Wednesday, February 28, 2018

An Interview With Hashflare's Edgar Bers

Yesterday I came across an interview with Hashflare's head of public relations, Edgar Bers. I thought this would be a good article to draw my readers' attention to as it explains a few things about what Hashflare is exactly and why they do what they do.

One of the big questions that tends to come up is why would an individual sign up with one of these cloud mining services instead of just purchasing the equipment and mining themselves at home.

The answer is basically, "it isn't that simple." There's a lot involved in acquiring, operating, and maintaining a mining rig, and depending on how you make your money (what your talents are, in other words), many times it's better to outsource opportunities that are outside of your skill set:
"If you have a contract with us, it means that you have a certain amount of hashing power which equals to certain amount of cryptocurrency mined per, for example, day. In order for that equipment to mine, we have to provide electricity, the network, we have to get rid of the dust, we have to create the ventilation systems, manage everything. [We have to] wake up at night if something shutdowns overnight, electricity cuts off – maintenance work, technical operations." -- E. Bers
The full article is available here: Mining Bitcoin in the cloud is like renting a money printer and yes, it's bizarre.

Hashflare, the company that Bers is a part of, is the cloud mining service that I use and mention on my blog here often. As of this morning, through reinvestment and a few referral commissions, I have accumulated 1.19 tera hash of mining power, which before the fixed maintenance fee Hashflare charges is returning close to $1 USD per day at the present price of Bitcoin. In terms of what I've personally paid for my mining contracts versus the value of all of the hashing power that I've now accumulated (each contract represent 10 giga hash), the value of my account has grown 37.2% since I opened it near the end of December.

If you would like to explore Hashflare, please follow my referral link. It's free to sign up, and if you decide to purchase hash power it can be done with Bitcoin or by credit card (personally, I prefer to use one of my cash back credit cards for this).

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Buffett Isn't Buying

This past weekend, Berkshire Hathaway released its annual report for 2017. The part of it that really piqued my interest is on page four:
"In our search for new stand-alone businesses, the key qualities we seek are durable competitive strengths; able and high-grade management; good returns on the net tangible assets required to operate the business; opportunities for internal growth at attractive returns; and, finally, a sensible purchase price.

That last requirement proved a barrier to virtually all deals we reviewed in 2017, as prices for decent, but far from spectacular, businesses hit an all-time high. Indeed, price seemed almost irrelevant to an army of optimistic purchasers...

...The ample availability of extraordinarily cheap debt in 2017 further fueled purchase activity. After all, even a high-priced deal will usually boost per-share earnings if it is debt-financed." -- Warren Buffett
That piece right there goes to the heart of a suspicion that has crept into my thoughts on my investing plans going forward, that the markets are potentially in a period of irrational exuberance that is waiting for something to take it down. I suspect that the catalyst of that will be the Federal Reserve increasing interest rates and an end to the "easy money" policies that have been in place since the 2008-2009 crash (which, ironically, were established in response to that crash). Easy money has fueled mergers and acquisitions and stock buybacks, both being activities that can pump equity prices. Both can also be done at terrible valuations to the underlying value of the assets acquired when low borrowing costs make the cost of the debt "cheap" relative to the mediocre-to-poor returns potentially to be had on the acquired assets.

Debt acquisitions of the sizes involved here often have to be rolled over during the lifetime of the loans, however, and when interest rates rise, the music stops and there's one fewer chair to sit on...

So with the U.S. stock market hovering near all-time highs and this kind of activity rattling around under the hood, and watching the actions being taken by people like Buffett (he and Charlie Munger have allowed Berkshire's cash position to rise to $116 billion as of the end of 2017), I'm thinking that a hunch I had recently is one that I should follow: I'm going to stockpile cash for now, too.

A while back I wrote a bit about my 50 position Robinhood portfolio, which I hold for income. I have it in mind primarily for these thoughts I'm exploring. Typically I continuously invest in this portfolio as even at current market prices the yield on it is very attractive (as of this moment it's yielding 10.65% yield-to-value). Basically, when cash hits the portion of my budget that I dedicate to investing, my habit has been to do so, right away.

The dip the markets went on just a few weeks ago saw the yield of the portfolio jump above 11%. Equity prices quickly recovered after that brief event, but it may have been the initial shocks of something bigger coming, and I started to think, "hey... if we're heading for a big market correction, or even a crash, how much more could I earn on newly invested cash if I just wait a bit to plug it in?"

Of course, I don't know; no one knows the future. Maybe 11% is the best I'll ever see. Or maybe things go really nuts and I start seeing 14-15%, or more!

If we see a 2008-2009 event in the markets again, there could be some opportunities available like there were then when solid, growing yields starting out at 21% and today yield close to 40%!

So if Buffett is sitting on his hands, and it's more or less for reasons that I've lately suspected should prompt me to do the same, I guess I'll do exactly that. Once-in-a-lifetime yields are something that can only be taken advantage of if one has the means at their disposal to take advantage of them when they occur. As I wrote about the other day, I could tap into the credit that I have available to me to capitalize on such an event happening in the future, but until the opportunity actually manifests, there's no reason to take on debt (even at 0%) when I can just stockpile cash while I wait (and even earn a bit of interest on it in the meantime).

Had I been in this mindset in the past, I probably wouldn't have to bring this post to an abrupt close so I can force feed myself breakfast before I head out into the cold to go do some pest stuff, because I would have stopped trading time for money years ago...


When the time does come to execute on the thoughts I've laid out above, Robinhood is where I'll most likely make it all happen. It's a commission-free brokerage platform you can run on your smart phone. If you sign up through this link, each of us will receive one free share of a randomly chosen stock; I've actually received some dividend paying stocks this way!

Monday, February 26, 2018

Commission-Free Crypto Trading On Robinhood Live In Five States

Robinhood, the brokerage account firm that offers stock trading without commissions announced relatively recently that they were going to do the same for cryptocurrencies.

They've delivered on their promise. 

Right now Robinhood account holders in California, Massachusetts, Missouri, Montana, and New Hampshire are able to trade Bitcoin and Ethereum via Robinhood's signature mobile trading app.

The rest of us are going to have to wait (here in crypto-backwards Washington state, probably for quite a while), but the rollout will continue.

Commission-free trading is huge. Commissions create drag on your investments by starting you off in the red when you make a purchase and lower your total returns over time. When all you have is enough money to make very small investments, commissions can make it completely unreasonable to hit the "buy" button, so they can end up keeping you sidelined while opportunities move out of reach, too.

That's why Robinhood is so good for the "little guy," because it levels the playing field completely. Even if all you can afford is one share of a particular stock, or just a few Satoshis of a Bitcoin, with an account at Robinhood you can jump in with the whales and take a ride on the same big opportunities that they are; when commissions are not holding you back, it doesn't matter how much money you have to put into a trade, it's all about the percentage gain you could eventually harvest.

Robinhood is free to sign up for, and if you do so through my referral link, each of us will receive a free share of a randomly selected stock (among the shares I've received this way are a couple shares of Sirius XM Holdings (the satellite radio people), which I discovered just last night actually pays a dividend!). If you get your account now, you'll be ready when this feature becomes available where you live.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Extreme Moves In Extreme Times That I Won't Miss A Fourth Time

Among the YouTube videos I've been consuming during my slow season afternoons, I came across an interview with Tony Robbins (the name of the interviewer I never did catch). There is one particular moment around the first quarter of the interview that made me sit up and take notice: the story of how Sir John Templeton went from a $10k investment at the beginning of the Second World War to billions years later.

Here's the video; the portion I am referring to begins at the 13:57 mark:

The segment mainly focuses on maintaining an certain emotional state, which is useful but not specifically the thing that interested me.

Rather, it's the retelling of what happened in 2008-2009, a time of "maximum pessimism," the kind of time in which Templeton believed the best buying opportunities existed. In particular, Robbins mentioned one stock that plunged catastrophically a decade ago, Citigroup (ticker symbol: C), saying, "you could have bought Citibank for less than a buck."

I did a Google search for this event with the search string, "citigroup breaks a buck" and found a cluster of articles on March 5th, 2009 that mark the event.

I know where I was on that date, and I remember a key, relevant fact of my life back then: how much available credit I had, roughly $25,000 that I could have taken as 0% balance transfers from several credit cards I owned.

I got to thinking about it in terms of a "what if" extreme move I could have made, which would have been taking out that credit and buying all of the C shares I could get my hands on below $1 ($17k of that would have come from Citigroup itself, ironically), and then just working hard to pay back those loans fast while the stock recovered (if it had recovered, which it most certainly did).

If I had caught C at the low that day in 2009, I would have gotten it for .97 cents per share, totaling 25,773 shares.

Today, that would be worth nearly $2,000,000 and yield an annual dividend income of $32,990.

One extreme move about a decade ago, during a "blood in the streets" moment, and I'd easily be retired right now.

Extreme risk? Oh yeah. Something that I never could have recovered from if it failed? No, definitely not. It wouldn't have been fun if I had done this and crashed and burned, but it wouldn't have ended me. But look at what I could have gained versus what I actually gained: nothing. As they say, "no risk, no reward."

It's funny that I should have come across this little tale of what Templeton did at this point in time, when I'm starting to wonder if we're in for another dramatic plunge in the markets. Some say emphatically yes... and they're typically selling gold and/or freeze dried foods. Others say emphatically no... and they're typically selling stocks. Others look at various ratios of stocks compared to other financial products or forces (such as the interest rate set by the Federal Reserve) and opinions are similarly split.

So suffice to say, I don't know, and neither does anyone else; no one knows the future (mostly, as there were a small number that saw 2008-2009 coming, but even they could have been horribly wrong).

What I can do is be ready for such an event by having lots of "dry powder" ready to go the next time such a thing occurs (I'd call it "once in a lifetime" opportunity, but there's already been three of these during my lifetime). The next time that the markets fall like a meteor, every financial statement is dripping red ink, and everyone is running for the exits in a panicked herd, I want to be calmly walking in the other direction with a smile on my face. The next shot I get at one of these "once in a lifetime" events won't be wasted, and a few years after when the dust has settled, it could make all the difference.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Hashflare Lowers Bitcoin Mining Contract Prices 18%

This morning I logged in to my Hashflare cloud mining account to check on its activity. I have my account set to reinvest all of the Bitcoin that I am receiving via my mining contracts, and since as of late the account has been adding one contract every three days, I knew that this morning I would have another one in there.

I did, but I also noticed that I had far more of a residual Bitcoin balance in my wallet than I expected.

I checked my account history to see if maybe I had received a referral commission. It wasn't that, but while looking I noticed that my latest reinvestment cost $1.80 instead of the $2.20 that I'm used to.

I jumped over to the Hashflare pricing screen, and sure enough...

They lowered the price per 10 gigahash contract by 18%!

Right now, running the numbers through the CoinWarz Bitcoin mining calculator and subtracting the daily .0035 cent USD "maintenance and electricity fee" that Hashflare charges per 10 GH contract shows that at current rates, these contracts would return 31.8% over their one-year term. This isn't as great as at times in the past that I purchased these contracts at the higher price that I'm used to, but this is also reflective of the current price of Bitcoin and the state of mining on the network generally. In other words, it could improve dramatically.

If you think you would like to give Hashflare a try, or just take a look around and see what it's all about, please use my referral link to get there. Thanks in advance!

Friday, February 23, 2018 on YouTube: In-Your-Face Financial Philsophy and Inspiration

This is going to be a short post since it's a "dark and early" kind of day in my main gig, pest control. I have to head out before the sun comes up for a weekly visit to one of my biggest clients. I chose to do these rounds on Friday mornings because it's a bit easier to take the super early start time knowing that I'm heading into a weekend.

I digress. What I want to do with this post is bring your attention to, a what's what website of high-end living. There you'll find endless top ten-to-fifteen lists of the most expensive vehicles, watches, pets, foods, places to live, etc.

I found them through the the YouTube Channel, however, while browsing financial videos streamed through to my big plasma screen television. Their "luxury stuff" and famous personalities videos are entertaining, but it's their financial videos that I really like.

Alux financial videos are not step-by-step how-to breakdowns of trading techniques, the ins and outs of financial products, or anything like that. Rather, these are blunt philosophy of money and wealth discussions that don't give a damn about your feelings and say so in a very politically incorrect manner. It's refreshing!

Snowflakes, proceed with caution.

Here's a few of my favorite examples:

There are dozens and dozens more videos on their channel. Check them out!

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Bitcoin Regret Club: Have Fun Making Yourself Feel Bad

I came across a website this morning called, "The Bitcoin Regret Club."

It's a site that can calculate how much your Bitcoin would be worth right now had you bought an amount of it in USD on a past date of your choosing.

I actually first heard of Bitcoin right around the time that the white paper was released. I then spent several years after not doing anything with the knowledge of it; I understood what Satoshi Nakamoto and the Bitcoin community at the time were trying to accomplish, I just didn't think they could pull it off. So I didn't start buying until around 2015, which did allow me to build up a position with a very nice cost basis relative to today's Bitcoin price, but far higher than it would have been had I gotten in at the beginning.

That is why I used the earliest date allowable by the Bitcoin Regret Club calculator, the 18th of July, 2010, to explore an alternate past I might have lived:

I input $10, because I sometimes think to myself, "even if I thought back then that Bitcoin amounting to anything was a long shot, what would have been so bad about just risking $10?" There's a lot of reasons I probably didn't, aside from what I've already mentioned of my thoughts on Bitcoin in its early days. But if I had taken that tiny risk...

...then I'd have a net worth of at least $1,158,767 USD today.


For a bit more fun, the calculator can convert your hypothetical Bitcoin riches into various items for comparison, such as the number of McDonald's franchises you could buy, your net worth compared to Oprah, etc.

I converted my hypothetical Bitcoin riches into Top Ramen, and it turns out that I could have had nearly 5.8 million packets of ramen, had I only parted with roughly 100 packets worth of them about eight years ago.

Like I said though, this is just for fun. The whole, "if only I had done X" routine is mostly pointless (and depressing), because you can't go back and change what you did in the past.

You can change what you do in the future based on such experiences, however, which is why I now frequently place small bets on long shot ideas, like what Bitcoin was not even a decade ago.

Who knows, I may yet end up living in a mansion made of Top Ramen packets after all.

Anyway, if you want to try the calculator and laugh as you cry, you can find it here: Bitcoin Regret Club. Have fun!

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Graham Stephan And I View Money The Same Way

One of the ways I spend my time (mostly) constructively in the winter slow months I go through with my current main business, pest control, is by consuming educational and inspirational media.
This winter I discovered how I could stream YouTube content to my 50" plasma TV. This works great for me because for whatever reason I can pay attention to YouTube videos from start to finish when I'm relaxing on my couch, but when I'm trying to do the same at my computer I get distracted by everything.

One of my vlogger discoveries this winter is Graham Stephan, a realtor in the Los Angeles area who also dabbles in several things I'm involved in, such as stock market investing.

I wanted to highlight this video of his in particular though because it describes how I see money and why I focus so much on the future earnings possibilities of it. I don't care so much about what the money I earn can buy me immediately, I care very much about what earnings on that money can provide me for the rest of my life.

A great recent example: last week I was informed that I won bids on a couple of large contracts that will net me over four times my monthly budget requirements in a relatively short span of time. I could easily cover my household expenses for a while with the profits and buy a few toys, too.

However, those profits dropped into my Robinhood stock portfolio, which as I type this is yielding 10.75%, would throw off enough income per month to cover my water and garbage bills, the monthly insurance premium on my car, and about 10% of my average weekly grocery bill in perpetuity. I work really hard for a short amount of time, and then those needs are covered for the rest of my life.

(Or maybe I could drop the cash into my Hashflare account, which at current Bitcoin prices is tripling my investment.)

Sounds boring? Wouldn't an even bigger TV be more fun? Maybe, but look at it the way I do: I think working to pay water, garbage, insurance, and grocery bills is way more boring, especially when you have to do it over and over again. I find that covering my needs one-by-one with passive income, such that I don't have to trade my time for money to pay those bills, even though it means putting off a little fun now, ends up being a lot more fun over a long period of time.

Once the basics are covered with passive income, maybe I will just work a bit of pest control, blog, collect some rent, etc., then take the money I've earned and hop on a plane to Ibiza to stay up for 72 hours straight waving glo-sticks around. It wouldn't matter then because I'd come home to all of my bills being covered by my past work efforts.

Work as an option rather than a requirement. Using your time for what you want to do, rather than trading it for money. Doesn't that sound better over the long term than a couple of new toys now that will rust, rot, and depreciate?

Keep that in mind as you enjoy the video!

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Piggybacking Cash Back Rewards On Routine Spending: How I Passively Earn An Extra 1-5% For Investing

A lot of people who are in debt tend to arrive at the conclusion that they should eschew all forms of credit and pay cash for nearly everything. This can be because credit of some kind got them into trouble (most cases), or it can be because of advice received repeatedly while growing up.

I pay with physical cash for almost nothing, and the above conclusion about credit is wrong.

Now, to start, I'm not saying that debt is necessarily good. You've probably heard before that there is good debt and bad debt. An example of a good debt is a loan that is taken out to acquire something that cash flows more than the debt costs, the typical example being a rental property. A bad debt is a loan taken out to buy something that "rusts, rots, or depreciates," a good example being the latest video game.

(I was going to go with "a pair of the latest-fashion shoes", but since a large number of you out there now are likely to be gamers...).


Good debt = makes you money
Bad debt = costs you money

But it's not debt that I want to talk about today, except to say that what I am detailing here does require that you stay out of it for this to really be effective. My topic this morning is strategic use of credit to earn passive income through your normal, day-to-day routine spending. This is something that I've been doing for years. How? With a budget and "cash back" credit cards.

Part 1: Cards

Rewards cards typically come in three flavors: cards that offer cash back, cards that offer "points" you can exchange for goods and services, and cards that offer airline miles.

What I do requires that a card offer cash back, either as a check in the mail or a deposit to my checking account, or as a statement credit (some cards offer a combination of the above three options, but unless I can get these two specific cash back options, it's a deal breaker).

As an example, I was approved for this card just yesterday:

American Express Blue Cash Everyday Card - Click here to apply!
This is the American Express Blue Cash Everyday card, which offers 3% cash back on up to $6000 spent in grocery stores per year (1% thereafter), 2% spent at U.S. gas stations and some department stores, 1% on all other purchases, and this card has no annual fee. Additionally, new applicants who are accepted can earn $200 cash back after spending $1,000 on the card in the first three months.

This card distributes cash back in the form of statement credits only. This is an important thing to keep in mind for later.

The reason I went for this card is that of the cash back card options I have at my disposal now, it offers the best cash back amounts of them all. I spend about $6300 per year on groceries, which means I can earn $183 on that expenditure (3% on the first $6k, 1% on the remaining $300). Between myself and my business, I spend around $3500 per year on fuel for my personal and work vehicles, which would earn me another $70 per year with the 2% cash back on that category.

Total that up, and I potentially could receive $253 in cash back in a year, which on my average annual expenditures in these two categories, $9800, is a "yield" of 2.58%. If I factor in the bonus I stand to receive in the first year, it brings the total to $453 in cash back and a "yield" of 4.62%. Not bad for cash that I wasn't going to invest because I was going to spend it anyway.

So this card is specifically for my grocery and fuel purchases, because its "general spending" cash back amount is just 1%. That's why for any other type of purchase, I use another cash back card I own that offers 1.5% on general purchases (which I can switch to after I exceed $6k in grocery purchases in a year on the Amex card to boost my cash back). That particular card is a business card, which you would not be able to apply for unless you have a registered business, so I direct your attention to another strategic cash back, non-business card I also have instead:

Chase Freedom Card - Click here to apply!
This is the Chase Freedom Card, a card I've personally owned for a number of years.This one offers up to 5% cash back on the first $1500 in purchases in categories that rotate each quarter (right now it's offering 5% back on purchases at gas stations and internet, cable, and phone services; the 5% category will rotate to something else on April 1st, then again in July, and again in October). Everything else purchased with this card earns 1%. Like the Amex card I selected above, this card also has no annual fee, and it also offers a bonus for approved applicants, $150 when you spend $500 in the first three months after opening an account.

This card offers the option to take your cash back as a mailed check, by direct deposit to your checking account, or as a statement credit.

For me, this card also offers an opportunity to boost my cash back by selectively using it at key times, all having to do with the rotating 5% cash back categories.

Right now, fuel purchases are the relevant example. As I stated above, on average I spend about $3500 per year on fuel. Because on this card the 5% cash back on this category is for three months only, one quarter of my annual fuel expenditure, $875, would get me $43.75 of cash back, $26.25 more than I would get with the 2% rate on my Amex card (purely in terms of the numbers; one of the tricks Chase is using here is to offer this category in the dead of winter when people are driving less, so the totals will be different; regardless, 5% is more than 2% no matter how much fuel you actually purchase).

Later in the year, this card typically offers 5% back for a quarter on up to $1500 spent at grocery stores, offering me another opportunity to temporarily rotate away from my Amex card for more cash back.

Because the categories rotate, you do have to keep an eye on them to know what they are and when they begin and end. If you just remember to log in to your account and activate your bonus category at the start of each calendar quarter it's easy enough to stay on top of. Additionally, Chase offers reminders that can be plugged in to popular calendar apps to help you keep track.

Part 2: Budget

Recall that I said before that this is about using credit, NOT debt.

Also recall that I said I almost do not pay with physical cash for purchases. I DID NOT say that I buy things with debt.

I buy things with cash that I have, but I "pass" that cash through cards such as the two I described above.

This is where budgeting comes into the picture. Basically, cash back rewards are meaningless if you spend more on a credit card than you have in cash and end up taking on debt. Why? Because credit cards charge interest on carried balances. If you allow this to happen often enough and long enough, any cash back you might have received will be negated by the interest you are charged.

So I still save up cash to purchase things, but I do not hand the cash over at the register. I swipe my card (or dip the chip, as it goes now) and then settle up with the card issuer later, who then gives me some of that money back (and this approach can be paired up with store or manufacturer rebate offers, potentially bringing more of your cash back to you...)

Remember: cash back rewards are on purchases ONLY; you do not receive cash back on interest charges, late fees, balance transfers, or balance transfer fees.

Therefore, you must avoid excess spending with your credit cards at all costs. Whatever you charge to them must be backed by cash in your bank account so that you can pay the statement balance in full every month. If you do this, then your ordinary spending truly does net you a return. If you fail to do this, your return will be reduced, or even flip to a negative.

So you must have a budget of some form or another. How you do it is up to you (and this is how I do mine; if that works for you, great, but if not, use a method that works for you), but regardless of the particulars of it your expenditures cannot exceed the actual amount of cash you have available.

Part 3: Utilizing Your Cash Back Rewards

Recall that I said before that cash back comes in two different forms: checks in the mail or direct deposits to your checking account, or statement credits.

Between the two, I prefer statement credits. I know that receiving "free money" checks in the mail can be fun (same with direct deposits), but the reason I opt for the statement credit is that it saves some steps. Rather than spending time and money to drive to the bank or use a smart phone app to deposit my check, instead I "receive" my cash back by not having to send as much money to the card company as I've spent on the card.

Say for example that your monthly total on your card is $100, you have the $100 in your checking account (because you followed your budget), and your cash back is $5. What I do is apply the cash back to the balance as a statement credit, which reduces the amount I owe to $95, then I send the card company $95 from my checking account. The $5 that stays behind in my checking account is my cash back reward, essentially, which didn't require me to spend time depositing a check, and which I can then put to work for me in some other way that will earn me more money.

Part 4: What To Do With The Money (broke millennials, pay attention to this one)

Basically, whatever you want! If you've followed your budget and paid your cards on time, every time, then this really is extra money.

Personally, I like to put it to work in my investments. I keep a portfolio of fifty income stocks in an account I have at Robinhood, which as of this moment offers a potential 10.68% yield. So in the limited examples I gave above, if I maximize my cash back by strategically using those two cards that I own (and calculating my cash back on only those kinds of purchases, plus my Amex sign up bonus), I will receive around $515 cash back this year, which could be plugged in to my portfolio and become $55 of additional passive income per year from dividends.

Or you could go ahead and buy something that rust, rots, or depreciates, like that video game I mentioned way back near the beginning of this post.

But there's another use for these funds that could have a big impact on your life if you're like many people out there right now: by using them for reducing and eliminating debt.

It's in the news often these days that there are tens of millions of young people out there who are struggling under heavy debt burdens, particularly student loan debt. Many of you are unable to find work in the fields that your degrees pertain to, so they have essentially become the "bad debt" that I described previously, debts that cost you rather than boost your cash flow.

If this is you (or someone battling any kind of debt, it all counts here!), then chances are you're already having to budget things down to the penny, and that's good because that is key to making something like this work. And because it works by using a cash back card to purchase things you absolutely must purchase anyway, it does not require any additional funds at all. Your cash back can thus be used to pay down your debts faster.

Now, I know that some are going to balk at this and say, "but it's only $1 to $3 on every $100 spent, blah blah blah," or something to that effect. Correct, we're not talking huge sums of money here. But we are talking about more money than no money, zero, which is what you get back when you spend cash on the things you've already saved and budgeted for; something is better than nothing.

 (I put that in bold because this particular objection really annoys me. It's not at all a good counter argument to this idea, it's just laziness talking.)

Every extra penny you can bring to the fight is good. Every penny you can earn with no extra effort or expenditure of your time is better. The sooner you remove a debt albatross from around your neck, the sooner you can get on to other things in your life. Passive income is the greatest ways to do this, because in a sense it allows you to be in many places at once and to add time to your day by increasing your income while not increasing the amount of time you trade for money.

This is part of how I got rid of my student loans. I sent my final payment to "Aunt Sallie" last April.

The cards I mentioned above could be out of your reach at this point; you do need an adequate credit score to qualify for any card, after all. If these two in particular don't work out, try others, just be sure to keep an eye on the details of the rewards programs they offer. If no one will open the door, start by getting a secured credit card and use it to build up your credit score until you reach the point where unsecured cards with rewards become available to you.

Additionally, go for cards that do not have annual fees. Some cards with annual fees offer higher cash back amounts, but whether or not they are appropriate for you depends on how much you spend in a year and what the fee amount is. It makes sense to get one of these cards if the expected cash back minus the annual fee is greater than the cash back you would receive on a card with no annual fee. However, because having open lines of untapped credit can boost your credit score, personally I find it better to select cards that do not have an annual fee so that I can simply leave them dormant to keep my total available credit and age of accounts up there without them incurring any costs (not to mention that I have no idea if I'll still spend at similar rates in the relevant categories in the future - things change!).

That said, these practices can boost your FICO score, which down the road can get you the best interest rates on loans for really important things, like buying a home.

So, to wrap up, leveraging cash back cards to pass your budgeted cash-on-hand through for routine purchases can net you some additional passive income, you just have to be disciplined to make it work. Like I said, the cards I detailed above, cards I actually own, are a great way to make this whole thing go, but you can use others. Whether you use the extra cash to invest, get out of debt, or just have some fun, it's going to be more than you would have had otherwise, and every little bit helps.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Litecoin Cash Successfully Forks, Currently Up Hundreds Of Percents

The Litecoin hard fork that was to result in the creation of Litecoin Cash has occurred, and the new coin is now trading on at least one exchange, YoBit.

Anyone that had Litecoin in a desktop or paper wallet now has 10 LCC coins for every 1 LTC coin they held before the fork. As I type this, LCC is trading at $5.68/coin. That's quite a healthy gain on an "airdrop" from an asset that otherwise pays no interest nor dividends.

As I've written previously, if you plan to claim your LCC coins, exercise due caution and move your LTC out of the wallet you'll use to claim your LCC (with your private key) and into a new wallet on the LTC blockchain first.

Where this will go from here, who knows. As this is a brand new coin, the current action could be only because of that. It might also be that people are confused as to which Litecoin is the real one, and the "cheap" price of the new LCC coins may be drawing in funds. There's no real use case for this new coin, so there also still exists the possibility that this is a "pump and dump" scheme by its creators.

I heard someone say recently that in their opinion, the best use for all of these little, weird fork coins that keep popping up is to just sell them and buy more of the currency that they forked from. Personally, I kind of like that idea.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

I've Dropped Coinhive, and How To Stop Websites From Mining With Your CPU

As the headline states, I've removed the Coinhive plugin that I was trying out on my blog here.

Over the last several days, despite hundreds of views of the blog, the needle on the miner didn't move at all. Because the system was set up to ask for consent from readers before mining Monero with a little bit of their CPU power while on this site, it appears that everyone said, "no." I think I have to blame Coinhive for this, because the little window that would pop up to disclose the presence of the miner and ask for permission only said that my site wanted to use some of the reader's CPU power, but it didn't say why, or how. It almost read like a virus was going to take over the reader's computer if they agreed. That's a head smacking stupid move on Coinhive's part, so I have to assume that the information window was written by nerds who don't socialize much and don't understand people very well.

So, for my Monero mining efforts (and DigitalNote via "merged mining"), I guess I'll just stick to Minergate.

Anyway, since my experiment with full disclosure, informed (imperfectly) consent site mining has failed, I thought I'd share with you all an article I came across about combating the other kind of mining going on in your browser: sneaky use of your CPU that you don't know about.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Bitcoin Commentary From The Arms Race Of Stupid, And Some Comparative Charting

I didn't think anyone could possibly top Forbes and Fortune Magazine for absolutely ill-informed, idiotic commentary on Bitcoin and all things crypto, but Ellen DeGeneres has come from behind to take the crown. Have a read over this piece from Coindesk: "Ellen DeGeneres on Bitcoin: It's Either Worth $20k or Nothing."

(You should probably swallow your food or drink if you're consuming some right now before reading this, otherwise you might end up spitting them on your monitor.)

So outside of the realm of the dumb, here's something interesting I've noticed today on my Tradinview chart that I keep of Bitcoin/USD compared to Gold:

What's catching my eye here primarily is that gold and Bitcoin have been moving up in tandem over the last week or so, but are now showing opposite action: gold hit near a previous top and now displays a "bearish engulfing candle" (it also almost formed a "shooting star," a sign that a trade has become "tired" and trader sentiment is beginning to turn the other way), while Bitcoin has been putting up a series of "bullish engulfing candles," establishing the uptrend that began with the appearance of the bullish hammer candlestick on a spike in trading volume on February 6th.

One possible explanation for the different action in the two assets that have begun to be viewed as "safety trades" is simply that Bitcoin is a 24/7/365 global market while gold trades Monday through Friday. Sometimes traders unload gains before a weekend and then pick up where they left off when the market opens again the following week.

On the other hand, it could be a further sign of what I've begun to suspect, that Bitcoin is eventually going to upend gold as the preferred long-term store of value by a majority of the global populace. Time will tell...

Friday, February 16, 2018

Western Union Riding the Ripples

Some recent news on the Ripple (XRP) front:
"You can add Western Union to the growing list of banks and financial institutions that are test-driving Ripple, the blockchain company trying to become the go-to service for global money transfers.

On the company’s earnings call on Tuesday, CEO Hikmet Ersek told analysts that the company is experimenting with Ripple for settling transactions and for capital optimization. Western Union is also testing Ripple’s native currency, XRP, a spokesperson confirmed.

Ersek’s comments, cited below, come a month after Ripple announced a tie-up with Western Union’s rival Moneygram, which is also testing XRP in money transfers." -- J. J. Roberts
So that's two major, rival money transfer services looking to get in on what Ripple offers. 

The importance of this is pretty easy to understand when you know a few key pieces of information about the current state of this industry and how Ripple proposes to change it:
  1. International money transfers are currently rather expensive; Ripple's system can reduce those costs by 33%, using the XRP currency can lower them by 60%.
  2.  International transfers current take days to complete; Ripple's systems can complete them almost instantaneously.
  3.  Banks transferring funds to each other in different currencies must keep trillions idle in "nostro" and "vostro" accounts to make the transfer system liquid and functional; XRP does away with this requirement and could free up that money for productive investments since it can be exchanged for any currency in fractions of a second.
That's why I own the stuff (I got in at .19 cents). Ripple and XRP pass my major crypto test when I decide if I want to own one: does the coin do something truly unique in the crypto space that solves a real world problem? In this case, check and check!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

The Litecoin Cash Fork: Curb Your Enthusiasm?

(Note: I'm still conducting a "test" of the Coinhive in-page background miner on my blog, which is the pop-up you saw when you arrived here that asked for permission to use some of your CPU's processing power to support this blog. It's mining Monero in the background on your computer harmlessly and only while you are on this page, if you gave consent. I'm wanting to gather reader input on the system, so please leave your comments as to what you think about it; I'm trying to decide if I should keep it or boot it. Thanks!)

Litecoin (LTC) is surging right now, from a low earlier this month (just a few days ago, actually) of around $143, and as I type this it's sitting at about $224, a gain of about 57% in a matter of days.


Because of the looming Litecoin Cash hard fork that is set to occur in three days. Just like the Bitcoin Cash hard fork last August, the prospect of "free money" attracted more cash to Bitcoin. And free money it essentially was: after the fork occurred, those of us who were HODLing Bitcoin past the moment it occurred found that both coins continued on, rather than one or the other crashing and burning.

So, here they come again. But this time, the creator of Litecoin, Charlie Lee, is sounding some alarms:
"PSA: The Litecoin team and I are not forking Litecoin. Any forks that you hear about is a scam trying to confuse you to think it's related to Litecoin. Don't fall for it and definitely don't enter your private keys or seed into their website or client. Be careful out there!" — Charlie Lee [LTC] (@SatoshiLite) February 4, 2018
So why is someone forking Litecoin? Just like with the Bitcoin Cash fork from Bitcoin, the stated reason is to increase the efficiency and speed of the blockchain while also lowering costs. As the above-linked article describes, the people behind this fork want to reduce the block speed to 2.5 minutes per block, switch to a "proof-of-work" mining method that could be used by older mining hardware (stuff that got sidelined as specialized ASIC mining rigs came to dominate mining of many blockchains), and a reduction of transfer fees compared to Litecoin of 90%.

Sounds good, right? Maybe. There's just one thing about all of this that potentially spoils the whole party: as the Benzinga article I linked to above describes, none of the team working on this, the so-called, "Litecoin Cash Foundation," can be identified.

What this could be then is an attempt to get people to try to claim their Litecoin Cash by entering their Litecoin wallet private keys into a site that these anonymous actors may have created, which will simply vacuum out the contents of a Litecoin wallet. Because of how forks work, where an existing wallet address is included in the history of the new and old blockchain, this is a normal step in claiming the new coins on the new chain. However, if the fork never actually occurred and there is no new blockchain, then thieves can simply set up a site the claims to give people access to their new coins, which only steals their existing, actual coins.

This may not be the case with the Litecoin Cash fork, as it has been reported that the Litecoin Cash team is advising people to first move their Litecoin on the Litecoin blockchain to a new wallet, then use the old private key of that now empty wallet to claim their coins on the Litecoin Cash blockchain. If a person does this, then there is nothing left at the old wallet address for anyone to steal, so this would be a perfectly safe move. If a person does so, then on the Litecoin Cash blockchain, their old wallet that existed prior on the Litecoin blockchain will contain 10 Litecoin Cash coins on the new blockchain for every 1 Litecoin they had on the old.

So if the Litecoin Cash team are telling people to use a safe and theft-proof method of claiming their Litecoin Cash, what could be the possible nefarious angle here? It could be that this whole thing is just a "pump and dump" scheme. Basically, the hype around this coming forking event will drive up the value of Litecoin, which will in turn translate into a higher value for Litecoin Cash at the fork. Then in the aftermath of the fork, Litecoin Cash will likely attract more buyers at whatever exchanges it might be listed on, further increasing its price. And then the anonymous development team behind all of this, who may hold a sizeable number of "premined" Litecoin Cash coins will simply dump theirs and walk away with a big pile of money, leaving all other Litecoin Cash holders with a rapidly devaluing cryptocurrency that never actually had a useful purpose in the global marketplace.

Of the two scam possibilities here, I think the second one I've described is the most likely. Basically, my thoughts on this fork can be summarized as, "why?" I can't see any purpose for it because I'm not aware of pent up demand out there for a faster, lighter, and cheaper Litecoin, specifically because Litecoin IS faster, lighter, and cheaper than what it was built to compliment: Bitcoin. Also, while I do know that some merchants out there accept Litecoin as a primary form of cryptocurrency payment, I don't know of that many who do, and since Litecoin Cash will exist as a separate blockchain, it can't be accepted in place of Litecoin without merchants making upgrades to their systems to include it (just like how Bitcoin Cash isn't accepted over-the-counter at the hundreds of thousands of places that accept Bitcoin, because they're not interchangeable!). Basically, Litecoin Cash will have no real world use case behind it, it will only be useful for trading between other cryptocurrencies on exchanges, and there's certainly no shortage of cryptos to do that with already. This proposed new coin, like so many others, does absolutely nothing that's new.

Basically, I think these guys are trying to fix what isn't broken, and while there's a chance that they're really honest actors that are just tilting at windmills here, I think there's an equal or possibly greater chance that they're just looking to make a fast buck on people's hopes for their new coins to turn into a Lambo that they can drive on the moon.

What I'll be doing then is proceeding with cautious lethargy (I think I just coined a new term there; you heard it here first!). I'm just going to let the fork happen, leave my Litecoins in the wallet they're presently in, and just assume that I have Litecoin Cash out there on the new, post-fork blockchain that will (may) result. I've done the same thing with each and every fork of Bitcoin that has occurred (the number of which I've actually lost track of).

When the day comes that I move my existing holdings to a hardware wallet that I plan to acquire, then I may try using the private keys of the old, empty wallets on the new blockchains to claim those other coins that are out there. If those coins still exist at the point at which I do so, then I will have them, too. If they never existed or have failed and gone away since the forking events that created them, no big deal, because my legit Bitcoins and Litecoins will be safe and sound in new wallets on their respective blockchains, out of the reach of anyone who might have set up a malicious site to steal my old private keys.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Coinhive: In-Browser CPU Mining As A Replacement For Ads?

Yesterday I came across an article at Coindesk about in-browser mining that is activated when you visit a website. However, unlike the sneaky, malicious varieties you may have heard of, background miners that activate without your knowledge, follow you all across the web, and suck up as much processing power as possible, this one tells you that it's there, stops working once you leave the site where it's hosted, and politely gets out of your way when you need more of your CPU's power.

It was created and is operated by Coinhive.

The article, entitled, "Salon Offers Readers Choice Between Ads and Mining Monero," describes how the online publication, Salon, integrated this system into their website to lower their dependence on advertising for revenue.

The miner, which is embedded in the website via a simple javascript code, activates when a reader visits the site and consents to allowing it to operate during the session. It only uses what CPU power the reader does not need (for example, if you open another browser tab to cross-reference something you're reading, it will lower how much processing time it is using to get out of your way), and it shuts down once you leave the site. (I've verified that it really does. while watching my task manager, I saw that the processing being consumed by my browser dropped as soon as I closed the tab I had my blog opened in. I didn't have to close the browser completely, just the one tab!)

I decided to try it out here, which is why you saw that pop-up asking if you would consent to allowing the Coinhive miner to run while you're reading this blog. If you agreed, then as you're reading this, the miner is earning me a tiny bit of Monero, the crypto that it is designated to mine.

Personally, I get very annoyed by the advertising on websites these days, especially the trend of interrupting a reader with pop-up advertising (sometimes more than once!). I think this method of generating revenue for a site is a nice, long overdue alternative.

Of course, the pop-up could be alarming to people who do not recognize it (I'm going to try and install a "what is this?" permalink somewhere near the top of the blog to help counter that). At first when I plugged it into the blog and tested it myself I went, "oh no... this is going to make people think my site got hacked and is hosting malware." Unfortunately, that is basically what happened to Coinhive's invention at first, that it was hijacked by bad actors. That is why there's now a pop-up that appears once per browser session that informs you of the miner's presence before it activates: the bad actors didn't want you to know it was there, while honest participants like me DO want you to know that it is there, and hopefully convince you to allow it to work while you're here (at least in part so maybe intrusive advertising can be done away with...).

So we'll see. I can tell from looking at my dashboard this morning that since last night a few of you out there did allow the miner to run. So far, so good. I'll be keeping an eye on daily site visits and how much the needle moves on this thing to see if it's worth keeping or if it's likely to chase everyone off.

What do you think? Comments are open, please leave your thoughts below!

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Hashflare Offers 10% Off for Valentine's Day

I logged in to my Hashflare account this morning to check on its progress, and this came up on the website landing page:

If you're having trouble reading the code, it is: HF18SVALDAY. The offer is valid until the 18th of this month (this coming Sunday).

I tried the code and did indeed receive 10% off of my order. As I've written about before, using cash back credit cards to buy these mining contracts can provide a performance-boosting discount (provided you do not carry the balance and pay no interest - spend on a credit card as if you're spending cash!). Combining a cash back reward with a merchant discount can boost performance quite a bit more!

I'm going to take advantage of this to add some more contracts to my account. Through reinvestment and a few referral commissions thanks to some of you, my account has surpassed 1 terahash of mining power. The anticipated annual return has declined from where it was when I opened this account because of Bitcoin's price decline, but it is recovering now and growing right alongside the seeming recovery in BTC's price. If we have already bounced off the low for Bitcoin, then those reinvested proceeds from my existing contracts should perform nicely over the year that they'll be in place.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Bitcoin Mining in My Back Yard, and Bitcoin Outperforms Safety Trades

Lately I seem to be finding Wall Street Journal articles that are not hidden behind a pay wall, and I have no idea why. Maybe this article is just "free" content, or maybe my VPN is confusing their website and they just give out free access to Mexico-based IP addresses. Long story short, I don't know if you'll be able to see this article or not, but I hope you can.

Anyway, it's about Bitcoin mining going on right here in Washington state, not very far from where I live. The reason: we have hydropower, and hydro-generated kilowatts are cheap.

This has attracted several operations to my state, one of which I own shares in, MGT Capital Investments (they appear at the very end of the article).

The article, if you are able to access it, can be found here: "Bitcoin Mania Triggers Miner Influx to Rural Washington."

In part the article details the growing pains that local utility providers are going through because of this. The server farms that mine for coins can suck up a lot of power, and the main issue there is delivery: in many cases the infrastructure required to deliver that power doesn't exist and will have to be built. But there's hesitation on the part of the providers because they're worried about the mining industry drying up and blowing away, leaving them with millions in infrastructure investment and no way to earn a return on the investment.

The article also mentions the long-time locals that live in this area, who are expressing concern over the possibility that power rates will rise as the excess supply in the system gets used up, which certainly could happen.

Then there's the steady drumbeat going on out there in the FUD media about Bitcoin's power usage versus the environment (this article is just the latest one I found by doing a Google search for "bitcoin" and clicking on the news tab; at least one of these appears there every day now). But like so many criticisms of this type, it's mostly just cherry-picked, out-of-context bullshit.

All the same, that kind of propaganda combined with a "crisis" of increasing power rates is all the cover that a state government like the one we have in Olympia needs to step in and "do something about it" (in this case, probably by enacting a proposed 'carbon tax' in this state, which will add $3.3 billion to the cost of living here, ironically by making power more expensive...).

Put that together and I'm skeptical of the future of crypto mining in my state. This place is already very hostile to the technology, having enacted "consumer protections" that limit our choices of exchanges (we can pretty much only use Coinbase and Gemini here; other exchanges can apply to do business in Washington, but of course they must pay enormous fees to our state government, "for our safety..."). This prompted many crypto operations to up and leave Washington a few years ago, or block access to their sites (Shapeshift is one example: if you try to access their site from an IP address in this state, you get a message that basically says "we refuse to do business with you, because of your government," which puts us on par with North Korea, as the message also mentions).

So then, we'll see what the future holds here (but maybe I'll be doing so from a comfortable distance...).


Second topic, very briefly, I came across a bit more attention being turned toward Bitcoin's evolving relationship relative to other asset classes, which is in line with what I speculated on a few days ago, that Bitcoin may be growing into a replacement for gold in our new cyber era:
"Bitcoin started its free-fall in mid-December when it traded just under $20,000 until a few days ago when it bottomed right around $6,000. The 70% drop ended just after the Dow 30 Industrials had its first 1,000 point plus decline last week. If there ever was a time for Bitcoin to continue its slide to $1,000 or less this seemed like this was the “right” time. However, Bitcoin outperformed not just the equity markets from Tuesday to Friday but also gold and the U.S. 10 year Treasury bond." -- C. Jones
 The full article can be found here: "Bitcoin Became A Safety Trade Last Week."


Sunday, February 11, 2018

Arizona Senate Approves Use of Bitcoin to Pay Taxes

The use case for Bitcoin just gained more traction:

Arizona Senate Votes to Accept Tax Payments in Bitcoin

"The Arizona Senate on Thursday passed a bill that would allow residents to pay their income taxes using Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies “recognized” by the state’s revenue authorities. The law will next be considered by the state’s House of Representatives.

Accepting payment of income taxes in cryptocurrency has profound symbolic and practical significance. Historically, the use of government-issued currencies for the payment of income tax has helped guarantee those currency’s widespread adoption as a payments medium. Skeptics of systems like Bitcoin, which allow quick global payments but are not issued or backed by governments, have argued in part that their separation from government revenue structures reduces their inherent usefulness and, in turn, value." -- D. Z. Morris
This still has to pass the Arizona house and be signed by Governor Ducey, but the provision within the bill that cryptocurrency payments collected by the state must be converted into USD within 24 hours could make it easy to swallow by the rest of the state legislature and the executive.

One by one, the criticisms fall.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Negative Correlation Between Bitcoin and Gold Gaining More Notice, Maybe Generational?

I came across an article the other day that follows on a post that I wrote several weeks ago about the appearance of a negative correlation between the price of Bitcoin and gold, coinciding with a typical uptick in the gold market ahead of the Chinese Lunar New Year.

This article, which appeared on CNBC, is about a RBC Capital Markets analysts' notice of this negative correlation developing between gold and Bitcoin around the end of last year, which is the time frame in which I noticed the same thing:

As I wrote then, from a bottom for gold (the yellow line) around December 11th, and a peak for Bitcoin (the green line) around December 16th, the two rapidly began to trade places in terms of their price movements, crossing over on January 8th of this year.

Since then, Bitcoin continued down and gold continued up. But then on January 25th, gold's move higher abruptly halted and began to reverse. Bitcoin continued its slide, but then on February 6th, a day of high volume that coincided with a hammer candlestick, the price action appears to have reversed (and that has been great for my Hashflare mining account, which thanks to the price reversal allowed for another automatic reinvestment that has pushed my account to the 1 terahash of mining power mark).

Now the comparative chart looks like this:

While the price movements of the two commodities do not move in perfect sync with each other (almost nothing out there that demonstrates any degree of correlation ever does), the negative correlation does look to be continuing. After gold began to slide, Bitcoin apparently found the bottom of its slide and began to reverse. This suggests that, at least in part, cash flowing out of gold is finding its way into Bitcoin.

Going forward then the question will be, will this become a stronger negative correlation, or is this the beginning of a shift some have speculated might occur one day, that people will abandon the use of gold as a long term store of value in favor of Bitcoin?

There's a small amount of evidence out there that this is exactly what some are doing.

That is where some of the wild sounding forecasts of Bitcoin's future price come from: if Bitcoin comes to be viewed as "digital gold," and this draws capital out of gold and into Bitcoin, then based on the respective market caps of the two commodities, a shift of value from gold to Bitcoin could increase Bitcoin's value by thirty to forty times.

Gold has been a traditional store of value for thousands of years because of key physical properties it possesses, namely its durability and scarcity, but also because a fitting alternative did not exist across all of the technological changes during those millennia leading up until now. But now we are in the early years of a new era, a digital one, and the way we do business has changed dramatically, whereas gold has not. Then along comes distributed ledger technology and Bitcoin, with engineered scarcity and durability (more so than gold, practically), and we potentially have the new "perfect" tool to fill that role in this new age. A major, global shift of preference from gold to Bitcoin may be inevitable; after all, you cannot send gold in an email, but you can transmit value in essentially that way via a cryptocurrency.

If that will happen basically depends on a cultural shift and how people perceive the value of things, and as the article I linked to above briefly mentions, the dividing line of that shift is probably going to be generational. Millennials, a generation that is now numerically greater than the Baby Boom generation, who have largely grown up with the Internet as a part of their lives from the beginning (as has "Generation Z," coming right behind them), and who have endured several global economic shocks as they entered their working years are by many measures holding "the way things have always been done" in low esteem. That being the case, "stocks, bonds, and gold are how saving and investing is how things have been done for generations" is a proposition that is likely to fall on deaf ears. Add in that access to a traditional store of value like gold is much harder than that of Bitcoin, that the retirement wave the Baby Boom generation is now in poses price risks for gold, stocks, bonds, etc. as that generation begins to liquidate to raise cash for their retirement (possibly in a huge crash if they all "rush for the exits" together), and Bitcoin gains further appeal over simply following tradition. Thus, for younger generations faced by these "demographics are destiny" possibilities, Bitcoin may represent the perceived best option as a shelter to go into until the "global greying" passes and it's safe again to wade out into those other markets, when prices have returned to what you might call "population-adjusted" levels after the older generations die off. Perhaps a long-term decline in the price of gold will be the canary in this particular coal mine.

Thursday, February 08, 2018

Crypto Hedge Fund Opening to New Subscribers Early

The possible bullish reversal signal that appeared on the BTC chart the other day might very well have been a sign of changing fortunes, and things soon to come:

Crypto Hedge Fund Opens Early as Bulls Rush to Buy the Dip

 "Silver 8 Capital, whose bullish bets on digital assets helped propel its hedge fund to a 771 percent gain last year, told new and existing clients it will allow mid-month subscriptions after getting several requests from investors to boost their exposure in the wake of a $500 billion selloff in virtual currencies over the past four weeks. The Florida-based manager, which invests in digital assets, early-stage companies and publicly-traded securities, usually only accepts new money at the start of each month."

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Bitcoin Rebounds As Congressional Testimony Reports Try To Spin Negatives

Yesterday there were hearings before the Senate Banking Committee with the chairmen of the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission on crypto currencies, distributed ledger technology (blockchain), and initial coin offerings.

If you do a quick browse of the subject through the news tab on Google (I used "bitcoin congress" as my search string), the theme you get from reading the headlines is "here come the regulators, Bitcoin is doomed," "regulators to seek more power over Bitcoin," basically several variations of, "they're about to shut it all down."

So, basically, more FUD.

Meanwhile, a few honest articles about what went on tell a much different story:
"In a hearing today before the Senate Banking Committee, Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Jay Clayton and Commodity Futures Trading Commission Chairman Christopher Giancarlo opened up about what the near-term U.S. regulatory fate of cryptocurrency might look like. In a week of plunging prices and bad news, the hearing struck a tone that coin watchers could reasonably interpret as surprisingly optimistic...

...The testimony drew a useful distinction among three pillars of the virtual currency ecosystem (for lack of a better unifying term): cryptocurrencies, “a replacement for dollars;” ICOs, “like a stock offering;” and distributed ledger technologies, or the technical framework generally known as blockchain...

...All told, the hearing was far from apocalyptic for regulationphobes. While it’s clear that the CFTC and SEC have only scratched the surface of the kind of rule sets they’d like to put in place, their plans appeared to be overwhelmingly focused on protecting consumers from threats like rampant ICO “fraudsters” and unsafe exchanges rather than discouraging growth. For anyone interested in the long-term health and viability of virtual currencies, that should come as good news." -- T. Hatmaker
And this happened yesterday:

The two things I've highlighted on this chart may indicate that the Bitcoin market found its bottom. The top circle highlights a candle that resembles a "hammer," and the bottom circle highlights the corresponding spike in trade volume. These two things combined could indicate that a trend reversal is coming, as the combination suggests that bulls are getting back into the action and are gaining strength. Time will tell.

So all in all, yesterday was a pretty good day in the BTC market (which gave my Hashflare mining contracts performance a nice boost), despite the headlines, which consistently try to portray nearly everything as a negative when it comes to this stuff. It makes one wonder what the motivations are and who is working for whom...

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

I Need To Pull My Investments Out Of Washington State

I came across this article in the Wall Street Journal, "Rent Controls, a Bane of Landlords, Are Gaining Support as Costs Soar."

It included this piece of information:
"In Washington State, lawmakers in the house and senate have proposed legislation to remove a statewide ban enacted in 1981 that forbids local jurisdictions from enacting rent control. The bills aren’t poised to be voted on this year, but Brett Waller, director of government affairs at the Washington Multifamily Housing Association, said he expects them to come under serious consideration for a vote in the next session." -- L. Kusisto
This tells me that I have about a year or two before our state legislature gives the municipality where I own rental property the ability dictate my rents, and thereby destroy the value of my property.

Why would this destroy it? Because the value of a property that a landlord cannot set the rent prices on becomes less to potential buyers.

And this is only the latest attack of bad economics that has been occurring within our state lately. There's a move on to tax capital gains earned by Washington residents; there are repeated attempts by municipal governments to use a stacked, partisan state Supreme court to create a statewide income tax; some of these same municipal governments have proven to be dumb enough to impose "sweetened beverage taxes" that failed elsewhere already; our current governor wants to add $3.3 billion in new taxes to "battle carbon;" there's no end to the assumption that businesses can simply be ordered to pay more and more to employees, even when they're not working; and this is a state where businesses pay an income tax on their gross receipts (so even if you have a business loss, you can end up owing money to this state!). They will no doubt dream up even more ways to fleece us in the future.

Put all of this together, and it says to me that the political winds in Washington are blowing in a direction that will harm capital. So, it's time to get my assets out of here before much of this takes effect. Whether you lean left or right, the fact of the matter is that these kinds of antics drive away investment, which means a reduced market for whatever you may hold in this state, which will lead to a decline in the value of what you own. The market doesn't care what your politics are, only what the future expected returns on your assets are.

And of course less investment means less business, which means reduced tax receipts to the state and municipal governments here, which means it will be harder for them to pay on their debt obligations.

Any Washington state municipal bonds that I may have, I'm dumping them before it's too late, too.

There's family obligations holding me in place here for now, but once those pass, I'm out of here. I can see no future for my money in Washington state, and that means there's no future here for me either.
"Capital goes where it's welcome and stays where it's well treated." -- Walter Wriston

Monday, February 05, 2018

More Banks Ban Credit Card Crypto Purchases, Time To Call BS

I read during my routine morning news browsing that Lloyds Bank Group Plc has joined in with the likes of JP Morgan and Citigroup in cutting off crypto purchases with the credit cards that they've issued.

The alleged rationale for this:
"Banks in Britain and the United States have banned the use of credit cards to buy Bitcoin and other “crypto currencies”, fearing a plunge in their value will leave customers unable to repay their debts." -- L. White and E. Rumney
This is utter crap. If this is truly the concern that they have, then these banks, and all others considering similar moves, should immediately block peoples' ability to buy anything with their credit cards that could lose value.

No more books on Amazon. No more meals out with friends. No more Xbox games. No more lattes at Starbucks. No more Vegas vacations. No more trinkets and baubles and knick-knacks of any sort.

The vast majority of things that people buy with credit cards only lose value, typically the majority of it evaporating as soon as the item is purchased! Just imagine your credit card issuer calling you up to say, "hey, those groceries you keep buying, we've run an analysis and found that they've consistently lost 100% of their value over time, we're going to block your purchases at Albertson's." Sound ridiculous? It is, but that's the reasoning they're selectively applying here.

The difference being of course that someone's Bitcoin purchase via credit card could very easily shoot up in value...

That said, since when do these banks issue credit cards based on the likelihood of the things you buy with them going up in value? They don't! They issue credit cards based on your assumed future income net of debt servicing obligations, your net monthly cash flow. Their questions are only about your income and other debts when you apply. They never ask about your assets!

So this is utter nonsense, and given that cryptos represent a challenge to the future profitability of traditional banks, these moves and the alleged motivation to "protect customers" are highly suspect.

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