Thursday’s Forum

Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Capitalism rides to the rescue:

    In March 2021, Christie’s sold a digital collage NFT by the artist Beeple for nearly $70m (£58m). In January pop star Justin Bieber paid $1.29m (£1m) for a “Bored Ape” NFT, a graphic of a, well, bored ape. Everyone from Michael Jordan to former first lady Melania Trump was in on the game.

    Now – alongside the broader crypto market – the appetite for NFTs is so diminished that a specialized market has sprung up for collectors looking to sell off their once-valuable “digital collectibles” as tax losses to offset their income tax bills.

    A recently launched service, Unsellable, aims to help collectors do exactly that. Think of it as a distressed asset fire sale.

    “While every investment class has its losers, many of the NFTs we invested in were not only down big; they were now totally worthless … illiquid … unsellable,” the service says on its website.

    Unsellable – which says it is “building the world’s largest collection of worthless NFTs” – buys the underlying tokens for a fraction of their original price and provides an official receipt for tax purposes.

    The company then collects the NFTs into “The Unsellable Collection” – currently containing 1,600 digital collectibles – with the aim of creating the “ultimate artifact of the early days of Web3”.

    So do the lawyers:

    Yuga Labs, the company behind Bored Ape, was recently hit with a class-action lawsuit claiming it had unrealistically hyped the value of its intangible goods. The lawsuit named celebrities – and former NFT evangelists – including Bieber, Paris Hilton, Madonna, Jimmy Fallon and Kevin Hart, as co-defendants.

    “Defendants’ promotional campaign was wildly successful, generating billions of dollars in sales and re-sales,” the lawsuit, filed on 8 December in a district court in California, said.

    “The manufactured celebrity endorsements and misleading promotions regarding the launch of an entire BAYC ecosystem (the so-called Otherside metaverse) were able to artificially increase the interest in and price of the BAYC NFTs during the relevant period, causing investors to purchase these losing investments at drastically inflated prices.”

    For some reason or other, “Buyer beware.” comes to mind.

  2. Mu Yixiao says:

    Last month I bought a pair of shoes online ($100). They were highly reviewed.

    I absolutely hated them. They’re a stretch fabric that squeezed my feet uncomfortably, and didn’t breath at all. They built up massive static electricity, so that every time I touched something grounded (including the water in the sink when washing my hands!) I would get painful shocks (sometimes running all the way up to my elbow). And, after 30 days of standard wear (just around the office), the sole on one started to separate.

    Okay. Time to return them. Returns? oh… that’s only if you haven’t worn them.

    Warranty? Okay. That I can do (for a refund). Only… first you have to go through a lengthy interrogation.

    Order number: Who keeps their confirmation e-mail?

    Purchase date: Go back to bank receipts to see when I used my card.

    Style: Okay.

    Color: Umm… why?

    Production dates: Pull out a magnifying glass to read the (and I am NOT kidding) 3pt font on the label inside the shoes.

    How do you wear them: One of the options was “about 2 hours a week”. Who the hell wears shoes only two hours a week? These aren’t dress shoes I’d put on for church. They’re a loafer/sneaker hybrid. And then it ramps up quickly to “vigorous athletics”. Apparently “I wear them at work for 8 hours” isn’t an option anyone thought of.

    How do you put them on: Um… what??

    How do you take them off: Oh… I get it. You’re trying to blame me for the shitty quality of your shoes.

    Please upload a photo of the damage: This is where I started swearing. I uploaded the damn picture, but…. seriously? These hipster idiots need some training in Customer Service.


    ETA: Happy Thursday!

  3. Kylopod says:

    Trump raises the specter of a third-party run if he doesn’t win the 2024 GOP nomination.

    Posting on Truth Social…Trump promoted an article from conservative publication American Greatness by writer Dan Gelernter…. Gelernter compared Trump to the late President Teddy Roosevelt, whose run for a third term as president and third-party bid in 1912 was widely blamed for splitting Republican ranks and handing over the election to Democratic candidate, Woodrow Wilson.

    Although Gelernter admits that Trump running as a third-party candidate in 2024 would likely meet a similar fate, he declares his allegiance to the former president and suggests a Republican loss would teach the “corrupt gravy-train” a lesson.

    Do I think Trump is making serious plans for such a move right now? No. Just like in 2015 when he refused to commit to supporting the eventual GOP nominee if it was anyone but himself, what he’s doing in sharing this post is holding the nightmare scenario over the party as a threat–make me nominee or else.

    I’m also not sure Dan Gelernter really means it. The historical example he gives seems to undermine his own premise. He admits he isn’t a fan of TR (Progressive Bad). Furthermore, what does he think TR accomplished with his run, other than throwing the election to Wilson? It’s true that the 1916 GOP candidate, Charles Evan Hughes, was chosen in part to satisfy the Progressives. But the Progressives didn’t win in the end–when the GOP finally recaptured the White House in 1920, it was with a candidate squarely from the conservative wing. That’s a big part of the reason the GOP became predominantly a conservative rather than a progressive party in the 20th century. TR’s 1912 third-party bid can only be judged a failure, not just in terms of bringing TR back to the White House but in terms of his broader ideological project in remaking the GOP.

    And how does this apply to Trump, anyway? Gelernter says he likes DeSantis and thinks he’d make a fine successor to Trump–it’s just not his turn yet! Well, if so, what long-term goal would be served by causing DeSantis to lose to the traitorous Dems in 2024? He says it’s to teach the Republican establishment a lesson. But what lesson is that, might I ask? This isn’t a disagreement over the party’s ideological direction. It’s a tantrum over King Trump being denied his rightful return to the throne. I suppose if this scenario were actually to play out and Biden or whomever won as a result, the GOP would have no choice but to go with Trump in…2028?

    As happy as I’d be to see this scenario actually happen, color me skeptical that even most Trumpist commentators are really going to convince themselves this is what they want.

  4. Mu Yixiao says:


    I still have NFC what an NFT actually is (other than a scam).

  5. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    If they make it difficult enough, they hope you abandon the quest to get a refund. Posting a negative review on twitter/facebook or the like, may save others from wasting their money.

  6. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Hippocratic oath my ass:

    Hospital staff in Kansas called the police on a man dying of cancer who was using cannabis products to cope with his symptoms, in an incident that has since sparked outrage and renewed calls to rethink the state’s strict cannabis laws.

    The encounter took place in mid-December, when police in the city of Hays say two officers showed up at the cancer patient’s hospital room to issue him a citation for a drug violation. Police also took away a vaping device and cannabis product that hospital staff had already confiscated.

    While the police department later dropped the citation, which would have required the cancer patient to appear in court, reports of the incident fueled debate over the continued criminalization of cannabis in Kansas, one of the three US states that has not legalized the product in any context.

    While he was glad the charge against his father was dropped, Lee Bretz, the patient’s son, said the incident was “humiliating” for his father and left him “pretty upset”.

  7. Sleeping Dog says:


    Trump is capable of trying the 3rd party route, but too incompetent to negotiate the details.

  8. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Mu Yixiao: Order number: Who keeps their confirmation e-mail?

    Slowly raises hand from the Group W bench… 😉

  9. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: True. But now that it’s become a tax scam who knows how the “values” will evolve.

  10. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Kylopod: As happy as I’d be to see this scenario actually happen, color me skeptical that even most Trumpist commentators are really going to convince themselves this is what they want.

    TBH, I am not so skeptical. After all, Gelernter has himself convinced that trump (!!!) is the answer to the problem of the “corrupt gravy-train” that is today’s GOP. I’m pretty damned sure that most of the MAGA crowd are in agreement on that point. After all, they’ve convinced themselves he is the chosen one sent by God to rescue America.

    (the above is said with some sarcasm, but the sad part is I can’t be sure how much is sarcasm and how much is truth)

  11. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Mu Yixiao: I’m just curious, does their name rhyme with “Bletchers?” (I ask because I was recently interested in buying a pair I’d seen advertised but don’t live near a store.)

  12. Kathy says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    I tend to keep all emails until I decide not to return something.

    Customer service is often as misnamed as human resources. Some companies do intend to provide service to their customers, but more, IMO, use such departments to avoid litigation and keep customers from obtaining more than the minimum service. You’re dealing with the latter.

  13. CSK says:

    @Kylopod: @OzarkHillbilly:

    Doesn’t Trump want to “burn it all down”?

  14. Mu Yixiao says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    Nope. It’s Vessi.

  15. Kathy says:


    Really, how else do you expect large numbers of people to drink the Kool-Aid?

    Fanatical cults may not intend it, but tend to wind up in mass immolation, real or metaphorical (both in the case of Germany). The leader can’t fall alone, they must take everyone else with them .

  16. CSK says:
  17. Liberal Capitalist says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    I still have NFC what an NFT actually is (other than a scam).

    As an expert in Customer Contact and Digital Transformation, I was stunned when they came up with the idea. I mean, the scam is RIGHT THERE in the NAME !!!


    Fungible means easy to exchange, one for another. Take a dollar, go to the bank, ask for a new dollar, they will give you one. Buy a used car for $10K, change your mind, likely sell it for around your $10K purchase price.

    Non-Fungible means no fixed price. The value applied is only relative to the perceived value of the item.

    Artwork is an example of an item that is non-fungible. The value can vary wildly depending on the artist and specifically on the provenance. Obscenely rich people are paying wildly ridiculous prices for items that are truly unique on this planet. for example, one will never have another Michelangelo painting… OTOH a Campbell’s Soup lithograph by Andy Warhol can be bought on eBay. I might do that purchase as it reflects the time: a snapshot of America’s consumerism, applauding the ironic… but it is still not the same as a painting valued through the centuries. And I (as the purchaser) know that.

    We are used to items that are non-fungible: stock, classic cars, real estate… all vary wildly in price due to perceived variable on which people apply monetary value.

    But a digital cartoon representation of a bored ape in a sailor outfit? One of thousands of mildly modified representations of that same ape? Easly stolen like…

    Yeah… About as non-fungible as popsicle sticks.

    You can say that I do not have the provenance (blockchain ownership trail) to possess and share it with you, but there it is, like plastic trash on the side of the highway.

    Your definition s correct: A scam.

    And don’t even get me started on cryptocurrency. Blockchain is a fantastic concept, but it is a wonderful advance of accounting, NOT a way to create pretend fungible (non-fungible) exchange methodologies.

    And yes, I will acknowledge that even the American Dollar is non-fungible, as values globally change compared to various international currencies. But it is an agreed upon form of transfer of perceived values.

    To quote Danny Devito’s character from the 2001 film “heist”:
    Everybody needs money. That’s why they call it money!

  18. Mu Yixiao says:

    @Liberal Capitalist:

    I get the non-fungible part (sort of), but… what are they actually buying? As far as I can tell, they’re paying for a bit of code that says that something exists–but they’re not buying the actual thing. They never have possession (either physically or legally) of the actual thing.

    Am I understanding that correctly?

  19. Kathy says:

    Suddenly it’s Spring/Summer of 2020 all over again.

    China is having a belayed explosion of COVID cases, other countries are either restricting flights from or through China, or demanding negative OCVID tests from arriving passengers.

    Italy is doing arrival tests, and quarantining positive cases. This may aid in determining the extent of the COVID wave in China, and more important to see which variant of the trump virus is circulating more widely there. Hopefully it’s one we know, and not a new and more transmissible one.

    This shows the lockdowns did work in containing the spread. Unfortunately, the Communist government was too heavy handed and the lockdowns proved highly damaging. Worse yet, there was no plan B, such as testing and tracing, to implement instead. ergo, spread at turmpian levels.

    They didn’t even carry out an effective vaccination campaign. Not only are the homegrown vaccines less effective, a large proportion of the population hasn’t taken them. The only thing worse than a low-wfficacy vaccine is no vaccine at all.

  20. Jen says:

    That idiot clown Jim Jordan tried to imply that Buttigieg wasn’t working on the Southwest meltdown…Sec. Pete responded with that calm combo of gracious shade he is so good at delivering.

    I’m sure there are Congressional Republicans who aren’t completely worthless, but it’s getting harder than ever to find them.

  21. OzarkHillbilly says:

    via commentor rikyrah over at BJ:

    Gary Delaney is on tour now

    I bought a Russian advent calendar. Every time you open a window an oligarch falls out.

  22. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Jen: They’ll always be worth 23 cents.*

    *i think that was once the value of the chemicals in the human body, but I haven’t adjusted for inflation so probably more now.

  23. Mu Yixiao says:


    Just wait. Spring Festival is the week of Jan 21 to 29. One billion Chinese will be traveling–both domestically, and internationally*. For many migrant workers, this is the only week out of the entire year that they get to see their wives and children. 40-hour, standing-room-only train rides are common.

    This has the potential to be a mega-spreader event.

    * That’s the annual average ticket sales from pre-COVID, and does not include those who drive their own cars.

  24. Kathy says:

    @Liberal Capitalist:
    @Mu Yixiao:

    Today it’s perfectly possible to create a digital copy of the Mona Lisa, which would faithfully reproduce every last detail down to the brush strokes. getting the colors right is the biggest challenge, but it can be done.

    With that digital copy, you can print as many physical copies as you want, in any size you want, with as much detail as you want, in varying levels of quality as well. You could print a million tiny Lisas on keychains, or one gigantic Lisa to cover the side of a skyscraper.

    So, what’s the added value of the original that hangs at the Louvre?

    I don’t mean monetary value, but all else: esthetic, historic, intellectual, spiritual, etc.

    Or take something else. The Narmer Palette. It’s a very old artefact, dating from around 3,000 BCE, which contains some of the earliest depictions of Egyptian kings and hieroglyphs. Beyond all that, it’s in excellent condition (seriously, look at the pictures).

    It’s a priceless historical artifact. It has also been digitized to the tiniest details. One could make an exhaustive study of it without ever being within a thousand miles of the original. Hell, send it on a radio message to another galaxy, and if it all gets through and is reconstructed properly, aliens millions of light years away could study it as closely as they wanted.

    Again, what added value in the original?

    Well, it’s the ultimate backup, should all photos, videos, and digital recordings of it be destroyed or unavailable (nothing lasts forever). NA d you can’t make a chemical or isotope analysis of the material without the original.

    But any other value, be it of La Gioconda, the Narmer Palette, a Shakespeare autograph, etc. is entirely subjective and wholly intangible, even if you have the object in your hands.

  25. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    I still have NFC what an NFT actually is (other than a scam).

    NFTs are really an attempt to solve the biggest problem with crypto: namely that you can’t actually buy anything with crypto, so even if you have a ton of money on paper if HyoptheticalCoin, there’s no way to cash out unless you can convince someone else to buy in. Which basically makes crypto a ponzi scheme

    So the real goal with NFTs was to create something you can only buy with crypto so that people would have a reason to put more money into crypto.

    Line Goes Up – The Problem With NFTs

  26. CSK says:

    Shooters Grill, the gun-themed restaurant owned by Lauren Boebert, has shut down, soon to be replaced by…Tapatios Family MEXICAN Restaurant.

    Ha. Ha. Ha.

  27. Liberal Capitalist says:


    Interesting conversation… Technology destroys perceived value. But that is ultimately what all the San Fransisco tech startups werw preaching for the last 10 tyears.

    But ultimately, if you realize the tao that everything taht is owned and exists will some day end up in the trash, then the perceived value of everything is zero.

  28. Kathy says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    This would be a great opportunity to institute a vaccine passport. If it weren’t several months too late. I mean, you can’t do something this massive on three or four weeks’ notice and expect it to work minimally well.

    The big concern is how many people in China will die of the trumpy disease, and of the effects of full hospitals an overextended healthcare workers not being able to tend to other matters.

    The second biggest concern is new variants popping up, even better at evading immunity from vaccines or prior infection.

    BTW, I should add to my post above that lockdowns might contain the spread, but will not end it. To end things you need a high vaccination rate. This either stops infections or makes the virus less lethal. Effective treatments would be the second line of defense. And masks along with vaccines on the front line.

  29. MarkedMan says:

    Brooks has a column in the NYT today that got me thinking, specifically this quote:

    In his book, “The Strange Case of Donald J. Trump,” the eminent personality psychologist Dan McAdams argues that Trump could continually lie to himself because he had no actual sense of himself. There was no real person, inner life or autobiographical narrative to betray. McAdams quotes people who had been close to Trump who reported that being with him wasn’t like being with a conventional person; it was like being with an entity who was playing the role of Donald Trump. And that role had no sense of continuity. He was fully immersed in whatever dominance battle he was fighting at that moment.

    McAdams calls Trump an “episodic man,” who experiences life as a series of disjointed moments, not as a coherent narrative flow of consciousness.

    I get this, totally. I’ve always felt that Trump was somehow incomplete, and that’s one of the reasons why he doesn’t really make me angry or engender my hatred. Gingrich, Boebert, Gaetz, McCarthy, etc are vile human beings, and I can get myself worked up against them. But Trump is… something else. I don’t think he is human in the way the vast majority of people are. I think he was born without something crucial, or somehow lost it at a young age. So in the end my frustration and rage are reserved for those complete but horrible human beings who promoted him or rode his coattails.

  30. Liberal Capitalist says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    I get the non-fungible part (sort of), but… what are they actually buying? As far as I can tell, they’re paying for a bit of code that says that something exists–but they’re not buying the actual thing. They never have possession (either physically or legally) of the actual thing.

    Am I understanding that correctly?

    Yes and no.

    Yes, there is a digital representation. And as you saw in the link provided, that digital representation is easily stolen.

    So, they DO get a copy of that digital representation that they can display on their vertically mounted flat screen TV in their version of Uncle Scrooge’s Money Vault.

    The difference is when they say: “I own that”, they in fact do, because of the provenance that is provided to them by the blockchain trail that exists from the time of creation and every transaction that occurred relating to that piece of digital artwork.

    In theory, the artwork is really nothing (hence the thousands of slightly modified bored ape pictures)… but those who make this purchase perceive that they are buying two things:

    1) That specific provenance and the ownership of something that they perceive is unique in the world.

    2) And specifically, for the “Bored Ape Yacht Club” NFT offering, they are getting access to a web-based bulletin board of like-minded individuals, where they can exchange ideas and … whatever they do there.

    Now, you can say (and I do s owith both absolute disgust and abandon) that neither of these points have ANY perceived value. To me.

    But then again, is this worth US$38M?

    Everything that has a value placed on it should be questioned. Because one day, no matter what or how valuable, it will be in the dustbin of history.

    But, having said all that… NFT really are an “emperor-has-no-clothes” type of thing. right now. without question.

    People that didn’t understand how things really worked suddenly were sold on the idea of the perceived value of that unique artwork and that because of its format and provenance through blockchain would become more valuable over time.

    They were wrong.

    If uniqueness were really the way to value an item, then every grain of sand on the beach and every snowflake falling from the sky would be priceless.

    Like I said: about as fungible as used popsicle sticks (and likely even less so).

  31. Jay L Gischer says:

    @Liberal Capitalist:

    Blockchain is a fantastic concept, but it is a wonderful advance of accounting, NOT a way to create pretend fungible (non-fungible) exchange methodologies.

    I fervently agree with the primary point of this statement. However, I’d like to refine what you’re saying a bit, and take the opportunity to do a bit of education.

    Blockchain, and thus NFTs and cryptocurrency, is built on a set of digital cryptography ideas that really are powerful and valuable. They will be with us and aid us probably for a long, long time.

    Blockchain in specific as implemented has some serious problems. The first problem is scaling. Blockchain transactions require every other participant (or at least a majority of them) in the chain to validate that transaction. Therefore, transactions take a long time to settle. It can be (I am told, I don’t touch this stuff) on the order of an hour, or more. This does not make it suitable for retail-style transactions in the slightest.

    The second has to do with how power is distributed in a blockchain. Much is said about how power is distributed and transactions are “voted” on. Which they are. However, votes are not one per person, they are one per server. This is more or less equivalent to one per dollar. People with massive server chains have enormous influence over which transactions get ratified.

    And as it turns out, this isn’t hypothetical. The Bitcoin chain split when some fraction of it refused to ratify certain transactions. What do you suppose happens – what did Adam Smith predict will happen – when economic actors can be anonymous and unaccountable?

    It disappoints me to no end that so many Silicon Valley figures have embraced blockchain who really ought to know better. Marc Andreesen, for instance – the inventor of the internet. Heavy sigh.

    There’s an old saying – power abhors a vacuum. Blockchain is touted as having no central authority (You know, it’s the old “Federal Reserve Bad!” thing). But if no one is in charge, some will see that as an invitation to be in charge. Someone who has not been elected to anything and may be completely anonymous.

  32. Liberal Capitalist says:


    This would be a great opportunity to institute a vaccine passport.

    These already exist and airlines recognize their use. you can create that and link it to your travel profile

    However America, in its usual stunning brilliance, has turned its back on vaccinations.

    Here is where you can really find truth about Covid:

    It’s a collection of independent epidemiologists that are furious with government and business ignoring the realities of an epidemic and giving you the straight data on what is now 250,000 people dying of covid annually.

    They go into greater detail. read there.

  33. Liberal Capitalist says:

    @Jay L Gischer:

    Blockchain, and thus NFTs and cryptocurrency, is built on a set of digital cryptography ideas that really are powerful and valuable. They will be with us and aid us probably for a long, long time.

    We are not at all in disagreement, and if I have appeared to disparage Blockchain itself, then I apologize.

    One of the items that I see as a perfect implementation of Blockchain’s value would be: Travel.

    An Airline ticket (now ethereal as it is, often existing on someone’s phone linked to a number that at one time represented a physical ticket) should be in a blockchain based transaction.

    Same for Airline Frequent Flier miles accrued and Hotel Points as well. All can have basis in reality and tracked to every transaction that occurred.

    In my opinion, we are in the blockchain lifecycle that is equivalent to the automotive one of “why would anyone WANT a car? What’s wrong with a horse?”.

    The California-gold-rush of blockchain, if you will. But the gold is much different than people think that it is.

  34. MarkedMan says:

    @Jay L Gischer:

    Blockchain, and thus NFTs and cryptocurrency, is built on a set of digital cryptography ideas that really are powerful and valuable. They will be with us and aid us probably for a long, long time.

    So I’ll ask the same question I’ve been asking for years now: aside from crypto-currency, what specific thing can be done with blockchain technology that can’t be done as well or better with non-blockchain solutions?

  35. Liberal Capitalist says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    Spring Festival is the week of Jan 21 to 29. One billion Chinese will be traveling–both domestically, and internationally

    Pre-Covid I was in Beijing for that… the sky was such a bright blue for the entire week. The crowds at the Palace Museum (Forbidden City) were astounding.

    Our Monday departure flying out gave us a view of the returning pollution when industry kicked back into high gear.

  36. MarkedMan says:

    @Liberal Capitalist: @Liberal Capitalist: Coincidentally, I came across the People’s CDC in this New Yorker article. This gave me pause:

    No one is in charge of the People’s C.D.C., and no one’s expertise is valued more than anyone else’s. The problems of “the pandemic and its response are rooted in hierarchical organizations,” Mary Jirmanus Saba, a filmmaker and one of the volunteers, told me.

    It doesn’t seem to me that the answer to a lack of trust in the CDC is to provide a forum for even more random experts, especially one where filmmakers are given the same weight as epidemologists.

  37. MarkedMan says:

    @Liberal Capitalist: I see that you’ve provided one answer to my question to Jay. Is the problem with airline tickets that you are trying to solve with blockchain is that currently you can’t sell your ticket to someone else, but blockchain would enable that? Because the airlines (and perhaps the government?) forbids people from selling tickets to each other regardless of the method used.

    Or is there some other plane ticket problem blockchain would solve?

  38. Liberal Capitalist says:


    So I’ll ask the same question I’ve been asking for years now: aside from crypto-currency, what specific thing can be done with blockchain technology that can’t be done as well or better with non-blockchain solutions?

    In a digital world, the key is decentralization.

    If I “own” a movie, I should be able to call it up anywhere… If I have bought into a ridesharing automotive membership, I would immediately have access to my benefits.

    in short, most of the stuff in my wallet and apps in my phone don’t really need to exist.

    Think about buying a house and the lunacy of titles ,deeds, title insurance, searches… all that crap, potentially eliminated.

    Think of the stories you read of Jewish German families that are attempting to regain the family artwork… or for that matter just me and my sister documenting what we need to regain our Lithuanian heritage via citizenship.

    The trick is: an infrastructure that has permanence will need to be built in a widely distributed manner that is recognized and respected internationally.

    We, as humans, are nowhere near that.

  39. Liberal Capitalist says:


    re: Plane tickets (or ANY purchase)

    I had not even covered teh idea of reselling a ticket… but sure, why not?

    You have NO idea how many flights I have taken where the airline didn’t post my miles, and their response was: Prove it.

    In a digital world that is nearly impossible as often a paper copy of that “thing” doesn’t exist.

    Could it be done and tracked manually by the purchaser, requiring volumes of records of every transaction I have ever made … just in case? Sure.

    I could also ride a horse from NY to LA.

  40. MarkedMan says:

    @Liberal Capitalist: If I understand it correctly, the benefit of blockchain is that if everyone used it for a given type of transaction, then you would be able to prove who owns a given thing. I’m not sure how the anonymous part works in all that. If I go to the planning office and say, “I want a permit to build a house on this land and I own it free and clear”, but all I have is possession of an anonymous digital key, how does blockchain help me prove that I have no encumbrances, or that I purchased it alone, or that I’m not just the bookkeeper for the actual corporation that purchased it who has taken the key?

  41. Kathy says:

    @Liberal Capitalist:

    Thanks! That is really useful.

    My two big problems with Biden are:

    1) Removing restrictions for vaccinated people while India was being ravaged by Delta. It wasn’t known how effective the vaccines would be against it, and it was plain it would reach every corner of the world.

    Not very effective at preventing infection, it turned out, but still very effective against severe disease and death. Good! But we had the Delta surge.

    2) Saying the pandemic’s over. That merely enabled the end of any support, real public health measures (such as they were), and even basic caution.

  42. MarkedMan says:

    @Liberal Capitalist: Perhaps. But airlines offer mileage programs so they can develop a one to one relationship with a customer. Over the years they have evolved to be highly dependent on your membership level at the time of purchase, the class of ticket, whether you purchased it from them or a partner airline and so on. Not to mention credit card transactions. Adapting blockchain seems to imply that a completely anonymous person could show up with ten years worth of proof of tickets and demand the airline unwind all of that and figure out how many miles this person is owed. Not to mention they may be simultaneously fielding frantic calls from someone they had just lost all their miles due to a phishing scam. Honestly, given these additional headaches, I suspect they would just drop their Frequent Flyer program.

    And let’s just set aside the fact that an airline is literally required by law to verify your identity whenever you fly.

  43. JohnSF says:

    You can reproduce the image but not the picture.
    To do the second requires the capacity to recreate the physical and chemical composition of the original, down the perceptible limit.
    It is possible to distinguish between an original (especially an oil painting) and a very high-grade digital replica side by side. My workplace did some collaboration in art scanning with Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery a few years back; the difference is easily seen if you view from close; though easily missed at a casual glance.
    Some thing are less obvious; but its the material that’s often the giveaway.
    eg Digitizing a photo on a glass plate onto a glass plate is not something I’ve ever seen done.

    Doubtless close to atomic level scan/replication will become possible, but we’re not there yet.

    Re Narmer’s stele: the image and data is there. But has it yet been replicated in stone?
    To that level of exactitude, I mean.
    I know stone copies are available, but are they yet at the point of being indistinguishable to an expert?

  44. Jay L Gischer says:

    @MarkedMan: When speaking with non-experts, as I assume I am here, I assume “Blockchain” is a blanket term that includes all manner of digital cryptographic techniques. We use these techniques every day. They implement HTTPS, secure internet. They implement user authentication, so you can “sign in with Google” or Facebook, or a few others (Github!). The internet would be far more of a mess without them.

    The valuable thing about blockchain specifically is that it creates a digital ledger that is public and can be examined but is immune to most forms of tampering. It also has no “single point of failure”.

    Thing is, we’ve been doing real property transactions for hundreds of years with mostly very high fidelity. Recording a deed takes time, and requires a central authority – the county registrar of deeds or equivalent.

    The dream of the blockchain is that you can do away with that. Not bother with recording deeds physically. (And physical deeds can be tampered with, or lost). I am deeply skeptical of that, as it turns out. The issues are social and legal, not technical. But it is possible that it could be used to streamline this kind of process and make it more secure.

  45. MarkedMan says:

    @Jay L Gischer: I’m not a naysayer on this technology. I’m fully aware of just how many things are just gimmicks… until they are essential and seen this transition numerous times in my six decades on planet earth. But I’ve had very well paid people yammering at me for a decade over how obvious it is that the blockchain will revolutionize everything but who were unable to posit one concrete example that makes sense, yet alone point to one in the wild. So I’m really curious – assuming the blockchain technology really delivers on the ability to track all transactions in an unalterable, unarguable and unscammable way, it sounds like something that could be useful for… something. I just haven’t heard anyone describe that purpose yet. And I’m very skeptical of the “it’s hard for a layman to understand” argument. Lots of things are hard for a layman to understand in terms of how they work, but their usefulness is usually easy to understand. Automatic transmissions. Frequency hopping spread spectrum radio transceivers. Vaccines.

  46. grumpy realist says:

    @Jay L Gischer: blockchain takes too long to verify; it’s an energy hog; it’s only potentially useful under circumstances where the infrastructure necessary for it would have been blown up; and if there’s no centralised authority, who do you go to when you have a complaint?

  47. Kathy says:


    The image is the essence of the picture.

    You can make a study of the Mona Lisa, or the Narmer Palette, or the Pieta, or Girl with a Pearl Earring, or Tutankhamun’s tomb, from recordings and reproductions alone, then that’s as good as having the original.

    You can’t study lunar rocks without the rocks, because unless you can crack them open and conduct other physical, chemical, and radiological analyses on them, you won’t learn most of that there is to learn from them. That’s why we send sophisticated instruments to Mars on probes and rovers, and why scientists want a sample return mission or five hundred.

    A picture, or a sculpture, or a movie, are more than their physical incarnations. A Martian rock is nothing more than a rock. The Mona Lisa is more than oil paint on canvas (or whatever materials were used). And the esthetic, historical, intellectual, etc. values of it are as real and plain on a reproduction as on the original.

    Therefore owning, seeing, holding, touching, the original is of limited demonstrable value. It may be of incalculable subjective value, and that includes the monetary value.

  48. Mister Bluster says:

    Pele has scored his final goal.

  49. Kathy says:

    About airlines and NFTs and blockchains, now and then some revenue management pundits bring up the need for airlines to embrace blockchain. I don’t usually read them, because the subject is not high on my list of interests, and I’ve trouble following sometimes.

    On selling airline tickets person to person, that’s not easy but I don’t know whether it’s against the law or not. Interjet, in its heyday, allowed a change of name for all tickets for a nominal fee (US $15 at the time). Not a correction, which could be done for free, but a change. Whether it was because you gave the ticket to someone else or sold it, made no difference.

    I can venture to say it would be problematic to allow individuals to sell tickets they’ve bought. For instance, usually it’s cheaper to buy tickets months from a flight than days from it. Without going into detail, some people will try to game this and scalp tickets for popular flights.

  50. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Kathy: Working in warehousing, most of my customer service issues centered around explaining to customers why we weren’t providing the service they had requested. I tried to be as gentle as possible in my explanations (contrary to my normal face-to-face relationships with some customers), but there’s really no particularly gentle and face-saving way to say “the driver didn’t deliver your order today because he’s not authorized to accept your NSF check–it’s all connected to that ugly ‘cash only’ notation on your invoice.”

  51. MarkedMan says:

    @grumpy realist:

    blockchain takes too long to verify; it’s an energy hog

    As I said above, I’m not a naysayer, just a skeptic. These two are fixable. If we find a real use.

  52. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Mu Yixiao: I must be living right. I’ve never attracted their attention. Fingers crossed that this conversation doesn’t change that. (Curse you AI algorithms!)

  53. MarkedMan says:

    @Kathy: You can walk in front of a particular window in the Annapolis Statehouse and look inside. A quarter of a millennium ago George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Benjamin Franklin were standing on the other side looking out. In this case there isn’t even an image, just a not very good piece of glass. But I was still overcome with a sense of profound history when the tour guide told us about it. And every time after that when I walked buy and saw it, even from a distance, I felt awe.

    What you say makes sense, logically. But for me at least, not emotionally.

  54. Mu Yixiao says:


    You can make a study of the Mona Lisa, or the Narmer Palette, or the Pieta, or Girl with a Pearl Earring, or Tutankhamun’s tomb, from recordings and reproductions alone, then that’s as good as having the original.

    Not true. There’s more information in a old oil painting that just the image. There have been a couple articles this year about researchers finding paintings hidden beneath paintings by using different imaging techniques–which were not available a few years ago. Other researchers are uncovering small sections that had been painted over, revealing historical details that change the context of the painting, as well as our understanding of that period in time. And yet more researchers are studying the physical materials themselves and finding information on atmospheric and environmental conditions based on the degradation of the materials, and what’s trapped in them.

    None of this is possible with even the most detailed digital representation of the image we see.

  55. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @CSK: And in another stroke of irony, “Lauren Boebert lost the rights to her pro-gun restaurant’s logo—now it’s being sold as an NFT
    The conspiratorial congresswoman forgot to renew her trademark.”

    That Karma do be a beyotch, don’t she?

  56. MarkedMan says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: Pretty funny. And coincidentally, a perfect example of why just having a record of a transaction via use of blockchain technology doesn’t really prove anything. When is the trademark (I assume it was trademarked, not copyrighted?) come up for renewal and will the current holder pay the fee? What country did the transaction take place in, and what rights are bestowed on an NFT transfer with respect to trademark possession? Assuming the new holder doesn’t register the change in ownership with the Federal government can they use the NFT to sue a violator? If they do attempt to register the change, will the feds take an NFT record as proof or will they require the old fashioned kind? Perhaps the holder sold the rights to the trademark later via old fashioned means. How does that affect the NFT?

    What I assume actually happened is that the trademark itself is still held by the organization mentioned in the article and it is only the NFT of that logo that has been sold. How you would differentiate between use of the NFT of the logo and use of the trademarked digitized logo is left as an exercise for the user.

  57. CSK says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    I wanted to go immediately to Toby Morton’s website, but it appears not to exist.

  58. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @MarkedMan: Rereading the article, it appears that the new owner of the trademark is offering to sell the trademark to a single entity. The end of the article notes that so far no one has bid on it and that the auction being held for its sale will have a cutoff date. I think offering it as an NFT may be trolling Bobert. At least that’s what it appears to be. The sale itself looks to be a rights transfer transaction plain and simple.

  59. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @CSK: Opening the link from inside the tweet from Bobert’s office itself opens up Toby Morton’s Twitter account. I don’t play Twitter enough to grok whether T_L_B_ dot com is an actual website, merely a subtweet of his actual Twitter account, has, in fact, been shut down, or even if he’s trolling both Bobert and Elon simultaneously.

  60. MarkedMan says:

    It’s gotten to the point that you really don’t want to be walking alongside any hotel with a Russian Oligarch inside, lest they hit you on their way down from a 60th story window. Whenever I hear news about the latest victim it’s always implied or inferred that the Oligarch was insufficiently loyal to Putin and/or the Ukraine war and this was the price. I suspect the answer is more prosaic: Putin needs money more than he needs these particular Oligarchs, and they have money. I would bet dollars to nickels that he is seizing their assets afterward.

    Henry VIII suddenly found the Catholic Church was insufficiently orthodox, and proceeded to seize all of their assets, a huge fortune at the time. Louis the XIV did the same for the Huguenots. And when Philip IV found himself deeply indebted to the Knights Templar, God’s Right Arm and Defender of Christendom, he suddenly found that they were infested with Satanic practices and needed to have all their assets confiscated posthaste. The examples in history are legion. I suspect Putin and his Oligarchs are merely the latest iteration.

  61. Kathy says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    It’s well known artists ran short of material, or lacked the means to acquire more, and recycled older works now and then. It’s also well known that artists revise their work. granted it might be an interesting datum to know where and when.

    As for clues to atmospheric conditions, that’s not strictly speaking a study of a painting.

    I said there are uses for the original. I did not list them all. Conceivably we may find even more as technology advances. the first discoveries of reused paintings were done by X-rays, I seem to recall. So that’s always possible.

    But let me ask you this: if you really, really, really wanted a painting way above your means, but could easily afford a dozen accurate reproductions of it, would you get a reproduction?

  62. JohnSF says:

    Amazing, and terrifying, video footage from Russian (?) forces driving towards Bakhmut.
    Christmas Day 2022.
    “Welcome to hell on earth”.

  63. grumpy realist says:

    @Kathy: I’ve collected a lot of original art over the years. The one I got a reproduction of was the Bronzini Venus. Aside from not being able to afford the original, it’s also much, much larger than what I could put on my wall….

  64. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @JohnSF: Both sides call Bakhmut the “meat grinder” for a reason.

  65. Jen says:

    Peter Mallouk
    Every bag in America trying to avoid getting on a Southwest flight

    That’s funny!

  66. Gustopher says:

    @Liberal Capitalist:

    An Airline ticket (now ethereal as it is, often existing on someone’s phone linked to a number that at one time represented a physical ticket) should be in a blockchain based transaction.

    Same for Airline Frequent Flier miles accrued and Hotel Points as well. All can have basis in reality and tracked to every transaction that occurred.

    These examples have a clear master record holder — the airline or the hotel. Any attempt to convert the digital item into an actual good or service has to go through them.

    I also don’t really want to live in a world where airline tickets are resellable, and where there are speculators cornering the market on seats between Seattle and San Francisco, for instance. We basically have that with concert tickets for a lot of high profile events, and it only makes the middlemen happy.

    It’s an interesting technology, but I haven’t seen a compelling case for actually using it yet.

    Even the commonly cited case of real estate titles — in the end, the connection between the digital ownership and the physical occupation of the land is enforced by the state, and disputes are settled through the courts, leaving the government the natural holder of the master record — especially since ownership comes with obligations (taxes) where the government needs to know the current owner to enforce those obligations.

  67. Jay L Gischer says:

    @MarkedMan: Blockchains are an implementation of a decentralized ledger – a way to determine ownership that isn’t based on a central authority. It is a process similar to the process we use for real estate ownership and vehicle ownership. In some ways it is better, but in other ways it is not.

    “Blockchain” normally refers to the system that was first used to implement Bitcoin, and has been used for all the other cryptocurrencies and NFT’s since then. It is inherently bad at scaling in two ways: First, any stakeholder – any Bitcoin or fractional bitcoin holder – is asked to verify each and every transaction. This is not something that can be streamlined, it’s inherent to what we call “blockchain”. Mining currency is meant to get harder and harder and take more and more resources. This is intended to counter inflation. This is what makes it such a resource hog. This is why it was almost impossible for a couple years to buy a graphics card retail, since graphics cards are number-crunching monsters which are really good at bitcoin mining.

    So, in this sense “blockchain” cannot be optimized or those problems “fixed”. What will happen is cryptographic techniques will get more and more useful and widespread, but I think we will also continue to have fiat currency, county registrars, and DMVs. E.g., centralized authority is probably here to stay.

  68. MarkedMan says:

    @Jay L Gischer:

    cryptographic techniques will get more and more useful and widespread

    Total agreement there. The fact that you can encrypt your iPhone remotely if it has been stolen, or that you can securely sign into accounts no matter where you are in the world, or that properly designed medical devices or cars can’t be hacked into and overridden (and poorly designed ones can!) all leap to mind. And on the backend, invisible to regular users, I’m sure there are even more.

  69. Kylopod says:

    What do you know? Now it turns out that George Santos, on top of everything else, has pulled a Rachel Dolezal.

    Online sleuths also dug out 2020 tweets on Wednesday in which Santos claimed to be half-Black during the height of protests following George Floyd’s murder.

    Santos had invoked Dr. Martin Luther King’s name while criticizing a “black anthem” as being “divisive,” adding that his “biracial” background was the primary reason for his opposition.

    When someone replied to ask how Santos was biracial, the 34-year-old responded that he was “Caucasian and black,” despite no other public mention of his purported Black ancestry.

    At this point I’d be totally unsurprised if he claimed to be descended from Japanese-Americans in an internment camp. Is there a box he hasn’t ticked?

  70. Jax says:

    @Kylopod: He’s even ticked the “survived fake cancer” box, from what I can see on what’s left of Twitter. 😛

  71. Gustopher says:


    Today it’s perfectly possible to create a digital copy of the Mona Lisa, which would faithfully reproduce every last detail down to the brush strokes. getting the colors right is the biggest challenge, but it can be done.

    Brush strokes have height, the canvas has texture, and the surface of the painting has its own levels of reflectivity.

    A painting exists in a space and interacts with the space in a way that the digital copy cannot.

    There are paintings by Mondrian that are basically on the verge of falling apart because there was tape used and the adhesives are breaking down. So the painting is also a function of time, with a lifespan.

    Whether this is good or bad is probably a matter of the painting, and whether the artist was thinking about this at all.

    Also, can a digital copy quite capture the disappointment of seeing Dali’s “The Persistence of Memory” and discovering that it is roughly the size of a large postcard, and that you can’t zoom in? Or the immense scale of a Jackson Pollock?

    A facsimile might be the only way to experience Courbet’s “Stonecutters”, or countless other works that were lost, bombed or are simply too far away, but it’s not close to the real thing.

  72. Mikey says:

    In a glorious manifestation of instant karma, kickboxing champion/misogynist “influencer”/darling of the “red pill” crowd Andrew Tate has been arrested by Romanian police for human trafficking.

    That’s good news in and of itself, but the beauty is in how it happened.

    Yesterday Tate Tweeted at climate activist Greta Thunberg, bragging about his 32 gas-guzzling supercars, offering to email her a list of said cars and all their huge emissions. Thunberg said go ahead, send it to “sm*************@ge******.com” which got Tate so riled up he Tweeted a silly “reaction video.” In the video he had pizza boxes on the table in front of him, which alerted Romanian authorities to the fact he was in the country and where he was.

    So now he’s in custody, baited into revealing his location by a 19-year-old girl, the same age as many of the girls he abused, trafficked, and raped.

    May he rot in prison for years.



    Adding insult to injury, Tate’s sad attempt to clap back at Thunberg on Thursday may have actually led police to his front door.

    In a video rant he uploaded to Twitter, in which he smoked a cigar and tried to brush off the online spat, he unwittingly displayed a pizza box from a local pizza chain—alerting authorities looking for him to his presence in the country.

  73. Mikey says:

    @Mikey: Holy crap, the comment function censored that fake email address…lol…well, it’s at the first link.

  74. Mister Bluster says:

    Are eMail addresses allowed in comments?

  75. Mikey says:

    @Mister Bluster: Maybe not. I’ve never tried to post one.

  76. Kathy says:

    @Mister Bluster:

    Eff around and find out 😉

    I’ve seen email addresses posted substituting @ with”at” and .com with “dot com”

    Let’s try a fake one: ma***********@tr********.edu

  77. Kathy says:


    Okay, that worked. email addresses are censored by the blog, even if they’re fake.

  78. liberal capitalist says:


    If I understand it correctly, the benefit of blockchain is that if everyone used it for a given type of transaction, then you would be able to prove who owns a given thing. I’m not sure how the anonymous part works in all that. If I go to the planning office and say, “I want a permit to build a house on this land and I own it free and clear”, but all I have is possession of an anonymous digital key, how does blockchain help me prove that I have no encumbrances, or that I purchased it alone, or that I’m not just the bookkeeper for the actual corporation that purchased it who has taken the key?

    I’m sorry that I had to leave this very interesting discussion, but I did want to respond to the “I’m not sure how the anonymous part works in all that.” part of your comment.

    There is no reason at all that a blockchain transaction needs to be anonymous. If one wanted to (in the airline point example) it would specifically NOT be anonymous because we would want to add name, FF#, address, specific flights, etc. Same with land transactions… same with ANYTHING that inherently has value but is not fungible money.

    In my opinion, the “anonymous” part was something that was added for cryptocurrency. It enables money laundering and black-market transactions. THAT is really the value of crypto — top-end drug dealers no longer need to carry massive amounts of money… it is just digital. In a way, that is almost exactly what large banks do with their nightly deposits of digital currency to the Federal Reserve.

    As power becomes cheaper and computing power and storage improves, blockchain everything will likely become inevitable due to efficiency.

    After all, we strive for a frictionless existence. This just makes things easier.

  79. Jay L Gischer says:

    Let me try to explain why the blockchain concept does not scale well. In CS we would say it is O(n^2) or “order n squared”. This is a big problem. But to be less mathy, lets describe this in terms of politics:

    Suppose we were to have a true democracy in this country, where every citizen voted on everything. That means that maybe there are 200 million citizens who can vote? Maybe 300 million? It doesn’t really change my point.

    If each one of those citizens could bring up something for a vote any time they wanted to, and then we would all have to vote on it, we would be doing nothing else with our time but voting. This is why we have a representative democracy, not a true democracy. There are other reasons, I imagine. I’m sure Steven can tell you about them.

    But this is exactly the designed structure of blockchain. It is how it avoids having a central authority. Each actor in the system gets to put things up for vote, and needs to vote to ratify transactions. And by “actor” I mean a computer system. There’s a lot more of them than people, potentially. If actors don’t bother to vote, the system falls apart.

    In a limited scope, it works ok. It doesn’t scale well. We’ve already seen problems and as it turns out, blockchain-based systems are still a very tiny fraction of financial transactions. The more I think about this system, the worse it seems.

    In contrast, we have the system we use for SSL/HTTPS, which uses certificates, which are a fair bit like blockchain. But certificates (which are a digital cryptographic “thing”) ultimately trace back a chain of authority to a central authority. This entrenches central authority, but is much, much more efficient. The chain of authorithy works like this: “So-and-so has proved to my satisfaction that they are the legitimate owner of the domain ‘'” and then an attestation that that authority has proved its authenticity to another, higher authority. It’s a chain of authority, similar to the blockchain, but it doesn’t require constant resources from every actor in the system.

    SO, we already have “more efficient forms of blockchain” if I allow myself to speak loosely. In fact, they predate blockchain, but rely on central authority.