There Is Snow On Table Mountain In Cape Town

It’s Friday morning and I got the news that there is snow on Table Mountain. I wish that I was there right now. I want to be far away from this life of stress, constant alertness out of fear and frustration. On October 4, 2007 I quit my corporate job of 8 years. I was at the height of my career. It was just the right moment to leave. I had made my big contributions to that company. I was sure that another job would come quickly. Unfortunately I landed in the middle of the worst financial collapse in US history. My career was effectively ended. Some people saw it as a lucky break because I was able to “retire at 58 years of age.” Sadly the truth was different. I have not had a life of retirement. I have had a life of sheer hell on earth due to the big banks. It has been one battle after another. I have more or less won most of these battles. But I am also exhausted and tired of the whole thing. We are going to have to slave for 7 more years to pay off the big bank mortgage on our house. Get me to Table Mountain in Cape Town and let me play in the snow!!!! I want to forget Wells Fargo Bank, Bank of America, Chase Bank, etc.

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Forbes Magazine Exposes The Wild Outlaw Fringe Of The Internet

An Interview With A Digital Drug Lord: The Silk Road’s Dread Pirate Roberts (Q&A)

Most black market drug lords don’t give interviews. But the Dread Pirate Roberts isn’t most drug lords. His website, the Silk Road, is designed to allow anyone to buy and sell drugs with the crypto-currency Bitcoin, using the anonymity software Tor to protect their identity. And those same anonymity protections have made Roberts confident enough in his security that he’s been willing to write about his illicit business under his pseudonym on Silk Road’s user forums and even giveshort comments to reporters in the past.

Now he’s gone much further. For a magazine profile in the current issue, Roberts engaged FORBES in his first ever extended interview. Over the course of five hours on July 4th, the Dread Pirate answered my questions–all routed through Tor and the Silk Road’s messaging system–on topics ranging from the Silk Road’s history to the site’s business model to his own personal details and motivations. Though dark web entrepreneur was unsurprisingly tightlipped on any information that might even remotely help law enforcement identify him, he did offer a few new revelations: The fact that he’s not actually the founder of the Silk Road, the possibility that the Silk Road may re-introduce weapon sales to the site, and his only-half-joking asking price to acquire the business. (Don’t insult him with bids less than a billion dollars.)

Here’s the full, slightly edited transcript of our conversation.

AG: What inspired you to start the Silk Road. Not just philosophically, (that’s covered in lots of your posts on the Silk Road forums) but where did the idea come from?

DPR: I didn’t start the Silk Road, my predecessor did. From what I understand, it was an original idea to combine Bitcoin and Tor to create an anonymous market. Everything was in place, he just put the pieces together.

Oh, apologies, I didn’t know you had a predecessor. When did you take over the Road from him? Before you announced yourself as the Dread Pirate Roberts?

It’s ok, this is the first time I’ve stated that publicly. I’d rather not say exactly when, for his sake mostly, but it was a transition that took some time. I was in his corner from early on and eventually it made sense for me to take the reigns.

Can you tell me anything about the original creator of the Silk Road? How did you meet? And did you acquire the Silk Road from him in a financial deal of some kind, or simply take over the project?

He was well compensated and happy with our arrangement. It was his idea to pass the torch in fact. We met through the site. I had discovered a big vulnerability in the way he had configured the main Bitcoin wallet that was being used to process all of the deposits and withdrawals on the site. At first he ignored me, but I persisted and gained his trust by helping him secure the wallet. From there we became close friends working on Silk Road together.

The Silk Road forums are full of comments from the Dread Pirate Roberts account. Did you write those?

The most I am willing to reveal is that I am not the first administrator of Silk Road.

Regarding the Bitcoin wallet exploit you found: Can you tell me anything more about how that worked? Would it have allowed theft of Bitcoins from the Silk Road’s wallet?

It would have allowed deanonymization of the wallet servers.

If you’re not the founder of Silk Road, which of its innovations are you responsible for? And what would you say is your role in the site/community?

At this point, the management of Silk Road is a collaborative effort. It’s not just me making sure Silk Road runs smoothly. So, while I make the final calls, I can’t take 100% credit for any of the innovation on Silk Road. More often than not, the best ideas come from the community itself. After all, they are the ones we are innovating for. For example, the recent upgrade allowing customers to view prices on Silk Road in their home currency, and allowing vendors to set their prices in their home currency was suggested over a year ago by a community member and has been on the master to do list ever since.

I would say my role is as a center of trust. The vendors trust me and the customers trust me and by extension they trust those on my team that decide who is right and wrong in disputes, and they trust me to be responsible for their funds in escrow. My role is also to provide vision and direction, to chart a course so to speak.

What would you say your title is, though? Are you essentially the owner of the site? Another way to ask this: How are the profits from the site divvied up among its staff? 

I control the important Silk Road assets. Only I have access to the private keys corresponding to the Silk Road and forum URLs for example as well as my public PGP key. This ensures that when you see a signed message from me, or visit silkroadvb5piz3r.onion, you know you can trust it’s from me. I’m also the only one with access to the wallets that back the accounts and escrow on Silk Road, so there is no possibility of a rogue member of my team running off with the funds. Regarding profits, I’ll say this much… the vast majority are retained as assets of Silk Road and used to maintain and expand the enterprise and for future projects.

How many staffers are there working on the Silk Road?

I’d rather not talk about the internal organizational structure.

Speaking of future projects, let me jump right to another big topic: What’s next for Silk Road? You’ve mentioned a “next phase” of the site to me in our pre-interview conversations for a few months now, which you’ve hinted might go beyond selling drugs.

At it’s core, Silk Road is a way to get around regulation from the state. If they say we can’t buy and sell certain things, we’ll do it anyway and suffer no abuse from them. But the state tries to control nearly every aspect of our lives, not just drug use. Anywhere they do that, there is an opportunity to live your life as you see fit despite their efforts.

I’m hesitant to specifically declare the direction we’ll take next but let me give you a couple of examples. Firearms and ammunition are becoming more and more regulated and controlled in many parts of the world. We actually had a site up called “The Armory” at one point that specialized in the sale of small arms that ultimately was unsuccessful, but if we can find a model that works where people can get the equipment they need to defend themselves and their families despite what the state wants and often in defense of the state itself, I would be more than happy to provide that. Also, any place the State places large tariffs or taxes, there is an opportunity to circumvent their blockades. Consumer electronics are much more expensive than they need to be in many parts of the world, for example.

And one other big one I’d like to mention that is coming whether we do it or not is communication privacy. If it wasn’t clear before that the state is your enemy, it should be now that the biggest covert intelligence agency in the biggest government on the planet has been stealing nearly everyone’s private communications. We have the technology right now to make this impossible for them. End to end encryption and Tor need to become the standard for communications globally, just as SSL has. You must demand it from your communications providers. Again, if Silk Road can play a role in this transition, I’m more than happy to provide.

On that last point about secure communications services, is the Silk Road going to offer some kind of new secure communications product? Or do you just mean that you can already communicate securely through Silk Road, as you and I are doing right now?

What I mean is that, like Bitcoin and Tor coming together to spark the revolution that is Silk Road, end-to-end encryption and Tor can come together to spark a communication revolution. There are already products that offer this capability, but they are obscure and unused. What I am envisioning is that technology becoming the standard, but it will require more people understanding why they need it and demanding it from their communications providers. This will return the power of communication back to the people and with Bitcoin giving people control over their money and trade again, we’re talking about the potential for a monumental shift in the power structure of the world.

I’ll add that while it’s nice to talk about all of the possibilities, and there are many, there are still fundamental challenges facing the basic Silk Road model. Tor hidden services are far from perfect as was recently highlighted in a research paper out of the University of Luxembourg. Bitcoin exchanges are also evolving and responding to state intervention and it is unclear how easy it will be for people to buy and sell Bitcoins in the future.

Solving these problems is also a high priority.

On the subject of security: What really protects you and Silk Road’s users from law enforcement? I understand you use Tor, PGP, and Bitcoin. Anything else I’m missing? Are you confident that these things can stand up to law enforcement’s surveillance tactics? Or the NSA’s?

I am, unless they have cracked the modern encryption algorithms, which I highly doubt. There are a multitude of security measures we take to secure the infrastructure that powers Silk Road, but I can’t go into details lest I empower those that would try to do us harm. There are a couple of little features that aim to improve security, such as incognito browsing which hides all of the images and the Silk Road logo, so it will be harder to tell what you are up to if someone else is in the room.

How do you make sure that your Bitcoins aren’t traced in the blockchain? I’ve heard that Silk Road might act as its own Bitcoin “mix” or “laundry” to anonymize users’ Bitcoins (and yours) Is this true? How does that work?

Yes, we employ an internal tumbler for when vendor withdraw their payments, and a more general mix for all deposits and withdrawals. This makes it impossible to link your deposits and withdrawals and makes it really hard to even tell that your withdrawals came from Silk Road.

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  • Interesting read again, just wondering how did this interview happen, just exchange(s) of electronic mails? And any predictions on what was meant when he stated “We’ve won the State’s War on Drugs because of Bitcoin, and this is just the beginning.”

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  • Matthew BaranMatthew Baran 1 week ago

    I’m hoping what he is talking about is the either a shift in stupid drug laws, or the black market being basically public and impossible to control. Once they reach billions of dollars they will be unstoppable.

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The British Television Series “The Fall”

I spent over 11 years of my life in the British world; six years in South Africa and five years in Australia and Scotland. What I came to love most about this world was British and Australian television. It is gutsy, tells it like it is, does not care who it makes mad, and has wonderful acting and writing. I made an amazing discovery on Netflix last night. It is a British crime series called The Fall. It is filmed in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The principal star is Gillian Anderson (Agent Scully of the X-Files.) Gillian plays a senior police inspector trying to catch a serial killer who strikes at young women. The scripts are brilliant. The cinematography is incredible. Gillian and the rest of the cast do a great job. I’m sure that actual police people will look at the show and say to themselves: Oh my God that’s the way it really is!” It also has some really great erotic moments including a sex scene that Gillian was involved in with most of her clothes on. This series will keep you glued to the edge of your chair and constantly fascinated. I recommend it.

The Financial Times Of London Release A Disturbing Report-US Government Agencies Requested Facebook Data On Up To 21,000 Individuals In The First 6 Months Of 2013

August 27, 2013 7:07 pm

US tops league of governments probing Facebook users

By Tim Bradshaw in San Francisco

Facebook received more demands from the US government for information about its users than from all other countries combined, the social network said on Tuesday.

The publication of Facebook’s first transparency report follows weeks of disclosures about US intelligence agencies’ Prism programme and other data-gathering techniques that have raised questions about the scale and legality of online surveillance conducted in the name of national security.

 

Facebook’s data aligns with similar disclosures byGoogle and Twitter that suggest the US makes much more frequent demands for personal information about the people using these sites than other countries.

The 11,000 to 12,000 user data requests thatFacebook received from the US authorities in the first six months of 2013, covering 20,000 to 21,000 individuals, marks a 20 per cent increase in the number of requests over the second half of last year.

That compares with Google’s 8,438 US requests in the second half of last year, relating to 14,791 accounts, about 40 per cent of its total.

Facebook said it complied with 79 per cent of the latest requests for information such as names, IP addresses and account contents. It did not provide additional details about what information it gave to the US government but said that the “vast majority” involved criminal cases, rather than national security matters.

After the US, governments requesting the most data from Facebook included India, with 3,245, Germany, Italy and France. It handed over more than two-thirds of the 2,337 accounts about which the UK government demanded details.

“We have stringent processes in place to handle all government data requests,” Colin Stretch, Facebook’s general counsel said, repeating his call for “greater transparency” from the authorities in these situations.

“We scrutinise each request for legal sufficiency under our terms and the strict letter of the law, and require a detailed description of the legal and factual bases for each request. We fight many of these requests, pushing back when we find legal deficiencies and narrowing the scope of overly broad or vague requests.”

Privacy International “commended” Facebook for the disclosure, which it said had been a “long time coming”, but noted that leaks from the US intelligence whistleblower Edward Snowden suggested that governments were collecting user data from telecoms networks and other means that may not require web companies’ co-operation.

“The usefulness of transparency reports hinges on governments abiding by the rule of law,” Privacy International said.

“We now know that these reports only provide a limited picture of what is going on, and it is time that governments allow companies to speak more freely regarding the orders they receive.”

Facebook said the report “contains the total number of requests we’ve received from each government, including both criminal and national security requests”, and that it would publish regular updates to the figures.

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  1. ReportVSO | August 28 4:00am | Permalink

    Rosebud. Since You have figured it out by requests per 100,000,000 residents, there is nothing naive in it. Just facts. The USA and UK are in the same league. Hence, the domestic law enforcement structures apparatus incursion to research whomever they care in numbers activities tends to match it.-:)

     
  2. Reportrosebud | August 28 2:55am | Permalink

    On a per capita basis UK and US requests are about the same. This article is fairly naive in not making that point.

     
  3. ReportVSO | August 28 2:54am | Permalink

    Actually, they don’t. If the FBI becomes curious for any reason about your “private” Facebook details, bank records, web browsing history and you are an American, then there is no obligation according to the law as it is written right now to go to judges and obtain the court warrant. A simple “national security letter” suffices for such purposes. The alternative option to become acquainted with naturalized citizens or resident aliens is through made up pretense under FISA rubber stamping judiciary permission.

    PS For criminal cases the FBI do request regular federal court warrants. If it is for vaguely defined intelligence gathering it is laughable to presume that so many hoops must be jumped to hobble the efficiency.

     
  4. ReportA Reader | August 28 12:58am | Permalink

    Good thing the government presents a warrant for each request that is possibly criminal in nature, and not pertaining to national security. Don’t they?

     
  5. ReportVSO | August 27 8:22pm | Permalink

    These statistics are not relevant to the Maryland NSA prism “vacuum” suckers, cleaning the data collected through mass surveillance data mining algorithms from Facebook backdoor wire attached to servers. The numbers of requests mentioned have come from legal FBI and police agencies subpoena process information gathering activities. How much information “have they requested” in total from Facebook? 100%

     
 
 
 
 

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My Son Pedro’s Christmas Gift

E SHIPPING

 

My son is 46 years of age and a Ph.D in Zoology. He is a researcher at a major Canadian university. He also comes from Rio de Janeiro.

 

EBAY is truly amazing in the massive variety of things that one can find there. I stumbled onto a real treasure and decided it was the perfect gift for my son.

 

It is a model of a Varig Airlines DC-10 that flew in the 1970’s through the 1990’s. I flew on this plane and airline from 1975 to 1980. It truly was the golden age of international passenger service for Varig.

 

I was employed by Occidental Petroleum all of those years ago. I was quite fortunate to be allowed to fly first class. The flight went from Miami to Panama City and onto Rio de Janeiro.

 

The minute that one sat down in their first class seat, the stewardess was right there offering a glass of expensive Moet Brut Champagne. One’s glass was constantly kept full. After taxi and lift off, a cart came around with very expensive whiskeys from all over the world. When it came time for the dinner service, one’s table was deployed and an expensive table clothe placed over it. A beautiful napkin and real silver eating utensils followed. A very impressive menu was presented with a wide choice of gourmet meals. A chef prepared food for each passenger. Another cart came around loaded with superb wines from all over the world. When one finished the gourmet dinner, another cart came around with desserts and expensive after dinner drinks. This was all washed down with very tasty coffee. Today only heads of states get such royal treatment. It will be a wonderful reminder to him of a golden age that is now gone.

My Son Pedro’s Christmas Gift

E SHIPPING

 

My son is 46 years of age and a Ph.D in Zoology. He is a researcher at a major Canadian university. He also comes from Rio de Janeiro.

 

EBAY is truly amazing in the massive variety of things that one can find there. I stumbled onto a real treasure and decided it was the perfect gift for my son.

 

It is a model of a Varig Airlines DC-10 that flew in the 1970’s through the 1990’s. I flew on this plane and airline from 1975 to 1980. It truly was the golden age of international passenger service for Varig.

 

I was employed by Occidental Petroleum all of those years ago. I was quite fortunate to be allowed to fly first class. The flight went from Miami to Panama City and onto Rio de Janeiro.

 

The minute that one sat down in their first class seat, the stewardess was right there offering a glass of expensive Moet Brut Champagne. One’s glass was constantly kept full. After taxi and lift off, a cart came around with very expensive whiskeys from all over the world. When it came time for the dinner service, one’s table was deployed and an expensive table clothe placed over it. A beautiful napkin and real silver eating utensils followed. A very impressive menu was presented with a wide choice of gourmet meals. A chef prepared food for each passenger. Another cart came around loaded with superb wines from all over the world. When one finished the gourmet dinner, another cart came around with desserts and expensive after dinner drinks. This was all washed down with very tasty coffee. Today only heads of states get such royal treatment. It will be a wonderful reminder to him of a golden age that is now gone.

A Small Miracle In The Locker Room

We all dread a “one in a million fluke” that we did not plan for. One happened to me yesterday at the swimming pool. I swam my normal 1.5 hours. I had a shower and got cleaned up. I went to get my swim trunks to get the key that opens my locker. (For years I have used a strong safety pin to affix the key to my trunks. It has never failed me.) When I looked at my swimming trunks I saw a sight that made me cringe. The safety pen was open and my lock key was missing. People in the locker room suggested that I go back out and look for it. I saw little hope of finding the key because I had been swimming in water 12 feet deep. I went to get the bolt cutters. I fought hard to cut the lock off the locker. It was made of hardened steel and would not budge. (I later found out that one can use super cold air to break such a lock and I will not go into details here.) I feared that I was facing a $60-$200 bill to get a locksmith to come out and take it off my locker.

My father always gave me his most beloved saying as follows: “Son when you’re surrounded by 7 big,mean and angry men and all looks hopeless; keep your mouth shut and your eyes and your ears open. God will always provide.”

God provided for me in this crisis. A man who had been swimming in the lane with me came up to me and showed me a key. He asked me if it was mine. I put it in my lock and it opened.

What a miracle!!!!