"The Letter" Is Still The Best Story To Explain Why Copyright Monopoly Must Be Reduced | TorrentFreak

By Rick Falkvinge
on September 21, 2014
C: 187


People are still getting distracted by the silly question of “how somebody will get paid” if the copyright monopoly is reduced. It’s irrelevant, it’s a red herring. What this debate is about is bringing vital civil liberties along from the analog environment into the digital - and that requires allowing file-sharing all out.

copyright-brandedAs I travel the world and speak to people from all professions and walks of life about the copyright monopoly, “the letter” is still the story that causes the most pennies to drop about why the copyright monopoly must be reduced. It’s by far the angle that makes the message come across to the most people.

“How will the artists make money” is basically just a distraction from the real and important issues at hand, and this story helps bring them there.

The story of “the letter” deals with just how big and vital civil liberties have been sacrificed in the transition from analog to digital at the tenacious insistence of the copyright industry for the sake of their bottom line. The analog letter was the message sent the way our parents sent them: written onto a physical piece of paper, put into an envelope, postaged with an old-fashioned stamp and put into a mailbox for physical delivery to the intended recipient.

That letter had four important characteristics that each embodied vital civil liberties.

That letter, first of all, was anonymous. Everybody had the right to send an anonymous message to somebody. You could identify yourself on the inside of the message, for only the recipient to know, on the envelope, for the postal services to know, or not at all. Or you could write a totally bogus name, organization, and address as the sender of your message, and that was okay, too. Not just okay, it was even fairly common.

Second, it was secret in transit. When we talk of letters being opened and inspected routinely, the thoughts go to scenes of the East German Stasi – the Ministerium für Staatssicherheit, the East German National Security Agency (yes, that’s how Stasi’s name translates). Letters being opened and inspected? Seriously? You had to be the primary suspect of an extremely grave crime for that to take place.

Third, the mailman was never ever held responsible for the contents of the letters being carried. The thought was ridiculous. They were not allowed to look at the messages in the first place, so it was unthinkable that they’d be held accountable for what they dutifully delivered.

Fourth, the letter was untracked. Nobody had the means – nor indeed the capability – to map who was communicating with whom.

All of these characteristics, which all embed vital civil liberties, have been lost in the transition to digital at the insistence of the copyright industry – so that they, as a third-party, can prevent people from sending letters with a content they just don’t like to see sent, for business reasons of theirs.

The question of “how will somebody make money” is entirely irrelevant. The job of any entrepreneur is to make money given the current constraints of society and technology.

No industry gets to dismantle civil liberties with the poor excuse that they can’t make money otherwise. They have the simple choice of doing something else or go out of business. And yet, that’s exactly what we have allowed the copyright industry to do: dismantle vital civil liberties. Dismantle the very concept of the private letter. And they’re continuing to do so under pretty but deceptive words.

When I explain the situation like this, the penny drops for an astounding amount of people and they stop asking the learned, but silly, question about how somebody is to get paid if we have the rights we’ve always had – to send anything to anybody anonymously.

That’s the Analog Equivalent Right. To be able send anything to anybody anonymously. And that’s what we need to bring to the digital environment, even if an obsolete industry doesn’t like it because it may or may not hurt the bottom line. That’s completely irrelevant.

Try telling this story and watch the penny drop, almost every single time. It’s remarkable.

About The Author

Rick Falkvinge is a regular columnist on TorrentFreak, sharing his thoughts every other week. He is the founder of the Swedish and first Pirate Party, a whisky aficionado, and a low-altitude motorcycle pilot. His blog at falkvinge.net focuses on information policy.

Follow @Falkvinge

I love this. I must try this story with the conservative people I know. See if it works.

The war machine seems to be testing to gauge how much terror they can inflict on peaceful Americans before they say WTF (See Ferguson) and, perhaps more importantly, to see if the public will allow this vast new market for war profiteers.

It should be a massive media story “private war profiteering at home to terrorize citizens fight crime”. Helicopters, weapons of war, and tactical gear are expensive. Who’s seeding these start-ups anyway?

The manipulation continued a day after this story was reported, when Alex Altman of TIME wrote “Californians Turn to Private Security to Police Pot Country” as if all the citizens of California have agreed to this type of policing. Subtle manipulation.

Nothing shocks me much anymore but this story and the fact that the media is NOT covering it, at least not truthfully is very shocking. You need to go read the whole story and watch the videos., If you aren’t scared after this one, you might need to find professional help.

Blackwater-like contractor seeks to legalize private police in the U.S.

Financial Criminals Have Been Fined Billions, but They Rarely Pay - The Atlantic

On a plane earlier this week, I watched The Wolf of Wall Street. The film’s outsized antics—public masturbation, the tossing of little people, lots and lots of Quaaludes—seemed too big for a seatback screen, or, for that matter, reality. As despicable as some of Jordan Belfort’s behavior was, I was able to occasionally laugh at Leonardo DiCaprio’s version of him knowing that, by now, more than 10 years after his real-life sentencing, Belfort has been sufficiently punished.

But in fact, that’s hardly the case: After pleading guilty to fraud and money laundering, Belfort was ordered in 2003 to pay out about $110 million to those he wronged. Since then, he’s only paid $11.8 million. He was also sentenced to four years in federal prison, but he only ended up serving just shy of two years.

Meanwhile, he’s thriving as a motivational speaker, and has made some money from selling the film rights to his life story. In a testimonial for his speaking services, Leonardo DiCaprio called Belfort “a shining example of the transformative qualities of ambition and hard work.”

Belfort’s relatively consequence-free story is only one of the more prominent ones in a parade of aggravating numbers reported on earlier this week by The Wall Street Journal. There’s still $97 billion out there in penalties that the Justice Department has failed to recover, and between September 2012 and September 2013, the department collected only 22 percent of penalties doled out. One particularly demoralizing figure was that the Commodity Futures Trading Commission had collected about a tenth of a percent of the $3.7 billion owed to wronged investors.

Percentages of Penalties Collected by the Government
The Wall Street Journal

So how do convicted felons go about avoiding their payments? Take the case of Paul Bilzerian, who owed the Securities and Exchange Commission $62 million and paid only $3.7 million over the course of 25 years. (The Journal reported a few days ago that the SEC was officially giving up on getting any more money from him, after having spent $8.6 million to get the meager amount that they did obtain.)

Bilzerian has systematically thwarted federal prosecutors by building a web of trusts, partnerships, and corporations established in sketchy tropical locales. He has passed on cash and assets to this sons. He delayed prosecutors for years with a bankruptcy filing. And he has transferred ownership of his 28,000 square-foot home to trusts that were owned by, at various times, his in-laws and his neighbor’s mom. “Do you think I’d be stupid enough to have a bank account?” Bilzerian told a Journal reporter.
The Commodity Futures Trading Commission had collected about a tenth of a percent of the $3.7 billion owed to wronged investors.

Bilzerian’s son, Dan, who received an undisclosed amount of money from his father years ago, has built a sizable fortune of his own by gambling. He flaunts it on Instagram, where he has 4.6 million followers. Dan Bilzerian rarely posts a picture without a truck, a gun, a scantily-clad woman, or all three—and one recent image involving a little person and four women is, whether he knows it or not, an uncanny throwback to one memorable scene in The Wolf of Wall Street.

The press and public dwell on the comfortingly hard numbers of financial penalties—”he owes $110 million” is a fact easily digested—and not the messy job of following through on collecting them. And, just as dispiritingly, the attention of 4.6 million people shows itself again only when there are guns and girls involved, no matter the financial circumstances that explain their presence.

The CIA's Secret Journal Articles Are Gossipy, Snarky, and No Longer Classified - The Intercept

The CIA has declassified a trove of articles from its in-house journal, Studies in Intelligence. Ostensibly a semi-academic review of spycraft, Studies emerges in the pieces, which date from the 1970s to the 2000s, as so much more, at turns mocking excessive secrecy and bad writing, dishing on problematic affairs, and bragging about press manipulation.

Of course, there is plenty of self-serious material in the journal too, including scholarly reviews, first-person memoirs, interviews and intellectual ruminations on everything from maps to “How We Are Perceived” and “Ethics and Clandestine Collection.”

The CIA posted the hundreds of declassified articles to its FOIA site. Here are a few that caught our eye. (If you see something interesting in the archive, post it in the comments, email it to tips@theintercept.com, or send it securely to me.)

The documents include a 2004 interview with current CIA director John Brennan and a 2000 interview with Michael Hayden, then head of the NSA. “Everything’s secret,” Hayden tells Studies. “I mean, I got an email saying, ‘Merry Christmas.’ It carried a Top Secret NSA classification marking.”

He also describes how the NSA had begun on a media offensive, to “put a human face on the agency:”

An interview with George Tenet, who ran the CIA from 1996-2004, is almost entirely redacted.

Michael Morell, later acting head of the CIA, provides a minute-by-minute account of standing at George W. Bush’s side during the 9/11 attacks. He notes that he and Bush strategist Karl Rove often joked about the president’s daily briefing, for which Morell was then responsible. “You don’t have anything in that briefcase that CNN doesn’t have,” Rove once said to him.

There are detailed historical pieces on the CIA’s operations in Guatemala, and on the CIA’s recruitment on college campuses:

In another article, undated, a CIA man in Havana recounts his time “trying to counter Castro” from 1958 until the 1970s. He had some troubles with an informant…

…and hid radios around the island:

Over the years, various scolds took the agency to task for sloppy grammar and bad writing:

Someone illustrated the intelligence community’s most overused platitudes – “foreseeable future,” “dire straits,” “mounting crises” –with mythical creatures in a 1982 “Bestiary of Intelligence Writing.”

The recent document dump was prompted by a lawsuit from a former CIA employee, Jeffrey Scudder, who has said that his attempt to have these articles released via a Freedom of Information Act request destroyed his career. He was accused of mishandling classified information in making the request, and was fired. The CIA has now released 249 of the 419 documents Scudder requested, according to Secrecy News, which first reported the document release today.

Update: The CIA has previously declassified other articles from Studies in Intelligence, mostly book reviews and essays, which are available here. Some of the documents that the CIA included here had also been published by the National Security Archive and National Security Counselors.

Healthcare.gov Is A Security Disaster… And Those Working On It Knew It, And Tried To Stop Independent Security Review To Hide It
September 22, 2014
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Source: Tech Dirt

We’ve written before about how problematic the technology is behind the federal healthcare.gov website, pointing out that the federal government hired political cronies rather than web development experts to build it. There was an effort to open source the code, but after the feds put the code on github, they removed it after people started pointing out just how bad it was. Then, just about a month ago, we noted that the government turned down a FOIA request from the Associated Press concerning the site’s security practices, arguing that it might “give hackers enough information to break into the service.” As we noted at the time, if revealing the basic security you have in place will give hackers a road map to breaking into the site, the site is not secure at all.

A damning new report from the Goverment Accountability Office (GAO) more or less confirms this is the case. This is further backed up by an even more astounding “Behind the Curtain of the Healthcare.gov Rollout” released by the House Oversight Committee. To be fair, the GAO is non-partisan and known to be even-handed and fair. That’s not always the case with Congressional committee reports. Still, the two are worth reading together. The level of mess behind the project is rather astounding and it appears that the site still is not particularly secure, which obviously explains the refusal to do that FOIA release.

Here’s the GAO basic summary of the security situation for the site:

While CMS has taken steps to protect the security and privacy of data processed and maintained by the complex set of systems and interconnections that support Healthcare.gov, weaknesses remain both in the processes used for managing information security and privacy as well as the technical implementation of IT security controls. CMS took many steps to protect security and privacy, including developing required security program policies and procedures, establishing interconnection security agreements with its federal and commercial partners, and instituting required privacy protections. However, Healthcare.gov had weaknesses when it was first deployed, including incomplete security plans and privacy documentation, incomplete security tests, and the lack of an alternate processing site to avoid major service disruptions. While CMS has taken steps to address some of these weaknesses, it has not yet fully mitigated all of them. In addition, GAO identified weaknesses in the technical controls protecting the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of the FFM. Specifically, CMS had not: always required or enforced strong password controls, adequately restricted access to the Internet, consistently implemented software patches, and properly configured an administrative network. An important reason that all of these weaknesses occurred and some remain is that CMS did not and has not yet ensured a shared understanding of how security was implemented for the FFM among all entities involved in its development. Until these weaknesses are fully addressed, increased and unnecessary risks remain of unauthorized access, disclosure, or modification of the information collected and maintained by Healthcare.gov and related systems, and the disruption of service provided by the systems.

That failure to restrict access to the internet was for test servers, one of which got infected with malware recently.

But the really damning story is that CMS, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which was in charge of the product, seemed totally incompetent throughout this process — and directly chose to kill off an independent security review by MITRE, knowing the results would be bad and that they might get out:

Once MITRE completed their September Security Assessment, Mr. Schankweiler’s FFM development team was unhappy with the report and sought to have it changed. On September 26, 2013, Darren Lyles, one of the IT security officials assigned to the FFM development team, wrote Ms. Fryer:

The Draft SCA [security control assessment] Report has been called into question by CGI [primary contractor building the FFM] and CIISG [Consumer Information Insurance Group, the team within CMS that works with contractors to develop the FFM and other Healthcare.gov components] Stakeholders. There are assertions made in the report that are deemed to be erroneous and misrepresentative of what actually occurred. I have attached the report that has been commented on by CGI and would like to submit this for your review.

Michael Mellor, Ms. Fryer’s deputy, responded to Mr. Lyles: “Keep in mind – that the purpose of the SCA is to provide an independent assessment of the security posture of a system. As part of that independent assessment, the maintainer of the system likely will not agree with all of the findings and the SCA report.”

Mr. Schankweiler, Mr. Lyles’ superior, then responded to Mr. Mellor, insisting that the report should be reviewed by senior CMS officials and worried the report would be seen by others outside CMS: “We need to hit the pause button on this report and have an internal meeting about it later next week. It is important to look at this within the context of the decision memos and ATO memo that is going up for Tony [Trenkle, CMS Chief Information Officer] and Michelle [Snyder, CMS Chief Operating Officer] to sign.” Mr. Schankweiler then wrote the report was “only partially accurate, and extremely opinionated, false, misrepresentative, and inflammatory.” Mr. Schankweiller noted that “It is very possible that this report will be reviewed at some point by OIG, and could see the light of day in other ways.” Mr. Schankweiler offered to “look at the report from the government perspective and provide … analysis.”

On October 7, 2013, the lead security tester for MITRE, Milton Shomo, wrote Jane Kim, a CMS official on Ms. Fryer’s EISG team, “CCIIO [Centers for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, one of the divisions at CMS responsible for running the exchange] and CGI Federal had some issues with some of the information in our Marketplace … draft SCA report from the assessment we did in August and September. MITRE stands behind everything in our report as an accurate description of the assessment.

There were a number of other similar problems, but it becomes clear that choices were made for political reasons, rather than technological or security reasons.

Fitch Warns: When the Dollar’s Pre Eminent Reserve Currency Status’ Erodes

Source: Wolf Richter

It’s veryrisky for an American credit ratings agency to downgrade the US Government.

Standard & Poor’s found out when it stripped the US off its AAA rating in 2011 over the debt-ceiling charade. The Department of Justice then sued S&P over its role in the financial crisis, i.e. for slapping AAA-ratings on toxic securities to pocket fatter fees from issuers. But the other ratings agencies did the same thing and have not been hounded. So S&P claimed that the “impermissibly selective, punitive and meritless” lawsuit was “in retaliation” for the downgrade.

Though the Government denied the retaliation angle, it was a lesson no credit ratings agency within the long and sinewy arm of the Government would ever forget. But now Fitch is inching gingerly toward that abyss. While it affirmed (text) the US at AAA, Outlook Stable, it threw in some potentially devastating caveats.

What drives America’s dubious AAA-rating? “Unparalleled financing flexibility as the issuer of the world’s pre-eminent reserve currency….”

So endowed, “the US rating can tolerate a higher level of public debt than other ‘AAA’ sovereigns.” The “threshold” for the US is a gross national debt of 110% of GDP, the highest threshold of any country “owing to its exceptional financing flexibility.” But if the US hits that 110%, it would be “incompatible with ‘AAA.”’

Other factors also contribute to that “exceptional financing flexibility,” including America’s vast and liquid capital markets, its “large, rich, and diverse” economy, “one of the most productive, dynamic, and technologically advanced in the world.” Nevertheless, growth in that miracle economy in 2014 is going to be a “sluggish” 2%, just above stall speed. And Fitch sees the medium-term growth potential at a languid 2.2%.

The budget deficits will be shrinking only through fiscal 2015. In fiscal 2016, they’ll be rising again, due to, among other reasons, “higher net interest costs” as rates go up. Fitch hopes that normalization of monetary policy would “not fundamentally destabilize the recovery or financial markets.” But it would trigger more volatility. And “downside risks are material….”

Other issues are also dogging the US: High external liabilities, a result of “persistent current account deficits and low national savings rates,” which make the economy “more vulnerable to adverse external shocks.”

So Fitch estimates that the gross national debt – “excluding trade payables and unfunded pension liabilities, consistent with EU countries” – would hit 100% of GDP at the end of 2014. It sees a “debt peak” of 104% of GDP in 2024, based on this way of counting, which excludes any kind of recession or a market swoon. Since this 104% is “below the threshold of 110%,” Fitch does not “anticipate” a downgrade.


A downgrade would be triggered by: “material deterioration in the coherence and credibility of economic policymaking,” whatever that means in Washington; a deterioration of the deficits and the debt-to-GDP ratio; and an erosion of “the role of the US dollar as the pre-eminent global reserve currency.”

There it is again, the dollar’s erosion as the pre-eminent global reserve currency. It is very inconvenient.

It would deprive the US of much of the “financing flexibility and debt tolerance” that it has so enormously benefitted from up to now. When China starts hoarding euros, and when European countries start hoarding Chinese yuan, and when other countries start hoarding both, and when they’re hoarding other currencies as well, such as the UK pound, the Canadian and Australian dollars, even the yen (though that’s increasingly a losing proposition), and some other currencies, instead of US dollars….

And that is already happening.

The euro is already heavily represented on the balance sheets of China and other countries as a reserve currency and is breathing down the dollar’s neck as a trading currency. Every day, new bilateral accords are being implemented around the world to elevate the yuan, especially in the financial centers of Asia and Europe.

Everyone knows by now that there will be three big reserve currencies in the near future: the dollar, the euro, and the yuan, with smaller currencies thrown into the basket. And the day is nearing when the dollar’s status as the “pre-eminent global reserve currency” erodes to less than 50%.

That’s when the US dollar hegemony will be over. The US will face a new world of funding constraints. It will no longer be able to dictate financial terms. Its long and sinewy arm that can hit banks around the world and impose rules and sanctions and penalties will atrophy. And life for US policymakers will become a lot more complex. It will be a humbling experience.

Obscured by stock market hoopla, and under the leadership of our fearless Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, the G-20 finance honchos fret about faltering global growth. Read…. OK, I Get It. Things Are Coming Unglued

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