Tag Archive | filthy lucre

Dispatches from Balloonville

Title inspired by my new favorite player in the NFT Space:

Screw it, I like the Balloonville people. So few in the Crypto Space will openly embrace the true meaning and spirit of “unregulated trustless marketplace that anyone can participate in.” Looking forward to their next project, “Bored Rug Club”, followed by the pixelated “CryptoScammers.”

Screenshot of balloon picrew characters
Who could have expected that this would pop??

More NFT rubbernecking:

“On February 9, 2021, an unidentified scammer used a phishing attack to steal dozens of NFTs from individual wallets. [..] In total, the scammer netted over 1100 Eth (~$3 million) from the attack. The phishing attack used a legitimate Opensea buy order.” So why call it “stealing” or “scamming”? It’s a valid blockchain transaction! Everything is fine.

[NFT sales data] do not show the democratization of wealth thanks to a technological revolution. They show an acutely minuscule number of artists making a vast amount of wealth off a small number of sales while the majority of artists are being sold a dream of immense profit that is horrifically exaggerated. Hiding this information is manipulative, predatory, and harmful, and these NFT sites have a responsibility to surface all this information transparently. Not a single one has.”

“If you have access to a free trial of some chart-making software, you can even begin to make a corkboard map of this emerging web of ownership, business relationships, and incredibly bad art.

Other blockchain-based definitely-legitimate-and-not-a-scam rubbernecking:

Often used as a way to distribute free NFTs for giveaways and other promotional campaigns, there is nothing stopping someone from airdropping NFTs with abusive content—doxing, revenge porn, child sexual abuse imagery, threats, etc.—into someone’s wallet. […] And even if someone hides or burns an NFT of this sort, the transaction and its contents remain immutably on the blockchain for anyone to see.” A quick overview of blockchain-based abuses we should be worried about.

The Football Supporters’ Association (FSA) has called for regulations of cryptocurrency-related platforms after one of sport’s biggest cryptocurrency-brands has gone into liquidation. The Times has reported that fan engagement platform, IQONIQ, has collapsed in Monaco, which has potentially left thousands of supporters in possession of Fan Tokens ‘worth almost nothing’.” Ah, the wonderful applications of crypto in sports.

Two lists: falsehoods [about crypto and blockchain] that nobody who is interested in the world as it really is should ever repeat, at least not without heavy qualification; the second a list of truths and rules of thumb about cryptocurrency and blockchain that have been demonstrated repeatedly (often for many years) but escape notice far too often.”

Evangelists reinventing stuff that already exists:

Why not compare Bitcoin to other networks? “Bitcoin is the Apple eWorld of money!” The original electronic walled garden, that turned out to be too expensive and not very interesting. Or compare it to other technologies — “Bitcoin is the Ford Pinto gas tank of money!” Which it frequently demonstrates.”

I have been exploring Active Worlds for several days. It is a sort of internet archaeologist heaven, where player-created structures stretch out for what can seem like hundreds of virtual miles. There are many worlds to explore — all of which are anything but active — but this main one, AW, has been running since the mid 90s.” So we’ve had what they’re calling “the ~metaverse~” for almost 30 years now.

Git was released in 2005 and was based on work going back to the late 1990s; Merkle trees were invented in 1979. The good bits of blockchain are not original, and the original bits of blockchain turn out not to be much good.”

Literally unimaginable wealth [real-money inequality, Bitcoin inequality, taxes, resignations, and banking the unbanked]

“Jeff [Bezos] is so wealthy, that it is quite literally unimaginable. Let’s put this wealth in perspective by comparing it to some familiar things.

New Yorker: “The actual truth about the American tax system is that it is slightly progressive. The richest one percent earn about 21 percent of the income and pay 24 percent of the taxes.” (Honestly, better than I expected! But they could absolutely pay more.)

“This trend has been characterized as the Great Resignation, and just about every economist and pundit has taken their crack at teasing out why it’s happening. […] In these moments, it’s best to actually ask the workers themselves. I did that, talking to dozens of people who have recently quit their job, or experts who closely track workers who have. And some patterns emerged.”

Those top players represent a mere 0.01% of all bitcoin holders and yet they control 27% of the digital currency, the Wall Street Journal reported. That compares to the old-fashion dollar, where the top 1% controlled 30% of total U.S. household wealth, according to Federal Reserve data.” But hey, cryptocurrency is gonna be the great decentralized revolution that lets us escape the inequalities of fiat currency, right?

“DC/EP [China’s test run of a digital-only currency, in beta] would have to be able to handle at least 300,000 transactions per second across the country at peak times to do what cash does. So DC/EP won’t be a blockchain.” (For comparison, a single credit card like Visa averages a couple thousand per second and says they can handle at least 24,000, and Bitcoin averages a whopping between-3-and-4 transactions a second.)

“He told the press how the problems of banking the unbanked were technical — that banks were unable to move money fast enough without a blockchain. This is completely backwards. Banks know how to move numbers between computers. The slow part is settlement and compliance — making sure that everything is done in order, and making sure that banks, and money transmitters in general, are solvent, honest and not fronting for drug runners.”

I put all the nice links in the back half of the post (tech, grifting, COVID, economic boosts, and more)

Things to worry about:

June 12: “In 2016, Gun Violence Archive recorded that 241 people were shot and killed or wounded in a road rage incident; so far this year, as of June 7, that number is 212, the analysis found. ‘I don’t think we quite realized how dramatic the change was going to be.’

“Customers trying to avoid online delivery platforms like Grubhub by calling restaurants directly might be dialing phone numbers generated and advertised by those very platforms — for which restaurants are charged fees that can sometimes exceed the income the order generates.

Magie filed a legal claim for her Landlord’s Game in 1903, more than three decades before Parker Brothers began manufacturing Monopoly. She actually designed the game as a protest against the big monopolists of her time — people like Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller. […] And yet it was the monopolist version of the game that caught on, with Darrow claiming a version of it as his own and selling it to Parker Brothers. While Darrow made millions and struck an agreement that ensured he would receive royalties, Magie’s income for her creation was reported to be a mere $500. ”

“What do you mean ‘text’? There’s obviously some math text on the blackboard on the right, just like there’s obviously a woman covering almost half of the photograph. Is that woman invisible? Why?” When neural nets try to auto-detect what’s in an image…and what kinds of things they miss.

The Onion, in “this isn’t even a joke”: “Promising to let him know as soon as something becomes available, nurse Janae Howager informed a man having a heart attack Thursday that there was about an hour wait until the next Covid-19 patient died.”

Things to make you smile:

“Despite being lauded by some of the right-wing media’s leading figures, though, the Freedom Phone’s buyers could be getting less than they expect for its $500 price tag. That’s because the Freedom Phone appears to be merely a more expensive rebranding of a budget Chinese phone available elsewhere for a fraction of the Freedom Phone’s price.” But hey, influencers get referral codes, so when their followers buy the phones they get a $50 cut. It’s grifters all the way down.

February 25: “The lawyers working to reunite immigrant parents and children separated by the Trump administration reported Wednesday that they have found the parents of 105 children in the past month.” And that was just the Biden administration’s first month.

““We both started writing grants,” Dr. Weissman said. “We didn’t get most of them. People were not interested in mRNA. The people who reviewed the grants said mRNA will not be a good therapeutic, so don’t bother.’”” (There’s a happy ending! It’s the research that led to the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech COVID vaccines.)

“A New York City pilot program that dispatches mental health specialists and paramedics instead of police for certain nonviolent emergency calls has resulted in more people accepting assistance and fewer people sent to the hospital, early data shows.” Don’t send cops to do non-cop jobs! It works!

Cash transfers have arguably the strongest existing evidence base among anti-poverty tools, with dozens of high-quality evaluations of cash transfer programs spanning Africa, Asia, and Latin America and including both unconditional and conditional cash transfer. These studies include many randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and also include studies that measured impacts 4–5 years out,1,2 evidence which exists for hardly any other interventions.”

The Onion again: “Deeming the move unfortunate but necessary to keep his fledgling Silicon Valley dream alive, CEO Jason Ipser told reporters Tuesday that his struggling tech company was almost desperate enough to start making an actual product.

a year’s worth of bad things, political warnings, and lingering Trump links

2015, and still relevant: The USPS isn’t in financial trouble because people aren’t using it enough. It’s in “financial trouble” because Congress ordered it to stockpile enough cash to pre-fund all employee pension and health insurance costs for the next 75 years. Even if we all sent enough mail to cover that unnecessary liability, Congress could easily pass another law saddling it with another unnecessary liability. We fix this by yelling at our representatives to shape up, not by buying more stamps.

May 2020: “Despite her visible role in the fight against abortion, McCorvey [aka Jane Roe] says she was a mercenary, not a true believer. And Schenck, who has also distanced himself from the antiabortion movement, at least partially corroborates the allegations, saying that she was paid out of concern ;that she would go back to the other side,; he says in the film. ‘There were times I wondered: Is she playing us? And what I didn’t have the guts to say was, because I know damn well we were playing her.'”

May 2020: “Finland ran a two-year universal basic income study in 2017 and 2018, during which the government gave 2000 unemployed people aged between 25 and 58 monthly payments with no strings attached. The payments of €560 per month weren’t means tested and were unconditional, so they weren’t reduced if an individual got a job or later had a pay rise. The study was nationwide and selected recipients weren’t able to opt out, because the test was written into legislation. ”

September 11: “Industry companies spent tens of millions of dollars on [plastic recycling] ads and ran them for years, promoting the benefits of a product that, for the most part, was buried, was burned or, in some cases, wound up in the ocean. Documents show industry officials knew this reality about recycling plastic as far back as the 1970s.

September 30: “Maybe “guided apophenia” is a better phrase. Guided because the puppet masters are directly involved in hinting about the desired conclusions. They have pre-seeded the conclusions. They are constantly getting the player lost by pointing out unrelated random events and creating a meaning for them that fits the propaganda message Q is delivering.” A game designer’s analysis of QAnon.

October 23: “A rightwing extremist boasted of driving from Texas to Minneapolis to help set fire to a police precinct during the George Floyd protests, federal prosecutors said. US attorney Erica MacDonald said on Friday that she had charged Ivan Harrison Hunter, a 26-year-old Texas resident, with traveling across state lines to participate in a riot. ” (It’s them. It’s always them.)

December 9: “Last week, CMD obtained the 2019 tax records of two right-wing funders who donated to the FDRLST Media Foundation that year: GOP megadonor and shipping supply billionaire Richard Uihlein and DonorsTrust, a donor-advised fund manager that has been dubbed “the dark money ATM” of the conservative movement.” Looks like we can add Uline Shipping next to StickerMule on the list of “this company’s owner will pass your money on to horrible causes.”

December 17: “Per capita gross domestic product and unemployment rates were nearly identical after five years in countries that slashed taxes on the rich and in those that didn’t, the study found. But the analysis discovered one major change: The incomes of the rich grew much faster in countries where tax rates were lowered. Instead of trickling down to the middle class, tax cuts for the rich may not accomplish much more than help the rich keep more of their riches and exacerbate income inequality, the research indicates.”

January 20: “Early in President Trump’s term, McSweeney’s editors began to catalog the head-spinning number of misdeeds coming from his administration. We called this list a collection of Trump’s cruelties, collusions, and crimes, and it felt urgent then to track them, to ensure these horrors — happening almost daily — would not be forgotten.”

January 29: “Donald Trump was cultivated as a Russian asset over 40 years and proved so willing to parrot anti-western propaganda that there were celebrations in Moscow, a former KGB spy has told the Guardian.”

February 18: “The Austin American-Statesman found a single, forgotten copy of that report on a Public Utilities Commission shelf in 2011. The paper went looking for it in 2011 because of the cold snap that hit Texas in February of that year. The state legislature held angry hearings, and later that spring Hegar introduced his bill to require the Public Service Commission to prepare a weatherization and preparedness report each year, an obligation that was later neglected.” Texas utility companies vs. history, or Yes, We Need That Infrastructure Bill.

March 11: “It isn’t easy to figure out exactly how much electrical energy these ‘idling cars’ are consuming, but even the lowest estimates are eye-wateringly bad. Cambridge University seems to have done the most legwork in figuring this out, and at the moment, the annualised power consumption of bitcoin mining is 128 terawatt hours. In 2019-20, every single thing plugged into Australia’s largest main grid consumed 192.

Non-COVID-19 linkspam (reproductive health, corruption, climate change, the scam of InfoWars)

So I’m reading this Scrooge McDuck comic, which was only written 30ish years ago, and some of the values dissonance is wild. “Wherever I go, there are blackguards who want to steal their fortune rather than work for it!” laments Scrooge, whose last three money-earning ventures involved cattle rustling on stolen land in Texas, homesteading on stolen land in Montana, and digging a gold mine on colonized land in South Africa.

…anyway, have a bunch of political links from the last couple months. Specific players and policies may have come and gone, but the overall themes are forever.

“Warren’s vision is deeply rooted in her policies solving the ills of society, whereas Sanders is calling for a social movement to upend the American political order as we know it. Then again, it’s hard to ignore that they back many of the same policies.

“During the Trump presidency, corruption has flourished in previously unthinkable ways, and at such a remarkable rate, that it’s almost impossible to keep it all straight—here’s what we know so far.

“Trump decided to skip a debate hosted by the network just before the Iowa caucuses in January 2016, and hold his own, competing event instead — a televised fundraiser for veterans. Shockingly enough, it turned out the event wasn’t quite on the level.” (He’s been ordered to pay back $2 million. Baby steps.)

“Their 2016 paper, “Wealth Inequality in the United States Since 1913,” distilled a century of data to answer one of modern capitalism’s murkiest mysteries: How rich are the rich in the world’s wealthiest nation? The answer—far richer than previously imagined—thrust the pair deep into the American debate over inequality.”

“America is one of the only developed countries in the world that pays people to donate blood, much of it sold abroad (70% of the world’s plasma is of US origin), and as commercial blood donations have soared, blood now accounts for 2% of the country’s exports — more than corn or soya.”

“The picture that emerges is of a system of staggering complexity, riddled with obstacles and cracks, that prioritizes babies over mothers, thwarts women at every turn, frustrates doctors and midwives, and incentivizes substandard care. It’s ‘the extreme example of a fragmented system that cares about women much more in the context of delivering a healthy baby than the mother’s health in and of itself.’

“I quit film school and moved nearly a thousand miles to Austin, Tex., fully invested in propagating his worldview. By the time I found myself seated next to [Alex] Jones speeding down the highway, I had seen enough of the inner workings of Infowars to know better.

“Veneto regional council, which is located on Venice’s Grand Canal, was flooded for the first time in its history on [November 12] — just after it rejected measures to combat climate change.”