Friday, May 18, 2018

Thoughts about Bitcoin

It is an interesting phenomena the rise of Bitcoin. In many ways Bitcoin questions and challenges how we have thought about money, banks, and government the last several decades at least. As long as I've been around.

Like many I wish I'd thrown $100 into Bitcoin back when you could buy them for $1 each. Oh well.

One concept is there's no "they" with Bitcoin. No central bank. No ultimate federal government authority. That takes some getting used to. With traditional currency, money and state tend to be pretty closely tied. Also with traditional money we accept there is some kind of central bank authority somehow controlling some unseen money supply with interest rates or whatever. We accept the state, perhaps in conjunction with a central bank, can as it deems necessary print money, aka "quantitative easing" to use a more polite term.

Bitcoin is more like true property. To own Bitcoin is to truly own it. Bitcoin cannot be frozen, zeroed out, seized, transferred to another, garnished, blocked access. Also if you have network, you can have access to your Bitcoin wherever you are. Unlike traditional money in a bank, a central authority can access your funds, or block your access, without your consent. With no intermediary such as banks, you can both direct access your Bitcoin, and prevent third party access through the intermediary.

Speaking of property. Banks are required to report cash withdrawals over $10,000 to the government. The individual is required to fill out forms saying what the withdraw is for. No wiretap, warrant, or court order is required. Why is this? Is the balance in your bank account not your own private property? Apparently not entirely. And yet nobody questions this, it's just passively accepted.

The withdraw reporting rule just shows that with traditional currency, in a real way it isn't entirely your property. In a way it's akin to a passport. You can hold it and use it within certain boundaries, but underneath it is the property of the nation state that issued it.

From its mathematical structure, Bitcoin cannot be created by a central authority. That is a powerful concept. It basically cuts "them" out of the picture from the outset, with no way to muscle in. With traditional money, we have to trust and rely on the national government and central banks to guard and maintain the integrity of the national currency. However there's nothing really preventing a government or central bank from creating raw new money out of thin air. So if you come to own a Bitcoin you don't have to be concerned that an identical Bitcoin could be legally counterfeited by a government or central bank straight off a printing press, thus diluting and devaluing your property.

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A note on how bad and corrosive printing money can be. A short tale. Suppose a businessman owns two apartment buildings side by side in a lower middle class neighborhood. There's a fair size lawn around and in between the buildings. The landlord wants the grass mowed so that his site looks good and the tenants are happy. You agree to mow the lawn for $100. He provides the lawn mower and gas.

On the agreed day you arrive at 9 AM. You spend several hours mowing the lawn. About 5 PM you are finished and packed up. He hands you a $100 bill as agreed. You take the $100 you earned and decide to go to a local bar for a $20 burger and beer deal.

Now at the same time a government truck rolls by with a printing press producing $100 bills. The government hands your neighbor a $100 bill hot off the printing press, just for being fabulous. He takes his $100 and goes to the same local bar.

Now at the bar your $100 spends identically to the printed $100, there's no difference. The difference is that you had to do physical work in the sun all day to obtain your $100, while the other did not have to do anything to get an identical $100.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Alek Minassian and incel

It was a sad story coming out of Toronto about Alek Minassian and a van attack that killed 10 people.

Apparently Minassian was part of something called incel, or involuntarily celibate. Like most, I'd never heard the term incel before. So if I understand, Alek, 25, wanted to be part of the Toronto dating scene but I guess didn't get any traction. He was apparently angry, frustrated, jealous, and resentful about his lack of success in the dating market. He may have been most angry with women specifically. In the dating scene he found himself shut out of, it was women who were not interested in him. He ended up taking out his rage in a murderous van attack against random civilians in Toronto.

Well what to make of it. It's sad how it all ended with the mass terror and killing of innocents. They personally didn't do anything wrong to Alex. meh the dating scene is like a market. In the long term the market is rational. Looking at Alex life, it is not surprising his lack of success at dating. socially awkward, 7 years at Seneca college and not able to complete a basic community college technical program, not much to look at. The market, the women on the market, don't owe Alex anything. Why would they want him? he had little going for him and an oversize sense of entitlement.

The thing about this "nice guy/gentleman" act. Alex's actions demonstrate he wasn't such a nice guy or gentleman after all. So perhaps the women saw right through his nice guy facade and what was underneath was dark and sinister. The nice guy thing is a waste anyway. Just be yourself. Women don't respect or want a male who lowers himself or treats himself as lesser or inferior to them.

I will divide the dating market for men and women into 4 groups ABCD from top to bottom. A is the alphas, the Chads and Staceys. The tall, good looking, fit, confident guys with money. The most attractive, socially connected, ladies in the prime of their looks. B can be generally regular folks. Regular guys with pretty good jobs in trades or white collar. Presentable and likeable women. C is the marginals, maybe not much to look at, some baggage or personality issues, lack financial resources. D is undateable.

So in reality Alex was basically a D. 7 years out of high school couldn't finish community college. living with parents at 25. socially awkward. no career, no car. below average height. There's a cognitive dissonance with Alex and incel. If Alex really wanted to date women he could have tried a lot harder to get out of group D and into group C. Finish school, or quit school and take any kind of steady work. Work untiringly on your career for several years and build up financial resources. Move out of your mom's basement. Work out and get some muscles. Take a Carnegie or heck even pua course and learn how to fake it to better talk to women and navigate socially.

Alex didn't seem to actually do any of these things to improve his ranking and status to the point that women would talk to him and he could get dates. Given that, I question whether he really wanted to have a girlfriend. Perhaps he was lazy and didn't want to do those things because they would have required hard work, personal sacrifice, and self discipline. Perhaps he resented the hand he was dealt in life that stuff that comes fairly naturally to the A-B-C guys he has to work for. He and incel seems to have this entitled attitude that if they affect a gentlemen image at least to themselves, that alone will vault them from group D to group A. It doesn't work like that.

Another thing Alex could have done was recognize his status as a marginal C-D player in the market, and focus his efforts there in meeting C-D women, if he actually wanted a girlfriend as incel claims. Forget about the beautiful Staceys, they earned their way into the A group, and have luxury of only talking to or dating the A group Chads. That is their option, nothing a C-D player can do about it. The market is broadly rational and A's will generally tend to pair off with A's.

So for the group C male, focus on your peers in the C group females. That means that even after Alex self improved to the C group, the women available to his group will be: a lot of single mothers, perhaps on welfare or making under $30k (a $40k tech job out of Seneca could be attractive to these ladies), maybe more than 1 child (but 3+ kids is group D), tattoos (though covered in tats is group D), a bit pudgy or a few extra pounds, they may weigh more than you do (but twice your weight or more is group D), maybe a bit jagged or a handful personality (but BPD is group D).

If he adjusted his sights a bit off the unattainable A group, was realistic and focused on his own C group of women, focus on self improvement, drop the attitude, Alex or any incel would have a reasonable chance of success in a dating scene. Also be careful about putting too many ladies into group D. The more Ds there are chokes off the supply of Cs, and can have the effect of dropping the incel from C into D himself.

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

The truth in between

Sometimes something happens, something bad or controversial. After the fact, someone who wasn't there is presented with conflicting versions of events. When faced with differing accounts, the third party has a dilemma. After all if stories conflict then they cannot both be right. It can be convenient to use a guideline to start out. There are different sayings but one variant goes

There's one side. There's the other side. There's the truth in between.

Another variant is "three sides to every story". One side, the other side, the truth.

Now this might seem a reasonable approach to being presented with conflicting accounts of things. But it can be a bit dangerous. The problematic part is the "in between", or insisting that there are 3 sides.

The issue is that there might actually only be two sides. It is possible that one side is in fact the accurate account, and the "other" side is either mistaken or intentionally attempting to mislead or obfuscate about what happened. The "three sides" up front conclusion can give undue credibility to the side which is presenting a false account. It also basically accuses both sides of "lying" to make themselves look better, or at least having a mistaken memory. That may not be true.

So to an honest person, just being involved in some factual dispute, they can be branded a liar under the "three sides" doctrine due to there being a conflicting account. That's not fair to the honest person, and allows the dishonest side (who may not care so much about his reputation) to smear the honest person by presenting a contrary account and then insisting they are both wrong/mistaken/lying, as "the truth is somewhere in between". It also invalidates the honest side if the third party insists up front that both accounts are inaccurate, and there is some unknown/unknowable truth in between.

I suspect the issue is, it may be impossible for a third party to determine after the fact what really happened when the events are in dispute. However it is better to just go with "we can't know for certain", or "there are differing accounts", than to reach a possibly false conclusion of three sides. There may not necessarily be a third side.

Monday, April 30, 2018

The Abdoul Abdi deportation case

The case of the Abdoul Abdi deportation is quite unbelievable. The background is Abdi came to Canada from Somalia with his sister at about age 6 in 1999. He was taken into the care of the Province of Nova Scotia and into the foster system. Importantly during this time in childhood, neither his foster parents nor the province applied for Abdoul Abdi to become a citizen of Canada. He never gained official status as a Canadian, although he had been living in Canada since he was brought here in 1999. So officially he is a foreigner, a Somali residing in Canada.

So fast forward to 2016. Abdi is now grown up and a convicted violent criminal. He has served time as an adult for crimes including aggravated assault. Due to his crime and violence, and his status as a foreigner residing in Canada, he has been ordered deported. Now some activists are fighting in court to keep Abdi in Canada for some unknown reason, and have been able to delay his removal from Canada. 

The court argument is apparently that when Abdi was a ward of the state as a child, Nova Scotia failed in its duty to file the paperwork to make him a permanent resident or citizen of Canada. Now with such status, especially citizenship, Abdi would be considered a Canadian, protected from deportation regardless of being a violent criminal. 

This whole thing is absurd on so many levels. Suppose Nova Scotia did fail in it's fiduciary duty to Abdi regarding his status in Canada. What does that have to do with the current deportation case. He doesn't have status and thus has no protection against deportation. His supporters seem to be arguing, bizarrely, that status should be retroactively applied for and granted - though granting status is from the Federal government, not the province, and we can't know if in this hypothetical case it would have been granted. So they are asking the court to intentionally disregard the actual facts of the case, set that aside, and instead indulge some pretend fantasy world where Abdi or his youth guardians applied for and was granted status, prior to committing the violent crime and incarceration that now has him ordered deported from Canada.

I reject the claim that there is a fiduciary duty on the part of Nova Scotia Community Services to even take care of these immigration papers for these wards of the state. The Province's role for these children is to ensure, via the foster care system, things like food, shelter and basic safety. Anything above that is extra, nice to have, best effort, but not specifically required. The immigration thing, services to non-Canadians, is not an expected role of Nova Scotia Community Services. So if the province fails to meet these extras in some cases then there is no liability on the province after the fact. 

Further, it was Abdi's personal responsibility to be aware of his own immigration status. He was free to inquire or apply on his own. He was not prevented in any way from taking care of his status on his own. Also he should have considered his status or lack of status before committing crime and being incarcerated. He could have considered that deportation was a likely outcome if he committed serious crime. 
 
The deportation situation Abdi is in is the result of his own actions. He has to take responsibility for the consequences of his actions, including deportation. It was not the responsibility of the people of Nova Scotia to provide Abdi some kind of legal cover to commit serious crime in the future in Canada, as his advocates seem to be arguing.

The whole court case is just nonsensical. Does the plaintiff really expect Abdi will be awarded citizenship as damages? The courts have no such authority to make such an award. Citizenship, and humanitarian exemption, cannot be awarded at this point due to the violent crime conviction. So do the plaintiffs seriously expect we will all suspend disbelief, just pretend the last 5 years didn't happen, backdate an application and approval to before the crime spree, and then magically have this status in place, then replay the last 5 years, but now with the cover of residency status. That seems to be what they are asking.

Even if it is determined that Abdi was wronged by the Nova Scotia Community Services? Well so what. That in itself does not create status. If Abdi, like any foreigner, feels he was wronged by the people of Nova Scotia, then he is free, from his own country, to hire a Nova Scotia lawyer and seek damages in Canadian court. So fine, like any foreigner with a grievance, hire a Nova Scotia lawyer from your own country, and the lawyer will seek damages on your behalf and wire you whatever they can collect on your behalf. However being a foreigner with a grievance certainly does not imply the individual can stay in Canada to pursue this claim. Hire a lawyer from afar like any other foreigner would have to.

Abdoul Abdi is not a Canadian. He is a foreigner residing in Canada with no status to be here. He should have been deported from Canada long ago. If he wants to seek damages against Nova Scotia from his own country he is certainly free to. In order to maintain confidence in the courts and the immigration system the government should deport Abdoul Abdi immediately "in the public interest", invoking the notwithstanding clause if necessary.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

The thing about checkboxes

So there's a flap in Canada recently about a federal government summer jobs funding program. Apparently now to get funded, the applicant organization has to attest to some pro-abortion statement by checking on some checkbox.

When I first heard of it I was struck by how bizarre it was, this linkage. What could abortion possibly have to do with summer jobs for students? Anyway this is a straight out attack on Christians and pro-life, demanding that they renounce their beliefs in order to get this money. It is extremely scummy and cowardly to target the children. After all it is the youth, the students, who would be affected by these summer jobs being canceled due to their parents being pro-life. The kids didn't do anything wrong. Be a man Justin Trudeau and have the courage and character to confront your ideological enemies directly; instead of indirectly victimizing their children.
Now some might say render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's. Tell the federal government to keep their 30 pieces of silver. I guess that's fine for some summer jobs grant. The real issue here isn't about federal funding for summer jobs. It's about establishing a precedent where receipt of government services and benefits is conditional on expressing a particular view. There is no right to remain silent or keep your opinion to yourself, let alone openly hold a contrary opinion. You either attest to a government mandated viewpoint (a record of this attestation is kept permanently) or go without the government service.
Now there is government monopoly health care in Canada. Suppose someone arrives at their hospital emergency department with chest pain and shortness of breath. Upon arrival at triage, the patient is told to either check an abortion checkbox, or be refused health care service, go home and die. Why not, now that a precedent has been established these abortion checkboxes can start popping up everywhere.
Even more corrosive would be like the summer jobs checkbox. Imagine if the checkboxes show up at the emergency of the children's hospital. That would put the parents to a very severe test, faced with having to refuse to attest on behalf of their children and accept the consequences.

If Trudeau is re-elected then it's pretty much a lock that prescription drugs will be nationalized effectively under federal government control. So after 2019 you could go to your pharmacy for your heart or diabetes medicine you need to stay alive, and be told to check this abortion checkbox or go home empty handed. Now by Phillipians 1:19-21 the correct decision is to go home and die. Better to die on your feet than live on your knees.

Well this is what happens when the state is allowed to take control over so much of personal life and the economy. Trudeau demonstrates the government can prove to be a cruel and capricious puppet master. The government giveth, the government taketh away.

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I will say this about abortion and Trudeau's apparent intent to pick a fight on the abortion issue. The thing about war is, the war only ends when both sides agree to stop fighting. Trudeau may have had the prerogative to start the fight, but it won't be for him to say, okay enough we're not going to talk or fight about abortion any more.
Another thing about war is, you might lose. So you might want to be circumspect and keep the peace, especially if the status quo is favourable to your side. Pick fights carefully. Don't poke a sleeping bear.
Trudeau may feel smug that the courts have been on his side for at least the last 30 years. However judges and supreme court judges can change. Elected governments can change. Laws can be changed. The constitution can be changed. The notwithstanding clause is available.
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Previous Prime Ministers Jean Chr├ętien and Stephen Harper pretty much had it right. They accepted the courts decisions, perhaps with disappointment, and were resistant to having a public fight on such a divisive issue. Another politician who had it right was actually Bill Clinton with the doctrine of "safe legal and rare".
What's interesting and powerful about that is the third part, the "rare". Because it is actually common ground between pro-life and pro-choice. Something both sides can commit to achieving, perhaps in different ways. I believe the best strategy for pro-life is to leave aside the safe and legal part and focus on making abortion rare. After all if it is extremely rare then it would be moot if it was safe and legal. So pro-life can win by winning on rare, that part that matters most.
It's unfortunate that safe legal and rare is hardly talked about any more. In this current abortion fight there is no mention of rare in the attestation checkbox text. Instead it is now so common and accepted in our culture that it is part of applying for some summer job.
I suspect rare can be achieved. It requires cultural change, which is hard but I think achievable. Figure out how to change the culture so that these situations are seldom conceived in the first place. That would help, head off the problem at the source. Also change the culture so that if someone is in a difficult situation, then actually having the child is a less-bad option than abortion. Culturally, some type of Anna Karenina social stigma where someone who does the wrong thing and chooses abortion is then unable to rejoin polite society afterward.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Nicholas Butcher Kristin Johnston murder trial

There's a murder trial in Halifax getting some news coverage. see CTV link CBC link ATV link.

Nicholas Butcher is accused of murdering Kristin Johnston. The case is interesting in part because of the irony of it. Peace and love yoga instructor Kristin Johnston violently murdered. I must say upfront that Johnston died in a terrible and unjust way and she did not deserve what happened.

From the evidence there's kind of a frustration with Butcher and Johnston with each other, around money. Kristin needed a successful male provider (such as an established lawyer with a name law firm) to subsidize her money-losing yoga studio. Nicholas needed a successful businesswoman to help tide him over while his law career got untracked. Turns out neither was able to meet the financial needs of the other.
Kristin should have kept Butcher in the friend zone and made it clear he had to establish a successful career in law or somewhere else before she would commit to living together or a serious relationship. Nicholas I feel kind of a sadness about his life before the murder. He finished Dalhousie law school in 2015 but was apparently unable to take the next step and secure an articling position.
So if Butcher is just turned 36 now, he would have been about 34 in 2016 when the murder happened, and 33 in 2015 when he finished law school. yeah 33 and still in school. For a man at age 23 to be just finished law school - scrambling and hoping for an articling position - south end apartment - several part time jobs. That kind of salad days thing is kind of a cool scene at 23. But at age 33 it's kind of sad. By age 33 many male lawyers are partner or partner track, not struggling for an articling position from the outside.

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For Butcher taking the stand in his own defense. It's kind of crazy. I don't think he has helped himself much. Although he hurt himself by establishing credible motive for the murder. I wonder if he is trying to get off for the murder, or is up there trying to smear Johnston posthumously and make her look bad (or at least balance out the coverage which has been heavily pro-Johnston to this point). He has seemed to make a point to present some unflattering evidence about Johnston and her character.
Her yoga studio failed - more on that below
They started dating in June 2015 and were effectively living together by July 2015. yeah one month later.
On the same day she broke up with Butcher, March 25, she was in bed with Mike Belyea, whom she had been messaging with on Facebook behind Butcher's back. Later that night went back to her home and bed with Butcher. So yeah if you're keeping score in bed with two guys the same night, at age 32.
So he seems to be making a point of exposing Kristin to engage in questionable, tawdry activities. He looks no better but he perhaps doesn't care considering where he is now.
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About the yoga studio failing. That is not necessarily a black mark on Kristin. Businesses close all the time. New businesses tend to fail. It happens.

The yoga thing has followed a similar arc I've noticed over at least the last 30 years. There's some existing activity or hobby with a small number of established businesses servicing it. Then there's a sudden surge in public interest in this activity, a bit of a craze. A number of new businesses pop up around it. Public interest peaks, levels off, then eventually settles close to historic levels. Most of the new businesses close. So yoga studios are in with
baseball and hockey cards
pretzels
country music bars
pool halls
scrapbooking
martial arts / MMA gyms
yoga