There’s an Inflatable ‘Bitcoin Rat’ Staring Down the Fed 95 13703

Someone has put a giant inflatable rat outside the Federal Reserve Bank in New York.

It’s covered in Bitcoin code, printed in rainbow colors, and is apparently a piece of installation art aimed at subverting the federal institution that controls the US dollar. Or is it pale, puffed-up pariah a commentary on Bitcoin bros themselves? Or does it have something to do with Warren Buffett, who earlier this year called Bitcoin “rat poison squared”? According to CoinDesk, who first reported on the inflatable rat, the meaning is intentionally ambiguous.

The artist behind the puzzling prank is Nelson Saiers. He describes his own work as “mystifying” and “singularly original”, notwithstanding the long history of rats being inflated as protests or used as economic and political icons in art and entertainment around the world.

“It’s art, so I hope they’re entertained by it,” he said, apparently implying that art is entertainment. “It’s informative, I hope people will learn [and] I’m hoping it’ll at least help people understand bitcoin better and be kind of faithful to what Satoshi would have wanted,” he added, citing the mysterious pseudonym of Bitcoin’s founder with a touch of reverence.

A $50 Million Artist

Saiers, a phD in theoretical mathematics, was a hedge fund manager who did that thing where you give up all the money to chase your dream of being an artist.

His financial experience includes a stint as managing director at Deutsche Bank’s prop trading desk, before becoming CIO of Saiers Capital, the hedge fund that bears his name. His creative career gives credence to the theory that working as an artist is more and more a privilege of the very wealthy.

CNBC estimated Saiers’s wealth to be around $50 million at the time of he departed from the financial industry to pick up his paintbrushes.

The Rat Joins a Tradition of Sculpture-as-Commentary in FiDi

The Bitcoin rat, which stands on Maiden Lane, isn’t the first pop up sculpture to grace Manhattan’s financial district. Last year, Kristen Visbal’s 50 inch bronze ‘Fearless Girl’ statue made waves by staring down the famous ‘Charging Bull’, to the outrage of ‘Charging Bull’ sculptor Arturo Di Modica. The 3.5 ton ‘Charging Bull’ itself was left on Wall Street in the middle of the night when Di Modica originally created it, obstructing traffic and drawing the curiosity of passers by.

When Saiers placed the Bitcoin rat, he initially set it up on private property and was promptly ushered off by security guards, who he says were good natured about the situation. He expects the sculpture to be more temporary than the aforementioned Wall Street bronzes, and will probably only be around for a few days.

A Critique of the 2008 Bailouts

The placement of the rat on Maiden Lane seems to be no accident, but rather a reference to the Maiden Lane Transactions, more commonly known as that time when the Fed bailed out the big banks after they all caused the 2008 market crash. The Bitcoin crowd’s antipathy towards the Fed and the big banks is palpable in Sairs’s rat sculpture, and while a more specific meaning eludes, perhaps the success of the piece depends upon its ability to start conversations about the state of finance.

We’ll leave it to the viewers to decide who’s the rat—the Federal Reserve, or Bitcoin itself—and what that means for the future of currencies.

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I grew up in the Silicon valley under the technological mentorship of Steve Wozniak. I'm a proud member of the Choctaw Nation, I've lived, worked and traveled all over the world, and I now write in the Pacific Northwest.

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Happy 10th Birthday, Bitcoin!! 7 2913

On January 3rd, 2009, block number zero produced the first 50 bitcoins. They were mined by none other than the mysterious Satoshi Nakamoto. Thus was born the phenomenon of the decade. And on January 8th, ten years ago today, bitcoin became a public network when Nakamoto released bitcoin version 0.1.

Nakamoto announced the release via the Metzdowd cryptography mailing list, calling bitcoin “a new electronic cash system that uses a peer-to-peer network to prevent double-spending.”

Nakamoto’s description of the software that would revolutionize technology is sparing and to the point. “It’s completely decentralized with no server or central authority,” the succinct announcement goes on. “Windows only for now.  Open source C++ code is included.” It describes the proof of work as “ridiculously easy”.

It follows with a brief description of how transactions work, how many coins will be released and how they can expect to split every 4 years, along with the caveats that the software was still “alpha and experimental,” offering “no guarantees”. It’s signed with no letter closing, simply:

“Satoshi Nakamoto”

Bitcoin, This Is Your Life

My what a ten years it has been. Just to recap:

On January 12th, 2009, programmer Hal Finney, who had downloaded the new bitcoin software immediately, received ten bitcoins from Nakamoto. This was the first ever bitcoin transaction. Over a year later in May 2010, programmer Laszlo Hanyecz received 10,000 bitcoins in exchange for two Papa John’s pizzas, initiating the first real-world bitcoin purchase and thereby creating the pizza index.

Bitcoin simmered until 2017, when it’s value jolted from $900 to over $19,000, and bitcoin became a household name. Over the past year, the original crypto has settled to a more modest $4,000 valuation, and stirred up a lot of public din in its wake.

Where Were You on January 9th, 2009?

So where were you on the day of Nakamoto’s announcement? Probably on your couch watching DVDs of Pineapple Express and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia seasons 1 through 3, or laughing at Dr. Horrible’s Singalong Blog on your iPhone 2.

It was a simpler time. Wired was calling Google Earth the number one app on the fancy new iPhone app store. Competition was fierce with Windows 7 in beta. Facebook had recently dropped the “is” from status updates, and a fun app called Twitter (formerly “Twttr”) had just introduced a feature called Trending Topics.

Trending Topics

David Bowie was celebrating one of his eight final birthdays, while Michael Jackson and Patrick Swayze were enjoying their last few months among us mortals. Only days later, pilots Chesley Sullenberger and Jeffrey Skiles made aviation history by skillfully crash landing US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River, saving everyone on board.

A burgeoning class of ennui soaked fashionistas, deemed “hipsters,” were described in Time Magazine as “smug, full of contradictions and, ultimately, the dead end of Western civilization,” a vermin who “manage to attract a loathing unique in its intensity.” They went on with this colorful character sketch:

“Hipsters are the friends who sneer when you cop to liking Coldplay. They’re the people who wear t-shirts silk-screened with quotes from movies you’ve never heard of and the only ones in America who still think Pabst Blue Ribbon is a good beer. They sport cowboy hats and berets and think Kanye West stole their sunglasses. Everything about them is exactingly constructed to give off the vibe that they just don’t care.”

Time Magazine, 2009

Is it time for any of that to come back into style yet? Maybe give it a few more years. We need a break.

Williamsburg was gentrifying and Portland was still America’s best kept secret. The streets were flooded with fixed gear bikes and the sounds of Grizzly Bear, Real Estate, Kings of Convenience, and TV on the Radio.

Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion was just a few days old, and Fever Ray’s self titled was about to drop. The world was listening to Lady Gaga, whose single “Just Dance” hit number one on Billboard’s top 100, and Taylor Swift’s Fearless, which was the top selling album.

That same month, box offices favored the cuddly Marley & Me, while The Dark Knight swept the people’s choice awards. Audiences were still getting wowed by Avatar, paying a lot to be disappointed by Mall Cop, and getting hyped about the upcoming Watchmen movie.

Meanwhile in Washington DC, a president with a multisyllabic vocabulary was about to be inaugurated (a rarity in the 21st century, we would find out), and his kids were playing with a Wii they got for Christmas.

Here’s To Another Decade Ahead

What a time it was, the dawn of 2009. And most of us, at least for a few more years, had never heard about blockchain, cryptocurrencies, or bitcoin.

And now here we are.

So, dear reader, here’s to ten more years of crashes, booms, bubble scares, hype, derision, libertarian fanboys, pizza and moon lambos. Happy tenth birthday, bitcoin!!1

Freelance Terrorist Carried Out Hundreds of Bomb Threats in Exchange For Bitcoin 45 8317

An American-Israeli teen is sentenced to a decade in prison after a Tel Aviv court convicted him for a series of fake bomb threats he carried out in exchange for Bitcoin.

The 19 year old began making threats professionally at the age of 16. He is convicted only for crimes committed while over the age of 18. These include making false threats and reports, extortion, money laundering, and conspiracy to commit a crime.

While the Israeli courts withheld the defendant’s identity because some of his alleged crimes occurred while he was a minor, the Guardian identified him as Michael Kadar at the time of his arrest. He was originally indicted for over 2,000 bomb threats, carried out between 2015 and 2017.

Kadar Targeted Children and Jewish Community Centers

The targets of Kadar’s threats included Jewish community centers, the Israeli Embassy in Washington DC, elementary schools, shopping centers, hospitals, law enforcement agencies, airports and airlines.

A threat to an El-Al flight resulted in the deployment of fighter jets for an escorted emergency landing; another threat to a Canadian airport left six people injured during emergency disembarkment; a Virgin flight dumped eight tons of fuel before landing because of a threat; and another threat went to a plane carrying the Boston Celtics.

Kadar also targeted Republican Delaware state senator Ernesto Lopez, who he threatened with blackmail and the murder of his daughter. After Lopez ignored the demands, Kadar ordered drugs to have sent to Lopez’s residence.

Dealing Terror From Mom and Dad’s Apartment

His reign of terror operated from his parent’s fifth floor apartment near the beach in a posh neighborhood in Ashkelon, about 30 miles south of Tel Aviv. But his threats landed in over a dozen countries, including Ireland, New Zealand, Germany, Denmark, Great Britain, Belgium, Australia, Norway, Argentina, Israel, the United States, and Canada.

“One can easily imagine the terror, the fear and the horror that gripped the airplane passengers who were forced to make an emergency landing, some of whom were injured while evacuating the plane,” read the verdict by judge Zvi Gurfinkel, “and the terrified panic caused when there was a need to evacuate pupils from schools because of fake bomb threats.”

The Judge also divulged Kadar’s fees for his services: $40 for a threatening phone call to a private residence, $80 for a bomb threat to a school, and $500 for an airplane scare. Kadar operated on the dark net and disguised his IP address, using a powerful self-installed antenna to tap into remote networks, and software to mask his voice. According to an indictment filed against him in Florida, he spent some of his calls going into graphic detail threatening the deaths of children in American Jewish centers.

A Small Fortune in Bitcoins

At the time of his arrest, Kadar had amassed around 184 Bitcoins for such services—about half a million dollars at the time, and closer to $680,000 today. He also dealt in bomb making manuals, drugs, and child pornography.

Kadar is the son of an American mother, and his father is an Israeli engineer, and has dual citizenship. The US Department of Justice has also indicted Kadar for 32 crimes, including hate crimes, cyberstalking, giving false information to the police, and making threatening phone calls to around 200 institutions. A separate indictment also accuses Kadar of threatening the children of a former CIA and Pentagon official with kidnapping and murder, and links him to over 245 threatening calls.

When Kadar was arrested, he tried to escape by grabbing a pistol from a police officer, but was wrestled to the ground. Thursday’s conviction follows a cooperative investigation by the FBI and Israeli authorities, who have not been able to recover Kadar’s Bitcoins.

Teen’s Mother Calls Conviction ‘Cruel’

Kadar’s mother spoke outside the courtroom after her son’s sentencing, saying “This is the most cruel, cruel thing in the world. I’m very sorry, but I am ashamed that the country acts this way.” She insisted that her son needed treatment, not prison.

In an earlier interview she told Israeli TV her sun was suffering from a brain tumor, which made school difficult for him. Because of this and his autism, Kadar was homeschooled.

Defense lawyer Shira Nir said these conditions made Kadar unfit to stand trial, as he could not distinguish right from wrong. A medical panel confirmed the defendant’s autistic condition, but concluded he was capable of understanding the consequences of his actions. Judge Gurfinkel said Kadar’s conditions were taken into account, lessening the sentence from 17 years in prison to 10.

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