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The Evolutionary Perspective
Daily Archives: July 25, 2021
Posted: July 25, 2021 at 3:53 pm
Do you have free will? Can you make your own decisions? Or are you more like an automaton, just moving as required by your constituent parts? Probably, like most people, you feel you have something called free will. Your decisions are not predetermined; you could do otherwise.
Yet scientists can tell you that you are made up of atoms and molecules and that they are governed by the laws of physics. Fundamentally, then in terms of atoms and molecules we can predict the future for any given starting point. This seems to leave no room for free will, alternative actions, or decisions.
Confused? You have every right to be. This has been one of the long outstanding unresolved problems in philosophy. There has been no convincing resolution, though speculation has included a key role for quantum theory, which describes the uncertainty of nature at the smallest scales. It is this that has fascinated me. My research interests include the foundations of quantum theory. So could free will be thought of as a macroscopic quantum phenomenon? I set out to explore the question.
There is enough philosophy literature on the subject to fill a small library. As a trained scientist I approached the problem by asking: what is the evidence? Sadly, in some ways, my research showed no link between free will and fundamental physics. Decades of philosophical debate as to whether free will could be a quantum phenomenon has been chasing an unfounded myth.
Imagine you are on stage, facing two envelopes. You are told that one has 100 inside and the other is empty. You have a free choice to pick one yet every time the magician wins, and you pick the empty one. This implies that our sense of free will is not quite as reliable as we think it is or at least that its subject to manipulation, if it is there.
This is just one of a wide variety of examples that question our awareness of our own decision-making processes. Evidence from psychology, sociology, and even neuroscience all give the same message that we are unaware of how we make decisions. And our own introspection is unreliable as evidence of how our mental processes function.
So, what is the evidence for the abstract concept of free will? None. How could we test for it? We cant. How could we recognize it? We cant. The supposed connection between our perception of free will and the uncertainty inherent to quantum theory is, therefore, unsupported by the evidence.
But we do have an experience of free will, and this experience is a fact. So having debunked the supposed link with fundamental physics, I wanted to go further and explore why we have a perception of being able to do otherwise. That perception has nothing to do with knowing the exact position of every molecule in our bodies, but everything to do with how we question and challenge our decision-making in a way that really does change our behavior.
For me as a scientist, this meant building a model of free will and testing it. But how would you do this? Could I mimic it with a computer program? If I were successful how would my computer or robot be tested?
The topic is fuelled by prejudice. You would probably assume without evidence that my brother has free will, but my computer does not. So I will offer an emotionally neutral challenge: if an alien lands on Earth, how would you decide if it was an alien being with free will like us, or a sophisticated automaton?
Strangely, the philosophical literature does not seem to consider tests for free will. But as a scientist, it was essential to have a test for my model. So here is my answer: if you are right-handed, you will write your name holding a pen in your right hand. You will do so predictably almost 100% of the time. But you have free will, you could do otherwise. You can prove it by responding to a challenge or even challenging yourself. Given a challenge you may well write with your left hand. That is a highly discerning test of free will. And you can probably think of others, not just finely balanced 50:50 choices, but really rare events that show your independence and distinguish you from an automaton.
Based on this, I would test my alien with a challenge to do something unusual and useless, perhaps slightly harmful even, like putting its hand near a flame. I would take that as evidence of free will. After all, no robot would be programmed to do that.
And so I tried to model that behavior in the simplest most direct way, starting with a generic goal-seeking computer program that responds to inputs from the environment. These programs are commonly used across disciplines from sociology, economics, and AI. The goal-seeking program is so general that it applies to simple models of human behavior, but also to hardware like the battery saving program in your mobile phone.
For free will, we add one more goal: to assert independence. The computer program is then designed to satisfy this goal or desire by responding to challenges to do otherwise. Its as simple as that. Test it out yourself, the challenges can be external or you can generate your own. After all, isnt that how you conclude that you have free will?
In principle, the program can be implemented in todays computers. It would have to be sophisticated enough to recognize a challenge and even more so to generate its own challenges. But this is well within reach of current technology. That said, Im not sure that I want my own personal computer exercising free will, though.
This article byMark Hadley, Visiting Academic in Physics, University of Warwick isrepublished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.
Posted: at 3:53 pm
Of all the folks ambling around the folksy-cute rock-climbing community of Squamish, British Columbia, which is about 65 miles north of the U.S. border, no one is more perplexed by the unsolved 2017 murder of a onetime neo-Nazi troublemaker lunatic named Davis Wolfgang Hawke than his last girlfriend, Eva McLennan, who knew him only by how he first introduced himself, as Jesse James, avid vegan cragsman, adventurer, technologist, futurist, nutritionist, philosopher, writer, occasional poet, ex-officer in the Israeli Defense Force, and holder of a theoretical physics Ph.D. from Stanford. If that seems like a lot to take in, just imagine how it was for her. The guy shed been in love with was pretty much just a spectral figment of his own imagination. Even his theoretical degree was purely theoretical.
The Rise + Fall of the Campus Nazi
The fullness of this realization didnt happen right away. First came the murder, him found shot inside his 2000 GMC Yukon XL, which is where he lived, off a service road outside of town, digging the peripatetic so-called vanlife, the truck then torched such that youd never know it was once bright red. All his gear vanished in the inferno, too his climbing stuff, two phones, two laptops, a bunch of USB drives, everything. At the time, McLennan spent her nights in a tent a short distance away and stumbled upon the scene expecting only to enjoy another day of climbing the areas many outcroppings and crags. Their last words to each other were Good night, sweet dreams, I love you. Instead, chaos and upheaval and death and cops.
The vehicle was unrecognizable to me, McLennan says, morosely.
In the aftermath, she told the police all she could, especially about the Bitcoin fortune Hawke said he possessed, worth millions, if not at least a billion, which may have been the killers motive. But she couldnt supply the one bit of information the police really needed in order to move forward, Jesse James real name. For two years the pair went out, spending every waking moment together, and she didnt have a clue. So, the case went cold, until late last year, when a DNA match finally surfaced and James suddenly became Hawke, 38 at the time of his murder, and all that he was and wasnt.
McLennan, of course, was floored.
When the news reached me, I was pretty shocked, too. Id spent a week or two with Hawke back in 1999, when he was a 20-year-old student at Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina, to write a piece for Rolling Stone about his allegiance to the former German fhrer (Rise and Fall of the Campus Nazi, RS 823). Our introduction took place inside a crappy hot-tin trailer, me ushered into his office by his then-frulein to find Hawke sitting behind a massive desk dressed in full SS-black Nazi regalia, including the requisite swastika armband, tied-back ponytail, a sparse Hitleresque push-broom mustache, a German Luger pistol resting conspicuously a few inches from his trigger finger and looking not at all like the highly rated chess-playing geek he was as a kid. Only Hawke wasnt Hawke in 1999. He was Commander Bo Decker, founding leader of the American Nationalist Party. He called his gun-toting followers, whom he numbered in the hundreds, the Knights of Freedom. It was all kind of insane and delusional, what with him going on about the inevitable day (I do have a sense of imperium) when hed become president of the United States, thereafter to deport all blacks, sterilize all Jews, and execute all gays.
A few weeks later, I met with him again, in Washington, D.C. He was supposed to lead a big rally there, and the cops turned out in force. But hardly anybody showed up and Hawke fled the scene, thoroughly humiliated, disbanding his party shortly thereafter and disappearing from sight, much to the dismay of some of his Knights.
That is desertion in the face of the enemy, one of his fellow racists told me. Normally, youd be shot for that.
Davis Wolfgang Hawke, circa 2005
After that, I didnt think about Hawke again for another five years, until he resurfaced as the central character in a 2004 book called Spam Kings, with author Brian McWilliams dubbing him the Spam Nazi. Turns out hed reinvented himself as one of the first pariahs to flood the nations email inboxes with unsolicited come-ons for various girl-wowing sex pheromones, pyramid schemes, loans, penis-enlargement pills, and instructions for how you, too, can become a spammer scammer just like him. He was damn good at it, too, netting somewhere over $100,000 a month, which he converted into gold. In 2005, however, AOL sued him and won a $12.8 million judgment, after which, presto chango, he went back underground, this time determined to stay in the shadows. And it wasnt only because of the AOL fiasco. At some point, he ditched his gold and piled the proceeds into Bitcoin, which had started another of its periodic runs, levering his wallet into the stratosphere and earning him, he told McLennan, multiple international threats, including the unwanted attention of the Russian mafia.
And thats about all he told her about his past. Almost everything else, he kept tamped down and hidden. One biggie is that he was Jewish by birth, a fact that he hated almost from the start, which is why, two days after graduating from high school, he marched over to the courthouse and legally jettisoned his given name, Andrew Britt Greenbaum, of the Boston Greenbaums, in favor of Davis Wolfgang Hawke, of the who-knows-where. And, for McLennan, it seems that shocks like these will never stop coming.
Frankly, Im terrified about what else Im going to learn about him, she says. Its like, What else is there? What else you got? Is there more stuff that goes beyond hate speech? I couldnt tell you. I dont know.
So there she is, way up in British Columbia, all of 26 years old, knowing more than she did before but not knowing the one thing she herself wants to know most: who killed her boyfriend and why.
When people think of Squamish, they generally dont think of murdered Jewish chess-whiz Nazis-turned-cryptocurrency-fortune-hunters. Historically, its mostly been a simple forestry and climbing community, with many of the climbers enjoying what has come to be called vanlife hundreds of them, according to one estimate, living out of what they drive, much to the dismay of some of the towns establishment realtors, council members, and the like. For the van folk, its all about the giant granite monolith known as Stawamus Chief and the 800-plus climbing routes bolted into its sheer walls, slabs, dykes, and cracks, with 1,500 other routes scattered throughout the area, leading to Squamishs reputation as Yosemite North. Of course, if you wanted, or needed, to go someplace and live not only off the grid but as a new person altogether, with a past worth escaping, there could be no finer place. You could even go by an obvious fabrication of a name like Jesse James and no one would notice or care. For her part, McLennan morphed into BigAbi Garbanzo, though for no shady reasons of her own. It was James idea that she take on an assumed name, to try to help insulate herself from those multiple international threats. Its also the reason I cant talk about my past. I cant have anybody knowing who I am, he told her. So, if youre going to be attached to me, choose an alias.
Their life together seems pretty idyllic, living like nomads, no need for jobs, Hawke financing everything, bathing in local creeks not because they had to but because they wanted to. Hawke had started climbing in 2009 and by 2015 was thoroughly accomplished, going so far as to pass himself off as a guide, though he held no official credentials. He wouldnt climb with his girlfriend, however, until she learned the necessary skills on her own. When it came to BigAbi, it seems, he was protective like that.
It was somewhat different for his neo-Nazi-years partner, Patricia Lingenfelter, 32 at the time, also known as Knights of Freedom chief party secretary Frulein Lingenfelter. Near as I could tell, she did nothing without Deckers explicit instructions. He told her to call him Commander, nothing else, so she did, as faithfully as she could, though on occasion, shed mess up and call him dude, which he let pass without comment. If she wanted to go into his office, she had to ask for permission via walkie-talkie. He was constantly getting speeding tickets, so she did most of the driving, with him calling out every move slow down now, speed up now, pass that guy now, turn now. One morning, Lingenfelter appeared in the trailers kitchen wearing fatigues and a white T-shirt and said, happily, I was feeling a little more militant today. The Commander looked her over, shrugged, looked at how junked up the trailer was, and said, Try to get [the place] a little more presentable. It looks disgusting, frankly. She said, Yes, sir, seeming to take it all in stride.
The Commander himself wouldnt acknowledge that he was in a relationship with Lingenfelter or that hed ever even had a girlfriend. Love, he told me, is just not my cup of tea. I admit it freely: Im a control freak. If Im not in control of the situation, Im unhappy. If Im not interacting with someone where Im on a superior level, Im uncomfortable. In all of my social relationships, I tend to be the superior. Even in this one, because if I didnt want you here, you wouldnt be here. Youre completely subordinate to me.
He smiled at me, and I smiled at him. Like most people, Ive never met a neo-Nazi that I liked, but the Commander and I got along just fine. I even grew to enjoy his company, attending classes with him, going to court with him to deal with his lead-foot tickets, waltzing into the police station at the request of a local detective who rocked back and said he wanted to talk to him in private. Thats when, for a brief moment, the Commander appointed me KOFs official media representative, who he wouldnt go anywhere without for his own protection. The cop groaned and told us to beat it. We had a good laugh about that.
Later in the day, back at his trailer, he went on as usual racist this, racist that when, out of the blue, his wolf-dog peed on the kitchen floor, and he said, Bad dog, baaaad dog, and nuzzled it fondly on the head. Me, Im a sucker for kindness to animals, though I draw the line at Hitler himself, who was known to be a major dog lover, favoring his German shepherd Blondi over even his own frulein, Eva Braun.
Hawke in an undated photo taken in his dorm at Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina
Gerry Pate/"Spartanburg Herald-Journal/"AP Images
After that, the Commander was only to happy to hang loose in his office, massive desk in a tiny room, and blue-sky about first actions hed take as president. Among other things: Hed legalize marijuana, though not heroin or cocaine, and of course, gone right away would be speed limits on the nations roads. He would deport nonwhite gays, but white homosexuals will be executed. Rape somebody and expect the victims family to come over and wipe yours out, legally. They can exact revenge if they want. My system will discourage crime.
I asked him about vices.
Vices? Ive never touched a cigarette, never been drunk, never touched pot. But, as you know, I do speed. I do everything too fast: eat, drive, walk.
Heres a vice: vanity, said Lingenfelter.
Im not vain, the Commander said, sneering at her.
So, thats the kind of guy he was back in 1999. By the time he arrived in Squamish and became Jesse James, however, he seems to have changed almost beyond understanding or even possibility.
I dont think his Nazism was an act, says McLennan. Its just that I saw no signs of it, absolutely none. I found no signs of anti-Semitism or racism, and I went out with him for two years. This may sound stupid or naive of me, but I know that he was very honest with me on a day-to-day basis. Our life together was climbing, which he took very seriously. We lived and breathed climbing together. And I know that I knew him well, in terms of us as climbing partners, making life-and-death choices together. But of course I feel guilty for not knowing more about his past. I mean, I didnt even know he was the penis-enlargement king.
She halfway laughs about the absurdity of that alone, then takes a deep breath and goes on: He was the first person in my life to really love and look after me. He was a tremendous friend, super-considerate and supportive. I cant rewrite history to pretend I hate the guy. I dont hate him. He had rules for not celebrating birthdays, but he did celebrate mine. He was wonderful to me, and we were really good to each other. You couldnt ask for a better partner.
When she says things like this, theres so much sadness in her voice, but happiness, too, for having finally found the kind of love that regenerates itself, building over time instead of declining and fading. But then it was ripped away. Theres no weeping or sobbing about it, though. Maybe thats not her. At the same time, you can tell shes still suffering and still confused.
Yvette Brend/CBC News
She isnt climbing much, or at all, anymore, largely due to a fall she took shortly after Hawkes murder. She face-planted into rocks from 70 feet up, broken bones everywhere, ribs, pelvis, hip, nose, eye socket, a punctured vertebrae, a case of amnesia that lasted for two weeks and a brain injury that she calls severe. Within a year, shed stopped climbing altogether. I used to do a lot of free solo climbing, but I just dont trust myself anymore, and for climbing, you really need to trust your mind. And she cant. And she no longer has any backup. Just one more loss.
For everything Hawke was around McLennan, his rep around Squamish was somewhat different. More than anything, he just seemed to be pompous and preening and still possessed of feelings of superiority and the old imperium. Maybe he no longer wanted to become president in order to deport, sterilize, and execute, but he still wanted everyone to know how great he was, and hed often write about it online, either on Facebook or on one of the several blogs he maintained, among them SurvivorMan.net, in which he extolled the virtues of what I call the Survive Diet, the aim of which is eternal life. He only ate raw, organic, vegan, gluten-free foods, no sugar ever, but a ton of Zimt chocolate. Zimt chocolate is quite possibly the BEST raw chocolate Ive ever eaten, he once wrote, and Ive eaten a whole lot of raw chocolate!
On occasion, you could find him in the heart of downtown Squamish, inside the 1914 Coffee Company cafe, jawboning about the many-worlds theory of quantum mechanics, for instance, and looking down on anyone who demonstrated what he called the horrifying traits of a scientific instrumentalist, which themselves, he liked to say, prompted me to ditch academia out of boredom during my physics postdoc, which of course he never ditched because he never was in any doc, post or otherwise. No matter. Hed go on to make various abstruse points about, say, Shors algorithm or the adiabatic quantum algorithm, sounding very much like TVs Sheldon Cooper, who is just as much a fiction as Hawke himself was.
Other times, hed drive his Yukon north of town to the Ground Up Climbing Center, just off of Commercial, to play ping-pong and crow over his wins. (I have not lost a game in a long time!) Or else hed be sitting at a table inside Starbucks or Nesters Food Mart, sponging off the free internet connections, hunched over his laptop, which hed snap shut if you came up to him. He was always really weird about shutting his laptop right away as soon as youd approach, recalls a climber named Nicole Deuchar. He was the kind of person who never told you too much about himself. Dont take a picture of my face, dont do that, hed say. He was always super-mysterious.
And a climber named John Shaw says, Our conversations were always friendly, but it was always like he was hiding something. Like, Fuck, dude youre sneaky. Another thing Shaw noticed: His teeth were yellow. He said he had all this money, but he fucking doesnt go to the dentist? I just found it odd.
Yellow teeth or no, however, give him a chance and hed open his mouth to tell you he hadnt had a cold in 15 years, had 20/20 vision, and that during his seven years of daily climbing he had never messed up and hurt himself, not even once. Then hed go on about being a hobbyist molecular geneticist who spends more than $3,000 a month on supplements, with plans to live forever.
Along the way, hed post inflammatory, long-winded climbing essays on the internet with titles like A Guide to Sandbagging Newbies and Sport Climbers on Squamishs Grand Wall, which you dont even need to be a climber to get the gist of, and features him taking some new climber to one of the areas most dangerous hunks of rock, the idea being, Lets put this guy to the test, knowing but not caring how itd go for the fellow if he fell and what happened to the human body as it bobbed and bounced off slab on a 20-meter pendulum whip. No blood came of it, but by days end, Hawke had pawned the guy off on another climber while he himself sprinted across the ledge to eat lunch and admire the view.
The online response from local climbers was not pretty. They called him one weird dude, a total dickwad, and a real douche bag, and said he must be suffering from a severe mental problem. A guy name Jesse wrote, I think it sucks ball smegma that every time someone calls me by name at the crag, I have to spend 20 F%$#$&^ minutes explaining who I am not. Another: Our few encounters in the bluffs have been enough for me to pick another crag if I notice him around.
No doubt Hawke just shrugged and went back to his ping-pong game. He may have lived in the shadows, but he couldnt help but make public pronouncements that made it seem like only he deserved sunshine.
My friends are always mildly flabbergasted to learn that I havent spoken to my family in over 15 years, he wrote in 2016. This is not due to a bad childhood or any particular animosity but simply the result of cold logic. Sharing some common strands of DNA is a flimsy prerequisite for a relationship. He also complained that 99.99% of the people on this planet are just wasting time before time wastes them. Among those he approved of: Ray Kurzweil and Elon Musk. And himself. I am trying my best to be one of those .01%.
But then he got wasted, not by time itself but just in the time it took for someone to pull a trigger and light a match.
So far, British Columbias Integrated Homicide Investigation Team seems to have made absolutely no progress on the case.
Sgt. Frank Jang of British Columbias Integrated Homicide Investigation Team
Were not even quite sure if its a culpable or non-culpable homicide, says IHIT spokesman Frank Jang. Its not completely out of the realm of possibility that someone could have discharged a firearm and unknowingly hit and killed him, a bullet ricocheting, one in a million. Or it could be somebody hunted him down for his gold or his Bitcoin and decided to kill him. Only after we found out who he was until then, we just thought he was a homeless person were like, you know, this could be a weird plot where somebody finally came to finish off the scum Nazi. There are so many different possibilities, but it definitely wasnt suicide. Somebody shot him. As to who did it, your guess is as good as ours. We average about one homicide a week here, and theres really no precedent on our part for this one. Its really left us scratching our heads.
McLennan thinks theyve simply given up and stopped trying. And it makes her furious.
IHIT betrays their duty and is a shameless disgrace, she wrote on Facebook, after Sgt. Jang appeared in a newspaper story saying that Hawke perhaps slept in his vehicle and perhaps had a heat source inside, when he knew full well that Hawke was a committed vanlifer and that, no, he didnt have an external heat source that could have led to the inferno. Fuck Frank Jang & several others up next. The bastards. After how many hundreds of fucking hours of taped interviews and phone calls and emails? I know a statement of war when I see one. These negligent imbeciles have failed their homicide victim. CAN I SPEAK TO THE JANITOR???
In the meantime, Hawkes father, Hyman, has offered a $10,000 reward for tips leading to the killers arrest, but, near as I can tell, no one has stepped forward. I tried calling him to chat about it, left several messages, but he didnt get back to me. I didnt talk to him in 1999, either, but I did speak, at length, to his wife, Peggy, who died in 2018. She spent a good portion of that conversation in tears over the lost soul of her only son.
What Hawke told me about his parents is that they were upper-middle class, that his mom wasnt very bright, and that his father, a mathematician, was actually his stepfather and would be among the Jews sterilized in due time (Its a must). He said his real father was some German man his mom had an affair with, which she wouldnt deny to me, for fear that her Britt (she called him by his middle name) would never talk to her again.
He was a brilliant student, she said, with his chess achievements often making the local paper, sometimes on the front page, which came with a heavy price.
He was beaten up in elementary school, middle school, and then in high school, she told me. Every day for two years in middle school, two boys would come in before class, one would hold his arm down and the other would beat relentlessly on his hand. But being a boy, he was too ashamed to tell me about it.
One day, I went into his room as he was changing his shirt, and I saw black-and-blue marks and scratches all over his back, and I asked him what happened, and he made up a story. But months later, he acknowledged that some children had thrown him over a chair.
He was a nerd, and he was bullied, and what can I do about it? He was abused by the other children. They werent black children or Jewish children, they were just children, though he was called names. She took a deep breath and continued on: I mean, how can you get rid of someone calling you a Jew and a kike? How can you ever get rid of that? Hes so ashamed. People have made him so ashamed of who he is. Hell never stop. Im afraid hell never stop. Hes gone in too deeply.
During high school in Westwood, Massachusetts, Hawke was obsessed with two things. The first was chess, which he played with such skill that for two years he was top dog in the state.
One of his high-school-classmate opponents remembered him this way: [He was] a pale, skinny, intimidatingly brilliant, terminally aloof kid. Initially he refused to even play against me. Until I formally tried out for the team, I wasnt worth his time. Even then, he took pains to make it clear he didnt consider me a worthy opponent. He played the whole, painfully brief game with headphones on, barely looking at the board, making split-second moves. In three years, I never saw him lose a game. My senior year, after he graduated and I took over as captain, kids at chess meets in neighboring towns would shake in their sneakers when they saw us coming: Is Greenbaum still with you?'
Hawkes other childhood obsession was knives. I was very wealthy as a child, he told me. Id get $1,000 every Christmas, and $500 or so on birthdays. I spent it all on knives. My room had so many knives you really couldnt move without stepping on a knife.
By the end of his senior year, hed read Mein Kampf, heard destiny calling, formed his first hate group, and begun handing out fliers on Bostons streets. Soon enough, he was down in South Carolina, going to college and working to expand his dreams of world domination, mainly via the auspices of the internet.
My sense of historical destiny is what makes me what I am, he told me one day inside his trailer, while dropping goldfish into a fish tank for his pet red-bellied piranha. Among those other first acts as president: to remove Benjamin Franklin and put Hitler on the $100 bill. Actually, he mused, I might put Hitler on both the 100 and the one.
The rally in Washington was meant to be his biggest neo-Nazi achievement to date. The Washington Post wrote up his plans and the D.C. cops turned out in force, 2,000-men strong near Lafayette Square, on foot, on horseback, on rooftops, in helicopters. But by that time, Hawke knew that his supposed followers were a feckless lot, so off he and Lingenfelter sped, back to Wofford College as fast as they could go, abandoning the few that did make the trip. And those few were beyond pissed.
Hes a yellow-bellied coward, a Jewish coward, one of them said.
Another: The kid was gifted. He was dynamic, intelligent, articulate. He was young. He could give a damn good speech. All right, so he had a few problems. But tell me, who doesnt have problems? And then just to chuck it away, to fucking pour it down the drain on the day hed spent a year and a half waiting for I grieve for him. Its just a damn shame. It just breaks my heart. He paused for a moment, then said, Heil Hitler.
Meanwhile, his mothers last words to me before hanging up in tears continued to echo through my head, and they continue to this day.
I honestly hope that someone, when he goes to class today, kills him. Thats what I hope. I want him to be dead. Hes no longer the son I knew. Seems like wherever he went, he left broken hearts behind, until his mother, 18 years after the fact, finally got her wish.
Nobody who knew him in Squamish really wants to talk about Hawke or say anything: good, bad, indifferent. I exchanged a few messages with his girlfriend prior to BigAbi Garbanzo, and unless I was willing to offer compensation, she wasnt going to say a thing. I dont blame her. In a woke world, charges of toxicity by association can be a very dangerous thing. In passing, however, she did mention that shed gone out with him for eight years, so if BigAbi saw him for two years and he died in 2017, then he must have arrived in Canada around 2007 at the latest, assuming no girlfriend overlap.
After giving up the Nazi business in 1999, he (and Lingenfelter) next resurfaced back on the Eastern seaboard, in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, where, under various assumed names (Johnny Durango, Winston Cross, Clell Miller, among others), he set about pioneering, for lack of a better term, those many uses and abuses of spam, enlisting the help of some of his chess buddies and making a fortune.
His business partner at the time was a future New Hampshire chess master named Brad Bournival, who today says, I personally never really saw clear signs of racism when I was with him. I think that whole Nazi thing was just to get attention. His idol growing up was Bobby Fischer, who was half-Jewish, too, and also into the Nazi thing. So, in some respects, I think he was kind of imitating Bobby Fischer.
As far as I know, this is the first time anyone has ever posited a Fischer-Nazi connection but it makes sense, how a young outcast looking up to one of the greatest chess players of all time might take on various of that elders attitudes and beliefs wholesale, if only as a matter of escapism although, of course, it takes a certain kind of someone to try to make them real.
Wyoming LostNmissing, Inc
He came through our club a couple of times, a chess player wrote on one forum. He faced his knights backwards. Which I found a pretty silly attempt to look like a radical nonconformist. Alas, he kicked my butt.
He called himself Walter Smith then and, to the best of anyones understanding, never again appeared anywhere using his legal name, until it was foisted upon him as a corpse, late last year, when the University of North Texas Unidentified Human Remains Lab matched a sample of his DNA to that of his parents and suddenly everyone in his orbit was at least that much the wiser, if no less mystified or enlightened.
In terms of a motive for his murder, McLennan told me, according to him, hed say, I have many hundreds of million dollars worth of cryptocurrency. Ive contemplated he was hacking into things in the cryptocurrency space, to get so much money. But I have to wonder if other things were going on, too. My personal thought on his murder is that it was a contract killing to do with cryptocurrency. He had some of the largest holdings in the world. I wonder if a silencer was used, because people were around. And Id assume an accelerant was used, given how extreme the fire was.
Since we first spoke, BigAbi has stopped communicating with me, thinking that I was asking leading questions in order to trap her into saying that it was definitely a security breach of some kind that definitely led the Russian mafia to kill her boyfriend.
I never said a security breach happened, she wrote me. That is one possibility I was explaining re bitcoin risks. I never said threats were made to him. I said large bitcoin wallets can be exposed to threats re. risk of theft. Your listening skills were an outrage Recommend you stick to celebrities in mansions, not unsolved murder victims. Not interested in your leading questions any further.
I found this somewhat perplexing, since all Id done is ask her to clarify her earlier statements about the Russian mafia, to which she responded, Im not saying the Russian mafia did it. Im saying thats the way he talked about the threats against him. I dont know how seriously to take it, or how seriously to take the words Russian mafia, but that was how he talked.
After a while, I began to think there was more going on here than the cascading effects of a simple misunderstanding. Hope the story doesnt happen, she wrote in her last message. She also tried to dissuade me from the possibility of visiting Squamish, saying that a new mayor has begun introducing changes to do away with vanlife and that the town is no longer like the one she lived in with Hawke.
But at one point she also said, Right now, Im scared of coming across like a lovesick widow. I never expected my name to be connected to this kind of thing, and Im like, What the fuck have I gotten myself into? You know? I dont regret the choice but Im reconsidering the whole thing.
Again, I can see why. Toxicity by association. But a short while later, she showed up in the local press once more, giving an interview in which she said, Im not going to let it rest. Hes with me for life. In an accompanying photograph, shes wearing a massive coonskin cap with one helluva bushy tail and looking quite glamorous. Naturally, the missing Bitcoin fortune that could now be worth billions was also a big part of the piece. And between those two things McLennans photograph and the lost fortune posters in the comments section were unrelenting in their criticism.
Running bits of it together, heres how it went: She wants the bitcoin, no other reason!  I wouldnt give up either those Bitcoin passcodes worth billions might be her driving force I meant, love. Love must be the reason why.  Is that a poor raccoon on her head?  Its a wealthy raccoon if they ever find the bitcoin.  Police do actual police work in BC? Good luck with that. If nobody is telling, the BC keystones have no clue. Who gets the bitcoins?  Whoever finds the password. Which if you really look at it thats the missing piece from this entire article. Its all about the password. Everything else is pure b.s. Only toward the end did someone show a little heart, writing, Good luck, keep searching, everyone deserves a conclusion to their story, even Neo-Nazis.
Id say the same should also be true for McLennan, a conclusion to her time with the guy, even if he was a neo-Nazi. She was in love, and sometimes that trumps all. For what its worth, nothing could be more horrific to me than the revelations about him, she told me. Youre not going to find a shred of anti-Semitism or racism in me. I know people were super-upset about it. Its not like its a wonderful thing to go acting like youre lovesick over somebody who turns out to be a Nazi. I understand thats upsetting to people, and Im pretty much a total pariah around here. [But] all I care about is his murder being solved.
The only thing I find unsettling about any of this is how the Squamish community has failed to rally around her in some big fashion, if only because she was in the dark as much as anyone and to blame her for that just seems wrong. Its not like, while she was off sleeping in her tent, Hawke was stripping down and suiting up in his Nazi regalia of old, Luger at the fore.
Of course, its so easy for people to say she should have known. At one point, in a confessional moment, Hawke had halfway tried to blurt it out. He told her what hed looked like in the past. She said, So you wore combat boots and a trench coat and a long ponytail. Was this a goth phase? He said, I wasnt a goth. Im not sure you would have liked me back then. She said, Probably not.
When we spoke, she said, Im glad I said that and didnt say, No matter what, I would have loved you. Its a fucking good thing I didnt say that, but I guess I feel kind of bad that I missed the message.
Heres how I see it, however. If Hawke could slip past the U.S. border into Canada undetected and remain there for at least a decade, just a homeless guy living in his vehicle (with a $12.8 million judgment hanging over his head), then slipping undetected into someones heart was, for him, probably just as easy.
Meanwhile, Bournival isnt quite so sure that his buddy is even dead and gone. I almost think somehow he found a way to fake his death, because that would be totally his style, he tells me. I remember him even talking about doing stuff like that. I mean, if he did fake it, itd look exactly like that a burnt-out car and a body burned to where its hard to I.D. Most likely its probably real that hes dead. But in my own mind, I still think theres a chance.
Jesse James, a.k.a. Hawke, in Squamish, B.C., in 2015
In the past few months, Ive spent countless hours digging down into Hawkes digital footprint as Jesse James and have found nothing inconsistent with the person he told people he was. Some of it was more than a little hard to believe. In one post, he tells the story of fleeing his postdoc studies, flying to Israel, joining some special forces unit, and engaging in a bloody firefight that left his buddy Jaacov lying in a contorted red mass on the ground, gone. In the aftermath, he describes how at night that event shakes me awake cold and shivering. Further, he says he could repent for what happened but to do so would lead to a false story and a false story is no story at all.
Make of those words what you will. Indeed, in hindsight, much of what he wrote becomes ironic in the most obvious of ways and even bleakly, blackly comic. For one, he saw no reason why, with the application of his superior mind, he couldnt live forever. As he wrote on his SurvivorMan blog: True indeed that no one has ever lived past one hundred thirty years, but nobody with my genes or diet or knowledge or supplement regimen or commitment or lifestyle has existed in the past thirteen billion years. Not one person identical to me ever. [And] since no one like me has ever existed, no one like me has ever died. By that reasoning, I must have a 100% chance of immortality! WOOHOO!
And then theres the small matter of love, which he seemed to be slaving over, in front of his computer. Hed tackled it once before, in a 375-page 2015 book he wrote (using his Jesse James alias) titled Psychology of Seduction: Seduce Women Using Evolutionary and Social Psychology, which is still available on Amazon and far better, much more comprehensive, and much less offensive than anything written by Neil Strauss or Erik Mystery von Markovik, the two best-known pick-up-artist authors. It also includes a self-test to see where you stand in terms of psychopathic malevolence. Even the most charitable of final tallies places him at the very darkest end of the scale. On the other hand, if you only count his known actions following his arrival in British Columbia, he comes off far better, mainly just as someone with a deep-seated need for constant attention.
More recently, it seems hed been working on developing a solution to the age-old problem of finding true love, his goal being to help mankind do away with satisficing, which is a fancy term for the cognitive heuristic of settling for the most adequate person who is reasonably available. He saw a future in which his end product artificially-intelligent virtual robots he called love bots could be programmed with all the desirable traits you hope to find in your soul mate, from the physical to the metaphysical and beyond, in order to alleviate the fruitless and time-consuming search for perfection in the real world. And heres the kicker: Since no one wants to pay for love, I will be making these love bots available free to the public once the programming is complete. Sometime later, he mentioned selling an unnamed something to an unnamed far-sighted company for an undisclosed sum. Could have been his love bot code or something else entirely. We may never know, since all that he owned and possessed went up in the blaze.
Before his death, he was a frequent poster on an anything-goes Facebook group called Squamish Climbing. Here, he spouted off as usual, but he also wrote, I personally would love to see more minorities in climbing. There is way too much ignorant white trash in this group.
He was particularly critical of a climbing outfitter called Arcteryx: It seems reasonable to accuse them of racism based on two undeniable points. There are tons of super strong minority climbers, far stronger than some of the assholes that Arcteryx sponsors 2. They simply choose NOT to sponsor one single minority climber, despite the abundance of such climbers. Instead, looking at their athletes page, they want young, buff white dudes and gals as the face of Arcteryx. For them it seems appearance even takes precedence over both climbing ability and personality. (Arcteryx has yet to respond to Rolling Stones request for comment.)
This brought forth some harsh words, but he didnt shrink away or take back his own. And then, in the first weeks after his death, climber after climber stepped forward to say nice things: I climbed with Jesse once and met him a few times over the years in Smoke Bluffs and he has always been generous. And: Jesse James passed away? How?? He was one of the first people to set up a top rope for me. Also, he walked the walk. He talked the talk. Goddamn! A good man!
His climbing pal Nicole Deuchar did tell me, Every time we went climbing, hed keep me safe. He was always tight. I mean, he was so psyched about rock climbing that it was contagious. People would say to me, Why do you go sit down and talk to him? You dont even like him. And I was always like, I kind of do, though.
Once he was identified as the former leader of a neo-Nazi outfit, however, most of the encomiums drifted away like so much rock dust. But even then, one climber peeked around the shadows to write: Whatever the outcome here was, this human was always beautifully polite, kind and totally a treat.
Read enough of this stuff and its hard not to lean sideways in the judges chair, maybe soften your stance and loosen up previously held high-and-mighty opinions, maybe not by a lot, but maybe just enough to briefly gaze upon him with a kind of wonder and not as a total psycho who only got what he deserved.
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Posted: at 3:52 pm
Eight people are walking through the trees in the National Heritage Park in Wexford to take a survival skills workshop run by Shayne Phelan of Eagle Ridge Survival. He is a likablebearded man with a bandana on his head, an army surplus jacket with Instructor lettered on the breast, and a lot of tattoos including the words dead and lift across his knuckles.
As we walk, Shayne stops sporadically to point out plants of note garlic, ginger, a mushroom that will kill, a mushroom that may cause stomach ache and hallucinations, plantain which is a panacea for many health problems, some plants which are edible, and Water-dropwort Hemlock, which is not edible at all. Its the most poisonous plant in Ireland, he says.
If we need to murder someone we can come back, chuckles Brenda Forrest, an acupuncturist and homeopath who already knows how to spin yarn, grows vegetables and owns a flint (for fire-making purposes).
Careful, says Shayne. Theres a journalist here.
Brenda is not the only person who has some prior experience. Sarah Smith, here with her daughter Lindsey Murphy, recently did a course on seaweed foraging.
Regardless of what your reason to be here today is, says Shayne, I will teach you with the same integrity that your life could depend on. Hopefully everyone will leave here today with a good understanding of what it actually requires to stay alive. And theyll also have a good understanding of how delicate as a biological structure we actually are and how we can actually end up in a lot of trouble very, very quickly.
We reach a clearing in the trees where we sit in a circle on chopped logs as Shayne tells us about his own credentials. Hes been hunting, fishing and falconing since childhood. I was a feral kid at school, he says. My teacher [once] heard something from my bag and when he put his hand in to investigate he was bitten by a ferret. I had jackdaws who used to follow me to school. I was just that sort of weird kid. Youd never guess, right?
In 1986, he read two books that changed his life: The SAS Survival Handbook by Lofty Wiseman, and Bushcraft by Mors Kochanski. Kochanski, who died recently, is his idol.
Survivalism, as Shayne describes it, is slow, methodical and about being prepared for the worst. While Phelan doesnt rule out the possibility of a solar flare knocking out all our electronics or World War III destroying our supply chains, he thinks its far more likely that his students will need these skills if they sprain an ankle when alone on a mountain walk.
Survival [scenarios] almost always happen when the day starts out like any other day, he says. Survival is 90 per cent psychological.
Shaynefasts for 72 hours once a month in order to prepare himself for hunger. He does a dry fast for 24 hours every other month to inure himself to thirst. Theres a rule of threes, he says. We can survive for three minutes without oxygen. We can survive for three hours without shelter. Shelter in this context includes appropriate clothing. We can survive three days without water... and we can survive three weeks without food.
He starts by talking about the importance of shelter. Even on a warm day in Ireland, he says, if you were wet and injured you could become hypothermic. He is currently dressed in cotton, he tells us, and because cotton cools you down, hes dressed for death.
For an Irish climate he swears by wool clothing. Four hundred million sheep cant be wrong. Wool maintains 80 per cent of its insulator properties when totally submerged in water. All those fisherman off the west coast they know something.
Thats my only survival skill, says Brenda. Im a spinner.
When were making fishing nets youll be flying, says Shayne.
He carries several items with him everywhere he goes a good knife, a small torch, a military poncho, a whistle (three blasts is an international distress signal) an,d because fire is so important, a military-grade lighter, a second plastic lighter, a ferrocenium rod and a second smaller ferrocenium rod. [The survivalist] Corey Lundin says, If you dont carry sh*t in your pockets, you end up with sh*t in your pants.
Every dayShayne practises making a fire with a primitive bow drill. He demonstrates this for us now and generates an ember in minutes. Once we have fire, he says, we can get warm and make water drinkable by straining it through some cloth then boiling it. He also carries a bottle of 2 per cent iodine and says that five drops of this into water strained through cloth will make it drinkable in the absence of a heat source. In Ireland, he says, there is nearly always some fresh water to be taken from a stream, dug from the ground or transpired from plants.
What about urine? asks Caroline, an alternative medicine practitioner from Limerick.
Shayne sighs. I knew Bear Grylls would come up, he says. He has no time for Bear Grylls and his showboating, urine-drinking ways. Hes not a survivalist... How do you die within the first 20 minutes? Do what Bear Grylls does. We never drink our own urine. I mean, whatever youre into in your own time, but its waste products poison our body has decided to get rid of.
It turns out Caroline (not her real name) actually has drunk urine, while doing a course on urine therapy. I felt great afterwards, she tells me later. Shes here because she believes that society may collapse at some point soon and wishes to be ready.
She believes the Irish Government is corrupt and lying to the people about the nature of the pandemic and that things are going to get ugly sooner than we think. Ive been following this whole thing very closely, she says. We should all be stocking up... Just put a bit aside every month.
Shayne doesnt have that much time for prepping. Prepping is just a buzzword for storage, he tells me. And the one thing these [preppers] arent prepping is their skills. No matter how much you store, sooner or later it will need to be replenished. You could even make yourself a target for having so much stuff. Ultimately, if you want to go down the route of prepping, become a farmer.
He thinks theres a lot of posing done by so-called survivalists who enjoy running through the woods like Rambo. The only reason to run in a survival situation in Ireland, he says, is if you hear rescuers or your fire is going out. In survival everything slows down, and we move with the pulse of nature. Apart from everything else, [slowness] makes sense because we burn less calories.
For now, were making fire. Beyond its warming, cooking and water-purifying properties, says Shayne, its caveman TV. You never have to change the channel and you always know whats on...When you manage to make fire and hear that cracking, its like winning the lottery.
He distributes knives and shows us how to make feather sticks sticks feathered with tiny curls of wood at one end to help kindle a fire. He spends time on knife safety, telling a story about a survivalist he knows who accidentally embedded his knife in his knee. And the last thing you want in a survival situation, he says, is to be bleeding from a major artery.
He shows us how to make a fire with a pile of these feather sticks, a spark from a ferrocenium rod and an ember extender like char paper or, even better, cotton wool soaked in coconut oil. He carries six of the latter in an old camera roll he was once a photojournalist and they double up as anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal agents. He has a thrifty love for things with more than one function.
Neil OGrady, a firefighter, has been watching a lot of YouTube videos on how to make fire. I have an eight-year-old, and I was trying to transfer a few things and then I realised that I didnt know half of this myself. Neil says he thinks that modern man misses being out in nature and has a need to feel like prehistoric man.
Is that why hes here? He laughs. Yeah.
Engineer Eoin Murphy, on the other hand, is the most modern of modern men and got the course as a Fathers Day present. The last thing you need in a survival situation is someone who can work a computer, he says.
Does he think his family is trying to toughen him up? Maybe. I think it says a lot that my wife told me that I needed to bring a packed lunch to a survival course.
At this point I have to go fetch the photographer from the entrance to the heritage park and get lost for 20 minutes. When I return the photographer is already there and everyone is amused by my inability to survive even the short trek to the visitors centre.
Next Shayne shows us how to efficiently cut branches and how to make rudimentary deadfall traps with which to catch rats and squirrels. We move on to cordage how to make usable twine/rope by entwining strands of cordyline or nettles and later he shows us how to whittle a fishing gorge hook.
Its a pleasant, pragmatic and information-filled course. Its very enjoyable. But Shayne also teaches a course in which he takes people into the Wicklow hills for 72 hours with just a poncho, water bottle, knife and ferrocenium rod each. No tent. No food.
Netflix? asks Eoin.
Once when he was in his 20s, Shayne went into the Wicklow hills and survived there for 28 days with just his knife, water bottle and ferro rod. He lost three stone, and the culinary high point was eating a magpie. Some wannabe survivalists, he says, imagine themselves in such scenarios, hunting deer and eating like kings. In reality, on the 72-hour course, people count themselves lucky to eat crow, squirrel, rat, mouse, fox and worms.
Id tape a load of Mars bars to my legs, says Eoin.
Are any of those animals tasty? Squirrels quite nice, says Shayne. Its nutty... Hoppers [young crows] are quite tasty... Rat does not taste well but you can eat it. Fox tastes awful.
Caroline notes that where she previously lived in the US, there were dangerous animals like snakes and crocodiles.
Shayne laughs. I consider that an extended menu.
My wifes vegetarian, says Eoin. How do you catch wild tofu?
There are plenty of edible plants out there, says Shayne, but in a survival scenario you have to be willing to eat anything you can get. He shows us how to make fishing nets and tells us that these nets can also be used to trap birds like wood pigeon. We get loads of wood pigeons in our garden, says Lindsey.
Not for much longer, says Eoin.
A lot more women have been doing Shaynes courses in recent years. He thinks women often have a better attitude. Some young men get this idea, Yeah, Im going to beat the sh*t out of nature. He sighs. You will not beat the sh*t out of nature.
He wants us to respect nature and its dangers. He thinks if we really care about the environment, we should immerse young people in it from a young age. Because nobody wants to destroy what they love.
Anyway, Im now pretty sure that Id be dead within hours of a survival event. If not for my fellow survivalists I would have got lost a second time on the way back from lunch (smoked salmon on brown bread in the heritage parks restaurant, not magpie or rat caught in a deadfall trap).
The course reinforces all the things I take for granted: readily available food and water, string, fire, good shoes. For Shayne Phelan, this is partly the point. Hes not, he says, one of those apocaloptimists, hoping for an apocalypse. He truly hopes none of us ever need the skills he teaches. But he would like if it gave us a respect for nature and an understanding of how dependent we are on each other and wider society.
Covid really showed the fragility of society and the weakness of modern man and woman, he says. If you think about what past generations had to do to secure their existence. We were asked to stay at home on the couch and watch telly and people still had difficulty six weeks in.
Shayne Phelan can be contacted via his website eagleridgesurvival.com
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- Bitcoin Hits Key Level Not Seen Since May Amid Wood, Musk Boost Bloomberg
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Bitcoin Hits Key Level Not Seen Since May Amid Wood, Musk Boost - Bloomberg
Posted: at 3:51 pm
Technically speaking, Bitcoin is a decentralized computer network. But this one has a special twist: Fearing inflation and currency devaluation, the first companies have exchanged parts of their account balances for Bitcoin. In El Salvador, Bitcoin has now become the second official state currency alongside the US dollar.
Bitcoin was launched in 2008 by an inventor who remains anonymous to date. In its early years, Bitcoin was a project for a fairly small group of IT professionals that wanted to improve the global financial system and began using Bitcoin for trades and investment. In 2013, the Bitcoin price briefly jumped above the US$1,000 mark for the first time, followed by a significant price drop and a few years of silence. Then, in 2017, Bitcoin reached the magic mark of 20,000 US dollars per Bitcoin. Again a significant price drop and a few years of silence followed. Then, in the spring of this year, bitcoin reached the $65,000 mark. Again, the price dropped significantly and is now hovering around $35,000 per bitcoin. What has happened over the years? Will Bitcoin come back again and again; only to pause for a few years at a time? As of today, the valuation of all Bitcoins combined is around $700 billion, which is about 6% of the valuation of gold. This means that Bitcoin has already reached a certain size. At least Bitcoin is so big that it deserves serious attention. Besides Bitcoin, there are countless other cryptocurrencies. All cryptocurrencies together have a valuation of $1.6 trillion. However, the biggest chunks of that are Bitcoin and Ethereum. These two technologies have it all. In contrast, many projects are not to be taken seriously, and numerous projects are even fraudulent.
Money and the World
In the case of Bitcoin, it can be noted that it has slowly worked its way onto the world stage. One of the most significant events in the Bitcoin universe last year was when Microstrategy - an IT company from the U.S. - exchanged part of its account balance, normally quoted in U.S. dollars of course, for Bitcoin. The calculus of Michael Saylor, CEO of Microstrategy, was this: Saylor expects the U.S. dollar to weaken, which will be accompanied by a loss of purchasing power. The reason is years of piling up debt, which accelerated during the Corona crisis. This national debt was bought up by the central bank. Thus, one can confidently say that the central bank financed the national budget and ultimately, in effect, printed money. This money is now in circulation and is pushing into the markets. It is well known that the European Central Bank (ECB) has acted in exactly the same way here in Europe.
CEO Michael Saylor felt it was his duty to protect his company's purchasing power and came to Bitcoin this way. Bitcoin is a scarce commodity and there will never be more than 21 million Bitcoins. Thus, it is limited in its supply - as is gold. In addition, Bitcoin spreads quite slowly over the years. Both developments combined have led Michael Saylor to classify Bitcoin as a future store of value.
What was perceived as a daring move by many in 2020 may turn out to be a smart move in the end. Last week, inflation was measured at 5% in the US. It is conceivable that inflation will rise even further. What does this mean? The purchasing power of the dollar is dwindling; fewer goods can be bought for the same amount of U.S. dollars due to rising prices.
At this point, it is important to remember exactly what inflation feels like. Every European is likely to experience this personally in the coming months. Inflation feels like this: "Man, the hairdresser has become expensive. It used to cost 25 EUR, now it's 35 EUR." Or: "Hmm. This sandwich costs 8.50 EUR. It used to be cheaper." Or: "Wow, gasoline hasnt been so expensive for a long time."
Inflation means that prices are rising. And how does this feel? When we feel like everything around us is getting more expensive. And when the shares of DAX companies reach new highs month after month, even though we are just stumbling out of one of the worst crises in decades. Or when you try to buy a property and even the most expensive properties are bought straight away directly after they have been posted on the real estate portal.
In Germany, inflation was recently recorded at over 4%. Anyone who has recently refueled gasoline can understand this. Anyone who is renovating their house will also see that various materials have become more expensive. Of course, there is a story for every commodity: in the case of gasoline, it is the oil-producing countries that have restricted their production quota. For construction, it's a sudden shortage of wood. But the common denominator remains: Across the board, prices are going up; everything is getting more expensive. Time will tell if Microstrategy-CEO Michael Saylor had the appropriate tactics. At present, it seems he is right. The question now is: Will there be other companies that replace traditional currencies in parts with Bitcoin? Yes, Tesla also made this move in 2021. Some other more obscure companies as well.
Some weeks ago, the Bitcoin community could not believe its eyes when Nayib Bukele, the president of El Salvador, a small authoritarian-ruled country in Central America, announced that he would set Bitcoin as the second state currency alongside the US dollar. Just a few days later, this very step was put into action by the parliament in El Salvador.
What may seem bizarre and hard to believe could hardly be more interesting: El Salvador previously had only the US dollar as its official currency. As a result of the expansive monetary policy of the USA, El Salvador is also being affected by the softening of the US dollar: The 5% inflation - i.e. loss of purchasing power - naturally also has an effect in El Salvador. In this respect, it is even understandable if a state tries to become more independent.
Also last week, the first details of how both currencies can coexist became known: Prices can continue to be quoted in U.S. dollars. Citizens can continue to pay with U.S. dollars. But there will be an additional payment app that will allow every citizen in El Salvador to have a digital wallet to hold bitcoin. The president of El Salvador hopes that this will offer financial inclusion to large sections of the population who previously did not have a bank account. It remains to be seen whether this approach will succeed; there are good reasons to be optimistic about it. The bitcoin would then be in the payment app and can also be used for payment purposes. So at the moment of payment, the customer and the merchant would each have to decide which currency to use and which currency to credit to the merchant. For this purpose, El Salvador now wants to build up a Bitcoin currency reserve of 150 million US dollars. An invitation promptly followed from the International Monetary Fund, where an appointment will take place in the coming days. Certainly with awkward questions.
From all these stories, one can see several things: Bitcoin is spreading quite slowly, but the daily and weekly volatility transfigure the view of the essentials. Further, it shows that established institutions will sometimes have some difficulty making friends with Bitcoin. Last but not least, Bitcoin is a network where the activities of numerous players are interwoven internationally.
First of all, Bitcoin is a decentralized network of 10,000 computing nodes, distributed in all countries in the world. This means there is no central authority. So there is no corporate headquarters, no corporate building, no company behind Bitcoin. The character of a decentralized network has it in itself, because only the technology is in the foreground, no operating company. So this decentralized network is beyond the reach of states. Who should the state address as well? Bitcoin has no summonable address, Bitcoin cannot be summoned by authorities. It is pure technology. And it has been running without interruption for over ten years. Nothing discernible should change this. Therefore, its safe to assume that Bitcoin will continue to run without interruption for the next few years. Incidentally, this does not only apply to Bitcoin, but also to the number two - Ethereum - and to numerous other decentralized protocols.
If you want to shut down Bitcoin, you would have to shut down the Internet - an impossible undertaking. Bitcoin could be hostilely taken over, but it can now be claimed that this is no longer factually possible: The Bitcoin network currently calculates 150 million tera hash operations per second. Behind a million tera hash is a number with 18 zeros. Presumably, no state in the world can muster as much computing power combined with the required power consumption. And if it were possible, it could only destabilize the network for a few minutes or even hours. After that, the network would just keep running. Therefore: we will have to get used to Bitcoin and other decentralized protocols. They are not going to go away.
As is well known, this computing power costs a lot of electricity. This can be criticized, but here, too, one has to go one level deeper: electricity consumption must first be evaluated neutrally. Or don't you watch Internet TV in the evening? Do you never play computer games? Don't write emails? All of this also costs electricity. Therefore, it matters much more whether brown electricity from coal and gas or green electricity from hydropower, solar or wind energy is used. The Bitcoin network uses 55% to 65% electricity from green sources, depending on the estimate. That doesn't make electricity consumption any better, but it does put it in a slightly different context. It's worth digging deeper. The problem is that Bitcoin's architecture cannot be adapted in the short term and electricity consumption is more likely to increase.
At this point however, it must be clearly stated that Bitcoin is not unregulated. Individuals and companies that own, buy, and sell Bitcoin are, of course, subject to the legal system in which they reside. Those who interact with the network - owners, buyers and sellers of Bitcoins - must of course abide by the law, even if the network itself is beyond the reach of states. For companies in the financial industry, the state also issued clear rules at the beginning of 2021. For example, the German government already classified Bitcoin for private individuals quite clearly a few years ago. In short: people are allowed to own and trade Bitcoin as long as they do not engage in money laundering, do not commit tax fraud and do not carry out other criminal activities. Bitcoin is therefore not unregulated. This is essentially true for all other European countries and the United States as well. It turns out that these countries let their citizens and companies handle Bitcoin because the legal framework is mostly clear. This freedom therefore requires a functioning and effective state apparatus in order to be able to punish corresponding offenses. "Freedom, but within limits" is how one can summarize the attitude of Europe and America towards Bitcoin & Co. According to estimates, there are 1.5 to 2 million Bitcoin owners in Germany with a clear upward trend.
The situation is different in Turkey, for example. There, the inflation rate has risen to a value beyond 10% and the Turkish lira is increasingly losing value. To prevent young people in particular from using alternative payment methods, the use of cryptocurrencies for payment purposes has been stopped. But by no means are cryptocurrencies banned in Turkey. Investing and owning them are allowed, while usage as a means of payment is prohibited. The Indian government had decided to ban cryptocurrencies completely some time ago. One conceivable reason for this: because of the complex nature of governance in the Indian state, offenses and criminal activities are not punished as stringent as elsewhere. This could have been a major reason for the complete ban - as a possible result of ineffective state structures. Bitcoin is not fundamentally banned in China either, rather there are restrictions for certain services with cryptocurrencies, and recently large-scale industrial Bitcoin mining unless renewable energy is used. There is no sign of a trend towards uniform global regulation, even if Christine Lagarde of the ECB would like to see it. Instead, each state acts differently, but to some extent comprehensible in itself: from Bitcoin as legal tender in El Salvador to a complete ban in India.
In any case, cryptocurrencies are fascinating. A global ecosystem has emerged with, in some cases, completely different perspectives. It's worth taking Bitcoin increasingly seriously. And it's worth learning more about Bitcoin. A good start would be, for example, the Wikipedia page of Bitcoin.
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Bitcoin: Where do We Stand In Summer 2021? - Forbes
Posted: at 3:51 pm
Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
If you know you have an old bitcoin or dogecoin account somewhere but havent gotten around the digging up your login information, you may have a nasty surprise waiting for you.
With the rise of cryptocurrency, nine states have now adopted rules that include it as a form of unclaimed property and several more are requiring or recommending that companies report their unclaimed virtual currency. That means that this fall, when banks, insurers, retailers and state government agencies are required to annually report and remit any unclaimed funds, your old cryptocurrency account could be liquidated and turned in to the states unclaimed property office.
There are a lot of concerns about this possibility, not the least of which is the fact that liquidating a cryptocurrency account prevents the owner from realizing any future gains.
But theres also a larger economic issue, says Kristine Butterbaugh a solution principal,at the tax firm Sovos.
Some of our clients dont want to liquidate these accounts because it could have an impact on the market as a whole, she says. Were talking millions of accounts, potentially, across the country.
Whats muddling things is a lack of clarity on the rules around cryptocurrency. Unclaimed property law is written for traditional property but now its being enforced for non-traditional property.
Heres how unclaimed property law usually works: Every fall, businesses are required to remit any unclaimed property to the state. For accounts and other financial instruments to be considered unclaimed, they have to be dormant for three to five years, depending on the state. That means the account holder hasnt accessed the account or responded to any communications. Once the account is deemed unclaimed, it gets transferred to the states general fund.
Thats all well and good when were talking about a traditional bank account that is sitting around earning minimal if any interest. But states arent equipped to hold cryptocurrency, so theyre telling firms to turn those accounts into cash before handing them over.
Now lets say you watched the meteoric rise of dogecoin this past spring and decided to go hunting for those coins you invested in on a whim a few years ago. And when you finally tracked them down you discovered your account was liquidated back in November, robbing you of thousands of dollars in potential earnings? Youd probably be pretty angry.
Companies are in a really uncomfortable position because theyre unsure whether or not they should be liquidating for fear of owner retribution down the road, says Butterbaugh. And then you have the state saying, You have to, even if its not explicitly in the statute.
States are also motivated to enforce unclaimed property laws because its a revenue gain for them. Although the state keeps track of the amount due and the rightful owner can still eventually claim the moneyat any time, states in the meantime can use the money for their general operations. This may seem like a gamble, but only about 2% of unclaimed property ever gets returned to the true owner, according to Accounting Today.
Delaware home to more than a million companies is one of the most aggressive states when it comes to auditing companies on unclaimed property law compliance and has secured hundreds of millions of dollars over the last decade in unclaimed property and fines.
So, companies are stuck between not wanting to get dinged for noncompliance and being afraid to liquidate a cryptocurrency account. They want more clarity on what to do and Butterbaugh says two places New York and Washington, D.C. are working on a solution.
But in the meantime, she advises companies dealing in cryptocurrency to start addressing their dormant accounts now.
Ethereum, the No. 2 behind bitcoin, fights off challengers that offer cheaper and faster blockchains – MarketWatch
Posted: at 3:51 pm
If you are an investor who dabbles in cryptocurrencies, or even are what we in the industry call crypto-curious, you know ethereum ETHUSD, -1.94% as the No. 2 cryptocurrency behind bitcoin BTCUSD, +2.60% and the blockchain imbued with the ability to write self-executing smart contracts right into the code underlying a transaction between parties.
What you might not know about is some of the complexities of how the ethereum blockchain functions, its challenges in terms of security, scalability and energy consumption. Ethereum has a market capitalization over $250 billion and at least five times greater than its competitors. But high fees and network congestion have degraded performance and priced certain activity out of the market, providing an opportunity for a variety of competitor blockchains to emerge. Conceived and funded in 2017, these blockchains are now jockeying to make inroads in the smart contract market by providing alternative solutions to some of its problems.
These blockchains, with names that certainly would fit into any horse race (such as Cosmos, Solana and Polkadot) each have their own competitive characteristics that have positioned them well against challenges for ethereum. (Bitcoin, as the first and biggest blockchain, is and may always be the No. 1 with its unrivaled status as digital gold.)
A big drawback that ethereum developers are seeking to shore up is that, like with bitcoin, its mining is incredibly energy-intensive. In the proof of work (PoW) consensus algorithm currently used by both bitcoin and ethereum, so much computing power is used to solve ever-more complicated equations that the University of Cambridge estimates the annual electricity usage of ethereum to be on par with the country of Ecuador, a country of 17 million people. Bitcoin would be similar to Argentinas annual energy consumption, according to these calculations.
Other blockchains have addressed this problem by using proof of stake (PoS) models in which cryptocurrency is used as collateral to secure activity instead of relying on computations typically carried out at massive data centers. Ethereum is now also speeding in that direction as well and should get there as early as the last quarter this year.
Another technical aspect that is hurting ethereum is congestion, where intense activity runs up transaction fees, known as gas prices. Here, ethereum is a victim of its own success attracting many more users than other competitor blockchains. In a way, its like a popular restaurant where patrons find it difficult to get a table.
Still, this has provided a window of opportunity for competitors as users look elsewhere for cheaper and faster alternatives. For instance, Solana, which announced last month a $314 million fundraising round, is much faster and cheaper to use due to its ultra-high scalability.
Congestion is also often created by traders bots written to do front-run and back-run ethereum mining transactions in ever-more sophisticated arbitrage activities. But here again, there is evidence that ethereum can stay ahead. There is a newly created research-and-development organization called Flashbots that has been undertaking activities to manage the arbitrage happening on networks, and already gas fees have fallen.
Ethereum has to move carefully to transition from PoW to PoS while its competitors build their proof-of-stake blockchains from scratch. To use another analogy, it is as if ethereum was a plane changing its engines in mid-flight while its competitors took off with the latest model already in place.
Still, ethereum is responding aggressively to keep its smart-contact crown. Ethereums developers and proponents are responding by improving the blockchains scalability. Initiatives have gained traction in recent months to reduce congestion. Known as layer 2 solutions because they manage activity away from the base-layer blockchain, these innovations batch transactions in a way that reduces pressure on ethereum to settle transactions so frequently.
As a result of Flashbots and the rapid adoption of these layer 2 solutions such as Polygon, average gas fees decreased by 80% on the ethereum network in the second quarter.
Other ethereum-boosting activities include enacting an upgrade in the next few weeks. EIP-1559, in crypto-speak, is one of the most highly anticipated updates of the network since its launch six years ago. EIP 1559 will change how ethereum miners are paid, with a base rate plus a tip, to better manage network congestion at times of peak demand. It also includes a fee-burning mechanism that will remove ether from circulation behaving almost like a stock buyback.
If you are just tuning into this as the news begins to hit even mainstream business publications this month, it might all sound very complicated. Just know that this is ethereum moving through some of the fundamental changes to upgrade its system to make it more functional, efficient and secure. Its possible these efforts will allow it to maintain its position against the challengers. But the coming months will tell.
Ethereum has a lot to do to move through its plan, and how this will change the competitive field will be important and exciting to watch. If you are interested to see how this plays out through ethereums efforts this summer, and then as we move into 2022, when ethereum transitions from PoW to PoS, here are a few blockchains to keep an eye on as this horse race plays out:
Ethereum: Its the smart contract blockchain of choice. Its also what is known as the settlement layer. While the blockchain itself is being upgraded, there are a host of other so-called layer 2 solutions, such as Polygon, Arbitrum, Optimism and so-called zero-knowledge based systems that are being released to help with scaling. They manage transactions offline from the ethereum blockchain, roll them up and bring them back to the ethereum blockchain to settle the accounts. This expansion of layer 2s has shown ethereums power, even as these new challenger blockchains also become a force of their own. Watch closely for the continued progress of ethereum, including the EIP-1559 update and toward a PoS model to see if the picture is coming together relatively quickly.
Solana: It offers the highest throughput smart contract platform. Its transaction throughput is orders of magnitude faster than the competition. The competitive advantage of Solana has largely been that it is the cheaper and faster blockchain. This advantage will begin to fade if ethereum manages its updates successfully. Besides, Solanas weakness is often perceived as its lack of decentralization. Blockchain believers prize decentralization as the way to keep networks secure because it reduces exposure to specific points of vulnerability.
Binance smart chain: Its similar to Solana fast and cheap. But more than any other competitor in the race, BSC is criticized for being too centralized because it is controlled by Asias dominant crypto exchange Binance. Decentralization is a fundamental element in making blockchains secure because it avoids single points of vulnerability that can be hacked.
Polkadot: It offers a settlement layer, which allows different blockchains to interact in a shared security model. Designed largely by one of the original architects of ethereum, Polkadot provides among the easiest ways for new projects to get a purpose-built blockchain out the door.
Cosmos: Like Polkadot, Cosmos enables developers to build app-specific blockchains using a standard software development kit (SDK). Cosmos recently released the interblockchain communication protocol, or IBC, which connects all of the different blockchains in the Cosmos ecosystem.
Tim Ogilvie is the co-founder and CEO of Staked, which provides infrastructure services for institutional investors wanting to earn rewards from blockchain staking.
Bitcoin Trading Strategy As The Cryptocurrency Moves Above 50-Day Simple Moving Average In Recovery Mode – Forbes
Posted: at 3:51 pm
Bitcoin (BTC) is trading above its 50-day simple moving average for the first time since May 12. The trading range since May 19 is from a high of 41,323.05 set on June 15 to a low of 28,800.01 on June 22, down 30.3%. The upside from this low reached its semiannual pivot at 35,643.29 on June 29. A secondary low of 30,400.00 was set on July 19. From this low bitcoin is now trading back and forth around its 50-day simple moving average at 34,183.35.
If bitcoin can stay above 34,183.35 the upside is to its semiannual and weekly risky levels at 35,643.29 and 36,863.07. Even with this upside, its weekly chart stays negative given a close on Friday, July 30 below its five-week modified moving average at 36,162.14.
The Daily Chart for Bitcoin
Daily Chart for Bitcoin. Courtesy of Refinitiv Xenith.
Bitcoin has been trading above a golden cross since May 26, 2020, when the 50-day simple moving averagethen at 8,322.00rose above the 200-day simple moving average at 8,052.43. Notice how the 50-day SMA was a buy level at 29,252.24 on January 27. The next time the 50-day SMA was tested it was 50,951.90 on March 25. On April 18, bitcoin closed at 55,550.00, below the 50-day SMA at 56,252.44.
Bitcoin traded below its 200-day SMA at 39,763.27 on May 19. The trading range since then has been down from 41,323.06 on June 15 to 28,800.01 on June 22.
The horizontal line at the top of the graph is this months risky level at 62,927.95. The horizontal line at the bottom of the chart is the annual value level at 18,892.52, which is the overall downside risk.
The three horizonal lines within the trading range are the weekly risky level at 36,863.07, the semiannual risky level at 35,643.29, and the quarterly pivot at 32,802.94.
The Weekly Chart for Bitcoin
Weekly Chart for Bitcoin. Courtesy of Refinitiv Xenith.
The weekly chart for bitcoin is negative but oversold and is below its five-week modified moving average at 36,216.42. Its well above its 200-week simple moving average or reversion to the mean at 13,939.59.
The last two longer-term buying opportunities came during the weeks of March 15, 2020 and the week of August 2. On March 15, bitcoin tested its 200-day SMA then at 5,540.89. On August 2 bitcoin broke above the down trend line at 10,128.28.
Trading Strategy: Buy bitcoin on weakness to its quarterly pivot at 32,802.94 and reduce holdings on strength to its semiannual and weekly pivots at 35,643.29 and 36,863.07.
Posted: at 3:51 pm
Anne Boden, CEO of Starling Bank, speaking at Web Summit 2019 in Lisbon, Portugal.
Harry Murphy | Sportsfile for Web Summit via Getty Images
LONDON Anne Boden, the CEO of British fintech start-up Starling, is worried about cryptocurrencies.
Some digital currency exchanges are "quite dangerous," Boden said, adding the finance industry should remain vigilant about fraud in the unregulated crypto market.
It comes after Binance, the world's largest crypto exchange, was banned from carrying out regulated activity in the U.K. by the country's financial services watchdog.
"The industry as a whole must really be alert to the dangers of people using bitcoin and cryptocurrencies to process fraudulent payments," Boden told reporters on a call Thursday.
Founded in 2014, Starling is one of Britain's best-known challenger banks, a new breed of lenders aiming to shake up the market with online-only checking accounts. Rivals include Monzo, Revolut and Monese.
On Thursday, Starling reported a 600% jump in revenue in the 16 months ending 2021, helping the bank more than halve its losses.
Starling is now on track to record its first annual profit in 2022, Boden said, adding the company may go public by late next year or early 2023.
Despite her cautious stance on crypto, Boden said she believed there was a future for digital currencies.
"Certain digital currencies are interesting (but) our customers are not asking for that service," Boden said.
"In 2-3 years' time, things will have changed and most banks, including Starling, will be gearing up to do very interesting things in these areas," she added.
Starling is closely following the Bank of England's research exploring whether to issue a digital version of the British pound, Boden said.
The BOE is one of several global central banks exploring their own digital currencies. China is leading the way, trialing its digital yuan with millions of people.
Bitcoin price slides amid EU call to make transfers traceable, and rise of stablecoins – The Guardian
Posted: at 3:51 pm
Bitcoin has slipped below $30,000 as calls grew among regulators in the US, Europe and Asia for tighter checks on cryptocurrencies, and the less volatile digi-currency known as stablecoins.
Bitcoin, the worlds largest cryptocurrency fell as much as 5% to $29,300, its lowest since 22 June, and investors said it was likely to test the $28,600 level touched last month, its lowest since early January, as it faced a variety of regulatory headwinds. Smaller cryptocurrencies such as ether and XRP also lost around 5%.
On Tuesday, European regulators outlined plans to make cryptocurrencies more traceable as part of a wider crackdown on money-laundering in the bloc.
The European Commission said companies handling virtual assets, such as bitcoin, should become subject to anti-money laundering rules, along with transparency requirements for transfers of crypto assets.
For example, a company such as a bank handling cryptocurrencies for a client would be required to include their name, address, date of birth and account number, and the name of the client. Anonymous crypto-asset wallets would also be outlawed. The proposals could take two years to become law.
Part of a wider crackdown on money laundering, the European Commission said: Given that virtual assets transfers are subject to similar money-laundering and terrorist-financing risks as wire funds transfers ... it therefore appears logical to use the same legislative instrument to address these common issues.
On Monday, US Treasury secretary, Janet Yellen, told regulators the US government must move quickly to establish a regulatory framework for stablecoins, a rapidly growing class of digital currencies.
A meeting of the nations top regulators agreed that stablecoins a type of digital currency that is pegged to established currencies such as the US dollar had the potential to be a useful means of payment. However, more regulation would be needed to protect stablecoin users and the wider financial system.
The secretary underscored the need to act quickly to ensure there is an appropriate US regulatory framework in place, the Treasury reported.
Neil Wilson, strategist at CMC Markets in London, said the price signals on bitcoin were horrid and he expected the currency to fall further after taking a beating on Tuesday.
Bitcoin has been locked in a relatively tight trading range in recent weeks, after investors sold heavily in May and June following a crackdown by China on cryptocurrency mining and trading.
But Tuesdays fall took its losses for the month to around 15%. It has fallen by more than half since hitting a peak of almost $65,000 in April.
Bob Seeman, a tech entrepreneur and author of the book Bitcoin: Unlicensed Gambling, said governments would begin to use existing licensing laws to combat what he called the bitcoin Ponzi scheme.
I believe that regulation will eventually overwhelm bitcoin,he said. Some governments may soon realise that they already have gambling license requirements in place to regulate and collect tax as a result of every bitcoin transaction having any connection to the governments jurisdiction.