Outrun Change

We need to learn quickly to keep up with the massive change around us so we don't get run over. We need to outrun change.

Archive for the category “Pondering”

Final thoughts on the tale of Silk Road. Part 9.

Cover of “American Kingpin” from Amazon. Used under fair use.

This is the 9th and final part of a discussion of Silk Road, as discussed in American Kingpin: The Epic Hunt for the Criminal Mastermind Behind the Silk Road, written by Nick Bilton. For the longer story, you may enjoy reading parts one, two, three, four, five, sixseven, and eight.

Other thoughts on the book

If you have previously been following the Silk Road story, you will enjoy the book. It reads like a good detective novel, except it is all true.

The book describes the mutual low opinion held of other federal agencies by the staff of most of the federal agencies that had a part in the investigation. This is not the first time I’ve read of those attitudes or heard of poor cooperation across agencies.

Lack of technical discussion

A couple of the reviews at Amazon indicate there is minimal technical detail in the book. That is absolutely the case.

Read more…

The Silk Road perps. Where are they now? Part 8.

Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

This is part 8 of a discussion of Silk Road, as described in American Kingpin: The Epic Hunt for the Criminal Mastermind Behind the Silk Road, written by Nick Bilton. To learn how these three individuals earned an extended stay in federal housing, you may enjoy reading parts one, two, three, four, five, six, and seven.

Current status:

In good ol’ Dragnet style, where are bad guys now?

Here is the info from the federal Bureau of Prisons website:

Read more…

It didn’t end well for two of the feds investigating Silk Road. The tale of Silk Road, part 7.

The wages of corruption. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Two of the feds working on the Silk Road investigation went rogue. That did not turn out well for them.

This is part 7 of a discussion of Silk Road, as described in, American Kingpin: The Epic Hunt for the Criminal Mastermind Behind the Silk Road, written by Nick Bilton. Check out parts one, two, three, four, five and six, if you wish. (Cross-post from my other blog, Nonprofit Update.)

Since the book was written, there have been more developments. I stumbled across the additional info after drafting this series of posts.

Let’s take a look at how things turned out for the two crooked federal agents.

What did the two feds do and what did they get for their trouble?

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Where did one guy wind up by making moral decisions with no moral frame of reference other than himself? The tale of Silk Road, part 6.

Mr. Ulbrecht’s housing for the rest of his life (plus the next 40 years). Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

How far did he go?

So as a result of running the drug bazaar called Silk Road, where did Ross Ulbricht wind up with his efforts to forcibly legalize drugs and simultaneously remove God from His throne and take over the throne for himself?

What did he get for his efforts? The feds claim he had tens of millions of dollars in his personal accounts.

(This is part 6 of a discussion of Silk Road, as described in, American Kingpin: The Epic Hunt for the Criminal Mastermind Behind the Silk Road, written by Nick Bilton. Check out parts one, two, three, four and five, if you wish.)

He ran a web site at which he knowingly sold to anyone who could pay:

  • pot,
  • coke,
  • heroin,
  • many varieties of synthetic drugs,
  • equipment & supplies to manufacture drugs,
  • automatic weapons,
  • grenades,
  • rocket launchers,
  • body parts, including but not limited to:
  • livers,
  • kidneys,
  • bone marrow,
  • deadly poisons,
  • counterfeit identification,
  • counterfeit currency,
  • keystroke loggers,
  • spoofing software,
  • sundry hacking tools, and
  • fake passports.

He also contracted for and paid for what he thought was the murder of five people who offended him.

Read more…

The power of rationalization when you have no frame of reference other than your own opinion. The tale of Silk Road, part 5.

According to ‘Dread Pirate Roberts’, his ordering the execution of a renegade employee is morally the same as the U.S. President ordering one of the above wartime launches. Illustration courtesy of Adobe Stock.

This is the second of two posts describing the frightening power of rationalization on display in the story of Ross Ulbricht, also known as Dread Pirate Roberts, as he developed the Silk Road website where you could buy anything you wanted. The story is told in American Kingpin: The Epic Hunt for the Criminal Mastermind Behind the Silk Road, written by Nick Bilton. This is the fifth post in a series. You may enjoy reading parts one, two, and three.

You might want to read part four before diving into this wrap-up of the rationalization discussion.

How can body organs be okay?

Shall we extend this discussion into body organs?

I suppose there might be some way for informed consent to be given in a situation where a body organ is extracted and sold on the Dark Web. I can’t get my brain around it, but I suppose there might be some possible way to do so that would be consistent with libertarian concepts.

I have a real problem with thinking that organ providers in China gave informed consent.

Maybe I’m missing the boat or maybe just can’t stretch my brain far enough, but I don’t see how libertarian concepts can be used to justify the sale of either hand grenades, rocket launchers, or livers & kidneys. That seems to be a rationalization to do what you otherwise feel like doing.

There is even more rationalization in play.

How do beatings and torture fit in?

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The power of rationalization when you have no frame of reference other than your own opinion. The tale of Silk Road, part 4

fake grenade” by pat00139 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The frightening power of rationalization is clearly on display in the story of Ross Ulbricht, also known as Dread Pirate Roberts, as he developed the Silk Road website where you could buy anything you wanted. The story is told in American Kingpin: The Epic Hunt for the Criminal Mastermind Behind the Silk Road, written by Nick Bilton. This is the fourth part of a series. You may enjoy reading parts one, two, and three.

How did Dread Pirate Roberts get to the point where he allowed the sale of every imaginable drug, various explosives, and a range of body parts on the site he created and ran? How did he get to the place of hiring and paying for five assassinations?

The book provides insight to the shifting rationalizations. Journey with me as we explore in-depth how rationalization played out in this situation.

Read more…

How do you make moral decisions if you have no frame of reference other than your own opinion? The tale of Silk Road, part 3.

What Dread Pirate Roberts thought he paid for when he wired out a bunch of bitcoins. Not once, but five separate times. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Let’s see where he ended up with this Be-Your-Own-God routine.

The feds busted one recipient of a pound of cocaine.  He was a moderator on the Silk Road site. The feds kept this guy under wraps.

Dread Pirate Roberts, who also went by DPR, concluded that this person, who worked for Silk Road, had absconded with the dope and dropped out of sight. The feds gained control over the guy’s computer.

(This is part 3 of a discussion of a book on Silk Road, American Kingpin: The Epic Hunt for the Criminal Mastermind Behind the Silk Road, written by Nick Bilton. Read parts 1 and 2. Since writing the initial draft of this series, I’ve added two more posts and another 700 words.)

An undercover fed pretending to be a big time drug dealer was in contact with DPR.  So during their conversations, DPR happened to complain that someone had ripped him off. This undercover cop offered to send some of his goons over to rough up the guy.  DPR agreed to have his correspondent get some of his guys over there to work over the double-crosser.

So Carl Force of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and Shaun Bridges of the United States Secret Service pretended to torture this guy for DPR’s benefit by actually torturing the guy, taking pictures as they repeatedly dunked his involuntarily cooperating head in a bathtub full of water.

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How do you make moral decisions if you have no frame of reference other than your own opinion? The tale of Silk Road, part 2.

Above organs were reportedly available for purchase at Silk Road. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

While developing Silk Road, Mr. Ulbricht had a girlfriend, whom I won’t name. She knew he was raising and selling dope on the website and broke up when he would not end his involvement with the site.

(This is part 2 of a discussion of a book on Silk Road, American Kingpin: The Epic Hunt for the Criminal Mastermind Behind the Silk Road, written by Nick Bilton. Part 1 here.)

His girlfriend came to a saving faith in Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior later in the book, well after they broke up. (Based on a few ways that the description of her conversion and faith are described, I will make a wild guess the author of the book is not a believer).

At one point when they got back together for a while, his girlfriend persuaded him to attend worship at what appears to be a charismatic congregation that operated without a formal pastoral leadership structure.

After the worship she asked him what he thought about the morals that were discussed during the worship service.

Read more…

How do you make moral decisions if you have no frame of reference other than your own opinion? The tale of Silk Road, part 1

On what basis do you decide which is the right path?   Image of “decisions” by Impact Hub is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

What is the relative moral ranking of people selling the following illegal products:

  • Marijuana
  • Cocaine
  • Heroin
  • Weapons
  • Explosives
  • Lethal poisons
  • Harvested body parts

Early in the growth of the Silk Road, which was a hidden place on the internet where you could buy anything you wanted, and I mean aaaaanything imaginable, a debate emerged about the outer limit of products that would be allowed on the site.

The website was set up and run by Ross Ulbricht. Ultimately the feds busted him, his senior staff, and another couple hundred people who worked for Silk Road or sold stuff there.

Read more…

Retail brick-and-mortar stores continue their slide

The near future for a lot of Sears stores. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

I read but did not keep track of a WSJ article describing e-commerce companies moving into otherwise dead shopping malls and converting them into fulfillment centers. Sounds like a good way to recycle vacated malls.

Some other articles on the deteriorating retail market. Also, an explanation why sales of vinyl records have slowed.

7/7/17 – USA Today – Sears to close 43 more stores as retail crisis continues – This is in addition to the 66 closings I mentioned on June 16, which is in addition to 180 announced since January 1st.  Article says this brings the year-to-date total to over 300. I obviously missed 20 recently that were mentioned in the article.

Article says J.C. Penny is closing 138 stores, Macy’s is closing 68, and Radio Shack has shuttered over 1,000 stores since Memorial Day.

Read more…

Academic cheating scandal at University of North Carolina is still alive

UNC Chapel Hill bell tower. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

The systemic academic failure at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill has been out of the news for a while because the NCAA has been taking their time addressing the cheating. Oh, also because UNC appears to be stonewalling, according to the following article.

It is possible that after six years of the scandal there might actually be some closure in August after an NCAA hearing.

You can find my previous posts on this self-induced fiasco here.

7/31/17 – The Virginian-Pilot – UNC’s arrogance over academic scandal has tainted the school’s once-great image – Article provides a good recap of the scandal. From ‘93 through ’11 there were 3,100 students who took special classes which neither required attendance not taking notes nor homework nor quizzes. A non-academic administrator graded the term papers, assuming the frequently plagiarized (per the article) term papers were actually written by the students. The term papers averaged an A-minus grade. Over half of the students were athletes.

That’s just the starting point of the fiasco.

Purpose of the fake classes?

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Suggestion for coping with massive change that could replace your job: Take full responsibility for developing new skills for yourself.

Embrace Change” by Iqbal Osman is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The rate of change we are seeing around us is massive. There are threats of automation or artificial intelligence even eating into what is called the white-collar world.

Here’s a suggestion on how you might cope with this overwhelming change:  Take on full responsibility for keeping your skills and abilities current.

(Cross-post from my other blog, Attestation Update.)

8/1/17 – Medium – Skill, re-skill, and re-skill again. How to keep up with the future of work. – The rate of change is accelerating and the skills needed to do work in the new economy are changing as well.

Article provides a brief summary of our education system. I will expand that with what I have learned elsewhere. Then I’ll mention a plan to dealing with this turmoil.

Read more…

Elections in Venezuela

Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

An unofficial plebiscite was held to oppose the end of democracy. The vote for a constitutional convention to re-write overthrow the current constitution has been held, with uncertainty as to the actual turnout.

 

7/15/17 – Reuters – Venezuela opposition hold unofficial plebiscite to defy Maduro – The opposition holds an unofficial vote on 7/16 as a protest against the upcoming official vote which many consider to be the last votes ever in Venezuela as a new constitution will essentially put the legislature under the thumb of the president.

Read more…

Continuing devastation in Venezuela – #29

What economic system produces this result? Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

The political and economic conditions in Venezuela continue to deteriorate.

7/3/17 – Bloomberg – Venezuela’s Poor Rebel, Roiling Maduro’s Socialist Strongholds The power base for the leaders of the socialist country is poor people.

From previous reading I’ve done, massive subsidies to the poor successfully bought their allegiance. The collapse of services including water outages, random outages of electricity, and empty store shelves are rapidly undermining support from the poor. Protests has spread to many of the poor communities in Caracas. There have been nightly protests in a number of communities for several weeks.

7/5/17 – Wall Street Journal – Maduro Supporters Storm Venezuela’s CongressRead more…

While on a long road trip, what economic system provided the goods and services I needed, when and where I wanted them?

How is it that services are available on the interstate highway system when and where I need them? Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

I took a road trip from the Los Angeles area to Williston last week. My wife and I drove there with our son and his family.

A few questions came to mind on the trip

Questions

1. What economic system provides a gas station within a few miles of the point that we decided we wanted to fill up the tank?

With four drivers in the car,  we were planning to drive on through the night. We were too tired to do that so we decided to stop for the night.

2. What economic system provides multiple hotels and motels half an hour down the road from where we changed our mind?

3. Furthermore, when we wanted to stop, what economic system provided motels at multiple price points so we could pick the one that fit our price range and taste?

4. Why is it that the motel we choose included a full breakfast for all of us in the price?

5. Why did the motel even have two upgraded lamps on the night stands each with 2 USB charging points and two electrical outlets on the base of each lamp?

Answers

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