Newsweek uncovers its own lack of integrity in alleged “Satoshi Nakamoto” discovery reporting

Newsweek just released a story, “The Face Behind Bitcoin” (6 March 2014), claiming to have found Satoshi Nakamoto, the creator of Bitcoin. I remain doubtful. Whether they have or not, though, I think their story reflects a lack of professional integrity, which is why I am not personally even including a link to it.

The person they targeted clearly did not want to be identified, but the magazine nevertheless published photographs not only of the person, but also of where he lives, along with the identities and locations of his major family members. The same story could have been published with less identifying and location information out of respect for the obvious wishes of the primary person involved (as in: he called the police when the reporter showed up uninvited at his house).

Now as to whether this story is to be believed, the article does come off as convincing at first read, but on reflection, here are some reasons I have doubts.

Many of the points made about the person targeted in the article do match up to elements of what is known about Satoshi Nakamoto, the creator of Bitcoin. There is, however, one very large problem. Given all of the alleged sophistication and use of untraceable emails, why would such a person use a real name? It is possible, but would be a spectacular contradiction to everything else that is known about Bitcoin’s Nakamoto, and for that matter, the person targeted in the article.

The article is a collection of circumstantial evidence, an ex post effort to line up characteristics and dates. However, one should ask: Which characteristics and dates that did not match the story’s objective were omitted or went unnoticed? What is the total statistical set of persons in the world who would match up on characteristics and dates in a similar way?

Meanwhile, zero direct evidence of this man’s involvement in Bitcoin was presented, only multiple coincidences of interests and skills. Nevertheless, the article is written and titled as an unqualified direct truth claim: “this is.”

So far as I can see, every piece of evidence presented also matches the thesis that this is not the creator of Bitcoin. Moreover, the real-name relationship to the person targeted in the article tends to support the thesis that this is not him, rather than that it is him. Are we to believe that “the” Satoshi Nakamoto, out of an unending list of possible pseudonyms, would have instead used a real name right along with the rest of his consistently tight operational anonymity?

Either way, what there is overwhelming evidence for is that those responsible for this article, in pursuit of traffic and their print magazine relaunch, have displayed abysmal judgment and a lack of professional integrity by giving away specific location and identifying photographic information about this man, regardless of whether he was the inventor of Bitcoin or not.

Open letter to Bloomberg reporters on "economists of all stripes" claim

Since the following letter to two Bloomberg reporters concerning a statement in their article has elicited no response for about two weeks, I will publish a slightly condensed version here as an open letter. I note that the article has gone through two updates since I wrote to these reporters, but the unsupportable claim I pointed out to them remains unaltered.

Dear Ms. Goldman and Mr. Miller,

I sometimes read Bloomberg news articles and come across statements that leave me scratching my head. A few such statements, though, strike me as sufficiently incorrect that I feel an obligation to take a moment to bring them to the attention of their authors.

In your article, "Obama Warns of Prolonged Crisis Without Stimulus Plan," you wrote, "... economists of all stripes agree that aggressive government action is needed."

This is problematic because an entire school of professional economists argue that such government actions as "stimulus" programs will clearly worsen conditions, prolong and deepen the recession, and generate further impoverishment of our society. Many of these same economists also predicted the coming of the financial collapse years in advance of its arrival, and explained why it would occur.

Thus, I suggest amending statements such as the one I quoted to, for example, "most economists, with the notable exception of those of the Austrian school, agree that aggressive government action is needed."

In addition, if you sought comments and opinions directly from economists of "stripes" who do not hold the view you suggest they do, it would offer your readers a more critical and balanced understanding of the issues. From my own studies in political economy, I could recommend many scholars, but two come to mind right now for the combination of the depth of their scholarship in economic history and theory and the incisiveness of their analyses of current issues based on this foundation. They are:

Robert Higgs, senior fellow in political economy at the Independent Institute, and author of many important academic books on economic history, with a particular emphasis on the relationship between government policy and recurring crises.

Joseph Salerno, a senior fellow at the Ludwig von Mises Institute, professor of economics at Pace University, and editor of the Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics.

I find both of these economists clear communicators with a strong grasp of the relationship between government policy and economic cycles. Beyond them stretches a long and growing list of economists who would be very unlikely to "agree that aggressive government action is needed," certainly not the types of actions now being proposed.

Best regards,

Konrad Graf

Journalism values dead in US MSM, judging from its coverage of Gaza

I just came across a very specific, devastating analysis of US mainstream media coverage of the Gaza invasion over at AlJazeera, entitled, "In the US, Gaza is a different war."

The basic values of journalism are apparently quite dead in the US MSM, and this analysis helps explain in concrete form some of the reasons for my instinctual nausea at MSM coverage. I am finding the AlJazeera coverage, while it of course has its own biases, much more balanced and informative about what is actually happening (remember reality?) as opposed to the story we are supposed to be believe about what is happening.

One is closer to news as the product of journalism in the more traditional sense: collecting and supplying timely information that is weighted by reasonable judgments of newsworthiness. The other is "news" as propaganda, with the clear objective and effect of inculcating and maintaining a carefully packaged political stance on the part of the readership. This is done, if not through outright lying and misinformation, through the careful selection and packaging of what will be said and shown, what will not, and in what way, to create an impression that diverges, at times sharply, from what could be discovered with more investigation and thought to be considerably closer to the truth.

Avoid and scurry: FactChecker's Ron Paul smear distracts from the real issues

The February 12, 2008 article on Ron Paul by Joe Miller, entitled "Wrong Paul," given prominent link placement on Newsweek online, demonstrates the extent to which the mainstream media is desperate to avoid any discussion of Paul's actual message. Miller felt compelled to write an article on Paul, but in doing so, apparently had to struggle valiantly to find evidence of concepts and claims he thought suitable for belittling, while ignoring entirely the core messages of the campaign, along with most of the details behind the core messages. Avoid and scurry.

Whatever the validity of the claims in the article, it misses the entire forest and most of the trees to examine bug legs on the forest floor for signs of dirt. This calls into question for me the level of intellectual honesty involved in the creation of such a piece of writing.

I have yet to investigate some of the claims, though regarding the most substantive-looking one, I read some time ago the original article by Robert Higgs restating the actual annual impact of total defense spending upward to nearly $1trn, and found it convincing. For an excellent case study, read Higg's article, and then read Miller's account of it, and see which you find more informative.

Interestingly enough, Higgs is an economist and historian who is the leading expert on the history and mechanisms of government growth through crises, including wars. I suppose Miller did not realize this when he failed to mention even the name of Robert Higgs, let alone his expertise on the topic at hand. An odd move indeed for a "fact-checker."

While Miller discounts the idea of including, for example, the Department of Homeland Security, under "defense" spending, Higgs writes, "Since the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, many observers probably would agree that its budget ought to be included in any complete accounting of defense costs. After all, the homeland is what most of us want the government to defend in the first place."

And of course a share of interest on the national debt proportional to historical spending on "defense" versus other government spending should be included in the total cost of "defense" spending. What's the alternative to that? Imagine a company that claims to be doing well, but conveniently omits from its accounts the impact of massive amounts of money it borrowed to set up and run its business. Or imagine a guy who claims to have a healthy net worth, but who conveniently fails to include his massive credit card debts on his self-deceptive balance sheet, and the associated interest payments. That's fraud.

Miller's article with its prominent Newsweek placement, symbolizes for me a lack of willingness in the mainstream media to engage in or report on content-based discussion of the real issues, and a strong preference for anything that can distract from the content. Could the author instead dare to actually state the main issues Paul's campaign represents, the claims he makes about war, fiat money, bloated taxation, and the mechanisms by which the state expands and intrudes by amplifying and leveraging fear in the populace? If countering and critique are the author's aim, could he try to counter core claims rather than peripheral claims? Counter them with better content, by locating and reporting on better understandings of the core issues? Those core issues are barely acknowledged, let alone addressed.

Judging from comparisons such as between Higg's original article and the quality of Miller's take on it, perhaps such content-based capabilities are lacking. That would explain why one might resort to raising as many distractions as possible to the content with which one is unable to deal, to ignore and deflect the real issues the Paul campaign raises. These ignored issues are the same ones that are not supposed to be raised too clearly into public awareness (such as by gracing the pages of Newsweek in an honest, recognizable form), else too many people might start thinking about them, investigating, learning, and finally...understanding.

That is scary stuff for entrenched special interests of all kinds. Watch them scurry.