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NSFW Links: Mar 1, 2015

March 1, 2015 Leave a comment

These links are NSFW.

Chunky Cuties: Feb 27, 2015 – Cuties with junk in the trunk.

Busty Cuties: Mar 1, 2015 – Cuties with mostly natural boobies.

More Busty Cuties: Mar 1, 2015 – More cuties with mostly natural boobies.

Enjoy! Comments?

Categories: Uncategorized

The Dangers of Believing in the Existence of Non-Existent Nations: 1

February 21, 2015 9 comments

One of my more important insights into systemic large-scale human stupidity is about what people are willing to believe in or, to be more precise, their persistence in belief about stuff that clearly do not exist. The vast majority of suffering throughout history (and the present) can almost always be traced back to belief in their own bullshit- whether it is about gods, prophets, religions, morals, social mores, authority, ideologies etc. One of the contemporary examples of this stupidity concerns people continuing to believe in the existence of nation-states that clearly do not exist. As I will show you, this particular thread of self-delusion is unusually dangerous not only to those affected by belief in it, but also those who act on that belief.

But before we go further, let us try to quickly define what a modern nation-state is and is not. A modern nation-state, such as those that came into being after the industrial revolution (especially after the late 1800s) are entities unlike any that preceded them. Their uniqueness is not a consequence of people being stupider in earlier eras, but rather a consequence of socio-economic and technological changes subsequent to industrialization. Modern nation-states are defined by the protean reach of the state machinery (or bureaucracy) into the day-to-day lives of their ordinary citizens or subjects. To put it another way, “sovereign” governments that cannot support an almost all-pervasive and moderately functional bureaucracy cannot function as modern nation-states.

But why is this definition important? Well.. it comes down to what socio-economic systems they can support and the consequences thereof. For example, the existence of capitalism in any form requires that most people are engaged in wage work. This is not possible unless an invasive and functional bureaucracy can systemically control, pauperize and immiserate the majority of the population. The same is true for state communism and is the reason why nation states such as the USSR were not fundamentally different from the USA. But this feature of the modern nation-state comes at a peculiar cost. People who rule and govern modern nation-states start believing in their own bullshit, especially the part about it being the “only way”. They so desperately want to see everyone else in the world doing things the “same way” that they often make, and act on, decisions that have no link to reality. As you will see in the rest of this post, such willful ignorance and stupidity comes at a huge human cost and is ultimately as dangerous to the believers as those initially screwed over by their stupidity.

Consider the following examples of modern nation states that do not really exist even though the rest of the world, especially the west, act as if they do.

Iraq: What can I say.. It began as a country carved out of post-WW1 ottoman concessions to the then victorious allies and suffered multiple rounds of uprisings and low-intensity civil wars even before WW2 started. After WW2, the broken european nations had to relinquish indirect control to local leaders sparking, you guessed it, another round of uprisings and coups which led to Saddam Hussein who was able to keep the lid on things for a couple of decades. After that we had the USA-initiated Gulf War 1 , then a Gulf War 2 which was followed by a decade-long and still running civil war. This part of the world has not experienced anything remotely approaching a semi-functional nation-state since 1991 and YET the most of the world pretends that this nation-state actually exists. They do so even when the “official” elected government has no authority even 30 km north of their capital city, Baghdad. The northern part of this supposedly modern nation-state has been an almost autonomous Kurdish proto-state for over a decade. Then there is the now hard-to-ignore fact that most of the middle of that country is run by an semi-centralized entity that calls itself ISIL or Da‘ish. Given that there is little possibility of this situation changing substantially in the near future, shouldn’t we just stop believing that Iraq exists. I mean.. what harm can come from acknowledging what has been obvious for the last three decades or more. Perhaps it will be easier to deal with three entities that have some control over the territory they claim than one entity that has no authority over most of the country?

Afghanistan: Seriously.. how can this place be even considered to be a nation-state? For starters- it was carved out by the British and other western powers in the 19th century out of parts of central Asia that were too hard to colonize. It also does not help that most of this place has, since time immemorial, been occupied by numerous related but largely independent tribes engaged in continuous low-intensity conflicts with each other. Sure.. there have had kings and even emperors- but those individuals had little real authority beyond their capital city. To put it another way, most of the people in that region have never experienced anything close to living under a nation-state. I would hasten to add that the boundaries of this nation-state are hard to define because they are arbitrary and often passes through inhospitable terrain. Then there is the issue of Pakistan, its eastern neighbor, who has a lot of socio-economic and military influence in the eastern part of this country. To make matters even more complicated, most of this influence is based on transient and often fragile working arrangements with local tribal leaders. So how is a “country” whose government’s writ does not run beyond its own capital city and whose borders are poorly defined and uncontrolled considered a nation-state? Iraq had two decades of despotic centralized rule under Saddam Hussein. I don’t believe the nation-state known as Afghanistan had even that..

Yemen: Yet another example of a place that has seen human occupation and civilizations for thousands of years, but which is not a nation-state. Sure.. it, like Iraq and Afghanistan, has nominally been the part of many old empires. But its peculiar geographical characteristics have made it hard to define and has also resulted in a history filled with many small and localized kingdoms and fiefdoms. It does not help that this place has always been politically highly decentralized and geographically rather vague. A look at satellite views of its official borders with neighboring countries is helpful for understanding the later part of the previous sentence. Then there is the whole issue of who has been ruling, or not ruling, that country since WW2. While it started as a nominal arab-style tribal monarchy in the 1920s after a complicated civil war, things went to hell by the 1960s resulting in another much larger civil war and re-partitioning of the country, followed by a reunification which led to a rekindling of the low-intensity civil war which led to another country where the governments writ does not run beyond the capital city. Yet this place is considered by the west to be a nation-state.

In the next part of this short series, I will try to write about similar “nation-states” such as Ukraine and Libya.

What do you think? Comments?

Interesting Links: Feb 16, 2015

February 16, 2015 8 comments

Here are links to some interesting news articles I came across today. As you might notice, all three are about the latest revelations on what the NSA has been upto for all these years.

Link 1: How “omnipotent” hackers tied to NSA hid for 14 years—and were found at last

It wasn’t the first time the operators—dubbed the “Equation Group” by researchers from Moscow-based Kaspersky Lab—had secretly intercepted a package in transit, booby-trapped its contents, and sent it to its intended destination. In 2002 or 2003, Equation Group members did something similar with an Oracle database installation CD in order to infect a different target with malware from the group’s extensive library. Kaspersky settled on the name Equation Group because of members’ strong affinity for encryption algorithms, advanced obfuscation methods, and sophisticated techniques.

The money and time required to develop the Equation Group malware, the technological breakthroughs the operation accomplished, and the interdictions performed against targets leave little doubt that the operation was sponsored by a nation-state with nearly unlimited resources to dedicate to the project. The countries that were and weren’t targeted, the ties to Stuxnet and Flame, and the Grok artifact found inside the Equation Group keylogger strongly support the theory the NSA or a related US agency is the responsible party, but so far Kaspersky has declined to name a culprit. NSA officials didn’t respond to an e-mail seeking comment for this story.

Link 2: Russian researchers expose breakthrough U.S. spying program

The U.S. National Security Agency has figured out how to hide spying software deep within hard drives made by Western Digital, Seagate, Toshiba and other top manufacturers, giving the agency the means to eavesdrop on the majority of the world’s computers, according to cyber researchers and former operatives. That long-sought and closely guarded ability was part of a cluster of spying programs discovered by Kaspersky Lab, the Moscow-based security software maker that has exposed a series of Western cyberespionage operations.

According to Kaspersky, the spies made a technological breakthrough by figuring out how to lodge malicious software in the obscure code called firmware that launches every time a computer is turned on.Disk drive firmware is viewed by spies and cybersecurity experts as the second-most valuable real estate on a PC for a hacker, second only to the BIOS code invoked automatically as a computer boots up.

Link 3: The NSA hides surveillance software in hard drives

It’s been known for a while that the NSA will intercept and bug equipment to spy on its soon-to-be owners, but the intellgency agency’s techniques are apparently more clever than first thought. Security researchers at Kaspersky Lab have discovered apparently state-created spyware buried in the firmware of hard drives from big names like Seagate, Toshiba and Western Digital. When present, the code lets snoops collect data and map networks that would otherwise be inaccessible — all they need to retrieve info is for an unwitting user to insert infected storage (such as a CD or USB drive) into an internet-connected PC. The malware also isn’t sitting in regular storage, so you can’t easily get rid of it or even detect it.

What do you think? Comments?

Categories: Linkfest

NSFW Links: Feb 15, 2015

February 15, 2015 Leave a comment

These links are NSFW.

Artsy Frontal Cuties: Feb 15, 2015 – Smooth nekkid cuties in artsy poses.

Smooth Nubile Cuties: Feb 15, 2015 – Smooth nekkid nubile cuties.

Enjoy! Comments?

Categories: Uncategorized

An Interesting YouTube Clip about the Future of Work

February 14, 2015 13 comments

Have a look at this YouTube clip which pretty much summarizes what I, and many other, believe will be the future of work.. or the lack thereof.

What do you think? Comments?

On the Fictitious Link Between Magnitude of Pay and Competence: 1

February 7, 2015 15 comments

One of the major beliefs necessary for the “normal” functioning of modern nation states (capitalist or otherwise) is that there is a direct linkage between a person’s pay and the important of their occupation. That is how, for example, people justify paying a surgeon more than a person who cleans sewers- though the later saves more lives than the former. Now some of you might say that it easier to clean and maintain sewers than perform neurosurgery, and that is partially true.

But not all hard to learn skills are paid well. For example, somebody who can juggle 6 knives or fart a musical tune (something that very few can do) will almost never make anywhere near the amount of money made by your average mid-level executive drone. Faced by the necessity to explain this problem, most people will quickly turn to a secondary explanation.

Most people want to believe that pay is correlated to the difficulty of an occupation AND its social necessity.

While this explanation might satisfy most people, it is also demonstrably false. Consider any number of recent cases where the CEOs or board members of large corporations receiving extremely generous severance packages while the majority of employees got pretty close to nothing. Or what about highly paid celebrities and entertainers? Are they really that much better than their peers who did not were less lucky? I could give you many more examples, but that will detract from the next point.

At the start of this post, I used the term “modern nation states”. Did you wonder why I used that term instead of others like “societies” or “countries”? Well.. that term is important because of the role played by that type of entity in this justification of income inequality. In previous eras income inequality was justified through the commission, or threat of, theft or murder.

The feudal knights, lords, vassals and kings of previous eras were not rich because they were “good”, “moral” or competent. They were rich because they could gather an entourage of followers large enough to terrorize and steal from people who could not do so. Sure.. some pretended that were of “noble birth” and “superior morals”- but collection of rents, taxes and tributes was always reliant on the threat of lethal force rather than their “noble birth” or “superior morals”.

The birth and evolution of the modern nation-state has certainly changed some of that. With a few exceptions, countries are no longer run by people who claim a special divine right to rule. Moreover, modern states do at least try to provide some basic level of legally guaranteed benefits and services to their general population. Yet in other respects, these entities are not that different from their pre-modern counterparts. Revenue collection is still done by the threat of force, torture or death and sovereignty is still defined by a monopoly on violence.

Then there is the issue of dressing older patterns of functioning in new explanations. As I mentioned previously, pre-modern societies were quite open about the fact that being rich (or well paid) was about being more lucky, violent or crooked than your peers. However this plain but depressing explanation is not compatible with societies of the complexity we live in today. Just think about how long modern societies would last if most people understood that the amount of money they received was proportional to their luck, ability to be violent or crookedness.

The necessity to cover up and justify income inequality has given rise to a new mythology- the lie of “meritocracy”. According to this new lie, the amount of money and power a person possess has a strong connection with their “IQ”, “competence” and “ability”. In other words, it claims that those with money are smart, competent and deserving and those without it are not. Of course there are obvious exceptions to this “rational” model of the world, but they are explained away as exceptions that prove the rule.

While this rational-sounding explanation might satisfy enough commoners, especially during times of economic growth, it carries within itself the seeds of its own demise. To understand what I am going to say next, you have to understand that not all lies are equally dangerous to the liar. For example- lies told to others are, usually, not especially harmful to the liar. In contrast to that, lies that people tell themselves can be extremely dangerous because people frequently believe their own lies.

In the next part of this series, I will use a few examples of illustrate why the “meritocracy” lie prevalent in modern nation states is significantly more dangerous than the pre-modern lies it replaced.

What do you think? Comments?

Nine Inch Nails: Closer (1994)

January 30, 2015 Leave a comment

In my opinion, this is one of the best music videos of all time.

What do you think? Comments?

Categories: Music Video, YouTube
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