The story on Silk Road, an on-line drug bazaar, shows the power of rationalization and self-deception

September 26, 2017, 4:24 pm

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

The sad tale of Ross Ulbricht and his on-line drug bazaar called Silk Road is a good study of the outer limits of how far rationalization can carry a person.

It is also a frightening illustration of Jeremiah 17:9. From the New International Version, ponder:

The heart is deceitful above all thing and beyond cure. Who can understand it?

Considering the tale of Silk Road is useful for accountants wanting to learn about the outer fringe of the internet and he investigative power of the federal government, believers who would like an illustration of the frightening level of deceit that lives in the human heart, and anyone else wanting to learn more about the dark worlds that normal people will never see.

My posts are gathered into two collections on my other blog, Outrun Change:

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

September 7, 2017, 8:28 am

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.

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

September 6, 2017, 8:02 am

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.

Update 10/9/18 – Location and status updated.

Current status:

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

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

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

September 5, 2017, 7:56 am

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.

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.

September 4, 2017, 9:03 am

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.

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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 5.

September 1, 2017, 8:31 am

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

August 31, 2017, 6:00 am

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.

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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 3.

August 30, 2017, 7:44 am

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.

August 29, 2017, 7:24 am

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.

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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 1

August 28, 2017, 7:02 am

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.

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Another overview of blockchain technology; time to start figuring out this stuff.

August 15, 2017, 7:28 am

Sure does look like this blockchain technology is going to be a big deal. Might be time to start getting our minds wrapped around the concept.

For starters, check out this short overview:

 

 

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

For a bit more detail:

8/4/17 – Bill Sheridan at Business Learning Institute – Block chain might remake accounting. The opportunities are huge. – Introductory article is one of the better overviews I have read. It introduces the video shown above.

One sentence description of Block chain, quoting from the article:

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Happy Birthday America!

July 4, 2017, 8:59 am

Silhouette of charging Union soldier. “Happy Birthday America” by Steve Corey is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Two hundred forty-one years ago today marked the start of this wonderful, fantastic, heaven-blessed, messy, delightful, powerful, flawed, and glorious experiment called the United States of America which has delivered unimaginable levels of freedom to hundreds of millions of people here in the US of A and contributed massively to the freedom of hundreds and hundreds of millions more around the world.

Happy birthday America!

If you want a really short description of this day, consider a photo of a sign on a store’s door I saw while browsing the ‘net:

Closed on July 4

in observance of

Brexit 1776

If you are looking for a brief description of the string of events which led to signing the Declaration of Independence and the follow-on events leading to full independence, Read the rest of this entry »


Remembering those who sacrificed for our freedom

May 29, 2017, 9:46 am

Ponder a moment on Memorial Day the cost of our freedom.

 

 

 

 

 


Land of the free because of the brave

May 29, 2017, 8:04 am

Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Those of us living in the United States are blessed with religious freedom, political freedom, and economic freedom because those who went before us fought for freedom.

Many of those fighting offered up their life for freedom and the offer was accepted.

I am humbled and grateful to God that some of my ancestors are included in the long list of those who fought. I am especially humbled that a great, great grand-uncle is in the list of those who died in the defense of freedom.

Because of their sacrifice, I get to enjoy this kind of freedom:

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Justice grinds slow, but it does grind: Guilty plea for shooting of Walter Scott in North Charleston.

May 4, 2017, 10:38 am

Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

In April 2015, an officer with the North Charleston, S.C. police department shot a man in the back as the citizen slowly ran away from the officer after an altercation.

In December 2016 the officer achieved a hung verdict in his murder trial after claiming he feared for his life after a struggle for his taser. He was facing a retrial at state level.

On May 3, 2017, the officer plead guilty to the federal crime of violating the man’s civil rights. He will be sentenced later.

Justice takes time, sometimes.

After you watch the video below and read my description of the incident, you will appreciate two questions that come to mind. For background, consider I am a middle-class, middle-age, white male, who runs my own business.

Here are the two distressing questions I’ve been pondering for the past two years:

  • How often did this type of incident take place in the past, when nobody had a video recorder in their pocket?
  • How often does this type of incident take place today?

A Wall Street Journal article provides background on the plea and the case:  Former S.C. Policeman Pleads Guilty in Shooting of Walter Scott. The officer was fired immediately after the incident. The city apologized and reached a $6.5M settlement with the family.

If you have the stomach for it, feel free to watch the following video:

Please know in advance it is upsetting.

 

 

My observations:

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