A lesson from Hurricane Irma: capitalism can’t save the planet – it can only destroy it | George Monbiot

The perpetual quest for growth drives our economics. That’s why our environment and financial system lurch from crisis to crisis

There was “a flaw” in the theory: this is the famous admission by Alan Greenspan, the former chair of the Federal Reserve, to a congressional inquiry into the 2008 financial crisis. His belief that the self-interest of the lending institutions would lead automatically to the correction of financial markets had proved wrong. Now, in the midst of the environmental crisis, we await a similar admission. We may be waiting some time.

Related: George Monbiot: how do we get out of this mess?

The sigh of relief from insurers and financiers when Irma changed course could be heard around the world

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Bitcoin Tumbles Below $4000 – Down 21% From Record High

For the first time since August 22nd, the USD price of Bitcoin has dropped below $4000 – down over 20% from its record highs on September 1st.

 

Crackdowns by China (on ICOs and more recently confusion over Bitcoin exchanges) combined with JPMorgan's Jamie Dimon's comments today saw selling pressure extend as China opened…

All but one of the top 15 cryptocurrencies are under pressure…

 

As we noted earlier, what is ironic is that this is not the first time Jamie Dimon has lashed out at bitcoin: the last time Dimon slammed bitcoin was November 2015, at the Fortune Global Forum in San Francisco. Here’s what he had to say when asked directly about it by an audience member:

“You’re wasting your time with Bitcoin! Virtual currency, where it’s called a bitcoin vs. a U.S. dollar, that’s going to be stopped,” said Dimon. “No government will ever support a virtual currency that goes around borders and doesn’t have the same controls. It’s not going to happen.”

 

“Blockchain is like any other technology. If it is cheaper, effective, works, and secure, then we are going to use it. The technology will be used, and it could be used to transport currency, but it will be dollars, not bitcoins.”

Speaking to CNBC later in the day, Dimon said he’s skeptical governments will allow a currency to exist without state oversight: “Someone’s going to get killed and then the government’s going to come down,” he said. “You just saw in China, governments like to control their money supply.” And yet, despite said "killing" Bitcoin remained well above $4,000.

That said, Dimon conceded that he wouldn’t short bitcoin because there’s no telling how high it will go before it collapses, saying that it "could hit $100,000 before it drops." The best argument Dimon has heard about owning bitcoin, is that it can be useful to people in places with no other options: “If you were in Venezuela or Ecuador or North Korea or a bunch of parts like that, or if you were a drug dealer, a murderer, stuff like that, you are better off doing it in bitcoin than U.S. dollars,” he said. “So there may be a market for that, but it’d be a limited market.”

What is also ironic is Dimon's admission that his daughter purchased some bitcoin, saying "it went up and she thinks she is a genius."

And to think the Fed didn't even have to inject $4 trillion in liquidity to make her feel that way, unlike so many stock "investors."

Shortly after Dimon's comment, the chairman and CEO of the CBOE, Ed Tilly – which plans to offer bitcoin futures soon – defended the cryptocurrency after Dimon’s remarks.

“Like it or not, people want exposure to bitcoin,” Tilly said. Believers can bet on its rise, and Dimon is welcome to take the other side, he said. “We’re happy to be the ones in the middle.”

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Incidentally, for those who "wasted their time" since Dimon's 2015 threat, Bitcoin is up 1,018%.

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Perhaps most ironically, while US elites are talking their book in desparation at this 'new-fangled' virtual currency, Russia is working on legitimizing cryptocurrencies and is developing a legal framework that will govern transactions using digital currencies like Bitcoin.

Russia’s First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov previously said that the regulation would be delayed that was originally set for October.

“In April, we announced that the draft law would be ready in October. However, the situation on the market made us, in addition to the main bill, consider several more options. And now all these projects are postponed, we are watching the situation to understand,” Sidorenko said.

Speaking at the II Moscow Financial Forum, Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov reassured Russian users of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies that the government has no intention of outlawing or penalizing cryptocurrencies and is working on regulation.

“The state understands indeed that crypto-currencies are real. There is no sense in banning them, there is a need to regulate them,” Siluanov said.

Putin himself has embraced cryptocurrency and met with Ethereum Founder Vitalik Buterin, who instilled the advantages of Russia’s usage of the Blockchain Technology under Bitcoin.

Is North Korea Using Bitcoin To Get Around UN Sanctions?

The latest round of United Nations sanctions against North Korea are designed specifically to prevent Kim Jong Un from obtaining hard currency. Luckily for the Kim regime, there’s always bitcoin.

According to Bloomberg, the isolated country, facing further restrictions on exports that would bring in desperately needed Chinese yuan, has increasingly been turning to bitcoin to circumvent the sanctions.

And to try and keep the illicit digital money flowing, the country has reportedly stepped up attacks against South Korean digital currency exchanges, causing disruptions in one of the largest markets for digital currencies like Ethereum and bitcoin, according to a new report from security researcher FireEye. In addition, the North has managed to breach an English-language bitcoin news website and collect bitcoin ransom payments from global victims of the malware WannaCry attack (although we thought that one had been linked to China?).

“So far this year, FireEye has confirmed attacks on at least three South Korean exchanges, including one in May that was successful. Around the same time, local media reported that Seoul-based exchange Yapizon lost more than 3,800 bitcoins (worth about $15 million at current rates) due to theft, although FireEye said there are not clear indications of North Korean involvement.”

According to Naeem Aslam, a contributor at Forbes, the North cultivated an “army of hackers” to go after digital-currency exchanges after the digital currency’s world-beating gains piqued Kim Jong Un’s interest.

“North Korea has an army of hackers who are constantly targeting South Korea, the hectic trading hub for cryptocurrency. The strategy would aid the country in bypassing many trade restrictions which also include the new sanctions. Moreover, the massive popularity of the cryptocurrency gained Kim’s attention and for crypto traders, this represents an opportunity. A higher demand for cryptocurrency would only boost its price,” said Forbes contributor Naeem Aslam.”

North Korea’s Reconnaissance General Bureau, which directly reports to Kim Jong Un, handles peacetime cyber operations from espionage to network disruptions and employs an estimated 6,000 officers, according to a 2016 report from the International Cyber Policy Centre at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.

A group within the RGB known as TEMP.Hermit is believed to be responsible for the attacks on the South Korean bitcoin exchanges. FireEye said it has been linked to a 2015 attack on South Korea’s nuclear industry. The hackers have also been tied by other security firms to last year’s attack on Samsung Electronics Co.’s corporate messenger app and the breach of Sony Corp.’s film studio, which the FBI blamed on North Korea.

"They’re pretty capable actors in comparison to other North Korean activity we see,” said Luke McNamara, a researcher at FireEye and author of the new report. "They’ve been creative in how they use their cyber-espionage capability."

And with the US likely to continue to push for still tighter sanctions as the North continues its provocative missile and nuclear tests – that is, until Russia and China finally say “enough” – the isolated country will likely deepen its reliance on the digital currency.

“We definitely see sanctions being a big lever driving this sort of activity,” McNamara said. “They probably see it as a very low-cost solution to bring in hard cash.”

 

"As more money goes into cryptocurrency exchanges and more people buy bitcoin and ethereum, exchanges become larger targets for this group,” said McNamara. He said so far he did not have evidence that Kim Jong Un’s regime has targeted cryptocurrency exchanges outside of South Korea, but did not rule out the possibility in the future.”

And with so many shadowy digital currency exchanges operating throughout Asia, cashing out the country’s digital currency positions would be easy.

“They could compromise an exchange and transfer those bitcoins to other exchanges elsewhere in Asia or exchange them for a more anonymous cryptocurrency,” said McNamara. “There are variety of things they could do to cash out.”

As Aslam points out, increasing demand for digital currencies from North Korea could ultimately lift prices on a global scale as the country is increasingly forced to transact at in bitcoin, Ethereum and their peers. North Korea isn’t the only country that’s turning to bitcoin out of a sense of desperation. As the Atlantic pointed out earlier this month, thousands of Venezuelans have taken to minería bitcoin – or mining bitcoin – to try and get their hands on precious US dollars.

Because, in some cases, it’s either that, or starvation.