Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Archive for the ‘Anti-vaxxers’ Category

COVIDIOCY RAGES ON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright © 2021 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

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

Written by unitedcats

August 30, 2021 at 5:01 pm

PRESIDENT TRUMP RETURNS, GOP CHILD SACRIFICES, MISINFORMATION TRIFECTA, AND DEAD FLIES?

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Will Trump be returning to the White House this week as predicted? Short answer: No. Long answer: No!!!! By Friday according to the My Pillow guy. He’s holding some sort of marathon presentation where he’s going to be on stage live for 72 hours: ‘I’m staying up here for 72 hours’: Mike Lindell abruptly cancels food breaks at his ‘cyber symposium’. OK then. I’d say this was crazy, but that would be ableist, and not terribly helpful. I put “Trump will return!” in the same category as all “revealed” predictions. Predicting the end of the world, the return of Christ, when the aliens will arrive, etc. has been a popular human activity since at least 2800BC. My favorite:

“Drawing from theology and astrology, German prophet Johann Jacob Zimmerman determined that the world would end in the fall of 1694. Zimmerman gathered a group of pilgrims and made plans to go to America to welcome Jesus back to Earth. However, he died in February of that year, on the very day of departure. Johannes Kelpius took over leadership of the cult, which was known as Woman in the Wilderness, and they completed their journey to the New World. Fall came and went and, needless to say, the cultists were profoundly disappointed at having traveled all the way across the Atlantic just to be stood up by Jesus.”

The predicted return of Trump is just another chapter in this long history. Something for sociologists, historians, and psychologists to ponder. I think the people promoting these things are either charlatans or genuine believers, doesn’t really make a difference. The thing to note is that when the prediction fails to materialize, as will be the case here, the proponents of same will just change the date of the prediction and carry on, and most of their followers will likely continue to follow. And if I’m wrong and Trump is back in the White House on Friday, it will be a great blog topic!

And while we are on the topic of huge numbers of people believing stuff that just ain’t so, Covid denial continues to rage in the USA. Yes folks, more than a year after the worst plague in living memory started, huge numbers of Americans are still in denial about it. Well, not this guy: Texas GOP Official Mocked COVID Five Days Before He Died of Virus. No other developed country has this sort of widespread Covid denial, so of course the US remains the worst hit developed country. More than a million dead, more than one American in 300, and even many of our leaders are still in denial: ‘They can’t arrest all of us’: Rand Paul calls for defiance against COVID-19 restrictions. It’s as if Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, and more than a year later huge numbers of Americans were still insisting it’s all a hoax.

If it was only the people in denial coming to harm, it would be both stupid and amusing: Pharmacists Fight Off COVID Truthers Demanding Horse Medicine Instead of the Jab. Sadly, no, some of our leaders are going so far as to actually prevent efforts to fight Covid. Specifically in schools, which are set to open soon. People who proudly claim they are “Christians” and “pro-life” are actively preventing measures to fight Covid spreading among children. The GOP’s death cult comes for the kids. I don’t know what to make of this, other than I am horrified. If one’s politics leads one to fight efforts to prevent the spread of a horrible disease, I think one’s politics are messed up.

So much misinformation out there. The good doctor has written a fine piece about the basics of spreading it. It’s actually fairly simple. First, come up with your misinformation, be it creationism, vaccine denial, whatever. Then attack the legitimacy of any and all expert opinions, leading to modern America where all opinions are treated as equal. Lastly, scream freedom of speech if efforts are made to stop the spread of your misinformation. The doctor covers it in more detail: The Misinformation Trifecta | NeuroLogica Blog. Sadly of course this process has been increasingly weaponised by bad actors using the sciences of advertising and propaganda.

I miss my youth. Yes, there was a fringe of silliness and science denial in America, but for the most part science and learning were lauded, and the news sources all pretty much agreed on the facts. Good times. Now America is increasingly resembling a medieval nation ruled by superstition and fear. Hell if I know the answer. Afghanistan in the next blog, America’s longest war, and contender for the most counterproductive war. Today though, I’ll end with a useful scientific discovery, one hopefully uncontroversial enough that everyone can appreciate it. What happens to flies that are shooed out the car window at highway speeds? Everyone has wondered that, right? Science has the answer: Do Flies Survive When They Fly Out Your Car Window At Highway Speeds?

Hope all are having a safe and cool week. If you haven’t been vaccinated, please do so at the earliest opportunity. The life you save may be yours. Or a loved one’s …

Copyright © 2021 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

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

Written by unitedcats

August 11, 2021 at 8:03 pm

SHARED IDIOCY, TRUMP, AND RELATED TOPICS

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I’m back! I was depressed by the flanking fire from my sister a few posts ago, but tearing each other down is what my family does. So the fact that almost none of them speak to me is a good thing. Oh, Happy Mother’s Day everyone. I miss my mom, but no one lives forever. No one that we know about at least. Though the idea that people may someday be able to hibernate is looking less science fictiony all the time. And I suppose having one’s brain copied is a form of immortality. We can’t build a brain from a recording … yet. Still, science could record sounds decades before they could play them back. That’s why there’s actually a minuscule chance that Lincoln’s voice was recorded and is lurking in some dusty attic somewhere. And the brain recording, a company is planning on offering the service, but it does have a downside: A startup is pitching a mind-uploading service that is “100 percent fatal”

So, the meme above. Sigh. No, it doesn’t make a lot of sense. As one commenter posted: “The post is a series of logical errors.” As a friend put it: “This needs to go under the title ‘Conservatives Trying to Define Socialism but Just End Up Describing Capitalism Again.’” I’ll give it a brief review: 1) No one is suggesting legislating anyone out of prosperity. So straw man argument, typical GOP fear mongering. 2) Yes, that’s actually the problem, the rich are getting vastly more than their share, and it’s not like they’re working harder. The working class is literally subsidizing the rich through their labor. The author of course intended it as another version of the “welfare queen” myth, which is just that, a myth. 3) Yes, that’s how taxes work. Again, the author is just regurgitating the GOP welfare queen myth. 4) A friend got this one: “4 is just plain false. Economics is a big, weird subject, not very intuitive, and not a zero sum game. Dividing wealth among more people will – almost always – increase the economic power of the whole. Much, much more so than collecting wealth in only a few hands. Oligarchical Russia is not a wealthy nation. Dictatorial North Korea is not wealthy. The USA has millions of people below the poverty line. These nations WOULD be wealthier if wealth was more evenly distributed, because more people would be more productive.” 5) A weird GOP fantasy that half of people don’t want to work, and that the other half are subsidizing them. It’s completely at odds with reality. Most people are working hard while the profits are stolen by the rich. Basically the meme is an example of magical thinking, not logic: The magical thinking of guys who love logic

So the Trump takeover of the GOP is rolling right along, looks like Liz Cheney is on her way out: Analysis: With Cheney’s impending ouster, the GOP chooses Trump over principle. They’re choosing Trump’s delusions over reality. I think the GOP gave up principle after 9/11. Hell, Reagan really. The Dems caught on, they gave it up under Clinton. Hell, in some senses they all gave it up when America was founded on high minded principles … plus slavery, ethnic cleansing, and oligarchy. The concept of inalienable human rights is a good thing, but it still needs to be universally implemented.

Trump taking over the GOP, Covid continues. Global COVID-19 death toll more than double official estimates – IHME. No surprise there, governments always lie about mass death tolls. Wars especially, casualty counts in wars are always under reported. America is hit with a double whammy, not only are Covid deaths under reported, right wing delusions are making it worse: Tucker Carlson Doubles Down on Batsh** Vaccine Fearmongering and Fox News Torpedoed COVID-19 Science Hundreds Of Times Since January, Watchdog Says.

It’s just so weird living in America now. The worst global health crisis in a century, and America’s response to it has been frighteningly incompetent. And simultaneously seeing the rise of a cult-like leader along the lines of Saddam, Hitler, Mao, and so many others. My personal life being a series of catastrophes the past year hasn’t helped. I even had my heart broken this spring. You’d think at my age I could avoid such things, yeah, snort.

Have a great week everyone. Try not to get Covid. #StaytheFHome #WearaDamnMask #FelesRegula #dearMoonCrew

Copyright © 2021 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Found on Agnostic.com, attribution unknown, used without permission, claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

May 9, 2021 at 7:05 pm

CUTE COUPLES, INDIA, COVID, TRUMP, AND NEWS BITS

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I stumbled on this lovely World War One image. Two Australian soldiers in an R&R area in France, 1918. Cute couple, eh? One has to wonder what sort of R&R they were engaging in before the photographer showed up. It wasn’t a more innocent age, it was just an age where gay people stayed in the closet for the most part, and most people pretended they didn’t exist. Although the “hate gays” cadre was still active, Oscar Wilde was jailed for homosexual acts. Even then, like Socrates and his Hemlock, Wilde more or less chose jail as a form of protest. He was a man ahead of his time.

Speaking of cute couples, I also stumbled on this today: Lesbian couple voted king and queen of their high school prom. Some days my blog almost writes itself. They were surprised they got elected; high school prom king and queen is usually a popularity contest, so they must be nice kids. Don’t read the comments on the link  though. Lots of, well, Christian hate. Well, not really Christian hate, what I’ve read about Christ indicates he was for love and inclusivity, not hate and exclusivity. And their hatred isn’t based on Christ’s teachings, it’s based on their interpretation of “God’s” teachings in the Old Testament.

Which is frankly, nuts. If I said that my invisible giant rabbit superfriend was going to torture everyone forever after they die if they don’t wear a red hat 24/7, people would rightfully think I was nuts. Especially if I insisted that 24/7 red hat wearing should be made compulsory under the law of the land, and that my rabbit superfriend was responsible for tornadoes and such which were punishment for not wearing the hats. Yet that’s what people on the Evangelical Right do as a matter of course.

One comment about the lesbian couple was, ‘How are they going to have kids?’  The commenter wasn’t being ironic or facetious either. Let’s see, lots of heterosexual couples are incapable of procreating, so they shouldn’t be couples? And like those same heterosexual couples, they can adopt. In fact the reason homosexuality appears to be common in the animal world is it provides couples to raise orphaned or abandoned children.  Oh, and in the case of lesbian couples, all making a baby requires is a turkey baster, some distilled water, and a donor. Voila, baster baby. And best of all for the people that claim to be “pro-life,” homosexual couples never have unwanted pregnancies. No abortions, and every child born is a wanted child.

So yeah. Homosexuality is a feature, not a bug. So, other news of the day. Bill and Melinda Gates are getting divorced. Paraphrased: Worms living in caves under the Amazon Forest cut off from the surface for tens of thousands of years care about this more than I do. Moving right along, Covid is exploding in India. All due to a Trump of their own: Prime Minister Modi’s culpability for India’s COVID crisis has become startlingly clear. What a nightmare, India’s capitol lit up at night by all the funeral pyres. I thought this would be happening last summer, I was wrong. Covid, the gift that keeps giving.

In the US it looks like herd immunity isn’t going to happen. Because of people like these:Former GOP congressional candidate says vaccinating people is the ‘modern day Holocaust’ and Rick Wiles Says COVID-19 Vaccines Are a Plot to Carry Out ‘Global Genocide’. The last half of my life has seen the rise of a world dominated by conspiracy theories. I knew when the anti-vaxxers first hit the ground that they were a new breed. A conspiracy theory so anti-reality that it would kill people. The anti-vaxxers have likely already contributed to hundreds of thousands of deaths worldwide, and Covid is their shining light, they can indeed be one of the deadliest cults in human history. In fact their, well, lunacy, is reaching new heights: “The vaccinated are a danger to the unvaccinated because of shedding!”: The latest COVID-19 antivaccine disinformation.

Lastly, I’m not the only one frightened by the GOP turning into a personality cult based on Trump’s Big Lie: NYT Columnist Warns People Are Being Lulled Into False Security. What a time to be alive. Trump is the Abraham of our times. Have a great week everyone. #StaytheFHome #WearaDamnMask #FelesRegula #dearMoonCrew

Copyright © 2021 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Public Domain World War One image, colorizer credit in the image.)

Written by unitedcats

May 4, 2021 at 9:23 am

THROUGH THICK AND THIN

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Well, I have about a dozen stories that might make a blog post if padded, but I hate that. So I’ll just dive right in and see how many I can fit in one blog. First off, the good doctor is on point today. I used to be anti-GMO and pro organic, but I have since realised these are basically ideological positions, not science based ones. There certainly are many problems with modern industrial farming, CAFOs in particular are an ecological blight. The solutions are complicated though:  EU Scientists – Organic Farming Less Sustainable.

As  an aside, I notice that while left leaning folks have no trouble understanding that there are all sorts of religious organizations, think tanks, groups etc. who are promoting pseudoscience and nonsense in support of their ideology/religion (or simply out of greed) many leftists don’t seem to understand there are plenty of left leaning organizations doing exactly the same thing. Ecowatch leaps to mind, but there are plenty of others. Selling snake oil is as old as civilization and utterly indifferent to politics and ideology. Reason and science are required to figure out reality, not pseudoscience and bad logic. That’s what people will come up with though if one points out for example that glyphosate is a remarkably safe herbicide that is harmless to animals. Nope, glyphosate bad, Monsanto bad, end of discussion. Sorry not sorry: Glyphosate and Behavioral Economics. Convince me otherwise.

Oh well, I just lost another friend or two no doubt? What else is in the news: Research shows the need to address the root cause of far-right extremism. Basically they determined that sexism and misogyny is a big part of the foundation of far right extremism. Makes sense to me, I’ve been saying that sexism is the root of all the other isms for decades. Once one has decided that half the human race isn’t really human because of their genitals, an idea so stupid it hurts the head to think about, why it’s easy to think the same about any other group of people based on superficial characteristics like skin color, national origin, etc. Sadly I don’t see this misconception changing in the west anytime soon because the Abrahamaaic religions are founded and based almost entirely on the idea of male superiority.

Speaking of genitals and civilization: Another gender reveal party explosion, at least no one was hurt this time: Explosive gender reveal party shakes houses miles away. Yes, there have been deaths. Frankly, the whole concept of gender reveal parties strikes me as somewhere between absurd and downright creepy. I mean, having a party to celebrate what genitals a fetus has? Really? Why would anyone care, what genitals a kid has reveals exactly zero about them. Frankly this whole obsession with other people’s genitals strikes me as disturbed. Who looks at a married  couple and wonders if they have the “right” genitals? Who goes into a bathroom and worries that someone in a stall has the “wrong” genitals? A lot of Republicans apparently.  (I’ve wondered if GOP stands for “Genitals, Other Peoples’.”) Another reason the aliens lock their doors when they fly by Earth.

The Trumpers’ election loss meltdown/fantasy continues: ‘It’s almost like insanity’: GOP base continues to lash out over Trump’s defeat. I’m pretty sure that fervently believing something for which there is zero evidence for, and tons of evidence against, is insane on some level. I have no problem with the GOP tearing itself apart at Trump’s bequest. Hell, voting for people who are pretty much insane seems to be the future of the GOP: QAnon Candidates Are Winning Local Elections. Can They Be Stopped? Why stop them, give them all the rope they want.

In the same vein (GOP fantasies,) there’s this: As economy spikes, Republicans are still waiting for the ‘Biden depression’ that Trump predicted. Turns out that Trump’s claims that the economy was going to crash if Biden was elected were, well, bullshit. Who would ever have guessed? And a final bizarre Trump fantasy: Trump administration thought they’d be memorialized in statues for doing such a great job negotiating with China. In some ways this is one of the weirdest things about Trump and his cult, they actually think he was a fantastic president. I’m sorry, at best Trump was an unremarkable president up until Covid, and his response to Covid was catastrophically hundreds of thousands of dead Americans incompetant.

And Trump’s Covid misinformation legacy lives on, because of vaccine resistance invigorated by Trump’s downplaying of the virus, it looks like herd immunity for the US won’t happen: Thanks to Republican Anti-Vaxxers, the U.S. May Never Reach COVID-19 Herd Immunity. Sorry Mr Trump and followers, but being the world’s largest driver of Covid misinformation doesn’t get Mr Trump any statues.

Lastly, so many police shootings of coloured folk. America has a problem here, and until we acknowledge that, we can’t fix it. There’s nothing wrong with police, or the concept of police, but police culture in the US needs to be reformed … and we need to stop using police in situations where other professionals would be better utilized. In any event, here’s a police training event where police are taught that not only is killing people no big deal, they’ll have great sex afterwards.

I have a hard time seeing this as a good thing. Police should be trying to save lives, not get off on taking them. Stay safe and have a great weekend everyone. #StaytheFHome #WearaDamnMask #FelesRegula #dearMoonCrew

Copyright © 2021 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image. A tweet, attribution in image, used without permission, claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

April 23, 2021 at 7:12 pm

DEBATE IS A LOST ART, DAYLIGHT SAVING TIME, AND MASS SHOOTER MADNESS

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Debate? A dying art at least. I’ve more or less pulled out of Facebook. Partly because of an embarrassing romantic disaster. When it comes to those, I’m a Viking. It’s a gift apparently. They aren’t even interesting to write about. Self deprecation I can enjoy, but when it comes to dating fiascos, about as much fun to write about as to endure.

Moving right along, I realized there just isn’t debate anymore on Facebook. One can agree with what people post, and beyond that it’s a waste of time. As I predate the internet I think I can safely say there’s been a subtle (OK, not that subtle) change in people over the past few decades. Most of them have become utterly sure of themselves. And it’s all over the map. Try to debate with an anti-Vaxxer? No point. Or someone who hates GMOs and glyphosate? The same. Or just about anything, people can’t even accept the idea that they might be mistaken in whatever it is they know.

It used to be that this kind of certainty was limited to know-it-alls and evangelicals. Now it seems that “Evidence, schmevidence, I know I’m right” is infecting all sorts of people and infiltrating the mainstream. Congresswoman Lauren Boebert’s latest conspiracy theory sort of ties it all up. She’s convinced all sorts of Democrats will be arrested and the GOP will get control of both houses of Congress before the 2022 elections even. I’d say it’s bonkers as well, but tens of millions of people believe QAnon’s ever changing predictions. She’s not alone. What’s going to happen when everyone in America just makes up their reality as they go along?

Who knows, but there will be lots to blog about I suppose. Moving right along, I got my clocks all changed finally. Yes, the biannual blood sacrifice to time zones. Why do we change our clocks twice a year? It’s like the old joke: Q: “How many men does it take to put a new roll of toilet paper on the dispenser?” A: “No one knows.” Basically only golf courses really benefit from daylight saving time. And I mean blood sacrifice literally. After the time change there’s an uptick in strokes, heart attacks, car accidents, and workplace accidents. People die. If that’s not a good reason to scrap the whole thing, I don’t know what is. The golf courses will survive.

I guess illogical stuff is the theme for the day. So how about the guy who shot eight people to death because of his “sex addiction?” Worst mass shooting in two years. Woohoo! No worries though, the US is still the developed world’s mass shooter winner. Hell, everything shooter winner. So yeah, white guy goes nuts and shoots a bunch of Asian women working in spas. He apparently thought they were prostitutes tempting men? He’d been to an Evangelical “Clinic” to be treated for “sex addiction.” In other words he was a guy confused about his sexuality, and he went to religious quacks for “treatment.” Didn’t end well. Oh, yeah, the sheriff said “He was having a bad day.” Yeah, pretty sure his day was nowhere near as bad as the friends and loved ones of the people he killed. America, where punching down is manly. Got Trump elected, and re-elected if one buys the “Stop the Steal” nonsense. Snort.

I have applied to be the first blogger to circle the Moon. Fingers crossed. Tomorrow’s post. Stay safe gentle reader. #StaytheFHome #WearaDamnMask #FelesRegula #dearMoonCrew

Copyright © 2021 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Meme found online. Claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. The link in the meme is a dead link, so attribution unknown.)

Written by unitedcats

March 20, 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

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

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