Tag Archives: rights

An introduction to the fight for the internet and humanity’s fate.

22 Nov

“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”

― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

What if you could fight a war without the need for armies and large scale military operations? What if you could fight these wars proactively, before your enemy even attacks? What if you were able to identify potential enemies and neutralize them before they even organized? What if you were able to achieve near complete situational awareness, not just on the scale of your immediate surroundings, but on the scale of entire nation states? What if your definition of “enemy” was not limited to foreign agents but anyone who questions your total dominance?

What if your definition of enemy included your own citizens?

What if there was no one to stop you?

This is the situation humanity now faces with the US Government and technology.

Back in the days of knights and archers, castles were the primary force multipliers. A well-built and well situated castle would allow a small garrison of soldiers to fend off a much larger foe. The castle allowed for efficient and targeted use of force. Today intelligence is the ultimate force multiplier. The better your intelligence is on a target, the more efficiently you can apply targeted force. Just as the atomic bomb represented a paradigm shift in conventional warfare, so does the internet represent a paradigm shift in surveillance and intelligence gathering.

A government’s power rests on its ability to use violence to enforce its will. Note that I said “power” and not “legitimacy.” People sometimes confuse the two and mistakenly believe a government gets its power from the people when in fact it only gets its legitimacy from the people; but what does legitimacy matter when you have the power to eliminate those who say you’re illegitimate?

A government’s power in an operational theater (domestic or foreign) is limited by how quickly and effectively it can exert organized violence, usually through either a military or law enforcement.

At the time the Bill of Rights was drafted the technology was such that the exercising of power usually took the form of infantrymen with muzzle-loading muskets. The founding fathers understood the relationship between the ability to exercise violence and power. England had just attempted to exercise its power through violence on the colonies; hence why they codified into law a people’s right to bear arms. A populace without the final recourse of violence is a populace without the final say. To take away that populace’s ability to check government power (violence) with their own power (violence) is to take away all their power. They are then made subservient and can only hope that those with the power will consent to changes if only the populace asks nicely enough.

redcoats

The problem we face now is that government’s ability to exercise violence has vastly outstripped the populace’s ability to check that violence.  Instead of muzzle-loading muskets, we now have flying robots that kill people, including American citizens without trial.

drones

A side note on the accountability of government and the false dichotomy of liberal/conservative with regards to this issue:

This problem transcends the liberal/conservative paradigm everyone is used to. This is not a liberal or conservative issue. Liberal vs conservative is a false dichotomy encouraged by those in power to distract you from the fact that you have no rights and no real say over what the government does. No matter who you vote for, the government always wins. If voting actually changed anything it’d be illegal.
Furthermore, it’s a fallacy to believe the government is ultimately subject to its own laws. It writes the laws. Trying to defend your “rights” within the US legal system is like playing a football game against a team that wrote the rules of the game and can alter or ignore those rules at will.  The fact that the president can and has extrajudicially executed American citizens without trial is a recent example of the government’s immunity to its own laws. This attitude is nothing new. Nixon stated “When the president does it, it’s not illegal.” Well when the government does something, it’s not illegal. Any thinking person knows that just because something is legal or illegal doesn’t make it just or unjust.
(Possible videos of interest: Judge Napolitano was fired from Fox News for this 5 minute speech he gave pointing these facts out. The late standup comedian George Carlin explains here how “rights” are a myth. Recently making a lot of waves, Russell Brand explains in an interview why the current system is impervious to “approved” political outlets like voting.)

How does all this violence and politics relate to the internet?

Technology doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It’s important to understand the context of what you’re up against as a person who wishes to maintain their rights to privacy and personal liberty.

The internet is the force multiplier, like a castle, but is the most powerful force multiplier ever constructed. With modern surveillance techniques the government, who is effectively answerable to no one, can record practically everything you do: Where you go online, what you buy with your credit cards, who you call with your cell phone, even where you travel. The CIA is even preparing to spy on you with your home appliances.

How do they do this?

The key concept is what’s called “Data linking.” Through programs like PRISM, SIGINT, and BULLRUN, the government will record as much information about you as they can. Often they will ask companies like Verizon and Google to hand over all the information they have on you. If the company refuses, which they rarely do, the government just hacks the company and takes it. They then store this data in centers like the Utah Data Center, a $1.5 Billion dollar facility built specifically to house 100 years’ worth of data on everyone on the planet.  They then use all this data on you, credit card purchases, who you messaged on facebook, cell phone text messages, phone calls, GPS location, etc to create a matrix of dots. Each dot is a point of data. Jacob Appelbaum, a security research, privacy advocate, and member of the TOR anonymity project gives a great example of this during a digital anti-repression talk. Here’s the part where he introduces the concept of data-linking: 5:56-8:23

To watch the whole talk, and you really should if you want to understand what you’re up against, you can start from the beginning here.

They’re doing this to protect us from terrorists, plus, I’ve got nothing to hide!

“I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.”

The government will often use “we’re protecting you” as an excuse for power grabs. It could be something as simple as the mayor of NYC attempting to ban big sodas “for your protection” to something as massive as invalidating the 4th Amendment with the “Patriot” Act and super-secret FISA courts.

In reality, the government is protecting itself.  In addition to “we’re protecting you from terrorists”, you will often hear “we’re protecting the children!” as an excuse to take away your liberties.  Think of all the cries for repelling the 2nd amendment after the Sandy Hook shootings.  As if disarming an entire populace would somehow make people safe against lone shooters. Another example: UK prime minister David Cameron implemented a nation-wide ban on internet pornography. Starting in 2014, all new broadband accounts will come with mandatory pornography filters. “To protect the children.” Do you think pornography is the only thing these filters will be searching? (Hint: The answer’s NO.)

Do not be surprised if you hear the government label people who wish to maintain their right to privacy as criminals, terrorists and peddlers of child pornography. Just like guns, there will always be a few people who use a technology for unjust purposes, but this does not warrant attempting block everyone’s access to that technology. Those who still want to take a technology away from everyone more often than not have their own unjust motives for doing so.

But the government would never abuse this power and target political adversaries…right?

It’s the classic scenario: Would you do something you knew was wrong if you knew you wouldn’t be caught and punished? I would hazard to guess that most average people would say no, but then again average people aren’t the type of people to get themselves in positions of power like politicians, generals, and spies.

It is a well-known fact that those people who most want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it… anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job. ~Douglas Adams

Think about it. You’re the government. You are god. No one will punish you except yourself, and that’s not about to happen any time soon. You have this secret power to spy on anyone in the world. The public, hell even most of congress, doesn’t know about your secret abilities. If they do, you’ll pull the “terrorism” card or the “child pornography” card. Who wants to be labeled as “pro-terrorist child rapists?”

Do you do it?

OF COURSE YOU FUCKING DO IT! Are you serious? Every government ever has always sought to spy on their political adversaries. It’s like statism 101! The US government is no exception and has a long and rich history of spying on civil rights leaders, students, activists, anyone that didn’t fit with the party in power. Abusing power isn’t reserved for just political adversaries, the employees at the NSA even used their illegal powers to spy on spouses and ex-lovers!

What’s worse, all this spying has not provided any tangible benefits! In June of 2013, NSA director Keith Alexander sat in front of congress and flat out asserted that they had stopped 54 terrorist attacks as a result of illegally and unethically spying on 300 million Americans (and the rest of the world).

But guess what… he was lying.

Last month Alexander admitted as much. Instead of 54, Alexander said they had stopped “only perhaps one or two.”

Let me tell you a little story about a man arrested for drinking and driving. The officer pulled him over and asked him how many drinks he had that night. When the man replied “one or two” the office asked him to take a breathalyzer test and found that he was over the limit. When the man asked the office how he knew that he had been drinking heavily the office responded with “If you had had only two beers you would have remembered exactly how many you had.”

And that’s ladies and gentlemen yet another reason why the NSA (and Keith Alexander) is full of shit.

What are the risks?

Besides living in an Orwellian police state world (the internet knows no national boundaries and nor does their spying) where you automatically suspect and guilty until proven innocent, they’ll break the internet.

Most people don’t understand how the internet works. They get on a computer and it’s just there. Sadly, a lot of people in government don’t understand how the internet works either. As a result, they’re doing things that will destroy the internet on a fundamental level. Their short-sided goals of cracking down on political dissidents has led them to break common encryption methods used for things like whenever you purchase something from amazon with your credit card. They’ve also leaned on software developers to put back-doors (allowing the NSA to spy and steal information) into various programs and websites. (Most notably, Skype and Facebook)

One of the (many) big issues with this is that the government is not the only one who will be able to take advantage of these back doors and broken encryption. They’re basically smashing down the door to your house, ransacking the place to try and incriminate you, then leaving. Meanwhile the door to your house is still smashed in and anybody can just walk right in when they find that opening. When they break the ability to encrypt transactions online, they break the trust people have in online commerce. Imagine if nobody felt safe buying anything online anymore. What would that do to the world economy? According to the Wall Street Journal, Americans, just Americans alone, are projected to spend $327 BILLION online by 2016. That’s just Americans. Can you imagine what the total figure is for that plus the rest of the world? Now imagine what would happen if that disappeared? What would happen to the world’s economy? It would fucking crash in a catastrophic fashion. There is a serious threat now of Balkanization of the internet. When Snowden revealed just how massive the NSA’s spying is, countries started talking about segmenting themselves off from the internet. This will undermine the internet’s core concept: inter-connectivity. Can you imagine a country by country internet?

The internet is arguably the most amazing technological advancement in the history of humanity. The ability to communicate and share ideas instantaneously has produce a Cambrian explosion like advancement in science, commerce, and culture. There has never been anything like it. Unfortunately, there’s now a real risk that it will die. If it does die, die too does humanity’s chance to escape the bonds of its past and any hope for a brighter future. The fight for the fate of the internet is really a fight for the fate of humanity. It is perhaps the most important fight in human history.

So what can you do?

I hope you know by now that writing letters, calling your representatives, marching around in the cold with signs, and voting (all the socially “approved” outlets) are futile. They’re an illusion to make you feel like you’re accomplishing something when in fact you’re not. Instead the only thing you’re accomplishing is venting your frustration in a sterilized (non-violent) way. As far as the government is concerned, you can do that all day. What really matters to them is that you don’t challenge their power with your own.

So if the approved outlets are pointless and you’re unable to out-violence the government, what can you do to protect yourself from the monster of a surveillance state we’ve created? What will save us?

sacred_heart_of_jesus

End to End Encryption

Our only hope for salvation lies in end to end encryption of all internet traffic. Why? Remember how all government power rests on violence?

No amount of violence can solve a math problem. ~ Jacob Appelbaum

End to end encryption is based off of a complex math problem. (If you’d like to see a really clever and easy to understand explanation of encryption, check this video out.) Whenever you communicate with someone over the internet (or go anywhere for that example), unless you’re using end to end encryption to encrypt all your traffic, you’re basically having the equivalent of unprotected sex with the internet. You’re not anonymous and it is easy for someone, especially an oppressive government, to monitor your activity. Pretty Good Privacy was one of the first publicly available encryption methods. (Funnily enough, the US Government tried to throw it’s creator in prison for spreading a technology that would prevent them from spying on people.)

In addition to end to end encryption, another source in combating oppressive regimes online is to utilize open-source software. What’s open source software? It’s software that is created by anyone who releases the source code of the program for everyone to see. For example: A private company might write a program and sell it. They don’t want to give the program away for free, so they don’t show the source code. This way you have no idea what else is hidden in the program. It’s possible for governments and other entities to hide things inside the program that do things other than what the program is being sold to do.

Open-source, however, has the source code out there for all to see. This actually increases security as everyone can look to see if something bad is hidden in the program. It also opens the program up to peer review. People can often contribute to an open-source project and improve upon it, whereas a close-sourced project is restricted only to the people who originally wrote it.

Lastly, you can use some tools to help obscure your identity online. TOR is a browser, much like firefox or google chrome, that lets you surf around the web. TOR, however, obscures your traffic by sending it through multiple different paths before coming back to you. In addition, you can also use a VPN service that will act like a middle man. Say you want to go to a website, but you don’t want someone watching your internet traffic to see that you’re going to that website. If you use a VPN, the VPN provider will go to that website for you, and then forward everything to your computer. This way someone watching will only see the VPN provider going to that website and not who’s on the other end looking at it. An example of a VPN provider is Private Internet Access.

Encryption is so dangerous to the government precisely because it renders them powerless. You can bet your ass they’re going to do everything they can to demonize encryption, anonymity, and attempt to prevent its wide-scale adoption. It’s for precisely this reason that it’s so important to implement and popularize security measures like this. The fate of humanity depends upon it.

Should America have a secret police answerable only to the president?

10 Mar

Since it’s now apparently normal and OK for the president to have the power to execute American citizens with no judicial due process, congressional, or judicial oversight, why not a secret police force? If we’ve already established that it’s OK to execute citizens over seas, why not here inside the country? (The whitehouse has already acknowledged killing Americans overseas, but they won’t let on if they’re planning on using drones inside the country.) Why does it matter if the president uses a drone or a man with a gun? They both achieve the same effect. The executive branch, through Bush and now Obama, has already asserted it’s right to perform warrant-less wiretaps, searches and seizures, indefinite detention, and suspend habeus corpus. You just need to be labeled an enemy combatant or terrorist to lose all your rights. With the new ability to extrajudicial execute Americans, it would make a lot more sense for the president to form a special terror-fighting task force that combines all these powers. They would be able to spy on all Americans freely, arrest terrorists and dissidents, and imprison/execute offenders. Operating as an independent task-force answerable to only the executive branch would enable them to move quickly and decisively when protecting the state. We could call it something snazzy like the Security Task-force And Safety Initiative.

Happy 4th of July. Celebrate [the illusion of] freedom

4 Jul

“The illusion of freedom [in America] will continue as long as it’s profitable to continue the illusion. At the point where the illusion becomes too expensive to maintain, they will just take down the scenery, they will pull back the curtains, they will move the tables and chairs out of the way and you will see the brick wall at the back of the theater.” –Frank Zappa

Happy 4th of July. Everywhere you look in America today there is something or someone espousing the attitude of “AMERICA!!!FUCK YEAH!!!!” It’s freedom this or liberty that. Yet despite all this spirited celebration, not a single brain cell is occupied with contemplating what freedoms and liberties we have. If you ask someone, they’ll probably give some answer that sounds like it could be spoken from a character out of the Idiocracy movie. “What freedoms are you celebrating today?” “Well, ah….our freedom to be free!”

You have no freedom. You have only the illusion of freedom.

You might point to the bill of rights as a clear example of the freedoms you have, but then you would be incredibly naive. Rights by their nature are absolutes. If they are not absolutes then they are not rights, their enforcement is subject to the whims of the ruling power; an illusion. The ruling power will maintain that illusion as long as it is convenient for them to do so. In cases where it is no longer convenient, they will dispense with the theater and the true nature of your “rights” are relieved.

Over the past century the US government has shown that no right is absolute. Freedom of speech, press, and assembly? That will be tolerated as long as it is the correct speech, press, and assembly. Look at the brutal crackdowns on protesters, “free speech zones” miles away from the subject of the protest, the police violence .Freedom from unwarranted search and seizures? Nonexistent. Everything you do on facebook, every phone call and text message you send is recorded by the government. You are suspect by default. Every citizen is a potential enemy of the state.

The right to due process, a speedy trial and protection from cruel and unusual punishment? Ask Bradley Manning about that. Or ask Anwar al-Awlaki, an American tried, sentenced, and executed with no due process, no trial, and no appeal. Or ask his dead 16yr old son who was executed two weeks later in the same manner. Ask anyone on the US government’s “kill list.” Ask the owners of Megaupload or any one of the other websites arbitrarily, illegally, and capriciously shut down by the government.

“But at least we’re not some third world country suffering starvation, civil war, and lawlessness!”

No. Making that argument is surrender. You are setting the bar so low that it might as well be on the ground, and yet you seem elated that you’re able to step over it. No amount of sarcasm can express my disdain for this argument. The funny thing is that you can’t even step over it, it’s more like you trip over it. Corruption, lawlessness, and starvation exist here in the US. The difference is that our aliments are better hidden. People are expecting to see starving Africans, or warlords, or guards taking bribes. Yet in America our starving people look like everyone else, or a homeless veteran under a bridge. Our warlords wear suits and drive nice cars. Our corrupt officials take bribes from corporations and sit in congress. There remains only one absolute right in the US.

Your right to remain silent.

Discrimination and the goal for tomorrow

4 Sep

I’m at a loss for words as to why some people don’t understand that discrimination = bad. It’s so basic, like  a = a, that I’m paralyzed by the sheer stupidity of it all. Discrimination = injustice, injustice is wrong by definition. If you do discriminate it really speaks a lot about your character and your cause. That type of hate and injustice automatically makes you the bad guy. If you discriminate because your god tells you to, then that makes you delusional and your god evil. (Isn’t it funny how a person’s god always hates the same people they do? *Hint* It’s because they made up their god and are projecting their hate onto him) These concepts are so basic, I feel like a kindergartener typing them out, but apparently lots of people didn’t learn this concept in kindergarten.

I see history as a slow but steady march towards the goal of pure equality under the law. What is pure equality? Simple: pure equality under the law means that characteristics of a person, such as race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, disability, etc should not affect how the law treats a person. All that matters is that the person is a person, and Justice is blind to everything else. It shouldn’t matter if you’re a christian, muslim, jew, hindu, or atheist. It shouldn’t matter if you’re black, white, mixed, hispanic, etc. It shouldn’t matter if you’re gay, straight, or bi. It shouldn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman. It shouldn’t matter if you’re blind, deaf, or can’t walk. None of those things should matter when treating people equally under the law. This is the goal, to make everyone truly equal under the law. As I said, history is a slow march forward.

Originally in our society only white christian males were protected under the law. (Being rich helped too) Then came the fight to grant the same protection to women at the turn of the 20th century. Half a century later the blacks stepped forward to fight for their rights, just as the women did. Then the homosexual community stepped up and they’re still fighting today. Just 20 years ago the disabled community won a victory in the fight for equality with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The dream of pure equality is there in the constitution, it’s just a matter of fighting for it against those who would put themselves up by putting others down.

I would like to point out that there is a difference between equality under the law (the government) and private equality. For example: legally the law must be blind (pure equality concept), but private individuals and organizations that don’t serve the public at large (like a theater, stadium, or hospital) can discriminate. I view these people as immoral bastards and try to avoid them, but they have the right to be bastards on their private property. Here’s the catch: you can be a discriminating asshole on your own turf all you want, but if you’re going to reach into the public (government) piggy bank and take tax payer dollars, then you lose that right to be a discriminatory asshole. It’s one or the other. You can’t take everybody’s money, then turn around and discriminate against some of those people you just took money from.

Unfortunately private organizations do this every day. Some of them get sued (rightly so) and some don’t. The Boy Scouts are a perfect example. They discriminate against gays and atheists, yet they take tax payer money from those gays and atheists. The worst groups for doing things like this are religious groups. Religious charities often take tax payer money and then discriminate when it comes to who they hire and who gets the “charity”. Earlier this year the University of California was sued by the Christian Legal Society (a club there at the publicly funded school) because the school would not let the club discriminate against other students. (The club gets tax payer money from the school which is also tax payer funded) If discrimination and hate is part of your religion, fine, I think it’s sick and wrong, but you can practice that as long as you don’t take tax payer money. Why is that so hard to understand?

Now as I pointed out earlier, there is a difference between equality under the law, and private equality. We can enforce equality under the law, but we can’t force private individuals and organizations not to be bigots. In order to change individuals we must first enforce that law. As the law is enforced over the years, new generations are born and grow up living under the equal protection. The older, more bigoted generations eventually die off, and the younger, more tolerant ones take their place. This is how you slowly phase out individual bigotry through the enforcement of equal protection under the law. Eventually we will achieve the goal of pure equality. We will do this despite the best efforts of conservative politicians and religious groups. They will slowly be phased out and become irrelevant; just as the conservatives who protested womens’ right to vote, or the ones that protested fair and equal treatment for blacks, or the people who fought against making the government and businesses accessible to the disable, or the people who are currently fighting to deny gays equal protection. We will grind them out as we have in the past because they’re fighting for hate and prejudice, whereas we’re fighting for tolerance and justice.

Infringing on religious freedom of speech

6 Jul

Paying attention to religious news lately has made me aware of an unsettling notion some people have about free speech when it comes to religion. There seem to be some people in this country who believe that since America was founded by fundamentalist christians (according to them and not actual history), christianity is the default setting for government and thus it is only natural to have christian monuments and symbols on government property and christian language in laws. Ergo, any attempt to prevent them from putting their religious symbols and language on government property or into laws is a violation of their free speech and freedom of religion. I had a civics teacher in middle school who used to always say “My right to swing my fist ends where your nose begins”, in essence, one person’s rights  ends when it starts to infringe on another person’s rights. For instance, it might be some Mormon fundamentalist’s religion to marry and rape multiple young girls, but his right to freedom of religion ends when he violates those  girls’ rights.

You have the right to practice your religion any time, any place you want, as long as you do not infringe on other people’s rights. You have the right to build houses of worship on private property and put up whatever signs you want on that property. You have a right to pray to yourself in school any time you want. You have the right to stand on public property and protest, holding religious signs. The government has no right to stop you from any of these activities, as long as you are not infringing on the rights of others. You do not, however, have the right to force your beliefs onto the government that is supposed to represent everyone equally. Erecting a cross on a public land, putting the 10 commandments in a public courthouse, or trying to brand the government with your faith is not one of your rights.

May 20th, Draw Muhammad

20 May

May 2oth is Draw Muhammad Day! Will you stand up and exercise your freedom of speech? Or will you cower in the shadows and allow barbaric fanatics to take away you inalienable rights? Do you have the courage to do what is right?

Should I buy a gun?

25 Mar

So lately I’ve really been thinking if I should buy a gun. The political climate in this country is starting to worry me. With Tea baggers throwing bricks and cutting gas lines, conservative bloggers calling for the assassination of the president, and Fox “news” constantly inciting their viewers to violence, I’m afraid that the violence is only going to escalate. I’m even more worried that when the republicans take power in 2010, there is going to be a strong crackdown on human rights and other freedoms. Worse, if they do not take power in 2010, I’m pretty sure that will be the last straw. After being drunk with power for 8 years, they really can’t swallow the idea that the American people voted them out.

I’m really thinking of buy a gun to protect myself and my rights of freedom of speech and religion from right wing nuts who would take them away. Part of me on the other hand however doesn’t think that buying a gun is a good idea. Nothing good will come of it. The more the victims we are the better. When the crazy nut cases go over the brink and start wholesale shooting liberals, as I’m afraid some will do in the future, the rest of the sane world will see them for who they are; and then we win.