Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Archive for the ‘Coronavirus’ Category

GRIM MEMORIAL DAY, TERRIBLE TIMES, GOD SAVE US ALL

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Memorial Day, when Americans honor those who have fallen in war. And by an ironic milestone, as many Americans have died of Covid-19 in the past three months than died in every war since World War Two. And in an even darker twist, Covid-19 is slaughtering the veterans of World War Two as effectively as German machine guns did on D-Day. Read this article, but fair warning, it will make the gentle reader cry. It gets worse than even that, some Americans are so heartless they called for these deaths. See image above, not photoshopped.

So I wrote the above, and stalled. Memorial Day is ultimately terrible, war means the government has failed, or worse, chosen war. Ugly, especially today when our country is waging numerous wars of choice. Stalled because freaked out by the world situation, and locally as well, sheesh. Funnel cloud about a mile from my house yesterday. When the tornado siren went off, what did I do, I ran out to the lake to see what was up. In my defense, it was like clear weather, and the wind was onshore. So if there was a tornado on the lake, I would see it coming, and if it wasn’t on the lake, it was already past me. Alas, by the time I got out there, it was gone. Still, I realized as I was running out there, if I’m running towards a tornado, I think that makes me an honorary midwesterner at least.

So yeah, stalled. Warm rain all day, summer is here. I went out in the sunset, it was fun. No real sunset, just a rainy landscape slowly getting darker, a study in melancholy. My garden loves it though, and I got pretty much everything planted just in the nick of time. My Covid-19 victory garden. I got wet, but warm wet so it was OK.

And then the below. Let me explain. I saw a documentary about the 1918 flu pandemic. The lion’s share of the people who died, died in October 1918. It was the worst month in American history in terms of excess deaths. And the question raised was, why isn’t this a huge deal in American history? Memorials, remembrances, what not? And the answer … it was so effing horrible that people just wanted to forget.

“I had a little bird.

Its name was Enza.

I opened up the window,

And in flew Enza.”

So this:

So hopefully that kinda puts Covid-19 in context. It’s one of the worst things to ever happen in American history. We’re only four months in, the death toll has already been horrific, and the worst may well be yet to come. This is just the beginning. What a time to be alive.

I’ll end this odd post for terrible times with some wild speculation. A friend insisted that Covid-19 had to be artificial. So let’s run with that. Mainstream science says it’s not. So maybe there’s some global conspiracy to corrupt mainstream science, but that requires so many layers of special pleading it can safely be dismissed. However, if Covid-19 is artificial, that means its creator has better science than mainstream science. A number of possibilities come to mind …

Perhaps there is some human undiscovered Einstein in a secret lab somewhere, making custom viruses perfectly mimicking natural viruses. It’s not completely out of the question, though even it requires layers of special pleading. If there is such a person, hopefully they have already engineered a mini-me. That would be cool. Secondly, maybe aliens engineered Covid-19 for their nefarious purposes. It’s their version of “jumping the shark” for the alien sitcom Earth is? Granted, alien speculation is the same as claiming God or fairies designed it, so it’s not really all that helpful.

Lastly though, what if an AI has “woken up” and is conducting experiments? A sentient AI could presumably think at almost light speed, and instantly understand and control essentially everything human built that has internet access. Some lab somewhere got detailed instructions as to how to build Covid-19, and then the creators were “wellstoned” by the AI to cover its tracks. In other words, we’re living in a Black Mirror episode.

Yeah, best not to think too hard about that one. For the record, since if that is real said AI is reading this as I type, I’m happy to serve our new overlords if I can keep blogging. Humans are fun and interesting, hopefully some of us can be kept around for snids and giggles? Hell, I’ll serve similar aliens. Maybe I will get a really interesting phone call after posting this? If so, great blog next!

Stay safe and stay sane everyone. #StaytheFHome

Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Claiming them both as Fair Use under US copyright law. Not being used for profit, yada-yada-yada. The second was me combining two Facebook posts, pretty sure it’s Public Domain under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

May 25, 2020 at 8:44 pm

NIGHTMARES

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Yeah, things are moving so fast that my old or standard style of blog posts become obsolete very quickly. So like the last post, I’m just gonna explore an aspect of my current thinking on Covid-19. 100,000 dead in the US now, I think that’s worth a comment. What’s to say though, to many people it’s a foreseeable global tragedy made worse by Federal government mismanagement. To the right it’s an unavoidable foreign caused tragedy that would have been much worse but for the Federal government’s action. I’m with the many, but if 100,000 dead doesn’t strike Trump supporters as a bit excessive considering other countries have held it to near zero, I don’t know what to say to them. If anything remotely like this had happened on Obama’s watch, the right would be howling for his blood.

So what happens now? At this point, who knows. We are truly through the looking glass at this point. Even the best and brightest can only speculate wildly now. Almost certainly, at least in the USA, it’s going to get worse before it gets better. Deaths have plateaued in the US, and numerous states are re-opening. Trump is even saying if there is a second wave, he’s not going to close the country down again in the interests of “saving the economy.” Yeah, when the rich talk about “saving the economy” they mean “We can’t let the rich lose money no matter what.” And under Trump, the rich are doing just fine thank you. The rest of us, not so well.

However, with that caveat aside, here is my worst case scenario thinking. (Read the Onion for optimistic speculation.) I’m thinking while we have kinda gotten Covid-19 at a low boil so to speak, by now it’s everywhere in the USA. And to put it mildly, public education on how to avoid spreading the disease has been ghastly, with mass non-compliance to mask wearing and social distancing guidelines. And efforts at setting up good testing and contact tracing systems to prevent hot spots from spreading are spotty at best.  And we are nowhere near herd immunity, or having a treatment or a vaccine. And finally, wildly encouraged by Trump and the GOP, the entire country is going to “open up” and  relax social distancing.

Well, what happens when a bonfire has been lit, stops burning, smolders for a while, and then someone blows on it? Poof. I could see the Covid-19 death count explode as millions of Americans go back to church and other crowded indoor activities with minimal to non-existent efforts at mask wearing and social distancing, a national  reopening with a Covid-19 carrier in practically every crowd. We could hit 200,000 dead faster than we hit 100,000. And while I may be a pessimist, so far all but the most extreme pessimists have been right. Trump promised it was all going to go away right up until people started dropping like flies, now he claims to have a secret plan to end it if only he is re-elected.

And what will happen if the second wave is worse than the first? My fear is that Trump is unravelling. He’s been cancelling long standing international treaties, reopened the nuclear arms race, and just in general is being belligerent on the foregn and domestic stage. I don’t see this as helping, and I don’t see it as being a sign of considered thought. Shooting from the hip is good for carnivals, in a real gunfight it’s a foolish move. So all hell might break loose. I feel like the guys in the Tolkien meme. Tolkien had been through World War One, he’d been there.

For my part I’ll keep blogging, and keep urging people to mask up and practise social distancing. The masks are to protect other people, not to protect the wearer. Why people have a problem with keeping their fellow countrymen safe is a mystery to me. Nobody is being asked to give up their freedom, they are being asked to do their part to limit the spread of a horrible disease until we have a cure and/or a vaccine. And we could reopen safely, but that would require effective national government, which seems to be MIA at the moment.

And just for fun, writing this I realized there’s even an uglier possibility. Hey, exploring the darkness is what I do. Next post. Looking like an extemporaneous post every three days might be my plan for a while. Well, impromptu? On-the-spot? I love the english language, a word for every shade of meaning. Stay safe and stay sane everyone.

Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Public domain image from Snappygoat, quote is from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.)

Written by unitedcats

May 23, 2020 at 4:48 pm

IS TRUMP GOING TO GET RE-ELECTED?

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I dreamt I was at a big public celebration/event in Paris. Then it was announced that the USA was bequeathing Trump to France. That was the word in the dream, bequeathing, dream language can be quite odd. And the French promptly shut down the ceremony, they were not interested in taking Trump off our hands. I don’t normally dream about the world at large, but these are not normal times. And it’s a safe bet a lot of people are dreaming of ways to get rid of Trump. Nearly a hundred thousand dead of Covid-19 in the USA now, many Americans find that appalling, I know I do.

Yes, I know, this has turned into the Trump/Covid-19 blog. And if it was September of 1939, it would have turned into the Hitler/War blog. I say War instead of World War Two because few people we’re calling it World War Two until America entered the war in 1941. Semantics aside, the gentle reader presumably understands. It’s the times, Trump and Covid-19 dominate the news, so I’m rolling with it. This is a more speculative blog than usual, don’t worry, tons of bad news about the new polio in my next post.

First, Trump’s re-election. I see him pivoting now into an election winning schtick, and while he may be the worst president ever, he’s still a brilliant self-promoter. Let me explain how this is going to work. He got elected back in 2016 largely by promising to bring back an ‘America that never was’ to the majority of white people who think whites are a discriminated against minority in the US now. That’s a Trump supporter in a nutshell, someone who knew there were terrible problems in America, the good old days were gone, and here came a candidate who promised to bring it all back. They aren’t the majority of Americans by any chance, but there were enough of them to carry Trump’s MAGA parade over Clinton’s uninspired “I don’t need the flyover states” campaign.

Well, MAGA’s probably not going to work again, although Trump will sure emphasize the “truth” that before Covid-19 he had created the greatest economy the world had ever seen. And then along came Covid-19 because of the Chinese and WHO. So now what is Trump promising? If he gets re-elected, why, he will finish off the fight against Covid-19 and restore the economy! All his supporters have to do is get out and vote for him! Only Trump can save America from Covid-19!

Bear me out, yes, I’m saying that Trump is going to use Covid-19 to get re-elected. More accurately, he is going to use it to whip up his base even more fervently than in 2016.  This time he’s promising a return to a time people actually remember, not just some lost golden age. And there’s more, Covid-19 was caused by foreigners, and weaponized by the Democrats to make Trump look bad! And blue State governors! Yes, Covid-19 was part of the leftist plot to bring socialism to America, and destroy everything great about it in the process! Trump is going to save America from the very enemies the right wing outrage machine has been warning about for decades.

Gotta remember people, Trump’s supporters watch Fox News and other pro-Trump media, so they will back this all up. My point here, and I think I’ve made a strong case for it, is that Trump’s base may be even more driven to vote in 2020 than in 2016. So if anyone is going to beat Trump in 2020, they need to run a better campaign than Clinton did in 2016. Is this written in stone? Of course not. Anything can happen between now and November. The world we knew is gone. Or put in another way, it doesn’t matter how bad Covid-19 gets, Trump is going to spin it his way, and whoever beats him is going to have to do an even better job of motivating their base. Food for thought I hope.

We’ll see. Outside of the US, I am wondering if the world will split into two worlds. The Covid-19 world, and the non-Covid-19 world. There are countries that are getting Covid-19 under control and slowly re-opening their economies. It’s not rocket science, it’s just effective government working with epidemic science. And then there are countries run by people who distrust science and government, starting with the US. And in these countries Covid-19 will continue to circulate as they are fighting it with prayer and common sense. Reason and science trump those, but a lot of people are hostile to that idea. And the former countries are going to want to have as little to do as possible with the latter countries. So we could see an enormous sea change in global alignments over the next year, unprecedented since World War Two or the collapse of the Soviet Union.

I dunno. Whatever happens, I plan to keep blogging on it. To cope with it all I have started working two days, then taking a day off. Off Social Media too. Just a day to rest and recharge my batteries. And so far, working like a charm. I got a tremendous amount done in the past two days, and today is the first day in months I had the concentration and motivation to sit down and write a blog post in one sitting.

Hoping that’s a good thing, and not like a candle brightening just before it dies. Comments and shares encouraged. Stay safe and stay sane everyone.

Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Anonymous Facebook post, apparently stuff shared freely on social media is public domain. Made me LOL. Will remove or attribute as required if the copyright holder requests. A discerning reader provided the source for the image: New Study.)

Written by unitedcats

May 20, 2020 at 7:08 pm

THIS IS NOT NORMAL, AND NOT ONLY DOES TRUMP NOT HAVE A PLAN B, HE DOESN’T HAVE A PLAN A

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I’m torn two ways these days. On the one hand, I feel compelled to be as productive as possible before the coming storm. Planting food, stockpiling food/essentials/tradeables, growing local food share contacts, etc. It’s hard work but sure feels like I’m doing something about Covid-19, besides trying to be a voice of sanity in a rising tsunami of madness. God only knows the federal government apparently isn’t going to do anything. On the other hand, this might be the last time in my life I can call the good times, plenty of good food and beer, no pressing concerns. So why not just say “screw it” and enjoy life while I still can? And after much thought, I’m gonna do both! Two days of work, one day of play. Hopefully that will keep me on an even keel and I won’t start slashing wildly at invisible demons with my chainsaw. I always end up having to buy new drapes when that happens, it adds up.

So yes, I’m still predicting this pandemic is going to get a whole lot worse before it gets better, especially in the US where huge numbers of people don’t seem to grasp that reality has a liberal bias. Great article linked there, at least for people still in touch with reality. Trump supporters laboring under the pretext that Covid-19 is some sort of Democratic/liberal media  plot to make Trump look bad, I don’t know how to reach them. I mean, nearly 100,000 dead, with no end in sight. The same people who spent years yelling about Benghazi and four dead Americans have no problem with America having the highest Covid-19 death toll in the developed world. Once one has become wedded to an ideology or a religion as a guide to life, I think the brain turns to mush. Not limited to Republicans of course, but Dems believing Russians are undermining America aren’t doing the damage that Republicans believing Covid-19 is “just the flu” are.

Vietnam is a great example of how to fight Covid-19, yes, it is possible. Right next to China. Near 100 million people, many living in huge densely crowded cities. They must be getting slammed by Covid-19, right? Nope. 300 cases, zero deaths. How did they manage that? They took it very seriously from the beginning, closed their borders and country down, and did what needed to be done to keep people safe. At the time it was considered by some as an overreaction. In hindsight, they are now re-opening their country with robust systems in place to deal with Covid-19. And, again, 300 cases, zero deaths. And the question here is, if America with all its freedoms and democracy and such that make it oh-so-much-better than a communist one party state got hammered by Covid-19, maybe we could have done better? And my point is not “communism is better” or some stupid shit like that, it’s as stated: “Maybe we could have done better?” And maybe Trump’s boasts about how great he has handled this should be taken with a large dose of salt?

Sigh. What I am also afraid is happening is that Washington has just decided to “normalize” Covid-19. Trump and corporate America turn Covid-19 into a “fact of life” and just carry on and accept Covid-19 deaths as just part of normal life like heart attacks or car accidents. Because this is exactly what the castle or whatever one wants to call the corporate/military cabal that runs the nation wants. They want the serfs back in the fields, just go on creating wealth for the planet’s elite, granny was sick and old anyhow. And people do hate change, they do want “no problems” times. I can see why huge numbers of people are in denial and thinking things will get better.

I guess there’s two ways moving forward. We do what needs to be done to fight Covid-19, which means a lot of effort to protect workers and the vulnerable. MacDonald’s may have to forgo spending $10k per employee per year buying back their own stock. Or we do pretty much nothing, and carry on, which appears to be Trump’s plan.  Well, if he turns it around, I will cheerfully admit I’m wrong and vote for him this fall. And I hope to win the lottery while I’m at it.

In other End-o-the-World news, here’s a good article on our current understanding of how masks work, short version, they work pretty good when used properly in conjunction with other measures. It bears repeating that global warming is still getting worse, and oddly enough many of the very same people in denial about global warming are in denial about Covid-19 as well. Whole other blog post there, for now, pretty sure that ultimately denying reality is a failed strategy, no matter how high the stock market gets. And with Covid-19, we’ll know in months, not decades.

More empty shelves in the supermarket yesterday. Meat prices are spiking. Hope for the best and prepare for the worst is my motto of the day. Lastly, an article I’ve posted before but it bears repeating, it’s the best I’ve seen on how Covid-19 spreads and how to avoid catching it. No one in their right mind wants to catch this disease, and I mean that literally. Have a great weekend everyone, stay safe, stay sane. #StaytheFHome

Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Massacre of the Innocents, Bruegel circa 1566. It depicts Spanish soldiers slaughtering Dutch children. I chose it because it depicts a terrible scene. And because it’s the original version depicting the slaughter of children. Then the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolph II had the nasty parts painted over. Fake news is nothing new in other words, today he’d run the Fox network no doubt.)

Written by unitedcats

May 16, 2020 at 8:30 am

I SEE DEAD PEOPLE

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I went to a local restaurant yesterday to collect a take-out order. I’m in rural northern Iowa. It was a nightmare. The building was crowded, three dozen people or more. Little to no social distancing. Not a mask in sight, even in the crowded kitchen where a bunch of guys were working cheek and jowl.  This was insanity. They had it covered however. Yes, they had a plan. There was a sign on the door: “If you have Covid-19 symptoms, don’t come into the building.” Right, brilliant, problem solved. All I could think of as I waited was the old movie line: “I see dead people.”

Normally it takes me several days to write a blog post. I collect a few links, comment on current events, all good. Not working anymore though, events are moving on so swiftly that something I write can become obsolete within hours. And then there’s keeping an even keel mentally. It’s like being on a sinking ship, and a lot of the passengers are refusing to believe it still. How can they, the captain and his crew keep telling them everything is under control. That would be the Donald.

Trump is planning to wind down his Covid-19 task force in the next month or two. His plan, if living in a self-serving fantasy world can be called a plan, is that the Covid-19 outbreak will wind down this summer, the economy will take off, and he will declare a great victory and be re-elected by a grateful American public. It’s up there with Mussolini’s World War Two plan to ride into Cairo on a white horse at the head of his conquering legions. Mussolini’s plan had essentially zero chance of success, which is about what I think of Trump’s plan. At least Trump has been consistent with his approach to Covid-19. Pretend it’s not happening, followed by pretend he’s handling it well, to be followed by pretend the economy has recovered. It’s going to be an interesting summer and fall.

I think it’s going to get vastly worse. I’m sorry I haven’t posted recently. I’ve been overwhelmed by it all. Not the pandemic, though that is ugly. No, overwhelmed that I am living in a country where the ruling party and its base are simply out of touch with reality. They think Covid-19 is all some sort of plot, and their freedom is threatened by even wearing a mask in public. Yes, it’s their right to walk into busy traffic without looking both ways. It’s a right I strongly suggest they don’t exercise. Not wearing masks and observing social distancing is the same as crossing a busy street without looking.

So I’ll see how this summer unfolds. I expect hundreds of thousands of dead Americans, while the US and world economy tanks. If I’m wrong and things start to return to normal this fall, I guess I’ll re-examine my world view and maybe vote for Trump. Stay tuned. Have a great week everyone, stay safe, stay sane. #StaytheFHome

Extra credit:

A pile-o-links I saved over the past week, in no particular order, with my commentary of the day.

A good read for those who see how Trump is failing: Live and Let Die.

So yeah, a lot of people aren’t getting it yet.

Sorry, Americans, You Haven’t Even Had a Real Lockdown Yet

One of Trump’s advisors declares victory, because, God? Science and reason might save us, thinking God will save us? Really?

An excellent article about the symptoms of Covid-19.

Americans really do want to shut down the virus.

I think you may be wasting freedom. Great read about certain protesters.

Hitler was incompetant and lazy, and his government was an absolute clown show. The discerning reader might appreciate this.

We are in a new danger zone. Ya think?

Another “This isn’t a flu” article. Covid-19 miscarriage.

Trump cuts research into Covid-19, wait, what?

A good overview of immunity and vaccines.

I will not die of stupid.

Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Anonymous Facebook post, assuming it’s public domain. Will correct attribution if so notified.

Written by unitedcats

May 10, 2020 at 7:06 pm

AMERICA, LAND OF SPOILT CHILDREN

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As my mentor Sally used to say: “There are no adults.” That was a while back, if anything it’s even truer today. This observation came to the forefront triggered by this disturbing story. A town in Oklahoma mandated the wearing of masks inside stores. A perfectly reasonable and legal mandate to slow the spread of Covid-19, and thereby save lives. And what was the result? Huge numbers of people completely lost their shit and threatened store employees, one with a gun even. The mayor backed down and now the denizens of his fair city are free to commit negligent homicide. Sigh. I’d say I have no words, but then where did all these blog posts come from? My first thought was what anyone rational person would think: What the hell is wrong with these people?

The modern term is privilege. It’s a lovely term, easy to ignore or discount. I prefer what my grandparents would have styled. What a bunch of crybabies. Only a spoilt child has a freaking tantrum when they are trivially inconvenienced. Because that is literally all that wearing a mask is, a trivial inconvenience. It’s no more difficult than wearing shirts and shoes, which many businesses require of their patrons, and no one freaks out about that. And not just a few of them, there were so many people freaking out that the mayor decided backing down was a better option than forcing the issue. The whole mask wars thing is crazy, one person has even been murdered over this.

Pretty sure this wouldn’t happen in any other country. Over my lifetime I have seen the general maturity level sink in America. More selfish, less empathetic, less educated. I’m not the only one to notice this, and there certainly are demographic trends supporting same. Well, if this article is to be believed. I dunno. A dumbed down media where comic books put to film are all the rage. Home schooling. Advertising increasingly scientifically designed to make us into mindless consumers. Leaders and pundits propounding science denial. Idiocracy in the making.

So much going on. Various Covid-19 developments.

Neurological damage and strokes. That’s right, it’s becoming more and more clear that Covid-19 isn’t just an upper respiratory disease. It infects multiple organs in the body, causing neurological damage in many, and is also causing strokes in some people. This should scare the crap out of people and make them more receptive than ever to the lockdown and other measures to ensure the safety of themselves and others. Not in America though, on my errands yesterday so so many people weren’t wearing masks and keeping a safe distance. I can only assume Trump and Fox News are still downplaying the seriousness of the situation. The US is already the worst hit developed nation, and there’s no end in sight. The mind, formerly boggled, reels uncontrollably.

So it’s no surprise then that the FDA has called for hand sanitizer manufacturers to make their products less appetizing. That’s right, because of Trump suggesting ingesting disinfectants as a treatment, people have been ingesting it. Again, how the hell did so many Americans become so stupid? How did I get in this alternate reality? It’s things like this that make me glad my grandparents are long dead, they worked hard all their lives only to leave a world full of idiots? And I’m guessing making something less appetizing won’t help, because there’s nothing appetizing about hand sanitizer as it is. Also pretty sure the bottles already carry warnings against internal use. Sigh. “You can’t make anything foolproof because fools are so ingenious.”

In a fascinating little tidbit, Maryland has its national guard protecting its Covid-19 test kits at an undisclosed location … so the Federal Government can’t seize them. Which the Federal Government has done in other states. OK then. And once again, another sign of how there is no effective central government organization of the fight against Covid-19, or worse, the Federal Government is actually hindering various state’s fight against Covid-19. And heck, by the Federal Government, I mean the Trump administration. Or the Trump gang or whatever it is that’s occupying the White House, because it’s looking less like a functional government every day.

A last few depressing links for anyone I failed to cheer down so far. First, Pulitzer winner Chris Hedges: “These are the good times — compared to what’s coming next.” It’s essentially about the decline of the American Empire, which is declining, despite what apologists for it may claim. And a good article about conspiracy ideation in general, and about Covid-19 conspiracy theories in particular. It really is distressing how many people fall down the conspiracy ideation rathole, worse that so many “leaders” encourage them for partisan gain.

Lastly, a bit of good news to start the week off with. Asian Murder Hornets have arrived in the USA. Never heard of Asian Murder Hornets? They are huge buggers, up to two inches long. They can wipe out an entire beehive in just hours. Their sting can penetrate beekeeping suits, and is among the most painful insect stings known. It’s also toxic, about 50 people a year are killed by them in Japan alone. And I’m not talking people being allergic to them, talking healthy people dying when swarmed and stung dozens of times. They have been found in Washington state, and some experts think they will inevitably spread across the country. Woohoo!

Wait, why is swarms of deadly giant hornets good news? Because it will encourage people to #StaytheFHome. Have a safe and sane week everyone. Shares, likes, comments appreciated.

Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Trying to laugh about this whole mess. Anonymous meme found on Facebook, used without permission. Assuming it’s public domain unless I hear otherwise.)

Written by unitedcats

May 4, 2020 at 9:28 am

THE PHONEY WAR

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Being a student of history is particularly of interest in these troubled times. Late April, 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic to be specific. A parallel that struck me to our times was the Phoney War in 1939/1940. It was called this because after Germany invaded Poland in September 1939, while England and France declared war on Germany, there was no major fighting on the Germany/France border for months. The “Western Front” in World War One, where millions had died. There was one minor inconsequential action, and there was fighting in other parts, but for the most part the war hadn’t really begun yet. I’m sure a lot of people were like, phew, maybe this won’t be so bad. Do I need to even carry my gas mask to the grocery store? The horrors of World War One, millions dead, were still fresh on people’s minds, no one wanted to see that again. Calling it The Phoney War was in some ways reassuring to people I am sure.

Then in May 1940 Germany attacked on the Western front, defeating the French and English armies in ten days. By June victorious German armies were marching through Paris, photograph above. The Germans had accomplished in weeks what they couldn’t do in four years of bloody trench warfare in World War One. And yeah, it was no longer a phoney war; The Blitz, the German conquest of the Balkans, invasion of Russia, Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor all followed apace.

Wait, the discerning reader may be thinking, why did France and England just sit and do nothing for half a year while Germany was busy invading Poland? Didn’t they have large armies, while Germany had only been hastily constructing its new army for a few years? Yes, yes they did. The Allies had more troops and tanks than Germany. And not only did they have more tanks than Germany, they were better tanks than the German tanks? German tanks couldn’t even penetrate the armor on the heavy British tanks!

Why not indeed invade Germany indeed? It’s a good question, and no doubt historians will be debating the finer points of it so long as there are historians. The main reason though was that an attack on Germany wasn’t part of the plan. In World War One Germany had marched through Belgium and invaded Northern France, causing death and devastation of almost unthinkable magnitude. No matter what happened, France wanted to avoid a repeat of that. So they had prepared for that scenario only. France built a huge and expensive fortified line along their border with Germany, the Maginot Line. And massed their armies to pour into Belgium to meet the invading Germans there. It was a good plan, they were well prepared for it, and by God they were sticking to it.

Unfortunately, preparing to refight the last war is generally, well, not the best idea. Normal human thinking though. We do have a hankering for the safe and familiar. I mean, the Allies “won” World War One, why would being even better prepared to fight it again be a bad idea? Well, and again the discerning (or historically informed) reader might know the answer, because the Germans decided that they were going with a new plan, since the World War One plan had been such a bloody failure. Between the Maginot Line and the open fields of Belgium was a huge rough forested region known as the Ardennes. The roads through it were few and poor, so it was only lightly defended by the Allies. Even if the Germans did attack there for some reason, the terrain would slow them down and the Allies could rush troops there to stop them.

So in May 1940 Germany attacked into Belgium, quickly breaching the fortified defenses Belgium thought would slow the Germans. (By using the world’s first parachute troops.) The French and British armies marched north into Belgium to meet them. The Germans, while attacking through Belgium in the north, mainly attacked through the Ardennes in the middle, north of the Maginot Line. And moving far faster than the Allies expected, for unlike them the Germans had concentrated their tanks into large formations that could move quickly and easily go around or through what troops could be mustered to stop them. In ten days the German tanks had reached the English Channel and the huge French and British armies in Belgium were surrounded. And cut off from supply, which is a death knell for modern armies. And the rest is history, as John Wade said in 1839.

Why do I compare The Phoney War to today? Because we’re kind of in a similar global situation. The declaration of a global pandemic in March was Germany invading Poland. And the Battle of France is yet to begin. People at the time knew things could get very ugly, though no one expected the horrors of the holocaust etc. Here in rural Iowa, some days I can almost hear it, a rising wind, the coming storm. Life superficially goes on as “normal,” but it’s not the same as the old normal. Like waking up one day and realizing the sky is still blue, but not the same blue one knew all their life. I digress. Some bad things are happening, now as then, but the big horrors, not yet.

I walked to the grocery store for the first time in months today, I may yet get some return to physical mobility, God* and physical therapy willing. It was really nice. Yet when I got to the store, I stopped in the parking lot to don my mask and deploy an alcohol wipe to treat my shopping cart. Sadly few people in the store were wearing masks, of the staff just the pharmacist, and he looked frustrated. Not normal, not happy. I bought beer though, I wonder how long I will be able to just walk a bit and buy beer?

We’ll see. History in the making, and it’s just begun. Stay safe and sane everyone. Comments and shares appreciated. #StaytheFHome

Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: German soldiers parade on the Champs Élysées in Paris, France, on 14 June 1940. Credit: Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1994-036-09A / CC-BY-SA Used legally: This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Germany license.)

Written by unitedcats

April 29, 2020 at 8:36 pm