Doom Best Coin On Test Network

I have launched a currency called “Doom Best Coin” using the Ethereum#ERC20 standard (on the Rinkeby test network). Currently it doesn’t do anything meaningful besides demonstrate that ANYONE can start their own currency.

This is a GOOD thing and one of the primary reasons I was enthusiastic for Ethereum long before its existence. Private currencies are a great step forward for decentralization. There are almost 500 ERC20 coins now in use on the main network, several with interesting concepts. By next year I bet we see over 2 thousand.

Now the question for the world is… which currency do you trust?? Here’s a hint: currencies that say “In God We Trust” or are named “Doom Best Coin” probably shouldn’t be at the top of your list.

Ethereum’s Augur Project One Step Closer to Reality

One of the most exciting components with Ethereum is the Augur project, or as I call it, “The Bet on ANYTHING” market!”

Yesterday the project released an updated White Paper found here.  The technical details are not for most people, but what is exciting is being one step closer to the possibility of two strangers on the internet being able to place trustless bets on almost anything!

The word “betting” has a negative emotion attached to it in American culture, but being able to assign personal stake in prediction models is incredibly valuable. Indeed it is perhaps a much-needed component in our political system.

As I type this, one of the most hated presidents in American history is addressing the nation in a Statue of the Union. The internet is filled back and forth rage about who is “right” and “wrong”. As the fury between two groups grows, perhaps the ultimate test for the truth can be found if the two opponents can form an agreement of what their disagreement is, and bet on it.

Consider how this could be used in economic debates in uncovering the truth. Politicians (particularly in my home state of California) are incredibly dishonest at presenting understated costs of projects to voters around elections. Augur presents an option to expose what politicians truly believe:

“Do you really think that this project is going to be under what the budget states? Let’s bet on it!”

Do you want to bet if this is going to truly be a temporary tax?”

Additionally, consider how this tool could be used to hold a politician at their word. During a campaign, candidates could leverage this tool to offer promises to voters: “I’m Joe Nobody running for US Congress and I will not vote in favor of any budget that is not balanced, and I’ve placed a $100,000 bet to assure this in the Augur network!” Such a statement would be much more meaningful than the standard “I promise, I’m a good person!” assurance we get from current candidates.

Hopefully, this goes live soon. Here’s an older video showing its possibilities from 2015:

Of Course Equifax Got Hacked!

Why is anyone shocked that another data breach results in millions of people’s information falling into the hands of criminals? Stated differently, if Ashley Madison, LinkedIn, and the NSA can’t keep their data secure, what makes people think a credit score entity is going to perform any better

I don’t know the specifics of this Equifax hack and I don’t really care. If I had to guess, I’d say probably inside job. For people that think their data is secure because they trust sites like “Google” they are looking at it the wrong way. A better question is, “do you trust every single employee at Google who has access to your data?” The answer is the same as what the NSA would say if asked if they trusted all of their employees (even before Mr. Snowden left the country), of course not!

The only thing that really matters in this situation is will the public recognize the need for blockchain technology and zero-knowledge services? Steller examples include LastPass, SpiderOak, and Signal all can face data breaches with a much stronger level of confidence because even if someone gets every bit of information on their servers, it is highly unlikely anything useful could be leveraged from it.

We live in the digital age. Signatures made with pens that my 6-year-old could mimic effectively is not security. Entrusting your data to corporations that have human employees, and have human errors will ultimately have data leaked. Hopefully, today’s painful lesson will beef up the requirements to take security more seriously. It’s really pretty easy, trust no one.

Obama’s Best Day In Office?

Not that this says a lot, but I’d say today was Obama’s best day in office. There was no political gain that I can see in pardoning Manning, but most definitely the right thing to do. Did Manning break the law? Absolutely. The power to pardon exists for precisely when someone does the morally right thing and breaks breaks the law in the process.

The fact that Manning spent some time in jail isn’t a bad thing either. It should give future military whistle blowers strong reservations about leaking classified information. They should indeed ask themselves, “if I leak these classified documents, will a president and the public be willing to pardon me for it?”

In short, for a government that I consider highly dysfunctional, strangely and inexplicably, today the system seemed to work.

Chasing the Scream Points To The Next Socially Oppressed Group’s Uprising

If asked who is the most discriminated group in America, answers would probably range along the lines of: Blacks, Gays, Women, Muslims, Republicans. Yet I’d argue a different subset of the population is by far the most discriminated group, and it’s those who partake in illegal drugs. By illegal drugs I’m talking schedule 1 and 2 substances that the DEA will lock you up if you’re found to be in possession of (though Marijuana is quickly falling out of this category).

Indeed, there’s no place in civilized society for a drug user. There are literally tests conducted by employers to see if individuals fall into this undesirable subset of society. If caught with drugs, an individual faces jail-time, having their children taken away, shamed, and basically having their lives ruined.

Chasing the Scream by Johann Hari delivers a deep dive analysis of the MADNESS of the War on Drugs as well as giving a hard look at the incorrect prejudices about drug users.

The war on drugs has always stood out to me as something terribly wrong with the world. No doubt my libertarian father played a huge role in guiding my thought process, but my own independent analysis has fueled a passionate disgust against the drug war. In elementary school I published a brief letter to a local newspaper saying something like, “I’m 10 years old and I think drugs are bad, but it’s immoral and wasteful to throw people in jail who use them.” Still makes sense to me as a grownup.

Since then, I’ve continued being an enthusiastic supporter of drug legalization. I’ve published a couple other letters, read countless horrifying articles, and gotten into a couple feisty facebook debates (which I always win!). Suffice to say, I consider myself pretty knowledgeable on the subject.

Chasing the Scream reignited my passion with a recap of the author’s long journey around the world where he interviews dozens of people representing all perspectives of the discussion. Fair warning, this is not a pretty picture. This book took me abnormally long to finish simply because parts of it were quite upsetting and I needed breaks. Hearing about Billie Holiday’s troubled life and how the drug war was initiated by a disturbed man named Harry Anslinger often left me emotionally drained.

What surprised me most was how many reasons the author offered to legalize drugs that I was unfamiliar with. Going into the book, here were my basic reasons for legalization:

  • Outlawing drugs creates a black market where violent gangs thrive (Walmart doesn’t conduct drive by shootings against Target as they compete for beer sales)
  • Making drugs illegal drives up the price of drugs, ultimately forcing addicts into illegal activities to maintain their habits (Conservative estimates put 50% of theft is connected to drug addicts unable to maintain their expensive habits. Other estimates as high as 85%).
  • Drugs are more dangerous illegal than legal (Nobody buys Coronas and unexpectedly gets Tequila mixed with rat poison).
  • Cost to fight the war on drugs is tremendous, over $40 billion dollars a year.
  • It violates the basic moral principle of “live and let live.” If someone isn’t harming anyone else, then government and society have no business harassing them.

Yet this book uncovered several other arguments I had not considered. Without getting too into the details here are a few:

  • By far my biggest revelation was the overrated harmfulness of illegal drugs. If you read nothing further on this post please consider reviewing this article and note the chart which ranks drug harmfulness. The author of this study, Dr. David Nutt former advisory to the British Ministry of Defence, was fired after publishing this analysis.
  • A United Nations Study said that roughly 90% of people who use drugs, do not get addicted to them.
    • Note these two above points alone would probably change most people’s perception of the sanity of the drug war. Drugs are not as harmful as alcohol, and most people that use drugs don’t end up on the street or as zombie addicts.
  • Drugs are always more potent illegal than legal. This was evident in prohibition where beer essentially disappeared for whisky and other potent drinks. This means that while drugs are illegal, users are offered only only drugs with the highest potency. It’s like a bar that only serves drinks with an alcohol content over 40% (has anyone ever heard of the prohibition popular drink White Lightening?).
  • The annual casualties caused directly by the war on drugs is estimated at over 30,000. That’s ten 9/11’s per year.
  • Chemical addiction is not what we think, particularly with regards to heroin. What we have been taught as “obvious” is far from settled science. Here’s a short video explaining the misconception with heroin, from one of my favorite youtube channels (EDIT: I didn’t even realize that this video was actually inspired by the book until I was typing this up. I knew of this video and channel long before the book — small world).
  • In Liverpool during the 90’s, a doctor elected to give out clean heroin for free. During that time, none of his patients died. When the policy was cut, several of his patients died within a few years. Heroine’s dangers are primarily street related as people have incredibly harmful drugs distributed.
  • Psychedelics (for the sake of simplicity lets assume this is just LSD, Mushrooms and Ecstasy) have tremendously positive benefits that are being ignored. Keep in mind the harmfulness of these is at the bottom of the above chart.
    • A study from Jons Hopkins University that suggests that our brains are naturally wired for mystical experiences provided by psilocybin mushrooms (the least harmful drug on the chart above).
    • I followed up with my own research on this where Jons Hopkins has preliminary results showing psilocybin mushrooms can lead to many positive changes including potentially 80% reduction in smoking (see Ted Talks discussion here).
    • Yet another study that showed tremendous improvement on folks dealing with depression on this Ted Talks.
    • Ecstasy has tremendous potential to deal with PTSD see short video here.

There were many more stories and interviews that will feverishly compel the reader to stand up and stop the madness, even if they have no interest in doing drugs themselves. The author highlights all of the logical points but also appeals to people’s emotional concerns illustrating how legalization is the compassionate and strategic choice for keeping everyone, including children, safer.

One other part of the book that stood out was when the author interviewed a doctor who was one of the leading “experts” for maintaining the war on drugs for the UN. The author describes their encounter as civil. When the author presented some of the sensible arguments for legalizing drugs, the doctor seemed thoughtful, and eventually admitted he had not thought of such questions, so he obviously didn’t have an answer. Considering the magnitude of this — a man who is LEADING the charge for the continuation of the war on drugs, can’t even ATTEMPT to defend itself in a friendly conversation with a reporter. This is a common event. Those that favor the drug war, often haven’t thought about it beyond, “Drugs are bad. Of course they should be illegal. Having them sold in stores is crazy!” And that’s the end of the rationale.

A similar personal story occurred with my father. As a local political activist, he was often invited to debates. Once he was invited to UC San Diego to debate the topic of drug legalization. His opponent was a veteran police sergeant and stood as a formidable “street credentials” contrasted with my dad simply being a regular citizen. However, the sergeant’s opening statement was, “the drug war is a complete waste of time, anyone who says we can win the war on drugs is full of shit.” The university had just erroneously assumed anyone in law enforcement would be in favor of the war on drugs, and mistakenly booked someone to represent a side which they vehemently felt the exact opposite of (the result turned into a 90 minute seminar where my dad and his new best friend got to rant and rave on together on all the harm the war on drugs entails).

It’s truly hard to find people willing to publicly argue in favor of the drug war in an structured debate because it’s an incredibly difficult task. Any rational discussion invariably leads to the undeniable conclusion that the war on drugs does tremendously more harm than good.

I personally cannot think of a political issue where the mainstream perception is so misguided, while such a preponderance of evidence exists to reverse the policy. During the 2016 USA presidential campaign, the only legalization discussed was tepid steps towards marijuana legalization. The idea of legalizing ecstasy, LSD, or Psilocybin mushrooms is never discussed despite them being schedule 1 substances and colossally less dangerous than alcohol.

Perhaps my personal biggest disappointment with Barack Obama was his failure to enact significant change with the war on drugs. Before taking office he said, “the war on drugs has been an utter failure.” He has inferred he has tried every drug out there. Yet besides commuting only a few outrageous sentences (with some being more for stats than real change), Obama failed to even scratch the service in rolling back all the harm the war on drugs imposes.

It’s easy to think about this senseless war and become depressed, yet the author provides an inspiring comparison for hope. There’s some definite similarities to the war on drugs and discrimination against homosexuals (the author himself is gay). In 1952 when Alan Turing, one of the greatest minds of the 20th Century, admitting to homosexual activities, he faced jail-time. Today, the thought of imprisoning people for being gay is mind-boggling. By most measures, gays have won their fight for legal equality (even muttering an anti-gay comment is now met with vicious public outcry).

For decades, the public has been lied to that drug users are maniacs that are a menace to society and must be imprisoned for everyone’s safety. This is completely false just like all gays need not be imprisoned or any other peaceful people. Marijuana is starting to get folks to come out more. Here’s yet another amusing Ted Talk where a gay pot using man parallels the similar struggles. Yet there’s still plenty of other drug users who have to hide in the shadows for fear of persecution of their peaceful habits.

Like the social crusades previously waged by gays, blacks, women, and other minorities, individuals against the war on drugs must not be deterred by their slow march towards victory. The truth is on their side, while their oppressors depend on lies and deceit to maintain their war of misery. My favorite quote from Martin Luther King JR. is,  “No lie can live forever.” Hopefully as time progresses and books like Chasing The Scream continue to be read, the truth will overtake the lies and we can see an end to the staggeringly senseless war on drugs.

Rick Perry’s Fed Up! A Good States’ Rights Book Despite One Blinding Inaccuracy

I read Fed Up! Our Fight to Save America from Washington by Rick Perry while a resident of Texas in 2010. Perry was governor during part of my residency. While the book has lots of sensible limited government material, what I most distinctly remember was reading the below passage and thinking to myself, “bull shit!!!”

Excerpt from book: “Now, cynics will say that I decided to write this book because I seek higher office. They are wrong: I already have the best job in America.”

Sure enough, since publishing this statement, Perry has proven his cynics correct by running for president twice and recently accepted a position as director of the Department of Energy.

Ignoring this foolishly stupid statement (honestly, he didn’t think he was going to run for president less than two years later??) this book has some merit to it. Perry does a successful job highlighting the benefits of vesting powers to states instead of the federal government. Perry discusses how hot-button issues like marijuana legalization and gay marriage should not be determined by the federal government. Including marijuana in this discussion is particularly commendable considering Perry does not favor marijuana legalization, yet correctly advocates its decriminalization at the federal level.

While I mostly enjoyed this book, it’s a bit outdated now (in 2016) and there are countless other books that articulate the advantages of reducing the powers of the federal government. Thus I would not enthusiastically recommend this to someone unless they have a burning interest in Rick Perry personally.

Decision Points Good Recap of the Bush Years

I didn’t enjoy the George W. Bush Presidency, but I did enjoy his book Decision Points. I think he delivered a reasonably honest recap of detailing the variables that fueled his decisions as president. It also shows how politics can be a very messy game with perception. All kinds of different landmines from not looking interested at something to standing on a ship that has a banner that says “Mission Accomplished.”

However I was most interested in understanding three points when he was president.

The first was the invasion of Iraq. To this, Bush offered a pretty compelling case to defend his decision based on what he knew. Before invading Iraq, he consistently demanded for Saddam Hussein to allow for inspections for weapons of mass destruction. He said that if his demands were not met, he would invade and overthrow him. Bush describes how all signs pointed to Saddam being a “survivor” which suggested that he would comply to searches, especially if he didn’t have weapons of mass destruction. Bush also describes his dismay when he found out later that Saddam, after being captured, said that he didn’t believe Bush would really invade Iraq. Who knows how Bush would have behaved had Saddam consented to searches, but the fact that he offered clear paths for peace, which Saddam ignored, gives merit to the concept that Bush wasn’t truly driven for war.

The second was privatizing social security. I probably got too excited about this when he promised it during the campaign of 2004. Bush had both the house and senate to make the changes. Suffice to say, it didn’t happen, and instead he expanded upon entitlements my pushing out Medicare Part D. His reasons for failing to curb social security were basically that he didn’t have the political power to do it. This is probably somewhat accurate, but it certainly deviated from the confident promise he had during the campaign. Whatever. Another campaign promise broken.

My final interest was the bank bailout in 2008. Again I felt he did the exact opposite of what should have been done which is let them all fail. Instead he explains how panic stricken bankers and advisers pleaded for him to act and warned of Armageddon if he failed to “DO SOMETHING”. While I definitely think he did the wrong think, it does offer a human explanation. When panic is everyone, it’s probably difficult not to act. Conversely the act of “doing nothing” and saying, “it’s going to be okay” would probably have received incredible wrath from the media and his colleagues. While I’d like to think a strong and smarter leader would have behaved differently, it’s at least understandable how he screwed up. Unfortunately it was the tune of billions of dollars, but who’s counting?

As I said I think Bush was a “terrible-as-usual president” that we have had since Reagan. Way too mush spending, too much trying to be the world’s police officer, and continual reductions in liberty. Of course, even worse was that this just set the stage for Obama to ratchet up the spending and military policing even more.

Now that I type this all up, and think about his presidency, I’m not entirely sure why I liked this book. He was a terrible president! However he at least gives some comprehensible explanations on what he was or wasn’t thinking.

Atlas Shrugged Book Review

I read Atlas Shrugged in college, and it definitely ranks as one of my favorite novels. Growing up in a liberty-leaning household, a lot of the material was not new to me. However, for people who aren’t as exposed to liberty and especially entrepreneurs, this book will strike a cord with you that is not often heard. Common themes such as the “evil of profit” and how “the greater good” always seems to involve your pocketbook being emptied are addressed in this.

Amazingly this book is over 50 years old, and it still paints a very accurate picture of how bureaucrats and central authorities attack businesses, often with smiling, “I’m here to help” mentalities.

This book is a little long, and the author definitely deviates a little on some unrelated topics about sex that is kind of interesting, but could have been excluded in order to keep the book under 900 pages. There’s a speech that goes on for over a hundred pages that essentially retells the message the book already articulates, thus the reader can likely scan this without missing out on much.

If you tend to lean socialist and want central authorities to plan out people’s lives, this book will either change your mind, or make you angry. I have a hard time seeing a communist being able to actually finish this book.

In college, I was bombarded by all kinds of socialist material. I had an economics professor who said all prices from food, home to gas, ultimately need to be regulated by government. Ignoring how insanely oppressive this belief is (why can’t two people voluntarily decide what something cost?), this novel provides a much needed alternative perspective that impressionable college kids should be reading.

As I’m typing this, part of me wonders if a new type of book like this needs to be written for a new generation. Maybe I’ll add that to my to-do list when I have an insane amount of free time, which will probably be in 2040.

Anyway, if you haven’t read Atlas Shrugged, I would encourage you to do.