Spies are Treated Better

Edward Snowden is not only a hero but he’s a pretty witty hero as well. After being accused of working as a Russian spy Edward Snowden made and excellent point:

Snowden, in a rare interview that he conducted by encrypted means from Moscow, denied the allegations outright, stressing that he “clearly and unambiguously acted alone, with no assistance from anyone, much less a government.” He added, “It won’t stick…. Because it’s clearly false, and the American people are smarter than politicians think they are.”

If he was a Russian spy, Snowden asked, “Why Hong Kong?” And why, then, was he “stuck in the airport forever” when he reached Moscow? (He spent forty days in the transit zone of Sheremetyevo International Airport.) “Spies get treated better than that.”

It’s true, if Snowden were a Russian spy he would have been met at the airport by several state agents and escorted to whatever headquarters he worked for. Instead he sat around in an airport while he awaited news of whether or not he would be granted asylum in Russia.

He also makes a valid point about the intelligence of the average American. The great state propaganda machine assumes we’re all idiots that will happily lap up anything it publishes. While there are quite a few people who do trust the propagandists they are, I believe, in the minority.

The United States Government’s Partnership with the Sinaloa Drug Cartel

During the tail end of 2012 evidence came to light that showed the United States government had partnered with the Sinaloa drug cartel. Investigations based on that evidence show that the partnership existed at least from 2000 to 2012:

An investigation by El Universal found that between the years 2000 and 2012, the U.S. government had an arrangement with Mexico’s Sinaloa drug cartel that allowed the organization to smuggle billions of dollars of drugs while Sinaloa provided information on rival cartels.

Sinaloa, led by Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, supplies 80% of the drugs entering the Chicago area and has a presence in cities across the U.S.


But the El Universal investigation is the first to publish court documents that include corroborating testimony from a DEA agent and a Justice Department official.

If the United States government wanted to take down the Mexican drug cartels you would think it would partner with several of the small ones, organize them into a force that can combat the Sinaloa cartel, and then play them against each other after toppling the biggest player. By partnering with the biggest cartel the United States effective empowered both the biggest player in the drug trade as well as the biggest threat to the Mexican government. That leads one to question whether the partnership was about hurting the drug trade or making a profitable arrangement that would also cause instability in Central America. Let’s not forget that this partnership also involved the United States providing arms to the Sinaloa cartel.

It amazes me that people still believe the United States government has any real interest in fighting the drug “problem”. All evidence is to the contrary. Even if it is interested in fighting the drug “problem” it is going about it in a manner that makes the “problem” much worse. Instead of having people who are addicted to various substances we have people who are addicted to various substances and a large number of dead bodies. I would argue that addicts and dead bodies is much worse than just addicts.

WristCoin Update

Although life has done its best to prevent me from working on WristCoin I’m finally getting close to a version 1.0 release. It is now at a point where I feel comfortable posting some screenshots of the application and giving a brief explanation of what it does.

When you open WristCoin on your Pebble you will be greeted with this screen:


This screen lists the three exchanges that WristCoin currently works with (Bitstamp, Mt. Gox, and BTC-e), fetches price information from each of the exchanges, and displays the price of the last Bitcoin sale on each exchange. I’m thinking about changing it to display the 24-hour average instead but I haven’t settled on that yet.

If you highlight and click an exchange you will be greeted with additional pricing information:


This screen shows various pricing information for a selected exchange as well as the volume of Bitcoin that has been trade on that exchange in the last 24 hours. Clicking the back button on the Pebble will return you to the main menu.

At this point the only thing I really have left to do is write better error handling code. I’ve created an icon for the app but I’m not entirely happy with it. Needless to say I’m no artist. But things are progressing smoothly and I must say that I’m very impressed with the latest beta of the Pebble iOS application.

The Propaganda Machine is Getting Slow

Edward Snowden has been disseminating information about the National Security Agency’s (NSA) surveillance apparatus since June 5th of last year. In all of that time the state’s propaganda machine has been making feeble attempts to combat these leaks. These attempts have ranged from trying to label Snowden a traitor to claiming the state’s surveillance apparatus is necessary to keep American’s safe. Over seven months after Snowden began his heroic efforts the state’s propaganda machine is finally putting some real effort into attempting to discredit him:

Washington – Edward Snow­den, who leaked classified National Security Agency documents, might have been working for Russian spy services before he left his job as an NSA contractor last year, the heads of the House and Senate intelligence committees said Sunday.

“I don’t think it was a gee-whiz luck event that he ended up in Moscow under the handling” of Russia’s state security service, said Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., chairman of the House panel.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, was asked whether she agreed with Rogers that Snowden may have had help from the Russians. “He may well have. We don’t know at this stage,” she said.

Neither Rogers nor Feinstein offered evidence that Snowden had been working with Moscow. Both lawmakers said their committees would continue to pursue the suspicions.

It’s a little late to start playing this game. Attempts to discredit somebody need to occur very soon after he or she beings whatever deed warrants discrediting. After a short time frame any attempts to discredit the person appear shady. Such delays make it appear as though you had to invest time into fabricating stories and evidence instead of relying on readily available facts.

The damage Snowden has done to the NSA’s credibility is done. There is nothing the state can do to repair its reputation. Any attempts, other than completely dismantling the NSA, reek of desperation and inability to take responsibility. I’m sure we will be presented with evidence that Snowden was secretly working for the Russians soon but we know that any such evidence will be a pathetic fabrication meant to discredit a great man.

The Death of Politics

One of my friends posted an excellent article on Facebook last week by Karl Hess. The article is titled The Death of Politics and, as you can guess by the title, discusses the various ills of the political process:

This is not a time of radical, revolutionary politics. Not yet. Unrest, riot, dissent and chaos notwithstanding, today’s politics is reactionary. Both left and right are reactionary and authoritarian. That is to say: Both are political. They seek only to revise current methods of acquiring and wielding political power. Radical and revolutionary movements seek not to revise but to revoke. The target of revocation should be obvious. The target is politics itself.

Radicals and revolutionaries have had their sights trained on politics for some time. As governments fail around the world, as more millions become aware that government never has and never can humanely and effectively manage men’s affairs, government’s own inadequacy will emerge, at last, as the basis for a truly radical and revolutionary movement. In the meantime, the radical-revolutionary position is a lonely one. It is feared and hated, by both right and left — although both right and left must borrow from it to survive. The radical-revolutionary position is libertarianism, and its socioeconomic form is Laissez-faire capitalism.

Libertarianism is the view that each man is the absolute owner of his life, to use and dispose of as he sees fit: that all man’s social actions should be voluntary: and that respect for every other man’s similar and equal ownership of life and, by extension, the property and fruits of that life, is the ethical basis of a humane and open society. In this view, the only — repeat, only — function of law or government is to provide the sort of self-defense against violence that an individual, if he were powerful enough, would provide for himself.

If it were not for the fact that libertarianism freely concedes the right of men voluntarily to form communities or governments on the same ethical basis, libertarianism could be called anarchy.

Even if you don’t consider yourself a libertarian or an anarcho-capitalist I believe this article has a lot of valuable points regarding the political process that is worth reading. Namely the article touches on several points I’ve discussed regarding the political process including the fact that it is the system established by our rulers and that the system has a habit of devouring the lives of those who participate in it.

Politicos often criticize individuals who don’t participate in the political process. They will accuse those who refrain from political participation of being lazy and unwilling to do the work necessary to instill change in society. I believe that political participation is an act of laziness. It is what people do in lieu of the work necessary to instill change in society. Instilling change requires changing the opinions of the masses and the most effective way of doing that is to live by example. People generally seem to gravitate towards those who live lives consistent with the principles they espouse.

Political participation is an attempt to seize the power structure for your own gains. When people win political battles they merely win at gaining control over a system that allows them to instill their will on society at the point of a gun. It doesn’t mean people in that society will believe what you believe it only means they will comply with what you believe because a great deal of force is being used to make them. Living by example, on the other hand, tends to convince people that your beliefs are good enough that you live your life by them. Even if they don’t agree with your beliefs they will often respect them and more often than not they will adopt aspects of your beliefs into their own lives.

Libertarianism is a philosophy of peace. Specifically it is a philosophy that teaches the initiation of violence is wrong. Politics is an act of initiating violence and is therefore, in my opinion, incompatible with libertarian principles. Sadly we have all grown up being taught that the political process is the method of instilling change in our society and it is very difficult for most to escape that belief. But unless we do we will find yourselves forever under the boot of rulers.

What Could Go Wrong

Let’s play the game of creating a hypothetical situation. Assume that two countries in close proximity to one another are having a strong disagreement. One of these countries is the source for most of your goods and the other is a country that hosts one of your foreign military bases. What would be the best course of action for your country? Would you try to stay out of it and let the two countries duke it out or would you send your warships into the fray? If you answers the latter you may be ready for a career in the United States war department:

China has confirmed that one of its warships — reportedly the newly deployed aircraft carrier Liaoning — had an “encounter” with a U.S. guided missile cruiser in the South China Sea earlier this month.

The incident, in which American officials say the USS Cowpens was forced to take evasive action to avoid a collision, was first revealed by Washington last week. China’s state media has said it was Liaoning involved in the incident, but Beijing’s Defense Ministry on Wednesday would only say that the U.S. vessel had been “tailing and harassing” one of its warships while it was engaged in drills. It did not say which of its warships was involved.

What could possible go wrong with involving ourselves in this dispute between China and Japan? Especially when you consider there is really not reason for the United States to be in that region other than to expand its empire. The thing that worries me is incidents of harassment turning into incidents of combat. Warring with China is a recipe for failure considering the economy power it wields.

The Future is Bright

My love-hate relationship with Google continues. On the one hand Google collects as much personal information about its customers as it can in order to sell it to advertisers. On the other hand Google develops some really interesting technology. Its latest endeavor are smart contact lenses:

SAN FRANCISCO — Google’s vision for wearable technology took another ambitious leap forward Thursday when the world’s largest Internet search company announced it is developing a smart contact lens.

The lens measures glucose in tears using a wireless chip and miniaturized glucose sensor. While at a very early stage, Google hopes the technology could help people manage diabetes better.

I have little interest in a lens that can measure glucose levels but I have a lot of interest in where this technology may lead. Someday this technology will likely lead to a contact lens version of Google Glass, that is to say a heads up display. Having a heads up display on contact lenses would offer a means of displaying information over your vision without requiring the use of goofy looking devices on your face. Furthermore it would allow you to conceal the fact that you have a heads up display over your vision, which may come in handy during boring business meetings.

I look forward to our technological future and all of the advantages it will bring and solving the disadvantages it will bring.

A Promising Steganography Tool

Encryption is a wonderful tool that grants us information control. But there is one thing that encryption generally fails to do, conceal the fact that you’re using encryption. This is where steganography comes in. Steganography is the art of concealing hidden messages in plain sight. There are numerous tools that allow you to do this, most of which conceal data inside of image files. The creator of BitTorrent is developing a new steganography tool can conceal data inside of any file type:

For the last year Cohen, who created the breakthrough file-sharing protocol BitTorrent a decade ago, has been working on a new piece of software he calls DissidentX. The program, which he released over the summer in a barebones prototype and is now working to develop with the help of a group of researchers at Stanford, goes beyond encryption to offer users what cryptographers call “steganography,” the ability to conceal a message inside another message. Instead of merely enciphering users’ communications in a scramble of nonsensical characters, DissidentX can camouflage their secrets in an inconspicuous website, a corporate document, or any other, pre-existing file from a Rick Astley video to a digital copy of Crime and Punishment.

“What you really want is to be as unsuspicious as possible,” says Cohen, who spoke with me about DissidentX at the Real World Crypto conference in New York Tuesday. “We don’t want an interloper to be able to tell that this communication is happening at all.”

As world governments become more tyrannical I believe it will become critical to have means of communicating securely in a way that doesn’t reveal the use of secure communications. Embedding an encrypted message inside of a picture of a cat, for example, is likely to go undetected on the Internet. Communications could be setup in such a way that uses embed a message in an image, upload it to a specific image sharing site, and decrypted by the recipient without anybody else knowing the image contains a message.

Increasing the Flow Through the School-Prison Pipeline

The 13th Amendment of the United States Constitution didn’t abolish slavery regardless of what many believe. What it did was change the rules. Criteria for who can and cannot be used as a slave is no longer based entirely on skin color, although it often plays out that way. Instead the primary criteria is whether or not an individual has been given the arbitrary label of criminal. With the slave labor pool dropping something has to be done to keep Federal Prison Industries and Corrections Corporation of America stocked with workers.

Schools in Minnesota, and most likely their slave labor employing partner MINNCOR, are looking at an innovative new way to get those numbers back up. The experiment involves drug testing children in schools:

School administrators in Duluth are talking about testing students randomly for drugs.

Educators say parent and student input would be gathered if the idea moves forward.

Parent Deb Johnson tells KSTP’s sister station WDIO-TV she’s in favor of the tests because it would likely curb the drug problem in the high schools. Johnson is president of the Duluth East Parent-Teacher-Student Association. She expects some resistance to the idea.

Since every activity an adult can possible consider doing is effectively illegal in this country the only way to increase the flow of laborers into the prison system is to either increase enforcement or criminalize children. Increasing enforcement costs money and requires more badged thugs. Criminalizing children is much easier because the population is mostly captive. This is probably why more states have been trying to open the school-prison pipeline wider. Testing adults for drugs is slightly more difficult than testing children for drugs because adults have the right to refuse. Children, on the other hand, are given no legal opportunity to refuse any order given by a school administrator.

I’m sure many people, like Deb Johnson, will approve of drug testing children. They will approve of this because they perceive that a drug problem exists and believe drug testing will fix that problem. In reality this is a case where the “fix” is worse than the “problem”. In all likelihood any kid who tests positive for drug use will find him or herself brought up on charges. What may have been a youthful indiscretion would turn into a lifelong punishment.

Finding a job is extremely difficult when you have anything on your criminal record. It’s one of the reasons I believe the recidivism rate is so high in the United States. After getting out of prison an individual has a difficult time getting a job so they return to crime in order to survive. By charging children with a drug offense they are effectively guaranteed a lifetime of hardship in regards to finding a job. While many people may claim that this is a good reason for kids not to do drugs we need to be honest and admit that children suck at long term planning. That’s part of the reason we don’t trust them with real responsibility. So hitting them with a lifelong punishment is nothing short of absurd. But that’s most likely what will come of these drug tests.

I find it sick that the schools are even thinking about doing this and I find it even sicker that many people will actually approve of this.