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Alleged Silk Road Inventor a Ron Paul, Ludwig von Mises Fanatic

Ron Paul, cham­pi­on of indi­vid­ual lib­er­ty, Ross Ulbricht’s polit­i­cal idol

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COMMENT: Alleged mas­ter­mind of the Silk Road online clan­des­tine funding/merchandising net­work, Ross Ulbricht is a devo­tee of Ron Paul and the Lud­wig von Mis­es school of social and eco­nom­ic the­o­ry.

Exem­pli­fy­ing the appar­ent­ly well mean­ing but mis­in­formed young cit­i­zens attract­ed to Paul and the von Mis­es school, Ulbricht appears to exem­pli­fy the adage that “The [Silk?] road to Hell is paved with good inten­tions.”

Ron Paul is a hard­core fas­cist, joined at the hip with Nazi and white-suprema­cist ele­ments. The Lud­wig von Mis­es insti­tute is explic­it­ly anti-demo­c­ra­t­ic and is joined at the hip with the neo-Con­fed­er­ate move­ment, which jus­ti­fies African-Amer­i­can slav­ery and ratio­nal­izes a future seces­sion by the South­ern states.

Indica­tive of Ulbricht’s super­fi­cial­i­ty is his state­ment that; “Just as slav­ery has been abol­ished most every­where, I believe vio­lence, coer­cion and all forms of force by one per­son over anoth­er can come to an end. . . .” 

In addi­tion to the von Mis­es Insti­tute’s jus­ti­fi­ca­tion of African-Amer­i­can slav­ery pri­or to the Civ­il War, Wal­ter Block (and aide to Ron Paul and a Lud­wig von Mis­es Insti­tute schol­ar) has craft­ed what he calls “vol­un­tary slav­ery.”

We view “vol­un­tary slav­ery” as the ulti­mate col­lat­er­al­ized debt oblig­a­tion. 

Ulbricht and Silk Road use bit­coins, a form of vir­tu­al cur­ren­cy which will be the focal point of future pro­grams.

“Who Is Ross Ulbricht? Piec­ing Togeth­er The Life Of The Alleged Lib­er­tar­i­an Mas­ter­mind Behind Silk Road” by Ryan Mac; Forbes; 10/02/2013.

EXCERPT: . . . While at Penn State, Ulbricht was also polit­i­cal­ly active. A mem­ber of the school’s Col­lege Lib­er­tar­i­ans group, he took part in on-cam­pus debates that were doc­u­ment­ed by the school’s news­pa­per, The Dai­ly Col­le­gian. In one arti­cle from March 2008, Ulbricht is iden­ti­fied as a sup­port­er of Ron Paul who had attempt­ed to become a del­e­gate for the then-pres­i­den­tial can­di­date at the Repub­li­can Nation­al Con­ven­tion.

“There’s a lot to learn from him and his mes­sage of what it means to be a U.S. cit­i­zen and what it means to be a free indi­vid­ual,” he told the school paper. “He doesn’t com­pro­mise his integri­ty as a politi­cian and he fights quite dili­gent­ly to restore the prin­ci­ples that our coun­try was found­ed on.”

In Silk Road’s com­mu­ni­ty forums, the Dread Pirate Roberts always made the lib­er­tar­i­an under­pin­nings of his orga­ni­za­tion clear. In Oct. 2012, he not­ed in a post: “Silk Road was found­ed on lib­er­tar­i­an prin­ci­ples and con­tin­ues to be oper­at­ed on them … The same prin­ci­ples that have allowed Silk Road to flour­ish can and do work any­where human beings come togeth­er. The only dif­fer­ence is that the State is unable to get its thiev­ing mur­der­ous mitts on it.” He called Paul “a mighty hero in my book” in a note from Nov. 2012. . . .

“This Is The Physics Stu­dent And Used Book Sell­er Who Alleged­ly Ran The ‘Silk Road’ Mar­ket For Drugs And Assas­sins” by Jim Edwards; Busi­ness Insid­er; 10/02/2013.

EXCERPT: . . . . But he lost his inter­est in physics and chem­i­cals some­time after he grad­u­at­ed from Penn State in 2008, in favor of a new pas­sion — lib­er­tar­i­an­ism. He wrote on his LinkedIn pro­file:

Now, my goals have shift­ed. I want to use eco­nom­ic the­o­ry as a means to abol­ish the use of coer­cion and aggres­sion amongst mankind. Just as slav­ery has been abol­ished most every­where, I believe vio­lence, coer­cion and all forms of force by one per­son over anoth­er can come to an end. The most wide­spread and sys­temic use of force is amongst insti­tu­tions and gov­ern­ments, so this is my cur­rent point of effort. The best way to change a gov­ern­ment is to change the minds of the gov­erned, how­ev­er. To that end, I am cre­at­ing an eco­nom­ic sim­u­la­tion to give peo­ple a first-hand expe­ri­ence of what it would be like to live in a world with­out the sys­temic use of force.

He became a fan of the Aus­tri­an School of Eco­nom­ics, a con­ser­v­a­tive take on the free mar­ket. The indict­ment against him says he became a devo­tee of the Mis­es Insti­tute, and that the writ­ing of Lud­wig von Mis­es and Mur­ray Roth­bard “provid[ed] the philo­soph­i­cal under­pin­nings for Silk Road.”

Silk Road was, in many ways, the apoth­e­o­sis of free mar­ket eco­nom­ics. Because it was com­plete­ly encrypt­ed and com­plete­ly anony­mous, using Bit­coin — an uncrack­able “cryp­tocur­ren­cy” — it stood out­side any gov­ern­ment reg­u­la­tion at all, includ­ing the crim­i­nal law.

Until today. . . .

 

Discussion

17 comments for “Alleged Silk Road Inventor a Ron Paul, Ludwig von Mises Fanatic”

  1. For mil­lions of Amer­i­cans, as for peo­ple every­where who sell their labor pow­er for their liveli­hood, par­lia­men­tary niceties such as the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion cease to pro­vide guar­an­tees of human rights and fair­ness when they clock in for the work­ing day. The labor mar­ket is a “free mar­ket” only for those who use their monop­oly of cap­i­tal (in some cas­es quite small) to exploit that seg­ment of the mar­ket held cap­tive by their lack of access to cap­i­tal, to pro­vide eco­nom­ic secu­ri­ty for those of their priv­i­leged class while pro­vid­ing inse­cu­ri­ty for those whose labor actu­al­ly cre­ates the wealth that the own­ers of cap­i­tal turn into an instru­ment of social con­trol to con­tin­u­al­ly repro­duce such social inequal­i­ty. Such schools of eco­nom­ics as the Von Mis­es School are nat­u­ral­ly attrac­tive to those who’ve nev­er been on the receiv­ing end of this scam — which is like­ly the case with some­one like Ross Ulbricht, and cer­tain­ly has been with fas­cism-lov­ing Ron Paul, who was born with a sil­ver spoon in his mouth.

    In many quar­ters, a dis­grun­tled aspi­rant to the employ­ing class who, for one rea­son or oth­er, has been dri­ven down by cir­cum­stances into the ranks of the labor­ing plebes falls easy prey to preda­to­ry schemers look­ing for recruits to the numer­ous gangs of thugs will­ing to go to anti­so­cial, and some­times extrale­gal, extremes to pro­tect the social inter­ests of their priv­i­leged fel­lows. Such gangs, depend­ing on the lev­el of cap­i­tal fund­ing them, may con­sti­tute ad hoc packs of scab-herd­ing, union-bust­ing goons, OR, at the well-financed end, care­ful­ly con­ceived and well-con­nect­ed orga­ni­za­tions that pose as defend­ers of free­dom. Of the lat­ter, the so-called Lib­er­tar­i­an “Move­ment” is a prime exam­ple. Cre­at­ed as a weapon to be used against all aspects which the priv­i­leged view as “social­ist” (which runs the gamut of any and all attempts to defend the inter­ests of those who cre­ate the wealth by their labor, from fee­ble attempts through col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing mere­ly advo­cat­ing for decent treat­ment of the plebes to more ambi­tious attempts to expose the roots of social­ly entrenched inequal­i­ty and the extremes to which the priv­i­leged are will­ing to go to pre­serve that inequal­i­ty) it has served a crit­i­cal func­tion in orga­niz­ing and sup­port­ing the numer­ous pro­to-fas­cist think tanks and phoney “move­ments” that keep fas­cism alive as a weapon to use at cru­cial junc­tures, such as dur­ing the wave of pop­u­lar eman­ci­pa­tion dur­ing the 1930s Span­ish Repub­lic (Legion Con­dor) or the sim­i­lar wave under Sal­vador Allende (Oper­a­tion Con­dor).
    http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL0812/S00378.htm

    It being the case that the psy­chopaths that serve to lead these gangs rarely have the imag­i­na­tion to invent new orga­ni­za­tion­al norms or even new names for their for­ma­tions (oth­er than make the occa­sion­al trans­la­tion from Ger­man into their own ver­nac­u­lar), their pride in their tra­di­tions expos­es such types to those such as our own Dave Emory who have cul­ti­vat­ed a sense of his­to­ry.

    It’s a tru­ly strange cir­cum­stance that the abysmal igno­rance of his­to­ry that the Lib­er­tar­i­an “Move­ment” preys on in the U.S. has been export­ed to Europe, where the gen­er­al pop­u­la­tion should know bet­ter. A case of bad mon­ey dri­ving out good. But we know what sort of har­bin­ger it is for an econ­o­my when bad mon­ey dri­ves out good. It’s no his­tor­i­cal acci­dent that the forces of fas­cism should be prof­fer­ing bad mon­ey as a ver­i­ta­ble augury of the social upheavals they would like to see as a medi­um in which they can com­fort­ably swim.

    Posted by Atlanta Bill | October 7, 2013, 9:26 pm
  2. To Atlanta Bill. I live in Cana­da. I sup­port orga­nized labour and agree (I think) with the main points of your! argu­ment. But, the con­vo­lut­ed over­in­tel­lec­tu­al­ized way in which you make your point belongs to a bygone gen­er­a­tion of social reform­ers preach­ing about a New Jerusalem- reform­ers who were often no more work­ing class than the peo­ple they crit­i­cised. Yes, the labour move­ment needs intel­lec­tu­als and being from the work­ing class is not a pre­req­ui­site for those who involve them­selves in the labour move­ment . The goal is more equi­table dis­tri­b­u­tion of wealth and rights. In my opin­ion, the work­ing class who are inter­est­ed in chang­ing the state of labour don’t want to lis­ten to such over­in­tel­lec­tu­al­iza­tion- not because they don’t under­stand it, but because it sounds like more snake oil for sale. Straight­for­ward nuts and bolts argu­ments, i think, are much more effec­tive. The labour move­ment in the US is fight­ing a colos­sal drawn out bat­tle and needs to attract more mem­bers not turn them off or away.

    To Dave Emory, I enjoyed your arti­cle but I don’t under­stand your state­ment about Ross Ulbricht’s state­ment ” Just as slav­ery has been abol­ished every­where.....” show­ing his “super­fi­cial­i­ty”. You hilight­ed the state­ment twice in your arti­cle but when I read it out of con­text the intent of it seems rather noble- elim­i­na­tion of slav­ery and vio­lence towards and coer­cion of indi­vid­u­als.

    Posted by Kazjar | October 9, 2013, 5:24 am
  3. @Kazjar–

    The super­fi­cial­i­ty and irony lies in the fact that Ulbricht is a devo­tee of the Lud­wig von Mis­es Insti­tute, which is inex­tri­ca­bly linked with the neo-Con­fed­er­ate move­ment, which not only jus­ti­fies the African-Amer­i­can slav­ery of the Con­fed­er­a­cy, but sup­ports a “re-seces­sion” of the south.

    Beyond that, Wal­ter Block of the LvMI espous­es “vol­un­tary slavery”–which I have nick­named the ulti­mate “col­lat­er­al­ized debt oblig­a­tion.”

    If Ulbricht had both­ered to do any home­work at all, he would have/should have real­ized that the peo­ple he sup­ports endorse slav­ery.

    Block is on the pan­el of Ulbricht’s idol Ron Paul’s new orga­ni­za­tion.

    I don’t give a fly­ing (exple­tive delet­ed) about Ulbricht’s “intent.” As I wrote in the post, the road to hell is paved with good inten­tions.

    Ulbricht also states in var­i­ous arti­cles that he does­n’t believe in vio­lence. He has been indict­ed for, among oth­er things, solic­it­ing the con­tract mur­der of a pro­fes­sion­al rival and alleged black­mail­er.

    Thanks for pay­ing atten­tion to this web­site.

    Best,

    Dave

    Posted by Dave Emory | October 9, 2013, 8:48 pm
  4. More on the hyper-Lib­er­tar­i­an roots and ambi­tions of the folks behind the Bit­coin move­ment:

    Finan­cial Times
    June 14, 2013 2:03 pm
    The Bit­coin believ­ers

    By Stephen Foley and Jane Wild

    A grow­ing band of young evan­ge­lists believe the vir­tu­al cur­ren­cy Bit­coin is the eco­nom­ic future. But how long before reg­u­la­tion catch­es up with them?

    “My goal is to get rich,” says Jonathan Mohan, blunt as you like. Giv­en that the 23-year-old Queens native is study­ing entre­pre­neur­ship at New York’s Baruch Col­lege, the state­ment is hard­ly sur­pris­ing. What marks Mohan out is that when he day­dreams of wealth, it is not dol­lar signs that flash up before his eyes, it is Bit­coin.

    More and more peo­ple are dream­ing that Bit­coin, a vir­tu­al cur­ren­cy so far most famous for its wild price swings, will one day become a ubiq­ui­tous form of pay­ment. They hope that the val­ue of the finite stock of dig­i­tal coins will soar, and that a host of entre­pre­neur­ial oppor­tu­ni­ties will present them­selves in a new “Bit­coin econ­o­my”

    Intel­lec­tu­al­ly self-con­fi­dent and eager to plunge into debate, Mohan is quick­ly becom­ing a catal­yser of the New York Bit­coin com­mu­ni­ty. He is organ­is­er of a reg­u­lar “meet-up” group which aims to con­nect the Bit­coin-curi­ous, and which has helped build inter­est even after an appar­ent­ly life-threat­en­ing price crash in April. Mohan wants to get rich, and he wants to wreck gov­ern­ment as we know it, too. Through Bit­coin, a cur­ren­cy out­side the purview of banks and gov­ern­ment con­trol, Mohan sees “a chance to build a finan­cial busi­ness with no reg­u­la­tion. Gov­ern­ment is coer­cion and force. You don’t fight coer­cion with coer­cion, you just ignore it. Bit­coin allows you to ignore it.”

    One of the stick­ers on his lap­top is for the Seast­eading Insti­tute, a project backed by the bil­lion­aire Pay­Pal founder Peter Thiel, which aims to build a float­ing city in inter­na­tion­al waters where “the next gen­er­a­tion of pio­neers can peace­ful­ly test new ideas for gov­ern­ment”. And Mohan is tak­en with the notion, voiced by the extra­or­di­nar­i­ly per­sis­tent Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Ron Paul, that even war can be erad­i­cat­ed, if only gov­ern­ments were denied the abil­i­ty to finance deficits through print­ing mon­ey. “Would you rather buy a dia­mond or a blood dia­mond?” he asks rhetor­i­cal­ly. “Obvi­ous­ly a dia­mond. So, would you rather use a Bit­coin or a dol­lar? When I gave some­one $5 in Bit­coin, I didn’t kill any chil­dren in Iraq.”

    The strongest evan­ge­lis­ers of Bit­coins have always been lib­er­tar­i­ans. This is broad­ly the polit­i­cal hue of the Bit­coin Foun­da­tion, set up by some of the ear­li­est users and entre­pre­neurs of the cur­ren­cy to stew­ard its devel­op­ment. But an increas­ing major­i­ty of the peo­ple inter­est­ed in Bit­coin are only “lib­er­tar­i­an­ish”, despair­ing of gov­ern­ment rather than opposed to it. And they are hard­ly just in the US.

    Around the world, a gen­er­a­tion is grow­ing up whose intel­lec­tu­al frame­work was forged in an eco­nom­ic con­fla­gra­tion which destroyed the rep­u­ta­tions of gov­ern­ment, finance and cen­tral banks alike. The only heroes in this land­scape are the hood­ie-wear­ing tech entre­pre­neurs with their bil­lion-dol­lar busi­ness­es.

    ...

    These have been a gid­dy few months with­in the Bit­coin com­mu­ni­ty. For rea­sons that remain a mys­tery, the price of the cur­ren­cy began ris­ing sharply in March, and when some peo­ple claimed this might have some­thing to do with the bailout raid on Cypri­ot bank deposits and a cri­sis of con­fi­dence in tra­di­tion­al bank­ing, media inter­est helped to accel­er­ate the ascent. The price for a sin­gle Bit­coin, less than $14 at the start of the year, spiked to $266 before crash­ing. It now hov­ers at about $110. The volatil­i­ty may have set back the currency’s util­i­ty as a reli­able means of exchange but, as with a pre­vi­ous price spike in 2011, it only appears to have piqued more inter­est.

    Bit­coin was cre­at­ed four years ago by an unknown com­put­er sci­en­tist with the pseu­do­nym Satoshi Nakamo­to, who con­ceived it as an alter­na­tive to gov­ern­ment-con­trolled cur­ren­cies and a means to trans­fer mon­ey quick­ly, cheap­ly and anony­mous­ly out­side the slow, expen­sive and high­ly reg­u­lat­ed inter­na­tion­al bank­ing sys­tem. Trans­ac­tions are record­ed in the “blockchain”, a mas­sive block of code stored across a peer-to-peer net­work of com­put­ers. These com­put­ers are called min­ers because their own­ers are reward­ed for their ser­vice with occa­sion­al pay­ment in new Bit­coins. The total num­ber of coins will nev­er be allowed to exceed 21 mil­lion.

    So far, Bit­coin is accept­ed at only a smat­ter­ing of ecom­merce sites – most noto­ri­ous­ly, the mail-order drugs site Silk Road – and an even small­er hand­ful of real-world shops, all run by evan­ge­lists. An aver­age $30m of Bit­coin trans­ac­tions are record­ed every day.

    In recent weeks, high-pro­file ven­ture cap­i­tal out­fits, such as Thiel’s Founders Fund and Fred Wilson’s Union Square Ven­tures, have plunked down just-in-case bets on new Bit­coin pay­ments busi­ness­es, rein­forc­ing the head­lines. Angel investors and busi­ness incu­ba­tors are nur­tur­ing new Bit­coin ideas around the world. The finan­cial estab­lish­ment doesn’t know if the cur­ren­cy is friend or foe: mon­ey trans­fer busi­ness­es West­ern Union and Mon­ey­Gram are said to be look­ing at the fea­si­bil­i­ty of accept­ing Bit­coin, but there are sus­pi­cions that banks are using con­cerns about mon­ey laun­der­ing as an excuse to shut down the accounts of busi­ness­es that could become rivals.

    Evan­ge­lists will almost always pref­ace their remarks by say­ing that Bit­coin is still an exper­i­ment, but they share the same under-the-skin itch: a sense that this thing could make them a lot of mon­ey.

    . . .

    Josh Rossi is built to evan­ge­lise. The 31-year-old hops around like a sack of rab­bits as he explains his attrac­tion to Bit­coin. “It’s a hot tech start-up, mixed with emerg­ing mar­kets, mixed with gold, mixed with forex [for­eign exchange]. It’s a gold rush. It’s a land-grab. It’s the Wild West. There’s going to be a Gold­man Sachs in this econ­o­my. If you build a bet­ter mouse­trap, you could be a mil­lion­aire.”

    Rossi is sip­ping whiskey at EVR, a mid­town club part-owned by anoth­er Bit­coin evan­ge­list, Char­lie Shrem, which has made much of being the first New York bar to accept the cur­ren­cy. Shrem, at just 23, might be one of the youngest “Bit­coin mil­lion­aires”, hav­ing amassed his stash long before the lat­est price surge, and set up one of the first Bit­coin pay­ments-pro­cess­ing com­pa­nies, BitIn­stant. His habit of wear­ing a ring engraved with the codes to his Bit­coin wal­let has gained him plen­ty of ador­ing press, which he is milk­ing to pro­mote the club.

    Also prop­ping up the bar is Kir­ill Gourov, a 21-year-old cur­rent­ly intern­ing at a mutu­al fund while com­plet­ing his finance course at Baruch. He pro­pos­es a back-of-an-enve­lope val­u­a­tion for the entire stock of Bit­coin: $70bn, or $3,000-plus per “coin”, even if it is used for just 1 per cent of the trans­ac­tions in the $7tn black mar­ket. (He emails sev­er­al days lat­er with a more thought­ful cal­cu­la­tion, based on the val­ue of a country’s mon­e­tary base rel­a­tive to its GDP.)

    ...

    In Lon­don, the UK’s most promi­nent Bit­coin evan­ge­list is fight­ing for its future. Amir Taaki’s ire is direct­ed at the “suits” from ven­ture cap­i­tal and at the Bit­coin Foun­da­tion. Taa­ki is angry about a sin­gle body becom­ing “a monop­oly”. “They’re suits and bul­lies, try­ing to remove Bitcoin’s polit­i­cal agen­da, but that’s impos­si­ble,” he says. Like many oth­ers, he cites a ref­er­ence to bank bailouts embed­ded in the currency’s orig­i­nal code by the cre­ator as evi­dence that it is inher­ent­ly polit­i­cal.

    A for­mer pro­fes­sion­al pok­er play­er from Kent, Taa­ki was expelled from school for hack­ing, and with his quirk­i­ly styled hair he cuts an uncon­ven­tion­al fig­ure as a spokesman. There is respect for his achieve­ments as an influ­en­tial coder and project devel­op­er, includ­ing his work on Inter­san­go, London’s only Bit­coin exchange, which was sub­se­quent­ly shut down by the banks. But his unapolo­getic sup­port for using the cur­ren­cy to sub­vert gov­ern­ment con­trols makes some peo­ple uneasy.

    “If you tru­ly think that Bit­coin is some­thing amaz­ing you have to want to defend its integri­ty com­plete­ly, like what Cody Wil­son is doing with the [3D-print­ed] gun … That’s why it’s very impor­tant we try not to look up to the old hier­ar­chy, and build our own sys­tem inde­pen­dent­ly. Bit­coin is a decen­tralised, black mar­ket econ­o­my where you can buy drugs online and avoid tax and that under­mines so much pow­er. Any­one who tries to deny Bit­coin is rev­o­lu­tion­ary is liv­ing in fan­ta­sy,” he says.

    ...

    Erik Voorhees, founder of an online gam­bling site called SatoshiDice, whose play­ers pay in Bit­coin, has already moved to Pana­ma City. He is no stranger to uproot­ing: pre­vi­ous address­es have includ­ed Dubai, where he worked as an estate agent, and New Hamp­shire, as part of a lib­er­tar­i­an project to “colonise” the tiny US state. Pana­ma has the poten­tial to become a Bit­coin hub in the way that Gibral­tar became the juris­dic­tion of choice for online pok­er sites when the US act­ed to dri­ve out inter­net gam­ing.

    The Bit­coin Foundation’s chair­man, Peter Vessenes, who runs Seat­tle-based Coin­Lab, says he hugged Voorhees and oth­ers from Pana­ma when he saw them at Bit­coin 2013 in San Jose, the foundation’s inau­gur­al US con­fer­ence, attend­ed by 1,300 peo­ple. “They are great entre­pre­neurs,” says Vessenes, “they have beau­ti­ful women fol­low them wher­ev­er they go, they are well dressed. All I want­ed them to do was have a sane approach to US reg­u­la­to­ry pol­i­cy. I’ll maybe have to trav­el to them in a few years.”

    For all the hugs, there are philo­soph­i­cal, legal and even tech­no­log­i­cal fights brew­ing. Coin­Lab is suing Mt Gox over the alleged fail­ure to con­sum­mate a part­ner­ship deal cov­er­ing the US. “I per­son­al­ly believe that reg­u­la­tion is not a bad thing,” says Vessenes. “There is absolute­ly no world in which the large Bit­coin exchanges won’t be reg­u­lat­ed. It’s just not going to hap­pen. Mt Gox is clear­ing $1bn a month. Some­one is going to want to know who gets that mon­ey.”

    A recent flash­point has been the esca­lat­ing amount of gam­bling traf­fic from Voorhees’ busi­ness and oth­ers. This has vast­ly increased the amount of data stored in the blockchain, which threat­ens to become unwieldy. Increas­ing­ly, the com­mu­ni­ty is hav­ing to weigh up Bit­coin fix­es and upgrades that might have a sig­nif­i­cant impact on people’s busi­ness­es.

    And the transat­lantic split grows. From Lon­don, Taa­ki scoffs at the recent Bit­coin 2013 con­fer­ence; he is plan­ning a Novem­ber gath­er­ing in Vien­na called “UNsys­tem”, where he says he will fill the con­fer­ence hall with “thou­sands of anar­chists, squat­ters and rad­i­cals”.

    ...

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 10, 2013, 8:10 am
  5. Thanks for clar­i­fi­ca­tion, Dave. Yes, I have paid atten­tion to your research from the ear­ly 90s (when I pur­chased large num­bers of your tapes) until today. Find it more fas­ci­nat­ing and scary than ever but am not always famil­iar with the indi­vid­u­als involved.

    Posted by Kazjar | October 11, 2013, 3:41 pm
  6. It’s baaaack:

    Silk Road 2.0 ris­es from the ash­es — with improve­ments
    Devin Cold­ewey NBC News
    11/6/2013

    Just five weeks after the shut­down of the Silk Road and the arrest of the man who alleged­ly ran it, the world’s most noto­ri­ous Inter­net black mar­ket­place for drugs and oth­er con­tra­band is back online. There’s a new Dread Pirate Roberts (the pseu­do­nym and title by which the site’s admin­is­tra­tor is known), and he has already made some seri­ous changes to the site.

    The news arrived via sev­er­al avenues, most sur­pris­ing­ly from a pub­lic Twit­ter account that appears to gen­uine­ly belong to the new head of the Silk Road oper­a­tion. It announced that the site was live at about noon ET and short­ly after report­ed see­ing 1,000 con­nec­tions per sec­ond.

    But it’s not just the same site copied and past­ed onto new servers. In an intro­duc­to­ry post on the site, Dread Pirate Roberts list­ed a num­ber of changes: “a com­plete secu­ri­ty over­haul,” for one thing, and insur­ance against users los­ing their Bit­coins (the online-only “cryp­to-cur­ren­cy” in which busi­ness is trans­act­ed there) should the FBI descend on the Silk Road again. The login page cheek­i­ly poked fun at the Bureau’s stan­dard seizure page.

    It’s also a kinder, gen­tler Silk Road. “We have already com­mit­ted a large per­cent­age of our rev­enues to good caus­es, char­i­ties, and orga­ni­za­tions who sup­port our cause or have sim­i­lar inter­ests,” read one por­tion of the post. And while the pre­vi­ous head of the site infa­mous­ly is alleged to have hired the occa­sion­al hit­man, the new one made assur­ances on Twit­ter that “Silk Road while under my watch will nev­er harm a soul. If we did, then we are no bet­ter than the thugs on the street.”

    While the sen­ti­ment might be admirable, one might rea­son­ably ques­tion why such com­mu­ni­ca­tions are being made pub­licly at all, con­sid­er­ing the high-pro­file demise of the pre­vi­ous site and the guar­an­tee of atten­tion from var­i­ous law enforce­ment agen­cies.

    Dread Pirate Roberts has an answer for that as well:

    It is up to us to embrace this new­found expo­sure in main­stream media, rather than hide from it ... it would be impos­si­ble for the Silk Road to stay off the radar — it is there­fore our respon­si­bil­i­ty to make sure that our mark on the radar is the right one.

    ...
    But one thing is the same: You can still select from a large selec­tion of ille­gal mer­chan­dise, from fake pass­ports to pill-press­ing machines to, yes, just about any drug you could want.

    Whether the new Silk Road will prove more resilient than the old one will only be shown in time, but the new leader and staff cer­tain­ly don’t lack for con­fi­dence.

    ...

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 7, 2013, 1:26 pm
  7. Matt Mel­lon, of the Mel­lon bank­ing dynasty, is jump­ing on board the Bit­coin craze. His idea? To build a Bit­coin val­i­da­tion ser­vice, Coin Val­i­da­tion, which will track the pub­lic record of trans­ac­tions and attempt to iden­ti­fy those Bit­coins most like­ly to be asso­ci­at­ed with ille­gal activ­i­ty. A key step in the val­i­da­tion process appears to involve asso­ci­at­ing the anony­mous Bit­coin accounts with per­son­al ids. Mel­lon’s part­ner envi­sions that, in the future, every­one using Bit­coin for nor­mal com­merce in the US will even­tu­al­ly use a Bit­coin “wal­let” that’s been val­i­dat­ed as “clean” and attached to the user’s per­son­al id. In order to do this, they’re try­ing to cre­ate a net­work of Bit­coin busi­ness­es that will give the iden­ti­ties of the Bit­coin user to Mel­lon’s com­pa­ny. It’ll be an opt-in sys­tem, so if you want to trans­act with “val­i­dat­ed” Bit­coins, you have to give up your id. It’s a nifty idea, and it sounds like sites like Silk Road are what Mel­lon would like to elim­i­nate with this ser­vice. But it might make non-ille­gal Bit­coin usage­ex­treme­ly non-anony­mous to any­one with access to Coin Val­ida­tor’s data­base too and cre­ate the impres­sion that anony­mous Bit­coin trans­ac­tions have some­thing to hide. The Bit­coin com­mu­ni­ty is prob­a­bly going to have mixed-feel­ings about this new scheme:

    Forbes
    11/13/2013 @ 8:17AM
    San­i­tiz­ing Bit­coin: This Com­pa­ny Wants To Track ‘Clean’ Bit­coin Accounts
    Kash­mir Hill, Forbes Staff

    You can add Matt Mel­lon, descen­dant of the famed bank­ing fam­i­ly, to the ranks of the Bit­coin believ­ers. The 49-year-old for­mer chair­man for the New York Repub­li­can Party’s Finance Com­mit­tee decid­ed in April that he want­ed to get in on the Bit­coin fren­zy and called the Win­klevoss twins for advice. They linked him up with Alex Waters, a for­mer core Bit­coin devel­op­er and the then chief tech­nol­o­gy offi­cer of Bitin­stant, the cur­rent­ly-defunct exchange into which the twins invest­ed $1.5 mil­lion. Waters instruct­ed Mel­lon to buy a new Apple lap­top, buy his Bit­coin and then put them into cold stor­age on USB dri­ves kept at var­i­ous loca­tions around the States. Mel­lon says he got the “Bit­coin bug,” los­ing hours of sleep each night pon­der­ing Bitcoin’s pos­si­bil­i­ties. He and Waters start­ed a con­ver­sa­tion about how to make Bit­coin more legit­i­mate in the eyes of banks and the gov­ern­ment, so that it can take off and become the hun­dreds-bil­lion mar­ket that investors such as the Win­klevoss twins pre­dict.

    That con­ver­sa­tion also involved Yifu Guo, anoth­er 20-some­thing like Waters, who became a “Bit­coin mil­lion­aire” sell­ing com­put­ing equip­ment ded­i­cat­ed to “Bit­coin min­ing” though his com­pa­ny Aval­on. Now the unlike­ly trio of two tech­nol­o­gists and a Whar­ton grad is launch­ing Coin Val­i­da­tion, a due dili­gence ser­vice for Bit­coin busi­ness­es that they hope will help set reg­u­la­tors’ minds at ease.

    It’s a track­ing sys­tem for Bit­coin own­er­ship that would the­o­ret­i­cal­ly weed out ‘bad actors’ – like the Dread Pirate Roberts – from the legit­i­mate Bit­coin busi­ness world. Their plan is to com­pile a data­base of the known iden­ti­ties asso­ci­at­ed with Bit­coin address­es in the hope that Coin Val­i­da­tion will become the one-stop-iden­ti­ty shop for law enforce­ment when try­ing to find out who’s doing some­thing nefar­i­ous with Bit­coin, while pro­vid­ing a red-flag sys­tem for busi­ness­es who have cus­tomers try­ing to use Bit­coin that’s asso­ci­at­ed with illic­it use.

    “Essen­tial­ly, we’ve been work­ing with reg­u­la­tors for a struc­tured approach for Bit­coin cus­tomers to be com­pli­ant,” says Waters. “We set up an API to work with their sys­tems and we sup­ply report­ing tools they need for their data­bas­es. Which bit­coin address­es belong to a per­son? That’s the prob­lem we’re solv­ing.”

    It’s a well-timed announce­ment, even if the details of how it will work are still vague. The nation’s cap­i­tal is sud­den­ly pay­ing a lot of atten­tion to the cryp­tocur­ren­cy as its val­ue climbs to new highs. The same month the FEC approved Bit­coin for cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions – as long as it’s imme­di­ate­ly cashed in for U.S. dol­lars – the Sen­ate Home­land Secu­ri­ty Com­mit­tee is putting it in the hot seat dur­ing a hear­ing Mon­day on the dig­i­tal cur­ren­cy and its uses “beyond Silk Road.” The cryp­tocur­ren­cy has become a dar­ling of the investor com­mu­ni­ty with its promise of dis­rupt­ing pay­ment sys­tems, but has law­mak­ers and reg­u­la­tors spooked by the pos­si­bil­i­ty of its also dis­rupt­ing law enforce­ment and tax­a­tion sys­tems. Waters, Guo and Mel­lon think Coin Val­i­da­tion could be the answer reg­u­la­tors are look­ing for, but the first step in their plan requires a big leap of faith and data: they need Bit­coin busi­ness­es to sign up, con­nect with their API, and share infor­ma­tion about their clients to start build­ing an iden­ti­ty data­base.

    One busi­ness is already com­mit­ted: Guo’s Bit­coin min­ing equip­ment mak­er, Aval­on. A big ques­tion is whether they can get oth­ers to sign on as they’ll need a net­work effect to make the data­base use­ful.

    ...

    “This needs to exist for reg­u­la­tors to approve of use of Bit­coin in the U.S.,” says Waters. “We don’t want to be the sher­iff of the Bit­coin com­mu­ni­ty. We just want to cre­ate an ecosys­tem of clean address­es.”

    In the short term, they talk about a lim­it­ed data­base that keeps track only of reg­is­tered iden­ti­ties and their activ­i­ties with par­tic­i­pat­ing com­pa­nies, but it’s obvi­ous that their ambi­tions are grander and that a longer term prospect is to take advan­tage of the trans­paren­cy of the Bit­coin sys­tem to keep track of which Bit­coin is taint­ed by asso­ci­a­tions with black mar­kets. Waters says that the devel­op­ment of that aspect will depend on “com­mu­ni­ty feed­back.”

    “Peo­ple say Bit­coin is anony­mous, but it’s also com­plete­ly trace­able,” says Guo. “Because the blockchain is already pub­lic, your pri­va­cy is lim­it­ed, but a lot of peo­ple prob­a­bly aren’t aware that they are being tracked,” adds Waters.

    Sarah Meick­le­john an aca­d­e­m­ic who recent­ly co-authored a paper on link­ing Bit­coin address­es to Silk Road activ­i­ty says that a num­ber of com­pa­nies have approached her about ways to ana­lyze the Bit­coin blockchain for taint­ed trans­ac­tions. She says there are a num­ber of chal­lenges — includ­ing false neg­a­tives and false pos­i­tives, and the dif­fi­cul­ty of iden­ti­fy­ing asso­ci­a­tions when black mar­ket ser­vice changes wal­lets — but she was intrigued by the idea of build­ing a data­base of “clean” address­es.

    “No one knows the full ground truth of the Bit­coin net­work,” she says. “But this could be good for flag­ging and gen­er­at­ing sus­pi­cious activ­i­ty reports, as long as it doesn’t come with an absurd­ly high pun­ish­ment for accounts that may have been incor­rect­ly flagged.”

    Waters expects ten­sions. Bitcoin’s appeal to many ear­ly adopters after all was the free­dom that came from its state­less­ness, its anonymi­ty, and its decen­tral­iza­tion. With Coin Val­i­da­tion, he’s propos­ing a cen­tral­ized track­ing sys­tem that he knows won’t sit well with some hard­lin­ers in the com­mu­ni­ty.

    “The exist­ing Bit­coin com­mu­ni­ty will find this very con­tro­ver­sial from a pri­va­cy per­spec­tive. But it’s sim­ple, straight­for­ward and opt in,” says Waters. Bit­coin busi­ness­es will opt in to the sys­tem, and cus­tomers that don’t want to be in the data­base would need to not use those busi­ness­es.

    But what about Bit­coin laun­der­ing ser­vices and wal­lets designed specif­i­cal­ly to make obser­va­tion and track­ing chal­leng­ing?

    “The aver­age user is not sophis­ti­cat­ed enough to laun­der Bit­coin,” says Guo.

    “Typ­i­cal­ly peo­ple doing mon­ey laun­der­ing will reuse address­es or claim an address has lots of dif­fer­ent iden­ti­ties,” says Waters. “This is a first step, not the sil­ver bul­let to end mon­ey laun­der­ing with Bit­coin.”

    Waters says there are a few mil­lion Bit­coin address­es with pos­i­tive bal­ances. “If 10% of those were clean address­es, it would sub­stan­tial­ly improve the reg­u­la­to­ry land­scape state-side,” he says. He pre­dicts in the future that every user will have at least one address that’s self iden­ti­fied, “or at least every user who wants to do busi­ness in the U.S.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 13, 2013, 1:01 pm
  8. There are many pos­si­ble caus­es of the Bit­coin bub­ble. Let’s hope this isn’t one of them:

    Forbes
    11/18/2013 @ 8:30AM
    Meet The ‘Assas­si­na­tion Mar­ket’ Cre­ator Who’s Crowd­fund­ing Mur­der With Bit­coins
    Andy Green­berg, Forbes Staff

    As Bit­coin becomes an increas­ing­ly pop­u­lar form of dig­i­tal cash, the cryp­tocur­ren­cy is being accept­ed in exchange for every­thing from socks to sushi to hero­in. If one anar­chist has his way, it’ll soon be used to buy mur­der, too.

    Last month I received an encrypt­ed email from some­one call­ing him­self by the pseu­do­nym Kuwa­batake San­juro, who point­ed me towards his recent cre­ation: The web­site Assas­si­na­tion Mar­ket, a crowd­fund­ing ser­vice that lets any­one anony­mous­ly con­tribute bit­coins towards a boun­ty on the head of any gov­ern­ment offi­cial–a kind of Kick­starter for polit­i­cal assas­si­na­tions. Accord­ing to Assas­si­na­tion Market’s rules, if some­one on its hit list is killed–and yes, San­juro hopes that many tar­gets will be–any hit­man who can prove he or she was respon­si­ble receives the col­lect­ed funds.

    For now, the site’s rewards are small but not insignif­i­cant. In the four months that Assas­si­na­tion Mar­ket has been online, six tar­gets have been sub­mit­ted by users, and boun­ties have been col­lect­ed rang­ing from ten bit­coins for the mur­der of NSA direc­tor Kei­th Alexan­der and 40 bit­coins for the assas­si­na­tion of Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma to 124.14 bitcoins–the largest cur­rent boun­ty on the site–targeting Ben Bernanke, chair­man of the Fed­er­al Reserve and pub­lic ene­my num­ber one for many of Bitcoin’s anti-bank­ing-sys­tem users. At Bitcoin’s cur­rent rapid­ly ris­ing exchanges rate, that’s near­ly $75,000 for Bernanke’s would-be killer.

    Sanjuro’s gris­ly ambi­tions go beyond rais­ing the funds to bankroll a few polit­i­cal killings. He believes that if Assas­si­na­tion Mar­ket can per­sist and gain enough users, it will even­tu­al­ly enable the assas­si­na­tions of enough politi­cians that no one would dare to hold office. He says he intends Assas­si­na­tion Mar­ket to destroy “all gov­ern­ments, every­where.”

    “I believe it will change the world for the bet­ter,” writes San­juro, who shares his han­dle with the name­less samu­rai pro­tag­o­nist in the Aki­ra Kuro­sawa film “Yojim­bo.” (He tells me he chose it in homage to cre­ator of the online black mar­ket Silk Road, who called him­self the Dread Pirate Roberts, as well Bit­coin inven­tor Satoshi Nakamo­to.) ”Thanks to this sys­tem, a world with­out wars, drag­net panop­ti­con-style sur­veil­lance, nuclear weapons, armies, repres­sion, mon­ey manip­u­la­tion, and lim­its to trade is firm­ly with­in our grasp for but a few bit­coins per per­son. I also believe that as soon as a few politi­cians gets offed and they real­ize they’ve lost the war on pri­va­cy, the killings can stop and we can tran­si­tion to a phase of peace, pri­va­cy and lais­sez-faire.

    ...

    Just read­ing about that cold­ly cal­cu­la­tive sys­tem of lethal vio­lence like­ly inspires queasy feel­ings or out­rage. But San­juro says that the public’s abhor­rence won’t pre­vent the sys­tem from work­ing. And as a mat­ter of ethics, he notes that he’ll accept only user-sug­gest­ed tar­gets “who have ini­ti­at­ed force against oth­er humans. More specif­i­cal­ly, only peo­ple who are out­side the reach of the law because it has been sub­vert­ed and cor­rupt­ed, and whose vic­tims have no oth­er way to take revenge than to do so anony­mous­ly.”

    Even set­ting aside the immoral­i­ty of killing, doesn’t the notion of enabling small minori­ties of angry Bit­coin donors to assas­si­nate elect­ed offi­cials sound like an attempt to crip­ple democ­ra­cy? “Of course, lim­it­ing democ­ra­cy is why we even have a con­sti­tu­tion,” San­juro responds. “Major­i­ty sup­port does not make a leader legit­i­mate any more than it made slav­ery legit­i­mate. With this mar­ket the great equal­is­ing forces of cap­i­tal­ism have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to work in pol­i­tics too. One bit­coin paid is one vote clos­er to a veto of what­ev­er leg­is­la­tion you dis­like.”

    San­juro didn’t actu­al­ly invent the con­cept of an anony­mous crowd­fund­ed assas­si­na­tion mar­ket. The idea dates back to the cypher­punk move­ment of the mid-1990s, whose adher­ents dreamt of using encryp­tion tools to weak­en the gov­ern­ment and empow­er indi­vid­u­als. For­mer Intel engi­neer and Cypher­punk Mail­ing List founder Tim May argued that uncrack­able secret mes­sages and untrace­able dig­i­tal cur­ren­cy would lead to assas­si­na­tion mar­kets in his “Cryptoanarchist’s Man­i­festo” writ­ten in 1992.

    A few years lat­er, anoth­er for­mer Intel engi­neer named Jim Bell pro­posed a sys­tem of fund­ing assas­si­na­tions through encrypt­ed, anony­mous dona­tions in an essay he called “ Assas­si­na­tion Pol­i­tics.” The sys­tem he described close­ly match­es Sanjuro’s scheme, though anonymi­ty tools like Tor and Bit­coin were most­ly the­o­ret­i­cal at the time. As Bell wrote then:

    If only 0.1% of the pop­u­la­tion, or one per­son in a thou­sand, was will­ing to pay $1 to see some gov­ern­ment slime­ball dead, that would be, in effect, a $250,000 boun­ty on his head. Fur­ther, imag­ine that any­one con­sid­er­ing col­lect­ing that boun­ty could do so with the math­e­mat­i­cal cer­tain­ty that he could not be iden­ti­fied, and could col­lect the reward with­out meet­ing, or even talk­ing to, any­body who could lat­er iden­ti­fy him. Per­fect anonymi­ty, per­fect secre­cy, and per­fect secu­ri­ty. And that, com­bined with the ease and secu­ri­ty with which these con­tri­bu­tions could be col­lect­ed, would make being an abu­sive gov­ern­ment employ­ee an extreme­ly risky propo­si­tion. Chances are good that nobody above the lev­el of coun­ty com­mis­sion­er would even risk stay­ing in office.

    Bell would lat­er serve years in prison for tax eva­sion and stalk­ing a fed­er­al agent, and was only released in March of 2012. When I con­tact­ed him by email, he denied any involve­ment in Sanjuro’s Assas­si­na­tion Mar­ket and declined to com­ment on it.

    San­juro tells me he’s long been aware of Bell’s idea. But he only decid­ed to enact it after the past summer’s rev­e­la­tions of mass sur­veil­lance by the NSA exposed in a series of leaks by agency con­trac­tor Edward Snow­den. “Being forced to alter my every hap­py mem­o­ry dur­ing inter­net activ­i­ty, every inti­mate moment over the phone with my loved ones, to also include some of the peo­ple I hate the most lis­ten­ing in, analysing the con­ver­sa­tion, was the inspi­ra­tion I need­ed to embark on this task,” he writes. “After about a week of mut­ter­ing ‘they must all die’ under my breath every time I opened a news­pa­per or turned on the tele­vi­sion, I decid­ed some­thing had to be done. This is my con­tri­bu­tion to the cause.”

    Assas­si­na­tion Mar­ket isn’t the first web­site to sug­gest fund­ing mur­der with bit­coins. Oth­ers Tor-hid­den web­sites with names like Quick Kill, Con­tract Killer and C’thulhu have all claimed to offer mur­ders in exchange for bit­coin pay­ments. But none of them respond­ed to my attempts to con­tact their admin­is­tra­tors, and all required advanced pay­ments for their ser­vices, so they may be scams.

    ...

    If the sys­tem does prove to work, the launch of Assas­si­na­tion Mar­ket may be ill-timed for San­juro, giv­en law enforcement’s recent crack­down on the dark web. In August, the FBI used an exploit in Tor to take down the web host­ing firm Free­dom Host­ing and arrest its founder Eric Eoin Mar­ques, who is accused of offer­ing his ser­vices to child pornog­ra­phy sites. And just last month, the FBI also seized the pop­u­lar Bit­coin- and Tor-based black mar­ket for drugs known as Silk Road and arrest­ed its alleged cre­ator, Ross Ulbricht.

    San­juro coun­ters that in addi­tion to Tor, Bit­coin, and the usu­al encryp­tion tools, he has “mea­sures in place to pre­vent the effec­tive­ness of such an arrest. Nat­u­ral­ly these will have to be kept secret.”

    He adds that, like an ear­li­er gen­er­a­tion of cypher­punks, he puts his faith in the math­e­mat­i­cal promise of cryp­tog­ra­phy to trump the government’s pow­er to stop him. “With cryp­tog­ra­phy, the state, or any pro­tec­tion firm, is large­ly obsolete…all activ­i­ty that can be reduced to infor­ma­tion trans­fer will be com­plete­ly out of the government’s, or anyone’s, hands, oth­er than the par­ties involved,” he says.

    “I am a cryp­to-anar­chist,” San­juro con­cludes. “We have a bright future ahead of us.”

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 18, 2013, 9:31 am
  9. @Pterrafractyl and Swamp–

    Isn’t it inter­est­ing that nei­ther Angela Merkel, the Tea Par­ty crowd, mem­bers of the Bush fam­i­ly or GOP are on “San­juro“ ‘s list?! It’ll be inter­est­ing to see what becomes of this guy.

    It is also more than a lit­tle inter­est­ing to see that the guy cham­pi­ons “lais­sez-faire.”

    The more time pass­es, the more these tech­no-lib­er­tar­i­ans are reveal­ing them­selves to be fas­cists, rather than “anar­chists.”

    They are DEFINITELY the “neue-Wan­der­vo­gel.”

    BTW–don’t fail to note the nature of Pierre Olmid­yar, the liv­ing saint who is bankrolling that Nazi scum­bag Green­wald. It is the focal point of FTR #763.

    Keep up the great work!

    Best

    Dave

    Posted by Dave Emory | November 18, 2013, 7:16 pm
  10. It turns out The Dread Pirate Roberts was a hit­man’s dream cus­tomer:

    Forbes
    11/21/2013 @ 1:19PM
    Alleged Silk Road Boss Ross Ulbricht Now Accused Of Six Mur­ders-For-Hire, Denied Bail

    Andy Green­berg, Forbes Staff

    A New York judge denied bail to alleged Silk Road cre­ator Ross Ulbricht Thurs­day, based in part on fresh accu­sa­tions of vio­lence: That the 29-year-old alleged­ly com­mis­sioned the mur­ders of a total of six peo­ple through would-be hit­men he con­tact­ed online, four more than the two attempt­ed killings described in pros­e­cu­tors’ orig­i­nal crim­i­nal com­plaint.

    Judge Nathaniel Fox said that the risk that Ulbricht might flee or present a dan­ger to the com­mu­ni­ty over­whelmed argu­ments that he be released on bail, cit­ing “pow­er­ful evi­dence pre­sent­ed to us that the defen­dant has attempt­ed to secure the mur­ders of a num­ber of peo­ple.”

    Pros­e­cu­tor Ser­rin Turn­er laid out that evi­dence in a state­ment to the court, say­ing that much of it was gath­ered from a Silk Road serv­er locat­ed by the FBI as well as Ulbricht’s seized com­put­er after he was arrest­ed in Octo­ber and accused of run­ning the Silk Road’s mas­sive anony­mous online drug sales oper­a­tion under the pseu­do­nym the Dread Pirate Roberts. Ser­rin said that Ulbricht had not only sent mes­sages to two would-be hitmen–an under­cov­er agent on one of those two occa­sions–ask­ing to have a wit­ness and a black­mail­er killed, but had fol­lowed up by order­ing the killing of the blackmailer’s asso­ciate and three peo­ple who lived with him.

    Mys­te­ri­ous­ly, Turn­er said that in none of the cas­es were actu­al vic­tims found; In the first, FBI agents say they faked the death of alleged for­mer Silk Road employ­ee Cur­tis Green to con­vince Ulbricht the mur­der had tak­en place. But the out­come of the oth­er five mur­ders remains unex­plained. Nonethe­less, Turn­er argued, “the evi­dence is crys­tal clear that the defen­dant intend­ed these mur­ders to hap­pen.”

    Crim­i­nal com­plaints against Ulbricht pre­vi­ous­ly accused him of order­ing the killing of for­mer Silk Road employ­ee Cur­tis Green in Jan­u­ary of 2013 for $80,000 and then pay­ing a user known as “redand­white” $150,000 in the cryp­tocur­ren­cy Bit­coin to kill a Silk Road user iden­ti­fied as “Friend­ly­Chemist,” who claimed to have hacked anoth­er Silk Road ven­dor and threat­ened to release Silk Road cus­tomers’ iden­ti­fy­ing infor­ma­tion if he wasn’t paid $500,000.

    In court Thurs­day, Turn­er added four more attempt­ed mur­ders, say­ing that Friend­ly­Chemist had impli­cat­ed anoth­er Silk Road user known as “tony76.” And when redand­white had told Ulbricht that tony76 lived with three oth­er peo­ple who would have to be killed if they were to obtain the mon­ey and pos­ses­sions in his home, Ulbricht alleged­ly agreed to have all four killed for $500,000 in bit­coins. “Based on the say-so of [an online assas­sin,] he was will­ing to kill three oth­ers just liv­ing with him,” said Turn­er.

    Turn­er also described evi­dence on Ulbricht’s com­put­er that includ­ed a log he kept of his activ­i­ties that he said includ­ed the line “com­mis­sioned hit on black­mail­ers with angels,” imply­ing that redand­white may have been a mem­ber of the Hell’s Angel motor­cy­cle gang, giv­en its asso­ci­a­tion with the col­ors red and white. Anoth­er line alleged­ly read “sent pay­ment to angels for hit on tony76 and his 3 asso­ciates.”

    In fact, Turn­er enu­mer­at­ed evi­dence found on Ulbricht’s seized machine that went far fur­ther in tying him to his alleged Dread Pirate Roberts iden­ti­ty. When Ulbricht was arrest­ed in the Glen Park library in San Fran­cis­co, Turn­er said he was logged into the Silk Road under his Dread Pirate Roberts account and was look­ing at an admin­is­tra­tor con­trol page for the site as well as anoth­er page called “Mas­ter­mind” that showed Silk Road sales num­bers. Turn­er added that he was also logged into a chat pro­gram under the han­dle “dread,” and his Mac­book had the user­name “Frosty,” which he said was linked to Ulbricht’s email address in a post he’d made to a cod­ing forum.

    Remark­ably, Turn­er also described a jour­nal tak­en from Ulbricht’s hard dri­ve that recounts the sto­ry of Silk Road’s cre­ation. He list­ed details like the fact that Ulbricht had ini­tial­ly called the Silk Road “Under­ground Bro­kers,” but had lat­er decid­ed to change the name. The pros­e­cu­tors’ let­ter to the court includes this pas­sage:

    I began work­ing on a project that had been in my mind for over a year. I was call­ing it Under­ground Bro­kers, but even­tu­al­ly set­tled on Silk Road. The idea was to cre­ate a web­site where peo­ple could buy any­thing anony­mous­ly, with no trail what­so­ev­er that could lead back to them.

    At anoth­er point, he wrote that in 2011, he would be “cre­at­ing a year of pros­per­i­ty and pow­er beyond what I have ever expe­ri­enced before,” and added that “Silk Road is going to become a phe­nom­e­non and at least one per­son will tell me about it, unknow­ing that I was its cre­ator.”

    The jour­nal, accord­ing to Turner’s account, also details how Ulbricht grew sev­er­al kilos of psy­che­del­ic mush­rooms in a lab in an “off-the-grid” cab­in to have an ini­tial prod­uct to sell on the Silk Road. In a spread­sheet found on Ulbricht’s com­put­er, Turn­er said Ulbricht’s expens­es and income were list­ed, includ­ing a line for “sr inc.” that he said list­ed its val­ue at $104 mil­lion.

    To sup­port the prosecution’s argu­ment Ulbricht rep­re­sent­ed a flight risk, he not­ed that Ulbricht had tak­en steps towards apply­ing for cit­i­zen­ship in the island nation of Domini­ca, and had dis­cussed mov­ing there with friends on Face­book.

    ...

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 22, 2013, 10:06 am
  11. More fun with bit­coin’s pseudoanonymi­ty:

    The New York Times
    Bits
    Novem­ber 23, 2013, 6:13 pm
    Study Sug­gests Link Between Dread Pirate Roberts and Satoshi Nakamo­to
    By JOHN MARKOFF

    Two Israeli com­put­er sci­en­tists say they may have uncov­ered a puz­zling finan­cial link between Ross William Ulbricht, the recent­ly arrest­ed oper­a­tor of the Inter­net black mar­ket known as the Silk Road, and the secre­tive inven­tor of bit­coin, the anony­mous online cur­ren­cy, used to make Silk Road pur­chas­es.

    Dorit Ron, a com­put­er sci­en­tist at the Weiz­mann Insti­tute, and Adi Shamir, a pio­neer­ing cryp­tog­ra­ph­er who is a mem­ber of the applied math­e­mat­ics fac­ul­ty at the Insti­tute, will pub­lish a paper Sun­day explor­ing how the 29-year-old Mr. Ulbricht, who was arrest­ed by the Fed­er­al Bureau of Inves­ti­ga­tion in Octo­ber and has been charged with a mur­der-for-hire scheme and nar­cotics-traf­fick­ing, acquired and pro­tect­ed the esti­mat­ed mil­lions he made in com­mis­sions oper­at­ing Silk Road. The researchers say Silk Road, at the time of Mr. Ulbricht’s arrest, had sales of $1.2 bil­lion, gen­er­at­ing $80 mil­lion in com­mis­sions. A huge run-up in the val­ue of bit­coin in the last month has expo­nen­tial­ly increased those amounts.

    How­ev­er, the researchers added, they believe the F.B.I. has seized only about 22 per­cent of the com­mis­sions they have iden­ti­fied, and that they them­selves have only been able to trace about a third of the total.

    ...

    The two sci­en­tists have been explor­ing the web of finan­cial trans­ac­tions pro­duced by bit­coin, the anony­mous cur­ren­cy that has drawn the atten­tion of both law enforce­ment and fed­er­al reg­u­la­tors in recent months. Their research is made pos­si­ble by the fact that while bit­coin is designed to pro­tect the anonymi­ty of buy­ers and sell­ers, the actu­al trans­ac­tions are pub­lic. Ear­li­er this year, the researchers obtained a com­plete list­ing of all bit­coin trans­ac­tions and have since been explor­ing the “graph” of those inter­ac­tions in an attempt to gain sta­tis­ti­cal insights into user behav­ior in the anony­mous finan­cial mar­ket.

    After Mr. Ulbricht was arrest­ed last month, the sci­en­tists used pub­lic infor­ma­tion to begin trac­ing Silk Road-relat­ed trans­ac­tions. Among their dis­cov­er­ies was a par­tic­u­lar trans­fer to an account con­trolled by Mr. Ulbricht from anoth­er that had been cre­at­ed in Jan­u­ary 2009, dur­ing the very ear­li­est days of the bit­coin net­work, which was set up the pre­vi­ous year.

    Although the authors state that they can­not prove that that account belongs to the per­son who cre­at­ed the bit­coin cur­ren­cy, it is wide­ly believed that the first accounts belong to a per­son who iden­ti­fies him­self as “Satoshi Nakamo­to,” but who has remained anony­mous and has not been pub­licly heard from since 2010.

    Indi­vid­ual bit­coin is gen­er­at­ed using a cryp­to­graph­ic algo­rithm that requires com­put­er-pro­cess­ing pow­er and that insures that each coin remains unique and can­not be copied.

    After seiz­ing Mr. Ulbricht’s com­put­er, the F.B.I. spent sev­er­al weeks ana­lyz­ing data, deter­min­ing that the lap­top con­tained a dig­i­tal wal­let with 144,336 bit­coin, cur­rent­ly val­ued at more than $122 mil­lion, which the agency has attempt­ed to freeze.

    In trac­ing var­i­ous trans­ac­tions made to and from Mr. Ulbricht’s account, the authors found an intrigu­ing one involv­ing the trans­fer of 1,000 bit­coin, which would have been worth $60,000 when it was made on March 20 of this year, but is now worth rough­ly $847,000.

    They write: “Such a sin­gle large trans­fer does not rep­re­sent the typ­i­cal behav­ior of a buy­er who opens an account on Silk Road in order to pur­chase some nar­cotics (such buy­ers are expect­ed to make an ini­tial deposit of tens or hun­dreds of dol­lars, and to top the account off when­ev­er they buy addi­tion­al mer­chan­dise). It could rep­re­sent either large-scale activ­i­ty on Silk Road, or some form of invest­ment or part­ner­ship, but this is pure spec­u­la­tion.”

    The mys­te­ri­ous account that made the invest­ment had at one point accu­mu­lat­ed 77,600 bit­coin, most­ly through “min­ing” oper­a­tions, an amount which would now be worth approx­i­mate­ly $64 mil­lion.

    “The short path we found sug­gests (but does not prove) the exis­tence of a sur­pris­ing link between the two mys­te­ri­ous fig­ures of the bit­coin com­mu­ni­ty, Satoshi Nakamo­to and DPR,” the authors write, refer­ring to Mr. Ulbricht as the Dread Pirate Roberts.

    In addi­tion to the curi­ous trans­ac­tion, which they say they can­not explain, the authors said they dis­cov­ered that much of the bit­coin accu­mu­lat­ed by Mr. Ulbricht has remained beyond the F.B.I.’s grasp.

    The sci­en­tists note that, for tech­ni­cal rea­sons, seiz­ing and con­trol­ling bit­coin from a com­put­er is a much greater chal­lenge for law enforce­ment than illic­it­ly obtained cash stored in a safe. With bit­coin, its very design may make it pos­si­ble for its sup­port com­mu­ni­ty to move to thwart law enforce­ment or any resale of the dig­i­tal tokens.

    In addi­tion, the sci­en­tists spec­u­lat­ed that the rea­son the F.B.I. had not recov­ered all Mr. Ulbricht’s bit­coin might be that he was using a sec­ond com­put­er that has not been locat­ed.

    Dr. Ron and Dr. Shamir not­ed that despite the fact that the F.B.I. closed the orig­i­nal Silk Road black mar­ket, a sec­ond “Silk Road anony­mous mar­ket” has been cre­at­ed since.

    ...

    Whether or not Ulbricht was in a part­ner­ship with Satoshi Nakamo­to (maybe that 1000 bit­coin trans­ac­tion was just for some of Ulbricht’s deli­cious high qual­i­ty mush­rooms?) one thing is clear from this arti­cle: Ross Ulbricht had a HUGE per­cent of the total bit­coin sup­ply. At least for an indi­vid­ual. The FBI received 144,336 bit­coins off of just one of Ulbricht’s com­put­ers, and with ~12 mil­lion bit­coins already in sup­ply (a lit­tle over half of the total 21 mil­lion), that means Ulbricht had over 1% of the cur­rent bit­coin sup­ply on that sin­gle com­put­er alone.

    And, accord­ing to the researchers, 78% of Ulbrich’s bit­coins are still “buried” and beyond the FBI’s reach. So Ulbricht, alone, may have actu­al­ly con­trolled clos­er to 5% of the total bit­coin sup­ply. It’s a reminder that bit­coins have an addi­tion­al built-in defla­tion­ary force: Lost bit­coins that can’t be recov­ered are lost for good, per­ma­nent­ly reduc­ing the sup­ply of trade­able bit­coins while main­tain­ing the over­all sup­ply offi­cial­ly in exis­tence (because a lost bit­coin is indis­tin­guish­able from one that’s sim­ply being saved). The small casu­al users with tiny frac­tions of a bit­coin in their accounts are prob­a­bly the most like­ly source of bit­coin loss­es, but since we have no real idea who the large bit­coin own­ers are at this point you have to won­der how many more hid­den bit­coin barons are going to end up either hand­ing siz­able per­cent­ages of the total bit­coin sup­ply over to law enforce­ment agen­cies or just los­ing them alto­geth­er.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 24, 2013, 7:27 pm
  12. @Pterrafractyl–

    Inter­est­ing that Ulbricht was think­ing of head­ing to Domini­ca.

    That’s the island nation that his polit­i­cal idol Ron Paul was try­ing to take over, along with long time “Paulis­tini­ans” David Duke and Don Black.

    Best,

    Dave

    Posted by Dave Emory | November 24, 2013, 8:48 pm
  13. @Dave: With over half a bil­lion dol­lars in bit­coins (at today’s prices) Ulbricht might have been one of the wealth­i­est inhab­i­tants in Domini­ca. He could have just bought off all the politi­cians, no Oper­a­tion Red Dog required, heh. Accord­ing to this arti­cle, Domini­ca was just one of sev­er­al Caribbean coun­tries he was try­ing to obtain cit­i­zen­ship in so it sounds like he was open to a vari­ety of trop­i­cal par­adis­es (to pre­sum­ably cre­ate start his Lib­er­tar­i­an utopia).

    It also looks like bit­coin’s pseudoanonymi­ty snagged anoth­er enthu­si­ast: the iden­ti­ty of the indi­vid­ual that trans­ferred 1000 bit­coins to Ross Ulbrichts has been revealed and it does­n’t appear to be Satoshi Nakamo­to. Instead, it’s an account held by Dustin Tram­mell, an ear­ly bit­coin enthusiast/IT secu­ri­ty spe­cial­ist liv­ing in Austin, Texas. There isn’t any clear rela­tion­ship between Ulbricht and this fel­low in Austin although Ulbricht was born and raised in Austin so per­haps there’s a rela­tion­ship between the two.

    It’ll be inter­est­ing to see how many Silk Road copy­cat sites emerge from this entire saga because, if the sto­ry of the Dread Pirate Roberts has estab­lished any­thing to the world, it is that incred­i­ble amounts of mon­ey can be made in a very short peri­od of time but it’s only anony­mous if you don’t ever mess up:

    Forbes
    11/25/2013 @ 4:46PM
    Israeli Researchers’ The­o­ry Debunked: No Clear Ties Between Bit­coin’s Cre­ator And Silk Road
    Andy Green­berg, Forbes Staff

    Giv­en the mys­ter­ies swirling around fig­ures like Bit­coin inven­tor Satoshi Nakamo­to and the Silk Road black mar­ket oper­a­tor known as the Dread Pirate Roberts, a study that draws con­nec­tions between the two pseu­do­ny­mous fig­ures offers the prospect of a Hol­ly­wood sto­ry that’s too good to be true. Unfor­tu­nate­ly for screen­writ­ers, it took Bit­coin users less than 24 hours to debunk it.

    On Sat­ur­day, the New York Times report­ed on a new study by Adi Shamir, the cryp­tog­ra­ph­er who helped to invent the ubiq­ui­tous encryp­tion pro­to­col RSA, and Dorit Ron, a pro­fes­sor of com­put­er sci­ence at Israel’s Weiz­mann Insti­tute, that claims a con­nec­tion between Nakamo­to and Silk Road’s cre­ator. By ana­lyz­ing the pub­lic record of Bit­coin trans­ac­tions known as the blockchain, the researchers wrote that they’d found evi­dence that a thou­sand bit­coins belong­ing to one of Bitcoin’s ear­li­est users, which they spec­u­lat­ed was like­ly Satoshi Nakamo­to, had found their way into address­es asso­ci­at­ed with the Silk Road ear­li­er this year, before the site was seized by the FBI in Octo­ber. Those bit­coins were worth around $60,000 at the time of the trans­ac­tion in March, but are now val­ued at to $1 mil­lion at Bitcoin’s cur­rent exchange rate with the dol­lar.

    “The short path we found…suggests (but does not prove) the exis­tence of a sur­pris­ing link between the two mys­te­ri­ous fig­ures of the Bit­coin com­mu­ni­ty, Satoshi Nakamo­to and [the Dread Pirate Roberts],” the researchers write. “We are sure that ana­lyz­ing this fig­ure will start a very vig­or­ous debate in the Bit­coin com­mu­ni­ty.”

    The researchers were right: the Bit­coin com­mu­ni­ty was vig­or­ous­ly debat­ing their spec­u­la­tive con­clu­sion with­in hours of the paper’s release online. And they quick­ly dis­proved it. A user on the Red­dit forum devot­ed to Bit­coin point­ed out that the Bit­coin address Shamir and Ron had asso­ci­at­ed with Nakamo­to in fact seemed to belong to an Austin, Texas secu­ri­ty researcher named Dustin Tram­mell, who had reg­is­tered a PGP key linked to that sup­posed Nakamo­to address on the Bit­coin mar­ket­place Bit­coin OTC.

    Tram­mell, a 36-year-old secu­ri­ty researcher who lists him­self on Linkedin as the CEO of Exploithub, a mar­ket­place for soft­ware secu­ri­ty vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties, wrote on the forum Bit­cointalk in 2011 that he’d been inter­est­ed in the cryp­tocur­ren­cy since it first came online. “I’m a fan of both cryp­tog­ra­phy and alter­na­tive cur­ren­cies, so Bit­coin hit my radar pret­ty fast back in Jan­u­ary 2009 when Satoshi released the Bit­coin whitepa­per and ini­tial ver­sion of the client soft­ware,” he wrote at the time. I’ve reached out to Tram­mell to learn more about his asso­ci­a­tion with Silk Road, but haven’t yet heard back from him.

    ...

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 25, 2013, 8:11 pm
  14. Here’s an opin­ion piece that helps put into per­spec­tive the diver­si­ty of anti-demo­c­ra­t­ic thought per­co­lat­ing in the Lib­er­tar­i­an far-right these days. The edi­tor-in-chief of the Cana­di­an branch of the Lud­wig von Mis­es Insti­tute, James E. Miller, wrote a piece cri­tiquing the neo-reac­tionary move­ment. It could per­haps be sum­ma­rized as ‘well of course a monar­chy is prefer­able to the hor­ri­bly oppres­sive democray. Polit­i­cal dis­em­pow­er­ment can, in fact, be quite lib­er­at­ing! But monar­chy still ain’t all that.’ Or some­thing like that:

    Mises.ca
    That Neo­re­ac­tionary Move­ment
    Mon­day, Jan­u­ary 13th, 2014 by James E. Miller post­ed in Law, Lifestyle, Phi­los­o­phy.

    Last March, I penned a piece titled “Give Me a King” in which I dis­sect­ed the non-dif­fer­ence between monar­chy and democracy’s cur­rent form. My premise was sim­ple: If a gov­ern­ment “of the peo­ple” is hard to dif­fer­en­ti­ate from serf­dom, it would be prefer­able to have a king run­ning the coun­try. That way, at least the guy in charge is play­ing the long game. It cer­tain­ly wouldn’t be a solu­tion for uphold­ing rights or pre­serv­ing a free soci­ety. But at least under the crown, as I wrote then, there exists “a clear and dis­tinct social hier­ar­chy.”

    In enthu­si­asm for swap­ping out democ­ra­cy for monar­chy, it turns out I am not alone. There is a move­ment with­in cer­tain pol­i­cy cir­cles – dubbed “neo­re­ac­tionar­ies” – that holds an extreme dis­trust of major­i­ty opin­ion. This move­ment, which is led by a cryp­to-sci­en­tist, was once con­sid­ered fringe but is begin­ning to gath­er main­stream atten­tion. In a recent arti­cle for Politi­co mag­a­zine, Michael Auslin mor­al­izes on America’s need for a monarch. Despite being a “res­i­dent schol­ar” for the pres­ti­gious and war­mon­ger­ing Amer­i­can Enter­prise Insti­tute in Wash­ing­ton, Auslin is dis­gust­ed by the Cap­i­tal city. He sees “spe­cial inter­ests” and “poi­so­nous par­ti­san grid­lock” as ter­ri­ble plagues befalling the once pris­tine town of gov­er­nance. The U.S. Pres­i­dent is not just in charge with exe­cut­ing the government’s law; he is also a sym­bol and head of a polit­i­cal par­ty. This is a ter­ri­ble nui­sance for lead­ing a coun­try as it makes the head exec­u­tive account­able to the most cor­rupt­ing influ­ence: the aver­age vot­er. Or at least, that’s Auslin’s rea­son­ing.

    For a Dis­trict dweller, it’s easy to become dis­en­chant­ed with what seems like a lack of vig­or­ous action by state author­i­ties. Look­ing out at the corn­fields, the lit­tle peo­ple appear total­ly alien­at­ed from a sense of nation­al uni­ty. In Auslin’s view they squab­ble end­less­ly over who should be pres­i­dent and thus fail to line up like ducks behind who­ev­er holds the Oval Office. There­fore, the coun­try is in des­per­ate need of what he calls a “First Cit­i­zen,” a cer­e­mo­ni­al fig­ure­head the pro­les can all gath­er ‘round to give their bless­ing. This man-above-men would “be pro­hib­it­ed from any form of gov­ern­ing.” He or she would be a uniter, cho­sen by the upper ech­e­lons of the state.

    Why the pub­lic would accept a fig­ure­head cho­sen by a slew of elect­ed offi­cials and appoint­ed judges, Auslin does not say. In his view – which is per­fect­ly typ­i­cal for an arm­chair intel­lec­tu­al liv­ing in the Potomac bub­ble – all the peo­ple need is a shin­ing star to fol­low. Behind the scenes, the gov­ern­ment will toil away at advanc­ing the nation. So true monar­chy, this is not.

    Matt K. Lewis finds Auslin’s plan dis­turb­ing, to say the least. Writ­ing in The Week, he laments on the waf­fling influ­ence of America’s found­ing fathers and their dis­trust of the impe­r­i­al crown. Lewis extrap­o­lates this monar­chi­cal influ­ence to the for­mal lib­er­tar­i­an­ism of Hans-Her­mann Hoppe where it prop­er­ly belongs. In his opus Democ­ra­cy: The God that Failed, Hoppe made the tren­chant point that polit­i­cal lead­ers in monar­chies take a less myopic view to dom­i­na­tion than their pop­u­lar­ly-elect­ed coun­ter­parts. More impor­tant­ly, the inane assump­tion that “gov­ern­ment is us” is wiped out by the throne. If the pub­lic does not con­ceive of itself as part of the gov­ern­ing struc­ture, com­mon folks are less like­ly to give away their rights and free­dom.

    That kind of appre­hen­sion to pow­er is what makes for an autonomous atti­tude. Soci­eties com­posed of indi­vid­u­als sus­pi­cious of author­i­ty, whether it’s just or not, tend to be more vibrant and thought­ful. Now, sus­pi­cion shouldn’t equate to rabid sur­vival­ism, but often times it does. Lewis accounts for this mind­set by call­ing it the “atom­iza­tion and feel­ing of alien­ation that is plagu­ing our nation.” The tac­it claim is that any­one who doesn’t firm­ly bow down to the state are anti-social cur­mud­geons.

    Lewis may not know it, but his sym­pa­thies are not too dis­con­nect­ed from Mr. Auslin’s. Both want nation­al lead­er­ship, and both want some­one com­pe­tent enough to tri­umphant­ly march the nation down history’s path. One believes in the pri­ma­cy of a nat­ur­al born leader. The oth­er has his bets with the greater pub­lic. See­ing as how mod­ern democ­ra­cy has mor­phed into a hybrid mix of eco­nom­ic fas­cism and wan­ton bru­tal­i­ty dished out by gov­ern­ment enforcers, it’s hard to see how monar­chy could make any­thing worse.

    The idea of the crown’s return imme­di­ate­ly turns most peo­ple off. These are indi­vid­u­als who like to think of them­selves as inde­pen­dent and self-reliant. They eschew the notion of lord­ship, but will stand at atten­tion like Pavlov’s dog if some brute barks loud­ly enough at them. That reac­tion may appear cow­ard­ly, but it’s not unnat­ur­al. Some indi­vid­u­als are sim­ply more adept at being lead­ers than oth­ers. Life is full of inequities, some jus­ti­fied and oth­ers not. The inher­ent inequal­i­ty in social demeanors should not be looked at as nature’s cru­el joke. It’s a real­i­ty that needs accep­tance. As Rus­sell Kirk wrote, “[F]or the preser­va­tion of a healthy diver­si­ty in any civ­i­liza­tion, there must sur­vive orders and class­es, dif­fer­ences in mate­r­i­al con­di­tion, and many sorts of inequal­i­ty.”

    This kind of free­dom con­sti­tutes what his­to­ri­an David Hack­ett Fis­ch­er called “hege­mon­ic lib­er­ty.” That term might seem para­dox­i­cal at first, but it’s not whol­ly incon­gru­ous with true human flour­ish­ing. Every­one is equal under the law, or at least should be. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, many take this equal­i­ty to mean equal in for­tune or abil­i­ty. This is a fal­la­cy that twists and turns the ego, and begets an envi­ous streak. Com­ing to terms with the real­i­ties of inequity does not dimin­ish the poten­tial for lib­er­ty. To the con­trary, “know­ing one’s place,” as John Der­byshire puts it, in a mer­it-based hier­ar­chy is free­ing. It pro­vides con­text for har­mo­nious liv­ing with­in a soci­ety. The bak­er, writer, pro­fes­sion­al ath­lete, intel­lec­tu­al, painter, mechan­ic, and movie star all have a role to play in the divi­sion of labor. Striv­ing to bring every­one down around you is no way to live con­tent­ly. Find­ing peace in order is some­thing cul­tur­al Marx­ists will nev­er achieve. It’s a tem­per­ance thing.

    That’s not to say monar­chy is legit­i­mate by any means. If the choice is between social democ­ra­cy and a roy­al blood­line, the lat­ter has more prospects for lib­er­ty. After all, kings gen­er­al­ly didn’t try to tax a third of their sub­jects’ income, for fear of behead­ing. Today, sta­tist politi­cians are hard­ly sat­is­fied with steal­ing just under half of everyone’s wealth.

    ...

    It’s hard to make out what the goal is for advo­cates of monar­chy. If what the neo­re­ac­tionar­ies are seek­ing is to be part of some­thing big­ger than them­selves, there is always reli­gion. Look­ing for mean­ing in the polit­i­cal is like look­ing for mean­ing in a trin­ket at the bot­tom of a cere­al box. You know what’s com­ing, and it’s always dis­ap­point­ing. As Noah Mill­man writes in The Amer­i­can Con­ser­v­a­tive, the agen­da of monar­chists is like­ly dri­ven by a fear “that the Amer­i­can peo­ple have failed and needs to be prop­er­ly direct­ed by the right peo­ple” com­bined also with the idea “that exist­ing priv­i­lege can­not be main­tained with­out explic­it resort to vio­lence as a polit­i­cal prin­ci­ple.” If that’s true, then the neo­re­ac­tionary move­ment is more mis­guid­ed than orig­i­nal­ly thought.

    Human lead­ers will exist in this world, as long as the nat­ur­al inequal­i­ty in abil­i­ty isn’t wiped away through vio­lent egal­i­tar­i­an­ism. But giv­ing over polit­i­cal pow­er to some­one deemed too vir­tu­ous to cor­rupt is just ask­ing for trou­ble. Enough is known about human nature to under­stand the warp­ing effect of author­i­ty. The throne might make for a more sta­ble soci­ety rel­a­tive to democ­ra­cy, but it won’t guar­an­tee pros­per­i­ty.

    Just in case you’re curi­ous what form of gov­ern­ment Miller prefers, he’s a Roth­bar­dian so the answer is prob­a­bly some­thing close to “pri­vate gov­ern­ment”.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | February 8, 2014, 5:49 pm
  15. The US Mar­shall Ser­vice just auc­tioned 30,000 seized bit­coins. Guess who the buy­ers were: Tim Drap­er — son of eugen­ics sug­ar-dad­dy Wycliff Drap­er, the guy that wants to break up Cal­i­for­nia and who just might be behind ‘Bet­Coin’ and the bit­coin super­com­put­er cen­ter — just beat out all oth­er bid­ders each batch auc­tioned at prices that might have even been a lit­tle above the mar­ket price, thus ensur­ing no bit­coin melt­down. Shock­er:

    Pan­do Dai­ly
    Dig­i­tal cur­ren­cy utopia: Tim Drap­er wants to use his 30,000 new bit­coins to boost emerg­ing mar­kets

    By Michael Car­ney
    On July 2, 2014

    Tim Drap­er, who was the sole win­ner win­ner of the 30,000 Silk Road bit­coins auc­tioned on Mon­day by US Mar­shals Ser­vice (USMS), held a press con­fer­ence this after­noon to dis­cuss the impli­ca­tions of the ~$17m pur­chase.

    The event, at the San Mateo Hero City cam­pus of his Drap­er Uni­ver­si­ty of Heroes, was avail­able online as a livestream. That may have con­tributed to the event’s sparse in-per­son atten­dance, fea­tur­ing only three mem­bers of the press by Pando’s count (yes, we were there in per­son) as well as a room full of uni­ver­si­ty atten­dees and Boost.vc port­fo­lio entre­pre­neurs.

    Drap­er opened the event with a few pre­pared remarks, focus­ing on the poten­tial for bit­coin to impact emerg­ing mar­ket economies, where unsta­ble fiat cur­ren­cies and lim­it­ed access to finan­cial ser­vices severe­ly lim­it com­merce. It’s with this out­come in mind that Drap­er has part­nered with his port­fo­lio com­pa­ny, Vau­rum, to use the new­ly acquired coins as a source of liq­uid­i­ty in these devel­op­ing mar­kets.

    He coy­ly dodged ques­tions of the win­ning bid price in the USMS auc­tion, say­ing only, “I bid more than every­one else.” The gen­er­al con­sen­sus in bit­coin mes­sage boards over the last two days seems to indi­cate that the bid was above the then mar­ket price of approx­i­mate­ly $570, but at this point this appears to be lit­tle more than uncon­firmed spec­u­la­tion and rumors.

    Drap­er did reveal one inter­est­ing anec­dote about his deal­ings with the USMS. It is stan­dard pro­ce­dure when trans­fer­ring large blocks of bit­coin to con­duct a small test trans­fer first to ensure the prop­er wal­let address and so forth. After all, bit­coin trans­ac­tions can­not be reversed, by design. The USMS, how­ev­er, insist­ed on com­plet­ing the trans­fer as a sin­gle – $19 mil­lion at mar­ket prices – trans­ac­tion, a nerver­ack­ing expe­ri­ence for obvi­ous rea­sons. All went accord­ing to plan, though, and Drap­er lat­er called the USMS “great to deal with.”

    “All I know is this mon­ey is more secure than the mon­ey that is in my invest­ment bank,” Drap­er said, recall­ing his feel­ings after final­ly see­ing the dig­i­tal coins hit his online wal­let. He lat­er called fiat cur­ren­cy the “old kind of mon­ey.” The elder Drap­er notes that he knew bit­coin had crossed the chasm when his 78-year-old aunt, who lives in South Car­oli­na, first asked him about the cryp­to-cur­ren­cy.

    Respond­ing to Pando’s ques­tion about his inten­tions to acquire addi­tion­al bit­coin in the future, Drap­er said that his lat­est pur­chase was suf­fi­cient to accom­plish Vaurum’s plan, but wouldn’t rule out addi­tion­al pur­chas­es. He has been an active investor in bit­coin star­tups, both through his Drap­er Asso­ciates fund and his son Adam Draper’s Boost.vc accel­er­a­tor and seed fund.

    “I am so enthu­si­as­tic about bit­coin,” Drap­er says. “I know that our next fund is going to have a very high con­cen­tra­tion of bit­coin com­pa­nies, we have a high focus on finan­cial inno­va­tion.” He lat­er added, “We real­ly think that this is a big oppor­tu­ni­ty and clear­ly there is a lot of inter­est all over the world for peo­ple to look and see a new kind of cur­ren­cy, some­thing that is not tied to polit­i­cal nations that are out there.”

    The USMS cur­rent­ly con­trols anoth­er 144,000 bit­coins seized from accused Silk Road founder Ross “Dread Pirate Roberts” Ulbre­icht, but has not yet received court approval to auc­tion those assets.

    Drap­er cred­its his son Adam for being the first mem­ber of the mul­ti-gen­er­a­tional invest­ing fam­i­ly to appre­ci­ate that bit­coin was “a real­ly big deal.” He also gave cred­it to the pseu­do­ny­mous cryp­to-cur­ren­cy cre­ator Satoshi Nakamo­to (despite butcher­ing his name), say­ing he had cre­at­ed an “amaz­ing trad­ing sys­tem.”

    Drap­er addressed the notion that the very deci­sion by the USMS to auc­tion these bit­coin acts as tac­it endorse­ment of its val­ue. Varum CEO Avish Bhama con­trast­ed the deci­sion with what would hap­pen had the USMS seized cocaine, say­ing that there is no chance that the gov­ern­ment would have auc­tioned the ille­gal nar­cotics.

    ...

    Drap­er describes him­self as a long-term bit­coin investor, sug­gest­ing that he is uncon­cerned with the short-term price fluc­tu­a­tions and any impact that his pur­chase may have on the index price.

    Giv­en the num­ber of things that could have gone wrong with this week’s events, bit­coin bulls must feel pret­ty good. The mar­kets have been rel­a­tive­ly sta­ble and the auc­tion was won at a what appears to be a pos­i­tive price, by some­one with strong ties to the bit­coin ecosys­tem. Drap­er too was all smiles, appear­ing as if he had just pulled off the trade of the cen­tu­ry. We’ll see.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 3, 2014, 12:25 pm
  16. Out with the old inter­net anonymiz­ing tools, in with the new: “Silk Road Reloaded” is online and ready to go. But it won’t be using the Tor/Bitcoin com­bo that’s become the default anonymiz­ing tool set. Eight dif­fer­ent cryp­to­coins will be accept­ed. And Tor got dropped, which is no sur­prise giv­en the fate of Tor-dri­ven Silk Road 2.0. Instead, an even more decen­tral­ized (and pre­sum­ably less DARPA fund­ed) tool, IP2, is the new traf­fic anonymiz­ing method of choice:

    Vice Moth­er­board
    ‘Silk Road Reloaded’ Just Launched on a Net­work More Secret than Tor
    Writ­ten by Joseph Cox
    Jan­u­ary 11, 2015 // 12:59 PM EST

    A new anony­mous online drug mar­ket has emerged, but instead of using the now infa­mous Tor net­work, it uses the lit­tle known “I2P” alter­na­tive.

    Silk Road Reloaded” launched today, and is only acces­si­ble by down­load­ing the spe­cial I2P soft­ware, or by con­fig­ur­ing your com­put­er in a cer­tain way to con­nect to I2P web pages, called ‘eep­sites’, and which end in the suf­fix .i2p.

    It’s not just the switch to I2P that marks a change. Where­as the orig­i­nal Silk Road and its suc­ces­sor Silk Road 2 exclu­sive­ly accept­ed Bit­coin, Silk Road Reloaded will process trans­ac­tions in oth­er cryp­tocur­ren­cies by con­vert­ing them into Bit­coin through the site’s built in wal­let. They include Anon­coin, which, as the name sug­gests, is the more anonymi­ty focused cousin of Bit­coin. Dark­coin is also list­ed, which last Novem­ber became an accept­able form of cur­ren­cy on Nucleas, a Tor mar­ket­place. You can also use Doge­coin, the meme-inspired alt­coin, as well as the more estab­lished Lite­coin. In all, eight dif­fer­ent coins are accept­ed, with oth­ers slat­ed to join soon. The admin­is­tra­tors say on the site that they are open to sug­ges­tions on oth­er coins to use, and will con­sid­er it if you con­tact them.

    The admin­is­tra­tors of online mar­kets have typ­i­cal­ly made their mon­ey by tak­ing a small slice of the prof­its from those sell­ing drugs on their site. Silk Road Reloaded does the same, but it will also take a 1 per­cent con­ver­sion fee when­ev­er an alt­coin is con­vert­ed into Bit­coin on the site.

    “All func­tions are com­plete­ly enabled and ful­ly func­tion­al,” says a mes­sage on the site, post­ed today. “Sam­ple data is being removed. Cur­rent vendor(s) your prod­ucts will show short­ly. Thank you all for mak­ing the site launch a suc­cess!”

    At the time of writ­ing, it appears that the list­ings are place­hold­ers, with no con­crete details on what it actu­al­ly being sold. These have been list­ed by ‘SysAd­min’, and judg­ing by the announce­ment on the site, this will change short­ly, being replaced by real prod­ucts.

    The cat­a­log lists many of the things we’ve come to expect from an online mar­ket­place, includ­ing drugs, coun­ter­feit mon­ey and IDs, hack­ing tools, and fake cloth­ing. Notably absent are weapons and stolen cred­it card details, some­thing which some Tor sites, such as Evo­lu­tion, now sell in abun­dance.

    This lack of weapons and stolen data may be due to the site own­er’s appar­ent polit­i­cal beliefs: it appears that the site own­ers sub­scribe to the same lib­er­tar­i­an moti­va­tions that inspired the orig­i­nal Silk Road. “Who are we? Ones who care about true free­dom, self-own­er­ship and self-pos­s­e­sion. Yes believe it or not you own your­self,” the site reads.

    “What exact­ly does this mean? Many things but, first and fore­most that we nor any­one else has the right/privilege to tell you what to do with your per­son, on any lev­el except/unless you cause harm to some­one’s property/person.”

    “We cre­at­ed this to allow the most basic of human activ­i­ties to occur unim­ped­ed, that being trade. It’s not only a major dis­rup­tion of progress but, it is an inter­fer­ence to con­trol some­one to the degree that their free will is com­pro­mised. We may not be able to stop this but, we cer­tain­ly won’t con­tribute to it.

    “Enjoy the site.”

    ...

    Although both Tor and I2P are anonymi­ty net­works, there are some key dif­fer­ences. One of those dif­fer­ences is the greater degree of decen­tral­i­sa­tion that I2P offers.

    “Tor takes the direc­to­ry-based approach — pro­vid­ing a cen­tral­ized point to man­age the over­all ‘view’ of the net­work, as well as gath­er and report sta­tis­tics, as opposed to I2P’s dis­trib­uted net­work data­base and peer selec­tion,” accord­ing to the I2P web­site. Where­as Tor relies on a set of relays run by vol­un­teers, and then peo­ple use their com­put­er to con­nect to the net­work, I2P takes a peer-to-peer approach, and makes every user’s com­put­er a node in the net­work itself. “Essen­tial­ly all peers par­tic­i­pate in rout­ing for oth­ers,” the I2P site reads.

    Oth­er dif­fer­ences point­ed out on the I2P site include that Tor is much more well fund­ed, orig­i­nat­ing as a project by the US Naval Research Lab­o­ra­to­ry and con­tin­ues to receive the bulk of its sup­port from the US gov­ern­ment. Tor is large enough to have adapt­ed to denial-of-ser­vice attempts—cyberattacks that attempt to over­whelm it with sim­u­lat­ed traffic—and gen­er­al­ly has a much larg­er user-base and live­ly com­mu­ni­ty. While Tor’s devel­op­ers are open about their involve­ment in the project, and use their real names, I2P devel­op­ers are known only by pseu­do­nyms.

    The “about” sec­tion of the I2P web­site reads very sim­i­lar­ly to that of the Tor Pro­jec­t’s. “I2P is used by many peo­ple who care about their pri­va­cy,” the site reads, “activists, oppressed peo­ple, jour­nal­ists and whis­tel­blow­ers, as well as the aver­age per­son.”

    Silk Road Reloaded is an impor­tant devel­op­ment in the world of online drug trad­ing. Even if it does­n’t take off quite just yet, or even falls apart com­plete­ly, it shows that peo­ple are will­ing to explore alter­na­tives to the estab­lished for­mu­la of Tor and Bit­coin. In what must be wor­ry­ing for law enforce­ment agen­cies, who who recent­ly boast­ed about tak­ing down hun­dreds of deep web sites, Silk Road Reloaded shows that drug mar­kets are far from dead. Instead, they are becom­ing more plen­ti­ful, and more diverse.?

    It’s worth not­ing that, since IP2’s devel­op­ers are all anony­mous, we can assume
    it’s not DARPA fund­ed, but you got to won­der.

    Then again, since the intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty cre­at­ed and released Tor in order to pro­vide a secure online plat­form for use for by gov­ern­ment agents, would the intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty be cre­at­ing alter­na­tives to Tor too? Because the pro­lif­er­a­tion of Tor alter­na­tives like IP2 just might end up impact­ing the effec­tive­ness of Tor. Why? Because the anonymiz­ing pow­er of Tor is direct­ly relat­ed to the vol­ume of traf­fic run­ning on it. That’s why the US gov­ern­ment made Tor a pub­lic project...to pro­vide the vol­ume of traf­fic need­ed to obscure the use of Tor by spooks and oth­er gov­ern­ment agents. So if IP2 starts steal­ing away too much of Tor’s traf­fic, Tor might actu­al­ly get weak­er as a con­se­quence.

    Maybe future anonymiz­ing tools won’t rely on traf­fic vol­ume to enhance anonymi­ty, but for now it seems like there’s an anonymiz­ing econ­o­my of scale at work that com­pli­cates the devel­op­ment of too many alter­na­tives. Oh what a tan­gled Dark­net we weave...

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | January 11, 2015, 5:17 pm
  17. If you’re a fan of High­lights Mag­a­zine, but find the “What’s Wrong with this Pic­ture?” game a lit­tle too chal­leng­ing, try this extra-kid-friend­ly ver­sion for prac­tice:
    What’s wrong with this pic­ture?

    Lit­tle Green Foot­ball
    Rand Paul’s Com­ment About Par­ents ‘Own­ing’ Chil­dren Was Not Ran­dom
    Received wis­dom from Mur­ray Roth­bard

    By Stephen­MeansMe

    Tues­day, Feb­ru­ary 3, 2015 at 11:00 am PST

    I hang around lib­er­tar­i­ans more often than you might guess. Some of them are even nice! But they’re rare. Most­ly I hang around lib­er­tar­i­ans to bet­ter under­stand how polit­i­cal intu­ition can go so far off the rails for some things.

    Take Rand Paul on vac­cines. You all prob­a­bly heard (and couldn’t believe it) when he said the state doesn’t own the chil­dren, the par­ents own the chil­dren. Just in case you were won­der­ing, this wasn’t some out-of-the-blue thing. The idea behind Paul’s utter­ance goes all the way back to the King of Ass­hole Lib­er­tar­i­ans him­self, Mur­ray Roth­bard. In a chap­ter of his book The Ethics of Lib­er­ty Roth­bard makes his case:

    Even from birth, the parental own­er­ship is not absolute but of a “trustee” or guardian­ship kind. In short, every baby as soon as it is born and is there­fore no longer con­tained with­in his mother’s body pos­sess­es the right of self-own­er­ship by virtue of being a sep­a­rate enti­ty and a poten­tial adult. It must there­fore be ille­gal and a vio­la­tion of the child’s rights for a par­ent to aggress against his per­son by muti­lat­ing, tor­tur­ing, mur­der­ing him, etc. On the oth­er hand, the very con­cept of “rights” is a “neg­a­tive” one, demar­cat­ing the areas of a person’s action that no man may prop­er­ly inter­fere with. No man can there­fore have a “right” to com­pel some­one to do a pos­i­tive act, for in that case the com­pul­sion vio­lates the right of per­son or prop­er­ty of the indi­vid­ual being coerced. Thus, we may say that a man has a right to his prop­er­ty (i.e., a right not to have his prop­er­ty invad­ed), but we can­not say that any­one has a “right” to a “liv­ing wage,” for that would mean that some­one would be coerced into pro­vid­ing him with such a wage, and that would vio­late the prop­er­ty rights of the peo­ple being coerced. As a corol­lary this means that, in the free soci­ety, no man may be sad­dled with the legal oblig­a­tion to do any­thing for anoth­er, since that would invade the former’s rights; the only legal oblig­a­tion one man has to anoth­er is to respect the oth­er man’s rights.

    Apply­ing our the­o­ry to par­ents and chil­dren, this means that a par­ent does not have the right to aggress against his chil­dren, but also that the par­ent should not have a legal oblig­a­tion to feed, clothe, or edu­cate his chil­dren, since such oblig­a­tions would entail pos­i­tive acts coerced upon the par­ent and depriv­ing the par­ent of his rights. The par­ent there­fore may not mur­der or muti­late his child, and the law prop­er­ly out­laws a par­ent from doing so. But the par­ent should have the legal right not to feed the child, i.e., to allow it to die.[2] The law, there­fore, may not prop­er­ly com­pel the par­ent to feed a child or to keep it alive.[3] (Again, whether or not a par­ent has a moral rather than a legal­ly enforce­able oblig­a­tion to keep his child alive is a com­plete­ly sep­a­rate ques­tion.) This rule allows us to solve such vex­ing ques­tions as: should a par­ent have the right to allow a deformed baby to die (e.g., by not feed­ing it)?[4] The answer is of course yes, fol­low­ing a for­tiori from the larg­er right to allow any baby, whether deformed or not, to die. (Though, as we shall see below, in a lib­er­tar­i­an soci­ety the exis­tence of a free baby mar­ket will bring such “neglect” down to a min­i­mum.)

    The full excerpt (cached) was pub­lished on the Lud­wig von Mis­es Institute’s blog Mis­es Dai­ly. They also pub­lish, annu­al­ly, a post called “In Defense of Scrooge.” Because mem­ber­ship to the Lib­er­tar­i­an Club comes with a free sub­scrip­tion to Troll Tech­niques Quar­terl, I guess.

    ...

    Well that was fun, and not too hard since every­thing was wrong with that pic­ture. Although that pic­ture was­n’t very kid-friend­ly. Still, let’s play again!

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | February 3, 2015, 9:14 pm

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