Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Initial Thoughts on Novichok Agents, Sergei Skripal, Russia and UK: 2

April 6, 2018 2 comments

About two weeks ago, I wrote a post about the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his adult daughter by an organophosphate compound– allegedly by “russian agents” in UK. At that time, corporate MSM outlets in the west were busy concocting increasingly outrageous stories about that incident. As it turns out, pretty much every single story promoted by the MSM about that incident turned out to be unsubstantiated by evidence. For example: initial reports of twenty other people being accidentally exposed to that compound proved to be incorrect. The only other person allegedly exposed to that compound has since recovered and we still are not sure about how he got exposed to it in the first place.

More tellingly, none of the first responders and medical personnel got ill from handling Skripal and his daughter. Initially, British authorities had claimed that the poison was found in the car ventilation system, then they claimed it was on the door handle and now they are considering the possibility that it was in a gift brought over by his daughter from Russia. They also initially said that Skripal and his daughters had little to no chance of recovery and we now learn that his daughter is recovering and will leave the hospital soon. Today, we are told that Skripal will also make a ‘miraculous’ recovery.

In other words, the “official” narrative put forth by the British government about that incident has been unusually vague, ever-changing and too dependent on having uncritical belief in their honesty. Some of you might recall how similar and totally made up claims by British “intelligence” services at the core of’Iraq Dossier‘ were used by Tony Blair’s government to justify support for the failed american invasion of Iraq in 2003. There is also a strong parallel between this incident and the attempt by German intelligence agencies in 1994 (with approval by USA) to implicate the then Russian government in a fake plot to smuggle plutonium into the west.

To make matters even more peculiar, the British government still has not been able to provide evidence that it knows the identity or structure of the compound involved in that incident. As I wrote in my previous post, indirect identification of organophosphate compounds by their ability to inhibit cholinesterases and other related esterases is pretty straightforward. Definitive identification of the compound, though easy nowadays compared to 30 years ago, is substantially more complicated. Having said that, the apparent inability of multiple government labs in nearby British biological and chemical warfare laboratories at Porton Down to provide objective data to support their claims of identifying the compound is odd.

Based on the many peculiarities and oddities of this case in addition to the past history of those making the accusations, it is worthwhile considering another possibility. Maybe the British government, or some faction within its “deep state”, is behind the poison attack on Skripal and his daughter. False flag attacks to generate public sympathy for, or unity behind, a cause are not unknown. Similarly, there is a rich history in the “west” of using false flag attacks to demonize another country. It is also hard to ignore that the “deep state” in UK and USA is the biggest beneficiary of such an attack. Let me explain that point in some detail..

Skripal was an ex-Russian spy who betrayed his fellow officers in the KGB for purely financial reasons. You probably know that he was caught and tried in 2004 and imprisoned for a few years (2004-2010) in Russia before being part of a spy swap deal with UK and USA in 2010. If the government in Russia really wanted him dead, he would not have lived long enough to be part of the spy swap deal in 2010. Then there is the question of why this incident occurred days before the presidential election in Russia. Think about it.. how does such an incident benefit Putin in his reelection campaign? The simple fact is that it does not help him.

Such an incident does however provide the “deep state” in UK and USA with more ammo in their ineffectual campaign to demonize Putin. It is no secret that the USA and its old crippled prison-bitch aka UK are not adjusting well to the emerging world order- an order in which they stand to further lose whatever real or imagined global influence they possessed. It is no secret that the many recent global military misadventures by USA (and UK) such as the failed invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan have been humiliating and expensive failures. Their attempts to extend NATO right upto Russian borders and generally behave as if the world is still stuck in 2000 have not gone as planned.

The pathetic attempts by USA, UK and France (waning western powers) to interfere in other parts of the world such as Syria and part of Africa has been unsuccessful. Furthermore, their dream of turning Russia into some vassal state ruled by west-friendly oligarchs has been a miserable failure. It does not help that the financial crash of 2008 has exposed the many failures of western neoliberalism to their own domestic populations. It is no wonder, therefore, that average people in the west have in the recent past voted for concepts such as Brexit and people such as Trump and other fake right-wing populists. To make a long story short, the traditional elite in the west (especially the USA and UK) are feeling their power slip away irreversibly.

It is therefore not surprising that these mediocrities are trying to reboot the Cold War. The general thought process behind their actions is as follows.. The cold war was good for establishment elites as it allowed them to consolidate their power in western countries and suppress dissent and challenges to their undeserved power. Perhaps, rebooting the Cold War (they think) would let them use the same playbook and turn back the metaphorical clock. Of course, any objective person can see that this hare-brained scheme is going in failure since the underlying conditions across the world have changed a lot since the late 1980s.

Then again, establishment elite have never been the sharpest tools in the shed (link 1, link 2). I mean.. look at how they are reacting to Trump’s election in USA. Not a minute goes by when these idiots are not breathlessly talking about another leak from the “Mueller team”, another “new” link between Putin and Trump or some other similar absurdity. In fact, I have written more than one post about this in the past, including how this obsession is a symptom of a much deeper intellectual bankruptcy among establishment elites in USA.

All of this in addition to the “deep state” fondness for hare-brained schemes which look amazingly impressive on paper strongly suggest that the poisoning of Skripal and his daughter in UK was a false flag operation, which did not work out as originally planned.

What do you think? Comments?

On Linkage Between Nasim Aghdam and YouTube’s Monopolist Policies

April 5, 2018 5 comments

I am sure that, by now, most of you heard about the shooting at YouTube’s headquarters by Nasim Aghdam. Regardless of what you think about her personality, the unintentional meme-friendliness of her videos or her general mental stability- its is clear that the incident in question was triggered by YouTube’s (and by extension, Google’s) completely unaccountable behavior towards its content creators and users. In that respect, Google is part of the general trend of Silly Valley corporations being monopolistic, autocratic and totally unaccountable. Given the amount of online hate about YouTube’s corporate behavior, policies and decision-making, I am surprised that such an incident did not occur sooner.

Amazon, Paypal, Facebook and pretty much every other large Silly Valley corporation have, in recent years, displayed very similar behavior when it comes to acting like autocratic monopolies. I hope to, soon, write a more detailed post about my views on the effect of such behavior as well as the kind of pushback it will eventually engender. Having said that, I am sure that this little incident is unlikely to change the attitude at Google anytime soon. Many of you must also be aware that YouTube is soon going to ban channels about guns. Surely such a move will be hailed by the public as an uncontroversial “common sense” decision without any pushback..

Link 1: Tragic YouTube shooting casts new light on creators’ “adpocalypse” complaints

As news unfolded about Tuesday’s YouTube shooting, a chilling motive emerged. Ahead of the incident, the alleged shooter had posted videos maligning the service—doing so as a former money-making user of the site. “I’m being discriminated [against] and filtered on YouTube, and I’m not the only one,” alleged shooter Nasim Aghdam said in a video that was shared after her identity as the shooting’s current, sole fatality was revealed. “My workout video gets age-restricted. Vegan activists and other people who try to point out healthy, humane, and smart living, people like me, are not good for big business. That’s why they are discriminating [against] and censoring us.”

YouTube’s automatic filters have wreaked demonetization havoc through a wide swath of video types, including those about conservative politics and LGBTQ issues. However, keeping track of which videos are impacted (and for how long) is itself quite difficult, owing to how many channels may be temporarily hit only to have those strikes reversed after an inefficient reviews process. The above-linked video about LGBTQ videos, for example, was itself demonetized when it was uploaded; it has since been whitelisted for ads.

One video made by alleged YouTube HQ shooter Aghdam, which was successfully archived before most of her online presence was wiped, focused primarily on YouTube flagging a video she’d recently made. Her complaint video included footage of the demonetized video, which showed a fully clothed Aghdam working out via sit-ups and leg lifts, as well as an allegation that YouTube rejected her appeal, telling her that the video was “inappropriate.”

Link 2: Livid over site’s policies, YouTube shooter trained for attack, shot randomly

Barberini provided a few more details about the incident, confirming that she was upset with the company’s “policies and practices.” Earlier videos—which have been removed from YouTube and Facebook but remain scattered in other places across the Internet—include clips of Aghdam railing against perceived grievances concerning age restrictions and demonetization. Last year, Google overhauled its age restriction rules and enforcement policy. This resulted in a wave of videos being demonetized, which angered YouTubers who could no longer attach money-making ads to their videos. Ruchika Budhraja, a Facebook spokeswoman, confirmed to Ars that the company had deleted Aghdam’s Facebook and Instagram accounts and wrote that the company would also “delete content that praises or supports the shooter or the horrific act as soon as we are aware.”

Link 3: YouTube shooter IDed as woman angry at site’s “age-restricted” policies

The San Bruno Police Department has identified the suspect in Tuesday’s shooting at the YouTube campus as Nasim Aghdam, a 39-year-old woman from San Diego. The confirmation came hours after numerous media sources had initially named Aghdam as the suspect. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that Aghdam’s car was towed from the YouTube parking lot. Aghdam seemingly had a website in which she promotes numerous YouTube channels, including ones in English, Turkish, and Farsi. All of her social media channels appear to have been deactivated or removed. The woman seemed to be upset at YouTube over what she called “age-restricted” policies.

Link 4: YouTube Attacker’s Complaints Echoed Fight Over Ad Dollars

While the police did not specifically say what those policies were, they likely had to do with a concept called “demonetization.” In response to pressure from advertisers and consumers, YouTube has been pulling ads from thousands of videos that it decides do not meet its standards for content. That has sparked an outcry from many of the people who post videos to the service. One of those creators was Nasim Najafi Aghdam, the woman the police said had shot YouTube employees in San Bruno, Calif. She frequently posted videos to several YouTube channels and had become increasingly angry over the money she was making from them.

When YouTube pulls ads, it tells creators which videos violated the standards, though it doesn’t elaborate very much on what they did wrong. It’s unclear whether YouTube pulled ads from Ms. Aghdam’s videos.The anger around demonetization has been growing for more than a year. One of YouTube’s most popular personalities, Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg, who goes by PewDiePie, posted videos with Nazi imagery, including a sign that called for “Death to Jews.” As a punishment, YouTube demonetized some of his videos in early 2017, though it didn’t outrightly bar him. Mr. Kjellberg, now calling himself “family-friendly,” still posts regularly and has a booming business on the platform.

A wide spectrum of YouTube creators, from the conspiracy-minded to the most popular stars, have been vocal about what they see as censorship on YouTube. After a popular video blogger who posts about news, Philip DeFranco, saw his videos demonetized, he called demonetization “censorship with a different name.” On Twitter, he wrote: “Producer just got off the phone with Youtube and it wasn’t a mistake. Feels a little bit like getting stabbed in the back after 10 years.” Luke Rudkowski, an independent journalist who describes conspiracy theories to his more than 500,000 subscribers on YouTube, has repeatedly complained about the site pulling ads from his videos.

In August, he posted a video criticizing news that YouTube would start removing more terrorist content. “We are seeing the purging, the cleaning of this major online institution to be more favorable towards corporations and governments,” Mr. Rudkowski said. “Now that’s why I think we’re finally reaching the end time of this beautiful and amazing platform.” A few days later, he said YouTube had pulled ads from 660 of his videos, “basically eviscerating my main source of revenue for this news organization.”

What do you think? Comments?

Recap of Previous Posts on Futility of Attempts at “Gun Control” in USA

March 25, 2018 1 comment

As more regular readers of this blog know, I have written more than a few posts on why attempts to implement “gun control” in USA are doomed to failure in addition to being worse than useless. While I often link to 2-3 older posts in each newer one on that topic, I thought it was a good idea to create a more comprehensive link list for the major ones. Also, it is Sunday and I am trying to finish up another post on a related issue.

Mass Shootings Occur in USA Because It is a Third-World Country (from February 2018)

First world countries are defined by the quality of life enjoyed by their median resident, as are third world countries. For example- Japan, South Korea, France, Germany etc are seen as first world countries because of the high quality of life for their median residents. Living in such countries is characterized by things such as excellent universal healthcare, fairly stable and well-paying jobs for the majority of its residents, reasonably good formal and informal social safety nets and an overall lack of extremely poor and desperate people. In other words, life for the median resident in these countries is very good and even the less fortunate are doing better than treading water.

Now contrast this to the overall quality of life in countries such as Mexico, Brazil, India and yes.. USA. While these countries have no shortage of billionaires and lesser rich people with fabulous lifestyles- things are pretty shitty for their median residents. Most people in these countries have precarious jobs and livelihoods which often do not pay enough for the ever-increasing costs of sub-standard housing, healthcare and education. The government in these countries work solely for the benefit of the rich minority and does not provide adequate social goods such as healthcare, education, housing, sanitation or a usable social safety net.

On the Democratic Party’s Unfortunate Obsession with Gun Control (from August 2017)

And that is why the credentialed professional class, which is the 2nd most important constituency for democrats as well as the source of most of their party establishment cadre want to disarm “less deserving” poorer people. Parasites, you see, prefer hosts who are unable to stop the party. Credentialed professionals perceive the widespread ownership of guns as a threat to their cushy livelihoods which depend on theft and extortion via laws and regulations. However, unlike corporations, they are not powerful or singularly important enough to get special protection by the state.

Attempting to ban widespread ownership of guns, then, appears to be the second best option. And that is why the democratic establishment keeps on pursuing a policy that has brought it repeated electoral failure in parts of the country that are not New York or California. On a side note, I do not think that their obsession with gun control is going to change even if they perform poorly in the 2018 and 2020 elections. As long as they can still win a few coastal states, they will keep shooting themselves in the foot.

On the Futility of Attempts at Gun Control in the USA (from July 2015)

And this brings us to the second issue- namely, that a significant minority of people do not perceive the current government system as being legitimate. But why does that matter? Don’t people in other developed countries have similar views about their governments? Well.. it does matter, because people in other developed countries do perceive their governments to be significantly more legitimate than people in the USA see their own. But why? What makes people in Japan, Germany or even the U.K feel that their government is legitimate? The simple answer is that the perceived legitimacy of a government is directly proportional to the consistency and effectiveness of its efforts to maintain the quality of life for the median citizen.

It is therefore no surprise that gun control measures seem to work in countries where the government directly or indirectly intervenes in favor of the median citizen. I should also point out countries with such government systems always had very low rates of deaths by individual acts of violence- especially in the post-WW2 era. In contrast to that, countries in which governments routinely and overtly abuse the majority to benefit the rich minority always had rather high rates of non-state sanctioned homicides. That is why certain countries such as Mexico, Brazil and South Africa have rather high rates of non-state sanctioned homicides despite highly restrictive gun ownership laws. My point is that the USA has always been more like Mexico, Brazil and South Africa than Japan, Germany or the U.K.

LIEbrals push for more gun control laws because they do not want to acknowledge that the USA has always been an affluent third-world country and that they have greatly benefited from this situation.

Non-Gun Mass Killings Will Become the Next New Trend (from August 2012)

It seems that we can hardly go a week without some quiet, lonely and otherwise law-abiding guy shooting up a few people. Such mass shootings have created an outcry among morons who think that guns kill people. There is however considerable evidence that killing lots of people without guns is actually quite easy, if the persons doing it is so determined. Moreover there are excellent contemporary examples, such as the ongoing drug wars in Mexico, that show the inefficacy of legal gun control in preventing people from acquiring guns.

Now I don’t know whether these weekly mass-shootings will become more frequent (likely) or deadlier (somewhat less likely), but that discussion is best saved for another post. But there is another and far more interesting trend that I predict will emerge regardless of whether lawmakers try to pass more restrictive laws about gun ownership. I have partially tackled this issue in a previous post. People who are unhappy with the system, and see no viable future, will increasingly kill others through means that are not gun or explosive linked.

Why (New) Gun Laws Won’t Prevent Mass Killings (also, from August 2012)

Attempts to control the legal ownership of guns are superficial “do something” acts which so not address the underlying causes of the malady. The reality is that there is really no way a failing society can stop such acts. Do you really think that people who have nothing to lose will follow laws and regulations? Do you think they won’t get firearms through extra-legal channels? Do you think a failing government can control the system? Do you think James Holmes would have done less damage with a couple dozen Molotov cocktails and a few matches in a crowded theater? Are you going to regulate gasoline usage next? The only way to effectively reduce the incidence of mass killings is through the creation of a socio-economic system which treats people with a basic level of human dignity.

But I don’t think that will happen. The whole modus operandi of the USA as a society has been to abuse, steal and murder others to get rich and impoverish those who survive. For a long time, they mostly did it to outsiders and minorities, but they eventually ran out of them as far as profit is concerned. That is when they turned to (and on) each other. While it looked fairly harmless in the beginning (early 1980s), things have got worse with each passing year. The reality is human beings, especially the so-called clever ones, are too short-sighted to appreciate the effects of their own actions.

What do you think? Comments?

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

March 20, 2018 13 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?

The Falcon Heavy Launcher is a Publicity Stunt, Not a Paradigm Shift

February 10, 2018 10 comments

Long-time readers of my blog might know that I am not a fan of Elon Musk and his frequent attempts to grab public money and attention by making outrageous promises. Some of you might remember that, a few months ago, I wrote a fairly critical piece on SpaceX. In it, I argued that the central ‘big promise’ of SpaceX- namely, that it can “disrupt” and completely upend the existing space launch business is a quintessentially american scam. You might also remember, in the same post, I also said that SpaceX as could make a decent profit if it was run like another normal business.

Implicit in the last statement was my educated guess that Elon Musk’s need for fame, money and ego would kickstart a series of decisions leading to the eventual ruin of the current boring but modestly profitable business of launching things (and perhaps) people into earth orbit. Till last week, my other guess about SpaceX demonstrating the ability to become a conventional and somewhat successful (but boring) company was on track. Now, it seems my guess about Elon Musk’s megalomaniac ambitions initiating a series of bad decisions is also coming true.

Some of you might think I am just hating on that guy because of the recent launch of their signature Falcon launcher in its ‘Heavy’ configuration. Readers might find it interesting that, in private twitter conversations, I gave it a better than 80% chance of success on its first try- which is a bit higher than SpaceX was willing to publicly admit. And why not? Falcon Heavy is an evolutionary development of a pretty well-tested launcher design, and while putting three multi-core stages next to each other can produce some peculiar mechanical issues, they have been successfully solved by others in the past.

And this brings me to my first criticism of Falcon Heavy and other recent attempts at building Super heavy-lift launch vehicles. As you can see in the graphic (below), lauchers which can put over 50 tons into Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) have been developed since the 1960s. A number of such launch systems– from Saturn V, Space Shuttle Launch System and Energia— have flown on more than one occasion and have been quite successful at fulfilling the mission they were designed to perform. Yet, they all went out of production after the specific mission they were designed to accomplish was terminated. In other words, Super heavy-lift launch vehicles have (to date) been one-trick horses. But why?

Why have smaller space launcher families such as Soyuz, Proton, Titan, Delta 2, Long March 2 and Ariane 4 remained in service for decades, while much larger ones like Saturn V and Energia went out of production within a few years of their first flight? Some of you might think that it has something to do with technological complexity of larger systems, but larger launchers are not that much more demanding to operate that heavy to medium launchers such as those mentioned in the previous sentence. A better explanation for the longevity of heavy to medium launcher families comes down to the weight of payloads most frequently launched- unmanned artificial satellites, spacecraft carrying humans in LEO orbit and unmanned space-probes.

To make a long story short, the absolute majority of space launches do not need to put payloads above 30 tons in LEO, perhaps 10-12 tons in GTO and even less for Heliocentric or Hohmman transfer-type orbits. More relevantly, this apparent restriction on payload capacity has little to do with the cost or ability to launch them. Instead, it is largely a consequence of progressive miniaturization of electronic components used in unmanned spacecraft combined with the highly onerous weight requirements for manned exploration of anything beyond the moon using chemically powered rocket engines. Physical and chemical reality, you see, cannot be bargained with or ignored.

But it gets worse.. the bulk of commercial launch market that SpaceX wants to “disrupt” could care less about launchers more powerful than their current default Falcon 9 Full Thrust. Launchers of comparable capacity with a significantly longer service life, such as Ariane 5, have been launching two communication satellites on one launcher for many years. In other words, customers interested in putting large and heavy communication satellites seem to be in no hurry to develop ones that weigh over 6 tons. In fact, most operational communication satellites in GTO orbit are between 2.5-4.5 tons. Even the few super-secret government communication satellites for GTO orbit struggle to push past 10 tons.

Then there is the issue of lower than expected future demands for communication satellites because of the spread of global trans-oceanic fibre optic networks combined with relatively poor maximum data transfer rates at radio wave (lower) frequencies. Data intensive internet use by billions of people is better handled by massive terrestrial fiber-optic backbones than space-based radio frequency links. To be clear, I am not suggesting that the need for communication satellites is going to disappear in the near future. I am just saying that the initial explosive growth of communication satellites occurred due to proliferation of Cable TV channels and long-distance telephony in the 1980s to early 2000s period.

Let us now tackle the issue of manned exploration of celestial bodies beyond the moon. Ever wonder why NASA never did a man on mars after the conclusion of the Apollo lunar missions?

The simplest answer is that even their most optimistic designs for such a mission were (all modules combined) over 300 tons. In other words, even the most minimalist manned return mission to mars would require one or more rocket launchers to put 300 tons in low earth orbit. Then is the issue of the mission being about two years long with all its attendant physical and psychological risks. Short of developing a nuclear powered spacecraft which could cut the trip time to a few months, or even weeks, human space travel to any large celestial body more distant than the moon is really hard with chemical rockets.

And that brings to the unpleasant question about Falcon Heavy- Is it a ‘solution’ in search of a problem? Face it, there is currently no necessity or desire to develop orbital or space payloads of the size or weight where using Falcon Heavy to launch them would be competitive. Furthermore, decades of spending by governments and corporations has not created the need for payloads which could be only launched by super heavy lift launch vehicles. While its is easy to see a market for the services of Falcon 9 Full Thrust, the same cannot be said for Falcon Heavy. But if no customer is willing to spend money on utilizing its services, what is the incentive to keep on building and improving them.

In summary, I see the Falcon Heavy launcher as a publicity stunt rather than a ‘paradigm shift’ of any type in the space launcher business.

What do you think? Comments?

Corporate Media Campaign to Discredit Nunes Memo is Helping Trump

February 3, 2018 18 comments

I usually avoid writing on topics involving yet another corporate media manufactured lie or purported outrage, because those bullshit fantasies usually have no worthwhile impact on reality- rather like the proverbial storm in a teacup. The corporate media campaign, first to hinder publication of the Nunes memo and then attempt to discredit it is, however, a bit different for reasons we shall soon discuss. But before we go any further, I will clarify my positions on the background of some of the characters involved in this darkly comic saga.

Firstly, Devin Nunes is a mediocre republican congressman representing a congressional district in rural California– with a passing resemblance to an obese version of the Michael Scott character from the american version of ‘The Office‘. Before his current rise to fame (or infamy), he was just another republican politician who never found a corporate dick which was too disgusting to suck- provided he was compensated for his services. In other words, he is your generic republican politician who was elected because the democratic party candidate was either absent or even more disgusting.

Secondly, my views on Trump are very well-known and my past predictions about him have turned out to be very accurate. As some of you might remember, I predicted that he would win the republican nomination in August 2015. I then predicted that HRC would lose to Trump in the 2016 general election, regardless of what all those credentialed “experts” were saying. My very early predictions about the likely disastrous trajectory of a Trump presidency have held up quite well. I have also written about the probability of Trump completing his first term in Office. To make a long story short, it is highly unlikely that the ongoing Mueller investigation will end his presidency.

Now, let us turn our attention to the Nunes memo aka what most people in USA had already guessed about the Mueller investigation. As some of my more regular readers might remember, I have written numerous posts about how promotion of the “Russiagate” scandal was always a sign of intellectual bankruptcy among establishment democrats. I also wrote about the main reasons why establishment democrats have a desperate need to keep on believing in that made-up story and how they and their supporters in the corporate media have kept up a non-stop campaign which aims to convince people that Trump is a “puppet of Putin” who was elected only because of “russian interference in our sacred elections”.

To be clear, once again- I am not implying that Trump is a competent president. In fact, his first year in office has proven to be train-wreck of epic proportions for everybody but the rich and corporate donors to the republican party (and their minions in the legislature and judiciary). Establishment democrats have, however, largely ignored his abysmal record on a range of issues from providing massive tax breaks for the rich, multiple attempts to destroy important regulatory agencies, destroying healthcare programs and much more. Instead they seem to be unduly focused on non-issues such as his moral character, personal life, alleged collusion with Putin and now ‘obstruction of justice’.

But what does any of this have to do with the corporate media’s reaction to the release of the Nunes memo? As it turn out, a fucking lot! The memo for all its issues, explicitly says that the FBI investigation into the Trump presidential campaign in 2016 was initiated based on sketchy and politically biased sources. In other words, it suggest that the investigation into “Russiagate” and Trump-Russia and Trump-Putin connections is a witch-hunt conducted by people in FBI (and deep-state) who want Trump to resign or be impeached. As many of you might realize, this is precisely what a majority of american who are not partisan democrats have come to believe over the last year.

The corporate media, in its enthusiasm to support establishment democrats, is making things far worse than things might have been. Let me explain.. to begin with, they kept on shouting from the rooftops that releasing the memo was somehow going to cause massive damage to ‘national security’ which seems rather farcical once you actually read that four page document. Now that it has been released, they are assaulting everyone with talking points from the same set of “credentialed experts” who confidently say that the same memo is either meaningless or shoddy.

Which begs the question- how did a memo whose release was going to start the end of days before it was released quickly turn out to be a worthless and shoddy piece of work? Clearly, something is not right with the corporate media- and most people have caught on that problem over the last few years. Some of you might remember how the same media outlets and talking heads tried to tell everyone that Trump’s morals and personal life made him unfit to elected president during the 2016 election campaign.

Remember how over 80% of HRC’s attacks advertisements in 2016 were about Trump’s character and language and how it would affect children watching TV? I wonder how that worked, given that she outspent him by more than 2-to-1. Or what about all those polls prophesying a landslide HRC victory which filled corporate media in 2016. My point is that a majority of people now do not believe what they read, hear or see on corporate media. In fact, they are far more likely to believe the opposite of whatever the corporate media is trying to make them believe- not unlike how people in soviet-era Russia saw the domestic reporting of Pravda and Izvestia.

To summarize, the corporate media’s very visibly coordinated campaign to first try suppressing the release of the Nunes memo and then try to ‘debunk’ it has given that memo far more credibility than otherwise possible. The whole ganging up on Trump , releasing identical ‘debunking’ points about that memo and constant coverage of “credentialed experts”makes Trump look like the victim of an elitist deep-state that is working tirelessly to immiserate average people. To put it another way, the corporate media and their backers have, once gain, achieved the near impossible- make Trump look like the real victim while simultaneously increasing public support for him if he ends up firing more people from the FBI and DOJ. Quite impressive and darkly comic, if you ask me.

What do you think? Comments?