Professor-rat's Blurty
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Below are 20 journal entries, after skipping by the 20 most recent ones recorded in Professor-rat's Blurty:

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    Saturday, November 15th, 2014
    9:35 pm
    Scrolleroni Upski
    Much like Julian Rand Paul Assange, he entered the battlefield of ideas without armour or weapons.

    Being a Marxist moron, Christos Tsiolkas, looks at the GFC through an * End Times* prism. As opposed to say, Au's stimulus success.

    The Monthly are doubling-down on National-Bolshevism while New Scientist double-down on *many-worlds*. Corpse media stinks.

    From Simone Signoret & Yves Montand to Susan Sarandon & Noam Chomsky

    Michel Foucault
    At the time of his death in 1984, at the age of fifty-eight, Michel Foucault was widely regarded as one of the most powerful minds of thi...

    "...The bourgeois is about to leave the historical stage..." Joseph Goebbels

    "...Socialism is the doctrine of liberation for the working class..."

    IAryan Nations Library

    "National-socialists practice holy race-war - we Marxist's practice holy class-war. We really should all be Nazbols with Julian Assange"

    Christos underlines the similarities between national-socialism & Marxism. " Why can't we all get along?"

    Whatever happened to the working class?
    It is May 2013, a week after Orthodox Easter, and for my final night in Athens my cousins have taken me out to dinner at a taverna in the working-class neighbourhood of Kipoupoli. It is a warm night in the Greek capital, the alcohol is flowing, and after...

    Brain dead Christos

    Dead Disturbing. A bloodthirsty tale that plays with the fire of anti-semitism
    When George Orwell was in Burma he asked a young boy he met his nationality. “I am a Joo, sir!” He was no more self-conscious than if he had answered: “I am a...
    Friday, November 14th, 2014
    11:35 pm
    Muthafucking CHEKIST Muthafucker
    Russia yesterday announced plans for its long-range bombers to begin patrolling over the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean. When making the announcement, Russian defense secretary Sergei Shoigu also said the country would also start similar patrols over the Arctic Ocean. Although Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steve Warren refused to call the move a provocation, an anonymous senior military official has called such regular patrols over the Gulf “unprecedented” even going back to the Cold War era.

    The planned patrols, which are but the latest development in a larger trend of Russian military provocations, come following reports that the country is revising its official military doctrine to designate NATO and the U.S. as “threats” or “adversaries”. They also follow Russia’s violation of its most recent ceasefire agreement with Ukraine as it continues to send troops across the border to fight alongside rebels in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in a conflict that has killed over 4,000 displaced nearly a million people from their homes. (Naturally, the Kremlin continues to deny it has a military presence in Ukraine aside from Russian “volunteers”.)
    Thursday, November 13th, 2014
    12:02 am
    In Ecuadors green and pleasant land
    Comments on “Assange and the European Arrest Warrant”
    Timothy Rogers says:
    11 November 2014 at 10:14 pm
    The only quibble (not even that, but a “second thought”) that I have with Porter’s piece is the “pleasant prison” of Ecuador where Assange now resides (or lolls about). The truly unpleasant prison from which he cannot escape is his problematical (and megalomaniacal) mind, which was made very clear by Andrew O’Hagan’s piece of dogged and unrewarding reporting about Assange in an LRB article last March. That last remark has no absolutely no bearing on his innocence or guilt in the Swedish matter, where the only thing that matters is the quality and probity of the evidence, about which I have no knowledge. I wouldn’t wish Assange’s ghoulish lifestyle and personal obsessions on anyone, either as punishment or reward. Ecuador is abundant in greenery and other natural wonders — maybe Assange will take a break from being glued to the internet’s ceaseless stream of information, go for a walk, and discover that there is actually a world to love or hate beyond the purview of Wikileaks.
    Tuesday, November 11th, 2014
    8:56 pm
    Jesus Saves is now live.

    Now anyone can contribute bitcoins to motivate people with information on criminals to provide that information to law enforcement, or motivate law enforcement officers to take action directly.
    I've personally contributed over 40 BTC for the bounties to help get things started.
    With this financial motivation I hope we can help catch the dishonest among us, and motivate those working in law enforcement to actually take action.

    I'm sure there is lots of room for improvement to the site's aesthetic and technical implementation.

    Please post your suggestions for improvements to the site below.

    Together we are making a better world!
    8:24 pm
    Brothers in arms
    One of the more grotesque declarations from Mr. Putin (and there are plenty to choose from) was his recent attempt to whitewash the Nazi-Soviet pact.

    Writing for the New York Review of Books, the Yale historian Timothy Snyder, whose brilliant and devastating Bloodlands shows exactly where that pact led, offers a useful corrective:

    The Stalin-Hitler alliance had devastating consequences for Poland and the three Baltic states, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. In Poland, on September 17, 1939, Stalin joined his ally Hitler in a military attack, sending the Red Army to invade the country from the east. It met the allied Wehrmacht in the middle and organized a joint victory parade. The Soviet and German secret police promised each other to suppress any Polish resistance. Behind the lines the Soviet NKVD organized the mass deportation of about half a million Polish citizens to the Gulag. It also executed thousands of Polish officers, many of whom were fresh from combat against the Wehrmacht.

    Ten months later, the Baltic states were also occupied by the Red Army and annexed to the Soviet Union. These three small countries lost tens of thousands of citizens to deportations, including most of their elites. The Baltic states were declared by Soviet law never to have existed, so that service to those states became a crime. The Soviet idea that states can be declared to exist or not, now echoed in Russian pronouncements about Ukraine, is deeply etched in the political memory of Poland and the Baltic region today….In the first part of the war, from 1939 to 1941 the Soviet Union was a German ally, fighting in the eastern theater and supplying Germany with the minerals, oil, and food it needed to make war against Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and most importantly France and Britain.
    Monday, November 10th, 2014
    6:56 pm
    Glenn Mercer November 9, 2014 at 6:00 pm
    I am not sure if this comment is entirely on point, but I am prompted to write it because of the sort of anarcho-socialist romance around BitCoin. Two weeks ago I was nailed by the CryptoWall scheme: all 32,000 files on my laptop were encrypted, and I was given a few days to pay $500 to the pirates for the decryption key. I paid up, got my files back, and promptly installed all the backup and security processes that I should have had running to start with. But to my point: this nefarious activity turned three technologies that were initially developed to defend/liberate/empower the Average Joe into tools that exploit/rob/abuse the Average Joe. To wit (I’ve always wanted to type “to wit”):

    1. The encryption used was PGP … originally devised to protect political activists from government snoops, i think 2. The network for communicating with the bandits was Tor…ditto I think? 3. The only currency accepted was Bitcoin…’nuff said.

    I am not in this comment criticizing any of these technologies or their creators. I am only ruefully offering up the irony, that for this individual at least, my FIRST direct encounter with each of these technologies was during a robbery. Maybe I will use my leftover BitCoins to buy a coffee next time I am in Praha.

    I guess any technology can be weaponized…

    - See more at:
    3:54 pm
    Older than Machiavelli
    Doublethink at work and the ATLANTIC is shocked, SHOCKED

    Peter Pomerantsev on Vladislav Surkov, one of the architects of the Putin system

    One of Surkov’s many nicknames is the “political technologist of all of Rus.” Political technologists are the new Russian name for a very old profession: viziers, gray cardinals, wizards of Oz. They first emerged in the mid-1990s, knocking on the gates of power like pied pipers, bowing low and offering their services to explain the world and whispering that they could reinvent it. They inherited a very Soviet tradition of top-down governance and tsarist practices of co-opting anti-state actors (anarchists in the 19th century, neo-Nazis and religious fanatics now), all fused with the latest thinking in television, advertising, and black PR….

    In the 21st century, the techniques of the political technologists have become centralized and systematized, coordinated out of the office of the presidential administration, where Surkov would sit behind a desk with phones bearing the names of all the “independent” party leaders, calling and directing them at any moment, day or night. The brilliance of this new type of authoritarianism is that instead of simply oppressing opposition, as had been the case with 20th-century strains, it climbs inside all ideologies and movements, exploiting and rendering them absurd. One moment Surkov would fund civic forums and human-rights NGOs, the next he would quietly support nationalist movements that accuse the NGOs of being tools of the West. With a flourish he sponsored lavish arts festivals for the most provocative modern artists in Moscow, then supported Orthodox fundamentalists, dressed all in black and carrying crosses, who in turn attacked the modern-art exhibitions. The Kremlin’s idea is to own all forms of political discourse, to not let any independent movements develop outside of its walls. Its Moscow can feel like an oligarchy in the morning and a democracy in the afternoon, a monarchy for dinner and a totalitarian state by bedtime…

    Vladimir Nabokov once described a species of butterfly that at an early stage in its development had to learn how to change colors to hide from predators. The butterfly’s predators had long died off, but still it changed its colors from the sheer pleasure of transformation. Something similar has happened to the Russian elites: During the Soviet period they learned to dissimulate in order to survive; now there is no need to constantly change their colors, but they continue to do so out of a sort of dark joy, conformism raised to the level of aesthetic act.

    Surkov himself is the ultimate expression of this psychology. As I watched him give his speech to the students and journalists in London, he seemed to change and transform like mercury, from cherubic smile to demonic stare, from a woolly liberal preaching “modernization” to a finger-wagging nationalist, spitting out willfully contradictory ideas: “managed democracy,” “conservative modernization.” Then he stepped back, smiling, and said: “We need a new political party, and we should help it happen, no need to wait and make it form by itself.” And when you look closely at the party men in the political reality show Surkov directs, the spitting nationalists and beetroot-faced communists, you notice how they all seem to perform their roles with a little ironic twinkle…
    Sunday, November 9th, 2014
    9:29 pm
    Stunning logic escapes religious lunatics
    A colleague of mine brought an article to my attention, written in 2010 by one Karima Hamdan, entitled “Halal Hysteria”. It is a very eloquently written overview of the media hype surrounding this issue, with some discussion of evidence for and against the effectiveness of captive bolt stunning in cattle, and electrical stunning in both sheep and poultry. The author gets a little carried away at the end, reminding us that these animals are all Allah’s creatures, etc., but the main body of the article is a good summary and well-considered argument for why stunning might not be as humane as we’d like to think it is, and is a worthwhile read [1].

    At the risk of raining on someone’s parade, bursting someone else’s bubble, or otherwise buggering up a third person’s unspecified metaphorical device, it has to be said that the article’s discussion of captive bolt stunning in cattle may have taken a somewhat superficial tour of the available evidence. In the playground of “balance” in media reporting of contentious issues, opposing viewpoints are often represented as equally valid, out of all proportion to the reality of the situation, in order to seem politically correct and inclusive (yes, it’s all very warm and fuzzy), whereas in the real world of science we do our best to portray an accurate view of the evidence, however it falls. In this case, however, it may be fair to say that Karima has intentionally loaded the fat kid onto one end of the seesaw of balance, ignoring the conga line of skinny kids standing in the background.

    Karima’s article, and almost every page on the web that involves a link to or quote from the scientific literature on this topic, references a paper published in a German veterinary journal in 1978 by Schulze, et al. [2]. Karima infers from the Schulze paper that:

    Halal slaughter was not associated with any signs of pain.
    Stunned animals showed EEG tracings consistent with perception of pain.
    Okay. First things first. The 1978 paper by Schulze was a review article offering an overview largely of the political and regulatory environment pertaining to animal processing and slaughter in Germany at the time. The information regarding EEG findings in slaughtered animals was actually sourced from a short report by one of his colleagues, A.S. Hazem, in 1977, based on research conducted by the Veterinary University of Hanover’s clinic for clawed/hoofed animals. The pertinent subset of data for captive bolt stunning of cattle was the result of studying precisely 15 animals (yes, n = 15), with 5 of them stunned, and 10 of them ritually slaughtered without stunning. The results were as follows:

    In ritually-slaughtered animals (n=10):
    No immediate change in EEG seen when the throat was cut.
    Flatline EEG was seen at <= 23 seconds in 7 of 10 animals. No comment is made on how long it took for the other 3 (presumably longer?).

    In bolt-stunned animals (n=5):

    All 5 animals showed EEG changes consistent with a seizure-like state.
    Flatline EEG was seen at <= 28 seconds in 4 out of 5 animals. Again, with no comment on the 5th animal.
    The author notes, several times, that the EEG changes seen in the stunned animals “…almost certainly eliminates a sense of pain”.
    Karima infers that the ritual slaughter was not associated with any signs of pain, based on the fact that the (simplified) EEG trace did not change significantly when the animal’s throat was cut. It is unclear what changes one might expect to see in such an EEG trace due to pain, as such changes are quite subtle (though certainly detectable) even in human subjects with very complex EEG signal processing. It is questionable whether one would expect to see significant changes with the primitive equipment and processing available in 1978. Also, the wording of Schulze’s article is non-specific as to what happened a bit later than “immediately” but before the flatline EEG. Twenty three seconds is a long time when you’re standing around with your throat sliced open. Unfortunately the raw data from Hazem’s 1977 report is not readily available online, so making any more accurate interpretation is regrettably not possible at this time**.

    The inference is also made that stunned animals showed EEG tracings consistent with pain, and this interpretation of the results is promulgated on other pro-Halal websites and blog entries [3]. The results reported by Schulze, and his own conclusion in the 1978 paper, simply do not support this assertion. Schulze concludes that: “After captive bolt stunning most severe general disturbances (waves of 1-2 Hz) occurred in the EEG, which almost with certainty eliminates a sense of pain.” It is likely that a superficial reading of the paper, or a mis-translation from the original German, in which it was published, may be responsible and the error passed on a la Chinese whispers style, without anyone going back to check the paper for themselves. (Tell a lie, repeat the lie, the lie becomes the truth… as they say).

    There was no other evidence in the scientific literature supporting the conclusion that ritual slaughter was less painful or more humane than stunning.

    Evidence For What Happens To Stunned and Non-Stunned Cattle

    Time to Physical Collapse

    One good study published in 2010 addresses this question. Gregory et al. [4] had a look at what happened to cattle (n = 174) in a British abattoir that were ritually slaughtered without stunning. Note that this is in a modern facility where the cattle were kept upright in a containment device, subject to a single halal-compliant cut with a very sharp knife, and then released to stand or collapse as they pleased. The results were as follows:

    14% of the animals collapsed, stood back up, and then collapsed again later.
    Average time to final collapse was 20 seconds.
    8% of the animals took at least 60 seconds to collapse.
    A few animals took longer than 75 seconds to collapse.
    These cattle did not have EEG electrodes connected to them, but I leave it to the reader to determine for themselves whether they think it likely that an animal that has had it’s neck sliced open, which collapses, and then is able to regain its feet for a period of time up to a minute or so, is unable to feel any pain or distress.

    Bleeding Into The Airways

    The same group published a paper back in 2008 looking at the prevalence of bleeding into the sliced open trachea, comparing the prevalence of blood in the trachea, the bronchi and the lower airways in animals that were stunned, or animals killed by ritual slaughter without stunning [5]. They found that:

    Stunned animals stopped breathing almost immediately.
    Blood in upper trachea: Halal = 58% vs stunned = 21%
    Blood in bronchi: Halal = 69% vs stunned = 31%
    Bloody froth in airways: Halal = 19% vs stunned = 0%
    (It was considered that bloody froth was indicative of the presence of blood in the distal or lower airways). The relevance here is that any extra fluid in one’s airways is extremely uncomfortable. Think about the last time you swallowed something and it went down “the wrong way”; even a small amount of saliva that has been aspirated (breathed in) will have you coughing madly for a while and it is most certainly not a pleasant experience***. Again, I leave it to you, the intrepid reader, to decide whether you think drowning in your own blood while you try to breathe for 20-60 seconds is a candidate for a Fun And Humane Ways To Spend Your Time award.

    EEG Monitoring In Slaughtered Animals

    The limited and poorly reported EEG data that was the subject of part of Schulze’s 1978 paper have been discussed above. Others have since explored the same avenue of investigation. In 1988 Daly et al. investigated the time to loss of evoked EEG responses in cattle that were either stunned or ritually slaughtered [6]. This was a small study (n = 16) and the results were:

    For stunned animals: - 100% of stunned animals irreversibly lost evoked responses immediately. - Average time from cutting of the neck to loss of all electrical activity was < 59 seconds.

    For ritually slaughtered animals: - Evoked responses were lost from 20 to 126 seconds (average 55 to 77 seconds) after cutting of the throat. - Average time from cutting of the neck to loss of all electrical activity was 75 seconds.

    Both visual and somatosensory evoked potentials were measured (somatosensory = touch/pain sensation from the body’s structures). The results indicate that the stunned animals lost the capacity for their brain to sense or react to any further sensory input (such as having one’s throat sliced open) after they were stunned. The ritually slaughtered animals demonstrated an ability to sense and react to sensory input (including pain) for an average of 77 seconds (somatosensory input). The time to flatlining of the EEG was also longer in the ritually slaughtered animals.

    Gibson et al. looked at EEG changes in bolt-stunned cattle in 2009, and found that changes in cerebrocortical activity sufficient to produce insensibility occurred at 0-14 seconds after stunning [7]. The same group also found that EEG responses seen in animals ritually slaughtered, and thought to be due to noxious stimulus (i.e. the pain of having their necks sliced open) were absent in animals killed in the same way after captive bolt stunning [8, 9].


    In determining whether ritual slaughter or stunning is more humane, the pivotal question is what and for how long does the animal feel before it dies. The available evidence, as detailed above, reflects the following:

    Both methods kill the animal in about the same time (as one might expect since exsanguination is the mode of death in both cases), though brain death (flat EEG) may occur faster in stunned animals.

    Ritually slaughtered animals continue to breathe as they begin to exsanguinate, whereas stunned animals do not. Ritually slaughtered animals consequently aspirate or inhale significant quantities of their own blood during their final minutes. This is almost certainly highly unpleasant.

    Highly sensitive EEG data demonstrates the persistence of the ability to sense and react to pain for an average of 77 seconds in ritually slaughtered animals. Stunned animals show no EEG evidence of evoked responses to physical stimuli of any sort, from the moment of stunning onwards.

    A significant proportion of ritually slaughtered animals are able to regain their feet after initial collapse, indicating ongoing brain function and consciousness. It is highly unlikely that they can stand up, yet not be aware of pain and distress.

    While the origins of ritual slaughter as advocated by Judaism and Islam have their roots in a desire for the most humane treatment possible for livestock animals, modern insistence on such traditional slaughter methods have become, like so many other aspects of religious dogma and practice, inherited hand-me-downs from a more ignorant time. Such practices seem insisted upon predominantly (if not wholly) through a desire to adhere blindly to tradition, rather than for any practical or rational reason. Times have changed, and the best way of doing things millennia ago is not necessarily still the best way.

    Attempts to mount a rational argument in favour of the ritual slaughter of cattle, while welcomed, are simply not supported (and are actively refuted) by the preponderance of available published, peer-reviewed evidence. The stunning of cattle immediately prior to slaughter clearly involves less suffering for the animal, and it is incumbent upon us as sentient fellow animals who understand all too well the nature of anxiety, pain and fear to do what we can to minimise that suffering. Ideally we could all become vegetarians overnight, but in a world where untold thousands of cattle will be killed every day for our benefit, the least we can do is make an effort to end their lives as swiftly and painlessly as possible. FROM
    9:19 pm
    Fucking cutthroats
    Islamic Slaughter
    Muslims are only allowed to eat meat that has been prepared according to Islamic law. This method is often challenged by animal rights activists as ‘causing unnecessary suffering to the animal’. Muslims disagree and say that Islamic law on killing animals is designed to reduce the pain and distress that the animal suffers.

    AFIC has strict rules with regards to Islamic slaughter. These rules state:

    The slaughterer must be a sane adult Muslim.
    The slaughterer must say the name of God before making the cut.
    The name of God is said in order to emphasise the sanctity of life and that the animal is being killed for food with God's consent.
    The animal must be killed by cutting the throat with one continuous motion of a sharp knife.
    The cut must sever at least three of the trachea, oesophagus, and the two blood vessels on either side of the throat.
    The spinal cord must not be cut.
    Animals must be well treated before being killed.
    Animals must not see other animals being killed.
    The knife must not be sharpened in the animal's presence.
    The knife blade must be free of blemishes that might tear the wound.
    The animal must not be in an uncomfortable position.
    The animal must be allowed to bleed out and be completely dead before further processing.
    Some experts say that the animal killed in this way does not suffer if the cut is made quickly and cleanly, because it loses consciousness before the brain can perceive any pain: "the Islamic way of slaughtering is the most humane method of slaughter and that captive bolt stunning, practiced in the West, causes 3 severe pain to the animal"

    Schulze W, Schultze-Petzold H, Hazem AS, Gross R. Experiments for the objectification of pain and consciousness during conventional (captive bolt stunning) and religiously mandated (“ritual cutting”) slaughter procedures for sheep and calves. Deutsche Tierärztliche Wochenschrift 1978 Feb 5;85(2):62-6.

    The argument that halal slaughter is inhumane because animals are allowed to bleed to death is scientifically untrue.

    An animal's throat is cut in one swift motion with a razor sharp knife. Unconsciousness is achieved within seconds and death occurs due to cerebral hypoxia not blood loss. FROM
    Saturday, November 8th, 2014
    1:28 pm
    A dish best served cold
    "... brothers to Hollywood. Fat Man has married Rosie, the owner of a hotel in France, and they have a daughter, Maggie.
    Fat Man is being chased by more than one character who wants revenge for the atomic blasts, but the family attempts as much normalcy as anthropomorphic weapons of mass destruction can manage.
    They come across a restaurant called “Atomic Burger,” and Fat Man hesitates, thinking “it’s in pretty bad taste” to eat there.
    1:27 pm
    Tested on swine
    Like many folkloric characters in this tradition, the brothers are obsessed with birth: their own origin narratives, but also the round bellies of pregnant women and the distended sections of expectant animals. One scene on a farm is so eerie that it becomes eternal. A farmer tells the brothers that the “pigs must think you are their fathers” as laughter “dies in his throat. A darkness passes over his face. He understands something that he did not before. The hog shadows grow longer; the animals themselves do not move.”
    1:24 pm
    Look on our works ye mighty
    Fat Man and Little Boy — become human. Fat Man opens his eyes inside a bunker, surrounded by destruction. He sobs “without apparent cause, or with causes too trivial for words: the way his walrus shadow climbs the wall so that his head looms on the ceiling like an astral body.” He is whole in body, but only a child in narrative age. He “remembers how it was to explode.”
    Little Boy, “gawky and thin,” whose “bones all protrude from his limbs like knobs on a young tree,” calls his larger friend “brother.” Their life together begins in kindness. Little Boy asks if he can walk by Fat Man’s side, and hold his hand, and speak to him. But Fat Man looks around to see the destruction they wrought.
    Friday, November 7th, 2014
    11:37 pm
    Aftergood of the Faun
    Keeping Secrets
    Four decades ago, university researchers figured out the key to computer privacy, sparking a battle with the National Security Agency that continues today.

    Brian Stauffer
    By Henry Corrigan-Gibbs

    WHAT IF your research could help solve a looming national problem, but government officials thought publishing it would be tantamount to treason? A Stanford professor and his graduate students found themselves in that situation 37 years ago, when their visionary work on computer privacy issues ran afoul of the National Security Agency. At the time, knowledge of how to encrypt and decrypt information was the domain of government; the NSA feared that making the secrets of cryptography public would severely hamper intelligence operations. But as the researchers saw it, society's growing dependence on computers meant that the private sector would also need effective measures to safeguard information. Both sides' concerns proved prescient; their conflict foreshadowed what would become a universal tug-of-war between privacy-conscious technologists and security-conscious government officials.


    The International Symposium on Information Theory is not known for its racy content or politically charged presentations, but the session at Cornell University on October 10, 1977, was a special case. In addition to talks with titles like "Distribution-Free Inequalities for the Deleted and Holdout Error Estimates," the conference featured the work of a group from Stanford that had drawn the ire of the National Security Agency and the attention of the national press. The researchers in question were Martin Hellman, then an associate professor of electrical engineering, and his students Steve Pohlig, MS '75, PhD '78, and Ralph Merkle, PhD '79.

    A year earlier, Hellman had published "New Directions in Cryptography" with his student Whitfield Diffie, Gr. '78. The paper introduced the principles that now form the basis for all modern cryptography, and its publication rightfully caused a stir among electrical engineers and computer scientists. As Hellman recalled in a 2004 oral history, the nonmilitary community's reaction to the paper was "ecstatic." In contrast, the "NSA was apoplectic."

    The fact that Hellman and his students were challenging the U.S. government's longstanding domestic monopoly on cryptography deeply annoyed many in the intelligence community. The NSA acknowledged that Diffie and Hellman had come up with their ideas without access to classified materials. Even so, in the words of an internal NSA history declassified in 2009 and now held in the Stanford Archives, "NSA regarded the [Diffie-Hellman] technique as classified. Now it was out in the open."

    The tension between Hellman and the NSA only worsened in the months leading up to the 1977 symposium. In July, someone named J. A. Meyer sent a shrill letter to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, which had published Hellman's papers and was holding the conference. It began:

    "I have noticed in the past months that various IEEE Groups have been publishing and exporting technical articles on encryption and cryptology—a technical field which is covered by Federal Regulations, viz: ITAR (International Traffic in Arms Regulations, 22 CFR 121-128)."

    Meyer's letter asserted that the IEEE and the authors of the relevant papers might be subject to prosecution under federal laws prohibiting arms trafficking, communication of atomic secrets and disclosure of classified information.

    Without naming Hellman or his co-authors, Meyer specified the issues of IEEE's Transactions on Information Theory journal and Computer magazine in which Hellman's articles appeared. Meyer concluded ominously that "these modern weapons technologies, uncontrollably disseminated, could have more than academic effect."

    Meyer's letter alarmed many in the academic community and drew coverage by Science and the New York Times for two main reasons. First, the letter suggested that merely publishing a scientific paper on cryptography would be the legal equivalent of exporting nuclear weapons to a foreign country. If Meyer's interpretation of the law was correct, it seemed to place severe restrictions on researchers' freedom to publish. Second, Deborah Shapley and Gina Kolata of Science magazine discovered that Meyer was an NSA employee.

    As soon as Hellman received a copy of the letter, he recognized that continuing to publish might put him and his students in legal jeopardy, so he sought advice from Stanford University counsel John Schwartz.

    In his memo to Schwartz, Hellman made a lucid case for the value of public-domain cryptography research. Astutely, Hellman first acknowledged that the U.S. government's tight control over cryptographic techniques proved enormously useful in World War II: Allied forces used confidential cryptographic discoveries to improve their own encryption systems while denying those same cryptographic benefits to Axis powers. Even so, Hellman argued that circumstances had changed.

    "[T]here is a commercial need today that did not exist in the 1940's. The growing use of automated information processing equipment poses a real economic and privacy threat. Although it is a remote possibility, the danger of initially inadvertent police state type surveillance through computerization must be considered. From that point of view, inadequate commercial cryptography (which our publications are trying to avoid) poses an internal national security threat."

    In the memo, Hellman described how his earlier attempts to prevent "stepping on [the] toes" of the NSA failed when the agency's staffers would not even disclose which areas of cryptography research Hellman should avoid.

    Responding to Hellman a few days later, Schwartz opined that publishing cryptography research would not in itself violate federal law. His findings had a strong legal basis: Two regulations governed classified information in the United States at the time—an executive order and the Atomic Energy Act of 1954—and neither seemed to prevent the publication of unclassified research on cryptography.

    There was only one other likely legal tool that the federal government could use to prevent the Stanford group from disseminating their work: the Arms Export Control Act of 1976, which regulated the export of military equipment. Under a generous interpretation of the law, giving a public presentation on cryptographic algorithms could constitute "export" of arms. It was not clear, however, that a prosecution under this act would stand up to a legal challenge on First Amendment grounds.

    Evaluating these laws together, Schwartz concluded that Hellman and his students could legally continue to publish. At the same time, Schwartz noted wryly, "at least one contrary view [of the law] exists"—that of Joseph A. Meyer. Hellman later recalled Schwartz's less-than-comforting informal advice: "If you are prosecuted, Stanford will defend you. But if you're found guilty, we can't pay your fine and we can't go to jail for you."

    The Cornell symposium was to begin three days after Schwartz offered his legal opinion; Hellman, Merkle and Pohlig had to quickly decide whether to proceed with their presentations in spite of the threat of prosecution, fines and jail time. Graduate students typically present their own research at academic conferences, but according to Hellman, Schwartz recommended against it in this case. Since the students were not employees of Stanford, it might be more difficult for the university to justify paying their legal bills. Schwartz also reasoned that dealing with a lengthy court case would be harder for a young PhD student than for a tenured faculty member. Hellman left the decision up to the students.

    According to Hellman, Merkle and Pohlig at first said, "We need to give the papers, the hell with this." After speaking with their families, though, the students agreed to let Hellman present on their behalf.

    In the end, the symposium took place without incident. Merkle and Pohlig stood on stage while Hellman gave the presentation. The fact that the conference went ahead as planned, Science observed, "left little doubt that the work [in cryptography] has been widely circulated." That a group of nongovernmental researchers could publicly discuss cutting-edge cryptographic algorithms signaled the end of the U.S. government's domestic control of information on cryptography.


    Vice Adm. Bobby Ray Inman took over as director of the NSA in the summer of 1977. Inman was an experienced naval intelligence officer with allies in both political parties. If his qualifications for the job were good, his timing was not. He had barely warmed his desk chair when he was thrust into the center of what he recently described as "a huge media uproar" over the J. A. Meyer letter—written the very first day of Inman's tenure.

    Chuck Painter/Stanford News Service
    SHARING THE STEALTH: Merkle, Hellman and Diffie ended government's monopoly on cryptography.

    Although Inman was concerned about the impact that publication of these new cryptographic techniques would have on the NSA's foreign eavesdropping capabilities, he was also puzzled. As he explained, the primary consumers of cryptographic equipment in the 1970s were governments. Apart from that, "the only other people early on . . . who were buying encryption to use were the drug dealers." Since the NSA already had "incredibly able people working on building the systems to be used by the U.S. government" and the NSA had no interest in protecting the communications of drug dealers, Inman wanted to find out why these young researchers were so focused on cryptography.

    In the tradition of intelligence professionals, Inman set out to gather some information for himself. He went to California to meet with faculty members and industry leaders at Berkeley, Stanford and elsewhere. Inman quickly discovered that the researchers at Stanford were designing cryptographic systems to solve an emerging problem that was not yet on the NSA's radar: securing the growing number of commercial computer systems, which were subject to attack or compromise. The researchers' position, Inman said, was that "there's a whole new world emerging out there where there's going to need to be cryptography, and it's not going to be provided by the government."

    Martin Hellman recently recounted their conversation in similar terms: "I was working on cryptography from an unclassified point of view because I could see—even in the mid-'70s—the growing marriage of computers and communication and the need therefore for unclassified knowledge of cryptography." Inman realized that the California academics saw strong public cryptographic systems as a crucial piece of a functioning technological environment.

    Still, Inman was not excited about the prospect of high-grade encryption systems being available for purchase, especially abroad. "We were worried that foreign countries would pick up and use cryptography that would make it exceedingly hard to decrypt and read their traffic."

    The level of public excitement surrounding the recent cryptography work made growth in the field of unclassified cryptography almost inevitable. In August 1977, Scientific American had published a description of the new RSA cryptosystem devised by Ron Rivest, Adi Shamir and Leonard Adleman of MIT. According to Steven Levy's 2001 book Crypto, the researchers offered a copy of a technical report describing the scheme to anyone who would send a self-addressed stamped envelope to MIT. The authors received 7,000 requests.

    To reckon with the growing threat of unclassified cryptography, Inman convened an internal NSA panel for advice. As recounted in the declassified NSA history, the panel gave Inman three stark choices for how to control the publication of cryptography research:

    (a) Do nothing

    (b) Seek new legislation to impose additional government controls

    (c) Try non-legislative means such as voluntary commercial and academic compliance.

    The panel concluded that the damage was already so serious that something needed to be done.

    NSA documents and Hellman's recollection both suggest that Inman first tried to get a law drafted to restrict cryptographic research, along the lines of the Atomic Energy Act. For political reasons, the NSA history says, Inman's proposed bill was "dead on arrival."

    "Congress [wanted to] unshackle U.S. commerce from any sort of Pentagon-imposed restriction on trade," the history ruefully recounts, and the Carter administration "wanted to loosen Pentagon control of anything, especially anything that might affect individual rights and academic freedom."

    Even if Inman could get a bill through Congress, Hellman said, the First Amendment would make it difficult to prevent researchers from speaking publicly about their work. If they didn't publish their papers, "they'll give 100 talks before they submit it for publication."

    As a sort of last-ditch effort at compromise, Inman organized a voluntary system of prepublication review for cryptography research papers. A number of other scientific journals have attempted a similar system in recent years. "That's really the best anyone has been able to come up with," said Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists, an expert on government secrecy.

    The review process was used for a decade, but Inman recalled that it eventually "fell apart" because of "the explosion of . . . uses" for cryptography. As the world underwent a digital revolution, there was an accompanying "revolution in cryptography," just as Diffie and Hellman had predicted in 1976.


    It is tempting to view the outcome of the conflict between the Stanford researchers and the NSA as an unequivocal victory for freedom of speech and the beginning of the democratization of the tools of cryptography. There is a grain of truth in this characterization, but it misses the larger effect the run-in had on the academic cryptography community and on the NSA.

    Hellman and other academic researchers realized they could win the debate, as long as it took place in public. Newspapers and scientific journals found it much easier to sympathize with a group of quirky and passionate academics than with a shadowy and stern-faced intelligence agency. The issue of First Amendment rights, Hellman recalled in 2004, also gave the press and the researchers a common cause. "With the freedom of publication issue, the press was all on our side. There were editorials in the New York Times and a number of other publications. Science, I remember, had covered our work and was very helpful."

    From the other side, NSA officials realized they would have a difficult time getting public support to suppress publication of what they considered dangerous research results. They turned instead to two aspects of nongovernmental cryptography over which they had near-total control: research funding and national standards.

    As of 2012, the federal government provided 60 percent of U.S. academic research and development funding. By choosing which projects to fund, grant-giving government agencies influence what research takes place.

    Even before the 1977 Symposium on Information Theory, the NSA reviewed National Science Foundation grant applications that might be relevant to signals intelligence or communications security. The purported reason for these reviews was for the NSA to advise the NSF on the proposals' "technical merits," but the agency appeared to use this process to exercise control over nongovernmental cryptography research.

    For instance, the NSA reviewed and approved an NSF grant application from Ron Rivest. Later, Rivest used the funds to develop the enormously influential RSA cryptosystem, which secures most encrypted Internet traffic today. An internal NSA history suggests that the agency would have tried to derail Rivest's grant application if the reviewers had understood what Rivest would do with the money. The NSA missed this opportunity, the history complains, because the wording of Rivest's proposal "was so general that the Agency did not spot the threat" posed by the project.

    Cryptography Illustration
    Brian Stauffer
    In 1979, Leonard Adleman (another member of the RSA triumvirate) applied to the NSF for funding and had his application forwarded to the NSA. According to Whitfield Diffie and Susan Landau's 2007 book, Privacy on the Line, the NSA offered to fund the research in lieu of the NSF. Fearing that his work would end up classified, Adleman protested and eventually received an NSF grant.

    Even though the NSF appears to have maintained some level of independence from NSA influence, the agency likely has had greater control over other federal funding sources. In particular, the Department of Defense funds research through the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the Office of Naval Research, the Army Research Office and other offices. After the run-in with the academic community in the late 1970s, the NSA history asserts that Vice Adm. Inman "secure[d] a commitment" that the Office of Naval Research would coordinate its grants with the NSA. Since funding agencies often need not explain why they have rejected a particular grant proposal, it is hard to judge the NSA's effect on the grant-making process.

    The agency has a second tactic to prevent the spread of cryptographic techniques: keeping high-grade cryptography out of the national standards. To make it easier for different commercial computer systems to interoperate, the National Bureau of Standards (now called NIST) coordinates a semipublic process to design standard cryptographic algorithms. Vendors are hesitant to implement algorithms that are not in the NIST standards: Non-standard algorithms are harder to deploy in practice and are less likely to see adoption in the open marketplace.

    The first controversy over the NSA's hand in these standards erupted in the 1970s when it persuaded the bureau to weaken the Data Encryption Standard (DES) algorithm, an NBS-designed cryptosystem widely used by banks, privacy-sensitive businesses and the public. Hellman and his then-student Diffie mounted a vigorous—and ultimately unsuccessful—public relations campaign to try to improve the strength of the DES algorithm.

    At the time, NSA leadership emphatically denied that it had influenced the DES design. In a public speech in 1979 aimed to quell some of the controversy, Inman asserted: "NSA has been accused of intervening in the development of the DES and of tampering with the standard so as to weaken it cryptographically. This allegation is totally false."

    Recently declassified documents reveal that Inman's statements were misleading, if not incorrect. The NSA tried to convince IBM (which had originally designed the DES algorithm) to reduce the DES key size from 64 to 48 bits. Reducing the key size would decrease the cost of certain attacks against the cryptosystem. The NSA and IBM eventually compromised, the history says, on using a weakened 56-bit key.

    Today, Inman acknowledges that the NSA was trying to strike a balance be-tween protecting domestic commercial communication and safeguarding its own ability to eavesdrop on foreign governments: "[T]he issue was to try to find a level of cryptography that ensured the privacy of individuals and companies against competitors. Against anyone other than a country with a dedicated effort and capability to break the codes."

    The NSA's influence over the standards process has been particularly effective at mitigating what it perceived as the risks of nongovernmental cryptography. By keeping certain cryptosystems out of the NBS/NIST standards, the NSA facilitated its mission of eavesdropping on communications traffic.


    There are a few salient questions to consider when looking back at these first conflicts between the intelligence community and academic researchers in cryptography. A starting point for this analysis, said Aftergood, is to consider "whether in retrospect, [the government's] worst fears were realized."

    According to Inman, the uptake of the research community's cryptographic ideas came at a much slower pace than he had expected. As a result, less foreign traffic ended up being encrypted than the agency had projected, and the consequences for national security were not as dramatic as he had feared. Essentially, Inman recalled, "there was no demand" for encryption systems outside of governments, even though many high-grade systems eventually became available. "You had a supply but no demand for it." Even those people who try to use high-grade cryptographic tools, Hellman said, often make mistakes that render their traffic easy for an intelligence agency to decrypt: "People still make a lot of mistakes: use wrong, bad keys, or whatever else."

    A second question is whether Hellman was right to worry that a lack of strong cryptography could become an "economic and privacy threat" in a computerized economy. In an unexpected turn, today Inman is as worried about protecting nongovernmental computer systems as Hellman was in the 1970s. When asked if he would make the same decisions about nongovernmental cryptography now as he did then, Inman replied, "Rather than being careful to make sure they were[n't] going to damage [our collection capabilities] . . . I would have been interested in how quickly they were going to be able to make [cryptosystems] available in a form that would protect proprietary information as well as government information."

    The theft of portions of the designs for the F-35 jet, Inman said, demonstrates that weak nongovernmental encryption and computer security practices can grievously harm national security. Even though history has vindicated Martin Hellman, he adamantly refuses to gloat over the accuracy of his predictions and the far-reaching impact of his technical work. EXTRACT FROM
    9:58 pm
    More on Vinay Gupta
    Depraved moron respects Bruce "coplover" Sterling

    Other People's Utopias
    hexayurt's picture
    Post created about a month ago by hexayurt

    Over the last couple of months I’ve had a very odd experience of having some of my core political certainties shaken to the core, and others confirmed in a way which feels almost dirty in its precision and gloatworthyness. I’ve been wrong, and I’ve been right, and I’m here to tell you all about it. I've been wrong about Belarus, right about Bitcoin, and these two experiences represent, for me, two ends of a spectrum, two sides of the world, which have both have recently taught me big lessons.

    Much of my life is politics, both the long term goals I have (like abolishing poverty as we know it through voluntary cooperation and open source engineering) and the short tem day to day actions to support those goals; more and more I'm called to decide, not to do. Age, I suppose. I like to think of myself as a fairly politically sophisticated thinker. Bruce Sterling once called me “some guy with a relatively coherent interest in conventional fringe politics” which I thought was rather a fine compliment from a notoriously harsh judge. I kinda thought I had this under control.

    But I’m not a real scholar like Herbert Snorrason or a political doer like Smari McCarthy. I’m in a slightly different gear, a pragmatic theoretician, a researching political engineer. To me, politics is the art and science of causing change to occur in conformity with will. There is a continuum of political decision-making from the small politics involved in being the director of a small enterprise, through to the larger and larger political calls that have to be made.

    The space of choices is huge, and to make it easier to cooperate with each-other when trying to create large scale change, we work together in teams. Call these teams, parties, ideologies, even countries, these teams are about the core values and action principles which enable us to get things done. If one is an anarchist or a Conservative, certain decision procedures and axiomatic beliefs act as steering points so that people know roughly how we will analyze problems, manage data, and respond to a crisis! Patterns of belief are helpful stereotypes, nothing more... and nothing less. Ideally they help us cooperate, giving us an edge against the Collective Action Problem. At worst, they meaninglessly divide us.

    But what happens when these stereotypes turn out to be wrong?

    My images of the USSR came from two places: dim memories of the Cold War era, when they were The Enemy, and a few visits to Berlin over the past few years. In Berlin I spent most of my time in East Berlin or Kreutzberg. In East Berlin marvelled at the architecture - the grand scale, the boldness of Alexanderplatz and the TV Tower, all permeated with the stories of the Stasi and people jumping over painted lines into West Berlin, or jumping out of second floor windows on to piles of mattresses as The Wall went up. I used to joke about Aldi being an East German supermarket chain, then realized it probably was and, hey, good enough. It was all a very long time ago.

    Then I went to Belarus.

    I almost deliberately didn’t do exhaustive research first; I checked the basics as I would before any trip - currency, visas (got that one wrong; but that’s a long story) and health insurance. All fine, no problems. Low crime stats, safe society. Same leader in charge for 20 years and a government that is described in terms that start at “rather stern” and proceed from there in no uncertain terms.

    I’m ashamed to say that some part of my mind thought I was going to 1970s Albania. I had a graven image in my mind, a fixed and rigid preconception that authoritarian socialism could only produce unhappiness, poverty and a stuck-in-the-past social rigidity.

    I could not have been more wrong.

    One of the things I looked at first was GDP per capita - “how much money do the Belarusian have, on average?” There are all kinds of problems with GDP per capita as an index, even if you PPP-adjust your GDP calculations (purchasing power parity) to take account of difference is the price of tortillas from place to place. You need the Gini coefficient to measure inequality, ideally you’d like to differentiate between averages and means, get a sense of the ownership of property and so on. Belarus had a GDP/capita of around $7000 per person, PPP adjusted to $15,000 or so. That’s right around Mexico, Botswana, Turkey. By comparison, Georgia has much lower GDP per capita than Belarus, and PPP-adjusted standards of living are about half that of the Belarusians.

    I’d been to Georgia, my other encounter with the post-Soviet world, only a couple of months before, for Spot the Future. Georgia was a real shock to my system: ride from the airport in a 1950s Trabant taxi that bought gas a dollar at a time (and this was not the last of our taxi adventures), potholes the size of asteroid craters, driving styles straight out of Mad Max, escalators with half inch gaps, one of which nearly crushed my a finger in a loose guard rail, the whole bit. This might sound like I’m just grousing about transportation infrastructure, but the feeling it gave me was that Georgia was an actively dangerous place to be, not because of crime or violence, but simply because the infrastructure was decayed, and the social norms very, very different - as with the taxi driver who simply got out of his cab at an intersection and wandered away (maybe to ask directions?) leaving us sitting in the cab in the middle of a busy intersection. I was really not in Kansas any more. These are trivial objections, but I'm an infrastructure nerd, and they rattled me. The flip side of Georgia is that on paper they’re as poor as Swaziland or Guyana on paper, so they’re doing pretty damn well with it - it’s a real, functioning society with high quality of life. The food, music and civic engagement are superb: it’s a place of deep culture, and I greatly enjoyed my time there. In short, I was troubled by the infrastructure, a little shocked by the poverty among the street beggars, and filled with joy and excitement about the cultural environment: the sense of action, of a culture that runs on profoundly different rules to the Euromerican norms I’ve basically spent my life inside of. It was other but good-other. And, yes, I’m not much of a tourist.

    That was Georgia.

    (You may all now proceed to laugh at somebody who doesn’t even drive a car talking about how scary the road transport is. I know, I’m sorry, this is just a big thing for me given how common a cause of death road traffic accidents are globally. This is a tough scene. These things scare me.

    Also, let me put in a word for the Dive Bar in Tbilisi which, once I realized that it was modeled on an old west saloon with furniture made out of crates and beer pong instead of poker, was about the funnest drinking hole I have ever had the good fortune to experience.)

    Anyway, this was my experience and preconception of the post-Soviet world, and I’m framing it carefully because it’s probably not all that different from your preconceptions of the post-Soviet world, and I’m here to tell you not only are those preconceptions wrong, but there’s a good chance that your entire understanding of the Soviet union was also wrong, and largely based on our own Euromerican propaganda.

    Belarus was a real shock to my system.

    Of course, I should have known. Minsk was one of the sacred cities of Jewish culture before the Holocaust, much like Vienna. Yiddish had once been an official language of government in the area. The place had culture. You don’t wind up with Jews that deeply integrated into a society which isn’t fundamentally cosmopolitan at some level, and of course Russia, before the Revolution, had always been the business end of a lot of what we now think of as “European” culture. Before the Cold War, it was a real cultural power whose values and ideas were felt across a continent.

    So I arrived in Belarus, with my idiot brain thinking 1970s Albania, and walked out into 2014 West Berlin. Broad streets, prosperous people, new cars. Deeply efficient municipal infrastructure, stunning architecture, and the excellent beer that I’ve come to expect outside of the Anglosphere, but particularly points east.

    I think about the GDP numbers: $15,000 PPP-adjusted, $7000 straight, and it viscerally hits me that not only do the numbers not tell the real story, they hardly tell the story at all: my own combination of bad statistics and bad history have left me completely wrong footed and disoriented. It looks like the nicer parts of West Berlin. On $7000 each. This is, to my mind at the time, impossible. I must understand how this is happening!

    This starts a real investigation, a political inquiry, into how Belarus works. Obvious questions get asked, and only not of official sources, but of civil society actors and activists: is the rest of the country terrible? “No, it’s much the same, no worse than the drop off between London and Liverpool.” Is there some terrible buried social problem that’s the price of all this prosperity? “No, everything’s basically fine.” This comes even from the activists, who are preoccuped by the need for bike lanes that will work well in winter and similar issues. Things are fine.

    Of course, they don’t vote on the same basis we do. The KGB is still called that. The government is called very rude names by the international community. But the ground truth is that Belarus, like Cuba, appears to have created an enormously functional society in economic conditions that could easily have left them ground into the dirt growing potatoes on every square inch of spare soil and looking for massive international aid just to keep the basics of society running.

    So how does it work? I’m not going to address the political questions now: they are there, but that story you’ve heard already, every time somebody mentions the place on television. Economically, there seem to be three angles.

    Firstly, half the population work in state run enterprises or the government itself, and they really don’t get paid very much. $500 a month was bandied about, but I haven’t been able to find detailed stats.

    Secondly, there’s a ton of “do the right thing” investment in mass production of social goods. Need more housing? Build more housing. This kind of approach takes a huge amount of the pressure out of the society: over-all I’d say people were happier than in London, and fundamentally more relaxed and less afraid. When social goods are produced on this kind of scale, there are massive economies of scale, and the economy adapts around those problems being solved. It seems to work, give-or-take political issues.

    Finally, Belarus has ancient culture. Minsk is still Minsk, regardless of who is running it or what the political system is. A massively educated population (it was a major centre of science and technology in the USSR) have depth and sophistication and intellectual capital sufficient to make things work out under whatever system they are working with. The city was rebuilt after being razed after WW2 and immense resources were spent into making it look like the best of what it had been before. Deep culture and the patina of a place which has been a cosmopolitan center for many centuries gives a richness to life which is largely independent of many other factors. It's Minsk.

    The turning point for me was in a discussion with a social enterprise about how hard it was to get buildings for bottom-up social good projects in Belarus. They told a story of how difficult and expensive it was, and I shared my tales of trying to solve the same problem in London, and it was the same story: there, bureaucracy, here the ferocious expense of our property markets and the disproportionate power of landlords in our society. We were doing about equally well, against different obstacles to accessing the same basic class of resources. Maybe out situations weren't so different after all?

    I am not convinced that they have it worse than us, and Britain on a GDP of $15,000 PPP each would be hell on earth. The Belarusian modes of production make relative abundance far beyond their apparent financial means, and reduce the fear, insecurity and precarity which are so much parts of our experience of life here. It made me wonder where the UK would be if the Miner's Strike had brought down Thatcher and pushed us far left of our current position. Would it have been so bad? Is Socialism possible?

    But what of political rights? I am not going to speak for either our system or their system: I can’t do justice to that without a much better understanding of the country. I will say this, though: I suspect that, given what we know from the Snowden revelations, including technical issues, I was functionally under less surveillance in Belarus than the UK. The UK and American state has not been playing by the agreed rules of our own societies, and it’s not at all clear that we understand what rules our own governments have been playing by these past twenty years. Much as I suspect I would not do very well in Belarusian society in the long run, we have still lost an awful lot of ground on civil liberties in the Anglosphere in the past few decades, and Belarus is one of the few places I could go to get a genuinely different point of reference to consider those issues from. Consider the rhetoric of our societies, and their reality.

    Belarus is hard to discuss for the same reasons that Cuba, China or Israel are difficult to discuss, but no traveller comes back from these places unchanged, simply by virtue of seeing how a completely different society, that questions many of our fundamental ways of thinking about the world works. There is profit in it.

    This brings me to bitcoin.

    An American friend of mine ended the Scottish Socialist phase of my life with a single phrase: “Socialism requires a central government with arbitrary powers.” I became a Libertarian a few days later. But what I’ve observed since that time has left me with a much more complicated relationship to that observation than I had at first. At the time, in those days, I was fresh out of Scottish Socialism. I’d been raised on the working class Unions And Benefits culture of the Scottish working class; raised on the family mythology that one of my ancestors, an agitator, had avoided becoming a Tolpuddle Martyr by leaving 15 minutes early to go to the pub.

    America did not have an income tax until 1913 or so. It was instituted to fight WW1, essentially, and the Federal Government increased in size by dozens of times by the present day. In the first century and a bit of American history, they could only raise taxes by import/export taxation and a few other mechanisms: money was hard to come by for the Federal Government, and it really was small enough to drown in a bathtub, should the need arise. Since then, the Federal Government has grown until it is, frankly, probably of comparable size to the Belarusian one if we could find a good instrument to measure. Budget won't cut it, alas, as I was so acutely reminded by my experiences there: GDP is a poor measure of value indeed, but if we calculated the size of the US government (including all contractors and monopolies it has created) I suspect the scale might not be far off, measured in manpower rather than fraction of GDP.

    The Bitcoiners were, initially, and largely remain hard line anti-State Libertarians. Being able to produce money itself as a private good (and fie to the people who say bitcoin isn’t money: quack quack!) was an unbelievable breakthrough in Libertarian practice. Gold served that function in many minds, but gold has an enormous history and legacy, and the actual processes of mining are brutally environmentally destructive and often rely on near slave labour conditions for the workers, never mind the toxicity of the chemicals used in the industry. A lot of that is very hard to square with good Libertarian practice, unlike racks and racks of shiny boxes turning coal into hash collisions to “mine” bitcoin (computer manufacturing and energy production notwithstanding.) You can perhaps understand those computers are automated roulette wheels, proving to each-other that you have won some bitcoin: gambling against a house that everybody agrees pays you when you come up Green-00 eight times in a row.

    Provably fair gambling where you get paid to spin the wheel, and can provably transferably assign your winnings to others if you like.

    Socialism was, at the time, an enormous political innovation. Many implementations failed, although having seen the gap between the public perception of life in Belarus and the reality, I’m now questioning much of what I think I understand about the Soviet Union, and China itself. Some appear to succeed, and I think Cuba (haven’t been yet) and Belarus appear to be evidence of that. It’s obvious to me now that the Libertarians are going to get their State, one way or the other.

    The Free State Project might succeed in changing the way America works over 20 or 50 years, that’s one angle: a Libertarian fork of the Republican Party could get a president in a few decades, and implement something which is as much a jump from the current Thatcher/Reagan basis as Thatcher/Reagan was from the Bevan/FDR Welfare State. Or Seasteading will bear fruit over a shorter time period, based on bloated bitcoin bank accounts, or somebody will take some other, even more eccentric ideas seriously. Pre-bitcoin, Libertarianism was largely theory. Post-bitcoin it is clearly a theory, practice and orthopraxis. You can get things done with Libertarianism.

    However, as many predicted, Libertarians are getting a real lesson in how the world really works, finally having been handed (or, more correctly, having constructed) the whip hand. As I’ve rattled on about elsewhere (scroll down for the Bitcoin Foundation's take on this line of analysis) the classical anarchist critiques of Libertarianism have always revolved around the formation of monopolies and cartels, and the bitcoin foundation is effectively a monopoly on political legitimacy in the bitcoin space - you talk to them if you want to talk to “bitcoin” as an entity. In this role, it is The State and is, of course, hated for it - but how naturally it formed! Likewise, ghash chooses to be less than 50% of mining capacity in the bitcoin network, but on any given day is one phone call and a kind word away from being able to facilitate double spending at any time. The anarchist critique of Libertarianism looks pretty realistic to me right now.

    An awful lot of what happened in the worst ends of State Socialism were predicted by critics, although I’m not sure that anybody really predicted the sheer scale of some of the problems (historians: did anybody?) Likewise, the formation of cartels and natural monopolies inside of Libertarian space was predicted, and happened. We find it relatively easy to poke holes in things and find it quite hard to make things without any holes, but somehow, from time to time, perhaps inspite of ourselves we build things that work.

    It’s very clear to me that the Libertarian experiment is going to get tried, and that the anarchists are going to stand around saying “I told you so.” Cuba, Belarus and the Social Democracies/Welfare States have made it pretty clear that the Socialist end of the spectrum is not without its virtues either (compare Cuba to Haiti, say.) But I am still left with a core question: can any political ideology we have face down the twin terrible threats of climate change and uncontrolled technological innovation? FROM
    Thursday, November 6th, 2014
    2:44 pm
    JABBER in the Hut
    Bitcoin is Teaching Realism to Libertarians': An Interview With Old-School Cypherpunk Vinay Gupta
    by AARON VAN WIRDUM on NOVEMBER 5, 2014 0
    As an old-school cypherpunk in the 1990s and one of the most active members of the E-gold community before this centralized precursor of Bitcoin got shot down, futurologist Vinay Gupta has been involved with digital currency for over fifteen years. He has also worked with the United States Departement of Defence on disaster relief and state failure issues, and helped develop CheapID, a genocide resistant biometric ID card for the NSA. He later turned his attention to global disaster prevention, and invented the Hexayurt: an open source dirt-cheap disaster relief shelter design which is used today in refugee camps and at festivals like Burning Man. Gupta has been appointed as the strategic advisor of the Ethereum communications team shortly before the publication of this interview, but he is probably best known within the Bitcoin-community for his interview-snippet from the upcoming IamSatoshi documentary, in which he discusses the politics of Bitcoin…

    Vinay, first of all, you describe yourself as a “global resilience guru”. How resilient is Bitcoin?

    Well, if the Internet goes away, Bitcoin goes away, right? So it’s vulnerable in the same way that civilization itself is vulnerable.

    But if civilization breaks down, almost any store of value becomes useless very quickly. It’s not really clear that large piles of wealth sitting there actually exist without the state to protect them. That’s easy to see for copyright and patent, but the same is true for most other passive types of ownership, such as stocks, bonds or futures. And we could go further. I own the house I live in, but that house next door that I’m renting to you? The reason it’s mine, is because the state says it is. The ability to do large scale capital accumulation without having to need a private army is basically an artefact of pre-existing law.

    Some people prefer gold over Bitcoin, but even if you own a lot of gold, and civilization breaks down, you’ll need people to guard your gold. And in all probability the people guarding your gold will end up owning your gold. Either a little bit at the time by guarding it, or all at once by dis-intermediating you from the gold shed. So because of the need of physical force to protect it, you could argue that gold is actually more vulnerable than Bitcoin. Because if the Internet goes down and stays down, something so bad has happened that it’s probably gonna be machine guns on street corners.

    What about Bitcoin’s resilience in regard to the state itself?

    Right, resistance to state interference… That’s a really bold claim. I sort of need to see extraordinary evidence for things like that, because bluntly, the security state invented this stuff. It’s fundamentally their kit. Most of the mathematics, most of the algorithms, most of the hardware, the internet itself, all these things are spin-outs of defence projects.

    And remember, we really tangled with these guys in the 90’s. Public key cryptography was regarded a weapon of war back then. The American government was really friggin’ pissed off at us, and did as much damage as they could within the law. Constant harassment, legal pressure, people lost their jobs… the whole thing was constantly on the verge of everybody ending up in jail as far as we could tell.

    Note that that is no longer true…

    Are you suggesting the cryptography underlying Bitcoin is compromised?

    Making the jump to saying Bitcoin is compromised is too far. But if you don’t think of this within the very narrow parameters of cypherpunk history, if you put it in the larger scale of political struggle, then what did the US government do to every substantial opposition group? The American Indian movement: smashed with a hammer, you’ve probably never even heard of it. Black Panthers: smashed with a hammer, all that’s left are the Crips and the Bloods. US peace movement: people will tell stories about going to meetings, and a third of the attendees were spies from different agencies. State, federal, local, FBI, CIA, DEA…

    You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure out that the government has the vast majority of the cards on the table when it comes to force, and they’re choosing to lay absolutely none of them on the crypto-community right now. Silk Road and all of the other drug trade sites that use Bitcoin would absolutely, without any shadow of a doubt, provide the legal reason for killing the Bitcoin-network and arresting everybody involved. Do everybody for drug trafficking, money laundering, all the rest of that stuff. But they’ve decided to better leave it up than to take it down.

    So you’ve got to ask yourself: why?

    Well… why?

    I don’t know.

    But the idea that we right now have a relatively small group of crypto-Jedi, that are so much better at this stuff than the people who invented it, and as a result are gonna bring peace and liberty for all on earth… Really?! I’m not buying it.

    I don’t think Bitcoin is necessarily the existential threat to the existence of the state as Tim May’s old Cyphernomicon would have you believe it is. It is likely, however, that government without Bitcoin could very easily slide all the way into the establishment of total control over transactions by getting rid of cash and everything else.

    The ecological function of dissent inside a complex society is not that the dissent immediately takes over. It’s that the dissent stabilizes the core within safe temperature parameters. With Bitcoin in the system, there’s every chance that if you really try and clamp down on society, more and more and more of the stuff will resort to Bitcoin, and it becomes harder and harder and harder to credibly lock the doors. You can imagine, for instance, how Bitcoin might have accelerated the fall of the Soviet Union if it had existed in the 1980s, just because it would have made the black market so much more powerful than the government in all kinds of ways.

    So Bitcoin serves a protective function, a balancing function that didn’t exist before. And that does not require any extraordinary claims about its security against the NSA.

    And the US government will be alright with this kind of re-balancing?

    Well… Wall Street’s arrived. Wall Street on one side, Silk Road on the other. It’s the 1980’s all over again!

    We need Wall Street?

    I’m not saying we need Wall Street, but what I am saying is that the financial markets and the drugs guys have been in bed together for a very long time. And the fact that the current venue for that kind of thing actually happens to be Bitcoin, you know… the US government did not go around shooting everybody from Wall Street in the 1980s when it was cocaine and suitcases full of cash used to finance leveraged buyouts, now did it?

    My suggestion for Bitcoin would be to integrate Wall Street as fast as humanly possible. Teach the Wall Street guys how to use proper cryptography, teach them how to use blockchains, teach them that the state is not always their friend, and teach them that they should be thinking about engineering around it. If Bitcoin is gonna drift into Wall Street, let’s teach them some of our bad habits. Let us make them like us, rather than us becoming like them.

    Many bitcoiners would rather not see Wall Street involved at all, in order to preserve Bitcoin’s promise of freedom…

    Well, that kind of utopian vision, unfortunately, is total horses*t for Bitcoin. There are three problems: natural monopolies, cartels, and power law distributions of wealth.

    Bitcoin-mining is specialized by groups with heavy technological capability and enough financial strength to get custom hardware made. These miners have now pooled their computing power together because it evens out their earnings, effectively minimizing their risk. In the case of Ghash, this even puts them perilously close to the 51% point for control of the blockchain. This is cartel power.

    Meanwhile, the distribution of bitcoins seems to replicate the current situation where 300 billionaires control the same amount of wealth as three billion poor people. This is partly because of early adopter dynamics and the increasing hardship of the mining process, but there’s also some evidence that power law distributions of wealth is just what happens in unregulated economies. This is a point many libertarians would argue against… but we’re doing the experiment right now, and there’s every indication that the basic structures of libertarian economics do push into that direction.

    And then you have the Bitcoin Foundation, which is emerging naturally from the Bitcoin environment simply because it has established an economically efficient configuration. By paying the technical priesthood of Bitcoin known as the Core developers, the Foundation has created a huge amount of centralized power within a system that didn’t really start with any, which has now effectively turned it into a natural monopoly. And once you have a monopoly, it looks like a state. No wonder that the Bitcoin Foundation looks so frightening.

    If you don’t like the Bitcoin Foundation, you could start a new one, right?

    Sure, absolutely. Just like you could start a new river Thames. Have a shovel. Start digging.

    Look, every type of complex system needs indexing, and while decentralization is very resilient, it is also very expensive and inefficient. So indexes tend towards being singular. A single Yellow Pages, a single phone book… Two is much less useful than one, because with one it’s either in the book or it’s not.

    Plus, complex systems often require centralized accountability in order to function properly. Get fifty people in a room, get them to organize some sort of task, somebody will wind up acting as a routing hub, that person now turns into a de facto leader.

    “Natural” in natural monopoly doesn’t mean good, it just means that it’s an economically efficient configuration.

    But we could start a new Bitcoin Foundation…

    We could. But even if it is efficient, we’ll have replaced one corruptible structure with another corruptible structure.

    “We’ve picked a new set of bureaucrats, and we’ve done so very carefully, they work for us. Today. Tick… tick… tick… Wow these guys are kind of jerks… Tick… tick… tick… Can we get rid of them? Maybe we should start a third Foundation!”

    Right? No progress. Doesn’t work.

    How about a “one bitcoin one vote” arrangement for Bitcoin-development, like you’ve suggested before, or a crowdfunding platform such as Mike Hearn’s Lighthouse?

    “One bitcoin one vote” arrangements for Bitcoin could certainly dilute the natural monopoly of the Bitcoin Foundation, and a bounty-based scheme such as Lighthouse probably has similar dynamics in practice. These are both definitely better solutions than an unaccountable natural monopoly running the development process.

    But they do make Bitcoin a society in which the rich can use their accumulated wealth to pay the costs of changing the rules of the game to favour them even further. That’s a problem if you want freedom. Winner-keeps-winning games eventually result in misery all the way along the long tail of poverty. Reify property as the core of politics, and you’ll eventually wind up as slaves again.

    So you don’t really consider these solutions fair either?

    What I’m saying is that we can’t even really define fair. So if we can’t define fair, and we’ve got a pretty hard time defining free, all that happens is that every time we build systems they run off the rails.

    What a lot of these Bitcoin-kids don’t realize, is that they’re playing with nuclear weapons. They’re taking the full force of this creation, this mathematical lightsaber, and they’re swinging it around in a small room filled with young children. If you wind up in a situation where these guys win, where Bitcoin actually displaces the dollar and becomes the global reserve currency, every cut corner and every political error in their deep thinking will become the new chains that bind humanity. And the existing chains are only made out of the will of the state. These new chains are made out of mathematics, and they are a hell of a lot harder to break.

    You sound pessimistic.

    The primary function of Bitcoin, the long-term political value of this experiment more than any other single factor I can identify, is that it’s teaching realism to libertarians.

    Libertarianism simply does not prevent the establishment of monopolies, cartels, or power-law distributions of wealth. Never has, never will. Libertarians needed to see that happen in order to understand that their ideology is actually not going to protect them against centralized power.

    Now they will need to decide: did they want libertarianism, where property is used to divide everything? Or did they want anarchy, where it’s our inherent human nature that gives us freedom, not our property rights.

    If these libertarians would be good enough to grow the hell up and become anarchists like normal people, then perhaps they would start to get serious about controlling centralized authorities rather than fantasizing that they will cease to exist.

    How would you suggest we move forward?

    First of all, what I would like to see, is a very serious, large scale, political analysis project, to really try and figure out what the hell is going on. We need to start out-thinking states and government agencies rather than just outbuilding them. We’ve gotten pretty good at this idea that with enough eyes all bugs are shallow – that’s the classic saying about open source security. But we now have a new set of security problems, which is not about finding bugs, but about analysing motives. So we need lots of eyes analysing motives, finding out whether or not we’re basically shooting ourselves in the foot here. I don’t see any reason why that shouldn’t be another large scale open source project, like Wikipedia. An open intelligence agency, that publicly does the risk and threat analysis, publishes the results, is open to feedback, and builds a realistic study of what kind of exposure we have to these bastards. Very much like STRATFOR, but for the open source community.

    And the second priority – after integrating Wall Street – is taking all of the money that people are making in the Bitcoin system, and using it to build the friggin’ successor. Everybody thought Bitcoin was gonna bring them freedom and liberty, but what it has brought them are three different kinds of entrapment. Let’s take these lessons, and make a Bitcoin that is useless to Wall Street, that doesn’t automatically create a cartel of miners, and that doesn’t leave a power vacuum for development which some Foundation will fill.

    And I want to emphasize: this is super clearly a social problem. Not a technical one. You need to build a social understanding that can finance the technical development in order to deliver the software you want. And make no mistake: a system that solves this problem effectively is a government.

    I do believe this is entirely possible. In the same way that you’ve got the eBay mafia – a bunch of guys that got rich off inventing eBay and went on to build new amazing things – and the PayPal mafia – a bunch of guys that got rich of inventing PayPal and went on to build new amazing things – we’ve now got a huge Bitcoin mafia that’s got buckets full of money… So where are my amazing things? Go forth! Conquer! Go out and make the world amazing!

    Tip BTC: 1G33stxrtR1rjqZLAeLwz7adbyUZgEkTeZ

    Tip LTC: LNxB91XonDDDvy2prZa8dCMvohxraqh1zL
    By Aaron van Wirdum

    Aaron van Wirdum (@AaronvanW) is a freelance journalist. He studied Politics and Society in Historical Perspective at Utrecht University, and specialized himself in the influence of freedom of speech and communication technologies on social structures. He published Bitcoin-related articles on several Dutch blogs in 2013, and co-founded the Dutch Bitcoin news site Coincourant in 2014.
    Wednesday, November 5th, 2014
    1:12 pm
    PKI for dummies
    Multisig Support Set to Become a New Standard
    by Amanda B. Johnson @ 2014-11-04

    The immense security benefits of multisig transactions have become especially relevant as bitcoins—like all valuable things—are prominent targets of theft. Where users choosing the convenience of web wallets once had to worry about being “Goxxed,” multisig has stepped in to save the day.

    To be Goxxed (as you may know all too well) is to lose your bitcoins because you stored your private keys with a third party who turned out not to be trustworthy. Vitalik Buterin has explained that in Bitcoin’s first four years, all web wallets and exchanges worked that way: each Bitcoin address had only one set of private keys, and using the convenience of web-based services meant having to trust a company to keep your keys safe.

    This single-point-of-failure model birthed several widely-publicized disasters, and multisignature addresses presented the solution as Bitcoin Improvement Propsal #10, or BIP 10.

    BitGo is recognized as the first wallet to offer multisig services, in which a Bitcoin address possesses not one, but three individual sets of private keys. Two sets of keys go to the user—one is stored on her computer, and the other is stored somewhere offline (on paper in a safe, for example). The service provider then holds the third key. A signature by two of the three keys is required to execute a transaction (called a “two of three”), and this simple process provides several benefits.

    BitGo logo

    First among them is the guarantee that the wallet provider is mathematically unable to steal a user’s coins—the company possesses only one of the two keys needed to sign a transaction.

    Next is the benefit of two-factor authentication, offered by BitGo and others. When a user initiates a transaction from his wallet, the provider will send a text message asking the user to confirm that it was legitimate (in case his wallet account was hacked due to a keylogger or other malware).

    Once the user receives the text and confirms, the wallet company signs with their key, providing the needed two of three signatures. Users can even pre-program their wallets to enforce spending limits, and many multisig wallets will ask for additional confirmation for large transactions.

    Thirdly, the user could forget his password (losing access to the web wallet account) and still recover the funds, since he still has the paper key in the safe and can create a new account (with the same provider) using the same multisig address. Even if the wallet service were to go down for whatever reason, a user who’s recorded both of his keys would still be able to recover all funds.

    Another perk is the ability to grant other people access to your funds in the case of a certain event. For example, you could give both a friend and a mediator one key each, to be used in recovery of your bitcoins in the case of your death. Neither your friend nor your mediator has access to your funds on his own—the two would have to collude against you to take your funds (and if your nearest and dearest are all thieves, you’ve got bigger problems in life than Bitcoin security).

    In light of some government employees who’ve recently sought to impose coercive restrictions on Bitcoin businesses, hundreds of Bitcoiners have pointed out that it’s been innovations within the community (precisely like multisig)—and not government “regulations”—that provide the best consumer protection.

    In addition to BitGo, other wallet providers currently offering multisig support include Coinbase, Armory, DarkWallet, GreenAddress and Copay (a beta project of BitPay). Currently in development is another wallet called Multisig+, which promises to support multiple cryptocurrencies, not just Bitcoin.

    In a highly-praised article about the implementation of BIP 10, Buterin summarized:

    “Multisig. . . offers a promise as an alternative to a regulation-centric approach to consumer protection – instead of trying to make absolutely sure that each individual business is trustworthy, we can set up systems to maximally remove single points of failure and rely primarily on safety-in-numbers.”
    As more and more wallets begin to support multisig, it’s important to make sure that your wallet of choice is going about the software correctly. Buterin’s article further describes that wallet providers must use modular software implementation to protect against various vulnerabilities. If you’re using a multisig provider, it would be wise to check that their software is structure as described in the article. FROM
    Tuesday, November 4th, 2014
    8:05 pm
    Satanic verses
    I am skeptical about whether the Islamic State cares how much the West knows about the rape jihad. As the shocking Rotherham rape scandal demonstrated, the West is far more likely to look the other way than to mobilize against this signature sexual abuse. Sadly, I think the reason the West remains content to stay mum is, as I’ve argued before, that this practice of sexual slavery is undeniably rooted in Islamic scripture; it thus refutes the smiley-face version of Islam peddled by Western governments and commentators.

    At the very beginning of the clip translated by Jenan Moussa, one of the jihadists observes,

    Today is the slave market day where this verse … “Except with their wives and the (captives) who their right hands possess . . . . Today is distribution day, Allah willing.” [Emphasis added.]

    Patently, the jihadist is referring to a “verse” in the Koran. In fact, it could be one of at least two verses, sura 4:24 or sura 33:50.

    I use the widely distributed, copiously annotated version of the Koran – in the original Arabic with English translations – published by the Saudi government. In sura 4:23, the verse just before 4:24, Allah outlines the various categories of women (mothers, daughters, sisters, etc.) with whom Muslim men are forbidden to have sexual relations. Sura 4:24 then states: “Also (prohibited are) women already married except those whom your right hands possess” (emphasis added). There is a footnote at that point, which helpfully explains “Whom your right hands possess: i.e., captives” (italics in original.)

    Sura 4:24 extends to all Muslim men the license given to jihad warriors in sura 33:50:

    O Prophet! We have made lawful to thee thy wives to whom thou hast paid their dowers, and those whom thy right hand possesses out of the captives of war whom Allah has assigned to thee. [Emphasis added.]

    As I related in the column linked above, Robert Spencer has noted that the sharia manual Reliance of the Traveller — which is endorsed by, among other influential Islamic leaders, both the scholars of al-Azhar University (the seat of Sunni sharia scholarship since the tenth century) and the International Institute of Islamic Thought (the Muslim Brotherhood’s think-tank) — explains that “When a child or a woman is taken captive, they become slaves by the fact of capture, and the woman’s marriage is immediately annulled.”

    The point of this decree, Robert elaborates, is that the captive woman is then available for sex slavery, as prescribed in the above quoted scriptures. Moreover, as he also points out, the practice of forcing sex on captive women is implicitly permitted in the hadith — authoritative collections of the prophet Mohammed’s words and deeds, which, like the Koran, have scriptural status and form the basis for sharia law. Robert quotes from the Sahih Muslim collection (Book 8, No. 3371, scroll down from here):

    We went out with Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) on the expedition to the Bi’l-Mustaliq and took captive some excellent Arab women; and we desired them, for we were suffering from the absence of our wives, (but at the same time) we also desired ransom for them. So we decided to have sexual intercourse with them but by observing ’azl ([i.e.,] withdrawing the male sexual organ before emission of semen to avoid-conception). But we said: We are doing an act whereas Allah’s Messenger is amongst us; why not ask him? So we asked Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him), and he said: It does not matter if you do not do it, for every soul that is to be born up to the Day of Resurrection will be born.

    The hadith plainly demonstrates that, from the standpoint of Islamic law, the only question was whether coitus interruptus was permissible; the permissibility of forcing sex on the captive women was obvious and assumed. Given what the Koran explicitly says, how could it be otherwise?

    There are many unsavory aspects of what, in the Middle East, is the entirely mainstream sharia-supremacist interpretation of Islam. Like this one, they underscore how very hard it is for authentic Muslim moderates to reform Islam.

    Knowing that Westerners are unfamiliar with Islamic scripture, Islamist apologists deceptively scoff at the notion that something as heinous as sex slavery could have roots in Muslim doctrine. Since people of good will desperately want to believe this is the case, they avoid researching the matter and are all too ready to assume that anyone who would suggest such a thing simply must be a slanderous Islamophobe.

    On the other hand, Islamic audiences know the scriptures and are taught that they are the verbatim instructions of Allah. It is further inculcated in them from childhood that anyone who attempts to repeal, criticize, or interpret Islamic scripture in a manner contradictory of ancient Islamic teaching is guilty of blasphemy — and of apostasy if the person making the attempt is a Muslim.

    Sharia makes those offenses punishable by death.
    Sunday, November 2nd, 2014
    9:04 pm
    The establishments tame boy
    In 2008, Swartz founded, "the good government site with teeth," to aggregate and visualize data about politicians.[34][35] In the same year, he wrote a widely circulated Guerilla Open Access Manifesto.[36][37][38][39]

    In 2009, wanting to learn about effective activism, A. Swartz helped launch the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. He wrote on his blog, "I spend my days experimenting with new ways to get progressive policies enacted and progressive politicians elected."
    Swartz led the first activism event of his career with the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, delivering thousands of "Honor Kennedy" petition signatures to Massachusetts legislators asking them to fulfill former Senator Ted Kennedy's last wish by appointing a senator to vote for health care reform.

    In 2010, Swartz co-founded Demand Progress, a political advocacy group that organizes people online to "take action by contacting Congress and other leaders, funding pressure tactics, and spreading the word" about civil liberties, government reform, and other issues.

    During academic year 2010–11, Swartz conducted research studies on political corruption as a Lab Fellow in Harvard University's Edmond J. Safra Research Lab on Institutional Corruption.

    Author Cory Doctorow, in his novel, Homeland, "drew on advice from Swartz in setting out how his protagonist could use the information now available about voters to create a grass-roots anti-establishment political campaign." In an afterword to the novel, Swartz wrote, "these [political hacktivist] tools can be used by anyone motivated and talented enough.... Now it's up to you to change the system. ... Let me know if I can help
    9:29 am
    Dual power
    Libertarian socialists have more recently appropriated the term to refer to the non-violent strategy of achieving a libertarian socialist economy and polity by means of incrementally establishing and then networking institutions of direct participatory democracy to contest the existing power structures of state-capitalism.
    This does not necessarily mean disengagement with existing institutions; for example, Yates McKee describes a dual power approach as "forging alliances and supporting demands on existing institutions — elected officials, public agencies, universities, workplaces, banks, corporations, museums — while at the same time developing self-organized counter-institutions." In this context, the strategy itself is sometimes also referred to as "counterpower
    Wednesday, October 29th, 2014
    3:32 pm
    Hey Beardo
    Tomas Leon: Hey, you!
    Ray Quick: [Looks around]
    Tomas Leon: Yeah, I'm talking to you. You think you know me? I asked you a question. You think you know me? 'Cause the way you're looking at me, we must be old friends. Where did we meet?
    Ray Quick: Nowhere.
    Tomas Leon: [grabs Ray] Nowhere. You like the bitch? Huh?
    Ray Quick: [starts to walks away]
    Tomas Leon: [grabs Ray] Maybe you like me.
    Ray Quick: No, I don't like you.
    Tomas Leon: Then don't stare so hard. Somebody could...
    [pulls out switchblade]
    Tomas Leon: put something in your eye.
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