Category Archives: Economics & Finance

Facebook Oculus Kickstarter unholy alliance

A company called Oculus used a company called Kickstarter to get free money from the public to impress a company called Facebook.

A company called Oculus used a company called Kickstarter to get free money from the public to impress a company called Facebook.

So these companies merged around Oculus effectively.

So these companies merged around Oculus effectively.

So we merge the logos to see what the final result of this new venture is:  Foc u luser.

So we merge the logos to see what the final result of this new venture is:
Foc u luser.

big story

So one of the biggest stories in technology in the last year or so has just happened. A small company called Oculus wanted to make an attempt at a Virtual Reality (VR) headset, nothing new here various IT companies have been trying to make VR a commercial success for more than 20 years. What was new was the mode of funding and the ultimate purchaser. Kickstarter,(  which was normally used by small player to get some money to record a CD, write a book, or produce a small gadget) was used to acquire  1.2 million USD for Oculus development version VR headset (AKA goggles). One of the biggest kickstarter projects ever. From all the hype generated the dying dinosaur Facebook smells the blood in the water and buys Oculus for 2 billion dollars. Depite the Kickstarted backers getting the prototype VR headset as promised, a lot of backers were really angry, they felt that they were supporting an independent company not making a R&D donation to the oh so creepy Facebook.

 

What does this mean?

Kickstarter has had its day, people will no longer want to donate to companies unless it really a forward purchase. Other companies like Kickstarter are emerging and now and will offer a shareholding in new companies.

Crowd funding will become crowd micro investing.

Oculus will be associated with the creepy surveillance of Facebook.

Facebook will probably ruin the potential Oculus like some many previous failed attempts to make people use VR. Farmville in 3D really has very little extra appeal.

It’s no surprise that this happened when corporations got their hands on free money

 

Sony have similar VR project , but have none of this baggage and may just be more successful because of the negative publicity gathered by the aforementioned rogues.

 

No guarantees, but the future could look like this.

No guarantees, but the future could look like this.

Maxcoin pumped and then dumped

The first month of max coin, all the hallmarks of classic pump and dump. Data from Cryptsy, one of the larger exchanges.

The first month of max coin, all the hallmarks of classic pump and dump. Data from Bter, one of the larger exchanges.

A friend called me just over a month ago telling me about Maxcoin, the new Max Keiser endorsed crypto currency. I said I do some research and let him know if it was wort thinking about or investing in.

Yes it really was the new Max Keiser endoresed cytpto currency, he previously endorsed the copper lark, which you probably haven’t heard of because it was a pump and dump scheme, and few people still take it seriously.

This fact alone was warning enough, there were some rumors that the SHA-3 algorithm has NSA back doors in it, but I was out at pump and dump.

Then came the famously botched launch, a huge pump and dump and then, living in denial for the next month, thinking eventually the price will spike like it did in the early days (not realizing that was pure market manipulation). And then a flood of articles pronouncing it dead and buried, told ya so.

Currently a max is worth 1/1500th of a bit coin and the value is steadily dropping, completely defeating the entire point of a crypto currency.

MtGox Declares bankruptcy becoming MtGotcha

Image.ashxMark Karpeles the CEO of MtGox  filed for bankruptcy in Japan where MtGox is based.

Originally a site for trading Magic the Gathering (MTG) cards, Karpeles purchased the exchange shortly after it was converted to a Bitcoin trading site. MtGox under the ownership of Karpeles became the largest Bitcoin Exchange in the world handling 70% of Bitcoin trades.

For more than six months there have been complaints of extraordinary delays in cash payment for bitcoin on the exchange. This fueled rumors leading many to believe there were no actual funds available, and that the site was manipulating the price of Bitcoin and taking large speculative positions rather than simply being a exchange fee collector.

On 24 February 2014 MtGox announced it had lost 744 thousand Bitcoins due to previously undetected frauds. This would be worth 372 million dollars, 16 times the value of the company, its unlikely that such a large fraud would go undetected for such a long time in a highly computerized business with only 10 employees. MtGox’s problems have been known internally for some time and exacerbated to damage to the Bitcoin community by trading while insolvent for some time. It seems highly likely this was a deliberate fraud by one or more insiders.

More than 100,000 people have been left with a loss by dealing with MtGox 90% of them outside Japan.

So MtGox is gone and has left a massive dollar hole in the Bitcoin market, which all goes to show centralized control of a currency is the real problem.

http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/feb/28/bitcoin-mtgox-bankruptcy-japan

Dogecoins value and trade volume have been unaffected by the controversy reported a Shiba Inu spokesman.

The Ukrainian upheaval: Some geopolitical perspectives

The Ukraine is becoming a complex and fast moving conflict with multiple factions having multiple agendas.

For the latest updates: https://twitter.com/EuromaidanPR

It seems that this conflict started as a proxy war between Russia/CIS  vs  EU/US, but additional home-grown factions soon saw their chance to enter the power vacuum. The Crimea has talked of independence so what you have is at least four factions.

Some might argue Russia is simply suffering from a bruised ego, but the conflict goes deeper than this. The former USSR states are attempting to for a new USSR called the CIS, a copy of the EU incorporating many of the former USSR states.  You might be wondering why Ukraine is so important to Russia and the CIS in this plan. The answer is of course petrochemicals, not oil per se this time, but rather gas pipelines.

The Gas

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The Ukraine is strategically important have the majority of Russian gas pipelines to Europe, Without the Ukraine Russia has only one pipeline going  through  Belarus to deliver is gas to Europe. Giving Belarus a monopoly on gas delivery to Europe would make Belarus far too powerful for Russia’s liking, and far too powerful in a proposed CIS.

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Russia is of course building other pipe lines to be less dependent on the Ukraine and Belarus, but these are massive projects and take significant time and resources to complete.

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The gas deals are of course very controversial, Yukanovych and Tymoshenko were both implicated in dirty deals and skimming money off gas deals with Russia, and most recently (2010) the controversial Ukrainian decision to allow Russian to keep its black sea fleet in port of Sevastapol, on the Crimean peninsula until 2042.

The Crimea

Crimea has wanted Independence from both Russia and the Ukraine for at least a decade. The Crimean Economy is largely based on the two navies stationed there, (the Ukrainian and Russian) the industries that support the Navies.  Tourism Is economically significant being a temperate ( and Russian speaking)  beach side resort for many people of the CIS. The Crimean does not want to risk bad relations with Russia and the CIS, as the tourism money would disappear.

While Russia has other land that borders the Black sea, they have had their navy stationed In Sevastopol since 1783, briefly forced out by the Germans in WW2, so naturally feel they belong there. Sevastapol is part of the Ukraine so the Ukrainian navy feel it should belong there. As a deep water port the Crimean has some interesting advantages, because of its island/peninsula arrangement the Navy can quite easily surround and defend its port from land based attack, This makes it a natural stronghold, not something any navy would want to give up. The black sea flows through the Dardanelles past Gallipoli (which we all should know about) into the Mediterranean (of importance to the EU) and then to the rest of the world’s oceans.

This of course leads to somewhat strange situation of two navies both being stationed in the same place, almost a naval cold war.

So what this is about is the politics of the middle man.

For the Gas pipelines Ukraine and particularly Kiev are able to set the price (and quantity) of Russian gas entering the EU. Controlling this flow of energy and money between two powerful economic blocs makes for significant political power and significant risk of corruption.

For whoever controls the Crimea and Sevastopol controls the black sea and its ability to deploy naval and military force in the region. Controlling a geopolitically significant deep water seaport is an extremely powerful tool in diplomacy. Russia wants to build a gas pipeline under the black sea so will need to control the black sea to assure the project and hardly want the additional expense of building a new naval port as well.

An independent Crimea would be unlikely to create a naval fleet of its own and would likely take the highest bid to station any interested party, which could be almost anyone, Turkey, US, EU, Iran… This could become a geopolitical lottery, or just Russian Roulette.

It’s not easy being an honest middle man.

1% bankers mock us at secret party

a_560x375An incredible story from Kevin Roose

some excerpts from the story

Recently, our nation’s financial chieftains have been feeling a little unloved. Venture capitalists are comparing the persecution of the rich to the plight of Jews at Kristallnacht, Wall Street titans are saying that they’re sick of being beaten up, and this week, a billionaire investor, Wilbur Ross, proclaimed that “the 1 percent is being picked on for political reasons.”

Ross’s statement seemed particularly odd, because two years ago, I met Ross at an event that might single-handedly explain why the rest of the country still hates financial tycoons – the annual black-tie induction ceremony of a secret Wall Street fraternity called Kappa Beta Phi.

“I believe that God has a plan for all of us. I believe my plan involves a seven-figure bonus.”

 

The first and most obvious conclusion was that the upper ranks of finance are composed of people who have completely divorced themselves from reality. No self-aware and socially conscious Wall Street executive would have agreed to be part of a group whose tacit mission is to make light of the financial sector’s foibles. Not when those foibles had resulted in real harm to millions of people in the form of foreclosures, wrecked 401(k)s, and a devastating unemployment crisis.

The second thing I realized was that Kappa Beta Phi was, in large part, a fear-based organization. Here were executives who had strong ideas about politics, society, and the work of their colleagues, but who would never have the courage to voice those opinions in a public setting. Their cowardice had reduced them to sniping at their perceived enemies in the form of satirical songs and sketches, among only those people who had been handpicked to share their view of the world. And the idea of a reporter making those views public had caused them to throw a mass temper tantrum.

http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2014/02/i-crashed-a-wall-street-secret-society.html

 

http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2014/02/revealed-members-of-kappa-beta-phi.html

 

“People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public.”
- Adam Smith

The wolf of wall street: review

The somewhat autobiographical story of Jordan Belfort and Stratton Oakmont.

The story of Jordan Belfort is closely but not exactly told in ‘wolf of wall street’. Some names and facts have been changed to protect the less guilty. In the film he alludes to what Lehman brothers and other now infamous investment/banking houses were doing with derivatives ten years before it became topical (and disastrous).

Having just Acquired his stock brokers license Jordan Belfort begins working at L.F. Rothschild as a stockbroker on wall street. Two problems: 1) This Rothschild is not related to the ultra moneyed European Rothschilds, and 2) the 1987 stock market crash occurred on his first day and he looses his job with he collapse of the company he worked for.

The circus

Jordan then stumbles into penny stocks and realizes with his license to sell blue chip stocks he can then induce the much bigger market into far riskier and stock broker lucrative penny stocks. But along the way Jordan attracts a band of merciless hustlers that become his boiler room. The film Boiler room is also about this con game. If this wasn’t enough there we the drugs, The drugs were cocaine, Quaaludes and almost anything they could get their hands on, prescription or not.
A bunch of small time drug dealers/dabblers hustle their way to the top, their modus operandi is essentially no different to the larger game. Agressive con men fueled by drugs and excess in a massive ponzi scheme, what could go wrong? The creation of an artificial empire of hookers, drugs and a charismatic cult leader imploring and mentoring his followers to rake in more mammon (money). Some of the editing in the movie even shows blatant continuity errors when Jordan is wasted on drugs. The rolling down the country club stairs to get to his car is an example, though the car damage is more obvious.

Its a fugazi

The money that goes into the market stays in the market. The pyramid is not build if people start removing the blocks. Just like removing a block from the corner of a pyramids base can collapse the whole pyramid. So if you are skilled enough to get people to invest in the first place, be skilled enough to make them keep their money in the game. All the money is fake once it enters the system, destined to never be seen again by investors.

Think about it, if the broker takes a 50% commission on the sale of $1000 of stocks the clients investment has lost 50% on day 1. The stock has to reach to more than $2000 just for the client to break even. Where exactly does the money to pay investors come from? from the fugazi vortex? No, any possible gains are then plowed back into the vortex of imaginary money. So for a penny stock investor to make money their stock price must reach more than 201% of their purchase price. While some penny stocks can do this they are rare, especially when you consider that most of the stock were subject to price manipulation in a classic pump and dump system.

A fire in the side show can spread to the big-top.

Regulators really don’t care for the victims of these frauds, they just want to make sure a few operators don’t threaten the faith in larger ponzi game (con) of money printing and taxation. Its salient point that Belfort served 22 months of a 4 year sentence for frauds totaling 110 million dollars. A small penalty for stealing the life savings of thousands of people He was forced to pay back about 10 million which mostly came from the sale of his house leaving the question open, where did the other 100 million go? Remember the guy was using a variety of money laundering systems.

22 months imprisoned for stealing 110 Million dollars from his clients, that equates one month in prison for stealing 5 million dollars.

Would you be willing to steal 5 million dollars if you punishment was only 1 month in prison and there is a good chance you were able to hide a great deal of the money and have it waiting for you secretly once you were freed?

The state is less concerned when you steal from the citizenry than when you steal from the state.
The state also punishes small thefts so much more harshly than large thefts. Recall the scene where the butler has an orgy at Jordan’s apartment and his money and jewelery is stolen. Oh the horror that some one might steal from him in a day, the amount that he might steal in a minute.

So what happens when everyone decides to go home?

The financial circus was never mean to close, it was a designed as a 24/7 365 day operation with a sucker born every minute. Unfortunately the circus became so big that it altered the town. The wars it funded eventually created a population bubble. Soon the bubble in population had fewer children than before and so did those children. Soon there were less suckers born and more wise to the game and lived long enough to collect on the bets. It was known in financial circles that 2007-2009 would be a very difficult time for markets, as the baby boomers would begin to retire and their vast proportion of the worlds wealth would begin exiting the market.
The sub prime bubble just made this problem even worse and more sudden, the market was facing the perfect storm of peak oil and peak boomer investment both oil and boomers were about to go into terminal decline.

 

Its is not that Stratton Oakmont was an anomaly in the system, its just that they exposed what the financial system is: a giant Ponzi scheme run by arrogant delusional narcissists addicted to excess and hedonism.

He was not the first Ponzi operator and he wont be the last, Bernie Madoff proved that, Madoff was just more sophisticated and low key in his approach.

But the biggest Ponzi will be implode soon, fiat currency itself.

So where is he now? Jordan Belfort currently is on the sales and motivation speaker circuit and still presumably owes tens of millions of dollars to his former investors.

Facebook: Myspace with shell game

An interesting experiment…

A chilling conclusion from some insightful analysis.

 

On Facebook more followers means less people are likely to respond to what you are  trying to convey.

The more you pay to promote it, the worse it gets.

Oh that’s a deviously twisted ploy.

So not only is face book a spying tool where you volunteer information about yourself, your messages are filtered partly by technical constraints and partly by a ham fisted (possibly deliberately underhanded) grab for money. We have reached ‘peak Facebook’ hopefully it will go the way of Myspace and slowly fade into obscurity.

Ironically someone will share this on facebook and the 2 other people on facebook might look at it.

 

P.S. get a blog, built in spell checker, formatting options, and its not that much harder to use, and you get search engine traffic.

Dogecoin: up 500% this week, dark horse or underdog?

doge coin 1point 4 dogecoin up 500pc

It started out as an internet meme of a dog on a couch, made into the mascot of a cryptocurrrency ( similar in principle to bitcoin). But now this underdog has had a massive surge in value, increasing  by more than 500% in the last week. As stated it is similar to Bitcoin for those not acquainted with the Bitcoin/altcoin/cryptocurrency world, but has significant differences. It has a maximum number of coins at 100 Billion compared to Bitcoins 21 million. The block time ( related to transaction time) of just 1 minute compared to Bitcoins 10 minutes, and those lucky enough to have mined this coin are being rewarded with block reward shares of 500,000 DOGE.

Could DOGE be the dark horse of the crypto currency world, after all the first player in the golden age of any industry is rarely the one to survive once the industry matures.

For those still totally mystified, 1000 DOGE is currently trading at about $2.21 AUD, last week 1000 DOGE would have been about $0.19 AUD.

In keeping with the DOGECOIN theme all I can say is:

 WOW, Such currency!

Aurum: filling the gap between polymer notes and gold

Aurum: a thin layer of pure gold between printed polymer plastic layers.

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This is an interesting idea. Actually trading in gold in a familiar pocketable, foldable format.

Pros:

It is actual gold,  not a purported/flimsy claim to a thing.

Can be melted back down to pure gold.

Denomination are small about 1 -2 dollars AUD.

Fills the gap between ounce bars making gold more divisible.

A familiar format for people; a note of value.

Customizable note images.

protected from central bank manipulation largely.

Cons:

Could be forged with a gold appearing foil.

Gold cannot be tested with out destroying the note.

One denominations 1/20 of a gram meaning you would need approx 622 to make an ounce.

Gold is normally measured in troy ounces making the maths weird: i.e 622 to the ounce, a quarter of an ounce is 155.5 Aurum notes.

For small gold units people can and have used links in gold necklaces, more easily testable.

Unknowns:

How much premium is there on this gold format over ounce bars? 300%, very steep margin!Aurum price

will there be other denominations such as 1/40th gram or 1/10 gram, will denominations be in fractions of ounces to match the standard troy ounce system.

Ideas/ suggestions:

A system of 1/500th of an ounce ( and 1/1000th) would have made more sense, like the metric system or not, gold has been in troy ounces for a long time. No problem adding the metric equivalent along side this number, but still the unit should be based on troy ounces (1 troy ounce being 31.1 grams).

More security features, holograms, weird difficult to copy patterns etc. A way to optically (non destructively) verify that is really is gold and not a polymer illusion.

Accept Bitcoins for these, it think the trade would be brisk as a lot of Bitcoin investors we those a little late for the gold bug and may now wish to diversify.

Has any one considered silver coins with a small individual, removable plastic container, similar idea to this.

more info:

http://www.peakprosperity.com/podcast/84359/new-way-hold-gold

Soylent green government bonds: Food for thought

Food for thought?

Food for thought?

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