The Omega Ambulance Service, Part 2

(continued from part one)

As I mentioned last time, my second meeting was with the kids of the older men… their sons, actually. And I found them an odd mix of styles. In one way they were their fathers’ sons: serious and willful. But at the same time their clothing and their demeanor was strongly corporate. They clearly wanted to move their family businesses into a different direction, though it seemed they were having a slow go of it.

In any event, we again met at Jay’s, mid-morning. We introduced ourselves and recapped the first meeting, then went on to specifics.

What we need first, Mr. Rosenberg, is a secure information structure,” one of them said, as they all pulled out leather-bound pads of paper and prepared to take notes. I told them, roughly, this:

    • Your systems will be run by professional IT people. Not cheap ones, good ones… the best you can find. You’ll be facing off against extremely well funded professionals.
    • You’ll use only hardened Linux (probably Debian) or, preferably, Open BSD operating systems, And you’ll use only fresh, clean hardware.
    • Person-to-person communication between you and your key people will use XMPP chat protocol with OMEMO encryption. (The newer implementation of Jabber with OTR.)
    • You will never use Facebook, Google or Twitter. Business or personal. Period. No exceptions.
    • All office-to-office communications will use Tor’s anonymous mutual reachability capability. This will be setup and maintained by the best IT person you can find. If done badly it will blow open to the Feds.

They asked a few questions (half of them about the spelling of names) and wrote carefully. It pleased me that they were taking it seriously. And, of course, I added that they had to encrypt all text communications with GPG.

Another thing that impressed me was that they were doing their overall accounting in old-school, paper ledgers, using codes. I encouraged them to have an annual meeting, and if they were all pleased with the accounting and transfers from the past year, to start new ledgers and burn the old.

The other techie questions they had involved money transfers. They explained that they could use cash and money orders, even casino chips, but that they wanted something smoother.

I asked, of course, whether they knew about Bitcoin. They all did, but only at the investor level. I insisted that they learn how to use it for real, and told them that it should be the standard for their business, at least in the secret ledgers.

I went on to insist they they have their IT people open Lightning channels between their operations, and that both they and their key people should be trained in using it properly.

They asked more questions, and we discussed privacy currencies (Pirate Chain, Monero, or Zcash, provided that full privacy is always used.) We discussed mixers too.

Then, after all the techie stuff was agreed to and written, they closed their elegant legal pads and relaxed. They now seemed like young men with questions about their dads. And since I was more or less their dads’ age… and that I got along with their dads but wasn’t very much like them… they wanted to talk. And so we did.

It was interesting that within just a minute or two, they morphed from tough, young businessmen to teenagers. They asked about mutual acquaintances I had with their fathers, what kinds of things I did in the old days (to them, the old days were anything before 1990), and how I saw things in the present world.

What really opened them up, however – and what made them seem almost boyish to me – was discussing how difficult it was to be the child of odd parents. It’s something that homeschool parents dealt pretty strongly in the old days. The kids meets other kids, who always ask, “What school do you go to?” That plunges the kid into being “the weird one,” which can be hard for them.

Their cases differed from those of homeschooled kids, of course. For them the big question was, “What does your dad do?” followed by various stages of discomfort, and sometimes kids being afraid of them once they found out.

And in this, I felt sorry for these young men. Being made “the weird one” by your strong-willed parents can be hard. In truth it’s the fault of the larger world – damning anything but squishy compliance as “weird” – but so it has been.

The one business topic that came back into our discussion as it continued, was paying their people: A lot of them didn’t want to be on the books, but their company would have to file tax papers with the state and the Feds.

I asked how they had handled similar problems in the past. (Given their business interests I had to assume this wasn’t a new problem.) They said they paid people in cash, made up reasonable-looking tax filings, and bribed tax examiners as required.

I didn’t want to get into advice on this subject, but did say that using Bitcoin over Lightning would be more efficient than cash, in some ways more private, and would give their employees (contractors, actually) an appreciating asset.

As for the tax examiners… I had nothing to add; bribing officials isn’t particularly in my skill set.

Soon enough we disbanded, warmly, and went our own ways. I do have one more meeting set with the older men, but more on that next time.


Paul Rosenberg