Supreme Court Decision – Electronic Devices Granted Some Protection at Border Crossings

Border crossings are a great place for government bureaucrats to harass the citizenry. Over the past several years, most of us have heard horror stories in this regard. I highlighted several stories of border crossing concerns last year, with the two most interesting being:

Why I Will Never, Ever, Go Back to the United States by Niels Gerson Lohman

and

If Flying into the UK, Your Phone Can Be Seized and Data Downloaded Without Suspicion

One of the greatest fears of activists, journalists and average citizens alike, is that some border patrol agent can confiscate your electronics on a whim and then use sophisticated software to break your passwords and look through all your personal files and data. Fortunately, the Supreme Court just let stand the ruling by an appellate court, which ruled that a deep forensics analysis of one’s electronics can only occur if there is “reasonable suspicion” of criminal activity. That’s at least a start in the right direction.

From Wired:

Without issuing a ruling, the justices let stand an appeals court’s decision that U.S. border agents may indeed undertake a search of a traveler’s gadgets content on a whim, just like they could with a suitcase or a vehicle. That is known as the ”border search exception” of United States law, where travelers can be searched without a warrant as they enter the country. The Obama administration has aggressively used this power to search travelers’ laptops, sometimes copying the hard drive before returning the computer.

However, in a rare win for digital privacy, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling last year concluded that a deeper forensic analysis by border officials using software to decrypt password-protected files or to locate deleted files now requires “reasonable suspicion” of criminal activity — an outcome the justices refused to tinker with today.

That means, in essence, the authorities must have some facts, rather than a hunch, that illegal activity is afoot to perform a forensic analysis on electronics seized along the border of the western United States.

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Amagi Metals: The Place to Buy Precious Metals with Bitcoin

Even those in the precious metals community who do not support Bitcoin, cannot deny two very significant facts. First, there is an undeniable overlap between many of those in the precious metals community and those within the Bitcoin ecosystem. Second, many of the early adopters of BTC have amassed sizable fortunes. So we have a captive audience of potential precious metals buyers who have exponentially more wealth than they had two years ago. You might think it’d be a good idea to offer gold and silver for sale for Bitcoin. That’s where Amagi Metals comes in.

Over the past several months I have come to know Stephen Macaskill, the man behind Amagi Metals, which is based just 30 miles east of me in Denver, Colorado. Stephen saw the potential to accept Bitcoin before most people had even heard of it. Specifically, the company was started in 2008 and began accepting BTC in November 2012. The rewards reaped from this decision have been enormous, with a reported $900,000 in Bitcoin for precious metals sales over Thanksgiving weekend alone! As such, the Bitcoin part of the business supports at least one full time employee at this point.

Those in the precious metals community should understand and appreciate the fact that many of the fortunes made in Bitcoin ultimately represent considerable buying power directed at those wise enough to take advantage. A merchant takes no BTC volatility risk either, as long as they use a payment processor like Coinbase (check out this interview with the founder) or BitPay.

As such, for those looking to spend some bitcoin on bars and coins, I strongly suggest checking out Amagi Metals.

In Liberty,
Michael Krieger

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Amagi Metals: The Place to Buy Precious Metals with Bitcoin originally appeared on A Lightning War for Liberty on January 14, 2014.

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Meanwhile in Spain…

Things have gotten a bit feisty in the Spanish city of Burgos, where violent protests have emerged in recent days over the decision to reduce the size of a road by half. It seems the protestors made a special point to vent their anger at a branch of Spanish bank Santander.

Don’t worry though, everything’s just fine. Nothing to see here serfs, move along. Recovery is proceeding as planned.

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Meanwhile in Spain… originally appeared on A Lightning War for Liberty on January 13, 2014.

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The Trouble With Chris Christie by Chris Hedges

Christie is the caricature of a Third World despot. He has a vicious temper, a propensity to bully and belittle those weaker than himself, an insatiable thirst for revenge against real or perceived enemies, and little respect for the law and, as recent events have made clear, for the truth.

– Chris Hedges in his latest article: The Trouble with Chris Christie

Chris Christie is bad news. I have been saying this for a while now, and published my first post about it back in late July in the piece: Chris Christie Calls Libertarianism a “Dangerous Thought.” There is no doubt in my mind that Christie is a egomaniac with fascist tendencies, coupled with a temperament and consciousness that craves power for the sake of power itself, as well as to stoke his own sense of self-importance.

On that note, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and courageous, American patriot, Chris Hedges, has written an excellent expose of Christie. I have highlighted some excerpts below.

From Truth Dig:

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has been Wall Street’s anointed son for the presidency. He is backed by the most ruthless and corrupt figures in New Jersey politics, including the New Jersey multimillionaire and hard-line Democratic boss George Norcross III. Among his other supporters are many hedge fund managers and corporate executives and some of the nation’s most retrograde billionaires, including the Koch brothers. The brewing scandal over the closing of traffic lanes on the George Washington Bridge apparently in retaliation for the Fort Lee mayor’s refusal to support the governor’s 2013 re-election is a window into how federal agencies and the security and surveillance apparatus would be routinely employed in a Christie presidency to punish anyone who challenged this tiny cabal’s grip on power.

Christie is the caricature of a Third World despot. He has a vicious temper, a propensity to bully and belittle those weaker than himself, an insatiable thirst for revenge against real or perceived enemies, and little respect for the law and, as recent events have made clear, for the truth. He is gripped by a bottomless hedonism that includes a demand for private jets, huge entourages, exclusive hotels and lavish meals. Wall Street and the security and surveillance apparatus want a real son of a bitch in power, someone with the moral compass of Al Capone, in order to ruthlessly silence and crush those of us who are working to overthrow the corporate state. They have had enough of what they perceive to be Barack Obama’s softness. Christie fits the profile and he is drooling for the opportunity.

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GoldMoney Adds Bitcoin to its Suite of Services

The explosion in the price and popularity of Bitcoin over the past six months has caused a major rift within the precious metals community. It is quite clear which side I am on, and quite frankly, I am having a hard time understanding the outright hostility toward Bitcoin from many gold and silver stackers. The disdain toward Bitcoin borders on dogmatic religious type hostility characterized by a “gold and silver or nothing” mentality, while the attitude from folks in my camp consists of a “let’s support this experiment and see how it works” mentality, while still maintaining a very positive stance on the precious metals as a store of value. As I have said many times before, gold is a store of value, while Bitcoin is primarily a disruptive technology and innovative payment system that is now in direct competition with the traditional financial system. Seeing value in one, doesn’t preclude seeing value in the other.

It appears that the folks at GoldMoney understand this, and have just announced Bitcoin cold storage as a new service.

From the the UK’s Independent: 

One of the UK’s leading precious metals storage firms is adding an altogether more unusual commodity to its vaults – Bitcoin.

GoldMoney Group, which holds $1.4 billion worth of precious metals for customers, is setting up a new business specializing in “cold” storage of Bitcoin, an increasingly popular digital currency. Netagio will encrypt Bitcoins and store them on offline storage devices in secure vaults.

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How Bitcoin Could Serve the Marijuana Industry as Banks Remain Too Scared to Enter

The reason venture capitalists have become so intrigued with Bitcoin over the past year or so is because it is what the industry refers to as a “disruptive technology.” Some of the key tenets of a disruptive technology are that it allows people and businesses within a certain industry (or industries) to do things cheaper, faster, and better than before by a significant, if not revolutionary margin. Bitcoin easily checks all these boxes. Even more than that, it also frees humanity from the vengeful whims, or simply the bureaucratic inefficiencies, of the state apparatus. Case in point, when Wikileaks was unable to access the traditional banking system due to a state sponsored blockade, they were still able to obtain funds through Bitcoin. In fact, that specific example, is the primary reason that I officially got behind Bitcoin in late summer 2012. I made this point clear in my debut article on the topic titled: Bitcoin: A Way to Fight Back Against the Financial Terrorists?

Which brings me to the topic of today’s post. Medical marijuana is already legal in 20 states plus the District of Columbia. It is also completely legal for recreational use in two states; Colorado where I reside, as well as Washington State. Nevertheless, big daddy government still thinks it knows best and continues to classify the relatively benign substance as a schedule one drug under federal law. As such, the banking system, (including state banks) is simply to afraid to get involved. Enter Bitcoin.

Well at least that is what I suspect will happen. As of now, it has been anecdotally reported that one dispensary has made Bitcoin payments an option, but I haven’t seen any clarification as to which one. I see this as a fantastic opportunity for both the Bitcoin community as well as the marijuana industry to come together to solve a major problem. It could be a huge win-win for both. The main question on my mind at this point is whether or not the main Bitcoin payment processing companies Coinbase and BitPay will agree to play along…

First let’s examine the problem. A recent article from the New York Times highlighted it. Here are some key excerpts.

The New York Times writes:

Legal marijuana merchants like Mr. Kunkel — mainly medical marijuana outlets but also, starting this year, shops that sell recreational marijuana in Colorado and Washington — are grappling with a pressing predicament: Their businesses are conducted almost entirely in cash because it is exceedingly difficult for them to open and maintain bank accounts, and thus accept credit cards.

As a result, banks, including state-chartered ones, are reluctant to provide traditional services to marijuana businesses. They fear that federal regulators and law enforcement authorities might punish them, with measures like large fines, for violating prohibitions on money-laundering, among other federal laws and regulations.

“Banking is the most urgent issue facing the legal cannabis industry today,” said Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association in Washington, D.C. Saying legal marijuana sales in the United States could reach $3 billion this year, Mr. Smith added: “So much money floating around outside the banking system is not safe, and it is not in anyone’s interest. Federal law needs to be harmonized with state laws.”

The limitations have created unique burdens for legal marijuana business owners. They pay employees with envelopes of cash. They haul Chipotle and Nordstrom bags containing thousands of dollars in $10 and $20 bills to supermarkets to buy money orders. When they are able to open bank accounts — often under false pretenses — many have taken to storing money in Tupperware containers filled with air fresheners to mask the smell of marijuana.

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BitPay is Now Adding 1,000 New Merchants Per Week

Earlier today, the Bitcoin news website Coindesk reported that BitPay is adding 1,000 new merchants per week, within an article highlighting the fact that private jet company PrivateFly had just teamed up with the payment processor to accept BTC for its charter flights.

Just to put this into perspective and understand just how staggering this growth it, BitPay only first surpassed 1,000 total merchants in September 2012 and a total of 10,000 in September 2013. At its current growth rate, the company is set to double the milestone of 10,000 merchants every two and a half months. Incredible.

From Coindesk:

“We believe that merchants are starting to see the value that accepting bitcoin can bring to their business,” said BitPay’s Jan Jahosky. “We’re adding merchants at a pace of 1,000 new merchants per week.”

“We expect exponential growth in the popularity of bitcoin around the world with both merchants and consumers, and anticipate seeing the biggest growth in China, India, Russia and South America.”

Full article here.

In Liberty,
Mike

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BitPay is Now Adding 1,000 New Merchants Per Week originally appeared on A Lightning War for Liberty on January 11, 2014.

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A Year Ago Today We Lost Aaron Swartz – R.I.P.

Exactly one year ago today, the world lost a kind, brilliant and courageous human being. Aaron Swartz, who had already accomplished so much in his short time with us, was driven to suicide by an out of control, unenlightened and increasingly fascistic government, determined to prosecute this gentle genius.

In remembrance of Aarron, I am reposting in full, the post I wrote about him and his story shortly after his death one year ago titled: Remembering Internet Prodigy and Activist Aaron Swartz (1986-2013): Your Life is an Inspiration.

Rest in Peace.

Remembering Internet Prodigy and Activist Aaron Swartz (1986-2013): Your Life is an Inspiration

It takes a person like Aaron Swartz to remind you how little you are actually doing to bring forth social, political and economic justice in this increasingly insane and sick world.  I’m not exaggerating when I say his life was an inspiration.   At 14 years old he helped start the RSS feed system, which so many now use to read content online.  He also co-founded Reddit, and its sale to Conde Nast is what afforded him the resources to dedicate his life to the defense of a free and open internet.  His most remarkable success in this regard was the creation of the organization Demand Progress, which was instrumental in defeating the internet censorship bill know as SOPA (the Stop Online Piracy Act).

He ran afoul of the law due to his actions in the fall of 2010 when he downloaded millions of academic journal articles from the nonprofit online database JSTOR.  While JSTOR could have pursued charges against Aaron for his activities, they decided against it.  However, our Federal Government was not so kind.  They decided to make an example of Aaron and charged him with multiple felonies.  Charges that carried up to 35 years in prison and $1 million in fines.  Aaron was found dead in his Brooklyn apartment this past Friday, in an apparent suicide.

If you had asked me about Aaron Swartz three days ago I could have told you none of the above.  This is despite the fact that I now spend pretty much all of my time trying to read through news and understand the true nature of the world around me.  Even more pathetically, it is despite the fact that a close friend of mine had met Aaron this past summer and was trying to coordinate a time for us all to meet.  Sadly, we never connected.

As part of my tribute to Aaron, I will commit myself even more fully to the cause of freedom in America.  I spent the last 12 hours reading about him and I have compiled some of the most interesting excerpts from various sources below.  Please take the time.

First from the official statement from his family and partner:

Aaron’s death is not simply a personal tragedy. It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach.Decisions made by officials in the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney’s office and at MIT contributed to his death. The US Attorney’s office pursued an exceptionally harsh array of charges, carrying potentially over 30 years in prison, to punish an alleged crime that had no victims. Meanwhile, unlike JSTOR, MIT refused to stand up for Aaron and its own community’s most cherished principles.

Next from Lawrence Lessig, the director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University and the Roy L. Furman Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and friend of Aaron.  He writes:

Early on, and to its great credit, JSTOR figured “appropriate” out: They declined to pursue their own action against Aaron, and they asked the government to drop its. MIT, to its great shame, was not as clear, and so the prosecutor had the excuse he needed to continue his war against the “criminal” who we who loved him knew as Aaron.

From the beginning, the government worked as hard as it could to characterize what Aaron did in the most extreme and absurd way. The “property” Aaron had “stolen,” we were told, was worth “millions of dollars” — with the hint, and then the suggestion, that his aim must have been to profit from his crime. But anyone who says that there is money to be made in a stash of ACADEMIC ARTICLES is either an idiot or a liar. It was clear what this was not, yet our government continued to push as if it had caught the 9/11 terrorists red-handed.

I get wrong. But I also get proportionality. And if you don’t get both, you don’t deserve to have the power of the United States government behind you.

For remember, we live in a world where the architects of the financial crisis regularly dine at the White House — and where even those brought to “justice” never even have to admit any wrongdoing, let alone be labeled “felons.”

From the Huffington Post:

Swartz spent the last two years fighting federal hacking charges. In July 2011, prosecutor Scott Garland working under U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz, a politician with her eye on the governor’s mansion, charged Swartz with four counts of felony misconduct — charges that were deemed outrageous by internet experts who understood the case, and wholly unnecessary by the parties Swartz was accused of wronging.

Swartz repeatedly sought to reduce the charges to a level below felony status, but prosecutors pressed on, adding additional charges so that by September 2012 Swartz faced 13 felony counts and up to half a century in prison.

Swartz’s friend Henry Farrell, a political scientist at George Washington University, also pointed at the DOJ. “They sought felony convictions with decades of prison time for actions which, if they were illegal at all, were at most misdemeanors.”

Had JSTOR wanted to pursue civil charges against Swartz for breach of contract, it could have. But JSTOR did not, and washed its hands of the whole affair.

Last June, Swartz told HuffPost that both JSTOR and MIT had advised prosecutors they were not interested in pursuing criminal or civil charges.

But the government pressed on, interpreting Swartz’s actions as a federal crime, alleging mass theft, damaged computers and wire fraud, and suggesting that Swartz stood to gain financially.

JSTOR issued a statement late on Saturday expressing regret at Swartz’s passing, criticizing his prosecution.

“The case is one that we ourselves had regretted being drawn into from the outset, since JSTOR’s mission is to foster widespread access to the world’s body of scholarly knowledge,” the statement reads. “At the same time, as one of the largest archives of scholarly literature in the world, we must be careful stewards of the information entrusted to us by the owners and creators of that content. To that end, Aaron returned the data he had in his possession and JSTOR settled any civil claims we might have had against him in June 2011.”

From Glenn Greenwald at the Guardian:

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Overstock’s First Day of Bitcoin – $130,000 in Sales, 850 Transactions, CEO is “Stunned”

Upon the conclusion of the Senate hearing on Bitcoin this past November, I tweeted that I thought we had entered Phase 2 of the Bitcoin story. A month later, following news that Andreessen Horowitz had led an venture capital investment of $25 million in Coinbase, I wrote:

As I tweeted at the time, I think Bitcoin began phase two of its growth and adoption cycle upon the conclusion of the Senate hearings last month (I suggest reading: My Thoughts on the Bitcoin Hearing).

I think phase two will be primarily characterized by two things. More mainstream adoption and ease of use, as well as increasingly large investments by venture capitalists. In the past 24 hours, we have seen evidence of both.

Phase 2 so far is going even more positively than I had expected. Overstock.com accelerated its plans to accept BTC by many months, and the early rollout has been a massive success. The company’s CEO just tweeted:

This is absolutely huge news and any retail CEO worth their salt will immediately begin to look into Bitcoin adoption.

I hope financial publications that missed the biggest financial story of 2013 continue to mock it with covers of unicorns and waterfalls. It’s the most bullish thing I can imagine.

In Liberty,
Mike

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Overstock’s First Day of Bitcoin – $130,000 in Sales, 850 Transactions, CEO is “Stunned” originally appeared on A Lightning War for Liberty on January 10, 2014.

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Humana Warns of “‘Adverse ObamaCare Enrollment Mix”

Thought the incredibly unpopular ObamaCare health plan (the most epic disaster story was the woman who was touted as a success and then later kicked off her plan) had put most of its problems behind it? Think again. Yesterday, after the stock market close, health insurer Humana warned that the “risk mix” of those who have signed up for the program will be “more adverse than previously expected.”

In plain english what this means is that only old and sick people are signing up, while younger generations with piles of student debt, a couch in their parents’ basements and no jobs decide to ride things out uninsured.

Honestly, I can’t blame them, as I just received my own 12% rate hike the other day. Happy New Year to you too Barry.

From Investor’s Business Daily:

Humana said the “risk mix” of its ObamaCare exchange members will be “more adverse than previously expected,” the latest evidence that the health reform is attracting older, sicker Americans than originally projected.

The health insurer, in an SEC filing late Thursday, cited the Obama administration’s 11th hour decision to let people stay on plans that had been cancelled due to ObamaCare regulations. The White House was reacting to political anger of President Obama’s “if you like your plan, you can keep it” vow.

Humana made no mention of the administration’s late December decision to let people with cancelled plans avoid the individual mandate tax penalty in 2014. Those who choose to forgo insurance presumably will be younger and healthier.

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