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Posted by on in Uncategorized

Just when you thought the Cold War was dead and buried, the war contractors and their lobbyists decided to dust off a tried and true model to line their pockets.

The same foolish old men that brought us a war with Afghanistan and Iraq are eager once again to stuff other people and their money into a Ukrainian meat grinder. War is the word. War with Russia, of all nations, as if the US hadn't tried it before. Other pseudo-tangles with the Russians brought us North Korea, the Vietnam War, the Taliban, the Bay of Pigs and other bright spots in world history. In spite of poor historical outcomes, the wise men of Washington see no downside in blasting Russians in their backyard.

To be clear, US Marines probably won't face off against Spetnasz operatives. Perhaps there will be some "advisors" dotting the Ukraine, as they were called before Vietnam heated up. Maybe there will be UN peacekeepers, the euphemism used during the Korean War. One thing is certain; a war with Russia means that the US taxpayer will be robbed again to arm and advise a people they couldn't care about to fight a political situation they don't know about.

For about 70 years, the Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union. In 1992 or so, it split off. Neither one of these developments was used as a casus belli. However, the US war machine is getting hungry, and Russia taking over the Ukraine, as it has done several times before, seems to be an adequate excuse to spend American lives and money. It is understandable, though. Without a war to fight, the war contractor/campaign finance machine was getting dry. When you're starving, lots of stuff starts looking like food.

Russia may even seem like a foolish choice of enemy given their forest of nuclear missiles, but in reality "fighting" a nuclear enemy is the perfect war for cowardly politicians. Nukes aren't aimed at Cowpens, South Carolina. They're aimed at the White House. They're aimed at the Kremlin. Both sides know it, and won't rock the boat, lest they place their physical selves in any danger. They've never had a problem sending endless waves of fellow countrymen to die in whatever pointless adventure they've picked for the election cycle, they consider their own physical safety truly inviolate. When two nuclear-capable nations pretend to go to war, its more of a chess match than a street fight.

Appearing to face off against a great Russian enemy provides politicians a stage to jaw about morality, courage and sacrifice with prior knowledge that it will personally cost them nothing. The dying part is for the little people, the politicians have lobbyists to satisfy and campaigns to think about.

It is hard to imagine just exactly how replacing a Ukrainian-brand crony government with an almost indistinguishable Russian-brand crony government would have strategic impact on a town in Utah, but that isn't stopping the war machine from trying to convince people to send their children to die for their cause.

 

 

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The Pentagon's hand-me-down program, which places old military hardware into the eager hands of police departments across the country, runs the gamut from frightening to bizarre. The so-called 1033 program's complete list (available for download below) reads like a Steven Seagal version of the 12 days of Christmas, and so without so much as two turtle doves... SoTP brings you the 12 days of police militarization.

 

1 Practice Antipersonnel Mine

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Stark County, Ohio caught my eye with a practice antipersonnel mine. I was glad to see that it wasn't a real anti-personnel mine. Though, if they ever did get real ones, we could rest assured that they had plenty of practice.

 

205 Grenade Launchers

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For special occasions.

 

344 MRAPs

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Scattered across the country in nearly every state (Delaware notably absent), these soldier-taxis-gone-bad have become emblematic of the 1033 program. Remarkably, St. Lucie county is home to no fewer than five of these Tonka-Tanks, more than legitimately scary places like Miami-Dade, or East Baton Rouge.

 

403 Helicopters

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This whole list inadvertently became scenes from Arnold Schwarzenegger movies.

 

50 Nuclear Ordnance Boxes

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Lee County, Georgia needed something to put their nukes in.

 

6 Drum sets

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Including a Ludwig...John Bonham would be proud. One might ask why the military needed them, and then ask again, why do the police need them?

 

79000 5.56mm Rifles

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Your neighborhood operator might call this a "black rifle", or if he were feeling especially randy, "the black rifle", as the M-16 is occasionally referred to (usually by forum ninjas). Not much to say, except that it is an awful lot of rifles.

 

8 Mechanical Fingers

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Don't know what they are, but Saint Clair, Michigan's got 'em.

 

91000 feet of Electrical Wire.

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Ventura County, California must have some big plans, because they've got 16 miles of electrical wire, courtesy of the US taxpayer.

 

1000 pounds of nails

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Providence, Rhode Island is the proud owner of one thousand pounds of military surplus nails. Unfortunately, they did not get a nail gun to go with it, like Terrell County, Georgia (who didn't get any nails).

 

11900 Bayonets

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Of which, for some reason, El Paso County, Texas needed 1987.

 

12 Cargo Parachutes

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You forgot about that movie? Walton County, Georgia didn't.

 

And, should you wish to peruse the staggering list for gems like these, it is available for download here.

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The US Military has been blowing up Iraq since I was 5 years old. In spite of all the politicians promises that this blowing up of Iraqi stuff would lead to a new tomorrow, where peace and prosperity flood into the region, this brave new world has failed to arrive.

 

The previous 24 years of blowing up Iraq haven't achieved their stated aims, so we listen again to blather from elected officials that certainly, this time, the bombs will bring peace. Perhaps the previous explosions weren't powerful enough, or were too powerful. Certainly, they tell us, finding the right target, or blowing up the right mud brick building will change the hearts of ISIS, and turn the region around. The issue isn't one of approach, it is one of gathering intelligence, they say.

 

Terrorists, the popular press will tell you, are finite in number and if only they could all be apprehended, peace would ensue. Terrorists, by these same accounts, are "radicalized", as if anti-Westernism were an infectious disease over which its victim has no control. Never does it enter popular discussion that these people could be externally motivated by the events going on around them, or that otherwise peaceful individuals could be driven to violence by a combination of beliefs and events.

 

Worse still, is the logical fallacy that organizations like Al Qaeda and ISIS are hierarchical structures similar to ordinary governments or militaries, and that if the heads of the organization can be clipped, that the rest of the organization would wander off into retail jobs and farming. The reality, made apparent by the hydra-like behavior of these organizations, is that the members are self-motivated, and that Al Qaeda is more like a jihad fan club than a jihad corporation. For example, if the head of the Star Wars fan club were killed, it is unlikely that everyone in the club would cease to enjoy Star Wars. Likewise, if the head of ISIS is killed, or if the main players of a particular cell of Al Qaeda are killed, it is unlikely the rest of the group would pack up their stuff and go home.

 

Furthermore, decentralized organizations are the only organizations that can survive under the vigilance of US anti-terrorist operations. People don't seem to ask what it takes to set up a chapter of Al Qaeda. An ambitious fellow doesn't have to apply for a franchise and pay a fee to Al Qaeda LLC; all you need is a bunch of guys who decide to call themselves Al Qaeda.

 

To fight these loosely organized guys as if they were the Wehrmacht is an inappropriate tactic. If one part of the organization, even the most visible members, recant their positions and surrender, the rest of the organization will renounce them and carry on. Surrender is an impermanent, ephemeral goal, as no one man controls the motivations and opinions of the entire organization.

 

Further still, no one ever asks why these guys are fighting, or who these guys even are. In 2003, US bombs began to fall in Baghdad, during what was called "Shock and Awe" at the time. This decimated the paid Iraqi army, and began the unpaid insurgent resistance to the US Army that goes on to this day. 2003 was 11 years ago, and tens of thousands of Iraqis were orphaned during this period. What do you suppose the views of a 19 year old Iraqi fellow, orphaned in 2003, might be in regards to the US? What of a 30 year old, who has known hardly anything but American bombs, soldiers, no-fly-zones and tanks? Is it any surprise that there is no shortage of willing, murderous young men joining the Islamic State?

 

Foreign attack creates a sense of conservatism and nationalism. The 1979-1989 attacks on Afghanistan by the Soviet Union ended all traces of progressive thought in Afghanistan, as the psychotically traditional Taliban took over the country. Previously, Afghanistan had been looking to modernize the country. Afterwards, those thought to be too modern could be flogged or killed. The US occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq has apparently done little to endear the Western world to the people of Iraq and Afghanistan, as is made abundantly clear by a burgeoning Taliban presence in Afghanistan, and the appearance of the especially brutish and backward Islamic State taking over Iraq.

 

And so, more bombs fall, and the insistence by the would-be Caliphs that the West it out to get the Iraqi people sound more plausible to Iraqi ears. By fighting, by blowing up trucks and artillery, the US creates more enemies that will either destroy or be destroyed. Each ISIS fighter killed leaves dozens of surviving relatives, who will be more motivated to take up the sword. The war can absolutely be fought, as it has for nearly 25 years. But fighting will only lead to more fighting. Bombing will lead to more bombing. History has shown that new targets appear as old targets are destroyed.

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Posted by on in Uncategorized

Ask yourself, how is TacoCoin better than AppleByte? The market says one AppleByte is nearly ten times as valuable as a TacoCoin. Why? What makes it better? How are they different?

An AppleCoin is one hundred times as valuable as an AppleByte, on the other hand.

How about NewYorkCoin, which has increased in value 2500% in the past 24 hours, or FlappyCoin, down 93%?

Then there is ByteCoin (BCN) and, yes, ByteCoin (BTE). One is the #16 cryptocurrency by market cap. The other's value isn't calculable since no one knows how many there are. How can you know the difference?

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With 103 currencies with more than $100,000 in market cap, how any anyone presume that any one currency will last, or maintain its value? How can Bitcoin remain top dog, with Bitcoin, Bitcoin Plus, Bitcoin Dark, Bitcoin Scrypt and Qubitcoin, if they are all exchangeable, fungible and tradeable? Why buy one Bitcoin when you can buy 90 Litecoins?

While Bitcoin accounts for over 90% of market cap, it only accounts for two-thirds of all trade. That is to say, for every three dollars worth of "coin" transactions, one of them is taking place in some cryptocurrency other than Bitcoin.

With such great incentive to create one's own currency, the assault on Bitcoin's market share will only continue, as there are now 433 cryptocurrencies tracked on coinmarketcap.com at the time of posting. The barrier to entry is lower every day as more merchants gear themselves to accept the many new cryptocurrencies.

Ultimately, a galaxy of cryptocurrencies will exist (far moreso than today), and the market cap will become increasingly stretched across the limitless sea of ones and zeroes. As time goes by, and the emotional tie to Bitcoin fades in the minds of people, its particular strings of 0's and 1's, no different than any other, will hold no more value than any other. This has yet to pass, but there is no theoretical reason for the market to remain out of equilibrium forever.

 

 

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With "net neutrality" laws looming in our near future, internet killswitch legislation brewing in California, and the ever-present monthly bills for Internet Service Providers, it may seem that the best days of the internet are behind us. Like the Wild West giving way to the Bureau of Land Management, it might appear that the exciting freshness of the Internet wearing off.

However, hope for a faster, tougher, freer internet is cropping up in places that most people don't immediately associate with the cutting edge of technology: Africa. But it's for a good reason. While most people in the West are perfectly capable of paying $40-$60 monthly for internet access, this is an absolute killer in Africa. So a new technology, the wireless mesh network, is gaining popularity. Rather than a set of users depending on a central server system and ISP, the user's wireless devices themselves make up the network. Traffic is peer to peer to peer, rather than peer to server to peer. This means two wonderful things; there's no one to pay, and there's nothing to build.

Internet access in the developed world operates on the model of telephone service dating back to the early 20th century. This was a natural, given the first internet technology we all loved to hate: dial-up. This top down, centralized model of data distribution has gradually improved connection speeds, but the structure of server farms and zillions of miles of cable never changed.

In glorious contrast, the mesh networks in Africa are decentralized, and as is the case with mesh networks, the more nodes (phones/computers) that are added, the faster the network gets.

Speed advantages aside, mesh networks allow for not just one internet, but many internets, operating simultaneously and independently of one another. With mesh networks, there is no longer just one internet that can be killed with the touch of a button (look how Turkey shut down Twitter in their country because people were saying things the government didn't like). A decentralized internet is a robust internet.

Ultimately, a smartphone user operating inside a mesh network could call anywhere and download as much of anything as he or she wanted free of charge. No phone bill. No ISP. And this is exactly what we are seeing grow up in Africa. Soon, apps will develop that will mesh directly from phone to phone in the US, and like Blockbuster, the ISP will disappear before they can react.

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