WIL WHEATON dot TUMBLR, So any journalist passing through London’s Heathrow has now been warned: do not take any documents with you. Britain is now a police state when it comes to journalists, just like Russia is..
This post by Wil Wheaton is a really great reminder that when you are traveling, and I wouldn’t necessarily just put this as international to Britain but even when visiting the next town or crossing state lines even. Rights are being trampled everywhere you go, wether it be from a out-of-control cop, a bloodthirsty Sheriffs deputy or even a sticky-fingered TSA agent there is no lack of potential thugs, enemies, and thieves in your midst.
There are ways to secure your data and keep it handy as well. Store everything in an encrypted disk image or TrueCrypt archive on a cloud service like Dropbox or Google Drive and duplicate the same things in your memory sticks. If the thugs take your devices then you can rest assured that all you lost was the material itself, but no content.
I’m surprised that journalists and people who know journalists don’t all use GPG to secure their communications. I would think that if you were a whistleblower or had contact with a whistleblower that these little checkboxes would be foremost on your mind and already checked off.
You can’t trust any government, any cop, or any Vampire to keep their word. This goes for everyone as well, including your carrier and service providers. What should Verizon know? Shit. How about Dropbox? The same. Trust nobody and you’ll be safer than someone who trusted someone else. Trust is earned and right now, very very few people have it.
Lavabit and Silent Circle have given up when it comes to providing encrypted email communications. Mega plans on providing something to cover the gap and in general the only real way to deal with privacy-in-email is end-to-end encryption. There was talk that at some point email might give way to writing letters and using the US Postal Service but there as well you’ve got Postmasters writing commands taped to mail about how everything has to be photocopied and stored – so even the US Postal Service is full of spies, the only thing the US Postal Service can be trusted to carry is junk mail.
What is the answer? Pretty Good Privacy. PGP, or rather, the non-Symantec version of it which is the GNU one, the GPG. If you really want to keep what you write private when you send it to someone else, the only way to do that is for everyone to have GPG installed on their email system so you can write email using their public key, which converts your email to cyphertext, secure from even the NSA’s prying eyes, and requires your recipient to unlock the message using their secret key, which they have.
I’ve been playing with PGP and GPG now for a very long time and I decided I would at least make a route available if anyone wanted to contact me with privacy intact – my public keys are on my blog, they are also on all the keyservers including the one hosted and run by MIT and the GPG Keyserver as well. To send me a private message via email all you need to do is get GPG, set it up, create your secret and public key, get my public key, use it to write me an email and only I’ll be able to read it. The NSA will just flag the encrypted contents for later analysis and thanks to AES–256, they’ll be hard pressed to get to the plaintext in your message.
That’s the way around all of this. GPG for everything. GPG public keys for email, for chat, for VPN, for files, and HTTP-in-GPG. Everything pumped through GPG. Since the government won’t stop spying on us, it’s our duty as citizens to secure our own effects against illegal search and siezure, and technology exists to do so.
Earlier today, around 5pm in the afternoon I decided to swing by the Portage Barnes & Nobles Bookstore and get a snack and something to drink from the Cafe. I sat down with my Nook HD and was enjoying my drink and my snack and everything was going just fine until this one fellow came into the Cafe. He seemed like an average guy and I only briefly glanced at him, I half think because he was sitting adjacent to me and instinctually you just want to see who’s near you. I noticed that he was carrying a 9mm handgun in a holster attached to his belt. This was extraordinarily provocative and I couldn’t not notice it even though I tried.
I have talked at length about this very situation in a hypothetical sense with a loved one and I am fully aware of the Second Amendment to the US Constitution and I’m aware that Michigan has a fully respectable non-concealed carry law on the books. Nothing about this was a crime, illegal, or anything like that. It was however provocative, worrisome, and ultimately repellent.
This situation, now that I’ve been faced with it – and I’ve seen people carry weapons like these before, mostly state cops in their uniforms who stop at the bookstore Cafe for some coffee on their way along I–94, has created a new personal rule for me. None of this touches on honest police officers in their uniforms – it’s a part of their job and they have strict rules and extensive training on the conditions where they can access their sidearm. You don’t get bent at your appointed Gunslinger, Jake. But it has created a new rule for regular folk (or out of uniform police, carrying) that if I see that I will leave. I don’t have to remain anywhere I don’t feel safe, I have a car, I have feet, hell, I had my bike in my car. I could have pedaled away if the car wasn’t going to hack it. It isn’t against the law, and it wasn’t a crime, but it was definitely against my sense of safety and the risk was a bright throbbing red cloud around that gun.
How do you know that a situation won’t come up? Mistakes can be made. People can get weapons who shouldn’t have them and people can get permits to carry who really shouldn’t have them – how do you know? The uniform, or if not that, a displayed badge is enough to settle folk, but just a regular guy with a gun? It’s time to leave. So this is my new rule, it’s just for me and not necessarily for anyone else but if I see someone with a gun I will leave. I don’t have to be anywhere – my liberty guarantees me that and it’s all quite humdrum when you get right down to it. It doesn’t have to upset anyone, think of it as “I have to wash my hair” if it makes you feel any better. Just because people are allowed to do something doesn’t also mean that I have to stay where I do not feel safe. A bookstore is the last place where a gun should be, but that’s my personal opinion and the law is quite clear that the fellow carrying the weapon was in his rights to do such a thing, just as much as it was my right to get up and leave.
I know guns. I was trained by a competent marksman on how to handle various weapons and even how to load ammunition. I have read the Second Amendment and I know the law in Michigan. I would suggest that other people heed their surroundings with more consciousness and see people like the fellow I saw and do what they feel comfortable in doing. Each of us has to behave according to the dictates of our conscience and our morality. For me? Staying in a place where I don’t have to be (like the Barnes & Nobles Bookstore) makes it a snap. I just walk away calmly and quietly. I fully understand that the probability of gunplay is quite on the same level of being struck by lightning or winning the lottery, but what I know of a gun and what I know about the fragility of the human psyche – I’m all set now – Time to go.
I just wish there was a provision for private landowners, or in this case tenants of buildings like Barnes & Nobles to establish a Gun-Free Zone. Why have a gun in a bookstore? The people at a bookstore are not stupid, at least that’s the last thing one would expect, and they’ll likely be quiet introverted types who are averse to danger, risk, or doing something stupid. I look in the mirror for that. I know guns, I know people, and I know that the two really shouldn’t be mixed together – especially in public situations. How can you be sure that someone who has a permit to carry a weapon won’t have a spontaneous psychotic break, a stroke, or even temporal lobe epilepsy? What if they suddenly hallucinate danger? It comes down to risk. If you don’t care, then fine – but I do. People are a mess, on their own they are trouble, but with a gun? Now they are even worse trouble. Trouble waiting to happen.
And that’s what it comes down to. A gun is murder waiting to happen. What point is there in even having a weapon if you aren’t going to kill? It serves no other purpose, especially in a bookstore. You aren’t going to hunt a wild volume of Sherlock Holmes bargain book, it just sits there. It’s people you’ll be hunting instead. I often times wish I didn’t know, that I wasn’t so sensitive, that I could just get along and shrug and pay it no mind – but I just can’t.
So, I move along. All set now. Time to go.
Over the past few years there has been a slow evolution of revelatory agents that have exposed the darker parts to the light. These people have been declared whistleblowers, they have also served as placeholders for people to mount other titles to their taxidermied busts on display. Some of the other titles have been “coward”, “shill”, “thief”, “traitor”, and “enemy combatant”. They have performed actions which have revealed truth as they see it to as wide an audience as they possibly could reach and then let the chips fall where they may. I’ve got at least three people in mind for this when I’m writing about it. Julian Assange, Bradley Manning, and Edward Snowden. Each of these people in turn have done very similar things – they’ve found ways to collect secrets and hidden things and reveal them to everyone. There are a few things to unpack for all of this discussion, first the nature of what they revealed and the point of their revelations and then how people responded to what they did. All of this is very relevant now because as time goes by I am starting to see how others respond to these revelations and it deeply concerns me.
Julian Assange has created a progressively expanding website called WikiLeaks, which is devoted to exposing secrets wherever they hide. The response wasn’t one of understanding and defending a person for taking a risk for what, in my opinion, is the greater good but rather condemnation, promised punishments, and lengthy discussions about extradition.
Bradley Manning was in the military and hamfistedly stole military secrets and helped reveal things about the US Military that they would have preferred remain secret. We don’t have to wonder what the response was to Bradley Manning. He was apprehended and incarcerated. He still is incarcerated.
Then we get to Edward Snowden. Not as hamfisted as Bradley Manning, he went about his task with design and cleverness. He revealed something truly upsetting and honestly “Earth Shattering”, that the US Government through the auspices of the National Security Agency has been spying on everyone. Not just citizens, which is a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment but on everyone on the planet. This is about as revelatory as one can possibly get and what he did and how we all responded has really been an education.
What of these three people? They are vilified, declared traitorous and because we don’t know much about their story except for what is fashioned for us through the media, a mouthpiece of the government really, everything we are told is colored by those particular filters. I see people declaring that these “whistleblowers” are reprehensible traitors, communist sympathizers, and deeply criminal. For all of them, Julian Assange, Bradley Manning, and Edward Snowden, I stand apart from the mob. Instead of fashioning them into scapegoats on which I can blame a host of flaws and then punish, I instead spend a lot of my time thinking about what they did, and then moving on to why they did it. What they did was expose secrets. Why did they do it? Why does a whistleblower blow their whistle?
Revelation is a violent act, the Bible has it as the end of the world – that’s quite violent enough and serves as a great set-dressing for what these three people did and how we all responded to them. Is it better to know the dark secrets? I think it is. Pulling back the curtain and letting sunshine hit the darkness makes it cleaner, tidier, more orderly. By exposing secrets you flush out the darkness, the mystery, and once aired, everyone is wiser for the experience because we no longer suspect, we know.
Really this is about Edward Snowden because he is the most recent whistleblower and his secrets are the most upsetting and how people have responded is the most enlightening thing I’ve experienced in years. It has definitely been quite a shock for me to witness how the material has been dealt with by others and how Edward Snowden himself is being slowly painted as a monster. The revelations keep on pouring out of him and with each new exposure the narrative that we are presented with paints Edward Snowden more as the villain and less as the hero.
So what is the big deal? That one question is principally the extent of the response that I’ve witnessed from everyone. I feel so alone, so estranged from my fellow American citizen. I am alone in my outrage, not at Edward Snowden, but at the NSA. Nobody seems to care. That’s really the galling thing about it. When you tell someone that the NSA is actively recording everything that you do, from the harmless-sounding “Telephony Metadata” they collect to recording your email conversations and your telephone conversations, listening in on your private affairs. This bothers nobody. This is absolutely gobsmackingly outrageously stunning to me. What really shocks me is the line ripped right out of the Nazi SS officials playbook on this “If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.” This pretext is just a stepping stone to “Papers, please.” and still nobody seems to even notice. When I raise the concern, in general around others about how our Fourth Amendment rights are being trampled RIGHT NOW I get confused looks and blank stares. The majority of responses I get amount to the notion that people either don’t know, can’t grasp it, or can’t be bothered with it at the moment.
If the NSA is spying on all of us, if the FISA court is a kangaroo court as people in our very government have said it is, if what Edward Snowden revealed is true then I have really only one question: Why did we fight in World War Two? What did we win? Is it awful enough that the GOP has turned into Nazi Party Part Two, or that lines from the SS are now being laughed over as punchlines? “If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.” I used to have something to hide. Something that 60 years ago could have landed me in a concentration camp next to a Jew. I suppose I’m a lot closer to this bleeding edge than other people, but what is one secret against another? If I have nothing to hide, I have nothing to fear.
And there is the word again. Fear. Fear is harvested and manipulated like a force. A force that manipulates public policy and public discourse and as it is, the narrative for Julian Assange, Bradley Manning, and Edward Snowden. Fear. Fear of? Pick something, pick anything. Fear of Iranians, fear of Israelis, fear of terrorists. And there isn’t enough without, try some fear within too, fear of economic collapse, fear of environmental collapse. Throughout all this fear we feel, this fear that allows others to short-circuit our thinking and provide us with a narrative that we feel safe with:
“Julian Assange is a traitor and a criminal, he should be punished for revealing leaks and I feel safer now that he’s taken care of.” –
“Bradley Manning is a traitor and a criminal, he should be punished for revealing leaks and I feel safer now that he’s taken care of.” –
“Edward Snowden is a traitor and a criminal, he should be punished for revealing leaks and I feel safer now that he’s taken care of.”
Fear and “… taken care of.” How this plays out for these people means very little to any of us, as we don’t know them, not personally, so we don’t care so much to know the real people behind these names. Perhaps these people are just like the rest of us in extraordinary circumstances. It strikes me that if I had access to expose secrets I would, which makes me just like these other people. The value of exposing the truth is more important than what other people think of me and that personal journey may be very close to how these other people perceive their own situations as well. These others could be just as engaging and loving and nice as I am deep down, but if I were in their shoes, the narrative would be written against me and people would hurl rotten vegetables at me as well, because fear makes people seek the refuge of canned narratives.
So what is to be done? What can anyone do? I’ve done about as much as I can. Professionally there is nowhere to go and nothing to do. All that is left is personal due diligence and so I have overhauled my PGP keys, enriched them, sent the public bits back into the public key servers and championed the technology as best as I can. What’s the traction in security? Zero. Nothing. I’m the only one. So, being lonely as I am, being concerned as I am, and being apparently alone in my concern is a source of stress, but at least I am prepared. I have encrypted everything, I’ve done everything I can to secure my own self and my effects.
I am still consistently and persistently shocked at how the fourth amendment to the United States Constitution has been violently savaged by our own government and we can’t be bothered. We’re being spied on and we don’t care. Our private conversations are being recorded and we just shrug it off. People are sleepwalking through the alarm klaxons. It’s hilarious and sad.
And so, we get to Edward Snowden, who stands in for Bradley Manning and Julian Assange. They’re all pretty much the same story played out over and over again. I’ve noticed people throwing their rotten vegetables over the notion that Edward Snowden fled to Hong Kong, and then Moscow, with a hint he was maybe headed to Cuba, or Ecuador perhaps. I’ve read that people consider Edward Snowden to be a traitor who has “secrets to sell” to these other countries and that’s why he’s “on the run”. We’re starting to see old grudges reappear all because of Edward Snowden. “The relationship between the US and insert country here have been deeply damaged by their harboring of the known traitor Edward Snowden.” Grudges we thought we could get past, against China, against Russia, against… Ecuador? Sure, why not. Anything works to serve the corrupt narrative we’re being fed. So why is Edward Snowden popping up all over? He has more secrets to reveal and that the NSA has spied on US Citizens is just the start. The secrets he has to tell likely have more life in them to people who are the actual subjects of the secrets themselves. If the NSA spies on the US, and the United States is one of the largest multiplexes of the Internet on Earth, then it’s pretty much a safe assumption that the NSA is spying on EVERYONE. Get a map of the world, throw a bucket of red paint at it and you’ll have a relatively accurate map of just how deep this particular rabbit hole goes. That’s why Edward Snowden is traveling, that’s why he’s talking to other countries, this is all just getting started.
And it comes down to secrets. Secrets and spying and doing massively illegal things. As I observe how this is all playing out – with Julian Assange, Bradley Manning, and Edward Snowden, I can’t help but think about how people react to hearing news about death. If you tell someone that John Doe killed Jim Doe in premeditated cold blood people are outraged. If John Doe kills a million people in premeditated cold blood, people frown, shrug, and stop thinking about it. When you do something wrong and it’s small, it’s important. When you do something wrong and it’s immense, it’s irrelevant. The NSA spying on me? Upsetting. The NSA spying on us all? Irrelevant. People like me are screaming in the dark and we are upset because nobody around us seems to be interested – and perhaps it’s because people can’t be interested. When wrong is being perpetrated at this scope it may be beyond peoples capacity.
But life will go on. It’ll go on for Julian Assange, Bradley Manning, and Edward Snowden. I don’t see these people as villains or criminals or traitors. I see them as making the hardest decision and the bravest for doing what they did and living with the consequences. I reject the narrative that Edward Snowden is a “sell out” or is “selling our secrets to the highest bidder”. He’s playing the revelation game, this isn’t an Ian Fleming novel.
When it is all said and done and we see the extent of just how bad things are for us all I can only hope that it isn’t too late and what I foresee happening is just a fever dream of what could be and not what is to be.
Give your newer sisters and brothers-in-WordPress one piece of advice based on your experiences blogging.
If you’re a new blogger, what’s one question you’d like to ask other bloggers?
The best advice I can give is to be honest but have control over what you say. Honesty is the best policy, as the old adage is fond of saying and it keeps blogging simple as you don’t need to remember any lies you’ve written in order to keep your blog internally consistent. However, honesty has it’s limits, and that has more to do with sharing and privacy. Depending on why you blog, sometimes you may find yourself wanting to write about something private. I think that assigning posts passwords is a great feature to WordPress and makes sharing securable.
Some things are worth talking about, writing about. Some things you share aren’t really meant for your coworkers of your employer and then the best policy here is to slap a password on the posts and keep them private from wandering eyes.
There are a lot of great reasons too, to blog independently from WordPress.com. Having control over your content, not having to worry about quotas or paying for extra services all make self-hosting with WordPress.org really worth it in the long run, especially with the right hosting provider. I’ve found a lot of the plugins that enrich the self-hosted option of WordPress.org makes the product really shine. Here are some things to look into if you think blogging may be for you:
1. Fixing your .htaccess file on your blog. This can be configured to restrict your blog from foreign browsers. I’ve decided to ban entire countries from reading my blog mostly because I don’t agree with their politics, and in the case of China, I’ve gotten quite tired of comment spam. By limiting incoming traffic from browsers using this file, you can preclude them from ever being a problem. Just because the Internet is global doesn’t mean that you should feel forced to respect that globality.
2. Blacklist & IP Filter – These two plugins help identify unwanted IP addresses that are unwanted on your blog and the plugin IP Filter helps you block those with more configurability than you can get with .htaccess.
3. Akismet and Jetpack really help protect and extend your blog. Every blog I host has these two plugins and once you get them configured properly they add so many wonderful features to your blog that it’s difficult to imagine using the blogs without them.
4. PhotoDropper – This plugin makes searching for and inserting pictures in your blog posts a cakewalk. It takes care of searching for the terms you want, only shows you Creative Commons licensed imagery so you don’t accidentally run afoul of image copyright holders and automatically includes credit lines to your posts to help respect the people who are sharing the imagery you are using on your blog. It’s about as turnkey as I’ve been able to find when it comes to finding and crediting blog pictures that I use to enrich my blog posts.
Beyond plugins it’s also worth it to mention AgileTortiose’s iOS app Drafts. This app makes writing anything, journal entires, emails, and blog posts a snap. You can update on any connected device until you are ready and the destination selector feature makes pushing your updates out to various service a snap. I journal with DayOne and I post to WordPress using Poster. Drafts has options for these other apps and a dizzying array of more just for the tapping.
While sitting in listening to the Comixology staff hawk their Submit technology, which is quite nice to see especially for independent comic book creators there was a point raised at the end of the panel by one of the attendees. That some people are hesitant to engage with digital comic books because they perceive their purchases not as licensing but rather as chattel. When I buy an issue of Comic X for $1.99 in paper, I have that comic and I can put it somewhere safe and always go back and enjoy it. What then for the digital comics? What if Comixology collapses? This touches more than just comics and the real discussion is actually cloud escrow. Cloud services could collapse at any time taking their content with them, right down the drain. Evernote, Dropbox, Comixology, and even Google itself could founder and collapse leaving behind a smoking corpse and no way for customers to retain the data they consider as theirs.
The industry has perhaps accidentally selected this as a possibility by only conducting business in a cloud infrastructure way, it’s a thin veil on digital rights management — a way for content creators to secure their goods for sale (DRM) without driving away their customers, that veil works quite well. Except for when things utterly fail. What happens when fail comes to call?
When this fear pops up in other, more serious business discussions there is usually a section devoted to source code escrow services from escrow surety companies. So is there room for cloud escrow services in today’s world? Would that be enough to help keep people feel safer so that they would presumably give digital comic books a chance?
I can’t deny that this could be a great niche for a middleman company to step up and offer a kind of data presence insurance. The cloud products you buy are safe, permanently so, not by the companies that fail, but by the escrow service that vouchsafes the data in question.
What’s to keep the escrow service safe? This may be a irreducible hall-of-mirrors. There may be no way for people to feel absolutely safe until content is delivered in an open non-DRM format. I seriously doubt that DRM will go anywhere soon, so this may all have to be sidelined as an argument for some other time.
What started out as a blog post about escrow services has apparently turned into a railing against DRM. There may be no way out of the argument over DRM. It all comes down to “Who do you trust?” And “Can you?”.
Daily Prompt: Charitable
by michelle w.
You’ve inherited $5 million, with instructions that you must give it all away — but you can choose any organizations you like to be the beneficiaries. Where does the money go?
The money would not go to any charitable organization. I find the notion of charitable organizations to be inherently wasteful with overhead. Everyone gets a cut of the money and when the funds get to the people with the need, after everyone has their piece of the action there isn’t much left. I’ve thought of this before, and the best thing I can think of is to better lives and keep them that way with an eye to permanence. To that end, the best destination for money like this is to create trusts for people, lock the principal money off and only allow those whom I bestow with the benefits access to the interest earned from the principal fund. This as a permanent thing wouldn’t be wise either, so I would put a 30 year timing lock on the principal, after 30 years the entire principal becomes available to the beneficiary, hopefully by then they have enough wisdom to not squander it.
Plus a construct like this helps fend off the law of found money. If all you get is a constant trickle then the law may not notice you and you likely won’t suffer for the gift. That’s the double-edged sword of giving. The law of found money punishes everyone.
Watching gun nuts trying to use logic, even their own warped logic and watching their points being used against them is both highly entertaining and deeply upsetting. I saw the clip on the Daily Show where John Oliver talks to that gun nut and demonstrates this very point. The way he looked, the way he dismissed everything single-mindedly reminds me of my gun-loving family members. Nothing matters so much as keeping the Second Amendment from being violated. I don’t think they have basic human empathy and I think it works much like how conservatives change their minds when their children come out as gay, when it comes to gay marriage. Perhaps, and I don’t actively wish this on anyone, but there is a part of me that wonders if these gun nuts would be so intensely resistant to gun control if someone they loved died in a massacre where a background check would have revealed that a mentally ill shooter bought one gun online and the other at a gun show. Their dead child would still be alive if they had learned to compromise on at least background checks. Alas, it’s too late for their dead imaginary child.
Unless of course those people happen to be any of the thousands who have lost loved ones to gun violence and gun massacres.
The shame comes when a change of heart that comes after such an imaginary event that might come to pass comes too late for everyone else. That’s why America is upset with the Senate. That’s why our government has let us down. We don’t have the time for them to lose their loved ones for them to wake up in time to keep our loved ones from dying. The people are suffering, and Congress would rather ignore the will of the people. That’s a clear case of a government that has ceased representing the people and are, to borrow a word from the gun nuts, a tyranny.