kind, and we sure won at least one previous confrontation of that type– the Stuxnet case– plus maybe the disputed allegation that the U.S. was behind the 1982 Soviet pipeline explosion described as “the most monumental non-nuclear explosion and fire ever seen from space.”

So Newt is just being overly dramatic. As he has been on several occasions when talking about the EMP threat. Clearly he needs to be getting better science advice from Jerry.

Gingrich’s foreword for One Second After was particularly unfortunate. Gingrich appeared to be saying that an EMP attack would actually work as Forstchen described, but that simply isn’t true. It’s a fine novel, but not realistic. A novel can be both, as Lucifer’s Hammer proved (along with Dean Ing’s Pulling Through and various other good books). As a result, EMP concerns have diverted the attention and resources of many preppers away from much more serious threats.

Advisor Daniel Spisak said

I’ve been saying the Sony hack was most likely a) Not DPRK sponsored b) An inside job c) Inevitable d) The result of colossal mismanagement e) All of the above. Since day one. The FBI’s ability to deal with “cyber”-crime (by the way, I hate the word cyber as does a gross majority of the infosec industry. It feels like were stuck in an early 90’s cyberpunk novel) hasn’t impressed anyone I’ve known for some time. Now the Secret Service is a different animal in that regard, but not their jurisdiction alas.

This was a mass exfiltration of data from a movie company by disaffected employees, not a cyberwar.

If this was a cyberwar (ugh, I really hate that word) you would be seeing critical infrastructure being compromised and subverted, possibly shut down. Either you want control of a system because of the information it holds, or because it controls something you want to deny the enemy.

And Advisor Eric Pobirs describes how the environment at Sony is probably at fault:

I’ve had three contract jobs on the Sony Pictures Entertainment lot in Culver City, formerly the Columbia Pictures lot. The last was six years ago, so this is a bit dated but I doubt much major has changed. All three involved going to people’s offices and doing stuff to their email client and the Lotus Notes client. The first two were upgrades to their Blackberry fleet and the last was doing stuff to Office they couldn’t automate for some reason. SPE was a Notes shop but the client was usually Outlook.

Among the things I noted was that many of the executives relied on their assistants to remember their passwords and couldn’t log into the company network unaided. Since some of these execs have a reputation for going though multiple assistants annually, I doubt they were changing the passwords every time. Also, I had the software I needed to install on CD and flash drive. The opportunity to copy files to the flash drive were nearly unlimited, as I was left alone with the machine for up to an hour and often provided a copy of their login credentials in case they were needed, allowing them to wander off until the time came to verify the install.

It was a level of access I’ve rarely been given on similar jobs. Usually I’m given a temp admin login with rights limited to those needed and most actions logged.

If I was trying to break into the film industry by doing time working under someone legendarily nasty as Scott Rudin, copying his PST files might be the least of the ideas occurring to someone a bit technically savvy and angry. Nor would I be surprised if an exec’s login gave them access to stuff that in a rational business would be completely off limits. Such demands are an exercise in wielding power and often done just because they haven’t lately and the IT department happened to come to their fleeting attention.

On another subject, the Advisors continued with their thoughts on Bitcoin. Advisor Dan Spisak started with

Bitcoin is not an investment tool.

There are many who are trying to push this use case for Bitcoin, but the fact remains that Bitcoin lives and dies on exchanges. These have gotten more robust over time, but its still a bit of a pain in the ass to get Bitcoin or convert Bitcoin into a real fungible currency. Usually doing so involves dealing with some kind of monetary service that is atypical for the common user and its always felt somewhat risky to me. While Bitcoin itself might be “secure” the fact that you tend to have to link a bank account of some sort to one of these lesser known monetary exchanges frankly scares the heebee jeebees out of me and when I have done transactions in the past I pretty much completely disable any account linkages to my real accounts ASAP because I dont trust them as far as I can throw the bastards.

Advisor Peter Glowkowsky replied:

Bitcoin is not an investment tool.

There are many who are trying to push this use case for Bitcoin, but the fact remains that Bitcoin lives and dies on exchanges. These have gotten more robust over time, but its still a bit of a pain in the ass to get Bitcoin or convert Bitcoin into a real fungible currency. Usually doing so involves dealing with some kind of monetary service that is atypical for the common user and its always felt somewhat risky to me. While Bitcoin itself might be “secure” the fact that you tend to have to link a bank account of some sort to one of these lesser known monetary exchanges frankly scares the heebee jeebees out of me and when I have done transactions in the past I pretty much completely disable any account linkages to my real accounts ASAP because I dont trust them as far as I can throw the bastards.

{We suspect this will not be the end of thoughts on this subject. — Editor]

Status Report and Mail About Bitcoins

[From the Editor: We got this note from Dr. Pournelle: “Visited house today [Monday] to catalogue alterations needed.  Contractors coming.  Typing [easier] daily, up to 2 fingers now.  Maybe home in a week.  Think I think OK, so will begin writing.”

Dr. Pournelle sent this email along as interesting. We have arranged to have him pass along interesting emails, along with his short commentary. Today’s post is about BitCoins, from long-time subscriber Drake Christensen.]

This seems persuasive. If you have enough to withstand the risk… This is a good summary.

Here’s the article I mentioned on Bitcoin “Why Everyone With a Cell Phone Should Own Some Bitcoin” [link]

For me, there are two huge advantages to cryptocoins.  The first is, the extremely low transaction costs.  It is very much like cash in that way.  It’s directly from user to user, and you don’t need a bank in between, like you do with a checking account or a credit card.

But, probably the biggest advantage I see is that using cryptocoins are immune to the kind of hacking attack where credit card information is stolen.  With cryptocoins, I have to initiate every transaction.  Nobody can pull funds from my wallet with information they stole from some merchant I purchased something from.  I always have control of my own wallet.

Here’s the cookbook <!VWQO6>  I used to buy my coins.  I did a little research on each of the sites mentioned in that tutorial.  As far as I can tell, they’re legit and have good reputations in the community.  But, part of the value of these cryptocoins is that you don’t have to leave them in the online account.  You can transfer some or all of them into a wallet that you control.  The nature of cryptocoins is that transactions are non-reversible.  Once they’re in your wallet, those sites cannot take them back.  That means you don’t have to trust them for very long.  (Except Coinbase, which does link to a checking account.  But, that site is recommended all over the place.  My impression is that it appears to be about as legitimate as PayPal was when it first started.)

If you search around on Bitcoin, you’ll probably find mentions of the Mt. Gox debacle.  This was a case where people and businesses were leaving their coin in their online wallet.  I assume it was a convenience, for whatever service they were using their Bitcoin with.  I’ve not followed the latest information released about it.  I’m not sure if they’ve determined whether the money was embezzled by people who worked for Mt. Gox, or if it was taken by hackers.  But, the point I’m making here is, the Bitcoin taken was being held in online wallets.  Any Bitcoin transferred out of those wallets prior to being stolen is safe.

When Amazon first went live, I was a fairly early customer.  (I spent enough with them one year that they sent me a free coffee mug.)  For me, it was just kind of geeky cool to order books and movies online, back when that was an unusual thing to do.

While there is some of the geeky cool feeling in owning some Bitcoin, I do also think that cryptocoins are eventually going to win out over fiat currencies.  I don’t know that Bitcoin will be the eventual big winner.  But, that, or Darkcoin, or something similar is filling a need.  Someday, one of them could be as mainstream as Amazon and PayPal.

As an interesting aside, MIT is running an experiment  A couple of researchers gave $100 in Bitcoin to every undergraduate at MIT in order to create an instant ecosystem, to see what would happen.

And, finally, I found a couple of sites which chart the exchange rates in real time. and  Since I bought in, the exchange rates went up a little, and then went down, some.  Since, for me, this is just play money, I’m letting it ride.

I think I’ve babbled on long enough.  I’m interested in hearing what you think.

Drake Christensen

Peter Glaskowsky, a member of the Chaos Manor Board of Advisors, offers this view:

Bitcoin has some theoretical advantages, but the simple fact is that it was intended to prevent any kind of management or oversight by banks and governments, and that alone will prevent it from ever playing a major role in the economy. As long as it remains negligible, it will be allowed to continue, but as soon as governments believe they will be forced to change policies to accommodate it, it will be outlawed. The need for a discoverable ledger to log transactions means it’s trivial to shut down.

Bitcoin also has multiple technical disadvantages, but in light of the crippling political issues, they hardly matter.

Message from Dr. Pournelle

Dr. Pournelle asked to have this posted:

Monday Dec. 25, I had a stroke.   I think my head is all right, and I am recovering.  Alas I used to be a touch typist and I am now learning to be a two finger typist.  At present I am a one finger typist.  Call it 1.1 finger, but after today’s therapy , maybe 1.2; I am learning. I just made the Spock sign.

Started a ramble to post, but it is easy with Windows 8 to have what you write vanish.  I will keep trying.

Please someone post in my blog that I am here and learning.  The Surface works but learning to use it and Outlook 13
after a stroke is hard enough and I am clumsy. But I am trying and think I will recover. But it takes time.

But I am coming back.

Comments are enabled for this post for any encouraging words from his many readers.