Category Archives: Poetry

Cryptocurrencies are digital blood diamonds, driverless cars are digital munitions

For many years now I’ve been telling people cryptocurrency is a modern form of blood diamonds.

One of the important lessons from Nazi Germany and its derivative regimes like the South African apartheid government (e.g. two countries where Peter Thiel is from) is that money laundering can be a powerful means of evading global sanctions against rights violations (e.g. how Peter Thiel made his fortunes at PayPal).

It therefore should be obvious from history lessons that cryptocurrency serves a well-known anti-humanitarian pattern. Or maybe it’s easier to see the problem as popularized in “fascist pig” movies and books.

He has vices. He doesn’t have any real virtues. If you think James Bond is a fascist pig then Fleming seems largely on your side.

A very long time ago a bank that ran a large regional power company (common in America) called me to consult on security as ethics. Their risk team asked me if they should approve a plan for excess power generation during idle production to be poured into an on-site Bitcoin mining operation.

My answer was a simple question: “Do you really want to fund ICBM development in North Korea?” I guess I could have asked if they wanted to generate more fascist pigs.

The bank seemed genuinely surprised, which reminded me of the Sierra Leone lyric

I thought my Jesus piece was so harmless
’til I seen a picture of a shorty armless

They asked a few questions, thanked me for explaining international history, and said they had to reject the plan.

Fast forward to today and more and more proof of the problem finally is reaching the news.

North Korea Used Crypto to Hack Its Way Through the Pandemic. The isolated country continues to find ways to evade sanctions and generate income while operating on the fringes of the global financial system.

To be fair blood diamonds for money laundering are just the start of the problem… the laundered money is used for laundered technology sold by Americans.

That’s why I often remind people the American NRA played an essential role in South Africa by importing guns to prop up the illegal white police state in direct violation of international sanctions.

Now who is the digital NRA?

So maybe think of crypto even more as digital blood diamonds to buy digital arms, such as access to algorithms in a Tesla to kill people by weaponizing cars.

As I’ve said in my presentations for at least a decade, it’s far easier these days to direct 40,000 loitering “driverless” vehicles (really munitions) to destroy a city than to launch missiles from far away.

Tank-Busting Electric Bikes in Ukraine are Predictably Awesome

Daniel Tonkopi, the Ukrainian CEO of Delfast, says permission has been granted to officially discuss deployment of his product into war:

Delfast has been providing electric bikes to the Ukrainian Army since the first day of the war. We transferred electric bikes to the front line, but we did not talk about it—we do some things quietly. Now we’ve gotten permission from the command, and we’re publishing these pictures.

Really we’re talking about motorcycles, yet for some reason people don’t like emphasizing the motor when using the phrase “electric bikes”.

If they did it might help with historic context of bicycles used in war for an extremely long time, as I’ve written here before.

Even more to the point, two-wheeled innovation in irregular war technology goes all the way back at least to the 1800s — over a century of bikes used in war with and without motors.

That being said, the photos posted by Tonkopi fit the well-tread path of bikes being light, agile, invisible and thus well-suited to haul heavy equipment around the front lines as we’ve seen since at least WWI.

Source: Daniel Tonkopi
Source: Daniel Tonkopi

Tonkopi provides classic motor head talking points on his post along with these images.

– #1 in the world in terms of range, we’re the current Guinness World Record holder
– #1 fastest electric bike in the world, acknowledged by Forbes for two years in a row, 2021 and 2022
– #1 all-terrain electric bike, acknowledged by Business Insider for two years in a row, 2021 and 2022
– Bonneville Speed Record holder among electric bikes

He doesn’t cite the range but it was indeed very impressive, especially since any serious bike rider would unlikely ever ride more than 100 miles in a day.

That massive (by electric bicycle standards) battery is what allowed it to set the new 367 km (228 mi) record for the longest distance traveled by an electric bicycle on a single charge. Of course the average speed of 21.5 km/h (13.5 mph) during the record attempt certainly helped.

The hidden subtext is long range correlates to high power for large loads, such as anti-tank weapons carried for a 50 mile trip to the front lines and back.

Thus what’s missing from these pictures and classic WWII “long-lines” talking points is a next generation of electric bike “cargo” design. The box frames provide even more capability for equipment as well as battery size. More gear for more range, what’s not to like.

Source: Riese & Mueller

To be honest suspension of a cargo load isn’t up for big drops (yet) and bottoming the frame on a berm can be pain…. Nonetheless, the box definitely hauls major loads so ask me how many stealth tank-busting drones or counter-drones could swarm straight off a R&M Load 75 into a deadly loiter position?

Armored box up front, flip switch to open bay doors, press fire and ride away. It’s like a ground force having a mobile launcher for its own mini air force.

The mash-up is less fantasy as it might seem, given bikes have been getting air force technology infused into them for a while.

Range was specifically called out as a factor in 2014 by War is Boring, when it profiled special operator “stealth” bike innovation coming from secret drones.

…the propulsion system Logos plans to use in the stealth bike already powers a drone. A secret drone. We asked about the conditions the bike might encounter. What kind of damage are the companies designing the bike to take? “We have not encountered a military-use scenario that is more brutal to a vehicle than, say, the Erzberg Rodeo, or casing a 120-foot jump,” a BRD official told us. “We’re likely to see fewer large-scale land operations and more smaller, distributed tactical forces operating autonomously and at extended range from supply and logistical centers,” Logos added. “This vehicle is envisioned to allow special operators to conduct their missions with the ability to travel long distances, rapidly, over unforgiving terrain, while remaining undetected by hostile forces.”

That’s all water under the bridge now since Delfast is clearly proving bikes not only able to meet objectives but essential to modern irregular war, as everyone should have expected.

A 2017 article “Without a Motorcycle in Kandahar, ‘You Are Like a Prisoner’” was foreshadowing of how the Afghan war would be won and lost by distributed/localization networks, hit & run tactics, and terrain advantages.

Something tells me this is poetic justice, since Russians ignored all of the warning signs in true copy-cat fashion — like Detroit in the 1950s thought squeezing gas-guzzling air force engines into American muscle cars as a show of power somehow would turn out better than supply chain crisis after supply chain crisis.

Video Review: U.S. Army PSYOPS Recruitment

The 4th PSYOP Group of the U.S. Army has released a short video, which seems to be generating a lot of attention among circles that seem to aspire for more power, more authority, more control.

Hopefully it’s easy to see why so many people have been saying “please recruit me”.

This is entertaining as a conforming exercise yet unfortunately misses the mark. I mean shooting into a barrel doesn’t equate in my mind to catching fresh fish, let alone clever ones.

I’ll drop here the various issues I see as time will allow…

Let me start by saying the video immediately contradicts itself. It begins with a trite quote “pretend to be weak, that your opponent may grow arrogant” yet quickly leaves behind any attempts to appear weak and instead comes across with repeated arrogant displays of power.

In that context then let me point out that the “we are everywhere” message dumped here is hardly pretending to be weak. It’s a kind of raw message very popular among dictatorships and generally considered toxic to democracy.

Privacy, for example, shouldn’t be inconsistent with psyops because if you are actually able to be “everywhere” and destroy privacy then do you really need psyops?

Likewise being a “ghost” could have been a nice play on concepts of transparency (highly desirable in democracy), or even weakness (ghosts allegedly lack physical power so they depend on “soft” measures). Here the message instead seems to be that a group wants to avoid accountability.

Vintage-looking patches sold today pretend to be from The U.S. 23rd Headquarters Special Troops, activated in 1944. Inspired by Britain’s 1942 Operation Bertram it was a secret group only declassified in 1996. The moniker “ghost army” was thus later acquired and such poorly designed patches started selling perhaps as ironic.

Again, by messaging that a sniper or a drone can kill without being targeted the new Army recruitment video pushes down hard on an arrogance of having “untouchable” power, implying ephemeral ghosts are great like rebellious children who slip away from morality of parental authority without accountability.

Maybe I’m splitting hairs on impression and meaning of icons, but this seems to me a giant leap from the byline for “The Ghost Army” PBS documentary of 2003: “Illusion Was Their Ultimate Weapon”.

…talented young men, many recruited from art schools across the country, who used their creativity to ultimately save lives.

Source: PBS

The Army recruitment video might as well have flashed a nails-on-chalkboard sounding “we get away with things” like “we grab’em by the pussy” or “we shoot someone on 5th Ave” to continue the theme of such feckless arrogant power projection. Who aspires to that instead of WWII ghost’s being talented artists who played with illusion?

And where’s the hope in all this? Where’s the positive measures “to ultimately save lives”?

So much of the imagery emphasizes actions for an outsized impact and causing chaos, like a 12 year old boy thinking he’s invincible and can do anything with abandon.

And that reminds me of the “Ghost” Camaro story of Boznia.

Everything is a stage is another way of saying integrity is low such that harms won’t trace back to the actor wearing a costume.

Track-suit wearing kids storm the streets, haul the leader from his family at dinner time and the country falls into disarray and chaos. Is that really the scene we want to close on?

Proper psyops would align with something that compels actors to join to help, do the right things, lift-up, restore, rejuvenate. Find a balance and keep things calm while breaking through log jams.

Freedom from oppression shouldn’t center around the excited moment riots are toppling statues, if they can instead be clarifying who put statues up and why/where they should be removed as a matter of common sense without fanfare.

Someone saying they don’t want credit, or don’t need compensation, is different from saying they want no responsibility or can’t be held accountable. Subtle, I suppose, yet a very important distinction for De Oppresso Liber.

Is “hacking from home” the new air force dropping bombs?

A group called the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy wrote in their 1992 song The Winter Of The Long Hot Summer a rather scathing rhyme about how an air force plays into industrial “proxy” war:

The pilots said their bombs lit Baghdad
Like a Christmas tree
It was the Christian thing to do you see
They didn’t mention any casualties
No distinction between the real
And the proxy
Only football analogies
We saw the bomb hole
We watched the Super Bowl

If bombing from the sky was the proxy violence of the industrial revolution, shouldn’t we look at hacking from home as the logical next evolution of conflict for the information age? Sure beats trying to engineer smart bombs to make the difficult leap into intelligence.

The Washington Post has profiled one such group calling itself partisans. It was formed in late 2020 and has grown to 30 civilians allegedly in Belarus.

…Cyber Partisans are more akin to a digital resistance movement than a “cyber proxy” like the Ukrainian government-backed “IT Army.” The group does not appear to be acting as an intermediary for another government’s interests, and has a history of independent operations against the government of Belarus. With an extensive online presence, the Cyber Partisans also differ from other nongovernmental hacking efforts supporting the Ukrainian resistance during the war, such as Anonymous or Squad303. Though many Cyber Partisan claims remain unverifiable, the available evidence suggests that this is a small group of closely linked individuals with a strong connection to Belarus. […] “Thousands of Russian troops didn’t receive food, didn’t receive fuel, and didn’t receive equipment on time,” noted Franak Viacorka, spokesman for Belarus’ opposition leader.

Denial of service, which led to denial of service, seems a lot like bombing infrastructure like fields to stop production and distribution even though it’s far less destructive.

Speaking of government-backed action, there’s an interesting note about Russian “militarism” in another article.

…the third month of war finds Russia, not the United States, struggling under an unprecedented hacking wave that entwines government activity, political voluntarism and criminal action. Digital assailants have plundered the country’s personal financial data, defaced websites and handed decades of government emails to anti-secrecy activists abroad. One recent survey showed more passwords and other sensitive data from Russia were dumped onto the open Web in March than information from any other country. The published documents include a cache from a regional office of media regulator Roskomnadzor that revealed the topics its analysts were most concerned about on social media — including antimilitarism…

To be fair the United States is not officially at war, so it makes for an illogical target unless being brazenly drawn in (e.g. Pearl Harbor, which technically would be a destructive kinetic attack not cyber). Russia, however, made itself into such an ugly militant aggressor it’s obvious why it became such a very large target of hacking.

The fact that Russia centers its social media strategy on stopping antimilitarism says a lot. Their incompetence at militarism is impossible to ignore, attracting all forms of resistance. They clearly are losing on every front but most notably hackers around the world easily slice and dice their way through a creaky old and corrupt dictatorship.

All that being said, the NSA says it doesn’t like competition.

“I will tell you that the idea of the civil vigilantes joining in a nation-state attack is unwise, right? I really think it is,” the NSA’s Rob Joyce said May 4 at a Vanderbilt University security summit. “As you pointed out, it’s illegal. But it’s also unhelpful, because one of the things we talked about is we’re trying to get Russia to take account for the ransomware attacks and hacks that come out of Russia and emanate.”

Here we go.

First, just being illegal isn’t the high bar some people want it to be. Laws change because sometimes they’re bad laws. In fact, the act of doing something and showing the logic of it can be the impetus to make it legal.

Second, whataboutism is a logical fallacy even in reverse. The world can still get Russia to account for hacks even if the rest of the world engaged in hacks. It’s also a nuanced question of power balance and authorization, such as saying the police can drive a speeding car to arrest someone for driving a speeding car.

Let me just go even further on this point and say Joyce is the NSA, and NOT the State Department, yet for some reason he tries to jump ship.

“This certainly isn’t going to make the State Department discussions with Russia of ‘you need to hold your people accountable’ any easier,” Joyce said Wednesday.

Thank you for your concern, yet it may be entirely misplaced. Joyce may as well be arguing “we shouldn’t advance nuclear weapons because it isn’t going to make discussions with Russia about nuclear weapons any easier.”

Nonsense.

And it only gets worse in that article when a certain CEO adds his voice to Joyce’s.

Kevin Mandia, CEO of American cybersecurity firm Mandiant, at the same summit said random individuals swaying relationships between countries and dictating foreign policy could be dangerous. “You can’t have the private sector influencing the doctrine between nations,” he said. “You don’t have us fighting on air, land and sea without being deputized or part of a force and with an agenda and a mission plan.”

That seems quite the opposite of a narrative he tried to spin back in October 2021.

The CEO of US cybersecurity firm Mandiant said today that he believes the next big advancement in cybersecurity will be the ability of governments and private companies to work together in a “coordinated national and global response” to incidents — not unlike how he said his firm worked with the government in response to the SolarWinds hack. […] Speaking at the Mandiant 2021 Cyber Defense Summit, the executive disclosed for the first time that he called the NSA right before Thanksgiving last year…

To put it together, Mandia is warning you can’t have the private sector influencing doctrine between nations, right after he boasted about jumping on the phone with the government to tell them he’s already engaged in a fight with another nation… as a civilian.

If Mandia is not an example of a random individual swaying relationships and influencing policy doctrine I don’t know what is. His company was founded on the idea that a government could use a proxy in the private sector to do security work of government, right?

I will never forget officials in the U.S. government telling me how legislation was written very specifically to release millions of dollars to Kevin Mandia, who hired former government staff if you see what I’m saying about why he/they don’t want “random” people competing with them in the market.

Mandia and the NSA sound like they’re heavily invested in what Eisenhower warned us to avoid — a Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex — if we’re interested in achieving cyber peace.

Perhaps the most telling aspect of the debate of who should hack and from where is this anecdote:

The IT army is reminiscent of volunteers who physically traveled to Ukraine and took up arms, despite enormous risks and warnings from officials. But hacking from home — or at least not from the bombarded and besieged locales of Ukraine — offers a sense of safety the frontlines do not.

Sniper rifles offer sense of safety. Airplanes offers sense of safety. Artillery (e.g. the longbow) offers sense of safety. Drones offer a sense of safety… the list of low risk high impact conflict models goes on and on. The question shouldn’t be how unsafe is the hacker at home, but how different is it from any other celebrated advance in battlefield technology.

One gets the sense that the NSA and Mandia as a proxy see themselves as vaulted innovators that somehow are distinct and unique, without really understanding that they’re focused on the wrong metrics.

Invention is easily overrated, and implementation is often underrated.

Hacking from home seems as logical for an implementation as shooting arrows from the woods was in the 1400s (before defensive hardened steel was deployed), let alone planes dropping bombs.

In any case I’d like to see far more feel-good reporting about hackers at home. I mean it seems only fair considering how other civilian volunteers are being depicted.

For about a month now, U.S. Marine veteran Sean Schofield has been sending dispatches back to Cullman, Alabama, from a place few would volunteer to go.

Since late March, he’s been one of more than 6,000 foreign volunteers from the U.S., Australia, the UK and other western countries who’ve left their civilian lives behind and traveled to Ukraine, aiding military personnel and civilian supporters in mounting a sovereign defense against Russian invasion.

It’s like if you can run a fast 100 meter dash through a hail of bullets you’re some kind of hometown hero, but if you can type a few commands on a keyboard to stop those bullets you’re an anti-social vigilante.

New Chinese Poems Naturally Express Frustration and Dissent

China, not to mention pretty much everywhere else in the world, has a long history of poetry representing encoded or even open frustration and dissent.

A Washington Post correspondent nonetheless wrote a post about surprise at poetry doing what it always does.

Student poetry contest in China becomes unexpected outlet for dissent

Students expressing dissent in poetry is unexpected? That’s like a headline announcing a student cafeteria became an unexpected place for eating.

Over the past week, the more socially conscious entries — a small minority of the overwhelmingly nonpolitical offerings — have caught the attention of Internet users. At a time when the space for debate in China has shrunk as authorities ramp up efforts to curtail criticism of government policies, the student writers have been hailed for their boldness.

“It’s indeed surprising,” said Chris Song, an assistant professor focusing on English and Chinese translation at the University of Toronto Scarborough. “I’m surprised they came out in such a tightening environment where many poems depicting the dark sides of society, or defying the authorities’ general ideology, have been censored.”

Socially conscious is being served as the opposite to nonpolitical. Can someone be socially conscious without being political? I would argue yes, as that’s been the long tradition of humanitarians who try to provide aid and comfort without affecting power — irregardless of politics.

It’s also so sadly typical of a journalist to reach out to a random professor for a power quote, as if the random academic in translation brings a sage view about political dissent and communication security models. Why not ask a professor of English for an explanation of strong encryption since it uses the alphabet?

The only surprise here is that anyone is surprised to find young poets publishing ideas of dissent.

I particularly liked this one:

“What about carrying a bag of chestnuts home/ Being showered by falling leaves/ Sitting sleepily in a school shuttle for two hours to hold hands with your partner?” the author wrote. “The pandemic has made everything into necessities. … Alas, the world of humans is full of unnecessary things.”

But I’d rather see the original Chinese. Translation itself can often be laced with politics, as I’ve explained in my presentations on AI.