There’s a South Park episode where Eric Cartman takes credit for a joke. The episode is particularly funny and shows the degree to which people can be clueless about certain nuances in life. Eric Cartman engages in extreme “mental gymnastics” when denouncing facts or even pure reason. The show constantly emphasizes that Eric Cartman is a psychopath. He acts in a manner we can only interpret as evil, but throughout the series he remains unaware of his insanity.
The Moral Degeneracy of Eric Cartman
Through extremely simplified and crudely illustrated cartoons, audiences can understand moral degeneracy. The example of Eric Cartman is so over the top that the character has attained near legendary status in unlikability. In the real world, actual human beings are generally not so superficially pigheaded. And in this particular episode we see how Eric blends an orgy of narcissism, self-deception and cognitive dissonance together in a fine mush of psychopathy.
The last few weeks we have learned the United States torture innocent people. People working for the United States “are engaging in waterboarding.” That is essentially forcing people to experience simulated drowning. But it doesn’t stop there – there are now admissions of “rectal rehydration,” “rectal feeding with hummus,” “rectally raping minors,” and worse. All this is pretty bad. But it is nowhere near as bad as the response of American people. I best summarize this response as the response of a Reddit user who knowingly states:
…“I Don’t Care…”
That’s right. A significant number of people don’t care.
America is an extremely powerful nation. That may change one day, but for now America remains mostly unchallenged in all matters economic, technological, demographic and military. America is a swollen obese behemoth in terms of the ability to project force. But cracks are showing in the veneer of US global dominance. The US assumes it is able to achieve energy independence, yet as we have seen the now infamous shale oil bubble comes apart at the seams, The US is stronger than ever, more over-extended than ever, and as a result more vulnerable than ever. The vulnerability of the US is widely realized by the leadership of the United States, the strategical allies of the United States, its competitors and its alleged enemies. It is too soon to conclude the US might collapse, but the uncertainty does not stop a range of erudite people from speculating about a sharp and catastrophic downturn of America.
Empires die, and as empires die they increasingly dabble in pathologies of self-deception. I am afraid that not only the US wholesale in massive media self-deception, but the vast majority of its people engage in denial of fact-based politics and assume implausible positions based on denial of reality.
I discern a striking resemblance between the behavior of Eric Cartman and what the United States do as a society, a nation state, a world empire.
The US now torture and most Americans “do not care.” Americans sure did care about torture at the time of the Nuremberg trials but, when you put the likes of Eric Cartman in charge of your collective national moral compass, that’s what you get. This isn’t just about “enhanced interrogation” for reasons of national security – torture appears to be big business.
As a European, I can only say loud and clear that I find this unacceptable. It’s even more unacceptable that many of the people who were tortured were declared innocent of any terrorism or criminal activity before torture commenced. I regard torture as unacceptable, no matter what the excuse. I am aware that many states engaged in torture, but personally I have lived all my life expecting better than that.
As an interesting side observation, I live in the Hague, in the Netherlands, and I advocate summoning anyone who has engaged in state torture to the International Court of Justice. Torture is a particularly awful criminal activity, and we should not accept it from anyone, not even in a war against ISIS, Al Qaeda, Specter or what-e-ver. I am unambiguously stating the United States went too far, and those who are found guilty should be punished.
Images from Wikimedia Commons.
Uber Is Paying Hackers to Keep Quiet
Uber Technologies Inc. has reportedly paid hackers to delete scores of private data stolen from the company in a security breach that was concealed for over a year. The revelation provides further confirmation that, when it comes to cyber security, crime does pay.
Massive Data Breach
According to Bloomberg Technology, hackers retrieved the personal data of 57 million Uber customers and drivers at some point last year. Nobody heard about it because the rideshare company paid the hackers $100,000 to keep quiet. A purge at the front office of Uber also ensured that the massive cyber breach was kept under wraps.
The compromised data was from October 2016 and included the names, phone numbers and addressed of 50 million Uber riders globally. About seven million drivers had their personal information accessed as well.
At the time of the cyber attack, Uber was inundated with a slew of legal issues stemming from alleged privacy violations. Rather than shine even more negative spotlight on the company, Uber executives decided to pay hackers to stay quiet.
“None of this should have happened, and I will not make excuses for it,” Dara Khosrowshahi, who took over as CEO in September, said in a statement that was published by Bloomberg. “We are changing the way we do business.”
Hackers have done a masterful job infiltrating companies and governments in recent years. As a reminder, recent cyber attacks levied against Yahoo!, Target Corp and Equifax Inc. dwarf Uber’s 57 million compromised accounts.
Various reports indicate that cyber attacks are bleeding the global economy dry. One report, issued by the World Economic Forum, suggests that cyber crime cost the world economy $445 billion in 2016. If cyber crime were its own market cap, it would exceed Microsoft Inc., Facebook Inc. and ExxonMobil Corp
The Fall of Uber?
Uber revolutionized the ride-hailing business over the span of seven years by giving more power to the consumer. Several missteps later, the company finds itself in legal hot water, with its future appearing less certain than it did just one year ago.
The rideshare company faces at least five U.S. probes ranging from bribes to illicit software and right up to unethical pricing schemes. According to another Bloomberg report, Uber is under investigation for violating price transparency regulations, not to mention the alleged theft of documents for Google’s autonomous cars.
Some governments are sensing weakness in the ride-hailing service, and are moving toward banning the Uber app entirely. London is the most prominent example of a city that has taken definitive steps to outlaw the service over a “lack of corporate responsibility.”
Even with its legal troubles, Uber is a revolutionary technology that has influenced a bevy of other innovations aimed at improving the human experience.
Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.
The Pirate Bay is Hijacking PCs to Stealth-Mine Cryptocurrency
For the second time in as many months, The Pirate Bay has been caught mining cryptocurrency on your computer without consent. The torrent platform was actually test-driving cryptocurrency mining in your browser – no doubt a lucrative revenue stream.
The Pirates Are At It Again
The news was later confirmed by Bleeping Computer, which reported that,”The Pirate Bay, the internet’s largest torrent portal, is back at running a cryptocurrency miner after it previously ran a short test in mid-September.”
Estimates indicate that the scheme has earned the pirates a total of $43,000 over a three-week period.
Users had no way to opt their computers out of being test-driven by the torrent network. Back in September, The Pirate Bay got away by telling people it was just a test. The site’s owners cannot use the same excuse this time around.
CoinHive advises websites to let their visitors know their browser is being used to mine cryptocurrency.
“We’re a bit saddened to see that some of our customers integrate CoinHive into their pages without disclosing to their users what’s going on, let alone asking for their permission,” the company said.
The good news is most ad-blockers and antivirus programs will block CoinHive, given its recent abuses. That means not all visitors of The Pirate Pay were being used as a conduit for mining Monero.
Monero Joins Global Crypto Rally
The value of Monero (XMR) shot up nearly 8% on Friday, and was last seen trading at $94.17. With more than 15.2 million XMR tokens in circulation, the total market cap for Monero is $1.4 billion, according to CoinMarketCap. That’s enough for ninth on the global cryptocurrency list.
Twelve cryptos have now crossed the $1 billion valuation mark. A handful of others have made their way north of $500 million.
Ethereum Notches Two-Month High as Bitcoin Offspring Triggers Volatility
Digital currency Ethereum climbed to a two-month high on Monday, taking some of the heat off Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash, which have slumped since the weekend.
Ethereum Forges Higher Path
Concerns over Bitcoin created a favourable tailwind for Ethereum (ETH/USD), which is the world’s No. 2 digital currency by total assets. Ether’s price topped $340.00 on Monday and later settled at $323.54. That was the highest since June 20.
At its peak, ether was up 10% on the day and 70% for the month of August.
The ETH/USD was last down 2.2% at $315.02, according to Bitfinex. Prices are due for a brisk recovery, based on the daily momentum indicators.
Fractured Bitcoin Community
Bitcoin and its offshoot, Bitcoin Cash, retreated on Monday following a volatile weekend. The BTC/USD slumped at the start of the week and was down more than 3% on Tuesday, with prices falling below $3,900.00. Just last week, Bitcoin was trading at new records near $4,500.00.
Bitcoin Cash, which emerged after the Aug. 1 hard fork, climbed to new records on Saturday, but has been in free-fall ever since. The BTH was down another 20% on Tuesday to $594.49, according to CoinMarketCap. Its total market value has dropped by several billion over the past two days.
Analysts say that a “fractured” Bitcoin community has made Ethereum a more attractive bet this week. The ether token has shown remarkable poise over the past seven days, despite trading well shy of a new record.
Other drivers behind Ethereum’s advance are steady demand from South Korean investors and growing confidence in a smooth upgrade for the the ETH network. The upgrade, which has been dubbed “Metropolis,” is expected in the next several weeks. Its key benefits include tighter transaction privacy and greater efficiency.
Ethereum Prices Unaffected by ICO Heist
Fin-tech developer Enigma was on the receiving end of a cyber-heist on Monday after hackers took over the company’s website, mailing list and instant messaging platforms. The hack occurred three weeks before Enigma’s planned Initial Coin Offering (ICO) for September 11.
In addition to defacing the company’s website, the hackers pushed a special “pre-sale” ahead of the ICO. While many users realized it was a scam, 1,492 ether tokens – valued at $495,000 – were directed into the hackers’ cryptocurrency wallet by unsuspecting backers.
The irony in all this is that Engima is a cryptography company that prides itself on top-notch security protocols. The company issued a statement that its servers had not been compromised.
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