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

NSFW Links: Jan 24, 2015

January 24, 2015 Leave a comment

These links are NSFW.

Cuties Without Panties: Jan 24, 2015 – Nekkid nubile cuties without panties.

More Cuties Without Panties: Jan 24, 2015 – More nekkid nubile cuties without panties.

Even More Cuties Without Panties: Jan 24, 2015 – Yet more nekkid nubile cuties without panties.

Enjoy! Comments?

Categories: Uncategorized

A Few Thoughts on the ‘American Sniper’ Movie Controversy

January 23, 2015 7 comments

In the last few days, many of you might have heard or read about multiple controversies surrounding a movie called ‘American Sniper‘. Some have raised questions about its authenticity and accuracy, while other have criticized the simple-mindedness and USA-centric bias of the film. While I was tempted to dissect the movie for this post, doing so would have shifted attention to the far bigger issue raised by this film.

The big question that almost nobody seems, or dares to, ask is: How would you rationally classify the real-life and now deceased protagonist of this film?

Some of you might say that he was just some soldier doing his job- and that is technically correct. However that conventional and stock answer obscures a lot of things- such as why he was in Iraq in the first place. So let us start by answering that question first. Available literature suggests that Chris Kyle voluntarily joined the U.S. Navy in 1999 and served in a special warfare unit, mostly famously as a sniper, until he was honorably discharged in 2009. His tenure in the U.S armed forces coincided with the U.S.-led military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

And this brings us to the reason behind his fame or infamy. Why are we talking about him, rather than some other guy who served parallel tenures in the U.S armed forces? We.. he is supposedly the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history, accumulating 160 confirmed kills out of 255 probable kills. Now it is certainly not unusual for snipers to be presented as national heroes. Many of you have probably heard about the Russian sniper, Vasily Zaytsev, who killed over 400 germans , including many during the battle of Stalingrad, in WW2 and there were many others like him.

There is however a common thread that runs through the life stories of all highly regarded snipers. Pretty much every respected sniper in history was fighting in a war imposed upon his country by another nation. There is a reason why men like Simo Häyhä, Ivan Sidorenko, Mikhail Surkov, Vasily Zaytsev are seen as heroes while other high scoring snipers such as Matthäus Hetzenauer and Billy Sing are mere footnotes in history. A person fighting for his nation on its own soil against an external aggressor is always seen as fighting the good fight. In contrast to that, a person fighting for the aggressor nation in a war it started is technically a mercenary.

As we all know, U.S.A was the aggressor nation in the Iraq War which started in 2003. It is also common knowledge that the public rationale for invading Iraq in 2003 was largely based on made-up intelligence reports and wishful thinking. In any case, the Iraq war was merely the continuation of a post-WW2 trend under which waging war against small or poor nations has become a standard part of the foreign, domestic and industrial policy of U.S.A. The fact that such actions often leads to defeats for the U.S.A, such as those experienced in Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan, has not done much to dissuade it from entering new ones.

But back the main topic of this post- What was Chris Kyle doing in Iraq during the 2003-2009 time period? and why?

Well.. according to his own book he was busy killing Iraqi “insurgents”. But why? and how exactly do you define “insurgents” if you are on the side that invades a country. Was Iraq under Saddam ever a credible threat to the U.S.A? If it was not, as was plainly obvious both before and after the 2003 invasion- wasn’t the local population justified in resisting and killing the invaders? I mean, would you not do (or at least wish for) something similar in that situation? Then there is the question of whether you classify somebody as insurgent before they are killed or after they are killed. Given the easy availability of guns in post-2003 Iraq and the unstable domestic situation after the invasion, pretty much every guy who could get a gun had one (or more). This is not a trivial point, as sophistic arguments centered on possession (or use) of guns could be used to classify every Iraqi adult or child as an insurgent- especially if they were killed by american military personal.

So his claim of killing between 160-255 Iraqi “insurgents” is best seen as a claim of killing 160-255 Iraqis. I should add that none of those who he killed posed a threat to the U.S.A (as defined by the area contained in the official boundaries of the country, its overseas territories or other officially known territorial possessions). To put it another way, he killed 160-255 Iraqis because he was told to, wanted to or likely a combination of both. And this brings us to the question..

How exactly was Chris Kyle different from a Hitman for a large organized ‘crime’ syndicate?

If you think about rationally, what he did was identical to the job function of a Hitman for an organized ‘crime’ syndicate. Some of you might say “but.. but, the U.S.A is not an organized crime syndicate. To which I would say- actions, not words, tell you what people and organisations really are. In any case, isn’t size the only real difference between modern nation states and organized ‘crime’ syndicates?

What do you think? Comments?

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