Paranoia + Precaution = The Dead Man’s Switch

April 30, 2010

My wife has often accused me of being rather naive. I tend to think the world and all its people are fundamentally good, that evil is simply an aberration, that bad people are just waiting, willing, and eager to be reasoned back to their true goodness. In these respects I admit I am probably an idiot. My wife has joked on more than one occasion that the part of my brain which should be more suspicious of people was used to store an encyclopedic knowledge of Star Trek.

That having been said, I can sometimes find or summon my paranoia and take necessary precautions. Such has been the case with my efforts to share the information I have. But some recent events have made me concerned.

I think it now important that I disclose one additional element of protection I put in place, because only through it being known do I derive the prophylactic benefit I’d hoped I would not need.

Before publishing my stories I put a dead man’s switch script on several anonymous, prepaid servers. If I should fail to contact any of those servers for longer than 30 days, the script will decrypt and send an archive of information out to several dozen former colleagues, several news organizations, as well as several public and private entities likely to be interested and supportive to this cause. The archive contains my personal information, scans of relevant credentials, and scans of critical pages from my notes/journals documenting the topics I am disclosing. The mechanism for extending the delay of the dead man’s switch cannot be reproduced without me and I cannot be coerced into extending it. As anyone who knows me is aware I perform extremely poorly under stress, and the specific mental task required for me to postpone the information delivery has been chosen by me because it is one I cannot perform under stress. (In response to an inquiry about this last item, I have now published Mutable Thought-Memory Method describing some of how this works.).


The Unavoidable Ignorance of Dr. Etumbe & I

April 27, 2010

I began to see a therapist last November. I’ll call her Dr. Rilka. She has a PhD in psychology from a US university as well as having begun her career as a medical doctor in one of the breakaway former Soviet republics. On my second visit to see her I broke the nervous tension I was feeling by making the rather stupid joke, “You should be called Doctor Doctor Rilka, or perhaps Dr. Rilka squared.” She must have heard that joke more than a few times before, it did not appear to strike her as particularly witty.

My life felt like it was falling apart. My career was destabilized and uncertain, my marriage was unraveling, one child was already out the door, and a much beloved dog had died. If I had a guitar and a pick up truck I’d have had all the ingredients I needed for a great country music song.

Leaving the relative security of NASA for life as a consultant was a mixed blessing. I could make more money and work fewer hours, but each of these new hours seemed to contain three of the old ones. Government work is generally comfortable work. You are expected to go only as fast as you have gone in the past, when not under the pressure of near term deadlines. Now I am hired onto projects because they are months overdue and millions over budget, and I am made to pay the price in my blood for the sins of other peoples’ prior poor decisions. It can feel like a contract job with the devil. I had not imagined myself ever able to command the hourly rate I do now, but neither had I imagined I could lose my love of my profession, software engineering. The passion I once felt for it gave me this profound sense that every day I went in to work making a free choice to be a software engineer, that if I suddenly found myself with millions in the bank, the projects I might choose to work on might change but the work I chose to do would remain the same. My vocation was my avocation was my hobby was my life. Just a year later here I am at 5:45 am in a neighborhood diner, with two hours to kill before a conference call with a team on the East coast, writing about my life to escape living my life.

How and why I left NASA didn’t help. I left because the lie involved in staying at NASA had become untenable. If they had technology such as the faster than light quantum teleportation radio I knew they did, if their reins had been held in formative years by Nazi hands, if they were secretly modifying their simulation software to hide undisclosed physical laws, if they were intentionally adding noise to signals received from beyond our galaxy, if they were… the list is simply too long… How could I remain at NASA now fully comprehending this?

A friend once told me a story about his Peace Corps days. Philippe was stationed in Botswana, helping them build some rural medical facilities. One of the first people he met there was a medical doctor named Dr. Etumbe, who acted as a liaison between the government health ministry and the Peace Corps. Within the first year my friend and his team had set up several clinics and Dr. Etumbe was tasked with putting together the staff for them. My friend who had briefly worked as a research assistant at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) contacted a former boss there and was able to arrange for Dr. Etumbe and some of his team to go to NIH for an upcoming workshop on the treatment of Sub-Saharan African diseases. Dr. Etumbe was described by my friend as being one of the most wonderfully earnest of men, so passionate in helping his people, so willing to do whatever it took, routinely making six hour round trips on horrifically primitive roads to tend to gravely ill patients who showed up prematurely at my friend’s Peace Corps clinic sites while they were still under construction. Dr. Etumbe and his team were eager to learn what the staff and lecturers at NIH had to teach them. My friend happened to be in the capital, Gaborone, getting supplies on the day the team was setting off for the US and Philippe drove them all to the airport in his truck. At the gate they all embraced and Dr. Etumbe said, “Thank you, Mr. Ladd, for arranging this. You have helped more people than you know.” Three weeks later my friend received word that Dr. Etumbe had just returned to Gaborone and promptly killed himself. The very next day my friend received a letter from the late Dr. Etumbe, written shortly after he arrived in Washington, DC and began the NIH workshop. The letter was short, a fairly formal letter repeating the appreciation he and the other doctors and nurses who made the journey felt for what my friend had arranged. The last lines were less formal and said, “We are seeing drugs and equipment that could save hundreds of thousands in Botswana. I feel heavy with the burden of my past ignorance, a debt to those who have been dying. I do not know how to be the doctor I was, and I hope I will not have to be.” My friend was sent for more supplies to the capital a few days later and though he missed the funeral he was able to talk with Dr. Etumbe’s brother. The brother related that Dr. Etumbe had returned somewhat changed. His resolute optimism was clouded by a new found and undeserved guilt. He was persevering, though, with the hopes that he could do better now that he knew better. He had met with several ministers to secure the new drugs and equipment he now realized they needed. He talked with and provided reports to the ministers involved, making it clear that they could easily save 25,000 more people a year at an expense of only $1 million USD per year ($40 USD/life saved). The ministers thanked him, and he left greatly encouraged that he would soon be able to apply all that he had learned. But the morning after his last meeting he received their answer, “Thank you for your information. Our medical advisers have reviewed your report and testimony thoroughly and they believe our existing medical solutions are sufficient.” Late that same night Dr. Etumbe was called by a friend in a neighboring town whose daughter was very sick with a hemorrhagic fever he had seen all too often, one of the very ones his recent workshop had taught him how to better treat, had he been provided the medicines and equipment he needed. He stayed with the girl and her father, his friend, all through the night. She passed in the morning. Dr. Etumbe shot himself shortly after returning home.

Though the cost of my ignorance was not measured in human lives, I remember that story now with a new understanding, a sharper and more personal and selfish sadness. How do I continue to try in my own way to improve the world and advance my science when I now discover that there is a secret science with secret laws and secret tools that have already well exceeded anything my colleagues and I could ever achieve? The impotence is profound, overwhelming, and I can hardly blame Dr. Etumbe his choice.

I did not want to act on the logic I saw in his choice. I needed help, another perspective, a new and achievable and purposeful goal. I reached out, first to my wife, and ultimately to Dr. Rilka.

Life is not getting easier, but it is getting better, and that’s enough.


The Real Mission of the X-37B

April 25, 2010

The USAF launched the X-37B this week amid wild and varied speculation as to its purpose, a mystery fueled by the paucity of official explanations.

Few seem to realize what I am convinced is the X-37B’s true purpose. The X-37B is the first of a sortie of Prompt Global Strike (PGS) vehicles to be placed in orbit. PGS brings all the benefits of a nuclear option without the horrific nuclear consequences. PGS can rain devastating conventional destruction anywhere within only minutes, wholly unannounced and unassailable. Other PGS vehicles are being developed and they will carry warheads larger than the 500 lb guided bomb the X-37B can deliver, but those ground launched systems would take considerably longer to deliver their ordinance.  I believe the USAF already has quite a few X-37Bs built and they merely needed to publicly announce and deploy one so that they could plausibly deny the existence of the others.

In the post 9/11 defense ramp up I did some contract work on flight software for a satellite that I was told off the record was to be used to coordinate a PGS-like system. I don’t know what became of that particular project, I was told it lost funding, but I always suspected it was really just moved farther into the shadows. Unfortunately for my curiosity, my input and access was limited to porting some existing code to run on a new RTOS, I had no cause or ability to learn what the weapons system was capable of.

I was once told by a friend who worked at CIA that they would often get good intel on where Bin Laden was and it was only their inability to strike quickly enough that prevented them getting him, he supposedly moved around so frequently that in the time it would take to get troops on the ground, a bomber in the air, a UAV overhead, or a cruise missile launched he’d have moved. I always suspected he went to CIA because of his massive ego and the power he believed the secrets he couldn’t share with others gave him. I never knew which things he said I could believe, but this seemed like one of the more believable things. He was a complete asshole most of the time, but get him a little drunk and he became quite vulnerably hilarious.


Online Anonymity Guide Added

April 22, 2010

I finally had a chance to add the next part of my Guide to Anonymous & Evidenceless Internet. This installment introduces you to the basic tools and mechanisms for online anonymity.  If you haven’t read it, check out the explanation of why you should care about your anonymity online.

Hope this helps dissidents, whistle blowers, and the idle defenders of their rights to privacy, free thought, and free expression.

The Triple F Project?

April 19, 2010

I received this email yesterday. I accept that the author has or had the connections he claims; he supplied information which I recognized as most likely evidence of his stated employment. Whether the rest of the story he tells is true or not I cannot say.


I’m enjoying your posts. I used to work at KSC right after grad school, until [Edited, he left within the last year or so]. I never personally saw anything odd there but I always sort of suspected there was something going on. In college and grad school I used to browse forums discussing the objects seen in shuttle footage. If you really want to open your mind up, check those out if you havben’t.

[Edited to remove corroborating education and employment information.]

I read your post about the midwest fireball, I don’t know how serious you were in suggesting it was man made. Did you know about the “Triple F” project? I heard about it last year from someone on the team that made it. The “Fireworks For Fifty Project” was this quiet and unofficial project a handful of engineers were working on to mark NASA’s fifty years, ’58 – ’08. They were building a nitrogen gas powered launcher that could fire six small baseball sized projectiles from the space shuttle’s cargo bay into the Earth’s atmospheres. They calculated that six shots spread just right would cover most of the continental US. Everybody would get a brilliant light show and it’d make great PR. They got the launcher fabricated and cast some projectiles out of iron. They quietly presented it to some managers to see if they could get it tested and approved for one of the 2008 flights. It initially got some support, and a little science was added to legitimize it. It would now be billed as part of an atmospheric survey, using ground-based radar to monitor the disintegration of the projectile. Some time in 2007 they picked STS-124 to be the mission to carry the Triple F. I remember it because that was the first mission that flew after I got to KSC. The Triple F wouldn’t hit the official NASA birthdate but would hit some date for the drafting of the National Aeronautics and Space Act. But he told me it all fell apart when someone at NASA tried to get it cleared with the USAF. Within a few days the project was scuttled and the launcher and projectiles were said to be destroyed. Supposedly the USAF or NORAD freaked because reading relevant treaties broadly it could be seen as contravened orbital bombardment, even if it was against our own country. They just didn’t want to deal with the international politics involved. I don’t know how true that explanation was, sounded like bullshit to me. Maybe they were just covering their asses and didn’t want to be responsible if it turned into a war of the worlds paranoia-fest. Anyway, this recent display made me think of that project, what if they didn’t really destroy the Triple F? Or maybe they built a new one? I don’t buy most conspiracies, but a big display like this the night before Obama’s speech at KSC seems just too coincidental when you figure they had a device that could do this and the shuttle was up there at the time.

[edited, name removed]

Make of it what you will. Maybe I’m being overly skeptical, but I’m not sure I buy it. I don’t doubt it’s possible, I guess I just want a better “why”.

Reflections on the Space Summit

April 16, 2010

I am still working on the Guide to Anonymous and Evidenceless Internet and The Feynman Constant. One of my wife’s parents is in from out of town and as you can imagine what little free time I had is being largely consumed with the necessities of maintaining the image of the perfect son-in-law. Fortunately the early risers are now napping, and I have a few minutes.

President Obama’s speech yesterday disappointed me, as it likely disappointed many of you. It was remarkably unremarkable. He said what you would expect someone in his position to say, and no more. And while I agree with what he said, in the need for the sea change that will make space a destination driven by commercial forces rather than governmental ones, I think we all hoped President Obama would challenge us as President Kennedy once had, to “choose… in this decade… [to go to Mars and do the other] things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our [global] energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win…” President Obama had that opportunity, and it looked like he was going to take it; but, he didn’t. While it does not constitute sufficient evidence as yet, the heightened interest being shown in my services in the week leading up to the President’s speech has fallen off markedly. I’ve not received a single contact today or yesterday, compared with the daily calls I had been getting. I cannot but pause and wonder if something changed. Perhaps Obama had another Kennedy-esque speech he planned to deliver, along the lines I originally suggested, but he found it necessary to abort it at the last minute. And if so, what could have altered that course, what could have muted those loftier ambitions?

A more conspiracy minded person than I might believe the answer is found in the Great Midwest Light Show of the night before his speech. They might compare that event to the very different but similarly impressive lights above Norway before Obama’s Nobel Prize speech. They might suggest the fireball seen by hundreds of thousands was a message meant for the President, a repeated reminder to him that others wield great and unopposable power, that others did not agree with his more ambitious plan for space, and for the disclosures which may come from such a program.

It’s a pity I’m not more conspiratorially minded.


Finding Meaning in the Midwest Light Show

April 15, 2010

I believe that meaning is often misread into coincidence.  That said, if my mind worked a slightly different sort of way, I would have easily read quite a lot of significance into the light show I woke up to on the morning news.

On the eve of a space summit where President Obama will try to restore the excitement in America and its aerospace industry about the wonders of space through a shift to a private, commercial space program, and through a shift from a trip from our moon to nearby asteroids, Mars, and Martian moons, the entire midwest gets treated to one of the largest and most exciting light shows seen in modern days.

And it is interesting to note that this occurred at a time when the space shuttle is in orbit and could have easy deployed something that would fall into the atmosphere and create such a light show, all for the cost of a little well timed jetsam.

But, my brain doesn’t work like that.  And that’s a pity.  It’s a very appealing curiosity.

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