Social Security Numbers are Broken beyond Repair

Imagine that you are buying a new set of wheels with cash. Being a cash transaction there is no need to negotiate loans or check credit; you have the money in your wallet. Usually, vendors are delighted when handed a thick wad of bills but we are living in unusual, no depraved, times. Before the dealer takes your wad you will probably be asked for your Social Security Number. WTF you think! It’s a cash transaction; why must government stick its inept grasping tentacles in your business?

Of course if you are financing a set of wheels, applying for a mortgage, negotiating a rental, submitting a job application, or buying a fricking big screen TV, you will be asked, over and over again, for your Social Security Number. Why are so many tiresome busybodies obsessing over nine measly, easily forged, digits? Well, cowboys and girls, the Social Security Number has morphed into a general-purpose personal tracking identifier. Busybodies covet this number because once they have it they can:

  1. Check your credit history.
  2. See if you have ever been in prison.
  3. Determine if you owe money.
  4. Track your movements from one state or city to another.

And god knows what else!

When Social Security was setup in the 1930s paranoid right wingers darkly warned that Social Security Numbers (SSNs) would be used to track people and ultimately infringe their freedoms. Silly ancient right-wingers: who really cares that they were completely right about SSNs? Only criminals, and evil people with things to hide, care about the widespread abuse of Social Security Numbers. If you believe this moronic twaddle please leave your Social Security Number in a comment on this blog. You can trust me! I would never abuse your number.

Now if you’re a big government guy or gal you will loudly assert that it’s perfectly acceptable for the government to maintain some identifier that links you to your Social Security account. On this I agree, some identifier is required, but Social Security Numbers are probably the worst possible way to do this. The ideal Social Security “Number” would:

  1. Unambiguously link you to your Social Security Account.
  2. Be impossible to counterfeit or fake.
  3. Be useless for any other purpose.

The idiotic nine digit scheme used for Social Security Numbers completely fails all three of these tests.

Let’s start with unambiguous linking. News flash: your Social Security Number does not uniquely identify you. There are many reasons for SSN duplicates with identity theft being the leading cause. Is it fair to blame SSN numbers for criminal abuse? Yes, you dumb fucks! Identity systems must operate on the bedrock principle that people are liars, cheats, and disgusting defecating naked apes. Always assume the worst of your fellow apes; you will still be disappointed. Good identifier schemes make it impossible to generate duplicates regardless of how thoroughly evil or incompetent people are. Social Security Numbers naively assume we are good people. This is asking for it.

How hard is it to counterfeit or fake Social Security Numbers? It’s so damn easy you can go to this website and push a button. While it’s unlikely that nine random digits will form a valid SSN it’s clearly not rocket science to concoct plausible SSNs. Good identifier keys are unavoidably unique. There are many high-quality unique key algorithms. SSNs are crappy keys; any database professional that advocated their use would be fired on the spot.

As for being useless for other purposes: here the failure is so complete, so total, and so absolute, that it’s hard to attribute it to mere government stupidity. I don’t blame the paranoid for thinking it was a clumsy backdoor scheme to label citizens for other purposes. Heh, even the official government Social Security Page brags that your SSN has “come to be used as a nearly universal identifier.” Anyone that contests this is an idiot. Every two-bit database out there has an SSN column in it. Many SSNs are still completely unencrypted; they’re begging software professionals like me to get into the identity theft business. Keep that in mind the next time some outfit asks for your SSN.

When you make a VISA, MasterCard or Apple Pay purchase with a “chipped card” a onetime transaction code is generated and mixed with your credit card number.1 This allows the central authority, VISA and MasterCard in this case, to verify your credit without creating a permanent number that is forever tied to your name. This scheme is vastly more secure than SSNs but falls short of high-quality cryptographic key schemes used in systems like Bitcoin. The QR code on this blog is a Bitcoin address with money in it. Try and steal my Bitcoin bitches! The point is there are sound ways of creating account links that do not invite abuse and tracking. So why the hell are we are still tolerating static, insecure, come and get it identity thieves, broken beyond repair, Social Security Numbers?


  1. One of the consequences of chipping credit cards is that it is no longer necessary to display the number on the card. You only need the number to interact with non-chipped devices. Eventually, people will figure this out and start asking for credit cards that do not display the number. I see a great advertising campaign in the future. “You can get our numberless smart card or their numbered dumb fuck card. What’s it going to be?”

Ferguson and Dark Matter

For the last month the big story here in St. Louis has been Ferguson. At least that’s what media hucksters have sold as the big story. You will have to excuse me; my interests rarely align with “the news.” I don’t watch broadcast TV, listen to the radio, or pay for newspapers. Despite my media starvation diet I am better informed than many broadcast addicts. What’s my secret?

Everyday I read scores of news stories from many Internet sources. When I gave up broadcasting a few years ago I worried that I might miss something.  Actually the exact opposite has occurred. I usually learn of things long before they are “discussed” in main stream outlets. Contemporary broadcasters remind me of short wave Radio Moscow transmissions in the 1970s. Radio Moscow was an insipid utterly predictable propaganda outlet. Listening to what they said was unnecessary. I could predict with nearly 100% accuracy what their slant on any topic would be. They only surprised me by what they didn’t cover. With propaganda only silence is news. I bet you feel the same about that broadcaster you despise. Is it really necessary to listen to MSNBC, FOX, BBC  or the CBC? Their ideological positions are almost as predictable as cold war era Radio Moscow. If your news is not surprising it’s not news; it’s noise.

Ferguson is a classic case of surprise free news. Everyone agrees that a white police officer shot and killed a black teenager. Such a lovely bare-bones tableau invites creative interpretation and that’s exactly what we got. There are hundreds of predictable Ferguson authorities. You can Google any viewpoint you want. What’s lacking in all the hysteria is what skeptics call reliable data.

To me the officer’s guilt is similar to your favorite type of Dark Matter. The case for Dark Matter is very strong. Something out there is undeniably affecting the rotation and formation of galaxies. Similarly, we have a dead teenager, and a literal smoking gun, in Ferguson. Now pay attention; this is where we separate skeptically informed thought from raving ideological demagoguery. The case for Dark Matter is strong but the case for particular types of Dark Matter is close to nonexistent. Detection experiments are ongoing, inconclusive or outright failures. Yeah, the Dark Matter science is not settled. Similarly, the case for the officer’s quilt is far from ironclad. Perhaps that explains the grand jury’s verdict. If you disagree offer incontrovertible evidence.

Of course missing incontrovertible evidence is never a problem for people who have made up their minds. People believe all sorts nonsense, ghosts, demons, past lives, central banking efficacy, but, as I often say, “belief is a bullshit word; you know or you don’t know.”  If you cannot mount a rigorous case that withstands the harshest and meanest of skeptics please calm down and refrain from looting and arson.

I Voted for Nothing

I have just returned from another biannual exercise in futility: voting in mid-term US elections. Once again my preferred candidate, none of the above, was not on the ballot; so, once again, I held my nose and did my best to sabotage the fetid dreams of the rotting things that were. Any barely sentient ape knows that voting, especially in the corrupt US system, is almost a complete waste of time. The choices we’re presented with have been exquisitely gamed by armies of conniving manipulative hacks all hell-bent on not asking the important questions.

Behold your ballot: the primary process purged principled people leaving a scummy residue of stunted subhuman choices. Most are ignorant delusional leftists, grasping smarmy right-wing car salesmen, or outright apolitical narcissist psychopaths. I wouldn’t cross the street to pee on any of them. Where are assassins when you need them?

As bad as voting is the alternative, despotic rule, is still worse so I always haul my cynically enlightened ass to the polls and do what I can to erect roadblocks. I always vote for divided government by carefully selecting bitter opposites. I will vote for Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Independents, even Communists and Greens provided I can pit them against someone they detest, abhor, loathe, hate, and want dead on the other side. I want to minimize agreement and maximize conflict because conflict always results in doing nothing, and nine times out of ten, doing nothing is vastly superior to political something. So, until we get some qualified candidates – don’t make me laugh it hurts; it’s critical to vote in people who want to smash in their opponents heads.

The original republican design of the US government recognized the fundamental importance of doing nothing and divided government into three coequal branches to prevent the political class from doing things just for the hell of it!  This basic design has degenerated into an out-of-control executive, a cowardly self-serving congress, a swamped navel gazing judiciary, and an ever-expanding underachieving overpaid bureaucracy that fills in the details on massive template laws like Obamacare. It doesn’t take much of a constitutional scholar to see that this is not what the originators intended. Today we endure a massive, bloated, expensive, inept, corrupt and stupid government run by simpletons, parasites, and criminals.

Fortunately for us, government isn’t nearly as important as political assholes of all stripes think it is! As long as ordinary citizens can buy off and safely ignore government they will tolerate its existence. So keep doing nothing boys and girls; it will keep your heads off the bloody spikes you probably deserve.

slavesuggestion

Ukraine takeaway: Don’t give up your Nukes

What’s the one sentence takeaway from the unfolding Ukraine mess? Don’t give up your nukes!  It’s unlikely that any of this would be happening if Ukraine had retained their nuclear weapons instead of turning them in for the magic beans of “international guarantees.”  It would be interesting to review the anti-nuke sales pitches made to Ukrainian officials; I’m guessing large undisclosed deposits were made to key bank accounts because such stupidity is hard to reconcile otherwise.

Nuclear weapons are so icky and evil that enlightened beings pine for a nuke free world. Why?  Because the world before nukes was just so peachy wonderful!  Surely you remember that awesome world, great states only marched off to world wars every generation or so. The strong never rolled over the weak, and we all lived in peace and prosperity. OK, I’m being sarcastic about peace and prosperity, but consider this, since the advent of nuclear weapons, there have been no, great state vs. great state, major wars. [1] The simple truth is: nuclear weapons have done more for world peace than all the naïve treaties, peace conferences and marches ever held.

War, despite the propaganda to the contrary, is a fundamentally rational undertaking. There’s a famous line in the movie Patton. While watching a long line of trucks and armored vehicles roll over Sicilian countryside the great general declares that all human achievements pale in comparison to war.  Before getting your peacenik panties in an indigent bloodstained bunch think about what this means.  It’s an irrefutable historical fact that humans have invested enormous amounts of time and energy planning and executing wars. Some wars are accidental but most are planned, and here’s the surprisingly bit, many of the plans make perfect business sense. If you can crush an opponent and advance your interests with acceptable losses what’s going to stop you:  international law, naïve new age dolts, human decency, the UN?  How about nuclear weapons? Nuclear weapons have pushed losses beyond acceptable and that is the only reason great states have not directly engaged in the last seventy years.

Unfortunately, the old world of a few nuclear states and a naïve non-proliferation treaty is unwinding. It was pretty frayed before the Ukraine crisis but now it’s dead. Any state that depends on a nuclear armed ally coming their rescue is reconsidering. Can Japan depend on the US to back it up in a conflict with China? What about Australia?  Even Canada has to wonder if anyone has their back in the arctic. In the years ahead we are going to see a rash of new nuclear powers.  I doubt these new powers will be stupid enough to detonate bombs in the open. Most will follow the Israeli model: acquire the ability but never officially disclose it. I suspect Iran is already a member of this club simply because US intelligence, (don’t make me laugh), says otherwise. The world is going to get a lot more scary but don’t worry you can only die – in excruciating pain — once.

 

[1] There have been dozens of great state vs. small state and hundreds of small state vs. smaller state wars but no nuclear powers, even relatively crazy ones like Pakistan and India, have come to nuclear blows. I predict that when Iran shows nuclear instead of nuking Israel it will suddenly find reasons not to.  There’s nothing like immediate annihilation to clear the mind.

Bitcoin is a Perfect Protest

VbitcoinThe most intelligent comment I have read about Bitcoin is that it’s a perfect protest. Bitcoin went live in 2009 shortly after the 2008 financial crisis. The 2008 crisis was a defining moment. Prior to that date I believed that the US government, despite its obvious warts, short comings and long checkered history was still partly accountable to the electorate.  I didn’t buy the widespread cynical notion that modern elections are largely meaningless dog and pony shows that help sell the illusion that the people are in charge. I seriously thought there were important differences between Barak Obama, Hillary Clinton and John McCain. It’s embarrassing to confess such naivety.

Before 2008 I was a good little cog in the machine: obediently paying my taxes and being a productive member of society. I was a chump: a silly stupid chump, but lucky for me, the “crap sandwich” bank bailout cured my naivety. Despite being overwhelmingly rejected by the public and initially rejected by Congress the crap sandwich was forced down our throats and all three presidential contenders voted for it.  When push came to shove there were no significant differences between liberal democrats and conservative republicans, both groups lined up to betray and indebt the public and we’ve been suffering, and will continue to suffer, the consequences for years to come.

The 2008 financial crisis, and the comical US election that followed it, taught me some important lessons:

  1. If none of the above is not on the ballot the election is fraudulent. The political systems in the countries I have lived in depend on presenting limited, and frankly insulting choices, to the electorate. If anyone is going to seriously argue that Barak Obama and John McCain were the best that a country of three hundred million souls could offer then we are lost. If I was lost in the woods with Obama and McCain I wouldn’t take a millisecond of direction from either and might consider getting rid of them on the spot to improve my chances of survival. A candidate must be better than nothing, and if nothing is superior to the highly gamed political selections put forward then nothing should be on the ballot! I will return to this theme in future posts. The next time you cast a ballot look for none of the above. If none of the above is not present the election is illegitimate and you are being used to put a stamp of public approval on what’s very probably a vacuous choice.
  2. You can tell we’re dealing with a real issue when the ruling class closes ranks. Our idiotic media maelstrom is inconsequential noise that is best ignored.  Will a society with gay marriage manage their finances better than a society without gay marriage?  Will free birth control pills for sluts impact trade balances? Will crosses on public lands constrain money creation?  Does the size of Kim Kardashian’s ass moderate capital controls?  Get in the habit of asking such questions. If the question is absurd, or if the answer doesn’t matter, it’s a distraction.  On the other hand if you see alleged ideological enemies coming together to promote a critical common good beware! In 2008 the flamboyant cosmetic differences between liberals and conservatives vanished removing even the illusion of choice. To bailout, or not bailout, was a real issue and with real issues there is no choice. We’ve recently witnessed rank closing on Edward Snowden. Again, both left-wing democrats and right-wing republicans lined up to declare Snowden a traitor and praise the glories of our NSA surveillance state. Clearly public privacy is another real issue and with real issues there is no choice.
  3. Human beings cannot be trusted with money creation.  The 2008 bank bailout was outrageous for two primary reasons. It lavishly rewarded bad behavior and it created money to do it. Money creation is convoluted; many argue that commercial banks create the bulk of money through loans, others claim the Federal Reserve creates money when buying government bonds and treasuries. The food chain is twisted but nobody disputes that at the base of the chain money is created out of nothing. Everything boils down to ledger entries made by sanctioned authorities. There is no mining, there is no collateral, there’s nothing but an invisible yoke that’s eventually placed on the public’s head. The invisible yoke has briefly shown itself in the fiery debt limit fights about the full faith and credit of the United States. What the hell is the full faith and credit of the United States? It’s nothing more than a promise that the government will somehow extract the means to make payments to that long forgotten ledger entry. If the public fully understood that their labor is balanced against nothing they would refuse to pay and the entire system would collapse. The system is such a perfect scam it’s hard not to admire it. Oh, it will eventually collapse; fiat money always goes to zero, but in the meanwhile it affords unlimited fiscal flexibility to the ruling class. Who gets to create money is a real issue and once again there is no choice about real issues.

There has been a lot of nonsense written about Bitcoin but one thing is clear it serves as a brilliant financial foil so I am not surprised to see recent worldwide efforts to suppress it. The most frightening thing about Bitcoin is that it gets people asking questions about money. For example:

  1. Exactly what is money?  Every crank has their own definition of money. What amuses me is that both Gold cranks and fiat cranks have lambasted Bitcoin for being arbitrary and made up. One of the best retorts to this confused drivel notes that Bitcoin is to “real money” like the Flying Spaghetti Monster is to “real religion.” Everyone sees the Flying Spaghetti Monster is made up, but – oddly – nobody can mount rational arguments explaining why it’s more made up than the “real thing.” Bitcoin is capable of playing the role of money, so in proper contexts it is money.
  2. Why do banking authorities have exclusive money creation rights? The historic rationale was to prevent counterfeiting. Counterfeiting is irresistible to anyone in a position to do it. By giving money creation rights to select authorities and using deadly force on counterfeiters governments could claim they were protecting the “currency of the realm.” It is many orders of magnitude more difficult to counterfeit Bitcoins than US dollars or any national currency. To counterfeit a Bitcoin you have to break a hard cryptographic hash.  Technology has rendered the rationale for central money creation authorities obsolete.
  3. Should money be created without limit from nothing? Now that monetary creation restraints, historically ties to gold, no longer exist the only limit on creating money out of nothing is the stupidity of the public. How much debt can you get poor dumb suckers to accept before they rebel? Bitcoins are not created out of nothing. The mining process validates the public ledger, the Blockchain, and insures that nobody is counterfeiting coins or double spending. Mined coins are a reward for valuable network services. Additionally, there is no central creation authority. Competing miners create Bitcoins all over the world. This system is not without fault and Bitcoin variants are exploring technical improvements but the Bitcoin creation process is essentially a mathematically secured network phenomenon and it is much harder to corrupt than bribing a few central bankers.
  4. Why do authorities maintain the right to confiscate private funds? A Bitcoin feature that is particularly disturbing to authorities is that it’s not difficult to prevent even powerful entities from seizing coins. A coin cannot be moved or spent unless you get its private key. If you do not know the private key a Bitcoin will just sit in the Blockchain taunting goons that covet it. In a Bitcoin economy it will be difficult to garnish wages, block money transfers and seize assets. How will the state survive?
  5. Why must fees be levied when moving money across national borders? The public has never accepted this little rape. How many of us have lied to custom officials when asked about how much cash we’re carrying?  I’m guessing a fair fraction of all travelers. We all know it’s none of their damn business but being good little cogs we bend over and submit to state sodomy. Bitcoin penetrates borders with the same ease that custom authorities conduct cavity searches. Go ahead cut off coin movement! All you have to do is turn off the Internet, commander all USB ports, block old fashioned paper mail and learn how to read people’s minds. Any information storage and transmission device, including the human brain, can be used to move coins. Go fuck yourself customs. One day money will be free to move without your permission or consent!

Obviously we cannot have too many people asking such questions. Mathematically sound, open source, publicly validated and distributed real money like Bitcoin must be ridiculed, harassed and stopped. Left unchecked it will cauterize an important component of state power: arbitrary money creation rights.  By providing an elegant mathematical model of how a world without central banking and national currencies might function Bitcoin is a perfect protest: a good idea that our corrupt “leaders” cannot honestly answer.

Sorry PBS you already have my Money

PBS beg-a-thonPBS is begging for money again. PBS is a US public broadcasting network. Like all public English language broadcasters, (CBC Canada, ABC Australia, BBC UK), PBS is filled with tiresome left wingers that do not see themselves as left wingers. It’s still easy to find disingenuous tools in these intuitions that publicly declare they’re bias free.

Really?

There’s nothing but biased broadcasting! The only remotely objective broadcasting is weather forecasting and even that’s often ruined by climate change hysterics. Right wingers are equally biased but they’re generally more aware of it. Not because they’re richer, taller, better educated and more handsome than left wingers but simply because they’re exposed to non-stop derision and mockery. If you seek balanced budgets you’re obviously a racist, baby killing, privileged white male. It’s only logical. My answer to insufferable bias is to change the channel or click elsewhere which brings me back to PBS.

FOX News haters have the option of not watching and not paying for FOX News. PBS, CBC, ABC & BBC haters have the option of not watching and paying for PBS, CBC, ABC & BBC. Do you see the logical asymmetry? There’s a missing not when it comes to public broadcasters. We are not given a choice when it comes to paying for their crap. Lack of choice has another name: coercion. Just try not paying for PBS, CBC, ABC & BBC and see what happens? At some point an oppressive and utterly thuggish national taxation authority will come down on your racist, baby killing, privileged white male head.

Lefties don’t see a problem here. What’s the big deal? We have elections and vote in legislatures that pass laws that we, as members of representative democracies, approve of. Some of these laws fund stuff we don’t like. As a card-carrying lefty I detest military spending and corporate tax breaks but you don’t see me going on about it.

Really?

I can trump your lefty love of democracy by demanding more it. How about public democratic line item budgeting? I would be absolutely delighted if our duly elected legislatures presented us with a long list of proposed government expenses and then charged us with voting, line by line, for what we like and don’t like. Lefties could democratically vote down military and corporate taxes. Righties could democratically vote down PBS and foreign aid. Any measure commanding majority support gets funded and everything else gets dropped! I suspect, if presented with such a list, we’d very quickly come to our financial senses but what are the chances such a list will ever be presented to citizens of the US, Canada, Australia or any other freaking country? Snowballs in Hell get better odds.

So what’s a fiscally sane person to do when besieged with the plaintive cries of partially publicly funded entities begging for more cash? Sorry PBS – you’ve already picked my pockets. Coerced charity is not charity. Until you’re completely weaned from the government teat you will never get another dime from this racist, baby killing, privileged white male.

I write my Congresswoman about Syria

I just emailed this to my Congresswoman, Ann Wagner, 2nd district Missouri. I’m going to make sure I’m on the NSA’s naughty malcontent list.

Dear Ann,

Your summer vacation from Congress is coming to an end. Soon you will be back in Washington dealing with little problems like: runaway deficit financing, relentless FED driven currency debasement, rampant illegal immigration, and finally, what to do about Syria.

You’re probably surprised that the Obama administration punted on Syria and threw you this hand grenade. By now you’ve noticed that the Light-Bringer’s administration only goes to Congress to steal or print more money, (debit limit), ram through hideous partisan, “have to pass it to find out what’s in it,” bills, (Obamacare), or get begrudging constitutionally mandated approval for political appointee hacks. Of course Obama despises Congress. It’s the most American thing about him.

Ann, you’re from Missouri, so you probably know that Missouri’s most famous native son, Mark Twain, maintained a complete and robust contempt for your institution.

Suppose you were an idiot, and suppose you were a member of Congress; but I repeat myself.

Mark Twain

No one has characterized the simpering idiocy of Congress better. Mark did not suffer fools well and he certainly wasn’t naive or stupid enough to believe his congressman, or congresswoman, actually represented him.

Ann, I’m afraid I share Mark’s bleak view, but just for the sake of argument, let’s assume you do represent me. I did vote for you. And, as I recall, I didn’t have to hold my nose or look down ballot for my default, “anyone but that shithead,” option. I actually felt you were the best person for the job. That you’ve kept out of the news, no sex scandals, no outrageous pork projects, no hysterical CSPAN fits, no public bitch slapping, and no DUIs1 makes me think you’re actually a decent human being even though you associate with known felons.

Well as one decent human being to another I am asking you to vote no on any motion that authorizes the use of force in Syria.

I’d bet that I know far more about the Middle East than you or the vast majority of your peers in Congress. I lived in Iran and Lebanon. I was evacuated from Beirut during the 1967 Arab Israeli War. I’m married to an Iranian refugee. She had to flee her native country after protesting Khomeini’s thugs in the early 1980’s. The Middle East is not a TV reality show for me. When I hear of bombs falling in the Beqaa valley I think about how I camped down the road.

When I say there are no good options in Syria I am not running off teleprompter. On one side you have Assad’s Ba’athist criminals: essentially modern Nazis. That delusional dolts like your colleague, Nancy Pelosi, thought Assad was a reformer is partly why we think you’re all morons. Opposing Assad is a rag-tag coalition of rebels, Islamists and crazy cannibal Jihadists. This is a war that both sides deserve to lose. Firing a few cruise missiles into this mess is not going to alter the outcome or elevate the world’s low opinion of Americans. All it will do is add more legions of US hating Middle Easterners to what’s already a vast throng.

Ann, how would you feel if some inept clueless foreign power lobbed a few drone missiles into Saint Louis neighborhoods because they objected to local law enforcement? I’m pretty sure you’d be livid: boiling with incandescent rage. Imagine how your mood will improve when you learn the attack was calibrated to avoid mockery. Would you feel a new-found respect for the bombers? I’m guessing your new life’s work would be striking back. This is what our remote control war is doing. It’s creating far more enemies than it kills.

Ann, do you really want to be a part of this? What we are doing is catastrophically stupid and has to stop. Vote no on Syria.

Respectfully, I’m not kidding, yours

John Baker Saint Louis County


  1. We set a very low bar for Congress.