Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Military-Maker Complex: DARPA Infiltrates the Hackerspace Movement

DARPA Information Awareness Office
In a two part essay Fiacre O’Duinn explains why DARPA’s partnership with MAKE magazine to fund 1,000 makerlabs in U.S high schools is antithetical to the maker movement and wonders whether it’s a line in the sand that will divide the movement:
While the MENTOR program involves cooperation, this is done so as part of challenge competitions, in which teams compete against each other for cash prizes. This seems in stark contrast to how maker culture has developed to date. Why is competition necessary? If the goal is truly for education using the hacker/maker model, can learning and exploration not take place merely for pleasure, in a completely open environment, or must it be reduced to yet another lesson in the need to hoard and compete for resources and information?
Third, why has the field of study in these makerspaces narrowed only to STEM topics? What happened to the transdisiplinary focus of hacker/maker communities that make them so innovative? Where are the arts? Where are wearables, knitivism, DIY molecular gastronomy? Why do the challenges involve working on unmanned air vehicles or robots, projects that are of interest to DARPA for their military applications? Shouldn’t we encourage STEAM rather than STEM? Could it be that regardless of their educational potential, these topics have no possible military application? With such a narrow focus, one could ask which culture will win the day, maker or military?
Finally, why are the full details of the Make proposal and specifics of the agreement with DARPA not being made public? Because in dealing with the military, lack of transparency is simply a matter of course. This works well for the military but why is it necessary for a community project involving children? Why was a “Secret” clearance level needed to work on designing modules for the program, according to this job advertisement? This lack of transparency also leaves other questions unanswered. For example, as the program expands to over 1000 schools, will military personnel be brought in to teach? This last question brings me to issues of recruitment, STEM education and the military.
The biggest issue of all may be the use of the the MENTOR program as a military recruitment vehicle.
I’ve long opposed military recruitment programs in schools, but what might the benefits of such a program be? I’ve been thinking lately that in these times of austerity, and given the general difficulty in getting public funding for education and social programs in the U.S even when we’re not in a recession, tying social programs to hawkish programs like defense and law enforcement may be the only way to go.
In his “State of the World” in 2009, Bruce Sterling suggested taking a national defense position on climate change:
If I wanted to be politically effective, rather than visionary, I’d disguise myself as a right-wing Green, probably some kind of hunting-shooting NASCAR “conservationist,” and I’d infiltrate the Republicans this year. [...]
So we publicly recognize the climate crisis: just as if we suddenly discovered it ourselves. And we don’t downplay the climate crisis: we OVERPLAY the crisis.
“Then we blame the crisis on foreigners. We’re not liberal weak sisters ‘negotiating Kyoto agreements.’ We’re assembling a Coalition of the Willing tp threaten polluters.
“We’re certainly not bowing the knee to the damn Chinese — they own our Treasury, unfortunately, but we completely change the terms of that debate. When the Chinese open a coal mine and threaten the world’s children with asthma, we will take out that threat with a cruise missile!
That’s our new negotiating position on the climate crisis: we’re the military, macho hard line.
Would it work? Would it be worth selling out the rest of your values for?
I don’t know, but also consider the sorry state of jobs in the country. On the one hand, Newt Gingrich’s moon base idea was justified as a defense measure, but it was widely seen as a proposal as a jobs program for NASA’s home state. Maybe a moon base was too wild an idea, but could something like sci-fi work? Remember, the interstate highway system in the U.S. was actually called the Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways and was justified as a defense measure. If we want a jobs program to rebuild or crumbling infrastructure, it seems like we could do a lot worse than call it a homeland security program.
So given the sorry state of STEM education, and the expense of setting up hackerspaces and the absolutely dismal state of public libraries (which many suggest turning into hacker spaces), is it time to consider letting DARPA build hackerspaces for the kids, even if it means letting in military recruiters and having the kids focused on making weapons?
I can see the pragmatic benefit, but I still just can’t justify it. As Fiarce points out, the program is just too antithetical to the maker spirit. And although as many have pointed out DARPA has funded all sorts of research over the years, including the creation of the Internet, the MENTOR program will specifically include a competition for designingweaponized vehicles for military use. DARPA may do some good work too, but having kids design weapons for the military crosses a line for me.
So will it split the community? Someone with more knowledge of the history of the computer hacking movement and how the NSA and other defense agencies tried to hijack it might have more insight than me. But it seems that if the maker movement has any momentum of its own, then this shouldn’t be fatal to it. Those who want to collaborate openly and make things other than war planes, and those attracted to the militaristic elements of the DARPA program will go there. Hopefully the maker movement will be able to sustain both strands, much like the computer hacker movement managed to sustain an open source movement.

What Is A Maker?

Simple, concise piece harvested from Raising Geeks & Gearheads.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

What is a Maker?

As I'm heading to Maker Faire in California this week, I've been asked a few times - "What is a Maker?"

This article from the NY Times explains it well - The Kitchen Table Industrialists

Excerpt from the article:

If you lived in Detroit in 1961 and watched Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” at a drive-in, you might have caught a 30-minute trailer called “American Maker,” sponsored by Chevrolet. “Of all things Americans are, we are makers,” its narrator began, over footage of boys building sand castles. “With our strengths and our minds and spirit, we gather, we form and we fashion: makers and shapers and put-it-togetherers.”

Fifty years on, the American maker is in a bad way. Such is the state of American industry that waste paper is among the top 10 exports to China, behind nuclear equipment but far ahead of traditional mainstays like iron and steel. Manufacturing employment has fallen by a third in the last decade alone, with more than 40,000 factories shutting down. More Americans today are unemployed than are wage-earning “put-it-togetherers.” But the American romance with making actual things is going through a resurgence. In recent years, a nationwide movement of do-it-yourself aficionados has embraced the self-made object. Within this group is a quixotic band of soldering, laser-cutting, software-programming types who, defying all economic logic, contend that they can reverse America’s manufacturing slump. America will make things again, they say, because Americans will make things — not just in factories but also in their own homes, and not because it’s artisanal or faddish but because it’s easier, better for the environment and more fun.

What makes this notion something less than complete fantasy is the availability of new manufacturing machines that are cheap, simple and compact enough for small companies, local associations and even amateur hobbyists to own and operate. What once only big firms with hulking factories could fabricate can now be made in a basement or by e-mailing a design to an online factory-for-hire. These machines can produce all sorts of things, including plastic pencil holders, eyeglass frames and MP3 players.

Makers, as they call themselves, can’t compete with the long, orderly rows of workers from the poorer provinces of China or India who cut, stitch and solder bras, shoes and cellphones for pennies — or even with the hundreds of billions of dollars a year worth of stuff that continues to pour out of large, old-fashioned American factories. Their method involves creating “hacker space” cooperatives, where a few dozen members share a 3-D printer, a laser cutter and an oscilloscope and engage in collaborative manufacturing projects. Makers have created companies like Shapeways and CloudFab, which for a fee will manufacture small runs of products that you design. They are becoming kit makers like Bdeir, manufacturing building blocks that allow others to create things.

Neil Gershenfeld, an M.I.T. physicist who is an intellectual godfather to the maker movement, suggested to me that the new tools would over time change global industry as we know it. He predicts a wave of new competitors for the megacorporation that designs, makes and sells products all under one brand. Instead, Gershenfeld imagines a consumer of the near future downloading a design for a mobile phone through an iTunes-like portal; buying an add-on from another firm that tweaks the design; and having it printed at a neighborhood shop in a plastic shell of your choice.

The new personal factories may seem like crude toys for only the most die-hard D.I.Y.-ers. But in technology circles, they are talked about as a looming revolution that could change the way people work and create new opportunities for millions. Personal factories can perhaps be compared to the earliest personal computers — versions of their giant counterparts that are drastically cheaper but also slower and more clumsy. This futuristic vision is the one that the White House endorsed in a recent report on personal manufacturing: “Within a generation, you will have a hard time explaining to your grandchildren how you were able to live without your own fabber,” it said, using a popular word for the new manufacturing tools. “Personal-fabrication technologies present an opportunity for our nation to continue to lead the rest of the world in manufacturing, but in a new way.”

Of course, I can't say all that to people when they ask, so I typically answer - "Garage Inventor" - people who explore the possibilities of what they can dream up and build using their minds and tools, and the minds and tools of their friends...

If they are still paying attention at that point, I _attempt_ to explain that a Hackerspace is not a den of evil...

Monday, March 26, 2012

Manuals Fit for Mayhem... by Mail - Old Article on Loompanics

Dug this one out of the dustbins of history.

Manuals Fit for Mayhem--by Mail : Publications: Firm in Port Townsend, Wash., offers 800 titles and had sold the book on money laundering found in the home of jailed investment adviser Steven D. Wymer.

Under your Christmas tree, did you find gift-wrapped copies of "Gunrunning for Fun and Profit," "Take No Prisoners: Destroying Enemies With Dirty and Malicious Tricks," or "Above The Law: The Complete Guide to Obtaining Diplomatic Immunity" by an author called "Ambassador X"?
No? Then you must not be on Michael Hoy's mailing list.
Hoy, a former accountant once dubbed "Conan the Librarian," is the publisher from Hell. His company, Loompanics Unlimited of Port Townsend, Wash., claims to do a million-dollar-a-year mail order business selling 800 titles that stretch the First Amendment far enough to give the Founding Fathers heartburn.
Among its most outrageous offerings are such mayhem manuals as "Kitchen Improvised Plastic Explosives" ($7.95); "How to Get Anything on Anybody" ($30), a handy guide to bugging, tailing, tapping, tracing, snooping and reading other people's mail; "Mercenary's Tactical Handbook" ($12), and a six-volume treatise on "How to Kill" ($8 each).
The Loompanics catalogue is "an important source for anarchists, survivalists, iconoclasts, self-liberators, mercenaries, investigators, dropouts, researchers, and just about anybody interested in the strange, the useful, the arcane, the oddball, the unusual, the unique and the diabolical," Hoy declares.
"We are the lunatic fringe of the libertarian movement," he adds.
Hoy insists that his business is perfectly legal. In fact, he says the FBI, the CIA and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police are among the 20,000 names on his mailing list, along with a number of famous mystery writers and Hollywood studios.
Still, federal prosecutors in Los Angeles did a double take when a Loompanics book entitled "How to Launder Money" was found during a search of the Newport Beach home of jailed investment adviser Steven D. Wymer.
Wymer is charged with civil and criminal securities fraud and money laundering in connection with the alleged loss of more than $100 million of his clients' money. The indictment does not say where the money is alleged to have gone, but Wymer's attorney, Michael Perlis, has said it was lost through bad investments and is not "in an offshore bank account waiting for Steven Wymer."
Federal prosecutors say the money-laundering manual was found in Wymer's dresser. Perlis said it belonged to Wymer's wife. "He did not read the book," Perlis told reporters.
"Put it this way: We're not accepting that it was hers," said Assistant U.S. Atty. Jean A. Kawahara.
Written from prison by one John Gregg, "How to Launder Money" was published in 1982 and has sold several thousand copies, Hoy said. But it has been out of print--and out of the catalogue--for five or six years and its advice is now dated, Hoy said.
"Some of those loopholes have been closed," he said.
The publisher would like to update and reissue it, but Gregg died behind bars. "We used to have to send his royalty checks to an attorney because he was in prison," Hoy said. "I think it was for money laundering or some kind of money shenanigans."
Hoy describes his personal philosophy as practical anarchism. "The basic idea is you don't have to overthrow the government if you can avoid it," he said. "Rather than being oriented toward crusades on issues, personal empowerment is what it's all about."
And if it's illegal, immoral or revolting, Hoy has a book about it--and possibly three of them.
Loompanics sells the gruesome "Physical Interrogation Techniques," which instructs on "how to torture information out of an unwilling subject," and the macabre "Silent Death by Uncle Fester," billed as "the most advanced book on household manufacture of poisons we have ever seen."
The weird, the wacky and the defiant are offered along with less benign fare. "How to Start Your Own Country," "Steal This Urine Test" and "The Computer Underground: Hacking, Piracy, Phreaking and Computer Crime" are offered next to neo-Nazi, satanic and misogynist tracts. Political musings range from "Confessions of a Holocaust Revisionist" to Friedrich Nietzsche's "The Antichrist," several volumes on Ayn Rand, and a wide selection on "tax avoision," or "how to get government parasites out of your pockets."
Loompanics sells about 150 of its own titles, with the balance from other underground publishers, including Los Angeles-based AMOK, a necro-punk, cult, gonzo and gore bookstore in the Silver Lake district. For $8.95, the "AMOK Fourth Dispatch" catalogue offers "a guide to the steamy undergrowths of the well-manicured fiction garden and a thorough directory of the extremes of information in print."
Officials with the FBI, the IRS and the Treasury Department either declined comment on possible investigations of Hoy or said his operation appears to fall safely within First Amendment protections. The publisher says he pays his taxes and has never been harassed by the authorities.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Last Earth Distro now carries Emergency Kits and Supplies!

Last Earth Distro now stocks emergency gear and preparedness kits! Thanks to our friends over at www.emergencyzone.com, a Northwest based company. Orders drop ship quickly from their Idaho warehouse, so sadly cannot be combined with your book orders. And until we get our shipping calculators adjusted, we may have to contact you to request additional postage funds if your order is heavy. All items should have the weight listed. Thanks for your continued support as we branch out a bit. Please let us know if you have any questions, or would like an exact shipping quote prior to ordering.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

US military unveils non-lethal heat ray weapon

--Weapon was deployed briefly in Afghanistan in 2010 11 Mar 2012 A sensation of unbearable, sudden heat seems to come out of nowhere -- this wave, a strong electromagnetic beam, is the latest non-lethal weapon unveiled by the US military this week. "You're not gonna see it, you're not gonna hear it, you're not gonna smell it: you're gonna feel it," explained US Marine Colonel Tracy Taffola, director the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate, Marine Corps Base Quantico, at a demonstration for members of the media. The effect is so repellant, the immediate instinct is to flee -- and quickly, as experienced by AFP at the presentation. Taffola added that the "Active Denial System" beam, while powerful and long-range, some 1000 meters (0.6 miles), is the military's "safest non-lethal capability" that has been developed over 15 years but never used in the field.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Dementia Derived From Eating Squirrel Meat

I know that urban hunting is currently seeing a resurgence in our metropolitan areas, and that folks all over are getting meats from anywhere they can. So, just in case you and yours are out scoring some dinner from an unorthodox source, steer clear of the squirrel brains.
The Economist notes that in our strange and economically unstable times, many are turning to eating meats from odder, less desirable animals. One tidbit is that mad-cow disease has broken out in Kentucky of late due to consumption of squirrel brains:
The manager of the Budgens supermarket in the London suburb of Crouch End says sales of squirrel meat have soared since he started selling it in 2010. The bushy-tailed tree-dwellers are just one category in a burgeoning market. Osgrow, a British-based firm, exports bison, crocodile (“ideal for barbecues”) and kudu meat to customers in countries where controls on wild meat are tighter.
Wild meat is not always tasty. Black bear is “bloody and a bit metallic”. Nor is it always healthy. Doctors in Kentucky say eating squirrel brains is linked to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (better known as mad-cow disease). Squirrels are now mainly sold headless.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

New Mapping Tool Shows How Severe Nuclear Accident Could Look in U.S., Flags Risk Factors for U.S. Reactors

These radioactive plumes from severe nuclear accidents were calculated by NRDC based on the actual weather patterns of March 11-12, 2011. The result on any given day will vary according to the type of reactor accident and on the prevailing weather patterns at the time.
These five nuclear power plants had emergency shutdowns in 2011:

Why U.S. nuclear power plants are vulnerable to severe accident with nuclear fallout

A future severe nuclear accident at a U.S. nuclear power plant is a real possibility. In 2011 five nuclear power plants in the United States lost primary power due to earthquake or extreme weather events, including tornados, hurricanes, and flooding. Fortunately backup power systems kicked in at these plants and a disaster was averted. But weather is not the only risk factor. Other risk factors include:
  • Type of reactor – There are two types of reactors operating it the United States: Boiling Water Reactors (BWRs) and Pressurized Water Reactors (PWRs). Some experts judge that the design and structure of BWRs do not protect against the release of radiation during a severe accident as effectively as PWRs. The four reactors involved in the Fukushima nuclear crisis were BWRs. On the map, NRDC experts assigned a red flag to a reactor if it is a BWR.
  • Age of reactor – Reactors were designed to operate for 40 years, yet the regulatory body that oversees nuclear safety in the United States, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, has re-licensed some nuclear power plants to operate for 60 years, well beyond their originally engineered design lifetime. On the map, NRDC experts assigned a red flag to a reactor if the NRC has approved the reactor to operate for 60 years.
  • Power level of reactor – The NRC has approved many utility operators to increase the operating power of their nuclear reactors, including for Fukushima-type reactors, and in some cases multiple times and to significantly higher power levels. These so-called "power uprates" push reactors beyond what they were originally engineered to do, and could increase the radiation hazard if a nuclear accident occurred. On the map, NRDC experts assigned a red flag if the NRC has granted a reactor a power uprate.
If a person received one rad of radiation from a nuclear accident, it would increase one's chance of getting cancer by 1 in 1,000 (averaged over all ages and both sexes). And although the NRC believes that the chances of a severe accident with fallout in a core meltdown for any one of the 104 U.S. nuclear reactors is small (probability of less than 1 in 10,000 per year), can we afford the risk? Millions of Japanese people were exposed to radiation from Fukushima, increasing their risk of developing cancer, and the cost of the Fukushima accident is projected to exceed US$100 billion, and the environmental effects will last for generations. What if a meltdown occurred at one of the 65 nuclear power plants in the United States?

Why we need urgent federal action to reduce the risks of U.S. nuclear accident fallout

With 6 million Americans living within 10 miles of a U.S. nuclear power plant – the evacuation zone defined by the federal government – and more than 120 million Americans living within 50 miles of a U.S. nuclear power plant – the distance the U.S. government told Americans to evacuate from the area around the Fukushima plant – we cannot afford to stand by and hope the worst won't happen here, especially with extreme weather intensifying around the globe.
Red flags for heightened risk factors of a severe nuclear accident abound in the United States. Currently 23 U.S. nuclear reactors are the same type of reactor, a boiling water reactor (BWRs), which was involved in the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Some BWRs are operating near major American cities like Philadlephia. Nearly all of the 104 nuclear reactors operating in the United States were designed and built three to four decades ago. Despite being originally engineered for a 40-year lifespan, the NRC has approved 71 reactors at 32 nuclear power plants to operate for 60 years. And 90 percent of U.S. nuclear reactors have had their operating power increased beyond the original design engineered for them.
Yet the NRC hasn't yet made a single U.S. nuclear power plant any safer than it was since the Fukushima accident about one year ago. After the Fukushima disaster, a task force assembled by the commission's chairman identified a list of safety improvements including top tier items to be "started without unnecessary delay." But these important safety upgrades are still years away from being implemented, if ever. In fact, some of these safety improvements have been on the commission's to-do list since the 1990s.

What happens in a severe nuclear accident like at Fukushima

Even after the nuclear chain reaction at a power plant is stopped by its operators, the reactor core still needs to be continually cooled, or the fuel rods will rupture and melt from the remaining radioactive decay heat. And if the level of cooling water falls below the core, the metal sheaths containing the uranium in the fuel rods will react with air, producing explosive hydrogen gas. Therefore if power to run reactor core cooling is lost just for a matter of hours, it can lead to a meltdown – potentially releasing plumes of radioactive material into the air.
In Fukushima an earthquake caused the regional electric grid to go down, cutting off the nuclear plant's primary power. Then a tsunami flooded the low-lying diesel generators that were in place to provide backup power. Without power to cool the cores of its three fueled reactors, the severe accident at Fukushima began. Operators had to vent radioactive gases into the air in an attempt to reduce mounting pressure inside the reactor vessels. Hydrogen gas ignited and exploded in the reactor buildings, spewing plumes of radiation. Some of this fallout was blown out to sea by prevailing winds, but a plume of intense radiation spread northwest from the stricken plant for more than 50 miles. Because of the radioactive materials deposited by the plume, including cesium-137 and strontium-90, large areas in Fukushima Prefecture will be uninhabitable for generations. Lower levels of radiation drifted across other Japanese states and as far as Tokyo.

NRDC's methodology for building the U.S. nuclear fallout map

NRDC's nuclear fallout calculations were made using the weather reports from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for the specific days of March 11, 2011 and March 12, 2011. Using this historical weather data from the first days of the Fukushima accident, NRDC modeled where the radiation plumes released at Fukushima would have spread if it were a U.S. nuclear reactor that had melted down. For this work NRDC used the Department of Defense computer model "HPAC" – Hazard Prediction Assessment Capability. Some of the fallout patterns extend far from the nuclear plant, carried by strong winds blowing on those days. At other plants where the air was still in mid-March 2011, the fallout hovered over and settled on the vicinity of the plant. In our computer model of these severe nuclear accidents, the accident takes place over the course of two days with multiple releases of radiation, similar to what happened at Fukushima. As the wind changed direction over that period of time the fallout may be carried in different directions from the plant. Also shown in NRDC's map are the U.S.-government defined 10-mile evacuation zone, and 50-mile zones where the potential for land contamination would still be high in a severe nuclear accident.

Five top hackers arrested... I wonder if this could have been a false flag all along or it's just a traitor...

I'm not sure what to believe now... Though I know our super secret government is quite good at what it does... You decide who to trust. And if there are any elite hackers reading this, thanks for the crucial, dangerous work you are doing in our global village.

It also means that the FBI allowed the recent wiki leaked Stratfor communiques... Now why would they do something like that? Makes me think a bit harder about this article from the Atlantic that Techonoccult turned me onto.

False Flag - from Wikipedia.

Five arrested in high-profile cyberattacks 06 Mar 2012 Top members of the computer hacker group "Anonymous" and its offshoots were arrested and charged Tuesday after a wide-ranging investigation used the help of a group leader who was working as a secret government informant. Five of the suspects, considered by investigators among the "most sophisticated hackers in the world," were arrested in the United States and Europe and charged in a Manhattan federal court over their alleged role in high-profile cyberattacks against government agencies and large companies, according to an indictment. A sixth man, Hector Xavier Monsegur, a notorious hacker known as "Sabu," pleaded guilty in August to computer hacking and other crimes.

LulzSec boss Hector Monsegur was working for us - FBI --Monsegur, aka Sabu, turned by FBI last June --'We're chopping off the head of LulzSec' 07 Mar 2012 Police on two continents swooped on top members of computer hacking group LulzSec early today, and acting largely on evidence gathered by the organisation's leader - who sources say has been secretly working for the government for months - arrested three and charged two more with conspiracy. Charges against four of the five were based on a conspiracy case filed in New York federal court. An indictment charging the suspects, who include two men from Great Britain, two from Ireland and an American from Chicago, is expected to be unsealed today in the Southern District of New York. "This is devastating to the organisation," an FBI official involved with the investigation said. "We're chopping off the head of LulzSec." [We'll see.]

International hacking group LulzSec brought down by own leader --'They caught him and he was secretly arrested and now works for the FBI.' 06 Mar 2012 Law enforcement agents on two continents swooped in on top members of the infamous computer hacking group LulzSec early this morning, and acting largely on evidence gathered by the organization's brazen leader -- who sources say has been secretly working for the government for months -- arrested three and charged two more with conspiracy. The offshoot of the loose network of hackers, Anonymous, believed to have caused billions of dollars in damage to governments, international banks and corporations, was allegedly led by a man FoxNews.com has identified as Hector Xavier Monsegur. After the FBI unmasked Monsegur [working under the Internet alias 'Sabu'] last June, he became a cooperating witness, sources told FoxNews.com. "They caught him and he was secretly arrested and now works for the FBI," a source close to Sabu told FoxNews.com. Monsegur pleaded guilty Aug. 15 to 12 hacking-related charges and information documenting his admissions was unsealed in Southern District Court on Tuesday.