Initial Thoughts on Novichok Agents, Sergei Skripal, Russia and UK: 1

March 20, 2018 8 comments

About a couple of weeks ago, a former Russian military intelligence officer named Sergei Skripal and his adult daughter were found unconscious on a public bench in Salisbury by a passing doctor and nurse. They were taken by paramedics to a nearby hospital where their condition was determined to be the result of exposure to an organophosphate compound, most likely a nerve agent. Within a day or two of the event, the British government was openly blaming Russia for this incident. The Russian government has, so far, officially denied any involvement in whatever caused Skripal and his daughter to end up in the hospital.

While there is no shortage of alternative narratives, speculation , trolling and changing stories by all sides involved in this incident, especially UK, we are still not close to anything approaching a somewhat reliable account of how Skripal and his daughter got exposed to whatever chemical they were exposed to on that day. To complicate matters further, a lot of scientifically illiterate liars who happen to write for supposedly “respectable” news outlets such as the NYT, WP and Guardian have muddied the waters even further with their bullshit and.. face it.. propaganda.

In this post, I will try to de-convolute a lot of the bullshit, lies, exaggerations surrounding this incident and the chemicals allegedly used. I will also talk about some of the peculiar, and largely glossed over, facts of this case.

1] While definitive diagnosis of poisoning by cholinesterase inhibitors such as organophosphates is relatively quick and easy, identifying the compound responsible for that intoxication is often difficult- especially if the compound is present in minute quantities. But why? Well.. it comes down to the nature of tests necessary for reaching each endpoint. It is fairly easy to run a small sample of blood and plasma through an assay which measures RBC and serum cholinesterase activity. While not identical to neuronal acetylcholinesterase, these enzymes are similar enough to each other as a family that compounds which inhibit one will inhibit the others.

Ready-to-use kits for measuring both red blood cell and plasma cholinesterase are available in the diagnostic laboratories of almost every major hospital. In contrast to that, rapid and definitive identification of an organophosphate compound is harder- especially if the compound is present in very small quantities or is uncommon. While modern mass-spectroscopy based methods can detect minuscule amounts of any chemical compound, preparing samples for testing can often take more than a couple of days- especially if you do not know which test specimen contains the compound of interest.

2] While the government in UK still maintains that the compound they identified is a Novichok agent‘, we still have not seen any of the evidence which led to their conclusion. You might remember that in 2002, the UK government made a similarly bold claim that they were certain about Saddam Hussein possessing large stockpiles of WMDs. We all remember how that one played out. It does not help that their stories about where Skripal and his daughter might have gotten exposed have kept on changing. Also, we do not have any definitive evidence about the extent of exposure to other people in their vicinity or those involved in their subsequent medical treatment and investigation.

Similarly, their contention that this compound must have come from a “Russian chemical laboratory” is not supported by available evidence. The structure of more than a few of these compounds is readily available and while their synthesis would be highly risky, a large corporation or government program in any country with a half-decent chemical industry could synthesize them without much difficulty. Furthermore, these compounds were developed to be especially easy to synthesize- in addition to being highly toxic. Unless they can show that isolated samples contain some signature reaction side-products or they apprehend those who poisoned Skripal and his daughter- definitive attribution to Russia is basically impossible.

3] There is also the question of why Russia would target Skripal and his daughter in 2018, as opposed to anytime after the 2010 spy swap with UK. Why wait eight years to do something that is certain to get negative international attention? Sure.. Skripal was seen as a traitor by the Russians, but that has been the case since he was arrested by them in 2004. It is actually somewhat odd that he did not die in a Russian prison sometime between 2004 and 2010. Also, why go after him when there are other more target-worthy Russian expats living in UK.

And then there is the vexed question about why his daughter was still working in the US embassy in Moscow. Think about it.. why would a person whose father was imprisoned for high treason in a country continue to work in the embassy of an adversary nation in that country? Why did she not work in a similar position in another country? Why flaunt her presence in Moscow by working at the US embassy, when the government there saw her father as a traitor. Clearly, there is a lot more to this story than has, so far, been made public.

Will write another post on this topic based on future developments and comments.

What do you think? Comments?

Why Internet “Activism” Against the NRA Will be Counterproductive: 2

March 17, 2018 1 comment

In the previous part of this series, I wrote about why manufactured internet “activism” is based in wishful thinking and why current attempts by “socially responsible” corporations to de-platform gun and ammunition sales were either meaningless or likely to backfire on them. Some of you might wonder.. how can anybody make predictions such as these? After all, corporate media outlets and “respectable” and “credentialed” talking heads keep telling everybody that “it is different this time around” (without explaining why) and how the younger generation has “no interest in defending the right to own firearms”, etc.

Then again, corporate media outlets and the same cast of “credentialed” experts also told their audience that HRC was certain to beat Trump (in the electoral college) in November 2016. They have, in the past, also pushed obvious fairy-tales such as how Saddam possessed “Weapons of Mass Destruction” in early-2003, how american military involvement in Libya would create a secular democracy or how North Koreans were too poor and stupid to develop thermonuclear weapons and ICBMs, etc. My point is that anything coming from these official stenographers has been repeatedly shown to have a very high probability of being incorrect, false and misleading.

And this brings me to why idiotic ideas such as attempts to “target the NRA” through legislation and corporate behavior will have the opposite effect. Perhaps, you might have heard about the infamous and ultimately ineffectual Federal Assault Weapons Ban of 1994. What many of you might not know is that it was simply the culmination of a number of anti-gun laws enacted in the mid-1980s and early-1990s. These included other ineffectual idiocies such as the Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986 and the 1989 ban on importing “scary looking assault rifles”. As the gun owners know, these and other similar laws did have any real effect on overall availability of semi-auto rifles and handguns in USA. They, also, did not reduce the incidence of spree shootings.

These laws did however greatly benefit the NRA and did wonders for fundraising and membership drives. In fact, it is not a stretch to say that the NRA we know today was largely created by public reaction against stupid and ineffectual gun laws. Prior to 1980s, the NRA was a fairly mediocre organisation involved in things such as promotion of shooting competitions, training people to use guns safely and basically doing some low-key defense of gun owners rights. It involvement in the political arena was largely a non-issue since most democrats and republicans were fine with gun-ownership. That started to change in the 1970 after a small number of coastal politicians started pushing for “gun control” aka criminalizing private gun ownership.

It was obvious to people capable of independent though, even then, that “gun control” did not address the root causes of increased crime levels during that era. It is no secret that the late-1960s, 1970s and 1980s saw a large increase in levels of crime (as perceived by average people) largely because pent-up racial, social and economic tensions were rapidly unmasked in those years. The majority of gun owners, rightly, did not see a connection between their lawful gun ownership and crimes caused by poverty and racial discrimination. FYI, a previous post of mine talks about why establishment democratic and professional-types are so concerned about gun ownership by all those “other” people.

The passage of many ineffectual anti-gun ownership laws in the late-1980s and mid-1990s did however convince a lot of people that the government was out to get their guns. Between 1933-1974 things in USA were run to benefit average people (at least the white ones) in addition to corporations. However institutional changes and corporation-friendly policies since the late-1970s convinced many people that the government had stopped caring about their welfare and saw them as inconveniences to be suppressed and marginalized. Let us just say that the raft of anti-gun legislation passed in the late-1980s and early-1990s merely validated their beliefs. This is also when the current movement to defend private gun ownership started.

But why were gun owners so contemptuous of all these laws and regulations for “sensible gun control”? Well.. because they were not sensible and were about ultimately ending private gun ownership. Let me give you some examples of why those laws were counterproductive, in addition to being ineffectual. The 1989 law by the Bush41 administration to ban import of foreign-made “assault rifles” was intended to stop the importation of surplus AK-47 type guns in USA. The ban on importation of those and other rifles simply led to them being manufactured in USA. The end result of is that today you can buy pretty much any semi-auto firearm of foreign origin, because it is made in USA.

Similarly, the law banning select-fire (full auto) weapons made after 1986 from being registered in USA had no impact on their use in crimes because.. legally purchased full-auto weapons are almost never used in committing crimes. Also, well made guns last for many decades when cared for properly and used sparingly. Passage of the AWB of 1994 was, however, the biggest disaster for the “gun control” movement. As some of you know, the many regulations within that bill clearly displayed that “gun control” advocates had little real life experience with handling and using guns. And that is the most polite way to say they were clueless.

Between the bizarre,hilarious and ineffective regulations on magazine capacity, pistol grips, and gun barrel accessories and their supporters inability to distinguish between semi-auto and select-fire weapons, let alone the internal mechanisms- it is fair to say that the AWB of 1994 did more to increase public support and monetary contributions to NRA and other gun-rights organisations than anything they put out themselves. In many respects, the overall environment is even more unfavorable for similar “gun control” legislation, or other measures, today. As things stand now, establishment democrats are out of power at the federal level and in most states. Even worse, they have manged to lose to unabashedly pro-corporate and anti-populist republican candidates.

The socio-economic environment (for average people) is far bleaker today than it was even eight years ago. Between that and the now-overt loss of public faith in institutions and “experts”, it is safe to say that manufactured “activism” against the NRA and gun owners in general is not a pathway to win elections in most of the country. In my opinion, such “activism” is doing more for the NRA and similar organisations than the AWB of 1994 could ever achieve. To make a long story short, half-assed attempts at creating bad laws and regulations always end up having the opposite effect- and this is not exception. Might write another part based on feedback or further developments in this area.

What do you think? Comments?

NSFW Links: Mar 16, 2018

March 16, 2018 Leave a comment

These links are NSFW. Will post something more intellectual tomorrow.

Pool Cuties on Floats: Mar 14, 2018 – Pro cuties on inflatable floats.

Doggystyled Cuties: Mar 15, 2018 – Amateur cuties getting doggystyled.

Enjoy! Comments?

Categories: Uncategorized

State Communism was Based in Capitalism and Social Conservatism: 1

March 11, 2018 8 comments

A few months ago, I decided to write a short series about how socio-economic problems which plague post-2008 USA are oddly similar to those which brought down ostensibly “communist” countries in the late 1980s. While I did complete and post the first article in that series, a feeling that I was close to uncovering an even deeper basic similarity between the two allegedly different systems made me hold off writing the second part at that time. While I do plan to finish up that one soon, the topic I am going to discuss today is distinct enough to deserves its own separate post or two.

Let me start by making a claim, which might initially sound rather strange to most of you. It is as follows: ‘State Communism, in both, ideology and practice, is just another flavor of Capitalism in combination with a certain kind of social conservatism’. Some will counter by pointing out that state communism didn’t allow official large-scale private ownership of property or money. Others will highlight that countries under state communism were often socially more progressive than their capitalist counterparts. While both are factually correct, neither one addresses the central reasoning behind my claim.

In my opinion, the key to defining capitalism, state communism, socialism or any other ‘-ism’ lies in observing how that ideology functions in real life and what unspoken assumptions are made by its principal practitioners. With that in mind, let me ask you a simple question- Why was the quality of life for the median person living in countries under state communism in eastern Europe always inferior to those in western Europe? While a good portion of blame can be placed on the design of almost all institutions (functional monopolies) in those countries and “professional managers” who ran them into the ground, it is worthwhile to ask ourselves- How, and why, was all of this normalized and “rationalized” by those in power?

In other words, how did those in power within those countries justify their relative inability to provide their citizens with nice apartments, sweet cars and other consumer goodies? To make a long story short, such glaring deficiencies were usually explained away as being the result of “not enough resources” or “other more pressing priorities”. Oddly enough, this is the same reasoning used by politicians and establishment pundits in USA to explain how the “exceptional” country which spend trillions on useless defense related toys somehow cannot afford to provide universal healthcare, inexpensive higher education and a decent social safety net for its citizens.

So how can countries in western Europe continue to provide all of those goodies to their citizens? Also, why were they generally unable to do that before 1945? What changed? Also, why are public services in first-world countries generally of good quality, relatively inexpensive and universally accessible? Well.. the simple answer to most of those questions is that services which are considered and treated as social goods rather than as opportunities to make ever-increasing amounts of monetary profits end up being inexpensive, universally available and of high quality. Conversely, those treated as avenues for the enrichment of a select few end up becoming expensive, scarcer and of lower quality.

But how does any of this work in systems where official accumulation of wealth and property was banned? Under those conditions, shouldn’t all public services be seen as social goods and be therefore universally available and of high quality?

No.. not really, and here is why. Any official ban on private accumulation of property or money has, by itself, little impact on the practice of capitalist ideology. All laws and regulations will be compromised and circumvented by clever crooks- if they are allowed to get away with it. To understand what I am really talking about, we have to first spell out the end goal of capitalism and the ideology beyond it. The end goal of capitalism and many other -isms is to impoverish others by depriving them of resources while simultaneously accumulating resources created by the labor of others for no reason than to deprive those others.

In that respect, the only difference between capitalism and feudalism is that the later uses overt direct force and appeals to tradition and religion, while the later uses the pretense of “liberal enlightenment”, impersonal violence by a “secular” state appeals to the greed of willing idiots. Have you ever noticed that capitalism did not improve the quality of life for the median person in western countries until after WW1. So why did over a hundred years of unbridled capitalism, “free trade” and the industrial revolution have little positive effects on the lives of most people in the “west”? Maybe we should have given it more time? Perhaps it was not “pure enough”?

And this brings us to why the aftermath of WW1 and WW2 witnessed a lot of progressive and sustained improvements in the quality of life. To (once again) make a long story short, both wars and their aftermath destroyed and discredited old institutions, hierarchies and ways of thinking to the point where a lot of the previous status quo was simply unsustainable. It just happened to be the case that ethic nationalism, “free trade” and laissez-faire capitalism was the previous status quo. And that is also why ‘neoliberalism’ (aka recycled liberal capitalism) did not become respectable till the mid-1980s which is almost four decades after the end of WW2.

But, what does any of this have to do with my claim that the ultimate failure of state communism had a lot to do with it being based in capitalist ideology?

Well.. remember how earlier on in this post, I talked about the excuses used by the elite (1%) in countries under state communism to explain their inability to provide enough quality consumer goods to their citizens. You might remember something about how they justified chronic shortages, shoddy products and general deprivation by invoking excuses about “available resources” and “other priorities”. Now tell me, why did they choose excuses that are linked to cost and utility, when the government in those countries was free to create extra money to fund building of new houses, nice apartment blocks, sweet cars and other consumer goodies?

Isn’t that what China did to build up its industrial and consumer base in the last three decades? How could a country like China see the obvious solution and implement it in a manner that eluded all the countries under state communism in eastern Europe? Why did not Russia decide to do something similar in the 1960s and create enough extra money within its border and utilize that to build nice apartments, modern cars and consumer goodies for its citizens? I mean.. they certainly did that for building lots of modern weapons systems and other prestige programs during that time period.

I think that the reason why 1960-ear Russia did not do what 1980-era China did on a large-scale comes down to that counter-intuitive fact that elites in the former believed in capitalism far more than those in the later. The former could not think in ways which violated the sacrosanct beliefs and assumptions of capitalism. The later simply saw capitalism as another make-believe ideology which could be manipulated to facilitate whatever they wanted. And that is why China was able to seamlessly pull off something which the erstwhile USSR failed at, even though it was a far better position to do so.

In the next part, I will write about my thoughts on how the strong urge to enforce conservatism and traditionalism in erstwhile USSR to maintain social harmony and conformity ended up having the reverse effect and contributed to the ultimate failure of state communism in that country.

What do you think? Comments?

Kim Jong-un’s Nukes and ICBMs Finally Got Him Real Respect from USA

March 9, 2018 8 comments

As many regular readers know, I have written more than a few posts about the nuclear and ballistic missile programs of DPRK in the past(link 1, link 2, link 3). I have also written about how grandiose delusions, anti-Asian racism and a general disconnect from reality by policy makers in USA still prevents them from addressing the issue of normalizing relations with DPRK in anything approaching a rational manner (link 4, link 5, link 6, link 7). The main thread running through all those posts can be summarized as the following: DPRK’s nuclear and ballistic missile program is a highly rational response to american foreign policy in the post-1991 era. In that respect, it is no different from the recent announcement by Putin of Russia developing multiple next-generation nuclear missile systems.

It should be obvious to any rational observer that american foreign policy since 1991 towards the rest of the world can be largely summed as “my way or no way”. Unfortunately for the deep state in USA, developments in the rest of the world within the last two decades have slowly but irreversibly reduced their ability to enforce their writ outside their borders. The epic and costly military failures suffered by USA in Afghanistan and Iraq have sped along this process to the point where the USA cannot even enforce its writ in regions as troubled and historically divided as Syria. The economic crash of 2008, and its aftermath, have also contributed to this permanent reduction in american ability to enforce its rules outside its borders.

But what does any of this have to do with the recent announcement that Kim Jong-un is ready to meet Trump later this year? And what does it really mean, now that Trump has accepted the offer to meet Kim Jong-un in person?

The very short answer to both those questions is that Kim Jong-un has got what he wanted in the manner he wanted. Some of you might think that this is not case based on the ravings of some idiots on right-wing cable TV or a snarky article in an allegedly “mainstream” newspaper. Those charlatans and idiots want you to believe that it has something to do with economic sanctions and Trump acting crazy. However, even a brief overview of DPRK history would show you that its government has repeatedly demonstrated incredible resistance in the face of severe economic sanctions. Moreover, Trump is not the first american president to threaten them with nuclear annihilation.

So why has Kim Jong-un now expressed an interest in talks with South Korea and USA? Also, why was he so resistant to starting talks with either country even a few months ago? What changed? The simple answer to that question is within the last 12 months, DPRK has demonstrated that it has thermonuclear weapons and mobile ICBMs which can reach any part of mainland USA. The government of DPRK rightly figured out that any talks started by them before those successful demonstrations would be from a position of weakness as their bargaining power would be rather limited under those circumstances. Any treaty or agreement reached under those conditions would be very one-sided and against their best interests.

They, therefore, decided to first develop their thermonuclear weapons and mobile ICBMs to the point where they possessed a credible capability to nuke cities in USA. The development of such a deterrent greatly restricts the military options available to USA on the Korean peninsula. It also creates a wedge between South Korea and USA, since the former is no longer certain about whether the later will always support it or alternatively make things worse. So far, the overall scheme appears to have worked and South Korea now seems to be interested in reaching some sort of deal to stabilize the situation with them. But that is not the biggest PR triumph achieved by Kim Jong-un under this new strategy..

Since 1991, DPRK has tried to ‘normalize’ diplomatic relations with USA in a way that would not destabilize the current regime. Kim Jong-un’s father and grandfather did try, on multiple occasions, to arrange public meetings with serving presidents of USA (Clinton 42, Bush 43 and Obama 44). While Clinton and Carter did visit DPRK after finishing their presidential terms, DPRK has not yet been able to get a serving american president to publicly meet their leader or even obtain such a commitment. Well.. yesterday, Trump accepted Kim Jong-un’s invitation to meet him sometime in the next few months. Some of you might say that Trump makes lots of promises which he does not, or cannot, keep.. and this may be one of them.

But make no mistake, Kim Jong-un has achieved within a few years what his predecessors could not, over many decades.

To be clear, I am not implying that this meeting will occur within the next few months or that it will result in denuclearization of DPRK. In fact, it is highly unlikely that DPRK will make any concessions beyond temporary and conditional freezes on future nuclear and missile tests. Countries which have spent so much effort and resources on developing nuclear weapons and ICBMs will never give them away, especially when it was their acquisition which led others to treat them with respect. It is more likely that such a meeting, if it were to occur, would be a major PR coup for Kim Jong-un and perhaps a starting point for realistic negotiations between DPRK, South Korea and USA.. though the later outcome is still unlikely.

What do you think? Comments?

NSFW Links: Mar 8, 2018

March 8, 2018 Leave a comment

These links are NSFW. Will post something more intellectual tomorrow.

Drawings of Spanked Cuties: Feb 28, 2018 – Drawings of cuties getting tawsed.

Amateur Shower Cuties: Mar 8, 2018 – Amateur cuties taking a shower.

Enjoy! Comments?

Categories: Uncategorized

Why Internet “Activism” Against the NRA Will be Counterproductive: 1

March 4, 2018 14 comments

Just over a week ago, I wrote a post about why frequent mass shootings are almost unique to the USA- at least among allegedly “developed” nations. The very short version of that post is that the USA is, and always has been, a third-world country.. albeit an affluent one. The way things work in USA, especially as it concerns how people view each other and the institutions around them, is similar to what one might see in Mexico or Brazil rather than Japan, France or Canada. People in USA, therefore, behave and react in a manner similar to those in the former group of countries than the latter.

But what does any of this have to do with the recent wave of manufactured internet “activism” targeting the NRA and gun owners? Why do I think that this wave of internet “activism” and worthless corporate displays of virtue are manufactured? And what makes me think that it will backfire in a spectacular manner, perhaps destroying the chance for the democratic party to win either the house or senate in the 2018 election? Also, why now and not after the Oct 31, 2017 Vegas shooting? Let us start by talking about supporters and enablers of this alleged wave of internet “activism”.

So.. what makes this incident different from that one which occurred about four months ago and resulted in the deaths of three times more people (59 vs 17) and many more injuries (422 vs 14)? Isn’t it odd that the corporate media and certain internet companies did not promote the views of those killed and injured in the Oct 31, 2017 Vegas shooting to even a tiny fraction of what they did for this one? What accounts for the manufactured fascination and promotion of certain students in that school by the corporate media? The short answer to that question is the corporate media will only provide free promotion to those who will support whatever agenda they want to push.

That is why the corporate media does not like to talk about the ongoing genocide perpetrated by Saudi Arabia in Yemen but is totally willing to give tons of airtime and publicity to a 7-year old girl in Syria who allegedly tweets in perfect English though she can barely comprehend that language. Long story short, the first example casts a negative light on the policies of their masters while the later is a desperate attempt to legitimize western (mostly american) military intervention in the ongoing Syrian conflict. But what does this have to do with the aftermath of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting?

I cannot be the only one who noticed that certain students from that high school who supported gun control were intensively promoted by the corporate media within less than 24 hours of the shooting? I mean.. how come something like this never happened after the Oct 31, 2017 Vegas shooting? Also, how do you account for the almost simultaneous publication of articles by corporate media which push the exact same narrative (example 1, example 2, example 3) about these “activist” students? And isn’t it peculiar that their small protests and meetings with state politicians were unusually well covered by the corporate media (example 4, example 5, example 6).

Why was so little attention given to the fact that the Broward County Sheriff, Scott Israel, was responsible for the botched response to that shooting in addition to inadequate followup of all those previous tips and complaints against Nikolas Cruz. You might remember that he was busy talking to everyone in the media, in the first few days after that shooting, about how ‘police should be given more power’ and how ‘he supported sensible gun control’. You might also remember how they initially cheered him on and then dropped him like a hot potato after the level of his incompetence and corruption was accidentally exposed.

But it gets worse.. or more darkly hilarious. Many of you might have heard or read about all those noises made by the corporate media about how big corporations are “cutting their links to the NRA”. First of all, the vast majority of such virtue signalling by corporations is meaningless bullshit. For example, one airline which stopped a program to give small meaningless discounts to NRA members had to acknowledge that only 13 people had used that particular discount in the previous calendar year. In other words, most of the manufactured news about how “corporations are cutting their ties with the NRA” is hogwash.

Secondly, all those breathless “news reports” about how certain large box stores deciding to stop selling ‘scary assault rifles’ or put new illegal age-limits on selling guns and ammunition are also meaningless because of the sheer number of small and medium size private business who will continue to do what they have been always doing. Also expect the big box retailers to quietly walk back from their current position within a few months or get sued and lose in court. Did I mention that this type of empty “moral” posturing by corporations has occurred many times in the past- especially in the aftermath of mass shootings.

Then there is the issue of banks and financial institutions trying to enforce gun control by de-platforming gun sales. Once again, there is the pesky issue of legal challenges to such actions. However, the far bigger problem for such actions is that many elected officials would lose their seats and political careers if they did not vigorously oppose such actions. Also, guns and ammo are far cheaper than cars and houses and therefore cash transactions would simply replace those through neoliberal financial institutions. And this brings us to the major problem with fallout of such pathetic attempts to use internet “activism” against the NRA.

Attempting to enact gun control in 2018 or 2020 is political suicide for democrats as well as “moderate” republicans. As many of you know, democrats are hoping that Trump’s failure to follow up on his populist election promises and generally ineffectual governance will result in a windfall during the 2018 cycle. That belief is however too optimistic, because they still have not come up with a better message than “Trump is a bad, bad man”. Given that control of the house depends on winning a number of very close electoral races, pissing off a fairly large body of single-issue voters who will come out in large numbers and vote against you seems like a really bad idea.

In the next part of this short series, I will talk about why every historic attempt at “targeting the NRA” has made it and the pro-gun lobby stronger and how these attempts have paradoxically led to the loosening of regulations on guns.

What do you think? Comments?