Spring Comes

O, Rain, if Spring comes, can Winter be far behind?

FM:(
♥♥

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Thanks to Miranda Wong for sharing.

Annie Zhang

27 February at 12:34 · 

#保持憤怒追尋自由

讀者Rongyuchan在端的留言:

「我深深地對這個國家感到失望是去年冬天清除低端人口的時候。在此之前我還覺得也許是體制上的不適合等各種現實因素,可當我看到少之又少卻又觸目驚心的相關報道的時候,我想這下真的壞了。不是“走不下去了”的那種壞,是本身的壞,是自己明明已經在作惡了還要拼命走下去的壞。疏導的方法有千萬種,可他偏偏選擇站在人民的對立面。

關於連任的新聞剛出的時候,我正和朋友在外面玩,那一瞬間我感覺怒火蓋過了我的頭頂,我是發自內心的感到憤怒。回家之後我和我爸爸談起來,我爸說該連任,因為反腐局勢下他很危險,也只有他繼續做下去才能夠實現真正的反腐。我沒和我爸說什麼便進了自己的房間,我在想,這的確有一定道理,可這就該是修憲連任的理由嗎?這一點一經更改以後會發生什麼未來有多少變數他都不管了嗎? 怕是是了。

晚上我轉發了幾條旁敲側擊的博文,越想越生氣發了一條“我反對”。早上很早就醒了,不知道為什麼是帶著憤怒醒的,可能還是接受不了吧。拿起手機一看,我轉發的一條東西被刪除了,不過也沒放在心上,常有的事。到了中午,我發現自己被封號了,不是禁言,是封號。我不能進行任何操作,我可以看別人發送的微博,可當我點進自己的主頁時他告訴我賬號異常,並且微博全都消失了。那一刻我有些恍惚,我從網絡上認識了的那麼多人一瞬間就失聯了。幾個小時前我還是一個有血有肉的人,頃刻間我就化作一串消失在互聯網中的透明代碼。

我不知道未來幾年會是怎樣的,可我真的想要努力學一些東西了。我突然想像求生一樣學習一門外語。這片土地我深愛著,可我也恨。

大家努力吧。不要絕望,保持憤怒,追尋自由。誠心祝福你,捱得到,新天地。」

At Least for Now

Look 

Professor L
He speaks up
We can hear him
At least for now

***********************
FM:)
♥♥

2018.01.25_BU_Luo Bingxiang

培養大學生道德操守,社會及政府也有責任

羅秉祥 (香港浸會大學 應用倫理研究中心主任)
Professor Luo Bing Xiang, Centre for Applied Ethics, HK Baptist University

WEDNESDAY, 24 JANUARY 2018

 

聽到浸大兩名學生受到即時生效的暫時停學處分,感到很難過。

特別感難過的是,這幾天社會中不斷有人施壓,對這些同學落井下石,要求開除他們學籍等等。浸會大學內的事,應交由浸會大學按既定程序處理。社會中人若覺得受良心催促,非要指責他們不可,我懇請大家環顧社會內,有沒有其他事更值得大家譴責?

有些成年人不斷感嘆,香港的年輕人道德質素不斷下降,我想問:香港成年人自己的道德質素就很高嗎?還是比年輕人更不堪?當大學校園內有些年輕人出了一些事,社會中就有些人出來,千夫所指,欲把他們置於死地不可。但成人世界中,特別是位高權重人士,如代表正義公平部門的高官,涉嫌多次知法犯法,竟然可以安坐其位,日後以法律正義為名,起訴香港市民!如此極荒謬及嚴重事件不去指責,卻轉移視線,來指責幾個大學生!

最近某大學得到研究經費,探討家長或監護人對香港青少年道德品格發展的看法,我覺得更值得探討一下,年輕人對社會中應為人楷模者道德品格的看法。在年輕人眼中,香港的社會賢達,接受過紫荊勳章嘉許的翹楚,不少早已道德破產,現在說:「至於浸會大學近日有學生到校內的語文中心抗議事件,XXX認為,事件反映青年道德問題已經亮起紅燈」,我只能說,香港成人世界道德問題已經爆燈爆到滿地玻璃碎片。雖然該研究者也沒有責怪學生,認為「學生是被塑造出來,問題根源不只在於學生,建議家長和校方,都要更重視對年輕人的品格教育。」我想補充一句,除了家長及老師,政府也有重要角色。我建議政府,更重視司長局長的人格誠信。中國人的老話:「其身不正,其令不行」。

年輕人爆粗,至少還率直。社會賢達或政府官員講話溫文儒雅,但若充滿謊言歪理及說非成是,我感到更大冒犯。欲借浸大學生會會長爆粗而想把浸大學生會置於死地,這個舉動反映成人世界的奸詐。

我不是道德相對主義者。當日衝擊浸大語文中心的同學的確有錯(不是因為爆粗),由大學紀律委員會跟進處理,希望他們能早日改過復學。我同意錢大康校長所言:「培育學生的道德操守,我們責無旁貸。」但我們在校園內所能作的非常有限;真正關心年輕人道德操守的社會中人,請先去掃蕩充斥這個社會的歪風,讓年輕人有一個健康的道德環境來成長。

大學內紀律嚴明,政府高層內就寬容由知法犯法者來執法;在這個荒謬的社會,教育工作者只能感到氣餒。

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Protect People

Domenico Gramegna updated his profile picture
20 January at 02:39

Fanny-Min Becker
 Domenico dear
If only people could love each other as we do …
Thanks for sharing. 

************
FM:)
♥♥

 

Pessimistic Thoughts

 your profile photo, Image may contain: 1 person, smiling
Fanny-Min Becker, 
15 January 2016 · Hong Kong · 
Never harboured as many pessimistic thoughts as today …

I have seen how it was happening,
on a very minor scale,
in a remote part of Kenya,
how mountains were leased and ‘developed’ to grow energy crops,
and pesticide and chemical fertilizer handed over free-of-charge.
Green mountains, green virgin mountains with rich dark soil.
And the lady who owns the mountains
saw this a chance for ‘development’, heaven sent …

It was 2011. And now?

************
FM:(
♥♥

// If One Belt, One Road meets Chinese planners’ expectations, the whole of Eurasia, from Indonesia to Poland will be transformed in the coming generation. China’s model will blossom outside of China, raising incomes and thus demand for Chinese products to replace stagnating markets in other parts of the world. Polluting industries, too, will be offloaded to other parts of the world. Rather than being at the periphery of the global economy, Central Asia will be at its core. And China’s form of authoritarian government will gain immense prestige, implying a large negative effect on democracy worldwide. //

Read full article:

One belt, one road: exporting the Chinese model to Eurasia

PROJECT SYNDICATE

By Francis Fukuyama, a senior fellow at Stanford University.
His most recent book is Political Order and Political Decay

Those Were the Years

******************
FM:)
♥♥

************************************
Prompted by the following article
shared by 阮游世雄 on facebook
************************************

Meeting with Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev (Moscow, July 1990)
(Abridged translation of an essay in The Complete Works of Daisaku Ikeda 1)

 Play Video

The car made its way toward the Kremlin beneath a brilliant blue sky. The date was July 27, 1990, and it was a Friday. I was scheduled to meet with then Soviet president Mikhail S. Gorbachev at 10:30 A.M.

The car moved through the soft morning light. Passing through the Kremlin’s heavily guarded crenellated walls, we arrived at the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet building. At the entrance, we ascended a flight of stairs that brought us before a set of stately wooden doors typical of Russian architecture. Beyond the doorway, we rode the elevator to fifth and highest floor.

We were led down a long hallway adorned with an exhibition case displaying china and other gifts from various countries. Passing through a waiting room, we were ushered through a large white door that opened into the meeting chamber. The room had a simple decor. As I entered the room, Mr. Gorbachev appeared from a door at the opposite end.

“Good morning!” I said, extending my hand. “I am delighted to have this opportunity to meet you!”

“The pleasure is mine,” he replied.

I had brought my own interpreter. However, in keeping with protocol for heads of state, it was decided that we would use Mr. Gorbachev’s interpreter.

The first words I uttered were, “I have come to have an argument with you.” I was inviting him to engage in broad-ranging and fruitful debate.

Mr. Gorbachev’s interpreter Victor Kim, who would later accompany the president to Japan [in April 1991], seemed somewhat puzzled by my remark. I suppose it’s only natural that an interpreter should hesitate for a moment when a guest begins a dialogue by abruptly saying, “Let’s argue.”

Just then, the interpreter accompanying me, a graduate of Soka University, jumped in and skillfully conveyed my words with the intended nuance. Soon there were smiles all around.

I continued: “Let’s make sparks fly, and talk about everything honestly and openly, for the sake of humanity and for the sake of Japan–Soviet relations!”

Mr. Gorbachev, his face flushed with color, replied without missing a beat: “I am well acquainted with your extensive activities, but I didn’t realize you were a man of such passion. I, too, am fond of straightforward dialogue.” He then let out a hearty laugh. He was skilled in repartee and his mind worked very quickly. Furthermore, true to his reputation, he had a keen wit.

The Soviet president continued: “I feel as though you and I are longtime friends. It is as if we are old and dear friends rejoicing in their first face-to-face encounter.”

In the center of the room was a large conference table. After our wonderful initial exchange, we took our seats across from each other.

Mr. Gorbachev was joined on his side of the table by the well-known author Chingiz T. Aitmatov, a member of the Presidential Council; Rector Anatoli A. Logunov of Moscow State University; Chairman Gennadi A. Yagodin of the State Committee for National Education; Anatoli S. Chernyaev, a presidential aide; Karen N. Brutents, first deputy head of the International Department of the Communist Party Central Committee; and Vladislav I. Dunaev of the Novosti Press Agency.

I am not a politician or an economist, but a private citizen. I think it is precisely for that reason that I have been able to engage in frank and open dialogue with world leaders, unfettered by the constraints of political protocol or narrow economic interests.

I said: “Today, on behalf of the people of the world who are waiting to hear your message, and for the sake of future generations, I would like to take the role of student and ask your views on a variety of matters.”

Extending his arms in a gesture of welcome and broadly flashing the famous “Gorby smile,” the president replied: “Before I have even had the chance to welcome you as my guest, you have taken the words out of my mouth!”

Leaning forward, he continued: “You—my ‘student’? Nothing could be further from the truth. It is you who are making tremendous contributions to humanity while upholding the values and ideals of humanism.

“I am very familiar with your ideas, and I have a deep interest in the philosophical side of your activities. The ‘new thinking’ that is part of our program of perestroika is like a branch stemming from the trunk of the philosophy that you espouse.”

His comments about me aside, I found the president to be someone with whom I could really talk and be understood.

The Historical Significance of Perestroika

Mikhail Gorbachev

Daisaku Ikeda and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev meet for the first time (at the Kremlin in Moscow, July 1990)

What is most important for our lives? It is the pursuit of the answer to this question that gave rise to Mr. Gorbachev’s ideas about changing society. Not once did he waver in his stance as he set about implementing perestroika—an unprecedented experiment in human history—and promoting reform.

As human beings, of utmost importance is how faithfully we can live to the cry of our conscience and to what extent we can act in accord with our inner voice of justice. Understanding the struggles Mr. Gorbachev must have gone through to stay true to his convictions, I could not help but say to him: “I am a supporter of perestroika and the ‘new thinking’ you seek to foster. Our ideas have much in common. In fact, this is only natural, as we both focus on the human being. Our humanity is the great common denominator.”

Mr. Gorbachev nodded in agreement as I spoke.

When I commented on his youthfulness, the president’s dignified face broke into a smile. “Being called young makes me particularly happy,” he said. “That’s because one year at perestroika ages you five years.”

He further remarked: “President Ikeda, I have the highest regard for your intellectual and social activities. One reason for this is because all of your endeavors have a spiritual element to them.

“At this point, we are trying to gradually incorporate the spiritual elements of ethics and morals into government. Although this is a difficult task, I believe that success in this endeavor will yield tremendous results.”

In the rigid world of Eastern-bloc politics, the very idea of emphasizing spiritual factors had been at one time unthinkable.

To believe in people’s innate goodness and advance steadfastly upholding the ideal of humanism. To emphasize spiritual values. In such aspirations, Mr. Gorbachev and I shared a common ground.

“New ideas tend to be looked upon at first as absurd,” Mr. Gorbachev stated emphatically. “Reformers are always in the minority in the beginning. Therefore, it is a mistake to immediately dismiss budding plans or fresh ideas as outrageous.”

I was in complete agreement. That was precisely what I had wanted to convey.

Amid a great storm of persecution and insult, the SGI had initiated a kind of religious renaissance. For this reason, I could truly empathize with Mr. Gorbachev’s situation.

Sitting upright, Mr. Gorbachev vigorously continued: “When I proposed constructing a world free of nuclear weapons and resolving conflict through dialogue rather than violence, many people laughed this off as utopianism. But look at what is happening; these ideals are now being actualized.”

He was filled with self-confidence. He positively shone.

During our meeting, Mr. Gorbachev went straight to the heart of things as he explained the process leading to perestroika. His face taut and his tone direct, he said, “Mr. Ikeda, what I want to say next is very important: Everything that I have accomplished up to now has been made possible because there have been able and intelligent people around me, some of whom are present here today. All I have achieved has been the result of my association and unity with these people. In other words, it has been due to an alliance of government and culture.”

At this juncture, our discussion really livened up.

One person can have both a political side and a cultural side. It is a union of these mutually influential areas that brings forth the innate potential of the individual, thereby elevating both sides to a higher level. On this point, as well, we were in complete agreement.

The First Visit to Japan by a Soviet Head of State

Mikhail Gorbachev

Discussions with Soviet President Gorbachev and other Soviet leaders at the Kremlin in Moscow (July 1990)

By elevating the quality of culture, we can elevate the human being, which in turn causes the elevation of government. This was the point I was making during my meeting with President Gorbachev when I said that it is essential that politicians possess philosophy and a poetic spirit. Our conversation was filled with such passion and excitement that it felt as though time were standing still.

The president also said: “The first step in perestroika was to give everyone freedom. However, the question now is how to put that freedom to use: . . . Perestroika has reached a decisive stage. This is a time of change not only for the Soviet Union, but for the entire world.

Describing the image of people speaking their minds freely, the president remarked with a smile, “In the national government, as well, the Supreme Soviet has turned into a kind of theater.”

“One that is filled with lots of good actors!” Dr. Yagodin interjected. At this, the room erupted with laughter. The president immediately added, “It’s more popular than any soap opera on television!” Hearty laughter continued. It was a lively atmosphere.

This newfound freedom brought about even more dramatic changes. Seeing the incredible effect of perestroika, I was struck yet again by the immense power of the human mind. Everything that Russia was able to achieve was made possible by a change in the human heart.

There was one aim that I hoped to achieve in my meeting with Mr. Gorbachev; that is, the realization of a visit by him to Japan. At that time, there was much speculation whether such a visit would actually happen. That’s because just two days before our meeting, discussions with a national delegation of Diet members from Japan had broken down, bringing any plans for a visit back to square one.

As our discussion turned to relations between our two countries, I changed its direction by commenting that his courtship with his wife Raisa was well known.

He humorously retorted that that was something he had started to forget, adding: “Since Moscow State University Rector Logunov is present, and it was when my wife and I were both students at that school that our romance began, I think it would be inappropriate to discuss the matter now.” Amid everyone’s laughter, Mr. Logunov gave a friendly shrug.

I then asked where the couple went on their honeymoon and why they didn’t visit Japan.

The president immediately replied: “I will answer your first question when I make my trip to Japan. As to the second question, I can give you an answer at any time. I very much want to visit Japan, and I believe this desire will be realized.”

I then expressed my hope that he and Mrs. Gorbachev would make their visit either during the spring when the cherry blossoms are in flower or during the autumn to see the crimson maple leaves.

When I told him I was eagerly looking forward to welcoming them in Japan, the president said: “Most of the talks I have had with Japanese until now have been extremely constrained. The bottom line is that when people begin to communicate in a spirit of cooperation, any differences can be resolved. Nothing will be achieved if either party is stuck on issuing preliminary conditions or final ultimatums.”

In response to my suggesting that he visit Japan as soon as possible, he decisively stated: “I will definitely visit Japan: . . . The lack of dialogue between our countries is not normal.” And he voiced his wish to make the trip in the springtime.

Thus, the decision for the first visit ever by a Soviet head of state to Japan had been made. News of his comments were widely reported, including on the 7:00 P.M. news in Japan that day, as a breakthrough in relations between the two countries. The story was also covered on the front page of the Soviet newspaper Pravda under the headline “President Announces Intention to Visit Japan.”

A Warm Send-off

Our dialogue was full of excitement. Had circumstances allowed, I think we could have continued talking for hours on end. But I made a move to wind things up. We had covered a great deal of ground over the course of an hour. “You are the busiest person on the planet, a leader who is responsible for half of the world. For me, a private citizen, to tie up any more of your time would be a huge loss for the rest of the world. I will therefore take my leave.”

I excused myself, and the president gave me a friendly send-off. As we were leaving, I noticed him say something to my interpreter. He had apparently told her warmly, “I will definitely visit Japan.”

“The Ability to Keep On Fighting Is a Matter of the Spirit”

Mikhail Gorbachev

Hosting Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and Mrs. Gorbachev in Japan (Soka University, Tokyo, April 1993)

True to his promise, Mr. Gorbachev came to Japan in April 1991, the year after our encounter. I met him at the Akasaka State Guesthouse in central Tokyo. I will write about this meeting as well as the ones that followed at a later date. In the end, our encounters became a two-volume dialogue titled Moral Lessons of the Twentieth Century2

On November 20, 1997, a day of brilliant autumn colors, I welcomed the Gorbachevs to Kansai Soka Junior and Senior High School in Katano, Osaka. On that occasion, Raisa Gorbachev, herself an educator, made an impassioned appeal to the students: “You will experience all kinds of hurts in life. Not all of them will heal. Nor can you always realize all of your dreams. But there is something that you can achieve. There is a dream that you can make a reality.

“Therefore, the person who triumphs in the end is the person who gets up after each fall and pushes onward. The ability to keep on fighting is a matter of the spirit.”

Sadly, Mrs. Gorbachev passed away from acute leukemia on September 20, 1999. However, the Gorbachevs’ humanistic philosophy has been deeply engraved and will be carried on in the hearts of the young leaders who will shoulder the 21st century.

It is now 10 years since the Berlin Wall came down. At the ceremony marking that anniversary, Mr. Gorbachev showed the world that he remains healthy and in high spirits. His achievements, which had great impact on the 20th century, will shine brilliantly for all eternity.

The other day, I received a message from Mr. Gorbachev proposing that we “undertake a new project together—for the sake of humankind.”

it’s a new day_by Hector Hinojosa

Hector Hinojosa,  12 January 2015 
It’s a new day
 

it’s a new day and we still kill
france is being loved again
but the black man in main house
still is hated by the fox and it’s friends
in the face of a million french marching peace
the evil face of bigotry is not the muslim man in algiers
but the grandmother in the north of carolina
calling for sand niggers to die
we love the american sniper
and hate the palestinian boy with the rock in his hand
today in paris millions march for peace
atheists and jews, buddhists, christians and muslims
black,brown, white and yellow
but in oklahoma there still resides
an old man and the grandson he taught
to hate the homeless,
and pastor lively teaches africa
to kill homosexuals.
it’s a new day and we still kill.

Comments

Christine Blackford
Christine Blackford: Every new day is a chance to step forward to make change happen. Everyday, I see those small steps being realized. Every day I am happy to be alive. And everyday, I feel love happening. X
2015.01.12, 02:02
Hector Hinojosa
Hector Hinojosa: Being a perpetual optimist, I agree 
I make myself painfully aware of the things left to fix, so I can do the little I can.
2015.01.12, 02:09
Hector Hinojosa
Hector Hinojosa: It’s a new day…
2018.01.12, 00:58
Fanny-Min Becker

Fanny-Min Becker: It’s a new day. Thx for sharing. Will share.
2018.01.12, 19.16

************
FM:)
♥♥

Aftermath

 
Image may contain: 5 people


香港蘋果日報

港府在遞交民情報告、啟動政改第二輪諮詢前夕,對雨傘運動抗命者展開第一波「預約拘捕」算賬行動。警方有組織罪案及三合會調查科(O記)探員昨逐一致電佔領行動的組織者,邀約他們到警署助查,及表明他們將會被捕。首輪「預約名單」據知約有50人。

【A1頭條】佔中秋後算賬 O記預約拘捕50人
http://bit.ly/1wfQeHB

******************

Fanny-Min Becker shared 香港蘋果日報’s photo
7 January 2015 

AFTERMATH

Rightly guesses …
The rounding up starts …
None of them spared …

And we stay out …
Thousands and thousands of us …
Who are we? What are we? Where are we?

**********************
FM:(
♥♥

Bitcoin

Fanny-Min Becker 14 December at 11:36 ·

// Play it for entertainment value if you want, but remember that
you are purely betting on the greater stupidity of others. //

FM:)

 

14 December 2017

Let’s try to explain, in simple terms, why Bitcoin and other digital pseudo-currencies will fail. Bitcoin is the World’s first distributed, decentralised Ponzi scheme. No single operator is running it, and everyone has a chance to participate in it, but its value is determined purely by the weight of money coming into it and the willingness of holders to sell it. Like any Ponzi scheme, earlier participants came in at lower cost, and are now receiving much of the billions of dollars (yes, really) that newcomers are putting in.

Some members of the scheme spend their time telling their friends how they should get in on this Big New Thing and how much money they have already made “on paper”, or more accurately “on screen”. If your Bitcoins are now “worth” more than you paid for them then you may feel successful, but if you haven’t yet cashed out as much as you’ve put in, then you’re still a potential victim. On the other hand, if you’ve got your cash back or more, then you’re already a paid-up and paid-out member of the Bitcoin Ponzi Scheme. And unlike Bernie Madoff, you’re probably not going to jail, although some of the self-serving promoters of Bitcoin are skating dangerously close to that if it can be proven that they knew their claims were false and/or were simultaneously selling. Also, unlike the beneficiaries who cashed out of Madoff’s funds before he crashed, you probably won’t have to pay anything back. That’s the beauty of a decentralised Ponzi scheme.

Most of the larger participants will privately admit, if only to themselves, that Bitcoin is a bubble, but they also believe that they can get out before it crashes, or don’t much care because they have already cashed out far more than they put in. But just remember this: Bitcoin is essentially a zero-sum game. At any point in time, the cumulative sum of all net cash put in by losers will equal the cumulative sum of all net cash taken out by winners (excluding mining costs).

“But banks are awful – there must be a better way”

Millions of smaller participants, perhaps holding the not-unjustified view that the World’s banking systems and governments have failed them, think that Bitcoin or other crypto-tokens are the future of money, some kind of utopian “end of fiat currency” scenario in which we will all trade with each other in units of “crypto-currencies” and take back control of our financial lives. We’re here to tell you, for reasons explained below, that as long as the World has governments with the power to tax and spend, that isn’t going to happen. Citizens should instead pressure their governments to stop the insane amount of interference in the banking system which has kept it so difficult and expensive for honest people to wire money, open accounts and do business, particularly when they are running small businesses. Banks should not be expected to act as policemen, particuarly now that Governments are getting more access to their customers’ data.

No, it’s not a currency

To be viable as a currency, something must be both a medium of exchange and a store of value. These are mutually independent criteria: one cannot be satisfied from the other. If a currency doesn’t have some intrinsic value relative to real-world assets or liabilities, then even if you can wire it around the world in minutes, it’s value will fluctuate based on the willingness of others to take it off your hands and nothing else. It won’t be a reliable store of value, so it will be tossed around like a hot potato. Any merchant who accepts it will immediately convert it into a fiat currency to avoid the risk of holding it.

Governments no longer guarantee the exchangability of their currencies for gold, silver or other rare atomic elements. They instead issue “fiat” currencies, basically IOUs, the value of which (measured in other currencies, or the goods and services it can buy) can also crash if they print too much – as Zimbabwe did. A fiat currency is only as good as the country which issues it. However, a government levies taxes in the same currency (creating liabilities for taxpayers), and spends that money to pay civil servants and provide citizens with basic goods and services, such as education, healthcare or public roads, or just hands it out as welfare that its poorer citizens can spend. A government also measures business profits and salaries in the same currency – giving currency its third major function, as a unit of account. You won’t see companies or people filling out their tax returns in Bitcoins.

So a government (particuarly an elected one) has an inherent incentive not to dramatically devalue its currency, destabilising its economy with hyperinflation and reducing the real value of both its tax collections and its expenditures. Situations like Zimbabwe are the exceptions that prove the rule, and almost always result in the overthrow of the government involved. Governments therefore aim to manage the quantity of money so that there is just a modest incentive to spend it or lend it; many central banks have declared targets of 2% inflation and some (notably the US Federal Reserve) have a dual mandate of maximising employment.

By comparison, Bitcoin isn’t issued by any Government or any single entity. Nobody stands behind it, and its rate of creation is determined not by inflation targets but by a simplistic formula which halves the rate of production every 4 years. Indeed, because supply does not expand to meet demand, Bitcoin has been going through hyper-deflation – the price of everything measured in Bitcoin has been plummeting, making it irrational to spend Bitcoin unless you expect it to decline in value. So perversely, anyone who has the confidence that this is the future of currency is unlikely to spend it.

Incidentally, that formula for the mining rate, like every other aspect of a distributed system, is only set by consensus; it is perhaps only a matter of time before the consensus, out of rational self-interest, decides to abandon the software-imposed cap of 21 million Bitcoins and increase the reward for “mining” it, once the majority of operators have cashed out enough from the Ponzi scheme to make that attractive. What makes you think that a global collective of miners, without a country or an economy to run or an election to win, will not at some point begin to debase their “currency”?

“But its value is its utility”

Some Bitcoin proponents say that its value is derived from its utility as a medium of exchange – but that just takes you round in an infinite loop, because to be able to exchange value for goods and services, a currency must have a widely-accepted, stable value on its own. And even if that utility were there, the fees for transactions have begun rising, make Bitcoin unviable for small transactions. This has also prompted a split within the mining community (known as a “hard fork”), with a new variation in the software to allow more transaction capcity in every 10-minute settlement run. The result is that each old Bitcoin token on 1-Aug-2017 split into a current Bitcoin token and a “Bitcoin Cash” token, and there is no reason why that can’t happen again.

The combination of price volatility and transaction fees has also resulted in some early adopters such as Valve Corp (operator of the Steam gaming platform) dropping it as a means of payment.

“But it costs money to mine it”

Other proponents – John McAfee, for example, argue that Bitcoin has value because it costs money to “mine” it in enormous server farms, burning Gigajoules of electricity every second in the “proof of work”, literally creating hot air. That, again, is a false and circular argument, because the only reason that so much energy and hardware is being deployed to heat the air is because the price of Bitcoin is so high, and the only reason it is so high is because so much real money is being used to buy Bitcoins.

The key to understanding this is to understand that the Bitcoin software sets the “difficulty” of a cryptographic puzzle so that it is solved by brute force every 10 minutes on average. The more machines working on it, the higher the difficulty is set.

In more detail, the algorithm that all Bitcoin miners run is a distributed lottery in which each machine is performing random “hash” calculations on a “block” of transaction data, and the first machine to produce a hash-value below a certain target “wins” the mining reward, currently 12.5 new Bitcoins, plus a currently-smaller amount of existing Bitcoins deducted as fees from the transactions. Each 10-minute block only has room for a certain number of transactions, so the fees are set by bids attached to the submitted transactions. Indeed, the only thing that you can only buy with Bitcoin is the transaction confirmation.

The first 1,612,800 Bitcoins (up to block 32255) were generated on a single PC in 2009 with a “difficulty” level of 1. Today hundreds of thousands of machines are running the same software, with a difficulty level on block 499035 of 1.59 trillion. But if the price of Bitcoins drops, then machines will be turned off or used to mine another kind of cryto-token, and the difficulty level will drop again, reducing the mining cost in response. So it is the price of Bitcoin that drives the mining cost, not the other way around, and the price is determined by the money flowing into the Ponzi scheme, not by the cost of mining. If only the same amount of energy were being devoted to more useful computational tasks, such as protein folding. For more on the mechanics and origins of Bitcoin and its inherent flaws, see our article The Hole In Bitcoin, 4-Nov-2013.

It can melt down, but you can’t melt it down

You won’t find any pictures of Bitcoins in this article, because unlike the mass media, we don’t want to mislead you into thinking that Bitcoins are shiny, golden and metallic and have some kind of intrinsic value. Bitcoins are just 256-bit sequences of 1s and 0s, or 32-byte numbers. Nothing more than that. When the market crashes, you can’t melt them down or use them as jewellery or for electrical circuits. You can just print them out and wonder why you paid so much for a collection of 1s and 0s. The few physical coins that you see in stock photos were just produced as a promotional gimmick. Some are sold “empty” and others have inside them a printed private key for Bitcoins, like a fortune cookie. Anyone who has that key can transfer the Bitcoins electronically, leaving an empty physical coin.

But what about other uses?

Readers may have observed that Bitcoin seems to have found an application, or a partner, in crime. For example, producers of ransomware software have locked down computers and then demanded that the victims purchase and then send Bitcoins to a designated, anonymous network address. This is certainly an application, but for its utility, criminals still depend on ultimately being able to exchange the Bitcoins for real-world goods and services, or equivalently for fiat currency. So although Bitcoin can be used to skirt around the burdensome anti-money-laundering regulations or capital controls as long as it remains in the Bitcoin network, this is rather like entering an underground railway system – you can’t stay there forever. At some point, you have to resurface. And if only criminals are using the network, then it’s going to be rather difficult to get out without being noticed. So the ransomware operators can buy illegal drugs with Bitcoin, but how are the drug sellers going to convert their Bitcoins into cash or anything else?

Reduced to this level, Bitcoin is just an intermediary system between money-service operators, with victims exchanging cash for Bitcoins, and criminals trying to convert received Bitcoins back into cash without being noticed. No wonder, then, that most of the World’s governments have reacted by classifying any exchange that converts fiat currency to or from Bitcoins as a money-services operator, requiring the usual “know your client” obligations that are imposed on banks and remittance firms, thereby imposing similar administrative costs which are reflected in the conversion fees. These regulations severely limit Bitcoin’s potential as a payment system for crime.

Join if you want

We don’t doubt that some people are getting tremendous entertainment value just watching the price of a small bet (relative to their net worth) on Bitcoin go up and down. It’s no different to a night at the casino or the racetrack in that respect. As long as you accept that you could lose everything you bet, you too can participate in the World’s first decentralised Ponzi Scheme (or any of its imitators), but just remember that you are purely betting on the greater stupidity of others.

© Webb-site.com, 2017

Now that we know

Now that we know

Taishan nuclear power plant
Deaerator manufactured w. defects:
Seam gaps of 20 – 25 mm and not 2.

No way to remedy?
Too wide a gap to weld?
May affect core cooling?

All this they knew in 2012.
And only now we are told.
But so what now that we know?

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Thanks to Joanne Choi for sharing.

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FactWire News Agency 傳真社

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