Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

COLONIAL BIAS ILLUSTRATED, SPACE STATIONS, SPACE SUITS, AND ELECTION NEWS OF THE DAY

leave a comment »

A group of stone camel carvings in Saudi Arabia has turned out to be far older than anyone guessed. When scientists first examined them, they were thought to be about 2000 years old. A recent study puts them at 7000-8000 years old: Saudi Arabia camel carvings dated to prehistoric era This makes them about twice as old as Stonehenge or the pyramids at Giza. Quite the mystery, at this point there’s no real idea why people went to so much trouble, I mean this took a lot of work to carve these into cliff sides. The camel was domesticated right around the time they were carved, but that still doesn’t lead anywhere except into speculation. More images of them can be seen here: 2,000-Year-Old Rock Carvings of Camels Discovered in Saudi Arabia

Note that last headline: 2,000-Year-Old Rock Carvings of Camels Discovered in Saudi Arabia. And in the BBC article linked above it also says these carvings were discovered in a remote area of Saudi Arabia in 2018. In fact, pretty much every link I can find about them repeats the claim that they were discovered in 2018. Then look at the image above. An image that dates from 2018. What’s in the background? Buildings, roads, and a cultivated field in the upper left. So how the hell were they only discovered in 2018? It’s not like they were buried or hidden in some way, they are right there in  plain sight. Obviously lots of people knew about them.

So really, the carvings were discovered by western science in 2018. I know, it may seem like quibbling over semantics, but words matter. They are in fact how our world view is constructed. Saying the carvings were only discovered by the western world, IE white people, in a not so subtle way implies that the brown people living there didn’t matter. It’s the same linguistic trick as saying Columbus discovered the New World, even though people were waiting for him on the beach. And in his day those people didn’t matter, they were simply another resource for Europeans to exploit. An attitude that continued on for centuries, for example the 19th century US Supreme Court ruled that Indians couldn’t own land.

I’m not saying this bias is conscious, but like all sorts of language biases, it’s what people learned growing up. Ageism, sexism, ableism are also woven into our language. Colonialism is no different. And I think learning to spot these sorts of biases can really help one see the world more clearly. At least for those who want to do so. A small minority from my experience. Oh well, enough for today’s self improvement lesson, on to science!

The ISS is nearing the end of its expected lifetime: The Aging ISS | NeuroLogica Blog. About 20-30 years is about it for things in space. Space is an uncompromisingly harsh environment, everywhere on Earth is a gentle paradise in comparison. So does this mean that giant space stations (not to mention the coming space hotels) will have to be rebuilt at fabulous expense every few decades? No, there’s a nifty solution that is almost certainly the wave of the future. Giant space structures will be built out of modules (well, they already are,) but built in such a way that each module is easily replaceable. That way one doesn’t have to rebuild from scratch, one just replaces individual modules. Leads to interesting philosophical situations, like with the USS Constitution. Launched in 1797, it’s the oldest commissioned ship in the US Navy, still (technically) in service today. However, since it was launched, about 80% of it has been replaced, only 20% is original to 1797. Presumably it will eventually get to 100%, will it still be the same ship? I leave that for the philosophers to debate.

Speaking of new things in space, efforts are being made to design the next generation of space suits. Wait, didn’t we have working space suits in the 1960s, when the astronauts went to the Moon? Yes, yes we did. They were also incredibly clumsy and uncomfortable, and wore out in a few days. And not a whole lot of progress has been made since. It may look easy in Hollywood movies, reality is harder. Just spacesuit gloves for example. They have to be very stiff so they don’t just balloon out and be unusable, but still be moveable. Which means they are stiff and hard to manipulate, so that astronauts fingers will be torn up after a few hours use. Some astronauts even have their fingernails removed before space missions to avoid tearing them off in space suits! They don’t mention that in The Right Stuff. Or maybe they do, I never saw the movie. Anyhow, NASA is on the job:  New Spacesuits | NeuroLogica Blog.

One last quick item in the news. The GOP’s effort to recall California Governor Newsom failed spectacularly. He in fact won by more of a margin than Biden defeated Trump. Interesting indeed because of two things. First, the Governor had enraged pretty much all sensible people by repeatedly violating Covid restrictions he had put in place, hypocrisy on that level has destroyed more than one political career. Secondly, Trump supported the recall! Some are saying this may be the beginning of the end for Trumpism: A clear repudiation: Larry Elder’s mammoth defeat may signal the death rattle of Trumpism. It’s possible. I mean there’s no doubt Trump and his supporters will make utterly unfounded accusations of voter fraud, but maybe it’s becoming clearer to a lot of people that Trump’s endless lies about voter fraud are in fact just that, lies. “We were cheated!” gets old in any context when it’s all the losers have, from sports to politics and everywhere in between.

We’ll see. Fun times in America. Another one or two 9/11 posts are in the works. Hope all are having a good week. Stay safe gentle reader.

Copyright © 2021 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image:Camel carvings in Saudi Arabia. Credit: Haaretz? Claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law, not being used for profit, only image available that illustrates my contention in the post, and Haaretz is paywalled now so I couldn’t even find the attribution. Sigh.)

Written by unitedcats

September 15, 2021 at 5:36 pm

9/11 WEEK

leave a comment »

Today is the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in the USA. My thoughts and observations in some particular order. To say the attacks were a big deal at the time would be an understatement, in terms of immediate impact they were easily the biggest events of my life. In living memory they were rivalled by the Kennedy assasination and Pearl Harbor, but those were both before my time. I was living in rural Oregon, watching “The FBI Files” the morning of the attacks. My housemate wandered through the room, noticed some text scrolling at the bottom of the screen, gasped, and flipped to a news channel. By then both towers had collapsed, and it was a shocking sight. Very briefly I thought maybe this was some War of the Worlds thing, a movie trailer that somehow had been mistaken for the real thing; but I quickly realized it was in fact real, and that thousands of people were dead and dying. A freaking nightmare.

I had strange dreams earlier. First I was walking down a long country road, a city skyline in the distance. There was a ragged barbed wire fence with weeds alongside the road. Beyond the fence was an expanse of dust in a pile about six foot high. Tan dust, maybe fine sand. I remember thinking in my dream it might be fun to slide down the side of the pile, and I was looking for a gap in the fence to get to it. Then the dream morphed, and I was huddling in the corner of a basement with some frightened people, we were sheltering from an explosion of some sort. Then I woke up, went in and started my day like any other. Until my friend changed the TV channel. Was there any connection between my dream and the events that were even then unfolding on the other side of the continent?

Beats me. I wasn’t as affected by 9/11 as some people, no one I knew worked in the Twin Towers or the Pentagon. It was still shocking as hell. So many people dead and dying. And the jumpers, oh my God, I can’t imagine. Turns out a good friend of mine was in Manhattan that day. Hell of a thing. He said after the first plane hit people just thought it was some terrible accident and were trying to get a better view. So he was watching when the second plane hit, and then of course people knew it wasn’t just some terrible accident. He’s upset by it all to this day, and can’t watch any of today’s coverage. I can’t imagine. At some point later I read some transcripts of 9/11 calls made from the towers before they fell. I wish I hadn’t.

So it was awful, and I feel for those who lost friends, family, and loved ones. God rest the souls of those who died that awful September morn, God grant solace to the survivors. In retrospect there was at least one item of good news that day, and I’ll end this post on that note. In the middle of the second tower to be struck was the largest tenant of the towers, they occupied 20 floors. When the first tower was struck the on site manager told everyone to just get out and go home as quickly as they could. Not out of any prescience, he just knew that no work would be done that day, and he wanted his employees to get clear of the towers before throngs of emergency vehicles and rubberneckers jammed all the nearby roads, etc.. Shortly afterward the second plane struck right in the middle of those 20 floors … and they were all empty. Every single employee survived. And I bet that manager hasn’t had to pay for a drink when out with coworkers since.

More posts about 9/11 will follow, they will be (or are) linked below. Hope all are having a good, if somber, weekend.

Copyright © 2021 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: The first tower just as it started to collapse. Credit: Unknown, Public Domain under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

September 11, 2021 at 4:28 pm

AFTER THE DELUGE

leave a comment »

Well, I didn’t expect flash flood and tornado(!) warnings in NYC while visiting, I thought tornado warnings were an Iowa thing. No tornadoes here in NYC fortunately, but yes, they did have one in New Jersey. Yeesh. I spent much of my childhood in New Jersey, I sure don’t remember tornadoes ever being an issue. Above is a normally busy freeway near where I am staying in NYC. The car in the center was trapped by flooding in front and behind. Behind two partially submerged cars are visible. These folks got to walk home through pouring rain, heaviest rain ever recorded in NYC. More than 40 people dead in the US northeast, hell of a storm.

This of course was the tail end of Hurricane Ida. Killed more people in the northeast than it did on the gulf coast. More people living here, less prepared for this kind of extreme weather event, though that’s just my speculation. What’s not speculation is the huge increase in extreme weather events over the past fifty years: Climate and weather related disasters surge five-fold over 50 years, but early warnings save lives – WMO report. What would save even more lives is if nations took serious measures to combat global warming, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. International cooperation for international good is only a fantasy no matter what governments say.

Covid really made this clear. There’s a great article in the New York Times about it. Since it’s paywalled, I’ll sum it up. Basically it points out that to date there has essentially been no international cooperation in fighting a global pandemic, and essentially every nation including the world’s richest nations only took care of their own, leaving the rest of the world to fend for itself. Well, almost none. The one thing they did do was cooperate to make sure the international finance system kept running smoothly, so while most people on Earth suffered from Covid one way tother, the rich continued to get richer.

In other words, when Reagan once speculated that humanity would pull together in the face of an alien threat, he was laughably naive. Covid is most definitely a global alien threat, and humanity is most definitely not pulling together to face it. Even crazier, the cost to do so would be trivial and easily affordable, and the cost of not doing so will be staggering. This bodes very ill for future global threats, in fact by letting Covid run rampant, there’s a good chance it will mutate into a much more terrible threat. Fun times. Read the article if one can: Opinion | What if the Coronavirus Crisis Was Just a Trial Run?

And the global media isn’t helping. Most of it’s not really even journalism anymore, just clickbait infotainment. When not actually repackaged government/corporate propaganda. Critical thinking not welcome. In this vein, I came across an article on the Today site. I’m not familiar with the site, but superficially it appears to be a “legitimate” news and information site, not some sort of Onion knock-off. They are reviewing a documentary from the History Channel: History Channel doc reveals key discovery in Bermuda Triangle. First of all, the idea that a legitimate news site would take the History Channel seriously is bad enough, but here’s the first two paragraphs:

“It’s a mystery that has endured for 76 years in a fabled area that many sailors and aviators have long said contains supernatural forces we don’t understand.

On Dec. 5, 1945, 14 airmen flying five World War II torpedo bombers called Avengers took off from Naval Air Station Fort Lauderdale on a routine training mission over the Bermuda Triangle and were never seen again. The U.S. Navy even sent a Martin Mariner search plane out at the time to find the missing aircraft, and that plane and it’s crew of 13 also disappeared.”

Um, how to say this, all bollocks? The only mystery is why anyone thinks there’s a mystery. Millions of people including countless aviators and sailors travel through the Bermuda Triangle every single day without giving it a second thought, let alone invoking supernatural hogwash. The disappearance of Flight 19 was well investigated and well understood at the time, and only became a “mystery” in the 1960s when an author invented “The Bermuda Triangle” and simply made up all sorts of details about Flight 19 to make its loss seem spooky. Ending up with a blatant lie, the Martin Mariner caught fire, crashed, and exploded shortly after takeoff. The Martin Mariner’s not-so-affectionate nickname was “The Flying Gas Tank,” so catching fire and exploding was a not uncommon occurrence. No cause of the fire and explosion was ever determined, but this was 1945 and the black box wouldn’t be invented for another decade. There’s no reason to assume anything supernatural occurred, it was just another plane crash in an era where planes were nowhere near as safe as they are today.

End rant. Well, I’ve got more links, but I guess that’s enough for now. I also had an epiphany a week ago that completely changed my worldview. Still processing it all, but I suppose it’s worth writing about at some point. It caused me to lose all desire to drink for one thing, which in and of itself is a very strange feeling. Life, you grow and then you die. Though frankly the growth part seems optional for many people. C’est la vie. Have a great weekend everyone.

Copyright © 2021 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Freeway near NYC. Credit and Copyright © 2021 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.)

Written by unitedcats

September 3, 2021 at 4:25 pm

“THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES” PLUS THE 2021 NONSENSE CONTINUES

with one comment

I saw a classic movie the other night: “The Best Years of Our Lives” It was a 1946 movie about three servicemen returning from World War Two and the difficulties they had re-adjusting to civilian life. Surprisingly, to me at least, it was quite watchable. I find it fascinating how some old movies become pretty much unwatchable after even a few decades, while others become timeless classics. Partly personal preference I am sure, but I am sure there are other factors at play. It was also interesting in that the movie took a very honest look at what we now call PTSD, these three veterans had serious issues. I’m sort of stuck on the idea that prior to 1980 or so most movies portrayed an idealised “Father Knows Best” view of American culture, so it was refreshing to see one with a more honest take. Unfortunately they all worked out their problems in the end and lived happily ever after, which is a far cry from the realities of PTSD.

Still, a movie I really enjoyed. As did the people at the time, it was a wildly popular movie, and won nine academy awards. Including the first time a non professional actor won an academy award, Harold Russel; and the only time a performer won two awards for the same performance, Harold Russell again. I guess it’s a good thing that a movie about people dealing with personal demons was so popular, even if the demons were unrealistically vanquished. It’s Hollywood, happy endings are what they are all about. Hey, even I, who recently lost all faith in humanity, liked it.

In politics: The utter ridiculousness of calls for Joe Biden to resign. It really is transcendentally absurd. 13 Americans die, and the GOP falls all over themselves claiming Biden is unfit to lead and should resign. Were there calls for Roosevelt to resign after Pearl Harbor? Reagan to resign after the Beirut Barracks bombing? Trump after Covid killed hundreds of thousands of Americans? Bush to resign after 9/11? Maybe, but not by mainstream leaders of the opposition party. This really shows just how out of touch with reality the GOP has gotten, because they refuse to accept Biden as the elected president, that somehow that translates into he’s unfit to lead. Give me a break. And whatever criticism one wants to aim at Biden, he successfully pulled off one of the greatest airborne evacuations in history, over 150,000 people evacuated in two weeks.

Not surprising, manufactured outrage is all the GOP has. They’ve been spreading a story that Biden repeatedly checked his watch during the ceremony as the US dead from Kabul were unloaded. No, he didn’t: Did Biden Check Watch 13 Times During Transfer of Fallen Soldiers? In fact he may once have glanced at his watch, though that isn’t even clear. No worries though, Fox News replayed the video at half speed to exaggerate the glance and make it appear more than it was: Fox News manipulates its own video to spread allegation that Biden looked at his watch during transfer of fallen troops. Kind of like how the British during World War Two edited a film of Hitler to make it look like he was dancing a little jig after the surrender of France. Of course Britain was at war with Germany at the time and making Hitler look bad was a very reasonable propaganda exercise. Um, is Fox News at war with America? Apparently, if they are happy to alter a film to make Biden look bad. Nonsense like this not only destroys the mainstream media’s credibility, it’s a big factor in tearing America apart and making it ungovernable. And Fox News isn’t the only one, but they led the way.

Sigh. A good article about China, Taiwan, and the US. More accurately, just how nation states are adamant about not letting provinces secede. The US paid a terrible price preventing the Confederacy from seceding, and if anything the Chinese are even more adamant that Taiwan is a part of China. For the US to go to war with China to prevent it reunifying with Taiwan is utter folly. Still, nations have gotten into stupid wars for no good reason throughout history, just hoping this doesn’t turn into one of those wars. Good read:  American Civil War and the Lesson for China and Taiwan.

And then some of today’s truly whacked nonsense. A man who no doubt thinks of himself as a patriot and a Christian calls for tens of millions of Americans to be literally starved into supporting Trump’s “Stop the Steal” lies: ‘You Get Nothing’: Josh Bernstein Calls for Democratic Voters to Be Starved Until Biden Resigns. This would of course include millions of innocent children, not to mention millions of Trump supporters. This is called “collective punishment,” and is a human rights violation and war crime of the first order, something only the most hideous authoritarian governments do. (cough) Nazis (cough.) And unlike the Nazi’s who would massacre villages for supporting insurgents, he’s talking about collective punishment for people exercising their right to vote. And once again I apologize for my prior claims that comparing Trumpism to Nazism was overblown, I was wrong.

And for dessert: Christian Preacher: If Trump Isn’t Reinstated, Your Wives May Be Raped. The title pretty much speaks for itself.  Thoughts and prayers to those impacted by Ida. And I am doing something about it, I write about Global Warming constantly to fight the fossil fuel industry lies that are making the consequences of Global Warming far worse than they needed to be. Hope all are having a good week, stay safe and dry everyone.

Copyright © 2021 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: The Hitler jig photo, taken at the surrender of France to Germany on 22 June 1940. It was from a film that was altered to make Hitler dance a little jig, but I couldn’t find that online. Credit: Unknown, likely Public Domain under US copyright law, claimed as Fair Use in any case.)

Written by unitedcats

September 1, 2021 at 4:35 pm

COVIDIOCY RAGES ON

leave a comment »

Covid rages on. I was feeling maybe it was odd to post yet again about Covid, then I realized that’s BS thinking. The Covid pandemic the worst mass death event of my life, the third or fourth worst mass death event in US history, killing more than a thousand people a day still. World War Two only killed about 200 people a day, Vietnam only about 10 per day, and those were top daily news for the duration. That a huge number of Americans and their chosen media/political spokespeople want to pretend Covid is no big deal or it’s almost over is their fantasy, no need to let it infect my thinking.

Officially the US death toll is approaching seven hundred thousand. That’s nearly one American in every five hundred dead. Most of us have lost a friend or loved one to Covid. Unofficially, and in reality, the death toll is around one million dead. That’s because a lot of Covid deaths go unreported, and more importantly, the strain on a health care system overwhelmed with Covid patients means people die because they couldn’t get treatment, this fellow being a good example: Veteran Dies Of Treatable Issue Because ICU Beds Are Filled With COVID Cases. One million dead Americans. How can that not be the top of the news while the pandemic is still raging? Beats me, I chalk it up to a normal human impulse to pretend everything is fine, especially when urged on by their political and religious leaders to think everything is fine.

In many ways it comes down to people not wanting to listen to the experiences of others. This is a fine take on it, including the terrible price paid by so many public Covid and vaccine deniers (Spoiler, they died of Covid:) Leonard Pitts Jr.: The wisdom of experience is a priceless gift … that many spurn. Or as a young friend once put it: “Never give advice. Fools won’t heed it and the wise don’t need it.” She was paraphrasing Ben Franklin, a wise man if there ever was one. A couple other cases just for fun: Texas GOP Official Mocked COVID Five Days Before He Died of Virus and QAnon conspiracist dies from COVID-19 he called a hoax to the very end.

On the plus side, Covid deniers and anti-vaxxers are dropping like flies. At this point I have zero sympathy for people who die of Covid because they refused to get vaccinated or otherwise take precautions against Covid. Covid is getting more dangerous: New strain in deadly delta variant surfaces after 53,000-person festival: report. Sadly a lot of people who were taking precautions are dying now, have since the beginning, since the anti-vaxxers and their ilk make the situation worse for everyone, especially when in positions of power: Florida police departments rocked by 29 COVID deaths as DeSantis bungles pandemic response. Basically as Covid mutates into more dangerous forms America’s Anti-Vaxxers Are Getting More Dangerous.

And frankly some people are getting tired of it: It’s time to listen to the ‘adults’ and ignore those who refuse the COVID vaccines: national security expert. I’m certainly tired of it. Mandatory measures to protect public health are perfectly reasonable. It’s kinda the whole effing point of civilization. The rest of the world is getting tired of it too: Covid: EU recommends new travel restrictions for US as cases rise. Sadly while many US states are doing everything they can to fight Covid, some aren’t, and Covid deaths will continue. One has to wonder where we’d be if concerted national efforts to fight Covid had been launched from the get go, at the very least a lot fewer Americans would be dead.

It’s just weird living in a country where rampant stupidity is the norm in some quarters: Shane Vaughn Claims COVID-19 Vaccines Don’t Work Because The US Is Under God’s Judgment. First of all, the vaccines work just fine. The vast majority of people catching Covid in the USA now were unvaccinated. Secondly, what is it with Evangelicals and their obsession with what consenting adults do with their genitals? Frankly it’s a perverted obsession, especially the idea that some sort of “supreme being” is also concerned about it. One would think any sort of loving God would be concerned about murder, rape, and children being molested; not gay people having sex.

Speaking of imagining a God concerned about weird things: ‘Get a Brain’: Hank Kunneman Warns of Dire Consequences if Trump Is Not Reinstated. Um, not even sure where to start. Trump, the most unpopular president in modern times, lost his reelection bid. Not debatable, but that doesn’t stop Trump and his supporters continuing his “the election was stolen” lie.  I think that’s one of the things I most hate about Trump, he’s completely normalized politicians lying through their teeth. Like this whopper: Lindsey Graham: ‘Whose decision was it to pull all of the troops out… I just don’t know’. Of course he knows, it was Trump that signed the deal with the Taliban to pull all US troops out of Afghanistan.

The theory that I died in my fall two and a half years ago and the ever increasing ignorance, stupidity, lies, death, and confusion since is just some sort of Donny Darko madness in my dying brain seems more credible all the time. What can I say, dark depressing times both in the nation at large and what’s left of my personal life. Fun times. Have a great week and stay safe everyone, especially those in Louisiana.

Copyright © 2021 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Used without permission, claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. Credit: This Is Fine creator explains the timelessness of his meme.)

Written by unitedcats

August 30, 2021 at 5:01 pm

THE STUPID, IT BURNS

leave a comment »

OK, been having a bit of a writer’s block. Or more like writer’s frustration? I couldn’t find the origin of the phrase “the stupid, it burns” for one. Granted that’s just a minor frustration, but part of the bigger picture. So so so much stupidity in modern America these days. To the point where I am debating just changing the name of the blog to “The Stupid, It Burns.” And calaloguing every bit of abject stupidity I find among the day’s news. There’s more than enough to go around, hell, people have built careers around cataloging it. John Stewart and Stephen Colbert come to mind, although no doubt there are countless others.  It’s tempting, but I do like writing about science and history and such, so I would get tired of it. Not to mention depressed and angry.

So instead, I’ll just make this post about rampant stupidity. Especially because three of the biggest stupidities of my life in America are big news lately. And a special sort of stupid. Things that are going to cost tens of trillions of dollars over the rest of my life. Not billions, trillions of dollars. As Senator Dirkson observed in the seventies: “A billion dollars here, a billion dollars there, and pretty soon you’re talking about real money.” He’d no doubt be horrified today because the billion has turned into a trillion. And we’re also talking about countless American lives that will be lost, easily in the hundreds of thousands, and we’ll be lucky if it doesn’t go into the millions.

The first of course is Covid. Early estimates were that it would ultimately cost the US economy 16 trillion dollars. And that was assuming we got it under control, which we have manifestly not done yet. The second is global warming. Fires, floods, droughts are steadily ratcheting upwards, and the costs once again are in the trillions of dollars. Lastly of course the so called War on Terror, in the news lately because of the nightmare of the withdrawal from Afghanistan. We spent over two trillion dollars: New Report Finds US Has Spent Over $2.3 Trillion on Afghanistan War. And that’s just part and parcel of the War on Terror and freaking endless US military spending, more than the next twelve highest military spending nations combined … most of which are our allies to boot. These three mind numbing endless (and growing) idiotic expenses are why America’s infrastructure, education, and health care is the shame of the developed world.

And none of them are being addressed or rectified in any meaningful way by either American political party. One party, the GOP,  is more or less ignoring them, when not actually making them worse. All in the name of politics and winning elections, and of course fully in service of their corporate overlords who get ever richer while the nation and planet suffer. The other party, the Democrats, pays lip service to them in the interest of politics and winning elections, while still in actuality serving the same corporate masters. That’s the great thing about American politics, both parties have convinced their base that the other party is evil. And both parties are right, though not in the way they portray it. America could be the greatest country on Earth when it comes to things that actually matter to people, all being sacrificed on the altar of partisan politics and the insatiable greed of the richest ruling class the world has ever seen. Sigh. So in the midst of this mass national ignorance and stupidity, so so many smaller acts of stupid. Just for fun I’ll chronicle some of the current crop.

At the top of today’s list: Fury as US congressmen fly into Kabul in midst of evacuation effort. That’s right, as a horrifying evacuation of people is under way in Kabul, Afghanistan, with people so desperate to escape that they are clinging to aircraft only to fall to their deaths, two congressmen decided to fly into Kabul on a “fact finding” mission. Right, what facts were they unclear on? The fact is that whatever plane seats they and their staff filled on their way out could have been filled by people who were fleeing for their lives. The fact is this publicity stunt means some people will be tortured and killed. It made about as much sense as if some British politicians had decided to sail to Dunkirk on a “fact finding” mission. It’s literally that stupid. Bipartisan stupid in this case, one is a Democrat and the other is a Republican.

Mike Lindell, who is Trump’s self appointed ambassador of stupid, now predicts Trump will be reinstalled as president by New Year’s day now that his prediction of an August 13 reinstatement predictably didn’t come to fruition. The regular reader will note that I predicted Mr Lindell would just change the date when his first prediction failed. So many layers of stupid. First, the lie that the election was stolen from Trump is just that, a fact free lie. Trump was the least popular president in modern history, so not only is it no wonder he wasn’t reelected, the real wonder is he got as many votes as he did. Then of course, even if it was shown that the election was crooked (don’t hold your breath,) that still wouldn’t result in Trump being reinstated. The election isn’t some sort of horse race where if the winner is disqualified the second place candidate wins. That’s not how any of this works. Stupid, all the way down.

And in today’s “Jesus Facepalms” file, a heretic Christian blogger says mom’s shouldn’t work because their teenage children will have sex if they aren’t in the home. Truly an almost infinite onion of layered stupid.  Let me count the ways. One, unless mom spends 24/7 with the kids in her presence, they will most certainly figure out ways to have sex if that’s their inclination. Two, if teenage children haven’t already learned how to behave sensibly, parental supervision isn’t going to help. She sounds like she doesn’t trust her own children to follow the “Christian” values she raised them on. Three. The days when a single income can support a spouse and children are long gone, most working moms work because they have to. I’m sure the gentle reader can come up with more. And of course access to sex education for children makes it less likely they will engage in risky sexual behavior, get pregnant, and get a venereal disease. Unfortunately people like this mommy shaming blogger think sex outside of marriage is bad … and think things like unwanted pregnancies and venereal disease are a good thing, punishment for sin and all that.

Yeah, stupid and evil often go together. Next, a nice science post I’m working on. Turns out Gobekli Tepe may have been a monument to stupidity. Yes, there have been stupid people for more than 10,000 years. It never ends: Driver ignores warnings not to park on beach and van ends up floating in sea. And of course new horror in Afghanistan. Humans, such a fascinating species. I think I’m losing my faith in human nature. Sigh. Hope all are having a good week, stay safe gentle readers.

Copyright © 2021 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image top: 19th century rail accident, public domain under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

August 26, 2021 at 6:39 pm

MYSTERY PHOTO, THE WHITE MAN’S BURDEN 2021, PERFORMATIVE PROGRESSIVISM, MASKS WORK, MARS PHOTOS, AND NONCONTRAFREELOADING CATS

leave a comment »

Yes, covering a lot of bases in this post. Leading off with a mystery photo, what the hell is going on here? I’ll leave for the gentle reader to ponder, answer at the end of the post. What a week it’s been. The situation in Afghanistan is ugly, no doubt about it. Not sure I can add anything new, so enough of that for now. As is so often my format, a few interesting links I’ve stumbled onto, and my observations about them.

Well, OK, maybe something peripheral about Afghanistan, this link: As Joe Biden walks America away from the world stage Europe is left exposed. I offer this article because it is a great example of the colonial bias that infects the mainstream media. The implicit idea that somehow running the world is America and its allies’ business. The modern version of “The White Man’s Burden.” Truth be told it would be harder to find a part of the world with as little strategic importance to the west as Afghanistan, America’s withdrawal from it is about as strategically unimportant as it gets. The only real mystery is why the USA under the aegis of Nato stayed there as long as they did, the weird pronouncements in the article about how Europe was somehow affected by America’s withdrawal notwithstanding.

In American politics: California recall looks like a disaster — and the state’s top Democrats paved the way. Yes, the GOP might well win the recall election they instigated in California. Why, isn’t California a mostly Democratic progressive state? Yes, yes it is. However, the government of California, like the Biden administration, isn’t really progressive, all they have is performative progressivism. IE they talk the talk, but when it comes to getting progressive policies established, they sell out to their corporate masters every time. Great way to inspire Democratic voters to stay home.

Granted, the GOP is into performative Christianity and performative conservatism in the same fashion, but they have been vastly better at stoking the outrage that drives Republican voters to vote. (I mean they kind of have too, they don’t actually stand for anything anymore, so fearmongering and stoking outrage is all the GOP has.) And science is really starting to get a handle on how social media amplifies outrage without even trying: Social Media Outrage | NeuroLogica Blog. So no surprise here. Trump is in fact particularly good at stoking outrage, in social media and off. I mean he stoked outrage to the point where he got a mob to storm the Capitol, gotta give the man his props, when it comes to fear mongering Trump is in a league of his own. Well, maybe shared with another world leader who was a master at stoking outrage, but he left the world stage some 76 years ago.

In Covid news just another reminder that despite all the flaming BS in some quarters, masks do indeed work. As the good doctor puts it: “It is nothing less than shameful that we are still bogged down in the basic question of whether or not wearing a mask during a deadly and increasingly infectious pandemic is effective. The science is in – masks work.” Here is the article: Masks Work | NeuroLogica Blog. The doctor is far more diplomatic than me. There’s governors and legislatures and such actually outlawing mask mandates, because freedumb? Covid has really fucked up public discourse: Seven Cognitive Distortions Poisoning COVID Debates

— Our society is more and more incapable of debating real issues.

Sigh, OK, a few science links to cleanse the palate. The next link is primarily of interest to science nerds and especially Mars nerds, it’s still amazing to me that when I was a kid all we knew about Mars was a few fuzzy telescope pictures, and now we have robots galore exploring it: See some of the most intriguing photos from NASA’s Perseverance rover so far. And cats, breakthroughs in cat science are always exciting. Turns out cats are the only known animal so far that doesn’t exhibit contrafreeloading.

Wait, what’s contrafreeloading? Well, say an animal is given a choice between freely available food, and food they have to do something to get. This was first tried on rats, a colony of rats had a choice between a bowl of food, or identical food they had to push a lever to get. Most of the time the rats went for the food where they had to push a lever to get. And follow up studies found this in every animal they tested, the animals had a preference for food that they had to do something to obtain. Wild animals, domestic animals, they all exhibited this behaviour, which was labeled contrafreeloading. And frankly, scientists still don’t know why animals have this preference, it seems counterintuitive, why not go for the easy food?

And to make the situation even more confusing, exactly one animal doesn’t exhibit this behavior, our beloved moggies: Cute Experiment Reveals How Your Cat Probably Wants Its Meals Served. Obviously since science can’t explain contrafeeloading, they are pretty much at a loss to explain why cats don’t exhibit this behavior. They’re pretty sure it’s not because cats are simply lazy, though one can be forgiven for thinking that. My theory is they’re just smarter than other animals, but I think that of cats no matter what. Cat science marches on.

So, the mystery pic. A man holding a bird outside a tank, yes, that’s a World War One tank. Fast food delivery? Peace offering? Some demented tanker’s idea of a joke? Nope, that’s a carrier pigeon. The interior of the first tanks were so noisy that the crew inside had to communicate using hand signals with each other. And since it was so noisy, radios couldn’t be used to communicate with the outside world. Yet the tank still needed to be able to communicate with HQ. The solution? Each tank carried two carrier pigeons, and there was indeed a special hatch for releasing them. Carrier pigeons were widely used in World War One, and interestingly enough, one such message was discovered recently in France.

Have a great weekend everyone! Stay safe and cool. Looks like the hurricane is going to miss New York, maybe I’ll publish a bonus post this weekend.

Copyright © 2021 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: World War One tank and carrier pigeon. Credit: Unknown, but Public Domain under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

August 20, 2021 at 6:12 pm

COVID CONTINUES, GLOBAL WARMING, AFGHANISTAN, TRUMP VS BIDEN FOLLIES, HOMICIDAL LANDLORD, ETC.

leave a comment »

Well, here’s an interesting headline: New Zealand enters nationwide lockdown over one Covid case. Imagine that, a nation where the government and citizens do what needs to be done to prevent the spread of a terrible disease. In America, that’s the stuff of fantasy. Not sure when the last time was that American pulled together for the common good, certainly not in my adult lifetime. Depressing, especially since so many Americans have become so partisan that they can’t even imagine working together.

In other Covid news, the anti-vaxxers and their ilk continue to spread their toxic nonsense, like the idea that vaccines are the problem. No, no they aren’t: Are vaccines driving the emergence of “escape mutant” variants of COVID-19? Basically as far as I can recall people spreading pseudoscientific nonsense have never turned out to be right while established science was wrong. Granted established science is regularly updated as scientists learn new things, but invariably it’s updated by other scientists.

And in the other ongoing catastrophe, the drought in the American west is worse than ever: U.S. declares first Western reservoir water shortage, triggering cuts. At this point it’s worse than the Dust Bowl of nearly 100 years ago. Basically scientists increasingly are no longer calling it a drought, it’s desertification at this point. Even back in the 80s desertification was becoming a problem in parts of the American west, it’s much worse today:  The Western drought is worse than you think. Here’s why. And this is very much a part and parcel of global warming, but the well funded global warming denial industry is still doing just fine. Will humans essentially destroy their planet because the richest industry the world has ever known is perfectly fine with continuing their profits no matter what the cost to future generations? Looks like it. It’s not hopeless yet, but without serious action, we’re screwed.

Lastly, yes, Afghanistan is still in the news. It’s a horrifying situation, just the images of people clinging to the outside of airplanes and falling to their deaths is heartbreaking. Western media coverage is really depressing too, though frankly I find western media coverage of almost everything pretty depressing these days. In my youth the major media outlets were actual independent media outlets. This story: Soldier son’s Afghanistan sacrifice was ‘all for nothing’. Yes, yes it was. And even if the US had decided to stay, it was still for nothing. The horrifying thing about stories like this is the implication that further for nothing sacrifices would somehow magically make their son’s loss meaningful. And no, American troops weren’t “protecting America from terror” while in Afghanistan.

What a mess. Gotta love this though: The GOP quietly removed a webpage hailing Trump’s peace deal with the Taliban as the militant group seized power in Afghanistan. It was contradicting Trump’s current schtick … everything bad in Afghanistan is Biden’s fault! Pretty much Trump in a nutshell, he was the greatest president ever, and everything bad in America was someone else’s fault. I’d say the man spews nothing but lies, but I think he actually believes them:  Trump spews lies about Covid on Fox Business: ‘It was virtually gone when I left — it was over’. He’s kinda like the leader or CEO who surrounds himself with sycophants and yes me, except in Trump’s case there are tens of millions of them, people absolutely convinced that Trump is the world’s saviour. So convinced they come up with memes like this:

OK then. A nation gone mad. Like this: Landlord Accused of Killing 2 Tenants Told Police He Handled Eviction ‘His Way’. Well, I guess that’s one way to handle tenants who owe back rent. A horrible evil counterproductive way. Yes, Americans are about $20 billion behind on rent now due to Covid eviction moratoriums. Yes, the gentle reader heard that right. 20 billion dollars. Basically nothing in the greater scheme of things. America’s billionaires have gained like a trillion dollars since Covid started, one fiftieth of that could pay off all the back rent in America. Or in another way, about .05% of the Federal government’s annual income. Ain’t gonna happen I expect, but who knows. Biden managed to get a pared down infrastructure bill passed, that surprised me.

Strange days. A third of the country thinks Trump is a God. Another third thinks Biden is some sort of FDR reborn. The last third is watching Scrubs reruns. Or writing blogs no one reads. Maybe other stuff, I don’t get out as much as I should. On the plus side I finally managed to find a dentist who fixed the horrible pain I have been experiencing for months. It only cost me my grocery money for the next couple of months. I’ll go from being a pain addled blogger to a starving one. Donors welcome. Good times! Stay safe and cool everyone.

Copyright © 2021 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image, top: Found on Facebook, attribution in image, Fair Use under US copyright law. Image bottom: Found on Facebook, attribution unknown, claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

August 18, 2021 at 12:41 pm

AMERICA’S SAIGON MOMENT IN AFGHANISTAN, A WAR THAT LASTED NEARLY ONE THIRD OF MY LIFE ENDS IN A DAY.

leave a comment »

They don’t call Afghanistan “The Graveyard of Empires” for nothing. While a Taliban victory was imminent and inevitable last week; today, 15 August 2021, the provisional  Afghan government fled, and the Taliban marched into Kabul and seized effective control of Afghanistan. America’s longest war is over. In the vulgar vernacular: “It’s over. We lost.”

Historically this looks to be a big deal. It’s a freaking big deal in Afghanistan for sure. In America, if Facebook is any indication, Afghanistan is essentially non news. The forgetting is already in place. Or misdirection, Trump and the right are already proudly proclaiming it’s all Biden’s fault and they could have prevented the Taliban march into Kabul. And a third of Americans don’t get that this analysis is both infantile, ignorant, and not helpful.

If we’re gonna be political, at least Biden had the balls to get out of an expensive and counterproductive war. Reagan was the last president with that kind of stones. And Trump was the one who set the ball rolling in Afghanistan for freak’s sake. He signed the withdrawal agreement with the Taliban, Biden just followed through.

And in America it’s all compromised because ignorance about Afghanistan and its last fifty years of history is rampant. Even worse, most Americans believe stuff about Afghanistan that just ain’t true.The US didn’t ever fund the Taliban for example, the Taliban didn’t arise until 1994, and they arose to fight the mujahideen the US had supported to drive out the Russian invaders.And no, this is not a religious war. Yes, the Taliban are inspired by their faith, but their war against the US was about driving foreign invaders from their land.

“The question I never hear asked. Where would Afghanistan be today if the USA had never been there?” My answer: Run by a stable, popular, Pashtun, and remarkably uncorrupt theocracy. And they would be an isolated impoverished sanctioned pariah state like Cuba, North Korea, or Iran … because that was US policy before we invaded. Good question.

Hell if I know really. The fact that no one has ever been much good at predicting history, how many peeps predicted the Taliban would roll into Kabul today, shows that the future can’t be predicted. This is true retroactively as well.

Today was a turning point in history. Or it isn’t. What now? Anyone who says they know is a liar or a fool. I can only hope that the bloodletting remains low, so far so good. The Taliban are not ISIS. For good or for ill Afghans now control their own fate, as it should be.

I’m freaked about this turn of events. Stay safe everyone, have a great week.

Copyright © 2021 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: A US helicopter evacuating the last few people from the US embassy. Attribution unknown, claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law as it is an historically significant photo.)

Written by unitedcats

August 15, 2021 at 7:28 pm

AFGHANISTAN IS ON MY MIND

with one comment

And in the news. Now that the US is pulling out, the Taliban are rapidly regaining control of their country. In the west, the only approved narrative is that Taliban barbarians are overrunning a bastion of civilization. Or as the BBC puts it: Afghanistan: Panic and disbelief as thousands flee Taliban onslaught. Sigh. Yes, it is a terrible thing, people are dying, refugees are fleeing, a land that hasn’t known peace in decades is experiencing a paroxysm of violence and retribution. My heart goes out to the people suffering and dying.

However, the situation is a little more nuanced than “good vs evil and evil is winning.” OK, a lot more nuanced. Afghanistan is a land where there have been no good actors for decades, and blame for this horror show stretches all the way to Moscow, London, and Washington. A number of points and observations I would like to make. The first being that leaving was the only good option the US had, staying in Afghanistan wasn’t going to change anything, it was just postponing the inevitable. Staying there was just putting good money after bad as poker players say. And the idea that leaving would somehow make all the blood and money we wasted in Afghanistan meaningless is classic “sunk cost fallacy” thinking.

It should also be pointed out that the people running Afghanistan under our protection were just as violent, fundementalist, and misogynistic as the Taliban. And vastly more corrupt. That’s how the Taliban came to power in the first place, they were an improvement over the warlords whose greed and internecine warfare tore Afghanistan apart after the Soviet Union withdrew. The very same warlords the US put back in power. It should have surprised no one that they couldn’t form an effective and popular government to fight the Taliban. What a nightmare. Basically Afghanistan is a microcosm of just what a counterproductive disaster the whole “war on terror” has been. Conquest is easy, just and effective rule doesn’t magically follow.

And then there’s the usual painful hypocrisy from the west, as if western governments actually give a crap about the plight of the people of Afghanistan. We are allied with plenty of governments that are just as fundamentalist, undemocratic, violent, and misogynistic as the Taliban; but since they are happy to let the west exploit their resources, no problem. Frankly I’m so cynical these days about the world’s leaders it’s getting harder all the time to write about the state of the globe. The vast majority of them don’t give a crap about their own people and are solely concerned with protecting the wealth and power of themselves and their cronies. Even worse, huge numbers of people continue to slavishly support these “leaders.”

Anyhow, here’s a similar take on the topic: Stop Listening to the Pro-War Idiots Who Got Afghanistan Wrong. This: Deceptions and lies: What really happened in Afghanistan. Or this: Who Lost America’s Longest War? – Antiwar.com Original. Sigh. Have a good weekend everyone, stay safe and cool.

Copyright © 2021 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Russian troops pulling out of Afghanistan. Image reproduced in accordance with US copyright law. Attribution: RIA Novosti archive, image #58833 / A. Solomonov / CC-BY-SA 3.0 This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.)

Written by unitedcats

August 13, 2021 at 5:19 pm