Why Does the West Breed Imbeciles?

Umair Haque is director of the London-based Havas Media Lab. He is a frequent contributor to Harvard Business Review, which also published his popular book, The New Capitalist Manifesto. Haque is also a popular author at Medium.com. He has 128,000 followers…

That’s where I came across his latest article today. Haque is witty and writes in a breezy, acerbic style. As with Wild Duck, his Blog and Medium articles traverse an eclectic array of topics—not just politics. But when he wades into Washington, he is somewhat left and profoundly thoughtful. He expresses thoughts in the vein of CNN commentator, Fareed Zakaria.

In one recent article, Haque speaks eloquently about the need to bear witness—and that, in the face of hatred, this is not an easy task.

In his newest article at Medium, Haque argues that Donald Trump is a product of a bigger problem. He asserts that the west (US, UK and other western democracies) are generating a Tidal Wave of ignorance, demagoguery, and self-inflicted catastrophe.

So what is it that makes America lead the world in denying climate change, evolution or the age of the universe? (Whatever you believe it to be, it certainly isn’t 6,000 years! Even a 5th grader knows about carbon dating dinosaur bones or the time it takes light to arrive from other galaxies).

In my opinion, ignorance and aversion to science that is a prevalent aspect of western democracy—especially America—is driven by the far right and religious fanatics. It is the stuff that Bill Nye, Bill Maher, Neil deGrasse Tyson and Penn Jillette fight each day.

The late Carl Sagan fought ignorance, superstition and fundamentalism throughout his career and even during his physical decline. (*Blush* Both Bill Nye and I had Sagan as a professor at Cornell). DaVinci and Copernicus recognized the same threat to society. But now, the stakes are much higher. Instead of the personal risk (being burned at a stake), we risk the extinction of all life on Earth.

Fortunately, there are voices that continue this critical mission. Let’s just hope that they aren’t in too late, or in vain.

Related

Trump-supporters: Address the ‘disconnect’

In the past, you have tried to talk sense, but failed. How, then, can you address the disconnect between you and your Trump supporting friends?


If you are like me, you believe that, overall, your colleagues and close friends are thoughtful and intelligent—at least on whatever level led you to be close. You also believe that your friends would not intentionally subvert national interests.

And yet, there is the fact that a few friends and associates are Trump supporters. They may not agree that our activities damage the environment or that a woman has the right to make decisions concerning her body, as you do—but you give them credit for wanting a strong economy, disrupting terrorism, paying down the debt, and factoring fairness and equality into any legislation.

For example, in addition to my nephew, two close friends are firmly in the Trump camp. I like them; I respect them—and yet we are worlds apart on a matter of dire importance to life on this planet. For some reason, we just don’t see 1 plus 1 the same way. They see a dress that is blue and black, while you and I are certain that it is gold and white —»

You also want to believe that your friends understand and respect the reasons that we have checks and balances and that a separation of church and state is the only way to govern a diverse nation.

Agreed. The people that you love or associate with are not anti-American. They earnestly believe that their support of Trump is compatible with core values that you share. And so, this brings me to a conclusion…

There is an incredible disconnect between Trump supporters and those who believe that he must either step down or be removed from office. Supporters don’t see a danger in his decisions and behavior. Many see a man who is keeping promises and building a vibrant economy. They don’t share our sense that he is a threat to the economy, the environment, our alliances, democracy, and—especially—to domestic tranquility.

Let’s say that you accept my conclusion: Trump supporters share our desire for strong and fair nation, but they simply fail to see criminal behavior—or at least, serious shortcomings. How do we illuminate what seems obvious to you and to me, without appearing to condescend and shut them down?

In the past, I have talked down to my friends. I have chided them for what, to me, seems obvious. Of course, taking this tact only insults. It is not at all effective.

A better way to relate

Search for either a smoking gun or a fresh way to view events. The Forbes video of a Rachel Maddow, below, may help. In the first 6 minutes, she ties together a series of disturbing facts that should make any thinking person ask “Why?” Why would Trump do these things? What was he thinking? How could anyone pursue this long string of events? What influences him? Is he working for someone other than the American people?

See if you can get Trump supporters in your circle to get past their preconceptions about MSNBC and Rachel Maddow. The issue here is not the messenger, but the message.

To those of us who recognize the serious shortcomings of the president, the possibility of foreign influence is only one of many serious threats to our national interests. But, this video sheds light on this one threat in a way that may lead a few of your Trump-supporting friends to question their position. It’s not a magic bullet—but hopefully, it will contribute to their analysis.

Click below, and then on the photo of Trump (2nd from top).

Venezuelan Migrants: Columbia opens homes & borders

With all of the Trump talk on television, American media networks have dropped the ball on newsworthy international events. Here is a humanitarian crisis that we haven’t heard much about lately.

In the 1980s and early 90s, many Colombians fled to Venezuela. At the time, the Venezuelan economy was booming. But now, the country is a poverty stricken dog, due to the colossal mismanagement of strong man, Nicolás Maduro.

Now, Venezuelans are fleeing. Inflation is hitting One Million Percent and the common laborer cannot feed his family. Artists make tote bags out of worthless currency. A hot dog from a street vendor cost the typical worker a month’s wages.

The US and Brazil have taken in 75,000 Venezuelans each. Peru has taken in far more than most countries with 414,000 immigrants. Yet, Columbia has taken in one million so far—and they are granting border crossers legal status. Many Columbian citizens are opening their homes, taking in whole families. Surprisingly, even the overcrowded border town (with massive migration at the port), enjoys booming economic activity.

Sure, there are some violent crimes blamed on new immigrants and one local police chief is trying to stir up Trump-style Xenophobia. But citizens and the national government are not buying it. 200 years ago, Columbia, Venezuela and Ecuador were one country (Gran Columbia, with Bogota as capital). Cross-border migration has been high throughout the past century due to drug wars, the conflict with FARC and various political & economic upheavals. These peoples have shared ancestry. Each country traces its roots to a similar mix of European, African & Native American ties.

Check out this short video. It is a sympathetic look at the current crises, a supportive callout to the people of Columbia and the source of my commentary, above.

Trump: It’s time to make a graceful exit

Let me be uncharacteristically contrite and deferential. No caricatures or unflattering photo. No reference to the latest news bomb. No jabs at character, demeanor, or conflicting statements. Let’s consider just two things. Saving face and appropritate timing, for those who have supported Mr. Trump or his policies…

Republican friends, I identify with you. We don’t agree on every issue of the day, but I have been a registered Republican—cut from the Reagan mold. I believe in conservative economics, draining swamps & limited government. We share these goals.

But to Trump supporters: Let’s face it. Please! It’s time to cave. It’s time for Trump to make a graceful exit.

And to Mr. Trump: Go in peace. I am sure that your heart is in the right place, but you just weren’t cut out for this job. No trial; no impeachment; no demeaning critique. Go quietly, and return to work on your real estate affairs. If you ever need a pardon, I will support your personal freedom. But do it now. Please.

Does voting against someone violate a principle?

These “I Voted” stickers are lined up on our microwave oven—a tradition in our home that began 10 years ago. Each sticker represents an even-year election.

I look up to my older brother. He has always been a mensch in dealing with both personal and business relationships. More consistently than me, he stands for noble ideals. He is not quick to give into self-interest or raw emotion and he always weighs the affect of his actions and decisions on the greater community.

But sometimes, standing firm on principle can backfire. I think that this is such a time.

Two years ago, my brother felt that neither major-party candidate for US president was worthy of his vote. And so, he voted for a 3rd-party candidate. I recall his conviction: “I must have faith in the candidate that gets my vote. I will not vote against someone.”

I felt differently. I agreed that the 3rd party candidate was best for the job, but I was more practical about his very low polling number (under 5%). A vote for him would make my voice ineffective. I was more concerned with the possibility of a seriously racist and unqualified man seizing the oval office.

In principle, my brother and I supported the same candidate in 2016. But in practice, I felt that it was necessary to stop a train wreck in the making. I voted against a candidate instead of for a candidate. I voted against racism, bullying, misogyny, leadership without scholarship, a tyrant without integrity, an individual who builds walls instead of bridges—and one who lies about how the wall will be funded.

My brother voted for the candidate with no path to victory. In the interest of fairness and full disclosure, he felt that the other major-party candidate had significant flaws, but he agrees that she wasn’t a train wreck. I would have preferred that he helped to avert the dismantling of all that we value.

I still admire my brother. His word is his bond and his principles are unshakeable. But today, I did exactly what I did two years ago. This time, I hope it makes a difference.

Why vote against someone?

I am ashamed to admit that it has become necessary to vote against something or someone… Against an insipid cancer which is taking our country back to the days of slavery, eugenics, dirty politics and Manifest Destiny in the guise of exceptionalism.

We draw our strength from our diversity, friends—a frightening Truth for those who benefit from their perch. But, we Europeans aren’t the first to enjoy this land. We needn’t be pushed backwards toward ignorance, intolerance and racism. A rising ocean floats all boats. Blacks, Jews, Asians, Mexicans, Native Americans, “unnamed Middle Eastern men” and those who confirm their gender identity are not the problem. They are our strengths—our partner and a solution. Together, we represent a nation of rich diversity, culture and with better opportunity for a successful and vibrant economy.

Far from our differences being a threat, the real problem is intolerance and the assumption of a “zero-sum” game. It isn’t necessary and it isn’t true.

I recognize that there is a legitimate debate over border security, healthcare, gun control, abortion and social programs. Some even feel that there is still a debate over the environment. But, we needn’t be predators. We are not in a battle over territory or the carcass of a deer. Resist racism and intolerance. We can all rise to put this train back on its tracks.

Observations about trust and moral authority (in just this past weekend!)

Sarah Huckabee Sanders: America’s Tariq Aziz

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, please tell me—I earnestly wish to know…

Are you completely daft?!

• Have you no honor?      • No self respect?      • No backbone?      • No shame?
• No concern for your future career?      • No concern for sexual assault victims?

I mustn’t be unfair.
Let’s recall a bit of recent history…

Five days ago, in the wake of Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s testimony before the U.S. Senate, President Trump showed sympathy toward Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. Regarding her claim of attempted rape by Brett Kavanaugh—and her fear of being killed by pressure to her mouth— Trump acknowledged that she was “very credible” and that she is “a very fine woman”.

What a difference 5 days makes!

Shortly after Dr. Ford and Judge Brett Kavanaugh testified in an open Senate inquiry, Republican Arizona Senator Jeff Flake was cornered in an elevator by two woman survivors. This led him to announce that he would not confirm Kavanaugh unless the FBI was given orders to investigate claims of alcohol fueled violence toward women.

If you live in the United States, and have not been squirrelled away on a camping trip, Buddhist retreat, or secret skunkworks project, then you already know this. It’s yesterday’s news. But today, Trump railed into Blasey Ford, making her out to be a liar and a political operative. At a red state political rally, he attacked this “fine woman” by mocking her memory, claiming that she recalls having one beer, but forgets where, when and with whom she was with at the time of the alleged attack. Trump goes on to claim that she remembers only having a drink and nothing else.

In fact, Dr. Ford recalls the names of others present, what she was wearing and very specific details of the attack. But, beyond the flat-out lie, Trump pretended to be Dr. Ford, by shrieking and whining in the first person—just as he did while flailing his arms in mockery of a handicapped reporter during his election campaign.

Nothing can be said about these low points in American politics other than to note that we are surviving a period in which the Oval Office is occupied by a child, a bully, a liar and an ignorant human being.

But this post is not about Trump. It is about Sarah Sanders, articulate and passionate defender for a dunce.

Now, let’s go back further than 5 days
— Let’s turn back the clock 15 years

Who remembers Tariq Aziz? He was Iraq’s deputy prime minister and then foreign minister, under Sadam Hussein. His early military and political careers weren’t notable to anyone living outside of Iraq. But you couldn’t help to marvel at this guy during and after Operation Iraqi Freedom, the US led an invasion—first to find weapons of mass destruction—and later to find Sadam himself. Throughout the war, Aziz was thrust squarely into the spotlight as spokesman and poster boy for Sadam’s regime.

With the veracity of a broken cuckoo clock, Aziz insisted that the American dogs were being defeated in a string of bloody battles; that Allied soldiers were scurrying like mice, and that no Iraqi had been affected by the imperialist aggression. If it weren’t for news from hundreds of reporters (and photos through the bomb sites of coalition planes), you could almost believe him. But ultimately, the facts demonstrated the opposite of what he claimed. The schism between facts and fantasy revealed Aziz to be more than a lackey. He became a court jester and fodder for late night comedy.

As the Iraq army crumbled, troops deserted, Sadam’s sons were shot to death and Hussein ran into the forest to hide. Throughout it all, Aziz could have focused on the immorality or questionable legal basis for the American invasion. But he didn’t. Instead, he continued to make fun of Allied operations and insisted that American’s were losing. With conviction and character, he said that American’s were scared, retreating, deserting and on the run.

If the war weren’t so bloody, the Aziz diatribes would be comical. But, it was bloody—thousands of Americans and a half million Iraqi soldiers and civilians among the dead.

There probably weren’t any weapons of mass destruction—and history may ultimately condemn USA for initiating war when we should have focused ISIS terrorists and on finding Osama bin Laden. But, what made Tariq Aziz both memorable and laughable was his incredible loyalty to a dictator. He defended and distorted whacky behavior with passionate fervor.

Getting back to Sarah Sanders…

I won’t draw out the comparison, but for one minute, consider the similarity between Tariq Aziz and Sarah Sanders. They are in the same business: Putting lipstick on a pig. Defending the indefensible!

And today, Sarah defended the mockery of a sexual assault victim, the bullying by her boss, and the lies of a man who has no shard of credibility. Why? Can she find no other employment?

Sanders is saddled with the world’s worst job. It must be horrible to be in her shoes. She must defend and justify behavior of a child who commands a once great nation. She must explain misogyny, xenophobia, abject ignorance, mockery of the handicapped and of victims, and a continuous stream of lies. She must defend “sh*thouse nations” reneging on trade agreements and nuclear treaties, rude behavior toward a chancellor and crude behavior in the presence of a Queen. At some point, any reasonable person must ask “Why, Sarah?!!” Why defend the indefensible and distort the obvious. Is it out of a sense of loyalty? Out of patriotism? —Or out of sheer ignorance? Have you always stood firm with bullies and blamed victims?

When Sean Spicer was Whitehouse spokesperson, one could easily overlook his daily Daffy Duck pronouncements. Let’s face it: He was sort of a goofball from the very start. With no history, no pedigree, and no reputation to protect, it was easy to dismiss his absurd excuses. He was just a marionette in the oval office—a ‘Mini Me’ to Dr. Evil.

But when Sanders stepped up to the podium, I was  impressed. She was educated, articulate, impassionate and with an apparent capacity for critical thinking. She didn’t appear to be a pushover—not for the press and not even for the president. For a few weeks, she convinced me that she was part of the checks-and-balances offered by a critical staffer.

Alas, our hopes for a reasonable liason to the chaos in Trump’s head were dashed. And now, they are dashed more than ever.

Sarah: Have you no moral compass? Have you no shame? In what capacity will you work after a Trump presidency?

Disruption Experience Nails It

The Disruption Experience this Friday in Singapore is a blockchain event with a difference. With apologies to the Buick commercial, this is not your grandfather’s conference

I know a few things about blockchain conferences. I produced and hosted the first Bitcoin Event in New York. My organization develops cryptocurrency standards and practices. We help banks and governments create policy and services. And as public speaker for a standards organization, I have delivered keynote presentations at conferences and Expos in Dubai, Gujarat India, Montreal and Tampa, New York and Boston.

Many individuals don’t yet realize that both Bitcoin and the blockchain are as significant as the automobile, the transistor and the Internet. I was fortunate to grasp Bitcoin and the blockchain early in its history. It is never boring to help others understand the blockchain.

And so, I am an evangelist for both a radically improved monetary system and a transformative tool. During the past eight years, I have honed the skill of converting even the most profound skeptic. Give me 45 minutes in front of any audience—technical, skeptical or even without any prior knowledge—and I will win them over. It’s what I do.

An Atypical Conference Venue

As Bitcoin and altcoins begin the process of education, adoption and normalization, the big expos and conference events have begun to splinter and specialize. Today, most blockchain events market their venue to specific market sectors or interests:

For me, Smart Contracts are one of the most exciting and potentially explosive opportunities. As a groupie and cheerleader, I am not alone. Catering to the Smart Contract community is rapidly becoming a big business. Until this week, I thought it was the conference venue that yielded the biggest thrills. That is, until I learned about the Disruption Experience…

Few widely promoted, well-funded events address the 600 pound elephant in the room: What’s the real potential of blockchain trust, blockchain economy or blockchain AI? Take me beyond tokens and currency (please!). How can an international event help us to realize the potential of a radical new approach to accounting, trust and arbitration? Let’s stop arguing about Bitcoin, Ethereum or ICOs…

How can we unleash the gorilla—and grease—
a fundamental change that benefits mankind,
while providing leapfrog technologies for us?

—At least, that’s my spin on the potential of an unusually practical venue.

That question is slated to be answered on Friday at a big event in Singapore. And get this—It is modestly called a “Sneak Peak”. This is what I have been waiting for. The Disruption Experience premiers on September 28 at the V Hotel Lavender in Singapore. But don’t show up at the door. This event requires advance registration. (I do not offer a web link, because I hate being a conference huckster. If you plan to be in the area at the end of this week, then Google the event yourself).

What’s the big deal?

The Disruption Experience team is populated by blockchain developers, educators and trainers who take issue with existing events that focus on monetization. The purity of intention was overrun by greed. And so, they set out to form an event with a more altruistic purpose: Build technology, relationships, mechanisms and educational tools that better mankind. The focus at this event and the conferences that follow is to educate, expose and innovate. The focus is squarely on disruptive technology.

With their team of blockchain innovators focused on benefits and progress, I suspect that attendees will get what we have been searching for: Education, investment opportunities, an edge on new technologies and job opportunities.

Cusp of a Breakout Year

As an analogy, consider the race to understand Bitcoin and consider the engines & motors.

Bitcoin and the blockchain were introduced simultaneously in a 2009 whitepaper. It’s a bit like explaining the engine and the automobile together—for the very first time. One is a technology with a myriad of applications and the potential to drive innovation. The other is an app. Sure, it’s useful and important, but it’s just an app.

For 8 years, Bitcoin was a radical and contentious concept. Of course, there was the mystery of Satoshi and an effort to pinpoint his or her identity. And, a great debate raged about the legitimacy and value of decentralized, ethereal money. But, the interest was reflected primarily on the pages of Wired Magazine or at Geek-fests. Bitcoin was complex and costly to incorporate into everyday purchases and there were questions and gross misconceptions about hacking, regulation, taxes, criminal activity. The combined audience of adopters, academics, miners and geeks was limited.

That changed last year. With serious talk of exchange traded funds, a futures and derivatives market began to take shape. A critical operational bottleneck was addressed. Ultimately, 2017 was a breakout year for Bitcoin. You may not be using it today, but the smart money is betting that it will enhance your life tomorrow—at least behind the scenes.

Likewise, 2019 is likely to be the breakout year for blockchain applications, careers, products and—perhaps most importantly—public awareness, understanding and appreciation. Just as motors and engines are not limited to automobiles, the blockchain has far more potential than serving as an engine for decentralized cash. It is too important to be just a footnote to disruptive economics. It will disrupt everything. And we are the beneficiaries.

What is Interesting at The Disruption Experience?

The Friday event in Singapore covers many things. The presentations and tutorials that quicken my pulse relate to:

  • AI
  • Smart Contracts
  • Serious insight into blockchain mechanics, applications, adoption, scalability and politics
  • There’s even an exciting development in ICOs…

If you read my columns or follow my blog, then you know I am not keen on initial coin offerings (ICOs). That’s putting it mildly. They are almost all scams. But a rare exception is the Tempow ecosystem which encompasses three functional tokens. Stop by their exhibit and meet the officers of a sound economic mechanism that facilitates decentralized trading while overcoming the efficiency paradox.

What can I do at Disruption Experience?

The September 28 event is a preview for January’s Inaugural Event.

  • Listen and learn what Disruption is all about
  • Experience the first Virtual Reality Expo
  • Get to know the speakers and founders of Disruption
  • Hear about the Disruption Utility Token (DSRPT Token)
  • Meet the Disruption Team
  • See Disruption Expos

… and much, much more.

If you get to the big event, be sure to find the organizer and host, Coach Mark Davis. Tell him that I sent you. His passion and boundless enthusiasm for the blockchain and especially for transformative disruption is quite infectious.

Related reading:


Ellery Davies co-chairs CRYPSA, hosts the New York Bitcoin Event and is keynote speaker at Cryptocurrency Conferences. He sits on the New Money Systems board of Lifeboat Foundation and is a top Bitcoin writer at Quora. Book a presentation or consulting engagement. He is also an unpaid advisor to The Disruption Experience.

ISS hole: We will look back on Sept 2018

Someday, people across the world will look back on September 2018, much like we look back on the terror attacks of 9/11 or the safe return of Apollo 13 in 1970. They are touchstone moments in world history. For Americans, they are as indelible as Pearl Harbor, the assassination of John F. Kennedy or the first moon landing.

So, what happened just now? The month isn’t even half over, and the only events we hear about on the news atre related to Hurricane Florence and Paul Manafort. (In case you live under a rock or are reading this many years hence, the hurricane made landfall on the coast of the Carolinas, and the lobbyist / political consultant / lawyer / Trump campaign chairman pled guilty to charges and has agreed to cooperate in the continuing Mueller investigation).

No—I am not referring to either event on the USA east coast. I am referring to a saga unfolding 254 miles above the Earth—specifically a Whodunit mystery aboard the International Space Station (ISS). NASA hasn’t seen this level of tawdry intrigue since astronaut Lisa Marie Nowak attacked a rival for another astronaut’s affection—driving across the country in a diaper to confront her love interest.

So What is the Big Deal This Week?!

It didn’t begin as a big deal—and perhaps this is why mainstream news services are slow to pick up on the latest information. But now, in my opinion, it is a very big deal.

A small hole was discovered on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft (a lifeboat) attached to the International Space Station. That hole, about the size of a pea, resulted in the slow decompression of atmosphere. The air that our astronauts breathe was leaking out of ISS and into the void of space.

So far, the story is unremarkable. Ground scientists issued two comfort statements about the apparent accident. They addressed the possible cause and the potential risk:

  1. This small hole could have occurred on the ground (during construction). Alternatively, it could be the result of a micro-meteorite or even man-made space debris. Perhaps a fleck of varnish peeled off of a satellite and collided at high speed with the massive, orbiting space station. No problem. The ISS and each commuter spacecraft that dock with it are designed to sustain collisions with small particles—even ones that punch a pea-sized hole through the hull.
  2. Air pressure in the ISS and in each spacecraft is only 1 atmosphere. This type of small leak could effectively be stemmed by simply applying duct tape.

The initial news event was interesting to space buffs, but it didn’t seem to present a significant threat to our astronauts, nor require a massive technical response. You may recall that duct tape played a critical role in getting the Apollo 13 astronauts safely back to Earth almost 50 years ago. The crisis that they faced was far worse. The solution required extensive impromptu engineering both in Houston and up in the spacecraft. What an awesome historical echo and footnote to an event that captured the hearts and minds of so many people back in 1970.

But the story does not end with a piece of duct tape. In fact, it just got much more interesting…

After a few days, NASA revealed that the hole was intentionally drilled, and the deed probably occurred while the ship was docked at the space station. Since there is no log of activity with tools in this section of the laboratory, it strongly suggests an act of sabotage by one of the astronauts on board.

And now, we have some new information: Guided by ground engineers, astronauts fished an endoscope through the hole to inspect the outside of the spacecraft. Guess what?! That same drill bit damaged the meteorite shield which stands 15 mm beyond the pressurized hull of the spacecraft. This will add significant risk to anyone traveling back to earth in the damaged ship.

One theory is that a member of the crew wanted to create the conditions to more quickly return to Earth. Now, that return trip may present and elevated risk to occupants.
This story has not yet concluded, of course. It will likely conclude with tragedy or triumph. In the better scenario, no one will die—but successful return and reentry will be followed by a criminal conviction or court martial. I am having difficulty envisioning an alternate outcome.
Read about it here. The story is unfolding, but the details are utterly fascinating.

Drone Assassination Attempt Foreshadows Future Events

Until this past year, consumer drones carried tiny ultralight cameras, but they just didn’t have the energy or the reserve to carry much else. They certainly could not deliver much of a product or payload. They flew for  15 minutes, lacked the capacity to carry excess weight, and had short range.

But market demand sparks innovation. Amazon and Domino’s Pizza are experimenting with drone delivery. The improvements needed to serve these needs are quickly bubbling down to unlicensed weekend pilots. Hexacopters with 4K cameras, gimbals and retracting landing gear are available for under $400. Tiny foldable drones with 720p cameras are available for $35. Some models don’t even need a pilot on a joystick. You can preprogram the flight path to reach any target using GPS, or you can guide them by making gestures with your hand. The drone actually looks back over its shoulder and responds to your hand-waving commands.

Lance Ulanoff is a cartoonist and robotics fantech expert. But he shares a lot in common with Wild Ducks. He is an eclectic journalist and social media commentator.

This month he began publishing at Medium.com, and I’m glad he did! Lance has a knack for going beyond the Who, What, Why. Even in a short article, he explains the social implications. He provokes us to recognize why it matters.

Lance breaks down the recent attempt to assassinate Venezuela’s president with a drone delivered explosive and raises our social antennae. This news event ushers in a grim technology era. Ulanoff points out that in a short time, it has become inexpensive and fairly easy to send an explosive directly into a national monument like the Statue of Liberty.

Photos: Venezuela President, Nicolás Maduro, reacts to incoming drone. Although the assassination attempt failed, others on the ground were injured.

Uber & Lyft fight drivers over caps NYC

New York legislators are close to deciding an issue driven by Uber and Lyft drivers. They are demonstrating in the streets and demanding a cap on the number of authorized ride-share vehicles.

Mainstream media began covering this dust storm two weeks ago, but the pending decision is putting international attention on the issue of licensing a sector that was credited with eliminating nanny-state legislation. After all, licensing should be confined to the singular issues of transportation safety and not overall commerce.

A cap? What is a cap?! Does this mean that a person with a clean car, a good driving record and no criminal complaints will need a special license or medallion to participate in a ride sharing service? How ironic! Don’t glance in your rear-view mirror, because that is exactly what we used to grant taxi services until…Well, until sometime next year. It’s an old school, anti-free-market concept that we surmounted 10 years ago!

Legacy drivers claim that we need a cap of 80,000 entrepreneur-drivers, ostensibly for two reasons:

  1. They want economic protection. (Duhh!). Drivers who were early to the party are cruising the streets in cars that are empty 42% of the time. They are waiting for their next guest. This quite ironic, because these are the same drivers that disrupted the protections afforded to taxi companies.
  2. They claim that capping ride-share cars will reduce congestion on crowded Manhattan streets, along with pollution and commuter frustration.

But the ride share companies are not backing their drivers. They are lobbying anyone who will listen that we must avoid legislative restrictions.

A Wild Duck Opinion…

Uber and Lyft are absolutely right in championing the fight against a legislative cap and thereby removing free-market economics from the transportation sector. These drivers are owner-operators. There is already effective vetting of safety and criminal records. They are not employees of a municpal service. They are entrepreneurs exploiting a smart-phone app to sell their own services. It is no different than programmer who uses an app to write and distribute his own software.

Putting legislative caps on the number of participants in a new-era, free enterprise service, or limiting hours of operation is antithetical to a democratic and empowered free market constituency. It smacks of a Communist mind set. The armchair economics of protestors (drivers who feel threatened by newer drivers) and even well-researched data of credentialed economists) plays no role in an organic, facts-on-the ground growth industry.

I am not suggesting that an unlicensed or criminal driver should get away without vetting. But attempting to impose restrictions that are unrelated to health, safety or the environment will have unintended consequences, such as:

  • Underground apps that do the same thing with even less restrictions
  • Pushing innovation and profits off shore — or —
  • Ceding the market to foreign countries

Licensing has always been intended to serve the public good and not thwart innovation, growth and individual entrepreneurs. Unfortunately, it is often used to protect early entrepreneurs and exclude newcomers. That’s not how it should work—certainly not in a free country.

If you can’t take the heat of fair market competition, then innovate.

 

How Fear Affects Ideology

A very brief comment…

Is Conservative-vs-Liberal an expression of the same spectrum as Fear-vs-Trust?

The video below offers an interesting take on the difference between conservatives and liberals. It’s short, entertaining, and it clearly explains a reasonable hypothesis.

I am not sure what my few Trump-supporting friends would say about this analysis, but I don’t see it as divisive. It’s just an observed correlation without any judgement.

Spoiler: It ends with a call for us to all move toward the center… Not necessarily the center of the political spectrum (conservative -vs- liberal)—but toward the center of Fear -vs- Trust, which the video strongly correlates with our individual politics.

NASA director reverses on climate change, after 1 month

For millennia, our planet has sustained a robust ecosystem; healing each deforestation, algae bloom, pollution or imbalance caused by natural events. Before the arrival of an industrialized, destructive and dominant global species, it could pretty much deal with anything short of a major meteor impact. In the big picture, even these cataclysmic events have not destroyed the environment—they just change the course of evolution and rearrange the dog pile. A new alpha animal emerges and thrives.

But with industrialization, the race for personal wealth, nations fighting nations, and modern comforts, we have recognized that our planet is not invincible. This is why I serve on the board of Lifeboat Foundation. The foundation is all about recognizing the limits to growth and protecting our fragile environment.

Check out this April news article on Trump’s appointment of Jim Bridenstine, a vocal climate denier, as head of NASA. NASA is one of the biggest agencies on earth. Despite a lack of training or experience—without literacy in science, technology or astrophysics—he was handed an enormous responsibility, a staff of 17,000 and a budget of $19 billion.

In 2013, Bridenstine criticized Obama for wasting taxpayer money on climate research, and claimed that global temperatures stopped rising 15 years ago.

The Vox News headline states “Trump’s next NASA administrator is a Republican congressman with no background in science”. It points out that Jim Bridenstine’s confirmation has been controversial — even among members of his own party.

Sometimes, flip-flopping is a good thing

In less than one month, Jim Bridenstine has changed—he has changed a lot!

After less then a month as head of NASA, he is convinced that climate change is real, that human activity is the significant cause and that it presents an existential threat. He has changed from climate denier to a passionate advocate for doing whatever is needed to reverse our impact and protect the environment.

What changed?

Bridenstine acknowledges that he was a denier, but feels that exposure to the evidence and science is overwhelming and convincing—even in with just a few weeks exposure to world class scientists and engineers.

For anyone who still claims that there is no global warming or that the evidence is ‘iffy’, it is worth noting that Bridenstine is a hand-picked goon. His appointment was recommended by right wing conservatives and rubber stamped by the idiot-in-chief (the original stooge for the ultra right). He was a Denier—but had a sufficiently open mind to listen to experts and review the evidence.

Do you suppose that the US president is listening? Do you suppose that he will grasp the most important issues of this century? What about other world leaders, legislative bodies and rock stars? Will tey use their powers or influence to do the right thing? For the sake of our existence, let us hope they follow the lead of Jim Bridenstine, former climate denier!


Ellery Davies co-chairs CRYPSA, hosts the New York Bitcoin Event and is keynote speaker at Cryptocurrency Conferences. He sits on the New Money Systems board of Lifeboat Foundation. Book a presentation or consulting engagement.

Shifting Politics: Perhaps Texas can be redeemed, afterall

I love Texas! I love horses, wide open prairies, cowboy lore, beef, The Alamo and Texas Instruments. San Antonio and the area around El Paso is way cool. I especially love the independent spirit of limited government politics.

I’m not too keen on an economy that is still tied to fossil fuels, but I get it. Texas, Oaklahoma and Pennsylvania were the spigot of a carbon-based industrial revolution. The economy grew up hand-in-hand with the automobile and natural gas piped directly into homes, businesses and powerplants all over the country. It was a time before we became dependent on foreign nations. It was a time before we learned about greenhouse gas and a fragile environment. Gradually, even Texans are accepting the science of man’s relationship with nature—educating children, motivating citizens and retraining thousands of workers.

But seriously. What’s not to love?

Well, for one, there is an undercurrent of rural xenophobia. At least that’s what I have heard. To be honest, I have yet to meet a Texan that does not appreciate Mexico and the contributions of Mexican Americans—even during an extended house hunting trip deep in the heart of Texas, I sensed generous and tolerant citizens. If hate is brewing, it is still buried deep below the surface.

The Demographics

Outside of large cities, much of Texas is a single-party state. And the party is not mainstream Republican. At least not the Republicans that anyone over 40 was taught to respect. You know—the one that stood for limited taxation, but still understood the need for a safety net. The one where neighbor loved neighbor and religion was a personal conviction; not peddled with the conviction of superiority. It certainly is not the party that I once called home—the one that represents shared goals of limited government, personal freedom and modest checks & balances on the redistribution of wealth.

Something happened on the road from Regan to Palin to Trump. The modern evolution of rural, red Republicans is a bastardized version of party politics, alternatively known as Tea Party or Trumpians. It is characterized by head-in-sand intolerance, hate and xenophobia. Its lies are not accompanied by shame nor even awareness. It spews forth misogyny and it changes position with the fears and intolerance of donors. And the biggest alarm: It injects a bible into our democratic system of pluralistic governance. Is that the basis of a democracy? When has that formula ever worked?!

Fortunately, this is beginning to change—and the change is spearheaded by MJ Hegar who is running against Tea Party Congressman John R. Carter, man without a clue. This video is sheer genius! Perhaps Texas will move away from hate and find its footing.

As you watch the video below, consider that Air Force Major Mary Jennings Hegar is a search and rescue pilot who served three tours of duty in Afghanistan. After her helicopter was hit by enemy fire, she continued her rescue mission. She crashed on that mission while returning Taliban fire. She won the Purple Heart and a distinguished flying cross with valor. When she was denied ground combat service because she is a woman, she sued the Pentagon and won.

If you are Republican, try to overlook that Hager is running as a Democrat. In the end, it’s not about party. Parties mash disparate issues into a ‘platform’ and punish candidates for statements or deeds outside their red lines. They are incompatible with independent thinkers who consider the common good (i.e. the collective needs of all constituents). They don’t tolerate officials who vote their conscience.

Reflect, instead, on Hegar’s message. She is tolerant, inclusive, compassionate and willing to continue working for a country that constantly tries to shut doors in her face.

Republican, Democrat, Libertarian or Independent, MJ Hegar is my kind of woman!

Trump: Lamenting lost opportunities…

Twice, this past year, I promised that a final missive about our president was my last word, in a blog that resolves to be apolitical. This was a supremely difficult promise to keep—I have clearly failed. I lose sleep over our shared unfortune. And so, here is one more parting thought on a matter that troubles me deeply.

During the winter holidays, I settled into Las Vegas for a few shows and some fun. (Thank you, Ryan, for loaning me a Pontiac sports car!). I shot this photo through my window from Highway 15 as I was approached my hotel on the Vegas Strip.

It is sad that this building still shows such a disgraced brand name. It is sad that our country still wallows in that disgrace. How so?…

It is not so much the lies, divisiveness, misogyny, xenophobia, abject ignorance or thin-skinned bullying that bothers me. It’s not the constant contempt for everything embraced by the past administration (it clearly consumes him). It’s not the blind allegiance to white supremacists (he doesn’t even realize that they are racist). It’s not his goofy battle with the 1st Amendment or his professed support of the 2nd Amendment. And it’s not even the ignorance on issues related to the environment and nuclear threats…

Rather, it is the lost opportunities during moments of crisis and everyday business in which perspective, rational leadership, and respect from peers could really make a profound and positive difference to the futures of people everywhere!

To my good friends Dania, Peter and my nephew, Nate: Note that I never mention the name of any politician or statesman in this post. The name on that building speaks for itself. I respect you, but I do not respect the individual whose name adorns this building. It gleams in the sunset, and towers over Las Vegas. But it shines with shame. It may be beautiful and well maintained, but it represents a crumbling America.

Absolutely, the last word on Donald Trump

Months ago, before and after the election of our 45th president, I recognized that a growing fraction of posts in this blog were diatribes—railing against Trump and intolerance, and focusing on national politics. These topics were never intended to be a major focus of Wild Duck. I was concerned that personal politics was beginning to detract from the goals of a blog dedicated primarily to Bitcoin, privacy and the intersection of technology with social policy.

And so, I am doubling down on my commitment to move the shame and disgrace of the US president off of this web site. This is not the place. This is no longer the time. This is not the venue for political divisiveness.

except just this one last time. Please, Gawd! Just one last word about an issue of global importance.

Instead of making America great again, our president is dragging America into a pit of denial, division, xenophobia, and intolerance.

The longer that we tolerate this glitch of democracy; the longer we delay impeachment or guided resignation; the longer we accept divisiveness—this will be the period during which our nation treads three rungs below mediocrity. We grunt and grit our teeth; but, we slip further toward a cliff of irreversible, historical and ecological consequences.

Last week, I was traveling with my daughter in Costa Rica, and so I missed a New York Times op-ed (Aug 17, 2017). It screams out from the page—confronting and demanding reconciliation; it deserves amplification. Please consider what you read. Don’t just nod in agreement or reject it due to Trump loyalty. Truly consider the consequences. Stand up. Call your neighbors and friends. Do something. [Click image at bottom]


Vicente Fox: Message to Donald

I try hard to avoid pushing too many Trump posts into AWildDuck. The blog is intended to be more about technology, privacy, cryptocurrency and social policy.

But all too often, something like this hits the news and it’s tempting; like Adam & Eve and the apple, all over again!

I could be mistaken, but it appears that this video message to US president Donald Trump was really produced and presented by former Mexican president Vicente Fox. It does not appear to be an actor or comedian. The video is posted on President Fox’s Facebook page and his own personal web page.

Even if this is an actor portraying the Mexican president, it is clearly authorized. It is not only funny, but insightful and relevant—and very sad. That too! Funny, but sad…

US withdrawal from Paris accord; Universal disappointment

Yesterday, I had a fantasy. One that I passionately hoped would become reality. Minutes before Trump announced the withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Climate Accord, I began to daydream…

  • I dreamt that Trump might listen to his top science advisors and his daughter
  • I dreamt that he might not gamble our existence on his minority opinion that humans cannot help rescue the environment.
  • I dreamt that he would recognize that clean energy jobs trump legacy coal mining
  • I dreamt that he would avoid export tariffs for failing to respect international norms
  • I dreamt that he would stop pandering to Yahoos and stand for something worthy and undeniable

No such luck! The USA has lost its Mojo—at least while it is led by a man with no grasp of science, history, morals or a global perspective. As Trump begun to speak, I was sucked into a cruel nightmare. But this nightmare is reality. It’s the reality of a buffoon representing you and me in our nation’s highest office.

Question: Time for a thought experiment. Can you guess the answer?…

What do Arnold Schwarzenegger, Elon Musk, The Pope, Richard Branson and French president, Emmanuel Macron, have in common?

Answer: They are all saddened that the US is surrendering its inspiration, leadership and common sense. Clean energy creates jobs, saves our planet, and aids the political and military stability of nations. Trump doesn’t sense any of this. He is validated by his base and his Yes men. He is a climate denier, and he doesn’t even read. He only watches what others say about him on television.                     [continue below video]

I cannot add perspective nor amplify President Macron’s urgent message to Americans. The clip is trending on Facebook with the caption: “French president destroys Trump in 5 words”. This suggest that he is taking a jab at Trump; mocking his poor grasp on science and the environment. But, politics plays no role in this message. It is about global impact and opportunity…

The French president hasn’t made a fool of Trump. Trump has brought shame onto his office and made a fool of our system of government, all on his own. His defiance of science and complete lack of understanding history risks irreparable harm to our planet. Trump feels that American jobs come before environmental policy. Yet, he is turning his back on the biggest jobs market since the steam engine.                 [Continue below video]

Perhaps more critically, his withdrawal from the global accord will bring about tariffs against US cars, steel, airplanes, timber and electronics. After all, by pulling out of the Paris accords, we ducking environmental safeties in an effort to make America great — or more accurately, in our effort to bury our heads in the sands and let the rest of the world take the lead on clean energy, efficiency, reducing pollution and averting global warming.

Response to US withdrawal…


Ellery Davies co-chairs Crypsa & Bitcoin Event, columnist & board member at Lifeboat, editor
at WildDuck and will deliver the keynote address at Digital Currency Summit in Johannesburg.

Sex Equality: I’m With Her

A Wild Duck guest editorial

Lydia Begag is a high school junior at Advanced Math and Science Academy in Massachusetts. She got our attention when she published an editorial critical of the school’s uniform policy. With eloquence and articulation, she laid out a brilliant and persuasive argument that the policy was anything but uniform. It was ambiguous, arbitrary and discriminatory.


I’m with Her
Ideas Regarding Sex Equality—Forget the Rest

Political and social turmoil are everywhere we turn, especially in the early months of 2017. Lunch conversations, small talk at work, and, of course, the media we consume have all become related to a singular topic: the United States government and its workings. Emotionally, I want to curl up in a ball and block out the political nonsense being spewed left and right until the day I die (pun very much intended)—but I feel intellectually obliged to confront the controversy.

All who live and breath America understand why politics have always been a hot topic for debate. Every ideology, action, and word are potentially contentious. Such is especially the case with modern feminism. Everyone seems to have a different opinion of it and portrays it in different ways, from the group of men wolf whistling at a woman on her way to her car after work to powerful cultural figures who associate themselves with the movement. Before we can even begin to familiarize ourselves with conflicting beliefs towards women and feminism in general and their reflection of a worrisome mentality, it is crucial to first understand feminism’s roots in the United States, and how interpretations of the word and the movement have varied throughout the years.

Feminism begins its legacy in 19th-century America, where its first-wave arises at the Seneca Falls Convention of July 1948. Prominent feminists of the era (including Elizabeth Cady Stanton—more on her later!) issued a Declaration of Sentiments for women that emulated the Declaration of Independence their husbands had crafted 170 years earlier. The document asserted that women had fundamental rights that were denied without cause, including suffrage. However, the first-wave feminist movement raised a series of questions regarding whether it was acceptable to promote black civil rights over and into women’s rights. Should the rights of black men be prioritized over establishing and recognizing rights for women? Should black women be considered in the fight for gender equality as well, or would that undermine the cause white women had been fighting for for so long? The moral conflict eventually resulted in a success for the women’s suffrage movement in 1920. White women, led by famous feminists such as Stanton, Alice Paul, and Lucy Burns, gained the right to vote in federal and state elections via the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Women of color, however, were left in the dust and did not start to gain suffrage until 1965. This type of exclusive feminism did not end when women of color gained suffrage; it has proven itself to be significant even today.

The list of American feminist milestones goes on and on. Women experienced sexual liberation in the Roaring 20s, when life was grander and more exquisite than ever. They essentially took over maintenance of the U.S. economy when men went  to fight in the world wars, and Rosie the Riveter was born. Women were also becoming increasingly influential in politics. Such milestones included the first woman to run for president on a major-party ticket in 1972 to landmark Supreme Court cases asserting that a right to privacy does include guaranteed legal accessibility to abortion and contraceptives. Title 9, the amendment to the Education Amendments Act of 1972, enabled girls in schools across the country to receive the same benefits as their male peers. All of these milestones reshaped a woman’s role in society throughout the 20th century onwards, but they did not come without drawbacks. The ’20s was an intense era of sexist and classist attitudes. Female sexual liberation resulted in extreme objectification. After WWI was over and soldiers came home, women were whisked back into the households to resume their roles as obedient housewives. Male dominance made running for public office harder for a woman, despite having the opportunity. And let us not forget the controversy surrounding a woman’s right to privacy. A significant factor involves religious morals and/or other ethical reasoning that are not related to gender equality, but it is impossible to ignore the misogynistic rationale that many pro-lifers exhibit. All of the achievements we’ve had have seemingly been countered by just as much dissent as support, a persistent reality since Abigail Adams urged her husband to support gender equality.

We are currently in the era of what fundamentalist feminists call “Take A Shot Every time You Offend Someone With One of Your Comments.” That term, of course, is colloquialism at its finest. You’re probably more familiar with something called third-wave feminism. This type of feminism has become increasingly less focused on the kind of feminism Stanton was prominent for (Yay! Exclusivity!) and more on queer and non-white women. The concept of intersectionality was introduced in the late ’80s just before this third wave began. It has received great support by women of color and those who had always been ignored by exclusive feminists, but as we already know, dissent is just around the corner.

The most popular criticism focuses on a lack of cohesion. First wave feminism fought for and gained female suffrage. The second wave fought for the right for women to have access to equal opportunity in the workforce and an end to legal sex discrimination. What is third wave feminism’s goal? Is there even a goal, or are its advocates serving as the world’s determinators of what is PC and what is not? The stigma around the feminist movement has existed ever since its origins in this country, but the increasing disassociation of women from the term ‘feminism’ has become alarming in recent years. For every outspoken celebrity and political feminist there is out there (think Emma Watson, Shonda Rhimes, Nancy Pelosi) there is an equally prominent female figure that opposes the movement, such as Lana del Rey, Tomi Lahren, and Shailene Woodley. Here’s the kicker: these role models usually aren’t misogynistic or demeaning. They simply seek to avoid affiliation with the word itself and its modern day supporters. This is understandable; we’re a country founded on grounds of freedom. If a person doesn’t want to associate themselves with a movement, there’s no obligation to. However, the fact that women don’t even want to be labeled feminists because of what it has come to signify is something I find very problematic. I don’t see this as an inadequate reflection of what 21st century women believe in, but rather a poor reflection on the feminist crusade. The way I look at it is this: apples don’t fall off a tree because they are too heavy. Rather, they fall off because the stem is too weak to support them.

This creation of a conflict within a conflict has led to major confusion on what “right” feminism is. As defined by Merriam Webster, “feminism” is the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes. This most basic meaning of the word is something most women, if not all, should consider when they debate  whether or not to label themselves a feminist. Sex equality is really the only thing the third-wave feminist movement should be focused on. Issues such as racial inequality, and rights for LGBT and disabled persons, are a matter for a cause much broader than feminism (think egalitarianism). The more narrow a movement and its fight becomes, the more likely it is to accomplish its goals. The first two waves of feminism all had a set goal in mind, which was something that followed core feminism to the nines. In the midst of all of the social unrest that has risen since the ’80s, the feminist movement has been trying to take over the egalitarianist one. However, if women ever wish to gain social equality between the sexes, it is necessary to narrow the cause to its fundamental roots.

Another issue with the modern feminist movement is that, in the effort towards sex equality, many feminists have interpreted being equal to men as trying to act just like them. Men and women are different, biologically and perhaps psychologically, but of equal value. To quote Mary Ramirez’s “Dear Daughter: Here’s Why I Didn’t March For You”: “…we are biologically and physically and emotionally different from men, but that doesn’t mean we’re less. It means we’re special.”

Nonetheless, achieving social equality between the sexes is something I consider crucial, particularly for the girls just starting to grow up in this country. It is disheartening for women to live in a world where, from the moment we start to grow up and find ourselves in a male-centric society, life becomes a tale of denigration and overt sexualization. However, the problem with using modern feminism to change this sexist attitude is that it has turned into a male resentment club, and no longer seems to revolve around sex equality in society. Off the top of my head, I can think of multiple times where the “feminists” surrounding me on a daily basis have remarked on female superiority or denounced women who do not wholeheartedly accept their idea of feminism. Feminism should preach equality and acceptance. Instead, it has turned into a catty game of doing to the men what the men have done to us. We live in a world where raising people up has turned into knocking others down. Vulgarity and impertinence has turned into the ideal image of a “strong” woman, and has become more and more acceptable. The idea of a feminist who respects others’ opinions has seemingly been swapped with one that thrives off of the idea of being regarded as “bitchy,” angry, or disrespectful. We’ve come a long way since our feminist founding mothers marched down Pennsylvania Avenue fighting for suffrage, and unfortunately, it’s not for the best.

Envisioning myself in the world of politics five or ten years down the road…I won’t pretend it doesn’t worry me at times.Influential female politicians over the years have found not their beliefs or their policy agendas as the primary subject of media conversation, but rather whether or not they’re menstruating or have considered cosmetic surgery. Seeing myself and others in my current situation has worried me as well. Despite growing up in a privileged setting where I receive nothing but acceptance from my family, the school and work environment has offered me and similar girls slut-shaming, catcalling, and the craftiest of off-hand remarks (“Who are you trying to impress today with that outfit?”). A multitude of women who come from different backgrounds have experienced similar toxicity in their surroundings. Ultimately, any setting for a woman can be a problematic one, and a promotion of classic feminism could turn things around. To me, an advocacy for respect on both sexes’ parts—rather than claimed superiority—would be transformative in making these conditions for bearable for young American women and men. Right now, what we have is extreme exclusivity and not enough acceptance.

Want to call yourself a feminist? Great! Reluctant to associate yourself with the movement but still support sex equality? Sounds good! Don’t support sex equality and a reversal of traditional gender roles? That is still okay! Obviously if an opinion undermines the cause you are fighting for, you’re not inclined to encourage it. But what the American public needs to realize is that, when advocates contradict the cause of unity and respect with their actions and words change will not come. Crudity does not empower you; it only cheapens you.

As mentioned before, narrowing down the movement’s goals is also crucial in moving forward. In comparison to many nations around the world, the United States has seen great success when it comes to fighting for sex equality. The third-wave feminist movement does have some valid issues to advocate for—domestic violence, raising awareness for rape victims, pay discrimination, etc.—but also chooses to focus on trivial causes like Free the Nipple and eliminating “manspreading.” Perhaps it is because we have obtained legal equality (thanks, first two waves!). But now that social equity has become the main focus, a blur of ideas and beliefs have resulted in a chaotic, incohesive movement. If you consider feminism at its core, the social issue to fight for is clear. There are many causes worth fighting for: racial inequality, ableism, and marriage justness, to name a few. But for the love of God, leave the aspects that do not relate to sex equality for the egalitarians. They’re there for a reason.

Author’s Note:  Add a comment or question below. I will respond promptly.

— Lydia Begag

United Air: Public relations nightmare

Check out the last minute of this Jimmy Kimmel video. It is a spoofed TV commercial for United Airlines. Based on recent events, it seems pretty authentic. Kimmel’s monologue is pretty funny too!

I have heard from a few people who defend United—offering an explanation of overbooking policy—or the rude defiance of the Asian doctor that was dragged out of the plane bloodied and on his back (and apparently, with a broken jaw). But, no matter how you spin this, United was incredibly foolish to issue a patently offensive statement about how clients were unfortunately “reaccommodated”.
Yeah! I’ll agree that it was certainly unfortunate. But, I am not too sure about this being an example of airline accommodation. Check out the Twitter reaction.
Typically, these things blow over and the public searches for the next low fare—even if it is lower by only one dollar. But this time, I think that United may feel the pain. Their methods and the ensuing arrogance of CEO, Oscar Munoz, are tantamount to flipping a middle finger at paying passengers.
Good luck with that, United Airlines!

Bitcoin ETF Buzz Offers Short Term Opportunity

If you follow Bitcoin at all, then you know that its value is spiking. It has already surpassed a massive spike on Thanksgiving night 2013, and this weekend, a single Bitcoin surpassed the cost of an ounce of gold.                             [continue below image]

Like any commodity, the exchange value of Bitcoin is driven by supply and demand. But, unlike most commodities, including the US Dollar, the Euro or even gold, the eventual supply is capped. It is a mathematical certainty. Yet, demand is affected by many factors: Adoption as a payment instrument, early signs that it is being considered as a reserve currency, fascination by Geeks and early adopters and its use as a preferred tool by some criminals.

But chief among reasons for acquiring Bitcoin is speculation. Whether it is buy-and-hold or day trading, speculators still outnumber those who use Bitcoin to settle debts or to buy and sell other products and services. (Earlier this week, I argued that speculation is responsible for 85% of demand and of transactions—but that’s another story).

It’s a bit ironic that speculation—in the early days of a new market—retards organic adoption. It contributes to uncertainty and volatility, and it reduces the fraction available to the markets that make it both useful and liquid. Yet, in free markets, speculation is a necessary and critical antecedent to adoption.

This week, short term speculators have an unusually keen opportunity to profit, especially if they know how to buy a ‘put’ or sell a ‘call’ (i.e. to leverage a bet for or against the direction of Bitcoin, without actually acquiring any). For example, you can bet that an exchange-traded stock will fall, because it has an options market. But it’s not as easy to bet against commodities that lack a futures or options market.

I am not going to give advice in this article. I am not a licensed investment professional and although I am bullish on long term, organic adoption of Bitcoin, I really don’t have an opinion on the current news or the short term prospects for a pull back. But, if you have an opinion on a current news event, then there is an immediate opportunity for you to make (or lose) a significantly leveraged sum in the next few days…

SEC and ETFs  (Alphabet soup of investment banks)

Next weekend, on Saturday March 11, the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) will approve or deny an application for the first regulated, recognized and significantly backed Bitcoin Exchange Traded Fund (ETF). Why is this significant? Because most investments are not hand picked by individual investors. Most investors choose the level of risk or diversification that seems reasonable for their life stage and then they leave the decisions to a formula, a market sector basket, or a fund manager. That is, they invest or park their money in a fund rather than betting on Space-X, PayPal or the local electric company.                             [continue below image]

If approved, an ETF potentially adds massive new demand for a commodity, by offering a financial instrument than can be subscribed by the vast fraction of funds, investors, pensioners and speculators who prefer to leave asset management to an organization, outside broker or formula.

The first ETF application is created and backed by the Winkelvoss twins. They were Olympic rowers, but found fame & fortune by contracting Marc Zuckerberg to create an early platform for Facebook. If their application is approved, a dozen more investment banks, brokers and hedge funds are standing by to jump in with both feet.

This morning, Cointelegraph put the odds that the ETF will be approved at 50%. Some analysts place the chances even higher. But consider that Bitcoin has already spiked dramatically in the past few weeks. The excitement is already reflected in the price. So, where is the opportunity?

The opportunity, as with any speculative decision, is in the dissonance between your research and hunch compared with the overall market expectation reflected in the current price. So, for example, if Bitcoin is accepted as the basis for an ETF (and if it continues to grow in more fundamental adoption), the current price is actually remarkably low. Under these assumptions, it hasn’t even begun its period of rapid ascent. Perhaps more obviously (and even more short-term), if you believe that an ETF will be blocked by regulators, then the recent rise is likely to be reversed quickly, at least in the minutes after the March 11 decision is announced.

So how can you profit from your belief that a commodity will drop in value? I leave that to your personal investment knowledge and research or your financial advisor. My purpose is not to advise, nor even to teach about puts and calls. It is to point out that a few people will win or lose a lot of real money this coming weekend—at least on paper. And it all hinges on whether they can correctly predict the outcome of a regulatory decision process.

Again, Bitcoin is a very limited commodity, There are only 15.2 million coins today, and there will never be more than 21 million coins. This does not present an obstacle to adoption, because the coins can be sliced smaller and smaller as needed. In a noteworthy demonstration of ‘good deflation’, there will always be enough units for everyone—even if the entire world adopts it for every transaction under the sun.


Ellery Davies co-chairs Crypsa & The Bitcoin Event. He is a columnist & board member at Lifeboat Foundation,
editor at WildDuck and is delivering the keynote address at the 2017 Digital Currency Summit in Johannesburg.