Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Archive for 2010

The 1914 Christmas Truce Revisited

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The people in the above photograph are all dead. Most of them have been dead for decades, some of them more than likely were dead within a few years or less of the date when this photograph was taken. They are German and British troops on Christmas day, 1914. In the two years since I originally posted this image and below post I am more than ever convinced that people, left to their own devices, will get along just fine. When was the last time the gentle reader  went out and tried to kill their neighbours? I suspect that for most if not all readers, the answer is “never.” Yet as I type governments and insurgents around the world are killing people, most of them innocent of any wrongdoing. Organized mass murder is the most popular “sport” on the planet … and some wonder why the aliens haven’t contacted us yet?

In 1914 during the First World War, something remarkable happened. In parts of the front lines on the western front, soldiers on both sides declared an informal and unofficial truce on Christmas Day. After months of bloodshed and horror in the trenches like the world had never known, the protagonists not only laid down their arms, in many cases they fraternized and socialized together. As well they used the opportunity to both safely retrieve the dead from no man’s land, and safely transport the wounded away from the front lines. Leaders on both sides were so moved and shamed by their troops courage in seeking peace with their enemies, that they heeded the Pope’s call for a negotiated end to the war, thus saving countless lives and ending a bloody pointless war less than six months after it had started.

I jest. In actuality, leaders of both sides were horrified by the truce, and went to great lengths to downplay it, deny it, and make sure it never happened again. There were minor outbreaks of peace on subsequent Christmases, but widespread artillery bombardments on Christmas Eves did a pretty good job of discouraging the idea that their opponents were human beings. Such is the evil of war, that the leaders of both sides colluded to continue the slaughter rather than encourage peace.

On this Christmas Day I hope that the memory of this event serves to show us that people want peace, and left to their own devices peace is what they do. Most humans by nature would rather make love than war. It is our leaders, and their lies, madness, stupidity, and greed, that lead us into war. As the world slips further into insanity and yet another terrible world war looms on the horizon, I can only hope that enough people everywhere , of all faiths, choose peace rather than war. We are all brothers and sisters in God’s eyes, Dear God give us the strength to act like it.

The story of the Christmas Truce can be read here, with many links to other resources on this little known chapter in the history of peace. The last known survivor of the Christmas truce died in 2005, his story is here. God rest his soul.

And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.

Luke 24:36

Since I wrote the preceding in 2008 I have become an atheist … and have become ever more passionate in my understanding that there is no such thing as a “just” war. Violence is the problem, not the solution. And all too often God is used to justify said violence, something that would bother him immensely if he actually existed. This is my favourite religious reading, and I recommend it to anyone who hasn’t seen it before: God Angrily Clarifies “Don’t  Kill” rule.

25 December 2010

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. Peace on Earth and Good Will to All!

Doug

(The above image predates 1923 and is public domain under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

December 25, 2010 at 12:43 pm

Another Symptom of the Colonial Mind Set: International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act

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Last week the “International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act” failed in the House of Representatives, despite passing unanimously in the Senate. This was a “bipartisan” bill ostensibly designed to “require the federal government to develop a plan to combat child marriage with the goal of eliminating the practice worldwide.” At the last minute anti-abortion Republicans managed to scuttle the bill by claiming it would provide abortion funding. Sounds like a wonderful bill, how could anyone be against a bill designed to prevent child marriage around the globe? Democrats and liberals were fuming over the defeat of this bill.

I on the other hand have a somewhat different take on this situation. First off, I don’t see this bill as much more than pandering to liberal voters, it’s symbolic at best. It’s like claiming to be “pro-family,” how can one go wrong? Whether this bill passed or not, Democrats will be able to get lots of political traction out of it, why we’re trying to help the poor child brides of the world! Yeah, right, even a cursory examination of the past century of US government foreign affairs shows a sociopathic indifference to the lives of woman and children in the world, so the hypocrisy meter of off the scale on this one. Not to mention that it’s still legal to get married as young as age thirteen in some US states, but we are going to lecture the world about their child marriage practices? And who, exactly, appointed the USA as moral arbiters of the world’s cultural practices anyhow? This is the aspect of this that most disturbs me, the very powerful implication of this bill  is that we are morally superior to these “backwards” nations, and have the right to lecture to them about their marriage practices.

This  is the colonial mind set illustrated. I might as easily call it the Christian mind set. The idea that the USA is morally superior to other countries. There’s two ways this strikes me as disordered thinking. For one thing, when one has decided that one has a morally superior, paternalistic, relationship to other countries … the ends justify the means. Humanitarian “concerns” were touted far and wide to justify the conquest of Iraq just as one example. When waging war, easily the most inhuman act possible, I mean we’re talking organized mass murder, is “justified” by humanitarian concerns … the concerns don’t sound particularly humanitarian to me.

Secondly, the job of the American government is to protect … Americans. The other nations of the world are sovereign nations, our government has no more business telling them how to treat their populations that they would have telling us how to run the USA. Yet most Americans, left and right, are so steeped in the idea that America is some sort of morally superior nation, that they never question our politician’s attempt to exploit issues like this.  Basically this bill is was a disgusting attempt to exploit third world child brides for domestic political gain. This is how both parties distract their followers into being loyal drones, the parties know exactly what buttons to push. Legions of zombie Democrats will be in a distracted dither about this, ignoring the fact that their party is just as much complicit in America’s crimes against women abroad and at home as the Republicans.

There’s also a nasty element of Islamophobia in this as there has been a concerted campaign in recent years to demonize Muslims, especially Palestinians, for their treatment of women. The above image is a wonderful illustration of this propaganda campaign. One can find it all over the web, purportedly showing a mass wedding in Hamas controlled Gaza where the men in question were marrying little girls. Frankly, anyone who can look at that picture and imagine that those men were marrying those little girls is sick in the head. Literally. As numerous first hand witnesses recounted, yes, there were little girls at the mass marriage ceremony. They were relatives of the brides and grooms, not the brides themselves.

Do I think the people who sponsored this bill were all cynical manipulators of public opinion for their own personal political gain? No, I don’t. It’s just that if America was truly concerned about the plight of women in the world, we need to radically change our foreign policy, not pass toothless symbolic laws that are window dressing for our exploitation of the third world. Propping up misogynistic medieval regimes like the Saudis, turning countries into failed states, sanctions, embargoes, war … these things are hurting the women and children of the world and breeding exactly the sorts of conditions that turn the lives of women and children into male controlled nightmares. The USA and the west and the ongoing colonial exploitation of the third world is the problem, laws like the “International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act” isn’t going to fix that. Frankly, laws like this are part of the problem, not part of the solution.

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit and is central to illustrating the post. I will be curious about comments I get on this one. And just for the record, of course I don’t “support” child marriage, just that this law isn’t the way to fight it. People who can’t grasp that being against something like this law doesn’t magically make one a supporter of what the law is ostensibly trying to fight need a remedial lesson in logic. Comments suggesting same will be deleted.)

 

Written by unitedcats

December 20, 2010 at 10:00 am

GIANT GAMMA RAY EMITTING BUBBLES DISCOVERED NEAR MILKY WAY, SCIENTISTS ARE PUZZLED, OBAMA URGES CALM

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Yes, it’s true, scientists have discovered two huge gamma ray emitting bubbles emerging from the Milky Way. The above image is what they look like … if the viewer is considerably outside the galaxy and can see gamma rays. People can’t see gamma rays, so the above image is “false colour” so to speak. I know some people get upset that so many NASA images are false colour, but when talking about colours that people can’t see, what’s the problem? What’s the deal with these bubbles? Well, no one knows. The current best guess is that they are the remnants of some sort of outburst  from the black hole at the centre of our Galaxy. There are other possibilities, and scientists will be exploring them eagerly. And while this is an exciting discovery in that it gives us new insight into our galaxy, it has no practical bearing on Earth. These bubbles don’t and can’t effect Earth in any way, my histrionic headline notwithstanding.

Yes, there’s a black hole in the centre of our galaxy. It has about as much mass as thirty million Suns. No, it’s not going to swallow the galaxy, any more than the planets are going to get sucked into our Sun. For the lay people, a black hole is a region of space with so much mass that light can’t escape its gravity. So while it can’t be seen directly, this is what a black hole would look like up close and personal:

Well, technically one can’t actually see the black hole, but the astute reader should be able to discern where it is in the above image. The black hole is so dense that it warps and bends light that gets near it. Note that every star in the picture has at least two images, and the entire sky can be seen near the black hole as light from every direction is bent around the black hole. I know, hard to grasp, the original image is here, maybe they explain it better. I’m pretty sure that being this close to a back hole would be fatal, the gravity would be so strong that normal matter would be ripped apart.

Speaking of dark objects in space, the Mars Express recently captured this image of Phobos:

Phobos is the innermost and largest of Mars’ two moons, the other being Deimos. It’s an irregularly shaped lump of ice and rock, averaging about  22 km (14 miles) in diameter, covered with about a meter of dust. It’s the darkest moon in the Solar System, and is believed to be a captured asteroid. It’s also doomed, its orbit is slowly decaying and in the next 50 million years it will be torn apart and crash into Mars. It’s going to be a pretty spectacular sight, and if I’m still around then, I’ll be sure to blog about it.

And while we’re on the topic of Phobos, since it’s not a topic I visit regularly, two minor misconceptions to clear up. Yes, there is indeed a monolith on Phobos:

It’s the bright object with a shadow in the middle right, it’s about the size of a building, whatever that means. One will sometimes actually hear alien aficionados claim that the monolith on Phobos must be artificial and should be visited, apparently confused by the fact that there was a monolith in 2001, a Space Odyssey. The monolith in the fictional movie was made by aliens, the monolith on Phobos is a rock. Yes, it is upon such slender threads that belief in aliens resides.

It gets worse. Both moons of Mars were discovered in 1877. In the 1726 book Gulliver’s Travels there is a description of Mars having two moon very similar to the moons that were discovered more than a century later. Again, some have claimed that this is proof that aliens have visited Earth, or even that the author, Jonathon Swift, may have come from Mars. No, it’s proof that Jonathon Swift was reasonably well read. Astronomers of his day were very much looking for symmetry and order in the Solar System. It was speculated that since Venus had no moons, Earth had one moon, and Jupiter had four moons … might not Mars have two moons? And if Mars had two moons, they would have had to be very small to avoid detection by the telescopes of the day. Which is more likely, that Swift’s fictional moons were based on contemporary astronomical speculation … or personal knowledge gained from alien spacefarers?

No, it’s not a trick question. Have a great weekend everyone!

(The above images are all claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. They are not being used for profit, they are central to illustrating the post, and they are properly attributed. Gamma Ray Bubble image, Credit: NASA/GSFC. Black hole image, Credit & Copyright: Alain Riazuelo. Phobos image, Credit: G. Neukum (FU Berlin) et al., Mars Express, DLR, ESA; Acknowledgement: Peter Masek. Phobos monolith image, Credit: Mars Global Surveyor, NASA. Is there a point to this post. Yes. We are entering the greatest age of exploration ever, the exploration of the Universe around us! I mean, two of these images were taken by cameras orbiting Mars, something that would have been considered a pipe dream by many people in living memory. How cool is that?)

 

Written by unitedcats

December 16, 2010 at 9:39 pm

George Armstrong Custer meets Buffalo Calf Road Woman: The Battle of the Greasy Grass (aka The Battle of the Little Bighorn.)

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Ah, the Battle of the Greasy Grass. Or the Battle on the Greasy Grass. Or the Battle of Greasy Grass Creek. Or as us white people call it, the Battle of  the Little Bighorn or Custer’s Last Stand. It’s in the news lately, because a military flag that was carried into the battle by Custer’s forces sold at auction for $2.2 million. I’m retty sure the guy carrying the flag never imagined that was in store for its future. It’s also pretty likely he never imagined the flag would survive in white men’s hands because it was concealed under his body.

Yes, the battle didn’t go well for Custer and his men. That’s common knowledge. Custer and a heroic band of the 7th cavalry are overwhelmed by a  horde of Native America savages, and go down fighting to the last man. That’s how the battle was portrayed in the USA for nearly a century, since then it has become a bit more nuanced. And it’s recognized in most circles that the Indians fighting and dying that day were warriors defending their homes and way of life, and as deserving of respect and honour as Custer and his men. In some circles at least.

And that’s pretty much all that is known about this battle. OK, that’s not true. A tremendous amount is known about the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Every aspect of the battle and the battlefield has been exhaustively studied, and a large number of eyewitness accounts were recorded. Unfortunately, a lot of this body of knowledge contradicts itself, and worse, there are two huge gaps. For one, Custer and everyone with him died, so historians have absolutely nothing to go on there. Secondly, Custer’s widow ferociously defended his reputation, and was largely successful in preventing any real investigation of the tragedy lest it besmirch his name. And she lived till 1933, a lot of time was lost, and a lot of witnesses died. So we have a hugely important battle, at least symbolically, about which a great deal is known … and about which there are still many important unanswered questions.

So, the battle. Lt Colonel Custer in June of 1876 rode into Montana as part of an attempt to round up Native American Lakota, Cheyenne, and Arapaho and get them back onto a reservation as part of the Black Hills War of 1876-77. There were other forces involved, but Custer’s column had about 650 men. He had refused an offer of more men and Gatling guns, the first primitive machine guns, fearing they would slow him down. And they would have, he made more than thirty miles a day as he pursued the Lakota and Cheyenne.

When Custer caught up with the Indians and saw perhaps the largest Indian encampment he had ever seen, he decided to split his force into three parts and attack the village from multiple directions. As far as anyone can tell, Custer simply didn’t think there were all that many Indian warriors in the village, and apparently ignored warnings there might be more warriors than they could handle. Majors Benteen and Reno  each had a force to command, while Custer and his men rode to the other side of the village to attack. The attack was supposed to be simultaneous, but as happenstance would have it, Reno’s men attacked first.

It was 3pm the afternoon of June 25th. It didn’t go well. Usually when the US cavalry attacked an Indian village, most of the Indians ran while the warriors made more or less suicidal charges at the cavalry. This time there were an awful lot of warriors, none of them were running away, and some of them were shooting at the cavalry from concealed positions. Then one of Reno’s top scouts, a man by the name of Bloody Knife, was shot in the head at Reno’s side, blood and brains splattering Reno’s face. Reno more or less panicked at that point and ordered a hasty retreat, most of his force’s casualties occurred when they ran. They got to a better position though, and reinforced by Benteen’s forces, were able to hold the Indians at bay. In the distance they could hear gunfire from Custer’s men, it stopped about 430 pm. Benteen was criticized later for not trying to reinforce Custer as well, but he knew Reno’s men were in great danger, so his decision to reinforce Reno was reasonable at the time. Benteen and Reno’s men were trapped all night on some small hilltops, surrounded by hostile Lakota and Cheyenne warriors.

What had happened to Custer and his men? Well, they were all killed. That’s the only thing really known for sure. The route they took, exactly where and how the battle was fought, and how it ended is still not entirely clear. What is clear is that Custer charged into a  situation where he was badly outnumbered and out-gunned by Indian warriors, many of who had been trained by the great Indian War Leader Crazy Horse to shot from cover, move, and shoot again. Repeat. This was not something Custer and his men had ever seen before, and it must have been infuriating. Briefly. The battle didn’t last very long, less than an hour, maybe much less. There was some organized resistance on the part of Custer’s men, and at the end a group of them did try to shoot their way free. They didn’t make it. Custer, his brother, two nephews, and over 200 men were killed, in less time than it takes for a hungry man to eat a meal some accounts say.

What’s to be learnt from this fiasco? Well. it’s almost certainly a  wonderful example of a military leader with political ambitions putting caution to the wind in an effort to promote his career. An all to common scenario in war, certainly America’s wars. And it’s a good idea to do reconnaissance before advancing into combat, one would think that this would be obvious, but history is littered with horrible military catastrophes that occurred simply because a few scouts weren’t sent ahead. Or more baffling, the scout’s reports were ignored because the person in charge had contempt for their foe. This last fact alone is strong evidence that humans aren’t really an intelligent species.

There’s all sorts of other points and fascinating tidbits I could relate about this battle. For now I will leave it be, it’s just a fine example of what unholy bedfellows war and politics make. I will be writing more on that in further posts.  I’ll end with one final bit of trivia. According to Cheyenne accounts, the person who knocked Custer off his horse at the end was a warrior named … Buffalo Calf Road Woman. Yes, the Cheyenne had no problem with women fighting if they wanted to. She had in fact been a hero in a previous battle, the Battle of the Rosebud. War can be a woman’s place too, who knew?

(The image above is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit, is central to illustrating the post, and is only part of the original image. Credit and copyright: Sothebys. This was written from a  number of sources, including my memory of numerous documentaries and books. I apologize in advance if there are any egregious errors or omissions. This post is dedicated to all that died that day, both Custer’s men and the unknown number of  Indian warriors that fell. God rest their souls.)

 

 

Is America on the Road to Fascism?

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“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.”    — George Orwell

 

When I was a child and a young man, I lived in a free country. Now the government sticks its hands in my pants and searches my crotch if I want to fly a  plane. And already happening, TSA searches in train and bus stations as well. It’s also illegal in three states now to photograph a cop that is arresting you in a public place,  yeah, you can’t witness your own arrest apparently. Then there’s the so called “Free Speech Zones,” more police per capita than any other country, and the world’s largest prison system. What’s wrong with this picture? I don’t fully understand, but it’s becoming clearer all the time that this is not  a good thing.

Until fairly recently I was of the opinion that I didn’t need to worry too much about fascism in America. Lately I’m thinking I may have been too optimistic, and that we have gone so far down a slippery slope that there is no turning back. I think a combination of factors since the 1960s have eroded our freedoms in a myriad of ways that people have grown used to. Like the proverbial frogs in a  cooking pot, this danger has come on us so slowly that most of us aren’t aware that the water is starting to boil.

I think this started in the sixties and the early seventies. Decades of the Cold War had conditioned people to think of a huge and intrusive US government as “normal.” Then there was the sixties, when “Law and Order” and the “War on Drugs” started to enter the national consciousness. About the same time our once proud and independent press started to be acquired hyper-global-mega-corporations, a process that was complete sometime by the early nineties. The “War on Drugs” is important for it conditioned people to believe in a government that had the power to regulate everything, including what chemical citizens want to have in their bloodstreams. And Roe vs Wade also contributed, in that it created an entire and tireless political movement devoted to government regulation of what citizens do with their own bodies. (I’m not  a fan of abortion, I think every child should be a wanted child, but abortion prohibition is a terrible way to bring that about and does far more harm than good.)

And then of course the past decade has conditioned people to believe in perpetual war. And be perpetually afraid of enemies lurking everywhere. Despite the fact that terrorism in the USA is and always has been a very modest threat, there are ever increasing and intrusive efforts to “protect us” from it. Not to mention that now the government is starting to exert far more control over the Internet, the last bastion of free speech for those who have realized that what the main stream media, from Fox to CNN, is feeding us pure Kool-Aid.

The last thing that factors into this mess is the fact that in the past few decades we have simultaneously allowed our infrastructure to decay, moved our manufacturing to other countries, and turned our schools into little more than day centres for an increasingly ignorant and powerless and futureless population. The only thing that the USA has really invested in in the past few decades is more military, more “security,” more government, more police, and more prisons. And absolutely none of these create wealth in any way. Military spending is some of the m0st wasteful spending imaginable, as a tiny number of people build incredibly expensive gadgets that perform no useful function and have to be replaced by even newer and more expensive gadgets. … forever! And then, just to make sure it’s wasted, we ship these gadgets to the other side of the planet at fabulous expense to be blown up. Yeah, that’s makiing America richer and stronger.

I don’t know what’s going to happen here, but I fear that sooner rather than later something is going to snap. I mean, if there were another 9/11 today, not only do I think we would have  a police state overnight, many many Americans are so hooked on their Kool-Aid that they would support it. Legions of Fox News viewers would that’s for sure. And the liberals and progressives seem to be going down without a fight as the country has drifted (or been driven) to the right the past few decades. People used to give a shit about the workers and freedom in America, now “union” and “strike” are dirty words.

And I wonder if the Wikileaks will be the match that sets the house on fire. My biggest hope at this time is that the government will launch massive Internet censorship. Most Americans don’t seem to notice when their freedoms are stripped away one by one, but if they can’t log onto their favourite web site, many of them go ballistic. It’s a slender reed to grasp, but it is one of several, and the situation isn’t hopeless. It’s not a police state yet, but it’s time to start waking up America.

(The image above is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit and is central to illustrating the post. I don’t know who created it, but clicking on it leads to the site I got it from. And yes, I know the juxtaposition of a swastika on the American flag is offensive to some, but fascism in America would be far more offensive, and I want to exercise my freedom of speech while I still have it. And no, I don’t think we have a Hitler on the horizon, but  a Hitler isn’t required for  a police state. There’s plenty of police states on Earth now that don’t have Hitlers.)

 

 

 

Written by unitedcats

December 12, 2010 at 8:18 pm

Ron Paul on Wikileaks: Lying is Not Patriotic

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I normally don’t publish guest articles, but this week I’m on a  roll. The Time Traveller post was just for fun, today’s post is deadly serious. I was writing my own post on Wikileaks, when I came across Congressman Ron Paul’s latest words on the subject. He covers the situation quite nicely, and since I am proud that at least one American politician hasn’t sold their soul to the bankers and militarists, I am reposting his speech here.

The one thing I would like to add is about the recent remarks by Clinton and other administration officials and their claim that Wikileaks is “putting American lives in danger.” The hypocrisy of that claim makes me want to puke, literally. Americans are being killed and maimed every day in Iraq and Afghanistan, and every drone strike in the Muslim world creates new terrorists who hate America, and it’s Wikileaks who is putting Americans in harm’s way? No, it’s our insanely aggressive foreign policy, our wars, our drone strikes, our meddling in the Middle East and Central Asia that are putting American lives at risk … Clinton and Obama are sending Americans to die pointless deaths in foreign lands, not Wikileaks.

Or to put my feelings in perspective, even though I loathed George Bush’s foreign policy, I would have taken an assassin’s bullet for him because I still respected the office of the presidency and what it stood for. Obama’s craven sellout to the bankers and militarists has utterly destroyed what little respect I had left for the office of the presidency, and I can’t say the same about an assassin’s bullet today.

That being said, the words of Congressman Ron Paul on Wikileaks:

Lying is Not Patriotic
by Rep. Ron Paul, December 10, 2010

WikiLeaks’ release of classified information has generated a lot of attention world-wide in the past few weeks.

The hysterical reaction makes one wonder if this is not an example of killing the messenger for the bad news.

Despite what is claimed, information so far released, though classified, has caused no known harm to any individual, but it has caused plenty of embarrassment to our government.  Losing a grip on our empire is not welcomed by the neoconservatives in charge.

There is now more information confirming that Saudi Arabia is a principle supporter and financier of al-Qaeda and this should set off alarm bells since we guarantee its Sharia-run government.

This emphasizes even more the fact that no al-Qaeda existed in Iraq before 9/11, and yet we went to war against Iraq based on the lie that it did.

It has been charged, by self-proclaimed experts, that Julian Assange, the internet publisher of this information, has committed a heinous crime deserving prosecution for treason and execution or even assassination.

But should we not at least ask how the U.S. government can charge an Australian citizen with treason for publishing U.S. secret information, that he did not steal?

And if WikiLeaks is to be prosecuted for publishing classified documents, why shouldn’t the Washington Post, New York Times, and others that have also published these documents be prosecuted? Actually, some in Congress are threatening this as well.

The New York Times, as a result of a Supreme Court ruling, was not found guilty in 1971 for the publication of the Pentagon Papers.  Daniel Ellsberg never served a day in prison for his role in obtaining these secret documents.

The Pentagon Papers were also inserted into the Congressional Record by Senator Mike Gravel with no charges being made of breaking any National Security laws.

Yet the release of this classified information was considered illegal by many, and those who lied us into the Vietnam War and argued for its prolongation were outraged.  But the truth gained from the Pentagon Papers revealed that lies were told about the Gulf of Tonkin attack which perpetuated a sad and tragic episode in our history.

Just as with the Vietnam War, the Iraq War was based on lies.  We were never threatened by Weapons of Mass Destruction or al-Qaeda-in-Iraq, though the attack on Iraq was based on this false information.

Any information that challenges the official propaganda for the war in the Middle East is unwelcome by the administration and supporters of these unnecessary wars.  Few are interested in understanding the relationship of our foreign policy and our presence in the Middle East to the threat of terrorism.  Revealing the real nature and goal for our presence in so many Muslim countries is a threat to our empire and any revelation of this truth is highly resented by those in charge.

Questions to consider:

1.  Do the American people deserve to know the truth regarding the ongoing war in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen?

2.  Could a larger question be: how can an Army Private gain access to so much secret material?

3.  Why is the hostility mostly directed at Assange, the publisher, and not our government’s failure to protect classified information?

4.  Are we getting our money’s worth from the $80 billion per year we spend on our intelligence agencies?

5.  Which has resulted in the greatest number of deaths: lying us into war, or WikiLeaks’ revelations or the release of the Pentagon Papers?

6.  If Assange can be convicted of a crime for publishing information, that he did not steal, what does this say about the future of the First Amendment and the independence of the internet?

7.  Could it be that the real reason for the near universal attacks on WikiLeaks is more about secretly maintaining a seriously flawed foreign policy of empire than it is about national security?

8.  Is there not a huge difference between releasing secret information to help the enemy in the time of a declared war — which is treason — and the releasing of information to expose our government lies that promote secret wars, death, and corruption?

9.  Was it not once considered patriotic to stand up to our government when it’s wrong?

Thomas Jefferson had it right when he advised:  “Let the eyes of vigilance never be closed.”

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit, and frankly I hope no one would use a picture like this for profit. Credit and copyright: AP Photo/Steve Ruark. It’s the coffin of  Lance Cpl. Kevin M. Cornelius, killed in Afghanistan in August. I selected it because America’s war dead are still being relegated into the darkness by America’s so called free press.)

Written by unitedcats

December 10, 2010 at 9:12 am

Wednesday, December 8th: Pretend to be a Time Traveller Day 2010.

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Yes, it’s that time of year again! International Pretend to be a Time Traveller Day 2010! Yes, all Wednesday, participants  in this event will pretend to be a time traveller visiting the current era. The only “rule” is participants must never tell anyone they are a time traveller.  I’ve more or less successfully pretended to be a human being for decades, so this should not only be a snap, it will be a refreshing change.  I plan to photo-document my visit to 2010 from a dystopian post-apocalyptic future. Here are  details and suggestions from the originator of this event:

Pretend to be a Time Traveler Day (As described by Dresden Codak)

You must spend the entire day in costume and character. The only rule is that you cannot actually tell anyone that you are a time traveller. Other than that, anything’s game.

There are three possible options:

1) Utopian/cliché Future – “If the Future did a documentary of the last fifty years, this is how badly the reenactors would dress.” Think Star Trek: TNG or the Time Travellers from Hob. Ever see how the society in Futurama sees the 20th century? Run with it. Your job is to dress with moderately anachronistic clothing and speak in slang from varying decades. Here are some good starters:

– Greet people by referring to things that don’t yet exist or haven’t existed for a long time. Example: “Have you penetrated the atmosphere lately?” “What spectrum will today’s broadcast be in?” and “Your king must be a kindly soul!”

– Show extreme ignorance in operating regular technology. Pay phones should be a complete mystery (try placing the receiver in odd places). Chuckle knowingly at cell phones.

2) Dystopian Future – This one offers a little more flexibility. It can be any kind of future from Terminator to Freejack. The important thing to remember is dress like a crazy person with armour. Black spray painted football pads, high tech visors, torn up trenchcoats and maybe even some dirt here or there. Remember, dystopian future travellers are very startled that they’ve gone back in time. Some starters:

– If you go the “prisoner who’s escaped the future” try shaving your head and putting a barcode on the back of your neck. Then stagger around and stare at the sky, as if you’ve never seen it before.

– Walk up to random people and say “WHAT YEAR IS THIS?” and when they tell you, get quiet and then say “Then there’s still time!” and run off.

– Stand in front of a statue (any statue, really), fall to your knees, and yell “NOOOOOOOOO”

– Stare at newspaper headlines and look astonished.

– Take some trinket with you (it can be anything really), hand it to some stranger, along with a phone number and say “In thirty years dial this number. You’ll know what to do after that.” Then slip away.

3) The Past – This one is more for beginners. Basically dress in period clothing (preferably Victorian era) and stagger around amazed at everything. Since the culture’s set in place already, you have more of a template to work off of. Some pointers:

– Airplanes are terrifying. Also, carry on conversations with televisions for a while.

– Discover and become obsessed with one trivial aspect of technology, like automatic grocery doors. Stay there for hours playing with it.

– Be generally terrified of people who are dressed immodestly compared to your era. Tattoos and shorts on women are especially scary.

And that’s it. Remember, the only real rule is staying in character and try to fit in. Never directly admit you’re a time traveller, and make really, really bad attempts at keeping a low profile. Naturally, the dystopian future has a little more leeway. And for the record, I’ve already tried out all of these in real life, in costume. It is so much fun you want to pee yourself.

Cool, eh? I kind of found out about this late, so my costume is going to be pretty ad hoc. On the plus side, I’m in Berkeley so I won’t stand out,  people are used to odd dress and behaviour. So I won’t get arrested or shot for acting weird in public. And if I do, well, it will make a great blog post. Well, getting arrested would work, getting shot part isn’t a sacrifice I want to make for a blog post.

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit, etc. It’s a picture taken at a bridge re-opening in British Columbia in 1940 or 1941. I’m not sure of the actual copyright holder, but it came from this site: Virtual Museum of Canada. Why did I use this image? Because according to some people, an actual time traveller can be spotted in the picture! Can any of my esteemed readers spot the putative time traveller?)

Written by unitedcats

December 7, 2010 at 9:23 pm

Random Notes in the Margins

with 5 comments

A couple of topics that I was unable to squeeze a whole blog post out on, but nonetheless wanted to say something. And yes, in some cases below I am simplifying or not adding obvious codicils:

1.  Germany’s Chancellor Merkel claims that “multiculturalism has failed.” She didn’t exactly define her terms so no one knows what she really meant. Yes, millions of foreigners, mostly Turks, have settled in Germany. As far as anyone can tell though, all she was doing was pandering to some fringe anti-immigrant parties and no real changes in German policy are in the offing. There’s basically two points I want to make here.

One is that sooner or later immigrants get assimilated. The idea that a nation will be “taken over” by immigrants simply is not supported by history, the opposite is what occurs. There’s even cases where the immigrants invaded and conquered the nation in question … and still got assimilated. The Normans in England and the Mongols in China being good examples. Yes, mass immigration, legal or illegal, does have problems. It is not an existential threat to a culture though, under most circumstances.

Secondly, how did all these million of Turks end up living in Germany? Well, after World War Two Germany had labour shortages, so people from the east, mostly Turks, were given permission to live and work in Germany for several years only. Great policy, Germany got labour, nice slow paced cultural exchanges took place, and the countries the workers came from got both money and westernized workers returning to develop their country. Why did this change? Bleeding heart liberals? Nope. German industry complained about having to train new workers every few years, so they got the government to let the workers stay.

This is one of the things that makes me mad to this day. Bracero programs, where foreign workers are allowed to come to an industrialized country to work for awhile are a great idea. The industrialized country gets the benefit of cheap labour, and the worker’s country gets bootstrapped upwards on the development scale. Alas because industry would rather blatantly exploit illegals or hire a permanent underclass, this option is almost never used. And the liberals get blamed for the downside.

2. The cat bin lady, Mary Bale. This was a huge deal some weeks ago. Some woman was walking along, petted a cat, and then tossed the cat in a residential rubbish bin. All recorded on security video, which the cat owners posted in order to identify her. And then the solid human waste matter intercepted the rotating turbine blades (thanks, Ralph Johnson.) She became a world wide Internet villain, her life was threatened, and she even had police protection for awhile. She ultimately was fined about $500 and forbidden from owning pets for five years.

Two points here. For one thing, the level of outrage generated by this is probably the greatest ratio of outrage to incident in history. I mean, yeah, it wasn’t a nice thing to do, but far far far worse happens every day. And for God’s sake, death threats? I love kittehs too, and if someone did this to my cat I’d be outraged too. However, it would be a “What the hell is wrong with you?” outrage, not an “I’m gonna kill you!” outrage. Let’s keep some perspective here folks. Secondly, and this is where a lot of people fail psychology 101, this was obviously an impulsive action on her part. All people are prone to acting out impulsively without really thinking it through, a lot of suicides are impulsive for God’s sake. This action of hers was more a sign that she was troubled and upset, not a sign that she’s some sort of evil person. Again, perspective here please.

3. The fire in Israel. Turns out Israel has done the same thing the USA has done, obsessed over defence to the point of starving much needed domestic programs in favour of the military. I mean, they have to ask for foreign help to fight a forest fire? Um, what’s wrong with this picture? In any event, this is a good article about the fire and Israel: “A Wildfire Is Burning All Illusions in Israel.”

4. And there’s been a frightening new development in Iran. Iran just announced that they have produced some Uranium ore of their own. Yes, the dastardly Iranians have discovered … mining! International figures actually expressed outrage at this, and some claimed it’s further “proof” of Iran’s evil intentions. No, it’s proof Iran wants to make their own fuel for their own reactors, since they aren’t going to be able to acquire it abroad. Once again, Iran is a signatory to the NPT and their nuclear facilities are carefully monitored by the international community. Which hasn’t stopped certain people from murdering Iranians in the streets, where’s the international outrage on this terrorist act?

Ah well, more and more I think I’m living in Wonderland. Or its evil twin. Did Lewis Carrol have an evil twin? Watching Inception twice this weekend before sleeping has also damaged my already struggling brain. (I highly recommend it.) I’ll try to carry on though. The TSA’s plan to create more crowds for terrorists to  attack should be covered, what’s up with that? Then there’s more wikileaks stuff, the jury is still out on whether this will be a good thing or a bad thing.

Have a great week everyone.

(The above image of the fire in Israel is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s central to illustrating the fire, it’s not being used for profit, and its use here in no conceivable way interferes with the copyright holder’s commercial use of the image. Credit and copyright: Reuters/Nir Elias. I chose it because it’s a lovely dramatic image. And, well, to point out the transcendent absurdity that both Muslim and Jewish religious fanatics are blaming the forest fire on God! When Hamas and Israeli religious fanatics agree, can the end times be far behind?)

Written by unitedcats

December 6, 2010 at 1:11 pm

KOREAN NUCLEAR NIGHTMARES

with 5 comments

December 2nd, 2010. During American and South Korean naval manoeuvres in the Yellow Sea near North Korea a nuclear explosion occurs, sinking a dozen major warships including the American carrier USS George Washington. At least ten thousand American and South Korean sailors and servicemen are killed, and of course the world media goes nuts. Just in time for the five o’clock news on the USA East Coast. Film of the mushroom cloud rising is played non stop on every channel, the talking heads fall all over themselves blathering, and within the hour President Obama held a live conference where he blamed North Korea for the “attack,” and gave them one hour to unconditionally surrender or the USA would respond with nuclear weapons. He also added, to the delight of the war party, and horror of level heads everywhere, that anyone who objected would also be targeted for nuclear attack. Bipartisan support for Obama was effusive after the conference.

North Korea denied the accusations, and China called for a 72 hour cooling off period and an emergency session of the UN Security Council. Most other countries also called for calm, but world stock markets crashed big time and any country with a military worthy of the name went to top readiness levels. At the one hour mark North Korea officially repudiated the charges, and said there would be “unlimited retaliation” if the USA or South Korea attacked North Korea.

Ninety minutes after the sinking of the George Washington over a dozen American tactical nuclear weapons detonated over North Korea, with dozens more in the hours that followed. The targets appeared to be North Korea artillery positions overlooking Seoul, and North Korea’s nuclear and missile facilities. North Korea artillery immediately began shelling Seoul, though not with anywhere near the numbers of shells that the nay sayers had predicted. Nonetheless millions of people packed up and fled, complicating efforts to rush troops northwards.

Six days later, it was over. A dazed North Korean general, apparently the highest ranking surviving member of the North Korean military and political leadership, was dragged from a bunker as he shouted “We surrender, we surrender.” The US press had shown Americans nothing but an endless array of military porn during the “war,” and Americans were dancing in the streets when it was over.

Meanwhile, almost unreported in the American press, Iran had been granted full membership in the SCO, the Russian-Chinese alliance. And in fact Russia and China announced that the SCO was now a military alliance dedicated to defending against the USA. Dozens of other countries applied to join the SCO, including Cuba, Venezuela, Pakistan, Iraq, and Afghanistan. China and pretty much every country dumped their dollars, leaving it about as valuable as toilet paper. Germany and Japan declared an alliance, and revealed they already possessed a significant nuclear arsenal. NATO was in complete disarray. Anti-American riots and demonstrations around the world were too numerous to mention.

What happens next? Who knows. What’s my point? Well, as is often the case, I have many points. The first and foremost being that people did a terrible job of predicting World War One and World War Two. While there were plenty of people saying “this can’t be good,” and even some predicting accurate subsets of the future like “You know, battleships aren’t the ultimate weapon anymore,” if you’d asked a million people including all the world’s historians to write down in 1938 what was going to transpire in the next ten years, I doubt any of them would have come even close to what actually happened.

Yet many people continue to believe that they understand what’s going on in the world, and that if only their simplistic solutions were applied, all would be well. I don’t. I know my hypothetical situation above is just one of an infinite number of possibilities. And while I don’t know the specifics, I am in the “This can’t be good” crowd. The USA and South Korea seem bound and determined to provoke North Korea. In my hypothetical scenario above, anyone could have set of that nuclear weapon. And it wouldn’t need to be a nuclear weapon, if the American aircraft carrier George Washington sank like the recent ill fated Cheonan, the short term results would be equally as unpleasant and unpredictable.

I also think that the flow of history, regionally and globally, has two speeds. “Idle” and “Oh Shit.” Most of the time in most places, nations are making decisions that ensure a modicum of stability. I mean face it, if a gang is one of the lucky 300 odd gangs to actually rule a  nation on this planet, staying in power and playing it safe are the top priorities, upsetting the applecart could lead to all sorts of unpleasantness. However, at other times in history, shit happens. The world wars. The Napoleonic wars. The USA civil War. People throw caution to the wind and make risky decisions. And all parties involve basically up the ante until the situation is resolved. Much blood and expense involved.

And often there is some sort of transition or warning event that leads to this state change so to speak. The Tonkin Gulf Incident. The assassination of Archduke Ferdinand. The shelling of Fort Sumter. And lately I’m wondering if such an event has occurred or is about to occur near Korea.  Especially with the FBI so determined to show us that we are under terrorist “threat.” Coming next, my long awaited post about Obama the Destroyer. What can I say, I seem to be morbidly fascinated by current events these days.

(The above image is Public Domain under US copyright law. It’s a 21 kiloton underwater nuclear weapons test, known as Operation Crossroads (Event Baker), conducted at Bikini Atoll  in 1946. Yes, those are ships, captured Japanese ships and obsolete American ships. Some animals were harmed in the making of this photograph. I chose it because it nicely illustrates the post, it’s a cool pic, and shows just how horrible nuclear weapons are. One last point, George Washington would be appalled that a warship designed to project American military might world wide was named after him, it’s the antithesis of everything he fought and worked for. )

 

 

 

 

Written by unitedcats

December 2, 2010 at 9:07 am

FBI FOILS OWN TERRORIST PLOT AS STUNNED NATION REELS IN GRATITUDE; PLUS WIKILEAKS, KOREA, AND OTHER NEWS OF THE DAY

with 11 comments

It’s hard for me to look at the news these days without cringing, so why not share with my readers! The first non-news of the day is the FBI foiling a “terrorist plot” to blow up a Christmas Tree ceremony in Portland with a car bomb. Sounds terrible, doesn’t it, a Somali born teenager tried to attack a public ceremony with a car bomb! The problem with this story, and so many previous similar stories, is that it turns out the Jihadist organization that recruited, trained, and sent him on his mission … was the FBI posing as a Jihadist organization.

Um, paedophiles manage to find troubled kids on line and talk them into doing insanely stupid things every day. How hard would it be to find some stupid troubled teen with Jihadist fantasies and convince him to be part of a terrorist plot? It’s damn easy, as the FBI has proved numerous times. This is not defending America or preventing terrorism, this is manufacturing propaganda so the government can claim it is preventing terrorism. And of course it works, plenty of people swallow this nonsense hook, line, and sinker. An Islamic cultural Centre has already been torched in apparent response to this incident. I have an idea, why doesn’t the FBI do something about the thousands of Americans who are gunned down in the USA every year by native-born gang bangers?

Moving right along, in Korea the USA and South Korea continue do their best to provoke North Korea into doing something stupid by conducting military exercises in disputed waters. The unpleasant incident last week where the North Koreans shelled a South Korean island? Again, the South was conducting manoeuvres and firing artillery into disputed waters first. I would agree the North over-reacted, but when one keeps teasing a cornered dog, sooner or later it’s going to snap at you. If North Korea was conducting military manoeuvres within sight of the US coast and firing live ammunition into American waters, the USA sure as shit would respond.

I said in a previous comment that I do not think that war is in the offing because if they wanted a war, the USA and South Korea had ample casus belli last week, but maybe I was wrong. Maybe the USA is trying to provoke a war, but big wars like this require at least some preparation, and maybe we weren’t quite ready to go. Who knows. Was talking briefly with a Korean War vet today in the grocery line, and he was adamant that the USA provoked North Korea into war in the fifties. He had nothing good to say about the USA government or the Marines, a sentiment one usually doesn’t hear from vets. At least in the media.

And then, Wikileaks. As I suspected, nothing Earth shattering has been released yet, just embarrassing crap. The Saudi’s urging the US to attack Iran was some of the worst, but it’s not like the Iranians didn’t know that Saudi Arabia is run by a family crime syndicate. Mostly embarrassing to the USA though, and mostly pretty minor stuff so far. More is to come though, so we’ll see. I kinda suspect if there was really something of stunning importance in there, IDK, aliens are in contact with us or 9/11 really was an inside job, why, the government would have managed to prevent their disclosure and/or they would have been published immediately.

People’s reactions to this story are a bit interesting. I love how I’ve heard some Americans call this treason. Um, wikileaks and its founder aren’t American, so by definition they can’t commit treason against America. Only Americans can commit treason against the United States. And I’m a  little unclear as to how this material is going to “start a  war” or “endanger lives.” The only thing endangered is some politicians careers. Frankly I think exposing the lies and hypocrisy of the world’s leaders and politicians is a good thing, God only knows the western mainstream media isn’t up to the job anymore.

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit and damned if I know where it originated, it’s all over the web. I use it because the more one reads about this “terrorist” attack, the more it becomes clear this teenager wasn’t the brightest candle on the cake. And here you’ve got grown men running around with props and such getting paid to manipulate this dumbfuck teenager. It’s like a bad episode of Chuck, yet all sorts of people, Fox News viewers and such, no doubt take this story with deadly earnestness. Jesus wept.)

Written by unitedcats

November 29, 2010 at 8:28 am