Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Archive for the ‘2021’ Category

WHATEVER WEDNESDAY, TRUMP’S DEFENSE BLOWS UP AND OTHER ODDMENTS INCLUDING GUY FAWKES

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Well, looks like Trump’s trial in the Senate is going forward. The defense put up by his lawyers in the pretrial was pretty feeble by all accounts, not surprising, it’s not exactly the A team. Or even the B team. So yes, the senate voted that it is indeed constitutional to impeach a president after he is out of office. Cynical Doug says, “Great, so the next time the GOP controls congress they’ll impeach Obama.” I probably shouldn’t even joke about that, considering how weird politics has gotten in America. I’ll follow the trial’s developments, but this still seems like political theatre to me, I doubt Trump will face any serious consequences. The Dems are kinda like the fake opposition party, though granted they’re better than the GOP now.

Speaking of the Capitol Insurrection (GOPers are calling it a riot to deny Trump had any culpability, so insurrection it is if we’re gonna play word games,) here’s a fun take on it: Michigan’s Top Republican Falsely Calls U.S. Capitol Attack A ‘Hoax’. Yeah, really put it all in perspective for me. Basically a quarter or more of Americans live in a world where if something happens that challenges their world view, it didn’t really happen. School shootings, well, can’t possibly be that easy access to military grade weapons is a problem, so they were faked. A MAGA crowd stormed the Capitol with intent to kill, nope, Trump supporters only protest peacefully, so it was faked. Biden lost the election, nope, couldn’t have happened, so Trump was somehow cheated out of the victory. With codicil of course being all these things that were faked, why it was the libtards and their plot to turn America into a socialist welfare state where white Christians are second class citizens.

Trump’s genius, though more instinct than genius, was understanding that with these people, all one had to do was tell them what they want to hear, and deride anything that contradicts that as fake news, and they’ll eat out of your hand. Though at this point it’s getting increasingly bizarre as they try to reconcile the reality of President Biden with their fantasy world: ‘Hold the Line’: QAnon Adherents Claim Trump Will Become President Again on March 4. Or this: Fact check: Debunking claims that Biden’s Oval Office is a fake movie set. It never ends: ‘Prophetess’ Amanda Grace Says Trump’s Impeachment Trial Is Proof He’s Still President. ‘Obama wasn’t born in America’ on steroids.

Oddly enough I realized there’s a few (a fun few) parallels between the Capitol Insurrection and the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. The timing was about the same, the plot was revealed in early November, and ended with multiple executions at the end of January. Basically Catholics were being officially persecuted in England, and the plotters planned to blow up parliament and the king, start a revolution, and install a catholic Queen. They got as far as stashing 36 barrels of gunpowder under the parliament chambers. However, the authorities were alerted by an anonymous letter, the writer of which is unknown to this day. And in a search of the building, one Guy Fawkes was found guarding the gunpowder.

He was taken into custody, tortured terribly, and the other plotters chased down and rounded up, most were taken alive. They too were all tortured. Torture was on the way out at the time, but was still used for special occasions. And after their trials, they were all hung, drawn, and quartered. A particularly gruesome form of execution which involves hanging and then burning parts of their anatomy in front of them while still alive. I’ll leave further details to the gentle readers’ imaginations or Google skills. Guy though outwitted them at the end, he leapt off the gallows breaking his neck, thus avoiding the unpleasantness about to ensue.

So it was a plot to overthrow a government and install what the plotters thought of as the legitimate government. It went badly. And one person, Guy Fawkes, came to be emblematic of the whole mess, he was indeed the Qbacca of his day. Guy Fawkes Night is still celebrated on November 5, the day Fawkes was caught. And indeed he still has a certain amount of sympathy, I know I’ve had English friends who sympathized with his desire to blow up Parliament for a just cause. At the time though most everyone was quite releived the plot had failed, the plotters got little to no sympathy or support in their flight, and even had they succeeded, it’s unlikely their plot would have succeeded. More than likely it would have precipitated a wholesale massacre of English Catholics, and as it was all it succeeded in doing was invoking even further persecution of same.

The above photo was a careful reproduction of the 1605 parliament building exploded with the equivalent of 36 barrels of gunpowder. The inset is a contemporary drawing of Guy Fawkes. He was a handsome man by all accounts. The explosion showed that if the gunpowder had been in good condition, it would indeed have killed everyone in the building. Only a portion of the head of the dummy representing the king was found afterwards. It was done for a TV show in 2005. Millenia from now when our times are only fragmentarily known, will the two plots be confused and conflated, with Qbacca Fawkes forever known as the man who stormed and blew up parliament? We can only hope so. Frankly Trump’s insurrection mob storming the capitol only to write graffiti on the walls with their shit doesn’t have a lot of poetic appeal.

Stay safe and warm everyone. Our tap water was at 29 degrees fahrenheit this AM, which while nice if one wants ice water on tap, necessitated frantic measures to get it safely above 40 again. A burst pipe can do a lot of damage to a house, been there, seen that. Comments, likes, shares, donations as always appreciated. #StaytheFHome #WearaDamnMask #FelesRegula

Copyright © 2021 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Explained in text. Credit: Mike Slee This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Used legally. It has been modified with the Guy Fawkes image insert.)

Written by unitedcats

February 10, 2021 at 7:45 pm

SCIENCE TUESDAY

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I can probably think of a better title than “Science Tuesday.” One thing at a time though. Today’s pic, a Sundog. Also known as mock suns or parhelia, it’s a little rainbow to one side of the Sun, often two of them on either side equidistant from the Sun. They can also be pretty bright, and look like little Suns. We saw a pair on the way home from Iowa City a few weeks back, it was cool to see. Caused by hexagonal ice crystals floating down horizontally, if I understand this correctly. I didn’t take the above pic though, it’s a public domain Snappygoat image.

This week’s Skeptoid podcast was interesting. It’s usually at least somewhat interesting, but after all these years a lot of the best and well known topics have been covered. (Skeptoid posts every Tuesday morning, another reason for Science Tuesdays.) This week, Our Lady of Zeitoun. Nope, I never heard of it either. It was an apparition of (allegedly) the Virgin Mary that appeared on the rooftop of a church in Cairo for several years starting in 1968. It was a huge deal in Egypt at the time, tens of thousands of people came out to see it, millions may have seen it all together. Various church authorities “investigated” it and determined it was real, no surprise there.

What was it? Distant car headlights occasionally glinting off steeple windows. Why were so many people convinced they were seeing the Virgin Mary? This is where it gets interesting. Yes, of course it was mass hysteria. Interestingly enough though the people of Egypt were primed for just such an event, so it didn’t occur in a vacuum. (Note that the Virgin Mary is holy in Islam as well, so there’s nothing odd about Muslims seeing Mary as a Godly apparition.) They were primed because the previous year the Six Day War happened, where Israel attacked and crushed Egypt, Jordan, and Syria’s militaries in just six days. Ten to fifteen thousand dead Egyptians killed or missing, and a big chunk of Egypt (The Sinai Peninsula) occupied by Israel. Another example of something that makes more sense as part of a larger context. Kind of applies to everything I suppose, but it’s easy to lose sight of.

Continuing yesterday’s Mars news: We Just Got The First Photo of Mars From China’s Tianwen 1 Probe, And It’s Breathtaking. And I didn’t catch this, but a Mars satellite from the United Arab Emirates just entered Mars orbit: Emirates Mars Mission: Hope spacecraft enters orbit. Great, the people of UAE now have a satellite named hope. Actual hope for, say, democracy and human rights, nope. Just another appallingly despotic country ruled for the benefit of the west, so of course it flies completely under the western media’s radar. Fun times: Israel’s Honeymoon With the United Arab Emirates Is Grotesque.

Hey, it wouldn’t be Doug’s Darkworld if I didn’t slip in links like that. In Covid and Facebook news: Big News: Facebook Just Banned More COVID-19 Anti-Vax Content. Sounds good to me. People who want to spread dangerous nonsense shouldn’t be given platforms to do so on. They can start websites or print flyers and stick them under windshield wipers or whatever, it’s not like this is censorship or their freedom of speech is being infringed on. I know a lot of people are concerned about recent efforts by social media platforms limiting hate speech and such, but at this point the damage caused to society by people like anti-vaxxers has grown so great that something needs to be done. I’m all for bringing back the Fairness doctrine, getting rid of it was what started us down the road to Americans living in different realities.

Stuff like this nonsense for example: The latest antivax false claim: mRNA vaccines against COVID-19 are not vaccines but “medical devices” or “gene therapy”. Or this: Covid: ‘How a picture of my foot became anti-vaccine propaganda’. I don’t have a whole lot of patience with anti-vaxxers, since their idiotic ideology is killing people. Anti-maskers either. Or maybe I’m just turning into a cranky old man. Lastly: We Need to Plan Now For The Pandemic That Comes After COVID-19, Scientists Say. Fat chance though, we’re not even taking global warming seriously and it’s going on right now. Fossil fuel use is destroying the climate and killing huge numbers of people, but God forbid governments do something.

We’ve basically built a planetary economy based on weapon sales and oil, the two most profitable industries that ever existed. “Supertankers are the Spanish galleons of our time.” Quoting the alien in Plan 9 from Outer Space: “Stupid, stupid, stupid!” What else is there to say? Stay safe and warm everyone. Likes, comments, shares appreciated. #StaytheFHome #WearaDamnMask #FelesRegula

Copyright © 2021 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Sun and sundog. Credit: Diane Renkin. Public Domain.)

Written by unitedcats

February 9, 2021 at 7:39 pm

WELL, I CERTAINLY GOT SOME PUSHBACK ON YESTERDAY’S BLOG ABOUT MARJORIE TAYLOR GREEN. AND OH, TRUMP IS HANGING PEOPLE ON THE WHITE HOUSE LAWN? WTF?

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Yesterday’s blog about Marjorie Taylor Greene got some pushback, always gratifying. If people take the trouble to disagree with me, then I’m doing something right. Preaching to the converted has never appealed to me. I mostly write to encourage thought and to get my own thoughts in order. My views will likely change until the day I die, and maybe after. Well, for sure after, since if there is an after, my views about there likely not being an after would clearly need to be modified. So in that vein, I thought I’d take a look at a select few comments and see how they changed my thinking:

I dunno, MTG is obviously very stupid, ignorant and gullible, and that type of person just should not be on an education committee. So while I agree that the Dem’s motivation was wrong, I think they stumbled their way into doing the right thing.

Also I think after Trump the “shine a light on the craziness” thing can’t be relied on. He said and did so so many stupid things that just increased his popularity with his base. I think MTG’s views might be more mainstream than you think.   — S.

He has a point, Trump being a crazy bad president if anything empowered his base. Giving MTG free rein in congress might just make the situation worse.

If it was purely partisan I might agree with Doug, but it wasn’t. 11 republicans also voted to remove Ms. Greene from her assignments, one more than voted to impeach Trump for insurrection (the most bipartisan impeachment in history). Someone who publicly ridicules parents of kids who were murdered at Sandy Hook probably isn’t qualified to be on an education committee. And if one thinks Jewish space lasers are behind the world’s problems it’s probably past time to see a psychiatrist, not sit on a budget committee. You have freedom to say what you want, but it comes with consequences. Ms. Greene can have her seat she rightfully won, but she is not entitled to committee work when she has demonstrated over and over she is mentally unhinged and potentially violent.   — J.V.

Well, 11 out of like 200 GOP congressmen is a pretty low bar for “bipartisan,” but it’s better than none I suppose. Can’t argue the logic after that though. Still, I agree that MTG is unsuited for congress, let alone sitting on committees. Just not sure this was the best way to handle it.

I think you may be wrong here. We’re all in need of a signal, which this is, that crazy theories in the public sphere won’t be tolerated. We’ve waited long enough. And it’s not as if 75% or more of the Rep. politicians tolerate it either, despite still voting on party lines, being cowardly hypocrites for the most part.   — M.T.

Oh, absolutely. I’m certainly less sure of my opinion than when I wrote the previous blog post. And yes, MTG crosses a line is a good point. I would certainly agree there is a point where a candidate is so unsuitable and unqualified that this action would be the only sensible recourse.

That’s putting it nicely. It’s gonna take a lot of bipartisan effort to get these people off their Q horse so to speak.

So I do think this censure is sorta worth it. Innocent people could be harmed if she continues to run her mouth off accusing people who are just run of the mill citizens of being baby eaters or something.   — E.K.

Yes, this comment definitely made me think, I hadn’t really considered that MTG could do (or encourage) actual real world harm the more latitude she is given in congress. People like her were the heart and soul of the Capitol Riot, so it’s a point I can’t refute.

Since this line is drawn, we can now expect Republicans to remove all Democrats from every committee in either chamber they control.

They will cast any prior statement (e.g. stated support for BLM or suggestion that Trump did anything wrong after this election) as being as bad or worse than the statements made by Greene.

I have already seen demands made that Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and Rashida Talib be removed from all committee assignments due to their supposed racist statements and incitement of violence.   — C.P.H

Well, at least one person agrees with me. I guess all things considered, it kind of comes down to how much harm could Ms Green do given full leeway in congress vs how much this action could come back to haunt the Democrats later? And as I don’t have a crystal ball, damned if I know. I did come on too strong yesterday though, for that, well, mea culpa. I’m always trying to find that sweet spot where people that disagree with me want to engage. And it seems to have worked this time. Thanks always for those who shared their thoughts!

I mean, it is frelking nuts. Ms Green might as well be a flat earther who thinks Earth is run by lizard people, QAnon really is, well, delusional. At odds with reality. Unsustainable logically. Nuts. All of the above. She did recant all her past views in congress, so she’s smart enough to lay low or she really is menatally … inconsistent? Boy, trying to avoid using ableist language is quite a challenge sometimes.

And what do QAnon believers think now? See the above image. Yes, that’s a gallows set up on the White House lawn. Wait, what? Wouldn’t this be on the news? Muhahaha, of course not. The fake news about Biden being president is all part of Trump’s plan. He’s actually still president, and since Biden’s inauguration he has been carrying out his plan, publicly hanging the enemies of democracy. It will no doubt all be revealed soon, and won’t that own the libtards! I wish I was making this up. Barring that, I wish the person making this up made it up. I don’t hardly know anymore: These QAnon followers believe Trump is still secretly president — and has been carrying out public executions at the White House.

Yes, dear foreigners, future readers, aliens, and time travellers; it is indeed mind blowing to live in an era where tens of millions of Americans live in a fantasy alternate reality.  If any reader wanders by the White House and takes pictures of whatever is going on, I’ll gladly post them. Oh well. In actual Northern Iowa reality we had the first big snowstorm of winter and are in single digit temps now. I stay inside a lot. I don’t think the parsley is going to survive this, but next year’s garden is already taking shape in my dreams.  Comments, shares, and especially patrons are appreciated. Subscribe to the WaPo or the NYT for a dollar a week, and they won’t even know you exist, gentle reader. Subscribe to my blog for a dollar a month, and I’ll write posts on topics you suggest! Subscribe for more and I will be eternally grateful. (That means I’ll buy you a drink if you’re ever out this way, eternal gratitude from mortals has its limits.) Stay safe and warm everyone. #StaytheFHome #WearaDamnMask #FelesRegula

Copyright © 2021 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Photoshopped image of gallows on the White House lawn. Credit: Some person on QAnon, found on the Rawstory QAnon link above, attribution unknown, claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

February 5, 2021 at 8:30 pm

I WASN’T GOING TO BLOG TONIGHT, BUT THEN THE DEMS DID SOMETHING MONUMENTALLY STUPID

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Yes, Trump and company aren’t the only ones who do stupid things. Hell, everyone does something stupid now and then. This is what I am talking about: House votes to remove Republican extremist Marjorie Taylor Greene from committee roles. The honorable Ms Greene is in fact the author of the above tweet. I’ll go into that in a bit. For now, she’s gotten a lot of flak for some of her past social media posts. Yes, she is the “Jewish space lasers” gal. And a major proponent of Qanon “theories.” (I’m being polite by not calling it a hoax, or worse.) Hell, here’s a rundown of some of her posts, including essentially threats to Democratic leaders. Marjorie Taylor Greene removes social media posts amid scrutiny of past controversial comments. Yerp, she went from Trump’s  “Lock her up!” to “Hang her!” Well, it was a logical extension of Trump’s views I suppose.

So no, I’m not a fan of Ms Greene. Her views are ridiculous too offensive, sometimes both. And she’s not the brightest candle on the cake as the above twitter exchange shows. I mean, one is a public figure but can’t be bothered to check one’s spelling? Also, as my brilliant potential assistant pointed out, she’s a blonde or a blond woman, but “blonde woman” makes no sense in American English. Blonde is a noun for females, blond is the adjective. And the idea that AOC is stupid, boy, amazing how the right has conflated “they’re liberal” with “they’re stupid.” I guess it plays to the base, but boy, they sure sound stupid when they trot it out. AOC whatever one thinks of her views, like Obama, is pretty smart. That’s a fact. Sadly it appears facts no longer matter, or even intrude, on people like Ms Greene’s world view now.

Ok, so why do I think removing her from her congressional committee assignments was one giant mistake? First off, let’s be perfectly clear. The House didn’t vote to strip Ms Greene of her committee assignments, the Democrats did. The vote was essentially on partisan lines, so this is the Democrats punishing Ms Greene for her “extremist” views. Views held by tens of millions of Americans. And how will they view this? As proof of “cancel culture” and a liberal conspiracy to shut down the Evangelical Right. It makes Ms Greene a martyr to her cause. And what a precedent to set, now the next time the GOP has a majority in either house, they can do the same to kick Dems out of committees. The committee system is horrible and undemocratic, now it’s partisan. Great.

I don’t think giving the opposition what they want is shrewd politics. This was the Dems pandering to their base with no thought to the political consequences. What the Dems should have done, is stand back and let Ms Greene shine her crazy lamp through. It’s not like she was going to do any harm on committees, instead she would have made a fool of herself and the nonsense she espouces. So the Dems accomplished nothing by doing this except pleasing their base and giving GOP extremists a new cause. And denying Ms Greene the opportunity to make a fool of herself. How, exactly, is that helping?

Call me a cynic, but I see two possibilities here. The Dems are lost in space, and not able to produce a rational political response to a clear opportunity to have the QAnon evangelicals for breakfast; or worse, they don’t care and are just continuing to play good cop/bad cop where the Dems are the “good” cop. I just don’t see any benefits for actual progressive politics in the Dems decision to punish Ms Greene for exercising her freedom of speech. Her employer can punish her for what she says, her constituents can punish her for what she says; the Democrats are neither and their action in this regard is the opposite of the democracy they ostensibly serve.

Convince me otherwise. Stay safe and warm everyone.#StaytheFHome #WearaDamnMask #FelesRegula

Copyright © 2021 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: A twitter exchange between Ms Greene and AOC. Likely Public Domain under US copyright law, claimed as Fair Use under same.)

Written by unitedcats

February 4, 2021 at 9:37 pm

BURMA ON MY MIND

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Finally, something to write about other than Trump and his election fraud charade. Burma.  OK, the country is actually called Myanmar now, Burma was the old colonial name given to it during the British occupation. But, but, it was just a colony, occupation sounds so harsh! Um, the Brits shot their way into it, deposed the government, and installed British rule. That’s conquest no matter who’s doing it. The Age of Discovery my ass.

So, an election in Myanmar last November. The head of the military, one Min Aung Hlaing, wanted to be president after he leaves the military in 2021. That means he would need to win a majority in the parliamentary election to become head of state. And since the army gets 25% of parliamentary seats according to the Constitution, he would just need about a third of the vote. However, he started announcing long before the election that he was worried about voter fraud, and maybe the election should be delayed due to Covid. The election was held, Min Aung Hlaing was thoroughly trounced, he then spent the last two months complaining the election was rigged (without providing a shred of evidence,) and now he has seized power and arrested the civilian government.

Change a few words here and there and this could be a certain American ex-president’s fantasy come true. So yes, looks like Myanmar’s 9 year experiment with democracy is over for now. They were a badly run military dictatorship for more than 50 years before a parliamentary republic was established in 2011. Myanmar is one of the least developed countries in Asia, but awash in weapons. Buddhist nation too, that becomes important later. How accurate is the above? IDK, I think it’s a fairly safe appraisal, but I’ve never been to Myanmar and don’t know anyone from there. Biden and the west are all upset, so this isn’t a western backed military coup, those are OK. In fact the coup caught western observers by surprise.

Then there’s the truly ugly Rohingya situation. Genocide, ethnic cleansing, mass rape, etc. Yes, while Myanmar’s nascent democracy was getting going over the past decade, led by Nobel Peace Prize winner Suu Kyi, a pro democracy activist who spent more than 15 years under house arrest, the army was simutaneously massacring and ethnic cleansing the Rohingya Muslim minority, already one of the world’s more discriminated against people. They are stateless, imagine, living somewhere for generations, but even though born in Myanmar, they do not have citizenship. So what did Suu Kyi, Nobel Peace Prize winner, ostensibly the president, do or say while the army was carrying out its ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya? Essentially nothing.

OK then. How the hell does one explain this to other human beings, let alone aliens? Well, let’s try. “Earth, a planet ruled by 300 or so armed gangs, divided into multiple factions, constantly warring with each other. All claiming to follow this or that religion or ideology or personality cult, which they use to placate their populations and justify exploiting (or worse) minorities.A weird combination of prehistoric mystical cult thinking crossed with 20th century technological prowess. And a planetary civilization that not only hasn’t been able to channel the energies of those with infinite greed and zero ethics into safe outlets, it worships them.”

Yeah, we’re hosed. I feel for the people of Myanmar, this past weekend they were a nation hopefully entering into a period of western style openness and democracy, now back to a third world dictatorship. I wrote the above Monday, then spent two days being depressed about the state of humanity. 700,000 people driven from their homes, and it’s just another of the endless atrocities humans inflict on each other. There’s about 70 million refugees worldwide now, so essentially one human being in every thousand is a refugee. And we easily have the means to settle these people, modern civilization has almost unimaginable resources. And we use them to build weapons so the rich nations and rich people get ever richer.

Tomorrow, more folly and fallout from the lamest coup attempt in history. Stay safe and warm everyone. #StaytheFHome #WearaDamnMask #FelesRegula

Copyright © 2021 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Two British soldiers on patrol in the ruins of the Burmese town of Bahe during the advance on Mandalay. January 1945. Credit: UK government, Public Domain under UK copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

February 3, 2021 at 7:25 pm

BORDERS II

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Well, I got a few testy comments about yesterday’s map. People took umbrage to how it was divided up, or to the idea the US would ever break up. All of which kind of proved my point, we are taught that borders are sacrosanct, and they sure are for a lot of people. In actuality borders are just lines drawn on a map by very powerful people, and often reflect nothing more than those people’s desires. Not that I have a problem with borders, they just need to represent  actual peoples, not made up peoples. And just in case it wasn’t clear, I’m presenting alternate maps to provoke thought and discussion, I’m not actually espousing these exact maps.

The map above was what started me thinking along these lines so many years ago. The Middle East is truly a disaster when it comes to borders. In fact reading my old article linked just now, this map got me some nasty comments too. People really get the existing borders into their identity I guess, so proposed changes are a personal affront. I guess similar to how people get their idea of sexuality and gender so much a part of their identity, that acknowledging that others don’t agree is a threat to their identity.

Did that make sense? It does to me, but trying to explain these things is a challenge. So moving right along, Biden shut down construction on Trump’s border wall. This is because he wants hordes of brown people to pour into America and destroy the white race, turning America into a liberal run socialist nightmare. And if anyone actually believes that, they have sheet for brains. (I’m getting less diplomatic on my old age.) Trump’s border wall was stupid and counterproductive, that’s why it was shut down. Stupid because it won’t work and may just make the problem worse, exactly what happened when Bush 43 tightened up the border, traffickers just moved to other parts of the border and more people got across. And since the border was now harder to cross illegally, people who used to go back and forth seasonally to work decided to stay and send for their families.

All of which was missed by Trump supporters, since Fox News never mentioned it. The border wall is counterproductive on multiple levels as well. It encourages simplistic answers to complex issues. It reinforces the racist ultranationalist trope that people coming over the border illegally are some sort of threat to us. It implies that illegal immigration is some sort of crisis that needs to be solved. No, illegal immigration is like people speeding when they drive, just something that the government has to regulate as best they can.

All kinda leads back to “The map is not the territory.” This is why I reject all dogmatic ideology and religion, it’s painfully clear by now that there are no ideological/religious solutions to humanities’ challenges. Or to be fair, none that have been discovered yet. I think it’s time to try, idk, science and reason? I think they are the best bet at deciding how to move forward. Is there some problem with solutions that are reasonable and science based? And no, science is not a religion or a cult, it’s just a way of looking at the world. An algorithm if one wills.

And finally this link: Viral Lies. Basically pointing out that our media and social platforms are doing a terrible job of preventing the spread of illogical, science denying, harmful misinformation. Having an immunologist debate an anti-vaxxer isn’t balanced reporting, it’s giving a dangerous crank a platform and credibility they don’t deserve. Granted I made that particular example up, but the point is valid. Read the article at the link. I think the internet and social media sites should be run as public utilities with equal access for all, but that’s looking less likely every day as the rich consolidate their hold on the Internet.

In local news, I tried to walk to the store, got four feet before realizing every outdoor surface was covered with 1 mm of ice. Yeah, deathwalk city. I didn’t want to add a few mm of frozen blood to the equation, so I wisely drove my car to the store. By the way, until just last year, why ice was slippery was a scientific mystery. Now we think we know why: Why Is Ice Slippery?

Stay safe and warm everyone. StaytheFHome #WearaDamnMask #FelesRegula

Copyright © 2021 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: New Middle East map. Credit: Ralph Peters/Chris Broz. Claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

January 30, 2021 at 8:19 pm

BORDERS

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OK, off we go. News? I used to get a lot of news from the Wapo and the NYT, not anymore for reasons I explained at length in recent blogs. Now my top two news sites are the BBC and The Guardian. Plus other sites too, one should get their news from a wide variety of sources, international ones for sure. Haaretz and Al Jazeera are good for example. They all have their biases, blind spots, propaganda. This is what God gave us brains for, to separate the wheat from the chaff. I’ve never seen any major fact checking errors on Snopes for example, the truth is out there. In fact how people react to Snopes pretty much tells one if they are connected to reality or live in a fantasy world. I often hear a nice selection of false arguments from Snopes deniers. “They’re not professional fact checkers!” is my favorite. Um, so what? Show me a topic where Snope’s is factually in error. I’ll wait. And then Wikipedia is a great source for non controversial topics. A topic that corporate America or the US government wants to control the narrative on, skip Wikipedia entirely. What’s there may not be wrong, but it certainly won’t represent reality.

So, back to news, China threatens war if Taiwan declares independence.* Taiwan is a small island off the coast of China, a little bit bigger than Maryland, a little bit smaller than the Netherlands. It’s yet another relic of the Cold War. When Mao and his communists won the Chinese Civil War after World War Two, the US backed side fled to the island of Taiwan, and protected by the United States, there they remained. If the US hadn’t protected them, Taiwan would just be another province in China that no one outside of China had ever heard of.

And as I understand it, most people in China are adamant that Taiwan is indeed part of China, no discussion allowed. And this, in a nutshell, is why nationalism sucks sheet. The idea of a nation is great from many perspectives, but when that idea runs roughshod over self determination, it’s simply tyranny. When the United States declared independence from Britain, its revolution was based ostensibly on the ideals of self determination, not to mention inalienable human rights.  Yes, the founding fathers were hideous hypocrites who completely dishonored these ideals in the breach, founding a nation based on slavery and propertied white male supremacy, but the concepts are stll valid.

Alas, the world’s governments only apply them when it is in their interest to do so. America’s hypocrisy on this level is mind numbing, but of course completely normalized by the western press. To the point that many (most?) Americans are all for Taiwan being independent, but Crimea wanting to be part of Russia, that’s a terrible crime! The borders of the world were drawn up by the European colonial powers for their own exploitive ends, there’s nothing “normal” about them, but they are treated as such by the western press. A huge percentage of the world’s people, it must be in the 100s of millions, would rather be independent or part of another country than the one they are in.

Countless examples. The Kurds, 30 million of them, Kurdistan should have been a country after World War One. Kashmir, if they ever got to vote, would almost certainly want to be part of Pakistan. Large parts of Pakistan would rather be part of Pashtun Afghanistan. Tibet was once an independent country. I wouldn’t even know where to start in Africa, it’s a nightmare of colonial boundaries. And then countless indigenous people around the world would rather be their own country as much as possible. Why not, there’s at least 5000 ethnic groups on the planet, why should there be only 300 countries? Andorra, a nation the size of Peoria Illinois, has been independent for over 500 years. It can be done. And there are many others.

This, at the core of it, is why the aliens fly right by us. About 300 armed gangs control Earth for the benefit of a tiny number of people already so rich they could live a thousand lifetimes and not spend it all. Any sane species would long ago have fixed this. Give people self determination, and the border problems sort themselves out. And put mechanisms in place to make sure everyone benefits from the world’s wealth, it is a collective effort. Make it so businesses can’t pass health and environmental costs onto the public, the free market will indeed fix things like global warming. No ideology or religion need apply. They are the problem, not the solution. Granted some are worse problems than others. Anti-vaxxers. White Supremacists. Nazis. Yeah, I’m still anti-Nazi. Convince me otherwise. Though I do accept and try to understand the appeal. Germany was a modern educated land.

The above map is a preliminary speculation about a balkanized America. The native peoples especially should be scattered about in ancestral lands, but it’s a start. I don’t think the world colonial government is going to collapse anytime soon, but many people were surprised by the fall of Rome and the collapse of the Soviet Union. Times change, I plan to blog about it as long as I can. The Earth Burning blog. Stay safe gentle readers. #StaytheFHome #WearaDamnMask #FelesRegula

*China tends to be more forthwith than doublespeak western diplomacy, this is likely a promise, not a threat.

Copyright © 2021 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Map by blog author: Copyright © 2021 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.)

Written by unitedcats

January 29, 2021 at 9:36 pm

GIANT SPACE LASERS FOR THE WIN

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That’s right: QAnon congresswoman believed California wildfires were started by a giant space laser. And she was elected. It’s sheet like this that makes the aliens fly right by, locking their doors as they do so. Let’s just say that the story falls apart (explodes violently really) upon even modest examination. There are vastly easier and cheaper ways to start fires. The technology to start fires using lasers from orbit doesn’t exist. Something like this would flag all sorts of detectors and sensors, humans do monitor Earth and near Earth in countless ways. And there’s no coherent reason for anyone to do this. However, as I am grasping more clearly every day, the far right political beliefs have morphed into a cult. And once one is in a cult, one simply interprets reality in whatever way fits the facts. As an extreme example, the Earth is only 6,000 years old, but Satan planted fossils to trick us into believing the Earth was older! Right.  OK, compared to space laser frisbees, maybe not that extreme.

In financial news, some people figured out a way to beat the casino for the rich that is the modern stock market. Good for them, though they were quickly shut down, can’t have regular people manipulating stock market prices: GameStop: Anger as trading in GameStop shares is restricted. Once upon a time companies sold stock to the public to raise money and all was good. If the company prospered, the stock went up in value, and everyone won. If the company floundered or went under, the stock became less valuable or worthless. A nice system that let companies raise money without risk, and allowed the people who gave them that money to prosper as well. Everybody shares the risks and gains. Those truly were the days when the stock market reflected the wealth of the country. Now, it would take a book to describe the giant rigged casino for the rich the stock market is. Day trading alone shows Wall Street is just a casino.

In political news, Mike Pence is homeless. Literally, unlike most of Washington’s glitterati, the Pences maintained no home away from their government provided residences the past decade or so. Homeless as in couch surfing at friend’s homes. Last I heard he still hadn’t talked to Trump since Trump sent a mob into the Capitol attempting to arrest and/or lynch him. That would put a strain on any friendship I would think. Trump has more or less denounced Pence as a traitor, so presumably he’s watching his back. I wonder what’s in store for him now, hell, he probably wonders. And whatever else one may think about the man, unlike so many other traitorous Republicans, Pence chose to stand with the Republic, not Trump’s stolen election fantasies. In some ways he was the rock that Trump’s insurrection wave broke on. Ultimately that may be the one thing he is remembered for in history. Good for him.

More Capitol Riot fallout: Second police officer dies by suicide after Capitol attack. What a horrible mess. One suicide is a horrible coincidence, two, a tragedy unfolding. These cops were attacked by what essentially was a “Blue Lives Matter” mob. In addition to the cop who died in the attack, over 50 were assaulted, one is going to lose an eye, some have brain injuries, one was

stabbed with a fence pole. Capitol Police union rebukes top brass after officers at riot sustain brain injuries, one will lose eye. No wonder so many on the right are into mass denial mode, a mob of right wing Trump supporters attacking police, couldn’t happen! Only leftists engage in political violence! Yeah, the cognitive dissonance among the right wing police that were assaulted must be pretty painful now.

Turns out veterans and active duty military made up a disproportionate percentage of the Capitol Rioters. As a veteran, this shames me. A veteran takes an oath to defend the Republic and the Constitution. Participating in this riot is pretty much the opposite of their sworn oath, fantasies about a stolen election notwithstanding. Many people weren’t surprised though, far right extremism has been an issue in the military for quite some time: Black Vets Weren’t Surprised Military Members Stormed the Capitol. Now They Want the Department of Defense to Root Out Far-Right Extremism in Its Ranks. Will the riot lead to change? Hell if I know, but the Civil War ultimately didn’t, so not holding my breath.

Lastly, just came across a great article re Gamestop etc.: Suck It, Wall Street. Highly recommended. Yeah, the rich in America are richer than they’ve ever been, and determined to get richer. I can’t see it ending well for them in the long run, but we’ll see. Maybe in 2100 Elon Musk will possess every dollar in existence, and then he’ll fix everything. It’s been a strange week for me, but I will carry on blogging for the people blocked by paywalls. Shares, comments, likes appreciated. Stay safe and warm everyone.#StaytheFHome #WearaDamnMask #FelesRegula

Copyright © 2021 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image Aftermath of the 1920 Wall Street Bombing. The bombing was never solved. Now we know why. Alien space lasers did it. Credit: Unknown, Public Domain under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

January 28, 2021 at 8:50 pm

WALLS

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I had a thought about the rising tide of paywalled websites. I think it has to do with the rising tide of wealth inequality, especially in America. Hear me out. The percentage of the nation’s wealth owned by poor people has been dropping since 1980, and it’s in free fall with the pandemic. And I suspect that as a marketing segment for people selling access to web sites, the poor simply don’t  count anymore. Why gear one’s marketing to include people that increasingly may not even have Internet access, and increasingly less discretionary spending? An incredibly miniscule and shrinking market segment. So sites like the New York Times and all the rest are charging what the traffic can bear, and the traffic is middle class and above people for whom a dollar a week is pocket change.

This is distressing to me. Initially the Internet was the great equalizer, everyone had equal access and equal opportunity. It’s rapidly transforming into pretty much the opposite, where access and opportunity are purely based on one’s wealth.  Poor people already have huge structures and barriers keeping them in their place in America, now that is playing out on the Internet as well. This is of course completely the opposite of the stated ideals of America, supposedly the “land of opportunity.” More every day now it’s “The land of opportunity for the rich and no one else.”

And despite some good details, Biden, as expected, is looking to be Obama 2.0. Don’t hold one’s breath gentle reader waiting for Medicare-for-All or other fundamental changes. However, I’ll give this a break and cover some other news. And oh, rementioning, as per above, I will never paywall this site, and in fact will be making every effort to avoid even linking to paywalled sites. Partly out of principle, mostly because I’m blogging for everyone. Still, if the gentle reader likes my work, patrons are really appreciated, even a $1 a month helps, sign up here. I used to have a one time only donation button, I’ll see if I can resurrect that. I love to write, I hate marketing. So I’ll copy a line from The Guardian: “Available for everyone, funded by readers.”

Moving right along, a new and even more contagious version of Covid has been discovered in California: California discovers homegrown coronavirus strain that spreads even faster than any other. Depressing, even with the vaccine being rolled out. I’m back to thinking we may well hit a million dead in the US by the time the dying slows. Slows, not ends. I don’t think Covid’s ever going to be over in America, what with our population of anti-vaxxers and white people. Wait, white people? Yes: White people least likely to wear masks consistently, study finds. Another manifestation of white privilege? IDK, maybe not. Maybe there’s just a lot of stupid white people in America.

In terrorism news (domestic terrorism is kind of an American exceptionalismist phrase I’m thinking:) DHS issues terrorism advisory over domestic extremists ’emboldened’ by Capitol riot. Well, finally, the GOP has a long sad history of suppressing such warnings: How Southern politicians hamstrung the fight against right-wing domestic terror. We’ll see, maybe the whole “Stop the Steal” nonsense will fizzle out as it becomes clearer that Trump is a has been, not God’s anointed one. We’ve got plenty of other issues to deal with without another Timothy McVeigh. And who knows, turns out the leader of the Proud Boys was an FBI informant. Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio was an FBI informant. Hopefully a few heads are exploding in said organization.

Lastly, science news! Footprints of a big (12 foot, 4 meter) crocodile-like animal have been found in strata laid down just after (geologically speaking) the Permian-Triassic extinction event: Footprints of crocodile-like prehistoric reptile found in Italian Alps. Also known as “The Great Dying,” this was not the event that wiped out the dinosaurs, that was the Cretaceous–Paleogene (K–Pg) extinction event. Formerly known as the Cretaceous–Tertiary (K–T) extinction.) Science, so confusing, it’s like they keep changing things as our understanding grows. That’s a feature,, not a bug by the way.

Where was I? Right, a 250 million year old crocodile like thing wandering around when and where it wasn’t supposed to be. That’s because the Permian-Triassic extinction event was the big one, the greatest mass extinction in Earth’s history, wiping out about 75% of all species on Earth. (We still don’t even know what caused it, but a major asteroid/comet impact likely started it.) Where these tracks were found was supposed to be a lifeless desert at the time. Yet if a 12 foot lizard was wandering around, it means there was an ecosystem still  functioning: Footprints of crocodile-like prehistoric reptile found in Italian Alps. More textbooks to be rewritten I guess.

My friend’s husband who was mauled by a cougar (not a 12 food lizard) on Monday is recovering nicely. And today a second doctor told me I don’t have cancer! Many more blogs to follow, especially as I live in a land without cougars or 12 foot lizards. Just geese, which I guess is scarier in some ways. Stay safe and warm dear readers. #StaytheFHome #WearaDamnMask #FelesRegula

Copyright © 2021 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: The Great Wall of China. Credit: Jakub Hałun. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled GNU Free Documentation License.)

Written by unitedcats

January 27, 2021 at 8:26 pm

WHAT WERE THE RIOTERS THINKING, AND OTHER THOUGHTS

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So I saw my cancer doctor today, the cancer is indeed gone. Feels good. I wrote the below last night, will review it. Then Capitol Riot Truthers,plus a prediction I made comes true. Sort of.

Late extemporaneous post tonight, let’s see if I can pull it off. (I didn’t.) I have been thinking, the Capitol rioters, what were they thinking? Well, Trump exhorted them to seize the day so to speak, so they charged. Trump said he would be with them, so I guess they thought this was it, Trump’s gonna declare martial law, Q’s going to send instructions. For good or for ill they faced little opposition and stormed the bastille so to speak. There was no leader, no plan, just a mob of hard core Trump supporting people doing what they thought their leader wanted.

Which he did, Trump was hoping that his people would somehow “fix” the election, that his popularity and greatness would make him president for another eight years. Then he retreated to his command post and watched it all play out on live TV. He didn’t give any secret orders, he sent no agents, he just watched the chaos unfold, ignoring entreaties to do something for hours. There was no Plan A, let alone Plan B.

This is Trump in a nutshell. The Capitol Riot  was in many ways the same as Trump’s claim that Covid would magically disappear by Easter. He set things into motion, and set it up so he was a winner if things played out his way. And had an out if they didn’t. Trump doesn’t plan, the Capitol Riot was like if Hitler on the Night of the Long Knives simply ordered his men to kill his enemies. No, Hitler personally led his charge. Not Trump.

Things could be worse in other words. My point is Trump has no management, planning, or leadership skills, just a world class ability to inspire some people to do his bidding. He basically believes in magic is what I am saying … he hoped Covid would go away as he predicted, he would have been a God … he hoped the Capitol rioters would somehow overturn the election, then he would be POTUS for four more years. They really are the same mind set, and countless other incidents  in Trump’s life.

Trump’s a gambler who has taken crazy bets all his life, almost always lost, but his wealth and privilege protected him from consequences, and when he won big; Boy Howdy. The two times Trump won big: “The Apprentice” and getting elected POTUS. As someone observed about the Diet Coke button on Trump’s Oval Office desk … how childish. He’s not a complicated man, there’s no nuance, The Donald couldn’t plan his way out of a paper bag.

And yet Trump’s going to be one of the most remembered men in American history. Remembered for what, that has yet to be written. I’ll keep blogging as long as I can, hoping for another thirty years. It sure will be interesting to see Trump’s legacy decades from now.

That was last night. Today, two things:

OK, as many more or less expected, there are indeed Capitol Riot Truthers now. People who believe it was a false flag attack staged to make Trump look bad. That wasn’t a typo. See: Oregon GOP offers ridiculous excuse for US Capitol attack. There are a few, um, logical problems with this argument. Why bother. For puzzled future and foreign readers: Trump spontaneously incited a crowd of his supporters into storming the Capitol building in Washington on January 6 2021, this is fact. There’s room for endless debate on just how and why this happened, but it did indeed happen. Tens of millions of Americans can’t or won’t accept that. I’d say I’m puzzled, but I’m not. Humans are simple, if one can sell them an idea, they will happily let the seller alter the facts to fit the idea. Trump sold millions of Americans on the idea that he was a winner, and if they followed him they’d be winners too.

Second thing. Well, I called this one, I said we might see Trump more or less pretend to still be president. ‘Attention-starved’ Trump brutally mocked for ‘pathetic’ Office of Former President announcement. The tone of the article is annoying, but Trump does indeed still think of himself as president.

Weird times continue. Biden said something truly horrifying today, and I had a thought about the rising paywall tide. Tomorrow’s blog. Stay safe and warm everyone. Stay frosty too.

#StaytheFHome #WearaDamnMask #FelesRegula

Copyright © 2021 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: An illustration for Shelly’s sonnet Ozymandias: ‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’ Not a subtle allusion. Credit: Elminster_ZK. Used without permission, claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

January 26, 2021 at 8:52 pm