Tell me straight out, I call on you — answer me: imagine that you yourself are building the edifice of human destiny with the object of making people happy in the finale, of giving them peace and rest at last, but for that you must inevitably and unavoidably torture just one tiny creature, that same child who was beating her chest with her little fist, and raise your edifice on the foundation of her unrequited tears — would you agree to be the architect on such conditions? Tell me the truth.
A Draconian Sentence Raises Unintended Questions
If you are unaware of the Ulbricht case, do inform yourself: this article from the New York Times explains part of the story. Tor, a contrivance intended to make websites and correspondence utterly private, was used to hide the fact that visitors to Ulbricht’s website were buying and selling prohibited items, principally drugs.
(Alex Winter’s film, Deep Web, tells some of Ulbricht’s story, but it is not available yet.)
Ross Ulbricht did create a marketplace for illicit drugs and other illegal transactions — that is beyond doubt. He took his cut of the profits, and he laundered money. Under existing laws, he deserves punishment. But life in prison with no possibility of parole?
This newsletter suspects the severity of the sentence was partially inspired by the judge’s view that Ulbricht had very nearly constructed an internet presence that could defeat US federal officers’ attempts to crack into it. Ulbricht’s punishment seems secondarily intended to be a lesson to all who would attempt to elude the surveillance of the All-Seeing State. In this case, drugs appear to be a stalking horse — an excuse for the judge to hand down an absurdly inhumane sentence.
Who, after all, believes that drug transactions attempted on Silk Road — but interrupted by the site’s closure — were not subsequently completed without Silk Road?
In any event, there are major concerns here for every US citizen, resident, and visitor.
First, it seems clear that Tor and other attempts to achieve privacy on the internet are vulnerable to governmental agencies. The NSA has declared that it will target any internet messages that are encrypted, and now even the most sophisticated attempt to communicate privately is very likely futile.
Homes and offices are still protected as inviolate without a judge’s search warrant…but your internet activity is a preferred target for multiple agencies. Attempting internet secrecy only attracts the government’s warrantless eavesdroppers.
Everyone has literally no internet privacy, in other words.
Second, there is tacit agreement between law enforcement, the judiciary, and intelligence agencies that the less public privacy, the better. Surveillance is widespread, as a visit to YouTube will demonstrate.
The law enforcement community often insists it can legitimately demand to know what you are doing at any time and in any location. (Watch this video: the cop insists that because he wonders why he and some buildings are being videoed, the camera operator is now “under investigation” and therefore must answer questions. Yes, cops are permitted to lie in order to get answers.)
This newsletter concludes that the sentence imposed on Ulbricht seems intended, at least partially, as a warning not to take a hobbyist’s interest in internet privacy. (You might find a way to assure it!)
Well, what’s to be done? There are two ways the public can impose some rationality on the federal cops. The first is to end the War on Drugs.
The second way of correcting matters involves promoting legislation to protect internet privacy. For this newsletter’s thoughts on the constitutional guarantee of privacy, see Numbers Four, Five, and Six.
Ulbricht-Related: A Thumb In The Eye For The FBI And The NSA
Imagine that you want to occupy and frustrate the feds. So you and a correspondent start “communicating”, using a mix of encryption protocols that hide totally meaningless jumbles of letters and numbers.
Some of your messages are blank. Some contain web addresses that lead nowhere. Some are very long, and pure gibberish. Some of your photos contain encrypted random characters. Some are photos that…are photos.
Everything you do has one goal: the creation of messages that give the appearance of secrecy, but are actually fakes that cannot ever be demonstrated to be meaningless.
Moreover — and this will really sting the spooks and their drudges — nothing you do gives anyone a hint as to how the presumed “genuine” encryption was accomplished.
You do that by “nesting” the encryptions: you start with a nonsense message, encrypt it using Protocol A, and then encrypt the result using a radically different Protocol B. Attempts to crack the message would (first) surely stumble over a twice-encrypted message, and (second) never be able to demonstrate that there was not a third, utterly obscure, level of encryption.
Those are just the simplest of the tricks that could be employed.
Of course this newsletter would never, never do anything like that. Why? Because the US government might do its best to imprison the NTG staff and contributors, and throw the key away…as it just did in the Ulbricht case. The evidence? Concocted, in order to prevent NTG types from doing naughty things in secret.
Do give this entire subject — from everyday encounters with stupid, fascistic cops to all modes of opposition to governmental snooping — your careful consideration.
How much privacy do you have? How much of it do you deserve?
One Sets Aside Better Instincts And Mentions Hillary — Briefly
First, consider Benghazi, the tale that still needs clarification.
Then there are those pesky e-mails.
Ah, the outrage. One can hear the howling: “All right! But Hillary will do The Right Thing when it comes to supreme court appointments! Doesn’t that trump her history?”
Well, no. Nothing can set evidence of Hillary’s precisely focused ambition aside. Her flaws betray flinty incompetence…and probably did cost lives. That makes her history chillingly predictive.
There is a lot of babble about how Antarctica is melting, so it’s time for some facts. Here is a report that tells you what is known and what is not known. The upshot: relax.
Scott Walker for president? Maybe. There is a lot of relevant information in this commentary — facts you probably did not know.
In 2005, Christopher Hitchens made a cogent case for the US assault that destroyed Hussein’s misrule of Iraq. You need watch only the first eighteen minutes of the linked video; thereafter, George Galloway, a clownish ally of Islamofascism, speaks in rebuttal. Of course what happened after 2005 — namely, a dishonorable abandonment of Iraq — was probably provoked by the failure to realize that the USA hadnot previously done something very like delivering the state of California from the clutches of the Democratic party. Hitchens’s sentiments ten years ago matched this newsletter’s, a fact that educes no shame here.
“Top Six Climate Change Problems” is a twenty-two minute, highly recommended video (quote: “The behavior is purely childish”). Watch it now, and again in a few days. It’s essential.
Is Wi-Fi safe? (Wi-Fi is slang for electronic gadgets that are connected to each other by radio waves rather than by wires.) Some people say it’s a huge problem; this newsletter views it as rather like the health risks of eating genetically modified organisms: presently unknown, but possibly lethal. The idea is that rascals are adding something unnatural to the environment, and that can’t be good for anybody. Others say that scenario is not just unproved, but totally incorrect. This newsletter points out that health scares are a dime a dozen, and reminds you that virtually everyone alive has been bombarded by radio waves since before birth. Do you recall the claims that power transformers (on utility poles) cause childhood leukemia? That scare was proved false. Well, the case against mobile phones is a lot better; you should use them with ear buds and a microphone, because pressing a working radio transmitter against your skull is too risky. Exactly how dangerous it is won’t be known until today’s pre-teenagers reach, say, midlife.
All right, what do you people in the Obama administration really think of the public? Come on, be honest!
George Stephanopoulos might not be in trouble with his boss, but he should be. (There’s more here, in the unlikely event you care.) If he’s still the fair-haired boy at ABC, that says something important about the network.
Evidently the US federal government has produced lesson plans and teaching aids to be used to instruct children about “climate change”. Do you have to guess what the result is? A critique is available.
There’s an excellent talk on carbon dioxide in ice, in the air, and in global warming. It lasts one hour and eight minutes. It’s by a climatologist and for climatologists, so you might want to view the first five minutes or so (don’t panic when the speaker is introduced in German: he’s from Australia, and is talking to scientists in Hamburg), and then, when the math comes out, leap ahead in the narrative to about the halfway point (thirty minutes, eh?). From then on, it’s very interesting and the conclusion is easy to grasp. Like all good lecturers, Professor Salby understands the clarifying role graphs can play in a lecture.